Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Energy Information Digest

The February issue of Energy Information Digest is now available on the NEI Web site, in the Newsroom. In it, you'll find articles about state initiatives to invest in clean energy, the Asia Pacific Partnership, a U.K. nuclear update, President Bush's State of the Union address and other topics.

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NEI Energy Markets Report (February 20th - 24th)

Here's a summary of what went on in the energy markets last week:

Electricity prices were mixed to decreasing across the country (see pages 1 & 2). Gas prices at the Henry Hub rose $0.07 to $7.40/MMBtu (see page 4).

Nuclear capacity availability was at 90% last week. Beaver Valley 1, Calvert Cliffs 1, Hatch 1, LaSalle 1 and San Onofre 2 were down for refueling outages. Clinton finished its refueling outage this week which lasted about 27 days. Six other units were down at various times throughout the week for maintenance outages (see pages 2&3).

For the report click here (pdf). It is also located on NEI's Nuclear Statistics webpage.

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South Africa Nuclear Update

Blackouts are continuing in Cape Town, but now there seems to be an additional reason outside of bad timing and poor resource planning:

South Africa suspects that sabotage was involved in damage to the Koeberg Nuclear Power Station and police have indentified suspects, government ministers said on Tuesday.

"Initial reports indicate what happened might have been sabotage," Minerals and Energy Lindiwe Hendricks told Reuters after a joint press briefing with Public Enterprises Minister Alec Erwin.

"I think it's very clear now other forces are at play ... there is growing evidence also linking some of these problems to the government's transformation drive," said Hendricks.

She was referring to the government's affirmative action programme aimed at advancing blacks who were sidelined during white-minority rule.
Word of possible sabotage of the unit had first surfaced back in January. For a previous post on the subject, click here.

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Spence Abraham Joins AREVA

He's been named non-executive chairman of AREVA, Inc., and will focus on U.S. business development.

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Another Blogger for Nuclear Energy

Meet Bob Owens, the Confederate Yankee, who is interviewed in today's edition of the Washington Post.

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Russia and Natural Gas Imperialism

More details on the "pay up or freeze" natural gas deal between Russia and Ukraine are beginning to leak out. Here's Jackson Diehl at the Washington Post:

Ukraine's president, Viktor Yushchenko, and Prime Minister Yuriy Yekhanurov had agreed to purchase Ukraine's gas through a Swiss trading company whose owners and beneficiaries are publicly unknown -- but are rumored to include senior officials and organized crime figures in both Russia and Ukraine. They granted this same shadowy company a 50 percent share in the business of delivering gas to Ukrainian consumers. They accepted a price deal on gas delivered to Ukraine lasting only a few months but guaranteed that rock-bottom rates charged by Ukraine for the storage and transit of Russian gas to the West would be frozen for 25 years.

What does this have to do with democracy in Europe? In effect, some U.S. experts concluded, the Ukrainians may have sold to Putin that which he was prevented from stealing: a Kremlin stranglehold on Ukraine's government. The Russian leader poured money and men into his huge neighbor in late 2004 in a blatant bid to install a pro-Moscow strongman as president and make Ukraine's political system a mirror of the new authoritarian Russian order. His overreach triggered the Orange Revolution and the subsequent democratic election of Yushchenko, whose goals include leading Ukraine to membership in NATO and the European Union.
Harm De Bilj thinks he has an answer.

For more, visit The Washington Realist and The Oil Rules.

UPDATE: Meanwhile, Mr. Putin is visiting a former Soviet satellite, Hungary. From RIA-Novosti:

Hungary is the leading consumer of Russian natural gas in central and eastern Europe. Since 1975, when the supplies began, the country has received about 164 billion cubic meters of Russian gas totaling roughly 80% of Hungarian gas imports.

Under a contract with Russian natural gas monopoly Gazprom, Hungary will be provided with up to 10 billion cu m of gas every year until 2015.

Hungary is also the transit country for Russian gas designated for Bosnia, Serbia and Montenegro, with the transit close on 2.4 billion cu m in 2005.

Russia is the leading oil importer for Hungary. LUKoil, Russia's no.1 independent crude producer, delivered about 6.4 million metric tons of oil (128,500 bbl/d) in 2005. The company also owns a chain of gasoline stations in the country.

I wonder how the Hungarian government, now a part of NATO, is feeling today? And do you think it's any accident that the three Baltic states, all three of which were bypassed by the proposed Russia-Germany natural gas pipeline, announced yesterday that they would jointly build a nuclear power plant? More from RWDB.

But despite all this news, there are still some folks who would rather be at the mercy of the Russian natural gas supply.

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Monday, February 27, 2006

Around the Energy Blogs

It occurred to me over the weekend that we haven't been visiting a number of our neighbors in the energy blogosphere, and it's far past time that we corrected that oversight.

The Ambivalent Engineer has a question about nuclear fuel:

So what is the burnup limit, and do operators currently burn fuel all the way to the limit?
Rod Adams has the answer.

Our friend Stewart Peterson has moved Nuclear is our Future to a new address. Please update your bookmarks.

Thanks to some new legislation working its way through Congress, the Cape Wing Project might be in trouble. The Watthead is concerned.

The Guardian has published another dubious poll. Randall Parker has his doubts too.

Those of you interested in environmentally responsible transportation might be cheered to discover that the ZAP is coming to America:
After a number of false starts ZAP (PCX:ZP) now claims it is about to start selling the Smart Car, the fuel-efficient micro-car from Europe. ZAP is preparing to distribute the cars along with other models through a dealer network it is forming in the U.S. that specializes in advanced automotive technologies.
Click here for more from Green Car Congress. And Green Car Congress also has some interesting news from the hybrid-transportation world:
Orion VII series-hybrid buses operated by New York City Transit (NYCT) on the city'’s most severe duty cycles achieved up to 45% better fuel economy than diesel buses and 100% improvement compared to comparable natural gas buses on an energy-equivalent basis, according to the results of a study released by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL).
Anything that diverts natural gas to other uses sounds good to me. Click here for the numbers.

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U.K. Nuclear Update

Just in from Scotland:

Unions are heading a drive for new nuclear power stations to be built in Scotland.

A resolution calling for the nuclear option to be part of continuing energy review was passed by the Scottish Labour Party yesterday.

The engineering union Amicus and the National Union of Mineworkers believe atom plants must be part of a balanced energy policy including clean coal technology and renewable sources like wind and biomass.
More from The Brothers Judd. And a number of antis are already sounding the alarm. Click here and here for more details.

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NAM Blog Interview with Gov. Huckabee

Our friend Pat Cleary over at NAM interviewed Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee on a raft of issues related to competitiveness, including energy policy:

On energy, he says we not only need to end our dependence on foreign oil, we need to end our dependence on oil, period. He favors research and development of new sources. However, in the meantime, we need nuclear, hydrogen, need to explore ANWR (he calls ANWR a political, not an energy issue) and the Outer Continental Shelf.

As for the future, he says the government needs to create the financial incentives for development of new sources. Government needs to create, as he calls it, "The 'Google' of the gas tank", the next big idea for energy. He says that like the race to space, government needs to challenge the country and needs to invest in the research to get it done. "Capitalism drives great decisions", he says.
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Friday, February 24, 2006

NPR on New Nuclear Build

Today from 2:20 to 3:00 pm U.S. EST, EPRI Vice President Dave Modeen and Arjun Makhijani from IEER will appear on Talk of the Nation'’s Science Friday program with Ira Flatow. They are slated to discuss new nuclear plants and related issues. You should be able to access it live via American University radio at 88.5 FM. You can get that live audio via the Web. The audio of the program will also be posted on the program's Web site at 6:00 pm U.S. EST. For that link, click here.

Thanks to my colleague Trish Conrad for the tip.

UPDATE: For those of you not up on advanced fuel-cycle technologies that were discussed during the program, click here for a policy brief from NEI. And here's an editorial from the Voice of America. And here's another NPR segment from earlier this week about new nuclear build in the U.K.

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Nuclear Energy Industry Transitions

Bill Habermeyer, president and CEO of Progress Energy Florida, will retire in May. After retiring from the U.S. Navy as a rear admiral in 1993, Habermeyer joined Progress Energy predecessor Carolina Power & Light. He became CEO in 2000.

Progress Energy also announced that Tom Walt has been promoted to vice president of the company’s H.B. Robinson nuclear plant. Walt, who currently serves as general manager of Progress Energy’s West Region Fossil Generation, will replace John Moyer, who will retire in April.

Nebraska Public Power District has named Ron Asche president and CEO, effective immediately. Asche has been with NPPD since 1976, most recently as chief financial officer and vice president of finance, risk management and rates. He replaces Bill Fehrman, who announced his resignation from the company this month.

Southern Nuclear Operating Co. has elected Joseph “Buzz” Miller its senior vice president of nuclear development, a new position. Miller also will serve as president of Southern Nuclear Development LLC, a Southern Nuclear subsidiary created to house Southern Co.’s unregulated nuclear generation ventures.

Dairyland Power Cooperative has named Hank Walters manager of fuel logistics in procurement. Walters joins Dairyland from Entergy Corp.

Dominion has appointed Thomas Hamlin vice president of business planning and market analysis, effective March 1.

Kelly Mannsfeld has been appointed deputy to the director at the Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory. Gail Stine is the new director of the laboratory’s project management and engineering division.

FirstEnergy Corp. has named Robert “Yank” Heisler Jr. to its board of directors. Heisler previously served on the board from 1998 to 2004. He is chairman of Keybank N.A., CEO of the McDonald Financial Group and executive vice president of KeyCorp.

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Australia Nuclear Update

From the Sydney Morning Herald:

Prime Minister John Howard backed nuclear power for Australia provided it was economically feasible.

"I am of the view that we certainly should not turn our face against it as Mr Beazley has done. I can't understand why he did that," he told Southern Cross Radio in Melbourne.

"I am not saying that we should have it tomorrow. What I am saying is that if the economics of energy lead us to embracing nuclear power than we should be willing to do so."
For more coverage, click here and here.

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Suicide Attack on Saudi Oil Facility

From the AP:

An explosion occurred Friday at a major oil refinery in Buqayq, eastern Saudi Arabia, a Saudi oil official said.

The explosion was caused by a vehicle packed with explosives that was detonated by the shots of security guards who fired on it as it tried to drive into the refinery, a reporter for the pan-Arab satellite channel Al-Arabiya TV said.

There was no immediate confirmation of the report from the Saudi authorities.

Earlier Al-Arabiya quoted its reporter in the kingdom as saying shots as well as an explosion were heard, and they may have been part of an attempt to attack the refinery.
From Reuters:
Suicide bombers tried to storm an oil facility in Saudi Arabia's Eastern Province on Friday, a security source said.

"Security forces foiled an attempted suicide attack at the Abqaiq refinery using at least two cars," the official said.

Al Arabiya television said Saudi forces killed the attackers.

Authorities have brought under control a fire at a pipeline following a blast at the oil facility, Al Arabiya television said.

The Saudi-owned channel quoted security sources as saying only one unit at the oil facility, which includes processing and pumping stations that send oil to major Saudi export terminals, had been damaged but did not say which one. Saudi oil officials were not immediately available for comment.

Oil prices shot up and shares eased on the Saudi news.
More later, if warranted.

UPDATE: For a complete roundup, check out The Counterterrorism Blog.

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FuturePundit on Energy Week

Randall Parker took a look at President Bush's activities around energy policy this week, and he's written a review.

UPDATE: Jeff Goldstein has a different take:

The President’s recent alternative energy initiative, for all its talk of wind and solar power, has always been—in my opinion—about reopening the door to nuclear energy on a large scale by, in essence, forcing the hand of conservationalists and environmentalists who realize, though they are loathe to admit it, that wind and solar power (at least as we are able to harnvest those energies now) are simply not the answer for a world becoming increasingly more reliant on power.

(snip)

Is the President being disingenuous, then, when he talks of Ethanol and wind power and clean-burning coal? I don’t think so; rather, he is willing to give proponents of those technologies the chance to make good on their optimism. But in doing so, he is also showing us that the need to begin the transition to a strong and vastly improved nuclear energy program IS our energy future—and this is the case, and MUST BE the case, no matter how many times the networks chose to run clips from Chernobyl or show The China Syndrome.
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Thursday, February 23, 2006

Slashdot on New Nuclear Build

Readers at tech bulletin board, Slashdot, are discussing the merits of new nuclear build, and they're using an article from Physics Today as their point of departure. Take a look and join the conversation.

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South Africa a Preview of the Future?

Wonder what the next 10 years might look like if America doesn't start building more baseload capacity? Look no further than South Africa, where four days of rolling blackouts have struck Cape Town.

Puts the PBMR project in perspective, doesn't it?

More, here.

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Nuclear Energy Insight

The latest issue of Nuclear Energy Insight is now available online. In it, you'll find an article on a landmark agreement among Northeast states establishing a carbon dioxide cap-and-trade program that recognizes nuclear energy's role. There also are reports on a new reactor design ready for the U.S. market and a federal government forecast that predicts increased nuclear generation. Other articles discuss nuclear plants' stewardship in protecting wildlife habitat, policy group opposition to a long-term on-site used fuel storage proposal, and an effort to train more radiation protection workers.

Platts Conference Presentations

The folks at Platts have been kind enough to publish the presentations from the nuclear energy conference they hosted last week here in Washington. Click here for the full list. All the presentations are in PDF format.

UPDATE: Our friends at Platts have informed us that the link we originally passed along shouldn't have been public. Instead, they're pointing to a page of podcasts they did at the conference.

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Tuesday, February 21, 2006

A Question of Priorities

Anthony Rogers is thinking out loud about some incidents that took place over the weekend.

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Nuclear Energy: More Than Meets the Eye in Agriculture

As many of my readers have probably already surmised, I don't confine my writing and commenting on nuclear issues just to NEI Nuclear Notes. I try to keep an eye on what folks are saying on other blogs, and it's not out of the ordinary for me to shoot an email off to another blogger, or leave a comment where I think it might help.

That also means talking with anti-nukes pretty regularly. Granted, there are plenty of people on the other side of the fence who will never be convinced of the benefits of nuclear energy. Instead, I try to hop into conversation where we might be able to reach folks who either are willing to be persuaded or just haven't made up their minds. And sometimes I just like to clear up some misperceptions, like this comment that I found over at Anthropik:

Nuclear Energy doesn't even provide what civilization will need in the short run (next decade)--FOOD. Modern Agrobusiness, uses massive amounts of petrochemicals to allow depleted soil to produce foodproducts. Having Nuclear powered tractors wouldn't cut it, food production would decrease. No point in having the lights on, computer working, fridge on if you don't have food in the fridge. As it stands much of the food products in the US require Oil even if the energy for equipment could be replaced in short-order with 'alternate' energy sources.

(snip)

Building Nuclear power plants are Billion dollar ventures, and take a fair amount of time. When it comes down to it, potable water & food in the belly will not come from Nuclear. So if anyone wants to be a techno-optimist, you are again left with 'praying for NanoBots' to turn the world into a Nano-Digital playground where whoever controls the technology can turn carbon monoxide into clean water etc. etc.
We've dealt with the cost question before, but what I was really concerned with was the statements about food and water.

In terms of direct effects, irradiation is a proven and safe method of retarding spoilage and killing bacteria that causes food borne diseases. And if it takes longer for produce to rot, you don't need to grow as much food. As for drinking water, there are already plenty of plans around the world to leverage nuclear energy to desalinate water. Further, because nuclear energy doesn't emit pollution like Mercury, NOx and SOx, it also contributes to keeping our air and water clean too.

But there's another non-obvious benefit, and that's in the area of natural gas supply. As we've said many times, because the U.S. overbuilt natural gas fired electric generating capacity in the 1990s, we've put incredible strain on natural gas supply. And one sector of the American economy that has gotten battered because of this is agriculture:
Testifying before a House Small Business subcommittee, Kruse, president of the Missouri Farm Bureau and a member of the AFBF [American Farm Bureau Federation] Board of Directors, said the United States'’ failed energy policy cost U.S. agriculture more than $6 billion in added expenses during the 2003 and 2004 growing seasons.

Natural gas is especially important to agriculture, Kruse explained, because it is used to produce nitrogen fertilizers and farm chemicals, as well as electricity for lighting, heating, irrigation, and grain drying. Natural gas can account for nearly 95 percent of the cost of nitrogen fertilizer.

"“Between 2000 and 2003, the average retail cost of nitrogen fertilizer skyrocketed from $100 per ton to more than $350 per ton,"” Kruse said.

According to Kruse and Farm Bureau, domestic exploration and recovery of energy resources using sensible, environmentally sound methods must begin immediately. Greater use of renewable energy sources including ethanol and biodiesel also will go a long way toward solving our nation's energy woes, Kruse said.

Farm Bureau also supports incentives for the use of clean coal technology in electric power generation and the use of nuclear energy.
And if we build more nuclear generating capacity, we can take some of that pressure off of the natural gas supply, and give some relief to the agricultural sector. And we haven't really even begun to discuss the use of hydrogen or plug-in hybrids in agricultural applications.

Like I said, there's more here than meets the eye.

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Nuclear Energy on CNBC's Power Lunch

My colleague Steve Kerekes appeared on CNBC's Power Lunch a few hours ago to debate the merits of new nuclear build with Tyson Slocum of Public Citizen. Click here for video and a partial transcript.

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NEI Energy Markets Report (February 13th - 17th)

Here's a summary of what went on in the energy markets last week:

Electricity prices were mixed across the country (see pages 1 & 2). Gas prices at the Henry Hub fell by $0.54 to $7.32/MMBtu (see page 4).

Nuclear capacity availability was at 91% last week. Beaver Valley 1, Clinton, Hatch 1 and San Onofre 2 were down for refueling outages. North Anna 1 was down three days for repairs to two of the unit’s feedwater heaters and Prairie Island 2 was down for a maintenance outage (see pages 2&3). (Notes from Platts’ Megawatt Daily)

For the report click here (pdf). It is also located on NEI's Nuclear Statistics webpage.

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China Nuclear Update

A joint energy conference between China and the European Union opened in Shanghai on Monday, and earlier today, Shen Wenquan, deputy chief of the science and technology committee of China National Nuclear Power Corp, outlined his country's long-term plans for nuclear energy:

"Nuclear power development is a must for China, especially in coastal areas," Shen said.

"In the hinterland, Sichuan has also proposed a project and we have rendered our full support to that," he added. "I think there will be a necessary transition of plants from the coasts to the inland areas of China."

Possible projects have been announced for Fujian, in the southeast, and Shandong, to the north of Shanghai. In the northeastern province of Liaoning, planners expect to build up to six nuclear generators, Shen said.

Work on an extension of the Qinshan nuclear power plant, near Shanghai, is due to begin next month, while construction of a new project at its Ling'ao nuclear plant, in southern China's Guangdong province, is scheduled to start by the end of this year, he said.

(snip)

By 2020, China hopes to build a prototype fast-breeder reactor _ a technology that produces plutonium that can be then used as fuel, reducing radioactive waste and alleviating dependence on imports of uranium.

Ultimately, though, China is placing its hopes in nuclear fusion, said Shen Rugang, vice president of China Guangdong Nuclear Power Co.

"Fusion will be the final way out for the future," Shen said... "My dream is to witness within my lifetime a light bulb powered by fusion electricity," Li said.
For some of our previous posts on China, click here and here.

UPDATE: The Brothers Judd have some ideas on what Europe is really up to when it comes to energy policy.

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And Coming Up in the Outside Lane...

The effort to license and build new nuclear power plants in the US is now being characterized in racing terms. Market Watch is carrying an article titled Constellation to Overtake Rivals in Nuclear Licensing in which Michael Wallace, the company president, said

we expect to overtake our competitors in the next few years
in order to to take advantage of the incentives that the government is providing for the first six new reactors to be built in the U.S.

Wallace goes on to say that other applicants will have design certification problems that Constellation will avoid by employing the EPR design.

Lisa (standing back and gleefully encouraging a real smackdown): Hey Dominion and NuStart, he just trashed your design choices! Got anything to say about that?

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President Bush and Energy Week

President Bush is on a week long effort to promote his Advanced Energy Initiative, and he kicked it off Saturday on his weekly radio address with a strong endorsement of nuclear energy:

This morning, I want to speak to you about one part of this initiative: our plans to expand the use of safe and clean nuclear power. Nuclear power generates large amounts of low-cost electricity without emitting air pollution or greenhouse gases. Yet nuclear power now produces only about 20 percent of America's electricity. It has the potential to play an even greater role. For example, over the past three decades, France has built 58 nuclear power plants and now gets more than 78 percent of its electricity from nuclear power. Yet here in America, we have not ordered a new nuclear power plant since the 1970s. So last summer I signed energy legislation that offered incentives to encourage the building of new nuclear plants in America. Our goal is to start the construction of new nuclear power plants by the end of this decade.
To listen to the audio of the address, click here.

For a couple of endorsements, click here and here.

More later.

UPDATE: More from Green Car Congress, California Yankee and Not-A-Pundit. And for more from the President from the road, click here.

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Note on Copyrights and Fair Use

Recently, I've noticed that in our comment strings that a few folks have started to cut and paste full text articles from daily newspapers. While this might be common in an email discussion or a USENET group, the guidelines here are a little different as we require that our commenters respect copyrights.

So, if you want to include an article as part of a comment, please keep the concept of "fair use" in mind. In practice, that means you can excerpt a portion of an article, not reproduce it in its entirety. Fortunately for us, you can easily embed an html tag into your comment that points to a full text source.

Other than that, just keep your comments punchy, pithy and relevant to the post involved, and you'll be ok.

Thanks for listening.

Friday, February 17, 2006

NEI Energy Markets Report

NEI has begun posting an Energy Markets Report (pdf) for readers on our website. This report is an eight page snapshot of what went on in the energy markets the previous week. It includes electricity, natural gas, and oil prices and graphs. It also includes, daily nuclear capacity availabilities and futures' prices as well as future capacity builds and short term outlooks.

The data presented are from Global Energy Decisions, InterContinental Exchange, Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Edison Electric Institute and Energy Information Administration.

Here's a summary of what went on last week:

  • Electricity prices were mixed across the country (see pages 1 & 2). Gas prices at the Henry Hub fell by $.47 to $7.86/MMBtu (see page 4).

  • Electricity demand is expected to increase by 0.5 percent in 2006 and by an additional 2.0 percent in 2007 due mainly to weather conditions and continuing economic growth. Electric power sector demand for coal is projected to increase by 1.2 percent in 2006 and by another 1.4 percent in 2007. Total natural gas demand in 2006 is projected to remain near 2005 levels, then increase by 2.3 percent in 2007 (see page 8).

For the report click here (pdf).

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Schwarzenegger to Push for Emissions Reporting

From the San Francisco Chronicle:

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's administration is expected this month to release a plan to combat global warming that recommends raising petroleum prices and requiring industries to report, for the first time, their greenhouse gas emissions.

The increase in gas prices would fund research into alternative fuels.

Nine months ago, Schwarzenegger garnered international headlines by calling for California to mount an aggressive effort to address global warming. Now he faces the difficult part: shepherding new policies into place that could affect every car owner, farmer and big industry in the state.

The proposal, drafted by the governor's senior environmental advisers, has both business groups and clean-air advocates girding for a fight in Sacramento that could have profound national environmental and political implications. With President Bush reluctant to steer federal policy toward lowering greenhouse gas emissions, states and cities have taken the lead on what most environmentalists agree is the most critical issue facing the planet.

"What you're considering in California is much broader than anything being discussed in other states -- it's very significant,'' said Ned Helme, president of the Washington, D.C.-based Center for Clean Air Policy, a nonprofit environmental think tank.
It was a little less than a month ago that the California PUC very quietly issued a draft decision announcing their intent to develop a load-based cap on greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Apparently, Schwarzenegger's plan would require other industrial facilities, like cement makers and oil refineries, to report their emissions as well.

More later, if warranted.

UPDATE: Just picked up the latest edition of Energy Daily, and today's top story is that yesterday the California PUC approved that draft decision we referenced earlier. Looks like things are picking up.

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Thursday, February 16, 2006

Nuclear Industry Communicators Meet in Vienna

A number of my NEI colleagues made presentations at the Conference on Public Information Materials Exchange (PIME) this week in Vienna. PIME is an annual conference that brings together industry communicators from around the world. Click here for an account from the IAEA.

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Nuclear Energy Industry Transitions

John Swailes is the new vice president and plant manager at Louisiana Energy Services’ (LES) National Enrichment Facility outside Eunice, N.M. LES will begin construction on the uranium enrichment facility in the fall if it receives an operating license from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which it expects to do this spring.

Arthur Lembo is the new president of SGT LLC, a joint venture between Washington Group International and AREVA’s Framatome ANP to provide services for large compenent replacement projects at nuclear power plants. Lembo formerly was Washington Group’s vice president of power maintenance and modification services.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has appointed Otto Maynard to its Advisory Committee on Reactor Safeguards. Maynard currently is a consultant to the nuclear and aviation sectors and also is a member of the Safety Review and Audit Board for Cooper Nuclear Station.

The NRC also has named George Malone the new senior resident inspector at the Hope Creek nuclear power plant in Hancocks Bridge, N.J. Replacing him as resident inspector at the Salem nuclear power plant, also in Hancocks Bridge, is Harry Balian. In addition, the NRC named Ted Wingfield the new resident inspector at Hope Creek. Ryan Treadway is the new resident inspector at Oyster Creek in Lacey Township, N.J.

Bill Fehrman will resign as president and CEO of Nebraska Public Power District (NPPD) to become senior vice president of MidAmerican Energy Holdings Co., effective April 1, 2006. Fehrman had been with NPPD since 1981 and served as CEO since 2003.

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Wednesday, February 15, 2006

The Virtual Nuclear Tourist

Joseph Gonyeau has spent thirty years visiting nuclear power plants, and he likes what he sees. He's put together a compilation of all his visits over at The Virtual Nuclear Tourist. Here's a sample:

The 300+ page site about nuclear power plants was developed because I've found that most of what the general public hears or sees about nuclear power plants is on TV or in the newspapers and frequently that coverage is incomplete. In 30 years, I've had the opportunity to visit numerous nuclear power plants on the North American, European, and Asian continents. Regardless of country, the people that I have met who work at the plants or who regulate the plant operation were dedicated and committed to operating and maintaining the plants safely.
Be sure to check it out right now.

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EIA Releases Annual Energy Outlook

Get your copy by clicking here.

Click here to read David Bradish's look at the report's early reference case. Thanks to the Energy Blog for the pointer.

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Peak Oil Debunked?

Since we often point to sources that support the theory of Peak Oil, I thought it was only fair to point to a blog that believes the contrary.

Thanks to Rob McMillin, the Peak Oil Optimist, for the link.

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Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Canada Nuclear Update

Caught between environmental commitments and a need for new sources of baseload power generation, the Ontario Power Authority wants to make sure that nuclear energy is part of the province's future energy mix. And already, some of the usual suspects have come out in opposition to the plan.

Those of you who want to follow progress in Canada should bookmark the Bruce Power blog.

UPDATE: Here's a statement from Patrick Moore on the province's consultation process.

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Peak Oil Advocate: Oil Production Peak Reached in December 2005

There's been plenty of talk over the past few days about an announcement that Princeton geology professor emeritus and former Shell geologist Ken Deffeyes made concerning global peak oil production:

In the January 2004 Current Events on this web site, I predicted that world oil production would peak on Thanksgiving Day, November 24, 2005. In hindsight, that prediction was in error by three weeks. An update using the 2005 data shows that we passed the peak on December 16, 2005.
For more discussion, visit Green Car Congress and The Oil Drum.

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Dutch Nuclear Update

From Xinhua:

Half of the Dutch population supports an expansion of nuclear power after a government official indicated the intention to build a second nuclear power station, Dutch news agency ANP reported on Tuesday.

According to an Internet-based poll carried out by the Maurice de Hond organization on Monday, 49 percent of the respondents were in favor of more nuclear power while 37 percent were against.

ANP failed to say how many people gave their opinions and tell of the error margin of the poll.

The poll was conducted after junior environment minister Pietervan Geel gave a strong indication at the weekend that the coalition government wants to end the country's traditional reluctance towards nuclear power.
For previous posts on the situation in Holland, click here, here, here and here.

UPDATE
: More interesting news:
A report released Tuesday by the Energy Research Center of the Netherlands, an independent advisory agency, concluded that nuclear energy could save the Netherlands euro600 million (US$713.3 million) a year, as the country seeks to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and power households and businesses.

The Dutch are seeking by 2020 to reduce greenhouse gas output by at least 15 percent from projected 2010 levels, in line with European Union targets.
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Monday, February 13, 2006

Obituary: Former NEI Vice President Jim Phelan

Just had some sad news passed to me by our Government Affairs staff: Jim Phelan, one-time NEI Vice President of Government Affairs passed away on Friday, February 10. He is survived by his wife Jan and son of Christopher. A memorial service will be held at All Saints Episcopal Church, 3 Chevy Chase Circle, on February 17 at 10:00 a.m. In lieu of flowers, contributions can be made to a charity of your choice.

Secretary Bodman Addresses Platts Conference in Washington

The Platts Nuclear Energy Conference is being held in town this week, and Energy Secretary Sam Bodman delivered an interesting speech:

I think a third global challenge becomes evident when we look at the question of national security more broadly. Even if we are able to quickly and resoundingly defeat the terrorist threat we currently face, we will still be confronted with the desperate, grinding poverty that grips so much of the world.

What developed nations should, or indeed can, do about this poverty raises complex political and moral questions. But it also raises national security considerations, in the sense that the most underdeveloped and "“failed" states have frequently served as safe havens for terrorists and other fanatics. Think of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan, or Bin Laden'’s forays into chaotic Sudan.

But if these underdeveloped nations are ever to build thriving economies, and achieve lasting prosperity, they will need -- perhaps above all else -- —access to affordable and reliable energy supplies, particularly electricity.
That's a note that our CEO, Skip Bowman, has hit on a number of occasions. Here's what he had to say last Fall during a speech in Savannah, Georgia:
The world needs massive deployment of carbon-free technologies like nuclear energy.

We know there is a direct correlation between a country'’s per capita income and its people's access to electricity ... between that access to electricity and infant mortality rates ... between that access to electricity and life expectancy.

I believe the world is approaching a crossroads -- two possible futures -- in terms of energy supply, as our global population increases from 6 billion today to 9 billion by the middle of this century, with most of this growth in impoverished areas -- —areas without access to electricity.

Down one path lies a future I do not care to contemplate: A world in which we fail to supply the energy needed to ensure that most of the world'’s people are fed and sheltered, educated and employed ... a world in which children yet unborn are condemned to a life of poverty and misery and sickness.

But down the second path lies a brighter world: A world in which energy development is managed in a sustainable way ... a world in which we no longer fight wars with guns and bullets ... a world instead in which we use science and technology -- —including nuclear energy technology -- to fight poverty and sickness and environmental damage.
To read the rest of Secretary Bodman's speech, click here.

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Meserve: Barriers to New Nuclear Build Can Be "Overcome"

In a speech this weekend at the Los Alamos National Laboratory, former NRC Chairman Richard Meserve sounded bullish on the future of nuclear energy:

If all goes well, a leading national authority on nuclear energy said a renaissance in nuclear energy production is within reach.

Richard Meserve, president of the Carnegie Institute and former chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, said he supported the effort but was mindful of potential challenges ahead. He spoke at a Director's Colloquium in the Physics Auditorium at Los Alamos National Laboratory on Thursday.

"The barriers are being and can be overcome," he said.

(snip)

Meserve discussed the delays in building the high-level nuclear waste depository at Yucca Mountain, but considers the problem of storing the spent fuel from nuclear power plants to be solvable, aided by the next generation fast reactors and reprocessing options that will lower proliferation risks.

"We ought to proceed anyway," Meserve said, adding it is another one of those technical issues that is not beyond the human capacity to solve.

"We don't have a crisis. We don't need an answer tomorrow," he said.
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Nuclear Revival Coverage in the San Francisco Chronicle

There were a pair of pieces in yesterday's edition of the San Francisco Chronicle that deserve your attention. Click here to read a piece by David R. Baker on how nuclear energy is making a comeback nationwide. The story comes along with some neat graphics, including this map that plots the position of all the nuclear reactors on the Eastern seabord, as well as the sites for potential new reactors.

The second piece, which covers the drivers behind new plant construction, can be found here.

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Italy Nuclear Update

Why is Italy thinking twice about the decision the nation made back in 1987 about the future use of nuclear energy?

One of the main effects of the anti-nuclear stance is that Italy depends heavily on oil and natural gas bought in other countries, with total energy imports estimated at about 15% of its total requirements.

According to a 2005 report by the International Energy Agency (IEA), Italy is in fact the worldÂ’s largest energy importer ahead of Germany, Brazil and the US.
This, in turn means Italians pay the highest electricity bills in Europe – 14.6 euro cents per kilowatt/hour compared to a European average of 10 cents and just 5.6 cents in Greece.
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Sunday, February 12, 2006

New Nuclear Energy Blog

Click here to visit a new blog following news from the nuclear fuel reprocessing plant in Rokkasho Japan.

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U.K. Nuclear Update

There are rumblings that the minority Conservatives, a traditional supporter of nuclear energy in Britain, are re-considering their position on the industry.

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NEI CNO on CNBC's Squawk Box

Marv Fertel, NEI's Chief Nuclear Officer, will be appearing on CNBC's Squawk Box tomorrow morning at 7:10 a.m. U.S. EST. He'll be talking about the revival of the nuclear energy business. Appearing alongside him will be Paul Gunter of NIRS.

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Friday, February 10, 2006

CBS News on Nuclear Energy

Click here for a report from CBS News' Jim Axelrod on the resurgence of the nuclear energy industry. It orignally ran on February 2, but we found it through the Truveo video database.

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The G8 Minus 1?

With the aftershocks of the Russian natural gas cutoff to Europe still reverberating around the continent, the EU is looking to make common cause with the U.S. regarding energy policy:

"In today's world, if the energy security of either one of us is impaired, it affects the other. I believe this situation calls for a transformation in our cooperation on energy issues," Jose Manuel Barroso said in a speech at Washington's Georgetown University where he was receiving an honorary degree.

"Just as it is ridiculous to have 25 separate energy policies in the European Union, so it would fly in the face of common sense for the transatlantic partnership to pull in different directions in this critical area," Barroso said, according to excerpts of his speech released in Brussels.
This leads our friend Rob McMillin to note:
The Russians have done themselves no favors by baring their teeth at the rest of Europe, shutting off gas, if indirectly, to their Western customers, and before that with the Yukos fiasco. It's fairly clear now that the G8 has one member too many, one that nobody else trusts anymore.
The G8 meets again in Moscow next week.

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Turkey Nuclear Update

In Washington for a meeting with Energy Secretary Sam Bodman, Turkish Minister of Energy and Natural Resources Hilmi Guler announced that his country plans to build 5,000 megawatts of new nuclear capacity in the next 15 years.

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Nuclear Energy: 2.75 Billion Gross Megawatt-Hours Strong

Just off the wire:

The world's nuclear generators in 2005 appear to have matched their record 2004 output, according to Platts Nucleonics Week. Platts is the energy information business of the McGraw-Hill Companies.

Platts calculated the nuclear total at 2.75-billion gross megawatt-hours (MWh). In 2004, the total was approximately 2.742-billion. The largest increase was recorded in South Korea, where addition of a new 1,000-MW unit helped the national total increase by 16-million MWh. The operators of the 103 nuclear units in the U.S. came within 10-million MWh of their 2004 record of 828-million gross MWh.

"The most striking thing in these numbers is how much potential is still left, even with record generation," said Margaret Ryan, editorial director of Platts' global nuclear publications. "Nuclear units are putting out more power than ever before, and there are some places including the U.S. where operators have made measurable gains. But the numbers show many cases where reactors are far from maxed out. There is still a lot of energy potential out there."
To visit Nucleonics Week, click here.

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Art Meets Nuclear Energy

Courtesy of the people at the Torness Nuclear Power Station in Scotland. Take a look.

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NAS Releases Report on Transport of Spent Nuclear Fuel

Yesterday the National Academy of Sciences released a report entitled, Going the Distance? The Safe Transport of Spent Nuclear Fuel and High-Level Radioactive Waste in the United States.

Here's what NEI's Chief Nuclear Officer, Marv Fertel, had to say about the report:

"Overall, the National Academies report is a strong endorsement of the used nuclear fuel transportation program that has operated well and operated safely in the United States for the past four decades. Specifically, the nuclear energy industry agrees with the three major findings of the National Academies report:

"“First, that there are no fundamental technical barriers to the safe transport of used nuclear fuel. This conclusion is supported by the fact that more than 3,000 shipments of used nuclear fuel have been made safely in the United States over the past 40 years. Even in the approximately 10 instances where accidents have occurred, no releases of the waste packages'’ radioactive contents have resulted, and public health and safety has been protected.

"Second, that existing international standards and U.S. regulations ensure the effectiveness of shipping containers over a wide range of transport conditions. In short, there's no need to go back to the regulatory drawing board because a program with strong public health and safety protections already is in place.

"And third, that there are opportunities to further implement operational controls and restrictions that will make this program even safer and better than it already is. The use of dedicated trains for rail shipments is a leading example of a safeguard that should be adopted to maximize safety of used fuel shipments.

"The industry also concurs with the National Academies'’ main conclusions with regard to testing of shipping containers --– namely that full-scale testing of shipping containers is worthwhile as part of an integrated testing program that includes scale models and computer simulation, but that full-scale tests are not necessary for regulatory certification of the containers, and that testing of packages to fail, or to destruction, is not warranted for certification. The ability of containers to serve their protective function during severe conditions can be proven without the excessive testing that would cause their destruction.

"There are a few instances where we do not agree with the report. We do not believe there is further value to be gained from additional study of long-duration fire scenarios that the report recommends. Intensive study of long-duration, fully engulfing fires already has been done by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

"We also disagree with the report'’s call for negotiations or federal legislation to achieve shipment of older used fuel first. Safety measures already are so strong and the risks of harmful impacts already are so low that one cannot justify the burden of additional expenses and potential litigation that this recommendation would cause.

"“The concern voiced by the National Academies that it did not have access to classified or otherwise restricted information does not negate the fact that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the Department of Energy have completed research on the physical security of used fuel containers and of transportation. As a result, the agencies have taken additional steps already to enhance physical security in this area.

"As the federal government'’s nuclear waste management program continues, the industry looks forward to working with Congress, the administration and regulatory bodies and emergency responders at all levels of government to maintain the highest levels of safety in this program."
In addition, NPR did a story on the report that aired yesterday evening. Thanks to reader Paul Primavera for the NPR pointer. You can read more at the Deseret Morning News.

UPDATE: To get a copy of the four page summary of the report, click here. For a combined copy of the summary and the recommendations contained in the report, click here.

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Thursday, February 09, 2006

2005 Refueling Outages

The U.S. nuclear industry's refueling outage durations have improved substantially over the past 30 years. In the 80s and early 90s, the average duration of a refueling outage was 3 months. Now it's one month. Some plants refuel in as little as 15-20 days.

Nuclear units shut down for refueling either in the spring or fall when electric demand is lowest. In 2005, 66 nuclear units (of 103) shut down for refueling outages. 43 refueled in the Spring 2005 and 23 in Fall 2005. The average refueling outage for 2005 was 38 days. The median was 34 days. In 2004, the average and median were 42 and 35.


The record for the fastest refueling outage (scroll down to near the bottom) for a boiling water reactor was Browns Ferry 3 at 14 days and 16 hours in 2002. For a pressurized water reactor it was Braidwood 2 at 15 days and 14 hours in 2003. In 2005, the fastest refueling outages were Braidwood 2 and Limerick 2 at about 17 days.

In the 80s and early 90s, the common refueling cycle was 12 months. Now, U.S. nuclear units are either on an 18 or 24 month refueling cycle. If the nuclear reactor doesn't shutdown for maintenance, it will go the entire period supplying cheap, emission free electricity.

The longest operating period between refueling outages (scroll down to Plant Performance) by a light water reactor was Exelon's Peach Bottom 3 recorded last September at 707 days. LaSalle 1, also operated by Exelon, broke that record a couple of weeks ago and is still going. Watch for the headlines!

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Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Russian Minister: Nuclear's Share of Electric Generation Must Increase

From RIA Novosti:

More nuclear power plants need to be built to avoid the threat of an energy crisis in Russia, the country's top nuclear power official said Wednesday. Sergei Kiriyenko, the head of the Federal Agency for Nuclear Power, said: "A key objective has emerged: to increase the share of nuclear power in overall energy production."

Russia's power infrastructure has been under huge strain recently, particular in the major cities, due to record low temperatures. The country's electricity monopoly Unified Energy System has been forced to restrict power supplies domestically and internationally, while Russian energy giant Gazprom has drawn heavily on its underground reserves to meet demand for natural gas.

In Moscow on Monday, UES said the peak load on the Moscow power system had hit 15,900MW as the second deep freeze engulfed the Russian capital.
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German Nuclear Update

The debate continues. From UPI:

German Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservatives are increasingly unhappy with the plan to shut down by 2021 all 17 nuclear plants still active in Germany. The previous coalition government of Social Democrats, or SPD, and Greens struck a deal with the German energy industry in 1999 to gradually phase out the production of nuclear energy.

Germans overwhelmingly backed the plan, but the tide may slowly turn, observers say. Skyrocketing electricity and heating bills have angered the population, and Germany's four main energy companies, E.on, RWE, Vattenfall Europe and EnBW, in the past month introduced repeated price increases. At the end of January, Vattenfall announced some 3 million households in Berlin would have to pay up to 6 percent more for electricity in 2006.
I'm sure the Russian natural gas cutoff scared folks some too. For our previous posts on this story, click here, here, here and here.

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The Evangelical Climate Change Initiative

From the New York Times:

Despite opposition from some of their colleagues, 86 evangelical Christian leaders have decided to back a major initiative to fight global warming, saying "millions of people could die in this century because of climate change, most of them our poorest global neighbors."

Among signers of the statement, which will be released in Washington on Wednesday, are the presidents of 39 evangelical colleges, leaders of aid groups and churches, like the Salvation Army, and pastors of megachurches, including Rick Warren, author of the best seller "The Purpose-Driven Life."

"For most of us, until recently this has not been treated as a pressing issue or major priority," the statement said. "Indeed, many of us have required considerable convincing before becoming persuaded that climate change is a real problem and that it ought to matter to us as Christians. But now we have seen and heard enough."
The group will hold a press conference this morning at the National Press Club here in Washington. More later, if warranted.

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Instapundit on the Future of Nuclear Energy

Glenn Reynolds, the Instapundit, writes in TCS Daily this morning that it's time for America to consider expanding the use of nuclear energy for reasons of energy security and sustainability, but has some worries about the environmental movement:

The question is whether, despite the lead of people like [G. Pascal] Zachary and [James] Lovelock, the environmental movement as a whole will be willing to abandon knee-jerk opposition to nuclear plants. Though there are good reasons to support them, rather than oppose them, on environmental grounds, I fear that too many environmentalists who, like Zachary, cut their teeth on antinuclear activism will be less willing to respond to changed circumstances with changed attitudes. Social movements are often more about beliefs than about reality, and ever since Tom Hayden et al. organized the antinuclear movement as a way of preserving some of the anti-Vietnam-war movement's infrastructure, it's been as much a political movement as an environmental one.

Will we be able to turn our back on outdated beliefs in order to salvage things in the 21st Century? I certainly hope so.
We hope so too. For more on Zachary and Lovelock from our archives, click here and here.

UPDATE: A commenter over at TCS had something interesting to add:
It's hard for me to take seriously anyone who tries to say both of the following:

- we must stop emitting greenhouse gases to stop/reverse climate change

- nukes are off the table

We have a 30 year record of increasingly safe and efficient operation and a new generation (or two) of reactor technology to work with. It's time for greens to put adolescent fears behind them and get their priorities straight. Either stopping greenhouse emission is urgent and nukes are our best source of alternative energy, or climate issues aren't change and energy policy should be subject only to the geostrategic matters on which Reynolds focuses his attention.
More later, if warranted.

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