Archive for the ‘US Government’ Category
Friday, March 4th, 2011
March 4, 2011
Five-term Congressman Devin Nunes has submitted legislation that he says would achieve energy independence for American by building 200 new reactors by 2040.
“Nothing done by our government in the past several decades has actually helped to achieve the goal of energy independence, or for that matter, kept energy prices affordable for American families,” said Nunes on his blog. “Quite the reverse is true. We are more dependent today than ever before and far more economically vulnerable than at any point in our nation’s history. Today, I and others will introduce legislation that will finally deliver on the energy security promises made by leaders past and present – promises that began during the 1973 oil embargo, our nation’s first call to action.”
The bill would begin by opening up gas and oil resources both on land and offshore in order to ramp up production. “At the same time, the plan recognizes that dependence on any one fuel source is dangerous, particularly a finite resource,” he continues. “As such, the Energy Roadmap will make the necessary investments to transition our economy to renewable and advanced energy alternatives over time.”
Nunes said that royalties from oil and gas development on federal land should be placed in an “Energy Trust Fund” that would promote the development of alternative and resources. “This market-based way of providing federal assistance will ensure the cheapest and most efficient technology thrives. It will also open up the alternative energy market to greater innovation and competition, a sharp contrast to the existing system of subsidies and support, which are subject to the influence of lobbyists and activists through political cronyism.”
Finally, he said, the bill would mandate the construction of 200 new reactors by 2040. “New streamlined regulations and a system to manage waste will help drive private sector investments in these facilities, which today are mired in red tape, lawsuits and the liability associated with the storage of used fuel. Nuclear power is essential to achieving an abundant and affordable supply of electricity to fuel America’s economic growth and will provide the base load power needed to allow significant growth in next generation electric vehicles.”
Nunes represents California’s Central Valley, which has been mired in a deep depression because of the decline in the state economy. A citizens’ organization called Fresno Nuclear Energy Group has been attempting to build a nuclear reactor to lower electrical rates and revive the regional economy. Congressman Nunes has been spearheading an effort to override California’s state ban on nuclear construction at the federal level. The Energy Roadmap represents an expansion of that effort to a national level.
Wednesday, February 23rd, 2011
February 23, 2011
One of the most persistent myths about nuclear power is that there is no residual value to spent fuel and that the costs of dealing with this supposedly intractable problem are foisted on the public’s coffers.
Disproving the latter thesis once again, the Wisconsin Electric Power Company settled this week for $45.5 million for its share of the government’s partial breach of contract for failing to acceptance commercial spent nuclear fuel beginning in 1998. The utility won a lawsuit for $51 million in 2009 but the government had appealed. Some industry estimates put the government’s overall liability at in excess of $50 billion ultimately.
“Now, WE Energies has revealed that the government initiated discussions with the utility in the second half of 2010 and offered to settle the lawsuit,” says this report on World Nuclear News. “Accordingly, on 8 February the parties signed an agreement in which the US has agreed to pay Wisconsin Electric $45.5 million in full and final settlement of the suit. Wisconsin Electric intends return the $31 million net proceeds after litigation costs to its customers, and has written to the Wisconsin Public Service Commission to enable it to set up the necessary mechanisms.”
Other states and utilities have indicated they will be asking for money back as well. In December, South Carolina Governor-elect told President Obama in a private meeting that “the federal government has reneged on its promise, and South Carolina wants a refund.” Both South Carolina and Washington State have sued to block the NRC closedown of the Yucca project. Exelon collected the first $300 million refund in 2008 and other utilities are now following in its path. The payments do not come out of the Nuclear Waste Fund but out of general revenues.
Still, the unraveling of the federal effort casts a shadow over any attempt to build a permanent repository – or better yet initiate a reprocessing strategy. The situation may become clearer or cloudier when the Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear Future makes its report sometime in the next several months.
Read more about it at Nuclear World News
Thursday, February 10th, 2011
February 10, 2011
All eyes in Washington are fixed on the national debt ceiling and the brinkmanship involved when it has to be extended in the next two months. Will the government shut down or won’t it? But by next March the same attention may be focused Vermont Yankee and the brinkmanship over whether or not New England is going to end up without any electricity.
Senators James Inhofe of Oklahoma and David Vitter of Louisiana pointed to the coming showdown this week when the charged the Nuclear Regulatory Commission reviewing license renewals under a “dual standard,” granting them quickly where there is no political opposition but delaying them indefinitely where controversy has arisen. Although they did not mention any specific reactors, House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton last week specifically cited the Vermont Yankee and Pilgrim license renewals as having been delayed for five years.
"In cases where local opposition has been minimal or non-existent, the NRC has indeed kept to the average 22-month review schedules,” NRC spokesman Scott Burnell said in a response. “In the cases of Vermont Yankee, Pilgrim and Indian Point, local residents have exercised their ability to legally challenge the renewal applications. The NRC respects their right to do so."
Local residents are indeed campaigning to close down all three reactors, since anti-nuclear sentiment is strong in the Northeast and the area is populated by the kind of professional amateurs who have no idea where electricity comes from or how it is generated. The Vermont governor’s election last year was essentially decided on the issue of Vermont Yankee (the candidate who wants to close it won) and in New York the state attorney general’s office has been laboring long and hard to close down Indian Point. Naturally, the NRC is afraid of being accused that it is “in the pocket of the industry” by relicensing. But at some point somebody’s going to have to figure out how to generate some electricity as well.
The New England Independent Systems Operator, which does know how to generate electricity, has been issuing warnings that losing Vermont Yankee’s 600 megawatts will destabilize the entire New England grid. "Without Vermont Yankee in service, potential reliability issues could include thermal overloads on high-voltage transmission lines and voltage instability, either of which could damage equipment, compromise grid stability, or cause uncontrolled outages," said the ISO in a report last August. The loss would require "emergency generation brought into Vermont temporarily, more expensive generation from outside Vermont and demand side resources" and ultimately new transmission line construction.
Even then, the drama over Vermont Yankee next March will be only a preview to the bigger show as the deadline for Indian Point 2 and 3 approaches in 2014. The two Hudson River plants produce one-quarter of New York City’s electricity. That’s an awful lot of windmills to throw up in so short a time.
Read more about it at Platt’s
Friday, January 28th, 2011
January 28, 2011
The first dissenting voice to President Obama’s call for an aggressive “clean energy” standard came from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s energy institute, whose Chief Executive Karen Harbert called it an unrealistic approach to solving energy problems. â€¨
“The fundamental problem with the administration’s approach on energy is that it picks winners and losers,” Harbert told The Daily Caller. “Raising taxes on the industry that fuels our lives shows a profound detachment from our energy and economic reality.”â€¨
â€¨The Presidents called for getting 80 percent of our energy from “clean sources” by 2035 in his State of the Union Address and specified putting one million electric vehicles on the road by 2015. Lest these goals seem overly ambitious, Secretary of Energy Steven Chu undercut the difficulty of the task yesterday by pointing out that, when nuclear and natural gas are counted as “clean,” we are already halfway there since both contribute 20 percent of our electricity.
â€¨â€¨Harbert takes issue with both interpretations, saying we should be relying on expanded oil drilling for cars and coal for electricity. “This proposal, along with the effort to stall both current and future development of energy in the Gulf of Mexico and Alaska, will harm our economy and make us even more dependent on foreign oil,” she told The Caller. “Unfortunately, the administration’s clean energy proposal is wholly unrealistic and is more about rhetoric than reality.
”â€¨â€¨The Caller also reports Harbert calls the plan unfeasible because “it would require a drastic increase in the use of renewable energy like nuclear power while at the same time reduce the use of the cheapest and most widely available energy resource – coal.” There may have been a misunderstanding, but if the quote is correct it will be the first time anyone has referred to nuclear as “renewable.”
Read more about it at the Daily Caller
Thursday, January 27th, 2011
January 27, 2011
Press reports on the reaction to the President’s call for 80 percent “clean energy” by 2035 are finding a surprisingly tepid response in the renewable energy industry.
“[I]ndustry officials were less than enthused and questioned whether the ambitious targets were even attainable,” reports the Los Angeles Times. "It’s a lofty goal, but it’s like the race to the moon in that it’s generally achievable," the Times quotes John Cheney, chief executive of solar project developer Silverado Power, as saying. "The issue is whether we have the political will and ability to pull together and actually do it."
The reason is not hard to find. Obama’s shift from “renewable” energy to “clean” energy marks a significant turning point since it includes nuclear power and “clean coal.” “[T]he Sierra Club is firmly opposed to the misconception that coal or nuclear power can ever be clean,” said the Club in a press release. “Nuclear energy, with its multi-thousand year wastes, imported uranium, and susceptibility to terrorism,” fulminated Scott Sklar, chairman of the steering committee, Sustainable Energy Coalition, and former executive director, Solar Energy and Biomass Industries Associations. “Attempts to foster coal and nuclear into a CES is another ploy to re-label non-renewable technologies and ooze them into a ‘clean’ brand.”
The ever-reliable Dr. Arjun Makhijani, president, Institute for Energy and Environmental Research, weighed in with similar remarks. “Some of the largest environmental and health impacts of nuclear energy and coal will be borne by generations far into the future. . .. In contrast, the modest impacts of renewable energy are borne by the generations that use the energy, so that future generations can replace the facilities with better techniques as they are developed."
Makhijani forgot to mention that renewable sources also produce only modest amounts of energy.
The misgivings of the renewables industry and the loud protests from anti-nuclear activists have one common root. Both know that the President’s goal of 80 percent “clean energy” by 2035 is inconceivable without the inclusion of nuclear power. They also know that wind and solar will require huge subsidies and mandates. Next to them, the loan guarantees needed for new nuclear plants are likely to look modest.
No wonder President Obama’s call for “clean energy” is not meeting much enthusiasm from those who were expected to support it the most.
Read more at the Los Angeles Times
Monday, January 17th, 2011
January 17, 2011
NuScale Power’s president Paul Lorenzini will be one of 24 American company representatives on board next month when Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke visits India on a trade mission.
Also among the passengers will be officials from GE-Hitachi, the international partnership that is trying to revive GE’s sagging nuclear fortunes. “Exports are leading the U.S. economic recovery, spurring future economic growth and creating jobs in America,” Secretary Locke told The Hill. “The business leaders joining me on this mission see the great potential to sell their goods and services to India, helping drive innovation and create jobs in both countries.”
Packing nuclear experts aboard certainly makes sense. Although only a handful of reactors at best will be built in this country over the next decade, Asia is bursting with nuclear construction and India is near the head of the pack.
The Subcontinent plans to add 20 new reactors by 2020 and 43 more by 2032. All these are on the order of 1000 megawatts, but NuScale’s 45-megawatt modular reactor has tremendous promise for rural areas in India’s underdeveloped countryside.
While France, Japan, Korea and Russia now dominate world construction, the U.S. has at least a glimmer of a chance of gaining leverage in India. The opening occurred when the Bush Administration decided to overlook the Non-Proliferation Treaty and strike a deal with India on nuclear technology in 2006, even though India has still not signed the international agreement.
Russia already has a foothold in India, with two Rosatom WER-1000’s scheduled for completion this year. Russia will be supplying the uranium but India will do its own reprocessing, thereby adding to its plutonium stock.
Because the long international boycott blocked its access to world uranium, India has also developed a thorium technology that may lead the world in exploiting this alternate source of nuclear fuel. The country also has a small nuclear desalination plant at Kudankulam and is constructing a 500 MW fast breeder reactor at Kalpakkam.
In fact, one thing Secretary Locke may discover is that, in terms of the nuclear market, India has as much to sell us as we have to sell them
Read more about it at the Hill and the Gazette Times
Friday, January 14th, 2011
January 14, 2011
From the Editors
The tired argument these days against building new nuclear is that it is uneconomical. That’s notwithstanding the fact that 60 plants are underway globally.â€¨
â€¨We won’t mention the production tax credits, investment tax credits, feed-in tariffs and, above all, “renewable portfolio mandates” that are pushing the construction of wind and other renewables. But move over nuclear – New Jersey is finding no one will build natural gas plants without a guaranteed rate from the state.
â€¨Governor Chris Christie is being urged to veto a sweetheart bill designed by state Senate President Stephen Sweeney to offer rate subsidies to LS Power Development to build a 640-megawatt gas plant in his hometown of West Deptford. New Jersey has a deregulated electricity market but state officials claim that it doesn’t encourage new building. "The market is not a true free market," Stefanie Brand, the state’s consumer advocate, told the Philadelphia Inquirer. "It’s a constructed market that was created by PJM, and as far as we’re concerned, it doesn’t work. I don’t think it’s a system that encourages building new generation to keep prices down."
â€¨â€¨Exelon, Public Service Enterprises and other companies that own generation in the state are complaining it provides an unfair advantage. They say the state has already interfered enough by requiring them to enter long-term contracts that have turned out to add extra costs.
â€¨â€¨New Jersey’s real problem is insufficient capacity, soon to be aggravated by its effort to close the Oyster Creek reactor, which generates 610 MW. New Jersey utilities are currently paying $1 billion in extra capacity and congestion charges to import electricity from other states on the PJM grid. The new law would actually exacerbate the situation, since the funds to compensate the plant for unexpectedly low prices would come from ratepayers, particularly big industrial users.â€¨
"We cannot afford an energy surcharge to guarantee billions of dollars of revenue to a few select developers," George M. Waidelich, vice president of energy operations for Safeway Inc., told the Inquirer. Safeway current pays $2 million a year on electricity for its five Genuardi’s stores in South Jersey.
Read more about it at the Philadelphia Inquirer
Thursday, January 13th, 2011
January 13, 2011
The Republican-initiated bill to live the two-decade-old ban on nuclear construction in Minnesota was voted out of the House Environment, Energy and Natural Resources Committee by a 10-6 vote.
The bill is likely to make it through both the House and State Senate but faces a veto from newly elected Democratic Governor Mark Dayton, who campaigned against reviving nuclear last fall. The bill would have more symbolic than practical consequences, since Xcel Energy, the state’s principal utility, says it has no plans for new construction. State demand has also been flat during the recession and power reserves are now close to twice their normal level.
Still, it would be nice to remove the stigma that has been attached to nuclear and be in a position where the utilities could respond if demand starts to rise. The Minnesota shift might also serve as an example to states like California, where nuclear is also banned but spare capacity is not as great.
“Republican Rep. Joyce Peppin, the bill’s author, said that as energy demands grow, the state should consider the nuclear option,” reports the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. "If we fail to plan and provide the infrastructure we need in the future, we risk not being able to provide for the energy needs we’ve all grown accustomed to,” Peppin told the natural resources committee.
Respondents to the Star-Tribune article often repeated the standard objections that nuclear is too expensive and there is no solution for the problem of nuclear waste, whose costs are “INFINITE,” as one reader puts it, because it “remains deadly for longer than all of recorded human history.” A vigorous debate at the state level would probably answer those concerns as well.
Read more at the Minnesota Star-Tribune
Wednesday, January 12th, 2011
January 12, 2011
Calling the Obama Administration’s energy planners “The Green Dream Team,” Gary Jason, an instructor at Cal State Fullerton, has charged that “American is under an environmental spell” while China proceeds apace with nuclear technology.
“We continue to stall on nuclear power, keep a moratorium on deepwater oil production, lock up ever-increasing amounts of land and coastal shelf from energy use, put ever-multiplying regulations in the way of using our vast coal and shale-oil reserves, and haven’t built a hydroelectric or nuclear facility in years,” writes Jason in the Orange County Register. “The Obama administration, aka the Green Dream Team, has fully bought the environmentalist line that renewable energy sources (especially wind and solar power) will provide the ideal power from now on, and is preparing to unleash the EPA to wage jihad on fossil-fuel energy.”
Jason relies strongly on the report, "The Real Story behind China’s Energy Policy and What America Can Learn from It,” put out last month by the Republican minority on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. The report makes the important point that China includes nuclear, hydroelectric, clean coal in their plans for carbon-free energy.
“There is a myth – accepted by this administration – that unless we cripple our fossil fuel industries by cap-and-tax and embrace `clean energy’ (which is never taken by environmentalists to include nuclear power), we will lose the `green energy race’ with China, which is supposed to be rapidly adopting solar and wind power,” writes Jason. “But, as the Senate report correctly comments, `The “clean energy race” between the U.S. and China – and the lament that America is losing – is an idea concocted by activists to promote cap-and-trade, renewable energy mandates, and greater government control of the economy.’"
It is strange to read Thomas Friedman fulminating on how China is going to beat the pants off us on windmills and solar collectors when most of those devices are being sold abroad to gullible Western governments. Meanwhile, the Chinese plan on adding 100 GW of nuclear in the next 20 years, three times as much as the rest of the world combined. Sometimes it takes an untenured instructor at a state college to point these things out.
Jason is also a contributing editor at www.libertyunbound.com.
Read more at the Orange County Register
Wednesday, January 5th, 2011
January 5, 2011
In a feature story right from the anti-nuclear playbook (“Flirting with Disaster…Every few years the defenses of the nation’s nuclear plants are tested. What’s scary is how often they fail”), Newsweek magazine reports that “eight times out of roughly 100 attempts over the past five years, … mock terror teams have successfully broken through … defenses” of U.S. nuclear plants.
Right on script, the article quotes a Union of Concerned Scientist spokesman accusing the industry of “hiding behind the 9/11 tragedy to withhold information—like which plants have failed tests and repairs that have been made—that should be available.”
Newsweek surmises that “worries are particularly acute because the nuclear-energy industry is experiencing a new era of growth” – citing positive support from President Obama for loan guarantees and Energy Secretary Chu’s recent public statement that nuclear energy was “clean energy.”
On a positive note, the feature concludes that “advanced technology has virtually eliminated the risk of accidental meltdowns, like the one at Chernobyl in 1986, adding repetitive safeguards that allow the plant to shut itself down if operators can’t.”
But Newsweek warns: “The bigger problem is the highly radioactive waste that is left over once most of the energy-producing juice has been sucked out of it” – stuff that “will remain dangerously radioactive for about 10 millennia, until the year 12011.”
The features rebuts a pithy quote from American Nuclear Society President Andy Kadak that modern nuclear plants are like prisons opining that “prison breaks still happen from time to time” and the “security measures that are in place result in very little transparency.” Nuclear Regulatory Commission Chairman Gregory Jaczko offers Newsweek a bureaucratic defense saying “we think in the end overall security is best achieved by keeping most of [our security information] protected.” This prompts another rebuff from Newsweek, which observes that “yet as the Gulf Coast oil spill showed, an industry out of public view can get sloppy.”
Newsweek offers a new rationale not yet floated by the Obama Administration for the termination of the Yucca Mountain project, which it describes positively as “dry, desolate, not prone to natural disasters – the perfect location for a repository” saying the project was canceled “in pursuit of something less risky than concentrating millions of pounds of waste in one place.”
Not to worry, we’re told the Energy Department has a Blue Ribbon Commission “researching other ideas, such as burying it in the oceans, shooting it into space, or finding a new repository somewhere else in the world.” The Newsweek feature concludes with this oddity: “That site’s defenses, however, would need to be foolproof,” an observation presumably not applicable to an outer-space-based repository.
Read more at Newsweek