WBEZ | nuclear power http://www.wbez.org/tags/nuclear-power Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Did a WWII nuclear experiment make the U of C radioactive? http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/did-wwii-nuclear-experiment-make-u-c-radioactive-106681 <p><p><a name="Audio"></a>In 1942 Enrico Fermi and a team of physicists at the University of Chicago built a nuclear reactor in a squash court under the South Side university&rsquo;s football field. Their successful experiment was a key step toward the creation of the first atomic bomb and, eventually, nuclear power. Impressive, but numerous accounts say the primitive test reactor was constructed with little shielding to protect the outside world from radiation. The story led Mark Eifert, a Chicago native now living in Germany, to wonder:</p><p><em>The first ever self-sustained nuclear reaction was conducted under the University of Chicago&rsquo;s Stagg Field. Is that site still radioactive?</em></p><p>Mark suggested we find someone with a Geiger counter to take a measurement, so we took him up on it.</p><p>But who has a Geiger counter? Meet James Marsicek, the radiation safety officer at the University of Chicago. And yes, Marsicek explained, every major university has a radiation safety officer, because &ldquo;in a clinical setting, many faculty use radioactive material for either diagnostic or therapeutic procedures.&rdquo;</p><p>I joined Marsicek in the Administration Building, about a block away from where Stagg Field used to sit, and we took a control reading there. As Marsicek fired up his Geiger counter, he explained that &ldquo;there&rsquo;s radiation all around us, naturally occurring.&rdquo; This &ldquo;background radiation,&rdquo; he said, will usually measure anywhere from about .02 to .03 millirems per hour on a Geiger counter, and indeed, when we looked at the Geiger counter&rsquo;s needle, that&rsquo;s where it landed.</p><p>From the Administration Building we walked about a block north, stopping near a bronze sculpture designed by Henry Moore that commemorates the first self-sustained nuclear reaction. This spot is close to what used to be Stagg Field, so Marsicek took another reading. The needle again registered .02, the equivalent of normal background radiation. We walked about fifty yards away in the direction of a library building and took another measurement. Same thing.</p><p>As we left the memorial and the site of the former reactor, we passed a student giving a tour. &ldquo;Over here was where the first sustained nuclear reaction took place,&rdquo; he explained. Before long, he added, &ldquo;Don&rsquo;t&rsquo; worry, it isn&rsquo;t dangerous.&rdquo; Apparently, Mark&rsquo;s question is on others&rsquo; minds, too &mdash; seven decades after the experiment ran.</p><p>With the help of technology we can breathe a sigh of relief; there&rsquo;s no undue danger in this corner of the campus, at least not from radiation. But, like I said, the nuclear reactor in question was primitive. So ... were the safety precautions from that time primitive, too? And, why would Fermi risk the chance of <em>any</em> nuclear mishap at a Chicago university in the first place?</p><p><strong>The inner workings of Chicago Pile 1</strong></p><p>For several weeks in the winter of 1942 Fermi&rsquo;s scientists and laborers toiled in the unheated squash court underneath the University of Chicago&rsquo;s abandoned football field, building what was named &ldquo;Chicago Pile 1.&rdquo; They called it a &ldquo;pile&rdquo; because that&rsquo;s what it was: a pile of uranium pellets and graphite bricks, stacked ever-so-precisely. It was so cold most days that technicians and scientists could see their breath. They tried building fires in trash cans, but the room filled with smoke. The pile, which would eventually grow into a spherical shape, was built in meticulous layers, and the men (and one woman) worked in twelve-hour shifts, day and night. Directing the whole operation &ndash; his lab coat black with graphite dust &ndash; was a physicist named Enrico Fermi.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/IMG_3323.jpg" style="margin: 5px; float: right; height: 187px; width: 280px;" title="James Marsicek uses a Geiger counter to check radiation levels near the site where the first sustained nuclear chain reaction took place. (WBEZ/Logan Jaffe)" />Just three years earlier, some of Fermi&rsquo;s contemporaries, including Albert Einstein, had urged President Franklin Roosevelt to commit the United States to building an atomic bomb before Germany could. Physicists believed that by splitting uranium atoms they could create a chain reaction and release immense amounts of energy, the likes of which had never been seen.</p><p>Top-secret research projects were started around the country, including the one at the University of Chicago led by physicist Arthur Compton. Fermi directed the experiment.</p><p>When Fermi began his work at the university, physicists had never witnessed a self-sustained chain reaction. They had crunched the numbers, of course, but no successful experiment had proved what the math had only suggested. Fermi, who had escaped from his native Italy with his Jewish wife, was known as a hands-on physicist &mdash; just the person for testing this theory in a real-world experiment.</p><p>Fermi&rsquo;s pile was remarkable for its crude simplicity; it had neither mechanical parts nor wires. Instead, the pile consisted of alternating layers of uranium and graphite. Basically, it was just a stage to let the uranium do its thing: emit neutrons that would occasionally strike the nuclei of other uranium atoms, thus splitting off even more neutrons. The graphite served as a moderator, which would slow down the neutrons and make them more likely to strike additional uranium nuclei.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/The_first_nuclear_reactor_was_erected_in_1942_in_the_West_Stands_section_of_Stagg_Field_at_the_University_of_Chicago_-_NARA_-_558600.tif_.jpg" style="margin: 5px; float: left; height: 220px; width: 280px;" title="An artist's rendering of Chicago Pile 1. (Wikimedia Commons/U.S. Department of Energy) " />The pile was to become a giant beehive of neutrons buzzing with atomic life, but scientists could quash this activity by manipulating the pile&rsquo;s only moving parts: cadmium rods. The element cadmium naturally absorbs neutrons, so when the rods were in place, the nuclear reaction would almost stop. To get the reaction going, scientists could pull the rods out of the pile and let stray neutrons buzz freely, striking more and more uranium nuclei. The team was aiming for criticality, the point at which, if you removed the cadmium rods and let the pile go, the chain reaction would continue exponentially on its own.</p><p>The team built the pile slowly; with each new layer Fermi would withdraw the cadmium rods and take a count of neutrons before placing the control rods back in the pile. As the workers and scientists milled more and more graphite, their faces grew black as coal miners&rsquo;. Neighbors complained about the noise, not just from tools, but from the men singing to distract themselves from the monotonous work. The pile grew into a black igloo, 25 feet across at its equator and 20 feet tall from pole to pole. After 17 days of adding layers, Fermi knew the pile was big enough to reach criticality.</p><p><strong>Couldn&rsquo;t they do this in the woods?</strong></p><p>Chicago Pile 1 was never meant to be under the University of Chicago&rsquo;s former football field. Project managers originally wanted the full experiment to run in the Red Gate Woods, southwest of the city. But builders at Red Gate went on strike, so Compton and Fermi faced a decision: abandon the experiment, or move it. Fermi told Compton he felt confident that the pile could be built safely and effectively in the squash court under Stagg field.</p><p>&ldquo;We did not see how a true nuclear explosion, such as that of an atomic bomb, could possibly occur,&rdquo; Compton writes in his memoir. &ldquo;But the amount of potentially radioactive material present in the pile would be enormous.&rdquo;</p><p>The physicists I consulted about the 1942 experiment assured me that this was, in fact, a very low-risk experiment and that university physicists today routinely work with higher levels of radiation. This crude reactor could never have exploded like a bomb, which would require highly-enriched uranium. The worst-case scenario for the Chicago experiment? A primitive meltdown, with the pile catching fire and the uranium spewing more radiation.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/8580595804_a274cce969_o.jpg" style="height: 247px; width: 185px; margin: 5px; float: left;" title="Mark Eifert got Curious City scrounging for a Geiger counter and braving history in the first place. " />Compton trusted Fermi, enough so that he chose to move forward with the experiment at Stagg Field without telling the University&rsquo;s president. &ldquo;The only answer he could have given would have been no, and this answer would have been wrong, so I assumed the responsibility myself,&rdquo; said Compton in his memoirs.</p><p>On Dec. 2, 1942, Fermi ordered the last cadmium control rod removed from the pile, took a measurement, and declared the pile to be self-sustaining. And then, for a nerve-wracking 15 minutes, he let the reaction run its course while the neutron counters beeped out of control.</p><p>There are several accounts of this, one of the best being in Richard Rhodes&rsquo; <em>The Making of the Atomic Bomb</em>, which includes this eyewitness account from Herbert Anderson: &ldquo;First you could hear the sound of the neutron counter, the clickety clack, clickety clack. Then the clicks came more and more rapidly and after a while they began to merge into a roar.&rdquo;</p><p>Fermi and his team celebrated the achievement with muted enthusiasm. One of the scientists had brought a bottle of Chianti and they passed it around, drinking out of paper cups. According to Rhodes&rsquo; account, no one made a toast. No one said much of anything at all.</p><p>Eugene Wigner, another physicist on the project, recalls his realization of the far-reaching consequences of the event.</p><p>&ldquo;Even though we had anticipated the success of the experiment, its accomplishment had a deep impact on us,&rdquo; he wrote in an account detailed by Rhodes. &ldquo;For some time we had known that we were about to unlock a giant; still, we could not escape an eerie feeling when we knew we had actually done it.&rdquo;</p><p><strong>The giant is buried</strong></p><p>The following year Chicago Pile 1 was moved out to Red Gate woods, where it was intended to be in the first place. There, scientists reshaped it as a cube and renamed it Chicago Pile 2. When its physicist guardians felt they had learned all they could from the pile, they buried it in the woods. This burial site is on public land and even has a gravestone to befuddle unsuspecting hikers and other passersby. It reads:</p><p><em>The world&#39;s first nuclear reactor was rebuilt at this site in 1943 after initial operation at the University of Chicago. This reactor (CP-2) and the first heavy-water moderated reactor (CP-3) were major facilities around which developed the Argonne national laboratory. This site was released by the laboratory in 1956 and the US atomic energy commission then buried the reactors here.</em></p><p>The grave isn&rsquo;t easy to find &ndash; Google Maps will lead you only to an unmarked trail-head and, after you arrive, you&rsquo;ll find no sign saying &ldquo;Nuclear reactor this way.&rdquo; (This map below will help you on your adventure.) But if you&#39;re a little weak-kneed about visiting or you feel uncomfortable hitting up the stray jogger or hiker about the pile&rsquo;s ultimate demise, you can find details and a museum-like tour at the nearby <a href="http://www.anl.gov/articles/argonne-marks-70th-anniversary-first-man-made-nuclear-chain-reaction">Argonne National Laboratory</a>.</p><p><a href="http://www.scribd.com/doc/136520009/The-burial-site-for-Chicago-Pile-1" name="Map" style="font-family: Helvetica, Arial, sans-serif; font-size: 14px;" title="View The burial site for Chicago Pile 1 on Scribd">The burial site for Chicago Pile 1</a></p><p><iframe class="scribd_iframe_embed" data-aspect-ratio="undefined" data-auto-height="false" frameborder="0" height="600" id="doc_74720" scrolling="no" src="http://www.scribd.com/embeds/136520009/content?start_page=1&amp;view_mode=scroll" width="620"></iframe></p></p> Tue, 16 Apr 2013 19:12:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/did-wwii-nuclear-experiment-make-u-c-radioactive-106681 Nuclear power: The ultimate near shore threat to the Great Lakes? http://www.wbez.org/news/nuclear-power-ultimate-near-shore-threat-great-lakes-104539 <p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/palisades_small.jpg" style="height: 442px; width: 620px;" title="Palisades Nuclear Power Plant on Lake Michigan. (U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission)" /></div><p>&ldquo;I hope you rethink your really scary plan to bury radioactive waste located only half a mile from Lake Huron&hellip;&rdquo;</p><p>That&rsquo;s a <a href="http://www.thestar.com/business/article/1217530--u-s-residents-protest-bruce-nuclear-waste-proposal" target="_blank">concerned citizen</a> responding to a Canadian nuclear power company&rsquo;s <a href="http://www.michiganradio.org/post/plan-store-lower-level-nuclear-waste-near-lake-huron" target="_blank">proposal</a> to store radioactive waste underground near Lake Huron for 100,000 years.</p><p>The best-known near shore threats to the Great Lakes are raw sewage and algae blooms. Both receive considerable attention from government agencies and accounts about them are regularly reported in the popular media.</p><p>The threat posed by the nuclear power plants that dot the region could easily trump both. It may be the ultimate near shore threat.</p><p>There are <a href="http://illinoispirg.org/news/ilp/nuclear-power-plants-pose-risks-drinking-water-illinois" target="_blank">33 nuclear reactors</a> in the Great Lakes region, many of them near the water&rsquo;s edge such as Palisades in Michigan.</p><p>After a seeming dormant period of public concern about nuclear power risks, awareness increased this past year. The Fukushima Japan meltdown is likely the reason.&nbsp; That incident played out in the news over weeks and impacted not only nearby residents and workers but food and water supplies. Remnant amounts of radioactivity eventually hit this nation&rsquo;s west coast.</p><p>Closer to home, there has been increasing activity in Canada. In addition to the 100,000-year underground waste storage proposal, Bruce Power has sought permits to transport contaminated equipment on the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River to Sweden for decontamination.</p><p>That&rsquo;s an issue for activist John Jackson.</p><p>He&rsquo;s concerned about transporting nuclear waste on lakes and rivers because &ldquo;most accidents happen near harbors&rdquo; which means near population centers.&nbsp; Jackson is executive director of Great Lakes United, a bi-national group that focuses on Great Lakes issues.</p><p>His group, and others want the U.S. and Canada to assess &rdquo;the risks, threats and unknowns&ldquo; of nuclear power plants.</p><p>They have asked the International Joint Commission to request the U.S. and Canada to reinstate a task force for the assessment.&nbsp;&nbsp; The commission, which advises the countries on trans-border water issues,&nbsp; has declined.</p><p>&ldquo;Traditionally, such references (requests) either come with funding to conduct the examination or direction as to how such a study would be funded,&rdquo; said John Nevin a spokesperson for the commission.</p><p>&ldquo;Short of such action by the governments, the commission continues to monitor this important issue and remains acutely aware of the concerns raised by the public on both sides of border.&rdquo;</p><p>Jackson disagrees and says the commission &ldquo;sets up task forces all the time.&rdquo;</p><h2><strong>Illinois Senator concerned</strong></h2><p>The Zion Nuclear Station is equally 50 miles north of Chicago and south of Milwaukee on the shores of Lake Michigan.</p><p>&ldquo;The Zion facility holds roughly 1,100 tons of nuclear waste just yards away from Lake Michigan,&rdquo; says Nicole Barrett, a spokesperson for Illinois Sen. Mark Kirk.</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s critical the nation protects its water resources from nuclear contamination,&rdquo; Barrett said. &ldquo;We must find a safe, permanent storage facility for the country&rsquo;s nuclear waste.&rdquo;</p><p>Kirk has a keen interest in near shore Great Lakes issues including the dumping of billions of gallons of sewage into the lakes.</p><p>He is in a position to spotlight near shore threats as he co-chairs the senate <a href="http://www.nemw.org/index.php/great-lakes-task-forces2" target="_blank">Great Lakes Task Force</a> with Michigan Sen. Carl Levin. The task force prioritizes and emphasizes Great Lakes issues in Congress.</p><h2><strong>A precautionary tool</strong></h2><p>A new addition to the recent update to the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement between the U.S. and Canada requires caution:&nbsp; &ldquo;Where there are threats of serious or irreversible damage, lack of full scientific certainty shall not be used as a reason for postponing cost-effective measures to prevent environmental degradation.&rdquo;</p><p>This precautionary approach seems tailor-made for nuclear issues like underground storage of waste. Who can say with certainty that it&rsquo;s safe to store waste for 1,000 years let alone 100,000?</p><p>The test as always with the agreement is will the U.S. and Canada comply with the document of their own creation?</p><p>Understanding the advantages, risks and threats of nuclear energy is daunting. That may be why we don&rsquo;t hear much about it until there is a problem. Then all hell breaks loose as with the Fukushima disaster.</p><p>Those of a certain age may remember Pennsylvania&rsquo;s <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Three_Mile_Island_accident" target="_blank">Three Mile Island</a> near disaster. A huge concern then was that we didn&rsquo;t know what we didn&rsquo;t know. And it&rsquo;s inherent in us to fear the unknown, with justification, when it comes to nuclear power because of the potential for a loss of drinking water, evacuations and long-term threat of disease.</p><p>The Great Lakes region has a long history of neglecting or ignoring its environmental problems.</p><p>Palisades Nuclear Power Plant on Lake Michigan. Image: U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission</p><p>The many legacy toxic hotspots that dot our shores were ignored for decades and it will be decades more before they&rsquo;re cleaned up. That assumes we have the will to keep funding the effort.</p><p>Every year we continue to dump billions of gallons of sewage into our rivers and lakes because we won&rsquo;t invest in infrastructure. That shows no signs of changing and those problems aren&rsquo;t insurmountable, if we want to tackle them.</p><p>However they pale compared to the consequences of neglecting the nuclear waste storage and transport issues.&nbsp; The least the U.S. and Canada can do is assess those threats and unknowns.</p><p>Senators Kirk and Levin could easily use the gravitas of their offices to spotlight this issue and they should if their concern for the Great Lakes is more than perfunctory.</p><p>To neglect the nuclear threats that are literally on our shores&hellip;&hellip; that&rsquo;s &ldquo;really scary.&rdquo;</p><p><em><a class="underlined" href="http://greatlakesecho.org/" target="_blank">Great Lakes Echo</a> is a project of the <a href="http://ej.msu.edu/index2.php" target="_blank">Knight Center for Environmental Journalism</a> at Michigan State University. </em></p></p> Fri, 21 Dec 2012 15:25:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/nuclear-power-ultimate-near-shore-threat-great-lakes-104539 Exelon upgrades equipment at Byron nuclear plant http://www.wbez.org/story/exelon-upgrades-equipment-byron-nuclear-plant-97462 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/photo/2012-March/2012-03-20/AP110314139210.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Exelon Energy says it has finished upgrading equipment at a northern Illinois nuclear plant where a power failure caused a reactor to shut down two months ago.</p><p>The company says it has replaced electrical insulators in the switchyards that help move power to and from the reactors at the Byron Generating Station, which is located about 95 miles northwest of Chicago.</p><p>In January, an insulator in Unit 2 switchyard failed and interrupted power, causing the reactor to automatically shut down as a precaution.</p><p>Insulators are protective equipment that helps regulate the flow of electricity.</p><p>Exelon says Unit 1 was taken offline last week while upgrades were finished, and Unit 2 upgrades were finished over the weekend. Both units are back online at full power and generating electricity.</p></p> Tue, 20 Mar 2012 15:26:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/exelon-upgrades-equipment-byron-nuclear-plant-97462 What's next for Iran? http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-12-06/whats-next-iran-94618 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/segment/photo/2011-December/2011-12-05/iran2.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>The tit for tat with Iran continues.</p><p>After rioting outside Britain's embassy in Tehran, Prime Minister David Cameron expelled Iranian diplomats in London and shuttered their embassy. In the United States, the senate unanimously approved legislation that would penalize any foreign bank that does business with Iran’s central bank. The EU, for its part, increased sanctions.</p><p>Over the weekend, the Iranians claimed to have shot down a U.S. drone that was on an intelligence gathering mission.</p><p><a href="http://www.lakeforest.edu/academics/faculty/sadri/" target="_blank">Ahmad Sadri</a>, a professor of Islamic world studies at Lake Forest College, parses the latest developments.</p></p> Tue, 06 Dec 2011 18:00:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-12-06/whats-next-iran-94618 Gas drilling could take air out of offshore wind http://www.wbez.org/content/gas-drilling-could-take-air-out-offshore-wind <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/photo/2011-November/2011-11-08/Wind_Farm_D36.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>I understand the power of Lake Erie wind as soon we’re out past the breakwaters of Cleveland Harbor. The waves make our 74-foot tugboat bob like a rubber toy in my preschooler’s bath tub.</p><p>Before long, I’m sweating and looking for a place to heave.</p><p>Right next to me, Bill Mason seems to be enjoying the ride. In fact, he wants to show me a spot where the wind is even stronger. “Where we’re headed is to an anemometer,” Mason says, mispronouncing the instrument’s name. “It’s been measuring the wind speeds since, I think, 2007. So I know we have good wind.”</p><p>Mason doesn’t know all the particulars about wind energy. But, as the Cuyahoga County prosecutor, he knows a lot about Northeast Ohio. Since taking office in 1999, Mason has seen about a 100,000 manufacturing jobs disappear from the area.</p><p>Installing a handful of wind turbines offshore could spark a revival, Mason says, changing Cleveland’s image from a deindustrialized ghost town to “a green city on the blue lake.”</p><p><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/insert-image/2011-November/2011-11-09/RS4522_Wind_Farm_A28-scr.jpg" style="width: 275px; height: 184px; margin-left: 0px; margin-right: 18px; float: left;" title="Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Bill Mason says putting turbines in Lake Erie could revive the city. (Front and Center/Bridget Caswell)">Mason has been promoting the wind-farm idea for seven years. In 2009, he helped form a quasi-public group, the Lake Erie Energy Development Corporation, to turn the idea into reality. Representing Cleveland and four counties along the lake, LEEDCo has held dozens of community meetings. It has secured an option for nine square miles of the lake. It has studied possible impacts on wildlife. And it has begun work on designs and permits.</p><p>Mason tells me Cleveland could help build offshore wind farms throughout the Great Lakes. He points to the city’s proximity to rail lines, deep-water port facilities and manufacturers. He says companies in the area could retool to make parts and supplies ranging from transmission cables to ice-resistant blade coating. The wind-farm supporters commissioned a study that says their project could lead to 15,000 new Ohio jobs within two decades.</p><p>The supply chain could include Lincoln Electric, which makes welding equipment in Euclid, a suburb northeast of Cleveland. Lincoln Electric is already getting a taste of wind-energy generation since installing a 443-foot-tall turbine this year to help power the company’s main plant.</p><p>Driving up the lakeshore, I can see the three rotor blades spinning from miles away. On a windy day, the tips go 160 miles an hour, the company tells me. But I can’t hear any sound from the turbine until I’m within a stone’s throw. Looking straight up at the blades, I notice a subtle swoosh as each one passes.</p><p><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/insert-image/2011-November/2011-11-09/RS4525_Wind_Farm_D36-scr.jpg" style="width: 275px; height: 183px; float: right; margin-left: 15px; margin-right: 4px;" title="Lincoln Electric’s Seth Mason says his company’s new turbine provides a case study for the offshore project. (Front and Center/Bridget Caswell)">The turbine has given a lot of local people—from regulators to engineers to truck drivers—their first contact with a wind project. Lincoln Electric energy manager Seth Mason (no relation to the prosecutor) says this experience could help with the offshore installation, which would be just a few miles away.</p><p>“You basically have the same wind regime [and] you’re basically going to have the same amount of migratory birds at this longitude,” Mason says. “So I think it provides a case study for the next machine.”</p><p>It’s not just local boosters who think a Lake Erie wind farm could revive Northeast Ohio. Christopher Hart, the U.S. Department of Energy’s offshore wind chief, sees it that way too. “If a place like Cleveland is able to establish the demonstration project and then is able to leverage that demonstration project into a larger position in the industry, this could really, really have an impact on the local economy.”</p><p>Hart tells me Cleveland has the best shot at installing the first Great Lakes wind farm. But he points to a huge barrier: “Given the current technology, given the current regulatory structure, offshore wind doesn’t make economic sense.”</p><p>DOE calculations suggest it’s more than twice as expensive to generate electricity from offshore wind as from coal, natural gas or nuclear fission. The New York Power Authority pointed to costs this fall when it pulled the plug on some proposed Great Lakes turbines.</p><p> <style type="text/css"> div .inline { width: 290px; float: left; margin-right: 19px; margin-left: 3px; clear: left; font-family: Arial,Helvetica,sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 1em; background-repeat: no-repeat; background-position: 0pt 5px; padding-left: 3px; margin-bottom: 0.5em; }div .inlineContent { border-top: 1px dotted rgb(170, 33, 29); margin-bottom: 5px; margin-top: 2px; }ul { margin-left: 15px; }li { font-family: Arial,Helvetica,sans-serif; font-size: 12px; line-height: 1em; background-repeat: no-repeat; background-position: 0pt 5px; padding-left: 3px; margin-bottom: 0.5em; }</style> </p><div class="inline"><div class="inlineContent"><a href="/frontandcenter"><img alt="" src="http://www.wbez.org/sites/default/files/story/insert-image/2011-November/2011-11-06/FC-logo-sm_0.jpg" style="width: 280px; height: 38px;" title=""></a><ul><li><strong><a href="http://www.wbez.org/story/plant-entrepreneurs-turn-waste-jobs-93782"><span style="color: rgb(255, 0, 0);">ViDEO:</span></a> <a href="http://www.wbez.org/story/plant-entrepreneurs-turn-waste-jobs-93782">Plant turns waste into jobs</a></strong></li><li><a href="http://www.wbez.org/imadeajob"><strong><span style="color: rgb(255, 0, 0);">INTERACT: </span>Made a Job? Tell us about it.</strong></a></li><li><a href="http://www.wbez.org/story/can-milwaukee-become-silicon-valley-water-93835"><strong>The Silicon Valley of water</strong>:<strong> Milwaukee?</strong></a></li></ul></div><div class="inlineContent">&nbsp;</div></div><p>That frustrates Chris Wisseman, who leads a consortium called Freshwater Wind that LEEDCo chose last year to develop Cleveland’s offshore wind farm. “All we’re talking about here is a new technology that looks like it’s got the ability to be very cost-effective inside of a decade,” he says.</p><p>The construction will run about $130 million, Wisseman tells me. The financing will be tricky because few utilities are eager to buy electricity that is so expensive. The only purchaser on board so far is municipally owned Cleveland Public Power, which has agreed to buy a quarter of the wind-farm output.</p><p>So LEEDCo is pushing for Ohio to <em>compel</em> utilities to buy the electricity and pass along the cost to customers—a process known as rate recovery. If the plan covered just northern Ohio, Wisseman says, business and residential customers would each pay an extra $0.40 a month.</p><p>The area’s big utility, Akron-based First Energy, says it won’t take a stand on that rate recovery until it sees a proposal. The Ohio Association of Manufacturers tells me it will probably go along with the plan if it doesn’t hit electricity-intensive companies hard.</p><p><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/insert-image/2011-November/2011-11-08/Kasich.jpg" style="width: 275px; height: 268px; margin-top: 5px; margin-left: 0px; margin-right: 18px; float: left;" title="Ohio Gov. John Kasich isn’t saying whether he’ll support rate recovery for the offshore wind project. (AP/File)">But rate recovery won’t get far without support from Gov. John Kasich. He appoints the members of the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio, which regulates the state’s electricity rates. And his Republican Party controls both houses of the state legislature.</p><p>At an energy forum Kasich’s office organized this fall, the governor didn’t leave any doubt that his energy focus would be an Appalachian rock layer called Utica Shale. In Ohio, that shale holds a lot of natural gas. To free up the fuel, companies such as Oklahoma-based Chesapeake Energy Corp. want to drill thousands of horizontal wells and inject pressurized fluids—a process known as fracking.</p><p>An industry-funded study says the fracking could create more than 200,000 jobs in Ohio over the next four years. The potential boom is keeping Kasich’s staff busy. “We have had 129 separate meetings—5 regional meetings, 78 with business associations, 46 meetings with oil-and-gas division experts—all across Ohio,” the governor said at the forum.</p><p>At the same time, contaminated groundwater in nearby Pennsylvania is giving fracking a bad name. Kasich promises environmental safeguards for Ohio.</p><p>The governor says he’ll also promote renewable energy efforts. So, when I catch up with him, I ask whether those will include Cleveland’s offshore wind project.</p><p>“There is a place for renewables,” Kasich replies. “But we have to be very clear: They’re very expensive. That doesn’t mean there aren’t opportunities in the state. It doesn’t mean that over time they [won’t] become less expensive. But specific projects have to be looked at very, very carefully.”</p><p><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/insert-image/2011-November/2011-11-09/RS4524_Wind_Farm_C26-scr.jpg" style="width: 275px; height: 184px; margin-left: 15px; margin-right: 2px; margin-top: 5px; float: right;" title="A tugboat captain who knows about Lake Erie wind recalls cleaning a seasick crewmate with a hose. (Front and Center/Bridget Caswell)">I press Kasich, asking whether he will support the rate recovery proposed for the offshore project. He declines to answer.</p><p>Another Ohio Republican is talking about that rate recovery. State Sen. Kris Jordan, who represents suburbs north of Columbus, tells me it’s a bad idea. “I just don’t believe—when we have more affordable, more ready energy sources—that government should be subsidizing" an offshore wind farm.</p><p>Back on the Lake Erie tugboat, the vessel’s captain notices my pale color. He says he once had to clean off a seasick crewmate with a hose.</p><p>Bill Mason, the prosecutor behind the proposed wind farm, agrees I’ve seen enough of the lake. On the way back to port, he shakes his head at the thought of a natural-gas boom tripping up his project.</p><p>“We don’t know how much energy is going to be produced from this fracking,” Mason says. “We don’t know the environmental damage that possibly could happen from it. And we don’t know what it’s going to cost, if there is damage, for that recovery. If we take that step down that road, won’t it be nice to know that we have other alternatives such as the wind industry out here on the Great Lakes?”</p><p>And wouldn’t it be nice, Mason adds, if the center of that industry were Cleveland?</p><p>&nbsp;</p><h2>Great Lakes wind projects struggle for footing</h2><p>Offshore wind-energy advocates face tall hurdles in the Great Lakes, but some projects are advancing. WBEZ’s Maham Khan brings us these snapshots.</p><script type="text/javascript" src="http://public.tableausoftware.com/javascripts/api/viz_v1.js"></script><div class="tableauPlaceholder" style="width: 554px; height: 769px;"><noscript><a href="#"><img alt="Offshore wind " src="http:&#47;&#47;public.tableausoftware.com&#47;static&#47;images&#47;Gr&#47;GreatLakesoffshorewindfarmproposalsandstudies&#47;Offshorewind&#47;1_rss.png" style="height: 100%; width: 100%; border: none" /></a></noscript><object class="tableauViz" style="display: none;" width="554" height="769"><param name="host_url" value="http%3A%2F%2Fpublic.tableausoftware.com%2F"><param name="name" value="GreatLakesoffshorewindfarmproposalsandstudies/Offshorewind"><param name="tabs" value="no"><param name="toolbar" value="yes"><param name="static_image" value="http://public.tableausoftware.com/static/images/Gr/GreatLakesoffshorewindfarmproposalsandstudies/Offshorewind/1.png"><param name="animate_transition" value="yes"><param name="display_static_image" value="yes"><param name="display_spinner" value="yes"><param name="display_overlay" value="yes"></object></div><div style="width: 554px; height: 22px; padding: 0px 10px 0px 0px; color: black; font: 8pt verdana,helvetica,arial,sans-serif;"><div style="float: right; padding-right: 8px;">&nbsp;</div></div></p> Wed, 09 Nov 2011 11:11:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/content/gas-drilling-could-take-air-out-offshore-wind India’s singular nuclear history and implications of U.S.-India nuclear energy deal http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-07-29/india%E2%80%99s-singular-nuclear-history-and-implications-us-india-nuclear-energ <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/segment/photo/2011-July/2011-07-29/India.JPG" alt="" /><p><p>India is a clear outlier in the global nuclear community. Though the South Asian nation possesses nuclear weapons, it refused to sign the Non-Proliferation Treaty.</p><p>For decades, signatories of the NPT labeled India an outcast. But power dynamics shifted in 2008, when the U.S. backed away from a decades-long moratorium on nuclear trade with India.</p><p>We speak to <a href="http://www.indiana.edu/%7Ealldrp/members/ganguly.html" target="_blank">Sumit Ganguly</a>, the director of research at Indiana University’s <a href="http://www.indiana.edu/%7Ecags/index.shtml" target="_blank">Center for American and Global Security</a>, about India’s unique role as a nuclear power.</p></p> Fri, 29 Jul 2011 17:21:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-07-29/india%E2%80%99s-singular-nuclear-history-and-implications-us-india-nuclear-energ After a half century of unwavering support, Japan should become nuclear free, says prime minister http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-07-29/after-half-century-unwavering-support-japan-should-become-nuclear-free-s <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/segment/photo/2011-July/2011-07-29/japan2.JPG" alt="" /><p><p>Earlier this month, Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan called for a society that doesn’t rely on nuclear power. His announcement stunned some of the political establishment, but it seems in line with Japanese public opinion. A recent poll revealed that 70% supported Kan's nuclear strategy. But the prime minister faces serious political hurdles: about 66% of Japanese voters would like to see him resign at the end of the Diet session in August.</p><p><a href="http://web.ics.purdue.edu/%7Edaldrich/" target="_blank">Daniel Aldrich</a> is an associate professor of political science at Purdue University and a visiting fellow at the East-West Center in Honolulu. He just returned from a trip to Japan. We talk to him about Kan’s plans to curb nuclear power and ask whether a nuclear-free Japan is even possible.</p></p> Fri, 29 Jul 2011 17:15:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-07-29/after-half-century-unwavering-support-japan-should-become-nuclear-free-s At U.S. nuclear reactors, crews train for the worst http://www.wbez.org/story/2011-07-05/us-nuclear-reactors-crews-train-worst-88772 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/npr_story/photo/2011-July/2011-07-06/nuclear-control-room-simulation_custom.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Some nuclear industry officials say if Japan had U.S.-style training for its operators, they might have fared better during the multiple meltdowns at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant. In Japan, workers train on generic simulators. Here, every nuclear power plant has an exact mockup of its control room so plant operators can practice more realistic disaster scenarios.</p><p>Take for example the Grand Gulf Nuclear Generating Station, south of Vicksburg, Miss., on the Mississippi River.</p><p>One recent morning, reactor operators who would normally report to work at the plant instead showed up for work in a building outside the fence, overlooking the plant's iconic cooling tower. They step into a room that looks exactly like the control room where they spend most of their working days.</p><p>"What you're seeing is a physical replica, down to the books on the shelves and where the trash cans are located, of what the operators will use on a day-to-day basis in the plant," says Pat Berry, who heads training for Entergy, the plant's owner.</p><p>He's here today to watch as the plant's crew is put to the test, with a simulated "bad day at the plant."</p><p><strong>(Simulated) Crises Unfold</strong></p><p>Lights start flashing almost immediately.</p><p>"We have a CRD malfunction, due to bravo CRD pump trip," calls out Roger Bond, who's in charge of the faux control room.</p><p>In other words, a pump has failed. And just as the crew checks to be sure a backup pump is working properly, they're hit with another barrage of alarms.</p><p>"Ready for update?" Bond calls out. After a chorus of readies, Bond reports that this simulated plant has now lost a big chunk of its electric power supply. If power can't be restored quickly, the rules say to shut down the reactor — fast. And now adrenaline starts to flow.</p><p>"Attention all personnel, attention all personnel, evacuate containment — evacuate containment," comes a voice from over the loudspeaker.</p><p>As each event unfolds, the crew reacts by the book. Literally. They flip open loose-leaf binders that guide them through the crisis procedures. At this point, it's time for an emergency shutdown.</p><p>"Reactor pressure is about 950 p.s.i.g. and stable," a worker calls out. "All control rods are full in. Reactor power is zero and stable."</p><p>But just as it seems everything is under control, more alarms ring out.</p><p>"Ready for update?" Bond calls out again. "We have a LOCA in the drywell. End of update." LOCA is a "loss of coolant accident." In real life, this is very serious — it was the cause of the meltdowns at Fukushima Dai-ichi.</p><p>"So essentially they have a hole in the reactor, so they're losing water out of the reactor," explains training chief Pat Berry. "So the challenge to the crew now is how to keep the core covered and cooled, even though they've got a hole in a pipe, they've got the loss of a major part of the electrical power distribution system, and they're missing that control-rod drive pump we took away from them at the beginning of the scenario."</p><p>They open a series of valves and release billows of make-believe steam into a chamber called the drywell. That relieves pressure in the reactor so they can and pump more water into it. In real life, Berry says, this would ruin the nuclear fuel, but it would prevent a meltdown.</p><p><strong>When Training Isn't Enough</strong></p><p>At this point, the instructors stop the scenario so they can critique it. This one went well, Berry says, though every now and then the crew does end up in the midst of a simulated meltdown.</p><p>"It can happen," Berry says. "If the operators take the right actions, we should be able to avoid that, but occasionally we'll challenge the operating crew to the point where they may find difficulty in doing that."</p><p>Berry says reactor operators in these training scenarios can respond to some pretty intense crises, on the scale even of Fukushima.</p><p>But David Lochbaum, a nuclear engineer at a watchdog group called the Union of Concerned Scientists, says he's skeptical that the mess in Japan could have been prevented, given the real-world conditions there.</p><p>"Training would have helped deal with the challenge they had, but when you're faced with a loss of power for as long as Fukushima went, I think they might have changed the pathway a little bit, but I think the destination would have been largely the same," Lochbaum says.</p><p>He adds that you can't truly simulate the kind of crisis response we saw at Fukushima, where a lot of the action took place outside the control rooms. Workers scrambled around to try to read dials, fix electrical circuits and struggle with stalled pumps. And he adds training might not be enough when a crew is confronting not only severe conditions but simultaneous crises at multiple reactors.</p><p>"Fukushima showed us that we could have an across-the-board situation where all the reactors are in jeopardy and there's no on-site cavalry that can come running to the aid of the accident unit," Lochbaum says.</p><p>He adds that overall, the U.S. training system is an important element of emergency preparedness. But it's no guarantee that crews here can handle anything and everything thrown their way. <div class="fullattribution">Copyright 2011 National Public Radio.</p> Tue, 05 Jul 2011 23:01:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/2011-07-05/us-nuclear-reactors-crews-train-worst-88772 Floodwater seeps into Nebraska nuke plant building http://www.wbez.org/story/2011-06-27/floodwater-seeps-nebraska-nuke-plant-building-88378 <p><p>Officials say that floodwater seeping into the turbine building at a nuclear power plant near Omaha on the banks of the Missouri River is not a safety risk.</p><p>Omaha Public Power District spokesman Jeff Hanson said Monday that seepage was expected at the Fort Calhoun Nuclear Station and that pumps are handling the problem.</p><p>Hanson says no nuclear material is kept in the turbine building and that "everything is secure and safe." The plant has been closed for refueling since April.</p><p>The head of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission will be inspecting the plant on Monday and talking to OPPD officials.</p><p>An 8-foot-tall, water-filled temporary berm collapsed at the plant early Sunday. Vendor workers are at the site to determine whether the berm can be repaired or will require replacement. <div class="fullattribution">Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. <img src="http://metrics.npr.org/b/ss/nprapidev/5/1309182736?&gn=Floodwater+Seeps+Into+Nebraska+Nuke+Plant+Building&ev=event2&ch=1003&h1=U.S.,Home+Page+Top+Stories,News&c3=D%3Dgn&v3=D%3Dgn&c4=137445325&c7=1003&v7=D%3Dc7&c18=1003&v18=D%3Dc18&c19=20110627&v19=D%3Dc19&c20=1&v20=D%3Dc20&c45=MDA0OTc2MjAwMDEyNjk0NDE4OTI2NmUwNQ001"/></div></p></p> Mon, 27 Jun 2011 08:49:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/2011-06-27/floodwater-seeps-nebraska-nuke-plant-building-88378 U.S. deal transforms nuclear energy for longtime outcast India http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-03-31/us-deal-transforms-nuclear-energy-longtime-outcast-india-84547 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/segment/photo/2011-March/2011-03-31/98420123.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>This week we’re looking at nuclear power around the world, in light of the growing crisis at the Fukushima power plant in Japan. Today, we focus on an outlier in the nuclear community: India. The south Asian nation possesses nuclear weapons but never signed the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). That made it an outcast amongst NPT nations for decades. &nbsp;The situation changed in 2008, when the U.S. began to cooperate with India on nuclear energy issues. <a href="http://www.indiana.edu/%7Ealldrp/members/ganguly.html" target="_blank">Sumit Ganguly</a>, director of research at Indiana University’s Center for American and Global Security, discusses how this deal has impacted India’s energy sector.</p></p> Thu, 31 Mar 2011 17:48:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-03-31/us-deal-transforms-nuclear-energy-longtime-outcast-india-84547