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Dave Lochbaum

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About the author: Mr. Lochbaum received a BS in Nuclear Engineering from the University of Tennessee in 1979 and worked as a nuclear engineer in nuclear power plants for 17 years. In 1992, he and a colleague identified a safety problem in a plant where they were working. When their concerns were ignored by the plant manager, the utility, and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), they took the issue to Congress. The problem was eventually corrected at the original plant and at plants across the country. Lochbaum joined UCS in 1996 to work on nuclear power safety. He spent a year in 2009-10 working at the NRC Training Center in Tennessee. Areas of expertise: Nuclear power safety, nuclear technology and plant design, regulatory oversight, plant license renewal and decommissioning

Routine Releases of Radioactivity from Nuclear Reactors

Nuclear Energy Activist Toolkit #41

The Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League (BREDL) and the Mothers Against Tennessee River Radiation (MATRR) conducted a workshop last November in Chattanooga, TN on the radioactivity monitoring they perform around the Browns Ferry and Sequoyah nuclear plants. Garry Morgan periodically goes to a variety of locations around these plants and uses a radiation detector to measure radioactivity levels. Read More

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NRC Out of Compliance with FOIA Regulations

Fission Stories #175

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) manages the inherent dangers from nuclear power plant operation by establishing and enforcing (at least sometimes) federal safety regulations.

But this post is not about the NRC sending someone to nuclear jail. It’s about the NRC violating federal regulations and perhaps being on its own way to nuclear jail.

This follows on the heals of our post last week showing the NRC has been hiding documents from the public for a decade.

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Senseless Deprivation: The NRC Hiding Documents from the Public

Sensory deprivation involves the intentional elimination of stimuli of one or more of the senses of sight, sound, smell, touch, and taste. While it can be used to promote meditation and other helpful applications, it often has more sinister connotations. For example, few if any Hollywood films feature sensory deprivation followed by scenes of folks winning huge lottery awards or otherwise experiencing unlimited glee. Movies, like 1980’s Altered States, portray sensory deprivation in a more dark and sinister way.

Speaking of dark and sinister, are you aware of the NRC’s senseless deprivation? Read More

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The World Nuclear Industry Status Report: 2014

Nuclear Energy Activist Toolkit #40

The 2014 edition of the annual World Nuclear Industry Status Report was released in July. Mycle Schneider and Antony Froggatt authored this report with contributions by Yurika Ayukawa, Shaun Burnie, Raffaele Piria, Steve Thomas, and Julie Hazeman. Labeling it a report is somewhat misleading. It’s more like an encyclopedia filled with facts and insights.

Schneider, Froggatt and their associates compile and present scads of information. For example, Figure 1 from their report (below) shows the annual amount of electricity generated by nuclear power reactors worldwide from 1990 to date along with the percentage of total electricity generation. The data show that nuclear power’s percentage of overall electricity generation has dropped over 38% from its peak of 17.6% in 1996. Last year, nuclear power reactors produced only 10.8% of the electricity generated worldwide. Two decades of steadily declining generation percentage contradicts the notion of a “nuclear renaissance.”

Click to enlarge (Source: Mycle Schneider Consulting)

Click to enlarge (Source: Mycle Schneider Consulting)

If it only provided one-stop shopping for facts and figures about nuclear power worldwide, the report would be invaluable. It saves readers the effort needed to find and fetch this information from a wide array of source materials (i.e., the unenviable task undertaken by the authors in developing the report). But the report goes far beyond merely reporting nuclear numbers and illustrating their trends. It answers many of the associated “why” questions.

For example, Figure 7a from the report (below) shows the age of the 388 nuclear power reactors operating on July 1, 2014, along with their mean age of 28.5 years. This information is available online at websites like that of the International Atomic Energy Agency. Schneider, Froggatt and their associates probe a little deeper. This year, they introduced a category termed Long-Term Outage (LTO) for reactors that have not been permanently shut down but which did not operate at all during 2013 and during the first half of 2014. Forty-five reactors fell into this LTO bin.

Click to enlarge (Source: Mycle Schneider Consulting)

Click to enlarge (Source: Mycle Schneider Consulting)

Figure 7b from their report (below) revealed that the age profile of the 45 reactors in long-term outages was not significantly different from the profile of the 388 reactors in operation. In other words, the factors causing the long-term reactors were not age-biased. The report is filled with many such nuclear nuances, providing the back story for the numbers and trends.

Click to enlarge (Source: Mycle Schneider Consulting)

Click to enlarge (Source: Mycle Schneider Consulting)

The report contains extensive commentaries on economics of nuclear power and its alternatives and about nuclear plant construction timelines.

Bottom Line

If you only have time to review two annual nuclear reports, the World Nuclear Industry Status Report should be among them. (The other, of course, would be UCS’s annual report on the NRC and nuclear power plant safety.)

What I personally like most about the annual World Nuclear Industry Status Reports is getting to refer to their extensive information without having to do the extensive homework necessary to compile and package it. They are essentially the Cliffs Notes for nuclear power worldwide.

 

The UCS Nuclear Energy Activist Toolkit (NEAT) is a series of post intended to help citizens understand nuclear technology and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s processes for overseeing nuclear plant safety.

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Oconee Irony

Fission Stories #173

Irony is not just the opposite of wrinkly. It also applies to the results obtained from sustained efforts by the owner of the Oconee Nuclear Station in South Carolina to downplay one minor safety problem and in the process causing an even larger problem to be identified. Read More

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You Can’t Close a Safe, Economical Nuclear Reactor

Senator David Vitter recently expressed his view that groups like the Sierra Club, Friends of the Earth, and the Union of Concerned Scientists had teamed up with Senator Barbara Boxer to shut down the nation’s nuclear power plants one at a time. Read More

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Nuclear Cops with Badges, Guns and Handcuffs

Nuclear Energy Activist Toolkit #39

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s (NRC’s) nuclear safety oversight efforts consist of three elements: inspection, assessment, and enforcement. Most of the time, findings by NRC’s inspectors and/or adverse trends from performance indicators result in the agency taking enforcement action in the form of supplemental inspections. In other words, more NRC inspectors arrive at the nuclear plant to determine whether the original problems have been properly fixed and whether additional problems exist. Read More

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Nuclear Risk Assessments and Regulatory Bias

Fission Stories #171

The Fukushima disaster revealed many things: the unselfish sacrifices of workers who put duty ahead of their own safety and concern for their families, the vulnerability of reactor designs to severe challenges and common mode failures, the inadequacy of severe accident management guidelines, and the regulatory bias in risk assessments. This post speaks to this last revelation. Read More

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Three Mile Island Retrospective

Nuclear Energy Activist Toolkit #38

The March 1979 partial meltdown of the core in the Unit 2 reactor at the Three Mile Island (TMI) nuclear plant outside Harrisburg, Pennsylvania was the worst—so far—nuclear plant accident in United States history. Read More

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Rain Reboots at Calvert Cliffs

Fission Stories #170

During a winter storm on January 21, 2014, the Unit 2 reactor at the Calvert Cliffs nuclear plant in Maryland automatically shut down from full power. That event should not have cascaded to cause the Unit 1 reactor to also shut down, but it did. Read More

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