Archive for category News
The 137th edition of the Carnival of Nuclear Energy Bloggers is out. This one, hosted by The Hiroshima Syndrome Blog celebrates the 2013 New Year with stories on a variety of topics.
Stop by and check it out!
Happy New Year!
This Week in Nuclear
With some time off from my “day job,” I finally had an opportunity to perform a bit of long-overdue maintenance on the TWiN web site. I’ve updated many pages and added a new “Most Popular” feature.
The Most Popular button is at the top of the right side bar and it provides a shortcut to the blog posts that have received the most user attention in the last year. Try it out – you might find an interesting post that you missed the first time around!
Along with some behind-the-scenes tweaks, other noteworthy changes include:
Have a great nuclear day!
Spain’s electrical supply industry is caught in a decade long death spiral of failed energy policy, over-reliance on imported fuels, and massive debt. Their new taxes on nuclear energy, an attempt to reduce utility debt, are likely to worsen their economy.
Spain imports fuel for about 51 % of their electricity production in the form of coal and natural gas. Payments for these imported commodities contribute to a debilitating trade imbalance. Nuclear energy makes up the lion’s share (47%) of Spain’s domestic energy production. Their eight nuclear energy facilities add tens of thousands of jobs and billions of euros per year to the national economy while reducing the need for imported coal or gas. At the same time Spain’s nuclear plants provide reliable, predictable energy without greenhouse gas emissions.
The amount of renewable energy generated in Spain has increased considerably over the last several years. In fact, in 2012 wind energy production exceeded nuclear energy production for brief periods when demand was low, some nuclear plants were out of service, and wind conditions were nearly optimal. Unfortunately, Spain’s methods of encouraging investment in renewables have contributed to their current financial crises. The Spanish electricity industry is carrying $32 billion of debt, putting serious strain on an already faltering economy.
Spain began deregulating their electricity supply system in the late 1990′s. Their approach was eerily similar to the failed California experiment; they removed price controls to allow power generators to compete among themselves, but they limited rates paid by customers. As wholesale energy prices rose utilities were unable to recover the higher costs through higher rates to customers. The result was predictable: electric utilities began loosing money on a grand scale. Since 2005 annual “energy deficits” have been in the billions of euros per year. With slight-of-hand economics, the Spanish government allowed utilities to “bank” their annual deficits against future earnings. Unfortunately those future earnings never materialized and deficits ballooned.
A the same time Spain (like California) began a heavily subsidized renewable energy program that included “feed-in tariffs” which guaranteed wind and solar generators above market prices for all of the energy they could produce. Consequently utilities were forced to buy wind and solar energy at inflated rates, but were not allowed to recover the costs because of those same price controls. Solar and wind energy investors raked in billions of euros per year while the utility deficit grew even faster. By some accounts electric utility debt in Spain now stands at $32 billion.
These out-of-whack energy policies cost Spanish workers dearly; for every renewable energy job created more than five existing jobs were lost and unemployment soared to over 20%. According to the Canada Free Press:
For each megawatt of wind energy installed, 4.27 jobs were lost, and for each megawatt of solar energy installed, 12.7 jobs were lost.
Eventually it became clear the Spanish government would have to act to curtail the exploding debt and rescue the utilities from bankruptcy. Earlier this year they stopped granting requests for new feed-in tariffs. Beginning in January 2013 they’re implementing a new 6% flat tax on all electricity production. In addition, they’ve singled out nuclear energy for “special” taxes they are calling a “nuclear waste generation and storage tax.”
Let’s get this straight: Spain’s national energy policies enriched wind and solar energy investors while bankrupting utilities and contributing to massive job losses. Now they’re calling on nuclear energy operators, their largest source of domestic energy to foot the bill! Not only is this course of action irrational and unfair, it punishes the domestic energy production and job creation they desperately need and it perpetuates favoritism for expensive renewables that created the problem in the first place.
The first victim has already fallen to the anti-nuclear tax; the Santa María de Garoña nuclear plant is being forced out of business. Garoña is a 446 MW BWR that began commercial operation in 1971. The plant’s owner says the new 153 million euro tax that will go into effect in January is more than ten times the plant’s annual profit. They have no choice but to shut the plant down for the last time on Sunday, December 23. Hundreds of jobs will be lost at the plant and in surrounding communities. Since Garoña provides about 1.4% of Spain’s electricity, utilities will be forced to import more coal and natural gas to make up for lost base load generation.
With lost jobs, lost revenues, and rising energy imports Spain’s energy death spiral continues.
Mis oraciones por mis amigos de Garoña. Buena suerte en el Año Nuevo, y le deseo todo lo major.
Last week a group of Buddhist monks joined the protest against San Onofre Nuclear Plant. The local press made a big show of the spectacle as if the presence of members of a Seattle monastery somehow added stature to the demonstration and validity to their claims.
The monks said they also want to call attention to what they believe are the global dangers of nuclear power. “We need to shut down the San Onofre,” Gyosen Sawada of Los Angeles, who said he was born in Fukushima, Japan, told the group before beginning a three-hour walk from Dana Point Harbor. “No more Hiroshima. No more Nagasaki. No more Three Mile Island. No more Fukushima. No more San Onofre.”
Activists, medical practitioners and politicians who have demanded moratoriums [on uranium mining] may have various reasons for doing so, but their claims that the public and environment are at risk are fundamentally wrong.
That about sums up the facts on the safety of uranium mining and the validity of motives of those who oppose it. What’s particularly noteworthy about this statement is its source: Michael Binder, the President of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission. It’s impressive to see this level of leadership from the Canadian equivalent of the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
As is often the case, the passage of time yields clarity about events, and the nuclear power plant accident at Fukushima is no different. It has become clear that the misinformation and hysterics by anti-nuclear groups and individuals were mostly wrong. Their doomsday prophesizing actually worsened human suffering and environmental impacts by contributing to unwise decisions by political leaders in Japan and elsewhere to shut down nuclear plants. In contrast, bloggers and experts from within the nuclear community accurately predicted outcomes and human health impacts. Read the rest of this entry »
Note: this post also appears at the ANS Nuclear Cafe
What better way to celebrate National Nuclear Science Week than to acknowledge amazing career opportunities that exist for people interested in joiningthe nuclear renaissance. If you are a middle or high school student (or are the parent of one) considering college alternatives, you would be hard pressed to find a better investment than earning an associates or bachelors degree in nuclear-related science, engineering, or technology.
Opportunities for entry level positions have not been this rich at any time during the past three decades, and the nuclear industry is partnering with many schools to ensure graduates have the knowledge and skill for success as power plant engineers, operators, and technicians. Because of a combination of national and international trends, there have never been more opportunities for young people to begin careers in the nuclear industry. Read the rest of this entry »
On September 8, 2011 the electrical grid in and around San Diego, California experienced a blackout that lasted for more than 12 hours. By some accounts more than 5 million people were effected. The initiating event was a human error that caused a large transmission line from Arizona to turn off unexpectedly. I recently discussed why a single failure as occurred that day should not have caused such a widespread grid failure, and how New York City will be much more susceptible to similar events if Indian Point Nuclear Plant is shutdown prematurely.
As it was designed to do, the San Onofre nuclear plant automatically disconnected itself from the grid and shut down then the blackout occurred. This was done as part of the plant’s protective scheme to shield the plant from unintended consequences from the falling grid voltage and frequency. A similar thing happened to nine nuclear plants in the eastern USA during the blackout of 2003.
Why do nuclear plants trip off line when a blackout happens? Read the rest of this entry »
There was a horrible accident in Kenya this week. More than 100 people were burned to death, and hundreds more were injured when a gasoline pipeline began leaking and then exploded. My heart goes out to the victims, and their families, and to all the people of Kenya who are dealing with the worst industrial disaster in their history. Eyewitnesses reported seeing burning people leaping into a nearby river trying to extinguish the flames that engulfed them. Rescue workers had to place a net across the river to catch the charred bodies of the dead so they would not wash down stream. The death toll continues to grow, and most of the 100+ injured including many children are not expected to survive.
The pipeline runs through Sinai, a Nairobi ghetto of corrugated tin and cardboard huts. When the pipe began leaking hundreds of people gathered around to scoop up the spilled gasoline. As the crowd grew a spark from a cigarette butt or some other heat source ignited the fuel. The blast incinerated scores of people nearby. Flames cascaded down on nearby huts then raced through the crowded slum. Read the rest of this entry »
California politicians and utilities were quick to assign blame for Thursday’s blackout of 6 million customers on a single unfortunate utility worker in Arizona. In reality, they need to look a lot deeper at the root cause of the major electrical system failure that lasted about 12 hours. Why? Properly designed, maintained, and operated electrical grids just don’t collapse when a single error takes place or a single piece of equipment fails. Read the rest of this entry »