Skip to main content

Posts

Showing posts from July, 2010

The West and the Wind

The Western Governors Association surprised a lot of people last year when it issued strong support for nuclear energy among its energy provisions. You can read Nuclear Notes’ coverage of that here.As I wrote then, the interest isn’t that it was nuclear-friendly, it’s that it focused so intensely on energy issues. This year, they’ve gone further, sending a letter to some key Congressional chairmen:The Western Governors' Association urged Congress to increase federal loan guarantee authority for new nuclear development by $36 billion, the amount included in President Obama's 2011 budget request. Doing so would enable the financing of six to nine additional new reactors beyond those previously authorized, the governors said.And why do they want this?Writing on behalf of their colleagues, Idaho Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter, WGA's chairman, and Washington Gov. Christine O. Gregoire, WGA vice chairman, said this increased loan guarantee volume "will encourage the kin…

12th Carnival of Nuclear Energy Is Up

Dan Yurman at Idaho Samizdat has the helm this week. For the past few carnivals that we missed, be sure to check out #9 at Atomic Insights, and #10 and #11 at Next Big Future.

Yucca Mountain, Urenco, a New Energy Bill

A few quick hits:A US appeals court said Wednesday it would wait until the Nuclear Regulatory Commission rules on the Yucca Mountain appeal before the commission before it hears oral arguments in a lawsuit over the planned termination of the nuclear waste repository project.This story from Platts concerns efforts to keep the license application for the Yucca mountain used fuel repository in review at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. The Commission’s Atomic Safety and Licensing Board earlier ruled that the Obama administration overreached in trying to withdraw the license application – because Yucca Mountain was set as the repository through legislation that only Congress can amend or repeal – and the NRC needs to affirm or deny this ruling. Which hasn’t happened yet, hence the court’s decision to wait. Read the whole story for more details.---Urenco lately opened a uranium enrichment plant in New Mexico – the opening had an admirably bipartisan group of local and national politicia…

What Happens at 150 Million Degrees

One of the more exciting developments in the nuclear realm over the last couple of years have been been small reactors, those that generate less than 350 megawatts of electricity. While enthusiasm sometimes translates into a business model and sometimes does not, both the Department of Energy and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission have sponsored workshops and meetings specifically about them and severalbills have been floated in Congress to support their development.
There have been a lot of reasons bruited for the interest in small reactors;  two are that they are less expensive than a full scale reactor while providing the same clean air benefits and most of the proposed designs can be built in a factory and sent fully constructed to a site. Oh, and a third reason: the site can serve a locality that would not necessarily benefit from a full-size reactor or even might want to use them off the main electricity grid (think army bases). So all that favors continued interest.

Seeing Red: What a New Mining Report Says About The Rebirth of an Industry

For those of you who tend a bit more to the wonkish end of things, a new joint study from the OECD and IAEA on the world’s supply of uranium could make for some interesting reading.  The biennial OECD “Red Book” (officially known as Uranium 2009: Resources, Production and Demand) on uranium supply was just released and it has some interesting tidbits on uranium mining and exploration that bode well for the health of the nuclear energy industry. …uranium resources, production and demand are all on the rise…Worldwide exploration and mine development expenditures have more than doubled since the publication of the previous edition…These expenditures have increased despite declining uranium market prices since mid-2007.It’s an odd thing for mining expenditures to increase as prices of a commodity drop. Usually as the value of a resource drops, there’s a pullback on production and exploration. After all, who wants to dig up a worthless rock? But with uranium, prices are down, yet expenditu…

The British Way Forward on Energy

The current British government is a coalition between the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats, an awkward marriage considering that the Conservatives favor increased use of nuclear energy and the Liberal Democrats most definitely don’t. As part of the coalition agreement – or compromise – the liberals got much of what they want in energy policy, as laid out by new Energy Minister Chris Huhne (who is a Liberal Democrat):The UK is blessed with a wealth of renewable energy resources, both on and offshore. We are committed to overcoming the real challenges in harnessing these resources. We will implement the ‘Connect and Manage’ regime [this has to do with connecting off-the-beaten-path energy sources to the electricity grid] and I am today giving the go ahead to a transitional regime for offshore wind farms.Ah, wind. And a little more:We also need incentives for small-scale and community action. We are currently consulting on a new micro-generation strategy. I am today laying an order t…

Normal and Abnormal Occurrences

Vietnam has become something like a cheerleader for nuclear energy, having committed itself to a plant there. But it wants everyone to share in the fun:Vietnam has called on South East Asian nations to build nuclear power stations to meet rising energy demands.The proposal came at an energy policy meeting held by the Asean group of countries in Dalat, Vietnam.“Asean” countries are those that belong to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. You can see the list of members here.No word on how the other countries responded, but there is this:Some nations are looking to hydropower, building huge dams along the Mekong river. But these have angered local communities who complain that water flows and fish stocks have been affected.It’s always something, isn’t it? It may be that there needs to be more thought given as to how to effectively integrate these energy sources to suit the people they mean to serve, but these nations are moving in the right direction. Moving forward with nuclea…

Enabling the Nuclear Renaissance Act

Sen. George Voinovich (R-Ohio) this week introduced the Enabling the Nuclear Renaissance Act (S. 3618), which gathers into a single bill many nuclear energy provisions found in previously introduced legislation. Voinovich’s legislation also includes provisions not found in other bills, proposing to establish several offices within DOE to handle nuclear energy issues and a new government corporation to assume responsibility from DOE for implementing the disposition of used nuclear fuel.While it shares elements of the nuclear energy title in the Kerry-Lieberman American Power Act and several bills that encourage development of small reactors, Voinovich’s legislation goes much further in reshaping the government’s approach to nuclear energy. It provides funding and assistance to train workers, modifies the ways reactors are licensed and financed, and removes used nuclear fuel management from DOE.Voinovich said the bill “intends to reignite the nuclear renaissance. This bill gives our co…

Blogging and Twittering and Writing Columns

Apparently pleased with the result of his Facebook page, Energy Secretary has now moved on to blogging and twittering. At the new blog, called Energy Blog, Chu greets his new readers and promises, well, let him tell you:Our goal is to use the Energy Blog and our other social media outlets to show you who we are, what we do, and why it matters to you, while allowing you to connect with us in new and creative ways.And the department is hitting the ground running:Later this morning, Assistant Secretary for Policy and International Affairs David Sandalow will field your questions from Facebook and Twitter about the Clean Energy Ministerial. This meeting is the first time in history that ministers of the world’s largest economies have gathered to focus exclusively on clean energy. We will be making important announcements today about the real results this meeting has produced, and I hope you will check back later today to learn more.I know I will.---Long time New York Times columnist Bob …

The Post on Yucca and Our New Favorite Tower

The Washington Post weighs in on Yucca Mountain on the editorial page:Technology might temper some opposition; recycling or reprocessing used fuel will not decrease the amount of waste that needs to be stored -- a staggering 57,000 tons -- but it could diminish the number of years that waste remains unstable by neutralizing particularly volatile elements. But no technology will obviate the need for a long-term geologic storage facility. Taking Yucca Mountain off the table without even seeing if it meets NRC criteria is contrary to the spirit of the commission and would mark the triumph of politics over policy.The piece was motivated by the NRC panel decision that the DOE-submitted license cannot be withdrawn from the NRC nor can the administration usurp Congress’ role in deciding whether Yucca Mountain. The editorial lays out some of the history and represents a strong vote for letting the license go forward. Do read the whole thing and see what you think.---My favorite painted coolin…

Loan Guarantees and Desperation

We’ve seen surprisingly little news for it, but maybe it’s a little too inside nuclear baseball. That doesn’t mean the news isn’t good, though:House lawmakers approved a spending bill Thursday that includes $25 billion in loan guarantees for new nuclear reactors, an amount that could enable the expansion of North Texas' Comanche Peak plant. That last bit explains why this is appearing in the Dallas News. And Luminant is certainly ready to roll:Dallas-based Luminant, which owns the plant, said the additional amount "would be sufficient" to allow funding for its plan to build two reactors. Luminant said it was "the first alternate" last year when the U.S. Department of Energy selected four nuclear projects to further consider for loan guarantees. "We can't guarantee it, but this is a very important step to enabling it," said David Campbell, chief executive of Luminant, the power-generation unit of Energy Future Holdings. No playing favorites from u…

Honey That’s Sticky but Not Sweet

This is fun: USA Today’s Greenhouse blog has the story:The ad campaign, which has included TV spots aired in New Mexico and elsewhere, is funded by H. Leighton Steward, a retired oil industry executive and co-author of the Sugar Busters! dieting books, reports The Post.It's part of a larger lobbying campaign to defeat Obama's push for an energy-climate bill to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Last month in his first Oval Office address, Obama said the Gulf oil spill shows how much the nation needs to reduce its dependence on polluting fossil fuels.Steward is not hiding away. He’s right up front on the page the ad references – sometimes, corporations and individuals who want to promote an unpopular idea do so secretly, so credit to Steward.On the page you’ll find another video with a demonstration:Isolated for 42 days in chambers of ambient and elevated CO2 concentrations, we periodically document the growth of cowpea plants (Vigna unguiculata) via time-lapse photography.And if …

Panels on the Roof

Good news for solar energy:President Barack Obama today announced that a US government agency is awarding nearly USD 2 billion from a stimulus package to two solar companies, as part of his drive to build a clean energy economy.“Today” was July 3. We’re happy to see some of the stimulus money go this way – Obama has said he wants to encourage solar energy – but otherwise only mildly interested. Solar power has some of the same issues as wind energy – it takes up vast expanses of land for intermittent electricity production – but it does have the capacity for delivering electricity on a very local basis. Think President Jimmy Carter’s solar panels on the White House roof - and the technology is still moving forward.SoloPower, one of many companies vying to lower the cost of solar energy, introduced on Monday a line of flexible panels for commercial rooftops. The company makes thin-film solar cells from a combination of copper, indium, gallium, and selenium (CIGS) which is placed on a …

Thermometers Ever Rising

Late last year, we made it clear that we were going to ignore Climategate, the release of emails from the University of East Anglia. Some interpreted those emails as indicating that the science behind climate change had been cooked up by scientists looking for grant money. We read the most incriminating emails – and a fair number of others, too – and a lot of the commentary - and concluded that there wasn’t enough there to change minds on either side of the debate. Anyway, to quote ourselves:But there are some investigations going on. Let’s wait for the results and then let’s choose sabers or pistols.And that brings us to:A British panel on Wednesday exonerated the scientists caught up in the controversy known as Climategate of charges that they had manipulated their research to support preconceived ideas about global warming.Now, cooking the books and general bad behavior are different things and the investigators did think the scientists engaged in too much of the latter:Echoing th…

Another Letter on Yucca Mountain

Yesterday, we told you about a letter sent by 91 legislators to Energy Secretary Steven Chu. In this story about the letter, writer Steve Tetreault uncovers another letter writing effort:Meanwhile, Rep. James Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., was seeking lawmakers to sign a letter to NRC Chairman Gregory Jaczko questioning whether three of the commissioners might have "pre-judged" the Yucca issue.In a draft copy obtained Tuesday, Sensenbrenner contends that three nominees who were confirmed faced "intense pressure" from Sens. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., and Harry Reid, D-Nev., at their confirmation hearing in February.We were there at that hearing and it’s the closest we’ve seen Sen. Reid come to inserting himself into Yucca Mountain issues – and he wasn’t even there, as Boxer relayed the question from him to the NRC candidates. However, we’d quibble with the “intense pressure” characterization. Reid’s question was whether the three candidates would second-guess DOE’s decision …

Yucca Mountain And Political Will

Ever since Energy Secretary Steven Chu set about closing Yucca Mountain, Congress members have been handing DOE staff – and Chu – considerable grief for the decision at virtually every hearing since then. So the recent decision that the used fuel repository’s license application cannot be withdrawn from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission seems a kind of vindication, reasserting Congressional will – the Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982 that, via a 1987 amendment, designated Yucca Mountain as the used fuel repository – over an executive decision. Drawing the lines between branches of government is, of course, a perpetual issue in American governance, but this decision seems clear cut: the Act and its amendment were passed by Congress and signed by President Ronald Reagan. Closing Yucca Mountain means overturning or further amending the Act – and no one seems eager to do either. So if Congress does feel vindicated, why not press the point?Some 91 members of Congress on Tuesday called on …

Out Nevada Way: Yucca Mountain and Sharron Angle

So how has the news about Yucca Mountain springing back to life gone over? Pretty well. Here’s Rep. Doc Hastings (R-Wash.):Today’s decision affirms what I have been saying all along - Yucca Mountain remains the legally designated national repository for spent nuclear fuel and high level defense waste, and the Department of Energy has no authority to withdraw the license application.  Only Congress can change the law. And Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.)Over the last 30 years, Congress, independent studies and previous administrations have all pointed to, voted for and funded Yucca Mountain as the nation's best option for a nuclear repository and in concert with those decisions, billions of dollars and countless work hours have been spent at Hanford and nuclear waste sites across the country in an effort to treat and package nuclear waste that will be sent here.In case you’re wondering about the attention from Washington state politicians, Murray provides the hint – Hanford, a product …

Friends of the Wretched Child

Our opinion about Friends of the Earth swings a bit between annoyance and amusement – the former because the environmental group plays so loosely with facts, the latter because they are often quite maladroit even with their loose facts. Consider:This week Congress will vote on whether to take teachers away from students so that they can give nuclear reactors a $9 billion preemptive bailout. We continue to be shocked that Congress brazenly puts the interests of corporations above the needs of regular Americans, including teachers and children. This is further proof our political system has been corrupted by corporate influence and special interests.That brazen Congress! We fully expect to see Dickensian children in rags crowding the doors of local nuclear plants begging for alms if this horrid bill passes. Or would, if the cruel taskmasters of the nuclear energy industry weren’t also masterminding legislation to put those wretched children to work hauling overflowing bales of uranium …

Loan Guarantees

It has been an exciting week in loan guarantees. Last Thursday, the U.S. Export-Import Bank decided not to provide loan guarantees to support the sale of $310 million in mining machinery by Bucyrus International, Inc., to Reliance Power Ltd., of India. The sale was contingent upon the Indian firm receiving Ex-Im Bank-supported financing. The Ex-Im Bank said its decision was based on consideration of environmental impacts of the deal, as mandated by a carbon-intensity policy implemented this spring. The machinery was to be used to mine coal for a 3,960 megawatt power plant coming on line in 2012 and the Bank did not wish to promote the use of coal. The coal-fired plant would emit about 27,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide each year.

Howls went up across the land citing negative impacts on the economy of Milwaukee and the U.S. The Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce estimated that the Bucyrus sale would support over 300 jobs in the Milwaukee region and more than 650 jobs among supp…