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Showing posts from 2008

Forget the Scots, Here Come the Welsh

Well, of course we want Scotland to see the error of their ways and keep their nuclear plants up and running. There seems to be a little pushback on closing them : [Iain] McMillan [director of CBI Scotland , the Scots version of the Chamber of Commerce] said that the proposed local income tax, to replace council tax in Scotland, could turn businesses away from the country, and the [ Scottish National Party ]’s decision to rule out new nuclear power stations north of the border could put Scotland’s future as an energy exporter at risk. We’ll see. If we read the story right, a consensus seems to be emerging that Scotland is spiting its nose to throw out the baby with the bird in the bush. In other words, bad decision. Maybe the United Kingdom subscribes to The Sound of Music dictum that when God closes a door, He opens a window. Here’s the window : Energy firm RWE nPower has revealed plans to build up to three new nuclear power stations in Anglesey, Wales, the Guardian h

Happy New Year!

Many thanks to all NNN readers who made 2008 such an electric year: records were set for visitors, page views, and visits. We look forward to an even more exciting 2009. Below, the top 12 most-read blog posts of the year. 1. Barack Obama on Nuclear Energy 2. John McCain on Nuclear Energy and Yucca Mountain 3. Amory Lovins and His Nuclear Illusion - Final Thoughts 4. Nuclear, Wind, Coal, Gas and Oil Footprints 5. The Nuclear Option: CNBC 6. Warren Buffett Makes a Nuclear Play 7. Russia's Nuclear Energy Investment 8. The Wall Street Journal Energy Report 9. Legends and Facts: Steven Chu on Nuclear Energy 10. Inside U.S. Energy Subsidies 11. Lieberman-Warner: "Leave No Fuel Behind" 12. T. Boone Pickens and the Politics of Wind: What Texas Wants Photo of Wunderland Kalkar , courtesy of Rick Wezenaar .

The Dirty Energy Sector

We were expecting a little better from a story called U.S. Energy Industry Is Wary of Obama, although we think almost all industries are wary of a major change in political authority. Priorities are bound to shift and they have to hope it isn’t away from them. But this story seems to want to go further in its Cassandra-like warning: President-elect Barack Obama hasn't appointed a single person from the dirty energy sector for his energy team. I'm referring to the oil, coal and nuclear energy industries. This has these industries concerned albeit their statements to the contrary. Dirty energy sector! We’ll have to have words with writer Dave Giza on that drive-by slur. But when it comes to explaining how nuclear may be facing difficulties, the result is some pretty translucent milk: Obama said during the presidential campaign that nuclear energy has a role in the nation's energy future but also pointed to its high costs and concerns about properly disposing wa

The Whole Energy Portfolio

Investors Business Daily has an interesting editorial touting nuclear energy in terms of interest to their readers: the pocketbook. Until recently, there was no domestic capacity to manufacture the huge components needed to build nuclear reactors. Global nuclear giant Areva and Northrop Grumman Shipbuilding are partnering to start building heavy nuclear components. The U.S. had very little enrichment capacity. Now, two new facilities are under construction, with two more planned. Westinghouse, for one example, has already created more than 3,000 jobs and expects to add 2,900 for a development in Louisiana that will be used to construct modules for new nuclear plants. Each new reactor will employ 1,400 to 1,800 people during construction, rising to as high as 2,400 jobs as the facility is built. During operation, a nuclear plant typically has a skilled work force of between 400 and 700 employees. They’ve got this about right – jobs, jobs, and more jobs is certainly the

A Modest Request

Here is CNN’s Lou Dobbs’ intro to a discussion about the odd weather permeating the country: DOBBS: Welcome back. And let's talk about what is happening across this country. The weather is just unbelievable. And let's also talk about what it all means for discussion of global warming. Unusual storms and a deep freeze across much of the country tonight. An overnight storm dumped about three and a half inches of snow on Las Vegas, which broke the previous December record of two inches of snow back in 1967. The normal snowfall for Las Vegas is just about a half an inch for the entire year. Snow even falling on the beach front community of Malibu, California. The normally sunny and balmy city hit with half an inch of snow, and snow plows cleaning up roads in Payson, Arizona, there, after a winter storm dropped several inches of snow. Snow also falling in the state's higher elevations 10 inches of snow falling in Flagstaff, Arizona. It was snow, not the usual rain, th

NuScale News

NuScale Power , the Oregon-based company that is developing small, modular light water nuclear reactors, has received a lot of positive media attention in 2008. Earlier this year they were featured in a Popular Mechanics article, " Mini Reactors Show Promise for Clean Nuclear Power's Future ." And in his Emerging Tech blog , Forbes Magazine's Josh Wolf included NuScale Power in his list of companies to watch [pdf]. Not all of the media coverage, however, has been welcomed. NuScale is up with a corrective on its site, " Fox News Gets It Wrong ;" a response to a Fox News story, " Miniature Nuclear Reactors Could Provide Energy—and Opportunity for Terrorists ."

Smart Meter. Art Meter?

Talk about suffering for your art. Or energy consumption. Swiss-born artist/inventor Annina Rüst has developed Project Thighmaster , a device which allows consumers to measure, and experience, the effects of their energy consumption. From Rüst's artist statement , The system consists of a personal techno-garter -- inspired by the Opus Dei cilice popularized in Dan Brown's Davinci Code -- worn on the thigh, communicating wirelessly to a set of low-power sensors measuring the wearer's personal energy consumption. If the wearer's electricity use exceeds a certain limit, the device plunges stainless-steel thorns into the wearer's thigh, a reminder of their complicity in the planet's demise, and perhaps their own mortality. Stocking stuffer, anyone? (h/t Jascha Hoffman , New York Times .)

Scientific American: A Second Look at Nuclear

Matthew Wald , Energy reporter for The New York Times , has written the cover story for Scientific American 's special edition, Earth 3.0 . Wald's piece, " Can Nuclear Power Compete? ", went online Tuesday and is currently the most-read energy story on the SciAm site. The pull quote, ...Like another moon shot, the launch of new reactors after a 35-year hiatus in orders is certainly possible, though not a sure bet. It would be easier this time, the experts say, because of technological progress over the intervening decades. But as with a project as large as a moon landing, there is another question: Would it be worthwhile? A variety of companies, including Wallace’s, say the answer may be yes. Manufacturers have submitted new designs to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s safety engineers, and that agency has already approved some as ready for construction, if they are built on a previously approved site. Utilities, reactor manufacturers and architecture/engineering f

President Bush on Nuclear Energy's Revival

Making the rounds in his farewell tour , President Bush stopped by the American Enterprise Institute yesterday afternoon and was asked about the progress of the nuclear renaissance during his administration. Mr. DeMuth : Let me ask you two questions, if I may, about energy policy. The first is, are you satisfied with the progress in recent years in reviving nuclear energy? The second is about ethanol. The question says, "Ethanol subsidies are popular with politicians of both parties, but not with ordinary folk outside the state of Iowa." (Laughter.) Does this have something to do with the timing of the first presidential primary? The President : Sounds like some of my friends in Texas asking that question. (Laughter.) Mr. DeMuth : You can talk about nuclear power. The President : Yes. (Laughter.) The country needs to overcome its fear about nuclear power if we want to have ample electricity so we can grow and be good stewards of the environment. Part of the problem with

Shearon Harris Plant Receives License Renewal

The NRC has approved the Shearon Harris plant 's application for license renewal; extending plant operations for an additional 20 years, through 2046. Per the NRC press release, After carefully reviewing the plant’s safety systems and specifications, the staff concluded that there were no safety concerns that would preclude license renewal, because the applicant had effectively demonstrated the capability to manage the effects of plant aging. The “Safety Evaluation Report Related to the License Renewal of Shearon Harris Nuclear Power Plant, Unit 1,” was issued in August. In addition, NRC conducted inspections of the plant to verify information submitted by the applicant. The reports relating to the Shearon Harris license renewal are available on the NRC Web site . The Shearon Harris license renewal is the 51st renewal to date. The NRC announcement is particularly well-timed, as it provides an opening to point readers to a relevant clip that has just gone up on YouTube, from our fr

Keeping Your Toes Cool in Dubai

We’re not terribly critical of energy end users, though our father certainly could be if we let out the air conditioning by leaving the front door open too long. But even we might find our limit. This caught our eye while we were working on a story about the proposed 123 agreement between the U.S. and UAE (we’ll have more on that later): Versace, the renowned fashion house, has defended its proposal to build the world’s first refrigerated beach in Dubai... Why defend the indefensible? Just plow ahead and hope for the best. The beach, next to the new Palazzo Versace hotel overlooking Dubai Creek, is expected to be artificially cooled to avoid Dubai’s searing summer temperatures. Proposals have included a cooling system under the sand and blowing in cooled air from the Versace hotel. That last part would really make Dad holler. One has to wonder how cold they’d have to keep the hotel to share its cooling with an open beach. As you might guess, this hasn’t gone

Used Nuclear Fuel and the Fission-Fusion Cycle

President-elect Obama often mentions the "safety" of used nuclear fuel as a block to a whole-hearted embrace of nuclear energy, so we wondered what thinking was going on that seeks to mitigate or even eliminate permanent or even (long-term) interim storage. We might be all aboard the Yucca Mountain Limited, but recognizing the skittishness that some feel about it, what else might we do? The NYT's Green Inc. blog reports on a notion to use fusion energy to further split and essentially put to immediate use plutonium and the transuranic elements to generate more energy - instant recycling, if you will: But what if these “transuranics” could themselves be split? Yet more energy would be derived — but perhaps more importantly, the resulting waste, while still radioactive, would be far less long-lived. [note: which might forestall all the science fiction work Washington has done on how to warn people of the far future - or their ape successors -  that radiant ele

Arjun Makhijani and Nuclear Absolutism

The Wall Street Journal's Environmental Capital blog has an interesting post of a debate between two environmentalists with, shall we say, divergent views of nuclear energy. As it happens, we attended the same debate and Nuclear Energy Overview, the weekly newsletter for Nuclear Energy Institute members, covered it. Here's some excerpts from that story, focused on Arjun Makhijani's comments: A debate last week at The National Press Club in Washington, DC, between two environmentalists – and newsmakers – laid out radically opposing views on commercial nuclear energy. One called it “inherently proliferation prone” and the other labeled it “one of the safest technologies ever invented.” The debaters were Arjun Makhijani, President of the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research , and Patrick Moore, Co-Chairman of the Clean and Safe Energy Coalition ( CASEnergy ) and Co-Founder of Greenpeace . ... The cost of building nuclear energy plants proved a pote

Turkey Point Nuclear Plant Home to One-Fifth of the Nation's Crocodiles

Florida Power & Light (operator of Turkey Point ) has the best idea when it comes to nuclear plant security: host hundreds of crocodiles . ;-) National Wildlife Federation took notice of the crocs in their October/November issue: In the 1970s, engineers designed a 6,800-acre system of canals to cool the power plant. In doing so, they also inadvertently created a crocodile Eden, closed off from the rest of the world and well-stocked with everything the animals need. So for the few people who work along the canals, and the even fewer who are able to visit the heavily guarded facility, the rare and reclusive animals are about as accessible as pigeons in a park—if a bit more dangerous. The shelter provided by the power plant and other protected habitat is a big part of why the large reptiles, after 30 years on the federal Endangered Species List, were reclassified in 2007 as “threatened.” ... In 1978, when a backhoe accidentally uncovered a nest at Turkey Point, FPL realized it wou

Legends and Facts: Steven Chu on Nuclear Energy

[Edit: Click here for coverage of Steven Chu's confirmation hearing .] So how is Steven Chu playing as the purported candidate for Department of Energy secretary? Before we look at the developing narrative, let's remember the lesson of John Ford's movie The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance . Here's the question: Did Senator Ransom Stoddard begin his sterling Senatorial career and usher in statehood for Arizona by shooting bad man Liberty Valance? After we learn the truth, a newspaper editor sagely concludes, "When the legend becomes fact, print the legend." He had in mind the George Washington-cherry tree kind of legend, but it works equally well with, say, the Al Gore-internet kind of legend. Once a legend develops, it can be devilishly hard to shake loose of it. And it can warp the truth rather severely. So let's see what legend is developing around Dr. Chu. Here's the Wall Street Journal 's Keith Johnson buffing a legend that might alarm y

NBC Reports Energy Secretary, EPA Chief

NBC's First Read has the story first: From NBC's Savannah Guthrie Obama will name Steven Chu his choice for Energy secretary, Lisa Jackson for EPA administrator and Carol Browner as energy "czar" reporting to the president. It is unclear whether the Browner position is cabinet level. This will not be officially announced this week. We'll have more on this later. Interesting to note up top, though, is that Steven Chu is a signatory on the DOE Labs' report "A Sustainable Energy Future: The Essential Role of Nuclear Energy," released this past August. You can read that here (as a pdf). Chu, a Nobel prize winner in physics, is director of the Berkeley Lab. You can learn more about him here . Here's a taster: Chu has also reinvigorated Berkeley Lab’s existing programs for energy-efficient buildings, more powerful batteries, and monitoring greenhouse gases. He has made Berkeley Lab a center for powerful new climate model

Spiraling Around Constellation Energy

CNN reports that Electricite de France is in discussions with Constellation Energy to take over half its nuclear business. Now, it shouldn't surprise anyone that the French have taken an interest in the American nuclear marketplace - they have a lot of experience in making the numbers work, which has been problematic for Constellation - and a lot of experience with nuclear energy. However, there's an interesting wrinkle here - well, actually a couple. Here's the first : Constellation's board hasn't changed its recommendation to shareholders to vote in favor of the merger with MidAmerican , a unit of Berkshire Hathaway Inc. (BRKA), at a shareholder meeting Dec. 23, according to the release. That's Warren Buffett's outfit and it represents Buffett's reentry into the nuclear market after his Idaho flirtation. The link to MidAmerican is to their front page - there's a news release about the merger linked from there. And wrinkle two: [El

Thinking Twice in Scotland

Nuclear energy supplies about 40% of the energy in Scotland, but its two plants are due to be retired in 15 years. What then? The Scots have been looking at wind energy, and that's still on course : A new independent report has found SNP [Scottish National Party - the liberals in the Scots' political mix] ministers' target of generating half Scotland's electricity from renewable sources by 2020 is achievable. But it will require a five-fold increase in the number of wind farms and nuclear power should still be considered longer term to provide the 'base-load' the national grid requires. Well, that's always the way with wind, isn't it? Base-load in this instance essentially implies energy that is not affected by intermittance - you don't want your energy generation rising and falling with the tides, so to speak. But: Despite warnings their stance could lead to the "lights going out", SNP ministers have vowed to use their co

France, America, Russia: India and the Nuclear Trifecta

You may be fairly sure that if a country expresses an interest in partnering with other countries to develop or enhance its nuclear industry that the big three - France, America and Russia - will come around in one order or another. But they'll all come calling. Any thought that the 123 agreement with the United States might forestall Russian interest in a similar arrangement may now be set aside : Russia and India on Friday signed landmark accords on issues ranging from nuclear energy to space exploration, as President Dmitry Medvedev met Indian leaders in a bid to bolster ties. The accords covered the building of four new nuclear energy reactors in Kudankulam in the southern state of Tamil Nadu, a co-operation accord on a space flight manned by Indian astronauts, and a contract for Russia to supply 80 MI-17V-5 helicopters for the Indian Army. We have no particular opinion about this, except to note that India is exceptionally well positioned to grow its industrial

Obama's Cabinet Picks: Energy Secretary

With the announcement of the new Secretary of Energy possibly occurring this week, two more names have been scratched off the shortlist. Per The Kansas City Star , Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius has removed her name from consideration . “Given the extraordinary budget challenges facing our state and my commitment to continuing the progress we’ve made in Kansas, I believe it is important to continue my service as governor of the great state of Kansas,” Sebelius said. And in a succinctly titled Washington Post piece up at The Fix , Chris Cillizza reports that " Dorgan Won't Be Energy Secretary ." Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.) is no longer under consideration to be secretary of energy in President-elect Barack Obama's administration, according to transition officials. The decision was arrived at based on a belief within the former Illinois senator's inner circle that the plains state Democrat is more valuable to them where he is. "Senator Dorgan would be a fan

Don't Expect Energy Transitions to Come Soon

In The American magazine, Vaclav Smil (a Distinguished Professor at the University of Manitoba) wrote a "big idea" piece titled " Moore’s Curse and the Great Energy Delusion " (nothing to do with Patrick Moore). Smil's piece rebuts Al Gore's claim that the US can completely transition to wind and solar in ten years, but also goes on to convey the bigger idea which is that energy transitions take decades to happen not years. Below are many nuggets from his piece that readers will enjoy. (I almost pasted the whole thing because I think it's that good but of course you readers may not go to the article then.) Enjoy! During the early 1970s we were told by the promoters of nuclear energy that by the year 2000 America’s coal-based electricity generation plants would be relics of the past and that all electricity would come from nuclear fission. What’s more, we were told that the first generation fission reactors would by then be on their way out, replaced by

Open discussion on Constellation situation and what it means for Nuclear

While this article in the Baltimore Sun initially focuses on job cuts, it later gives a good summary of the choices shareholders will have in deciding the fate of Constellation. Here is what I want to talk about: The EDF proposal unveiled Wednesday called for selling half of Constellation's nuclear power assets to the French firm for $4.5 billion, including an immediate down payment of $1 billion in cash, and also selling several non-nuclear power plants to the company for as much as $2 billion. The rest of Constellation would remain roughly the same, publicly traded and operating out of its Baltimore headquarters. So how does the fact that a French company is so keen to buy the nuclear assets, but not the entire company, play with a new administration that says it will address energy policy right away? How does it play with Wall Street investors? What would be the effect of a French company owning and operating nuclear power plants in the U.S.? Discuss among yourselves...

San Francisco and The Electric Car

We've sort of figured that if electric cars get a full hearing that they will not be plugged into a house socket, even a specialized one, but that a market will develop to sell voltaic gas. This seems at least intuitive, since the displacement of gas stations would encourage the development of an industry to replace them. We may well be wrong about this - how long it takes to juice a car may determine how it has to be done - but clearly some ideas need to start percolating. Here's one, courtesy of the always progressive city by the bay : The scheme involves a number of ground-breaking proposals to encourage the adoption of electric vehicles, including speeding up the installation of electric vehicle charging outlets on streets and in homes, and offering incentives for companies to install charging stations in the workplace. Local government will also work to harmonise standards across the region so that drivers of electric vehicles can travel the length and breadth of the

Nuclear, Wind, Coal, Gas and Oil Footprints

Here's some food for thought ... copying from Pro Nuclear Democrats' post , check out how much one million barrels of oil looks like compared to a person and a house (see if you can find the person): The US consumes nearly 21 of these cubes each day ! Jason Ribeiro also created a picture of what 1,600 wind turbines looks like compared to the Empire State Building: If we assume those wind turbines equal 2 MW each, then the array of wind turbines above would produce less electricity in a year than the average proposed new nuclear plant in the US. For comparison, here's NEI's picture of what one nuclear plant looks like compared to the Pentagon and World Trade Center: And here's the energy comparison numbers of uranium, coal, oil and gas from Cameco : Great job on the pics Ribeiro! Update : After a suggestion from a fellow blogger, Jason created a picture to show how much Uranium 235 is equivalent to the energy in one million barrels of oil . Just as he notes,

Nuclear Blog Highlights During Thanksgiving Week

Hope you all had a great Thanksgiving last Thursday, at least those who celebrated! :-) For me, I was out all last week with the family enjoying the sun's radiation in hometown Phoenix, AZ. Of course, after unplugging from the internet for quite a few days, I found my Google Reader was +1,000 and that I'd missed out on some great discussions and debates. For those who were out as well, here's my wrap-up of what went on: David Walters has generated quite the discussion at DailyKos about the UK's latest report that found new renewables are more expensive than new nuclear . Charles Barton's blog, Nuclear Green, turns one-year-old this coming Friday . Congratulations! Dr. James Hansen , "best known for his research in the field of climatology" wrote an eight page paper to President-elect Obama (pdf) on how we can reduce carbon dioxide emissions. Nuclear power was mentioned as one of the five mitigation technologies that can make a difference. Of course,

Unbuilding a Building - and Obama Dissents

Despite our pre-Thanksgiving prep-for-bloat kind of lethargic mood, we thought we point you to a couple of interesting videos. Here's one from the BBC about the disassembly of the Sellafield Cumbrian plant. This isn't a nuclear power plant, but a plant at which plutonium was produced for bombs. We can't think of a nicer plant to go to pieces. Note: If you're not British, you'll have to listen quite closely to decommissioning manager Euan Hutton, who narrates, because he frequently disappears into a thicket of accent. Worth watching more than once to catch all he has to say. --- Well, all right, we can rouse ourselves from thoughts of gobblers and bog fruit to express dismay about Jim Riccio's sourpuss ding on NEI central. Of all people, he knows that advocacy organizations make the most positive case possible for the object of their advocacy and he also knows that credibility craters if NEI or Greenpeace or any other such entity spins facts into lies or hi

Getting Right Side Up Down Under

Watching Australia come to grips with nuclear energy is like watching Mr. Hyde fighting not to become Dr. Jekyll - the struggle is intense but perhaps not wise. Let Ziggy Switkowski  (and doesn't that seem like a name right out of Laverne and Shirley!),  chairman of the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation, explain it to you : MALCOLM Turnbull [leader of the Liberals, currently the political opposition] is correct in emphasising the need for bipartisan support if the nuclear journey is to proceed. The question is, why has it been so hard to build bipartisan support? There may be three reasons not to support nuclear power for Australia: * You don't believe in climate change or the need for a sustainable economy, so business as usual is fine. * You don't believe a small economy such as Australia's, with its 1.4 per cent contribution to global emissions, can make a difference, so why bother with clean energy? * Your planning horizon st

President Obama on Nuclear Energy

Over at The Huffington Post , Greenpeace 's Jim Riccio offers up some red meat in his provocatively titled guest post, President Obama and Nuclear Power's Spin Campaign . Riccio accuses NEI of mischaracterizing President-elect Obama's support for nuclear power and dismisses the work done by the industry association as "propagandist." Back in July, at the start of the presidential campaign, another claim of mischaracterization was made; this time by the nonpartisan in their article, A False Accusation About Energy . We’ve been through this. Obama has not said a flat-out "no" to nuclear, as the ad claims. Instead he has said he is in favor of nuclear energy if it is clean and safe, saying in his energy plan that "it is unlikely that we can meet our aggressive climate goals if we eliminate nuclear power from the table." In October, The New York Times , in its presidential candidate Check Point series, had this to say, ...And cont

Gov. Beshear and the Nuclear Imperative

Interestingly, Kentucky's Governor Steve Beshear pursued an energy policy during his campaign but was notably silent about nuclear energy being a part of that policy - you can see his campaign manifesto on energy issues here . But, boy, when he comes around, he comes around big. "We must begin the discussion now about whether nuclear energy should be a part of our energy portfolio," [Beshear] told reporters at a Capitol press conference. The governor's energy plan comes at a time when utility companies are looking at Kentucky for potential nuclear power plant sites. "Several companies have suggested that they would be interested in building nuclear plants in Kentucky," said Energy Secretary Len Peters. Here is the governor's plan (warning: sizeable pdf). You'll see that there are seven strategies - presumably to keep things lucky - and the seventh strategy is "Examine the Use of Nuclear Power for Electricity Generation in Kentu

Nuclear Energy, Nuclear Plants Explained

In looking for videos to include on NEI's newly created YouTube channel ( NEI Network ), we came across an excellent online resource there this week: Third Wave Digital . Third Wave is an advertising company that has created over 50 high quality animated clips that explain how a nuclear plant works. The videos were created for Progress Energy's Harris Plant Visitors Center. Be sure to check out the Third Wave's YouTube channel . And if you have any suggested clips for the NEI Network channel, please send them our way.