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Mechanical Engineering. 2012;134(07):28-33. doi:10.1115/1.2012-JUL-1.
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This article focuses on learning from the successes and failures of the first-generation reactor development. Reactor designs have evolved over time to meet increasingly rigorous demands for safety and to take advantage of technological developments to improve their economics, but these changes have been piecemeal. Although light-water reactors are the most common reactor technology in use today, heavy-water reactors were actually developed earlier. The earliest demonstration of a heavy-water moderated and cooled reactor took place in May 1944 at Argonne. The reasons for the domination of water-cooled reactors, and particularly of light-water reactors, are complex. The article suggests that it is interesting to speculate on how the new initiative to develop more advanced designs may play out. There are already strong pressures to focus on the integral light-water design; based on well-understood light-water technology, the argument goes, such designs will be much easier to develop and license. In the longer term, however, some of the non-light water reactors could ultimately achieve greater levels of passive safety, efficient fuel utilization, economic performance, and proliferation resistance.

Commentary by Dr. Valentin Fuster
Mechanical Engineering. 2012;134(07):34-38. doi:10.1115/1.2012-JUL-2.
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This article focuses on the need of formulating and applying a risk model that integrates not just potential loss of life but social, economic, and political costs as well. The risk from nuclear energy use poses special questions, as its potential radiation threat is unseen and not very well understood by the public. The uncertainty of the risk of any event, whether a giant global tsunami or a local gas leak, is given by its probability or chance. It has been pointed out that with both Fukushima and the Deepwater Horizon, the loss of life was insignificant compared to everyday accidents. There is need to adopt integrated relative risk as a measure for all technologies with extreme events to quantify social-consequence costs and impacts. Equally important is the creation of a learning environment at all the operational, regulatory, managerial, political, and social levels to help promote assurance of societal acceptance. The goal is restoration of perceived public and political acceptance and trust.

Topics: Probability , Risk , Accidents
Commentary by Dr. Valentin Fuster
Mechanical Engineering. 2012;134(07):40-41. doi:10.1115/1.2012-JUL-4.
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This article explores the need of a government regulation that will play a vital role in US long-term economic/environmental/energy stability strategy. It is also important to remember that at every stage of the rulemaking process, there are opportunities for the general public to voice opinions about the rule, and the agency is often required by law to consider each of these comments. The regulatory uncertainty is nearly as detrimental as the regulations themselves, and it is often counterproductive to the goal of improving the environment. Expert points out that the regulatory uncertainty is nearly as detrimental as the regulations themselves, and it is often counterproductive to the goal of improving the environment. The United States has abundant natural resources and the technical expertise to harness them. Now there is only a need to put in place policies that positively impact our energy picture and carefully consider policies that interfere with that goal.

Commentary by Dr. Valentin Fuster
Mechanical Engineering. 2012;134(07):48-51. doi:10.1115/1.2012-JUL-5.
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This article explores the need to establish an engineering maintenance management system and presents a case study of the same at Minera San Cristobal S.A. (MSC), a Bolivian mining company owned by Sumitomo Corp. Plant operational reliability elements are design, equipment, processes, and people. The company developed a format for maintenance management key performance indicators; for instance, comparing scheduled and unscheduled work orders or equipment availability vs. operational availability. These helped in measuring the performance of the equipment on which preventive maintenance had been performed. Within a short period of time, MSC has shown remarkable improvement. Early in 2009, the company had faced bankruptcy, and has now returned to profitability. The establishment of an engineering maintenance management system has produced change and growth, has raised the company’s standards, and has advanced MSC toward its goal to become a world-class company.

Topics: Maintenance
Commentary by Dr. Valentin Fuster
Mechanical Engineering. 2012;134(07):52-53. doi:10.1115/1.2012-JUL-6.
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This article explains the concept of online receivables auction and its benefits. With the use of online receivables financing, companies have been able to accelerate its growth when they want and on their own terms. A key distinction between The Receivables Exchange and other, traditional forms of financing is that the Exchange gives sellers the opportunity to choose when and at what price to sell individual invoices. As a result, each company maintains control over its cash flow. Auctioning receivables can increase a company’s liquidity by cutting its day sales outstanding. In today’s financial climate, cash flow management strategies can mean the difference between the life and death of a company. Growth-oriented engineering firms are no longer judged by their short track record or lack of tangible collateral. Rather, because buyers judge the credit quality of the seller’s customers, sellers are able to leverage the strength of their best customers to increase their short-term liquidity at competitive rates.

Commentary by Dr. Valentin Fuster

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