Thursday, August 31, 2006

NEI Energy Markets Report (August 21st - 25th)

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

Electricity prices were mixed throughout the country last week. Gas prices at the Henry Hub fell $.03 to $7.01/MMBtu (see page 4). Oil prices fell $3.84 to $71.79/barrel (see page 5).

Uranium prices (from UxC and TradeTech) rose to $48.50 and $48.25/lb U3O8 (see page 8). Last week, natural gas futures at the Henry Hub rose to $6.95/MMBtu for September and $11.24/MMBtu for January 2007 (see page 6).

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

NEW!!! NEI will begin using podcasts for these reports to supplement readers with more information. These will be short two minute summaries of what went on in the energy markets last week. Click here to listen to the first one.

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TXU Announces Plans For 2-6 GW of New Nuclear Capacity

More good news just off the wire from TXU:

To help meet Texas'’ need for power beginning in the latter part of the next decade, TXU Corp. (NYSE: TXU) announced today that it plans to develop applications to file with the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) for combined Construction and Operating Licenses (COLs) for two to six gigawatts (GW) of new nuclear-fueled power generation capacity at one to three sites. TXU expects to submit the COL applications in 2008, which would facilitate bringing the new capacity on line between 2015 and 2020. Combined with its previously announced 9.1 GW of coal power generation capacity that is expected to be on line by 2010, the nuclear power generation capacity would allow TXU to continue to deliver the dependable energy supply, low prices and cleaner environment its Texas consumers demand.

"“While new nuclear generation cannot come on line in time to meet the growing power needs of Texas for the next 10 years, TXU continues to aspire to be a leader in the commercialization of the next generation of low-cost, clean technology,"” said C. John Wilder, TXU Corp. chairman and CEO. "Nuclear generation offers the potential to deliver our customers lower, stable prices and continue to reduce Texas'’ over-reliance on natural gas. Based on top decile performance at our Comanche Peak nuclear power facility and strong knowledge of the Texas market and customers, TXU is uniquely positioned to commercialize this technology in Texas."” TXU Power'’s Comanche Peak is an industry leader in nuclear operations and is a recipient of the "“Clean Texas, Cleaner World --National Leader Award" from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for its efforts above and beyond compliance in environmental excellence and overall environmental stewardship.

TXU plans to partner with others to take full advantage of the benefits of scale while sharing the risk of such large investments with long-term investors. TXU has had preliminary discussions with the Lower Colorado River Authority and the City of San Antonio'’s CPS Energy, and will also invite other electric cooperatives and municipalities to partner in the plan.
As for the timeline, TXU says that it will have chosen a reactor design and identified potential sites by the end of the year, with a COL application scheduled to be filed with NRC in the fourth quarter of 2008. TXU is currently projecting that the first COLs would be completed in the 2010-2011 time frame.

More later, as the coverage breaks.

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Fluor in Talks to Purchase BNG

From the Times (U.K.):

FLUOR, the US engineering giant, last night made a direct approach to the Government in a bid to buy British Nuclear Group outright, after it was infuriated by last week’s decision to delay the sale of the decommissioning business, The Times has learnt.

A delegation from Fluor met Geoffrey Norris, the Prime Minister’s special adviser on nuclear matters. It is understood that Fluor proposes to pay between £250 million and £400 million cash, some way short of BNG’s £500 million value.
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Report: Australia Could Lose Billions in Export Income Without Nuclear Industry

That was the conclusion of a report prepared by Silex Systems at the behest of Prime Minister John Howard's government:

The Age has obtained a submission to Mr Howard's inquiry by technology firm Silex Systems that argues Australia would lose export income of $US2 billion to $3 billion ($A2.6 billion-$3.9 billion) per year by 2015 if it failed to enrich its substantial supplies of uranium.

"If Australia is to fully capitalise on the value of its precious uranium resources, then it should develop a nuclear fuel industry which includes uranium conversion, uranium enrichment and fuel fabrication services," Silex puts to the Prime Minister's uranium taskforce, chaired by former Telstra boss Ziggy Switkowski. The company also issues a blunt warning that no corporation will invest in Australia until the country achieves bipartisan support and lowers the political temperature around the nuclear cycle.

"Against the backdrop of a deeply divided political landscape, it appears inconceivable that private industry would contemplate investing in an Australian nuclear fuel industry," Silex says. "Investment will not happen as long as there is the threat that a billion-dollar project could be shut down or even stalled after a future federal election."
With a considerable chunk of the world's uranium reserves, Austrlia is in a unique position as the nuclear industry continues to revive globally.

For more on current happenings in Austrlia on the nuclear issue, go see Robert Merkel.

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Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Energy Information Digest

The August issue of Energy Information Digest is now available on the NEI Web site, in the Newsroom. In it, you'll find articles about the Department of Energy's road map for developing cellulosic ethanol, a partnership between British Prime Minister Tony Blair and California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to combat climate change, activities related to new nuclear plant construction, wind industry milestones, and other topics.

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More on South Africa and Enrichment

Earlier this week we noted South Africa's announcement that it was considering creating its own uranium enrichment program. Today, Commentary South Africa has some more thoughts on the announcement.

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Westinghouse Snags $300 Million Contract in South Korea

From the Pittsburgh Business Times:

Westinghouse Electric Co. said it signed contracts worth more than $300 million to provide equipment and support for two nuclear power plants in South Korea.

The Westinghouse contracts are with Doosan Heavy Industries and Construction Co. Ltd., and the Korea Power Engineering Co. Inc.

[...]

The plants will be operated by the Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power Co., a subsidiary of Korea Electric Power Corp.

The contracts will provide work at a number of Westinghouse locations in the U.S., including: Windsor, Conn., Newington, N.H., and Monroeville.
In other Westinghouse-related news, the EU has extended its deadline for approving Toshiba's purchase of Westinghouse by two weeks.

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Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Another Blogger for Nuclear Energy

Meet Charlie Dragon.

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LES Breaks Ground on National Enrichment Facility

It's another good news day for the nuclear energy industry. Down in New Mexico, LES has broken ground on the new National Enrichment Facility. From the Current Argus:

Louisiana Energy Service plans to hold the groundbreaking ceremony for the National Enrichment Facility today at the NEF site near Eunice.

The NEF, according to a press release, is the first major commercial nuclear project licensed in more than 30 years and the first ever to be awarded a combined construction and operating license. Upon completion of construction, the NEF will provide a domestic source of enriched uranium for the country's nuclear energy needs.

The groundbreaking will take place at 10 a.m.

The $1.5 billion NEF project, according to the press release, will provide close to 300 fulltime and contract jobs and more than 1,000 multi-year construction jobs in southeastern New Mexico. It will use proven technology that has operated safely in Europe for 30 years.

When construction is complete, the NEF will operate the nation's most advanced uranium enrichment facility and provide a secure domestic enrichment source to the U.S. nuclear energy companies.
NEI issued a statement from President and CEO, Skip Bowman:
“The Nuclear Energy Institute congratulates LES and its many friends throughout New Mexico and west Texas on this historic day. Once built, the state-of-the-art enrichment facility will be a rock of economic stability for the region for decades to come.

“Just as importantly, the National Enrichment Facility will help ensure a competitive, reliable supply of low-enriched uranium for the nuclear power plants that are vital to our nation’s future energy security. It will enhance our domestic supply of fuel to generate clean, reliable, affordable electricity that our nation needs.

“With the nation’s 103 operating nuclear power plants running at 90 percent capacity and the prospect of new nuclear power plant construction moving steadily closer to reality, this new enrichment facility will add to our energy security as it increases our domestic capability to produce nuclear fuel for electricity production.”
For more enrichment related news, click here.

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One Year After Katrina, Oil and Natural Gas Production Still Hamstrung

From the Houston Chronicle:

In all, Hurricane Katrina destroyed 46 offshore platforms and Hurricane Rita destroyed 69, according to the Minerals Management Service, an agency of the Department of the Interior.

Insurance companies like AON and Willis have estimated the total damage price tag for the industry at about $15 billion.

The most recent report on shut-in production says 12 percent of the Gulf's oil output and 9 percent of its natural gas production remains off line.

David Pursell, an analyst with Houston's Pickering Energy Partners, said most companies don't expect to see the Gulf's oil and gas output reach pre-Katrina levels until next year.

Some lost wells may not be restarted at all given the extent of the damage for many low volume wells.
Thanks to Walter Taylor for the pointer.

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FPL Gets Ready for Hurricane Ernesto

With Hurricane Ernesto bearing down on Florida, FPL is getting ready for the storm to make landfall later today. In case of hurricane winds, the utility has a plan in place for staged shutdowns of the nuclear stations at Turkey Point and St. Lucie. In case that decision is made, look for an announcement from NRC.

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The IT Challenge at NRC

With NRC on the cusp of a new wave of internal expansion due to the revivial of the American nuclear industry, the agency is going to have to exapnd its IT infrastructure as well. NRC's Information Services Office director Ed Baker sat down with Government Computer News to talk about the challenge.

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James Lovelock to Make Washington Appearance

James Lovelock, the originator of the Gaia Theory, will be in Washington on Friday, September 8 at 7 P.M. to lecture and sign his most recent book, The Revenge of Gaia.

The event is sponsored by The Audubon Naturalist Society, The Wilderness Society, The Carnegie Institution and Politics and Prose bookstore. The lecture will be at the Carnegie Institution of Washington. The specific location is below, and directions are available from the Carnegie Institution website, www.dtm.ciw.edu:

Carnegie Institution of Washington
Department of Terrestrial Magnetism
5241 Broad Branch Road, NW
Washington, DC 20015

There is no charge for the event, but reservations are required through Politics and Prose. Email Bonnie Kogod at bkogod-at-politics-prose.com or call her at 202-0363-7738.

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Monday, August 28, 2006

NEI Nuclear Performance Report (July 2006)

Here's a summary of U.S. nuclear plant performances last month:

For July 2006, NEI estimates the average net capacity factor reached 98.1 percent. This figure is 1.7 percentage points higher than the same one month period in 2005. NEI estimates monthly nuclear generation at 72.2 billion kilowatt-hours for July 2006 compared to 71.3 BkWh for the same one month period in 2005.

For 2006, NEI estimates year to date nuclear generation at 459.8 billion kilowatt-hours compared to 448.8 BkWh in 2005 (2.5 percent increase).

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

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MIT Nuclear Energy Q&A

In this month's edition, my colleague Lisa Stiles-Shell is the subject of the interview, as she answers some questions in the wake of her election as President of the International Youth Nuclear Congress.

Congrats to Lisa, who I'm sure is in for an exciting term.

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Lisowski to Head GNEP

Just off the wire from DOE:

U.S. Department of Energy Assistant Secretary for Nuclear Energy Dennis Spurgeon announced the appointment of Dr. Paul Lisowski as Deputy Director of Advanced Nuclear Energy Systems. As Deputy Director, Dr. Lisowski will lead the day-to-day operations of the Department's Global Nuclear Energy Partnership, a key element of the President’s Advanced Energy Initiative.

“I am excited that Paul will be joining our team,” Assistant Secretary Spurgeon said. “He brings a wealth of technical knowledge and expertise, which will be vital as we move forward with building new nuclear power plants under the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership.”

As Deputy Director of Nuclear Energy, Dr. Lisowski will take the lead on planning and integration of advanced nuclear reactors, fuel processing, and research and development in support of the Global Energy Nuclear Partnership. Dr. Lisowski will also use his expertise and leadership to expand the use of nuclear power, minimize nuclear waste, demonstrate more proliferation-resistant recycling, develop advanced burner reactors, and establish reliable fuel services.

Most recently, Dr. Lisowski worked at Los Alamos National Laboratory where he served for five years as the Director of Los Alamos Neutron Science Center (LANSCE). While there, he was responsible for science and technology development, safety, maintenance and operation of the three national user facilities and an isotope production facility. In this position, he was responsible for the management of over 300 scientists, engineers and operations staff and for the management of an annual operating budget of up to $125 million.

Prior to that, Dr. Lisowski served as the National Director for the Accelerator Production of Tritium Project. The National Laboratory and industry team that he led were awarded the 2000 DOE Award for Excellence in Program and Project Management.

“I am pleased to be part of this exciting GNEP initiative,” Dr. Lisowski said. “I am confident that my past experience with large multi-laboratory and industry teams will greatly contribute to the success of GNEP.”
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Standing By on NAM Labor Day Report

Off the wire from our friends at NAM:

**MEDIA ADVISORY**


Study Shows Energy Costs Shrinking the Pie for America'’s Workers

WHO:
  • John Engler, NAM President and CEO, National Association of Manufacturers
  • David Huether, NAM Chief Economist

WHAT: NAM President John Engler will address the media on the results of the NAM'’s annual Labor Day report. The report provides a snapshot of the past year'’s economic trends as they relate to the American worker. As production jobs in manufacturing have posted their strongest gains since 1998 and production has increased at its fastest pace in six years, surging energy prices are decreasing workers'’ take-home pay. Along with David Huether, the NAM'’s chief economist, Gov. Engler will discuss how the manufacturing sector can continue to expand by turning toward a reliable domestic energy supply.

WHEN: 10:00 a.m.
Monday, August 28, 2006

WHERE: NAM Headquarters' —Industry Room
1331 Pennsylvania Ave, NW Suite 600
Washington, DC
Full report expected anytime now. We'll provide a link as soon as possible.

UPDATE: Report is in (PDF). From the press release:
“But while workers’ total compensation has continued to outpace inflation, wages have not,” Huether said. “Surging energy prices have propelled inflation at a faster pace than workers’ take-home pay and have resulted in declines in real wages for working Americans.”

“Over the past year energy prices have risen 23 percent due to increased global demand, limited domestic supplies, natural disasters and global instability,” Engler said. “As a result, real wages have fallen by 0.5 percent over the past year when they should have gone up by 1.2 percent.

“The time has come to build a national energy policy to address these costs by increasing domestic production and supply,” Engler said. “Our nation was galvanized around the Manhattan Project, we put a man on the moon, and 50 years ago, we created the Interstate Highway System. If we marshal that same national spirit of cooperation, unity and focus, we can ensure energy security.”
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South Africa Considers Uranium Enrichment

The home of the Pebble Bed Modular Reactor is considering the move. More, here.

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Wooten: For Georgia and the Nation, Build More Nuclear Power Plants

In Friday's edition of the Atlanta Journal Constitution, Jim Wooten wrote an editorial in support of the expanded use of nuclear energy that's generated 157 comments and counting:

Clearly the nation does need to move promptly to get back into the nuclear power business in a major way. In France, 78.1 percent of electricity comes from nuclear. ItÂ’s cheap, clean, safe and efficient. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, Belgium gets 55.1 percent, Japan 29.3 and the United States 19.9. About three-fourths of this nationÂ’s emission-free power generation comes from nuclear.

Georgia Power adds 40,000 customers per year, and thatÂ’s about half the new customers coming online in Georgia yearly. The two 1,200-megawatt reactors at Vogtle alone generate about 11 percent of its electric-power needs.

The nation has been timid too long. Company officials have made no decision yet on whether to add the two reactors at Vogtle. The correct decision, for Georgia and for the nation, is yes. Build.
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Correcting the Record on Three Mile Island

An August 19, 2006 story in the Boston Herald concerning the distribution of KI tablets around U.S. nuclear power plants contained the following paragraph that caught my attention:

KI pills help absorb radiation and can thwart thyroid cancer if people take them soon after exposure. Studies have shown the pills could have severely reduced cancer caused by meltdowns at Three Mile Island and Chernobyl.
Here's Diane Screnci of the NRC in a letter to the editor that appeared in today's edition of the newspaper:
I'’d like to correct a statement ("“Markey rips Bush over delay in radiation pill handout," Aug. 19). The story said, "“Studies have shown the pills could have severely reduced cancer caused by meltdowns at Three Mile Island and Chernobyl."”

Detailed studies of the radiological consequences of the TMI accident have been conducted by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Health, Education and Welfare (now Health and Human Services), the Department of Energy, Pennsylvania and others. Those comprehensive investigations have concluded that in spite of serious damage to the reactor, most of the radiation was contained and that the actual release had negligible effects on the physical health of individuals or the environment. Unlike Chernobyl, there was such a small amount of iodine released at TMI that it couldn'’t be found, only calculated. Without iodine, there is no threat to the thyroid and no need for KI.
For more on the TMI accident and a list of the health studies conducted in its aftermath, click here. NEI has also published a number of fact sheets that look at the issue of KI distribution in detail:

Potassium Iodide Use Must Be Science-Based

Use of Potassium Iodide Secondary Measure in the Event of a Radioactive Release

Emergency Preparedness Near Nuclear Power Plants

As we saw last week, junk science is a real problem for the nuclear industry. While I applaud the Boston Herald for publishing the letter from NRC, the original story should have had links embedded in it that pointed to the actual source of the "studies" that the reporter was referring to.

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Friday, August 25, 2006

NEI Energy Markets Report (August 14th - 18th)

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

Electricity prices were mixed to decreasing throughout the country last week. Gas prices at the Henry Hub fell $.38 to $7.04/MMBtu (see page 4).

Nuclear capacity availability averaged 98 percent last week. Brunswick 1, Crystal River 3, and Oconee 3 were down for maintenance (see pages 2 & 3).

Uranium prices (from UxC and TradeTech) were at $48.00 and $47.50/lb U3O8 (see page 7). Last week, natural gas futures at the Henry Hub were at $6.79/MMBtu for September and $11.12/MMBtu for January 2007 (see page 6).

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

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Some Things Are Better Left Unsaid

From Reuters:

Oil leapt more than $1 on Friday as a storm brewing in the Caribbean threatened to sweep through the U.S. Gulf next week and menace oil supplies yet to recover from last year's hurricanes.

[...]

A spinning band of squalls in the Caribbean was on the verge of becoming Tropical Storm Ernesto and was expected to head northwest toward the Gulf of Mexico by the middle of next week.

"Everybody came in and saw the story about the potential of this storm," said Kevin Blemkin, a broker at Man Financial. "People get a little bit excited about these things and we go from strength to strength."

It was a year ago that hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf and temporarily shut in a quarter of U.S. oil production.
It also shut down a considerable percentage of natural gas production too. Cross your fingers.

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Coal Exec: Energy Demand May Strain Mines

From the Deseret Morning News:

America's voracious appetite for energy will put tremendous pressure on the nation's coal industry, according to Steven Leer, chief executive officer of Arch coal, which owns three coal mines in Utah and is the state's largest coal producer.

Today, about 50 percent of the nation's electricity is produced by coal-fired power plants. Leer said that market share will grow by another 7 percent in coming years. In fact, projections show that by 2030 the nation will need 700 million tons of coal more than what is being produced today, a 68 percent increase.

"That is a huge number," Leer said Thursday at the Utah Mining Association's annual convention. "It's going to be a challenge to every man and woman in this room.
As we've seen in the past, there are other ways the coal supply can be disrupted.

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Argentina Nuclear Update

From the AP:

Argentina announced an ambitious plan Wednesday to expand its nuclear program to meet rising energy demands, including extending the life of existing plants and possibly resuming uranium mining.
ADVERTISEMENT

At a Government House news conference, Planning Minister Julio de Vido said the plan calls for increasing the life span of the aging Atucha I and Embalse nuclear power plants and completing construction by 2010 on the long-stalled Atucha II plant.

Two decades of delays have hampered completion of the Atucha II project, located some 75 miles northwest of the capital of Buenos Aires.
For more, see this fact sheet from the World Nuclear Association.

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Public Citizen VA Renewables Report: Fails Reality Check

As many of you already know, Public Citizen was an active participant at the NRC and DEQ meetings for North Anna last week. As part of their anti-nuclear campaign, they released a timely 'fact' sheet in which they outline how renewables can replace nuclear energy and meet Virginia's electrical needs.

According to this document, if Virginia developed every suitable site within 20 miles of existing transmission lines, wind could supply 10 percent of Virginia's electrical needs! Holy cow! Why not? You might be wondering what was considered 'unsuitable' by this study? 'Urban areas, airfields, steep slopes, parks, wetlands, and wildlife refuges.' And, now Public Citizen proposes to fill all of the 'suitable' gaps between these sites with wind turbines, for a whopping 10 percent of our current electrical needs. What they don't seem to account for is DOE's expected 50 percent increase in national electrical demand over the next 20 years. And, that electrical demands in the southeast are expected to outpace most of the nation.

The study goes on to reveal that if we covered every commercial and residential rooftop in Virginia with solar panels, that it could provide about 41 percent of Virginia's electrical needs. If solar panels weren't already ' too costly for grid connected applications ', and there were no toxic waste concerns associated with the production of solar panels, then there would still be that revolutionary problem: Virginia doesn't always face the sun. It still rises and sets every day, and although we use a lot of energy between 10 AM and 2 PM during the hot sunny days in July, we tend to peak at the solar-deficient times of 7 AM and 5 PM during the winter months. But Public Citizen has a solution: They propose adding to the already expensive technology by compressing air for energy storage. Not only are renewables cost prohibitive in their own right, but in order to have electricity when we need it, we'll also be hit with the expense of installing storage mechanisms and providing backup power supplies for when the wind isn't blowing and the sun isn't shining.

There's a far better approach. Nuclear energy has proven itself as a safe, clean, and reliable energy source in Virginia. Together with renewables, nuclear can meet Virginia's current and future demands. It's not necessary to cover the state in windmills and fit every rooftop with solar panels. While I believe these technologies should be used, they simply cannot replace our dependence on fossil fuels AND meet future demands all by themselves. By opposing nuclear, Public Citizen makes themselves part of the problem, not part of the solution.

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Thursday, August 24, 2006

More on Scientific American's Nuclear Option

Our friend Rod Adams just read through John Deutch and Ernest Moniz's recent piece on nuclear energy in Scientific American, and he has some additional thoughts.

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Penn. Representative Has Some Questions About Nuclear Energy

Over at Daily Kos, Pennsylvania State Representative Mark Cohen is asking some questions about nuclear energy. Though he's a long-time opponent going back to the days of Three Mile Island, he's got some questions about where the industry stands now:

The questions now are: Is Nuclear Power safe enough to be expanded? Has the technology and training of nuclear power workers been so improved that there are no longer threatening problems of human incompetence? Is Yucca Mountain an achieveable destination for nuclear waste? Can waste be reliably transferred to Yucca Mountain in Nevada without dangerous risks to the public health? Are there still problems of escessive water use by nuclear power plants? How many of the problems of nuclear safety widely discussed in the late '70's and early 80's have been eradicated? Is expanded nuclear capacity a risky target for terrorists, or merely a manageable problem?

And what about cost problems associated with safety? Are the costs of nuclear safety now manageable so that it can be achieved without raising prices sky high in the long run?
It would be great if our readers could stop by and add their two cents. All I ask is that you be respectful. That's especially so in this particular case, where I'm actually encouraged by the tenor of the debate that's been sparked by Cohen's post.

As I've said before, nuclear energy isn't a Left/Right issue anymore, and many of the comments over at Daily Kos seem to support that contention. Even better, this is only one in what has become a series of posts where nuclear energy has shown more support than many might expect. Click here, here and here to see more of what I'm talking about.

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James Lovelock and The Revenge of Gaia

In Tuesday's edition of the Washington Post, Australian environmentalist Tim Flannery reviewed James Lovelock's new book about global warming, The Revenge of Gaia:

Lovelock's principal motivation in penning his latest work is not to better define Gaia (although he does that) but to warn us that, if nothing is done, Earth is on the brink of moving into a "hot state" -- and if it does, "most of us, and our descendants, will die" prematurely and needlessly. The cause of the heating, he writes, is the greenhouse gases released by our fossil-fuel-driven economy.

So yes, "The Revenge of Gaia" is another book about global warming. Yet this is a wondrous and novel essay, both for what it has to say and for the insight it affords into one of the most ingenious, if eccentric, minds of our age.

[...]

In this crisis, however, Lovelock believes he does know what must be done. And his prescription -- develop nuclear power as swiftly and effectively as possible -- will be shocking to some, as will his fearlessness about radiation.

[...]

Minor technical blemishes fail to tarnish this luminous, challenging and timely work. Because it is so full of vital and interesting facts, "The Revenge of Gaia" is essential reading for anyone interested in climate change. And whatever your politics, it's sure to offend.
Thanks to Norris McDonald for the link. We first alerted our readers about Lovelock's book back in January. Earlier this month, we told our readers about Flannery's public support of expanded use of nuclear energy in Australia.

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Wednesday, August 23, 2006

More Anti-Nuke Half-Truths About North Anna

I've got a follow-on comment to Lisa's post below about the performance put on by some of the anti-nukes who showed up at the NRC public meeting on North Anna held last week in Louisa County.

While Lisa pointed out some of the contradictions evident in the statement of the representative of Public Citizen, I'll take a look at some of the half-truths spouted by Lou Zeller of the Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League.

The first thing he said that caught my attention was the claim that a 2003 MIT study on nuclear energy concluded that it couldn't be economically competitive with other sources of electric generation like natural gas. Indeed, that's exactly what the study concluded. However, what Zeller failed to mention was the fact that the price of natural gas today is about triple the price estimate of natural gas used in the study.

Let's just say that a price increase of that magnitude renders the original conclusion, "inoperative".

Later, Zeller said that contrary to claims of pro-nuclear advocates, that switching to uranium would not lessen America's dependence on foreign sources of fuel. After all, 80% of the world's uranium can be found outside the United States.

Again, a statement that is true on its face. Then again, what pro-nuclear advocates really say is that nuclear energy supports American energy security because unlike oil or natural gas, the vast majority of the world's uranium reserves are found in Australia and Canada -- two of America's strongest allies and paragons of political stability.

But what we have the biggest problem with concerns a number of studies that BREDL has been publicizing that claim that death rates in the immediate area around North Anna have increased dramatically since the opening of the plant. Our friend Delbert Horn took a closer look at that charge, and discovered that the numbers weren't all they were cracked up to be. The note Delbert sent me today is excerpted below:

In October 2004, Lou Zeller, on the Blue Ridge Environmental website, cited a Joseph Mangano study which claimed the death rate for children almost doubled in the NINE counties closest to North Anna. The study examines causes of death in a 30-mile radius from the plant.


This first map shows the nine counties in pink and the 30-mile radius for the study. Note that Caroline and Hanover counties to the East and Southeast were not included, even though they'’re within 10 miles of the plant. Greene County to the West was included, although it'’s completely outside the 30-mile radius. The black dot to the West is the city of Charlottesville. It was included, but is also outside the 30-mile radius. The much larger city of Richmond is the same distance from the plant as Charlottesville, but was excluded, as was the city of Fredericksburg, which is only 25 miles Northeast of the plant.

Five months later, in March 2005, Mr. Zeller, in written comments to the NRC cited yet another flawed study.

On page one of his comments, he claims the women'’s death rates from breast cancer increased 73% in the TEN counties nearest the plants. If you thought this study added Caroline or Hanover in as the tenth county, you'd be wrong!


This second map below shows the differences in green. On page five of his comments, Mr. Zeller lists the counties included. This second study ignored Madison and Culpeper counties to the Northwest, but added Nelson, Buckingham, Cumberland and Powhatan Counties to the Southwest. Nelson County is 50 miles from North Anna, yet this study also ignored Caroline and Hanover Counties 10 miles away. Strangest of all, this study ignored Spotsylvania County, which is right across Lake Anna from the plant!

Spotsylvania has a larger population than ANY of the 10 counties they included in this study. Does hand-picking counties and cities like this bias the results? You bet it does! This is what JUNK SCIENCE looks like. Consider the incredible irony that the BREDL stationary includes the North Carolina State Motto at the bottom of the page: "“Esse quam videre."” Translation: "“To be rather than to seem."”
Indeed.

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It's Fashionable to Not be Anti-Nuclear

I hope to have time soon to write down all of my thoughts about the North Anna public meetings in Louisa County, Virginia last week, but the most surprising aspect to me was the number of people suddenly calling themselves "not anti-nuclear." Imagine my delight when, at the NRC public meeting, Melissa Kemp, policy analyst for Public Citizen, joined the conga line and declared that the organization is "not antinuclear."

Gosh, the people running their website must be taking a very long vacation. Because with this new policy, they really should take down things like Activists' Guide to Fighting Nuclear Power and The Case Against Nuclear Power. If they need assistance replacing the propaganda with facts, we'd be happy to help.

Department of Energy Awards $510,000 to Grad Students Under Advanced Fuel Cycle Initiative

Off the wire from the Department of Energy:

To help meet the growing demand for nuclear-educated scientists and engineers, and to build upon President Bush’s American Competitiveness Initiative, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) today announced it will award a total of $510,000 in fellowships to 12 graduate students who are studying the nuclear fuel cycle. Each fellowship is valued at $42,500 and was awarded under the Advanced Fuel Cycle Initiative (AFCI) - a program within DOE’s Office of Nuclear Energy - geared toward looking at ways to close the nuclear fuel cycle and recycle components of used nuclear reactor fuel.

“These fellowships help further President Bush's American Competitiveness Initiative by providing our next generation with the education and skills necessary to compete in today’s global marketplace,” DOE Assistant Secretary for Nuclear Energy Dennis Spurgeon said. “We congratulate these fellows, and are thrilled that some of the nation’s best and brightest students from U.S. graduate schools are committed to studying the fuel cycle, an area critical to the growth of the nuclear industry.”

AFCI fellowships are awarded to students who plan to pursue research in technical areas related to the GNEP program, including the separation of nuclear waste components, the fabrication of these components into recycled fuel, and the preparation of new waste forms with increased long-term stability. AFCI supports DOE’s recently announced Global Nuclear Energy Partnership, designed to support the expansion of nuclear power in the world by reducing the risks of weapons proliferation, and increasing the efficiency of waste recycling programs.

Selected fellows are all pursuing master’s degrees in nuclear and related engineering disciplines, and were selected from a pool of 130 applicants. Fellowships will last 18 months. This summer, the new AFCI fellows will visit DOE Headquarters in Washington to become better acquainted with the AFCI program, and many will have summer jobs at DOE national laboratories before entering graduate school in the fall.

Selected AFCI fellows include:

  • Nicholas Cunningham, University of California – Santa Barbara, mechanical engineering
  • Brandon Distler, University of Missouri – Rolla, nuclear engineering
  • Jason Haas, University of Michigan, nuclear engineering and radiological engineering
  • Brian Hehr, North Carolina State University, nuclear engineering
  • Brian Jaques, Boise State University, material science and engineering
  • McLean Machut, University of Wisconsin – Madison, nuclear engineering and engineering physics
  • Paul Mews, Texas A&M University, nuclear engineering
  • Steve Mullet, University of California – Berkeley, nuclear engineering
  • Christopher Orton, Ohio State University, nuclear engineering
  • Robert Petroski, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, nuclear engineering
  • Christopher Sommer, Georgia Institute of Technology, nuclear engineering
  • Joshua Van Meter, Kansas State University, nuclear engineering
Congratulations to all the winners. For more on GNEP, click here.

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GBN Webcast on the Future of Energy

Back in May, the Global Business Network hosted a Web conference about the future of energy that looks interesting:

Increasing concerns about global climate change, rising oil prices, and political instability throughout the globe have pushed the topic of energy and energy security to center stage. Conventional wisdom says that energy demand will increase primarily from the developing world, mainly China and India, and that the use of renewable energy will also increase in response to the problem of climate change. But are there ways in which this conventional view of the future could be challenged? Is a peak in oil imminent? Will renewable energy and efficient fuel technology take the place of the current dependence on hydrocarbons—or will political, economic, and societal based constraints lead to an increase in the use of coal? And what would this mean for our greater environment? In this webconference, GBN chairman and cofounder Peter Schwartz and GBN consultant Steve Weber explored these and other questions about the perilous and shifting energy landscape.
Stewart Brand, who addressed the 2006 Nuclear Energy Assembly in San Francisco, is a co-founder of the Global Business Network. To view the Web cast, click here.

Thanks to Richard T. Stuebi from Clean Tech Blog for the link.

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The Atomic Show, #26

Shane and Rod are back with what they're calling their best show yet:

Shane and I get our groove back and engage in a geeky discussion on topics ranging from helium to coal and somehow manage to include such topics as aviation safety, nuclear engineering career paths, computing the cost of common products like a liter of water, assumptions underlying the MIT study titled the Future of Nuclear Energy, the geology that results in helium contamination of natural gas, a new business model for building nuclear power plants, Ayn Rand’s Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged and a singing act that included a cello and a helium bottle.
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EU Energy Commissioner Backs Nuclear Power

From Bloomberg:

The European Commissioner for Energy promoted the use of nuclear power for electricity generation on the grounds it can provide the biggest reduction in emissions of greenhouse gases.

``We need to keep the choice of the nuclear option open for countries that want to generate electricity,'' the commissioner, Andris Piebalgs, said in a speech at a conference in Stavanger, Norway. ``Nuclear energy presents the largest carbon-free energy source in the EU.''

Europe will continue to rely on oil and gas as its main source of energy for ``decades to come,'' Pieblags said, although those fossil fuels emit carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, unlike nuclear power and renewable energy sources.
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Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Clanton on Nuclear Energy

Brent Clanton of the Biz Radio Network is looking at some of the business and investment opportunities in new nuclear build.

And click here (MP3) for his interview with Elliot Gue, Energy Strategist for KCI Communications.

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NRC Quarterly Report to Congress

The NRC just issued its first quarterly report to Congress under new chairman, Dale Klein. Click here for a copy. Among the highlights: The Commission has received letters of intent for 19 site-specific combined license applications for 27 new nuclear power units as of June 30, 2006.

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Cleaning Uranium Waste With Bacteria?

Our friends at greenr have uncovered an interesting research paper:

A bacteria has been found that can convert soluble radioactive uranium into a non-toxic solid form called uraninite. It's novel conversion process has been known about for 10 years, but researchers are finally beginning to understand exactly how it is done.
Click here for the paper, and here for a summary.

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Another Blogger for Nuclear Energy

Meet Aubrey Weese.

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Soon To Be Added To The Blogroll...

Tesla Motors, makers of the Tesla Roadster electric sports car, now has a Blog.

Thanks to gimme-five for the pointer.

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A Grand Bargain on Nuclear Energy and Global Warming?

After reading the recent piece in Scientific American by John Deutch and Ernest Moniz proposing a tripling of the nation's nuclear capacity by 2050, Eric Berger of the Houston Chronicle is wondering out loud if it might not be time for a compromise of some sort:

This is where policy and science become really interesting. Bush supports nuclear energy, but has been loathe to act on global warming. Alternatively, environmentalists and some scientists have long been wary of nuclear energy, but with global warming have recently begun advocating its use despite their concerns (spent fuel disposal, proliferation.)

This potential solution to curbing greenhouse gases and limiting exposure to rising oil prices -- building lots of nuclear plants, ensuring their safe operation and taxing "dirty" power producers -- requires compromises from both sides. Isn't that what compromise is all about?
The Scientific American piece is now available online.

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American Utilities Weighing New Nuclear Build

In today's edition of the New York Times, a story by Matt Wald compares and contrasts the strategies of two different nuclear power plant owner/operators (Constellation Energy and PPL Corp.), and how they believe nuclear fits into their future generation mix. Here are some excerpts concerning Constellation, the more bullish of the two companies:

Nobody in the United States has started building a nuclear power plant in more than three decades. Mayo Shattuck could be the first.

As the chief executive of Constellation Energy, a utility holding company in Baltimore that already operates five nuclear reactors, Shattuck is convinced that nuclear power is on the verge of a renaissance, ready to provide reliable electricity at a competitive price. He has already taken the first steps toward that goal, moving this month to order critical parts for a new reactor.


[...]


Constellation Energy, the Baltimore company, not only wants to build reactors for itself, it has also formed a partnership with a reactor manufacturer to build and operate them for other utilities.

"This organization has a history of feeling that they have done well in nuclear," Shattuck, its chief executive, said.

Constellation says it will apply for a reactor operating license by the end of next year, probably at either Calvert Cliffs, Maryland, where it runs two nuclear reactors that it built in the 1960s and '70s, or at Nine Mile Point, in Scriba, New York, on Lake Ontario, where it operates two reactors it bought in 2001 from Niagara Mohawk Power and other utilities.

[...]

Constellation, which doubled its nuclear bet in the 1990s by buying more reactors as the utility industry restructured, believes it has demonstrated one marketable skill - running reactors profitably - and that it could quickly follow a new plant with a copycat, building both on time and on budget.

Constellation proposes a fleet of plants, identical down to the "carpeting and wallpaper," Shattuck said, reducing the design costs on subsequent reactors to near zero.

Operating processes would be identical, and operators could be shuffled among the plants, something that is often impossible today even with adjacent reactors. The company wants partners who would offer either equity or operating skills.
Here at NEI Nuclear Notes, we've been following Constellation's progress very closely. For more, click here. And for a look at the power supply situation in the Baltimore-Washington area that depends on the Calvert Cliffs Nuclear Power Plant, click here.

UPDATE: More thoughts from The Oil Drum: New York City.

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Monday, August 21, 2006

America's Nuclear Electric Future

Here's Llewellyn King with a column that ran nationally this weekend on the McClatchy-Tribune News Service:

Electricity has transformed the world. It has improved the quality of life for hundreds of millions of people. Without it, only the rich could hope for lives of comfort. Aside from clean water, it has no peer in the realm of human well-being.

I believe in the benefits of electricity and have confidence in America's ability to engineer its way out of its problems. So it seems incomprehensible that we do not pledge ourselves wholeheartedly to an electric future. Most of the railroads await electrification. There is a glimmer of its possibility for automobiles, and cities need to rediscover trolleys and trams.

Back to the future, I say -- the nuclear electric future which is less volatile and more reverential of the environment.

For 30 years or more, we have talked about new technology and meant computers. Because of social and cultural pressure, the truly exciting technology of the atom has been shunned.

Now we talk a lot about nanotechnology. But if we are already using the components of matter, atoms, we should also have the moral courage to split them for electric power.
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No Time To Ban Bananas

In yesterday's Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, an editorial cautioned readers not to overreact to news of a leak of tritiated water at the Kewaunee nuclear power plant:

But while concern may be warranted, overconcern - and overreaction - would be a mistake. Company officials assert that the amount of tritium found in the water "is not a threat to anyone's health." And while those officials may have a bias, their assertion is backed up by federal officials who say that no unsafe levels of tritium have been detected outside the plant's boundaries. And they are backed up by the Manitowoc County Health Department, which reports that "we have seen no tritium" in any of the weekly tests of wells near the plant.

[...]

The EPA allows up to 20,000 picocuries per liter of tritium in drinking water. In one of four shafts measured beneath the Kewaunee reactor basement, tritium was measured at 103,000 picocuries per liter, according to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. A Dominion spokesman put the health risk posed by the tritium found under the plant this way: "If you were to drink a cup of water that contained the highest level, that would be the same as the naturally occurring radiation you would receive by eating one banana."

And no one, as far as we know, is calling for a ban on bananas.
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Taking Issue With The Washington Post on Used Fuel

After reading a Washington Post editorial on Yucca Mountain and used nuclear fuel, Rod Adams has a bone or two to pick with the paper:

The editorial then devotes almost half of its valuable space to calling for a "politically and technically viable plan for storing the deadly radioactive waste that nuclear power plants produce". There are several emotionally charged and technically inaccurate statements made in the article, calling the material of concern "sludge" stating that the material is "piling up on sites next to reactors, in many cases close to population centers". Even the title of the article is not accurate, the glow seen in used nuclear fuel pools, which is caused by Cerenkov radiation, is definitely blue.
There's more, and it's all worth your time.

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The Atomic Show, #25

In their latest podcast, Shane and Rod talk about a possible nuclear power plant in Amarillo, Texas, while Rod provides a report from the American Nuclear Society Utility Working Conference.

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Another Electric Rate Hike For Los Angeles

California Energy Blog has the details. And natural gas is the reason why.

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Refusing to Panic

Visit Cheat-Seeking Missile.

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Who Would Benefit From a Resurgence In Nuclear Energy?

Over at Marketwatch, Marshall Loeb, former editor of Money, says that there is money to be made in the American nuclear industry:

Expect construction of the first plants to begin about 2009-2010. But don't expect them to begin producing juice any time soon. The complex process of designing, winning regulatory permissions and building a plant devours at least a dozen years. At best, the first of the new nukes will start coming on line in about 2015.

But even before that, large numbers of people stand to benefit. Among them are producers of many sophisticated goods (steam generators, turbines, pumps, specialty steel and alloys), skilled craftsmen and professionals (pipefitters, welders, engineers, architects), uranium miners, and, of course, shareholders in companies that make and build the plants.

Alas, there aren't many of the last mentioned in the U.S. Only General Electric remains. And its nuclear business -- designing and building reactors and providing services and nuclear fuel -- is about $1 billion a year. Westinghouse, long the other major U.S. manufacturer, sold out in 1999 to British Nuclear Fuels Ltd., which in turn sold the business early this year to Japan's Toshiba.

However, many of the new nuclear plants are planned to be in the U.S. South, and railways, trucking and barge lines in the region are likely to benefit from a broad pickup in traffic.

Says Richard Myers, executive director of the Nuclear Energy Institute, a trade group: "All roads now lead to nuclear power. It's not the total solution to our energy challenges, but it is part of the solution."

The numbers are so big that being only part of the solution could be dramatically profitable.
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Soon to be added to the Blogroll...

Meet GridBits.

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NRC Chairman to Nuclear Industry: "Show me."

New NRC Chairman Dale Klein in a speech delivered to the NEI dinner at the latest meeting of the Nuclear Strategic Issues Advisory Committee (NSIAC):

Most of the metaphors related to vision have to do with the vastness of the skies, and limitless horizons. Mine has more to do with my roots. More than a century ago, an educator and politician named Willard Duncan Vandiver coined the saying that has defined my home state of Missouri for all time.

Speaking to an audience in blue-blooded Philadelphia, he said, "I came from a state that raises corn and cotton and cockleburs and Democrats, and frothy eloquence neither convinces nor satisfies me. I am from Missouri. You have got to show me."

We've grown a bit in Missouri since then - we have some Republicans, and we even have a nuclear plant. But some things don't change.

When I hear it said we're going to build 50 nuclear plants in the next 20 years, I say, show me - show me the designs, and then show me the hardware and the construction, and then show me you have the people and procedures in place to run those new facilities in a way that will ensure public safety and security. And by the way, show me that you're maintaining the highest standards of safety performance for the plants already in operation.

In other words, my vision is that first and foremost NRC needs to continue to be a strong regulator. We will hold our licensees accountable. My vision also is that we, the NRC, articulate our requirements clearly, and that in addition to being demanding, we are responsive.
He continued:
We will ask hard questions, but not in a vacuum. I am a great believer in milestones - back on the farm in Missouri, we called them "chores" - and in metrics. We will do our utmost to set out our requirements, and to let the industry know - collectively and individually - where it stands at all times.

The bulk of our questions and metrics will concern technical issues - design, construction, safety, and security. But we are also very concerned about a much more basic - human - dimension. Where is the industry going to get all of the talented people to run these advanced new plants safely while shepherding today's fleet of plants through the balance of their extended lives?

I don't think I need to run the numbers for you - NEI's own surveys chronicle the tens of thousands of professional and skilled craft workers needed to keep the current fleet in operation, including the replacements for the operators, engineers, health physicists and others who are taking their invaluable knowledge with them into retirement.

And how many more professionals and craft workers will be needed for the new plants whose applications are starting to arrive at NRC?
It's a very interesting speech that lays out a critical industry issue in a very accessible way. Read it right now.

UPDATE: Rod Adams is making a connection between this speech and the Marshall Loeb article referenced above.

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Friday, August 18, 2006

Another Blogger for Nuclear Energy

Meet Roger Field.

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Social Barriers to Clean Energy

In response to yesterday's editorial in the Washington Post concerning expanded use of nuclear energy, Geoffrey Styles writes that opposition to nuclear power is tied up in larger issues concerning public reluctance to back large-scale power projects:

Nuclear power isn't a panacea, but it is the largest-scale, most readily-available source of emissions-free primary energy, and it can expand enough to displace--not merely augment--large quantities of fossil fuels. Rather than competing with wind and solar power, it complements them nicely, providing steady base-load power to support their intermittent contribution. And by recharging plug-in hybrid cars, it can deliver transportation energy in direct competition with petroleum products. None of that will happen, however, unless we overcome our aversion to all of the less-attractive foundations of our economy. Unless we come to grips with our post-industrial squeamishness about large energy facilities and infrastructure, we will foreclose some of our best options for energy that is cleaner and less reliant on unstable or unpredictable foreign governments. That applies not just to nuclear power, but to offshore gas drilling and large-scale wind power.
Styles is a must-read every day. Bookmark him.

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Deroy Murdoch on the "No Solutions" Gang

Columnist Deroy Murdoch has already figured out what environmentalists are against. But what he can't figure out is what they might actually be for:

If Albert Gore, Jr. is right and global warming is genuine, grave, and the fault of mankind, why do he and so many environmentalists oppose measures that would reduce those pesky carbon-dioxide emissions? Power sources that could cut atmospheric CO2 rarely seem good enough to satisfy the greens.

Unlike oil and coal, nuclear power does not generate CO2. It may be the most practical, atmosphere-friendly power source now available. And yet the former vice-president seems unimpressed.

"I’m skeptical about it playing a much larger role,” he said in London’s Guardian newspaper last May 31. “I don’t think it’s going to be a silver bullet.”

True, nuclear plants produce radioactive waste that must be stored somewhere. Despite an impressive safety record in America, where nuclear power meets 20 percent of energy demand -- and even more so in France, where 75 percent of power is nuclear -- the potential remains for catastrophic accidents or sabotage. But as Gore and his pals should understand, life involves trade-offs between low-risk options and clear-and-present dangers. If global warming truly is the unfolding horror show that environmentalists say it is, then why do they consider atomic energy even more dangerous?

[...]

Environmentalists seem to think conservation, ethanol, and perhaps attractive-but-costly solar power can halt global warming in its tracks. That’s dubious. If this supposed problem truly is the imminent planetary death sentence that global warmers say it is, they should grow up and fight CO2, not the tools to lasso it.
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The "Tooth Fairy" Visits Amarillo

With folks in Amarillo thinking about building a nuclear reactor, I guess it was only a matter of time before Richard Mangano, author of the infamous "Tooth Fairy Project," would come to town with his travelling snake oil show.

As we've mentioned many times before, there isn't one public health agency in America that has given Mangano's claims any credence. Once again, here's Ralph Andersen, NEI's chief health physicist:

Mr. Mangano's allegations of health effects associated with emissions from nuclear power plants have been reviewed in detail and repeatedly discredited by at least 8 state and 2 county public health departments, as well as the USNRC, as follows:

USNRC; State of Connecticut; State of Florida; State of Illinois; State of New Jersey; State of New York; State of Pennsylvania; State of Minnesota; State of Michigan; Westchester County, NY and Suffolk County, NY.

In fact, we are not aware of any federal, state, or local government public health departments that have reviewed Mr. Mangano's allegations and found them to be credible.
For the rest of our file on Mangano, click here. When are any of these newspapers going to do a background check on this guy?

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