Wednesday, February 10, 2010

TVA and Crossing the T on Yucca Mountain

The other day, we listened to the hearings for the NRC commissioners - there are three open slots - but did not follow up with the TVA candidates later that afternoon. Maybe we should have:

During the hearing, each of the nominees gave a statement and was questioned by the committee members about their suitability for the role. Each nominee said that they backed TVA's use of nuclear energy.
You can read all the quotes - and who said them - at the links but here's a taster:

"In the short run, additional generation needs to come almost surely from new nuclear."
"I am pro-nuclear and I do think it needs to be part of the solution."

To support economic growth, I think we have to have low-cost power, and that additional power may have to be through nuclear."

"We've got some old dirty coal plants and, even if we were to miss the call for increased demand, I think nuclear must be part of our solution."

And that's a clean sweep of the four candidates - TVA has a nine member board.

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The Tennessee Valley Authority is a depression-era creation. The article describes it this way:

TVA was set up by the US Congress in 1933, primarily to reduce flood damage, improve navigation on the Tennessee River, provide electric power, and promote "agricultural and industrial development" in the region. Today, TVA is a federal corporation and the country's largest public power company, supplying the electricity needs of about nine million people.
That's about right. We'd only add that there were meant to be other "valley authorities," but Congress back then balked, so TVA is unique as a federal entity.

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To the credit of Environment and Public Works committee chairman Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and member Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), these candidates were heard on Tuesday before Washington was snowed under (again!) that night and into Wednesday - they were scheduled for today, which wouldn't have happened. The Tennesseans are probably stuck in town for a bit, but at least they can watch cable TV and swim in the hotel pool now that they've got their hearings out of the way. Not a good time for sightseeing.

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And how did the NRC Commission hearings go? No problems for the candidates that we could pick up. More on this later, but we thought you'd find this exchange interesting (our transcript):

Boxer: I have a question here for all three of you from Sen. [Harry] Reid (D-Nevada) and you could just answer it yes or no: If confirmed, would you second guess the Department of Energy's decision to wirthdraw the license application for Yucca Mountain from NRC's review?

William Ostendorff: No

Boxer: Good. Anyone else?

William Magwood: No

Gregory Apostolakis: No

Boxer: Thank you. I think he will very pleased with that.

We doubt NRC would second-guess this in any circumstance. Consider it a crossed "t."

From one of my favorite movies still not on DVD, Elia Kazan's Wild River (1961), about the early days of the TVA.

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

Harry Reid: pothole in the road to America's clean energy future.

Pete said...

I can only hope there were other questions directed to the nominees' qualifications... or was Yucca Mountain the only litmus test issue the senators cared about?

Anonymous said...

The question itself, asked by Boxer on behalf of Reid, was far more revealing than any of the answers.

In fact, it showed just how ignorant many of our elected officials are about the agencies they presumably oversee.

But then again, for a bunch of people who see the world through the lens of political influence and deal-making and quid pro quo, it makes sense that they would project their own worldview onto three men asked to run a neutral, independent regulatory agency.

What I found notable in the testimony was Magwood's repeated reminder that on-site storage was conceptualized and designed as a temporary measure, under the premise that permanent storage would someday be available, as promised in the Nuclear Waste Policy Act.

Now that was actually substantive (if oblique) commentary on Yucca Mountain and the consequences of the current administration's decision to scuttle it as a political favor.

Magwood was essentially saying that the subject of on-site storage, as it is currently designed, would have to be revisited by NRC, perhaps even beyond the ongoing waste confidence decision deliberations at the agency.

Marcel F. Williams said...

The TVA needs to sell all of its coal and gas electric power plants to regional utilities. This would allow them to fund more nuclear power plant construction.

The TVA needs to set a good example for other private and public utilities by completely getting out of the business of fossil fuel electricity generation.

gman said...

To Anon in comment #3 - I think you are spot on in your view of this. With people like these senators running the country, we are doomed.

Anonymous said...

Magwood was essentially saying that the subject of on-site storage, as it is currently designed, would have to be revisited by NRC, perhaps even beyond the ongoing waste confidence decision deliberations at the agency.

Where and how did you get this from his remarks at the hearing?

I heard Magwood say, in response to Boxer's question from Reid, that SNF is safe to store onsite or in dry casks for at least 50-100 years.