Progress for nuclear energy in unusual places
The Dalai Lama and nuclear energy
The Dalai Lama, a revered spiritual leader whose influence is felt far beyond the boundaries of Tibetan Buddhism, startled his followers and the anti-nuclear community this week. In an interview with the news media in Tokyo, he said that there is a role for nuclear energy in the development process. His comments follow a tour of the earthquake and tsunami devastated areas in Japan about 40 miles from Fukushima.
He said that he is in support of nuclear energy for peaceful means as a way to bridge the socioeconomic gap in developing nations and in the absence of more efficient alternative energy sources.
"There are still many developing countries with a huge gap between rich and poor … millions of people's live remain under the poverty level."
He added that energy sources like wind and solar are too inefficient to put into realistic practice to meet the needs of developing nations.
The Dalai Lama's influence extends to many new age communities and even into the philosophical underpinnings of some American environmental groups. So it must come as a profound shock for them to find that he is urging both opponents and proponents to look at the issue "holistically."
The Dalai Lama also addressed some of the emotion laden communication that has been in the forefront of opposition to nuclear energy. In a statement that could just as easily come from an expert on probabilistic risk assessment, the Dalai Lama said that no amount of preparation can completely rule out danger.
NRC may hit a stand up double
The NRC may issue two combined construction and operating licenses (COL) at the same time by the end of 2011 if the commission also clears the design certification for the Westinghouse AP1000 nuclear reactor. The COLs for Southern's Vogle site in Georgia and Scana's V.C. Summer Station in South Caroline might be issued as the same time.
What is holding things up is that the two projects include two of the AP1000s at each site for a total of four 1,150 MW reactors.
NRC spokesman Scott Burnell told the Augusta Chronicle Nov 2, "The expectation is that there will be a final commission vote on certification [of the AP1000] by the end of the year. Once that is resolved, then it clears the path for Vogtle and Summer."
Burnell says with all the hearings and paperwork complete on the two projects, "the commission could move on both projects at the same time."
North Anna could restart this week
The NRC said Nov 1 that it could issue permission for Dominion's North Anna reactors to restart this week. Eric Leeds, who heads the NRC effort to review safety issues for the reactor, told a public meeting, "We're going to make sure everything is safe."
David Heacock, the head of Dominion's nuclear operating unit, told the Richmond Times Dispatch the reactors are ready to re-start. Each reactor takes about a week to go from cold shutdown to full power.
Vermont Yankee exits refueling
Entergy's Vermont Yankee 620 MW nuclear reactor exited a 25 day shutdown to refuel. The work cost approximately $100 million and is a major bet that the State of Vermont will lose a lawsuit designed to close the recently relicensed plant by March 2012.
A U.S. District Court decision is expected later this month on a lawsuit filed by Entergy over the State of Vermont's decision not to issue a certificate of public good. Vermont Governor Peter Schumlin claims he has the authority to close the reactor even though the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission is the sole agency that can issue a license to an operator.
Regardless of how the District Court rules, the case will go to appeal and could continue for years without resolution.
From a political point of view, the plant open is probably more valuable to Gov Shumlin than it is closed. After all, who or what would be the next "enemy of the state" if he succeeded?
Maybe Gov. Shumlin should have a talk with the Dalai Lama?
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