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Showing posts from April, 2009

The Who What Where Why of Yucca Mountain

A group of 17 Senators are puzzled : Over $7.7 billion has been spent researching Yucca Mountain as a potential repository site and neither the NAS, the NWTRB, nor any of our National Labs involved in conducting studies and evaluating data have concluded that there is any evidence to disqualify Yucca Mountain as a repository. That’s certainly true. This comes from a letter written by the Senators (all Republican) to Energy Secretary Steven Chu. And they’re doing what a opposing minority should be doing – making the administration explain itself. As recently as August 2008, all ten National Lab directors, including you, signed a letter on the essential role of nuclear energy which advocated continuing the licensing of a geologic repository at Yucca Mountain. Again, true, though the “letter” was really more of a white paper. So, what would they like to have happen? Given this history, President Obama's memoranda that science will guide public policy and his co

Arlen Specter on Nuclear Energy

Why not? He’s much in the news and now that he’s with the majority party, we’d like to know where he tips the balance. As it turns out : I think there is no doubt that we need to develop nuclear energy in America because of the great problems associated with the dependence on foreign oil. The issues about safety, I think, are in pretty good shape as long as people stay awake. … Also, in the context on the issues of global warming which we’re talking about, legislation has been proposed to this committee. Senator Lieberman, Senator Warner, Senator Bingaman and I have proposed legislation. Nuclear has a lot to offer because it is clean, so that it would ease up on our problems with global warming as well. He also voted for a used nuclear fuel repository in 1997. Now, we should also note that on his page on energy, he does not mention nuclear energy once – Pennsylvania is coal country, so a lot of his attention goes there. There’s also this: I was proud to suppor

The Unbending Squirrel

Activism should be fun, pro- or anti-whatever, since the rewards of activism are often frustration, lost friends, and learning what it is to be called fanatic. So a bow to the unbending squirrel : A French anti-nuclear activist nicknamed the "unbending squirrel" managed to stop a train carrying uranium from a German processing plant in spectacular fashion, police said on Tuesday. Cecile Lecomte, 27, rappelled down a motorway bridge near the western city of Münster late on Monday night to hang suspended over a rail line, forcing the 25-car train carrying the enriched nuclear fuel to stop. That’s probably all kinds of illegal, but as long Ms. Lecomte didn’t hurt anyone – the story doesn’t indicate it - cooling her heels for a few days in a Munster pokey will do no harm. The story doesn’t indicate if she associates with a group, but this story does : 26-year-old French climbing and Robin Wood activist, Cécile Lecomte … [was] arrested in Lueneburg on Thursday wh

Toshiba Nuclear to the Tarheel State

The office of North Carolina Governor Bev Perdue (D) announced today that Toshiba Nuclear will open a project management and engineering center in Charlotte; adding 194 jobs to Mecklenburg County. The jobs will pay average salaries of $122,037 a year. Per The Raleigh News & Observer , Toshiba America Nuclear Energy was established by Japan's Toshiba Corp. last year to capture some of the increasing interest in new nuclear power plants in this country. Utilities, including Progress Energy and Duke Energy, are proposing to build more than 30 plants to meet growing demand for electricity. The company is the primary contractor for the construction of two nuclear reactors planned in Texas. The company initially considered sites there and in Northern Virginia, where it is based, for the new operation before cutting the list to Charlotte and Atlanta. "Charlotte is becoming the place to be in the U.S. for nuclear engineers," Fuyuki Saito, chief executive of Toshiba Ameri

Hail to the Victors!

Congratulations to the wolverines from the University of Michigan Nuclear Engineering Department for outworking the MIT beavers ; being named top graduate school program by U.S. News and World Report . Your 2009 top-10 Best Nuclear Engineering Schools : 1. University of Michigan - Ann Arbor 2. Massachusetts Institute of Technology 3. Texas A&M - College Station 3. University of Wisconsin - Madison 5. North Carolina State University 5. University of California - Berkeley 7. Pennsylvania State University - University Park 8. Georgia Institute of Technology 9. University of Florida 10. Oregon State University

Moving Forward in Limbo

If a cap and a price are imposed on carbon dioxide emissions, [nuclear] plants could be among the biggest economic winners in the vast economic shifts that would be created by greenhouse gas regulations. That’s from the New York Times , borrowing a story from Climate Wire, which while noting the nuclear plants achieve the goal of carbon emission reduction rather well, runs though the tough sledding it faces. For example, President Obama is overly ambiguous in his support: "The president needs to show his cards on nuclear energy," said energy consultant Joseph Stanislaw, a Duke University professor. "He cannot keep this industry, which must make investments with a 50-year or longer horizon, in limbo for much longer." We’re not absolutely sure this is the right way to put it – Congress weighs in, too, and we’ve seen an EPA report that basically shows that carbon emission reduction goals are unattainable without nuclear energy. The nibbling around th

FERC's Chairman Jon Wellinghoff on Baseload Capacity and Distributed/Centralized Generation

Jon Wellinghoff, Chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission , made some interesting comments yesterday at a U.S. Energy Association forum . According to the NY Times , Wellinghoff believes that "no new nuclear or coal plants may ever be needed in the United States" and that "renewables like wind, solar and biomass will provide enough energy to meet baseload capacity and future energy demands." If only it were that simple... Of the many things I disagreed with from Mr. Wellinghoff's statements, the comments on baseload capacity and the poor analogy of distributed generation are what stuck out most to me. From Wellinghoff: "I think baseload capacity is going to become an anachronism," he said. "Baseload capacity really used to only mean in an economic dispatch, which you dispatch first, what would be the cheapest thing to do. Well, ultimately wind's going to be the cheapest thing to do, so you'll dispatch that first." That is

Mr. Fertel Goes to Washington [Times]

Wednesday morning, NEI's president and CEO Marv Fertel sat down for a Newsmaker interview with Amanda DeBard, a reporter from The Washington Times . Her article, Nuclear chief says Obama shuns science , is now available online here . (Shameless self-promotion alert: followers of NEI's Twitter feed were already aware of this .) Fans of YouTube/Those who dislike the written word, can view clips of the Q&A below. On the science behind Yucca Mountain: On spent fuel storage:

Another Try at Nuclear Energy and Electric Cars

Below we have a quote from the BBC about nuclear energy and electric/hybrid cars. It almost makes the point we wanted, but not quite, and it’s a little silly about where wind and solar fit into the equation. We poked around to see if someone has addressed this topic and stayed a little more on-point and found this from Halbert Fischel in the Weekly Standard: At the risk of some cross-border envy, Canada's Bruce Power Co. operates an eight-reactor plant on the shores of Lake Huron that produces 6.4 gigawatts. By upgrading our own 100-plus plants to that level, we could produce enough cheap electricity to competitively replace gasoline and charge the batteries of every potentially electrified car and light truck in the United States. An additional 40 such plants would be sufficient to power all our buses, heavy trucks, and trains. He goes a little pie in the sky after this, but why not? With 200 plants, augmented by existing and upgraded hydropower, we could replace al

No Earth Day for Nuclear Energy

We have to just let Earth Day go. This is a day for our wind and solar friends, who of course have a lock on clean energy: On this coming 39th anniversary of Earth Day on Wednesday, Michigan is facing one of the greatest energy challenges in its history, with serious implications for the state's environment and its economy… As former governors, we support expanding Michigan's nuclear energy capacity. Carbon-free nuclear energy has long been a workhorse for the state's energy needs, powering one out of every four homes and businesses. Because nuclear energy, wasn’t that the villain in the China Syndrome that made that nice Jack Lemmon die? Surely there’s no place for such evil in the world. In these cases, groups are putting local environmental concerns first and the planet second. Wind farms, nuclear power plants and hydroelectric dams are ways of providing clean energy, which would reduce carbon emissions and the threat of global warming. So we’re willin

Using More Energy + Growing Greater Wealth = A Cleaner Planet

Here's some brilliant logic from John Tierney at the NY Times on why using more energy and becoming more wealthy will "save the planet" : 1. There will be no green revolution in energy or anything else. No leader or law or treaty will radically change the energy sources for people and industries in the United States or other countries. No recession or depression will make a lasting change in consumers’ passions to use energy, make money and buy new technology — and that, believe it or not, is good news, because... 2. The richer everyone gets, the greener the planet will be in the long run. ... as people get wealthier they can afford cleaner water and air. They start using sources of energy that are less carbon-intensive — and not just because they’re worried about global warming. The process of “decarbonization” started long before Al Gore was born. ... As their wealth grows, people consume more energy, but they move to more efficient and cleaner sources — from wood

What Did James Clyburn Do During the House Recess?

Among other things (no doubt), House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-SC) sat down with South Carolina Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Otis Rawl and discussed energy and economic issues. This exchange on CEO Corner jumped out, Rawl : Do you think nuclear, in, from a national level, is a viable alternative? Clyburn : It is. It absolutely is. All we have to do is to step up and make the case. I have been unabashed in my support for nuclear energy. That's about 54% of the energy we produce in this state. We don't consume all of that. We export some of it. But it is a very critical part of the economy in South Carolina. And I do believe that there's much more support in the Congress for nuclear being a significant part of the sources going forward . [Emphasis added.] The entire interview can be seen here . (The nuclear nugget appears at the 3:05 mark.)

When You Absolutely Need a Carbon Tax

We’ve mentioned here, as the cap-and-trade legislation heats up, that conservatives have had a problems with it despite it being the more conservative carbon emissions reduction method. The more liberal one is a carbon tax, which could conceivably have some kind of progressivity, or become more onerous as years passed, but would really put an immediate burden on the energy section. We’d position them this way ideologically because cap-and-trade aims to introduce a free-market element – a trade in carbon credits - that appeals to conservatives while a carbon tax does not, placing the public good over other qualities, most especially business comfort. But sometimes ideology just skids away on oily tracks. We offer this preamble to bring you here : On the topic of carbon emissions, Smith advocates a straight carbon tax. “We would support, if the Congress in the United States wants to do it, a carbon tax,” he said, according to the Commercial Appeal. And who’s Mr. Smith? T

The Fast Lane to the Future with Electricity

EWeek has up a roundup of electric, hybrid or incredibly fuel efficient cars that will be shown at the 2009 New York Auto Show and, presumably, at many auto shows around the country over the next year. You know what the first one will be : The third-generation Prius hybrid vehicle has more "oomph" under the hood than previous iterations, with an expanded 1.8-liter engine, 160 hp and roughly 50 miles per gallon for combined city/highway driving. But how about: The Mini E is powered by a 150 kw (201 hp) electric motor fed by a rechargeable lithium-ion battery. The car has a range of 156 miles "under ideal conditions," and 104 miles "under normal conditions." The BMW Group’s public field trial will use 500 cars; actual mass production, however, could be a long time away. Or: The Karma’s sleek chassis moves from Point A to B utilizing a hybrid "Q Drive," featuring a gasoline engine that powers a generator that charges a lithiu

First Concrete Pour of Westinghouse's AP1000 Completed at China's Sanmen Nuclear Site

From Westinghouse : Westinghouse Electric Company, its consortium partner The Shaw Group Inc. , China's State Nuclear Power Technology Corporation (SNPTC) and Sanmen Nuclear Power Company of China National Nuclear Corporation today announced the successful completion, on schedule, of the first pour of basemat structural concrete for the nuclear island at Sanmen, the site of the first of four Westinghouse AP1000™ nuclear power plants to be built under a contract signed in 2007. ... "Completion of concrete pour is a major milestone that visibly moves the Sanmen project from the design and discussion stage to the construction stage," he said. "More importantly, by getting this project underway on schedule, we are further helping to ensure that baseload electricity generation will begin at this plant as intended in 2013." ... The pour encompassed 5,200 cubic meters of concrete, 950 tons of reinforcing steel and 1000 anchor bolts. The concrete will serve as the f

Cows Doing What They Do: Boehner on Climate Change

So we understand that issues around cap-and-trade are complex and those trying to wrap their minds around it – we mean legislators – may not have completely coherent positions yet. But climate change, which cap-and-trade means to mitigate, has only two major poles: either humankind is contributing to it or humankind is not contributing to it. Presumably, another perspective might be that there is a human contribution but it is not determinative, but you don’t hear that one so much. We found House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) rather endearing in his attempt, on ABC’s This Week , to pound all these poles efficiently into the ground. [George] STEPHANOPOULOS: So what is the responsible way? That's my question. What is the Republican plan to deal with carbon emissions, which every major scientific organization has said is contributing to climate change? BOEHNER: George, the idea that carbon dioxide is a carcinogen that is harmful to our environment is almost com

Greenhouse Gases Officially Hazardous

We wonder if industries will have to affix Surgeon General labels on their plants : Having received White House backing, the Environmental Protection Agency declared Friday that carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases are a significant threat to human health and thus will be listed as pollutants under the Clean Air Act — a policy the Bush administration rejected. You’ll remember that this became a point in the last election, with fears of backyard barbecues being shut down. But the intent is more likely this: The move could allow the EPA to regulate greenhouse gases, but it's more likely that the Obama administration will use the action to prod Congress to pass regulations around a system to cap and then trade emissions so that they are gradually lowered. As you might expect, the usual suspects have lined up. One one side: The EPA should be required "to follow up with standards under the Clean Air Act, the nation's most effective environmental law,

The British Serve Up the Sites

The British Department of Energy and Climate Change (and boy, does that sound up-to-date) has released its list of 11 sites for new nuclear plant deployment. You can guess why they’re doing this : U.K. utilities are vying to build reactors, backed by Prime Minister Gordon Brown as a way to combat climate change and replace older stations. Atomic plants may generate power more cheaply than coal-fed units, in part because they aren’t required to buy emission permits for carbon dioxide. We’d say definitely, at least within the projected time for these plants to start up. If clean coal technology catches up, fine, but that probably won’t happen by 2020, so expect some sour times for coal in Britain. (And as we’ll see, coal’s not the problem in this story.) Most of the plants sites are in England, with one over in Wales; moreover, most are on sites that are hosting or have hosted reactors – that should keep various environmental and other reviews fairly contained. We won’t list

More Than 50 Nations Want to Build Nuclear Plants

That's according to IAEA's Hans-Holger Rogner : More than 50 nations are in talks with the UN atomic watchdog to build nuclear power plants, a twofold increase over the last four years, a top agency official said in an interview released on Thursday. "The IAEA is talking with 50-60 countries about the construction of nuclear power plants," Hans-Holger Rogner, head of planning and economic studies at the International Atomic Energy Agency, said in an interview with the German newsletter VDI Nachrichten. "There were only half as many just four years ago. That's a sign of where the journey is headed," he said. These are excellent signs that we on our planet want to go more and more nuclear. If I live long enough (hopefully to the end of this century), I bet we're going to continue to develop the Earth into the clean, awesome, sustainable planets like shown in the Star Wars movies . And that will be in part because nuclear plants will be providing much

Russia Commits to More Nuclear Energy

We have to admit that we know less than we might about Russian nuclear energy culture. We do know that it is a major player in the international marketplace and is making deals with any country that has even glanced in the direction of nuclear energy. We know the country has 31 units working currently, generating about 135 billion kWh per year or 16% of Russia’s electricity generation. And we know that most of the plants are clustered in the western quarter of the country – presumably, some of the electricity generated finds its way over to eastern Europe. See here for more. Regardless of what we don’t know, it really doesn’t surprise us much that Russia is reaffirming its commitment to new plants: "I believe it is possible to support the application of the Energy Ministry and Rosatom for the additional capitalization of the corporation to the tune of 50 billion rubles," Vladimir Putin said. Putin said nuclear power plants should generate 25%-30% of Russia's

Spinning Around the Atom

Here’s a few tidbits of nuclear news to wonder about and inspire awe: The IAEA says that nuclear energy is an unstoppable runaway freight train kind of thing. Well, not precisely : Deputy Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Yury Sokolov said on Tuesday that the economic crisis would not change the driver for the development of the nuclear power industry. And why not? Sokolov said that the expansion of energy demand, the need of improving energy security, the requirement of environment protection as well as the prevention of climate change, which were the "external drivers" to the development of nuclear industry, were not changed by the economic crisis. True, but plants still need access to capital to get built and it’s the collapse of the credit market fueling the economic downturn. So we think Sokolov is perhaps confusing the abstract drivers of the industry – and we agree with him about those – and the practical drivers – and

Nuclear Energy TV

Bob Geldof (you know, Live Aid organizer , frontman for The Boomtown Rats , and 2006 nominee for the Nobel Peace Prize ) raised a few eyebrows last year when luxury car maker Lexus asked him to participate in a forum about its hybrid vehicles. Per The Guardian , Geldof, as well as talking about hybrid cars, aired his views on climate change, branding renewable energy initiatives such as wind farms "Mickey Mouse" and insisting "to really help the planet, we have to go nuclear, fast". Sir Bob is now taking his public embrace of nuclear energy to the airwaves. The Telegraph is reporting that Geldof's television production company, Ten Alps , is looking to launch "Nuclear Energy TV." The company plans to launch Accountants TV later this year, alongside existing channels Engineering TV and Lawyers TV. Plans for Bankers TV and Nuclear Energy TV are in development. The new channels are part of a plan by the London-listed company in which Sir Bob has a major

Here Comes Tomorrow: Fission Into Electricity

As we know, nuclear energy creates electricity by generating heat that boils water that turns turbines – if you want to be really simple about it. But suppose you could get electricity from nuclear energy directly : Now, University of Missouri researchers are developing an energy conversion system that uses relatively safe isotopes to generate high-grade energy. A system that directly converts nuclear energy into electricity would be cheaper than current nuclear conversion technology. Well, we’ll see about cheaper – researchers are always making claims to justify their work. But it is pretty interesting: MU researchers have developed a process called Radioisotope Energy Conversion System (RECS). In the first step of the process, the ion energy from radioisotopes is transported to an intermediate photon generator called a fluorescer and produces photons, which are the basic units of light. In the second step of the process, the photons are transported out of the fluoresce

National Nuclear Day in Iran

I think they mean “We certainly have a right to use atomic energy.'” Wasn’t Sally Field stuck in Iran ? Surely she could have helped on the verbiage. This was taken at Iran’s first National Nuclear Day in 2006. Yesterday was the fourth. Here’s how it went : Addressing the audience, the president [Mahmoud Ahmadinejad] declared two significant achievements as nuclear fuel packaging and its preparation for use in reactors to produce electricity. The president cited the second achievement as trial of a new generation of centrifuges which multiplies the capacity of existing centrifuges. Although National Nuclear Day has a certain ring to it, don’t you think so?, we must admit that even Arbor Day generates more excitement if not electricity. Anyway, a fair amount of Ahmadinejad’s activities in this regard feels a lot like nose rubbing – hence the English on the poster above, not to mention the doves. The Guardian has an interesting story about the political aspects of Na

When Newspapers Attack

We generally respect the work done at newspapers – pits of liberal iniquity that they are – because the effort at that first draft of history is important and nothing else has come along to fill that role. Plus, we scurry to add, bias in writing comes out more through detail selection than actual ideological mischief – journalistic writing has a lot of rules to tamp down overt editorializing – but sometimes, you just have to wonder . Nuclear energy advocates quietly slipped an extra $50 billion for an Energy Department program into the Senate's budget blueprint last week, giving new life to a provision that had been rejected as "nuclear pork" in February's economic stimulus bill. Well, no, we don’t remember it being rejected on that basis. Pork, as commonly defined, is a budget item inserted by a Congress person to benefit his or her district. Loan guarantees benefit an industry, true enough, but DOE, which will award them, hasn’t specified which projects mig

Used Fuel and Angry Yankees

What to do, what to do? We’d be remiss to say that Yucca Mountain is completely, absolutely dead, because it really isn’t, but the decision to slow the pace on the used fuel repository has led to consequences that could easily have been foreseen : Several legislatures of states with nuclear power plants are considering stopping or reducing payments to the federal government for nuclear waste management until the proposed Yucca Mountain, Nev., repository opens or another solution to the waste problem emerges. We’ve mentioned before that the administration seems to have taken this cake out of the oven way too early, as the slow pace of Yucca Mountain at least forestalled this kind of action. Way down east, Mainers are moving even further with their demands: Maine lawmakers passed a resolution yesterday asking the federal government to immediately reduce fees paid by electricity customers for managing spent nuclear fuel. And: The resolution also urges the expedited e

Take a Seaweed Pill and Call the Police in the Morning

Hat tips to Stephen Dubner's Freakonmics blog post, When Scare Tactics Backfire , and TreeHugger for pointing us to this rather bizarre story out of Ontario. Per the National Post , Toronto police issued an alert today after residents in Rosedale and downtown received an information placard from Greenpeace Canada warning against radiation from nuclear power plants — with a little green pill attached. The pill was said to be potassium iodine, which is meant to prevent thyroid cancer, one of the most common radiation-caused illnesses. Officers arrived to a home in the Bloor and Sherbourne streets area Saturday evening and seized the pill. “It’s an unknown substance in pill form being delivered… we’re kind of concerned,” Staff Sergeant Dan Sabadics said. “We treat it as unknown and hazardous until we know what it is.” Investigators have determined that it is not hazardous but Health Canada is doing further analysis to identify it. “Since then, Greenpeace has agreed to cease and

Gov. Martin O'Malley on Planet Forward

Last week , we pointed NNN readers to Angie Howard's video submission to the upcoming PBS special, Planet Forward . Today, we feature the clip submitted by Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley . Titled We're Way Behind , O'Malley makes the case for expanding nuclear energy production in his state and the U.S.

Obama on Nuclear: Advancing Peace and Opportunity to All People

President Barack Obama has provided a regular thrill ride when it comes to nuclear energy, tamping down Yucca Mountain, inspiring commissions galore on what to do with used nuclear fuel, and suffering our parsing his every word. Well, we parse no more. Obama said this to the Czechs gathered in Prague to hear him speak – and by extension, everyone with a TV or radio. The subject was nuclear disarmament (we’ll leave it to you to decide how you feel about that), but what then to do with nuclear energy ? The basic bargain is sound: Countries with nuclear weapons will move towards disarmament, countries without nuclear weapons will not acquire them, and all countries can access peaceful nuclear energy. To strengthen the treaty, we should embrace several principles. We need more resources and authority to strengthen international inspections. We need real and immediate consequences for countries caught breaking the rules or trying to leave the treaty without cause. It gets better.

U.A.E. Moves Quickly on Nuclear Energy

The Wall Street Journal looks in at the nuclear doings on the Arabian Peninsula. We’ve looked at this before, but a lot has happened in a relatively short time: Dozens of American engineers, lawyers and businessmen have converged on Abu Dhabi in recent months to help the United Arab Emirates get the Arab world's first nuclear-power program running by 2017. Why so many Americans? The answer may surprise you: Even as the U.S. remains determined to block Iran from developing nuclear weapons, President Barack Obama sees the U.A.E. program as a "model for the world," according to a senior White House official, and by mid-April could move to present a bilateral nuclear-cooperation treaty to Congress for approval. This is the so-called 123 agreement negotiated late in the Bush administration (123 refers to the section in the U.S. Atomic Energy Act of 1954 that permits trade in nuclear materials and technologies.) And while there was some doubt Obama would conc