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Showing posts from June, 2014

Nuclear Jobs and Salaries

Notice anything about the green bars in the graphic at right?  What caught our eye was the huge bar for "Nuclear power tech" in Texas.  So what's the story?  Is everything bigger in Texas?

The graphic appeared in the Wall Street Journal on June 24 in an article on the value of two-year and four-year college degrees.  Authors Mark Peters and Douglas Belkin cited recent studies by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and the American Institutes for Research.  The green bar that caught our eye is based on data presented in the AIR report.  It shows the first-year earnings of graduates of Associate's degree programs in nuclear technology in Texas as averaging more than $98,000. 

The report is not clear about the specific jobs tied to the reported first-year earnings by nuclear technology graduates in Texas.  (There are two nuclear power plants in Texas: Comanche Peak in Glen Rose, and South Texas Project in Bay City, offering thousands of well paying jobs.)  The report …

Nuclear Coming Back/NYT on Ex-Im/Kryptonite

The Atlantic has an article called Is Nuclear Energy Ever Coming Back?. Aside from the fact that five new reactors are opening before the turn of the decade, the question seems a bit moot, but writer Celeste Lecompe does an exceptionally good job looking at subject wholly – I mean, with the Union of Concerned Scientists and NEI in the mix. We may take some pleasure in how much like sourpusses UCS seems, but it’s a fair look at different views. And Lecompte give due to new developments, such as small reactors and Transatomic’s revived interest in molten salt.A taste:In the meantime, TerraPower, the Bill Gates-backed startup, has opted to focus its attention abroad. “There are plenty of countries or regions that really are looking to nuclear as one of the ways to solve their energy needs without putting more carbon into the environment,” said Kevin Weaver, TerraPower’s director for technology integration. TerraPower is exploring opportunities to deploy its reactor design in Russia, Chin…

Gov. Whitman Answers Questions on EPA Carbon Regulations Tomorrow

Tomorrow afternoon at 1:00 P.M., Gov. Christie Todd Whitman, Co-Chair of the CASEnergy Coalition, will be participating in a live Twitter chat concerning nuclear energy's role in helping states comply with EPA's new carbon regulations.

To follow the chat in real time, click here to see all of the questions and answers. If you’d like to submit a question to Gov. Whitman, you can do so via Twitter beginning right now. Be sure to add the #AskGovCTW hashtag in order to make sure that the folks at CASEnergy see the question.

Topic: Nuclear Energy’s Role in New EPA Carbon Regulations
Host: CASEnergy Coalition Co-Chair Governor Christine Todd Whitman, former EPA Administrator
Handle: @CASEnergy
Hashtag: #AskGovCTW
Date/Time: Thursday, June 26 from 1-1:30 P.M. (accepting questions now)

Nuclear Energy, Ex-Im Bank and the Congressional Hearing

At 10:00 a.m. tomorrow morning the House Financial Services Committee will be holding a hearing of the reauthorization of the U.S. Export-Import Bank. The chairman of the committee, Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-TX), is a long-time opponent of the Bank and the hearing will be stacked (mostly) with witnesses who agree.

To get the other side of the story, we've compiled a number of links and resources for you to consider. Earlier this year, our own Ted Jones laid out the reasons why NEI supports reauthorization of the bank, listing his top 5 reasons why exporters continue to need the critical help it provides in international markets. On Monday, NEI, along with over 800 other organizations, sent an open letter to the U.S. Congress urging them to support reauthorization of the bank. Here's an excerpt on why we believe eliminating the Ex-Im Bank amounts to unilateral disarmament in international trade:
Failure to reauthorize Ex-Im would amount to unilateral disarmament in the face of ot…

The Supreme Court and Carbon Emissions

The Supreme Court ruled today that the EPA cannot rewrite law (in this case The Clean Air Act) to accommodate new information without Congressional approval. In this instance, EPA added carbon dioxide to its list of pollutants and most lawsuits raised to challenge this were dismissed. But one made it through and The Supreme Court took it up. This is a good explanation of the issue:
The CAA’s [Clean Air Act] Prevention of Significant Deterioration (“PSD”) permitting program was designed to prevent the significant deterioration of air quality in areas that were already complying with the national ambient air quality standards for at least one criteria pollutant. Taking up its charge following the Court's ruling in Mass. v. EPA, EPA introduced new regulations covering greenhouse gas emissions from motor vehicles.  EPA then extended the PSD permitting program to cover large stationary sources of greenhouse gas, as required by the plain text of the CAA and a three-decades-old interpret…

What to Do About the Summer Heat

It’s not even summer yet and it’s time to break out the handkerchiefs and mop the swampy brow. Could it be – El Nino? No, too soon, and anyway, meteorologists are backing away from their earlier forecasts that the young one will be particularly strong this year.It appears less likely than it did a few months ago that a “super El Nino” will develop. “Earlier in the spring we had rapid warming beneath the surface in the central Pacific and it was headed east,” said NBC News meteorologist Bill Karins. “That is why you heard many headlines saying ‘super El Nino possible this fall,'” Karins said, and that it “might be as strong and as bad as 1997-98. But since then the rapid warming has leveled off and even lessened.” So it’s an early blast of summer, likely to be followed by more summer, as Sol just does its annual thing. We can’t discount world temperatures creeping upwards every year – or for that matter, air conditioning.Because the cities are getting hotter as the climate changes,…

Why NEI Opposes the Uranium D&D Tax

Earlier today, Alex Flint, NEI's Senior Vice President for Government Affairs, sent the following letter to Senators Dianne Feinstein and Lamar Alexander, concerning the possible reinstatement of the Uranium D&D tax:
Dear Chairman Feinstein and Ranking Member Alexander:

The $200 million tax on the customers of nuclear utilities proposed in your mark of the fiscal year 2015 Energy and Water Development Act is unreasonable and unjustified.

The tax is ostensibly to pay utility customers’ share of decommissioning the federal government’s uranium enrichment plants because of enrichment services U.S. utilities purchased from the federal government from 1969 to 1992.

However, those utilities’ contracts with the Department of Energy and its predecessor organizations required full cost recovery. As a result, the utilities’ share of clean-up costs was paid even though the plants, which had produced enriched uranium for the weapons programs, were already contaminated.

Despite that, when…

The Nuclear Energy Panic Attack

Some of the negative writing about nuclear energy has a notably desperate ring about it, as though the last best chance to do away with the atom is slipping, slipping away. Paul Hockenos over at Al-Jazeera America produces a panic attack of an article:Nuclear power, once the cutting edge of technological progress, is now a dinosaur, all the more anachronistic when one looks at the price of renewables, whose costs have plummeted over a decade and will, say experts, continue to decline as technology improves. The wunderkinder [Hockenos works out of Germany] are solar photovoltaic, wind power and bioenergy. Solar and onshore wind prices are now at or quickly approaching market parity in many large electricity markets around the world. In other words, the cheapest renewables are now cost competitive with fossil fuels and nuclear, even without subsidies. This has been the case for some time now in regions with high electricity costs and abundant wind or sunshine.I hadn’t seen the decrepit …

Exelon Explains What Happened at 2014 PJM Capacity Auction

Over the past few months we've been writing a lot about how flaws in merchant electric markets have been placing significant economic stress on nuclear plants operating in those areas.

The latest piece of news on that topic came out late last month when PJM revealed the results of its 2014 Capacity Market Auction - one where three of Exelon's nuclear plants failed to "clear" the bidding.

To help provide some clarity on exactly what's going on, we sat down for a Q&A with Joseph Dominguez, a senior vice president at Exelon to ask some questions about what it means for those three plants and the future of the electric grid.

NEI: Exelon has said that Quad Cities and Byron in Illinois and Oyster Creek in New Jersey did not clear the PJM capacity auction. Why not?

Dominguez: These auction results reveal that the market does not sufficiently recognize the significant value that nuclear plants provide in terms of reliability and environmental benefits. As proven duri…

Who Said It?

It's a quiet Thursday morning in Washington, so I decided we ought to play a game of "Who said it?" Here's today's quote:

"To be sure, nuclear power is the largest source of low-carbon electricity in the country, a major selling point."

Leave your guess in the comments. No Googling! Back with an answer this afternoon.

UPDATE: We're running this contest on Facebook too. No correct answer yet.

AND THE ANSWER IS ... Elliott Negin. Ironically, Elliott is the Director of News & Commentary for the Union of Concerned Scientists. Mr. Negin wrote that line on June 2, 2014 in the Huffington Post.

Nightly Business Report on Nuclear Energy & Jobs

Due to some technical difficulties, CNBC wasn't able to push out its complete package on nuclear energy & jobs last Friday from V.C. Summer Nuclear Station in South Carolina. On Monday night, the rest of Mary Thompson's report from the plant site was aired by the Nightly Business Report.



Want to learn more about working in the nuclear industry? Please visit the Careers & Education section of our website.

Why Did Cosmos Ignore Nuclear Energy?

Sunday night is a crowded spot on the television calendar (Mad Men & Game of Thrones), which means that in my house, the re-boot of Cosmos hosted by Neil deGrasse Tyson goes straight to my DVR. When I first heard that the show was being resurrected by Fox's Seth MacFarlane, I immediately began looking forward to the premiere. I'm more than old enough to remember watching the original PBS series hosted by Carl Sagan. It was a huge hit, challenging the Big 3 networks in the ratings on the night it premiered in September 1980. For a kid who had grown up fascinated by space exploration, it was a real treat.



Let's get back to 2014. I've been plowing through each episode a couple of days after it originally aired and was really enjoying it (I've been a fan of the cosmic calendar from the start). Then I watched Episode 9, "The Lost Worlds of Planet Earth." That night, Dr. Tyson touched upon the topic of climate change* (emphasis mine):
We just can't se…

CNBC Visits VC Summer Nuclear Station to Talk Jobs

VC Summer Nuclear Station is hiring the next generation of nuclear workers. Here's Mary Thompson of CNBC, who filed this report from Jenkinsville, South Carolina where she interviewed SCE&G Chief Nuclear Officer, Jeff Archie:

For more on how to snag a job in the nuclear energy business, visit the Careers & Education section of our website.

Witnessing the Future of Energy at NuScale

The following guest post comes from Tracy Mason, senior director of public affairs at NEI, who recently traveled to Oregon to visit NuScale Power and discuss NEI's member benefits and advocacy efforts:
When I received an invitation from NuScale Chief Commercial Officer Mike McGough to fly across the country and witness the company's innovative work firsthand, I enthusiastically accepted. It was the perfect opportunity to see what I advocate for on a daily basis—the future of nuclear energy—and the talented folks making it happen. 
My trip began with a ride from Portland to NuScale facilities in Corvallis, Oregon with NuScale’s Marketing Communications Manager, James Mellott. We reviewed their product development and marketing efforts in both domestic and European markets, as well as the opening of an office in Charlotte for business development on the East Coast.
The visit included meet and greets with NuScale leadership including Chairman and Chief Executive Officer John Hopk…

Southern Co. “… in a carbon–constrained world.”

Southern Co. and its partners are building two new reactors at Georgia’s Plant Vogtle (and SCANA is building two at South Carolina’s V.C. Summer and TVA is finishing a reactor at Tennessee’s Watts Bar). We all know this. But it would be interesting to know the relationship, if any, between the decision to build these reactors and the EPA’s carbon emission rules released Monday. After all, the rules have been coming since at least 2008, so it could be figured into the thinking. Was it?
Kyle Leach, Georgia Power’s planning and policy director, has given us a least a small peek at his company’s view of this:
"We have contemplated carbon in our analysis," he said. "... We anticipated that at some time we would be in a carbon-constrained world."
With the completion of Vogtle's addition, the company will have 30 percent more generating capacity than it needs on the hottest summer day when air conditioning units are blowing full force across the state. That'…

Finding Nuclear Energy in EPA's New Carbon Regs

By now, most of our readers have seen the coverage coming out of Monday's announcement of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's new carbon emission regulations.

According to the Washington Post, the new rules will require states to cut carbon emissions from the electric sector by as much as 30% by 2030 - something that will be impossible to achieve without preserving and perhaps expanding the nation's fleet of nuclear power plants.

So where can you find the nuclear references in the new rules, known better as 40 CFR Part 62? NEI's own Scott Mantsch went to the trouble earlier this week of doing the hard work for us. Please note that we've added paragraph breaks to aid with readability in this format.

Page 39:

States may also identify technologies or strategies that are not explicitly mentioned in any of the four building blocks and may use those technologies or strategies as part of their overall plans (e.g., market-based trading programs or construction of n…

NARUC's View on Suspension of the Nuclear Waste Fee

Over at our main website, we've just published a Q&A with the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners on what might happen next with the Nuclear Waste Fee. Among the takeaways:
As of Dec. 31, 2013, consumers have paid more than $20 billion into fundWhile fee is no longer being collected, interest accrues on the balanceNARUC believes once program "gets back on its feet," collection of the fee would resumeThe fee totaled about $750 million a year industrywide and, since its inception, more than $20 billion has been paid into the fund by nuclear energy consumers. See map for totals by state:


Our readers will recall that the fee was suspended last month after an appellate court ruled last November that in light of the department’s termination of the Yucca Mountain repository program, DOE could not continue to collect the surcharge of one-tenth of a cent per kilowatt-hour on consumers of nuclear-generated electricity. Here's what NEI's Marv Fertel …

A Nuclear Plant Like That: Reactions to the EPA Carbon Rules

If the Environmental Protection Agency regulations on carbon emissions, released yesterday, left anyone surprised, that would be a surprise. These rules have been in the works since 2007, when the Supreme Court said that such emissions must be regulated under the Clean Air Act (the government argued against it), and since 2010, when President Barack Obama told Congress that he would proceed with carbon emission rules if Congress did not (which, indeed, Congress did not.) The White House preceded the new rules with an energy plan that explicitly linked renewable energy with nuclear energy as carbon emission mitigators, another factor that played (or seemed to) into the news coverage that has appeared in the last day.
Granted, some of the coverage is muted or even a bit bizarre. Here’s the New York Times:
The proposed rule also opens the door for nuclear power plant operators to collect extra revenue because their reactors do not generate carbon dioxide. The nuclear industry has long t…

EPA's Carbon Regs, Nuclear and Energy Diversity

The following post was written by Kimberly Cate, NEI's Communications Intern.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is set to roll out a carbon-reduction regulation tomorrow, a move that may have major ramifications in how states manage energy policy and develop the electricity grid of the future.

This new regulation will likely prompt companies to shift to nuclear energy, renewables, hydropower and other lower-carbon emitting energy sources, as the new regulation will impose yet more strict regulations on carbon emissions.

As the only large-scale electricity producer, “…[P]olicy makers should not be spooked into shutting down [nuclear energy as] a vital source of clean energy in a warming world,” the New York Times points out in an editorial.

Last year, nuclear energy accounted for more than 60 percent of America’s carbon-free sources of electricity, with hydropower accounting for around 20 percent; wind an estimated 13 percent; and geothermal and solar at about 1 percent ea…