Monday, May 28, 2012

15. Proliferating Abundance; Memorial Day and the Atom; and Iran

I. Proliferating Abundance

The overarching goal here at Entreprenuclear is to push towards increasing energy abundance for the people of the world, via Peaceful Atomic Energy.  Some might question my usage of the term "proliferate" due to the subject of its most common usage, but I decided to use it anyway.

In general, people who have their needs met are considerably less likely to seek out a fight than those who have unmet needs.  Some people might wish to argue that point (which was prefaced by "in general"), but I doubt the arguments would contain much logic nor be very convincing.  There are people in this world who would either seek out an argument or a fight solely for the sake of engaging in an argument or fight.

So, what have I started rambling about here?  Basically, the following should be more or less true:

MORE access to Peaceful Atomic Energy to MORE people across the world will lead to MORE needs met and LESS conflict.

With access to adequate supplies of energy, virtually any other physical needs can be feasibly met.  Some people even refer to energy as the "Master Resource", and rightfully so in my opinion.  In terms of long-term supply, nuclear energy far surpasses the capabilities of any other energy source that has been demonstrated to date from what I can tell.  Fissile and fertile nuclear fuel unconstrained by bad actors (generically speaking) should be capable of providing energy needs for the global population (approaching about 9 billion people by around 2050).

My goal is to see more and more people's needs being met, so that they have less and less justification to engage in combat.

II. Memorial Day and the Atom

In the U.S.A., Memorial Day is a great time to remember those that have given their lives to allow America as a nation to have a level of freedom that is likely unmatched in human history.  America's level of freedom has allowed for almost innumerable innovations that have advanced the way people can live their lives.  Some of these advances have directly contributed to ending slavery and to lessening gender inequalities within the developed world.  While we (America, that is) have many times squandered the advantages granted by that freedom, it would be difficult to argue against America's freedom being a GREAT thing from an overall vantage point.

Many have written about how usage of the atomic bomb in Hiroshima and Nagasaki greatly reduced the overall loss of both American and Japanese lives by being a primary factor in bringing a prompt end to World War II (along with coinciding closely with the Soviet invasion of Manchuria).
Here is an example.  And from a blog that popped up via a Google search.

Thus, Japan's prompt surrender, resulting in large part from the massive force of the atomic bomb, caused a much smaller number of Americans to need to be remembered on Memorial Day since 1945 than if utilizing the atom had not been achieved (perhaps even my very own paternal grandfather who was able to return to America later on in the fall of 1945; these 2 "Stars and Stripes" issues were his).  

Prompt Surrender

But moving forward to the future, Peaceful Atomic Energy should have a much, much greater impact than any threats of nuclear war on reducing the number of people who will need to be Memorialized (worldwide) for giving their lives in defending their nation's freedom.

III. Iran

How does Iran fit into this discussion?  Well, Iran is presently engaged in a nuclear program.  I say simply nuclear program because the whole crux of the issue with Iran is that there are major questions regarding whether Iran truly wishes solely to develop Peaceful Atomic Energy, which is fully commendable in my opinion,  or whether they are additionally covertly developing Nuclear Weapons capabilities which could be actually be palatable, if only Iran were a more mature actor overall as a sovereign nation.  Iran's present immaturity is likely partially attributable to international interventions within their country (including the United States squandering our advantages at times in the past) particularly over the last 60 years (which happens to coincide with the Nuclear Era; see also 1953).

With a lower degree of international intervention over the past 60 years, it would have been entirely possible that Iran would be acting mature enough today that them possessing their own nuclear armament would not cause a great number of nations around the world to have extreme heartburn.  As it is, however, the fact that Uranium enriched to 27% (above 20% is when Uranium begins to be classified as "highly enriched") was found last week in Iran is quite troublesome.

I would love to see Iran forego what they see as their right to enrich Uranium and to sign on to some long-term international nuclear fuel supply deals (with enrichment services provided by countries with existing well-proven capabilities), possibly with the chance to revisit whether they can enrich their own uranium several decades down the road (20-30 years) if they can prove themselves to be an adequately mature actor on the international scene.  I doubt that will be the outcome of the presently ongoing negotiations, but it is what I would prefer to see.

Loosely concluding this 3 section posting, I would like to see Peaceful Atomic Energy be used in increasing amounts around the world to lessen the resource constraints that are being faced at present and that will be exacerbated even further in the future.  This should allow more people's needs to be met and to have less of a reason to engage in conflict for dwindling resources.

Friday, May 25, 2012

14. Some NRC Talk - from an Entreprenuclear Perspective

Big news in the U.S. Nuclear industry this week (other than the Nuclear Energy Assembly in Charlotte) has centered around the announced resignation of Gregory Jaczko as Chairman of the NRC, along with the announcement today that Blue Ribbon Commission Member Allison MacFarlane is President Obama's selected replacement (pending Senate confirmation, of course).  These stories have been and will continue to be covered extensively all over the place (see the following links), so I doubt I could add much of anything to that part of the discussion.

I have not yet fully read all of these links yet, so I cannot vouch for all of them. They should be solid reads, however.

Jaczko Blog Coverage:
Rod Adams take is that it is good news
Reactions gathered at the ANS Nuclear Cafe
Will Davis's coverage at Atomic Power Review

Other Jaczko Coverage:
James Conca article in Forbes (I highly recommend his recent articles on Forbes.)**

Entreprenuclear View:

In the course of reading about Jaczko's resignation and some speculation about his potential replacement (prior to Ms. MacFarlane being announced on 5/24), I happened to come across the NRC's top level Organizational Chart.  Every single position is filled......except for one.  That vacant position is for Director of the Office of New Reactors.  Of all the positions to not be filled, REALLY?  As the writer of a blog titled Entreprenuclear and as a citizen of the United States of America (where nuclear power was born), that seems almost unacceptable to me.  It definitely does not engender thoughts that the NRC is positioned at present to license New Reactor designs, to even allow innovation to occur.

NRC Org Chart, dated May 14, 2012

Who will be leading the group to license the 2 SMRs that are being jointly funded by the DOE (by up to $452 Million per design) and the Reactor's design firms?

MacFarlane Blog Coverage:
ANS Nuclear Cafe
Steve Skutnik at Neutron Economy

Other MacFarlane Coverage:
ReutersWashington PostMIT's Technology Review (not about NRC appointment), Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI) Statement, Business Week, Wall Street Journal (to read full article, Google the article title), and New York Times

** I wish Kirk Sorensen could have cloned himself to have enough time to have both maintained his series at Forbes and founded an innovative nuclear reactor design Startup.  Focusing on the startup certainly should take precedence in his case though.  Tying this all almost together, it is very interesting that Kirk's startup Flibe Energy has felt it necessary to take the route of going after an initial customer that is not subject to the NRC's licensing processes.

Kirk also found a snippet from the proceedings of the Blue Ribbon Commission where Allison MacFarlane showed a keen sense of curiosity in regards to utilizing thorium as a nuclear fuel source.  A transcript of the particular exchange can be found on pages 253-255 of the 479 page .pdf linked here.  A video can be found here, with the particular exchange beginning at about the 29:30 mark.

If you want, you can watch or read for yourself, but the Entreprenuclear take on the exchange is this, the level of inquisitiveness and interest shown by Allison MacFarlane could indicate some decent potential in regards to Ms. MacFarlane potentially being at least somewhat supportive of advancements that could be improvements on the presently utilized commercial Nuclear Fuel Cycle in America.  Her having a background that does not include growing up through the existing nuclear industry and with its infrastructure could help her to be more receptive to newer, and innovative technologies.  That is certainly far from being proven at this point (long before she could even be evaluated by the Senate), but I will choose to hold out some hope for now.

Obviously though, it is not the role of a nuclear safety regulatory organization to be innovative in developing new reactor designs (Aside: Secretary Chu, this is where you should figuratively raise your organization's hand, and stop using inordinate amounts of time and resources, possibly engaging in Vulture Capitalism - see trick above, chasing diffuse solar dreams see: Solyndra  /End Rant-like Aside).  A regulatory organization does have plenty of other processes and other areas that could hold opportunities for value-creating innovations.

It is time for me to stop ranting and get some sleep, so I will save any discussion about reform in regards to the way the NRC is funded for a future posting.  Much more research on that topic will be needed on my part prior to that time anyway.

Not sure why my posts are out of order now.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

13. Comments, Feedback, and Discussion Welcome at Entreprenuclear

Here at Entreprenuclear, feedback will remain welcome and appreciated.

I was glad to receive several comments on the recent "Spent" Fuel Pool/Vault (no, not pole vault) thoughts. Getting feedback is a primary method I plan to use to attain continuous improvement. I am also grateful for the several tweets with links to that post that I came across.
Pole Vaulting

The commenter from Areva made a nice simplifying suggestion for renaming spent fuel pools as "Future Fuel Vaults", or FFVs. Also, a former coworker (and still jokester) made the NON-serious hot tub suggestion, which has almost motivated me to attempt to research what the typical Ph level of a Spent Fuel Pool is.

A further comment in particular along with my past experience in regards to commenting on blogs and reading comments from others, has motivated me to go ahead and establish some guidelines for commenting here at Entreprenuclear.

Guide to Entreprenuclear Commenting:
1. Please be civil (especially if posting anonymously).

2. Do not use profanity (my mother has already read at least one posting here).

3. If you disagree that nuclear power is extremely beneficial and has enormous untapped future potential, please present sound reasoning for your disagreement (imaginary scenarios contrary to physical possibilities may be received particularly poorly).

4. If you are commenting, at least try to add something (entrepreneurship is about ADDING value).

5. Flat out spam will not be tolerated.

6. Please at least read a post before commenting on it (that means you, Kit P.).

This is not related to my commenting policy, but if you haven't yet, go read about this MIT Study.

Happy Wednesday.

May 25th Update: No comments on this post.

Monday, May 14, 2012

12. Spent Fuel Pools? -- More Like Vaults

Initially Posted on May 14th, 2012

Back in the far earlier days of Nuclear Power Plant design, I am afraid that the designers made an inadvertent mistake in naming a vital portion of their plants.

They named the interim storage areas for irradiated fuel assemblies Spent Fuel Pools. Here is a picture of one, I think from Catawba.

Recently, scaremongers have have been trumpeting outlandish imaginary scenarios relating to the Unit 4 Spent Fuel Pool at Fukushima Daiichi.  These postulated scenarios defy the laws of physics, to put things bluntly and simply.

Rod Adams has covered the issue here, and again a few days ago here with the video just below.

Leslie Corrice at Hiroshima Syndrome has also mentioned it.
Dan Yurman has talked about it.
And so has Steve Skutnik (both at his site The Neutron Economy and re-published at The Energy Collective)

UPDATE (May 16th lunchtime):
Will Davis has posted about the absence of the danger at the ANS Nuclear Cafe.
That brings me to the mistake that I think was made during the original design phase in regards to naming a portion of a nuclear power plant, The Spent Fuel Pool.

The term "Pool" very likely puts mental images like this into people's heads.

When you see a kiddie pool, I would bet that strength is far, far down the list of terms that would be associated with such a structure. The fact that mental images of weak structures like this can be so easily recalled is a primary reason that the fables ignoring physics that have been propagated by anti-nuclear activists in regards to Spent Fuel Pools can gain some traction with relative ease.

A more appropriate mental image for the robustness of the design of an actual Spent Fuel Pool could better be conveyed by the term VAULT.
No, not that Vault. Besides, Surge was always considerably better anyway.Non-nuclear digression: Surge was likely the leading edge of the energy drink boom in America, which could be an interesting little business case study for someone. /End digression.  

This type of Vault is more what I was thinking of.
This type of vault conveys the strength that is inherent in the designs of nuclear power plant's spent fuel pools. Also, take a look at this picture of a pad of spent fuel casks (dry storage).
 Pretty Vault-like, huh?

How much more difficult would it have been to cause people to be concerned about the Fukushima Daiichi Spent Fuel Pools if they had been named Vaults from the beginning, rather than merely Pools? My guess is that it would have been a bit more difficult. 

The strength of the design is not the only reason that I think the term "VAULT" is apt for the interim storage locations for what I prefer to call partially-utilized spent fuel assemblies. The second reason is that the remaining energy content in fuel assemblies could potentially be extremely valuable someday. The presently typical "once-through" fuel cycle does not utilize anywhere close to the fuel energy potential of either the material within the fuel itself, nor especially of the mined uranium that the assemblies were made of. The term vault would help to convey that the PARTIALLY Spent Fuel Assemblies possess immense potential future value, possibly enough value to make the contents of the fortified structure pictured below pale in comparison (click on the picture if you don't recognize what it is).

I would like to propose a method of remedying this historical oversight. As part of the mandated spent fuel changes as follow-up to the Fukushima-Daiichi incident, utilities can choose to "upgrade" existing SFPs to "vaults". In most cases, I would guess that this would require little, if any, physical changes, but would be a documentation only change. Perhaps the NEI or NRC might decide to set some standards/requirements for allowing utility to use the term "vault" in regards to a specific pool. Such a validation of the use of this revised terminology could provide a level of robustness, similar to the existing designs of these Spent Fuel Pools.

Making such a change could have a small effect of enhancing the public perception of safety, even if not appreciably increasing safety above the present level (how do you top zero spent fuel-related incidences at commercial plants?).

A further enhancement that I would like to see, but may fit better under the topic of a future post, is revising the "spent" part of the pools' name to "partially used". This would help convey the presence of the remaining energy potential of the fuel assemblies (which very likely would have already been put to use effectively, if not for the Jimmy Carter years).

In summary, the term Vault would convey two primary thoughts:

1. That the enclosed material is secure


2. That the material is still extremely valuable

Friday, May 4, 2012

11. American Football and Nuclear Power - One Fan's Differing Dilemmas

Anyone who knows me even a little bit could probably instantly answer correctly if asked the 2 things I am the biggest fan of:  Nuclear Power and a particular American Football (not to be confused with Soccer/Futbol) team based in the Southeastern U.S.  (Both Nuclear Power and American Football were invented in America, by the way.)

The first blog I ever started (with Entreprenuclear being the 2nd) was supposed to be primarily about analyzing Football (for the rest of this post the American designation will simply be implied) with some other sports and random musings thrown in.  I have to admit that my love of football even played a role in my period of delaying 6 months to obtain employment during the fall in 2008.

You could also say that I am more than a little bit of a fan of peaceful nuclear power.  I mean, how many people start a blog, or even read other blogs, about something that they aren't a fan of?

I have a dilemma with being a fan of each of these 2 things, but only 1 of my dilemmas is actually related to safety.

Football being a dangerous, somewhat violent sport is not any kind of revelation to me.  Big hits on the football field have long been celebrated, and have been a big part of why some people like watching the game.  Many people tend to enjoy seeing impressive displays of Energy being rapidly exerted.

Some might feel a little squeamish seeing some of these hits.  A small part of me wonders whether I should feel a little bad about enjoying this game and actively contributing to its popularity via my fandom (and subsequent $$ spent on it).

The tragic news story from yesterday regarding Junior Seau's suicide (Articles from USA Today, Christian Science Monitor, The Guardian, Orange County Register, and the LA Times) very possibly adds to the evidence of just how dangerous football is.  While it is still far too early to draw a definitive conclusion that repeated head trauma obtained on the gridiron might have contributed to whatever depression/inner demons caused Junior to choose to do what he did, it would be difficult to think that there isn't at least some correlation there.
He's why #55 is a big-time number at USC

Regardless of conclusiveness of any cause and effect, this incident has made it impossible to ignore that a definite safety issue exists in regards to playing football.  While a definitive number for the life expectancy effects of playing football is tough to find, ages younger than 60 are cited pretty often (53-59 in this article).  That is a significant departure from the average of 75 for all American males.

American Football has a safety issue.
The need for improvements in the safety procedures and protocols in the NFL (and college and high school) is imperative.  The NFL has been taking steps to improve, and they must continue taking steps.  My dilemma results from not being sure that I can perpetually remain a fan of a game that has the capability of doing so much harm to people.  Would doing so make me a barbarian?

American Nuclear Power does NOT have a safety issue.
I am fully confident that the rules in the United States governing the safety of nuclear power plants and the enforcement of those rules are adequate for protecting the health and safety of the public.  There are stiff penalties (and jail time) for violating NRC rules.  The safety record of commercial nuclear power in the United States is highly enviable (ZERO fatalities, ALL-TIME, Three Mile Island-included).

While Nuclear Power does not have a safety issue that would cause me a dilemma, I do have a dilemma related to nuclear power that comes from a completely different angle.

Here is MY Nuclear Dilemma
Peaceful nuclear power is not being used extensively enough throughout the world and advancements (which are well-known to be possible and likely) in regards to peaceful nuclear power are far from encouraged by the present, existing regulatory environment.  Neither of these issues should be reversed at the expense of maintaining adequate levels of nuclear safety, but luckily they won't have to be.

The world presently has something like 1.1 BILLION people who don't have a good source of clean drinking water.  "Left-over" waste energy from future nuclear power plants should be capable of desalinating vast quantities of water from the ocean to help mitigate this problem.  Many people live in energy poverty.  More than 1.3 Billion people lack any access to electricity, and certainly more than that lack access to reliable electricity.  Having adequate supplies of reliable energy can help solve a significant portion of the world's other poverty-related problems.

Fossil fuels are considerably more finite than fission fuels in regards to feasibly harness-able energy content.  Nuclear power needs to be allowed to be the primary energy source for a growing portion of the world's energy needs if my hypothetical future grandchildren are to have any hope of living in an America (and world) that isn't filled with an increased degree of energy poverty from what present generations have gotten to enjoy (apologies for this 56 word sentence).  Increased energy poverty would almost certainly equal decreased societal wealth and would likely coincide with increased incidences of violence and theft.  That is not a world that we should want to leave behind.

My Nuclear Dilemma is am I doing all I can to help future energy supplies be ABUNDANT.

I have no plans to abandon being a football fan, but I would like to see the NFL (and NCAA and High School governing bodies) strive to make continuous improvements to players head safety.  I realize that there will always be a degree of risk is involved when human bodies often at well over 200 lbs collide and almost instantly decelerate to a stop from speeds of greater than 15 mph (that is a lot of energy to be absorbed somewhere).  I would not advocate shutting down the most popular sport in America, but recent events make it imperative to consider the need for improvements in player safety.
Also, I anticipate the somber tone of this post being a rarity here at Entreprenuclear. Most posts will be much more upbeat overall.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

10. Entreprenuclear View of Energy

Here at Entreprenuclear, the viewpoint is that Energy usage is a good thing that should not be villainized.

Energy can be defined in very simple terms as "the ability to do work" or according to wikipedia as "the ability a physical system has to do work on other physical systems".

Things don't get done if energy is not used.

No Energy = No Work (nor Jobs (and I don't mean Steve))

Reduction in the amount of energy used within an economy equals a reduction in the amount of useful things that can be done within that economy, which will equal an overall reduction of wealth within that economy.  It really is that simple.

While I am a fan of School House Rock and of not being wasteful in using energy, Atomic Energy (if allowed to flourish) can paint a much rosier picture than the video above.

The "favored" source of primary energy here at Entreprenuclear is, of course, Peaceful Atomic/Nuclear Energy.  This favored status is due to the lack of supply issues for nuclear fuel combined with a realization/knowledge that present limitations that have historically hindered Nuclear Energy from flourishing to its full potential are simply man-made, rather than true physical constraints.

Here is a recent posting at Nuclear Green about the lack of any supply issue for nuclear fuels, along with an additional illustration relating to how plentiful nuclear fuels can be from Kirk Sorensen here (which he admits in the comments does not give credit for further gains that would be available for Uranium if utilized within a fast neutron spectrum reactor).

Rod Adams posted a great blog this morning, mentioning that Nuclear Energy can allow mankind to enjoy the benefits of a high energy lifestyle (which include reduced human slavery, enhanced overall liberty/prosperity, and greater gender equality), while exerting a limited impact on the naturally-occurring global systems of the Earth.

All that is needed is for more people to keep understanding the benefits of nuclear energy and for those of us who already understand those benefits to do what we are able to be adding value in entrepreneurial ways in whatever aspects of Peaceful Atomic Energy that we can think of.