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Feb-14-2014 11:59printcomments

Reactor Reax Top Stories - The Unavoidable Economics of Nuclear Power

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(WASHINGTON, DC) - Could Another Fukushima-Like Accident Happen In The US? Nuclear Expert Explains How, International Business Times, February 12, 2014. "One of the most likely scenarios that could cause a meltdown is a flood. Nuclear reactors require a lot of water to carry away their waste heat, so they're generally built next to oceans, lakes or rivers. Plants near lakes and rivers are often located downstream of a dam. In that case, if a dam bursts, the plant could be flooded and lose power, similarly to what happened at the Fukushima plant when the tsunami hit. In 2009, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission staff identified about 35 reactors in the U.S. (out of the 100 currently operating) that were vulnerable to dam failures, according to Lochbaum."

The unavoidable economics of nuclear power, Corporate Knights, February 3, 2014. "If the direct costs of low-carbon alternatives were roughly equal, the systems costs might tip the balance toward nuclear power, but social costs would tip it strongly back toward efficiency and renewables. Given the rapidly falling cost and potential of efficiency and renewables, the speed with which they can be deployed, as well as the availability of gas as a transition and complementary resource, the economically rational path for the next quarter century is crystal clear: New nukes aren't necessary. Shifting the debate to focus on an expensive, slow-to-build and inflexible 'climate' solution like nuclear power, at least at this point in the game, is counterproductive when so many better alternatives are available to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions and air pollution."

Time to power down Pilgrim, The (Brockton, MA) Enterprise News (editorial), February 8, 2014. "In 2013 alone, Pilgrim was off- line for 80 days, 46 of those days from scheduled refueling and maintenance. Twice last year, the plant had unplanned shutdowns, most recently on Oct. 14 when the plant lost power from a 345-kilovolt NStar line that provides electricity to the plant. It was down for a week. Last August, a Pentagon report highlighting the vulnerability of U.S. nuclear power plants to terrorist attacks stated Pilgrim was one of eight plants most at risk for a terrorist strike from the water. This is no hysterical posturing in light of what some officials described as a terrorist attack on a California electrical substation in April 2013. In December, Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley wrote the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the federal agency which licenses nuclear power plants, asking it to address the issue of spent fuel rods. Pilgrim has more than 500 metric tons of spent fuel in pools, or 3,222 fuel assemblies. The plant is licensed for only 3,859 fuel assemblies. As Dave Lochbaum, a nuclear engineer and the director of nuclear safety at the Cambridge-based Union of Concerned Scientists, pointed out at the time, the reason this is a critical issue is the 'what if': What if after a plant is closed, radioactive water leaks from the pools? Our what ifs are: What if it leaks into Cape Cod Bay? The Atlantic? Our drinking water?"

EDF Needs Nuclear Power Rate Increase for Survival, Proglio Says, Bloomberg, February 13, 2014. "Electricite de France SA can't make ends meet unless it can raise the price of wholesale nuclear power it sells to rivals, its chief executive officer said. 'One can't demand of a company to sell a quarter of its output below cost over the long term,' Henri Proglio told reporters today at a presentation of 2013 results. 'No company can survive' on these terms 'without compensation.' Proglio's comments indicate a battle over the regulated price, known as Arenh, is intensifying as the utility demands the rate be increased, and competitors and industry want it lowered. Under a system meant to boost competition, EDF has to sell about a quarter of its annual atomic output to competitors."

The next weak nuclear link? Here's where to look, CNBC, February 5, 2014. "For Andrews-Speed at the NUS, China is the 'elephant in the room' in terms of risks from nuclear energy because of the scale of its plans. China had 15 nuclear reactors in operation in 2012 and 26 reactors under construction, the highest in the world, Euromonitor said. According to the World Nuclear Association, China has plans to begin the construction of more nuclear reactors over the coming years to give it a four-fold increase in nuclear capacity by 2020. 'China is a country I worked on for more than 20 years. It has a real problem in all energy and resource and environment sectors of regulation and safety standards. They can draft the rules but are they capable of implementing them?,' said Andrews-Speed. 'Now, they haven't had any major nuclear incidents in the past 10 years when they've had nuclear plants. But then they've had a relatively small number of plants and now you have a multiplication of plants,' he added."

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