Thursday, March 31, 2005

Earth Day and the DC Department of Energy

During the first meeting of the DC Chapter of Young Generation in Nuclear, a member proposed putting together some type of public education exhibit to coincide with Earth Day. After a little research we identified that the District of Columbia's Energy Office was holding a week long Earth Day event and that this would be the best venue.

About a week ago, I contacted, Marielle Avilla, the woman in charge of the event. She seemed to understand why a group like NA-YGN would like to participate in a public education day on energy. As we finished our conversation, she promised to send me the registration materials that afternoon.

Fast forward to this week and I was still waiting for the materials, so I decided to call Ms. Avilla. She responded to me via email asking me to provide a brief paragraph as to "why we wanted to exhibit". I emailed the following:

Nuclear energy is the largest, emission free source of baseload electricity production. With the current environmental situation in the states, nuclear power has had a major comeback with decisionmakers as to a solution for carbon based pollution. NAYGN (North American Young Generation in Nuclear) is the professional association that comprises professionals working in all facets of nuclear technology (medical, energy production etc.). We have numerous brochures and other educational materials that will explain the environmental benefits of nuclear and how, with more nuclear plants in the United States, we could fit into many of the carbon control programs being considered on the local, state and federal levels.
Not long after that, I got a call from Avilla's boss, Tomaysa Sterling, informing me that they would not be able to "accommodate our request to participate" in the event. The reason given was that nuclear energy was not considered a "renewable" form of energy and they were only extending invitations to producers of "renewable" energy. I mentioned that while I understood the need to push the renewable message, I thought that it was unfair for a government entity to exclude the largest, non-emitting source of baseload electricity as it has less of an environmental impact than some renewables (windmills and hydropower).

During our conversation, Ms. Sterling mentioned that the decision to decline our participation was really made because of two factors:

DC does not draw any of it's electricity from nuclear power Nuclear energy is seen as "dangerous and unsafe" by the public

**UPDATE** PEPCO estimates that just over 30% of the electricity generated for the District of Columbia and the Maryland suburbs is generated by nuclear power. Less than 1 percent is generated by renewables.

While it seemed that Ms. Sterling was only following guidance she got from management, any "negative" perception of the industry is because of groups like the DC Department of Energy who only give a partial explanation of the entire energy picture. And in any case, some of the latest public opinion data contradicts her assertion quite dramatically.

As you have read on this blog, NEI supports a diverse portfolio of electricity generation (and included in this is a renewable portfolio). Giving the message to the general public that renewable energy is the only way to solve the carbon, sulfur dioxide and nitrous oxide emissions issue is just plain wrong -- and some of the world's leading environmentalists agree.

Currently all power generated inside of the borders of the District of Columbia is oil powered. With prices climbing and the environmental impacts that occur with burning oil for electricity, you would think that the DC Government would be looking for other sources of baseload power production. Eventually a portion could come from "renewables", however it is unlikely in the next 20 years.

The two other states that make up the DC metropolitan region generate more than 20 percent of their power from nuclear (Maryland - 26% and Virginia - 34%), so why is DC adamant about leaving nuclear out of any Earth Day festivities?

Better public education on electrical generation and its environmental impact is critical to informed public debate. Without a balanced discussion, with every stakeholder presenting, the public will not have all the information it needs to make an informed decision.

Ms. Sterling, identified herself as an energy professional, but she seemed to foster many of the stereotypes that the anti-nuclear movement has pushed for the last 25 years. As I mentioned, she brought up "health effects" during our conversation and cited Three Mile Island as an example. This despite the fact that a University of Pittsburgh study showed there were no lasting health effects as a result of the accident.

Public education about the benefits of nuclear needs to happen, but how can we accomplish this without being allowed a seat at the table?

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Some Background on Used Fuel Issues

In trying to understand the tangled issues of a national fuel repository, I have been reviewing how we got here. Specifically, how did we, as a nation, come to be stockpiling used fuel? And how, exactly, did the decision to stockpile the fuel instead of recycle it relieve non-proliferation fears?

FRONTLINE has provided links to two essays: one in favor of the 1977 decision to delay/cancel nuclear fuel reprocessing and one opposed. While these resources do not make for light reading, they are very informative, and paint a picture of the reprocessing decision in light of the political landscape of the times.

The show that is associated with these essays was first aired in 1997. When you're finished with the essays, the reactions to the show are much easier to digest. I was delighted by Frank R. Borger's email regarding radiation exposure from coal stations (with a link to the appropriate reference)!

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

NY AREA Rallies Support for Indian Point

Yesterday, another stage in the PR battle over the Indian Point Nuclear Power Plant began, as supporters and opponents of the plant both staged public rallies concerning a possible relicensing.

But while you might be familiar with many of the names associated with the opponents of Indian Point, you ought to take a few minutes to familiarize yourself with New York Affordable Reliable Electricity Alliance (NY AREA), an alliance of business, labor and community groups formed to rally support for the plant and raise public awareness about the New York area's energy needs.

Yesterday at a press conference in White Plains, New York, Jerry Kremer, former New York State Assemblyman and Chairman of the Advisory Board of NY AREA had this to say:

Tonight, the anti-nuclear group Riverkeeper will launch what they are calling a campaign kickoff to deny re-licensing for the Indian Point Energy Center and advance their cause to close the plants. But it’s really an attempt to breathe life into what has become a tired and discredited campaign.

It would be nice to ignore Riverkeeper’'s membership campaign, except for the fact that they are promoting an agenda that would wreak havoc on both our regional economy and the environment.

Considering all the criticism over air quality in this region, New York needs the clean power that Indian Point provides and will need it even more in the years to come. That'’s why a diverse group of business, labor, environmental, and community leaders have come here today.

On their Web site, the group has an extensive list of resources, including a copy of the NEI economic impact study on Indian Point.

Debating the Environmental Benefits of Nuclear Energy in Holland

Earlier this month, the Amsterdam Forum on Radio Netherlands held a debate between Bruno Comby, president of Paris-based Environmentalists for Nuclear Energy and Rianne Teule from Greenpeace Netherlands, on the environmental benefits of nuclear energy.

The program, which runs just under 30 minutes, is available in both Windows Media and Real Media.

For more on the background on the nuclear energy debate in the Netherlands, click here and here.

Another Blogger For Nuclear Energy

Commenting on Tom Friedman's column in Sunday's New York Times, Seattle's Roy Smith makes the case for nuclear energy:

For too long, the "environmental movement" has sabotaged real solutions to the climate change issue by their ideologically based, uninformed opposition to nuclear energy. It is refreshing to see voices such as Mr. Friedman and James Lovelock pointing out that rather than being an enviromental armageddon, nuclear energy may be our only hope for saving the planet from a global warming catastrophe.

To read what other bloggers have to say about nuclear energy, click here, here, here and here.

Columbia Looks Into Nuclear Energy

From the Columbia (Mo.) Daily Tribune:

Columbia Water & Light officials are considering doubling the size of the coal-burning Municipal Power Plant on Business Loop 70.

As an alternative, Mayor Darwin Hindman said he’d be interested in looking into buying a portion of a new nuclear power plant outside the Columbia area . . .

Hindman said he favors looking into building a new coal plant but also wants the nuclear option investigated. While a nuclear plant would probably never be built in Columbia, he said, the city’s utility could buy a percentage of one built elsewhere.

"I do think that in a volatile market where we subject ourselves to market prices of buying electricity during peak times, we need to hedge that in some way," Hindman said. "Building a power plant is one way to do that."

"One thing we should never overlook is the use of nuclear power," he said. "It doesn’t pollute the air."

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Now We're Cooking!

As I've mentioned before, the Virginia Section of North American-Young Generation in Nuclear (NA-YGN) has been vocal in the public debate about the potential for new nuclear power plants in our state. Articles have appeared in many local newspapers and anti-nuclear activists have been writing letters attacking not only nuclear power, but NA-YGN members personally. Some of us have responded as diplomatically as possible to the misinformation and character defamation.

Recently, in a letter published in Cville, a weekly newspaper in Charlottesville, one writer suspected that the nuclear industry was trying to fake a grassroots movement and that NA-YGN "reeks of deceit and corruption." In response, I wrote that NA-YGN was founded in 1999 well before anyone seriously began talking about new nuclear plants, that the Virginia section in particular was engaged in many public outreach activities years before Dominion ever submitted an Early Site Permit application, and that making such slanderous statements about an organization simply because it supports an action that one does not is the height of rudeness and intolerance.

The next week, another locally prominent anti-nuclear extremist, Elena Day, wrote a letter in which she said in part:

While Vice President Lisa Shell likes to characterize the group as a “pro-nuclear grassroots organization” [“Talking ‘bout my Generation,” Mailbag, March 8], I would like to pose the following question: Is it reasonable for groups whose members have vested their careers in the nationwide acceptance and growth of the nuclear industry to direct or dominate the debate on the expansion of nuclear power in Virginia? I believe not.
Unfortunately, I was on vacation and unable to respond to Ms. Day in time for the next issue. I would have said,

1) I don't support nuclear power because I work in the industry, I work in the industry because I support nuclear power.

2) If greed were my motivation, I would be lobbying to shutdown all nuclear power plants in this country. With ten years of research and working experience in spent nuclear fuel management, if every plant began decommissioning I could name my price as a consultant and retire wealthy at a young age.

3) Who, exactly, is better positioned to comment objectively on nuclear power plants than well-educated professionals who work there and choose to live in the surrounding communities?

4) If, as Ms. Day suggests, those who are employed in the nuclear industry should be disqualified from the public debate, then to be fair, the career anti-nuclear ideologues who make a living working for Public Citizen, BREDL, NIRS, etc., and who provide the skewed information that she often quotes in her letters, must also be excluded.

I didn't have the opportunity to submit the above, but luckily, two of my colleagues that were also called out by Ms. Day fired back in letters printed this week.

Mike Stuart corrected some of Ms. Day's statments about coal plants and ended with:
As for the young engineers and nuclear professionals in NA-YGN, we will not sit idly by while the best chance this country has for energy independence is discredited by the half-truths and misrepresentations that groups such as the People’s Alliance for Clean Energy and the Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League will spread to promote their anti-nuclear agenda. These groups have been allowed to spread flawed information without accountability for far too long. If anything, these groups should take a lesson from another grass roots organization, Greenpeace, whose founder, Patrick Moore, has publicly admitted that nuclear power is preferable to the alternatives.
And, to top off the page linked above, you'll note that two local seventh-grade students weighed in with their thoughts on the benefits of nuclear power.

Woohoo! The public debate about nuclear power is heating up in Virginia!

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Monday, March 28, 2005

Backing Palisades

The Van Buren County (Michigan) Board of Commissioners adopted a resolution at the March 22 meeting in support of Consumers Energy's application for license renewal for Palisades Nuclear Plant.

For more on the NRC license renewal process, click here.

Vietnam Considers Nuclear Energy; Taiwan Has Second Thoughts on Phase-Out

From Japan's Asahi Shimbun:

Vietnam has nuclear power in its sights as a way to meet the sharp rise in its domestic electricity consumption. The country could see the completion of its first nuclear power plant as early as 2017.

An exploratory committee appointed by the government in 2001 has completed a pre-feasibility study for nuclear power development. The compiled report is now ready to be submitted to Prime Minister Phan Van Khai . . .

Even if the country greatly expands its hydropower and thermal power plants, demand will overtake production capacity, forcing the country to buy power from nearby countries including Laos, China and Cambodia around 2015.

Vietnam therefore plans to have its first nuclear power plant with an electricity generating capacity of 2 million kilowatts running sometime after 2015.

Meanwhile, Taiwan is finding that phasing out nuclear energy will be a lot harder than the country originally anticipated.

Tom Friedman Endorses New Nuclear Build

In yesterday's New York Times, columnist Tom Friedman offered an endorsement of nuclear power that's becoming familiar (registration required):

We need to start building nuclear power plants again. The new nuclear technology is safer and cleaner than ever. "The risks of climate change by continuing to rely on hydrocarbons are much greater than the risks of nuclear power," said Peter Schwartz, chairman of Global Business Network, a leading energy and strategy consulting firm. "Climate change is real and it poses a civilizational threat that [could] transform the carrying capacity of the entire planet."

Blogger Dave Johnson is thinking the same thing.

Another Blogger For Nuclear Energy

Adding Dave Halliday to the growing list.

George Will on Yucca Mountain, Part II

In the second part of his two-part series on Yucca Mountain (click here for our post on Part I), George Will comes to this conclusion:

The nation should generate much more than the one-fifth of its electricity nuclear power currently produces. Forty percent of the Navy is nuclear-powered. More nuclear waste is produced daily.

Nevada has two tactics. It is insisting on a degree of certainty -- absolute certainty, over 100 millennia -- that is unreasonable, even considering the stakes. And it is making testable assertions about geological and metallurgical matters about which scientists are reaching conclusions that are beyond reasonable doubts.

Three truths: America must store nuclear waste more safely, can never prove perfect safety forever and hence cannot store waste anywhere it will be welcomed. An axiom: Put all your eggs in one basket and watch that basket.

Blogger John Starley likes the idea.

Friday, March 25, 2005

New Blog on Nuclear Engineering

I was pleased to come across a new blog on Nuclear Engineering. Click here for the first post, an e-mail Q&A with a student.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

New Nuclear Build and Industry Incentives

From Cap Weinberger's column in the latest edition of Forbes:

At the beginning of his first term President Bush stated the need for more reliable supplies of reasonably priced, environmentally responsible energy to be produced domestically. For four long years Congress paid but scant attention to his call. The President quite properly reminded Congress in his State of the Union address that our future economic growth will require far more energy production at home, including safe, clean nuclear energy. In order to jump-start our nuclear energy program, we will need to reduce the regulatory delays and hurdles that now stand in the path of any utility ready to invest in the long, costly effort required to build nuclear power plants.

To learn more about exactly just what incentives would be appropriate, click here for a report from the Secretary of Energy Advisory Board's Nuclear Energy Task Force.

Wind Power and Its Environmental Footprint

From the Rice Lake (Wisc.) Chronotype:

State officials say a planned wind farm next to the Horicon Marsh in east central Wisconsin raises concerns the turbines could harm large migrating birds such as sandhill cranes and also could endanger the thousands of bats that hibernate at a nearby abandoned mine.

The draft environmental impact statement issued Tuesday suggests raptors and small birds could also be at risk from the 133 wind turbines proposed by the Forward Wind Energy Center.

Authors of the statement are critical of the developers for not having their studies include the types of birds located in areas closest to Horicon. Those studies focused on other wind energy projects and found little evidence of damage to birds, but none of the studies approximated conditions around Horicon, the report said.

Going forward, America and the world are going to need a lot more electricity, and we're going to have to rely on a diverse portfolio of sources of generation -- and every one of those comes with one kind of environmental opportunity cost or another.

There is no single magic bullet.

Xcel Energy Applies for Renewal of Monticello License

From the Twin Cities Business Journal:

Xcel Energy Inc. has applied with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to renew its operating license for its Monticello nuclear power plant, the company announced Thursday.

The Minneapolis-based utility company requested a 20-year extension for the single-unit, 600-megawatt plant. Its current 40-year license expires in 2010.

Hudson, Wis.-based Nuclear Management Co., which operates the facilities the Xcel, filed the application at Xcel's direction.

As we mentioned earlier, the NRC license renewal process is one of the great success stories of the American utility industry.

Susquehanna Sets Refueling Record

Congratulations to the team at Susquehanna on this achievement:

It was anything but business as usual when PPL Corporation reconnected Unit 2 of the Susquehanna nuclear power plant to the electrical transmission network early this morning (3/24).

It was business better than usual.

Employees and contractors safely completed a 26-day refueling and inspection outage - the shortest in the plant’s 20-year history.

"This achievement is the result of significant improvements to processes and planning that we have made over the past several years," said Bob Saccone, vice president-Nuclear Operations. "Employees thoughtfully reviewed and researched plant and industry experience to identify improvements that would not sacrifice safety."

The improvements include better planning, earlier inspection of equipment, performing more work simultaneously and using new equipment to perform routine tasks more efficiently.

Again, it's a familiar storyline.

Brookings Event On New Media

Earlier this week, the Brookings Institution held a panel discussion on Blogs and New Media that was moderated by E.J. Dionne of the Washington Post. For a transcript of the meeting, click here (PDF).

Thanks to Tom Biro for the link.

Does America Have a Hydrogen-Powered Future?

Using rising gas prices as the background, Knight Ridder's Robert Boyd is taking a look at the future of hydrogen-powered vehicles:

But the cost of delivering a hydrogen-powered car to market is a major obstacle, as is the cost of converting tens of thousands of service stations from gasoline to hydrogen. Despite its abundance in nature, producing hydrogen in a usable form costs three to four times more than refining crude oil into gasoline.

What's more, while burning hydrogen is non-polluting, generating the electric power needed to produce it, say by splitting water (H2O) into hydrogen and oxygen, could produce more pollution.

Scientists are experimenting with enlisting living organisms, such as bacteria and algae, that can make hydrogen from sunlight and are seeking ways to generate hydrogen from nuclear and solar power. The costs of such technologies are still unknown.

The higher the cost of gasoline, however, the more competitive hydrogen will be, said Thomas Sheahen, an analyst at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory's Washington office.

"At most, the cost (of hydrogen) should equal the cents-per-mile cost of gasoline," said Steve Chalk, the Energy Department's National Hydrogen Program manager. "I hope it will be lower."

For more information on the future of the hydrogen economy from NEI, click here.

U.S. Government to Track Greenhouse Gas Emissions

From the Associated Press:

The government will start keeping track of all the "greenhouse" gases that farmers and foresters voluntarily reduce to help combat global warming.

Officials in the Energy and Agriculture departments issued guidelines Wednesday for counting those efforts. They said the action indicates how seriously the Bush administration views the problem of gases that trap heat in the atmosphere like a greenhouse.

For more on the program, click here.

George Will on Yucca Mountain

In a column that began running nationwide today, George Will takes a look at the stakes involved with the Yucca Mountain Project:

One-fifth of the nation's electricity is generated by nuclear power. Were that share substantially increased, that would reduce dependence on fuels (oil, coal, natural gas) that have large environmental and geopolitical drawbacks. Also, 40 percent of the Navy's fleet is nuclear-powered. Nuclear power plants have created almost 50,000 metric tons of spent fuel, with more produced daily. Once solidified, today's 100 million gallons of nuclear waste from past reprocessing activities will also be placed in the repository . . .

The dueling is about whether safe storage of the waste can be guaranteed for 10,000 years, or perhaps a million years -- the span of projected geological stability for the mountain area. That is quite a while: 10,000 years ago, agriculture was just being born as humans, moving beyond a hunter-gatherer economy, were learning to domesticate plants.

Part II appears in syndication around the country on Sunday.

NEI has wide variety of materials concerning the Yucca project -- with our Yucca Mountain Resource Book being a good place to start. For a complete overview on used nuclear fuel, click here.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Another Environmentalist for Nuclear Energy

Pete Geddes, program director for the Foundation for research on Economics and the Environment, had this to say about nuclear energy in a recent issue of the Bozeman Daily Chronicle:

All energy production has environmental impacts. For example, wind farms cause visual and noise pollution and kill birds. Our choices involve trading off among imperfect alternatives.

Is it time we rethink opposition to nuclear power? James Lovelock, promoter of the Gaia hypothesis, believes so. He writes: “Opposition to nuclear energy is based on irrational fear fed by Hollywood-style fiction, the Green lobbies and the media.… [N]uclear energy… has proved to be the safest of all energy sources. We must stop fretting over the minute statistical risks of cancer from chemicals or radiation. I entreat my friends… to drop their wrongheaded objection to nuclear energy.”

For more on James Lovelock, click here. For a previous post on Dr. Lovelock's recent speech at the Canadian Nuclear Association, click here. Thanks to Obsidian Wings for the link.

Ontario Approves Bruce Re-Start

With the Province of Ontario determined to shut down 7,600 megawatts of coal fired electric generating capacity by 2008 in order to reduce emissions, it's looking to nuclear energy to fill the gap:

The Ontario Energy Minister announced yesterday that a tentative agreement has been reached with Bruce Power to restart Units 1 and 2 at the Bruce A nuclear generating station in Kincardine. The agreement has been approved in principle by the boards of directors of the major partners of Bruce Power and is now under review by the Ontario government. The government had issued a Request for Proposals (RFP) in June 2004 for 2,500 MW of new generation and/or conservation in Ontario.

For a previous post on the future of nuclear energy in Canada, click here.

Scotland in a Tight Spot

From the BBC:

A new nuclear power station may be necessary to prevent the "lights going out" in Scotland in the not-too-distant future, according to MPs.

A report by Westminster's Scottish Affairs Committee demands an audit of energy resources and suggests a renewed role for nuclear power and coal.

Two nuclear power plants generate much of Scotland's energy but they are reaching the end of their lives.

MPs have concluded that renewable energy and imports cannot plug the gap.

This is a story we've heard before in Europe. And one we'll probably hear again.

Thanks to Rising Slowly for the tip.

More on the Uranium Market

WNA has just updated a pair of briefing papers concerning uranium markets. Click here for a paper on Canada, and here for a look at Australia. And finally, click here to register for World Nuclear Fuel Cycle 2005, scheduled for April 12-15 in San Antonio.

WNA Digest

Click here for the World Nuclear Association weekly news digest.

Nuclear Energy: Good for Oswego

Here's Oswego, New York Mayor John Gosek on what nuclear energy means to his upstate New York city:

Gosek said he believes Oswego County residents will support the effort and any "naysayers" will be in the minority.

"If you go downstate, or other parts of the country, you say the word nuclear and they're nervous or they're frightened," Gosek said. "But here in Oswego County and the city of Oswego, people know the economic impact of those plants far outweighs any safety concerns."

"It's proven - tested and proven - they've been providing safe, clean nuclear power here for 30 years without any incidents," the mayor added.

Click here for our post from the other day concerning Oswego's interest in speaking with the NuStart consortium. These folks look determined.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

More From the IAEA Meeting in Paris

The IAEA conference on the future of nuclear energy wrapped up in Paris today, with 74 nations signing a statement broadly endorsing the increased adoption of nuclear energy and praising it for not generating "air pollution or greenhouse gas emissions" and for being "a proven technology" that can "make a major contribution to meeting energy needs and sustaining the world's development in the 21st century". But this passage from an Agence-France Press wire story about the conference caught my eye as well:

Among the dissenters to the endorsement for nuclear energy were countries like Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands and Sweden which are phasing out nuclear energy and others like Austria which are against nuclear power but attended the conference. Officials did not provide details on individual nations.

A diplomat present at the conference said however "give five years and most of Europe will change direction in favour of nuclear energy" since it is relatively inexpensive and other alternative power sources such as wind energy can not make up in large percentages for significantly reduced oil use.

A little less than two weeks ago, we noted that the German utility executive who negotiated the deal to phase out that nation's nuclear capacity had predicted that it would eventually be reversed. And click here for a pointer to a piece on how the nuclear phaseout and adoption of wind power is costing German ratepayers more than they bargained for.

In a message read to the conference, U.S. Energy Secretary Sam Bodman had this to say:
In a message to the conference, U.S. Energy Secretary Sam Bodman cited a University of Chicago study that showed nuclear power "can become competitive with electricity produced by plants fueled by coal or gas" because of new technologies delivering more-efficient reactors.

Echoing recent comments by President Bush, Bodman said: "America hasn't ordered a new nuclear-power plant since the 1970s, and it's time to start building again."

For more on the University of Chicago study, click here. Meanwhile, Korea's Science and Technology Minister gave nuclear energy a strong endorsement of having a place in his nation's energy future:

Science-Technology Minister Oh Myung made the point Monday during a ministerial conference on the future of nuclear power held in Paris, backed by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

Science-Technology Minister Oh Myung made the point Monday during a ministerial conference on the future of nuclear power held in Paris, backed by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). ``I am confident that nuclear energy will contribute to preventing global warming, resolving world energy problems, promoting human welfare and progressing the world economy,’’ Oh said.

He went on to say that he believes another nuclear renaissance will take place in the future and the global community should assign a larger role to the energy source.

Monday, March 21, 2005

Colorado Uranium Mining Makes A Comeback

With spot market prices for Uranium rising, there's been a revival in minining operations according to the Rocky Mountain News:

The rough and rocky terrain of southwest Colorado is once again luring miners with its promise of yellow wealth - not gold but uranium.

Three uranium mines, shuttered in the mid-1980s, were reopened in the past two years. The revival of another two is on the anvil this year. And many prospectors are scoping out the Colorado Plateau in hopes of striking rich ore deposits . . .

The uranium ore grade mined in Colorado is much lower than the ore grades mined in Australia or Canada, Farrell said, which is partly why production stopped following the 1980s. Given the prices, it makes more sense to open previously shuttered mines in Montrose County along the Western Slope.

And in Colorado towns like Gateway, the revival is being hailed as great news.

Mayor Makes Pitch for New Nuclear Plant

Oswego, New York Mayor John Gosek wants to bring a new nuclear power plant to his city:

He said he wants to get the city, county, and other interests such as local unions together to "become proactive" and encourage the company to bring the project, and the jobs that would come with it, to Oswego County.

"These economic times are difficult, so let's try to get these guys," Gosek said. "I don't know what we've got to lose. Worst thing we can say about it is 'no,' right?"

Nine Mile Point in Scriba is home to three nuclear plants. Two reactors, Nine Mile Point 1 and 2, are run Baltimore-based Constellation Energy. The third, James A. FitzPatrick plant, is owned by New Orleans-based Entergy.

"We desperately could use a nuclear plant," said Gosek. "We have a workforce here that's built three of them. Let's try to bring it to Oswego."

The Oswego City Administrative Service Committee is scheduled to discuss the mayor's proposition tonight. They will meet immediately after the city physical services committee at 7 p.m.

For more on the NuStart Consortium, as well as the other two industry groups working together on new nuclear capacity, click here. To read more about Nine Mile Point and Fitzpatrick plants, click here.

Ex-Duke President Takes Over at British Energy

Former Duke Power President William Coley has been named chief executive of British Energy Group, plc, succeeding Michael Alexander. British Energy is the largest producer of nuclear energy in the U.K.

Stanley Crouch on the Future of Nuclear Energy

In today's edition of the New York Daily News, columnist Stanley Crouch says it's time for America to change its thinking about nuclear energy:

It is time to recognize what even France understands, which is that nuclear energy is the cleanest, safest and least expensive way to get beyond oil dependency. In our case, we also have hazardous things that happen to economically disadvantaged people through the emissions of coal burning.

We are due for a major reconstruction of our thinking about nuclear power. I do not mean that everyone is supposed to lie down and go to sleep, forgetting about everything on the basis of what some energy company says. But I expect our nation to grow up and move free of an irrational fear of technology.

And Crouch also takes a moment to take the opponents of the Indian Point Nuclear Plant to task:
The facts are on the side of Indian Point, and we will better understand where we are when we look closely at those facts. We should not allow ourselves to be manipulated by those ideologues who pretend to hate big oil and the destruction of the environment but are not willing to consider an alternative that has proven itself the world over.

Thanks to RWDB for the link.

Another Blogger For Nuclear Energy

In a discussion about sustainable energy, Phil Windley says that nuclear energy is looking good:

Don’t get me wrong, sustainable energy would be nice, but sustainability makes the problem much more difficult. Rather than looking for the next stone to step onto, we’ve got to somehow find the answer for all time. We don’t. There’s no doubt that we have to find something other than petrochemicals to serve as an energy source, but finding the next stone will be hard enough without looking for Nirvana. Personally, I think nuclear energy has a lot going for it.

IAEA Meeting in Paris

In Paris this week, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is co-hosting a conference in conjunction with the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) on "Nuclear Power for the 21st Century".

IAEA Director General Dr. Mohamed ElBaradei made his opening statement earlier today. Click here for the Retures digest on his speech:

"All indicators show that an increased level of emphasis on subjects such as fast growing energy demands, security of energy supply, and the risk of climate change are driving a reconsideration, in some quarters, of the need for greater investment in nuclear power," ElBaradei said.

"The IAEA's low projection, based on the most conservative assumptions, predicts 427 gigawatts of global nuclear energy capacity in 2020, the equivalent of 127 more 1,000 megawatt nuclear plants than previous projections," he said.

ElBaradei pointed to nuclear energy policy plans in China, Finland, the United States and possibly Poland as proof that nuclear power may be returning to vogue.
At the same conference, Indonesia's delegate to the conference, Thomas Aquino Sriwidjaja, said the nation was committed to building a nuclear power plant in the next decade.

In conjunction with the confernece, Donald Johnston, Secretary General of the OECD, wrote an Op Ed in the International Herald Tribune:
The future of energy is not the future of any one part of the globe: It is the future of the fragile planet Earth. To safeguard our planet, we must mobilize expertise and resources in support of accelerated energy research.

Nuclear is one of many options, but it is the one with the greatest promise at the moment. Our responsibility is to ensure that our planet survives in a condition hospitable to human life. That, and not a predetermined refusal to consider viable alternatives, must be our promise to future generations.

Friday, March 18, 2005

GAO Report on 21st Century Energy Demand

From a GAO report on energy demand in the 21st century (from the abstract):

[A]ll of the major fuel sources--traditional and renewable--face environmental, economic, or other constraints or trade-offs in meeting projected demand. Consequently, all energy sources will be important in meeting expected consumer demand in the next 20 years and beyond.

Thanks to Lynn Kiesling for the link.

President Bush on the Energy Bill

From a speech by President Bush, delivered today at Pensacola Junior College in Pensacola, Florida:

I'm looking forward togetting a final budget to my desk that's wise about how we spend your money that's also wise about making sure you got money in your pocket. And you'regoing to need it, because, unfortunately, energy prices are going up. And I know you're concerned about it. And I'm concerned about it, too. I was concerned about it in 2001, when we put together a strategy, an energy strategy, part of which required action by the United States Congress that would encourage conservation, encourage the use of renewable sources of energy like ethanol and biodiesel, that encouraged research and development to figure out better ways to use energy in the long run -- because one of these days we're going to have to change the nature of the automobile by driving hydrogen-powered automobiles, to become less dependent on sources of energy. In other words, there's a lot of things we need to be doing now.

I know we need to be building LNG -- liquified natural gas terminals. We need to do more on nuclear power. Congress needs to get an energy bill. We've been debating whether or not there ought to be an energy bill to my desk now for four years. And that's too much talk, given the fact that consumers are beginning to hurt; too much talk given the fact that the -- we're too dependent on foreign sources of energy. I'm concerned about the energy, and Congress needs to be concerned.

Another Blogger For Nuclear Energy

Commenting on the recent City Journal piece on the future of nuclear energy, the Miami Valley Conservative Alliance says it's time for Ohio to take another look:

If the general assembly got behind an energy initiative that centered on nuclear energy production in the northern and southern regions of our state, Ohio could become a major supplier of energy to at least one third of the nations population. Additionally having a source of cheap clean electric energy, Ohio could attract new emerging industries.

Ohio currnetly has two nuclear power plants that generate 10.9 percent of the state's electricity. In comparison, Pennsylvania gets more than 37 percent of its electricity from nuclear power plants, while Michigan counts on nuclear energy for more than 27 percent of its power generation. And for more reasons why nuclear energy is so affordable, click here.

Who Are The Sensible Environmentalists?

Here's Nicholas Kristoff (registration required) in a New York Times op-ed from last week:

At one level, we're all environmentalists now. The Pew Research Center found that more than three-quarters of Americans agree that "this country should do whatever it takes to protect the environment." Yet support for the environment is coupled with a suspicion of environmental groups. "The Death of Environmentalism" notes that a poll in 2000 found that 41 percent of Americans considered environmental activists to be "extremists." There are many sensible environmentalists, of course, but overzealous ones have tarred the entire field.

If you're looking for a sensible environmentalist, Patrick Moore is a pretty good option. Click here to learn more about his work.

Welcoming A New Energy Blogger

Over at Winds of Change, Joe Katzman has added a guest blogger, John Atkinson, to cover global energy issues. Click here for his first post, a broad roundup of links and notes from around the industry.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

So Much For Journalistic Objectivity

As a media relations “flack” in the nuclear energy industry for the past few years I’ve run across all types of reporters. And for the most part, I'm impressed with the way even the most liberal reporters treat the subject of nuclear energy with professional objectivity.

But there are others that aren't quite so objective, including one unidentified reporter for the The Journal News in White Plains, NY who thought his own voice wasn’t enough and that other journalists weren’t bashing the industry at the appropriate level.

One of the competing reporters he tried to sway was Rita King of the North County News:

When I got to work this morning, I found a voice mail message from a Journal News reporter who wanted to talk about “our favorite glow-in-the-dark place.”

I wondered what he wanted, because he e-mailed me the day before and I hadn’t had a chance to respond yet. His intentions were ambiguous until the conversation got underway. He wanted to school me on how to write about Indian Point because, he revealed, a “number of folks” had asked him to contact me in response to a perception that my “tone” isn’t as hard hitting they would like, and seems to favor the nuclear industry and Indian Point.

He’s a fan of my work, he said, apparently in an attempt to soften the jab.

When the competition calls to tell you to sharpen up, it’s safe to read between the lines.

And to her credit, that's exactly what she did.

Calvert Cliffs Sets Refueling Record

Congratulations to Constellation Energy's Calvert Cliffs nuclear plant for achieving an important milestone:

Constellation Energy today announced that the refueling outage on Unit 2 of its Calvert Cliffs Nuclear Power Plant in Lusby, Md., was completed at approximately 3 a.m. on March 16 and the Unit is back online.

The outage was completed in 21 days, representing the shortest refueling ever completed at Calvert Cliffs, and the third consecutive outage that the plant has completed in record time. Previously, the shortest refueling outage for the plant’s Unit 2 took 42 days.

But this is more than just a record. At bottom, reducing the time needed to refuel a unit safely means greater efficiency, and more reasonably priced electricity -- one of the hallmarks of the American commercial nuclear industry over the past 10 years.

Natural Gas Prices Hit Farmers Hard

That's what Nebraska farmer Charlie Kruze told a congressional hearing today:

Testifying before a House Small Business subcommittee, Kruse, president of the Missouri Farm Bureau and a member of the AFBF [American Farm Bureau Federation] Board of Directors, said the United States’ failed energy policy cost U.S. agriculture more than $6 billion in added expenses during the 2003 and 2004 growing seasons.

Natural gas is especially important to agriculture, Kruse explained, because it is used to produce nitrogen fertilizers and farm chemicals, as well as electricity for lighting, heating, irrigation, and grain drying. Natural gas can account for nearly 95 percent of the cost of nitrogen fertilizer.

“Between 2000 and 2003, the average retail cost of nitrogen fertilizer skyrocketed from $100 per ton to more than $350 per ton,” Kruse said.

According to Kruse and Farm Bureau, domestic exploration and recovery of energy resources using sensible, environmentally sound methods must begin immediately. Greater use of renewable energy sources including ethanol and biodiesel also will go a long way toward solving our nation’s energy woes, Kruse said.

Farm Bureau also supports incentives for the use of clean coal technology in electric power generation and the use of nuclear energy.

Earlier this year, in testimony before the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, NEI Executive Vice President John Kane said that additional baseload electric generation supplied by nuclear energy could help relieve some of the pricing pressure (PDF) in natural gas markets.

Nuclear Energy On The Agenda In Wisconsin

In Wisconsin, a group of legislators in Madison is looking to amend the state's Nuclear Plant Construction Statute, in order to pave the way for the possible construction of a new plant:

State lawmakers will renew their efforts to allow construction of new nuclear power plants by next fall, according to Rep. Phil Montgomery (R-Ashwaubenon).

"When we had a hearing on the bill (last year), we did not have enough votes to pass it" in the Assembly, said Montgomery, chairman of the Assembly's Energy and Utilities Committee. "We will be introducing it again. Unfortunately, when you speak of lifting the moratorium, there is a great deal of passion regarding the subject and a great deal of misinformation."

Montgomery said that the statute's provisions are unreasonable. He predicts that legislation to repeal the law will be drawn up by next fall.

"The restrictions on it are so out of line with reality that you could never meet them, and that was done intentionally," Montgomery said.

Wisconsin is also home to an innovative program to build and finance new baseload electrical generation called "Power The Future." Last November, in a speech at the 2004 NARUC Conference, former NEI President and CEO Joe Colvin praised the program as an good example of policy innovation on the state level that should be emulated elsewhere.

In other Wisconsin news, the state PSC today voted 3-0 to approve the sale of Kewaunee nuclear power plant to Dominion.

Kewaunee Sale Approved

The Duluth News Tribune is reporting that the Wisconsin Public Service Commission voted unanimously to approve the sale of the Kewaunee plant to Dominion after some terms of the sale were revised.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Another Myth: Declining Property Values

At every recent local event at which antinuclear activists have spoken, at least one has lamented the "certain" decline of property values around Lake Anna that would accompany construction of a new power plant.

In contrast, Addison Hall, a colleague of mine, showed me a story in the November, 2004 issue of Money (subscription required). The article is titled "Why Would Anyone Own Florida Real Estate?" and explores the social and financial reasons that, despite popular belief, disasters like hurricanes rarely harm home prices.

To support his contention, the author states:

Two studies found that the 1979 accident at Three Mile Island had no discernible impact on local home prices. That's right: The neighborhood nuke comes this close to a meltdown—and property values don't even shudder.
On a personal note, property values in Louisa and Spotsylvania counties have risen so much in the past few years that I, and most people that I know, cannot afford lakefront property anywhere near the North Anna plant. In fact, one recent news story said that property tax assesments in Louisa County have increased by 35 percent over the past two years -- hardly an indication of declining property values.

UVA Law to hold Nuclear Energy Panel Discussion

The Virginia Law Democrats and the Virginia Envronmental Law Forum at the University of Virignia Law School are co-sponsoring a panel discussion entitled, "Has the Time for Nuclear Power Come (Again)?"

The panel is scheduled for tomorrow afternoon at 4:15 p.m. at the law school's Caplin Pavillion, and will feature NEI's Senior Director for External Outreach, Chandler Van Orman.

Rosner Named Director of Argonne National Lab

The Argonne National Laboratory has a new director:

The University of Chicago has appointed Robert Rosner to the directorship of Argonne National Laboratory effective April 18. His appointment was approved by Secretary of Energy Samuel W. Bodman.

Rosner succeeds Hermann Grunder, who has served as Director of the Laboratory since 2000.

"Robert Rosner is a distinguished scientist who has already made major contributions to the Laboratory and I am confident he is the right man for this job," Secretary Bodman said. "His scientific accomplishments and leadership will build on Dr. Grunder's outstanding work and ensure that DOE's labs continue to contribute to a better tomorrow."

Rosner has served as Argonne's Associate Laboratory Director for physical, biological and computing sciences and as its Chief Scientist since 2002, and in those roles he implemented reinvigorating changes in multiple areas of research while also achieving an outstanding record in safety and security, according to University of Chicago President Don M. Randel. In addition, he was the architect of Argonne's 20-year strategic plan for science and technology.

For more on Rosner's career, click here for a copy of his official bio.

Following New Nuclear Construction with the AAEA

The African American Environmentalist Association has started a blog covering news about new nuclear construction. In their latest post, they cover Duke Power's Monday meetings at the NRC. Be sure to check it out.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Duke Team at NRC to Discuss Possible New Reactor

A team from Duke Power was at the NRC yesterday to meet with commission staff to discuss the utility's possible plan for building a new nuclear reactor somewhere in their service area:

During a meeting Monday at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the federal agency that licenses nuclear reactors, Duke officials said the company will decide around May whether to apply for a combined license to construct and operate a plant.

If Duke's decision is yes, the goal then would be to pick a site and a design technology by the end of the year, said Bryan Dolan, Duke's managing director for new nuclear projects.

But even then, Duke may decide not to build it.

Dolan and seven other Duke officials met for more than two hours with staff members from the NRC's New Reactors section, asking and answering questions about all aspects of the application process -- timetables, costs, issues that would have to be reviewed under various scenarios.

With Duke still mum about so many details, the NRC staff's answers were often generic. Still, NRC spokesman Scott Burnell called Monday's meeting "the most concrete discussions we've had for a license for a new reactor in at least 20 years ... (Duke) is further along than other utilities in talking about it."

For a look at the announcement that started it all back in February, click here.

UPDATE: Here's more on the Duke meeting (registration required), as well as a detailed rundown on all of the new reactor designs from Matthew Wald at the New York Times.

Focus On North Anna

Sean Tubbs, a reporter for public radio station WFTV in Charlottesville traveled to Virginia's Louisa County on February 17 to talk to some of the locals who appeared at the Nucelar Regulatory Commission environmental impact hearing on North Anna's proposed Early Site Permits.

Click here for the MP3 file, which is about 20 minutes in length. For some thoughts on the same event from my colleague Brian Smith, click here. And for some more observations on the process from Dominion's Lisa Shell, click here.

CORRECTION: Please note that it was freelance reporter Sean Tubbs who put together the report. We've corrected the attribution in the text.

Carbon Cutters Look to Nuclear Energy

From today's Financial Times

China, the world's second largest consumer of oil after the US, yesterday said high oil prices and threats to the climate from fossil fuels were forcing it to become the world's biggest producer of nuclear power . . .

Liu Jiang, vice chairman of the national development and reform commission of China, also urged western countries to give Chinese industry access to renewable energy technologies.

He said Beijing, as well as experimenting with advanced pebble-bed technology, hoped to "achieve self-reliance on nuclear power" by introducing advanced 1,000 megawatt pressurised water reactor nuclear technology.

"Nuclear power belongs to clean energy, and nuclear power construction also serves the purpose of achieving a low-carbon economy," he said.

Jiang made his comments at a conference in London that brought together energy and finance ministers from some of the world's largest economies to discuss how to cut carbon emissions without harming economic growth. For a previous post on China's plans for nuclear energy, click here.

Liang's comments regarding nuclear were echoed by one of his counterparts from Europe:

Greater use of nuclear power would help to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, France's Industry Minister Patrick Devedjian told the meeting, which was attended by fellow G8 representatives as well as other industrialised nations such as Australia, Spain and Poland.

"Nuclear power can play an essential role in the sustainable development of energy," Devedjian said.

Nuclear power stations already in existence cut 2.2 billion tonnes in carbon dioxide emissions compared with the 24 billion tonnes released worldwide, he said.

"That is more than two times the reduction demanded of developing countries by the Kyoto Protocol for the period 2008-2012," the minister said.

For his part, Claude Mandil, director of the Paris-based International Energy Agency who is also at the gathering, noted that stabilising the use of carbon dioxide was a formidable task with no simple solution.

UPDATE: William Anderson likes what he's hearing about nuclear energy and carbon reduction.

Eyes On the Uranium Market

From yesterday's International Herald Tribune

After decades of sinking prices, a uranium boom is under way as orders for new nuclear power plants in Asia mount and a vast stockpile of fuel from former Soviet nuclear weapons decommissioned after the cold war begins to run down.

The spot price for concentrated uranium oxide, or yellowcake, the form in which uranium is sold, has tripled to almost $21.75 a pound from a 20-year low of $7.10 a pound in December 2000. Some mining analysts expect it to reach $30 a pound or higher next year.

Meanwhile, in Kazakhstan, the nation's nuclear energy company announced it was boosting output to meet increased demand:
KazAtomProm said in a statement that it produced 3,719 metric tons (4,000 short tons) of uranium in 2004, a 10 percent increase on the previous year.

It plans to boost output to more than 4,000 metric tons (4,409 short tons) this year, rising to as much as 15,000 metric tons (16,500 short tons) annually in 2010, making it the world's largest uranium producer, the statement said.

Monday, March 14, 2005

Duke's Paul Anderson on the Future of Nuclear Energy

The revival of the global nuclear energy industry continues to attract attention in Australia, home of a significant fraction of the world's reserves of Uranium. Click here for a transcript of an interview with Duke Power CEO Paul Anderson gave to Australia's Channel 7:

There's obviously a desire to mix the portfolio, but I think the real driver in the coming years is going to be the greenhouse gases, because the world is coming to grips with the fact that if you're going to address greenhouse gases, there is really only two ways that will have a significant input and one is to just conserve and consume less energy and the other is to produce electricity through nuclear power. Even hydropower has its limits and in many cases has its environmental offsets. So I think the world is now coming to grips with the fact that if we are really going to address greenhouse gases, we're going to do so through nuclear power.

NRC Moves Forward on Exelon ESP Application

Last week, the NRC announced its preliminary conclusion that they have found no environmental impacts that would prevent approval of Exelon’s Early Site Permit (ESP) application for the Clinton plant in Illinois. This article appeared in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch last week.

The article highlights an important point:

Besides environmental effects, the commission also is considering site safety and emergency planning. The commission has said it wants to make a decision on Exelon's application by August next year.
The myriad of other issues associated with licensing a new nuclear plant are addressed during other steps of the process like the certification of plant design and the application for a combined construction and operating license.

This is a concept that, in my experience, many antinuclear extremists can’t seem to grasp. They will allege that an ESP application is incomplete because it doesn’t say enough about specific safety features of the plant design or it doesn’t address storage or disposal of spent fuel.

Occasionally, when this feature of the licensing process is pointed out, a better-versed antinuclear leader will say, “Yes, and that is a fundamental flaw in the regulations. All of these issues should be addressed together.” I find this logic ludicrous. How does one provide sufficiently detailed analyses of safety systems when a design hasn’t been chosen? And how can one provide specifics of spent fuel storage and disposal when the parameters of the fuel are not yet known? Any such analyses at the ESP stage would be speculative at best and would not serve well the interests of the NRC, the utility, or the public.

Friday, March 11, 2005

EPA Issues New Emissions Limits

Yesterday, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a final rule that further reduces the sulfur dioxide (SO2) and the nitrogen oxides (NOx) emitted from the electric generation sector. This rule, called the Clean Air Interstate Rule, covers 28 states in the east, the southeast and the mid-west and the District of Columbia.

By 2015, EPA says SO2 will be reduced by 56% and NOx reduced by 61% in those states.

Nuclear power plants generate a significant amount of electricity in these states, preventing 2.8 and 1.0 million short tons of SO2 and NOx, respectively, in those states falling under the annual caps.

The CAIR annual caps on these emissions are 2.5 million tons of SO2 and 1.3 million tons of NOx in the year 2015.

If we don’t keep the nuclear plants in these states operating, the electric industry will essentially have twice the burden they do today to meet EPA’s new limits on these criteria pollutants.

And if we built a few new nuclear power plants in this region, it would sure make it easier to meet those reductions by 2015 – just ten years away!

Larry Kudlow on Sam Bodman and the Bush Energy Policy

Larry Kudlow, a former economic advisor to President Reagan, gives his appraisal of the new Energy Secretary and the energy policy he's being asked to implement:

Energy Secretary Sam Bodman, has been put in place to implement Bush policies for greater nuclear energy use (along with clean coal, a free trade national electricity grid, and foreign coordination of liquid natural gas). Mr. Bodman is a former chemical engineering scientist who taught at MIT. He was also a venture capitalist. Even more, he was the chief operating officer of the super-sized Fidelity mutual fund company.

This is a guy who will quietly manage the US effort to break out of the current OPEC-reliant paradigm and shift to the development of a multiplicity of new energy sources. The Exelon utility company has just gotten an early site permit for nuclear power, and Duke Power has nearly completed its combined operating license permit, including a pre-approved reactor design.

UPDATE: One note I just got from a colleague said we should clarify how far Duke is along in its plans -- click here for the details that Duke Power Chief Nuclear Officer Brew Barron revealed during his speech at the February Platts Nuclear Conference. As for Exelon, they have only applied for an ESP and the NRC public hearing on the Environmental Impact Statement (which is a part of the ESP review) is on April 21st.

Dr. Lovelock On the Future Role of Nuclear Energy

The Canadian Nuclear Association held its annual industry seminar in Ottawa this week, and Dr. James Lovelock, one of the fathers of the global environmental movement who shocked many of his former allies when he endorsed the widespread use of nuclear energy last Spring, addressed the event via videotape (Windows Media Player required). Here's an excerpt:

Now that we have made the Earth sick, it will not be cured by alternative green remedies, like wind turbines and bio fuels alone. This is why I recommend instead the appropriate medicine of nuclear energy as part of a sensible portfolio of energy sources.

There's more. Watch it now.

Disputing the "Nuclear Subsidies" Myth

One issue our industry is constantly dealing with is the concern about government subsidies -- something that was the topic of a letter-to-the-editor published in the Fredericksburg Free-Lance Star that distorted a remark I made at the recent NRC public hearing in Louisa County.

In response, I submitted this op-ed article that was printed yesterday:

North Anna nuclear debate is good--as long as it's based on fact
March 10, 2005 1:08 am

RICHMOND--In his recent letter to the editor, Paxus Calta ["Want the whole story on nuclear power? You pay, big time," Feb. 25] quotes me as saying, "We're here because we don't think the media are telling the whole story."

Linking my statement to "anti-market subsidies," he presents the typical propaganda and skewed data of anti-nuclear extremists that I was criticizing. He quotes me out of context, disingenuously, to make his point.

My assertion was that the benefits of nuclear power receive short shrift in the public discourse on this country's energy needs. Yes, the nuclear industry receives research and development funds from the federal government, but so does every energy technology.

The 2006 Department of Energy research and development budget provides $1.2 billion for renewables and conservation, $800 million for clean coal, and $510 million for nuclear. These levels reflect the growing awareness that the United States will need a diverse generation portfolio to meet increasing demand, to reduce emissions, and to move closer to energy independence.

Some technologies also receive production tax credits. For example, the current tax credit for wind power is $18 per megawatt-hour produced. Currently, no such production tax incentive exists for the nuclear industry.

However, in order to assist in overcoming financial concerns and uncertainty in using a new licensing process, some have suggested that the first few new nuclear plants be provided with a limited set of incentives. The most recent proposal capped support at $125 million for up to 6,000 MW for the first eight years. This formula would equate to about 35 cents per MWh.

Calta's description of government support also distorts the Price-Anderson Act. First, nuclear operators do carry their own property insurance. Second, the Price-Anderson Act allows commercial nuclear operators to purchase "group" liability insurance that would be used only in the case of a major accident.

For both property and liability insurance, commercial nuclear operators pay 100 percent of the premiums; taxpayers and the government contribute nothing.

Since its inception in 1957, the Price-Anderson Act has become a model for other industries and activities that our society deems essential, such as oil production, agriculture, banking, and vaccine production. If we were to eliminate all such programs, many people would lose their homes, children would not be vaccinated, and food and oil prices would skyrocket.

Objections to the Yucca Mountain project fail to mention that commercial nuclear operators have paid, and continue to pay, billions of dollars to a fund to store and dispose of spent nuclear fuel.

Much of the delay and final costs of the project can be attributed to the frivolous lawsuits filed by extremist groups such as the Nuclear Information and Resource Service, for which Calta is a board member.

After working in the management of spent nuclear fuel for nearly a decade, I am confident that it can be transported and disposed of safely. If citizens revolt, as Calta suggests, it will be when they realize that the problem of final disposition is political, not technical.

And Calta's windmills? Sixty thousand of the most advanced windmills operating under the best conditions in the most suitable areas would occupy more than 1.3 million acres of land and would equate to less than 10 percent of our nation's current electricity production.

Furthermore, his cost estimate for windmills does not take into account that backup power sources must be built and maintained to compensate for wind power's low-capacity factors.

That's not to say that we shouldn't build wind farms where feasible, but even the American Wind Energy Association has concluded that under the best of circumstances, wind energy could supply only about 6 percent of our nation's electricity by the year 2020.

Should citizens raise their concerns regarding new nuclear power plants and energy policy? Certainly. But we can't have a fair debate without proper perspective.

LISA SHELL is vice president of North American Young Generation in Nuclear, a group of individuals aged 35 and younger who work in the fields of nuclear science and technology.

RIC Followup

The NRC's 17th Annual Regulatory Information Conference wrapped up yesterday, and the Commission has posted the speeches from the two newest commissioners -- Greg Jaczko and Pete Lyons.

In his remarks, "Perspectives Upon Joining the Nuclear Regulatory Commission," Commissioner Lyons recalled a congressional hearing that dealt with future energy sources:

Oil and gas resources were not a part of this hearing. They simply are not sustainable on this time scale. While experts debate the longevity of these options, there is no debate that each is finite. Some suggest that the world may be at or near its peak oil production, even while we witness new oil demands from developing nations to add to the thirst in developed nations. And while natural gas is more abundant and its utility will extend further into the future, prices are likely to further escalate making it harder to justify use of that resource for electricity production.

The only three suitable energy resources identified in that Hearing were renewables, coal, and nuclear energy. For each source, there are major uncertainties, risks, and benefits in its future utilization, and these issues were discussed at the Hearing. Implicit in the Hearing was the view that the world is going to be so starved for energy that rejection of any one of these sources would seriously intensify the challenge of using only the remaining ones to sustain our economic health.

Commissioner Lyons continued:

But can nuclear power really contribute to our future energy needs? Certainly there will be many contributors to answering this question. Before the answer can be “Yes,” the Department of Energy must demonstrate continued strong support for nuclear energy. This must include funding to assist in certification of new designs and workforce training within our universities. Federal or state policies that limit carbon emissions may provide further impetus. Companies offering advanced reactor designs must provide high confidence that reactor construction costs are accurately known and competitive with other energy sources. Utilities must make concrete proposals for new construction. The financial community must weigh whether their own risks have been sufficiently well managed to provide capital. And, in my view, the public probably will also demand better solutions to proliferation issues associated with nuclear power and further progress on nuclear waste before new construction orders will be placed.

But even those events won’t bring about new construction unless the public has confidence in the strong regulatory oversight of safety provided by the Commission. That oversight must be translated into continued safe operations by the nuclear utilities and continued safe uses of radioactive sources.

Comissioner Jaczko's speech was entitled, "Guiding Principles: Culture, Transparency, and Communication." And it's clear he's got a sense of humor:

But before I go into detail about my approach to the job, there is an important issue I need to address. I would like to publicly express my deep disappointment with many of the newspaper articles written about me over the last few years as I was considered for nomination to the Commission. I was deeply disturbed by them, and I will tell you why. They never, ever, provided you with an accurate description of how to say my name. So, for the record, it is pronounced "Yatsko."

With that issue out of the way, Commissioner Jaczko turned to more serious pursuits:

Of course, when we regulate we have to consider both the theoretical and the practical. And so I would like to turn to a discussion of what I believe is a triangle of three interconnected guiding principles that provide the direction we need to effectively implement the NRC’s mission. The three segments of this triangle are:

1. Instilling a safety and security culture;
2. Transparency;
3. Communication.

These three principles are central to how I conduct myself, how I manage my office, and how I believe the agency functions as an effective, responsive, and efficient regulator.

Remember to bookmark the NRC 2005 Speech Archive, and click here for the complete RIC program with links to all of the presentations from the conference.

New to the Blog

Greetings! My name is Lisa Shell and I'll be contributing to the blog from time to time.

First, some background. I've worked as a nuclear engineer for nearly ten years, first with the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board and then with Dominion. Until late last year, my work focused on spent fuel and waste management. Now I am in the Six Sigma program at Dominion and work on a variety of projects throughout the Nuclear Business Unit. If you aren't familiar with Six Sigma, check out

Most of my posts will be related to my participation in outreach activities which are strictly voluntary and not related to my job at Dominion. I am the Vice-President of North American-Young Generation in Nuclear and the Corporate Relations chair of International Youth Nuclear Congress 2006. I am also an active member of ANS and the local Virginia Chapter of NA-YGN. In the past year, the Virginia chapter of NA-YGN has taken a lead role in countering the antinuclear campaign against new nuclear power plants. We hope that our efforts will inspire others to make their voices heard.

And just to be crystal clear: Dominion pays me to be an engineer, not a mouthpiece, so unless explicitly stated otherwise, any opinions I post are my own.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Greenville News Endorses Possible Duke Nuclear Power Plant

Taking note of Duke Power's interest in possibly building a new nuclear power plant, South Carolina's Greenville News offers an endorsement:

A natural gas-oil plant and a coal plant both have drawbacks. A gas-oil combo would be clean and efficient, but it would also lack price stability because of the volatility of oil and gas prices. Coal is efficient, but it's the dirtiest of all. And government-mandated controls on emissions make it expensive.

That leaves nuclear. Its two drawbacks: the perception that it poses a safety threat and the reality that nuclear plants are the types of hard targets terrorists covet. But here in the Upstate we live daily with both concerns. Two of Duke's nuclear plants are nearby, with the Catawba Nuclear Station sitting near the North Carolina state line and the Oconee Nuclear Station at Lake Keowee. Both plants have existed for decades without a major safety incident. Already, there is perhaps no higher priority for homeland security than protecting our nuclear assets.

Take those concerns off the table and we are left with nuclear's strengths: its cleanliness and its ability to keep rates low. In manufacturing heavy South Carolina, this is vitally important, and not just for consumers. Our large industrial electricity consumers need low, predictable energy prices. Spikes in energy prices hurt their bottom line, which in turn jeopardizes job stability.

Müller: Ban on German Reactor Construction to be Reversed

From the World Nuclear Association weekly news summary:

Werner Müller, the former utility executive who as economy minister negotiated a national nuclear energy phase-out with nuclear power generators, predicted this week that the deal, as well as a 2001 legislative ban on new reactor construction, would be reversed for energy security and climate policy reasons . . .

He revealed his thinking in an interview in the Handelsblatt newspaper on 28 February. Müller said, ‘in 50 years we will certainly no longer be burning oil, and the heyday of gas-fired power plants will probably also be over. And if we take (the issue of) carbon dioxide avoidance seriously, and there are no brand-new energy sources which fall to Earth from heaven, then at some point we are going to end up with nuclear power, and the Greens will spearhead the movement’ in favour of nuclear energy. ‘

As we've noted before, there are a number of environmentalists who are already on board.

NRC Gives Uprate Approval to Seabrook

For those who missed it, the go-ahead from the NRC came last week. The power upgrade will add approximately 60 megawatts to Seabrook's current generating capacity of 1,115 megawatts.

Between 1994 and 2004, American nuclear plants added the functional equivalent of 18, 1,000 megawatt power plants running at a capacity factor of 90 percent to America's electrical grid.

For more facts and figures on the improvement of the nuclear industry in the last 10 years, download a copy of the presentation NEI President Emeritus Joe Colvin gave at our February 3, 2005 Wall Street briefing.

Hard Choices for Slovakia

Caught between rising electricity demand and environmental concerns, Slovakia is the latest European nation to give nuclear energy a second look.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

President Bush: "A secure energy future must include nuclear power."

Today, the President was in Ohio to talk about his national energy policy, and nuclear energy's place in the nation's diverse energy mix. Here's an excerpt from the transcript:

Many people have concerns about the safety of nuclear power. I know that. So do you. Yet, decades of experience in advances in technology have proven that nuclear power is reliable and secure. We're taking early steps towards licensing the nuclear power plants because a secure energy future must include nuclear power.

UPDATE: Here's a statement from John Kane, NEI's Vice President for Governmental Affairs:

“We applaud President Bush for raising Americans’ awareness that nuclear energy is one of the foundations of our nation’s electricity infrastructure, and that it must remain a pillar of U.S. energy security in the generations to come.

“More than 100 nuclear power plants operating in 31 states provide electricity to one of every five homes and businesses, and they do so affordably, efficiently and cleanly. Given these benefits, it is appropriate for national energy policy to stimulate investment in new nuclear power plants, just as it encourages investment in wind and solar projects along with clean coal- and natural gas-fired power plants.

“The nuclear energy sector joins with President Bush in calling for Congress to enact comprehensive energy policy legislation now. Energy security doesn’t come overnight, and the longer we wait, the more intractable our nation’s energy challenges will become.”

Send Your Questions to Sam Bodman

Energy Secretary Sam Bodman will be answering questions today at 5:30 U.S. EST as part of the Ask the White House interactive forum. They're accepting questions now.

RIC Roundup

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission's 17th annual Regulatory Information Conference is taking place in the Washington suburbs this week, and it's an important event on the industry calendar, as it gives both the Commission and the nuclear energy industry a chance to share a common forum on a wide vareity of issues.

Today, NEI President and CEO Skip Bowman spoke at an NEI-sponsored luncheon on the topic of the need for regulatory stability:

But this commitment to safety-focused, performance-based regulation leading to realistic conservatism needs to move beyond the reactor oversight process and be codified in regulatory space. It must move beyond strong statements by today’s strong leaders and be codified into regulation.

So much of the progress made to date has been driven by the leadership of this commission and today’s staff, but it seems sometimes to be based on verbal statements of policy.

Since operators, regulators and other stakeholders agree that this approach best achieves our separate responsibilities and leads to our common goals, we should cast them in stone and bring them down from the mountain.

That means we need to codify a safety-focused, performance-based approach to the agency’s entire span of regulatory responsibility. This approach should be conservative, yet realistic.

Click here for the remarks of NRC Chairman Nils Diaz, and here for the remarks of Commissioner Jeffrey Merrifield from the opening day of the conference.

For more, visit the NEI Speech Archive, or click here for the NRC counterpart.

UPDATE: Click here for the conference program which contains links to most of the presentations.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

The TVA and Nuclear Energy

Glenn Reynolds, who is concerned about Asthma in his hometown of Knoxville, wants to see the TVA build more nuclear plants.

Well, I've got good news for him. TVA is planning to restart Unit 1 at Browns Ferry (idle since 1985 and scheduled to come back online in 2007), and in conjunction with the Department of Energy, has announced a study to examine the possibility of building a two-unit Advanced Boiling Water Reactor (ABWR) at the Bellefonte site near Hollywood, Alabama.

Granted, they aren't in the immediate vicinity of Knoxville, but nuclear energy is definitely on the TVA's radar. Click here for more on the TVA's nuclear energy program.

Japan and EU Locked in Dispute Over Fusion Project

From the pages of the New Scientist.

The Real Cost of Wind Power in Germany

Bob Ciminel comments on Germany's decision to abandon nuclear energy in favor of wind power, and what that decision is going to cost ratepayers:

As usual, the customers who will bear the costs of going green are the citizens. Their electricity costs will rise by almost 64 cents a kilowatt-hour. The other downside is the nuclear phase-out will remove 160-billion kilowatt-hours of generating capacity from Germany's energy supplies, of which renewable power sources, at best, will replace only 120-billion kilowatt-hours. Where will the other 40-billion kilowatt-hours come from - why carbon-producing fossil fuels, of course.

Something to think about.

More on Montefiore

Commenting on Hugh Montefiore's ejection from Friends of the Earth based on his support for nuclear energy, ROFTERS had this to say about the costs and benefits of building new nuclear generating capacity:

There is minimal risk of danger to posterity. The advantages far outweigh any objections, and I can see no practical way of meeting the world's needs without nuclear energy. The predictions of the world's scientists are dire and the consequences for the planet are catastrophic. This is why I believe we must now consider nuclear energy. The subject is so important that it should be a matter of informed public debate. Among his former environmentalist allies, it would appear, informed public debate is precisely what is not wanted.

To read the article that got the former Anglican Bishop of Birmingham in hot water with his former allies in the environmental movement, click here. And to read more about environmentalists who support nuclear energy, click here.