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Nuclear News - Nuclear Monitor #855 - 13 December 2017

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

Storage steals the spotlight at nuclear power's birthday party

It was nuclear power's birthday bash but Chris Crane, president and CEO of Exelon Corp., the largest nuclear operator in the US, named energy storage the most promising technology of the future, one that could render nuclear power unnecessary.

"In our view the long-term viable technology that will drive a cleaner future is economic storage," Crane said at 'Reactions: New Perspectives on Our Nuclear Legacy', the University of Chicago's commemoration of the first man-made nuclear reaction 75 years ago under the stands of its abandoned football stadium.

Crane's comments departed from those of former Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz, who, delivering the event's closing keynote, insisted the United States must continue to pursue nuclear energy for reasons of both climate and national security.

Crane still defended his company's 24 existing nuclear plants, because he contends energy storage hasn't arrived yet. Even though the cost of lithium-ion batteries has dropped precipitously and promises to continue to do so, Crane contends storage hasn't arrived because lithium-ion does not provide all the features the energy market needs. "Storage is becoming much more economic, but those are one-hour and four-hour discharges, and they only have a life cycle of so long," he said. "We need days of discharges."

So Crane is betting on whatever the national labs develop for next-generation energy storage. "What we need to do is continue with the labs and continue the research that's going on: what is life beyond lithium ion, what is the storage mechanism that we can harness more renewable energy in that form?" he said. In the meantime, existing nuclear plants should be kept open, with license renewals and fairer financial terms, he said, but with the understanding that they are "transition assets."

Both Crane and Moniz concede new nuclear plants are unlikely to be built, at least new nuclear plants that resemble the ones Exelon operates today. "In this country it seems very unlikely today that we will see another 1,000 Watt-plus plant being built, at least in my lifetime, it would seem," Moniz said. "So we need some innovation here if nuclear power is to play a role in this very low carbon environment."

Moniz and Crane both also expressed uncertainty about the prospects of the likely form that innovation will take: small modular reactors. "I don't know if all of this will come together to give an effective, attractive source, but we're never going to find out if we don't get there," Moniz said. "It's the kind of thing that we've got to find out if that dog hunts. Is it going to perform economically? It's got great safety characteristics. There are reasons to be optimistic from the point of view that if you have a much smaller plant you don't have the capital at risk. You may get better financing."

Abridged from: Jeff McMahon, 2 Dec 2017, 'Battery Storage Steals The Spotlight At Nuclear Power's Birthday Party',

Grappling with the bomb ‒ Britain's Pacific H-bomb tests

Grappling with the Bomb is a history of Britain's 1950s program to test the hydrogen bomb, code name Operation Grapple. In 1957–58, nine atmospheric nuclear tests were held at Malden Island and Christmas Island in the British Gilbert and Ellice Islands Colony ‒ today, part of the Pacific nation of Kiribati.

Nearly 14,000 British troops travelled to the central Pacific for Operation Grapple. They were joined by hundreds of New Zealand sailors, Gilbertese labourers and Fijian troops. Today, decades later, survivors suffer from serious illnesses they attribute to exposure to hazardous levels of ionising radiation.

On the 60th anniversary of the tests, Grappling with the Bomb details regional opposition to Britain's testing program in the 1950s, with protests from Fiji, Cook Islands, Western Samoa, Japan and other nations.

Based on archival research and interviews with nuclear survivors, Nic Maclellan's book presents portraits of i-Kiribati woman Sui Kiritome, British pacifist Harold Steele, businessman James Burns, Fijian sailor Paul Ah Poy, English volunteers Mary and Billie Burgess and many other witnesses to Britain's nuclear folly.

The book can be ordered ‒ or downloaded for free ‒ at

Nic Maclellan, 'Grappling with the Bomb ‒ Britain's Pacific H-bomb tests', ANU Press, Canberra, 2017.

Canada: Indigenous demonstrators urge governments to stop using nuclear power

A large demonstration at Queen's Park called on Canadian governments to phase out nuclear power and opt for renewable energy sources instead. First Nations people and environmentalists from around Ontario joined in solidarity on November 9. Initially, they had gathered to attend a panel discussion on Wednesday at the University of Toronto.

Some held placards baring the words "Protect the sacred." They formed a drum circle at one point. Activists say waste generated by nuclear energy must be regulated more efficiently, and that future production of nuclear power will only lead to more waste, so it should be terminated in order to safeguard human and environmental health.

"Collectively, we're addressing the nuclear industry and what is to be done with the waste afterwards," said Quinn Meawasige, 24, a member of Bawating Water Protectors, a grass-roots organization. "We're raising awareness. We don't want to burden our future generations with this problem. We need to act now."

First Nations remain steadfast in their opposition to a waste repository at the Bruce nuclear facility, located near Lake Huron. The federal government has yet to sign-off on the project proposed by Ontario Power Generation.

"There's no burial or transportation of radioactive waste without the free, prior and informed consent of the Indigenous communities, the First Nations who would be impacted," Meawasige said. "We need to be working toward a renewable future."

Anishinabek Nation Grand Council Chief Patrick Madahbee is focused on the solution, he said, which starts with individual environmental stewardship. "You can write letters to the editors of papers. You can write letters to your member of parliament, petition environmental ministers," he said. "Would you poison your mother? That's really what we're doing when we poison mother earth. We're saying we got to stop this nonsense."

Abridged from: Julien Gignac, 9 Nov 2017,

Japan: Data falsifications by Kobe Steel uncovered

Kobe Steel admitted on October 8 to rewriting inspection certificates for some of its products and other misconduct. Since then, one scandal after another has come to light, affecting many more of its products. In fact, the company appears to have been falsifying data or cheating in other ways for decades.

Deliveries to nuclear power facilities have also been affected by these scandals. One case, revealed on October 13, involved replacement pipes that were scheduled to be used in a heat exchanger of a residual heat removal system at Fukushima Daini Unit 3 (BWR, 1,100 MW). Another came to light on the 25th regarding centrifuge parts that had not yet been used at the Rokkasho uranium enrichment plant. Components produced by Kobe Steel include items like radiating fins on fuel transport casks and welding materials used in feed water heaters, the upper lids of PWR pressure vessels, moisture separation superheaters, light water reactor fuel cladding tubes, nuclear reactor pressure vessels, and so on. As of November 15, however, no improprieties involving these items had been reported.

Japan's Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) has called for the electric power companies to ensure that the components in question are not being used. The electric power companies are requesting similar confirmation from the plant makers. Leaving this up to such voluntary measures, however, is no way to pursue the truth. Related businesses should be asked to conduct a thorough investigation and report the results.

Citizens Nuclear Information Center, Nuke Info Tokyo No.181 Nov./Dec. 2017,