The Atomic Show #079 – Ft St Vrain, energy comparisons, UK nuclear decision

John Wheeler, Kelly Taylor, Robert Margolis, and Michael Stuart visit with Rod Adams about a variety of topics including Ft. St. Vrain, energy comparisons, energy price inflation, and the recent UK government decision to encourage new nuclear power plants.

First of all, I apologize for the sound quality. I goofed something up with the settings this week and could not make enough adjustments in post production to fix the strange background noises and echoing voices. I’ll try to do better next time.

On Sunday, 13 January, I got together with four atomic friends. John Wheeler of This Week In Nuclear, Kelly Taylor and Michael Stuart who both are occasional contributors to NEI Nuclear Notes Blog and Robert Margolis, a current reactor engineer at FPL’s St. Lucie Nuclear Power Plant.

Robert started off the show with some interesting commentary about his experience as the shift engineer who was on duty at the Ft. St. Vrain nuclear power plant on the day when it shut down for good. He also talked a little about FPL’s recent outage where the company added new life to its plant by replacing steam generators, the reactor vessel head, one main coolant pump, and made a major modification to the containment sump.

We also talked a bit about the various fuels available for producing electricity, the cost of various forms of space heat and how they have changed in recent years, and about the prospects for new nuclear power plants in the US and UK.

John brought up the recent Union of Concerned Scientists report that indicated a rather surprising ranking of new nuclear power plant designs, and we chatted a bit about the conservatism of the electric utility industry.

In other words, it was a pretty good first attempt at a round table format that you might hear on this show on occasion. You might hear it on This Week In Nuclear instead – John and I have not yet figured that one out.

Please make comments here or send me an email if you have particular suggestions for topics – as you will hear, this is a very experienced and knowledgeable group of people. I think all of us have north of 20 years of experience, training and education associated with nuclear power, but we are also amusing (at least among ourselves) human beings with some passion for our craft.


About Rod Adams

5 Responses to “The Atomic Show #079 – Ft St Vrain, energy comparisons, UK nuclear decision”

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  1. Hi,

    First of all this blog rocks!!!

    You have enlighten the importance of the atomic energy as the absolute answer for the energy problems of the humanity!

    Could you provide sometime more information on future technology development in the field – fast breeders, small reactors, the supergrid etc. !? There are talks that the electric grid has to be decentralized and become more Internet-like, as a software consultant, I wonder what role the software might play in this kind of eventual development?

  2. Alessandro De Maida says:

    (Copy and paste from ypur blog…)

    About the discussion on Westinghouse APR and Areva EPR, can you compare the two technologies (or link

    precise references)? I mean, thermal efficiencies, net power installed, enrichment needs, burnups achievable, foreseeable cost per kW and time of costruction and so on? I didn’t find precise figures about them. I think there are a lot of difference between the two reactors, aside the power generated (and maybe the “phlosophy” of design), I’m very interested about..

  3. Robert Margolis says:

    Here is a good summary paper on these Gen III reactors (it also has links to original sites):

    For fuel enrichment information, you will likely need to check the design certification sections at the NRC (, then go to new reactors). My guess is that enrichments and thermal efficiencies will not be TOO different. The EPR has the advantage of being similar to current plants vs the AP-1000 which uses more passive equipment, but is less similar to current plants. We will have a better idea about costs once a few of each have been built (e.g., TVO-3, Sanmen, etc.).

  4. James Bell says:

    Finally got caught up and heard this episode today. Loved the group dynamic, and thought of a topic that might be appropriate for such a setting:

    With the prospects of nuclear power looking up, a lot of us that had to leave the industry could use suggestions to get back involved.

    In my case, I graduated in 1994 having worked for a utility and plant in a co-op education stint for nearly a year total experience. Even with the experience in nuclear analysis, 2D and 3D fuel placement scoping, safety analysis, current analysis codes, etc, there were slim pickings, a bare handful of interviews, and I went to a computer track to feed the family.

    I haven’t touched anything within the industry in many moons, other than the typical mild evangelism that all nukes get assigned the day their major is changed. Any suggestions on getting back to old form and back into the industry?

  5. Robert Margolis says:

    Mr. Bell –

    Have you tried the GE temp side? I know they have a lot of work on licensing the ESBWR. Also, with your analysis background, you might try as they often show opportunities in analysis as well. Good luck and welcome back to nuclear.