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Archive for December, 2010


Friday, December 31st, 2010

Nuclear Townhall
December 31, 2010


An unidentified source in a French news story says the Obama Administration may be holding back from awarding a federal loan guarantee to NRG’s South Texas project because it is in the Lone Star State. 

"According to one source, the Obama administration would prefer the loan guarantee to go to the Calvert Cliffs project in Maryland, which is a Democratic state, rather than to NRG’s project in largely Republican Texas," says this report from Agence France-Presse.  "According to the same source the DoE would also prefer the money go to EDF to avoid the risk of making the US nuclear sector over-reliant on Japanese technology."

The story is a boilerplate review for French readers spelling out Electricite de France’s difficulties in reviving Calvert Cliffs after its partner, Constellation Energy, dropped off the project two month ago. The comment comes far down near the end of the story.  Still, it has a ring of plausibility, since the Obama Administration is about to square off with Texas over the authority to issue air quality permits regulating carbon, beginning January 2.  On the other hand, it’s hard to see why relying on Japanese technology is any different from relying on French technology.  The real problem is that there is very little American technology remaining since the roadblocks to nuclear development erected in the past 30 years have driven most of the industry offshore.

Constellation walked away from Calvert Cliffs after the Congressional Budget Office estimated the chances of a loan default at 50 percent and asked a $700 million fee in compensation.  EDF has tried to revive the project but must find an American partner to satisfy a 1950s law saying non-American companies cannot own more than half of a commercial reactor.  NRG’s South Texas project has had its own troubles, with the City of San Antonio pulling out of the project when it became too expensive.  NRG is attempting to build two Westinghouse Advanced Boiling Water Reactors, a technology that is not the most advanced but has an old approval from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.  The more advanced technology, the Westinghouse-Toshiba AP1000, now under construction at four sites in China, is still under review at the NRC after six years.   EDF’s Calvert Cliffs project would be an Areva’s U.S. Evolutionary Power Reactor (EPR), a duplicate of the European Power Reactor that Areva is constructing in France and Finland.  The only remaining U.S. design, General Electric’s Advanced Boiling Water Reactor, is now being marketed in conjunction with Hitachi.

If the Obama Administration wants to promote American nuclear technology, it will have to do more than block loan guarantees at South Texas.


Read more at Agence France Presse



Friday, December 31st, 2010

Nuclear Townhall
December 31, 2010


In a long, front page analysis, The New York Times sees both the Obama Administration and the new Republican House of Representatives facing a double-edged sword with the coming showdown over the Environmental Protection Agency‘s plans to regulate carbon dioxide emissions as of January 2.

"While only the first phase of regulation takes effect on Sunday, the administration is on notice that if it moves too far and too fast in trying to curtail the ubiquitous gases that are heating the planet it risks a Congressional backlash that could set back the effort for years," reports staffer John Broder.

"But the newly muscular Republicans in Congress could also stumble by moving too aggressively to handcuff the Environmental Protection Agency, provoking a popular outcry that they are endangering public health in the service of their well-heeled patrons in industry.“`These are hand grenades, and the pins have been pulled,’” William K. Reilly, former EPA administrator for the first President George Bush The Times.

Somehow, though, The Times misses the point that the face-off is about to occur immediately over the EPA’s move last week to take over air permitting in Texas.  The story mentions Texas’ refusal to begin enforcing carbon restrictions in January but does not mention the EPA’s unilateral action.  Texas is arguing that in the past states have been given three years to draw up implementation plans after new regulatory goals were issued.  EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson ruled last August that the situation with carbon emissions was too dire to allow usual three-year time frame.  Texas is challenging this decision in court.

The EPA’s emergency time schedule does have its supporters. Of the 60 comments left on the Times website, nearly all were in support of the EPA action – indicating that Reilly may be right about the hand grenades.

Read more at The New York Times


Thursday, December 30th, 2010

Nuclear Townhall
December 30, 2010
From the Editors

George F. Will discourses on the past and future of coal in today’s column and how China’s headlong rush into coal will easily undo any progress made in this country on reducing carbon emissions.  The  centerpiece of his story is a coal exporting terminal being constructed by an Australian firm in Cowlitz Country, Washington, across the Columbia River from Portland.

"Half of the 6 billion tons of coal burned globally each year is burned in China," write Will.  "A spokesman for the Sierra Club, which in recent years has helped to block construction of 139 proposed coal-fired plants in America, says, `This is undermining everything we’ve accomplished.’ America, say environmentalists, is exporting global warming."

He also quotes James Fallows’ recent cover story in The Atlantic that tries to tell environmentalists that solar and wind will never make it and the utopia to which they must resign themselves is "Dirty Coal, Clean Future."  Remarkably, Fallows makes almost no mention of nuclear in this prognosticating effort. 

What Will doesn’t see coming – although he does suggest it – is that the Sierra Club will soon begin protesting coal exports as well.  After all, won’t these facilities require environmental impact statements?  And shouldn’t such statements include the long-range impact of global warming?  After all, if California can hobble its economy – and if the EPA can try to do the same for Texas – why can’t the Sierra Club do the same thing in Cowlitz?

It’s a new angle for the Sierra Club but don’t be surprised to see them working it in the near future.

Read more in the Washington Post



Wednesday, December 29th, 2010

Nuclear Townhall
December 29, 2010

The call to battle went out yesterday across the land as conservative editorials warned of the impending confrontation between The Lone Star State and the Environmental Protection Administration over carbon emissions."While most of America was unwrapping their Christmas presents, Texas Gov. Rick Perry was staring at a lump of coal the Environmental Protection Agency put in his state’s stocking," said Investors Business Daily.

"We look forward to the open debate [in Congress],"  wrote the Orange Country Register, "which will be an opportunity to stem the frantic rush to solve the global warming nonproblem, while exposing the shaky science behind climate alarmism and informing the public of its actual costs."

"The EPA action invites charges of unsanctioned, unwarranted government intrusion and usurpation of states’ rights, especially in regard to Texas," said the Corpus Christie Caller.  The American Spectator called it "the opening shot of the War Between the Red and Blue States."

EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson’s actions did indeed constitute an extraordinary departure from previous precedents.  Normally states are given three years to come up with implementation plans when the EPA announces a new regulatory goal.  But Jackson decided last August that the global  warming crisis was too serious for such a leisurely schedule.  She announced implementation would begin on January 2, 2011 instead. 

When Texas balked at the accelerated pace, she ruled last week that EPA would take over  permitting of new construction – which probably means putting a hold on 167 major projects.  Ironically, all this occurred during a week when the East Coast was being hit by a two-foot blizzard.  Last Friday a Boston weather consultant, writing on the op-ed page of The New York Times, said the result of global warming might actually be more severe cold and wintry weather around the world and that it might be time to go back and retool the computer models.

One way or another, it looks like carbon emissions in Texas are going to be one of the first orders of business when the 112th Congress convenes next week


Wednesday, December 29th, 2010

Nuclear Townhall
December 29, 2010

As the 112th Congress prepares to convene, a big question hanging in the air is this:  Will the Tea Party support nuclear energy as a part of restoring American prosperity or will it bring the Renaissance to a halt by cutting the loan guarantees that seem to be a necessary part of the revival?

Politico does an excellent job of laying out the ground rules in this long analysis.  "Although several tea party-supported winners in the House espoused an `all of the above’ approach to energy policy that included nuclear energy during their campaigns," writes Darius Dixon. "it remains to be seen how these new members will react to the sticker shock of new reactors and the massive role the federal government plays throughout the industry. Nuclear power is where energy independence meets big government – the industry depends on subsidies, loan guarantees and other federal funds that are an easy target for those seeking to shave deficits and big government."

Dixon lays out the key players – Senators Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., Lamar Alexander, R.-Tenn., and John McCain, R-Ariz., all of whom have been outspoken in favor  of  nuclear but are not particularly associated with the Tea Party.  On the House side, Congressman Fred Upton, who will head the House Energy and Commerce Committee, wrote an op-ed in Politico earlier this month with former Secretary of Energy Spencer Abraham supporting a nuclear revival.  But Upton had the backing of the old guard when he beat out Texas Congressman Joe Barton for the chairmanship – although he now seems to be making up for lost time.  The real bellwether will be Representatives Adam Kinzinger (Ill.) and David McKinley (W.Va.), both Two Party freshmen who have snagged seats on the Energy and Commerce Committee.  Both are pro-nuclear but have not yet confronted the question of federal subsidies.

The story’s real find is Ryan Hecker, the Houston lawyer who organized the Contract from America.  Hecker puts his finger on the nub of the problem when he argues that nuclear can survive without subsidies.  “I honestly think one of the major problems is not just capital costs but that they’re on an unfair playing field," Hecker tells Politico.  “In America, we’re about the free market.  I have a really really hard time believing that nuclear energy can only survive, and can only prosper, under a government-controlled industry.”

Hecker recognizes that nuclear has become uneconomical only because of excessive overregulation and because of the indiscriminate subsides and  mandates that are propping up renewable energy. “Government has a role” in putting nuclear back on equal footing, he tells Politico,  “especially since it screwed up the energy industry so much with overregulation.”

Read more at Politico


Wednesday, December 29th, 2010

Nuclear Townhall
December 29, 2010

It may seem at the moment that only the U.S. and Germany are mired in anti-nuclear opposition and that the Nuclear Renaissance is proceeding apace everywhere else in the world.  But maybe we are just ahead of the game and other countries will soon grow their own environmental opposition as well.  That already seems to be happening in India.

"India and France had signed the agreement on the 9,900 MW Jaitapur nuclear power project — expected to be the biggest in the world and 10 times that of Chernobyl," reports Zeenews, an Indian online news service, in a comparison that indicates the reporter might not be entirely objective.  "However, the project ran into controversy after many environmentalists questioned the clearances given by the [Ministry of Environment and Forests]. . . . Civil society groups like the Konkan Bachao Samiti have come out in the open with their worries over the radiological safety of the nuclear plant and its impact on the environment. . . . Moreover, as per a report quoted by a news channel, the Jamshetji Tata Centre for Disaster Management of the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) has revealed that the plant will be a disaster for the region if allowed to be built."

Environmental opposition usually comes from comfortable elites and bureaucrats who prefer controlling things through endless procedure rather than actually building and doing things.  India has plenty of both.  In fact, they are often the same people.  For centuries, the Subcontinent was ruled by a Brahmin class that did little but observe religious ceremonies and collect taxes.  Only ten years ago, the Indian government was so choked with bureaucracy that it required the signature of seven cabinet ministers to start a corporation.  Only in the last decade has India freed itself from the bureaucrats and begun to prosper.  As in the United States, however, environmental regulation could easily be the way that bureaucratic elites once again put their strangling hold on the economy.

Read more at Zee News


Tuesday, December 28th, 2010

Nuclear Townhall
December 28, 2010

Throughout the Nuclear Revival, the constant chorus from critics has been, "It's too expensive.  Where will the money come from?  Wall Street will never invest."

The answer may well be, "The money will come from other countries, whose sovereign wealth funds are investing in nuclear all over the world."  After all, if Korea and Japan can build reactors in the United Arab Emirates and Jordan, why can't they build them in the United States? 

So it isn't surprising to find this development emerging in the construction of uranium milling in the U.S.  Energy Fuels, Ltd., whose efforts to build a uranium mill in Colorado were featured on yesterday's Nuclear Townhall, says that it will need Asian investment in order to construct the project. 

The federal governments' and utilities' failure to encourage nuclear energy "just about requires us to look overseas (for funding)"' Gary Steele, Energy Fuels' vice president for investor relations, told The Denver Post. "You have to go where the market is. Just pick an Asian country."Energy Fuels has hired a Hong Kong agent to solicit bankers in China and elsewhere.

"The product we provide is essentially totally fungible and can be used at any nuclear facility in the world," said chief executive Steve Antony. "We'd like to see it used here in the United States."  

The integration of America's Nuclear Revival into the Renaissance that is taking place in the rest of the world is sure to bring new cries of opposition from nuclear opponents.  "Why can't we do it ourselves?  We're sacrificing our independence!  What about our national sovereignty?" 

According to an industry source:  "If they want an answer, they need only look at the bureaucratic and regulatory morass that it is making it exceeding difficult for anyone to build anything new in the U.S particularly in an economic downturn and in the face of low natural gas prices."

Read more at UPI


Tuesday, December 28th, 2010

Nuclear Townhall
December 28, 2010
From the Editors

In an op-ed contribution that will probably stand as a landmark to chutzpah, a Massachusetts weather consultant has told readers of The New York Times that it’s no mystery why they have just been hit by a two-foot blizzard – it’s global warming!

Judah Cohen, who wasn’t even polite enough to leave the name of his company, told Times’ readers that increased snow pack in Siberia – the result of greater evaporation from the oceans – has created a column of cold air above the Himalayas that has diverted the jet stream.  Not even Al Gore has advanced this theory.  
"In response, the jet stream, instead of flowing predominantly west to east as usual, meanders more north and south. In winter, this change in flow sends warm air north from the subtropical oceans into Alaska and Greenland, but it also pushes cold air south from the Arctic on the east side of the Rockies," writes Cohen. 

"Meanwhile, across Eurasia, cold air from Siberia spills south into East Asia and even southwestward into Europe.  That is why the Eastern United States, Northern Europe and East Asia have experienced extraordinarily snowy and cold winters since the turn of this century," he adds.

If Cohen’s thesis is to be the new paradigm, there is already room for head-scratching.  He says, for example, that "as Arctic sea ice has melted over the past two and a half decades, more moisture has become available to fall as snow over the continents."   It seems impossible that the run-off from a few melting glaciers could have any conceivable impact on the amount of water in the ocean – which suggests that Cohen is winging it rather than making calculations.  (The alternate explanation is that rising temperatures are leading to increased evaporation – many global warming theorists make this argument.) 

Nonetheless, the article is likely to stand as a centerpiece of a new approach to global revisionist thinking.   Maybe global warming isn’t so predictable after all.

Read more at the New York Times


Monday, December 27th, 2010

Nuclear Townhall
December 27, 2010

As nuclear facilities revive around the country, a typical pattern of conflict will emerge – local working-class people eager for economic development versus comfortable local aristocracies and jet-setters who shun any connection with industry and conjure up all  kinds of environmental concerns.

This scenario is being played out in southern Colorado, where plans to build a uranium mill to process new output from reviving mines in the region has run up against opposition from Telluride, a ski town an hour’s drive away with a large population of second homes.  “People from Telluride don’t have any business around here,” Michelle Mathews, a 31-year-old school janitor who lives near the mill site tells The New York Times.  “Not everyone wants to drive to Telluride to clean hotel rooms.”

The poster boy for the opposition is Craig Pirazzi, who is described as a carpenter but is photographed as if posing for a Ralph Lauren ad.  Pirazzi belongs to a group called the Paradise Valley Sustainability Association that thinks nuclear isn’t "sustainable."  He recently moved to the mill region from Telluride.  A study by the Sheep Mountain Alliance, another group of which Mr. Pirazzi is a member, has warned that trucks bringing slag from the revived mines "would travel on narrow country roads, stirring up dust that the study said could end up in the snowpack and water supply all over the region."

“They’re saying not in my backyard — now how big is their backyard?” complains George Glasier, a local rancher who founded Energy Fuels, the company that is trying to build the mill.

“In one aspect we’re being nimby’s by saying we will be affected by the negative aspects of this,” responds Mr. Pirazzi. “But that is a valid concern — our health, our air, our water is going to be affected by it, and we have every right to protect our property values and our health.”

The conflict will be repeated over and over again in all manner of industrial development.  In affluent regions such as New York and California, the opposition has essentially won out and no new projects are likely.  In states like Texas, brimming with newcomers eager for work, the developers hold sway.  States such as Colorado are on the border – populated both by people eager for development but also the comfortably affluent looking to shut it all down.  It is along these lines that the battle to revive nuclear will be fought.

Read more at the New York Times


Monday, December 27th, 2010

Nuclear Townhall
December 27, 2010

It was December 27th of last year that the United Arab Emirates chose Korea to build its $20 billion, four-reactor project in the desert.  One year later to the day the Koreans proudly announced they have begun construction work. 

“Since the conclusion of the contract, the UAE people’s perception of Korea here has completely changed,” task force leader Lee Heung-joo tells The Dong-a Ilbo, the Korean English-language daily. “Staff at an airport asked Koreans whether they came for the construction of the power plants.”  

"A combined 1,043 Korean workers, including employees of KEPCO, Korean construction companies and other workers residing in the UAE, are working on the nuclear plant project," the website adds proudly.

The four reactors, to be built in Braka, 270 kilometers south of the  capital of Abu Dhabi, are scheduled for completion between 2017 and 2020.  The work force is eventually expected to grow to 12,000.  Most of the task force will come from Korea.  KEPCO, the nation's major utility, is the prime contractor but Doosan Heavy Industries & Construction, Hyundai Construction & Engineering, and Samsung C&T, all Korean countries, are all participating.

The work begun today only involves preliminary site clearance, but the Koreans are already moving their formidable industrial teams into place.  “Before starting full-fledged construction, we are preparing to build infrastructure such as electricity, telecommunications and roads," KEPCO told Dong-a Ilbo.  “The construction of the nuclear power plants is a massive project that will take almost 10 years."

The Koreans won their contract in the Gulf based on the reputation they had established for getting things done on time and on budget.  So far, it looks like  they are going to maintain their reputation.

Read more at Dong-A Ilbo