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Showing posts from June, 2010

NRC Panel Denies Request To End Yucca Mountain

Nuclear Regulatory Commission's Atomic Safety and Licensing Board (ASLB) has denied the request by the Department of Energy to withdraw its licence application for the nuclear-waste repository at Yucca Mountain in Nevada.From the Associated Press:Energy Secretary Steven Chu doesn't have the authority to pull the plug on a process that Congress started when it passed the Nuclear Waste Policy Act in 1982, the NRC Atomic Safety and Licensing Board said in a 47-page order issued in Rockville, Md."Congress directed both that DOE file the application ... and that the NRC consider the application and issue a final, merits-based decision," the panel said. It said letting the department "single-handedly derail" the process would be "contrary to congressional intent."Needless to say, the Energy Secretary Steven Chu and the Obama administration—which announced in March that it would withdraw the application—disagree with the ASLB's finding, and Energy De…

7th Nuclear Energy Carnival and Blog Roll Updates

Charles Barton once again hosted the carnival for the week. Stop by to see what’s in spent nuclear fuel, the latest on the Jevons Paradox, and near-term uranium production.Already making a name for herself with her sweet looking artwork and recommended many, many times from fellow bloggers, Suzie Hobbs from Pop Atomic Studios has been added to our blogroll (check out some of her artwork on the right).Also recommended by all the bloggers and added to the blogroll is Nuclear Townhall managed by Steve Hedges. To kick up traffic, pro-nuke author, William Tucker, started a debate at the Townhall and asks “How damaging would it be to the U.S. nuclear energy revival if [Vermont Yankee, Oyster Creek, Indian Point, Diablo Canyon and San Onofre] were to close? There’s quite a good set of responses basically saying we shouldn’t ever let up on the critics with the facts … do stop by.

Where Are the Nuclear Forgings? Track 29!

During the period that the United States slowed construction of nuclear energy plants, the subsidiary companies that did large forgings for such plants also languished. So American concerns needed to go overseas for replacement pieces, leading to multi-ton pieces to be shipped by boat and ever so slowly delivered via flat bed train and truck to their destinations. Here’s an Insight story about a French-made steam generator and its tortuous trip to Three Mile Island.Wouldn’t it be nice to make these in the United States? Reviving the steel industry here, for whatever purpose, however tentatively, is something that can only be to the good.The facility is designed to build the world's largest steam and gas turbines for power plants as well as retrofit existing facilities, according to Alstom officials.On Wednesday, Alstom brought in about 100 customers for a sneak preview of the plant and to talk about energy, said Amy Ericson, vice president market communications for Alstom's p…

Undue Panic, APEC On Board, Nuclear Subsidies (?)

Here’s an interesting article from Fortune Magazine: Allan Sloan on why overreacting to the Deepwater Horizon spill is counterproductive, using the reaction to Three Mile Island as a template. We found it a little confused, largely because, as we’ve mentioned before, TMI and Deepwater Horizon are tough to fit together. For example, we were amused to find this in one paragraph:We panic over horrifying but fluky events like Three Mile Island and Deepwater Horizon, costing ourselves dearly.And this in the next paragraph:In an ideal world, BP would make everyone whole for the damage it has caused, its top managers would be fired and impoverished for having failed as stewards, and the company's shareholders would be wiped out in an orderly, controlled bankruptcy that doesn't create worldwide chaos.All that would be left would be to raze BP’s buildings and salt the earth where they stood. Still, he understands that, despite calling the Three Mile Island accident horrifying, it real…

Reid and Angle on Nuclear Energy

One of the most interesting races for the Senate this year will be between Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nevada) and Republican State Assembly member Sharron Angle. Reid has shepherded a fair number of controversial bills through the Senate and the anti-incumbency mood of the nation (however exaggerated – over 90 percent of incumbents have won their primaries) favors Angle. Some scattered polling shows the two about even, but polling is always iffy at such an early stage, with five months of television ads yet to come. Expect no prediction from us. But Reid is a consequential figure, so the battle to come will be of great interest.---Our interest, of course, is how the candidates view nuclear energy. We know it’s an article of political faith in Nevada for politicians to oppose Yucca Mountain as a used fuel repository, and Reid has had the heft to do something about that, but he has generally not been negative about nuclear energy. But – there’s a but. Here’s what he says on his Web site:Angle’…

Heavy Writers and Deep Thinkers - 6th Carnival of Nuclear Energy Is Here

Over the past number of weeks, you’ve seen us highlight nuclear carnivals at other folks’ blogs. This week we’re hosting it. For those new to the blogosphere, a carnival is when a community of bloggers recap each other’s best posts at a different site every week, month, or whenever. The purpose, of course, is to increase traffic at each other’s sites. Not only that, it gets the community more involved and definitely creates great connections. We have some deep thinkers and writers in the nuclear blogging community and the carnivals definitely show it. To start, Barry Brook at Brave New Climate set the record straight on the world nuclear renaissance: Despite what some may like you to believe, the nuclear renaissance is upon us. Don’t let anyone get away with telling you otherwise — they are badly misleading you.…How about this for some supporting statistics: 29 new reactors, totalling 26 gigawatts of electricity output (operating at high capacity factors without the need for energy s…

Germany Taxes (Fuel Rods), Sweden Axes (Ban)

We mentioned awhile ago that the German government intends to tax nuclear energy plants because their emission-free nature allowed them to avoid carbon taxes. Here’s how they put it:It also said that nuclear reactors aren't affected by carbon dioxide emission trade, contrary to other energy sources such as fossil fuels. As a result, utilities that operate nuclear reactors have posted considerable windfall profits, which further justify the levy, the government said.It sounded a bit extortionate to us and still does. It turns out we’re not the only ones who feel that way:Utility firms operating nuclear power plants in Germany have no legal basis for a proposed lawsuit that would fight the planned introduction of a new tax on fuel rods, the federal government said on Friday. The comment came in response to a report by the daily Frankfurter Allgemeine that utility companies are considering legal action over the proposed tax on the rods required to produce nuclear power. This appears…

Getting Hotter in Kuwait

We recently lost our Internet connection and cable TV at home due to a fire that cindered some underground fiber. Since two of the things we do most at home for entertainment is prowl the Internet for picture of nuclear power plants and channel hop in a St. Vitus kind of way, this was a problem.Generally speaking, we tend to take the presence of those things for granted, and sure, it’s certainly easy enough to do other things – talk to friends on the phone, do some writing and reading, make a more elaborate dinner. But then imagine that the grid overloads and pretty soon, you’re fleeing town for a nearby hotel with air conditioning and a pool.But even when the electricity disappears, one can reasonably guess it’ll reappear soon enough. But what if electricity use soars to the extent that it necessitates brownouts or precipitates a blackout for a considerable length of time – and the temperature is 130 degrees – and there’s nowhere to go.Meet Kuwait:Kuwait is experiencing almost emerg…

The Saudis, Poyry, and The Think Tank Principle

We’re not entirely sure how to feel about this:Top oil exporter Saudi Arabia may mine and enrich uranium to fuel power plants if it embarks on a civilian nuclear energy program, a consultant preparing a draft nuclear strategy for the kingdom said on Wednesday.Of course, that “may mine and enrich” sounds a lot like a trial balloon to see how others react. And, as writer Amena Bakr points out, neighbor UAE avoided the issue altogether:Saudi neighbor the United Arab Emirates became the first country in the Gulf Arab region to embark upon a nuclear power generation program last year. But the UAE decided from an early stage to import fuel for the plants, as it sought to reassure the international community it had no military intentions with its program.So we expect the Saudis may want to evade similar issues. However:"Nuclear energy in Saudi is really a long term strategy that can span 10-20 years from now, while renewable energy can be deployed much faster," Elkuch told Reuters…

Key Nuclear Stats From EPA's Economic Analysis of the "American Power Act"

According to EPA’s core policy analysis of Senators Kerry and Lieberman’s proposed legislation released yesterday, nuclear energy is projected to generate 44.2% of the US’ electricity in 2050, more than any other source. Total nuclear capacity is projected to more than double from 101 gigawatts in 2010 to 256 gigawatts in 2050 (assuming 90% capacity factor). This means that if all existing operating plants in the US retire at 60 years, the US will need to build another 253 GW or 181 new plants (assuming 1,400 MW each). There are not many quotes for nuclear in the two reports at the link above, but the good numbers below are found in their data tables in the zip folder.US Electricity Generation StatsIGCC – integrated gasification combined cycle coal plants, CCS – carbon capture and sequestration, MSW – municipal solid waste, CC – combined cycle gas plantsFor comparison, EPA’s analysis last summer of the Waxman/Markey House bill projected the need for 262 GW of nuclear power by 2050 (18…

Murkowski EPA Resolution Goes to a Vote

You may not know it, but the Senate took its first vote in quite a while yesterday on climate change issues. No, not one of the energy bills – Kerry-Lieberman’s or Lugar’s – but a resolution introduced by Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) to stop the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating carbon emissions.Generally speaking, this is the kind of thing Congress doesn’t do, because the EPA belongs to the executive not legislative branch of government and its operations fall outside the purview of Congress (aside from oversight, of course). So to do this, Murkowski revived a rarely deployed provision of the 1996 Congressional Review Act called a resolution of disapproval that allows Congress to overturn administrative actions. Here’s the complete text of the resolution:Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That Congress disapproves the rule submitted by the Environmental Protection Agency relating to the endangerm…

LES’ National Enrichment Facility Begins Operation – Nuclear Industry Continues to Gear Up

A great moment has been occurring the past couple of weeks out in Lea County, Eunice, New Mexico. Last week, Louisiana Energy Services held a ribbon-cutting ceremony for their completed facility which our CEO Marv Fertel and much of New Mexico’s leadership attended. The final step before operation was yesterday when the NRC gave LES the go-ahead (a big achievement considering this is the first facility to make it through the combined construction and operating licensing process). For more of the story, check out Dan Yurman’s animated account at Idaho Samizdat:Anyone who thinks there isn’t going to be a nuclear renaissance in the U.S. needs to take a look at the multi-billion bet placed by Urenco at the Louisiana Energy Services plant in Eunice, NM.The NRC said in a statement it completed the readiness review of the Louisiana Energy in Lea County, N.M., and concluded that the facility can begin operation of the first cascade under its NRC license. A cascade is a series of rotating cyl…

Couple of Reports Illustrating The Big Picture

Yesterday, Microsoft’s Bill Gates, General Electric’s Jeff Immelt and other big name CEOs who are members of the American Energy Innovation Council released a report that makes five important recommendations for US energy policy. Why did they do this?As business leaders, we feel that America’s current energy system is deficient in ways that cause serious harm to our economy, our national security, and our environment. To correct these deficiencies, we must make a serious commitment to modernizing our energy system with cleaner, more efficient technologies. Such a commitment should include both robust, public investments in innovative energy technologies as well as policy reforms to deploy these technologies on a large scale. By tapping America’s entrepreneurial spirit and longstanding leadership in technology innovation, we can set a course for a prosperous, sustainable economy—and take control of our energy future.Is nuclear included as an innovative energy technology? Well of course…

The Republican Energy Bill

The Republicans put up an alternative to the Kerry-Lieberman energy bill yesterday via Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.). For starters, it’s much smaller (112 vs. 987 pages) and has fewer titles (4 vs. 7) than Kerry-Lieberman. It is called the Practical Energy and Climate Plan Act of 2010 vs. The American Power Act. We don’t know if Lugar will have a nice logo drawn up for his bill, as Kerry and Lieberman did for theirs. Lugar has posted a video of his press conference introducing it. See that on his home page, along with a lot of links.Let’s see what the bill offers:No provisions for mandatory reductions in carbon emissions – that is, no cap-and-trade or carbon tax. Lugar has ideas on how to achieve carbon emission reductions, so hold tight.The bill heavily stresses energy efficiency, especially as regards cars, trucks and light vehicles.And buildings, too. The bill proposes $2 billion to DOE to use as a basis for loans, loan guarantees and other financial tools to help homes and business…

Head Scratchers and Extorting Nuclear

Here’s a bit of a head-scratcher:The federal regulatory agency charged with ensuring that nuclear plants are licensed and running safely could see its funding boosted -- or reduced -- in light of the gulf oil spill, Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) said today. "It may be that as a consequence of this, we can ensure that we see additional funding in our other regulatory agencies," the Senate Energy and Natural Resources panel's top Republican told an audience at a nuclear energy conference this morning. On the other hand, she speculated, "It may just be that nuclear will actually be less resourced as we try to move over to the oil and gas sector [in terms of regulatory efforts] as a consequence of [the oil spill]. I would hope that's not the case. It could go either way."Murkowski’s a big supporter of nuclear energy, so she may well just be worrying, but we find it odd that the government, even when it’s concerned with deficits, would bleed one regulatory age…

Samba Power: A Nuclear Re-Start in Brazil

It’s not often we consider nuclear energy in the Americas outside the U.S., but it’s time to take a peek at some interesting developments down in Brazil. Much has been made of the BRICs (Brazil, Russia, India, China) and their ascent (or return?) to becoming major players in the global economy. This all comes from a well-known 2001 paper by Goldman Sachs. Of course, there are jitters in the global economy now, but the overall trend has continued. In our 2001 paper, we argued that the BRIC economies
would make up more than 10% of world GDP by the end of this decade. In fact, as we near the end of 2007, their combined weight is already 15% of the global economy.And perhaps the number one thing all the BRICs need is energy. They need petroleum for cars, motorbikes and buses and electricity for offices, air conditioning and factories. In their national energy strategies Russia, India and China all have pretty robust plans for increasing nuclear capacity. Just imagine being an energy …

Crisis Leadership

In addition to the environmental consequences, the political and policy implications of the Gulf Oil spill will unfold across the energy industry for years to come. Thus we read with great interest today The Washington Post's Federal Coach column. It presented an insightful article about leadership lessons from Coast Guard Admiral Thad Allen's conduct in response to the Gulf Oil spill. The author, Tom Fox, mentions the following lessons he has taken from Admiral Allen's performance after Hurrican Katrina and now the Gulf spill:

1. Remember who counts - the people affected by the disaster.

2. Fix the problem and don't worry about blame - accountability will come later and is best left to others.

3. Trust but verify - do your own research.

4. Communicate constantly - through every means available.

Tom Fox invites reader thoughts on the response to the spill and on crisis leadership skills at fedcoach@ourpublicservice.org.

NOTE: If you'd like a taste for how clear and plain…

Release the Kraken: Energy Hubs and Simulation

The transition at the U.S. Department of Energy from a business oriented secretary – Samuel Bodman, who also had been Director of M.I.T.'s School of Engineering Practice – to a research oriented secretary – Steven Chu, previously the director of the Berkeley National Laboratory – has, naturally enough, led to an increased stress on research. While DOE always engages in research, Chu’s touting of energy hubs as engines of new ideas, as mini-Manhattan Projects, has been consistent.He has, however, had some trouble with Congress over them, with the House approving only one of eight proposed and the Senate going for three. It may be that Chu hasn’t sold them aggressively enough, it may be general budget concerns in Congress, but three is the number for now. Two relate to renewable energy sources, the third to nuclear energy. So we were interested to run into this:The University of Michigan has been named part of a national hub for boosting U.S. nuclear energy research and development…

Nuclear Graduates and Safety Rockers

Salem Community College in Carneys Point Township in New Jersey has graduated its first class of nuclear energy technology (or NET) students. This program was created in collaboration with PSEG and students did internships and other projects at the company’s plants. Corporate involvement might raise some hackles, leading an observer to question whether PSEG has helped create a program that solely fulfills its own personnel needs.Nope.The prestigious certificate is recognized by all U.S. nuclear utilities as meeting nuclear training requirements. Chattanooga State Technical Community College is the only other school awarding certificates this spring.Now, NEI is involved with this program, so we certainly like the word “prestigious.” Regardless, the programs represent a real win, both for nuclear plants with aging work forces and student who want a route into the nuclear energy industry with some relevant experience under their belts – as is done with many other fields that might other…

Fossil-Fuel Bias in Indian Point Water Permit Debate?

John Wheeler at This Week in Nuclear keeps hitting hard against New York State’s Department of Environmental Conservation:In my further research on this topic I discovered a damming piece of evidence that proves NY State is giving preferential treatment to fossil fuels while at the same time imposing unfair regulations on neighboring nuclear energy facilities, the largest competitors to fossil fuels.Stop by for the whole story.

Blog Carnival on Nuclear Energy

If you haven’t already read on other nuclear blogs, our educated and vocal nuclear community has started a weekly carnival to highlight each other’s best blog posts. Brian Wang at Next Big Future initiated the carnival, Charles Barton at Nuclear Green kept it going, and Mr. Wang posted the third of the series several days ago. Stop by to check them out, we’ll be hosting a few in the future as well.