Thursday, December 29, 2005

Nuclear Energy Industry Transitions

Progress Energy has announced several organizational changes:
• Bob Bazemore, currently vice president of capital planning, will become vice president of a new combined department—regulated fuels and capital planning.
• Joel Kamya, currently vice president of technical services and construction, will lead a realigned department as vice president of plant construction.
• Paula Sims, currently vice president of regulated fuels, will become vice president of fossil generation. She replaces Jack Keenan, who has announced his departure from the company. The change is effective Jan. 9.

Southern Co. has named Leonard Haynes executive vice president of supply technologies, renewables and demand-side planning in the company’s generation business unit. Haynes has been with Southern Co. since 1977, most recently as chief marketing officer.

In the process of integrating Duke Energy and Cinergy, the companies have announced more than 50 executive-level appointments, effective when the merger is complete next year. The three presidents of the utility companies that will be part of the new Duke Energy will be:
• Ellen Ruff, group vice president of planning and external relations for Duke Power, will be president of Duke Power, the Carolinas utility business.
• Kay Pashos, president of PSI Energy, will continue in that role.
• Sandra Meyer, group vice president of customer service, sales and marketing for Duke Power, will be president of Cincinnati Gas & Electric Co. (CG&E) and its subsidiary, Union Light Heat and Power (ULH&P). Gregory Ficke, current president of CG&E and ULH&P, will leave the company after a one-year transition period.

In addition, the following appointments will directly affect the company’s nuclear operations:
• H. Brew Barron Jr., group vice president of nuclear generation and chief nuclear officer for Duke Energy, will continue in that role.
• Robert (Josh) Birmingham, general manager of human resources services for Duke Power, will continue in that role.
• Roberta Bowman, group vice president of external relations for Duke Energy, will lead sustainability and public interest.
• Julie Dill, vice president of investor and shareholder relations for Duke Energy, will lead investor relations and corporate communications.
• James Gainer, vice president of regulatory and legislative strategy for Cinergy’s regulated business unit, will lead federal energy policy.
• Marc Manly, executive vice president and chief legal officer for Cinergy, will lead the office of general counsel.
• Beverly Marshall, vice president of federal government affairs for Duke Energy, will continue in that role.
• Cathy Roche, vice president of corporate communications for Duke Energy, will lead continue in that role.
• John Stowell, vice president of federal legislative affairs, environmental strategy and sustainability for Cinergy’s regulated business unit, will be responsible for environment, health and safety leadership.

Click here for additional announcements.

FirstEnergy Corp. has announced several management changes:
• Toby Banks has transitioned from vice president of sales and marketing to vice president of business development.
• Lynn Cavalier, formerly vice president of human resources, has been promoted to senior vice president.
• Thomas Clark, formerly regional president of FirstEnergy subsidiary Ohio Edison, has been promoted to vice president of customer service for FirstEnergy.
• Michael Dowling has been named vice president of governmental affairs. His previous position was vice president of supply chain and chief procurement officer.
• Douglas Elliott has been appointed to the newly created position of president of Pennsylvania operations, overseeing the FirstEnergy operating companies in that state—Metropolitan Edison, Pennsylvania Electric and Pennsylvania Power. Elliott previously served as senior vice president of customer service and service area development.
• David Luff, formerly vice president of governmental affairs, has been promoted to senior vice president.
• James Murray has been appointed to the newly created position of president of Ohio Operations, overseeing FirstEnergy’s utility operating companies in that state—Ohio Edison, Cleveland Electric Illuminating Co. and Toledo Edison. Murray previously served as regional president of Toledo Edison.
• Trent Smith, previously on special assignment managing FirstEnergy’s distribution business initiative, has been promoted to regional president of Toledo Edison.
• Steven Strah has been named regional president of Ohio Edison. He previously served as president of the northern region for Jersey Central Power & Light, a FirstEnergy subsidiary.
• Bradford Tobin has moved from vice president of business development to vice president of supply chain and chief procurement officer.
• Arthur Yuan has been named vice president of sales and marketing. He previously served as vice president and chief operating officer for FirstEnergy Facilities Services Group LLC.

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Energy Information Digest

The December issue of Energy Information Digest is now available on the NEI Web site, in the Newsroom. In it, you'll find articles about COP-11, the U.K. energy review, the FY2006 energy spending bill, the DOE/FutureGen clean-coal project, new-plant activities and other topics.

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Thursday, December 22, 2005

AP Editors: Energy Prices Biggest Story of 2005

From the AP:

Energy proved its economic power this year, as soaring prices reshaped the way consumers spend, put the squeeze on airlines and manufacturers, and ratcheted up pressure on already struggling U.S. automakers dependent on sales of SUVs. Then Hurricane Katrina hit.

The consequences and questions prompted by soaring oil and natural gas prices drove many of the year's top business stories, as chosen by the U.S. newspaper and broadcast editors surveyed by The Associated Press.
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Advancing The Nuclear Energy Debate Down Under

That group of professors at the University of Melbourne who put together a wiki on nuclear energy that we told you about yesterday are starting to draw some attention to their efforts.

Earlier today, Professor Martin Sevior, one of the authors of the document, was interviewed on the country's national radio network about the effort:

NICK MCKENZIE: Associate Professor Sevior says his research into nuclear waste disposal should help dispel many environmentalists' fears.

MARTIN SEVIOR: One thing that's perhaps not always realised is that the amount of waste that comes out of a typical plant is around 30 tonnes a year. The amount of waste that comes out of a coal-fired power plant is around 1,000 tonnes a day.

So the actual volume of waste that comes out of a nuclear power plant is actually rather small. And there have been very well-developed proposals to bury it deep underground in the Nordic countries. I think it's entirely feasible to bury it very safely.

NICK MCKENZIE: Associate Professor Sevior says his study has exposed serious flaws in an often-quoted European study into the limits of the uranium industry.

But while he says nuclear energy investment would be more beneficial than investment in sustainable energy sources, he also acknowledges that debate about nuclear energy has some way to go.

MARTIN SEVIOR: Part of the reason I'm not … we're not all-out saying yes, we must do this, is that part of that credible case depends on nuclear power industry living up to its promises, and one of the promises it makes is that the next generation of power plants that it has on the boards and are touting around the world, live up to their expectations.
That sounds like a message that the nuclear energy industry ought to be listening to. For more on some of the challenges that the industry has to face in order to be successful, read this speech that our CEO, Skip Bowman, gave earlier this year to the World Association of Nuclear Operators:
The U.S. Energy Information Administration projects that global electricity consumption will increase by 57 percent by 2025. Ninety percent of that growth will come in emerging economies, as our industry works to bring electricity to more than 1.5 billion people for the first time.

There are ambitious plans to expand nuclear energy production around the world. And that means we'’re going to lean heavily on the companies that provide and bend the metal, pour the concrete and supply nuclear-quality components.

NEI is taking a close look at the global nuclear infrastructure, evaluating the administrative, personnel, financial and manufacturing resources to enable new-plant construction.
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Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Happy Holidays

On behalf of all of the contributors at NEI Nuclear Notes, I'd like to pass along our wishes for a happy Holiday season to all of our readers. Thanks very much for sticking with us through what by any reliable measure was a successful 2005.

I'd also like to thank the contributors on our team including Lisa Stiles-Shell, Kelly Taylor, Brian Mays, Kevin McCoy, Michael Stuart, David Bradish, Elizabeth King, Clifton Farrell, Mary Quillian, Bill Casino, Janice Cane, Jennifer Maloney and finally, our old friend Brian Smith, since departed for PhRMA.

Also deserving a thank you are the senior staff who backed the project, and gave us the room to run to make it happen: Skip Bowman, Scott Peterson, Richard Myers and Walter Hill.

Earlier this afternoon, NEI Nuclear Notes registered unique visit #50,000. Here's hoping 2006 sees a few hundred thousand more.

An Australian Wiki on Nuclear Energy

Hats off to a group of professors at the University of Melbourne who have created a wiki on nuclear power in Australia.

My favorite section: A detailed deconstruction on the work of Jan Willem Storm van Leeuwen and Philip Smith on energy costs and uranium mining -- one of our favorite topics.

For more details, click here.

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Checking the Data With Peter Asmus

Earlier this year, author Peter Asmus took to the pages of the Washington Post to attack the idea that new nuclear build could help provide affordable electricity in an environmentally sensitive manner. And though NEI Vice President Scott Peterson responded via a letter to the editor, Asmus is back again, this time in the pages of Alternet, making the same old arguments with the same old bad data.

Here's Asmus:

The underlying assumption of those now clamoring for a major expansion of nuclear power is that the threat of global climate change is so great, that we have no other choice. What a bunch of baloney! Wind and solar power have been the fastest growing power sources globally over the past several years, and we have barely begin to tap these abundant non-polluting and increasingly cost-effective sources of power.
First of all, while concerns over greenhouse gas emissions have played a significant role in nuclear energy getting a second look from the public and policymakers, it's not the only reason. Raw economics is equally important, as extreme volatility in American natural gas markets have helped make nuclear generation of electricity more competitive. Asmus also ignores the significant role that nuclear energy plays in supporting clean air compliance, something that my colleague Mary Quillian has pointed out before. For more on this issue, click here.

We've also seen the claims about wind and solar being the fastest growing power sources before, and as my colleague David Bradish has written, it's a claim that relies on some sleight of hand when it comes to data provided by Amory Lovins and the Rocky Mountain Institute:
The graph they provided is only looking at capacity (GWe). What you should be looking at is generation, the real result. Typically when looking at renewables, you need three times as much capacity as nuclear to produce the same amount of electricity. Nuclear power plants'’ capacity factor (how efficient a plant generates electricity) is the highest of any fuel source (90.5%). Renewables are in the 30% range, natural gas for cogeneration is about 40%.

The second reason the graph is misleading is because of yearly capacity increases. The reader only sees what was built in that year. What you should see in the graph is the total operating capacity in existence today. From the Department of Energy'’s Annual Energy Outlook 2005, a table here shows the total capacity in 2003 and projected capacity for 2004-2025. Cogeneration and renewables make up about 15% of the US capacity and nuclear only makes up about 10%. But as I stated above, cogeneration and renewables made up a combined total of 13% of US electricity generation while nuclear was at 20%. It's efficiency not quantity.
Later, after Lovins complained about David's analysis, David went back and checked his work again -- where it only got worse for Lovins.

More from Asmus:
Then there is the dirty little secret that during the nuclear fuel processing process, the uranium enrichment process depends on great amounts of electricity, most of which is provided by two extremely dirty fossil fuel plants releasing all of the traditional air pollution emissions not released by the nuclear reactors themselves (albeit relatively small sums of pollution in the grand scheme of things). Still, it is not entirely accurate to say that the US nuclear industry emits no emissions contributing to global climate change.
This claim is based on another blatant distortion peddled by Helen Caldicott, which we keep debunking over and over again:
[The] claim that uranium enrichment plants use electricity generated from "two coal plants" is untrue. There is only one enrichment plant in the United States - in Paducah, Ky. By contract, it obtains electricity from the Tennessee Valley Authority's fleet of power plants, so about 40 percent of its electricity comes from non-emitting nuclear and hydroelectric power plants.
For more on how this disinformation keeps getting repeated, while folks like Asmus and Caldicott keep hoping that nobody double checks their data, click here and here.

As for the issue of the total life-cycle emissions of nuclear energy, David Bradish poked a number of holes in the research undergirding the claims that Asmus makes. For a third party look at the same issue, here's Tim Worstall.

Here's Asmus on cost:
The cost (and time involved) in adding a whole new fleet of nuclear reactors around the world is just as staggering as the alternative route: a gradual shift to all renewable energy fuels, including solar, wind, geothermal steam, biomass (including urban waste streams), hydroelectric, wave, ocean current and tidal power technologies.
Actually, going the route that Asmus suggests is far more staggering, something that our friend Rod Adams pointed out in a comment he left for us at NEI Nuclear Notes back in July:
Here are the sources that the Energy Information Agency considers in the "renewables" category and their relative importance within that category as of 2002, the latest year in which statistics are available.

Geothermal 4.13%
Hydro 75.25%
MSW/Landfill 5.75%
Biomass 0.76%
Solar 0.16%
Wind 2.95%
Wood 11.01%
(Source: Table C6. Total Renewable Net Generation by State, 2002 - Energy Information Agency)

In other words, take away conventional hydro power and you have very tiny contributions from "renewable" power. Take away combustion based - i.e. polluting - "renewable" fuels and you are down to the real contribution of new renewable power supplies after 30-40 years of heavy government subsidies.

Between wind, solar, and geothermal you get about six tenths of one percent of the electricity produced in the US. Since electricity is only about 1/3 of the total energy consumption, that means that all of the noise about wind and solar power is about something that produces two tenths of one percent of the energy used in the US each year.
More from Asmus:
Of course, the prime problem with nuclear power is that it is really the most expensive power source there is. No other technology requires greater subsidy and government intervention than nuclear... Fresh and outrageously generous tax credits for nuclear power were also just signed into law.
Asmus is referring to production tax credits, the same exact kind of production tax credits that renewable sources of energy like wind and solar have enjoyed for many years.

Here's what I wrote last month on nuclear energy and renewables:
Saying that the world has to decide between nuclear energy or renewables is a false choice. The fact of the matter remains that future energy demand will rise so much, that there will be more than enough room for nuclear energy and renewables in the marketplace. It's just that over the next few decades, we're going to need baseload power generation, and right now, the only technology that can provide that baseload power is nuclear energy.
POSTSCRIPT: One of the devices that Asmus uses is putting "scare quotes" around the word "environmentalists" when referring to James Lovelock, Stewart Brand and Patrick Moore. But the fact is that all three aren't just environmentalists, they're scientists as well. In fact, Lovelock isn't just the progenitor of the "Gaia" theory, he actually created many of the precision instruments that were first used to detect elevated levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

Asmus also conveniently forgets to link to any source material that would give a reader a chance to evaluate their arguments on their own. Click here for Lovelock's piece in the Independent from 2004 where he took his stand in favor of nuclear energy as a wedge against greenhouse gas emissions. Click here for Brand's article, "Environmental Heresies," that appeared in MIT Technology Review. In that piece, Brand touched on exactly why folks like Asmus are able to get public traction with their views even though sound science doesn't support their claims:
The success of the environmental movement is driven by two powerful forces -- —romanticism and science—— -- that are often in opposition. The romantics identify with natural systems; the scientists study natural systems. The romantics are moralistic, rebellious against the perceived dominant power, and combative against any who appear to stray from the true path. They hate to admit mistakes or change direction. The scientists are ethicalistic, rebellious against any perceived dominant paradigm, and combative against each other. For them, admitting mistakes is what science is.

There are a great many more environmental romantics than there are scientists. That's fortunate, since their inspiration means that most people in developed societies see themselves as environmentalists. But it also means that scientific perceptions are always a minority view, easily ignored, suppressed, or demonized if they don't fit the consensus story line.
For those interested in Moore's take on this issue, his congressional testimony from earlier this year would be a good place to start. One last thought about Moore: While he is a supporter of the expanded use of nuclear energy, Asmus neglects to mention that Moore is a big fan or renewables himself, including the potential of geothermal for residential heating -- just another example of how pitting renewables against nuclear energy is deceptive and counterproductive to honest public debate.

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Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Another Blogger for Nuclear Energy

Meet the Environmental Republican. And Third World County.

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OPEC Report: China Now Consumes 20 Percent of Global Oil Output

Just off the wire:

OPEC has revised its forecast and now envisions an increase in oil demand.

The increase in demand was expected to be led by China. Chinese consumption has exceeded 20 percent of the world's total oil production.

An OPEC market report issued on Dec. 16 asserted that crude oil demand for 2006 would reach 28.7 million barrels per day. This would mark an increase of 134,000 barrels per day from 2005, Middle East Newsline reported.
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Monday, December 19, 2005

More on RFK Jr. and Wind Power

In response to our post on Friday regarding Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.'s position on the offshore wind farm at Cape Cod, The Energy Blog had this to say:

I don't think that Kennedy is necessarily typical of environmentalists, but he certainly does nothing positive for their image.

I do believe that global warming is an urgent environmental concern and believe it cannot be solved with renewable energy alone and that both clean coal technologies with sequestration and nuclear power have a role to play in solving this problem in the short term. There is probably not enough time for either renewable energy or conservation to halt or reverse the effects of global warming before it may cause irreversible damage. Therefore we must take all possible steps to mitigate global warming. Deploying nuclear energy and clean coal technologies does not mean that any efforts should be spared in pursuing renewable energy or conservation. In fact efforts in these areas should be accelerated as much as possible.
Those last two sentences sound a lot like what we wrote last month:
Saying that the world has to decide between nuclear energy or renewables is a false choice. The fact of the matter remains that future energy demand will rise so much, that there will be more than enough room for nuclear energy and renewables in the marketplace. It's just that over the next few decades, we're going to need baseload power generation, and right now, the only technology that can provide that baseload power is nuclear energy.
Looks like there's more agreement on this issue than some folks might realize.

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Google's Future Electric Bill

Via Peak Oil Optimist, we discover that Google has been doing some projections about its future electric bills:

"If performance per watt is to remain constant over the next few years, power costs could easily overtake hardware costs, possibly by a large margin," Luiz Andre Barroso, who previously designed processors for Digital Equipment Corp., said in a September paper published in the Association for Computing Machinery's Queue. "The possibility of computer equipment power consumption spiraling out of control could have serious consequences for the overall affordability of computing, not to mention the overall health of the planet."


If server power consumption grows 20 percent per year, the four-year cost of a server's electricity bill will be larger than the $3,000 initial price of a typical low-end server with x86 processors. Google's data center is populated chiefly with such machines. But if power consumption grows at 50 percent per year, "power costs by the end of the decade would dwarf server prices," even without power increasing beyond its current 9 cents per kilowatt-hour cost, Barroso said.
For more, read the complete article from ACM Queue.

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Friday, December 16, 2005

Nuclear Energy Industry Transitions

Southern California Edison (SCE), the utility subsidiary of Edison International, has elected James Reilly vice president of nuclear engineering and technical services for the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station, effective immediately. Reilly has been with SCE since 1979, most recently as director of engineering and technical services at San Onofre.

Southern Co. has named Anthony James executive vice president of Southern Co. Services and president of the shared services group. James previously served as chairman of Savannah Electric, a Southern Co. subsidiary. Craig Barrs is the new president and CEO of Savannah Electric. He previously served as vice president of community and economic development for Georgia Power.

USEC Inc. has elected John Donelson vice president of marketing and sales. Donelson has been with USEC since 1995, most recently as director of North American and European sales. The company also elected Victor Lopiano vice president of American Centrifuge, USEC’s program for next-generation uranium enrichment technology. Lopiano has served as director of projects in USEC’s corporate development department since 2000.

Duratek Inc. has elected Joseph Henry, rear admiral, United States Navy (Ret.), to the newly created position of chief operating officer and executive vice president. Admiral Henry has served as chief operating officer of Duratek’s Federal Services organization since joining the company in 2004. He served in the Navy for 33 years, retiring as a two-star admiral.

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Who Said It?

Even though renewable energy sources like wind are environmentally friendly, not all environmentalists are so broad-minded when it comes to its construction in their own backyard. The following is just another example of this sort of NIMBYism:

[The] proposal involves construction of 130 giant turbines whose windmill arms will reach 417 feet above the water and be visible for up to 26 miles. These turbines are less than six miles from shore... Hundreds of flashing lights to warn airplanes away from the turbines will steal the stars and nighttime views. The noise of the turbines will be audible onshore. A transformer substation rising 100 feet above the sound would house giant helicopter pads and 40,000 gallons of potentially hazardous oil.
It's important to keep in mind that every kind of electrical generation is bound to arouse some opposition, even ones normally best known for their environmental benefits.

If you're wondering who's responsible for the above quote, it appeared in today's edition of the New York Times and was written by self-described environmentalist Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. in opposition to an offshore wind farm proposed near Cape Cod.

Over the past few years, he's made his opposition to nuclear energy well known, and often said that renewable sources of energy can be used to make up the gap in electric generation. But in this case, it looks like even a renewable source of energy like wind has an impossible set of hurdles to overcome as well.

Patrick Moore, one of the founders of Greenpeace and now head of Greenspirit Strategies, often mentions the fact that most environmentalists are against so much it's hard to figure out what they're in favor of. I guess this is another example.

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Troubled by "Take Title," Part Two

In addition to my concern about the "take title" portion of the bill introduced by Senator Harry Reid I'm disturbed by the proposal to amend the Nuclear Waste Policy Act to require

utilities to transfer nuclear fuel from cooling pools into storage casks within six years.
As reported in this article of the Salt Lake Tribune.

Such a proposal clearly stems from a lack of understanding about how used fuel is managed at nuclear power plants.

First, both fuel pools and dry cask storage are robust and safe. After 9/11, the NRC re-evaluated them and concluded that a similar attack would not have a negative effect on public health and safety. Therefore, utilities should be allowed to choose the storage option that is best for their site.

After fuel reprocessing was halted in 1979, many new plants were built with larger pools to handle most, if not all, of the used fuel for the lifetime of the plant. These operators should be allowed to continue on that course without incurring the unnecessary costs of licensing, building, and operating an Independent Spent Fuel Storage Installation (ISFSI).

Furthermore, plants that already have, or plan to have, ISFSIs should not be constrained by an arbitrary time limit for pool storage. Heck, some licensed designs currently in use require a minimum of seven years of pool storage before placement in a cask. The time limit is based primarily on heat load. And even for designs that allow earlier placement, it is optimal to have a mix of "old, cold" and "young hot" in any one cask. To constrain the ability of utilities to optimize (heat load, dose to operators, etc) their fuel loading would be unnecessarily costly and foolish.

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Thursday, December 15, 2005

Troubled by "Take Title"

I've mentioned in a previous post my interest and background working in used fuel management. So it was with rising concern that I read yesterday an article in the Las Vegas Sun about a bill that was expected to be introduced in Congress regarding the future of Yucca Mountain. Benjamin Grove reported

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid and Sen. John Ensign are expected today to unveil long-anticipated legislation that formally proposes their alternative to Yucca Mountain -- leaving waste at the nuclear power plants that produced it.
Now that the bill has been introduced, more information was released today in this article for the Las Vegas Review Journal. The "take-title" scenario would mean that the Department of Energy would take ownership of used nuclear fuel but would leave at the power plant sites rather than continue with the plan of moving it to a repository at Yucca Mountain in Nevada.

I'm disappointed by this proposal.

First, as an engineer, I'm dismayed because it doesn't make sense. The consensus in the international scientific community is that the best option for high level waste is placement in a deep geologic repository. Yucca Mountain has undergone 20 years of exhaustive study to prove its suitability. And while I'm optimistic that the US will develop advanced recycling technologies that will optimize the fuel cycle and reduce the volume of high level waste, recyclying will not obviate the need for a repository. Therefore, there is no logical reason to delay opening Yucca Mountain and abdicate our responsibility to our children and grandchildren.

Second, I'm frustrated as a ratepayer and taxpayer. The 1982 Nuclear Waste Policy Act stipulated that nuclear operators pay into the Nuclear Waste Fund at a rate of $0.001 per kW-hr produced. In return, the federal government would use that money to begin removing fuel from the sites by 1998. Since the government has defaulted on that requirement, utilities are forced to pay for continued storage on site. Of course, that cost shows up in my electric bill as well.

In reality, we ratepayers are already paying twice. And now, according to this article in the Las Vegas Review Journal, money for this proposal would come from the Nuclear Waste Fund. So, not only would this proposal not meet the requirements of the law, it would mean that we will continue to pay twice for the foreseeable future.

The problem with solving the used fuel issue isn't technical and it isn't economics. It's purely political.

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Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Playing Fast and Loose With the Data

Last week we told you how Joseph Mangano of the Radiation and Public Health Project had brought his traveling snake oil show to the area in and around Vermont Yankee. As we've noted before, Mangano typically pops from town to town, hoping nobody traces back his trail, and all the times public health authorities have rejected his findings concerning mortality statistics and nuclear power plants.

Well, it turns out that Mangano, this time in conjunction with the Clamshell Alliance, is at it again. This time, the Seabrook Nuclear Power Plant is the target, but the charge is much the same.

From the Hampton Union (New Hampshire):

Childhood cancer deaths in the last two decades increased by 19 percent in communities surrounding Seabrook Station, according to the group awarding the nuclear power plant a Dirty Dozen award on Tuesday.

In a released statement, Paul Schramski of the Toxics Action Center in Massachusetts said the information came from a study by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) in Atlanta.

However, neither CDC spokeswoman Susan Asher nor Seabrook Station spokesman Al Griffith had any knowledge of such a study, they said.
This is a familiar tactic that anti-nuclear activists employ. Essentially, they'll take selective data from a report or study, and then use it to draw conclusions that the data don't support.

That, and hope that nobody tries to double-check your data. The last time we encountered this was last February when my former colleague, Brian Smith attended an Environmental Impact Hearing in Louisa County, Virginia near the North Anna Nuclear Power plant. The following is a direct quote from Dominion Power employee Delbert Horn, and what he found when the Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League claimed that local children were harmed by radioactive emissions from the plant:
"[Zeller] claims the data suggests these children were harmed by radioactive emissions from the plant. Mr. Zeller referenced the CDC website as his data source, so I went online myself to check out his numbers "… and I encourage all of you to do the same."

"While the Blue Ridge website says their death statistics exclude accidents, homicides, and suicides, what I saw at proved otherwise (Louisa County). Zeller's "Before"” numbers did correctly exclude accidents, but his "After" numbers did not exclude them. This is how Zeller's death rates are made to "“almost double."
Like I've said before: Same old story, same old song and dance.

POSTSCRIPT: For more of Mangano's nonsense from the pages of The Nation, click here and here.

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Remembering Petr Beckman

After reading a New York Times account of the construction of a new nuclear power plant in Finaland, Art Diamond had this to say about the late Petr Beckman and his 1976 book, The Health Hazards of Not Going Nuclear:

Not all those who are right, live to see their ideas vindicated. Thank you Petr Beckmann, for writing the truth, when the truth was not popular.
I think that sentiment is worth enshrining in Bloggers for Nuclear Energy. Welcome aboard, Art.

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SCANA and Santee Cooper File Letter of Intent with NRC

From the Post-Courier (Charleston, SC):

Scana Corp. and Santee Cooper, the electric utilities that serve the bulk of South Carolina, are rushing to get federal approval to build a nuclear power plant just north of Columbia.

The utilities filed a letter of intent with the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission on Dec. 6. And they expect to spend up to $8 million in the coming months to join a coalition of utilities pursuing nuclear power and hire a contractor to oversee the process of winning government approval.

Scana and Santee Cooper agreed in August to consider a new plant, but the real estate boom and an influx of new residents pushed their timetable forward.

"Look here now, we need a unit in 2012 and we need another in 2015," said Bill McCall, Santee Cooper's chief operations officer. "You don't need to look at the numbers long to realize that."
For our post made in the wake of an earlier announcement, click here. To learn about nuclear sentiment in South Carolina in Duke Power's service area, click here.

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Natural Gas Prices Fueling Consumer Anger

In speech after speech this year, our CEO Skip Bowman has been warning that the U.S. is in for a rough Winter because of rising natural gas prices. While it might be too early to call this a trend, this post from Freedom's Trumpet may provide a preview of what lies ahead:

My furnace ran for an hour last night and I am ticked about it. I have been trying to reduce my fuel usage, shutting off rooms that I don’t need. I compacted my living environment and try to heat only the rooms that are being used. So far it’s working but it got to 55F in the house last night, where I keep it as a minimum, and the furnace ran for an hour. It was about 15F out. The gas company will want to inspect my meter. Let them. I’ll freeze to death before I pay $16/mcf and give them $400 for a month this winter. So far I’ve used less than 5mcf (thousand cubic feet) of gas. With the temperatures where they have been I should have used about twice that...

[Why did this country] increase in natural gas usage for electricity which increased demand substantially while at the same time... locking up land and preventing exploration and drilling that could have been used to keep costs down. … and where is our nuclear power?
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Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Is that a Phalanx in your Pocket or...

I was going to continue my coverage of the 2005 UN Climate Change Conference by describing our engagements with antis in chronological order.

But this article by Ronald Bailey in Tech Central Station made me so proud of the work we did last week. In it, Bailey recounts the goings on at a sidebar event titled “Why Nuclear is Not the Answer.” He begins by quoting a “screeching”(his word, not mine) Elizabeth May who is head of the Sierra Club in Canada. Why was she so perturbed?

What provoked May's eruption was that the report's findings were being vigorously challenged from the floor by a phalanx of representatives of the nuclear power industry.
Yep, those sturdy warriors flinging arrows of truth were none other than your dedicated NA-YGN representatives and their friends from around the world.

But let me start from the beginning.

The sidebar began, as Bailey notes, with the presentation of the results of a report by Felix Christian Matthes and sponsored by the Heinrich Böll Foundation. The Foundation is closely affiliated with the Green Party in Germany which is stridently antinuclear. Though admirably portrayed as a result of scientific study, his conclusions were predictable; nuclear can't significantly affect carbon reduction, and even if it did, it's too dangerous, and besides, without "enormous" subsidies, nuclear power is uneconomical and trending downward, so all the money spent on nuclear should be spent on other renewables. In reality, Matthes took bits of real data from a few reliable sources like the International Energy Agency, threw in a lot of conjecture and misrepresentation of the facts, made flawed assumptions about "unknown externalities" and produced results to support his organization's premise.

But as lacking in substance as his bases were, his conclusions were at least loosely based on a logical train of thought compared to the remarks of the next speakers.

The aforementioned May expounded on how the industry, from the dawn of the nuclear age, has "disguised" itself as a "savior" when it is actually the "Grim Reaper." According to May, the industry has lied by saying it produces no carbon dioxide. She went on to talk about how nuclear plants require centralized grids which are "brittle systems" and that further investment in nuclear are obstacles to a de-centralized system. I'm not sure how "centralized" equates to "evil" but it doesn't matter much, her colleague contradicted her later.

Rebecca Harms, a Green Party member of the European parliament, said that nuclear power plants release a lot of radiation. I almost suggested that she cancel her flight back to Europe and take a boat since I received less dose working at a plant for a year than she will in an airplane, but I digress. The waste is "the most dangerous kind of waste known to man" and that relicensing plants is dangerous and uneconomical because older plants are getting worse, not better. I had to be polite, but it was too bad I couldn't pass out capacity factor and safety incident plots to the audience at this time. Harms also regularly referred to the Chernobyl accident in her comments. At our sidebar earlier in the week she claimed that 300,000 people have died as a result of working on cleanup teams at the site. I have yet to find her basis for that number.

Richard Worthington of Earthlife Africa claimed that renewable sources create more jobs than nuclear power but provided no data to backup his statement. I suppose during the initial build of a million windmills or solar panels, more labor would be required, but after that? I doubt it. Besides, I fail to see how a discussion of employment rates relates to climate change. Worthington then focused his time on denouncing the plan for a demonstration Pebble Bed Modular Reactor (PBMR) in his home country of South Africa. This is where I got really confused with the centralized vs. decentralized question. If a centralized grid signals the coming of the apocalypse, then the small, modular PBMR would be ideal to delay Armageddon. But, nope, Worthington said its small size is part of the problem. Apparently he and May haven't quite worked out the details of this debate yet.

Next, Oswaldo Lucon (I missed writing down his affiliation) pointed out the obvious by saying that if all of our energy needs were to be met using high-grade uranium, known supplies of it would run out in about a decade. Personally, I was shocked to realize that if we were to depend solely on any one source of energy, we might run out of fuel. Perhaps I'm being a bit too sarcastic, but really, how silly a statement is that? Even without engaging in a discussion about known reserves and recycling, it is a ludicrous position on which to hang your "No Nukes" hat.

Last, Michael Marriotte of Nuclear Information Resource Service spoke. His statement could be summarized as "Nuclear is bad, it's always been bad, and all the corporations, all the governments, and the thousands of people working in the industry are in cahoots with each other to keep secret all the evil that goes on." He told a story about a Illinois man that called him to ask why people from the Braidwood plant would be digging a monitoring well near his property. For Marriotte, this is proof that the industry is up to no good.

Finally, the floor was opened to questions. I was first up and introduced myself as the president of North American Young Generation in Nuclear. Since some of our exhibit materials had been waved around and our message distorted, I reiterated that our organization never claimed that nuclear power was the solution to climate change or that life-cycle carbon emissions were zero. Luckily I had with me the IAEA pamphlet that we had been handing out that showed nuclear's low, but not zero, life-cycle carbon emissions.

In addition, I repeated our message at the conference:
Nuclear power is safe, clean, and reliable, and an important part of a balanced energy mix. Furthermore, nuclear power should be considered an equal among all energy technologies in meeting climate change goals—subject to the same thoughtful scrutiny and evaluation—and an available option to countries committed to carbon reduction.
Next, I said that our concern is that nuclear is not being evaluated with the same set of objective criteria as other options and I briefly addressed issues of safety, waste, and economics.

On safety, though I disagreed with their estimates of health effects based on my understanding of UN-sponsored studies, I acknowledged that Chernobyl was a disaster. I mentioned that the design was flawed from the beginning and there was no containment enclosure. Since additional plants with similar design will never be built and all plants planned or proposed have robust containment buildings, I shared my personal conviction that an accident like Chernobyl will never happen again.

Furthermore, I asked, if they are truly concerned about safety, how they can ignore key facts such as that no one in North America has died as a result of radiation released from a commercial power plant during normal or accident operations and that numerous people die each year in coal mining and natural gas pipeline explosions? Using Dr. Moore's example of the Bhopal accident (3000 died immediately, thousands more continue to suffer health effects), I said that the response to chemical industry accidents has been to make the industry safer, not to shut it down. Other examples are prevalent for other large industries, and commercial nuclear power should be no different. The industry was made safer after Chernobyl and Three Mile Island and continues to improve.

Addressing waste, I asked how the panel members' organizations can ignore that, per kW-hr produced, solar power produces nearly the equivalent amount of toxic waste as nuclear. I reminded them that mercury and the hazardous waste never decay. I surmise that someone has been feeding Harms misinfomration about solar energy because at this point, she was shaking her head and saying "That's not true." In any case, I said that NA-YGN supports the use of solar panels where it is appropriate, but we are simply pointing out that proper accounting and sequestration of waste is essential, no matter what the source.

Next I turned to economics. In his analysis, Matthes had completely dismissed the continually improving performance of nuclear operators worldwide. I began by pointing out that he had chosen to use of some of the IEA's data but had ignored its conclusions. If he was truly concerned about economics how could he ignore that 1)sales of plants in the US have escalated into bidding wars, 2)next to solar, nuclear currently has the lowest operating cost of any other electricity source in America and that is without any production tax credits (like those given to wind an solar) and 3)that the IEA in their report "Projected Costs of Generating Electricity," which included all life-cycle costs, demonstrated that nuclear compares very favorably with all other generation sources?

As you can imagine, I didn't get satisfactory answers to my questions.

Marriotte grumbled on about all the people he could introduce me to in Pennsylvania who know someone that died as a result of the Three Mile Island accident. If I had a chance to respond, I would have said that dozens of studies by the likes of the Pennsylvania Department of Health, the National Cancer Institute, and the University of Pittsburgh’s Graduate School of Public Health prove him wrong. And if he prefers to stick with the anecdotal rather than the analytical, I'd introduce him to a former coworker of mine, who was in the womb within 10 miles of the accident, and her family and friends in the community that shake their head in wonder at claims like his.

Matthes challenged my belief that Chernobyl wouldn't happen again, but didn't address my other questions about safety. He also tiptoed around the economics question by again bringing up "enormous" subsidies and then expounding on issues of insurance and liability. He claimed that since nuclear operators can't insure themselves, it must mean that the facilities are unsafe. As you can see from the article, Sama Bilbao y Leon was prepared to question Matthes on this issue, but unfortunately, the session ended before she could.

Kudos to Sama for talking to the reporter later and giving him the facts!

In addition to my questions, Brent Cooper from NA-YGN asked additional questions about waste, and used examples from Canada. Later, Colin Hunt of CNA first complimented Matthes for being the only panel member to attempt to use facts and analysis rather than emotion to make his arguments, but then went on to challenge his methods. After only about ten minutes of review of Matthes' report, Colin was able to poke substantial holes in his methodology. In particular, he asked Matthes if he had attempted to quantify some of his assumptions by actually speaking to nuclear plant operators. After a lot of smoke and mirrors, the short answer was, "No."

Later, Jozef Valovic, Secretary General of the Slovak Nuclear Society, shared his experiences and challenged some of the statements of the panelists, particularly in the areas of safety, economics, and the causes and effects of the Chernobyl accident.

At the end, Andrew James of NA-YGN reiterated our concern that nuclear was not being evaluated against the same set of objective criteria as other energy technologies and then he focused a bit on economics and the issue of subsidies. He also pointed out the discrepency in the panel regarding the value of centralized vs. decentralized grids and boldly asked, "Which is it?" He then invited everyone with further questions to stop by our exhibits.

By this time, we had rankled the panel quite a bit. Their answers had become very defensive and emotional in nature. Mays in particular had an interesting parting shot calling on all of us "young people" that have been "seduced" by the nuclear industry to reconsider our choices. I had gotten a little weary of this condescension (more on that in a later post) and said loudly, "That's insulting."

While it was impossible to address every distortion or error, all in all I think we calmly and successfully challenged the antinuclear message at this sidebar event. One woman told me later that we were brave to be there. I suppose a little courage was necessary, but having the facts in our corner made questioning outlandish and distorted claims easier.

Thanks to everyone that participated and stay tuned for more Montreal reports!

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A Must-See Review of COP-11 in Montreal

Oh, you have got to see this! Ronald Bailey has provided a fascinating insight into what went on the Conference of the Parties meeting in Montreal last week. His article is posted at Tech Central Station.

I am excited to read his coverage of the nuclear debate, particularly since I wasn't able to attend. It has all the feel of being there, with some intelligent background issues to help understand the viewpoints of the players who were there. Adjust your glasses for a good read, and click here!

I also hear that my colleague, formerly of Dominion, Lisa Stiles-Shell, will be writing her own account of the proceedings. Look for it soon. For Lisa's note to Eric from last week, click here.

Many thanks to Mike Stuart for the link.

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Another Blogger for Nuclear Energy

In preparing an essay on alternative fuels for his English class, one college student couldn't help but be swayed in favor of nuclear energy by some testimony Patrick Moore gave before Congress earlier this year:

I use this article perhaps more than any other for the paper. The credibility of the founder of Greenpeace backing nuclear power is too much to resist. His perspective is one of an all-encompassing solution, not just how to be green, dirty hippies- not that there’s anything wrong with that… While Greenpeace whole heartedly disagrees with his views, Mr. Moore puts up a very solid argument in nuclear favor, much stronger than “the don’t do anything, let’s go live in the trees again” argument, which is quite unrealistic.
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Monday, December 12, 2005

ABC News Intern Update

It's been a while since we've heard from ABC News and the Carnegie Fellows that put together the "Radioactive Roadtrip," for Prime Time Live back in October. As it turns out, NRC has been following up on the network's investigation, and has released most of its findings.

And despite ABC's chest beating, there's simply not much there.

From today's edition of Platts Inside NRC (subscription required):

NRC has nearly completed a review of the security at research and test reactors (RTR) and has not issued any enforcement action, an NRC spokesman said.

As of early December, the agency had only one case pending based on the information provided by ABC News from its investigation into alleged security lapses at university reactors, said Eliot Brenner, director of NRC's Office of Public Affairs. The agency is preparing "closure letters" that will be sent to the RTRs where no security issues were identified, he said earlier this month.

Brenner asked ABC last month if the network would release all the video filmed during its investigation and if it would allow the agency to look at any written notes taken by the interns. ABC had not responded to the request as of December 2, he said.
Just before the Thanksgiving holiday, NRC issued a detailed Q&A concerning security at Research and Test Reactors. To access the report, go to NRC's Adams document database and search on document number ML053180250.

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EIA’s Annual Energy Outlook 2006 Overview

Today the Energy Information Administration published an early release of its reference case from the Annual Energy Outlook 2006. Guy Caruso, Administrator of the EIA, held a press conference and highlighted some of the major changes in projections between last year’s Outlook and this year’s edition.

New Energy Market Outlook Raises Projected World Oil Price Path and Adds More Coal and Nuclear Power

World oil markets have been extremely volatile for the past several years and the Energy Information Administration (EIA) now believes that the reference case oil price path in recent editions of the "Annual Energy Outlook" did not fully reflect the causes of that volatility and their implications for future oil prices. In the "Annual Energy Outlook 2006" (AEO2006) reference case, released today by EIA, world oil supplies are assumed to be tighter, as the combined productive capacity of the members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) does not increase as much as previously projected. World crude oil prices, expressed in terms of the average price of imported light, low-sulfur crude oil to U.S. refiners, are projected to fall from current levels to about $47 per barrel in (2004 dollars) in 2014, then rise to $54 per barrel in 2025and $57 per barrel in 2030. The projected crude oil price in 2025 is about $21 per barrel higher than projected in last year's reference case.

The higher world oil prices in AEO2006 lead to greater domestic crude oil production and increase the demand for unconventional sources of transportation fuel, such as ethanol and biodiesel.

Higher oil prices stimulate domestic coal-to-liquids production and, in some of the alternative scenarios with even higher oil prices, domestic gas-to-liquids and shale oil production. They also lower demand growth, particularly via their effect on fuel choice and vehicle efficiency decisions in the transportation sector, even though the reference case does not assume implementation of proposed new fuel economy standards that are now in the public comment process. Much of the increase in new light duty vehicle fuel economy reflects greater penetration by hybrid and diesel vehicles, and slower growth in the sales of light trucks and sport utility vehicles.

As a result of both supply and demand changes, growth in petroleum imports is expected to be less than projected last year. Net petroleum imports, which met 58 percent of oil demand in 2004, are projected to meet 60 percent of demand in 2025, considerably less than the projected 68 percent projected for that same year in the AEO2005 reference case.

Higher oil and natural gas prices than in earlier AEOs lead to a projected increase in coal consumption from 1.1 billion short tons in 2004 to 1.8 billion short tons in 2030. Growth in coal consumption is projected to accelerate after 2020, as coal captures electricity market share from natural gas and as coal use for coal-to-liquids production grows.

Nuclear generating capacity is projected to increase from 100 gigawatts in 2004 to 109 gigawatts by 2030, with 3 gigawatts of uprates at existing plants and 6 gigawatts of new plants stimulated by provisions in the Energy Policy Act of 2005 (EPACT2005). The new nuclear plants expected to be added in 2014 and beyond will be the first new nuclear plants ordered in the U.S. in over 30 years.

Here's some graphs from the press conference with projections to 2030. Natural gas capacity is not expected to grow as much as last year’s projections due to higher prices. Coal is expected to pick up the slack and renewables’ growth in capacity is primarily due to renewable portfolio standards in more than 20 states.

In 2025, last year’s AEO projected natural gas capacity to provide 24% of the electricity generation. This year’s projections have it dropped to 20%. Nuclear and renewables both bumped up 2% and coal 3%. In 2030, coal is still projected to be the dominating fuel for U.S.’s electricity supply. For a copy of the Overview, click here (pdf).

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Nuclear Energy Industry Transitions

Ameren Corp. has named Timothy Herrmann vice president, engineering, nuclear, at the AmerenUE Callaway Nuclear Plant. Herrmann has been with AmerenUE since 1981, most recently as chief engineer at Callaway.

Sacramento Municipal Utlitiy District (SMUD) has elected Genevieve Shiroma president of its board of directors. Susan Patterson was elected vice president.

The Department of Energy has named Ingrid Kolb director of the Office of Management. Tom Pyke is the department’s new chief information officer. Kolb previously served as deputy director of DOE's Office of Management, while Pyke joins DOE from the Department of Commerce, where he has been chief information officer for the last four years.

Exelon has announced several executive-level promotions:
• John Young, current executive vice president of finance and markets, will also assume the position of chief financial officer.
• Michael Metzner, current vice president of investor relations and shareholder services, has been named treasurer.
• Matthew Hilzinger, current vice president and corporate controller, has been promoted to senior vice president and corporate controller.
• Phillip Barnett, current vice president of Power Generation finance, will be senior vice president of corporate financial planning.

Constellation Energy has named George Vanderheyden president of UniStar Nuclear, its joint venture with AREVA Inc., and senior vice president of Constellation Generation Group. Vanderheyden, who currently is site vice president of Constellation Energy’s Calvert Cliffs Nuclear Power Plant, will lead the company’s efforts to develop and deploy new nuclear facilities. James Spina will succeed Vanderheyden at Calvert Cliffs. Spina’s current role as site vice president at Constellation’s Nine Mile Point Station will be filled by Timothy O’Connor.

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OPA: Nuclear Needs to Remain at 50 Percent Market Share

On Friday, the Ontario Power Authority released a report on Supply Mix Advice for electrical generation. The Bruce Power Blog has all the details.

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Skip Bowman at ENC 2005

NEI's CEO, Skip Bowman, delivered a speech earlier today at the European Nuclear Conference in Versailles on building public confidence in the nuclear industry.

Here's an excerpt:

Item No. 1 on our agenda: We can never, ever lose sight of our responsibility to operate our nuclear power plants at the highest possible levels of safety and reliability.

As electricity markets become increasingly competitive, we must resist pressures to shave investment in staff, in training, in equipment, in maintenance. As our operating plants age, we must devote more attention to materials issues, and anticipate potential degradation long before it can have an impact on plant performance or regulatory and public confidence. In the United States, we have had a few surprises in this area, and our industry cannot tolerate surprises.

To ensure sustained safety performance, we must maintain and cultivate channels of communications across the global nuclear enterprise. Using established institutions like the World Association of Nuclear Operators, we must share experiences, good and bad, and learn from them and from each other.
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Hybrid Cars and Plug-ins

If you're interested in hybrid vehicles, checking out some of the info on Watthead might be a good place to start.

Over the past week, Jesse Jenkins* has looked at a Camry Hybrid, some interesting developments at Mitsubishi and some news from the San Francisco International Auto Show. Check it out.

*We got Jesse's name wrong the first time. Sorry, we've since corrected the error.

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Following Up With Judith Lewis of LA Weekly

Over the weekend, Judith Lewis of LA Weekly dropped off a comment in our post rebutting many of the assertions she had made about NEI and the industry over at her own blog. I thought the rest of our audience would like to see what she had to say, and I've excerpted portions of her note below:

Thanks for your detailed rebuttal. Please understand that I wasn't responding to NEI's overall approach to the issue of new generation, only that one interview with Scott Peterson, which I found shocking in its unbridled optimism.

I don't know whether nuclear power is the key to halting climate change. I'm worried about the CFC issue at the one remaining enrichment facility...
Let me break in here for a moment. What Judith is referring to is a claim most often made by Dr. Helen Caldicott of the Nuclear Policy Research Institute. As many of our longtime readers know, we've been following this issue for quite some time, and will often return to it when I find a reference to Caldicott mentioning what the industry considers to be a blatant distortion of the facts.

For an NEI response to Caldicott from NEI Vice President Scott Peterson, click here. For a response from USEC, the company that operates an enrichment facility in Paducah, Kentucky, click here. Here's the text from a note we received from Elizabth Stuckle of USEC that deals with Caldicott's charges:
Caldicott Assertion A: Uranium enrichment uses 93 percent of the CFC gas released annually in the United States.

USEC Response A

That calculation is based on 2001 data, when USEC was operating two enrichment facilities. That year, USEC consolidated production at its Paducah plant.

The shutdown of the Portsmouth, OH plant and improvements made in control of CFCs at Paducah have enabled USEC to reduce CFC emissions by about two-thirds.

The Paducah gaseous diffusion plant was built in the 1950s. USEC plans to replace it with highly efficient gas centrifuge technology, which will use no CFCs. The American Centrifuge Plant is expected to begin operations later this decade.

Caldicott Assertion B: Uranium enrichment uses electricity generated by coal-fired plants.

USEC Response B

USEC purchases the majority of its electricity from the Tennessee Valley Authority, which produces electricity using a supply mix of 61% coal, 29% nuclear and 9% hydropower.

The remainder of USEC's purchased power comes primarily from natural gas and nuclear plants.
Back to Judith's comment:
I'm concerned about safety and unrealistic hopes for new designs (like the PBMR). I do know that nuclear won't work if they people making decisions don't approach it with the utmost caution and clear-eyed humility -- as Ray Golden at San Onofre says, "we manage for complacency everyday."

Peterson would have been wise to leaven his optimism with some realistic caution, that's all. It doesn't make anyone feel safe to hear a simplistic pitch for an extremely powerful -- and potentially dangerous -- source of energy.
Ray is a friend of ours, and we've learned a lot from him. But that doesn't mean the industry hasn't been talking about safety. Here's our CEO, Skip Bowman, in a speech he delivered to the World Association of Nuclear Operators at their biennial meeting about two months ago:
Our conservative design approach of “defense in depth,” coupled with a risk-informed approach to safety, provides a high degree of confidence that we can protect public health and safety. But we must never forget that nuclear power can be an unforgiving technology.

We also operate in an unforgiving public environment where the penalties for mistakes are high and where credibility and public confidence, once lost, are difficult to recover.

Managing this technology successfully requires high standards and eternal vigilance. Put simply, safety is our highest priority.
We have achieved a high operational plateau, but we still must guard against complacency and remain mindful of our challenges.

As electricity markets are deregulated, we must resist pressures to shave investment in staff, in training, in equipment. Many companies rely increasingly on contractors to provide services and capabilities, and that is not necessarily bad—as long as we realize we cannot contract out responsibility for safe operations.

As plants age, we must devote more attention to materials issues, anticipate potential degradation mechanisms and manage them before they have an impact on plant performance or regulatory confidence. We have had a number of surprises in this area, and we cannot tolerate surprises.

We must, as I noted earlier, rebuild our infrastructure, starting with the work force, and then moving to the manufacturing base. The slowdown in nuclear plant construction over the last 20 years has reduced the cadre of qualified people, and those we have are—like our plants—aging. We must refresh that pipeline.
I'd say that sounds pretty realistic when it comes to the challenges that our industry is facing. In any case, I'd like to thank Judith for giving us a hearing and participating in a real dialogue, rather than just another shouting match. I look forward to more of the same.

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Friday, December 09, 2005

Report from Montreal

My colleague Lisa Stiles-Shell shot off a note to me this morning as she was getting ready to return to Washington after two weeks at COP-11, the UN Conference on Climate Change:

It’s been an exhausting but rewarding two weeks at the UN Conference on Climate Change in Montreal. NA-YGN members have been staffing exhibits and hosted a sidebar event in cooperation with the European Nuclear Society Young Generation Network (ENS YGN).

I have to admit that I don’t know much about the processes within the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). I’m not alone, though. Tim Hirsch of the BBC wrote an amusing article about the indecipherable bureaucracy of the UNFCCC.

What I do know is that nuclear is specifically excluded in the Kyoto Protocol as a Flexible Mechanism. That means that countries can’t take credit for carbon reductions due to nuclear as they work to meet their commitment under Kyoto. That particular issue won’t be negotiated at this conference, but in the future we hope that nuclear will be evaluated with the same set of objective criteria that is applied to other technologies. For that to happen, we must correct rampant misconceptions and that was the goal of our booth.

Because antinuclear extremist organizations have such a large presence at these conferences, we were a little concerned about our reception. But aside from our booth being in the very back corner, the atmosphere here has been mostly amicable. The vast majority of people that stop by the exhibit are willing to converse with us. The fuel pellet cards from NEI are particularly useful as a visual aid that attracts attention. People are consistently surprised by the power density of nuclear fuel. From there it is generally easy to move on to specific information about nuclear’s current contribution to carbon reduction and its possible role in the future. We have another interesting pamphlet from the IAEA showing the life-cycle carbon emitted and the waste generated per kW-hr produced for different energy technologies. This also prompts surprise in many people as they realize that no energy technology is carbon-free, that nuclear’s life-cycle carbon emissions are so low, and that the amount of toxic waste generated by solar power is comparable to that generated by nuclear.
To see the printed materials Lisa is talking about, click here (PDF), here (PDF) and here (PDF). And while I don't have a graphic of the fuel pellet card, here's the meat of the info it provides:
Compared to natural gas, a fuel also used to generate electricity, uranium is already relatively low in cost and less sensitive to fuel price increases. And a little goes a long way: one uranium fuel pellet—the size of the tip of your little finger—is the equivalent of 17,000 cubic feet of natural gas, 1,780 pounds of coal, or 149 gallons of oil.
Back to Lisa's note:
At this point, we usually reiterate that we are not against the use of any energy technology. Our position is that nuclear should be given equal treatment and countries committed to carbon reduction should be able to consider it among a range of options.

The people that made the greatest impression on me were those from developing African nations. Representatives from Nigeria, Senegal, Togo and Nigeria all asked very detailed questions about nuclear power plants, how they work, and the how they are run. One gentleman asked how we could export our technology where there is no infrastructure to make sure that plants are operated safely. I told him about the IAEA and WANO and that companies and countries with well-developed nuclear programs do share their knowledge through these organizations because they realize that an accident anywhere affects every other operator.

There have been many people with a general bias against nuclear. However, I believe we made an impact with each of them willing to talk about their concerns. One woman that began with, “I’m against nuclear power,” left our booth saying, “Well, I’m less against nuclear power.” Score!

In my next installment, I’ll write about our sidebar with Dr. Patrick Moore and our encounters with antinuclear extremists.
Sounds like fun. Stop back later for more from Lisa.

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Thursday, December 08, 2005

The NCPA Nuclear Energy Archive

With home heating prices poised to skyrocket this Winter, the folks at the National Center for Policy Analysis have put together an archive of their reports on how nuclear energy can play a bigger role in America's economy. Be sure to check it out.

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Discussing Myths and Facts on Nuclear Energy With LA Weekly

Over at Another Green World, Judith Lewis of LA Weekly is commenting on an appearance NEI Vice President Scott Peterson made over at Energy and Environment Online Daily TV.

I'd be more likely to listen to NEI's PR if its shills didn't seem to be so blithely making stuff up. For instance, Peterson says, "there is growing public awareness of the clean-air benefits of nuclear energy," and more than three-fourths of the country supports more nuclear generation. That shift must have happened not in year but in months: Last June, according to an ABC News/Washington Post poll, 64 percent of the country opposed new nuclear plants.
NEI does not make this stuff up. What we do is conduct our own polling with Bisconti Research on public attitudes about nuclear energy. This isn't anything new, we've been doing it for many years.

So when we say that there's growing public awareness of the clean-air benefits of nuclear energy, and that more than three-fourths of the country supports more nuclear generation, it's all based on long-standing research. If you would like to dispute our findings with other data that's one thing. But to suggest that NEI is "blithely making stuff up," is just plain wrong.

To view the latest public opinion research from NEI, click here (PDF).

Returning to the post:
E&E's Brian Stempbeck presses Peterson hard on the waste issue, on government subsidies and on the finances of nuclear plants, which leads Peterson to underestimate costs (Yucca Mountain hasn't cost just $6 billion so far -- last I heard it was $8 billion), claim that he's "very confident in the scientific pedigree" of Yucca Mountain and boast of a new "wave of enthusiasm" on Wall Street.
The cost of Yucca Mountain and the financing of new nuclear build are two separate and distinct issues. It is important to remember that Congress established the Nuclear Waste Fund to provide for costs associated with building a national repository for used fuel. This is a dedicated fund which is paid for directly by ratepayers who use electricity generated by nuclear power, not out of general tax revenues. Electricity consumers have paid more than $24 billion in fees to the Nuclear Waste Fund. The fund is growing by about $1 billion per year.

As for the scientific pedigree of Yucca Mountain, we're referring to the work done by some 3,000 engineers and scientists from 12 universities and 2 national laboratories. And they all support this conclusion from the National Academy of Sciences:
"After four decades of study, the geological repository option remains the only scientifically credible, long-term solution for safely isolating waste without having to rely on active management. Although there are still some significant technical challenges, the broad consensus within the scientific and technical communities is that enough is known for countries to move forward with geological disposal."
As for a new wave of enthusiasm on Wall Street, here's an excerpt from "Cleaning the Environment," a research note published earlier this week by Merrill Lynch (no online reference available):
Shares of nuclear utilities and E&C (Engineering and Construction) Companies have generally been strong performers over the past year. However, the consensus support for the stocks appears to hinge on factors other than environmental benefits. For nuclear, the stocks have been viewed as a play on rising natural gas and coal prices. For the E&C names, the main growth focus has been in areas such as oil and gas, petrochemicals and federal programs. We believe that investors are underestimating the scale of the environmental opportunities for both sectors in the near term as well as the level of certainty that these environmental investments will be made.
What's driving this? America's coal fleet faces a growing capital expenditure burden as they prepare to meet the tighter requirements in the Clean Air Interstate Rule (CAIR). This capital spending drives up the market clearing price of power, something that nuclear units capture in the form of increased profitability. For more on CAIR, click here for an explanation from my colleague Mary Quillian. And click here and here for more from our archives. And if you'd like to investigate further the financial issues involved, click here for our archive of Wall Street briefings.

Another factor: The rising cost of emission allowances for SO2 and NOx, which also drives up operating costs for fossil generating capacity. Until 2003, SO2 allowance prices had ranged from $150-200 per ton since the mid 1990s.

Last week, those same allowances hit $1,600 a ton. That has real economic consequences. Again, we're not making this stuff up.

Back to Lewis:
In other words, Peterson claims that nuclear energy is all benefit and no cost. It's clean, reliable and safe; we already know what to do with the waste; the public loves it and investors can't wait to fund it. New plants, therefore, will start going up in 2007.
Actually, we've been very conservative when it comes to the time frame for construction of new plants. Here's what our CEO, Skip Bowman said this past October in a speech to the World Association of Nuclear Operators:
We expect companies to break ground on new nuclear plants in the United States around 2010, with commercial operation beginning as early as 2014. Once those first plants are built and operating, as companies and investors gain confidence in the licensing process, we expect construction of significant numbers of new reactors after 2015.
There are significant economic and environmental challenges that are driving renewed interest in nuclear energy: The need for new baseload power generation in the post 2010 time frame; the rising price of fossil fuels and volatility in natural gas markets; and the need to comply with clean air regulations and the prospect of regulation of carbon emissions.

Every type of electrical generation carries with it a degree of risk. With coal, the risk is technological, with questions remaining over the viability of integrated coal gasification technology (IGCC), sequestration and the future costs for carbon control. With natural gas, the risks surround price volatility and availability. Renewables, though they will play a larger role in our energy mix in the future, aren't poised provide the heavy lift we need for new baseload generation.

With nuclear energy, the technological risks are minimal as the technology is mature, but there is concern over regulatory risks that could cause delays that increase costs during construction. And while a reformed plant licensing process has been implemented, it has yet to be tested. However, with the investment incentives and standby support provided for in the Energy Policy Act of 2005, we believe these risks can be mitigated.

There is no perfect energy option going forward. All fuels carry with them a balance of risks and rewards. And when we look at the growth curve for future demand, it is clear that all types of electrical generation will have to produce more power, more efficiently than today.

The mantra for America's energy mix going forward has to be energy diversity. But under current market conditions, nuclear energy is poised to play a larger role in America's energy mix than it does today. And that's no lie.

POSTSCRIPT: I'm sure many of you remember that Lewis was the author of a two-part piece in LA Weekly that discussed the debate over new nuclear build in very good detail.

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