Monday, May 19, 2008

News From the Week of May 12, 2008

May 20 Public Meeting to Discuss Contamination of Groundwater at Indian Point Plant

Major New Technical Report Finds Wind Can Provide 20% of U.S. Electricity Needs by 2030

Your Home Might Be Turned into a Power Plant

Plan to Store Italian Nuclear Waste Rejected

Duke Energy Identifies Vibration at Oconee Nuclear Station

Nine Mile Point Plant Loses Power, Declares Unusual Event

NRC to Discuss Inspection of Company's Assessment of Groundwater Contamination at Indian Point Plant May 20

The results of a Nuclear Regulatory Commission inspection of Entergy's work on characterizing groundwater contamination at the Indian Point nuclear power plant will be discussed at a public meeting on Tuesday, May 20. Indian Point is located in Buchanan (Westchester County), N.Y., and operated by Entergy Nuclear Northeast.

Scheduled to begin at 6:30 p.m., the meeting will take place at the Colonial Terrace, 119 Oregon Road in Cortlandt Manor, N.Y. Prior to the formal session, the NRC will offer an informational poster-board open house at the facility, from 4 to 6 p.m. At that session, members of the public will have an opportunity to discuss issues related to the subject on a one-on-one basis with NRC staff.

"Throughout the course of Entergy's efforts to determine the extent of the contamination and then develop a plan to address it going forward, we have closely followed the company's actions every step of the way," said NRC Region I Administrator Samuel J. Collins. "As part of our reviews, we have also conducted independent analysis and groundwater sampling. At the meeting on May 20th, we will explain what we found as a result of our inspections and whether we consider Entergy's plans for dealing with the contamination to be reasonable, thorough and protective of the public and the environment."

The groundwater contamination at Indian Point was first identified after cracks were found on a wall of the Unit 2 spent fuel pool during excavation work adjacent to that structure. Entergy notified the NRC of that condition on Sept. 1, 2005. The company initiated an investigation and subsequently determined that there was tritium contamination in the groundwater in the vicinity of the spent fuel pool. That discovery triggered a comprehensive effort to characterize the extent of any groundwater contamination at the site, to identify the sources and to develop a plan for addressing the problem.

On Sept. 20, 2005, the NRC commenced a Special Inspection to examine Entergy's actions in response to the problem. That inspection concluded that the groundwater contamination did not -- nor was it likely to -- affect public health and safety. The results of that review were discussed at a public meeting on March 28, 2006. Since then, the NRC has continued to inspect and monitor the company's activities. Reactor Oversight Process Deviation Memorandums, signed by the agency's Executive Director for Operations, authorized the allocation of additional inspection resources to carry out these reviews.

Entergy submitted to the NRC the results of its groundwater investigation on Jan. 11, 2008. It also provided its plans for remediation and long-term monitoring of the contamination. At the meeting on May 20th, prior to the NRC's presentation regarding its inspection, the company will discuss the results of its hydrogeophysical site characterization effort; its plans for continued monitoring of groundwater conditions at the site; and the upcoming drainage of water and removal of fuel from the Unit 1 spent fuel pool. The actions involving the Unit 1 spent fuel pool are expected to result in the halt of groundwater contamination from that location, which has been the most significant source of the contamination at the site.

The NRC staff will then provide details of its inspection. Among the objectives of the inspection were to understand the cause of the leakage and its radiological significance; ensure that appropriate and timely actions were taken by Entergy to investigate the condition; determine the company's conformance with applicable regulatory requirements; and provide an independent analysis to evaluate the quality of the company's assessment and investigation results. NRC inspectors reviewed company records and previous inspection reports issued by the agency; observed and inspected Entergy activities; interviewed company personnel; and independently collected and analyzed groundwater samples.

A copy of the inspection report will be available in the NRC's Agencywide Documents Access and Management System (ADAMS) under accession number ML081340425. ADAMS is accessible at: Help in using ADAMS is available via the NRC's Public Document Room at 1-800-397-4209 or 301-415-4737, or by e-mail at PDR@NRC.GOV.


Major New Technical Report Finds Wind Can Provide 20% of U.S. Electricity Needs by 2030

Wind power is capable of becoming a major contributor to America's electricity supply over the next three decades, according to a report released today by the U.S. Department of Energy. The groundbreaking report, 20% Wind Energy by 2030: Increasing Wind Energy's Contribution to U.S. Electricity Supply, looks closely at one scenario for reaching 20% wind energy by 2030 and contrasts it to a scenario of no new U.S. wind power capacity.

"DOE's wind report is a thorough look at America's wind resource, its industrial capabilities, and future energy prices, and confirms the viability and commercial maturity of wind as a major contributor to America's energy needs, now and in the future," DOE Assistant Secretary of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy for the U.S. Department of Energy Andy Karsner, said. "To dramatically reduce greenhouse gas emissions and enhance our energy security, clean power generation at the gigawatt-scale will be necessary, and will require us to take a comprehensive approach to scaling renewable wind power, streamlining siting and permitting processes, and expanding the domestic wind manufacturing base."

Included in the report are an examination of America's technological and manufacturing capabilities, the future costs of energy sources, U.S. wind energy resources, and the environmental and economic impacts of wind development. Under the 20% wind scenario, installations of new wind power capacity would increase to more than 16,000 megawatts per year by 2018, and continue at that rate through 2030.

"The report shows that wind power can provide 20% of the nation's electricity by 2030, and be a critical part of the solution to global warming," said AWEA Executive Director Randall Swisher. "This level of wind power is the equivalent of taking 140 million cars off the road," he said. "The report identifies the central constraints to achieving 20% - transmission, siting, manufacturing and technology - and demonstrates how each can be overcome. As an inexhaustible domestic resource, wind strengthens our energy security, improves the quality of the air we breathe, slows climate change, and revitalizes rural communities."

The report finds that achieving a 20 percent wind contribution to U.S. electricity supply would:

-- Reduce carbon dioxide emissions from electricity generation by 25
percent in 2030.

-- Reduce natural gas use by 11%;

-- Reduce water consumption associated with electricity generation by
4 trillion gallons by 2030;

-- Increase annual revenues to local communities to more than $1.5
billion by 2030; and

-- Support roughly 500,000 jobs in the U.S., with an average of more than 150,000 workers directly employed by the wind industry.

At 20% of electric power generation, significant growth in the manufacturing supply chain would create jobs and remedy the current shortage in parts for wind turbines.

Reducing the use of natural gas could save money for consumers due to the resulting downward pressure on the price of natural gas, according to AWEA.

"The report correctly highlights that greater penetration of renewable sources of energy - such as wind - into our electric grid will have to be paired with not only advanced integration technologies but also new transmission," DOE's Assistant Secretary for Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability Kevin Kolevar said. "In many cases, the most robust sources of renewable resources are located in remote areas, and if we want to be able to deliver these new clean and abundant sources of energy to population centers, we will need additional transmission."

"We must look at meeting future electric demands in a cost-effective way," said Suedeen Kelly, FERC Commissioner. "The 20% wind scenario would only cost 2 percent more than the cost of the baseline scenario without wind. At 50 cents per month for the average ratepayer, that is a small price to pay for the climate, water, natural gas, and energy security benefits it would buy--and it does not even count the stability provided to consumers by eliminating fuel price risk."

"Though economic and other factors will ultimately determine our energy future, we believe the 20 percent wind scenario is feasible, but only with a major national transmission highway system. Delivering power from the best windy regions to the growing urban supply requires a bigger, stronger transmission system. Strong regional and interregional planning as well as broad allocation of costs will allow the United States to rely on a broader diversity of generation resources," said Mike Heyeck, Senior VP of AEP Transmission.

The report comes at an important time in wind development. In 2007, wind was one of the fastest growing sources of electricity in the nation, second only to natural gas for the third consecutive year. According to an AWEA report released last week, the U.S. wind energy industry continued new installations at a breakneck pace in the first quarter of 2008, putting 1,400 megawatts (MW) or approximately $3 billion worth of new generating capacity in place--enough to serve the equivalent of 400,000 homes--coupled with investment in 17 new manufacturing facilities over the past year.

"Wind is an important part of BP Alternative Energy's business and of BP's diverse energy portfolio. Siting and wildlife issues will be a challenge, but AWEA and industry leaders are committed to working with stakeholders to make wind the environmental electricity choice," said Bob Lukefahr, President, Power Americas, BP Alternative Energy North America. "This report underscores the benefits of diversifying our electricity sources. Growing to 20% wind requires investment in new manufacturing and capital projects, an estimated 500,000 jobs, and brings rural economic development across the country."


In 2006, President Bush articulated a national imperative for greater energy efficiency and a more diversified energy portfolio. Citing wind energy as part of the solution, he noted that areas of the nation with good
wind resources could satisfy up to 20 percent of America's total electricity demand.

Subsequently, government and industry came together to thoroughly explore the feasibility of generating 20 percent of U.S. electricity from wind by 2030 and produced this joint report to aid policy-makers and the public in better understanding the issues, investments, and likely outcomes associated with pursuing this objective.

To download the full report, please go to

AWEA is the national trade association of the U.S. wind energy industry. The association's membership includes global leaders in wind power development, wind turbine manufacturing, and energy, as well as a broad range of component and service suppliers. More information on wind energy is available at the AWEA web site:


Your Home Might Be Turned into a Power Plant
May 13 - McClatchy-Tribune Regional News - Christopher D. Kirkpatrick The
Charlotte Observer, N.C.

Inside the garage of Duke Energy's chief technology officer, a refrigerator-sized battery-and-computer station processes electricity from rooftop solar panels.

The electricity powers his home directly. But the battery also stores some of it to be tapped later, if needed.

The battery station, with help from the home's new smart meter, also tracks electricity use, appliance-by-appliance, so a homeowner knows how best to save.

David Mohler's Lake Wylie residence, with all its gizmos, is ground zero for an ambitious solar energy experiment the Charlotte utility believes holds the key to meeting power demand more efficiently and cleanly.

"This is a future world," Mohler said as he stood in his driveway looking up at the gleaming panels on his roof. "But we need to figure out how to improve (solar) technology and bring down the costs. Today, it's too expensive."

The company would like to install similar systems in selected homes throughout its Carolinas territory within a decade. With the equipment, the homes and businesses could become mini-power stations, working as an extended network feeding the regional power grid with electricity.

The utility plans to finish outfitting 5,000 south Charlotte homes with smart meters by this summer and already has installed data relay devices on some power lines. The meters are part of an existing program to track and analyze customer power use. Duke said its 4 million customers in five states will have smart meters in five years. They also are key to a future solar network.

Duke plans to ask Carolinas regulators this summer for permission to start building the network. The batteries could come later.

Duke spokesman Tom Williams said Duke hasn't decided yet if customers will be able to volunteer their rooftops.

With the array of new technology, Duke could burn less coal by drawing unused solar power from homes. For example, Duke could draw power while residents are on vacation. It also could grab power stored in the batteries.

Officials estimate the first phase, over the next decade, would cost about $100 million, expenses passed on to customers through higher rates. Duke has suggested it could install the panels and equipment, while retaining ownership. It could then siphon extra power in exchange for breaks on customers' bills or other concessions, Williams said.

Duke and other utilities say they will need solar networks to meet future energy demand more efficiently as they work to curb carbon dioxide emissions from coal-fired plants.

Rogers told shareholders Friday at the company's annual meeting that creating a network was integral.

The idea has been around for 10-15 years, said Steve Kalland, director of the N.C. Solar Center at N.C. State University. But advances in battery-storage technology has made it more practical, he said.

Solar energy's penetration in the Carolinas is almost zero, Kalland said. "I'm cautiously optimistic."

The technology's growing popularity has brought down costs, but price is still a major obstacle to widespread use, he said. The solar panels and installation at Mohler's house cost $24,000. And the battery, manufactured by GridPoint, was $10,000.

Obstacles also include aesthetics. Some homeowner associations have outlawed solar panels as unsightly, Mohler said. "There are some interesting social issues."


Plan to Store Italian Nuclear Waste Rejected
May 09 - Deseret News (Salt Lake City)

The EnergySolutions proposal to store radioactive waste from Italy in Utah received a unanimous thumbs down Thursday from the Northwest Interstate Compact on Low-Level Radioactive Waste Management.

Utah's compact committee member Bill Sinclair, picked by Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr., read from a "clarifying" resolution after a 90-minute closed session to discuss a federal lawsuit EnergySolutions filed this week. Representatives on the eight-state compact all voted to approve the resolution.

The compact's document said EnergySolutions does not have the necessary "arrangement" with the compact to accept the Italian waste. Such an arrangement would need to be adopted by the committee prior to EnergySolutions' accepting that waste in Utah.

Sinclair said the intent of the resolution was to send a "clear message" on the compact's stand on foreign waste. A short time later the committee approved a resolution amendment that states the compact will also disregard a waste classification as domestic after incineration, that is, if the waste being incinerated originated in a foreign country.

The Northwest Compact is one of several throughout the country that help manage disposal of potentially dangerous waste from state to state. Utah is part of an eight-state compact that includes Alaska, Hawaii, Montana, Washington, Idaho, Wyoming and Oregon. Waste coming from Tennessee to Utah is under the watch of the Southwest Compact and Tennessee's own laws governing radioactive waste classification.

The committee's decisions came after EnergySolutions general counsel Val John Christensen asked the compact's committee to look past the "emotional protest of 'not in my backyard."'

In an April 23 letter to compact committee members, Christensen said the company's license application with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has generated "political reactions, based almost entirely on misinformation."

License approval would mean EnergySolutions could accept up to 20,000 tons of low-level radioactive waste from closed nuclear reactors in Italy. The bulk of materials would be processed and recycled at an EnergySolutions facility in Tennessee. About one- third of the materials would be metal to be recycled for "beneficial" use, EnergySolutions' Tye Rogers said.

Then about 1,600 tons of Class A waste left over after processing would be transported to the company's disposal site in Clive, Tooele County. The company is not licensed to accept hotter Class D or C waste, which nuclear watchdog group Institute for Energy and Environmental Research president Arjun Makhijani recently suggested would actually be coming to Clive. EnergySolutions has denied that claim.

For Christensen, the main debatable issue should be whether his company's Clive facility in Tooele County has the capacity to store the waste. Rogers told the committee there is more than enough room, with 33 years of life left at the Clive site if an additional area there is developed for expanded disposal operations.

However, waste competitor Cedar Mountain Environmental's Charles Judd told the committee that EnergySolutions, using the company's figures provided to the state, the Clive site has only about five years of life left. Judd is currently challenging several issues, including capacity, related to the company's operating license, before the state's Radiation Control Board.

Judd said, as a competitor, the amount of Italian waste proposed for importing to EnergySolutions' Clive site was insignificant. He welcomed the resolution as a means of clarifying the waste marketplace.

Christensen also told the committee that for EnergySolutions to play on the "world stage," it needs to be authorized to accept foreign waste at the Clive site.

But the application has been met with opposition by Huntsman, Rep. Jim Matheson, D-Utah, and Utah's own Radiation Control Board. The NRC also took a rare step in issuing a "fact sheet" due to the number of inquiries and negative public comments it received.

John Urgo of Healthy Environment Alliance of Utah urged the committee in Boise not to allow a major precedent-setting policy shift by letting EnergySolutions go after foreign waste, opening the door to more and more overseas shipments.

In their defense, company officials stated in documents prepared for Thursday's meeting that some electricity produced in Italy has come from American- and British-designed nuclear reactors, with fuel for those Italian reactors coming from uranium mined in the U.S. and even in Utah.

The company filed a federal lawsuit this week asking the U.S. District Court to make a declaratory judgment in the company's favor by declaring the compact lacks the authority to bar the company from storing the Italian waste in Utah. The company believes that will eventually allow them to receive the waste.

"We believe the courts will uphold the position that the Northwest Compact does not have authority to interfere with interstate commerce at a private facility," EnergySolutions spokesman Mark Walker said a statement following the meeting.

Sinclair asked Christensen whether EnergySolutions would drop the suit if the compact committee allowed the import of Italian waste under the condition that the amount of foreign waste coming to the Clive site in the future from foreign countries would be limited to 5 percent of the site's remaining capacity. Christensen said, in that case, the lawsuit would be dropped, but that compromise was not reached Thursday.

In its lawsuit and in front of the committee, EnergySolutions outlined several reasons why the compact lacks authority to prevent the company from receiving shipments of Class A low-level radioactive waste from foreign countries.

The company claims the compact, by design, has no statutory authority and that excluding the Italian waste "would amount to discrimination against foreign commerce and would therefor violate the Dormant Commerce Clause" of the U.S. Constitution.

EnergySolutions also believes that a 2007 agreement would be breached between the company and Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. if the compact, namely Utah's representative on the compact, ruled against the company's current state license. That license allows EnergySolutions to receive low-level radioactive waste, which the license has "never" distinguished between foreign and domestic, according to EnergySolutions.

Judd asked the committee at one point what authority Huntsman has in making an agreement on radioactive waste disposal with a private company. He also asked whether that agreement would hold up under a different governor.

"I don't know the answer to that question," Sinclair told Judd.

EnergySolutions also said any action by the compact to exclude foreign waste shipments would be "arbitrary and capricious and therefor invalid."

Committee members asked EnergySolutions officials about why no one in Europe will process or store the Italian waste or whether the company could partner with anyone overseas to handle the waste outside of the U.S. Montana committee member Roy Kemp asked if EnergySolutions has any plans to actually develop another waste site somewhere else. Christensen said his company does not have any such plans right now.

Before voting on the amendment to the resolution, the committee also talked about rules that govern how EnergySolutions classifies foreign waste. Company officials told committee members that some waste from outside the U.S. is no longer considered "foreign" after it is incinerated in Tennessee. In some cases the leftovers after incineration are declared as "Tennessee" waste, not foreign, before it is shipped to Clive for disposal.



Duke Energy Identifies Vibration at Oconee Nuclear Station
GREENVILLE, S.C. (The Associated Press) - May 13

Duke Energy says it's figured out what caused unusual coolant pump vibrations at a reactor at the Oconee Nuclear Station near Seneca.

The Greenville News reported Tuesday a Duke spokeswoman said the vibrations occurred because one of the four pumps was out of service.

Duke's Linda Conley says one pump had a small oil leak and had been shut down before the scheduled April 12 reactor shutdown. Conley says the change from four pumps to three caused the slightly higher vibration.

Conley says the Charlotte-based utility has replaced seals of all four pumps on the reactor.

Roger Hannah with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission says the agency was sending a team to the station Tuesday to study Duke's finding.

Conley says the matter did not affect the safety for the public, workers or the plant.


Nine Mile Point Plant Loses Power, Declares Unusual Event
SCRIBA, N.Y. (The Associated Press) - May 13

An upstate New York nuclear reactor automatically shut down when off-site power to the plant was lost.

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission says the incident Tuesday at the Nine Mile Point Unit 1 reactor is an unusual event, the lowest of its four emergency classifications.

The Lake Ontario plant has two incoming power lines, one of which was shut down for maintenance. Officials are trying to learn why the second stopped providing power just before 8:30 a.m.

Diesel generators at the plant kicked in, providing emergency power. Power was restored later in the morning and the unusual event was declared over at 10:22. a.m.


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