Saturday, April 5, 2008

Two southern utilities file four reactors with NRC

Summer Nuclear Station expansion moves ahead
[Update 04/08/08]

Hat tip to Ruth Sponsler at We Support Lee

Reuters reports that two utility groups have filed applications for separate licenses with the NRC to build and operate four new nuclear reactors in Georgia and South Carolina. The applications come at a time when rising costs for major forgings, steel, and concrete are challenging the resurgence of the nuclear energy industry. Surging demand for electricity is the reason the utilities are going ahead with plans for the new plants.

The significance of the filing by the South Carolina Electric & Gas and Santee Cooper for two new reactors at the Summer Nuclear Station is that last January the project was taken off the table due to the rising costs. Now the company is back to finish the job.

At the same time the Southern Nuclear Operating Co. said it has filed a combined construction and operating license (COL) with the NRC to build two new reactors at the Vogtle Electric Generating plant near Waynesboro, GA.

The filings are the eighth and ninth applications submitted to the NRC since 2007. It is the first time the agency received two applications in a single day. All four units are specified as Westinghouse AP1000s which have a generating capacity of 1,100 MWe.

By the end of 2010 the agency expects to receive as many as 22 applications for nearly three dozen reactors. The NRC license review is expected to take up to four years. State regulatory agencies in Georgia and South Carolina are expected to act much sooner.

Both utilities said they are filing now to take advantage of financial incentives for loan guarantees in the Energy Policy Act of 2005 and because future plans for coal-fired plants would have to face growing concerns about global warming from fossil fuel greenhouse gases.

Neither utility stated costs, but at $3,000/Kw, the plants could come in at $3.3 billion per unit for a total of $13.2 billion for all four. The plants could start coming online as early as 2016.

The CEOs of both firms said they are committed to nuclear energy.

"We expect demand for electricity in the Southeast, specifically in Georgia, to increase significantly by 2015 and beyond," said Southern Nuclear president Barnie Beasley

"We're confident that new nuclear is the right decision for South Carolina," said Kevin Marsh, SCE&G president, in a statement.

NuStart leverages industry information

SCE&G is part of the NuStart energy development consortium formed in 2004 by 10 U.S. energy companies and two nuclear reactor vendors. NuStart is helping utilities cut costs by providing standardized engineering information for COL applications.

The firm also signed an agreement with Westinghouse and Shaw Group for purchase of long lead time materials. Shaw will provide engineering and construction services for the Summer Nuclear Station. CEO Marsh said his firm plans to complete the Engineering, Procurement, and Construction (EPC) contract as soon as possible.

Update 04/04/08

Bloomber reports that Southern has signed an EPC contract with Westinghouse and Shaw for two Ap1000s. The new units would be built at the Vogtle power plant site.

AECL leaves the ice in the U.K.

A four-way competition is down to three

Atomic Energy of Canada announced that it is pulling out of the four way competition for sales of new reactors in the U.K.'s massive new build of nuclear energy power stations. According to wire service reports, the Canadian state-owned firm informed U.K. nuclear regulators it will withdraw its new CANDU Reactor, the ACR-1000, from the next steps of the design assessment process.

AECL said it is focusing its efforts on the domestic market in Canada. The company is currently competing to build new reactors in Ontario, Alberta and New Brunswick. That "focus" is probably a good idea since it will serve to remind the firm the national sport in Canada is hockey not lawn tennis. It sounds like AECL's CEO gets it.

"We believe very strongly that our best course of action to ensure the ACR-1000 is successful in the global marketplace is to focus first and foremost on establishing it here at home," AECL President Hugh McDiarmid said in a statement.

Steve Aplin , an Ottawa-based energy policy consultant, said he believed the move reflects AECL's confidence in winning at least one sale in Ontario. Alpin says AECL would have been the odd-man out in the British competition, since the other three companies offer a type of reactor design that's more familiar to Britain than the CANDU. Losing the competition in the U.K., Alpin says, could have a major negative ripple effect in Canada.

"While Ontario's mulling over what it should be (doing) if a negative decision ...comes down in the U.K. process, it doesn't look good. It would be better strategically for them to win one project, bring it in on time, than to win two projects and have both of them be late."

If Ontario passes on the CANDU reactor technology, the rest of AECL's domestic market share could fall away. AECL can't compete in the UK and defend its domestic position at home at the same time. So it is no surprise that it pulled the plug on the U.K. market.

AECL faces still competition at home from French nuclear giant Areva and the U.S. based General Electric. Bruce Power has opened up the process for competition in Ontario and Alberta. In New Brunswick a unique merchant business model is being pursued by the provincial government. What was once a sure thing, a protected domestic market, is now as uncertain as the breakup of the Arctic ice pack.

That doesn't mean it things can't get worse. Prime Minister Stephen Harper is still steamed about the Chalk River plant's isotope fiasco last Fall. So political support for the Crown Corporation is at an all time low. In Ontario thousands of AECL jobs hang in the balance. Politically speaking a market driven breakup of AECL isn't a feasible option for the government.

Still, the government wants to sell off shares of AECL to private investors, but can't do it with a key product, the ACR-1000, still in the design phase. Investors aren't going to pay for completion and regulatory approval which is why AECL got a $300 million shot in the arm from the government last month to finish the job. Once AECL has a new reactor to sell at home and abroad its fortunes may rebound. That could take years but it is better than the alternative.

Back in the U.K., regulators said "the three remaining designs will be taken forward (to the next phase of the pre-licensing process)," which will focus resources on designs which are capable of being licensed and will go operational in the UK within 2016-2022 timeframe.

The reactor designs still in the pre-licensing process include those from U.S.-based General Electric's nuclear unit, Toshiba's Westinghouse unit, and France-based Areva.

Friday, April 4, 2008

AEHI moves planned reactor site

But the company is still in Idaho

Alternative Energy Holdings Inc. (AEHI:PK) said this week it is moving the site of a proposed nuclear reactor from Owyhee County to nearby Elmore County just 15 miles upstream from the original location.

The Idaho Business Review reported that preliminary geologic studies found underground faults at the Owyhee site, adding to construction expenses which made the site less attractive. The faults also would have complicated the NRC licensing process.

According to a report in the Idaho Statesman, AEHI claims the land owner raised the stakes in Owyhee County. The initial purchase price was $17 million, but it had since increased to $60 million, with the landowner seeking equity in the plant. The new site reportedly will cost $15 million. AEHI's option to buy the new site expires in six months. If the firm can't raise the money, or get an extension on the option, it will have to start over on site selection.

According to a press release AEHI said the other reasons for the move include;

  • A rail line and highway run to the Elmore site. No bridge will need to be built over Bureau of Land Management property for transporting the millions of tons of building materials and thousands of workers that will be employed assembling the plant.

  • The site is north of the Snake River, so the reactor vessel and other large components, which weigh thousands of tons, will not need to be transported across Snake River bridges.
CEO Don Gillispie got roughed up earlier this year when the Owyhee County Commissioners told him to pay a $50,000 fee for review and approval of his proposed reactor site. After AEHI didn't pay, the Commissioners threatened to withdraw consideration of his request for a zoning change to a 4,000 acre site. AEHI paid the bill, but not before a media uproar over the dispute gave Idahoans one more reason to be skeptical about plans for a 1,600 MWe reactor in the Bruneau highlands.

AEHI insists that it will submit a COL license application to the NRC in 2011 and will have a completed reactor in 2015. The firm plans to use Areva's EPR design which was just submitted to the NRC for certification last December. AEHI also has an agreement in principle with Constellation Energy as part of the deal with Areva.

The firm still does not have a viable financing plan despite having twice announced it had signed up investment bankers to raise funds for the project. Neither of the firms had any experience with large energy projects. So far no investors have shown up. The license application will cost about $50 million, but timing depends on how soon Areva's design gets signed off by the NRC.

The plant will likely cost $3,500/Kw based on costs accumulating at Areva's Flamanville site in France. That would bring in the Idaho reactor at $5.6 billion in 2008 dollars, but assuming construction doesn't begin until 2011, the costs could be 10-15% higher or perhaps another $800 million in the range of $6.5 billion.

AEHI's stock closed on April 4th at $0.20/share.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Richland spooked by Governor's remarks

A crash dummy could put a better face on the situation
[Update below 04/08/08]

Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire spooked economic development groups in Richland, WA, this week when she said recently talked with Areva’s chief executive officer about a possible uranium enrichment plant in Richland and “reiterated my concern about disposal of waste.”

This is not what the Richland groups wanted to hear. Gregoire has not yet thrown her support to the project because of concerns about wastes at the plant. According to a report in the Tri-City Herald, Gregoire said she could support the project but it “depends on whether they’re able to deal with that” and wants to see a waste disposal plan in place.

The state's two U.S. senators, Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell, support the project. Supporters in Richland rated the governor's remarks as "less than enthusiastic." They complained the governor is late to the party and think she could have balanced her comments with an emphasis on landing the project.

A site adjacent to Areva’s existing fuel fabrication plant in Richland is being considered. The expansion would be a major economic coup for the Tri-Cities.

The plant could cost $2 billion to build, could generate 700 construction jobs and 350 to 400 permanent family wage jobs, according to the Tri-City Development Council.

Update 04/08/08

Gov. Gregoire did not improve her profile on the Areva deal with a visit to Richland this week. If anything, it got slightly worse. Her perspective she said, is that she's trying to walk a fine. In on the one hand she says she's trying to keep opponents at bay. On the other hand, she's not certain Washington is Areva's top choice and wants to temper any overconfidence Washington may have.

Let's translate that . . . she wants to shore up her green votes in the Seattle area without annoying the building trades in Richland who really want to be in on the construction of a $2 billion manufacturing plant. In the last election Gregoire got less than a third of the vote in Richland.

We'll know soon enough what's going to happen with the plant. Areva's executive committee met last week. Unless there is some new wrinkle in the fabric, an announcement should show up any day now.

DOE nuclear loan guarantees still in the future

DOE promises a plan real soon, any day now, really . . .

Platts reports that the Department of Energy plans to issue loan guarantee solicitations later this year. David Frantz, director of the DOE loan guarantee program, spoke to the news media on April 2nd following a Senate hearing.

According to Platts, Frantz said DOE is hopeful the solicitations will cover a wide range of energy projects, including new reactors. But, he added, the program is "still a work in progress." That's government talk for 'we still don't have our act together.' DOE has not yet submitted a detailed plan on how it plans to proceed to Congress and the White House Office of Management and Budget.

More than half of the $38.5 billion loan guarantee program is dedicated to nuclear projects, with $18.5 billion allocated for new reactors and another $2 billion for uranium enrichment.

During the hearing, Platts reported, Republican Senators Pete Domenici of New Mexico and Larry Craig of Idaho both urged DOE to proceed as quickly as possible with the program, which was created under the Energy Policy Act of 2005. It is 2008 guys. You all ought to get a move on.

The NRC complained earlier this month that the ceiling for loan guarantees is too small to support the industry.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

DOE Awards GNEP grants

The U.S. Department of Energy has awarded $18.3 million to four industry teams to further develop plans for an initial nuclear fuel recycling center and advanced recycling reactor as part of the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership (GNEP).

The awards include

  • $5.9 million to EnergySolutions;
  • $5.7 million to the International Nuclear Recycling Alliance, led by AREVA and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries;
  • $5.5 million to General Electric-Hitachi; and
  • $1.3 million to General Atomics.

These firms will further develop detailed studies that build on conceptual design studies, technology development roadmaps, business plans submitted earlier this year by these four industry consortia.

“The expertise that these industry teams bring to the table provides an important perspective as DOE evaluates technology options and business approaches to close the nuclear fuel cycle,” Assistant Secretary for Nuclear Energy Dennis R. Spurgeon said.

Previous coverage on this blog includes information on the first round of DOE grants.

New build reactor news roundup

A short stack of news items from Canada and the U.S.

Scientific American reports that the new build unfolding in the U.K. is closely watching progress in the U.S. and likes what it sees.

One of the U.K.'s top nuclear officials said that she was told the U.S. will okay plans to build the first nuclear power plants. Lady Barbara Thomas Judge, chair of the U.K. Atomic Energy Authority, said that Dale Klein, NRC chairman, told her the agency will approve three applications for new nuclear reactors that it's currently considering.

"Dale Klein told me that those three nuclear applications will be approved," she told the State of the Planet conference at Columbia University.

Back on the other side of the Atlantic, Areva CEO Anne Lauvergeon said she would like to see more cooperation between nuclear regulatory agencies in Europe. Reuters reported that she urged Europe to harmonize and speed up licensing procedures on nuclear reactors to avoid lagging behind the United States and emerging countries in the global nuclear race.

"The rebirth of nuclear energy is now an international fact, but the problem we have is the European kinetic versus the rest of the world," Anne Lauvergeon, head of Areva, told a nuclear conference. "As a European, I am very worried by that."

"There's a second issue, which is that in each (European) country we have to restart licensing procedures. In the United States, there's a single procedure for the whole country. She added that Europe will lose ground to other regions unless it simplifies the regulatory process.

Areva is competing for a piece of the U.K. new nuclear build which will qualify reactors designs for construction of new plants in that country.

Areva still trolling tar sands for reactor deal

The French nuclear giant thinks that an EPR belongs in Alberta and is courting Bruce Power to build one there. Armand Leferrere told reporters in Calgary, "Bruce Power is looking at our design for northern Alberta. We're competing for their attention."

That look is not lost on AECL which for a while has believed it had the 4,000 MWe reactor deal locked up with its new ACR1000 reactor that is still in the design stage. AECL is competing head-to-head with Areva in Alberta as well as for new reactors in Ontario and New Brunswick provinces.

Saskatchewan expands nuclear drive

Just weeks after unveiling a plan to pursue uranium enrichment, Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall has asked that all data relating to nuclear power in Saskatchewan be gathered into one place and released to the public for review.

Wall suggested that SaskPower complete the task “as soon as possible,” so the public can decide whether or not it wants to see nuclear power in the province that provides 30 percent of the world’s uranium supply.

SaskPower, the principal supplier of electricity in Saskatchewan, has been gathering nuclear information for the past several years.

Wall called Saskatchewan the Saudi Arabia of uranium and rather than just mining it, he would like to see a value added to it, such as producing electricity from a nuclear power plant.

Western Lands Uranium Gopher - March 2008

Mining uranium exploration press releases for useful stuff
(A monthly column of money and mining news items)

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 really interesting from the merely informational, I'm posting my running notes on uranium mining in western states, albeit with a one-month delay.

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." These are news notes and the content is not to be considered investment advice.

Uranium mining draws a crowd in the Dakotas

In North Dakota, where there has been no uranium mining for decades, new proposals for ISR mines prompted the state’s geological survey agency to update its regulations. State Geologist Ed Murphy says applications for permits “are on the horizon.”

In South Dakota similar regulatory efforts are reportedly “bogged down” as the South Dakota Water Management Board asked staff for more information about the permit process for ISR mines and how it would protect groundwater.

New mining regulations in North Dakota are prompted by growing worldwide demand for uranium. Mines operated in the southwestern parts of the state from the 1940s through the 1960s and could be restarted if the price is right. Approximately 592,000 pounds of U3O8 were mined from 20 pits during earlier years.

North Dakota has an estimated 600,000 acres where uranium can be found at depths of 100-400 feet. Cameco is reported to be investigating the feasibility of opening ISR mines in North Dakota. The company’s experience with state agencies in Nebraska and Wyoming is being reviewed by North Dakota as part of the process of updating its uranium mining regulations.

Right now the state is holding information meetings on the rule making process. A first draft of the regulations is being reviewed by state agencies. No date has been set for release of final regulations.

In South Dakota it will be a few months before the Water Board gets a first draft of its regulations out the door for public comment. ISR mining is new territory for current members of the board. The last time the rules were reviewed was 1987.

One company that wants to start an ISR mine in Fall River County, South Dakota, is Powertech. Mark Hollenbeck, manager of the project for the firm, said he expects South Dakota’s rules to mirror those of other states. The revised rules are said to strengthen protection of groundwater quality. A first round of public hearings will be held in Rapid City, SD, in April.

The surge of interest in the two states has produced a coordinated response from environmental groups in five western states. The Powder River Basin Resource Council held a meeting on March 2 in Rapid City with groups concerned about ISR mining from Wyoming, North & South Dakota, Nebraska, and Colorado. The meeting was also attended by representatives from the uranium mining industry.

At a press conference the Council offered speakers from both the environmental and mining camps. Wilma Tope, a Wyoming rancher, speaking for the environmental community said the goal of the new organization “is to educate the public about the process of ISR mining and the problems associated with it.”

Donna Wichers, a senior executive for ISR operations at Uranium One told the group, “we have very strict regulations and we’re required to clean up groundwater once we’re finished.”

She added, “we’ve been doing this type of mining for a long time in Wyoming and Nebraska. Our restoration projects have been approved by these states.”

& & &

Vane sued over uranium exploration near the Grand Canyon

Three major U.S. environmental groups have filed a suit to block uranium mining exploration near the edge of the Grand Canyon in Arizona. They claim the U.S. Forest Service violated the law when it issued the permits for exploratory work. The complaint by the Sierra Club and two other groups challenges permits for seven drilling sites. They claim a full blown environmental impact statement is needed for the work. Jackie Denik, a spokesperson for the Kaibab National Forest, said mining is specifically authorized by law and that since the permits are only for exploration that the full EIS is not needed at this time.

Kris Hefton, COO at Vane, said that uranium exploration would have a negligible effect. Truck mounted drills will drive bore holes up to 2,000 feet in depth, but water table starts at 3,200 feet and will not be impacted. He described the civil complaint at “frivolous” and said that his firm was abiding by all environmental regulations. Vane is based in London, but operates largely in the U.S.

& & &

Uranium Energy acquires Kerr-McGee Database

Uranium Energy announced it has acquired the historic Kerr-McGee database from Tronox Worldwide. The database is reportedly one of the largest of its kind covering 46 of the 50 states, parts of Canada, and parts of Australia. Significantly, the database has no information on uranium in Wyoming or New Mexico, two key states for this mineral. The information was developed over a 17 year period from 1952-1969. Kerr-McGee built the database as it expanded its uranium business.

Uranium Energy plans to use the database to generate new prospects in Texas, Colorado, and Arizona. Of particular interest is information on the Uravan Mineral Belt along the Colorado / Utah border.

In other news Uranium Energy rejected claims in a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Texas. The lawsuit filed by the Goliad County Commissioners alleges that the firm allowed groundwater to be contaminated by not plugging drill holes. Uranium Energy assets that the Texas Railroad Commission, which has jurisdiction over the drilling activities, reviewed the complaint in September 2007 and concluded no contamination had occurred from exploration activities. The firm said the lawsuit will not hamper current exploration work under the Commission’s current permit.

& & &

March 2008 Drilling Updates

. . . White Canyon Uranium announced it has started drilling in the Daneros Uranium Deposit in the White Canyon area near Blanding, Utah. The company’s objective is to generate 10 million pounds of high grade U3O8 on its Utah properties over the next two years . . .

. . . Bayswater Uranium has started its Phase III drilling program on the 100% owned Elkhorn Project in northeast Wyoming. Phases I & II defined a NI 43-101 compliant indicated uranium resource of 250,000 tonnes at 0.08% U3O8. The Elkhorn project is one of nine the firm is exploring in Wyoming and the western Black Hills area of South Dakota . . .

. . . Wave Uranium has begun field work on its Arizona properties in Gila County. The holdings include 153 claims on 3,152 acres and 10 claims held under lease on another 21 acres . . .

. . . Bluerock Resources has completed its Phase II drilling program at the PSC Project in the Orange Cliffs Mining District in south central Utah. Highlights from the results, according to a company press release, include grades from 0.20% to 0.39% U3O8. The project includes two past producing mines, the Silver Bell Uranium Mine and the Andrew Lloyd Uranium Mine. Blue Rock Resources’ exploration program on the PSC project is operated under an option agreement with Rincon Exploration & Development to purchase 100% of the project . . .

. . . Uranerz Energy has initiated drilling on the Arkose Mining Venture Property in the Powder River Basin of Wyoming. The company said in a press release that the exploration targets are along a 105 mile front and has the potential to contain from 41 million to 79 million pounds of U3O8 at the potential grade of from 0.059% to 0.114%. The resource has not been measured, indicated, or inferred according to standards of NI 43-101. The 2008 drilling program will cover four target areas in the Arkose property the South Collins Draw and South Doughstick areas. A total of 1,500 holes are planned using five drill rigs to cover 900,000 feet of exploratory drilling . . .

March 2008 Money Updates

. . . Uranerz Energy announced it will raise $23.7 million through a series of private placements. As a result of one of the deals, Denison Mines will own 9.9% of the common shares of Uranerz. The net proceeds of the investments will be used to advance work on the 100% Nichols Ranch and Hank ISR properties and to pay for a drilling program on the Arkose property.

. . . Midasco Uranium has entered into an option agreement with Bluebird mining to lease 95 mining claims covering 1,900 acres known as the Bluebird Uranium Property in Montrose County, Colorado. The property is located in an area which historically produced 1.5 million pounds of U3O8 and 5.2 million pounds of V2O5 from the Eula Belle Mine operated by Union Carbide between 1961 and 1974. Historical drilling on the current property was completed in 1979 but many of the records are no longer available. Bluebird is a sole proprietorship.

Under the terms of the option agreement Midasco has 45 days, following receipt of a permit, to drill 6 exploratory holes before exercising the option agreement. Midasco paid Bluebird $50,000 so far. Permit applications will be submitted to state and federal agencies within the next few weeks according to Midasco . . .

. . . Golden Patriot Corp. announced that Rodina Minerals will acquire 40% of the firm’s 60% interest in the Lucky Boy Uranium Prospect in Gila, Arizona. The property consists of 14 BLM claims and 80 acres of state leases adjacent to the BLM claims. Under the terms of the deal Rodina will pay $400,000 in exploration costs and has an option to pay $125,000 to acquire another 40% interest in the property.

Early March 2008 Uranium Mining News

World Nuclear News reports that the Whirlwind Mine in Colorado moved closer to production this month. Toronto-based Energy Fuels looks poised to become the first junior uranium company to reach production in recent years as it awaits the approval of the final permit required for full-scale mining to begin at its Whirlwind mining site in Colorado, USA.

Energy Fuels has announced that the Colorado Division of Reclamation, Mining and Safety has approved a Hard Rock Reclamation Permit for the mine. "The receipt of this permit moves us much closer to becoming the first junior uranium company to actually reach production since the turnaround in the uranium business," said George Glasier, Energy Fuels president and CEO.

The Whirlwind Mine Area, which lies within the John Brown/Beaver Mesa uranium district, consists of 214 leased unpatented lode claims, located in Mesa County, Colorado, and Grand County, Utah.

& & &

Powertech still getting heat over Centennial Project

Fears about ISR uranium mining continue to stir opposition to the industry in eastern Colorado. An informational hearing by the Larimer County Commissioners in Ft. Collins, CO, in February brought out about 30 people to oppose a proposal by Powertech for an ISR mine in Nunn, CO.

The mine is actually next door in Weld County so the Larimer County commissioners have no jurisdiction over it. However, opposition to the mine, which is 30 miles northeast of Ft. Collins, is so intense that the commissionerS held the hearing anyway. Michael Beshore, a Powertech environmental engineer, told the commissioners at the hearing Colorado has stringent regulation of the industry and that the company will comply with all environmental and public safety laws.

Opponents called his statement “lip service,” and called on the company to “stay out of our lives” to applause from the audience. Despite the emotional nature of the hearing, two of the three county commissioners said they needed more information on water pollution and public safety issues before making a decision on whether to vote for an resolution to oppose the mine.

In the Colorado legislature a bill is moving through the House (HR1161) that would require more disclosure by uranium mining companies during the exploratory phases and upgrades requirements regarding groundwater quality once the mine is closed. The bill has uncertain prospects due to opposition from the mining industry.

"This bill is the most sweeping and complex amendments to the Mining Reclamation Act in the last 15 years," said Stuart Sanderson, president of the Colorado Mining Association.

"But there's no compelling reason for any of these revisions, other than the fact that there is some new uranium development in the state. But it's still far from the permitting stages."

As of late March 2008 the legislation was bogged down in the House over amendments to the bill.

& & &

Cotter abandons waste plans

Cotter Corp. has abandoned plans to import radioactive waste from New Jersey to Colorado at its uranium mill near Canon City, CO. Instead, the firm is planning to renovate the mill to process uranium ore because of high prices for the mineral. State and federal agencies had blocked Cotter’s plans to execute a 2002 contract from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to transport of 470,000 tons of radioactive material from a Sueprfund cleanup site in New Jersey to the Cotter Mill in Colorado for disposal.

The mill was opened in 1958, but ran into trouble in 1988 after contamination from unlined tailings ponds seeped into nearby groundwater. It became a Superfund site as well. The mill has not operated since 2005. Its future depends on the continuation of the high price of uranium and the cost of replacing just about everything at the current mill site.

“We are going through the process of making a decision whether to reopen the mill,” said John Hamrick, a manager for Cotter. He said an engineering conceptual cost analysis will be ready in April. Refurbishment, Hamrick said, “means most of the existing buildings and equipment will be replaced.” The reason, he said, is standards have changed from the 1970s in terms of employee protection and safety. If the firm accepts the first study results due in April, it will spend $1 million on detailed engineering design and costs analyses to plan a new mill at the site.

Cotter Corporation is a General Atomics (GA) affiliate headquartered in Denver, Colorado. Originally incorporated in 1956 in New Mexico as a uranium production company, it was acquired by GA in 2000. Through its various mining and milling operations, Cotter has produced uranium, vanadium, molybdenum, silver, lead, zinc, copper, selenium, nickel, cobalt, tungsten and limestone.

& & &

Uranium Energy reports NI 43-101 for Goliad

Uranium Energy Corp reported an independent NI 43-101 resource estimate at its Goliad, TX, project of 5.4 million pounds and inferred resources estimate of 1.5 million pounds U3O8 at an average grade of 0.05%. The estimate is based on 1,086 drill holes of which 599 are by the company and 487 are historical data.

As the company was announcing its results, the county commissioners of Goliad, TX, announced they planned to sue the company in federal court for violations under the Safe Drinking Water Act. The county claims illegal underground injection occurred which contaminated drinking water wells in the Evangeline aquifer. Attorney Jim Blackburn said drilling test wells weren’t plugged and storm water carrying contaminants flowed through them into the aquifer.

Uranium Energy issued a statement stating that the lawsuit claims were “without merit.” The company said the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality had investigated these complaints and that “the firm is in compliance with state regulatory processes.”

The Austin American has more recent coverage of the controversy. Local residents disagree with the regulators and the company.

& & &

Federal government leases

Leases of public land for exploration and mining of uranium and vanadium in southwestern Colorado near the Utah border were announced by the Department of Energy. The government said it would accept bids through May 9 for 19 tracts in the Uravan mineral belt between the towns of Gateway and Egnar. The leases are for ten years. A DOE spokesman told Platts the tracts could produce up to 2 million pounds of U3O8 annually. The government would earn royalties from mining production. Some of the leases were reportedly relinquished by former holders. Bids will be opened on May 9 and after due diligence the highest bidders will be notified a month later. DOE said the winners of the leases must mine the tracts and not hold them for speculative purposes.

& & &

Money & mining updates

New Horizon Corp reported that it has arranged a private placement of 12.5 million shares of stock at $0.40/share worth $5 million. The firms also issued warrants good for buying additional shares of stock at up to $0.55/share within the next two years. The funds from the placement will be used to fund exploration programs in Converse County, Wyo, and San Miguel County, Colo.

New Horizon is the operator of two joint ventures in Converse County, Wyoming. The ventures control more than 11,000 acres on the White River Formation. The Company intends to explore and develop this project area and further investigate if it has potential to for In-Situ Recovery operations. The Summit Project in San Miguel County, Colorado is 100% owned by New Horizon covers approximately 4,000 acres and is being developed as an underground mine. The project is within 50 miles of a licensed uranium mill in Utah (Denison – White Mesa) and 25 miles of a planned mill in Colorado (Energy Fuels – Pinon Mill).

& & &

Midasco Capital has acquired two private properties in the Uravan Mineral Belt from J.H. Ranch, a privately held Colorado firm. The acquisitions are for surface and minerals leases for the next 20 years which cover 6,550 acres. Historical production from the Dunn and Calliham mines on these properties were 1 million pounds U3O8 and 7.2 million pounds V2O5. The company said current estimates do not yet qualify under NI 43-101. The value of the sale price was not disclosed in its SEDAR filing.

In February the Company announced it started drilling at its Applejack Exploration Project located on Carpenter Ridge in Montrose County, Colo. The Company has acquired drilling permits from the State of Colorado and from the Federal Bureau of Land Management for 10,000 feet of drilling in the vicinity of the Applejack Mining Complex.

& & &

Tournigan Gold Corp has completed acquisition of 100% interest in uranium properties in Sweetwater County, Wyo, from Sweetwater Resources LLC. The deal includes a cash payment of $642,000 and 340,000 shares of stock.

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Bayswater Uranium Corporation announced the start of the Phase III drilling program at the Company's 100% owned Elkhorn Project in northeast Wyoming. The Company's subsidiary, NCA Nuclear Inc. completed Phase I and II drilling programs at the Busfield resource area in 2006, which defined a NI 43-101 compliant indicated uranium resource of 250,000 tonnes at 0.08 % for 397,000 lbs eU3O8.

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Tecton Corp. has expanded its land holdings in San Juan County, Utah, through the acquisition of 207 claims at the Firefly mine. The mine was opened in 1952 along with the Grey Daun Mine.

The Firefly mine was discovered in 1952 as an extension of the Grey Daun Mine. Production records are incomplete. However, the firm estimates the two mines together yielded less than 100,000 lbs of U3O8 and 500,000 lbs of V2O5 through the 1970's. The average grade of the known production was 0.41% U3O8 and 1.8% V2O5.

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Quaterra Resources Inc. (TSX:QTA) announced that its common shares have been approved for listing on the American Stock Exchange (AMEX). Quaterra began trading on the AMEX this month under the symbol QMM.

"By listing on the AMEX, Quaterra has achieved a key milestone," says Dr. Tom Patton, Quaterra's President and CEO. "The AMEX listing will provide a more convenient trading market for U.S. shareholders, facilitate trading liquidity and raise the Company's profile with U.S.-based institutional investors."

Quaterra will retain its listing on the TSX Venture Exchange under the symbol QTA.

Quaterra has claims covering 85 square miles in the Arizona Strip district north of the Grand Canyon. The Company’s exploration program is directed by Patrick Hillard, who discovered these pipes during his tenure as Exploration Manager for Energy Fuels Nuclear.

Quaterra Resources also owns interests in uranium properties located in Arizona, Utah, and Wyoming, and holds a right to earn 100% interests in 66 unpatented mining claims, known as MacArthur Claim, in the Yerington district of Lyon County, Nev.

Update on Texas nuclear build

New reactors and new business units announced

The new nuclear build in Texas is the heart of the nuclear renaissance in the U.S., and even when the players there take a step backwards it is still a form of progress. The Dallas Morning News reports that Energy Future Holdings and NRG have both throttled back on their applications with the NRC while they get cost estimates on major components for their new reactors.

NRG's application, as the nation's 'first mover" in filing a complete application with the NRC last September in being watched like a hawk by everyone in the business. Since then the NRC has accepted three other applications and anticipates 15 more to be filed in 2008.

Despite the delays the NRC is bullish on the approval schedules being met and agency spokesman Scott Burnell told the newspaper, "the projected schedules . . . are still in the realm of possibility."

NRG told the newspaper it still expects to begin operations for its two new reactors at the South Texas Project in 2014 and 2015. Energy Future Holdings told the NRC it will file a complete application in September 2008 delayed from a planned July date. The firm plans to build two new reactors at its Comanche Peak site using a reactor design from Mitsubishi.

A third firm, Exelon, also has plans for a new reactor in Victoria County,Texas, and told the newspaper it will file an application for two reactors in September 2008.

Costs are up

The Dallas Morning News reports that the initial cost estimates for NRG's two new reactors at the South Texas Project have increased significantly since the firm filed its application with the NRC last September. The price has jumped from $6 billion for the two units to $8 billion. The primary cost drivers are the rapidly rising prices for steel and concrete and worldwide demand for nuclear reactor components including large forgings and turbines.

NRG CEO David Crane told financial analysts earlier this month, "there is a total absence of a U.S. supply chain for nuclear parts." NRG is building the plants as merchants and can only make a profit once it starts selling electricity from the new reactors. Assuming the current nuclear build in the U.S. continues to expand, it is seems unlikely the industry will continue to allow its costs and schedules to be set by the capacity of Japan Steel Works.

NRG expands business unit

The New York Times reports that NRG is setting up a firm to build nuclear plants throughout the U.S. partnering with Toshiba. The partnership will inject $300 million as a 12% share and investment from Toshiba into NRG's new business unit called Nuclear Innovations North America.

The business unit will sell the GE-Hitachi ABWR . Toshiba will also serve as the prime contractor for all future Nuclear Innovation North America projects. The firm is betting its expertise gained from experience building four of the units overseas will pay off in terms of being able to deliver new plants on time and within budget in the U.S.

The combined resources of NRG and Toshiba are expected to go head-to-head with the partnership set up by French nuclear giant Areva with Constellation Energy earlier this year. Both consortiums plan to aggressively seek U.S. market share in the nuclear energy field.