Posted by: doug308 | January 3, 2012

France Nuclear Industry Told to Boost Safety

This article was posted on the BBC web site on 1/3/12

France’s nuclear watchdog has called on the country’s 58 power plants to make safety improvements quickly, almost 10 months after the Fukushima disaster.

But it says none of the reactors needs to be shut down, following stress tests carried out in the wake of the Japanese earthquake and tsunami.

The watchdog estimates the changes would cost tens of billions of euros.

France obtains 75% of its electricity from nuclear power and the industry’s future has become a political issue.

The opposition Socialists want to reduce the country’s reliance on nuclear power and have agreed to phase out 24 reactors as part of a pact criticised by the ruling UMP party ahead of presidential elections.

The Nuclear Safety Authority (ASN) says industry operators must come forward by 30 June with measures they would take in response to floods and earthquakes, “preventing a serious accident or limiting its spread” and “limiting massive [radioactive] releases”.

It also proposes the establishment by 2014 of a rapid reaction force that would take charge within 24 hours of a nuclear accident taking place.

ASN President Andre-Claude Lacoste said the work and funding for the proposals was “quite massive” and would involve the recruitment of hundreds of people.

The French government asked the watchdog to investigate the safety of the country’s nuclear plants in March 2011. ASN’s conclusions were based on a report by experts last November that decided the reactors were safe but that some were vulnerable to external factors such as earthquakes or floods.

Posted by: doug308 | December 28, 2011

Fukushima Timeline From INPO

Nuclear Energy Institute
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact:202.739.8000For Release:November 11, 2011INPO Compiles Timeline of Fukushima Events After Japan Earthquake, Tsunami
Four-Day Chronology Provides Common Baseline of Facts to Inform Response Activities by U.S. Industry, Government

WASHINGTON, D.C.—The Institute of Nuclear Power Operations has compiled a detailed timeline of events at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power station after the March 11 earthquake and tsunami in Japan. The detailed report, prepared as part of the integrated response to the Japan events, was delivered today to U.S. industry executives, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and members of Congress.

“The U.S. nuclear energy industry is committed to learning from Japan’s experience and applying relevant lessons to make U.S. nuclear energy facilities even safer. We are sharing this report with the widest possible audience because it is important that we all work from the same set of facts in determining the appropriate response,” said NEI’s senior vice president and chief nuclear officer, Tony Pietrangelo. “It is of paramount importance that we learn from it and take our facilities to even higher levels of safety and preparedness.”

U.S. nuclear power plants operating in 31 states produce 20 percent of U.S. electricity, with a unique combination of 24/7 production, industry-leading reliability and zero carbon emissions or air pollution.

The report presents a chronology of activities at the Fukushima Daiichi station in the first four days after the earthquake and tsunami. It does not provide analysis, draw conclusions or include recommendations on the events. Most of the information in the report has been previously released, but in a piecemeal fashion. The Institute of Nuclear Power Operations, an industry organization whose mission is to promote the highest levels of safety throughout the U.S. nuclear industry, worked closely with the Tokyo Electric Power Co., the plant’s operator, to develop the timeline. Information was compiled from multiple sources, including the Japanese government, the International Atomic Energy Agency, and several Japanese nuclear and safety organizations.

The U.S. nuclear energy industry has established a leadership model among major electric sector organizations—including NEI, the Electric Power Research Institute, reactor vendors and INPO—to integrate and coordinate the nuclear industry’s ongoing response to the Fukushima Daiichi accident.

This Fukushima Response Steering Committee already has identified five areas that warrant action or further examination:

seismic and flooding inspections
maintaining safety during a prolonged loss of AC power
assuring the accessibility and functionality of reactor containment vent valves assuming loss of AC power
enhanced training in guidelines to manage severe accidents
enhanced monitoring of used fuel storage pools at reactors.
“This timeline doesn’t tell us why events unfolded—a comprehensive root cause analysis will likely take several months if not years to achieve that understanding. However, the facts presented in this timeline reinforce the industry’s and the NRC’s independent assessments on what our response priorities should be,” Pietrangelo said.

Posted by: doug308 | November 9, 2011

Bidding Jobs In The Nuclear World

Matt Dryden, AREVA:”Today, the bidding culture is more complex due to factors such as government trade balances”
8 November 2011

Matt Dryden, Vice President of Business Development for AREVA, speaks to Nuclear Energy Insider on how the company is helping US plants address regulatory and operational conditions in a post-Fukushima marketplace in addition to D&D processes. He also touches on other topics including how the bidding culture in nuclear is no longer driven by technology and price, but many new and complex factors.

Interview by Katherine Steiner-Dicks

Nuclear Energy Insider: Which areas of the business are creating the largest business opportunities for AREVA in North America? Which do you see as the future growth segments and why?

MD: A major portion of our business continues to be products and services for operating plants, including fuel, outage support, plant upgrades and life extension activities. Operating plants are starting to install digital instrumentation and control systems—we recently finished the first installation of such a system in a U.S. plant and expect others to follow. We are also gearing up to support TVA’s project to complete the Bellefonte plant.

In the near future, we expect to help operating plants address regulatory and operational considerations as a result of analysis of the Fukushima event. And as the economy improves and energy consumption increases, new builds will start to come back into focus in the longer term.

Nuclear Energy Insider: There is a big opportunity and pending tender for South Africa to build up to six nuclear reactors. Plus the countless other tenders in the Middle East and parts of Asia. How has the competitive bidding culture changed in recent years and how have established firms such as AREVA had to adapt, if at all?

MD: In the past, purchasing decisions were typically based on technology and price. Today, the bidding culture is more complex—affected by factors such as the desire for increasing energy independence in some countries or government-to-government trade balance requirements.

As increasing numbers of countries are becoming more economically developed, their governments are placing trade balance requirements on major capital project deals; for example, customers may require that a significant percentage of parts and components be manufactured in their country or by their native companies. Some governments are also subsidizing nuclear suppliers from their countries to ensure growth opportunities for local technologies.

Others are trying to build an indigenous industry and require technology transfer agreements. Vendors have to adapt to this new culture by trying to understand the drivers behind each bidding opportunity and crafting a bid that meets the customer’s needs while ensuring an appropriate risk profile and return for themselves.

Nuclear Energy Insider: If you were in charge of an advertising campaign what message would you want to get across to the general population and to investors about nuclear energy’s contribution to daily needs?

MD: Nuclear power is not only the safest, cleanest, most economical, and most reliable baseload source of electricity available in today’s market place, the efficiency and safety of advanced technology makes it a preferred energy source for the future.

Nuclear Energy Insider: With a huge, yet currently uncertain, opportunity for long-term nuclear waste transport and storage in the U.S., how interested is AREVA in developing its presence in this segment as well as the larger decommissioning services market?

MD: AREVA has a long and successful business model for used nuclear fuel management. Our company currently transports, stores and recycles used fuel from customers around the world returning new fuel and stabilized high-level waste (HLW) back to the point of origin.

Over 50 percent of the used fuel dry storage casks in the United States are provided by AREVA. Based on our operating history we are very interested in supporting a sustainable U.S.-based strategy for managing HLW and the back end of the fuel cycle including transportation, consolidated interim storage in host countries(s), future recycling and ultimate waste disposal. We believe we have the experience, safety record and technology to support any future initiative.

AREVA has been managing and implementing major upgrades and large decommissioning and dismantling (D&D) projects for our nuclear facilities in Europe for decades. Our newly formed commercial D&D Business Unit is working to apply experience, lessons learned and new state of the art technology or processes to support the D&D missions in the United States.

Matt Dryden is Vice President of Business Development – Strategic Initiatives for AREVA, Inc. Matt is responsible for strategically positioning and providing linkage to AREVA’s entire North American Operations portfolio offering by actively engaging and aligning interests within both new and exisitng customer bases, governmental policy and financial communities.

Posted by: doug308 | November 1, 2011

Burnout Relief

(Oprah.com) — You wake up almost as tired as when you fell asleep, four hours ago. After hitting the snooze button twice, you stumble to the kitchen and chug a quart of coffee. It doesn’t help. Your face in the mirror looks like the child you might have had with Voldemort. You can barely squeeze into your last-resort “fat pants.” Getting your kids off to school feels like climbing Everest; driving to the job you once loved, an uphill slog to the salt mines. You dread interacting with your coworkers. It’s not that you aren’t a caring, compassionate person; it’s just that you hate everyone.

If this sounds familiar, you may think you’re depressed. But you might be dealing with a subtly different problem: burnout. Scientists differentiate the two, and it’s a crucial distinction. If you confuse burnout with depression and address it only with antidepressants or therapy, you’ll overlook the behavioral changes you must make to restore your depleted physical and hormonal reserves. Left unchecked, burnout can be lethal. So if you’re anywhere between lightly toasted and totally charred, it’s time to chill.

Oprah.com: The fried quiz: is it you or your life that’s the problem?

The Biology of Burnout

There’s no specific medical disorder called burnout, but every doctor knows that prolonged stress has negative consequences. One of these is adrenal fatigue, which comes from overstimulating the hormones that fuel high-energy behavior. Initially, it feels fabulous — you can work like Hercules, compensating for exhaustion with adrenaline, caffeine, or straight-up willpower. But eventually your high-activity hormones run low. You slow down while trying to speed up. Illness, memory loss, and accidents replace achievement. Jesse Lynn Hanley, MD, coauthor of “Tired of Being Tired,” has identified five levels of burnout. See if one fits you.

Driven

You’re working flat-out, in a nonstop blur of accomplishment. You feel you can go on like this forever! You can’t!

Draggin

You’re sucking up sugar and caffeine to fight fatigue, maybe popping over- the-counter sleep aids to help you “sleep faster,” and feeling unpleasantly chubby.

Losing It

You’re definitely tired, visibly plump (or alarmingly preskeletal), and perpetually grumpy. You lie awake nights, thoughts racing, longing for sleep. At work and at home, you’ve developed a charming habit of biting people’s heads off.

Hitting the Wall

You’re racked by aches and pains, gaining (or losing) weight, prone to temper tantrums or crying jags, hard-pressed to remember things like computer passwords or your children’s names.

Oprah.com: Dr. Oz’s 4 Ways to relieve chronic pain—naturally

Burned Out

By now you may have a serious illness (heart disease, an autoimmune disorder) or have been in a car accident. To stay marginally functional, you depend on drugs you obtain either from a shrink who innocently believes you’re just depressed or from a man you know only as “Viper.” Nobody likes you. The silver lining? As Hanley writes, “If you do not die during this stage, there is no place to go but up.”

How to Chill Out

Research burnout on the Internet, and you’ll find a trove of helpful hints like “Learn to manage stress!” and “Live life in balance!” This is like hearing a financial manager tell you, “Have several million dollars!” In contrast, authors like Hanley offer wonderfully detailed instructions. Of course, when you’re burned out it’s hard to read a shampoo bottle, let alone a book. The following abridged advice may help cool the burn.

Chill Principle 1: Become a grazer.

Since burnout often includes weight gain, many people try to eat less as stress levels climb. Yet going hungry can itself be very stressful. And feeding a body infrequently creates the alarm state that encourages fat storage. The solution: Eat more. I don’t mean doughnuts and lattes, though. I mean low-calorie green food that you eat throughout the entire day. Adding food with lots of antioxidants, water, fiber, and other nutrients can calm you and help your body relax. (I favor smoothies made from fruit and leafy veggies — tastier than they sound.) In addition, take daily omega-3 supplements such as fish oil. These healthy substances reduce inflammation, the physiological part of the “flame” that’s burning you out.

Oprah.com: The Joy diet

Chill Principle 2: Sleep as if your life depends on it.

Some people feel superior when they work around the clock. This is like proudly pouring Tabasco sauce in your eyes. Sleep makes you smarter, better-looking, more creative. It can add years to your life. It does more to improve the long-term quality of that life than money, fancy vacations, or hot sex. Not giving high priority to sleep is, frankly, insane.

Because our culture doesn’t teach this, many people feel they don’t have time to sleep. There are certainly days, even weeks, when this is true. But when sleep deprivation drags into months or years, we’re making choices that sustain it. Because I’ve been all the way to burnout, I’ve become vigilant about getting enough sleep — and I started when I was unemployed and in debt. Exert every ounce of your will and ingenuity to do the same. Hire someone to help with the kids, even if it means living in a smaller house. Refuse to work for bosses who expect frequent all-nighters. Don’t take on tasks that disallow sleep, any more than you’d say yes to a job that deprives you of oxygen.

For “driven” patients, Hanley suggests six to eight hours of sleep each night, with naps as needed. For “dragging” patients: eight hours a night, with one period of relaxation during the day (sitting somewhere quiet, even in a restroom stall, for ten to 15 minutes). If you’re “losing it,” you need eight hours of sleep plus two ten- to 15-minute relaxation breaks. “Hitting the wall” means eight to nine hours each night, plus two breaks. And once you’re “burned out,” you need eight to ten hours of sleep, plus three 15- to 30-minute naps or retreats. Ignore these minimums, and your body will eventually end up lying still anyway — in your bed, a hospital, or the morgue. You choose.

Oprah.com: 5 ways to calm the jitters

Chill Principle 3: Exercise for fun.

Almost no one ever tells you to exercise less, but if you’re burned out, you should. I fried myself into chronic pain by forcing workouts when my whole body wanted to rest. Ironically, when I began exercising less, I got leaner and fitter. Some exercise helps prevent burnout, but too much, at the wrong time, only turns up the heat.

If you’re “driven,” aim for an hour of vigorous exercise three to five times per week. “Dragging” folks should limit hard exercise to one hour three times a week, or one to three sessions of moderate activity like light yoga. If you’re “losing it,” do three gentle hours a week. “Hitting the wall” calls for 30 gentle minutes one to three times a week. If you’re totally “burned out,” roll over in bed occasionally until you’re stronger.

Oprah.com: 5 ways to remix your same old workout

The key to gauging how much you should exercise is a mysterious thing called fun, which you may remember from childhood. While exercising, ask yourself, Is this fun? If running isn’t fun, walk. If walking isn’t fun, sit. If even that feels wearisome, take a nap. Your body-mind fun barometer is sophisticated and accurate. Use it.

Chill Principle 4: Unplug heaters, plug in coolers.

Make a list of all the people with whom you regularly interact. Next, list environments you inhabit — your office, your car, rooms in your home. Finally, list your usual activities, from relaxation (ha-ha! just kidding!) to laundry to office meetings. Now imagine each item separately while noticing how your body reacts. Tension, jaw-clenching, or churning are signs you’re plugged into a heater. Muscle relaxation, spontaneous smiles, sighs of relief show you’re chilling.

You may not be able to eliminate the “heaters” from your life, but you can — and must — unplug from them every few hours and plug into “coolers” instead. Detach from your sick child, even for a few minutes, to call a healthy friend. Stop doing paperwork and read a novel for 20 minutes. Leave all technology and reconnect with nature — petting puppies, walking in the park — whenever possible.

Oprah.com: You and improved: 30 simple ways to upgrade your life

Chill Principle 5: Practice peace.

I love watching TV cooking contests where grown adults go into full-scale hysterics over things like overboiled pasta. Since I’m not a foodie, I find it hilarious when people sacrifice their peace of mind to the Cuisine Gods. On the other hand, when my computer recently contracted a virus, sending early drafts of work instead of the final draft, my head nearly exploded like a popcorn kernel.

The fact is, all of us can eat soft pasta, correct computer errors, even fight an illness — in panic or in peace. But choosing peace doesn’t just happen; it’s a skill that takes regular practice to master. Choose and use such a practice, whether it’s prayer or simply clearing your mind. Though you may never reach Yoda-level equanimity, devoting even five minutes a day to telling yourself I am all right in this moment builds increasingly effective air-conditioning into your body and mind.

Oprah.com: The hidden health benefits of massage

I’ve been to the bleary-eyed burnout stage, and I’m here to attest that these simple suggestions work. They aren’t difficult. Today, start grazing. Lie down for ten minutes and just breathe. Unplug from the chaos of life long enough to connect with whatever calms you. Tonight, choose to sleep; finishing that project or supervising that homework isn’t worth your health, and you’ll do it faster when you’re rested, anyway. In fact, everything works better when you stop playing Joan of Arc. Refuse to burn. Claim the time it takes to be happy. Everything you value will benefit as you learn to keep your cool

Posted by: doug308 | October 14, 2011

The Five Drivers of Happiness at Work

Commentary
By Jessica Pryce-Jones The Source has teamed up with the iOpener Institute iOpener Institute for People and Performance to find out how happy and fullfilled our readers are at work. The Institute has a specially designed survey to help you establish how happy you are at work and along with the article below you can figure out how you can increase your happiness. Complete the questionnaire now.

Office workers.I am in a wood-paneled boardroom of a large multinational waiting to make a pitch. My stomach lurches as I anticipate having to use the “H” word to the CEO. It just feels too “new-agey” to associate with the hard-numbered world of business.

“We’re here to talk about happiness. Happiness at work.” The words sound so flaky; “happy clappy” and “happy hippy” ping into my mind even though the numbers tell their own story.

We’ve all had to face and deal with a very different working world, especially since the financial crisis and ensuing recession.

Data which we’ve gathered since 2006, shows that people everywhere feel less confidence, motivation, loyalty, resilience, commitment and engagement.

And whether your local economy is in a state of boom or bust, employees are experiencing similar pressures and bosses can only squeeze until the pips squeak for so long.

But imagine a mindset which enables action to maximize performance and achieve potential in these tough times. At the iOpener Institute for People and Performance, we understand that this is another way of describing happiness at work.

Our empirical research, involving 9,000 people from around the world, reveals some astonishing findings. Employees who report being happiest at work:

Stay twice as long in their jobs as their least happy colleagues
Spend double their time at work focused on what they are paid to do
Take ten times less sick leave
Believe they are achieving their potential twice as much
And the “science of happiness at work” has big benefits for individuals too. If you’re really happy at work, you’ll solve problems faster, be more creative, adapt fastest to change, receive better feedback, get promoted quicker and earn more over the long-term.

So how can you get to grips with what it’s all about?

Our research shows that there are five important drivers that underpin the science of happiness at work.

1. Contribution.

This is about what you do, so it’s made up of some of the core activities which happen at work. Like having clear goals, moving positively towards them, talking about issues that might prevent you meeting your objectives and feeling heard when you do so.

You’ll do all this best when you feel appreciated and valued by your boss and your colleagues. So it’s not just about delivering: it’s about doing that within collaborative working relationships too.

Here’s what Daniel Walsh, executive vice president at one of the world’s leading transport and logistics organizations, Chep, said about his insight into the value of his colleagues’ contributions:

“I was very task-focused and goal-oriented early in my career and I delivered significant deals. But afterwards it would take a few weeks to mop up the wreckage because I was more gung-ho than I needed to be. I had a meeting with my mentor who said, “look this has got to stop. You’re delivering fantastic results but you’ve got to take people with you.

“Now I try to create an environment where people feel their opinions or views matter and I appreciate what they bring to the table. I can’t do my job on my own.”

2. Conviction.

This is the short-term motivation both in good times and bad. That’s the key point: keeping going even when things get tough, so that you maintain your energy, motivation and resources which pull you through.

Key to doing this is feeling that you’re resilient, efficient and effective. In fact, our data clearly shows that we’re much more resilient than we are aware but we’re much less aware of how variable our motivation is and how to manage it.

Actively deciding to do this can make a huge difference.

As Adam Parr, CEO of Williams F1 said, “a driver who gets out of a car when it’s spun off or he’s been hit and it’s all gone horribly wrong and reminds himself that he’s privileged to do the work and there’s a job to be done—that takes him to another level.”

3. Culture.

Performance and happiness at work are really high when employees feel they fit within their organizational culture. Not fitting in a job is like wearing the wrong clothes to a party—all the time.

It’s hugely draining and de-energizing.

If you’re in the wrong job, you’ll find that the values mean little to you, the ethos feels unfair or political and you don’t have much in common with your colleagues. What’s interesting about our data is that employees like their organizational cultures a lot less than they did in pre-recession times: in particular “generation Y-ers” or “millennial” workers really don’t seem to like what they’re experiencing at work.

So any business which wants to attract and retain top young talent and find the leaders of tomorrow, needs to start addressing this issue today.

4. Commitment.

Commitment matters because it taps into the macro reasons of why you do the work you do. Some of the underlying elements of commitment are perceiving you’re doing something worthwhile, having strong intrinsic interest in your job and feeling that the vision of your organization resonates with your purpose.

We’ve seen commitment decline for the majority of employees post-recession as leaders and organizations think that tuning into this soft stuff is a waste of time.

It isn’t.

It’s how you enable your employees to understand why they should make a greater discretionary effort for you. What is important is to recognize that the five factors work as an ecosystem.

That means if one of the five drivers isn’t functioning well, the others will be affected. For example if you don’t feel high levels of commitment, it’s likely that your contribution will be affected. When contribution goes down, conviction, especially the motivation part of it, tends to go down with it. And that obviously has an effect on your confidence too.

5. Confidence.

Confidence is the gateway to the other four drivers. Too little confidence and nothing happens: too much leads to arrogance and particularly poor decisions. Without greater levels of self-belief, the backbone of confidence, there will be few people who’ll take a risk or try anything new. And you can’t have confident organizations without confident individuals inside them.

Here’s what Dr Rafi Yoeli, founder of Urban Aeronautics, the leading Israeli fancraft aviation entrepreneur said:

“We’ve built a flying machine that’s half way between a Harrier jump jet and a helicopter. We work very differently here, it’s organic engineering. You need a high level of curiosity and of expertise if you’re going to make something extraordinary. And you need an even higher level of confidence to put it together.”

And finally, understanding what makes you happy at work and how that affects your performance offers a whole new way of managing yourself, your career and your opportunities.

And by the way, the CEO at the beginning of the piece told me that, “when you said happiness, it really resonated with me. I’m so unhappy in my job, I hate what I do and I can barely bring myself to come in every day.”

Despite economic uncertainty and poor growth rates, the US is still forging ahead with its plan to prolong and re-build its nuclear fleet. In these times of uncertainty which financial models should be explored? We look to the state of Florida as a barometer of financial options and hurdles, both past and present.

By Peter Taberner

While no industry is bullet proof from recession construction, companies can take advantage of historically low interest rates ensuring that borrowing capital is cheap, and there is also the low hanging fruit of commodity prices that are favourable.

Leslie Kass, NEI senior director, business policy and fuel supply, says: “ Energy infrastructure will need to be replaced in countries where generating plants are aging and no longer efficient to operate and/or new generating facilities need to be constructed where demand growth requires additional resources.

“All energy infrastructure is expensive and utilities and governments are struggling with how to pay for these efforts in a manner that will least impact households and businesses where the economy is struggling.”

She adds: “Access to low cost financing is the key to keeping costs down during this capital intensive build cycle. This can be achieved through loan guarantee programs, bond issues, purchase power agreements, or construction work in progress payments to allow financing costs to be paid as they are incurred.”

Who is footing the bill?

However despite their unequivocal support for the nuclear industry the Obama administration is highly unlikely to put its hands in its pocket, and globally only in countries where the industry is state-owned will government help be available.

New nuclear plants are set to be the growth area in the industry, and there has been a surge in applications for a construction and operating licences. Although the NRC are more concerned with the safety of the plants as opposed to the costs.

In Florida controversy has been caused by the proposal from utilities Florida Power and Light and Progress Energy that part of the costs of reparations to nuclear buildings are to be incurred by the consumer to the tune of $335m.

Florida Power and Light have two reactors St. Lucie 1 and St. Lucie 2 and Progress Energy have their Crystal River plant that are on a Federal list of 27 reactors that have been earmarked for upgrades, particularly for withstanding earthquakes. In addition, FPL has plans to develop two more nuclear units at Turkey Point, units six and seven.

Progress Energy did engage in discussions with outside sourced engineers to analyse all possibilities for repairs, and 22 options were originally put on the table that was narrowed down to four. These comprised of technical issues, constructability, licensing feasibility as well as cost.

They finally decided to remove and replace concrete in the containment structure walls that reached an estimated cost of between $900m and $1.3bn.

Part of the outlay will be covered by their insurance arrangements for property damage and costs of replacement power, they have received $265m from Nuclear Electric Insurance Limited, leaving the consumer to bear the brunt of defraying the rest.

Consumer concerns

The methods from both of the utilities has been criticised by the Florida Office of Public Counsel that participates in discourse over consumer issues within the Florida Legislature.

In 2006 the Florida Legislature made an amendment to a statute that governs the Florida Public Service Commission (FSPC) ratemaking authority that created an incentive for utilities to invest in nuclear facilities.

The legislation directed the FSPC to provide alternatives to traditional means of recovering costs of nuclear investment; this allowed the utilities to file petitions requesting that they can recover costs of the site selection, pre- construction costs and the carrying costs of the construction. An estimate of the total capital costs and long term economic feasibility then have to be given.

Following the petitions exercise, the FSPC now has a ‘prudence review’ of the plans and on this occasion the Office of Public Counsel did take issue with the utilities’ plans.

“Our expert witness, Dr. William Jacobs of GDS Associates, testified that, because of the extreme complexity and uncertainties associated with these particular expansions of existing, operating nuclear units, FPL was imprudent when it decided to “fast track” the development of the up rates” said Joseph McGlothlin, Associate Public Counsel.

It’s all about timing

This will not make good reading for consumers in the sunshine state, but nuclear energy is hardly the only utility that places investment costs onto their customers.

As Leslie Kass points out: “The one open question is timing. The construction work in progress allowances for nuclear plants in Florida, Georgia and South Carolina mean that consumers pay for the costs of financing as they occur, which is before the plant is operational.

“It will ultimately save consumers billions of dollars over the life of the plant, but in austere times it can be difficult to justify payments now for an asset they will enjoy later. The public utilities’ commissions in these states have decided that the benefits of clean, reliable, low cost electricity for sixty plus years is a reasonable trade for some early payments.”

Posted by: doug308 | October 4, 2011

Performance Reviews

Are Performance Reviews A Thing of the Past?

By Jared Brox · October4th,2011
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According to a study by Burke International, a research and consulting firm, of the 70% of employees who receive annual reviews, less than half believe they’re effective at evaluating their performance. It’s a disturbing statistic given that the basic idea behind a performance review is not only to help build individual employees, but also helps ensure a company’s future viability by maintaining a strong productive workforce overall.

So, the question is, are annual performance reviews even worth the time and effort?

The answer is yes… and no. It really depends on whether or not a company is willing to make a commitment to the process. When done correctly, performance reviews are a great opportunity to praise employees’ hard work and dedication or offer coaching in areas where they are lagging behind. However, when performed incorrectly, a performance review could easily turn into a blame session or become rife with insincerity and empty promises and ultimately do much more harm than good to a business’s productivity and employee relations.

While no two companies are alike, and what works for one business isn’t guaranteed to work for another, there are some examples of common pitfalls to avoid that are fairly universal when it comes to performance reviews.

Performance reviews aren’t merely a “checklist” task.
It’s easy to think of employee performance reviews as just another item on your to-do list. They typically only happen once a year, and if there isn’t a plan for follow-up or continual coaching, both employees and managers are more likely to just consider the task complete and put it out of mind until the next year.

Performance coaching should be ongoing – not just once a year. A sustained emphasis on excellence throughout the year is more likely to instill productive behaviors in your workforce than a single meeting at the end of the year.

Performance reviews can’t just skim the surface.
Whether it’s out of an employee’s fear for their job or a manager wanting to avoid conflict, often times true feelings are reserved during performance reviews. One of the most important components of a review is open communication. You shouldn’t feel like you’re walking on eggshells.

Strive for honest and open back-and-forth communication. You can’t change what you don’t discuss. In many cases, the other party may not even realize there is an issue that needs to be addressed.

Performance reviews shouldn’t feel confrontational.
A performance review can’t be productive if your employees feel like they are engaging in a fight to prove they deserve to keep their job. A review should, instead, be focused on highlighting successes and coaching through problem areas.

Be sure the purpose of the performance review is clear. You want your employees to view the process as a positive experience, not a defense trial. When your workforce understands the value of performance reviews, they’re more likely to buy in to them.

One size doesn’t fit all
From industry to industry and employee to employee, it’s important to choose a performance review model that makes the most sense for your workforce. Reviewing a manufacturing employee is going to be a much different process than reviewing an office manager. So, it’s perfectly acceptable to modify your process to ensure the most productive outcome of the meeting.

There are probably about as many performance review models as you have employees. Of course, that doesn’t mean you have to use a different process for each individual in your workforce, but it is important to find the method that makes the most sense for different job positions.

For business owners, it’s ultimately your decision whether or not to hold annual performance reviews. And while there is a growing movement to do away with the process altogether, in the end, it really comes down to what is best not only for your company, but for the people who are working every day to ensure its success. If the decision to offer performance reviews isn’t up to you, as a leader you can still strive to keep this opportunity engaging and make it worth the time and effort of you and your employees.

Posted by: doug308 | September 12, 2011

1 dead, 4 hurt in explosion at French nuclear site

PARIS (AP) — One person died and another was seriously injured in an explosion Monday in a site that treats nuclear waste in southern France, the country’s nuclear safety body said, adding that no radioactive leaks have been detected.

The Nuclear Safety Authority said three other people suffered lesser injuries in the blast at an oven in the Centraco nuclear site.

The Centraco site is located next to another nuclear site, Marcoule, located in Languedoc-Roussillon, in southern France, near the Mediterranean Sea.

“According to initial information, the explosion happened in an oven used to melt radioactive metallic waste of little and very little radioactivity,” the agency said in a statement.

Officials from France’s EDF power company, whose subsidiary operates Centraco, stressed that there was no nuclear reactor on the site and that no waste treated at the site of the explosion came from a reactor.

Spokeswoman Carole Trivi said a fire broke out after the explosion, but it has since been brought under control.

The cause of the blast was not immediately known, and an investigation has been opened, Trivi said.

A news report posted on the website of the local Midi Libre newspaper said no quarantine or evacuation measures had been immediately undertaken.

Staff at the plant reacted to the accident according to planned procedures, the Nuclear Safety Authority said in a statement.

France is more dependent on nuclear energy than any other country in the world, with most of its electricity coming from nuclear reactors.

Associated Press writers Sarah DiLorenzo and Cecile Brisson in Paris

Posted by: doug308 | September 8, 2011

One-Company Careers Are Yesteryear

BY DAVID NICKLAUS
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
Tuesday, Apr. 06 2010

Not so long ago, landing a job with a big St. Louis company was a ticket to a long and lucrative career. These days, it’s just as likely to be a limited-time engagement. Tom Braun learned about the changing nature of work the hard way. After 14 years in various technology jobs at Enterprise Rent-A-Car, he appeared to be on the traditional gold-watch career path. Enterprise, after all, rarely laid anyone off. Then, about a year and a half ago, that changed. Braun was among 200 employees let go in Enterprise’s biggest-ever downsizing. After a 10-month search, he was lucky enough to land a contract position at another big St. Louis company, Express Scripts. That proved to be short-lived, however: Three months later, he got his second pink slip. Braun, age 54, recently landed a contract position at Monsanto and is enthusiastic about the new job but vows to keep his job-search skills up to date. “You almost have to be in marketing mode all the time,” he says. “I never would have thought like that before.” The recession has made Braun’s story all too common, but the lesson he learned will remain valid when hiring picks up again. In this era of outsourcing, restructuring and global competition, no job lasts forever. Blair Forlaw, vice president for talent development at the Regional Chamber and Growth Association, says some employers don’t even talk anymore about hiring people or filling jobs. They talk instead about sourcing talent. Depending on the need, that might mean using a temp agency or a contract worker instead of hiring a full-time employee. The trend is most apparent in Braun’s field, information technology, but it’s spreading to other occupations. “Maybe this recession was the final death throes of the industrial model of employment,” Forlaw observes. If so, then all workers need to learn the lessons that Braun learned the hard way: Keep your skills sharp and seek out opportunities to learn new things. Network with fellow professionals so you have some idea of where to find your next gig. During Braun’s stints of unemployment, he pursued training and certification opportunities that would help him advertise his skills to employers. He found Bounce Back, a networking group that Forlaw runs, to be especially helpful.

“If I have one message for folks who are out of work, it is, ‘Don’t do it alone,'” Braun says. “I know some people who just shut down, didn’t network or anything, and most of them are still unemployed.”

Corporate America’s new labor-sourcing ethos contains lessons for civic leaders, too. One is that the region needs a web of networking groups, like Bounce Back and the United Way’s Go! Network, to help laid-off professionals find opportunities without leaving town. Another lesson is that, in a traditional big-company place like St. Louis, people will need help adjusting to a world where temporary or contract positions are more common than permanent job offers. “Ideally, we’ll have our systems aligned with these new forms of work,” Forlaw says. “The educational system will be helping to prepare people for new kinds of careers, and talented people will be accepting and even eager for new kinds of opportunities.” For many veteran workers, the reality she’s describing will sound harsh and undesirable. As Braun learned, however, it’s better to embrace the inevitable than to long for the way things used to be.

By Paul Davidson, USA TODAY

An encouraging jobs report Friday underscored the growing prominence of temporary workers who some experts predict could constitute up to a quarter of the workforce in a few years.
A big reason employers shed a far-less-than-expected 11,000 jobs last month is that temporary staffing agencies found slots for 52,000 additional workers, the most since 2004, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) said.
That’s a good sign because cautious employers typically hire temps in a recovery before bringing on full-time staffers.
“Companies are hesitant to say demand is lasting and they go first to the contract labor market,” says Manpower CEO Jeff Joerres. The No. 1 staffing agency’s business rose 10% to 15% last quarter, he says.
Other industry officials are reporting an even bigger jump, partly because of a long-term shift to contractors in the workplace. Temporary placements for Nelson Staffing, a Sonoma, Calif., staffing agency, are up about 20% the past five weeks and expect to climb another 5% early next year, marketing head Courtney Dickson says.
“Product launches used to take several years – now it can be only six months,” says Barry Asin, chief analyst at Staffing Industry Analysts, which studies the field. “You need a flexible workforce to ramp up and move to the next project.”
If a new product fizzles, contract workers can easily be let go. And so-called contingent workers can cost up to 30% less than regular employees because they typically don’t receive benefits such as health insurance or unemployment – a key selling point in a fragile economy.
Contract employees who sign on with a firm for several weeks or months constitute about 8% of the U.S. workforce, Asin says, or 10 million Americans. The lion’s share are independent contractors not tracked by BLS.
Gary Mathiason, vice chairman of Littler, the No. 1 employment law firm, predicts half the jobs created in the recovery will be filled by contractors, consultants and other temps. Fifteen years ago, most temporary slots were for office work, but more than half are now filled by professionals such as engineers and physicians, Asin says. Business Talent Group, which places executives, saw its second-quarter business rise 70%.
“You can choose your projects and if something’s not working out, you can move on” or “take a hiatus,” company co-founder Amelia Tyagi says.
The trend is giving rise to new services. Start-up oDesk serves small businesses that want to monitor the computers of remote employees. Client Erik Budde, CEO of AboutAirportParking.com, says six of his nine employees are contractors: “In this economy it’s nice to have that flexibility.”

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