Thursday, August 30, 2012

Indiana: Introducing Nuclear Energy into the Race

Mike Pence (l) and John Gregg
Indiana has no nuclear energy facilities. It might never have them – well, never say never – and nothing, such as a ban, actually stops the state from having them. But any large infrastructure project needs a local advocate; one with authority in the state helps, too.

So – meet Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.), who is currently running for governor of Indiana.
"When you look at much of the industrialized world today, the technology and the safety record of nuclear energy is one that I think Hoosiers ought to be willing to look at, in addition to developing all of our traditional sources of energy and our renewable sources of energy," Pence said.
The story explains that Indiana has flirted with nuclear facilities a couple of times, but has ended up instead as the rare Midwestern state without one. Illinois has 11, for example.
Pence isn’t hiding his enthusiasm for nuclear energy under a bushel. Many of the stories I looked at about this have it in their headlines and ledes. Pence isn’t the least shy in sharing his views.
“We have next generation nuclear power technology under development right here in Indiana,” Pence said. “Known as small modular reactors, this technology is less expensive and easier to deploy than older generations of nuclear power.”
I couldn’t find Pence explaining this in more detail, but he is likely referring to Babcock & Wilcox, which has a fabrication plant in Mount Vernon and will make its mPower small reactor there.
The Babcock & Wilcox Co. manufactures naval nuclear reactors for submarines and aircraft carriers. For security purposes, U.S. military technology will not be transferred to the mPower reactor project; however, the factories already exist and the additional investments for the initial stages of market adoption are minimal. Another advantage is that the reactor is small enough for the reactor vessel head and bottom to be forged in North America. The B&W Nuclear Operations Group’s Barberton, Ohio, and Mount Vernon, Ind., locations specialize in the design and manufacture of large, heavy components. These two locations are ASME N-Stamp accredited, making them two of only a few North American suppliers of large, heavy-walled nuclear components and vessels.
You can learn a lot more about this at the link.

A little more about B&W’s plan:
When you hear the words "green energy" what typically comes to mind is solar and wind power. However, one of the greenest forms of energy is nuclear. And we have an opportunity in Southwest Indiana to be a major player in the next stage of nuclear energy development.
Babcock & Wilcox recently showcased its newly acquired vertical milling machine that will be used for manufacturing nuclear components. The excitement is due to B&W's future launch of the mPower reactor, a small modular reactor that will be used in conjunction with Generation mPower LLC to design the world's first commercially viable Generation III++ power plant.
Back to Pence:
“In addition to developing all of our traditional sources of energy and our renewable sources of energy, we ought to look at adding nuclear energy to our portfolio if it’s economically feasible and keeps our energy costs low.”
Which it would indeed do.
John Gregg is the Democratic candidate for Indiana Governor. He served in the Indiana House for 16 years, as Speaker of the house for four of them. He left politics in 2002, did a stint as radio talk show host and won a battle against prostate cancer before reentering politics via this race.
Daniel Altman, spokesman for the Gregg campaign, pointed to disasters such as Chernobyl, Three Mile Island and Fukushima as reminders that nuclear energy can have serious negative consequences.
“John has been talking with Hoosiers for months about how to keep energy costs down for Indiana, while also creating good-paying energy jobs in the state,” he said. “As someone who has worked for two different coal companies, John knows that we have enormous potential not just for coal, but methane, natural gas, biomass and wind energy, and he will work to further develop these industries.”
Well, he’s an energy veteran, which is always a big plus in our book, but clearly not nuclear-friendly. That’s all right: he and Pence provide a clear cut choice in this regard, and that always makes for a good campaign and election season.

Of course, this is a race for Indianans to decide and I have no brief on the candidates. No one is (or should be) a single issue voter – even nuclear energy advocates -  and Pence and Gregg will happily share their thoughts on any number of topics of interest to Indianans. Some of them may even matter more than nuclear energy to a large group of voters.

Still – about Pence’s full-out support: good for him – and for introducing nuclear energy into the campaign, however it goes. That’s a decided value in itself.

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