Saturday, April 19, 2008

Canada drives G8 enrichment shift

Nuclear diplomacy gets complicated Sun_Burst
Hat tip to Rod Adams at Atomic Insights

A burst of energy in a successful drive by the Canadian province of Saskatchewan has gained policy support to develop uranium enrichment capabilities. The decision by the Nuclear Suppliers Group will allow uranium operations in Canada move up the value chain of the nuclear fuel cycle.

It has put international diplomacy on the issue into high gear. The Wall Street Journal reports (sub req'd) on 4/19/08 that the Bush Administration gave in to "heavy pressure" from Canada which wants to sell enriched uranium on the global market. [Update on Reuters 04/21/08]

The decision which took place at a meeting earlier this week of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), a 45-nation body, removes a "ban" on new uranium enrichment facilities for nations that do not already have them. It establishes broad guidelines for sale of the material and the technologies to make it. It is tailor made for Canada's push to earn more for its massive uranium exports which account for about one-third of the global market.

What's up GNEP?

Canada is also a member of GNEP, the global nuclear fuel consortium. Nominally, as part of this relationship, which was set in place last Fall, Canada will receive nuclear fuel and also participate in a global protocol for management of spent nuclear fuel. The shift this week will make Canada a supplier of nuclear fuel.

While the current outlook is for Canada for add a uranium enrichment plant to its nuclear industrial base, there is nothing that would prevent it from also taking an additional step and convincing a partner to build a fuel fabrication facility to further enhance export earnings. Finally, last summer Canadian energy officials gave public signals that nuclear fuel reprocessing was also part of that nation's long term plans. In effect Canada is on the road to being a key player in the global nuclear fuel cycle.

Critics of the move by the U.S. at the NSG say the policy change will effectively throw in the towel on efforts to restrain other countries, like Iran and India, which have asserted their rights to develop nuclear technologies unfettered by western nonproliferation treaties. The new rules put forward by the NSG would require IAEA oversight. Problems with these two countries aren't necessarily Canada's concern, but the linkage is there just the same.

John Wolf, a former U.S. diplomat, told the WSJ, "It is hard to see how this would deal with the problem there are already too many people enriching and reprocessing fuel."

Canada's drive for an enrichment plant

The Bush Administration has been under considerable pressure from Canada which currently exports more a third of the world's uranium supply. Saskatchewan in one of the primary uranium mining centers. The provincial premier, Brad Wall, launched a public initiative last month with a race through the corridors of energy policy making in Washington, DC, to get the U.S. to support a change in the G8 policy. Apparently, he's succeeded. Wall is so entrepreneurial in this realm that the only thing he hasn't tried is to kidnap Areva's planned U.S. uranium enrichment plant for Saskatchewan, at least not yet.

Canada's CANDU reactors built by AECL don't use enriched uranium which means all of the product, if it is produced, will be for export. The exception is the ACR1000 which is in the design stage and has just entered regulatory review. AECL hasn't actually built one so the reference to the CANDU reactors will be correct until they do.

Construction of a uranium enrichment plant in Canada, possibly in Saskatchewan, will take at least four-to-six years. Even if one were started in 2008 it would be operational before an ACR-1000 was ready for its first fuel load.

The capacity of the enrichment plant will still likely exceed demand in Canada over the next decade even if ACR1000s are built in Alberta, Ontario, and New Brunswick. The assessment that the purpose of the plant is to produce product for export is still relevant even under the most optimistic scenario for AECL market share for these sites.

An area of future diplomatic negotiation will be Canada's plans to sell uranium enrichment technology to other nations. There's a growing demand for it. One reason is the nuclear salesmanship of French President Nicholas Sarkozy who in a series of whirlwind trips has stirred up interest in a baker's dozen of countries in the Middle East who now want nuclear energy. These countries are not going to move forward without guarantees for nuclear fuel.

In the U.S. the race is on to build uranium enrichment plants with two under construction - one in New Mexico, and the other in Ohio. A third plant is planned by Areva, which has not yet announced its location. More recently, U.S. Senator Pete Domenici (R-NM) said the U.S. should stop beating itself up over Yucca Mountain and get back into the business of reprocessing spent nuclear fuel.

Uranium and the energy value of spent nuclear fuel are simply too valuable to be contained by world wide market demand for electricity and nuclear energy needed to supply it. The market forces at work are creating deals between partners that might have been unthinkable or at least difficult a decade ago.

Another Toshiba exchange deal for uranium

Reuters reports that Toshiba will receive highly enriched uranium (HEU) from Russia in a deal that will supply the Atom Energy group in that country with technology to build nuclear power plants. Last winter Toshiba sold off a 10% stake in Westinghouse in return for access to uranium from Kazakhstan. This latest exchange is a clear signal that world wide commerce in nuclear materials and technologies is going to take place with or without U.S. agreement. The GNEP international fuel program doesn't cover this type of deal.

Meanwhile, Russia is also setting up an International Uranium Enrichment Center at Angarsk, Siberia. Japan recently expressed concern that the center be operated under IAEA safeguards. Japan is also a potential partner in the facility.

Next administration please

All this activity undercuts U.S. efforts to contain Iran's drive for uranium enrichment and makes the now moribund nuclear deal with India look even more complicated. The important differences are that Iran's government is out to lunch and clearly wants nuclear weapons despite having signed the nuclear nonproliferation treat. India's current government in power, which already has nuclear weapons, but refused to sign the treaty, is conflicted by domestic power disputes that pulled the rug out from the deal with the U.S.

In the twilight of the Bush Administration, the drive for civilian nuclear power globally has pushed a difficult set of issues forward into the presidency of whoever is elected next November.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Vermont Yankee faces fear

The state legislature may act without NRC reviewfear-turtle

The Vermont Yankee nuclear plant operator's request for relicensing from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) faces a new and unusually hostile set of stakeholders in Vermont. They begin with the Vermont State Legislature which is taking matters into its own hands by threatening to veto the relicensing process. Some of its leaders want to close the plant in 2012.

State Senate President Pro Tem Peter Shumlin, a Democrat from the district in which the plant is located, told the AP this week he has severe doubts about the objectivity of the NRC and plans to take matter into his own hands.

"The NRC is a wholly owned subsidiary of the nuclear industry," he says. He's not alone. Other state legislators say they share a lack of confidence in the NRC's oversight process.

Vermont lawmakers were alarmed earlier this year by the partial collapse of the cooling tower. It set off a volley of inquiries from the congressional delegation and the governor. It added to anti-nuclear fears already running at a near fever pitch in the state. Activists disrupted a relicensing hearing held in Brattleboro last month.

In a Congressional hearing this week David Lew, NRC's head of reactor projects, said the agency spends an average of 7,000 hours a year in oversight of the reactor site. At 1,800 hours per employee that works out to about four full time engineers.

The National Conference of State Legislatures notes that it is unusual for a state to give itself veto power over a reactor license since this authority is usually reserved under federal law and regulation to the NRC.

Patrick Moore, the founder of Greenpeace, visited Vermont this week. Commenting on the Vermont Yankee controversy, he told the Brattleboro Reformer newspaper,

While the environmental movement "got a lot of things right in the early years,, its opposition to nuclear power resulted in dirty coal-fired plants. The environmental movement has become the main obstacle to reducing carbon dioxide emissions and fossil fuel consumption because it is opposed to all the viable technologies for electricity production, such as hydropower, nuclear energy and wind."

"Too many of these people have accepted certain beliefs." He called them "career environmentalists (who are) never going to change their minds."

Vermont benefits from the electricity generated by the 650 MW plan with half of its output serving about one-third of total demand in the state. Entergy, who owns and operates Yankee, has requested a 20-year license extension for the plant.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

DOE releases FOA and RFI for GNEP and NGNP

Says the government will pay more for fewer acronyms

The Department of Energy this week issued a request for information (RFI) targeting industry and university groups, and other interested parties, asking for input on a prototype, low-emission nuclear plant at its Idaho National Laboratory (INL).

It also issued a funding opportunity announcement for up to $15 million for GNEP R&D.

There are enough acronyms in the two announcements to fill several bowls of alphabet soup without any trouble at all. That said these are also two very interesting announcements.

FOA for GNEP

OK -- news about the real money comes first.

DOE issued a Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) for up to $15 million for advanced nuclear fuel R&D. In a press release the agency said it is inviting universities, national laboratories, and industry to compete for up to $15 million to advance nuclear technologies closing the nuclear fuel cycle.

These projects will provide necessary data and analyses to further U.S. nuclear fuel cycle technology development, as part of the Department’s Advanced Fuel Cycle Initiative (AFCI), the domestic technology R&D component of the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership (GNEP). Studies resulting from this FOA will include computing and simulation of spent fuel technology, advanced fuel systems analyses and properties of future waste forms.

DOE said in a statement it is seeking applicants from industry, universities and national laboratories to conduct R&D in the following areas: Used Fuel Separations Technology, Advanced Nuclear Fuel Development, Fast Burner Reactors and Advanced Transmutation Systems, Advanced Fuel Cycle Systems Analysis, Advanced Computing and Simulation, Safeguards and Advanced Waste Forms. Responses are due by May 8, 2008.

To view the full contents of the Funding Opportunity Announcement go to grants.gov and search for number: DE-PS07-08ID14906

More information on DOE's nuclear programs available at the agency's website

NGNP gets interesting RFI

RFI's aren't real money, but that's coming

In a press release DOE said it issued the RFI as part of its work on a next-generation nuclear plant (NGNP) that will to use high-temperature, gas-reactor technology. According to a report by Platts, DOE wants information on research, development and operation of the plant and the structure of the public-private, cost-share agreements.

Dennis Spurgeon, DOE's assistant secretary for nuclear energy, said the call for input will help the agency complete preliminary design and plans for the plant come up with an estimate of the cost and schedule for construction and operation.

DOE said the strategic goal of the NGNP Project is to broaden the environmental and economic benefits of nuclear energy technology by demonstrating its applicability to industry sectors not currently served by commercial light water reactors, e.g., providing process heat and/or hydrogen for refineries, chemical plants, etc. DOE will purse the following objectives in the execution of the NGNP Project:
  • Develop the HTGR technology, design and licensing strategy through a public/private partnership resulting from a competitive selection process.

  • Demonstrate the basis for commercialization through construction and reliable operations of an HTGR prototype facility and associated technologies.

  • Demonstrate readiness and capacity of U.S. nuclear manufacturing, design, and construction infrastructure for HTGR.
Expressions of interest are due June 10. DOE said it would use the responses to develop a final strategy by this fall and to complete the design and construction of a plant prototype by 2021.

DOE's statement on how to respond to the RFI is remarkably brief and it doesn't have a lot of acronyms.

Who will build NGNP?

During the ten-year time frame of the current INL contract the government wants the contractor to develop breakthrough, advanced, next-generation nuclear technologies that will produce inexpensive electric power and cost-effective supplies of hydrogen.

The real “prize” associated with the INL contract is an NRC licensed design and a completed first-of-a-kind operating NGNP plant which will emerge from ten years, or less, of government-subsidized nuclear R&D activities. This plant would be a 300-600 Mw reactor built in Idaho and is expected to be operational in 2021 more or less.

It is clear the government does not intend to pay for 100% or even most of the nuclear R&D work scope it wants to see take place at the INL. On the other hand, if the contractor succeeds in designing, licensing, and building the NGNP at the INL, it will have the commercial rights to sell such plants globally to a market easily worth 50-100 billion dollars over a period of 25-50 years.

The government’s proposed fee structure for performance under the INL contract, estimated to be $18M/year, or $180M for the ten-year term of the contract, could be seen as just another element of the total federal subsidy to design, license, and build the NGNP.

The risk the contractor must take, and balance against limited funds from the government for nuclear R&D, is whether it can deliver the NGNP to perform within the explicit technical and financial requirements. These are the specifications laid out in the request for information for the NGNP, which is a project the government also says it has committed to building in Idaho.

The current contractor, the Battelle Energy Alliance, has an academic frame of mind and is committed to "world class science." The INL is not the engineering laboratory of former contractors. It follows that the engineering & procurement contracts (EPC) that the government lets to build NGNP will likely be awarded to companies that have experience building nuclear reactors.

That's what makes the current RFI so interesting. It sets the basis for an award worth at least a billion dollars to build the demonstration plant and also "awards" the successful contractor with the experience necessary to hawk the new nuclear technology to export markets and in the U.S. That's a pretty big prize. A lot of folks are likely keeping their eye on it.

World Nuclear News reports companies expected to respond to the RFI include Areva, General Atomics, and Westinghouse. Westinghouse is part of a coalition of companies supporting the Pebble Bed Modular Reactor (PBMR) for the NGNP project. It is joined by South Africa's PBMR Pty and Institute of Nuclear and New Energy Technology (INET), China's Tsinghua University, the Shaw Group, Sargent and Lundy.

General Atomics is expected to submit its GT-MHR concept, an annular core high-temperature gas-cooled reactor it says is suitable for hydrogen production, while Areva has the similar 'Antares' design.

The race for NGNP is on.

* * *

And I'm sorry if you really believed that the government will pay less for fewer acronyms. You are entirely too trusting :-)

New Jersey may think nuclear

And then again maybe not if it sinks the relicensing of motorcycle Oyster Creek

The Star-Ledger reports a new energy plan says New Jersey should develop new power generation that does not contribute to global warming, a step that will drive it to explore the prospect of building another nuclear power plant in the garden state. This idea comes to light according to a draft energy master plan released by the Corzine administration this week.

Now Texas is currently the center of the U.S. new nuclear build which makes New Jersey's idea of just thinking about it small change by comparison. Readers should understand that while Texas believes that it is the only state which has a lifestyle that is larger than life, many Texans have never driven on the New Jersey Turnpike. It follows that energy plans in NJ come super sized like the monster motorcycle spotted recently near the Bay Way Refinery.

The 89-page New Jersey document, more than 18 months in the works, also said the state needs to dramatically step up efforts to reduce its energy consumption and promote cleaner fuels, such as solar and wind power. [plan FAQ]

* * *

The plan stops short of calling for a new nuclear power plant in New Jersey, but notes it is unlikely the state, or anyone else, will be able to ensure customers have enough electricity by 2020. It suggested the state set up a process to study the feasibility of bringing a fourth nuclear power unit to New Jersey. Start now guys.

The relicensing of the Oyster Creek nuclear plant has turned contentious. Selling a new nuclear power plant to a populace that is riled up about the current infrastructure could be a tough deal. Plans for a 4th nuclear power plant have been kicking around for a while. Icy opposition to nuclear energy may be thawing with the rising awareness of the threat of global warming. Nothing is certain in New Jersey.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Another blogger for nuclear energy

Welcome Atom Watch

Alexandra Prokopenko, a journalist, writes that a new blog Atom Watch is active. Robert Margolis, a nuclear engineer, also blogs at this site. They write . . .

We are quite new, and our aim is to look at nuclear events from all over the world. All comments and points of view are welcome. Also we are looking for more contributors and interested readers to discuss the issues with.

Check it out

Sunday, April 13, 2008

EnergySolutions plans new UK reactor at Wylfa

eslogoEnergySolutions, a Salt Lake City firm, is working on a plan to build and operate a new nuclear reactor at Wylfa on Anglesey, U.K., according to a report in the Times of London. The new plant would be built where one is being decommissioned

In a surprise move EnergySolutions has reportedly teamed up with Westinghouse, which is owned by Toshiba, the Japanese supplier of nuclear reactor technology. They have held talks with several European and British utilities companies about forming a separate new-build consortium to the one involving British Energy. If the proposal is successful, Shaw Group would also likely be involved in the project.

The proposed site at Wylfa is next to an existing nuclear reactor that is to be retired from service in 2010 and is located on land owned by the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA).

In June 2007 EnergySolutions bought British Nuclear Fuels (BNFL) Reactor Sites Management business that holds licenses to operate 10 nuclear sites and 22 reactors employing 3,500 people in the UK in a deal worth about US$700 million.

Two of the facilities, Oldbury and Wylfa, are still producing electricity, but the rest are in the process of being dismantled and decommissioned. Oldbury in Gloucestershire is set to shut next year and Wylfa in Anglesey in 2010. The main role of EnergySolutions under its contract with the NDA will be to decommission the bulk of the nuclear plants coming under its control.

The announcement shows a clear strategy to get into the business of building new nuclear plants even as the firm dismantles old ones. EnergySolutions has no previous experience building new nuclear power plants, but its teaming with Westinghouse could provide a competitive advantage since it is already working at the Wylfa site. Another competitive advantage is that the new plant should be able to use the transmission and distribution infrastructure in place for the current one as well as having a customer base.

The main driver for a new nuclear power plant at Anglesey is to supply electricity to an aluminum plant there which is the single largest user of electricity in the U.K. The plant had set in motion plans to shut down in 2010 due to the expected retirement of the existing reactor at Wylfa. A new nuclear energy power source would secure its future and the jobs that are supported by the aluminum plant.

The Times reported that the proposal for a new reactor is the only new-build project to have emerged that is unlikely to involve British Energy, the UK's leading nuclear generator, which produces one sixth of the UK's electricity.

Western Lands Uranium Gopher for April 12, 2008

Mining uranium exploration press releases and news gopher media reports for useful stuff (An occasional column)

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 delay of a week or two.

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 occasionally, the "western lands uranium gopher." These are news notes and the content are not to be considered investment advice.

Colorado advances one uranium bill
Kills the other

A bill to strengthen state oversight of uranium mining passed the Colorado House and is headed for the Senate. A companion bill that would have released proprietary mining information to the public died in a house committee. House bill 1161 introduced by Ft. Collins Democratic Rep. Randy Fisher and John Kefalas passed on a voice vote on the House floor on April 1. Colorado Governor Bill Ritter said in a newspaper interview he supports the measure.

Kefalas said the bill was drafted to protect local communities. He said on the House floor, “This bill ensures uranium mining doesn’t leave behind a toxic legacy.”

If passed by the Senate and signed by the governor, it would require mining companies to show that they can restore groundwater to pre-mining conditions or to statewide standards for radioactive materials in water. The legislation is a political reaction to Powertech Uranium’s Centennial project located north of Nunn, Co, and 15 miles northeast of Ft. Collins. It has also become a poster child for the collision between expanding residential development and mining districts. A similar battle is shaping up in Canon City south of Colorado Springs. [See related story]

Rep. Don Marostica (R-Loveland) said he opposed the bill because it was based on fear and not facts. In debate on the House floor he said, “All this fear that we’ve been hearing about this in-situ mining . . . it is a 270 acre parcel of ground . . . which has a sandstone formation in which [groundwater] moves four-to-seven inches a year.”

Other northern Colorado representatives said the legislation was pushed through the House too fast. Rep. Kevin Lundberg (R-Berthoud) and Rep. Jerry Sonnenberg (R-Sterling) argued against the bill. Sonnenberg said on the House floor, “Let’s put the brakes on it.” He asked for a year long delay.

A second bill, HR 1165, that would have required uranium mining companies to notify the public about prospecting activities. Opponents said the bill went too far in forcing the release of proprietary information. Rep. Frank McNulty (R-Highlands Ranch) opposed the bill. He said that while the public has a right to know about mining activities through the permitting process, the way the bill was written would have forced miners to publish proprietary information about the value of their mineral deposits. The House agriculture and natural resources committee agreed and killed the proposed legislation by a 7-6 vote.

& & &

Gentrified subdivisions in Colorado collide with uranium mines

Black Range Minerals (BRM), an Australian company from West Perth, seeking to develop a Colorado uranium mining claim, has run into opposition to its plans from Canon City, Colorado, homeowners. The firm has requested a conditional use permit for uranium exploration drilling in the Tallahassee district of Fremont County, Colorado.

Earlier this winter the firm began exploratory drilling and says initial results show potential for mining 500,000 tons of uranium ore annually over the next decade. Assuming a yield of four pounds/ton of ore, the potential resource is 125,000 pounds U3O8 annually or 1.25 million pounds over the next decade. At a price of $75/pound the potential value is about $94 million.

A homeowners’ association has asked the Fremont County Commissioners to deny the conditional use permit for the mine. Jim Hawkleee, the group’s leader, said that expanding residential subdivisions have placed 44 homes within 500 yards of the historic mining district. What has happened is that the rapid rise in the price of uranium has brought harsh lessons to unwary homeowners about laws governing mineral rights in Colorado.

Mike Hayes, BRM’s managing director, told a public meeting that the firm will “implement best practices” in its exploration efforts. BRM is drilling on 3,900 acres of leased public and private properties. So far 70 holes have been drilled to between 800-and-1,400 feet.

The firm received a go ahead from the relevant state agencies in Colorado, but failed to get approval of the conditional use permit from the county. The county shut down drilling and has scheduled a hearing for one on May 13. On April 3 the county planning commission voted 4-3 to recommend against the permit.

Hayes said his firm will continue to evaluate the economic potential of the area but it is not considering an ISR mine. “We will most certainly consider an underground mine,” Hayes told the Canon City Daily Record in March.

& & &

Vane stopped for now in Arizona

A federal judge in Phoenix, Ariz., has blocked Vane Minerals, a U.K. mining company, from exploring for uranium near the Grand Canyon. Environmental groups sued the U.S. Forest Service for approving a plan to drill at 39 sites in the Kaibab National Forest. The Sierra Club and other groups claimed the Forest Service should have required a complete environmental impact statement for the exploratory drilling program.

U.S. District Judge Mary Murguia issued the temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction. She rejected the claim by the company and the agency that approval of the drilling could be based on a “categorical exclusion” since only exploratory work was being done.

A spokesman for the Sierra Club told the Associated Press that the judge acted because, “uranium mining near the Grand Canyon is not routine,” is controversial, and that the agency “mis-used” the categorical exclusion. A Forest Service spokesman declined to comment. When the Forest Service approved the exploratory drilling, it said it did so under the authority of the 1872 Mining Act.

U.S. Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-AZ) held a field hearing in Flagstaff on March 28 to get public comment on his proposed legislation to ban mineral exploration around the Grand Canyon. The Superintendent of the Grand Canyon National Park testified that “dire consequences” would occur if uranium mining is allowed to occur in the area. There are over 1,600 mining claims in the area where Vane planned to conduct exploratory drilling.

& & &

First new uranium lease in North Dakota

Prospect Uranium has leased more than 1,000 acres of land near Amidon, North Dakota, and it is the first such lease in the state in the last three decades according to State Geologist Ed Murphy. The company has inked a deal for three, 10-year leases on 1,026 acres of private lands in Slope County, North Dakota for the Conners Uranium Project. Prospect Uranium CEO Jeff Janda said the company selected the sites after studying test holes drilling in the region more than 40 years ago. Prospect says it has records from 242 drill holes. Nine mines in the region produced 592,000 pounds of U3O8 between 1962 and 1967. The leases provide for payment of annual fees and royalties up to 5% of the net proceeds.

& & &

New uranium rules in South Dakota

The South Dakota Water Management Board approved new rules for injection wells for uranium mining in the Black Hills region of the state. Powertech is exploring uranium deposits at several locations in the region and has drilled monitoring holes to determine radon levels and uranium concentrations in underground formations. Mike Cerpak, an mining engineer with the State of South Dakota, said two other firms were also exploring potential ISR mines in the area. Under the new rules uranium mines will be required to get a well permit before opening mining operations. The Board must now get funding from the South Dakota legislature to carry out its permitting process.

& & &

Cameco gets attention from Wyoming regulators

The Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality issued a notice of violation against Power Resources which operates the Smith-Highland Ranch ISR uranium mine. The notice lists problems with groundwater contamination, multiple surface spills of chemicals, and an inadequate bond for restoration. Power Resources is a subsidiary of Cameco Corp. In 2006 the mine produced 2 million pounds of U3O8, and is expected to continue to produce at this level for the next few years.

Cameco Corp. spokesman Gord Struthers told the Tribune the report “is not a good reflection of our environmental performance.” He said the company will update its plans for groundwater protection and increase the funds set aside for site restoration.

The notice of violation comes at a time when the State agency is questioning the effectiveness of its oversight. The investigation into the conditions that prompted the notice of violation took more than a year according to John Corra, DEQ’s Director. He refuted criticism from the Powder River Resource Council that the department isn’t up to the job of regulating the uranium mining industry. Shannon Anderson, a staffer at Council, wrote a letter to Corra complaining that DEQ did not have the capacity to review performance on permits by mining companies.

“DEQ staff are not asleep at the switch,” Corra said, but he admitted to the Casper Tribune, “Had we exercised the proper level of oversight, things wouldn’t have gotten this far.”

DEQ’s original manager charged with overseeing the mine, Rick Chancellor, has since left the division for another assignment in state government. Don McKenzie, the new administrator, said as far as the violations are concerned, “I have no intention of allowing them to continue.” He called the current bonding level “grossly inadequate.” However, he is also allowing the mine to continue normal operations while it responds to the agency.

John Corra said that regardless of “what staff did or did not do, it does not relieve the permit holder from their responsibilities.”

& & &

More trouble in Texas with the Goliad field

Uranium Energy Corp. (UEC) is running into opposition to its planned ISR mine in Goliad, Tex., according to a report in the Austin-American Statesman. The newspaper also reports that company executives have paid themselves lavishly while the firm is still years away from producing revenue.

Goliad County Commissioners sued the company in U.S. Federal Court alleging the firm violated the Safe Water Drinking Act by failing to fill in exploratory drill holes allowing storm water to pollute groundwater supplies. The firm said in a statement the allegations are “baseless.” It said that an investigation by the Texas Railroad Commission, which regulates ISR mines, concluded that no contamination had occurred as a result of the drilling activities. The county’s lawsuit says new drill holes have been found.

According to Amid Adnani, CEO of UEC, age 30, the potential yield of the mine could be up to 1.5 million pounds U3O8 annually over the next four years which at $75/pound would be worth $113 million/year. The “inferred” reserves of 5.5 million pounds are not “proven” under SEC rules.

According to the Austin newspaper, Adnani has little experience with uranium mining was previously employed in public relations in Vancouver, B.C. His father-in-law Alan Lindsay, age 57, took control of a shell company in Nevada called Carlin Gold and transformed it into a uranium exploration firm which is now listed on the American Stock Exchange. According to SEC filings Adnani was paid $212,000 in 2006. Lindsay’s compensation was almost entirely in the form of stock.

According to the Austin-American’s review of the SEC filings, in 2006 UEC spent $7.3 million on compensation for directors and consultants and $6.3 million on land acquisition. The company lost $43 million over the last two years. It has yet to make a profit. In December 2007 it raised $6 million selling stock at $3.75/share. At market close on April 4th it’s stock sat at $2.59/share a nearly one-third loss in value from the offered price.

The firm also has uranium holdings in Arizona and New Mexico. In June of this year the British Columbia Securities Commission (BCSC) conducted a review of the company's technical information disclosure practices under Canadian mineral resource disclosure requirements. Based upon this review, the BCSC issued a cease trade order in respect of UEC’s shares for not having filed technical reports under Canadian National Instrument 43-101 Standards for Disclosure of Mineral Projects.

In October UEC retracted its prior disclosures about its uranium holdings in all three states and filed the required reports with SEDAR.

Despite these problems, Adnani is optimistic. He told the newspaper, “if I can get 1 million pounds a year, I see a real opportunity to be a player.”

& & &

Money & Mining News

Magnum Uranium Corp. has issued its first NI 43-101 compliant uranium resource report on its San Rafael project in Emery County, Utah. The “Down Yonder” deposit is part of a 6,000 exploration in a joint venture with Energy Metals Corp. Magnum has recently earned an 80% interest in the project. The report estimates an indicated mineral resource of 729,100 pounds U3O8 at 0.183% yielding 3.66 pounds per ton of ore; and inferred resources of 1,071,000 pounds U3O8 at 0.184% yielding 3.68 pounds per ton of ore.

& & &

Wave uranium announced the acquisition of 1,042 acres in state mineral leases for its Grand County, Utah, holdings. The claims include most of an area which is known as the Mineral Canyon district and are adjacent to Wave’s holdings of 1,327 mining claims on nearby federal lands.

& & &

Yellowcake Mining has applied for a permit with the State of Colorado to drill in the Uravan-Beck properties. The area was intensively drilled, but not mined in the 70s and 80s, by General Electric which worked at 22 locations during this time. Phase 1 drilling will start when the permits are issued.

& & &

Ur-Energy has issued a preliminary assessment of its Lost Creek Project in Sweetwater County, Wyo. The independent assessment by Lyntek engineers of Lakewood, Colo, in accordance with NI 43-101, provides capital and operating cost estimates for start-up of production at the mine. The expected production capacity is 2 million pounds per year starting in 2010.

& & &

USA Uranium has acquired the final 25% interest in the La Sal West mineral claim group of 111 BLM claims spread over 2,200 acres in the La Sal uranium district in Utah. The company now owns 100% interest in the property. The ore previously produced from this property contained 0.35% U3O8 and resulted in production of 1 million tons of ore. The company is using new, proprietary technology to explore the area for uranium deposits. It is a ground radon detection survey method. The technology has identified new deposits within the boundaries of five existing mines on the properties including the Blue Goose, Pine Tree, Canary, San Juan, and Junction mines. Shipment records from the 1970s indicate grades from 0.10% to 0.38% U3O8.

& & &

Uranium International Corp. has appointed Richard M. Cherry as company President and a Director of The Board effective April 2, 2008.

Richard M. Cherry has over 34 years of experience in the nuclear industry, having worked for multiple companies in areas of uranium mining, production, conversion, marketing, and nuclear power generation. He currently consults to the uranium industry.

From 2000 to 2006, Mr. Cherry was President and CEO of Cotter Corporation and Nuclear Fuels Corporation, which are both affiliates of General Atomics Corporation. Mr. Cherry was responsible for all aspects of Cotter's mining and milling operations in Colorado, including uranium and vanadium production. Through Nuclear Fuels Corporation, he was responsible for the worldwide uranium marketing efforts of all uranium produced by General Atomics' affiliates to customers in the United States, Japan and Europe.

From 1997 to 2000, Mr. Cherry served as Vice President of ConverDyn and Nuclear Fuels Corporation. ConverDyn is a joint venture between Honeywell International and General Atomics formed to market uranium conversion services to large electrical utilities worldwide.

Mr. Cherry holds an M.S. in Mechanical Engineering from Wichita State University and a B.S. in Engineering Physics from the University of Oklahoma. He is a Licensed Professional Engineer (State of Kansas).

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American Uranium announced that in partnership with Strathmore Resources the firms have informed the NRC of their intent to apply for a license to operate a uranium ISR mine at the Reno Creek deposit in Campbell County, Wyo. The Reno Creek property is located within the historic Pumpkin Buttes uranium district of the Powder River basin in northeastern Wyoming. The federal application and similar state permits will be pursued in the Fall of 2009.

American Uranium is committed to spending $12.4 million to earn a 23% interest in the project this year and will spend $33 million over the next six years to earn a 60% interest in the mine.

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Nuclear blog roundup for March 2008

roundup A fast forward look at some highlights from the past four weeks

This is second installment in what I plan as a continuing series. Every four weeks or so I'll take a look at what other nuclear energy blogs are talking about and provide some pointers here.

At Atomic Insights Rod Adams takes a look at very preliminary plans for a nuclear plant in Kansas and points out that even while the firm in question is thinking about nuclear energy, coal is still king on the prairie for the time being.

If you would rather listen than read, check it out the Atomic Postcast Network where "a couple of atomic geeks chatting about their favorite technology's history, economics, prospects and competition." This week Adams has an interesting dialog with an counterpart in Europe and minds do change as a result of the conversation.

The Nuclear Energy Institute has the most prolific blogging team of any site on the planet and you can count on good information, breaking news, and an occasional strong opinion, pro nuclear of course, from David Bradish and colleagues. This week NEI reports that Senator Pete Domenici (R-NM) wants to break the deadlock on Yucca Mountain by opening up the path to reprocessing spent nuclear fuel. It is a huge development and one that will be followed closely by the industry.

At Energy from Thorium Kirk Sorenson is talking about NRDC's anti-nuclear message recently delivered in Utah. It seems the environmental community, which has rightly pointed out the perils of coal, can't seem to understand that Americans are not going to give up their microwave ovens and DVD players for some ephemeral vision of "sustainability." You can't have it both ways folks. Either you'll have base load supply of electricity or not.

The big emphasis these days at Kirk Sorenson's blog Energy from Thorium is his growing interest in the Liquid Floride Reactor. Kirk is engaged in an interesting dialog about it with Charles Barton at NuclearGreen, who is also in pursuit of better understanding of this technology. Barton is also writing about Molten Salt Reactors so if your mind tends towards exploring the unexpected, check it out. David Walters adds his thoughts about both of these reactor technologies on his Daily Kos diary.

At Physical Insights the blogger points out it pays to be polite to regulators especially when you're involved in the contentious nuclear reactor relicensing hearing for Indian Point in New York. He records that's what Sherwood Martinelli of FUSE failed to do when he called NRC hearing officers a foul name. They tossed Sherwood out on his ear and into the street calling his poor choice of verbiage "objectively insulting."

At We Support Lee Ruth Sponsler observes that Germany has a problem with energy policy. Germany is stumbling along the road to a carbon-limited Europe. The problem? Its nuclear phaseout policy, which is an outdated legacy of the late 1970s and early 1980s. Yup, it's pretty stupid to get rid of your nuclear plants when you also realize how difficult it will be to build new power plants that burn coal.

At Nuclear Australia the analysis is the folks down under will not be immune from global climate change. There are some great charts and analysis of what it all means. As readers know Australia is a major exporter of uranium, but has no nuclear power plants of its own.

At Sovietologist there is a trenchant analysis that Al Gore's anti-nuclear stance isn't going to help the cause of stopping global warming. He writes, "I'm doubtful that Gore will really come out for nuclear power. Which is a shame, since it's becoming more apparent every day that when it comes to global warming, anti-nuclear fundamentalists are part of the problem, not the solution." This will take you back to the cognitive dissonance coming from the situation in Germany, but it is worth repeating.

The EnergyCollective, is home to discussions of solar, wind, and fossil energy technologies. This week it recognized the value of nuclear energy, and invited Idaho Samizdat to provide its feed to the web portal. Happy to do it. There are some impressive contributors there including energy experts, consultants, and former government officials. The site takes full feeds from all contributors and an editor publishes a "best of" feed from them. It's a class act.

Bob Hargraves is continuing his online class Rethinking Nuclear Power at Dartmouth. He has two new class modules posted along with the slides, readings, and links. This month he walks you through the arithmetic of energy calculations. It is a great resource.

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If you know of other blogs that regularly cover the world of nuclear energy, please leave a comment. I'll include them in next month's review. Thanks!