Friday, July 29, 2005

Nuclear Energy Industry Transitions

Yuichi Tonozuka was named president of the newly formed Japan Atomic Energy Agency on July 22. Tonozuka had been president of the Japan Nuclear Cycle Development Institute since January 2004. He will assume his new position Oct. 1.

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The NEI Clip File

Here are some of the news clips we're reading at NEI today.

The energy bill is the first thing on everyone's mind, with the Senate approving the legislation by a vote of 74-26:

The Senate action a day after the bill breezed through the House completed the first major overhaul of the nation's energy policies in 13 years. The White House said in advance of passage that Bush looked forward to signing it into law, possibly next week.

...The bill provides $14.5 billion in tax breaks and potentially billions more in loan guarantees and other subsidies to encourage oil and gas drilling, improve natural gas and electric transmission lines, build new nuclear power reactors and expand renewable energy sources, especially construction of wind turbines.

Its cost, put at $12.3 billion after revenue offsets, is nearly twice the $6.7 billion price tag the White House had sought.

...The bill's cost was overridden by its widespread political support, in part because it includes something for virtually everyone.
In other news, NB Power's Point Lepreau nuclear power station in New Brunswick, Canada, has been slated for refurbishment:

The Province of New Brunswick will proceed with a C$1.4 billion refurbishment of NB Power's Point Lepreau nuclear power station with Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd as the general contractor, Premier Bernard Lord said at a news conference Friday.

"This is the lowest cost option for the ratepayers of New Brunswick. It makes good economic and environmental sense, while keeping our energy sources diversified," Lord said.

The province is seeking to generate a third of its future energy from nuclear power, a third from renewable sources and a third from existing fossil and hydro sources, Lord said.

NB Power and AECL will start the detailed engineering and procurement this summer, with completion expected by March 2008. The construction of temporary facilities and waste storage will begin in April 2006.
TXU Corp. announced its plans to build a big coal-fired power plant in the state that could reduce emissions that help produce acid rain and ozone:

TXU, which operates power plants fueled by coal, natural gas and nuclear energy, on Wednesday filed for an air permit for the 1,720-megawatt power plant with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, said TXU spokesman Chris Schein.

...The plant would burn Texas lignite coal to produce electricity and use selective catalytic reduction -- SCR -- technology to reduce emissions of nitrogen oxide, which contributes to the formation of acid rain and ozone.
Come back Monday morning for more news from the NEI Clip File.

Energy Bill to the Senate Floor

Roll call vote scheduled for 10:45 a.m. More later . . .

UPDATE: C-Span 2 is carrying the vote. Click here for Real Media, or here for Windows Media. For more detail on H.R. 6, click here.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Plenty of us are packed into conference rooms or watching on our computers waiting for history to be made. More soon . . .

REAL-TIME UPDATE, 11:45 a.m. EST: Senator Russ Feingold (D-Wisc.) has raised a budget point of order -- a procedural move designed to stop the bill before a final vote. Next, the Senate will vote to waive the point of order, with 60 votes required to move to a final roll call vote. Our folks in Government Affairs anticipate that we'll get those 60 votes, and move to a final roll call vote in the next hour. Stay tuned.

REAL-TIME UPDATE, 12:53 p.m. EST: The Senate has voted 71-29 to waive the budget point of order and is now voting on passage of the Energy Bill Conference Report. We'll post the final count right here.

UPDATE: The Senate voted 74-26 to pass the Energy Bill Conference Report. Check back soon for a detailed breakdown.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Another Blogger For Nuclear Energy

In Scotland, blogger Neil Craig has decided to point out some hard energy truths to the editors of his local newspaper, the West End Mail:

Your 13th July edition contained an item about a lobby group, the Sustainable Energy Partnership, approving our local MP's support of micro-generation (essentially covering our rooftops with windmills).

55% of Scotland's electricity is provided by 2 nuclear plants, the more extensive of which, Hunterston, is to close in 2011.

Windmills only provide 0.3% of our power & micro-generation , as the name suggests, can do only a small fraction of even that. This is not a serious solution.

Nuclear is reliable, non-polluting, CO2 free & at 2.3p per unit (or less for new reactors) easily the most economical power source.

According to Help the Aged figures 24,000 pensioners die each year in the UK from fuel poverty.

If we do not replace our current nuclear plants with at least equal capacity we are going to have massive blackouts & even more deaths.
For one of our previous posts on the situation in Scotland, click here.

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The NEI Afternoon Clip File

Here are some of the news clips we're reading at NEI this afternoon.

Of course, the energy bill is the primary newsmaker today. Here's the Associated Press report:

The bill was approved 275-156. Congress now awaits action by the Senate, probably on Friday. The White House said President Bush looks forward to signing it into law.

...The 1,725-page bill, the product of weeks of compromise between widely different versions approved by the two chambers earlier this year, would provide $14.5 billion in energy tax breaks, much of it to traditional energy companies. It also provides money for promoting renewable energy sources and new energy technologies and measures to revitalize the nuclear power industry.
The Wall Street Journal takes up the nuclear angle:
The energy bill nearing passage in Congress could be the best news the nuclear-power industry has seen in many years. The question now is whether it will be enough good news to produce what the industry and the Bush administration both want: a genuine revival of nuclear power.
While the energy bill is certainly dominating the news, a few other things are worth noting, like the reported Asia-Pacific climate pact:
The US, which has joined hands with India, Australia, China, Japan and South Korea to accelerate development of cleaner and efficient technologies, Thursday said the focus will be on investment opportunities.

"This partnership will focus on voluntary measures taken by these six countries in the Asia-Pacific region to create new investment opportunities, build local capacity and remove barriers to the introduction of clean, more efficient technologies," a release issued by the US embassy here said.
The Bush administration's goal with the pact is to pursue voluntary, rather than mandatory actions:
The Kyoto pact, which the United States has rejected, requires that industrial countries reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. The Bush administration prefers to addresses climate change through voluntary actions and by emphasizing the need to develop technologies that cut emissions and capture carbon.

...The U.S. has been eager to find ways to get China, India and other rapidly industrializing nations to deal with climate change.

White House officials say that one problem with the Kyoto pact is that it does not require China and India, whose growing energy needs also will mean growing greenhouse pollution, to commit to emission reductions.
On a "lighter" note, click here to read about a floating plant -- and we're not talking about a lily pad.

Come back tomorrow morning for more news from the NEI Clip File.

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Bangor Daily News: "Nuclear Power is Coming Back"

An editorial titled "Nuclear Power Is Coming Back" appears in today's edition of the Bangor Daily News. Here are the highlights:

This nation cannot go on squandering its limited natural gas supplies on unlimited burning of gas for electricity production when nuclear power is so much more economical. Nor can Americans afford to burn more and more coal when nuclear power plants are much cleaner and emit no global warming gases.

...If we hope to have the additional electricity and even maintain the percentage of power we are now receiving from emission-free sources, more nuclear plants will be essential. But if we want to improve the percentage of clean power, it will take a lot more nuclear capacity.
Furthermore:
Somehow Americans need to understand how fortunate we are to have nuclear power available - how clean, safe and reliable, as well as efficient, it is. For they will never guess it from the negative media coverage nuclear power has received in recent years and the long hiatus in orders for U.S. nuclear plants. And unless they know, they can hardly be expected to press for a new generation of nuclear power plants as an essential part of a sane and balanced energy system that will benefit our air quality and the national economy.

Nuclear power is coming back.

Pass it along.
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'New Math' and the New Economics Foundation

Recently, the New Economics Foundation, published a study examining energy choices in an age of global warming. But when you take a closer look at the study and its methodology, it's easy to surmise that the authors already knew what their conclusions would be before they ever started crunching the numbers.

Here’s NEF’s summary of nuclear in the study:

Nuclear power is being promoted as the answer to climate change and energy insecurity. But, as a response to global warming, it is too slow, too expensive and too limited. And in an age of terrorist threats, it is more of a security risk than a solution. Instead, the characteristics of a flexible, safe, secure and climate friendly energy supply system apply to renewable energy. In comparison, it leaves no toxic legacy and is abundant and cheap to harvest both in the UK and globally.
Let's start with the assertion that nuclear is “too slow, too expensive and too limited” to help battle climate change. The study states on page 35:
The PIU [Performance and Innovation Unit] suggests a planning/construction period in the order of a decade for each nuclear plant – a figure that may prove optimistic in the light of the controversy of planning applications and past experience of delays in construction.
It's clear that estimate is based on the experience in the U.S. post-Three Mile Island when anti-nuclear activists used the legal system as a weapon against new plant construction. Today, with a streamlined review process in place at the NRC (the breakout of the Early Site Permit: ESP and the Combined Construction and Operating License: COL), the US nuclear industry estimates that five years is a more accurate estimate -- especially when looking at current construction timetables in Asia.

Now let's turn to the issue of whether nuclear capacity can be built quickly enough to effect climate change:
The earliest that new nuclear capacity could be introduced means it can’t tackle climate change. Twenty years was considered to be the earliest that a new generation of nuclear reactors of this type could be introduced, whereas the scientific community say that action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is urgent with the next decade.
So renewables (what NEF offers as the solution) need to come to the rescue within the next decade to save us from disaster. However, we know that nuclear energy avoids more emissions than all sources of renewable energy in the U.S. combined.

Yet renewables, which account for only a quarter of the emission free electricity in the US are expected to scale up electrical production so quickly, that they'll be able to save the world in just a decade. It's also important to note that the vast majority of renewable capacity is actually hydropower, a type of renewable energy that may very well have reached its practical limit.

The simple fact is that electricity demand will increase so quickly -- as much as 50 percent in the U.S. over the next 20 years -- that we're going to need to rely on each and every source of energy in order to keep up. That's why it has always been the position of the Nuclear Energy Institute that nuclear energy needs to be a part of a diverse energy portfolio.

Once again, we see anti-nuclear extremists creating the same old straw man, and setting up the same old false choice: That the world needs to choose between nuclear energy and renewables. But any serious observer of the energy business knows that we're going to need nuclear energy, renewables and other sources of energy like clean coal if we're going to both protect the environment and spur economic growth at home and internationally.

Now let’s turn to the issue of expense, an area where this "radical think tank" uses a radical and unsupported methodology to massage the figures.

The costs presented in the study primarily cite data from the U.K.'s Performance and Innovation Unit. This group (aka the Strategy Unit) conducted an energy review back in 2002 to help the UK policymakers frame map out that nation's future energy infrastructure. As I scrolled to the bottom of the page of the energy review, I found a table on what the estimated costs of every fuel are in 2020. According to these figures, nuclear will be competitive with every other fuel source.

Which leads us to my biggest beef with the NEF study. The NEF uses the numbers from the PIU to put in their own table on page 39. But what they then do is create their own estimate of what nuclear really costs, and refuse to apply the same econometric model to any other fuel -- including renewables.

In other words, the study picks the worst case scenario for nuclear and the best case scenario for renewables. In serious economic research circles that's fundamentally dishonest, and not a sound basis for guiding international energy and climate change policy.

Here’s a lesson from Data 101 that every freshman economics student understands: Stick to one and only one source when talking about the same data! For the study to be fair, the same methodology used for nuclear should apply to all other energy sources. Doing anything else is just a bald attempt to massage the numbers and decieve people who don't take a close look at how the study has been conducted.

Now for the last part of the sentence with nuclear being “too limited.” This is the best.
Given current nuclear output one estimate from a body representing the renewables industry suggests that uranium reserves will be depleted in around four decades.

That body is the World Council for Renewable Energy -- and you know they would never be biased against nuclear energy. Now check out this quote:

Uranium is plentiful, easy and cheap to store, and likely to remain cheap. This means that nuclear power is essentially an indigenous form of energy.

Guess who stated this? The aforementioned PIU! It's in their energy review. Find it by scrolling down to the nuclear section. While reviewing the study, the NEF used so much data from the PIU analysis that I often got the two mixed up. But when it came to uranium supply, PIU references were nowhere to be found.

I guess a reference source like the PIU is only good when it is in favor of the technology one is promoting. If people really want to know what the “Energy choices in an age of global warming” are, they should look at PIU’s The Energy Review, and not bother with willful distortions of their findings and conclusions.

Back in the 1960s, it became vogue in education circles to promote "New Math" as an improved method to teach elementary school children. Ultimately, it was junked when it became clear that the new methods came at the cost of teaching important basic computational skills.

Anyone who reads the NEF study ought to keep the ill-fated experiment with "New Math" in mind, as any college student who attempted to replicate its methodolgy would soon find themselves booted from the Econ program and back into liberal arts.

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Energy Bill Now on House Floor

We'll give you the final roll call vote when it's finished.

UPDATE: Final vote -- 275-156 in favor, with three reps not voting. Detailed breakdown in a moment . . .

FINAL UPDATE: Here's the breakdown. Senate vote is tomorrow.

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The NEI Morning Clip File

Here are some of the news clips we're reading at NEI this morning. Things are looking good on the energy bill front, as the House is poised to approve it when once it comes time for a final vote:

The House was set Thursday to approve an energy bill packed with $14.5 billion in tax breaks and incentives and hailed by Republicans as a major change in U.S. energy policy.

The bill will pass "overwhelmingly" in the House, predicted Rep. Joe Barton, a Texas Republican and author of much of the 1,700-page legislation.

The Senate is expected to approve it Friday, just before Congress recesses for its summer vacation. President Bush has indicated he will sign the energy bill, which he called one of his top priorities in 2005.

"The enactment of this bill is needed to put us on a path to greater energy and economic security," said Treasury Secretary John Snow. "It will help American workers, families and businesses by increasing energy efficiency and conservation and reducing our dependence on foreign sources of energy."
Elsewhere, the chief executive of British Energy says he is "not to be distracted" by possible government plans for new nuclear plants. Rather, he is focusing his energy on extending the life of current plants:
Instead, he has upped investment in BE's eight existing nuclear power stations - from £162 million last year to £230-250m - and launched investigations into pushing back the dates they are due to expire. Dungeness, in Kent, is first on the list, as it is due to be shut down in 2008.

Coley said: "Dungeness could be extended by about five to ten years, and we will find out how long in the autumn. This is a priority for us - alongside financial stability and improving reliability." However, if new nuclear stations are built, it is likely that a consortium involving BE would be asked to run them.
It's important to note that uprates of existing American nuclear power plants has helped this country add the equivalent of 18 nuclear power plants to our electrical grid over the last 10 years. In addition, plans by reactor owners to apply for relicensing of the vast majority of the nation's nuclear power plants has relieved considerable pressure from America's power grid as well.

Come back this afternoon for more news from the NEI Clip File.

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Wednesday, July 27, 2005

The NEI Afternoon Clip File

Here are some of the news clips we're reading at NEI this afternoon.

The energy bill continues to make headlines. The Albuquerque Tribune writes that Sens. Domenici and Bingaman, both from New Mexico, are feeling positive:

"It helps us move the country in the direction of our energy needs," [Bingaman] said.

..."I anticipate strong bipartisan support in the Senate," Domenici said in a statement. "I am particularly proud of the conservation and efficiency measures in this bill. We do everything we could think of to diversify our energy supply and develop new energies that don't rely on fossil fuels."
Farmers are also satisfied with the bill, reports The Daily Nonpareil:
"It's very landmark legislation for rural America," Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) told reporters Tuesday. "Renewable fuel standards sets a 7.5 billion gallon mandate for ethanol and biodiesel. The tax package includes farmer-friendly provisions, including tax incentives for biodiesel, wind energy and ethanol biomass."
USA Today agrees, adding that the nuclear energy industry is pleased with the legislation:
The nuclear industry, corn farmers and the coal industry did particularly well with the legislation.

The bill would require refiners to double the use of ethanol, mostly from corn, as an additive to gasoline to 7.5 billion gallons a year by 2012.

A boon to farmers, it also would cost the taxpayer because ethanol gets a substantial tax break compared to gasoline, said Myron Ebel, an energy analyst for the Competitive Enterprise Institute.

...The nuclear industry hailed the legislation. It reaped major benefits, including "risk insurance" totaling $2 billion if there are permitting or regulatory delays in construction of the first six new nuclear power reactors.

The bill also provides loan guarantees for future reactors and a green light for building a $1.25 billion next-generation nuclear plant that could produce hydrogen as well as electricity.
Louisiana is looking forward to receiving its share of the bill:
Louisiana and five other states that allow oil and natural gas drilling off their shores are set to get about $1 billion in royalty money from offshore leases. The money would be distributed between 2007 and 2010 with Louisiana getting about 54 percent of it.

Louisiana wants to use the money to fix its eroding and sinking coastline, which has lost about 1,900 square miles since the 1930s.
Reuters is also keep the public up-to-date with a list of key elements included in the energy bill.

In international news, Nigeria is realizing that nuclear simply must be part of its energy mix:
The federal government is articulating an energy mix profile to move national energy supply capacity to over 30,000MW in the next 10 years.

...The current national generation capacity stands at between 3,000 to 4,000MW

[Minister of Science and Technology Turner] Isoun said that the mix under consideration included the nuclear energy power plant, coal, wind, bio mass, hydrogen fuel cell, wave and tidal options.

He said that the decision to explore other alternatives such as building and utilising nuclear power plants, were guided by the fact that the current energy mix was grossly inadequate for the nation's industrial growth.
And in subterranean news, nuclear is helping geophysicists dig deeper. Subatomic particles called antineutrinos are providing insight into the chemical makeup of the earth. And where do we get antineutrinos? You guessed it: nuclear reactors.
Geophysicists have a new tool for studying the Earth's interior, reported in the July 28 issue of the journal Nature.

That tool is a gift from unlikely collaborators-physicists who study neutrinos, subatomic particles that stars spew out, and their antiparticles, called antineutrinos, which emanate from nuclear reactors and from the Earth's interior when uranium and thorium isotopes undergo a cascade of heat-generating radioactive decay processes. A detector in Japan called KamLAND (for Kamioka liquid scintillator antineutrino detector) has sensed the geologically produced antineutrinos, known as ''geoneutrinos.'' This new window on the world that geoneutrinos open could yield important geophysical information.
Come back tomorrow morning for more news from the NEI Clip File.

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Energy Bill: nuclear energy provisions secure our energy future

The Next Generation Nuclear Plant project funded by the nuclear provisions in the energy bill is vital to nuclear energy’s growth. As communities accept the construction of plants in their communities, it becomes clear that nuclear power’s growth is inevitable. This growth along with investments in other alternatives can serve our current and future electricity demands

Communities like Oswego have readily accepted the prospects of new nuclear reactors in their backyards because the existing plants in that community have provided jobs, and an economic boom that was merely present before nuclear plants existed in those towns.

Also, considering projected power outages due to power grid failure and the forecast of depleted energy supply, the construction of more nuclear plants can defeat these operation failures. The bill invests $11.5 billion in tax incentives to develop the power grid, and sequester pollutants through the purchase of advanced pollution-control equipment. Also consider that the incentives invest in clean coal and renewables thereby diversifying the energy portfolio adding on to energy resources that will serve our needs.

On My Soapbox for the Energy Bill

With increasing levels of incredulity I've been skimming the crush of press releases and articles quoting a few fringe environmentalists regarding the energy bill. The common thread in such statements is a condemnation of provisions that provide financial incentives to the energy industry to increase capacity and develop and utilize advanced technologies.

They decry the "waste" of taxpayer money.

So I ask:

Is it a waste to invest in a diverse energy portfolio that limits our dependence on any one generation source and thus supports national security?

Is it a waste to support developing technologies that will decrease polluting emissions and increase security and safety? And as an aside, I will repeat a fact that extremists often exclude; Every energy technology receives research and development support from the federal government.

Is it a waste to ensure that the generation capacity is available to support our growing population and economy?

The recent heat wave in large swaths of the country combined with increased demand exposed points of vulnerabilities in places like California where an electrical emergency was declared. All over the Midwest, the heat claimed the lives of some of our most vulnerable citizens. Like it or not, we are dependent on electricity for our health and safety.

Of course we should invest in energy conservation and the energy bill includes provisions to do so. But conservation can only stem the increase in demand, it won't lower it.

Of course we should invest in technologies like wind and solar power and the energy bill includes these provisions as well. But wind and solar currently provide less than 1% of our energy needs. Even the American Wind Energy Association has concluded that under the best circumstances wind energy could supply only about 6% of our nation’s electricity by the year 2020. And wind and solar will never be suitable for providing baseload capacity.

In short, I can think of few better or more important ways for Congress to spend my taxes. A stable and thriving energy portfolio is vital to our individual well-being and that of our nation.

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Anti-Nuke Alert: Nuclear Energy Poll

Thanks to one of our readers for passing along the fact that National Geographic is running a poll asking the question, "Would You Live Near a Nuclear Power Plant?"

We're way down, but I smell some ballot stuffing. To get to the poll and vote, click here and go to the link marked "POLL" on the left hand margin. And while I am urging you to vote, I'm also urging you to keep it clean -- which means no automated ballot stuffing, ok?

Now get over there and vote.

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Focus On the Energy Bill: Peaking power plants or baseload power plants?

The Christian Science Monitor has published an article entitled: Cost of electricity rising like summer heat. In the article, they summarize the difference to a utility (and the consumers) whether electricity demand is met with baseload plants or peaking plants, which are more expensive, often higher in emissions, and are designed and built to run only for short periods of the year when demand is highest.

But this summer has been so hot that to meet the soaring demand, many utilities have had to turn to more expensive power plants, known as "peak generating plants." Instead of relying on coal or nuclear fuel, many of these power producers use more expensive oil or natural gas to power their turbines.
The article also includes an illuminating quote the demonstrates conservation at its absolute worst.
"The reason we are calling on the president is our concern about the impact of high temperatures on people's health, and we know that many low-income and elderly people don't turn on their air conditioning because they are afraid of the bills," says Mark Wolfe, executive director of the National Energy Assistance Directors' Association in Washington.
How do we lower the electricity bills for those who can least afford (yet most need) the benefits that abundant, inexpensive power can provide? More of the cleanest baseload power stations: nuclear power is best positioned for expansion, in ways that hydropower cannot.

Support for the energy bill is critical at this juncture, as a good policy for all Americans, particularly the portions of the policy that advance construction of new nuclear power stations.

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Focus On the Energy Bill: What Choices Do We Have on Clean Air?

Even among the most educated, there seems to be some debate over whether human activity, specifically the emission of greenhouse gases (or GHGs) is having an impact on global warming. Never absent from the discussion are the "“hockey stick"” graph, movement of algae in the oceans, and "natural" temperature variations. On one end of the spectrum are those who tell us it'’s already too late. On the other end are those who tell us that our global impact is nil. Then there are the climate "agnostics" who aren't willing to say one way or the other.

If you are anything like I am, you probably fall into the category of "“cautiously aware."”

On one hand, the optimistic in me says that no matter how hard we try, we cannot have an impact on our global environment.

On the other hand, the realist in me says that the emission of several billion metric tons of carbon into the air each year, which has been neatly sequestered beneath the ground for a staggering amount of time, cannot go completely unnoticed by mother earth. In these dog days of summer, it doesn'’t take a Ph.D. in environmental science to notice the clouds of haze hovering above our cities. Additionally, even if there is no GHG effect, then how can we ignore the emission of millions of tons of NOx, SOx, mercury, and other pollutants from the burning of fossil fuels such as coal, gas, and oil?

There is no one-size-fits-all solution to this problem, but the proper use of renewable energy sources, plus conservation, plus non-carbon-emitting nuclear energy can provide a great deal of help in reducing it. But, until Congress can pass a national energy policy that supports nuclear energy, it appears that we will soon find out who is right about GHGs.

And, the pessimist in me says that the winner will not get any pleasure out of saying, "I told you so."”

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Focus On the Energy Bill: Contact Your Legislators

Not willing to place a phone call to your Senator or House Representative in support of the energy bill? No problem. Click here to access enAct, a Web-based tool that helps you send emails to your elected officials on Capitol Hill.

Don't waste time, do it right now.

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Focus On the Energy Bill: The View From Montana

From today's Great Falls Tribune:

A House-Senate panel Tuesday approved a sweeping new federal energy bill, which U.S. Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., said includes key tax incentives for energy development in Montana that will also lessen American dependence on foreign oil.

"This energy tax package will help provide reliable, affordable energy for jobs, homes and Montana business," Baucus said. "I'm committed to working together to get this plan to the president."

Sen. Conrad Burns, R-Mont., who serves on the committee that wrote the legislation, called the bill "bipartisan" and "balanced."

"It will help us use Montana's vast natural resources, while at the same time encourages greater conservation and efficiency," Burns said. "This bill will succeed because it recognizes that our future depends on a ready supply of affordable energy coming from coal, wind, natural gas, hydrogen fuel cells, and nuclear, to name a few."
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Focus On The Energy Bill: The Value of New Nuclear

Our friend Rod Adams was up late last night doing some celebrating:

With a unanimous vote yesterday, the Board of County Commissioners for Calvert County, Maryland decided to submit a resolution and letter of support endorsing the NuStart Energy Development Corporation's consideration of the Calvert Cliffs site for one of their proposed new reactors. Board of County Commissioners Submits Resolution in Support of NuStart Energy's Calvert Cliffs Expansion Proposal.

I just finished my own quiet - it is, after all, only a bit after 4:00 am and the rest of my family is still sleeping - cheer and fist pumping when I read that press release.

(snip)

Unlike most of the rest of the power plants that dot the shores of the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries, the plant does not have a smoke stack that pours out thousands of tons of pollutants every day. From a purely selfish point of view, I also know that expanding the plant there will help to keep my electrical power rates under control, especially compared to plants that use something like imported LNG.

The county commissioners know the plant, they know the workers, and they know that the plant is a major asset to their community. Once again, the people near the plants are telling the world that they want more of them in their own backyard.

One thing that uncommitted observers of the coming debates on new nuclear power plants - and we know that there are going to be some debates - need to think about is the fact that the more closely people live and work around nuclear power, the more they favor its use. Those same people should then consider whether or not that trend applies to competitive energy sources.
And with the help of the Energy Bill, and its provisions to spur the construction of new nuclear power plants, lots more folks are going to be able to consider that decision in the years to come.

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Focus on the Energy Bill: Bring Some Perspective to Energy Policy

Here's the opener to an Associated Press story, as reported in the Louisiana Daily Comet:

Six states are competing to land the country's first new nuclear energy plants in three decades. Environmental groups said they'll try to stop the facilities from opening, no matter which states are selected.
Just that much of the article caught my eye, and I was intrigued to read on. I reflected on New England states' efforts to curb power plant emissions, sometimes above and beyond federal enforcement, because they and their leadership are concerned over the health of their citizens and their children. [See here and here, for examples.]

If states are even eager enough to consider competing for new nuclear development, do you think they're eager for rising electricity costs for their constituents? Of course not! Read your power bills closely - the costs are going up faster without new nuclear construction than would be if we had the choice for more inexpensive baseload power, that is also environmentally benign.

What alternatives to these so-called environmentalists offer that is better for the environment that nuclear? The only argument they make that may be better on a broad perspective, considering cost, releases and public health, is conservation. But if using less energy were the grassroots mandate they would like to think it is, then wouldn't we be already doing it? And if we're already doing it, why are utilities studying investing in new power stations 3 to 10 years down the road? Nobody plans to spend money on an idle baseload plant. Nuclear stations won't be idle. Why? They're the cheapest and the cleanest - and we need more of them.

Phone the staff of your senators and representatives, who are voting on the energy bill this week! You can contact your senators from here and your representative from here.

The Capitol Switchboard numbers are:
Capitol Switchboard: 202-224-3121
Toll-Free Numbers: 1-888-355-3588 or 1-877-762-8762

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From the NEI Clip File

Here are some of the news clips we're reading at NEI today. The big news today is the energy bill that congress will soon vote on. The New York Times reports:

WASHINGTON, July 26 - After coming up short for years, Congress is preparing to enact a broad energy plan that would provide generous federal subsidies to the oil and gas industries, encourage new nuclear power plant construction and try to whet the nation's appetite for renewable fuels like ethanol and wind power.

Energy Bill Highlights: The mammoth energy policy measure, whose final details were hammered together in nine hours of negotiations that went into the early morning hours Tuesday, also gives the federal government new power to override local objections to facilities for handling growing imports of liquefied natural gas and takes a swipe at China's bid for Unocal. (Related Article)

"It is a darn good bill, and it is going to help this country, and the sooner we get it done, the better," said Representative Joe L. Barton, the Texas Republican who is chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

...The bill's authors say that the aid to producers will ultimately pay big dividends in terms of domestic production and that the nuclear industry, which has been unable to build new plants partly because of environmental and safety concerns, needs federal assurances that it can recoup higher costs caused by permitting delays before moving ahead.
Let's all cross our fingers that we hear the good news soon. Elsewhere, the Tennessee Valley Authority reports that it successfully met its highest energy demand ever without suffering any power outages:
TVA met the highest demand for electricity ever recorded in its seven-state service area Monday, July 25, exceeding the previous record by more than 1,500 megawatts without a single sustained interruption to its customers.

Based on initial readings, the TVA system met a demand of 31,703 megawatts at 4 p.m. CDT, when the average temperature across the Tennessee Valley region reached 94 degrees. The initial readings will be evaluated during the next few days, and the official peak may be adjusted slightly.

"Everyone involved in meeting the record power demand--the people at TVA and the people who distribute the power we supply-worked together to keep the system working reliably during this period of record power use," said TVA President and Chief Operating Officer Tom Kilgore. "TVA's generating and transmission systems performed exceptionally well. By keeping the generators and power delivery network at a high state of readiness, and by anticipating this heat wave, we were able to keep the lights on--and air conditioners running --for the people we serve."
Western Colorado and eastern Utah are now experiencing a rush to find new sources of uranium in their ore-rich mountains, as the demand for uranium is rising with the new nuclear reactors being built around the world:
This year more than 8,500 mining-claim permits have been filed in eight uranium-rich Colorado and Utah counties. For years claim activity was virtually zero.

Only 100 million pounds have been produced annually, but the 435 nuclear reactors in the world, including 104 in the United States, need 180 million pounds. Demand will grow as China and India increase nuclear power, and President Bush pushes for the United States to expand its use.

"No doubt about it, the world needs more uranium," said Tom Pool, chairman of International Nuclear Inc. in Golden.
For more, visit our friends at NA-YGN Midlands. Come back tomorrow for more news from the NEI Clip File.

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Focus On The Energy Bill: Hydrogen

One of the most important research and development projects in this year's energy bill center around the use of hydrogen as a replacement for gasoline in vehicles. This week in U.S. News and World Report, the magazine took a closer look at the Honda FCX, which Richard Newman says compares favorably to hybrids and other economy cars:

[T]he FCX makes a persuasive case for the technology. The electric motor's clean, quiet ride is a reminder that the internal combustion engine, the automotive standard for a century, need not be the end of the road. And it's satisfying to look in the rearview mirror and know I'm leaving no toxins behind.
For more on this topic, visit Green Car Congress and Hydrogen Power News.

UPDATE: Here's more from Hydrogcicle.

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New Agreement On Climate Change?

From yesterday's edition of The Australian:

AUSTRALIA has joined the US, China, India and South Korea in a secret regional pact on greenhouse emissions to replace the controversial Kyoto climate protocol.

The alliance, which is yet to be announced, will bring together nations that together account for more than 40 per cent of the world's greenhouse gas emissions.

To be known as the Asia-Pacific Partnership for Clean Development and Climate, the grouping will aim to use the latest technologies to limit emissions and to make sure the technologies are available in the areas and industries that need them most.
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Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Happy Trails . . .

To my colleague Brian Smith, who will be leaving NEI at the end of the week to join the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA). During the early days of the blog, Brian was really the only writer I could count on, and his posts on North Anna and the D.C. Department of Energy remain two of the most referenced in the NEI archive.

All the best, buddy.

Nuclear Energy Winning War Of Public Opinion

Polish scientist Przemyslaw Mastalerz on the futrue of nuclear energy:

The heavy opposition against electric power generation in atomic plants appears to be fading away with growing realization that atomic plants are safer than plants fired with coal because of the high death rate in coal mines. In addition, electricity from atomic plants is cheaper and its supply is more reliable than in the case of wind turbines and solar cells. In the past decades, when the fear of radiation prevailed, no new atomic power plants were built and the demolition of existing ones was considered but this seems to be over now. The fear of radiation is also decreasing with growing realization that low radiation doses are harmless or even beneficial to living creatures.
Thanks to Greenie Watch for the pointer. For NEI's latest public opinion data, click here.

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Another Blogger For Nuclear Energy

Add Robert Synnott to the growing list:

Nuclear is the way to go. Moderately clean, moderately cheap, and nowadays very safe; far more people die from the effects of a large coal power plant over its lifetime than died as a direct or indirect result of the Tchernobyl explosion . . . France is an ideal case study of good implimentation; 70% of its power is nuclear, and its never had a significant accident. Japan is similar.

(snip)

And oddly, people seem unaware of the numerous ways we are dependant on the nuclear industry . . . Most smoke alarms use Americium, a nuclear reactor byproduct. Similar byproducts are used in many other devices, including machines for measuring metal thickness accurately and other important manufacturing devices. Nuclear byproducts are often used in radiation therapy in medicine, as well as for sterilising food. Radiothermic generators are used in some implanted devices, as well as in spacecraft. A few satillites (notably the Soviet US/A heavy radar satillite) used full nuclear reactors. The list goes on . . . FUD notwithstanding, it’s the cleanest large-scale power-generation system we have today.
UPDATE: Check out News Nuclear too.

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Power Crunch in Ontario?

Last week we passed along news that California was on the verge of experiencing rolling blackouts. This week, we're hearing the same news North of the border in Ontario.

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AAEA Goes Hollywood

Our friend Norris McDonald, head of the African-American Environmentalist Association, recently announced that AAEA has opened an office in Los Angeles. Check it out.

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Rod Adams vs. Amory Lovins

Over the past week or so, our friend Rod Adams has been debunking the claims of Amory Lovins of the Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI):

Participation in the anti-nuclear industry can be a pretty lucrative way to make a living. Maybe I should change sides? Not. Stay tuned.
Start here, then click here and here to see what I'm talking about. As many of you might recall, my colleague David Bradish took a hard look at RMI's claims a few weeks ago, and they simply didn't pass muster.

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Anti-Nuke Alert: Fight For Nuclear's Place in the Energy Bill

I just got an important note from my colleague Lisa Shell on how everyone can express their support for the energy bill right now:

Anti-nuclear groups have organized a massive call-in to the U.S. Senate to oppose the nuclear provisions in the energy bill that is currently in joint-committee negotiations. Details about the anti-nuclear call-in are on the Nuclear Information and Resource Service website.

To make sure our PRO-nuclear voices are heard by our legistlators before they cast their votes, NA-YGN is conducting a pro-nuclear call-in effort scheduled for the entire day of Wednesday, July 27. The bill may be on its way to a floor vote by the end of the week.

The phone numbers to call are:

Capitol Switchboard: 202-224-3121
Toll-Free Numbers: 1-888-355-3588 or 1-877-762-8762

To find out who your Congressional representatives are, click:

http://www.house.gov/writerep/
http://www.senate.gov/

Keep your message clear and to the point! Staffers field hundreds of calls a day so don’t worry if you feel rushed.

The key objectives of the call in are to:
  • Express your support for the Energy Bill. Remind legislators that nuclear energy is safe, clean, reliable and cost-competitive. It must be part of our solution for a balanced and secure energy mix.
  • Get your friends, co-workers and colleagues involved and have them call their legislators too!
Be sure to spread the word!
Check back with NEI Nuclear Notes for updates.

UPDATE: Our friends at NA-YGN Midlands are answering the call as well.

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Nuclear Energy Industry Transitions

James Miller will become president of PPL Corp. on Aug. 1. He will also continue in his role as the company's chief operating officer, a position he has held for about a year. In addition, Miller will join PPL's board of directors. Also joining the board, effective Sept. 1, are Craig Rogerson, president and chief executive officer of Hercules Inc., and Keith Williamson, president of the capital services division of Pitney Bowes Inc.

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From the NEI Clip File

Here are some of the news clips we're reading at NEI today. The Wichita Eagle is checking in on the energy bill:

House and Senate negotiators are awaiting completion of an $11.5 billion tax package before giving final approval to an sweeping compromise energy bill that Congress hopes to send to President Bush by week's end.

...The broad legislation includes measures to spur construction of new nuclear power plants, promote ways to reduce pollution from coal and provides a boon to farmers by requiring refiners to double the use of corn-based ethanol in gasoline to 7.5 billion gallons a year by 2012.

It also would...[provide] loan guarantees and other subsidies for clean energy technologies and new nuclear reactors. It would authorize a $1.8 billion program to promote clean coal technologies.
With the NuStart consortium getting closer to an announcement of where they might build a new nuclear power plant, the six sites under consideration are lobbying hard to become one of the two finalists:
A consortium of energy companies is choosing among six sites for the two plants, which face at least a decade of red tape and construction before they could begin generating electricity. The group, called NuStart, has said it will announce the two sites by October.

Elected officials have little or no involvement in the selection, but the governors of Louisiana and Mississippi have been enthusiastic in voicing their desire to have a new nuclear plant. Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco announced her support for putting one north of Baton Rouge, along the Mississippi River.

Blanco said a new plant would bring thousands of temporary construction jobs, and between 250 and 400 permanent white-collar jobs. She said nuclear power would help stabilize electric costs.

Gov. Haley Barbour of Mississippi has made similar arguments. In May, Barbour addressed a group of nuclear industry leaders and offered Mississippi as a good state for a new nuclear plant, praising nuclear energy as cleaner and more efficient than any other.
Click here for audio of Governor Barber's speech at the 2005 Nuclear Energy Assembly. On the international front, the U.K. power industry recently backed the future use of nuclear energy, urging the British government to remove obstacles to building new reactors:
The Association of Electricity Producers (AEP), whose members include EDF, E.ON, RWE and Scottish and Southern Energy, said a new fleet of reactors would benefit Britain in terms of supply security and cutting greenhouse gas emissions.

"The generating industry faces a massive program of investment in power stations," said AEP chief executive David Porter in a statement.

"They will have to be competitive and meet carbon reduction and other environmental requirements. New nuclear power may well play a part in this."
In Indonesia, Dradjat Wibowo, a member of that nation's House's National Development Planning Commission, said that his country must consider nuclear energy as a power option:
"We need to reconsider the building of a nuclear power plant (PLTN) and hold discussions on the use of nuclear energy in Indonesia," Dradjat said here on Monday. He said that the idea on a PLTN should not be blocked, but revived by involving energy experts to guarantee the safe use of this type of energy.

"This does not mean that I agree, because I am not an energy expert, but I will follow what the experts say," Dradjat, who is also member of the House PAN (National Mandate Party) faction, said. He added that the "mistake" that Indonesia has made in the oil and gas sector is already too serious, so that the use of energy resources other than fossil energy, deserved a consideration.
Australian Senator Ian Campbell recently defended his support of uranium mining against local opposition there:
"We can play a constructive part of reducing greenhouse gases by making sure uranium is made available to the world in a safe way, and in a secure way," he said.

Senator Campbell says it would be silly and xenophobic for Australia to refuse to export uranium on ideological grounds.
Come back tomorrow for more news from the NEI Clip File.

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Monday, July 25, 2005

Nuclear Energy Industry Transitions

American Electric Power has named a new senior vice president for environment and safety. Dennis Welch will assume this position on Aug. 1. Welch comes to AEP from Yankee Energy System, an operating subsidiary of Northeast Utilities, where he has been president and chief executive officer since 2001.

Michael Gaffney has been named site vice president at Kewaunee Power Station, which Dominion Generation purchased from Wisconsin Public Service Corp. on July 5. Gaffney has spent 32 years working in nuclear operations, most recently as director of nuclear safety and licensing at Dominion's Surry Power Station.

Derek Bonham will retire from the TXU Corp. board of directors for health reasons. Bonham, who has served on the board since 1998, will remain until a replacement is found.

From the NEI Clip File

Here are some of the news clips we're reading at NEI today. The House-Senate conference committee is busy at work on the energy bill - one that includes a package of incentives critical to the industry:

The proposals call for taxpayers to share the cost of licensing the first generation of new plants, offer loan guarantees and set caps on industry liability in case of an accident, The Washington Post reported Sunday.

In addition, the White House wants to protect investors against regulatory delays by defraying the cost of some delays. Some proposals would give the nuclear industry protection against fluctuations in the price of electricity.

Nuclear power advocates say nuclear power would cut the country's dependence on foreign oil, may seem more attractive as oil prices increase and cut the production of greenhouse gases that can cause global warming.
Keep an eye on this space for the latest developments on the progress of the conference committee, which we hear is going to be working long into the night on the bill.

Elsewhere, the Louisiana Public Service Commission announced their interest in nuclear energy as a power-generation option for their area.
State utility regulators on Friday urged a consortium of electricity utilities to consider building in Louisiana what would be the nation's first nuclear power plant startup in more than 30 years.

"The Louisiana Public Service Commission supports . . . the investigation of nuclear power as a potential power generation option in Louisiana," according to a resolution unanimously adopted by the five-member agency.

Entergy Corp.'s River Bend nuclear power station near St. Francisville is among six existing reactor sites that made a short list of potential new reactor sites announced in May by NuStart Energy Development LLC.

The consortium, which includes Entergy, wants to obtain licenses for two nuclear reactors. The group plans to name its final two sites by Sept. 30 and begin the years-long process of applying for the licenses from the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

PSC members hope their resolution will help make River Bend a finalist, said Commissioner Jay Blossman, who wrote the resolution.

"I would love to see the first one built here," he said.
For more on the NuStart Energy consortium, click here.

Transportation is moving closer to "The Jetsons," reports the Hunstville Times, as some planes may one day be powered by nuclear energy:
Cars fueled by hydrogen or electricity. Commercial airplanes powered by nuclear energy. Individual airplanes for zipping down to the beach.

The changes in transportation from 2005 to 2055 could be startling.

...Air travel in 50 years could also be significantly different. Airlines will be looking for ways to build airplanes that go faster and hold more people. Commercial planes could be powered by nuclear energy. Instead of a long runway for takeoff, airplanes may copy the space shuttle and take off vertically.
National Geographic recently ran a story outlining our options for energy generation, and said nuclear energy was "still a contender."
...Enthusiasm [for nuclear energy] is reviving. China, facing a shortage of electric power, has started to build new reactors at a brisk pace of one or two a year. In the U.S., where some hydrogen-car boosters see nuclear plants as a good source of energy for making hydrogen from water, Vice President Dick Cheney has called for "a fresh look" at nuclear. And Japan, which lacks its own oil, gas, and coal, continues to encourage a fission program. Yumi Akimoto, a Japanese elder statesman of nuclear chemistry, saw the flash of the bomb at Hiroshima as a boy yet describes nuclear fission as "the pillar of the next century."
The bloggers over at Fortex Currency Trading feel that the nuclear energy option is a good choice for China:
Nuclear power is a natural choice for China. The standard "green" objections to nuclear power simply do not exist in the Middle Kingdom. Furthermore, China has awful problems with water shortages, air pollution and acid rain. A nuclear alternative could remedy some of these issues by substituting nuclear energy for fossil fuels and removing stress from the environment. Nuclear power has another green aspect as well: It produces virtually zero carbon dioxide, and thus does not contribute to global warming.
Come back tomorrow for more news from the NEI Clip File.

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Friday, July 22, 2005

Nuclear Energy Industry Transitions

Gregory Rueger, chief nuclear officer of PG&E, will retire Aug. 31 after 33 years with the company. Rueger was also senior vice president of generation.

The Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources unanimously approved three Department of Energy nominations on July 21. Pending Senate confirmation, Jill Sigal will become assistant secretary of energy for congressional and intergovernmental affairs. She has acted in this position since January 2005. David Hill will be DOE general counsel, after serving as deputy general counsel for energy policy since March 2002. James Rispoli is slated for assistant secretary of energy for environmental affairs. He is currently the director of DOE’s Office of Engineering and Construction Management.

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Heat Wave Drives Fear of California Blackout

Just off the wire:

California looked set to escape without power blackouts on Thursday, allaying earlier fears sparked by record breaking demand in the southern half of the state and a series of power plant breakdowns, a spokesman for the state's Independent System Operator said.

But the ISO said Friday could see new problems as temperatures rose in the northern half of the state.

The state agency warned earlier on Thursday that rotating blackouts were possible, but demand for power started to dip from record breaking levels late in the afternoon.
I think this might be a good time to mention that our CEO, Skip Bowman, will be giving a speech entitled, "Why America Needs Nuclear Energy Now!" on September 13, 2005 at LA Town Hall (click here to register). The luncheon speech will be held at the Omni Los Angeles Hotel. Hope to see you there.

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Correcting The Record With Marketplace

On Tuesday's edition of the public radio program Marketplace, Economist reporter Vijay Vaitheeswaran outlined a number of points (Real Player required) that he felt mitigated against a comeback for nuclear energy. As it turns out, the piece contains a number of claims that we've already addressed in one form of another here at NEI Nuclear Notes.

Here's a copy of an e-mail that NEI Vice President Scott Peterson sent to the program a few minutes ago, annotated with links to the source material where appropriate:

Short on facts, Vijay Vaitheeswaran erroneously tries to evoke the horrors of September 11 in his misguided commentary about the resurgence of nuclear energy across the world.

Within his wrongheaded rancor, one thing Vijay Vaitheeswaran didn't tell you is that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission holds nuclear power plants to the highest security standards of any American industry. And, U.S. nuclear plants received the only "A" grade in a security report released by the Progressive Policy Institute.

He also failed to note that the nuclear energy industry has invested $1.2 billion in security upgrades, including physical barriers, detection and access technology and additional security officers since 2001.
As to the possibility of aircraft attack, information from one of our backgrounders was never mentioned.

Returning to NEI's letter:
Today, 441 nuclear power plants in 31 nations produce 16 percent of the world's electricity. And, by replacing fossil fuels, these nuclear plants prevented more than 700 million metric tons of CO2 emissions last year alone.

Legislation before Congress supports development of new technologies and construction of advanced design reactors that further increase our energy security while expanding these clean-air benefits in the years ahead. The legislation also authorizes nearly $2 billion in research and development for renewable energy sources.

Elected officials, environmental advocates, business leaders and opinion-makers across the globe increasingly are supporting the use and expansion of nuclear power as part of a diverse energy mix that will power economic growth while protecting our environment. For example, the recent G8 meeting noted the importance of nuclear power to a cleaner future and a diverse global energy portfolio.

An honest look at the facts will show you that nuclear power is safe, clean and reliable, and a vital component in a new era of energy independence.

Or, we can follow Vijay Vaitheeswaran's advice … and be left --– literally --– in the dark.
All in all, what we have here is a recitation of a number of myths and distortions about nuclear energy. But as we've endeavored here at NEI Nuclear Notes, we dispute those claims, and deliver the studies and the data to back it up.

While that ends the letter we submitted, there are a number of other claims that we're taking issue with that we didn't include for reasons of brevity. But this being a blog, we're happy to provide some further background information:

Energy Security

On the issue of energy security, Vaitheeswaran notes that nuclear energy can't help because it won't displace our reliance on petroleum for transportation. That's true on its face, but ignores the fact that nuclear energy has already helped serve as a break against oil consumption as it displaced most of America's oil-fired electric generating capacity in the wake of the 1973 oil embargo. More importantly, the piece also fails to mention that nuclear energy, because it doesn't emit greenhouse gases and other particulate matter discharged in fossil fuel generation, is an ideal energy source to use for the production of hydrogen which can be used to create fuel cells for vehicles.

Non-Proliferation

Here, Vaitheeswaran charges that the nuclear industry produces "fissile" material that could be used by terrorists to construct a "dirty bomb". But the real story behind the American nuclear industry on non-proliferation is how it is converting far more dangerous weapons grade materials into fuel American reactors use to generate electricity. We've touched on that before on the "Megatons to Megawatts" and the "MoX Fuel" programs. By this September, "Megatons to Megawatts" will have accounted for the decommissioning of 10,000 Russian warheads. Meanwhile, the MoX program is in the process of converting 34,000 kg of Russian and American weapons grade plutonium.

It's safe to say that without these two programs, the world would be a far more dangerous place.

Nuclear Energy versus Renewables

Here, the piece takes us to task for nuclear industry claims that renewables and other low-carbon sources of energy are "too small" to be able to generate enough electricity to power America. Indeed, that's a claim we've made a number of times:
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.
And while Vaitheeswaran touts clean coal technology, it's important to point out that it faces many of the same financing challenges that new nuclear capacity does, something our former President Joe Colvin pointed out last year in a speech to NARUC.

What the piece doesn't quantify is exactly how much nuclear contributes to keeping America's air clean. Here are some numbers we published a few weeks ago:
There are 103 operating nuclear power plants in the United States. In 2004, they avoided approximately 697 million metric tons of CO2, 3.4 million tons of SO2 and 1.1 million tons of NOx (click here for the graph). Without nuclear power, emissions would be about 30 percent higher.

Here are some more numbers to think about:

Since 1973, 97 nuclear power plants which had been ordered were cancelled. 68 of those were cancelled after the Three Mile Island accident. If all the plants had been built, nuclear would avoid twice as much the emissions it does today.
Kind of puts the claims of those environmentalists in perspective, doesn't it?

In one final claim, Vaitheeswaran states that renewable sources of energy have far more capacity than all of the nuclear power plants in the world. Near as I can tell, this claim is based on a recent study published by the Rocky Mountain Institute that my colleague David Bradish deconstructed a few weeks ago:
[A]fter checking out the data and doing some analyses, I was far from being doused. They argue that nuclear cannot help with climate change because it is too costly and is a "failed option". Their solution to climate change is cogeneration and renewables.

Here's a quick summary of cogeneration and renewables:

In 2003, cogeneration accounted for 5% of total US electricity generation. Renewables accounted for 8%. Of this 5% of cogeneration, natural gas made up about 90% of its primary fuel. I could see why the graph in the newsletter was highlighting cogeneration, it's because natural gas is booming right now.

The blunder with natural gas is that the prices are higher than the price of oil for electric generators. Check it out by looking at the EIA's Short Term Outlook link above and selecting the Electricity tab of the Excel file. It's under Fuel Prices which list coal, oil and natural gas. Utilities and investors thought natural gas would be an excellent buy because it was cheap and the US had plenty of it. But since 2002, natural gas prices have doubled.

Cogeneration is a good thing. It comes down to being more efficient at the way electricity is produced and steam used. But any fuel source could do this, even nuclear. It does help curb climate change, but not anywhere near the extent nuclear could. Your primary source of fuel is natural gas and it is still a fossil fuel which produces greenhouse gases.

(snip)

The graph they provided is only looking at capacity (GWe). What you should be looking at is generation, the real result. Typically when looking at renewables, you need three times as much capacity as nuclear to produce the same amount of electricity. Nuclear power plants' capacity factor (how efficient a plant generates electricity) is the highest of any fuel source (90.5%). Renewables are in the 30% range, natural gas for cogeneration is about 40%.

The second reason the graph is misleading is because of yearly capacity increases. The reader only sees what was built in that year. What you should see in the graph is the total operating capacity in existence today. From the Department of Energy's Annual Energy Outlook 2005, a table here shows the total capacity in 2003 and projected capacity for 2004–2025. Cogeneration and renewables make up about 15% of the US capacity and nuclear only makes up about 10%. But as I stated above, cogeneration and renewables made up a combined total of 13% of US electricity generation while nuclear was at 20%.
David's analysis doesn't stop there, as he delves deeper into the study's methodology. As our regular readers know, David does this frequently, most recently when he took a closer look at some of the numbers the Economist itself used in a recent opinion piece about the industry.

If you'd like to let Marketplace know how you feel about Vaitheeswaran's commentary, drop them a line at letters-at-marketplace.org.

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Thursday, July 21, 2005

Nuclear Energy Industry Transitions

Alliant Energy Corp. announced July 12 the appointment of Dean Oestreich to its board of directors. Oestreich is president of Pioneer Hi-Bred International Inc.

Also as of July 12, Theresa Stone and Steve Jones are the newest members of Progress Energy's board of directors. Stone is chief financial officer and executive vice president of Jefferson Pilot Corp. and president of Jefferson-Pilot Communications Co. Jones is dean of the Kenan-Flagler Business School at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Update: The White House has announced that President George W. Bush intends to name Paul Golan acting director of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Civilian Radioactive Waste Management, which is responsible for the Yucca Mountain repository project in Nevada. Golan has been deputy director of the office since April 2005.

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From the NEI Clip File

Here are some of the news clips we're reading at NEI today. During an interview with the Chicago Tribune, Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman stressed the importance of federal support for nuclear energy, as well as calling for a diverse energy portfolio to enhance American energy security:

Bodman said the administration is working with conferees "to include federal insurance to protect new reactor projects from economic harm resulting from regulatory and legal delays."

He said he is optimistic that the conferees will include this new insurance plan. He said nuclear power executives considering new plants are less influenced by subsidies than they are by delays that can raise the cost of projects. Federal insurance "gives them a sense of comfort" to go ahead, he said.

In his prepared remarks, Bodman said the U.S. must make basic changes in its energy policy, starting with building more energy infrastructure, such as new electrical transmission facilities, oil refineries and liquefied natural gas terminals. Nuclear plants, clean-coal technology, hydrogen-powered vehicles, energy-efficient buildings and renewable fuels are all critical parts of a new energy policy, he said.
New Brunswick Power spokesman Pamela McKay supported the use of nuclear energy to supplement their wind power operations at a meeting of wind power executives, insisting that wind power is intermittent and unreliable to handle the base load energy need on its own:
"Nuclear plants are base-load facilities that provide relatively constant sources of energy," Ms. McKay said. "Wind energy production is variable and is contingent on whether the wind is blowing. It cannot be turned on at will or be available for dispatch on demand."

Ms. McKay said wind power requires other generation facilities to be available to increase or decrease production very quickly to meet the demand for electricity, depending on the fluctuations in wind and the resulting wind energy being produced.
There's more news on U.S. energy dealings with India. Experts claim that the nuclear energy assistance being given to India will make great impact on its economy, as reported by the Gulf Times.
The US administration's decision to reopen civilian nuclear sales to India will go a long way towards solving the critical energy needs of one of Asia's fastest growing economies, experts said yesterday.

"The race in Asia is that of energy," said Rahul Bedi of Jane's Defence Weekly.

"China is far ahead of us. If we can get (nuclear energy) and if we can pay for it, it will be good for the economy."
Also on the international front, Red Nova reports that Ukraine is planning on building more nuclear power plants:
The Ukrainian Cabinet at its Wednesday session approved preparations for the construction of two new power units at Khmelnitsky nuclear power station, Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko has said.

"We will be building so that nuclear power engineering would become a reliable factor of supplying the nation with electricity," she told a news conference after the Cabinet session.
Come back tomorrow for more news from the NEI Clip File.

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