An occasional column on what's going on in the blogsphere about nuclear energy
Over at NEI Dave Bradish has just completed a strong, four-part series analyzing the work of the Rocky Mountain Institute. He provides some examples of RMI's analyses that appear to cook the books, energy wise, concerning the relative position of nuclear energy to solar, wind, and geothermal. He writes,
I will show that RMI relies on weak sources, no sources, and cherry-picked data for their cost assumptions to exaggerate their claims.
Later in this blog post you'll read that other nuclear bloggers are also looking at solar and wind energy issues.
Will a next generation Savannah sail the seven seas?
At Atomic Insights Rod Adams gives us an informative first-hand report on a press conference held by the CASE Energy Coalition on jobs creation in the nuclear industry. There are jobs out there in the nuclear industry, despite an economy headed into a recession, and the demand is soaring for training nuclear engineers and skilled crafts.
Rod also got in a question about nuclear powered shipping. You can read more about his views on the economics of this mode of transportation for bulk goods which may become competitive in the future given the continued rise in the price of oil.
At Energy from Thorium Charles Barton cross-posts on Kirk Sorenson's blog and looks at the economics of solar energy and asks whether it too benefits from "subsidies." Charles writes,
Depending on various factors, building one MW of solar energy can involve an investment of up to $7 million. That does not include overnight energy storage. Solar theorists claim that solar investment costs are going to drop to a $3.5-5 million / MW soon. According to solar experts in the next few years the cost of solar facilities may drop as low as $2.5 million per MW. That is expected to happen shortly after the Starship Enterprise gets its warp drive coil.
Having tangled with solar energy advocates before, the sarcasm is understandable. One advocate told me recently his vision is to cover the containment buildings of nuclear power stations with solar panels. I replied that it is only feasible if you put the same number of panels on the ground.
I would market it with the name 'Solar Kinetic Lighting at Reactor." Actually, it's not a bad idea since most nuclear plants have large buffer areas which would be idea for solar energy panels since not much else would be put there. The public relations opportunities for nuclear plant operators are nothing short of phenomenal since it would show that our future energy supplies will have to come from a variety of sources, not just nuclear or fossil.
Charles Barton at NuclearGreen also took a more scholarly tack with publication online of a tenaciously documented article on Denmark's mixed experience with wind energy. The most wind-intensive country in the world has lessons learned for everyone.
With limited reserves of only oil and gas and the perceived onset of global warming, Denmark has a great incentive to develop new technologies for exploiting alternative sources of renewable energy and reducing energy demand.
One of its many options is the harnessing of wind energy - a route that it has explored in great detail. This report describes some serious problems encountered in the extensive deployment of wind turbines in Denmark.
There are also plenty of success stories with wind energy as well. The American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) has them online
Japan invests in America's nuclear industry
At We Support Lee Ruth Sponsler reports that Japanese companies see robust investment opportunities in the U.S. for new nuclear energy plants. Toshiba's purchase of Westinghouse proves that point and its track record inking EPC contracts for new reactors is more evidence in the same direction. Her pull quote from multiple news sources includes this one from energy officials in Japan and the U.S.
"We reaffirmed our commitment to promoting bilateral nuclear energy cooperation," said Japan's Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Akira Amari and US Secretary of Energy Samuel Bodman (photo left) in a joint statement after talks earlier this month.
McCain on Russia and China and nonproliferation
At Blogging About the Unthinkable 'Sovietologist' reviews the speech on nuclear security by presidential candidate John McCain and assesses the potential for a spent fuel storage site in Siberia. The idea isn't that far-fetched as a number of nations are also talking with the Russians about a uranium enrichment plant to be located there.
Our blogger writes, "McCain's stated commitment to multilateral arms control agreement and, particularly, the need for close cooperation with Russia, are both good developments." The pull quote from McCain's speech is this.
I would seek to establish an international repository for spent nuclear fuel that could collect and safely store materials overseas that might otherwise be reprocessed to acquire bomb-grade materials. It is even possible that such an international center could make it unnecessary to open the proposed spent nuclear fuel storage facility at Yucca Mountain in Nevada.
McCain appear to be a student of the realist school of foreign affairs. He also counsels that the U.S. should, "begin a dialogue with China on strategic and nuclear issues. We have important shared interests with China and should begin discussing ways to achieve the greatest possible transparency and cooperation on nuclear force structure and doctrine."
Whether you agree with him or not his raises important issues that affect the future of nuclear energy use on the planet. If he's elected next November these ideas will become more significant.
Transparency trumps mistrust
At Physical Insights Luke Weston reports on a community organization that monitors a nearby nuclear power plant, but which isn't, on reflex, anti-nuclear. The EFMR Monitoring Network is a non-profit, non-partisan organization which monitors Three Mile Island Unit 1 (TMI) and Peach Bottom Atomic Power Stations 2 & 3.
Weston writes this is a good idea. He reminds his readers that every nuclear power plant meticulously monitors any discharge of the very small amounts of radionuclides into the atmosphere or other effluents, and these records are all filed with the NRC, and are a matter of public record.
However, if they want to provide an extra layer of data, and extra monitoring apparatus, by themselves, then so much the better. Having such data collected by independent means, and analyzed by local college physicists, has every potential to
- Eliminate any community distrust of nuclear utilities.
- Dispel the myth that nuclear power plants emit any significant amounts of radioactivity into the environment at all during their operation.
Weston writes that the anti-nuclear lobby, and many environmentalist groups, could do well to learn from this group.
Coal won't fuel the fires in Australia forever
At Nuclear Australia our blogger reports on a new study that takes a long-term look at Australia's energy options. Although the country is a major global supplier of uranium, it has no commercial nuclear power plants. It also has a history of political aversion to building them. He notes that while the massive commitment to nuclear energy in France may not be right for Australia, there are things the country can learn from that experience.
Use of nuclear power in Australia remains highly controversial. Our heavy reliance on fossil fuels is not, however, a feasible long term solution. Nuclear power, as one potential alternative, may therefore become an unavoidable prospect in the future. While this may seem daunting, the regulations employed to ensure the successful exploitation of nuclear power in France will be a valuable tool when the time comes.
The options for nuclear energy are limited, he writes, and should be part of a portfolio of energy sources.
At Atom Watch Alexandra Prokopenko, a relative newcomer to the nuclear blogsphere, reports on efforts for cooperation on nuclear energy between Russia and the European Union. Alexandra monitors the European and Russian news media and posts summaries or original reports on her blog.
Russia and the European Union are working on an agreement on the civilian use of atomic energy, a deputy head of Russia's state nuclear corporation Rosatom said last week.
"We are now starting consultations with the European Union on an agreement on the civilian use of nuclear power," said Nikolai Spassky (right), who is in charge of international cooperation for Rosatom.
Thinking about the future
Here at Idaho Samizdat two weeks ago I published an essay on the future of pro-nuclear advocacy in the gem state. I said the Partnership for Science & Technology (PST), which contributed to winning the Areva deal that brings a $2 billion uranium enrichment plant to Idaho Falls, must think about the next steps.
These steps include developing advocacy for the firms that will supply products and services to the plant and commercial nuclear opportunities generally in the six county region. One of them is that the commercial incentives enacted by the Idaho legislature aren't limited to Areva. Other nuclear firms are reportedly thinking about their options for developing new businesses in Idaho.
Lane Allgood, PST's Executive Director, told me over coffee on Friday that the group's board of directors liked the ideas in my essay and have asked me to participate in discussions with them about next steps.
This is an exciting time to be a nuclear blogger. Not only can you come up with new ideas, but opportunities also exist to put them into action by working with others in the community and the industry.
Full steam ahead.
What? No more blogs?
Got a nuclear blog and don't see yours here? Write to me. and I'll get it in next month's column .Send me your information or comments to idaho [dot] nuclear [at] rocketmail [dot] com