New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:

Nuclear News

post #1 of 25
Thread Starter 
From The Energy Collective & Rod Adams:

A message about maintaining perspective that is quite relevant and correct.

The most recent example of ineffective response to criticism that is disproportionate to the potential harm is the hullabaloo and attention being paid to "tritium leaks" where measured groundwater levels have reached a maximum of 75,000 picocuries per liter. That scary sounding number, however, is in reference to a unit of measure that is 1 x 10^-12 curies. 

A picocurie is to a curie as a penny is to 10 BILLION DOLLARS, and a curie is not even a very large unit of measure. A curie of tritium weighs just 0.1 milligrams. That means that anti-nuclear activists are seriously advocating shutting down a power plant with a proven history of providing a reliable, affordable, emission free source of 620 Megawatts of electricity into a New England power grid that needs the power just because some samples of water from a well that is not used for drinking water contains 0.0000000000075 grams of tritium in 1000 grams of water. The saddest part is that there are politicians who seem willing to go along and bend to the pressure.
post #2 of 25
This isn't a very honest argument.  It's akin to global warming deniers saying that 380 ppm (0.038%) of CO2 in the atmosphere is too minimal to have an impact on the global climate.  The number sounds small, but that doesn't mean it can't have a significant effect.

In the case of tritium, in California the drinking water public health goal is 400 picocuries per liter (pCi/L).  So the 75,000 pCi/L exceeds that by more than 2 orders of magnitude - it's not even close to a safe level.  Of course it's different if the water isn't a drinking water source.  The 400 pCi/L is based on a 1-in-1 million cancer risk from exposure to 2 liters of the water per day.  Not an issue if it's not a drinking water source, in which case the value would be higher - there are different standards for drinking water and non-drinking water.

Nevertheless, the argument made by Rod Adams is not an honest one, since it doesn't mention any reference values like screening levels or public health goals.  It's just a "wow doesn't that number sound small?" argument which is meant to appeal to people who don't know any better.  In reality if it's polluting a drinking water source, that is an exceptionally high and dangerous concentration of tritium.

Mind you I'm not saying the plant necessarily needs to be shut down due to this leak.  Just that Adams' argument is dishonest, which is ironic since he's claiming that the arguments being made by nuclear opponents are dishonest.
post #3 of 25
Thread Starter 
Good points Dana!

That is the problem with arguments made by the extremes in very many cases with the result that people (like me) get confused as to what really counts.

Sure would be convenient for the great majority if the 'honest brokers' would talk a little louder so as to be noticeable amongst the screamers. 
İf Adams' had mentioned your points it would not have hurt his argument for anything but drinking water while making it stronger for other uses. Dumb writing in my opinion!
post #4 of 25
Well, I didn't look up the cleanup level for non-drinking water.  It could very well be below 75,000 pCi/L as well, in which case it wouldn't help his argument.  Plus I don't know how Vermont's cleanup levels compare to California's.  But the bottom line is that he should have given a comparison level, otherwise his argument is meaningless.  I suspect he didn't provide one because 75,000 pCi/L exceeds the relevant screening level.
post #5 of 25
Thread Starter 

From the EPA 

Most drinking water sources have very low levels of radioactive contaminants ("radionuclides"), most of which are naturally occurring, although contamination of drinking water sources from human-made nuclear materials can also occur.  Most radioactive contaminants are at levels that are low enough to not be considered a public health concern. At higher levels, long-term exposure to radionuclides in drinking water may cause cancer. In addition, exposure to uranium in drinking water may cause toxic effects to the kidney.

To protect public health, EPA has established drinking water standards for several types of radioactive contaminants combined radium 226/228 (5 pCi/L); beta emitters (4 mrems); gross alpha standard (15 pCi/L); and uranium (30 µg/L).

edited to add the following:

Since EPA developed the 1976 drinking water standard, scientists have improved the calculation methods to equate concentrations of tritium in drinking water (pCi/L) to radiation doses in people (mrem). In 1991, EPA calculated a tritium concentration to yield a 4 mrem per year dose as 60,900 pCi/L — a threefold increase from the maximum contaminant level of 20,000 pCi/L established in 1976. However, EPA kept the 1976 value of 20,000 pCi/L for tritium in its latest regulations. For more information on the basis and history of the Radionuclide Rule, visit 

The calculation of the PHG (public health goal) level applies the risk coefficient for tritium to a lifetime of exposure to 2 L/day of water and incorporates a de minimis excess individual cancer risk level of 10-6 (one in one million) from exposure to tritium to estimate the health-protective value of 400 pCi/L.
The federal maximum contaminant level (MCL) for tritium in drinking water is 20,000 pCi/L, based on a radiation exposure level judged to be acceptable of one mrem/yr for this specific contaminant. The California MCL is also 20,000 pCi/L.

İ am continuing to look for information that İ can understand - so far my success is limited - İ can find a lot but understanding it is a different story! 

Edited by Russ - 2/11/10 at 11:42pm
post #6 of 25
Yes the MCL is generally the standard we use when evaluating groundwater contamination (unless there isn't an MCL established for the contaminant, in which case we look for another standard).  So the Vermont case is nearly 4 times higher than the level which is considered safe.  Which no doubt is why it's not mentioned in Adams' article.
post #7 of 25
Thread Starter 

Vermont Health Department Reports One Leak Source Found at Vermont Yankee; All Samples For Isotopes Other Than Tritium are Natural Background

by Rod Adams

The Vermont Department of Health has a well organized page detailing the results of the search for the source(s) of tritiated water leaks at Vermont Yankee. It includes regular updates, site maps and detailed sample results.
Based on an update dated March 5, 2010, a remotely operated pipe inspecting vehicle has helped workers discover a hole in the wall of a pipe that is located in the Advanced Off-Gas piping tunnel. The pipe is leaking enough water and steam to be responsible for the 100 gallons per day that has been previously computed as the suspected leak rate. Inspections will continue even after this leak is repaired to ensure that there are not any more sources.
Though the pipe is enclosed inside a tunnel, there is also a crack in the tunnel that is allowing the water to leak into the ground around the tunnel. All of the wells that have tested above the lower limit of detection for tritium are within 50 feet of the plant buildings. here is what the site says about the extent of testing for other radionuclides:

The Vermont Department of health is also testing private drinking water wells. Here are the results so far:
Once every week, the Vermont Department of Health Laboratory is testing private drinking water supplies of selected residences near the Vermont Yankee site boundary.

To date, none of these wells have shown evidence of contamination with tritium or other radionuclides that would be associated with a nuclear reactor.

For the article please see:
post #8 of 25
Thread Starter 

James Hansen keen on next-generation nuclear power

While renewable energies such as solar and wind were gaining in economic competition with coal-fired plants, Professor Hansen said they wouldn't be able to provide baseload power for years to come.

Even in Germany, which pushed renewables heavily, they generated only 7 per cent of the nation's power.

"It's just too expensive," said Professor Hansen, an expert in climate modelling, planetary atmospheres and the Earth's climate.

Professor Hansen admitted he was a late convert to advanced nuclear power. "But fourth generation solves two of the problems that made me sceptical," he said. "One is nuclear waste. It uses over 99 per cent of the fuels.'

For the rest of the story please see the link above.
post #9 of 25
I just finished reading "Storms of My Grandchildren" by Hansen.  He's big on nuclear power.  The book doesn't leave me very hopeful about our political will to do what's necessary.  That's a bit obvious at this point.
post #10 of 25
Thread Starter 
 İ just finished a post on the energy collective where the author had made a major decision - not to refer to global warming or even climate change but to call it 'climate disruption'.

Don't know if they will just delete my comments but they were not all that complimentary.

Another article was about nuclear power - in the comments people were whinging about the cost 1) construction cost and 2) cost per kWh. After all the posts on the net by people with an agenda of trying to stop nuclear there is a fantastic amount of disinformation out there. There should be no problem executing the construction of a nuclear plant in 5 years. Bigger projects are completed every year on shorter schedules. İ have worked on such projects in management - İ am positive. The biggest problem are the lawsuits that opponents use to drag things out while telling themselves how wonderful they are.

Today İ read a post by Richard Brubaker about the greening of China - İ had previously read a post of his about China written by a guest describing a visit to an organic farm in China. Her post told about the farms with a broad brush description (she said she knew nothing about farms or organic farms) so she just wrote down what they told her. According to the farm manager they are doing wonderful. Of course - ask an organic farm manager in the US and he would tell you the same thing. Ask any standard farm manager and he will tell you how wonderful he is doing as well!

Todays post about the greening reported second hand information about what some parties are doing - an example - 'Fujian Golden Vision LCD Science & Technology Co. Ltd has designated one of its engineers to be responsible specifically for developing ways to reduce power, water and raw material consumption during production.' İmpressive? Hardly, the company İ worked for in İndia had many people working on the same task although with the bottom line in mind only.

İndia has some very strict environmental laws - many patterned after the US. Only problem is that most of the time the inspector is for sale. A couple of dollars equivalent in his pocket and you passed with flying colors. The higher the level of the government man the more he cost naturally.

İ have never been to China let alone worked there but in Asia, a lie is only important if you get caught and can't think of a way to get out of it. 

post #11 of 25

James Hansen is one of the foremost climate scientists in the world, but when it comes to policy, I don't often agree with him.  This is one of those cases.


It's all well and good to say that 4th generation nuclear could be a major solution, but it's another thing entirely to implement it.  Even the current generation of nuclear power has basically priced itself out of the market.  Many renewable options including several with baseload storage capacity like concentrated solar thermal and geothermal are cheaper.  They're also quicker to build.

post #12 of 25
Thread Starter 
Neither solar PV or wind have any baseload capability - the storage isn't there. A couple of projects coming up have 6 hours of storage but that is all İ know of. Baseload means 90% plus capacity factor for 24/365 (at least 85% - lowest İ have read of). İt doesn't go down because of a week long of a winter storm. 

Geothermal is sitting still.

The compressed air storage has yet to be brought on line - may be the best hope.

Wave energy is dead for now and probably will be until someone comes up with a new twist. 

Hydro already uses storage by regulating river flows and reservoir heights. Quite an art with those guys.

İ believe it will either be nuclear or sitting in the dark part of the time - İ choose nuclear.

Wind & solar PV are definitely quicker to build but 5 years isn't bad.
post #13 of 25
I'm not sure if you're talking to me, but you don't seem to be.  I said solar thermal and geothermal.  I don't know what you mean by geothermal "is sitting still", and you ignored solar thermal.  A new nuclear plant takes a decade to build, by the way.
post #14 of 25
Thread Starter 
Hi Dana - The only reason nuclear takes a decade to build are the lawsuits greens throw up at them trying to be obstructionist.

Solar thermal - the best proposed to date has 4 to 6 hours of storage - not baseline power - only intermittent power.
post #15 of 25
Hi Dana - The only reason nuclear takes a decade to build are the lawsuits greens throw up at them trying to be obstructionist.

Not true.  It takes a long time to build a new nuclear power plant, and often they're slowed not by 'lawsuits' from 'greens', but by safety concerns, and rightfully so.

The first of the advanced reactor designs to be built in the West has been under construction in Finland since mid-2005. It is already 25 percent over budget and two years behind schedule because of “flawed welds for the reactor’s steel liner, unusable water-coolant pipes, and suspect concrete in the foundation.”

The June commercial startup of China’s Tianwan project came more than two years later than planned. The Chinese regulator halted construction for almost a year on the first of two Russian-designed reactors while it examined welds in the steel liner for the reactor core.... In Taiwan, the Lungmen reactor project has fallen five years behind schedule. Difficulties include welds that failed inspections in 2002 and had to be redone.

Solar thermal - the best proposed to date has 4 to 6 hours of storage - not baseline power - only intermittent power.

At the moment 6 hours, yes.  But in a decade it's projected to be 16 hours.  Plenty sufficient to provide baseload power.  Plus there's geothermal, there will still be nuclear plants, natural gas plants, lots of wind, etc.  The key is to diversify the grid so that we're not too reliant on any one energy source.  This lessens the need for baseload power.
post #16 of 25
Sadly, nuclear is just a political soccer ball. It makes loads of sense. But it's much easier for a politician to whip up fear and panic over it than explain why it's good for your community and country.
post #17 of 25
I disagree.  Republicans looooove talking about nuclear power.  'Drill baby drill' and nuclear power are their only energy 'solutions', in fact.  John McCain's entire energy plan while he was running for president was to build 100 new nuclear power plants.

Maybe it was a political soccer ball 30 years ago, but not anymore.  Now it's just priced itself out of the market.
post #18 of 25
Thread Starter 
Going by my weather station and the solar meter on it 16 hours is hardly baseline - unless you plan on routine brown outs and power cuts in the middle of a winter storm.

The 16 hour storage may come true and İ hope it does but so far it is only talk - not done. The 6 hour storage is yet to be proven. 

Poor engineering and quality control will kill the time schedule of any project! You could just as easily have listed projects that were completed on schedule. 
post #19 of 25
Originally Posted by Russ View Post

Poor engineering and quality control will kill the time schedule of any project! You could just as easily have listed projects that were completed on schedule. 

No I couldn't.  With nuclear power there aren't any.  New nuclear plants always go over budget and over schedule.
post #20 of 25
There's no need for nuclear when solar is cheaper. (fed funded nuc insurance, nuc cleanup, waste storage, plant decommissioning, etc)

With a better grid which has to be built anyway, solar thermal + storage has peak daytime potential to replace today's aging nuclear/fossil plants while meshing and transitioning a handoff nicely to night time wind output peaks and can be integrated nicely with remaining/existing fossil/nuclear plants to close the gap along with more end user efficiency, load shifting, etc.

PHEVs and EVs also offer daytime peak demand help when trip computers tell drivers of parked/plugged cars they won't need as much juice to get home and complete tasks as they have in the battery and can sell surplus juice or charge in the AM and release during peak PM and top off before going home to predetermined amounts. The number of such vehicles on the road in the future should not be underestimated.

We can come full circle without new plants - especially nuclear ones.

Since solar is cheaper, why is there still a discussion (pro or con) about nuclear? It's a done deal. Now it's up to us to educate the public on these realities.
post #21 of 25
Thread Starter 
Done deal for the 1% of the population who really believes what you say. Even Obama will allow new nuclear plants. He is not stupid - he can understand what needs to come.

1.  There's no need for nuclear when solar is cheaper. (fed funded nuc insurance, nuc cleanup, waste storage, plant decommissioning, etc)
reply - This is not fed funded insurance - it is pay as you go for the nuclear utility - İ pointed this out before. You keep coming up with this solar is cheaper so how did that miracle happen? İt is far from cheaper - very far from cheaper!

2. Better grid - on the way and will take many years. Storage - zero (one small operating CAES system) at this time. İt has to come before wind or solar can can claim to provide baseline power. The present 6 hours solar CSP storage being being constructed is just a baby step along the path - unless you don't mind 1) no power after midnight 2) continual brown outs or black outs any time a storm comes to town.

3. Using PHEV batteries to time shift power is kind of a sad joke you read about on green sites. Battery life is measured in cycles so when you are charging/discharging for the benefit of the grid you are consuming the life of your expensive battery. This would also require a very high kWh charge to make people interested and stay off charging when they should or a smart grid that controls what happens when. 20 years from now we will still be waiting for both.

4. Since solar is cheaper, why is there still a discussion (pro or con) about nuclear? It's a done deal. Now it's up to us to educate the public on these realities. reply - İ have no idea where you come up with this. Must be sitting in a coffee shop discussing the subject with others. İt can't be while looking at numbers because you are wrong.

İf people want to allow their living standard to go lower and lower then maybe, just maybe, solar can carry the ball. This wonn't be acceptable to the public. Maybe to the 1% who really believe the stuff you are saying but the rest of the public - no way.

The power mix for years to come will consist of coal, hydro and nuclear for baseline power. Gas turbines for peaking power with some assistance from solar and wind. Solar in Europe is slowing down drastically as the overly generous incentives are being removed/cut back.
post #22 of 25
Heretic is right about the costs.

Utilities in the Southwest are already contracting for [concentrated solar thermal] power at 14 to 15 cents/kWh. The modeling for the CPUC puts California solar thermal at 12.7 to 13.6 cents/kWh (including six hours of storage capacity)

And the price is falling as the technology improves.  Google has a prototype mirror which they believe will cut the cost in half.  Compare that to new nuclear, which is no lower than 15 cents per kWh (according to the same CPUC study referenced above), and may be as high as 25-30 cents per kWh.  In short, solar thermal is already cheaper, and the cost difference is growing.  That's simply the reality.
post #23 of 25
Thread Starter 
İn solar there are both PV and CSP in play - CSP is great but with the storage problem to overcome. For solar PV there is no storage solution sight.

İ don't agree on the nuclear power costs. Without going through all the CPUC has considered it is impossible to know what they have considered and İ don't care about it that much. Nuclear will be a substantial part of new power whether people like it or not. The small percent of the population really against nuclear are vocal but will they carry the day - İ doubt it. 

Do people have any idea how many solar plants it would take to replace one coal fired or one gas fired or one nuclear powered generation plant? When solar companies talk about 1 mW they mean installed - not produced - three or four times the investment required to cover the hours when the sun doesn't shine ? That is factored into the costs you are promoting?

The German solar industry (PV) which is proclaimed to be the most advanced already supplies a whopping 1% of the power to their grid! Wow!

Solar thermal still has a major storage problem - 6 hours is convenient for a small time shift but that is all. Storage for longer periods will come but not for some time. İ have read of nothing close to being ready.
Google's investments in RE are like Khosla's - a lot made and so far nothing functioning - the mirrors should work out though as it is organizing existing tech rather than developing new. 

In short, solar thermal is already cheaper, and the cost difference is growing.  That's simply the realityWhen you want to turn on lights, charge your car or have heat at 0300 hours please remember how much solar is helping - that is the reality! İt will be rather dark with CSP only for some time to come.
post #24 of 25

Nobody is claiming we're going to dismantle existing power plants.  But when it comes to building new power plants, there will probably be a few nuclear ones, but for the most part they've priced themselves out of the market.  I fully expect to see a lot more concentrated solar thermal plants in the future than new nuclear plants.


On that subject, Alcoa is also looking at making cheaper mirrors (out of aluminum) which will decrease solar thermal costs by 20%.  And SkyFuel is developing one out of a reflective film which is supposed to cust costs 35%.  So there's a lot of development in this field, not just from Google.

post #25 of 25
If Germany is cutting back on solar it's because they overemphasized PV. That's not something the rest of the world has to repeat. Thermal is obviously cheaper than nuclear it's storage is ready to mesh with other sources and transition to night time when wind output peaks.

On the one hand, it's not fair to introduce solar/wind because it ruins efficiency/economics of central fossil/nuclear.

On the other hand it's not fair to have a lopsided supply that doesn't let solar and wind do it's job which would relegate fossil/nuclear to fill in needs.

Efficiency is the cheapest source and can further negate the need to build new plants - something you don't like but the rest of us do - but only if the people are educated to demand it, outside the choir, on terms comparable to their credit card debts and savings accounts, perhaps taken from us and vocalized by Suzy Orman.
New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:
  Return Home
  Back to Forum: Environmental News and Politics