Category Archives: Energy News

The R. E. Ginna Nuclear Power Plant’s Future Is Important

by Michael Mann

The R. E Ginna nuclear power plant was planned and built in the early 1960’s during a time of great hope, fear and idealism. Here is an excerpt from a speech by then president JFK; “…we must hasten the development of low-cost atomic power. I think we should lead the world in this. By 1967, 1968, 1970, in the Northeast United States, where power rates are nearly double yours, we are going to find atomic power increasingly competitive, and by the end of this century this is going to be a tremendous source. Our experts estimate that half of all electric energy generated in the United States will come from nuclear sources.” JFK seems to have had a strong opinion on this subject.

The Ginna plant is located in western NY State along Lake Ontario. It earned an operating license in 1969 and started producing safe, reliable, clean power (without producing greenhouse gasses!) for the customers of RG&E in 1970. It has continued to do so ever since. Currently this is the most reliable source of electricity in the region with a capacity factor (the ratio of the theoretical maximum it could produce compared to the amount it actually produced) of over 95% – for more than a decade! It has had continuous upgrades for both safety and reliability; and is even safer and more reliable today than when it was built. This hasn’t happened by accident, but by honest and sometimes painful self-evaluations by the industry.

We at Ginna start our Institute of Nuclear Power Operations / World Association of Nuclear Operators plant visit and evaluation this month. A little explanation for those not in the nuclear power industry: for the next 2 weeks a couple dozen experts and peers from nuclear plants around the world will observe, interview, and examine every aspect of how the plant is run – both operations and maintenance. A couple months ago they were furnished with 4 years of our operational data to look for any mistakes, trends, or weaknesses. This will then be judged, not against regulations or specifications which are are already quite stringent, but against an imaginary vision of excellence which even they acknowledge is unattainable.

Their focus is on human performance, plant material condition, policies and procedures and how these things impact safety and reliability. No other industry I know of puts themselves through this kind of crucible, it is painful but the results are the safest most reliable method of producing electricity in the world. My plant happens to be the longest running nuclear power plant in the USA: it is in better material condition today than when it was built. Ginna is run by amazing, dedicated operators and maintained by the best maintenance people in existence. Now is our opportunity to prove it to our international peers!

The R.E. Ginna NPP is the longest running nuclear power plant in the USA, not simply because it is older; but because it has run better due to superior engineering, operation, and maintenance. This is something to be proud of! It has been determined that Ginna prevents the release of more than 2 million tons of carbon dioxide annually (the equivalent of taking 400,000 cars off the road), which is an important factor for the state to reach its clean air goals.

Ginna also contributes greatly to the quality of life in the local communities. It is the largest contributor to the United Way in Wayne County and actively supports the annual “Day of Caring.” Ginna employees serve their communities as volunteer firefighters, scout leaders, emergency medical technicians, and board members. The people who work at Ginna are your neighbors, your friends and your family.

There have been rumors of closing down the Ginna plant. Shutting down Ginna prematurely would force most to leave the area. This (coupled with the loss of tax revenue, local charity donations, and patronage of area businesses) would be devastating to the local economy. Where will Western New York rate-payers’ power come from when when Ginna shuts down? I doubt it will be produced locally. Instead of being recycled into the community, that money will go elsewhere to a dirtier baseload and RE backup power producer. It’s no coincidence that opposition to the continued operation of Ginna is from outside the local area. Reduced electric supply will inevitably cause rates to increase and reliability to decrease. Shutting down Ginna will be painful, like running into a brick wall.

Lets not accelerate into this crash. Let’s instead look for ways to avoid damages and use the time until 2029 (when Ginna’s current license expires) to find the best way to replace Ginna’s power, or re-license Ginna through 2049 – whatever is the best solution. Robert E. Ginna and John F. Kennedy shared a vision of clean, reliable and affordable power. That nuclear goal is still a good one.

Additional information can be found at:

Michael Mann is a 27 year veteran of the energy industry, with an additional 8 years as a reactor operator on nuclear US Navy submarines, currently employed at the R.E. Ginna Power Station. The opinions expressed here are his own and may differ from those of his employer.

Carnival of Nuclear Bloggers #257

Welcome back to the Carnival of Nuclear Bloggers. This week.

2 Posts from James Conca
    How will “STAY OUT!” be written 5,000 years from now? We will eventually dispose of some amount of nuclear waste in a deep geologic repository, and with the discussion of resurrecting the Yucca Mt. repository, the old question resurfaces of whether, and how, we should warn future humans that nuclear waste is buried here. Putting up 10,000-year warning signs might invite intrusion more than prevent it. Of course, an accidental intrusion isn’t the horror one might imagine.
    The Ten Biggest Power Plants In America – Not What You Think
    Everyone has been measuring the size of power plants wrong, using Nameplate capacity instead of produced power. The biggest power plant in America is the Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station in Arizona that produces over 30 billion kWhs per year. Not the Grand Coulee Hydroelectric Dam that only produces over 20 billion kWhs per year. The largest power plants in the United States are nuclear because they have such a high capacity factor (cf), that is, the amount of electricity actually produced divided by the maximum amount that is possible if the plant ran at capacity every hour of every day. Nuclear has an average cf of 90%. Coal is 65%, natural gas is 50%, geothermal is 70%, hydro is 40%, solar is 20%, and wind is 30%.

Nuke Power Talk
Post from Gail Marcus
    At Nuke Power Talk, Gail Marcus comments on several recent news items about delays in new reactor projects–in particular, the Russian Generation IV BN-1200 reactor and the EPR at Flamanville, France. She notes that we should not be surprised–large construction projects and new technologies of all types frequently experience delays and cost increases. She reminds us of Admiral Rickover’s famous quote about the difference between “academic” or “paper” reactors, and “real” reactors.

Hiroshima Syndrome
Two Posts from Leslie Corrice
    Clearly, the Japanese Press needs a good education on radiation; what it can do, and what it cannot. It seems a moral imperative to relate radiation information correctly and not in a fashion that only proliferates science-fiction-based misinformation.
    Judge Higuchi’s attack on Japan’s NRA is not the result of him not understanding the facts. Higuchi’s injunction is a cold, calculated move intended to needlessly delay nuke restarts. He knows exactly what he is doing. Judge Higuchi has demonstrated that he is firmly antinuclear.

Next Big Future
Post from Brian Wang
    There are calls to start construction on as many as 500 new nuclear reactors domestically in China by 2050, and even more abroad, China could single-handedly more than double the number of reactors worldwide. China will need to build as many as 10-12 reactors a year, roughly double France’s record pace in the 1980s. Experts believe China has the production capacity to meet the demanding schedule, it is currently projected to approve no more than six to eight new reactors this year, potentially ramping up to 10 or more annually by the beginning of the next decade President Xi had a speech which suggests, the government’s interest in
    nuclear energy goes beyond economic concerns. Beijing claims the industry is also key to reducing the ubiquitous haze from the country’s many coal-fired power plants.

    Curbing smog is a top priority for China’s leadership, which is nervous that failure to solve the problem may lead to social unrest.

    Concern over the issue seems to have added some pressure to speed up construction.

    In March, He Yu, chairman of state-owned China General Nuclear Power Group, argued that the country will need to adopt an even more aggressive nuclear development strategy if it hopes to meet its goal of increasing power generated from sources other than fossil fuels to 20 percent of its energy mix by 2030.

    Yes Vermont Yankee
    Two Posts from Meredith Angwin
      In this post, I review and discuss the Platt’s blog post on how Vermont is leading the way about fighting renewable sprawl. The legislature is trying to make the situation better for renewables by proposing they will be sited in gravel pits. But there aren’t enough gravel pits.
      This post describes the circles of pain (from the employees to the town to the grid) that spread from Vermont Yankee’s closing. The post first appeared as an article in Nuclear Engineering International magazine.

    Energy Reality Project
    Two Posts from guest Mike Conley
    Power to the Planet is a book in progress by Mike Conley. Here are two preview chapters.

    1. Let’s Run the Numbers

      This is a chapter with shared credit to Timothy Maloney who makes a couple appearances as guest co-author in the book. This covers the topic of renewables vs baseload, in particular “Wind and Solar vs. Nuclear”

    2. We’re Not Betting on the Farm, We’re Betting on the Planet

      This covers how the grid is not well suited for intermittent power sources.

    Post from Robert Hayes
      Robert Hayes explains the nuclear processes that makes Thorium a useful element (see Thorium Cycle) and puts its use as a reactor fuel into perspective with respect to current reactors. For my regular readers he does not explain that several companies are currently pursuing new reactor designs that will use thorium such as FLIBE or that China is investing heavily into making a molten salt reactor design to use thorium. He also does not explain the molten salt reactor that has been considered the more favorable reactor design for using both uranium and thorium in next generation reactors. Also of interest is that Canada’s CANDU reactors can be made to run on thorium


Carnival of Nuclear Bloggers – Feb 1/2015 #246

Welcome to the Carnival of Nuclear Bloggers. This week.
Nuke Power Talk
Post from Gail Marcus
    At Nuke Power Talk, Gail Marcus summarizes inconsistencies in the positions of several countries that seem to want to have their cake and eat it, too. They advertise their environmental creds, but want to abandon their binding CO2 targets, or have others buy their oil and gas, or they don’t want their neighbors’ nuclear power plants near their borders, but it is OK if their nuclear plants are near their neighbors’ borders.

Posts from James Conca
    Americans will consume a lot of food and beer during this Sunday’s Super Bowl XLIX between the Seattle Seahawks and the New England Patriots – 3 billion bottles of beer, 70 million pounds of avocados, 30 million pounds of chips, 6 million pizzas, 5 million pounds of pretzels, 4 million pounds of popcorn, 3 million pounds of nuts, and 50 million pounds of “other”. The amount of chemical energy that will be released by passage of this mass of foodstuffs through a hundred and ten million intestinal tracks will equal to the total output of America’s 100 nuclear power plants during the game.

Hiroshima Syndrome
Post from Leslie Corrice
    On Monday, a worker at F. Daiichi fell from the top of a wastewater storage tank and died. One of the causes was Tepco continually building more and more tanks to store these waters. NRA Chair Shunichi Tanaka told Tepco to start the wastewater discharges as soon as possible, before someone else gets hurt.

Two different blog website by Meredth Angwin
Post on Northwest Clean Energy Blog
    Washington state legislators are considering bills to allow nuclear energy to be considered part of Washington’s required “alternative clean air energy.” Indeed, Washington state has always been a clean air pioneer, and increased nuclear energy will continue that tradition. In contrast, increasing the numbers of wind turbines will soon require fossil (gas turbine) back-up. Washington’s excellent hydro resources are already strained to provide balancing for the existing wind.
Post on Vermont Yankee
    This post describes the background of an upcoming “Citizens Decommissioning Advisory Panel” meeting in Brattleboro. Anti-nuclear activists want Entergy to keep all Emergency Planning Zone funding in place for a long time. After all, there is still fuel on the site. Emergency planning until Gibraltar crumbles?

Neutron Bytes
Post from Dan Yurman
    Dan Yurman discusses the conservativeness and reluctance to bring nuclear back online after Fukushima. Also America’s , Russia’s and Japan’s involvement with Viet Nam’s nuclear energy plans.

Carbon Pricing in Ontario set for Spring 2015

I hear this and automatically wonder why now just after shutting down coal plants. My other concern is that electric cars don’t have charging stations so that seriously affects EV car sales. Maybe the taxes collected should go towards these charging stations.

Ontario to Unveil Carbon Pricing Plan this Spring

Who’s been courting China? Canadian Nuclear Industry

Recent announcements about Canada and China making deals to further China’s interest in accelerating their nuclear power plant expansion have been getting little notice. And some news coverage of Ontario’s energy policy costing us $1 Billion more than necessary. The Memorandum of Understanding was recently signed Nov 8 “between Natural Resources Canada and the China National Energy Administration to advance collaboration between the two countries in the field of civilian nuclear energy including development of advanced fuel reactors and exports to third markets. The same day, Candu signed a framework joint venture (JV) agreement with China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC) to build Advanced Fuel CANDU Reactor (AFCR) projects in China and develop opportunities for it globally. This followed a positive recommendation earlier this week from a Chinese Expert Panel Review on AFCR technology which concluded the proper time should be chosen to “initiate the construction of AFCR to unlock and utilize its various advantages.”

“Taken together, the MOU, framework JV and positive recommendation by a Chinese expert panel represents a new level of cooperation between Canada and China in the next wave of nuclear energy innovation,” said Preston Swafford, President & CEO, Candu Energy. “We look forward to working closely with CNNC in the development and pursuit of nuclear power generation projects in China and abroad using the new AFCR technology.”

The framework JV was signed in Beijing at the Great Hall of the People while in the presence of The Right Honourable Stephen Harper, Prime Minister of Canada and Li Keqiang, Premier of the People’s Republic of China”

CANDUs are known for their reliability and added safety at several levels. The versatility to handle different fuels is made possible in part from the heavy water moderated natural uranium fuel. They have much lower levels of fissile fuel than light water reactors. Countries that do not have a lot of Uranium are interested in CANDUs because the reactors can also run on the Thorium cycle. India is already implementing this approach and China hopes to do the same.

These negotiations mean a lot to Canada since growth for nuclear remains uncertain in our own country. The current political climate is mixed from province to province. Ontario puts too much faith in renewables. Ontario’s energy bills have recently cost the consumer $30 more monthly. This is related to the difficulty of adapting wind and solar to the grid. Without a framework to handle unpredictable power the consumer pays for that uncertainty. Subsidies given to wind and solar effectively cost us double because when the wind stops blowing or the sun stops shing natural gas is called upon to replace it. But since the deal is that renewables get paid for down time the public is effectively paying twice for this so-called green solution. Meanwhile nuclear can handle the extra load if given the chance.

Here is a higher res version of Canada’s OCI members:

Also related story by Scott Luft: Candu Energy sees promising future ( Nov. 10

German power companies demanding billions in damages over nuclear phaseout – Germany faces suits worth billions over nuclear phaseout

Thanks to for finding this one:

“Germany’s phaseout of nuclear energy has triggered over 20 lawsuits by big power companies that have demanded billions of euros in damages, said a government paper released Tuesday.

After the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster, Berlin moved to immediately shutter the country’s eight oldest reactors and close all others by 2022 while boosting renewable energy such as wind, solar and biomass.

Three large electricity companies — EON, RWE and Vattenfall — have responded with a spate of court challenges, which the environment ministry has listed for the first time in response to a request by the Greens party.

In total, 14 complaints have been filed against the national government, including nine cases before the top Constitutional Court, and seven cases have been filed against state governments.

The likely final bill if the lawsuits succeed is unknown but would probably run into the billions, according to the paper, which was requested by Greens lawmaker Silvia Kotting-Uhl and made available to AFP on Tuesday.

The biggest known claim came from Swedish company Vattenfall, which has demanded €4.7 billion ($5.8 billion) compensation from the federal government.

Vattenfall launched its claim in 2012 before a Washington-based tribunal, the International Center for Settlement of Investment Disputes.

RWE has demanded €235 million ($290 million) in damages in a German court, and EON is suing for €386 million ($475 million), said the ministry.”

Quote from
“The country’s five existing reactors will remain in operation until the end of their lifespan, with the last one being decommissioned in 2034.”

DoE gives $35 million to fund advanced reactor research – DoE funding for advanced reactor research

“Five R&D projects supporting advanced reactor technologies have been selected to receive $13 million of cost-share funding from the US Department of Energy (DoE). All of the research is being carried out by public-private partnerships.
The nuclear companies leading the five projects are Areva Federal Services, GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy, General Atomics, NGNP Industry Alliance and Westinghouse Electric Company.
Partnered by TerraPower Company, Argonne National Laboratory (ANL) and Texas A&M University, Areva Federal Services will receive funding for work on modelling and simulation for longer life cores, including thermal hydraulic simulations and experimental investigation for liquid metal-cooled fast reactor fuel assemblies.
GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy, in partnership with ANL, will receive funding for development and modernization of next-generation probabilistic risk assessment methodologies. General Atomics’ partnership with the University of California at San Diego and the University of South Carolina receives funding for fabrication and testing complex silicon carbide structures pertinent to advanced reactor concepts.
The final two projects receiving the DoE funding are work on high temperature gas reactor post-accident heat removal and testing by NGNP Industry Alliance partnering with Areva, UltraSafe Nuclear Company, Westinghouse, and Texas A&M University, and the development of thermo-acoustic sensors for sodium-cooled fast reactors led by Westinghouse in partnership with ANL and the University of Pittsburg.”

Aiming at a National Energy Policy for Energy Reality

Developing a national energy policy for a country of our size does have significant challenges. Making one set of guidelines for a diverse set of regions and jurisdictions is a challenge so not every guideline will be a perfect fit. For those looking for number crunching, graphs and citations you will be disappointed. I keep my comments in the realm of the educated-guessing bloggers often do. Energy policy in our case needs to make the case that nuclear energy has the most potential to do the most benefit. So our energy policy includes educating people to draw their own conclusions based on comparing the options which I hope our website will eventually provide.

But we need to make nuclear energy and nuclear science more important to everyone. It’s true that we need more scientists and engineers but we need the general public to embrace nuclear. Part of the problem is that most people feel that it is too complicated to understand nuclear. We can change that perception. It is not so esoteric. It can be made into a more easy to digest subject by starting with the numerous non-energy benefits of nuclear. For this point to be understood simply look at the wide range of benefits nuclear science has given us beyond energy and weapons. See youtube video The Future of Nuclear Technology … After Fukushima with Alan E. Waltar ( )

Times have changed. We used to be able to ignore what science and industry were doing. Continue reading

Our responsibility to know “reality” has never been more important.

Witnessing extreme changes to our environment within our own lifetime is a new phenomenon. Not just the changes from season to season but some years where seasons seem to shift. It used to be that such changes occurred over, thousands, if not, millions of years. We know a lot about our past. We know enough to conclude that the rapid changes occurring over the last 50 years is caused by humans? We are a busy species. This is old news. Scientists like Alvin Weinberg were predicting this forty years ago. Societal changes were being predicted further back by authors like Aldous Huxley and and poets like T.S. Eliot. Futurists like Buckminster Fuller and Marshal McLuhan saw big changes long before most of us saw it coming. So why are we so slow act or seek out solutions never mind prepare and plan for the drastic changes predicted?

We all compromise

We have, too easily, learned to accept lower than ideal standards at every level in our lives. Everything we buy these days has built-in obsolescence. It’s allowed in the name of capitalism. Aluminum cars will not rust yet we rarely see any aluminum cars on the market. Gadgets, cameras, and numerous devices like remotes all depend on keeping the battery companies making huge profits. Printers and computers are designed with one-of-a-kind adapters making replacing lost or damaged adapters costly. We throw out items like cell phones and other gadgets because of the release of newer and sexier versions of what is already good enough. We are compromised because of operating system compatibility and so-called out of date hardware that is not modular. You can’t replace one component you need to replace the whole device.

Knowing that we are willing to compromise so often because we have no influence over the outcome is what these companies want you to feel.

Your role as activist. A new way of thinking

First a congratulations to you if you try to make your voice heard in our time of apathy and anonymity. Time is running out. Is it? I mean can you feel it? See it? We don’t know if climate disasters are man made but we are pretty sure. Right? Then how much of that uncertainty feeds our inaction? It is helpful to remember that we do live in a volatile world. The wrong decisions based on irrational fear can cause severe hardship and struggle. Look at how Japan reacted to Fukushima. Their nuclear reactors are finally expected to start going back online this summer after irrational panic over not-so-hard-to-live-with levels of radiation. Germany is achieving the opposite of it’s goals by increasing the CO2 emissions due to building more coal plants to replace the shut down nuclear plants. Intermittent wind and solar is not enough to keep the economy going and, unlike in the US, natural gas is more expensive in the EU.

We need to start forging a new way of thinking. Not every decision needs to be based on profit. We don’t have the luxury to pick and choose our focus without investigating all sides to the issues. It is possible that the populist sentiment in a specific region can influence change for the worse. Look at Germany causing more emissions and Japan’s suffering economy and it’s violation of environmental standards due to an irrational fear of nuclear plants.

So in what ways can our thinking change? Is their a new marketing angle in the Tesla. Selling a car that lasts and outperforms traditional gas-driven cars. Bucky Fuller said

“We should do away with the absolutely specious notion that everybody has to earn a living. It is a fact today that one in ten thousand of us can make a technological breakthrough capable of supporting all the rest. The youth of today are absolutely right in recognizing this nonsense of earning a living. We keep inventing jobs because of this false idea that everybody has to be employed at some kind of drudgery because, according to Malthusian Darwinian theory he must justify his right to exist. So we have inspectors of inspectors and people making instruments for inspectors to inspect inspectors. The true business of people should be to go back to school and think about whatever it was they were thinking about before somebody came along and told them they had to earn a living.”

Fuller had it right. Those inspectors come in the form of the NRC and the EPA. Over managing the potential threats is ruining our society. This is part of the problem with big government. On the homefront, for many families, newlyweds who both need to work while leaving their child at a daycare and then let their adolescent older children disappear to their rooms with their game consoles without any life lessons is becoming a serious issue leading to mental illness, depression, addiction and poorly prepared young adults for employment. Fuller also spoke about how ordinary things like home appliances could be so much better if the same kind of efforts were made as they spend on weapons or space exploration.

What if all your hard work actually influenced change to improve the quality of life?

The most misunderstood topic with the most impact on society is energy and it’s relationship to global warming. Choosing a low emissions energy source makes sense only if it contributes “significantly” to replacing carbon emitting sources such as coal and natural gas. What good is supporting renewable if the energy created by wind and solar cannot possibly hope to replace the power from the shut down nuclear plants?

Are we a cliche?

We’ve all heard the expression “bleeding heart liberal.” Choosing an allegiance with being liberal means typically choosing to defend some cliche values. The notion that we are all going to die from radiation or believing you’ll get cooties if you kiss the wrong person are based on fears that we grow up with and never lose unless we decide to get our feet wet (excuse the cliche) and explore the facts ourselves. We don’t have real elders or chiefs to show us what’s true or not. The critical thinking that is needed is to understand that science is a gift and a method of inquiry that guides us to better decisions.

The media and extreme right have had some success with their campaign against science. The growth of Creationists and their fundamentalist thinking is producing a number of non-scientific and non-creative problem solvers or a shortage of entrepreneurs.

What was T.S. Eliot “Wasteland” about?

He was warning us that we were giving in to a deterioration of our values. Without appreciating the finer things it all starts to become meaningless. The world will become a wasteland if we just stop caring what becomes of it. Who has more survival awareness a Creationist or a scientist or engineer. Being both a Creationist and an engineer seems incompatible.

So after we realize that we’ve lost our moral compass and been led astray by media hype and fake evangelists and that our belief in ourselves to make change diminished by the constant chipping away at our integrity by the compromise we constantly face daily what do we do? The world has been knocked off balance. Our jobs are getting more difficult to keep. We simply need to wake up to our responsibility to be aware that to know reality has never been more important. Start by learning about energy.