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Watts Bar Unit 2, last old reactor of the 20th century: a cautionary tale

Watts Bar Unit 2, last old reactor of the 20th century: a cautionary tale
Don SaferSara Barczak 10/08/2015

More than four decades after construction began in 1973, the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) is finally getting close to starting up the Watts Bar Unit 2 nuclear reactor. Only final tests stand in the way of it receiving an operating license from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). While the TVA and the nuclear industry describe Watts Bar 2 as “the first new nuclear generation of the 21st Century,” in fact the TVA resuscitated a demonstrably unsafe 1960s-era ice condenser design that was abandoned decades ago by the rest of the nuclear industry. Mismanagement and construction problems have driven the project’s price tag up with billions of dollars in cost overruns. Safety continues to be compromised as the NRC is allowing the TVA to delay post-Fukushima seismic design upgrades indefinitely. Rather than exemplifying a fine technological achievement, the history of Watts Bar Units 1 and 2 is a cautionary tale of the worst pitfalls of nuclear power and the federal regulatory system.

This pair of nuclear reactors has a unique distinction. Back in 1996, Watts Bar Unit 1 was the last reactor completed in the United States, at a hefty $6.8 billion. No other reactors have come online since. In fact, according to the NRC, eight US reactors have permanently shut down since Watts Bar 1 was licensed.

Now, Watts Bar 2 is poised to become the next operational reactor in the United States. When Watts Bar 2 comes online, the TVA will be generating almost 40 percent of its power from seven nuclear reactors along the Tennessee River: the two at Watts Bar, near Spring City, Tennessee; two more ice condenser reactors at Sequoyah, near Chattanooga; and three General Electric Mark 1 boiling water reactors at their Browns Ferry plant (using the same design as Fukushima Daiichi), near Decatur, Alabama.

Watts Bar 2 comes from a federally owned utility that has a history of delays, problems, and fiscal irresponsibility when it comes to nuclear power. This history raises the question of why Watts Bar 2 has survived such a long time and whether it should ever be allowed to open. It is a saga of delays and cost overruns, antiquated designs, inadequate quality control and oversight, failure to implement post-Fukushima upgrades, and a deficient safety culture, among other problems—all at a time when there is still no place for long-term storage of the nuclear waste that will be generated. And because the TVA manufactures tritium for use in America’s nuclear weapons, there will inevitably be greater releases of tritium into the air and water of the region—natural resources which already receive four times as much tritium as originally expected.

Ironically, Watts Bar 2 comes when the large-scale development of new, truly clean energy sources is a burgeoning reality...

LATimes coverage
America's newest nuke plant shows why nuclear power is dying in the U.S.

Judge rejects challenge to C. Christie's $8.5B gift to Exxon

Opponents can't block state's $225M Exxon settlement, judge says

NJ Advance Media for NJ.com By Tim Darragh October 09, 2015

Environmental groups and a state senator do not have the legal right to intervene in the Christie administration's $225-million clean-up settlement with ExxonMobil, a judge has ruled.

Superior Court Judge Michael Hogan in Union County, who signed off on the settlement in August, said on Friday the New Jersey Sierra Club, Clean Water Action, the Delaware Riverkeeper, Delaware Riverkeeper Network, Environment New Jersey and state Sen. Raymond Lesniak have no legal standing to intervene in the settlement.

"Only the DEP (the state Department of Environmental Protection) is authorized to bring natural resources damages suits under the Spill Act, and the Environmental Rights Act does not allow private parties to bring damages claims," Hogan wrote in a 48-page opinion.

Not only did Hogan rule against the environmental groups, he said the legal cases cited in their arguments to intervene "actually work against their assertion that they have standing."

...They sought legal intervention after the Christie administration agreed with ExxonMobil to accept a deal costing $225 million to clean up environmental damages to wetlands around former refineries in Linden and Bayonne. Environmentalists were outraged because the state had argued in pre-settlement filings that the cost of the cleanup would be $8.9 billion.


CEO of National Grid: “The idea of large power stations for baseload is outdated”

Steve Holliday, CEO National Grid: “The idea of large power stations for baseload is outdated”
September 11, 2015 by Karel Beckman

Steve Holliday, CEO of National Grid, the company that operates the gas and power transmission networks in the UK and in the northeastern US, believes the idea of large coal-fired or nuclear power stations to be used for baseload power is “outdated”. “From a consumer’s point of view, the solar on the rooftop is going to be the baseload. Centralised power stations will be increasingly used to provide peak demand”, he says, in an exclusive interview for World Energy Focus, a publication of the World Energy Council produced by Energy Post. The chief of National Grid also notes that energy markets “are clearly moving towards much more distributed production and towards microgrids”.

“This industry is going through a tremendous transformation. We used to have a pretty good idea of what future needs would be. We would build assets that would last decades and that would be sure to cover those needs. That world has ended. Our strategy is now centred around agility and flexibility, based on our inability to predict or prescribe what our customers are going to want.”

As CEO, since 2007, of a company active on two continents, and being responsible for both gas and electricity transmission and distribution, Steve Holiday finds himself smack at the centre of the whirlwind developments in the energy sector. And since National Grid is a regulated (albeit publicly listed) company, he can speak from a reasonably independent position. Which makes it fascinating to talk to him.

“What is crucial”, says Holliday, “is what consumers will want. In the past all consumers got the same. One size fits all. Now one size will not fit all. People will want to interact with energy in many different ways.” This is why he warns against people who think they can predict the future. “Some people think they have the answer, whatever it may be. But I believe there will be different answers for different places, rural and cities, and for different customers. That’s why flexibility and agility are key.”

Taken by surprise

Nevertheless certain trends that are currently taking place are unmistakable, says Holliday. “The world is clearly moving towards much more distributed electricity production and towards microgrids. The pace of that development is uncertain. That depends on political decisions, regulatory incentives, consumer preferences, technological developments. But the direction is clear.”...

More at: http://www.energypost.eu/interview-steve-holliday-ceo-national-grid-idea-large-power-stations-baseload-power-outdated/

German Energy Minister Baake tells SA: Build your renewables – dump nuclear

German Energy Minister Baake tells SA: Build your renewables – dump nuclear

It’s not like German Energy Minister Rainer Baake provided a news flash when he said yesterday that SA’s nuclear programme is a bad idea. But given that he represents a country whose policies the ruling ANC admires – SA labour legislation was based on West Germany’s – this time the message might be heard. As Baake explained to Reuters, using renewables to generate electricity is clean and cheap; nuclear is expensive; coal is dirty – so for the rational being there really isn’t much of a choice. Put that way, you have to wonder what’s really motivating the Zuma Administration’s $100bn nuclear obsession. Especially as the country’s finances are so strained its debt is on the brink of being downgraded to junk. – Alec Hogg

By Peroshni Govender

CAPE TOWN, Oct 5 (Reuters) – Green energy is cheap in the long run and clean compared to “dirty” coal and costly nuclear power, a senior German energy official said on the sidelines of a Cape Town conference, at a time when South Africa plans to expand atomic power generation.

President Jacob Zuma’s government is developing an energy mix that will boost power generation in Africa’s most advanced economy which has been hit by electricity shortages and reduce its reliance on mostly coal generated energy.

“If you want to have expensive electricity you buy nuclear generators, if you want dirty electricity you burn coal,” Rainer Baake, state secretary for energy in the economy ministry, told Reuters, when asked what advice he would have for South Africa which is working on increasing electricity production.

“If you want clean energy in the long run that will be cheaper, you transfer to a renewable system, but the decision has to be made by your own government,” he said on Monday on the sidelines of a renewable energy conference in Cape Town.

“Every country has to make it own decisions....


Distributed Batteries Offer Value Far Beyond Demand-Charge Reduction

“We know that in electricity, the future is based on flexibility behind the meter, solar and smart controls -- and that future is a lower-cost future.”

Distributed Batteries Offer Value Far Beyond Demand-Charge Reduction

by Katherine Tweed
October 07, 2015
In the U.S., behind-the-meter energy storage is mostly sold to offset commercial peak demand charges. The business case works today in states such as California and New York, but it also leaves most of the battery’s value on the table, according to a new report from Rocky Mountain Institute.

RMI’s meta review of the value of energy storage, pulling from many previous studies, found that batteries dispatched solely for demand reduction are only used for about 5 percent to 20 percent of their useful life. RMI identified 13 distinct services for customers and grid operators, but when it comes to stacking those, there is immense variation in the final cost-benefit depending on assumptions and inputs such as local utility regulations and wholesale market mechanisms.

The report was written not just to validate what progressive states like New York, California and Hawaii are doing, but also to show what’s possible in other states.

“Valuing batteries is not as simple as looking at just [the levelized cost of] solar or looking at retail or wholesale grid costs,” said Jesse Morris, manager of the electricity practice at RMI. “A lot of regulatory changes need to happen.”

... more at http://www.greentechmedia.com/articles/read/Distributed-Batteries-Offer-Value-Far-Beyond-Demand-Charge-Reduction

Why the nuclear industry's front group 'Nuclear Matters' doesn’t matter

Why Nuclear Matters doesn’t matter

Regular readers of GreenWorld know that we have dropped a lot of digital ink writing about Nuclear Matters, the astroturf group launched by Exelon early this year to try to make the case to save the utility’s aging and uneconomic nuclear fleet.

Exelon and the PR firm Sloane and Company that runs the public end of Nuclear Matters have assembled a seemingly potent team of paid-for spokespeople to make the utility’s case: former Senators like Evan Bayh and Judd Gregg; former DOE secretary James Abraham; and the big catch, former EPA Administrator, Obama climate czar, and current League of Conservation Voters board chair Carol Browner.

These and others in Nuclear Matters’ assembled-team of backers have been writing (or, more likely, allowing their names to be used as having written) op-eds in publications across the country, appearing at Nuclear Matters-organized (ie Sloane and Company) events such as one in New York City the week of the People’s Climate March, and otherwise spreading the news that nuclear power is so important that it shouldn’t matter how costly to ratepayers or how old and unsafe a reactor is, it should keep operating for, apparently, perpetuity.

Maybe it’s just that the message isn’t exactly compelling. Or perhaps former politicians don’t carry the kind of clout Exelon needs. After all, making the case that millions of people should pay higher electricity rates than they otherwise would need to because, well, nuclear!, can’t be an easy sell to current politicians who have to answer to voters.

But the cat is out of the bag...


...the actual underlying themes of Conca’s piece:

1. Nobody cares about preserving nuclear power. You only hear from people opposing it.
2. Nobody is speaking out about preserving nuclear power. The only ones on the Hill who speak out oppose it.
3. There is no base of voters you can win over by being in favor of nuclear power.

Ironically, for most politicians politics is about power–not the kind that comes out of a wall socket, but the real stuff: who has it and how to get more of it. This piece is intended to make the case for nuclear power needing to have more political power, but, in doing so, exposes it as utterly powerless.

more at http://safeenergy.org/2014/10/14/why-nuclear-matters-doesnt-matter

China just upped solar goal to 100GW by 2020 - now raising it to 150GW ?!!!?!!!?

China May Lift 2020 Solar Target To 150 GW
September 29th, 2015 by Giles Parkinson

Originally published on RenewEconomy

Deutsche Bank analysts say local media reports in China suggest that the country’s 2020 solar power target could be lifted to 150 GW from the current target of 100 GW – meaning more than 20 GW of solar would need to be added in each year from 2016 to 2020.

The reports come as China president Xi Jinping pledged during a visit to the US and meetings with President Barack Obama to introduce a nation-wide emissions trading scheme in 2017, and give priority to renewable energy installations.

As the Rocky Mountain Institute noted on Monday, China has historically had dispatch quotas on fossil generation, often leading to curtailment of renewables and the running of inefficient coal plants. In the first half of 2015 this has led to curtailment of 15 percent of wind and 10 percent of solar generation.

China now proposes a competitive power dispatch that prioritises the emissions-free, near-zero marginal dispatch cost of renewables. RMI says this should result in an immediate reduction of 200 million metric tons of carbon emissions per year, but more importantly, supports the economic expansion of renewables.

China is not the only one considering a big boost to its targets for solar and other renewable energy sources. India is reportedly going to announce this week that it will aim for a 40 per cent renewable energy target by 2030, which would require some 250GW of solar and some 100GW of wind energy...

Climate denier Fred Singer says "For Sustainable Energy, Choose Nuclear"

In the January 2010 edition of Rolling Stone Magazine, journalist Tim Dickinson profiled the top 17 United States "polluters and deniers who are derailing efforts to curb global warming". Below is an excerpt from the article titled "Climate Killers" about Fred Singer.[39]

A former mouthpiece for the tobacco industry, the 85-year-old Singer is the granddaddy of fake "science" designed to debunk global warming. The retired physicist — who also tried to downplay the danger of the hole in the ozone layer — is still wheeled out as an authority by big polluters determined to kill climate legislation. For years, Singer steadfastly denied that the world is heating up: Citing satellite data that has since been discredited, he even made the unhinged claim that "the climate has been cooling just slightly." Last year, Singer served as a lead author of "Climate Change Reconsidered" — an 880-page report by the right-wing Heartland Institute that was laughably presented as a counterweight to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the world's scientific authority on global warming. Singer concludes that the unchecked growth of climate-cooking pollution is "unequivocally good news." Why? Because "rising CO2 levels increase plant growth and make plants more resistant to drought and pests." Small wonder that Heartland's climate work has long been funded by the likes of Exxon and reactionary energy barons like Charles Koch and Richard Mellon Scaife.[39]

For Sustainable Energy, Choose Nuclear
By S. Fred Singer | Posted: Thu. October 1, 2015, 12:33pm PT
Also published in American Thinker on Wed. September 30, 2015

Of course, all you'll find there is a recap of the same lies the nuclear fan club always try to use in order to hoodwink the public. GreenPeace helps identify them for you:

Imagine a world free of oil accidents, coal pollution and nuclear waste. A world where we wouldn’t have to feel helpless in the face of climate change, because we did everything we could to prevent further warming. A world where energy was clean, safe and available for all.

That world is within our reach now.

The evidence is in: Renewable energy is viable, reliable, and ready to go – all that’s needed for a clean energy revolution.

On this page we’ve grouped together some of the most common myths about renewable energy, explaining why they are just that – myths that don’t stand up to reality.

But here’s the thing, although we’ve busted the myths here, we need you to make the myth busting go beyond this page.

Please share it widely. Tweet, Facebook, and talk about it freely.

Myth 1: Renewable energy is too expensive...

Some interesting information on energy in the news

‘Post 2020, There May Never Be Another Peaker Built in the US’
Energy storage just got a big vote of confidence from one of the world’s largest utilities.

by Eric Wesoff
September 30, 2015

NextEra Energy wants to be "the largest, most profitable clean energy provider in the United States," according to Jim Robo, CEO of the utility giant, at an analyst conference at Wolfe Research in New York on Tuesday. (Here's a link to audio from the event.)

But Robo also said, "We're starting to make very good progress in our energy storage business," noting that energy storage is one of "three growth platforms" at NextEra.

When a player like NextEra Energy, a Fortune 200 firm with utility revenues of $17 billion and 44,900 megawatts of generating capacity, starts to tout energy storage, the utility industry and the renewables industry take notice. “Battery storage is the holy grail of the renewables business,” said the CEO, adding, “If we can deliver firm power to renewable customers at a cost-effective rate, you’ll see renewables explode even faster than they already are.”

...Robo said that he and his team expect energy storage prices to experience a similar cost plunge to that of solar costs over the last seven years. If that happens, energy storage will be competitive with gas peaker plants.

Robo said, "Post-2020, there may never be another peaker built in the United States -- very likely you'll be just building energy storage instead."

"It is a great time to be in the renewables business," said Robo...

Microgrids With 50 Percent Solar Do Not Need Storage
ABB says it is expanding the upper limit of storage integrated into microgrid projects.

by Jason Deign September 30, 2015

ABB has raised the upper limit for microgrid renewable-energy penetration without storage. Research by the company suggests up to 50 percent intermittent generation could be admitted to microgrids without needing storage, provided that automation systems are in place to keep the grid stable.

Traditionally, the upper limit for renewable energy penetration in microgrids without storage has been around 40 percent of total load.

ABB looked at a range of microgrid scenarios, including low-penetration setups where renewable energy covered up to 30 percent of peak load, medium penetration at 50 percent, and high penetration at 100 percent....

Also see: Price of Solar Energy in the United States Has Fallen to 5˘/kWh on Average

Analyst: Tighter emissions goals won’t save N.Y. nuclear industry

Analyst: Tighter emissions goals won’t save N.Y. nuclear industry

By SCOTT WALDMAN 5:41 p.m. | Sep. 25, 2015 4 follow this reporter
ALBANY — Market analysts are warning investors about New York’s nuclear plant operators as two such facilities face possible closure.

Exelon plans to close the R.E. Ginna nuclear facility in Western New York, and Entergy said earlier this month it may close the James A. FitzPatrick nuclear facility outside Syracuse. Other nuclear facilities in New York are also at risk of closure.

New York’s nuclear plants have been beset by competition from cheap natural gas and rising infrastructure costs, part of a national trend that has challenged the industry. A series of proposed pipelines into New York will further hurt it by increasing the state's supply of natural gas, according to an analysis released Thursday by UBS analyst Julien Dumoulin-Smith.


The loss of the Ginna plant alone could drive the state’s air emissions up 7 percent, that earlier analysis found. Losing another plant, or possibly two, will make it harder to meet tough new federal pollution standards. However, to offset the loss of New York’s nuclear facilities, the state could place increasing emphasis on growing the renewable industry.

“If retirements move forward as contemplated, we see a real corresponding uplift to the renewable industry as this becomes the growing source of 'plugging' for any further holes in meeting prospective carbon targets,” he wrote.

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