Saturday, June 21, 2008

Nuclear blog roundup for June 2008

An occasional column on what's going on in the blogsphere about nuclear energy

Bing_Cherries_(USDA_ARS)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?

Savannah_WatersideAt 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.

Solar starship?

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,

starship enterprise 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.

I don't think he is referring to Arthur C. Clarke's solar sail. BTW, the Planetary Society is still trying to build one.

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.

A hard wind blows in Denmarkwind farm

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

bodman amariAt 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.

3mile_islandWeston 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.

Atom Watch watches RussiaNikolai Spassky

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 ofIdaho Steam1 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

Friday, June 20, 2008

Nukes for wonks

The Economist reports with superheated prose

In an apparent triumph of style over substance the Economist abandons its analytical roots, livened with an occasional foray into dry British wit, and subjects its readers this week to an over-the-top review of a collection of obvious news items about nuclear energy. Let's start with the Economist's title for the article, which is "Life After Death". A renaissance is not a resurrection, and the newspaper's metaphor is, like much of the rest of the article, an exercise in trying to be stylish rather than substantive.

Economist goes nuclear Next we have purple prose and a graphic (left) of a "renaissance man" bolting together a reactor one wing nut at a time. It creates the alarming impression that the newspaper is turning into a transatlantic tabloid. Here's the purple prose lead.

If you want to make an environmentalist squirm, mention nuclear power. Atomic energy was the green movement’s darkest nightmare: the child of mass destruction, the spawner of waste that will remain dangerous for millennia, the ultimate victory of pitiless technology over frail humanity. And not even cheap.

courtjester Kaye JohnsThereafter the article, which is published without a byline, as are most of the magazine's pieces, chirps away happily that Patrick Moore, like a knight of the roundtable, will single-handedly turn the greens' view to endorse nuclear energy. Mr. Moore surely has no visions of impending superhero status, and might even be slightly chagrined to be so wonderfully described in a major media venue.

According to the magazine Mr. Moore's expected "super" accomplishment will be to prevent a global catastrophe caused by the impending revenge of mother earth herself (James' Lovelock's Gaia) upon hapless humans for fouling its atmosphere with greenhouse gases. Will the editor of the Economist please remove the comic books from the newsroom now?

Even more on the apocalyptic front, the piece argues that "for today’s youth, climate change is what global nuclear warfare was for the baby-boomers." I remember as a 10-year old in 1958 taking the prospect of nuclear Armageddon very personally. I was mad because I was made to be terribly afraid for reasons having nothing to do with my existence.

I suspect some of that same type of anger resides in today's young people, who look at the more senior members of the establishment, will wonder how things could have gotten so screwed up and out of control. However, I don't agree that this emotional powder keg will necessarily translate into a rational tilt towards nuclear energy. It may very well tilt towards a new form of social rejection of industrial organizations.

More pots, More Cooks

moniz MITHaving stirred the pot of emotions of its readers with at least two visions of a world ending crisis from global pollution,the Economist shifts gears and offers a tour of the newest thinking on nuclear reactors. It starts by quoting Ernie Moniz (left), a former federal government energy official and now returned to his more permanent home as an academic scientist at MIT. Prof. Moniz's role in the Economist's set piece may be one of its few bright moments. He is quoted as arguing that the success of the nuclear industry rests on two important concepts.

The first is "modular construction" of nuclear plant. This means no more "stick built" units with parts left over. His observation is obvious to people familiar with what's going on in the industry. Maybe, on a positive note, it will stimulate some entrepreneurs to get into the business of providing modular components for each NRC certified reactor design?

The second is "passive safety" which if it had been included in the designs of SL-1 and Three Mile Island, the nuclear industry would be booming today instead of recovering from a Rip Van Winkle type snooze for the past three decades. The Economist gets this part right.

What it means is that safety measures kick in automatically in an emergency rather than having to be activated. That can be something as simple as configuring the control rods that regulate the speed of a reaction so that they drop by gravity rather than having to be inserted.

As Danny Kaye once said famously to Glynis Johns, "Get it, got it, good!"

Finally, some real journalism

PebblesThe article ends with the Economist pumping up two useful paragraphs on the Pebble Bed reactor though it leaves the reader with the scientifically implausible prospect that leaking helium will cause fires. In fact, what the newspaper is trying to say is that if enough of the helium leaks out of a high temperature gas-cooled reactor, oxygen could seep in, causing the graphite wrapped fuel elements to catch on fire. Maybe the newspaper should look at "passive safety" design features for pebble beds and not just light water reactors?

Toshiba's developing design for a "nuclear battery" also gets a nod, and while the concept is appealing to the gadget driven "Slashdot" crowd, its commercial debut is still in the future. According to the NRC, the Toshiba 4S, has the following characteristics.

The Toshiba 4S reactor design has an output of about 10 MWe. The reactor has a compact core design, with steel-clad metal-alloy fuel. The core design does not require refueling over the 30-year lifetime of the plant. A three-loop configuration is used: primary system (sodium-cooled), an intermediate sodium loop between the radioactive primary system and the steam generators, and the water loop used to generate steam for the turbine.

alaska bearImprobably, Toshiba has promoted the device as a "nuclear battery" and as a substitute for diesel electric units used to provide electricity in Alaska. The logistical challenges of installing and operating the reactor in the frozen north are undoubtedly alarming and perhaps even more of a challenge will be get scarce nuclear engineers to live and work there.

Given the large number of PWRs expected to be built in warm climates in the southern states of Florida, Texas, Alabama, and the Carolinas, it looks like Toshiba definitely has a human resource problem on its hands.

As for the Economist, it's superheated prose could benefit from a cooling off period in Alaska. Are any of its reporters willing to go?

# # #

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Simpson scores huge increases for INL in House bill

Idaho's representative on the House Appropriations Committee has good news for the site's nuclear energy and cleanup programs.

simpsonidahoIdaho Congressman Mike Simpson (right). a member of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development, announced substantial increases in funding for the Idaho National Laboratory and the Idaho Cleanup Project as part of legislation funding the Department of Energy in FY 2009.

“The funding increases in this bill represent a complete endorsement by Congress of the significant contributions INL’s workforce and leadership are making to our energy and national security,” said Simpson.

Nuclear rocks

The real meat and potatoes of the funding measure is in nuclear energy. Simpson said,

“This bill provides a substantial boost to the Next Generation Nuclear Plant and the development of advanced gas reactor technology. It also places a significant investment in upgrades to extend the life of the Advanced Test Reactor. Nuclear energy research and development at INL are well served in this bill.”

Admiral John Grossenbacher, INL’s Laboratory Director quoted in a statement released by Simpson's office, said.

INLlogo"I want to thank Congressman Mike Simpson, the other members of the House Appropriations Committee and their staff for this vote of confidence in the direction of the INL and some of its major programs. The budget increases for the Next Generation Nuclear Plant (NGNP) and the INL infrastructure account will help the INL play a leadership role in our nation's energy future.”

Cleanup funding cuts restored

ICP_LogoA critical element of public acceptance of the site's growing nuclear missions is continued progress in cleanup of the radioactive legacy of Cold War programs. For Idaho, Simpson reported a $40 million increase over the President’s request for cleanup programs at INL bringing total cleanup funding to $472,124,000.

A clear message of support for the INL and Idaho

Among its other provisions, the Energy and Water Development Appropriations bill includes substantial increases in the following areas.

  • A $46 million increase for new buildings, renovation of existing buildings, and equipment purchases, and the Advanced Test Reactor’s operation as a National Scientific User Facility.
  • A $130 million increase for the Generation IV Nuclear Energy Systems program bringing total funding to $200 million.
  • A total of $196 million of this funding is targeted to the Next Generation Nuclear Plant which will be built at INL.
  • Another $10 million is for upgrades to the Advanced Test Reactor (ATR).
  • Adds $1 million for equipment purchases at the Center for Advanced Energy Studies at INL.
  • Provides $1.25 million for the City of Boise’s expansion of its geothermal system to Boise State University
  • Allocates $1 million for Medical Isotope Production using accelerators at Idaho State University.

Simpson also announced $4 million in funding for INL’s Power and Cyber Systems Protection Program as part of a separate Department of Homeland Security funding bill.

The Energy and Water Appropriations bill now heads to consideration by the full Appropriations Committee where approval is expected next week.

Summary of Key Appropriation Committee language

From Rep. Pete Visclosky (this is from a press release from his office)

  • Nuclear Energy

The Committee’s recommendation for nuclear energy research and development represents a responsible approach to the nation’s use of nuclear power. The recommendation provides $200 million for demonstrating the GEN IV nuclear reactor technology, an increase of $130 million over the President’s request, but provides no funding for the Administration’s counterproductive, poorly designed, and poorly executed Global Nuclear Energy Partnership (GNEP). Funding for the Advanced Fuel Cycle Initiative is $120 million, with $90 million funded through the Nuclear Energy Program and $30 million funded in the Office of Science

  • Environmental Cleanup

There is a large and unfortunate legacy of contamination from the past 60 years of nuclear weapons manufacture and various canceled approaches to handling spent fuel. This bill enables completion of several smaller sites in fiscal year 2009, and sustains cleanup of a number of larger sites. The bill provides an increase of $221.5 million over the request for Defense and Non-Defense Environmental Management programs, and the Uranium Decontamination and Decommissioning account.

# # #

Idaho anti-nuclear activist arrested

Peter Rickards denies the charges

The Mountainhome news reports that Twin Falls podiatrist and anti--nuclear activist Peter Rickards was taken into custody by an Elmore County Sheriff's Deputy and cited for trespassing and battery. The arrest stems from an alleged altercation with an Idaho Energy Complex (IEC) staff member during a public information meeting held Monday June 16 in Glenns Ferry on the nuclear plant proposal by Alternative Energy Holdings Inc. (AEHI).

peterrichardsIn an online response to the newspaper article, Rickards (right) denied that he assaulted anyone at the meeting. He said, "I did not lay a finger on anybody. There was no battery."

According to the newspaper report, Rickards, who had been distributing anti-nuclear literature at the theater door, was asked to leave the premises by the owner of the Opera Theatre, Rich Wills. Rickards allegedly refused and entered the building just prior to the meeting. That is when the alleged battery took place. Police Sgt. Don Tveidt indicated that Rickards allegedly shoved an IEC staff member who was attempting to block him from entering the meeting.

According to the newspaper report, the meeting had been underway for about 20 minutes when Deputy Ed Belk approached Rickards and asked him to step outside. The paper reports several members of the audience began shouting at the deputy asking why Rickards was being asked to leave. Rickards' reported refusal to comply with Deputy Belk's request resulted in his being handcuffed and led out of the building, accompanied by a few IEC staff members.

AEHI Public Meetings

AEHI has been holding a series of public meetings in southwestern Idaho to explain its proposal for a $4.5 billion merchant nuclear plant that would have a capacity of 1,600 MWe using an AREVA EPR and which would be built as part of a partnership with UniStar / Constellation Energy. The public meetings held by AEHi are not part of an NRC licensing process for the proposed reactor.

The company has generated a lot of skepticism about its proposal due to its apparent inability to raise funds for the project and a stock price that hovers at less than $1.00/share. The company moved its planned site for the planned reactor earlier this year from Owyhee County to Elmore County. One of the reasons the company moved its site from the south side to the north side of the Snake River was to avoid the expense of building a bridge over the river that would support delivery of reactor components and construction materials. At the former location it got into a dispute with county officials when it initially failed to pay a $50,000 fee for permit reviews. It later paid the fee.

AEHI President and CEO Don Gillispie has been seen more frequently in Idaho in recent months trying to build support for the project. While he craves media attention, the incident this week probably isn't the type of report he wants to see in the press associated with his project.

Monday, June 16, 2008

TVA awakens in a new nuclear era

The giant utility will play a leading role in the revival of nuclear energy

FDR TVA signingAlmost three quarters of a century ago, the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) was created as part of President Franklin Roosevelt's 'New Deal." Its charge was to tame the rivers and raise the economic well being of the people of the region by bringing them the benefits of electric power. Originally, TVA built hydroelectric and coal-fired plants. It began building nuclear power plants in the 1960s, but its progress stalled with failed projects and the nuclear initiative fell into a deep slumber.

Global warming woke up TVA

In the the first decade of the 21st century, TVA's nuclear side has woken up and now expects to play a leading role in the nation's new investments in nuclear energy. Like the role it played in the 1930s, TVA is more than just your ordinary electric utility. It has a mission to develop energy sources that won't add greenhouse gases to the global warming crisis.

bellefonte tva Today, TVA's three nuclear plants - Brown's Ferry, Sequoyah, and Watts Bar provide 30% of the utility's power. In 2005 Bellefonte, the site of an unfinished nuclear plant near Scottsboro, Ala, was selected by the NuStart nuclear energy consortium to develop a COL. It was submitted to the NRC last January for two Westinghouse AP1000 reactor units. While TVA hasn't yet committed to building Bellefonte units 3 & 4, the licensing process is expected to wring out many of the uncertainties about costs and schedule. One of the outcomes TVA is working toward is to demonstrate that complex nuclear projects can be completed as planned.

Evidence that the utility is headed in the right direction is shown by TVA's restart in May 2007 of the Browns Ferry plant near Athens, GA, after a five-year, $1.8 billion upgrade. Also, TVA is spending $2.5 billion to finish a second reactor at its Watts Bar plant by 2012. baileyTVA VP Jack Bailey (right) told the Chattanooga Times earlier this month this generation of nuclear reactors will be built in cooperation with other utilities using standardized designs. He said, "TVA is leading the industry in additional nuclear generation."

Cost control is top priority for new plants

Control of rising costs for new reactors is a top priority. Bailey said said the twin new reactors at Bellefonte are expected to cost three-to-five billion each. A study just three years ago pegged the costs at a mere $1,600/KwHr, but now costs could be twice that amount a number confirmed by Adrian Heymer, a senior official at the Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI). Other utilities in the region, including Progress Energy and Florida Power & Light, are also reporting higher than expected costs for new nuclear plants. The main causes are global demand for concrete and steel.

Bailey points out that some of these extra costs include higher expenses associated with additions to transmission and distribution networks. TVA, he said, already has this infrastructure in place and will save money as a result. NEI's Heymer points out that the cost of all types of power plants are going up, but that, "nuclear power is still competitive with other types of power." He added, "if you add in new limits on carbon emissions, nuclear turns out to be the best buy." By 2010 most coal-fired utilities expect to be paying a carbon emission tax of some kind which will raise rates they pass on to consumers.

TVA critics go to court

Still, TVA has plenty of history with failed nuclear plants and one of its toughest critics about the shuttered projects from that era is also a former chairman of the utility who presided over them. S. David Freeman, now 83 years old, is back in his home town of Chattanooga denouncing TVA's plans to build more nuclear reactors. And he's not alone.

Three environmental groups — the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, the Bellefonte Efficiency and Sustainability Team and the Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League — filed a lawsuit challenging NRC licensing of the proposed new reactors at the Bellefonte site.

david_freemanBut it is Freeman (left), the former chairman of the utility he now criticizes, that captures the media's attention. In an interview with wire services earlier this month, he showed he's haunted by the ghosts of the past. He also demonstrated that he was still fully capable of delivering a barn burner of a speech. He said,

“Unfortunately, the concern over global warming has provided an opening where the nuclear industry has risen up from the dead. There’s a whole new generation that didn’t live through the first nuclear era and frankly the industry is touting much more success than their record would support. The only thing new is the history we’ve forgotten.”

Smith alliance

Freeman isn't the only critic capable of generating astonishing rhetoric. Steven Smith (right), director of the Southern Alliance, one of the groups that filed suit to stop the Bellefonte license application, told the Chattanooga Times TVA is depending on "rosy estimates about construction costs to lure utilities into building nuclear."

Wrestling for control of TVA's decisions

Along with Freeman, and the two other anti-nuclear groups, Smith contends TVA will wind up in the same place it did in the 1970s with uncompleted plants and billions of dollars wasted in the process. Instead, he wants TVA to invest these billions in renewable energy projects.

What's clear from Freeman's harsh criticisms, and Smith's allegations about costs, is that the anti-nuclear movement is focused on competition for investments dollars for energy fuel types. Rhetoric aside, what they want is control of TVA's financial decision making. Even more to the point they want TVA's government dollars diverted from new nuclear power plants to solar and wind energy projects. Here's what Smith told the Knoxville News on June 12th about the NuStart project at Bellefonte.

"It may mean putting TVA in debt another $12 to $15 billion. It means really putting TVA rate payers in jeopardy. I think just about any way you go about this, (it is) a serious project going forward for the Tennessee Valley."

For added emphasis Smith calls these numbers "sticker shock." Smith wants TVA to take the billions of dollars it plans to invest in new nuclear units and instead direct the money into "aggressive" efficiency measures and renewable energy generation from solar, wind and biomass.

"Nuclear plants take decades to pay off and, by that time, we can develop other sources of power like wind and solar that don't have any fuel costs and don't produce radioactive wastes,"

TVA's Bailey said the contention for control of TVA's decision to go forward with the Bellefonte project comes as no surprise. He pointed out that Bellefonte is part of a new type of licensing process with the NRC which streamlines the process and combines the construction and operating license in a single review. Nine other utilities are sharing the expected $50 million in costs to get the license. Construction of the Bellefonte reactors is expected to be $3.5-$4.5 billion each.

A decision to build Bellefonte, and other new nuclear power plants, will depend on base load demand for electricity and the role of energy conservation, Bailey said. A key factor will be the utility's cash position. Given that some components for new plants have to be ordered with long lead times, the utility is looking ten years into the future for its planning horizon.

Political support is a key resource for TVA

The Tennessee and Alabama congressional delegations like what they see these days at TVA. Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) told the Chattanooga Times he supported TVA when it restarted Browns Ferry and he supports its progress on the Bellefonte project. Referring to the issue of global warming, Sessions told a science conference held in Huntsville, Al, on May 30,

"Nothing clears the mind so much as the lack of alternatives. I think we are in a period where we need to have a renewal of nuclear power in America."

alstom nuclear turbineThe economic impact of TVA's nuclear awakening isn't lost on the congressional delegations. The 'Times reported that 2,000 engineers and trade craft workers will be employed on Watts Bar Unit 2 and Alstom Power, which makes turbines for nuclear power plants, is opening a plant in Chattanooga which will employ 350 workers.

TVA Board Chairman Bob Sansom, told the newspaper the utility is aware of its new found role in the nuclear renaissance. He said, "I really believe we have more of a national interest and ability to affect nuclear power than other utilities."

Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN), speaking at the same conference, put it more directly. He said, "TVA works."

The promise of the new deal has come full circle.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Luminant advances Mitsubishi APWR

Texas PowerTexas energy company expects to file with the NRC in 2008 for two units Update 06/21/08

Energy Futures, now branded as Luminant, is currently the only U.S. reactor operator which plans to file an application with the NRC for new reactors that will use Mitsubishi's Advanced Pressurized Water Reactor (APWR). Luminant plans to build two new units at its Comanche Peak reactor station, but has not formally committed to that action. The reactors could come in at $5-6 billion each. Comanche Peak Units 1 & 2 are Westinghouse PWRs.

The APWR has a design power generation profile of 1,700 MWe, which makes it the largest single reactor unit currently planned for a U.S. site. The reactor design was filed with the NRC for certification late last year. Perhaps one of the most intriguing features of the new reactor is that its design would allow it to burn MOX fuel.

Mitsubishi is playing catch up in the U.S. reactor market behind front runners Westinghouse and GE-Hitachi. The firm was briefly touted by MidAmerican for a reactor location in Idaho, but that project was canceled last winter. Still, an order for two new units at Comanche Peak would establish an important place in the U.S. reactor market and could set the basis for further orders from Luminant itself which has promised environmental groups to give up new construction of eight coal-fired power plants. Luminant is also a major player in developing wind energy in Texas.

This past week the NRC visited Dallas, TX, to discuss the process of receiving and reviewing a license application for the two new reactors. The Dallas Morning News reports the agency held a public meeting to answer questions on the process for Luminant to file for a license to build the two new reactors. The cost to the company could be anywhere from $50-to-$150 million and that's just for the paperwork.

The company has taken great pains to explain it hasn't decided whether to spend billions of dollars to build the reactors at the existing Comanche Peak plant. Luminant's vice president of nuclear engineering, Mitch Lucas, told the newspaper the company may wait until it has the licenses before deciding whether to build the reactors.

Just in case you didn't get the memo, consider that the company hired no less than former Secretary of State for Texas, Phil Wilson, who quit his job this month to become an executive for the firm in charge of public affairs. According to the Houston Chronicle, Wilson, 40, was appointed secretary of state by Republican Gov. Rick Perry in 2007. Before that, he was Perry's deputy chief of staff.

State Rep. Lon Burnam, D-Fort Worth, said he fears people in Dallas and Fort Worth will end up paying higher electricity prices to cover the cost of the plants. He's probably right about that, but then people in Texas and everywhere else are paying a lot more for just about everything these days.

Update June 21, 2008

Luminant told the Nuclear Regulatory Commission it plans to file an application on September 19 for a license to build and operate two new reactors using the Mitsubishi ABWR. Luminant is considering building the reactors at its Comanche Peak nuclear plant in Glen Rose.

Source: Dallas Morning News