Wednesday, April 30, 2008

GE-Hitachi to Add 900 New Jobs in NC

North Carolina Governor Mike Easley (D) and state officials announced today that GE-Hitachi Nuclear Energy will expand its campus in Wilmington, NC. The move will add 900 new jobs to the area over the next five years.

Via The News & Observer:

He [Jim Fain, N.C. Commerce Secretary] predicted the GE expansion would have "a significant halo effect" in the Southeastern region of the state.

GE-Hitachi plans to invest $704 million at its New Hanover County campus and pay average annual salaries of $85,000. The Hanover County average wage is $33,226 a year.

The company plans to add new manufacturing, training, simulation and testing facilities at its 1,300-acre campus.

Latest Issue of Nuclear Energy Insight Available

The April issue of Nuclear Energy Insight is now available online. The cover story features the Florida Public Service Commission's approval of two new reactors at Florida Power & Light Co.'s Turkey Point nuclear power plant. The issue also details two new-plant license applications and the Energy Information Administration's generation projections for 2030. Other articles include discussions of greenhouse gas emission reductions under Climate VISION, the completion of an historic construction project at Diablo Canyon, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's support for nuclear energy and an innovative approach to modeling future nuclear reactors in development at Idaho National Laboratory.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

What Arab Nations Think About Iran's Nuclear Plans

Iran is pursuing nuclear energy for purely peaceful reasons.

This is the result of the 2008 Annual Arab Public Opinion Poll taken by Zogby International for the University of Maryland's Anwar Sadat Chair for Peace and Development. The poll covers a number of topics; by all means, take a look at the whole thing.

46% of those polled believe Iran is conducting research for peaceful purposes while 39% think weaponry is the end goal. More strikingly, 67% feel Iran should be left to its own devices (so to speak); only 22% think pressure should be applied to stop them.

The countries do not think as one. Jordan and Morocco are more dubious about Iran's motives and what it might mean for the Arab world than are Saudi Arabia and Egypt - other participants are the UAE and Lebanon, which split more evenly. The pdf linked provides more details, of course, but not enough to really understand the cultural and perhaps geographical biases inherent in each polled country. It's hard to believe that a people's attitude toward Israel is not highly relevant, but impossible to know. (To be fair, the poll also includes questions about Israel and the responses are nowhere near as dire as a westerner might fear.)

What does it all mean? Well, Iran has started a stampede among the other nations of the region to pursue nuclear energy - most of them, however, have pacted with the United States or France's AREVA to achieve it. These efforts are to the good - there is a recognition, even among large oil-producing nations, that nuclear energy provides benefits going forward that oil cannot match. 

As for Iran, the safest course is to harbor doubts at least until the IAEA weighs in - Iran had been ducking it, a really terrible sign. Unfortunately, although there have been meetings this week,  Russia has been a party to them. This needn't be a net negative, but Russia is looking for advantage in the region - with the U.S. showing off a lot of heavy armament right next door - and is likely to give Iran a fairly wide berth:

A three-man delegation from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), headed by chief inspector Olli Heinonen, arrived in Tehran Monday morning and was to hold talks with officials from the Iranian Atomic Energy Organization. 
...
Foreign ministry spokesman Mohammad-Ali Hosseini Sunday rejected press reports that Iran would discuss intelligence alleging Iran pursued nuclear weapons studies with Heinonen, saying that talks would only be within the framework of the IAEA and Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

Heinonen was in Tehran last week, but Tehran insisted that the visit was just routine and rejected Western press reports that the talks were solely focused on the new allegations.

Can't say this does a lot for one's confidence level, but we'll see.

---

With U.S. political figures about as bellicose as can be about Iran - Hilary Clinton recently threatened to obliterate the country if it lobbed nuclear-armed missiles at Israel - it's interesting to note that Iran's president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, is welcomed warmly by his Arab and Asian counterparts, as seen here:

Sri Lanka said Tuesday that it supports the peaceful use of nuclear energy by Iran within the framework of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) and under the supervision of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

In a joint statement issued at the conclusion of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's two-day state visit to Sri Lanka, "the two sides confirmed the full and non-discriminatory implementation of Article IV of the NPT on peaceful nuclear co-operation."

See? Iran is pursuing nuclear energy for purely peaceful reasons.

Confidence level, unraised.

Bush Addresses Sagging U.S. Economy

In a Rose Garden press conference this morning, President Bush acknowledged American's growing anxiety over the economy and faulted the Congress for inaction. The pull quote:

As electricity prices rise, Congress continues to block provisions needed to increase domestic electricity production by expanding the use of clean, safe nuclear power. Instead many of the same people in Congress who complain about high energy costs support legislation that would make energy even more expensive for our consumers and small businesses.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Inside U.S. Energy Subsidies

The Wall Street Journal's excellent blog, Environmental Capital, takes a look at the federal energy subsidy pie and asks, Who's getting what?

Since 1999, federal energy subsidies have more than doubled—from $8.2 billion to $16.6 billion in 2007. Who gets the most? “Renewables” landed $4.8 billion last year, but that includes $3.25 billion for ethanol and other biofuels. Coal and cleaner-burning “refined” coal took home $3.3 billion, while the nuclear power industry got $1.3 billion. In all, about 40% of the energy subsidy pie went toward electricity production; the rest for things like alternative fuels and energy conservation.

...But the raw numbers don’t tell the story. What does is how much cash the government hands out per unit of electricity produced. The winner there is refined coal, at $29.81 per megawatt hour. That’s even more than solar power ($24.34) or wind ($23.37). Nuclear power received $1.59 per megawatt hour. Regular coal took home $0.44 per megawatt hour, while the least-subsidized of power fuels was natural gas, which got just a $0.25 boost per megawatt hour.

Monday Morning Breakfast

...nuclear energy news you may have missed this weekend.

The DOE report on long-term storage of used fuel will be delayed one year....Algeria, Jordan, Libya, the UAE and now Tunisia: French President Nicolas Sarkozy will sign an agreement on civilian nuclear energy development in Tunis on Monday....The British government has warned that the shortage of nuclear engineers could cause delays in the country's new plant building program and expects to bring engineers out of retirement....Turkey's first nuclear power plant is to be inaugurated by 2015....British Columbia has announced a ban on all uranium mining and exploration in the province....Rick Montgomery's Kansas City Star article from April 19th runs this weekend in another McClatchy-owned paper, the Detroit Free Press. DFP editors have retitled the piece, Towers of Potential....Public meetings to discuss safety procedures at Indian Point are being held today in Cortlandt, NY....The Tri-City Herald looks at the possibility of new plant development in Washington state and quotes Governor Chris Gregoire, "I think it has to be on the table...I think we're going to have to revisit this question."...Staying in the Pacific Northwest, a new museum, the Washington Nuclear Museum and Educational Center, has been proposed for the U-Dub campus in Seattle.

Friday, April 25, 2008

The Shining Path to a Nuclear Workers' Paradise

Stuart Jordan over at Workers' Liberty proposes an interesting reason to oppose nuclear energy if oppose it we must:

Whether or not we believe there is a role for nuclear in a future society, we should be absolutely clear that the bourgeoisie views nuclear technology in a way fundamentally opposed to the how Marxists should see it. Their concern is for profit, ours is for human need, and the nuclear power stations that they are proposing to build will reflect this difference.

I think he means the plant will reflect the drive for profit, not the difference between that and human need. Marxists know how to create loaded terminology, but it turns their prose into spaghetti-like strands of thought that sound densely intelligent but are often just plain dense.

But any particular technology developed under capitalism will invariably bear the mark of this ecological[ly?] destructive and alienating system. In some cases the technology can be modified in ways that will restore the metabolic relationship. But in the case of nuclear this seems unlikely.

I wonder how he would "modify" the technology to give it a pass or, shall we say, restore the metabolic relationship. Enquiring minds want to know.

But let's at least give Stuart points for thinking big.

A socialist reconstruction of society will involve knocking down a lot of walls and welding together a lot of cars to make more communal, ecologically sound use of our technology.

For us bourgeois types, that would be busses and those lovely communal apartments that made Soviet romantic comedies so sparkling.

There are a fair number of articles on nuclear energy over at Workers Liberty, but you may be sure that if these scraps cause your brain to liquefy, then the site should definitely be given a steer clear. We'll just call it a little fun on a Friday afternoon.

Charlottesville Mayor Interviews Anti-nukes

Yesterday, the Mayor of Charlottesville, Virginia Dave Norris (not to be confused with Chuck Norris), hosted an interview with Stratton Salidis of Alternatives to Paving and Elena Day of the People's Alliance for Clean Energy (or PACE, whose website is no longer in existence). According to Mayor Dave's blog post, the interview was to talk about "the kinds of decisions we make as a community to either undermine or support our commitment to environmental sustainability."

By the choice of guests one hardly has to imagine how lopsidedly anti-nuclear this interview was.

In the interview, the guests describe nuclear (among other things) as "incredibly polluting" with waste mounting up so high that it won't even fit in Yucca Mountain, if it were ever opened.

If you can stand to listen to the misinformation, you can find a video of the interview here. (Author's note: I suggest you wait a few hours after eating to view this.)

According to Mayor Dave Norris's own website, his platforms of office include "enhancing educational opportunities, fighting poverty, and promoting environmental sustainability."

These sound like great platforms, which, even former rock star Bob Geldof believes that nuclear power can actually help acheive. So, in support of Mayor Dave's goals, as well as in the interest of democracy, which certain Charlottesvillians tend to hold dear, I intend to request a follow-up interview with him.

If anyone is willing to watch the video and provide feedback for some of the particularly egregious statements, please add your comments.

"Is Nuclear Energy Our Best Hope?"

Discover Magazine has just published an article, "Is Nuclear Energy Our Best Hope?," written by Gwyneth Cravens. The pull quote:

[James] Lovelock explained that his decision to endorse nuclear power was motivated by his fear of the consequences of global warming and by reports of increasing fossil-fuel emissions that drive the warming. Jesse Ausubel, head of the Program for the Human Environment at Rockefeller University, recently echoed Lovelock’s sentiment. “As a green, I care intensely about land-sparing, about leaving land for nature,” he wrote. “To reach the scale at which they would contribute importantly to meeting global energy demand, renewable sources of energy such as wind, water, and biomass cause serious environmental harm. Measuring renewables in watts per square meter, nuclear has astronomical advantages over its competitors.” All of this has led several other prominent environmentalists to publicly favor new nuclear plants. I had a similar change of heart. For years I opposed nuclear power, but while I was researching my book Power to Save the World: The Truth About Nuclear Energy, my views completely turned around.

Entergy Profits Surge in First-Quarter

Entergy Corporation this morning reported first-quarter earnings of $308.7 million, up 46% from one year ago. 1Q revenue rose 6.3% to $2.86 billion. In other good news for Entergy shareholders, Indian Point 2 increased to 98% capacity early Friday morning according to an NRC power reactor status report. The unit had been operating at 91% of capacity on Thursday.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Vermont's Fanatic Anti-Nuclear Movement

John McClaughry, president of the Ethan Allen Institute, wrote a commentary piece to the Rutland Herald about Vermont's Fanatic Anti-Nuclear Movement:

In the face of all science, reason, and experience, the anti-nuclear zealots fiercely maintain that the Vernon nuclear power plant [Vermont Yankee] is a standing death threat against the population for miles around, that its pall of radiation will produce deformed children, and that the plant's present owner, Entergy, is a reckless and sinister enterprise making enormous profits while scornfully dismissing the concerns of its likely Vermont victims.

...

The attack on Vermont Yankee has escalated since 2003, and especially since 2007, when the champion of the anti-nuke/VPIRG forces, Windham County Sen. Peter Shumlin, returned to the Senate and again became its president pro tem.

In return for the state's non-objection to an increase of Vermont Yankee's electricity output by 20 percent, the legislators in 2003 demanded that the company pay $7.8 million to clean up algae in Lake Champlain, and another $2.1 million to subsidize low-income home heating.

In return for state permission to store its oldest and least radioactive spent fuel rods in dry casks instead of in a water pool, the 2005 Legislature required Entergy to pay $28 million into a "clean energy fund," from which subsidies would be distributed to wind, solar and methane projects.

...

The great irony is that Sen. Shumlin and his VPIRG allies are pressing legislation (S.350) to force Vermonters to stop emitting greenhouse gases that supposedly threaten the planet with Al Gore's Heat Death. Yet they are also working hard to shut down the nuclear plant that produces dependable lowest-cost electricity without emitting any greenhouse gases at all.

This contradiction simply does not compute. The anti-nuclear activists will not be satisfied until every trace of Vermont Yankee is gone, and the Vernon site is returned to the peaceful wilderness it was when only the Abenakis roamed.

This constant warfare against nuclear energy is, to put it plainly, mindless fanaticism. The sooner it goes the way of anti-Masonry, Know-Nothingism, and Prohibition, the better off Vermonters will be.
Amen to that.

New and Updated NEI Resources

We have posted several new and updated fact sheets and policy briefs to NEI’s public Web site during the past few weeks. They cover such topics as new-plant financing, advanced fuel cycle technologies and plant security. Here is a list of the publications and their links. The documents are available in HTML and PDF formats. We hope you find these products helpful and informative.

Policy Briefs
New policy brief:
Financing New Nuclear Power Plants.

Updated policy briefs:
Uranium Fuel Supply Adequate to Meet Present and Future Nuclear Energy Demand, Advanced Fuel-Cycle Technologies Hold Promise for Used Fuel Management Program, Nuclear Power 2010: A Key Building Block for New Nuclear Power Plants.

Fact Sheets
New fact sheet:
Nuclear Industry’s Comprehensive Approach Develops Skilled Work Force for the Future.

Updated fact sheets:
Nuclear Power Plant Security, Water Consumption at Nuclear Power Plants, Nuclear Power Plant Fire Protection, Licensing New Nuclear Power Plants.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Ohio Lawmakers Embrace Nuclear Energy

The Ohio General Assembly has sent Gov. Ted Strickland (D) sweeping energy legislation that includes Nuclear Energy in the new state definition of technologies that generate “clean” electricity. Strickland has said that he will sign the bill into law.

The definition is significant, as the bill would require that 25 percent of the electricity sold in Ohio by 2025 be generated by a combination of “advanced energy projects,” including nuclear, and renewable sources. Advanced energy projects and renewables each would be required to provide half of the 25 percent total, or 12.5 percent each. The bill establishes specific generation targets for solar energy among its renewable requirement.

The legislation, Amended Substitute Senate Bill 221, passed the Ohio House and Senate overwhelmingly and closely conforms to key clean energy objectives that the Governor outlined for lawmakers a year ago. SB 221 also would enact new electricity rate regulations and energy efficiency standards. The Governor praised the bipartisan measure before audiences in several Northeast Ohio cities, calling it a key economic development tool for the state.

(A tip of the hat to MM.)

The Snap Together Energy Plant

If solar power has an image problem, it is thathome_static there is an aura of fluffy-headed idealism about it, a wouldn't-it-be-cool do-good factor that bull sessions in college are built around but not grown-up things like energy policy.

So it is a puzzlement whether the recent announcement by eSolar portends an interesting development or the kind of thing that wows the kids at liberal arts schools. (The name eSolar doesn't help a bit - sounds like software to help you get a great tan through your computer.)

Here's the announcement:

Google, Idealab and Oak Investment Partners, among others, are backing Pasadena's eSolar with investments worth $130 million.

eSolar plans to use computing and mass manufacturing technology to build thermal solar plants more cheaply and efficiently.

"The eSolar power plant is based on mass manufactured components, and designed for rapid construction, uniform modularity, and unlimited scalability," Asif Ansari, CEO of eSolar, said in a press release.

And here is Board Chairman Bill Gross:

Bill Gross, the Internet entrepreneur who founded Idealab and is chairman of eSolar, said in the release that eSolar's goals mesh perfectly with those goals.

"eSolar's primary business goal is nothing short of making solar electricity for less than the price of coal, without subsidies," he said. "This is not only attainable, but will truly change the world."

That world-changing bit is a real clanger, but points for ambition.

Here is ePower's description of how easy it is to install their panels:

eSolar has designed a solar field layout that minimizes installation time and cost. By employing a repeating frame structure and a revolutionary calibration system, eSolar has eliminated the need for high-precision surveying, delicate installation, and individual alignment of mirrors. Minimal skilled labor is needed to build the solar field, allowing for mirror deployment efficiencies that scale with project size and deadlines. From permitting to construction, plants come on line quickly, and that means more power to satisfy renewable portfolio goals.

What eSolar seems to lack right now is a customer, so presumably, they're still ramping up the technology. We wish them well - we really do, as the idea of easily expandable energy plants certainly seems consistent with what one ought to be able to do with solar panels - but nothing about all this dispels the aroma of dreamy people doing dreamy things. And that's a problem when you want to be taken seriously.

But by all means, explore their site and see what you think.

Energy Policy in the North Carolina Primary

As the Democratic presidential candidates turn their attention to North Carolina and the upcoming primary, residents of the Tar Heel state will be considering the national and local implications when entering the voting booth on May 6th. Current Governor, Mike Easley (D), will be stepping aside, the victim of term limits. Major candidates running for his open seat include:

Lt. Gov. Bev Perdue (D), State Treasurer Richard Moore (D), Mayor of Charlotte Pat McCrory (R), State Senator Fred Smith (R), former state Supreme Court Associate Justice Robert Orr (R), and attorney Bill Graham (R).

In its pages, The Charlotte Observer has provided a platform for the gubernatorial candidates to speak on individual policy issues. (Hear, hear Fourth Estate!) Today their series continues with "energy." Links to the individual candidate's statements are above. Looking for those candidates who specifically address nuclear energy? Graham, McRory, and Smith.

Laura Bush Touts Eco-Friendly House

Or ranch, I guess, as in the Crawford Ranch. Hosting the third hour of the Today Show yesterday, Mrs. Bush won a sandwich-making contest, listened politely to advice about raising twins - her own, Jenna and Barbara, were on hand to cheer on their mom - and interviewed author R.L. Stine. And:

...in a pre-taped tour of the family’s ranch in Crawford, Texas, Bush touted green aspects of the home, which is partially heated with geothermal power. “We could and we’ve discussed putting one wind mill out here because, as you can tell, we have enough wind to generate electricity” she said as the wind tousled her hair.

With President Bush ever so slowly acknowledging climate change issues, it was nice of the First Lady to move things along a bit in an audience-friendly way. Bush has become a bit detached from eco-unfriendly movement conservatives as his presidency moves into its final months, and it has allowed him to strike out in some new directions. It'll be interesting to see how, or if, he and Mrs. Bush pursue these interests further in their post-White House life.

The Crawford Ranch is quite attractive. I'd always imagined it to be like the big house on the hill in Giant, with Laura Bush as Elizabeth Taylor taking a few days to cross the living room to greet Karl Rove as James Dean soaked in oil. But then, I'd imagined President Clinton as John Cassavetes living in the Rosemary's Baby apartment in New York City, with swank friends stopping by for swank parties and odd recorder music piping in from the next-door neighbors' place. So what do I know?

The Rough and the Smooth in Canada

An editorial in the Ottawa Citizen offers some surprises.

Here's the rough:

The latest fiasco in the world of nuclear is that the rehabilitation of Bruce Power units 1 and 2 is running up to 24 per cent over cost estimates. That could mean extra costs of between $350 million and $650 million on the $2.75-billion project. Ontario taxpayers are on the hook for the first $300 million of overruns and then a quarter of the cost after that. Bruce Power is owned by TransCanada Corp. and the Ontario Municipal Employees Retirement System. Already the provincial auditor has said that Queen's Park didn't drive a tough enough deal on the Bruce plan.

Worth noting here is the differences between the U.S. and Canada, with government (and taxpayers) taking a heavier role in costs and cost overruns in the energy sector than would happen in the U.S. Add to this the difference between Canada's provinces and U.S. states, where provinces go their own way far more than states do.

Here's the smooth:

That said, it would be nice to have a large nuclear industry in Ontario based on a prosperous AECL [Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd.]. Nuclear is expected to be a huge economic generator in the future so it would be an enormous plus to the Ontario economy. And AECL has a revolutionary new ACR reactor designed to use less uranium and generate less spent fuel.

So what to do? The province needs to have a competitive, fair bidding process including as many worldwide companies as possible to ensure the best deal.

Hey! Wait a minute! Shouldn't the argument be that nuclear energy is too expensive, here's an unexpected expense, for pete's sake, so kill the whole project and right now, buddy, if not sooner. That's the argument that the enviro's keep hammering at and frankly, that's what the first part of the editorial leads one to expect.

But read this again:

Nuclear is expected to be huge economic generator in the future so it would be an enormous plus to the Ontario economy.

And there it is. The cost of a nuclear energy plant is, admittedly, not peanuts, but the benefits are the size of an elephant - not only in what it does itself - loads of clean energy at a reasonable price - but in the way its presence ripples through the economy in positive ways.

We posted a little while ago an NEI-produced economic benefits report about Virginia's North Anna Power Station. Take another look at it and you'll see arguments the industry has been making for years now taking root in editorials like this. Now, arguments that take root do not necessarily result in tall, healthy trees - we've seen a lot of mangled shrubs around the yard, often planted by our environmental friends ironically enough - but these arguments are good and they are rooted in truth. And the fruit is mighty tasty.

Another Blogger for Nuclear Energy

Check out Negative99.

Wind Energy Production Tax Credit Subsidy

The U.S. wind industry's production tax credit subsidy is set to expire at the end of 2008. The wind industry has received this PTC incentive since 1993 - nearly sixteen years - and it recently has begun to prove its worth. From the American Wind Energy Association:

Thanks in part to the PTC, U.S. wind power capacity is now over 16,800 MW—or enough to serve the equivalent of 4.5 million average households—and wind has been the second largest source of new electrical capacity in the nation, behind natural gas, for the past three years.
Bravo for the wind industry - they have definitely established themselves. My question now and many others also are wondering is: how long does the wind industry need to receive the PTC incentive? The AWEA still says they need it. Here's Kirk Sorenson's thoughts:
I keep reading on environmentalist websites how great wind is because it's supposedly cheaper than nuclear. They also talk about how terrible nuclear power is, with its government subsidies.

Well, if wind's so great, stand on your own two feet and let this subsidy expire! Then we'll really have a chance to see how wind will do on the open market.
I do need to point out that 6,000 MW of new nuclear plants built also will be allowed the same incentive. The PTC for nuclear power, however, is limited. Click here for a previous post on subsidies received by all energies since 1950.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

McCain Answers Energy Questions

Or rather, surrogates from his presidential campaign are. Making the rounds on Earth Day, McCain's environmental and energy policy advisor, Eric Burgeson, participated in an online chat with Washington Post readers. Earlier, Grist published an interview with Douglas Holtz-Eakin, a top economic advisor in the McCain campaign. The pull quote:

Q: One of McCain's signature issues is opposition to a lot of subsidies and earmarks. But on climate policy, this is coupled with a stated insistence on heavy subsidies for the nuclear industry. Is there a principled distinction between which subsidies are good and bad?

A:There's a pretty straightforward philosophy. The fundamental concern he has -- not with just climate policy but on earmarks and things like that -- is that you are using the taxpayers' dollars for special interests, not for the national interests. When you have a practice of providing subsidies, you invite lobbying on the part of special interests, and this leads to political corruption, if not criminal corruption. That's point No. 1.

No. 2 is a powerful belief that the private sector will pick the right thing, and the government doesn't need to be in the business of doing that. You set the broad incentives and let it go.

But then, there are roles for government. And if there's a genuine national interest in using nuclear power as an available, feasible, zero-emissions technology, I don't think he would argue that that's a special-interest thing. It's something the nation needs to do as a priority, and if that means a subsidy, then we need to make the agreement we're going to do that for those reasons. I think that's an appropriate role for government, in his view.

The other thing he believes is that we need research in all sorts of technologies, including carbon sequestration and things like that. If that research is best conducted in the private sector, the government providing the monies for that research is not an inappropriate thing to do. But you've got to make sure, in the conduct of those efforts, that you are not having funds allocated on the basis of political connections instead of good science.

Mambo Italiano: Nuclear Energy in Italy?

It certainly seems likely:

Enel SpA. plans to build a nuclear power plant in Italy to take advantage of a possible legislative shift in Italy making nuclear power production legal, Financial Times Deutschland reported, citing chief executive Fulvio Conti.

This would be a big change: nuclear energy has been banned in Italy since 1987. The reason for the change would apparently be the mandate voters handed to Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, which allows him to go out on a few limbs politically:

Silvio Berlusconi, the head of a right-wing coalition that earlier this month won general elections, advocates the reintroduction of nuclear power and believes it could take five years to build a power plant.

That might be optimistic, unless Italy is far less encumbered by regulation than the United States. Enel projects that it would take seven to ten years to get a plant up and running; that seems more plausible.

Well, if this comes together, that's one more European country to take a shine to nuclear energy. Now to tackle Germany's Nuclear Exit Law.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Energy Secretary Bodman on Biofuels

U.S. DOE Secretary Samuel Bodman spoke at DOE's Biomass Conference on April 18. In his prepared remarks the Secretary acknowledged concerns about corn-based ethanol and the importance of developing the "next generation" of ethanol made from biomass products that are outside the food chain:

In all areas of our research and development, the impact on our global environment – including the impact of energy diversification on land and water resources and world food supplies – is an important part of the discussion. And it is an important consideration in our technical research. This has absolutely been the case when it comes to biofuels.

We’ve looked at the research and we’ve concluded that a diverse, sustainable set of biofuels-technologies will measurably improve our energy security and the health of our environment.

But to do this we must develop, produce, deliver and consume biofuels in an intelligent way and with an urgent focus on sustainability.

So, as we pursue diversity in our overall energy mix we must also pursue diversity in our biofuels. This means moving away gradually from ethanol produced from food stocks like corn.

Let me be clear: I am not minimizing the importance of ethanol made from corn - it is critical to our energy security and America’s farmers make an important contribution to our energy security.

But what I am saying is that we need to develop and deploy the next generation of ethanol - ethanol and other products made from biomass products that are outside the food chain.

In my view, this means cellulosic fuels made from agricultural waste products and crops like switchgrass, which can be grown and regenerated on less desirable lands.
The Wall Street Journal's Environmental Capital blog describes Secretary Bodman's remarks as "astride the fence", midway between the view of some U.N. officials that producing biofuels is a "crime against humanity" and the view of Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva that denying the developing world alternative fuels would be the real crime.

From our point of view, Secretary Bodman is right to focus on diversity in energy supply and to recognize that energy and environmental policies are inextricably linked. The Wall Street Journal's Environmental Capital blog reminds us that both are also linked to economic policy. That's why we favor producing copious amounts of reliable baseload electricity from an inedible, incombustible rock - uranium.

TVA Eyes Nuclear Waste Center

From the Alabama "Times Daily:"

The Tennessee Valley Authority, along with the U.S. Department of Energy, could announce as early as Monday a plan to develop a nuclear waste recycling center that could demonstrate a technology many experts believe can address the growing problem of spent nuclear waste, according to a Congressional source...
Read the full story.

Monday Morning Breakfast

...nuclear energy news you may have missed this weekend.

The United Arab Emirates will pursue a vigorous nuclear energy program to answer growing electricity demands and shortages of natural gas, so says a white paper released by the UAE government...Sri Lanka is moving toward nuclear energy too...Alberta, Canada is being wooed...Add French-owned Suez to the list of suitors looking to purchase British Energy...Researchers at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory are looking at common ceramics and their potential impact on the development of new containment materials...The Kansas City Star reports on changing political attitudes toward nuclear energy...Last week it was time for Time to publish their green issue, this week it's The New York Times Magazine. Highlights include the cover story, Why Bother?, which "looks for a few reasons to go green." Michael Pollan's article is currently the third most-emailed story on nytimes.com. The issue also features a short piece on Pebble-Bed Reactor technology...Simona De Silvestro, the 19-year-old Swiss driver of the NEI-sponsored Newman Wachs Racing car, won the Atlantic Championship season opener in Long Beach, CA on Sunday. De Silvestro took the lead with 14 laps remaining en route to the win in her debut with NWR.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Illinois Earthquake and Nuclear Plants

(4/18/2008) - This morning at 4:37 central time a 5.2 magnitude earthquake shook southeastern Illinois. Illinois is home to six nuclear plants operated by Exelon and are located in the central and northern parts of the state. Here is a statement from Exelon on the earthquake and its nuclear plants:

None of Exelon Nuclear's six Illinois nuclear energy stations were affected by early morning seismic activity near the southern Illinois town of West Salem, the company said today.

Plant equipment continued to function normally at each of the six operating nuclear stations. Station operators and technical experts conducted extensive pre-planned inspections when the seismic activity occurred.

Operators performed "walk-downs" to search for potential effects and confirmed by this morning that the earthquake caused no damage to equipment or otherwise affected plant operations. Additional plant walk- downs are scheduled throughout the day. Each plant continued to operate at its normal power level throughout the morning.

Nuclear energy plants are designed specifically to withstand the impact of earthquakes and other severe acts of nature. The quake, reported to be at a magnitude of 5.2 in the Richter Scale, did not challenge the engineered design of any of the six plants. The epicenter was near West Salem, Illinois, about 80 miles east of St. Louis. The closest Exelon Nuclear facility is in Clinton in DeWitt County, about 140 miles north of West Salem.

Baby Steps: Mother Jones on Nuclear Energy

Not the magazine you would consider a go-to for nuclear energy  advocacy, but Mother Jones and writer Judith Lewis make the most honest attempt we've seen to honestly explore issues surrounding nuclear energy from the perspective of those who really, really don't like it. Even with a little too much David Lochbaum and a brief zinger at NEI, we recommending reading the whole thing.

Here's a taster:

Will a nuclear reactor operating under normal conditions give you cancer? It's a question that, surprisingly, still hasn't been conclusively answered. A 1995 Greenpeace study found an increase in breast-cancer mortality among women living near various U.S. and Canadian reactors in the Great Lakes region. Yet peer-reviewed studies by the Ontario Cancer Treatment and Research Foundation as well as the National Cancer Institute show no significant increase in cancer among people living near reactors. An initiative called the Tooth Fairy Project is currently trying to prove that concentrations of the radioactive isotope strontium-90 are higher in baby teeth from children who grow up near nuclear plants. But those tests are not complete, and no one else has turned up persuasive evidence of such a link.

So, while willing to promote the scary myths surrounding nuclear, it's honest enough to say what's known to date: no increased risk of cancer, Tooth Fairy hooey.

And here's a little more:

Just as there are arguments against public investment in nuclear power, there are arguments for it—and one huge living example. France shifted from oil-burning electric plants to nuclear during the oil crisis of the early '70s, and over the past 20 years it has invested $160 billion in nuclear programs, making the country the largest exporter of nuclear electricity in the European Union. Sixteen percent of the world's nuclear power is generated in France. And where once the French were buying nuclear technology from the United States, now it's the other way round: 6 of the 20 applications expected to be submitted to the NRC before 2010 are for the U.S. Evolutionary Power Reactor (EPR) designed by the French conglomerate Areva.

I may have missed it, but the article doesn't note that France generates 80% of its own electricity from nuclear energy. That's pretty notable.

In the interests of fairness, here's the NEI dig:

For the last four years, I have tried to shut out the chatter—the goofy Nuclear Energy Institute ad (girl on a scooter says, "Our generation is demanding lots of electricity...and clean air."), and the warnings of No Nukes godmother Helen Caldicott, who, rightly or wrongly, cannot think of splitting atoms without thinking of weapons.

Heck, I liked that ad. (But okay: I did enjoy the snark at FINAL'GIRL'-HighRes-2-23-01St. Helen.)

The article's sum-up is honest as can be given the venue; you can read that on your own. We noted the other day that the ideological component of global warming acceptance/denial seems to be fading away, with it no longer being solely liberal/environmentalist issue. The same has been happening to nuclear energy, somewhat relatedly due to nuclear's environmental benefits, but from the opposite direction - shall we call it a reliable conservative/industrial issue that is now finding broader acceptance?

The move to nuclear energy in quarters such as Mother Jones can be measured in baby steps, but they're steps all the same.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

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

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

Electricity peak prices saw small changes at all hubs last week. All prices last week were higher than the previous four-week and last 52-week averages. The Palo Verde and SP 15 hub prices have steadily increased with the price of gas since the beginning of November. Their prices last week were about $20/MWh higher than the last 52-week average. In 2007, Arizona and California relied on gas for 34 percent and 56 percent of their generation (see pages 1 and 3).

Estimated nuclear plant availability fell to 77 percent last week. Four units began refueling while one finished. FitzPatrick and Pilgrim were down briefly on April 6 (NRC, see pages 2 and 4).

Uranium prices fell to $69 and $68/lb U3O8 according to TradeTech and UxConsulting (see pages 1 and 3).

Gas prices at the Henry Hub increased $0.21 to $9.81/MMBtu. After beginning the 2007-2008 heating season at a record level, underground natural gas storage levels declined relative to last year’s levels as the weeks progressed. By the end of the heating season, storage fell below the 5-year (2003-2007) average. Temperatures during much of the heating season were warmer than normal, but colder-than-normal temperatures late in the heating season led to net storage withdrawals that were significantly higher than average (see pages 1 and 3).

In March 2008, six wind farms totaling 508 MW, three gas plants totaling 170 MW and 13 solar projects totaling 1.8 MW came online. From January 2008 to March 2008, 1,332 MW of wind, 485 MW of gas, 92 MW of coal and 58 MW of other renewables came online. By 2012, the following amounts of new generating capacity are expected to come online: 40,000 MW of coal (-1,000 MW from last month’s figure); 59,000 MW of natural gas (no change); and 40,000 MW of wind (-1,000 MW from last month); see page 5.
For the report click here. It is also located on NEI's Financial Center webpage.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Staying On Task with Global Warming

The Fox News Channel is determined to play as still controversial an issue that much of industry, not to mention the public, not to mention Fox News owner Rupert Murdoch, has decided is not controversial. Al Gore has won fair and square, but since Fox has no use for Gore, that's easily discounted.

If Fox really wants to play the opposition, though, the network has to be sure everyone stays on task. And unfortunately, that's becoming difficult, a sign that the opposition has become increasingly irrelevant.

Fox and Friends is the network's breakfast show - I think it used to have a puppet as a co-host. Human host Alisyn Camerota brought on MIT Professor of Meteorology Kerry Emanuel and this happened:

Introducing him, [Camerota] gushed that [Emanuel]  is one of THE most influential scientists when it comes to global warming and its link to hurricanes; he used to think that climate change caused more tropical storms but now, he's changed his mind. Three years ago he published very alarming findings that established a link between global warming and hurricane activity, and a few weeks later Katrina hit.

Emanuel responded that the reports that he's changed his mind have been "greatly exaggerated." ... They've developed a new technique for inferring hurricane activity from global climate data, which doesn't itself contain hurricanes. When applied to the past twenty-five years data, it is a startling confirmation of his findings of three years ago; hurricane power has increased by about 50% over the last thirty years. Applying that to hundred-year forecasts under a scenario of increased carbon dioxide output, they see increased activity in their models but not nearly as much as if they simply extrapolate the past thirty years forward.

Gulp! Here are the chyrons Fox and Friends used leading up to the chat: GLOBAL FLIP-FLOP: Warming doesn't cause hurricanes -SCIENCE OF STORMS: Global Warming 2nd thoughts - and
REVERSED SCIENCE: Scientist changes warming position.

Maybe networks still have pre-interview staffs that can weed out off-message guests before they get on-air - Emanuel only said what he came on to say - so somebody goofed. Now what?

Camerota and [Fox and Friends co-host Steve] Doocy did damage control, summing up that the models are forecasting "something different than what nature is showing us" and "we just don't know" whether global warming and climate change are making hurricanes more intense. Emanuel replied that the bulk of the evidence says they're getting more intense, we just don't know by how much.

Note that Fox and Camerota could be as right as reindeer about global warming: it's all complete hooey. But being right is clearly secondary to the agenda, which is to sound the correct theme. Fox News often gets dinged for its relentless promotion of conservative ideology masquerading as unvarnished truth, but here the network is getting stung by pursuing a rearguard action that is moving ever further to the rear. Global warming has just about moved beyond the ideological, where Fox often dwells, and into an article of modern secular faith.

It's scarcely a new phenomenon.

Our goal here is not to suggest that Fox is right and Emanuel wrong - Emanuel, in his short interview, behaved just as one would like: he stated what he knew and hesitated to draw conclusions or causal connections. Rather, we wanted to mark a cultural passing, as the last remaining bastions of opposition fade away. Noisily perhaps but none-the-less fading.

Google Trends and "Nuclear Energy"

I've been spending some time recently with a great little Google widget (redundant, no?) called Google Trends. More robust than Google Zeitgeist, GT (acronyms abound!) allows the user to see keyword search results over time. Even better, one can break searches out by country, state, and city.

After plugging in the phrase, "Washington Capitals, best team in the NHL," and coming up empty, I searched "nuclear energy." Connecticut tops the list in 2008. (The full results from 2008 YTD searches can be found here.) What jumped out was Pennsylvania's place at #4. Indeed, going back to 2004, residents of PA rank #8 of those searching Google for information on nuclear energy.

How often have we heard nuclear energy policy discussed by the presidential candidates in the run up to the Pennsylvania primary? Or Ohio? Or Michigan? Not much. A Nexis and Westlaw search confirms this. In a presidential campaign where personality appears to matter more than policy, how often have we heard any policy issue seriously debated?

Perhaps moderators Charlie Gibson and George Stephanopoulos will change all that tonight at the debate in Philadelphia. Perhaps.

Update: The reviews are in and they're...not good: WaPo, NY Times, Boston Globe.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Bechtel, AFL-CIO in Labor Agreement for New Nuclear Energy Plant

At the BCTD conference, it was announced today that the AFL-CIO Building and Construction Trades Department had committed to negotiate a project labor agreement with San Francisco-based Bechtel to construct a proposed third reactor at Calvert Cliffs Nuclear Power Plant in Maryland.

From the Press Release,

Under the agreement, to be signed by the end of 2008, the BCTD will commit to provide, qualified, skilled, craft workers to the Calvert Cliffs project, and Bechtel will commit to provide fair wages, fringe benefits, and working conditions for all craft workers. The proposed plant would create 4,000 new jobs during peak construction and 360 permanent jobs once the new reactor is operational.
Michael Wallace, President and CEO of Constellation Energy, has targeted Dec. 2008 as the groundbreaking date for Calvert #3.

Taxes and Nuclear Power

Joe Somsel, a contributor and frequent commenter here on the blog, asked me to share this with our readers:

Since I'm posting on the day my US and state income taxes are due, let me expound a bit on relative tax treatments for nuclear generation compared to wind and solar generation.

In the US, the Internal Revenue Service allows accelerated depreciation (actually "Modified Accelerated Cost Recovery System" (MACRS)) that classifies assets into classes then gives the percent of first cost (basis) that can be deduced per year from taxable income. [Note - I'm not a tax accountant - I just took some classes!]

Solar and wind equipment used to make electricity is a five year asset class while a nuclear plant is a 15 year asset class. Both exclude the underlying land values which do not depreciate.

That means that the owner of two new $3000/kW plants, one wind (or solar) and one nuclear, could write-off $960 the first full year for his wind or solar plant but only $285 for his nuclear plant per kilowatt of capacity.

At the 39 percent top corporate tax bracket for 1,500 MWe installed, that's almost a $40 million a year difference to solar or wind in after tax earnings that can be used for dividends whether electricity is sold or not.

For perspective, with 50% equity and 6% ROE, total before-tax profits would be about $135 million if everything went well. The after-tax profits available for distribution or re-investment at the top rate would be about $83 million. This favorable tax treatment increases the cash available for dividends from wind or solar by almost 50% over nuclear for that second year of operation.

Again, I'm no tax or financial accountant but this is a reasonable ballpark estimate of the difference that tax treatments make in investment decisions for new generation. Specialists in taxation are welcome to correct or expound on this estimate in the comments.

Skip Bowman Builds on Nuclear's Promise

Speaking today before the Legislative Conference of the Building Skip and  Construction Trades Department of the AFL-CIO, NEI President and CEO Skip Bowman went beyond extolling the benefits of nuclear energy - which he also did, of course, as this is not an audience that lives and breaths nuclear - to address the bread and butter issues that directly impact this group. And this year, there's a lot of butter on the bread:

What does building a new nuclear plant mean to us in this room? Well, each new construction will generate thousands and thousands of high paying jobs for several years. Peak employment during construction could be as many as 3000 jobs or even 4000 jobs depending on man-hours per week, overtime, and other factors. Those of you in this room represent the kind of workers we want and need. Thirty new plants could mean a lot of jobs — as many as 100,000 jobs!

And it’s not just about these construction jobs. Operating a nuclear plant calls for 400 to 700 permanent jobs for three generations of workers. These are high paying jobs with great pension and healthcare benefits that cannot be sent offshore. Each plant creates an equal number of additional jobs in the surrounding community, providing goods and services necessary to support that workforce. And supplemental labor for outages requires over 20 million man-hours per year.

While it would be unfair to say that building new plants would cure the economic ills besetting us, Bowman is correct to emphasize that the jobs created ripple through the economy in purely positive ways:

Building new nuclear plants will also create jobs in the nuclear manufacturing sector, as companies gear up to meet growing demand for the equipment, components and commodities that go into a nuclear plant. Did you realize that building a nuclear plant takes 400,000 cubic yards of concrete, 66,000 tons of steel, 44 miles of piping, 300 miles of electrical cable and 130,000 electrical components?

On top of this, each year, the average nuclear plant generates approximately $430 million in sales of goods and services in the local community and nearly $40 million in total labor income.

And then there’s total state and local tax revenue of almost $20 million from every plant to benefit schools, roads, and other state and local infrastructure — more jobs. And annual tax payments of roughly $75 million are paid to the federal government.

In all the discussions of nuclear energy and new plants, we tend to drift into the abstract - the benefits of nuclear, climate change, the rhetoric of clean energy - to make our points, but this is as close to the bone as it gets for most of us:

So you get the picture - jobs, jobs, jobs - income to the community - lower taxes for us - and lots of electricity and clean air. That’s us — you and me.

Over the top? Not even a little. Consider: Barack Obama and Hilary Clinton also will be speaking to the conference today and tomorrow, in no doubt soaring terms. You'll hear about their speeches elsewhere, particularly if one of them makes a gaffe. But you may be sure that Mr. Bowman will have topped them in the area that most matters to this audience: jobs. The nuclear industry can now go well beyond the mere promise of jobs. They are here now, more are coming, and all of them will without question improve the quality of life for the union membership.

Patrick Moore in Newsweek

Patrick Moore, one of the cofounders of Greeenpeace and an advocate for nuclear energy, is interviewed by Fareed Zakaria in the latest issue of Newsweek. The pull quote:

Greenpeace still uses the word "evil" to describe nuclear energy. I think that's as big a mistake as if you lumped nuclear medicine in with nuclear weapons. Nuclear medicine uses radioactive isotopes to successfully treat millions of people every year, and those isotopes are all produced in nuclear reactors. That's why I left Greenpeace: I could see that my fellow directors, none of whom had any science education, were starting to deal with issues around chemicals and biology and genetics, which they had no formal training in, and they were taking the organization into what I call "pop environmentalism," which uses sensationalism, misinformation, fear tactics, etc., to deal with people on an emotional level rather than an intellectual level.

Monday, April 14, 2008

How Not to Be Helpful: Iranian Edition

Somehow, the very real seriousness of what the United States may or may not do as regards Iraq's Persian neighbor pales when one considers what a nation of smurfs Iran turns out to be. Head smurf  Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is visiting the Philippines with the intention of sharing the great knowledge of nuclear energy his country has gained:

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad here on Monday expressed Iran's readiness to put its expertise on peaceful nuclear technology at disposal of all nations within the framework of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) regulations.

Ahmadinejad made the remark in a meeting with Philippine Foreign Minister Alberto Romulo, adding that certain monopolist powers try to introduce nuclear energy as atomic bomb.

We're reasonably sure that "monopolist power" is Liechtenstein. And the Liechtensteinians have been saying mean and untrue things:

The seditious policy of certain nuclear powers possessing nuclear arms is a big lie, the president said, adding that the Islamic Republic of Iran has realized this and resisted pressures of bullying and monopolist powers.

"Iran is to restore the right to acquiring nuclear technology for peaceful purposes to all nations," he added.

And there you are. Surely one can see that taking an aggressive stance against Iran would be like squashing a kitten.

---

On the other hand, perhaps the kitten has claws:

The head of Iran's nuclear program has canceled a meeting scheduled for today with the chief of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

Gholam Reza Aghazadeh, the Iranian vice-president, gave no reason for calling off talks with Mohamed ElBaradei, who was expected to use the meeting to investigate claims that Tehran had attempted to develop nuclear weapons.

Diplomats said the meeting was likely to have dealt with last week's announcement by the Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, of a major expansion of the country's capacity for uranium enrichment, in defiance of UN security council demands.

The talks were seen as a test of Iran's willingness to cooperate with the IAEA's demands for greater openness surrounding what Tehran maintains is a civilian nuclear program. Iran is under three sets of security council sanctions for its refusal to comply.

This leaves the impression that Aghazadeh felt he could bluff his way through a meeting and decided at the last minute that he could not do so. Where the bluff may really lie is very much an open question, since it behooves Iran to keep an American incursion at bay while sending as many mixed messages about their nuclear activities as possible.

Doing so staves off further sanctions, though a bill working its way through Congress means to do just that; however, they might be tough to make stick. Russia and China have been lumbering around the minarets looking for advantage, and the U.N. has been unable, as noted in the above story, to effectively rein in Iran.

What's sad, though, is that if Iran is using the promise of nuclear energy as a cover for more nefarious activities, they have unfurled a shroud that threatens to darken the good work that has made the promise of the atom manifest. That's too parochial, of course: there are many facets to Iran and its machinations (and the U.S. and its machinations, for that matter) to narrow it down to our corner of the world.

So of what can we be sure? Of one thing only: that the Philippines won't be benefiting much from Iran's nuclear expertise.

 

Nuclear vs. Fossil Share Price Performances

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) hosted their annual energy conference last Saturday with keynote speakers including MIT's President Susan Hockfield and Duke's CEO James Rogers. The event showcased many panelists including NEI's Vice President Richard Myers. Myers passed along the slide below from one of the panelists John Gilbertson - Managing Director at Goldman Sachs. I would say the slide is pretty self-explanatory.

Obviously Wall Street investors aren't bearish on nuclear utilities.

Nuclear Blog Roundup by Idaho Samizdat

From Dan Yurman:

Every four weeks or so I'll take a look at what other nuclear energy blogs are talking about and provide some pointers here. ...
Check it out.

Another Blogger for Nuclear Energy

NEI Nuclear Notes has fallen a bit behind in recognizing new bloggers for nuclear energy. Nevertheless, Rod Adams is still keeping it up and in fact helping to convert the ones on the fence. Rod last month participated in a live debate at GreenOptions hosted by Mark Seall - "the man behind TalkClimateChange.com." Mark was skeptical "to whether or not nuclear power should be a major tool in the fight against air pollution and climate change." Three days ago, Mark came off the fence and Kirk Sorensen was there to welcome him:

Welcome to this side of the fence! Not only is the grass greener, but it gets even greener than that when you learn about the potential of thorium to power some really impressive reactors!
Welcome from NEI Nuclear Notes as well!

NEI's Energy Markets Report - March 31-April 4, 2008

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

Electricity peak prices increased $4-32/MWh at all hubs. ERCOT increased $31.70/MWh as it returned to its average range from the depressed prices the week before. Colder temperatures at the beginning of last week for the Northeast and Southwest hubs increased electricity prices by $8-10/MWh (see pages 1 and 3).

Gas prices at the Henry Hub rose $0.58 to $9.60/MMBtu. According to EIA’s STEO, the recent upward price shift reflects a number of factors, including the drop-off in LNG imports compared to year-ago levels, high oil prices, and the drawdown in storage to the lowest levels in 4 years (see pages 1, 2 and 3).

Estimated nuclear plant availability fell to 79 percent last week. Four units began refueling while only one finished. Perry 1 was down for a planned maintenance outage and Oconee 2 was briefly down due to a low condenser vacuum (NRC, see pages 2 and 4).

Crude oil spot prices fell $0.70 to $104.49/barrel. WTI crude oil prices, which averaged $72.32 per barrel in 2007, are projected to average $101 per barrel in 2008 and $92.50 per barrel in 2009 (EIA STEO, see pages 1, 2 and 3).

Given the assumption that summer temperatures this year will be close to normal, total annual electricity consumption is expected to grow at a relatively slow rate of 0.7 percent in 2008 and return to a more normal rate of 1.3 percent in 2009. Modest growth in electricity consumption and increases in hydropower and wind generation are expected to keep growth of coal consumption in the electric power sector to about 0.5 percent and 0.3 percent in 2008 and 2009 (EIA STEO, see page 5).
For the report click here. It is also located on NEI's Financial Center webpage.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

T. J. Rodgers on Alternative Energy Sources

Peter Robinson from the National Review Online interviewed T. J. Rodgers on the "the promise and pitfalls of the most popular alternative-energy sources." At the end, Robinson asked Rodgers what energy technology he would invest a million dollars of his own money in if they all received zero subsidies and were on an equal footing. Rodgers answered "nuclear, sure."

T. J. Rodgers is the founder and CEO of Cypress Semiconductor Corp. (NYSE: CY) and the chairman of SunPower Corp, a manufacturer of solar-power systems.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Japan and France: Nuclear Energy Points the Way

Back in 1959, director Alain Resnais released a film that has since become a classic. Called Hiroshima Mon Amour, it posited a love affair between a Japanese engineer and a French actress. As the title suggests, the relationship founders on the issue of a defining moment of modern history both western and eastern.

No debates, please, and the film is a masterpiece that chokes off debate anyway. In the real world, here comes a different defining moment:

The prime ministers of Japan and France said Friday they wanted to put global warming high on the agenda for the Group of Eight summit and hailed nuclear power as a way to reduce carbon emissions.

And here's some more:

In a joint statement, [French Prime Minister Francois] Fillon and [Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo] Fukuda said they "share the same vision of nuclear energy's paramount role for prosperity and sustainable development in the 21st century."

The two countries have chosen nuclear power "as a key component of their energy plans to ensure energy that is safe, competitive and without CO2 emissions," the statement said.

France is the only G8 member to rely on nuclear energy for most of its power and has actively promoted nuclear technology overseas.

Japan comes in second in the G8 with about one-third of its energy coming via nuclear plants, despite visible public opposition in the only nation that has been attacked with atomic bombs.

We're in no way competent to mediate the Japanese relationship with the atom, except to acknowledge that it is complex and goes to the heart of what must be remembered and what can be forgot.

Regardless, the way forward is as clear as the sky that surrounds a nuclear energy plant. France and Japan have advanced to a point where they demonstrate by example all the qualities the pro-nuclear crowd has touted all along. Clean, safe, affordable - arguments against it just wither away like a relationship grown cold.

Showing OPEC the Door:

Broadly speaking, the nuclear energy community is in favor of a diverse energy mix. The current mood of the country has tied nuclear power ever closer to its green brethren, and the energy companies that own nuclear energy plants are likewise friends of old man Sol and Aeolus god of the wind. However, oil is driving everyone nuts. Here's Lester Thurow in the Los Angeles Times:

There is a solution to the rising cost of oil, but it is a painful one. Let's say there is a lot of $20-a-barrel oil in the world -- deep-sea oil, Canadian tar sands. But who would look for $20-a-barrel oil if someone else (Saudi Arabia) has lots of $5-a-barrel oil? The answer is: no one.

Basically, American taxpayers have to guarantee potential producers that the price in the future will not fall below $20 a barrel and that they will not lose their investments.

This is easy to do. The U.S. needs to guarantee that it will buy all of its oil at $20 a barrel before buying anything from OPEC. This forces the price of oil down to $20 a barrel, but it eliminates the possibility that it will ever go back to $5 a barrel.

Thurow is a professor of management and economics and dean emeritus at the MIT Sloan School of Management, so he knows whereof he speaks. But "This is easy to do?"

You might call this a stealth action in favor of alternative energy - that hybrid car idea that Jay Zawatsky was pushing the other day certainly gains an allure - but Thurow seems to be on a higher floor of the ivory tower than most. Ground level, the word is nuts.

Berkeley School of Law Launches New Journal

In its innaugural issue of Ecology Law Currents, the Berkeley School of Law has published an article, "Relative Risk: Global Warming and Imported Fossil Fuels vs. Nuclear Power," by California Assemblyman Chuck DeVore (R). The pull quote:

California is the most electrically efficient state in America and the third most energy efficient state overall. Our environmental laws are world-class. The result is that a unit of goods or services produced in California does less harm to the environment here than it would were it produced in almost any other place on earth. But making California less competitive has the unintended impact of moving economic activity to other states or nations with less environmentally friendly economies. Many Californians concerned about air and water pollution were fine with the loss of manufacturing jobs in exchange for improving California’s environment. But to the extent that global warming is caused by greenhouse gas emissions, this California-centric strategy fails miserably. Any production of goods or services lost to Nevada or Arizona sets us back in the struggle to reduce global GHG emissions – and a loss to coal-fired China or India is far, far worse.

We gain nothing by setting standards for GHG emissions, only to see those emissions effectively moved out of California due to our state becoming a prohibitively expensive place to do business. To make a truly lasting impact on GHG emissions, California needs to secure a reliable and lower-cost source of baseload power. Today’s technology dictates that the only source of such power is nuclear.
(A tip of the hat to Flash Report.)

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Economic Benefits of North Anna Power Station

One of the tools NEI provides the public is a series of economic benefit reports. Created in collaboration with the plant owners, these reports show how the presence of a plants rebound in many positive ways throughout its state and community. Nuclear plants not only provide clean, low-cost energy but are veritable economic engines for their regions.

Here's the press release. At the end is the link to the current report:

Economic Impact of North Anna Power Station Tops $700 Million Yearly in Virginia, Study Finds

WASHINGTON, D.C., April 10, 2008—As a reliable provider of more than 20 percent of Virginia’s electricity, the North Anna Power Station generates more than $710 million in economic benefits to the state, according to a new economic analysis of the facility.

The direct economic benefit of electricity production at North Anna’s two reactors is $600 million. The secondary economic benefits to the state are another $111 million, according to the analysis.

The power station is “an integral part of the local economy,” employing nearly 1,000 people, the report states. The direct and indirect compensation from the power plant – in the form of employee compensation and labor income for other workers within the state – totals more than $150 million annually.

In addition, power station owner Dominion pays approximately $11 million in property taxes annually and makes more than $23 million in purchases in Virginia.

The economic analysis was produced by the Nuclear Energy Institute. It is the 12th economic impact analysis that NEI has conducted of nuclear power plants across the nation, and is the second analysis conducted for Dominion, which is one of NEI’s member companies. NEI released its economic impact analysis of Dominion’s Millstone power station in Connecticut in 2003.

The studies use a nationally recognized Impact Analysis for Planning model that was developed for the federal government by RTI International of North Carolina’s Research Triangle.

“The North Anna power station is vital to the economies of Louisa, Orange and Spotsylvania counties,” said Richard Myers, NEI vice president of policy development. “It is among the largest employers in that area of the state and has consistently been among the nuclear industry’s best-managed and best-operated facilities. There is enormous value to Virginians in terms of electricity production and hundreds of millions of dollars of economic benefit from the North Anna plant.”

North Anna’s two reactors generated more than 15 billion kilowatt-hours (kwh) of electricity in 2006, providing about one-fifth of the electricity generated in Virginia each year.

The power station’s average electricity production cost (encompassing fuel and operations and maintenance expenses) was 1.38 cents/kwh in 2006, about one-half of the average production cost of 2.74 cents/kwh for electricity generators in the Virginia-Carolinas subregion of the Southeastern Electric Reliability Council power region.

The North Anna station’s average production cost is significantly lower than the regional average for electricity generated by coal (2.99 cents/kwh), renewables (4.37 cents/kwh) and natural gas (7.89 cents/kwh).

“North Anna’s low production costs help keep electricity prices down in Virginia,” states the report, which estimates that average electricity costs in the region would have risen 12 percent, to more than three cents/kwh, if the nuclear plant’s electricity were replaced with power from a combined-cycle natural gas plant.

The study also finds that North Anna’s 960 employees generally have higher-paying jobs than most workers in the north Piedmont section of Virginia where the plant has operated since the late 1970s.

“Full-time North Anna employees who live in Louisa County earn, on average, about $60,400 a year. This is seven percent higher than the average earnings of workers in the county – about $56,400 a year,” the report states.

Including labor, North Anna’s expenditures for products and services in the three counties surrounding the power plant – Louisa, Orange and Spotsylvania – totaled more than $58 million in 2006. Statewide expenditures for products and services totaled $138 million.

The report details North Anna’s economic impact as either a direct effect – such as the value of the electricity produced and direct spending by the plant – or a secondary “ripple” effect that includes subsequent spending impacts from the initial distribution of resources.

The direct effects at the county level for output and labor income are $658 million, with direct effects to the state and nation of $714.3 million and $714.7 million respectively.

The combined direct and ripple effects at the county level are $673 million, with combined economic benefits to Virginia of $864 million and to the nation of $1.15 billion.

For every dollar of output from the North Anna station, the local economy produces $1.02, while Virginia’s economy produces $1.19 and the United States’ economy produces $1.56, the study determined.

The full report is accessible on NEI’s Web site at: http://www.nei.org/financialcenter/economic_benefits_studies/.

British Energy Hits 20-Month High on the LSE

British Energy Group (BGY) rose 38 pence (.75 USD) or 5.4 percent on the London Stock Exchange in trading Thursday. The jump occurred after reports that RWE, Germany's second-biggest utility, had made an £11 bn (21.7 bn USD) offer for BGY.

From Bloomberg,

"British Energy is clearly in play," said Edward Collins, a London-based fund manager at New Star Asset Management Group Plc. He helps manage $41 billion of investments including British Energy shares. "New nuclear is absolutely essential. British Energy has an unrivaled strategic position."

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Senator Domenici on Used Fuel and Yucca Mountain

Is the nation beginning to head a new direction on how to manage its used nuclear fuel? Here's the direction Senator Domenici thinks we should go:

The Senate’s longtime champion of nuclear energy said today that other communities, not just Nevada’s Yucca Mountain, should be considered for storing the nation’s nuclear waste.

New Mexico Republican Sen. Pete Domenici’s comments this morning reflect Washington’s deep frustration over the Department of Energy’s endless delays at Yucca Mountain. The nuclear industry has quietly been soliciting other communities as potential hosts for a repository, and Domenici said he would introduce legislation that would free up money from the Yucca Mountain account to do just that. Doing so would represent a major policy shift on Yucca. The multi-billion-dollar Yucca fund is considered sacred, having been built from fees collected from ratepayers in states with nuclear energy.

...

Domenici’s comments came as both Senate and House appropriators this week are considering Energy’s budget requests for the coming year. The department promises to meet its summer deadline for submitting the long-awaited license for the waste dump at Yucca.

In his comments, Domenici said he no longer believes focusing solely on a permanent repository in Nevada is the way to go, fearing the Yucca only strategy that does not include efforts to recycle waste is “deeply flawed.” “I believe this path will prove to be the highest cost solution and it fails to take advantage of recycling,” Domenici said. “We should pursue a comprehensive waste strategy led by an approach to recycle spent nuclear fuel with the remaining waste to be put in either Yucca Mountain or another suitable site such as deep salt formations,” such as a site in New Mexico that now stores less toxic waste.

We'll see where this goes.

"The Cure to All that Ails Us"

Jay Zawatsky proposes an energy plan that will solve a great many problems. At it's center is nuclear energy:

How is nuclear power the cure to all that ails us? Here’s how: We import ten million barrels of oil every day. That costs us one billion dollars every day, adding $365 billion each year to our trade deficit. Nearly all of that imported petroleum goes into transportation fuels. Replacing all of the imported-oil horsepower with an equivalent amount of nuclear-generated power eliminates nearly 30 percent of the trade deficit. But how do you run cars on nuclear power? The answer can be found in two words: “hydrogen” and “hybrids.”

Amusingly, the focus on nuclear energy proves a stalking horse for hydrogen production. This seems an odd approach and the author is identified only as chief executive officer of havePower, LLC. And what is that? According to its website:

havePower is the nation’s leading hydrogen fuel cell systems design, integration and installation company for critical telecommunications infrastructure. Existing installations include primary and back-up systems in Maryland, Pennsylvania, Ohio and New York.

So, although Zawatsky knows his business in the same manner that a man who knows tin relates everything around him to tin, his article has an infectious utopian brio:

So that solves the trade deficit, the energy deficit and the environmental issue [Zawatsky solves these via nuclear energy on the back end and hybrid cars on the road]. But what about the budget deficit? Easy: We need to increase the capacity of the nuclear plants and secure them against terrorist attack. We need to build the electrolyzers and compressors to be placed at every service station in America, to convert water into compressed hydrogen to fuel cars and trucks. We need to increase the capacity of the power-transmission lines to deliver the larger supply of electricity to the service stations. We need to build the plug-in hybrids and the appliances for rapid recharging.

Nuclear plants are terrorist-proof, so we're half-way there. If Zawatsky wants to run for president of Wings Over the World (from Things to Come), he has my vote.

(But havePower's website? Whoof! Needs a refresh.)