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Showing posts from October, 2012

NEI Press Release: Nuclear Energy Facilities Prove Resilience During Hurricane Sandy

NEI Has just issued the following press release concerning nuclear energy facilities impacted by Hurricane Sandy:
Nuclear Energy Facilities Prove Resilience During Hurricane Sandy

Washington, D.C., October 30, 2012--Thirty-four nuclear energy facilities in the path of Hurricane Sandy have responded well and safely to this powerful storm, demonstrating their resilience against severe natural forces.

Careful planning and comprehensive preparations days in advance of the storm paid off at all of the facilities, which were prepared to take the steps necessary to maintain safety against high winds, record flooding and disturbances on the regional electric grid. Highly trained reactor operators and emergency response personnel stationed at the plants throughout the storm were able to take actions beyond their usual duties to protect the power plants and communities that surround them. As Hurricane Sandy moves beyond the mid-Atlantic and Northeastern states after knocking out electricity to…

Tracking Hurricane Sandy

Like millions living along the East Coast of the U.S., everyone here at NEI is keeping a close eye at the track of Hurricane Sandy. Although NEI's offices in downtown Washington, D.C. are closed today, my colleagues and I are still working from our homes in the city and the suburbs. Please follow us all day long on our Twitter feed for the latest news impacting our member companies.

As for the nuclear industry as a whole, there are about 20 facilities located on the East Coast that might be impacted by the arrival of the Hurricane. Last night, Matt Wald of the New York Times posted the following about how the industry has prepared over at the NY Times Green blog:
Among the various immobile pieces of infrastructure in the path of the East Coast hurricane are around 20 nuclear reactors, from Calvert Cliffs in southern Maryland to Pilgrim in Plymouth, Mass., and Vermont Yankee, just north of the Massachusetts line in Vernon, Vt. But the industry and regulatory officials say that thi…

Nuclear Politics in Missouri

The election this year has focused by and large on the economy and a fair number of important issues have fallen away. They haven’t ceased being important, of course, but politicians follow the interests of the public. One of the issues that has gotten less attention than in previous cycles is energy. In the 2008 contests, the candidates on both sides brought it up at the debates and even nuclear energy got a look (there wasn’t much distance between the candidates – nuclear energy was well supported across the ideological spectrum.)

But this year – not so much in the way of discussion and very little about nuclear energy. So let’s turn instead to what some of the local candidates are talking about.

Over in Missouri, incumbent state Representative Jeanie Riddle (R) and challenger Pam Murray (D) are running in the 20th district, an area that includes the Callaway facility, so nuclear energy is an issue in there.

Surely, there’s some room for disagreement:
Incumbent House Rep. Jeanie Rid…

If Nuclear Energy Is Immoral…

"If we are fair dinkum about reducing carbon emissions, and we want to have a minimum carbon emission form of power, then uranium is where it's going to be." And as we know, Australia is fair dinkum, but nuclear energy is not part of the equation. The speaker is Senator Barnaby Joyce, who quite rightly wonders why his country is so eager to export uranium if nuclear energy is so -
"Let's be honest, if you think nuclear energy is immoral, why on earth are you exporting uranium?" What he’s reacting to is the decision to start mining the (plentiful) uranium in the Queensland province. Apparently, that won’t happen right away.
AUA [Australia Uranium Association] communications director Simon Clarke said uranium was already being sold from existing mines in other states.
"But the estimate of the price that would make it viable to build new mines suggest that the market will be ready for new mine capacity in some time from five to seven years," he said…

Why The Economics Don't Work for Kewaunee Anymore

Over the past 24 hours, we've seen a number of folks online ask the question of why it's no longer economically feasible for Dominion to continue to operate the Kewaunee Power Station in Wisconsin. Earlier today, I put the question to Richard Myers, NEI's Vice President, Policy Development, Planning and Supplier Programs. Here's what he wrote back:
In 2005, when Dominion bought the plant: (1) power prices in the Midwest were in the $40-50/MWhr range; wellhead gas prices were in the $6-10 per million Btu range; and U.S. electricity demand was growing.

Today: (1) power prices in the Midwest are in the $30/MWhr range: gas prices are in the $2-3 per million Btu range; and (3) the U.S. has had 5 years of no growth in electricity demand, thanks to the worst recession in 80 years. Thanks to Richard for laying out the numbers for us. For a statement from NEI's Marv Fertel on the decision to close Kewaunee, click here. For a a quote from an RBS research note that defended …

UBS on Dominion's Decision to Close and Decommission Kewaunee Power Station

The global equity research group at the investment bank UBS just published a research note concerning Dominion's decision to close and decommission the Kewaunee Power Station:
In 2011, Kewaunee had a loss of -$39Mn in net income, which D[ominion] excluded from operating earnings. Following a roll-off of the above market PPA at the end of ’13, we had projected that earnings would fall by another ~$65Mn driving negative FCF and minimal EBITDA. We agree that the economics of Kewaunee were uniquely challenged given its small size and regionally depressed power prices.That's a conclusion that pretty much reinforces what Dominion had to say earlier today.

Statement from NEI President and CEO Marv Fertel on Closing of Kewaunee Power Station

Earlier this morning, Dominion announced that it would be closing the Kewaunee Power Station, a 556 MWe nuclear facility located about 27 miles outside Green Bay, Wisconsin.The following is an official statement from Marv Fertel, NEI's President and CEO, concerning the announcement.
"Nuclear energy remains a reliable, cost-effective producer of electricity for America’s homes and our economy. As stated by Dominion, the company’s decision to close Kewaunee is based on the fact that it did not acquire additional reactors in the Midwest markets, so it could not achieve the economy of scale needed to be economical in that low-price power market.

"Dominion is one of the best nuclear energy facility operators in the country and is committed to nuclear energy in other states it serves as part of the company’s electricity portfolio. Nuclear energy is vital to meet America’s growing electricity needs today and to ensure the secure, reliable and low-carbon power for decades to c…

Nuclear Takes Charge in Ontario–But Whither Coal?

This is good news worth attending to:Nuclear generator Bruce Power's Unit 2 sent power to Ontario's electricity grid for the first time in 17 years yesterday, part of Bruce Power's revitalization program and an important step to eliminating the use of coal-fired electricity in 2014.In Ontario, not all of Canada.Over the past 10 years, Ontario has decreased its coal reliance by 90 percent, and Bruce Power has increased its nuclear output by 55 percent. Bruce is positioned to generate a quarter of the province's electricity -- enough to power cities the size of Ottawa and London, Ontario combined -- now that Units 1 and 2 are back and its full capacity of 8 units is being realized. It may not be as obvious to us as it is to Canadians what Bruce Power is trying to do here. So let’s let Bruce Power tell you:With the return to service of Units 1 and 2, Bruce Power will remain a key player in both reducing and staying off coal, which is one of the largest greenhouse gas redu…

NEI Energy Markets Report (October 8-12, 2012)

Here's a snippet of what went on in the energy markets last week:Electricity peak prices rose slightly last week at ERCOT and Palo Verde, averaging $32-34/MWh at those hubs. Meanwhile at the Northeast, PJM, and Southwest hubs, prices fell $2, $6, and $11, respectively, to average $38-39/MWh. Gas at the Henry Hub rose 12 cents during the week, averaging $3.38/MMBtu. “Faced with softening fall demand fundamentals, power prices for next day delivery worked mostly lower across the U.S. on Thursday, Oct. 11, even as traders looked to rising natural gas prices and climbing outages. ... Cash gas markets also worked higher, adding as much as 15 cents in parts of the West and as much as 25 cents in the East, which offered direct support to power markets. Also lending support, various generating units continue to drop offline, and the outages will accelerate in the coming weeks as units shutter operations for fall maintenance and refueling. ... Several more outages lie around the corner. Ac…

NEI Nuclear Performance Report – September 2012

Here's a summary of the performance of the U.S. nuclear fleet in September:For the third month in a row, U.S. monthly nuclear generation lagged compared to the same periods in 2011. September 2012 nuclear generation was 3.7 percent lower than September 2011 generation and year-to-date nuclear generation was 0.9 percent lower than generation in the same period in 2011, 585.1 bkWh vs. 590.6 bkWh, respectively. The capacity factor in September 2012 was 88.2 percent compared to 91.6 percent in September 2011. The average capacity factor for the nuclear fleet for the nine months of 2012 was 87.7 percent compared to 88.9 percent for the same period in 2011.Nineteen units have refueled or are currently refueling during Fall 2012 as of October 17th compared to 16 units in Fall 2011 as of the same date. The FitzPatrick and Palo Verde 2 units are refueling after completing 702 days and 518 days of continuous operation, respectively, from their previous refueling outages.For more of the repo…

Seabrook Nuclear Plant Not Impacted by New England Earthquake

The USGS is reporting that a minor earthquake struck Maine near the town of Lake Arrowhead shortly after 7:00 p.m. this evening. The nuclear power plant closest to the epicenter of the quake, Seabrook, which is in the midst of a refueling outage, declared an unusual event in response. The following is an official statement from NextEra Energy, the owner of the plant:
This evening, by procedure, Seabrook Station declared an unusual event due to the seismic activity felt throughout the region. An unusual event is the lowest of four Nuclear Regulatory Commission emergency classifications.

The plant has been and is currently shut down in a planned refueling outage. There has been no impact to the plant from the earthquake and our outage activities have not been affected in any way. We expect to exit from the unusual event shortly.

By way of background, Seabrook is designed to withstand the strongest earthquake ever experienced in New England, and then some. Thanks to the team at NextEra…

Taking Media on a Tour of TMI

Guest Post by NEI’s Senior Media Relations Manager Mitch Singer

Last week, NEI’s media team partnered with Exelon to host a sizable and impressive contingent of reporters for a tour of the Three Mile Island (TMI) nuclear plant near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. We had representatives from The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, Reuters, Bloomberg, National Journal and Climate Wire. We were delighted to be able to help the journalists see first-hand the facility’s industrial robustness and strong security presence and to interact directly with some of TMI’s dedicated professionals. My NEI media team colleague Tom Kauffman, a former reactor operator at Three Mile Island, joined me on the tour. Tom was actually working at TMI at the time of the accident in 1979, so be brings a wealth of perspective for the touring reporters. Ralph DeSantis, TMI’s Manager of Outreach Programs, led the tour, and he was aided by Craig Nesbit, Exelon’s Vice President for Communications, and Dave Tillma…

Singapore: Not All Nuclear News Is Good

From Singapore:Second Minister for Trade and Industry S Iswaran said a pre-feasibility study has concluded that current nuclear energy technology is not suitable for use in Singapore, even though the latest designs of nuclear power plants are much safer than older designs which remain in use in many countries.Not exactly a  good time story for nuclear energy advocates.Konstantin Foskolos, project adviser from Switzerland, said: "Singapore should wait for a reactor technology that cannot have a severe accident like in Fukushima - where the probability of such an accident is practically zero. Fukushima reactors belong to a technology which is 30,40 years old. They cannot compare with today's reactors. This zero probability for an accident can be achieved by different kinds of technology, which are currently under scrutiny and under development."None of this really adds up – if Foskolos feels that current technology is not like that of Fukushima Daiichi, and less prone to a…

NEI Energy Markets Report (October 1-5, 2012)

Here's a snippet of what went on in the energy markets last week:Electricity peak prices fell slightly last week at ERCOT and Palo Verde, averaging $32/MWh at those hubs. Meanwhile at the Northeast and PJM hubs, prices rose $7 to average $40 and $45/MWh, respectively. “Next-day power markets were mixed to conclude the first week of the new month Friday, Oct. 5, as traders looked to cover short positions ahead of the impending weekend but also with choppy demand outlooks and recent ho-hum moves for natural gas also coming into play.” (SNL Energy’s Power Daily – 10/8/12)…West Texas Intermediate crude oil fell 54 cents to average $90.81/bbl last week. “EIA projects average household expenditures for heating oil and natural gas will increase by 19 percent and 15 percent, respectively, this winter (October 1 through March 31) compared with last winter. Projected household expenditures are 5 percent higher for electricity and 13 percent higher for propane this winter. Average expenditur…

The Irresistible Chaos of German Energy Policy

The news out of Germany could be better, but your feeling about it may depend on how much sympathy you have for a country that keeps shooting its own feet:
Germany's surcharge for renewable energy will rise by almost half next year, a government source told Reuters on Wednesday, intensifying the burden for consumers from the country's shift away from nuclear power. Reuters could have avoided the nuclear energy angle, but make no mistake – the decision to shut the nuclear plants before renewable energy sources were really ready to take over has done no one any favors.

This story in Der Spiegel (in English) makes the point the German way – bluntly:
With the new rates, German citizens will be paying a total of more than €20 billion ($25.7 billion) next year to promote renewable energy. This is more than €175 for an average three-person household, a 50 percent increase over current figures. And then there are the additional charges a consumer pays for the electricity tax, the coge…

The Japanese Double Whammy

A double whammy for energy companies in Japan: it’s really breathtaking:
Japan's new tax on carbon emissions will cost utilities about 80 billion yen ($1.02 billion) annually from 2016, adding to their already high costs of running power stations after the Fukushima crisis shut most of the country's nuclear plants, a government backed think-tank said.Leaving aside the value of a carbon tax, about which reasonable minds can disagree, that’s a lot of money. For a country that has recently had to switch on some coal and oil plants to spell the nuclear energy shutdown, it just feels – mean. And as long as the companies pay the levy, it doesn’t actually help reduce carbon emissions.

Now, to be fair, the government wants to put the money into renewable energy sources. I don’t really understand well enough where the government’s interests intersects with those of industry. Furthermore, the story doesn’t explain whether this money will subsidize industry efforts in a public-private par…

What Is Said About Nuclear Energy–and What It Means

From Konrad Szymanski, a European Parliament MP:
“Commissioner [Gunther] Oettinger is responsible for energy policy across all 27 EU countries. It would be extremely disappointing if this became an exercise in forcing Germany’s position on nuclear energy down the throats of other countries.” I’ve never cared for that phrase, popular during the health care debate, and would be surprised if Szymanski actually used it in whichever language he was speaking when he said it.

What he’s talking about is a European Union report about the stress tests performed on nuclear energy facilities there. The report does not recommend closing any plants; it does recommend spending up to 25 billion Euro (about $32 billion) to make them “safer.” This hasn’t gone over well.
The report is misleading because it conveys the impression that plants are unsafe and a lot of work is needed to make them safer, while in reality the situation is not that dramatic. Moreover, the methodology by which the commission rea…

NEI Energy Markets Report (September 24-28, 2012)

Here's a snippet of what went on in the energy markets last week:Electricity peak prices rose across the country last week, except at the Northeast hub, where they fell $8/MWh. “As traders closed their books on September and dealt the first daily product for October, power prices drifted in mixed directions in the eastern two-thirds of the U.S. on Friday, Sept. 28. ... Across the U.S., demand remains a muted driver as the mild fall air keeps weather-related demand balanced between cooling and heating needs. However, a growing number of outages continued to lend power prices a push higher, especially with natural gas prices once again on the rise, meaning replacement generation is likely to cost more, too.” (SNL Energy’s Power Daily, 10/1/12)…Average nuclear plant availability fell one percent last week, to 83 percent nationwide. Beaver Valley 2 began a planned refueling and maintenance outage September 24. Brunswick 1, Nine Mile Point 1, and Monticello returned to service after br…

The Nuclear Reactor on Crystal River

No one wants drilling rigs to topple into the ocean. Or coal mines to leak toxic and/or explosive gases into tunnels. Or windmills to wipe out populations of bats. There are risks to virtually any human endeavor, of course, and there are benefits to balance against them, but the goal is always to minimize risk and maximize benefits. If the risk can be close to zero and the benefits considerable, that’s of course ideal if difficult to achieve.

I know all of this is obvious, but it’s nice occasionally to see it reaffirmed publically.
“The review found that the current repair plan appears to be technically feasible,” said Alex Glenn, incoming president of Progress Energy Florida, a subsidiary of Duke Energy, “but significant risks and technical issues still need to be resolved, including the ultimate scope of any repair work. Glenn is talking about a crack in a containment dome at Progress Energy’s Crystal River 3 facility in Florida. Progress (which is now part of Duke Energy) wanted …

Guest Post: Advancing Nuclear Energy Innovation, Technology