ARRA funding raises R&D expenditures within federally funded R&D centers 11% to $16.8B in FY 2010
Way cleared for major Alaska North Slope natural gas pipeline project

NRC clears path for issuing licenses for two AP1000 reactors at Summer site in South Carolina

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), in a 4-1 vote, found its staff’s review adequate to make the necessary regulatory safety and environmental findings, clearing the way for the NRC’s Office of New Reactors (NRO) to issue the two Combined Licenses (COLs) for the South Carolina Electric & Gas (SCE&G) and Santee Cooper application for the Summer site in South Carolina. The COLs will authorize SCE&G and Santee Cooper to build and operate two AP1000 reactors at the Summer site, adjacent to the company’s existing reactor approximately 26 miles northwest of Columbia, S.C.

The AP1000 is a 1,100 megawatt electric pressurized-water reactor that includes passive safety features that would cool down the reactor after an accident without the need for electricity or human intervention.

The Commission’s findings impose two conditions on the COLs, with the first requiring inspection and testing of squib valves, important components of the new reactors’ passive cooling system. The second requires the development of strategies to respond to extreme natural events resulting in the loss of power at the new reactors. The Commission also directed NRO to issue to SCE&G and Santee Cooper, simultaneously with the COLs, an Order requiring enhanced, reliable spent fuel pool instrumentation, as well as a request for information related to emergency plant staffing.

The NRC staff is expected to issue the COLs within 10 business days.

SCE&G and Santee Cooper submitted the COL application on March 27, 2008. The NRC’s Advisory Committee on Reactor Safeguards (ACRS) independently reviewed aspects of the application that concern safety, as well as a draft of the staff’s Final Safety Evaluation Report (FSER). The ACRS provided the results of its review to the Commission in a report dated 17 Feb. 2011. The NRC completed its environmental review and issued a Final Environmental Impact Statement for the Summer COLs on 15 April 2011. The NRC completed and issued the FSER on 17 Aug. 2011. The NRC certified Westinghouse’s amended AP1000 design on 30 Dec. 2011.

Comments

HarveyD

Using excess night time clean electricity produced + captured CO2 from nearby coal fired plants to produced transportation fuels (butanol) could eventually help to reduce crude importations.

JN2

And who pays for the insurance? And for the clean-up if the company goes bust? Answer: you and I, the taxpayers; not the shareholders!!!

Kit P

@JN

Like all of the 104 operating reactors in the US, insurance is paid by the people who buy the electricity. The cost of power also includes a fund to decommission the power plant and store spent fuel.

We have been making power with commercial nuclear reactors for 50 years. Taxpayers have not had to pay to nuke plants. Ratepayers who get part of their power from nukes enjoy low rates.

ai_vin

The energy source once billed as "too cheap to meter" has proven to be one of the most expensive energy sources in history.

Between 1956 and 2000, Canada's state-owned Atomic Energy of Canada Limited (AECL) received subsidies totaling $16.6 billion. Even with these subsidies, nuclear power is far more expensive than both fossil fuels and renewables.

The last 20 reactors built in the U.S. had an average cost of $5,000 per kilowatt of capacity; the last one built in Canada cost $4,000 per kilowatt. Compare these prices to the current prices for large-scale wind power and natural gas plants, currently at $1,200 and $1,000 per kilowatt respectively.

The figures for nuclear do not include lifecycle costs to society from environmental and health damage, or the costs of accidents, clean up, waste disposal or plant decommissioning. And nuclear plants are not only expensive, they're also financially risky because of their long lead times, huge cost overruns and open-ended liabilities.

Nuclear power plants typically have high capital costs for building the plant, but low direct fuel costs (with much of the costs of fuel extraction, processing, use and long term storage externalized).

http://www.nuclearpowerdaily.com/reports/After_50_Years_Nuclear_Power_Is_Still_Not_Viable_Without_Subsidies_999.html
http://www.earthtrack.net/files/uploaded_files/EIA%20subsidy%20review%20final_17Mar10.pdf
http://www.iisd.org/gsi/news/gsi-reviews-subsidies-different-energy-technologies

Kit P

@al vin

Each power plant is a specific project. In the US, each new nuke plant has an EIS as required by NEPA. In the Southeast, wind and solar are not viable alternatives. Biomass can produce some base load power but not 2400 MWe. That leaves coal and natural gas. The record for US nuke plants for protecting the public is 100%. We have never failed to protect the public or the environment in the US commercial nuke world.

As far as economics are concerned, the power industry is regulated in the US. Public utility commissions make decisions for rate payers. What do they know in South Carolina that al vin does not know. First nukes are the lowest cost generation they have. Second nukes provide good high paying jobs. Third nuke plants pay lots of taxes because they produce lots of power and have a high capital cost. Finally the cost of fuel is low and very stable. States that produce lots of coal and natural gas may make different choices.

Yes, nuke plants are expensive and have risk but they do a very good job of producing power for a very long time.

ai_vin

Another externalized cost of nuclear power is the need to secure loose nuclear material;
http://www.businessweek.com/news/2012-03-27/world-leaders-pledge-to-secure-loose-nuclear-material-by-2014

http://www.addictinginfo.org/2012/03/20/how-does-obama-keep-america-safe-by-doing-the-job-bush-couldnt-be-bothered-with/

Arne

Kit P

"insurance is paid by the people who buy the electricity"

Only for the first $ 12 billion. For damages exceeding that amount, the taxpayers are on the hook. $ 12 billion is pocket money when a nuclear accident occurs.
You could read: Price–Anderson Nuclear Industries Indemnity Act

"The cost of power also includes a fund to decommission the power plant and store spent fuel."

Boy, are you in for a rude awakening.

Engineer-Poet

ai_vin, normally I take you seriously but a lot of what you said is misleading or simply false.

The last 20 reactors built in the U.S. had an average cost of $5,000 per kilowatt of capacity
This was the period when the NRC was changing rules so rapidly, a single decision could change the status of a plant under construction from 65% complete to 45% complete.  Yet this did nothing to improve safety; TMI Unit 1, completed before the NRC took authority, has been humming away since the 70's.  It was NRC-mandated equipment at TMI Unit 2 that malfunctioned and caused the confusion which led to the meltdown (which harmed nobody).
Compare these prices to the current prices for large-scale wind power and natural gas plants
How much for backup and fuel for 60 years?  Don't forget to add direct environmental damage from drilling for that fuel (fracking), plus GHG emissions.
The figures for nuclear do not include lifecycle costs to society from environmental and health damage, or the costs of accidents, clean up, waste disposal or plant decommissioning.
Breaking this down:
  • The "environmental and health damage" is ZERO so far as we can tell.  People live in radiation environments 110 times Earth's average in places like Ramsar in Iran with no obvious ill effects.  The claimed late epidemic of radiation-induced illness from Chernobyl never appeared, even in Ukraine.
  • Cost of accidents to the public has been zero so far in the USA.  Utilities can look after themselves.
  • Ditto cleanup.
  • Waste disposal is financed by a 0.5¢/kWh fee on nuclear-generated electricity, though the US government has failed to hold up its end of the contract to take spent fuel.
  • Plant decommissioning is done by reserving funds at the utility.  Several plants have been decommissioned at no cost to the public.
Next time, check your facts before posting.

Untaxed emissions of mercury, sulfur, NOx, and CO2 amount to a subsidy for gas plants and especially coal.  It wouldn't take much of a fee on those to make nuclear the cheapest source of schedulable generation with any growth potential.

Engineer-Poet

Anne, the problem is largely due to cesium and strontium absorbed into vessels, pipes and structures.  Letting things sit is a perfectly viable option; every 30 years, half the remainder is gone.  Even the spent fuel will be reasonably safe to handle in 300 years (which is an ironic problem because it becomes more or less a rich plutonium ore).

I notice the NYT cites fund values at the end of 2010.  Why not the end of 2011?  I think that might make them look wrong.

Last, we know that the LNT (linear no threshold) model of radiation-induced illness is grossly wrong.  Once we sort through the data we are likely to find that chronic (not single-exposure) radiation levels of something like 25 milliSieverts/year are perfectly safe so long as they're not from ingested alpha emitters, and most of Fukushima prefecture need never have been evacuated.  That would make everything a lot cheaper.

Kit P

Did you read the link that you posted Anne?

“Over the first 43 years of the Price-Anderson Act to 2000, the secondary insurance was not required. A total of $151 million was paid to cover claims (including legal expenses), all from primary insurance, including $71 million for Three Mile Island. ”

Since we have experience cleaning up a 'severe accident' I am not sure why some people think that $12 billion is not enough.

Also Anne we have decommission many commercial nuke plants. Taxpayers have not had to pay anything to do that.

@al vin

I hope you understand that 'loose nuclear material' has nothing to do with commercial nuclear power for producing power.

I am sure that South Carolina Electric & Gas is not planning on making an atomic bomb. Commercial nuke plants in the US use low enriched which can not be used to make an atomic bomb.

Some test reactors and the US Navy utilize higher enrichment of uranium. I am not aware of of 'loose nuclear material' as a result of US activities.

The COL process includes public involvement. I have been to a few public meeting hosted by the NRC. On occasion there is a person who is confused and wants the NRC to explain it to them. The NRC will explain that they regulate commercial nuke plants including ensuring that the utility has the financial ability to pay any costs. The NRC does not worry about using fuel or spent fuel from a commercial nuke to make weapon because it is not possible. The NRC requires spent fuel to be handled safely which we have done for 50 years.

Engineer-Poet

Kit P has just posted 2 comments in a row containing not one thing with which I can disagree.

The end times are surely at hand.

ai_vin

I hope you understand that 'loose nuclear material' has nothing to do with commercial nuclear power for producing power.

Have you never heard of the "Atoms for Peace" program?

http://www.armscontrol.org/act/2003_12/Lavoy

@E-P
All I can say to that is 'if I'm wrong it's because my sources are wrong.'
http://www.davidsuzuki.org/issues/climate-change/science/energy/nuclear-energy/
http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/26315908/ns/msnbc_tv-rachel_maddow_show/#46790266

Also, please do not take me as a fan of fossil fuels. I've already posted, to another article, about the subsidies and externalized costs of coal;
http://www.greencarcongress.com/2012/03/gallup-20120325.html

ai_vin

In short: Although commercial nuclear reactors that produce power do not use highly enriched material the "Atoms for Peace" program also promoted the spread of atomic science and to that end America exported "research reactors" (& the highly enriched material that they DO use) throughout the world.

GreenPlease

Good points EP and Kit P.

I'd like to add that engineers have been boxed into the same fundamental design regime for over 50 years. The NRC will only license LWR designs (specifically PWRs and BWRs). Ironically, the inventor of the PWR (and the co-patent holder with ORNL) basically dismissed the design a few years after its completion in favor of a thorium breeder reactor.

Here's an example of what nuclear engineers can come up with when give them a bit of freedom:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/PACER_(fusion)

It's essentially an off-the-shelf nuclear fusion reactor.

Kit P

Yes, I have heard of atoms for peace but what does that have to do with building a nuke plant in SC in 2012?

In the history of mankind 'loose nuclear material' has never been used to make a weapon.

As al vin suggests any technology can be designed as a weapon. Of course he is wrong in this case. The technology for peaceful uses of nuclear power are very different than what knowledge is needed to make a weapon. Would al vin ban the periodic table from high school chemistry classrooms because some will use that knowledge to make bombs?

See al vin is wrong about 'loose nuclear material'. It is just another boogyman brought up by the ignorant. The world is full of evil people. They fly airplanes into building full of people not make nuclear weapons by buying nuclear material on the black market.

In any case it is not reason to not build a nuke plant in SC.

We have to wonder how far anti-nuclear goes. Is al vin against nuclear medicine? How about the nuclear family?

When it comes to nuclear weapons and commercial nuclear power the opposite is true. Currently about 10% of US electricity comes from destroying nuclear weapons. Weapons grade nuclear fuel is down blended to the enrichment used in commercial fuel destroying it as a weapon forever.

ai_vin

Do not put words into my mouth!

Engineer-Poet

Greenplease:  Look more carefully at your source; also, the typical hydrogen weapon is hundreds of kT, not single kT.

Engineer-Poet

ai_vin:  David Suzuki's claims about things nuclear are full of hooey, which is what you'd expect from a zoölogist with no education in nuclear science or radiation physics.  Take this one claim:

With a radioactive half-life of 25,000 years
That's not the HL of "radwaste", which at fuel removal contains isotopes with half-lives from 9 days (I-131) to 4.5 billion years (U-238, which is the bulk of it when fresh as well).  What he seems to be referring to is Pu-239.  Pu-239 is only "waste" if we refuse to do anything with it; to any fast-spectrum reactor, all Pu isotopes as well as neptunium, americium and curium are FUEL.  All uranium isotopes are fuel, fertile material or both.

The vast bulk of radioactivity from fission products comes from isotopes with half-lives of around 30 years or less.  They are essentially gone in 500 years.

mining uranium for nuclear power is extremely energy-intensive
The people who make this claim put forth figures which would have the Rossing mine consuming more energy than the entire nation of Namibia in which it is located.  They aren't just wrong, they're liars.

And Rachel Maddow?  MSNBC?  Are you kidding me?  NBC is the outfit which editted George Zimmerman's 911 call to make it sound like he was following Trayvon Martin just because he was Black.  Not only should you not be using TV networks as sources, you shouldn't be polluting your mind with their propaganda at all.

"Atoms for Peace" was a mistake.  So were the loopholes in the NPT.  The authors meant well, but they lacked imagination.  This does NOT mean that nuclear energy in the OECD presents any threat to their citizens or the world at large; that's reserved for rogue powers like Teheran, Islamabad and Pyongyang.

ai_vin

Ok, point taken about Sukuki and NBC, mea culpa. Moving on.

Question: What are your views on the Union of Concerned Scientists? I ask because one of the links I gave earlier was a reporting of a study? they did on subsidies for the nuclear energy industry;
http://www.ucsusa.org/nuclear_power/nuclear_power_and_global_warming/nuclear-power-subsidies-report.html
and with all the back&forth we just did I can't tell if anyone gave it any consideration.

Kit P

“"Atoms for Peace" was a mistake.  .... Teheran, Islamabad and Pyongyang. ”

To the contrary. Yes, some countries have claimed that a military programs is a civilian program but they either stole the technologies or got it from the USSR or Communist China. It should also be pointed out that the Chernobyl reactor design was a design without a containment building was originally for producing weapons material.

If you look at the number of reactors based designs that are safe and can not be used to make weapons, atoms for peace was a great success. It took many years but the evil empires of the USSR or Communist China are fading away along with policies of world disorder.

How much have things changed for the good? Engineers in Pittsburgh and Charlotte created the the first AP1000 which will be finished in 2013 in China. That plant could have been built in the US except we decided to have a public debate first. I think public debate is a good thing. In the US you can disagree with decisions government officials make with out fear of ending up in a slave labor coal mine with not regard for safety.

Kit P

@al vin

The UCS is the most reasonable of anti-nuke groups. They are very careful to only be misleading rather than telling out right lies.

David Lockborn worked in nuclear industry. I have heard him testify before congress. If he worked for a nuke utility and provided the same information to the NRC he would be in jail for making a material false statement.

With respect to US polices on energy why does al vin care? Is he not a Canadian? It sure looks like al vin is just look for reasons to be against nuclear power, anywhere, anytime. I am not wrong either.

When it comes to a reliable and affordable power supply, talking about subsidies is just a smoke screen. The power industry is heavily regulated for good reason. Energy is an essential need. Gouging people and making the same kind of profits iPods make is contrary to public good. Providing electricity is a public service. If you want to work in the free market sector of the economy stay out of the power industry.

The cost of making and delivering power is a matter of public policy. Currently in the US nuclear provides 20% of out electricity. It is the lowest cost, most reliable source of base load power. The nuke plants pay lots of taxes, In other words, it is not subsidized but rather subsidizing government.

The reason subsidies is just a smoke screen is because they ignore what is paid into government and look at what is paid out. The NRC is a profit center for the US government.

If you are an independent power producer, the lowest risk in terms of capital investment is natural gas. If the cost goes up, you just pass the cost along. If you are at the PUC and have the responsibility of ensure reliable and affordable power supply for your state, the risk of 10 MMBTU gas may not be acceptable.

On a national level, it was decided to provide the same incentives that were working for wind and solar to 6000 MWe of new nuclear designs to demonstrate the cost of building new nukes. As a result, the NRC was informed of 30+ reactors.

In the power industry, results are judged by how much electricity gets produced not the ratio of proposed projects to finished projects. If you look at geothermal, biomass and nukes built in the 70s there is a long list that produce power cheaper that natural gas. The list for wind and solar is zero.

If we build new geothermal, biomass and nukes; forty years from now we will have a list of the lowest cost power. If history is an indicator, the list for solar and wind will be places that need to be cleaned of scrape metal and restored to the previous state.

ai_vin

Ah Kit, I think you may be ready for the big reveal - the method of my madness if you will.
Yes I am Canadian, and do you know what our version of "Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness" is?
It's "peace, order and good government." It means that, in general, we are actually in favor of having a big protective government: For example, we have a national healthcare system. We don't mind paying higher taxes IF we get value for the money in return.

Now when I look down to the states I see something different. I see "Obamacare" maligned and brought before your Supreme Count. I see your politicians saying they "want to shrink government down to the size you could drown in a bathtub" - and getting cheers from the crowd when they say it. Same thing happened when Perry et al. said they wanted to get rid of the DOE/education/?
And I just shake my head.

And then there is the American/Republican hypocrisy over subsidies. I only point out the subsidies to point out the hypocrisy, subsidies are not bad, hypocrisy is.
http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/26315908/ns/msnbc_tv-rachel_maddow_show/#46900059
Saying you're against subsidies for public transit while handing out subsidies to oil companies is wrong.
Saying you don't want a government run healthcare while you put the full weight of the government between a woman and her doctor is wrong, saying you don't want a government run healthcare while you give subsidies to polluters like the coal industry is wrong. I could rant some more but I hope I've made my point.

In the power industry, results are judged by how much electricity gets produced not the ratio of proposed projects to finished projects. If you look at geothermal, biomass and nukes built in the 70s there is a long list that produce power cheaper that natural gas. The list for wind and solar is zero.

If we build new geothermal, biomass and nukes; forty years from now we will have a list of the lowest cost power. If history is an indicator, the list for solar and wind will be places that need to be cleaned of scrape metal and restored to the previous state.

Actually it looks like we're at a turning point;
http://peakoil.com/alternative-energy/wind-energy-cheaper-than-coal/
http://cleantechnica.com/2012/02/28/renewables-now-cheaper-than-coal-in-michigan-could-be-5-billion-industry/
http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2011/mar/17/wind-cheaper-nuclear-eu-climate

Kit P

“I could rant some more but I hope I've made my point. ”

Not a clue about the point al vin is trying to make. A general suggestion would be to be more selective in the choice of sources of information by exercising a little critical thinking, Filter out the BS to get the information you need to understand the subject.

Whatever al vin's point was, I answered his question about UCS as it applies to the power plants in SC and the US power industry. The response from al vin was three links form very questionable sources about wind/coal in Michigan and the UK.

Apparently some Canadians have something in common with California people. They do not understand that someplace do not make electricity with wind because they do not have good wind resources. al vin wants to have a global debate about everything, I just trying to explain to those that are interested why the are build new nukes in the south east.

The comments to this entry are closed.