09 Feb 2012

For Part 3 see:  Dated 13 Jan 2012.

USA NUCLEAR REGULATORY COMMISSION APPROVES NEW NUKES IN USA Rockville, Maryland – USA Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), on 09 Feb 2012 approved plans to build the first two (2) new Nuclear Power Plants (NPPs) in the USA in more than 30 years;  That, in spite of objections of the panel’s Chairman Gregory Jaczko who cited safety concerns stemming from Japan’s disastrous 2011 Fukushima disaster which have not yet been addressed the NRC;  Even so, The USA-NRC voted 4-1 to allow Atlanta-based “Southern Co” to build and operate two(2) new Nukes at its existing twin-Nuke site.

NRC CHAIRMAN CAST ONLY DISSENTING VOTE  Chairman Gregory Jaczko cast an extraordinary dissenting vote, citing the Fukushima triple meltdown on March 2011. That incident spurred the NRC to review whether “existing and new U.S. reactors” could withstand natural disasters like earthquakes floods, and even new seismic concerns, and to incorporate the “Fukushima lessons learned” to the NRC Regulations – No success in doing that reported to date.  Jaczko said: “I cannot support issuing this license as if Fukushima never happened…I believe it requires some type of binding commitment that the Fukushima enhancements that are currently projected and currently planned to be made, would be made before the operation of the facility.”  HE DID ALL HE COULD!   USA Rep. Edward Markey (D-Mass),  Senior Democrat on the House Natural Resources Committee said: “The NRC abdicated its duty to protect public health and safety just to make construction faster and cheaper for the nuclear industry…Rather than ushering in the so-called nuclear renaissance, today’s vote demonstrates that the NRC is still stuck in the nuclear safety Dark Ages.” PRETTY HARSH, BUT  REALISTIC ASSESMENT.

VOGTLE NPP is located in Burke County, near Waynesboro, in the State of Georgia. The twin Nukes will cost Southern (and partners) about $14 billion, and are expected to enter service as soon as 2016 and 2017. The US Secretary of Energy (DOE), Dr. Steven Chu had promised  Southern and its partners $8.3 billion in federal loan guarantees as incentives;  However, times have changed greatly in governmental spending – Chu could change his mind, but that is unlikely).  One reason for the rapid building projection timing (4 to 5 years)is supposed to be the “Modular Construction” of the new generation ESBWRs.

ENTER THE NEW GENERATION ESBWRs  The two (2)new NPPs  plan to use AP1000 (GEN III+ ?) reactors built by Westinghouse Electric, referred to as “ Economical Simplified Boiling Water Reactors (ESBWRs)”- a standardized design approved by the NRC in December 2011, that will be the foundation for several other proposed nuclear plants. Westinghouse however, is just a business front for (majority owned by) Japanese Multinational Toshiba Corp. (THAT IS THE KICKER!! – THESE FOLKS NORMALLY WANT A LIFETIME SERVICE CONTRACT )

THREE MILE ISLAND INCIDENT IN 1979 STOPPED NEW NUCLEAR CONSTRUCTION. There have been no new NPPs built in the United States since the partial meltdown of the reactor core of the “Three Mile Island” plant in Pennsylvania in 1979; That, caused construction costs for NPPs to skyrocket, and stopped dozens of planned plants in their tracks. Currently nuclear generation accounts for about 20% of total USA electrical generation.  Southern’s Vogtle project is the first in a queue of permits filed by U.S. utilities before the USA-NRC, such as: Scana Corp,

NATURAL GAS MAKES MUCH MORE SENSE NOW Than new Nukes. Interest in new NPPs had risen about a decade ago (before “Fracking“) when natural gas prices were soaring, and experts thought the U.S. Congress would place limits on emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases.

WHAT A DIFFERENCE A DECADE MAKES! Now the case for new Nukes has eroded due the lessons of the Fukushima Dai No.1. Triple meltdown, and to the abundance and low cost Nat gas supplies in the USA. Natural gas is about one half as polluting as coal for electrical generation. Michael Golay, a professor at the USA Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) said: “New nuclear plants are more questionable because there are economic factors right now which favor gas-fueled power plants and the fact that the economy is only growing slowly means that nationally the need for new generation is lower than people were expecting in 2007,” He added that  a 1,000-megawatt(Mw) natural gas plant takes a few years to permit and build, and costs up to $1 billion for the most efficient, combined-cycle model. A similar-sized nuclear reactor however could take five to 10 years to develop and build, and cost well in excess of $5 billion.  Golay’s rationale also led Mexico to scrap plans for 10 new Nukes, and use their new found abundance of Nat gas instead.

Edward Oliver Gonzalez (gonzedo)


February 9, 2012 at 3:43 PM Comments (3)