Archive for May, 2010

TURNING JAPANESE? Tokyo Electric to buy 9.2% of South Texas nuclear project

Tuesday, May 11th, 2010

One of the most common criticisms of the Nuclear Renaissance these days is that “we can’t afford it.”  “Wall Street won’t invest,” the argument goes. “It’s too risky and expensive. That’s why it needs government help.”

But there’s a third option that naysayers never consider but is shaping up to be the answer. Foreign countries will invest. That’s what happened this week in Texas.

Tokyo Electric Company – an electric utility, not a nuclear construction company – invested $125 million for a 9.2 percent share of the South Texas project in which Nuclear Innovation North America, a consortium headed by NRG Energy of Princeton, N.J.

The 1,350-megawatt reactor is already being built by Toshiba, which has inherited the Westinghouse nuclear franchise. Tokyo Electric had been offering technical assistance and decided to take a share – an unusual move by American standards. Imagine Southern California Edison taking a share in a reactor in Japan!  They’ve got enough trouble already building useless renewable energy projects to satisfy deluded California politicians.

The deal is both good news and bad news for the American nuclear effort. The good news is foreign countries will provide the needed capital. It wouldn’t be surprising to see Middle Eastern sovereign wealth companies investing soon. This is the way we built the railroads in the early 1800s, mostly with European capital.

The bad news is the U.S. failure to develop nuclear power has put us back where we were in 1820 – a relatively undeveloped country that needs foreign assistance to build its infrastructure. It could be worse. It could be we aren’t building anything at all.

Read more at Business Week

William Tucker

Non-Proliferation Worrywarts Still Haven’t Discovered North Korea

Tuesday, May 11th, 2010

In the long list of Extraordinary Popular Delusions About Nuclear Energy, none matches the fantasy that the U.S. still possesses the secret to nuclear weapons and that we can prevent it from spreading across the globe.

This 1945-style phantasm was on display again House Foreign Affairs Terrorism, Nonproliferation and Trade Subcommittee, where Washington nonprofit worrywarts once again tried to convince gullible Congressmen that all we have to do it hide our light under a bushel and the world will never learn about nuclear energy.

In an age when the U.S. is importing far more nuclear technology than we are exporting, the K Street set is still asking for more Congressional oversight. "Congress needs to require that both houses approve all nuclear cooperative agreements that the executive branch negotiates," Henry Sokolski, executive director of the Washington-based Nonproliferation Policy Education Center, told the hearings. “The United States could also threaten to withdraw its nuclear material and technical support if a nation tested atomic weapons.”

Haven’t we done this already?  It was the Canadians that supplied India with its bomb material, not us. And that was in 1974. Since then, North Korea has figured out how to do it themselves.

The upshot of all this is that other countries still continue to surge ahead while we sit deluding ourselves we still lead the world in nuclear technology. Russia is supplying nuclear technology and building reactors in Iran, Egypt, Morocco, India, Vietnam, Brazil and Hugo Chavez’s Venezuela. China is helping Pakistan. Wouldn’t it be safer if we were superintending the development of these countries’ nuclear programs?

Read more at Global Security News Wire

William Tucker

Nuclear Engineer Quells NY Times Rumors of Al Qaeda Meltdown

Tuesday, May 11th, 2010

It may be impossible to keep up with all the misinformation that appears in newspapers, but Jack Gamble, a highly trained nuclear engineer, is giving it a try.

Last week on the op-ed page of The New York Times, Charles Faddis, who identifies himself as a former CIA agent, wrote a lurid fantasy of how the recent defection to Al Qaeda of a former New Jersey nuclear maintenance man posed a threat to every reactor in the country.

“It doesn’t take top-level clearance to know how to set off a nuclear meltdown,” intoned Mr. Faddis. “All it takes is information on perimeter security — information Mr. Mobley possesses about every plant where he worked.”

You don’t have to be a nuclear expert to sense something wrong here. All it takes is a little security information to cause a meltdown?  Why hasn’t the Mafia tried holding the country hostage by trying such an attack?  Or perhaps some street gang from Brooklyn? Still, those CIA credentials can be imposing.

Gamble brings a little informed intelligence to the situation. In a carefully reasoned, 1100-word essay, he explains that “not just anyone can cause a meltdown,” that reactors have redundant safety systems, and that a 9/11-style airplane attack on a reactor would result in a pile of aluminum fragments (illustrated with the famous 1990s DOE video). It’s the kind of sober assessment that would calm fears and further public understanding.

Unfortunately, Gamble’s thoughtful piece does not appear on the Times’ op-ed page but on Nuclear Fissionary, an excellent blog that doesn’t yet match the Times’ circulation figures.

If you want to read it and spread the word, however, you can find it here

William Tucker

HOW MUCH IS TOO MUCH FOR NUCLEAR ENERGY?

Tuesday, May 11th, 2010

Progress Energy’s recent decision to proceed with the Levy project – two AP1000 reactors on a single site – has set off a debate in the pages of the Tampa Tribune.

The utility has already lost a bid to have the estimated $13 billion construction costs incorporated into its rate base during construction of the project. Still hopeful that it can win a federal loan guarantee, Progress has said it will slow preliminary construction on the site but continue its license application with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

Tribune business columnist Robert Trigaux takes exception to all this. Citing far-out estimates that costs could rise to $22 billion, he predicts a return to the 1980s when reactors came in at three times their original estimates, and says it’s time to rethink the project.

What’s interesting is the reader response. In these times when wisdom is not necessarily concentrated in newspaper editorial offices but distributed throughout the population, the general response seems to be that Florida needs the electricity and nuclear will ultimately be cheaper and cleaner. Except for one latter-day Lenin who says that a Worker’s Party is the key to powering Florida, it’s a pretty level-headed response.

Read more at Tampa Tribune

William Tucker

Texas, New Jersey Neighbors Love Their Nuclear

Monday, May 10th, 2010

The amazing pattern of overwhelming support for nuclear among people who live next door to reactors continued last week at public hearings in Texas and New Jersey.

In Bay City, Texas a raucous crowed voiced nearly unanimous support for construction of the South Texas 2 and 3 projects before a public hearing by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

“We need these jobs,” Carolyn Thames, a member of the Bay City Council told NRC panelists. “We love STP!” she concluded, to loud applause. The only opponents were a representative of Ralph Nader’s Public Citizen and the anti-nuclear SEED Coalition who traveled all the way from Austin to argue the plant isn’t needed.

The South Texas Project, headed by NRG, is a finalist for federal loan guarantees.

Meanwhile, in Salem County, New Jersey local business and political expressed support for PSE&G’s plans to file for permission to build a third reactor to join Salem Units 1 and 2.

“With unemployment in the county hovering at about 12 percent, the economic possibilities of the plant cannot be overstated,” said Salem County Freeholder Bruce Bobbitt, echoing a theme sounded constantly at nuclear hearings. The utility company is already the largest private employer in Salem County.

Why is it that people who are most rabidly opposed to nuclear reactors usually have very little first-hand experience with them?

Read more at My San Antonio News

and

PressofAtlanticCity.com

William Tucker

EDITORIAL: COMPLETE REPLACEMENT OF…VERMONT’S ELECTRICITY THAT COMES FROM VY EVERY YEAR WOULD REQUIRE ABOUT 833 SOLAR FARMS

Monday, May 10th, 2010

As Vermont pushes closer to the edge of abandoning nuclear power, reasonable voices are starting to emerge taking account of the consequences.

Gary Silverstein, a personal and global health educator who taught at the University of Vermont for 22 years, has written just such a levelheaded piece for the Burlington Free Press. In a calm, rational manner, he points out what Vermont will be facing if it tries to close Vermont Yankee:

“Complete replacement of the one-third of Vermont’s electricity that comes from VY (about 2.5 billion kilowatt) every year would require about 833 solar farms, each occupying 30-40 acres of open space, one of Vermont’s most precious resources. The cost increase a year for complete replacement of VY’s power by solar farms would be about $600 million dollars.”

“The cost of energy (sold to utilities) associated with the solar farm would be about $900,000 a year. The cost of an equivalent amount of electricity supplied by VY at the new proposed 6.1-cent a kilowatt rate would be $183,000.”

The comments in response to this approach are favorable: 

“More objectively written articles like this one should be written to benefit the correct choice of alternatives available.”

“Thank you for this article. Information like this is essential to making logical, not emotional, decisions about the future of renewable energy.”

Slow but sure wins the race.

Read more at the Burlington Free Press

William Tucker

RUSSIA CLOSE TO NUCLEAR DEAL WITH TURKEY

Monday, May 10th, 2010

The Russians continued their march across the continents with an announcement they will sign an agreement with Turkey to build a nuclear reactor.

Unlike previous agreements, however, the Russians will actually own the reactor and guarantee the electricity to the Turks. Previously, they have granted ownership to the host country.

Russia is currently building five nuclear power units abroad, two in Indian, one in Iran, and two in Bulgaria, plus it has an agreement to build 12 reactors for India. It has similar agreements for building single reactors and transferring nuclear technology with Egypt, Morocco, Argentina, Brazil, Bangladesh, the Czech Republic and Vietnam.

Gazprom, Russia’s national gas company, is also is in negotiations to supply Turkey. Thus, the Russians are not only using their natural resources to extend their influence, they are also forging ahead with nuclear technology.

Read more at the Hurriyet Daily News

William Tucker

Brazil to Build Multi-purpose Isotope Reactor

Friday, May 7th, 2010

Brazil will expand its nuclear program by construction a small, $483 million reactor for the production of medical isotopes, according to reports that came out of the country this week.

The reactor will also power a new uranium enrichment facility the country is building to supply fuel to Brazil’s two existing reactors plus any new ones as well. "The multipurpose reactor has a very important role in the nuclear program," Science and Technology Minister Sergio Rezende said in the daily O Estado de Sao Paulo.

Brazil recently announced plans to built two new reactors in the country’s northeastern provinces to meet rising demands for electricity in this developing area. The isotope reactor will be in the southeastern city of Ipero, 80 miles inland from Sao Paulo, where Brazil is building the enrichment plant and also initiating a nuclear submarine project.

Brazil is a signer of the Non-Proliferation Treaty and its constitution forbids the development of nuclear weapons.   

Read more at France24.com

William Tucker

Yeah, We’ve Got an App for That

Friday, May 7th, 2010

Soon you may be able to carry a reactor around in your pocket. A simulated, 3-D one at least.

Programmers and nuclear scientists at the University of Utah’s School of Nuclear Engineering have developed a software application that allows them to simulate their Triaga research reactor and predict its performance and possibly prolonging its life. With sufficient date, the application can work for other reactors as well. Developed in ImageVis3D Mobile, the application operates on iPod, iPad or the iPhone.

“It’s a phenomenal teaching tool,” says Tatjana Jevremovic, director of the university’s nuclear engineering program. “We’ll be able to design reactors much faster than we did 15 or 20 years ago.”

Unfortunately, the application is not available commercially but will only be distributed to engineering students.

Jevremovic said there is a “huge need to train new nuclear engineers because 40 percent of our current work force will be retiring in the next four years.”  She also called nuclear power “essential for the environment of our children.”

In that case, maybe it might be worth developing a simplified version of the application that can be sold to those very same children to get them interested in nuclear power. What could be more exciting to a 15-year-old than carrying a nuclear reactor around in your pocket?

Read more at Cleantech

William Tucker

California Joins Blue-State Rebellion Against Nuclear

Friday, May 7th, 2010

For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. That’s Newton’s Third Law and it seems to apply to the Nuclear Revival as well.

While the President and Congress are moving toward reviving nuclear construction around the country, California has joined the march of East and West Coast states trying to close down their reactors.

The California State Water Resources Control Board this week voted to ban once-through cooling at power plants on the grounds that it threatens marine life.  Immediately affected are the San Onofre and Diablo Canyon reactors, which will be given only until 2015 to install multi-billion-dollar cooling towers or some other unspecified method of reducing their thermal impact. The two reactors provide 12 percent of the state’s electricity and California imports another 3 percent from Palo Verde in Arizona.

But then nuclear shouldn’t feel singled out. Also affected are 17 fossil fuel plants around the state that use river or ocean water to dispel the heat from their boilers. Several fossil fuel plants around Los Angeles will be given special dispensation until 2020.  The city is currently flirting with bankruptcy. 

Thus California joins New York, New Jersey and Vermont on the East Coast in the march to close aging reactors and replace them with . . . . well, something.  New York and New Jersey both issued similar orders to build cooling toward at Indian Point and Oyster Creek.  Nuclear supplies one-third of New York City’s electricity and half of New Jersey’s.  The Vermont legislature has also voted to close Vermont Yankee, which provides 70 percent of the electricity generated within the state. 

Most of the proposed new reactors, on the other hand, are in the South, the Midwest and Texas. Within another decade, the dividing line between the coastal “blue” states and the fly-over “red” states may be that one will be getting electricity from nuclear power while the other is covering its mountains and landscapes with windmills.

Read more at World Nuclear News

William Tucker