Forum on Energy
Forum on Energy
October 21, 2014
This week Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe publicly endorsed the restart of the nuclear reactors at Kyushu Electric's Sendai power plant.
October 24, 2014
Happy Nuclear Science Week! In celebration, we are inaugurating our new series Nuclear Mythbusters. Let's start with classic nuclear energy myths.
November 5, 2014
Forum on Energy is excited to participate in the ANS Winter Conference and Technology Expo on Nov 9-11.
ANS Conference
November 7, 2014
Mark Flanagan, contributor to NEI notes, reports on an interesting project, which is currently in the theoretical stages, to make radiation glow. According to cable news, one in three Americans live close enough to nuclear power plants to potentially put them in harm’s way should radiation leak from the plant into the environment.
Glowing Light Bulb
November 20, 2014
The Forum on Energy weekly news roundup brings together a mix of global energy stories from around the web. It is published every Thursday morning on Forum on Energy and is available on Twitter via @forumonenergy.
November 20, 2014

foe_newsroundup_blueThe Forum on Energy weekly news roundup brings together a mix of global energy stories from around the web. It is published every Thursday morning on Forum on Energy and is available on Twitter via @forumonenergy.

Snap Elections in Japan Will Likely Leave Government Unchanged
Japan discovered this week that it has once again fallen into recession. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe reacted by dissolving parliament and calling for a snap election two years ahead of schedule. Despite his falling popularity, Abe is expected to win the election, thereby renewing his political mandate to continue his program to kick start the economy through heavy government spending and economic reforms.
Source: BBC

Nuclear Shutdown Causes Worst CO2 Emissions in Japan’s History
Over its last fiscal year, Japan emitted more CO2 emissions on record, up 1.4 percent from the previous year and up 16 percent from 1990 levels. The rise in emissions is largely caused by Japan’s use of fossil fuels to replace the nuclear energy that fuels its electricity. Unless a number of reactors come back online soon, the trend of high emissions is unlikely to change much, said Tomomichi Akuta, analyst at Tokyo Mitsubishi UFJ Research & Consulting.
Source: The Wall Street Journal

U.S. Energy Loan Program, Backer of Solyndra, Turns a Profit
Despite heavy losses from fail investments such as Solyndra, the U.S. Energy Department’s Loan Programs Office (LPO) is in the black for the first time, less than 10 years since it was created. The program gives large loans to clean energy companies including nuclear, solar and wind projects. While there have been some notable failures, as a whole the portfolio is performing very well, said the program’s director, Peter Davidson, said in a statement. The LPO has lent about $34 billion to companies, from nuclear plants to solar panel manufacturers to energy efficiency startups. And if all its current loans are repaid, it could garner up to $5 billion for the federal government.
Source: Al Jazeera America

UAE Partners with International Organization to Improve Nuclear Training
The Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organisation (CTBTO) announced this week that it is exploring a partnership with the UAE to improve training on nuclear safety, among other things. The partnership is likely to include exchanges with Emirati nuclear engineers and workshops to develop meteorological, seismic, dust and radiation monitoring.
Source: The National

New GAO Report Confirms that DOE Nuclear Technology Export Processes Are Inefficient
A new report from the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office confirms the committee’s concerns that the Department of Energy and the National Nuclear Security Administration do not have a clear, timely, and efficient review process for the export of nuclear technology, resulting in unnecessary delays that may be impeding U.S. competitiveness abroad. According to the report, the DOE rarely meets the target time frames for US export licenses and processing necessary applications. The GAO questions whether the agencies are administering the process in accordance with DOE’s goals and with key principles of federal regulation, which include clarity and consistency. In response, Congressmen Fred Upton (R-MI) and Tim Murphy (R-PA) called for greater congressional oversight of the DOE. Meanwhile DOE said it would revise its export regulations and implement other reforms.
Source: GAO


November 13, 2014

foe_newsroundup_blueThe Forum on Energy weekly news roundup brings together a mix of global energy stories from around the web. It is published every Thursday morning on Forum on Energy and is available on Twitter via @forumonenergy.

114th Congress Not Expected to Act Significantly Regarding Nuclear Power
In a piece in Forbes, James Conca argues that while Republicans will move decisively toward supporting fossil fuels, nuclear power will remain off the political agenda. Some movement will most likely occur on nuclear waste issues as the Republican-controlled Congress will likely support plans for the Yucca Mountain Nuclear Waste Repository. Other potential consequences of the shift of control in the Senate may be the end of policies that prevent nuclear from competing with other power sources and the start of a valuation of all energy sources that includes externalities, such as reliability and resilience to catastrophic events.
Source: Forbes

More People Working on Water Contamination Issues at Fukushima than on Plant Decommissioning
Activities to address contaminated water leaks at Fukushima are distracting from the work to decommission the plant, reports the Associated Press. The several thousand people working on the water containment and treatment are, by multiples, far more than the hundreds employed to decommission the plant. The water issues are slowing decontamination work that will require at least 40 years to complete.
Source: ABC News

Russia to Build Nuclear Power Plants for Iran
Russia agreed this week to build two new nuclear power plants for Iran, with a possible six nuclear power plants to be added in the future. The deal seeks to ensure Iran does not produce nuclear weapons through a system in which Russia provides the power technology under international monitoring. These new power plants are in addition to a first power plant that Russia built for Iran that won acceptance from the Bush administration. Despite efforts to control uranium enrichment, by requiring Iran to purchase Russian enriched uranium, Iran has persisted in developing enriched uranium for medical purposes.
Source: New York Times

Japan Nuclear Reactors Approved for Restart
Japan’s Kagoshima prefecture approved restarts of two Kyushu Electric Power nuclear reactors on Friday. The two reactors in the city of Satsuma Sendai are expected to reopen as early as next year, marking the first official return to nuclear power since the last of the nation’s nuclear fleet was shuttered in September of 2013. The restart approval was given by the Kagoshima prefectural assembly on Friday, following the city’s decision to approve in late October. According to the Wall Street Journal, Governor Yuichiro Ito said, “We decided there is no other way but to accept. Nuclear power is necessary for a while considering Japan’s energy policy.”
Sources: MorningStar, Wall Street Journal

China and South Africa Sign Framework Agreement on Nuclear Cooperation
China and South Africa have signed an agreement to begin nuclear technology cooperation on Friday. The intergovernmental framework comes on the heels of other recent cooperation agreements that South Africa has signed with France and Russia, initiating a preparatory phase to import Chinese nuclear technology. According to the South African energy ministry, “The government has reaffirmed its commitment to expand nuclear power generation by an additional 9.6 GWe, in line with the Integrated Resource Plan 2010-2030, as a means of ensuring energy security and contributing to economic growth.” According to World Nuclear News, South Africa expects to sign a similar agreement with Japan.
Source: All Africa


November 7, 2014
Glowing Light Bulb

Photo Courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons

Mark Flanagan, contributor to NEI notes, reports on an interesting project, which is currently in the theoretical stages, to make radiation glow. According to cable news, one in three Americans live close enough to nuclear power plants to potentially put them in harm’s way should radiation leak from the plant into the environment. Citizen activists demand that radiation be dyed, so that it can be seen. Mr. Flanagan points out various reasons why dying radiation is not possible nor would it be visible to the naked eye, but glowing radiation might be a solution.

Learn more about glowing radiation from NEI’s Nuclear Notes Blog.

November 6, 2014

foe_newsroundup_blueThe Forum on Energy weekly news roundup brings together a mix of global energy stories from around the web. It is published every Thursday morning on Forum on Energy and is available on Twitter via @forumonenergy.

Japanese Renewable Energy Producers are Frustrated by Government Roadblocks
Japanese investors in renewable energy facilities are unable to sell electricity to utility companies, which are overwhelmed by the sudden glut of renewable energy producers. The problem lies in part with the unreliability of renewable energy sources and energy storage capacities. While some producers suspect fraudulent collusion between government and vendors to keep renewable energies from the market, the situation is similar to renewable energy gluts in Germany and Spain. At the heart of the debate is the high cost of renewable energy tariffs. Utilities are obliged to pay renewable energy produces 32 yen per kilowatt hour, but the cost of electricity is 23 yen per kilowatt hour. Experts debating energy policy are pushing for an end to guaranteed rates for solar power, but such a decision could bankrupt the Japanese solar power producers.
Source: Power Engineering

Germany Turns Away from Coal in Favor of Russian Gas
Since limiting nuclear power production, Germany’s utilities have chosen to burn coal to provide electricity, which has resulted in the highest proudest record levels of CO2 emissions. The government is attempting to shift coal use to the less polluting energies like natural gas, which is imported from Russia via pipeline, and further subsidizing renewable energies. The shift is likely to raise the electricity cost to consumers and run counter to U.S. and EU efforts to isolate Russia economically.
Source: Bloomberg

France Starts Investigation on Illegal Drone Flights Over Nuclear Power Plants
A wave of illegal drone flights over nuclear power plants in France has caused authorities to investigate the recurring incidents, which pose a security threat to France’s largest source of energy. “One of our security concerns is to avoid having any precise images’ being taken of the nuclear plant,” a French government official said to the New York Times. Two men and a woman were arrested with two drones near Belleville-sur-Loire, but French authorities claim that the suspects don’t appear to have organized the wave of drone flyovers. The drones flying over various plants, many operated by Electricite de France, are civilian rather than military drones.
Sources: Bloomberg, New York Times (1,2), Washington Times

Rokkasho is Delayed Once More
The Rokkasho nuclear reprocessing plant in Japan’s Aomori prefecture will delay operation until early 2016, Japan Nuclear Fuel Limited (JNFL) said in an announcement. The postponement, the twenty-first for Rokkasho, is due to delays in safety checks to ensure adherence to the Nuclear Regulatory Authority’s safety standards for fuel cycle facilities, according to the Asahi Shimbun. The Rokkasho plant, which was initially planned to be completed in 1997, will be Japan’s only facility to process spent nuclear fuel. According to World Nuclear News, Japan’s waste management policy remains aimed toward reprocessing before exploring underground disposal options.
Sources: Asahi Shimbun, World Nuclear News

Russia Skips Planning Session for 2016 Nuclear Security Summit
Russia failed to show up at the first of three of four multilateral planning sessions in preparation for the 2016 Nuclear Security Summit. The series of summits, which stretch back to 2010, are a significant achievement of the Obama administration and have helped reduce the number of countries with enough nuclear material to build a weapon from 39 to 25. It is unknown whether Russia’s absence indicates Moscow’s intention to boycott the summit itself or is intended to show displeasure with United States’ condemnation of Russia’s role in the Ukraine conflict.
Source: ABC News 

November 5, 2014

ANS ConferenceForum on Energy is excited to participate in the ANS Winter Conference and Technology Expo on Nov 9-11. We look forward to checking in on the latest news on Advanced/Gen IV reactors, SMRs, probabilistic risk analysis and — of course — the session on global seismic safety issues after the Fukushima accident.

Are you coming to the conference? If so, please be sure to stop by our booth in the ANS expo hall for a chance to be featured on our website and to pick up some Forum on Energy swag. Follow our activity on Twitter and give us a shout out! We’ll post a recap of the program and our favorite parts of the conference the following week on Forum on Energy.

See you there!

October 30, 2014

foe_newsroundup_blueThe Forum on Energy weekly news roundup brings together a mix of global energy stories from around the web. It is published every Thursday morning on Forum on Energy and is available on Twitter via @forumonenergy.

Local Vote in Favor of Restarting Plants
Satsumasendai, home of two nuclear reactors, approved the restart of the Sendai power plant on Tuesday despite anti-nuclear protests. Nine of 26 assembly members voted in favor of a restart, making it the first town to give local nuclear restart approval. However, the Sendai plant must still pass operational safety checks before resuming operations, as well as receiving approval from Kagoshima prefecture officials. The Sendai reactors are the first in line for restart under more stringent safety regulations set forth by the Nuclear Regulation Authority in the wake of the March 2011 Fukushima Daiichi accident.
Sources: Power Source, Reuters, Japan Times

US and Russia Block European Attempts to Upgrade Nuclear Safety
The United States and Russia are working together to resist stricter nuclear safety guidelines being proposed by a Swiss-led European group. The new proposed standards would require nuclear operators to invest in safety precautions in order to prevent accidents like the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi disaster, but the American and Russian envoys argue that there is no reason to change The Convention on Nuclear Safety, the 77-nation group that oversees international standards. According to Reuters, the initiative wouldn’t go into effect for many years and risks not being ratified by all member states.
Sources: Bloomberg, Reuters

South Korea and US to Revise 123 Agreement
South Korea and the United States are in the final stages of revising their 123 agreement. The accord was supposed to expire in March, but the two countries agreed to extend it by two years to March 2016 in order to buy time for further negotiations. The existing agreement, which bans South Korea from enriching uranium and reprocessing spent fuel, was first signed in 1974. South Korea has sought to modify the accord in a bid to meet growing energy demand and to help its exports of nuclear power plants. The United States has been reluctant to do so over concerns on the global nonproliferation regime. The official at Seoul’s foreign ministry said that the negotiations have entered the final stretch, saying that it is seeking to revise the nuke deal in a “creative” manner that can guarantee Seoul’s autonomy in its civil nuclear use to some extent. The main sticking point of the accord negotiations is whether Seoul can be allowed to use pyroprocessing technology. South Korea has wanted to use the technology in the disposal of nuclear waste in the country.
Source: Global Post

Americans See Nuclear Energy as Key to Reducing CO2 Emissions
An overwhelming majority of Americans believes the United States must take advantage of all low-carbon electricity sources, and a many identify nuclear energy as the leading source of carbon-free power, according to a new survey conducted by Bisconti Research Inc. and Quest Global Research. The nationally representative survey was conducted over land and cell phone lines over a three-week period this fall. Researchers conclude that American awareness of nuclear energy’s low carbon footprint is substantially higher than anticipated, and that nuclear energy has a generally favorable reputation in America and is considered the leading source of future low carbon emitting energy.
Source: NEI

Japanese Government Approves CSC
On Friday, the Japanese government ratified the Convention on Supplementary Compensation for Nuclear Damage (CSC), an international treaty on compensation for cross-border damage from nuclear accidents, as well as related bills. The convention says that a lawsuit concerning compensation for nuclear damage can only be filed in a country where a nuclear accident occurred. The liability for damages should be concentrated against a nuclear power plant operator, rather than other companies concerned. It also says a country in which a nuclear accident occurs is obliged to set aside at least about ¥47 billion for compensation and, if the total damage estimate surpasses this amount, other signatory countries will provide funds to supplement this. The CSC effectively limits the number of companies that can be sued for damages. Until now many companies have been reluctant to participate in decommissioning and clean-up activities in Fukushima for fear that they also could be liable for damages resulting from the meltdown.
Source: Japan News


October 24, 2014

iStock_000003470513SmallHappy Nuclear Science Week! In celebration, we are inaugurating our new series Nuclear Mythbusters. Let’s start with classic nuclear energy myths.

Credit to Nuclear Connect for their resources.

Myth 1 — Nuclear energy is dangerous.

Truth: Nuclear energy is as safe or safer than any other form of energy available. No member of the public has ever been injured or killed in the entire 50-year history of commercial nuclear power in the United States. In fact, recent studies have shown that it is safer to work in a nuclear power plant than an office. It is also impossible for a nuclear reactor to explode like a nuclear weapon; these weapons contain very special materials in very particular configurations, neither of which are present in a nuclear reactor.

Source: Nuclear Energy Institute

Myth 2 — Chernobyl, Three Mile Island and Fukushima Daiichi have given thousands of people cancer and will continue to do so.

Truth: The three major nuclear power plant disasters — Chernobyl, Three Miles Island and Fukushima Daiichi — resulted in more than 50 deaths to date, all from the Chernobyl accident. While the exact numbers of deaths will likely never be known, the Chernobyl Forum has estimated that an additional 4,000 will pass away from complications due to radiation exposure. Of the people known to have received a high radiation dose, the increase in cancer incidence is too small to measure due to other causes of cancer such as air pollution and tobacco use. In addition, a Chernobyl-type accident could not have happened outside of the Soviet Union because this type of reactor was never built or operated here.

Sources: IAEA, ANS, Science Magazine

Myth 3 — There is no solution to nuclear waste.

Truth: All of the used nuclear fuel generated in every nuclear plant in the past 50 years would fill a football field to a depth of less than 10 yards, and 96 percent of this “waste” can be recycled. Used fuel is currently being safely stored. The U.S. National Academy of Sciences and the equivalent scientific advisory panels in every major country support geological disposal of such wastes as the preferred safe method for their ultimate disposal. In addition, used nuclear fuel can be recycled to make new fuel and byproducts. Most of the waste from this process will require a storage time of less than 300 years. Finally, less than 1 percent is radioactive for 10,000 years. This portion is not much more radioactive than some things found in nature, and can be easily shielded to protect humans and wildlife.

Source: Krane, K.S., 1988. “Introductory Nuclear Physics.” John Wiley and Sons;  Nuclear Energy Agency, OECD report, 1999. “Progress Towards Geologic Disposal of Radioactive Waste: Where do We Stand?”

Myth 4 — Nuclear energy poisons the environment.

Truth: Nuclear reactors emit no greenhouse gasses during operation. Over their full lifetimes, they result in comparable emissions to renewable forms of energy such as wind and solar. Nuclear energy requires less land use than most other forms of energy.

Source: Meier, P.J., 2002. Life-Cycle Assessment of Electricity Generation Systems and Applications for Climate Change Policy Analysis.

Myth 5 — Fukushima radiation is killing ocean life.

Naturally occurring radiation in the ocean is much higher than the radiation that is seeping from the Fukushima plant. But the radiation is not a cause for worry since it is a fraction of the amount of radiation that Americans receive during a routine dental examination.

Source: Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

October 23, 2014

foe_newsroundup_blueThe Forum on Energy weekly news roundup brings together a mix of global energy stories from around the web. It is published every Thursday morning on Forum on Energy and is available on Twitter via @forumonenergy.

METI Gets a New Minister
After allegations of financial impropriety, Yuko Obuchi announced her resignation as Japan’s minister of economy, trade and industry on Monday. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe appointed Yoichi Miyazawa as the new minister. “I’d like to apologize for not being able to do anything for many challenges facing the Abe cabinet, including promoting the role of women in society and restarting nuclear power plants,” Obuchi said at a news conference. According to The Wall Street Journal, local lawmakers find it unlikely that Obuchi’s resignation will affect reactor restart in Kagoshima prefecture. Minister Miyazawa said at a news conference that local communities should “put their opinions together” on whether to restart the reactors. However, Miyazawa did not define what constitutes “local community” near a nuclear plant.
Sources: The Wall Street Journal (1,2,3)

Japanese Plans for a National Grid Hit Roadblocks
After the events at Fukushima Daiichi, the Japanese government pledged the biggest shake up in the history of the fragmented electricity industry to boost competition and contain a surge in power prices. But the first phase — to set up a national grid company to allow new suppliers to sell electricity to the residential sector in order to guarantee equal access to all participants — has failed to be executed as originally envisioned. Plans to give the nationwide grid management body control over the system of distribution and transmission lines was scaled back amid lobbying from Japan’s power utilities. The main remit of the grid company, which is scheduled to start operations next April, has been restricted to ensuring reliability of supply in emergencies. These changes will hold up a second phase of reforms, the opening up of the 7.5 trillion yen ($68 billion) residential and small business market in March 2016, the centerpiece of the plan to boost competition, lower power prices and cut energy imports. Hiroshi Takahashi of the Fujitsu Research Institute, who sat on a government panel on the reforms, said he was “relatively pessimistic” about the grid company because he felt it would be unable to stand up to the utilities.
Source: Reuters

Macfarlane Resigns NRC Post
U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) Chairwoman Allison Macfarlane announced Tuesday that she will leave the agency in January. Although she has three remaining years in her term as chairwoman, Macfarlane will return to academia, serving as the director of Center for International Science and Technology Policy at The George Washington University. Macfarlane joined the agency in July of 2012, following a period of dissent over the management style of her predecessor, Gregory B. Jaczko, according to The Washington Post. Macfarlane said in an email to her NRC staff, “I came to the Commission with the mission of righting the ship after a tumultuous period for the Commission, and ensuring that the agency implemented lessons learned from the tragic accident at Fukushima Daiichi, so that the American people can be confident that such an accident will never take place here.”
Sources: In the Capital, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal

NRC releases Yucca Mountain Safety Evaluation
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) released a report on Thursday concluding that storage of nuclear waste at the Yucca Mountain repository site is safe. The report found “that DOE has demonstrated compliance with the NRC regulatory requirements for postclosure safety,” in multiple areas. The confirmed feasibility of storage at the site, which has been under heavy partisan debate for six years, will clear the way to restart the project. According to The New York Times, use of the site has been blocked by President Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, with the state of Nevada and other opponents threatening lawsuits if the project proceeds.
Sources: NRC, Daily Signal, The New York Times, The Las-Vegas Review-Journal

Explore an interactive map on nuclear energy opportunities and challenges across the globe.