Friday, February 03, 2012

In Idaho, Japan and Finland

INLA little story appearing in the Spokane (Wash.) Spokesman-Review:

Gov. Butch Otter today signed an executive order creating the “Idaho Leadership in Nuclear Energy Commission,” or LINE Commission, to identify “opportunities and challenges associated with hosting the Idaho National Laboratory,” the nuclear facility in eastern Idaho. “Idaho clearly has been a recognized leader in nuclear energy research, development and demonstration for over 60 years,” Otter said. “We’ve also borne environmental burdens, but significant progress has been made in cleanup that enables us to focus more attention on the long-term viability and mission relevance of the INL.”

I wasn’t sure what this meant, exactly – the name of the commission suggests that the goal is to promote INL as a notable state entity, but the text is a little more nuanced. Maybe that’s just how Gov. Otter goes about things:

Otter's executive order on Wednesday reinforces his support of the industry's presence in eastern Idaho - even amid concern that a French company, Areva, could abandon plans to build a $3 billion uranium enrichment facility west of Idaho Falls.

So there is a plus as well as a minus value – I have no special knowledge of AREVA’s plans – but if Otter aims to promote the viability of Idaho for nuclear energy-related projects due to INL’s presence, well, he’s in the right state to do that.

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Japan’s efforts to gain a consensus that will allow it to turn its nuclear facilities back on appears to be showing results:

Japanese governor Tokihiro Nakamura believes nuclear power is vital for the resource-poor land, but even he says the central government must put safety pledges in writing before he'll agree to restart off-line reactors -- a sign of the tough battle ahead to repair tattered public trust after the Fukushima crisis.

I guess you could call that the opening bid. Nakamura wants more, too:

"It is the central government that must take ultimate responsibility, so at the very least, the trade and industry minister should come to the prefecture and discuss this with me openly," Nakamura, whose Ehime prefecture in western Japan hosts Shikoku Electric Power Co.'s Ikata nuclear power plant.

None of that sounds unreasonable, though some ministers will be doing a lot of travelling as more of the governors decide what will help them decide about the facilities in their localities.It’s worth doing, even if there’s a fair amount of it to do.

At least Nakamura is disinclined to be a dope about this:

Nakamura, a 52-year-old former member of parliament, said electricity supply in the summer, when annual demand usually peaks, was likely to be tight in his region if no reactors came back on line.

"In this situation, I think they will have to be restarted at some point," he said.

Hopefully, after Nakamura receives his visitors and gets the signed safety documents, Ikata can start up again.

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I’m not an expert on financial stuff, so I generally have to take news like this at face value:

The restoration of some nuclear plants helped Finnish utility Fortum's power generation business turn more profitable in the fourth-quarter, the company said on Wednesday.

The power generation unit's comparable operating profit, which excludes hedging, rose 4.5 percent from a year earlier to 351 million euros ($459 million), beating forecasts.

Good for Fortum.

"Utilization rate at Fortum's nuclear power plants in Sweden was good," said Nordea analyst Pasi Vaisanen.

Even better. This part I get, as one tends to forget that nuclear power plants, while expensive to build, are quite inexpensive to run. That’s good for the bottom line. The story has more on the financial situation if that interests you.

Idaho National Labs. Looks lonely out there.

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