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Energy

Constellation: Nuclear plants in Rochester, Syracuse are safe

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Ginna Nuclear Power Plant is only 20 miles outside of downtown Rochester.

Jeffrey Blackwell at the Democrat and Chronicle has a look at the safety of upstate nuclear plants, including Ginna, outside Rochester and Nine Mile Point outside Syracuse:

[Constellation Energy Nuclear Group (CENG) spokesman Mark] Sullivan said Ginna is not the same kind of reactor or design as the [Japanese] Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant and that redundant backup systems are in place at all the CENG plants to help prevent a similar problem. "The spent fuel at Calvert Cliffs [another CENG plant in Maryland], Nine Mile and Ginna are stored in auxiliary buildings designed to withstand the design basis earthquake as well as all other natural phenomenon the plant was licensed to by the NRC [Nuclear Regulatory Commission]," he said. "As a result of enhancements implemented after Sept. 11, (2001), our sites have additional capabilities to handle beyond design basis events, including the capability to provide cooling to the spent fuel pool in the absence of electrical power. This capability includes equipment (diesel-driven pumps, hoses, valves, etc.) that has been pre-staged at the plant. Personnel are trained in their use." Ginna was successfully shut down in August of 2003, for example, as a precaution during a massive blackout that affected more than 10 million people in eight states in the Northeast and Midwest.

Knolls Atomic Power Laboratory

During a Niskayuna Town Board meeting last night more than a dozen residents turned out to talk about to Department of Energy officials.  Brian Nearing at the Times Union reports that botched clean-up efforts at Knolls Atomic Power Laboratory has some residents furious:

Work has been halted since mid-November. DOE Project Director Steven Feinberg said radiation was confined to the KAPL property, and the amount was too small to pose a threat either to the public or cleanup workers. That answer was not convincing to Seth Hanft, who runs Niskayuna Youth Baseball on ball fields next to KAPL, where 700 children aged 5-16 play between May and October. Hanft asked whether federal officials checked the fields for contamination and was taken aback when Feinberg said no. Games were held there after the radioactive release. "There is not a lot of goodwill here going backward," said Hanft. "It would seem prudent to survey those fields. We have kids coming back. It would be a sign of good faith to put our fears to rest." Feinberg said he would consider a survey, something also urged by Town Supervisor Joe Landry.

Nuclear power and economics

At the New York Times Economix blog Nancy Folbre says economist bear some blame for the situation unfolding in Japan:

In my view, many social engineers, including economists, deserve the larger blame. The widespread view that capitalism is an automatically self-regulating system has weakened the checks and balances — the feedback mechanisms and control rods — that are crucial to the long-run viability of our operating system. The threat of social meltdown arises not from excessive growth of the state and its regulatory role but from its capture by groups able to translate market power into political power: socialism for big investors, capitalism for everyone else.

Meanwhile David Kestenbaum at Planet Money has a Q&A about what the economic impact of the crisis in Japan.  Here's a taste:

Will the rebuilding effort be a sort of economic stimulus? It is true that when you rebuild, you often see a bump in GDP. You are hiring people to rebuild those roads, rebuild those houses. But the money has to come from somewhere. That means Japan's going to have to raise taxes, or cut spending elsewhere, or borrow more money.

Nuclear and the market

Christopher Bonanos at New York Mag also has a Q&A about nuclear power, this  one with the congressman who beat Watson.  New Jersey Representative Rush Holt (and Ph.D. physicist) argues in the conversation that finding energy solutions is a matter of political will - and that the market isn't going to find the solution either:

[NY Mag] It’s a textbook argument for big government — a case of doing something the free market can’t. [Holt] The market won’t fix our overall energy problem — I don’t care what they say. People say, Remove the regulations and let everyone drill offshore. You’ll end up with a lot more gulf explosions. Furthermore, the private sector could’ve built wind turbines a long time ago, but they didn’t — they were kinda slow. There’s clearly a place for government incentives here, and government regulations, in all aspects of our energy production. It’s too important to just leave it to faith in the ideal action of the market.

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