Global Energy News Roundup: March 28


Newsroundup42-471x315The 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.

Fukushima Daiichi Power and Cooling Systems Restored after Outage
After more than a day without power, cooling systems for several fuel storage pools were restored at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. A rat or similar creature appears to be the culprit, causing a short circuit in a switchboard that led to the outage. “We have a ton of problems that still need to be taken care of to overcome the challenges that we have never experienced before,” said company spokesman Masayuki Ono. Makeshift cooling systems and other equipment were installed after the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami; the power outage served as a major test for Tokyo Electric Power Co. Pool temperatures never reached unsafe levels and reactors were unaffected by the incident.
Sources: UPI.com; Yahoo! News

NRC Requires Vent Upgrades, But Not Filters
A new Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) order requires 31 U.S. power plants to upgrade damaged ventilation systems. “The order will improve safety and help prevent radioactive particles from escaping into the atmosphere,” said NRC’s staff. Representative Ed Markey (D-Mass.) responded negatively to the decision not to require the filters, saying the agency had “abdicated its responsibility to ensure public health and safety in New England and across the country.” Many U.S. utilities contend that additional safety device such as filtered vents aren’t needed and would be too expensive to implement. A further ruling on their installation will not be finalized until 2017. In related news, President Obama has nominated NRC Chairwoman Allison Macfarlane to a five-year term.
Sources: Huffington Post; E&E Daily; The Hill

U.S. Utility Executives Talk Energy Diversification
The heads of two major U.S. nuclear companies have recently been discussing new regulations and the diversification of energy sources. In an Interview with E&E TV’s OnPoint, Duke Energy Chairman, President and CEO Jim Rogers discussed how subsidies might be used to advance new technologies. He also spoke on the carbon tax, the future of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and his company’s recent decision to decommission — rather than attempt to repair — the Crystal River nuclear reactor in Florida. Also within the past week Thomas Farrell, Dominion Resources Inc.’s chief executive, said at The Wall Street Journal’s Economics conference in Santa Barbara, Calif. that it would be a mistake to push aside nuclear and coal power plants for natural gas plants. The results would be higher prices across the board for energy consumers. “If you want to see the price of natural gas rise … replace our entire fleet, all coal, all nuclear, over the next 20 to 30 years; you’re going to regret it,” he said.
Sources: E&ETV, DownstreamToday.com

Abe Promises ‘Comprehensive Decision’ on Japan’s Nuclear Future
Noting that an “inexpensive and stable” power source would be critical in the reconstruction of areas Japan affected by 2011’s earthquake, tsunami and accident at Fukushima Daiichi, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said he will make a “comprehensive decision” on the reactivation of the majority of the country’s nuclear reactors. Currently only two of the 50 reactors in the fleet are online. Abe also said he would work to refute “harmful rumors” about the effects of the Fukushima incident. At the same time Professor Hiroaki Koide, a master of nuclear engineering and specialist in radiation safety and control, has released a 15-minute video report contending that the Fukushima aftermath is far from over. Approximately 10 million people still make their homes in areas with dangerously high radiation levels, he said.
Sources: House of Japan, NaturalNews.com

House Republicans Ask Chu for Briefing on Export Policy Changes
Led by House Energy and Commerce Chairman Fred Upton, a group of House Republicans is looking into Obama administration policy changes related to nuclear energy exports. Several industry groups have asked the administration to revise export rules that they say put the United States at a global disadvantage. In a letter, they stated that the “revisions may substantially change the scope and requirements for approval of exports of nuclear technology and services, with direct implications for U.S. nuclear-related commerce.” The Republicans asked outgoing U.S. Department of Energy Secretary Steven Chu for a staff briefing by April 12.
Source: E&E News