Research Reactor License Renewal Challenges

The process for renewing research and test reactor (RTR) licenses in the United States has been subject to lengthy delays and periodic backlogs since the early 1980s. Despite the apparent time invested in improvement efforts, the process does not seem to be getting better very fast. The difficulty, schedule uncertainty, and cost of renewing research reactor licenses adds to the burden of owning and operating research reactors. The scale of the challenge may contribute to regrettable institutional decisions that maintaining operable facilities is not worth the trouble.

Nuclear professionals: Establish standing now to improve operational radiation limits

On August 3, 2014, the window will close on a rare opportunity to use the political process to strongly support the use of science to establish radiation protection regulations. Though it is not terribly difficult for existing light water reactors and fuel cycle facilities to meet the existing limits from 40 CFR 190 regarding doses to the general public and annual release rate limits for specific isotopes, there is no scientific basis for the current limits. If they are maintained, it would hinder the deployment of many potentially valuable technologies that could help humanity achieve a growing level of prosperity while achieving substantial reductions in air pollution and persistent greenhouse gases like CO2.

The Value of Energy Diversity (Especially In A Polar Vortex)

Since the natural gas price collapse that started in summer 2008, many observers have become accustomed to using the adjective "cheap" when talking about natural gas. Like the word "clean," another adjective often applied to methane, "cheap" is a relative term. It is also a term whose applicability depends on time and location. As I wrote in a recent post on Atomic Insights, gas is only really cheap if nobody needs it. When demand increases due to some kind of perfectly natural phenomenon-like a winter with near normal temperatures-demand can exceed deliverability by a large margin.

How painful will the coming spike in natural gas prices be?

There is a good reason for American nuclear energy professionals to learn more about the dynamics of the natural gas market. We have been told numerous times that cheap natural gas is making our technology less and less viable in the competitive market place. Natural gas (also known as methane) is a terrific product, but it has been promoted as being capable of supplying a much larger portion of our overall energy demand. That promotional effort is putting us all at risk of a severe hangover when the low price bubble bursts.

Anniversary - 80 years ago, Leo Szilard envisioned neutron chain reaction

nuclearpioneers_final-200-x-75On September 12, 1933, slightly more than 80 years ago, Leo Szilard was the first person to imagine a reasonable mechanism for releasing the vast quantities of energy known to be stored in atomic nuclei. As it turned out, his concept worked the first time it was tried on December 2, 1942.

Robert O. Anderson - banking heir, oil wildcatter, big oil exec, financier of antinuclear movement

In 1970, Robert O. Anderson gave David Brower $200,000 as seed money to form the virulent antinuclear group that calls itself Friends of the Earth. I learned that important piece of information while reading a book by F. William Engdahl titled A Century of War: Anglo-American Oil Politics and the New World Order. Here is the passage that opened my eyes:

Don't blame NRC uncertainty for San Onofre retirement

The San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station never threatened public health and safety. Unit 2 could have been restarted as soon as its scheduled outage was completed in February 2012. Unit 3 could have been restarted by mid-March 2012. The total cost of the repairs, including purchased replacement power, should have been less than $50 million and been covered by the manufacturer's warranty.

Challenging scientific organizations to adhere to scientific methods

Rockwell

For more than two years, I have been privileged to be included in correspondence about a battle for truth led by Ted Rockwell, one of the pioneers of nuclear energy and radiation protection. He continues to seek support of nuclear energy and radiation professionals in an effort to encourage the New York Academy of Sciences (NYAS) to do something that is apparently difficult for any large organization to do-apologize and take effective action to correct a continuing mistake.

Nuclear power at sea

On Sunday, December 5, 2010, the Financial Times reported on a story (subscription required) that has been available in nuclear-energy focused corners of the Web for about three weeks: A consortium worthy of serious attention has begun a study of the viability of nuclear propulsion for oil tankers. The three-member consortium includes Lloyd's RegisterBMT Nigel Gee, and Hyperion Power Generation. Enterprises Shipping and Trading, a Greek company that manages a large fleet of modern, double hull tankers, is funding the study.