Big move at Vogtle – lower ring time lapse

If you are like most people I know, you like watching impressively large objects move in a precision fashion.

This video is a time lapse view of the recent lift at Vogtle unit 3 to set the lower ring. That steel object weighs 950 tons and is 51 feet tall.

New skills are being developed at Vogtle and VC Summer that will make it possible to accelerate the construction timelines for future nuclear plants using the same designs.

Political battles hampering function of important agency

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission is supposed to be an independent regulator with the mission of regulating the use of radioactive materials to adequately protect public safety, promote the common defense and security, and protect the environment. Unfortunately, the Commission has become a political battle ground that makes life difficult for the people appointed to lead the agency.

The challenging environment at the top cannot help but trickle down to the staff where important technical work and safety oversight is supposed to be the primary task.

Dr. Allison Macfarlane, the current chairman of the NRC, announced yesterday that she was stepping down at the end of 2014 to return to academia. She will become the Director of the Center for International Science and Technology Policy at George Washington University. Instead of engaging in stressful public testimony where people who are supposedly her political allies — I’m looking at you, Senator Boxer — question her integrity, she will return to her chosen profession and spend time teaching students, writing thoughtful papers and organizing conferences on important public issues.

Though it has not been discussed much in public, I suspect that Dr. Macfarlane has received some nasty direct or indirect communications from Senator Reid associated with her inability to find some devious way to stop last week’s release of volume 3 of the Safety Evaluation Report for the Yucca Mountain waste repository.

I’m throwing out a wild guess, but perhaps Reid loudly compared that release to the more successful, albeit illegal, maneuvers that Greg Jaczko initiated in order to halt the license review process in the first place.

Though I was critical of Dr. Macfarlane’s initial appointment based on her lack of management experience and her tangential “nuclear” experience as a geologist interested in final disposal of nuclear material, I’ve been impressed by her ability to create a more productive atmosphere and to repair some of the damage done by her predecessor. She is a straightforward person who approaches issues thoughtfully and independently.

Unfortunately, in today’s virulently partisan political environment, independent thinking is rarely rewarded or even encouraged. Too many of today’s elected officials take the position of “you’re either for me or against me.”

Dr. Macfarlane, please accept my apologies and my best wishes in your future endeavors. You’ve done well under trying conditions that should not exist. Those who should remain outside of the process once appointments have been made seem to be motivated to make an already difficult job into an almost impossible job.

UAMPS stepping forward to serve customers

The established nuclear energy industry has taken a wait-and-see approach to the idea of developing and deploying smaller, simpler fission power stations that can take advantage of the economy of series production. The industry’s trade organization, the Nuclear Energy Institute, has expressed cautious optimism and has engaged in a moderate effort to identify regulatory obstacles […]

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Prospective customers lining up at NuScale

Each orange circle represents a potential NuScale power plant

A few days ago, Dan Yurman at Neutron Bytes published a blog post that is now titled Flash: NuScale executive says firm may build SMRs at Idaho lab. It was a follow-up to an earlier post in which Dan speculated about the Idaho National Lab’s potential as a good site for a new nuclear power […]

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Disneyland 3-14 – Our Friend, The Atom

On Sunday, January 23, 1957, a large American audience gathered around their television sets to watch the weekly episode of Disneyland, a popular show created and hosted by Walt Disney in return for an investment from ABC that he used to build Disneyland. On that evening, the audience was treated to a compressed course in […]

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Paterson’s plan for CO2 emission reductions

Windmills at the windmill farm Middelgrunden

Owen Paterson, who served as the UK’s environment secretary until a cabinet realignment during the summer of 2014, is planning to begin advocating a dramatic course change for his country’s energy policy. Instead of the wind-heavy plan that was developed by the Department of Energy and Climate Change (Decc) in order to attempt to implement […]

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FOE’s manipulative legal strategy for closing nuclear reactors

During a recent discussion on James Conca’s article titled Are California’s Carbon Goals Kaput?, Paul Gunter of Beyond Nuclear accused Conca of trying to revise history. Gunter’s comment includes a lengthy interpretation of the events surrounding the closure of San Onofre from the point of view of a man who has been a professional antinuclear […]

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The Canadians are coming

Hugh MacDiarmid, the Chairman of the Board for Terrestrial Energy, Inc., gave a talk to the Economic Club of Canada on September 24, 2014. That talk included a brief description of TEI’s integral molten salt reactor technology, but most of the talk was visionary in nature and aimed at exciting his Canadian audience about the […]

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Reusable fuel is an asset for future generations

It’s time to stop talking about the material removed from commercial reactors as “nuclear waste” and to stop looking at the inventory as a burden on future generations. That labeling and that characterization of the material is a costly legacy imposed on us by people who do not like abundant, emission free nuclear energy and […]

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Antinuclear activists are too modest

Jim Conca has published a couple of recent posts on Forbes.com about the premature closure of nuclear power plants in the United States. One titled Are California’s Carbon Goals Kaput? focuses on some of the environmental aspects of the San Onofre debacle; the other, titled Closing Vermont Nuclear Bad Business for Everyone focuses on the […]

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Nuclear energy getting attention on No Agenda podcast

No Agenda, staring Adam Curry and John C. Dvorak bills itself as “The Best Podcast in the Universe.” It is the best, most entertaining, most thought-provoking, and most professionally-produced podcast I listen to, so I cannot argue with the frequently repeated claim. On Episode 656, recorded and released on September 28, Curry and Dvorak chatted […]

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