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 »
Unlike their American counterparts, not all control room operators in Japan have access to plant specific training simulators. Instead, according to a report by NPR, they use “generic” simulators that are similar to, but not identical to their plant. This difference may have contributed to the difficulties operators had at Fukushima Dai-ichi when responding to complex events that followed the catastrophic earthquake and tsunami on March 11, 2011.
The differences between a generic simulator and a plant-specific one are often in precisely the systems the Fukushima operators were struggling with: electrical power supplies, cooling water, and building ventilation. These differences matter little when training for events within the design basis of the reactor, but when events stray outside the design basis, include “cascading” failures, and involve severe accident response, generic simulators can’t accurately model the events. When training for situations that exceed the capabilities of a simulator, instructors are left with fewer, less realistic options like classroom training or “table top” walkthroughs of operator actions. Read the rest of this entry »
With New York Governor reaffirming his opposition to Indian Point, natural gas speculators are lining up to position themselves to fill the enormous energy gap that would be left if the plant shuts down.
One such speculator is a privately owned Swiss-based company, Advanced Power Services. They have begun preliminary work to build a 1000 MW gas fired power plant in Dutchess County New York, about 40 miles north of Indian Point. There was a front page article in the Poughkeepsie Journal today describing how shutting down the 2100 MW nuclear plant could help the local project gain traction.
News that Gov. Andrew Cuomo has issued his strongest statement yet in favor of closing the Indian Point nuclear power plant has improved the chances that a proposed plant in Dutchess County would be built.
I know something about Dutchess County, NY because I lived there for several years while working at Indian Point. In reading the story, I wondered if the editors of the Poughkeepsie Journal gave one moments thought to the fact that many of the people who work at Indian Point live in Dutchess County? There’s no mention in the article of the serious economic impact that would befall the county shold Indian Point be prematurely shut down. Read the rest of this entry »
The State of Vermont and their Governor Peter Shumlin want to shut down Vermont Yankee Nuclear Plant. Unfortunately for their cause, only the Federal Government, in this case the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has the legal authority to regulate nuclear plant safety. In March the NRC granted the plant permission to operate for another 20 years.
Shumlin and his followers don’t like that. They really want the plant shut down. In fact, it will be a major political defeat for Shumlin if he looses this fight against the evil foreigners from Louisiana. Plus, if he fails, he’ll renege on a campaign promise he made to all the anti-nuclear activists that gravitated to his cause. Read the rest of this entry »
There is a good deal of misinformation being circulated about the potential harm to people in Japan from plutonium present in mixed oxide (MOX) fuel in the unit 3 reactor at Fukushima Daiichi. The real story comes from an independent group of scientists who make up the American Nuclear Society Special Committee on Nuclear Non-Proliferation . Their conclusion?
Mixed Oxide (MOX) fuel has been used safely in nuclear power reactors for decades. The presence of a limited number of MOX fuel assemblies at Fukushima Daiichi Unit 3 has not had a significant impact on the ability to cool the reactor or on any radioactive releases from the site due to damage from the earthquake and tsunami.
Bloomberg.com and other news outlets reported yesterday that NY Governor Andrew Cuomo is meeting with the NRC today in Washington DC to discuss the risk of earthquake damage at the Indian Point Nuclear Plant. According to Bloomberg, the Governor’s concern was sparked by an MSNBC.com report that concluded Indian Point is the most likely nuclear plant in the USA to experience core damage and a release of radioactive contamination following an earthquake. Read the rest of this entry »
Is NRC’s Jaczko Positioning the Administration to Ratchet US Nuclear Emergency Planning Zones from 10 to 50 miles?
The Japanese government had established a 20 km (12.8 mile) evaluation zone around the damaged Fukushima nuclear plant, a recommendation supported by the International Atomic Energy Agency. The US NRC had several experts on the ground to assist the Japanese government. The Americans had access to the same information that was available to Japanese authorities and the IAEA. Then on Thursday March 17, 2011 an unusual thing happened.
NRC Chairman Jaczko came straight from a meeting in the White House and told members of Congress that Americans in Japan should evacuate to a distance of 50 miles from the reactors. His comments sparked alarm across the globe because he also stated the Fukushima Daiichi Unit 4 fuel storage pool was dry, the uncovered used nuclear fuel was overheating, and they could expect large releases of airborne radioactive contamination.
Japan’s Nuclear Plants and their Operators are Performing Amazingly Well to Protect the Health & Safety of the Public
My thoughts and prayers go out to the people of Japan as they deal with this natural disaster of unprecedented magnitude.
While I’ve been unable to post blogs or record a podcast this weekend, I’ve been trying to stay engaged by sharing news and bits of analysis via my twitter feed. There has been some excellent fact based coverage of the reactor damaging event at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. Unfortunately, very little of the excellent coverage is coming from mainstream media sources.
The US Department of Energy issued a press release today announcing a new $102 Million loan guarantee for a 50.6 MW wind farm near Roxbury, Maine and an 8 mile transmission line to connect it to the grid. Before we join hands in carbon-free jubilation let’s do the math:
$102 Million for 50.6 MW that will operate (best case) at 30% capacity = $6.72 million per megawatt (MW) of delivered electricity