Deployment of Nuclear Power

The punch lines to my last e-mail to all of you were: “Yes, regulations and decisions on a mix are important, but without an infrastructure to build anything, we won’t even be able to do the upfront development of what we are going to use. Sorry about that Admiral, but that is where we are today! Any suggestions?” Thanks for the over one dozen responses, mostly from veterans of the nuclear industry. Following is a brief summary of some of those responses (names of the authors have been removed to protect the innocent!). 1. A Supporting Infrastructure - Don, I totally agree with you. We should not start building new plants unless we start building the supporting infrastructure in parallel. We need one or more test reactors for our fuel, we need Atlas type facilities, we need large hydraulic flow test facilities, we need hot cells, but most of all we need a lot more people with the education, background and desire to develop the systems, materials, methods, and fuels for decades to come. We don't need slick Power Point chart makers or Six Sigma gurus who misapply legitimate statistical methods in order to punch career tickets, and we don't need managers who encourage and tolerate these types or don't know any better. We need the kind of leaders you cited in your message. I believe the first new BWR's or PWR's built in this country will need massive support from Japan and Europe respectively. Despite these views I optimistic about the future for nuclear power in the U.S. This is America and we can be awesome when we quit goofing around. Regards, 2. New Nuclear Infrastructure - Dear Don, You raise the most important point, which is that while with the new energy bill we now have a guarantee that new nuclear power plant construction will occur, there are important questions about whether the infrastructure exists to construct substantial numbers of new reactors, particularly the more advanced reactors that would naturally follow the near term construction of new LWRs. My closest connections are with GE, and I believe that they are confident that they have sufficient experience with recent construction in Japan and Taiwan, and access to reliable vendors for reactor vessels in Japan and France, such that they can build new BWRs here on time and inside budget. Our utilities now also have experience with qualifying commercial-grade equipment for nuclear use (for example, Diablo Canyon maintains an on-site laboratory for this purpose), given the generally very high quality of commercial equipment these days. Our computer-aided design tools now are vastly better than the methods that were available during the last round of construction. And while the field of nuclear engineering itself atrophied during the 1990's, in general the students coming out of our engineering schools these days are serious, bright, and capable. On the down side, though, we will be very short on talented, knowledgeable engineers at the mid-career level, and we will be tending to promote younger people too rapidly into positions that they are not fully prepared to take, just as we have in the past during cyclic upswings of engineering employment (e.g., the late 70's/very early 1980's). Thus there will be real potential for problems to emerge in new construction efforts that will end up negatively impacting cost and schedules, and thus the perceptions of utilities about the economic potential of nuclear energy. This will make it critical that the industry find the best possible people to manage and conduct the initial new construction activities, and to help us to relearn how to do it well using the new tools. 3. Training New Talent - Fellow ACREites, While there is definitely a training problem and a shortage of youthful talent, late in the day the VP. Nuclear, PG&E, David Oakley, a very impressive guy, who attended both days sessions gave quite a thorough answer regarding Diablo Canyon aging and staff. The details may already be on the website. A quick overview, the average staff is about 48, and depending on the skill, replacements are hired 18 months to five years in advance (reactor operators) of retirement date, to permit training. PG&E has a rotating training program, and then permanent staff. Carl Walter's daughter is an engineering manager at Diablo Canyon. There is (may be ) a much worse situation in design, and construction. That's why a relatively slow start to ramp up is required. Maybe Hitachi and Toshiba will send some loan employees to the U.S. But the ramp must be fast enough for their to be real learning before people get promoted or transfer out of the position. That's one of many problems with the current demo program. That's part of why I advocate a faster ramp in California. Sincerely, 4. Building New Reactor Components – Don, you are right. When I was getting new recirc pipe made to replace the 304 pipe we had no N stamp suppliers left and we had to go to Japan. If we build a new reactor in the US the components will have to be built in Japan, Canada and France. Also, imagine all the old men in their 70s, 80s putting the thing together here in the US. 5. Qualified Manpower - Per raises the point about lack of qualified manpower. I thought the same in the nineties and struggled to do something about enriching our universities with cooperative cross-the-Pacific programs so that we might attract the right students. However, that didn't work ... we managed only to put one grant into a Canadian University! The telling point was when I interviewed senior executives at vendors and they were of the opinion that there was no problem whatsoever. "When we need qualified designers in the future, we simply hire Korean engineers. They certainly don't have to be US born and educated." 6. Infrastructure & Politicians – Losing the infrastructure for building nuclear generating plants has been done by politicians who focus on their own pork projects like in the current highway bill signed yesterday. KETCHIKAN, ALASKA - If taxpayers want to see how their federal highway dollars are spent, they should head north to this small port (pop. 15,000), which just got a $223 million federal grant to build one of the nation's largest bridges. Rising 200 feet above water and almost as long as the Golden Gate on San Francisco Bay, the bridge will link this tourist-oriented town at the southern tip of the state to an island with about 50 inhabitants and an airport with fewer than 10 flights a day. The public money was secured by the state's lone congressman, Don Young (R), the powerful chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. A former tugboat captain, he once described himself as "not one of these smooth, namby-pamby politicians." Do the operations and construction of nuclear powered ships and submarines in the US Navy present a small source of trained people and manufacturing capability that might be the seed for restarting knowledge and infrastructure? 7. Politics & Advanced Reactors - Don, Thanks for sending the info. Very interesting. Per Identified a real problem: "---there are important questions about whether the infrastructure exists to construct substantial numbers of new reactors, particularly the more advanced reactors" You include in your note: "As a retired French top executive of a large French firm said when he heard of our infrastructure status, “How could the United States have allowed this to happen?” I think I can shed some light on how the lack of an infrastructure problem occurred and a possible solution. Terry Lash was instructed by Hazel O'Leary upon taking over NE that he should eliminate the competence and ability for the US to develop and deploy Advanced reactors. He was picked for the job because his natural tendencies were to do this. He assembled and destroyed all of the technical documents about advanced reactors that he could find. He got rid of most of the technically competent people in NE and by his approach to executing NE activities fostered the loss of these people in the labs. Look at the people now working in NE. Are there any people there that you would consider technically competent or knowledgeable in advanced reactors? …………. is the only one who is still there who was once technically competent - however he challenged Lash over something and was emasculated and is now retired in place after having sold out to keep his job. NE is still run by the Lash hanger ons. Even tho Magwood left, the real reason being that plans are to make NE a Asst. Sec. position (again), and Magwood was not going to be allowed to take this job + he could never have got thru the confirmation process. He was left in the job by the current administration and allowed to continue Lash's process because removing him would have been a problem and nobody could be found who wanted the job (I thought that ……………. was going to be put in the job, but he had a major health problem that caused him to not be able to do so. So (after that longwinded background) the solution is for DOE to have no role - zero, nada, nothing - in any activities. While NE has been marginalized it still has a central position and can continue to do harm. With the current plan (roadmap) NE is not needed. The focus should be on resolving the financing problems and waste storage/handling problems and these do not require NE. Ask yourself "What can NE do that would contribute?" Left to itself industry will develop the needed infrastructure - but this will not be fast. In the meantime we get the tech expertise and equipment, etc. from other countries. A bad situation - but outsourcing provides an interim fix while the US rebuilds. Also, it is not obvious to me that an advanced reactor will be built. Many of the problems have not been addressed (e.g., the NRC staff competence and process problems with intervieners and reviews) and this will take time. And then what if the Democrats get back in power. Really a dicey call concerning the risks. 8. CEC (California Energy Commission) – MRW Report - To All, Per Peterson gave one of the best papers at the CEC Conference on California Energy Strategy. I hope by copy of this note Per will send an email attachment of the CEC paper to all addresses. While it's probably also on the website, but a bit more work is required to figure out how to find it. More about the CEC conference later. I am trying to finish my papers in time for the conference comment deadline, August 23, 2005. I urge all of you to take a look at the CEC website and review, the draft report prepared by the MRW contractor. A few more commenters would not hurt as the record is tremendously one sided. Of the invited speakers, I would say only two were pro nuclear, Per Peterson, and a former Board Member of Amory Lovins Rocky Mt. Institute at Snowmass, Peter Schwartz. Peter recanted and stated as strongly as I have ever heard it said, that while global warming may be quite unlikely, we don't know what triggers it, we don't know how fast climate change will happen--could be twenty or thirty years--, and the consequences are so horrendous that we should CONSIDER...EVEN PURSUE...NUCLEAR POWER now. A transcript of his testimony will be on the web shortly. Utility reps were there, PG&E, SCE, and Rancho Seco, and NEI had two people attending. The utility guys were low key, not nuclear advocates, and NEI reps dutifully answered the "when did you stop beating your wife" type questions posed to them by the CEC, defended the good nuclear capacity factors, without making a strong advocacy statement. The DOE Gen IV project Manager, a women, Rebecca Smith-Kevern, was so mild mannered, she did not advocate, and indeed did not speak unless spoken too. She may have been quite new, and not comfortable with the project or the technical detail. She may have been under orders not to advocate. DOE has gone thru periods such as that, for example, Yucca Mt. people could not advocate for the Yucca Mt project. Amory Lovins, on the same panel dismissed her cost goals with the cavalier comment, "who believes DOE cost numbers". It was left to three ACRE volunteers to try to squeeze in pro nuclear statements during the public comment period, and additional written submittals We were allowed a total of 10 minutes the first day, and left after 1.5 hours waiting at 6 pm the second day waiting to get our five minutes. Despite the fact we arrived first and signed up first to comment each day, the deck of speaker cards was shuffled. Per Peterson may have a slightly more charitable view of the proceedings. I think the deck was well stacked by the meeting organizers on the CEC staff and MRW contractor, even though the Commissioners Geesman and Boyd seemed to be attentive and willing to give everyone a fair shake. THE POSITIVE NOTE; I think there is enough material in the record to reach a positive conclusion, opposite to the draft, if the recent testimony, Per's cost data, and the Gen IV target costs, and a few other items presented in testimony are included in the record. For Per’s paper and slides see attachments: The Future of Nuclear Energy Policy – CA.doc and CEC_Nuclear_wksp_Slides_PEP_8=05.pdf 9. Nuclear Powers Up – NuStart - Don -- I'm glad to learn of your continuing interest and involvement with our nation's energy plan and the accelerated use of nuclear power. I can't read anything on this topic without thinking of you and others from those days -- long ago -- spent trying to get CSA capabilities into that industry. As we have learned, extensive collaboration is required and that is not a part of the business or lifestyle of people raised under the Communist system. See Attachment: Nuclear Powers UP – NuStart.doc This attachment is an outstanding example of how the industry under the title of NuStart is starting to evolve future policies for nuclear power deployment. 10. Revise the Nuclear power Option - Don: Attached are my thoughts on an approach to revise the nuclear power option. It is on Microsoft Word if you have a problem opening. Thanks for taking the time to read it in advance. You may do what ever you want to send it out to others. There are no restrictions. I will also send it to a few of my friends. I consider this my last shot after 43 years in the business. Please let me know what you think, See Attachment: A Suggested Approach to Revise the Nuclear Power Option.doc For a powerful description of a potential policy for the evolution of nuclear power by someone with 43 years in the business, see this Attachment. This author’s son sent the following note to his dad on having read the above attachment, Suggested Approach to Revise the Nuclear Power Option.doc: Hi! I just had a moment to read the document you sent. Truthfully, I found it pretty impressive. It underscores my fear that a generation of knowledge can be lost under the suffocating cloak of political correctness. Hopefully this document can find a place to reside safely for those who have the ability to implement it in the future. It seems that a lot of talent retired and quit the war with the forces of misplaced environmentalism. I have become more and more interested in the manifestations of our oil dependent economy. I consider myself a modest expert having burned more than my fair share of dinosaurs in various high performance engines over the years. But my interest is more toward the largest consumer, our built environment. The average home size has nearly doubled in the past 30 years. We have replaced our renewable heating devices (fireplaces and stoves) with non-renewable gas, oil, and coal fired appliances. We have come to rely more and more on electricity for illumination and powering the myriad of gadgets we maintain. This has resulted in more and more energy consumption over time. So have we reached the point of sustainability? I would say "yes" if we are using oil and coal as the basis of comparison. Actually, it appears we have surpassed that when looking at the increased cost of oil and natural gas. So how do we maintain economic progress in an era of energy resource depletion? Solar and wind are not the answer...only on a very local scale. Gravity is out. Most damable rivers are already producing hydroelectric power. So the only real answer with current technology is nuclear. Ultimately, it will be consumer demand that brings nuclear back onto the grid. When supplies diminish and costs increase, consumers will be screaming to salvage the status quo. Nobody is willing to sacrifice through conservation. Maybe at the fuel pump, never in your own home. It will be interesting times when this occurs. It is also ironic. You spent the majority of your life trying to bring this technology along, only to fight for it every day. Finally, after all is said and done, it may get the chance to be a dominant player in the energy market. So...constructive feedback: Please spell out your acronyms at least one time. Some out there (like me) may have no idea what you are referring to. Maybe a footnote of explanation. Otherwise, nice piece of work. I'm proud. 11. Nuclear Program Building Blocks - Donald, I agree with you and I refer you to the "building blocks" we worked on in the 1990s at EPRI as part of the ALWR program. My personal opinion is, and has been for some time, that the nuclear program will come to its knees in the US and be required to start over again in every respect. And if history is any indicator they will have to learn most of the tough "lessons learned" over again. Engineers, manufacturers and constructors "know everything" and do not need inputs or experience from others. Even when utility engineers were sitting beside GE and Westinghouse during the ALWR design program it was like pulling eye teeth to get "lessons learned" incorporated. I am confident that issues like pipe stress isos and pipe hanger design/construction will happen each time we start over. Even during the program when we asked key "movers and shakers" about the volumes of lessons learned we had compiled at EPRI and other places they had no clue what the "URD" was. INPO has had the same experience trying to get operational experience to be shared between utilities and even between plants in the same utility!!!! Another simple example is how you get the AE, NSSS and Utility to be co-bagholders and how you get the NRC management to "manage" their reviewers. In our NERI meetings the retired NRC managers readily admitted they could not do this or they would create whistle blowers. I hope I am wrong. 12. Past Nuclear Initiatives - Thank you for having me on your distribution list. Very interesting and informative. I still have a box of G.E. "nuclear power quick reference, III" pocket books that I had not fully distributed. For example: ""Keystone to America's Future Energy Supply ....,The Clinch River Project." "Concerned Citizens for the Nuclear Breeder (1977). It looks to me that you (we?) are getting somewhere. Don Riley’s Observation: Neils Bohr – “… critical for Bohr was the issue of secrecy. He had worked for decades with the world’s physicists to shape physics into an international community, a model within its limited franchise of what a peaceful, politically united world might be. Openness was its fragile, essential charter, an operational necessity to a democracy. Complete openness enforced absolute honesty: the scientist reported all his results, favorable and unfavorable, where all could read them, making possible the ongoing correction of error. Secrecy would revoke that charter and subordinate science as a political system … .” Page 294, ‘The Making of the Atomic Bomb’, by Richard Rhodes. Many of the European scientists, who had emigrated to the U.S. before WW II, and many of those scientists originally from the U.S., who worked on the making of the Atomic Bomb, had been influenced by Bohr’s decades of indoctrination into the physics community. Some say that Bohr’s model had a great influence on the U.S. program’s success. How do we stand today on Bohr’s model? It would appear, from some of the above recorded comments, that Bohr’s model could be applied in many of the nuclear power areas today with significant success. Don Riley, 21Aug05 * Note: Text in this format added by Don Riley.