Energy Information Center Applauds Nuclear Regulatory Commission Denial of Motion to Stay Start-up of Nuclear Plant
Engineers and Scientists Call for continued focus on technical facts and sound regulatory oversight and rejecting political posturing by anti-nuclear activist groups
Background: Venice, Florida. Today the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) held a session to hear a Motion by the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy (SACE) to stay the restart of St. Lucie Nuclear Plant, Unit 2 in Florida. The Motion was pursuant to a Petition filed by SACE weeks ago. After thorough review, the NRC voted unanimously to reject the Motion.
Statement: The Energy Information Center (EIC) applauds the NRC action. After its review by technical and regulatory experts, the decision stands affirm much of what the independent engineers and technical experts have been saying. It appears as though anti-nuclear activist organizations have exploited regulatory proceedings to score political points and such conduct should be rejected.
Speaking for EIC, Contributing Expert, Jerry Paul, stated: “There is nothing improper about legitimate questions raised on technical issues relevant to the operation of a nuclear power plant. Indeed, St. Lucie Nuclear Plant has experienced some tube wear within one of its steam generators. But the processes and procedures for analyzing these scenarios (by the licensee and the NRC experts) are well established and effective. We have seen nothing to indicate that safety has not been a central focus, particularly in the context of decisions about whether to operate or re-start the reactor.”
Paul further stated, “these processes and procedures for technical analysis are not aided or complimented by political posturing and stunts such as this Motion filed by SACE. SACE and a few allies appear to have a very clear agenda which is to oppose nuclear power using any means or rhetoric necessary. Other than speculation by anti-nuclear groups, there is nothing to suggest that tube wear is a barrier to safe operation of St. Lucie Nuclear Plant. SACE and the other anti-nuclear groups have been using the same playbook for decades, and once again, it appears that they have been proven wrong.”
Below is an excellent column by EIC Contributing Expert, Professor James Tulenko, published Dec. 17, 2013 in the Tallahassee Democrat. Well done, Jim. — Jerry
Judge Gets it Right on Approving New Reactors
by James S. Tulenko
This week, there were headlines across Florida declaring “Judge backs plans for FPL nuke project.” The stories reported that an administrative law judge recommended approval of a plan to build two additional nuclear reactors in Miami and necessary power lines, following a hearing and review of all testimony provided during public meetings held in South Florida and Tallahassee.
Actually the recommendation was for “certification” of the site location as part of a long process that included input from every sector of the public.
The recommendation was encouraging news and was applauded by many energy experts. Of course, consideration of new facilities is not a no-brainer these days. There was testimony by some who raised concerns ranging from power line corridor location to water usage requirements, and there even was opposition by the dwindling number of traditional anti-nuclear activists.
Most of the concerns, such as locating power lines, were addressed by choosing least-intrusive and most cost-effective routes pursuant to a balance of public comment and technical constraints. Overall, it was nice to see the process work as it was designed.
The recommendation lays the foundation for a decision that will provide 2200 megawatts of electricity — enough to supply more than 200,000 homes. It will save my fellow ratepayers more than $78 billion that would have been necessary for purchasing fossil fuels to generate this electricity. Construction and operations will create thousands of new jobs for decades to come. Most important, the new energy will come without emitting carbon or other greenhouse gases. This is good news for those of us who are advocates of cleaner air through lower emissions.
The additional energy helps to put our state in a position where it can supply the projected demand for electricity necessary to support an economy that will grow and provide even more jobs.
By adding some nuclear energy to our electricity supply portfolio, Florida is taking steps toward balancing its mix. Of course, most new electricity supply is currently developed around the recent discoveries of America’s vast reserves of natural gas, which is a fuel that is easy to deploy and emits less carbon than coal.
But many experts have warned that we must balance the growing gas power plant component with other sources as a hedge against multiple factors that fluctuate over time, such as fuel price stability and supply availability. Sources such as nuclear and solar help.
Florida has not added a new nuclear plant in more than 30 years, yet our population has doubled in that time. Accordingly, nuclear energy has dropped from about 20 percent of our mix to barely 10 percent. This week’s recommendation is a positive step toward diversifying our energy sources.
Florida should continue this trend. Nuclear and solar energy both can provide new electricity without emitting carbon and greenhouse gases. Of course, solar energy is intermittent — meaning that its availability depends on factors such as cloud cover — providing electricity for about 14 percent of the time. It is, however, a good complement to nuclear energy, which serves as base-load — meaning that it remains available more than 90 percent of the time. Although solar energy has traditionally been far more expensive than other sources, its cost has come down somewhat. Together, nuclear and solar can provide a reliable supply of clean, carbon-free electricity.
Across America energy experts are calling for states to develop plans for their energy future.
Many states have been slow to respond as they get mired in political gridlock, litigation and indecision. But Florida is moving forward with a vision that provides the electricity we need and the cleaner air that we want.
After all the testimony about this proposed new power plant, it was nice to see that this judge got it right.
James S. Tulenko is a professor emeritus in the Department of Nuclear and Radiological Engineering at the University of Florida. He is a past president of the American Nuclear Society and is a contributing expert to the Energy Information Center (http://energyinfocenter.org).
This is in response to an online article that appeared Dec. 10 in Miami at NBC 6 Online titled “Pinecrest Mayor Cindy Lerner Among Those Talking About Climate Change,” wherein Mayor Lerner states that she “is horrified and terrified …at what could happen in a storm similar to the 2011 tsunami that destroyed the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant in Japan”. She says the federal government has not been considering climate change in its re-licensing reviews for nuclear power plants.
— Jerry Paul
Climate Change and Nuclear Power Plants – Stick to the Facts
It’s good that these mayors are thinking ahead about these issues. Our climate is indeed changing. But the key to proper planning is to be sure our analysis is technically sound so that our responses can be tailored appropriately. These are times when we need to rely on science rather than politics.
An example is Mayor Cindy Lerner’s comment that she is “horrified and terrified …at what could happen in a storm similar to the 2011 tsunami that destroyed the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant in Japan”. Although the simultaneous tsunami and hurricane in Japan did indeed shut down those nuclear plants, this is not a geological or seismic scenario applicable to our Atlantic coastline. That does not mean that we should not analyze our coastline and our coastal infrastructure. But we must stay true to facts.
Look, sea level rise is occurring. It is real. NOAA (National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration) documents this with Mean Sea Level Trend data for coastal Miami over a 50-year period going back to the 1930’s showing a rise of 2.39 millimeters (less than one tenth of an inch) per year. NOAA points out that this is about .78 feet in 100 years.
As to the nuclear plant near Miami, Florida, remember that it is protected 20 feet above sea level (that’s right, 20 feet) which is a mountain on the Florida landscape. The plant is designed to withstand the storm surge of the highest category hurricane (Category 5) and has done so when it took a direct hit from Hurricane Andrew in 1992. The proposed new nuclear plants in that area are designed to 26 feet above sea level.
These facts have been made public by scientists and engineers who have understandably been assessing the issue of sea level rise as-applied to coastal nuclear power plants for many years. This issue is well understood and these rational people are not running around with their hair on fire declaring that Armageddon is coming.
Remember too that nuclear power plants are the single greatest contributor to reducing emissions of carbon and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. It is nuclear energy that provides over 70% of America’s zero-emission energy. This is why so many environmentalists concerned with climate change are now loudly proclaiming that more nuclear energy is a necessary component of man’s corrective actions going forward.
Sea level rise (and steps man must take to accommodate it) are legitimate topics for thoughtful discussion and local government planning. Man has the ability to address these issues, especially in a nation like America with the world’s best scientists and engineers. But unsubstantiated sensationalism does not make a helpful contribution.
Jerry Paul is a nuclear engineer, attorney and former member of the Florida Legislature. He served as Principal Deputy Administrator of the U.S. National Nuclear Security Administration and was the Distinguished Fellow for Energy Policy at the University of Tennessee Howard Baker Center for Public Policy. He is a contributing expert to the Energy Information Center (www.energyinfocenter.org). Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
What You Won’t Hear When Gregory Jaczko, Peter Bradford and Arnie Gundersen Take to the Podium in New York and Boston This Week
- former NRC chairman Gregory Jaczko;
- Peter Bradford, former NRC commissioner; and
- anti-nuke extremist Arnie Gundersen, an engineer who never lets science or facts get in his way.
- Not one person in Japan was killed due to the nuclear accident at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear facility. And despite Gundersen’s prediction that “about a million cancers,” would result from the accident in Japan, the U.N. Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation determined that no significant radiation related health issues have been found in Japan or elsewhere.
- During the accident in Japan, Gregory Jaczko’s claim that the Unit 4 used fuel pool was empty was later proven false by NRC staff. This mistake, along with his resistance to correct it, likely made things worse for the Japanese.
- All U.S. nuclear energy facilities are prepared for extreme events. Despite this, not one U.S. nuclear energy facility is subject to earthquakes or tsunamis the magnitude of those that caused the accident in Japan.
- After more than a half-century (more than 7,500 reactor-years) of operation, including the accident at Three Mile Island, there is no evidence that any member of the public has been harmed by the radiation from any U.S. nuclear energy facility.
- Gregory Jaczko’s call for a 50-mile evacuation zone around the Fukushima plant during the Japan accident was proven to be unnecessary and put people at risk.
- The NRC has determined there is no scientific basis for expanding the 10-mile-radius Emergency Planning Zone (EPZ) around U.S. nuclear power plants.
- The U.S. and Japanese nuclear energy industries are profoundly different in their approaches to nuclear safety with the U.S. industry effectively being decades ahead in levels of physical protection, regulatory control, safety culture and security.
- While Gundersen likes to tout his experience as a “licensed reactor operator,” others who have taken a closer look at his background have concluded he’s engaged in puffing up his resume. And when he’s challenged to show his work, he comes up empty.