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Showing posts from May, 2008

Ralph Nader at NEI - the Wrapup

Ralph Nader and some Greenpeace activists showed up yesterday outside our offices to shout slogans and wave signs - well, not Nader himself, but his crew. As you may know, Washington is the go-to stop on Amtrak when you have a sign and a slogan, so the lunchtime crowd is very used to this happening pretty much every day. In our view, Nader and crew should have promoted his appearance a little better, perhaps on D.C.'s numerous college campuses. As is, the whole thing seemed a bit ad hoc.But it would be churlish of us not to include some photos. These were taken by NEI's staff photog, Anna Gomez.This was directly in front of NEI's building - the front door faces a corner - and is what was going on before Mr. Nader arrived. This looks like a pretty thin crowd, but deceptively so - about 35 or so people aside from NEI employees turned out and some lunchtimers stopped for a moment or two to listen.Here's Mr. Nader. The microphones poking at him are from various energy news…

NEI's Energy Markets Report - May 19-23, 2008

Here's a summary of what went on in the energy markets last week:Electricity peak prices decreased $1-24/MWh at all hubs except for Entergy. PJM West fell to $64/MWh, the lowest price it’s been over the past four months, due to moderate temperatures. Entergy prices increased to $83/MWh, the highest price since the end of July 2006, due to hot temperatures at the end of last week. ERCOT peak prices fell less than $1/MWh last week; however, the ERCOT Houston and ERCOT South hubs “baffled” experts as the peak prices rocketed to $315-440/MWh last Friday – Platts, Megawatt Daily 5/27 (see pages 1 and 3).

Estimated nuclear plant availability increased to 88 percent last week. Three units finished refueling outages and three units began maintenance (see pages 2 and 4).

Gas prices at the Henry Hub fell $0.04 to $11.31/MMBtu (see pages 1 and 3). According to EIA, the final leg of the Rockies Express West pipeline is in service. This 210-mile segment connects Audrain County, Missouri, with al…

McCain to Miss Lieberman-Warner Vote

In yet another sign that Lieberman-Warner is DOA, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) has announced that he will not be present when the Senate begins debate on the Lieberman Warner Climate Security Act next week. From The Washington Post,In a press conference late Wednesday afternoon, McCain said he did not support the bill sponsored by two of his closest allies, Sens. Joseph I. Lieberman (I-Conn.) and John Warner (R-Va.) because it doesn't offer enough aid to the nuclear industry, and he would not come to the floor to vote on it.

"I have not been there for a number of votes. The same thing happened in the campaign of 2000," he said. "The people of Arizona understand I'm running for president."

While he backs the idea of a mandatory limit on greenhouse gases, he added, he's "been disappointed so far there has not been a robust" provision in the bill for greenhouse gases.

Westinghouse in the Press

Local news reporter straight out of central casting (Jon Delano) aside, a nice piece about Westinghouse ran on Pittsburgh's KDKA last night. (Video is available here.) With orders for six new plants in the U.S. and four in China,the folks at Westinghouse have sure been busy.

Ralph Nader to Visit NEI

We bow to no one in our respect for Ralph Nader and the work he has done to expose government and corporate corruption and to work always for his fellow citizens. By extension, he has done good work for many other people throughout the world by inspiring them to look closely at their own institutions and to find fault where fault is found.Mr. Nader has always been a gadfly, and a highly effective one, buzzing through the last several presidential elections, often with the Green Party, and persisting despite a certain wariness on the part of the press. Nader is completely free of any spin and external agenda aside from his own; his willingness to speak truth to the various powers that can overwhelm our lives is vital if the idea of America is to function at all - he cuts through the cant to get at the truth and then tries to make the truth more powerful than the myths that many prefer to subscribe to.We ruminate about Mr. Nader because he will be speaking about nuclear energy outside …

SCANA to Build Two New Nuclear Reactors

SCANA (SCG) subsidiary, South Carolina Electric & Gas, announced Tuesday that they had reached a contractual agreement with Westinghouse and the Shaw Group (SGR) to design and build two 1,117-megawatt nuclear power plants at the Virgil C. Summer Station near Jenkinsville, SC. The AP 1000 reactors are slated to become operational in 2016.

Tuesday after-hours trading was up for SGR and SCG. The Wall St. love continued Wednesday: Shaw Group shares rose $3.42 (5.9%), SCANA shares were up 25 cents (.62%).

No Hope, All Is Lost: A New Argument Against Nuclear Energy

Glenn Compton, chairman of ManaSota-88, a regional environmental  group (the region being Florida), writes in the Sarasota Herald Tribune about the utter terribleness of nuclear energy. Now, it's not really fun or enlightening to find these little screeds and promote them to you, because the arguments are mostly identical, have long been discredited and, we should note, are fading: a fair number of environmental activists are finding a place at their tables for nuclear energy. However, a couple of Glenn's angles struck us as different enough, if a little grim, to highlight:In the United States, electricity generation emits less than half of the carbon dioxide emissions. Carbon dioxide is a major contributing greenhouse gas and comes mainly from burning fossil fuels.Demand for gasoline and coal is expected to increase greatly with the predicted growth of global economies. Even if the United States were to construct as many nuclear power plants as quickly as possible, carbon dio…

And The Wind Cries Nimby

After you've read the John McCain quote in the post below, you may  wonder if, by proposing to put used nuclear fuel, including that of the United States, into some kind of international repository, he is falling prey to the worst NIMBY argument imaginable or acknowledging that other countries, notably Russia, have offered to serve as just such a repository. Frankly, we don't know, but his comments did highlight the NIMBY issues that can infect any effort, however benign it might otherwise seem. Take, for example, wind power, which doesn't generate anything that needs to be recycled or stored but does require expansive land masses on which to plant windmills.Artist Grahame Sydney yesterday said nuclear power in New Zealand was preferable to a huge wind farm on the Lammermoor Range in Central Otago.Well, we can't fault Mr. Sydney for bad taste in energy choices. Let's see what else he has to say:"If given the option between 176 turbines on the sweeping Central …

McCain Proposes Alternative to Yucca Mountain

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) has just completed delivering a major foreign policy speech on Nuclear Security at the University of Denver. (The full transcript is available here.) I found this quote especially interesting,I would seek to establish an international repository for spent nuclear fuel that could collect and safely store materials overseas that might otherwise be reprocessed to acquire bomb-grade materials. It is even possible that such an international center could make it unnecessary to open the proposed spent nuclear fuel storage facility at Yucca Mountain in Nevada.McCain's senior foreign policy advisers will be discussing the candidate's address in a conference call scheduled for later today. Over at Time's Swampland, Ana Marie Cox asks readers what they would ask if they were on the call. Imitation being the sincerest form of flattery and all, "What would you ask?"

Bridging the Gulf with Nuclear Energy

Even if we were a little more, um, self-centered, we probably  wouldn't try out a sentence like this:Nuclear power rather than renewable sources like the wind or sun are the best option for oil-rich Gulf Arab states to meet growing energy demands, especially if produced collectively, say regional experts.Not that we don't agree, but it does seem counter-intuitive: we're not sure about wind, but one thing we do know, there's a lot of sunshine in those parts. So why the focus on nuclear?[Saudi Electricity Company president Ali Saleh al-Barrack] said that while Saudi Arabia was conducting research into renewable energies, options such as wind and solar power were either limited or less attractive for technical reasons.Given the high demand for power and the population growth in the Gulf region, "I think the only immediate solution is nuclear energy," which is the best option in economic and environmental terms, Barrack said.And here's where we really started…

A History of California's Energy "Policies"

Over at the City Journal, Max Schulz - a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute and director of its Center for Energy Policy and the Environment - wrote a brilliant summary on California's myopic energy policies. Below are some of the many highlights. I encourage everyone to read the whole thing:In truth, however, the Golden State’s energy leadership is a mirage. California’s environmental policies have made it heavily dependent on other states for power; generated some of the highest, business-crippling energy costs in the country; and left it vulnerable to periodic electricity shortages. Its economic growth has occurred not because of, but despite, those policies, which would be disastrous if extended to the rest of the country.

...

To understand better how California’s environmental policies have played out, however, consider what two of them—opposition to nuclear energy and promotion of solar power—have done to Clay Station, California, 25 miles outside Sacramento, where two …

Italy Reverses Nuclear Policy

In a move intended to bring an end to being the world's biggest net importer of electricity, the Italian government today announced that they will begin building nuclear power plants by 2013. The decision is a reversal of a 1987 referendum, banning the use of nuclear power in the country. From The New York Times,“By the end of this legislature we will put down the foundation stone for the construction in our country of a group of new-generation nuclear plants,” said Claudio Scajola, minister of economic development. “An action plan to go back to nuclear power can not be delayed anymore.”

The change for Italy is a striking sign of the times, reflecting growing concern in many European countries over the skyrocketing price of oil and energy security, as well as the warming effects of carbon emissions from fossil fuels. All have combined to make this once-scorned form of energy far more palatable.

“Italy has had the most dramatic, the most public turnaround, but the sentiments against …

NEI's Energy Markets Report - May 12-16, 2008

Here's a summary of what went on in the energy markets last week:Electricity peak prices at the Western hubs increased $3-23/MWh and decreased $6-57/MWh at the Eastern hubs. According to Platt’s Electric Power Daily (5/16/08), ERCOT has seen “its share of volatility in recent months” due to “an influx of new wind generation and not enough transmission… In 2006, there were 75 15-minute intervals in which real-time prices fell below $0/MWh. So far this year [2008], there have been already more than 2,250 occurrences” (see pages 1 and 3).

Gas prices at the Henry Hub increased $0.43 to $11.35/MMBtu. Working gas in underground storage as of May 9 was 1,529 Bcf, which is 0.2 percent above the five-year (2003-2007) average (EIA, see pages 1 and 3).

Estimated nuclear plant availability increased to 83 percent last week. Five units finished refueling outages and two units finished maintenance. Salem 2 shut down for several days due to steam generator instrumentation problems (Platt…

NEI's Nuclear Performance - April 2008

Here's a summary of U.S. nuclear plant performances last month:For April 2008, the average net capacity factor was 79.0 percent. This figure is 0.3 percentage points lower than April 2007. Monthly nuclear generation was 57.1 billion kilowatt-hours in April 2008, lower than the 57.3 bkWh in April 2007.

For 2008, year-to-date nuclear generation was 256.9 billion kilowatt-hours, compared to 260.8 bkWh in 2007 (1.5 percent decrease).

Since the start of 2008, 41 reactors have either finished or are undergoing refueling outages. In 2007, 34 reactors had either finished or were in refueling outages at the same time last year.

The average refueling duration so far for 2008 is 36.7 days. The average refueling duration for 2007 at the same time last year was 38.1 days.

On March 12, Constellation’s Calvert Cliffs 1 set a refueling outage record for all Combustion Engineering units at 19 days and 15 hours. There are 14 operating CE units in the U.S.For the report click here. It is also located on…

Toshiba Expects 33 Reactor Orders by 2015

From the World Nuclear News:Japan's Toshiba Corporation expects orders for at least 33 nuclear power reactors by 2015, and plans to expand all its nuclear businesses over the period to 2020, according to the company's president.

The predictions were made earlier this month in Strategies for Growth 2008, the company's outline of the business directions planned for all its divisions. In a question and answer session, the company said that 33 units could be a conservative estimate, adding "we believe it is possible that the number of orders might increase." The Toshiba presentation does not say where it expects the orders for 33 units to come from but highlights the US, China, South Africa and the UK as countries with plans for new projects and where it is making sales efforts. The company plans to more than double its current annual sales target for the nuclear division, to ¥1 trillion ($9.6 billion) in 2020. ...

Lieberman-Warner Climate Bill and Nuclear Energy

Sen. Barbara Boxer's (D-CA) much-anticipated "Boxer substitute" to the Lieberman-Warner Climate Security Act has just been released (sub. req'd). To no one's surprise, the nuclear industry does not get much play. However, according to Congress Daily's Darren Goode, Senator Boxer "may be amenable to provisions regarding training of workers, keeping production in America and nuclear safety."

In the coming days, Sen. Joe Lieberman (Independent Democrat-CT) and Sen. John Warner (R-VA) are expected to unveil an amendment that "would aim to increase nuclear engineers and other workers and improve the financing and purchasing of [nuclear power plant] equipment." From CongressDaily,Warner said the nuclear section “will be the focal point of a lot of attention.” He said their plan will serve as a “building block” for others to work on during the floor debate. Lieberman said he and Warner are not addressing the speeding up of nuclear facility permits…

Here Comes the Czech Republic

It does sometimes seem as though we have a scoreboard around here to tote up the countries that are warming up (or rewarming up) to nuclear energy. Obviously, concerns over CO2 emissions and nuclear energy's avoidance of them is the biggest motivator. The ability to scale up seems to be a factor, too, and gives nuclear a leg up on other emission-free energy generators. So let's welcome the Czech Republic:A letter in support of the further development of nuclear energy in the European Union has been signed by all 24 Czech Members of the European Parliament and published in the Czech press.And here's what the letter says:The letter said that "without nuclear energy as a vital component of a low-carbon energy mix the Community will not be able to meet its energy security, energy independence and CO2 emissions reduction goals." It said that the [European Nuclear Energy Forum] has "provided a much-needed endorsement of the pivotal role nuclear energy plays in the…

Web Site Siting: Radiation Answers

One of the scarier things one can contemplate happening is being irradiated, and anything so scary is going to be riven with taboo and fear-driven misinformation - popular culture, never shy to amping up fear, shows victims being baked from the inside, developing ghastly sores, rapidly sickening and dying. Dispelling fears surrounding nuclear energy has been an uphill but mostly successful battle, but radiation and its effects... So the site Radiationanswers.org is a welcome taboo buster. The site was created by the Health Physics Forum, which describes itself thusly:The Health Physics Society is a non profit scientific professional organization whose mission is excellence in the science and practice of radiation safety.What is valuable about the site is that it does not sugar coat its subject matter or try to spin away concerns about radiation. Instead, it contextualizes them so what may be considered fearful and what need not be feared are given their proper due.Here's how the…

Exelon and Watchdog Group Cooperate on TMI

From Pennsylvania's Business Journal:Exelon Corp. agreed to help a nuclear watchdog group keep tabs on Three Mile Island for the next five years.

The agreement was reached with EFMR Monitoring Group, which is led by nuclear activist Eric Epstein.Under the deal, Epstein agreed not to file legal challenges to the relicensing of Three Mile Island Unit 1. The unit's license expires in 2014, but Chicago-based Exelon is trying to extend the life of the plant until 2034.

The pact calls for Exelon to increase local charitable giving and to help fund an upgrade of a radiation-monitoring system EFMR operating around the plant, Epstein said. The company also committed not to store nuclear waste from other plants at Three Mile Island, Epstein said.And who says anti-nuclear and pro-nuclear people can't get along?

Wired Magazine's Green Issue: Go Nuclear

Wired magazine marks its 15-year anniversary with the cover story, "Inconvenient Truths: Cutting Carbon Is the Only Thing That Matters." In a sidebar titled "10 Green Heresies," contributing editor Spencer Reiss writes,There's no question that nuclear power is the most climate-friendly industrial-scale energy source. You can worry about radioactive waste or proliferating weapons. You can complain about the high cost of construction and decommissioning. But the reality is that every serious effort at carbon accounting reaches the same conclusion: Nukes win. Only wind comes close — and that's when it's blowing. A UK government white paper last year factored in everything from uranium mining to plant decommissioning and determined that nuclear power emits 2 to 6 percent of the carbon per kilowatt-hour as natural gas, the cleanest of the fossil fuels.It's been a good week for press: last Wednesday it was TheNew York Times' editorial board, today, Wi…

The Big Bear of Two Continents: Russia in Vietnam

It's a synchronicity kind of thing: Just as Vietnam revs up its interest  in nuclear energy, here come the Russians, continuing to lumber around their neighborhood looking for partners:Valeri Rachkov, Director of Rosatom’s Scientific Policy Department, said during the International Nuclear Energy Exhibition which wrapped up in Hanoi on May 17 that Russian companies have good prospect of winning bids for building the first nuclear power plant in Vietnam as Russia has experiences in this field.But Rachkov admits that wanting to bid and winning a bid are two different things:However, the executive added that it is still too early to mention any specific plans as there will be fierce competition in the Vietnamese market.Well, yes. First Vietnam actually has to decide it wants to proceed with nuclear energy - the bill before the Vietnamese legislature seems likely to pass but you never know - and second, France and Japan were also hanging around the exhibition and have some formidable …

Monday Morning Breakfast

...nuclear energy news you may have missed this weekend.

The Wall Street Journallooks at the impact that cap-and-trade would have on the nuclear energy industry's bottom line....On ABC's "This Week," House minority leader John Boehner (R-OH) said that the House Republicans will release a "real energy policy" this week. Boehner added, "...we also have to be serious about having nuclear energy, and we need to be able and willing to go produce more oil and gas here in America in an environmentally sensitive way, and we can do that."...The Netherlands needs a nuclear energy program, so says Dutch economics minister, Maria van der Hoeven....On its front page, the St. Petersburg Timesweighs in on the proposed new plant build in Levy County,FL....The Wilmington Star-News editorial board is encouraged by the announced GE Hitachi expansion of its campus in Wilmington, NC....The EU Energy commissioner Andris Piebalgs discusses "nuclear without taboos&qu…

Simona De Silvestro, Off and On the Track

Simona De Silvestro —and the industry—gets some nice pub with the lead story on today's ClimateWire,A stunning Swiss blonde parked her racecar in the most unlikely of places: a hotel ballroom in Chicago filled with nuclear industry representatives at an annual conference.

The 19-year-old Simona de Silvestro was fresh from winning the Atlantic Championship season opener in Long Beach, Ca., driving the sleek, 300 horsepower Swift 016, powered by a modified Cosworth engine. Now she was entering a competition of a different sort. The vehicle, which is emblazoned with the phrase "Nuclear Clean Air Energy," is part of a racing team backed by actor Paul Newman.

De Silvestro and her car's pro-nuclear message are both being used by the nuclear power industry to turn heads, but not just at the track. The industry plans to show off her car and its message on university campuses.

NEI recently provided partial sponsorship of Newman Wachs Racing -- de Silvestro's movie star-suppo…

Au Revoir, EDF?: British Energy Rounds Up Some More Bidders

We wrote a couple of days ago we may have jumped the gun on the British Energy story by declaring Electricité de France (EDF) the last company standing in the bidding for the nuclear utility. We did - or might have. While British Energy says it has more interest, it will not say who has expressed the interest or how serious the various parties are.Here's how Bloomberg puts it:Two of the three proposals received by British Energy were for more than 680 pence [about $13.29] a share, yesterday's closing price, said a person with knowledge of the offers, who declined to be identified because the matter is confidential. Centrica Plc, the U.K.'s biggest energy supplier, made one of them, a second person said. Centrica is a bit of a surprise as earlier stories had them partnered with EDF. Even more surprising is that one of the bidders is thought to be Suez, the French energy concern that complained that EDF might lock them out of the British nuclear market. We said then they mi…

This Island Earth: Following Up on Some Recent Stories

One thing journalist types like to do is follow up on previous stories to see where they've gotten to, if anywhere. It provides continuity for the reader and, yes, fills space in the newspaper. So, if Mayor Jones decides everyone should have a monkey, then let's see if everyone has gotten one (though avoid monkeys named Caesar - only grief will come from it.) If a cat was a rescued from a tree, let's check up on that darn cat and see if he learned his lesson. So, without further ado:We wrote recently that Bruce Power is looking to build a nuclear power plant in Alberta, though the provincial government is going to convene an expert panel to offer advice on how to proceed. Now, some University of Calgary students have beaten the panel to the punch and stirred up a little controversy:A group of University of Calgary students are causing a stir over their recent conclusion that nuclear energy is a safe and viable option for Alberta. The fourth-year environmental science stu…

AFL-CIO Backs "Clean Energy Bank"

Add Mark Ayers, President of the Building & Construction Trades Department, AFL-CIO, to those supporting the creation of a "Clean Energy Investment Bank." At the NEA conference last week, Ayers said, “Our primary mission [during the current Congress] is to secure an extension of the loan guarantee program to ‘kick start’ the renewal of nuclear power generation in this country.” He also expressed the desire to explore ways to advance the concept of a “clean energy bank” that would help finance construction of capital-intensive energy projects, including nuclear plants.

The Clean Energy Investment Bank Act of 2008 was introduced by Sen. Pete Domenici (R-NM) and is co-sponsored by Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Sen. Jim Bunning (R-KY), Sen. Larry Craig (R-ID), Sen. Elizabeth Dole (R-NC), Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA), Sen. Mel Martinez (R-FL), and Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK).

Bon Jour, EDF: British Energy Finds a Bidder

Well, maybe. The British Government solicited bids for its 35% share of British Energy, which runs eight of the ten nuclear energy plants in the country. The last several weeks have seen stories about the Germans (E.ON) and Spanish (Iberdola - they now own Scottish Power) dropping by to kick the tires, and they might still submit bids, but it looks like Electricité de France (EDF), in concert with the British Centrica, has won the prize. This could be considered a disappointment for investors, as the stock has been rising in hopes of a bidding war. So far, EDF is mum about how much it is bidding, but:The Daily Telegraph said Friday that EDF and its advisers, Merrill Lynch, were putting together a deal worth between 9.2 billion pounds (11.7 billion euros, 18 billion dollars) and 10.2 billion pounds.This story from Agence-France - there are many stories about this development out there - suggests that EDF is pushing into the UK market regardless of British Energy.The Financial Times sai…

The Choreographers of Nature: Michio Kaku on Nuclear Energy

Michio Kaku, co-founder of string field theory and professor of theoretical physics at City University in New York City, makes some interesting points in a short interview with The India Times' Narayani Ganesh: We're moving from being passive observers of nature to its active choreographers. This historic transition in science is enabled by discoveries in three fundamental areas: The DNA theory of life, the atomic theory of matter and computer technology that demonstrates that the workings of the mind are based on logic and electrical circuits.I actually don't think computer technology demonstrates anything of the sort - it took aliens from Jupiter, after all, to cause the HAL 9000 to jump from human simulacra to human - but Kaku can likely run rings around my paltry doubts.He's not too fond of nuclear energy:Going for nuclear energy is like jumping from the frying pan into the fire. Fusion (based on hydrogen) is clean. But fission (based on uranium) generates tremend…

New York Times Endorses Nuclear Energy

In a New York Times Editorial running this morning, The Post-Bush Climate, we find this nugget,His [McCain] plan differs in other respects, too. He decided at the last minute to delete from his speech a proposed tariff on countries like India and China that defy international agreements on emissions, partly because the tariff could be misconstrued as hostile to free trade, which Mr. McCain supports. The Senate bill contains such a provision. Meanwhile, Mr. McCain is much more enthusiastic, and in our view rightly so, about nuclear energy as a cleaner power source than the Senate sponsors or the two Democratic presidential candidates are.Since 2005, we've been running a feature on this blog titled, "Another Blogger for Nuclear Energy." Perhaps it's time to start "Another Editorial Board for Nuclear Energy."

Welcome aboard, NYT.

Bush Sends U.S.-Russia Civilian Nuclear Energy Pact to Congress

President George W. Bush has sent the agreement called Cooperation in the Field of Peaceful Uses of Nuclear Energy to Congress for approval. Here is a description of the pact from President Bush's letter to Congress:The proposed Agreement provides a comprehensive framework for peaceful nuclear cooperation with Russia based on a mutual commitment to nuclear non-proliferation. It has a term of 30 years, and permits the transfer of technology, material, equipment (including reactors), and components for nuclear research and nuclear power production. It does not permit transfers of Restricted Data, and permits transfers of sensitive nuclear technology, sensitive nuclear facilities, and major critical components of such facilities by amendment to the Agreement. In the event of termination, key non-proliferation conditions and controls continue with respect to material and equipment subject to the Agreement.Congress has been quite dubious about this pact, particularly because of Russian…

Explaining the Costs of Nuclear Power Plants

Conferences, campaign speeches, and media all contributed to an especially busy NEI Monday. At Brookings, Sen. Lamar Alexander (R) called for a bipartisan Manhattan project leading to "clean energy independence." The U.S. representative to the IAEA, Ambassador Greg Schulte, discussed nonproliferation initiatives at a Woodrow Wilson International Center event. Sen. John McCain (R) continued his policy tour, stopping in Oregon to deliver his address on climate change. And The Wall Street Journal published an article looking at the costs of new plant builds.

Mark Flanagan responded via the NEI blog. Scott Peterson took to the airwaves, citing industry and independent analysis that shows nuclear-generated electricity to be cost-effective and competitive. Peterson also emphasized the bipartisan support for new plants in statehouses and Congress.

Let the Battle Begin: The Wall Street Journal on the Expense of New Plants

The argument that building new nuclear energy plants will represent ruinous expense for anyone to undertake has percolated among nuclear opposition folks without much mainstream notice. Now, however, the Wall Street Journal has taken a crack at it. It's nicely researched and written up to WSJ standards, although you've heard the argument of the piece many times. Here's the lede:A new generation of nuclear power plants is on the drawing boards in the U.S., but the projected cost is causing some sticker shock: $5 billion to $12 billion a plant, double to quadruple earlier rough estimates.$5 to $12 million? That seems a pretty big spread. Here's a longer taster, with a soupcon of that "on the one hand, on the other hand" thing journalists use to cover all bases:Several things could derail new development plans. Excessive cost is one. A second is the development of rival technologies that could again make nuclear plants look like white elephants. A drop in prices…

Monday Morning Breakfast

...nuclear energy news you may have missed this weekend.

The Washington Postreports that at least 40 developing countries have approached U.N. officials about starting nuclear energy programs....According to the AP, Senator McCain will call for the expansion of nuclear power while speaking at a Vestas wind turbine plant in Portland, Oregon....The Wall Street Journallooks at the economics of new plant builds....UK hedge fund, The Children's Investment Fund (TCI), will seek sanctions against the Japanese government over its decision barring TCI from doubling its stake in J-Power. Per columnist William Hutchings, "The firm said the government's decision was damaging Japan's reputation as an open capital market."...The Wilkes-Barre Times Leader, the local that covers Luzerne County, PA (Susquehanna), is publishing a two-part series titled "Nuclear Reaction." Part one, "Powering Up," ran on Sunday....The Lawrence Journal-World's man-on-the-stree…

The Rise of Carly Fiorina

It's been a good few months for Carly Fiorina; the once-embattled former president and CEO of Hewlett-Packard is now an advisor and leading surrogate for the McCain presidential campaign. Fiorina has recently been mentioned as a possible running mate with Senator McCain. Today she appeared in the "B" segment on ABC's This Week. Here she is on McCain and nuclear energy, There's no question that Senator McCain has said over and over again that we have to incent innovation. So that we are building these new green technologies. We have to incent innovation around things like clean coal. And by the way, we also have to incent innovation around nuclear power. Which is clean. It's abundant. Yes, there are issues. But nuclear power, if we would step up, and adopt nuclear power in this country, that's potentially many millions of jobs.Note: Transcript is not yet available. Quotation appears at 3:43 in the video clip.

Everything Old Is New Again: Westinghouse Steps Forward

For a lot of folks, Westinghouse is a name associated with the  washing machines, TV sets and vacuum machines that graced their suburban tract homes growing up. Even at the time, though, the brand seemed a little old-fashioned, something with the ordure of musty velour.But Westinghouse was then a powerhouse almost as broad based as General Electric. In recent years, as a division of Toshiba, Westinghouse Electric Company (the electronics and appliance maker still exists as Westinghouse Electric Corporation, owned by CBS) has largely focused on the nuclear market. Here's how they've spent the last several years:For the past few years, amid a resurgence of the nuclear power industry, Westinghouse's Engineering Services group has been furiously upgrading and refurbishing aging plants—and minting money along the way.But that work is almost done, and Business Week's Brian Hindo documents what Westinghouse is doing to move forward and retain its relevance:Last fall the comp…

Pennies from Heaven: A Nuclear Stock Fund

For those of you more engaged with your financial portfolios than we are, take a look at this, courtesy of Kiplinger:Investors who want to ride nuclear's revival without betting on individual stocks have a new option. Invesco PowerShares last month launched an exchange-traded fund called the Global Nuclear Energy Portfolio (symbol PKN). The ETF tracks the performance of the World Nuclear Association (WNA) Energy Index, which contains 64 companies that design, construct and operate nuclear power reactors. The shares closed at $27.08 on May 8.And the fund is jam packed with the usual suspects, minus of course Keyser Soze:The ETF's biggest holding, at 8.5% of assets, is Areva (ARVCF.PK), a French company. "Areva is one of just a handful of publicly traded companies in the world that both designs and builds reactors," says Phillips. Other big holdings include Japan's Toshiba (TOSBF.PK), Emerson Electric (EMR) and Canada's Cameco (CCJ), a leading producer of urani…

The CBO Study on Nuclear Energy

Your rainy weekend reading suggestion: the Congressional Budget Office's just released study,"Nuclear Power's Role in Generating Electricity." The pull quote:In the long run, carbon dioxide charges would increase the competitiveness of nuclear technology and could make it the least expensive source of new base-load capacity. More immediately, EPAct incentives by themselves could make advanced nuclear reactors a competitive technology for limited additions to base-load capacity. However, under some plausible assumptions that differ from those CBO adopted for its reference scenario—in particular, those that project higher future construction costs for nuclear plants or lower natural gas prices—nuclear technology would be a relatively expensive source of capacity, regardless of EPAct incentives. CBO’s analysis yields the following conclusions:
In the absence of both carbon dioxide charges and EPAct incentives, conventional fossil-fuel technologies would most likely be th…

Go West, Young Power Plant: Nuclear Energy in Alberta

We've noted Ontario's interest in nuclear energy and now Alberta  takes a crack at it (courtesy of The Prairie Post):The debate about nuclear energy and whether it will have a future in Alberta has officially begun as Bruce Power Alberta begins the planning to build the first nuclear power plant in western Canada and the Alberta government appoints a committee to research whether nuclear energy should be pursued in the province. That sounds like two stories, doesn't it, since Bruce Power is not going to get very far if the government research goes against it. Here's what Bruce Power has in mind:Bruce Power, based in Ontario, purchased the assets of Energy Alberta Corporation and in March filed an application with the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission to prepare a site for the potential construction of the plant on Lac Cardinal near Peace River.Peace River sounds kind of nice, but Bruce Power! Are all the boys in Canada named Bruce (who are not named Doug, that is)? A…