Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Australia Nuclear Update

From Nuclear Engineering International:

The Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI), Australia’s largest and business organisation, has called for the Australian government to conduct a feasibility study into the establishment of nuclear power facilities in Australia and to re-open its recent Energy White Paper: Securing Australia’s Energy Future so as to canvass the possibility of nuclear power.

Nuclear energy is currently attracting increased interest across the globe, the ACCI says, primarily due to concerns about rising energy costs as well as greater sensitivity to the possible effect of greenhouse gas emissions on climate change and an energy source which provides base load power while neither threatening economic growth nor contributing to greenhouse gas emissions should not be arbitrarily ruled out of consideration. The group says it is time to revisit the issue of domestic nuclear power.
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Electricity and Environmental Quality Standards

Over at Knowledge Problem, Michael Giberson is taking a look at the closing of a coal-fired power plant in Alexandria, Virginia:

Regulatory authorities and public policy goals have collided on the Virginia side of the Potomac River, just across from D.C. This has been a slow-motion collision, long in coming and probably weeks or months still to go, so pull up a chair and watch the show. Virginia state officials have caused the shut down of a power plant that the Washington, DC utility regulator calls vital to protecting the reliability of the electric power system in the area...

For years, residents of Alexandria, Virginia have complained about the emissions coming from the Mirant’s Potomac River power plant...The five-boiler coal burning power plant, which produces about 500 MW, has been operating since 1949. It is old enough -- by a substantial margin -- to have been exempted from the most stringent air quality regulations, but apparently hasn't been able to comply with the laxer standards do apply.

The Mirant plant, formerly owned by D.C. electric utility Pepco, supplies power into DC and Maryland, but does not directly provide power to its Virginia neighbors. This slight mismatch between costs and benefits probably contributes to the plants political troubles.
The Mirant plant is only a few miles South of NEI's offices in Washington, D.C. and I've pedaled past it plenty of times on the Mt. Vernon bike trail that snakes along the shore of the Potomac.

This might be a good time to mention that increasing the amount of electricity that a state generates with nuclear energy is a great way to help meet clean air standards -- something that my colleague Mary Quillian pointed out a few months ago.

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GE Submits ESBWR to NRC for Design Approval

From yesterday's wire:

GE Energy's nuclear business has reached a major milestone in the development of its new reactor design - the economic simplified boiling water reactor (ESBWR) - by formally submitting its Design Certification application to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

GE delivered its 19-chapter, 7,500-page application package to the NRC in Washington on August 24. The submission, which represents the culmination of 150,000 man-hours of design work over a 10-year period, should lead to the Final Design Approval of the ESBWR by late 2006, followed immediately by Design Certification.

The 1,500-megawatt ESBWR is a Generation III+ reactor design because of its design simplicity and passive safety features. It depends on fewer "active" mechanical systems, with associated pumps and valves, and instead relies on more reliable "passive" systems that utilize natural forces, including natural circulation and gravity.

The ESBWR is the only reactor that fully relies on natural circulation for normal plant operations as well as passive safety systems, thus making it the most advanced, passive Generation III+ reactor to be presented to the NRC for final approval.

"Submitting the ESBWR for formal design approval represents a truly significant accomplishment by GE Energy's engineering team that worked on this project, especially given the magnitude of the document and complex technical challenges," said Andy White, president and CEO of GE's nuclear business. "Many of our customers are already aware that the ESBWR is an extremely elegant design that offers all the benefits they require: safety, reliability and operational flexibility delivered with the most cost-effective advanced reactor design we can provide - one that is based on GE's proven BWR technology."
Back in May, GE inked an agreement with NuStart Energy to seek the license in connection with the consortium's efforts to site and build a new nuclear reactor. For more on the ESBWR, click here (PDF) for a fact sheet from GE. And click here for the Design Certification Application Review information from the NRC.

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Nuclear Energy Is "Best Option"

In an editorial today in the Asbury Park Press, James McGovern, a consultant to industry and government on nuclear energy issues, touts nuclear energy as the nation's greatest relief from the increasing cost and volatility of natural gas supplies.

McGovern offers a detailed explanation of why America's growing dependence on natural gas is so dangerous:

No longer used only for home heating and in the production of petrochemicals, natural gas is now burned at power plants that generate nearly 30 percent of New Jersey's electricity and 20 percent of the nation's power. And the amount we use for electricity is rapidly increasing. More than 90 percent of the new electric-power capacity built in the past decade relies on natural gas. This heavy reliance has been one of the major pressures leading to the unstable natural gas market.

The trend is likely to become even more pronounced. The Energy Information Administration foresees continuing increases in the use of natural gas for electricity generation. So whatever energy source we choose for our homes and offices — electricity or gas — it will ultimately rely on the availability of natural gas.
McGovern then turns to nuclear energy for a solution:
At a time when the need for energy security is foremost, heavy dependence on imported natural gas is extremely dangerous. We have alternative methods for producing electricity without depending on increasing amounts from distant and unreliable countries.

The prudent course is to build more nuclear power plants that produce large amounts of "base-load" electricity, safely and reliably, without depending on unstable countries for vast amounts of fuel. And unlike fossil fuels, nuclear plants don't pollute the air or emit greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.
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How to Aid Victims of Hurricane Katrina

Instapundit has put together a very useful list you ought to consult before giving any money. Check it out now.

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Bodman: White House Will Tap Oil Reserves

Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman said today that the White House plans on tapping the nation's Strategic Petroleum Reserve to help refiners hurt by Hurricane Katrina.

"The SPR was put in place specifically for this kind of an event," Bodman said in one interview. "We now have, in some instances, problems with getting crude to some refineries."

The reserve is the government's emergency stockpile of crude oil, which is overseen by the Energy Department. The oil reserves are estimated at more than 700 million barrels stored in underground caverns in Louisiana and Texas.

U.S. crude oil prices were 21 cents lower at $69.60 in electronic trading following Bodman's comments. Crude prices had risen over $70 a barrel Tuesday before settling up $2.61 at $69.81 a barrel in New York.

Hurricane Katrina slammed into Louisiana and Mississippi on Monday, halting crude oil production in the Gulf of Mexico, which accounts for roughly a quarter of U.S. oil output.

Nine refineries were also closed along the coast due to the storm, Reuters reported Tuesday.
UPDATE: The Christian Science Monitor cautions that it is too soon to predict the long-term impact Katrina will have on the energy market -- it all depends on the extent of physical damage to facilities:

How long prices will remain this high depends on how much damage has been done to the energy installations located in and around Katrina's landfall. Some 21 percent of the nation's natural gas originates under the Gulf, and 30 percent of domestic crude-oil production occurs in the region (accounting for 7 percent of total US oil supplies).

... Even seasoned observers were stunned by the sharply rising prices on the futures markets. With 10 percent of America's refining capacity shut down by the storm, and another 10 percent affected, the markets are moving on very little information, says John Felmy, chief economist at the American Petroleum Institute. "Right now, the short-term markets are going a little crazy," he says. "If there is little damage, they can reverse themselves."

In coming days, government and industry officials will inspect the maze of pipelines that moves oil and gas onshore, as well as the platforms where oil is unloaded. Government inspectors also have to check every oil rig for safety before crews can return. The industry itself, counseling consumers to use energy wisely, says it could be several days until the extent of the damage is known.

"This is a severe but temporary situation," says John Lichtblau, chairman of the Petroleum Industry Research Foundation in New York. "Repairs can be done."

Many energy analysts are counseling consumers to remain calm. Despite the importance of the Gulf refineries, plenty of gasoline is available, they note. And it's only days until Labor Day, considered the end of the peak gasoline season.

... The natural-gas industry is also waiting to see if any damage has been done to the more than 3,000 rigs that produce the majority of gas used by Americans to keep warm. Fortunately, 90 percent of the gas wells are west of New Orleans, farther away from the center of the hurricane.

"They would have been impacted by the waves and rain but not by the blunt force," says Chris McGill, a policy analyst at the American Gas Association. "There will be parts of the Gulf where they will be up and running in 48 hours, but there will be other extremes of structural damage that may take weeks or months to repair."
Be sure to scroll down to the bottom of the article for a map of oil and gas production on the Gulf Coast, and of Hurricane Katrina's devastating path.

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Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Entergy Copes With Katrina Damage

In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, Entergy has posted a special Web site to track its response to catastrophic storm damage in Louisiana and Mississippi. Here's an update from 11:30 a.m.:

This morning, Entergy has begun assessing damage caused by the worst storm in Entergy's history. More than 1 million Entergy customers remain without power in Louisiana and Mississippi. Hurricane Katrina caused extensive damage. Due to the scope and amount of damage to its electrical system, Entergy expects a long and difficult restoration.

The number of reported customer outages peaked in Mississippi and Louisiana at nearly 1.1 million. Additional outages are possible due to the wet soil and occasional wind gusts.

The outage total has more than quadrupled the previous Entergy single event record of 270,000, set only last month during Tropical Storm Cindy. The record prior to that was 260,000 following Hurricane Georges in 1998.

Louisiana had a peak of 790,000 customers without power. In Mississippi, outage peaked at over 300,000.

Entergy crews were able to get some customers back online last night in areas that did not suffer heavy damage from Katrina. Company officials do not expect major restoration efforts to begin until after crews can assess the extent of the damage.

Entergy sincerely appreciates its customers' patience and understanding during this emergency time.

Hurricane Katrina leaves behind the largest number of power disruptions for a single event in the company's history.

More than a million Entergy customers are without power. The company expects a long and difficult restoration in the aftermath of the extensive damage caused by Katrina.
Again, we're saying thank you ahead of time to Entergy employees who are going to be in the field indefinitely making repairs and getting the grid back online. Meanwhile, here's the lastest from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission on the status of the region's three nuclear power plants:
As a precautionary measure, the Waterford 3 nuclear plant near Taft, La., shut down when a hurricane warning was issued for St. Charles Parish on Saturday. It remains in an Unusual Event, the lowest of four emergency action levels. Electrical power for key safety systems on site is being supplied by the plant's standby diesel generators, following a loss of off-site power caused by instability in the regional electrical grid.

NRC staff have independently verified that key plant systems and structures, are undamaged and able to support current plant operations. At the direction of the NRC, the nation’s nuclear plants, which are among the most robust structures in the critical infrastructure, have increased security preparedness and capabilities available during emergencies.

A member of the NRC staff plans to accompany officials from the State of Louisiana and the Federal Emergency Management Agency during a survey of the site within the next 48 hours. NRC approval is needed before the plant can be restarted. This survey will include off-site evacuation routes and emergency sirens.

The Grand Gulf nuclear plant near Port Gibson, Miss., and River Bend Nuclear Station near Baton Rouge, La., were both operating at reduced power this morning. The plants operated through the storm, but voluntarily reduced power generation to assist in restoring stability to the electrical grid when a drop in energy consumption caused grid voltage to fluctuate.
More later as it develops.

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Monday, August 29, 2005

Progress Energy To Investigate New Nuclear Build

From the Raleigh News and Observer

Progress Energy said Monday it plans to apply for a license to build a new nuclear plant, placing North Carolina in the forefront of the nation's nuclear revival.

Raleigh-based Progress Energy said it notified the Nuclear Regulatory Commission that it expects to pick a site for a new reactor this year and select an advanced reactor technology to put there. If the NRC approves the license and Progress Energy decides to build the reactor, construction could begin as soon as five years from now and the reactor could be operating as early as 2010, Progress Energy officials said.

Monday's announcement gives North Carolina two utilities — the other being Duke Power in Charlotte — vying to be the nation's first to commission the first new nuclear reactor in more than a quarter century. The state's two major utilities serve a combined 3.5 million customers in the Carolinas.
Wow. It's a great time to be working in this business.

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Spanish Government Passes Renewable Energy Initiative

The Spanish government on Friday approved a new plan that will cost 23.6 billion euros through to 2010 aimed at boosting the contribution of renewable energy sources to the country's growing power needs, and help meet its obligations to reduce greenhouse gases.

The government wants 12.1 percent of overall energy needs to be met by renewable sources by 2010 and for those to supply 30.3 percent of total electricity consumption.

... The focus on clean energy sources will help reduce Spain's reliance on oil imports - surging crude oil prices have helped swell the country's trade shortfall recently. Spain is also a signatory of the Kyoto Protocol, which seeks to reduce emissions of climate-warming gases such as carbon dioxide. The conversion of coal-fuelled electricity plants to installations using cleaner energy sources will help Spain fulfill its Kyoto commitments.
In addition to increased renewables, Spain is currently home to 11 nuclear facilities, which include nine nuclear units at seven different plants, according to Foro Nuclear. Check out NEI's web site for this global breakdown, among other resources, to see how much power each nuclear unit in Spain generates.

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Energy Information Digest

The August issue of Energy Information Digest is now available on the NEI Web site, in the Newsroom. In it, you'll find articles about the Energy Policy Act of 2005, the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, a new national coalition promoting wind energy, the European Union's new sustainable energy campaign and other topics.

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Hurricane Katrina Update

From the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (PDF):

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission Sunday dispatched additional personnel to three nuclear power plants in Louisiana and Mississippi in response to the expected landfall Monday of Hurricane Katrina.

One plant near New Orleans - Waterford - informed the NRC it shut down to ensure that all safety precautions are in place ahead of the storm.

The NRC is monitoring the hurricane from operations centers in Arlington, Texas, and its Rockville, Md., headquarters.

"We are staying on top of the situation because protecting public health and safety is paramount," said Nils Diaz, chairman of the independent regulatory agency

At the Waterford plant the major concern beyond winds was the storm surge, last predicted to approach the top of an18-foot levee on the Mississippi River. Nuclear plants are very robust structures designed to withstand winds in excess of those in Katrina and associated storm surges. Both Waterford and the other plants have watertight doors at key safety systems.

All three plants the NRC was monitoring are owned by Entergy Nuclear. The Waterford plant is about 20 miles west of New Orleans. The River Bend plant is about 25 miles north-northwest of Baton Rouge, La., and Grand Gulf is located 25 miles south of Vicksburg, Miss.

Waterford initially declared an "unusual event" because of the approach of the hurricane, and will raise its level of preparedness on the NRC's four-step scale to an "alert" as winds reach hurricane strength and to a "site area emergency" should winds exceed 110 mph. The alert levels are specified in advance precautionary plans dictated by the NRC. The "site area emergency" classification is associated with plant personnel safety.

The NRC will have to approve the restart of Waterford and any other plant that shuts down. Additionally, the Federal Emergency Management Agency will have to determine that evacuation routes in the area are passable.
It's important to note that actions like these are standard operating procedure, and much the same was done a little less than a year ago as Hurricane Ivan approached the Gulf Coast. For more insight into how the hurricane might affect domestic energy markets, visit Rod Adams:
Several nuclear power plants also operate close to the coast of southern Louisiana. My prediction for them, however, is that they will be back to full operation in a matter of days, based on recent experiences with the effects of storms on their more robust structures.
UPDATE: As you might imagine, our friends at Entergy are faced with an enormous challenge right now:
Entergy President Dan Packer said work crews would begin assessing damage to the power system Tuesday. But this much he already knows: Hurricane Katrina will go down as the worst the utility has ever experienced.

The situation Monday afternoon was "the worst we've had in our company's history,'' he said on WWL radio.

Packer said more than 700,000 customers - about 100 percent of the utility's customers in southeast Louisiana - were without power as of Monday afternooon.

He said the company's second-worst power outage was during Hurricane Georges, when some 265,000 customers had no electricty.

Packer urged people to remain indoors and avoid power lines.

"I can't caution people enough to be careful out there,'' he said.
Many dedicated Entergy employees are on call right now. These are employees who won't be seeing their families much over the next few weeks. We're lucky to have them.

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Another Blogger for Nuclear Energy

Meet Ed Morse from Economic Trends:

Continuing on the energy theme of previous posts, let’s examine another form of energy that could be very important for our future economic and environmental wellbeing. This form of energy will:

- rely on an abundant resource that is available domestically, thus reducing our dependence on foreign sources
- provide no emissions of CO2, which concerns many people about the potential impact on global warming (a topic which is debatable, but which will be taken as given for now)
- provide relative price stability over time, thus reducing economic disruptions due to price fluctuations as we have been discussing here
- be as safe, if not safer, than conventional energy sources from coal or petroleum based sources.

Interested? Then let’s consider building more nuclear power reactors.
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On The California Blackouts

In the wake of last week's blackout in Southern California, the San Francisco Chronicle says it's time for the state to develop a more comprehensive energy plan:

Northern California -- and most of the West -- has plenty of power on hand. Southern California, which has fewer access points to regional power plants, is closer to the tipping point between supply and demand, as the shutdown showed.

So things aren't really that bad? Hardly. The energy crisis definitely grabbed the state's attention, but it did launch a number of campaigns that had never before come together into a single plan. More power plants were built and prices stabilized, but the fight over energy issues continued.

A span of interests -- consumer groups, power firms and politicians -- continue to disagree on a needed energy blueprint . . .

These factors add up to an uncertain future. California can scrape by for now, but it needs a coherent and reliable energy plan. The easy path would be to wait for a crisis and jam through makeshift rules -- exactly what happened last time, and which left the state with costly power bills and a stumblebum image.

It would be far better to use the breathing space before the next emergency and map out a flexible energy future. That could keep the lights burning longer.
As we've said before, the situation California finds itself in didn't happen overnight, and it won't be solved overnight either. Here at NEI, we think nuclear energy can be part of the solution, which is one of the topics that our President and CEO, Skip Bowman, will be addressing when he speaks at Town Hall Los Angeles on September 13. Click here for the details and here to register.

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Sunday, August 28, 2005

Gulf Coast Nuclear Plants Shut Down Ahead of Hurricane Katrina

Off the Reuters wire:

The Waterford nuclear power plant near New Orleans shut down in advance of fierce Hurricane Katrina heading toward the low-lying Gulf Coast city, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission said on Sunday.

The NRC said Waterford, about 20 miles (32 km) west of New Orleans, took the step to ensure all safety precautions were in place before the storm, which is expected to come ashore around sunrise on Monday.

It said the plant's main concern beyond winds was the storm surge, last predicted to approach the top of an 18-foot (5-metre) levee on the Mississippi River.

The agency said it sent additional personnel to Waterford as well as the River Bend plant 25 miles (40 km) north-northwest of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and the Grand Gulf plant 25 miles (40 km) south of Vicksburg, Mississippi.

The three plants are owned by Entergy Nuclear.
As you might imagine, our thoughts are with everyone on the Gulf Coast, including our friends at Entergy and their families.

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Friday, August 26, 2005

French Exec: Europe Faces Electrical Shortage Starting in 2008

California isn't the only region in the world with electricity supply problems. Here's something from Forbes, via AFP:

Gerard Mestrallet, chief executive of Suez SA, said Europe runs the risk of electricity shortages in the coming years unless major investments are made to raise production capacity.

"After having lived under the illusion that nuclear energy had created overcapacity, experts recognize today, for the first time, that we risk a shortfall of electricity from 2008," Mestrallet told French financial weekly Capital.

"Over the past 20 years, there have not been enough production sites built in Europe' to meet growing demand," he said. "The supply of electricity is already stretched in certain regions, like in Brittany or the south of France."

Germany's decision to phase out nuclear energy, and the decline of oil reserves in the North Sea, will mean that Europe will eventually have to begin importing almost all its fossil fuel requirements, he added.
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Nuclear Energy Industry Transitions

Thomas Brooks is the new vice chairman of Constellation Energy and chairman of its commodities group. Brooks also is now the chairman of Constellation Energy’s risk management committee. George Persky and Felix Dawson have been named co-presidents and co-chief executive officers of Constellation’s commodities group, effective immediately. Dawson has been with the group since its 1997 inception, while Persky joined in 1999.

Anglican Church Says Yes to Uranium Investments

From today's International Herald Tribune:

The Anglican Church's investment fund in Australia has decided that nuclear power is not so bad after all.

Glebe Asset Management, a large so-called ethical investment fund in Australia, removed its ban on buying uranium mining shares after a three-month review, the director, David Andrews, said in an interview last week.

The company decided to scrap the uranium restriction after BHP Billiton in June bought WMC Resources, which owns the largest deposit of the nuclear fuel.


"We added it all together and thought that we really should not have uranium mining as a strict" prohibition, said Andrews, who otherwise would have had to sell BHP shares that account for about 10 million dollars of the 500 million dollar fund.
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Rolling Blackout Hits Southern California

From the AP wire:

Sweltering heat and the loss of power from a key transmission line Thursday forced the utility serving Southern California to impose rolling blackouts, leaving as many as half a million people without power for about half an hour, officials said.

The California Independent System Operator, which operates the state's electric grid, declared a transmission emergency at 3:57 p.m., said ISO spokeswoman Stephanie McCorkle.

About 30 minutes later, power was being restored to people subjected to the blackouts, she said.

It marked one of the most serious disruptions since the California power crisis in 2000 and 2001, when high demand, high wholesale energy costs, transmission glitches and a tight supply caused widespread problems including blackouts.

Here's more from the LA Times. The situation California finds itself in didn't happen overnight, and it won't be solved overnight either. Here at NEI, we think nuclear energy can be part of the solution, which is one of the topics that our President and CEO, Skip Bowman, will be addressing when he speaks at Town Hall Los Angeles on September 13. Click here for the details and here to register.

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Thursday, August 25, 2005

What Bloggers Are Saying About the CAFE Standards

The response to the new Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards released Tuesday has many critics charging that the standards are not stringent enough.

Vox Baby proposes an alternative to the CAFE standards: A gas tax will allow "people to decide how they want to conserve fuel - by driving less or by using fewer gallons per mile.

Values Pundit, on the other hand, suggests that the government back off entirely, allowing those who care about and can afford higher fuel efficiency pay for it on the market.

JustOneMinute extensively quotes a New York Times article on the subject, saying that relying on a rulebook -- and such a flawed rulebook, at that -- is just too problematic.

Howling at a Waning Moon quotes sources at U.S. PIRG and the Sierra Club, who say that the new standards will do nothing to help consumers save money at the gas pump, reduce oil dependence or curb global warming.

Knowledge Problem calls the proposal "largely irrelevant" to manufacturers of SUVs, pickup trucks and minivans, and also notes that "the effects of CAFE on overall fuel consumption are likely to be miniscule."

Here are a few other blogs that discuss the CAFE standards:

The Hobbesian Conservative & Fiance'
Daily Grist
Environmental Economics

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India Unveils Thorium Reactor

Indian scientists today unveiled a revolutionary design for a thorium breeder reactor (ATBR) that can produce 600 megawatts of electricity for two years with no refueling and practically no control maneuvers:

ATBR is claimed to be far more economical and safer than any power reactor in the world.

Most significantly for India, ATBR does not require natural or enriched uranium which the country is finding difficult to import. It uses thorium -- which India has in plenty -- and only requires plutonium as "seed" to ignite the reactor core initially.

... The uniqueness of the ATBR design is that there is almost a perfect "balance" between fissile depletion and production that allows in-bred U-233 to take part in energy generation thereby extending the core life to two years.

This does not happen in the present-day power reactors because the fissile depletion takes place much faster than production of new fissile ones.
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New Source On Hybrid Cars

Check out -- a collection of blogs on, you guessed it, hybrid automobiles.

To get yourself oriented, check out the first post from Power, Plugs and People.


Nuclear Reactors Make Elle Magazine's Top 25 List

Joining entries such as Martha Stewart and the Supreme Court, No. 14 on the Elle 25 - Elle Magazine's annual list of the top 25 "hot and happening" people and things - is none other than "Nukes! Hot Reactors":

1979 was a tough year for nuclear power—remember Three-Mile Island and The China Syndrome? In fact, it pretty much stopped the atomic clock for a generation — but that's about to end. In the spring, the head of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission began mumbling about the need for 100 new reactors, an energy consortium quietly nominated six candidate sites for two new nuclear plants, and President Bush speechified at one of those sites for the urgent revival of nuclear power.

Next month the two winners will be named (several of the nearby towns are actively campaigning to be selected), but the renuking debate is already being joined in earnest. The pro-nuke line: If you're serious about global warming, you've got to go radioactive because fossil fuels are like a car engine running in a garage—a consideration that has already won over such eco-minded notables as Greenpeace cofounder Patrick Moore, Stewart Brand of Whole Earth Catalog fame, and Gaia hypothesist James Lovelock.
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Nuclear Energy Industry Transitions

City Public Service of San Antonio, a subsidiary of South Texas Project Nuclear Operating Company, has named Steve Bartley vice president of governmental and regulatory relations for CPS Energy. Bartley has served as CPS Energy's director of regulatory relations since 2000.

Donald Pearman Jr. has been named to Longenecker & Associates Inc.'s strategic advisory board. Pearman is a management consultant to the energy and high technology industries and former vice president of Bechtel National.

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Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Summer Intern Program or National Security Risk?

Here at NEI, one of my colleagues came across a set of correspondence in the NRC's Adams database that was disturbing to say the least. Apparently, ABC News has been using reporter interns in an attempt to breach security at Test, Research and Training Reactors around the country.

In a July 27, 2005 letter to the NRC, Tawfik Raby and Seymour Weiss, co-chairs of the National Organization of Test, Research and Training Reactors, wrote the following to David B. Matthews, Director of the Division of Regulatory Improvement Programs in NRC's Office of Nuclear Reactor Regulation (click here for PDF of original letter):

Members of TRTR have identified to the NRC and law enforcement agencies the suspicious behavior of individuals who were visiting their facilities. NRC informed TRTR that these visits may have been part of a summer intern program that ABC News and other corporations were conducting related to investigative reporting.

TRTR believes that the security measures currently in place have worked and that the public health and safety have not been compromised. The research reactor community picked up on the recurrent visits by these individuals and their unusual interest in security matters very rapidly and acted accordingly.

One of the primary missions of these facilities is to inform and educate members of the public on nuclear technology matters, including school children and others. Public tours are a great asset to the community and the nation and should be continued in a prudent way. We are convinced that the TRTRs are safe and secure; however, we have urged each of our facilities to continue to be diligent and vigilant in admitting visitors and conducting tours.
In response, Matthews wrote the following (click here for the PDF):
Based on previous reporting and followup discussions with individual licensees, it is our understanding that these individuals did not identify themselves as intern reporters and requested tours of the facilities. In addition, at some facilities they asked numerous questions on security matters and may have been filming the tours in a covert manner. Soon after the first notification of such a visit, the NRC informed all RTR licensees of the unusual and suspicious behavior of these individuals, to anticipate such visits, and to notify law enforcement agencies and the NRC in accordance with the NRC's advisory on suspicious activities. Through prompt coordination with law enforcement, it was determined that these visits were part of a "Summer Fellows" intern investigative reporter program in conjunction with ABC News. The NRC understands that no safeguards information was available or revealed during any of these incidents.

The NRC has previously conducted comprehensive evaluations of RTR security plans, procedures, systems, and response, which included consideration of potential challenges presented by publicly-available tours and information. As a result of these earlier evaluations, the NRC concluded that RTR security continued to provide adequate protection of public health and safety. This conclusion is consistent with the findings summarized in your letter. The NRC will continue to provide oversight of RTR licensees through evaluations of safety and security at licensed facilities.

The NRC welcomes news inquiries. It is important to note that under the access authorization process for research reactors, the access afforded the Summer Fellows was the same as they would have received had they identified themselves as reporters. The NRC continues to believe that trying to gain access to reactor facilities under potentially suspicious circumstances, especially in the current threat environment, creates unnecessary concerns, diverts limited resources, and inappropriately distracts from high priority law enforcement activities.
For some people, it might be easy to forget that Americans are under threat from terrorism, but not the nuclear industry. Security of nuclear facilities is serious business. It isn't a game, and ABC News ought to know better.

Back in June, two reporters from Time tried to breach the security at both North Anna and Calvert Cliffs nuclear power plants. In both cases, the reporters were turned away at the first checkpoint, the first line in concentric circles of security around nuclear power facilities.

UPDATE: When you use the Adams database, links expire after a couple of hours. So when you search for the docs yourself, remember to enter ML052100387 as the document number.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Click here for a description of the ABC News Summer Intern program with Brian Ross' investigative unit:
Student interns will receive training in New York at ABC News headquarters for the first two weeks of the program. They will be trained in ABC News ethics and procedures and on new digital equipment that permits both taping and editing of news material. The Corporation will purchase the equipment for each student and donate it to the schools at the end of the summer. Students will do significant research for the investigative unit and some students will be asked to travel for the story.
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SCE&G, SCANA to Study Possibility of New Nuclear Plant

Just off the wire:

With South Carolina's energy needs continuing to grow, South Carolina Electric & Gas Company (SCE&G), principal subsidiary of SCANA Corporation (SCG - news), and Santee Cooper announced today that they will consider the possibility of extending their present nuclear generation joint ownership arrangement to study constructing a new nuclear generation facility to meet forecast electric generation needs beginning in the year 2015.

"The process to permit and build any major base load generation facility can take eight to 10 years," said SCE&G President Neville Lorick, who noted that generation planning is an ongoing process at the company. "To ensure we're in position to meet our area's future power needs, it's important that we begin the planning process now."

This evaluation process will involve consideration of various types of base-load generation, including natural gas-fired plants, coal-fired plants and nuclear plants. "As we have done in the past, we will analyze and understand the cost and impact of all of our options," Lorick said.

"As the state's primary regulated electric utility, we have an obligation to provide our customers today and in the future with safe, reliable service while also being good stewards of the environment. Meeting that obligation requires that we plan ahead and prepare for the expanding generation needs of our service territory, as well as continuing to meet ever increasing federal clean air requirements in the most cost effective manner."

Lorick said teaming up with Santee Cooper to evaluate the nuclear option makes sense, as SCE&G already works successfully with Santee Cooper in the generation of electricity through V.C. Summer Nuclear Station near Jenkinsville, S.C.

"South Carolina must be committed to investing in its future energy needs in order to maintain our quality of life and meet our growing energy demands," said Lonnie Carter, Santee Cooper president and chief executive officer. "As we analyze the next generation of energy for our customers, nuclear may emerge as a viable option, for it is very clean environmentally and will help our state and country become more energy independent."

"Continuing to work jointly with SCE&G makes smart business sense given our ongoing positive experiences with them at the Summer Nuclear Station," said Carter.
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Northeast States to Regulate Greenhouse Gases

From today's New York Times:

Officials in New York and eight other Northeastern states have come to a preliminary agreement to freeze power plant emissions at their current levels and then reduce them by 10 percent by 2020, according to a confidential draft proposal.

The cooperative action, the first of its kind in the nation, came after the Bush administration decided not to regulate the greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming. Once a final agreement is reached, the legislatures of the nine states will have to enact it, which is considered likely.

Enforcement of emission controls could potentially result in higher energy prices in the nine states, which officials hope can be offset by subsidies and support for the development of new technology that would be paid for with the proceeds from the sale of emission allowances to the utility companies.
The nine states are Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island and Vermont.

Of critical concern to the nuclear energy industry, is the question of whether or not nuclear generating capacity -- especially new nuclear generating capacity -- will qualify as a non-emitting source of electricity under this agreement. Currently, nuclear accounts for 75 percent of the non-emitting electrical generating capacity in the U.S. Without nuclear energy, emissions of all types of pollutants would be far higher both in the Northeast and nationally.

For more on the efforts to limit greenhouse gas emissions in the region, also known as the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative or RGGI, click here and here.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Five Parties Short-listed for Building Power Plants in South Africa

The Department of Minerals and Energy has announced that it has short-listed five parties, out of 11 applicants, to build new peaking power stations.

The winners of the new peaking power generation capacity will build one or two oil-fired open cycle turbine power stations with a combined capacity of about 1,000 megawatts, operating peaking plants at sites in the Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal.

The two peaking plant power stations are expected to be fully operational by October 2008. "We need to get the new plants up by October 2008 or we will end up with blackouts," the department’s Deputy Director-General for Electricity and Nuclear Energy, Nelisiwe Magubane said.
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Louisiana Governor Supports New Plants

Gov. Kathleen Blanco is backing a proposed $1 billion expansion of Louisiana's Big Cajun II coal-fired power plant, which has received a crucial state air permit. This is the third power plant proposal the government has backed, including one for a new nuclear power plant being considered by the NuStart Energy Development LLC Consortium.

Blanco gave her backing last month to Cleco Corp.'s plans to build a new power plant in central Louisiana that would be able to use multiple solid fuels, primarily petroleum coke, a waste byproduct of crude oil refinement. Two weeks later, the governor announced that Louisiana was competing to land the country's first new nuclear energy plant in three decades.

On Monday, the governor stood with officials from NRG Energy Inc., at the Big Cajun II power plant in Pointe Coupee Parish, for the permitting announcement vital to the planned expansion of the facility.

Blanco lauded all three power plant proposals as economic development drivers that, in addition to creating permanent jobs in Louisiana, would shrink the state's heavy reliance on natural gas for electricity, as the costs of gas skyrocket and drive up energy bills. The governor said the price tags of those energy bills are hurting businesses -- and the state's attempts to attract them.

"Our industrial base is suffering. Our homeowners are suffering. Everybody is. It's time we look at the sources of fuel diversification," Blanco said.

David Crane, president and CEO of NRG Energy, said Louisiana is the second most dependent state on natural gas for power generation -- and he said the price of natural gas has quadrupled in three years.
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Australia Nuclear Update

In an opinion piece in today's Australian, Paul Gilding, former executive director of Greenpeace International and founding partner of Ecos Corp., addresses the issue of environmental stewardship and nuclear energy in Australia:

One of the key principles of sustainability, and one accepted by environmentalists and governments around the world including our own, is product stewardship. The logic is simple. If you put something out there, you need to accept some responsibility for the consequences, even if the product's use is not directly under your control. This is why we see McDonald's acting on obesity, Ford and Toyota on climate change and BP on air pollution.

If we accept this principle, there are only two morally defensible positions for Australia on matters nuclear. Either we sell uranium, use nuclear power and take back nuclear waste for storage in Australia or none of these. It is politically convenient for the Howard Government to raise the nuclear power in Australia debate as a distraction from their agenda of selling more uranium. However, if they are serious about nuclear power, they should be proposing that we ship our share of the world's nuclear waste back to Australia and store it here permanently.

If the South Australian and West Australian governments want to expand uranium mining because of the economic benefits it brings, they should have the courage to also propose to their electorates that they host storage facilities for high-level nuclear waste. After all, 240,000 years is a serious, long-term economic benefit.

Done well, this also could be incredibly strategic and lucrative for Australia. Imagine Australia providing long-term, geologically safe storage for nuclear waste in the Australian outback as part of its sales package.
Later, Gilding lays out his opposition to nuclear energy, but can't discount the possibility that Australia will turn to nuclear in an attempt to help stem greenhouse gas emissions:
For the record, I remain unconvinced that nuclear power is an intelligent or effective response to climate change, economically or environmentally . . . Will nukes win? A few months ago I would have said no. Now I'm not so sure. With Siberia melting, my world has changed, and all bets are off.
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Monday, August 22, 2005

Doosan Heavy May Bid on Westinghouse

South Korea's Doosan Heavy Industries is considering bidding in a consortium to buy U.S. nuclear power plant builder Westinghouse Electric Co. from British nuclear energy company BNFL.

South Korea's largest manufacturer of power generation equipment would be able to reduce costs and acquire nuclear technology and know-how from the U.S. firm if a bid was successful, analysts said.

Westinghouse provides nuclear fuel services, technology, plant design and equipment for nuclear power producers.
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EPA Program Successfully Reduces Nitrogen Oxide Emissions

A report released yesterday by the Environmental Protection Agency shows improved air quality for more than 100 million people in 21 eastern states and the District of Columbia in 2004.

Under this program, the report shows that power industry summertime NOx emissions have dropped significantly in 2004. Total ozone season NOx emissions from power plants and other large combustion sources were 30 percent lower than in 2003, and 50 percent lower than in 2000. The NOx reductions, when combined with other control programs have reduced ozone season NOx emissions from sources in 19 eastern states and the District of Columbia, by 70 percent below 1990 levels.

Continued NOx emission reductions are anticipated under the NOx SIP call and the Clean Air Interstate Rule, or CAIR. CAIR, issued March 10, 2005, will permanently cap power plant emissions of SO2 and NOx in 28 eastern states and the District of Columbia. In 2015, CAIR, the NOx SIP Call and other programs in the East will reduce ozone season NOx emissions by about 50 percent and annual NOx emissions by about 60 percent from 2003 levels.
The Washington Post goes into further detail:
Under rules that took effect last year, 21 eastern states and the District of Columbia must reduce regional nitrogen oxide emissions by 1 million tons between May 1 and Sept. 30. On hot, sunny days nitrogen oxides combine with pollutants called volatile organic compounds and form ozone smog, which has been linked to asthma and premature death.

... Environmentalists also hailed the findings, saying they show that industry can operate more cleanly once the government demands it. Under the new program, known as "state implementation plan call," states have to meet an overall pollution cap but individual plants can trade emissions, so a cleaner facility can sell its "credits" to a dirtier one.
As we reported earlier this year, the Washington metropolitan area (D.C. and Maryland suburbs) gets 30% of its electricity from nuclear energy -- 10% higher than the national average. And without nuclear energy, there's no doubt the air wouldn't be as clean.

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Nuclear Energy Industry Transitions

Leldon Echols was elected Friday to the TXU Corp. board of directors. Echols is the executive vice president and chief financial officer of Centex Corp. He replaces Derek Bonham, who is retiring.

The board of directors also elected Riz Chand senior vice president and Gaylene McMahon assistant controller of TXU Corp. Chand joined TXU in June 2005 to bring strategic leadership in the human resources area, while McMahon most recently served as vice president and controller of the TXU Energy Holdings segment of TXU Corp.

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Another Blogger For Nuclear Energy

Here's an interesting sentiment:

I'm not an environmentalist, but....we need to save the earth...Through nuclear power.

So, what do we do if our life style is unsustainable? Filled with rampant demand for SUV's, electrical power, cheap plastic products, and Vaseline? How do we stem the tide of the growing global oil catastrophe? Why are people so blissfully unaware of it? What do we do when oil reserves pop up? When will people realize alternative energy sources are far too distant a reality to save us if we continue oil consumption at the moment . . ?

Things people could do to avoid a global oil crisis:

Accept and adopt nuclear power:

If people truly and seriously wanted to reduce reliance on foreign oil, this is the only viable solution. It is hard to accept, but it'll help us in the long run... It will also provide enough power to actually use electric cars without actually using a excessive amount of fossil fuel to charge . . .
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Friday, August 19, 2005

South Africa Plans to Boost Uranium Production

Anticipated rises in the price of uranium over the next decade, driven by demand for a clean, sustainable energy source, have prompted producer countries such as South Africa to develop their production facilities.

SA, the fourth-largest uranium producer with 8% of the world's reserves, has declared it a protected mineral resource in line with the Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act of 2002.

Neal Froneman, CEO of South African uranium miner Aflease, says government is "crying out for the development of this strategic resource for export, and has been supportive of the industry".

SA is in a position to benefit from uranium as a primary energy source and from the value derived from increased exports.

The uranium price has trebled over the past three years, driven by the expected increase in nuclear-energy generation.
For more information on the dynamics of supply and demand in uranium markets, click here for a post from NEI Nuclear Notes contributor, Dr. Clifton W. Farrell.

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Senate to Hold Gas Prices Hearing

The Senate Energy Committee announced today that it will hold a hearing next month to determine reasons for the high cost of U.S. gasoline. Average retail gasoline prices hit a record $2.55 a gallon this week, according to government data.

"Today's gasoline prices are taking a severe toll on Americans' pocketbooks," said Republican Sen. Pete Domenici of New Mexico, energy panel chairman. "Consumers are anxious."

The September 8 hearing will focus on global oil demand, refinery capacity constraints and the impact of futures market speculation on energy prices, Domenici said in a statement.
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Southern Company May Seek New Plant at Vogtle

Big news just off the wire:

Southern Nuclear Operating Company, on behalf of the co-owners of the Alvin W. Vogtle Electric Generating Plant, has officially informed the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission that it has selected the site to evaluate for possible future nuclear generating units.

In the summer of 2006, the company will file either an application for an Early Site Permit (ESP) at Vogtle or pre-Combined Operating License (COL) information that would ultimately become a part of a complete COL application.

Plant Vogtle is owned by Georgia Power, Oglethorpe Power Corporation, the Municipal Electric Authority of Georgia and the City of Dalton. It is operated by Southern Nuclear for the co-owners.

This notification does not mean that the co-owners have decided to build a new unit at the plant site. This is another step in the process necessary to obtain permits should the owners decide that a new nuclear unit is the best option for meeting the need for additional generation.
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Coal Might Make U.K. Comeback

The Yorkshire Post Today reports that the rising price of oil and natural gas could mean a comeback for the Yorkshire coal industry:

Now, gas is becoming more expensive every day and equipping coal power stations to clean up emissions looks like a reasonable deal.

British miners are probably the most efficient in the world – and a lot of MPs think it would do New Labour good to do something as old-style socialist as taking the coal industry back under state control in some way.

David Brewer, director of the Confederation of UK Coal Producers, said in Wakefield last week that every dollar on oil made other resources look better and better.
It's important to remember that the U.K. has been in the midst of a serious debate about new nuclear build. And without new nuclear build, the U.K. will indeed be forced to continue to rely on fossil fuels to generate electricity.

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Entergy and the NuStart Consortium

While a combination of safe operations and rising oil and natural gas prices have led many industry observers to reconsider nuclear energy, some credit ought to go to private industry -- in particular the companies that make up the NuStart Energy consortium. In the September issue of MIT Technology Review, David Talbot takes a closer look at the development of the group, and how it helped to get nuclear energy back on the national agenda:

[I]n 2003, Entergy, along with the Chicago-based utility Exelon, took the lead in forging a coalition. The companies called five other utilities and suppliers to a meeting near the Atlanta airport. "We called it the 'Atlanta seven' meeting, and our goal was to see if we could respond together to come up with a new reactor design and share those costs and those risks," Keuter recalls. Out of that meeting came a consortium called NuStart, which now includes nine power companies and two major reactor builders, Westinghouse and GE. Each member contributes $1 million annually to the consortium's joint operations.

The consortium has revived the approach to nuclear power that prevailed in the 1950s, says Andrew Kadak, a nuclear engineer at MIT. One of the first nuclear power plants, Yankee Rowe in Rowe, MA--completed in 1960--was built by 10 utilities who shared costs and the resulting power. NuStart "is an important new initiative for the industry," says Kadak. "The new initiative may end up being the same model [as the one of the 1950s]." But before construction of a plant can begin, the utilities will need two permits from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission. The first would approve the site selection, the other the construction and operation of the reactor.
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McCain, Clinton Focus on Climate Change

From the AP wire:

Anyone doubting the effects of human activity on global climate change should talk to the people it affects in Alaska and the Yukon, U.S. Sen. John McCain said Wednesday.

Fresh from a trip to Barrow, America's northernmost city, McCain said anecdotes from Alaskans and residents of the Yukon Territory confirm scientific evidence of global warming.

"We are convinced that the overwhelming scientific evidence indicated that climate change is taking place and human activities play a very large role," McCain said.

McCain, accompanied by Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., spoke to villagers in Canada whose spruce trees are being attacked by the northward spread of spruce beetles. On Alaska's northern coast, they met Native Alaskans dealing with melting permafrost and coastal erosion.
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Nuclear Energy Industry Transitions

Duncan Hawthorne, president and chief executive officer of Bruce Power, has been named chairman of the World Association of Nuclear Operators' Atlanta Regional Center. Hawthorne is currently a member of the Atlanta Center’s governing board. He is set to begin his two-year term as chairman in October.

Kudlow and Yergin on New Nuclear Build

Recently, CNBC analyst Larry Kudlow had a brief conversation about new nuclear build with Daniel Yergin of Cambridge Energy Associates. The transcript (which I've cleaned up for the sake of clarity) follows:

KUDLOW: Oil is inching up toward $70 a barrel. Is this the moment for nuclear power or is this not in my back yard? Joining me now is Daniel Yergin, chairman of Cambridge Energy Research Associates and CNBC global energy expert. Dan, welcome back to the show. There's a great story in the Washington Post today . . . Your man is quoted . . . About the explosion of nuclear plants, including a lot of nuclear plant building in the United States, China, India and
Western Europe. Just give us a quick overview comment. Do you expect [it] to happen. Is this the era of nukes?

YERGIN: In a sense it is happening . . . And people say nuclear is not happening or dead . . . In the last five years, something like 24 new nuclear plants have gone into operation and another 20 are under construction. Of course, none of them so far in the United States.

KUDLOW: Well, all right, that's the thing. So let's talk about "not in my back yard". Let's talk about the federal energy regulatory commission that may have some authority to overrule the local "not in my back yards". Is that an interesting part of the energy bill or not?

YERGIN: Well, I think it is. It's one of the provisions that people haven't paid much attention to, but there are several elements of the bill that are meant to encourage [investment] in new nuclear power. There are loan guarantees and various, even money in there to repay companies, if they're subject to, quote, a breakdown in the regulatory process, which is the "not in my back yard".
That evening, CNBC and MSN Money asked viewers if the U.S. should build more nuclear plants in light of increasing energy prices. 84% said yes. Kudlow has been following our industry for a number of months now, something we noted back in March. He also has a blog of his own.

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Thursday, August 18, 2005

NRC Schedules Oyster Creek Hearing for August 24

From the NRC:

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission will hold a public information session on Wednesday, Aug. 24, in Lacey Township (Ocean County), N.J., to discuss how the agency will review an application for renewal of the operating license for the Oyster Creek nuclear power plant. The facility is located in Lacey and operated by AmerGen Energy Co., LLC.

Scheduled to begin at 7 p.m., the meeting will take place at Lacey Township High School, at 73 Haines St. The NRC’s presentation will include information on how the process works and how the public can participate. Members of the public are invited to ask questions regarding the agency’s license renewal review process.
Click here for a copy of the license application.

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Australia Nuclear Update

Nuclear reactors have a good safety record and worries about the disposal of nuclear waste are misplaced, Deputy Whip Alan Eggleston said yesterday, adding that Australia should consider using nuclear energy to reduce its reliance on coal for electricity.

Senator Eggleston said Australia's energy needs were projected to rise by 50 per cent by 2020.

Coal, the main energy source, caused a third of all greenhouse gas emissions in Australia.

With 40 per cent of the world's uranium reserves, Australia couldn't continue to be so reliant on coal.

... He said there were impediments to other alternatives - gas, solar, hydro and wind power - in Australia.

Senator Eggleston said one of the biggest obstacles was public perceptions about the safety of nuclear reactors.

But there had only ever been two major accidents, at Chernobyl and Three Mile Island. There were no deaths at the latter.

Experts had said nuclear-related risks were among the lowest in the energy industry.

He said the other issue was the disposal of nuclear waste.

But it had been estimated that all the world's waste for a year could be safely stored in a structure the size of a football field and 1.5 metres high.

"It would seem that even though there is a great deal of public controversy about the storage of nuclear waste, perhaps that controversy and concern is a little misplaced," Senator Eggleston said. "It is time to move beyond the demonisation of nuclear power."
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Harvey Stuart Price, 62, died Aug. 7 of esophageal cancer. Price was an assistant U.S. attorney in Washington before he joined the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. In 1973 he became vice president and general counsel of the Atomic Industrial Forum, a trade association that later became the U.S. Council for Energy Awareness, which in turn merged with several other nuclear energy industry organizations in 1994 to become NEI. Price also worked in the biotechnology field, as founder and first executive director of the Industrial Biotechnology Association (now the Biotechnology Industry Organization), then as a consultant in issues related to biotechnology and the law, and as a part-time executive with biotechnology trade groups.

George Alonzo Ferguson Jr., founder of Howard University’s nuclear engineering program, died of cancer Aug. 14. He was 82. From 1966 to 1986, Ferguson served on the faculty of the School of Engineering at Howard University, where he founded and directed the nuclear engineering program. Ferguson also conducted research for the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory from 1954 to 1975. He received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Howard University and a doctorate in physics from the Catholic University of America. After retiring from academia, Ferguson was an administrative judge for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

Nuclear Energy Industry Transitions

BNFL has invited Lawrie Haynes, chief executive of British Nuclear Group, to join its board.

Steven Howe has been appointed the first director of the Center for Space Nuclear Research (CSNR). Howe currently works in thermonuclear applications, applied physics division, Los Alamos National Laboratory. Located in Idaho Falls, the CSNR will be a focus for engaging university scientists in research and development of advanced space nuclear systems including space power and propulsion systems and radioisotope power generators.

TXU Corp. has named James Burke chairman and chief executive officer of TXU Energy, the company’s retail business. Burke previously served as TXU Energy's as senior vice president of consumer markets. TXU Corp. has also named Michael McCall chairman and CEO of TXU Wholesale, the business that optimizes the purchases and sales of energy for generation and retail businesses in the competitive wholesale market. McCall McCall has served as senior vice president of environmental, fuels and safety for the past year.

Washington Group International has elected Gail Hamilton to its board of directors, effective immediately. Hamilton recently retired as executive vice president and general manager of global services and support for Symantec Corp.

Another Blogger For Nuclear Energy

From The Reconstruction:

It's time for the environmental movement to drop its irrational taboo against nuclear energy and consider it as a part of a strategy to deal with a threat that the movement already recognizes as being quite present. If the environmental movement fails to either do this or to find a better solution, the movement will have failed. Global warming is not an issue we can fail to address.
UPDATE: Meet Peter Byrnes:
[T]he key really is to lessen and eliminate dependence on foreign energy sources . . . Alternative sources are an option, but wind, solar, and biomass energies are so outrageously expensive and scarce that it would be idiocy to suggest them. Nuclear energy is not only cheap, but clean. Just ask the French. And no, they are not meltdowns waiting to happen. Our naval fleet is loaded with ships powered exclusively by nuclear power, which has proven safe.

Because while people may be pricing in the cost of gas, a shortage would create very different problems. And those kinds of things are neither priced in nor easily absorbed by the economy.
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Words of Wisdom

Can you guess who spoke these words?

Coal offers great potential. So does nuclear energy produced under rigorous safety standards. It could supply electricity for thousands of industries and millions of jobs and homes. It must not be thwarted by a tiny minority opposed to economic growth which often finds friendly ears in regulatory agencies for its obstructionist campaigns.

Make no mistake. We will not permit the safety of our people or our environment heritage to be jeopardized, but we are going to reaffirm that the economic prosperity of our people is a fundamental part of our environment.
Click here to find out.

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High Oil Prices Spur Support for Nuclear Energy

The (South) Dakota Voice reports today on a survey by Rasmussen Reports that finds increasing support for nuclear power, which may be directly related to sky-high oil prices:

As the price of oil surges, so has support for building nuclear power plants in the United States. The latest Rasmussen Reports survey finds that Americans support the nuclear power option by a more than 2-to-1 margin (55% to 24%).

In June, before the latest surge in oil prices, the country was more evenly divided on that question--44% in favor and 35% opposed. Much of the growth in support for nuclear power plants can be found among women and Democrats. However, men and Republicans remain even more supportive.

Eighty-seven percent (87%) of Americans believe it is somewhat or very important for the U.S. to reduce its reliance on imported oil. That's essentially unchanged from the earlier survey.

Also unchanged is the belief that energy conservation is not a lasting solution. Sixty-four percent (64%) say that, in the long run, developing new sources of energy is more important than conserving energy. Just 26% take the opposite view.

Sixty-four percent (64%) of men and 46% of women say it is "time for the United States to begin building power plants again." Twenty-two percent of men and 25% of women take the opposite view. Earlier in the summer, a plurality of women were opposed to building new nuclear power plants.
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Stat Pack: The Truth About Vermont Yankee

Check out the latest article from the Burlington Free Press pushing to close Vermont Yankee. It's by James Moore of the rabid anti-nuke organization, VPIRG:

When Vermont Yankee went off line July 22 due to a "catastrophic failure" in its electrical switchyard we learned the real story behind Entergy's claims that the plant is reliable.
“Catastrophic failure”? At NEI we track our nuclear plants religiously, and it's important to understand exactly what “catastrophic” means in terms of this incident. On July 25th (not the 22nd) here’s what happened:
Around 3:30 p.m., Monday, an 8-foot-tall electrical insulator broke, sending a signal through the plant that shut down its generator, turbines and reactor…

“'Catastrophic' is a term used fairly frequently. It really just means there was a sudden failure of a piece of equipment. The safety significance was blown out of proportion," Sheehan said. "'Catastrophic failure' conveys something much more significant than it should."
In three days the nuclear plant was back operating at full power.
Vermont Yankee's most recent failure highlights the risk that the nuclear power plant represents. It is an aging facility that has seen a score of problems in the last few years.
Since the beginning of 2004, Vermont Yankee has been shut down 3 times; one was for refueling and the other two were due to problems with the switchyard (a problem any electric generating plant could have). But a “score of problems” -- after all, a score is a set of 20 items -- is an exaggeration.

Vermont Yankee is one of the nation's older nuclear plants. But at 33 years old, Vermont Yankee is considerably younger than the state's average hydro plant (58). One hydro plant, Essex Junction 19, began commercial operations in 1917 and is still running.

Here’s a link to the data on how each state generates its electricity. 74% of the electricity generated in Vermont is from Vermont Yankee, one of the smallest plants in the nuclear fleet! We are proud of that stat.

Later in the article, Moore details exactly what the costs were when Vermont Yankee wasn't generating electricity:
Vermont utilities paid out approximately $1 million extra for that electricity, an expense that is likely to be passed on to Vermont ratepayers. We also relied on coal from deep mines and mountain top removal operations, and burned oil and natural gas from troubled and environmentally sensitive regions around the world.
That last sentence makes nuclear sound even better. Is the writer trying to make a case for or against nuclear energy?
It is important to understand where our electricity comes from and what environmental impacts we are contributing to when we turn on the lights. However, it is equally important to recognize that Vermont has more options than unreliable electricity from an aging nuclear power plant backed up by dirty and expensive power from the New England electricity grid.
Capacity factor is a measure of efficiency and reliability. In 2004, Vermont Yankee had a capacity factor of 86.1%. Hydro plants and wind farms in Vermont had a capacity factor of 57% and 22%. If Vermont Yankee is ‘unreliable’, I would hate to hear what hydro and wind are called.
Eight wind farms like the proposed Searsburg expansion supplying an estimated 130,000 megawatt hours each, combined with three renewable biomass facilities the size of Burlington's McNeil power plant providing 400,000 megawatt hours each would provide clean, affordable electricity generated here in Vermont equal to what Vermont Yankee supplies us when it is on line.
8 wind farms + 3 biomass facilities = 1 nuclear plant. But it doesn't add up. 8 wind farms times 130,000 MWh plus 3 biomass facilities times 400,000 MWh = 2.24 million MWh. Vermont Yankee generated 3.9 million MWh of electricity in 2004. You're missing 1.66 million MWh.


120 square miles of wind farms would be needed to replace Vermont Yankee. It would take 625 square miles for biomass facilities. Vermont Yankee only occupies 1/5 of a mile.
In Vermont we have to be doing everything that we can to reduce our global warming pollution now…

We have a choice as to what kind of energy we want here in Vermont. When taking in all of the impacts from fossil fuels and nuclear power, that choice is clear.
What is a reliable and efficient source of power? Nuclear. What keeps electricity costs low and stable? Nuclear. What avoids greenhouse gas emissions? Nuclear. The ‘choice’ is clear to me.

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