Friday, February 29, 2008

Orlando Sentinel Says Nuclear Should Not Be 'Scapegoat'

Here's what an Orlando Sentinel editorial has to say about the role of the Turkey Point nuclear plant in the Tuesday blackout...

Our position: Nuclear energy shouldn't be used as scapegoat in this week's massive blackout

Critics of nuclear energy were barking up the wrong power pole when they blamed reactors at Turkey Point for the blackout Tuesday afternoon that cut off electricity for millions of Floridians.

The reactors shut down, as designed, when a West Dade substation caught fire and a circuit breaker there failed to contain the problem. The loss of power from the reactors caused outages to spread across the grid that draws and distributes electricity from all of Florida's utilities.

Like the massive power outage that struck multiple states in 2003, Florida's blackout is another reminder of the vulnerability of America's aging electrical infrastructure. U.S. customers endure many more blackouts than their counterparts in countries that have modernized their grids.

Opponents of nuclear power contend the latest blackout shows Florida is too dependent on huge reactors such as the ones at Turkey Point, and that plans to add nuclear capacity in the state will deepen the dependency. But for now, the only alternatives that would keep pace with Florida's growing energy demand would be more plants fired by coal or natural gas, huge producers of greenhouse gases.

Energy sources that don't produce those gases or radioactive waste, such as wind and solar, need to be developed to be more viable in the future.

Conservation also is crucial to get the most out of Florida's generating capacity.

Meanwhile, nuclear energy is needed. And whatever the state's power mix, it will take improvements to the grid to give Floridians more protection from blackouts.

Policymakers Push for New U.S. Nuclear Plants

Several leading policymakers have made statements encouraging construction of new nuclear power plants over the past week. Here are some of these statements.

Sen. Pete Domenici (R-N.M.), ranking member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, had this to say about nuclear energy in a speech focusing on America's energy challenges yesterday:

“In the decade since my address at Harvard, we have changed the face of the debate on nuclear energy. We did this by ensuring that it was framed in the context of how to advance nuclear energy, not whether we should… The clearest evidence of this shift in thinking came with the passage of the Energy Policy Act of 2005, which included loan guarantees, tax incentives, risk insurance, and an extension of the Price-Anderson Act… Consider that today, there are 104 nuclear reactors in service around the nation. Together, they displace the same amount of carbon dioxide as is emitted by nearly every passenger car on the road in America. A future for nuclear power in this country will truly mean a brighter tomorrow.”

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said last week at an industry conference that he anticipates a significant bow wave of new public support for nuclear energy. “We are on the verge of an explosion of acceptance of nuclear power in this country,” he said.

Rep. Pete Visclosky (D-Ind.), chairman of the House Energy and Water Appropriations Subcommittee, last week urged the nuclear energy industry to keep moving toward the goal of building new reactors as quickly as possible. “Nuclear energy is reliable, significantly improved in its safety and does not produce greenhouse gases,” he said.

Visclosky noted that he has fought for funding the loan guarantee and Nuclear Power 2010 programs but cautioned that both are intended as temporary measures to boost new plant efforts.

The loan guarantee program “is a tool to demonstrate to the financial community that the mists of political uncertainty [regarding nuclear energy] have dissipated,” Visclosky said. He also called on the industry to support the Next Generation Nuclear Plant program

Thursday, February 28, 2008

NEI's Energy Markets Report - February 18-February 22, 2008

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

Electricity peak prices increased $3-9/MWh at all hubs except NEPOOL. The NEPOOL hub decreased $1/MWh (Platts, see pages 1 and 3).

Estimated nuclear plant availability rose to 93 percent last week. Grand Gulf 1 was the only unit to shut down last week (see pages 2 and 4).

Uranium prices were $75 and $73/lb U3O8 according to TradeTech and UxConsulting (see pages 1 and 3).

Gas prices at the Henry Hub increased $0.49 to $8.83/MMBtu due to frigid temperatures in the Midwest and Northeast. Henry Hub gas futures for one-month, six-month, and twelve-months ahead traded at or above $9/MMBtu. Low imports of liquefied natural gas to the lower 48 states are a factor in the recent increase in gas prices. LNG imports have averaged less than 1 Bcf per day this winter compared to more than 3 Bcf at times last summer. The EIA reports that the reduction in U.S. LNG imports reflects changes in LNG supply and demand across the world. For example, Japan, which is the largest importer of LNG in the world, last year experienced a massive earthquake that resulted in the shutdown of seven nuclear reactors. As a result, Japan is now relying more on LNG as a fuel for electric power generation. Some countries in Asia and Europe rely on LNG imports as a primary source of natural gas, resulting in a willingness at times to pay prices exceeding those in U.S. markets in order to have LNG cargos diverted to meet their demand requirements (EIA, see pages 1, 2 and 3).

Crude oil prices increased $5.05 from the previous week to $94.13/barrel. Crude oil futures for March 2008 traded $6 higher than last week at $100.38/barrel. EIA has claimed the high prices of crude oil are due to supply and demand fundamentals. However, other analysts suggest that $30 to $40 of the current market price for a barrel of oil is a result of speculative investing from banks and hedge funds (see pages 1 and 3).
For the report click here. It is also located on NEI's Financial Center webpage.

Makhijani on DallasNews

Two days ago on DallasNews, Arjun Makhijani from the anti-nuclear group Institute for Energy and Environmental Research (IEER) gave his usual commentary that nuclear can't cut it but renewables can.

Having failed miserably to deliver on the 1950s promise that nuclear electricity would be "too cheap to meter," the industry now says it will save us from climate change.
Can't the antis come up with something better than to hold the industry to a claim made 50 years ago? Since the 1980s, it's been clear nuclear plants were not cheap. I'm sure if we dig hard enough we can find old claims made from all industries that never came to fruition. On to Comanche Peak:
And then there is the problem of cooling water. The two proposed reactors would consume about 40 million gallons of water per day. Even assuming that the water is available, Texas is risking a less reliable power system, given that droughts are estimated to become more extreme in a warming world.
I guess Mr. Makhijani is unaware the U.S. nuclear plants operated at a 98 percent capacity factor during the two hottest weeks of last summer.

Yes, water availability is an issue for nuclear plants in certain regions of the U.S. But water availability is an issue which affects 99 percent of this country's electricity generation (pdf). It's an energy issue, not just a nuclear issue. Moving on:
Luminant's two reactors are already discharging significant amounts of tritium-contaminated radioactive water into the Squaw Creek reservoir. New reactors would only add to those discharges.

Before proceeding with new reactor proposals, Luminant should at least investigate how it might reduce existing tritium discharges. Tritium is radioactive hydrogen, which displaces ordinary hydrogen in water to form tritiated water, which becomes radioactive as a result.

This is clearly a scare tactic. Why? Because he knows routine tritium releases from a nuclear plant are as radioactive as background radiation which is not harmful at all. And we know he knows this because he wrote a two paragraph explanation on tritium releases and then stopped short of saying it's a problem.

Energy production is a competitive business. But stating incorrect and misleading information to promote one's business/beliefs will not win anyone over. For previous posts on Makhijani and IEER's claims, click here.

Update: Be sure to check out two letters to the DallasNews on Makhijani's post as well.

U.S. Chamber of Commerce Joins Blogosphere

The nation's largest federation of businesses, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, has officially entered the blogosphere. Check out the new Chamberpost where staffer and outside experts weigh in on issues important to American business.

Entergy Submits Application for a New ESBWR at Grand Gulf

From Entergy:

The application seeks regulatory approvals to potentially build a new unit adjacent to Entergy’s existing Grand Gulf Nuclear Station, a reactor that ranks third among the nation’s 104 nuclear plants for total electricity output over its lifetime of commercial operations.

With energy demands rising across the nation, many energy companies are pursuing clean, safe nuclear options through the NuStart consortium and other avenues. The U.S. Department of Energy states 250 to 500 new baseload power plants – those designed to help meet basic electrical needs – will be needed across the country by 2030.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Bush Administration Has Increased Energy R&D Spending

Federal spending on research and development on key energy technologies has increased substantially since the end of 2000, according to a recent study. Investment in new energy technologies will no doubt pay dividends.

100 GW of New Nuclear from AREVA by 2030?

That's what they're aiming for:

Areva aims to build more than 100 gigawatts of new nuclear power capacity by 2030, one third of the 344 GW that the company expects to be developed around the world by that date, a spokeswoman said.
AREVA's Evolutionary Power Reactor is 1.6 GW therefore 100 GW would equate to 63 new EPRs. Is that doable? Well, if we look back over the past 50 years, the world built more than 120 GW of nuclear capacity in the '70s and more than 200 GW in the '80s. So yes, their goal is definitely doable. Hopefully they will build more than that.

NPR and Nuclear Today

The Diane Rehm show is not on all NPR stations, but if you can get it, Scott Peterson and Jim Riccio are on the show NOW talking about what the future of nuclear should be in the United States. (Note Diane is not hosting today. The show is being hosted by Frank Sesno.)

For online access, try here and then click on WFYI HD-1 (in the middle of the page).

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Florida's Power Outage

A widespread power outage in Florida occurred just after 1 PM Eastern today affecting several millions of Florida customers. Two of Florida's five nuclear reactors were shutdown as a result of the outage. Here is a statement from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission:

At approximately 1:09 p.m. today, Turkey Point's two nuclear reactors (units 3 and 4) automatically shut down from 100% power in response to an "undervoltage" caused when two power distribution lines between Miami and Daytona went down following an equipment malfunction in a substation near Miami. The automatic trip of the reactors is a safety measure to protect plant equipment from abnormal power line voltages. The reactors are likely to be shut down for 12 to 24 hours, as part of a regular re-start protocol, with offsite power sources remaining available. Emergency diesel generators were not necessary.
Here is the Nuclear Energy Institute's statement on the outage:
As the result of a disturbance in off-site power that led to an electricity outage throughout much of Florida, the two reactors at the Turkey Point power station in south Florida safely shut down earlier today. They were among several power plants, including fossil-fired power plants, that shut down today. The Nuclear Energy Institute’s executive vice president, Marvin Fertel, made the following remarks about nuclear power plant operations and design relative to this event.

“Nuclear power plants are designed to shut down safely in response to electrical grid disturbances. They have been required to do so on many occasions over the years, most notably during the August 2003 blackout that afflicted the Northeast and Midwest regions of the United States.

“As required by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, nuclear power plants have on-site emergency backup power supplies available that enable them to be maintained in a safe condition if sufficient off-site power is not available. Backup power typically is provided by diesel generators, and more than sufficient fuel supplies for the generators are present on-site as well.

“Once the electricity grid is functioning and ready to be re-energized, power plant operators will follow precise procedures designed to ensure the safe restart of the Turkey Point power station’s two reactors to return electricity to the distribution grid. The start-up process typically takes approximately five hours if the power plant is in a ‘stand-by’ rather than a ‘shutdown’ mode. Start-up times for affected nuclear plants will vary depending on circumstances at each facility.

“Nuclear power plants’ electronic security systems also have independent back-up power to keep them functioning. Beyond that, nuclear power plants are protected by a paramilitary security force of highly trained, well-armed officers. Power plants also are protected by a combination of robust structural plant designs and redundant physical barriers.

“Specific questions concerning this power outage are properly addressed to the energy companies operating in Florida.”

GQ's Nuclear "Meltdown"

In the March 2008 issue of Gentlemen's Quarterly, Wyl S. Hylton wrote a great, balanced piece on the current state of the nuclear industry. His main topics centered around the Three Mile Island nuclear plant in Pennsylvania and Yucca Mountain in Nevada. Below are some highlights (bold edits are mine).

On Three Mile Island:

Over the past ten years, the plant [Three Mile Island] has become famous for its constancy, setting records for continuous operation. The latest, among more than 250 similar reactors worldwide, was 689 days without pause or fail.

What all this amounts to, in a typical year, is about 7.2 million megawatt hours of electricity, or enough to satisfy the needs of 800,000 homes. By way of comparison, to produce the same amount of electricity, a coal-fired power plant would have to incinerate more than 3 million metric tons of fuel, producing 500 pounds of carbon dioxide per second, as well as 1,200 pounds of ash per minute and 750 pounds of sulfur dioxide every five minutes. Looking at the cooling towers with that in mind, where a smokestack would be at any of the nation’s 600 coal plants, it is easy to appreciate the lure of nuclear power: The carbon footprint of a nuclear plant is precisely…nothing.

...

At Three Mile Island, according to a 1980 inquiry by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the maximum level of radiation that anybody within a fifty-mile radius could have received from the accident was about 100 millirems—the equivalent of moving to Colorado for a year, or into a brick house for two. According to another study, by the Pennsylvania Departments of Health and Environmental Resources, among 721 locals tested, not a single one showed radiation exposure above normal. A similar study by the state’s Department of Agriculture found no significant trace of radiation in the local fish, water, or dairy products, which tend to register minute impurities. And a study released in 2000 by the Graduate School of Public Health at the University of Pittsburgh found that, twenty-one years after the accident, there was still no evidence of “any -measurable impact” on public health."

Given the extreme scale of the meltdown at TMI—including an explosion of hydrogen, the liquefaction of radioactive uranium, and the release of a plume of radioactive gas into the air outside—it is reasonable to conclude that the lesson of Three Mile Island is not merely a matter of what went wrong at the plant but also an example of what went right. For so many people and so many systems to fail so spectacularly all at once, without any measurable effect on public health, may be the last, best proof that a system is working.
On Yucca Mountain:
After $10 billion in development costs and thirty years of observation, it is safe to say that Yucca Mountain has become the most expensive, examined, and—so far, anyway—useless hunk of rock on earth.

...

As we drove back toward Las Vegas, Voegele was mostly silent, but when we crested the final hill above the city, he spoke up. “There is an ethical dilemma at Yucca Mountain,” he admitted. “When Jimmy Carter was president, he said that our generation created this waste and we shouldn’t push it to future generations. That’s a very noble thing to say. But the fact is, we have to be careful how we interpret that. We have taken that to mean that Yucca Mountain has to last forever—we can’t expect future generations to fix anything or improve anything, ever. Well, that’s the wrong way to look at it. We should do the best we can right now, but no matter what we do, future generations will be able to change things at Yucca Mountain, they will have more knowledge and experience than we do, and they will probably want to change the system we create. They can do any number of things. They can move the material somewhere else; they can store it in a different way; they can change its chemical composition or reduce the radioactivity with methods we don’t know about. But right now, we don’t have any better options. We can’t leave this waste at the power plants forever. And we’re not going to find another repository without running into the same problems we have now. The bottom line is, Yucca Mountain is the best option we have. If we don’t use it, I don’t know what we’re going to do.”
On nuclear:
Without new nuclear plants, for example, the American power supply will not simply remain as it is; as time passes and nuclear plants grow older, we will have to choose between extending licenses to those plants, far beyond their intended life expectancy, or else closing them and increasing our dependence on fossil fuels.

...

And when we fail to consider each of these issues with reason instead of fear, when we fail to make the tough comparison between nuclear power, with its potential for disaster, and coal plants, with their guarantee of it, this isn’t a reflection that we have no choices but that we refuse to make them.

It may be, more than anything else, an example of democracy working and failing at the same time.

Latest Issue of Nuclear Energy Insight Available

The latest issue of Nuclear Energy Insight is now available online. In it, you'll find an article on congressional approval of an energy bill that opens overseas markets for America's nuclear power suppliers. There also are reports on new-plant plans across the globe and the important role nuclear energy will play to cut greenhouse gases in New England. Other articles discuss the new-plant licensing process and fuel sources for next-generation reactors. The issue also profiles Jamina Vujic, chair of the nuclear engineering department at the University of California-Berkeley.

UK Joins Global Nuclear Energy Partnership

More here.

Monday, February 25, 2008

10 Things the Country Must Do to Avoid an Energy Crunch

Check out number five from the Houston Chronicle:

5. The U.S. nuclear energy industry has proved itself to be safe, reliable and free of toxic emissions. New technologies make plants more efficient and easier to build and operate. Environmental concerns dictate that nuclear power play a larger role. However, full exploitation of nuclear power plants demands that the government quickly provide a safe site for the disposal of radioactive waste.

What's the Best Energy Advice to the Next President?

It's to go nuclear according to Charles Groat at the Houston Chronicle:

The next president of the United States can strike an early blow for sound energy policy by actively promoting our increased use of nuclear power.

...

Ghosts from the past and emotional arguments not backed by scientific fact continue to be used to disparage nuclear power. The fear of a Chernobyl-like catastrophe and memories of the Three Mile Island incident (which resulted in no injuries or deaths) continue to concern many despite the fact that outmoded Russian technology has long been abandoned and the safety record of U.S. nuclear power plants is admirable.

The concern getting the most political mileage is the waste issue. Deep geologic disposal has been accepted by virtually all nations as the ultimate resting place for their spent nuclear fuel or reprocessing residues. The United States has led the world in committing to a site for its waste and preparing it for licensing. We have also set records for throwing unnecessary obstacles in the way of readying the site for use. Yucca Mountain, Nevada, the proposed site for retrievable storage of U.S. high-level nuclear waste, has been studied in great detail. It is a technically sound site. But the Nevada congressional delegation, overcome by NIMBY (not in my backyard) sickness, has allied in opposition to the site with environmental interests seeking reasons to stall nuclear power development.

...

Our next president and our country should learn from the French and take comfort in the fact that nuclear power has lived up to its potential in this large and modern nation.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Investment Banks Begin Counting Carbon in New Power Plant Costs

Leading investment banks have begun to incorporate estimates for the cost of reducing carbon dioxide emissions into the cost of building new power plant projects, a move that would increase the competitiveness of new nuclear plants.

According to this approach, banks would impose additional costs on plants that produce carbon dioxide, such as those powered by fossil fuels. The federal government does not impose a tax or other measure to account for the cost of emitting carbon dioxide, but the banks clearly believe measures to regulate greenhouse gases are imminent.

"We have decided, as have other banks, to start assessing the cost of carbon in our risk and underwriting processes as we evaluate the business models of utility sector companies. In the absence of federal legislation, we estimate the cost will fall between $20 to $40 per ton of carbon dioxide," Ken Lewis, Bank of America's chairman and CEO, told attendees at a Feb. 12 energy conference in North Carolina.

The imposition of these costs would increase the cost of coal-fired power plants, but Lewis said that he believed that coal plants would remain in use for years to come. Nuclear power plants would not be affected by such a charge because they do not produce carbon dioxide while generating electricity.

Earlier this month, investment banks Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase and Morgan Stanley announced they will begin factoring the cost of greenhouse gas emissions into new power plant proposals.

The announcement was part of a partnership with energy companies, including DTE Energy, NRG Energy, PSEG and Southern Co., to create an approach for evaluating and addressing carbon risk in financing power projects.

This partnership, which also included Environmental Defense and Natural Resources Defense Council, released guidelines for dealing with the uncertainties surrounding regional and national climate change policy.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Industry Leaders Brief Wall Street on Expansion of Nuclear Sector

Industry executives described the prudent steps energy companies are taking as they consider builidng new nuclear plants in the United States in a briefing for Wall Street analysts today. NEI's press release follows:

Nuclear Energy Expansion Will Proceed Cautiously Over Next Decade, Wall Street Analysts Told

NEW YORK, Feb. 21, 2008—Construction of new nuclear power plants in the United States will ramp up slowly over the next decade as project sponsors exercise caution to effectively manage business risks, nuclear energy industry leaders told Wall Street financial analysts here today.

The industry’s expectations are that four to eight new nuclear plants will be generating electricity by 2016 or so, with a second wave of new power plants under construction as the first group commences commercial operation, the Nuclear Energy Institute’s president and chief executive officer, Frank L. (Skip) Bowman said during a briefing attended by more than 75 analysts.

“The exact number will, of course, depend on many factors – forward prices in electricity markets, capital costs of all baseload electric technologies, commodity costs, environmental compliance costs for fossil-fueled generating capacity, natural gas prices and more,” Bowman said. “The confidence gained by success with the first projects will support the decision-making process for follow-on projects.”

Bowman described new nuclear plant construction as “a risk-management exercise” and said that the industry continues the work that has been under way for the past decade to identify and remove or mitigate the business risks associated with these multi-billion-dollar projects.

“We have mobilized experts in licensing and regulation, financing, construction management, political affairs, public support, supply chain and work force. Seventeen entities developing license applications for up to 31 new reactors did not just happen. It has been carefully planned,” Bowman said.

Five license applications for seven potential new reactors were filed with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in 2007, Bowman noted, and another 11 to 15 applications could be filed this year. Progress Energy just two days ago announced the filing of a license application for two possible reactors at its Shearon Harris Nuclear Plant in North Carolina. Click here for the full NEI release.

Click here for a PDF version of today’s briefing.

Baldwin on Oyster Creek ... Again

Last night Alec Baldwin moderated a forum on the health effects of the Oyster Creek nuclear plant in New Jersey. From APP.com:

Actor Alec Baldwin said he would like to see the state force the owners of the Oyster Creek Generating Station to build cooling towers to replace an outdated boiling water reactor system.

...

"This is one of the truly complicated issues I've ever dealt with,'' Baldwin said.
Um, replacing cooling towers is not the same as replacing a BWR system. If he thinks that is the case, then I can see why he thinks this is a complicated issue. I wonder if Mr. Baldwin can locate the cooling towers in this diagram of a BWR system. Hint: the towers are not there.

I could get more into this but I think the comments on the article speak for themselves:
Just because he is a celebrity, people put a microphone in front of him, and just because someone put a microphone in front of him he thinks he is an expert on all things.

...

Alec Baldwin has no business speaking on this issue. He has no ties to NJ or the power plant. Personally I do not care what his opinion is.

...

Note to Hollywood; until doctors, scientists, and engineers try acting, please do your job and let them do theirs.
And these are some of the more moderate comments. For our archives on Mr. Baldwin, click here.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Latest Issue of Nuclear Policy Outlook Available

Building Confidence in Licensing New U.S. Nuclear Plants

Now that companies have submitted license applications for new nuclear power plants, the industry, regulator, financial community and others are taking stock of the challenges that lie ahead. Demonstrating confidence and stability in the new NRC licensing process is a critical first step toward building new reactors in the United States. This issue of Nuclear Policy Outlook focuses on how companies are meeting the key challenges of licensing new nuclear plants, their recent successes and plans for the future. For the PDF version click here.

Commentary by AEHI's Don Gillespie

Don Gillispie, President and CEO of Alternate Energy Holdings Inc., wrote an opinion piece at ArbiterOnline which is Boise State's Independent Student Newspaper:

Nuclear power, on the other hand, needs little area to produce massive amounts of energy and does it with 90 percent reliability, zero greenhouse gasses, very little waste (all of it low-level and recyclable) and all for about three cents per kilowatt hour. The American nuclear industry's stellar safety record over 50 years is one of the reasons why, according to a recent poll, 70 percent of Americans and an increasing number of mainstream environmentalists are supporting it.

...

Oddly, some people claim the recent decision by MidAmerican to end plans for a nuclear plant in Payette County really means the entire industry is doomed. Warren Buffet ultimately made the decision and who are mere mortals to question his business savvy?

While nuclear plants are quite profitable when operating, the overwhelming commitment to build one is not for the skittish or those wanting immediate investment rewards. I think Buffet, a newcomer to the nuclear energy field, realized he was in for a long haul and left to look for easier profits. I know I am right because there more than 21 other companies eagerly building plants.

...

Also, it's duplicitous for nuclear opponents - a few of whom hold official positions - to do all they can to drive up the cost of nuclear plants, then turn around and claim nuclear power is too expensive. It's also duplicitous for them to label nuclear energy developers as greedy merchants, then claim their plants can never be profitable. Which is it?
More here.

Progress Files for Two New Nuclear Plants

From Progress:

Progress Energy Carolinas, a subsidiary of Progress Energy (NYSE: PGN), announced that it will file a combined operating license (COL) application with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) later today [yesterday] for two possible new reactors at the existing Harris Nuclear Plant site near New Hill, N.C. Nuclear power is one of three components of the company's balanced solution strategy, which also includes the use of renewable energy sources and an emphasis on energy efficiency.

...

Progress Energy chose the Harris site in 2006, based on availability of transmission lines, proximity to cooling water and to Progress Energy Carolinas' largest area of customer concentration.

...

The Harris Plant site was originally planned for four nuclear reactors, but due to changing economic conditions in the 1970s and 1980s, only one reactor was built. The Harris site offers a large amount of available land -- approximately 35 square miles -- and has an adequate water supply.

...

For purposes of the COL application, Progress Energy has selected Westinghouse to supply the reactors for possible expansion of its nuclear generating fleet in the Carolinas and Florida. The AP1000 is an advanced 1,100-megawatt nuclear power plant that uses passive safety system designs and engineering simplicity to enhance plant reliability and reduce construction costs. The AP1000 has 87 percent less cable, 83 percent less pipe, 50 percent fewer valves and 35 percent fewer pumps than the generation of reactors in operation today.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

CASE Energy's Whitman on Chicago Public Radio

You can listen here.

Greenspan Endorses Nuclear Energy at CERA Conference

Alan Greenspan last week strongly endorsed nuclear energy as part of a future energy portfolio that provides clean power to the electricity grid and reduces U.S. dependence on foreign oil.
Speaking at Cambridge Energy Research Associates’ (CERA) week-long energy conference in Houston, the former Federal Reserve chief said that nuclear energy is part of a strategy that he would recommend to the new president of the United States to reduce our dependence on imported oil.
Greenspan’s solution to break our reliance on oil includes market adoption of electric plug-in vehicles along with the infrastructure to power them. When asked by CERA Chairman Dan Yergin how plug-on vehicles should be fueled, Greenspan said, “No question about it—nuclear power.”
He acknowledged that the United States must continue to work toward a successful program for used fuel management, but Greenspan believes it is a “resolvable problem. The French seem to have taken care of it … and we can, too.”

Notes from Platts' 2008 Nuclear Conference

Two weeks ago I attended Platts' 4th Annual Nuclear Energy Conference. Below are some highlights I would like to share from 8 of the 31 speakers.

Day One -
Michael Wallace

Michael Wallace, Chairman of Unistar and President of Constellation Energy Nuclear Group, began the conference by stating the nuclear industry must “exercise a fine sense of responsibility to get it right.” The industry cannot have rose-colored glasses and must ask negative questions.

Wallace stated that the U.S. needs to build new electrical capacity soon. He highlighted that electricity demand is outstripping capacity, energy prices are escalating, and there is a real concern for the environment and CO2 emissions.

Wallace said the challenges facing the nuclear industry are: a lack of infrastructure, an untested licensing process, diminished knowledge and experience, a global competition for resources, and spent fuel politics. Loan guarantees, production tax credits and standby support in the EPACT 2005 were all critical components to jump start the industry. But in the long term, he said the nuclear industry will need no incentives.

James Miller
James Miller, Chairman, President and CEO of PPL Corporation, stated that without nuclear, meeting demand while reducing CO2 emissions won’t happen. He believes coal is in trouble in the US and carbon capture and sequestration is 15 years off and possibly more.

Miller said the US will embark on a great gas crusade over the next several years because gas capacity is the only near-term option that can be deployed to meet growing demand. Miller believes importing liquefied natural gas will not save us.

Miller stated the number one issue for the nuclear industry is the ability to construct and staff nuclear plants.

Bill Borchardt
Bill Borchardt, Director of Office of New Reactors at the NRC, discussed that the NRC is much more disciplined and focused and the workload is large and in parallel. The NRC is confident they will meet the demands from the industry. They do not want to be a barrier to this process.

Borchardt also said the NRC is confident the second wave of Combined Construction and Operating License Applications will take considerably fewer resources to review. If applications stop coming in after the current wave in 2008 and 2009, the Office of New Reactors will start running out of work by 2011.

Dennis Spurgeon
Dennis Spurgeon, Assistant Secretary for the Department of Energy, said the first goal for the DOE is to get new nuclear plants built. He stated that all models conclude the U.S. needs nuclear to provide 30% of its electricity by 2050 to meet demand and reduce emissions. This means building an additional 300 GW of nuclear capacity.

Yoshitaka Sato
Yoshitaka Sato, General Manager of Forgings and Castings Export Sales for Japan Steel Works, said that JSW has received greater recognition as the only supplier of large-scale forgings in the world. By 2010, JSW will have the capacity to forge 8.5 nuclear units per year.

Day Two -
Chris Crane
Chris Crane, Executive VP of Exelon, said "if anyone is bullish on nuclear it’s us.” The nation needs fuel diversity and must deliver on nuclear. By building only gas capacity we are putting too many eggs in one basket. The nuclear industry has a sound licensing process and there is no other industry as coordinated as the nuclear industry. Three Mile Island was some contribution to the stop of new plants but the problem was mainly mis-management on the nuclear industry’s part.

Crane said the nuclear industry needs to continue excellence and to share the risks. The industry must be disciplined in project execution, must revitalize its manufacturing infrastructure, must communicate strengths, and must drive policy issues to resolution. First 5-6 new plants have to be built flawlessly.

Jeffrey Holzschuh
Jeffrey Holzschuh, Vice Chairman of Institutional Securities Group and Chairman at Morgan Stanley, stated they are huge believers nuclear has to be part of the mix. He said plenty of capital dollars are available for investment in new nuclear plants. In 2006, $100B was spent in the Power and Utility sector. In 2007, overall U.S. capacity of capital markets was $1.5T. If the U.S. builds 20 GW of nuclear capacity at $3,000/kW, it will cost $60B.

David Nevius
David Nevius, Senior VP and Director of Reliability Assessment and Performance Analysis at NERC, stated that transmission is not keeping up with demand and capacity growth in the country. Planning transmission lines for nuclear needs to be addressed now so it is not an impediment to the plant coming online. He stressed that many studies need to be done on the transmission needs to address 30 or more new nuclear units.

Wrap-Up
Overall, the conference was a great opportunity to hear what the industry is thinking and feeling. Everyone at the conference was excited to be there and wants to see the nuclear industry succeed in building new plants.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Thoughts from Rod Adams on Peach Bottom's Sleeping Guards

Rod asks:

Should we be concerned about guards sleeping in a "ready room"?

Late last year there was a lot of hype about a series of cell phone videos recorded by a new security guard at the Peach Bottom Atomic Power Station of fellow guards dozing off while in a room identified as a "ready room". Having never actually been on the commercial side of the nuclear business, I am still having some difficulty with understanding why it would be a big deal.

In the military, we have "ready rooms" where people gather for briefings and to await orders to take action. Generally speaking, the people on alert in ready rooms are in full gear and ready to move when called, but there is often a lengthy period of waiting before the call actually occurs. Sometimes days can expire without any call to action. As some wise observer once described the situation "hours of boredom punctuated by seconds of pure adrenaline."

When in this kind of "ready room" waiting period, experienced military people grab naps whenever possible, knowing that it might be their last opportunity for quite some time. I have spoken to a lot of people who have been in combat units; they have the same mentality about napping when things are quiet. Unlike people who are wrapped up in warm blankets and used to full night sleeps, however, combat troops and sailors on alert can go from dead sleep to full alert and motion in a matter of seconds.

...

I have a strong sense of responsibility about nuclear plant safety, but I think that the reaction here should have been to explain to the public that the guards caught on camera by an inexperienced guard - whose motives might bear some investigation - were doing exactly what they were supposed to do during breaks in the "ready room". They were getting their bodies ready for a response by getting some rest during a long and frequently boring shift work job.
More here.

Update: Even more from Rod.
I am willing to be proven wrong about my theory that this "incident" was blown all out of proportion and that a case could be made that naps for security guards during their long shifts are potentially beneficial to safety.

Friday, February 15, 2008

FAIR's "Hoax of Eco-Friendly Nuclear Energy"

In the January/February 2008 edition of Extra, Karl Grossman at Fairness and Accuracy In Reporting wrote a disingenuous, inaccurate piece against nuclear energy. The whole premise of his article is that the mainstream media doesn't question the nuclear advocates in the industry and government. We know this is false, though, as evidenced by AP's one-sided piece on the nuclear industry's water issues.

Lifecycle Emissions
Grossman's first claim begins with how the biased media doesn't question NEI's clean air ads.

What is left unmentioned by the NEI, the Times and other mainstream media making this claim is that the overall “nuclear cycle”—which includes uranium mining and milling, enrichment, fuel fabrication and disposal of radioactive waste—has significant greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to global warming.
According to his source, there are:
independent studies that document in detail the extent to which the entire nuclear cycle generates greenhouse emissions.
This lifecycle emissions claim is actually from one source, not from "independent studies." Regardless, there are at least five independent sources which have concluded that nuclear's lifecycle emissions "are comparable to renewable forms of generation, such as wind and hydropower." Even the Union of Concerned Scientists (a strong critic of the nuclear industry) knows the anti's lifecycle emissions claim is bogus (see page 11 of "Nuclear Power in a Warming World").

Whitman and Moore
After Grossman finished with the lifecycle emissions claim, he went on to vilify CASE Energy's Christine Todd Whitman and Patrick Moore.
Whitman and Moore were hired as part of NEI’s “Clean and Safe Energy Coalition” in 2006, which is “fully funded” by the institute, Farsetta noted.

...

Wasserman went on to cite an actual founder of the organization, Bob Hunter, describing Moore as “the Judas of the ecology movement.”
Being a paid spokesperson for an industry is not a reason to be discredited. If we were to go with the antis' logic here, we then couldn't trust doctors, electricians, economists or any representative from any industry. The merits of nuclear energy are won or lost on facts and peer-review, not who says what.

Uranium Supply
Grossman:
The uranium from which fuel used in nuclear power plants is made—so-called “high-grade” ore containing substantial amounts of fissionable uranium-235—is, in fact, not “abundant.” As Andrew Simms of the New Economics Foundation told BBC News (11/29/05), another “dirty little secret” of nuclear power is that “startlingly, there’s only a few decades left of the proven high-grade uranium ore it needs for fuel.”
The claim that high-grade uranium ore will run out in a few decades is meaningless. What matters is how much uranium can be mined (low or high grade) at a reasonable cost. From the WNA (bold is mine):
Current [world uranium] usage is about 66,500 tU/yr. Thus the world's present measured resources of uranium (4.7 Mt) in the cost category somewhat above present spot prices and used only in conventional reactors, are enough to last for some 70 years. This represents a higher level of assured resources than is normal for most minerals. Further exploration and higher prices will certainly, on the basis of present geological knowledge, yield further resources as present ones are used up.
Calculation of Reactor Accident Consequences 2
Grossman:
As to the risks, the mainstream media’s handling—or non-handling—of the U.S. government’s most comprehensive study on the consequences of a nuclear plant accident is instructive. Calculation of Reactor Accident Consequences 2 (known as CRAC-2) was done by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in the 1980s. Bill Smirnow, an anti-nuclear activist, has tried for years to interest media in reporting on it—sending out information about it continually.
Most comprehensive? How about outdated? CRAC-2 is so old the NRC had to issue a disclaimer for the study (bold is mine):
The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission has devoted considerable research resources, both in the past and currently, to evaluating accidents and the possible public consequences of severe reactor accidents. The NRC's most recent studies have confirmed that early research into the topic led to extremely conservative consequence analyses that generate invalid results for attempting to quantify the possible effects of very unlikely severe accidents.
Nine years after CRAC-2 was published, the NRC published a new study, NUREG-1150 "Severe Accident Risks: An Assessment for Five U.S. Nuclear Power Plants", which according to the EPA website:
was a significant turning point in the use of risk-based concepts in the regulatory process and enabled the Commission to greatly improve its methods for assessing containment performance after core damage and accident progression.
The NUREG-1150 study is also outdated and the NRC issued the same disclaimer as CRAC-2. The NRC now
is currently pursuing a new, state-of-the-art assessment of possible severe accidents and their consequences.
How can Grossman complain of a biased media when the antis provide them with outdated information?

Radioactive effluents
Grossman:
The radioactive substances regularly emitted include tritium, krypton and xenon. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission sets a “permissible” level for these “routine emissions,” but, as Drey states, “permissible does not mean safe.”
Permissible does mean safe because the effluents from a nuclear reactor have the same level of radioactivity as a banana.

National Public Radio
Grossman:
FAIR recently exposed ... how National Public Radio, which broadcasts many pro-nuclear pieces, has received hundreds of thousands of dollars from “nuclear operator Sempra Energy” and Constellation Energy, “which belongs to Nustart Energy, a 10-company consortium pushing for new nuclear power plant construction.”
First, Sempra Energy is not a nuclear operator. They are a 20% owner of the San Onofre nuclear plant in California. According to Global Energy Decisions' database, Sempra owns 3,200 MW of gas and 460 MW of nuclear.

Second, Constellation owns a diverse portfolio of electric capacity: 43% nuclear, 31% coal, 14% petroleum, 6% gas and 5% renewables and hydro (source: Global Energy Decisions).

Third, Constellation and Sempra are only two companies of 143 corporations and associations who donated to NPR in 2005 (PDF, p. 18 and 19). I'm not even going to count up the number of foundations and individuals who contributed to the NPR fund. Boy, FAIR really dug up a bias here.

Punch line from Grossman
The only thing green about nuclear power is the nuclear establishment’s dollars.
Oooh, good one ...

Thursday, February 14, 2008

NEI's Energy Markets Report - February 4-February 8, 2008

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

Electricity peak prices fell $0.09-$7/MWh at the Entergy, NEPOOL, PJM West and SP 15 hubs. The ERCOT and Palo Verde hubs increased $4-7/MWh. EIA projects summer weather will be milder, resulting in about 10 percent lower cooling-degree-days and less power demand for air conditioning. This is expected to lower the growth in residential electricity sales (EIA STEO, see pages 1, 2, 3 and 5).

Gas prices at the Henry Hub decreased $0.06 to $7.89/MMBtu. The Henry Hub spot price is expected to average $8.18 per mcf during the first quarter of 2008 compared to $7.41 during the corresponding period in 2007. Total natural gas consumption is expected to increase by 0.9 percent in 2008 and by 1.0 percent in 2009 (EIA STEO, see pages 1, 2, 3 and 5).

Estimated nuclear plant availability fell to 89 percent last week. Two units began refueling outages, Hatch 1 and La Salle 1, and Clinton completed its refueling outage. D.C. Cook 1 was manually tripped due to high vibrations on turbine bearings. Diablo Canyon 2 was down for a planned maintenance outage. Davis-Besse was ramping up to full power from a refueling outage when it had to shut down to rebalance the plant’s generator. Peach Bottom 3 shut down to repair a safety relief valve (Platts and NRC, see pages 2 and 4).

Crude oil prices increased $1.73 from the previous week to $91.41/barrel. Over the next two years, higher production outside of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and planned additions to OPEC capacity should more than offset expected moderate world oil demand growth and relieve some of the tightness in the market. The West Texas Intermediate (WTI) price, which averaged $72 per barrel in 2007, is expected to average about $86 per barrel in 2008 and $82 in 2009 (EIA STEO, see pages 1 and 3).

By 2012, the following amounts of new generating capacity are expected to come online: 42,000 MW of coal; 57,000 MW of natural gas; and 40,000 MW of wind (see page 5).
For the report click here. It is also located on NEI's Financial Center webpage.

NEI's Frank "Skip" Bowman on White House Chronicle: Jan. 11, 2008

White House Chronicle's Llewellyn King interviewed NEI's Frank "Skip" Bowman for the January 11, 2008 show. Topics covered include the history of nuclear in the U.S., prospects for new reactors and used fuel management.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Another Blogger for Nuclear Energy

Check out Philip Thomas at Action for Pontefract.

Saying Goodbye

I'm sure by now most of our regular readers will have noticed that my byline has been a little scarce around here lately. That isn't an accident, as I'll be winding down my stewardship at NEI Nuclear Notes as well as my tenure at the Nuclear Energy Institute by the end of the week.

From here on in, day-to-day responsibility for the blog will shift my colleague, Jarret Adams, who made his blog debut last week. Jarret is a valued member of the editorial team here at NEI, known well for his work on a variety of projects. He's written Congressional testimony, speeches and is the editor of Nuclear Policy Outlook. Best of all, there isn't anyone on the editorial staff who knows more about Yucca Mountain and used nuclear fuel than Jarret.

In turn, David Bradish, who has worked hard to leverage his detailed statistical knowledge to debunk anti-nuclear claims on a regular basis, isn't going anywhere. If anything, I think you'll be seeing David more often on these pages going forward. To say the least, I think I'm leaving things in capable hands.

Don't for a second think this was an easy decision. I've enjoyed my time here at NEI, and leaving behind the blog and all the other work we've done online in the last three years has left me a little torn. The fact is, as successful as the work we've done has been, there's always more work to fo -- something I'm sure that many of my colleagues with similar responsibilities will empathize with.

So what's next for me? As of Monday, I start work at CounterPoint Strategies as Vice President. CounterPoint is a specialized media relations agency that combines assertive communication strategies and counsel to help clients confront volatile media circumstances. It's an exciting opportunity and I'm looking forward to applying everything I've learned at NEI in my new position.

For those of you who would like to stay in touch, you can reach me via e-mail at eric.mcerlain-at-gmail.com. Alternately, you can always find me on LinkedIn or Facebook.

Instead of turning this into a lengthy valedictory, I'll just simply say thank you to our readers, especially those who regularly participate in our discussion strings and make things around here so lively. I'd also like to say thanks to everyone who stumbled across our blog, and then in turn decided to start one of their own.

Back when we started almost three years ago, pro-nuclear energy blogs were few and far between, even if there was more than a little support for the industry. But now, things have gotten to the point where it's starting to get tough keeping track of all of you. Needless to say, it was something I was hoping to see and I'm gratified that our blog has so much company now.

I'd also like to thank NEI Vice President Scott Peterson and CEO Skip Bowman and my old boss Walter Hill for their unwavering support of the blog and our online outreach efforts.

Finally, I want to say thanks to the folks who work inside the nuclear energy industry. Over the past 3.5 years I've come to know many of you, and know just as well how lucky our nation is to have you on the job. Nuclear Energy is going to continue to be a vital part of America's energy mix going forward, and the work that you've done over the past several decades making it safe, affordable and reliable is going to be critical as we seek to balance our energy needs with environmental protection.

Thanks and goodbye.

Constellation to Submit an Application for a New Plant in New York

From Constellation:

UniStar Nuclear Energy (UNE), a strategic joint venture between Constellation Energy (NYSE: CEG) and the EDF Group, today announced it has notified the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) of its plans to submit a Combined License (COL) application in late 2008 for a potential advanced design nuclear reactor at Constellation Energy's Nine Mile Point Nuclear Station in upstate New York.
For the list of planned new nuclear units in the US, click here.

Virginia to Study Uranium Mining

From the AP:

The [State] Senate has passed legislation establishing a 2-year study on the safety of uranium mining.

Before voting 36-4 on Tuesday to pass the study, several senators stressed that they didn't support the concept but thought it wouldn't hurt to study the issue.

The study eventually could result in lifting the moratorium on uranium mining in Virginia.

The proposal stems from a company's desire to tap a huge uranium deposit in Pittsylvania County. It's the largest unmined uranium deposit in the nation, worth an estimated $10 billion.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Closing Indian Point Could Be Costly

From the New York Times:

CLOSING the Indian Point nuclear power plant in Buchanan could have dire consequences for the county’s economy, according to a new report by the Westchester Business Alliance, a coalition of regional groups.

Electricity bills would soar, and job growth — as well as property values — would suffer, said the report, which was issued on Jan. 31.

The study, prepared by Energy Strategies, consultants in Albany, said that closing the two reactors at Indian Point without creating alternative energy sources — which are not on the horizon — would cause electricity prices in Westchester County to rise more than 150 percent by 2017. Under the consultants’ estimates, the average annual residential electric bill in Westchester would jump to $2,500 from $1,000.

More here. For those who don't remember, the National Academy of Sciences came to similar conclusions in a study they completed back in 2006. And several years prior to that, NEI conducted an economic benefits study of Indian Point and found that for every dollar the plant spends, the U.S. economy produces $2.35 as a result (p. 23).

In two years I'm sure we'll see another study concluding the same intrinsic value of Indian Point to its community.

Jack Spencer's Power Play

Jack Spencer from the Heritage Foundation is at it again:

Electricity demand is projected to increase 40 percent by 2030, according to government estimates. Meanwhile, overzealous regulators make it difficult to expand energy capacity.

...

Proponents make it sound so simple. Just buy a new dishwasher, build a couple of windmills, put some solar cells on the roof and — voila — energy problem solved. Not really. Maryland would have to reduce its electricity consumption by about a fifth of today's use — or the equivalent of a half a million households — to meet Mr. O'Malley's objective. Since Maryland produces only 1.3 percent of its electricity from renewables, increasing that to 20 percent in the next 14 years would be daunting, to say the least.

...

The legitimacy of these draconian efforts is rooted in the notion there is an energy shortage. Conservation, after all, makes sense when there is a shortage of something.

But energy is not in short supply. There are fossil fuels, and lots of them, right here in America. Yet America is one of the few nations that chooses to leaves much of its own reserves untapped.

Yes, wind and solar power are options. But the technology hasn't advanced yet to the point where these are affordable enough or reliable enough to satisfy our growing energy demands.

Then there's nuclear power. It is emissions-free, affordable, proven and safe. It already provides the United States with 20 percent of its electricity. It can be used and recycled again and again, making it essentially limitless.

Nuclear power has the added benefit of solving many of the problems cited to justify faulty conservation plans and centrally planned energy mandates. It's abundant, environmentally friendly, free of carbon dioxide (CO2) and domestically produced. Yet officials continue to ignore its advantages.

...

U.S. interests are best served by an energy mix that includes fossil fuels, nuclear power and renewable energies. If it does turn out that CO2 is a problem — a conclusion for which there is no consensus, despite what we're told — then the role of nuclear energy will be even more critical.
You can read more here.

The Night the Lights Go Out in Buckinghamshire

Looks like they can't build that next generation of U.K. nuclear power plants fast enough. From The Telegraph:

Street lights in suburban areas are to be switched off after midnight as part of council plans to save energy. A series of trial blackouts will be carried out over the next few weeks by local authorities in the Home Counties, Hampshire and Essex among others.

Buckinghamshire council is reported to be switching off more than 1,700 lights along 25 miles of road in an attempt to meet energy targets. It says the scheme will save £100,000 and reduce CO2 emissions by nearly 600 tons a year. If the trials are successful, all street lamps across the country could be turned off between midnight and 5am. Other areas taking part in the scheme include Maldon and Uttlesford in Essex, while parts of Hampshire have already carried out pilots. Residents' groups, police organisations and motoring groups have expressed fear that the darkness could cause increases in crime and road traffic accidents.
This is so sad. There's no reason people should be forced to compromise between safety and environmental protection. If things keep going in this direction, the environmental movement is going to lose a lot of potential supporters.

Lighting up the night was one of the greatest achievements in human history. Going backwards is not a solution.


Thanks to The Corner for the pointer.

Monday, February 11, 2008

NEI's Energy Markets Report - January 28-February 1, 2008

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

Electricity peak prices fell $20-33/MWh at the PJM West and NEPOOL hubs as temperatures returned to normal. The ERCOT and Entergy hubs both decreased around $12/MWh and the Palo Verde and SP 15 hubs increased about $1/MWh (Platts, see pages 1 and 3).

Gas prices at the Henry Hub decreased $0.18 to $7.96/MMBtu due to moderating temperatures and easing pipeline constraints. Natural gas in storage was 2,062 billion cubic feet (Bcf) as of February 1, which is 3 percent above the 5-year average (2003-2007). At 200 Bcf, the net withdrawal from storage last week was the second-largest withdrawal reported during the current heating season (EIA, see pages 1 and 3).

Estimated nuclear plant availability fell to 92 percent last week. Fermi 2 was manually scrammed after the trip of both reactor recirculation pumps. Limerick 2 shut down automatically due to an indication of a fault on the electrical turbine distribution side of the plant. North Anna 2 was shut down for scheduled maintenance to replace a seal on one of the unit's three reactor coolant pumps. St. Lucie 2 shut down to repair a reactor coolant pump seal package. Comanche Peak 1 was temporarily down for two days (Platts and NRC, see pages 2 and 4).

Crude oil prices fell $2.10 from the previous week to $89.41/barrel. This is the first time oil prices have fallen below $90/barrel in six weeks (see pages 1 and 3).

The spot price of uranium fell to $75/lb U3O8 according to UxConsulting and TradeTech (see pages 1 and 3). According to UxC, on February 1, the U.S. signed a Russian Suspension Agreement Amendment, which is intended to give Russia limited access to U.S. commercial markets between now and 2020.
For the report click here. It is also located on NEI's Financial Center webpage.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

A Blogger's Tour at Crystal River 3

Chris Gent over at the Conway blog shared his thoughts on his tour of the Crystal River 3 nuclear plant in Florida:

The energy complex is the second largest power-producing facility in the nation and the largest east of the Mississippi. The sprawling facility covers 4,700 acres and generates nearly 3,200 megawatts of electricity. One megawatt serves approximately 800 homes so we’re talking about a plant output that serves nearly 2.6 million homes!

The complex is comprised of four coal-fired units and one nuclear. These units came online in 1966 (Unit 1), 1969 (Unit 2), 1977 (Unit 3), 1982 (Unit 4) and 1984 (Unit 5).

Before I begin my overview of the tour, let me tell you that security at the facility is beyond intense. I’ve visited the U.S. Capitol and the White House and the security there is elementary compared to what it takes to enter this complex.

...

Because the U.S. doesn’t permit the reprocessing of used nuclear fuel, nuclear plants are required to store their entire supply of spent fuel onsite. The amazing thing is that all the fuel used in the plant’s 31 years of operation sits at the bottom of this pool and could easy fit inside a semi tractor-trailer. There simply is not much leftover waste with this type of plant.

...

I walked away from today’s tour with a new appreciation for nuclear power. Here are some of my observations:

Nuclear power has a good safety record (no U.S. fatalities in nearly 50 years).
• It decreases our dependency on imported oil.
• It’s economical – roughly 1/3 to 1/6 the cost of fossil fuels
• It does not emit pollution or Carbon Dioxide gas (CO2). With no emissions it reduces the amount of greenhouse gases.
• Unlike what has been portrayed on TV by Homer Simpson, the plant employees are all professional, highly-trained individuals.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

NEI's Energy Markets Report - January 21-January 25, 2008

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

Electricity peak prices decreased $3-7/MWh at the ERCOT and Palo Verde hubs. The other four hubs increased $2-12/MWh. Colder temperatures at the NEPOOL and PJM West hubs elevated prices by more than $10/MWh (Platts, see pages 1 and 3).

Gas prices at the Henry Hub decreased $0.13 to $8.14/MMBtu. The holiday week and above average gas supplies contributed to the spot price declines. During the first 76 days of the heating season (began November), a net volume of 964 Bcf of natural gas was withdrawn from underground storage which was significantly higher than for the same period last year. If withdrawals for the remainder of the heating season equal the drawdown for the comparable period of last winter, storage would be about 16 percent below the previous end-of-March stocks (EIA, see pages 1 and 3).

Estimated nuclear plant availability advanced to 95 percent last week. Seabrook automatically shut down due to a turbine trip. Summer manually tripped after failure of a feedwater flow control valve (NRC, see pages 2 and 4).

Crude oil prices fell $3.93 from the previous week to $90.83/barrel. Since November, crude oil prices have averaged almost $35 per barrel higher than the year before (EIA, see pages 1 and 3). The spot price of uranium fell to $78 and $82/lb U3O8 according to UxConsulting and TradeTech. TradeTech stated that political uncertainty is playing a pivotal role in the uranium market. Some market participants view this week’s announced delay in the signing of the proposed amendment to the Russian Suspension Agreement as a bellwether of potential supply uncertainty, while others view the announcement as a natural part of the negotiation process. Some buyers view the current price drop as an anomaly and are considering purchases, although others continue to “bargain hunt” (see pages 1 and 3).
For the report click here. It is also located on NEI's Financial Center webpage.

Utilities Turning From Coal to Gas

That's according to the New York Times:

Stymied in their plans to build coal-burning power plants, American utilities are turning to natural gas to meet expected growth in demand, risking a new upward spiral in the price of that fuel.

...

the executives see plants fired by natural gas as the only kind that can be constructed quickly and can supply reliable power day and night.

But North American supplies of natural gas will be flat or declining in coming years, according to the Energy Information Administration. The United States already has high natural gas prices, a problem for homeowners and many industries, like chemical and fertilizer producers. Some experts fear a boom in gas demand for electricity generation will send prices even higher.

...

Now, with many coal plants being canceled and demand for electricity rising by 2 percent or so a year, the prospect is that utilities will be forced to build and use a new generation of gas-fired plants regardless of the operating cost — and consumers will bear the burden of higher electricity rates.

All the more reason consumers should want utilities to build more nuclear plants. The chart below shows the U.S. was achieving fuel diversity from the '50s to the '80s. Then in the 1990s up until now, gas has been the preferred choice of fuel.

Hopefully next decade we'll be seeing a lot more blue in the chart.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

NEI Applauds DOE Budget Request

NEI said in a statment it was generally satisfied with the Energy Department's budget request for fiscal 2009 announced yesterday. The DOE request would increase funding by 79 percent next year for Nuclear Power 2010, a program aimed at helping companies build new nuclear power plants in the United States.

Nuclear Energy Institute President and Chief Executive Officer Frank L. (Skip) Bowman said the budget request properly recognizes the need for nuclear energy to remain a key element of the nation’s diverse electricity portfolio for generations to come.

“Nuclear energy enhances our energy independence, and new nuclear power plants are essential if the United States hopes to meet its energy and environmental challenges. The promise of nuclear energy technology extends beyond electricity production to include production of hydrogen and process heat for other applications,” Bowman said. “For these reasons, the administration’s investment in the Nuclear Power 2010 program, the used fuel management program and the loan guarantee program are welcome and warranted."

“The administration correctly anticipates a new era of nuclear plant construction as part of a diverse electricity production mix that meets the need for clean, affordable and reliable energy,” Bowman said.

However, the Nuclear Power 2010 funding was only a small part of DOE's $25 billion budget request.

Wired's online version said the request was "optimistic" but wondered whether it was "plausible."