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Showing posts from February, 2014

To Fast Track Nuclear Electricity

I’m sure the writer means “its first nuclear plant:”Kenya will soon have the first nuclear plant in efforts aimed at drastically reducing the cost of electricity and attracting international investors to the country.The reasons seem exact:[Deputy President Wiliiam Ruto] said, “We want to grow the economy at double digits, deal with unemployment, underemployment by creating more job opportunities in the country.”Ruto points out that “69 per cent of Kenyans … are not connected,” presumably to the electric grid. On the face of it, this all may seem a little unlikely, but let’s wait and see. Unlikelier things have happened and this could be very good for Kenya.For further research, look at the Kenya Nuclear Electricity Board. Mandate: “To fast track the development of Nuclear Electricity generation in Kenya.” Anyone can put up a web site, of course, but still, it points at serious intent.---From The Financial Times:Germany’s exports would have been €15bn higher last year if its industry …

Why the Tubes in the Steam Generator at St. Lucie Are Safe and Reliable

Last Saturday, the Tampa Bay Timespublished a story by Ivan Penn concerning wear in the steam generator tubes at FPL's St. Lucie Nuclear Power Plant. Earlier today, the paper published a letter to the editor from FPL's Joseph Jensen taking issue with the story's conclusions.

Steam generators are safe

The steam generators at the St. Lucie nuclear plant are safe. Since their replacement in 2007, our team of experienced engineers, with validation from independent experts and oversight from federal regulators, has inspected 100 percent of the tubes every 18 months during planned refueling outages. These inspections have shown that there are no tube integrity issues that would cause failure.

Steam generator tube wear is not a new issue in the nuclear industry. In fact, there is significant data and operating experience detailing how to safely monitor and manage this issue. Like belts in a car engine, a certain amount of wear is expected over time. But, with regular monitorin…

On Miles O'Brien

One reporter we follow very closely is PBS science reporter Miles O'Brien. He's reported a number of stories on the nuclear industry in the wake of Fukushima, including a November 2011 Frontline documentary called "Nuclear Aftershocks." As my colleague John Keeley noted in 2011, "O’Brien is a solid journo with a reputation for resisting the melodramatic and sensational in favor of substantive and balanced pieces."

Needless to say we were shocked and concerned when O'Brien reported on his own website that a freak accident had resulted in doctors having to amputate his left forearm just above the elbow. Apparently, O'Brien is back in the U.S. and doing his level best to adjust to a new reality. The good news: despite the accident, O'Brien seems to be facing his disability with resolve, determination and even a little bit of humor.
So I woke up to a new reality in the hospital. It’s been a challenging week dealing with the phantom pain, the vicissi…

Fukushima Monogatari: The Ongoing Saga of Reopening Japan’s Nuclear Plants

Predicting when Japan will reopen its nuclear facilities might make for a good office pool, but bad for energy policy. The government of Shinzo Abe wants to get it done but understandably wants all the t’s crossed:Japan will continue to rely on nuclear power as a central part of its energy policy under a draft government plan, effectively overturning a pledge by a previous administration to phase out all nuclear plants. That’s actually news, though it feels we’ve been in this room before.The proposed plan does get the basics right on the benefits of nuclear energy:[The proposal] says that "nuclear power is an important baseload electricity source," meaning that nuclear plants would remain at the core of power production along with coal-fired and hydroelectric power plants.Officials said nuclear energy remained an important way to reduce Japan's imports of fuel from the Middle East and limit carbon dioxide emissions. Mr. Abe has also described nuclear power as vital to k…

Around Burke County and in Waynesboro

A little early for editorials on the Plant Vogtle loan guarantees. We took a look at Plant Vogtle’s local newspaper, The Waynesboro True Citizen, to see if it had weighed in and found this story:Burke County residents celebrated the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. by giving back to the community. … Rather than taking the day [MLK Day] off, members of Citizens of Georgia Power – Plant Vogtle Chapter, along with their spouses and children, participated in “A Day of Service” by teaming up with the Magnolia Acres Community Empowerment Committee to beautify the grounds in the neighborhood. … “This project wasn’t just about us coming out to do landscaping,” Citizens of Georgia Power member Katrina Bivins said. “We chose this because it gives us an opportunity to mentor these kids while doing the work.” This is very typical small town newspaper stuff – I wrote a fair amount of it for a different Georgia paper years ago - still, it’s a reminder that Vogtle is a major employer in the area. Bu…

NEI Launches "Future of Energy" Campaign

The following is a guest post from NEI’s President and CEO, Marv Fertel.

By its very nature, diversity is an attribute that we desire.  Regardless of whether it’s the diversity of ideas, the colleagues with whom we work, or the options in any given strategy, diversity should be championed. On the concept of diversity, most people ”get it,” but few recognize when we are on a path to lose it.
Such is the case in the electric sector. Many energy leaders from the Department of Energy, state public utility commissioners and other regulators only recently have begun to recognize the potential erosion of diversity in our electric supply system. This is due to the closure of base load power plants, including significant coal-fired production. Four nuclear reactors have shut down in the past year and others are at risk in competitive markets that have become skewed by layers of policy decisions. 
Maintaining diversity of supply is a theme of a new NEI campaign, aimed on communicating the ne…

DOE Finalizes Plant Vogtle Loan Guarantee

Here’s the good news:The nuclear industry applauds the Department of Energy and Southern Company for fulfilling the promise of the clean-energy loan guarantee program enacted by Congress in 2005. The agreement demonstrates the Obama administration’s recognition of the key role nuclear energy must play in a successful clean energy policy. U.S. nuclear energy facilities have proven their ability to provide reliable, affordable electricity while protecting the environment.Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz announced this yesterday at a luncheon and you may well be thinking that this happened a while ago – even a long while ago. Well, yes and no. Previous Energy Secretary Steven Chu announced the guarantee to Southern Company in 2010. Reuters picks up the story from there:But record low natural gas prices, tepid growth in electricity demand and the lack of a federal cap on carbon emissions have kept any such revival at bay.Now only a few new reactors are projected to be built and Vogtle is th…

Wind Ambitions “Chipped Away” and the EPA’s Unexpected Take on Nuclear Energy

There’s no particular reason for us to rag on wind energy, our gusty cousin, but in case you thought throwing up a few windmills was easy:Birds, sharks and unexploded bombs from World War II are being blamed for holding up offshore wind farms, raising doubts about the costs of the technology. and: The U.K. market is crucial to the industry because it’s the biggest source of new projects and accounts for more than half the global installed capacity. Prime Minister David Cameron’s government has set incentives for offshore wind through 2019, hoping to stimulate clean-energy jobs. Those ambitions are being chipped away as developers better understand the costs of the projects. Utilities have canceled as much as 5,760 megawatts of planned capacity since Nov. 26, when RWE AG dropped its 1,200 megawatt Atlantic Array. And:EON, a German utility, along with Dong Energy A/S and Masdar Abu Dhabi Future Energy Co. yesterday abandoned plans to expand the 630-megawatt London Array by as much as 2…

On Wall Street and All Around the Electricity Grid

If you missed NEI’s Wall Street Briefing last week – and you might have if you were in a snow bound part of the country – there was off key singing, a scandal and a major fistfight. Well, ok, none of that, but a pretty good overview of the nuclear world in 2013 and 14. You can watch the archived webcast here and view the slides use at the presentation (as a PDF) here. It’s handy to have the latter at hand while viewing the former. What you can’t see is how well attended and managed the event was, especially during a major snowfall. The trick in succeeding at this kind of event is to make sure the media has an opportunity to talk to the speakers. You can see the print press in action during the Q&A, but TV and radio reporters need special consideration – and got it, with several of the speakers able to appear on camera or on microphone to do one-on-one interviews. This is important, because it gets the messages at the briefing out to a larger audience – the one that doesn’t read ne…

Back to the Old Nuclear Arguments–in a Good Way

The argument advanced by Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) – that taking down baseload energy plants has the capacity to destabilize the grid – a couple posts down should not lead anyone to imagine that the tired old arguments are anywhere near dead – or old or tired, for that matter.Lyons says a major problem is that the market presently has no mechanism to sensibly recognize the value of carbon-free power generation, particularly nuclear power. “When well-run, clean [nuclear] energy sources are forced out of the marketplace due to a combination of reduced demand, low natural gas prices and market structure,” Lyons was quoted as saying by the Greenwire energy-news service, “our markets are providing the wrong signals.”Lyons here is Peter Lyons, the Department of Energy’s assistant secretary for nuclear energy. He was also an NRC commissioner in his time. So he may be an interested party but also an extremely knowledgeable one.Lyons said that the DOE studied a scenario where 30 percent …

Billionaire’s Nuclear Dream: House of Cards Returns for Season 2

D.C., rejoice! Season 2 of "House of Cards" is almost here. If you haven’t seen the first season, spend your snow day binge-watching because tomorrow we get the next chapter in this thrilling political drama. The award-winning series—centered on Kevin Spacey's Frank Underwood, House Majority Whip and ultimate political schemer—is filled with nuanced characters, excellent performances and unexpected plot twists.

Want an even better reason to watch? Nuclear energy gets some time to shine. Energy is touched upon peripherally throughout the series, and by season's end, the plot hits upon the nation’s energy supply and nuclear’s role in it. For those wanting a quick recap of how nuclear energy ties in during season 1, read on.

[Spoilers ahead] In the penultimate episode, Underwood visits billionaire Raymond Tusk to vet him as a possible replacement for Vice President. Tusk, an influential friend of the President, is a big investor in nuclear power:
Underwood: You think …

NEI’s Wall Street Briefing

Every February, NEI briefs Wall Street analysts and media on the nuclear energy industry – both where it’s been in the previous year and where it’s going the current year.

The briefing will address 2013 power plant performance, 2014 priorities, the impact of changes in electricity markets, the status of new nuclear plant construction, small modular reactor development and a lot more. It’s really worth watching if you follow nuclear energy. It starts tomorrow, February 13, at 8:30 am EST. A webcast is available and it will be live tweeted (twittered, tweetered) at @N_E_I and @NEI_media (#NEIWSB).
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I was curious after reading through Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s report on grid stability yesterday (see post below) as to where plants fired by other than nuclear energy are located in the United States. It’s certainly possible to just assume that where there is a nuclear facility, it basically makes all the electricity for that part of the state, but that’s just naïve. You mean there still are…

Sen. Lisa Murkowski: “A wake-up call to the continued importance of baseload capacity.”

There’s absolutely no reason for a senator from Alaska to be so knowledgeable about nuclear energy, yet Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) is and has been one of its staunchest advocates. This is doubtless because she is the ranking member of the Environment and Natural Resources committee. Congressmen can be notoriously poor at learning the relevant issues of their committees, but Murkowski isn’t one of them – she really knows her energy beans and, as a bonus, has been one of the least ideologically driven members of the committee. She has worked comfortably with (the very liberal) Chairman Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) on legislation that avoids partisan potholes and aims to fix problems in the energy realm.  So we were very interested to see what Murkowski had to offer at the winter NARUC (National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners) meeting here in DC. She used the occasion to release an unusually on-point report called “Powering the Future: Ensuring that Federal Policy Fully Sup…

Japan, UAE (Sharjah This Time) and Sadness in Vermont

From Japan:A candidate backed by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe won Sunday's election for governor of Tokyo, frustrating a rival's efforts to make the vote a referendum on the Japanese leader's pro-nuclear energy policy nearly three years after the Fukushima disasterThe widely-expected victory by former health minister Yoichi Masuzoe comes as a relief for Abe, who had suffered a rare setback in another local election last month.So Abe lost one and won one – which proves only that Japanese voters are tough to move on a single issue – and that nuclear energy is not a potent enough issue, if it ever was, to sway elections. ---A striking example of how a nuclear energy facility can benefit neighboring communities:The University of Sharjah has announced that three nuclear energy laboratories worth Dh7 million will be set up in the university, with the aim of preparing highly qualified human cadres specialized in nuclear power.The first ever integrated laboratory for students of the …

The Downside of Saying No: Nuclear Energy in Australia

The Australian energy business is an imperfect analogue to the American – the antipodean market has its own quirks, but both leave electricity production to private industry, not to the government. So a report on Australia’s energy policies can be seen as having utility on this side of the world. All that said, a report from the Energy Policy Institute of Australia is less interesting as a potential alternate guide for America than for what it says about nuclear energy.In the interests of reducing policy uncertainty and of lowering the risk to investment in the energy industry, governments should no longer pursue energy policy and climate policy independently of each other – governments must integrate energy policy and climate policy into a coherent whole, whilst they continue to facilitate open energy markets.This does sound like something applicable to the United States. In any event, it leads to this recommendation:The continuation of the prohibition of nuclear power generation in…

Nuclear Cyber Security and Its Discontents

The minority (that is, the Republicans) on the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs committee released a report that shows a number of federal agencies, including the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, exercising lax cyber security. In some instances, the brew is rather weak – antivirus software has not been updated at some agencies, which probably has Symantec worried - but there’s some substantial stuff in it, too. This sums up the report’s finding on the NRC:Yet just about every aspect of that process [addressing cyber security weaknesses] appears to be broken at the NRC. Problems were identified but never scheduled to be fixed; fixes were scheduled but not completed; fixes were recorded as complete when they were not. The first thing to note is that this has nothing whatever to do with cyber security at nuclear energy facilities. In some ways, this report confuses network security with what is a much broader topic. Government agency network security has been low hanging …

Welcome to the Nuclear Club, Poland!

It’s always particularly interesting when a country that has never used nuclear energy – when it could have – decides to start an industry. UAE is a recent example of this. Poland is another: Donald Tusk, the prime minister, and his cabinet finally adopted the Polish nuclear power program on January 28th, giving the green light to construction of the country's first nuclear-power plant.I somehow bypassed Poland while touring around eastern Europe in the mid-80s, but I would say that based on my experience of Hungary and East Germany’s wretched air quality, it is not a big surprise why Poland might turn this way.Currently, hard coal and lignite are used to produce roughly 88% of the electrical grid. Dependence on Russian gas imports, and pressure from Brussels to reduce carbon emissions by 2020 beyond the 20% level previously already agreed, have pushed the government to look for alternatives.That’ll do it, all right. The Economist put this story in its Ex-Communist blog and I’…