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Showing posts from September, 2010

They Write Letters, Don’t They?

They write letters:Shutting down Yankee would be disastrous. So true. This is written by PJ Beaumont, who wrote a letter to the Bennington Banner’s editors to say so. And more:We received a flier in our mail from "Green Mountain Future," recommending Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant be shut down. The flier distorts the facts about Yankee, implying that the water tower leak contained radioactive water (it didn't) and throwing out of context the past minor radioactive leak (the Vermont Department of Health determined it posed no significant adverse health threat). The flier was put out by a recently formed group with the "Democratic Governors Association" purportedly backing it. The purpose of the flier is to make an issue of Vermont Yankee to get Democrats elected, even when the Democrats know in the end Vermont Yankee has to stay open, regardless of who is governor. Beaumont is right on the facts – I might substitute “no significant adverse health threat” fo…

Uranium Here, Uranium There

Speaking here is Cameco CEO Jerry Grandey:“In my view, uranium is not going to be a constraint, it's just a question of getting deposits that have been identified through the pipeline of permitting and licensing.”Uranium is not a infinite resource and will one day be exhausted. When that will happen has been a topic of discussion, but I’d never really seen a clearer explanation that concern about it might be overstated than is offered by Grandey:However, while some critics point to the production shortfall and say that the nuclear industry is just not sustainable, “the reality is that uranium is quite an abundant element”, he added.Exploration ground to a halt because of oversupply left over from the sixties and seventies, which means that no-one has been looking seriously for uranium until about five years ago.However, since exploration started up again, a number of additional deposits have been discovered, and studies show the world has at least 160 years' worth of uranium …

A Nuclear Trifecta in New York

Up in New York state, one of the three candidates for the 23rd district really likes nuclear energy:"Chief among the alternatives is nuclear," Mr. Doheny said. "It's safe, it's reliable."That’s Matthew Doheny, the Republican. Here’s what he says on his campaign site:In the U.S. today, 104 reactors generate approximately 20% of our nation’s electricity. By comparison France (hardly a beacon of free-market thinking) has almost 80% of its electricity generated by nuclear power. Nuclear is renewable, safe and one of the cheapest sources of power available. The 23rd district is home to three reactors, at Oswego. Well, what about the Conservative, Douglas Hoffman?Oswego … could probably accommodate one or two additional ones [reactors], he said. "Nuclear puts people to work immediately," he said.Shall we try for a clean sweep with Rep. William Owens (D-NY)?Mr. Owens said he is "clearly very supportive" of nuclear energy and that technology is…

The Nuclear Energy Research and Development Act of 2010

While many politicians like to make fun of government funding things like volcano monitoring or the study of strange insects, they usually fail to explain why the government might take an interest in such things – and usually, it’s for pretty good reasons, like getting people out of the way of an erupting volcano or trying to get a lead on a dreadful disease. Government does a lot of similar things – and maybe some of them are silly – that fly so far under the radar that people really don’t follow them or have any idea about them. Yet many are valuable: they may have an immediate good result – keeping people and lava separate – or a long term good result – maximizing the value of an energy source.And of course, that’s where we come in. Yesterday, the House Committee on Science and Technology passed the Nuclear Energy Research and Development Act of 2010, which commits almost $1.3 billion to nuclear energy research and development through 2013 to commercialize lab-bound technologies, …

Klaatu Goes to the Press Club

I haven’t any comment about this one:Witness testimony from more than 120 former or retired military personnel points to an ongoing and alarming intervention by unidentified aerial objects at nuclear weapons sites, as recently as 2003. In some cases, several nuclear missiles simultaneously and inexplicably malfunctioned while a disc-shaped object silently hovered nearby. It gets better:Declassified U.S. government documents, to be distributed at the [upcoming Press Club] event, now substantiate the reality of UFO activity at nuclear weapons sites extending back to 1948. The press conference will also address present-day concerns about the abuse of government secrecy as well as the ongoing threat of nuclear weapons.I might just go to the Press Club event mentioned in the article.That’s Klaatu (good cop) on the left, Gort (bad cop) on the right, from the Day the Earth Stood Still (1951). Remember, if you ever find yourself facing Gort in a dark alley, the words Klaatu Berada Nikto will…

The Nuclear Cluster

The Small Business Administration recently awarded 10 contracts (out of 173 entries) to the winners in its Innovative Economies initiative, a pilot program to:support small business’ participation in regional economic “clusters” – collaborations between small businesses, the public sector, economic development and other organizations.Here’s what SBA Administrator Karen Mills says about the program.“Maximizing a region’s economic assets is one of the best ways to create long term job growth, and that’s what SBA’s new Innovative Economies pilot initiative is doing,” Mills said.Well, we’ll see if it does that, but it’s a laudable goal. We note it here due to one of the winners.South Carolina’s Council on Competitiveness (New Carolina), an organization that works to increase South Carolina’s competitiveness by developing industry clusters, has been awarded one of 10 “Innovative Economies” contracts … for its Carolinas’ Nuclear Cluster initiative.And here’s what that is all about:Under th…

Kicking the Tires in Bulgaria

This did not look too promising:Nuclear energy is not just the darling of rogue countries anymore. As The Washington Post reports, it is making a comeback – and soon smaller reactors may be sitting at the end of small town Main Street. Living near a nuclear plant is certainly dangerous, as a meltdown is inarguably a catastrophic event. Yes, so many rogue countries building plants that melt down on a weekly basis. One doesn’t know where to begin to shudder. But it does get better:Other eco activists have advocated nuclear energy, while Microsoft billionaire Bill Gates has invested millions in nuclear energy research.And that gets to the heart of it, the possibility of small nuclear reactors – those with a capacity of 350 megawatts and below – making up some of the energy landscape. Enthusiasm has been growing for these plants for awhile, with legislation in Congress to encourage their development. They’re less expensive than full scale reactors, they may fit comfortably into less ener…

Coming Soon: Double Dutch Reactors?

It seems a major rethink is underway over nuclear energy in Europe. Sweden, Poland, Italy and Germany have all either reversed their moratoriums/phase-outs or put forward serious proposals to add nuclear generating capacity. Now, it looks like the Netherlands may be about to join the club. The Netherlands has just one reactor—and at 485 megawatts—it generates only about four percent of the country’s electricity. But a new proposal by a holding company representing “six Dutch provinces and various city councils” may be about to change that.The submission will detail plans to construct a nuclear power plant with a maximum capacity of 2,500 megawatts, almost five times the capacity of Borssele 1. ERH hopes to obtain all necessary permits by 2014 and start up the plant in 2019.This new plant could be “one or two Westinghouse AP1000 reactors, an EPR or a BWR” according to the World Nuclear Association. Perhaps, like much of the rest of Europe, the Dutch are thinking low-carbon, but they’re…

Who Doesn’t Love the Wind?

Russian President Vladimir Putin, that’s who."You couldn't transfer large electric power stations to wind energy, however much you wanted to. In the next few decades, it will be impossible," Putin said, adding that consumption patterns would only undergo minor changes.He said the only "real and powerful alternative" to oil and gas is nuclear energy. He rejected other approaches as "claptrap."Russian has a word for “claptrap?”---Even though we’ve run a lot of stories about international activities, it’s actually rather hard to keep up with every country that wants to (re)join the nuclear family. So I thought it might be worthwhile to catalog a few countries that haven’t had a post yet – get them on the radar so we can take a better look at their ambitions going forward.--Argentina has revived its nuclear energy industry, joining its neighbor Brazil.President Cristina Fernandez's government is finishing construction on the South American country…

Mambo Nucleare

Here’s the problem:86 per cent of its energy comes from foreign countries.And here’s a solution:An international study presented Sunday argues strongly for the introduction of nuclear energy in Italy, saying the country can diminish its dependency on foreign nations and cut carbon emissions.Italy closed its nuclear plants in the wake of Chernobyl and now derives about 81 percent of its electricity from gas and oil. As this chart shows, Italy has been displacing oil with natural gas throughout the aughts. It also shows that nuclear energy was not a big contributor even when the plants were open.But the issue here is less what Italy is using currently than that so little of it is domestic, which makes the country vulnerable to price fluctuations that it cannot significantly control through policy. So Italy needs home-grown plants. Why nuclear?By introducing nuclear energy, between 2020, when plants might begin working, and 2030, when they should account for 25 per cent of electricity s…

Rock Paper Nuclear

If Germany keeps its nuclear plants alive for 15 years past the current 2022 deadline – and taxes them to help support a move to renewable energy – that’s good news for renewable energy, isn’t it?“It’s probably detrimental for offshore [wind],” Hodges said. “Keeping that much nuclear power online means electricity prices will be stable and maybe even with some downside potential. That suggests less investment” in wind energy.Well, boo-hoo. Electricity that is lower cost and free of carbon emissions? Surely, it is to die of shame. Hodges is Charlie Hodges, an analyst at Bloomberg New Energy Finance. It gets better.“The decision is step backward to the energy technology of yesterday,” said Hermann Albers, president of the German Wind Energy Association. “The government is squandering the potential for wind energy.”I always dislike this argument because it assumes that the new is shiny and bright while “the energy technology of yesterday” is gray and dingy. But let’s add mature and well…

Thorium Rising, Murkowski Conceding

Every few months, a reporter hits upon nuclear fusion  - or a fraud involving nuclear fusion – and that may set up a brief uptick in attention paid to fusion and it enthusiasts. Another nuclear energy topic that springs forward every now and again is thorium and its potential as a complementary or replacement fuel source for uranium. No question it has such potential. This story in the Telegraph (U.K.) aims to make the case, but sways a bit under a heavy yoke of grievance and conspiracy:After the Manhattan Project, US physicists in the late 1940s were tempted by thorium for use in civil reactors. It has a higher neutron yield per neutron absorbed. It does not require isotope separation, a big cost saving. But by then America needed the plutonium residue from uranium to build bombs.And:You might have thought that thorium reactors were the answer to every dream but when CERN went to the European Commission for development funds in 1999-2000, they were rebuffed. Brussels turned to its t…