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Showing posts from February, 2009

Friday YouTube Fun

First, the spinach: NEI's 2009 financial briefing for Wall Street analysts is now available on NEI's YouTube channel. Part 1 can be seen here:


And now, the ice cream: AREVA Resources Canada sponsored a Save the Planet video contest. Contestants were asked to submit a "fun, creative, educational video" that answered the question, "How do you propose to solve the world's increasing energy demands?" Here is your 2009 People's Choice winner, The Adventures of Nuclear Power Man & the Energizers.



Honorable mention honors [mine] for the PC/Mac spoof.

The Obama Budget and Yucca Mountain

There's quite a spirited debate going on at WSJ's Environmental Capital about the proposed defunding of Yucca Mountain in President Obama's budget plan. NEI's Scott Peterson notes in the comments,This is an opportune time to re-evaluate America’s policy on managing commercial reactor fuel.

Given the clear need for expansion of nuclear energy (more than 70% of U.S. carbon-free electricity production comes from nuclear power) , the Obama administration and Congress should revisit the decision to use a once-through fuel cycle and instead pursue uranium recycling as part of an integrated approach includes at-reactor storage, private sector or government-owned centralized storage, and continued development and licensing of a federal repository.

Given the legal obligation that the government has to fulfill its responsibility under that law, the industry believes the NRC’s review of the Yucca Mountain license application should continue. In parallel, the administration should c…

A Simple Little Cap-and-Trade Tale

In a story about President Obama’s budget priorities, this popped out at us:As for cap-and-trade, the official said the administration believes it will generate enough money to fund a variety of priorities, including investments in renewable energy and rebates for vulnerable consumers who may struggle to pay higher energy bills if utilities pass along the cost to consumers. Obama also wants to use the money to cover the cost of extending his signature Making Work Pay tax credit, worth up to $800 a year for working families. That credit, which will cost $66 billion next year, was enacted in the stimulus package, but is set to expire at the end of 2010.What surprised us is that the administration believes cap-and-trade will pass, get set up, work as expected, and start generating revenue in time to issue tax credits for 2011. Given how long it takes to get a program into gear – establishing an office, hiring a staff, identifying the players in a cap-and-trade regime, setting up the mec…

Commentary on President Obama's Speech Last Night

Jason Ribeiro at Pro-Nuclear Democrats wrote an excellent, fact-based piece on why President Obama should have included nuclear energy in his not-the-State-of-the-Union speech last night. As well, Ribeiro includes some data Obama needs to see that explains the limitations of several of his proposed "innovations" on energy:The important thing to understand about this graph is the line on top is hydro energy. Wind generation would have to increase at least 5 times to start to reach the output of hydro. But with a 25% or less capacity factor we also know that such an expansion of wind power requires a 4x build redundancy for a given output, so the actual build out expansion would be over 20x for wind to approach hydro. Thus, doubling from what it is today won't do much at all. In addition, adding the needed power transmission lines to and from windy areas to population centers will cost a bundle. The lower green line is solar, but since it has a lower capacity factor and ou…

Barack Obama and Bobby Jindal on Energy: No Love, Love

Here is President Obama's paragraph on energy from last night's not-the-State-of-the-Union:

But to truly transform our economy, protect our security, and save our planet from the ravages of climate change, we need to ultimately make clean, renewable energy the profitable kind of energy. So I ask this Congress to send me legislation that places a market-based cap on carbon pollution and drives the production of more renewable energy in America. And to support that innovation, we will invest $15 billion a year to develop technologies like wind power and solar power; advanced biofuels, clean coal, and more fuel-efficient cars and trucks built right here in America.
No Love.

And Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal, in his not-response, er, response:

To strengthen our economy, we need urgent action to keep energy prices down. All of us remember what it felt like to pay $4 at the pump and unless we act now, those prices will return. To stop that from happening, we need to increase conservat…

Chris Goodall and The Greening of The Atom

We’ve been noting over many posts the exceptionally rapid embrace of nuclear energy by a growing number of European countries and even by the European Union itself. Generally, where there has been opposition on the state level, it has come from the Green Party – we’re thinking mostly of Germany here, but Great Britain, too.Yesterday, we wrote about Greenpeace UK’s executive director Stephen Tindale coming around to support nuclear energy. It turns out he’s being joined in his efforts by Environment Agency chairman Lord Smith, author Mark Lynas, and Green Party activist Chris Goodall. That last one interested us – the Greens have reliably disliked nuclear energy -  so we prowled around a bit to see how he came to this support.---Clearly, Goodall has focused a lot of attention on climate change, as indicated in this little bio in The Guardian:Chris Goodall is a businessman, author and climate change expert. His new book, Ten Technologies to Save the Planet, was published by GreenProfil…

William Tucker Shares His Thoughts on Renewable Mandates

William Tucker, author of Terrestrial Energy (his latest book "about nuclear energy, global warming and the threat to the environment"), shared his thoughts at the American Spectator about what it means to be renewable as well as what renewable mandates may do to the country. Here are a few nuggets:What is a renewable portfolio? Well, it's what we used to call an "unfunded mandate." The premise is that the government has perfect foresight on where our energy future is going and as good legislators it's their responsibility to hasten its arrival. Corporations and utilities, you see, are generally too greedy and stupid to perceive the future so they have to be prodded on their way. In their wisdom, the legislators will mandate that by 2000-whatever the state or nation shall derive XX percent of its electricity from "renewable sources." It's up to the utilities to do the job. California pioneered this strategy in the 1990s but 26 states have now …

Experts Weigh In On How The U.S. Should Handle Its Commercial Nuclear "Waste"

The National Journal's energy blog is asking "How Should America Handle Its Commercial Nuclear Waste?" So far, four experts have weighed in: Chuck Gray from the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners, David Kreutzer from the Heritage Foundation, Thomas Gibson from the American Iron and Steel Institute, and NEI's new CEO Marv Fertel. Here's what Marv had to say:Since Congress passed the Nuclear Waste Policy Act in 1982, our nation has been pursuing a path for the ultimate disposal of used nuclear fuel using a once-through fuel cycle. Given the clear need for expansion of nuclear energy programs in the United States and worldwide, the nuclear industry proposed two years ago that our nation should revisit the decision to use a once-through fuel cycle. Instead, we should pursue a closed fuel cycle that includes recycling. This integrated approach includes at-reactor storage, private sector or government-owned centralized storage, research and deve…

Global Nuclear News: Vietnam, Algeria, Iran

Vietnam is making determined steps toward joining the nuclear family:The Vietnam Nuclear Energy Institute and the US’ Westinghouse Power Company last week introduced AP 1000 nuclear power technology at a workshop in Hanoi.The Vietnamese are starting almost from scratch, but are moving faster than looking at a presentation might indicate:Faced with threats of power shortages and the increasing prices of coal and oil, the Vietnamese government agreed to speed up and double the scale of the first nuclear power plant project in Ninh Thuan province from 2,000 to 4,000 MW.Here is Director of VNEI Vuong Huu Tan on the schedule:If the investment report is approved by the National Assembly this May, we will make the investment project. This process may take two years. After that we will seek international tenders or choose contractors to ensure that the construction will start in 2015. The government plans to put the first turbine into operation in 2020 and we will adhere to this plan.That’s …

Another Greenpeace Executive for Nuclear Energy

First it was Greenpeace co-founder Patrick Moore seeing the light about the benefits of nuclear power, now another former director of the international environmental organization has become a convert. In an exclusive interview with The Independent, Stephen Tindale, Executive Director of Greeenpeace UK from 2001-2007, describes his road to Calvary Damascus.“My change of mind wasn’t sudden, but gradual over the past four years. But the key moment when I thought that we needed to be extremely serious was when it was reported that the permafrost in Siberia was melting massively, giving up methane, which is a very serious problem for the world,” he [Tindale] said.

“It was kind of like a religious conversion. Being anti-nuclear was an essential part of being an environmentalist for a long time but now that I’m talking to a number of environmentalists about this, it’s actually quite widespread this view that nuclear power is not ideal but it’s better than climate change,” he added.For his art…

Nuclear Energy R&D Strategy by EPRI and INL

Dan Yurman at Idaho Samizdat beat me to this story so I'm going to copy from him ;-):A new report co-authored by the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) and the Idaho National Laboratory (INL) details how nuclear energy research, development, demonstration and deployment can help reduce U.S. carbon emissions and bolster energy security.

The report [pdf], A Strategy for Nuclear Energy Research and Development, outlines the research necessary to create options for the deployment of nuclear energy in the decades ahead. The report also examines nuclear energy’s relevance to nonproliferation and the need for the United States to maintain international leadership in developing nuclear energy.

...

The strategic plan defines six goals to expand the safe and economical use of nuclear energy:

1. Maintain today’s nuclear fleet of light water reactors
2. Significantly expand the fleet with advanced light water reactors
3. Develop non-electric applications for high-temperature reactors
4. Assur…

Fruity Socialists Doing Yoga: The Perils of Namasté

Namasté’s CEO, Blake Jones, is quite upfront about the benefits of the stimulus plan for his company, a solar panel supplier in Colorado:Depending on the details, Jones said the passage of the plan would allow him not only to lift his hiring freeze put into place in October but would allow him to start hiring again."It might have a huge impact on our business," Jones said. "If things were to continue on the present course without the stimulus, we'd have to lay off half of our staff and close one of our offices."And we say, fine. Whatever one may think of the stimulus, this is what it is supposed to do, and keeping these technologies rolling along is a net good.---However, what to make of some of the commentary around Namasté? Jones introduced the President and Vice President during their stimulus bill barnstorm, amusingly mispronouncing Biden’s name after Biden mispronounced Namasté. (You can likely call it what you want as long as you order some panels.)From …

Moments of Dread: The EPA and Carbon Emissions

When a new administration takes over, there are always some moments of dread, even among those constituencies that might expect to benefit. The change in Washington over the last two elections, however, has been seismic in nature, with the Republicans further out of power than at any time in my adult life, and the Democrats working the levers of power with considerable skill if not always with polish. So the dread is of the unexpected, the unknown, the unforeseen.Now, it’s practically a truism that the two parties are closer together than not in terms of policy, and it’s certainly true compared to Europe, where splinter parties act as hot wires at the far ends of local politics to give their governing coalitions a solid jolt. So while the shiver of the needle slightly leftward may cause the French to yawn, it’s dizzying enough for many Americans.  The post below about DOE Secretary Chu provides some indication what the nuclear industry has to wrap its collective mind around. But even…

Another Environmentalist for Nuclear Energy

After hearing a presentation from Ariel Levite, the former Principal Deputy Director General for Policy at the Israeli Atomic Energy Commission, Eric Wesoff at Greentech Media is slowly changing his mind about nuclear energy:I am a knee-jerk environmentalist and have a visceral response to the word “nuclear.” But the more I learn and read, the more experts I speak with, the more my mind is changed — nuclear is a necessary part of the energy mix, albeit with enormous risk.

These risks need to be confronted head-on by sound technology, policy, diplomacy and science.

No Plans From Chu to Stop Progress on Yucca Mountain

From the Las Vegas Review Journal:Energy Secretary Steven Chu told a group of state officials Wednesday he favors moving toward licensing a nuclear waste repository in Nevada, although whether it would ever be built is another thing altogether.

...

The proceedings would continue for the government to work through issues associated with licensing a first-of-its-kind nuclear waste site, according to this view.

The episode appeared to shed further light on the thinking of the new energy secretary and a possible Obama administration strategy on the Nevada project.We still have this issue, though:... several people who were at the 20-minute session said Chu stressed that President Barack Obama doesn't want the Yucca repository, "and I work for the president."On a slightly different note, Las Vegas Review Journal reported this the day before:The government affairs arm of the nuclear industry on Monday called for President Barack Obama to convene a blue ribbon nuclear waste commis…

Panic Button

We’ve done a fair number of stories about the actions of several states to overturn bans. These state actions are delightful to us but must be alarming to those who genuinely if irrationally fear nuclear energy . We choose not to identify one from another – we could always be wrong, after all. While researching a story about legislative moves in Oklahoma, we ran into some arguments we hadn’t heard in awhile:"I wouldn't want to vote for something that causes cancer," said Dr. Morton S. Skorodin, who distributed a power point presentation highlighting the dangers of nuclear power."Nuclear power plants do vent radioactive nuclear gases every single day," Skorodin said. "All forms of cancer can be induced by radiation."Not to mention all the radioactive nuclear electricity coming out of your wall sockets. Bet that PowerPoint presentation has some fascinating bullet points! ---Dr. Skorodin is not the only one pushing the panic button: Bud Scott of the Sie…

Kentucky Ban Overturned in State Senate

The news is that Kentucky is en route to overturning its ban on building nuclear energy plants:Sen. Bob Leeper of Paducah said adopting the federal standard would allow Kentucky sites to be considered for next generation nuclear power plants which would help curb greenhouse gas emissions caused by coal-fired powered plants. This is simply another story that tells what is percolating around the states – either bans are falling or public service commission rules against paying for a plant as it is built are being overturned. We’re not sure we’d make the coal/nuclear divide quite so stark, but this is Kentucky and it explains the tilt of the story (which originally came from The Morehead News there). "With our coal reserves and gas reserves in Eastern Kentucky, to me, that's the wrong way to go."That’s state Sen. Walter Blevins, who voted against the bill. He really didn’t like the result.Blevins said since there were some negative votes, the House should take a closer loo…

Principles on How the Nuclear Industry Can Communicate More Effectively

Baruch Fischhoff wrote an informative piece at the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists explaining how the nuclear industry can communicate better with the public:Working the crowd is essential for a technology such as nuclear energy, which depends on the public's acceptance to host plants, invest in industry firms, and support government subsidies and loan guarantees. Proponents want the world to believe that the public will increasingly be open to an energy source that directly produces no greenhouse gases, while opponents want the world to believe that the public will increasingly fear accidents, cost overruns, the uncertain future of nuclear waste, and the diversion of weapon-grade material to bomb making.
In truth, neither side really knows what the public fears or wants. Unless supported by sound empirical evidence, claims about public opinion are just speculation. In the case of nuclear energy, there's surprisingly little research describing the public's concerns about …

Walking into a Windmill

We’ve sometimes read stories about people who misjudged where a helicopter rotor was or just how close is too close when in proximity to an airplane propeller. But we hadn’t thought very much about the relative danger of being near a windmill. But danger there is:[The Caithness Windfarm Information Forum’s] "Summary of Wind Turbine Accident Data to 31 December 2008"  reports 41 worker fatalities.  Most, not unexpectedly, were from falling as they are typically working on turbines some thirty stories above the ground. In addition, Caithness attributed the deaths of 16 members of the public to wind-turbine accidents.Well, all right, that’s not getting in the way of the blades, exactly, but the roundup offered is almost comical in the way these towers of terror can do in the unwary. In addition to falling off them, you can have them hurtle themselves at you, throw ice at you, catch on fire and send flaming yuck your way, and collapse on top of you. They’re like the apple trees…

So Where’s the Beef?

We’re all in favor of promoting nuclear energy in creative ways, but we have to admit to mixed feelings about the Miss Atom contest (in Russian).Russia's nuclear industry has been trying to change all that in recent years, rolling out the annual Miss Atom Beauty Contest. The competition is open only to women who work in the nuclear world and, as the Web site describes, "Miss Atom is the first and only industry-wide, Web-based project for nuclear belles." The goal of the competition? To show that smart women working with hazardous materials look pretty good when they're not wearing chemical protection suits. Er, huh? (This bit came from ABC News). The Russian site has over 200 entrants, all self-submitted, so this plays reasonably well, and anyone can vote. While American industry now shies away from beauty contests as a viable way to promote themselves (and perhaps Russian industries do, too – this is an online effort, run by a portal for nuclear news), it’s not as …

Peaches But No Cream? Nuclear Plant Funding in Georgia

We were pleasantly surprised that Georgia has done what Missouri is edging toward doing:Wednesday the Senate took great strides in saving taxpayers and Georgia Power customers significant money by passing the Georgia Nuclear Energy Financing Act, Senate Bill 31. The bill allows recovering of financing costs during the construction of two nuclear power generators [at Vogtle] rather than have the financing costs compounded at the end of the project. Sen. Don Balfour, chairman of the Rules Committee, sponsored the bill.We don’t disagree with any of this – pay-as-you-go stems interest charges that run into the hundreds of millions - but the writing certainly has a Pravda-like tone to it, doesn’t it? This comes from the Senate press office; we wonder if their next release will be about their glorious five-year plan for agriculture.---Let’s see how it plays in the press. Here’s Jay Bookman in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:State senators —- with little or no expertise in utility manageme…

ElBaradei Brews Tea: The IAEA on Iran

The International Atomic Energy Agency has been in the news a fair amount lately, especially as it tries to stake out a position vis a vis Iran before the Obama administration really turns it sights eastward:Mohamed ElBaradei, director-general of the Vienna-based U.N. International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), said that after stockpiling enriched uranium, Iran would face further technical and political hurdles should it seek to build nuclear arms."There is a concern, but don't hype the concern," ElBaradei, alluding mainly to U.S. and Israeli warnings, said in a CNN interview broadcast late Sunday. "There is ample time to engage (Iran) and reverse the concern and to move into more engagement rather than more isolation."While ElBaradei is perhaps a little over-sanguine in his gentle assessment of Iran’s ambitions, he’s not a fool about it, at least not precisely, though his pronouncements are very cautious:In an interview with the Washington Post, ElBaradei said…

Loan Guarantees in the "American Recovery and Reinvestment Act" of 2009

Today might be the day we find out if $50B in loan volume for the existing loan guarantee clean energy program makes it into the final "stimulus" bill. The Conference Committee members are supposed to meet at 3 pm today to iron out the details.

As promised last week when I explained how the loan guarantees were scored, below is page 20 (out of 69 pages) from the Congressional Budget Office's detailed version of the Senate's final "stimulus" bill. A summary of the costs of the stimulus bill can be found here(pdf).

What I'm going to discuss below is what's in the table above. (Click on the image to expand.) The "Account Total for Title 17 innovative technology loan guarantee program" shows $9,000M in Budget Authority (BA) for all energy loan guarantees. A week ago it was $10B but was one of the provisions that changed to get the votes of three Republican Senators.

Right above the "Account Total" is the "Supplemental Emergency&quo…

Stimulus Bill Conference Committee Members Announced

After passing the economic stimulus plan by a vote of 61-37 earlier today, the Senate conference committee members have been announced.
Harry Reid (D-NV), Majority Leader
Max Baucus (D-MT), Finance Committee Chairman
Charles Grassley (R-IA), Finance Committee Ranking Member
Daniel Inouye (D-HI), Appropriations Chairman
Thad Cochran (R-MS), Appropriations Committee Ranking Member We'll have the House conferees as soon as they become available.
Update (4:50pm): House conference committee members, per Federal Times:
Dave Obey (D-WI), Appropriations Committee Chairman
Charles Rangel (D-NY), Ways and Means Committee Chairman
Henry Waxman (D-CA), Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman
Jerry Lewis (R-CA), Appropriations Committee Ranking Member
Dave Camp (R-MI), Ways and Means Committee Ranking Member Update #2 (2/11): Responding to woolie's request to provide some context for my original post, here's a link to David Bradish's latest post, Loan Guarantees in the "American Recovery…

Stimulus Bill Debate

An interesting segment earlier today on NPR's Morning Edition: "What Kind Of Green Jobs Will Stimulus Spawn?" This exchange between the reporter, Christopher Joyce, and Karen Harbert, president and CEO of the Institute for 21st Century Energy, caught my ear as I was running out the door.Joyce: Another form of virtually carbon-free baseload electricity is nuclear power. While the stimulus package provides loan guarantees for new nuclear power plants, Harbert says nuclear needs more attention.

Harbert: A new nuclear plant generates about 1,500 very high-end jobs in a local community, for as long as the plant operates. It will be much higher, certainly, during construction. But that's a tremendous boon to a local economy.The full audio can be heard here.

Japan's Kashiwazaki-Kariwa Nuclear Plant to Restart a Reactor

From Power Engineering International:The Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency of Japan has decided to approve Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s (TEPCO) plan to reactivate one of its seven nuclear power reactors at its plant in Niigata Prefecture, which has been shut down since a devastating earthquake in July 2007.

The No. 7 reactor at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear plant of the electricity utility, known as TEPCO, may restart commercial power generation by summer when power demand typically peaks if the local authorities of Niigata Prefecture, the city of Kashiwazaki and Kariwa village give the green light, TEPCO says.

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To date, TEPCO has spent a total of some 30 billion yen [more than $300 million] to improve the quake resistance of the No. 6 and 7 reactors. The remaining five reactors are still undergoing inspection.Good luck on the restart!

Missouri and The Callaway Plant: An Update

The last time we checked in with Missouri, AmerenUE wanted to build another unit at Callaway, but needed a change in the law to allow it to charge customers for their construction while it was ongoing. Even if this change would save kittens from being made into food, the prospect of higher energy bills remains daunting, of course, the current economic outlook sends shivers through everyone. In sum, AmerenUE couldn’t have picked a worse time to want this change.Peter Bradford, who served on the Nuclear Regulatory Commission from 1977-1982, said the change would raise electric bills for business and residential customers and reduce the money available for creating jobs and spurring economic development.You have to give Bradford credit for being bang up to date on his economic buzz words. If you’re trying to get a date for the prom, be sure to argue that agreeing will create jobs and spur economic development. In fact, one could argue convincingly that the Callaway plant will do both – …

And Then There Was Europe

We have to give our European friends points for ambition:Discussions regarding Europe's future energy policy this week has seen MEPs backing proposals for new EU targets to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 80% before 2050.And, the meetings of the full EU Parliament in Strasbourg saw support for a 60% renewable energy target.We think MEP stands for Member of European Parliament. In any event, the MEPs have some firm ideas how to reach these targets:This week's discussions by MEPs also included nuclear energy, with MEPs calling on the Commission to draw up a specific "road map" for nuclear investments, while rejecting calls for a "phase out plan" for nuclear power in Europe.Well, okay. The Europeans are getting ready for the climate change conference happening in Copenhagen later this year to bang out a new framework to replace the Kyoto protocol. Impossible to know whether the targets will be as ambitious as the Europeans are now discussing – though they hav…

Lively Debate on Nuclear Energy Between Dr. Patrick Moore and Harvey Wasserman at Democracy Now!

This is probably one of the most entertaining debates on nuclear energy I've seen in a long time!

By the way, their debate about $50 billion of loan volume in the Senate's "stimulus" package goes to "projects that avoid, reduce, or sequester air pollutants or anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases and employ new or significantly improved technologies as compared to technologies in service in the United States at the time the guarantee is issued." The actual appropriations for the $50B in loan volume is $500 million because the Congressional Budget Office scores the cost of the program at one percent of loan volume. But like I said in a previous post, if the program works as designed and no projects default, then none of this money is needed.

Also in the Senate's "stimulus" package but not mentioned in the debate is $95 billion in loan volume earmarked solely for commercially proven renewable energy projects and…