Seattle Monks Protest While Dalai Lama Supports Nuclear Energy
Dec03

Seattle Monks Protest While Dalai Lama Supports Nuclear Energy

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.” As is so often the case with anti-nuclear activists, these monks toss all things nuclear into one evil pile; in their minds atomic bombs and nuclear energy facilities are equally vile.  Funny how they avoided mention of CT scans, diagnostic x-rays, and nuclear medicine which account for virtually all of the man-made radiation exposure we receive (even for members of the public around the damaged Fukushima nuclear plant). I guess they missed the memo from the Dalai Lama who, after the events at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant went on the record in support of nuclear energy. The Tibetan Buddhist leader said he supports nuclear energy as a way to bridge the socioeconomic gap in developing nations and in the absence of more efficient alternative energy sources. That’s a pretty insightful view from a leader who understands the causes of human suffering and the connection between access to energy and poverty.  He also recognizes alternatives like wind and solar energy will be difficult to expand on the scale needed to alleviate global poverty. We might expect these monks to hold similarly informed views, after all they come from a Japanese Shingon monastery.  This set of Buddhist teachings falls under the Vajranaña school, which also includes Tibetan Buddhism.  On the other hand, one of the monks described himself as a “homey from the projects in New York City.”  Perhaps he’s been more influenced by the misguided energy policies of NY Governor Andy Cuomo than by the teachings of the renown Tibetan spiritual leader....

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Anti-Nuclear Hysterics, not Melted Reactors to Blame for Fukushima Health Impacts
Mar11

Anti-Nuclear Hysterics, not Melted Reactors to Blame for Fukushima Health Impacts

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. As was predicted on this blog and elsewhere, the multi-barrier reactor containment design protected the public.  Contrary to claims by anti-nuclear groups, the melted cores did NOT burn through the reactor vessels.  The containment structures remained virtually intact. The damaged reactor fuel remained inside the reactor vessels and containment systems. Despite preposterous claims by Greenpeace and others, there were no chunks of plutonium scattered across the countryside.  Only radioactive gasses escaped over the land, and most of that gas was short lived Iodine that has long since decayed away. As reported on Bloomberg and other news sources, no one in the public was harmed by radiation from the damaged reactors.  A small number of plant workers received higher than normal radiation exposures, without lasting effects.  Any hypothetical future health effects will be immeasurably low and will be indistinguishable from normal disease rates within the general population. No one, not even the “Fukushima 50”, was exposed to life threatening amounts of radiation.  Journalists who flew across the Pacific to cover the story received more radiation exposure from cosmic rays in flight than they received from the reactors once on the ground. The visually spectacular hydrogen explosions of the plant buildings, while providing great fodder for anti-nuclear rhetoric had little impact on the safety of the reactors, and harmed no one. The unit 4 fuel storage pools did not empty of water and did not catch on fire.  The fuel there remained safely submerged and suffered no damage of any consequence. Finally, there was no need for the 50-mile evacuation zone ordered by NRC Chairman Greg Jaczko. His decision still has nuclear experts scratching their heads and wondering why.  Jaczko’s actions demonstrated he lacks the experience and knowledge to ask the right questions at crucial moments.  In addition, he lacked the wisdom to recognize other more credible information was available that contradicted his view.  He needlessly rushed forward with an ill-advised decision that was horribly wrong. This is not to imply there were no environmental or economic impacts from the reactor accident – of course there were!  The expensive cleanup in surrounding areas will take years...

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The NY Independent System Operator Confirms Andrew Cuomo’s “PowerNY” Energy Plan to Shut Down Indian Point Nuclear Plant Would Cause Electrical Grid Instability and More Frequent Blackouts.

Listen to the Podcast Here New York gubernatorial candidate Andrew Cuomo makes no bones about it.  He plans to shut down Indian Point Nuclear Plant if he is elected.   His opposition to the plant is no secret.  He has been an out spoken critic of the plant for years, even though Federal inspectors and independent safety assessments agree the plant is safe.  As part of his bid for Governor, Cuomo published his long term energy plan, “PowerNY” in which he calls for the two Indian Point nuclear energy facilities to shut down in 2013 and 2015.  PowerNY states, Andrew Cuomo has long been a supporter of closing the Indian Point nuclear power plant in Westchester and has argued that the federal government should not renew the plant’s operating license when it expires in 2013. PowerNY says New York must “find alternate sources of generation and transmission” so they can replace Indian Point.  Last week, however, the New York Independent System Operator (NYISO) released its latest Reliability Assessment of the electrical grid in New York.  They are the independent non-profit organization that controls the flow of electricity throughout the state.  They are responsible for ensuring the electrical grid is safe and reliable.  In this report the NYISO concluded that without Indian Point the system would become unreliable and blackouts more frequent.  Here is what they said: Reliability violations would occur if the Indian Point Plant were to be retired at the latter of the two units’ current license expiration dates using the Base Case load forecast assumptions. In layman’s terms, that means the grid would become unstable and blackouts much more likely if Indian Point is shut down.  In fact, if you read the report in detail it states that blackouts would be almost four times more likely than allowed by ISO rules if Indian Point is taken out of service.  The NYISO also stated Under stress conditions, the voltage performance on the system without Indian Point would be degraded. This means that during peak loads like those that occur on warm summer days voltage on the grid would drop to dangerously low levels.  When this occurs grid operators are sometimes forces to implement rolling blackouts to prevent loss of large portions of the electrical supply system.  This “degraded voltage” condition also causes accelerated wear and tear on industrial motors, household appliances and electronics because as voltage drops the current draw of the machines rises.  This can cause the appliances to short circuit and fail. The report also says that electricity generated outside the regions would be unable to reach southern New York and New York City because of “transmission...

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NY State Gives Fossil Fuels Favored Treatment

Podcast – Download Audio File Here This is a follow up to the podcast titled “Water Wars in New York” on May 27, 2010 in which I discussed how NY State is using their authority to issue Water Quality Certificates to wage war against the Indian Point Nuclear Plant.  In case you missed that show, New York is holding the plant’s 20 year  license renewal hostage by refusing to issue a Certificate of Water Quality unless the plant agrees to install expensive cooling towers.  The plant has argued that the cost of cooling towers, approximately $2 Billion, is excessive and disproportionate to the environmental benefit that would be derived.  In fact, the plant has identified an alternate technology that would provide greater environmental benefits at about one-tenth of the cost of installing cooling towers. Thus far those arguments have fallen on deaf ears. In my further research on this topic I discovered a damning piece of evidence that proves NY State is giving preferential treatment to fossil fuels while at the same time imposing unfair regulations on neighboring nuclear energy facilities, the largest competitors to fossil fuels. There are several other large power plants on the Hudson River that generate electricity by burning coal, oil, and natural gas.  All of those plants, like Indian Point, use the Hudson River for cooling.  One of the plants, the Bowline plant, is in Haverstraw, NY only about five miles across the river and downstream from Indian Point.  Bowline is a two unit gas and oil fired power plant with a combined output of 1,182 MW (slightly larger than each Indian Point nuclear unit). There are many similarities between Bowline and Indian Point: Bowline, like Indian Point, is required to maintain a NY State water permit.  Bowline, also like Indian Point, evaluated several alternative technologies to reduce fish and fish larva mortality. The Bowline analysis reached similar conclusions to the one performed by Indian Point; they concluded that converting to a closed cooling water system using cooling towers would provide the greatest reduction in fish mortality, but at a very high cost.  Instead, the Bowline plant offered to use a combination of technologies that would provide 80% to 95% percent of the benefit that would be derived from the vastly more expensive cooling towers, but at 1/30th of the cost. That’s where the similarities end.  In the case of the Bowline oil and gas plant, the New York State Department of Environmental Conversation accepted the lower cost alternatives to installing cooling towers.  On the topic of cooling towers, in a letter from Denise Sheehan, the DEC Commissioner they stated; The estimated cost of retrofitting...

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Putting Picos In Perspective
Feb12

Putting Picos In Perspective

Fast Fission Podcast #23 – Download mp3 Here Ever thought about how many zeros there are there in a “pico” something? Remember back in grade school when we learned the metric system of measures?  We started out with units that are easy to visualize: meters get 1000 times bigger and become kilometers; meters get 1000 times smaller and become millimeters.  We understand these intuitively because we have a frame of reference and can visualize each of those unites of length and distance.  Units of mass are the same way; we know a gram is a small unit of mass – we can hold a gram of almost any material in the palm of our hand.  For example, a penny weighs 2.5 grams. Stack up 400 pennies and you have a kilogram, or 1000 grams.  Cut a thin copper shaving off a penny and you have a milligram, or one 1,000th of a gram.  Again, these are things we can see, and that makes it easier to understand. As our schooling progressed we learned about very large and very small numbers, exponents, and scientific notation.  We put these principles to use in science and learned there are other units of measure larger than a “kilo” and smaller than a “milli”.  These are harder to visualize because we have to think in terms we can’t see.  For example, the mass of Mount Everest,  is 3E18 grams, or 3 “exa-grams” and the mass of the planet earth is 6×10^24 kg, or 6E27 grams (6,000 “yotta-grams”) (see note below). On the opposite end of the scale is the prefix “nano” or 1E-9 of a unit. A nanometer is 1E-9 meters, and a nanosecond is 0.000000001 seconds.  I had a hard time visualizing a nano second of time until I learned that it takes about 1 nanosecond for a beam of light to travel one foot.  That kind of puts a nano into perspective, doesn’t it?  The newest computer chips, for example have transistors with a thickness of 45 nanometers!  We can only see things that small with powerful electron microscopes. A “pico” is even smaller than a “nano” , 1000 times smaller!  “Pico” means there are 12 places behind the decimal point.  Even for a person like me who deals with engineering and science all the time, it can be difficult to visualize a “pico” of something.  A pico is so small that even a million picos is still very small amount. It takes a million, million pico grams to make one gram.  If you have a million pico-curies in a liter of water, it would take one million liters to provide a...

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