Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Xcel Energy Plans for Monticello Expansion

Xcel EnergyMedia's raison d'etre—especially television—is to document events; answering the whowhatwherewhywhen of something happening, somewhere. It's remarkable, then, to see press coverage of a nonevent. From the Minneapolis-based Star Tribune,

As Xcel Energy makes plans to begin storing spent nuclear fuel in dry casks at its nuclear power plant in Monticello next month and pursues hopes of launching a $100 million expansion of the generating capacity at the 38-year-old facility next year, one element is missing:

Protests.

Xcel's plans have not triggered the superheated attacks from critics that usually accompany attempts to increase nuclear power production. There's been none of the outcry that occurred in the early 1990s, when the power company sought to increase radioactive waste storage at its Prairie Island nuclear facility.

One reason, some observers say, is that concerns about global warming, high energy prices and increasing demand for electricity are producing something of a global nuclear renaissance. As a result, even some lifelong environmentalists are starting to wonder if being anti-nuclear is such a clear-cut choice anymore.
Perhaps we're seeing the first signs of the spent fuel issue becoming ordinary?

3 comments:

Jim Muckerheide said...

"Perhaps we're seeing the first signs of the spent fuel issue becoming ordinary?"

It would have become "ordinary" long ago if the industry hadn't spent the last 20 years rabble-rousing about Yucca Mountain and "central storage," etc. This included industry's full-page newspaper ads claiming that fuel stored at plant sites is a great hazard vs. approving YM.

This was when there was no chance that YM would/could be opened in any reasonable timeframe (that NRC licensing and subsequent court proceedings, and the political/policy risk that YM would have been approved while YM was still on the critical path), and PFS was a dumb idea and would have put spent fuel on the road to instigate the "mobile-Chernobyl" crowd.

The industry failed to take advantage of working with Sen. Reid when he became majority leader to get his/Dem support for nucleaer power to "back off" pushing for YM (like to "give up" growing wings to fly :-).

There are still some in the industry who would consider putting spent fuel on the road for central storage before decisions/commitments to reprocess or to dispose of used fuel only if a decision is made that "nuclear power isn't necessary and is to be abandoned!?"

For years the industry has failed to heed the need for the industry to "sit down and shut up" about spent fuel storage and disposal, to simply (quietly) store it onsite (being paid for by the Feds!), and to get on with long-term reprocessing studies and building new plants, putting fuel on a non-critical path to be addressed over decades (since it will anyway - no wings).

Rod Adams said...

Jim:

I could not have said it better myself.

The industry certainly has it within its power to take the used fuel issue off the table and turn it into simply part of the cost of doing business.

Jim Muckerheide said...

Good point Rod, although I expect it's a savings rather than a cost. :-)

But then along comes the following news item from Platts!?

Search finds two potential sites for spent nuclear fuel storage
Washington (Platts)--30Jul2008

Two US communities are exploring the possibility of becoming the site of a commercial interim storage facility for utility spent nuclear fuel, according to the official leading the industry's site search.

Officials from each of the small, rural communities wanted to continue looking at a commercial storage facility after touring dry storage installations at two nuclear plants in June, Marshall Cohen, the Nuclear Energy Institute's senior director of legislative programs, said in an interview Wednesday.

He added that community officials will also meet with top-level nuclear fuel services executives in August to explore how a business plan might come together. Cohen would not name the communities but indicated they are in rural areas of states that already have nuclear power plants or nuclear businesses.

Ideally, the nuclear industry would like to see two interim storage sites -- one in the east and one in the west -- come out of this volunteer process, he said.

The fuel would be stored at the interim facilities until it could be moved to a repository now planned for Yucca Mountain, Nevada, for disposal. Each of the storage sites would be about 1,000 acres, he said.

More than 50,000 metric tons of spent nuclear fuel are now in storage pools or casks at the US' 104 licensed reactors after the Department of Energy failed to begin disposing of that fuel by a 1998 contract date.

Discussions have not yet gone to the state level, Cohen said. Some six or seven communities were initially involved in the industry search, he added.

Under legislation that Senator Pete Domenici, Republican-New Mexico, introduced June 27, communities that notify DOE they are willing to be have a privately owned and operated storage facility would receive $1 million a year for up to three years. If a storage facility is licensed, the community would receive up to $25 million each year the facility operates and $20 million when it is closed.