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Posts Tagged ‘Nuclear Townhall’

WAS CONSTELLATION’S MOVE ON CALVERT CLIFFS A BLUFF?

Monday, October 11th, 2010

October 11, 2001  In the Monday-morning fallout over Constellation’s weekend decision to abandon the Calvert Cliffs project, some nuclear advocates are wondering if the company isn’t playing a game of chicken with the federal government. 

The reason for Constellation’s decision, it emerges, is the Office of Management and Budget’s decision to charge the project 11.6 percent in “points” on a $7.6 billion loan guarantee ­ a fee that would add an additional $880 million to the project. OMB arrived at the high figure by arguing that the merchant plant faces nearly a 50 percent chance of default due to potential delays and cost overrun, declining electricity demand and low natural gas prices. Constellation officials countered that the loan points should be around 3 percent.          

The Wall Street Journal reports OMB is encouraging Constellation to look at a new set of terms it is offering for the project but that OMB declined to reveal the details of its new offer.    

Whatever the specific cause, Constellation’s move illuminates the adverse regulatory environment and deteriorating economic conditions that have put a hold on half a dozen other new build projects around the country as well. Congress’s failure to adopt any kind of carbon legislation has had a decisive impact.

Christopher M. Crane, CEO of Exelon, which has temporarily deferred two new reactors in Texas, tells The New York Times’ Matthew Wald that his utility would need natural gas prices of $8 per million B.T.U. and a carbon fee of $25 a ton to make those project economical. “We don’t have the right stimulus right now,” he told Wald. 

Although Wald’s story is headlined “Sluggish Economy Curtails Prospects for Building Nuclear Reactors,” the report in fact does a very good job of weighing the many different factors that led to Calvert Cliff’s apparent demise.

INDIA COMMITTED MORE THAN EVER TO DEVELOPING FAST BREEDER REACTOR

Monday, October 11th, 2010

Prithiviraj Chavan, India’s Minister of State for Science and Technology, told a national conference that the country is more than ever committed to developing the fast breeder reactor, a technology that burns nearly 100 percent of the fuel and can be used to consumer so-called “nuclear waste.”
 
“As we look forward to expand our nuclear energy program with imported fuel and large imported reactors, let me assure you that there will be no compromise with or commitment to our three-stage nuclear program,” Chavan told an audience at the Indira Gandhi Center for Atomic Research, which was celebrating the 25th anniversary of India’s Fast Breeder Test Reactor. The “three-stage program” refers to the closing of the nuclear fuel cycle that comes with the fast breeder.
 
Fast breeders are yet another technology where America once led the world but where other countries have now picked up the ball. The United States closed its last experimental fast breeder, EBR-II, in Idaho, in 1993 as part of an effort by the Clinton Administration to phase out nuclear research. The effort is chronicled in great detail in Tom Blees’ Prescription for the Planet.,
 

Chavan said India’s commitment to energy independence and avoidance of the problem of “nuclear waste” makes the fast breeder essential. “‘Irradiated fuel should not be disposed as radioactive waste,” he told his audience. “[C]losing the fuel cycle through fuel reprocessing is absolutely essential for ensuring the sustainability of nuclear energy.”
 
Baldev Raj, director of the Indira Gandhi Center, said that India now has now 10,000 scientists and engineers working on fast breeder technology.
 
Chavan noted that in addition to advancing the fast breeder, India is equally committed to developing thorium reactors, which would take advantage of India’s sizable thorium reserves. Nearly all the world’s reactors now run on uranium, which only half as abundant as thorium.
 

ALEXANDER SAYS HE’S OPEN TO CAP ON UTILITIES EMISSIONS IF TIED TO NUCLEAR

Friday, September 24th, 2010

Senator Lamar Alexander of Tennessee told a Washington Post colloquium yesterday that he might be open to a cap on utility carbon emissions if it were tied to efforts to expand nuclear power. 

"We need a strategy for low cost energy, not high cost energy," Alexander told an audience of press representatives.  Also appearing on the panel were Senator Susan Collins of Maine and Respresentative Ed Markey of Massachusetts.

Markey, who co-sponsored the ill-fated Waxman-Markey Climate Control bill, lashed out at the opposition for blocking his bill in the Senate.  “I think their agenda over there is held hostage by Kentucky coal and Oklahoma oil," he told the audience.

But Collins, who briefly flirted with the idea of supporting a climate change bill, blamed President Obama, whom she said hosted a closed-door meeting with Republicans and Democrats but then never got in touch again.  "There was no follow up," she said. "There was no attempt to identify consensus provisions and programs on both sides. There was no attempt to explain to the American people what the goal was, why it mattered, how it was linked to jobs and the economy and specifically how we could get there."

Alexander, who has become the Senate’s leading advocate of nuclear energy, said it made more sense to deal with climate change in smaller increments.  He recommended reviving nuclear energy, promoting the introductiono of electric cars, and putting restrictions on the major pollutants from coal plants.  "Maybe along the way we are going to have to just put a lid on carbon from smokestacks from the utilities, tie it to production of nuclear power," he said.

"We don’t do comprehensive well here in Washington,” agreed Collins. 

Read more at Politico

CHERNOBYL BECOMES TOURIST ATTRACTION

Friday, September 24th, 2010

Chernobyl, the scene of the world’s worst nuclear power accident, has become a tourist attraction, drawing thousands of curious on-lookers every year.
 
The standard viewing includes a trip to the perimeter of the reactor, where radiation levels are still 35 times normal background. After that there is a tour through the ghost town of Pripyat, two miles distant, where 50,000 people were evacuated shortly after the disaster, never to return.  Like a modern-day Pompeii, the village is almost perfectly preserved from the day its inhabitants fled.  Forbes lists it among "the world’s unique places to visit."  Last year 7,500 tourists passed through the site in the Ukraine.
 
Disputes still reign over the death toll from Chernobyl. The UN estimated 60 immediate deaths and said 4,000 additional cancer deaths might occur.  Newspaper accounts now regularly cite the 4,000 figure but use it to compare to the numbers from Greenpeace and other organizations that claim anywhere from 75,000 to 125,000 people died from the accident.
 
Arguments also reign over the condition of wildlife in the "Land of Wolves" – the natural preserve that has sprung up in the surrounding region.  Some researchers report severe genetic damage in the thriving wildlife populations while others say show an unusually low incidence of cancer. 
 
As with so much of the other mysteries surrounding Chernobyl, it may be decades before a straight answer emerges.

Read more at Nuclear Power Daily

GE CEO IMMELT HITS ENERGY POLICY INACTION

Friday, September 24th, 2010

GE CEO Jeff Immelt warned yesterday that the United States is falling far behind in the development of nuclear technology, blaming government inaction for the trend.
 
"The rest of the world is moving 10 times faster than we are," Immelt told Gridwise Global Forum conference in Washington. "This is a great country. But, you know, we have to have an energy policy. This is just stupid what we have today."
 
Immelt was particularly caustic about the slow pace of the Nuclear Renaissance in the U.S.  "The industry’s most important output these days is press releases," he said.
 
"There should be a nuclear renaissance in this country," he added. "The nuclear industry is here because government supported it in the United States. This notion that government is not a catalyst in this industry has no basis in fact."
 
Immelt particularly praised China’s state-dominated energy effort and contrasted it to the regulatory regime in this country, which he called "a relic of 1860."  He said that conflicting state and federal regulatory authority had stymied upgrades of our "antiquated grid."  He said business and government had not yet decided whether the so-called "smart grid" was going to be "a business or just a hobby."
 
Immelt’s comments did not win complete approval from his audience.  Secretary of Energy Steven Chu said the Chinese model of a state-run energy industry would hurt innovation. Laura Ipsen, general manager for smart grid at Cisco Systems, agreed. "There are some potential downsides to having one national utility," she told The Wall Street Journal, saying it could produce over-commitment to what turns out to be poor technology.
 
GE has had modest gains in the global Nuclear Renaissance, with contracts to build only two of the 27 new reactors proposed in the U.S. and limited business abroad.  Westinghouse and AREVA now have front-runner status in the prospective U.S. market — and Korea and Russia are moving swiftly abroad.  "Essentially, we’re competing against other countries," Immelt has complained previously.

Read more at the Wall Street Journal

DEBATE OF THE WEEK: IS NRC CHAIRMAN JACZKO FIDDLING WHILE YUCCA BURNS?

Friday, September 24th, 2010

On February 22, 2010,  just 21 days after the U.S. Department of Energy formally announced it would suspend the Yucca Mountain national nuclear spent fuel and high-level waste repository project in Nevada, the first of a bevy of lawsuits seeking to overturn the action was announced by three state of Washington businessmen.

Just nine days later, on March 3, the Department filed a license withdrawal request with the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (ASLB).  A month later, on April 6, the NRC’s Atomic Safety Licensing Board – in the face of mounting legal challenges and interventions relevant to the DOE action– announced it was freezing consideration of the matter to await guidance on the matter from U.S. Court of Appeals proceedings.  Less than 17 days later, on April 23 – without waiting for their newest colleague, Commissioner George Apostolakis, who was scheduled to be sworn in just hours later – the Commission vacated the ASLB decision and ordered the Board to render a decision on the DOE withdrawal request in 39 days or less (June 1).

Twenty-eight days after the June 1 deadline, the ASLB issued a unanimous decision rejecting DOE’s license withdrawal request.  Less than 24 hours later, in an unusual action, the Commission set immediate ground rules for an appeal of the decision requesting briefs from interested parties by July 9,  just nine days later.  On July 15, just six days after parties to the proceeding filed a motion seeking the disqualification of three commissioners based on their Senate confirmation hearing testimony earlier in the year, freshman Commissioner Apostolakis recused himself citing other considerations.
In a process that has been defined by days and hours for the most part, it is now 86 days and counting since the ASLB’s June 29th ruling and the initiation of the Commission’s review of the lower panel’s decision.  The full Commission has now exceeded the 39 days they initially provided to the ASLB to sift through considerably more complicated issues.  Meanwhile the U.S. Court of Appeals , which was scheduled to begin oral arguments on September 23 on the mountain of legal contentions now filed in the matter, has put a hold on the proceedings awaiting a Commission determination.  In just six days, the Yucca Mountain project will be in purgatory with the expiration of the fiscal year, a likely continuing resolution and given a DOE edict that it will terminate all remaining employees in the Office of Civilian Radioactive Waste Management on September 30.

The Commission’s delay with regard to an ASLB verdict has lead to much conjecture in Capitol Hill, legal and nuclear policy circles.  Does the NRC Chairman – a former disciple of chief Yucca Mountain antagonist Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid — lack the Commission votes to override the ASLB?  Was he waiting to get a consensus on an updated waste confidence rule, which was consummated on September 15?  Or for conspiracy theorists is he seeking to help his old boss’s up-hill re-election campaign by deferring a possible affirmation of the decision to reject the DOE license withdrawal until after the November 2 election or until Congress leave towns town for its elections recess?  Or for the more charitably-inclined was Jaczko just concentrating on his keynote speech on September 22 to the 54th International Atomic Energy Agency Conference on the  scintillating topic of “The Essential Role of the Safety Regulator?”

During the Great Fire of Rome in 64 AD,  Roman Emperor Nero Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus purportedly fiddled while Rome burned.  One authoritative source claims there wasn’t a fiddle to fiddle at the time – although perhaps he was playing a lyre.  Other revisionists suspect that the story was invented by Nero detractors who took power shortly thereafter.

Years later, Clairol’s hair color advertisements famously touted the tag line – “Only her hairdresser knows for sure.”  So perhaps while only Chairman Jaczko knows for sure, what’s your view?  Thus far, in the Nuclear Townhall poll on the subject, 63 % believe the NRC is delaying the decision until after the election; 14% feel the Commission should take as much time as they need ; 9 % say they are deadlocked.  A 2-2 vote by the eligible Commissioners would effectively rebuff a reversal of the ASLB decision.

CHINA UNVEILS WATERSHED PLAN FOR NEW REACTOR

Thursday, September 23rd, 2010

If there is any doubt that China intends to lead the world in developing nuclear power, it was effectively erased yesterday when the China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC) announced a comprehensive 0 billion plan for nuclear energy expansion over the next two decades.

In addition to government funding, CNNC adds a capitalistic twist by saying it will tap world investment markets. “We plan to rope in strategic investors by the end of this year,” Chen Hua, president of CNNC Nuclear Power Co Ltd., told China Daily. “Our company will get ready for listing in the first half of next year.” 

Chen did not specify where the stock would be offered.  China just finished installing the third steel ring of the containment structure on the world’s first Westinghouse AP1000 at Sanmen. The project is on time and on budget, scheduled to be finished in 2013 at an estimated cost of $5 billion. At this rate, China could build as many as 24 new reactors with its $120 billion plan, providing about one-quarter of its electrical needs.

China is also aggressively entering the world nuclear supplier market, as indicated by its announcement this week of an agreement to build two reactors in Pakistan. The announcement had a Cold War tinge to it, since the U.S. has already signed agreements with India to help develop its nuclear program. The move has been criticized in some quarters because India has refused to sign the Non-Proliferation Treaty.

"In any case," said one nuclear industry observer. "the unavoidable conclusion is that the rapid adoption of nuclear power will probably be the world’s most significant technological development over the next decade — and China is the odds on favorite to catapult into the lead."

Read more at The China Post

THE HEIGHT OF HYPOCRISY – MOVEMENT ENVIRONMENTALISTS ISO A NEW PRESIDENT

Thursday, September 23rd, 2010

Sometimes it almost seems as if some environmentalist movement activists would prefer to live in a fantasy world. After President Obama literally hung himself out to dry by tying up Congress for almost a year over climate legislation while the economy struggled with the Great Recession, environmentalists are now responding in self-absorbed fashion by blaming the President for not being a good enough environmentalist.

Glenn Hurowitz expresses this budding sentiment by declaring “Environmentalists Need a New President” in Grist: “Like many environmentalists, I’ve long criticized President Obama for not doing enough to protect the planet — but now I fear that he is not only not doing enough, he is actively going out of his way to fight climate action on many fronts.”

Hurowitz takes the President to task for not running out to greet Bill McGibben when he arrived at the White House last week towing President Carter’s solar panels. At least the President had sense enough to know that symbolic icons for the sake of a few gallons of warm water a day would have been the final stroke drawing the equation between his current malaise and Carter’s failed Presidency.

There was always one clear path that could have led to significant legislation on curbing carbon emissions. That was for the environmental movement to embrace nuclear power. Nuclear had everything to gain from a carbon regime and people who worry about global warming had everything to gain from an alliance with nuclear. But no, in the secular religion of environmentalism, nuclear power plays the part of Darth Vader.

So instead of declaring themselves hardheaded realists willing to seek practical solutions, environmentalists  preferred to play the role of starry-eyed dreamers fantasizing that a modern economy can be powered by updating the Medieval technology of windmills.

Accordingly, the movement has no one to blame but themselves. It is the height of hypocrisy for them to turn around now and start blaming the President.

Read more at Grist.org

SENATORS INCH CLOSER TO THE PRECIPICE ON RENEWABLE ENERGY STANDARD 

Thursday, September 23rd, 2010

The last minute push for a national renewable energy standard creaked forward again yesterday with rumors swirling that there was a political pulse.

One Capitol Hill daily — Politico — was astonished to find liberal U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Chair Barbara Boxer supporting the measure. “Even Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), who sponsored an ill-fated cap-and-trade bill, is excited about the prospect of an RES measure,” reported the journal. “`I love the idea of moving forward with a renewable electricity standard,’ the Environment and Public Works Committee chairwoman told POLITICO. `In my state, that’s the first thing we did.’”
Politico failed to note that it’s also the reason California now has the most expensive electricity west of Washington, D.C., boasts the nation’s third highest unemployment rate, and is losing population for the first time in its history.

A national RES is portrayed by detractors as "ethanol on steroids." Ethanol is the only mandate for so-called “renewable” energy that has ever made it to the national level and it has been poor role model for any argument for an more comprehensive RES.  The U.S.now burns an estimated 30 percent of its corn crop in American gas tanks with no appreciable gain in energy and no reduction in oil imports.

Burning corn for ethanol has driven up food prices worldwide to the point that the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization has called it a “crime against humanity.”

Ethanol now has much of the Midwest as its constituency. Outgoing Kansas Republican Sam Brownback and some Midwestern Senators are talking about adding yet another ethanol mandate to any RES bill.

“I think it’s mostly trying to appease some of the environmentalists before the elections,” Andrew Wheeler, former GOP staff director of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee told Politico. “It’s a political plot . . . just another way to show the Democratic base that they’re trying to accomplish their priorities.”

Perhaps the most revealing comment came from Marchant Wentworth, legislative representative for the Union of Concerned Scientists’ Clean Energy Program. “Politically, the question is whether it’s real,” Wentworth told Politico.  “It’s a chicken and egg situation, like anything in the Senate. It’s not real until people say it’s real. And unless people say it’s real, it’s not real.”

Read more at Politico

FIRST VIEWS OF RUSSIA’S FLOATING REACTOR

Wednesday, September 22nd, 2010

For years the rumor has persisted that the Russians were building barge-borne nuclear reactors to float into arctic villages that have no grid connections with the outside world. Well, unless the Russians are still building Potemkin villages (the fake villages built in the 18th century to fool Catherine the Great), you can get your first look at one now.

An unnamed BBC correspondent, in Moscow for a world conference on the future of the arctic, has managed to get permission to visit a St. Petersburg shipyard where the first floating reactor is being assembled. The reactor looks like huge, square fortress, about five stories high and less than a city block long. When mounted at the center of the much longer barge, the whole assembly doesn’t looks vaguely like a Caribbean cruise vessel.

The correspondent says they will be able to supply fresh water and electricity to a village of 45,000 people – which would make them around 50-80 megawatts. They only have to be refueled every twelve years. The one in the news clip seems to be the first under construction with seven more planned.

So the rumor that the Russians are well ahead of the United States in developing small modular reactors appears to be true. It probably won’t be long before they are selling them on the world market.

Read more at BBC