Too Hot for Nuclear

Chernobyl was a disaster of human error, Fukushima a natural disaster worsened by human error, but this is a whole other situation. The water in Long Island Sound is so warm that even with emergency rules that loosen the safety standards, the Millstone Nuclear Power Station had toshut down one of its units…

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — Connecticut’s nuclear power plant has shut down one of two units because water from Long Island Sound used to operate the plant is too hot following the hottest July on record.

Just 2 days ago ‘The Day’ reported that the NRC juggled the numbers to allow the plant to continue operating…

Waterford – Because water temperatures in Long Island Sound have been averaging 1.7 degrees above normal this summer, the Millstone Power Station has been granted an emergency amendment to its license related to cooling water used for Unit 2.

The amendment, issued Friday by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, gives Millstone permission to use an average of three temperatures from three locations to ensure that the water drawn into the plant to cool instruments in the nuclear reactor building and the emergency diesel generators is no higher than 75 degrees. Previously the company was required to use a single measure of the highest temperature.

NRC spokesman Neil Sheehan said the agency agreed that taking an average would be a valid way to ensure the temperature was within safety limits. If the water exceeds 75 degrees, Millstone would be required to scale back operations, and if the water reaches 77 degrees, the plants would be required to shut down.

Water that is 77 degrees or higher does not sufficiently cool the plant to keep it within the margin of safety, Millstone spokesman Ken Holt said.

I’ve seen online arguments that a few Chernobyls may be the price we have to pay for stopping the carbon pollution inherent in other forms of energy production. That’s more honest than pretending that human error, acts of nature and unforeseen events will somehow bypass nuclear.

We are in a crisis, I’m feeling three days of exhausting heat and humidity as I write this. But in this crisis we have tools we did not have in the 20th Century, and denial is running out. Conservation, a smart grid, diverse power sources and questioning a ‘lifestyle’ based on geometrically increasing demand for manufactured needs are where we need to start. I don’t see so many Hummers on the road these days, and I’m doing more teleconferencing to save us time and fuel. I’m not very confident in our leaders from either party, this change will have to come from the people.

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5 responses

  1. Ninja Nurse – while I appreciate calling attention to this additional problem with nuclear power I do object to the false equivalence “I’m not very confident in our leaders of either party” when in reality the Republican leaders seek to end investment in and tax breaks for alternative energy without reducing the tax breaks and subsidies for fossil fuels and nuclear energy, while also opposing controlling EPA regulations of various kinds of pollution fromfoaail fuel power plants. In contrast the Obama administration has tried to promote alternative energy, restrain mountain top removal coal mining, regulate mercury emissions from coal power plants and more.
    In my opinion the occupy movement, even the hippies of an earlier era had little impact on politics since they had this false equivalence that politics is not the way. In contrast the Tea Party, not preending any equivalency, has taken over the Republican party with their anti-labor, anti-science, anti-conservation, anti-birth control views.

  2. These reactors are getting a little old. I’d love to see them replaces with more modern ones that don’t need the water to be so cool, and have a higher safety rating.

  3. I just read a book by Andrew Blackwell titled Visiting Sunny Chernobyl.He’s a “pollution tourist’-his observations are very original-he’s probably pretty liberal but he doesn’t just vomit mantras-worthwhile reading.PS:It’s too late with regard to fossil fuels-the cahpter on coal usage in China is very illuminating-the real”China Syndrome”.

  4. Hey-if you want the book you can have it-I have WAY too many books in the house.

  5. There is frequently an unintended confusion of fact and fiction in the popular mind. Summer is hot and every Summer some places are very hot and, of course, some not so hot. Hot air over water usually leads to higher water temperatures in some places. Other factors influence water temperature of course: turbidity of the water, condition of the bottom, currents, wave action, etc. Water temperature is important for cooling things, whether nuclear reactors, or conventional power plants. Anywhere there is heat generated, something needs to be cooled. Most nuclear reactors use water for heat exchange although other means of cooling such as molten salts, gasses, metals, can be used and will likely be used more and more.

    Nuclear power is efficient and very safe, bit there is a risk factor for most everything. There are 104 operating commercial reactors in the U.S. producing 20% of our electrical needs. Perhaps 110 military reactors exist in the U.S. and about the same number worldwide. There are 435 nuclear reactors worldwide generating electricity. These generate 370,00 megawatts of power safely 24/7 rain or shine. That is a lot of power. France has 58 reactors that produce 80% of its electricity and plans to increase this to more than 90%. Japan has 50 reactors and 49 of them operated quite well before the recent disaster. Russia has 33 reactors; the Republic of Korea, 23, and India 20. All work quite well with reliability and efficiency.

    Perspective is important. Nuclear energy is safe. The issue of “carbon” is a bit more complex than President Obama’s campaign speech in which he said “we must get rid of all forms of carbon.” Understandably, Mr. Obama is not the most scientifically inclined President we have had, but not really grasping the significance of that statement is exactly where we are when discussions of climate or nuclear or any energy issues occur: more misinformation and confusion than substance.

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