Atomic Insights Radar July 20-26 2014

It’s been a busy week, but the following stories appeared on the Atomic Insights radar and are being tracked for additional information.

President Obama has revealed the names of the people that he intends to submit to the Senate for confirmation as NRC commissioners to replace the recently retired Commissioner Apostolakis and soon-to-depart Commissioner Magwood. Both of the nominees replacing the departing technical experts are lawyers.

Stephen Burns retired from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in 2012 after 33 years of service starting in 1978. His last position was as General Counsel; he was involved in issuing two controversial opinions – one regarding the seizure of emergency powers by Chairman Jaczko in the aftermath of Fukushima and one regarding Chairman Jaczko’s decision to follow the direction of his political protectors to halt review of the Yucca Mountain license application.

Jeff Baran has been a senior energy policy staffer for Rep. Henry Waxman and for the Democratic staff of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

NEI has provided an initial reaction to the announcement. Both men have been endorsed by Senator Barbara Boxer, Senator Ed Markey, and Michael Mariotte of NIRS. Atomic Insights does not yet know enough about either man to offer more details, but the hunt is on.

Southern Company made an announcement that should start a new round of enthusiasm for nuclear energy expansion. Apparently, it believes that the progress being made at Vogtle is good enough to support a decision to start additional projects using the same AP1000 design that they are learning to build now. Southern has recognized the potential benefits of keeping the team together for future accomplishments.

NRDC is apparently surprised to find out that the only realistic replacement power source for San Onofre is natural gas.

In a related development, I was only partially surprised to learn about the strength of NRDC’s relationship to a number of petroleum plutocrats. Now I have a better idea why NRDC folks, in personal communications, have admitted to me that their funders would never allow them to express support for nuclear energy as a useful tool in the effort to reduce CO2 emissions.

The most surprising part of that discovery was that the initial clue came from @ShaleGasExpert when he linked to a story titled America’s Plutocrats and PovertyKeepers. That post, featured on described the actions of numerous foundations to fund actions that oppose both Canadian oil production increases and unlocking natural gas abundance from shale rock.

The names of the foundations — Tides, Rockefeller Brothers, Ford, Pew — and NGOs — Friends of the Earth, Sierra, NRDC, WWF — were familiar since all have been deeply involved in opposing the expansion of nuclear energy for many years. This is more evidence supporting my theory that the underlying goal of many groups that attempt to use the cloak of environmentalism is to reduce abundance for all in order to increase profits for plutocrats. Commodity industry profits are generally much higher in high price markets driven by scarcity, either actual or perceived. Restricting production is exactly what “strategic parkification,” pipeline battles, coal demonization, antifracking initiatives and nuclear waste constipation efforts are designed to accomplish.

Of course, there are many sincere idealists who are concerned about the actual issues, but most of them have never had the ability to write multi-million dollar checks and most have never had any family petroleum-sourced wealth to protect.

Lockheed Martin, a $45-$50 billion (revenue) per year defense contractor, has a growing interest in nuclear energy. It has a small development activity in Dallas aiming at the Chinese market for nuclear plant control systems. There are some rumors indicating that it also has an interest in purchasing a majority stake in a recently shrunk small modular reactor enterprise.

Iran and negotiators from the 5 + 1 group (US, UK, France, China, Russia plus Germany) have agreed to a new deadline of November 24, 2014 for the finalization of an agreement about Iran’s nuclear energy development. Iran has stated that it needs 190,000 SWU (separative work units) per year to fuel its reactor in Bushear, the Tehran reactor used to produce medical isotopes, and its research reactor in Arak. That amount of enrichment capacity for those three identified reasons seems reasonable based on the following quote from the World Nuclear Association page about uranium enrichment.

About 140,000 SWU is required to enrich the annual fuel loading for a typical 1000 MWe light water reactor at today’s higher enrichment levels.

ANS Nuclear Cafe published an article titled Research Reactor License Renewal Challenges. So far, there are two heartfelt comments on that article that indicate that there is a large iceberg under the surface that needs further exploration. Research reactors are vital tools for the continuing development of nuclear technologies, not just energy, but isotopes and other radiation applications. They are also a key resource in the training and education infrastructure. We cannot let existing assets deteriorate and should work to reduce decommissioning pressures.

That is not enough, of course. Most of the existing reactors were built before I graduated from college and I am now a semi-retired grandfather. We need to invest in modern tools and in the ability to license and build new devices safely and efficiently.

PS – I have couple excuses for not posting more recently. My wife and I had the honor of attending the US Naval Academy Change of Command on Wednesday and watching one of my classmates take over as the new Superintendent. More than 100 of my USNA class of 1981 classmates attended. All of them have served admirably and many have achieved impressive accomplishments. It was great to reconnect with so many fine leaders.

The experience also proved that the people who chose white as the Navy’s summer uniform understood the technical importance of color in solar energy absorption while the people who decided that professional civilian men in the DC area should wear dark suits, long sleeve shirts and ties even in the summer were probably sadists. Man, was it hot in the Superintendent’s garden on Wednesday.

Another activity that has been competing with my writing has been playing with my grandchildren, especially our 4-year-old granddaughter. She recently spent 6 weeks in a partial body cast, but we tried to make sure she did not have too much idle time. Here is a photo of us picking peaches at a local orchard.

Picking peaches in purple cast.

Picking peaches in purple cast.

Additional evidence re: nonproliferation & antinuclear alliance

After posting Nonproliferation is a disguised antinuclear energy effort, I received the following comment via email. The author has given me permission to share it, with attribution. I know John Holdren well and this article in spot on. John does not weigh energy poverty very high and weighs nuclear weapons proliferation exceedingly highly. This dominates […]

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Nonproliferation is a disguised antinuclear energy effort

I stumbled across a 1983 article titled Nuclear power and nuclear weapons: the connection is dangerous that is the clearest piece of evidence I’ve found to prove that many of the basic talking points of the nuclear nonproliferation crowd are actually aimed at slowing, halting and reversing the use of nuclear energy. These efforts have […]

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Atomic Show #217 – Michael Mariotte, President NIRS

At the suggestion of a long time Atomic Insights contributor and Atomic Show listener, I invited Michael Mariotte for a guest appearance on the Atomic Show. In the small world made up of active nuclear advocates and people adamantly opposed to nuclear energy, Mariotte and his organization are famous — or infamous, depending on one’s […]

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Is Cuomo’s fix against Indian Point already in?

Governor Andrew Cuomo has never tried to hide the fact that he wants to follow in his father’s footsteps. Like Mario, Andrew became Governor of New York. Like Mario, Andrew has established political and financial alliances with well-heeled donors that do not like nuclear energy. Like Mario, Andrew would like to be remembered as a […]

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Dr. Helen Caldicott versus emission-free nuclear energy

Gordon McDowell is a Canadian film-maker who has a strong interest in molten salt reactors using thorium. However, he is also supportive of other forms of nuclear energy as beneficial sources of emission-free energy. You can find more of his work on his YouTube channel. Like many of my associates and colleagues, Gordon has a […]

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Mark Cooper is wrong about SMRs and nuclear energy

Mark Cooper of the Vermont Law School has published another paper in a series critiquing the economics of nuclear energy; this one is titled The Economic Failure of Nuclear Power and the Development of a Low Carbon Electricity Future: Why Small Modular Reactors are Part of the Problem and Not the Solution. It is not […]

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Mangano and Sherman take down

Ian Goddard is an independent investigative journalist who likes to dig deeply into original source material and to follow leads to their logical conclusion. Even though he is not a medical doctor, he has done research of suitable quality to get it published on the National Institutes of Health PubMed site. He produces both written […]

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Smoking Gun – NCPC & John F. Kennedy

There is a folder in the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum titled National Coal Policy Conference that documents an apparently successful effort to influence a rising political star to support national policies that favor coal over natural gas, residual oil and atomic energy. The NCPC, whose existence lasted from its founding in 1959 […]

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Anti nuclear movement strategy circa April 1991

A friend of mine is cleaning out his basement in preparation for a move. He’s been in the nuclear industry for many years and actively participated in some of the public battles that activists have initiated to slow or halt new development and seek closure or cancellation of existing projects. He found a legible, but […]

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Nuclear Energy: Past, Present, and Future

Peter Bradford and Rod Adams

On Friday, March 28, 2014, I had the privilege of attending a symposium at Dartmouth College titled Three Mile Island 35th Anniversary Symposium: The Past, Present, and Future of Nuclear Energy. If you are curious and have a free nine hours, you can watch an archived copy of the main event on YouTube. The thing […]

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