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A Good Thing in Minnesota

prairie_island A good thing?

Xcel applied to add 164 megawatts to the plant’s 1,100-megawatt power generating capacity in 2008. The MPUC approved the request the next year.

Maybe not:

[T]he move was challenged by the city of Red Wing and Prairie Island Indian Community. They argued that the extra capacity wasn’t needed, alternatives like hydropower weren’t given adequate consideration and that the increased power capacity would harm the surrounding communities and environments.

The Indian community is right next to the plant. But are these items legitimate? – they seem oddly miscellaneous and contradictory. After all, if the area doesn’t need more electricity then no one needed to look at hydro, either.

Anyway – back to a good thing:

The court [the state court of appeals, to be exact] said those claims were unsupported and affirmed the state’s approval…

Xcel, Prairie Island’s parent, still needs NRC approval, but this part is done. Good.
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There are several stories today about growing American interest in participating in Armenia’s drive to build a new nuclear energy plant. Currently, the one operating plant, Metsamor, produces about 40 percent of Armenia’s electricity generation.

If you want a sense of how nuclear energy enhances energy security, Metsamor’s your go-to plant in the Caucasus. Closed in 1988 after an earthquake in the region, Armenia repaired and reopened the plant in 1993 when neighbors Turkey and Azerbaijan blockaded Armenia and created electricity shortages. With Metsamor up and running, no imports were needed and so it has been since.

However, the plan has been to close it again once a new plant is up and running – which Armenia has to do before it is considered for European Union membership. The problem has been to get the new plant up and running.

And that brings us to today. The major takeaway is that the Russians remain the major partner here:

The Russian and Armenian governments set up late last year a joint venture tasked with building the plant's reactor. Armenian officials said other plant facilities might well be built by or receive equipment from Western nuclear-energy firms. They said equipment suppliers will be chosen in international tenders.

And that’s where the Americans find an opening:

The State Department hopes to gauge US private interest in funding Armenia’s new nuclear power station in the place of rusting, Soviet-era Metsamor.

“ We are interested in having U.S. companies participate [in the nuclear project,] if possible," Daniel Rosenblum, the State Department's Coordinator of US Assistance to Europe and Eurasia, told a November 16 press conference, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reported.

That’s not the most ringing endorsement imaginable. But consider:

The U.S. will allocate $44 [million] to Armenia in 2011, out of which around $20-22 [million] will be directed for the development of enterprises and improvement of competitiveness, while $8 [million] will be allocated for reforms in the social field, specifically, healthcare, Yeritsyan said.

Nothing about nuclear energy, but a lot about American interest in Armenia. Consider further:

Armenia is interested in boosting its trade and economic relations with the United States, Armenian economy minister Nerses Yeritsyan said today at the opening of the 19th meeting of Armenian-American intergovernmental commission in Yerevan.

This is the conference that brought in the $44 million. So the atmosphere for trade in nuclear services is certainly clear and sunny.

The Prairie Island plant.

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