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Showing posts from December, 2010

Taking It to the Fuel Bank

There’s a nuclear fuel bank open for business. And to think, it was approved by the IAEA just the other day. The 35-nation board of the International Atomic Energy Agency approved an IAEA-run repository for nuclear fuel on [December 3], in a move meant to limit proliferation by reducing the incentive for starting domestic uranium enrichment programs.Oh wait, not that fuel bank:The first international nuclear fuel repository in the world formally launched operations on Friday at a uranium enrichment facility in Angarsk, Siberia, the International Atomic Energy Agency announced.This one has also been approved by the IAEA. The point behind both fuel banks is fairly straightforward:The [Russian] site, approved in 2009 by IAEA governors, would enable countries free of proliferation histories to purchase nuclear power plant fuel on an apolitical basis as an alternative to developing production capabilities that could also generate nuclear-weapon material.So it’s a way to keep proliferation…

The SEC Accuses AEHI of Fraud

A year or so ago, I wrote:It may just be that AEHI is trying everything it can to find and develop a market and interest enough venture capital to help it stay afloat until it makes a sale – either in Idaho or China. Certainly not unusual (if a bit unusually far flung), often not successful, but that’s how it works. All one can really do from the outside is speculate. Let’s keep half an eye on AEHI and see how it goes.Well, both eyes open beats half an eye:The SEC [Securities and Exchange Commission] alleges that Alternate Energy Holdings Inc. (AEHI) has raised millions of dollars from investors in Idaho and throughout the U.S. and Asia while fraudulently manipulating its stock price through misleading public statements that conceal the secret profits reaped by its CEO Donald L. Gillispie and Senior Vice President Jennifer Ransom. It gets worse:The SEC’s complaint charges AEHI, Gillispie, and Ransom with violations of the anti-fraud provisions of the federal securities laws, and name…

Slouching Toward the 2011 Budget

The way Congress decides how to spend money is fairly straightforward: the President presents a budget proposal to Congress that is then hashed out in committee and then by the full House and Senate and then is voted upon. In some years, though, Congress cannot quite get through all the spending bills and funds the government via other means.For example, the House last week passed a continuing resolution. That means that the 2011 budget will mirror the 2010 budget with a few tweaks here and there. And the Senate now seems likely to do the same.What does this mean for nuclear energy? In most respects, we can’t know until later. Energy Secretary Steven Chu has introduced a list of new projects he’d like DOE to undertake and there are older programs that are being retired. A continuing resolution will not fund the new projects – because they were not in the 2010 budget – but will fund the retired programs. So money will need to be swapped around, some new programs will get less money or…

A Waste of a Good Nuclear Waste Act

As you may have heard, DOE is attempting to withdraw the license application for the Yucca Mountain used nuclear fuel repository from consideration by the NRC. This was a decision that remains controversial and may get a further hearing in the next Congress. Regardless, Yucca Mountain continues its retirement.Yet it is still being paid for via the Nuclear Waste Fund, described as:[A] 1 mill (one-tenth of a cent) fee for every kWh of nuclear-generated electricity sold. Congress established the fee and Nuclear Waste Fund, a federal trust, in 1982 to bankroll the DOE repository program.That may not sound like a lot, but it comes to about $750 million per year and has contributed to a fund that now stands at $25 billion. While one could say that the utilities are paying this. it is actually ratepayers that are doing so. The Nuclear Waste Act of 1982 set Yucca Mountain as the used fuel repository (through an amendment in 1987) and set the initial fee for the Nuclear Waste Fund. If there i…

Oyster Creek and Cooling Towers

Exelon has announced that its Oyster Creek nuclear plant will close in 2019, ten years before the license to operate it expires. These are the reasons Exelon gives for its decision:“The plant faces a unique set of economic conditions and changing environmental regulations that make ending operations in 2019 the best option for the company, employees and shareholders,” [Exelon President and COO Chris] Crane said.And to expand on this a little more:The decision is based on the cumulative effect of negative economic factors which has caused Oyster Creek’s value to decline.  These factors include low market prices and demand, and the plant’s need for continuing large capital expenditures. Also, potential additional environmental compliance costs based on evolving water cooling regulatory requirements – at both the federal and state government levels – created significant regulatory and economic uncertainty.The first half of that explanation may well have been mitigated by an improving ec…

The New Millennium Nuclear Energy Summit

The Third Way, a policy organization in Washington, held a conference yesterday called the New Millennium Nuclear Energy Summit, which proved to be exceptionally consequential.Energy Secretary Steven Chu called for nuclear power to be part of the mix as the nation moves toward mandating that power companies use more clean and renewable energy. As much as 25 percent of the country's power could be from clean energy by 2025, That’s a start, but not that different than what Chu has said consistently. The consequential part comes with the push for a clean energy standard, which would include nuclear energy along with renewable energy sources as a means to reduce carbon emissions.“Our Republican friends in the Senate are less comfortable with a renewable electricity standard. They are more comfortable with a clean energy standard that would allow some credit early on for nuclear [and] some credit early on for clean coal,” said Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.). “Some kind of clean energy stand…

Deposits at the Fuel Bank

The IAEA approves a fuel bank:The fuel bank would offer nations civilian atomic reactor fuel on an apolitical basis in hopes of deterring them from pursuing their own capability to produce such material -- a process that could also generate nuclear-weapon fuel.Essentially, it does this by providing enriched uranium when there is a disruption in the commercial supply. The idea is that this limits proliferation opportunities because the host country will not do the enrichment itself. Naturally, there are still a lot of details to work out:Undecided aspects of the plan include the site of the fuel supply, the precise process by which the bank could acquire additional fuel and how its capacity could be increased.This story goes into more details of Warren Buffett’s involvement, which was considerable:"Throughout my lifetime I will be interested in this subject and I will back that interest up with money," Buffett told Reuters. "If the project sounds like a good one and has …