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Showing posts from March, 2009

Nuclear Energy Under the Florida Palms

Here’s some interesting news out of Florida: A state Senate committee today approved a bill that would require Florida's electric utilities to get 20 percent of their power from "clean" energy, including nuclear and coal, by 2020. Under the bill, which was approved in a 6-3 vote, 5 percent of that 20-percent goal can be met with nuclear or new coal-burning technology. We’ll let coal take care of itself, but we think nuclear could very well get Florida to that 20 percent mark quite handily. Why? The Shaw Group Inc. and Westinghouse Electric Co. LLC have signed a contract for engineering, procurement and construction of a two-unit nuclear powerplant at a greenfield site in Levy County, Fla. Progress Energy Florida Inc., the owner, expects to receive a combined construction and operating license from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission by early 2012. And the schedule for this? Current plans are for operation of the plant in the 2016-18 time frame,

The Beginnings of the Energy Bill: Here We Go!

From the NYT : Two senior House Democrats will unveil a 600-page draft global warming and energy bill today that they hope will prompt an intense round of internal negotiations, culminating with passage out of the Energy and Commerce Committee before June, according to several lawmakers and off-the-Hill sources briefed on the measure. The bill from Chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) and Energy and Environment Subcommittee Chairman Ed Markey (D-Mass.) includes four separate titles aimed at overhauling U.S. climate and energy policy, starting with a cap-and-trade program that sets mandatory limits on greenhouse gas emissions over the next four decades. Waxman and Markey – tough customers on nuclear, but there’s wind at the back of the solar radiance that is, uh, nuclear. So we’ll see. Here are some dates to put on your calendar: Waxman and Markey also unveiled a preliminary schedule for moving the legislation, starting with hearings on the bill during the week of April

More Popular Than Miley Cyrus?

Well, maybe not, but this news about the Hanford Nuclear Reservation certainly took us by surprise. Per KONA- 610 AM , The hottest ticket in town appears to be the 60 tour dates set for the Hanford site. The on line registration started just after midnight, and all 2500 slots were filled up before noon. The Department of Energy’s Cameron Hardy says those lucky to get a tour date will see the construction on the massive vitrification plant. Other stops include the historic B reactor and the Hanford Tank farm. Hardy says they purposely decided not to publicize the actual time that registration began this morning. In part, because last year, the system crashed with the number of registrations within the first half hour….just after midnight.

Rep. John Shimkus on Cap-and-Trade

A couple of posts below, we wrote about Rep. Michelle Bachmann’s objections to cap-and-trade and suggested the arguments were not very well thought out yet. As cap-and-trade wends its way forward, we expect there will be a fair number of arguments against it – after all, Europe’s first try at it was an unmitigated mess and if not carefully thought out, it could prove a massive shock to the energy industry and its customers – so there are arguments to be made. We like cap-and-trade more than not, as long as one accepts as premises that carbon emission reduction is a desirable goal – we do – and would prefer not to crater industries while achieving that goal – we do so prefer. Almost anyone is going to accept the second premise; however, not all accept the first. This can be for honest reasons – the science is questionable enough to sow doubt – or for dishonest ones – chances for getting reelected to Congress decline if big donors or a constituency gets upset. And of course there are

Going Back to Three Mile Island

We promise not to go nuts on TMI stories – could look like a plea for expiation, which isn’t really needed – but here’s a good write-up on TMI yesterday and today by an NEI staffer, Tom Kauffman, who worked at TMI at the time of the accident and went back there recently as a media representative: The accident also forever changed the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. “The TMI-2 accident had the greatest impact on nuclear generation of any single event in history,” the agency said in a recent news release. “The public’s memories of the TMI accident will certainly fade over time,” I told the editor, “but as long as nuclear plants operate in the United States, the people who operate, maintain and regulate them will always be mindful of their responsibility to stay vigilant and focused on safety.” Grant Tom his role – we’re pretty sure the nuclear industry was focused on safety at the time of TMI, else you would’ve had a human in additional to an industrial disaster – and he’s r

The Outer Limits of Debate

Congress is barely grazing over the energy issues that will doubtless absorb them more as the year goes along, so we thought we wouldn’t be able to declare the outer limits of this debate for quite some time. By “outer limits,” we simply mean the most extreme position imaginable for or against an emerging policy. We may have found the outer limits on cap-and trade, per Smart Politics : “I want people in Minnesota armed and dangerous on this issue of the energy tax because we need to fight back. Thomas Jefferson told us ‘having a revolution every now and then is a good thing,’ and the people – we the people – are going to have to fight back hard if we’re not going to lose our country. And I think this has the potential of changing the dynamic of freedom forever in the United States.” This is Rep. Michelle Bachmann (R-Minn.) (Smart Politics operates from the University of Minnesota). We’re genuinely surprised that anyone can gin up this level of rhetoric on cap-and-trade – m

Three Mile Island: Across the Misty Susquehanna

With the anniversary of the Three Mile Island accident approaching, stories are percolating that use it as a hook to talk about nuclear energy. Let’s just say that a fair few of them would not have been written in 1979 : Nuclear reactors generate one-fifth of the nation's power. Some see nuclear as a stable, homegrown energy source in light of last year's oil price spikes. Others see it as a way to meet carbon-reduction goals. Some other see it as Satan incarnate, but this AP story by Marc Levy doesn’t have much room for them. Public interest is emerging, too: A Gallup Poll released in recent days shows 59 percent favor the use of nuclear power, the highest percentage since Gallup first asked the question in 1994. We mentioned the other day that Gallup polls carry weight that others cannot match – enough to influence policy. This is exhibit A. And here’s a bit of the takeaway on the accident itself: No one was seriously injured in the accident, in which a

Among Other Things, Kanye West on Nuclear Energy

Here are some quick hits to roll around the mouth and savor. You don’t even have to spit them out. --- Steve Williams responds to William Tucker’s approval of the scaling back of Yucca Mountain: If the enviros had any sense at all - and if they feared global warming (um, climate change) as much as they say - they would embrace nuclear power as the globe's, and humanity's, great savior. Nuclear power is readily available (it costs much more than it should simply because of the legal and environmental maneuvering undertaken to prevent permits for construction of nuclear power plants), is not an emitter of any dangerous pollution at all, and puts solar and wind power to shame because it is so efficient and constant. And this is from the Victorville Daily Press, in the heart of California’s high desert. Williams has a free market kind of vibe that passes a little too lightly on environmental issues, but we mostly like what he says. ---- Uh-oh. U.S. Navy r

Nuclear Energy on the Gallup: A New Poll

Here’s the headline for Gallup’s new poll on nuclear energy. Support for Nuclear Energy Inches Up to New High Though Gallup polls nuclear energy lower than Accenture or Bisconti (jump down a few posts for more on Accenture), the numbers suggest the same movement in its favor: A majority of Americans have been supportive of the use of nuclear energy in the United States in recent years, but this year's Gallup Environment Poll finds new high levels of support, with 59% favoring its use, including 27% who strongly favor it. Interestingly, these numbers are dragged down by women: Gallup has always found consistent and large gender differences in Americans' views of nuclear power, and the same applies this year -- 71% of men favor the use of nuclear energy, compared with only 47% of women. Both groups show their highest level of support for nuclear power to date. Other polls show a gender difference, too, though not this stark. Gallup doesn’t offer a sugges

No Love from the L.A. Times

Here’s what you get for patting yourself on the back too much, courtesy of the Los Angeles Times : When it comes to highly radioactive nuclear waste, pretty much everybody is a NIMBY. Setting aside the fact that scientists have yet to develop the technology to safely store this waste for the thousands of years it takes to decay, there's the fact that it has to be transported to the disposal site -- mostly by train -- creating the opportunity for spills. Even if the nuclear dump isn't in your backyard, the train tracks might be, and the closer you live to the center of it all, the greater the danger. Little wonder that Nevadans aren't excited by the prospect of a glow-in-the-dark desert. Ulp! We’d note that nuclear “waste” moves around on trains now without spilling. It’s not put in open barrels, after all. See here for more. Pro-nuclear activists, whose ranks are growing as the nation looks for non-carbon-emitting sources of energy, needn't fret too much

Yucca Mountain and "What Might Have Been"

Bob McCracken from Nye County in Nevada has kept track for years a list of benefits Nevada could have enjoyed for hosting used nuclear fuel at Yucca Mountain. In response to the Obama Administration's recent decision to cut funding to Yucca Mountain, Bob decided to lay it all out on what might have been : ... The original Yucca Mountain legislation included a provision by which Nevada could negotiate with the federal government for benefits as compensation for accepting the repository. Nevada totally ignored this provision. * If Yucca Mountain had been built, its construction would have generated thousands of high-paying jobs in Southern Nevada and hundreds of permanent positions once the facility was in operation. * Nye County could have collected large sums for property taxes on Yucca Mountain and its associated support industries into the indefinite future. So large was the Yucca Mountain project, one could have purchased the entire Las Vegas Strip and more for its planned co

Polling the World on Nuclear Energy

We’re a little suspicious of polls because they are too often used to reinforce a, so to speak, pre-proven point. Bisconti Research conducts polls for NEI , we know them to be honestly conducted and fair as can be, but could we blame you for doubting them, just a tiny bit, as you think, Ah, NEI ? Well, no, unless you were expecting us to buy you drinks – then maybe yes. But even if you let your guard down to accept poll results you might otherwise give the fishy eye, there’s the next poll – and the next one – and so on – and before you know it, Ross Perot did win that election. Wind energy is heavily supported by the prison population but not Sister Bernadette’s kindergarten class . Nuclear energy disturbs bird watchers but not gardeners. So we’re a little suspicious of polls. --- That said, we much enjoyed the increased support for nuclear energy found by Zogby International and wondered whether its poll – and Bisconti’s, too - would see further work backing them up or

A Tarantula As Big As a House

Well, we just don’t know. (click on pictures or here to see full size versions): These are ads created in Romania for Greenpeace and, although these are in English, they may be intended for Eastern Europe. Mutations? Really? This went out of style after Universal Pictures grew tired of growing tarantulas and praying mantises to the size of houses in the 1950s. Greenpeace can make all the arguments against nuclear energy they want, but dishonestly leads to a loss of credibility. We can’t imagine Greenpeace USA using these ads, but if this is their response to the vastly increased interest in nuclear energy in Europe, this is a battle they’re fated to lose. Sheesh!

"Economic Woes" DIDN'T Delay U.S. Nuclear Power Expansion

Yesterday's Reuters story claiming that "economic woes delayed U.S. nuclear power expansion" has a few of its time-lines and facts off. Here's the first paragraph of the story: The sputtering global economy and frozen credit markets have shrunk the first wave of a highly touted U.S. nuclear power renaissance. That's news to me. Back in January, NEI released a paper detailing how the nuclear industry has grown by 15,000 jobs over the past couple of years in anticipation of this "renaissance." Back to Reuters: Nuclear industry advocates had predicted more than a dozen new reactors worth $100 billion or more generating at least 15,000 megawatts of power in the United States by 2020. It wasn't a prediction, it was a goal of DOE's Nuclear Power 2010 program (pdf) made back in 2002 . Reuters: Then the economic slump hit. Now, Cambridge Energy Research Associates expect four to eight new reactors providing 5,000 MW to 10,000 MW by 2020. Actually, NEI

What To Do with Your Windows 95 Licenses

Run a nuclear power plant: Yes, this is alarming – from Iran’s Bushehr plant – at least on sight. First, that they’d use Windows for this purpose – no ding meant on Microsoft, but it’s a job that requires a real time system like QNX or Wind River or even real time Linux , which doesn’t have export concerns. Second, that error message looks an awful lot like Windows 95, which is an antique. Well, it’s possible that this is a real time system that simply has error messages that resemble those of Windows 95 or a Windows front end is being used to make the programming easier. And the IAEA is puttering around the plant, too, so international standards do apply at Bushehr. But you really don’t want error messages popping up on a control room screen – you want a logging system that is closely monitored by trained eyes. Things like error messages can create doubt where none need exist. Bushehr needs a better IT department, we think. Note: Read the comments on this post. Being on t

USA Today on Yucca Mountain

Does USA Today qualify as a top newspaper on a par with the New York Times and The Washington Post? It’s certainly more colorful. You can get it free on air shuttles and at a lot of hotels. People who have seen their local newspaper die – like Seattle – will likely depend on it more, if not for local news. And we certainly like it’s editorial stance on Yucca Mountain : Like it or not, the nation needs nuclear power as a carbon-free bridge to a future in which wind, solar and other options will power computers and TVs and charge plug-in hybrid cars. It makes sense to dispose of spent nuclear fuel in a single place instead of at more than 100 nuclear plants around the country, where it is now. They pick up a theme William Tucker pursued in his Wall Street Journal op-ed : The president and the nuclear industry now want a group of experts to convene to decide what to do next. An idea to revisit is reprocessing spent fuel, which President Carter banned out of security conce

No Such Thing As Nuclear Waste

Well, there is, of course, but William Tucker, author of Terrestrial Energy , takes a stab at tearing it all down for you so you can see just how little waste is actually in nuclear fuel if you recycle and repurpose it. After being loaded in a nuclear reactor, the fuel rods sit for five years before being removed. At this point, about 12 ounces of U-235 will have been completely transformed into energy. But that's enough to power San Francisco for five years. There are no chemical transformations in the process and no carbon-dioxide emissions. Not a great start – we think the WSJ may have edited some sense out of this paragraph. 12 ounces of U-235 isn’t going to power Nob Hill for five years much less San Francisco. It gets better, though: Of the remaining 5% of a rod, one-fifth is fissionable U-235 -- which can be recycled as fuel. Another one-fifth is plutonium, also recyclable as fuel. Much of the remaining three-fifths has important uses as medical and industrial

Greenpeace's "Energy Revolution" Study Doesn't Pass Muster

Nuclear Green and Pro-Nuclear Democrats took a critical eye to Greenpeace's latest study called Energy [R]evolution and weren't impressed. Greenpeace's study leaves nuclear plants off the table as a solution in reducing CO2 emissions (surprise, surprise) while renewables and efficiency are claimed to be able to handle it all. Here's Nuclear Green's part one on Greenpeace's study: The cutesy feature of the report title, the rather uncreative play on the words revolution and evolution suggests the report's fundamental dilemma: the difficulty of charting a path to a renewables energy future given the serious limitations of renewable energy sources. ... Clean thus appears to be disassociated from "science based emissions reductions", because the shutdown of nuclear is viewed as being in the interest of being "clean." Furthermore, the notion that over 50% of American nuclear plants would be shut down for the sake of "the clean"

30 Years Ago at TMI and Today

The Three Mile Island accident happened on March 28, 1979, 30 years ago. If you were around then, seeing it on TV on top of having just seen the popular suspense movie The China Syndrome, released two weeks before that day, you may well have panicked. Certainly, you imagined, Pennsylvania would become America’s self-inflicted Hiroshima; at the very least, the death toll would be huge on the scene and grow horrific as cancer overtook survivors. There was no internet – the most capable home computer was the Apple ][ - CNN was in its infancy, and you had a callous on your index finger from dialing and redialing your relative in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia and not getting through. So television was the way to learn about TMI. The three networks ran with it all day and night, interrupting soap operas and sitcoms alike. The style of coverage, the look of the photography, with reporters jittery about radiation exposure, their voices cracking against the background of those awful, staring

The Dance of the Blue Ribbons

Over the past few days, the Obama administration experienced significant pushback on its decision to scale back the Yucca Mountain project – more, we admit, than we really expected. (Just scroll down to earlier posts – we’ve watched this happen with considerable pleasure.) Polls, and not just those from NEI, show growing support for nuclear energy – we think NEI can claim some credit for public opinion coming around - and good polls makes supporting nuclear energy easier for even Democratic Congressfolks to do. Consequently, the administration has had to try to provide a fuller explanation, especially to the Senate, of their plans for moving forward. These have been positive developments – so far, so good. But Congress and the administration still shows reluctance, perhaps it is a hangover from the No Nukes 1980s. Exciting times, those. Thus, rather than act precipitously, we get The Dance of the Blue Ribbons : Sen. Harry Reid said today he is working to form a study group t

Chu: Nuclear Must Be Part of Energy Mix

Not our headline – that of the AP story that covers Energy Secretary Steven Chu’s testimony before the Senate Budget Committee. A lot of the Senators there had no intention of letting nuclear energy slip away as a priority and Chu reassured them that it won’t. Some money quotes: "I believe in nuclear power as a central part of our energy mix. It provides clean, busload [sic: baseload] electricity" “Closing the fuel cycle is something we want to do.” Chu said he is ready to act on loan guarantees for the first group of new reactors and plans on "moving very aggressively to getting the money out the door." "Nuclear is going to be part of our energy future. It has to be." Read the whole story for the senatorial jitters – all good, in our view – and Chu’s remarkably reassuring performance. We’ve noticed that the Obama administration has displayed a tendency to roll back over an issue it’s passed by once – see the squabble over earmarks

From the Land of Clean Coal

We’re not quite as dubious about clean coal, or carbon capture and sequestration, as are many nuclear advocates, because while we acknowledge the significant technical challenges, we can’t escape believing that the coal industry is powerfully motivated to find a solution that will not drive it into a, shall we say, pit. But we are not clear of dubiousness: because we also believe that time is a cruel mistress. The EPA’s intention to lay the ground work for regulating carbon dioxide makes the clock tick a little faster for the coal industry. So does a looming cap-and-trade regime. So does the upcoming climate change conference in Copenhagen, likely to produce emission reduction guidelines more stringent than Kyoto. So, though we enjoy the ads as well as anyone – they’re funny – we find ourselves in sympathy with the energy source that so often gets lumped together in policy discussion – fairly or unfairly, your choice - with nuclear energy. So we were hearten

William Tucker on "How Nuclear Will Revive"

Here's some grand foresight from the author of Terrestrial Energy : ... Sometime in the next 18 months, Obama will finally bring his carbon emissions program to Congress. At that point, the Democratic Party will split in two. Senators and representatives from Pennsylvania, Ohio and Illinois, which get huge portions of their electricity from coal, will never consent to hiking their electrical bills in the midst of a near-Depression. Obama and Democratic liberals will be at wit's end. After twenty years of yammering about global warming, they will find themselves unable to do anything about it. Will they skulk off in defeat, blaming the Bush Administration? Perhaps. But I think there's a more likely scenario. Someone in the administration -- probably Energy Secretary Steven Chu, who knows in his heart that wind and solar can't cut it -- will suggest that that a carbon tax be coupled with the revival of nuclear power. Suddenly, the dam will break. NRC regulatory mazes t

Secretary Chu Discusses Nuclear Energy on Charlie Rose

A tip of the hat to an anonymous NNN reader for passing along Energy Secretary Chu's appearance on the Charlie Rose Show last night. (See what you miss when you go to bed early?) The nuclear-related nugget appears at the 18:10-19:34 mark of the interview . (I do recommend watching the video, as the rush transcript below doesn't fully capture Rose's inimitable interrupting interview technique.) Rose : Nuclear. Where are you on nuclear? Chu : I think that nuclear energy should be a part of our energy portfolio in the United States this century. It’s carbon-free. It, we... Rose : This century? It is now 2009. Chu : Well, that's right. It's the beginning of this century. So, the reason I say that it is because it's going to take time to develop the transmission, and to develop the renewable energies, resources that it gets to be 50, 80% of our electrical power generation. And so... Rose : In France, it's what, 80%? Chu : France is a little bit less than 80%

No Need for Cassandra

After all the to-do about Yucca Mountain, you may be feeling a little – wrung-out. Our Panglossian side says that a proposal isn’t a budget and a budget passes through many hands, some of which may have something to say about this change – some already have, of course – but then – you know – our Cassandrian side this is the kind of thing that usually passes through Congress unscathed as the will of the administration. So we’ll see. Let’s try for something a little less mixed, in this instance from the San Francisco Chronicle : Applications to build at least 31 nuclear reactors are before the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, with more filings expected soon. Many of the projects are in the Southeast, with the first expected to go on line as early as 2015. Nuclear advocates hope eventually to build additional reactors in California. "I'm aware of 33 or 34 projects in the hopper. I think the prospects are reasonably good. There's demand," said Bill Halsey

Rocking the Outrage in Charleston

We highlighted the Washington Post’s response to the Yucca Mountain situation because the paper carries some weight and helps set the agenda for the news media. But other editorials can drop the responsible judicious pose and just let ‘er rip : President Obama's decision to abandon the national nuclear waste disposal site at Yucca Mountain, Nev., is a breathtakingly irresponsible dismissal of a vital project on which billions already have been spent. It extends a security risk at dozens of temporary waste disposal sites around the nation and threatens to cripple the future nuclear development needed to advance national energy independence. So there! We don’t really agree that maintaining the fuel at sites is a massive security threat – it’s an issue plants wrestled to the ground a long time ago, with a lot of extra attention paid to it after 9/11/01. And the developing attitude seems to be that leaving nuclear out of the energy mix is a non-starter. But heck, they do kno

The Washington Post on Yucca Mountain

The editorial board takes a look at the Obama administration’s decision to reduce funding for Yucca Mountain: If the president's vision for a clean energy future is to be believed or is to come to fruition, nuclear energy must be a part of the mix, and the safe disposal of its radioactive waste must be given more serious consideration. They see the politics: The president keeps a campaign promise to shut the site down. By doing so, he pleases Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.). And he potentially secures the swing state's place in the blue column; the Silver State hadn't voted for the Democratic presidential nominee since 1996 until it went to Mr. Obama in 2008. And they acknowledge how President Obama might proceed: He also called for redirecting resources to improve the safety and security at plants around the country until a long-term solution is found. Those alternatives, however unlikely the first one is, are more than he offered when

Retired Nuclear Physicist Busts Out Amory Lovins

(Hat tip to Charles Barton .) Alexander DeVolpi, a retired nuclear physicist from the Argonne National Lab in Illinois, pretty much tore up Amory Lovins's credibility, his false nuclear claims and his outrageously inaccurate predictions from 30 years ago . Here are a few nuggets: During a Friday, 13 February 2009, “Director’s Colloquium” at my former place of employment, Amory Lovins presented a panoramic evaluation of production and consumption for alternative transportation options, followed by a flawed analysis of energy-sector options. Most egregious, though, was his penultimate attack on the energy-viability and proliferation-security of civilian nuclear power. ... In prefacing my Friday question to Lovins, I suggested that we should see if that which he proposed 30 years ago would have passed the “smell” test – you know, did it smell bad then, or does it smell bad now? (Experienced engineers have a feeling or sense for things like that.) [Smell test (idiom). A metaphoric

John McCain and Steven Chu on Yucca Mountain

Here is a transcript of the testimony from yesterday’s hearing of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources committee. The intent of the hearing was to discuss energy R&D, and mostly concerned that issue, but with DOE Secretary Steven Chu present, several of the Senators let their displeasure known about the scaling back of Yucca Mountain. This is the exchange between John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Chu. We pick up after Sen. McCain established that solar energy will not exceed providing 15% or so of electricity production by 2015. McCain: That means that clean coal and nuclear power are far more important than maybe some people appreciate today. Chu: I agree with that in the short term. McCain: Is it true that a Department of Energy spokeswoman told Bloomburg  [News] that President Obama and you, quote, have been emphatic that nuclear waste storage at Yucca Mountain is not an option, period. Chu: That’s true. McCain: That’s a true statement. So now we’re going to have s