Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Nuclear Road Trip

Larry Johnston, a writer for Florida Today, has been taking his readers on a road trip as he travels in a mobile home. Today he writes about his visit to a Canadian nuclear power plant, and it's pretty entertaining and informative.

I went to the visitor center and asked whether I could visit the facility. The receptionist told me not even the prime minister could get inside the plant. This spoiled my backup plan of pretending to be the prime minister, but also probably avoided my arrest.

The receptionist said I would have to be content with the visitor center. An interactive computer animation told me Canada has had nuclear power since 1970. I glanced at the computer next to me and was startled to see a person with a remarkably familiar face. Could that be the prime minister?

I learned about the numerous safeguards in the plant that reduce the risk of radiation leaks. I peeked over the monitor to the river outside to see whether the local geese had two heads or webbed wings. No, they looked normal.


It is remarkably simple, but this over-regulated industry is so politically charged as to be a stagnant energy alternative. Only about 400 nuclear power plants exist worldwide. Each one saves billion of gallons of oil each year. Our fears give comfort to the petroleum industry.
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Friday, December 22, 2006

Russia Doubles Natural Gas Price for Georgia

In Russia, it's beginning to look a lot like Christmas. From the Daily Mail:

Fears that Russia is using energy supplies as a political weapon increased last night after Moscow forced Georgia to accept a doubling of gas prices.

The deal came within hours of a threat by Gazprom, Russia's statecontrolled energy giant, to cut off supplies to the former Soviet republic from January 1.

Georgia had called the price increase 'unacceptable' and 'politically motivated'.

Relations between the Kremlin and Georgia's pro-West leadership were already at their worst for a decade after a spy row in September.

The Georgia 'agreement' is another example of what alarmed EU officials see as the Kremlin's heavy-handed tactics in dealing with energy clients.

It came the day after Gazprom took control of a massive oil and gas project from Royal Dutch Shell, which had suffered a long campaign of bureaucratic harassment.
Don't forget, as Geoffrey Styles said earlier this week, Russia's long-term goal is to be able to exercise just this sort of market power over the U.S. Of course, if the U.S. builds more nuclear power plants and displaces natural gas-fired electrical production the same way it displaced oil-fired electric production in the 1970s, the nation won't be in the same bind that much of Europe will be in the near future.

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Truck Carrying Low-Grade Uranium Overturns on North Carolina Highway

From the AP:

A tractor-trailer hauling about 6,000 pounds of low-grade uranium overturned Thursday as it exited Interstate 95, authorities said.

The truck crashed onto its side after the driver lost control on the exit ramp, said Jason Barbour, Johnston County's emergency communications director. One of two people in the truck suffered minor injuries, and no other vehicles were involved, he said.

The truck was carrying a radioactive material called packaged fissile, Highway Patrol spokesman Lt. Everett Clendenin said. The powdered uranium was packed in containers that weren't breached by the accident, he said.

"There's no threat to the public," Clendenin said. "It's a low grade uranium."

Traffic was diverted after the 9 p.m. crash south of Raleigh, and the exit ramp to Interstate 40 was closed for several hours. Clendenin said the ramp should reopen early Friday morning.

The uranium was being transported by Portsmouth Marine Terminal, from Portsmouth, Va., to Global Nuclear Fuels in Wilmington, a coastal city about 130 miles southeast of Raleigh.
I'm glad to see that everyone is safe, and the containers carrying the "packaged fissile", worked as designed to protect public health and safety. "Low grade uranium," or, low-enriched uranium contains between 3 and 4% Uranium 235. This grade of Uranium, when properly fabricated into fuel pellets, provides the heat source for nuclear reactors in the United States.

The transportation of said materials is jointly regulated by the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the US Department of Transportation. From the NRC:
About 3 million packages of radioactive materials are shipped each year in the United States, either by highway, rail, air, or water. Regulating the safety of these shipments is the joint responsibility of the NRC and the Department of Transportation. The NRC establishes requirements for the design and manufacture of packages for radioactive materials. The Department of Transportation [Exit NRC] regulates the shipments while they are in transit, and sets standards for labeling and smaller quantity packages. See Title 49, Transportation, of the U.S. Code of Federal Regulations [Exit NRC].
From an NEI fact sheet on transportation of radioactive materials:
Over the years, the nuclear energy industry has transported radioactive materials safely. When accidents have occurred, no one was harmed by the radioactive materials—neither members of the public nor transport workers.

Of the more than 45 million packages of radioactive materials shipped since 1971, accidents involved about 3,500. Of these, only 197 packages containing low-level radioactive materials sustained damage or failed, and in some of these accidents, the packages released a small amount of radioactive material. But in every case, the levels of radioactivity were so low that they presented no hazard to the public or to the workers who cleared the accident scene. When higher levels of radioactivity are involved, this record is even more impressive—no accident has ever breached a used fuel container.

In 1971, a tractor-trailer carrying a 25-ton shipping container filled with used nuclear fuel swerved to avoid a head-on collision and overturned. The trailer, with the container still attached, broke away from the tractor and skidded into a rain-filled ditch. The container suffered minor damage but released no radioactive material.

This accident was the most severe of eight accidents involving the shipment of used fuel transportation containers. Four of the eight occurred during highway transport; the others happened during rail shipment. None caused any release of radioactivity.
For the specific federal regulation that covers transport of this material, click here. For more on Global Nuclear Fuels, a joint venture of General Electric, Toshiba and Hitachi that the material was being transported to, click here. For more on nuclear fuel production, click here for an NEI fact sheet.

Please note, other bloggers have picked up on this, and we've responded appropriately.

UPDATE: A note from our friends at GE: A team from Global Nuclear Fuels was dispatched to the scene and found that the containers carrying the uranium were "virtually undamaged". They were reloaded and arrived at the facility in Wilmington at around 6:00 a.m. U.S. EST.

But what would have happened if the material had spilled? Again, this is from GE:
The type of radiation involved can be shielded by normal clothing or as something as simple as a piece of paper. The only risk for exposure is if the powder is inhaled or ingested which can easily be avoided by the use of standard protective equipment. However, it’s important to emphasis that the material is heavy and not prone to become airborne even if released.
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The Watt: Episode #69

This week's show includes a conversation on nuclear energy with Dr. Paul Howarth of the Dalton Nuclear Institute at the University of Manchester.

Thanks to John Wheeler for the pointer.

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More on Energy Incentives

A Musing Environment follows up on David Bradish's analysis from earlier this week.

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Swedish PM: New Reactors After 2010

Details from the World Nuclear Association.

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The Long-Term Goal Behind Gazprom's Power Play

Gazprom and the Russian government strong-armed Shell out of one of the world's largest natural gas projects, and now it appears that BP is next on their hit list. Geoffrey Styles looks at the end game:

Just as Russia was traditionally a continental power, capable of asserting influence across the entire Eurasian land mass, but with limited sea power, Gazprom's market and influence is currently limited to where its pipelines can reach. The natural gas market will become increasingly globalized in the years ahead, with the expected rapid expansion of LNG trade. Without the ability to supply gas across the oceans, Gazprom would miss out on much of the growth in this market, especially in the US, where LNG is still in its infancy. That could be very costly, particularly if Europe turns elsewhere for the gas it will need to meet its commitments under the Kyoto Treaty.

The ultimate roots of Gazprom's LNG strategy--and thus its actions with regard to Sakhalin-2--lie in the inherent contradictions of the US gas market, where environmental regulation has simultaneously nurtured the growth of gas demand, while stifling its domestic supply from federal lands and offshore drilling. If I were running the world's largest natural gas company, I would not rest until I was properly positioned to participate in what is likely to be the world's largest market for LNG. Shell and its partners just happen to be in the unfortunate position of providing both the means for achieving that end, and an obstacle in its way.
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Thursday, December 21, 2006

Utility Asks German Government to Extend Life of Nuclear Reactor

From AFX:

Energie Baden-Wurtemberg AG has submitted a request to the German government to prolong the life span of its Neckarwestheim I nuclear power station.

The utility wants to operate the reactor for eight years longer than allowed for under the current agreement specifying the closing date for each of the country's 17 nuclear sites.

If this is approved, Neckarwestheim I would operate until 2017 instead of 2009. In return, EnBW's Neckarwestheim II, another reactor at the same plant, would also close in 2017 instead of 2021.

EnBW chief executive Utz Claassen said in a statement the company wanted to take advantages of the safety and financial synergies gained from closing the two reactors at the same time.
You also net four more years of production, as well as get another eight years to hope the German government comes to its senses and reverses the phaseout. Here's hoping it works.

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NEI Nuclear Performance Report (November 2006)

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

For November 2006, NEI estimates the average net capacity factor reached 82.5 percent. This figure is 3.4 percentage points lower than the same one month period in 2005. NEI estimates monthly nuclear generation at 60.9 billion kilowatt-hours for November 2006 compared to 63.1 BkWh for the same one month period in 2005.

For 2006, NEI estimates year to date nuclear generation at 716.9 billion kilowatt-hours compared to 711.6 BkWh in 2005 (0.7 percent increase).

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

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More on the Canadian Nuclear Association Television Ads

The following is a transcript from CBC News (no online reference available) that includes interviews with Murray Elston of the Canadian Nuclear Association (CNA) as well as Hugh Wilkins of the Sierra Legal Fund, one of the anti-nuclear groups taking issue with CNA's public service advertising campaign that we first mentioned yesterday.

The exchange is interesting, in that the reporter gives Wilkins a pretty hard time:

MATT GALLOWAY, ANNOUNCER: A major environmental group announced that it's taking on the Canadian nuclear industry today. Their complaint false advertising. The Sierra Legal Defence Fund wants the Federal Competition Bureau to start an inquiry into the Canadian Nuclear Association's ads. You might have seen the ads on TV. They claim that nuclear energy is clean, reliable and affordable. In a moment we'll from Murray Elston. He's the former Liberal cabinet minister. He now heads the Nuclear Association. First though Hugh Wilkins staff lawyer for Sierra Legal. He's with me in the studio to explain why exactly his group is taking this particular tactic. Hugh, hello.


GALLOWAY: Tell me about the basis of your complaint. What is the CNA doing wrong?

WILKINS: The complaint is being filed by a number of groups representing religious, environment, community and health interests. And the complaint is asking the Competition Bureau to investigate whether the advertisements, which the Canadian Nuclear Association has put forward, are false and misleading.

Last week the Pembina Institute, which is an independent think tank based in Alberta, released a landmark report on the Canadian Nuclear Generation of Canada and it found that its conclusions were somewhat different from the messages of the Canadian Nuclear Association is giving in their advertisements.

GALLOWAY: Okay well people who have seen the ads for clean, reliable and affordable. What are you taking issue with in there?

WILKINS: Well the applicants in this complaint are taking issue with - well firstly whether nuclear energy is clean. The Pembina Institute states that if you look at the full nuclear technology cycle some of the mining and milling of uranium to the conversion of uranium into nuclear fuel and all the transportation in between, there are significant hazardous and radioactive pollutants which are being emitted into water, into air and also there are significant greenhouse gas emissions.

GALLOWAY: So are you essentially saying - I mean a lot of people know about the downsides of nuclear energy. Are you essentially saying that the CNA is lying in these ads?

WILKINS: Well the conclusions that the Pembina Institute has come to are definitely different.

GALLOWAY: But what is the Sierra Legal Defence Fund saying in terms of these ads in particular? You're involved in this case. Are you saying that the CNA is lying?

WILKINS: Well we represent a number of applicants, as I said, from these different groups and what their interest is, is that the public has full inaccurate information regarding the different options which are available and the costs and the impacts and benefits of the different types of supplies of energy which aren't available.

GALLOWAY: I'm still trying just to get what specifically you think is going on here. Are you saying that they're presenting false information? Or are you saying that other people need to be able to have the same amount of time to advertise their source of electricity?

WILKINS: Well what we need to do is essentially clean the air and to see exactly what is going on, to clear the air to see what's going on. We need the Competition Bureau to see if there's been false or misleading information given, and as I say the Pembina Institute has very different conclusions from what the message is from the Canadian Nuclear Association.

GALLOWAY: Part of your complaint is saying that the coal-fired generating industry should get equal time or equal advertising opportunities.

WILKINS: Well no we haven't talked about coal. Some of the applicants are in the renewable energy business.

GALLOWAY: So coal shouldn't - is not part of that at all.

WILKINS: Well what we need are energy supplies which are sustainable and have a long-term vision which provide positive benefits to the environment, to the health and to the social well being of Canadians.

GALLOWAY: So what are you hoping then that this action will achieve?

WILKINS: Well the Competition Bureau has a broad range of investigatory powers. They will look into whether these statements are false and misleading and then if they find out that there has been reviewable conduct under the Competition Act there are sanctions which can be ordered. There can be a requirement that the offender does not make any more statements along these lines or they can also order monetary penalties of up to $200,000 for a company.

GALLOWAY: It's interesting because you talk about the report from the Pembina Institute in the environmental movement there are a lot of people who now support nuclear energy, in particular over coal. Do you think that you're out of step with other people within your movement?

WILKINS: Well the issue is not pro or anti-nuc. It's -

GALLOWAY: Well that's what it sounds like.
For more, see We Support Lee.

UPDATE: Wind Blog is kicking this around. Stop by and offer your comments. As always, please be respectful.

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Canadian Minister: Nuclear to Play Role in Alberta Oil Sands

From The Calgary Sun:

Nuclear power in the oilpatch is just a matter of time, according to Canada's Natural Resources Minister Gary Lunn.

Speaking to Sun Media from Victoria yesterday, Lunn said he's very keen to see a new partnership between Crown corporation Atomic Energy of Canada Limited (AECL) and a private Alberta company to build a Candu-reactor to power oilsands extraction.

"It's not a question of if, it's a question of when in my mind," said Lunn. "I think nuclear can play a very significant role in the oilsands. I'm very, very keen."

Having toured nuclear plants such as Bruce Power's station on the shore of Lake Huron, Lunn said he believes nuclear power can help replace natural gas and other fossil fuels currently being burned to help extract bitumen from the oilsands.

"On this specific file, I've had discussions this week," said Lunn, declining to give more detail. "It's absolutely emission free. It's CO2 free."
As we saw in November, this idea seems to be getting bipartisan support inside Canada.

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Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Energy Information Digest

The December issue of Energy Information Digest (PDF) is now available on the NEI Web site, in the Newsroom. In it, you'll find articles about the new Democratic leadership of congressional energy committees, the U.S.-India civial nuclear energy cooperation legislation, the International Fusion Reactor, the Australian energy review, Progress Energy's potential site in Florida for a new nuclear power plant and other topics.

This is the final issue of Digest. We are happy to redirect readers to this blog for up-to-date information on all things energy.

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The Truth About Government Subsidies for Energy Sources

This is one particular issue we haven’t been able to tackle fully primarily because it is a difficult issue to quantify. How do you define a subsidy? What goes under subsidies? Does the Price Anderson Act count as a subsidy? Does the Nuclear Waste Fund? How many and what are the different types of subsidies used for energy development?

I hear all the time that nuclear power is so heavily subsidized it can’t survive on its own. Well we’re going to finally get into this issue as well as discuss the subsidies received by all other energies and technologies.

In Issues Online which is a publication by four groups including the National Academy of Sciences, an article titled The U.S. Energy Subsidy Scorecard was published quantifying the energy subsidy topic. The article was written by Roger H. Bezdek, president of Management Information Services, Inc., an economic research firm in Washington, D.C. and Robert Wendling, the vice president of MISI.

When I see claims that nuclear power gets all the subsidies, the numbers that are cited are typically only the Research and Development dollars. This has some merit because according to the table below, nuclear has received about half of the total dollars spent on R&D since 1950. However, I never see subsidies quantified by the opponents beyond R&D. This table shows subsidies beyond R&D and is from another article published by bcc Research written by the same two individuals from MISI (subscription required).

According to the first article, R&D only accounted for 19% of the total subsidies received from 1950 to 2003. The opponents paint the picture that nuclear power receives the most subsidies yet in fact, nuclear power has received about 10 percent of the total Federal incentives. From the article:

Indeed, our analysis makes clear that there are diverse ways in which the federal government has supported (and can support) energy development. In addition to R&D and tax policy, it has used regulatory policy (exemption from regulations and payment by the federal government of the costs of regulating the technology), disbursements (direct financial subsidies such as grants), government services (federal assistance provided without direct charge), and market activity (direct federal involvement in the marketplace).

We found that R&D funds were of primary importance to nuclear, solar, and geothermal energy. Tax incentives comprised 87% of subsidies for natural gas. Federal market activities made up 75% of the subsidies for hydroelectric power. Tax incentives and R&D support each provided about one-third of the subsidies for coal.

As for future policy, there appears to be an emerging consensus that expanded support for renewable energy technologies is warranted. We found that although the government is often criticized for its failure to support renewable energy, federal investment has actually been rather generous, especially in light of the small contribution that renewable sources have made to overall energy production. As the country maps out its energy plan, we recommend that federal officials pay particular attention to renewable energy investments that will lead to market success and a larger share of total supply.

Check out these charts below from the article.

So if nuclear can’t survive without subsidies, what energy technology can? By our opponent’s logic; hydro, coal, oil and natural gas cannot survive without government help either. What about the other renewables and geothermal? I'll let the reader decide if they are really surviving without government help (pdf).

Price Anderson Act and the Nuclear Waste Fund

We say that the Price Anderson Act and the Nuclear Waste Fund are not a subsidy. Yet, according to some of our opponents they are subsidies. By looking at the data in the article it appears they include both of these monies in their analysis under Disbursements from the table above. However, it is not a payment by the federal government. It’s the exact opposite.

Since the industry pays for its own waste by paying one mill of a cent / kWh into the Nuclear Waste Fund, this payment is subtracted from the total subsidies received. Thus why you see a -$8.3B under Disbursements for nuclear.

Since the Price Anderson Act was created, only about $151 million have been paid out in claims by the industry ($70M for Three Mile Island and $65M by DOE). According to Wikipedia:
Power reactor licensees are required by the act to obtain the maximum amount of insurance against nuclear related incidents which is available in the insurance market (as of 2005, $300 million per plant). Any monetary claims that fall within this maximum amount are paid by the insurance company. The Price-Anderson fund, which is financed by the reactor companies themselves, is then used to make up the difference. Each reactor company is obliged to contribute up to $95.8 million in the event of an accident. As of 2006, the maximum amount of the fund is approximately $9.5 billion if all of the reactor companies were required to pay their full obligation to the fund. This fund is not paid into unless an accident occurs.
And if the accident costs beyond $9.5B:
...then the President is required to submit proposals to Congress. These proposals must detail the costs of the accident, recommend how funds should be raised, and detail plans for full and prompt compensation to those affected. Under the Act, the administrators of the fund have the right to further charge plants if it is needed.
Considering that the U.S.’ worst nuclear accident (TMI, 1979) paid $70M in compensation, a $9.5B cap appears to be ample enough.

Moving on. The only issue lacking in this post is information on the incentives from the Energy Policy Act of 2005. This is something I hope to cover later in the future so stay tuned for more posts. As for now, enjoy the information on energy subsidies over the past half century.

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Michigan Needs More Nuclear, Mayor and Labor Leader Says

I just came across this very positive op-ed in Crain's Detroit Business from Monday. Gibraltar, Mich., Mayor James Beaubien is also the president of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 17. Oh, and he's also an avid outdoorsman.

Americans owe it to future generations to balance our need for more energy with respect for the environment. As an avid boater and fisherman I have seen all the power plants along the Detroit River and western Lake Erie from the water. It does my heart good to see the water vapor emitted by cooling towers at nuclear power plants when you compare it to the emissions from other generating sources.
He has a lot more to say about the benefits new nuclear plant construction would provide to the local work force. Read the whole thing here.

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Wisconsin Energy Sells Point Beach Nuclear Power Plant to FP&L

Details from AFX. For more on the plant (pictured left), click here.

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New Zealanders Won't Be Talking About Nuclear Energy in 2007

Why? Because the Royal Society of New Zealand wants to talk about clean coal instead:

New Zealand's nuclear naysayers can rest easy this Christmas in the knowledge the nuclear power issue is off the agenda for next year.

Some of the country's top scientists at the Royal Society of New Zealand have been considering whether the society should promote a public debate on nuclear-generated electricity.

But the society's council has opted instead to endorse a discussion on clean-burning coals.

Chief executive Dr Steve Thompson said the change of mind was not a result of any political pressure.

"We thought another topic might grab the public more. They wanted to do something that was more immediately applicable to New Zealand. Nuclear power, if we did it, would still be a long way off," he said.
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CNA Stands Firm on Public Service Advertising

From the CBC:

An organization that represents the Canadian nuclear industry says it has no plans to pull ads that promote nuclear energy despite a formal complaint by a handful of environmental groups.

Murray Elston, president of the Canadian Nuclear Association, said the nuclear industry is safe and he is confident that the Competition Bureau will not find any problems with its ads.

"I'm not changing the ads. The industry is very safe. It is very clean," he said Tuesday.
Watch the ads and decide for yourself. And while you're at it, you might as well watch NEI's latest ad too:

UPDATE: NEI's Scott Peterson shared this note on a similar experience NEI had several years back:
We've been down this road before in the U.S. after a challenge by NRDC of NEI's advertising in the late 1990s.

The NEI case was heard by the National Advertising Division of the Better Business Bureau and ultimately sent to the Federal Trade Commission, which in 1999 ruled that NEI was not engaged in unfair or deceptive advertising practices as alleged by NRDC.

The FTC’s ruling was appropriate given that the industry was simply exercising its right of free speech to provide information to policymakers about the benefits of nuclear technology.

NEI believed that its advertisements were appropriate first-amendment communications targeted to policymakers in forums that principally reach those who set national policy on energy and environmental issues.

We agreed with the FTC that our advertisements address important public policy matters in a manner targeted to reach legislators and other opinion leaders. As the FTC noted, the advertising was not directed to publications in states where consumers can choose their electricity suppliers.

It is undisputed that there are no greenhouse gas emissions from producing electricity at nuclear power plants. Although the NAD applied a lifecycle test to determine whether emissions resulting from the uranium fuel production process at a separate facility should be applied to the production of electricity, the FTC concluded that the NAD’s application of lifecycle analysis was inappropriate in the context of NEI’s advertising. [NEI did not make a lifecycle claim in the ad, therefore it is inappropriate to apply that test.]

In its Green Guides, FTC said in 1999 that “lifecycle analysis still is in its infancy and thus the commission lacks sufficient information on which to base guidance at this time.” FTC said NEI’s advertising does not require a lifecycle analysis.
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North Anna Clears EIS Review

From Reuters:

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission has determined Dominion Resources' (D.N: Quote, Profile , Research) proposal to build up to two more nuclear reactors at its North Anna power plant site in Virginia won't harm the environment, clearing an important hurdle in the approval process.

The NRC's final environmental impact statement, combined with its recent safety study of Dominion's proposal, marks the end of the agency's technical review of the company's application for a North Anna early site permit.

The early permit process allows a company to address certain environmental and safety issues related to a site before submitting an application to actually build a new nuclear power reactor.

Dominion filed for an early site permit in September 2003.
For more from NRC, click here.

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Uranium a Better Brand Than Gold?

From the Globe and Mail:

Everyone wants to be a uranium company these days, even gold miners.

A case in point is First Uranium Corp. of South Africa, which recently pulled off the year's biggest initial public offering in the mining sector, raising $203-million on the Toronto Stock Exchange.

Investors didn't seem to mind that, despite its name, the bulk of the revenue the company hopes to derive from its two properties will come from gold, not uranium.

A surefire way for mining companies to attract attention and raise cash lately is by being linked to the radioactive metal used to fuel nuclear reactors.
Uranium is also on the minds of the folks at The Daily Reckoning (U.K.).

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Tuesday, December 19, 2006

NEI Energy Markets Report (December 11th - 15th)

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

Electricity prices decreased throughout the country last week (see pages 1 & 2). Gas prices fell at the Henry Hub decreasing $0.69 to $7.13 / MMBtu (see page 4).

According to TradeTech, uranium prices last week experienced “the single largest increase reported since 1968.” TradeTech and UxConsulting reported uranium prices at $72 / lb U3O8.

According to EIA’s Short Term Energy Outlook, residential electricity demand in 2006 is estimated to have increased by 0.3 percent over 2005 demand. While a return to normal weather could increase pressure on the Henry Hub spot price, high levels of natural gas in storage and the forecast of slightly warmer-than-normal weather are expected to keep natural gas spot prices below $9 per mcf on average
through the heating season (see page 8).

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

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NRC: "No Major Concerns" Over Browns Ferry Restart

Details from the Knoxville News-Sentinel.

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EU Trade Chief to Reject "Green Tax"

Details from the Financial Times.

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British Union Evaluating New Nuclear Designs

From Anglesy Today:

Amicus the union is evaluating the alternative designs for nuclear new build.

With Wylfa Nuclear Power Station on Anglesey among the sites due to close soon, local interest will be focused on the results of this assessment.

American, Canadian and French reactor designs will be vying for the contracts to replace the retiring UK technology.

According to Dougie Rooney, Amicus National Officer, the key areas for discussion are safety, employment implications, reliability and training.

The British Government is keen to meet its key,long term goals of energy security and lower carbon emissions, as set out in the recent Energy Review.
Amicus has taken a keen interest in the future of nuclear energy in the U.K. Click here and here for previous posts.

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Duke Energy's Paul Anderson on a Carbon Tax

From Inside Bay

Leading authorities on climate and energy policy called Thursday for putting a price on greenhouse-gas emissions to drive new efficiencies and technologies, and one top U.S. utility executive called for an outright tax on carbon.

"From a businessman's standpoint, that's what is going to compel action," Duke Energy Chairman Paul Anderson said at a Sierra Club workshop here on what to do about global warming.


[T]axing carbon emissions will produce immediate, economywide gains in energy efficiency and new, carbon-free energy production, Anderson said.

"All the other approaches will take decades. A carbon tax is immediate," he said. Governments could use the revenues to offset or refund other taxes, as well.

"Assuming it's a tax-neutral policy, it's really no-regrets policy," Anderson said, "because at the end of the day even if you don't agree climate change is a serious problem, all you've done is create some energy efficiency out there and that's not a bad thing."
Thanks to Clean Energy Leader for the Anderson pointer. This isn't the first time we've seen Anderson make this call. Click here for a post from our archives from April 2005. We should point out that he's not the only utility CEO to be talking this way. For more thoughts on CO2 policy, click here.

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Weyerhaeuser CEO: "We must also be willing to consider nuclear power."

One sector of the economy that's been hit hardest by increased energy costs is forest products. In a recent interview with The Examiner, Steven Rogel, President and CEO of Weyerhaeuser, talks about how his company is having to adjust:

We are working hard to reduce our energy use, and having some success. In our sector, more energy will only be required if there is facility growth.

Government must provide incentives to business to employ energy saving technology to allow us to modernize our equipment earlier in its life cycle. New energy sources, such as biomass, hold promise as a renewable, greenhouse gas-neutral technology, especially when the carbon sequestration effect of large-scale tree planting is factored in.

We must also be willing to consider nuclear power, fully developing our existing fossil fuel resources and exploring alternatives to fossil fuels.
Thanks to Carter Wood at NAM Blog for the pointer.

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Monday, December 18, 2006

President Signs U.S.-India Peaceful Atomic Energy Cooperation Act

This morning, President Bush signed into law the U.S.-India Peaceful Atomic Energy Cooperation Act. The bill will allow shipments of nuclear fuel and technology to India for use in its civilian nuclear power program.

Congress passed the final version of the bill Dec. 9.

Here's part of what President Bush had to say at the signing:

The bill is going to help us achieve four key goals.

First, the bill will help us strengthen cooperation between India and United States on one of the most important challenges in the 21st century, and that is energy. India is now the world's fifth largest consumer of energy -- and its demand for electricity is expected to double by 2015. The United States has a clear interest in helping India meet this demand with nuclear energy. By helping India expand its use of safe nuclear energy, this bill lays the foundation for a new strategic partnership between our two nations that will help ease India's demands for fossil fuels and ease pressure on global markets.

Second, the bill will help promote economic growth. This bill helps open a new important market for American businesses by paving the way for investment in India's civilian nuclear industry for the first time ever. This new trade will help American companies gain new customers abroad, and create new jobs here at home.

Third, the bill will help make it possible for India to reduce emissions -- and improve its environment. Today, India produces nearly 70 percent of its electricity from coal. Burning coal produces air pollution and greenhouse gases -- and as India's economy has grown, emission levels have risen, as well. We must break the cycle, and with nuclear power, we can. We can help India do so, and we can do so here at home by the use of nuclear power.

Nuclear power is the one source of energy that can generate massive amounts of electricity without producing any air pollution or greenhouse gases. And by sharing advanced civilian nuclear technology, we will help our friend, India, meet its growing demand for energy and lower emissions at the same time.

Finally, the bill will help keep America safe by paving the way for India to join the global effort to stop the spread of nuclear weapons. India has conducted its civilian nuclear energy program in a safe and responsible way for decades. Now, in return for access to American technology, India has agreed to open its civilian nuclear power program to international inspection. This is an important achievement for the whole world. After 30 years outside the system, India will now operate its civilian nuclear energy program under internationally accepted guidelines -- and the world is going to be safer as a result.
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Canada Nuclear Update: Public Opinion Turning in Saskatchewan

From the CanWest News Service:

Three quarters of Saskatchewan residents polled in late October support construction of facilities that would refine Saskatchewan uranium here in the province.

A clear majority of people also expressed support when asked a secondary question about whether they would support a nuclear reactor to generate steam and electricity here in the province.

The poll results suggest that for the first time in a quarter century momentum may be building among the general public to support a push within the business community to get uranium refining built here.
For the results of a previous poll, click here.

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On Yucca Mountain, Senator Boxer and The Colorado River

Here's a quote from Senator Barbara Boxer about the Yucca Mountain Project that just didn't sound right when I read it. It ran in a story on the Yucca Mountain Project that appeared in the McClatchy Newspapers this morning:

Among Boxer's biggest concerns about Yucca Mountain is that it'’s not as impervious to water as initially thought. Sophisticated testing has shown that water percolates through its caverns and heads toward the Colorado River.

"“Sixteen million Californians drink from that river," Boxer said.
I sent a note to Rod McCollum, one of our NEI staff experts on Yucca Mountain, asking him for some clarification. Here's what he wrote back to me:
With all due respect to the Senator, that statement is incorrect.

The groundwater beneath Yucca Mountain is in an enclosed basin and does not communicate with any rivers or other major sources of drinking water. That was one of the main reasons for selecting the site in the first place. While Death Valley is the ultimate endpoint for flow beneath Yucca, it is important to note that very little if any radiation will actually make it all the way to Death Valley -- and if it does, it will take thousands of years for it to happen.

The EPA standard requires water only 12 miles down gradient from Yucca to be safe to drink with no treatment. It is another 50 miles to Death Valley. The geology along the route further removes radionuclides and the flow is joined by waters that never pass beneath Yucca. This dilutes the radioactive concentration to levels so low they would be very difficult to detect --– even after the many thousands of years it would take to travel that far.

To repeat: Yucca Mountain is absolutely not a threat to the Colorado River. None of the groundwater flowing beneath Yucca Mountain ever reaches the Colorado River watershed.
Thanks to Rod for his quick response. As always, the best background information available on the Yucca Mountain Project is NEI's Yucca Mountain Source Book.

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GNET Online Poll about Nuclear

Global Network of Environment & Technology (GNET) is running an online poll. The question is

Can nuclear-based energy be considered "clean" since the reactors don't emit the pollution or greenhouse gases of coal-burning plants?
There doesn't appear to be a forum for discussion but we can always do that here! Check it out and vote.

TVA Begins Browns Ferry Fuel Load

From TVA:

Workers at Browns Ferry Nuclear Plant began loading fuel into the Unit 1 reactor today, a key step in returning the unit to safe and reliable operation next year as planned.

Loading the fuel is expected to take about two weeks as skilled technicians move 764 fuel bundles from the fuel storage pool to the reactor. The Unit 1 restart project is 97-percent complete with return to service scheduled by May 2007 as planned.

TVA Chief Nuclear Officer Karl Singer said he is pleased with the work being done at Browns Ferry and the transition to an operating facility.

“This significant milestone for Browns Ferry and TVA’s nuclear program means that plant systems required to move fuel to the reactor and maintain it safely have been returned to service,” Singer said. “We are returning Unit 1 to operation in a deliberate and planned manner based on our previous experience with units 2 and 3.”
Don't forget that a public meeting on the restart is scheduled for tonight at Calhoun Community College. Click here for details.

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St. Petersburg Times: "Nuclear may prove to be the best way to go."

Here's the St. Petersburg Times on Progress Energy's plans to build a new reactor in Levy County, Florida:

The company put great care into picking the Levy County site: 3,000 undeveloped acres in a rural area, with the plant footprint taking up only 300 of those acres. The reactors would sit on higher ground and be further from the coast and tidal surge than the one at Crystal River, but they would be close enough that the two facilities could share some resources. The underlying limestone is particularly stable by state standards and the site is near the Cross Florida Barge Canal, a reliable source of water needed to cool the reactors.

Most importantly, Floridians will have many opportunities to learn more and to speak up. Permitting processes at both the state and national level should allow for plenty of public input and refinement of the plan.

So far, Progress Energy has been forthcoming with information. There is no doubt the company must act soon to prepare for the predictable growth in demand for electricity in this part of the state. Nuclear may prove to be the best way to go.
For similar thoughts from Mike Thomas of the Orlando Sentinel, click here.

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China Selects AP-1000 Reactor Design

From the AP:

U.S.-based Westinghouse Electric Co. LLC has won a two-year battle for a multibillion-dollar nuclear power deal with China, edging out French and Russian rivals to secure a contract that may help Beijing smooth ties with Washington.

The deal, estimated in the past at about $8-billion (U.S.), should warm relations between the world's top two energy consumers, who have clashed lately over a range of issues from the yuan currency to the Chinese bid for U.S. independent oil firm Unocal Corp.

It will also reaffirm China -- now a laggard in the nuclear sector -- at the forefront of a global trend toward increased use of atomic power, touted by many nations as the cleanest, cheapest solution to the world's strained energy industry.
From the DOE press release:
"This is an exciting day for the U.S. nuclear industry. This agreement is good for the people of China and good for the people of the United States. It is an example that if we work together, we can advance not only our trade relations, but also our common goal of energy security," Secretary Bodman said. "This DOE-supported, Generation 3+ reactor is safer and more efficient than current reactors and could help spur development of a nuclear renaissance in the U.S."”
From Westinghouse:
"Westinghouse is certainly pleased that China has selected the AP1000, the very same advanced plant design that is the technology of choice for most of the new plant programs announced to date in the United States," said Steve Tritch, Westinghouse President and CEO. "We now look forward to working with our Chinese customer to negotiate final contract details so that we can formally implement this forward-looking new build program."

Mr. Tritch also said that Westinghouse, a group company of Toshiba Corporation, will work with SNPTC to forge a long-term relationship that will be in the best interests of all parties, including the citizens and governments of the Peoples Republic of China and the United States.

Westinghouse, with the world's largest installed base of operating nuclear power plants, said the selection of the AP1000 would create or sustain 5,000 well-paying design, engineering and manufacturing jobs throughout the United States.

These jobs will help to load Westinghouse design and manufacturing facilities in Pennsylvania, New England, South Carolina and Utah. Additional jobs will be created at U.S.-based suppliers in at least 20 states, including at major architectural, design and construction organizations. Included are projected jobs in Massachusetts, New Jersey, North Carolina, and Louisiana for Shaw.
More later. For our archive on the AP-1000, click here. To view the AP-1000 cutaway featured above, click here.

UPDATE: An interesting observation from the folks at Hit and Run.

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Friday, December 15, 2006

NEI Energy Markets Report (December 4th - 8th)

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

Electricity prices decreased in the West and were mixed throughout the rest of the country last week (see pages 1 & 2). Gas prices rose at the Henry Hub increasing $0.01 to $7.82 / MMBtu (see page 4). Oil prices rose $4.79 to $62.02 / barrel two weeks ago (see page 5).

Nuclear capacity availability averaged 92 percent last week. Eight reactors were offline for refueling outages last week with one finishing.

For the month of January, Henry Hub gas futures averaged $7.69 / MMBtu and light sweet crude oil futures averaged $62.32 / barrel (see page 6).

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

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Breaux and O'Neill Kick Off Energy Initiative

Off this afternoon's wire:

Former U.S. Sen. John Breaux of Louisiana and former Long Beach, California Mayor and U.S. Conference of Mayors President Beverly O'Neill today announced the formation of the Energy Initiative, an unprecedented partnership of energy consumers and producers committed to finding new solutions to America's energy challenges.

Breaux and O'Neill, two of the nation's most respected retired public officials, will serve as cochairs of the Energy Initiative and work with the initiative's members to undertake a broad based educational effort and formulate a set of recommendations that will serve as the basis for future energy policies.

"This is the first time such a far reaching group of energy consumers and producers have come together to work on the very important issue of energy policy," said Sen. Breaux. "The recent elections show the American public demands common sense solutions to challenges such as America's energy policy, and we intend to fulfill that desire."


Immediately after today's announcement, members of the Energy Initiative, representing trade associations from nine energy producing trade associations and 22 energy consuming associations, met in break out sessions led by Breaux and O'Neill to begin what will be a six month process of deliberations, educational outreach and public meetings culminating in a final report to Congress and the Bush Administration.
NEI is one of those organizations. For more, visit EI's Web site.

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NRC to Hold Meeting on Browns Ferry 1 Re-Start

From the News-Courier:

Nuclear Regulatory Commission officials will meet with Tennessee Valley Authority officials Monday from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. at Calhoun Community College to discuss the status of TVA's restart efforts for the Unit 1 reactor at the Browns Ferry Nuclear Plant.

The meeting, which is open to the public, will be held at the college's Aerospace Training Center. NRC officials will be available after the business portion of the meeting to answer questions from observers.

The agenda for the meeting is to discuss the status of the Unit 1 restart efforts, including completed work, schedules, closure of restart items and other activities important to NRC oversight and inspection of Unit 1.
If you're local, please go and show your support. Click here for a map and directions to the campus.

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More on the Kozloduy Nuclear Power Plant

Yesterday, we told you about how a member of the European Parliament and supporter of nuclear energy was fighting the closure of Bulgaria's Kozloduy nuclear power plant. Ruth Sponsler has plenty more background on the story available here.

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NAM Blog Tackles More Nuclear Energy Issues

Carter Wood, our new best friend at NAM Blog, has been kicking up some dust lately thanks to multiple blog posts on nuclear energy. First there was his humorous look at the Alec Baldwin event at Rutgers. And just this morning, Carter pointed to a story about Indian Point over at The Hill that looked at the fight over renewing the plant's reactor license through the prism of the political struggle between former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani and Senator Hillary Clinton.

Safe to say, while the political story may be interesting, Carter has decided that, "It's all about the energy." Check out both posts right now.

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Thursday, December 14, 2006

Bulgarian Nuclear Power Plant May Get Last Minute Reprieve

On the same day that Russia threatened Georgia and Belarus with a natural gas cutoff, a member of the European Parliament from Finland asked that the European Commission reconsider the closure of a pair of Bulgarian nuclear reactors. Bulgaria had previously agreed to decommission the reactors as a condition of joining the European Union.

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Mike Thomas: Florida Needs More Nuclear Power

In today's edition of the Orlando Sentinel, columnist Mike Thomas is connecting all the dots when it comes to nuclear energy, economic growth and energy security.

In short, he's a supporter of plans by Progress Energy to build a new plant in Levy County, and thinks the state needs to build a lot more. On the environment:

When I explained this to one of my liberal editors, he started moaning about radioactive waste plaguing mankind for thousands of years.

Actually, nuclear power forces us to confront our waste in a neatly condensed, glowing brick. We can't just shoot it up the chimney and forget about it.

There is too much pollution for dilution to continue being a solution. The globe is getting too hot. The seas are rising too fast. The hurricanes are getting too strong.

And all of the above have a disproportionate negative impact on Florida.

What kind of high ground will we have in blocking offshore drilling for natural gas when we are a leading consumer of it?
On energy security:
This is an economic necessity as much as an environmental one.

Florida's energy use will grow by 30 percent in the next decade. Like the rest of the country, our plan is to meet the demand by building more plants that burn natural gas. These are the cheapest to build because they don't require the elaborate scrubbers put on coal plant smokestacks to clean pollutants.

They are the easiest plants to get through the regulatory process.

We are repeating the same mistake we made with oil. Once, we could produce enough to meet demand, but those days are over. As it happened with oil, we are getting tapped out.

Our natural gas production has flat-lined while usage goes up. This means we will become more dependent on foreign providers.

The biggest reserves are in the Middle East and in and around the former Soviet Union. Let's become more dependent on tyrants so we'll get sucked into more wars to protect our economy.
Read the rest right now. For more local reaction to the announcement, click here.

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Renewed Interest in Uranium Leads to Surge in Federal Mining Claims

From the AP:

Metal mining claims on federal lands in the West have increased almost 50 percent in the past four years, in large part because a resurgence in nuclear power has led to a renewed interest in uranium exploration.

An advocacy and research organization said Thursday its review of Bureau of Land Management records found that the number of metal mining claims jumped from 220,000 at the end of 2002 to almost 325,000 this September.

Nevada had almost 90,000 new claims, more than any other state, and a 55 percent increase from 2002. Wyoming was second, with almost 20,000 new claims, or a 97 percent increase.
You'll recall that back in October, we pointed to a story about how increased uranium mining in the U.S. could create as many as 34,000 new jobs.

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University of Birmingham Sees Surge of Nuclear Technology Students

In an article about the potential of Thorium reactors, Dr. Paul Norman of the University of Birmingham had this to say about the state of nuclear education in the U.K.

"If you want evidence that nuclear power is back on the agenda, then take a look at what's happening at universities. Our Masters course on the Physics and Technology of Nuclear Reactors was launched 50 years ago, and this year we've got 36 students - the most we've ever had, almost double the previous highest number which was 19 students back in 1957.
I hope they study hard. We're going to need them.

UPDATE: More good news for the U.K. nuclear work force.

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Fresno Nuclear Energy Group Announces Kickoff Plans


Wednesday morning, the newly formed Fresno Nuclear Energy Group announced plans to explore building a community-owned nuclear plant and acknowleged that safety concerns will be the first hurdle. Hutson says, "We're not concerned with what San Francisco says, we're concerned with the citizens of Fresno."

They will launch an information campaign with a public event in February featuring Greenpeace co-founder Patrick Moore who wrote in the Washington Post this year, "Nuclear energy may just be the energy source that can save our planet from another possible disaster - catastrophic climate change."


Jim Costa, (D) Fresno says, "There is no silver bullet and all sources of energy should be part of the equation to address the problem." Fresno Congressman Jim Costa believes a nuclear plant in Fresno is worth study, but is facing Califorania's ban on them despite the industry's decades of safe operation across the country." He says, "I want to sit down with the parties and look at the numbers and see if it really makes sense."
As we noted yesterday, the Mayor of Fresno is on board too.

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Russia Threatens Georgia, Belarus with Natural Gas Cutoff

From the FT:

Russia is preparing to cut off natural gas supplies to neighbouring Belarus and Georgia unless the two former Soviet republics agree by the year-end to pay much higher prices in 2007.

Coming a year after Gazprom, the Russian gas giant, briefly cut gas to Ukraine in a similar pricing dispute, such a move could provoke further international criticism that Moscow is using energy as a political tool. It might also intensify pressure on Russia to ratify the European Energy Charter treaty, which would require such disagreements to be resolved through arbitration.
Gazprom has offered to hold off on price increases in exchange for gaining a stake in domestic natural gas supply networks.

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Spiked Online Sponsors Energy Debate

Online magazine Spiked is co-sponsoring a debate on the future of energy in conjunction with the Research Councils of the U.K. They've lined up five writers to participate, including Malcolm Grimston, author of Double or Quits -- The Global Future of Civil Nuclear Energy.

Check it out. Thanks to Power Blog for the pointer.

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Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Fresno Mayor Alan Autry on Nuclear Energy

In response to a constituent's question on the possibility of building a new nuclear power plant near Fresno, Mayor Alan Autry responded in a guest post at the Fresno Bee:

I firmly believe that it will be extremely difficult for this Valley to move forward, unless we become, in some way, energy self-sufficient. Energy bills have become burdensome to Valley families and businesses to the breaking point. I strongly support John Hutson's laser beam focus on this issue. Nuclear energy is, by every measure, the safest form of energy available today. Producing our own nuclear power would make us not only self-sufficient, but a supplier to the grid as well. The safety concerns have been met, the economic advantages are being analyzed, so full-speed ahead.
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The Small Town Impact of Grid Reliability

In the wake of October's NERC report on grid reliability, the New York Times has a story in today's edition that explains how the condition of the nation's electric infrastructure affects the folks in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania.

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Rod Adams Confronts Amory Lovins on Nuclear Energy

Long-time readers know that NEI Nuclear Notes has an ongoing concern with Amory Lovins of the Rocky Mountain Institute and what he has to say about nuclear energy. That's a concern that our friend Rod Adams shares as well, and it was one that he took to the source last night as he attended a lecture by Lovins just outside Washington, D.C.:

Essentially Lovins told the audience that there are free lunches, Santa Clauses, and Fairy Godmothers just waiting to provide us with all of the energy services that we need if we would just invest more into "ultralighting" our vehicle fleets, insulating our tents, and using dispersed energy sources like natural gas cogeneration, wind and solar. He talked about space age composites, plug in hybrids, and driving at reduced speeds to improve fuel economy.

He also spent about 15-20 minutes telling us that we should get rid of all of the world's nuclear power plants in order to ensure that there is no potential for hiding a weapons program in a peaceful nuclear energy program. He also implied that we should somehow exorcise nuclear knowledge so that no one has the knowhow for building weapons any more.
There's more, including a couple of gratuitous shots at the commercial nuclear industry:
[H]e described his respect for the culture of the Navy Nuclear Propulsion program. He then said it was too bad that that culture had not spread into the commercial nuclear power industry.

He then got me even more fired up by condescending expressing a belief that it was too bad that so many smart and dedicated people had wasted their lives on learning about a dead end technology.
Like Rod later mentions, I guess Lovins has never heard of INPO. I think I should repeat that nobody at NEI has anything personal against Lovins. From the very start, we've laid out a case that we disagree with his conclusions and the methodology he's used to come to those conclusions. For more, I suggest you read the following posts from our archives:

Rod Adams vs. Amory Lovins
Bad Data Leads to Bad Conclusions
More Bad Data From Amory Lovins
Revisiting RMI's Bad Data
Revisiting RMI and Amory Lovins
AECL CEO Takes on Lovins

Here's more from Rod's archive:

Lovins math continues to confuse me
Are these examples of the "micro" power that Lovins likes?
Amory Lovins' Academic Career

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