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Showing posts from 2009

Dream Beneath the Desert Sky

The Victorville (Calif.) Daily News writes something we basically agree with:Monday the Wall Street Journal reported that a Korean-led consortium has won a landmark contract, valued at about $20.4 billion, to build four nuclear reactors in the United Arab Emirates. U.A.E., remember, is awash in oil, yet has opted to build the reactors. Why? U.A.E.’s leaders are not fools. It’s cheaper (and ultimately safer if one considers that nuclear reactors do not emit any of those pollutants enviros consider unsafe to human health and the planet, such as CO2) to build the plants so the oil saved can be sold elsewhere.But the editorial this appears in is not really about nuclear energy. Instead, it dings Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) for wanting to make national monuments out of about one million acres of Mojave desert so as to block development of wind farms and solar arrays. We looked around to see what this was about:The area of concern to Feinstein is between the Mojave National Preserve a…

“Because Nuclear Power Is Less Costly"

Reuters has put up an interesting “Fact Box” detailing which countries in the middle East and African want to knock together a few nuclear energy plants. It includes countries we’ve discussed here but a fair number we haven’t, including Algeria, Egypt, Iran, Jordan, Kenya, Kuwait, Libya, Namibia, Niger, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, and UAE. Some of these are in very early stages of planning and the list is not free of red flags ready to spring up. But it’s a great overview and it’s interesting to see countries with significant supplies of uranium pursue nuclear energy. That’s energy security writ large, something uranium-rich, nuclear-free Australia should consider.----There have been a few news stories about the Japanese reluctance to work with India on the latter’s nuclear efforts, but we admit we steered around it because we didn’t quite get the gist of it – India has plenty of partners without worrying about Japan. But apparently, it’s important to the two countries, as thi…

Shutting Off the Power at Ignalina

Some bits and bytes from the radiant world around us:Hoh Kui-seek provides an almost poetic overview of the nuclear half-century before settling on his point: the rise of his native South Korea as a supplier of nuclear technology:This is the valuable fruit of Korea’s 50-year effort to develop nuclear energy technology, including the sacrifices of the local residents who spent their careers working in nuclear power plants, the sweat of scientists and the dream of former presidents. I send a big round of applause to the people who worked hard to nurture Korea’s nuclear energy development.We do, too. (He’s talking about the sale of a plant to UAE.) Not a substantial piece, but it has an individual quality we really liked.--- At Good.is, Cyrus Wadia wonders where the heck solar energy is and comes up with free reasons for its lag:(1) the cost is still too high for most geographic regions
(2) issues of scale
(3) the sun sets every dayThese are all legitimate concerns, but Wadia r…

Someone Else’s Top Ten

We know it’s getting to be top ten time of the year (and decade), but we’ve never really enjoyed these summary wrap-ups. After all, time like the tide is rather fluid and what seemed most important in the short term of a year fades before much more time has passed. Even the top ten movies or albums seem vagrant, the results of a passing fancy.So, speaking for ourselves, we’ll probably bypass the mania for top ten and move right on to passing you along to someone else’s top ten list. It both confirms and spoils our potted formulation.It is Greentechmedia’s Top Ten High Concepts of 2009. We actually like it because it focuses on items that may not come to fruition at all, but simply demonstrate the good work that goes on in industry and university labs all the time. The great thing about such projects is that they can be quite valuable even when not workable – the lessons learned can be quite instructive.Take, for example, number 3:Osmotic Pressure Gradients: In OPGs, fresh water passe…

Do ‘The Simpsons’ Distort People’s Perceptions of Nuclear Power?

I’ve watched ‘The Simpsons’ cartoon since their inception and have never been fazed about their misleading depictions of nuclear power. Interestingly enough, others may have. Here’s what a philosophy professor says about the show:Dr. Bill Irwin, a philosophy professor at King's College in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., says Homer - the bumbling main character in The Simpsons who works at a nuclear power plant - has perhaps helped to put a negative spin on nuclear power by doing such things on the show as trying to stop a meltdown by randomly pressing buttons on a console.He also points out that the owner of the nuclear power plant in The Simpsons, Mr. Burns, is portrayed as a cold-hearted, greedy industrialist. But the show's most intelligent character, Homer's daughter, Lisa, is portrayed as a staunch environmental advocate."She's very eco-friendly and very much against nuclear power and the nuclear power plant run by Mr. Burns," Irwin said during a recent interview on …

Voices from Copenhagen: Obama and Jiabao

At the COP15 conference in Copenhagen, President Barack Obama did not seem very pleased:So America is going to continue on this course of action [toward carbon emission reduction goals] no matter what happens in Copenhagen. But we will all be stronger and safer and more secure if we act together. That is why it is in our mutual interest to achieve a global accord in which we agree to take certain steps, and to hold each other accountable for our commitments.And perhaps a little doubtful of the outcome of the conference:We know the fault lines because we've been imprisoned by them for years. But here is the bottom line: We can embrace this accord, take a substantial step forward, and continue to refine it and build upon its foundation. We can do that, and everyone who is in this room will be a part of an historic endeavor -- one that makes life better for our children and grandchildren.Or we can again choose delay, falling back into the same divisions that have stood in the way of…

NRG’s Recent Cost Estimate Increases for STP 3&4 Due to a Weaker Dollar?

By now I’m sure most readers here have heard that NRG’s cost estimates to build two new reactors at South Texas Project increased around $4 billion just recently. Apparently quite a bit of the increase was due to a weaker dollar. From the Wall Street Journal:Dollar weakness helped drive up cost estimates for two new reactors NRG Energy Inc. (NRG) is planning in Texas with Toshiba Corp. An NRG executive said last month the cost of equipment and materials from Japan climbed 13% to an estimated $2.5 billion compared with a 2007 estimate, mostly due to declines in the dollar.…Currency risk is just one variable for developers. Scana and Southern already have taken steps to eliminate the risk by using dollar-dominated contracts. For other projects, currency fluctuation typically is viewed as part of the larger issue of construction costs. Developers are trying to balance the massive cost and lengthy construction timetable with a tricky outlook for power demand and prices. Additionally, any …

NEI's Energy Markets Report - December 7 - 11, 2009

The latest is up, below are some useful nuggets about gas that happened last week: Gas at the Henry Hub jumped $0.76 to $4.92/MMBtu for the week. Over the past four weeks, gas prices have increased nearly $2/MMBtu. The gas rig count rose by nine to 757. “Traders worked prices higher with demand on the rise as temperatures dropped across key heat-consuming regions, driving up demand for fuel to feed power generators called upon to meet increased customer heating load” (SNL Energy, pages 1 and 3).

Studies, Studies and Mo' Studies with Nuclear

Actually, there are only just three recent studies/reports I'd like to bring to your attention. The first comes from Ted Rockwell (pdf) at Learning About Energy.Colleagues:
Attached is a list of purported facts about the use of nuclear energy for generating electricity, and purported facts about the principal, post-fossil alternatives: wind, solar and biofuels. There are no conclusions or recommendations here, just facts. Just real-world facts, no predictions or estimates or opinions. I don’t know of any other document that performs this function.In it, there are some interesting safety stats on wind (p. 8) that I was unaware of and Mr. Rockwell includes some commentary on Amory Lovins' way of life that makes for some good reading. Definitely will be a useful document.

...

Next study to check out comes from the OECD's Nuclear Energy Agency. Earlier this week, NEA released a document on the perspective of nuclear energy and how it can address climate change (pdf).Scenarios for…

UAE, India and The Cable Car in Copenhagen

We wondered if the Dubai World debt problem was going to affect the nuclear ambitions of its fellow UAE member, Abu Dhabi. That would require more knowledge than we have of the financial interconnectedness of the seven emirates that make up the UAE.Reuters reports that the IMF answers that question in the affirmative – sort of:Masood Ahmed, director for the IMF's Middle East and Central Asia Department, told reporters the IMF was looking at revising down its forecast for the UAE's non-oil gross domestic product to "significantly lower" than the 3 percent it had projected in October. That would still be higher than the close to zero forecast the IMF has forecast for the UAE in 2009.And we don’t even want to try to fathom the IMF’s forecasts. However:Despite the turmoil surrounding the Dubai crisis, Ahmed said he did not anticipate the UAE would need any financial support from the IMF and could easily deal with the fallout with its own resources.That sounds guardedly …

Apathy in Canada, Catering to Nuclear

Alberta doesn’t care about nuclear energy; it doesn’t care at all. But if someone has a plant they might like to put up…"We're not in the debate on one side or the other that the nuclear energy industry needs to be supported or needs to face a moratorium," said Mel Knight, minister of energy. "We are not proponents of nuclear energy, we're not working with any company to build a nuclear energy (facility), what we are saying is 'we need power' and proponents who want to build in the system in Alberta are welcome to do so. What we're doing here is saying we don't choose fuel source." This elaborate indifference is somewhat poll-driven:The key findings of the report, said Knight, was that 45 per cent of those polled preferred that proposed nuclear developments be considered on a case-by-case basis. Nineteen per cent said the province should encourage nuclear proposals and about 27 per cent said the province should oppose nuclear proposals.That…

Linking Electricity To Human Life

Paul Genoa, NEI’s Director of Policy Development, has posted to The National Journal’s Copenhagen Insider blog. This is the entire post, but do pay a visit over to The National Journal for all the latest at COP15. Here is Mr. Genoa’s post:Reducing poverty and human suffering in the least developed countries is the right thing to do from an ethical/moral perspective, and it is in everyone’s own strategic self interest. Throughout human history, extreme poverty has led to war and environmental destruction. Lands are deforested, top soil eroded and villages plundered. It is in the interest of the developed countries to do what they can to avoid these environmental and security threats through effective development assistance. Because climate change will only make a bad problem worse for most of these countries, we need to step-up our global greenhouse gas mitigation efforts and help these countries adapt to future changes in the world’s climate.There is a direct correlation between acces…

COP15: Walk-outs, Protests, Madness

Well, we can’t say the Climate Change Conference has been dull. On Friday we noted that Lumumba Stanislaus Di-Aping, the negotiator for the G77, a group of 134 mostly developing countries, walked out of the conference. Since then, a good many of his members followed suit:African countries have refused to continue negotiations unless talks on a second commitment period to the Kyoto Protocol agreement are prioritized ahead of broader discussions involving non-Kyoto parties, such as China and the United States. United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change executive secretary Yvo de Boer said an open-ended informal consultation was being convened by the Danish presidency for ministers and officials to resolve key issues. We’ll skip chatter of the conference collapsing unless it actually does collapse – it’s what you hear every time anyone gets dramatic at one of these things. Instead, let’s see what the African group wants:The cracks have appeared because one negotiating bloc wa…

Financing the “Nuclear Renaissance” and Why California Should Be More In the Game

Expert attorneys in the finance field at the law firm Latham and Watkins in California have been chewing on ways that advance the thinking and research of how to finance the construction of new nuclear plants in restructured markets (pdf). For the finance nerds out there (me being one of them), the document is definitely worth thumbing through to find some of the latest ideas on how to use project finance (instead of rate-base) to pay for building these large nuclear beasts. Since the authors of the report are from California, they provided insights on how and why the west coast state should be more involved in the nuclear discussion. Below are a few snippets worthy of your attention:p. 497 - To effectively promote private financing of what some have termed the nuclear renaissance under a financing model that internalizes these unique risks rather than relying on ratemaking for risk mitigation, federal incentive programs should be re-evaluated in accordance with these structuring cons…

Checking in on the Washington Capitals and the NHL

Heading into tonight's tilt against the [Progress Energy-sponsored] Carolina Hurricanes, the Washington Capitals sit atop the Eastern Conference and are tied with the San Jose Sharks in the race for the Presidents' Trophy. The Caps have posted a franchise-best record through 30 games (19-6-6) and lead the NHL in goals (108) and power play scoring (24.2%). It's been quite a start to this 2009-10 season.

Can't make it out to Verizon Center this evening? Not to worry, the game will be broadcast on Comcast in HD here in DC and FS Carolinas in NC. And WFED, as always, will have the radio call streaming live here. (Be sure to tune in between the second and third periods [approx. 8:15 pm] to hear NEI's VP of Communications, Scott Peterson, talking pucks and energy with Steve Kolbe.)

A few additional notes:
Through the first 14 home games, attendance has increased 2.7% over last year.Local TV ratings for Comcast/Caps broadcasts are up 9% over same time period last year.The …

COP15: A Draft Proposal, A Walk-Out, Detainment

On the fourth day of the COP15 conference, it entered what we might call its melodramatic phase, with various parties wanting to make points as strongly as possible. If you follow anything day-to-day – like, say, the health care bill – you know that up can become down very quickly and then back to up just as quickly. (Soap operas, speaking of melodrama, rest on this principle, but even they have a basis, however tenuous, in real life.)---Most importantly, the Ad-hoc Working Group on Long-Term Cooperative Action, the negotiators charged with producing a final document, has released a draft agreement indicating some key goals. The Washington Post has the details:The Cutajar draft [Michael Zammit Cutajar is chairman of the group] stipulates that the world should seek to keep global temperatures from rising beyond a ceiling of either 2.7 or 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit above pre-industrial levels. It offers several possible targets developed countries could use for cutting their greenhouse gas…

Programming Notes

NPR's Richard Harris talks to former NRC Chairman Dick Meserve, EPRI's Tom TerBush and Union of Concerned Scientists' Ellen Vanko in his balanced piece on nuclear energy on this morning's Morning Edition program.And here is an excellent interview with Exelon CEO and Chairman John Rowe on CNBC this morning discussing, in part, how Exelon's investment in nuclear energy has the company well positioned to tackle the climate change challenge.Listen, watch and learn.

Framework for Climate Change and Energy Independence Legislation

A bipartisan trio of Senators presented a framework on climate change. The framework is focused on energy security and job creation and is admirably broad based in its energy approach. Sens. John Kerry (D-Mass.), Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) aim to create legislation that can find a broad coalition for support. Time will tell how that works, but the start can only be considered successful.So what’s it all about? Here’s the bullet point our eyes zeroed in on:Additional nuclear power is an essential component of our strategy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. We strongly support incentives for renewable energy sources such as wind and solar, but successful legislation must also recognize the important role for clean nuclear power in our low-emissions future. America has lost its nuclear technology manufacturing base, and we must rebuild it in order to compete in the global marketplace. Our legislation will encourage the construction of new nuclear power plants a…

COP15: Nuclear Energy, Reparations and Gov. Palin

Well, almost a decade. The Kyoto Protocol did not have much use for nuclear energy and excluded it from favored energy sources. However, the leaked Danish accord – which seems unlikely to become the final document – see our post below for more on that – does not try to pick winners and losers:The international community can only be fully successful in addressing climate change if it is able to effectively develop, diffuse and deploy existing climate friendly technologies and rapidly innovate new and transformational climate-friendly technologies.World Nuclear News picks up on the nuclear thread:In a comment piece in the OECD Observer Luis Echavarri, head of the OECD Nuclear Energy Agency, complained about nuclear power's exclusion from two Kyoto Protocol flexibility mechanisms - the Joint Implementation and the Clean Development Mechanism - despite 'negligible' emissions compared to fossil fuels and its potential for direct foreign investment and technology transfer from …

COP15: Leaks, AREVA and Tree People

Our impression reading the daily news wrap-ups about COP15 is that everyone is holding their breaths over the arrival of the world leaders next week and that this first week has more the trappings of a, um, conventional convention – that is, trade show displays, break-out meetings on different topics, people dressed in Styrofoam tree costumes giving out flyers – that kind of thing. ---Probably the element gaining most attention is a leaked version of the final document, or at least Denmark’s version of same, which appears to heavily favor the developed over the developing world. (You can read the leaked document here and decide for yourself.) As you can imagine, this has gone over poorly:[Chairman of the G-77 Lumumba Stanislaus] Di-Aping, a Somali by birth, is reported to have told an urgently-called, closed meeting of 100 countries that the draft was tantamount to asking the G-77 to ‘sign a suicide pact,’ adding that the Danish draft was ‘worse than no deal’ and urging attending cou…

The EPA, Copenhagen and Climategate

Obama administration officials claim that the EPA announcement and the opening of the Copenhagen Climate Conference are "coincidental."
Except that the administration knew when the conference was starting so could have chosen to hold the announcement. Not choosing to wait is a pretty good definition of “not a coincidence.” However, the EPA’s announcement has been long expected – and dreaded in some quarters – and identifies six gases for regulation:
The Obama administration had signaled its intent to issue an endangerment finding for carbon dioxide and five other greenhouse gases (methane, nitrous oxide, hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons and sulfur hexafluoride) since taking office in January. Ms. Jackson announced a proposed finding in April and has since taken steps to draft the rules needed to back it up.
And that’s what happened yesterday.
Jeff Holmstead, head of air policy at the E.P.A. under the administration of George W. Bush and now an industry lobbyist, said the fi…

With and Without Nuclear Energy in Denmark

Now, Copenhagen is hosting the COP15 conference but Denmark is not the guiding force behind it – the U.N. just likes to put its big meetings in different member countries (COP14 was in Poland, for example.) Still, we were curious to know where the Danes are with nuclear energy and happily, well, unhappily as it turns out, the Danish Ministry of Climate and Energy has posted an article to the COP15 site (the minister is Lykke Friis, but she doesn’t sign the article).Risø is situated on a peninsula at Roskilde Fjord. The location was chosen because from its inception in 1958 the research plant was intended as a research station for nuclear power.Didn’t happen.Despite the oil crisis, with its expensive heating and car-free Sundays, the popular and political opposition to nuclear power had increased and was blocking the use of nuclear power in Denmark.InsteadThe cooperation between research, industry and politics created a basis for growth that allowed the fledgling Danish wind turbine i…

The U.N. Climate Change Conference

Have you heard?A much-anticipated global meeting of nearly 200 nations — all seeking what has so far been elusive common ground on the issue of climate change — began [in Copenhagen] on Monday with an impassioned airing of what leaders here called the political and moral imperatives at hand.This is the United Nations Climate Change conference (or COP15), being held today through the 18th. We expect to have a lot more to say about the conference as it rolls along. In addition to our posts and our tracking events through Twitter (see our right-hand column if you don’t want to add us to your twitter feed), we will also receive dispatches from Paul Genoa, NEI’s director of policy development, who is on the ground in Copenhagen. Mr. Genoa will also be posting over at The National Journal’s Copenhagen Insider blog.---To get started, though, let’s point to some resources you find helpful in following the conference,The Conference home page and a direct link to its news page. Here’s the top …

Some Light (and Heavy) Nuclear Isotope Readings You May Have Missed Over the Past Week

If you’re not too busy during this second week of my favorite holiday month, there are a number of readings on nuclear energy I recommend (in no particular order).First is from Brian Wang who’s the main writer at Next Big Future. Brian, in a rebuttal to Michael Dittmar’s series at The Oil Drum claiming the “world’s uranium supply situation is unsustainable,” is making a small bet with Dittmar about who will be wrong in their nuclear generation and uranium forecasts out to 2020. The two have been really duking it out in the comments section which has made for quite the entertaining read.The second piece comes from This Week in Nuclear’s John Wheeler who discussed the incident at the Kaiga nuclear plant in India where a worker contaminated his fellow employees’ drinking water with tritium. After all the facts were presented, John expressed his beef with the inaccurate reporting from the media of this incident: What REALLY caught my eye about this story was the irresponsible and inaccu…

Stormy Weather and Energy Myopia

After receiving flowers and surviving a hail of flash bulbs, new IAEA chief Yukiya Amano officially began his four year term and made a short statement (there’s a video there, too, and Amano speaks in English):"The situation surrounding the Agency is stormy now. We have a lot of difficult challenges, but I would like to do my best. I would like to address the global issues that include non-proliferation of nuclear weapons, enhancing nuclear security, addressing the energy need, providing good health care, and water management, among others. I will try to be an impartial, reliable, and professional Director General."He isn’t kidding about stormy, but for now let’s allow Amano his flowers and photo ops. Plenty of time for the storms.---We found this op-ed at the Wall Street Journal by Richard Lester, head of the department of nuclear science and engineering at MIT, interesting and a little troubling. Despite his title, his interest here is in determining what it might take to…