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Showing posts from February, 2005

Nuclear Energy: Not a Left/Right Issue

There are a few well-known liberal bloggers who are willing to engage in a positive dialogue about nuclear energy. For starters, read this post from Matt Yglesias from last year:

Much as liberals may think we should increase our use of clean fuels like wind, solar, and hydro power -- and we should! -- it's simply not feasible to meet current electricity demand through these routes, much less meet current demand plus the additional demand imposed by economic growth plus the additional demand imposed by the need to move away from gasoline. That means looking at nuclear power -- which has fallen into disfavor out of a mix of irrational fear and the fact that Nevada is a swing state -- to do some of the work for us.

As an added nuclear-power bonus, let's note that insofar as there's a legitimate market for radioactive material that reduces the incentive for developing countries to sell their uranium to, say, al-Qaeda or Iran who might have more nefarious purposes in mind for it…

What Are Nuclear Energy's Chances in Canada?

From Maclean's:

Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd. figures Ontario's 7,500-MW shortfall from the closings is the perfect opportunity to promote its Candu reactors. "There just aren't any other options for large-scale production of electricity -- or replacement of existing, polluting electricity -- other than nuclear power," says David Torgerson, chief technology officer at AECL. "It's the only technology that can meet demand for electricity and still reduce greenhouse gas emissions."

Canada, with its commitment to the Kyoto Protocols, has few other options but nuclear energy.

Learn about Private Fuel Storage

Private Fuel Storage, LLC has announced a meeting to educate some of the industry folks regarding the project.

Meeting topics will include:
Recent PFS milestones and plans moving forwardHow will PFS significantly reduce the lifetime storage costs of nuclear fuel for operating and decommissioning plants?How will PFS supplement DOE's long term storage plans?PFS plans for transportation Meeting will beheld on March 7th from 2 to 4:30 pm in Bethesda, Maryland. Please shoot me an email if you are interested in the meeting or visit the Private Fuel Storage website (you better hurry...the last day to register for the meeting is today).

Too Much Hype for Hydropower?

During my morning surfing looking for new topics for this blog, I came across this post regarding hydropower. While this blogger hits on the normal arguments of damage to ecology:
Nevertheless, it seems to me that a much easier argument against hydropower can be made: the adverse effect on ecology. Freshwater streams and rivers were formally populated heavily during the fall season by salmon and seagoing trout (steelhead trout) returning to spawn.They also add the following article that cites a study from Brazil's National Institute for Research in the Amazon in Manaus. The study goes on to say that hydroelectric dams produce significant amounts of carbon dioxide and methane, and in some cases produce more of these greenhouse gases than power plants running on fossil fuels.

While the author of the study goes on to say that it is not something to worry about right now, it still brings into question another source of "renewable" energy that the environmental movement brings…

Private Fuel Storage - a reality?

Last Thursday, the private used fuel repository, Private Fuel Storage, LLC passed a majormilestone with the decision by the Atomic Saftey Licensing Board to remove the last of the administrative objections on the project lodged by the state of Utah. This decision moves the project closer to a final licensing vote by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Hopefully this decision will soon allow the industry to demonstrate once again that it can move used nuclear fuel safley and securely on the nation's highways and railroads.

More on the Nuclear Energy Comeback

From this week's edition of Petroleum News:

But a small group of environmentalists are attracting growing attention with their favorable stance on nuclear power.

Led by James Lovelock, Great Britain’s premier environmental scientist, Environmentalists for Nuclear is winning over more and more “Greens” and others to the merits of nuclear energy.

“We cannot continue drawing from fossil fuels and there is no chance that the ‘renewables’ — wind, tide and water power — can provide enough energy and in time,” said Lovelock, who authored the Gaia Theory — the idea that the Earth is one giant living organism that regulates itself in order to sustain life.

“If we had 50 years or more, we might make these our main sources. But we do not have 50 years. ... Even if we stop all fossil fuel burning immediately, the consequences of what we have already done will last for 1,000 years.

One group lining up behind nuclear energy is Environmentalists for Nuclear Energy.

Check them out.

Report Says Scotland Needs to Look to Nuclear Energy

A report by the Oxford Institute for Energy Studies says Scotland should re-think plans for massive wind farms, and instead look to nuclear energy to provide the baseload electricity the nation will need while also protecting environmental quality:

The report, by one of the UK’s leading think tanks on energy policy, is a serious setback for the Scottish Executive. Ministers hope to convince voters that around 70 new wind farms will make a significant contribution to slashing carbon dioxide levels by at least 20% over the next 15 years.

But the institute’s report argues that previous experience shows governments fail to meet their targets for building wind farms, and even when they do deliver their promises, they have little impact on greenhouse gas levels.

Other technologies, such as nuclear energy, which produces no carbon dioxide, now deserve to be given closer consideration by ministers, even if they are unpopular with voters, the report says.

New nuclear power stations in countries su…

More Support For Clean Nuclear Energy

In a letter to editor in the Wisconsin State Journal, Jim Blair of Madison, Wisconsin makes the case for nuclear energy:

Use nukes to chill warming

The politics of the debate are reversed. The right supports nuclear energy but questions the carbon dioxide greenhouse gas-climate change connection. The left wants to reduce carbon dioxide emissions but opposes nuclear energy. There are two relevant realities:

Atmospheric carbon dioxide adsorbs heat from the earth that would otherwise radiate into space, thus altering the climate.

Nuclear power is the only currently available technology capable of providing enough reliable energy to support our economy without generating carbon dioxide.

Looks like the word is getting out.

The Good Word on Generation IV Nuclear Plants

Monday is shaping up to be another big day in the history of nuclear energy:

Representatives of the United States, Japan and Europe will sign an agreement Monday that, in a best-case scenario, will lead to a future in which nuclear power is seen as a boon to the environment and less of a risk to world security.

Known as the International Forum Framework Agreement, the pact being signed at the French Embassy in Washington will encourage further technical research into the development of the next generation of reactors on which a possible renaissance in nuclear power will be based.

"Nuclear technology can play a key role in the future by providing a means of supplying people all over the world with a safe, proliferation-resistant, and economic means of producing electricity -- and eventually hydrogen -- without harming the environment in which we all live and breathe," the Energy Department declared in a tidy summation of the so-called Generation IV Nuclear Energy System.

Besides …

Australia Gives Nuclear Energy A Second Look

From this morning's edition of the Melbourne Age:

Ian Hore-Lacey has a bold prediction: within the next 20 years, Australia will build its first nuclear power generator, and we will do it for environmental reasons. Even a few years ago, nuclear spruikers such as Hore-Lacey would have been laughed out of town for making such an extraordinary forecast . . .

Right now, it's hard to imagine Hore-Lacey's confident prediction of a nuclear plant being built in Australia by 2025 coming true. But after decades of being shunned as environmental villains, the nuclear industry here and overseas clearly senses its time may have come.

"I think that people are opening their minds and starting to say: 'Look, 30 countries are using nuclear power, they can't all be idiots'," says Hore-Lacey.

Australia, according to the article, has the third largest global reserve of Uranium, as well as the highest per capita production of greenhouse gases in the world -- 27 tons per perso…

"Doubling America's Nuclear Capacity by 2030"

Yesterday, I promised more extensive excerpts from former Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham's speech on national energy policy. Here's one of the relevant passages on nuclear energy:

A study last year by Princeton University called for doubling the world’s nuclear power capacity as a means of offsetting the growth of greenhouse gas emissions. That is an excellent and worthy objective, and I believe we should set a goal of doubling America’s nuclear power capacity by 2030.

However, as we well know, no new nuclear plants have been built in the United States since the 1970s. This is both astonishing and alarming, given the unique benefits that nuclear energy offers – benefits no other major energy source available today can provide.

Foremost is the fact that nuclear power emits none of the pollutants associated with the burning of fossil fuels. Indeed, nuclear plants in the eastern part of the United States have made it possible for many states to meet the requirements of the f…

GE Energy Wins Taiwan Contract

So why is this contract important? At the Platts Nuclear Conference in Washington last week, Andy White, President and CEO of GE's nuclear business credited contracts in Japan and Taiwan with helping his company to continue to hone its expertise in nuclear energy despite the fact that it had been decades since a new nuclear plant had been built in the U.S.

For more on the deal, click here for the GE Energy press release.

Faster, Better and Cheaper Doesn't Happen Overnight

When I meet people for the first time and tell them that I work for NEI, I get a variety of reactions, and one of the most common is an extended explanation of why we need to give up nuclear power in favor of renewables like wind and solar.

Now, we have absolutely nothing against wind and solar power (and as a matter of fact, think energy diversity is vital), but when I try to explain about the need for increased baseload generation, how long it takes to plan and build it, and the economics behind all of it, I often am confronted with a look of disbelief and a claim that if we just roll up our sleeves it can be done, "faster, better and cheaper," than we're doing it right now.

Over at Knowledge Problem, economist Lynne Kiesling has come up with a pretty good comeback:

I find that sometimes when discussing economics with energy scientists and engineers I encounter a mindset of "well, just make it cheaper and people will adopt it and all will be hunky dory and in accorda…

Using Nuclear Energy to Make Fresh Water

While many global observers fear future conflicts over supplies of fossil fuels, another resource where the same fear of conflict exists is fresh water -- and nuclear can help defuse those tensions by providing clean and reliable energy to power water desalinization plants. Here's some news from the United Arab Emirates:

In a press statement, Saeed Mohammad Al Raqabani, minister of agriculture and fisheries, said: ''Our meagre water resources are under tremendous pressure and this will continue as long as there are expansion programmes, since the demand is increasing.''

”If a country has less than 200 millimeters of rain per year then it is classified as one of the arid countries. The UAE has a lot less rain than that,” he added.

According to an official report, the average amount of renewable fresh water available in the UAE is already less than 250 cubic meters per person per year, which is well below the average international per capita water consumption.

Plans are…

President Bush on Energy Security and National Security

President Bush keeps reaffirming his commitment to nuclear energy in public. The following is from a transcript of a roundtable discussion the President conducted with young professionals in Mainz, Germany yesterday:

And let me say something about September the 11th. I think this will help frame the conversation as we go forward. For some, September the 11th was a passing moment in history. In other words, it was a terrible moment, but it passes. For me, and my government, and many in the United States, it permanently changed our outlook on the world. Those two attitudes caused us, sometimes, to talk past each other, and I plead guilty at times. But as this conversation goes on, I want you to remember that point of view.

As a result of feeling like -- that my main obligation is now to protect the American people, and to confront an ideology of hate. We are no longer -- our primary objective is the spread of freedom. The best way to diversify, at least for my country -- and I don't …

How High Oil?

It was another one of those days in the global oil markets:

Light, sweet crude for April delivery rose 22 cents to settle at $51.39 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent crude rose 93 cents to $49.44 a barrel on the International Petroleum Exchange.

Crude futures are roughly 49 percent higher than a year ago after rallying nearly $3 a barrel on Tuesday. Prices moved higher on concerns about cold weather, the declining value of the dollar and the world's tight supply-demand balance, traders said.

"Constructive Dialogue"

Former Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham said goodbye to Washington today at a luncheon sponsored by USEA, but before he left he gave his first major policy address since leaving office -- one that included a call for the nation to double its nuclear capacity by 2030.

I'll excerpt more of the speech tomorrow, but this paragraph jumped out at me right away:

[I]t is imperative that we also revive and refocus the public debate over nuclear power. The time has come for nuclear power’s supporters to actively engage its political opponents -- especially those who also advocate controlling greenhouse gas emissions -- in a constructive dialogue about nuclear energy’s environmental and economic advantages.

And it appears there are a number of environmentalists who are willing to listen too. And click here for an NEI fact sheet on nuclear energy and how it helps reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The Nuclear Energy Debate In Holland

There's an interesting debate going on in Holland, where environmentalists are pressing the government to shut down the Borssele nuclear plant in 2013 -- but a number of pro-nuclear supporters are fighting it, saying that the plant can still be operated safely for years to come:

Borssele, which produces some 4 to 5 percent of Dutch electricity, was built in 1973 and it was anticipated at the time it would have a 40-year lifespan.

Utility EPZ, the plant's operator, won a court battle against the government two years ago to leave the plant open past an initial planned closure date of 2004, set by Dutch parliament in 1994.

Concerns about radioactive waste and the 1986 disaster at the former Soviet Union's Chernobyl plant have sparked widespread opposition to nuclear power in the environmentally-conscious Netherlands.

But there have been growing calls to keep Borssele open.

A recent Dutch opinion poll showed that 65 percent think Borssele can remain open while 23 percent say it sho…

Focus On Dry Cask Storage

Here's an informative piece on dry cask storage, one method nuclear power plants use to store used fuel:

Using items resembling a straw, a wide-mouthed water bottle and an insulated beverage jacket, the chief engineer at the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant showed lawmakers how the company would like to store its used but highly radioactive fuel assemblies.

The process is called dry-cask storage and involves encasing irradiated fuel rods in protective layers so they can be moved out of their current storage site in a 40-foot deep pool inside the plant. The pool is nearly full of used fuel assemblies and Entergy Nuclear, owner of the 32-year-old plant, needs another storage option if it is going to keep Vermont Yankee operating through 2012, when its license expires.

To change the way it stores the radioactive rods, Entergy needs the Legislature's permission. The company wants lawmakers to act this year.

But dry cask storage is only a temporary solution until a centralized repository o…

China Moves Ahead On Commercial Nuclear

When it comes to the future of global energy markets, there's no bigger player than China. As it rapidly industrializes, and creates wider economic opportunities for its citizens, it will demand more and more energy -- and its turning to nuclear energy for answers:

China will take bids next week from a trio of international nuclear technology giants competing for contracts to design and build four reactors in China, state media reported Wednesday.

U.S.-based Westinghouse Electric Co., Framatome, a unit of France's state-owned Areva SA, and Russia's AtomSTroyExport plan proposals for the four nuclear reactors in eastern China's Zhejiang province and Guangdong province in the south, the official Xinhua News Agency reported.

The State Nuclear Power Technology Corp., the government-run company in charge of China's nuclear energy program, plans to formally receive the bids next Monday, the report said.

In addition, Shangdon Province is moving ahead with plans for three …

A few observations - North Anna Env. Impact Hearing

Last week I had the pleasure of attending my first public meeting dealing with nuclear power. As some you may already know, Dominion Power, has applied to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to possibly build another reactor at their North Anna reactor site. While I have been to many public meetings in the past, I have never seen anything like this before.

North Anna Nuclear Power Station is located on a man-made lake called Lake Anna. When the NRC finally approved this site for a reactor they created a cooling lake by constructing a dam on a local river. Today Lake Anna is a playground for Virginia, homes and businesses have sprouted around the lake creating a sustained community around the plant. Like many other reactors in the United States, many of those who work at North Anna live in the surrounding community.

When the meeting began, I tried to take notes on every speaker with the hopes of actually answering every concern and question but this is just not feasible. Instead I decided…

Kickoff Meeting - DC Chapter of Young Generation in Nuclear

What: Young Generation in Nuclear - DC Chapter Kickoff

When: Thursday, February 24th from 6:30 - 8:00 pm

Where: Nuclear Energy Institute (conference room 4 main)

1776 Eye Street, NW
Washington, DC

Why: NA-YGN was established in 1999 by a small group of young professionals across North America. Our mission was (and still is) to unite young professionals who believe in Nuclear Science and Technology and are working together throughout North America to share their passion for a field that is alive and kicking.

This mission has a number of goals:

1. Recruit talented young people into nuclear careers.

2. Retain young nuclear professionals in the nuclear industry.

3. Facilitate the transfer of information and know-how between
the pioneers of the nuclear industry that are starting to retire,
and the new generation of nuclear professionals

Contact:
Brian Smith
Nuclear Energy Institute
(202)739-8143

Do You Know Patrick Moore?

He was one of the founders of Greenpeace, but has publicly broken with the group over a variety of issues he outlined in an op-ed piece in the Miami Herald (registration required) a few weeks ago. He's another committed environmentalist who supports nuclear energy:

A significant reduction in greenhouse gas emissions seems unlikely given our continued heavy reliance on fossil fuel consumption. Even UK environmentalist James Lovelock, who posited the Gaia theory that the Earth operates as a giant, self-regulating super-organism, now sees nuclear energy as key to our planet's future health. ''Civilization is in imminent danger,'' he warns, ``and has to use nuclear -- the one safe, available energy source -- or suffer the pain soon to be inflicted by our outraged planet.''

Yet environmental activists, notably Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth, continue lobbying against clean nuclear energy and for the Band-Aid Kyoto Treaty. Renewable energies, such as wind…

Capitol Hill Takes Notice . . .

From the latest issue of U.S. News and World Report:

Convinced that Internet weblogs, or blogs, helped defeat Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle and out Dan Rather 's bad reporting on President Bush 's National Guard duty, House and Senate Republicans are scrambling to put them on their government Web pages. "Senators want them even though they don't know what they are," says a strategist helping several GOP senators develop the chat and news pages.

That's nothing but good news for the medium, and for the Senators taking the next step to put this in play. Thanks to Radley Balko for the link.

Duke Power Plans COL; New Nuclear Plant Possible by 2015

Earlier this week, Duke Power Chief Nuclear Officer Brew Barron made an important announcement (registration required) for the future of the commercial nuclear industry at the Platts Nuclear Energy Conference in Washington, D.C.:

Duke Power is in the initial stages of planning the preparation of a combined construction and operating license, or COL, application for a new nuclear generating facility, to be sited within the Duke Power service territory . . .

Most significantly, in order to meet our generation planning model time line, we are focusing our efforts on preparing a COL application that would include the site approval, rather than first making an early site permit application.

This is a really big deal. I was in the room for the announcement, and the attendees seemed to be experiencing a mixture of intense joy and disbelief.

A conversation between two executives at one reactor manufacturer was pretty typical:

"Would you believe somebody making an announcement like that a …

What is NEI, and Why Do We Have a Blog?

Welcome to NEI Nuclear Notes, a new spot in the Blogsphere owned by the Nuclear Energy Institute, the Washington-based policy organization that represents the American nuclear industry. To keep things simple to start, here's our mission statement:

The Nuclear Energy Institute is the policy organization of the nuclear energy and technologies industry and participates in both the national and global policy-making process. NEI’s objective is to ensure the formation of policies that promote the beneficial uses of nuclear energy and technologies in the United States and around the world.

For those of you who might be wondering, I'm the same Eric McErlain who is responsible for Off Wing Opinion. Let's just say that after four years of sports blogging I thought it was time to take what I've learned, and apply it to weightier pursuits. And when I go to work at NEI, I feel like I get to contribute to a lot of worthwhile endeavors like energy security, environmental protection