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Media Statement to Nuclear Regulatory Commission Denial

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.”


Judge gets it right on approving new reactors

Below is an excellent column by EIC Contributing Expert, Professor James Tulenko, published Dec. 17, 2013 in the Tallahassee Democrat.  Well done, Jim.   — Jerry

http://www.tallahassee.com/article/20131218/OPINION05/312180004/James-Tulenko-Judge-gets-right-approving-new-reactors

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).


Climate Change and Nuclear Power Plants – Stick to the Facts

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 jpaul@energyinfocenter.org.


Nuclear Energy Has Environmental Benefits

Through our column by Dave Wilson in the Cedar Rapids Gazette, we generated additional published media by way of a concurring Letter to the Editor by Dr. Carolyn Heising (formerly a Professor of Nuclear Energy at University of Florida and now Professor at Iowa State University). — Jerry Paul LETTERS The Gazette 11/13/2013, Page A06 Nuclear energy has environmental benefits Dave Wilson makes excellent points about the value and safety of the Duane Arnold nuclear plant (‘Lessons from our nuclear plant,’ Nov. 1). There is more, however, and that relates to the global issue of climate change. We are seeing traditionally anti-nuclear energy environmental leaders start to line up behind maintaining and expanding nuclear energy. It is one of the few technologies that can make a real difference in reducing carbon dioxide emissions. They see that even such an incident as the Fukushima accident pales in comparison to the flooding, drought and disease that can result from rising temperatures. The danger today lies in succumbing to cheap energy from what has in the United States become abundant natural gas. Gas is not a clean fuel, as it produces large amounts of polluting nitrogen oxides as well as carbon dioxide, albeit somewhat less than coal. And that does not include the possible effects of hydraulic fracturing or fracking, still not fully understood. As Wilson notes, nuclear power is far from perfect. But for Iowa and much of the world, it needs to be an important part of a cleaner energy mix. Carolyn D. Heising Professor, Industrial, Mechanical and Nuclear Engineering Iowa State University

Nuclear factors into the energy equation

http://www.nashuatelegraph.com/opinion/commentary/1020986-474/nuclear-factors-into-the-energy-equation.html Sunday, November 10, 2013 By HOWARD SCHAFFER Much has been made of the recent decision to decommission the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant. Some have strategically seized upon it by ascribing inaccurate reasons to the decision in order to ripen it into an asset for their own battles. Thinking people should be cautious here. The true source of the decision – the plant owner and operator – made it clear that the plant closure was driven by market forces, including “sustained low power prices, high cost structure and wholesale electricity market design flaws.” Fair enough. But the impact will be significant. Vermont Lt. Gov. Phil Scott, called the closing “a devastating blow to the plant’s 600-plus employees, their families and the Windham County economy.” School boards, teachers and parents soon will recognize the millions of lost dollars that have continuously supported local schools. The percentage of America’s electricity generated from zero-emission sources will decline. Although honest brokers must respect uncontrollable market forces, we need to be careful about false conclusions and avoid misperceptions that can have unintended consequences. We must be cautious about the political grandstanding and celebrations by anti-nuclear activists. Their monolithic, emotionally-driven focus on a social cause had little or nothing to do with the decision. They are like a rooster taking credit for the sunrise. Their animation will, however, likely be heightened. The negative consequences to our environment and our economy would be harmful if additional plants were to shut down. A case in point is Seabrook Station in New Hampshire. Those of us who have been watching this plant from its beginning know that every prediction made by the anti-nuclear activists during its construction turned out to be false – including the elements of their scare-tactic campaign complete with a parade-of-horribles ranging from doomsday scenarios about safety to security. They were wrong. They failed. Their made-for-Hollywood theories were debunked by 24 years of successful, safe plant operation. Cooler heads prevailed … and this should continue. For almost a quarter century now, the Seabrook plant has safely produced enough electricity for 1,400,000 homes. It sustains more than 700 high-paying, full-time jobs, contributing $100 million in annual salaries to families and our economy, while producing over $20 million in annual taxes. Despite the decibel level of activists, one dampening trend is the growing body of environmentalists who recognize the necessity of nuclear power for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Remember, nuclear energy constitutes 70 percent of America’s emission-free electricity. It is the one source of high-capacity, continuously-available, “base-load” electricity that does not emit any carbon into our air and atmosphere. Nuclear energy has historically been the most cost-effective source of electricity, largely because its fuel costs and operating costs are so low. It is true, however, that recent low prices for newly discovered natural gas supplies have temporarily placed a squeeze on nuclear energy. But all of us in New England who care about our environment and the cleanliness of the air we breathe need to steadfastly preserve the benefits of Seabrook Station. Energy demand will continue to rise in our region. Natural gas prices will continue to fluctuate dramatically. And the number of us who want zero-emission nuclear power plants will continue to grow. Howard Shaffer is a licensed professional nuclear engineer who holds a master’s degree in nuclear engineering from MIT and has worked at many commercial nuclear power plants as a startup engineer and systems specialist, including Seabrook and Vermont Yankee. He lives in Enfield, N.H.

Lessons from our nuclear plant

Below is a Guest Column published this morning in the Cedar Rapids Gazette by EIC’s newest Contributing Writer, Dave Wilson.  Well done, Dave! — Jerry Paul http://thegazette.com/2013/11/01/lessons-from-our-nuclear-plant/ Lessons from our nuclear plant Cedar Rapids Gazette November 1, 2013

By Dave Wilson Here in the heartland it is easy to forget that the information most of us receive about matters of national importance tends to be packaged and delivered to us by those living in the urban centers on the East and West coasts. An example is the national debate about energy policy and the need for “new” methods to generate electricity that is clean. Another example is the debate about how America can strengthen its economy. There are some lessons that the East and the West could learn from us. Our local Duane Arnold Energy Center (DAEC) in Palo produces emission-free electricity, jobs, tax revenue and economic development. Although the plant operates quietly and rarely gets recognized, we should periodically remind ourselves of its value. Since 1975, DAEC has been continuously generating more than 615 million watts of electricity, providing the necessary power for more than 600,000 homes annually. All of that electricity has come with no carbon or other greenhouse gas emissions. This is significant. Nuclear energy provides 73 percent of America’s emission-free electricity and Iowa has been doing its part. The plant provides about 600 high-paying jobs during normal operations and can explode to 1,500 during routine refueling outages. Salaries top $85 million annually, which pumps money into the veins of our local and state economies. This clean-energy production results in over $3 million in property taxes that help support our school buildings, teacher salaries, roads, police departments, fire departments and other necessary infrastructure. Not only do we Iowans generate these benefits, but we do it with highly trained plant operators who ensure a safety posture second to none worldwide. This particular plant is recognized nationwide for its robust construction and excellent location, providing exceptional protection from events such as earthquakes and flooding. This was validated through an exhaustive process conducted following the earthquake and tsunami that rocked Japan and the Fukushima plant. Certainly there are legitimate issues being debated all across America. But when it comes to clean, safe energy production and economic stability, we can be proud that we are an example from which the rest of the country can learn. Dave Wilson is a retired engineer in Cedar Rapids with 37 years experience in engineering, operations and senior management at three nuclear power plants, including the Duane Arnold Energy Center in Palo. He is also a contributing writer for the Energy Information Center. Comments: dwilso@outlook.co

What You Won’t Hear When Gregory Jaczko, Peter Bradford and Arnie Gundersen Take to the Podium in New York and Boston This Week

The following is a guest post written by NEI’s Tom Kauffman. Though Tom works in NEI’s media relations shop. He also spent 23 years working at Three Mile Island, seven of those as a licensed reactor operator. What You Won’t Hear When Gregory Jaczko, Peter Bradford and Arnie Gundersen Take to the Podium in New York and Boston This Week This week in New York and Boston, anti-nuclear activists have scheduled panel discussions designed to scare the public into pressuring politicians into shuttering local nuclear power plants. The members of the panel are:
  • 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.
So what can you expect to hear from this trio? We figure it’s more or less a combination of the three following assertions: 1) The nuclear accident in Japan can happen here. 2) All U.S. nuclear energy facilities are unsafe. 3) All U.S. reactors should be permanently shut down. On the other hand, there are some facts they are sure to ignore:
  • 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.

David Wilson Joins EIC

EIC is proud to announce its newest Contributing Expert, David Wilson, of Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Mr. Wilson brings more than 31 years of experience in nuclear power generation including service as a nuclear plant operator, plant manager, site vice president and chief nuclear officer. David also has significant expertise in Emergency Management. He holds a degree in Mechanical Engineering and was licensed as a Reactor Operator at Duane Arnold Nuclear Plant. He is a long-time member of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers. David also served his country as a Commissioned Officer in the U.S. Army Air Defense. As an independent organization of experts, the Energy Information Center serves as a clearinghouse for public discussion on facts related to energy topics including opinions by experts in the energy field. EIC focuses on facts that are commonly unknown or under-reported. EIC’s experts volunteer time and experience to dispel myths that are based upon inaccurate technical information or based upon activist messaging that is biased. This mission is important to America’s public dialogue necessary to ensure a safe, reliable supply of energy for our country. In a time when public debate about energy policy is sometimes dominated by messaging from political activists and others with no experience in engineering and operations, so too, the need increases for those with expertise, education and training to provide accurate information to the public. David Wilson’s experience and expertise provide a valuable background for this mission.

Howard Shaffer Joins EIC

EIC is proud to announce its newest Contributing Expert, Howard Shaffer. Mr. Shaffer recognized nationwide as a leading voice in the public debate over nuclear power, specializing in Outreach to opponents. A licensed Professional Nuclear Engineer in New Hampshire, he holds a Masters Degree in Nuclear Engineering from MIT. He was a 2001 AAAS Congressional Fellow on the House Science Committee’s subcommittee on Energy. A former Navy Nuclear Submarine officer in the 1960s, he later worked at many commercial nuclear power plants as a startup engineer and as a Systems specialist. The Energy Information Center continues to expand its reach and influence as an independent organization that serves as a clearinghouse for public discussion on facts related to energy topics including opinions by experts in the energy field. EIC focuses on facts that are commonly unknown or under-reported. EIC’s experts volunteer time and experience to dispel myths that are based upon inaccurate technical information or based upon activist messaging that is biased. This mission is important to America’s public dialogue necessary to ensure a safe, reliable supply of energy for our country. The need for credible experts in the field of nuclear energy continues to increase. Now, more than ever, as anti-nuclear activists elevate their mis-information campaigns, it is important for experts to provide factually accurate input and expertise necessary for thoughtful public debate. Mr. Shaffer will be a great asset to the public dialogue, especially in and around the New Hampshire area.

UT nuclear security report error-riddled, lacking credibility

We are pleased that the Star Telegram in Austin published this rebuttal that debunks the recent nuclear security “report” by U.T. professor Kuperman which had been widely reported in national news outlets. — Jerry By Jerry Paul Special to the Star-Telegram Recently, newspaper headlines around the country said our nation’s nuclear power plants aren’t adequately protected from terrorists, based on the assertions in a paper released by a faculty member and a student assistant at the University of Texas at Austin (see “Reactors vulnerable, report says,” Aug. 16). The UT paper, titled “Protecting U.S. Nuclear Facilities from Terrorist Attack: Re-assessing the Current Design Basis Threat Approach” fails to meet the most basic standards for credible research. It is fraught with errors and glaring speculation. Its quality is beneath the University of Texas at Austin. As someone who has spent a good deal of my professional life working on nuclear security and nonproliferation issues, I found myself asking why such a sensational document would garner such attention when a cursory application of critical thinking quickly debunks most of the paper’s conclusions. The most obvious observation is that the faculty member, whose experience is in political science, says in a footnote that the “research” was primarily by a graduate research assistant. A quick review of the professor’s biography uncovers his deep ties to the anti-nuclear community, including with Greenpeace. No technical or scientific credentials accompany the unsupported opinion that the procedures and systems that have successfully secured nuclear power plants in America for more than 60 years are flawed. The paper contains no discussion of the highly technical and complex aspects of nuclear science, nuclear materials and nuclear engineering that would be necessary to logically form the basis for such conclusions. In fact, it appears that neither of the authors has seen the inside of the nuclear facilities about which they are making a security assessment. To make such assessments, one would need to reference closely safeguarded security information to which neither the professor nor his student assistant had access. The paper incorporates multiple technical errors. One of many examples is the inaccurate belief that a terrorist could “drain a spent fuel pool” at an American nuclear power plant and accomplish the same result as “what occurred in 2011 in Fukushima, Japan when an earthquake’s effects drained spent fuel pools.” The inaccuracy of this statement speaks volumes to anyone familiar with such facilities. The paper is essentially an essay based upon statements and quotes cobbled together to make the authors’ point. The authors make Grand Canyon-size leaps to conclusions about the way multiple agencies assess the nature, posture and capability of an adversarial terrorist force. They conclude that a one-size-fits-all approach should be used to assess the security at all nuclear facilities. They ignore distinctions that nuclear security experts understandably build into vulnerability assessments, each of which are tailored to different scenarios, facility types and nuclear asset types. These are dangerous times. Nuclear security is a serious topic. It calls for assessment by serious people willing to do the hard work of real research. There is nothing wrong with an academician or anyone else, including political activists, raising questions about public topics including security and even nuclear security. But it should be done in a responsible way and should be based on facts. If conclusions are to be marketed as university “research,” they should be backed by credible data, authoritative sources’ expertise and peer reviews by unbiased experts. Merely using the word “nuclear” in a title should not qualify written work for a lower standard of academic or journalistic scrutiny. Jerry Paul is a nuclear engineer and attorney who formerly served as the principal deputy administrator of the U.S. National Nuclear Security Administration and as deputy administrator for nonproliferation. He also served as the distinguished fellow for energy policy at the University of Tennessee Howard Baker Center for Public Policy. Link to article publication in the Star-Telegram.