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2009 Was a Productive Year for Nuclear Energy

From a new administration in Washington, D.C., to the debate on climate change, 2009 was a busy year for the nuclear industry as the domestic fleet continued to operate at near-record capacity.

The following summary of nuclear energy in 2009 was eloquently written and compiled by one of NEI’s writers, TJ Swanek. Hope you enjoy and find it useful!

BIG CHANGES IN WASHINGTON

At the federal level, many changes took place that will affect the nuclear industry. Steven Chu, confirmed as energy secretary, oversaw increases in funding for long-term nuclear energy research in the budgeting process, including research dollars for advanced fuel cycles and Generation IV reactors.

At the NRC, Gregory Jaczko was appointed chairman, succeeding Dale Klein, who had been serving in that role since July 2006. President Obama nominated George Apostolakis, William Magwood and Bill Ostendorff as NRC commissioners to fill two vacant seats and replace Klein on the commission. If the nominees are approved, they would join current commissioner Kristine Svinicki to create a full five-member commission.

In Congress, legislation to reduce greenhouse gases inched forward with the passage of a cap and trade bill for greenhouse gas emissions in the House. The Senate is set to consider energy legislation in 2010 but has yet to bring cap-and-trade to a floor vote.

ENHANCING THE REGULATORY ENVIRONMENT

In September, the NRC proposed extending the licenses for independent spent fuel storage installations and certificates of compliance for dry casks from 20 years to 40 years.

In October, DOE announced that nuclear utilities must continue paying into the Nuclear Waste Fund as federally mandated, despite a letter from NEI requesting that DOE suspend payments into the fund in light of the administration’s moves to terminate the Yucca Mountain repository project. The Nuclear Waste Fund has a $23 billion balance.

Power uprates—which add generating capacity to existing nuclear plants—and license renewals were granted by the NRC in 2009. One combined construction and operating license was accepted by the NRC.

The NRC approved 20‐year license renewals for units at:

  • The Beaver Valley, Susquehanna and Three Mile Island plants in Pennsylvania
  • The Vogtle plant in Georgia
  • The Oyster Creek plant in New Jersey.

The NRC received applications for license renewals at:

  • The Diablo Canyon plant in California
  • The Salem and Hope Creek plant in New Jersey.

The NRC approved about 56 MW in power uprates for:

  • Calvert Cliffs units 1 and 2 in Maryland
  • North Anna units 1 and 2 in Virginia.

In September, the NRC accepted a combined construction and operating license application from Florida Power and Light for two new AP1000 reactors at its Turkey Point site.

AmerenUE asked the NRC to officially suspend its review of the company’s application for a combined construction and operating license for a new reactor at its Callaway site in Missouri in June.

During the federal budgeting process funding was reduced for the Yucca Mountain repository even though the NRC license process is continuing. The industry is awaiting the Obama Administration’s formation of a “blue ribbon” commission of experts to study alternatives to the repository as the NRC licensing process continues to move forward.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued an endangerment finding that allows it to proceed with plans to regulate the emission of six greenhouse gases it identifies as pollutants. EPA’s plans would require “large emitters” of greenhouse gases to start reporting emissions in January 2010 and to use the “best available methods” for controlling them in new construction or upgrades.

Other major regulatory developments include:

State regulators also made some noteworthy changes in 2009:

NUCLEAR ENERGY’S FAVORABILITY GROWS

Policymakers and analysts have increasingly come to see that nuclear energy has a vital role to play as part of a secure, low-emissions energy portfolio, and that trend continued in 2009. Analyses of H.R. 2454, the American Clean Energy and Security Act, by the EPA and the EIA demonstrated that substantial increases in nuclear generating capacity are essential to meet the legislation’s carbon-reduction goals.

In the EPA analysis (pdf), nuclear energy increases by 150 percent, from 782 billion kilowatt-hours in 2005 to more than 2 trillion in 2050. Assuming that all existing nuclear power plants will retire after 60 years of operation, this analysis calls for 187 new nuclear plants to be built by 2050.

In the “basic” scenario of EIA’s analysis, 96 gigawatts of new nuclear energy generation would be needed by 2030 (69 nuclear plants). This would result in nuclear energy’s supplying one third of U.S. electricity generation, more than any other source of electric power.

Public support for nuclear power remained strong. A poll in August from ABC News/Washington Post on energy policy showed that support for nuclear power is up, with 52 percent supporting the construction of more nuclear power plants, a 6 percentage point increase from a similar poll in 2001.

Bisconti Research found continued support for nuclear energy in two surveys during 2009. The surveys found:

  • 79 percent of Republicans and Independents think nuclear energy should be expanded as part of a low-carbon energy mix; 71 percent of Democrats think the same.
  • 66 percent of Americans give a high rating to the safety of nuclear power plants.
  • The public believes that solar, wind and nuclear will be the top sources of electricity 15 years from now.

Bisconti Research also found that there is strong support for building new reactors—particularly among residents near the facilities where companies are pursuing licenses for new reactors.

  • 76 percent agreed that the industry should definitely build more nuclear plants.
  • 71 percent said it would be acceptable to add a new reactor at the plant closest to where they live.

PREPARING A NEXT-GENERATION WORKFORCE

The nuclear industry is working with academia, organized labor, and state and federal government leaders to train a new generation of workers for the nuclear industry. Ensuring a well-qualified workforce to sustain operations at existing plants and build new reactors represents a challenge for the near term. Transferring industry knowledge to a new generation of workers will be essential for the continued success of the industry.

This year, major workforce stories included:

URANIUM FUEL SUPPLY

Several major suppliers signed new contracts, and the NRC accepted the first application for a laser uranium enrichment facility:

U.S. REACTORS SUSTAIN EXEMPLARY OPERATIONS

U.S. reactors continued to generate power around-the-clock at near-record capacity factors. The capacity factor of a plant is the ratio of electricity actually produced compared to the maximum electricity a power plant can produce operating at full power year-round. It is an important benchmark for the nuclear energy industry.

While final 2009 figures are not available, through November the average capacity factor for all 104 reactors was 90.5 percent, close to the record of 91.5 percent set in 2007. Also in 2009:

NUCLEAR ENERGY DEVELOPMENT ACCELERATES WORLDWIDE

Internationally, nuclear energy experienced an exciting year. China moved ahead with an ambitious plan to grow its nuclear fleet, while the U.S. opened up to nuclear trade with India and the U.A.E.

Major international stories included:

CHANGES AT NEI IN 2009

Finally, Marvin Fertel was elected president and CEO at NEI in February. NEI also launched a new integrated strategy that leverages resources of both the Institute and its members to achieve common legislative, regulatory and public policy goals.

Let us know if we missed any stories.

Comments

Anonymous said…
Still NO new nukes under Obamolech. None. Zero. And there won't be either.

BTW, why replace Dale Klein? Too pro-nuke?

Well, the 2010 elections are coming up. Maybe the progressive liberal nit wits can be voted out of Congress.
David Bradish said…
BTW, why replace Dale Klein? Too pro-nuke?

Klein submitted his own resignation.

Maybe the progressive liberal nit wits can be voted out of Congress.

Keep that to yourself.
Anonymous said…
Is there a source for the DOE announcing utilities would continue to pay into the NWF? I hadn't heard this.
David Bradish said…
NEI and NARUC sent DOE a letter back in July asking them to suspend collection of payments into the waste fund. This was because of their plans to terminate Yucca Mountain. If minimal spending for a used fuel program is happening, then consumers shouldn't have to contribute money right now, especially since we have a $23B surplus in the fund already.

I can't find the letter online yet, but in October, DOE wrote back saying no to our request.

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