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Showing posts from January, 2009

No Friends of Champagne

We had a little fun with the Heritage Foundation earlier today, but at least it was in the context of some good ideas they’re putting forward. We thought we’d try a little balance and see what’s up in the environmental activist sphere – an inexact match, since environmentalism is hardly the sole province of liberals. But while the Heritage Foundation couches their arguments in a comfy cocoon of ideological certainty, Friends of the Earth charges across the room blasting a shotgun in all directions. But that doesn’t mean they hit the target : Senate appropriators voted yesterday to add a preemptive, up-to-$50-billion bailout for the nuclear industry to economic stimulus legislation. The move was strongly criticized by Friends of the Earth President Brent Blackwelder. “The nuclear industry has given millions of dollars to politicians, an investment that appears to be paying off,” Blackwelder said. "Senators are supposed to be fixing the economy but instead they’re of

Ahh, That Heritage Foundation: Nuclear Ideas & Partisan Hectoring

The Heritage Foundation’s Stuart Butler offered up some nuclear prescriptions to the new administration in yesterday’s Washington Times: First, Washington should create a level playing field for energy ideas. That means no longer artificially favoring one new energy source over another and instead creating a strong, market-oriented approach to energy so that the best sources can expand. It's time to say no to lobbyist-driven subsidies and phase out existing ones. Second, Congress and the administration must commit to respecting the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s authority to review the permit application to construct the Yucca Mountain nuclear-waste repository in Nevada. Third, we need to cut the red tape now slowing plant construction. The arduous, four-year nuclear-plant permitting process should be replaced with a new two-year fast-track process for experienced applicants who meet reasonable siting and investment requirements. We don’t disagree with any of it

Shovel Ready Projects: Investor's Business Daily

Thanks to NNN reader Aaron for passing along this Investor's Business Daily editorial from Friday, Shovel-Ready Nukes . Stimulus : So-called "shovel-ready" infrastructure jobs are said to be the key to economic recovery. But rather than just roads and bridges, between work and home, why not nuke plants to power our lives at both ends? Amazingly, with all the talk of shoveling money into infrastructure projects, no mention has been made of our energy needs, the jobs that can be created by expanding our energy infrastructure and the jobs that can be created with the additional energy provided. To be sure, vast sums are planned for alternative energy sources such as wind farms and solar plants, but like the current stimulus packages they will take too long to affect the economy in any significant way. Nuclear energy is a different matter. This dormant industry is ready for a renaissance. The American public seems to have grown out of the media-induced fear of nuclear pow

They Call the Wind Uneconomic

Honestly, we come not to ding wind power : One of the firms participating in the London Array project, under which the world's biggest offshore wind farm would be built in the outer Thames Estuary, has questioned the scheme's economic viability. The Financial Times reported at the weekend that Paul Golby, chief executive of E.ON UK - which owns 30 per cent of the Array venture - says that "the economics [of the Array] are looking pretty difficult". This is due to the extra expense of setting a wind farm off shore. Naturally, this caught our eye: The FT quotes energy major Centrica as estimating the cost of offshore capacity at £3m per megawatt, more than double what it costs to build nuclear stations. Once you’ve got a nuclear plant built, the running costs are relatively minimal. Nuclear energy can generate power nearly all the time while a wind farms tops out at about 30% of the time. (This fact musters this comment: “Thus, it costs more than

For A Soft, Glowing Complexion

We’d like to think this is a good idea, but somehow we can’t see using a Geiger counter as part of our morning routine. An alarming classic from the annals of advertising (okay, we could go into the healthful and hurtful aspects of radiation – you can go here for all of that – but we’re appreciating goofiness here):

Washington Monthly: Rethinking Your Opposition to Nuclear Power?

Over at Washington Monthly 's Political Animal , Steve Benen has a robust discussion going on about Mariah Blake 's feature story in the Jan/Feb issue, " Bad Reactors: Rethinking your opposition to nuclear power? Rethink again ." This post in the comment thread caught my eye. Once I learned the science, I found that much of the left's objections to nuclear were unfounded. And I say that as a bona fide lefty in favor of single payer health care, a minimum income, and other things considered too far to the left for passage. As for how long the nuclear waste lasts, the heavy metals and carcinogens generated by the tons daily from burning coal have a half-life of forever. It's not enough to say what's wrong with nuclear; you have to compare it to the incredibly destructive alternatives we're already doing on a planet killing scale today. We can and I believe we will get past the downsides of nuclear. It will provide a base supply that can be supplemen

Show Me the Nuclear Plant

AmerenUE plans to build a second unit at its Callaway plant in, appropriately enough, Callaway county, Missouri. So far, the reaction is pretty good : AmerenUE says the plant would provide 2,500 new jobs with an annual payroll of $400 million for about five years during construction. The second reactor also would create at least 400 well-paying permanent Callaway County jobs with an annual payroll of $30 million. Callaway County residents also are elated that the project would produce an estimated $115 million annually in property taxes during construction and another $90 million each year after the plant begins operating. This is a news story, which leads us to wonder how writer Don Norfleet knows how “elated” the residents are – maybe he really has the pulse of his neighbors, be we suspect editorializing. The numbers are reasonable, though, and good for the county. However, AmerenUE has had to militate for a change in the law to bring about the new unit: At issue is

Scientific American on Nuclear Energy

And a lot of interesting information on uranium, too. When I worked at Scientific American during the late eighties, the rule for the magazine was that one story per issue should be comprehensible to laymen, but every other article could go into as much technical detail as a specialist could stand. This appears to have changed – while not nearly at the dumbed-down level of, say, Psychology Today, all the articles in the current set are informative and graspable to any interested party. So you can learn how long the uranium supply will last – 200 years – unless an economical method emerges that can pull it from sea water – then it’s 60,000 years. (No mention of Thorium, which may throw these numbers askew one day.) Or the first nuclear reactor – 2 billion years old and counting. Or what to look for in the next generation of plants. That last story dates from 2003, so they may be pulling some stuff out of the archives to support the newer material. Still, good reads. The cover

Happy Chinese New Year!

2009 is the year of the Ox ; an animal that symbolizes hard work and tenacity.* And while I resolve to be more diligent in studying my Mandarin in '09, and admittedly have little idea what this broadcaster is saying, her story from the CCTV News Hour still holds great value in its accompanying B-roll: video of the construction progress at Guandong province's newest nuclear plant, Ling'ao II . * Despite my seven-year-old niece's declaration, 2009 is not the year of hugs and kisses . Though it could be.

Biography of Robert Oppenheimer on PBS Tonight

PBS' American Experience show will air a two-hour biography tonight of Robert Oppenheimer , "Father of the Atomic Bomb." Robert Oppenheimer's life and legacy are inextricably linked to America's most famous top-secret initiative -- the Manhattan Project. But after World War II, this brilliant and intense scientist, tasked with the development of the atomic bomb and widely considered one of the most important minds of the twentieth century, fell from the innermost circles of American scientific policy. At the height of the Red Scare, the veil of suspicion fell over J. Robert Oppenheimer. He was accused of having communist sympathies and was pressed to explain his relationships with known communists. This biography will present a complex and revealing portrait of one of the most influential American scientists. Interweaving interviews with family members, scholars and colleagues with dramatic recreations featuring Academy Award-nominated actor David Strathairn (

Another Blogger for Nuclear Energy

Meet Sean Grabbe : How long do we have to wait for nuclear power? Its the cleanest non-poluting energy source we have. ... In the future I will list a few books about the propaganda against using nuclear power. It amazed me as to how safe and pollution free nuclear power is. Something else to think about--our navy runs all of its carriers on nuclear power. Last I heard they get about 20yrs before having to get new fuel rods. Sean just began his blog this month. Be sure to stop by and welcome him to the nuclear club!

Friday Flash Fun

With apologies to MetaFilter for blatantly ripping off their Friday Flash Fun idea, we offer up AE4RV 's Nuclear Plant Operator game . Enjoy!

The Energy Center of the Balkans

We’re probably edging close to beating this story to death, but we admit we’re fascinated by Bulgaria’s attempts to rouse its nuclear industry in the face of Russia’s reminding it how overdependent it is on Russia’s natural gas. The other day, we doubted Bulgaria’s nuclear rebirth could sustain itself without making it central to its energy policy. Well, now the Bulgarians are moving out of crisis mode and into policy mode : Ever since [the plants’] closure at midnight on December 31 2006, as a precondition for Bulgaria’s European Union membership, the issue has been exploited by a number of politicians who have cited Bulgaria’s energy security and the country’s lost role as “the energy centre of the Balkans”. And get this: Numerous internal investigations have all confirmed that the two units are entirely safe and that Bulgaria suffered an injustice by being effectively forced to agree on their closure to qualify for EU membership. The IAEA helped Bulgaria get the pla

Nuclear Plants Are Going Wireless

Here's something enticing for us nuclear geeks. In InTech's January edition , two software engineers, a software developer and two nuclear plant engineers wrote about the coming age of wireless technology at nuclear plants. Wireless presence in nuclear power plants is inevitable. The government and industry sectors are preparing... The Department of Energy is funding the research and development (R&D) project: The project is in two phases to progress over a period of three years. The Phase I effort is completed, and the Phase II project is pending. In Phase I, the feasibility of wireless sensors for equipment condition monitoring in nuclear power plants was the object of investigation. In Phase II, this R&D effort will continue for another two years to address the technical issues that must be resolved to establish the foundation for widespread use of wireless technologies in nuclear power plants. The R&D will focus not only on equipment condition monitoring, but

Riding the Rails with Nuclear Energy

Trains that travel via electric power are “green,”  as we currently accept the the term, because they do not use (much) diesel fuel. And, if the electricity they use is not generated by a carbon emitting source, it’s like hitting the daily double of greeniness. An advertising bonanza. Rooty-toot-toot! Now if train food were improved, they could also eliminate the methane problem, but one emission at a time. We frankly don’t know which American trains might qualify for this designation, but this story from The Guardian covers the European scene . Travelling by train is the green way to go. In the month when the government seems set on railroading us into a third Heathrow runway , even ministers will agree on that. You can "travel greener" with Arriva to Wales . Or hop aboard Eurostar, which claims to "generate 10 times less CO2 than flying" to Paris . Or emit "78% less" than flying if you take one of Virgin's tilting Pendolino trains to Glasgow

In the Best Interests of a Crisis

We’re always highly suspicious of government policy that erupts out of crisis rather than as the logical result of a governing philosophy. So we turned a rather fishy eye last summer on the drive to drill for oil domestically. To us, this seemed ideological game playing: Congress putting a stick into the eyes of pesky environmentalists because it could also seem to be fixing a problem. But it wasn’t a fix; the eventual oil glut due to consumers buying less gasoline was the fix. All this stood to the side of our chosen niche and it was hard to think how nuclear energy could be the center of a similar crisis. But now it is. Here’s what’s happening : Slovakia, Bulgaria, Italy, Britain even Germany are among those countries giving nuclear energy another look, following the dispute between Russia and Ukraine, which has cut the flow of Russian natural gas to Europe has alarmed governments about the issue of energy security. Slovakia and Bulgaria, among the worst hit by the gas cutoff

Snuggle Up to the Warmth of Nuclear Power

We empathize with the citizens of central Europe suffering during the current interruption in gas deliveries from Russia. A January 16 headline in The Washington Post tells it all: "Misery mounts in gas-deprived European nations." The 18-day disruption in gas flows, a result of disputes between Russia and Ukraine, is the second such disruption in the past three years. As my colleague Mark Flanagan notes in a recent blog post , European responses to this crisis include serious reconsideration of what nuclear power can contribute. We in the United States are not immune to disruptions in our energy supplies, either. Fifteen years ago this week, the New York Times wrote about the effects of severe winter cold gripping the northern U.S. Among the problems facing the grid at that time were frozen coal piles, fuel barges stranded in icy waters, and extreme electricity demand. Hard times remind us of what matters. In these cold, dark days of mid-winter, what matters is the electric

Energy Subsidies - A European View

Steve Kidd from the World Nuclear Association, writing in Nuclear Engineering International magazine, discusses energy subsidies in the U.S. and elsewhere. For the U.S. view he cites figures from the Management Information Services, Inc., study commissioned by the Nuclear Energy Institute and released last fall. More importantly for this audience, Mr. Kidd describes the European experience on energy subsidies and reminds readers that nuclear energy has always had to include the cost of waste disposal in its calculations. According to Mr. Kidd, the Euopeans' cost of coal-generated electricity would double and that of gas-generated electricity would increase by 30% if they were required to internalize the costs and impacts of their wastes.

Into Every Life Some Gas Must Fall

And some days must be dark and dreary – like when your behemoth neighbor to the east decides to cut off the natural gas spigot – so you must find your own sun behind the clouds : Bulgarian Prime Minister Sergei Stanishev said on Friday that his country would restart a Soviet-era nuclear power reactor at Kozloduy, in the face of severe ongoing gas shortages due to the energy dispute between Ukraine and Russia. Normally, we’d recoil from anything that has “Soviet-era” next to it as a adjective, but this plant hasn’t been idle since the Brezhnev years – it only closed in 2007 (as a preliminary to joining the European Union – we’re not sure why – perhaps “Soviet-era” spooked them, too). Moreover, earlier in the decade the Bulgarians worked with the IAEA to ensure the plants came up to modern standards. (You can read a lot more about all of this here .) So this isn’t a case of the plant shaking with the strain of age and throwing control rods through its walls. We’d guess they ha

Inauguration Parade Route News

If you're one of the estimated 2 million people expected to brave the cold and descend upon Washington, D.C. this weekend for the inauguration ceremonies , you may encounter one of these NEI ads along your travels. The ad, Nuclear Energy is a Cool Way to Reduce Global Warming , can be found on 25 different bus stands along the inauguration parade route and throughout the city. Willing to take your hands out of your pockets long enough to take a photograph of the Polar Bear ad? Send them into us here and we'll get 'em up on the blog.

ironies and Little Failures

In rummaging around the radiant news of the day, we often run into stories that not only don’t quite fit any particular theme that interests us, but seem determined to not fit any particular theme at all. We sometimes put these in a cold oven back near the pilot light to see if we can come back and make some sense of them later. For example: Nathan Lewis, a chemistry professor at the California Institute of Technology, has spent three decades researching another option: harnessing solar power to create fuels that can replace oil and gasoline. Well, that’s interesting and we do like to check in with our renewable cousins. But we realize that Lewis has a bit of sale to make: N&O [News & Observer]: Tell us what you'll be talking about. Lewis: I'm going to talk about where our energy comes from now. That gets at the scale of the energy problem. It's not fixing a few light bulbs in Fresno. It's not building 50 nuclear power plants. Even if you conse

Steven Chu's Nuclear Support: Daily Kos, Mother Jones Respond

At the risk of engaging in omphaloskepsis (?!), Daily Kos and Mother Jones (?!) have picked up our post on Steven Chu's confirmation hearing for Secretary of Energy. The posts by Markos Moulitsas and Kevin Drum have led to a spirited debate; eliciting supportive comments in two of the least likely, until now, corners of the blogosphere. Just one of the many comments, via Drum : "I should perhaps make it clear that I'm 100% in support of moving to a sustainable economy, and moving our energy production to renewables is absolutely necessary as part of that. That said, we can't yet power our grid entirely from renewables yet, and nuclear energy seems to me better than coal for supplying our needs as we bridge the gap.” Posted by: dob on 01/14/09 at 3:52 PM Respond If you can, stop by Kos and MoJo and weigh in.

Stimulating the Nuclear Industry

We don’t logroll much for NEI’s advertising activities – it can take care of itself – but we liked this newspaper ad that ran in The Washington Times’ 111th Congress special section: Click on the picture to see the whole thing. Basically, it makes the case that the nuclear industry represents an engine of employment, much of it union-based (the ad is co-sponsored by the Building Trades Department of the AFL-CIO), and infrastructure build out that, not coincidentally, also works towards the energy priorities enumerated by the incoming Congress and new administration. Of course, the nuclear industry wants to be in on the financial stimulus – every significant industry stands to benefit. Nuclear has a pretty good case to make for itself, though, and the approach of this ad seems to fall right in with the mood of the public. If you dig into this Wall Street Journal/NBC poll , you’ll see that using the stimulus monies for job creation rather than tax cuts appeals to the respondents. T

Steven Chu and The Perfect Storm

First, consider that Steven Chu’s confirmation hearing yesterday (you can watch the whole thing at this link – it’s a little over two hours) was moved to a bigger room. While we suspect that Hilary Clinton’s hearing, happening at the same time, got the marquee space, the interest in Chu’s testimony was huge – and justifiably so, as many of the energy topics addressed during the Presidential campaign continues to interest people even as gas prices have righted themselves. Second, consider Chu’s unexpected celebrity as the product of the permanent bruising left from the pummeling at the pumps everyone took last Summer. If average energy consumers were sanguine before about their energy options, they are no longer. Add the popular and largely media-driven concern about global warming and greeniness and there is a perfect storm – the abstract and distant becomes concrete and immediate. You can read Chu’s comments about nuclear energy in the post below. He had a lot to say on other top

Steven Chu Energy Secretary Confirmation Hearing

If you're a proponent of nuclear energy in the United States, I'm not sure that Steven Chu 's testimony from today's Senate confirmation hearing for Secretary of Energy could be any more encouraging. Excerpts from a rush transcript are below. Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK): Let me ask you about nuclear energy. You have indicated in your statements and in our conversations that you support continued nuclear development. I think we recognize as we want to move towards a world where we have greatly reduced our emissions, that nuclear is a very key component in our energy package there. The nuclear waste policy act requires that in exchange for a 1 mill per kWh fee on nuclear power, the DOE has an unconditional obligation to take and dispose of that nuclear waste. That was beginning back in 1998. Obviously we’re about ten years late. The projected taxpayer liability for DOE’s failure is $11 billion at this point and growing. The issues as they relate to Yucca Mountain. I und

Barron’s on Nuclear Energy

See, this is what we’re talking about: President-elect Barack Obama has put forth a goal to reduce carbon emissions in the U.S. by 80% by 2050, using $150 billion over 10 years to create a "clean-energy" future. Nuclear plants are the biggest producers of energy that doesn't emit any greenhouse gases. Not just biggest, but only one able to produce baseload electricity, that is, not hampered by when the wind blows or when the sun shines. Barron’s, where this came from, is chiefly interested in suggesting where their readership might invest their money – which we never recommend you follow unless you do your own research – but that impulse to sniff out the money leads to this tidbid: Notwithstanding the increased difficulty of obtaining financing since the credit crisis erupted, Cambridge Energy Research Associates has estimated that the potential for world-wide investment in clean energy, of which nuclear generation is the focal point, will reach $7 trillion

Nuclear Engineer: A Manly (?) Kind of Job

It is no secret that energy is the life blood of this country. Energy holds the key to the environment, the economy, and national security. My career in nuclear is more than just a paycheck to me. Every night when I go to sleep, I rest easy knowing I am doing my part. That comes from Jack Gamble, writing at the Art of Manliness blog. He’s a systems engineer, or more specifically, a control rod drive system manager. He doesn’t say at which plant he works, which raises a concern, but his piece is utterly benign (plus he has his own blog, Babeled , which covers nuclear subjects.) The aim is in the title of the post, So You Want My Job, and Gamble does a good turn describing opportunities in the nuclear industry. And there are a lot of those : There are opportunities galore in the nuclear industry right now. These days are referred to as “The Nuclear Renaissance” due to the rekindled interest in nuclear as an alternative to fossil fuels (known to us as “Dirt Burners”). There ar

Edward Markey to Energy and Environment

Here’s some news from The Boston Globe that might cause, well, mixed feelings: Representative Edward Markey today will be awarded a key energy and environment leadership post in the House, a move that will make the Malden Democrat one of the most powerful players on Capitol Hill on an issue central to president-elect Obama's first-term agenda. Markey, a 17-term congressman with a strong record against nuclear power and for more fuel-efficient cars, will be named chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee's subcommittee on Energy and the Environment, lawmakers and Democratic leadership staff confirmed to the Globe. Markey already chairs the separate House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming, a new panel that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi created in early 2007. Well, you can’t have your best friends everywhere you want them. We rather preferred Markey (D-Mass.) over at telecommunications where his stance on net neutrality – he’s for it

The Chamber of Commerce Makes the Case for Nuclear Energy

One of the developing themes in the new Congress might well be a new openness in discussing nuclear energy as a way forward if the A-1 priorities in energy policy have become carbon reduction and – in terms of economic stimulus – infrastructure buildout and job creation. We credit this newfound radiance to the steady stream of positive statements that came out of the election – especially, admittedly, from John McCain – and  the media’s increased attention to the benefits of our friend the atom. But we can still be surprised. Here’s a big chunk of the written testimony given by Karen Harbert of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Institute for 21st Century Energy to the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources . The topic of the hearing was energy security: Beyond renewables, there are other critical and clean sources of electricity that the United States must expand. Chief among these is nuclear power. Nuclear power is an emissions-free source of 20 percent of our n

Thomas Friedman on Green Technology

Some interesting testimony from Thomas Friedman in his appearance earlier today before the Senate committee on Environment and Public Works . The hearing was titled, " Investing in Green Technology as a Strategy for Economic Recovery ." Think about the scale. I give just one example. Nate Lewis of Cal Tech uses this number. We currently, the world currently uses about 13 terawatts, 13 trillion watts of energy. Between now and 2050 we’re going to double that to 26 terawatts, 26 trillion watts. If we want to go from 13 to 26 [terawatts] as a world, accommodate the growth of China and India, and not double the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere – which is the red line from pre-industrial period, which is the red line beyond which climate scientists believe all the climate monsters will come out of the closet—if we want to do that, we basically, we have to take 13 terawatts and get rid of them, through energy efficiency. And of the new 13 terawatts, we need to produce 80% of that

"Business Risks and Costs of New Nuclear Power"

In case some of you missed it, the Climate Progress blog has picked up a study by Craig Severance, Business Risks and Costs of New Nuclear Power [PDF]. The report has quite a number of holes in it, in my opinion, and the biggest hole has to do with a flawed assumption in how the study calculates the cost of electricity from a new nuclear plant. We've been discussing and debating the study over at Climate Progress and the author has been great in responding to most everyone's critiques. So what's the flaw? The study claims that a new nuclear plant's capital costs, when all is said and done, will be about $10,500/kW. Many studies that I'm aware of estimate that a new nuclear plant will cost between $5,000-$8,000/kW for the all-in construction costs. Mr. Severance's capital cost assumptions are quite a bit higher than the highest estimate but whatever. That's not the flaw of the study's cost numbers. The flaw is how the cost of electricity from a n

Public Comments on Uranium Study in Virginia

For those of us who are interested in the developments pertaining to the domestic mining of uranium, you may find it noteworthy that perhaps the largest deposit of uranium ore in the United States is located in southwestern Virginia. There won't be any uranium mining in Virginia any time soon though, since there has long been a moratorium on uranium mining in Virginia. But, recently there have been proposals of conducting a study to determine whether uranium can be mined safely and what the potential impacts may be. Last night, the Virginia Coal and Energy Commission held a public meeting in Chatham, Virginia, simply to hear public comments pertaining to the study of the feasibility of uranium mining. From some of the comments (e.g., likening mining to "brutal rape"), you would think that the study is tantamount to actually starting mining operations. More information about the public meeting can be found here (incl. video) . Some interesting (and often outrageous)