Friday, September 30, 2005

Organizational Note

Earlier this week, NEI announced a staff restructuring. The details aren't important, but I thought I should mention how it affected me. Instead of being part of the editorial staff, I've been moved to the policy development team.

Over the long run, this means NEI Nuclear Notes will probably get a lot meatier. I'm proud of the work we've done so far, but I think we need to raise our game to keep up. The move to policy development will speed that process.

Prior to the restructuring, I was informed that one of our contributors, Lisa Stiles-Shell, will be coming on board as a loaned executive from Dominion Generation. As it turns out, Lisa will be occupying the same slot in Government Affairs that my former colleague, Brian Smith, once occupied here at NEI. We're glad she's coming on board.

Thanks for reading, and we'll see you again on Monday morning.

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'Nuclear Power Is a Must'

An editorial in today's Orlando Sentinel urges environmentalists to "get real":

Stop pretending alternative energy sources that have not yet proved economically feasible -- such as wind, solar, biomass or ethanol -- are the answer.

There is no real alternative to fossil fuels in the short term, and nuclear power is a much better intermediate-term bet.

That's why environmentalists need to become proponents of building U.S. nuclear-power plants. They must abandon the folks who believe that atomic power -- even used to heat and light your home -- is evil.
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Stat Pack: EIA's Annual Energy Review 2004 (Part 3)

Over the past few weeks, the media has been bombarding us with all sorts of facts and figures regarding oil and gasoline prices. Out in public, many pundits are charging the oil industry with price gouging.

Unfortunately, many of these same pundits are taking advantage of some basic economic illiteracy when it comes to the market for petroleum products. But when we walk through the section on petroleum in the EIA Annual Energy Review, those basic facts and figures are clear and easy to understand.

Petroleum: Who did we get it from? What did we do with it? Where did it go? And why are gasoline prices high?

Let's begin by clicking on this Petroleum Flow diagram. U.S. crude oil supply in 2004 was more than 15 million barrels per day. Of that 15 million, we imported about 65% from other countries.

Who did we get it from?

According to EIA's Petroleum Overview table, 17% of the crude oil produced in the U.S. came from Alaska. The other 83% came from the 48 states excluding Alaska and Hawaii in 2004.

Of the 65% of the petroleum imported from other countries, the U.S. imported the most from Canada, an average of 2.1 million barrels per day. Mexico came in 2nd with 1.64, followed by Saudi Arabia with 1.56 and then Venezuela at 1.5 million barrels per day.

What did we do with it?

We gave the refineries about 16.8 million barrels each day during 2004. They then turned it into distillate fuel oil, jet fuel, gasoline, residual fuel oil and other petroleum products outputting 17.8 million barrels each day. For definitions on what each petroleum product is click on EIA's AER Glossary.

You may be wondering how refineries put out more barrels than received. As crude oil is refined there are gains in the process.

Processing Gain: The volumetric amount by which total output is greater than input for a given period of time. This difference is due to the processing of crude oil into petroleum products which, in total, have a lower specific gravity than the crude oil processed.
Where did it go?

Transportation was the dominant end use sector for petroleum consumption, 66%. 25% went to the industrial sector and the rest, 9%, went to the residential, commercial and electric power sectors.

How can nuclear help in the transportation sector? For the answer check out my last post:
Over time, the plan is to move from using gasoline-powered vehicles with hydrogen vehicles. Right now the Department of Energy is in the research and development stage of this long term transition. To read about the Nuclear Hydrogen Initiative, click here.
Why are gasoline prices high?

Two words: Refining capacity. In 1981, there were 324 in operation. In 2004, less than half that, 149 refineries were still operating.

Over the past 10 years, they have been running at and above 90% of capacity -- which means there isn't a lot of room to spare. Refineries are producing about as much petroleum products as they possibly can. At the same time, U.S. demand continues to rise. And with a large swath of America's refineries knocked out of action due to Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, there are practical limits to how much gasoline they can produce.

It's a simple economic equation. If demand increases and supply is constricted, prices are going to go up. And that's exactly what's happening now.

So why aren't there more refineries to keep up with demand? Check out this article from ABC News:
Analysts say just a few new big refineries could produce enough extra gasoline to make a dent in prices. But building even a small refinery in the United States is a monumental task -- just ask McGinnis.

He's been trying to build a refinery on a patch of Arizona desert for a decade, and at this point hopes to be operational in early 2010. It's taken five years to get the air quality permits -- the site had to be moved from Phoenix to Yuma --— and they still won't break ground for another year.

"By the time we're completed, it will have been 15 years since the project really got started until we got product to the market," McGinnis said.
The last time a refinery was built was back in the 1970s. No one wants them in their backyards and the approval process has become unpredictable -- something that's anathema to Wall Street, the people who fund construction.

That's a situation that the nuclear energy industry can empathize with. But thanks to the Energy Policy Act of 2005, that looks to be changing.

For parts 1 and 2 of EIA's Annual Energy Review click here and here.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Wackenhut and Nuclear Power Plant Security

A little more than an hour ago, Instapundit linked to a story on Facing South dealing with Wackenhut and its work providing security for government nuclear facilities. Also mentioned is the fact that Wackenhut provides security for 31 nuclear power plants, and was employed by NEI to perform what are called "Force on Force" exercises designed to test site security.

The post at Facing South is more or less a carbon copy of the talking points you'll find over at eyeonwackenhut.comm, a Web site operated by the Service Employee International Union which represents security personnel at a number of plants.

One important point: Though Facing South and Instapundit just discovered the SEIU site today, it's been up for quite a while. When it comes to nuclear plant security, I'll just refer to this October 2004 press release we issued when all of the nation's nuclear power plants had met the deadline for enhancing security at every facility:

To meet the NRC's security requirements, the nuclear power plants that provide electricity to one of every five U.S. homes and businesses have taken the following measures:

· increased the size of their paramilitary security forces by 60 percent to a total of 8,000 officers;

· made substantial physical improvements to provide additional protection against vehicle bombs and other potential terrorist assaults;

· increased training for security officers;

· established a rigorous "force on force" mock adversary exercise regime;

· increased security patrols;

· added more security posts;

· increased vehicle standoff distances;

· tightened access controls; and

· enhanced coordination with state and local law enforcement.
In total, the commercial nuclear industry has spent more than $1.2 billion since 9-11 on security enhancements. If you'd like to investigate the issue further, visit our archive on Safety and Security. Over the Summer, we were pretty active in rebutting many of the charges that were leveled by Time in a feature that ran in June. Click here and here for more information on that.

UPDATE: To deal specifically with the Wackenhut charge, I'll quote from an article that ran in The Hill back in 2004 where our CNO, Marv Fertel was quoted:
The industry has spent $1 billion [now totaling $1.2 billion -- EMc] on security upgrades, including the hiring of an additional 3,000 security officers, said Marvin Fertel, NEI vice president and chief nuclear officer.

"It is anything but business as usual," he said of the industry's efforts to improve security since Sept. 11.

Wackenhut, Fertel said, won the contract because of its extensive security experience.

The company now provides security for 30 of the country's nuclear power plants. An ex-Army Ranger with 10 years’ experience and two special-operations veterans will develop the mock attacks, Fertel said.

Wackenhut's bid offered a "very substantive capability," Fertel said.

To avoid conflict-of-interest concerns, the NEI required that the force attacking a facility where Wackenhut provides security could not include security officers from that plant, Fertel said.
Earlier this year, NRC Chairman Nils Diaz told The Hill:
Diaz defended the decision, explaining that the commission designs, administers and grades the tests. Referring to the commission's oversight of nuclear plants, Diaz said, "We're a pain in the neck."
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Nuclear Energy Industry Transitions

Rebecca Schmidt will join the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in October as director of the Office of Congressional Affairs. Betsy Keeling became associate director of that office on Sept. 18.

David Nevins has been named senior vice president and chief marketing officer for Constellation Energy. Nevins founded Nevins & Associates, a marketing and public affairs firm, in 1984 and served as its president. He will continue to serve as chairman of the company.

PG&E Corp. announced on Sept. 22 several officer-level changes:
• Ophelia Basgal is PG&E Co.’s first vice president of civic partnership and community initiatives. She is the former executive director of the Alameda County Housing Authority.
• DeAnn Hapner has been named PG&E Co. vice president of federal regulatory policy and rates. She has been with the company since 1985.
• PG&E Co. Senior Vice President, Treasurer and Chief Financial Officer Kent Harvey transitioned to PG&E Corp. senior vice president and chief risk and audit officer.
• PG&E Corp. Senior Vice President, Chief Financial Officer and Controller Christopher Johns became senior vice president, chief financial officer and treasurer for PG&E Corp. and its utility unit, Pacific Gas and Electric Co. (PG&E Co.).
• Nancy McFadden has been named PG&E Co. vice president of government relations. Previously she held various government-appointed positions.
• G. Robert Powell has been named PG&E Corp. vice president and controller, effective Oct. 4. He comes to PG&E Corp. from PricewaterhouseCoopers.
• Walter Rhodes has been named vice president of strategic sourcing and operations support. He joins PG&E from Entergy New Orleans, where he was vice president of operations and chief procurement officer.

PG&E also announced that President and CEO Peter Darbee will take on the additional role of chairman of the boards of directors for the corporation and its utility unit. PG&E Co. Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Thomas King has been elected president and CEO. He will also become a senior vice president of PG&E Corp. and a member of PG&E Co.’s board of directors. Both appointments are effective Jan. 1, 2006.

PNM Resources has elected Woody Hunt to its board of directors.

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A Milestone for New Nuclear Build

The U.S. nuclear industry has passed a new milestone for new construction. NUREG-1835, "Safety Evaluation Report for an Early Site Permit (ESP) at the North Anna ESP Site" has been posted on the NRC website. Its ADAMS accession number is ML052710305.

In characteristically dry style, the NRC writes that its staff "concludes that issuance of the requested ESP will not be inimical to the common defense and security or to the health and safety of the public."

Congratulations to Dominion for its achivement, and thanks to Sophie Gutner for bringing this to my attention.

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U.K. Nuclear Update

The U.K. is buzzing this week after Prime Minister Tony Blair once again said that nuclear energy must be consider as part of his nation's future energy mix in order to curb greenhouse gas emissions and support further economic growth. Here's the relevant passage from the speech he delivered on Tuesday:

Next year too, building on Britain's Kyoto commitments, we will publish proposals on energy policy. Global warming is too serious for the world any longer to ignore its danger or split into opposing factions on it. And for how much longer can countries like ours allow the security of our energy supply be dependent on some of the most unstable parts of the world?

For both reasons the G8 agreement must be made to work so we develop together the technology that allows prosperous nations to adapt and emerging ones to grow sustainably; and that means an assessment of all options, including civil nuclear power.
These comments were followed up with another statement from U.K. energy minister, Malcolm Wicks:
The government will give a “yes or no” to nuclear power by the end of next year following a decision by Tony Blair to inject “greater urgency” into the nuclear debate.

Malcolm Wicks, energy minister, said on Wednesday a government review of energy policy next year would “have to include a proposal about nuclear”. He added: “The proposal could be no it could be yes.”

At this week's Labour party conference, the prime minister appeared to give a strong signal of support for replacing the UK's ageing nuclear power stations, all but one of which is due to be decommissioned by 2023.

Previously, Mr Blair had committed to making a decision on new nuclear stations by the end of this parliament.
Blair's position on nuclear energy evolved over a considerable period of time, especially as he's made tackling climate change one of his foreign policy priorities. But there are more practical concerns as well. The following is from the Times of London:
If Britain wants to have security for its energy supply, nuclear will increasingly be seen to be the answer. The Transport and General Workers Union’s Jack Dromey, advocating the nuclear option, declared that “it would be dangerous in the extreme to become dependent on uncertain sources of supply.” He wants to preserve jobs for his members in the UK but accepts that the public needs reassurance about safety.
When he says, "uncertain sources of supply" he means Russian natural gas.

UPDATE: Here's another item I thought might be pertinent:

Tony Blair must give the go-ahead for a new generation of nuclear power stations by the end of next year if the Government is to meet its climate-change targets and safeguard security of supply, the chief executive of British Energy, Bill Coley, said yesterday.

His comments follow the Prime Minister's announcement at the Labour conference this week of a wide-ranging review of Britain's energy needs which would assess "all options, including civil nuclear power".

Mr Coley said that even if British Energy, the country's main nuclear electricity generator, extended the lives of most of its stations, the contribution from nuclear energy would dip sharply by 2020, making the UK more reliant on imported gas and jeopardising its targets for cutting greenhouse gas emissions.

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OPG Moves Forward With Pickering A Restart

Here's some good news from earlier in the week from our friends in Canada that we wanted to recognize:

One of four reactors at Ontario's Pickering nuclear power station began sending power to the province's electricity grid for the first time in eight years on Tuesday.

The refurbished Pickering A Unit 1 had been undergoing refurbishment. The last time it delivered power to the Ontario consumer was in December, 1997.

“This has been a complex management and construction challenge encompassing more than 1.9 million hours of work, 40,000 tasks and 3,000 people at its peak,” project manager Bill Robinson said.
For a video describing the project click here. For other details, click here. Congratulations to the team at Ontario Power Generation on reaching another important milestone. According to this report, Ontario is going to need plenty of new capacity in the near term.

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Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Saudi Arabia, Exxon Seek to Calm World Oil Market

From today's Independent (U.K.):

Saudi Arabia, the biggest oil producer, and Exxon Mobil, the largest oil company, yesterday declared that the world had decades' worth of oil to come, in an attempt to calm fears about the record prices experienced in recent weeks.

Forming a powerful alliance, the Saudi oil minister Ali al-Naimi said, at an industry conference in Johannesburg, that the country would soon almost double its "proven" reserve base, while Exxon's president, Rex Tillerson, spoke of 3 trillion or more barrels of oil that are yet to be recovered.
Well, there's at least one blogger who's expressing some doubts about this story. And here's another that says the real problem is refining capacity.

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Another Blogger for Nuclear Energy

Meet Bruce Hall.

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New Areva Commercial

Check out this new television ad from Areva, which looks to be based on the popular "Sims" series of computer games.

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Another Newspaper for Nuclear Energy

From yesterday's Jersey Journal:

Nuclear plants are cleaner than fossil fuel burning plants and provide a limitless amount of energy. Design is important and the review process is exhaustive. Concerns about security are legitimate, but this alone will not prevent their construction.

This nation has shown an unwillingness to experiment or research economically feasible alternative energy. Like France, which has more than 50 working nuclear plants generating more than 75 percent of its electricity, the United States will be forced to -- and should -- turn to available technology for its power needs.
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EPA Extends Yucca Comment Period

From the Las Vegas Review-Journal:

The Environmental Protection Agency on Tuesday announced it will accept public comments on proposed Yucca Mountain radiation safety standards for an additional 30 days.

The official comment period is being extended to Nov. 21, the agency announced in a Federal Register notice.

The EPA has scheduled public hearings at Amargosa Valley on Oct. 3, and in Las Vegas on Oct. 4-6. A hearing in Washington will be held on Oct. 11.

The agency is extending the comment period in recognition of "the high level of interest in Yucca Mountain."

"It is important to allow adequate time for public information to readily reach more rural areas," the EPA said.
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Tuesday, September 27, 2005

President Bush: We Need Alternative Sources of Energy

From a statement by President Bush following a briefing at the Department of Energy on the effects of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita on the U.S. energy supply:

It is clear that when you're dependent upon natural gas and/or hydrocarbons to fuel your economy and that supply gets disrupted, we need alternative sources of energy. And that's why I believe so strongly in nuclear power. And so we've got a chance, once again, to assess where we are as a country when it comes to energy and do something about it. And I look forward to working with Congress to do just that.
In the wake of the Gulf Coast hurricanes, it's important to remember that energy diversity isn't just a buzzword or a talking point, it's an essential element of national security.

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For Environment's Sake, U.S. Should Go Nuclear

An editorial in yesterday's Detroit News asks this question: What would be the best solution, using today's technology, to reduce the emission of greenhouse gases and cut the consumption of fossil fuels? Their answer: "Go nuclear."

Nuclear power plants provide a clean and virtually inexhaustible source of energy. Nuclear is the only available alternative for producing mass amounts of electricity without polluting the air or water.

And yet, the United States has turned away from nuclear energy, bowing to irrational fears and the powerful environmental lobby. But it is the environmentalists who ought to be nuclear energy's biggest fans, given that nuclear is the most eco-efficient of all energy sources.
The editorial hails NuStart's selection last week of Grand Gulf Nuclear Station and Bellefonte Nuclear Plant, saying the consortium should receive "all the assistance necessary" from the federal government to apply for combined construction and operating licenses for new nuclear plants at these two sites.
The effort by NuStart should be the beginning of an urgent, national push to rush new nuclear plants into production.
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Massachusetts Considers Hybrid Bill

The Massachusetts Senate is considering a bill that would reward drivers who buy hybrid or alternative fuel cars with tax breaks, free transponders to get through tolls quicker and open access to HOV lanes.

The bill also would require that at least half of the state's fleet of vehicles run on alternative fuels by 2010, and establish an Alternative Fuels Institute at the University of Massachusetts.

Massachusetts is already ninth in the nation in the number of hybrid cars on the road, according to Republican Sen. Bruce Tarr, the bill's author.

"There's a willingness here to embrace this kind of technology," Tarr said. "What we're trying to do is lead the way."
For more on hybrid vehicles, check out the Soultek Blog, where you can read a whole slew of posts on the topic. Also, be sure to visit HybridCars.com. Click here to read about hydrogen and nuclear energy on NEI's Web site. You can also read a fact sheet about the U.S. Department of Energy's Generation IV Initiative, which envisions a hydrogen-based economy.

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Doublecheck Your Work

On September 12, our Chief Nuclear Officer, Marv Fertel, made a joint appearance on CNBC's Squawk Box with Tyson Slocum of Public Citizen on the prospects for new nuclear build in the U.S.

At the end of the interview, Slocum made a familiar charge about the energy legislation that President Bush recently signed into law.

KERNEN: Mr. Slocum, you'’re going to have the last word. If it's not nuclear, do you have some other ideas for us?

SLOCUM: Well, yeah, we've got to reduce demand. The United States is the biggest consumer of energy and the energy bill just signed doesn't address improving efficiency at all.
Really? How can he make that claim when Title I of the legislation was named "Energy Conservation"? Don't believe me, look it up yourself right now by clicking here.

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Monday, September 26, 2005

Stein on Energy Supply: "We need to be diversified."

In Sunday's Boston Globe, columnist Charles Stein made the case for a diverse energy mix -- one where nuclear power plays a larger role than it does today:

There are plenty of specialists around who are firmly convinced that high oil and gas prices are here to stay. Richard Lester suggests we should be wary about such pronouncements. ''Smart people don't get this right," said Lester, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor of nuclear science and engineering. In 2003, Lester and some colleagues wrote a report on the future of nuclear power. They assumed natural gas prices -- the main competition -- would stay in a range of $3 to $6 per million BTUs. Last week natural gas was selling for more than $12 per million BTUs.

The solution here is obvious: We need to be diversified. Investors spread their bets around because they don't know which stocks will do well and which will do poorly. We need to do the same with sources of energy because, in truth, we don't have a clue what will happen to their prices in the future. The cheap may become expensive and the expensive cheap.
This is just what we've been saying, and it bears repeating: Saying that we have to choose between nuclear energy and renewables is a false choice. For the sake of energy, economic and national security, America needs a diverse energy portfolio.

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Sunday, September 25, 2005

Revisiting RMI's Bad Data

One of the things we try to do here at NEI Nuclear Notes is take a closer look at the claims made by many environmentalists and put them to the test. As I've mentioned several times before, my colleague David Bradish has taken the lead in this area and given a number of studies closer look. And one of the studies that David took apart was authored by the Rocky Mountain Institute, an organization run by Amory Lovins (for more on Lovins, click here).

Unfortunately, even if you debunk a study once, others with an ideological agenda will continue to use it to buttress their flawed arguments. Such was the case when the San Francisco Chronicle ran an op-ed piece by Mark Hertsgaard titled, "Nuclear Energy Can't Solve Global Warming." In that article, Hertsgaard dutifully mentioned RMI's flawed study as if it were fact -- something we made sure to mention right away.

But as we've seen before, it doesn't stop there. Hertsgaard has since re-posted the article on his personal Web site -- and made sure it was listed in such a way that nobody could leave a dissenting comment. Subsequently, it was picked up by another blogger who quoted it as if it were gospel.

Here at NEI Nuclear Notes, we don't ask for much, but if you're going to make claims about research and the data that they rely on, you should at least show the work -- we do that all the time. And in Hertsgaard's case, the re-print of his article ought to link back to the original RMI study -- something that would help folks come to a reasonable conclusion about its claims.

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Friday, September 23, 2005

BusinessWeek's False Impressions

Alongside this week's cover story, "The Next Big One," BusinessWeek ran a sidebar called "Sleepless Nights" that details the top 10 risks to America.

Take a look at the chart entry for a dirty bomb, which states that materials for a dirty bomb can be gathered from "power-plant wastes" and that such a threat would cause "immediate deaths in the hundreds [and] long-term cancer deaths in the thousands."

Then take a look at a fact sheet on NEI's Web site called "Used Fuel Secure at Nuclear Power Plants Could Not Be Used to Make a 'Dirty Bomb.'" In particular, this fact sheet notes:

The possibility of utilizing used nuclear fuel for a “dirty bomb” is fraught with practical and logistical obstacles that would render such a scenario essentially impossible. A “dirty bomb” is a bomb made of conventional explosives covered with radioactive material that would be used by terrorists to spread radiation. However, no nuclear reaction occurs. The most significant public health consequences would occur as a result of the explosion—not the radioactivity in the device.

The used fuel at nuclear power plants would be extremely difficult for an outsider to access. Moreover, it would also be extremely difficult to use.
You might also want to read the fact sheet titled "Steps for Public Safety Against a 'Dirty Bomb.'"

We also should point out the final chart entry, on the possibility of a radiation leak. BusinessWeek - relying on the Union of Concerned Scientists for data - states that "coolant loss at a nuclear power plant could send a radioactive cloud over nearby cities," causing "as many as 44,000 immediate deaths." In addition, the magazine claims, "upwards of 500,000 could eventually die from cancer."

Let's go back to the fact sheets. Nearly every one in the Safety and Security and the Radiation Control and Measurement sections will tell you the same thing:
In the unlikely event of a radiation release ... the likelihood of one fatality is less than one chance in 6,000 years—80 times lower than the NRC’s safety standard for nuclear plant operation.

The long-term cancer fatality risk is indistinguishable compared to cancer risks from other causes. The likelihood of one cancer-induced fatality is less than one chance in 3,000 years—1,000 times lower than the NRC safety standard.
The following fact sheets would have been particularly useful to BusinessWeek and the Union of Concerned Scientists as they constructed their chart:

- Nuclear Power Plant Security
- Public Health Risk Low in Unlikely Event of Terrorism at Nuclear Plant, EPRI Study Finds
- Emergency Preparedness Near Nuclear Power Plants
- Use of Potassium Iodide Secondary Measure in the Event of a Radioactive Release

UPDATE: The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has already responded to BusinessWeek (thanks to AtomicMatt for pointing this out). Pointing specifically to the recent report on the effects of the Chernobyl accident, the NRC's letter to the editor scathingly reprimands the magazine for sloppy data collection:

Business Week's "Sleepless Nights" chart with the Sept. 19 "Next Big One" article shows unsupportable, misinformed "projections" of the possible effects of a nuclear power plant accident. The numbers quoted in the chart have no basis in reality and do not reflect the most recent information about the effects of the 1986 nuclear power plant accident in Chernobyl, the worst the world has seen.

...The Nuclear Regulatory Commission's regulations and ongoing oversight of U.S. nuclear plants focus on preventing accidents and protecting the public if an accident were to occur. Your readers are best served by numbers based on fact and deliberate study, not wildly inaccurate projections meant to grab attention.
UPDATE: BusinessWeek published part of the NRC's letter in its Oct. 17 edition.

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Stat Pack: EIA's Annual Energy Review 2004 (Part 2)

Last week we gave you an Overview of EIA's Annual Energy Review 2004. This week we are going to break it down further to the sectors where energy is consumed.

Just to recap, here are definitions for each sectors from AER's Glossary:

Commercial Sector: An energy-consuming sector that consists of service providing facilities and equipment of: businesses; Federal, State, and local governments; and other private and public organizations, such as religious, social, or fraternal groups. The commercial sector includes institutional living quarters. It also includes sewage treatment facilities. Common uses of energy associated with this sector include space heating, water heating, air conditioning, lighting, refrigeration, cooking, and running a wide variety of other equipment.

Industrial Sector: An energy-consuming sector that consists of all facilities and equipment used for producing, processing, or assembling goods. The industrial sector encompasses the following types of activity: manufacturing (NAICS codes 31-33); agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting (NAICS code 11); mining, including oil and gas extraction (NAICS code 21); and construction (NAICS code 23). Overall energy use in this sector is largely for process heat and cooling and powering machinery, with lesser amounts used for facility heating, air conditioning, and lighting. Fossil fuels are also used as raw material inputs to manufactured products.

Residential Sector: An energy-consuming sector that consists of living quarters for private households. Common uses of energy associated with this sector include space heating, water heating, air conditioning, lighting, refrigeration, cooking, and running a variety of other appliances. The residential sector excludes institutional living quarters.

Transportation Sector: An energy-consuming sector that consists of all vehicles whose primary purpose is transporting people and/or goods from one physical location to another. Included are automobiles; trucks; buses; motorcycles; trains, subways, and other rail vehicles; aircraft; and ships, barges, and other waterborne vehicles.
Energy Consumption by Sector

Section 2.1a of the AER contains a variety of interesting data. Let's start with the graphs. The top right pie chart shows the End-Use Sector Shares of Total Consumption in 2004: 21% residential, 18% commercial, 28% transportation and 33% industrial. If you look at the line graph below, it shows the amount of energy consumed to make electricity. In 2004, it's about the same percentage as the fuel shares of electricity.

Now take a look at the graphs of 2.1b. All four charts show the energy consumption for each sector. For the residential sector, natural gas is the primary fuel. For commercial, electricity is the primary fuel. For industrial, petroleum and natural gas are the primary fuels and for transportation, petroleum is the dominant fuel source.

Another important data point deals with "Electrical Losses" -- the energy lost in converting heat to electricity. Remember, energy is just another word for heat. Once you have heat, you can transfer it into electricity. But during the transfer process (thermal to electrical) only about one-third of the energy is converted to electricity.

Here's where cogeneration comes in. Plants can take that extra heat and use it for other purposes such as heating for buildings and manufacturing. It's a very efficient way of using energy.

Residential

Lets get back to the charts and find out how nuclear can fit into the picture. In the residential sector, natural gas is the primary fuel consumed. Electricity isn't far behind. Since 1970 natural gas consumption for heating has remained flat, whereas electricity consumption has increased 177%.

But as I'm sure you are aware, we still use fossil fuels to generate electricity. About 70% of the electricity comes from fossil fuels (coal, natural gas and oil), 20% from nuclear and 10% from other sources like renewables and hydropower. If you increase the nuclear share to 30% or even 40%, it would have a dramatic effect on the prices of fossil fuels, natural gas in particular.

That's what we like to call forward price stability. Because nuclear's fuel costs are so low, its market isn't subjected to the dramatic volatility we often see in oil and gas markets, something we've seen played out dramatically over the past few weeks as the energy-rich Gulf Coast has been hit successively by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

Industrial

Nuclear energy can make an important contribution to the industrial sector too. If you scroll back to the definition of the industrial sector you'll find: "Overall energy use in this sector is largely for process heat and cooling."

Process heat is used in the manufacture of glass, cement and iron. It creates hydrogen, generates wood pulp manufacturing and powers desalination. And nuclear energy could provide that heat.

American nuclear plants are only used to generate electricity. But nuclear vendors such as AREVA have been exploring the idea of building high temperature reactors specifically for process heat. And only a few days ago, French oil giant Total said it was investigating the possibility of building a nuclear power plant to power operations to extract oil from tar sands in Alberta.

Transportation

How can nuclear apply to the transportation sector? If you look at the chart, natural gas and petroleum are the only fuels in the sector. Where's electricity?

Over time, the plan is to move from using gasoline-powered vehicles with hydrogen vehicles. Right now the Department of Energy is in the research and development stage of this long term transition. To read about the Nuclear Hydrogen Initiative, click here:
Hydrogen is abundant in nature but occurs primarily in stable compounds that require significant energy to produce hydrogen for use as a fuel. Hydrogen is an energy carrier, much like electricity, that requires a primary energy source to produce. Domestic energy sources that do not generate greenhouse gases and have the potential to produce hydrogen at costs competitive with gasoline will be essential components of the long-term energy supply. The DOE Hydrogen Program is investigating the potential for all of the practical energy sources for hydrogen production, including: Fossil sources with carbon sequestration (coal and natural gas), Renewable energy sources (solar, wind, and hydroelectric), Biological methods (biomass and biological), and Nuclear energy.

(snip)

Among these primary energy sources, nuclear energy offers great potential for the large-scale production of hydrogen that is virtually emission-free and generated from domestic resources.
And that's how nuclear energy can make an important contribution to energy security and diversity. Come back next week for more number crunching.

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Megatons to Megawatts Reaches Milestone

Our friend Charles Yulish at USEC sent us a note this week to remind us of a very important milestone achieved this week by "Megatons to Megawatts":

Megatons to Megawatts (M2M) program—elimination of the 10,000th nuclear warhead—the half way mark in this program.

250 metric tons of HEU from Russian warheads has been diluted and recycled into fuel for American power reactors -- 10 percent of America’s electricity is produced using M2M fuel.

Nuclear power plants are helping to make the world safer by using this fuel, which is derived from warhead material that is diluted in Russia and shipped to America for use in the nation’s nuclear power reactors.

The fuel is no longer bomb-grade, and can’t be used as a weapon. It is identical to the low enriched fuel produced in U.S. and other facilities and safely transported globally for more than half a century.

USEC Inc. is the U.S. executive agent operating this program, at no cost to American taxpayers.

The program will continue through 2013, when 500 metric tons of Russian warhead material, equal to 20,000 nuclear warheads, will have been eliminated by the Megatons to Megawatts process.
Click here for our original piece on the program earlier this year. And congratulations to everyone at USEC for a job well done.

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German Nuclear Update

With the chances of the Green Party joining a coalition government dead, the possibility of a nuclear energy revival in Germany is still in the offing:

German opposition leader Angela Merkel said differences with the Greens are too great to schedule a further round of talks on forming a government, signaling that she's leaning toward a "grand coalition" with Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's Social Democrats...

One key area of dispute between the parties concerns CDU and FDP plans to extend the life of nuclear-power plants to reduce energy costs for consumers and industry. In 2000, the Greens secured an accord with Germany's utilities to shut down the country's 19 nuclear plants over 21 years.
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Another Blogger for Nuclear Energy

Meet Critical Section and Marty's Place.

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DOE Releases Draft Plan on Emissions Reductions

Yesterday, the Department of Energy announced it had released a draft strategic plan on reducing greenhouse gas emissions through the application of advanced technology:

The technologies developed under the Climate Change Technology program will be used and deployed among the United States' partners in the Asia-Pacific Partnership for Clean Development that was announced earlier this year.

"This Strategic Plan is the first of its kind and will provide a comprehensive, long-term look at the role for advanced technology in addressing this important global concern," David Conover, Director of the Climate Change Technology Program said. "“This forward-looking document will allow us and our partners to drive and capitalize on technological innovation far into the future. The Asia-Pacific Partnership coupled with the technologies that we will develop will have a significant impact in addressing this long-term challenge."
For a copy of the plan, click here. For more on the Asia-Pacific climate pact, click here and for more on the Bush Administration's plans to apply new technologies to greenhouse gas reduction and prevention, click here.

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Bodman on NuStart

Here's a statement from Energy Secretary Sam Bodman on yesterday's NuStart announcement:

Today's announcement is a major step in the right direction. As America's energy needs continue to grow with our economy, further building our nuclear infrastructure will ensure that we can generate large amounts of reliable, affordable, emissions-free power. The companies of the NuStart Consortium are to be congratulated for their efforts; they are truly the trailblazers for 21st century power generation in America.
For the latest media clips on NuStart, click here.

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Thursday, September 22, 2005

NuStart Selects Grand Gulf and Bellefonte for COLs

Just off the wire from NuStart Energy Development:

The nation’s largest consortium of nuclear power companies today selected Grand Gulf Nuclear Station and Bellefonte Nuclear Plant as the sites it will use on applications for combined construction and operating licenses for new nuclear plants, the first in 30 years.

Grand Gulf, owned by an Entergy subsidiary, is near Port Gibson, Miss. Bellefonte, owned by the Tennessee Valley Authority, is near Scottsboro, Ala.

“The need for new, advanced nuclear energy plants that are safe, clean, dependable and can generate electric energy without emitting air pollutants is growing more evident every day,” said Marilyn Kray, president of NuStart Energy Development LLC.

“Our country needs these advanced nuclear plants. We must reduce our dependence on imported foreign energy. Americans want affordable energy and a clean environment without risking climate change.”
Great news. A few weeks ago, our President and CEO Skip Bowman projected that America will begin breaking ground on new nuclear plants by 2010. With this announcement, and last week's announcement from Unistar, we're that much closer to that day. Click here for more coverage on the announcement.

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Another Blogger for Nuclear Energy

Be sure to visit Megan's Blog -- and don't let the title of the post fool you, she's one of the good guys.

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More Bad Data From Amory Lovins

Over at the Alternative Energy Action Network, Arthur Smith is taking issue with some of the conclusions that Amory Lovins of the Rocky Mountain Institute made in the current issue of Scientific American:

The September 2005 Scientific American, a very good issue generally on "Crossroads for planet Earth" and the major near-term issues we're facing, includes an article by Amory Lovins that misleads far more than it informs. In the article's five sections Lovins pushes his two major themes of energy efficiency and hydrogen, with a nod to renewables, asserting that all we need do is take advantage of existing technologies to both save money and greatly reduce our use of oil and emissions of carbon dioxide. But the arguments and numbers he uses to make his case don't add up.
As some of our readers might recall, a few months ago my colleague David Bradish took a tough look at some of RMI's research, and found it wanting. And our friend Rod Adams has a number of issues with Lovins' conclusions as well.

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Professor: Ontario Should Turn to AECL for Nuclear Build

The Canadian province of Ontario faces a number of challenges when it comes to its electric grid -- challenges that have lead many pundits and policymakers to suggest that it was time for the province to reconsider nuclear energy. In today's Toronto Star Alan Middleton, a professor at York University, agrees, but said that the province doesn't need to look any further than its own backyard when it comes to a reactor design:

We have a world-class nuclear industry here in Ontario. The CANDU 6 operates in five countries on four continents. In terms of average lifetime capacity factor, the single most important measure of reactor performance, the CANDU 6 fleet ranks well ahead of the French and U.S. reactor fleets. In 2002, the top three CANDU 6 units actually achieved an average 97.1 per cent capacity factor.

CANDU 6 is already licensed by the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission and is considered to be among the safest reactors in the world. CANDU 6 is a proven safe, clean, reliable and affordable solution that is ready to fill Ontario's looming electricity supply gap in the shortest possible timeframe.
Elsewhere in Canada, French oil giant Total told the Wall Street Journal (subscription required) it was thinking of building a nuclear plant in Alberta to help it extract oil from tar sands in that resource-rich Canadian province.

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"They sure have saved us all."

Terry Vogel of Pittston, Maine has a bone to pick with environmentalists, as he outlined in a letter to the editor in the Kennebec Journal:

Let's hear it for the nuclear power opponents who supposedly caused the shutdown of Maine's only nuclear power plant. They can be proud that the electric rates are rising and the fossil fuels are being depleted faster than ever.

According to them, we can be safer while freezing in the dark -- well, at least those who cannot afford to pay for higher electricity and fuel bills.

They sure have saved us all.

Where are those brave souls now who fought the big bad nuclear evil? Are they standing up and taking credit or just hiding?

They certainly do not seem to have answers for the current situation. They have not offered to help offset the costs they have caused.

I would like to see a few of them respond with workable and affordable alternatives -- the key words being workable and affordable.
Well, we know where at least one of those environmentalists is -- he's just working on our side now.

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Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Nuclear Energy Industry Transitions

Black & Veatch Corp., a global engineering, consulting and construction company, has named Dan Churchman chief engineer for its nuclear organization.

Churchman will be responsible for nuclear engineering functions as Black & Veatch grows its nuclear services business.

Prior to joining Black & Veatch, Churchman held various technical and management positions with Entergy and was a United States Navy Surface Warfare Officer, Nuclear Power Specialist.

Diana Severs Ferguson has resigned from her position as president of The Shaw Group Inc.'s environmental and infrastructure division, effective Sept. 19. Ferguson will remain with the company until Dec. 31, but Tim Barfield - president and chief operating officer of Shaw - will also serve as president of the environmental and infrastructure division until Ferguson's replacement is named.

UPDATE: Shaw also announced, on Sept. 21, that Charles Hess has joined the company as senior program director within Shaw's Hurricane Katrina Recovery Task Force. Under a new contract with the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Shaw will provide all support services necessary to provide temporary housing assistance for displaced residents. Such services include site assessments, design, construction, transportation and utilities and facilities management. Hess has extensive experience in emergency and disaster response, having served in the U.S. Army, FEMA and the Department of Homeland Security.

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STP Preps for Hurricane Rita

CNN is reporting that South Texas Project plans to shut down its two-reactor power plant in Bay City, Texas - 12 miles inland from the Texas coast - as Rita, now a Category 5 hurricane, nears land.

"We have a specific plan in place on what to do with a hurricane approaching," spokesman Alan Mikus said. "Our plan calls for the complete shutdown of the plant in advance of the storm's arrival."

... He added that the plant shutdown would likely occur about seven hours before landfall. If Rita maintains the forecast track, the hurricane would come ashore early Saturday somewhere between Corpus Christi and Galveston.

Customers will not lose power during the shutdown because other power companies will pick up the load, the spokesman said. The nuclear plant itself will operate off power from other companies for cooling the fuel supply and spent fuel storage, he added.
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Peach Bottom Sets New Record

From the York Daily Record:

Peach Bottom Atomic Power Station says its Unit 3 reactor has shattered a world record for longest continuous run among light-water reactors. At 9:40 a.m. Monday, Peach Bottom's Unit 3 boiling-water reactor had operated for 707 days, five hours and 40 minutes without a shutdown, the plant's operator said.

Peach Bottom's two boiling-water reactors jointly produce more than 2,200 megawatts of continuous power. One megawatt is enough electricity to power about 800 homes.
Congrats to the team at Exelon for a job well done. Back in August, General Electric named five of Exelon's reactors, including Peach Bottom, as the most efficient boiling water reactors in the world.

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Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Bodman: America Needs "Resurgence" of Nuclear Power

In a speech at the Commonwealth Club last month, Energy Secretary Sam Bodman outlined six steps America has to take in order to ensure energy security. Guess what was on the list:

The second major thing that needs to happen is the resurgence of nuclear power.

Nuclear power presently supplies 20 percent of America's electricity. It is manifestly safe. It is clean. It is efficient and affordable. And it produces no greenhouse gases, which has to be a consideration at a time when concerns about GHG emissions and global climate change are running high.

As with refineries, no new nuclear power plants have been built in the U.S. in decades, a vestige of the incident at Pennsylvania's Three Mile Island in 1979. That episode spurred a number of safety and regulatory changes. As a result, nuclear power is even safer and more efficient than a quarter century ago. And it is still just as clean, which is why we need nuclear power to remain a key component in our power mix.

The energy bill Congress passed last week contains a number of provisions to ensure that this happens -- provisions that will augment the efforts of our Nuclear Power 2010 program to license new processes and site new facilities.

In particular, the energy bill includes a provision called for by President Bush establishing federal insurance to protect new reactor projects from economic harm resulting from regulatory and legal delays.
To read the rest, click here right now. For the Commonwealth Club's excellent speech archive, click here.

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Monday, September 19, 2005

U.S. News & World Report: 'Go Nukes!'

The latest edition of U.S. News & World Report takes a new look at nukes. The article points to Hurricane Katrina, rising natural gas prices and increasingly strict regulation of greenhouse gas emissions as major reasons for a possible resurgence in new nuclear plant construction.

The federal government has been plenty eager to kick-start the moribund industry. Just last month, President Bush signed the Energy Policy Act of 2005, which contains guarantees and incentives including $2 billion to cover possible delays at as many as six new nuclear plants and annual production tax credits. More important, perhaps, Congress extended the five-decade-old Price-Anderson Act through 2025, limiting operator liability in the event of an accident. The new legislative action follows Bush's Nuclear Power 2010 initiative, launched in 2002, which promoted public-private partnerships to spur new reactor construction.

Yet all these government nudges might be going for naught were it not for the rising price of natural gas, which has more than tripled since 1999. At present, natural gas accounts for about 17 percent of U.S. electrical generation, behind coal (51 percent) and nuclear (20 percent). But those numbers understate the growing importance of natural gas in the nation's power supply. An estimated 90 percent of power plants under construction are fired by natural gas, according to the Natural Gas Supply Association. Gas-fired plants are cheaper and faster to build than coal facilities, and they produce lower emissions. But with costs soaring, nuclear has been looking more economically attractive. "Natural gas prices drive electric prices in the whole nation, and they don't look like they are going down anytime soon," says Dan Keuter, Entergy's head of nuclear business development.
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New York Times Editorial Supports Waste Storage Sites

Friday's edition of The New York Times included an editorial hailing the Nuclear Regulatory Commission's decision last week to authorize a nuclear waste storage site in Utah. The editorial carefully lays out the case for storage in Utah, noting the importance of such a site as a temporary solution until the Yucca Mountain repository project in Nevada is complete.

So far as is known, the used fuel rods can be left there safely for decades. But it becomes awkward and costly to guard and maintain the storage casks after the reactors themselves have been retired from service. Several reactors have already been shut down, and more are apt to follow. In some cases, the spent fuel rods sit on land that might have more valuable uses. Unless these used fuel rods can be sent to Yucca, a destination that has not yet been approved to receive them, it seems desirable to have a backup site.

... We remain hopeful that Yucca can qualify as a permanent disposal site. But if Yucca fails to pass muster with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the nation will need a centralized surface site to fill the gap until a safe burial location can be found. The Indian reservation in Utah can fill that purpose.
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Quote Of The Day

Here's Steve Eldridge from today's D.C. Examiner:

Good move by Amtrak to back off its planned fare increase for now. The struggling service said rising fuel costs would force some fares, especially in the Northeast Corridor, to go up substantially. Last time I checked, Amtrak's trains ran on electricity.
Excuse me, but just how does that electricity that moves the trains get generated?

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Stat Pack: EIA's Annual Energy Review 2004 (Part 1)

Every year the Department of Energy's Energy Information Administration publishes the Annual Energy Review:

The Annual Energy Review (AER) is the Energy Information Administration's (EIA) primary report of annual historical energy statistics. For many series, data begin with the year 1949. Included are data on total energy production, consumption, and trade; overviews of petroleum, natural gas, coal, electricity, nuclear energy, renewable energy, international energy, as well as financial and environment indicators; and data unit conversion tables.
The 2004 publication was published in August. Its 435 pages are packed with charts, tables, graphs and numbers. It's a statistician'’s dream!

Over the next few weeks I'll take a closer look at particular sections of the AER. I'll try to help readers understand what the report is about and what it means in terms everyone can understand.

Energy Overview

On the main page of the AER, there are flow diagrams of different types of energy. Today I'm only going to hit on the energy issues and this flow diagram that shows how energy flows through our economy.

According to the flow diagram, of all the energy supplied in the U.S. in 2004, about 68% was produced domestically and 32% came from abroad. Of that 32% from abroad, 84% was from petroleum.

In 2004, 40% of the total energy consumed in the U.S. came from petroleum. 86% of the total energy consumed came from fossil fuels. In 1980, that figure stood at 89%. In 1990 it was 86%.

But how do we use that energy? 21% went to the residential sector, 18% went to commercial, 28% went to transportation and 33% went to the industrial sector. Here's a brief definition of what makes up three of the four sectors. While transportation is self-explanatory, it might help to take a closer look at the other definitions:
Private households and apartment buildings, where energy is consumed primarily for space heating, water heating, air conditioning, lighting, refrigeration, cooking, and clothes drying are classified as residential. Non-manufacturing business establishments (including hotels, motels, restaurants, wholesale businesses, retail stores, health, social, and educational institutions) are generally classified as commercial. Manufacturing, construction, mining, agriculture, fishing, and forestry establishments are specified industrial.
When we talk energy, the terms you'll hear most often is British Thermal Unit or Btu. Why not kilowatts or barrels or tons? According to dictionary.com:
A British thermal unit is the quantity of heat required to raise the temperature of one pound of water from 60° to 61°F at a constant pressure of one atmosphere.
To drive your car requires heat used in the engine burned from gasoline. To use a lamp requires heat used in a nuclear reactor to create steam to turn a turbine which creates electricity. To cook food on a stove requires heat burning natural gas. That's the common element.

So if I use 2,000 cubic feet of natural gas in a year to cook food on my stove, how many Btus is that equivalent to? 2,062,000 Btus or 2.06 MMBtus. Here's how you figure it out. If you start at the front page of the Annual Energy Review under Appendices, there is a link called Thermal Conversion Factors. These tables and charts convert BTUs into tons for coal, barrels for oil, cubic feet for natural gas and kilowatt hours for electricity.

In 2004, the average person in the U.S. consumed 340 MMBtus -- about the average consumption for an individual since the 1970s. To put that in perspective, we ought to convert that figure into equivalents based on oil, coal, natural gas and uranium.

To find out the barrels of oil consumed per person, I looked at table A3 of the conversion factors under Total for 2004 (340 / 5.34 ~ 64 barrels of oil). One barrel of oil equals 42 gallons. So if all the energy consumed was from oil, the average person consumed about 2,700 gallons of it in 2004.

The average person consumed 17 tons of coal in 2004 (340 / 20.276 ~ 17 tons). That's the same weight of about 8 cars! For natural gas, the consumption came out to 330 thousand cubic feet (340 / .00103 ~ 330,097 cubic feet).

In other words, every year the average person consumes enough natural gas to fill 3 Olympic-size swimming pools.

A uranium fuel pellet weighs 7 grams and is roughly the size of a pencil eraser. We know that one fuel pellet contains the same amount of energy as about 1,780 pounds of coal; 149 gallons of oil; or 17,000 cubic feet of natural gas.

So if we take 17 tons of coal (from above), multiply it by 2,000 to convert to pounds and divide by 1,780, we get about a total equivalent of 19 uranium fuel pellets consumed by the average person if all the energy came from nuclear. That's just a handful of erasers!

As always, keep in mind that it we would never want to rely on just one source of fuel to generate electricity. These comparisons were given to show the energy equivalents of each fuel.

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Friday, September 16, 2005

Nuclear Energy Industry Transitions

Charles Yulish, vice president of corporate communications for USEC Inc., will retire on Sept. 23. Yulish has been USEC's principal spokesperson since he joined the company in 1995.

John Welch will be joining USEC as president and chief executive officer on Oct. 3. He will also become a member of the board of directors. James Mellor, the current president and CEO, will remain the company's chairman.

Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Lisa Gordon-Hagerty will be leaving USEC, the company announced Sept. 9.

These changes come on the heels of USEC's Sept. 7 announcement that it will realign the company to focus on both current operations and the American Centrifuge, USEC's next-generation uranium enrichment technology.

The restructuring is designed to streamline USEC's organization and resize its headquarters operations, Mellor said. The reorganization affects all levels, eliminating various positions - including those at the senior level - effectinretirementsts and transferring selected functions and activities.

The new senior management team will include Robert Van Namen (senior vice president, uranium enrichment), Philip Sewell (senior vice president, American Centrifuge), Ellen Wolf (senior vice president and chief financial officer), Timothy Hansen (senior vice president, general counsel and secretary) and Lance Wright (senior vice president, human resources and administration).

Elsewhere, Richard Truly has been elected to Xcel Energy Inc.'s board of directors. Truly, a retired U.S. Navy Vice Admiral, was director director of the Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Laboratory from 1997 until his retirement this year.

Brian Storms has been named chairman and CEO of Marsh Inc., a risk and insurance services firm, effective immediately.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has named Mark Cox senior resident inspector at Entergy Indian Point 2 nuclear power plant in Buchanan, N.Y.

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UniStar Clip File

Yesterday's announcement of the UniStar joint venture between Areva and Constellation Energy has generated a lot of attention. I'm pressed for time right now, but be sure to check this Google News search for all the stories on the partnership.

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