Advancing understanding of public policy issues in the utility industry through the Wisconsin Idea
Jeffrey Immelt, CEO of GE, changed the demand dynamic on electric cars when he announced the billion-dollar behemoth had put in an order for 12,000 Chevy Volts with another 13,000 to come. And the mandate for change is coming straight from the top. If new GE drivers opt out of the EV fleet program and use a personal car, GE won’t reimburse expenses. However, all employees taking part in an EV program can expenses both charging station costs and the Volt-recharging portion of the monthly electric bills. According to GE, an electric vehicles cost one fifth to one third of the running costs of an ICE.
But don’t get GE wrong–they of course do not build cars. What they are really bullish on is GE’s “four hour charging stations”. They are using their own fleet to jump start the charging station market. Now that is putting your money where your motor is….
America’s nuclear waste management program is at an impasse. The approach laid out under the 1987 Amendments to the Nuclear Waste Policy Act (NWPA)—which tied the entire U.S. highlevel waste management program to the fate of the Yucca Mountain site—has not worked to produce a timely solution for dealing with the nation’s most hazardous radioactive materials. The Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear Future (the Commission) was chartered to recommend a new strategy for managing the back end of the nuclear fuel cycle. Doing nothing is not an option. Continued stalemate is costly—to utility ratepayers, to communities that have become unwilling hosts of long-term nuclear waste storage facilities, and to U.S. taxpayers who face mounting liabilities, already running into billions of dollars, as a result of the failure by both the executive and legislative branches to meet federal waste management commitments. The strategy that the BRC recommends has eight key elements:
1. A new, consent-based approach to siting future nuclear waste management facilities.
2. A new organization dedicated solely to implementing the waste management program and empowered with the authority and resources to succeed.
3. Access to the funds nuclear utility ratepayers are providing for the purpose of nuclear waste management.
4. Prompt efforts to develop one or more geologic disposal facilities.
5. Prompt efforts to develop one or more consolidated storage facilities.
6. Prompt efforts to prepare for the eventual large-scale transport of spent nuclear fuel and high-level waste toconsolidated storage and disposal facilities when such
facilities become available.
7. Support for continued U.S. innovation in nuclear energy technology and for workforce development.
8. Active U.S. leadership in international efforts to address safety, waste management, non-proliferation, and security concerns.
The report also lists actions that can be taken without legislative action. The last chapter of the report (chapter 13) identifies a number of concrete next steps; and a text box on page ix of the Executive Summary lists several ways to get started on the specific task of siting new waste disposal and consolidated storage facilities.
For the complete report, please visit: http://www.brc.gov
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Update on Fukushima Daiichi-December 19, 2011
The Fukushima Daiichi reactors are in “a state of cold shutdown,” with temperatures at the bottom of the reactor pressure vessels and containment vessels stably below the boiling point and radiation levels at the plant boundary below 100 millirem per year. (By comparison, the average radiation level from all sources to U.S. citizens is about 400 millirem per year.) The announcement last Friday by Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda is a key milestone in the site’s recovery plan, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission Chairman Gregory Jaczko said on his first visit to the site since March.
What does “a state of cold shutdown” mean? (From NEI’s Website)
In non-nuclear speak, it basically means the conditions within the nuclear reactor are such that it would be impossible for a chain reaction to occur. This term usually comes into play whenever a reactor is shut down periodically for refueling or for the final time prior to the long-term before it is decommissioned. When a reactor is in cold shutdown, the reactor pressure vessel (RPV) can be safely opened with great care and additional water is added to the cavity above the vessel for shielding to permit safe handling of the fuel for refueling (replacing depleted fuel elements) or defueling (removing the entire core).
In Fukushima Daiichi’s case, achieving the strict definition of “cold shutdown” is not possible because the RPVs have been breached. This means that the RPVs will not hold water (currently the cooling water is flowing through them) and some of the melted fuel may not be in the vessel, but rather on the floor below, which is still within the primary containment. To clean up the plant, Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), the plant’s owner and operator, will work with the Japanese government and other parties to develop a long-term plan that will include removing the damaged fuel.
TEPCO understood this important nuance to achieving “cold shutdown” early on this year when it developed its initial recovery plans and developed a new term, “cold shutdown condition,” which applies to how they are bringing the reactors to stable condition. Their definition is as follows:
- Temperature of RPV bottom is, in general, below 100 degrees Celsius.
- Release of radioactive materials from PCV is under control and public radiation exposure by additional release is being significantly held down. (Not exceed 1 mSv/y at the site boundary as a target.)
By their definition, the Fukushima Daiichi reactors will reach “cold shutdown condition” once they are below boiling point and are no longer releasing significant amounts of radiation into the atmosphere. This new definition, thus, has an important distinction between the more commonly used “cold shutdown,” which typically takes place at a nuclear plant under normal conditions.
Reaching “cold shutdown conditions” at Fukushima Daiichi, however, has been an extremely difficult task for TEPCO workers given the conditions at the site and is a very significant milestone in their recovery efforts. TEPCO expects to reach this condition in just a few weeks by the end of 2011.
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