Thursday, January 31, 2008

An Interview With Patrick Moore

Michael Kanellos of CNet recently interviewed CASEnergy co-chair Patrick Moore. Here's an excerpt:

Q: When people look at your biography and see you're a Greenpeace co-founder and now a nuclear advocate, they don't believe it. Could you give us a synopsis of your personal history on this issue?
Moore: Well, actually I did feel a little lonely in that corner for a while, but I've been joined by the likes of Stewart Brand, Jared Diamond (author of Guns, Germs, and Steel), and (environmental author) Tim Flannery, and now we form a fairly serious phalanx of pro-nuclear environmentalists. In fact, I'm the honorary chair of the Canadian chapter of Environmentalists for Nuclear Energy, which has 9,000 members worldwide.

As a co-founder of Greenpeace, even though I was a scientist, I made the same mistake in those days as all the rest of my colleagues did. We kind of lumped nuclear energy in with nuclear weapons as if all things nuclear were evil. It was an honest mistake. We were totally focused on the threat of nuclear war during the Cold War. Nuclear testing was what Greenpeace started on and we were peaceniks, and I think it's fair to say that the antinuclear-energy movement to some extent was formed out of the peace movement.

But in retrospect, I believe we failed to make an important distinction between the peaceful versus the destructive uses of a technology. There are many technologies that are very good that can be used for destructive purposes. Cars can be made into car bombs as long as you have a little bit of fertilizer and diesel oil. Machetes have killed more people than any other weapon in the last 20 years, over a million, and yet they're the most important tool for farmers in the developing world.
For our Patrick Moore archive, click here.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Again, On Nuclear Energy and the Southern Drought

Here's a letter to the editor that NEI has been sending around the country in response to last week's AP wire on nuclear power plants and the drought in the American South:

Contrary to the impression given in the Associated Press article, "Drought could close Southern nuclear plants," (Jan. 24), all steam-based power plants (coal, nuclear, natural gas) potentially can have their operations affected by drought conditions.

The extent to which readers received a skewed account of the facts is most evident from the article's first sentence, which begins, "Nuclear reactors across the Southeast could be forced to throttle back." In reality, the percentage of electricity produced by coal-fired power plants exceeds the percentage of electricity produced by nuclear power plants in the following Southeast states: Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Maryland, Mississippi, North Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia.

Although the Southeast is suffering from drought conditions, the reality is water levels have not significantly impacted the ability of nuclear plants to operate as the most efficient and reliable power plants on the electric grid today. To the contrary, they were instrumental in meeting record electricity demand during the sweltering two-week heat wave last August.

By focusing only on nuclear plants and ignoring this broader context relevant to all steam-cycle power plants, the article rates as a journalistic "F."

Scott Peterson
Vice President
Nuclear Energy Institute

The Top 10 Things Environmentalists Need to Know

A great list from Depleted Cranium.

Another Blogger for Nuclear Energy

Visit Gadgetopia. Click here too.

Van Leeuwen and Smith's Egregious Mathematical Errors

Last month Leslie Berliant of Celsias asked Jan Willem Storm van Leeuwen if nuclear power is “free of greenhouse gas emissions.” For those who are unfamiliar with van Leeuwen, he and his colleague Philip Smith have been falsely claiming nuclear power’s lifecycle emissions will be higher than a fossil-fueled power station within several decades as high-quality uranium ore grades diminish. As I was reading the Celsias piece, the sentence below stopped me in my tracks:

Today the world nuclear capacity is around 370 GW, providing 2.1% of the world energy supply (see Part A - PDF).
2.1%? It's common knowledge around here that the actual share is about 6 percent, so I checked the reference. What I found was stunning.

In the debate about lifecycle emissions, the conclusions of both the antis and the pros depended mostly upon the assumptions of the analyses. But the error above wasn’t a matter of assumption, it was due to a complete lack of understanding of how certain energy statistics are calculated. The following table appears on page two from the source of the claim (PDF) and is the basis for the rest of this post. (The acronym SLS, stands for Storm van Leeuwen and Smith.)
The above table is trying to do two things. One is to show the amount of total energy consumed by fossil-fuels. The other is to show the amount of electricity produced by each energy source. Columns 6-8 are correct, columns 2-5 are not.

I’m sure the statisticians in the crowd have already spotted the error. But for those who are less numerically-inclined, here's some background on how energy units are derived before I jump in to debunk these conclusions.

Synopsis of energy units

Each fuel source contains different amounts of energy (heat) which can be measured in British thermal units (Btus). Examples: One short ton of coal contains about 20 million Btus. One cubic foot of natural gas contains a little more than 1,000 Btus. One uranium fuel pellet contains 19 million Btus -- nearly equal to a short ton of coal.

The tricky part of energy conversions is understanding how much heat is needed to generate electricity, drive a car, fly a plane or burn/fission any fuel source. According to EIA, it takes about 10,000 Btus of heat to generate one kilowatt-hour of electricity from nuclear and fossil-fuel plants (nuclear is slightly more). Therefore, one short ton of coal or a uranium fuel pellet will generate about 2,000 kWh. One cubic foot of gas will generate about 0.1 kWh.

However, only 3,412 Btus of heat are needed to generate one kWh, not 10,000 Btus. If this is the case, then why do coal, gas and nuclear plants need many more Btus to generate one kWh?

When converting thermal energy (heat) to mechanical energy (turning a turbine), energy is lost in the process. Most coal plants and all nuclear plants are steam power plants which use the Rankine cycle. This cycle loses about two-thirds of its energy to generate electricity. The newest "combined cycle" plants (heat rates of 7,500 Btus/kWh) are a combination of the Rankine cycle and Brayton cycle, hence the name combined cycle. This technology loses only 50-60 percent of the energy in the process instead of about 67 percent with steam plants.

Why do we care about these conversion figures? So we can calculate our energy supply and consumption into one primary energy unit like a Btu, joule or ton of oil equivalent (Toe). When converting all energy sources into one primary unit, we can derive and compare how much energy we use from all sources.

SLS’ first mistake

Their first mistake was using multiple sources to compare like figures. This mistake would hardly be enough to post about, but the multiple sources with different numbers confused them and ultimately revealed their flaw.

The International Energy Agency, Energy Information Administration and British Petroleum all report slightly different figures. EIA uses primarily Btus in their reporting, while BP and IEA use million tons of oil equivalents (Mtoes). Even though BP and IEA use the same units, the data sets still differ.

When SLS researched the data, they found the nuclear and hydro generation from BP but didn’t find the fossil and renewable generation. The reason was because BP didn’t publish them. SLS then tried to find a comparable stat using IEA and that’s where the trouble starts. The only fuel numbers from BP equivalent to each other are the Mtoes which can be found on page 40. These are the only numbers SLS should have used from BP.

SLS’ second mistake

Their second mistake (and the most egregious) was believing terawatt-hours and Mtoes can be equally converted to the same units (exajoules) in column 4. The “actually generated energy units” (columns 2-5) has to exclude the Mtoe of fossil fuels.

By including the Mtoes, they are actually counting fossil-fuels’ total energy supply and not excluding the losses from thermal conversion. This overstates fossil-fuels’ energy supply by nearly a factor of three.

As I explained earlier, energy is lost when generating electricity. SLS included the loss for nuclear yet failed to do the same for fossil fuels. Here’s what the incorrect columns should look like in a pie chart with data from IEA for 2005 (latest available, pdf):

Quotes by SLS

The contribution of nuclear power to the world energy supply is usually presented in an ambiguous way, due to statistical manipulations. (p. 2)

The reason for the inconstistencies in the statistics of BP and IEA is not clear. (P.3)

There is no ambiguity in counting kilowatt-hours and the reason for the inconsistencies is clear. It’s because the data are from two independent sources and they have different methodologies for reporting the data. If we compare the primary energy stats between the two (see IEA's data in chart below), we find they are close enough to each other except for hydro and renewables. Since hydro generation is only mechanical energy and not thermal, IEA does not account for any conversion losses. IEA does capture the renewable and biomass figures which BP does not. Thus the inconsistencies are clear.

More Quotes by SLS

More serious is the fact that this way of manipulating energy data conflicts with the First Law of Thermodynamics: energy cannot be produced, nor destroyed. (p. 5)

The above quote is hilarious. SLS attempts to account for their mistake by citing the First Law of Thermodynamics. Yet, the First Law, as shown in my synopsis above, has nothing to do with calculating energy statistics.

Conclusion

Some of you may be thinking I’m focusing too much on this one error. However, this one error represents a complete lack of knowledge for analyzing and calculating energy statistics. If SLS do not understand the differences between terawatt-hours, tons of oil-equivalents or joules, how can anyone believe what they say or write?

When investigating SLS’ Part A (PDF), it took me quite awhile to understand what they were writing. But once I understood, I figured out why so many people have come to believe these authors. It’s because they make energy statistics sound so complicated, they must be right.

The unfortunate truth is that they don’t understand the basic principles of energy statistics, and because the general public isn't schooled in the basics either, nobody notices the incredible and inexcusable mistakes that they continue to make.

Unfortunately for the global environmental movement, such mistakes -- sometimes inadvertent, sometimes on purpose -- continue to have a poisonous effect on the public debate, distracting us from the truth and leading many authorities to base public policy decisions on data that are erroneous and have no basis in fact.

This isn't a new idea. Here's Bjorn Lomborg in his preface to The Skeptical Environmentalist: Measuring the Real State of the World:

The idea for this book was born in a bookstore in Los Angeles in February 1997. I was standing leafing through Wired Magazine and read an interview with the American economist Julian Simon, from the University of Maryland. He maintained that much of our traditional knowledge about the environment is quite simply based on preconceptions and poor statistics. Our doomsday conceptions of the environment are not correct. Simon stressed that he only used official statistics, which everyone has access to and can use to check his claims.

[...]

In the fall of 1997 I held a study group with ten of my sharpest students, where we tried to examine Simon thoroughly. Honestly, we expected to show that most of Simon's talk was simple, American right-wing propaganda. And yes, not everything he said was correct, but -- contrary to our expectations -- it turned out that a surprisingly large amount of his points stood up to scrutiny and conflicted with what we believed ourselves to know.
As I said earlier, if you can't trust the numbers that SLS publish, how in the world can you trust their conclusions.

For a look into our archives where we've checked their math and challenged their conclusions, click here.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

WNA's Nuclear Financial Index

The World Nuclear Association and S-Network LLC have created a world nuclear financial index expected to become available by March.

A new index of 66 leading global nuclear companies has been created by a partnership of the World Nuclear Association (WNA) and S-Network LLC. Pending regulatory approval, financial products based on the WNA Nuclear Energy Index could be available by March.

The WNA Index is meant to provide a benchmark for the relative financial success of the nuclear industry. It is comprised of 66 globally traded companies, which either are 'materially influenced by industry development' or 'principally engaged' in nuclear energy because they generate 50% or more of their revenue from nuclear-related activity.

...

Committee member Joseph LaCorte of S-Network said: "It is difficult to isolate and capture the economic opportunities embedded in the global growth of nuclear energy." However, through its broad base he considers that "the WNA Index comes as close as possible."

The index breaks down by the following industry sectors:
  • Reactor vendors: 15%; four companies
  • Construction: 15%; eight companies
  • Nuclear fuels: 20%; nine companies
  • Power generation: 25%; 15 companies
  • Technology, equipment and services: 25%; 30 companies
The 66 firms have a total market capitalization of $1248.36 billion. The value of the index is calculated in real time by Standard & Poors Custom Indexes. The index's website details the rules by which the WNA Index is derived.

The WNA Index is expected to be used as the basis for exchange-traded funds (ETFs). It has already been offered for licence to financial institutions and the first WNA Index-based financial products could be offered before the end of March.

The Nuclear Resurgence and Reasonable Expectations

Over the past few days we've seen a number of announcements that have given some folks pause over the near-term prospects for a resurgence in the American nuclear energy industry. In particular, we've seen both SCANA in South Carolina and a group in Idaho headed by Warren Buffet pull away from plans to build reactors.

For some insight into why these decisions were made, I asked NEI's Vice President of Policy Development, Richard J. Myers, to weigh in with his thoughts:

We’ve seen a couple of announcements over the last few days that various companies are adjusting their plans for new nuclear generating capacity. Mid-American Energy announced that it will not pursue development of a new nuclear plant in Idaho – partly due to concerns about cost, partly because of difficulties in coming to terms with suppliers over risk-sharing. South Carolina Electric & Gas and Santee Cooper also announced that they would defer their application for a construction/operating license for a new reactor at Summer. Again, costs were cited as a factor in the companies’ decision to defer their license application.

No-one should be surprised.

These are tough times in the electric power business. The power industry must invest approximately $1 trillion by 2020 to upgrade and expand our electricity infrastructure – new power plants, efficiency programs, transmission and distribution, environmental control technology – at a time when input costs are increasing dramatically.

A recent assessment by the Brattle Group, a well-regarded consulting firm, shows that between 2004 and January 2007, the cost of steam generation plants, transmission projects and distribution equipment rose by 25-35 percent, compared to an 8 percent increase in the GDP deflator. The cost of gas turbines: Up by 17 percent in 2006 alone. Prices for wind turbines: Up by more than $400/kWe between 2002 and 2006. Prices for iron ore up by 60 percent between 2003 and 2006, and for steel scrap up by 150 percent. Aluminum prices doubled between 2003 and 2006, and copper prices almost quadrupled. Much of this is driven by double-digit economic growth in China and India.

These cost increases hit all new power plants – nuclear, coal-fired, gas-fired and renewables. Small wonder that companies are holding back, waiting to see if input costs moderate, before making billion-dollar investment decisions.

Here at the Nuclear Energy Institute, we’ve always tried to create reasoned expectations about new nuclear plant construction. We believe the renaissance of nuclear power in the United States will unfold over time, relatively slowly at first, particularly given the inputs to the project development process (not the least of which is limited availability of high-quality construction management expertise). We believe that we’ll see 4-8 new plants in the first wave – in commercial operation by 2015-2016. We also know the rate of construction depends on a range of factors (most beyond our control), including electricity market conditions, the capital costs of nuclear and other baseload technologies, commodity costs, environmental compliance costs for fossil-fueled generating capacity, natural gas prices, customer growth, and availability of federal and state support for financing and investment recovery.

If those first 4-8 plants are completed on schedule, within budget estimates, we believe a second wave would be under construction as the first wave reaches commercial operation. The confidence gained by completing the first projects on time and within budget estimates will support the decision-making process for the follow-on projects, and provide incentive for companies to invest in the expansion of the U.S. nuclear component manufacturing sector.

We must also recognize that these are large $5-7 billion projects, that such projects are inevitably subject to schedule delays, that we fully expect project ownership and project structures to change as companies get closer to build decisions, that we may well see new combinations of companies lining up behind certain projects, and that, yes, we may see some decisions not to move forward at this time.

We should also recognize that project cancellations and deferrals are not a uniquely nuclear phenomenon: 28,500 megawatts of new coal-fired capacity was announced in 2006 and 2007; 22,300 megawatts was cancelled.

And finally, decisions to delay or defer new nuclear projects takes nothing away from the inescapable fact that the United States needs more nuclear generating capacity, as part of a diversified electricity supply and demand management portfolio, to help meet the nation’s economic and environmental goals.
Thanks to Richard for sharing his insight with us.

Is Nuclear Energy Becoming a Non-Partisan Issue

I sure hope so. More from Elizabeth Souder in the Dallas Morning News.

Nuclear Energy on YouTube

Over the past couple of months, I've been gathering YouTube videos on nuclear energy into a single online group I call Clean, Safe Nuclear Energy. Check it out.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Can Flex-Fuel Cars Break OPEC?

Robert Zubrin says yes.

Should America Build More Nuclear Power Plants?

That's the question that Patrick Kiger at the Science Channel is asking his readers:

So what do you think? Should we build more nuclear power plants? Or should we focus harder on energy conservation and developing solar, wind and geothermal technologies instead?
The short answer, of course, is that we're going to need to build all of those things in order to both meet future demand and to maintain a diverse energy mix that promotes security of supply. There's plenty more, and I encourage our readers to stop by and let Kiger and the Science Channel community know what we think about the issue.

NEI's Nuclear Performance - December 2007

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

Preliminary estimates indicate nuclear generation in 2007 was approximately 807 billion kilowatt-hours (bkWh), breaking the 2004 record of 788.5 bkWh. Estimates place the nuclear fleet average capacity factor in 2007 at 91.8%, breaking the record of 90.1%, also set in 2004.

For the month of December 2007, the fleet average net capacity factor was 96.1 percent, about 1.5 percentage points higher than that of December 2006. Nuclear generation in the month of December was 71.7 billion kilowatt-hours, compared to 70.5 bkWh for December 2006.

NEI’s preliminary look at the data suggests that the record setting generation in 2007 is the result of: (a) approximately 10 fewer refueling outages occurring in 2007 than in 2005 and 2006; (b) fewer days of generation lost to maintenance outages than in 2004, 2005, or 2006; (c) the addition of 4.5 bkWh to fleet generation produced by the return of Browns Ferry 1; and (d) the addition of about 700 megawatts of uprates to nuclear plants since 2004.
For the report click here. It is also located on NEI's Financial Center webpage.

Friday, January 25, 2008

NEI's Energy Markets Report - January 14-January 18, 2008

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

Electricity peak prices increased $22-32/MWh at the Entergy and NEPOOL hubs. The four other hubs increased $8-10/MWh. Cold weather at the end of last week was to blame for the increased electricity prices (Platts, see pages 1 and 3).

Gas prices at the Henry Hub increased $0.51 to $8.27/MMBtu due to colder temperatures. This is the second highest weekly price over the past 12 months. Plentiful supplies of natural gas in storage and declining crude oil prices likely mitigated the extent of the price increases at many market locations (EIA, see pages 1 and 3).

Estimated nuclear plant availability remained at 94 percent last week. Grand Gulf 1 scrammed due to an electrical failure with the transformer cooling system. Palisades was shut down after one of its two main feedwater pumps tripped. Point Beach 1 declared an unusual event after an electrical transformer malfunctioned. Sequoyah 1 manually tripped due to lowering steam generator level. Palo Verde 3 was back online last week after being down for 109 days to replace its two steam generators (Platts and NRC, see pages 2 and 4).

Crude oil prices fell $3.40 from the previous week to $94.76/barrel. In recent months, the nominal price for crude oil has reached its highest level ever. However, as a percent of disposable income, today’s energy prices are still below the peak reached in 1981. During the third quarter of 2007, consumers spent an estimated 5.7 percent of their disposable income on energy versus 8.2 percent in the second quarter of 1981. In 1981, motor gasoline and fuel oil accounted for 64 percent of energy expenditures by consumers similar to the third quarter 2007’s share at 62 percent (EIA, see pages 1 and 3).

Uranium spot prices fell to $86 and $84/lb U3O8 last week according to UxConsulting and TradeTech. According to TradeTech, one seller last week successfully adopted a more aggressive approach offering uranium at deeply discounted prices to attract buyers (see pages 1 and 3).
For the report click here. It is also located on NEI's Financial Center webpage.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

What the AP Story on Water Use and Nuclear Won't Tell You

Here's another followup to yesterday's AP story on drought and nuclear energy that we referred to earlier today. Steve Kerekes, a colleague of mine who runs the media relations department for NEI, dealt directly with Mitch Weiss, the AP reporter who wrote the story. He dropped me the following note that he asked me to share with everyone:

Call me old-fashioned. When I studied journalism in college, and in my subsequent career as a reporter many moons ago, the goals to strive for in covering the news, beyond accuracy, were balance and context. Thus my disbelief at the refusal of the Associated Press over the past 24 hours to provide context for a story it moved on the wire yesterday with a Lake Norman, N.C., dateline. It’s running in newspapers across the country under headlines such as “Drought Could Force Nuke-Plant Shutdowns,” and the story opens, “Nuclear reactors across the Southeast could be forced to throttle back or temporarily shut down later this year because drought is drying up the rivers and lakes that supply power plants with the awesome amounts of cooling water they need to operate.”

In full, the nuclear-centric story runs more than 20 paragraphs and 1,000-plus words, yet the AP remarkably couldn’t find room to include four or five words of context explaining that ANY power plant that generates electricity by moving steam through a turbine and then uses cooling water to condense the steam can face a similar circumstance under drought conditions. No, AP insists, it wanted to focus strictly on nuclear power plants.

So what, in AP’s view, that readers may receive an incomplete view of this dynamic, given that an anti-nuclear critic is quoted in the article’s FOURTH paragraph saying, “Water is the nuclear industry’s Achilles’ heel.”

So what, in AP’s view, that the percentage of electricity produced by coal-fired power plants – exceeds the percentage of electricity produced by nuclear power plants in the following Southeast states: Alabama (55 percent coal, 23 percent nuclear), Arkansas (47 percent coal, 29 percent nuclear), Florida (32 percent coal, 14 percent nuclear), Georgia (63 percent coal, 23 percent nuclear), Kentucky (95 percent coal, 0 percent nuclear), Maryland (60 percent coal, 28 percent nuclear), Mississippi (39 percent coal, 22 percent nuclear), North Carolina (60 percent coal, 32 percent nuclear), Tennessee (65 percent coal, 26 percent nuclear) Texas (37 percent coal, 10 percent nuclear) and Virginia (47 percent coal, 38 percent nuclear).

In its conversations with AP while it was researching the story, NEI pressed the point that all steam-cycle power plants can be affected by drought conditions. When the story first hit the wire, NEI tried again to have a four- or five-word update included to provide the appropriate context.

No, says AP, “We wanted to focus on nuclear.”

Readers around the country can be forgiven today if they’ve come away with a misguided view of the nation’s energy alternatives going forward. The Associated Press isn’t inclined to clear it up for them.
Just another day at the office. As you can imagine, we'll be hunting down strings from this story for quite a while thanks to the AP. But hey, when you can buy a line from an anti-nuclear activist like the one that was served up yesterday, who cares about truth or context?

The Effects of a Shutdown Nuclear Plant

Lisa Black of the Chicago Tribune wrote a piece on the effects the shutdown Zion plant in Illinois has had on the community:

Ronald Schuster remembers exactly how he felt when he heard the Zion Nuclear Power Station would close, a decision that rocked the community that relied on it for much more than electricity.

"It was literally like someone got hit in the solar plexus," said Schuster, a radiation-protection safety officer who was herded into a meeting at 8:05 a.m. Jan. 15, 1998, to hear the news.

...

The plant's closing marked a crushing blow to blue-collar Zion, where it had served as the city's largest employer and taxpayer. Nearly 2,000 out-of-town contractors left town immediately, and the 860 regular full-time workers began looking for new jobs.

Some local businesses saw sales plummet by 25 percent to 30 percent, said Eugene Swindle, who said his auto shop lost up to $6,000 monthly when workers stopped coming in.

Across the street, a new owner of Dunkin' Donuts panicked when shift workers no longer filled the store at midnight, and he returned the store to its previous owner.

"The plant became a way of life in the community," said Mayor Lane Harrison, 57, who grew up in Zion. "We were relying on that one golden goose. ... Everybody was just hoping against hope that they wouldn't close."
You don't know what you will miss until it's gone. For more information on the economic benefits of a nuclear plant, click here.

On Nuclear Energy and Drought

Yesterday, the Drudge Report fronted an AP story by Mitch Weiss entitled, "Drought Could Force Nuke-Plant Shutdowns". To say the least, we're just a little exasperated around here, especially since we've gone to the trouble over and over again of letting folks know that water use isn't solely an issue for nuclear plants, it's an issue for any kind of electrical generating station that uses the steam cycle. Further, despite the claims of anti-nuclear activists, we don't believe this is a major issue.

The best short answer to this comes from Dr. Michael Ivanco, who wrote the following in a letter to the editor that was published by the Hamilton Spectator back in August 2006:

The impact of drought in Europe on electricity supply is not a "nuclear" problem, as the writer suggests, rather it affects all electricity generating stations that use a steam cycle: nuclear, coal, gas and oil.

These account for over 80 per cent of all electricity generated on our planet. While water shortages have caused some thermo-electric plants to scale back production, it is important to note that they have not been required to shut down.

During the heat wave that hit Europe in the summer of 2003, by contrast, the contribution of wind-generated electricity to the electrical grids was virtually zero, since the wind did not blow.

While the overall output of nuclear plants may vary slightly due to other weather conditions, it will not drop to zero as some renewable sources do.

The single largest nuclear facility in North America is in the middle of the desert in Arizona and it does not suffer from any drought-related setbacks, simply because water conservation was built into its design.

There is no technical reason preventing future plants from being built to minimize water usage.
Ok? Yet over and over again, packs of reporters continue to revel in their scientific illiteracy, by reporting the same talking points from anti-nuclear activists over and over again. Here is a list of all the posts we've done over the past few years concerning this issue:

NPR, the Steam Cycle and Nuclear Energy
On Nuclear Energy, Cooling and the Steam Cycle
Nuclear Energy, Increased Temperatures and the Truth About the Steam Cycle
The Truth About Nuclear Power and Increased Water Temperatures
Countering More Propaganda

Are these reporters lazy? Are they stupid? Is it a little bit of both? Who knows?

More on this momentarily. Stay tuned, you don't want to miss this.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Nuclear Energy Risks and Benefits in Perspective

Stan Gordelier, Head of the NEA Nuclear Development Division of the OECD, wrote a piece last month putting the risks and benefits of nuclear energy into perspective (pdf):

A continuing concern for the public and politicians is the safety of nuclear power. ENSAD, the Energy-related Severe Accident Database established by the Paul Scherrer Institute in Switzerland, contains data on over 18400 accidents, mainly between 1969 and 2000, of which 35% are energy-related, and 3117 of which are rated as severe (with five or more prompt fatalities).

...

During this period there has only been one severe hydro power accident in OECD countries, resulting in 14 prompt fatalities. There have been no OECD nuclear accidents in this "severe" classification.

...

Why then, does nuclear seem to provoke unique safety fears in the public mind? It could likely be some combination of the association with nuclear weapons, the fear of very low probability, but very large accidents, the fact that latent deaths are associated with cancer, a disease much feared in its own right (and cancer can affect "me", whereas oil and gas accidents generally impact those working with the industry, except for the huge accidents), and the publicity that nuclear attracts because of these factors.
Great insights. I recommend reading this five page brief because he gets into lifecycle emissions of different energies, sources of emissions by sector, fuel resources, accident risks and the world's appetite for energy.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Hawaii to Repeal Nuclear Moratorium?

Details from the Hawaii Reporter.

Pro-Nuclear Quote of the Day

From John Cole of Balloon Juice:

And I will say it again, even though it always rankles people. Three Mile Island was a success. It was not Chernobyl. It was not nuclear armageddon. No, that does not mean I am pining for meltdowns everywhere, but I think some perspective is necessary. While it damaged the reputation of the nuclear industry, no one was hurt. No radiation sickness. No spikes in cancer rates. It was a disaster, but it was a success.

Excluding nuclear energy from the possible ways to fulfill our energy needs in the future immediately makes you an unserious person, in my book.
Sorry I missed this last week.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Sweden Reconsidering Nuclear Phase-Out

While Sweden's Volvo might be having doubts about nuclear power, it seems like public opinion in that nation is turning against a previously approved nuclear phase-out.

More Nuclear Myth-Busting

A couple of folks are picking up on that list from Spiked that David Bradish posted a link to a few weeks back. Click here, here and here.

Quebec Looks to Overhaul Gentilly-2

Details from the Canadian Press.

Shaw Looking for Nuclear Engineers

It's a 4-6 year hitch to build in China.

A Repository, Not a Dump

Andrea Jennetta and Nancy E. Roth, the two minds behind the new blog, Fuel Cycle Week, have a challenge for their colleagues in the mainstream media:

Why do respected reporters and editors so often use the word “dump” in mainstream news stories on any kind of radioactive waste, including spent fuel from civilian reactors? “Dump” appears in reports on the Yucca Mountain project, proposed interim storage sites and even low-level waste facilities in South Carolina, Utah and Washington. The word is endemic in the popular media. No one gives it a second thought. But does “dump” fairly characterize these sites? No.
Absolutely.

For more on how the nuclear industry takes care of used nuclear fuel and nuclear waste, click here. And let me welcome Jennetta and Nancy to the blogosphere, we're glad you're here.

Thanks to the indefatigable Dan Yurman for the pointer.

Another Blogger for Nuclear Energy

Visit Mike's Space.

Friday, January 18, 2008

What About South Carolina?

S.C. Politics Today poses an interesting question:

The chance juxtaposition of the Nevada and South Carolina primaries creates a Yucca problem for presidential candidates. In Nevada, the Democrats have been competing with each other to claim they are the most opposed to sending nuclear waste to the proposed Yucca Mountain facility there.

Next week, those same candidates will be in South Carolina, the state that would benefit the most from the opening of the Yucca Mountain depository. For years, federal officials have pledged nuclear waste stored at the Savannah River Site near Barnwell would be shipped to Yucca Mountain.

At a campaign stop in Nevada on Thursday, Democratic contender Barack Obama responded to a new Clinton radio ad that accused him of having financial ties to supporters of the Yucca Mountain site.

"I have said over and over again I'm against Yucca," Obama said. "I'm against Yucca Mountain. I think the science is not there. I've never, I've never been for Yucca. Never been for it. Never said I was for it.

"Suddenly you've got the Clinton camp out there saying, `He's for Yucca.' What part of I'm not for Yucca do you not understand?" he said, then laughed along with his audience.

How will the audiences in South Carolina react to that kind of talk?

More on the Nuclear Comeback

The American takes a closer look.

The California Nuclear Moratorium and Breast Cancer Treatment

Over at Pajamas Media, Dr. Linda Halderman writes about the connection.

Press Weighs In on Democrats and Yucca Mountain

That Democratic Presidential debate on Tuesday night in Nevada keeps kicking up some dust.

Here's USA Today:

Yucca Mountain thus becomes the latest evidence of why it's so destructive to give a few early-voting states so much clout in the presidential selection process. Already this year, candidates have gone to Iowa and promised support for wasteful corn-based ethanol, and to Michigan and pledged fealty to the ailing auto industry. In both cases, candidates catered to a single state's interests by promising bad policy for the nation.

Now Nevada joins the list.

At Tuesday's debate in Las Vegas, Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and John Edwards all vowed to block the remote Yucca Mountain site if they become president — but failed to offer any alternative except more study.

In a singularly disingenuous bit of political jiu-jitsu, Edwards (who twice voted for Yucca Mountain) said he opposed using the site and then said he opposed building any more nuclear power plants because there's no safe way to dispose of the waste.

In an only slightly less irresponsible comment, Obama said he opposed dumping at Yucca even though his home state of Illinois has the most nuclear plants. Let's see whether we follow the logic: His state is contributing more to the problem than any other, but he opposes the only likely solution.

Clinton said she opposed the Yucca site — and attacked Obama and Edwards for not being quite as opposed as she is. Frankly, it was hard to tell the difference.
Here's Investor's Business Daily:
But there may be an even better solution: Recycle spent fuel rods to produce even more greenhouse-gas-reducing nuclear energy.

Over the past four decades, America's reactors have produced about 56,000 tons of used fuel. Jack Spencer, research fellow for nuclear energy policy at the Thomas A. Rowe Institute for Economic Policy Studies, says this "waste" has enough energy to power every U.S. household for a dozen years.

As we've noted, France long ago achieved energy independence by relying on nuclear energy for most of its power needs. But it also leads the world in processing this waste to create even more energy.

The French have reprocessed spent nuclear fuel for 30 years without incident. There have been no accidental explosions, no terrorist attacks, no contribution to nuclear proliferation. Their facility in La Hague has safely processed more than 23,000 tons of spent fuel, or enough to power the entire country for 14 years.

The U.S. pioneered the technology to recapture that energy decades ago, then banned its commercial use in 1977. An energy plan that does not involve continued and even increased use of nuclear power is no plan at all. And even if we closed all nuclear plants tomorrow, the waste problem would remain.

Power to the people — nuclear power.
UPDATE: More from NAM Blog and The Weekly Standard.

Sproat ‘Cautiously Optimistic’ About 2008 Yucca License Application Despite Budget Cuts

The following is an early release of a story that's scheduled to run in the Monday, January 21 edition of Nuclear Energy Overview, NEI's members only publication. It was written by my NEI colleague, Rich Bickers:

The Energy Department’s director of radioactive waste management last week told Nevada legislators and the Nuclear Waste Technical Review Board that a 2008 license application for the Yucca Mountain repository is still possible, even though the agency continues to evaluate the impact of a more than $100 million reduction in the repository program’s 2008 budget.

The projected 2017 opening date for the repository, however, is no longer achievable, Ward Sproat, director of DOE’s Office of Civilian Radioactive Waste Management, told the Nevada State Legislative Committee and the review board at meetings last week in Nevada. Sproat said DOE expects to decide on a new projected opening date sometime this spring.

Sproat said that the license application process was still on schedule as of Jan. 1 and that, although the scheduled June submittal is uncertain, he is “cautiously optimistic” that a license application can be submitted this year. The agency in December completed the repository and surface facility design work necessary for completion of the license application, he said. But Sproat said he cannot be certain of a submittal this year until the agency completes an evaluation currently under way to determine the effects of the budget cut.

“I cannot stand behind the June ’08 date until the evaluation is done,” he said.

The department also is developing a “layman’s version” of the Yucca Mountain application to help the public better understand the process, Sproat said. DOE will issue the public-friendly version when it submits the license application to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

Construction on the Nevada rail lines that will serve Yucca Mountain—scheduled to start in October 2009—will be delayed at least two years as a result of the existing funding shortfall.

During the remainder of the daylong review board meeting, DOE scientists described the project’s latest analytical results, previewing some of the work that will make up the license application.

“It is encouraging to see the extent to which the scientific and technical effort has progressed,” said Rod McCullum, NEI’s director for the Yucca Mountain project. “Industry now expects the department to focus its resources and finish compiling this work into a high-quality license application. And submitting that application to the NRC so that the licensing process—in which the ultimate safety of the repository can be objectively and rigorously assessed—can begin.”

Blogger Asks Questions About Yucca Mountain

Flopping Aces watched Tuesday's Democratic debate from Nevada, and has some questions for each of the candidates.

Is Nuclear Energy Renewable?

A member of the South Carolina legislature ponders the question.

Greenpeace's Jim Riccio Gets it Wrong

Yesterday on WNYC-FM's Brian Lehrer Show, Gwyneth Cravens, author of Power to Save the World: The Truth about Nuclear Energy, made a joint appearance with Jim Riccio, Nuclear Policy Analyst for Greenpeace.

Normally, I'd suggest that you take a listen, but given the fact that Riccio spent most of the interview talking over Cravens and not letting her get a word in edgewise, I'm afraid there's not much to recommend it. However, there was one point of contention between the two guests that I think bears closer examination.

At one point during the interview, Cravens made the point that there hasn't been any other core meltdowns of a commercial nuclear reactor in the U.S., at which point Riccio started berating Cravens about Fermi 2, and how she should have read a book by John G. Fuller called We Almost Lost Detroit concerning the accident.

Fermi 2 is a 1,098 MWe General Electric boiling water reactor owned by DTE Energy and currently still in operation. There has never been a core accident there.

Instead, Riccio was probably referring to Fermi 1, an experimental breeder reactor that is currently in the process of decommissioning. I'll let NRC tell the rest of the story (I've inserted a couple of line breaks to help with readability):

The Enrico Fermi Atomic Power Plant, Unit 1 (Fermi 1) was a fast breeder reactor power plant cooled by sodium and operated at essentially atmospheric pressure. The reactor plant was designed for a maximum capacity of 430 Mwt; however, the maximum reactor power with the first core loading (Core A) was 200 Mwt. The primary system was filled with sodium in December of 1960 and criticality was achieved in August 1963. The reactor was tested at low power in its first couple years of operation. Power ascension testing above 1 Mwt commenced in December 1965, immediately following receipt of the high power operating license.

In October 1966, during a power ascension, a zirconium plate at the bottom of the reactor vessel became loose and blocked sodium coolant flow to some fuel subassemblies. Two subassemblies started to melt. Radiation monitors alarmed and the operators manually shut down the reactor. No abnormal releases to the environment occurred. Three years and nine months later, the cause had been determined, cleanup completed, fuel replaced, and Fermi 1 was restarted.

In 1972, the core was approaching the burnup limit. In November 1972, the Power Reactor Development Company made the decision to decommission Fermi 1. The fuel and blanket subassemblies were shipped offsite in 1973. The non-radioactive secondary sodium system was drained and the sodium sent to Fike Chemical Company. The radioactive primary sodium was stored in storage tanks and in 55 gallon drums until the sodium was shipped offsite in 1984. Decommissioning of the Fermi 1 plant was originally completed in December 1975. The site has been in a SAFSTOR status, awaiting final decommissioning.
So yes, there was a partial core meltdown at Fermi 1, but it was contained, no radiation was released, no one was injured and after a time, the reactor was restarted.

Fermi 1 was an experimental breeder reactor, not a commercial light water reactor like the 104 currently in operation in the U.S. So, Cravens' claim was correct.

I will admit, however, that I've never read We Almost Lost Detroit (Fermi is actually slightly closer to Toledo, but I guess that wouldn't have been as dramatic). However, I did take a look at the Wikipedia entry regarding its late author, Mr. Fuller. It makes for interesting reading (again, I've added a line break):
John Grant Fuller, Jr. (1913 - 1990) was a New England-based American author of several non-fiction books and newspaper articles, mainly focusing on the theme of extra-terrestrials and the supernatural. For many years he was a regular columnist for the Saturday Review magazine. His three most famous books were The Ghost of Flight 401, Incident at Exeter, and The Interrupted Journey. The Ghost of Flight 401 was based on the tragic Eastern Air Lines airplane crash in December 1972, and the alleged supernatural events which followed; it was eventually turned into a popular 1978 made-for-television movie.

Incident at Exeter concerned a series of well-publicized UFO sightings in and around the town of Exeter, New Hampshire in the fall of 1965. Fuller personally investigated the sightings and interviewed many of the eyewitnesses, he also claimed to have seen a UFO himself during his investigation. The Interrupted Journey tells the story of the Betty and Barney Hill abduction. The Hills were a married couple who claimed to have been abducted in 1960 by a UFO in the White Mountains of New Hampshire while on vacation ...
You can always count on Greenpeace to reference the latest in peer reviewed science. [Sigh.]

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Matt Yglesias: Now and Then on Nuclear Energy

It looks like Adam Blinick's post at TNR has kicked off a little debate. Over at The Atlantic, Matt Yglesias had this to say:

We'll be weaned off the dastardly power, perhaps, with nuclear powered cars?
What about plug-in hybrids? The idea here is simple: If you generate electricity with a non-emitting source like nuclear, you can power plug-in hybrids while cutting the emission of carbon and other particulate matter like sulfur dioxide and nitrous oxide, which would deliver the added benefit of helping to avoid acid rain.

Yglesias continues:
I have no problem with the idea that putting a proper price on carbon might lead to good things for the nuclear power industry, but the issue in practice is that nuclear advocates are busy demanding large subsidies. It makes sense to some extent to subsidize clean sources of electricity, but we should target subsidies on really, truly clean sources of power -- and nuclear's not that.

The idea that dastardly anti-nuclear activists are the main thing standing between us and a halt to global warming is, I guess, a neat contrarian conceit but it really doesn't stand up to much scrutiny.
First, as to the charge that nuclear is not "truly clean". I ask that Yglesias take a look at some of the myriad ways that adding nuclear energy to the nation's energy mix supports the environment.

Next, I'm very, very tired of the subsidies canard. So instead of rehashing arguments, I'll just refer everyone back to the posts that Richard Myers did a few months back regarding the issue (Parts I, II and III). For more on energy and U.S. government subsidies, click here.

As to his declaration about anti-nuclear activists, nobody here has ever written that they alone were responsible for the industry's bad fortune that began in the 1970s. Here in the nuclear industry, we're very honest about the challenges we face when it comes to kicking off a the next generation of nuclear build.

That being said, this blog exists, in large part, to directly answer many of the scurrilous charges that anti-nuclear activists serve up -- including activists who are quite willing to admit, as we've seen, that the science doesn't matter. As we've demonstrated here at NEI Nuclear Notes over and over again, many of these claims have little scientific basis in fact, but that doesn't stop journalists from repeating them and forcing us to painstakingly debunk them over and over again.

The work of anti-nuclear hysterics like Joseph Mangano, Helen Caldicott and their confederates with Greenpeace are doing serious damage to the public debate. So while I'm glad that Yglesias understands that nuclear energy's non-emitting character could contribute mightily to fighting climate change, I'm disappointed he doesn't recognize the damage that many anti-nuclear activists do globally on a day-to-day basis.

In the end, I'll leave you with something Yglesias wrote over at The American Prospect in 2005:
Much as liberals may think we should increase our use of clean fuels like wind, solar, and hydro power -- and we should! -- it's simply not feasible to meet current electricity demand through these routes, much less meet current demand plus the additional demand imposed by economic growth plus the additional demand imposed by the need to move away from gasoline. That means looking at nuclear power -- which has fallen into disfavor out of a mix of irrational fear and the fact that Nevada is a swing state -- to do some of the work for us.
Amen.

An Appeal for Unity on Nuclear Energy

After hearing John Edwards declare his outright opposition to nuclear energy during Tuesday's Democratic debate in Nevada, Adam Blinick of The New Republic wrote ...

Gwyneth Cravens's illuminating Power to Save the World: The Truth about Nuclear Energy dispels many of the myths about nuclear energy that Edwards' position helps prop up. For example, she notes coal plants emit more radiation than nuclear ones. (In fact, humans get more radiation from medical x-rays or flying round-trip from New York to L.A. than living near a nuclear plant). Also, Cravens argues that nuclear energy plants are almost completely risk-free regarding nuclear weapons proliferation (it's a different enrichment process) and potential terrorist attacks (U.S. plants are simply too secure). She also makes the argument that we likely have safe ways of disposing of nuclear waste, even at Yucca Mountain.

For all the empty "unity" rhetoric that inevitably is present during an election cycle, nuclear energy--if looked at with sober eyes--provides a real opportunity for the left and right to get together and tackle three of today's greatest challenges: national security, energy independence, and climate change.
Hmmm. Where have we heard that before? For more on the Cravens book, click here for a look at our archives.

UPDATE: Matt Zeitlin has some thoughts on Edwards and his anti-nuclear stance.

10 Green Arguments for Nuclear Power

Over at Planetsave, Shirley Siluk Gregory, a self-described nuclear skeptic, has just finished reading James Lovelock's book, The Revenge of Gaia. Though she still has her doubts about nuclear energy, that didn't stop her from compiling 10 Green Arguments for Nuclear Power. Give it a look.

Science Not Good Enough for Greenpeace

Here's a clip from Britain that demonstrates exactly what Patrick Moore was talking about when he explains why he left Greenpeace:

That's right, when it comes to Greenpeace and nuclear energy, the science doesn't matter. I guess it must be the hysteria.

NEI's Energy Markets Report - January 7-January 11, 2008

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

Electricity peak prices decreased $10-50/MWh at the Eastern hubs as temperatures returned to normal. The Western hubs increased only $1-2/MWh (Platts, see pages 1 and 3).

Gas prices at the Henry Hub rose $0.23 to $7.75/MMBtu. The Rockies Express Pipeline (REX) last week began providing interim service with a capacity of about 1.4 billion cubic feet (Bcf) per day to a gas delivery point in Kansas. By 2009, the proposed 1,679-mile gas pipeline is expected to reach Ohio from Colorado and will be the first pipeline to directly supply gas from the West to the Eastern markets (EIA and REX LLC, see pages 1 and 3).

Estimated nuclear plant availability remained at 94 percent last week. River Bend 1 began a refueling outage. Dresden 3 shut down for maintenance on a steam line after receiving low steam pressure indications (Platts and NRC, see pages 2 and 4).

Crude oil prices rose $2.78 from the previous week to $98.90/barrel. This is the highest weekly price over the past year. Ten of the past 11 weeks have seen oil prices above $90/barrel (EIA, see pages 1 and 3).

Uranium spot prices were $89.50 and $89.00/ lb U3O8 last week according to UxConsulting and TradeTech. Over the past 11 weeks uranium spot prices have remained between $89 and $93/lb U3O8 (see pages 1 and 3).

Last week’s spark spread beat the spark spread from three weeks as the largest negative spark spread over the past 52 weeks. The negative spread was $9.98/MWh last week versus $9.75/MWh three weeks ago (see page 1).
For the report click here. It is also located on NEI's Financial Center webpage.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Michael Mariotte from NIRS Needs to Update His Cost Sources

Tampa Tribune’s “Nuclear Costs Explode” piece provided some updated insights to the estimated costs of a new nuclear plant. The article began with Progress Energy’s cost reassessment of a new nuke from an initial estimate of about $5-7 billion per plant. “Based on new industry estimates, the tab for Progress Energy's project could surpass $10 billion.” The reason for the increase:

because the cost of concrete, steel, copper, labor and reactor technology has soared as energy companies move forward with plans to build more than 30 new reactors nationwide. Also, Progress Energy's initial estimate excluded the cost of land, inflation, interest payments and new transmission lines.



A September 2007 report commissioned by the Edison Electric Institute, a nonprofit trade group for the nation's electric utilities, showed that steel prices have risen 60 percent since 2003. Copper prices nearly quadrupled between 2003 and 2006 and cement prices rose 30 percent during the same period, the report said.
The nuclear industry is keenly aware of these commodity price increases, so this wasn’t exactly news. What caught my attention, though, was the quote from Michael Mariotte of the Nuclear Information and Resource Service:
"Moody's is closer to the reality we're seeing," said Michael Mariotte, executive director of the Nuclear Information and Resource Service, a nonprofit group opposed to nuclear power. "Even before they start building, the costs are going up. Meanwhile, the cost for solar, wind and energy efficiency are on a downward trend."
Notice the last sentence. Apparently Mr. Mariotte is unaware solar and wind rely on these commodities as well. It would be shortsighted for him to think commodity prices only affect nuclear plants.

When pulling together updated sources for Mr. Mariotte, I found little cost information for solar. The prime reason is because only 100 MW of solar capacity have come online in the past three years compared to nearly 11,000 MW of wind since 2005 (source: Global Energy Decisions’ database). The cost trends for wind are easily measured. In contrast, solar data is sparse.

Below are several pieces on the effect of increasing commodity prices on the wind industry. Here’s a New York Times piece from July 2007:
Renewable energy is not immune. “Costs have increased for wind as they have for other technologies,” said Christine Real de Azua, a spokeswoman for the American Wind Energy Association. “While wind farm operations are not hit by fuel price volatility, steep increases in the cost of raw materials like copper and steel and other factors have driven up the price of wind turbines,” she said in an e-mail statement.

Her association recently republished data from a utility that buys large amounts of wind power, Puget Sound Energy, showing that prices in 2006 ranged from about 8 cents to 10.5 cents a kilowatt-hour, up from 2004, when it was 4.5 to 6 cents. A recent study by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, part of the Department of Energy, showed a steadily declining price from 1999 to 2005, but an increase in 2006. The study said that wind power was generally competitive with other sources of energy but that rising costs were “starting to erode that value.”
Here is the NREL Annual Report on wind (pdf) the NYT references:
More recently, however, costs have increased: among our sample of projects built in 2006, reported installed costs ranged from $1,150/kW to $2,240/kW, with an average cost of $1,480/kW – up $220/kW (18%) from $1,260/kW in 2005.

Moreover, there is reason to believe that recent increases in turbine costs did not fully work their way into installed project costs in 2006 – the average 2006 cost estimate for proposed projects in our sample (not shown in Figure 18) was $1,680/kW, or $200/kW higher than for projects completed in 2006. Anecdotal information from industry suggests that project costs may reach an average of $1,800/kW or higher in future years. (p. 15)
EIA’s Annual Energy Outlook 2007 (pdf) published nearly a year ago devoted six pages to the “Impacts of Rising Construction and Equipment Costs on Energy Industries”:
Costs related to the construction industry have been volatile in recent years. Some of the volatility may be related to higher energy prices. Prices for iron and steel, cement, and concrete—commodities used heavily in the construction of new energy projects— rose sharply from 2004 to 2006, and shortages have been reported. (p. 36)
For the best source on recent construction price increases, check out the Edison Foundation’s (EEI) “Rising Utility Construction Costs” paper (pdf). This paper analyzes the effects construction commodity prices have had on the entire power sector. What the reader may be wondering, though, is what’s causing these prices to increase. Read below:
Broadly speaking, there are four primary sources of the increase in construction costs: (1) material input costs, including the cost of raw physical inputs, such as steel and cement as well as increased costs of components manufactured from these inputs (e.g., transformers, turbines, pumps); (2) shop and fabrication capacity for manufactured components (relative to current demand); (3) the cost of construction field labor, both unskilled and craft labor; and (4) the market for large construction project management, i.e., the queuing and bidding for projects. (p. 13)
Electricity consumers beware; check out the last sentence in the conclusion:
In the long run, customers ultimately will pay for higher construction costs—either directly in rates for completed assets of regulated companies, less directly in the form of higher energy prices needed to attract new generating capacity in organized markets and in higher transmission tariffs, or indirectly when rising construction costs defer investments and delay expected benefits such as enhanced reliability and lower, more stable long-term electricity prices.
The nation faces a tremendous challenge in rebuilding and expanding the infrastructure that provides the reliable electricity on which our economy now depends. Electricity prices are expected to rise substantially in the next 10 years as utilities tackle the backlog of generation and transmission projects needed to replace outdated plants and meet new demand. The rise in commodity, labor, and component prices is affecting projected costs for all new electric generating projects, not just (and not uniquely) nuclear.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Another Blogger for Nuclear Energy

Visit the Greenby Blog.

Italy Looking at Nuclear Again

From Reuters:

Simmering debate of a nuclear energy relaunch in Italy, banned 20 years ago in a referendum, got a fresh boost on Wednesday with the news that major utilities were to draft a plan to build nuclear power stations.

A newly created think tank Energy Lab, which includes experts from leading Italian utilities A2A A2.MI and Edison, will soon start a feasibility study to build at least three or four nuclear power plants in Italy, a source familiar with the situation said, confirming a report in Il Sole 24 Ore.
Great news!

Reuters Report on New Nuclear Build in the U.K.

Found this clip on YouTube today that gives a nice overview of the decision by the U.K. government to approve a new generation of nuclear power plants.

As for the Greenpeace spokesman who claimed that replacing gas-fired generation with nuclear-generated electricity wouldn't make a dent in greenhouse gas emissions, how in the world does he explain why France, which generates about 75% of its electricity from nuclear energy, has one of the smallest carbon footprints in the world?

For more on total lifecycle emissions, click here.

AREVA and Siemens Snag Bulgaria Contract

Details from EarthTimes.

Belarus Approves New Nuclear Build

Details from ITAR-TASS. This is the same project we first mentioned last October.

The Presidential Candidates on Energy Policy

MarketWatch looks at the particulars.

Another Blogger for Nuclear Energy

Meet Lou Guzzo.

UPDATE: Also, visit Roy's Rants.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Ireland Considers New Nuclear Build

Now that the U.K. seems poised to embark on building a new generation of nuclear power plants, Ireland -- which already draws on nuclear-generated electricity from the U.K. grid -- is considering its options.

Rod Adams has some more thoughts. For more, click here.

Czech Prime Minister Calls for European Nuclear Energy Expansion

From Wiener Zeitung (Austria):

Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek has called for a "renaissance" of nuclear energy throughout Europe. He said: "If Austria has decided not to produce nuclear energy, it is its decision and its problem."

He has also stated that the 2000 Austrian-Czech Melk Agreement on safety standards at the Czech nuclear-power plant at Temelin has outlived its usefulness. "In my opinion, the Melk Agreement is not binding in terms of international law. The hysteria about Temelin has been artificially stimulated," he said. Austria should concern itself with safety standards at nuclear-power plants in other countries whose "safety standards are lower than ours," Topolanek added.
Which reminds me, Austria does have a nuclear power plant it could restart.

Heh. For more on Temelin, which welcomes 27,000 visitors a year, click here.

California Wants to Control Your Thermostat

Interesting piece from the pages of the International Herald Tribune. Joe Somsel, a one-time contributor to NEI Nuclear Notes, makes an appearance.

New NRC Photo Gallery

Click here to check it out.

Eskom Seeks Bids for New South African Reactors

Eskom has invited AREVA and Westinghouse to submit bids.

Obituary: Herbert J.C. Kouts, Nuclear Power Safety Expert

Herbert J.C. Kouts, an important figure in the early years of the development of the American nuclear energy industry, has died at the age of 88 at his home on Long Island. In an obituary in today's edition of the New York Times, Matthew Wald quotes a passage from Kouts that was included in an appendix to a New York State-sponsored report issued in 1983 about the Shoreham Nuclear Power Plant on Long Island. As many of you might recall, the plant was shut down by local opposition even as it was just about to being commercial operation:

In an appendix to the commission’s report, Dr. Kouts said: “All careful analysis confirms that the risk of nuclear power is small. The chance of a large accident is very low, and consequences of such an accident would be substantially less than most people think.”

“In the United States, the near-term risk of doing without nuclear power is the risk attached to using oil or coal instead,” he wrote. “The problems that these cause include acid rain; enormous balance-of-payment problems in the case of oil; the risk of war to ensure oil supplies; carcinogens in the air as oil and coal are burned; heavy metals such as mercury, lead and uranium emitted to the atmosphere as coal burns; black lung disease as coal is mined; vast areas of the country ruined as coal is strip-mined, etc.”
Wise words, indeed. Here's hoping that New Yorkers considering the fate of Indian Point take heed of them.

UPDATE: More from Steven J. Dubner of Freakonomics fame and Nick Loris of the Heritage Foundation.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Who's who in opposing credible information on new baseload energy?

You gotta love truth in advertising.

If I were opposed to a new power station no matter how safe, clean, reliable, or necessary it were, no matter how much benefit it brought to a community, how could I chose a name for an organization that would communicate exactly that?


How, for that matter, could I get people to rally to my cause?

Could I make frightening insinuations without actually making any false accusations?

Could I put up a website introduced with a bunch of ominous questions, to encourage my readers to reach my own scary conclusions, absent any facts?

Could I come up with a name for my new organization that made it clear I planned to deal in fear-mongering rather than facts?

Could I tell people the site was run by anonymous concerned citizens (sounds friendly and credible enough) rather than use any names that people could associate with a history, bias, or performance?


Maybe none of these questions matter, really. Or maybe someone at Panic Calvert Cliffs.org would have some reasoned, rational, factual answers to these questions. I'm guessing those answers would put to rest any concerns you could have that any group of people would try to ban together in order to generate dialogue based on fear rather than information. No one would trade in fear and emotion when the factual information supported their cause, and then hope to be taken seriously on ... anything.
You think?
I do not doubt his/her/their sincerity. It is possible to be deeply, entirely sincere and still be mistaken. I know I have been so, in the past. But here in this blog you can see what I've had to say, because my name is attached to all my blog posts. As of this writing, you cannot see who might claim responsibility for the new organizaion named PANIC.

As most of the people of Southern Maryland already know, there is a simple response for this (as well as a good reason the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy outsold the Encyclopedia Galactica):

(but the rest of my advice is always, of course, check the accuracy of the information available to you, by independent sources, whenever possible)

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IBD on America and Nuclear Energy

From Investor's Business Daily:

Most of France's electricity has been generated by nuclear power for years, and now Great Britain is again looking to atomic energy. Why can't we increase nuclear output in this country?
Why indeed?

"Nuclear Power is progressive."

One of my old favorites in the Blogosphere is James Lileks. In today's Bleat, he gets around to redefining some old and cherished political ideas:

Nuclear power is progressive; the status quo, in place for twenty years, still thinks “The China Syndrome” is a documentary. I know it’s a different definition of progressive, but heck: redefining “progressive” is progressive.
Thanks to our buddy Carter Wood at NAM Blog for the pointer.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Britain Inches Closer to New Nuclear Build

Details from the BBC.

Nuclear Myth-Busting at Spiked Online

Rob Johnston put together some great nuclear myth-busting in anticipation of the UK's "green light to the building of new nuclear power stations in the UK." My favorite myth is number 6:

6) Building reactors takes too long

This is perhaps the most ironic of the anti-nuclear arguments, since the legal manoeuvrings of Greenpeace delayed the UK government’s nuclear decision by a year and it is the very opposition of greens that will cause most of the future delays.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Why We Don't Put Nuclear Waste in a Volcano

Slate talked with someone from the American Nuclear Society about it. I think we owe them a favor.

UCS’ “Nuclear Power in a Warming World”

It’s about that time of the year when the Union of Concerned Scientists comes out with their annual criticisms of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the nuclear industry. After reading their latest critique, “Nuclear Power in a Warming World,” my emotions are mixed. Some of the time I can agree with or at least understand their arguments. The rest of the time, though, I am frustrated and irritated by some of the claims in the report.

On the one hand, they correctly conclude nuclear power’s “life cycle emissions are comparable to those of wind power and hydropower” (p. 11). This tells me they have the potential to dig deep and analyze an issue and not just go by the usual anti-nuclear rhetoric.

On the other hand, though, they proclaim sabotage of a nuclear reactor “could contaminate large regions for thousands of years, producing higher cancer rates and billions of dollars in associated costs” P.4. The worst nuclear accident in the world at Chernobyl didn’t even do the damage they are asserting could happen.

The report is rational one minute and apocalyptic the next.

One example ...

The UCS names the UN-sponsored Chernobyl Forum as “perhaps the most authoritative report on the consequences of Chernobyl.” According to the UN report, “the total number of people that could have died or could die… is estimated to be around 4,000.” What vexed me, however, was the fact that the UCS somehow translates the UN’s estimate of 4,000 “potential” deaths to mean “60,000 cancers and 40,000 cancer deaths overall.” (P. 15) Even though the UN report is apparently “the most authoritative report” on Chernobyl, I guess the UCS can still make up their own inflated numbers. Rational one minute, apocalyptic the next.

And another ...

While the United States has one of the world’s most well-developed regulatory systems for protecting nuclear facilities against sabotage and attack, today’s security standards are inadequate to defend against credible threats. (P.4)
So the regulatory system is “well-developed” yet the security standards are “inadequate.” That makes no sense to me.

Most of the report takes the NRC to task for their supposed “lax” safety culture. A reading of the report will have anyone thinking the NRC doesn’t do anything. However, the report fails to recognize some key operations of the NRC.

Every nuclear power plant receives a minimum of more than 2,000 hours of inspection and oversight from the NRC annually. This includes oversight from resident inspectors who are stationed at every nuclear plant site and are supported by NRC regional offices and headquarters. Under the NRC’s reactor oversight process, power plants that exhibit declining performance undergo increased inspection activity above and beyond the 2,000-hour minimum.

The regulatory oversight process (ROP) includes 15 performance indicators for each plant that rate performance in key safety-related areas. Inspection findings are combined with performance indicator results to determine whether additional NRC oversight is warranted. Through its enforcement program, the NRC can issue violations and civil penalties (fines) to ensure compliance with its regulations. The NRC is also empowered to force a reactor to shut down if there is unacceptable performance. All of the safety-related metrics tracked by the NRC and the industry demonstrate high levels of excellence.

On to new plants ...
Of all the new reactor designs being seriously considered for deployment in the U.S., only one – the Evolutionary Power Reactor – appears to have the potential to be significantly safer and more secure than today’s reactors. P.1
I’m sure AREVA is bouncing with glee that they passed UCS’ standards. I do find it hard to believe, though, that according to UCS, new plant designs are no safer then existing plants despite the fact they have benefited from more than 3,000 combined reactor-years of operating experience in the U.S.

According to Westinghouse, the “AP1000 is an advanced 1117 to 1154 MWe nuclear power plant that uses the forces of nature and simplicity of design to enhance plant safety and operations and reduce construction costs.” According to General Electric on the ESBWR, it is “11 times more likely for the largest asteroid near the earth to impact the earth over the next 100 years than for an ESBWR operational event to result in the release of fission products to the environment.”

Conclusions

It is easy to criticize nuclear standards and say that safety margins can always increase. However, it is tough to find the right balance between being a safety nut and allowing a nuclear plant to run at a reasonable risk (a risk much lower then driving a car, flying in a plane, being overweight, and riding a bicycle, to name a few).

You know what I call this report: Job Security. The nuclear industry is by far one of the safest industries in the world. But in order for the “concerned scientists” to keep their jobs, they have to continue to come up with shoddy rhetoric and proclamations about an industry where safe operations is the most important concern.

Despite all my ranting, I do give the UCS credit for two things. One is for the fact they recognize nuclear’s life cycle emissions are comparable to other non-emitting sources of energy. The other is for the recommendations they put forth in all of their criticisms. While many antis only complain, the UCS takes the time to make recommendations on their issues.

However, I do begin to fall asleep when I read objections to nearly every single aspect of nuclear power. It is hard to take anyone seriously who finds fault with everything.

Friday, January 04, 2008

NBC News on the Nuclear Comeback

Before the holidays, I forgot to share this clip from NBC Nightly News about the improved prospects for nuclear energy in the U.S.:



One quibble: NBC correspondent Martin Fletcher cast the spotlight on opposition to the possible addition of a new reactor at Calvert Cliffs in Maryland. Yet, as we've seen from our own coverage here at the blog, the local community is overwhelmingly supportive. A curious choice.

For the rest of our archive on Calvert Cliffs, click here.

Fact Checking Amory Lovins

Over at The Atomic Show, our friend Rod Adams interviewed Robert Bryce, Managing Editor of the Energy Tribune on some of the distortions that Amory Lovins of the Rocky Mountain Institute engages in when he talks about nuclear energy. Give it a listen.

For more from our Amory Lovins file, click here.

Mike Huckabee on Nuclear Energy

Yesterday, we shared a video clip of Senator Barack Obama on the stump in Iowa answering a question about nuclear energy. Today, I've got a clip of the winner of the Iowa caucus on the Republican side, Governor Mike Huckabee, addressing the same topic:



For our previous posts on Governor Huckabee, click here.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Barack Obama on Nuclear Energy

"I don't think that we can take nuclear power off the table..."

Here's a clip of Senator Barack Obama at a recent debate in Hanover, NH:


Click here for archived NEI Notes posts about Senator Obama.

Obituary: Luis Ramos

From the Times-Leader (Penn.):

Luis Ramos, who has been the public face of the Susquehanna nuclear plant since 2004, died Tuesday when his 1997 Hyundai Accent swerved off Interstate 80 and onto the median in Foster Township then struck a tree.

He was pronounced dead at the scene of the accident, which occurred at about 7:30 p.m., according to state police at Hazleton.

The 57-year-old Puerto Rico native had been working for PPL Corp. since 1973, in positions that dealt with the public at the corporation’s Allentown headquarters. When the public-relations manager position opened up at the nuclear plant in Salem Township, Ramos moved to Shickshinny.

He was tailor-made for the position, according to Dan McCarthy, the company’s director of corporate communications, because he understood the contentious nature of the nuclear industry.

“The thing that was great about Lou was he respected people, so he respected people’s opinions even if they disagreed with him. … He wasn’t the kind of a guy to beat you over the head if you disagreed with him,” he said. “He was the kind of guy who just loves being with people, getting along with people and explaining to people what we do at the company.”
Ramos was well known here inside NEI, and he'll be missed. I had the chance to meet him a few years ago here in Washington, and I feel fortunate that I had a chance to meet him and talk with him for a while. He was a real pro. Our condolences to his friends and family.

For more on his passing, click here.