Friday, March 21, 2008

Patrick Moore to speak in Idaho Falls April 22

Former Greenpeace founder advocates nuclear energy as a solution to global warming ~ The Partnership for Science & Technology (PST) is sponsoring the event.

Patrick Moore, co-founder of Greenpeace, is chairman and chief scientist of Greenspirit Strategies. He will speak in Idaho Falls on April 22nd and in Boise on April 23rd.

In Idaho Falls Moore will speak at 7 PM on 4/22 at the Bennion Student Union, University Place. Tickets are $5 at the door or in advance. See info below.

Moore and Christine Todd Whitman, the former head of EPA, are co-chairs of an industry-funded initiative, the Clean and Safe Energy Coalition, which supports increased use of nuclear energy. Moore laid out his ideas in an important essay published in the Washington Post in 2006.

Contact: Lane Allgood, Executive Director of PST, at 208-313-4166 or email


Japan - nuclear in, fossil out

Atomic energy will drive the country's economic growth without adding to greenhouse gases

Japan's Atomic Energy Commission has issued a report that advocates that country take the lead in promoting nuclear energy worldwide as part of efforts to fight global warming. Japan is facing obligations to slash greenhouse gases under the Kyoto Protocol. It also competes with China for mideast oil and has been hit hard by rapidly rising prices for a barrel of crude. Japan has no oil production facilities of its own.

The Atomic Energy Commission, which is in charge of setting the country's nuclear energy policies, made the call for more nuclear power in an annual paper submitted to Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda's cabinet.

"Our country should work for the international community to have a common recognition that an expansion of the peaceful use of nuclear energy is inevitable as a measure against global warming," it said.

The commission forecast the number of nuclear reactors worldwide will surge to 790 by about 2030. There were 435 in 2006, when nuclear energy accounted for some 16 percent of global power generation.

French Prime Minister seeks nuclear coperation

Nuclear cooperation is expected to be high on the agenda during a trip to Japan next month by Prime Minister Francois Fillon of France. Fillon has requested a tour of the spent fuel recycling plant in Rokkasho.

"A visit to the nuclear reprocessing plant, which uses technical assistance by France, would be a main event that highlights cooperation between Japan and France," a Japanese government spokesman told wire services.

The Rokkasho reprocessing plant, which uses the technology of France's state-run nuclear giant Areva, began test operations in March 2006 and is to eventually produce MOX fuel. The Rokkasho plant, operated by Japan Nuclear Fuel Ltd. is set to begin full operations in May of this year.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Cravens speaks in Idaho Falls

150 people turn out for her appearancesmokestacks

Gwyneth Cravens, the author of the book "The Power to Save the World, the Truth About Nuclear Energy," spoke to a friendly audience in Idaho Falls this week. She appeared before a group composed of members of the local chapter of the American Nuclear Society and a larger number of community leaders, Cravens told them "educating the public is the key to the nuclear renaissance."

Joining her on the podium was Rip Anderson, a distinguished scientist from Sandia National Laboratory and Craven's guide to the nuclear industry. Cravens told the audience the key to communication is getting past "us v. them." Anderson added that you "cannot speak 'geek' to the public. He gave an example of how to get a point across. He said the U.S. Navy has deployed 254 nuclear submarines with no radioactive releases from any of the reactors in them.

Cravens sees movement among green groups

In an interview, Cravens told me the environmental community is "in turmoil" over nuclear energy because base load demand can only come from one of two sources - fossil or nuclear. She added that in the Pacific Northwest a limited amount of base load demand also comes from hydro.

"Behind closed doors," Cravens said, "there are discussions about what to do" about the environmental community's opposition to nuclear energy when faced with greenhouse gases especially CO2 from fossil sources.

She said the reflex opposition to nuclear energy is giving way to "more serious understanding of how choices are limited" if we want to keep supplying electricity to our cities and reduce greenhouse gases.

"The environmental community is realizing," she emphasized, "that nuclear energy must be on the table."

With regard to the relicensing hearings taking place at Indian Point in New York, which is her home state, Cravens said, "I cannot fathom how it would be shut down. Where would the replacement power come from?"

Despite progress on the 'green' front,' Cravens said that many environmental groups still have "dishonest information" on their web sites that is "not science based."

In the interview Cravens said she foresees the likelihood that reprocessing of spent fuel will be reintroduced in the U.S. "Spent fuel is too valuable to bury," she said. She also talked about the potential for micro reactors that would supply electricity to communities that are "off-the-grid."

She closed by observing that most of the barriers to the resurgence of nuclear power are political. In her view tripling the number of nuclear reactors worldwide would result in a 25% reduction in C02 emissions.

* * *

The event was organized by the Partnership for Science & Technology, a pro-nuclear economic development group based in Idaho Falls.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Idaho Senate passes two bills for Areva plant

Incentives are aimed at landing a $2 billion uranium enrichment facility in Idaho

The Idaho Senate today passed two bills by 2:1 margins aimed at providing tax incentives designed to attract a $2 billion uranium enrichment plant. The site under consideration by French nuclear giant Areva is located west of Idaho Falls in eastern Idaho.

Both measures have already passed in the House.

Senate Majority Leader Bart Davis told me in an email this morning that Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter supports both bills and indicated he will sign them if the Senate approves the measures.

Key to support for the bills was a concerted effort by community leaders in Idaho Falls including elected officials and economic development groups. Opposition to the bills came from two political perspectives.

Anti-nuclear groups, including the Snake River Alliance, lined up with Sen Diane Bilyeu, a Democrat from Pocatello, who bucked support for the bills by trade unions in her district. She opposed the bills in committee. On the Senate floor she voted for H 561 and against H 562.

Sen. Tim Corder, a republican from Mountain Home, opposed the legislation because he is against all types of tax incentives for business. He voted against both bills.

Idaho is one of five states in the running for the plant. The other states include New Mexico, Texas, Washington, and Ohio. Areva is expected to select a site within a few weeks. The firm had said earlier that Idaho was "not competitive" with other states because of its lack of tax incentives. The passage of these two bills now levels the playing field.

Assuming Gov. Otter signs the bills, the ball will be in Areva's court. March madness anyone?

The Associated Press has additional coverage with some choice quotes from the floor of the Idaho State Senate -- pro and con.

Highlights of the legislation

Senator McKenzie H561

by Revenue and Taxation - SALES TAX - PRODUCTION EXEMPTION - Amends existing law to provide that the production exemption from sales and use tax shall be available to a business or separately operated segment of a business engaged in the business of processing materials, substances or commodities for use as fuel for the production of energy.

Senator Hill H562

by Revenue and Taxation - CAPITAL INVESTMENTS - PROPERTY TAX EXEMPTIONS - Adds to existing law to provide a property tax exemption for certain new capital investments over $400,000,000 in a single county.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Nuclear energy blog roundup

Lemhi Pass An occasional survey of what other nuclear blogs are saying

Every nuclear blog has a blog roll which lists the blogs the publisher thinks would be interesting to readers. I'm starting a new occasional series to survey some highlights of my blog roll. The photo at the left is Lemhi Pass here in Idaho. There's a lot of excitement about it in some quarters of the nuclear blogsphere. Read more below.

Over at Atomic Insights Rod Adams has a continuing interest in nuclear energy in Texas especially Amarillo Power headed up by entrepreneur George Chaman. He reports that Chapman is getting help from Unistar Nuclear. a partnership of Constellation Energy, Areva, Bechtel and EDF. Their support considerably brightens his prospects to file for an NRC license later this year.

At the blog published by the Nuclear Energy Institute, Dave Bradish sums up the positions of the three leading presidential candidates. The view from the Democratic party is daunting. According to NEI, Gene Sperling, Sen. Clinton's campaign aide, says nuclear energy needs to die of natural causes. It reminds me of the scene in the movie "Independence Day" in which the US president asks the alien invaders what they want. The reply is, "we want you to die." Thanks a lot.

At Energy from Thorium Kirk Sorenson sums up the potential for mining a huge thorium deposit here in Idaho at Lemhi pass. He points out that one of the world’s largest known reserves of high quality thorium (thorium oxide) reserves is located there along the Idaho/Montana border where Lewis & Clark once walked. Sorenson, who is an expert on thorium fuel, thinks this ore deposit could help the US with its energy needs.

Speaking of thorium, at the Daily Kos diarist David Walters writes why the nuclear industry needs the Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor. He explains the LFTR is incredibly stable against nuclear reactivity accidents.

At the NuclearGreen blog Charles Barton has more and explains the benefits of investing in the molten salt reactor [image] by republishing the complete text of a science monograph by Uri Gat, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and H. L. Dodds, University of Tennessee at Knoxville. According to the Idaho National Laboratory Molten Salt Reactors (MSRs) are liquid-fueled reactors that can be used for production of electricity, actinide burning, production of hydrogen, and production of fissile fuels.

Physical Insights updates us on progress by the Kentucky legislature to bring nuclear energy to that state. The plan is to get at least one of the at least two dozen planned nuclear reactors to locate in the blue grass state.

Welcome back Ruth Sponsler at We Support Lee with new posts on the implications for nuclear energy of $100 a barrel oil and the odd directions being taken by the legal challenge to relicensing the Indian Point nuclear power plant.

Moving overseas Nuclear Australia points out the need for the nuclear energy option and cites a report that the folks down under are quite vulnerable to the perils of global warming.

In the UK FreedomfromFission asks about the location of the 18 new nuclear energy plants. He can count, and asks the government to name the other 11 sites in its program.

In Washington, DC, on Fuel Cycle Week Andrea Jennetta and Nancy Roth braved the late winter weather in Toronto and returned from a major mining conference with the latest on how investors are evaluating uranium mines. It's still an art.

Robert Hargraves has been working on developing ways to educate the public on the benefits of nuclear energy. He's currently teaching an eight week class at Dartmouth.

He says on his blog PebbleBedReactor the public must rethink nuclear power. "I now think public acceptance of nuclear power will depend on reprocessing to burn up the most hazardous radioactive waste. Also, reprocessing will wondrously provide a century of power just from the existing spent fuel inventories at nuclear power plant sites. Not only can non-fissile U-238 be bred into plutonium fuel, but abundant thorium can also be bred into U-233 fuel. We can have fuel that meets all our energy needs for thousands of years and waste that decays in a few hundred."

& & &

What else is nuclear blogs out there? Comments are welcome.

Loan guarantees are not enough

NRC Commissioner says feds fall short
[Update 03/19/08]

moonshot

Gregory Jaczko, a member of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), went to London last week to say the obvious about federal loan guarantees, something he should be saying here in the states. What he said was that the U.S. government's $18.5 billion in loan guarantees falls short of the $500 billion needed to build the country's next generation of nuclear power plants.

What this looks like is a man climbing into a tree and telling his friends on the ground his trip to the moon has a bit further to go. The loan guarantees, in their current form, will only be enough to finance two to three nuclear reactors. The current limits could stop new nuclear power plants after that dead in their tracks. It would tip the so-called "nuclear renaissance" into the realm of science fiction. What we really need in this country is the nuclear equivalent of the Apollo moon program with a joint commitment of the government and industry. It's the only way we're going to do more than just run in place.

Referring to the $18.5 billion in loan guarantees authorized last year Jaczko said, "It's a far cry from what's needed. Congress is supportive, but have decided not to provide more federal loan guarantees - there's a disconnect there, so financing would have to happen without federal loan guarantees. "

More reactors are coming

To date, the NRC has received five complete applications and one partial application for licenses to operate and construct a nuclear power plant. The agency expects to receive 17 applications for 30 nuclear power reactors with around 45 GW of capacity over the next two to three years. It's not yet clear how many licenses will be approved. Some will fail the "baloney test" and never make it to an NRC licensing hearing.

Jaczko said around 50 new nuclear reactors would be needed to replace the country's aging plants and keep the amount of electricity produced from nuclear steady at 20%. What he didn't say, but should have, is that we'll need another 50 to make any impact at all on swapping out fossil fuel generated greenhouse gases for zero emission nuclear energy.

Also speaking at the same electric utility conference was Mike Wallace, CEO of Constellation, who has been outspoken on the issue of the loan guarantees.

"That first wave of new nuclear would need assistance as there's no commercially available financing now because of the uncertainties and because it's been 30 years since one was built."

"But once we demonstrate that, we should be able to finance the next wave with commercial loans," Wallace told Dow Jones Newswires.

Constellation Energy hopes to break ground on a new nuclear power reactor at its Calvert Cliffs plant in Maryland at the end of this year following a final decision in November. The company plans for an Areva EPR, a 1.6-gigawatt reactor, to come on line in 2015.

What neither man really said was the likelihood that investment banks will put up billions of dollars for new nuclear power plants in the current Wall Street financial meltdown is a perilous proposition without the guarantees. Good luck with that in the current financial climate. Maybe what's needed is some interest from the giant sovereign wealth funds that have sprung up around the planet?

Progress and FPL file for two reactors each

If you want to see how small an effect the current loan guarantees are really going to have on swapping nuclear energy for fossil fuels and slowing down global warming, then take a look at Progress Energy. This week it filed plans for a new nuclear power plant in Florida. The firm told the state public utility commission the plant has an estimate price tag of $17 billion and will take nine years to build. It is expected to go into service in 2017. The twin reactors will be located in Levy County, Florida.

Construction costs are estimated to be about $14 billion and new electric grid transmission capabilities, including 200 miles of lines, will be another $3 billion according to media reports about the filing. These costs will be passed on to customers while construction is taking place. Progress services just under two million customers in Tampa, Orlando, and other locations in the middle of the state.

Progress has become the poster child of critics of nuclear energy who say the reactors are too expensive to build. The Progress filing follows a petition for two new reactors from Florida Power & Light. FPL said its units could cost from $12 billion to $24 billion, which is double projections other nuclear developers made in the past year.

If it weren't for the fact that five other reactors have already filed with the NRC for licenses, and for loan guarantees, the two utilities in Florida could use all of the coverage and still have investors out in the cold. The only thing that makes the new build in Florida viable is a state law, in a regulated environment, which allows the utilities to bill customers for the costs of construction while the plants are being built.

Progress said its two new reactors would boost average annual costs for the company's 1.7 million Florida customers by 3 to 4% from 2009 to 2018. Once the plants begin operation in 2016-17, Progress estimated fossil fuel savings would be about $1 billion annually as the utility's percentage of nuclear generation rises to 38 percent from 12 percent.

Early cost-recovery is a key for Progress, C.J. Drake, Progress spokesman, told Reuters. "If it weren't for that, nuclear would be too expensive. Our customers are asking us to do as much as we can to address climate change."

Florida regulators have rejected plans for several coal-fired plants over the past year, leaving nuclear and natural gas-fired generation as viable options for electricity generation to serve a rapidly growing customer base. The current nuclear plans are for Westinghouse AP1000s.

The Florida Public Utilities Commission is expected to hold hearings on the filing. Environmental reviews also start up. The NRC licensing process will take at least 42 months according to the agency. Progress hasn't actually submitted an application tot he NRC yet. According to the NRC's status information, Progress is expected to file for two Westinghouse AP1000 reactors later this year.

Update 03/19/08

The Miami Herald reports State regulators approved Florida Power & Light's request to build two new nuclear reactors and opened the door for the utility to start charging customers for the multibillion-dollar investment as early as next year. It will take nearly a decade to complete the project.

In a major victory for FPL, the Public Service Commission dismissed concerns of dozens of environmental groups and unanimously agreed there was a need for the new reactors at Turkey Point in South Miami-Dade. In effect, the Herald reports, the regulators gave the plants a "green light."

For more insights into the FPL filing log over to Rod Adams Atomic Insights for analysis of the costs and why it still makes sense to build the plants.


Saskatchewan seeks uranium enrichment role

Gaining U.S. support and changing G8 policy are next steps

SaskEmblemWith all the attention being paid to Areva's plans for a new, $2 billion uranium enrichment plant in the U.S., the question becomes, how much uranium enrichment capacity is needed in North America? The answer is "more than you think." Where will it come from? The answer is maybe Saskatchewan.

Assuming that all U.S. three plants now under construction or on the drawing board go into production by 2012, their output will still leave at least 25% of U.S. and Canadian requirements for enriched uranium unmet and fulfilled by imports. The other two plants are the National Enrichment Facility which is being built in New Mexico by Louisiana Energy Services (LES) and the American Centrifuge plant being built in Ohio by the United States Enrichment Corp. (USEC)

So who else might enter the North American market? The unsurprising answer is Canada which according to various sources produces a quarter of the world's uranium from its mines. The province of Saskatchewan is doing more than just thinking about getting into the uranium enrichment business according to statements made by the provincial leader Brad Wall last week.

He said the province, the world's leading uranium producer, would benefit from adding value to the natural resource. Wall said he has already talked to the federal government about getting Canada included on the G8's list of countries that are allowed to enrich uranium.

brad wall Wall, who was visiting Washington, DC, to discuss his plans with U.S. counterparts, told the Wall Street Journal, "We're the Saudi Arabia of uranium. It is in our mutual interest for Canada to become a reliable supplier of uranium fuel to the U.S." He made a pitch to Secretary of Energy Samuel Bodman, who is the lead policy advisor to President Bush on uranium enrichment matters.

Daryl Kimball of the Arms Control Association told the WSJ that the Group of Eight (G8) countries have agreed not to allow a new uranium enrichment efforts. Canada is a member of the G8. Wall told the WSJ he will push to overturn the ban. Kimball says this may open the door for other countries to follow Canada's lead, and it undercuts western pressure on Iran's uranium enrichment efforts.

Saskatchewan economist Joel Bruneau told the CBC getting the G8's permission should not be difficult as long as the end product is only used for peaceful purposes. A much bigger obstacle would be political and public opposition. Canada has long promoted itself as being outside the nuclear club despite its massive uranium mining operations.

Wall also got in another shot of business speak to the WSJ. He said, "It makes perfect sense for Canada to move up the value chain." In a response to nonproliferation groups who immediately objected to his aspirations, Wall said, "if it is ethical for others to refine and enrich, then it is ethical for us to do it."

Last year when the Canadian government joined the GNEP program there was a brief political uproar about it due in part because it opened the door to uranium enrichment and spent fuel reprocessing. Given the country's market share in the global uranium market, the only real questions was not whether, but when Canada would become part of the nuclear fuel consortium.

No story about nuclear energy in western Canada would be complete without a reference to the use of process heat and electricity from a reactor in the Alberta tar sands. Wall told the WSJ he also has ambitions to build a nuclear reactor in his province for these purposes.

For the past century the wheat field has been the de facto symbol of the province. If Wall's plan goes through, they may have to add the symbol for uranium to the state seal.