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Showing posts from June, 2009

The View from Mecklenburg

The South Hill Enterprise says that it has the “largest paid circulation of any Mecklenburg County newspaper,”  which we take to mean it gets whomped by penny savers but otherwise has cornered the market in southern Virginia. Enterprising reporter Lisa Andrews went out to see how the local population was responding to the passage of the Energy bill in the House. Andrews also talks to the Washington politicians, but let’s just glide right by them.Local farmer Hart Hudson said Friday, “I am not in favor of anything that will increase the cost of production.” Hudson said he supports the VFBF [Virginia Farm Bureau Federation] stance and he urged others to oppose the passage of the bill as it makes it way to the Senate.Well, that’s to be expected, if a little narrow-band.Dean Price, owner of Red Birch Energy in Bassett, referred to the bill as a way to use “trickle down” economics and to encourage local farmers to spend locally. “This legislation will allow more American entrepreneurs and…

Barack Obama on Nuclear Energy

We quoted a bit of President Barack Obama’s discussion of the energy bill in the post below, but he had more to say, with nuclear getting a pretty good showing. Here are all his comments referencing nuclear energy from the interview (the nuclear parts neatly bolded), with a fair amount of surrounding context. Do take a look at the whole thing, though. Lots of meat.1. President Obama: I think this was an extraordinary first step. You know, if you had asked people six months ago -- or six weeks ago, for that matter -- whether we could get a energy bill with the scope of the one that we saw on Friday through the House, people would have told you, no way. You look at the constituent parts of this bill -- not only a framework for cap and trade, but huge significant steps on energy efficiency, a renewable energy standard, huge incentives for research and development in new technologies, incentives for electric cars, incentives for nuclear energy, clean coal technology. This really is an un…

The Energy Bill Passes the House

Not by much – 219-212 – with a fair number of Democrats voting against it and all but eight Republicans likewise. But it passed. The Senate has a parallel bill wending through committee that is now scheduled for a September vote, so we’ll have to wait to see if, and in what form, this bill passes. But there’s been plenty of reaction to it at this stage.John J. Castellani, President of Business Roundtable: “The bill ignores the role that oil and natural gas must play in the transition to a low-carbon future, as well as nuclear energy’s central role in reducing America’s carbon footprint. To achieve the GHG reductions called for in the bill, we not only need to use energy more efficiently, but also must deploy a balanced, comprehensive portfolio of new low-energy technologies.”The Associated Press (H. Josef Hebert): The House-passed bill contains provisions to make it easier to get loan guarantees and expands the nuclear industry's access to loans for reactor construction. An Envir…

The Waxman-Markey Bill Faces Congress

Today sees the vote in the House on the Clean Energy and Security Act, aka Waxman-Markey aka the climate change bill, likely to be a very near thing on a very tight vote margin. As you might imagine, this is last ditch time for those who want the bill and those who don’t. Greenpeace says no:Since the Waxman-Markey bill left the Energy and Commerce committee, yet another fleet of industry lobbyists has weakened the bill even more, and further widened the gap between what Waxman-Markey does and what science demands. As a result, Greenpeace opposes this bill in its current form.Which sounds to us like Greenpeace’s lobbyists need a good talking-to. Heritage’s Ben Lieberman says no:Inflicting economic pain is what this is all about. That is how the ever-tightening emissions targets will be met.Well, it probably isn’t about inflicting pain. The goal would seem to be to avoid inflicting pain.The New York Times is going for yes:The bill has shortcomings. But we believe that it is an importan…

Levelized Costs of New Electric Generating Technologies - EIA

Just wanted to bring to your attention probably one of the best, most complete, and credible sets of data on new power plant costs I've come across so far. The data comes from the Energy Information Administration'sAnnual Energy Outlook 2009 and the chart and table below were created by the Institute for Energy Research. The only other source I've seen that comes close to a credible comparison on cost data is Lazard (pdf).

In the past, I hardly used EIA's cost data much, partly because their capital cost estimates for nuclear were always too low (the estimates are much more realistic this edition), but mostly because they only presented their cost assumptions that feed into the NEMS model (pdf). They never showed a levelized, unsubsidized, balanced set of cost data for nearly all technologies. Here's IER's explanation of the data:To determine the most economic technology for the type of demand (base, intermediate, or peaking load) for which new capacity is neede…

The Future, The Shifting Ground, and Bachmann

Bob Metcalfe has an interesting futurist editorial in the Wall Street Journal:The good news is that the big names in nuclear energy -- like Areva, Hitachi, General Electric and Toshiba -- have recently been joined by a bevy of high-tech start-ups seeking to develop advanced nuclear-reactor designs for both fission and fusion energy production. So far, there are five fission and two fusion start-ups, among them Hyperion, NuScale and Tri Alpha.We don’t want to quote much – too much on Metcalfe’s mind to paraphrase. He considers current nuclear technology too expensive, though he give a kind of indirect thumbs up to the kinds of mini-reactors Babcock & Wilcox recently introduced, and perhaps oversells fusion – still essentially a lab project. Even as a peek into the future, we found ourselves quibbling a lot. But it tweaks the brain and is therefore worth a read.---Geothermal’s in town and shaking things up. While prospecting for heat in Basel Switzerland a few years ago:the project…

The Wind Out of Britain

We always wish our windy friends well, since we like the aesthetics of windmills and they answer to the need for renewable energy sources, but sometimes you just have to wonder:The wind industry is suffering from increasing capital costs [this is in the UK] and needs three to four manufacturers competing to bring down construction costs, the association said. Costs of building wind capacity are forecast to rise for the next few years and then decline from current levels until 2015, the group [The British Wind Energy Association} said. Without putting too fine a point on it, if costs are going to increase over the “next few years,” that about gets us to 2015. Frankly, we imagine wind has the, er, wind at its back and its costs will decrease as economies of scale kick in. Which renders this whole story kind of silly. “We could see prices fall by as much as 20 percent from today’s 3.1 million pounds ($5.1 million) per megawatt” of installed capacity, McCaffery said. “Government must pul…

Bob Bennett and The 100 Nuclear Plants

A couple of weeks ago, we noted that Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) had called for building 100 new nuclear plants. What Alexander created is, shall we say, a meme, one that is catching on in Republican energy circles. Here for example is Sen. Bob Bennett (R-Utah):"It's been my experience and my position...that one of the driving forces behind America's economic growth has been our access to cheap energy," Bennett said at a Republican-only hearing on energy development he organized. "If we're going to survive in the kind of economy we want, we need to have access to cheap energy." We’re not sure we’d stress the “cheap” part of “cheap energy” – in a way, all energy has been cheap and we’re fairly sure that even the most draconian energy bill might make energy less cheap but far from ruinously expensive - but we take his point, especially since nuclear energy portends no particular need for foreign entanglement. It answers to concerns of energy security …

Pennies in the Fuel Bank

The idea of a fuel bank to control the flow of uranium to countries contemplating domestic nuclear energy production has stumbled a bit.The International Atomic Energy Agency and industrialized nations argue that a multilateral uranium-enrichment center would best meet growing global nuclear energy demand while dissuading nations from building proliferation-prone enrichment plants themselves.But emerging nations, who fear "multinationalizing" control over the fuel cycle would curb their right to home-grown atomic energy for electricity, rejected a request by IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei to develop a detailed plan for approval in September.The IAEA is likely right; however, an almost constant tension in international relations is that emerging nations – think India, for starters – feel pushed around by more developed nations. The goal behind the fuel bank is to limit proliferation opportunities, but a fair number of countries do not feel they represent a proliferation risk.&…

Friday YouTube Fun

For those unable to attend the Nuclear Energy Assembly a few weeks back, video clips of the events are now up on NEI's YouTube channel. Clips include speeches by: Congressman James Clyburn, Congressman Steny Hoyer, Senator Lisa Murkowski, FERC Chairman Jon Wellinghoff and NEI CEO Marv Fertel.

Sadly, footage of the Dancing With the NEA Stars competition remains on the cutting room floor. In the unlikely event that you were jonesing for dancing utility industry employees, we present the good folks from the Swedish power company, Vattenfall. Yikes. (Or yïkesa, as they say in Stockholm.)


From Germany to Maryland – with Love

We can’t help but think that Die Welt, the German magazine, has an ulterior motive for looking at Maryland’s Calvert Cliffs plant. If they do – like knocking over Germany’s ban on new construction – they don’t reveal it. But we wonder.Members of the Maryland Chamber’s board visited the existing 1,735-megawatt nuclear power plant, which first went online in 1975, and which is recognized internationally for its high level of performance. Calvert Cliffs Unit 2 set a world record this year for pressurized water reactors by operating non-stop for more than 692 days, and in 2008 had a record capacity factor, a measure of efficiency, of 101.37 percent.Sterling!In addition to helping Maryland meet its energy and climate change goals, the privately funded initiative to build a new nuclear unit would be one of the largest industrial development projects in Maryland history, resulting in 4,000 construction jobs and 400 permanent operational positions. Golden!The Nuclear Energy Institute estimat…

Questions Worth Asking?

Triplepundit asks the following question:At some point you just have to ask yourself, what is it that these politicians are getting to push nuclear energy so hard?Answer: knowledge. It’s a powerful thing. You can read the rest of the post yourself, but we didn’t find it all that noteworthy. The opening question was just too easy.---While Congress is contemplating a new energy policy, American women are paying the electric bills at home and making the critical decisions on energy use in their homes and businesses, according to the national Women's Survey on Energy & the Environment, the first in-depth women's survey on attitudes and awareness about energy.We look forward to finding out what women think about energy. Oh wait, we already know that – from polls – that also include – men. We genuinely don’t get this one.---We trust that Mark Miller at the Vermont Law School’s Institute for Energy and the Environment means only the best when he writes that building 100 new nucl…

The Last Time I Saw – Concrete

Not much thought about by energy types, but exceptionally important in the construction of a nuclear power plant, concrete would seem an unchangeable item. After all, it’s been in use since Roman times. But that, as MIT demonstrates, is remarkably unimaginative thinking – the creation of cement, a component of concrete, accounts for 5 to 10 percent of the carbon emissions in the world (though that range is so broad, we think they should say, “If we had to guess.”) So how to make it more energy efficient?In the January issue of the Journal of the Mechanics and Physics of Solids, the team reports that the source of concrete's strength and durability lies in the organization of its nanoparticles. The discovery could one day lead to a major reduction in carbon dioxide emissions during manufacturing.It’s all about the nanoparticles.He [Franz-Josef Ulm] and Georgios Constantinides, a postdoctoral researcher in materials science and engineering, studied the behavior of the nanostructure…

Sarkozy: Nuclear is dead (?!)

We tip our hats to the savvy marketing peeps at Greenpeace for generating lots of internet buzz this morning about their spoofed edition of the International Herald Tribune. From the AFP,Greenpeace supporters handed out mock copies of the International Herald Tribune in several countries Thursday to press world leaders to agree on ambitious efforts to tackle climate change.

The eight-page mock-up included everything from an environmentally friendly Garfield comic strip to a horoscope (Sagittarius: 'There is a limit to what you can do with the resources available to you').This below-the-fold (beyond the pale?) article caught our eye, "Sarkozy: Nuclear is dead."

While it might be fun to reciprocate in kind, and create a spoofed news article with a headline that read, "Greenpeace Embraces Nuclear Energy," we remember that the founder of Greenpeace, Patrick Moore, and the former head of Greenpeace UK, Stephen Tindale, already have.

Nuclear Loan Guarantees Expand

The nuclear good news express has – seemingly – pulled into the station for an extended stay. We’ll see what we can do about reviving our natural gloomy nature tomorrow.A measure passed in the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee by a vote of 15 to 8 includes language for the creation of the Clean Energy Development Administration, a new federal agency to help funnel loan guarantees for nuclear, wind and solar projects. Chatter has moved nuclear energy in and out of this “clean energy bank,” but the final word is: in.While an initial $18.5 billion loan-guarantee program will help build four new nuclear plants, an additional $90 billion in loan guarantees already have been requested among the 17 companies proposing 26 new reactors, according to Mitch Singer of the Nuclear Energy Institute. What’s intriguing about this is that the benefits of these 26 plants – well, the ones that are chosen to get the loan guarantees, anyway – way outstrip the cost to the government. Loan guar…

In the Nuclear Sphere: Good News All Around

Lots of strikingly good news in the nuclear sphere today: Let’s take them one at a time.The Department of Energy has introduced a scholarship program:U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu today announced nearly $9 million in awards to support the next generation of American nuclear energy development.  Under the Nuclear Energy Universities Program, the Department of Energy will provide $2.9 million in scholarships and fellowships to 86 U.S. nuclear science and engineering (NS&E) students, and will offer more than $6 million in grants to 29 U.S. universities and colleges in 23 states.  We’re so used to huge numbers coming out of the government that our first thought was that this was pretty paltry. Millions? Should be billions. But no, this is more than enough to get the ball rolling:Four-year and two-year accredited universities or colleges including community colleges and trade schools were eligible to apply for an infrastructure grant.  Award amounts for each project are subject to …

Nuclear By Name, Nuclear in Fact

We haven’t been the happiest persons on our increasingly watery planet with the Waxman-Markey energy bill, but neither have we been the unhappiest. After all, the bill set ambitious targets on greenhouse gas emission reduction and nuclear energy is a sure, even the surest, way to meet those targets. But nuclear energy was a – little – perhaps a bit – unacknowledged in this obvious role. Steve Kirsh in the Huffing Post put it this way:Both Secretary Chu and the President of MIT point out that nuclear has to be a key part of the energy mix going forward. We can't supply all our clean energy needs relying on just renewables.Yet this bill has over 932 pages, and the word "nuclear" only appears twice. That seems pretty odd considering that 70% of our CO2-free power is from nuclear. Even more odd considering we haven't built a new nuclear plant in 30 years and it's still 70% of our clean power!So true. (Kirsh has a lot more to say on this, all on point. (Do read the re…

Meet the Governors: Dr. Chu Goes West

Well, actually, he came from the west, so this isn’t a case of a Washington tenderfoot having to adapt to the rough-and-ready ways of our cowboy politicians out west – not that we don’t enjoy the cliche-laden image of it anyway. In fact, Energy Secretary Steven Chu is visiting the Western Governors Associationannual meeting in Park City Utah. It’s running from the 14th to the 16th, and you can watch various sessions via streaming video.The Governors have ideas about nuclear energy, as expressed in their Resolution 09-1: Energy Policy, Renewable Energy and Transmission for the West :Nuclear energy currently provides 20 percent of the nation’s electricity and 10 percent of the electricity within the WGA states. Nuclear energy is a baseload source of electricity and does not produce greenhouse gases, ozone, haze, or mercury. For new nuclear power facilities to be built, a range of issues associated with cost, safety, waste disposal, nonproliferation, and natural resource requirements mu…

Is Nuclear the Green Solution?

Not our question – because we know the answer – but that of the The National Journal, which has set up a forum for invited parties to grapple with the question. When we checked, some of the pro-nuclear sources had weighed in - Paul Sullivan, Professor of Economics, National Defense UniversityElizabeth Moler, Executive Vice President for Government & Environmental Affairs & Public Policy, ExelonBill Johnson, CEO, Progress EnergyMarvin Fertel, President and CEO, Nuclear Energy InstitutePresumably, the folks with somewhat less sanguine views toward nuclear will be showing up as the week goes on. Here’s the introduction:Senate Republicans want to build 100 new commercial nuclear power plants over the next 20 years. Over the last two years the industry has applied for licenses to build 30 new reactors, and Babcock & Wilcox Co. recently unveiled a new mini-nuke plant aimed at supplying power to small electricity users, such as municipal districts or individual industrial custom…

Friday Follow-Ups

On Babcock and Wilcox’s announcement of new, smaller nuclear reactors:Our friends at the Heritage Foundation like what they see:One of the most interesting things about B&W’s entrance into the reactor market is that unlike most other designers, they have the industrial infrastructure to start building these things right now. And what’s more, this is a company that builds reactors today, multiple reactors each year, that the U.S. government uses for national security purposes. No one else has that on their resume.True enough, though not necessarily determinative in any significant sense. Let’s call it a point in their favor.The exciting thing about nuclear power is not what it gives us today, but what its potential is for the future.Also true. This being Heritage, let’s let them have their moment:It is a perfect example of why government can’t pick winners and losers among energy sources. Government subsidization of some technologies inevitably crowds out investment and innovation…

What Is Art?: A Debate Down Under

"What is art?" A long-time favorite answer of mine to this unanswerable question comes from the venerable English philosopher Keith Richards: "As far as I'm concerned, 'Art' is just short for 'Arthur.'"

The aboriginal people of Alice Springs, in the Northern Territory of Australia, are a little less cheeky in their definition of art; reacting strongly this week to an "anti-nuclear art installation" located on the sacred Annie Meyer Hill. Per the ABC News,The art features an anti-nuclear poem, which says: "Solar city, getting hippy; nuclear city, what a pity. Solar city sitting pretty, nuclear city makes me shitty."

The hill is part of the Olive Pink Botanic Gardens and a registered sacred site.

A custodian for the site, Doris Stuart, says the Aboriginal Areas Protection Authority has told her it had no knowledge of the sign.

"I'm in mourning at the moment because we had my brother's funeral there at Annie Meyer Hill.

The American Energy Act

The Republicans have released the full text of their American Energy Act. You can read the whole thing here. We’ll note that it includes some points the Republicans have stressed since the last election: drill here drill now, strong favoring of domestic energy sources, disdain of regulation. But we’ll focus on a couple of points and let you explore it yourself.First, the bill has a decidedly different philosophy from the Waxman-Markey bill now in mark-up. While that legislation aims to reverse climate change by making carbon emission reduction the centerpiece of government action, the Republicans focus much more on energy security and tapping domestic forms of energy. They even go further than this:(a) IN GENERAL.—Section 302(g) of the Clean Air Act is amended by adding the following at the end thereof: ‘‘The term ‘air pollutant’ shall not include carbon dioxide, water vapor, methane, nitrous oxide, hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons, or sulfur hexafluoride.’’
(b) CLIMATE CHANGE…

A Nuclear Game Changer?

That’s how Babcock & Wilcox described their scaled down nuclear reactor, intended to top out at 125 megawatts. Cost has been an issue with, shall we say, pee-wee reactors, but no problems here:The mPower reactor would include independent "modular" units that could be manufactured on an assembly line, thus cutting manufacturing and construction costs, said John Fees, CEO of McDermott International, the parent company of Babcock & Wilcox. Units could be built and come online even as others are being built, he said, allowing power companies to start earning revenue faster.And: "This brings not only lower installation base cost but also brings greater cost certainty" compared to the $6 billion to $8 billion large-reactor option, Fees said. He declined to name a price for mPower, but said it would be "under the $5,000 per megawatt" price that the industry has estimated for large reactors.How much lower isn’t really the point – that it even hovers ther…

The National Summit

With NEI's President & CEO Marv Fertel set to address the Detroit Economic Club at next week's National Summit, this New York Times article, Michigan Tries to Renew Itself Without King Auto, caught our eye today.For all the talk of California’s economic woes, the distress in Michigan is greater. About 800,000 jobs have been lost in the state — about 1 in every 6 — since 2000, and its unemployment rate has reached 12.7 percent, higher than any other state. The fallout has been even worse in heavily populated southeastern Michigan. Manufacturing jobs in the seven-county region that includes Detroit have fallen 51 percent since the beginning of the decade, and auto-related positions have fallen 65 percent.Hmmm...wondering what type of industry would be looking to hire highly skilled workers who are familiar with steel, welding and parts assembly.

The Republican Energy Bill

The Republicans will today introduce an energy bill intended as a replacement for the Waxman-Markey legislation now wending its way through the House (and due for a vote sometime near the end of June – a date’s not set yet.) Here’s the Times:The Republican proposal, drafted by a group led by Representative Mike Pence of Indiana, leans heavily on nuclear power, setting a goal of building 100 reactors over the next 20 years. So we would expect the bill to include some provisions for beefing up DOE and NRC to handle this. But what can we say? More, please.There’s also this:The bill also provides incentives for increased oil and gas production on public and private lands and offshore. It would also authorize oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska, a focus of 30 years of controversy in Congress.This proved to be a popular provision during last year’s Presidential campaign, but even if the House adopts some ideas from the bill, this likely won’t be one of them. ANWR’s…

Going Out Guide

If you happen to live in the neighborhood of Asbury Park New Jersey next Thursday, take the opportunity to learn about nuclear energy issues from the folks who make it:Exelon Nuclear's Oyster Creek Generating Station will host a Community Information Night Thursday, June 18. This unique, one-on-one forum is designed to inform and update the plant's neighbors about plant operations and nuclear energy issues.And what might you learn?Exelon representatives and technical experts will be on hand to provide information on nuclear energy topics including plant operations, tritium, used fuel storage, safety, security, the environment and community outreach efforts. There will also be take-away information. Light refreshments will be served.And we’re reasonably sure that the Oyster Creek workers will be happy to have a run at any difficult question you may have. Oh, and we’re pretty sure some of the plant employees and other attendees will be single (nuclear jobs pay very well, hint) …

The Nuclear Fuel Bank and Iran

Last week, President Obama said during his speech in Cairo that he wanted Iran to be able to pursue nuclear energy while not pursuing nuclear weaponry. The issues here are many, though using a nuclear plant as a stalking horse for building bombs isn’t really one of them. As we’ve noted before, Russia’s handling the fuel for the plant – which it built - under the auspices of the IAEA, so Iran has no viable options for mischief around Bushehr. But where Iran may be fully foiled is in the creation of a fuel bank. And what is a fuel bank?The basic idea is to have a relatively small, but guaranteed supply of low-enriched uranium available as a backup should a country's supplies of civilian nuclear fuel from other nations be cut off for political or other reasons. Of the dozen or so countries that now can enrich uranium, several - such as Brazil and South Africa - do so to guard against such disruptions, not to build nuclear weapons.And this is the direction Obama wants to take:As part…

When the Brass Ring Is a Cure

And hard to catch, and tantalizingly within reach. That makes Susan G. Koman for the Cure and its annual Race for the Cure so important. But cure for what?Nancy G. Brinker promised her dying sister, Susan G. Komen, she would do everything in her power to end breast cancer forever. In 1982, that promise became Susan G. Komen for the Cure and launched the global breast cancer movement.Today, Komen for the Cure is the world’s largest grassroots network of breast cancer survivors and activists fighting to save lives, empower people, ensure quality care for all and energize science to find the cures.Hard to think of a family untouched by breast cancer. When my mother died of it some years ago, the sympathy from friends came in the form of testimony – about sisters, mothers, grandmothers, nieces, daughters – the losses span the generations to cause grief whatever age you are, where ever your life has taken you.Susan G. Koman for the Cure focuses its activities in the Washington D.C. area:Fu…