Thursday, June 30, 2005

President Bush Reinforces His Support for Nuclear Energy

Earlier this week, President Bush sat down with two reporters from the Times (U.K.) ahead of the G8 Summit. At one point, the conversation turned to energy policy, global warming and climate change:

I believe that greenhouse gases are creating a problem, a long-term problem that we got to deal with. And step one of dealing with it is to fully understand the nature of the problem so that the solutions that follow make sense.

There's an interesting confluence now between dependency upon fossil fuels from a national economic security perspective, as well as the consequences of burning fossil fuels for greenhouse gases. And that's why it's important for our country to do two things.

One is to diversify away from fossil fuels, which we're trying to do. I think we're spending more money than any collection of nations when it comes to not only research and development of new technologies, but of the science of global warming. You know, laid out an initiative for hydrogen fuel cells. We're doing a lot of work on carbon sequestration. We hope to have zero emissions coal-fired electricity plants available for the United States as well as neighbours and friends and developing nations.

I'm a big believer that the newest generation of nuclear power ought to be a source of energy and we ought to be sharing these technologies with developing countries.
It's probably important to note that sharing U.S. nuclear technology with India is a major pillar of the new strategic relationship between the two countries.

UPDATE: Russ Steele has some related thoughts.

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Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Grassroots Environmentalists Begin to Rebel on Nuclear Opposition

Last week, a coalition of 232 environmental groups released a statement reiterating their opposition to the expansion of the use of nuclear energy. One of the organizations that signed on to the document was the Wisconsin Public Interest Research Group (WISPIRG), that state's chapter of the U.S. Public Interest Research Group, U.S. PIRG.

Reading through their statement, you'd get the impression that just about everybody inside these these organizations was dead set against nuclear energy.

And that impression would be wrong.

Recently, blogger and WISPIRG supporter Phil Nelson received an email from Jennifer Giegerich, WISPIRG's State Director, urging him to join the fight against the incentives for new nuclear build contained in the comprehensive energy bill that just passed the Senate yesterday.

Phil had other ideas. He expressed them in an email he recently set to WISPIRG and published on his blog:

I am a paying member and long time supporter of your organization, however I really disagree with your point of view on this topic. I live in Green Bay, within site of a large coal pile and downwind of the output of the Pulliam power plant as well as an industrial stack. Between coal dust from the piles and output of the stacks, I have to breathe this every day. I have to clean it off my house every day. The consequences are real, and they are real now, something that is not the case with the 2 nuclear power plants within 30 miles of my house . . .

The policies WISPIRG and others support can at best only slow the hard decisions about what to do, unfortunately prolonging the existing problems rather than building a complete vision of a long term strategy that could actually work. I think nuclear power should be in that vision along with a set of inspired plans for dealing with the waste. The waste is a huge problem, but not bigger than the combined size of a Montana strip mines, Green Bay coal piles, coastal oil slicks, melted artic tundra, lost Atlantic shoreline, sunken pacific islands, forests and lakes lost to acid rain or wars fought to "protect" our oil supply. Please consider making some of these hard choices when you formulate your policies going forward.
As we've said before, as hard as some environmental extremists might try, they can't spin away the fact that cracks are developing in their community when it comes to nuclear energy.

POSTSCRIPT: The two plants that Phil refers to are Kewaunee in Carlton Township, and Point Beach 1 and 2 in Two Creeks. Together, these three reactors supply more than 20 percent of Wisconsin's electricity.

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Tuesday, June 28, 2005

One of These Things is Not Like the Other...

Can you tell the difference?

This photo is from the pro-nuclear rally in Jackson today:

This one is from the anti-nuclear protest a short time later:

Hint: Count the heads!

Pro-Nukes rally in Jackson, MS

I would like to add a few details to Eric’s post about the events in Mississippi.

First, I would like to congratulate the folks of the local Mississippi section of the American Nuclear Society (ANS) for taking the lead in organizing such a successful event. I would also like to thank the NA-YGN members that have supported the efforts. Members of the chapter in Charlotte, NC even created and sent posters to demonstrate their support!

Today began with a media blitz. Michael Stuart, North American Young Generation in Nuclear (NA-YGN) Public Information chair, and Scott Peterson, Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI) Vice-President of Communications, were interviewed on the morning talk show of WAPT, the local ABC affiliate.

At the same time, Norris McDonald, president of the African American Environmentalist Association, and Jim Reinsch, president of the American Nuclear Society (ANS) and president of Bechtel Power Corporation, appeared on a similar talk show on WAPT, the local NBC affiliate.

Not wanting to exclude people that were already engaged in their morning commute, NA-YGN members Kelly Taylor and Bill Casino were guests for the Paul Gallo show which was described to me as the biggest morning radio show in Mississippi. Participating by telephone were a local anti-nuclear activist and Jim Riccio from Greenpeace in Washington, DC. At one point, Riccio was spewing untruths about the security and functioning of a power plant control room. As a former licensed operator, Kelly responded with the facts. Gallo then chastened Riccio telling him that he loses credibility when he regurgitates information he gleaned from questionable media sources in the presence of someone who has experience operating a plant.

The pro-nuclear rally went very well, though temperatures soared into the 90s. About 85 people were there holding banners, carrying signs, and even participating in chants led by Norris McDonald! The speakers at the rally included:

Jim Reinsch
Mayor Amelda Arnold, City of Port Gibson, Miss.
Norris McDonald
Michael Stuart
James Miller, County Administrator, Claiborne County
Scott Peterson

Local news outlets covered the rally for their noon broadcasts. When I spoke to Kelly, she told me that an anti-nuclear rally was scheduled to begin shortly at the Capitol, and unfortunately, it had started to rain.

As Eric mentioned, the ANS and NA-YGN crew are heading to Port Gibson tonight for the NRC hearing and we will post reports as soon as we get them.

The ESP Hearing in Grand Gulf, Mississippi

Tonight at City Hall in Port Gibson, Mississippi, the NRC will conduct a public hearing on the draft environmental impact statement concerning Entergy's application for an early site permit (ESP) at the Grand Gulf ESP site.

Starting early this morning, NEI Nuclear Notes contributors Kelly Taylor and Michael Stuart have been on the scene in the state capital of Jackson, talking to the media about the benefits of nuclear energy, and what a new plant could do for the local and regional economy.

And, as Charles Seabrook of the Cox News Service recently reported, the locals are excited at the prospect of the construction of a new plant:

The local enthusiasm for a new plant was a major reason for Port Gibson's inclusion last week on NuStart's list of finalists. Later this year, the consortium will choose two sites to apply for licenses from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission at which to build and operate nuclear power plants. Obtaining a license could take years.
In December, the Claiborne County Board of Supervisors passed a resolution in support of a new plant after Entergy announced that Port Gibson was being eyed as a possible site. Inclusion on NuStart's list will make the town's bid even stronger.

"We want a new nuclear plant here," said Charles Shorts, the board's president. "We want everyone to understand that."

Port Gibson's mayor and board of aldermen also passed resolutions in early January, strongly encouraging the industry to build another Grand Gulf reactor.

"Nuclear energy is a safe, low-cost, emission-free source of power that is not dependent on foreign oil and gas," said Mayor Amelda Arnold. "We need more of it."
Yesterday I checked in with my colleague David Bradish to get a better idea on just how a new plant at Grand Gulf might help meet local electricity demand in the near future.

Mississippi is part of the Southeast Electric Reliability Council (SERC), an area that comprises all or part of 10 states. According to EIA, electricity demand in the area will increase 51% by 2025 (1.9% per year). More importantly, nuclear's contribution to electrical generation will peak in 2015 -- which means that the only way to add more non-emitting baseload generation would be by building a new nuclear power plant.

Pro-nuclear protesters at the Capitol

At 11:30 a.m. local time, Entergy employees and other concerned citizens took their case to the Capitol in Jackson, and held a rally in support of the plant. This is something the industry is doing more often these days, as it gets more aggressive in delivering the facts on nuclear energy to the public.

Kelly and Mike are now off to Port Gibson to attend the hearing, and they've both promised me a report once the hearing is through. Stay tuned for more details.

The Regulatory Environment in Nuclear Energy

In an analysis of an editorial in Sunday's New York Times, Half Sigma makes a case for nuclear energy:

But the NY Times editorial fails the mention the most important thing our government should be doing, which is to allow the use of nuclear power again. I say 'allow'” because our policies make it clear that nuclear power is not favored. After the Shoreham Nuclear Power Station fiasco in which billions of dollars were spent to build a power plant that was then closed and never used, no private company is going to build a nuclear power plant again unless the regulatory environment is changed, and that requires government action.
Actually, a lot about the regulatory environment has improved in recent years -- so much so, that the NuStart Energy consortium is committed to testing the new combined construction and operating license (COL) process that could lead to the construction of a new nuclear power plant.

There have been other changes as well, in particular, the rise of safety-focused regulation and the application of the principle of "realistic conservatism" on the part of the NRC and reactor operators. Back in March, NEI President and CEO Skip Bowman addressed this issue at the NRC's annual Regulatory Information Conference:
In short, reactor safety, security and emergency planning should work synergistically, in a conservative, but realistic way, to protect public health and safety regardless of whether challenges to plant safety are operational, acts of God, or acts of terrorists.

In the past, pure deterministic regulatory approaches led, in some cases, to gross over design in the zeal to build in unrealistic margins to protect against unrealistic events. This new concept, introduced only a few years ago, calls for application of realistic engineering, physics and experience centered on safety.

The NRC took the first step in this direction when it transformed the reactor oversight process to common sense, objective criteria that are focused on those systems and components that are most important to safety.

First thought to be unworkable, the safety-focused reactor oversight process demonstrates that this concept can work and bring practical discipline and rigor to the process.
Indeed, much has changed about the regulatory process in recent years. So much so, that NRC Chairman Nils Diaz has said that no one can credibly claim that the NRC's regulatory oversight process is standing in the way of new plant construction.

Granted, there is still plenty of uncertainty to deal with, including making sure that the new COL process works as intended. Eventual passage of the energy bill will help too. So while some obstacles remain to the construction of new nuclear capacity, the landscape is looking brighter for the nuclear sector than it has in several decades.

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France to Host ITER

From Reuters:

Science's quest to find a cheap and inexhaustible way to meet global energy needs took a major step forward on Tuesday when a 30-nation consortium chose France to host the world's first nuclear fusion reactor.

After months of wrangling, France defeated a bid from Japan and signed a deal to site the 10-billion-euroexperimental reactor in Cadarache, near Marseille.

The project will seek to turn seawater into fuel by mimicking the way the sun produces energy. It would be cleaner than current nuclear reactors, would not rely on enriched uranium fuel or produce plutonium.

But critics argue it could be at least 50 years before a commercially viable reactor is built, if at all.
For more details on the project, click here.

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Senate Passes Energy Bill 85-12; Conference With House is Next

That's the news from the Senate floor. We'll post the roll call when it becomes available. Up next is the conference with the House, where the differences between the House and Senate version of the bill will be reconciled. If all goes according to plan, the bill should reach the President's desk before the start of the August recess.

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Blogger Takes on Caldicott

Helen Caldicott is at it again, fortunately this time, we're not the only ones who are noticing. Here's The View from Benambra:

[T]he biggest problem with Caldicott's argument is that she doesn't examine the alternatives. And, even if we accept nuclear power is bad, the alternatives are far worse.

Sure, we have to store nuclear waste for an indefinite period. That's not unique. There is also considerable amounts of other toxic industrial waste that humanity is currently storing indefinitely - in countries with nuclear power programs nuclear waste represents only 1% of the stuff they have to store. And, as for spreading pollutants over its neighbours, I go back to it again; coal kills almost as many Yanks annually as car accidents do. Given the choice between nuclear and coal - and, whether Dr. Caldicott likes it or not, that's what the choice will likely be - I'll take nuclear any day.
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Another Blogger For Nuclear Energy

Meet Brian Horvath.

The Choice for American Environmentalists

In a post about climate change legislation, John Atkinson lays out the choice environmentalists have to make about nuclear energy:

At the end of the day, this means that many American environmentalists still want to prioritize the proven-but- extremely-small environmental risks associated with nuclear power plants above the theoretical-but- seemingly-likely environmental risks from climate change - orrrr, they are still in denial of the fact that they have to make this choice. I'm guessing that the latter is more the case.
Here's one example of what John is talking about.

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Monday, June 27, 2005

Why Oswego is "Anti-Anti-Nuclear"

Over the past few months, we've been following news coming out of Oswego, New York that local residents there are lobbying hard for a new nuclear reactor. Over the weekend, reporter Michael Risint of the Journal News, one of the newspapers that most closely follows news coming out of the Indian Point Energy Center, took a trip to Oswego to see why that was the case:

"You tend to hear 'Indian Point, Indian Point,' " said Jill Lyons, a Constellation spokeswoman, referring to industry chatter about nuclear plant opposition. "But the community (here) tends to be anti-anti-nuclear."
Further . . .
But for many in and around Oswego, nuclear energy means a paycheck. Colleen Caramella has worked at FitzPatrick for 18 years and said the plant gives her, her husband, Joe, (a five-year employee) and their three sons a stable life. Amy Skinner's husband is an operator at Constellation.

"I don't think there's any downside (to a fourth reactor)," Skinner said as her children, Garrett, 9, and Kelly, 6, swam in the family's in-ground pool, the plant's tower hidden behind the trees.
Thanks to the Oswego Blog for the pointer.
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India Nuclear Energy Update

It looks like cooperation in the civilian nuclear energy sector will be on the table when Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh visits Washington next month:

Assessing the weekend talks with the visiting US Under Secretary of State Nicholas Burns, officials here described the talks on nuclear cooperation as “work in progress”.

“The declaratory phase on the intent to cooperate on nuclear energy is over,” the officials said. But they added that negotiations on the specifics might go right down to the wire.

Singh and Bush are due to meet in Washington on July 18.

Both sides are aware that concrete cooperation in the nuclear energy area is necessary to demonstrate the seriousness of the plans to transform Indo-US relations.
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Roundup on President Bush's Visit to Calvert Cliffs

Good morning to all of the readers of NEI's Nuclear Energy Overview, our member-only newsletter. The following summary is especially for those of you who have come here looking for a summary of President Bush's historic visit to Calvert Cliffs Nuclear Power Plant, as well as a roundup of reactions from around the Web to the President's speech on expanding the use of nuclear energy. To read our coverage from the June 22 visit, click here. For our followup post on reaction to what the President had to say, click here.

Friday, June 24, 2005

On Environmentalists and Nuclear Energy

Yesterday on NPR's program, Day by Day, correspondent Mike Pesca filed a report that the broadcaster slugged, "Environmentalists Reconsider Nuclear Energy." But after listening to the report, I'd have to say that it left the impression that serious environmentalists weren't really reconsidering their position at all.

Instead of talking to, or mentioning figures like Patrick Moore, James Lovelock and Stewart Brand, Pesca only did interviews with Navin Nyack of U.S. PIRG and Fred Krupp of Environmental Defense. Nyack, as you would have to expect, was hostile, while Krupp's support seemed lukewarm at best. l

At one point in the piece, Nyack began to mention all of the environmental groups that have taken a public stance against nuclear energy. But as we saw last week with the press announcement concerning a coalition of groups repeating their opposition to nuclear energy, those numbers seem to have been padded. And I'll reiterate a point I've made before: the list that was released that day communicated more about the mainstream environmental groups who weren't listed than the ones it did.

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Futurepundit on Wind Energy

Over at Futurepundit earlier this week, Randall Parker engaged in a detailed discussion of wind energy and its drawbacks:

I like scenic vistas. I don't understand why environmental groups are willing to support wind power. Would they rather ruin scenic vistas than build nuclear power plants? I guess so. They even want to use taxpayers money and higher electric prices to subsidize the ruin of scenery. How about you? do you mind seeing wind towers 20 miles off on mountain tops or coast lines? I can see putting them 30 miles offshore beyond view of most people.
As we mentioned on Wednesday, nuclear has a much smaller footprint than wind, due in part to its tremendous advantage in operational efficiency.

Now does that mean we should stop investing in wind power? No, not at all. Wind is a promising technology that someday may provide more electrical energy than the small fraction that it does today. But when it comes to meeting near-term demand for electricity in the next 25 years, nuclear needs to be part of the solution.

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Thursday, June 23, 2005

More Bloggers For Nuclear Energy

Some talk has been generated around the Blogosphere about President Bush's visit to the Calvert Cliffs Nuclear Power Plant, and the renewal of his call for America to make expanded use of nuclear energy.

Reality Hammer: "It's about time . . . You cannot wait until the price of oil reaches $100 a barrel!"

Jon Whitelaw: "Welcome to our future, it looks bright indeed, and Bush has made a step in the right direction with this news."

Rich Tehrani: " Nuclear is an option that if deployed securely, can work well to help supply part of the world's energy needs."

More later.

UPDATE: Rhyme of the Day has some interesting thoughts:

This message is brought to you by nuclear power. Well, 70% of it, anyway.

That's the percentage of Chicago electricity that comes from nukes, and they're talking about building a new one! I'm rather relieved see that nuclear energy is somehow becoming politically acceptable again.
ANOTHER UPDATE: There's plenty of local reaction from around the nation as well. Here's one report from California's Central Coast:
Here on the Central Coast, those responsible for operating Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant say they are encouraged by the Commander-in-Chief's comments.

"People are starting to realize and focus on that this is an important asset that nuclear power brings to the table," says Jeff Lewis, of PG&E.
The President's speech has people thinking in East Tennessee and Illinois as well.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Here's Eric Hopp:
For once, I will have to agree with President Bush. We do need to start looking at designing and building new nuclear power plants. The technology has certainly advanced dramatically in the last 30 years. We need to start looking at new, innovative designs for nuclear reactors which can incorporate better environmental and safety concerns. This is certainly one method to reduce U.S. oil consumption for its energy needs.
When it comes to new plant designs, that means Generation IV. Later, Eric does express some concerns about the way plants are regulated. For those of you who want to investigate the issue further, you might want to read Skip Bowman's speech from the NRC's Regulatory Information Conference from last March.

AFTERNOON UPDATE: The newswire over at the Huffington Post ran an item on Matt Wald's story in the New York Times, and some of the comments are very revealing. Here's one comment that came in response to a challenge to see if anyone would be willing to live near a nuclear power plant:
I've lived by a plant for many years and I don't think its a big deal. Where else are we going to get the power we need? I've yet to hear a viable alternative to nuclear power.
The following came in response to concerns about reactor safety:
A nuclear plant is not a nuclear bomb.

Building nuclear plants with modern technology is a smart thing to do.

And any of the crowd should be happy to get behind this.
Some commenters were evidently fed up with radical environmentalists:
Its time to put up or shut up. Either the environmental movement is interested in saving up from global warming- or its all a smokescreen for their war on industrialism.
Let's end on this surprisingly well informed comment:
Solar, wind, and the like need another 25-50 years of investment, and even then they will be a relatively small percentage of the energy mix. Today they comprise less than 1%.

Nuclear is the way to go...which will help bring down the price of electricity, thus making electric cars more viable (battery technologies are continuing to make huge strides as well, and investment in nuclear energy will indirectly fuel even more R&D into battery technology).

As for the "security threat" of nuclear power plants: let's just say that they will be far better protected than all the mass-transit systems and bridges that have somehow emerged from 9/11 unscathed. Stop the fearmongering.
More later.

FINAL UPDATE: Here's Matt from Matt's Blog:
Why don't the environmentalists realize that nuclear power is the only viable option on the table that offers the energy we need without release CO2 or toxins? Windmills and hybrids are totally insufficient. In fact, they are insignificant.

I disagree with the assertion that safety concerns have not been addressed. Accidents (or mistakes) like those in the past are not feasible in modern nuclear facilities.
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Wednesday, June 22, 2005

President Bush at Calvert Cliffs

The following is an excerpt from the speech President Bush delivered today at the Calvert Cliffs Nuclear Power Plant in Lusby, MD:

The energy bill will also help us expand our use of the one energy source that is completely domestic, plentiful in quantity, environmentally friendly, and able to generate massive amounts of electricity, and that's nuclear power. (Applause.)

Today, there are 103 nuclear plants in America. They produce about 20 percent of the nation's electricity without producing a single pound of air pollution or greenhouse gases. I think you told me that 20 percent of all Maryland's electricity is produced here at this plant. Without these nuclear plants, America would released nearly 700 million metric tons more carbon dioxide into the air each year. That's about the same amount of carbon dioxide that now comes from all our cars and trucks.

Across this state, Maryland has looked to Calvert Cliffs to keep their lights on and to keep their land, air and water clean. In other words, you're generating electricity and helping the environment at the same time. That's an important combination of talents and -- it's an important combination of -- that the American people have got to understand it's possible when we expand nuclear power.

Nuclear power is one of America's safest sources of energy. People out here practice a lot of safety, they're good at it. You've got nuclear engineers and experts that spend a lot of time maintaining a safe environment. Just ask the people that work here. You wouldn't be coming here if it wasn't safe, I suspect. (Laughter.)

Some Americans remember the problems of the nuclear plants -- that the nuclear plants had back in the 1970s. We all remember those days. That frightened a lot of folks. People have got to understand that advances in sciences and engineering and plant design have made nuclear plants far safer, far safer than ever before. Workers and managers are trained and committed and spend hours working on nuclear safety, and that's good. And they do such a good job here at Calvert Cliffs that this was the first nuclear plant in America to gets its operating license renewed. And I congratulate you. (Applause.)

There is a growing consensus that more nuclear power will lead to a cleaner, safer nation. Slowly but surely, people are beginning to look at the facts. One of the reasons I've come to this plant is to help people understand the difference between fact and fiction. Yet, even though there has been a growing consensus over time, America has not ordered a nuclear plant since the 1970s. By contrast, France has built 58 nuclear plants in the same period of time. By contrast, China now has eight nuclear plants in the works and plans to build at least 40 more over the next two decades.

In the 21st century, our nation will need more electricity, more safe, clean, reliable electricity. It is time for this country to start building nuclear power plants again. (Applause.)

We're taking practical steps to encourage new construction of power plants. Three years ago, we launched the Nuclear Power 2010 Initiative, which is a $1.1 billion partnership between government and industry to coordinate the ordering of new plants. The Department of Energy is working with Congress to reduce uncertainty in the nuclear plant licensing process. Look, you don't want to go out and build a plant, spend all the money, and have the license jerked at the last minute. (Laughter.) Nobody's going to spend money if that's the case.

And so we want to have a rational way to move forward, and one rational way to move forward is to provide incentives for new construction such as federal risk insurance, to help the builders of the first four plants -- that's what's now embedded in the energy bill -- first four plants against lawsuits and bureaucratic obstacles and other delays beyond their control. In other words, there's a rational approach for the federal government -- on the one hand, to convince the American people nuclear power is safe, that it makes sense for our consumers, it makes sense for the long-term economic security of our country to expand nuclear power; and on the other hand, say to those who are risking capital, here's some help, here's some ways we can provide incentive for you to move forward with the construction of plants.
To read the entire wavefront of news coverage on the President's speech, click here for a Google News search. And judging by some of the clips, it looks like the President's message got through.

UPDATE: For a video report from Baltimore's WBAL-TV, click here. NEI's own Steve Kerekes will be interviewed on WAVA-FM here in Washington at 6:15 p.m. EDT. Click here to listen live. And finally, look for a piece on nuclear energy on tonight's edition of NBC Nightly News.

BLOGOSPHERE REACTION UPDATE: Jason Cuevas liked what he heard from the President today:
I totally agree that we need to build more nuclear plants. There is an enviromental issue of radioactive waste, but it is not as big an issue as what oil and coal do to our enviroment. Not to mention that they are resources that will run out while nuclear power is endless. We need to find other sources for more of our power and nuclear power really is the most viable option.
Over at Truth in Politics, Joe is offering up an interesting deal:
But I'm fine with more nuclear power plants as long as they match it with renewable resources. If they construct 1 Megawatt of nuclear production, I want another 1 Megawatt of wind production, by the same folks.
Unfortunately, one megawatt of nuclear electric generating capacity and one megawatt of wind electric generating capacity are not the same. To get an idea of what I'm talking about, you need to understand operational efficiency:
Operational Efficiency is measured using a measure called capacity factor. Capacity factor is the ratio of the total electricity that a plant produced during a year compared to the total potential electricity that would have been produced if the plant operated at 100 percent power during every hour of the year. It is essentially the percentage of electricity that a plant produced compared to the electricity that it could have produced operating constantly at peak output.
In 2004, according to the Energy Information Administration, the capacity factor of nuclear energy averaged 90.5 percent. Wind energy's capacity factor was only 32.1 percent. So, roughly, one megawatt of nuclear is about three times as efficient as wind.

Here's another way to look at it. According to my colleague David Bradish, replacing a typical nuclear power plant of 1,000 megawatts capacity would require a wind farm covering 150,000 acres. In some cases, nuclear energy's footprint is even smaller. For example, the Millstone Nuclear Power Plant's two reactors have a capacity of 1,900 megawatts, yet the plant sits on a site of only 500 acres.

Now let's take it up another level. In total, the electric generating capacity of America's 103 nuclear power plants is about 100,000 megawatts. If you wanted to replace that capacity with wind power, it would take a wind farm the size of the state of Wisconsin.

The Left Coaster is skeptical:
Sure, Pete Domenici and others in the GOP leadership will pat themselves on the back for getting their arms twisted and passing something this year that in truth does nothing to address global warming or make us energy independent.
Really? Here are some numbers to keep in mind when it comes to nuclear energy and avoidance of greenhouse gas emissions:
Over one-third of total voluntary greenhouse gas emissions reductions. According to the Energy Information Administration of the U.S. Department of Energy, nuclear power plants were responsible for 37 percent of the total voluntary reductions in greenhouse gas emissions reported by U.S. companies in 2003. Nuclear plants reported avoiding 122 million metric tons of CO2 that year. In 2002, nuclear power plants were responsible for 35 percent of total voluntary reductions, avoiding 131 million metric tons of CO2.

Global benefits of nuclear energy. Worldwide, 441 nuclear power plants in 31 nations produce 16 percent of the world's electricity. By replacing fossil fuels in electricity generation, nuclear plants in 2004 reduced CO2 emissions by more than 700 million metric tons.
Something to think about.

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Liveblogging: NEI's John Kane on C-Span's Washington Journal

John Kane, NEI's Senior Vice President of Government Affairs, is appearing on C-Span's Washington Journal this morning at 9:10 a.m. U.S. EDT. He'll be talking about the Energy Bill. Joining him on the program will be Navin Nayak of U.S. PIRG. I'll be following the interview here in the office, live, and be offering running commentary and supporting documents.

To watch, click here. To listen via C-Span Radio, click here. Be sure to hit refresh in your browser periodically, so you get to see all the latest information that I'll be posting.

UPDATE: Moderator mentions the role of U.S. Senator Pete Domenici in the energy bill. For more information on his book on nuclear energy, click here.

Nayak is brining up the issue of waste -- and for the industry the answer is Yucca Mountain. As to cost, we handled the issue of the cost of new nuclear build a few weeks ago, here. And besides, if nobody wants to invest in nuclear energy, then why is Warren Buffet thinking about it?

Safety and security is now being brought up, and the best place to start with that debate is probably our roundup of posts on Time's article on nuclear power plant security. For our archive on safety, click here.

The moderator just brought up the fact that President Bush is going to give a speech at the Calvert Cliffs nuclear power plant later today.

Nayak is calling nuclear, "a polluting energy" claiming that it has to leverage other polluting technologies in order to run itself. Unfortunately, the research concerning lifecycle emissions disputes that claim.

Nayak says that energy isn't a "left-right issue". We agree.

Why is nuclear a better bet right now than renewables? This slide deals with something called "capacity factor" -- an important measure of efficiency. As for Nayak's claim about public opinion, those results are disputed by our own research.

The conversation has turned to the Price-Anderson Act. Click here for a fact sheet.

Nayak says that nuclear energy won't have any impact on America's dependence on foreign sources of energy. But what about nuclear-generated hydrogen?

John is now talking about the new licensing process for nuclear power plants.

Segement concludes. Thanks for sticking with us.

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Buffet Keeping "Open Mind" About Investing in Nuclear Energy

Warren Buffet is taking a hard look at the electricity business, including nuclear energy. From a report in this morning's Wall Street Journal (subscription required):

Billionaire investor Warren Buffett said his Berkshire Hathaway Inc. is willing to invest more money in the U.S. energy sector than the $10 billion to $15 billion he previously discussed and said he sees more opportunities in the utilities industry, including nuclear power.

Mr. Buffett -- whose Berkshire vehicle already plans to buy U.S. utility PacifiCorp from Britain's Scottish Power PLC for $5.1 billion -- also said he would invest in power-transmission lines, broaden energy markets and undertake other efforts to improve electricity reliability after the deal closes. Pledging such moves, which would boost the potential value of his power holdings, also could help him win support from Western state officials who must approve the deal.
Further . . .
In the interview, Mr. Buffett said he is keeping an "open mind" about investing in a new generation of nuclear-power plants that wouldn't create air pollution. Even if there is debate about global warming and the power industry's culpability, Mr. Buffett said, "the price of making a mistake [by not acting] is such that you should err on the side of the planet."
These days, it's hard to tell the difference between Warren Buffet and James Lovelock.

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Tuesday, June 21, 2005

NEI Executive to Appear on C-Span's Washington Journal

John Kane, NEI's Senior Vice President of Government Affairs, will be appearing on C-Span's Washington Journal program tomorrow morning at 9:10 a.m. U.S. EDT. He'll be talking about the Energy Bill. Joining him on the program will be Navin Nayak of U.S. PIRG.

UPDATE: Be sure to stop by on Wednesday morning, as we'll be liveblogging the show, providing running commentary and supporting documentation.

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Stat Pack: Global Nuclear Build and Electrical Generation

Currently, there are 440 operating nuclear power plants in 30 countries, according to the International Atomic Energy Agency. The United States makes up almost a quarter of the number of plants existing in the world today (103).

24 reactors are under construction with 8 being built in India, 4 in Russia, 3 in Japan, 2 in China, 2 in Ukraine, 2 in Taiwan and one each in Argentina, Iran and Romania. The World Nuclear Association reports that 45 reactors are currently in the planning stages, with the majority of these in Japan, South Korea and China.

In 2004, nuclear supplied France with 78% of their electricity generation. Lithuania came in 2nd with 72%, Slovakia and Belgium with 55%, Sweden with 52% and Ukraine with 51%. The US came in 18th place with 20% of its electricity coming from nuclear. Despite these figures, nuclear generation worldwide accounted for only 17% of total electricity production in 2002.

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The Perfect Gift for a Washington Wonk

Be sure to check out National Journal's new blog, Beltway Blogroll.

Dutch Party Drops Opposition to Borssele Nuclear Plant

Back in February, we wrote about how anti-nuclear activists in Holland were pushing to get the Borssele nuclear power plant to close by 2013. Today, the news out of Holland is that the smallest of the three parties in that nation's coalition government, D66, has dropped its opposition to Borssele in exchange for an agreement with the other coalition partners to increase government investment in renewable sources of energy.

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Australia Nuclear Update

Global mining concern BHP Billiton announced on Friday that it had completed purchase of more than 90 percent of the outstanding shares of WMC Resources -- an event that triggers an option for BHP to purchase all of the remaining shares and take control of the company. As we've noted before, WMC is the owner of Australia's Olympic Dam mine, home of one of the largest reserves of uranium in the world.

Last week, The Age (Melbourne) opined on the resurgence of the nuclear energy issue in Australia. Meanwhile, in Newcastle City, local residents pledged to turn off their electricity for one hour in a protest against coal-fired power:

Environmentalists say coal-fired power plants, a major source of greenhouse gases in Australia, are one of the biggest contributors towards climate change.

If 300 consumers switch off power for just an hour, green groups calculate they will reduce the output of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere by around 600 cubic kilograms.

Today's protest follows NSW Premier Bob Carr's controversial call for nuclear power to act as a bridge between fossil-fuel use and a new era of renewable energy, which green groups have dismissed as a distraction from further planned coal-fired power plants.

Prominent federal and NSW Labor politicians, Peter Garrett and Anthony Albanese, have spoken out against nuclear power, while Queensland Premier Beattie has come out in support of clean coal technology.
As others have noted, Carr's position has caused a split in the labor party, most recently in the Northern Territory, home to the Ranger mine. The Labor government there has taken a position against expansion of uranium mining at Ranger, opposite to Carr, and against the publicly stated plans of Australia's federal government.

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Conspicuous By Their Absence

A coalition of "nearly 300" activist groups have signed a document reiterating their opposition to the expansion of nuclear energy. But when you take a closer look, there's really less, and more, than meets the eye.

"Nearly 300" really means 274 once you see the list. Do a little more digging, and you'll find that many of the organizations that are local chapters of national organizations that also signed the document -- and I call double counting. Subtract those from the list, and the total is really 232.

And among those 232, you'll find many of the usual suspects: Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, Nuclear Information Research Center, Nuclear Policy Research Institute, Public Citizen and U.S. Public Interest Research Group.

But instead of thinking of those organizations, I'd rather focus on the environmental groups who aren't on the list. The absence of those names ought to tell you all you need to know about this effort, and the way public debate about nuclear energy is changing for the better.

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Will Nuclear Energy Help Fill the Gap in Michigan?

In today's Detroit News, the paper reviews the outlook for the electricity market in Michigan -- and the future is looking pretty murky due to regulatory uncertainty. The newspaper talked to DTE Energy's Tony Earley, who also serves as Chairman of NEI:

"Unless there is a stable regulatory environment, nobody -- no marketer, no independent power producer, no regulated utility -- will build another base load plant in Michigan," said DTE Energy Chief Anthony Earley Jr. "Right now there is enough generation to supply us, but two or three years down the road you're going to start having some real reliability problems."

Meanwhile, demand for electricity is growing 1.5-3 percent a year.
Last November, NEI's former President and CEO, Joe Colvin, addressed just this subject in a speech at NARUC 2004.

Meanwhile, back in Michigan, DTE is considering something that would have sounded impossible a few years ago -- building a new nuclear power plant to meet rising electricity demand:
Conventional wisdom says a new plant is likely to be coal-fired. But industry experts aren't ruling out nuclear power, which now supplies 26 percent of Michigan's electricity market. There has not been a nuclear plant licensed in the United States since the near disaster at Three Mile Island in 1979. But President Bush, pointing to France's heavy use of nuclear plants as a clean and reliable power source, is pushing for that option .

"If you had asked me five or six years ago, I would have said it's probably unlikely there'd ever be another nuclear plant, but a lot has happened," said DTE chief Earley. "The big focus around the globe is on global warming, and when you get down to a hard analysis, if you're serious about reducing carbon emissions, the only answer is building nuclear plants."
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New Poll Finds Strong Support for Nuclear Energy

From the NEI press office:

A majority of Americans believe nuclear energy will play an important role in meeting the country's electricity needs, and they support policies being considered as part of national energy policy legislation for building new nuclear plants, according to a nationwide survey.

Of the 1,000 adults surveyed by Bisconti Research Inc./NOP World(1):

1. 83 percent said nuclear energy will be "important" in meeting America's electricity needs in the years ahead. Half of those surveyed characterized it as "very important."

2. 80 percent of the respondents said the U.S. Department of Energy and electric utilities should work together to develop new state-of-the-art nuclear power plants to meet growing electricity demand. "Strong" agreement has increased by 18 percentage points over the past year, to 55 percent.

3. 64 percent support providing financial incentives for these advanced design nuclear power plants. This assistance could include provisions similar to those currently being considered by the U.S. Senate, such as loan guarantees and/or tax credits.

4. 79 percent agreed that nuclear energy's importance in meeting clean air regulations should be recognized in state and federal energy and environmental policy. Nuclear power plants generate large amounts of electricity without emitting any air pollutants or greenhouse gases, making these facilities among the most valuable resources in meeting the Clean Air Act and in emerging programs to reduce greenhouse gases.

(1) Telephone survey of 1,000 adults nationwide by Bisconti Research Inc/NOP World, May 5-9, 2005, margin of error is +/- 3 percentage points.
To read a copy of the report, click here (PDF).

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Monday, June 20, 2005

President Bush to Give Speech at Calvert Cliffs

Late on Friday, Constellation Energy announced that President Bush will be delivering a speech on energy policy at the Calvert Cliffs Nuclear Power Plant this Wednesday.

Just another photo op, you say? Well, not really, as this visit marks the first time an American president has visited a nuclear power plant since President Carter's visit to Three Mile Island in 1979.

Times sure have changed, haven't they?

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Time Nuclear Security Roundup

Good morning to all of the readers of NEI's Nuclear Energy Overview, our member-only newsletter. The following summary is especially for those of you who have come here looking for an update on last week's actions in and around the Time feature story on security at nuclear power plants that ran in last Monday's issue of the magazine (subscription required).

Staffers at NEI were first alerted to the coming story a few days before it was published, and we pre-empted its publication with a summary of our own that ran on Saturday, June 11 supplemented by a backgrounder on the issue over at

When it comes to plant safety and security, there is no way to guarantee that there will never be a terrorist attack. But you can prepare for them by making contingencies for an emergency before it happens, thereby lowering risks for the plant, plant personnel and the public.
The following day, just after Midnight, Time posted the story, and NEI responded on Tuesday with a detailed rebuttal from our Chief Nuclear Officer, Marv Fertel:
"The TIME magazine article on nuclear power plant security has a fatal journalistic flaw in that it fails to provide any context with regard to the overall state of security in our nationÂ’s industrial infrastructure. Numerous independent assessments of nuclear power plant security -- not a single one of which TIME could find the space in its lengthy article to mention -- have identified nuclear power plants as among the best, if not the best, defended facilities in the U.S. industrial infrastructure . . .

"While TIME has given long-standing critics of nuclear power a fresh bite at the apple, it should have held some of their claims to the same level of scrutiny it imposes on the industry."
That same day, NRC Chairman Nils Diaz issued his own statement on the story:
The article unfortunately relies on opinion without an accurate picture of current plant defenses and strategies. The NRC has ordered these plants to take strong defensive measures that make them well prepared to protect the facilities . . .

The American people should know that these plants are well protected with multiple layers of defenses to ensure safety and security. This agency vigorously monitors plant security to ensure our homeland is well protected.
Finally, on Thursday afternoon, NEI published a letter to the editor we had sent to Time from Fertel. As Time doesn't publish letters to the editor until two weeks following the publication of the article they refer to, it will be at least another week before Time prints the letter, if at all. If and when they do, we'll make note of it here at NEI Nuclear Notes.

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Friday, June 17, 2005

U.K. Nuclear Update

Patience Wheatcroft of the Times of London wants to know why MP and potential future U.K. Prime Minister Gordon Brown is so silent on the subject of nuclear energy:

WHY is Gordon Brown so silent on the subject of nuclear power? Recently he gave a speech on economics and the environment to a pre-G8 gathering. However, he studiously avoided any mention of the reliable energy source that also has the advantage of not producing carbon dioxide emissions. His silence on the big “N” was in stark contrast to the speaker who followed him, a Chinese minister . . .

The Chinese are talking to Westinghouse, the British Nuclear Fuels-owned builder of nuclear power plants, about their country’s future needs. Mr Brown, meanwhile, is about to give the nod on selling Westinghouse.

The Government wants to take advantage of the growing interest around the world in nuclear energy as a way of reducing carbon emissions. That makes sense, but Mr Brown should not overlook the fact that Britain also needs to start planning how it will replace its ageing nuclear fleet.
For more on a possible deal to sell Westinghouse, click here.

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Science Friday Debate

NEI Executive Vice President Angie Howard will be debating Arjun Makhijani of the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research on this week's edition of the NPR program, Science Friday. Click here for the live stream beginning at 2:00 p.m. U.S. EDT.

UPDATE: Most of the debate so far has centered around the planned used fuel repository at Yucca Mountain. Also joining in the discussion on the front end was Congresswoman Judy Biggert (R-IL). She serves as serves as Chairman of the House Science Subcommittee on Energy.

ANOTHER UPDATE: The bulk of the last segment dealt with the relative costs of wind and nuclear energy in electrical generation. One point Angie made repeatedly was that nuclear was both less expensive and more reliable than wind power. Click here for our fact sheet on nuclear energy cost and reliability.

One important point: when one of our representatives gets involved in a discussion like this one, it can often sound as if the choice is between either nuclear energy or renewables. That's a false choice. In fact, with electricity demand rising by as much as 50 percent over the next 20 years, there will be plenty of room for all types of electrical generation. And when it comes to electrical generation, a diverse portfolio is a stable portfolio.

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Thursday, June 16, 2005

More on Security at Nuclear Power Plants

Here's a copy of a letter that NEI Chief Nuclear Officer Marv Fertel sent to Time magazine in response to their story this week on security at nuclear power plants:

The nation's 103 commercial reactors have had federally regulated security programs for more than two decades, and have made $1.2 billion in upgrades to physical barriers and detection and access technology, and added thousands of paramilitary security officers since 2001 ("Are These Towers Safe?" June 12, 2005).

Independent analyses by experts with entities as diverse as the Center for Strategic and International Studies, the Progressive Policy Institute, the National Center for Public Policy Research, and Federal Bureau of Investigation confirm that security at commercial nuclear facilities is among the best in the industrial sector.

The nuclear energy industry takes seriously its obligation to protect our facilities and our employees, and to maintain safe, efficient electricity production that is vital to our economic strength. We are working constructively with the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Department of Homeland Security and state and local law enforcement to ensure there is a fully protective shield around nuclear power plants and their multi-layered safety systems.
For his detailed response to Time from earlier in the week, click here.

For previous posts on this topic, click here and here.

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Sticking Up for Patrick Moore

Over at Gristmill, Dave Roberts is trying to beat up on Patrick Moore's reputation -- in particular by pointing out that the current head of Greenpeace International, a group that Moore helped found, is an opponent of the expansion of nuclear energy.

It's also important to note that Moore served as the organization's first chief scientist. It was this devotion to sound science, not hysteria, that was one of the founding principles of the organization.

Apparently it isn't that way anymore.

That reminded me of a story I heard Moore tell a couple of months ago when he was in Washington. That day, he recounted a conversation he had with a younger member of Greenpeace who was upset about Moore's stance on nuclear energy.

"You're taking advantage of our reputation," said the young activist.

"No sir," Moore replied. "Actually, you're the ones who are taking advantage of mine."

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Looking at the Uranium Supply

Some have expressed concern over a perceived shortage of uranium fuel to supply the world's existing and expanding fleet of nuclear power reactors. This fear is unjustified and simply perpetuates the now fully discredited Club of Rome's "Limits to Growth" argument that was popular in the early 1970s.

Of course, known resources of economically and technologically recoverable uranium have expanded significantly since the 1970s and will continue to do so into the future. The world'’s uranium resources will increase due to improved knowledge of geology, enhanced extraction and reactor technology and the higher uranium prices spurred by demand growth.

Uranium is a ubiquitous element in the earth'’s crust and oceans, as is thorium, another important, naturally-occurring metal that can support nuclear fission. The world's 440 reactors use approximately 180 million pounds of U3O8 annually, of which 56 million pounds are consumed by America'’s 103 operating reactors.

World demand is principally met from primary production (mining), liquidation of utility inventories, ever-improving fuel manufacturing and fabrication techniques and decommissioning nuclear weapons. Nearly half of the fuel used in U.S. nuclear energy plants is now derived from blended down uranium from decommissioned Russian nuclear weapons.

In what is the most successful nonproliferation program in history, the "Megatons-to-Megawatts" initiative, Russia has converted the highly enriched uranium (HEU) equivalent of nearly 10,000 warheads to low enriched uranium (LEU) for commercial fuel.

Forecasts of new nuclear generation expect approximately 40-60 new reactors worldwide by 2020. This will increase uranium demand to approximately 195 million pounds in 2010 and 240 million pounds by 2020. For an assumed price of $30/lb U3O8, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) estimated world uranium resources in 2003 to be 3,537,000 metric tons, an amount adequate to fuel conventional reactors for approximately 50 years. The IAEA further estimated all conventional uranium resources to be 14.4 million metric tons, an amount which would cover over 200 years'’ supply at current rates of consumption.

Importantly, these forecasts do not include non-conventional sources of uranium, such as those contained in phosphates or in seawater, which are currently not economic to extract but represent a near limitless supply of uranium to meet increased demand. Clearly, there are very adequate uranium (and thorium) resources to fuel the world's expanding nuclear fleet.

Of greater concern, however, is a general failure to recognize how applications of human ingenuity and technology have enhanced the world'’s supply of uranium. Higher capacity factors and reactor power levels, higher operating efficiencies, reprocessing of used nuclear fuel and development of new reactor designs are just a few examples of technological and operating improvements.

Many European countries (e.g. Belgium, France, and Switzerland) and Japan now reprocess used nuclear fuel to produce new, mixed-oxide fuel (MOX), thereby reducing the need for new primary uranium supplies. Moreover, advanced breeder reactors that produce as much, or more, fuel than they consume, will be commercially available within the next two decades. In fact, these reactors use the uranium 238 isotope as fuel which is one of the more abundant elements in the earth's crust.

Nuclear power has a very important role to play in providing the world with reliable, inexpensive and emissions-free power. There are now very adequate supplies of uranium that can be technologically exploited as the demand and economics of the uranium market improve. But above all else, we should not dismiss human ingenuity in developing new fuel sources and new reactor designs that will extend indefinitely the earth's supply of fissionable materials for generating electricity from nuclear energy.

POSTSCRIPT FROM THE EDITOR: One of the leading intellectual lights who helped debunk the Club of Rome's report was the late Julian Simon. To read more about his work and legacy, click here.

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Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Dollars and the Nuclear Waste Fund

The Nuclear Waste Fund was established in 1982 when Congress passed legislation that those who use electricity supplied by nuclear energy would pay for the used nuclear fuel disposal program. For every kilowatt-hour used, consumers of nuclear generated electricity contribute one-tenth of a cent into the waste fund -- about $750 million per year. For Fiscal Year 2005 Congress appropriated far less than that, allocating $572 million to the program. In previous years the program has received an average of $194 million annually.

As of March 31, 2005, the total revenue paid into the Nuclear Waste Fund amounted to $24.9 billion. Of that amount, only $8.9 billion has been spent on program costs, leaving a balance of $16.02 billion that has been collected, but not applied to the used nuclear fuel disposal program.

So what should Congress be doing with all that other money? Last month at the 2005 Nuclear Energy Assembly, NEI President and CEO Skip Bowman said:

We must ensure a dedicated, available funding program for the Yucca Mountain repository and other components of the integrated federal program.

The Congressional intent for establishing the fund was to use it to support the Yucca Mountain project. That'’s what consumers deserve. It's what we should do.
Illinois, the state that relies most heavily on nuclear generation for electricity, has contributed more to the fund than any other state: $3.1 billion. Next is Pennsylvania at $2.1 billion, followed by South Carolina at $1.7 billion. In all, 34 states contribute to the fund, averaging total contributions of $747 million each.

Originally, the fund began was a separate account in the federal treasury -- sort of like a "lock box". However, back in 1987, Congress amended the law so that the Fund is dependent on capping appropriations.

According to the Nuclear Waste Policy Act, the Department of Energy was supposed to open a nuclear waste repository by 1998. That date got pushed back to 2010. More recently, the estimated time frame for opening the facility stands at 2012.

For more information go on used nuclear fuel management, click here.

EDITOR'S UPDATE: For more on the topic of used nuclear fuel and Yucca Mountain, click here for a story from the Los Angeles Times.

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NPR Commentary: Time Now for an Old Idea

If you have compatible software, you might want to listen to the NPR commentary that aired yesterday evening, June 14, on Marketplace: Time Now for an Old Idea.

Environmentalist Stuart Brand says it's time to think again about nuclear power. He first aired these thoughts in MIT's Technology Review.
Thanks to Sama Bilbao y Leon for the heads-up!

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Tuesday, June 14, 2005

NRC Chairman Responds to Time Article on Nuclear Plant Security

The NRC has just published a letter (PDF) from its Chairman, Nils Diaz, commenting on Time's report from earlier this week on nuclear plant security:

The article unfortunately relies on opinion without an accurate picture of current plant defenses and strategies. The NRC has ordered these plants to take strong defensive measures that make them well prepared to protect the facilities. Moreover, the NRC has worked closely with law enforcement and security agencies at all levels of government in developing protective measures and an integrated response. The story also cites an out-of-date study conducted for other purposes that does not reflect present knowledge of nuclear plant capabilities and accident scenarios. Such scenarios indicate that the potential consequences are orders of magnitude less than described.

The American people should know that these plants are well protected with multiple layers of defenses to ensure safety and security. This agency vigorously monitors plant security to ensure our homeland is well protected.
For our previous posts on this topic, click here and here.

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Monday, June 13, 2005

NEI Executive Comments on Time's Nuclear Security Report

NEI has released a statement from our Chief Nuclear Officer, Marv Fertel, commenting on Time's feature on nuclear plant security (subscription required) that ran in its latest issue:

"The TIME magazine article on nuclear power plant security has a fatal journalistic flaw in that it fails to provide any context with regard to the overall state of security in our nation’s industrial infrastructure. Numerous independent assessments of nuclear power plant security -- not a single one of which TIME could find the space in its lengthy article to mention -- have identified nuclear power plants as among the best, if not the best, defended facilities in the U.S. industrial infrastructure.

"These assessments have come from experts with entities as diverse as the Center for Strategic and International Studies, the Progressive Policy Institute, the National Center for Public Policy Research and many of the nation's governors and members of Congress, not to mention the Federal Bureau of Investigation, U.S. Department of Homeland Security (page 4) and the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

“The nuclear energy industry has safely secured the nation's nuclear plants for more than two decades, with federally regulated requirements that protect our facilities, our employees and our plant neighbors. We are committed to taking those steps necessary to meet federal security requirements and have demonstrated that commitment time and again since the 9-11 terrorist attacks. For example, the industry is supporting legislation in Congress that includes additional security measures, including making a wider range of weapons available to plant security officers (page 6).

"Criticizing the size of the design basis threat imposed by the NRC is fallacious and misleading since the nuclear energy industry is the only industry in the commercial sector that even has a design basis threat and conducts force-on-force exercises to test and improve our security strategies. Additionally, the nuclear energy industry has taken the lead in working with the Department of Homeland Security to integrate federal, state and local security resources and to plan comprehensive responses to air, land and water threats -- including a force similar to the 9-11 attack.

"The lone comparison that the TIME article makes to another sector is to state that 'the U.S. has spent $20 billion improving aviation security since 9/11.' Given the fact that the aviation sector has thousands of facilities and commercial aircraft to protect, TIME's contrast to the more than $1 billion in security enhancements at our industry's 64 nuclear plant sites is a meaningless, apples-to-oranges comparison.

"Similarly, TIME did its readers a disservice with its characterization of a 'big gap' in security standards at commercial nuclear power plants that use low-enriched uranium fuel and federal facilities that 'house nuclear weapons and their key components.' If TIME cannot grasp, or doesn't care to make, the distinction between the effects of a nuclear bomb that is designed to release destructive energy and a nuclear power plant that is designed to generate useful energy, then one wonders why it's reporting in this area in the first place. The difference is huge, and TIME's journalistic lapse in this regard is egregious.

"While TIME has given long-standing critics of nuclear power a fresh bite at the apple, it should have held some of their claims to the same level of scrutiny it imposes on the industry. For example, Edwin Lyman's so-called study on the ramifications of a successful attack at a nuclear power plant took worst-case information from disparate sources and postulated that it could be combined into a scenario that is not credible. It was, in short, bad science.

"And in citing the 1982 Sandia National Laboratories study, TIME showed that it didn't want current information to stand in the way of a sensationalized story. For six months now, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has had posted on its Web site an emergency preparedness backgrounder that states, with regard to the 1982 Sandia study (page 3): 'These terms come from a 1982 Sandia National Laboratory report that is unrelated to emergency planning and in no way represents a realistic assessment of accident consequences.' In other words, TIME says that Lyman's claims 'echo' a study that the NRC has discredited and whose authors plainly state was not intended to reflect reality.

"These are but a few of the article's shortcomings and one-sided characterizations. The shame in all of this is that some readers will fail to recognize that TIME has presented a myopic view of industrial security that ignores the nuclear energy industry's standing as the security leader in the private sector."
For a broad overview of security issues in the nuclear energy industry, click here. And for our original post on Saturday that first referred to the Time report, click here.

UPDATE: Links to supporting documents were added at 9:25 p.m. U.S. EDT

TUESDAY MORNING UPDATE: Here's some more data concerning the comparison of spending on aviation security and nuclear plant security that was forwarded to us by the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee staff. Again, since 9-11, the nuclear industry has spent $1.2 billion on a wide variety of security improvements at all 64 reactor sites around the country. By comparison, the aviation industry has spent $20 billion to cover security at more than 18,000 airports nationwide, including 540 commercial service airports and more than 7,800 commercial planes. To see the complete fact sheet from the committee, click here.

All Systems Go with MOX Fuel at Catawba

From the Herald (Rock Hill, S.C.):

Reactor 1 at the Catawba Nuclear Station has been fired up and running with fuel containing weapons-grade plutonium for more than a week, and everything is going according to plan, a company official said.

The reactor was loaded with mixed-oxide, or MOX, fuel on June 5 and is now running at 100 percent, said Steve Nesbitt, an engineer with Duke Power, at a meeting last week with the Rock Hill Sierra Club chapter.

"So far, we have seen that the fuel is behaving exactly as expected," Nesbitt said.
In May, one of my colleagues, Kevin McCoy, wrote about the MOX Project, calling it another non-proliferation success story.

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