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Showing posts from November, 2010

NRG, STP and eVgo

Want to see how complicated business can be? Consider : Nuclear Innovation North America LLC or NINA, the nuclear development company jointly owned by NRG Energy, Inc. and Toshiba, has awarded the engineering, procurement and construction contract for South Texas Project Units 3 & 4 to a restructured EPC consortium formed by Toshiba America Nuclear Energy Corporation, a US based Toshiba subsidiary, and The Shaw Group. Both the new nuclear units of the South Texas Project will use ABWR technology. The actual contract is a natural, as NRG owns 44 percent of the South Texas Project , so Toshiba and NRG have awarded a contract for an NRG part owned project to a Toshiba part owned subsidiary. Here’s how the Shaw Group fits in: Engineering service provider Shaw Group, Inc. announced Monday that it will expand its global strategic partnership with Japanese electronics maker Toshiba Corp. And one of the provisions: Under the global strategic partnership, Shaw will inv

US Nuclear Performance – October 2010

It’s been awhile since we’ve highlighted our monthly nuclear performance report on the blog. Most of the time the nuclear units hum along at their usual pace so there’s not much to report. But worth mentioning from the latest issue is that nuclear generation in the US in 2010 could break its previous 2007 record: Year-to-date 2010 nuclear generation is 0.4% higher than the same period in 2009. For 2010, nuclear generation was 670.0 billion kilowatt-hours compared to 667.2 bkWh for the same period in 2009 and 669.5 bkWh in 2007 (the record year for nuclear generation). For October 2010, nuclear generation was 61.8 billion kilowatt-hours compared to 57.7 billion kWh in October 2009. The average capacity factor for October 2010 was 82.5% compared to 77.0% in October 2009. For the 2010 fall refueling outage season, 15 units completed refueling while another eight are still shut down. Twenty-three nuclear reactors are expected to refuel during fall 2010 compared to 33 in fall

Reasons to Be Thankful

Shall Canada be thankful ? The government of Ontario, Canada’s most populous province, announced plans to spend billions of dollars more on nuclear reactors, wind and solar projects and to eliminate coal plants by 2014. This is consequential, as the story notes that Ontario generates a third of Canada’s electricity (largely, I guess, because it holds a third of the country’s population.) Nuclear energy is to receive the largest chunk of capital spending at C$33 billion, followed by C$14 billion for wind power, C$9 billion for solar power and C$4.6 billion for hydro- electricity. The plan also marked C$12 billion for conservation, C$9 billion for transmission lines, C$4 billion for biomass, and C$1.88 billion for natural gas. The goal here is to keep nuclear energy generation stable at about 50 percent of the total – Ontario has 10 plants currently and will increase to 12 under the plan - with renewable energy picking up for fossil fuels. The end result: the plan fulfil

It’s Good to Be the Queen

Because you get to do fun things like this: Ground was broken yesterday on the UK's Nuclear Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (NAMRC) by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, who used virtual reality to operate a digger. And what might this freshly dug Centre do? The new facility is intended to "help UK companies become global leaders in the production of components and systems for the new generation of nuclear power stations" said the University of Sheffield. The other main collaborators in the project are the University of Manchester, the government and Rolls-Royce as lead industrial partner. Rolls-Royce again – see the post below for more on that company. But what about Queen Elizabeth? It turns out she’s been hanging around nuclear energy plants as long they’ve been in England. Here she is in 1956: The Queen has opened the world's first full-scale nuclear power station, at Calder Hall in Cumberland. A crowd of several thousand people gat

The Stadium and the Turbines; Nuts in Germany

No problem with this: The [Philadelphia] Eagles have contracted with SolarBlue, a renewable energy and energy conservation company based in Orlando, Fla., to install about 80 20-foot spiral-shaped wind turbines on the top rim of the stadium, affix 2,500 solar panels on the stadium's façade, and build a 7.6 megawatt biodiesel/natural gas cogeneration plant with monitoring and switching technology to operate the system. After all, putting a nuclear energy plant at a sports stadium might well be considered overkill by the staunchest advocate – though the small reactor people might call foul on that – and it’s not as though nuclear is badly represented in Pennsylvania. It provides 35% of the electricity capacity there – second only to coal, at 48% – NEI has a fact sheet with a bunch of interesting factoids here . I don’t know if or how much Lincoln Financial Field benefited from the nuclear presence, but it doesn’t really matter. This move is intended to send a message and

A Good Thing in Minnesota

A good thing ? Xcel applied to add 164 megawatts to the plant’s 1,100-megawatt power generating capacity in 2008. The MPUC approved the request the next year. Maybe not: [T]he move was challenged by the city of Red Wing and Prairie Island Indian Community. They argued that the extra capacity wasn’t needed, alternatives like hydropower weren’t given adequate consideration and that the increased power capacity would harm the surrounding communities and environments. The Indian community is right next to the plant. But are these items legitimate? – they seem oddly miscellaneous and contradictory. After all, if the area doesn’t need more electricity then no one needed to look at hydro, either. Anyway – back to a good thing: The court [the state court of appeals, to be exact] said those claims were unsupported and affirmed the state’s approval… Xcel, Prairie Island’s parent, still needs NRC approval, but this part is done. Good. --- There are several stories

Holes at the Elbow

Enthusiastic nuclear energy boosters are a good thing, but nobody’s more enthusiastic than when they have something to sell: Nuclear is soaring and the sector has the wind at its back.  Energy costs are on the rise, nuclear power demand is going to grow, utility stocks are close to recent highs and the economy is no longer expected to slip back into the red.  There are several drivers, and several ETFs and major companies that are set to benefit. ETFs are exchange-traded funds, which is your tip-off that this comes from a stock related site, in this case Investor Place. Apparently, wild hyperbole is nothing new to stock touts, but it reminds me of when my father took me to Pimlico and a fellow outside the track was pitching a tip sheet containing “ten sure winners.” His jacket had holes at the elbows, but he had ten sure winners. None of which is to say you shouldn’t invest in energy-related stocks, just that your own research will trump any hyped promises. --- Pres

On YouTube and Not on YouTube

As the post below reminds us, NEI has a thriving YouTube channel where anything regarding nuclear energy is neatly extracted from longer talks or press conferences for your viewing pleasure. Here’s White House Science Director John Holdren during the Q&A after his speech at MIT (our transcript): I think for a whole variety of reasons the United States needs to stay at the cutting edge of nuclear technology. And in order for us to do that, it would be nice if we had a domestic nuclear industry; building nuclear power plants in this country. I would like to see that happen. Steve Chu would like to see it happen. The President would like to see it happen. Not least, because if I didn't make that clear enough in this talk, although nuclear energy is not a panacea for the climate problem, there is no panacea, it could make a significant contribution if we could make it expandable again. It would be easier to solve the climate problem with the help of nuclear energy than w

Nuclear Energy Could Be Key to Energy Compromise

At a press conference at NEI, Alex Flint, senior vice president for government affairs at NEI, discussed some priorities for the upcoming Congress. The question-and-answer session with reporters focused on several key issues affecting the nuclear energy industry: a clean energy standard, DOE loan guarantees, EPA water regulations, the Nuclear Waste Fund fee and a federal corporation for managing used nuclear fuel. A recurring theme was that nuclear energy could be an area for bipartisan cooperation on energy legislation in the new Congress. Original reporting from NEI’s Nuclear Energy Overview follows:  Nuclear energy might hold the key to a compromise on energy legislation in the next session of Congress, an NEI executive told reporters during a briefing on the impact of the midterm elections on the nuclear energy industry. “Nuclear energy is at the center of the debate about energy policy,” said Alex Flint. “We view it as the middle ground on which both parties can compromise and

When Only a Rolls Will Do

Something you might not know: Rolls-Royce has signed a contract with China Nuclear Power Engineering Corporation (CNPEC) to provide six Rod Control Systems (RCS) and eight Neutron Instrumentation Systems (NIS). These systems will operate with the new Chinese designed CPR1000 nuclear power plants and will be manufactured in the Rolls-Royce facility in Meylan, France. I hadn’t seen Rolls-Royce mentioned in a story in a long time, so thought it might be a good idea to see what it’s up to these days . Following the global acquisition of ODIM ASA, Rolls-Royce is in the process of fully integrating ODIM Numet - the nuclear division of ODIM ASA, into its overall product and service offering to its commercial nuclear customers. So now you know. (Well, okay, that’s a little obtuse even for a press release. ODIM Numet is an engineering and fabrication firm focused on the CANDU reactor. Buying it broadens the kinds of reactors for which Rolls-Royce can build parts.) The Rolls

Safety Culture on the Frontline

Last week the PBS series Frontline took on the safety culture of BP. Although titled, " The Spill ", and ostensibly focused on the Deepwater Horizon spill in the Gulf of Mexico, the 54 minute expose dwelt almost entirely on the history of significant events at BP's mainland American facilities. Using bits of the backstory on the 2006 explosion at BP's Texas City refinery which killed 15 people, a 2006 leak from an Alaskan pipeline that spilled more than 206,000 gallons of oil, and the 2007 swamping of the Thunderhorse oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico, Frontline portrays BP as taking risks other companies thought unreasonable and putting cost-cutting ahead of safety. Frontline makes it appear that Deepwater Horizon was the inevitable result of putting production before safety. Some online comments about the Frontline documentary question the balance and accuracy of the presentation. We'll leave that to others to decide, but take the appearance of the Frontline docu

The Election and Nuclear Energy

There are many post-election news stories that try to explain what the new dynamic in Congress and between Congress and President Obama means for various policies. Energy policy and nuclear energy have not been left out of consideration. Here’s the New York Times : Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio), the presumed new House Speaker, may have already etched out the blueprints for a GOP energy bill with the "American Energy Act." That legislation, which he introduced last year, calls for ramping up nuclear energy and offshore drilling as well as creating incentives for renewable energy. But the Times’ sources think that Republicans’ disdain for large bills will favor “small ball” bills that tackle aspects of an issue, in this case energy and climate change, rather than the whole issue at once: If comprehensive climate bills -- like the one current House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) pushed through two years ago -- are the way of the past, some think the Republican path

The Collective Will to Survive

Europe has a plan for used nuclear fuel: EU energy commissioner Günther Oettinger has urged member states to bury radioactive nuclear waste, saying burial is the safest form of disposal. The draft directive on nuclear waste says geographical storage is "the safest and most sustainable" option for disposing of spent fuel. The U.S. is currently working on the issue of used nuclear fuel via the Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear Future, which is due to report its findings late next year. Santiago San Antonio, director general of Foratom, the Brussels-based organization that represents the European nuclear energy industry, points out in the article that used nuclear fuel is already safely handled and adds: "We are particularly pleased that the directive acknowledges the fact that there is a world-wide scientific and technical consensus that deep geological disposal of high-level waste which has been proven by over 30 years of research, represent

The Global Nuclear Conspiracy Unmasked

In the United States, nuclear energy plants are inspected by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. In other parts of the world, local authorities handle inspections or arrange for the International Atomic Energy Agency to do so. There’s really no need for the IAEA to spend much time at U.S. plants and it doesn’t – unless, of course, it’s invited to do so : The delegation of 14 experts from around the world, three observers and three agency staff members was invited to size up how well the American authorities monitor civilian power plants, including plant operations, and how the agency communicates internally. That might be a little nervous-making, but by and large, the IAEA folks seem pretty pleased: The group will not present its report for several months. In a preliminary statement, it said that the United States had “a transparent licensing process that accepts input from public citizens and environmental reviews, and ensures that key documents are publicly available.”