Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The More Molybdenum the Merrier

MolyCell4 Yesterday, we mentioned GE Hitachi is putting together a radioisotope reactor to cover the short fall from the temporary shuttering of Canadian and Belgian plants. We also teased the notion there might be more announcements of a similar sort. We didn’t expect the similar sort of announcement to, um, be announced so quickly:

One year after Babcock & Wilcox announced that it would seek to produce medical isotopes in the U.S., the company has received a $9 million boost to that project.

The National Nuclear Security Administration has awarded the grant to the Babcock & Wilcox Technical Services Group, one of the company’s operations in Lynchburg [Virginia]. The money will be used to continue developing B&W’s reactor technology for isotope production, B&W announced Monday.

But it makes sense, since the NNSA was also involved in the GE announcement. The government really wants to ensure a reliable supply of molybdenum-99 and it’s clearly willing to seed the market with these grants to make it happen. Babcock & Wilcox’s plan has another benefit:

The project has garnered support from nuclear security interests because molybdenum-99 producers currently use weapons grade uranium. B&W’s project, and a similar project proposed by the University of Missouri-Columbia, would use low enriched uranium.

Better to use weapons grade uranium for this purpose than for weapons – in fact, what could be better? – but we certainly understand wanting to avoid the issue entirely.

In any event, a true nuclear good news story.

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The New York Times tells the tale of the wind:

Despite a crippling recession and tight credit markets, the American wind power industry grew at a blistering pace in 2009, adding 39 percent more capacity. The country is close to the point where 2 percent of its electricity will come from wind turbines.

Let’s note that every single New York Times story could begin “Despite a crippling recession and tight credit markets,” since anything reported in a newspaper will happen despite those things. “Despite a crippling recession and tight credit markets, more cats and dogs were born last year than in 2008.” See? Easy.

We assume this is meant to convey that the wind industry has seen an increase despite elements that would discourage it – and maybe it still has, since that number could be, say, 3 per cent without those elements – but industry and government interest in wind has assured some progress. That’s to the good – and the Times even notices it:

The group [The American Wind Energy Association] said the growth of wind power was helped by the federal stimulus package that passed a year ago, which extended a tax credit and provided other investment incentives for the industry.

But:

“The U.S. wind industry shattered all installation records in 2009, and this was directly attributable to the lifeline that was provided by the stimulus package,” said Denise Bode, the trade association’s chief executive. “The second half of the year was extraordinary. But manufacturers didn’t see much growth because they had built up so much inventory.”

We guess next year, the Times can say write, “Because of a crippling recession, etc., wind capacity suffered a shattering blow” or something similar. Frankly, we think momentum is with the wind folks. Like a turbine, it just goes round and round.

You can see the Wind Association’s press release here.

A Molybdenum cell. ANSTO Health (in Australia) is in the process of commissioning a new plant which will be used to manufacture Molybdenum-99. Molybdenum-99 is used in the basis of 80% of nuclear medicine procedures performed around the world. See here for more.

2 comments:

Joffan said...

Like many a good-news story, the "good" is only in contrast to some earlier "bad" (eg. "Families adopt orphans"). The best of news would have been that the entirely unnecessary stop order was never applied to the MAPLE reactors, and the world would have had plenty of nuclear medicines available.

Jay Alt said...

Despite a crippling recession and tight credit markets, no new nuclear plants were built last year. Again.