Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Nuclear Energy Industry Transitions

President Bush has sent five nominations to the Senate for new positions on the Tennessee Valley Authority board of directors. The nominees include:

• Dennis Bottorff, chairman of Council Ventures and Council Capital Management
• Robert Mike Duncan, chairman and CEO of Community Holding Co. and Community Thrift Holding Co.
• William Sansom, chairman and CEO of H.T. Hackney Co.
• Hward Thrailkill, former president of Adtran
• Susan Richardson Williams, owner of Susan Williams Public Affairs

Peter Oleksiak will replace Daniel Brudzynski as controller at DTE Energy. Brudzynski will in turn become vice president of Regulatory Affairs. Oleksiak has been with DTE Energy since 1998, most recently as assistant controller. Brudzynski joined the company in 1997. He has been controller since 1999 and vice president since 2001.

ComEd has announced that, effective immediately, a new five-member board of directors has been elected for the company. The five directors are:

• Frank Clark, chairman and chief executive officer of ComEd
• Sue Ling Gin, founder, owner, chairman and CEO of Flying Food Group LLC• Edgar Jannotta, chairman of William Blair & Co. LLC • John Rogers Jr., chairman and CEO of Ariel Capital Management
• Richard Thomas, retired chairman of First Chicago NBD

ComEd’s previous board members were Barry Mitchell, Gary Snodgrass, John Rowe and John (Jack) Skolds.

In addition, the company announced the appointment of a new slate of ComEd officers:

• Darryl Bradford, vice president and general counsel
• Frank Clark, chairman and CEO
• John Costello, executive vice president and chief operating officer
• John Hooker, senior vice president of government affairs
• Bob McDonald, senior vide president and chief financial officer
• Barry Mitchell, president
• Anne Pramaggiore, senior vice president of regulatory affair

Duke Energy and Cinergy Corp. have proposed a top executive team for the new company that will result from their merger. The following appointments will be subject to the approval of the new company’s board of directors:

• Paul Anderson, Duke Energy’s chairman of the board and CEO, will be the new company’s chairman of the board.
• Paul Barry, currently vice president of mergers and acquisitions for Duke Energy, will lead Duke Energy Americas.
• Julie Dill, vice president of shareholder and investor relations for Duke Energy, will lead investor relations and corporate communications.
• Fred Fowler, now president of Duke Energy, will be CEO of the new company’s gas businesses, Duke Energy Gas Transmission and Duke Energy Field Services.
• Lynn Good, Cinergy’s executive vice president and chief financial officer, will be the new company’s treasurer.
• David Hauser, current group vice president and chief financial officer for Duke Energy, will continue in that role for the new company.
• Marc Manly, Cinergy’s executive vice president and chief legal officer, will continue to lead the new company’s legal group.
• Jim Mogg, current group vice president and chief development officer, will become adviser to the chairman.
• Thomas O’Connor, Duke Energy’s group vice president for corporate strategy, will head U.S. franchised electric and gas operations for the new company.
• James Rogers, Cinergy chairman and CEO, will be president and CEO.
• Christopher Rolfe, current vice president of human resources for Duke Energy, will continue in that capacity.
• Ruth Shaw, Duke Power’s current president and CEO, will provide executive leadership for nuclear strategy and operations, environmental policy and other public policy issues.
• B. Keith Trent, current group vice president, general counsel and secretary for Duke Energy, will lead corporate development.
• James Turner, Cinergy president, will lead U.S. franchised electric and gas commercial functions.
• Steven Young, current vice president and controller at Duke Energy, will be the new company’s controller.

Technorati tags: , , , , ,

Another Blogger for Nuclear Energy

Meet Blogs for Bush contributor Mark Noonan:

At any rate, it is about the most sensible thing - if you really want to help clean up the environment, if you really believe that human greenhouse emissions are causing global warming, then you're best bet right now is to push for nuclear power.
UPDATE: And in the interest of equal time, here's a post from the archives of The Postmodern Technocrat:
Bush and I agree on something. Maybe we don't agree on the correct way to pronounce what it is we agree on ("”nuclear"” energy) --– but building more nuclear power plants is key in reducing our dependency on foreign oil.
Here at NEI, we always take great pains to point out that support for nuclear energy isn't a left/right issue any longer. I guess this is just more proof.

And before I forget, a belated "happy blogiversary" to our friend Justin Feng.

Technorati tags: , , ,

Taking a Second Look at a Curious Claim

Last week the California Energy Circuit published an article on the economics of ongoing operation and maintainence at the state's two nuclear power plants titled: Juice: Corrosive Investments. It's important to look at any sort of article like this with a jaundiced eye, because as we've seen before, it's easy to manipulate data to get the result that you want.

In particular, the authors are concerned about the cost of replacing the steam generators at both California nuclear power plants: Diablo Canyon and San Onofre. The California Public Service Commission has already approved this in the case of Diablo Canyon:

We are very worried about spending scarce resources on risky investments. We're pretty darn sure that it will become a bad deal for utility bottom lines in the long run. We certainly don't want more bankrupt utilities to pile on top of a cringing state economy.
That's quite a statement to make, as the replacement of steam generators has become a pretty common occurence at American nuclear plants. In fact, replacing steam generators is probably more common and economical than many people think.

Just this fall, 5 out of the 23 nuclear units that went into refueling outages replaced steam generators. And due to the replacements, nuclear units will be able to perform more efficiently and generate more electricity. More often than not a utility will spend money on uprating existing nuclear units than adding more natural gas-fired and coal capacity.
Let us throw out a number. A rather large number. It's $37.5 billion.

What could California do with that much money? That's over $1,000 per person in this state of 36 million people. Let's buy everyone a roof over their heads. One with at least one photovoltaic panel on top of it. We'd have enough left over to invest a few billion dollars in energy efficiency measures in businesses, hospitals, schools and homes. Imagine the energy and pollution reductions we'd reap.
We ought to take a closer look at exactly what benefit you could derive from just one photovoltaic panel. In essence, it's enough electricity to warm up your shower. You won’t “reap” any pollution reductions because California will then have to rely more on natural gas to make up for the cloudy days and absent nuke plants. California already relies on natural gas for almost 50% of its electricity.

I'm also bothered that the authors have once again set up a "straw man" when it comes to nuclear energy and renewables: That if you choose one, you can't have the other. Why not both? Again, there are some clear indications that solar can play an essential role in peak power production during the summer months when electricity demand is highest. Especially in the Southwest.

By promoting energy diversity, rather than depending too much on one source of electrical generation -- as California and the rest of the U.S. has with natural gas-fired electric capacity -- you can't be held hostage to price volatility.
We don't doubt that financiers will come up with the first $1.4 billion for replacing steam generators. But when the utilities start coming back to the well for the next $250 million and another $250 million, Wall Street might just start to look at ratepayers' ability to pay back the loans. Looking at the timing of this borrowing - it will come after this winter's walloping energy prices - consumers will be more than unhappy. There will be pressure to put price caps on utility bills and Wall Street won't like that. Yes, "It's the economy stupid."
Ironically, the third sentence from the above paragraph boosts the economic case for nuclear energy. We all know our heating bills are expected to be high this winter--primarily due to demand pressure on natural gas markets.

But why don’t you ever hear about nuclear prices being high? You don't, because nuclear energy's distinct advantage is its low cost of operations once plants get up and running. We call this "forward price stability," and without it, retail electricity rates in California and around the country would be a lot higher.

As our CEO, Skip Bowman, said in a speech before Town Hall Los Angeles back in September, California shouldn't just go ahead with the planned work at Diablo Canyon and San Onofre, they also ought to seriously consider lifting the moritorium on new nuclear plant construction in the state. If they are serious about reducing air emissions and freeing the state from volatility in natural gas markets, they can’t leave nuclear out of the equation.

Technorati tags: , , , , , ,

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Nuclear Energy Insight

The latest issue of Nuclear Energy Insight is now available online. In it, you'll find an article on how the Megatons to Megawatts program is fueling the U.S. electricity grid. There also are reports on a new survey that finds strong support for nuclear energy among nuclear plant neighbors and a nuclear therapy that shows promise in fighting cancer. Other articles discuss a scholarship effort for future nuclear engineers, scientific findings on low-level radiation and international reactor construction efforts.

Bloggers for Nuclear Energy

Regular readers will probably notice we've done some updating on our Blogroll. The largest new section is simply a listing of all the Bloggers we've featured in the "Another Blogger for Nuclear Energy" series that we kicked off last March. It's a simple list of all the pro-nuclear sentiment we've found on the Web listed in reverse chronological order. And whenever we find another post that fits the bill, it will go to the top of that Blogroll.

NB: Some of the folks we now know personally are listed under the "Friends" heading, so don't panic if you aren't listed. Think you've been overlooked? Drop us a note and we'll fix it.

Thanks for reading NEI Nuclear Notes.

Technorati tags: , , ,

Another Blogger for Nuclear Energy

Meet Dean Esmay.

Technorati tags: , , ,

Blair Ignores Protesters, Launches U.K. Energy Review

The debate on new nuclear build in the U.K. began in earnest earlier today, as Prime Minister Tony Blair's speech on future energy policy before the Confederation of British Industry was disrupted by a pair of Greenpeace protesters.

Vowing, "I'm going to give this speech if it's the last thing I do," Blair marched to a smaller auditorium inside London's Business and Design Centre and delivered his speech in full:

Mr Blair said nuclear power was a difficult issue but should be settled by open debate, not protests to stop free speech.

The energy review would be headed by the Energy Minister Malcolm Wicks and report by the middle of next year, he announced.

It would measure the UK's progress against a review carried out two years ago.

And it would "include specifically the issue of whether we facilitate the development of a new generation of nuclear power stations", he said.

Mr Blair said energy policy was "back on the agenda with a vengeance".

"Round the world you can hear the heavy sound of feverish rethinking," he said.

"Energy prices have risen. Energy supply is under threat. Climate change is producing a sense of urgency."
Following the speech, CBI Director General Digby Jones issued the following statement:
"The CBI conference is the place for free and open debate but Greenpeace has no interest in real debate. Its aim was the opposite - to abuse the hospitality we had extended and to stifle and stop debate. It failed completely.

"The Prime Minister was determined to deliver his speech to the gathered business leaders and Greenpeace was offered the chance to put its views to him -- but instead threatened further disruption.

"The CBI will not be held to ransom or bow to ultimatums. The democratically-elected leader of this nation has every right to speak, and I applaud him, and our delegates, for the determined response which ensured the speech was delivered."
Concern in the U.K. has also been driven by the realization that deposits of oil and natural gas in the North Sea are becoming depleted, and that the nation will probably be forced to import significant quantities of gas from Russia in order to keep pace with demand. The impending retirement of a significant portion of the U.K.'s baseload electrical generating capacity is also driving the review. For more from the BBC, click here.

UPDATE: More coverage from the Scotsman and the Independent. And Blair's speech is the "Topic of the Day," over at Politics.co.uk. And for other reaction from blogs around the world, click here.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Blair's speech is getting great reviews, while Greenpeace is only getting noticed because their protest backfired. Here's the view from Pragmatism Refreshed:
The speech would have been rather a bore had Greenpeace not disrupted it. Protestors in the rafters of the hall in whicht he speech was to be held threw confetti, apparently in order to convey the impression of fall-out. Or something.

(snip)

Blair gave his speech 45 minutes late. But he gave it to what the morning papers are describing as rapturous applause. Greenpeace gave Briton's business lobby and Labour Party a chance to feel good about each other in common defiance of the blokes in the rafters. Not a great way to get your point across, I'm afraid.
The transcript of the speech is available here.

Technorati tags: , , , , , , , ,

Majority of Swedes Oppose Early Shutdown of Nuclear Plants

Here at NEI, we spend a considerable amount of time examining public opinion about nuclear energy, and how support for the industry has never been higher in the U.S. than it is today. And with this news out of Sweden, it looks like Americans aren't the only ones who are comfortable with nuclear energy:

A majority of Swedes want their nuclear power stations to produce energy until their operational lifespan ends, and not be shut down early, a poll published on Tuesday showed.

Sweden shut its Barsebäck 2 reactor on June 1st, the second reactor to be taken out of service in the country since 1999 as part of a plan to phase out nuclear power over the next 30 or so years.

The poll, conducted by Temo on behalf of the Swedish nuclear industry's research and training centre KSU, found that 65 percent of those questioned did not agree with the decision to shut down reactors while they could still produce energy.
We first posted on the shutdown back in May. Meanwhile, right next door in Finland, work continues on a reactor at Olkiluoto. I wonder how the folks in Sweden will feel if they wind up importing electricity from Finland?

Technorati tags: , , , , , ,

Monday, November 28, 2005

Operating Licenses for Millstone 2&3 Extended 20 Years

From NRC:

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has renewed the operating licenses of the Millstone Power Station, Units 2 and 3, for an additional 20 years.

The Millstone plant is located about 3 miles southwest of New London, Conn. The licensee, Dominion Nuclear Connecticut, Inc., submitted its license renewal applications on Jan. 20, 2004. With the renewal, the license for Unit 2 is extended to July 31, 2035, and the license for Unit 3 is extended to Nov. 25, 2045.

The NRC’s environmental review for this license renewal is described in a site-specific supplement to the NRC’s “Generic Environmental Impact Statement for License Renewal of Nuclear Power Plants” (NUREG-1437, Supplement 22), issued in July. The review concluded there were no environmental impacts that would preclude renewal of the licenses for environmental reasons. A public meeting to discuss the environmental review was held near the plant on Jan. 11.
Congratulations to the team at Dominion for a job well done.

Technorati tags: , , , , , , ,

More Reasoned Debate on Nuclear Energy

Whenever Patrick Moore, one of the co-founders of Greenpeace, makes the argument that many of his former confederates are beginning to reconsider nuclear energy as he has, he's often cast as a movement of one, or even a traitor. There are even some folks who are trying to write him out of the history of Greenpeace.

But anecdotal evidence that Moore isn't alone in making that re-evaluation keeps piling up. Here's Richard Leyton:

I’m a bit on the fence these days. A few years ago, the idea of a new generation of nuclear reactors was abhorrent. However, the last few years has led me to reconsider this. Whilst it’s clear there are inherent risks and problems associated with highly-radioactive fuel and reactors, the almost complete lack of carbon emissions makes it a compelling solution to our energy needs, without further clogging up the planet’s atmosphere. We’ve improved post-processing significantly, and if further consideration, research and debate on how we deal with spent fuel is undertaken, we can improve this most concerning aspect of it.
While that argument isn't unqualified support, it's a clear indication that more people are ready and willing to engage in reasoned public debate on the issue. And that's all to the good.

Technorati tags: , , , , , , ,

More on Nuclear Energy and Carbon Emissions

One of our favorite bloggers, Tim Worstall, is doing more yeoman's work when it comes to rebutting myths about nuclear energy. Click here for his argument debunking a letter to the editor in the Times (U.K.) on nuclear and CO2 emissions (a bad penny if there ever was one); and thanks to Tim to pointing us to an editorial from the Times doing much of the same.

UPDATE: Here's more from our friends at the World Nuclear Association.

Technorati tags: , , , , , , , ,

Stat Pack: EIA's Annual Energy Review 2004 (Part 5)

Today, in our continuing examination of EIA's Annual Energy Review 2004, we take a hard look at Section 8 (pdf) concerning the generation of electricity.

In 2004, it took the U.S. 40.77 quadrillion BTUs to produce 3,717 billion kilowatt-hours for consumption in the residential, commercial, industrial and transportation sectors. Fossil fuels provided 69% of that energy; nuclear, 20% and renewables, 10%. About two thirds of the energy (BTUs) consumed to create electricity was lost. Why?

Electrical system energy losses are calculated as the difference between total primary consumption by the electric power sector and the total energy content of electricity retail sales. Most of these losses occur at steam-electric power plants (conventional and nuclear) in the conversion of heat energy into mechanical energy to turn electric generators. The loss is a thermodynamically necessary feature of the steam-electric cycle.

Here's a chart comparing the share for fuels used for electrical generation between 1973 and 2004. When we look at the past thirty years, we can identify three important trends:

1) Electricity generation from oil has dropped by half;

2) Hydro generation was flat while U.S. electricity consumption more than doubled; and

3) Nuclear power generation increased more than eight fold.

Fossil fuels in 2004: Coal accounted for 70% of the mix; natural gas, 25%; and petroleum and other gases, 5%.

Renewables in 2004:
Hydro power made up about 75% of renewable generation in 2004. Wind and solar made a combined contribution of 5%. Wood, waste and geothermal accounted for the rest with about 20%.

Electric Capacity

The total electric capacity in the U.S. in 2004 was 968.1 gigawatts. Fossil fuels accounted for 77%; nuclear, 10%; and renewables, 12%. Here's a table which compares total capacity to actual generation:

The table shows nuclear capacity at 10% of the U.S. total. Yet nuclear contributes 20% of total electrical generation. Renewables have more capacity than nuclear, yet generate less than half as much electricity. What does that mean? It means that you don't have to build as much nuclear capacity to produce the same quantity of electricity.

Many people believe wind and maybe solar can provide a total solution for our future electricity needs. It's clear they can play a vital part in the equation (like solar may be able to play during peaking hours in the summer), however, they won't be sufficient in isolation.

Nuclear power has obvious advantages: It provides baseload electrical generation; forward price stability in the electrical marketplace; and promotes clean air. Once again, the choice in the marketplace shouldn't be between nuclear energy and renewables. In fact, it's pretty clear that we're going to need significant amounts of both to meet future demand.

For previous posts on EIA's Annual Energy Review click here, here, here and here.

Breaking the Deadlock on National Energy Policy

Here's a link to a piece from the Wall Street Journal's John Fund outside the subscriber wall that's full of plenty of straight talk:

After House leaders were forced to remove natural gas drilling provisions from the budget, Jack Gerard of the American Chemistry Council said he was "flabbergasted that some in Congress continue to live in a fantasy world, in which the government encourages use of clean-burning natural gas while cutting off supply, and then they wonder why prices go through the roof." Natural gas prices recently spiked at $14 per million BTUs, the highest in the world and the equivalent of $7 a gallon gasoline.

(snip)

Given the parochial interests that are retarding a sensible energy policy, national leadership is necessary to avoid continued gridlock. President Bush has been tarred as a tool of oil companies ever since his days working in a Texas oil patch, but the American people also intuitively feel that something is out of whack with energy. They are willing to listen to straight, direct talk.
And a significant portion of that "straight, direct talk" has to do with the expansion of nuclear energy. Be sure to read it all right now.

UPDATE Glenn Reynolds notes the Fund piece, and promises more commentary later on.

, , , , , , ,

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Scientific American Article on Used Fuel Technologies

The December issue of Scientific American includes an article on smarter use of nuclear waste (subscription required for full article) that provides a comprehensive summary of advanced used fuel treatment technologies.

Here's a glimpse at the overview of fuel recycling that the article provides:

• To minimize global warming, humanity may need to generate much of its future energy using nuclear power technology, which itself releases essentially no carbon dioxide.
• Should many more of today’s thermal (or slow-neutron) nuclear power plants be built, however, the world’s reserves of low-cost uranium ore will be tapped out within several decades. In addition, large quantities of highly radioactive waste produced just in the U.S. will have to be stored for at least 10,000 years—much more than can be accommodated by the Yucca Mountain repository in Nevada. Worse, most of the energy that could be extracted from the original uranium ore would be socked away in that waste.
• The utilization of a new, much more efficient nuclear fuel cycle—one based on fast-neutron reactors and the recycling of spent fuel by pyrometallurgical processing—would allow vastly more of the energy in the earth’s readily available uranium ore to be used to produce electricity. Such a cycle would greatly reduce the creation of long-lived reactor waste and could support nuclear power generation indefinitely.
Technorati tags: , , , ,

Forum on Nuclear Energy in Virginia

Last week, while the ANS Winter Meeting was in full-swing, a group of students at the College of William and Mary hosted a Forum on Nuclear Energy. There were about 40 people in attendance.

This group of students belong to an organization known as the Global Awareness Interdisciplinary Alliance or GAIA, whose name bears intentional resemblance to James Lovelock's GAIA Theory.

Four speakers were invited to the forum to field questions pertaining to safety, economics, and environmental impact. The speakers included:


After a short presentation presenting facts about nuclear usage and public opinion, each speaker was allowed a five-minute introductory address prior to fielding questions as a panelist.

Paul Gunter's main focus was that nuclear power is not safe. In his estimation, there are far too many possibilities for a problem stemming from nuclear to justify its use. These problems range from terrorist attacks, to waste storage, to plant degradation on what he refers to as the "bathtub curve."

The "bathtub curve" analogy posits that nuclear plants are bad when they are new because of failures related to break-in. It also posits that they are bad in mid-life because they are in their reliable, low-maintenance phase, and with oversight at a minimum, serious problems could go unnoticed. Finally it also assumes that nuclear plants are bad as they age, because then they are subject to age-related problems.

I guess it should come as no surprise that the anti-nuclear representative was down on nuclear power. Paul was garrulous, often being asked to wrap up after five minutes on a 90-second time allotment.

Donal Day and his wife Elena have been anti-nuclear voices in Virginia for over twenty years. To my astonishment, though, his anti-nuclear rhetoric was much less dogmatic. When the panel was asked, "Could an event like Chernobyl happen in the United States?" Donal was the first to answer, "Actually Chernobyl employed a much different reactor design than is used in the United States, so technically, no. Chernobyl couldn't happen here."

WOW!

It was a Twilight Zone moment. I couldn't believe my ears! I wanted to get up and shake his hand. Thanks Donal!

However, Donal also was convinced that electrical demands would not increase by 50% by 2025, but could actually decrease by 50%. That being the case, there should be no need for nuclear. As he held up a compact fluorescent light bulb, he declared that if the utilities would send out one of these with every power bill, there would be no need for nuclear power.

My commentary: If you believe that conservation will lead to a decrease in energy demand, just take a look at the last 10 years. With better insulation, a heavier reliance on natural gas for heating, and more energy efficient appliances, we have consistently demanded more and more electricity each year. (What about population expansion, Donal? Do our kids have to live at home instead of moving out and getting a home of their own?)

But even if by some miraculous phenomenon, conservation takes hold in the American psyche like the Macarena, Starbucks, or the Atkins Diet, why not phase out sources of energy that are far more polluting, such as coal?

Grecheck provided a much more realistic approach: With demand forecasts expected to increase at 1.5% annually, we will need to bring 50 new reactors on-line by 2025 just to maintain the same non-carbon-emitting ratio that exists today - and that takes conservation into account. He also pointed out that this problem is not isolated to the United States, but the world energy demands will be increasing at the same time. Dominion is being proactive by planning ahead and exploring all options to meet those needs.

Along those same lines I put forth that it is not a choice among nuclear energy, conservation, and the use of renewables, but it will take the combined approach of all of these choices to meet the future energy demands while minimizing our impact on the environment and global climate change. Additionally, there's one very important thing that these projections do not consider, and that's the move towards a hydrogen economy. If we are to move towards hydrogen and electrical power in the transportation sector, the forecast seriously underestimates the need.

Overall, it is my belief that those in attendance left with a favorable view of nuclear power. Certainly the GAIA group, who did a commendable job hosting this forum was leaning pro-nuclear. Although this event was in my estimation a success, it is clear that there is yet much work to be done to educate the masses on the grim energy projections and the essential role that nuclear must play if we are to keep an environment worth protecting.

U.S. GHG Emissions Down

From the Financial Times:

Emissions of greenhouse gases from the US fell for the first time in more than a decade between 2000 and 2003 following a shift in heavy manufacturing away from US shores to cheaper locations such as China.

James Connaughton, chairman of the White House's Council on Environmental Quality, said on Tuesday the decrease of 0.8 per cent in gases such as carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide had been unexpected: "This was not something we would have projected."

The slight fall had come even as the US population grew by 8.6m, and increased its gross domestic product by the worth of the economy of China, Mr Connaughton said.
For more from the CEQ, click here.

Technorati tags: , , , , ,

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

U.K. Nuclear Update

Apparently, it's only a matter of time before we get some significant news out of the U.K. on new nuclear build:

Sizewell could be put at the heart of a revived British nuclear power industry as the Government moves to secure Britain's future energy needs and meet its obligations to cut carbon emissions.

An expectation that a fundamental energy review will start imminently, and that it will lead to the go-ahead for a new generation of nuclear power stations, hardened yesterday when the Prime Minister's official spokesman confirmed that a major announcement on the issue would be made "fairly shortly".
Technorati tags: , , , ,

Nuclear Energy as an Investment

That's the subject of a feature in this morning's New York Times. Among the highlights: how nuclear industry consolidation helped increase effciency and the nuclear advantage in operating costs.

Technorati tags: , , ,

Monday, November 21, 2005

Truth Buried in Humor

Here's a humorous question that actually leads to a substantive answer, courtesy of The Straight Dope:

After watching Dawn of the Dead, I am left to wonder about one thing: If we were to suffer an apocalypse where most of the living became flesh-eating zombies, how long, assuming I survived, would I continue to receive hydroelectricity from my power company? Is it a mean-time-before-failure situation, or would the system automatically shut itself down after a few days?
Silly? Of course. But what follows is an excellent basic primer on how North America generates its electric power.
Power plants are incredibly complex facilities with an enormous number of controls, and consequently an enormous number of things that can go wrong. The level of complexity and reliability of the plants is a function of the type of power plant, the control systems installed, and the plant's age and condition. In addition to the possibility of unplanned events causing shutdowns, there is also the problem of maintaining a fuel supply without human intervention. Given all these variables, coming up with hard and fast numbers is difficult. To address your question as well as I can, I'll break down power plants by type (coal, nuclear, hydro, and natural gas) and discuss each one separately, focusing on the U.S. and Canada, since their electrical systems are closely tied.
Like I said, silly question followed by informative answer. Check it out.

Technorati tags: , , ,

NRC Hearing on New Reactor Issues

It's being Webcast live from the NRC Web site. Click here for details. The morning session, which started at 9:30 a.m. U.S. EST, will be with industry representatives. The second session, starting at 1:30 p.m. U.S. EST, will be delivered by NRC staff. Click here for the slides.

Technorati tags: , , , , ,

Developing The Nuclear Infrastructure

Last week at the ANS Winter Meeting, my friend Rod Adams attended a presentation by Tom Houghton, one of my colleagues at NEI about an issue that many outside the industry aren't aware of when it comes to new nuclear build:

This ramp up from current production rates will place a strain on many pieces of the infrastructure that must provide the raw materials and qualified parts needed to build new nuclear plants. In many cases, there will be competition for the production capacity from these suppliers, not only from the nuclear construction industry but also from industries like oil refining, LNG processing, and transportation that use common parts, materials and work forces.
Our CEO, Skip Bowman, talked about just this subject last month in Budapest at the World Association of Nuclear Operators Biennial Meeting:
There are ambitious plans to expand nuclear energy production around the world. And that means we’re going to lean heavily on the companies that provide and bend the metal, pour the concrete and supply nuclear-quality components.

NEI is taking a close look at the global nuclear infrastructure, evaluating the administrative, personnel, financial and manufacturing resources to enable new-plant construction.

We must engage companies that may be considering the nuclear business and help them make the business case for doing so.

The renaissance of nuclear energy around the world represents tremendous earnings potential for suppliers of equipment, services and fuel. We must identify the weak links in our supply chain and turn them into business opportunities.

We are also devoting significant attention to workforce issues, ensuring that we will have the personnel necessary to design, build and operate new nuclear plants.

Our workforce is aging. We must move aggressively to resupply the pipeline of people. We also must address our other critical infrastructure needs—manufacturing of nuclear-grade forgings and reactor vessels and other components—with a similar sense of urgency.
It's important to remember that building a new generation of nuclear power plants is going to require ramping up activities in a number of areas outside of the regulatory space.

Technorati tags: , , , , ,

U.K. Nuclear Update

In an editorial this morning, the Times of London urged the government of Prime Minister Tony Blair to push ahead with new nuclear build:

Nuclear energy is an emotive subject, and it was politically understandable, though democratically lamentable, that the Prime Minister wanted to avoid it until after this year’s general election. But, stripped of emotion, the position is stark. Britain’s 12 ageing nuclear power stations provide a fifth of the country’s energy needs. Yet all but one will be out of business by 2023. Many coal-fired plants, which produce another 30 per cent, fall foul of Brussels rules on clean air and will also be shutting down over the next two decades. By then, Britain will need to find 50 gigawatts of new capacity. Given the lead time for any successor plants to be designed, approved and phased in, decisions need to be made in the next year or two.

Mr Blair should continue to encourage renewable sources. The potential of wave power and tidal waters should be explored; and there must be much more research into making the storage of solar energy more efficient — Sharp, the Japanese electronics company, claims to be close to a breakthrough in this area. But in the meantime he should ask the Nuclear Installations Inspectorate to begin examining existing nuclear sites for future use. Nuclear reactors may not be what Mr Blair has in mind when he thinks of his legacy. But the next generation would thank him for this initiative.
The voice of commerce is getting louder too. Here's Sir Digby Jones, Director General of the Confederation of British Industry off of the AFX wire:
'A decision on the future of nuclear power has been allowed to drift too long. Potential investors and the British public both deserve certainty.'

He went on: 'Nuclear's position as a reliable, low-carbon energy source is without doubt, but understandable concerns exist about costs and waste.'

'The challenges the Government didn't tackle in its 2003 Energy White Paper have not gone away.' Jones said. 'The opportunity must now be seized. Government must grasp the nettle and make some tough decisions. It has to govern for the whole country in the long term, and not just for the ideology of any one vested interest.'
For more on the CBI report on British energy policy, click here. For a copy, click here (PDF). For more from the U.K. publication, Manufacturing, click here.

And finally, here's Sir David King, Blair's science adviser, quoted in the Guardian:
"I think the important thing is to give the green light to the private sector and the utilities and give them nuclear as an option," he told BBC1's Sunday AM programme.
I'd say there's some momentum here.

Technorati tags: , , , ,

Friday, November 18, 2005

Talking About Radiation

Over the past several weeks I've been tackling a vexing topic: How to find a way to communicate effectively with the public about radiation and our environment. It was radiation pioneer Marie Curie who said, "Nothing in life is to be feared, it is to be understood."

Unfortunately, most of the anti-nukes don't do much more than obscure honest public debate with bad science and outlandish claims (many of which are easily debunked).

To get a better understanding of the sort of challenge we're taking on, read the following passage from Back of the Envelope -- a blog written by an ex-pat New Zealander now living in Scotland. New Zealand has been a "nuclear free zone," since late Prime Minister David Lange banned nuclear arms and nuclear powered ships from the country in 1985.

Though the author of the blog isn't a supporter of using nuclear energy for power production in New Zealand, he thinks it's far passed time for the country to shake off its anti-nuclear phobia:

I do find it strange however that 'nuclear' always means bombs. NZ has become irrational over the peaceful use of nuclear for medicine, research and power generation. . .

The NZ public has been conditioned to think nuclear-free is an absence of all 'nuclear' applications. This is stupid, radioactives are used every day in every hospital to cure people of cancer, you don't see many Greenpeace demonstrations outside cancer wards do you?

The nuclear-free stance is deep in the pysche's of NZers and i wonder if even we know what it means, its wrapped up in so much of how we see the world and ourselves, so i dispair of ever trying to explain to someone else...
Some other pertinent facts from NEI:

Measuring radiation dosage. Radiation dose is measured in rem, which is based on the effect of radiation on the human body. It takes into account both the amount of radiation deposited in body tissues and the type of radiation. A millirem is a thousandth of a rem.

Your average radiation dose. In all, the average person in the United States receives about 360 millirem of radiation per year. About 300 millirem comes from natural sources and 60 millirem from manmade sources...

Because of their advanced design and sophisticated containment structures, U.S. nuclear plants emit a negligible amount of radiation. In fact, even if you lived right next door to a nuclear power plant, you would still receive less radiation each year than you would receive in just one round-trip flight from New York to Los Angeles. A 1990 National Cancer Institute study, the broadest ever conducted, found no evidence of any increase in cancer mortality including childhood leukemia among people living in 107 counties that host, or are adjacent to, 62 major nuclear facilities in the United States.


Technorati tags: , , , , ,

2005 ANS Winter Meeting: Lisa's Log

I’ve spent the past week at the American Nuclear Society's (ANS) 2005 Winter Meeting. The theme of the conference was “Talk about Nuclear Differently: A Good Story Untold” and I was thrilled to see the building enthusiasm in the industry. Over the next few days I’ll try to capture some of my thoughts and impressions and I hope other blog contributors will offer theirs as well.

The conference began with one of the most interesting plenary sessions I’ve ever attended. Receiving a standing ovation after his remarks was Dr. Patrick Moore who titled his presentation “How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Nuclear Energy.” We’ve mentioned Moore on this blog many times because of his dramatic departure from Greenpeace co-founder to a supporter of nuclear energy, but I’ve never heard him speak. It was riveting. I took copious notes but couldn’t keep up with him so I hope his slides appear at the ANS website and that our friend Rod Adams at Atomic Insights captured the audio file and receives permission to post it.

Moore began with a description of his early days as an environmental activist. Then he moved on to the issue of climate change and the differing views of its causes and effects. Citing fringe environmentalist opposition to all fossil fuels, plus nuclear, wind (because of bird kills and land use), and hydro (fish kills and salmon runs) he asked “What kind of environmental policy is it to be against 99.95% of generation assets?” He said that “sensible environmentalists” realize that we cannot significantly reduce the use of fossil fuels without nuclear being part of the solution. Some of his other points were:

• He is not supportive of biofuels as an alternatives source of energy. There is not much to gain and he asked “How much more clear-cutting do we really want to do to plant new crops?”
• The U.S. and Canada lead the world in hydroelectric power but there is room for more
• 75% of the world’s wind capacity is in Europe, mostly in Denmark and Germany. In those countries, enormous subsidies were required to build the wind farms.

But by far, his greatest enthusiasm was saved for geothermal technology and nuclear power. I must admit that I was not, and am not, well-versed on geothermal but after his remarks I intend to learn more! A resource he gave for more information is the Geothermal Heat Pump Consortium. I also hope our colleague Mike Stuart can post a bit on this topic since he has such a system at his home.

Moore said that a person could reduce his or her own personal carbon emissions by a whopping 50% by driving a fuel-efficient or hybrid vehicle and by installing a geothermal system in the home for heating, cooling, and hot water. In fact, he was rather irate that the environmentalist movement has focused so much attention on residential solar power at the expense of championing geothermal technology. He said that $20,000 invested in solar panels would generate about 1500 kW-hr and save the average homeowner $100 a year. In contrast, $20,000 invested in a geothermal system would generate about 20,000 kW-hr and save the homeowner $1300 per year. He said that a geothermal system can heat a home to 85F from permafrost!

Turning to nuclear power, Moore stated that the Three Mile Island event was not a serious accident. Not one person died as a result and he considered it a successful demonstration of the robustness of a nuclear power plant. Next, he said that while Chernobyl was a serious accident, only 50 people died in the immediate aftermath and the vast majority of cancers attributed to the radiation exposure have been successfully treated. He compared those numbers to the 3000 people that perished immediately as a result of the Bhopal accident.

Moore went on to say that no one has died as a result of a radiation accident at a civilian nuclear power plant in the US or Canada but that 40,000 people die each year in car accidents. He then asked rhetorically why there was no movement to ban cars.

Moore next addressed proliferation concerns. His main point was that it is fundamentally wrong to ban a technology simply because it may be used for evil purposes. He gave a statistic (I missed the number) demonstrating that worldwide, more people die of knife wounds than any other violent means, yet the machete is also one of the most important tools in farming. In his view, nuclear power is far too valuable as a means to generate electricity, hydrogen, heat, and to desalinate water to ban it out of fear of misuse, particularly when steps can be taken by the international community to effectively minimize the risk.

Toward the end of his remarks, Moore said that, ironically, the environmentalist movement is the primary obstacle to implementing realistic solutions to achieve carbon reduction around the world. Then he gave his ideas on the best ways to close the carbon cycle. They included:

• Develop and use more renewables where practical
• Aggressively implement new nuclear power programs
• Promote conservation and efficiency
• Develop and utilize biotechnology
• Develop hydrogen-powered transportation

The floor was opened to questions after the plenary speakers gave their prepared remarks, One question was, “Should the US sign the Kyoto agreement?” Moore decisively said “No.” He believes that the it is a fatally flawed treaty that will not achieve significant carbon reduction. As an example, he mentioned that Canada signed the treaty, pledged to cut carbon emissions to 6% below 1990 levels by 2010, but that it is clear today that they will miss that goal by at least 40%.

Other bloggers that were in attendance, please post your thoughts on Moore’s presentation!

Nuclear Energy Industry Transitions

Geoffrey Chatas has resigned as executive vice president and chief financial officer of Progress Energy. Peter Scott III, president and CEO of Progress Energy Service Co., has assumed the CFO title in addition to his current role. Scott had served as CFO from 2000 to 2003. He has held his current titles since January 2004.

Longenecker & Associates Inc. has appointed Dale Allen to the company’s strategic advisory board. Allen is an associate vice president of CH2M HILL Global Nuclear Services.

Ed Daniels has been appointed director of the energy systems division at the U.S. Department of Energy's Argonne National Laboratory. Daniels previously served as the section leader for the division's process engineering team.

Gregory Bowman is the Nuclear Regulatory Commission's new resident inspector at Indian Point 2 in Buchanan, N.Y. Bowman joined the NRC in 2002 as a reactor inspector.

Technorati tags: , , , , ,

More Energy News From NAM

Our friends over at the NAM Blog have been all over energy issues and how they affect American businesses. Earlier this week, NAM's President, Gov. John Engler, went to St. Louis and delivered a speech at Rockwell Automation on the current energy crunch in America's economy, and how it's walloping domestic manufacturing (text, video):

Consumers will pay 48 percent more for natural gas this winter than last year -- and at least 31 percent more for home heating oil. The average household heating bill will top $1,000 for the first time. In some parts of the country, like my home state of Michigan, those figures could be much higher.

For manufacturers, the problems are magnified. Dow Chemical's plastics plant in St. Charles, Louisiana -- a 2,000-acre city of pipes, steel towers and spherical holding tanks -- uses about 100 billion Btu of natural gas every day. The St. Charles plant produces a range of man-made compounds needed to make everything from shampoo to shaving cream, from plastic cups to house paint. We don't even think about these compounds, but they are essential to make the products we use every day.

Every time natural gas prices go up just one dollar, costs at that chemical facility go up about $100 million per year.

It's not that the Dow plant isn't conserving energy. They've cut their usage per pound of output by 22 percent in the last year.

But this year for the first time, Dow's energy costs are expected to exceed 50% of the company's overall sales.
For NAM, part of the answer is authorizing oil and gas exploration of the Outer Continental Shelf. And, as we've said many times before, nuclear energy is a logical choice to displace natural gas-fired electric generation, and free up the supply for home heating and industry.

Elsewhere, NAM has finally compiled the results of its latest energy survey, and the news is pretty grim. 45% of the 10,000 small and medium-sized businesses that participated said that rising energy prices are forcing them to layoff employees, or freeze and cut wages.

Some of the comments from the survey are instructive:
"This is a crisis. It's the worst I've seen since we started this company 45 years ago. I don't think people recognize that this shortage of energy is new to the United States. It's a seismic market disruption."

"We make automotive components. The cost of oil and natural gas has increased our price of materials by as much as 93.1% since March 1, 2004. We will have to resort to job cuts, wage freezes and benefit cuts to stay in business."

"Our paint line ovens and our galvanizing kettle will cost more than double to operate this winter than last. We're trying to compete with imports that don't have this pressure. Our freight costs have doubled because of the price of fuel. This is a crisis for manufacturing."
And finally, click here for the story of Oil-Dry, a company adding a 10% surcharge on all of their shipments due to high natural gas prices.

Looks like times are tough all over.

Technorati tags: , , , , Natural Gas,

EDF Public Offering Set for Monday

From Bloomberg:

Electricite de France SA will raise as much as 7 billion euros ($8.2 billion) in an initial share sale that will make it Europe's biggest publicly traded utility.

(snip)

EDF's 58 nuclear reactors produce about 75 percent of France's power, reducing the company's liabilities under European Union rules that started this year to limit emissions of carbon dioxide. Utilities including Essen, Germany-based RWE AG and E.ON have complained that the EU limits have driven up costs.
Interesting.

Technorati tags: , , , ,

Nuclear Engineers Best Paid in Discipline

That's the conclusion of a salary survey that was released yesterday by the National Society of Professional Engineers:

Nuclear engineers have the highest average annual salary of all disciplines at $119,643, followed by petroleum engineers at $117,004 and fire protection engineers at $93,343.
To purchase the survey, click here.

Technorati tags: , , , , ,

Keeping an Eye on The Cape Cod Wind Project

That's the focus of Jack Coleman's blog over at Cape Cod Today. Interesting stuff, and well worth keeping an eye on.

Technorati tags: , , , , ,

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Tim Worstall vs. Greenpeace

One of our favorite bloggers takes on Greenpeace, and it isn't pretty.

Technorati tags: , , , ,

AJC Readers Respond to Senator Frist

The Op-ed authored by Senator Bill Frist (R-TN) that appeared in yesterday's edition of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution has kicked up a lot of dust in some letters to the editor as some anti-nukes came out swinging.

In many ways, I think radical environmentalists are getting so desperate, they're not bothering to see whether their arguments still make any sense. For instance, here's an excerpt from a letter by Alice Slater of the Global Research Action Center for the Environment (GRACE):

Sen. Bill Frist (R-Tenn.), who received tens of thousands of dollars from the nuclear industry during his last election, omits the astronomical cost of getting nuclear up and running. Nuclear power does not make economic sense.
For starters, this ignores the fact that while nuclear requires higher up front capital costs, operating expenses are far lower due to the low cost of fuel. So, unlike natural gas-fired electric capacity, which has been rocked in recent months, nuclear has what we call forward price stability. If and when it gets added to our energy mix, it can displace natural gas in electric generation markets, and free that supply up for home heating and industrial uses.

But then, she writes this:
Many of the companies that own nuclear reactors are also making record windfalls off our current energy crisis. Frist is wrong to entrust them with our energy future.
Now that's an interesting argument. So, is nuclear uneconomical, or is it the kind of generating capacity that allows utilities to make "record windfalls?" Like I said, they don't know whether they're coming or going. For good measures, she mentions the Rocky Mountain Institute and its research, something we've debunked again and again here at NEI Nuclear Notes.

And here's Ed Arnold of Physicians for Social Responsibility:
He has ignored the "elephant in the room." Nuclear power plants have been described as our most vulnerable risks to terrorism. Examples include: On Oct. 17, 2001, according to plant officials, the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant in Pennsylvania was put on the highest alert after receiving, as described by plant officials, a "credible threat" against it.

In June 2003, the Central Intelligence Agency warned that "Osama bin Laden's operatives may try to launch conventional attacks against the nuclear industrial infrastructure of the United States in a bid to cause contamination, disruption and terror."

Nuclear power plants, the most vulnerable components of the U.S. electric power infrastructure, pose the greatest risk of catastrophic damage.
What we see here is the use of actual facts to come to a conclusion that they don't support. So when Arnold says that nuclear plants are "most vulnerable" you ought to be asking who is making that claim.

Our industry is well aware of the threats outlined in Arnold's letter, and has spent more than $1.2 billion for security upgrades since 9-11. And far from being most vulnerable, the FBI has concluded that nuclear power plants are "difficult targets." And finally, in a study conducted by the Center for Strategic and International Studies, nuclear power plants were classified as the "best defended" piece of America's energy infrastructure.

The TVA and New Nuclear Build

Over the past 18 months or so, those of us in the nuclear industry have been encouraged by much of the coverage we've seen in the mainstream media about the possibilty of new plant construction.

Then again, it's one thing when national publications give the issue some attention. But it's another thing entirely when alternative publications like LA Weekly and MetroPulse in Knoxville, Tenn. start to pay attention.

Here's an excerpt from the MetroPulse feature on the plans underway at the TVA:

Bellefonte was selected, in TVA’s estimation, because of its geographic location within transmission reach of most major power markets in the eastern United States and its existing infrastructure, including river intakes, cooling towers and an electric switchyard. Also important considerations were community support from the Scottsboro area and the state of Alabama, and the potential for partnerships, with TVA being open to partnering with other nuclear operating companies or possibly some of its own 168 power distributors. Baxter says the new plant itself, which would be built adjacent to the incomplete and obsolete reactor building, could cost somewhere between $1.5 and $2.5 billion to construct, but the electricity it produces will be cheap in terms of fuel and plant operation.
Technorati tags: , , , , ,

Nuclear and Wind to Produce Hydrogen

That's an idea two scientists from Canada are exploring:

In the system envisioned by Alistair Miller and Romney Duffey of Atomic Energy of Canada, nuclear power plants would be paired with wind turbines to power electrolysis cells, which make hydrogen by passing an electric current through water.

Wind on its own is too variable, Miller says, leaving electrolysis equipment frequently idle and driving up costs. "The economics just don't work," he says. "It produces very expensive hydrogen."

Pairing it with nuclear would keep the equipment operating closer to full capacity and bring the cost down, he says. A bonus is that when the wind is strong and electricity demand is high, excess power can be sold at a profit to the grid. This means that, unlike traditional electricity-based hydrogen production, Miller's system actually makes hydrogen cheaper as the cost of electricity goes up.
We're always saying there's no reason nuclear and renewables can't work together. It's encouraging to find a real world example. Thanks to AltEng for the pointer.

Technorati tags: , , ,

Another Blogger for Nuclear Energy

Be sure to visit iNuclear.

Technorati tags: , , ,

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Sproat Nomination Approved by Senate Committee

My colleague Trish Conrad tells me that Edward F. (Ward) Sproat's nomination as Director, Office of Civilian Radioactive Waste Management, Department of Energy, was approved by the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee earlier today on a unanimous voice vote.

UPDATE: Platts is reporting that Sens. Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and John Ensign (R-
Nev.) have placed a hold on the nomination, making it likely that Sproat's nomination won't be considered by the full Senate until sometime next year.

Technorati tags: , , , , ,

Another Blogger for Nuclear Energy

Meet Janelle Penisten:

I want to work. I want to feel like I’m doing something to contribute to the growth of the nuclear industry. Cliche, I know. While taking nuclear engineering classes technically is helping the nuclear industry to grow, I don’t see direct results. I want deadlines that aren’t in the form of a homework set. I want to do work that I enjoy, not enroll by default in the only three NERS classes that I haven’t already taken. I want to design reactors and see my work get implemented.
On behalf of everyone at NEI, welcome to the nuclear industry and good luck. We're glad to have you aboard.

Technorati tags: , , ,

Blair Reiterates Support for Climate Change Action

From 10 Downing Street:

Tony Blair has said he remains keen to see 'binding agreements' put in place to deal with the problems the world faces from climate change.

Speaking to MPs today during PMQs, he refuted suggestions that his 'resolve was weakening' on the issue, but said that any framework on emission targets needed to be agreed by everyone.

In particular, he said, the US, China and India - as the world's largest and fastest-growing economies - had to sign up to make any such treaty worthwhile.

Earlier this month, at an international conference on climate change in London, the PM said the world needed to deal with the challenge of global warming 'on a sustainable basis'.

Mr Blair pointed out that the evidence of climate change was getting stronger and even those who doubted it accepted there were concerns over energy security and supply.
Technorati tags: , , , , , , , ,

Recap: IEA Report on MENA Energy Outlook

Yesterday morning I attended a briefing at CSIS by Fatih Birol of the International Energy Agency, as he made a public rollout of the IEA report on the energy outlook over the next 25 years in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA).

His presentation -- click here for a copy (PDF)-- was public and on the record, but the Q&A was off.

Some highlights:

Birol outlined three scenarios for the future:

1) Business as usual, with assumptions on demand, price, regulation and infrastructure investment remaining relatively unchanged (he calls this the "reference scenario"). Global energy prices are projected to increase 50% over the 2004 baseline under the reference scenario.

2) The "deferred investment" scenario, where MENA nations fail to make the necessary investment to keep up with global demand for oil and natural gas -- both in terms of production and refining capacity. Under this model, oil prices will increase 32% above the reference scenario.

3) A final scenario that assumes that consuming nations put policies into place to stem demand (increased CAFE standards, carbon caps, adoption of biofuels and expansion of nuclear). In the case of this scenario, Birol projected a 16% drop in prices and a 10% drop in demand from the reference scenario.

Birol believes that a combination of scenario two and three is very likely -- with scenario two triggering scenario three.

Other observations of note:

a) The world is out of light, sweet crude that works best to make gasoline. What's left has higher sulfur content and will require MENA nations to spend $400 billion to improve refining capacity by 2030 -- 1/3rd of that will have to be used to upgrade current refinery infrastructure. This projection also presumed that there is no viable substitute for petroleum when it comes to powering the transportation sector.

b) Birol said Saudi Arabia does have sufficient reserves to keep up with global demand. The real question is whether or not they have the political will to make the necessary infrastructure improvements.

c) Our reliance on fossil fuel imports from the MENA region will radically increase under every scenario as fossil fuel supplies in OECD nations lose global market share.

d) China will be largest single driver of oil consumption and carbon emissions. Oil imports will increase from 6.3 million barrels per day to 10.3 million by 2030 -- as much as the U.S. imports today.

e) A sustained increase in natural gas prices, combined with a significant drop in demand from consuming nations will most likely result in continued political instability in Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq, Algeria, and Qatar.

This is because like Saudi Arabia, these countries continue to refuse to diversify their economies beyond the energy sector. As their populations, most of which will be under 30 years of age, the need for economic growth and new jobs will become paramount. As a result, a sudden drop in revenues earned from natural gas sales could be very damaging. NB: A similar course in oil markets helped contribute to the fall of the Shah of Iran in 1979.

Technorati tags: , , , , , , , ,

More At Stake Than Just a Power Uprate

In Vermont, the state is in the midst of a two-day public hearing on whether or not to approve a 20% power uprate for the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant. Opposition to the uprate is coming from the usual suspects making the same old arguments. Here the conclusion of an editorial from the Vermont Guardian:

Nuclear power makes no sense for a state like Vermont, which has emerged as one of the few places on the planet where this message is being sent. This is the home stretch --— a critical time to speak the truth about power to the powers that be.
What the Guardian doesn't want to tell you is that the uprate is desperately needed in an area of the country that has neglected building new electric generating capacity for some time. That was the conclusion of a report published recently by the New England Energy Alliance, an industry group formed with the goal of countering the sort of NIMBYism advocated by the Guardian. Here's the Hartford Courant:
"Our assessment of the region's resources indicates that we are at a critical point today," said Susan Tierney, a former U.S. Department of Energy policy official who prepared the report for the energy alliance.

"Energy shortages could be acute soon - by 2010 at the latest," she said. With energy projects taking years to permit and build, she said, "it means that policy-makers need to act aggressively now to avoid problems in the future."
Here's Vermont businessman Doug Griswold in the Burlington Free Press:
While it is no secret that consumers and businesses are bracing for high-priced fuel this winter an even more distressing question is arising: Will we have enough and will the lights stay on?

Vermont utilities have warned of possible rolling blackouts this winter. Going forward, prospects are even more distressing. Joseph Kelliher, chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission recently said, "I am concerned that the situation in New England bears an uncomfortable resemblance to the situation facing California in the late 1990s."”

Gordon van Welie, President and CEO of ISO New England the non-profit operator of the regional electrical grid is similarly blunt: "Without new investment, New England could face an energy future much like California's recent past, including frequent power emergencies."
Between 1994 and 2004, American nuclear plants added the functional equivalent of 18, 1,000 megawatt power plants running at a capacity factor of 90 percent to America's electrical grid. Vermont and New England can't wait any longer.

Technorati tags: , , , ,

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

PBMR Update

Rod Adams pointed me to this story concerning the long-term electricity situation in South Africa and how the deployment of the Pebble Bed Modular Reactor (PBMR) might help the situation.

For another take on the PBMR, click here.

Technorati tags: , , , ,

German Nuclear Update

After Germany's latest parliamentary election left the Bundestag in a deadlock, presumptive Prime Minister Angela Merkel has been forced to create a coalition government with the Social Democrats headed by her predecessor, Gerhard Schroder.

One of the main sticking points has been the phase out of Germany's nuclear plants. Merkel's Christian Democratic Union wanted to overturn it, or at least delay the deadline. Schroder's party, who engineered the deal with an assist from Germany's Green Party, wouldn't agree to any change.

Here's how it came out according to Bloomberg:

NUCLEAR ENERGY: The lifespan of Germany's nuclear-power plants won't be extended. An agreement signed by Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and power companies five years ago that aims to phase out nuclear power by 2021 will be left unchanged. Merkel initially sought to delay the phase-out to about 2027.
So it looks like the status quo for the foreseeable future, or at least until the next election.

Technorati tags: , , , , ,

Monday, November 14, 2005

Senate Committee to Vote on Sproat Nomination on Wednesday

Apparently, it will be part of regular committee business this week.

Technorati tags: , , , , ,

U.K. Nuclear Energy Update

There are more signs that U.K. Prime Minister Tony Blair's government is moving toward new nuclear build. Here's the latest from yesterday's Independent:

The comments from [Trade Minister] Ian Pearson, the minister for trade with a brief on energy issues, are the most explicit expression of support for nuclear power from a senior Labour figure. Nuclear power is virtually carbon free.

"My personal view is that we ought to look at a limited new-build nuclear programme, probably based around existing sites," he said. "That strikes me as pretty much a no-brainer. To meet our future climate-change targets, it is the right thing to do, and in terms of the energy mix." He conceded that "there are a whole series of concerns you have to get right" over nuclear energy, for example how to safely store radioactive waste.
Technorati tags: , , , ,

Frist: America has waited, "far too long," to build new nuclear.

Here's Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN) from today's Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

Sometime in the next five years, if all goes according to plan, construction workers will turn over the first spades of dirt for the foundations of a new nuclear power plant. It will be a day America has awaited for far too long. Meeting our energy needs in a cost-effective way while reducing our dangerous dependence on foreign oil requires that we end the country's long nuclear energy drought...

Without nuclear power we will likely face another energy crisis. The federal government's forthcoming official 30-year energy forecast, indeed, will assume that we're going to build another six gigawatts of generating capacity -- roughly six new reactors. In July, furthermore, Congress passed legislation that will provide utilities with incentives to build new nuclear facilities...

The rebirth of nuclear power will mean changed attitudes, cleaner air and greater energy independence.
Technorati tags: , , , , ,