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33 Comments

  1. When was the last time Moniz visited an operating nuclear facility?

    I am so tired of the argument that terrorists can gain access to the used nuclear fuel.

    The loading cycle to safely load used fuel takes 1-2 days and involves 5-10 trained operators, cranes and specialized handling equipment. It isn’t an easy job.

    For the bad guys to get to the used fuel without dying will require the same equipment. That equipment is kept within the boundaries of the existing plant security systems. It can’t be accessed unless every other security measure has been defeated.

    Too many people in DOE lab space have no idea what it actually takes to load used fuel. Yucca never loaded fuel. It was a paper exercise so that multi-billion dollar lab experiment has no relevancy on current status of safely loading used fuel.

    I currently work with an individual who is very smart and capable engineer that came from Yucca. I have educated him about how much work has already been completed in the world of used fuel while the team he was once was “researching” the processes that many utilities are already using to load fuel using NUHOMS, NAC and Holtec technology. It was an eye opening experience for him to see that many of the things they were researching for Yucca were already in use and DID NOT NEED TO BE RESEARCHED BY MORE PHD’S.

    The other issue that many of the people quoted in this article get wrapped around the axle about is plutonium. However I find it interesting that the word – plutonium – appears to have never been spoken. It appears they are trying to keep the anti-nuclear type language of linking uranium and plutonium without mentioning it. There are ways to handle that concern as well.

    The current administrators in government (Moniz for example) are not looking for true long term solutions though. Fracked natural gas has been the politician’s dream since it allows them to kick the can down the road instead of being true leaders who need to educate the population about long term decisions regarding US energy generation requirements.

  2. The administration opposes nuclear power. All public statements have the following syntax: Nuclear power is [good-no-CO2, medical-isotopes] BUT [safe?-radiation-Fukushima-proliferation] . The reader/listener/viewer remembers the LAST part of the sentence.

    Remember Obama’s positive speech, ending in “is it………SAFE?” Last week Moniz again focused on the negative by announcing DOE support for the Fukushima clean up effort. Here’s an article just a few hours old, ‘Moniz said. “Nuclear power comes at the intersection of those, so we need to move forward, we believe, strongly in ways that both lead to a low-carbon future and to a world that is safe from the challenges of nuclear materials.”‘ in http://www.nationaljournal.com/energy/moniz-nuclear-to-play-key-role-in-fight-against-climate-change-20131111

    1. Robert,

      In that article Moniz again refers to the 8 billion dollar loan guarantee given to Vogtle.

      Nothing has been signed yet as Moniz wants to shove down Vogtle’s throat terms And conditions that are outrageous to a multi billion revenue générating company.

  3. Rod, I hope this doesn’t appear slanderous or mocking the organization concerned, but your excellent admission of dismay prompts me to:

    http://www.ansnuclearcafe.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/receptionline-cc-360×297.jpg

    Five nuclear plants shutting down in one year, firing up encouraged anti-nuclear groups and media with uncontested FUD to go after more and dance at throwing whole towns out of work while U.S. nuclear’s image and reputation is in the toilet and its fate on the ropes as pols run for the hills or defend and fund failing green projects.

    So why are these nuclear people laughing??

    1. Those conferences are an opportunity for us to meet up with friends we haven’t seen in a while. I am always excited to go. There are many people who are mentors (one is in the picture you had), friends, acquaintances, and people whom I admire.

      For me seeing them is an opportunity to be grateful and happy.

  4. Mitch, I’m going to take a wild guess and say that the people in those photos are not (former) employees of Vermont Yankee, SONGS, Crystal River, and Kewaunee. OTOH, there were plenty of parties on the anti-nuke side when those placed went belly up.

  5. If there ever was an atmosphere of damning with faint praise, this is it. It’s not a coincidence that the countries which produce the most energy and CO2 also have nuclear energy and nuclear weapons. China (more than double the USA CO2 output now btw), USA, Russia, and India meet this criteria. Japan, Germany, South Korea, and South Africa are next in line for producing the most CO2 and they all have nuclear power but no weapons. The likelihood of their starting a weapons program is slim to none.

    Australia, United Kingdom, and Saudi Arabia are the next most CO2 producing nations. The UK has weapons and nuclear power. The other two do not but Saudi Arabia wants nuclear power.

    That’s just a quick rundown of the 11 most CO2 producing countries. In my view it’s going to take all we can muster to grow nuclear energy in the countries where it will make the most difference. BUT in those countries, nefarious motives to create weapons IS NOT a concern, either because they already have them or they are politically stable and allied with us.

    This does not mean that smaller countries cannot or should not consider a nuclear power program. Most that would or could do so are either growing nations and/or quite politically stable. But why should getting a nuclear program be a point of mistrust when it will probably be looked up as a point of pride for those nations?

    I’m struggling to come up with a great analogy of the kind of attitude these guys are projecting. Overprotective parents who can’t trust their teen to go drag racing with the car? Na, that’s not even coming close. Or maybe it’s just condescending arrogance?

    So if nuclear energy has such a difficult time growing where it already has a foothold why do we have this concern? Do they really believe terrorists are going to swoop into a nuclear power plant one day and grab something to make a bomb with? This is just nuts.

    This is one of those I-have-to-pinch-myself-to-see-if-I’m-still-in-reality moments. Did anyone have the guts to stand up and say I can’t believe we’re even having this conversation?

    See the http://carma.org/dig/show/world+country#digTop for my references of CO2 output. Countries are given a color code for their CO2 intensity. The first country on the list to be green for this metric is France.

    1. I knew Carma, but didn’t realize how damning they were about CO2 emissions. They put Germany’s carbon intensity at 570, right, but also predict it to rise to 635 in future … And also if China is predicted to be still pretty bad at 721 in future, the prediction is with 12.3% nuclear, and 1,5% renewable.
      Carma notes that the future prediction is an estimate based on integrating the already planned builds.

    2. Perhaps the analogy you’re looking for is this one.

      Gunpowder has killed many times more people than nuclear weapons have. The primary component of gunpowder is coal. How many guards do coal-fired powerplants have to prevent the proliferation of gunpowder?

      Gasoline is the primary component of napalm. It is entirely unnecessary to build a gasoline-powered automobile as a prerequisite for building a napalm bomb. For that reason, we don’t require automobiles to have armed guards to prevent the proliferation of napalm.

      Nuclear proliferation is a global hazard, but nuclear power is not part of that hazard. Imagine that Iran were building a nuclear bomb, and that Israel were planning an airstrike to eliminate that possibility. Would Israel consider, even for a moment, destroying a nuclear power plant to achieve that aim? Of course not. They would bomb the enrichment facility, because doing that would stop Iranian bomb production dead. Destroying a power plant would have precisely zero effect on nuclear weapons production.

      1. Part of the connection in peoples minds is made by the words themselves. Other weapons or potentially destructive materials have their own specific words: grenade, gunpowder. There aren’t even words for peaceful use that are close or similar.
        In the case of nuclear power and nuclear weapons, they share the adjective that tells of the nature of that power or weapon. In some languages it’s even part of the word, inseparable: kernenergie, kernwapen or in German: Atomkraft, Atomwaffe.
        We can’t get away from that, we have to work around it.

        If the connection comes up in a conversation, I talk about the Megatons to Megawatts program, as the one real way to get rid of weapons grade uranium and plutonium, and even getting electricity for it too. Sometimes I see a light bulb moment in people who really don’t like the idea of weapons grade material that, in their mind, “we never can get rid of”. It seems one of the better arguments to use: often they haven’t heard about it yet and it surprises and interests them that nuclear energy can be used to get rid of nuclear weapons.

  6. Remember the “daisy cutter” bombs that were dropped in Afghanistan and Iraq (and Viet Nam prior)? They are primarily a mix of ammonium nitrate and aluminum. Yet we don’t see a wide scale ban or public outcry over ammonium nitrate (I believe you can get it at the home center), even though it was once used in a terrorist plot to blow up the federal building in Oklahoma City. Now I understand that the FBI has to clear large purchases of ammonium nitrate, but no one is calling it too dangerous to exist. I doubt there’s any UN resolutions to limit the distribution of ammonium nitrate to “rouge nations.” Of course the reason is because it is much more useful as a fertilizer than a weapon.

    If I’m wrong (and I usually am), please correct me, but you get my point.

    OT, but what’s the opinion of Iran’s attempts at building a reactor? It seems if we take them at their word, they’ve done the math and have figured out it’s better to sell $100 oil than burn it for electricity. OTOH, if they really want to put their money where their mouth is they could build a thorium reactor or something that can’t produce weapons grade products.

    1. Iran has electric power reactors. They are currently building a natural-uranium heavy-water “research” reactor. Don’t sell these guys short, or take them at their word. Read more at WNA.

  7. Interesting news yesterday. Russia is planning to have floating SMRs in 2016. They are using a military reactor with Uranium enriched at 30-40%. They want to beat the market and use working technology.

    Critics say it will cost a lot of money to operate and the model is knowed to be unstable since submarines powered with that model (KLT-40S) are lying on the ocean floor.

    Orders from China, South Korea, Brazil, Vietnam, North African countries are already booked.

    My questions are as follow:

    a) Since Uranium enriched at 30% is clearly against all international civil protocols, is Russia being able to do this thru is BOO model or because they have clout ?

    b) If Russia is able to deploy civil reactors at 30% enriched Uranium, how come we have not heard the US scream murder ?

    c) Will this be stopped by the international laws since Uranium at this concentration level is a no-no (and why is Russia forging ahead if this is the case?)

      1. According to this source, the KLT-40S is a LEU design with enrichment <20%. It is apparently based on earlier KLT-40 and KLT-40M designs which used higher enrichment.

  8. A example, A example, my kingdom for a single real world example of one of the barrage of proliferation theories (and high paid experts) regarding a terrorist theft or real attack on or from a NPP.

    This is going to make many of you pros squirm probably but where the heck is US academia in all this? Im starting to think they are the biggest bunch of overpaid detached cowards when it comes to any issue of relevance.

    The letter ( http://bit.ly/1fc6Dpu ) was based in consensus science and hardly controversial energy reality. Yet it took till now and only four signed it??

  9. What do you think? – did he got it right? Claims outdated US reactor design yet is affirmative of the need for nuclear power and is indeed very supportive of newer reactor designs:

    The nuke that might have been

    The light-water reactor of the day, with its solid uranium-dioxide fuel and water for both moderator and coolant, was by no means the best. But Admiral Hyman Rickover, the father of America’s nuclear navy, chose it because it could be implemented faster than any of the others, making it possible for Nautilus to be launched on time. The LWR also appealed to Rickover because it produced a lot of bomb-making plutonium as a by-product. ( http://www.economist.com/blogs/babbage/2013/11/difference-engine-0 )

    1. I have two reservations about this paragraph. First, it does not acknowledge that the Navy designed, built, and tested a sodium cooled reactor plant that was installed in the Seawolf, SSN575. Second the PU240 produced in a light water power reactor makes the plutonium in used fuel unsuitable for bomb making.

  10. “Nuclear energy and nuclear weapons are not inherently linked as a single enterprise”

    Well they are in the minds of the general public. When practically all media is controlled by a handful of powerful corporations who can post whatever they like against nuclear power, even if it is totally untrue, then it will be a very long and frustrating and probably futile endeavour to try and change peoples minds. The money at stake here is so phenomenal that I don’t doubt that there are some individuals or clandestine groups who would commit sabotage in order to try and nail the lid on the nuclear coffin.
    When both mainstream and even alternative media are spreading the word that even moving fuel rods at Fukushima might create a life ending event, then my fear is that some event could be easily staged to make those worst case fears a reality, then any credibility, in the public’s mind, that nuclear power might still have would be destroyed forever.
    Nuclear power could become the new Terrorist under every bed, so to speak.

  11. Hi Rod

    Thanks for writing this. I’m not at the meeting, as you know. I went to the June meeting, and I can only afford to go to one meeting a year. But I was following the tweeting about the plenary session, and I was appalled. What’s with all these worried “cold warriors”? Why were they the plenary speakers?

    I heard a talk at Dartmouth about proliferation. This guy went on and on about the possibility, however remote, of using spent LWR fuel to build plutonium bombs. After the talk, in the question period, I asked him about the megatons to megawatts program. This was the OPPOSITE of proliferation. Well, yes, he had heard of the program and it was real and a great program.

    Being too sweet for my own good, I didn’t ask him the logical and hard follow-up question: “So why didn’t you mention ‘megatons to megawatts’ in your talk, huh?”

    Thanks for asking the hard questions at ANS, Rod.

    Best,
    Meredith

  12. Rod,

    Nunn and Schultz are among that class of people of whom one asks, ‘are they still alive?!!’. Expecting something original from Sam Nunn is not reasonable. The guy was a broken record, even 20 years ago, when I knew he was still alive.

    Why would the ANS invite these uninteresting dinosaurs (OK Moniz is not a dinosaur … with that hair I’m not sure what he is), instead of some hotshots. I go to Scientific Conferences and the Plenary session may have a dinosaur or two celebrating a career, but they are also a forum for those guys who are breaking new ground. I suppose we haven’t supported this enough to have many of those people, but how about someone from B&W on SMRs? Or, one of the other SMR companies. At least that is popular concept in the US right now.

    I guess it would not be appropriate to invite the Russians, but I wish we were doing half as many exciting things as they are.

  13. Rod Adams: “…with the beneficial use of those same elements for a wide range of purposes that have nothing to do with wanting to control, terrorize or kill people”

    Sure, but the problem is that a peaceful nuclear system still represents an extremely complex chemical system especially in terms of scope (ie number of chemical elements to be considered) and the possible associations that may be formed between the various chemical elements (through the formation of compounds)

    So even if you are not a bad guy and have no intention of building a bomb, a nuclear system can turn into a bomb without anyone desiring such…simply because of an inability to study the system analytically.

    1. And here is my concern over the desirable rapid innovation of nuclear systems with better economics: how much of the hard earned safety analysis of light water reactors gets thrown out in the process?

    2. @starvinglion

      So even if you are not a bad guy and have no intention of building a bomb, a nuclear system can turn into a bomb without anyone desiring such…simply because of an inability to study the system analytically.

      You have no idea what you are talking about. We understand far more about nuclear processes and chemistry than your ignorant comment implies. There is no way that even a moderately well designed nuclear plant can become a bomb, and that statement has been true for many decades.

      1. So basically you are saying in the event of a severe core damage accident there is no possibility of , for example, a steam explosion? That is absurd.

        1. A steam explosion is not a nuclear explosion.

          A hydrogen explosion is not a nuclear explosion.

          A core meltdown is not a nuclear explosion.

          A hydrogen explosion that causes the ejection of radioactive material is not a nuclear explosion.

          A steam explosion that somehow causes the ejection of radioactive material is not a nuclear explosion.

          A core meltdown does not cause rapid ejection of radioactive material into the environment so again is not a nuclear explosion.

          And there are many analytical tools available to designers to use to analyze systems, subsystems, meta-systems, components, structures, human performance, machine performance, and the list goes on.

          So what point are you really trying to make?

          1. The magnitude of fission products released in the Chernobyl accident exceeded that released in the Hiroshima bomb. It doesn’t matter to the public that it wasn’t a nuclear explosion…the public was told that a NPP could not explode like a bomb period.

            1. And it didn’t “explode like a bomb” any more than hundreds, if not thousands of industrial facilities have exploded. Despite all fossil fuel funded propaganda to the contrary, there is nothing especially toxic or dangerous about radioactive materials in comparison to other industrially useful elements and compounds.

              The destructive power of nuclear weapons is the enormous bang that comes from the chain reaction, not the small amount of radioactive “fallout” produced.

          2. @starvinglion,

            As have been stated here many times, the Chernobyl design is not used in the US nor was it the design used at Fukushima.

            So attempting to conflate FUD of Chernobyl with the facts of US and Japan based reactors is fear mongering which is why many non-nuclear trained people are afraid. They have been fed a steady diet of fear mongering by people with grudges against nuclear power, people who believe perfection must be applied to nuclear power but no other power generation source; people who make money by being an anti-nuclear promoters, or people who are promoting the burning of fossil fuels.

            That is what drives many of us pronukes to speak out in many forums.

            Additionally, as Rod has pointed out in other articles about the people still living in Chernobyl and as the link below discusses; the science of Chernobyl needs to be reevaluated without the Caldicott believers in the room.

            http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/nuclear_power/2013/01/wildlife_in_chernobyl_debate_over_mutations_and_populations_of_plants_and.html

          3. Correction:

            statement should have read….”which is why many non-nuclear people who have been trained to fear nuclear power are afraid.”

            ..

  14. “In my opinion, our modern challenge is to learn how to make nuclear energy safe enough, secure enough and affordable enough so that we can create a more equitable, prosperous world. We should strive to eliminate energy poverty and reduce the potential motivation to use a nuclear weapon to destroy other people. This is not a matter of making dangerous compromises, but it simply a matter of recognizing that the search for perfection is the enemy of good enough.”

    Rod. In your last paragraph what I think you want to say if I may paraphrase is

    Our modern challenge is to use nuclear energy and within reasonable limits acheive that safely, securely and affordably in order to create a more equitable prosperous world. In doing so we will be striving to eliminate energy poverty. Affluence in all nations will help reduce the potential motivation to develop or use a nuclear weapon.
    Before we will be able to reach this goal we need to realize that the search for perfection is the enemy of good enough.

    Just thought it is worth the effort to nail down what you are saying.

  15. I can’t stress enough how confounding it is to read this, and how seemingly unbelievable it is to me that a room full of educated, intelligent participants* in the nuclear and energy industries could give credence to such fear-mongering.

    Please correct me if I’m wrong with this line of reasoning, but here I go:

    It is my understanding that the United States Government (in association with many private organizations) already stores an incredible volume of volatile material, insulated from the public, for months, years, and regularly decades on end; I am referring to incarcerated Americans.

    We’ve been told that individuals can constitute a National Security risk — this was the justification for things like Gitmo. If we can ‘protect the public’ from dangerous human material and provide for its care over extended periods, it seems to reasonably follow that we can do the same for inanimate waste material. Humans are easy to transport — they can even assist in their own liberation, in some cases — and they require far less infrastructure to conceal, store, or utilize, yet we rarely hear of high value targets being freed from domestic imprisonment by force or sabotage.

    Is it just me, or is the bugaboo of securely storing and handling nuclear materials laid bare by even this modest example?

    *I consider everyone who benefits from a reduced-emissions energy lifecycle and a cleaner atmosphere to be a participant in this regard, inasmuch as they all have a vested interest in cleaner air!

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