Monday, October 25, 2010

A Roundtable, A Voice and Death

Bob Guccioni Interesting roundtable discussion over at Penn Central. Participants include John Herron, president, CEO and chief nuclear officer of Entergy Nuclear; Mark Marano, Areva senior vice president of U.S. new build operations; Danny Roderick, GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy's senior vice president for new plant projects; Christofer Mowry, president and CEO, B&W Modular Nuclear Energy, LLC; and Deva Chari, Westinghouse senior vice president of Nuclear Power Plants.

Lots of different topics are discussed: here’s a sampling of the questions:

There has been a lot of talk about the possibility of a nuclear renaissance globally. What is the outlook for new nuclear projects over the next couple of years, especially given the global recession?

How are the dynamics for new nuclear in North America different than they were a couple of years ago?

The Department of Energy approved a federal loan guarantee last February for Southern’s proposed units, but nothing has happened since then. Constellation Energy and NRG Energy have both said they will cut back on the amount they are spending to develop proposed units while they wait for federal action. How large of a problem is the delay in federal loan guarantees?

New reports made a big deal over the summer regarding a report North Carolina suggesting that solar is now less expensive to build than nuclear. In the face of that kind of press, what’s the economic argument in favor of new nuclear?

(I found this report very dubious; it’s no surprise these gentlemen do, too. Here’s Roderick: “Well first of all I did read that report and it is very one-sided. It does not compare apples to apples whatsoever.” – a point on which Mowry expands: “Solar is roughly 24 cents a kWh. It is at best three times as expensive as the power that comes out of nuclear and I think you really have to look at the marginal cost because of the kind of power that it is, [in] which case [it] may be five to 10 times more expensive. So that is absolutely not the case.”)

Are you hearing concerns from Wall Street regarding the three years or so of exposure that the capital will face during new plant construction?

As you can see, some of the most contentious issues out there are given a airing. Well worth reading the whole thing.


Growing demands for energy around the world have nations increasingly looking to the promise of nuclear power to fuel their growth and development needs.

Nothing to disagree with there, but the notable fact about this little article is that it is published at the Voice of America, the U.S. radio service (TV, too, though not as much) for other countries. So there is a bit of interest in what the American attitude is in the material being transmitted.

With nuclear power's potential however, comes responsibilities. One is that nations developing nuclear energy for civilian uses commit to preventing nuclear technology from being diverted to other nations or groups that might use it to develop weapons of mass destruction.

Other than the term “weapons of mass destruction” losing some of its luster, it’s a fair metric of concern, especially since it is used to promote the idea of a fuel bank, an international entity that will track uranium used at plants and retrieve the used nuclear fuel.

We look forward to working with both nuclear power-capable and developing nations to establish an IAEA Fuel Bank that can help to harness peaceful nuclear power for the benefit of all.

So, as one might expect, an accurate and pointed statement of U.S. interest.


I’m not a big reader of obituaries – time for that later – but I do read the New York Times and Washington Post obits of prominent people. Often, these include tidbits of information I did not know or might prefer not to know.

He once hired 82 scientists to develop a small nuclear reactor as a low-cost energy source, but it came to nothing and cost $17 million.

This is from the NYT obit of Bob Guccione, the publisher of Penthouse (and Omni, a pretty good science magazine.), who died last week at the age of 79.

In looking around for more details, I found that Rod Adams at the invaluable Atomic Insights blog had already dug into this topic. Hint: it involves fusion, for all you fans of the sun. Rod will tell you the rest.

Bob Guccioni. That’s one of his own paintings. This page has a gallery showing details of some of his work. It looks like Guccioni became fascinated with early Picasso and pinned his style there.

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