Saturday, March 15, 2008

Quest is still in the West for Areva's new plant

That was the week that was
[Update below 03/17/08]
The race to land a deal for a $2 billion uranium enrichment plant is coming down to the final lap. It's not NASCAR, but plenty is known about the five leaders in the pack based on reports in the news media. By most measures of success, the viable sites are all in western states - Idaho, Washington, New Mexico, and Texas.

There are five sites that have been confirmed in the news media that Areva is considering for its uranium enrichment plant. In addition to a location west of Idaho Falls, Areva is considering a site in Richland, WA, next to a nuclear fuel fabrication plant. In New Mexico the site is reported to be in Hobbs and right across the border there is a reported site in Andrews County, TX. The two towns are reported to be working together to land the plant.

The fifth and final site is reported to be Piketon, OH, where citizens groups who opposed the GNEP facility there last year have reorganized to stop Areva from siting its uranium enrichment plant in Piketon.

Areva appears to be waiting for the Idaho Senate to vote on tax incentives which passed in the House and which were voted out of Senate committee earlier this week. There is still the question of whether the governor will sign the measure. Critics of the bill in the Senate said it was too good a deal and would result in Micron coming to legislature asking to sweeten the tax breaks it got last year.

Even if the governor signs the tax incentive bill, Areva might still choose one of the other sites. Of the five Piketon seems the least likely because of high political noise level associated with the Piketon site. Areva has said it will not go where it is not wanted.

Andrews, TX, is a long shot and shares that quality with Hobbs. The reason is there already is a uranium enrichment plant being built in Eunice, NM, by Louisiana Energy Services. The National Enrichment Facility is about the same size as the plant Areva is reported to want to build. The available resources to support a second uranium enrichment plant at that location might be hard to come by or be more expensive than Areva bargained for.

Idaho Falls has a favorable political climate and a favorable tax climate assuming the Senate passes the pending legislation and the governor signs off. That's an interesting question because this governor seems to live in the 19th century and from everything I've read has no interest in technology based economic development. He appears to think that farming, mining, timber, and tourism are what Idaho is about. There are lots of people who like that idea, but there's not much room in that world view for for 21st century nuclear energy facilities. Of course he could surprise us.

Update 03/17/08 - Bart Davis, Idaho Senate Majority Leader, said in an email to me this morning, "Gov. Otter has been very helpful in getting the bill out of our Senate committee. I am confident that he will sign it." ~ The Idaho Senate passed both bills later in the day. Link. ~ and the governor signed it the following week on 03/25/08

Richland, WA, is on paper the leading candidate for the plant. Washington has the types of tax incentives Areva wants, a strong, if unionized workforce, a favorable political climate in the Tri-Cities area, if not elsewhere. Most importantly, the reported site is within spitting distance, metaphorically speaking, to a nuclear fuel fabrication plant, which is the next step in the value chain for this industry.

I expect we'll know more after the Idaho Senate acts next week. If the Senate votes down the incentives, Areva will likely take Idaho off its list. If you want the plant, and the economic benefits of 200 high paying permanent jobs, contact your state senator. Contact information at the URL below.

Prior coverage on Idaho Samizdat Nuke Notes at these URLs

Idaho Samizdat Nuke Notes blog coverage of Areva uranium enrichment plant since Janaury 2008. Short title and web link.

Piketon, OH, is fifth site for Areva plant - link

Idaho Senate committee approves tax bill for Areva plant - link

Areva executive cites Richland's advantages - link

Andrews County, TX, is on the map - link

Richland, WA, shows up on Areva's radar screen - link

Areva says no to Lynchburg, VA, for enrichment plant - link

Areva postpones decision but keeps looking - link

Idaho Falls is on the map for Areva plant - link

# # #

Friday, March 14, 2008

Piketon, OH, is potential site for Areva plant

Citizens groups are fired up in opposition to the governor's endorsementalien warfare

[Update: On 5/6/08 Areva chose Idaho Falls as the site for its new uranium enrichment plant.]

Ohio Governor Ted Strickland is said to have made public statements in support of locating Areva's planned uranium enrichment plant at Piketon, OH. According to a report on a Dayton, OH, blog, Gov. Strickland has announced that he would like to bring a new uranium enrichment plant to Piketon which would be owned by AREVA.

According to a report in the Chillicothe Gazette, Strickland discussed the issue with Dan Rogers, plant Director at the American Centrifuge plant, which is also located in Piketon and which also produces enriched uranium. The newspaper reports an astonishing dialog in which Strickland asks Rogers whether his firm's plans for a new plant would be able to obtain financing given Areva's interest in locating in that city. Areva is a direct competitor of the U.S. Enrichment Corp. (USEC) which also makes enriched uranium for nuclear fuel. For his part Rogers says come hell, high water, or Areva, he's going to get the money, close to $3 billion, for the new plant.

Last year citizens groups in the area came out like swarms of angry hornets for hearings held last year when a GNEP facility was proposed for Piketon which is also a nuclear waste cleanup site managed by the Department of Energy. More than 300 people testified against the GNEP project. Citizens groups have objected to any new nuclear facilities at the site until the current one is cleaned up. The political landscape looks like an alien battlefield with hovering fleets of flying saucers zapping a rouge planet. Strickland also supported the GNEP plant at Piketon which likely makes his new statement in support of an Areva plant there about equally popular with opponents.

For its part Areva has said repeatedly that it will not locate its new uranium enrichment plant where it is not wanted. if the Ohio citizens groups are to be believed, then clearly Areva has a problem in Ohio. Maybe that's why of all five proposed sites for the uranium enrichment plant, Areva has said the least about it at least to the news media.

Is this report over-the-top? I don't think so. Anytime a community turns down serious money, such as a $2 billion uranium enrichment plant, that's serious news. People have to be pretty angry to kick a major corporation in the shins especially one that would bring 200 high paying jobs to their community. Yup, the metaphor in the lead makes sense to me.

PBMR headed for Idaho?

Process heat applications could drive the project

South Africa’s fourth-generation nuclear power technology, the pebble-bed modular reactor (PBMR), has a real chance that it could be demonstrated, in a process heat application, at the Idaho National Laboratory (INL) near Idaho Falls, ID, according to a report in Creamer's Engineering News. The CEO of PBMR Ltd. told Creamers an upcoming tender process will focus on the Idaho lab.

The INL is the lead Department of Energy national laboratory in the U.S. for the "Next Generation Nuclear Plant" (NGNP) (See description below) (INL fact sheet image). According to the INL the NGNP system is designed to be a high-efficiency system that can supply process heat to a broad spectrum of high-temperature and energy-intensive, non-electric processes.

A possible commercial application for the demonstration plant could be the Alberta tar sands where steam, along with hydrogen, is needed to refine the heavy crude oil known as bitumen. Process heat is the high-temperature heat essential to permit many industrial processes, particularly chemical processes, to take place. In Alberta natural gas is used for this purpose. Engineers at the INL have been working on the idea of supplying a reactor to the Alberta tar sands for process heat and hydrogen since at least the late 1980s. More recently, representatives from the Alberta Research Council visited the lab to develop joint R&D projects. Topics discussed included carbon capture and storage, bitumen and heavy oil recovery, value-added petroleum processing and enhanced oil and gas recovery.

PBMR's CEO is excited about the Idaho option

PBMR CEO Jaco Kriek told Ceramers he has quite a bit to say about the project. Most importantly, the firm has plans to build a demonstration plant in North America.

  • “As far as process heat is concerned, the excitement and support for our technology has grown tremendously over the past few years. We’re now at a point where we could potentially look at a demonstration plant to be built in North America.

  • “It’s still early days,” he cautions, “but we expect some tender process to start in the near future, maybe even this year, and that would be a public–private partnership in North America. “We haven’t got much detail, but there is definitely the potential for this technology to be demonstrated for process heat in the US.”

  • “There will be a process, a tender process,” he explains. “We’re already a member of the new-generation nuclear power project in the Idaho Research Labs, which is a Department of Energy initiative by the US government – this tender process will select a technology for a demonstration plant for process heat.”

South Africa reveals its university R&D Agenda for the Pebble Beds

In South Africa Creamers reports the PBMR project continues with its R&D program. In February, the company signed a cooperation agreement with North West University (NWU). PBMR will sponsor research at NWU in the area of nuclear engineering.

“We have involved basically all the major South African universities in some way or another, and we have selected centers of excellence and skills,” says Kriek.

The facilities at NWU are the pebble-bed micro model, which was constructed some six years ago, the high-temperature test unit (HTTU), and the high-pressure test unit (HPTU). Together, the HTTU and the HPTU form the heat transfer test facility. “These test facilities support our safety case to the National Nuclear Regulator,” Kriek told Creamers.

The Faculty of Engineering at Potchefstroom has been involved with the PBMR program since 1997, developing the thermal hydraulic design software used to execute various design functions with regard to the PBMR – this software is named Flownex, and has been used by PBMR since 2000.

The focus of additional research is the PBMR’s so-called "pebbles" or its characteristic fuel spheres, which give the reactor its name. In a PBMR pebble, layers of different materials, such as graphite, are used to contain the radioactive fuel elements. The research is specifically aimed at improving these layers and the ability to fabricate the fuel elements on a mass scale.

Westinghouse to earn a share in PBMR

Reuters reports that South Africa's PBMR Ltd will ink a deal by the end of March with Westinghouse to develop and market the pebble bed reactor technology. The contract will also include South Africa's government, the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC), and power utility Eskom. Currently, PBMR is owned 100% by Eskom.

Lynette Milne, CFO, told Reuters, "In terms of the existing cooperation agreement, PBMR is 100 percent owned by Eskom. This will change in the shareholders' agreement where the other contributors to the project, being IDC, Westinghouse and government (through DPE), will also be issued shares in PBMR in proportion to their contributions historically."

The reactor is an advanced design that will be built in modules, with groups of four or eight reactors sharing one infrastructure, facilitating expansion. South Africa is currently testing elements of the Pebble Bed Modular Reactor (PBMR) and wants to build 24-30 PBMR reactors for its own energy needs.

PBMR is also seeking investment in the pebble bed reactor from Japan for a demonstration plant. The costs of the reactors must be brought down to meet market realities if the project is to succeed.

NGNP Reactor described

According to the INL the NGNP system is designed to be a high-efficiency system that can supply process heat to a broad spectrum of high-temperature and energy-intensive, non-electric processes. The system may incorporate electricity generating equipment to meet cogeneration needs. The system also has the flexibility to adopt uranium/plutonium fuel cycles and offer enhanced waste minimization. Thus, the VHTR offers a broad range of process heat applications and an option for high-efficiency electricity production, while retaining the desirable safety characteristics offered by modular high-temperature gas-cooled reactors.

INL's work on NGNP has included preliminary design and cost studies. Characteristically, the costs (INL/EXT-07-12967) ( 9 mb pdf file) of a demonstration plant, for first-of-a-kind technology, came in high. INL plans to build an NGNP reactor on the Arco desert within the next decade.

& & &

See related post How will INL manager NGNP?

Bruce Power doubles its bet in Alberta

New customers and limits on natural gas for tar sands region may make the difference

Bloomberg wire service reports that Bruce Power, the only non-government owner of a Canadian nuclear plant, filed an application to prepare a site for the first nuclear power plant in Alberta.

The wire service reported that the plant would have as many as four reactors and generation capacity of up to 4,000 megawatts. The project in northwestern Alberta, which may start in 2017, may cost C$8 to C$10 billion, said Chief Executive Officer Duncan Hawthorne.

This announcement is double the size of the previous report on Bruce Power's plans for nuclear energy in the tar sands region. In additional to supplying electricity for the province, other possible customers include transmission of the electricity to Montana. Plans for a power line from Lethrbridge to Great Falls, MT, have been developing for some time.

The $150 million Montana Alberta Tie Line, which will be a merchant, would stretch 230 miles — 129 of them in Montana — between Great Falls and Lethbridge, Alberta. It's being proposed by Toronto-based Tonbridge Power Inc. Approval of the line is expected by regulatory agencies in the U.S. and Canada.

Energy Alberta proposed nuclear reactors to supply electricity and hydrogen to tar sands oil companies, but the fossil guys didn't buy it. Wayne Henuset's entrepreneurial power play was on the verge of dropping out of sight when Bruce Power bought the firm last year. However, future limits on supplies of natural gas, currently used to provide heat to process the thick bitumen that is extracted from the tar sands, may re-open the door to nuclear generated electricity.

When Bruce Power purchased the assets of Energy Alberta it inked an exclusive deal to build nuclear power plants for its service area. Although Bruce Power said its plans were "technology neutral" at this time, it is expected that the firm will use twin 1,100 MW units of AECL's new ACR1000 reactor once design is completed and is approved by the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission. CEO Duncan Hawthorne said, "We are an all-Canadian company and the impact on Canadian jobs will be a big part of our decision-making process."

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Idaho Senate Committee approves Areva tax breaks

Idaho Falls was worried the Senate might ice the puck and stop their efforts

The Associated Press reports that the Idaho Senate Local Government & Taxation Committee, in a squeaker of a vote at 5-4, approved a measure that would cap the taxable value of a possible Areva uranium enrichment plant near Idaho Falls at $400 million if the company invests at least $1 billion within seven years.

AP reports the committee also voted 7-2 to approve a separate bill to extend a sales tax exemption for production equipment that handles nuclear fuel. The two bills now go to the full Senate. The House has already approved both measures. Idaho Falls officials and building groups statewide are pulling out all the stops to land Areva's $2 billion plant.

Areva has said it will make a decision within a few weeks on where to build the plant. The potential sites are in Washington, Ohio, Texas, New Mexico and Idaho. The company has promoted the need for tax incentives in all of the states, but has been particularly vocal about the need for Idaho to "be competitive." With high level Areva executives visiting all five states to promote the best possible terms for the company, the result is a mad scramble for the plant that has all the elegance of a face off in the second to last game of the Stanley Cup playoffs.

Back in Idaho opposition to the measure reportedly came from Senators who worried that one of Idaho's biggest employers, Micron Technologies of Boise, would now come to the legislature for the same deal. In 2005, lawmakers limited the taxable property valuation for Micron's semiconductor plant to $800 million, double Areva's limit should the new bill become law.

Economic development groups in Idaho Falls are probably knocking back a few double scotches tonight because they are still in the game.

Western lands uranium gopher

Mining uranium exploration press releases for useful newsgopher

The rise of nuclear energy, a second act if ever there was one, has given the price of uranium a shot in the arm. In western states in the U.S. interest in uranium mining is growing and with it comes another growth industry - the production of press releases about the uranium mining industry. In an effort to separate the truly interesting from the merely informational, I'm posting my running notes on uranium mining in western states, albeit with a one-month delay. The notes are organized in terms of bi-weekly updates for each month.

The choices of the subjects are a combination of what I find in the press release pile and what looks interesting to me and for readers. I'm focusing mostly on western states that are "west" of the 100th meridian, but this isn't hard and fast. The states of interest are WY, CO, UT, TX, NM, AZ, & NV. For this reason I'm calling this series, which will appear monthly, the "western lands uranium gopher."

I am supplying the available stock symbol for firms which you can look up on any of the major free web finance sites such as Yahoo or Google. Of course this information is not investment advice and the standard disclaimer that would bore even a regulatory lawyer is included here by reference. That said comments are welcome.

Western States Uranium News

*** Early January 2008

Australian firm invests in U.S. uranium sites

Atom Energy (ASX:AXY) of Perth, Australia, will acquire the assets of Mustang Energy, an unlisted uranium company with properties in three project areas in the U.S. The Mustang properties cover unpatented mining claims on federal lands in the Colorado plateau area in the four corners area. The acquisition will involve a stock swap and assumption of claims from Utah vendors via a combination of cash payments and stock valued for a combined total of $0.7 million.

As a result Atom Energy will acquire 100% interest in 104 claims in Utah 15 miles from the Shootaring Mill owned and operated by Uranium One; a 50% interest in 56 claims at the Green Dragon uranium mine; and, a 50% interest in 46 claims at the Bull Mountain mine.

* * *

Eagle Hill acquires two Arizona uranium exploration properties

Eagle Hill Exploration Corp. (TSX:EAG) is negotiating two separate agreements to acquire two Arizona uranium exploration properties in Coconino and Mohave Counties.

Eagle Hill will acquire 100% of the Rimshot Uranium Project in exchange for stock valued at $2.4 million. Eagle Hill will acquire 100% of the Lombardo claims in exchange for stock valued at $210,000 and cash payment of $300,000.

The Rimshot Project covers 379 claims. The Lombardo Project covers 90 claims.

* * *

Wave Uranium acquires Arizona claims

Wave Uranium (OTCBB:WAVU) announced it has acquired 100% interest in 10 claims known as the Wilson Creek Property in Gila County Arizona. The firm also announced it has recorded 153 claims on Federal lands in Gila County, Arizona.

The Wilson Creek area was first explored and mined in the 1950s. More recently, it was explored by Wyoming Minerals Corporation, a division of Westinghouse. It estimated the reserves for their Gila County holdings at nearly 4.5 million pounds of U3O8 probable, nearly 12 million pounds possible and more than 39 million pounds speculative. The seller and the terms of the acquisition were not revealed.

* * *

Trans America Industries sets joint New Mexico ventures with Neutron Energy Inc.

Trans America Industries (TSX:TSA) working in partnership with Neutron Energy Inc., (NEI) a privately held uranium exploration and development company, has successfully closed a financing of $10,593,000 at $1.50 per share, bringing its total cash position to approximately $15.6 million.

NEI is planning to concentrate on three property areas, the Frosty-Ox, the adjoining ZAC claims and East Roca Honda. The drilling programs are estimated to cost approximately $2.2 million.

TSA holds 10,750,000 shares of NEI and retains the right to earn a 50% interest in the Ambrosia Lake Project which will be the subject of a major exploration program in the coming months.

* * *

Mesa County, Colorado, approves uranium mine

Despite some public controversy, and a four hour long public hearing, the Mesa County Commissioners on Dec 18 unanimously approved a conditional use permit for an underground uranium mine five miles south of Gateway, CO. Gateway is on the Colorado-Utah border about 220 miles west of Denver and 35 miles southwest of Grand Junction.

Energy Fuels Resources (TSE:EFR), which will develop and operate the Whirlwind Mine, said initially it will mine up to 200 tons of ore per day. The ore will be trucked to the Blanding, Utah, mill.

Energy Fuels Resources also said it will build its own mill in Pinion Ridge in western Colorado. In a recent presentation to the Northwest Mining Association Convention, Energy Fuels Vice President-Corporate Marketing, Gary R. Steele, said the rapid development of the PiƱion Ridge Mill site can be attributed to licensing authority of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE), instead of a federal nuclear regulatory commission.

Steele said Energy Fuels is confident of mill start up in 2010. Located in Montrose County, Colorado, the 1,000 ton-per-day mill will have both uranium and vanadium recovery circuits. It is located on 880 acres or private land owned by Energy Fuels, which Steele estimated is large enough for more than 30 years of tailings disposal. The estimated resource at the mine is 657,000 pounds of uranium and 2.17 million pounds of vanadium.

* * *

Powertech gives and takes heat for proposed Weld County ISR mine

Powertech USA (TSE:PWE) responded to opponents of its proposed 6,000 acre ISR operation in northern Colorado with full page advertisements in December in three of the region’s newspapers. It’s message is that it will be a responsible steward of the environment. Powertech also published a copy of its letter to the Ft. Collins, CO, city council which voted earlier this year, without a public hearing, to oppose the uranium mine.

Powertech spokesperson Richard Blubaugh wrote that the action was “premature and unwarranted.” He said the council’s actions were based on “erroneous assumptions about uranium mining.”

Richard Clement, Powertech CEO, said he was surprised by the opposition which he said has “mischaracterized” the proposed operation. Clement pointed out the mine will inject $300 million into the local economy over the next ten years.

Ft. Collins City Councilwoman Lisa Poppaw, who sponsored the resolution against the mine, said her measure was designed to send a clear message that uranium mining is not welcome in Ft. Collins. The controversy may spill over into the Colorado State Legislative session this winter. Several northern Colorado legislators said they plan to review current laws to make sure they are adequate to permit uranium mines.

Powertech is currently in the permitting phase and plans to begin operations in 2010.

*** Late January 2008

Uranerz gets Pumpkin Buttes property

Uranerz Energy Corp. (AMEX:URZ) has acquired an undivided 81% interest in NAMMCO mineral properties covering 75,000 acres in the Pumpkin Buttes uranium mining district of the Powder River Basin, Campbell County, WY. Uranerz has tripled its holdings and now controls 108,982 acres (170 square miles) of mineral properties in the area.

Uranerz also entered into an agreement with United Nuclear, a company owned by the sellers of the NAMMCO properties, to operate a joint venture under the name "Arkose Mining Venture." NAMMCO will contribute a 19% working interest in the property.

Uranerz will deploy five drilling rigs to explore sites with historical geological data for the Nichols Ranch, Doughstick and Collins Draw areas.

In December the company submitted applications to federal and state agencies to construct and operate an ISR facility on the Nichols Ranch property.

* * *

Wave Uranium records claims in Utah, Arizona

Wave Uranium (OTC:WAVU) announced it recorded claims in Arizona and Utah, but was also hit by an anonymous "pump & dump" stock scam that was initiated by unknown third parties.

Wave Uranium, based in Las Vegas, NV, announced it has recorded 153 claims on federal lands in Gila County, AZ. The uranium deposits at Dripping Spring were first explored in the 1950s and later by Wyoming Minerals Corp, a division of Westinghouse. In the late 1970s Westinghouse estimated holdings of 4.5 million pounds of U3O8.

Wave also announced the registration of 1,327 claims in a 43 square mile areaq in Grand County, UT. The claim encompasses the Mineral Canyon mining district. No production data were made available regarding the claims.

In late December Computerworld reported that pump-and-dump scammers had developed sophsiticated videos to dupe consumers. Symantec Corp., an Internet security firm, said that one of them targeted Wave Uranium's stock.

Jitender Sarda, a Symantec analyst, said the video was 30 seconds long with sharp images, crisp sound, and the use of a false stock analyst commenting on Wave's stock. "The video looked like legitimate TV," he said. The video touted Wave's recent claims filed in Arizona and Utah. Until recently, most Internet-based pump-and-dump schemes relied on spam email. Also, over-the-counter uranium stocks have been frequent targets of pump-and-dumps schemes via anonymous postings on Internet discussion boards. Sarda said the significance of the high quality video is that represented a new level of sophistication in seeking to commit stock fraud.

Wave Uranium did not comment initially on the Computerworld report though the firm later denied any involvement in the scheme. Security researchers said the video may have been the work of Russian hackers who used compromised personal computers to send out the link to the video.

For the period 12/24/07 through 01/18/08 the stock remained at $2.00/share in the over-the-counter market except for a brief drop to $1.65/share over the three day period 01/09/08-01/11/08. It returned to $2.00/share on 01/14/08. Public trading of the stock began only recently in October 2007.

*** Side notes on "pump & dump" arrests

Pump-and-dump schemes often target over-the-counter stocks and can be profitable for the promoters assuming they don't get caught. On Jan 3 the Detroit Free Press reported that notorious Michigan spam king Alan Ralsky, his son-in-law, and nine others have been indicted in Detroit on charges of violating federal anti-spam laws.

The Michigan U.S. Attorney's office said the 41-count indictment said Ralsky and others used unsolicited e-mail to pump up the price of largely worthless stock in Chinese companies and sold the stock reaping huge profits and leaving Internet subscribers who purchased it holding the bag.

Ralsky had bragged to the newspaper in 2002 that he made millions from his spam operation and that he would never be caught. Prosecutors described Ralsky, 52, as one of the most prolific spammers in the nation. In the summer of 2005 alone, prosecutors said, his operation generated $3 million.

* * *

Bluerock shares up in Denison Deal

Shares in Bluerock Resources ((TSXV:BRD) rose 15% after the announcement of a deal with Denison Mines (TSX:DML) for sale of ore and a toll milling agreement. The deal is for a three-year agreement that allows for production and processing of 60,000 tons of uranium ore in 2008 and 100,000 tons in the two following years. Assuming the ore yields an average of four pounds U3O8/ton of ore, at $90/lb the deal is worth $93.6 million for the three year period.

Denison CEO Michael Collins said Bluerock is the first uranium company to negotiate a ore purchase and toll milling agreement at the White Mesa Mill located in southeastern Utah. The agreement affords Bluerock the opportunity to deliver uranium ore for immediate purchase and cash flow.

The ore will be mined from several of Bluerock's properties on the Colorado plateau. The firm has four projects - J-Bird Mine, which is under active development. It will be the earliest site for production. Three other mines are advancing with permit applications and production decisions pending. They are the Tramp Mine, Sunbeam Mine, and Cone Mountain Project. The J-Bird mine consists of 25 mineralized claims and is located west of the historic Uravan Uranium belt in Montrose County, CO.

* * *

Yellowcake acquires Colorado claims

Yellowcake Mining (OTC:YCKM) announced it has acquired 185 claims from American Nuclear Fuels covering 3,700 acres on the property known as the Beck Project, which is composed of 12 known deposits. The transaction includes a payment of $6 million and exchange of 2.77 million shares of stock. On 01/18/08 the stock closed at $0.98/share down from a historic high of $2.80/share in July 2007.

According to a company statement, prior exploration of the property indicates it has resources of 4.7 million pounds of U3O8. A nearby property produced 200,000 pounds of U3O8 in 1980 according to USGS documents reviewed by Yellowcake.

The Beck property is the second project for the firm following its development of the Juniper Ridge project in Wyoming. In March 2007, the company entered into an option and joint venture agreement with Strathmore Minerals Corp. on the Juniper Ridge Project properties located in Wyoming. Yellowcake has the right to earn an 80% interest in the property.

In February 2007 the firm raised $6 million and has 51 million shares outstanding.

* * *

Strathmore updates agreement with American Uranium

Strathmore Minerals (TSX:STM) updated its agreement with American Uranium Corp. (OTC:AUUM) for American to increase its exploration and development expenditures from $5 million to $12.75 million to earn a 22.5% interest in the Pine Tree Reno Creek project in Wyoming.

Last November American announced it has acquired a geological exploration database and paper records from Power Resources Inc. (ASX:PWW), a Cameco subsidiary, covering 1,100 drill holes.

In 2008 the joint venture between American and Strathmore will initiate permit applications and engineering design for an ISR facility.

American Uranium raised $6 million in August 2007 and has 45.6 million shares outstanding. On 01/18/08 the firm's stock closed at $1.10/share down from a historic high in July 2007 of $1.75/share.

Strathmore Minerals closed on 01/18/08 at $1.95/share down from a historic high in June 2007 of $4.40/share.

* * *

Powertech loses project manager for Centennial ISR

Powertech Corp. (TSX:PWE) continues to take heat from the public who are opposed to its proposed ISR operation in Nunn, CO, about 20 miles northeast of Ft. Collins. Vitriolic opposition to Powertech's proposed ISR caused the project manager to quit in frustration. Over 6,000 people have signed local petitions opposing the mine.

The company said in a press release on Jan 11 that Lane Douglas will be replaced by Terence Walsh who was previously the President and General Manager of ARCO's Thunder Basin Coal Company located in Campbell County, WY. Mr. Douglas will continue as a consultant to Powertech.

Meanwhile, several Colorado lawmakers announced they would seek new legislation to limit ISR mining in the state. Rep. John Kefalas, (D-Ft. Collins) said the bills would protect groundwater supplies in areas near the proposed mine. He was joined by Rep. Randy Fisher (D-Ft. Collins) The Denver Post reported that both men made their announcement at a media even on the steps of the state capitol surrounded by screaming anti-nuclear activists.

Powertech officials initiated a series of public meetings in Weld and Larimer counties to show residents the ISR mine would be safe. They previously pointed out that groundwater in the sandstone formations where ISR mining would take place would have high alpha readings and dissolved mineralization that would make it unfit as a potable water supply for any domestic purpose.

"The regulatory process requires us to study the geology for five quarters, to ensure the nature and safety of our proposed project," said Richard Blubaugh, vice president of environmental, health and safety resources for Powertech.

Powertech, which is a Canadian firm, also opened new offices in Wellington, CO, near the proposed mine site to promote communication with the public, and in a Denver suburb to put mine engineering design work closed to the site. The firm hired Michael Beshore as Powertech's Senior Environmental Coordinator. He is a geologist by training, education, and experience. He will work out of the Wellington, Co, office.

* * * Early February 2008

Powertech faces legislative challenges

Powertech Uranium Corp (TSX:PWE) isn’t a fly by night company. With exploration and development underway at projects in Colorado, Wyoming, and South Dakota, the Canadian firm ought to be well on its way toward reaping profits from the new uranium price increases of the past year. Well, things are not going according to plan. In Colorado the firm’s Centennial project east of Ft. Collins has run into a buzz saw of opposition from environmental groups who freely admit they want to shut down all ISR uranium mining statewide or at least have 100% guarantees on pollution control. Things are less intense at the Dewey-Burdock project which straddles the Wyoming and South Dakota border. However, Powertech has also run into the same lack of understanding that the groundwater in the area slated for ISR operations is already unfit for use by people or livestock and has been receiving deposition of dissolved uranium for eons.

In Colorado, two legislators submitted two bills that would effectively shut down ISR uranium mining in the state. Rep. John Kefalas (D-Ft. Collins) proposed a bill, H.B. 1161, that would require uranium miners to restore groundwater affected by ISR mining to pre-existing conditions. Rep. Randy Fischer (D-Ft. Collins) wants mining companies to show, H.B. 1165, that the technology exists to clean up all pollution that results from mining. Ft. Collins residents attending a symposium on uranium mining last week echoed the intent of the proposed legislation calling for “100% certainty” on all pollution related matters for ISR uranium mining.

The Colorado legislature postponed a vote on the controversial bills based on opposition from the mining industry and several firms including Powertech. At a legislative hearing on Jan 31 Stuart Sanderson of the Colorado Mining Association said the proposals were “impractical and unprecedented” and that they were not consistent with federal regulations. He pointed out that Colorado already has a regulatory framework in place to cover uranium mines. Powertech President Richard Clement said the bills were too far reaching and for all intents and purposes would ban ISR mining in Colorado.

Kefalas and Fischer found themselves on the receiving end of bipartisan complaints from other legislators they had not been consulted before the bills were introduced to this session. The Rocky Mountain News published an editorial noting that critics of the ISR project have failed to provide a satisfactory answers to questions about the bills.

Things are moving along at the Dewey-Burdock project. In January 2007, the Company received an exploration permit from the South Dakota Board of Minerals and Environments to complete 155 drill holes on this project. Powertech reported a NI 43-101 inferred resource of 7.6 million pounds of uranium within the project area, averaging 0.21% eU3O8.

Richard Clement, President & CEO, stated, "we are very pleased with the results to date of our drilling program at Dewey-Burdock. This drilling program has confirmed historical drill information and has demonstrated the potential to expand the resources within Powertech's property." At least the guy has one thing to cheer about.

* * *

Uranerz Energy Corp. (AMEX:URZ) announced that it has completed the acquisition of an 81% interest in the NAMMCO mineral properties, covering over 75,000 acres in the Pumpkin Buttes uranium mining district of the central Powder River Basin of Wyo. The cost of Uranerz’s 81% share is $24.8 million according to the firm's filing with the SEC. Uranerz has effectively tripled its property position in the Powder River Basin and now controls a total of approximately 108,982 acres or approximately 170 square miles) of mineral properties in the area.

In connection with the closing of the transaction, Uranerz has entered into a joint venture agreement with United Nuclear, a limited liability company owned by the sellers of the NAMMCO properties to operate a joint venture under the name "Arkose Mining Venture".

United Nuclear will acquire a 19% working interest in the Arkose Mining Venture for which it will pay $5.8 million according to a filing with the SEC.

Uranerz will be the manager of the joint venture and plans to operate up to five drill rigs on the NAMMCO properties to implement an aggressive exploration program based on historic geologic data compiled by the NAMMCO Sellers and on Uranerz's exploration knowledge and expertise in the Powder River Basin.

Part of the initial drilling program will be targeted to explore resource and mineralization extensions near or adjacent to at least three Uranerz projects known to have uranium mineralization: Nichols Ranch, Doughstick and Collins Draw. In December 2007 Uranerz submitted applications to the federal and state regulatory agencies for licenses and permits to construct and operate in-situ recovery ("ISR") uranium facilities on the Company's Nichols Ranch and Hank projects.

At market close on Feb 1 Uranerz stock was near its 52-week low of $2.11 at $2.81/share (52-week high of $7.65).

* * *

USA Uranium (OTC:USAU) said it had completed acquisition of a 75% interest in the LaSal West mineral claims in Utah. The property consists of 111 BLM claims over 2,200 acres. The property includes the Bluejay Mine, the M-6 mine, and the Balsley mine. Previous production from these mines from 1 million tons of ore included 0.35% U3O8 and 1.5% Vanadium.

The terms of the joint venture require the firm to issue 4 million shares. At market close on Feb 1 the firm’s stock traded at $0.75/share (52-week high $1.40) making the deal for their 75% share worth $3.0 million. The selling party and others in the joint venture were not disclosed. Presumably, the other part holds a 25% share worth $1 million.\

* * *

Utah Uranium (OTC:UTUC) announced the signing of an agreement to purchase a 100% interest in the "Wild" claims, located north of Hanksville, Utah. The Wild claims consist of 23 mineral claims located within the Henry Mountains in Utah. The company is acquiring the claims from Christian (Ted) Murer P.Geo, a prospector and geologist. He assembled the Wild claims, as well as the previously purchased Pinto claims, using the same data and methodology.

The Wild claims consist of 23 mineral claims located within the Henry Mountain Syncline of East Central Utah. The Company has recently completed a 10 hole, first phase drilling program on the Pinto claims, and is awaiting government approval for the 20 hole Phase two drill program. Historically, there were a number of drill holes made on the Wild property by Continental Oil Company in 1969. As part of their activities, down-hole logging was performed on these holes, revealing radioactive mineralization in 11 holes.

Cost of the acquisition to the Company includes the issuance of a total of $275,000 and the issuance of 600,000 shares within the following time frame: 100,000 shares and $75,000 on signing; 250,000 shares and $100,000 by January 15, 2009; and 250,000 shares and $100,000 by January 15, 2010.

At market close on Feb 1 the firm’s stock traded at $0.42/share (52-week high $1.98). The initial value of the first payment is $117,000. The total value of the deal will depend on the firm’s performance and stock price for the next two years.

* * *

Wave Uranium (OTC:WAVU) announced it has begun field work on mining claims and state leases around Mineral Canyon, Utah. The properties cover 27,000 acres of claims in Grand County and 6,456 acres of state leases in Grand and Emery Counties. Geologic mapping was completed in November 2007. Drilling will begin in Spring 2008.

* * *

Dumont Nickel (TSX:DNI) has expanded its field work at the Marysville, Utah, property in the U-Breva uranium zone. The exploration zone comprises 15 square miles of mineral properties in Clifton-Gold Hill mining district.

Approximately 1.1 million pounds of U3O8 were produced from the Marysvale Mining District, during the 1950’s-1960's, from various mines located mostly in its eastern portion (the Central Mining Area). Historic grades typically range 0.1%-0.2% U3O8, with higher grades ranging 0.2%-0.4% U3O8, to as high as 1.1% U3O8 reported from an underground cut at the historic U-Beva Mine located on Dumont’s claims.

At market close on Feb 1 the firm’s stock traded at $0.06/share (52-week high $0.32).

* * *

Buckingham Exploration (OTC:BUKX) exercised its option with Proteus Mining (privately held) to acquire 419 unpatented claims near Canon City, Colo. The terms are a payment of $215,000 and three million shares of stock. At market close on Jan 25 the firm’s stock traded at $1.00/share (52-week high $1.30) making this portion of the stock portion of the deal worth $3 million. An additional payment of $2 million will be made in phases on completion of certain milestones in the agreement.

The deal makes Buckingham one of the largest holders of mineral rights and uranium exploration claims in this area of Colorado. The claims are now grouped into 6 separate properties, with each property consisting of a varying number of uranium claims. The acquired claims are hosted in the Oligocene Tallahassee Creek Conglomerate, the Eocene Echo Park Formation, and Wall Mountain Pass Formations. Each claim covers a land surface area of 20 acres.

Most of the claims are located within close proximity (50 mile radius) of the Cotter uranium mill located in Canon City. The mill suspended operation in 2001 and is currently in the process of refurbishment. It is expected reopen in 2010. Virtually all of the properties have been previously owned, drilled or worked on by one of the major uranium companies that operated in the area during the last uranium boom that took place in the late 70s and early 80s. These companies include: Union Carbide, Cypress Mining, Urania, Westinghouse and Cotter Corporation.

Neutron Energy (privately held) submitted an application to conduct exploratory drilling near Seboyeta, N.M. George Byers, VP said the firm has 25 years of data, but wants to conduct the drilling to verify the information.

He’s cautious about the regulatory environment in New Mexico. He told the Cibola County Beacon, “No one in the Mining & Minerals Department (of the state of New Mexico) has approved a uranium mining permit. This is going to be a learning process for all of us.” He ruled out ISR mining because the claim it holds isn’t receptive to this process.

The firm received support in the legislature on an action from Sen. David Ulibarri (D-Cibola) which passed a resolution supporting resurgence of mining in the area. It asked several state agencies with jurisdiction over the mining permit to collaborate to remove barriers to uranium production in the state.

* * *

Bayswater Uranium Corp (CDNX:BAY) announced it has entered into an agreement to acquire the remaining 10% carried interest in six uranium properties, three located in the Athabasca Basin region of Saskatchewan and three located in southwestern Nevada.

The 10% carried interest was held by Bullion Fund Inc. an Alberta corporation, acting as agent for the owners. U.S. properties included in the agreement are the Carol R Mine (24 claims) and Holiday Mine (20 claims) located in Mineral County, Nevada and the Green Monster Mine (80 claims) in Clark County, Nevada.

Bayswater initially acquired a 90% working interest in the properties as a result of the amalgamation with Northern Canadian Uranium Inc. which closed in December, 2007. Under the terms of the purchase agreement, Bullion will sell its 10% working interest to Bayswater for $125,000 cash payable on the closing date and $225,000 worth of stock based on the closing share price. On Feb 1 the stock closed at $0.59/share near its 52-week low of $0.54/share (52-week high $2.47/share). At the current share price the deal will require 381,355 shares of stock.

In terms of the Nevada properties the Carol R property is centered on the historic Carol R open pit uranium mine, which produced uranium in 1955-56. Historic reports indicate uranium minerals occur at a reported 0.94% U3O8. The property was drilled in 1972 and historic reports state that significant inferred uranium resources were identified.

The Green Monster property surrounds 4 patented mining claims, not held by the Company, that cover the historic Green Monster mine. The Green Monster mine produced significant lead and zinc, which contained reported elevated uranium content. A 5 ton bulk sample from the mine, collected in 1951 reportedly contained 1.09% U308 with individual samples containing up to 10.5% U3O8.

The Holiday Mine contains structural and intrusive hosted uranium mineralization that will be evaluated during the upcoming field programs.

* ** Late February 2008

Magnum Uranium (CVE:MM) has started drilling the Big Hank Exploration Project in the Salmon-Challis National Forest. The firm will drill 21 exploratory holes from 30-to-100 feet deep. It is the first uranium exploration work to take place in Idaho in quite some time. The area has been heavily mined in the past for other minerals. The Yankee Fork was a famous gold mine and the Thompson Creek molybdenum mine is downstream. According to Magnum 7,000 tons of uranium were removed during the 1950s and early 1960s. The firm said it’s initial survey indicated a “large and significant uranium anomaly” in the area in sandstone embedded in old stream channels.

Friends of the West, an environmental group, called the exploration “totally irresponsible” and said it would harm migrating salmon. The Idaho Conservation League said it would take a wait and see approach and respond only if a mine looked like it would be established as a result of the prospecting.

In other news Magnum announced it had completed ahead of schedule the terms of its joint venture with Energy Metals Corp. ( a subsidiary of Uranium One) on a 6,000 acre property in the San Rafael district in Emery County, Utah, and on the 360 acre ‘Wild Buck’ property in Converse County, Wyo. Magnum now owns 80% of the two properties. Magnum completed $1.0 million in expenditures in drill programs on the two properties and issued 600,000 shares of stock. It subsequently issued an additional 250,000 common shares. Preparation of an NI 43-101 report is in progress.

On Feb 15 Magnum stock closed at $0.72/share against a 52-week high of $1.64/share this time last year. At this price the newly issued shares of common stock would be worth $612,000. In May 2007 the firm closed a private placement raising $3M CDN for 2.86 million shares of stock at $1.05/share.

* * *

Vane Minerals, (LSE:VML), a U.K. company, stepped into a huge controversy after receiving a permit from the U.S. Forest Service to explore for uranium just outside the Grand Canyon National Park. The firm received approval from the government to drill at seven sites one of which is three miles from a popular tourist lookout over the canyon’s south rim. The Kanab National Forest Supervisor approved the drilling using a “categorical exclusion” from environmental impact analysis because the exploration will have a duration of less than a year and might not lead to a request to mine the area.

Matthew Idiens, an executive for the mining company, said at least seven mines have been active in the area in the past and as a group have yielded 24 million pounds of uranium. He said full reclamation of any new mining would involve closing up new shafts.

Barbara McCurry, a spokesperson for the Kanab Forest, said the government has little choice with regard to the drilling request under the 1872 mining law. She told the New York Times, the impact of exploratory drilling is “pretty minimal.”

The mining activity near the Grand Canyon may become a poster child for efforts to reform the 1872 law. Dusty Horwitt, an analyst for the Environmental Working Group, told the New York Times the Kanab Forest’s actions will generate support for efforts to get legislation approved in the House moving in the Senate.

Vane Minerals stock closed Feb 15 on the LSE at $12.50 near a 52-week low of $11.67.

* * *

Powertech Uranium (TSX:PWE) completed its field activities and chemical analyses from its drilling and coring program for the controversial Centennial project in northeast Weld County, Colo. The drilling program, authorized under a permit from the Colorado Department of Natural Resources confirms the presence of uranium deposits on the 5,700 acre site identified by the Rocky Mountain Energy Company in the late 1970s. A recently-completed NI 43-101 compliant technical report outlined two key uranium deposits with total inferred resources of 9.7 million pounds U3O8. Powertech also said the drilling confirms high horizontal permeability of the Fox Hills sands which will facilitate the movement of oxidizing solutions to contact uranium in the formation.

Powertech has been under pressure from environmental activists in nearby Larimer County to stop the project. However, this week Larimer County Environmental Advisory Board declined to make a determination the proposed ISR operation would cause pollution problems. Mike Erickson, a member of the board, told a local newspaper the board does not have data that says how likely the potential would be for the mine to harm water, soil, air, and affect the economy. The board’s report, which has no regulatory effect on the mine, said, “The board is not able to quantify the likelihood of such risks but merely identify them.” The Colorado Medical Society, and several local environmental groups, have issued statements saying they fear a worst case scenario. Larimer County Commissioners will meet on Feb 25 to consider whether to issue a statement on the proposed mine.

Powertech Stock closed on Feb 15 at $1.13 against a 52-week low $0.83 on Feb 11.

* * *

Bluerock Resources (TSX:BRD) signed an agreement with Uranium Mineral Services Corp. to purchase assets associated with the Pine Ridge Uranium Mine in the La Sal District in southeastern Utah for $1.8 million. The asset has historic production of 540,000 pounds U3O8 (ore grade 0.17%) and 2.7 million pounds V2O5 (ore grade 0.85%). Blue Rock said it would commence production at the mine in 2009.

On Feb 15 the stock closed at $0.75 compared to a 52-week range of $0.28 (Aug-07) – $0.94 (Nov-07). As of April 2007 the firm had 19 million shares outstanding with 17% owned by insiders and 21% by institutional investors.

# # #

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

DOE Cleanup program facing deep cuts in 2009

Energy communities across the U.S. turn to Congress for relief

A critical issue for the future of the Idaho National Laboratory (INL) nuclear energy mission is unfolding in an area where the incumbent site contract on the R&D side of the house has little control. The issue is that advocacy for new nuclear missions for the R&D program by the State of Idaho and its voters depends very much on continued federal funding and rapid progress in the cleanup program. Neither the governor, the legislature, nor the voters make much distinction between R&D missions and cleanup programs. To them it is all the same Department of Energy.

When the government sneezes and cuts back on cleanup funding, the R&D program catches the cold. Given the dangerous nature of the nuclear wastes being cleaned up, the budget cuts make about as much sense as saving money by funding scooters for policemen instead of motorcycles. Who would have confidence in law enforcement under this scenario? It is the same with cleanup.

The Battelle Energy Alliance, known locally as "BEA," is not the contractor involved in cleaning up hazardous and nuclear waste on the Arco desert 45 miles west of Idaho Falls. Several other independent contractors are funded by the Department of Energy to cleanup the waste, manage spent nuclear fuel, and ship radioactive garbage to low level waste or geologic repositories. All of this work is paid for by the same agency -- the Department of Energy.

Cleanup progress is not the issue. What is the problem is the federal government is backing off of its promises to fund the cleanup program here and at other DOE sites across the country. Places Like Savannah River, Oak Ridge, and Pacific Northwest Lab (Hanford) are facing the same challenges as Idaho. Every one of them has the same success factor as part of the equation for political support for science and engineering R&D missions. Cleanup funding must be sustained to gain the public's confidence in new projects. If you don't believe this just look at the record of some of the GNEP hearings that took place last year in Piketon, OH, and Morris, IL, where the public came out like swarms of angry hornets to oppose new nuclear missions.

In Idaho BEA plans to build a $2 billlion "Next Generation Nuclear Plant" (NGNP) on the desert in the next decade, and is diligently working toward that goals. It's materials and fuels research work shows real promise. That bright future may be throttled back if the cleanup program's latest funding challenges, spawned in the bureaucratic halls of the Office of Management & Budget (OMB) in Washington, DC, are not redressed by Congress. This is an annual exercise with OMB picking away at the $6 billion plus cleanup budget simply because it is such a big target.

At issue this year is DOE's request for 2009 of $5.5 billion for the environmental management (EM) program, a $168 million cut from 2008 levels. The proposed cuts drop the program back to levels below the level in 2005 when the program received $7.3 billion. In Idaho the proposed cuts could delay by up to two years construction of a facility to convert nearly 1 million gallons of liquid radioactive waste into a dry powder stored in steel casks. The transformation from liquid to dry powder will remove a threat to the Snake River Acquifer. The State of Idaho, which is a party to the Federal Consent Decree that governs cleanup progress, hasn't said anything so far, but it won't take long to hear thunder coming out of Boise.

A bleak funding picture across the country

Nationally, the news isn't much better. Chemical & Engineering News reports this week that cleanup of nuclear weapons sites across the country is underfunded, but DOE is cutting the program. According to the magazine,

"An audit shows that the cost to clean up extensive radioactive and hazardous waste contamination is likely to be as high as $305 billion, more than $50 billion higher than the Administration's earlier estimate. It also may take until 2062 to finish the job—more than 20 years longer than original estimates. Yet this year's cleanup budget proposal is $5.5 billion, the lowest level in the last 15 years for the huge cleanup program."

DOE officials acknowledge that the cuts for 2009 mean the department will not be able to meet cleanup milestones in Idaho and elsewhere. Assistant Energy Secretary James Rispoli said recently in a presentation that funding levels requested for 2009 mean that DOE "would not meet some of the milestones and obligations contained in all of the environmental agreements that have been negotiated over many years with regulators . . . regardless of the approach that is chosen and its associated level of funding."

Rispoli made his comments on Feb. 22 in Washington, DC, at the 2008 annual conference of the Energy Communities Alliance (ECA), a group that represents local communities adjacent to DOE sites. Rispoli must have come to the job with a thick skin, because this year he is really going to need it. DOE is facing unprecedented criticism from ECA community representatives, who say the proposed cuts will slow down cleanups at sites that have been promised increased funds.

Accoring to several nuclear industry trade newsletters, Rep. Doc Hastings (R-WA), who chairs the congressional Nuclear Cleanup Caucus and represents communities adjacent to DOE's Hanford facility, told the 34th annual Waste Management conference in Phoenix Feb. 25 that the cuts are going to result in cleanup slowdowns at many sites in violation of existing cleanup agreements. Hasting is casting a wide net polling all the cleanup sites for information on milestones that will be missed under 2009 funding levels, in order to assess exactly how the budget request will impact the cleanup program.

Simpson takes a new media approach in Idaho

In Idaho Rep. Mike Simpson has taken a new tack in his efforts to restore the funding. In addition to the normal media channels, Simpson is also now getting his message out with a blog. John Revier, Simpson's Deputy Chief of Staff, writes that "Mike has placed a blog post in a Capitol Hill newspaper's website." The newspaper is the 'Hill' and this is Simpson's blog post. Simpson writes that along with Rep. hastings 22 other members of Congress have indicated their support for restoring the budget cuts.

Here are a few highlights.
  • The challenges are enormous and the costs are staggering . . . the moral, contractual, and legal obligations of the Department of Energy (DOE) are without question.
  • . . . the Bush Administration’s budget requests over the last three years for the EM Program have been in steep decline.
  • I am dismayed by the apparent lack of commitment . . . to the promises made, contracts signed, and laws enacted that govern the cleanup of these sites.
  • I am hopeful, and even confident, that Congress will stand by these sites and provide an appropriate level of funding . .
Simpson understands the stakes for both sides of the house in Idaho. Cleanup progress in eastern Idaho means positive political support statewide for new nuclear missions for the Idaho R&D lab. In Washington that message is coming across using new media. Let's hope that message gets heard.

Write your Congressman to tell him you support this. He'll appreciate it.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Want a job - go nuclear

Jobs are going begging in the booming nuclear industry

The Philadelphia Inquirer has a report this week that "a job boom is shaking the nuclear industry." In an economy that is headed south by almost every measure, one of the bright spots is nuclear energy.

The newspaper says that industry will have 90,000 openings in the next few years and a starting salary for an undergraduate engineer is $60,000. Technicians can look forward to starting salaries of $43,000 or $21.50/hr. An entry-level nuclear operator can expect $25/hour during training and regular increases once certified. All positions include excellent benefits.

The tremendous shortage of workers is driven by several factors.
  • An aging workforce with an average worker 48 years old. One in three will be eligible to retire in four years.
  • More than 80 reactors have applied for 20-year license extensions. They expect to be in business for a long time.
  • More than two dozen new reactors will have license applications pending by this time next year according to the NRC. These reactors are expected to have a life cycle of up to 60 years.
  • Nuclear plant operators are in an "aggressive hiring mode" according to media reports
Exelon, which is based in the Philadelphia area, has plans to hire 2,500 people nationwide at its multiple nuclear reactors in 10 states. Last year Penn State graduated 44 nuclear engineers and all found jobs according to the newspaper.

In North Carolina the News & Observer reports GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy in Wilmington has hired 500 workers in the past three years and could add up to 900 more within five years. Duke Energy in Charlotte is hiring 200 a year. Progress Energy in Raleigh hired 140 last year and plans to add as many this year.

The paper also reports robust internship and hands-on learning opportunities for nuclear engineering students. To compete for talent, Progress Energy and Duke Energy offer paid summer internships to nuclear engineering students and often offer jobs well before the students graduate. Progress Energy's undergraduate interns in nuclear engineering are paid $17 to $23 an hour or as much as $11,000 for 12 weeks of work at a nuclear plant. By the time they graduate, some of the interns have worked three summers, rotating among nuclear plants."This is really our pipeline strategy for our engineers," said Dayna Herrick, Duke Energy's nuclear work-force development manager. "The intern program is really an extended job interview."

You don't have to be an nuclear engineer to get a job in the nuclear industry, though it certainly helps. Other disciplines include mechanical and electrical engineering and even a degree in physics or chemistry is valuable. Navy nuclear experience is especially prized by utilities.

Where to look for jobs?

Want to know more about what it is like to work at a nuclear power plant? Here are some links.
There are a number of web sites that list nuclear jobs. Here's a sample.
These aren't complete lists. Readers are welcome to provide additional suggestions in the comments. I'll add them to the blog post for visibility.