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Showing posts from February, 2011

A Poll, Saudi Arabia, Pueblo

The Hill takes note:A new poll commissioned by the nuclear industry shows that 71 percent of people in the United States support including nuclear power in the country’s energy portfolio.And why shouldn't it? This is a survey conducted by Bisconti and Associates for NEI. We know: an industry poll. But Bisconti's methods are fully transparent and it's equally transparent that the findings are in line with other similar polls, though those polls tend to be more interested in a wide range of electricity suppliers rather than nuclear in particular. So consider this a look at nuclear in, er, its particulars.And the poll doesn't ignore nuclear's cousins. A little more from the Hill's account:At the same time, the poll shows broad public support for a proposal floated by Obama to get large amounts of the country’s electricity from low-carbon sources. The poll finds that 89 percent of Americans think, “We should take advantage of all low-carbon energy sources, includi…

What's Small Is Big to TVA

The New York Times has come around to nuclear energy slowly, ever so slowly. There have been some very nice editorials and some that almost get to very nice. The editorial yesterday is called The Dirty Energy Party and is mostly about Republican efforts to rein in environmental rulemaking. You can judge that part for yourself. It was this paragraph that grabbed us: The main area of agreement between Mr. Obama and the Republicans seems to be nuclear power. Both sides support extensive loan guarantees to an industry that hasn’t built a new reactor in years but could supply a lot of clean power if it ever got going.I’d probably throw the Democratic party in there, too – support has gotten pretty broad based – and in a brief mention, I won’t quibble too much about the Times ignoring the new reactors in progress in Georgia and South Carolina and Alabama. In my mind, that's getting going. In any event, I’d chalk this editorial up as almost very nice.

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A little news from my favorite ut…

In the USA (Today) and Spain

Today’s editions of USA Today in many regions of the country include a special section on the nuclear energy industry.  The section includes a foreword by NEI President and CEO Marvin Fertel on the value of nuclear energy as well as articles and advertising from many nuclear energy companies. This isn’t online, so it actually requires getting the fingers a little inky to read it. But it’s USA Today – it’s just about everywhere. (If I can get hold of a pdf version, I’ll post it for you.) ---Twenty Greenpeace activists entered a nuclear reactor compound in eastern Spain early Tuesday and several of them climbed a refrigeration tower to protest the use of nuclear power, a Spanish official and Greenpeace spokeswomen said.There are a fair number of places where this kind of stunt might well make you a martyr to your cause. But as long as no one is hurt, Greenpeace’s little stabs at publicity will fall on fishy eyes that view the merry prankster approach as awfully yesterday. But wait:A pl…

The Department of Energy 2012 Budget

The DOE budget proposal for 2012 seeks to triple the department’s loan guarantee authority for new nuclear power plants, from $18.5 billion to a total of $54 billion, the same as requested for 2011. The budget also creates a new line item for small reactor licensing. Because Congress did not pass a budget to cover fiscal 2011, instead opting to fund the government at 2010 levels through continuing resolutions, several new programs included in the 2011 budget request failed to receive funding. Some of these programs have had their requests renewed in the 2012 request; others have been scrapped. In this year’s State of the Union address, President Obama proposed a clean energy standard, with the goal of generating 80 percent of U.S. electricity from clean energy sources by 2035. Nuclear energy, natural gas and clean coal, which have been excluded from previous attempts to create such a standard, are explicitly included in Obama’s standard, joining renewable energy sources as recognized me…

Squeaking By in Switzerland

Mühleberg, a town in Switzerland, has a nuclear power plant, it’s beginning to age, the writing is on the wall to shut it down. That’s the end of nuclear energy there, isn’t it? That what the town wants, right? Well, no: The people of canton Bern have voted in favor of building a new nuclear power plant in Mühleberg to replace the old one there. Now, this outcome was a little more controversial than that. The state (or canton) of Bern voted for this, but the city of Bern – which is Switzerland’s capital – voted against it. The canton’svote in favor was narrow – 51 percent – and the city’svote against rather large – 65 percent. Since the city of Bern is in the canton, the numbers suggest that people outside Bern supported this in rather larger numbers than that 51 percent. That would make sense – it’s the people of Muhleberg and surrounding areas that see the economic benefits from the plant.

In any event, the plant operator is pleased enough: "It is a positive signal for nuclear powe…

Dutch Winds Die Down

The Dutch have made a decision:In a radical change of policy, the Netherlands is reducing its targets for renewable energy and slashing the subsidies for wind and solar power. It's also given the green light for the country's first new nuclear power plants for almost 40 years.I’m not sure about this. I’d be inclined to think that the two decisions stand separate from one another – nuclear energy does not have to displace renewable energy sources and in fact, nuclear wind and solar are far better as a trio pursued together as carbon emission reduction agents.For another, The Netherlands is a small country. It’s current nuclear plant, Borssele, generates by itself almost 60 percent of the country’s electricity and will operate until 2034. Coal is the second largest generator, with about 38 percent. That’s the percentage that wind and solar and a second nuclear plant can target. Even more interesting is the reason given to abandon renewables:Wind and solar subsidies are too expen…

Food Versus Energy?

Today's Washington Post presents an op-ed by Timothy Searchinger titled, "How Biofuels Contribute to the Food Crisis". His main point is that the portion of crops devoted to biofuels has grown more rapidly than agricultural production in recent years. As a result, any stress on food production, e.g., drought in China or floods in Australia, leads to shortages or inflation in food for humans. Additionally, rapid economic development in China and elsewhere is increasing demand for meat, further stressing the world agricultural system and increasing the demand for water and energy.

Mr. Searchinger offers a hopeful outlook that the competition between food and energy production can be resolved through adjustments in policy and market responses. From our perspective, his article highlights the beauty of getting energy from a rock (uranium), and gives us another reason why China has 13 operating nuclear power plants and more than 25 under construction. The choice needn't …

As Gulf Prepares for Peak Oil, It Turns to Nuclear

Personally, I’ve always had my doubts about Saudi oil supplies. Sure, there’s some room for strategic ambiguity here. But when someone is playing their cards too close you always have to wonder if they’re just bluffing. The following article would seem to indicate that’s just what the Saudis have been doing. This morning’s story in the Guardian that US diplomats believed Saudi Arabia to have overstated their oil reserves should ring alarm bells around the energy world.Every time there is a debate about whether OPEC should raise production to lower oil prices [subscription req’d], many commentators argue it is irrelevant: that the Middle East doesn’t have as much oil as it says and that it can’t raise production enough to bring prices down.If this is true, it has serious consequences for the oil price. If OPEC doesn’t have the slack to up production and bring prices down, they will have a lot further to go above the $100 barrier.Simply put, the argument is this: Due to lower oil reserv…

Two-Year Educational Institutions Offer Pathways to Good Jobs, Says Harvard Report

A new report from Harvard’s Pathways to Prosperity Project contends that our nation’s strategy for secondary education places too much emphasis on a single career pathway—graduating from a four-year college—while losing sight of the myriad well-paying, skilled careers that require something other than a four-year degree. “The ‘college for all’ rhetoric that has been so much a part of the current education reform movement needs to be significantly broadened to become a ‘post-high-school credential for all’,” the report says.

While 70 percent of high school graduates go on to college, only 56 percent of those who enroll attain a bachelor’s degree after six years, the report says. Even more disturbing is the large number of high school dropouts. President Obama highlighted the concern about the dropout rate in a 2009 speech:
Three-quarters of the fastest-growing occupations require more than a high school diploma. And yet, just over half of our citizens have that level of education. We hav…

The Nuclear Plant that Wasn’t

Here’s an interesting story about a nuclear plant that didn’t get built in Easton NY in the late sixties (as the name implies, Easton is in far east New York state near the Vermont border):Town Supervisor John Rymph was [in Easton in 1967, when the plant was announced], and said that he remembered being excited and looking forward to, as many residents did, the plant and the changes it would bring. A comprehensive plan and the town's planning board both sprouted in the aftermath of news of the nuclear facility planned for Grandma Moses' birthplace. The local paper was excited, too:An editorial in the now defunct Cambridge-based Washington County Post proclaimed in March that "the atomic age had arrived on the local scene," but continued on to say that the "communities to be affected are far from being ready to meet the challenge." From this distance, we can’t really know what the Post saw as its community not being ready, as it certainly got itself ready f…

North to Minnesota, South to Australia

The news is good:No new Minnesota nuclear power plants are planned, but state senators overwhelmingly voted today to lift a 16-year-old moratorium on building one.“It is not a decision to construct a new nuclear power plant in the state of Minnesota...” Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch, R-Buffalo, said about the vote. “It is not a preference for nuclear power.”And that’s a pretty good rationale for lifting these bans on nuclear energy – about a dozen states still have them – because the safety records and electricity generation capacity of the plants have been good and because current thinking about energy suffers if nuclear energy is wedged out of the conversation. As Koch says, including it in deliberations doesn’t mean anything other than that.Well, hope springs eternal, never say never, and other similar clichés. Minnesota’s Prairie River and Monticello nuclear power plants (both operated by Xcel) now provide about 23 percent of the state’s electricity capacity, so it’s not as tho…

Billions and Billions of Fish

A number of environmental groups have put together a petition to close down New Jersey’s Salem nuclear plant. Norm Cohen of the Stop the Salem Nuke Fish Slaughter Campaign appears to be the mastermind here and he’s pretty convinced that fish are being killed by the plant. How many fish? A whole lot:Salem kills over 3 billion Delaware River fish a year, with changed technology they could reduce their fish kills by as much as, or even more than, 95%. By which he means cooling towers. Not being able to erect mandated cooling towers factored into a decision to shutter Oyster Creek early and Cohen rather disingenuously hides behind cooling towers to shut Salem. Why do I think that?With the Oyster Creek decision to shut down in 2019 now a done deal, officially sanctioned by the NRC, it is time to focus on Salem Units 1 and 2, and their continued slaughter of billions of fish and other aquatic life because of PSEG's refusal to invest in a closed cooling system (cooling towers) for their…

The Clean Energy Standard

The most striking element (from an energy perspective, certainly) of the State of the Union speech was President Barack Obama’s embrace of a clean energy standard. Recognizing that nuclear energy and natural gas can play significant roles in carbon emission reduction took the idea mainstream whereas it had previously been of interest mostly to energy wonks and policymakers. The change has been noticed. Here’s the Washington Post:The first is establishing a clean-energy standard expected to require that American utilities derive a certain amount of the electricity they provide from clean sources - the president mentioned 80 percent by 2035. Last year, Democrats opposed including nuclear energy or natural gas in that mix; Tuesday night, Mr. Obama included both.The Post really isn’t right that Democrats opposed nuclear energy. There was no clean energy standard bill last year and Democrats were not opposed to including nuclear in such a mix. Both major bills in the House (Waxman-Markey)…