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”Advanced Nuclear Reactors” -desperation to save USA’s nuclear industry – but it’s not likely to work.

the industry has turned to two other gambits to secure a bigger market share: small, modular light-water reactors, which, because they lack the advantage of economies of scale, would produce even more expensive electricity than conventional reactors; and non-light-water “advanced” reactors, which are largely based on unproven concepts from more than 50 years ago.

Unfortunately, proponents of these non-light-water reactor designs are hyping them as a climate solution and downplaying their safety risks

Advanced’ Nuclear Reactors? Don’t Hold Your Breath. With little hard evidence, their developers maintain they’llb be cheaper, safer and more secure than existing power plants,  https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/lsquo-advanced-rsquo-nuclear-reactors-don-rsquo-t-hold-your-breath/Scientific American By Elliott Negin on July 23, 2021

The U.S. nuclear power industry is at an impasse. Since 2003, 11 of the 104 light-water reactors in operation at the time have closed, mainly as a result of aging infrastructure and the inability to compete with natural gas, wind and solar, which are now the cheapest sources of electricity in the United States and most other countries worldwide.  

In the early 2000s, the industry promoted a “renaissance” to try to stem its incipient decline, and in 2005, Congress provided nearly $20 billion in federal loan guarantees for new nuclear reactors. The result? Only two new Westinghouse AP1000 light-water reactors, still under construction in Georgia, which will cost at least $14 billion apiece—double their estimated price tags—and take more than twice as long as estimated to be completed. Another two partially built AP1000 reactors in South Carolina were abandoned in 2017 after a $9-billion investment.

Given the struggle to build these standard-sized, 1,000-megawatt light-water reactors, the industry has turned to two other gambits to secure a bigger market share: small, modular light-water reactors, which, because they lack the advantage of economies of scale, would produce even more expensive electricity than conventional reactors; and non-light-water “advanced” reactors, which are largely based on unproven concepts from more than 50 years ago.

Unlike light-water reactors, these non-light-water designs rely on materials other than water for cooling. Some developers contend that these reactors, still in the concept stage, will solve the problems that have plagued light-water reactors and be ready for prime time by the end of this decade.

The siren song of a cheap, safe and secure nuclear reactor on the horizon has attracted the attention of Biden administration officials and some key members of Congress, who are looking for any and all ways to curb carbon emissions. But will so-called advanced reactors provide a powerful tool to combat climate change?

A Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) analysis of non-light-water reactor concepts in development suggests that outcome may be as likely as Energy Commission Chairman Lewis Strauss’ famous 1954 prediction that electricity generated by nuclear energy would ultimately become “too cheap to meter.” Written by UCS physicist Edwin Lyman, the 140-page report found that these designs are no better—and in some respects significantly worse— than the light-water reactors in operation today.

 Lyman took a close look at the claims developers have been making about the three main non-light-water designs: sodium-cooled fast reactors, high-temperature gas-cooled reactors and molten salt–fueled reactors. With little hard evidence, many developers maintain they will be cheaper, safer and more secure than currently operating reactors; will burn uranium fuel more efficiently, produce less radioactive waste, and reduce the risk of nuclear proliferation; and could be commercialized relatively soon. Those claims, however, do not hold up to scrutiny.

 One of the sodium-cooled fast reactors, TerraPower’s 345-megawatt Natrium, received considerable media attention earlier this year when company founder Bill Gates touted it during interviews about his new book, How to Avoid a Climate Disaster. In mid-February, Gates told CBS’s 60 Minutes that the Natrium reactor will be safer and cheaper than a conventional light-water reactor and produce less nuclear waste.

According to the UCS report, however, sodium-cooled fast reactors such as Natrium would likely be less uranium-efficient and would not reduce the amount of waste that requires long-term isolation. They also could experience safety problems that are not an issue for light-water reactors. Sodium coolant, for example, can burn when exposed to air or water, and the Natrium’s design could experience uncontrollable power increases that result in rapid core melting.

In June, TerraPower announced that it would build the first Natrium reactor in Wyoming as part of a 50-50 cost-share program with the Department of Energy. The DOE program originally required TerraPower to have the reactor, still in its early design stage, up and running by 2027. The agency recently changed the target date for commercialization to 2028.

From concept to a commercial unit in seven years?

The new Westinghouse AP1000 light-water reactor provides a cautionary tale. It took more than 30 years of research, development and construction before the first one was built in China and began generating power in 2018. According to the UCS report, if federal regulators require the necessary safety demonstrations, it could take at least 20 years—and billions of dollars in additional costs—to commercialize non-light-water reactors, their associated fuel cycle facilities, and other related infrastructure

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) may have to adapt some regulations when licensing reactor technologies that differ significantly in design from the current fleet. Lyman says that should not mean weakening public health and safety standards, finding no justification for the claim that “advanced” reactors will be so much safer and more secure that the NRC can exempt them from fundamental safeguards. On the contrary, because there are so many open questions about these reactors, he says they may need to meet even more stringent requirements.

Finally, it recommends that the DOE and Congress consider spending more research and development dollars on improving the safety and security of light-water reactors, rather than on commercializing immature, overhyped non-light-water reactor designs.

“Unfortunately, proponents of these non-light-water reactor designs are hyping them as a climate solution and downplaying their safety risks,” says Lyman. “Given that it should take at least two decades to commercialize any new nuclear reactor technology if done properly, the non-light-water concepts we reviewed do not offer a near-term solution and could only offer a long-term one if their safety and security risks are adequately addressed.” Any federal appropriations for research, development and deployment of these reactor designs, he says, “should be guided by a realistic assessment of the likely societal benefits that would result from investing billions of taxpayer dollars, not based on wishful thinking. 

July 24, 2021 Posted by | technology, USA | Leave a comment

Trump insurgents came within seconds of capturing ‘nuclear football’ on Jan. 6

Trump insurgents came within seconds of capturing ‘nuclear football’ on Jan. 6, Mark Sumner  Daily Kos Staff,  Wednesday July 21, 2021  During Donald Trump’s second impeachment trial, video footage of events on Jan. 6 revealed just how close Mike Pence came to falling into the hands of the people who were chanting for his execution. Fourteen minutes after the mob of Trump supporters first breached the Capitol, Secret Service agents led Pence from the Senate chamber and down a flight of stairs. He entered that stairwell just seconds ahead of the arrival of insurgents, some of whom were carrying rope or zip ties. Had those insurgents not been delayed through the actions of Capitol Police Officer Eugene Goodman, they could easily have been there to capture Pence and take him to the gallows waiting on the lawn outside.

But in addition to Pence, they might have captured something else that would have been especially problematic. For most of us, our electronic devices—phones, tablets, and laptops

—are regularly trusted with our most confidential information. That’s one of the things that helps to make these devices our constant companions and among the most vital objects that we own. However, there is still information that’s considered too valuable, too sensitive, to be trusted to any electronic device, and one prime example was in the hands of a military aide who was with Mike Pence as he fled from the Senate. 

That aide was carrying a small satchel, and inside that satchel was a book listing the locations of classified military sites, a description of how to activate and use the Emergency Broadcast System, a “black book” of pre-planned military actions, and a small card that contains the codes necessary to authorize a nuclear strike. That aide was with Pence at the top of the stairs in the video that was shown during the Senate trial.

The Jan. 6 insurgents didn’t just almost get Mike Pence. They almost got the backup copy of the president’s Emergency Satchel. Better know as the “nuclear football.”

As Reuters reports, concern over how close the satchel came to being captured by the Trump horde is calling for a review of just how the vital information is carried and secured……………………. https://www.dailykos.com/stories/2021/7/21/2041066/-Trump-insurgents-came-within-seconds-of-capturing-nuclear-football-on-Jan-6

July 24, 2021 Posted by | incidents, USA | Leave a comment

Bill Gates’fast nuclear reactor ”Natrium” – not so safe and a nuclear weapons proliferation risk

At the March Senate hearing, TerrPower’s CEO described a future for the Natrium project that had almost unlimited export opportunities for Natrium and much larger plants. As Levesque explained, the current Natrium offering is a 345-megawatt (electric) machine—not so small in itself—because that size was what today’s market would accept. As TerraPower gained experience, though, he anticipated “growing Natrium output back up to gigawatt scale,” the size of current large light water reactors. The obvious conclusion is that, despite the current ballyhoo about the economic advantages of small units, TerraPower doesn’t think the smaller units would be as economic as larger ones. The “small” label is apparently just for the easily impressed.

Bill Gates’ Fast Nuclear Reactor: Will It Bomb?,  https://nationalinterest.org/blog/buzz/bill-gates%E2%80%99-fast-nuclear-reactor-will-it-bomb-189967 The principal reason for preferring fast reactors, historically the only reason, is to gain the ability to breed plutonium. Thus, the reactor would make and reuse massive quantities of material that could also be used as nuclear explosives in warheads.

by Victor Gilinsky Henry Sokolski 23 July 21, “Fast” means Natrium relies on energetic neutrons as opposed to “slow” neutrons that drive all our current power reactors. That’s also what gives it the “advanced” label. DOE and nuclear enthusiasts have advertised that small, factory-built, modular reactors will be cheaper and safer, and will be so attractive to foreign buyers that they will revive America’s nuclear industry, currently dead in the water; that they will enable the United States to compete in an international market now dominated by China and Russia; and they will provide a solid nuclear industrial base for meeting U.S. military nuclear requirements.

With all these supposed advantages it is not surprising that DOE is pouring money into SMRs. And based on little more than slogans, it is also getting enthusiastic bipartisan Congressional support. To understand what is really going on, one has to look beyond most of DOE’s small reactor projects, mere distractions with little future, to TerraPower’s Natrium. This is not, by the way, the company’s original “traveling wave” concept. That one apparently did not work.

The Natrium project, more than any other, offers the possibility to fulfill the nuclear community’s eighty-year-old nuclear dream to develop a nuclear power plant that can run on all mined uranium, not just on the relatively rare uranium-235 fissile isotope, as current reactors do, thereby vastly increasing fuel resources. It does this by first turning the inert uranium into plutonium and then using the plutonium as fuel. It can even “breed” excess plutonium to fuel new fast reactors. Those outside the nuclear community have no idea of the grip this captivating idea has on nuclear engineers’ minds. It has, however, serious practical drawbacks. What concerns us here is that plutonium is a nuclear explosive—a few kilograms are enough for a bomb, and it is an awful idea to have untold tons of it coursing through commercial channels.

Fast breeder reactors are not exactly a new idea. The DOE’s predecessor agency, the Atomic Energy Commission, pushed fast breeder reactors in the 1970s as the energy solution in what was thought to be a uranium-poor world. It turned out we live in a uranium-rich world, so the expensive project, whose safety problems had not been fully resolved, made no economic sense. Congress canceled the Clinch River Fast Breeder Reactor demonstration project in 1983. Enthusiasts tried but failed to revive fast reactors during the second Bush administration. That effort flopped. Now they are trying again with Natrium, a scaled-up version of a General Electric design for a small sodium-cooled, plutonium-fueled fast breeder reactor (natrium is German for sodium).

TerraPower, of course, is Bill Gates’s company. One might ask, naively, why he of all people needs government support if the Natrium project is as good as he apparently thinks it is, but let us pass over that to focus on what the project technically entails and the difficulties those technical details pose.

Chris Levesque, TerraPower’s CEO, told a March 25 Senate Energy Committee hearing that the Natrium would be fueled with uranium enriched to 20 percent U-235 rather than explosive plutonium. But will that remain the preferred fuel if the Natrium reactor takes off and is offered for export? Currently, only a handful of nations can make 20 percent enriched uranium. It’s hard to believe that foreign customers will want to be tied to a U.S. supply of this fuel.

If they want another source for 20 percent fuel, will the United States go along with foreign enrichers offering it? We currently oppose Iran producing it on grounds that such material is too close to bomb-grade uranium. In a 1976 statement on nuclear policy, President Gerald Ford said the United States would not act in its civilian program in a way contrary to what we ask of others. Has this level of consistency and respect for others gone by the boards?

The thing to remember is that the principal reason for preferring fast reactors, historically the only reason, is to gain the ability to breed plutonium. That is surely what foreign customers will want. The original GE design on which Natrium is based included an onsite reprocessing plant. So configured, the reactor would make and reuse massive quantities of material that could also be used as nuclear explosives in warheads.

The potential weapons link is obvious in India, which has refused to allow international inspections of its fast reactor. And the recent disclosure that China is building two fast reactors more or less under wraps immediately provoked international concerns about Chinese possible weapons plutonium production. The plutonium produced in the fast reactor uranium “blanket” surrounding the reactor core is well over 90 percent plutonium 239, which is ideal for nuclear weapons.

At the March Senate hearing, TerrPower’s CEO described a future for the Natrium project that had almost unlimited export opportunities for Natrium and much larger plants. As Levesque explained, the current Natrium offering is a 345-megawatt (electric) machine—not so small in itself—because that size was what today’s market would accept. As TerraPower gained experience, though, he anticipated “growing Natrium output back up to gigawatt scale,” the size of current large light water reactors. The obvious conclusion is that, despite the current ballyhoo about the economic advantages of small units, TerraPower doesn’t think the smaller units would be as economic as larger ones. The “small” label is apparently just for the easily impressed.

Nor are the touted safety advantages of fast reactors what they seem. The low pressure of sodium-cooled reactors is an advantage. But sodium burns violently when exposed to air or water. And a fast reactor needs a large, concentrated amount of fissile material which becomes more reactive if it loses its coolant. In short, the comparison with the safety of light water reactors is at best a draw.

The March Senate hearing discussion about competing with Russia and China made clear the nuclear industry’s business plan centers on exporting fast reactor technology around the world, however implausible this may be given the cost and safety issues we’ve noted. The question for the U.S. government is, should it be encouraging nuclear technologies that threaten to flood the world with untold tons of plutonium?

Presidents Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter made it U.S. policy to discourage commercializing of plutonium-fueled reactors. Ford’s words bear repeating: In 1976, he announced that the United States wouldn’t support reliance on plutonium fuel and associated reprocessing of spent fuel until “the world community can effectively overcome the associated risks of proliferation.” Fast reactors like TerraPower’s Natrium don’t meet this test.

Victor Gilinsky serves as program advisor to The Nonproliferation Policy Education Center, is a physicist, and was a commissioner of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission during the Ford, Carter, and Reagan administrations.

July 24, 2021 Posted by | Reference, technology, USA | Leave a comment

Democrat lawmakers call on President Biden to reduce the role of nuclear weapons in the upcoming Nuclear Posture Review.

SENATORS MARKEY, MERKLEY AND REPS. BEYER, GARAMENDI LEAD COLLEAGUES IN URGING PRESIDENT BIDEN TO REDUCE MILITARY ROLE OF U.S NUCLEAR WEAPONS IN UPCOMING NUCLEAR POSTURE REVIEW    https://www.markey.senate.gov/news/press-releases/senators-markey-merkley-and-reps-beyer-garamendi-lead-colleagues-in-urging-president-biden-to-reduce-military-role-of-us-nuclear-weapons-in-upcoming-nuclear-posture-review  Washington (July 22, 2021)–

Today, Senators Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), Jeffrey A. Merkley (D-Ore.) and Representatives Don Beyer (VA-08) and John Garamendi (CA-03), co-chairs of the Nuclear Weapons and Arms Control Working Group, led 18 of their colleagues in calling on President Joseph R. Biden to actively guide the formation of the Department of Defense-led Nuclear Posture Review. The Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) will be part of an integrated National Defense Strategy that the Department of Defense says will be completed by early next year. The lawmakers urged the Administration to consider a series of bold actions that would fulfill the President’s pledge to reduce the role of “nuclear weapons in our national security strategy.”

“Mr. President, as a United States Senator and then as Vice President, you were a party to every major nuclear weapons debate of the past five-decades. From bolstering the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, to building European support for the Intermediate-Nuclear Forces Treaty, to securing votes for ratification of the New START Treaty, you have consistently been on the right side of history. Your Administration’s NPR is a watershed moment where you can reject a 21st century arms race and make bold decisions to lead us towards a future where nuclear weapons no longer threaten all humanity,” the lawmakers wrote in their letter to President Biden.

Specifically, the lawmakers called for President Biden’s Nuclear Posture Review to:  

  • Adjust U.S. declaratory policy to assign a reduced role for U.S. nuclear weapons, consistent with the President’s past stated view that: “Given our non-nuclear capabilities and the nature of today’s threats — it’s hard to envision a plausible scenario in which the first use of nuclear weapons by the United States would be necessary. Or make sense.”
  • Direct the Department of Defense to include in its proposed target list a breakdown of the damage expectancy, civilian casualties, and climatic and humanitarian consequences stemming from nuclear weapons use.
  • Examine the number and types of new weapons needed to deter nuclear attack, taking into account recommendations from the Government Accountability Office to consider deferring or cancelling certain nuclear weapons modernization programs.  
  • Complete independent review of the proposed intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) – the Ground Based Strategic Deterrent – that looks into the technical feasibility and comparative cost savings of life-extending the current Minuteman III ICBM.
  • Eliminate two of President Trump’s new types of nuclear weapons: the nuclear sea-launched cruise missile (SLCM) under development and the low-yield W-76(2) warhead already deployed on U.S. ballistic missile submarines.
  • Commit to pursuing robust diplomacy with Russia and China on arms control through U.S.-Russia bilateral strategic stability talks, which build upon an extended New START Treaty, and starting a new bilateral U.S.-China strategic stability dialogue that builds towards the eventual conclusion of arms control measures that reduce the risk of miscalculation.

A copy of the letter can be found HERE.

July 24, 2021 Posted by | politics, USA, weapons and war | Leave a comment

First Energy company to pay fine for bribing Ohio officials to bail out nuclear power stations

FirstEnergy agrees to pay $230M fine for bribing Ohio officials to bail out two nuclear plants, Utility Dive, Iulia Gheorghiu   July 23, 2021  

Dive Brief:

  • FirstEnergy Corporation announced on Thursday a settlement agreement to pay a $230 million penalty for bribing Ohio officials to  ensure the passage of a ratepayer-funded bailout for older generation assets, including two nuclear plants.
  • The utility cooperated with federal investigators to disclose paying millions through dark money groups to state officials, including former Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder and former Public Utilities Commision of Ohio (PUCO) Chairman Sam Randazzo. The company acknowledged using 501(c)(4) organizations, which are registered lobbying entities, to conceal the nature, source and control of payments in the pursuit of the nuclear legislation……………

The details in the 49-page settlement agreement, in which FirstEnergy had to admit that company executives paid money to public officials in return for official action, has led to stakeholders raising questions about utility dark-money and political spending………….

The OEC Action Fund is also asking for a full repeal of HB 6 and has called for an investigation into every PUCO and Ohio Power Siting Board ruling made under Randazzo’s tenure.

“Each case he presided over is possibly tainted by corrupt ties to FirstEnergy,” Taylor-Miesle said…………………….  https://www.utilitydive.com/news/firstenergy-agrees-to-pay-230m-fine-for-bribing-ohio-officials-to-bail-out/603836/

July 24, 2021 Posted by | Legal, secrets,lies and civil liberties, USA | Leave a comment

Racism and the misguided efforts to expand nuclear energy around the world

Early efforts to expand nuclear energy were rife with racism and peril,
reminds a historian. “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to
repeat it,” wrote the philosopher George Santayana in 1905. Heeding this
aphorism, in The Wretched Atom, historian Jacob Darwin Hamblin seeks to
remind readers of the misguided 20th-century effort launched by the United
States, its allies, and international agencies to expand nuclear energy
around the world. The compelling narrative should lead readers to realize
the importance of preventing a repeat of the follies that marked the early
decades of the atomic age.

 Science 21st July 2021

https://blogs.sciencemag.org/books/2021/07/21/the-wretched-atom/

July 24, 2021 Posted by | history, USA | Leave a comment

Pentagon review: What happens if ‘nuclear football’ is lost?

Pentagon review: What happens if ‘nuclear football’ is lost? Questions about security procedures arose after Jan. 6, when Vice President Mike Pence was escorted to safety along with a military aide carrying the backup communications system.. 6, when Vice President Mike Pence was escorted to safety along with a military aide carrying the backup communications system.

By The Associated Press  NBC News, 21 July 21, WASHINGTON — The Pentagon is taking a rare look at whether it is prepared to deal with the theft or compromise of the portable communications system nicknamed the “nuclear football,” which enables the president or a stand-in to order a nuclear attack.

In announcing the probe Tuesday, the Pentagon inspector general’s office did not disclose what precipitated it, but questions about security procedures arose in the aftermath of the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol.

Vice President Mike Pence was seen on security camera video being escorted to safety, along with a military aide carrying the backup “nuclear football,” as rioters entered the Capitol.

A backup system always accompanies the vice president so that he is able to communicate in the event the president cannot. The “football,” officially called the Presidential Emergency Satchel, enables communication with the office inside the Pentagon that transmits nuclear attack orders.

The inspector general’s office said its review began this month. It gave no timeline for completing it.

“The objective of this evaluation is to determine the extent that DoD processes and procedures are in place and adequate to alert DoD officials in the event that the Presidential Emergency Satchel is lost, stolen, or compromised,” Randolph R. Stone, an assistant inspector general, wrote in a July 19 letter to the director of the White House military office and the director of the Joint Staff at the Pentagon. “This evaluation will also determine the adequacy of the procedures the DoD has developed to respond to such an event.”

Two Democrats who had asked the Pentagon inspector general to review the matter, Reps. Stephen Lynch of Massachusetts and Jim Cooper of Tennessee, said in a joint statement that the Jan. 6 riot raised questions about whether the Pentagon was even aware that Pence’s “nuclear football” was potentially in danger of falling into the hand of insurrectionists………..

“U.S. Strategic Command, which is responsible for U.S. strategic deterrence and nuclear operations, was reportedly unaware that Vice President Pence, his military aide, and the nuclear football were all potentially in danger and only came to understand the gravity of the incident several weeks later when security camera footage was played as a video exhibit during the Senate impeachment trial,” they wrote. https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/national-security/pentagon-review-what-happens-if-nuclear-football-lost-n1274582

July 22, 2021 Posted by | politics, USA, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Small nuclear reactor project cut back to half size, due to financial worries

Eastern Idaho nuclear project goes from 12 to six reactors.  IDAHO FALLS, Idaho (AP) 19 July 21— A Utah energy cooperative said it will reduce the number of small modular nuclear reactors it will build in Idaho from 12 to six for a first-of-a-kind project  [ totally ineffective against global heating] that is part of a federal effort to reduce greenhouse gasses that cause climate change……

The reactors are being built by Portland, Oregon-based NuScale Power. The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission last year approved NuScale’s application for the small modular reactors, the first time U.S. officials approved a design for a small commercial nuclear reactor.

………….. Idaho Falls has committed to buying 5 megawatts of power from the reactors through the Carbon Free Power Project. The city had been committed to 10 megawatts but cut that in half in October amid concerns about financial risks.

………..  Idaho Falls City Council member John Radford said at a July 8 meeting. “This project is something that can help keep this country on this trajectory to a carbon-free future and maybe a better existence for all of us.” – [a complete untruth!!     this Councillor is either ignorant, or lying]  https://madison.com/news/national/govt-and-politics/eastern-idaho-nuclear-project-goes-from-12-to-six-reactors/article_cb353af6-5659-5baa-8365-dc575aeeba8d.html

July 20, 2021 Posted by | Small Modular Nuclear Reactors, USA | Leave a comment

Wiscasset – just one of thousands of American communities stuck with stranded nuclear wastes.

The situation in Wiscasset underscores a thorny issue facing more than 100 communities across the U.S.: What to do with hundreds of thousands of tons of nuclear waste that has no place to go.

Securing these remnants of nuclear energy generation is an ongoing task that requires armed guards around the clock and costs Maine Yankee’s owners some $10 million per year, which is being paid for with money from the government.

All told, the country’s many abandoned nuclear facilities — including Maine Yankee — have cost the federal government billions of dollars, a sum that increases by about $2 million each day

Keeping the spent fuel on the site was meant to be a temporary solution until the dry storage casks, or canisters, could be transported to a permanent home deep underground where they could stay undisturbed for hundreds of thousands of years.

Armed Guards Protect Tons Of Nuclear Waste That Maine Can’t Get Rid Of  Maine Public | By By Abigail Curtis, BDN July 19, 2021  In the summertime, the picturesque village of Wiscasset is infamous for its long lines of people hungry to try a lobster roll at Red’s Eats and cars that crawl through town on the often-clogged U.S. Route 1.

But just a few miles south of downtown is a different kind of roadblock: thousands of tons of nuclear waste stored on a coastal peninsula at the now-decommissioned Maine Yankee atomic energy plant that have nowhere to go.

The change in presidential administrations means another chance for the federal government to make good on its promise to remove the waste, so the site can be closed for good. The Biden administration’s Department of Energy seems to be picking up where the Obama administration left off, creating a process for communities to volunteer to host the waste.

“What worries me is that there really isn’t any national leadership right now on this stuff. There isn’t an agency that has a mission and has developed a strategy, that has goals and is willing to act on it,” Don Hudson, the chairman of the Maine Yankee Community Advisory Panel, said. “We’re currently in this limbo.”

That’s a problem because the waste — 1,400 spent nuclear fuel rods housed in 60 cement and steel canisters, plus four canisters of irradiated steel removed from the nuclear reactor when it was taken down — is safe for now, but can’t stay in Wiscasset forever.

The situation in Wiscasset underscores a thorny issue facing more than 100 communities across the U.S.: What to do with hundreds of thousands of tons of nuclear waste that has no place to go.

Securing these remnants of nuclear energy generation is an ongoing task that requires armed guards around the clock and costs Maine Yankee’s owners some $10 million per year, which is being paid for with money from the government.

After the government failed to remove the spent fuel, Maine Yankee and the other two decommissioned nuclear power plants in New England — Connecticut Yankee in East Hampton, Connecticut, and Yankee Atomic in Rowe, Massachusetts — took it to court. So far, they have been awarded a total of $575.5 million in damages during four rounds of litigation, money that has been paid out of the U.S. Judgment fund. A fifth round is happening now, and the lawsuits are likely to continue until the fuel is removed.

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July 20, 2021 Posted by | USA, wastes | Leave a comment

After the lab-leak theory, US-Chinese relations head downhill

The United States and China could work together in sharing biosecurity-related samples, genetic materials and data, developing protocols and countermeasures against biosafety accidents, promoting transparency in dual-use research of concern, countering disinformation, and strengthening compliance with global health laws, including the Biological Weapons Convention and the International Health Regulations.

But the US push to investigate the lab leak and the political context in both countries likely puts the goal of finding the origins of COVID-19 and many other ambitions at risk………

After the lab-leak theory, US-Chinese relations head downhill, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, By Yanzhong Huang | July 16, 2021  In October, 2018, more than a year before the COVID-19 pandemic, dozens of international trainees visited the Wuhan Institute of Virology for an expansive workshop meant to “promote the cooperation between China and other countries in the field of biosafety.” The attendees, many from developing countries, took classes on virus handling and bioethics, they listened to speeches by Chinese and UN arms control officials, and learned from eminent scientists. For the organizers, the 10-day event was a chance to showcase China’s expertise in biosafety management. And for this, they could hardly have chosen a more perfect location, a prestigious virology institute that had just months earlier opened the country’s first state-of-the-art, specialized facility for safely studying the world’s most dangerous pathogens, a biosafety-level (BSL) 4 lab.

The marketing plan hasn’t paid out.

Two years on, the lofty vision the workshop at the advanced Chinese biolab embodied—one of international collaboration on disease control and scientific research—has disintegrated as the United States and China tangle in an increasingly nasty fight over the origins of the still-raging coronavirus pandemic. In the United States, President Joe Biden, prominent scientists, and once-skeptical mainstream media outlets have collectively revived a hypothesis that was initially largely framed as a conspiracy theory, that the COVID-19 virus could have escaped from the Wuhan lab. Meanwhile, in China, many are convinced COVID-19 started somewhere else, outside of the country.

The Wuhan Institute of Virology now sits at the forefront of the US-China row on the origins of a once-in-a-century pandemic.

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July 20, 2021 Posted by | China, politics international, USA | Leave a comment

Canada’s small nuclear reactor project is looking like just a pipe-dream.

Globe Climate: Canada wants nuclear to power the future. But how? SIERRA BEIN Matthew McClearn is an investigative reporter and data journalist with The Globe. For this week’sdeeper dive, he talks about Canada’s nuclear ambitions. Globe and Mail, 19 July 21

Senior government officials, notably federal Natural Resources Minister Seamus O’Regan, say small modular reactors (SMRs) will help Canada achieve net-zero carbon emissions by mid-century. There’s just one problem: it’s not clear yet whether any will be built.

To be sure, many promises made by SMR vendors seem compelling. By taking advantage of factory-style mass production, they’re supposed to be far cheaper than previous generations of reactors, which tended to be massive and prone to cost overruns. They’d also be easier to deploy…….. 

A mad scramble to deliver on these promises is now underway. Ontario Power Generation—by far Canada’s most experienced nuclear station operator—plans to select a vendor to build a SMR at its Darlington Station by 2028. Further out, Saskatchewan is considering whether to order its own SMRs to replace coal-fired plants.

Accomplishing all that would silence numerous critics and naysayers. But as I explain in my most recent story, history is littered with reactors that failed to live up to their promises.   . Many SMR vendors are very early-stage companies which face years of grueling, expensive R&D work to advance their designs to the point they could actually be built. And they’re competing against renewable technologies including wind and solar, which utilities can purchase and deploy today. It may be premature to count on SMRs to help meet Canada’s emissions targets.   https://www.theglobeandmail.com/canada/article-globe-climate-canada-wants-nuclear-to-power-the-future-but-how/https://www.theglobeandmail.com/canada/article-globe-climate-canada-wants-nuclear-to-power-the-future-but-how/

July 20, 2021 Posted by | Canada, Small Modular Nuclear Reactors | Leave a comment

Judge rules distribution of compensation for investors who lost fortunes in multi billion-dollar nuclear reactor failure in South Carolina

Judge OKs distribution for $192M nuclear project settlement, https://www.miamiherald.com/news/business/article252884293.html

BY MEG KINNARD ASSOCIATED PRESS, JULY 19, 2021  OLUMBIA, S.C.

Investors who lost fortunes in the failure of a multi billion-dollar nuclear reactor construction deal in South Carolina will soon begin to see their portions of a $192 million settlement, under a recently approved distribution.

Last week, a federal judge signed off on a plan to disperse the funds among former shareholders in SCANA Corp., the former parent company of South Carolina Electric & Gas. The settlement itself was the largest securities class action recovery obtained in South Carolina when a judge approved it last year, according to attorneys for the investors.

The utility company became embroiled in controversy after announcing in summer 2017 that it was shuttering a nuclear reactor construction project at the V.C. Summer Nuclear Station in Jenkinsville, about 30 miles (48 kilometers) north of Columbia, following the bankruptcy of lead contractor Westinghouse.

Up to that point, SCANA and state-owned utility Santee Cooper, a minority partner in the project, had spent nearly $10 billion on it. The failure cost ratepayers and investors billions and left nearly 6,000 people jobless.

The abandonment spawned multiple lawsuits, some by ratepayers claiming company executives knew the project was doomed and misled consumers as well as regulators as they petitioned for a series of rate increases. State and federal authorities launched investigations, which have led to guilty pleas from two top-level SCANA executives.

More than 737,000 SCE&G customers had already paid more than $2 billion toward the project, which never generated any power. Customers did ultimately see retroactive credits applied to bills after lawmakers passed a temporary rate cut that knocked about $25 a month off the average residential customer’s bill.

SCANA shareholders accused the company of assuring them the project was above board, even as costs and delays spiraled out of control. This, investors alleged, caused SCANA stock to be traded at artificially inflated prices, numbers that plummeted once the project was mothballed. In July 2016, SCANA stock was trading at $76.12 a share but dropped more than 50% after news of the project’s failure, and the investigations surrounding it, became public, according to the investors’ attorneys.

The settlement includes $160 million in cash, with the remaining $32.5 million covered by cash or stock in Dominion Energy. The Virginia-based company took over SCANA in 2019, paying more than $6.8 billion to buy out the company’s stock and assuming its consolidated net debts of $6.6 billion.

Claimants will be required to cash their checks within 120 days or forfeit the award, according to the order.

“We are pleased that the court has approved the settlement distribution plan, and look forward to the distribution of the settlement funds to eligible class members according to the plan,” said Marlon Kimpson, a state senator and attorney representing the investors.

July 20, 2021 Posted by | Legal, USA | Leave a comment

City Council in Calgary, Canada, not happy about ”rushed” agreement to own stranded nuclear wastes in Maine.

The 11-acre temporary storage site is patrolled around the clock by armed security guards.

The situation concerns Coun. Evan Woolley, who said that Enmax never mentioned the spent nuclear fuel site when the utility briefed city council on its bid for Versant.

Calgarians have a stake in Maine nuclear fuel storage facility   https://mail.google.com/mail/u/0/?tab=rm&ogbl#inbox/KtbxLthlxCLcsbdhrlMgpmhjJQTWxmvSdV?compose=new

Facility part of the deal when Enmax bought U.S. utility for $1.8 billion, including debt

Scott Dippel · CBC News ·  Jul 19, 2021 Enmax’s acquisition of a utility in Maine last year came with a nuclear surprise that city council members say they weren’t told about.

When the city-owned Enmax closed on its deal to buy Versant Power (formerly Emera Maine) in March of 2020, it also acquired Versant’s interest in a former nuclear power plant.

The Maine Yankee plant operated from 1972 to 1996 and was decommissioned in 2005.

Versant owned 12 per cent of the electricity generated by the power plant. Its ratepayers also paid up front for 12 per cent of the decommissioning costs.

The plant was torn down and tonnes of spent nuclear fuel rods from the facility were temporarily encased in 64 concrete silos at a protected site in Wiscassett, Maine.

Part of the deal

The president of Versant Power, John Flynn, tells CBC News that Enmax couldn’t avoid taking on the Maine Yankee obligation when it purchased Versant.

“As part of the acquisition, Enmax really didn’t have the opportunity to pick and choose the assets or relationships or obligations it wanted,” said Flynn. “It was making a bid for the entire company.”

He said there isn’t a market for a temporary nuclear waste storage facility, so any buyer of Versant would have had to take on that obligation.

There are approximately $10 million US in annual costs related to the safe operation of the spent nuclear fuel storage site, including monitoring, maintenance and security.

About 38 people work at the site.

But Flynn said this doesn’t actually cost Versant or Enmax any money.


It’s covered by a trust fund which includes legal settlements from the US Department of Energy (DOE), which has a legal responsibility to ultimately remove the tonnes of spent fuel and find a permanent storage site.

Temporary site may be used for years

Flynn said there’s currently no estimate from the DOE on when it may move the materials to a final storage site.

He said the trust fund has enough money in it that the operation of the temporary facility will be covered for years to come.

In some years, Flynn said annual payments from the fund have been made to Versant customers who prepaid the decommissioning costs during the years the nuclear power plant was in operation.

The 11-acre temporary storage site is patrolled around the clock by armed security guards.

“The entire site is surrounded by a security perimeter that has 24/7 security that is of the level you would expect to see on an army base, so it is a hyper-secure site.”

While Enmax says it doesn’t own the spent nuclear fuel, it does list in its annual financial report the historical 12 per cent interest in Maine Yankee.

Council kept in dark

The situation concerns Coun. Evan Woolley, who said that Enmax never mentioned the spent nuclear fuel site when the utility briefed city council on its bid for Versant.

He is one of several council members contacted by CBC News who said they were unaware of that part of the $1.3 billion acquisition, which also included $500 million in debt.

Owning 12 per cent of a company that owns a bunch of nuclear waste has not only reputational risk but also real risk in terms of the world that we live in,” said Woolley.

The Ward 8 councillor, who is also the chair of council’s audit committee, said he would have liked to have known this information before council approved Enmax’s purchase.

“For us to not have been made aware of that is unacceptable,” said Woolley.

“Enmax and now Versant Power, which was Emera Maine, is owned by Calgarians. So council and the shareholder are accountable for that decision.”

Outside eyes needed

He describes Enmax’s pitch to city council to approve its takeover of the company in Maine as “rushed.”

His preference is that in future, a third party could assess such business opportunities for council and make a recommendation. 

That perspective could come from the city’s chief financial officer, the city solicitor or an external consultant.

A report is expected before the audit committee in September, which he said could result in changes that could help ensure Enmax and all of the city’s wholly-owned subsidiaries are on the same page as city council in the future.

He describes Enmax as “the massive gorilla in the room in terms of its size and scale.”  “The risk appetite of Enmax versus the risk appetite of a shareholder are different. And that’s where we need to provide better alignment,” said Woolley.

If council approves of any changes for its subsidiaries, he said it would mean that another transaction like the Versant purchase could not occur in the way that it did. 

The 11-acre temporary storage site is patrolled around the clock by armed security guards.

The situation concerns Coun. Evan Woolley, who said that Enmax never mentioned the spent nuclear fuel site when the utility briefed city council on its bid for Versant.

Calgarians have a stake in Maine nuclear fuel storage facility  AT TOP https://mail.google.com/mail/u/0/?tab=rm&ogbl#inbox/KtbxLthlxCLcsbdhrlMgpmhjJQTWxmvSdV?compose=new

Facility part of the deal when Enmax bought U.S. utility for $1.8 billion, including debt

Scott Dippel · CBC News ·  Jul 19, 2021 Enmax’s acquisition of a utility in Maine last year came with a nuclear surprise that city council members say they weren’t told about.

When the city-owned Enmax closed on its deal to buy Versant Power (formerly Emera Maine) in March of 2020, it also acquired Versant’s interest in a former nuclear power plant.

The Maine Yankee plant operated from 1972 to 1996 and was decommissioned in 2005.

Versant owned 12 per cent of the electricity generated by the power plant. Its ratepayers also paid up front for 12 per cent of the decommissioning costs.

The plant was torn down and tonnes of spent nuclear fuel rods from the facility were temporarily encased in 64 concrete silos at a protected site in Wiscassett, Maine.

Part of the deal

The president of Versant Power, John Flynn, tells CBC News that Enmax couldn’t avoid taking on the Maine Yankee obligation when it purchased Versant.

“As part of the acquisition, Enmax really didn’t have the opportunity to pick and choose the assets or relationships or obligations it wanted,” said Flynn. “It was making a bid for the entire company.”

He said there isn’t a market for a temporary nuclear waste storage facility, so any buyer of Versant would have had to take on that obligation.

There are approximately $10 million US in annual costs related to the safe operation of the spent nuclear fuel storage site, including monitoring, maintenance and security.

About 38 people work at the site.

But Flynn said this doesn’t actually cost Versant or Enmax any money.


It’s covered by a trust fund which includes legal settlements from the US Department of Energy (DOE), which has a legal responsibility to ultimately remove the tonnes of spent fuel and find a permanent storage site.

Temporary site may be used for years

Flynn said there’s currently no estimate from the DOE on when it may move the materials to a final storage site.

He said the trust fund has enough money in it that the operation of the temporary facility will be covered for years to come.

In some years, Flynn said annual payments from the fund have been made to Versant customers who prepaid the decommissioning costs during the years the nuclear power plant was in operation.

The 11-acre temporary storage site is patrolled around the clock by armed security guards.

“The entire site is surrounded by a security perimeter that has 24/7 security that is of the level you would expect to see on an army base, so it is a hyper-secure site.”

While Enmax says it doesn’t own the spent nuclear fuel, it does list in its annual financial report the historical 12 per cent interest in Maine Yankee.

Council kept in dark

The situation concerns Coun. Evan Woolley, who said that Enmax never mentioned the spent nuclear fuel site when the utility briefed city council on its bid for Versant.

He is one of several council members contacted by CBC News who said they were unaware of that part of the $1.3 billion acquisition, which also included $500 million in debt.

Owning 12 per cent of a company that owns a bunch of nuclear waste has not only reputational risk but also real risk in terms of the world that we live in,” said Woolley.

The Ward 8 councillor, who is also the chair of council’s audit committee, said he would have liked to have known this information before council approved Enmax’s purchase.

“For us to not have been made aware of that is unacceptable,” said Woolley.

“Enmax and now Versant Power, which was Emera Maine, is owned by Calgarians. So council and the shareholder are accountable for that decision.”

Outside eyes needed

He describes Enmax’s pitch to city council to approve its takeover of the company in Maine as “rushed.”

His preference is that in future, a third party could assess such business opportunities for council and make a recommendation. 

That perspective could come from the city’s chief financial officer, the city solicitor or an external consultant.

A report is expected before the audit committee in September, which he said could result in changes that could help ensure Enmax and all of the city’s wholly-owned subsidiaries are on the same page as city council in the future.

He describes Enmax as “the massive gorilla in the room in terms of its size and scale.”  “The risk appetite of Enmax versus the risk appetite of a shareholder are different. And that’s where we need to provide better alignment,” said Woolley.

If council approves of any changes for its subsidiaries, he said it would mean that another transaction like the Versant purchase could not occur in the way that it did. 

July 20, 2021 Posted by | Canada, politics, wastes | Leave a comment

Risk of cracks in pressure tubes of Canada’s ageing nuclear reactors – how long can they keep operating safely?

The regulatory violations at the Bruce station are the latest indication that the industry’s approach to managing the aging of pressure tubes, and predicting deuterium ingress, may be breaking down.

At issue is the industry’s ability to accurately predict how long Canada’s aging nuclear reactors, many of which have already exceeded their 30-year design life, can continue to operate safely

Reactors at Bruce nuclear station violated terms of operating licence,   MATTHEW MCCLEARN  Globe and Mail, 19 Juy 21,Two reactors at the Bruce Nuclear Generating Station have violated the terms of its operating licence, its operator and the federal regulator have revealed.

Bruce Power, which operates the plant in Kincardine, Ont., announced in a July 13 statement that pressure tubes in Unit 3 and Unit 6 were found to have “higher-than-anticipated readings.” The following day, the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) issued its own statement saying hydrogen equivalent concentration (Heq) levels in some of the station’s pressure tubes exceeded the allowable limit of 120 parts per million.

Pressure tubes are six-metre-long rods that contain bundles of uranium fuel. A CANDU reactor contains several hundred of them – and they are considered the principal life-limiting component of Canada’s reactor fleet. Pressure tubes with high Heq levels are at risk of developing blisters and cracks that could cause them to fracture.

Citing an ongoing “regulatory process” that “will continue to evolve,” Bruce Power did not answer questions from The Globe and Mail regarding how many tubes were affected or how much they exceeded the allowable limit……………..

At issue is the industry’s ability to accurately predict how long Canada’s aging nuclear reactors, many of which have already exceeded their 30-year design life, can continue to operate safely……….

Frank Greening, a retired OPG employee who worked for more than a decade with pressure tubes, said the Unit 6 tube reading is unprecedented and puts the regulator in a difficult position………….

Pressure tubes deteriorate as they age, picking up deuterium (an isotope of hydrogen) through a corrosion process known as deuterium ingress. In combination with other aging processes, deuterium ingress causes tubes to grow in length and diameter, known as creep, which allows more coolant to bypass the fuel bundles, lowering the margin of safety. Over time, tube walls become thinner and more brittle, which can cause them to crack and eventually fracture.

In January, 2019, the CNSC renewed Bruce Power’s licence to operate the Bruce station for 10 years, to 2028. However, the regulator insisted that before Heq levels exceeded 120 ppm, Bruce Power would have to prove that its pressure tubes could continue to operate safely above that level. If any pressure tube reached the limit, it declared, the operator would have to shut down the reactor.

At the time, Bruce Power promised to “extend the validity limits of the existing fracture toughness model to 140 ppm of [Heq] in pressure tubes by the end of 2018 and to 160 ppm of [Heq] by the end of 2019.”

But the CNSC said it received a new fracture toughness model for review this May. “No decisions regarding acceptance of the model have been made at this time,” it said.

The regulatory violations at the Bruce station are the latest indication that the industry’s approach to managing the aging of pressure tubes, and predicting deuterium ingress, may be breaking down.

It shows their predictions aren’t worth beans,” Dr. Greening said. “Their predictions are failing. And this is not the first time.”

In March, The Globe reported that, since 2017, CNSC staffers had expressed concerns about unreliable data from pressure tube inspections by OPG at its Pickering plant, east of Toronto. CNSC staffers warned that measuring and predicting deuterium ingress is “potentially one of the biggest issues currently faced by the Industry.”………. https://www.theglobeandmail.com/business/article-reactors-at-bruce-nuclear-station-violated-terms-of-operating-licence/

July 20, 2021 Posted by | Canada, Reference, safety | Leave a comment

Pro nuclear U.S. lawmakers again introduce Bill to promote nuclear industry

WASHINGTON, D.C. 19 July 21, – U.S. Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), Ranking Member of the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee, along with Senators Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), and Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) reintroduced the American Nuclear Infrastructure Act (ANIA)
……. pecifically, ANIA will:

  • Reestablish American international competitiveness and global leadership;
  • ANIA empowers the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to lead a consensus-building process in international forums to establish regulations for advanced nuclear reactor designs.
  • ANIA provides the NRC authority to deny imports of Russian nuclear fuel on national security grounds.
  • Expand nuclear energy through advanced nuclear technologies;
  • ANIA creates a prize to incentivize the successful licensing process of next generation nuclear technologies and fuels.
  • ANIA requires the NRC to identify and resolve regulatory barriers to enable advanced nuclear technologies to reduce industrial emissions.
  • Preserve existing nuclear energy; and
  • ANIA authorizes a targeted credit program to preserve nuclear plants at risk of prematurely shutting down.
  • ANIA modernizes outdated rules that restrict investment in nuclear energy.
  • Revitalize America’s nuclear supply chain infrastructure.
  • ANIA identifies modern manufacturing techniques to build nuclear reactors better, faster, cheaper, and smarter.  https://www.capito.senate.gov/news/press-releases/capito-whitehouse-barrasso-booker-crapo-introduce-legislation-to-preserve-and-expand-americas-nuclear-energy-sector

July 20, 2021 Posted by | politics, USA | Leave a comment