Monday, April 30, 2007

Another Blogger Considers Nuclear Energy

The blogger behind AustinPermie is in the midst of making up her mind about nuclear energy. Here's something she wrote recently about Patrick Moore that I think every supporter of nuclear energy ought to keep in mind:

As a poli sci person, I have to say that all the negative sites I've seen on Moore's position, makes it seem like a big campaign angry at the 'defection' of one of its champions. Laden with editorial venom is unfortunately not conducive for a real debate.
Interesting. Stop by and be sure to offer your thoughts, but, as always, please be polite. For Part I of her post, click here.

UniStar Selects Calvert Cliffs Site for Possible COL

Just off the wire:

UniStar Nuclear, a jointly developed enterprise between Constellation Energy (NYSE: CEG) and AREVA Inc., today notified the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) that a location adjacent to Constellation Energy's existing Calvert Cliffs Nuclear Power Plant in Lusby, Md., has been selected as the site for UniStar Nuclear's first combined construction and operating license (COL) application. The application, which will feature UniStar Nuclear's chosen technology, the U.S. Evolutionary Power Reactor (EPR), will serve as the reference document for all future UniStar Nuclear COL applications to the NRC.

The identification of a specific site is the first step in a multi-step
process required before a COL application can be submitted to the NRC. It
does not, however, represent a commitment on the part of Constellation
Energy to construct a new nuclear plant at the Calvert Cliffs site.

"Moving ahead with our reference application is an important step in
realizing the UniStar Nuclear vision of a fully standardized fleet of U.S.
EPR advanced nuclear power plants," said George Vanderheyden, president of
UniStar Nuclear. He added that UniStar Nuclear continues its discussions
with potential investors, partners and customers interested in new nuclear
across the country.
For a complete list of U.S. projects, click here.

IPCC to Endorse Nuclear as Means to Fight Climate Change

From the Bangkok Post:

The United Nations Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) which gathers in Bangkok this week is expected to throw its weight behind nuclear energy as a means of mitigating global warming, media reports said Sunday.

"In addition to renewable energy sources, nuclear power will be recommended by scientists as a lesser evil in terms of global warming," Wanum Permpibul of the Climate Action Group said.

On Monday through Friday, 80 of the world's leading experts on climate change will meet in Bangkok to debate the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report to 150 state representatives on policy recommendations to mitigate the impact of global warming, blamed primarily on consumption of carbon-based fuels such as oil, natural gas and coal.

The final report, after what is expected to be a heated debate among participants, will be made public on Friday.
That will be Thursday night our time, so we should have the details ready by Friday morning.

Thanks to Ruth Sponsler from We Support Lee for the pointer.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Popular Science Looks at GNEP

From the pages of Popular Science:

Later this year, scientists at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee hope to take a big step toward solving America's nuclear-waste woes. Pending clearance from the Department of Energy, they will demonstrate a new toxic-waste recycling process.

The aim of the demo—part of a controversial $405-million government project called the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership (GNEP)—is to transform nuclear leftovers into fuel for a new breed of reactors. The new reactor/fuel combo, GNEP officials say, could produce up to 100 times as much energy as conventional reactors and could generate 40 percent less waste.

The initiative is a key part of the Bush administration's long-term strategy to meet America's rising demand for electricity—according to the DOE, it's expected to jump by 45 percent from 4,000 billion kilowatt-hours in 2005 to 5,800 billion kilowatt-hours in 2030—without creating more greenhouse gases. "Nuclear energy is the biggest source we have for meeting our energy needs without contributing to global warming," says Sherrell Greene, director of the nuclear-technology program at Oak Ridge, one of the 13 potential recycling sites selected earlier this year by the DOE.
Read the rest right now.

Next Week on the Hill

Some hearings scheduled for next week that we'll be watching. Links provided where available:

Senate Finance--Energy, Natural Resources and Infrastructure Sub
May 1, 10am, 215 Dirksen
"Advanced Technology Vehicles"

House Energy and Commerce--Energy and Air Quality Sub
May 3, 10am, 2322 Rayburn
"Small Electric Grid"

House Natural Resources Committee
May 1, 2pm, 1325 Longworth
“The Future of Fossil Fuels: Geological and Terrestrial Sequestration ofCarbon Dioxide

House Science and Technology--Energy and Environment Sub
May 3, 2pm, 2318 Rayburn
"Changes in US Global Climate Change Research Program"

EDF in Talks With British Energy to Build New Nuclear

From AFP:

French electricity group EDF is in talks with British Energy, a part-government owned nuclear group, about constructing the first nuclear power station in the UK in 30 years, the Financial Times reported.

EDF chief executive Vincent De Rivaz told the newspaper that the British government would have to pass legislation this year making a decision on nuclear power so that energy companies would be able to make investment decisions, otherwise it risked a 'power crunch.'

'It is quite natural that British Energy want to be part of new-build nuclear, and because we have also a clear ambition, I am confident that these two ambitions can match each other,' he told the business daily.
The choice in Europe today is pretty simple: Build a diverse energy portfolio that includes emission free nuclear energy, or get ready to import natural gas.

Former EPA Secretary: Nuclear Energy Has a Future

From NC Times.com:

William K. Reilly, the former Environmental Protection Agency administrator who served when President Bush's father was in the White House, said Thursday that nuclear power has a bright future in a world increasingly concerned with climate change.

"I think it definitely has a future," Reilly said, adding that nuclear plants have the potential to supply large amounts of power to the country while sharply reducing utilities' emissions of greenhouse gases.

[...]

Reilly, in his address, said the biggest obstacle to nuclear power is the widespread concern about how to dispose of the spent radioactive fuel. But he said the country can and ultimately will solve that problem.

"The country has got to get beyond it," Reilly said. "In my view, nuclear waste disposal is a political issue, but not a technologically unsolvable issue."
Reilly also expressed concerns about license renewal of existing plants. Click here for an NEI fact sheet on the subject.

Newt Gingrich on Nuclear Energy

Appearing on this week's edition of America's Business hosted by NAM's Mike Hambrick, Newt Gingrich had this to say about nuclear energy:

You have, by the way, for those people who say they are worried about global warming, you have the same kind of hysterical emotion caused by the movie, "The China Syndrome" about nuclear power. It turns out – and I think this is a great irony to pose to people like Al Gore -- if the United States had followed the French in a clean nuclear strategy, and we were producing the same amount of electricity from nuclear that the French are, we would be generating two billion -- not million -- two billion, two-hundred million tons a year less in carbon.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Supplementing the Nuclear Workforce

I've got two stories on the nuclear workforce that came across my desk today. First, here's a feature from PRI's Marketplace on a recent visit to ANS' most recent student conference:

SARAH GARDNER: It's a Friday afternoon on the campus of Oregon State University. Young people from all over the U.S. are here for the American Nuclear Society's annual student conference.

If this were the '80s, there might be protesters outside. But times have changed, and Idaho State nuclear engineering major Caleb Robison feels it.

CALEB ROBISON: There's a lot more buzz about nuclear going on.

Robison says when student groups on his campus got together recently, he met some unexpected allies.

ROBISON: You wouldn't have ever expected it because the uh, I guess I'd call 'em tree huggers, I don't know what organization they were from, they came over and you would have thought that we were best friends. They said it was such a great idea and they supported nuclear power and they wouldn't have said that 10 years ago. They would have been exiled from their own group for having said that.

These aspiring nuclear engineers say global warming has forced many to rethink nuclear power since it doesn't emit greenhouse gases. And they're convinced it's safe.
Here's a more detailed story from Reuters on the same topic.

UPDATE: More thoughts from We Support Lee.

21 Years After Chernobyl

It's been 21 years since the accident at Chernobyl. For a variety of information sources on what happened that day, click here for a document NEI compiled a year ago.

Most importantly, you should read the fact sheet about the incident in order to understand exactly what happened on that terrible day, and what the global nuclear industry learned from it.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

ANL Director: Use of Nuclear Energy is "Unavoidable"


In today's edition of E&E TV's On Point, Monica Trauzzi interviews Robert Rosner, director of the Argonne National Lab. He has some interesting things to say about nuclear energy:

Monica Trauzzi: Where do you think the debate over nuclear stands and do you see it having a major role in the future of U.S. energy policy?

Robert Rosner: So the answer is, let me start with the second part. I think nuclear is at some level unavoidable. When we think about what the energy mix will be for stationary power say 30 years from now or 40 years from now, it's very hard to see how you're going to avoid the use of nuclear power. Even in the most optimistic scenarios about carbon sequestration one question that does come up is, in the long term, if you're really talking about say time scales of the order of say a century, 100 years, does the United States, for example, have sufficient reservoir capacity to actually contain all the CO2 that would need to be, for example, pumped into the ground if you sequester it? The answer is, well, it's not so clear. So if you take the long view, not next year, not five years, but if you really take the long view of say 50 years from now, 100 years from now, it's very hard to see how you can avoid a source of energy such as nuclear. So having said that the question is, well, how do you get there? The rest of the world is plunging on ahead. There's no question about it. If you go to China or you go to India they're busy building nuclear plants. If you go to Europe the Europeans are starting to build nuclear plants.
For the transcript, click here.

Gazprom Bundling Natural Gas With Emissions Credits

Here's an interesting piece of news from the International Herald Tribune: Russian energy giant Gazprom has started to bundle natural gas sales with emissions credits.

If Russia continues on a course where it displaces gas-fired electric generating capacity with nuclear energy, Gazprom will have even more emissions credits to sell.

Stewart Peterson has some related thoughts.

More Talk on Nuclear Energy and Progressive Politics

David Walters, a member of the IBEW and the mind behind the new blog Left Atomics, is expanding his thoughts on why political progressives need to re-think their position on nuclear energy:

Base load is what constitutes the basic source of bulk energy for any nation's grid. There are only two choices now that can cheaply provide the hundreds of thousands of megawatts for current and future growth: coal or nuclear. Society must make the best choice. Wind, solar, both now and for the foreseeable future, are incapable of providing reliable and cheap power to the world.
Feel free to stop by and continue the conversation.

This Week in Nuclear, Episode #43


After a lengthy hiatus, John Wheeler is back with another edition of his nuclear energy podcast.

Click here (Mp3) to download and here for the transcript.

Uranium Set to Trade on the NYMEX

From the New York Post:

In a bet on the revival of nuclear energy, Wall Street giants including Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley are set to move mountains of cash into uranium when it starts trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange next month.

The price of uranium has skyrocketed over the past year from around $40 a pound to around $113 as demand has outstripped supply. Goldman and other investors including hedge funds see big opportunities trading uranium because of its high level of volatility.
Despite the current volatility, it's important to note that fuel only accounta for a relatively small portion of total operating costs of a nuclear power plant -- one of the reasons nuclear energy can help bring price stability to an energy portfolio.

NRC Proposes Adding Aircraft Impact Assesments to New Reactor Certification Process

Released late yesterday by NRC:

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) today unveiled the third in a series of major steps to enhance the post-Sept. 11 security of nuclear power plants. The agency proposal would require each applicant for a new reactor design to assess how the design, to the extent practicable, can have greater built-in protections to avoid or mitigate the effects of a large commercial aircraft impact, making them even more resistant to an attack.

The Commission emphasized that seeking security assessments and examining how designs can be improved is consistent with the traditional approach the NRC has taken to so-called “beyond design basis events.” These are events with conditions exceeding the stresses imposed by the “design basis event” conditions which require plants to be brought to a safe shutdown. Design basis event conditions include large pipe breaks, fires, earthquakes, hurricanes, tornados and floods. Assessing a new reactor design in the early stages can enable modifications or additional features to reduce the need for human intervention in the event of an airplane crash.

The NRC will seek comment from the public, the nuclear industry and the technical community on the proposal. The proposed rule, which will replace an NRC staff proposal, will be available for comment later this year.
NEI spokeman Steve Kerekes passed along the following note in response:
While we've not seen details beyond the news release at this point, the Commission's action strikes us as appropriate. It will properly assure that, as is the case with other potentially serious events like extremely severe hurricanes and earthquakes (we already design for some of these, of course), aircraft impacts are examined early on as part of the design process.

A great deal of security-related activity at nuclear plants the past five years has centered on steps to mitigate the effects of events like aircraft impacts. This action will enhance the defense-in-depth philosophy that is used in designing these new facilities -- which due to advanced designs will have even higher margins of safety than the 103 nuclear plants operating in the United States today.
More later, if warranted.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

American Myths and Facts About Energy

In today's Examiner, Max Schultz takes a look at a recent study by the Manhattan Institute that discovered a serious disconnect between the truth about energy and what Americans think they know about it:

MYTH » The accident at the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant was fatal.

More than 80 percent of respondents did not disagree.

FACT » No one died from the accident at Three Mile Island.

Untenable safety concerns prevent a significant reduction in greenhouse gas emissions that could be achieved by turning to nuclear power as an energy source.
I wind up talking about this one with plenty of my friends, and to this day some still refuse to believe it. It can be frustrating, but I find it pays to be patient. For more on TMI, click here for an NEI Fact Sheet.

Thanks to NAM Blog for the pointer.

Third Way Memo Supports Expansion of Nuclear Energy

Third Way, a strategy center for progressives, today released a policy memo entitled, Another Inconvenient Truth: Solving Global Warming and Energy Security Requires Nuclear Power. The memo supports expansion of nuclear power and calls on political progressives to support it for three reasons:

1. Expanding nuclear power will make a difference in addressing the problem of global warming.

2. Embracing nuclear power by progressive leaders would have a galvanizing impact on the public, demonstrating the severity of the climate change problem and the need for everyone to make hard choices.

3. Moving forward efficiently on nuclear power could help provide momentum to take additional steps to curb carbon emissions.

But what really caught my eye in the report was this passage concerning the position of environmental activists on the expansion of nuclear energy:

Many advocates have taken this approach, attempting to keep the debate fixed solely on conservation and renewable sources. And no one denies that both are crucial to addressing the problem of global warming—a solution is impossible without real shifts in public behavior and a huge increase in our investment in renewable energy.

But we believe that by talking only about conservation and renewable energy,
advocates have undercut the seriousness of their own argument on climate change.
The American public may not know much about base-load capacity, but they understand that we are not going to get out of our CO2 problem by relying solely on wind farms or geothermal power at this point in time. And they may be reluctant to make hard changes in their own lives—or demand policy fixes to climate change—until environmentalists start making some tough choices too.

Indeed, if advocates were to embrace nuclear power, which many have spent their careers fighting, it would help prove to the public that a dramatic shift in our thinking as a nation is required when our way of life or very existence may be at risk.
To download the PDF, click here.

Survey Reveals Gap in Public’s Awareness of Nuclear Energy’s Role in Reducing Greenhouse Gases

New from NEI:

Even though nuclear energy is by far the largest clean-air energy source used to generate electricity, fewer than half of Americans strongly associate nuclear energy with clean air, according to a new national survey of 1,000 adults.

The survey shows that only 42 percent of Americans associate nuclear energy “a lot” with clean air. This is the case even though nuclear power plants provide 71 percent of all U.S. electricity that comes from sources that do not emit greenhouse gases or any of the pollutants covered by the Clean Air Act, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

The other clean-air energy sources for electricity are hydroelectric power plants (25 percent), wind power projects (2.3 percent), geothermal projects (1.3 percent) and solar power (one-tenth of one percent).

More than 100 nuclear power plants operating in 31 states provide electricity to one of every five U.S. homes and businesses.

The new telephone survey was conducted March 30-April 1 by Bisconti Research Inc. with GfK and has a margin of error of plus or minus three percentage points. In similar surveys of adults conducted by the same research firms for the Nuclear Energy Institute in May 2005 and March 2006, 55 percent of Americans in both instances strongly associated nuclear energy with clean air.

The new survey also shows that while 57 percent of Americans “have heard or read about” the need for nuclear energy within the past year, only 46 percent have heard or read about the clean-air benefits of nuclear energy. Thirty-nine percent have heard or read about the use of nuclear energy “as a way to fight global warming and climate change.”
Sounds like we have some more work to do...

Monday, April 23, 2007

Patrick Moore on E&ETV


Patrick Moore, co-chair of the Clean and Safe Energy Coalition (CASEnergy) was a guest on today's edition of E&E TV. Here's an excerpt from the transcript where Moore talks about nonproliferation issues:

Patrick Moore: It's unfortunate that a lot of activists insist on making us connect those two things as if they're one and the same, nuclear weapons and nuclear energy, but it isn't true. First thing, you don't need a nuclear reactor to make a nuclear weapon. With the new centrifuge technology you just enrich uranium. That's what Iran is suspected of doing. So there's no nuclear reactor involved in that. They aren't even connected in that sense, because it's easier to make a nuclear bomb with centrifuge technology than it is to use the plutonium from used nuclear fuel after you've had to build a nuclear reactor as well for billions of dollars. Secondly, do you think that if we shut down all the civilian reactors on this planet, there's over 440 of them, that the generals would give up their bomb making reactors? Because the plutonium and uranium that is being made for the military is not coming out of the civilian reactors. That's coming from special reactors and enrichment plants that belong to the military in the various nuclear capable countries.
There's plenty more, be sure to check it out now.

Senator Dodd on Nuclear Energy

Senator Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) is running for President, and he's keeping an open mind on nuclear energy. From the Brattleboro Reformer:

Dodd addressed nuclear energy head-on during a question-and-answer session following the speech.

"I will not take nuclear power off the table," he said. "If we're going to deal with global warming, we're going to have to deal with the grid."

When asked specifically about Vermont Yankee's license renewal following the event, Dodd said he could not comment on a specific plant, but argued that nuclear energy may be necessary to adequately deal with global warming.

"There aren't many options at this point," he said. "There are issues, obviously, with waste. The French are doing some interesting things with nuclear. There are things developing all the time. We're better managing today than we were 15 years ago with waste, with these heavy dry casts."

Dodd lives a mile from Connecticut Yankee -- the nation's oldest power plant, which is now being decomissioned -- and said he understands the issue well.

"If you're truly interested in reducing, as we should, the use of fossil fuels and nonrenewable sources of energy, then you've got to have that option on the table at least for consideration. And I don't retreat at all from serious problems with waste and transportation."
As we've said before, nuclear energy isn't a left/right issue anymore.

The Facts on CSP

If you've spent any time reading energy blogs, you'll probably trip over some comment spam from time to time on Concentrated Solar Power. Here at NEI Nuclear Notes, we like solar power, and think it's got plenty of potential. What we don't like are folks who overhype the technology and pretend that it can become a substitute source of baseload power.

One of our contributors, Michael Stuart, just wrote a letter to Carribbean Net News outlining the case against CSP:

Inefficient
According to the California Energy Commission, all of the utility-generated solar power in the state amounts to two-tenths of one percent of the state's electricity production. Because of the limited availability of sunlight, these systems have notoriously low capacity factors and are therefore cannot be relied upon for baseload power.

Expensive
According to the California Energy Commission, at 13 to 42 cents per kWhr, solar power is *the* most expensive way to generate electricity, hands down. In a time when energy prices are skyrocketing, few people can afford a large-scale conversion to solar power. What's more, due to its low capacity factors, solar capacity must be backed up with additional stand-by power generation, which adds to the overall cost of solar.

Environmental impact
Solar collectors also require a huge area of land, which must be dedicated to solar generation. Even in the desert, this could disrupt the delicate ecology. Additionally, in order for the salts to remain molten at night, CSP requires fossil fuels to be burned for heat. According to a US Department of Energy study, these systems are "hybridized" with up to 25% natural gas. Ironically, this renewable technology is a contributor to greenhouse gas emissions!
Thanks to We Support Lee for the pointer.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Gov. Romney on Nuclear Energy

Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney was in the Washington suburbs yesterday to give a speech to the Northern Virginia Technology Council. During a post-speech Q&A, the Governor was asked a question about the future viability of nuclear energy:

"I'm afraid building a nuclear power plant in our country today would require us first to hire the French to show us how to do it because they've been building 'em and we haven't,"
For more, including video, click here. A couple of points:
  • While a new nuclear power plant hasn't been built in the U.S. in a few decades, both General Electric and Westinghouse have been building them overseas in the interim, gaining valuable construction experience, especially in Asia.
  • While French nuclear giant AREVA is a leader in the industry, it is important to note that its reactor technology is essentially built on a Westinghouse design.
For more facts on new nuclear plant construction, click here. For more on advanced reactor designs, click here.

Another Blogger for Nuclear Energy

Visit The Daily Referendum.

2008 Presidential Contenders on Nuclear Energy

In today's New York Sun, Josh Gerstein reviews the positions of the presidential candidates for 2008, and finds that nuclear energy is getting a strong reception:

Each of the top contenders for the Republican nomination and all but one of the major Democratic hopefuls support nuclear power to some extent. Most cite the prospect that atomic energy could help reduce climate change by supplanting power produced by fossil fuel sources such as coal and natural gas.

"The global warming issue is what is causing at least the Democratic candidates to say we need to leave nukes on the table," Ms. Becker, the executive director of the Alliance for Nuclear Responsibility, said.

The two leading Democratic presidential candidates, Senators Clinton and Obama, have joined one of the top Republicans in the race, Senator McCain of Arizona, to sponsor the Climate Stewardship and Innovation Act of 2007. The measure includes more than $3.6 billion in funding and loan guarantees for the planning and construction of nuclear plants using new reactor designs.
While this is nothing new for our readers, it's good to see the issue getting more mainstream play.

Crow Learning Same Old Anti-Nuke Talking Points

After traveling around the nation with "global warming activist" Laurie David, singer Sheryl Crow claims she's been "learning" about nuclear energy:

[W]e've been getting lots of questions about nuclear. I know that nuclear is better than fossil fuels when it comes to carbon dioxide, but nuclear energy is by no means clean. We don't know what to do with the waste we already have and it seems like a bad idea to me to make more when we have so many cleaner options such as wind and solar.
I think it's safe to say Crow probably didn't bother talking to Bill Maher too closely after he had the temerity to disagree with her on his show last Friday night.

In any case, we call nuclear, "clean air energy" for more reasons than just carbon dioxide. Click here for our section of the Web dealing with nuclear energy's environmental benefits.

CFR’s Balancing Benefits and Risks of Nuclear Energy

It’s been awhile since I’ve debunked a report so I thought I’d break my hiatus by starting on a new one. This one is from the Council on Foreign Relations titled Nuclear Energy: Balancing Benefits and Risks.

To start off this post, readers should note that our CEO (Skip Bowman) and CNO (Marv Fertel) were on an “Advisory Committee” for this report noted on page 37. By reading the paper one would of course think that NEI endorsed the report. Quite the opposite. The two raised serious objections to their conclusions but apparently had no weight. However, as the long disclaimer at the front of the report notes, the advisory committee “are not asked to sign off on the report or otherwise endorse it.” Instead, these advisors are a “sounding board” to provide comments on the report after it is drafted.

While Mr. Ferguson addresses the challenges to a greater role for nuclear energy, he doesn’t recognize the efforts being made today to overcome those challenges. In any event, to address climate change, we must meet these challenges and expand the role of nuclear energy. You simply can’t dismiss the one electricity source that already accounts for more than 70 percent of all GHG-free electric generation. Unfortunately, CFR missed an opportunity to take a leadership role in issues like an international regulatory regime for nuclear energy, used nuclear fuel management and non-proliferation issues.

Here are my thoughts on the report.

The CFR claims it is “A Nonpartisan Resource for Information and Analysis,” but after reading the report it appears this is not the case. While the report cites several objective groups such as the Energy Information Administration and the International Energy Agency, it uses the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research for many of their ideas.

The IEER may sound like an objective group; however, they have a serious slant against nuclear energy. When going through their website, the bulk of their material is on nuclear proliferation and how nuclear energy cannot contribute to reducing climate change. The council’s report was produced in partnership with Washington and Lee University and written by the Council’s Fellow for Science and Technology Charles D. Ferguson. It is presented as “the factual and analytical background to inform this debate.”

Not really. Let’s get into the report (p. 8):

To try to jump-start the nuclear industry, which was already receiving more subsidies than any other no- and low-carbon energy sources, the Energy Policy Act of 2005 provided billions of additional dollars’ worth of incentives to nuclear and smaller amounts of incentives to other no- and lowcarbon energy sources. (See the Appendix for an analysis of this act.)
When I go to the Appendix all I see is an analysis on the incentives for nuclear from EPACT 2005. I don’t see any source for this claim that nuclear “was already receiving more subsidies than any other no- and low-carbon energy sources” prior to EPACT 2005. Pretty big statement to make without backing it up.

Here’s an analysis I did last year on historical energy incentives. If the reader looks at the first table in the post they will see that Hydro has received slightly more incentives than nuclear over the past 50 something years making his statement bunk. The bottom line is that renewables have outpaced nuclear energy in subsidies over the past 20 years, yet nuclear energy’s return on that investment is significantly greater than all renewable sources combined!

P. 11:
To reduce the deleterious effects of climate change, the United States will need to increase use of all low- and no-carbon emission energy sources as well as promote greater use of energy efficiency. But given the current U.S. energy sources and patterns of use, nuclear energy alone does not provide a solution for at least the next few decades for significantly reducing the U.S. contribution to global warming.
Who says nuclear power is THE solution to climate change? We (NEI and the industry) know nuclear power is not THE only answer and have always said that nuclear power has to be an option in a balanced portfolio for electricity generation if the U.S. and the world want to reduce emissions.

P. 12:
How much nuclear energy would be needed to maintain global carbon dioxide emissions at the year 2000 level? Reaching this goal might head off many of the damaging consequences of climate change. The Institute for Energy and Environmental Research (IEER) has recently estimated that this scenario would require between 1,900 and 3,300 gigawatts of nuclear capacity depending on differing projections of alternative energy usage and adoption of energy efficiencies.
This is my problem with IEER. I can understand doing an analysis like this to see how much is required from nuclear if nuclear plants were the only thing built. But it’s like asking me to slam dunk a 20 foot hoop. They set this unrealistic growth scenario for nuclear, and because it can’t meet that feat, nuclear power is not all it’s cracked up to be. Has IEER or the CFR report bothered looking at what actually can be done by nuclear and other “no and low carbon energy sources” to reduce emissions? Not really.

That is what bugs me about these types of reports. They criticize, criticize, criticize but don’t ever bother looking at the alternatives and how much is required on their part as well. Instead of saying what can’t be done, why don’t they find out what can be done?

When discussing what can be done to reduce emissions the common source I always use are the Princeton wedges. And low and behold that’s where the CFR turns to next (p. 13):
In contrast to the IEER study, Stephen W. Pacala and Robert Socolow of Princeton University have proposed a more realistic, but still ambitious, plan for stabilizing greenhouse gas emissions. They have identified 14 energy technology wedges. (They used the term “wedge” because of the wedge or triangular shape of the reduction in greenhouse gas emissions plotted over time.) Each wedge technology, if fully employed, would reduce carbon emissions by a million tons per year by 2050.

The nuclear wedge would include 700 gigawatts or about 700 large commercial reactors in addition to the current nuclear-generated electricity.

Thus, these growth scenarios would pose quite significant challenges.

Of course, the CFR report paints the picture that other alternatives in reducing emissions would not be significant challenges. But what about the alternatives? Here are my quotes from the Princeton post on how much other alternatives would needed for a wedge:
It would take 50 times the current capacity of wind, 700 times for PV and 100 times for biomass. And only three times the current capacity for nuclear. Hmmm. I wonder which is more realistic. I also wonder how many people know that nuclear avoids about half a wedge in the world right now.
The CFR report goes on to discuss the cons of nuclear power in many countries and concludes (p. 15):
In the foreseeable future, nuclear energy is not a major part of the solution to further countering global warming or energy insecurity. Expanding nuclear energy use to make a relatively modest contribution to combating climate change would require constructing nuclear plants at a rate so rapid as to create shortages in building materials, trained personnel, and safety controls. Furthermore, while the nuclear industry is only structured to produce electricity, the existing abundant and cheap fossil fuels provide readily usable energy for electricity, heating, and transportation needs.
Considering that nuclear power is one of only two energy sources that provides a substantial amount of GHG free electricity (see below), if nuclear isn’t a major part of the solution to reducing emissions then no other sources are. And if that’s the case, then the world will definitely need some miracle solutions to reduce emissions.


By the way, here is a chart on the historical world nuclear capacity additions. The peak build of nuclear capacity in the world was about 200 GW in the 1980s. If the world begins that build rate in the 2010s then we could have at least another 600 – 800 GW by 2050. And there’s no reason why that build rate can’t be higher. There are more people in the world than ever meaning the world has more resources that can be tapped meaning the world can build even more than what was built in the past.


It’s easy to criticize; it’s hard to be constructive.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

EPRI Founder Chauncey Starr Dead at 95

Today, the nuclear energy industry says goodbye to Chauncey Starr, a man who stayed active in the business until the very end:

Starr, who still worked six days a week, died Tuesday in his Atherton home. His heart stopped beating during a morning nap before heading into the office, said Clay Perry, a spokesman for the Electric Power Research Institute, which Starr founded in 1972.

On Monday, Starr attended a celebration in his honor at the Palo Alto-based EPRI, an independent, nonprofit center for public interest energy and environmental research. He wryly quipped to more than 200 people Monday that his title of EPRI president emeritus was academic speak for "has-been."

Starr specialized in nuclear power, nuclear risk assessment and the challenges faced by the electric utility industry. In the weeks preceding his death, he actively worked with scientists, industrialists and politicians on risk-based analysis of nuclear plant investments and development of the "SuperGrid" — an electrical system using superconductors to transport electricity with near-zero energy losses.
He will be missed. On behalf of everyone at NEI, our condolences to his family and friends.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Defending Nuclear Energy in Real Time

Hollywood has never been known as a place that's been terribly hospitable to nuclear energy, but it looks like that might be changing if Bill Maher, the host of HBO's Real Time has anything to do with it.

The following comes from a transcript from the program's April 13, 2007 edition where Maher brought up the topic in conversation with Sheryl Crow and Laurie David:

MR. MAHER: That was my next question. What about nuclear power? Because it seems to me that we’re going to have to go nuke if we really want to solve –

MS. CROW: I don’t think that’s true. We have better options than nuclear power, I mean, there’s never been a plant that’s actually even made money from nuclear power. It is so heavily subsidized by the government. We have other options that should be subsidized by the government, which are wind and solar.

MR. MAHER: But can wind and solar –

MS. CROW: And it’s just not a great viable option.

MR. MAHER: But can wind and solar provide all the energy we need? It doesn’t seem like –

MS. CROW: We have to investigate.

MS. DAVID: Listen, how about energy efficiency?

MS. CROW: Yes.

MS. DAVID: How about fuel economy standards? There are 100 things –

MR. MAHER: Yes.

MS. DAVID: That we should be doing before we start talking about more nuclear power plants.

MS. CROW: Absolutely.

MR. MAHER: Well, I don’t agree with you on that.
Wow. Sometimes you can find friends where you least expect them.

NEI Energy Markets Report (April 9th - April 13th)

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

Electricity prices were mixed last week (see pages 1 & 2).

Gas prices rose at the Henry Hub $0.30 to $7.84 / MMBtu (see page 4).

From EIA’s STEO (see page 8): Concerns about extreme weather conditions and rising prices in the oil market will keep upward pressure on the Henry Hub spot price during much of the forecast period. Total retail electricity sales are expected to grow 0.8 percent this year and 1.9 percent in 2008. The price of WTI is expected to average close to $64 per barrel for both 2007 and 2008 as a result of tight balances.

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

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

TXU, Mitsubishi and the Benefits of Standard Designs

Going through my clips yesterday, I came across the following editorial from the Boston Herald concerning TXU and its plan to build new nuclear plants in lieu of coal-fired electric generation. Though I don't normally do this, I'm going to print the entire editorial:

TXU Corp., formerly Texas Utilities, says it wants to build nuclear plants instead of the 11 large coal-fired plants - so scorned by environmentalists - that it announced earlier this year. It’s another welcome sign of the return to favor of nuclear power, which generates no greenhouse gases said to warm the earth.

The problem is that TXU, one of more than a dozen utilities considering nuclear projects, wants a new plant design. But one of the reasons nuclear fell from favor was that U.S. utilities vastly overestimated their ability to cope with the new designs they kept ordering throughout the 1960s and 1970s. Of the 105 nuclear plants operating in 1986 (there are 102 today), there were 62 designs.

One reason for the success of nuclear power in France is that nearly all the 59 reactors there share a common design.

U.S. reactors steadily got bigger as companies sought to spread the costs over more megawatts of output. The reactors became dauntingly complicated faster than understanding of them could spread.

The two major U.S. reactor suppliers, General Electric Co. and Westinghouse Corp. (now controlled by Toshiba Corp. of Japan), spent more than a decade coming up with simpler, safer designs and winning approval of them from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. That means they may be used as an off-the-shelf item without further approval, and most nuclear-planning utilities have chosen one company or the other.

TXU had said earlier it expected to build a Westinghouse design of 1,150 megawatts. Now it says it wants two to five 1,700-megawatt plants from Japan’s Mitsubishi Corp. - for the old familiar reason that it can spread costs over more output.

This could risk a rerun of all the problems of the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s, from vast construction cost overruns to mysterious plant disturbances and shutdowns. The Mitsubishi design has not been studied by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and approval will take a long time.

Going with Mitsubishi could risk a failure that would seriously set back the nuclear revival.
Now, there is a kernel of truth in this piece. Non-standardization was certainly a problem with the first generation of nuclear reactors -- one that was substantially mitigated by an industry consolidation that concentrated plants into fleets with similar designs.

But to suggest that TXU's plan could possibly derail a revival for the American nuclear industry seemed a little far-fetched. So I sent a note to Adrian Heymer, our new plants guru, asking what his reaction to the editorial was. Here's what he wrote in reply:
America is the land of free enterprise. There are specific laws relating to restriction of trade and business, such as the Anti-Trust Act.

At present there are essentially 103 different designs and two main owners' groups. There are now 16 companies preparing license applications for as may as 30 reactors and only five designs. The commitment to standardization within a design-centered group is high, between 70 and 90 percent. The differences are linked to different site specific features.

While the Mitsubishi APWR has advanced design features, it is also very similar to plants under construction in Japan. As a result, TXU will benefit from standard construction techniques and practices that have been refined in overseas projects. The same is true for GE's ABWR which is the selected design for NRG, which is preparing a license application for two units near Houston, Texas.

TXU has evaluated more than one design, as have the other fifteen companies. TXU made their choice based on their own set of circumstances, which included the benefits of standardization within their own company and within the industry, both here and overseas. What is encouraging is that Mitsubishi is willing to make substantial investment to obtain a US design certification for the APWR and market that design in the US. This emphasizes the strength of interest in the potential growth of new nuclear generating stations in the US.
Thanks to Adrian for the assist.

NRC Issues License for Gas Centrifuge Uranium Enrichment Plant in Ohio

From NRC:

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has issued a license to USEC Inc. to construct and operate a gas centrifuge uranium enrichment plant at the Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant reservation near Piketon, Ohio.

The facility, to be known as the American Centrifuge Plant, will use a design based on gas centrifuge technology developed by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to enrich uranium for use in fuel for commercial nuclear power reactors. The license authorizes USEC to enrich uranium up to 10 percent of the fissile isotope uranium-235.

USEC submitted its application for the license Aug. 23, 2004. The NRC staff published an environmental impact statement (NUREG-1834) on the facility in April 2006, finding that there would be no significant adverse environmental impacts that would preclude granting a license. The staff’s safety evaluation report (NUREG-1851), published last September, documents the staff’s review of the application.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Tom Friedman on the "Power of Green"

In a piece in yesterday's edition of the New York Times Magazine, Thomas Friedman shows how he's broken the code on the implications of new nuclear build:

I recently visited the infamous Three Mile Island nuclear plant with Christopher Crane, president of Exelon Nuclear, which owns the facility. He said that if Exelon wanted to start a nuclear plant today, the licensing, design, planning and building requirements are so extensive it would not open until 2015 at the earliest. But even if Exelon got all the approvals, it could not start building “because the cost of capital for a nuclear plant today is prohibitive.”

That’s because the interest rate that any commercial bank would charge on a loan for a nuclear facility would be so high — because of all the risks of lawsuits or cost overruns — that it would be impossible for Exelon to proceed. A standard nuclear plant today costs about $3 billion per unit. The only way to stimulate more nuclear power innovation, Crane said, would be federal loan guarantees that would lower the cost of capital for anyone willing to build a new nuclear plant.

The 2005 energy bill created such loan guarantees, but the details still have not been worked out. “We would need a robust loan guarantee program to jump-start the nuclear industry,” Crane said — an industry that has basically been frozen since the 1979 Three Mile Island accident. With cheaper money, added Crane, CO2-free nuclear power could be “very competitive” with CO2-emitting pulverized coal.

Think about the implications. Three Mile Island had two reactors, TMI-2, which shut down because of the 1979 accident, and TMI-1, which is still operating today, providing clean electricity with virtually no CO2 emissions for 800,000 homes. Had the TMI-2 accident not happened, it too would have been providing clean electricity for 800,000 homes for the last 28 years. Instead, that energy came from CO2-emitting coal, which, by the way, still generates 50 percent of America’s electricity.
The piece is called The Power of Green, and it's well worth your time.

Poll: New Support for Nuclear Energy in Canada

From the CBC:

A little more than half of Canadians believe nuclear power is one way to have cleaner air and lower greenhouse gas emissions, according to a new poll commissioned by the government.

The CBC obtained a copy of the Ipsos Reid survey of 2,000 Canadians that was conducted between Feb. 16 and Feb. 22 for the federal Department of Natural Resources.

Seventy-one per cent of those surveyed believed nuclear energy will be an important part of Canada's energy supply in the future.

But only 51 per cent believed that to reduce greenhouse gases, the use of nuclear energy should be increased.
For more news out of the Pickering station in Ontario, click here.

It's Nuclear Energy Week in the Minnesota State Senate

Details from Energista.

G7 Gives Nuclear Energy Endorsement

From AFP:

Finance chiefs from the G7 industrialized countries have endorsed nuclear energy, an increasingly attractive power source as governments confront global warming and over-dependence on fossil fuels.

The Group of Seven, following a meeting here Friday, described energy diversification as an important priority for both rich and poor nations.

"Diversification can include advanced energy technologies such as renewable, nuclear and clean coal," said the ministers and central bank governors from Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States.

The group at previous meetings had been unable to agree on a text citing nuclear power, notably in the face of opposition from Germany.

But a steady rise in oil prices, from less than 30 dollars a barrel in April 2003 to nearly 80 dollars last year, as well as increased energy nationalism in producers such as Russia, Venezuela and Iran have managed to change minds.
Thanks to NAM Blog for the pointer.

Friday, April 13, 2007

NEI VP on America's Business

Scott Peterson, NEI's Vice President of Communications, is a guest on this weekend's edition of America's Business. He'll be talking about the global nuclear renaissance. Click here to listen.

Browns Ferry Reactor Inches Closer to Restart

From the AP:

The Tennessee Valley Authority on Thursday told federal regulators it is ready for a final inspection before returning its oldest nuclear reactor to service after a five-year, $1.8 billion restoration.

TVA asked the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to send its "operational readiness assessment team" to the Browns Ferry Nuclear Plant in Athens, Ala., to evaluate the Unit 1 reactor.

The reactor is slated to power up in May after a nearly 22-year shutdown.

"It is kind of the last significant test," TVA spokesman John Moulton said. "It is basically telling the NRC, 'Bring your team in and confirm that this plant's ready to operate again as a three-unit plant.'"
For more on the reactor from NRC, click here.

Market Improves for Nuclear Energy Lawyers

Details from Law.com.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

AREVA and MHI's Joint Reactor Development

From AREVA:

AREVA, the world's largest business group in the nuclear energy field, and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Ltd. (MHI) confirm the fast deployment of their alliance in the nuclear energy area, as established last October.

...

Since October 2006, AREVA and MHI teams have worked together to define the conceptual bases on which the future advanced reactor will be developed. They have agreed on the main features of this reactor: an advanced generation 3, pressurized water, 3 loops reactor with a power of around 1100 MWe. It will integrate the latest features already adopted by AREVA and MHI in terms of safety (resistance to commercial airplane crashes for instance), environment (reduced spent fuel and waste) and efficiency (possibility of extended fuel cycles and capacity to use MOX fuel for instance).

Sweet stuff!

NEI Energy Markets Report (April 2nd - April 6th)

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

Electricity prices increased last week (see pages 1 & 2).

Gas prices rose at the Henry Hub $0.28 to $7.54 / MMBtu (see page 4).

Twenty one reactors were in refueling outages with eight beginning and two finishing last week. Five reactors were down for maintenance last week (see pages 2 & 3).

Uranium prices jumped $18 to $113 / lb U3O8 according to TradeTech and Ux Consulting. “This is the largest single increase since uranium prices were first reported by NUEXCO in 1968, and marks a 57 percent increase in the spot uranium price since the beginning of the year,” according to TradeTech.

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

Australia Discovers Geothermal Energy

Details from The Western Australian. They're calling it, "natural nuclear power".

More from Oikos.

The TVA and the Future of Nuclear Energy

Here's Rep. Zach Wamp from today's Chattanoogan:

There's another piece to energy independence and that is nuclear energy. We have tremendous resources and skill sets in our Tennessee Valley region to help bring about a nuclear renaissance. TVA could demonstrate proliferation-resistant technology to recycle spent nuclear fuel and reduce waste. We have five nuclear units online today, and could have eight to nine nuclear units in the TVA system within the next seven years if we can show that a large part of the spent fuel can be converted back into energy. France and Great Britain already do this and there's no reason why we can't lead these efforts from our region.

French Government Gives Approval to New EPR at Flamanville

Details from ForEx News.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

On Democrats and Nuclear Energy

Earlier this week, Richard Simon of the LA Times wrote about how more and more Democratic officials are speaking positively about nuclear energy.

Terra Rossa has some thoughts.

Another Blogger for Nuclear Energy

Meet Russell Wilcox.

Another Blogger for Nuclear Energy

Check out the Ojai Post. And be sure to join in on the discussion as well.

An Interview With Duke Energy CEO Jim Rogers

He recently spoke to Amanda Griscom Little of Grist:

Q. You've recently tried to define one approach via the U.S. Climate Action Partnership. Tell us how that alliance formed, and the process of give-and-take that got you to the final agreement.

A. Most of the executives knew each other and had had ongoing conversations with environmental groups on a range of issues, so there was a set of existing relationships that brought us all into the room. I think the pivotal moment was in December when we began to agree on how we would structure the cap-and-trade program. The really big issue was: Can coal be part of the energy equation in the future? We agreed that it will be, given the fact that 50 percent of our electricity in this country comes from coal.

The other issue was the recognition that nuclear had to play an important part in the equation. This is a tightrope that the environmental community is walking. On the one hand, they want to solve climate. On the other hand, nuclear is the best zero-carbon energy source that can reliably supply our economy, and historically they have not been supportive of it.

Q. So your environmental partners came to agree that nuclear needs to be part of the solution?

A. I wouldn't characterize them as 100 percent supportive of nuclear, but I've seen some movement in that direction. I think they are reluctant to embrace nuclear at this point, but in the face of climate change they view it as the lesser of two evils.
Lots of interesting stuff. Check it out.

Texas and the Future of Nuclear Energy

On Sunday night, 60 Minutes correspondent Steve Kroft mentioned that France had managed to build 58 nuclear reactors in a country the size of Texas. Coincidentally, less than 24 hours later, the Wall Street Journal fronted a story about how TXU, a company that recently abandoned plans to build 8 coal-fired power plants, was now planning on building some of the largest commercial nuclear reactors in the world.

Now that story about Texas and nuclear energy is creating some other conversations. Click here for a post from Slouching Toward Serfdom, and then here to listen to a discussion of TXU's plans on the latest episode of the Atomic Show.

UPDATE: More from Marketplace.

A Bright Electric Powered Future for the Car


After taking a hard look at the all-electric Tesla Roadster, Demon Speeding is conjuring up a hopeful, and fun, vision for the future of the automobile:

Voltage. Amps. Kilowatts. Zero Emissions. Lithium Ion. I see parking garages and parking lots of work places being equipped with plugs. I see gas stations offering “quick change” battery exchanges similar to the way one could exchange a propane tank today. I see the US taking a new interest in the development and construction of new nuclear power plants. I see electricity rates per kilowatt hour electricity rate falling to all-time lows. I see new racing leagues, in the spirit of Formula 1, Indy, Cart and NASCAR, being launched with all-electric vehicles. I see light at the end of the tunnel for a lifelong “gear-head”.
Sounds great to me. Zoom zoom!

Is Silicon Valley Taking Another Look at Nuclear Energy?

Green Wombat looks at the possibilities.

From the archives: An op-ed I wrote last year concerning myths and facts about nuclear energy that ran in the San Jose Mercury News; and a post noting that the Silicon Valley Leadership Group called on the state of California to re-examine its moratorium on new nuclear build.

Checking The Numbers On the Anti-Nukes

Megan McArdle:

The environmental movement has so far utterly failed to develop a coherent approach to replacing carbon producing power sources. Wind and solar are not such a coherent response without a massive breakthrough in battery technology, because variable sources are inadequate to provide base-load power. Also, they too have negative externalities: wind kills birds and destroys views, and many solar panels are loaded with gallium arsenide, a highly toxic substance that is apparently rather tricky to dispose of.

All this wouldn't be so bothersome if the environmental movement merely failed to provide realistic alternatives, but in fact, many environmentalists actively move to block new wind installations (I'm looking at you, Robert jr.) and nuclear power plants, spread hysteria over nuclear waste, and otherwise actively work against the cause they are trying to advance. As such, it is perfectly legitimate to demand why they are blocking the only things that have any realistic chance of replacing carbon-emitting power plants.

The answer, in my opinion, is that too many environmentalists flunk basic and economic knowlege, which is why so many people believe it is practical to replace a coal-fired turbine that pumps out 1,000 megawatts with a solar installation that will, in peak sun conditions, produce about 1 kilowatt per 150 feet of space, twelve hours a day; or wind farms, which average less than 1 megawatt per turbine in prime spots.
Now that sounds a lot like the sort of thing my colleague David Bradish runs into all the time.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

We Support Lee on Lifecycle Emissions

Mike the Actuary wrote that he doubted nuclear's green credentials.

We Support Lee crunched the numbers. Give it a read.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Another Blogger for Nuclear Energy

Visit Bob Perrin.

60 Minutes and Vive Les Nukes

To view last night's 60 Minutes piece on the global revival of the nuclear energy industry, click here.

Friday, April 06, 2007

TCS Daily on the Supreme Court and GHG

From Max Schulz:

The irony is that the beneficiary of Monday's ruling won't be wind power, solar power, or any of the other renewable technologies favored by the Green establishment. Their economic and technological limitations are too severe for them ever to occupy more than a small niche in the American energy economy. Instead, one of the winners from Massachusetts v. EPA just may be something that many of the environmentalists who brought the suit have long abhorred: nuclear power. Like renewables, nuclear power generates electricity with no pollutants or greenhouse gas emissions. But unlike renewables, nuclear is capable of generating reliable power on a massive scale, which is what our country's future energy demands will require.

Nuclear power is on the verge of making a comeback in the United States. Thanks to several favorable provisions in the 2005 Energy Policy Act, as well as a streamlined licensing process, it is possible we could see the construction of new plants start within several years. The economics for new plant construction are still being worked out, particularly with regard to financing and federal loan guarantees. But there can be no doubt that federal efforts to hamstring coal can only help nuclear. Moreover, any future regulatory scheme allowing nuclear power plant operators to earn credits for generating emissions-free electricity would enhance nuclear's attractiveness to investors.
Hat tap to Instapundit, who would seem to welcome a spate of new nuclear build.

Are Renewables Really Renewable?

We all know that the fuel required for renewable sources of energy are virtually limitless, hence the name. But what about the essential components that renewables like wind turbines and solar panels rely on to function? An article from The Economist (subscription required) highlights several production problems for the "clean-tech boom":

THESE should be heady times for Vestas, a Danish firm that makes more than a quarter of the world's wind turbines. The wind business is booming, and the company said last week that it had swung into profit in 2006, thanks to an 8% rise in revenue. But there is “significant unexploited production capacity”, Vestas says, due to shortages of high-quality turbine components. Other companies grumble about a lack of gearboxes and bearings.

Wind firms' worries echo those in the solar-power business, which is also booming but where a shortage of polysilicon has hampered growth. Silicon is made from sand, which is abundant, but there are not enough refineries to turn it into solar-grade polysilicon. As a result, prices for silicon contracts have more than doubled, to $70 or $80 per kilogram, in the past three years, says Jesse Pichel, an analyst at Piper Jaffray.

...

Supply shortages will not ease quickly in either case. Wind turbines are giant machines that require lots of parts. Several firms are building new factories: Vestas has just announced its first American plant, which will make blades in Colorado. But new factories will take several years to get up to speed. In the meantime, buyers are putting down deposits to reserve their turbines. GE Energy, the largest turbine installer in America, is already booked up until the end of next year.

Similarly, the big polysilicon producers, including Hemlock and MEMC, are expanding their capacity, says Rhone Resch of the Solar Energy Industries Association. But some of their additional output will go to chipmakers, which are still the biggest buyers of polysilicon (though the solar industry is about to take the lead). So polysilicon shortages and the associated high prices will not ease until at least 2009, Mr Pichel predicts.

And they say nuclear is too slow to come online. Looks like wind and solar are facing the same production capacity constraints nuclear is. While The Economist article highlights production problems that can be overcome, the materials needed are limited. So are renewables actually limited or am I just out there?

NEI Energy Markets Report (March 26th - March 30th)

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

Electricity prices were mostly increasing throughout the country last week (see pages 1 & 2). Gas prices rose at the Henry Hub $0.38 to $7.26 / MMBtu (see page 4).

Fourteen reactors were in refueling outages with two beginning and one finishing last week. One reactor was down for maintenance last week (see pages 2 & 3).

Natural gas futures traded between $7.44 - $8.16 / MMBtu for the months of April to October 2007. Crude oil futures traded between $64.36 - $68.32 / barrel for the months of April to October 2007 (see page 6).

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

New Template for NEI Nuclear Notes

I'm sure by now some of you have noticed some changes in our design template. Please don't be alarmed, as this is all part of our efforts at fully leveraging the new features of Blogger that are just out of beta.

So don't fret, all of the links and such you like will be restored over the weekend.

Kincardine, Ontario Wants Nuclear Energy

Details from the Mississauga Business Times. Thanks to We Support Lee for the pointer.

Where in the World is Patrick Moore?

Last night he was on the Texas Gulf Coast. Details from the Houston Chronicle:

Speaking Thursday before the Gulf Coast Power Association in The Woodlands, Moore described himself as "proudly skeptical" of claims the scientific community has reached a consensus on the causes of global warming, but said he remains in favor of moving away from reliance on fossil fuels.

Moore, who is chairman and chief scientist of consulting firm Greenspirit Strategies and co-chair of a pro-nuclear energy group called the CASEnergy Coalition, said nuclear power could help wean the U.S. from its reliance on foreign oil and natural gas. It could also reduce the health effects of power plant emissions and save oil and gas for better uses, such as creating plastics, he said.

Moore's visit to Houston comes as a growing number of companies announce plans to build what will be the first new nuclear power reactors in the U.S. in nearly two decades.
To join the CASEnergy Coalition, click here.

Bloggers Look to Overturn California Moratorium

Over the past few weeks, we've been pointing to news concerning California State Assemblyman Chuck DeVore's efforts to get the state to overturn its long-standing moratorium against new nuclear build. Now we're beginning to see some bloggers stand up and support it, like Brian Wang and Kirk Sorensen.

60 Minutes Looks at the Nuclear Energy Comeback

My boss, Scott Peterson passed along an interesting nugget of news: 60 Minutes will be airing a segment on nuclear energy this Sunday night:

VIVE LES NUKES”

With power demands rising and concerns over global warming increasing, the search is on for an efficient means of producing large amounts of carbon free energy is becoming ever more. One of the few available options is nuclear, a technology whose time seemed to have come and gone, but may now be coming again. For the first time in decades, new nuclear plants are being built, and not just in Iran and North Korea. With zero green house gas emissions, the U.S. government, public utilities and even some environmental groups are taking a second look at nuclear power – especially in France, where it has been a resounding success. 60 MINUTES’ report on the nuclear power option will air this Sunday, April 8, 7PM ET/PT on CBS.
Click here for a preview of Steve Kroft's piece.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Solar vs Nuclear Energy in Hawaii

Michael R. Fox Ph.D. for Hawaii Reporter debates the topic but finds solar doesn't have the answers:

In response to a recent article I wrote about nuclear energy - "Why Not Nuclear Energy in Hawaii?" - an advocate with a United Kingdom (UK) email address pushed his preference for a solar facility as an energy source for Hawaii.

One of the areas he questioned was: “If there is space and flat land in Hawaii sufficient to build nuclear power stations, (given that you probably wouldn't want to put them too close to human habitation) isn't there probably enough space and flat land to build a CSP plant (Concentrating Solar Power) to harvest the rays of the sun and turn them into carbon free electricity?”

Sound familiar? Looks like Mr. Fox was spammed by Gerry Wolff whom we and many other bloggers have been spammed by as well. Needless to say Mr. Fox wasn't impressed and had these thoughts on the technology.

This author spent many years of professional experience in the world of engineering development. It will make most engineers highly skeptical and highly demanding of any new technology. Solar technology is certainly one of these.

Without engineering, performance, life cycle, and cost analyses involving full scale commercial equipment and technology, no serious engineering evaluations can be made. This is the template we all should use when someone promotes any alternative energy source such as this.

Too often we see enthusiasts promote these technologies without these crucial backup analyses. In this case the Solar Concentrating Power facility fails all of these tests. In fact the actual analyses are nearly impossible to find, if they exist at all. This calls into question the motives of the promoters who don’t provide such analyses.

My response: I am surprised that someone still supports this technology, especially from someone in the UK, where sunshine is a true daytime treat. In am reminded of an article in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists decades ago, entitled "Solar Sweden." Sweden is one of those nations in the land of the midnight sun and 6 months of darkness. As a reminder, darkness spells trouble for a solar facility.

I personally am a fan of solar especially after growing up in Arizona but it still has a long way to go.

UniStar Signs Contract with AmerenUE to Prepare COL

From Yahoo:

UniStar Nuclear's development arm, UniStar Development Company, has entered into an agreement with Ameren Corporation's (NYSE: AEE - News) Missouri-based utility, AmerenUE, to assist in preparing a combined construction and operating license application (COLA). UniStar Nuclear, the jointly developed nuclear business enterprise of Constellation Energy (NYSE: CEG - News) and AREVA Inc., is working toward developing and deploying a proposed standardized fleet of advanced U.S. Evolutionary Power Reactors (U.S. EPR) in the U.S.
Another one to add to the list.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Ford's Hydrogen-Powered Plug-In Hybrid


Details from Popular Mechanics. They have video of a test drive. Don't forget, one way to make hydrogen without generating emissions is with nuclear energy.

Thanks to Instapundit for the pointer.

Another Blogger for Nuclear Energy

Visit Terra Rossa.

On the UC Berkeley Nuclear Study

I'm sure many of you saw stories about a report yesterday out of UC Berkeley about nuclear energy and cost overruns:

The report is based on historical construction cost data. It does not reflect where the industry and the regulatory process are at today. While it cites many studies, including the MIT and University of Chicago, it has some notable omissions. For example, it does not provide any form of reason for the huge cost overruns in the 1980s, it does not explain or reference the new and improved licensing process, nor does it mention the extensive industry efforts relating to standardization.



The licensing process has been improved based on the lessons learned from the 1970s and 1980s. It now resolves safety issues before the start of construction. The standards for the combined license application will result in the designs to be essentially complete prior to starting construction. It provides for greater public participation.



The new licensing process and modern, modularized construction techniques will require a quantum leap in documentation, planning and scheduling compared with the construction of the 1960s, 70s and early 80s. This will alleviate many of the problems of the past, as will incorporating construction management lessons learned from overseas projects.



There is an inference in the report that Gen IV reactors could be better, but a failure to acknowledge that these designs are 15+ years away from commercial deployment in the US.



The report correctly emphasizes that the financial risks are critical. We know that, as do the industry's execs and Wall Street. The executives and boards of directors are not going to authorize the construction of new power plants if the generating costs are going to be 14cts/kWh.



The overall theme of its recommendations is that there should be more debate and look to Gen IV. We're beyond that. It's time to move forward, finalize cost estimates and start the review of license applications. There will be plenty of debate on the financials in the board rooms, across the tables on Wall Street and in the public arena once the first license applications are submitted.
Just another reason to stop by here first after you read the morning paper.

More on Overturning the California Nuclear Energy Moratorium

Today's San Francisco Chronicle is running a story on State Assemblyman Chuck DeVore's legislation to lift the moratorium on new nuclear build in California. For a previous piece from our archives, click here.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

CERA Report: Nuclear Power “Renaissance” Moving Beyond Talk to Real Action

From the press release:

Governments and businesses around the globe have moved beyond talking to real action to renew development of nuclear power, and have created “good prospects for a major nuclear expansion over the coming decades,” according to a new analysis by Cambridge Energy Research Associates (CERA).

“Over the past few years, high fossil fuel prices, energy security and climate change concerns and increasing urgency about reducing greenhouse gas emissions have all converged to improve the position of nuclear power relative to other options,” CERA Senior Director Jone-Lin Wang and Associate Director Christopher J. Hansen write in the new report Is the “Nuclear Renaissance” Real?

In the U.S., where no new reactor has been ordered in 28 years, these trends, plus excellent performance of the existing nuclear fleet and financial incentives in the Energy Policy Act of 2005, have led to a race to develop new nuclear power reactors. In Asia, where the building of new nuclear plants never stopped, several countries have recently upped their target for new nuclear capacity. In Western Europe, a new reactor is under construction for the first time in more than a decade; a second one is not far behind.

In the near-term, CERA’s assessment is that limits on nuclear component manufacturing capacity and skilled personnel could constrain nuclear capacity growth over the next several years, but these are short-term growing pains similar to those faced by other industries and other segments of the energy industry.

Longer-term issues involving spent fuel storage and the risk of proliferation need to be addressed, and will require implementation of international conventions. Development of convincing long-term solutions must make continuing progress or public support for the upcoming expansion may decline, according to the CERA report.
More coverage from Marketwatch.

Thanks to We Support Lee for the pointer.

Nuclear Powered Train Sets Speed Record

Well, yes but not quite. I'll explain in a bit. Here's the story from the AP:

A French train with a 25,000-horsepower engine and special wheels broke the world speed record Tuesday for conventional rail trains, reaching 357.2 mph as it zipped through the countryside to the applause of spectators.

Roaring like a jet plane, with sparks flying overhead and kicking up a long trail of dust, the black-and-chrome V150 with three double-decker cars surpassed the record of 320.2 mph set in 1990 by another French train.

It fell short, however, of beating the ultimate record set by Japan's magnetically levitated train, which hit 361 mph in 2003.

The French TGV, or "train a grande vitesse," as the country's bullet train is called, had two engines on either side of the three double- decker cars for the record run, some 125 miles east of the capital on a new track linking Paris with Strasbourg.

Aboard the V150, the sensation was comparable to that of an airplane at takeoff.

The demonstration was meant to showcase technology that France is trying to sell to the multibillion-dollar overseas markets such as China. Hours before the run, Transport Minister Dominique Perben received a California delegation, including state assembly speaker Fabian Nunez. The state is studying prospects for a high-speed line from Sacramento to San Diego, via San Francisco and Los Angeles.

People lined bridges and clapped and cheered when as the V150 roared by.
Now, does the TGV have a nuclear powered engine? Of course not, but it is powered by electricity, and France gets 75% of its electricity from nuclear energy.

Remember that the next time an anti-nuke says that nuclear energy won't play any role in reducing emissions from transportation.

NEI Teaches the Teachers About Nuclear Energy

When 11,000 science teachers invaded St. Louis, Mo., last week, the nuclear energy industry was there to teach them about clean-air nuclear power.

The Nuclear Energy Institute hosted an exhibit hall booth that drew strong traffic during the week-long convention that ended April 1. We answered plenty of questions about new plants and used fuel, and provided brochures and other material about nuclear energy.

We received an overwhelmingly positive response from the teachers. Many appreciated our up-to-date materials. That’s especially important since many said that their textbooks contain little or no information on nuclear power. And even when the books discussed nuclear energy, the information was out of date (sometimes by 10 years or more). Here's a sampling of some of their comments:

-- "I don't understand why we ever stopped building nuclear power plants in the United States." – Missouri teacher
-- "When will we build more plants? I am behind that 100 percent." – North Carolina teacher
-- "Give me everything you've got on Yucca Mountain. I am a big supporter of the repository." – Chairman of a California educational resource company
-- "I live near a nuclear power plant. It is a great neighbor." -- Illinois teacher

The convention was sponsored by the National Science Teachers Association.

Monday, April 02, 2007

On Europe and Nuclear Energy

The European blog Power Encounter is running an interview with Natalie Horbach, a professor at the Centre for Energy, Petroleum and Mineral Law and Policy, University of Dundee. Here's an excerpt:

Club of Amsterdam: Can you explain how nuclear energy relates to environmental issues? What role is it going to play in context of sustainable energy sources like wind energy etc.?

Nathalie Horbach: Nuclear energy provides for a credible alternative source of electricity. It does not emit CO2 although, similar to renewable energy sources, emissions are not entirely zero. Due to the need to mitigate recognized risks, nuclear energy has the most secured and innovative energy fuel cycle, in respect of both strict international and national safety and liability regulation (polluter-pays), including internalization of such costs in the electricity price.
Read the rest right now.

Sweden Moving Closer to New Nuclear Build

From The Local:

The Christian Democratic party in Sweden has recently announced that it is changing its position on nuclear power. According to a report published by the party, the goal is no longer to "phase out Swedish nuclear energy as renewable sources replace it".

Instead, the Christian Democrats explain that they "do not wish to rule out that new nuclear reactors will be built in Sweden after 2010".
One more European nation comes to its senses. What a relief. For more from our archives, click here.

Nuclear Energy on TVOntario

Back on March 15, TVOntario did two programs on the future of nuclear energy in the province. Click here (MP3) for an interview with Patrick Moore of the CASEnergy Coalition. Then click here (MP3) for a panel discussion that includes our friend Steven Aplin, Duncan Hawthorne of Bruce Power, Dave Martin of Greenpeace Canada and our old friend Dr. Helen Caldicott.

For TVO's blog coverage, click here and here.

50 Years Ago: The Start of Commercial Nuclear Power

Early this morning over at NAM Blog, our friend Carter Wood posted about the opening of the Vallecitos Atomic Electric Power Plant, the proud owner of NRC Reactor License #1:

Two generations later, America's nuclear renaissance is picking up speed. Last week, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission voted 5-0 to authorize an Early Site Permit (ESP) to System Energy Resources Inc. for the Grand Gulf site near Port Gibson, Miss. Supporting documents are here and the NRC's news release is here. The ESP process, while cutting government red tape, still covers all the important areas to ensure each site's plant safety, environmental protection and comprehensive emergency response plans.

[...]

Good news, good developments, indeed. Two generations after the first commercial nuclear power plant began generating electricity, nuclear energy is being reborn in the United States. All the more reason to make 2007 a year to celebrate.
Here, here.

Norweigian Company Proposes Thorium Plant

Details from Reuters.

PBMR Suffers a Setback

Details from the Cape Times.

Why Not Nuclear Energy in Hawaii?

The Hawaii Reporter looks at the possibilities.

For more from our archives, click here.