Skip to main content

Posts

Showing posts from March, 2008

A Shout Out Over the Fence

Our neighbor here are Blogspot, Rod Adams of Atomic Insights - tops on our blog roll - is currently debating nuclear energy as a viable solution for climate change with Matt, a sustainability consultant who writes regularly for TalkClimateChange. The conversation is happening over at Green Options and promises to be exceptionally broad ranging.Here's a taster of Rod's opening:We can build nuclear plants safely and rapidly enough to make a real different in resource availability. During the ten year period between 1975 and 1985, the amount of new energy production from nuclear plants was roughly equivalent to adding about 6 million barrels of oil per day to the world's available energy supply. Note - that is not nameplate "capacity" like you find with wind turbines that are often idle, it is actual production.And Matt's: The Royal Academy of Engineering in 2003 ("The Cost of GeneratingElectricity") put gas-fired combined-cycle gas turbine (CCGT) at 2…

The Happiest Place in the World

That of course would be Walt Disney World, but in neighboring Levy county, the next most happiest, Progress Energy is set to build a new nuclear power plant. The response by Orlando Sentinel columnist Mike Thomas is exceptionally upbeat:Locally, the only major controversy comes from neighboring Citrus County, which houses the utility's Crystal River nuclear plant and is miffed it isn't getting this one.The state of Florida is gung-ho, which means no major obstacles from the Public Service Commission or Department of Environmental Protection.Nuclear power is the only option available to meet Gov. Charlie Crist's ambitious goals of reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
A new state law will allow Progress Energy to begin collecting money for the $17 billion facility in advance. So the utility's customers could see a $9 bump in an average electric bill beginning in January.To speed up the federal review process, Progress Energy plans to use a next-generation Westinghouse…

Spheres of Influence

More on the deal between Egypt and Russia, with Russia supplying Egypt with technology to build a commercial nuclear power plant. Nuclear power has become intensely interesting to the Arab nations. The logic behind oil-rich nations finding nuclear appealing is simple: Arab nations cite their need for energy security in the face of ever-expanding domestic energy demands. This includes countries with vast oil and gas reserves, which can be more profitable if exported."It's Iran's wish to accelerate its dubious programme that has pushed Arab countries to throw themselves into the race for nuclear power," said Antoine Basbous, [director of the Paris-based Arab World Observatory told AFP.]With Russia in the mix trying to reestablish its reputation as an economic force in the middle east (and crack open a potent industrial niche, since Russia wants to build the plants it designs), the potential for mischief intensifies. In fact, mischief might trump good sense: As Basbous …

Animating the Issues

AREVA has been notably good with their outreach ads. Here's an animated piece extolling the virtues of nuclear energy through the medium of two yakky fuel pellets. Perhaps a little static in the manner of much Flash animation, but a very nicely produced piece that hits its points without fuss. AREVA is a member of NEI, so this post could easily be construed as a bit of logrolling, but good is good.

Video on Blogging

The video below on blogging is something you may enjoy apart from our usual nuclear energy discussions. A museum dedicated to the news, the Newseum, is set to open April 11 in Washington DC. The video discusses the section in the Newseum created specifically about blogging and how bloggers (you) have played an important role in the media. Enjoy!

Riverkeeper Doesn't Like Indian Point's Independent Safety Evaluation

Well, what's new? I didn't catch this until yesterday, but shortly after Entergy announced an independent safety evaluation will be done for Indian Point, Riverkeeper was quick to dismiss the study. Here's Riverkeeper:An independent safety assessment is not an assessment contracted and paid for by the company needing an assessment.If the Nuclear Regulatory Commission conducts the safety assessment, Entergy would still have to pay for it. Anytime a plant is under increased scrutiny by the NRC, the plant is billed for those extra hours. Riverkeeper:
There are times when the federal government needs to step in and put taxpayers’ dollars to work for the sake of public health and safety.It is not taxpayers' dollars at work here. As said above, Entergy would still end up paying for the study. Riverkeeper:
A true Independent Safety Assessment should be overseen by federal and state regulators and include a citizen advisory panel.There are ten experts on Entergy's ISE panel.…

In the Shadow of Other Pyramids

Russia is proving to be quite the power station broker, now adding Egypt to its portfolio of customers, following Iran, China and India. Egypt wants up to four nuclear power stations and an international tender to build the first of them may come as early as this year. Tuesday’s agreement clears the way for Russia’s state nuclear contractor to bid for work.
The Kremlin is lobbying hard for nuclear contracts abroad because it sees the industry as a high-technology sector it must develop, to reduce its dependence on oil and gas exports.There's a whiff of politics, though whether from the Kremlin or the (Pakistani) news source is hard to determine. Russia wants to be a major player in the upcoming Middle East peace talks, but building out this industrial niche would seem the longer range goal.

NRG, Toshiba Form Company to Develop ABWR Projects in North America

NRG Energy Inc. has partnered with Toshiba Corp. to create a new company to pursue new nuclear energy projects. Nuclear Innovation North America LLC will focus on “marketing, siting, developing, financing and investing in advanced design nuclear projects” in the United States and Canada, NRG Energy said in a news release.

In addition to a $300 million investment over the next six years and 12 percent equity ownership, Toshiba Corp. will serve as the prime contractor on all of the joint venture’s projects. Half of Toshiba’s investment will support development of two new South Texas Project reactors (STP 3 and 4). The other half will focus on new projects and accelerating development and deployment of additional Advanced Boiling Water Reactor (ABWR) projects in North America.

“New advanced nuclear is a key part of the future for affordable, reliable and zero-carbon baseload generation not only in Texas but throughout the United States,” said David Crane, NRG president and CEO. “And after …

NEI's Nuclear Performance - February 2008

Here's a summary of U.S. nuclear plant performances last month:For February 2008, the average net capacity factor was 93.2 percent. This figure is 3.5 percentage points lower than February 2007. Monthly nuclear generation was 65.1 billion kilowatt-hours in February 2008, slightly lower than the 65.2 bkWh in February 2007.

For 2008, year-to-date nuclear generation was 135.4 billion kilowatt-hours, compared to 139.2 bkWh in 2007 (2.8 percent decrease).

Twenty reactors have either finished or are undergoing refueling outages for 2008. Seventeen reactors had either finished or were in refueling outages at the same time last year.

Early U.S. generation data from EIA indicates the nuclear industry generated 806.5 bkWh in 2007 providing 19.4 percent of the country’s electricity. For 2007, coal’s electric generation fuel share was 48.6%, natural gas was 21.5%, hydro was 6.0%, renewables and other were 3.0%, and petroleum was 1.6%.For the report click here. It is also located on NEI's Fin…

NEI's Energy Markets Report - March 17-March 21, 2008

Here's a summary of what went on in the energy markets last week:Electricity peak prices all decreased between $0.30-4.40/MWh. Though peak prices declined, prices at all hubs except ERCOT are still higher than their previous 52 week averages (see pages 1 and 3).

Estimated nuclear plant availability fell to 83 percent last week. Eleven reactors were down for refueling and nine were down for maintenance. Fort Calhoun’s turbine tripped while at 85% power due to a turbine control valve problem. Comanche Peak 2 tripped due to a broken sensing line. Wolf Creek 1 tripped due to a low steam generator level from the loss of a main feed water pump. Grand Gulf 1 scrammed due to an actuation of an RPS signal while the reactor was critical. Information is not yet available on why River Bend and Nine Mile Point 2 are down (NRC, see pages 2 and 4).

Gas prices at the Henry Hub fell $0.56 to $9.20/MMBtu. Gas prices are 34 percent higher than the same time last year. According to a recent CERA report…

The Enemy of My Enemy

One of the odder bits of news involves "Europe's last dictator," Alexander Lukashenko of Balarus, is pursuing a pact with Iran to build a nuclear power plant - odd, because it seems unlikely to occur.David Marples, a Belarus expert at the University of Alberta, doubts that Iran could afford to finance a project that is likely to run much higher than, perhaps even double the amount of, the officially projected $4-5 billion. “It would be an enormous commitment from Iran,” he said and pointed to Russia as the more likely nuclear partner.Likely an announcement meant to spark a bit of amusement in diplomatic circles or perhaps stir up some mischief for Washington, the net effect is nil. Doubtful that a saber will even be unsheathed much less rattled.

NY Times Blog on the High Uranium Prices

Stephen Dubner at the New York Times' Freakonomics blog explained some of the reasons for the high uranium spot prices seen over the past several years.Between 2004 and 2007, the spot price of uranium more than quadrupled, reaching more than $140 before falling off sharply in the past several months to less than $80.

...

According to David Miller, C.O.O. of Strathmore Minerals, nuclear plants had, until recently, been living off a huge uranium stockpile from the 1980’s. That stockpile was created in anticipation of an onslaught of new U.S. nuclear plants that ended up never being built because of Jane Fonda political, regulatory, and public pressures. Now, says Miller, with that stockpile depleted, there’s a huge push for new uranium.What's great about this post is that George Bell (CEO and Chairman of UNOR Inc.) jumped in on the comments:As the CEO of the Canadian uranium exploration company UNOR, Inc - 19.5% owned by the largest uranium producer in the world, Cameco - I feel i…

Germany Needs More Nuclear Plants to Avoid Blackouts

Also from the Guardian:Senior German energy executives warned yesterday that Europe's biggest economy faces growing blackouts unless it follows the Franco-British lead in promoting new nuclear power stations.

They seized on a weekend report in the Guardian that Gordon Brown and French president Nicolas Sarkozy will unveil an alliance to build nuclear plants and export the modern technology worldwide at their "Arsenal" summit at the Emirates Stadium this week to press the case for Germany to pursue its own new nuclear renaissance.

As commentators said Germany risked being left behind, Wulf Bernotat, E.ON chief executive, said the country could face an electricity shortage of 12 to 21 gigawatts (GW), according to official estimates from the German energy agency (Dena).

...

Grossmann said that blackouts could occur as early as this summer because of problems with wind power and cooling difficulties in other power plants. RWE estimates Germany could face a 30GW power gap by 2015…

Britain and France Team Up on Nuclear Power

From the Guardian:Britain and France are to sign a deal to construct a new generation of nuclear power stations and export the technology around the world in an effort to combat climate change.

The pact is to be announced at the "Arsenal summit" next week when prime ministers Gordon Brown and Nicolas Sarkozy will meet at the Emirates stadium in north London.

Britain hopes to take advantage of French expertise to build the power stations that do not rely on fossil fuels. Nearly 79% of France's electricity comes from its highly-developed nuclear power industry. The UK's ageing nuclear plants are ready for decommissioning and supply 20% of its energy needs.

Brown hopes the partnership will create a skilled British labour force who would then work in partnership with France to sell nuclear power stations to other countries over the next 15 years.

Britain this week started the process of licensing four generic reactor designs, including the French-designed Areva run by EDF (É…

Idaho Samizdat on Indian Point

Dan Yurman shares some thoughts on New York's Indian Point nuclear plant. Be sure to visit:New York is the first state to formally oppose relicensing of a nuclear power plant

At a time when the rest of the world is experiencing what is called a "nuclear renaissance," the situation in the Empire State appears to be retrograding into a dark age where all things nuclear are considered a threat, and often on an emotional rather than rational basis. ...

NEI Fact Sheet on Water Consumption at Nuclear Plants

NEI recently updated its fact sheet on water consumption at nuclear plants. Below are some highlights (the picture to the right is the cooling tower at the Shearon Harris nuclear plant in North Carolina):Electric power generation is among the smallest users of water, accounting for about 3 percent of freshwater consumption in the United States, according to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). This is the same percentage used by industries and the same used to raise livestock. The largest consumption of water is for irrigation, at 80 percent, followed by residential use at 7 percent, the USGS said.

Residential consumption of freshwater is nearly double the consumption of freshwater for electric power generation. According to the latest USGS figures, the residential sector consumes more than 6.6 billion gallons of freshwater per day, compared with the power sector, which consumes 3.8 billion gallons per day.

A typical nuclear plant supplies power for 740,000 homes and consumes the equivale…

NAM Board Backs Nuclear Energy

The National Association of Manufacturers’ (NAM) board of directors has endorsed nuclear energy as part of a policy revision, the first completed by the association in decades.

In supporting the continued use and development of nuclear energy in the United States, the NAM favors construction and operation of facilities covering all parts of the fuel cycle and nuclear energy generation. This includes power plants, fuel enrichment facilities, fuel fabrication plants, low- and high-level waste handling, and disposal operations and other related facilities critical to supporting and expanding the nuclear energy industry.

The business association supports policies “that allow the federal government to fulfill its legal obligation to remove used fuel from commercial nuclear power plants and manage its long-term disposal.” The NAM also backs efforts to close the fuel cycle while a permanent disposal facility, which is needed even if the fuel cycle is successfully closed, is developed.

“Nuclear …

Carbon Capture Caprice

The value of carbon capture and clean coal as an alternative to nuclear energy proved to be a winning argument for the Dutch, but the Guardian takes a far dimmer view of its use in Britain.The government says that the [carbon capture] demonstration project will take "at least 15 years" to assess. It will take many more years for the technology to be retro-fitted to existing power stations, by which time it's all over. On this schedule, carbon capture and storage, if it is deployed at all, will come too late to prevent runaway climate change.The article admits that carbon capture is feasible and most of its component technologies are in use, though not especially effectively. Frankly, though, author George Monbiot (really, the British government) underestimates industry. If carbon capture technology proves truly effective, then those 15 years will melt away to many fewer - there's a very strong motivation to find solutions to carbon emission issues and a large industr…

How many nuclear plants does it take to meet the world's energy needs?

Several weeks ago Joshua Pearce at Clarion University in Pennsylvania released a study titled “Thermodynamic limitations to nuclear energy deployment as a greenhouse gas mitigation technology.” In the study he stated...nuclear energy production would have to increase by 10.5% per year from 2010 to 2050 to both replace fossil-fuel-energy use and meet the future energy demands.This line, of course, made the headlines and has been pickedup byseveraloutlets and blogs. When looking into his calculations for this statement, he made one assumption error that overstated the above sentence by nearly a factor of three.

Page 121, Section 4.1 of the study states:Richard Smalley pointed out that in 2004, the global economy consumed the equivalent of 220 million barrels of oil per day, which converted into electricity terms is the equivalent of 14.5 TeraWatts (TW), or 14,500,000 MegaWatts (MW) (2005). … With a nuclear plant having about 1000 MW (1 GW) of capacity, we would need 14,500 nuclear power …

A Finger in the Dyke

The Guardian reports that the Dutch government is scaling back their nuclear activities in favor of coal with carbon capture. The writer, Reuters Carolyn Hornby, is less than impressed:[Environment Minister Jacqueline Cramer] said that coal, the most widely-used but also one of the most polluting energy sources on the planet, was a favoured option for the Netherlands because of its availability and easy access to Dutch ports, but also for security of supply.This is the path-of-least-resistance approach to solving energy issues. Carbon capture is a more promising technology than the article allows; still, the Dutch have adopted it largely as a reaction against nuclear energy rather than as a better approach - and it must seem a little ironic to the environmentalists who took the upper hand in arguments against nuclear energy that they've ended up with more coal plants. Surely, an unintended consequence of their intransigence.

Independent Safety Evaluation to be Conducted for the Indian Point Nuclear Plant in New York

Here are some of the details:In an effort to provide public assurances about the operation and protection of New York's largest nuclear power facility, Entergy Nuclear today announced the start of a fully independent examination of safety, security and emergency preparedness at its Indian Point Energy Center (IPEC) in Buchanan.

The Independent Safety Evaluation (ISE) will be conducted by a distinguished independent panel of experts selected for their unique qualifications and independence of relationships with Entergy which would compromise their judgment. The ISE would supplement extensive evaluations already regularly conducted by the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission through its reactor oversight process.

"Although repeated and continuous NRC assessments have concluded Indian Point is safe, we hope this independent evaluation will be another step in building public confidence in Indian Point's safety and security, and serving as a vital role in New York's energy …

Florida Commission Approves Two New Reactors

The Miami Herald reported on the Florida Public Service Commission's decision to approve two additional reactors at Florida Power & Light's Turkey Point site. FPL already operates two reactors at Turkey Point in south Florida.

"Trends indicate there will be a substantial need for more power in FPL's service territory, and these new nuclear units can help meet that need," PSC Chairman Matthew M. Carter II said in a statement. "The nuclear units will provide a clean, noncarbon-emitting source of base-load power to meet Florida's growing energy needs."FPL said in a statement today that the Florida commission's decision will help provide the state with clean, safe and reliable electricity.
"Additional nuclear generation will help us achieve Gov. Crist’s goal of reducing the carbon emissions that scientists have determined contribute to climate change, and will protect customers from supply disruptions and unpredictable prices that can result …

The Morning Call for Nuclear Energy

The Morning Call has an op-ed by Forrest J. Remick of Penn State lauding nuclear energy to its Allentown, Pennsylvania readers. While Remick's article is a fairly standard, and calmly reasoned, call for support, the focus on safety is very nice."No one in the public has ever been harmed by the operation of a nuclear power plant in the United States. Instead of nuclear plants being shut down after their initial 40-year licenses, half of the plants have been licensed by the NRC for another 20 years. Almost all of the remaining plants have either applied to the NRC to have their licenses renewed or intend to."Pennsylvania is home to Three Mile Island, so this approach, laying out the facts dispassionately and even somewhat cooly, seems the right approach. Remick is professor of nuclear engineering emeritus, so he's not a disinterested source, but the reasonable and fact-based articles threading through different newspapers weave a tapestry of acceptance for nuclear ener…

NEI's Energy Markets Report - March 10-March 14, 2008

Here's a summary of what went on in the energy markets last week:Electricity peak prices changed very little at all hubs except for ERCOT. ERCOT decreased about $18/MWh due to warmer temperatures and weaker spot gas in the region. The ERCOT hub electricity prices ranged from $28-73/MWh (Platts, see pages 1 and 3).

Gas prices at the Henry Hub increased $0.41 to $9.76/MMBtu. Low LNG imports and a significant winter storm in the Midwest contributed upward pressure on gas prices. LNG imports so far this month are about 44 percent below the level of last year. The winter snow storm that buried the Ohio Valley added to gas prices in consuming areas in the Northeast and Midwest. Storage levels as of March 7 were still 4.3 percent above the 5-year average, despite the continuing relatively large withdrawals from storage in the past several weeks (EIA, see pages 1 and 3).

Estimated nuclear plant availability remained at 88 percent last week. Calvert Cliffs 1 and Hatch 1 both finished their r…

Podcast of ANS's Vice President/President Elect

The American Nuclear Society's Dr. Burchill spoke to students at Vanderbilt University about......the factors that are producing the renaissance of nuclear power in the United States, the current status of that renaissance, and the challenges that it presents. These challenges include re-establishing the United States nuclear infrastructure, addressing proliferation concerns, building public confidence, licensing the Yucca Mountain High Level Waste Repository, and closing the nuclear fuel cycle.You can listen here for the podcast.

The Cradle-to-Grave of the Energy World

Or at least that's the hope of Adelaide University professor Ian Plimer:"I think it is an absolute no-brainer that we should look at a cradle-to-grave uranium industry," Professor Plimer said at a uranium conference in Adelaide yesterday."Where we mine it, we convert it into yellowcake, we create the fuel rods, we lease these fuel rods to the major Western countries that are wanting to use nuclear power."We take the fuel rods back, we clean them up and we dispose of the waste."That would make South Australia the Saudi Arabia of the energy world."Although this is coming from an academic, expect a good deal of clamoring for position in the near future as the nuclear renaissance really gets going. But does South Australia really want to be the new Saudi Arabia... ?

Siteworx Wins Award for NEI's New Website

In July 2007, NEI launched its new website with the help of Siteworx who provided "deep expertise in user experience, application development and interactive marketing." Here's information from the PRWeb on the rewarding effort:Siteworx has been awarded 2007 Interactive Media Awards for the redesign of the Regina Lewis, http://www.ReginaLewis.com, and Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI), http://www.nei.org, websites. Specifically, both sites were judged an "Outstanding Achievement" for their design, usability, innovative technical features and standards compliance. The Regina Lewis site earned the honor in the Lifestyle Category and the NEI site in the Utilities Category. "Our objectives were to develop for each a unique, relevant, user-centered design aesthetic, along with a scalable technology infrastructure that will support their needs over the long haul. Siteworx is proud to share these impressive awards with Regina Lewis and the Nuclear Energy Institute …

Schwarzenegger on Nuclear Power

Here's the Wall Street Journal blog again:“I think nuclear power has a great future, and we should look at it again,” California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said, closing The Wall Street Journal’s “ECO:nomics” conference. While he understands some people might still be afraid of the nuclear option, most Three Mile Island analogies are “environmentalist scare tactics. The technology has advanced so much,” he said.

It sure has—just not in the U.S. That was the message from the nuclear industry at the same conference, grappling with a question beguiling policy makers—and plenty of Environmental Capital readers: If coal is out of the question, and renewables are too small, how will America get its power if it keeps ignoring the nuclear elephant?

McCain, Clinton and Obama on Nuclear Power

The Wall Street Journal's blog provided some insights on where the three presidential candidates stand on nuclear power.

McCain:Douglas Holtz-Eakin, policy director for Sen. McCain, said nukes can’t be left out. ‘The Senate Majority leader is the problem—we have Yucca Mountain [storage facility], we have the technology. I can’t see why we don’t take advantage of that,” he said.Clinton:Gene Sperling, chief economic adviser for Sen. Clinton and a veteran of the other Clinton White House, made it clear that New York’s junior senator “does not embrace nuclear power,” for a host of reasons ranging from Yucca Mountain’s uncertain storage to worries over nuclear proliferation. She doesn’t want to take nuclear power—which accounts for 20% of U.S. electricity—“off the table,” she just doesn’t want to see any more of the stuff until it dies of natural causes, he said.Obama:Jason Grumet, Sen. Obama’s energy adviser, appeared to leave the door cracked open—at first. “We have to overcome the pr…

Jaczko, Svinicki Confirmed as NRC Commissioners

The Senate last week confirmed the nominations of Gregory Jaczko and Kristine Svinicki to serve as commissioners on the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

Jaczko was re-nominated for a second term in December. Prior to his appointment, he served as a science policy adviser for Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and advised members of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works on nuclear policy. Click here for more on Jaczko from the NRC.

Svinicki, nominated last May, served as a staff member for the Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Strategic Forces, focusing on the national security aspects of nuclear energy, Energy Department defense programs and environmental management issues. Svinicki also served as senior policy adviser on nuclear and environmental issues for Sen. Larry Craig (R-Idaho). Click here for more on Svinicki from the NRC.

NEI's Energy Markets Report - March 3-March 7, 2008

Here's a summary of what went on in the energy markets last week:Electricity peak prices increased $1-3/MWh at the Entergy, Palo Verde and SP 15 hubs and increased $13/MWh at ERCOT. The NEPOOL and PJM West hubs decreased $10-13/MWh. Except for PJM West and NEPOOL, electricity prices at all hubs were higher last week than their four-week and 52-week averages (see pages 1 and 3).

Estimated nuclear plant availability fell to 88 percent last week. McGuire 2, Quad Cities 2 and Susquehanna 1 began refueling outages. Crystal River 3 shut down to repair a reactor coolant pump seal. While returning from a refueling outage, River Bend 1 scrammed due to an apparent malfunction in the turbine control system. Hatch 2 also scrammed due to a loss of condensate feedwater (NRC, see pages 2 and 4).

Gas prices at the Henry Hub increased $0.33 to $9.35/MMBtu. High crude oil prices, cold weather across much of the country and lower working gas in storage all contributed to the increase in gas prices (EI…

DOE to File Yucca Mountain License Application in June, Official Says

The Department of Energy expects to file a license application in June for construction of the Yucca Mountain used fuel repository, the program’s director said last week.

Edward Sproat, director of DOE’s Office of Civilian Radioactive Waste Management Office, said that he could not predict an operational date for the Nevada repository until Congress remedies the funding profile for the facility. Lawmakers have reduced funding for the repository in recent years, and several attempts to reform the funding mechanism for the project have stalled.

In addition, Sproat suggested that Yucca program funding would not be changed until DOE received construction authorization from the NRC. Such approval could occur as early as 2011 or 2012, he said.

The Yucca Mountain project “is alive and well,” Sproat said.

Sproat also suggested the possibility of a public-private partnership for managing the Yucca Mountain project. Here is the Associated Press take on the DOE Idea: Going Private With Nuclear Waste

Physical Insights Lays It Down on Mangano's Claims

Kentucky is close to repealing its 25-year moratorium on new nuclear plants. The State Senate has already approved the repeal but in an effort to stop this legislation, Joseph Mangano came out with his usual claims in an op-ed piece for Kentucky's Courier-Journal. Here's what Physical Insights had to say in response to Mangano's claims:Of course, some people, such as Joseph Mangano, executive director of the Radiation and Public Health Project, a name that those with their finger on the pulse of nuclear energy policy in the United States and elsewhere will have heard before, has other ideas: “One problem with nuclear reactors is what to do with the high-level waste they produce. This waste is actually a cocktail of chemicals such as Cesium-137, Iodine-129, Strontium-90 and Plutonium-239, each radioactive and cancer-causing.”There’s no way that it is appropriate to call these kinds of materials waste - they are radionuclides with useful and important technological, scienti…

Early Sightings in Alberta

With Ontario gung ho on nuclear energy, it's interesting to see a glimmer of interest develop in Alberta. The provincial government has barely dealt with the issue, but Bruce Power - and really, insert no Canadian jokes here - has bought Energy Alberta, which had been working with Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd. to bring a plant to the province's northwest quadrant. Energy Alberta had committed to a partnership with AECL. But, in its filing to the federal regulator Wednesday, Bruce Power said it would take a “technology neutral” approach, meaning it will consider AECL along with competitors like France's AREVA SA, or Mitsubishi Corp.'s Westinghouse unit, or the General Electric Co./Hitachi Ltd. group.Why Bruce Energy would broaden its search beyond AECL beyond what is given above is not mentioned - perhaps its size makes the effort more plausible - but the plant Energy Alberta planned has now become four. Still, early days.

Now is the Time to ‘Get Busy’ on Nuclear Resurgence, Sessions Says

“Time’s a wastin’ ” was the repeated message guest speaker Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) imparted to attendees at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s Regulatory Information Conference last week.

In remarks aimed at Congress, federal agencies and the nuclear industry itself, Sessions—who serves on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee—said the United States for too long has foregone pursuing nuclear energy as an important part of the answer to the growing need for a secure energy source to help meet the country’s growing energy needs while meeting clean air goals.

Sessions said he hopes we will one day look back at the restart of the Browns Ferry plant last year as the starting point of a nuclear resurgence. He noted that his state has five operating reactors with applications submitted for two more.

“It’s clear nuclear power ain’t dead yet, as we might say in Alabama,” Sessions said.

The lawmaker recounted the frustration he felt after touring the Bellefonte plant shortly after …

Rep. John Shadegg-AZ on Nuclear

From The Hill Blog:The U.S. Department of Labor says it’s safer to work at a nuclear power plant than a bank. For every 200,000 work hours at American nuclear power plants in 2006, there were 0.12 accidents. Nuclear energy is safe. A person living near a nuclear power plant has a 25 times higher chance of being killed by a lightening bolt than dying as a result of radiation exposure from an accident at the plant. Furthermore, Nuclear power has the cheapest cost of production of any major electricity source and produces 70% of our nation’s carbon-free electricity. In 2006 alone, the nuclear energy industry in the United States prevented the emission of over 680 million metric tons of carbon dioxide. Nuclear energy has enormous potential that cannot be ignored.Be sure to read the rest.

INL Reached a Milestone on Nuclear Fuel Performance

From ScienceDaily:The research to improve the performance of coated-particle nuclear fuel met an important milestone by reaching a burnup of 9 percent without any fuel failure. Raising the burnup level of fuel in a nuclear reactor reduces the amount of fuel required to produce a given amount of energy while reducing the volume of the used fuel generated, and improves the overall economics of the reactor system.

The [Idaho National Lab] team studied the very successful technology developed by the Germans for this fuel in the 1980s and decided to make the carbon and silicon carbide layers of the U.S. particle coatings more closely resemble the German model. The changes resulted in success that has matched the historical German level.

INL's Advanced Test Reactor was a key enabler of the successful research. The ATR was used to provide the heating of the fuel to watch the fuel's response. The fuel kernel is coated with layers of carbon and silicon compounds. These microspheres are t…

Toshiba and Westinghouse Expanding in the U.S.

More signs of a nuclear resurgence. From Toshiba:The new company, Toshiba America Nuclear Energy Corporation, started operation this month, with the primary mission of marketing and promoting advanced boiling water (ABWR) nuclear power plants and providing support for related services. As this business develops, Toshiba also plans to expand the scope of the new company's operations to provide licensing and extensive engineering support related to construction of future nuclear power plants, including plant design and procurement. The new office will be located just outside Washington, D.C.From Westinghouse:Westinghouse Electric Company, a Toshiba Group Company based near Pittsburgh, Pa., announced today that it has opened an office in San Jose, Calif., to support the growth of its Boiling Water Reactor (BWR) nuclear power business.

In commenting on the expansion in California, Westinghouse Engineering Services Vice President Nick Liparulo said: "Westinghouse is expandin…

In the Interest of Uranium Miners

Of course, the increased interest in nuclear energy excites attention in parts of the United States where mining represents a substantial share of the local economy. An editorial in The Mountain Mail ("The Voice of Salida and the Upper Arkansas Valley" - Salida is in southern Colorado) supports nuclear energy from exactly this viewpoint:In southern Utah, uranium mining firms are quietly pursuing mining claims on federal lands.
Just west of Marshall Pass in Saguache County, a Seattle company took control of mineral rights near the former Pitch uranium mine, which operated in the early 1980s but closed shortly thereafter.The stone of the nuclear renaissance produces interesting ripples. On a different note, the editorial notes that the Democratic presidential candidates (and Nader, of course) have downplayed nuclear energy and comes close to taunting them for it.The candidates would rather promise increased ethanol production as a means of reducing reliance on foreign oil. They…

Excellent Opportunities in The Nuclear Industry

John Murawski at the News & Observer provided some insights on the opportunities for young workers to fill the gap of the nuclear industry's retiring professionals:Today the average age of the nation's nuclear workers is about 50. Many will be eligible to start retirement at 55. Within five years, about 35 percent of the specialists who have been running U.S. nuclear plants for the past quarter-century -- about 19,600 people -- are expected to begin a mass retirement.

With the explosion in job opportunity, nuclear professionals are mobile again after years of stagnating in a low-turnover industry.

...

"The market is very competitive," Scarola said. "It's not uncommon to make a job offer before the Christmas vacation to a student who won't graduate until May."

...

To keep up with job demand, university nuclear engineering departments have quadrupled enrollment in the past decade to about 2,000 students today.

...

Optimism is high at N.C. State, where nu…

Confused in Namibia About Nuclear Energy

Namibia is seriously exploring nuclear energy, having recently passed legislation to develop a nuclear regulatory framework, but has run into predictable opposition with a local environmental group called Earthlife. While there is nothing terribly unusual or, shall we say, accurate in Earthlife's arguments, this seemed original:Earth life said last week it was shocked at the Government's approval of plans to build a nuclear power plant because not only was nuclear energy unsafe, dangerous and very costly, but it was also not the answer to climate change.Well, not the answer certainly but an answer surely. But there's more:"The whole fuel cycle of nuclear power, from mining uranium, enrichment of uranium to the decommissioning of the power station after its lifespan, releases three to four times more carbon dioxide per unit of energy produced than renewable energy," Earthlife spokesperson Bertchen Kohrs noted.It has to be admitted that building a first nuclear ene…

New Thinking Needed on Used Fuel Management Policy

A leading think tank called on Congress to address the nation's used nuclear fuel management and give "prompt consideration" to legislation that would help move critical federal programs forward. The Heritage Foundation issued a backgrounder last week on the Nuclear Waste Policy Amendments Act of 2008: Modernizing Spent Fuel Management in the U.S. Here are the recommendations the paper makes:To modernize spent fuel management in the U.S. and provide the flexibility, clarifications, and autho­rizations needed to move nuclear power forward in the United States, Congress should:Set a deadline requiring the Secretary of Energy to submit a repository license applica­tion for the Yucca Mountain repository within the next few months.Provide for a phased licensing regime for the Yucca repository that would store spent nuclear fuel, but actively monitor it and keep it available for retrieval. ...Remove artificial capacity restraints on the repository. Technology, science, and act…

China to Build More Nuclear Than Projected

From Reuters:China is expanding nuclear power construction plans faster than earlier planned, a senior energy official told state media on Saturday, saying installed power capacity by 2020 could be 50 percent above the initial goal. China's nuclear energy development plan had called for operating power capacity to hit 40 gigawatts (GW) by 2020, enough to power Spain but feeding just 4 percent of total generating capacity for the voracious Chinese economy. But Zhang Guobao, a vice minister of the National Development and Reform Commission long involved in energy planning, said he now expected installed nuclear power capacity of 60 GW by that date, Xinhua news agency reported. Xinhua cited Zhang as saying that "construction of nuclear power plants has been progressing faster than planned".Sixty GW of nuclear capacity in 12 years is about five new nuclear plants each year. This growth rate is about the same rate the U.S. achieved when it built nuclear plants in the '70s…

Ontario to Go All Nuclear?

That's what this article from Reuters Canada seems to be saying:Ontario, keen to close its remaining coal-fired power plants, said on Friday it has asked four nuclear firms for proposals to replace the Canadian province's aging nuclear facilities with new reactors.The provincial government has asked AREVA, Atomic Energy of Canada, GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy, and Westinghouse Electric Co. for bids to replace their current stock. Read the article for more details, but it certainly seems that a golden (uranian?) age is getting underway up north.

"Megatons to Megawatts" Milestone

Here is an update from the World Nuclear News:A total of 325 tonnes of Russian ex-military highly enriched uranium – equivalent to 13,000 nuclear warheads - has so far been downblended for use in civilian nuclear power stations under the so-called Megatons to Megawatts programme, USEC has announced.

USEC acts as executive agent for the US government in implementing the deal whereby the US government agreed to purchase 500 tonnes of Russian surplus weapons-grade high-enriched uranium from nuclear disarmament and military stockpiles for downblending to low-enriched uranium suitable for use in nuclear power stations.

The 20-year programme is now in its 14th year, and by the time it is completed in 2013 the equivalent of 20,000 nuclear warheads will have been downblended, according to USEC.To put this into perspective, 10 percent of the US' electricity right now is generated by the uranium fuel from the Megatons to Megawatts program.

Britain Offers 18 More Sites for Nuclear Plants

From Reuters: Britain said on Thursday it was making 18 more sites available for the next generation of nuclear power stations and gave operators four weeks to pick the ones they wanted."Interest in building new nuclear power stations in the UK is strong," Business Secretary John Hutton said in a statement on the Government News Network.That's putting it mildly. Currently, the U.K. derives about 19 percent of its electricity from nuclear energy and, while the goal is to increase the percentage dramatically, no target was given in the article.

NEI's Energy Markets Report - February 25-February 29, 2008

Here's a summary of what went on in the energy markets last week:Electricity peak prices increased $2-9/MWh at all hubs except ERCOT. The ERCOT hub decreased $10/MWh trading as low as $27/MWh on Friday the 29th (see pages 1 and 3).

Gas prices at the Henry Hub increased $0.18 to $9.02/MMBtu due to a return of cold weather to most of the lower 48 states. According to EIA, prices in the Northeast region were the highest in the Nation, averaging $13.16 per MMBtu on Wednesday, February 27. The price increases in the Northeast region were by far the largest as a result of extreme cold in the region (see pages 1 and 3).

Estimated nuclear plant availability fell to 90 percent last week. Limerick 1 began a refueling outage and Turkey Point 3 and 4 shut down due to a power outage in Florida (see pages 2 and 4).

Uranium prices were $73 and $74/lb U3O8 according to TradeTech and UxConsulting. According to UxC, there was a flurry of activity last week, punctuated by a large purchase from an inves…

U.S. Air Force is Looking at Nuclear Power

From the Heritage Foundation's blog:According to a recent article in Energy and Environment News, the Air Force is planning to build a 100-225 megawatt nuclear power reactor. It will not only provide affordable, reliable electricity to an Air Force base, which has yet to be chosen, but will also be used as a power source for the local community. This is a departure from the usual news regarding the comeback of nuclear power. These stories generally revolve around plans to build large, 1000-1600 megawatt commercial reactors to increase power supplies to consumers that rely on the current electricity grid (also known as base load capacity expansion).

While such planning certainly signals a new day for nuclear power, it does not necessarily represent the full scope of a true nuclear renaissance. The Air Force’s decision, however, demonstrates a growing recognition that nuclear energy has applications beyond simple base load expansion. And that is an indication that a nuclear renaissan…

Was Alec Baldwin's Oyster Creek "Forum" Biased?

Chip Gerrity, President of the New Jersey International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, was at the "forum" and shares his thoughts:The event moderated by actor Alec Baldwin, for reasons that are completely unclear to the writer, was attended by those that oppose the re-licensing of the plant and pretended to be an open forum for discussion. However, nothing could be further from the truth.

There were three individuals permitted to speak in support of Oyster Creek and nuclear power in general. The first was a teenage girl who was cut off in mid-sentence when she questioned the validity of the research that was presented by Mr. Baldwin and others as irrefutable. She was allowed to speak for approximately a minute, prior to the moderator cutting her off completely. The young woman, who was attempting to exercise her constitutional rights, was visibly upset and essentially ran back to her seat.

The next pro Oyster Creek speaker was heckled and left the microphone. Finally Ed St…

Nuclear Sun Shine

The Baltimore Sun has an interesting op-ed by Jack Spencer, a research fellow in nuclear energy and Nicolas Loris, a researcher at the Heritage Foundation. Noting that Allegheny Energy suffered a slight embarrassment after sending customers two compact fluorescent light bulbs - and then charging them for the bulbs (they later relented and picked up the bill) - Spencer and Loris focus on common-sense reasons for Maryland to look seriously at nuclear energy as a way to meet Governor Martin O'Malley's goal of supplying 20 percent of their energy from renewable fuel sources by 2022. Spencer and Loris take a dimmish view of conservation - that would be the conservative Heritage Foundation talking - but the article makes an excellent case. (The article does not mention Maryland's Calvert Cliffs plant, so this may be an op-ed working its way through different local newspapers.)

Virginia Uranium Mining Study Delayed Until 2009

According to NewsAdvance, science lost to politics:Virginia Uranium and its allies in the Assembly proposed a study, as a first step, to examine the question of whether mining could be done safely using today’s modern techniques.

...

That was the sole intent of SB 525, legislation introduced by Sen. Frank Wagner, R-Virginia Beach. As amended in the Senate, a blue-ribbon panel of experts and stakeholders, appointed by the governor and General Assembly, would be directed to contract with an organization along the lines of the National Academy of Sciences to conduct the safety and feasibility study.

In the Senate, Wagner accepted a number of changes to his original legislation proposed by environmentalists and Southside Concerned Citizens, an environmental group based in Halifax County. ... But apparently it still wasn’t enough for the folks opposed even to a study of mining.

Dels. Watkins Abbitt, I-Appomattox, and Clarke Hogan, R-Halifax, proposed amending Wagner’s bill to simply call for a…

A Practical Approach to Environmentalism

David Neiwert has an interesting point to make about the environmental movement and its sometimes blinkered approach to the issues it addresses. The gist of his post is that there needs to be a balance between a recognition of the practical concerns of the people engaged in seemingly anti environmental activities and an unbridled idealism that labels divergent views as irredeemably evil. Nuclear energy has experienced some mind meltingly complex trips around the ideological circuit over the last several decades, and Neiwert neatly explicates how a focus on an (presumed) absolute good can lead to wrong-headedness, cultural blindness and social marginalization - even when right. Read the whole thing - it's better than this summary.

Moore Calls on Greenpeace to Support Nuclear

Co-founder of Greenpeace and leading environmentalist Patrick Moore encouraged his former organization to support nuclear energy at a speech yesterday at Wits University in South Africa. Here is the account from The Times of South Africa:

Greenpeace should now go pro-nuke

Radioactive waste ‘no longer a problem’

Greenpeace was right to stop the bomb and save the whales, but should never have opposed nuclear energy, the environmental group’s co-founder and former director, Patrick Moore, said in Sandton yesterday.

Moore is on a lecture tour of local universities, sponsored by the Nuclear Industry Association of South Africa.

“Climate change has made me a strong supporter of nuclear power,” Moore said.

Here is another account by Engineering News Online of South Africa: Greenpeace co-founder Moore backs nuclear power.

A blog sponsored by South Africa's Mail & Guardian had a less sanguine viewpoint about building more nuclear power plants.

Despite the wide range of opinions, nuclear energy…

March 7 discussion on "Yucca Mountain and the Nuclear Renaissance" hosted by the Heritage Foundation

On March 7, the Heritage Foundation will be hosting a discussion: "Yucca Mountain and the Nuclear Renaissance: Assessing the Safety and Viability of a Vital National Asset."

Speakers include:
Edward Sproat III (US DOE Director, Office of Civilian Radioactive Waste Management)

And panel discussions with:
Mark Peters (Argonne National Laboratory Deputy to the Associate Laboratory Director for Energy Sciences and Engineering)
Steven Kraft (Nuclear Energy Institute Senior Director Used Fuel Management)
Annie Caputo (Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works)

Here's the description of the event from the Foundation's Website:
Nuclear power is emerging as a solution to America’s energy concerns. Despite its impeccable safety and environmental record as well as its potential to transform America’s energy profile, questions remain about the viability of a broad expansion of nuclear power. One of the last major hurdles to overcome is what to do about Yucca Mountain. Questio…