Posts Tagged ‘Nuclear Renaissance’

MOTLEY FOOL REVISES ITS FORECAST ON NUCLEAR RENAISSANCE 

Wednesday, December 1st, 2010

Nuclear Townhall
December 1, 2010
From the Editors

 

Motley Fool, the unconventional Internet investment advice forum, is starting to worry about its enthusiasm for the Nuclear Renaissance. A few months ago the Fool ran a video celebrating nuclear and touting several utilities that were trying to build reactors.

Now it’s getting the news that these projects aren’t moving very fast.“Earlier this month, Power Engineering magazine ran a piece titled `Tattered Renaissance,’ detailing the molasses-like pace of progress on the new nuclear construction front,” says today’s post on Motley Fool. “This key line from the article really sums up the current quagmire:  `The economic downturn, low prices for natural gas, low forward power prices, steep capital costs and the slow pace of the loan guarantee awards have conspired to moderate the appetite for new nuclear power in many markets.’"

The Fool details the collapse of Constellation’s bid to build a third reactor at Calvert Cliffs and NRG’s financial problems at South Texas. It does have good things to say about the Shaw Group, which has just struck a partnership with Toshiba that duplicates its already fruitful relationship with Westinghouse.

It appears that The Fool’s focus is largely U.S. and utility centric with respect to the outlook for the Renaissance. Obviously the logjam at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission is making progress on nuclear development in this country painfully slow. But nuclear is booming abroad and there’s no reason why U.S. companies can’t participate.

Shaw is one obvious example but the real opportunity seems to be in mining and enrichment. Uranium prices are climbing smartly as China, India and Russia move ahead with dozens of reactors.

Perhaps you’d have to be a Motley Fool to fail to take off the jingoistic blinders.


Read more at the Motley Fool

TOWNHALL Q&A: VENTURE CAPITALIST RAY ROTHROCK — NUCLEAR ‘READY TO GO … GET ON WITH IT’

Friday, November 5th, 2010

 

 

Ray Rothrock is a man nuclear entrepreneurs want to know.  With a summa cum laude degree in nuclear engineering from Texas A&M, a master’s from MIT and an MBA from Harvard (with distinction), he is a man familiar with the ins and outs of the nuclear business.  More than that, he is now the nuclear expert at Venrock, one of the nation’s leading venture capital firms.  He started out working as a nuclear engineer at Yankee Atomic Electric, then moved over at Sun Microsystems and finally with worked on two failed start-ups.  At that point, in 1988, he now had 20 years in venture capital and 40 investments under his belt. That’s when he moved hired on with Venrock.  An engineer at heart, he still loves tinkering with the technology even as he researches investment opportunities.  In addition to making venture investments, he also chairs the investment committee on the Board of Trustees of the Texas A&M Foundation.  Ray currently operates out of Palo Alto, where we interviewed him by email.

NTH:  Quite frankly, nuclear doesn’t seem like the most promising area for a venture capital investor.  With all those high tech and solar energy companies buzzing around Palo Alto, how do you convince your partners that nuclear has promise?

ROTHROCK:  Venture investments are about world changing companies.  Nuclear as most of U.S. know it is now world changing.  In fact, it is ready to go and we should get on with it.  Nuclear still has challenges that provide venture like opportunities – either world changing, step function value creation, or improvements that lead to much better efficiencies and designs.  While capital intensive for sure, doing a nuclear deal requires a bit more expertise and planning.

NTH: I can’t imagine that you’re in the business of raising capital for companies such as General Electric or Exelon or Duke Energy.  So let’s assume that all the action in nuclear is in the small modular reactors that people are developing.  What kind of action are you seeing there?

ROTHROCK:  There are materials science issues that provide opportunities.  There are SMR companies like NuScale that provide opportunities.  The trick is understanding the regulatory time line and the customer (read electric utility) purchasing decision matrix.  In a perfect world I would hope to see the U.S. Government purchase some SMRs for facilities like national labs, military bases and the like.  SMRs are generally simple, small and tight, and can be erected quickly.  Not quite like portable generators on wheels, but as close as you can get without all the hassle of coal or gas pipelines, etc.

NTH: Is a company with a small nuclear reactor really no different from a company that has a new electronic device or a software application or a business plan for aggregating people on the Internet?  There has to be some difference, right?

ROTHROCK:  There are many differences.  The customers and the regulatory are the main differences. 

NTH:  What are the time frames for companies you’re looking at?  Venture capital companies usually like to get in and out in five years, don’t they?  Is there any possibility that companies with small modular reactors are going to be able to start paying returns on that kind of schedule?

ROTHROCK:  Five years?  If you are an Internet investor that is the case.  For large commutations, semi, enterprise software and certainly energy, the time frame is more like 10 years, and possibly more.  Venrock has been in healthcare for nearly 40 years and we understand the long time frames, regulatory hurdles, etc that are required for such long investment horizon.  Public markets would make it easier, but we are long.

NTH:  We’d have to say that the two biggest obstacles any small reactor company is facing are going to be a) getting an NRC license and b) winning public acceptance for putting reactors in areas where a lot of people live.  I’m sure you have a response to that.  But is there anything else that’s troubling on the horizon?  What do you do about that?

ROTHROCK:  Perception is reality.  Technically, there is nothing stopping the deployment of nuclear fission power plants.  They work.  They are safe.  And the track record to back that up is unsurpassed by any other industry man has ever created.  It is financial and political.  Financial is difficult.  A large nuke might cost $10 billion.  Compared to the balance sheet of a utility or market cap, this is not an insignificant percentage.  So, assistance is required unless they can be deployed smaller and therefore more cheaply – thus the SMR.  On the political front — that’s a tough one.  Many people make up their minds without the science facts in hand.  This is really too bad since the technology has moved well along even though it very good 40 years ago.  I’m talking of course about nuclear waste.  Technically, this is totally in hand.  The U.S. government may not have settled on a final repository for the waste, but processing it and storing it safely has been done for long, long time.  The U.S. Navy dealt with reprocessing their reactor cores in its earliest days.  France is doing it as we speak.   Weapons is another matter.  The vast majority of the nuclear waste today is from weapons and we are tackling that.  All the waste in the 104 nuclear power stations we have today is but a drop in the nuclear waste bucket.

NTH:  Are there any other plays in the nuclear space, so to speak?  How about equipment or support services?  It isn’t all about handling fuel rods, right?  Are there any entrepreneurs out there looking at those opportunities?  How about the business of building the reactor vessel heads, which we can’t do in this country?  Are there any small steel mills exploring that?

ROTHROCK:  Now you are into the supply chain.  I’m told that the ship building business in the United States is ready to take on the task.  Yes, we have lost a lot of skills in building these machines, but with a steady flow of orders that could change in a few years.  Entrepreneurs I know are looking at alternative fuel (thorium), SMR designs, waste reprocessing, nuclear damage to materials, etc.  It covers the lot of the supply chain.

NTH:  And while we’re on the subject of handling fuel rods, are there any opportunities in the field of handling wastes?  Energy Solutions out in Utah seems to be making some headway there.  Are there any promising investments in that area?

ROTHROCK:  Yes.  There are several promising opportunities.  Unfortunately, all these required DOE input and approval since most of them deal with weapons waste.  DOE owns all the weapons waste. Therefore you are in the “system” of the USG and DOE.  This is not bad, it’s just time consuming.

NTH:  One thing that’s almost sickening is our inability to manufacture radiological isotopes for medical use in this country, all because they contain the word “nuclear.”  At InfoCast’s recent small reactor conference in Washington, a representative of the Canadian Nuclear Society said the Chalk River research reactor charges nine times their costs in selling isotopes to wholesalers and he believed the wholesalers charge another nine times to their retailers.  It’s an $8 billion business.  Is there any chance of getting anything started in that area in this country?
ROTHROCK:  Man, there is nothing like good old supply and demand to drive prices, is there.  It’s more than just the word nuclear.  The NRC controls the licenses of all nuclear materials providers in the United States.  Perhaps the question should be put to them.  I’ve not researched this closely but it is a shame.  There are so many peaceful and very valuable uses for radioisotopes in medicine and other areas.  To lose this expertise is just one more “exported” industry.  This same thing is happening with Pu-238, which is a fundamental power material for deep space probes.  The U.S. supply is dwindling very fast and may limit our ability to explore space, or certainly make U.S. dependent on non-U.S. sources of the material.  At the end of the day this is all about proliferation – another delicate subject.
 
NTH: Long-range, what do you think the possibilities are for a nuclear revival in this country?  Will we ever build any more full-scale reactor again?  Can small reactors capture the public imagination?  Or are we really doomed to watching this technology slip away from U.S. while the rest of the world moves past us?
 
ROTHROCK:  Give me $1 trillion dollars, and I’ll build 100 1000-MWe power plants that will not produce one ounce of GHG but will product a whole lot of electricity for 50 years to come.  This will double the number of nukes in the U.S. from its current fleet of 104 and some of those will be retiring!   I’ve read that China is currently building 54.  A trillion – a lot of money for sure but the U.S. public just supported spending $1 trillion bailing out Wall Street, the auto industry, and probably the insurance industry.  Investing this in our energy future seems like an equally good idea to me.  I think we could build these 100 plants in 30 years after we skill up.  Lacking the private sector start, the USG should and must purchase SMRs to jump-start the rebuilding of construction skills, operating skills, and all the requisite inputs to the industry.  Isn’t this the role of government at some level?  A few SMRs would demonstrate a lot of confidence to the public, AND, it would demonstrate to the world that the U.S. is serious about its energy diet.  Faster than you think the auto vehicle fleet will have a lot of electric cars (but even still more gasoline/diesel cars).   This demand will swamp the current electric supply.  Even without the electric car, if the grid is expected to expand by 50 percent in 20 years, as currently predicted, the U.S. really doesn’t have much choice than to go nuclear and now.  Solar and wind will move things along, too, but adding clean base load is crucial in the decades to come. 

After failing in the 1970s, I put energy independence and now climate change leadership as the number one – NUMBER ONE – agenda of the American people with respect to itself and the world.  We have the technology.  We have the capital.  And we have the people who want the jobs and make it happen.  We have to muster the leadership.  To quote Jim Lovell in the movie Apollo 13 when staring up at the moon with his wife, Marilyn on the night that Armstrong walked, “It’s not a miracle that we went to the Moon.  We just decided to do it.  That’s all.”  The same is true now.  We just have to decide to do it.
 
NTH:  Thanks very much for your time.

EXELON’S ROWE SEES ‘DECADE OR TWO’ SLIDE IN U.S. RENAISSANCE

Monday, September 13th, 2010

By Steve Hedges

John Rowe, the chief executive of U.S. nuclear heavyweight Exelon Corporation, has gone public with a blanket conclusion that natural gas prices are going to make building new nuclear power reactors difficult. As long as gas prices stay low, he told Bloomberg in an interview published on Friday, “you can’t economically build a merchant nuclear plant."

The Bloomberg interview highlights Rowe’s bottomline market thesis that — as long as low natural gas prices persist — new U.S. nuclear construction will be postponed by a "decade, maybe two."

Rowe isn’t the first to note that natural gas prices could negatively impact the renewal of nuclear energy in the U.S., which is lagging behind Europe and Asia in the construction of new nuclear power reactors.

What’s striking, though, is that Exelon has 17 nuclear reactors at 10 power stations, which comprise 20% of the U.S. commercial nuclear fleet. Merchant plants, which sell electricity wholesale, are also in a different class than those reactors run by utilities with a dedicated customer base.

Rowe’s take is interesting, but it doesn’t tell the whole story. A recent set of Standard and Poors reports on the cost of nuclear power plant construction found that, in the U.S., the cost of building all plants — coal, gas, wind and nuclear — has risen dramatically. S&P cites an IHS Cambridge Energy Research Associates’ index of costs, and notes that, in the U.S., a power plant that cost $10 billion to build in 2000 would cost $21.5 billion today. Base costs in the U.S., the report states, “have grown 20% faster in the U.S compared with Europe over the past decade.”Why the difference between the U.S. and Europe? When it comes to nuclear, S&P states that, “A steady stream of reactors established a relatively cheap supply chain and skilled labor force in Europe and Asia.”

Not so in the U.S., the report states, where a virtual moratorium on nuclear reactor construction has diminished an important skilled labor pool.

“Amid serious doubts over the future of the U.S. nuclear industry during the 1980s, the pool of nuclear construction managers and specialized workers dried up and remains shallow today,” S&P reports. “Several specialized skills (such as highquality welding) that are unique to the construction of nuclear power plants are now hard to come by in the U.S. We expect some specialists to transfer from France, Japan, and other nations to provide expertise and increase the workforce. However, these countries have substantial building programs of their own and may not be able to export experienced manpower.

“The dearth of experienced nuclear engineers and construction workers is a key factor that also increases costs.”

Rowe’s position aside, perhaps the bigger threat to the Nuclear renaissance in the U.S. isn’t the costs of other forms of energy, but the cost of not doing anything.

Bloomberg noted that, “Exelon… on June 11 asked to withdraw its application with the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission to build and run two reactors in Victoria County, Texas.

‘We haven’t totally abandoned it, but we’ve turned it into an early site permit and it’s very unlikely we would do it for a long time,’ Rowe said. An early site permit means a location has met some safety and environmental requirements.”

S&P notes the uncertainty of both continued low natural gas prices and a climate change bill in Congress that could tax carbon output. With a carbon cost applied, it found that the capital costs of nuclear versus natural gas power are not that different, though natural gas production is still cheaper. Nuclear, it stated, could compete with the proposed government loan guarantees for new construction.

“Our results show that a merchant nuclear plant with $6,500 per kW in capital costs is likely uncompetitive without a federal loan guarantee under the prevailing forward gas prices, but can be competitive at natural gas prices as low as $4 per mmBtu with subsidies,” S&P concluded.

But cost isn’t everything. Hydraulic fracturing, which wrests natural gas from shale, has helped increase the natural gas supply by 35 percent in the last two years, according to a December 2009 New York Times article. That has driven down prices. But this method of drilling has also increased the environmental controversy over wresting cheaper natural gas from shale.

“The drilling boom is raising concern in many parts of the country, and the reaction is creating political obstacles for the gas industry,” the Times reported. “Hazards like methane contamination of drinking water wells, long known in regions where gas production was common, are spreading to populous areas that have little history of coping with such risks, but happen to sit atop shale beds.

“And a more worrisome possibility has come to light. A string of incidents in places like Wyoming and Pennsylvania in recent years has pointed to a possible link between hydraulic fracturing and pollution of groundwater supplies. In the worst case, such pollution could damage crucial supplies of water used for drinking and agriculture."

REPORTS SHOW BLOOM OFF U.S. RENAISSANCE: GLOBAL MARKETS ON THE UPSWING

Wednesday, August 25th, 2010

By Steve Hedges
Nothing in the energy field comes easy. So it is hardly surprising that a series of reports out recently have put a damper on any enthusiasm nuclear power advocates may have felt for the so-called “Nuclear Renaissance.”

A hint of the new skepticism , in the U.S. at least, is a central theme in a recent series of Standard and Poor’s assessment of the nuclear industry.

"The nuclear renaissance that seemed imminent in 2007,” S&P wrote, “has slowed due to moderate natural gas prices and the credit crisis that followed the economic downturn, which limited funding options."

What gives S&P pause is not the viability of nuclear power, but a string of cost overruns and delays involving nuclear projects in a variety of countries, and the projected higher costs of reactor construction in the U.S. due to supply prices and a lack of skilled labor.

The rating agency also notes the failure so far of the federal government to grant promised loan guarantees for new reactor construction in the U.S.

Despite the fanfare and excitement brought on the Obama administration’s $36 billion ramping-up of loan guarantees (on top of $18 billion provided in the 2005 Energy Policy Act) to back nuclear expansion as part of its energy and climate strategy –- only one such guarantee has been arranged so far. That $8.3 billion guarantee, of course, went to the Vogtle nuclear power plant near Augusta, Ga.

Other reactor projects -– Calvert Cliffs in Maryland and the South Texas Project, to name just two –- are hopeful for similar guarantees, but still waiting. Others are at the gate.

“In response to its $18.5 billion nuclear loan guarantee program,” S&P reports, “the U.S. Dept. of Energy has received 19 applications from 17 companies to build new nuclear plants. In terms of financing needs, these requests total $188 billion and average an all-in cost of $6,500 per kilowatt (kW).”

Elsewhere, the renaissance seems to be blossoming. In Asia, for instance, just about every country seems intent on joining the nuclear power race between China (27 plants underway) and South Korea (7 underway) and Japan (5 under construction).

“In other countries, new nuclear construction is in full swing,” S&P reports. “Many have adopted nuclear generation as an integral energy source option; about 60 nuclear plants with various reactor technologies are currently under construction around the world, and many more are in the advanced development and planning stages.”

S&P even has positive words for Europe where “a steady stream of new reactors in Europe and Asia has established a relatively cheap supply chain and a skilled labor force there.”

France, though, is concerned about future competition. France recently issued an internal blueprint for new ways to re-engineer its well established nuclear firms, AREVA and EDF. Those two companies, along with a few other French nuclear partners, might need the boost. For instance, the internal report to President Nicolas Sarkozy noted:

“The actors in the French nuclear industry (EDF, AREVA, ASLTOM) are the uncontested industrial leaders in France and are the ones to have first acquired expertise in this area. On the international level, the challenge is newer and more difficult: France must capture a significant part of the nuclear plant market, a market that is extremely segmented and very competitive.”

Perhaps that sentiment just reflects good old fashioned competition. But France’s nationalist fervor over its nuclear industry is not uncommon. As S&P found, “Nuclear power generation in China, Russia, and South Korea is essentially a government enterprise. Similarly, the French government owns 91% of AREVA S.A. and 85% of Electricite de France S.A. (EDF), the two major domestic nuclear players. The Japanese rely on private companies for nuclear development, but the government encourages companies to establish conglomerates.”

 Where does that leave the U.S.? Overall, the S&P reports spell gloom – though not doom – for the U.S. nuclear industry. Costs here are higher here, the reports state, and indecision over nuclear power’s future has meant that expertise and skill sets have migrated overseas.

“Amid serious doubts over the future of the U.S. nuclear industry during the 1980s, the pool of nuclear construction managers and specialized workers dried up and remains shallow today,” the ratings agency reports. “Several specialized skills (such as high quality welding) that are unique to the construction of nuclear power plants are now hard to come by in the U.S.”

There’s really only one way to fix that problem – borrow the expertise until U.S. firms can gain a beachhead again. It’s not surprising, then, that foreign nuclear firms are so heavily involved in U.S. projects, like France’s EDF’s role in the Calvert Cliffs, Md., reactor project.

First, though, U.S. projects have to break through the regulatory muddle,  As S&P observes, “the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) is reviewing five types for new plant design certification: Toshiba Corp.'s advanced boiling water reactor (ABWR), AREVA S.A./ Electricite de France S.A.'s (EDF) European pressurized reactor (EPR), Westinghouse's AP-1000, Mitsubishi Corp.'s advanced pressurized water reactor (APWR) and General Electric Co.'s economic simplified boiling water reactor. The builders claim to be able to construct plants in three years from the first concrete pouring to the first fueling. But the construction track records for these technologies is not very long.”

As noted in Nuclear Townhall Aug. 23, the most vibrant sector of the U.S. nuclear industry right now seems to be one of the oldest: The Tennessee Valley Authority. By the end of 2010, TVA will have completed several rector projects that have created thousands of jobs. And its board recently approved the investment of $250 million toward the completion of a Bellefonte Nuclear Plant in Alabama. And those projects are on budget and schedule. It can be done.

UNEXPECTED DECLINE IN NUCLEAR DEGREES FOR 2009

Friday, July 30th, 2010

Bucking what seemed to be a revived interest in nuclear engineering, the number of B.S. degrees awarded in 2009 declined 13 percent while master’s degrees fell 10 percent. The figures come from a report issued by the Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education
 
Despite the decline in degrees, enrollment in nuclear programs around the country rose 15 percent, reaching the highest point since the 1980s. Richard Toohey, who helps manage the Oak Ridge Institute, said he expected the awarding of degrees to increase again next year as students and schools gear up for the coming Nuclear Renaissance.

Read more at Atomic City Underground

VOINOVICH WANTS NUCLEAR AS HIS LEGACY

Thursday, July 22nd, 2010

Retiring Ohio Republican Senator George Voinovich says he wants to make the Nuclear Renaissance the legacy of his Senate career. At a press conference yesterday to introducing his new "Enabling the Nuclear Renaissance Act" legislation , Voinovich said he wants nuclear labeled “clean energy” in any Senate bill that mandates the construction of certain forms of energy generation. Most proposals now talk about “renewable energy,” a category from which nuclear is generally excluded.  

The Senator said he also wants an additional $54 billion in loan guarantees extended to new construction.   In addition, he would fund small modular reactors (SMRs) by having the federal government contribute $1 billion to share the costs of development with the industry over the next ten years.

Voinovich is retiring after two terms in the Senate after serving two four-year terms as Governor of Ohio.

Read more at the Cleveland Plain-Dealer

DEBATE OF THE WEEK: WHAT’S THE BEST WAY FORWARD IN THE SENATE?

Friday, July 9th, 2010

Next week, if all goes as anticipated, Senate Majority Lead Harry Reid (D-NV) will take the first steps towards bringing an energy bill to the Senate floor with the hope that he can hammer something through before the August recess.

This could be a turning point for the Nuclear Renaissance. There are several possible outcomes that could be disadvantageous for nuclear. The worst would be if Congress decides to abandon a carbon-based approach altogether and settle for a “compromise” of a huge “renewable portfolio standard.”  Such a mandate would lead to much misallocated investment while giving no advantage to nuclear’s zero-carbon electricity.

There are several pieces of legislation already on the menu that could form the basis of the Majority Leader’s effort:

¤  Kerry-Lieberman

The bill has a very strong nuclear title, including expanded loan guarantees and a charge to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission to speed its licensing. It contains no renewable portfolio but is premised on a cap-and-trade system that applies first to utilities and later to industry.

¤ Senate Energy

Largely crafted by New Mexico Democrat Jeff Bingaman, Chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, more than a year ago, the bill is “energy only,” mostly a package of incentives for wind, solar and electric cars. It was voted out of Bingaman’s Energy Committee but never made it to the floor. Getting Republican support might mean adding Kerry-Lieberman’s nuclear title plus a concession to swing Republicans.

¤ “Utilities Only”

A tripartite commission has advanced the American Power Act, which would apply cap-and-trade only to utilities.  It would avoid imposing cap-and-trade on the entire economy and concentrate most of its effects on old coal plants. This probably minimizes impacts on the price of electricity, since old coal plants are not the marginal provider. However, pivotal Republicans such as Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski and Indiana Senator Richard Lugar of Indiana are rejecting any form of cap-and-trade.

¤ Lugar Bill

Senator Lugar has introduced his own bill, the Practical Energy and Climate Plan Act, which is “more carrots than sticks.”  The plan would add $36 billion in loan guarantees for new nuclear reactors and add more money for energy conservation.  Oil drilling and biofuels would also get a boost, but there is no provision for taxing or capping carbon.  The stick, says Lugar, would be the threat of EPA regulation of carbon emissions.  The bill has won the support of Republican Senator Lindsay Graham of South Carolina, which is significant in the Graham was a co-author of Kerry-Lieberman before withdrawing his support just as the bill was introduced.

¤ Waxman-Markey

One widely rumored option is that Democrats could adopt some mild form of energy legislation and count on having cap-and-trade revived in the Senate-House Conference Committee. Final passage could be postponed until after the November election. Cap-and-trade could not muster 60 votes in the Senate but might survive through the same parliamentary maneuver that led to the passage of health care reform. If the Democrats lose badly in November, however, political pressures against it would be very strong.

¤ EPA Regulations

Lurking in the background is the possibility that if nothing passes the Senate, the Obama Administration may fall back on having the Environmental Protection Agency impose a command-and-control carbon regime on the entire economy. Nobody seems to want this but both sides could blame each other if it becomes the end point. Many supporters of nuclear are talking about substituting a “carbon-free standard” for the “renewable standard” so that nuclear could be included. It makes sense and support for nuclear is rising, but it may be a little late in the game for such a change.

Threading the needle with something that secures nuclear’s benefits while not creating runaway incentives for other forms of energy is going to be extremely difficult. What’s your proposal for a winning strategy?

HUFFINGTON POST GOES NUCLEAR

Thursday, July 1st, 2010

From the Editors
You know the Nuclear Renaissance is making progress when the Huffington Post feels compelled to sound the fire alarms.

The HP is featuring an eight-point “questionnaire” by Brendan Smith, co-founder of the Oysterman and Labor Network for Sustainability. (Do labor unions hate construction jobs at nuclear reactors?) The questions are predictable, of course, and Smith answers them with the usual rants. (At one point he has a uranium mine blowing up and creating “another Chernobyl.”)

But this is all good news. Just a few years ago, nuclear wasn’t even a subject for polite conversation. Try to talk to people about it and they’d give you an embarrassed, “Why-are-you-bringing-that-up?” response. Now at least people feel compelled to rummage through those musty attics and dust off some of those old anti-nuclear arguments.

And they are old and musty. Smith brings up “What are you going to do with the waste?” and “How are you going to transport it?” and “What happens if a hijacked airliner crashes into a reactor?” All these arguments can be resolved by bookmarking a single URL. But perhaps all this is new to the anti-nuclear community.

Still, these aren’t the old days. “Nukemann” Michael Mann has done a point-by-point answer to the “eight questions” that are much more highly informed than the original post. And there will be much more to come. The emails are already buzzing on the American Nuclear Society’s “Social Media” network. The pro-nuclear legions are mobilizing.

Here are the eight questions and Nuclear Townhall’s off-the-cuff response. To get a better idea, though, go to Huffington and post your own comment:

1) Are nuclear hazards any different from other hazards we accept every day?

A. What is the likelihood of a nuclear power plant wrecking the entire Gulf Coast?

2) Do we want to switch to nuclear power when there is ZERO room for error?

A. Have you ever heard of the word “redundancy?”

3 ) Can nuclear power production be kept safe from natural disasters?

A. See “Earthquake hits Japanese reactor”; “Eye of Hurricane Andrew passes right over Turkey Point reactor”.
 
4 ) Can nuclear power sites be terrorist-proof?

A. Check out this YouTube clip. The F-4 at 500 mph, by the way, creates a bigger impact than a commercial jet at 200 mph. (E = ∏ mv2)
 
5 ) How are we going to store the waste?

A. Try recycling. France stores 30 years of waste from producing 80 percent of its electricity beneath the floor or one room.
 
6 ) Can extraction be made safe?

A. In situ uranium mining eliminates all the early hazards.
 
7 ) How are we going to transport the waste?
 
A. We’ve been doing it for 50 years. You probably passed one on the highway or railway the other day.
 
8 ) Are nuclear plants worth the cost?
 
A. Was it worth the cost of building the Catskill Aqueduct System so that New York City with the best water in the world for more than a century? Wouldn’t it have been cheaper and easier just to drop buckets into the Hudson River? 

EDUCATION AND NUCLEAR – SO HAPPY TOGETHER

Tuesday, June 29th, 2010

By Nuclear Townhall Staff
Perhaps the most promising aspect of the Nuclear Renaissance is the revival of high-paying engineering, machine operating and construction skills in this country. That process is already beginning in Alabama.

Northeast Alabama Community College announced this week it will be opening a new training center for nuclear workers within sight of the Tennessee Valley Authority's Bellefonte site.

"TVA expects to hire and train many people in these fields over the next decade," said NACC president David Campbell, who also serves as chairman of the Jackson County Economic Development Authority.

Jobs will range from industrial electronics and machine maintenance to construction skills such as welders, pipefitters and electricians. After a two-and-a-half-year training program with TVA, electricians make a starting salary of $63,000.

The TVA has two partially completed reactors at the Bellefonte site. It is currently deliberating on whether to resume construction or to begin anew with the Westinghouse AP1000 design. Even if TVA decides not to build at all, Campbell said, there would be plenty of job opportunities at the utility's other newly completed reactors at Watts Bar and Brown's Ferry.

One of the favorite arguments against the Nuclear Renaissance has been that America no longer has the industrial skills to build anything as complicated as a nuclear reactor. Specialty welders of the kind required by containment structures, for instance, are now in short supply. But NACC initiative shows that the Nuclear Renaissance is going to be about more than providing the nation with adequate power – it's going to be about the revival of good industrial jobs.

Read more at the Times-Journal