Friday, November 30, 2007

Congressman Ron Paul on Nuclear Energy

Outside, Grist and Salon are continuing their interviews with Presidential candidates on environmental issues, and today they ran a piece on Rep. Ron Paul (R-Tx.):

What's your take on nuclear?

I think nuclear is great. I think it's the safest form of energy we have.
Click here for a previous post on Paul.

Natural Gas Crisis Ahead in Massachusetts?

Dr. Gilbert Brown from South Coast Today (Mass.):

Here in Massachusetts, natural gas plants account for roughly half of our electricity generation. Disruptions in the supply of natural gas would have a significant impact on electricity availability, and no plans are under way to provide an alternative source of base load power. Although there are plans to build gas turbines and wind mills, they will not eliminate the need for power plants that reliably provide large amounts of electricity. Coal is not an option due to environmental challenges. The best option is nuclear power, which produces electricity without polluting the air or emitting greenhouse gases. That's an option worth considering not only in Massachusetts but elsewhere in New England.
This isn't the first time we've noted this issue in this region. Click here for more.

Canada Joins GNEP

Details from David Akin.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

NRC Accepts STP's New Reactor Application

From NRC:

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has accepted for review a combined license (COL) application for two new reactors at the South Texas Project site near Bay City, Texas. The agency is seeking more information, however, before it establishes a complete technical review schedule for the application. This is the first COL application the agency has accepted for review.

“We have what we need to open a file, or ‘docket,’ on this application, and we’ll start analyzing those pieces that have enough detail to review properly,” said Bill Borchardt, Director of the NRC’s Office of New Reactors. “We’ve also listed those areas where the applicants, NRG Energy and South Texas Project, will have to give us more detailed information.”

The companies submitted the application and associated information Sept. 24. The NRC’s acceptance letter, as well as the application’s public version (minus proprietary or security-related details), will be available on the NRC Web site here: http://www.nrc.gov/reactors/new-licensing/col/south-texas-project.html . The application seeks approval to build and operate two Advanced Boiling Water Reactors (ABWR) at the site, approximately 12 miles southwest of Bay City. The ABWR is a 1,300 MWe design the NRC certified in 1997, and is currently in use overseas.
What a great way to end the day.

Investors seem pleased with Dominion

In the latest in a series of announcements and newsworthy events, Dominion (NYSE: D) seems to be steadily on track to bringing high-tech, low-emission energy to Virginia.

In a press conference held at Dominion's headquarters in Richmond, Virginia yesterday, Dominion CEO Tom Farrell announced, "Dominion has taken an important step to meet Virginia's future energy needs while simultaneously protecting the environment.” And according to Dave Christian, President and Chief Nuclear Officer, "It's good news for our company, good news for Virginia, and good news for our country."

Good news, indeed!

Despite antinuclear predictions to the contrary on February 17, 2005, Dominion stock seems to be performing rather favorably. And, if investors are leery of new nuclear, then it certainly doesn't show up in the stock price.



I'm trying to imagine what form future predictions may take...

"When large parts for a new reactor are orde..." Oh, sorry. That's already happened. (See "Parts Ordered" in the graphic above.)

"When Dominion actually receives their Early Site Permi..." Oops. That's already happened too. (See "ESP/COL" above.)

"When Dominion files an application with the NRC to construct and oper..." Oops again. (See "ESP/COL" above.)

OK. So when exactly do investors start running like vegans from a luau?

I say that these investors, like the majority of Americans, see nuclear power as an investment in a clean and economical future.

What do you think?

NEI's Nuclear Performance - October 2007

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

For October 2007, the average net capacity factor was 82.3 percent. This figure is 5.1 percentage points higher than the same one-month period in 2006. Monthly nuclear generation was 61.4 billion kilowatt-hours for October 2007, compared to 57.5 bkWh for the same one-month period in 2006.

For 2007, year-to-date nuclear generation was 670.5 billion kilowatt-hours, compared to 655.4 bkWh in 2006 (2.3 percent increase) and 660.0 bkWh in the record year of 2004.

As of November 28, 2007, six reactors were in refueling outages and 15 were completed for the Fall 2007 season. At the same time last year, eight reactors were in refueling outages and 23 reactors had completed outages for the Fall 2006 season.

Final 2006 data showed nuclear power in the U.S. accounted for 70.8 percent of the generation from emission-free sources of energy. Hydro accounted for 25.4 percent; wind, 2.3 percent; geothermal, 1.3 percent; and solar, less than 1 percent. Electricity generated from emission-free sources of energy in 2006 accounted for 27.3 percent of the total electricity produced in the U.S.
For the report click here. It is also located on NEI's Financial Center webpage.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Dominion's Press Conference about its COLA

Dang it, one expected special guest wasn't able to attend the press conference but maybe he/she will have a statement. I was looking forward to it.

Regardless, my colleagues and I are pleased as punch that Dominion is maintaining a leadership position in the nuclear industry by submitting a full COL application for a third unit at the North Anna site. (Lisa's 401k watch--at last check D stock was up $0.63.)

And while Dominion's CEO Tom Farrell said that getting the licenses does not obligate the company to build NAPS 3 it is clear from many of his other statements that he believes that it is likely that all of the variables will come together in such a way that it will make sense for the company and its customers to go ahead and build.

For instance, he mentioned that in the next decade demand in Virginia will increase by at least 4000 MW and that the need must be supplied by a combination of conservation and efficiency, advanced technologies and reliable baseload. He also said that EIA data shows that Virginia imports more power than any other state except California. I really didn't know that and would like to find a link...

He also mentioned the steps that Virginia's governor and legislature have taken to ensure a secure energy future for our state--steps that include nuclear as an important part of an energy strategy.

But of course, there are hurdles to overcome. Farrell mentioned that before making the decision to build, not only does the company need to have confidence that the NRC will issue a COL for NAPS 3 and a Design Certification for the ESBWR, other government agencies must weigh-in including the state corporation commissions of Virginia and North Carolina.

Another hurdle is the cost. Farrell said that the company is negotiating now with vendors, mainly GE-Hitachi, to nail down a price. I personally believe (meaning that Farrell nor anyone else at Dominion has said this, it is simply The World According to Lisa, and I rarely sign multi-billion dollar contracts) that it is less about the absolute dollar figure that GE-Hitachi proposes (as long as the $/installed kW-hr is within reason!) but the confidence Dominion has in that number and also in the schedule. That the cost of commodities is going up is a given and those same commodities will be bought no matter what kind of baseload generation is built. But with nuclear being more upfront-capital-intensive, the promising but still unproven license process, the need to substantiate a rate case, and the amount of time between saying "go" and sending electrons through power lines, I think the company is most concerned about getting a price and schedule with minimal uncertainties.

Should that dampen our enthusiasm? Absolutely not. Tom Farrell himself said he believes that the company can get to the point where the price is cost-competitive and a benefit to customers. If that happens, and licensing proceeds as scheduled, construction on NAPS 3 could begin in 2010 with commercial operation in 2015.

So I've got a little over two years to find just the right shovel...

Dominion Applies for New Reactor at North Anna

Details from the AP. Of course, if you simply paid close attention to some of the action in our comment strings, you knew this was already coming.

UPDATE: One added bonus of living on a lake with a nuclear reactor: 70 degree water year-round.

U.K. to Move Forward on New Nuclear Stations

Prime Minister Gordon Brown will not be deterred. Click here for details from his speech earlier this week.

NAM Blogger at AREVA Facility

Kevin Smith, NAM's director of research, is in France on a trip sponsored by NEI to visit AREVA's nuclear processing center at La Hague. Click here for more details.

AREVA Signs Massive China Deal

Details here at the Wall Street Journal.

And others are beginning to notice.

NEI's Energy Markets Report - November 19 - November 23, 2007

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

Electricity peak prices decreased $3-13/MWh at all hubs except for PJM West (no trading occurred there). The holiday week and mild weather were seen as the factors in the decline in spot prices. Entergy and ERCOT decreased by more than $10/MWh with ERCOT falling to its lowest price over the last 52 weeks (Platts, see pages 1 and 3).

Gas prices at the Henry Hub fell from $7.07/MMBtu to $6.96/MMBtu. NYMEX futures fell to $7.60/MMBtu from $7.89/MMBtu for December 2007 (see pages 1 and 3).

Estimated nuclear plant availability rose to 92 percent last week. Two reactors finished refueling outages and no reactors were in maintenance outages (see pages 2 and 4).

Uranium spot prices remained at $93/lb U3O8 according to TradeTech and UxConsulting (see pages 1 and 3).

Crude oil prices fell to $93.56/barrel. EIA attributes high oil prices to a strong global oil demand growth combined with moderate supply growth and low spare production capacity. This has created a tight balance between supply and demand in which global commercial inventories have fallen low and the perceived risk of supply disruptions is seen as high (see pages 1 and 3).
For the report click here. It is also located on NEI's Financial Center webpage.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

MOX Progress, plus Inconsistency from UCS

Nuclear disarmament took a big step forward on Monday, when the U.S. and Russia announced a new agreement on disposition of surplus plutonium. Each country had previously agreed to dispose of 34 metric tons of surplus weapons-grade plutonium by using it in mixed-oxide (plutonium-uranium) fuel, also known as MOX, but there were disagreements on how to do it. Monday's agreement notes that the U.S. will use the plutonium in light-water reactors, whereas Russia will use it in fast-spectrum reactors. The distinction may seem slight, but it had been a significant point of contention. The agreement clears the way for removing a significant amount of weapons-grade material.

You might think that such news would meet with hearty and uniform approbation, but it did not, particularly at the Union of Concerned Scientists. This time, their "concern" is about the BN-600 and BN-800 reactors that the Russians plan to use. As reported by Newsday,

Ed Lyman, nuclear weapons expert at the Union of Concerned Scientists, said
use of the relatively small BN600 reactor "will put Russian plutonium
disposition on the slow track" because the reactor can burn only about
three-tenths of a ton of plutonium a year, and the larger [BN-800] reactor has
yet to be built.

Lyman said "this is a total retreat from the original concept" which
would have disposed of the plutonium in larger light-water reactors, an option
the Russian[s] rejected.

It should be noted that "has yet to be built" is misleading. Construction of the BN-800 began in 2002, and its scheduled completion date precedes the scheduled date for the U.S. to begin production of commercial MOX fuel batches.

More notable is that the complaint comes from Ed Lyman. In 2004, he sang a very different song to an Atomic Safety and Licensing Board as he used the flimsiest of evidence in an attempt to block the use of MOX in U.S. light-water reactors. Does he want to see plutonium destroyed, or doesn't he?

It makes you wonder whether the "C" in "UCS" really stands for "contrary".

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

NEI's Energy Markets Report - November 12 - November 16, 2007

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

Electricity peak prices decreased $2-11/MWh at all hubs except for PJM West, which increased due to below normal temperatures. Mild weather contributed to the $7-10/MWh decline at the Palo Verde and SP 15 hubs (Platts, see pages 1 and 3).

Gas prices at the Henry Hub rose from $6.90/MMBtu to $7.07/MMBtu. This is the first time in 21 weeks (week of June 25) the average weekly price of gas exceeded $7/MMBtu. NYMEX futures and EIA forecasts indicate gas prices will hover around $8/MMBtu for December 2007 (see pages 1 and 3).

Estimated nuclear plant availability rose to 87 percent last week. Four reactors finished refueling outages and four reactors finished maintenance outages (see pages 2 and 4).

Uranium spot prices were $93/lb U3O8 according to TradeTech and UxConsulting. Prices are expected to remain at or around this level over the next month. After summer, the late November to end of December time period is the slowest season of the year with regard to historical spot volumes. It is also the next weakest time period with respect to upward uranium price movements (UxC, see pages 1 and 3).

Crude oil prices continued to increase to $95.81/barrel. Crude oil futures were trading around $86/barrel six months ahead and almost $90/barrel for November 2008. According to the World Energy Outlook 2007, world oil resources are considered to be adequate to meet a 37% increase in demand by 2030. This is based on the assumption crude oil prices will fall back to around $60/barrel (in 2006 dollars) by 2015 (IEA, see pages 1, 2 and 3).
For the report click here. It is also located on NEI's Financial Center webpage.

Giving credit to the Antis

It was a cold day in February, 2005, during the NRC public meeting for North Anna's Early Site Permit.

One antinuclear sage in attendance had the proverbial "good news" and "bad news" for the shareholders of Dominion. The good news was that the Dominion would never build a new nuclear power plant at North Anna, the bad news was that it was going to cost the shareholders a lot of money in the process. Another antinuclear prognosticator added,

"Dominion does not even know the reactor design it wants to build. Why? Because the minute they mention that they have a reactor design, Wall Street will think it's an intent to construct, and they will short your stock."

And, as if these antis were descended from old Nostradamus himself, a strange thing happened today, November 20, 2007. Just take a gander at this headline:

Dominion Hails Approval of Early Site Permit for North Anna Power Station

And sure enough, as I write this, Dominion shares (NYSE: D) are trading at about $46 dollars per share, when yesterday they were trading in the low $90s.

Coincidence?

Thankfully, Dominion gave everyone two shares for every one they had before to offset this change in stock price. Who would have known these two events would happen on the same day? Was this a strange coincidence or are we witnessing a miracle?

Thanks to Delbert Horn for pointing out this sagely wisdom of antis. He also adds the following information:

Dominion Stock price on 2/17/05: $72.01
(date of predictions made at NRC public meeting)

Stock Price on 10/17/07: $89.19
(Announcement date of GE large parts order)

Stock price on 11/19/07: $91.03

Stock price on 11/20/07: $46.03
(Day of stock split and ESP approval)

Monday, November 19, 2007

World Energy Outlook 2007 Report

The International Energy Agency released its World Energy Outlook 2007 report last week (purchase required). According to the web page:

The annual World Energy Outlook is the leading source for medium to long-term energy market projections and analysis and has achieved widespread international recognition. It is the flagship publication of the International Energy Agency.
Last Friday I attended IEA’s Executive Director’s and Chief Economist’s presentation on the Outlook here in DC. Needless to say, their assessment of global energy to 2030 kept me tuned in as each point made was intriguing and sobering.

Below are some highlights.

The report analyzed three energy scenarios for the world’s demands: a reference, an alternative policy, and a 450 stabilization case.

The reference scenario is what happens if the world continues down its current path of energy consumption without any “new energy-policy interventions.” By not changing our current trajectory, we can expect a 55% increase in energy demands and a 57% increase in CO2 emissions between 2005 and 2030. China and India will demand nearly half of this energy increase. Not only that, 84% of the overall increase in energy will be fueled by fossil-fuels.

These increases may not sound like much, but according to IPCC calculations, the increase in CO2 emissions is projected to raise global temperatures by about 6 degrees Celsius. As well, $22 trillion is the amount required globally to invest and develop the world’s growing energy infrastructure. If governments do not change any policies under this scenario, nuclear capacity is projected to increase from 368 GW worldwide today to only 415 GW by 2030.

The alternative policy scenario “analyzes the impact on global energy markets of a package of additional measures to address energy-security and climate-change concerns.” If the proposed policies were to transpire, energy demands are projected to increase 38% and CO2 emissions increase 27% by 2030. Under this scenario, the IPCC projects temperatures would only rise by about 3 degrees Celsius by 2030. Nuclear capacity is projected to increase to 525 GW by 2030.

A new scenario, 450 stabilization case, was developed to address what needs to happen in order to stabilize the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere at 450 parts per million (2005 CO2 concentration levels were at 379 ppm). At 450 ppm, temperatures are projected to increase by less than 3 degrees Celsius. In order to achieve this level, the report projects:

energy-related CO2 emissions would need to peak in 2012 at around 30 Gt and then decline to 23 Gt in 2030 – 19 Gt less than in the Reference Scenario and 11 Gt less than in the Alternative Policy Scenario.
How would this be achieved?
Emissions savings come from improved efficiency in fossil-fuel use in industry, buildings and transport; switching to nuclear power and renewables; and the widespread deployment of CO2 capture and storage in power generation and industry.
Nuclear capacity under this projection would more than double from its current capacity to 833 GW by 2030. Even if this increase were to happen, nuclear would account for only 16% of the necessary reductions in CO2 emissions worldwide. This should speak to the monstrous challenge the world faces in curbing CO2 emissions. Improved fossil-fuel efficiency would account for 27% of the reductions; end-use energy efficiency would provide 13%; biofuels for transportation, 4%; renewables for power, 19%; and CO2 capture and storage, 21%.

India and China

The report spent much of its writing on the energy demands India and China will require in the coming years. The IEA projects that by 2010, China will pass the U.S. "to become the world's largest energy consumer."

The next 10 years are critical for these two countries due to the fact they are ramping up their energy infrastructure to meet their economic demands. Once their power plants are built, the two countries will have little incentive to retire them any time soon. Therefore, it is important to influence them to build emission-free sources of energy like nuclear.

Friday, November 16, 2007

The Heritage Foundation on Nuclear Energy

Jack Spencer of the Heritage Foundation has published a pair of papers that should make your reading list. First, read Congress Should Not Overlook Benefits of Nuclear Energy, then take a look at Competitive Nuclear Energy Investment: Avoiding Past Policy Mistakes.

Thanks to Rod Adams for the pointers.

CFR Discussion on Nuclear Energy and Climate Change

Last week, the Council on Foreign Relations sponsored an online discussion on nuclear energy and climate change between NEI's Steve Kerekes and Michael Mariotte of NIRS.

To say the least, I think Steve got the better of the exchange, but I'll let our readers decide for themselves. Click here to read it right now.

UniStar Moves Ahead on Calvert Cliffs Project

Off the wire:

UniStar Nuclear Energy (UNE), a joint venture between Constellation Energy and The EDF Group (EDF), has submitted an application to the Maryland Public Service Commission (PSC) for a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity (CPCN) for the potential construction of a new nuclear unit at Constellation Energy's Calvert Cliffs Nuclear Power Plant in Southern Maryland.

While UNE has not made a final decision to build this new advanced-design reactor at Calvert Cliffs, it has submitted the CPCN to the PSC as a step toward potential construction of a non-greenhouse gas emitting, base-load, 1,600-megawatt generating facility to meet increasing energy demand in the Mid-Atlantic region, and in particular, the state of Maryland.

"A third reactor at our high-performing Calvert Cliffs site offers the potential for an economic and environmentally sound means to provide additional base-load electricity to meet anticipated growth, both regionally and within the state of Maryland," said Michael J. Wallace, executive vice president, Constellation Energy and chairman, UNE. "Given the extreme volatility of energy prices worldwide and the significant environmental costs associated with new and anticipated regulation governing coal-fired generation, we believe nuclear energy affords our nation the most economic and environmentally friendly alternative to meet what will no doubt continue to be increasing demand for energy."

Thursday, November 15, 2007

NEI's Energy Markets Report - November 5 - November 9, 2007

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

Electricity peak prices increased $2-9/MWh at the Eastern hubs and decreased $3-5/MWh at the Western hubs (see pages 1 and 3).

Gas prices at the Henry Hub rose from $6.81/MMBtu to $6.90/MMBtu. Working gas in storage reached a record level for the second week in a row with 3,545 Bcf as of Friday, November 2. Factors contributing to the large volume in storage include improved supply and favorable economics. The 3,545 Bcf is 8.9 percent above the 5-year average inventory level for the report week (EIA, see pages 1 and 3).

By 2011, the following amounts of new generating capacity are expected to start up: 29,000 MW of coal; 47,000 MW of natural gas; and 37,000 MW of wind (see page 5).

Estimated nuclear plant availability remained at 83 percent last week. Two reactors finished refueling outages while four reactors shut down for maintenance (see pages 2 and 4).

Uranium spot prices were $93 and $92/lb U3O8 according to TradeTech and UxConsulting. UxC noted that the current uranium spot price is more than high enough to spur additional investment in uranium production. They also projected uranium prices to begin moderating due to increased uranium supplies coming to the markets over the next five years (see pages 1 and 3).

Crude oil prices continued to increase to $93.46/barrel. Crude oil futures were trading above $90/barrel for November 2008. EIA says one of the reasons for high oil prices is strong economic growth from China, the United States, and the Middle East. China and the United States alone are projected to account for half of the world oil consumption growth in 2007 and 2008 (see pages 1, 2 and 3).
For the report click here. It is also located on NEI's Financial Center webpage.

Nuclear Energy Blackout at the WSJ?

Rod Adams wonders why.

In Rome, Nuclear Energy is on Everyone's Mind

A report from the World Energy Congress by Reuters.

French Nuclear Phase-Out?

France's anti-nuclear group Sortir du Nucleaire claims the country can phase-out all of its nuclear plants in five to ten years (in French). Here is World Nuclear News' take:

The pressure group's recently published 100-page report, Nucleaire: Comment en sortir?, presents a highly detailed plan of far-reaching energy saving measures that it says could enable the country that famously relies on nuclear power plants for 78% of its electricity to close them all down. It then advocates an energy efficient vision of France which uses other generation options - including fossil fuels.

The group's vision of electricity generation in a nuclear-free France relies chiefly on wind power, with aims to build 11.8 GWe of terrestrial wind power and 10 GWe of maritime wind power facilities in five years, rising to 24.3 GWe and 15 GWe respectively in ten years. At present France has only 2 GWe of wind powered generation, although the report points to Germany's current example of a wind fleet with the capacity to generate 20 GWe.
I am pretty sure 39.3 GWe of wind will not replace France's 63 GWe nuclear fleet. More:
The burden of saving energy would have to fall heavily on French businesses and the public. The report suggests measures to replace incandescent lightbulbs, refrigerators and freezers with energy-efficient models, reduce the amount of energy wasted by electrical appliances left on standby, and fixing a maximum energy ceiling for industrial processes using electricity. It also calls for an end to the use of electricity for space and water heating, the prohibition of air conditioning in private homes and the imposition of a 19 degree C limit for room heating.

This might be regarded as "a loss of comfort and quality of life" in some quarters, says the report, "but we bet that if this relative discomfort eventually allowed [France] to leave nuclear then this [would] appear much more bearable."
Well at least the anti-nuclear group is being honest about a diminished quality of life without nuclear. I doubt the French citizens will go for it though.

Longing for France's Nuclear Electricity

Following a press conference announcing GM's new plug-in hybrid electric vehicle, a blogger from AUTOSAVANT was able to ask GM Vice Chairman Bob Lutz a couple of questions. The following exchange caught my eye:

I’m sure you’re familiar with the report from the Department of Energy that stated that the existing utility grid in the U.S. could accommodate approximately 140 million plug-in hybrids right now (our reporter was dizzy from all the new iron around him - the actual number stated by the DOE in the report was 180 million). Has GM been in contact with the DOE or any of the utility companies regarding this conclusion?

No, although our research gives a smaller number than the DOE report, but it’s still a pretty big number. That’s the great thing about the Volt or an EV, it runs on something that is cheap and readily available in this country, doesn’t require pumps, pipelines, you know? It’s an even better situation in other countries like France; they have nuclear power that supplies cheap electricity, and if we had that here, we sure wouldn’t need much gasoline or imported oil for cars.
Very interesting. From time to time, Lutz blogs over at GM's Fast Lane. Check it out.

An Interview With a Nuclear Engineer

PayScale talks to Michael Flagg. He's got some interesting insights for anyone who's thinking about a career as a nuclear engineer. Also, be sure to check out Michael's blog, FutureJacked.

UPDATE: More on staffing issues in the nuclear industry from Advanced Nanotechnology.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

NEI Video at the World Energy Congress

The following is a short reel that's running inside of NEI's booth at the World Energy Congress in Rome this week:



As you might imagine, some folks are upset that we even showed up.

Tucker Carlson on Nuclear Energy

Click here for a clip from Tucker Carlson's MSNBC program that took a look at nuclear energy. There's a lot of talk, along with a short interview with CASEnergy's Patrick Moore.

Exelon Selects ESBWR for Texas

Details from World Nuclear News.

For more from GE Nuclear, click here.

On the Incident at Pelindaba

PelindabaBy now I'm sure many of you have read the disturbing news coming out of South Africa concerning the incident at Pelindaba. For a solid roundup of all the events, click here. Thankfully, the NRC is ever vigilant about plant security here in the U.S.

At the ANS Winter Meeting

My friend Rod Adams has been busy attending the 2007 ANS Winter Meeting here in Washington. Click here and here for his reports.

Yucca Mountain and Presidential Politics

Betsy Newmark is taking a look at the effect that moving Nevada up on the presidential primary calendar is having on policymaking and Yucca Mountain, and she doesn't like what she sees:

Policy-making is about tough choices. If the choices were easy, they'd already have been made. But our system will become even more messed up when we let the political calendar determine a position on an important policy issue. I've become very sick of seeing politicians supporting ethanol subsidies simply because of Iowa's status as the first state to hold a vote for the presidential nominations. Now we're seeing the effect of pushing Nevada up.

Friday, November 09, 2007

NEI's Energy Markets Report - October 29 - November 2, 2007

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

Electricity peak prices moved modestly last week (see pages 1 and 3).

Total electricity consumption for 2007 is projected to average 10.7 billion kilowatthours per day, 2.1 percent above last year’s consumption (EIA STEO, see pages 2 and 5).

Gas prices at the Henry Hub rose from $6.55/MMBtu to $6.81/MMBtu. Colder weather is considered the cause for increasing gas prices for the week (EIA, see pages 1 and 3). A new report from EIA stated that U.S. natural gas proved reserves increased 3 percent in 2006, rising to over 211 trillion cubic feet, the highest level since 1976.

Estimated nuclear plant availability remained at 83 percent last week with three more reactors beginning refueling outages. FitzPatrick was down briefly due to algae accumulating at the plant’s cooling water intake (see pages 2 and 4).

Uranium spot prices rose to $93 and $90/lb U3O8 according to TradeTech and UxConsulting. TradeTech noted that the majority of sellers expect spot uranium prices to strengthen over the next few months and are very hesitant to commit to sales at this time (see pages 1 and 3).

Crude oil prices continued to increase to $89.23/barrel last week. WTI prices are projected to increase from an average of $66.02 per barrel in 2006 to $71.36 per barrel in 2007 and to nearly $80 per barrel in 2008. Slower U.S. economic growth of 1.9 percent, projected for both 2007 and 2008, compared with 2.9 percent in 2006, may be a mitigating factor for even higher crude prices. (EIA STEO, see pages 1 and 3).
For the report click here. It is also located on NEI's Financial Center webpage.

Movement in Ontario in Funding Carbon-Free Energy?

Steven Aplin has the details.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

California Sues EPA Over Auto Emissions

From the AP:

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) - California sued the federal government on Thursday to force a decision about whether the state can impose the nation's first greenhouse gas emission standards for cars and light trucks.

More than a dozen other states are poised to follow California's lead if it is granted the waiver from federal law, presenting a challenge to automakers who would have to adapt to a patchwork of regulations.

The state's lawsuit against the Environmental Protection Agency, filed in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., was expected after Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger vowed last spring to take legal action.

"Our future depends on us taking action on global warming right now," Schwarzenegger said during a news conference. "There's no legal basis for Washington to stand in our way."

At issue is California's nearly two-year-old request for a waiver under the federal Clean Air Act allowing it to implement a 2002 state anti-pollution law regulating greenhouse gases.

Eleven other states have adopted California's standard as a way to combat global warming and five others are considering it.

Another College Student for Nuclear Energy

Meet James Bickford.

Bruce Power Chief: No Free Lunch on Electric Power

From The Record (Ontario, Canada):

Alternative energy sources may have a role to play, but Ontarians should not expect them to replace nuclear power as the province's main source of electricity, the chief executive of Bruce Power told local Rotarians yesterday.

When surveyed, most people say they prefer wind, solar or hydroelectric power over nuclear energy because they think energy from renewable sources is "free," Duncan Hawthorne said.

"That's fair, except I can qualify them all with one word: 'Sometimes,' " he said. "Because sometimes the sun shines, sometimes the wind blows and sometimes the rain falls. We need energy on a stable basis."

"It's not reasonable to build a developed society out of any of those three things," he said.
I first heard Hawthorne speak at a Platts conference in 2005. Bruce is lucky to have him.

China Looks to Build Nukes in Interior Regions

Details from Forbes.

On Carbon Taxes

Yesterday the New York Times took a look at proposals for carbon taxes.

FuturePundit has some thoughts.

China Rejects Binding Emissions Limits

From the AP:

BEIJING,: China will reject any agreement that calls for binding limits on carbon dioxide emissions that will replace the Kyoto Protocol, an EU official said Wednesday.

Guido Sacconi, chairman of a visiting European Parliament delegation, said that was the impression he got after three days of talks in Beijing with government and environmental officials.

"In the private meetings we have had, particularly with Chinese politicians, there were of course some differences of opinion," Sacconi, who heads the European Parliament's Temporary Committee on Climate Change, told a news conference.

"The main difference is, unlike the European Parliament or the European Union, the Chinese believe that it will not be possible, in the agreement which follows the Kyoto Protocol, for China to accept any binding obligations — this was one difference between us."

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Report: Energy Considering Recycling Fuel from Closed Reactors

From Energy Daily (Subscription Only):

In next year's budget request, the Energy Department is planning to ask Congress for authority to take title to spent nuclear fuel stockpiled at closed U.S. nuclear plants and to reprocess it, most likely in France, sources tell The Energy Daily.

DOE officials in recent years have resisted congressional pressure to move spent fuel stockpiled at U.S. reactors to regional storage facilities, saying the Nuclear Waste Policy Act (NWPA) bars them from taking title to the fuel until the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository in Nevada is granted a Nuclear Regulatory Commission license.

Now, sources say, the department is planning to ask Congress to amend the NWPA to remove that limitation as part of its fiscal 2009 budget request to Congress, which DOE is in the early stages of preparing.

However, DOE's goal is apparently to transport it for reprocessing, most likely at La Hague in France, not to move the spent fuel to regional storage facilities in the United States as some lawmakers have requested. It is unclear whether DOE intends to ask for authority to take title only to fuel from closed plants, or to spent fuel stockpiled at operating U.S. reactors as well.

A DOE spokeswoman Tuesday would neither confirm nor deny that DOE was considering the recycling plan, but noted DOE was pursuing recycling options through its Global Nuclear Energy Partnership (GNEP) initiative.

Gwyneth Cravens on Palo Verde and Nuclear Power Plant Security

Gwyneth Cravens, author of Power to Save the World: The Truth About Nuclear Energy, recently took a tour of the Palo Verde Nuclear Power Plant:

By the end of the tour it became obvious to me that the slightest incident at a nuclear plant, even if it occurs far from any reactor and poses no risk to the public, is usually given three-alarm treatment by the media, whereas the large-scale, relentless, ongoing risks from fossil fuel combustion are ignored. Our biggest reliable sources of our basic electricity supply are fossil fuel plants and nuclear plants. There is nothing speculative about the fact that as coal combustion provides half of our electricity it causes the premature deaths of more than 24,000 Americans a year in addition to hundreds of thousands of cases of lung and heart disease. Is this acceptable?

Nuclear power, while providing one-fifth of our electricity and three-quarters of our emissions-free electricity, has never caused a single death to a member of the American public.
For the rest of our archive on Cravens, click here. Thanks to Rod Adams for the pointer.

Swiss Face Electricity Crunch

From 24 Heures:

Axpo is facing having to shut down two aging nuclear reactors at Beznau, while contracts for delivery of electricity from France are up for renewal. The country will have to find 2,000 megawatts of power to replace that lost from those sources. Karrer cited these figures as justifying the need for a new nuclear power plant. However, left-wing groups, who favor more energy conservation measures, are opposed to such a project because of concerns about nuclear waste. The country currently relies on nuclear power for 39 percent of its electricity needs.
Sounds a lot like Germany, doesn't it?

AREVA to Build First EPR in U.S.

Details from Marketwatch.

Greenpeace Works to Block Third Reactor in Brazil

Details from CNN.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Protesters Shut Down Washington Citibank Branch with Anti-Coal Message

From Life Cycle Analysis:

Bringing to a dramatic close the successful POWERSHIFT 2007 conference in Washington, D.C., hundreds of youth and community members converged on a downtown branch of the financial giant Citibank yesterday. In a unique "direct action," they dumped a half-ton of coal on the doorsteps of Citibank.

A delegation of coal-field residents and students went inside to denounce Citibank’s investments to their customers and employees. Out in the street, hundreds of youth began coughing violently, with a massive “die-in” surrounding the bank that shut down them down for the rest of the day.
Looks like it won't be the last.

German Press Finally Figures Out the Nuclear Energy Conundrum

Couldn't help but shake my head when I read this paragraph from Spiegel Online:

As energy companies plan several new coal-burning power plants to replace nuclear reactors, experts warn against the environmental impact. Cleaner technologies are not yet production-ready.
No kidding.

The equation is simple: Eliminate nuclear energy, get used to spewing more carbon.

For more from our archives on Germany, where we've been writing about this very problem for a couple of years now, click here. Thanks to Brian Davey at FEASTA for the link.

New Steam Generators Arrive at Diablo Canyon

Details from KSBY-TV.

Another College Student for Nuclear Energy

Meet Mike Otto at the University of Alberta.

Senator Clinton Releases Energy Policy Plan

In a speech yesterday in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Senator Hillary Clinton laid out her energy policy for her presidential campaign. Here's the passage on nuclear energy (PDF):

Addressing Nuclear Power: Hillary believes that energy efficiency and renewables are better options for addressing global warming and meeting our future power needs, because of significant unresolved concerns about the cost of producing nuclear power, the safety of operating plants, waste disposal, and nuclear proliferation. Hillary opposes new subsidies for nuclear power, but believes that we need to take additional steps to deal with the problems facing nuclear power. She would strengthen the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and direct it to improve safety and security at nuclear power plants; terminate work at the flawed Yucca Mountain site and convene a panel of scientific experts to explore alternatives for disposing of nuclear waste; and continue research, with a focus on lower costs and improving safety.
For other Clinton items from our archives, click here.

UPDATE: Some reactions here and here.

ANOTHER UPDATE: More here.

Another Blogger for Nuclear Energy

Here's Jay Reding:

The best analogy is the stock market: you’d be an idiot to hold all your money in one stock. Right now our portfolio is almost entirely based on oil, with a few alternative holdings. What we need is a diversified energy portfolio. Ethanol is one solution (although it’s economically inefficient, it’s politically popular). Biodiesel is one. Wind power is one. Hydroelectric power is another.

But there’s one issue that could significantly impact America’s energy independence, and that’s nuclear energy. The GOP needs to get behind the policy of removing the governmental roadblocks to safe, clean nuclear energy. It’s fundamentally conservative in that it involves removing governmental barriers to private enterprise. It’s also environmentally conscious in that modern nuclear technologies produce minimal waste and product significant amounts of power. As this excellent book points out, there is a strong case that nuclear energy needs to be a key part of America’s 21st Century energy agenda.

There isn’t a “magic bullet” to fix all of our energy woes. Instead, the GOP needs to be aggressively pushing a package of reforms that includes expanding domestic sources of energy, pushing for more efficiency through tax credits and other incentives, and bolstering several different alternative energy sources and letting the market determine which ones work and which ones don’t.
UPDATE: Andrew Sullivan likes what he's reading.

Entergy Creates Nuclear Energy Spinoff

From the Wall Street Journal:

Entergy Corp. plans to spin off about half of its nuclear-power plants and create the nation's first stand-alone, publicly traded nuclear-energy company, underscoring how the once-shunned nuclear sector is getting a lift from increasing anxiety about other methods of making electricity.

Less than a decade ago, Entergy was picking up distressed nuclear assets on the cheap. In one case, it bought a plant for little more than the value of fuel on hand. Now Entergy, a New Orleans company with utilities in four Southeastern states, estimates it will be able to take assets for which it paid about $2 billion and put them in a new company with a market value approaching $20 billion, according to Chief Executive Officer Wayne Leonard.

The move puts pressure on other big nuclear operators to consider similar action. CEO John Rowe of Chicago's Exelon Corp., the biggest owner of nuclear capacity in the U.S., said: "It's something we constantly look at." The company reaped most of its third-quarter profit from its nuclear fleet, not its regulated utilities.

U.S. policy makers are giving nuclear power new respect out of concern about emissions blamed for global warming from existing coal-fired plants, and they are increasingly pessimistic about prospects for new ones. Existing nuclear plants have more value as the estimated cost of building new units rises.
For more on the economics of nuclear energy, see our Financial Center.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Fighting Anti-Nuclear FUD in South Africa

Over the course of the past several weeks, I've noticed a lot of anti-nuclear activity coming out of South Africa. Now, by way of the blog Commentary, I see that it's bled through to the national television network there. Fortunately, not everyone is buying what they're selling:

More importantly though, one thing the anti-nuclear lobby in SA can never really explain is what we should be using instead of nuclear power. Because after all, this is all about choices: We still have a serious need to generate huge amounts of electricity, the only question is how we’re going to provide it. The standard alternative provided by environmental groups (and Carte Blanche) is to use wind or solar power instead, but this is like claiming you could use bamboo to build skyscrapers. Wind energy and solar power, while they have their place, are far too inefficient and unreliable to provide the continuous and reliable base-load power we need, and at best can only supplement traditional power generation options. It’s certainly not even feasible, economically or otherwise, to think about using solar or wind power to generate the electricity for even a smallish S.African city.

That leaves only two real options: Nuclear power or, alternatively, that big old dirty but reliable elephant in the room, coal. Nothing else provides the type of energy we require. So if we are to abandon nuclear power, as Earthlife Africa and others demand, the only true option available to SA is to build more coal power stations, regardless of their CO2 emissions. Is that really what these environmentalists want? I suspect most haven’t thought it through, since they choose to believe instead that nuclear power is a conspiracy by people who, I dunno, enjoy radiation or something and choose to ignore solar and wind power because they’re evil.

Fact is, faced with the combination of a severe power crunch and the looming shadow of global warming, nuclear power is the only power generation option that makes any sense and is available now. It provides safe, reliable and efficient power while emitting zero CO2. Frankly, I think it’s brilliant.
For more on South Africa from our archives, click here.

Czech PM Calls for Debate on Nuclear Energy

Details from the AP.

Life Without Vermont Yankee

Hitting the wires earlier today was an AP story out of Vermont that took a look at the debate about renewing the operating license of Vermont Yankee. It was hard not to get a little angry while reading it as the reporter, David Gram, allowed the opponents of the plant to repeat a an old saw about nuclear energy that keeps getting repeated over and over again ...

[James] Moore [Vermont Public Interest Research Group] said that comparison doesn't account for something often left out of the conversation when nuclear power is described as not generating greenhouse gases: Mining and processing the uranium fuel for nuclear plants is energy-intensive, and it depends on carbon-generating fossil fuels.
And even when you include those factors into the equation, the total lifecycle emissions of nuclear energy are still roughly comparable to renewables. And here's another beauty:
"For the average Vermonter, little to nothing would change," said James Moore, energy advocate with the Vermont Public Interest Research Group. "It shuts down on a regular basis, both planned and unplanned outages, and our lights don't go out."
Really? Turns out the folks in New England who are actually watching the grid don't agree.

UPDATE: We Support Lee has more.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Security Incident at Palo Verde Nuclear Power Plant

By now many of you have seen the panicked headlines over at the Drudge Report concerning a security incident at the Palo Verde Nuclear Power Plant, the largest in the nation. The following is the official statement about the incident from Arizona Public Service, the operator of the plant:

Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station Security personnel detected a small, suspicious device in the bed of a contract employee’s truck this morning as part of the normal security screening of all vehicles entering the site. The contractor was attempting to enter the site through the Security check-point at the beginning of the normal day shift.

Although initial checks did not detect any explosive material on the small capped pipe, the contractor was denied access to the site and detained for further investigation, and the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO) was contacted. MCSO bomb squad tests later determined that the capped pipe was a credible explosive device.

As a prudent measure, the Palo Verde site was placed in a security lock-down, with no further traffic entering or exiting the site. The site also declared a Notification of Unusual Event, which is the lowest of four Emergency Plan event classifications.

“Our Security personnel acted cautiously and appropriately, demonstrating that our security process and procedures work as designed,” said Randy Edington, APS Executive Vice President and Chief Nuclear Officer. “These actions are clearly in line with our goal of ensuring the health and safety of the public and our employees.”

While the device has been removed from the plant site by MCSO, they and the FBI will be investigating the event. Palo Verde is cooperating fully with the investigation.
For more information on safety and security at America's nuclear power plants, click here. For a fact sheet on the issue, click here.

And please, when it comes to Drudge and reports about nuclear energy, somebody has a tendency to exaggerate for effect.

UPDATE: From APS -- Lockdown terminated at 3:00 p.m. U.S. PDT.

OPG on the CANDU Reactor

Our friends at Ontario Power Generation have started to post their own videos, including this basic explanation on how their CANDU reactors at Pickering generate electricity.

Glenn Beck on the "No Nukes" Relapse

Here's a funny clip from late last week where CNN's Glenn Beck weighs in on the return of the musicians from the "No Nukes" era:

Thursday, November 01, 2007

New Nuclear for Minnesota?

Get the skinny from Minnesota Public Radio.

For a previous post on the state's energy situation from David Bradish, click here.

Renewables Industry Seeks to Secure Incentives

Details over at Atomic Insights.