by James Conca (at Forbes)

Hurricane Florence, a potentially devastating Category 2 hurricane is on track to make landfall in the Carolinas sometime within 24 hours after this morning, Thursday, September 13. With winds up to 130 miles per hour, Florence could be the most powerful storm to hit so far north in the United States - ever.

hurricaneFlorenceNASA-NOAA satellite image of the Atlantic Ocean captured on September 11, 2018 at 11:45 AM EDT showing Hurricane Florence approaching the east coast with Tropical Storm Isaac and Hurricane Helene fast on her heels.NASA/NOAAUnfortunately, Tropical Storm Isaac, and Hurricane Helene are fast on her heels (see figure). Isaac is expected to upgrade to a hurricane before landfall.

Along with most everyone else, nuclear power plants in North and South Carolina, as well as Virginia, have been preparing for the natural onslaught.

Hurricane Florence will most likely hit two nuclear power plants operated by Duke Energy - their 1,870 megawatt (MW) Brunswick and 932MW Harris nuclear plants in North Carolina. If Florence turns north, it could also hit Dominion Energy's 1,676MW Surry plant in Virginia. Brunswick is expected to get a direct hit.

The United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) is watching carefully. But no one is really worried that much will happen, contrary to lots of antinuclear fearmongering. Power outages will occur as lines and transformers are destroyed and non-nuclear buildings get damaged, and it might takes a few days to a few weeks to bring power back up, something that includes all energy sources.

by James Conca (at Forbes)

NuScale Power is on track to build the first small modular nuclear reactor in America faster than expected.

NuScaleSmrOnTruckNRC just completed their Phase 1 review of NuScale’s Small Modular Nuclear Reactor. The small size of its Power Module means it can be factory-built and shipped by truck, deceasing construction costs enormously. NuScaleTwo weeks ago, NuScale’s small modular nuclear reactor design completed the Phase 1 review of its design certification application (DCA) by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission. That’s a huge deal because Phase 1 is the most intensive phase of the review, taking more hours and effort than the remaining five phases combined.

The NRC’s review of NuScale’s DCA only began in March 2017 and the NRC’s final report approving the design is expected to be complete by September 2020. NuScale is the first and only SMR to ever undergo an NRC review. After sailing through Phase 1 so quickly, the company really is on track to build the first SMR in America within the next few years.

by James Conca (in Forbes, Aug 29, 2018)

Evacuation ZoneIn Tennessee Valley Authority’s early site permit application for putting a small modular nuclear reactor at their Clinch River site, the NRC concluded that SMRs don’t need a huge evacuation zone in case something happens. The affected zone is just the site boundary fence around the entire power plant which covers less than a tenth of a square mile, only 60 acres.

It turns out you don’t have to run at all. First, they really can’t melt down. Second, the United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission just agreed that any emergencies that could possibly occur at a small modular nuclear power plant probably won’t even get past the fence.

No need to come up with huge evacuation plans for nearby cities or anyone living near the plant, like we did for older plants. You can just stand there at the fence and watch what’s going on.

The NRC’s openness to reducing the EPZs for SMRs came in evaluating a Tennessee Valley Authority’s (TVA) application for an early site permit to determine a reasonable Emergency Protection Zone (EPZ) for their proposed new small modular reactor site near Clinch River. TVA's application included information on NuScale’s SMR which is the most detailed and the farthest along of all reactors.

James Hansen and Michael Shellenberger present a compelling case for re-evaluating the role that a modern generation of nuclear power must play in the world's energy mix if we are to avert a climate catastrophe of immense proportions.

Click here to watch the video.

SCGI was represented in an energy summit in Turin, Italy in mid-April by Tom Blees, president of SCGI. Russia’s Global Energy Prize organization invited members of the selection committee (those who decide who wins the annual honor for energy research) to participate in discussing the future of energy systems. Tom and Rodney Allam, the British chairman of the committee (himself GLOBAL ENERGY TORINO 235 xlan energy prize laureate), were asked to speak on the topic of the transition from fossil fuels to clean energy sources.

This topic is of special interest to countries like Russia that have economies heavily dependent on fossil fuels. The same situation applies in many countries in the Middle East, as well as Venezuela, Kazakhstan, and others. As much as one might expect such countries to wish to deny the gradual evolution away from fossil fuels, at least some of them (Russia, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates, to name a few) recognize that technological advances in electric vehicles portend a steep decline in demand for oil. Russia has responded by becoming the most aggressive marketer of nuclear power systems around the world. The Saudis and the UAE have dedicated vast sums to post-oil-era funds to determine what technologies and industries to invest in that can keep their economies vital as fossil fuel demand diminishes.

There has long been a discouraging tension between advocates of renewable energy systems and those favoring nuclear power. Given the challenge of climate change, this sort of conflict between near-zero-carbon energy systems seems self-defeating, even foolish.

Late last year this struggle for influence boiled over when Mark Jacobson sued Dr. Christopher Clack for ten million dollars in a jimconcalibel suit that many within the academic community found shocking. None of Clack’s 20 co-authors (including some collaborators with SCGI) were sued, only Clack, the lead author. Jim Conca, a valued member of SCGI, covered the story here, and earlier in 2017 he wrote another article on the topic that can be found here.