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  1. Boxer is your typical partisan hack, no different from the vast majority of scumballs running things in DC. Right, left, doesn’t matter. 99% of our governing body hasn’t got a clue what the world is like out here in the land of reality. If you’re looking for ethical conduct, argument based on facts, or policy based on the people’s interests, you gotta be a damned fool for looking towards Washington.

    What, Boxer’s ignorance is a suprise? Well, just watch Fox or MSNBC for an hour.

    Ignorance sells, and its what people like Boxer peddle, with the able marketing skills of the media machine. It ain’t partisan, the whole system has become infected. Boxer is just a symptom.

    1. @POA

      I know cynicism about politicians is not only fashionable, but often justified. However, I choose not to engage in that philosophy so that I can retain hope that it is possible to make some useful changes. I may be just a blogger now…

      1. Just remember to always call her “Senator” Boxer — she worked so hard to get that title.

        1. Excellent thread! I will leave the question of nuclear power to those who are far more educated about the topic than I. This very interesting discussion of the pros and cons (with, delightfully, little to no rancor) below should be read.

          @Australian Physicist: as an anti-nuclear proponent, I did indeed enjoy (what I could understand) your excellent overview of nuclear power. I’m happy to have an opportunity to read your comments. Your comments should be published as a separate article in Atomic Insights. I disagree, but sure learned a lot from you. Thank you so much.

          @Rick: (off topic) she did work hard to get that title… as did the very few women who are senators. Only 44 women have served in the United States Senate since the establishment of that body in 1789. Roughly half of that number are currently serving in the Senate: 20. Seen from this perspective, and although “sir” and “ma’am” are common terms of respect in the military, her comment to Brigadier General Walsh in 2009 is neither surprising nor should it be demeaned.

          @EL: excellent comment!

      2. “I may be just a blogger now…”

        Senator Adams? I could get behind that!

      3. I would happily vote for a person running for Senate who is an expert in nuclear energy. But there are other issues more important. Some issues are make or break. So it will depend on where a pro-nuclear person stands on these other issues. My conscience is formed by Sacred Scripture, 2000 years of Sacred Tradition and the Teaching of the Magisterium of the Church. That is how I will vote – not right wing, and not left wing. That said, an anti-nuke will never get my vote. Fortunately there is one 3rd party for whose candidates I would sooner vote.

        BTW, Boxer is a Democrat. Just saying……………….

      4. “However, I choose not to engage in that philosophy so that I can retain hope that it is possible to make some useful changes”

        Oh boy. Couldn’t disagree more.

        Until we collectively stop buying into this horsecrap we are being fed by our “representatives”, (what a lie THAT is!)’ and thier pimps in the media, we will change NOTHING.

        If you aspire to office, Rod, you will have to throw away all the attributes that would make you a good leader that represents the interests of his constituents. The simple truth is that integrity is a deficit if you wish to climb the ladder that carries you to top political standing. You can whitewash that reality to your heart’s content, but it does nothing to change the actual truth.

        Until we recognize just how corrupt and contemptable our “leadership” has become, we will be powerless to change it. And part of that process is weaning ourselves off the swill we are force fed daily by entities such as Fox News or MSNBC. The fact that these two media giants enjoy the popularity that they do should be enough to temper your optimism. It is not encouraging that huge numbers of us seem swallow the divisive crap that this carefully nurtured concept of left vs right is built of.

        How you can be so flutteringly optimistic is beyond me. Are you paying attention? Watching and listening to these worthless elitist hacks? What, you think Boxer is an anomaly?

        Egads, man.

        1. @POA

          Do you realize how few people actually watch Fox News shows or MSNBC?

          There is a huge majority of people that do not spend a lot of time watching television news programs and are not as far gone as you seem to believe.

          Yes, I know that the system is broken and am fully aware of the challenges associated with maintaining integrity while attempting to move up. I have an up close and personal experience watching a good friend get chewed up in less than 2 years of a Congressional term. I learned some lessons from that experience.

          I have no strong desire for political office; I have a strong desire to do what I can to help turn America to a better path so I can leave my children and grandchildren a world where the future looks brighter and brighter.

  2. Modern analysis shows that used nuclear fuel in approved storage racks will not overheat even if the spent fuel pool is completely empty as long as none of the fuel in the pool has been in a critical reactor within the last 90 days or so. After that amount of time out of a reactor, enough of the short lived fission products have decayed that the decay heat generation rate can be handled with simple air circulation.

    Rod, do you have a citable (and non-paywalled) source for this, that I can use to show just how disconnected-from-reality the likes of Wasserman are?

    1. @EP

      Sure. Here is one of several studies with similar conclusions. Consequence Study of a Beyond-Design-Basis Earthquake Affecting the Spent Fuel Pool for a U.S. Mark I Boiling Water Reactor

      There are plenty of additional details in the study, but here is a pithy line from the summary page vii:

      “Analysis also shows that for the scenarios and spent fuel pool studied, spent fuel is only susceptible to a radiological release within a few months after the fuel is moved from the reactor into the spent fuel pool. After that time, the spent fuel is coolable by air for at least 72 hours.”

      (Emphasis added.)

      1. Modern analysis shows that used nuclear fuel in approved storage racks will not overheat even if the spent fuel pool is completely empty as long as none of the fuel in the pool has been in a critical reactor within the last 90 days or so.


        This study contradicts this finding. For the Configuration 1: “Hot Fuel in the Spent Fuel Pool”

        “Case 3 Complete pool drainage occurs one year after shutdown. The lowered decay heat does not cause rapid oxidation, however the assemblies reach high temperatures and 50 percent of the fuel rods in the pool fail, resulting in a gap release (p. 3-7)

        (emphasis added)

        Subsequent studies (summarized in Rod’s reference on pg. 12 – 14) found these risks to be low, “limited to large earthquakes and cask drop events,” and also “strongly effected” by other fuel pool and accident parameters (such as total decay heat in pool, “availability of open spaces for airflow, building ventilation rate,” and other concerns.

        So no … modern analysis shows there is still risk of racks overheating after 90 days (and low risk of a gap release for up to a year), and additional risks from earthquakes and cask drop events in subsequent periods (“Cold Fuel in the Spent Fuel Pool) mitigated by other parameters (burnup, total decay heat in pool, airflow, ventilation rate, baseplate hole size, amount of available space at edge of pool, accident mitigation, etc.). Many of the subsequent studies on accident scenarios involving terrorist attacks “are not publicly available because of their nature (i.e., containing sensitive information that could be useful to an adversary …)”

        1. @EL

          A study published in 1997 hardly qualifies as “modern analysis.”

          Do you remember how limited computer modeling was at that time?

          In addition, do you know the difference between a NUREG and a NUREG/CR. As a hint, please read carefully the disclaimer on the front page of the document to which you have linked. It clearly explains that the contracted study is just that, a study that does not even have the imprint of being a peer reviewed paper. It is merely the opinion of the researchers who won the contract to do the work.

          1. @John Galt

            That is part of my point. Limitations on computer modeling, hardware capacity and processor speed were generally overcome by excessive conservatism that provided “safe” answers that happened to be quite incorrect when compared to real life.

            Sure, there were reasonably adequate mainframes and workstations available in 1997. Heck, I earned my MS in Systems Technology ten years earlier than that with a thesis that involved programming a significant simulation on a networked pair of Silicon Graphics IRIS machines in 1987.

            However, analysis techniques, improved hardware and improved simulation languages have resulted in continuing model refinements in the 17 years since 1997. When I wrote “modern analysis” was thinking more along the lines of the recently completed consequence analysis on which the commission based their decision to stop paralysis by additional analysis and declare that wet storage was acceptably safe for an indefinite period of time.

          2. Linux was at version 2 …

            Linux was still at version 2 only three years ago.

          3. As a hint, please read carefully the disclaimer on the front page of the document to which you have linked.

            @Rod Adams

            Yes, contractor is Brookhaven National Lab. It is not unusual for NRC to solicit such research. Are you suggesting we should dismiss such research because it is under contract? Modern research does point to risks from earthquakes, cask drops, and terrorist attacks (albeit risks are low). I’m not aware of anybody proposing wet storage “for an indefinite period of time” as an acceptably safe alternative to dry cask or geological isolation? 60 years, perhaps (until politics get worked out), but not “indefinite.”

            1. @EL

              The fact that the report was produced under contract as a resource does not mean it was vetted or determined to be gospel. It is like countless other studies conducted outside of QA programs; it has no warranties and no regulatory rigor. Again, read the disclaimer; it is not just boilerplate. Also read page xi which states:

              The information is this report is being considered by the U. S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission staff in the development of amendments to its regulations for permanently shutdown nuclear power reactors in the process of decommissioning. The NRC has undertaken a number of initiative [sic] to reduce the regulatory burden for licensees that are in the process of permanently removing nuclear facilities from service. The report provides baseline data to the NRC for evaluating which regulations may be considered for amending to enhance the regulatory effectiveness during decommissioning.

              I choose words carefully. I did not say “infinite,” I said “indefinite.” The primary definition of that word is “lasting for an unknown or unstated length of time.” Do you or anyone else know how long wet storage will be used?

              The initiating event makes no difference. No matter how the pool gets emptied decay heat generation does not change.

              By the way, even the study to which you linked indicates that Senator Boxer has nothing to worry about with regard to San Onofre. On page 3-4 it states that the critical delay time for a PWR with high density storage racks is 17 months. San Onofre has already been shut down for about 28 months.

          4. @EL, E-P and Rod

            This discussion makes a nice change from the anti-nuclear lies and half-truths that you normally bump into online. The behavior of spent fuel is a complex field that I have only touched the edges of, but I think that I might be able to help explain some of what’s going on and why there are conflicting reports.

            Traditionally, spent fuel received a lot less attention than the reactor itself. This started to change in the 1990’s. An example of this was NUREG/CR-6451 (the report quoted by EL), a project designed to identify a worst-case event. Some of the assumptions it makes are reasonable, such as for the fuel loading in the pools. Others are very conservative. In particular the temperature chosen to represent failure has been set at 565 C. This is the point where the cladding can start to swell, potentially resulting in a rupture that would allow the release of most volatile or gaseous radionuclides trapped between the cladding and the fuel itself. This isn’t a good thing, but it will only have significant consequences if there is still a large amount of iodine 131 in the spent fuel. As iodine 131 has an 8-day half-life this concern only lasts a few months after the fuel was removed from the reactor. More serious failures may start to occur once the fuel reaches about 800 C. This is when the cladding can begin to rapidly oxidise and large quantities of fission products may be released. Spent fuel will obviously be able to reach 565 C for a much longer length of time than it will be able to reach 800 C.

            NUREG/CR-6451 used SHARP (Spent-fuel Heatup: Analytical Response Program) to model the behavior of the spent fuel – it was actually the first time that SHARP was used. SHARP is useful for quick modelling as it is relatively easy to use but it is basic and lacks key aspects required for an accurate model. In particular SHARP is basically incapable of modelling at higher temperatures (say above about 500 C or 600 C), as it does not take radiation heat transfer or materials changing (oxidising, melting etc.) into account. Calculations performed with SHARP are generally not acceptable for use in making safety related decisions. This doesn’t mean that the SHARP is useless, just that it needs to be used with care at high temperatures.

            As part of the post September 11 NRC review much more serious modelling of spent fuel accidents was undertaken using MELCOR rather than SHARP. MELCOR is fully validated for modelling severe accidents and includes almost everything you can think of – but it is difficult and time consuming to use. The post September 11 modelling was further refined after the Fukushima accident, particularly to take into account higher burnup from modern reactor operation. This advanced modelling is substantially more accurate than modelling using SHARP and matches physical experiments well. It was this modelling that Rod quoted.

            From this we can see how our understanding of spent fuel in an exposed storage fuel has changed: Assuming it will be fine -> basic modelling indicating a potential issue in a worst case situation -> detailed modelling showing the there really isn’t a problem, including calculating actual limits that need to be observed and how long it will all take. Whenever I see things like this I think that the progress the industry has made is astounding even without the opportunity to make major changes by building new reactors. I also gain even more respect for the engineers and scientists involved in the early days of the nuclear industry who had to make so many decisions without modern tools and knowledge but still managed to get so much right.

            This has become much longer than I was expecting, but hopefully at least someone found it interesting.

            1. @Australian Physicist

              Would you be willing to turn your comment into a blog post that I can attribute to a person with listed credentials?

        2. “resulting in a gap release”
          Is that a typo? Perhaps a “gas” release?

          1. @Rick Armknecht

            No … it’s a “gap” release where fuel cladding, as a containment barrier, no longer remains intact.

          2. @EL : If I’m not mistaken, such gap release will release radioactivity only in the form of noble gas. At Fukushima, *none* of the contaminating impact at distance from the plant came from the noble gas releases.

          3. If I’m not mistaken, such gap release will release radioactivity only in the form of noble gas.


            They appear to involve release of other radionuclides (cesium, iodine, and tellurium groups), but these appear to be small. Release fractions are discussed on page 3.8 (derived from previous studies or experimental observation).

            In previous study cited above, case three involves gap release from fuel clad rupture after a year of cooling (no zircaloy fires), and states “bulk of the releases are noble gases and the consequences [health impact on general public in emergency planning zones] are very small” (66).

            I expect this still implies decontamination and clean-up of site (where there has been a fuel clad rupture in 50% of the rods) will be difficult, time consuming, and costly (and likely have indirect impacts on public confidence, regulatory certainty, etc.).

            1. @EL

              That same study states that the critical decay time is 17 months. In other words, that event that happens in a year just barely causes damage.

              Noble gases might be released, but the vast majority of the rest of the isotopes will be retained in the pool itself, even if the cladding is damaged. There is no driving force to disperse the material. Please recall that there is no short lived iodine remaining after the first 80 days that the fuel is out of a critical reactor.

          4. In other words, that event that happens in a year just barely causes damage.

            @Rod Adams

            Yes … I agree with this.

            Presumably, the classified reports on terrorism (plane strikes, etc.) do involve a driving force component. But in the absence of this, fuel clad damage and decay heat in the rods is not sufficient alone (after a year) to cause any significant health risks for general public outside of plant boundaries (and no zirconium fires, etc.).

            1. @EL

              Do you agree that Senator Boxer’s staff has not served her well by allowing her to rant about the used fuel pools at San Onofre? The last time any of the fuel in those pools was in a critical reactor was January 2012.

          5. Do you agree that Senator Boxer’s staff has not served her well by allowing her to rant about the used fuel pools at San Onofre?

            @Rod Adams.

            I suppose so. I don’t think it serves anybody well to be be making claims that are not scientifically supported and can be easily refuted. She quoted from one document (I seem to recall) that suggests a cladding fire in a SFP would result in contamination equivalent to Chernobyl. Given the age of the fuel at SONGS, this isn’t helpful.

            Then again … when people make statements that are unsupported (and aren’t particularly well informed about the issues) I tend to see this more as an opportunity than a problem to be avoided. It’s a chance for the Commissioners to be very clear in their response, offer informed and accurate rebuttals, to better address concerns in the public (who may not be informed about the issues either), and otherwise be seen as more authoritative than the person asking the questions (in this instance Sen. Boxer). They presumably didn’t want to send the discussion down a rabbit hole, or pre-empt a matter before the Commission (and so gave a minimal response). But it’s not that hard to say: “we have done a thorough review of risks associated with spent fuel pools at US power plants, and we are happy to provide the Committee with a detailed written response to specific concerns, and have any reports forwarded to the Committee so that they can be made a part of the record.”

            But I do understand why Boxer was so upset and combative in the hearing. There was a fire close to a nuclear plant, there is a matter before the Commission to lower regulatory standards, and full decommissioning of the plant is going to take a very long time (too long in many people’s views … primarily because of delays in waste storage arrangements, etc.). There are better ways to be doing these things, and we are not making much progress on addressing these issues in a timely manner, and pursuing these better ways (dry cask storage, geological isolation, etc.). I don’t think it does anybody any good to have these facilities sitting on the beach for 60 years. Let’s get them off the beach in 10, save money in the process, improve accountability in these matters, and show we can get some things done.

            There are lots of missed opportunities here: from Boxer, her staff, Commissioners, and their staffs. Simply holding up the status quo as an answer is pretty lame (especially when the status quo is just merely sufficient, and doesn’t advance these issues in any significant way). An elaborate courtship dance on all sides (it seems to me), with no clear indication (or historical convention) on who is acting as the Lead.

            1. @EL

              San Onofre 2 & 3 should not just be sitting on the beach. They should be generating electricity for the next 30 to 50 years. Instead, Boxer and her antinuclear allies pushed very hard to make it impossible for the owner to have any confidence that any repair effort could be completed and approved in any kind of predictable time frame.

              All of the politicians, regulators, vendors and SCE futzed around for more than a year before SCE finally threw in the towel.

              As I have written before, there was no regulatory reason for them to have ever involved the NRC in the decision process. Based on the condition of the plant and the conditions of their license, all they needed to do was to inform the NRC what actions they were planning to take.

              There is no good financial reason for rushing to spend money on San Onofre. Safestor is an approved condition for a good reason – most of the residual activity at a PWR is activated Co-60 which conveniently enough has a 5.3 year half-life. If decommissioning starts in 55 years, it will be a lot easier and cheaper than if it starts right away. Speaking as a former financial analyst, it is also much cheaper to defer spending far into the future than to move it forward and use current year dollars.

          6. There is no good financial reason for rushing to spend money on San Onofre.

            @Rod Adams

            I’m not buying it. Do you have a source that suggests hotel costs are smaller (and not much larger) than cost savings from decommissioning a less radioactive plant in 60 years? Most people understand this as an additional cost to decommissioning (and one of the disadvantages of Safestor).

            Deferred spending and insufficient funds at the start of Safestor … that’s just what we need, yet another financial risk and public liability for the industry. How do you intend to guarantee that these funds are available at the end of 60 years … will a private company be purchasing insurance to guarantee availability funds (or depending on taxpayer to cover private industry risks and liability)?

            Owners and contractors bungled the upgrade on SONGS, not NRC (see what I mean about those rabbit holes)?

            1. @EL

              Owners and contractors bungled the upgrade on SONGS, not NRC (see what I mean about those rabbit holes)?

              I’m not convinced they did such a bad job. Even if they did, the NRC certainly did not enable a prompt repair process. The uncertainty imposed by the NRC — under political pressure, I might add — which was not doing a thing to improve safety is partially to blame for the permanent shutdown decision and the need to continuously purchase more natural gas to replace the power that San Onofre should be producing.

              Lots of links to remind you about the history here.







  3. Boxer is…to put it bluntly…a nuclear energy bigot. Someone who constantly berates a demographic or organization, and never says anything positive about the object of scorn, is a bigot! I have posted this many other places on this day, and I felt I should also say it here. I might add, she is not the only nuclear energy bigot in Congress; e.g. Markey and Reid.

  4. The NRC is owned by the nuclear industry. Fukushima happened, plain and simple. Believing that it can not happen is just childish magical thinking.
    Smell the coffee. The nuclear industry is 70 years old. They can’t get a loan on their own to finance development, the govt. has guarantee their loans. They can’t even buy insurance, the Price Andersen Act (which was supposed to be temporary) is still in place. American tax payers are going to pay for the consequences of an accident. And they still haven’t figured out how the waste safely for eternity, never mind pay to store for eternity. WIPP just had an explosion and Yucca is a bust, yet we keep producing one of the most toxic waste product substances on the planet thinking someone will figure it out eventually. More wishful magical thinking.
    Time for the nuke industry to put their big boy pants on…find their own financing and insurance and stop relying on tax payers to underwrite them. If nuclear is so safe….why won’t traditional insurance companies and investment bankers take the risk or bet? I’m with them, I don’t want to take the risk either.

    1. I leave it to others who are more familiar with the act to comment on your post.

      However, if anyone has the inclination to do so, I have an additional query:

      The act states:

      Does this mean that Nu-scale’s reactor will be exempt from the act?

      1. Sorry, messed up the HTML code.

        The quote: “Provided, That for facilities designed for producing substantial amounts of electricity and having a rated capacity of 100,000 electrical kilowatts or more, the amount of primary financial protection required shall be the maximum amount available”

        Does this mean that Nu-scale’s reactor will be exempt from the act?

        1. @manic

          I believe it does. NuScale’s 45 MWe modules are in a sweet spot in which they do not have to join the insurance pool that is designed for very large reactors and very large companies. They will not have the contingent liability in the case of an accident somewhere else and they will not have to carry excessive insurance on each of the modules.

          They will, of course, carry appropriate liability insurance with rates determined by risk of loss.

    2. I’ll attempt to respond.

      The NRC is owned by the nuclear industry.

      No it isn’t.

      Fukushima happened, plain and simple. Believing that it can not happen is just childish magical thinking.

      Nobody believes it cannot happen. Energy technologies should be considered on their relative merits compared to alternative technologies. On that account, nuclear energy is the cleanest and safest energy technology known to man. All serious comparative analyses of the external costs of energy generation conclude this (even after Fukushima).

      Smell the coffee. The nuclear industry is 70 years old.

      The nuclear industry is 70 years YOUNG. It is the youngest energy technology in existence today. It has the largest scope for innovation of any energy technology. It has as yet been largely untapped. It offer huge opportunities in support of bona fide human development in harmony with the environment and the economy.

      They can’t get a loan on their own to finance development, the govt. has guarantee their loans.

      Such guarantees help make nuclear energy more affordable and cost the taxpayer nothing (unless the taxpayer is fooled by anti-nuclear groups into sabotaging the project during the construction phase). In any case, such loan guarantees are used to reduce the cost of other large, capital intensive projects. This is a benefit to the tax-payer, not a cost.

      They can’t even buy insurance, the Price Andersen Act (which was supposed to be temporary) is still in place. American tax payers are going to pay for the consequences of an accident.

      Search this website for the term “Price Anderson” and you’ll find explanations of how this works and why it hasn’t cost the taxpayer a dime.

      And they still haven’t figured out how the waste safely for eternity, never mind pay to store for eternity. WIPP just had an explosion and Yucca is a bust, yet we keep producing one of the most toxic waste product substances on the planet thinking someone will figure it out eventually. More wishful magical thinking.

      They have figured it out. There are about a dozen credible concepts for permanent storage. Politics gets in the way of implementing them in some countries. Fortunately there is no rush. Storing nuclear waste above ground is compact, safe, simple and cheap. It’s boring in fact. If humanity decides to keep nuclear waste above-ground for another hundred years or thousand years before finally solving the political issues, fine. It will not cost society much at all. The best solution is arguably to fission the waste in fast reactors. Again, there is no rush to decide on what to do with the waste. In 50 years the issue will be moot anyway, because fast reactors that can burn the waste will be common. Russia is already commercializing them and other countries have similar intentions.

      Time for the nuke industry to put their big boy pants on…find their own financing and insurance and stop relying on tax payers to underwrite them. If nuclear is so safe….why won’t traditional insurance companies and investment bankers take the risk or bet? I’m with them, I don’t want to take the risk either.

      The physical risk of nuclear power is very low, as Fukushima has proved (again) quite spectacularly. But the political risk of nuclear is significant. It is that aspect of risk which makes it difficult (in the current political climate) for financiers to underwrite nuclear projects and cover damages of accidents. Anti-nuclear propaganda groups are experts in magnifying hysteria resulting from any nuclear incident (see Fukushima) and hence, the cost of any nuclear incident can plausibly be magnified indefinitely. That is the reason that private parties are reluctant to insure. In any case, in the EU there is an initiative to make it possible to fully cover the risk of nuclear power projects privately. Presumably, if the EU succeeds in organizing this, other countries will follow suit. Even if this is not solved, the benefit of nuclear power far exceeds the damage of incidents. In the case of Fukushima, the cost of that per kWh of nuclear electricity produced historically in Japan is less than $1 ct/kWh. Including only the physical cost of the accident, the cost drops to a fraction of a cent/kWh.

      1. In 1962 the AEC recommended to JFK that civilian nuclear power use the ORNL’s Molten Salt Reactor design due to its magnitudes safer design and its 200 times more efficient design. MSRs can’t blow up, melt down and with a freeze plug gravity drain tank are walk away safe. They can burn the 95%+ of the unspent nuclear fuel in waste reducing volumes and length of storage time by magnitudes.

        Green Energy’s waste stream of Rare Earth Elements tosses away enough of the super fuel Thorium yearly that can power the entire planet using MSRs; imagine powering the planet by cleaning green.

        1. @Walter Horsting

          While the ultimate design for the MSR might be “200 times more efficient” in fuel consumption, there are many technological hurdles to overcome before such machines are available for purchase by interested customers. I am not advocating that anyone avoid that effort, I just don’t want all potential customers to wait until the ultimate machines are available. If they choose to do so, we will never achieve the goal because there will be no revenue stream to use to pay for the development required.

    3. @William Maurer

      You seem quite certain of your position, but it is based on misinformation. If you are willing to learn and research, we can have a discussion. If not, you will not be welcome here.

      There are 5 nuclear reactors under construction in the United States. Only two are being assisted by the DOE loan guarantee program, but even those two just received any money from that program a few months ago, even though the project began five years ago with no guarantee in place. The award of the loan was announced with great fanfare in 2010, but it took the government more than 4 years to offer terms and conditions competitive with those that the companies involved had in place with commercial lenders. It’s my opinion that the only reason that the loan ended up being “closed” was that the companies decided it was not good politics to embarrass the President by publicly refusing to participate.

      The companies building VC Summer are doing it without any government backed loans. They have, in a democratic process, convinced their customers that building the plants is a good investment in the future. By providing clean, reliable electrical power with low marginal costs, the plants will help South Carolina continue to grow its manufacturing base of well paying jobs that provide other substantial benefits to the state.

      All existing reactors are covered by $350 million in primary liability insurance and participate in a pool that would require them to provide up to $122 million in the case of an accident at any other plant. That provides a total liability pool of $12 billion, and the government has the authority to increase that amount even after an accident if necessary.

      WIPP did not have an explosion. A barrel containing improperly packaged chemical waste had a heat releasing reaction that pressurized the container enough to pop the lid and release a very small quantity of radioactive material. Dr. Jim Conca, who used to be in charge of the independent monitoring organization set up to help protect the public near WIPP, has written a number of explanatory articles for his Forbes blog.

      Before continuing to repeat talking points, I suggest you read those articles.

      Again, if you want to learn and engage in honest discussion, you are welcome here. If you want to make untrue assertions with no credible references, you will be discouraged from posting.

      1. Back to the fuel pool thing. I’ve worked around two fuel pools at operating nuclear plants. The spent fuel had a nice blue glow under 40 feet of very clear water. Here’s the part I saw at both plants and always struck me as a bit bizarre; The buildings that housed the fuel pool had a single layer of sheet metal. In fact the metal had holes and tears in it where you could see to the outside. Other than the sheet metal, the pool was almost open to the outside air. Granted, this was some time ago. Is this still the case in active nuke plants. The Fukushima thing certainly reminded me of this. Also – looks to be an easy mod to put some additional protection for the pool.

        1. @Eino

          Why does that situation concern you? The used fuel is well protected by 40 feet of water. Short of a depth charge, what is the mechanism for damage?

          An air to surface missile would not penetrate that deeply into a pool of water, even if, by a very far-fetched, lucky shot someone managed to put such a weapon onto such a tiny target.

        2. @ Eino June 6, 2014 at 8:51 AM
          Being a retired career nuke operator, I’ve seen some SFPs also. Your claim of holes and tears seems a bit bizarre, but since you “worked there”, do you remember the process you used to have it investigated and fixed? When you checked the results of Surveillance Tests for the building Negative Pressure Boundary testing, do you remember what the results were? Is the “sheet metal” thinner than the fuselage of commercial airliners? What exactly is the relevance to Fukushima, I miss your point, all their used fuel is still in the pools with confirmed fuel element integrity, with videos available to everyone. Did you observe receipt of new fuel while you “worked” there, where the whole train/truck bay door is open to the outside? Or when they transferred a full dry storage cask to the outside?

          “Also – looks to be an easy (engineering process) mod to…” get Yucca open, have you written to you congress person to try to get that done?

          By the way, do you remember what your dosimeter and TLD reading were after you left the “nice blue glow” area; curious minds would like to know.

          1. @mjd

            It’s too bad that Fukushima spent fuel pools apparently had good airtight integrity before the hydrogen explosions. If they had been less airtight, that H2 would have found a way to get out without blowing up.

          2. mjd:

            You have a good questioning attitude.

            I wasn’t an operator at either place. I was a system engineer. My systems were electrical/ I&C. The spent fuel pools were not directly part of my systems. I did not have the holes in the building skin investigated. They weren’t large, but still it surprised me that they were there. I certainly wouldn’t have been the first to see them as the wind whistled through. I guess bugs could have got into the spent fuel pool. The furthest I would have taken that would have been to discuss it with a shift supervisor. The Shift supervisors were SRO qualified and would have immediately been able to tell me if a Tech Spec or other concern was violated.

            Gee Whiz – You are starting to make me feel like that poor guy at Davis Besse a few years back that didn’t rattle people’s cages over the hole in the reactor head.

            I’m sure I picked up very little dose. I didn’t spend a lot of time there. It was probably a few millirems. This was many years ago. We were still using pencil dosimeters.

            It just surprised me that the spent fuel pool wasn’t fully encased in concrete. As Rod said, the 40 ft of water must be enough to satisfy all concerns. I never lost sleep over it and still don’t. This was in the Midwest. Not earthquake country unless you count the New Madrid fault.

            As far as Yucca Mountain. Yes – It should be easy. But,…..the devil is always in the details and it won’t be.

            Now tell me that newer plants have better shells around their spent fuel pools.

    4. @William : 4 plants in Japan were hit by the 20 meter high tsunami and Richter 9 earthquake, Onagawa, Fukushima I, Fukushima II and Tokai II. The most strongly hit one was Onagawa, which handled it with almost no damages.

      This means that the accident at Fukushima I was not an inevitable fate, but something that could perfectly well have been avoided, if better protection mechanism or a better organization for disaster recovery had been in place there. Something that the other Japanese plants were able to do.

      But then also, if we remove the hyperbole about what happened in Fukushima I, the radiation risk there is by established science, **lower** than the air pollution risk in central Tokyo. If we were to repopulate the area, the consequences would not reach the one suffered by the inhabitants of Tokyo in the many days where the particulate pollution is higher than the recommended threshold. Going over that threshold is just as dangerous and carcinogenic than being exposed to low level of radiation like in the towns nearest from Fukushima.

      PS: I know and I mostly share the doubts that Rod has about the validity of applying the LNT at such low dose as the one around Fukushima, which means where the LNT calculated effect is so low that it’s statistically indistinguishable within the normal cancer rates, so below 100 mSv.
      But it’s important to say that even if you fully, without any question trust the LNT postulate, the way it’s calculated impact is handled is still completely irrational with regard to the risk evaluation we have of many other perfectly demonstrated carcinogenic element.

      This irrational handling of radiation risks is what make nuclear expensive, and puts it in an uneven field with regards to other energy generation technologies, which as validated by peer evaluated science have a many times higher death by generated TWh record than nuclear.
      *You* are everyday taking a higher risk by not using nuclear, but will just shrug your shoulders the next time you read in your newspaper something about a gas explosion that killed several people, or any oil accident, things that happen every month without people even noticing.

      1. But then also, if we remove the hyperbole about what happened in Fukushima I, the radiation risk there is by established science, **lower** than the air pollution risk in central Tokyo.

        What’s the healthier place to live or move to; Beijing or Fukushima? Why isn’t this shouted out??

    5. Lots of words here.

      No proof that the NRC is owned by anyone. Try working in the industry. After being in it 1 year I realized that was the furthest comment from the truth.

      Fukushima != USA. Many documents by Japan, and other organizations looked at the severe regulatory deficiencies and the number of things Japan did not do that the rest of the world did which would have reduced or prevented core damage at that plant.

      The loan thing is due to a few factors. The biggest one is the ‘chicken or egg’ issue, where you need to demonstrate adequate funding to get a license, but you need a license for private lenders to give funding. In non-merchant markets, you can get a rate case, but most markets are not merchant markets anymore. V.C. Summer is going up without a loan guarantee.

      Price anderson WAS supposed to be temporary. The nuclear industry has multiple sets of insurance. Price anderson requires them to hold the maximum insurance available, AND to create a 2nd tier of insurance. This ends up making all the plants accountable to all the other plants, because the ENTIRE industry is liable for 1 plant accident. This improves nuclear safety significantly, because plants have a huge incentive to make sure the worst plant is still safe enough to not have a severe accident. It is also no-fault insurance, meaning it gets paid even if the nuclear plant was not at fault.

      WIPP was an issue due to the organizations from the non-nuclear-power industry sending stuff to a DOE storage facility that was not chemically inert. The facility performed as intended and captured over 99.9% of the radioactive material involved by automatically shifting on filters. If anything, it demonstrates these facilities are safe and function as intended.

  5. @WM

    Let me retort to anyone that has made the statement “The NRC is owned by the Nuclear Industry” or statements that are similar. Speaking from the voice of experience, “The NRC has never been in my corner on any issue that I have been involved with.” This is from the perspective of a Nuclear Operator and currently as a Vendor.

    I am continually amazed at how the NRC divests its time in developing new methods to cost licensees hundreds of millions in additional dollars to comply with findings that have a marginal impact on nuclear safety. I am currently involved in developing a response to an NRC bulletin issued in 2012 which has a potential of costing existing licensees millions of dollars as well as potential forced shutdowns if compliance is not established by the deadline. The engineers at NRR have yet to come up with a definitive regulatory position much less options for the licensee to comply with that position. Dealing with the NRC is the classic example of “give me a rock”. It does not matter how eloquent your solution is and it more than likely will be picked apart in numerous iterations, all the while costing you $272 per professional staff hour.

    That being said, there should be a strong regulatory presence in the Nuclear Industry but the existing structure is in dire need of overhaul. One of the major changes that need to happen is that the NRC needs to use risk analysis more in the basis of their evaluations instead of caving into political pressure. The prime example of this is the list of recommendations from the Fukushima task force. While Boxer, Markey and others continue to lob this grenade into every congressional inquiry that involves the nuclear industry, the topic of the impact of any of these recommendations to CDF has yet to be approached.

    The regulatory authority should not be and currently is not “in bed” with the Nuclear Industry. It certainly should not bankrupt licensees by forcing them to implement unnecessary modifications that provide no discernable risk benefits. Also, if anyone knows of this mythical utility where the NRC always agrees with their position statements or their generic letter responses, please provide their contact information, I need to polish my resume.

  6. @ Scott June 6, 2014 at 12:44 PM
    Scott, i agree with your assessment of the way the NRC Staff works on many levels. But as a high level policy position regulation is very risk based now, and has been for awhile. Even new design certification is very risk based, and always has been. The “Safety Goals” are all based on acceptable risk for an accident, followed by acceptable risk for containment failure, followed by acceptable consequences from the accident/containment failure. The problem is with the implementation phase, specifically by the staff folks who have to sign off on the line, on the actual paper. Now we get a shift, but still “risk based”. That guy wants zero risk (rather than acceptable risk), for him personally, thus endless questions, endless money spent answering.
    I think this is a direct fallout and carry over from TMI-2. The NRC (AEC) got burned and the attitude set in, never again.
    When you have a disconnect between High Level policy and Implementation, what you really have is a Adult Supervision problem. Period. Since root causes were never pushed to appropriate ends after TMI-2, there never was any real re-org’ing and necessary house cleaning. Like is normally done with any totally failed organization.
    The ONLY post-TMI-2 recommendation that was never implemented was get rid of the Commission and go to a one-person head. Someone should make a video of a 5-man committee changing a flat tire, might be some insight there.

  7. A Eino June 6, 2014 at 7:27 PM


    You have a good questioning attitude.

    Thanks, maybe that’s because I’m a retired (old school) Shift Supervisor from Davis Besse. Which meant everything inside the Owner Controlled boundary was MY system and responsibility. So I was mostly questioning, to my self, why you painted your observations of SFPs as you did. The words seemed to imply problems existed in that blue glowing environment. Just wondered why someone would do that, rather than try to find out before making generalizations in a public forum. Sorry if I missed something. Too bad we didn’t get a chance to discuss it “back-in-the-day.”

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