Sunday, April 6, 2008

News From the Week of March 31, 2008

NRC says TVA Using Old River Data to Support New Reactors

Future Jobs Loaded With 'Green'

NRC Responds To Unusual Event At The Byron Nuclear Plant

NRC Adds Sequoyah Plant To Initial Scope Of State-Of-The-Art Reactor Consequence Analysis

NRC says TVA Using Old River Data to Support New Reactors
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (The Associated Press) - Mar 28 - By DUNCAN MANSFIELD
Associated Press Writer

The Tennessee Valley Authority used a decade-old computer model to forecast river flooding affecting what could become one of the United States' first new nuclear plants of the 21st century.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission on Friday cited the country's largest public utility for "quality assurance" violations in its bid for a build-and-operate license for a two-reactor nuclear station at its never-completed Bellefonte site in northeast
Alabama. The NRC said TVA used a 1998 computer model, supported by data from a 1963 flood, to predict how fast the Tennessee River could rise and flow after heavy rains upstream or near the proposed plant in Scottsboro.

The computer model failed to reflect modifications to the upstream Chickamauga Dam, the effects of a new Chickamauga Lock or even valley wide flooding in 2003, according to the NRC. Supporting data not only was old - developed using the comparatively ancient Fortran computer program - it couldn't immediately be found, NRC engineering division director Patrick Hiland complained in a March 19 letter to TVA nuclear vice president Ashok Bhatnagar.

Bottom line: "TVA was unable to provide evidence to confirm that TVA conducted verifications and validations to ensure that the (forecasting) computer program functioned correctly," Hiland wrote.

The NRC cited TVA for three level-four violations, the lowest level on NRC's list, and probably will not assess fines, NRC spokesman Roger Hannah said.

However, the problems have come up less than two months into a multiyear process to license one of the first U.S. nuclear plants applied for in 30 years, and one that will use a next-generation Westinghouse AP1000 pressurized-water reactor design. The nuclear industry is watching.

"TVA is going to work with the NRC to resolve these issues," TVA spokesman Terry Johnson said, adding there "is the possibility that other issues are going to be raised as they go through this application review."

TVA, which provides electricity to about 8.7 million consumers in
Tennessee, Kentucky, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina and Virginia, has nine power company and reactor manufacturing partners in the Bellefonte license. The consortium is called NuStart Energy Development LLC.

They have applied for permission to build and operate a plant on the site of a two-reactor station TVA began in the 1970s, scrapped before it was finished in the 1980s and wrote off in the 1990s.

Not much of that old plant would be remain for the new plant. TVA has yet to say if it will build the station, although agency officials say they likely will need the power by 2017 or 2018 when the plant could be finished.

TVA manages the entire
Tennessee River system on a minute-by-minute basis through a series of dams to ensure navigation, power generation, recreation, water quality and flood control. But the computer modeling TVA submitted to the NRC for Bellefonte suggests it just dusted off materials from decades ago.


Future Jobs Loaded With 'Green'
Mar 29 - McClatchy-Tribune Regional News - Rob Varnon Connecticut Post, Bridgeport

Global warming and limited resources are forcing humanity to change how it gets energy, but in that change could lie a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for businesses and individuals to make money and reshape the world.

This according to a panel of business and government representatives speaking at a recent forum about green energy at Fairfield University's Dolan School of Business. With more than 65 people in the audience, the Wednesday evening event attracted a strong mix of students, area residents and professors. Two managers from General Electric Co. spelled out why the conglomerate is investing so heavily in wind and solar energy plants across the globe.

"A lot has changed in the world," said Kevin Walsh, renewable energy managing director for GE Energy Financial Services. Walsh, a
Fairfield University alumnus, said global population growth and over-dependence on oil and other fossil fuels requires the United States and other nations diversify their fuel sources. That's why GE has been so aggressive in its investment in wind and solar energy projects around the globe, he said.

His GE EFS colleague, Jerry Eyster, went into more detail to show the audience how big the mission of curbing global warming is and, therefore, how much potential there is for students and visionaries to carve out solid careers.

Eyster, a senior vice president of strategic marketing, said in order to stabilize the temperature of the planet, the world will have to cut 1 gigaton of carbon dioxide -- which is one of the "green-house gases" blamed for thickening the atmosphere around the planet so heat cannot escape -- in the next 50 years to keep the temperature to only a 1-to-2 degree increase.

While green-house gases are not the only reason for rising temperatures, Eyster said the consensus feeling is that carbon dioxide does contribute to warming and, therefore, reducing this gas could help stabilize the Earth's temperature.

But the magnitude of cuts needed is daunting. One gigaton is more than all the potential solar energy on the planet, he said, or all the potential wind energy. "It is a big problem and it's going to take a lot of people with a lot of skills," Eyster said.

One tough issue is how to deal with the emerging industrial nations, he said. From 1900 to 1999,
America, Europe and the other industrialized areas of the world produced almost all the world's greenhouse gases. That's changed, but Eyster said world leaders have to consider whether it's fair to tell developing nations they can't have TVs or refrigerators, or whether industrialized nations should have to pay some sort of price for putting the planet in this situation.

Eyster said most of the green-house gases in the
U.S. come from transportation and the production of electricity. Dealing with this problem means finding alternative sources of energy that don't generate pollution and finding ways to trim our energy consumption, according to the panelists.

This need doesn't just mean the world needs engineers with new ideas-- it also needs financiers with vision.

Martin Whittaker, director of Norwalk-based Mission Point Capital Partners, said his firm specializes in investing in green technology. The company, founded in 2006, invests in fledgling companies and helps build them up to the point where they can be sold to larger corporations or taken public, he said.

Whittaker said his firm invests in some basic areas, including in companies that create systems that produce energy from fossil fuel more efficiently or from fuels that release no green house gases.

Frank Wolak, vice president of business development at Danbury-based Fuel Cell Energy, said technical careers also abound. His company has been installing fuel cells, which generate electricity through a highly efficient system, throughout the world and country. He highlighted several examples of how the technology was being used, including the Sierra Nevada Brewery project. The brewery's fuel cells run partially on a beer byproduct, reducing the amount of natural gas the brewery consumes to make electricity, he said.

While the panel was generally confident in the future of green technology, all said these devices still need government support through subsidies or by placing taxes on the emissions generated by older technologies, such as coal-burning plants.

Robert Wall, director of the Connecticut Clean Energy Fund's market initiatives, said the state is doing its part in this arena. For example, Wall said, the CCEF has helped GE and Bigelow Tea in
Fairfield fund solar panel installation on their buildings to reduce their consumption of fossil-fuel-produced energy.

Rob Varnon, who covers business, can be reached at 330-6216.


NRC Responds To Unusual Event At The Byron Nuclear Plant
(The Associated Press) - Mar 28

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has responded to an unusual event at the Byron Nuclear Power Plant. The unusual event was declared on March 25, at
6:49 PM. The NRC has continuously evaluated plant conditions since the event declaration. The two-unit facility, located about 25 miles southwest of Rockford, Ill., is operated by the Exelon Generation Company.

An unusual event is the lowest of four levels in the NRC's emergency classification system. An unusual event is declared when events are in process or have occurred which indicate potential degradation in the level of safety of the plant. No release of radioactive material requiring offsite response or monitoring has occurred or is expected to occur.

We activated the regional
Incident Response Center as soon as the unusual event was declared to evaluate the utility's response to the event. The plant is in a stable condition, said James Caldwell, Regional Administrator for the NRC's mid-west region. Our staff in the Lisle office, at NRC headquarters, and NRC inspectors at the plant monitored the plant overnight and will continue to do so until the problem has been corrected.

The unusual event was declared when outside electrical power delivered to Byron Unit 2 was interrupted due to a problem with electrical transformers. Both Byron units are in a stable condition. The incident presents no threat to public safety.

Byron Unit 1 is shut down for a refueling outage. Unit 2 did not shut down as a result of the off-site power loss. Unit 2 is sharing off-site power with Unit 1 and will continue to do so until off-site power to Unit 2 is restored.

The NRC will continue to evaluate the utility's response to the event, its efforts to identify the root cause of the problem, the proposed actions to fix the problem and the implementation of repairs.


NRC Adds Sequoyah Plant To Initial Scope Of State-Of-The-Art Reactor Consequence Analysis
(The Associated Press) - Mar 28

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission is adding information from the two reactors at the Sequoyah nuclear power plant to the continuing State-of-the-Art Reactor Consequence Analysis (SOARCA) project, which will be used to realistically model the outcomes of potential accidents at commercial U.S. reactors.

The Tennessee Valley Authority, which operates the plant outside of
Chattanooga, Tenn., volunteered to take part in the project.

The staff is moving SOARCA through its first phase, which focuses on ensuring the project's analysis methods mesh properly and have the data necessary for the most realistic results. The pressurized water reactors at Sequoyah join the project's first two plants, the boiling water reactors at Peach Bottom in
Pennsylvania, and the pressurized water reactors at Surry in Virginia, in the initial scope of the project. When this phase is completed, the Commission will provide guidance on how the staff should proceed with the remaining U.S. commercial reactors.

Having Sequoyah's data means we can examine one more combination of reactor and containment types found in the
United States, said Farouk Eltawila, Director of the Division of Risk Assessment and Special Projects in the NRC's Office of Nuclear Regulatory Research. The results will help refine our methods for examining other sites. NRC staff will gather relevant information from the plant and conduct the analysis along with contractors from Sandia National Laboratories.

Our research replaces what was done 25 years ago - studies that were so conservative that the results fell short of what's useful for guiding public policy. Those study results have often been misused, Eltawila said.

The advanced computers, detailed software models and vast information databases available today are in a much better position to realistically evaluate potential nuclear power plant accidents. Everyone should have a clearer understanding of the realistic consequences of such potential accidents once we're finished.

Nuclear power plant accidents are extremely unlikely; should one occur, several layers of plant safety features and emergency procedures would mitigate most types of accidents. Nevertheless, it's important to understand an accident's possible consequences. SOARCA will analyze
U.S. reactors, incorporating more than 25 years of research to develop realistic estimates of possible consequences resulting from a potential accident. The
analyses will use site-specific weather and population data to determine how the accident might affect public health and safety. The staff will compile the analysis results and issue a public document once the entire project is
complete. More information on SOARCA is available on the NRC Web site here:


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