nuclear energy

On the Radio
4:47 pm
Fri March 25, 2011

In case you missed it...

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The Lesson of the Cherry Blossom - NPR's Morning Edition

Cherry blossoms are blooming in Washington D.C. They will be at their peak around the end of this month. The cherry trees around the Tidal Basin in Washington D.C. were first planted in 1912 after the people of Japan gave them to the U.S. as a gift of friendship, according to the National Park Service.

The flowering cherry tree, or "Sakura," is an exalted flowering plant in Japan. It symbolizes the Buddhist notion of impermanence in life.

NPR's Linda Wertheimer visited with James Ulak, senior curator of Japanese art at the Freer Gallery and the Sackler Gallery in Washington, D.C.

Ulak visits Japan regularly for his work. He was there just days before the disaster struck.

Ulak spoke with Wertheimer about the symbolism of the cherry tree to the Japanese people and about the artwork at the museum. Artwork that depicts the Matsushima region, a place of great beauty and a place that inspires the Japanese people.

Ulak says the devastation of this area would be comparable to the United States losing the Grand Canyon. From NPR.org:

The bay has been long known as one of the most beautiful places in Japan. Its views of blue water, craggy rocks and twisted pine trees have attracted visitors and artists for centuries.

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News Roundup
8:22 am
Fri March 18, 2011

In this morning's news...

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President Obama orders review of U.S. Nuclear Power Plants

In light of the unfolding crisis at the crippled nuclear reactors in Japan, U.S. officials say they will review the safety of the 104 nuclear reactors in the U.S.  There are four nuclear reactors operating in Michigan (Fermi 2, Palisades, and D.C. Cook Unit 1 and Unit 2).

From the Associated Press:

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission will conduct a "comprehensive review" of the safety of all U.S. nuclear plants following what U.S. officials are calling the dangerous and complicated situation at Japan's damaged Fukushima Dai-ichi reactors.

President Barack Obama took the rare step and called upon the independent commission to conduct the review.

"When we see a crisis like the one in Japan, we have a responsibility to learn from this event and to draw from those lessons to ensure the safety and security of our people," Obama said Thursday.

The nuclear industry agreed a review is a good idea. Anthony Pietrangelo of the Nuclear Energy Institute said they will look at the events that unfolded in Japan and "we will learn from them, we will get that operating experience, we will apply it and try to make our units even safer than they are today."

GM Halts Production at truck plant after parts shortage from Japan

Tremors are being felt in the auto industry after the Japanese earthquake.

From the Associated Press:

A shortage of parts from Japan will force General Motors Co. to halt production at its pickup plant in Shreveport, La., next week, the company said Thursday.

It's the first time a U.S.-based automaker will stop production in North America over parts shortages caused by the earthquake and tsunami in Japan. Toyota Motor Co. and Subaru have already slowed North American production to conserve parts that they normally import from that nation.

Reuters reported earlier this week that some automakers in Europe might be affected as well.

Tough night for MSU at NCAA Tourney

The Michigan State men's basketball team lost last night to UCLA in the NCAA Tournament 78-76.

The Spartans pulled close at the end of the game after trailing by as many as 23 points in the second half.

The Lansing State Journal:

"We got off to such a bad start," a red-eyed Izzo said afterward. "And yet I'm so proud of these guys. They've been knocked down so many times this year."

Down two with the ball, MSU senior guard Kalin Lucas was called for traveling with 0.2 of a second left on the clock, erasing a late chance at a halfcourt shot to win it.

After struggling through his worst offensive night in several weeks, Lucas got MSU within three points with a free throw and 42.2 seconds left. Lucas missed the second free throw that would have cut it to two.

The men's basketball teams at the University of Michigan and Oakland University play today.

Science/Medicine
12:29 pm
Wed March 16, 2011

Michigan pharmacies see uptick in interest in anti-radiation medication

Potassium iodide
(Wikipedia Commons)

Since the Japanese nuclear crisis began, the handful of pharmacies in Michigan that stock anti-radiation medicine are seeing an uptick in demand.   

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Economy
3:33 pm
Mon March 14, 2011

Japanese crisis raises questions about future of nuclear power

(Flickr Simon Strandgaard)

The nuclear accidents in Japan have raised questions about the future of about 20 planned new nuclear power plants in the U.S, including one in Michigan. 

DTE’s proposed Fermi 3 nuclear power plant has the potential of helping Michigan meet its future energy needs, as well as its construction generating billions of dollars for the state’s economy. But like 19 other proposed nuclear projects, its future appears murky in the wake of the Japanese nuclear crisis. 

A DTE spokesman says it’s “way too early” to speculate on how the events in Japan may affect the utility’s application for Fermi 3. 

Joseph Sindoni is with the Nuclear Energy Institute, an industry lobbying group.   Sindoni says  “Until we understand clearly what’s occurred at Fukashima (Daiichi) nuclear power plants and any consequences, it’s difficult to speculate about the long-term impact.”  

Plans for new nuclear power plants all but dried up after the 1979 Three Mile Island accident and it was only recently that interest in developing alternative energy sources renewed interest in nuclear power.

Science/Medicine
11:47 am
Mon March 14, 2011

Michigan: Testing for radiation since 1958

Hand held Civil Defense Geiger counter
(Flickr spike55151)

The state agency charged with monitoring radiation at Michigan’s three nuclear reactors has so far not recorded any increased radiation coming from Japan. Japan’s troubled nuclear reactors might be a half a world away, but it wouldn’t be the first time a nuclear accident overseas had an effect on Michigan. 

The state of Michigan has been monitoring radiation levels since January of 1958. Ken Yale is the acting chief of the Department of Environmental Quality’s Radiological Protection Section. His office monitors radiation levels at Michigan’s three nuclear plants (Fermi 2, DC Cook and Palisades). He says the last time his office recorded abnormal radiation readings was back in the mid-1980’s, at the time of the Chernobyl nuclear accident in the Ukraine.

Experts do not expect a ‘Chernobyl’ level of radiation release from the Japanese reactors, due to improved containment technology.

Environment
12:12 pm
Thu March 3, 2011

Enviros want to replace Ohio nuclear plant with wind, solar energy

The edge of the cooling tower at the Davis Besse Nuclear Power Plant in northern Ohio.
Kim Phillips Flickr

A coalition of environmental groups wants to stop a nuclear power plant in Ohio from renewing its license.

The operating license for the Davis Besse Nuclear Power Plant in Ohio runs out in 2017. By that point, the plant will be 40 years old. First Energy, the company that owns the plant, wants to renew the license for another twenty years.

That’s the last thing Michael Keegan wants. He’s with the environmental group, Don’t Waste Michigan. Keegan and others went before a panel to challenge the license renewal:

"We have solar, wind and in combination we have replacement power available now which can be put in place prior to 2017."

Reporter Tom Henry with the Toledo Blade was at the proceeding and filed a story. Here's an excerpt:

The first half of the proceeding was focused on projections for wind power, solar power, and a combination of the two as possible offsets for nuclear power. The afternoon was devoted to a FirstEnergy document known as a Severe Accident Mitigation Analysis, one in which utilities are obligated to show how they would respond to dangerous nuclear scenarios.

Arguments in favor of renewables appear to rely on the viability of harnessing wind, solar, and other sources for later use through a technology known as compressed air energy storage, judges said. [Adam] Polonsky [of Washington-based Morgan Lewis Counselors at Law, which has represented FirstEnergy on nuclear issues for years]  conceded it has potential and should be explored.

"But that doesn't mean it is a reasonable alternative to a 908-megawatt reactor," he said, referring to Davis-Besse's generating capacity.

The panel now has to decide whether the environmental groups can move forward with their petition to intervene.

To date the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has yet to deny a license renewal, though several applications are still pending.

In Michigan, the license for the Fermi II Nuclear Plant is good through 2025.

Nuclear Power
11:27 am
Tue December 7, 2010

Radioactive Water Spill from Fermi 2

Everything’s back to normal at the Fermi 2 nuclear power plant in southeast Michigan after a spill last week.

A drain valve for a filtering system failed and 100,000 gallons of slightly radioactive cooling water overflowed a holding tank. The water contaminated the shoes and outer clothing of some plant workers, but no one was harmed.

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