Safety: An Integral Part of the Energy Grand Challenge
By Kenneth R. Balkey, P.E.
The following presentation was delivered at the 82nd
General Meeting on Monday, May 13, by Kenneth R. Balkey. It has been edited for content and phrasing. To follow along with Mr. Balkey’s slide presentation, click here
Last year at the General Meeting, Kenneth Balkey provided an update on the progress made at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. This year we have asked Ken back to address the topic of safety across a number of energy sectors supported by National Board and ASME Standards and Certifications. Mr. Balkey is an ASME fellow and senior vice president for ASME Standards and Certification. He's also chair of the ASME Council on Standards and Certification. Mr. Balkey is a consulting engineer with Westinghouse Electric Company in Pittsburgh and has accumulated nearly 40 years in the nuclear power industry. As senior consulting engineer, he provides consultation and advises on developments in technology related to codes and standards and risk management initiatives. A professional engineer, Mr. Balkey earned both his B.S. and M.S. degrees in mechanical engineering from the University of Pittsburgh where he currently serves as an adjunct faculty member.
Thank you very much. I am delighted and honored to be back here again at the National Board/ASME General Meeting. The title of my talk is, “Safety: An Integral Part of the Energy Grand Challenge.”
I have three phases. First is an overview of the global energy grand challenge. And then I would like to move into all the standards ASME has underway to support energy initiatives. And then finally, I will discuss Fukushima in a presentation titled, “Forging a New Nuclear Safety Construct.” You could take the word "nuclear" out of this and it would fit to other energy applications.
Right now we have seven billion people on the planet, and half of those people now live in urban areas. There is a huge migration worldwide to urban populations, which is going to drive the need for greater centralized energy sources. If you think of the world, a third of the world is developed and has all the great resources; a third of the world is developing and pulling resources, such as China and India; then you have a third of the world that lives in tremendous dire poverty, with no electricity or clean water. It's been proven that when you can bring energy into a nation, it definitely will improve the standard of living.
Everyone on Earth wants to have a chance for a quality life. If we take a look at this projection [slide “World energy consumption by fuel, 1990-2035], you can see that we will have growth out to 2035. It's not that coal is going away. Natural gas is certainly on the rise. There is definitely growth in renewables. But if you really look at this -- and I'm going to show you the demand -- we need it all. But we have to be able to do it safely, and we also have to do it within the environment with which we live. And most of that growth is not from the United States or the developed countries. If you look at this graph [slide “World energy consumption 1990-2035”], it's China. And what we have is a migration of people from agricultural settings moving to the coast, both the east coast and southeast coast. They are driving up enormous energy needs.
I have colleagues who have been commuting to China on a regular basis and have said 20 years ago, you saw very few cars, mostly bicycles. Now that's reversed today. And certain cities like Beijing now have beltways going around their cities. There is tremendous growth underway. I like this graph [slide “Key Drivers of Global Energy Grand Challenge] that Dr. Frank Kreith presented at an ASME meeting at the University of Colorado back in 2007. We made a conscious decision to meet with universities trying to get in touch with students to get young people interested in codes and standards. Dr. Kreith said there are four forces coming together that are causing the global energy grand challenge: 1) Population explosion; 2) Per capita consumption. I did not pay much attention to that one, but it's a pretty stark figure; 3) The aspect of resource depletion; 4) And the impact on the environment.
I have adapted this figure to add two more. As we address energy grand challenges, there is safety risk and societal impacts that are occurring from all of our collective work, and there is currently economic benefit, but there also could be economic and societal detriments too. I wanted to bring those two pieces in. So what I would like to do is just walk around this figure and provide you some facts. You can form your own opinions, but I think it's pretty stark.
[Slide “Demographics in Millions of People] In the year 2000 we had a little less than seven billion people. And that was the distribution across six continents. For 2050, it is projected that in Asia, you will continue to see about 1.6 billion more people. The United States will pick up another 90 million people or so. But we will also see tremendous growth in Africa. What's interesting is there will be a decline in the number of people in Europe, and even in Asia. Japan is projected to drop too. Japan is not one of the countries having the population growth.
[Slide “Per Capita Energy Use by Region] If you come down to a per capita energy use, you see that North America and Europe, on a per capita basis, were the large energy users. And if you move over to the countries that are still agricultural on a per capita basis, it's smaller.
[Slide “Daily Consumption of Energy Per Capita as a Function of Human Evolution] I found this next figure to be quite stark. Dr. Kreith calls this the technological man, and it’s what has happened over time. I was thinking about this. My 92-year-old father is in hospice right now in a nursing home, but I could draw a 200-mile circle around Pittsburgh, and that's as far as he traveled in his lifetime. In my case, I bounce on planes all the time. I have gone overseas and my children are even traveling more than I do. If you look over the last 30 years, all of us travel quite a bit and don't give another thought to it. And think of all the electronic equipment in our homes today that wasn't there 30 years ago. What's happening now is that people in China and India are also driving toward becoming what we call “the technological man.” Can we say, “Hey, you don't have a right to it, we are the only ones?” No, I don't think anybody feels that way. But it's the aspect that not only do we have more people on earth, but more of us are definitely larger energy consumers, and across every element of our lives: residential, travel, and industrial use.
[Slide “Oil Production World Summary] Let’s look at resource depletion. There is always discussion as to when the world is going to hit its peak oil supply. As all of us know, we are extending out further and further to reach and get these precious resources. But when it comes down to safety and risk, we are going to much greater lengths. We are drilling deeper. We are going to places in much more difficult situations than we had before in order to get that precious resource.
[Slide “Energy-Related Carbon Dioxide Emissions] Regarding the environment, this is a plot showing the impact of carbon dioxide emissions. Many times we put up the power industry and say coal is the big emitter, but actually a colleague of mine, Sam Korellis from the Electric Power Research Institute, says you really need to look at this figure across residential, commercial, industrial, transportation, and electric power. And you start seeing that coal is a contributor in there, but so is gas and petroleum. Even though gas is less of a contributor to CO2, it is still a contributor to CO2. As we increase it, we are bringing that up. We are striving to keep our emissions no higher than what we have been doing.
[Slide “Water Demands for Electric Power Development] Also impacting the environment is the aspect of water use. As we move forward in generating more energy supply, the demand for water is definitely on the increase, particularly with biomass and old nuclear power plants, which require a significant amount of water supply. As we are addressing environmental and air quality, we are also dealing with water. And I recently saw an article that agriculture is being tied to this as well.
[Slide “Example- Impact and Water Use for Hydraulic Fracturing] In terms of environment, I bring my own story dealing with the Marcellus shale find. In my area of western Pennsylvania, almost every day there are letters to the editor or editorials in the paper. This is one of the most controversial topics that I see in terms of people saying that hydraulic fracturing (or fracking) uses an enormous amount of water, but the people who have the drills in their locales are concerned about the drilling causing damage to their water supply.
About a month ago there were hearings in Washington County, which is in the southern part of western Pennsylvania, and a gentleman came in with two milk jugs filled with water from his faucet, and there is no way you would want to drink it; it was really, really brown. And he said it only happened after the fracking started on his property. I also read a letter to the editor where a farmer indicated that he sold rights, and he didn't realize the rigs were 100 feet tall and it was a 24-7 operation, and he said he had not slept since they started the operation. So there are definitely impacts. But of course, this is a huge boon to our area in terms of jobs and income to the region. And we are looking to ship that gas all around the country and around the world.
[Slide “Complex System Failures] Let's take a minute on this slide. I got a copy of Paul Brennan's book, BLOWBACK, this morning when I registered, and just from paging through it, I can see it's a tremendous book. I have already told Paul I would like to use it in the class I teach at the University of Pittsburgh as a resource for students when we cover the boiler code.
But just look at what's happening today. In 2009, the seventh largest dam in the world almost catastrophically failed. There were 18 workers who were killed, but there were 100,000 people downstream. If that dam had broken, they would have lost their lives. Next year we had Deepwater Horizon. We had about a dozen workers killed from the platform and a huge environmental challenge. And that same year, it was the San Bruno gas pipeline failure. We had Deepwater, Big Branch Mine Flat, and we had the mine explosion that killed 29 miners.
Now we come into 2011 and we have Fukushima Daiichi which I will talk about in a minute. But in 2011 we also had the flooding in Nebraska – historic flooding that really impacted the Fort Calhoun plant. We had a tornado hit Browns Ferry, and we had the earthquake that hit North Anna. So we had these four extreme weather events or natural events. Then last year was the world's largest blackout in India where one-tenth of the world's population was blacked out for quite a period of time. When you get into cutting off electricity to hospitals and other emergency facilities, it's quite significant. And of course, Superstorm Sandy put lower Manhattan in the dark for over a week, and people in the New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut area are still feeling the impacts from that event.
[Slide “Infrastructure Trend] The other challenge we have is that, for many reasons, our infrastructure has really become quite aged. We have about 15 reactors that are now more than 40 years old. We have aging gas pipelines out there. We have a lot of dams that are 70 and 80 years old. We have the challenge of maintaining safety on structures and we don't necessarily have the resources to replace all of them at one time.
[Slide “US Electricity Production Costs] From an economic standpoint, there has been a lot of fluctuation in rates. Gas has dropped down to a very low level, but everyone is saying that regulations are shutting down coal plants. Natural gas prices are probably causing the pullback from coal because of the price of natural gas at this point. But I know a lot of utilities are nervous about putting all their eggs in the natural gas basket. They did that several years ago, and then when the prices went up, for a number of reasons, economically they were pinched pretty hard.
[Slide “US Electricity Sources that Do Not Emit Greenhouse Gases] In terms of emitting greenhouse gases, hydro does a very good job of that, but I don't know how many more dams we can build around. There is work with wave power and trying to get other energy sources from it. But right now from a centralized energy electric generation, nuclear power is the largest source we have that doesn't emit any greenhouse gases. And from a cost standpoint we have to maintain safety on the forefront, but we also have to do it in an economical way to support all the users.
[Slide “Cost of Producing Clean Energy] This is a snapshot from about a year ago, but I know in the renewable area a lot of the costs continue to be pulled down. It all comes down to the cost of producing electricity, or producing that energy is always going to be driving where the need is going to be. And one of the contributors to that economic aspect is in the nuclear industry.
[Slide “US Capacity Factors by Fuel Type] If we go back about 20-25 years, our capacity factors were in the high 60 - 70 percent range. And through a lot of work on moving maintenance offline, we have been able to drive that number up to close to 90 percent, which exceeds many of the other energy sources. ASME is trying to help facilities become more efficient and drive up these capacity factors.
[Slide “ASME Efforts to Support All Energy Initiatives, and ASME Energy Grand Challenge] That leads into what ASME is doing. ASME has three focus areas: energy, workforce development, and global impact. I will take a minute on the energy initiatives and particularly the standards. Back in 2009, ASME issued a document called An ASME Energy Grand Challenge Road Map looking across all the energy sources and where the gaps were. The need for codes and standards and identifying standards needs was key. And of course, we work hand in hand with the National Board on many standards activities.
[Slide “ASME Energy Standards Organization] ASME has our traditional boards of pressure technology, nuclear, standardization and testing, and safety, and we all touch energy fields one way or the other. But we put together an Energy Environmental Standards Advisory Board that would help us and coordinate across our organization of 5,000 volunteers and staff to identify what new standards are needed, what the user community has, and to try to do our best to fill that gap. So I put it into three slides here.
[Slide “ASME Standards & Certification] We have been working with the National Board for over 90 years in the area of pressure technology. This supports a large range of energy sources, from fossil fuel fired generation to oil refineries and nuclear power plants. And we also provide standards dealing with turbines and other plant equipment. We provide cranes and conveyers to help support those facilities in their operations. Nuclear has its own areas to address as well. So we already have a number of standards, and it's easy to say traditional, but there are actually a lot of technological advances going on within these standards to help improve within our user community.
[Slide “Some Recent ASME Standards & Certification Programs] Some recent standards and certification programs do get into the efficiency area where you see energy assessment for process heat systems, pumping systems, steam systems, compressed air systems, and that came as a result of the Energy Grand Challenge Road Map. And then you can see some standards we have put in place to deal with new energy developments, particularly hydrogen piping and pipelines. And we are issuing a new standard dealing with integrated gasification combined cycle power generation plants.
[Slide “Technology Areas] We are striving to come up with standards that the various energy resources need worldwide. And some of you are familiar with the new technology that is underway (particularly through our standards and technology organization that is looking out on the frontier). Of course, wind and solar; there is a big push now with small modular reactors; and then you get back into carbon capture and storage, gasification, and pre-combustion carbon capture. And we just formed a group dealing with water efficiency, trying to help the water usage needs within the standards area.
[Slide “ASME Energy Incident Response Effort] Let's go back to the incidents going back to 2009. After the Deepwater Horizon, we put together a strategic team to look at what was needed as a result of that event. One was making greater use of risk analysis to identify within complex systems what we need to be doing better than what we do today.
This is where I really appreciate Paul Brennan’s effort with his book -- professors are saying that when they teach their classes, they don't have materials on these incidents. Educators are asking for any material that we can provide to be used in engineering curricula or in engineering technology programs to bring relevant issues into the classroom. When I looked at the book Paul put together, I am not aware of anybody else having put these stories together. I know of articles that were done in 1955 in ME Magazine for the formation of the boiler code in the early 1900s, but Paul's book really puts in laymen's terms the importance of pressure technology. We need a book dealing with the incidents that are happening now and get it into our education programs. We are also trying to look at how we get codes and standards information broadly into curricula around the world. And then, finally, we need to be able to help companies understand the ethical implications and consequences of decisions can result in these catastrophic events.
The other effort -- and I spoke at length about it last year -- was on the ASME Presidential Task Force Report dealing with the post-Fukushima response. We had two major efforts that were underway and Bryan Erler is continuing to lead one. There are meetings this week where we are looking at what standards support severe accident management, particularly supporting our colleagues in Japan who are still dealing with reactors being shut down. It is a case where regulations are still emerging in response to post-Fukushima. We did complete our report on the post-Fukushima task force, and now we are making efforts to get that and make it global.
[Slide “Impact of Fukushima Daiichi Event] Four reactors were destroyed four years ago. A hundred thousand people were evacuated. Only 30,000 have been allowed back. There are still 70,000 people displaced from two years ago. When we talk about Safety: First Choice, Last Chance, how would you like to get a call that says you have one hour to pack up your goods and go, and you don't know when you are going to be able to go back. That's essentially what those people dealt with. And there are concerns that when they moved the elderly, it was so traumatic that people died. So while you can have immediate safety impacts, there are also cascading effects that come along with it. And of course, there has been land contamination around the area.
Now, there have been many debates: maybe the radiation is not so bad. Maybe it is. It's difficult to get people to agree what level of radiation is acceptable for long-term exposure. Japan has 54 reactors. Only two of them are operating right now. They formed a new nuclear regulatory agency, trying to model it after our Nuclear Regulatory Commission. But their industry is still trying to determine what rules and regulations they are going to be working to, and they are striving to start getting some of these reactors back up online over late this summer or early next fall, because the closure of those plants had such a major economic impact.
For 27 years they were always a net exporter, and after Fukushima they are now a net importer, because they are importing gas and other energy resources. Nuclear made up 33 percent of their electrical generation. The other thing that happened was that every country is making changes as a result of Fukushima. But some countries really took reactive measures, like Germany, who is going to close their plants. Articles have reported that by closing those plants, there will be an increase of CO2 and they may not be able to stay within the Kyoto agreement. Germany is attempting to remove all of their nuclear and replace it with renewables, but there are many articles questioning if they will be able to do it.
[Slide “ASME Report – Forging a New Nuclear Safety Construct] As you can see, Fukushima has not only had an impact on Japan. This event has had an impact worldwide. Our report Forging a New Nuclear Safety Construct came out right after last year's National Board meeting, and on the right side of the slide are the elements that make up that construct. I will get into some of the key areas that apply to other industries and not just nuclear. We did not have anybody come back and say that this report was off the mark. I had the honor of joining Dr. Nils Diaz, he's the past chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, and I was with him to meet with each of the current commissioners, and I was up on Capitol Hill with him to meet with two Senate oversight committees of nuclear power and two House of Representatives committees. We also met with industry leaders, and everyone is realizing that as a result of Fukushima, we have to do something different than what we have today.
[Slide “Forging a New Nuclear Safety Construct] And you can see on this graph what I said. On the bottom we have an original design basis, and we had a number of reactors make changes after the 9/11 attacks, but that wasn't worldwide. The nuclear industry has a program called FLEX, essentially making use of portable equipment and having more portable equipment, so if you happen to lose all your off-site power, you have other backup supplies to bring in right away, and doing it at the plant as well as doing it regionally.
[Slide “Essential Elements of a New Nuclear Safety Construct] The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has a set of near-term recommendations that they are implementing, but if I go around the world, France is using a bunkered system, Japan is looking at a different system as well. So each country is on its own. And what we are saying is while each country has to respect and meet its own needs of its people, we should all be working for the same common purpose, which is the new nuclear safety construct. And one of the most difficult elements to get around is how to deal with rare yet credible events. And this gets us back to 2011 and the flood that hit Missouri or the tornadoes that went through Browns Ferry. People were saying, “This was supposed to only happen once every 500 years.” But it seems to be happening almost every year. Superstorm Sandy is another event that everyone said would be really rare, but it now has happened.
[Slide “The Regulator/Operator Contract] So the question becomes this: whether you are designing pressure equipment or developing a plant system, how far is far enough? We also advocate the use of an all-risk approach, and that means for internal and external events, and dealing with these possible elements. The other key elements are the human performance side and how organizations are structured. Because when events occur, how well do you respond and get your team in place locally, as well as coordinating with a region or maybe a national government office? Command and control is key, and also having accident management and emergency preparedness. Those elements could also apply to other high-hazard industries beyond nuclear.
[Slide “ASME Workshop”] We held a workshop in December and we had 125 leaders from around the world, both industry and government, from 20 countries, and we put on the table that the regulators can provide the safety framework. And that's with the National Board -- all the chief inspectors here are out there on the front line of safety. But ultimately it's the owner and operator who can implement additional features to address other newly-revealed risks. There is a movement now that the plant operators worldwide will take on and be the ones actually responsible for the new nuclear safety construct.
Compliance with regulations is not and will not be sufficient, because society can demand more than what you can put on yourself through a regulatory framework. At the workshop there was a call for a set of globally-applicable principles that every country will work to, and we will all use those same principles. And then it would function so that we could go across international interfaces and have the ability to stop these events from occurring because they provide such economic social disruption. Fukushima and Deepwater Horizon were events that were extremely disruptive to society; not just where they occurred, but worldwide.
[Slides “Energy Resources on ASME.org, and ASME Energy Forum] These are just a couple slides that provide other resources dealing with energy we have done within ASME, and you can look at those at your leisure. One nice thing that we are doing this year is that every month we have on these new technology topics, we have a webinar that anybody can tie in. In fact, I'm going to definitely make sure I tie into the fracking one in November given where I live. But all of these new developments are also being advocated through our energy forum.
[Slide “Summary”] The energy grand challenge requires the skills of all the engineers of safety-related professionals worldwide, and I really do like the theme that we have to keep Safet:, First Choice, Last Chance. You have got to do it right the first time. Everybody around the world is expanding their energy developments, and we have to work together and strive also for those that have less impact on our overall environment. ASME has many efforts underway, and we continue to look forward to working with the National Board on standards and other programs touching this field.
AUDIENCE MEMBER 1: When you talk about the evacuation area of Fukushima, how does that compare to Chernobyl?
MR. BALKEY: It’s fairly comparable. From what I can recall from the data, they are fairly similar. I don't have the dimensions, but Chernobyl was probably as extensive as what we had at Fukushima. If it was larger, it wasn't a whole lot larger. With Chernobyl, most people didn't go back once they displaced. But in Japan, it's a little different situation. Land is really at a premium in Japan. Most of the land in Japan is mountainous, so when you displace 100,000 people, it's not like we have a lot of land to move them to. So there is interest in cleaning it up and letting the people come back into that area, but it's still a work in progress. And the cleanup of the plant, of course, is going to take many years.
AUDIENCE MEMBER 2: What's the time frame for bringing the nuclear plants back up in Japan?
MR. BALKEY: Based on what I’ve read, there is an effort to get some of them back online in the latter half of this year. They obviously need that power from an overall economic development aspect, but they are dealing with a new regulator, and when you start dealing with a new organization, you don't know how they are going to rule on different aspects, so they are still uncertain. “Regulatory uncertainty” is probably the best way to put it. But from all the articles I’ve been reading, there is an effort to get more plants up in the latter part of the year.
AUDIENCE MEMBER 3: Wouldn't it be safer to the environment and to the people who live there to operate the plants than let them sit idle? Plants are more dangerous in an idle state than when they are being operated.
MR. BALKEY: I understand what you mean, and facts can prove what you said is correct. But there is a psychological aspect to this situation we must consider. People are nervous. I don't think we have a full appreciation for what the Japanese are going through. There has been a psychological impact from that event. And keep in mind that they had the Kashiwazaki Kariwa earthquake just four years prior to Fukushima, and they only had three of those plants operating. Then four years later they had the Fukushima event. And it wasn't just Fukushima. It was also Onagawa, Fukushima, Fukushima Daiichi, and then Tokai. There were 15 reactors. When they look at the possibility of other earthquakes and other tsunamis, they are still concerned that they are prepared for the rarity of such events.
AUDIENCE MEMBER 3: I'm just saying that we do not hear their government or even ours saying that it's safer to operate a nuclear power plant than it is to keep it idle, and they need to tell them that. When they are in an idle state, they are in more jeopardy of breaching safety than if you let them run.
AUDIENCE MEMBER 4: What do you anticipate the growth of nuclear power to be going forward? With this huge growth consumption, nuclear is really the only choice, is it not?
MR. BALKEY: It is. And what the president of my own company has indicated, and also from my own readings, is that Fukushima certainly has slowed things down. But when you look at the demand that I just showed in terms of population growth, people wanting to improve their lives, people now moving into the more urban areas, you have no choice; you are going to have to get more power. And nuclear is still the source that can provide it. In fact, the purpose of our report was to show that we need this new nuclear safety construct so that we will have the right elements in place to allow nuclear power to grow. China is still going to be building a number of plants, and there is also movement in Eastern Europe and also in Russia. There is still a lot of movement around the world for new reactors. It just wasn't as active as it was before Fukushima, but it is slowly coming back. Everybody around the world has to get confidence that these plants can operate in a safe manner and be able to deal with these very unusual events that unfortunately have occurred.