Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Bad News, Good News

prairie_island Let’s start with the bad:

The Minnesota House has rejected an effort to lift the state's ban on new nuclear power plants.

Lawmakers voted 70-62 today to uphold a 1994 moratorium on the construction of nuclear facilities. The vote was an amendment to an energy policy bill.

We wrote about this the other day, so thought it only fair to conclude the story – for now, anyway. Minnesota is one of the last states with such a ban in place and lifting it had seemed a near thing. Well, there’s always next year.

And next year will bring a new governor. We already know that current Gov. Tim Pawlenty, who is not running for a third term, supports lifting the ban – and so do two of the three Republicans running in the primary:

The leading contenders for the Republican nomination -- state Reps. Tom Emmer and Marty Seifert -- both support lifting the state's ban on nuclear power.

The third Republican contender, Leslie Davis, does not.

Among the nine Democrats over in that primary, two support lifting the ban and seven do not.

This poll from Rasmussen Reports show that the various November matchups are all over the map, with Democrat Mark Dayton – who does not support lifting the ban – and Republican Marty Seifert – who does - running pretty well at this point. But it’s way, way too early for speculation. This one falls into the wait and see category until November.


The Nuclear Energy Assembly, NEI’s annual gathering of nuclear executives and other industry folk, is underway in San Francisco. We won’t cover it in great detail here, but the good news is, every year has seen nuclear energy’s profile rise further than the year before. That doesn’t mean the mood at NEA is triumphant – too much work yet to do – but it is notably upbeat.

Let’s let Gary Gates, chief executive officer of the Omaha Public Power District and chairman of NEI’s executive committee, tell us why:

“Nuclear energy has strong bipartisan political support driven by high public favorability and growing recognition of nuclear energy’s environmental and energy security benefits.”


“Developments related to new nuclear plants are very encouraging, with a new plant licensing process that is working and can be more efficient as we build additional standardized reactors, and with the federal loan guarantee program on solid footing, including the possibility of expanding three-fold.”

“We’re also seeing expansion of the U.S. nuclear supply chain and growing numbers of young people being attracted to careers in nuclear energy.”

All true. And here’s Marvin Fertel, NEI’s president and CEO to remind us why this is happening:

Many in Congress recognize that there are compelling reasons for expanding nuclear energy that go beyond the need for new baseload electric generation. For example, in the Environmental Protection Agency analysis of the American Clean Energy and Security Act passed by the House of Representatives last year, nuclear power generation would have to increase 150 percent by 2050 to meet carbon-reduction targets in the legislation. If U.S. reactors are limited to 60 years of operation, 187 new nuclear plants must be built by 2050.”

Well, that gives you a notion. Who wouldn’t be upbeat? There will be a steady stream of press releases here during the week, so you can keep up if you choose.

Minnesota’s Prairie Island Nuclear Generating Plant. It produces nearly 1100 megawatts of electricity. Minnesota gets about a quarter of its electricity from nuclear energy and about 60 percent from coal. About 99 percent of its emission free electricity comes from nuclear energy – the rest, currently, comes from hydro.


BGiardini said...

Is there even any way that we can make 187 plants in 60 years?

gmax137 said...

Ummm, yeah.

We built 100 in about 25 years, with most of those being built in (I'd guess) 15 years - say 1969 to 1984.

SteveK9 said...

We built 100 in 30 years, and could easily do better. France (with a population ~ 1/6 of the US) built 57 plants in ~ 20 years.

gmax137 said...

OK, I just went and counted up the units connecting to the grid by year (based on Table C1 in http://tonto.eia.doe.gov/ftproot/nuclear/043697.pdf)

Between 1965 and 1990, 114 units were connected. That's 4.5 per year, over 25 years. At that rate, the 187 units could be done in 42 years. And, as SteveK9 says, we can do better, much better.

BGiardini said...

What will the affect of Minnesota not allowing nuclear energy have on that total?

gmax137 said...

"What will the affect of Minnesota not allowing nuclear energy have on that total?"

Not much. But it would mean that if you live in Minnesota, most of your electricity is going to come from burning coal.