Sunday, February 24, 2013

You can be sure... or can you?

I want you to do me a favor and read this little article about Westinghouse plans for these "mini-reactors". Read it carefully, quiz will follow.

By Kim Leonard 
Published: Saturday, February 23, 2013, 9:00 p.m. 
The future of nuclear power may be in smaller reactors that could boost a power plant's output or provide enough electricity to run a factory. 
Westinghouse Electric Co., Babcock & Wilcox Co. and federal energy officials are anticipating a market for what is known as a small modular reactor, or SMR. 
Cranberry-based Westinghouse has eight full-size AP1000 reactors under construction worldwide, and its experience “will speed the Westinghouse SMR to market with less cost and better economics,” said Kate Jackson, chief technology officer and senior vice president of research and technology. 
The capsule-like, 225-megawatt mini-reactor design borrows heavily from the AP1000, with safety systems that use gravity rather than access to power if the plant malfunctions. Control rods inside the reactor unlatch and drop when a problem is detected, shutting down the nuclear reaction, for example. 
Some other safety advantages: Water sits above the core, to provide cooling in an emergency. And the unit sits below grade, lessening damage potential from above-ground disruptions.
Westinghouse, which built the nation's first nuclear plant in 1957 in Shippingport, is working with scientists at the University of Missouri at Columbia and Missouri University of Science and Technology to build a small reactor at electric utility Ameren Missouri's Callaway Energy Center. 
That plant, south of Fulton, Mo., has a generating capacity of 1,290 megawatts. A small Westinghouse reactor could turn out enough power for 45,000 homes. 
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission is preparing for nuclear energy companies' applications to roll in for small reactor designs as early as this year, spokesman Neil Sheehan said. NRC staff talked with Westinghouse in June and July about safety and plant design, and “will continue with limited meetings with Westinghouse as resources allow,” he said. 
Babcock & Wilcox, which is partnering with the Tennessee Valley Authority and engineering firm Bechtel, won initial federal approval in November for money to develop, license and commercialize an SMR. 
A second reactor proposal will be chosen for funding, the Department of Energy said, but it hasn't specified when. 
Costs to develop Babcock & Wilcox's mPower plant over five years have not been specified; the government would pay half. 
Energy officials propose spending $452 million on smaller reactor designs. 
“My sense is that DOE is looking for a project that, on commercial terms, will be able to succeed,” said Edwin Lyman, senior scientist with the nonprofit Union of Concerned Scientists, and Babcock & Wilcox, through its alliance with the Tennessee authority, potentially could build a plant to supply DOE's Oak Ridge National Laboratory near Knoxville. 
Still, caution is key and the new plants aren't necessarily safer just because they're smaller, he said. 
“Even if on paper they look safe, there is no operating experience,” Lyman said, adding that the organization doesn't think the government should subsidize nuclear power. 
Current nuclear projects are behind schedule, he said, and low-cost natural gas is eating into the profits of nuclear plants. 
But Jackson said any fossil-fueled plants are vulnerable to market prices; historically, natural gas prices have swung up and down. 
“Electric energy providers must look decades into the future” when planning generating plants, which typically last more than 50 years, she said. 
Kim Leonard is a staff writer for Trib Total Media.

OK, now tell me if you saw anything about the storage of spent nuclear waste, either on the part of Westinghouse or the Department of Energy?

Isn't it odd that this topic is so conveniently avoided, especially when we have a leak currently at a very old storage tank in the state of Washington. Speaking of which my friend Keith sent me a link to an update of the status of things at Hanford, WA. At least NBC is reporting the story.

The leaking of radioactive liquids at the Hanford, Wash., Nuclear Reservation is more extensive than previously reported, with six storage tanks affected, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee said Friday.  Click Here for full story.

I wonder just how many more years this issue can be ignored by the NRC and the DOE. Every day more spent nuclear waste is created and it needs to be taken care of in the safest manner that is humanly possible. Ignoring that this problem is not a solution.

Hellooooo... knock, knock................anybody there?

Friday, February 22, 2013

Safe Nuclear Storage

 ... is not the same as Safe Sex

At least for now a condom to prevent exposure to nuclear waste has not yet been developed. The only route to avoid nuclear waste is to stop generating it. This has to begin NOW, not tomorrow, next week or next year - and especially not waiting until we have a disaster on our hands.

Hanford Nuclear Reservation’s Cold War attack on the Columbia River

Another radioactive leak has sprung from a 1940’s vintage radioactive sludge storage tank at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation in southeastern Washington State. The now closed Hanford site hosts 56 million gallons of highly radioactive byproducts leftover from the nation’s nuclear weapons program since 1944.  This latest radioactive leak is coming from one of the 149 single-shell underground storage tanks originally designed for a 20-year storage period. All told, more than 1 million gallons of nuclear waste are known to have leaked from the nuclear weapons production and storage facility into the desert soil over the years. The various radioactive plumes are moving in groundwater toward the Columbia River which borders on 50 miles of the reservation as close as seven miles away from the tank farm.
This most recent discovery was announced by the Department of Energy (DOE) on February 15, 2013 with a drop in the liquid level estimated at 150 to 300 gallons per year from the total 530,000 gallons stored in a  tank identified as T-111.
Since 1989, the DOE has spent $16 billion on several schemes to manage Hanford’s nuclear waste all abandoned due to lack of credibility, cost escalations and unacceptable contractor performance. The DOE’s current plan is to finish construction of a $13.5 billion “Waste Treatment Plant” (WTP) to separate the dangerous waste stream into high-level and “low-activity” nuclear waste.  The high-level waste is to be immobilized in a glass-forming material that is then sealed in stainless steel canisters to cool and harden for eventual deep geological burial. The “low-activity” nuclear waste would be “vitrified” (immobilized in glass material) and dumped on-site.  However, the Government Accounting Office (GAO) recently warned in aDecember 2012 report that this massive clean-up project is already delayed beyond 2019 with out-of-control construction costs. If ever completed, the GAO identifies that the colossal operation itself will be faced with “significant safety and operation problems” due to the generation and build-up of explosive hydrogen gas in a pipeline system nearly one million linear feet long.
Facing facts, there is no “safe storage” of nuclear waste. Likewise, there is no permanent radioactive “clean-up” only “trans-contamination” of the environment.  The most responsible long-term management plan for nuclear waste is to stop generating it.  The utter and total irresponsibility of the nuclear industry is coming clearer to light with looming federal cuts to address threats from the endless legacy of the Atomic Age.  It is now paramount that the Columbia River and the American Northwest be protected from our own Cold War nuclear attack.  
Source: Beyond Nuclear February 21, 2013

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Two States; Same Mother, Different Fathers

Out west, you know that wild, wild west - that lawless west comes this news:
DENVER (AP) — Limits on the size of ammunition magazines and universal background checks passed the Colorado House on Monday, during a second day of emotional debates that has drawn attention from the White House as lawmakers try to address recent mass shootings.
Almost at the same time action was taken in a mid-west state, you know the heartland of America - comes this news:
Yesterday, Missouri state Rep. Mike Leara (R) proposed legislation making it a felony for lawmakers to so much as propose many bills regulating guns. "Any member of the general assembly who proposes a piece of legislation that further restricts the right of an individual to bear arms, as set forth under the second amendment of the Constitution of the United States, shall be guilty of a class D felony."  Source: TP Justice, Ian Millhiser and Missouri House Bill No. 633 Section A Chapter 578.460
~ ~ ~

"You know, Lloyd, just when I think you couldn't possibly be any dumber, you go and do something like this... and totally redeem yourself!"

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Stuff That Doesn't Get Talked About Enough

This is a big 'hat-tip' day and it's one of the things I love about Internet friends, we have each other's back so much of the time.

Friend Keith picked up on a Popey thing I emailed him and now I return the favor with this little nuclear nugget.

A tank that is holding nuclear waste at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation in the state of Washington is leaking!

This is one of 177 tanks that hold waste from years ago when they produced plutonium for nuclear weapons at that facility. We are talking millions of gallons of waste.

The full story is interesting and you can read it here at this link U.S. News report leaks at Hanford Nuclear site.

I write a lot about our nuclear energy plants, but here is a different story going back years ago when we were producing plutonium for our atomic bombs. I guess we haven't learned much over time. When you deal with things nuclear it is always a dangerous and long-term thing.

I wish we would talk about this more so people could fully understand how serious this is. And to Keith thanks again for keeping me up on your "finds".

Friday, February 15, 2013

Friday's Question

Can Kerry fill Hillary Clinton's shoes?

Interesting little tidbit from Tamara Wittes, Direcotr, Saban Center for Middle East Policy

"On a different note: changes at the top of America's foreign policy structure are always worth comment. But to me, the handover from Hillary Clinton to John Kerry highlighted something especially noteworthy -- the extent to which women's presence at the very heart of international diplomacy is now taken for granted. Not only are women equal around the foreign policy table, but women's empowerment is now recognized as central to successful global development. In a lighthearted piece for, I wrote about this new reality -- a generational transformation worth celebrating, even as we welcome the first male secretary of state in eight years."
Her  full piece is posted at, but you can read an excerpt at as well. 

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Happy Valentine's Day

In just a little over two months I will be embarking on my big adventure. It really is quite exciting. All the important things like visas, shots and travel arrangements have been taken care of. I am now focusing my time on deciding what type of excursions I will take when I get to the various ports. So many decisions.

When I get to Safaga in Egypt I think I will take a side trip to visit a Bedouin settlement outside of Hurghada.  There will be an opportunity to ride a camel. I am hoping I get a happy one like this fellow pictured here. Who knew that I would ride a camel before I rode a horse. Isn't there a saying about you need to learn to walk before you run? Hmmm.

Stay tuned...more to come.

* * *

"Love can sometimes be magic. But magic can sometimes... just be an illusion." ~ Javan

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Tilting at Windmills - 2013

Almost as quietly as the turn of the blades on a windmill the growth of this alternative energy source moves forward. If you are an investor in nuclear energy you won't find wind power an imaginary foe.

In news recently released wind power expanded by almost twenty percent in 2012 worldwide. It is a viable alternative. You can read the full story from The Guardian Wind Power Capacity Grew 20% Globally in 2012
"Global installed wind power capacity grew by nearly 20% in 2012 to reach 282 gigawatts, the Global Wind Energy Council reported. The U.S. and China installed the most with 13 GW apiece, followed by Germany, India and the U.K. with about 2 GW each, GWEC said. China has the most installed wind power capacity at 77 GW, followed by the U.S. with 60 GW, the council said."

From Wikipedia - Tilting at Windmills:

Just then they came in sight of thirty or forty windmills that rise from that plain. And no sooner did Don Quixote see them that he said to his squire, "Fortune is guiding our affairs better than we ourselves could have wished. Do you see over yonder, friend Sancho, thirty or forty hulking giants? I intend to do battle with them and slay them. With their spoils we shall begin to be rich for this is a righteous war and the removal of so foul a brood from off the face of the earth is a service God will bless."
"What giants?" asked Sancho Panza.
"Those you see over there," replied his master, "with their long arms. Some of them have arms well nigh two leagues in length."
"Take care, sir," cried Sancho. "Those over there are not giants but windmills. Those things that seem to be their arms are sails which, when they are whirled around by the wind, turn the millstone."
—Part 1, Chapter VIII. Of the valourous Don Quixote's success in the dreadful and never before imagined Adventure of the Windmills, with other events worthy of happy record.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Hey Nemo....

As for me it is rainy here but I will be keeping warm by making bread. Yeah, I know, go figure. Even the biggest and baddest lay down their guns and turn the nuclear switch to the "off" position every now and again.

Never fear my rants will return.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Protect Guns At Any Cost

I have a State Senator that couldn't hold more opposing views from my own. I mutter to myself: Is it "me" or is it "he" that just doesn't get it?

"Our God-given right to protect ourselves" with guns? I'm not a student of the Bible but maybe someone can tell me where God mandated gun ownership to his flock. I do remember something being mentioned about "Thou Shall Not Kill", but maybe I have my fiction novels mixed up.

I'm not going to bother to contact him about questions I may have about my Second Amendment rights, but I may contact him about his words -  "I will not hesitate to fight for you in the Missouri Senate." I may have a couple of questions on whether he really had me in mind when he wrote that.

Column For the Week of Feb. 4, 2013
Protecting Our Privacy and Right to Bear Arms

This week in the Senate General Laws Committee, of which I am chair, a measure to help protect our Second Amendment rights (SB 150) was considered and received testimony. Many Missourians gathered in the hearing room, eager to present their support to the legislation. This measure was offered in response to the federal government’s misguided attempt to help prevent gun violence in our country. Although none of us want tragedies like the horrible atrocity that occurred at Sandy Hook Elementary School to ever happen again, taking away Americans’ guns is not the solution. Not only does it infringe upon their constitutional rights, but it would provoke criminals who are able to obtain firearms to attack innocent, law-abiding and unarmed citizens. We cannot brush a problem under the rug, hoping the issue will just magically disappear. I fully support SB 150 and our God-given right to protect ourselves and our families.
Specifically, SB 150 would declare as unenforceable any federal law or executive order that is more restrictive than the law in effect on Dec. 31, 2012, which bans the possession of a semiautomatic firearm or any ammunition feeding device or requires the registration of any firearm, ammunition feeding device, or firearm accessory. In addition, SB 150 would make it a crime for certain individuals to enforce a law declared unenforceable by this act when the firearm, ammunition feeding device, or accessory at issue is manufactured in the state (or possessed in the state) and remains exclusively in the state.
Some over-reaching initiatives, such as SB 124, have been proposed in the Missouri Senate to either increase gun control, or intrude upon Missourians’ private business — I do not support these measures. Senate Bill 124 would, among other provisions, require a parent or guardian to notify a school district that he or she owns a firearm within 30 days of enrolling the child in school or becoming the owner of a firearm. This is an evasion of privacy and would trample individuals’ rights as American citizens. You can watch my interview with Fox News regarding SB 124 and protecting our right to bear arms by clicking here.
In addition, you can watch my video reports regarding our Second Amendment rights by visiting my Multimedia page on my Missouri Senate website (
Thank you for reading this legislative report. Please don’t hesitate to contact my Capitol office if you have any questions about our Second Amendment rights. I will not hesitate to fight for you in the Missouri Senate. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again — gun control is not about guns, it’s about control. Thank you and God bless.

USPS Debate

"Ralph Nader is American's most renowned and effective crusader for the rights of consumers and the general public, a role that has repeatedly brought him into conflict with both business and government."

Ralph Nader has spent a lifetime working on issues that he believes in. Working to preserve our environment and working for the common man. As a kid I remember my teenage neighbor going to work one summer vacation as one of Nader's Raider's.

I don't think there is any one person in modern day that has spent a lifetime in such a consistent quest for truth and fairness. I have great respect for this man and for his passion.

On this particular issue of cutting back Saturday postal deliveries by the USPS, I don't happen to agree with him. But out of respect for Ralph Nader, the man and his wealth of knowledge I give you his argument on this debate. It doesn't change my personal opinion on this subject, but I think you should read his thoughts as expressed in Huff Post Business today.

* * * * *

Condemning the U.S. Postal Service's Move to End Saturday Delivery

Posted: 02/06/2013 3:59 pm
By Ralph Nader, Consumer advocate, lawyer and author
The U.S. Postal Service today continued its tradition, under the leadership of Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe, of shooting itself in the foot. The only question that remains is: When will the madness end? By ending Saturday letter delivery in August 2013, as the USPS has proposed, millions of customers who take advantage of its services will be harmed, mail service will be slowed, and the USPS's current death spiral will deepen.
It is unclear where Postmaster General Donahoe thinks he has the authority to make this change without congressional approval. In making the move to end Saturday letter delivery, Postmaster General Donahoe has not only shown his complete disregard for the good of the USPS's consumers, but he has also ignored the will of Congress. For decades, Congress has mandated six-day delivery. Congress must act to protect rural communities, small businesses, the elderly, and the disabled, among others by reasserting its authority over the U.S. Postal Service and stopping it from making such an irresponsible decision.
Postmaster General Donahoe would have us believe that this is one of many tough decisions that must be made to save the USPS, but nothing could be further from the truth. These are the decisions that are made by a leader without a clue and without a sense of what it takes to right the ship. He has ignored calls to implement ways of expanding postal services, many of which have been urged by the Postal Regulatory Commission.
The USPS's financial crisis has primarily been caused by a congressional mandate, coming from the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act of 2006 (PAEA), that the USPS prefund the next 75 years of retiree health benefits in just a decade, by 2016. This is something that is not required of any other federal government agency or private corporation. Not to mention that there is no actuarial justification for such an accelerated schedule to prefund this future obligation. PAEA effectively forces the USPS to prefund retiree health benefits for some of its future employees who haven't even been born yet!
As a result, the USPS pays at least $5.5 billion each year into a fund for 75 years of future retiree health benefits in addition to paying $2.6 billion for the employer's share of insurance premiums for the Postal Service's current retirees. On top of this, according to reports from the USPS's Inspector General, the USPS has overpaid $80 billion dollars to the Civil Service Retirement System and the Federal Employees Retirement System which the federal government refuses to return.
If Congress were to reverse PAEA and return the billions owed to the USPS, the U.S. Postal Service would not be facing a financial crisis. Since the enactment of PAEA, the USPS has realized net losses of $41 billion, nearly 80 percent of which can be attributed to PAEA's unreasonable prefunding requirement. The USPS is the only large corporation that does not receive tax dollars or subsidies from the federal government (it has been self-sustaining) and which is a net creditor of Uncle Sam. Despite these facts, Congress has refused to act to fix the USPS's financial crisis.
Postmaster General Donahoe has demonstrated that he lacks the political courage to stand up to Congress and tell them that they caused this mess and they need to fix it. Instead, time after time, he has chosen to take the easy road and dismantle the USPS piece by piece -- whether it is by cutting post office hours, closing post offices, cutting service and delivery standards, increasing postage rates, or now ending Saturday delivery. These are not the decisions of a visionary or courageous leader. He certainly shows little continuity from the can-do verve of this nations' first Postmaster General, Benjamin Franklin!
In April of 2012 I joined consumer groups Public Citizen, Consumer Action, the Gray Panthers, and Essential Information in calling for Postmaster General Donahoe's resignation. I reiterate that call today. He is simply not up to the job demanded. And I am pleased to see that the National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC) has also called for the removal of Postmaster General Donahoe.
Ending Saturday delivery not only threatens the future of the U.S. Postal Service in the long term, but in the short term it harms small businesses' ability to carry out their operations in a timely manner, may inhibit the elderly's ability to receive important medication by mail, and will drive even more customers away from the USPS and toward private mail carriers like UPS and FedEx.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

No más Sábado

"OK, so this photo isn't fair, my bad, Mr. Postmaster General."

My HuffPost Daily Brief headline read: Postal Service Takes Drastic Action

Then it went on to say that the USPS is going to save $2 BILLION annually by cutting out Saturday deliveries. 

That seems to me to be more 'smart' than 'drastic'. This day in age do we really need six day a week snail mail delivered to our post boxes? For me they could cut out all mail delivery and I probably wouldn't find my life altered that much.

I know for sure I can live without the two times a week store mailers that go directly from my mail box to the trash bin. Think of the trees that would be saved.

I get zero bills through the mail and it has been this way for quite some time.

Yes, there are those cards. The birthday cards from well meaning friends and family who usually end up phoning as well, and all of whom have email and could easily save the postage and cost of a card (sorry Hallmark) and just email a greeting if they are so inclined. Take the few bucks they spend and donate it to charity. I bet it would buy a least one person a nice meal for the price of a stamp and greeting card.

Oh yeah, and those catalogs that I am forever canceling. Please people I don't want them. My life is full of reading material, I don't need these dream books and I think I am too old to cut them up and play paper dolls like I did as a kid with the old Sears Catalogs.

Oh and I should mention the Christmas cards, don't need them. The only ones I enjoy are seeing how the little families grow to bigger families and how those cute adorable babies manage to survive to semi-adulthood. Those I enjoy. But those annual letters, thankfully none were received this past holiday, I find those the worst. Come on, we all know no one's family is that great. I am sure at least one of you guys had at least one member of the family do a couple of nights in the County Jail. Come on, fess up!

But the president of the National Association of Letter Carriers, Fredric Rolando, said the end of Saturday mail delivery is "a disastrous idea that would have a profoundly negative effect on the Postal Service and on millions of customers," particularly businesses, rural communities, the elderly, the disabled and others who depend on Saturday delivery for commerce and communication.
 I don't exactly buy Fredric Rolando's idea that ending Saturday mail delivery is "a disastrous idea". Times change and communication systems change as well. If two billion dollars a year can be saved by dropping Saturday mail deliveries it sounds like a wonderful idea. Read the article and decide for yourself. Also note the odd position Congress finds itself in. Hmm, indeed.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

New Generation Nuclear Reactors

I guess sometimes even smart men don't have all the facts - or maybe they do and they just choose to ignore those that get in the way? I recently listened to Mr. Bill Gates talk on a variety of subjects he is passionate about, and don't get me wrong, I am very happy he is willing to take a portion of his great wealth to look for cures for diseases that affect much of the world's population.

My ears perked up when I heard him say he was unhappy about German Chancellor Merkel's stance that proposes a ban on the building of new nuclear reactors. Mr. Gates believes that this new generation of reactor to be safer then those that were built in past years. Ok, I will give him that, but again, what happens over and over when talking about the construction of new nuclear facilities, there was no mention of spent nuclear fuel, the radioactive waste that is left over.

Why is this not part of the discussion?

I am beginning to think there is no answer on what to do with this nuclear waste that is produced, it is truly the can that is being kicked down the road. Case closed, don't talk about it.

If we have people like Mr. Gates who don't want to address the issue of spent nuclear waste and how we provide for the permanent storage of this waste, then it becomes easier for me to see why this is not a current topic of discussion.

Just continue to tell people how much safer this new generation of nuclear reactors are. That's all we need to know, right?

Not good enough for me. I know it doesn't matter if nuclear energy is produced in the oldest reactors or the newest reactors, it creates a by-product call spent nuclear fuel or waste. This waste is highly radioactive and needs to be carefully handled. And it need to be stored permanently.

Initially the spent fuel is placed in spent fuel pools to be cooled - for a period of three to five years. It then should be moved to a dry cask storage system and then buried deep down underground where it can remain for ten of thousands of years. This permanent storage needs to be a safe environment, where the contents cannot leak out into the environment to cause deadly pollution of the earth and its inhabitants.

Going back as far as 1978 Yucca Mountain was being looked at as repository for the permanent storage of spent nuclear fuel. In 1982 Congress passed the Nuclear Waste Policy Act, since that time it has become a political football and various issues have prohibited the storage of waste at this facility. The latest is is issue of transporting spent fuel from the reactors to a place of permanent storage.

Currently the issue being discussed is providing permanent storage of waste at each of the 104 nuclear reactor sites. In addition to the issue of keeping the environment and humans safe from exposure of radiation, there is the every present issue of security and safety of these sites from a possible terrorist attack.

I mean the list of why we shouldn't continue down this road for me grows longer and longer and simply telling me that the new generation of nuclear reactors are so much safer just doesn't cut the mustard. I really believe in the power of the people. I believe if I continue to persist, slowly others will jump on board and in time we will be able to have great impact.

Don't let the words that the new generation of nuclear reactors are safer dissuade us from the real issue - new or old - the issue of spent nuclear fuel, the waste left behind MUST be addressed. Address this issue first. It is imperative that before we run, we must learn to walk.