Saturday, May 10, 2008

Vermont Yankee bill vetoed

Gov. Jim Douglas said legislation would have raised rates gov_portrait

Vermont Governor Jim Douglas vetoed a bill that would have required Vermont Yankee to substantially increase the money it pays into a decommissioning fund which would be used should the plant ever be closed. The increase was on the order of $400 million. Anti-nuclear activists in the state legislature, led by Senate President Peter Shumlin (D-Windham), want the commercial nuclear electric plant shut down when its license expires in 2012.

Under the bill, S.373, additional money and financial guarantees would have to be put in a trust fund for decommissioning before the plant could be included in a corporate restructuring. Supporters of the bill alleged that the proposed restructuring will mean the cost of decommissioning the plant will not be paid by Entergy, the company that now owns the Vernon facility. Bob Stannard, a lobbyist for the anti-nuclear group 'Citizens Action Network' accused Entergy of planning to walk away from its obligations.

This is at face value complete anti-nuclear nonsense since NRC regulations require the decommissioning fund to be supported no matter how the plant operator is structured in terms of finances. A decision from the Public Service Board on whether Entergy can spin off Vermont Yankee into a new company is expected in the fall. The board has the authority to put conditions on the changeover, which it did when Entergy bought the plant in 2002.

In his veto message Gov. Douglas said his action will protect Vermont's low costs for electricity. In a state where the temperature can drop to -40F in winter, low electric rates are a must. The low electric rates from the nuclear power plant are also the reason thousands of jobs are located in Vermont and not elsewhere in New England which largely relies on oil for facility heating.

The veto was hailed by business groups who lobbied against the bill, and who were subjected to verbal abuse about it by Shumlin last month. John O'Kane, with IBM in Essex Junction, said his firm was relieved the bill was shot down. Steve Kimbell, representing Green Mountain Power, told the news media the legislation would have hurt power rate negotiations for new contracts for delivery of electricity after 2012.

"Our financial arrangement with Entergy would be affected by the additional money that would be needed," he said.

Douglas added, "It is important for Vermont families and small businesses. Forcing the company to give financial guarantees that it will fill out the decommissioning fund will not raise rates before 2012 — there are signed contracts between now and then. But it would if the plant was given another operating license."

"It is naïve to think that an extra obligation an operator will incur will not be reflected in that if it goes forward," Douglas said. "We have got a clean, reliable, emission free source of electricity. We should embrace it as long as it is safe and we are satisfied it can be reliable in the future."

Vermont Yankee has applied for a 20-year license extension with the NRC. A decision is expected in November 2008.

Response by NRC to Cooling tower collapse

In other news the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant will not be penalized for allowing a cooling tower to degrade to such an extent that it collapsed, spilling thousands of gallons of water. The NRC instead issued the plant a "noncited violation" for not following nuclear industry recommendations for preventing the problems with fungus attacking wooden beams that led to the collapse last August. VYcoolingtowercollapse

The published photos of water spewing from the collapsed structure were sensational media fodder for the anti-nuclear forces in the state, but in reality the manmade waterfall was not a risk to anyone nor to plant cooling systems.

"We looked at it in terms of nuclear safety, and there was no real significance involved," said Neil Sheehan, spokesman for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission's Northeast regional office.

Sheehan said Vermont Yankee failed to heed warnings about fungus that can grow on the wooden beams that support cooling towers, which operate in a very wet environment.

"They needed to tap into industry operating experience, the latest available. There was some operational experience they should have been aware of," he said.

# # #

Rethinking nuclear power ~ Class 6 is up

It wraps up with a review of energy policiesnuclearreaction3

Bob Hargraves has wrapped up his online tutorial on nuclear energy with Class Six of his online course from Dartmouth titled Rethinking Nuclear Power. In this section he considers various energy policy issues and advises students how to look into the economic efficiency of various energy subsidies, assess the effective use of carbon taxes, and to understand the important role of government funded energy R&D for energy technologies of all kinds, not just nuclear. He reviews how the issue of nuclear energy is playing in the presidential races and electoral politics.

Free online class materials

The class materials remain online. Each class includes the original powerpoint slides, PDF versions of the slides, and recorded audio from the classes. Note the Powerpoint files are quite large so download them first before opening.

The website also includes an excellent descriptive bibliography of current books on nuclear energy including technical, economic, and political perspectives both pro-and-con.

Resource for educators

In an email note Bob writes,

If you have interest in energy policy, the course web site can guide you with hundreds of PowerPoint slides and web site references for more detailed investigation.

You are welcome to use and adapt these materials for any educational purposes. Please let me know if I can help.

Bob's background . . . AB Mathematics Dartmouth College, PhD physics Brown University, taught math and computer science at Dartmouth. Now retired after a second career in the private sector in the area of information technologies. He is also the publisher of the nuclear energy blog Pebble Bed Reactor which is an excellent resource on this subject.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Western Lands Uranium Gopher for May 9, 2008

Mining uranium exploration press releases and news 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 uranium projects stir interest

Question - What’s the one thing people opposed to the permitting and operation of an ISR uranium mine in Weld County, Colo, fear more than anything else? Answer - a second ISR uranium mine. A second mining company is staking a claim to mineral lease rights in northeast Colorado near the western ghost town of Keota. Geovic Mining Corp., based in Vancouver, B.C., has leased mineral rights to 15,000 acres which is almost three times the area leased by Powertech in Nunn, Colo, last year. Additionally, the company has also acquired mineral rights for uranium exploration in Goshen County, Wyo.

Andy Hoffman, VP at Geovic, told a Greeley business newspaper the firm is basing its leases on exploratory activities conducted in the 1970s by Union Oil of California. The firm has hired some of the employees who worked the area during that time. So far the firm has spent $2.8 million on the exploratory activities according to an earnings report released in April.

The first firm that became active in northeast Colorado last year is Powetech which has leased mineral rights on 5,700 acres. Like Powertech Geovic plans to permit an ISR mine. Opponents of the two mines complained to the legislature earlier this year that Colorado State government agencies that issue permits for ISR operations are required by law to keep mining company information confidential. At least four other ISR mines are planned for the area. An effort to change the law this year failed in the House.

However, HB 1161 passed on third reading in the Colorado Senate by a vote of 32-2 and is on its way to Gov. Bill Ritter for signature. The bill would require uranium mining companies to prove they can return groundwater supplies to the same condition as they found them. The primary target of the legislation is Powertech’s planned ISR uranium mine located near Nunn, Colo.

Setback for planned expansion of Nebraska’s only uranium mine

Opponents of the expansion of the Crow Butte Resources scored a victory this week when a three judge panel at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission gave them standing to file objections about the potential for groundwater contamination. In a second motion the group was also granted standing to object to foreign ownership of the mine by Camerco. The groups that now have standing are the Western Nebraska Resources Council and a Lakota Indian tribal group from the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.

David Fankel, an attorney for the protest group, said his group would demand at the hearings that Cameco show its mining operations are not contaminating two nearby aquifers which supply potable water for human use and agriculture. He also said Cameco must prove it is “serving U.S. national interests” as defined in the NRC’s regulations.

Crow Butte mine officials said the mine and the two other underground water sources are separated by an impermeable geologic formation and that the company has monitoring wells in place to track its own operations. Lyle Krahn, a spokesman for Cameco, said, “ We are committed to safe, sustainable operations, and we are following the regulatory process in good faith.”

What triggered the intervention was Cameco’s application in early 2007 to the NRC for an amendment to Source Materials License SUA-1534 for the development of additional uranium in-situ leach mining resources. The proposed development area for use as a satellite facility to the existing main plant is referred to as the North Trend Expansion Area. Additionally, Cameco said in March 2008 it would seek two more ISR mine sites near Crawford, Neb.

On Dec 4, 2007, Cameco announced that it is targeting to increase the combined production at its Crow Butte and Smith Ranch-Highland in-situ leach operations by 70% to 4.6 million pounds U3O8 annually by 2011. The planned production increase requires the restart of the idle Highland uranium recovery plant. Currently, the Crow Butte mine produces 800,000 pounds U3O8 annually.

Cameco also applied for a standard 10-year extension of its license for the ISR mine. NRC found the application acceptable and published a Federal Register notice on April 7. A hearing on the issues is scheduled for June.

Bluerock announces first uranium production at J-Bird mine

Bluerock Resources announced the first production of uranium development ore at the J-Bird Mine, Montrose Country, Colo. Uranium ore will be stockpiled at the J-Bird Mine and then transported to Denison Mines' White Mesa Mill under the firm’s ore purchase and toll milling agreement with Denison. Dension began mill operations in April [see related story].

Mining and development operations at the J-Bird Mine continue to accelerate and the company has intersected a 1.5 to 2 foot (0.46 to 0.61 metre) thick seam of uranium ore with reported grades of 0.10 to 0.50% U3O8.

"The start of uranium ore production and stockpiling at J-Bird Mine is a significant step for Bluerock's aim of becoming the next uranium producer in the United States," said Bluerock President & CEO Michael Collins.

The J-Bird claim block hosts three historic uranium producers (the Maud, Prayer 9 and Yellow Bird uranium mines) and adjoins a fourth historic uranium mine (the Uranium Girl). Grade at the Yellow Bird Uranium Mine was reported by the USGS to be 0.34% U3O8 and 1.80% V2O5.

Denison announces start of operations at White Mesa Mill

Denison Mines Corp announced that processing of conventional ore at Denison's White Mesa mill in Utah began on April 28. Initial testing of the grinding circuit began on April 21st, with the first ore from Tony M mine fed to the leach circuit on April 28, 2008.

Over the next two months, the mill will be processing uranium-only ore from the Tony M operation and will then switch to the uranium/vanadium ores from mines on the Colorado Plateau. Currently, there are approximately 150,000 tons of ore from the various mines stockpiled at the mill.

Denison is projecting production of between 1.4 and 1.7 million pounds of U3O8 and 3.0 to 4.0 million pounds of vanadium pentoxide from White Mesa in 2008. Currently, Denison has approximately 170,000 pounds of U3O8 in inventory from the processing of alternate feed materials in the first four months of 2008.

Bluerock Resources pitches new mill to Utah Regulators

Mancos Resources Inc. presented the Utah Radiation Control Board in its late last week with a proposal for a uranium mill for a site in Emery County, Utah.

Mancos is owned by Canadian-based Bluerock Resources Ltd., which has one operating mine, one nearing production, and reportedly has 12 other uranium properties in Utah and Colorado. Its proposal, which was an information-only item for the board, is to mill 1,200 tons per day at a uranium mill, using a wet crushing and solvent extraction technique.

Assuming a yield of four pounds/ton the mill could produce 4,800 pounds U3O8/day or 1.4 million pounds per year assuming 300 days of production. At the current price of $65/pound the expected value produced by the mill would be about $94 million annually.

Waste from the mill would involve a dry tailings disposal method and a composite cap over the tailings. The Mancos Resources Uranium Mill would employ 40 people and result in a $125 million investment in Utah. An "optimistic" start-up date for the mill would be about three years away. Mancos told the Board the mill could have an operational life of as long as 50 years.

North Dakota gets first uranium permit application

The state of North Dakota received its first request since 1980 for a permit to explore for uranium according to a report by the state’s geologist. Formation Resources of Bismark applied for an exploration permit for a site in Billings Count and another site in Slope County. The company is said to be a subsidiary of PacMag Metals of West Perth, Australia, but this is unconfirmed. The Dickinson Press in Bismark said Formation Resources did not have a local office. PacMag's Sundance project in the Powder River Basin in Wyoming includes portions of the Oshoto uranium deposits which was the site of extensive uranium exploration by Nuclear Dynamics Corporation and Bethlehem Steel in the 1970's.

Earlier this year Prospect Uranium of La Jolla, Calif, said it had leased 1,000 acres in Slope County from private land owners. However, the firm has not yet applied for an exploration permit. CEO Jeff Janda said the reason is the firm is still doing preliminary geologic work.

Slope County is one of the historic uranium mining regions in the state. North Dakota is working on new uranium mining regulations. A hearing on the draft regulation is scheduled for May 27 in Bismark.

Uranerz mine license accepted by NRC

Uranerz Energy Corp announced that the NRC has accepted the firm's application to build and operate an ISR uranium mine. Last December Uranerz submitted its application for a Source Material License to the NRC to build and operate the Nichols Ranch ISR Project, consisting of its Nichols Ranch and Hank properties located in the central Powder River Basin of Wyoming.

When licensed and constructed, the Nichols Ranch ISR Project will consist of a main processing facility at the Nichols Ranch property and a satellite facility at the Hank property. The ultimate production level from these two properties is planned to be in the range of 600,000 to 750,000 pounds per year U308.

Company also owns or controls approximately 179 square miles of mineral rights, including its interest in the Arkose property in Wyoming. The Arkose property contains, in aggregate, from 41 million to 79 million pounds of U308 at a potential grade ranging from 0.059% to 0.114%, as set out in the Company's NI 43-101 technical report dated Feb 27, 2008.

Start-up of operations at the Nichols Ranch ISR Project is currently projected for late 2010 or 2011.

American Uranium reports NI 43-101 resources of 3.5 million pounds U3O8

American Uranium Corp. announced that it's Pinetree-Reno Creek Joint Venture with partner Strathmore Resources has filed an NI 43-101 Technical Report for the Southwest Reno Creek Property in Wyoming. The Joint Venture has begun permitting activities for the Reno Creek Project, which includes lands within the Southwest Property. Mining is planned using in-situ recovery (ISR) techniques.

The NI 43-101 report covers the Southwest Reno Creek Property, Last February, the Company announced the completion of a NI 43-101 report for the main Reno Creek Property, where a 7.4 million pound measured and indicated uranium resource was estimated, up from the historically reported 4 million pounds.

The new resource estimate provides a total Measured and Indicated resource estimate of 3,526,495 pounds at an average grade of 0.068% U3O8, up from the historically reported 1.3 million pounds U3O8. An additional 1,327,635 pounds of U3O8 at an average grade of 0.057% is classified as an Inferred mineral resource.

Laramide plans underground mine at former Homestake site in New Mexico

Laramide Resources Ltd submitted a request to the USDA Forest Service to amend its current La Jara Mesa Uranium Project plan of operations. The mine is in the Grants District in New Mexico. The proposed amendment seeks permits to proceed with an underground development program.

Laramide proposes to conduct mapping, longhole drilling with gamma probing, test mining and collection of bulk samples (approximately 40,000 - 50,000 tons) for metallurgical and mill compatibility studies. The program is expected to take roughly 18-24 months to complete and, assuming the findings of development work confirm the positive economic promise of the deposit, Laramide will transition to underground mine production.

Laramide purchased La Jara Mesa from Homestake Mining Company in 2005. The mineral resource estimated for La Jara Mesa (2006, Homestake) estimates measured and indicated mineral resources of 7,257,817 pounds of uranium (U3O8) that are contained in 1,555,899 tons at an average grade of 0.23% U3O8, and an additional inferred resource of 3,172,653 pounds of uranium (U3O8) contained in 793,161 tons at an average grade of 0.20% U3O8.

# # #

Plutonium economies may be the rule by mid-century

It makes no sense to throw away 95% of the energy value in spent fuel trash cans

A leading scientist at the Idaho National Laboratory asserts the U.S. "must get back in the game" of reprocessing spent nuclear fuel. Terry Todd, Director of the Fuel Cycle Division, told a meeting of the Idaho Section of the American Nuclear Society on May 8th France, Russia, China, and Japan have aggressive plans to build fast reactors to burn MOX fuel.

"They have a 30-year vision," Todd says, and, by comparison, "the U.S. has lost its leadership role in reprocessing spent nuclear fuel. We will have to build our physical and human infrastructure from scratch to be consistent with the way the world is going to work by the middle of this century." The implication is that some of the key economies of the world will see a major shift in fuel for energy from fossil sources to uranium and plutonium.

Todd says the problem domestically is that "for the past 25 years no one in the U.S. nuclear industry has been able to say the word 'reprocessing'." It's not that the U.S. doesn't have the inventory to proceed. With a backlog of more than 70,000 tons even two new 1,000 ton per year reprocessing plants won't make a dent in it. Worse, the U.S. will likely increase its current storage of spent nuclear fuel from the current rate of 2,100 metric tons per year as new plants come on line. "The nuclear renaissance hasn't happened yet, but it will," Todd says.

There isn't much hope of a commercial solution. The government started and stopped reprocessing spent nuclear fuel several times creating a situation where no private sector firm is going to spent billions over a ten-year period given the capricious nature of plutonium politics. President Jimmy Carter stopped spent fuel recycling, President Ronald Reagan re-started it, and there have been several iterations since then. The last commercial venture was the ill-fated West Valley facility which operated from 1966-1972.

Terrific challenges for restart of recycling

Todd told the audience the key option for recycling spent nuclear fuel is to recycle the uranium and plutonium to produce Mixed Oxide Fuel (MOX) for use in light water reactors. The issue is how many commercial nuclear reactors, especially merchants, are likely to use it. The answer, Todd concedes, is relatively few because of the risks associated with new fuel types.

According to Todd, this means if the government wants to burn MOX, it is going to have to build fast burner reactors especially for this fuel type and lease them to the private sector for operations to generate electricity. These reactors will still have to be cost effective and produce a profit in terms of the cost of electricity sold to end-users. There are terrific challenges to realizing this vision.

"The cost of these reactors will be a very tough sell to Congress to get them to spend this kind of money," Todd said.

Another challenge is that with 70,000 tons stored at reactors and production of 2,100 tons per year of spent nuclear fuel, the size of the backlog vastly exceeds the processing capability of even three new 1,000 ton/year plants. By comparison Todd says, the reprocessing plant at Thorp in the U.K. has a capacity of 1,200 tons per year, but only operates at 75% capacity. The new Japanese plant at Rokkasho has a capacity of 800 tons/year, and is currently in hot start-up mode with full operations slated for later this year. In France the La Hague facility reportedly has a capacity of 1,700 tons/year.

A different idea than Yucca?

Todd says the Department of Energy is aware the technical capacity of the Yucca Mountain is 120,000 tons, but the policy limit set by Congress is 63,000 tons LWR spent fuel and 7,000 tons DOD spent fuel. Todd asks rhetorically, "What happens when Yucca is full?" The answer appears to be the U.S. will have to shift to reprocessing or build a second geologic repository.

Most other nations with advanced nuclear energy programs have a completely different idea. They plan to provide the energy for their economies by mid-century with plutonium and uranium from reprocessed fuel.

The current plan for an advanced spent fuel recycling paradigm in France, China, Russia, and Japan is to recycle uranium as part of an "aggressive plan" for fast reactors. This is a 30-year vision Todd said.

There are no fast reactors in the U.S. since EBR-II shut down. For instance, Todd described efforts inFrance to target a major fast burner reactor program by mid-century. Similar efforts are underway in China, Russia, and Japan. They all plan to have "plutonium economies" Todd said. Given the price of oil, it makes sense.

For instance, Japan just announced it will build a 1,400 MW reactor to use MOX at Ohma in northern Japan. The reactor is due to be completed in 2012. Japan's power industry has said it wants 16-18 plants using reprocessed fuel by that date.

Past efforts project into the future

Todd points out that past history of spent fuel recycling in the U.S. focused on the PUREX process which was deployed at Idaho, Hanford, and Savannah River starting in the 1950s.

A problem with PUREX, and one of the reasons Jimmy Carter stopped it, is that it accumulates plutonium which is expensive and dangerous to store and is a target for nuclear weapons proliferation.

"No technology is intrinsically proliferation resistant, " Todd noted and he offers some observations about how the U.S. is changing its thinking about nonproliferation and fuel recycling. What we learned from 9/11, Todd observes, is that the so-called "reasonable man" approach to security for highly radioactive materials is no longer valid.

"We know that people might sacrifice themselves for a cause and deliberate expose themselves to fatal levels of radiation in order to steal plutonium to make bombs."

It follows that an alternative path is to focus on how attractive the material would be, e.g., blending plutonium with other materials so that it is extremely difficult to extract it to make a conventional nuclear weapon.

As far as the U.S. getting back into recycling, development of a demonstration or pilot plant is important. There are four factors in an effective nuclear nonproliferation program which can make that possible Todd said. They are technology for the fuel itself, safeguards in handling the fuel, security for fuel reprocessing facilities, and transparency through the IAEA.

Areva / Boston Consulting Group Study

Areva and the Boston Consulting Group developed a study that shows the cost of nuclear fuel recycling is about 10% of the cost of the total fuel cycle. The process is capital intensive no matter how you measure it.

According to the World Nuclear Association, a report published in 2006 by the Boston Consulting Group for Areva, and based on proprietary information from that firm, showed that recycling used fuel in the US using the COEX aqueous process would be economically competitive with direct disposal of used fuel. A $12 billion, 2500 ton/year plant was considered, with total capital expenditure of $16 billion for all related aspects. This plant have the benefit of reducing demand on space at the Yucca mountain repository.

Boston Consulting gave four reasons for reconsidering US used fuel strategy which has applied since 1977:

  • Cost estimates for direct disposal at Yucca Mountain had risen sharply and capacity was limited (even if doubled),
  • Increased US nuclear generation, potentially from 103 to 160 GWe,
  • The economics of reprocessing and associated waste disposal have improved,
  • There is now a lot of experience with civil reprocessing.

Is there a cost effective solution?

Todd said analysis has shown huge facilities like the Savannah River Site are not cost effective, and if the U.S. gets back into fuel recycling, it will need to build several 1,000 ton/year plants rather than one plant that does 3,000 ton/year. Achieving a commitment to build even a pilot plant could be a daunting challenge. Todd pointed out cost estimates for very complex first-of-a-kind facilities are hard to validate.

Todd also points out the U.S. will generate 2,100 ton/year spent nuclear fuel or twice the processing capacity of the world's two largest operating plants in Japan, the U.K., and France.

The focus at the INL on GNEP, Todd emphasizes, is to make less waste at lower costs with an effective process that is easier to operate than the ones built in the 1950s.

The rising cost of at reactor spent fuel storage is going to drive the U.S. to a solution one way or the other Todd said.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Nice day for Areva in Idaho Falls

Idaho Falls Mayor Jared Fuhriman, right, brought smiles to all with his comment about how working together gets things accomplished -- even the city and county. From left are Bonneville County Commissioner Roger Christensen, Areva Inc. Vice President Robert Poyser, Sam Shakir of Areva and Amy Lentz of Grow Idaho Falls.

Photo: Robert Bower, IF Post Register

This is a link to a photo on the Idaho Falls Post Register web page

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Areva chooses Idaho for uranium enrichment plant

French nuclear giant selects site near Idaho Falls

8:30 AM 5/6/08 The Associated Press reports, with quotes from Areva executives, that the company has chosen a site 18 miles west of Idaho Falls, ID, for a $2 billion uranium enrichment plant. Economic development officials in Idaho confirmed to me in phone calls earlier this morning they have a press release which the firm also gave to the AP office in Boise.

10:00 AM Photo Info -- Michael McMurphy, CEO and president of Areva Inc., talked about the company's intention to build a $2 billion uranium enrichment plant in Bonneville County. He was flanked by Sen. Majority Leader Bart Davis, left; Sam Shakir, Areva general manager; and Sen. Larry Craig, right, at a press conference to make the announcement. Photo: Idaho Statesman

Update 1:00 PM: See full text of press release below from Grow Idaho Falls. A link to and text of Areva's press release are also included below.
Here are highlights from the AP report. See also coverage in the Idaho Statesman by Rocky Barker.

Areva plans to build $2 billion uranium plant in Idaho


BOISE, Idaho -- French-owned energy services company Areva Inc. will build what it's said will be a $2 billion uranium enrichment facility near the eastern Idaho city of Idaho Falls, after winning tax concessions from the state Legislature meant to lure the plant to the region.

The plant will be built on a site near the Idaho National Laboratory, where scientists have done research into nuclear energy since the 1940s, the company said Tuesday.

A late-session push in the Idaho Legislature to extend a sales tax exemption for production equipment that handles nuclear fuel and to cap property tax valuations at the plant to $400 million helped convince the company to select Idaho.

Areva plans to add this new U.S. plant by 2014 to help compensate for a U.S. nuclear fuel supply that could shrink. A program in which Russia has been converting weapons-grade uranium to low-enriched uranium and selling it to an Areva rival expires in 2013.

* * *

Before the plant is built, Areva still must get approval from local, state and national agencies, including a license from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to construct and operate the facility.

Areva press release

IDAHO FALLS, May 6, 2008 – AREVA Inc. announced today that it has selected the state of Idaho for its new U.S. uranium enrichment facility. The site is located in Bonneville County, 18 miles west of Idaho Falls, close to the Idaho National Laboratory site.

The selection was made after an extensive technical, environmental, and socio-economical analysis of several potential sites throughout the United States. With its decision, AREVA will move forward to seek all necessary approvals from federal, state and local agencies, including a license from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to construct and operate the facility.

“The United States needs more clean energy to support its economic growth. To enable us to meet those needs we have to expand our domestic nuclear infrastructure, secure our supply of enrichment services, and reduce our reliance on foreign imports. This new enrichment plant is a critical part of this process,” said Michael McMurphy, President of AREVA Inc.

He added, “While we had several attractive sites to choose from, we opted for Idaho Falls, which has strong ties to nuclear energy, and which welcomed AREVA and its proposed enrichment facility to become a new member of its community. We look forward to a productive and long-term partnership that will deliver diversity and strength to the regional economy.”

The new state-of-the-art facility represents a multi-billion dollar investment that would create hundreds of high-skilled jobs during the construction and operation phases.
The Idaho Falls plant will provide enrichment services to U.S. nuclear plant operators using advanced proven centrifuge technology developed by the Enrichment Technology Company, Ltd. (ETC), an AREVA subsidiary, and world leader in enrichment services technology.

This centrifuge technology has been successfully deployed in Europe for more than thirty years, using 50 times less electricity than the gaseous diffusion process.
AREVA is a major supplier of enrichment services. It owns and operates the Georges Besse enrichment plant in France, which has safely operated for nearly three decades. AREVA is currently constructing a new gas centrifuge enrichment facility in France – Georges Besse II – which is expected to become operational in 2009.

To find out more, explore AREVA’s Uranium Enrichment Web site at:

Press release from Grow Idaho Falls

Grow Idaho Falls
151 N. Ridge, Ste. 130 Idaho Falls, ID 83402

May 7, 2008

Contact: Linda Martin, CEcD, Executive Director
208-522-2014; 208-206-5947 cell

AREVA Chooses Idaho Falls

Areva Inc. announced today it will build a $2 billion uranium enrichment plant near Idaho Falls. Areva selected the site near the Idaho National Laboratory over potential sites in five states.

Michael McMurphy, President of Areva Inc. said, “While we had several attractive sites to choose from, we opted for Idaho Falls, which has strong ties to nuclear energy, and which welcomed AREVA and its proposed enrichment facility to become a new member of its community. We look forward to a productive and long-term partnership that will deliver diversity and strength to the regional economy.”

It will take two to three years to design the plant and receive state and federal approvals. Construction is expected to take three to five years and involve as many as 1,000 workers. Once operational, the plant is expected to employ up to 300 people.

“Areva has the technology and the experience, and eastern Idaho has the workforce, the infrastructure, the commitment to advancing nuclear technology and the critical understanding of this industry. It’s a great match that will result in secure jobs and a stronger economy,” Governor C. L. “Butch” Otter said.

“This highlights the Idaho National Engineering Laboratory’s importance to our entire state, and it shows what a great investment it was to provide state funding for the Center for Advanced Energy Studies at the INL. We now have public and private resources, industry and academics working together to bring about this new opportunity. I’m grateful to the people of Bonneville County, to the local officials, to Grow Idaho Falls, and to all those who helped make this announcement possible.”

The state Department of Commerce and Grow Idaho Falls, Inc. worked together to satisfy the 39 physical and economic criteria in a state to state comparison. Grow Idaho Falls Inc., the Greater Idaho Falls Chamber of Commerce, the Partnership for Science & Technology, the City of Idaho Falls, and the Regional Development Alliance began drafting legislation to accommodate the gaps in the tax structure.

“We were able to show that bringing this type of large, taxpaying, for-profit business to Idaho would benefit the whole state, particularly in light of recent declining state revenues,” said Linda Martin, Executive Director of Grow Idaho Falls Inc. Tim Solomon with the Regional Development Alliance estimated the overall economic impact to the region would be approximately $5.1 billion.

“I am very excited that Areva has chosen to do business in our community. What this tells me is that Idaho must be doing something right to attract a company of this magnitude. It also tells me if Areva wants to invest in our state, there will be others to follow, and that would be a very exciting prospect. We could not have done this without the help from many individuals throughout our community, the state, and our Congressional leadership. We look forward to a long-lasting partnership with Areva,” said Mayor Jared Fuhriman of Idaho Falls.

The Idaho Legislature passed two bills during the 2008 session designed to make Idaho competitive with other states by offering tax incentives. Local government and economic development officials have been working with Areva for nearly a year in the effort to bring the plant to eastern Idaho.

The Idaho Falls groups worked with a number of regional and local legislators, including Chairman Dennis Lake (R-Blackfoot), Chairman Brent Hill (R-Rexburg), and Majority Leader Sen. Bart Davis (R-Idaho Falls). Gov. Otter, Sen. Larry Craig (R-ID), Sen. Mike Crapo (R-ID), and Cong. Mike Simpson (R-2 ID) made personal supportive calls during the deliberations, in the US and France. The local delegation gained support from across the state, especially from House Majority Leader Rep. Mike Moyle (R-Star), Rep. Jim Clark (R-Hayden Lake) and Rep. Dean Mortimer (R-Idaho Falls) on the House floor, and Sen. Curt McKenzie (R-Boise) on the Senate floor.
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N.M. paper reports Areva chooses Idaho

Update 2008 05 06 0811 Mountain time - the Boise AP has the full story with quotes from Areva executives . .

Earlier story . . .

Sen. Pete Domenici (R-NM) is said to have told economic development officials in that state that French nuclear giant Areva has chosen a site near Idaho Falls for a $2 billion uranium enrichment plant. The Current Argus in Carlsbad, NM, published the story late Monday evening.

Text of the report follows below.

Current Argus, Carlsbad, NM

Officials: Areva decides on Idaho, not N.M.
By Kyle Marksteiner
Article Launched: 05/05/2008 08:42:47 PM MDT

CARLSBAD — Areva Inc. isn't building its $2 billion uranium enrichment plant near Carlsbad, local officials said Monday.

A proposed site between Carlsbad and Hobbs was one of five finalists for the French nuclear giant's first uranium enrichment plant in the United States, but the company has elected to locate near Idaho Falls, Idaho, according to state Rep. John Heaton, D-Carlsbad. The plant will employ about 250 people and use high-speed centrifuge technology to enrich uranium, similar to the $1.5 billion National Enrichment Facility going up near Eunice.

Areva has yet to make an official announcement, but local officials found out about the decision from Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N.M.

Heaton said he spoke with Areva officials Monday and was told that the primary reason the Eddy-Lea site was not selected was due to workforce availability.

"The one thing that might have been a big issue is the workforce here," Carlsbad Mayor Bob Forrest also observed. "We have a shortage of workforce."

Monday, May 5, 2008

British new nuclear builds could cost more than expected

Bidders position pricing strategies for 10 new reactors pricing

Companies planning to bid on at least 10 new nuclear reactors in the U.K. say the government has an unrealistic expectation of what they will cost. The Times of London reports that Wulf Bernotat, CEO of E.ON, the German energy firm that owns Powergen, has told the newspaper that the cost per plant could be as high as E6 billion.

That figure is about double the Government's latest L2.8 billion estimate. At the current exchange rate of E1 =$1.55, a E6 billion plant would cost US$9.3 billion.

Bernotat's figures indicate that the cost of replacing Britain's ten nuclear power stations could reach L48 billion, excluding the cost of decommissioning ageing reactors or dealing with nuclear waste. “We are talking easily about E5 billion to E6 billion [each],” Dr Bernotat told the Times.

Bids are due by the end of this week from a broad cross section of Europe's nuclear firms and their construction partners. Bernotat did not provide a price per KwH as a common factor to compare cost factors. Indeed, the whole point of his statement may have been to put pressure on the UK government not to evaluate bids with too sharp a pencil.

The Department of Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform said the original L2.8 billion figure, contained in a White Paper published in January, was an estimate and that the final costs would hinge on many factors such as rapidly rising prices for concrete and steel.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Japan to boost nuclear new builds

rising sunA new plan for nuclear energy in the land of the rising sun

The skyrocketing costs of imported oil and growing fears of global warming are driving Japan to step up construction of new nuclear power plants and related facilities. The policy direction for the new urgency comes right from the top.

Japan's Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda said in late April that, "nuclear power, which does not produce carbon dioxide, is a trump card for global warming measures."

It is the first time the country's prime minister has made such a direct endorsement of nuclear energy. Fukuda made his remarks at the Japan Atomic Industrial Forum on April 17th.

He said, "I think the recent moves toward a nuclear revival or "renaissance" show that Japan's consistent nuclear energy development was anything but a mistake."

The policy level emphasis is a shift for the Japanese government. At the World Economic Forum last winter Fukuda spoke about renewable energy sources such as solar and wind, but did not mention nuclear energy.

Japan has a plan - Cool Earth 50

According to a report by World Nuclear News, a Japanese plan published in March 2008 to cut global greenhouse gas emissions by 50% by 2050 has concluded that advanced nuclear power could contribute 12% to that goal.

A committee established by the Ministry of Economy Trade and Industry developed the plan, called Cool Earth 50, which relies on the development of innovative nuclear technologies to reduce global emissions by 40 billion ton of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2-eq) each year by 2050.

A key technology is the fast breeder reactor being developed by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries. Mitsubishi plans to sell its fast reactors in the U.S. A recent development is that the firm has a completed design for its ABWR which it submitted to the NRC for licensing review last December.

Cool Earth 50 Roadmap

Cool Earth 50 includes a roadmap giving priority to 21 technologies with potential to contribute to emissions cuts in sectors including power generation and transmission, industry, household and transportation. In the power generation and transmission sector, advanced nuclear power was selected alongside innovative solar, high-efficiency natural gas, high-efficiency coal, carbon capture and storage and superconducting power transmission.

The committee's analysis showed that advanced nuclear power could cut global emissions by 12%, some 9.6 billion tons of CO2-eq each year. This target would require 1,500 new nuclear power reactors (assuming a standard size of 1,000 MWe) in addition to the 372 GWe currently operating.

The committee said nuclear power would provide the electricity required for stable economic growth while cutting emissions at the same time. It added that new reactors developed from today's light-water models should be in operation by 2050, with further refined safety, economy and reliability.

In announcing Cool Earth 50, the government said, "We will also enhance the reliability and safety of nuclear energy, and develop advanced nuclear power generation technologies, such as high-temperature gas-cooled reactors and small reactors, so that safe and peaceful use of nuclear power will be expanded."

World Nuclear News also noted that it is a longstanding goal of Japanese planners to use nuclear energy as the backbone of electricity supply and begin using fast reactors from around 2040. The committee said that Japan should continue to cooperate internationally in their development so that international standards could be developed for advanced nuclear reactors.

CBO skeptical on nuclear renaissance

Without carbon charges new nuclear builds will be limitedglobal-warming-melting-glacier

An agency which performs impartial economic and financial analysis for Congress has put a number on the nuclear renaissance. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO), says in a new report that without carbon dioxide charges of $45/ton, "few of the currently proposed plants will be built." CBO also said that incentives under the Energy Policy Act don't go far enough and will only help with "limited additions to base-load capacity."

In a summary of the report's findings CBO's director Peter Orszag, a former scholar at the Brookings Institution, wrote on his blog the agency examined future private investment in new nuclear power plants. The report concludes that the extent of new investment depends on a combination of charges for carbon dioxide emissions and effective incentives under existing legislation. CBO says that given the lack of such charges, most of the additional electrical demand in the U.S. over the next decade, a 20% increase, will be met by conventional fossil-fuel technologies.

In effect CBO says that without a high enough charge on CO2 emissions and deep enough loan guarantees that new nuclear builds will have virtually no impact on reducing the effects of global warming. It is an alarming set of findings.

What would make a difference?

CBOs says that if Congress enacts carbon dioxide charges of $45/ton that would make nuclear energy competitive. That "price point" could lead utilities to replace existing coal fired power plants with nuclear energy. CBO also calculated levels at which the CO2 charge would not impact fuel switching from fossil to uranium.

Another issue considered by CBO is rapidly rising construction costs. The report has an alarming finding that if costs of new nuclear power plants really get out of control, because of rising prices for steel and concrete, that carbon charges of $80/ton for CO2 would be required for nuclear energy to be competitive with natural gas and coal fired power plants. On the other hand if CO2 charges start out low, perhaps as little at $5/ton, utilities will keep their coal-fired power plants.

The current incentives in the Energy Act of 2005, CBO says, just aren't broad enough to produce more than limited benefit to the nuclear industry. Congress authorized $18 billion in loan guarantees which at current costs will likely support just three or four "first mover" plants before the program hits its financial limits.

Anyone who wants to avoiding having current and future generations of the human species turned into crispy critters from the effects of global warming ought to start looking at carbon charges as a means to stimulate new nuclear builds.