Monday, March 31, 2008

A Shout Out Over the Fence

Our neighbor here are Blogspot, Rod Adams of Atomic Insights - tops on our blog roll - is currently debating nuclear energy as a viable solution for climate change with Matt, a sustainability consultant who writes regularly for TalkClimateChange. The conversation is happening over at Green Options and promises to be exceptionally broad ranging.

Here's a taster of Rod's opening:

We can build nuclear plants safely and rapidly enough to make a real different in resource availability. During the ten year period between 1975 and 1985, the amount of new energy production from nuclear plants was roughly equivalent to adding about 6 million barrels of oil per day to the world's available energy supply. Note - that is not nameplate "capacity" like you find with wind turbines that are often idle, it is actual production.

And Matt's:

The Royal Academy of Engineering in 2003 ("The Cost of GeneratingElectricity") put gas-fired combined-cycle gas turbine (CCGT) at 2.2 units of cost, and nuclear at 2.3 units of cost. This does not take into account the savings from district heating. We have at our disposal the knowledge, tools and labour to connect CCGT to district heating today, we just need the political will to do so.

In addition, nuclear requires serious subsidy - the free market would not go near it with a barge pole.

That last sentence is a bit of an eyebrow-raiser.

We'd say, "May the best man win," but that would sound a little tinny coming from this corner. We know who will win.

PS: If you get the right ad at the top on the Green Option page, you'll learn that Clorox has a new cleaner called Green Works. Not sure it isn't bleach in a bottle with leaves on it, but it certainly suggests the commercial possibilities that have emerged around "greeniness" over the last year or so.

The Happiest Place in the World

That of course would be Walt Disney World, but in neighboring Levy county, the next most happiest, Progress Energy is set to build a new nuclear power plant. The response by Orlando Sentinel columnist Mike Thomas is exceptionally upbeat:

Locally, the only major controversy comes from neighboring Citrus County, which houses the utility's Crystal River nuclear plant and is miffed it isn't getting this one.

The state of Florida is gung-ho, which means no major obstacles from the Public Service Commission or Department of Environmental Protection.

Nuclear power is the only option available to meet Gov. Charlie Crist's ambitious goals of reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
A new state law will allow Progress Energy to begin collecting money for the $17 billion facility in advance. So the utility's customers could see a $9 bump in an average electric bill beginning in January.

To speed up the federal review process, Progress Energy plans to use a next-generation Westinghouse AP1000 reactor. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission already has signed off on the basic design.

The only way this plant does not get built is if Progress Energy makes a business decision not to build it.

That I can make such a statement without being laughed out of the newsroom shows how far we have come in our view of nuclear power.

And the money line?

I would much rather live down the street from a Westinghouse AP1000 than a coal-fired plant.

Wouldn't we all?

---

Also at the Orlando Sentinel is an op-ed extolling the virtues of loan guarantees to build new plants. Lynn Edward Weaver is president emeritus of the Florida Institute of Technology and does an excellent job explaining that it is appropriate and historically apt that government take a role here.

Federal support for a strategically important energy source is hardly new. We wouldn't have the oil, gas or coal industries as they are today without massive federal support. Wind and solar power exist only because of government subsidies. The main alternative fuel for vehicles -- ethanol -- is totally a result of tax credits and subsidies. For national security and environmental requirements, the government has an appropriate role in supporting the development of clean, American energy sources. And the request for nuclear is not an outright subsidy -- just a guarantee that if an extremely serious and unlikely delay occurred, the government would help fund the additional cost. Most experts agree that it is extremely unlikely that the guarantees would ever cost the government a dollar.

Weaver does not mention that new plant over in Levy County, so this might be an editorial making the rounds, but since he is a Floridian, his words added to Thomas' suggest a strong vote for nuclear power in the state. All those trips to Tomorrowland have paid off.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

A Song and Video by Radiation Workers

Check out this awesome video of a song titled "50 Ways to Save a Millirem" by the band Rem Men. Thanks to Blue Crab Boulevard for the pointer.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Spheres of Influence

More on the deal between Egypt and Russia, with Russia supplying Egypt with technology to build a commercial nuclear power plant.

Nuclear power has become intensely interesting to the Arab nations. The logic behind oil-rich nations finding nuclear appealing is simple:

Arab nations cite their need for energy security in the face of ever-expanding domestic energy demands. This includes countries with vast oil and gas reserves, which can be more profitable if exported.

"It's Iran's wish to accelerate its dubious programme that has pushed Arab countries to throw themselves into the race for nuclear power," said Antoine Basbous, [director of the Paris-based Arab World Observatory told AFP.]

With Russia in the mix trying to reestablish its reputation as an economic force in the middle east (and crack open a potent industrial niche, since Russia wants to build the plants it designs), the potential for mischief intensifies. In fact, mischief might trump good sense: As Basbous says, Iran's wayward lurches toward nuclear power has unsettled the region considerably and is causing its neighbors to scurry along in its wake.

So far, though, no worries:

The IAEA's Egyptian chief, Mohamed ElBaradei, said in February that "all the Arab countries' nuclear activities will be under agency safeguard systems, so I don't see why anybody should be concerned."

Fair enough. Russia is not the only non-Arab vendor in this effort. The U.S. has pacted with Bahrain and France (via AREVA) with Algeria, Libya and the United Arab Emirates. So far, the race for nuclear power has not set off alarms and perhaps need not.

It is just a scent in the air, a tangy waft that occurs when positive action is motivated by other than inherent benefit - for geopolitical gain, for example, and not environmental concern (not mentioned in any story on the Egypt-Russia pact I've seen). The scent is quite faint, though, and may very well represent nothing more than a need to proceed cautiously when giants - the U.S., Russia, the EU - are lumbering around and sniffing the air too. 

CNN Piece on Kazakhstan's Uranium Boom

Check out the detailed piece from CNNMoney on how Kazakhstan's uranium industry has taken off.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Animating the Issues

AREVA has been notably good with their outreach ads. Here's an animated piece extolling the virtues of nuclear energy through the medium of two yakky fuel pellets. Perhaps a little static in the manner of much Flash animation, but a very nicely produced piece that hits its points without fuss. AREVA is a member of NEI, so this post could easily be construed as a bit of logrolling, but good is good.

Video on Blogging

The video below on blogging is something you may enjoy apart from our usual nuclear energy discussions. A museum dedicated to the news, the Newseum, is set to open April 11 in Washington DC. The video discusses the section in the Newseum created specifically about blogging and how bloggers (you) have played an important role in the media. Enjoy!

Riverkeeper Doesn't Like Indian Point's Independent Safety Evaluation

Well, what's new? I didn't catch this until yesterday, but shortly after Entergy announced an independent safety evaluation will be done for Indian Point, Riverkeeper was quick to dismiss the study. Here's Riverkeeper:

An independent safety assessment is not an assessment contracted and paid for by the company needing an assessment.
If the Nuclear Regulatory Commission conducts the safety assessment, Entergy would still have to pay for it. Anytime a plant is under increased scrutiny by the NRC, the plant is billed for those extra hours. Riverkeeper:
There are times when the federal government needs to step in and put taxpayers’ dollars to work for the sake of public health and safety.
It is not taxpayers' dollars at work here. As said above, Entergy would still end up paying for the study. Riverkeeper:
A true Independent Safety Assessment should be overseen by federal and state regulators and include a citizen advisory panel.
There are ten experts on Entergy's ISE panel. Two of the experts, Brockman and Kane, worked for the NRC. Kane was actually the NRC's Executive Director of Operations (the EDO is one of the highest positions in the NRC without being appointed as a commissioner). Two other experts, Rhodes and Galbraith, worked for the Institute of Nuclear Power Operations - the nuclear industry's version of the NRC. One expert, Helmer, was a former chair of the New York State Public Service Commission. Another expert, Todreas, has been a nuclear science and engineering professor with MIT for 38 years. Another expert, Dyson, was appointed chairman of the New York Power Authority. And three panelists, Vonk, Stevens and McCombs, have expertise in emergency preparedness. I don't know Riverkeeper's definition but it looks like the panel is made up of former "federal and state regulators" and a "citizen advisory panel." Riverkeeper:
If Entergy were truly concerned about taxpayer dollars, it would cover the full costs of emergency planning and leave regulating and nuclear oversight to government agencies charged with protecting public health and safety.
The NRC is still the regulator of Indian Point. Here's Entergy's explanation of that issue:
The ISE would supplement extensive evaluations already regularly conducted by the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission through its reactor oversight process.
Riverkeeper's complaints about the ISE are baseless. If they actually had read Entergy's release, they would have seen that their complaints are being addressed. It is clear Riverkeeper has an agenda and nothing will please them.

Update
Two more members were just added to the panel:
The final additions are T. Gary Broughton, former Chief Executive Officer of GPU Nuclear, and Clayton "Scotty" Hinnant, former Chief Nuclear Officer (CNO) for Progress Energy. Both bring to the panel considerable experience and a reputation for independent and thorough knowledge of the issues in the nuclear power industry.
Congressman John Hall is unimpressed.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

In the Shadow of Other Pyramids

Russia is proving to be quite the power station broker, now adding Egypt to its portfolio of customers, following Iran, China and India.

Egypt wants up to four nuclear power stations and an international tender to build the first of them may come as early as this year. Tuesday’s agreement clears the way for Russia’s state nuclear contractor to bid for work.


The Kremlin is lobbying hard for nuclear contracts abroad because it sees the industry as a high-technology sector it must develop, to reduce its dependence on oil and gas exports.

There's a whiff of politics, though whether from the Kremlin or the (Pakistani) news source is hard to determine. Russia wants to be a major player in the upcoming Middle East peace talks, but building out this industrial niche would seem the longer range goal.

NRG, Toshiba Form Company to Develop ABWR Projects in North America

NRG Energy Inc. has partnered with Toshiba Corp. to create a new company to pursue new nuclear energy projects. Nuclear Innovation North America LLC will focus on “marketing, siting, developing, financing and investing in advanced design nuclear projects” in the United States and Canada, NRG Energy said in a news release.

In addition to a $300 million investment over the next six years and 12 percent equity ownership, Toshiba Corp. will serve as the prime contractor on all of the joint venture’s projects. Half of Toshiba’s investment will support development of two new South Texas Project reactors (STP 3 and 4). The other half will focus on new projects and accelerating development and deployment of additional Advanced Boiling Water Reactor (ABWR) projects in North America.

“New advanced nuclear is a key part of the future for affordable, reliable and zero-carbon baseload generation not only in Texas but throughout the United States,” said David Crane, NRG president and CEO. “And after a 30 year hiatus, we believe the most cost effective and risk-managed way to reintroduce nuclear, whether a company is operating in a rate base or a merchant environment, is by working with the companies that have been so successful with on-time, on-budget nuclear construction in other countries.

The new company will utilize expertise NRG Energy has gained developing STP 3 and 4 and Toshiba’s design and construction experience with the ABWR. The company said it will employ a “disciplined approach” to nuclear development and investment in ABWR projects,” with a structure that aligns the interests of the developer and prime contractor “to optimize the schedule, performance and costs of its projects while sharing risk in a manner consistent with the requirements of traditional project finance,” NRG said.

NEI's Nuclear Performance - February 2008

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

For February 2008, the average net capacity factor was 93.2 percent. This figure is 3.5 percentage points lower than February 2007. Monthly nuclear generation was 65.1 billion kilowatt-hours in February 2008, slightly lower than the 65.2 bkWh in February 2007.

For 2008, year-to-date nuclear generation was 135.4 billion kilowatt-hours, compared to 139.2 bkWh in 2007 (2.8 percent decrease).

Twenty reactors have either finished or are undergoing refueling outages for 2008. Seventeen reactors had either finished or were in refueling outages at the same time last year.

Early U.S. generation data from EIA indicates the nuclear industry generated 806.5 bkWh in 2007 providing 19.4 percent of the country’s electricity. For 2007, coal’s electric generation fuel share was 48.6%, natural gas was 21.5%, hydro was 6.0%, renewables and other were 3.0%, and petroleum was 1.6%.
For the report click here. It is also located on NEI's Financial Center webpage.

NEI's Energy Markets Report - March 17-March 21, 2008

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

Electricity peak prices all decreased between $0.30-4.40/MWh. Though peak prices declined, prices at all hubs except ERCOT are still higher than their previous 52 week averages (see pages 1 and 3).

Estimated nuclear plant availability fell to 83 percent last week. Eleven reactors were down for refueling and nine were down for maintenance. Fort Calhoun’s turbine tripped while at 85% power due to a turbine control valve problem. Comanche Peak 2 tripped due to a broken sensing line. Wolf Creek 1 tripped due to a low steam generator level from the loss of a main feed water pump. Grand Gulf 1 scrammed due to an actuation of an RPS signal while the reactor was critical. Information is not yet available on why River Bend and Nine Mile Point 2 are down (NRC, see pages 2 and 4).

Gas prices at the Henry Hub fell $0.56 to $9.20/MMBtu. Gas prices are 34 percent higher than the same time last year. According to a recent CERA report, the higher natural gas prices over the past few months are due to colder than normal temperatures across much of the U.S., lower Canadian gas production, lower LNG imports, and higher storage withdrawals (see pages 1 and 3).

Spot coal prices from EIA have increased moderately to significantly at five basins - Central Appalachia, Northern Appalachia, Illinois, Uinta and Powder River. Spot prices at the Northern and Central Appalachia basins have increased from about $45/ton in November 2007 to $80/ton today. Prices at the Illinois and Uinta Basins have increased from about $35/ton and $25/ton, respectively, since December 2007 to over $50/ton and $40/ton today (http://www.eia.doe.gov/cneaf/coal/page/coalnews/coalmar.html). According to a Forbes article on 3/10, coal spot prices have been increasing due to tight supplies after producers in South Africa and Australia, which supply a large portion of Europe's and Asia's coal needs, were hit by severe weather and power problems.
For the report click here. It is also located on NEI's Financial Center webpage.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

The Enemy of My Enemy

One of the odder bits of news involves "Europe's last dictator," Alexander Lukashenko of Balarus, is pursuing a pact with Iran to build a nuclear power plant - odd, because it seems unlikely to occur.

David Marples, a Belarus expert at the University of Alberta, doubts that Iran could afford to finance a project that is likely to run much higher than, perhaps even double the amount of, the officially projected $4-5 billion. “It would be an enormous commitment from Iran,” he said and pointed to Russia as the more likely nuclear partner.

Likely an announcement meant to spark a bit of amusement in diplomatic circles or perhaps stir up some mischief for Washington, the net effect is nil. Doubtful that a saber will even be unsheathed much less rattled.

NY Times Blog on the High Uranium Prices

Stephen Dubner at the New York Times' Freakonomics blog explained some of the reasons for the high uranium spot prices seen over the past several years.

Between 2004 and 2007, the spot price of uranium more than quadrupled, reaching more than $140 before falling off sharply in the past several months to less than $80.

...

According to David Miller, C.O.O. of Strathmore Minerals, nuclear plants had, until recently, been living off a huge uranium stockpile from the 1980’s. That stockpile was created in anticipation of an onslaught of new U.S. nuclear plants that ended up never being built because of Jane Fonda political, regulatory, and public pressures. Now, says Miller, with that stockpile depleted, there’s a huge push for new uranium.
What's great about this post is that George Bell (CEO and Chairman of UNOR Inc.) jumped in on the comments:
As the CEO of the Canadian uranium exploration company UNOR, Inc - 19.5% owned by the largest uranium producer in the world, Cameco - I feel it necessary to help clear the air on this issue.

First, there are two components to the uranium process: The long-term price and the spot price. When enrichers and reactors run into a near-term supply crunch, they must go to the spot market. However, most enrichment facilities and reactor end users buy at long term prices.

...

The spot price of uranium has been falling over the past few months, but this is because most buyers are locking in at the long-term price, which is presently $95 per pound of U308. Behind the smokescreen, savvy insiders know that that the spot price is falling, because no one is buying at the spot price. Really, industry insiders know, enrichers and reactors are buying at the long-term price, because they know the price is going up, based on supply/demand issues alone.

The spot price will reflect such in the future, but for now, it is sort of a “smoke and mirrors” as to what is really happening within the industry.

Germany Needs More Nuclear Plants to Avoid Blackouts

Also from the Guardian:

Senior German energy executives warned yesterday that Europe's biggest economy faces growing blackouts unless it follows the Franco-British lead in promoting new nuclear power stations.

They seized on a weekend report in the Guardian that Gordon Brown and French president Nicolas Sarkozy will unveil an alliance to build nuclear plants and export the modern technology worldwide at their "Arsenal" summit at the Emirates Stadium this week to press the case for Germany to pursue its own new nuclear renaissance.

As commentators said Germany risked being left behind, Wulf Bernotat, E.ON chief executive, said the country could face an electricity shortage of 12 to 21 gigawatts (GW), according to official estimates from the German energy agency (Dena).

...

Grossmann said that blackouts could occur as early as this summer because of problems with wind power and cooling difficulties in other power plants. RWE estimates Germany could face a 30GW power gap by 2015.
Be sure to read the rest.

Britain and France Team Up on Nuclear Power

From the Guardian:

Britain and France are to sign a deal to construct a new generation of nuclear power stations and export the technology around the world in an effort to combat climate change.

The pact is to be announced at the "Arsenal summit" next week when prime ministers Gordon Brown and Nicolas Sarkozy will meet at the Emirates stadium in north London.

Britain hopes to take advantage of French expertise to build the power stations that do not rely on fossil fuels. Nearly 79% of France's electricity comes from its highly-developed nuclear power industry. The UK's ageing nuclear plants are ready for decommissioning and supply 20% of its energy needs.

Brown hopes the partnership will create a skilled British labour force who would then work in partnership with France to sell nuclear power stations to other countries over the next 15 years.

Britain this week started the process of licensing four generic reactor designs, including the French-designed Areva run by EDF (√Člectrict√© de France).

Monday, March 24, 2008

Idaho Samizdat on Indian Point

Dan Yurman shares some thoughts on New York's Indian Point nuclear plant. Be sure to visit:

New York is the first state to formally oppose relicensing of a nuclear power plant

At a time when the rest of the world is experiencing what is called a "nuclear renaissance," the situation in the Empire State appears to be retrograding into a dark age where all things nuclear are considered a threat, and often on an emotional rather than rational basis. ...

Friday, March 21, 2008

Depleted Cranium Puts the Nuclear Industry Lobbying Dollars Into Perspective

Check it out.

NEI Fact Sheet on Water Consumption at Nuclear Plants

NEI recently updated its fact sheet on water consumption at nuclear plants. Below are some highlights (the picture to the right is the cooling tower at the Shearon Harris nuclear plant in North Carolina):

Electric power generation is among the smallest users of water, accounting for about 3 percent of freshwater consumption in the United States, according to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). This is the same percentage used by industries and the same used to raise livestock. The largest consumption of water is for irrigation, at 80 percent, followed by residential use at 7 percent, the USGS said.

Residential consumption of freshwater is nearly double the consumption of freshwater for electric power generation. According to the latest USGS figures, the residential sector consumes more than 6.6 billion gallons of freshwater per day, compared with the power sector, which consumes 3.8 billion gallons per day.

A typical nuclear plant supplies power for 740,000 homes and consumes the equivalent of six to 16 gallons of water per day per household in a once-through cooling system. The same plant would consume the equivalent of 20 to 26 gallons of water per day per household if it used cooling tower systems. The average U.S. household of three people consumes about 300 gallons of water per day for indoor and outdoor uses, according to the USGS.

...

There is nothing unique to nuclear power plants about the possibility of reducing electricity production to moderate water temperatures because of decreased water levels in a drought or a severe heat wave. This preserves safety margins established by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission for each plant.

...

Each reactor design has requirements to decrease power levels if the cooling water source exceeds certain temperature or water-level requirements. The maximum allowed temperature for the heat removal capacity (ocean, river, lake, cooling tower) varies among reactors based on specifications defined in the license.

...

Although the southeastern United States recently has suffered from drought conditions, nuclear plants were not affected significantly. In fact, nuclear plants in the region were critical to meeting electricity demand during a two-week heat wave in August 2007.

NAM Board Backs Nuclear Energy

The National Association of Manufacturers’ (NAM) board of directors has endorsed nuclear energy as part of a policy revision, the first completed by the association in decades.

In supporting the continued use and development of nuclear energy in the United States, the NAM favors construction and operation of facilities covering all parts of the fuel cycle and nuclear energy generation. This includes power plants, fuel enrichment facilities, fuel fabrication plants, low- and high-level waste handling, and disposal operations and other related facilities critical to supporting and expanding the nuclear energy industry.

The business association supports policies “that allow the federal government to fulfill its legal obligation to remove used fuel from commercial nuclear power plants and manage its long-term disposal.” The NAM also backs efforts to close the fuel cycle while a permanent disposal facility, which is needed even if the fuel cycle is successfully closed, is developed.

“Nuclear energy helps stabilize the price of electricity while maintaining a diversity of domestic fuel sources,” the policy said. “As the demand for electricity in the United States continues to grow, the NAM supports the construction of additional nuclear power plants that have been approved by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to maintain a diverse portfolio of generating resources.”

The new policies are available on NAM’s Web site at www.nam.org/policypositions.

Carbon Capture Caprice

The value of carbon capture and clean coal as an alternative to nuclear energy proved to be a winning argument for the Dutch, but the Guardian takes a far dimmer view of its use in Britain.

The government says that the [carbon capture] demonstration project will take "at least 15 years" to assess. It will take many more years for the technology to be retro-fitted to existing power stations, by which time it's all over. On this schedule, carbon capture and storage, if it is deployed at all, will come too late to prevent runaway climate change.

The article admits that carbon capture is feasible and most of its component technologies are in use, though not especially effectively.

Frankly, though, author George Monbiot (really, the British government) underestimates industry. If carbon capture technology proves truly effective, then those 15 years will melt away to many fewer - there's a very strong motivation to find solutions to carbon emission issues and a large industry that wants badly to do so. There's also the bread-and-butter issue of the wrenching change many, many workers would face if the coal industry in Britain (and elsewhere, too, of course) started to crater. 

Those on the nuclear side of the fence may feel a bit like pointing and laughing at their coal brethren. While they may well want to turn up the volume on a technology that's available now, technologically proven and ready for expansion, it's unnecessary, especially in most of Europe, to do that. 

So now, it's coal's turn - wish it well. The more clean energy there is in the world, the better.

How many nuclear plants does it take to meet the world's energy needs?

Several weeks ago Joshua Pearce at Clarion University in Pennsylvania released a study titled “Thermodynamic limitations to nuclear energy deployment as a greenhouse gas mitigation technology.” In the study he stated...

nuclear energy production would have to increase by 10.5% per year from 2010 to 2050 to both replace fossil-fuel-energy use and meet the future energy demands.
This line, of course, made the headlines and has been picked up by several outlets and blogs. When looking into his calculations for this statement, he made one assumption error that overstated the above sentence by nearly a factor of three.

Page 121, Section 4.1 of the study states:
Richard Smalley pointed out that in 2004, the global economy consumed the equivalent of 220 million barrels of oil per day, which converted into electricity terms is the equivalent of 14.5 TeraWatts (TW), or 14,500,000 MegaWatts (MW) (2005). … With a nuclear plant having about 1000 MW (1 GW) of capacity, we would need 14,500 nuclear power plants to power the entire world.
Mistake
The first sentence is correct; the last sentence contains his false assumption. The 14.5 TW of power he calculates are referring to thermal energy. The 1,000 MW nuclear capacity assumption he makes is referring to electric energy. A 1,000 MWe nuclear plant provides about 3,000 MW of thermal energy. When using the correct assumption of 3,000 MWt instead of 1,000 MWe, the number of nuclear plants that can provide the amount of energy equivalent to daily world energy consumption is about 5,300 and not 14,500. I’ll explain further.

Energy and Heat
When you think of energy, think of it as heat. The energy we consume is really how much heat we consume. The kicker is how efficient we can turn heat into usable energy. A typical car engine is only 20% efficient and a typical steam power plant (used primarily by coal and nuclear plants) is only 33% efficient. This means that only a fraction of the heat created is turned into usable energy. Thermal energy is the total energy created and electric energy is the usable energy after efficiency losses.

Heat Rates
A heat rate is “a measurement used in the energy industry to calculate how efficiently a generator uses heat energy.” The average nuclear plant heat rate is about 10,000 Btus/kWh. But only 3,412 Btus are needed to generate one kWh of electricity. Thus, for every kWh generated by a nuclear plant, 6,600 Btus are not used. What happens to all those Btus? It is dissipated through cooling towers, lakes, rivers or oceans as steam or hot water.

Daily Electricity Generation and World Energy Consumption
In one day, a nuclear plant operating at 100% power will provide 24,000 megawatt-hours (1,000 megawatts each hour for 24 hours). With a heat rate of 10,000 Btus/kWh, a nuclear plant thus produces 240 x 10^9 Btus each day. In 2005, world primary energy consumption was 462.798 quadrillion Btus. Thus, daily world energy consumption was 1.27 x 10^15 Btus. To put the energy consumption in the context of Mr. Pearce’s study, we need to convert Btus to barrels of oil equivalent - one barrel of oil contains 5.8 x 10^6 Btus. Therefore, in 2005, the daily energy consumption was 219 million barrels of oil equivalent. Mr. Pearce’s study cites 220 million barrels of oil equivalent per day in 2004. Close enough.

Here’s how we calculate the mistake in the study. If we divide the world daily primary energy consumption of 1.27 x 10^15 Btus by the daily Btu production from one average nuclear plant (240 x 10^9), we find the world consumed the equivalent amount of energy from about 5,300 nuclear plants each day in 2005; not Pearce's calculation of 14,500 in 2004. In reality, the total number of nuclear plants is more like 6,000 because they are not always operating at 100% power every day.

How many nuclear plants are needed by 2050?
According to page 121 of Pearce’s study, world energy consumption is projected to double by 2050. If we double the calculated number of nuclear plants from today’s rate, the world will consume the equivalent amount of energy from 11,000-12,000 nuclear plants by 2050. Pearce’s study first calculated 33,000 but then says only 26,000 nuclear plants are needed to replace fossil-fuels while meeting the world's growing demands. The other 7,000 plants are supposed to be met by other non-emitting sources.

Wrap-Up
The whole point of Mr. Pearce’s study was to “demand modesty in claims of ‘emission-free nuclear energy’ as a panacea for global climate destabilization.” I agree with only part of this statement. Contrary to Pearce, I think it is clearly appropriate to call nuclear energy emission-free. Nuclear plants do not emit greenhouse gases while producing electricity and that’s what counts. The antis have tried to discount this truth by holding nuclear accountable for the emissions of fossil-fuels during nuclear’s lifecycle. Yet, even if we play by the anti’s game, numerous studies have shown that nuclear’s lifecycle emissions are equivalent to other non-emitting sources of energy.

Nuclear energy can and should increase much greater than 6% of the world’s energy needs. I do agree with Pearce, though, that we need to be “modest” for how much nuclear can contribute. It is impractical to think nuclear energy (nor any energy) should be the only source of energy used in the world. The diversity of energy sources is the best choice because it provides flexibility, sustainability and reliability, and nuclear definitely adds to that diversity.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

A Finger in the Dyke

The Guardian reports that the Dutch government is scaling back their nuclear activities in favor of coal with carbon capture. The writer, Reuters Carolyn Hornby, is less than impressed:

[Environment Minister Jacqueline Cramer] said that coal, the most widely-used but also one of the most polluting energy sources on the planet, was a favoured option for the Netherlands because of its availability and easy access to Dutch ports, but also for security of supply.

This is the path-of-least-resistance approach to solving energy issues. Carbon capture is a more promising technology than the article allows; still, the Dutch have adopted it largely as a reaction against nuclear energy rather than as a better approach - and it must seem a little ironic to the environmentalists who took the upper hand in arguments against nuclear energy that they've ended up with more coal plants. Surely, an unintended consequence of their intransigence.

Independent Safety Evaluation to be Conducted for the Indian Point Nuclear Plant in New York

Here are some of the details:

In an effort to provide public assurances about the operation and protection of New York's largest nuclear power facility, Entergy Nuclear today announced the start of a fully independent examination of safety, security and emergency preparedness at its Indian Point Energy Center (IPEC) in Buchanan.

The Independent Safety Evaluation (ISE) will be conducted by a distinguished independent panel of experts selected for their unique qualifications and independence of relationships with Entergy which would compromise their judgment. The ISE would supplement extensive evaluations already regularly conducted by the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission through its reactor oversight process.

"Although repeated and continuous NRC assessments have concluded Indian Point is safe, we hope this independent evaluation will be another step in building public confidence in Indian Point's safety and security, and serving as a vital role in New York's energy future," said Michael Kansler, president and chief nuclear officer of Entergy Nuclear.

"We are taking the extra step of performing an independent safety evaluation to reassure the public that Indian Point is a safe and secure facility with acceptable plans in place to address an emergency."

The decision to perform an ISE came after the company listened to various constituencies and policymakers and conducted numerous focus groups in an effort to understand the concerns associated with Indian Point.

This unprecedented action includes the following elements of the ISE:

The safety elements include evaluation of:
-- Implementation of nuclear safety requirements, conservative decision making, regulatory compliance, and identification and resolution of safety problems.
-- Conduct of operations, engineering, maintenance, management, and plant material condition.

The security evaluation would include Indian Point's capability to deal with credible security events, including ones involving terrorist attacks.

The emergency preparedness evaluation includes:
-- Accident response and accident management capability.
-- Interface with and support of offsite emergency management.

A formal written report will be produced and made available to the public on a schedule to be determined by the ISE panel. The co-chairs of the panel were appointed by J. Wayne Leonard, chairman and chief executive officer of Entergy Corporation, the parent of Entergy Nuclear, with the complete understanding that they would be independent of the company and have total autonomy to conduct a thorough investigation. The members were selected by the co-chairs and will operate completely independently of the company, which will not be represented on the panel.

Entergy is funding the cost of the evaluation because the company does not believe it should be the public's responsibility to pay for an ISE through taxpayer dollars. In addition, panel selection criteria include absence of relationships with Entergy or other circumstances that could unduly influence a member's judgment on matters reviewed.

The ISE panel, which has more than 250 years of industry and academic expertise, will be co-chaired by Drs. James T. Rhodes and Neil E. Todreas.
For details on the members of the panel, go to the bottom of this page.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Florida Commission Approves Two New Reactors

The Miami Herald reported on the Florida Public Service Commission's decision to approve two additional reactors at Florida Power & Light's Turkey Point site. FPL already operates two reactors at Turkey Point in south Florida.

"Trends indicate there will be a substantial need for more power in FPL's service territory, and these new nuclear units can help meet that need," PSC Chairman Matthew M. Carter II said in a statement. "The nuclear units will provide a clean, noncarbon-emitting source of base-load power to meet Florida's growing energy needs."
FPL said in a statement today that the Florida commission's decision will help provide the state with clean, safe and reliable electricity.
"Additional nuclear generation will help us achieve Gov. Crist’s goal of reducing the carbon emissions that scientists have determined contribute to climate change, and will protect customers from supply disruptions and unpredictable prices that can result from being too dependent on a single fuel source," said Armando Olivera, president of FPL.

The Morning Call for Nuclear Energy

The Morning Call has an op-ed by Forrest J. Remick of Penn State lauding nuclear energy to its Allentown, Pennsylvania readers. While Remick's article is a fairly standard, and calmly reasoned, call for support, the focus on safety is very nice.

"No one in the public has ever been harmed by the operation of a nuclear power plant in the United States. Instead of nuclear plants being shut down after their initial 40-year licenses, half of the plants have been licensed by the NRC for another 20 years. Almost all of the remaining plants have either applied to the NRC to have their licenses renewed or intend to."

Pennsylvania is home to Three Mile Island, so this approach, laying out the facts dispassionately and even somewhat cooly, seems the right approach. Remick is professor of nuclear engineering emeritus, so he's not a disinterested source, but the reasonable and fact-based articles threading through different newspapers weave a tapestry of acceptance for nuclear energy.

Correction: The editorialist's name is Forrest J.Remick, not Remnick. As a person with a much more easily misspelled name than Mr. Remick, I regret the error.

NEI's Energy Markets Report - March 10-March 14, 2008

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

Electricity peak prices changed very little at all hubs except for ERCOT. ERCOT decreased about $18/MWh due to warmer temperatures and weaker spot gas in the region. The ERCOT hub electricity prices ranged from $28-73/MWh (Platts, see pages 1 and 3).

Gas prices at the Henry Hub increased $0.41 to $9.76/MMBtu. Low LNG imports and a significant winter storm in the Midwest contributed upward pressure on gas prices. LNG imports so far this month are about 44 percent below the level of last year. The winter snow storm that buried the Ohio Valley added to gas prices in consuming areas in the Northeast and Midwest. Storage levels as of March 7 were still 4.3 percent above the 5-year average, despite the continuing relatively large withdrawals from storage in the past several weeks (EIA, see pages 1 and 3).

Estimated nuclear plant availability remained at 88 percent last week. Calvert Cliffs 1 and Hatch 1 both finished their refueling outages. Hatch 1 made it to 14 percent power before it had to shut back down. Salem 2 began a refueling outage (NRC, see pages 2 and 4).

West Texas Intermediate crude oil prices increased $2.60 from the previous week to $103.44/barrel. Gasoline prices rose in all regions of the country, with the U.S. average retail price reaching its highest point in history, $3.23 per gallon. That was an increase of 6.3 cents from the previous week and 66.6 cents more than the price a year ago (EIA, see pages 1 and 3).

Uranium prices remained at $74/lb U3O8 according to TradeTech and UxConsulting. According to UxC, the Department of Energy (DOE) issued a Policy Statement on March 12, 2008 that outlines a general framework within which it will manage its surplus uranium inventories, including decisions regarding future uses of its inventory. These inventories include depleted, natural and highly-enriched uranium located at DOE sites across the United States and total approximately 59,000 metric tons of natural uranium equivalent (see pages 1 and 3).
For the report click here. It is also located on NEI's Financial Center webpage.

CBS Evening News on Nuclear's Resurgence

Check out this short clip aired on March 16.

Podcast of ANS's Vice President/President Elect

The American Nuclear Society's Dr. Burchill spoke to students at Vanderbilt University about...

...the factors that are producing the renaissance of nuclear power in the United States, the current status of that renaissance, and the challenges that it presents. These challenges include re-establishing the United States nuclear infrastructure, addressing proliferation concerns, building public confidence, licensing the Yucca Mountain High Level Waste Repository, and closing the nuclear fuel cycle.
You can listen here for the podcast.

Monday, March 17, 2008

The Cradle-to-Grave of the Energy World

Or at least that's the hope of Adelaide University professor Ian Plimer:

"I think it is an absolute no-brainer that we should look at a cradle-to-grave uranium industry," Professor Plimer said at a uranium conference in Adelaide yesterday.

"Where we mine it, we convert it into yellowcake, we create the fuel rods, we lease these fuel rods to the major Western countries that are wanting to use nuclear power.

"We take the fuel rods back, we clean them up and we dispose of the waste.

"That would make South Australia the Saudi Arabia of the energy world."

Although this is coming from an academic, expect a good deal of clamoring for position in the near future as the nuclear renaissance really gets going. But does South Australia really want to be the new Saudi Arabia... ?

Siteworx Wins Award for NEI's New Website

In July 2007, NEI launched its new website with the help of Siteworx who provided "deep expertise in user experience, application development and interactive marketing." Here's information from the PRWeb on the rewarding effort:

Siteworx has been awarded 2007 Interactive Media Awards for the redesign of the Regina Lewis, http://www.ReginaLewis.com, and Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI), http://www.nei.org, websites. Specifically, both sites were judged an "Outstanding Achievement" for their design, usability, innovative technical features and standards compliance. The Regina Lewis site earned the honor in the Lifestyle Category and the NEI site in the Utilities Category.

"Our objectives were to develop for each a unique, relevant, user-centered design aesthetic, along with a scalable technology infrastructure that will support their needs over the long haul. Siteworx is proud to share these impressive awards with Regina Lewis and the Nuclear Energy Institute as recognition of our combined success," says Siteworx VP of Marketing, Patricia Mejia.

Congratulations to the Siteworx and NEI teams for their hard work!

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Schwarzenegger on Nuclear Power

Here's the Wall Street Journal blog again:

“I think nuclear power has a great future, and we should look at it again,” California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said, closing The Wall Street Journal’s “ECO:nomics” conference. While he understands some people might still be afraid of the nuclear option, most Three Mile Island analogies are “environmentalist scare tactics. The technology has advanced so much,” he said.

It sure has—just not in the U.S. That was the message from the nuclear industry at the same conference, grappling with a question beguiling policy makers—and plenty of Environmental Capital readers: If coal is out of the question, and renewables are too small, how will America get its power if it keeps ignoring the nuclear elephant?

McCain, Clinton and Obama on Nuclear Power

The Wall Street Journal's blog provided some insights on where the three presidential candidates stand on nuclear power.

McCain:

Douglas Holtz-Eakin, policy director for Sen. McCain, said nukes can’t be left out. ‘The Senate Majority leader is the problem—we have Yucca Mountain [storage facility], we have the technology. I can’t see why we don’t take advantage of that,” he said.
Clinton:
Gene Sperling, chief economic adviser for Sen. Clinton and a veteran of the other Clinton White House, made it clear that New York’s junior senator “does not embrace nuclear power,” for a host of reasons ranging from Yucca Mountain’s uncertain storage to worries over nuclear proliferation. She doesn’t want to take nuclear power—which accounts for 20% of U.S. electricity—“off the table,” she just doesn’t want to see any more of the stuff until it dies of natural causes, he said.
Obama:
Jason Grumet, Sen. Obama’s energy adviser, appeared to leave the door cracked open—at first. “We have to overcome the problem, which is that renewable energy alone won’t do it,” he said. But, ticking off nuclear’s worries on his fingers—like safety, storage, and proliferation—he rushed to disavow “current nuclear” technology.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Jaczko, Svinicki Confirmed as NRC Commissioners

The Senate last week confirmed the nominations of Gregory Jaczko and Kristine Svinicki to serve as commissioners on the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

Jaczko was re-nominated for a second term in December. Prior to his appointment, he served as a science policy adviser for Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and advised members of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works on nuclear policy. Click here for more on Jaczko from the NRC.

Svinicki, nominated last May, served as a staff member for the Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Strategic Forces, focusing on the national security aspects of nuclear energy, Energy Department defense programs and environmental management issues. Svinicki also served as senior policy adviser on nuclear and environmental issues for Sen. Larry Craig (R-Idaho). Click here for more on Svinicki from the NRC.

NEI's Energy Markets Report - March 3-March 7, 2008

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

Electricity peak prices increased $1-3/MWh at the Entergy, Palo Verde and SP 15 hubs and increased $13/MWh at ERCOT. The NEPOOL and PJM West hubs decreased $10-13/MWh. Except for PJM West and NEPOOL, electricity prices at all hubs were higher last week than their four-week and 52-week averages (see pages 1 and 3).

Estimated nuclear plant availability fell to 88 percent last week. McGuire 2, Quad Cities 2 and Susquehanna 1 began refueling outages. Crystal River 3 shut down to repair a reactor coolant pump seal. While returning from a refueling outage, River Bend 1 scrammed due to an apparent malfunction in the turbine control system. Hatch 2 also scrammed due to a loss of condensate feedwater (NRC, see pages 2 and 4).

Gas prices at the Henry Hub increased $0.33 to $9.35/MMBtu. High crude oil prices, cold weather across much of the country and lower working gas in storage all contributed to the increase in gas prices (EIA, see pages 1 and 3).

By 2012, the following amounts of new generating capacity are expected to come online: 41,000 MW of coal (-1,000 MW from last month’s figure); 59,000 MW of natural gas (+2,000 MW from last month’s figure); and 41,000 MW of wind (+1,000 MW from last month); see page 5.

According to EIA’s STEO, growth in total natural gas consumption is expected to slow from 6.4 percent in 2007 to 0.7 percent in 2008 and 0.8 percent in 2009. Natural gas consumption in the electric power sector (30 percent of total natural gas consumption) grew by over 10 percent in 2007 but is expected to decline slightly in 2008 due to projected milder summer temperatures. Natural gas consumption in the industrial sector is also projected to decline by 0.2 percent in 2008 due to slowing economic growth. Total electricity consumption is expected to grow by only 0.7 percent in 2008, then return to a growth rate of 1.5 percent in 2009. WTI crude oil prices, which averaged $72.32 per barrel in 2007, are projected to average $94.11 and $85.92 per barrel, respectively, in 2008 and 2009 (see pages 1 and 3).
For the report click here. It is also located on NEI's Financial Center webpage.

DOE to File Yucca Mountain License Application in June, Official Says

The Department of Energy expects to file a license application in June for construction of the Yucca Mountain used fuel repository, the program’s director said last week.

Edward Sproat, director of DOE’s Office of Civilian Radioactive Waste Management Office, said that he could not predict an operational date for the Nevada repository until Congress remedies the funding profile for the facility. Lawmakers have reduced funding for the repository in recent years, and several attempts to reform the funding mechanism for the project have stalled.

In addition, Sproat suggested that Yucca program funding would not be changed until DOE received construction authorization from the NRC. Such approval could occur as early as 2011 or 2012, he said.

The Yucca Mountain project “is alive and well,” Sproat said.

Sproat also suggested the possibility of a public-private partnership for managing the Yucca Mountain project. Here is the Associated Press take on the DOE Idea: Going Private With Nuclear Waste.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Physical Insights Lays It Down on Mangano's Claims

Kentucky is close to repealing its 25-year moratorium on new nuclear plants. The State Senate has already approved the repeal but in an effort to stop this legislation, Joseph Mangano came out with his usual claims in an op-ed piece for Kentucky's Courier-Journal. Here's what Physical Insights had to say in response to Mangano's claims:

Of course, some people, such as Joseph Mangano, executive director of the Radiation and Public Health Project, a name that those with their finger on the pulse of nuclear energy policy in the United States and elsewhere will have heard before, has other ideas:

“One problem with nuclear reactors is what to do with the high-level waste they produce. This waste is actually a cocktail of chemicals such as Cesium-137, Iodine-129, Strontium-90 and Plutonium-239, each radioactive and cancer-causing.”

There’s no way that it is appropriate to call these kinds of materials waste - they are radionuclides with useful and important technological, scientific and industrial applications. Of course, if we greatly expand the use of nuclear fission as an energy source throughout the world, along with the recycling and efficient re-use of the materials contained within irradiated nuclear fuels, it is likely that the inventories of such fission products thus created will ultimately dwarf demand for some of these radioactive materials - and it could be decided that these surplus quantities might be moved to deep underground storage, either for very long term storage, or permanant disposal.

“The waste decays slowly, remaining in dangerous amounts for thousands of years, and must be kept from escaping into the air, water and food supply”

Relatively short lived fission products, such as caesium-137 and strontium-90, with half-lives of 30 years and 29 years respectively, must be isolated from the environment for around 300 years, not thousands of years.

Longer lived fission products, such as iodine-129, one of the very longest lived of the fission product nuclides, can have half-lives of millions of years - with correspondingly smaller specific activities, and in most cases, much smaller nuclear fission yields. Some such long-lived fission products, such as I-129 and technetium-99, have sufficiently large neutron capture cross sections such that destruction of the radioactive nuclide by way of nuclear transmutation in a nuclear reactor is feasable.

The rest of the post is just as good. For our archives on Mangano, click here. And be sure to check out Atomic Insights on the Kentucky legislation as well.

Early Sightings in Alberta

With Ontario gung ho on nuclear energy, it's interesting to see a glimmer of interest develop in Alberta. The provincial government has barely dealt with the issue, but Bruce Power - and really, insert no Canadian jokes here - has bought Energy Alberta, which had been working with Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd. to bring a plant to the province's northwest quadrant.

Energy Alberta had committed to a partnership with AECL. But, in its filing to the federal regulator Wednesday, Bruce Power said it would take a “technology neutral” approach, meaning it will consider AECL along with competitors like France's AREVA SA, or Mitsubishi Corp.'s Westinghouse unit, or the General Electric Co./Hitachi Ltd. group.

Why Bruce Energy would broaden its search beyond AECL beyond what is given above is not mentioned - perhaps its size makes the effort more plausible - but the plant Energy Alberta planned has now become four. Still, early days.

Now is the Time to ‘Get Busy’ on Nuclear Resurgence, Sessions Says

“Time’s a wastin’ ” was the repeated message guest speaker Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) imparted to attendees at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s Regulatory Information Conference last week.

In remarks aimed at Congress, federal agencies and the nuclear industry itself, Sessions—who serves on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee—said the United States for too long has foregone pursuing nuclear energy as an important part of the answer to the growing need for a secure energy source to help meet the country’s growing energy needs while meeting clean air goals.

Sessions said he hopes we will one day look back at the restart of the Browns Ferry plant last year as the starting point of a nuclear resurgence. He noted that his state has five operating reactors with applications submitted for two more.

“It’s clear nuclear power ain’t dead yet, as we might say in Alabama,” Sessions said.

The lawmaker recounted the frustration he felt after touring the Bellefonte plant shortly after entering the Senate in 1997.

“That’s a $4 billion facility,” Sessions said. “It looks like you could walk into the control room and start it up. I couldn’t help but think how much CO2, mercury, nitrogen oxide and sulfur oxide has been emitted because that never started up. It’s a great tragedy; and one that is replicated too often around the country.”

Rep. John Shadegg-AZ on Nuclear

From The Hill Blog:

The U.S. Department of Labor says it’s safer to work at a nuclear power plant than a bank. For every 200,000 work hours at American nuclear power plants in 2006, there were 0.12 accidents. Nuclear energy is safe. A person living near a nuclear power plant has a 25 times higher chance of being killed by a lightening bolt than dying as a result of radiation exposure from an accident at the plant. Furthermore, Nuclear power has the cheapest cost of production of any major electricity source and produces 70% of our nation’s carbon-free electricity. In 2006 alone, the nuclear energy industry in the United States prevented the emission of over 680 million metric tons of carbon dioxide. Nuclear energy has enormous potential that cannot be ignored.
Be sure to read the rest.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

INL Reached a Milestone on Nuclear Fuel Performance

From ScienceDaily:

The research to improve the performance of coated-particle nuclear fuel met an important milestone by reaching a burnup of 9 percent without any fuel failure. Raising the burnup level of fuel in a nuclear reactor reduces the amount of fuel required to produce a given amount of energy while reducing the volume of the used fuel generated, and improves the overall economics of the reactor system.

The [Idaho National Lab] team studied the very successful technology developed by the Germans for this fuel in the 1980s and decided to make the carbon and silicon carbide layers of the U.S. particle coatings more closely resemble the German model. The changes resulted in success that has matched the historical German level.

INL's Advanced Test Reactor was a key enabler of the successful research. The ATR was used to provide the heating of the fuel to watch the fuel's response. The fuel kernel is coated with layers of carbon and silicon compounds. These microspheres are then placed in compacts one-half-inch wide by two inches long and then placed in graphite inside the reactor for testing. The fuel element is closely monitored while inside the test reactor to track its behavior.

...

The team has now set its sights on reaching its next major milestone -- achievement of a 12-14 percent burnup* expected later this calendar year.

...

*A burnup is a measure of the neutron irradiation of the fuel. Higher burnup allows more of the fissile 235U and of the plutonium bred from the 238U to be utilised, reducing the uranium requirements of the fuel cycle.
Pretty exciting stuff.

Toshiba and Westinghouse Expanding in the U.S.

More signs of a nuclear resurgence. From Toshiba:

The new company, Toshiba America Nuclear Energy Corporation, started operation this month, with the primary mission of marketing and promoting advanced boiling water (ABWR) nuclear power plants and providing support for related services. As this business develops, Toshiba also plans to expand the scope of the new company's operations to provide licensing and extensive engineering support related to construction of future nuclear power plants, including plant design and procurement. The new office will be located just outside Washington, D.C.
From Westinghouse:
Westinghouse Electric Company, a Toshiba Group Company based near Pittsburgh, Pa., announced today that it has opened an office in San Jose, Calif., to support the growth of its Boiling Water Reactor (BWR) nuclear power business.

In commenting on the expansion in California, Westinghouse Engineering Services Vice President Nick Liparulo said: "Westinghouse is expanding its BWR capabilities within the U.S. and plans to hire a significant number of new employees to support global BWR growth. Westinghouse is experiencing an exciting time as nuclear energy gains more popularity as the cost-effective energy of choice. We are very happy to be adding San Jose to the Toshiba/Westinghouse family."
Hat tip to Joe Somsel and Rod Adams for the pointers.

In the Interest of Uranium Miners

Of course, the increased interest in nuclear energy excites attention in parts of the United States where mining represents a substantial share of the local economy. An editorial in The Mountain Mail ("The Voice of Salida and the Upper Arkansas Valley" - Salida is in southern Colorado) supports nuclear energy from exactly this viewpoint:

In southern Utah, uranium mining firms are quietly pursuing mining claims on federal lands.


Just west of Marshall Pass in Saguache County, a Seattle company took control of mineral rights near the former Pitch uranium mine, which operated in the early 1980s but closed shortly thereafter.

The stone of the nuclear renaissance produces interesting ripples.

On a different note, the editorial notes that the Democratic presidential candidates (and Nader, of course) have downplayed nuclear energy and comes close to taunting them for it.

The candidates would rather promise increased ethanol production as a means of reducing reliance on foreign oil. They fail to mention the subsequent increases in costs for everything from bread to milk and hamburger - which Americans are already seeing at grocery stores.


It's all more good news, of course, if you're Hugo Chavez of Venezuela or Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran. Among other oil exporting countries, they no doubt are laughing on their way to their banks.

The language here is troubling, especially the talk radio tactic of creating demons to personalize an argument, but it's an interesting change in rhetoric. The quiet defense of nuclear energy found in most editorials and op-eds contends here with muscular, even aggressive, language. Depending on one's perspective, this approach either broadens the discussion beyond establishing the bona fides of nuclear energy or bypasses logical argument in favor of a visceral response.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Excellent Opportunities in The Nuclear Industry

John Murawski at the News & Observer provided some insights on the opportunities for young workers to fill the gap of the nuclear industry's retiring professionals:

Today the average age of the nation's nuclear workers is about 50. Many will be eligible to start retirement at 55. Within five years, about 35 percent of the specialists who have been running U.S. nuclear plants for the past quarter-century -- about 19,600 people -- are expected to begin a mass retirement.

With the explosion in job opportunity, nuclear professionals are mobile again after years of stagnating in a low-turnover industry.

...

"The market is very competitive," Scarola said. "It's not uncommon to make a job offer before the Christmas vacation to a student who won't graduate until May."

...

To keep up with job demand, university nuclear engineering departments have quadrupled enrollment in the past decade to about 2,000 students today.

...

Optimism is high at N.C. State, where nuclear engineering students hone their skills on a small nuclear reactor on campus and gain experience during paid summer internships at Progress Energy and Duke Energy nuclear plants. By the time they graduate, the students select from an average of 3.5 job offers in a field with median salaries that can reach $92,000 a year.
If many readers here have kids in high school or college, a career in the nuclear industry could pay them big bucks. According to wage estimates from the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, engineers in the fields of nuclear, mechanical, chemical, and electrical (just some of the types of jobs needed at a nuclear plant) can pay an average of $73K to $92K a year.

Be sure to check out this link for the types of careers in the nuclear industry and this link for sample job descriptions and salaries.

Confused in Namibia About Nuclear Energy

Namibia is seriously exploring nuclear energy, having recently passed legislation to develop a nuclear regulatory framework, but has run into predictable opposition with a local environmental group called Earthlife. While there is nothing terribly unusual or, shall we say, accurate in Earthlife's arguments, this seemed original:

Earth life said last week it was shocked at the Government's approval of plans to build a nuclear power plant because not only was nuclear energy unsafe, dangerous and very costly, but it was also not the answer to climate change.

Well, not the answer certainly but an answer surely. But there's more:

"The whole fuel cycle of nuclear power, from mining uranium, enrichment of uranium to the decommissioning of the power station after its lifespan, releases three to four times more carbon dioxide per unit of energy produced than renewable energy," Earthlife spokesperson Bertchen Kohrs noted.

It has to be admitted that building a first nuclear energy plant requires energy generated in a different way. After that, not so much. Earthlife doesn't seem to think in terms of the net worth of a given outcome, a sure way to accomplish nothing and benefit no one.

New Thinking Needed on Used Fuel Management Policy

A leading think tank called on Congress to address the nation's used nuclear fuel management and give "prompt consideration" to legislation that would help move critical federal programs forward. The Heritage Foundation issued a backgrounder last week on the Nuclear Waste Policy Amendments Act of 2008: Modernizing Spent Fuel Management in the U.S. Here are the recommendations the paper makes:

To modernize spent fuel management in the U.S. and provide the flexibility, clarifications, and autho­rizations needed to move nuclear power forward in the United States, Congress should:

  • Set a deadline requiring the Secretary of Energy to submit a repository license applica­tion for the Yucca Mountain repository within the next few months.
  • Provide for a phased licensing regime for the Yucca repository that would store spent nuclear fuel, but actively monitor it and keep it available for retrieval. ...
  • Remove artificial capacity restraints on the repository. Technology, science, and actual physi­cal capacity should be the primary limiting fac­tors with respect to Yucca's storage capacity.
However, the Yucca Mountain program still faces many challenges and powerful opponents. The Nevada congressional delegation has long opposed Yucca Mountain, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is the program's number one opponent.

Commentator Chuck Muth offers a compelling critique of Nevada's anti-Yucca campaign below:
When It Comes to Yucca, We’re Out of Loux

The state of Nevada’s knee-jerk, one-sided anti-Yucca campaign was again being sold at a forum yesterday, but a funny thing happened on the way to market: Few were buying it.
Some Nevada politicans are likely to remain opposed to Yucca Mountain regardless of the potential benefits to Nevadans in terms of jobs and investments. However, many policymakers and others are calling for the government to help move forward with aspects of the used fuel management program.

Last week, Sen. Pete Domenci (R-N.M.) said at a Senate appropriations subcommittee hearing that the government should implement a nuclear fuel recycling program this year. He noted that the question about used fuel management is "the only thing that stands in the way of maximum acceptance of nuclear power."

China to Build More Nuclear Than Projected

From Reuters:

China is expanding nuclear power construction plans faster than earlier planned, a senior energy official told state media on Saturday, saying installed power capacity by 2020 could be 50 percent above the initial goal.

China's nuclear energy development plan had called for operating power capacity to hit 40 gigawatts (GW) by 2020, enough to power Spain but feeding just 4 percent of total generating capacity for the voracious Chinese economy.

But Zhang Guobao, a vice minister of the National Development and Reform Commission long involved in energy planning, said he now expected installed nuclear power capacity of 60 GW by that date, Xinhua news agency reported.

Xinhua cited Zhang as saying that "construction of nuclear power plants has been progressing faster than planned".

Sixty GW of nuclear capacity in 12 years is about five new nuclear plants each year. This growth rate is about the same rate the U.S. achieved when it built nuclear plants in the '70s and '80s.

More nuclear plants would help displace the projected 891 GW of new coal capacity in China by 2030 (page 597 in the World Energy Outlook 2007). Hopefully the 60 GW of emission-free nuclear capacity by 2020 is a warm-up to a much greater expansion of nuclear power in China.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Ontario to Go All Nuclear?

That's what this article from Reuters Canada seems to be saying:

Ontario, keen to close its remaining coal-fired power plants, said on Friday it has asked four nuclear firms for proposals to replace the Canadian province's aging nuclear facilities with new reactors.

The provincial government has asked AREVA, Atomic Energy of Canada, GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy, and Westinghouse Electric Co. for bids to replace their current stock. Read the article for more details, but it certainly seems that a golden (uranian?) age is getting underway up north.

"Megatons to Megawatts" Milestone

Here is an update from the World Nuclear News:

A total of 325 tonnes of Russian ex-military highly enriched uranium – equivalent to 13,000 nuclear warheads - has so far been downblended for use in civilian nuclear power stations under the so-called Megatons to Megawatts programme, USEC has announced.

USEC acts as executive agent for the US government in implementing the deal whereby the US government agreed to purchase 500 tonnes of Russian surplus weapons-grade high-enriched uranium from nuclear disarmament and military stockpiles for downblending to low-enriched uranium suitable for use in nuclear power stations.

The 20-year programme is now in its 14th year, and by the time it is completed in 2013 the equivalent of 20,000 nuclear warheads will have been downblended, according to USEC.
To put this into perspective, 10 percent of the US' electricity right now is generated by the uranium fuel from the Megatons to Megawatts program.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Britain Offers 18 More Sites for Nuclear Plants

From Reuters: Britain said on Thursday it was making 18 more sites available for the next generation of nuclear power stations and gave operators four weeks to pick the ones they wanted.

"Interest in building new nuclear power stations in the UK is strong," Business Secretary John Hutton said in a statement on the Government News Network.

That's putting it mildly. Currently, the U.K. derives about 19 percent of its electricity from nuclear energy and, while the goal is to increase the percentage dramatically, no target was given in the article.

NEI's Energy Markets Report - February 25-February 29, 2008

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

Electricity peak prices increased $2-9/MWh at all hubs except ERCOT. The ERCOT hub decreased $10/MWh trading as low as $27/MWh on Friday the 29th (see pages 1 and 3).

Gas prices at the Henry Hub increased $0.18 to $9.02/MMBtu due to a return of cold weather to most of the lower 48 states. According to EIA, prices in the Northeast region were the highest in the Nation, averaging $13.16 per MMBtu on Wednesday, February 27. The price increases in the Northeast region were by far the largest as a result of extreme cold in the region (see pages 1 and 3).

Estimated nuclear plant availability fell to 90 percent last week. Limerick 1 began a refueling outage and Turkey Point 3 and 4 shut down due to a power outage in Florida (see pages 2 and 4).

Uranium prices were $73 and $74/lb U3O8 according to TradeTech and UxConsulting. According to UxC, there was a flurry of activity last week, punctuated by a large purchase from an investment fund, with buying during the week accounting for about 40% of the total volume for the month. The market clearly found a “sweet spot” at prices between $70 and $75 where a number of deals have taken place (see pages 1 and 3).

West Texas Intermediate crude oil prices increased $5.34 from the previous week to $99.61/barrel. In the past two weeks, the price increased nearly $10/barrel (the fastest two week increase over the past 12 months) and is the highest weekly nominal WTI price ever recorded (see pages 1 and 3).
For the report click here. It is also located on NEI's Financial Center webpage.

U.S. Air Force is Looking at Nuclear Power

From the Heritage Foundation's blog:

According to a recent article in Energy and Environment News, the Air Force is planning to build a 100-225 megawatt nuclear power reactor. It will not only provide affordable, reliable electricity to an Air Force base, which has yet to be chosen, but will also be used as a power source for the local community. This is a departure from the usual news regarding the comeback of nuclear power. These stories generally revolve around plans to build large, 1000-1600 megawatt commercial reactors to increase power supplies to consumers that rely on the current electricity grid (also known as base load capacity expansion).

While such planning certainly signals a new day for nuclear power, it does not necessarily represent the full scope of a true nuclear renaissance. The Air Force’s decision, however, demonstrates a growing recognition that nuclear energy has applications beyond simple base load expansion. And that is an indication that a nuclear renaissance is truly underway.
Be sure to read the rest.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Was Alec Baldwin's Oyster Creek "Forum" Biased?

Chip Gerrity, President of the New Jersey International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, was at the "forum" and shares his thoughts:

The event moderated by actor Alec Baldwin, for reasons that are completely unclear to the writer, was attended by those that oppose the re-licensing of the plant and pretended to be an open forum for discussion. However, nothing could be further from the truth.

There were three individuals permitted to speak in support of Oyster Creek and nuclear power in general. The first was a teenage girl who was cut off in mid-sentence when she questioned the validity of the research that was presented by Mr. Baldwin and others as irrefutable. She was allowed to speak for approximately a minute, prior to the moderator cutting her off completely. The young woman, who was attempting to exercise her constitutional rights, was visibly upset and essentially ran back to her seat.

The next pro Oyster Creek speaker was heckled and left the microphone. Finally Ed Stroup of IBEW spoke in support of Oyster Creek and asked Mr. Baldwin if he was prepared to reduce his own electrical use should Oyster Creek come off line and no longer be able to provide effective and cheap electricity. Mr. Baldwin, not surprisingly, refused to answer the question. Mr. Stroup then attempted to yield the balance of his time to the teenager who had been rudely interrupted prior, resulting in the league immediately ending the question and answer session.
You can read the rest here. For previous posts on Mr. Baldwin and the so-called Oyster Creek "forum," click here.

Nuclear Sun Shine

The Baltimore Sun has an interesting op-ed by Jack Spencer, a research fellow in nuclear energy and Nicolas Loris, a researcher at the Heritage Foundation. Noting that Allegheny Energy suffered a slight embarrassment after sending customers two compact fluorescent light bulbs - and then charging them for the bulbs (they later relented and picked up the bill) - Spencer and Loris focus on common-sense reasons for Maryland to look seriously at nuclear energy as a way to meet Governor Martin O'Malley's goal of supplying 20 percent of their energy from renewable fuel sources by 2022. Spencer and Loris take a dimmish view of conservation - that would be the conservative Heritage Foundation talking - but the article makes an excellent case. (The article does not mention Maryland's Calvert Cliffs plant, so this may be an op-ed working its way through different local newspapers.)

Virginia Uranium Mining Study Delayed Until 2009

According to NewsAdvance, science lost to politics:

Virginia Uranium and its allies in the Assembly proposed a study, as a first step, to examine the question of whether mining could be done safely using today’s modern techniques.

...

That was the sole intent of SB 525, legislation introduced by Sen. Frank Wagner, R-Virginia Beach. As amended in the Senate, a blue-ribbon panel of experts and stakeholders, appointed by the governor and General Assembly, would be directed to contract with an organization along the lines of the National Academy of Sciences to conduct the safety and feasibility study.

In the Senate, Wagner accepted a number of changes to his original legislation proposed by environmentalists and Southside Concerned Citizens, an environmental group based in Halifax County. ... But apparently it still wasn’t enough for the folks opposed even to a study of mining.

Dels. Watkins Abbitt, I-Appomattox, and Clarke Hogan, R-Halifax, proposed amending Wagner’s bill to simply call for a study of whether to conduct a study at all. When Wagner objected, the House panel decided to hold the bill over until the 2009 session. Del. Lacey Putney, I-Bedford, joined Abbitt in voting to hold the bill over.

...

But apparently, fears based upon possibly outdated science and that old “Not in my backyard” syndrome have trumped science and concerns for America’s energy independence.

The question of whether to study mining’s safety is all but dead for this session of the Assembly, but it will come back in 2009.

Perhaps by then more rational heads will have prevailed.
Hopefully.

"An Imagined Conversation" by Sovietologist

Based on an article at the Orion magazine, Sovietologist wrote an entertaining and informative discussion he would have with the anti about nuclear energy.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

A Practical Approach to Environmentalism

David Neiwert has an interesting point to make about the environmental movement and its sometimes blinkered approach to the issues it addresses. The gist of his post is that there needs to be a balance between a recognition of the practical concerns of the people engaged in seemingly anti environmental activities and an unbridled idealism that labels divergent views as irredeemably evil. Nuclear energy has experienced some mind meltingly complex trips around the ideological circuit over the last several decades, and Neiwert neatly explicates how a focus on an (presumed) absolute good can lead to wrong-headedness, cultural blindness and social marginalization - even when right. Read the whole thing - it's better than this summary.

Moore Calls on Greenpeace to Support Nuclear

Co-founder of Greenpeace and leading environmentalist Patrick Moore encouraged his former organization to support nuclear energy at a speech yesterday at Wits University in South Africa. Here is the account from The Times of South Africa:

Greenpeace should now go pro-nuke

Radioactive waste ‘no longer a problem’

Greenpeace was right to stop the bomb and save the whales, but should never have opposed nuclear energy, the environmental group’s co-founder and former director, Patrick Moore, said in Sandton yesterday.

Moore is on a lecture tour of local universities, sponsored by the Nuclear Industry Association of South Africa.

“Climate change has made me a strong supporter of nuclear power,” Moore said.

Here is another account by Engineering News Online of South Africa: Greenpeace co-founder Moore backs nuclear power.

A blog sponsored by South Africa's Mail & Guardian had a less sanguine viewpoint about building more nuclear power plants.

Despite the wide range of opinions, nuclear energy is making a comeback in countries outside the United States. South Africa has joined a long list of countries now considering building new nuclear power plants.

Several blogs continue to argue that Moore is not credible because he is paid by the nuclear industry. However, Moore's viewpoints on nuclear energy preceded his association with the industry. He believes expansion of nuclear power is the best way to combat climate change--he would say this regardless of who signs his paychecks. I would imagine that Greenpeace employees believed in the organization's mission before receiving their own paychecks.

The problem for organizations that continue to oppose nuclear energy is that it is one of the best options for meeting our growing electricity needs without producing significant additional greenhouse gases. Thus the existence of people like Patrick Moore who are both bona fide environmentalists and support nuclear, is a constant reminder of a different perspective.

Finally, if you are looking for more background, you can check another great profile by Politico on Why a Greenpeace co-founder went nuclear.

March 7 discussion on "Yucca Mountain and the Nuclear Renaissance" hosted by the Heritage Foundation

On March 7, the Heritage Foundation will be hosting a discussion: "Yucca Mountain and the Nuclear Renaissance: Assessing the Safety and Viability of a Vital National Asset."

Speakers include:
Edward Sproat III (US DOE Director, Office of Civilian Radioactive Waste Management)

And panel discussions with:
Mark Peters (Argonne National Laboratory Deputy to the Associate Laboratory Director for Energy Sciences and Engineering)
Steven Kraft (Nuclear Energy Institute Senior Director Used Fuel Management)
Annie Caputo (Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works)

Here's the description of the event from the Foundation's Website:

Nuclear power is emerging as a solution to America’s energy concerns. Despite its impeccable safety and environmental record as well as its potential to transform America’s energy profile, questions remain about the viability of a broad expansion of nuclear power. One of the last major hurdles to overcome is what to do about Yucca Mountain. Questions remain about whether it can be opened at all and if opened, whether or not it will be sufficient to support an American nuclear renaissance. Join us for a presentation by Edward F. Sproat III, Director of the Office of Civilian Radioactive Waste Management with the U.S. Department of Energy on the enduring role of Yucca Mountain followed by an expert panel discussion on the safety of geologic storage, how recycling spent nuclear fuel could affect Yucca Mountain’s long-term viability, and overcoming the political impasse over Yucca Mountain in Congress.
A link to register to attend is on the event Web page.