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Showing posts from October, 2009

The Kerry-Boxer Hearings: Day 3

And day last. We’re going to focus today on John Rowe, Exelon CEO. As we said over the last two days, the focus of the hearings has been general in nature, alighting on nuclear energy and other energy generators only occasionally. But Rowe dove straight into provisions that should be considered if the bill is to be responsive to the nuclear industry. Now, there were also representatives from the coal, natural gas, wind and hydro industries present at the hearing yesterday (solar was included earlier), so do not let our monotonic focus confuse you into thinking nuclear was overstressed at the hearing at the expense of others. Not at all. Finally, this story is taken from Nuclear Energy Overview, our news service for NEI members. What you may not know that NEI’s member will know is that 1. John Rowe is a very prominent figure in the industry, so his words carry considerable weight with the Senators. He speaks to the interests of the industry and, as you’ll see, he’s very frank and r

The Kerry-Boxer Hearings: Day 2

As you might expect, the second of three days of the hearings on the climate change bill saw some themes emerge. First, the tenor more-or-less avoids talking about specific energy generators even when representatives of relevant companies are present. Natural gas probably picked up the most traction and even that was fairly muted. Second, many of the participants worry that Congress will not act and carbon reduction will be mandated instead via Environmental Protection Agency regulations. Some say waiting for either a legislative or regulatory remedy causes enough uncertainly to forestall investment. Here’s Ralph Izzo, Chairman, CEO and President of the Public Service Enterprise Group  (PSEG), on this issue (our transcipt): Some companies are now making low-carbon investment choices, particularly those like PSEG that are already subject to carbon regulation. But uncertainty about a national program slows our transition to a green economy, complicating investment decisions about

The Nuclear Title and the Fourth Estate

The industry’s release of the nuclear title has multiple goals. One, of course, is to provide information to Congress as it considers the Kerry-Boxer climate change legislation, to indicate how the industry can help government achieve its goals. But that information is fully public, so it has a role in the public discourse, too. As important as the other estates is the fourth estate, those outlets looking for useful data to add into their editorials and news stories, blog posts and tweets. The material is trustworthy enough to inform discussion. Here’s Steve Mufson in the Washington Post : The elements of a nuclear package under discussion include investment tax credits, a doubling or more of the existing $18.5 billion in federal loan guarantees for new plants, giving nuclear plants access to a new clean energy development bank, federally financed training for nuclear plant workers, a new look at reprocessing nuclear fuel, and a streamlining of the regulatory approval process

The Kerry-Boxer Hearings: Day 1

The first of three days of hearings about the Boxer-Kerry climate change bill in the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee (chaired by Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.)) went the way opening days often do. The Senators kicked things off with what were essentially position papers, with Sen. Boxer highly favorable to the bill and ranking member Sen. James Inhofe (R. Okla.) highly unfavorable. (Inhofe noted, “If we went full speed ahead, nuclear energy would supply 40% of our electricity,” with which we can but agree.) Since all the speakers were Obama administration officials, the panel was highly favorable about the bill, too. Along with Energy Secretary Steven Chu and EPA administrator Lisa Jackson, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and FERC Chairman Jon Wellinghoff filled out the panel. You can read about their invariably positive thoughts about the legislation in this New York Times story , but here’s Chu: “When the starting gun sounded

NEI’s Nuclear Policy Initiative

We gave you a heads up the other day with some fact sheets that outline what the industry - and NEI – has been doing as hearings on the energy bill get underway today (Look at the Twitter feed on your right for some quotes coming out of the hearings. We’ll see about fleshing them out later). Toward this end, NEI has released a detailed nuclear policy initiative outlining where nuclear energy fits into the climate change debate. And here, in brief, is where that is: Analyses of H.R. 2454 [the House climate change bill passed earlier this year], the American Clean Energy and Security Act, which passed the House on June 26, by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Energy Information Administration (EIA) demonstrate that substantial increases in nuclear generating capacity will be essential to meet the legislation’s carbon-reduction goals. All true. Now, anti-nuclear folks argue that nuclear energy tries to hoover up all available resources set in its path, leaving

Clean Energy, The EPA and a Question

Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) released what called the chairman’s mark of the Kerry-Boxer climate change bill, called the Clean Energy Jobs and American Power Act (S.1733). At least, this is an accurate title – bills are often called something benign despite repulsive contents, but this one hits the goals of the bill. While it’s about 100 pages longer than the previous draft version, the nuclear section is much as it was – the focus remains workforce, used fuel management and safety. We expect this section – and all the sections – to gain more provisions as the bill moves along. Grist’s David Nelson points out one notable difference between the House and Senate versions of the bill: it retains EPA authority to regulate greenhouse gases under the New Source Review provisions of the Clean Air Act. Nelson doubts this will survive the process. We’re not really sure why this bill would not take precedence over EPA since it establishes the same kind of carbon reduction regime

President Obama at MIT

President Barack Obama’s energy speech at MIT could have focused a bit more on nuclear energy. But he intended to cover a lot of bases and clearly did that. He noted the green jobs created by the stimulus bill, he called for bipartisanship in crafting the climate change bill in the Senate, he paid appropriate homage to the innovation and accomplishments of schools like MIT. So the actual energy portion of the speech was just that – a portion – and nuclear references, like others, were made in passing. So let’s see what he said about nuclear energy and give you a taste of the speech: Everybody in America should have a stake in legislation that can transform our energy system into one that's far more efficient, far cleaner, and provide energy independence for America -- making the best use of resources we have in abundance, everything from figuring out how to use the fossil fuels that inevitably we are going to be using for several decades, things like coal and oil and natura

Meanwhile, in the World of Thorium

The Thorium Energy Alliance had its first annual conference in Washington earlier this week, so The New York Times decided to take a look at the potential of Thorium as a fuel for nuclear energy plants. Rajendran Raja, a physicist at Fermilab — the U.S. Department of Energy’s Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory in Batavia, Illinois — said by telephone that the benefit of adding thorium to the fuel mix would be to create much more fuel using existing abundant resources and to reduce waste. That sounds promising. This could be done by building a high-intensity proton accelerator with the capacity to produce fast neutrons that could convert nuclear waste, thorium-232 and uranium-238 into fuel, he said. In case you thought there wasn’t a but: But to accomplish this, a proton accelerator would need to be 10 times more power-intense than anything that has been produced to date. And as you can imagine, such an accelerator would need considerable amounts of electri

A Party in the Spider’s Web

If this article about the Czech Republic’s energy profile is correct, the number one goal of the country is to disentangle itself from Russia, with which it was of course deeply entangled for some fifty years. The number two goal, though, is to keep a fishy eye on President Vaclav Klaus, who appears to be quite friendly with the Russians (we can’t pretend to understand the ideological warp that exists in Eastern Europe, but Klaus is described as very conservative – to us, that ought to mean nationalist – but in the Czech Republic, apparently not, as Klaus won the Presidency with the help of the Communists, who we guess would be considered rear-guard.) Consider that Martin Laryš’ article in the Prague Post is about energy, yet comes to this point: While energy remains a concern, the bigger threat for the Czech Republic remains less direct Russian takeovers of strategic companies. The close and often personal ties between large Russian state companies and intelligence services

Getting Up to Speed on Nuclear Issues

We don’t normally point you to NEI’s content because we assume you know it’s there and will go there – as well as to the NRC, ANS and other such worthy organizations – for all your nuclear knowledge needs. However, with energy issues heating up (so to speak), NEI has been busily putting together some information that wraps some good facts into handy little reference pieces. For example: New Nuclear Plants: An Engine for Job Creation, Economic Growth iterates points we make here frequently: that building new plants is an engine for employment, both directly and for allied industries (such as parts manufacturing) and for communities that surround a new plant. It all comes down to this: Absent investment stimulus, the current pace of job creation will slow and the prospect of tens of thousands of new U.S. jobs could recede into the distant future or disappear completely. That about gets it. And about those allied jobs that support new plants? New Nuclear Plants Create Oppo

Stewart Brand and Amory Lovins Debate about Nuclear on NPR's OnPoint

Tom Ashbrook from NPR's OnPoint got the two to cordially hash out their opposing views on nuclear . Though the conversation lasted for about 12 minutes, not much was actually debated. I guess a good debate is what the blogosphere is for. So far I haven't seen much praise for Lovins' latest piece, in fact it looks like in the comments section at Grist, his supporters were rather thin. Rod Adams continues to take Lovins to town , Brian Wang at Next Big Future had a lot to critique and Sovietologist piped in . We, of course, are generating our thoughts but are waiting a bit to see how the debate plays out. It's been spectacular to see the nuclear industry's supporters expose and rip up the Rocky Mountain Institute's latest junk science.

Closing A Deal in Idaho – or Maybe China

The difficulties of identifying and exploiting a market – whether to provide nuclear energy or to market a new food product – is never easy and, for a start-up, notably difficult. To wit: A company called Alternate Energy Holdings has a pretty good idea : A small company that's pushing a billion-dollar nuclear power plant in Idaho now says it wants to build another one at a different location. Alternate Energy Holdings Inc. says it's asking Payette County to amend a plan that governs land use, so it can build a nuclear power plant on approximately 5,100 acres in western Idaho. This is presumably on land where MidAmerican Nuclear Energy decided last year not to build a plant, so some of the work has been done. And why do they want to do this? Don Gillispie, Alternate Energy's chief executive, says his projects will bring benefits to rural communities. Well, we can’t argue with that, though the AP story is so short as to be barren on details. So we visited AEHI’s Web

What Environmentalists Know

Ken Edelstein over at Mother Nature News acknowledges that what we might call “classic” environmentalists, those raised on the Whole Earth Catalog and the No Nukes concerts, might have a bit of a problem . How much less politically radioactive nuclear power has become was underscored Oct. 11 in a Sunday New York Times op-ed co-written by Sen. John Kerry . As Massachusetts’ lieutenant governor and then as senator, the Democrat was a vocal foe of the Seabrook nuclear power plant, then under construction in neighboring New Hampshire. He remains an environmental darling -- the climate-change bill co-author tasked with rounding up Senate supporters of the historic legislation. Then, what about the fact that Kerry did co-write that editorial? Is it a sign of breaking faith? The NYT op-ed generated buzz because Kerry wrote it with a Republican colleague, Lindsay Graham of South Carolina. It signaled that some Republicans actually might support a climate bill this year if it co

National Journal's Expert Blog Asks: "Does Nuclear Fit the [Climate] Bill?"

The answers to this question from various experts should be fun to watch unfold over the week . Be sure to remember to check in occasionally to see how the discussion is going. It's up to five mixed responses so far... Update 1:50 pm: NEI's CEO Marv Fertel added his two cents to the discussion . Update 10/21, 4 pm: So far 14 experts have weighed in. Rep. Joe Pitts, R-Pa has the most favorable votes with NEI's CEO right behind. Carl Pope from the Sierra Club dropped an odd comment about Texas and low-level waste and surprisingly the American Wind Energy Association felt the need to comment about the nuclear industry's financial barriers. I wonder what AWEA thinks of HSBC's comments : HSBC Private Bank is recommending weightings of 1-5 percent in nuclear power to clients without ethical objections, as subsidy-dependent renewable energy stocks are too exposed to political risk. Fredrik Nerbrand, head of global strategy at HSBC's private banking arm, said nuclea

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