Saturday, October 25, 2008

Areva launches at Newport News

The world's largest reactor maker says it will build at least seven new plants in the U.S.

Areva announced this week that in partnership with Northrop Grumman Corp. (NYSE:NOC) it will build a $360 million nuclear reactor components plant in Newport News, VA adjacent to a major shipyard. Reuters reported the joint venture will be called Areva Newport News LLC. (press release)(Q&A)

heavy forgeTom Christopher, CEO of Areva's U.S. operations, said the facility will break ground in 2009 and production will develop over the next three years. Areva's global CEO Anne Lauvergeon said the company intends to gain a third of the total world market share for nuclear reactors and that the Newport News plant is a key step. Areva will hold a 67% stake in the project and the other third will be held by Northrop-Grumman.

The new facility is expected to employ at least 500 workers. This is the first full-scale heavy manufacturing facility to produce components weighing more than 500 tons for the U.S. commercial nuclear industry. Lehigh Heavy Forge Corp., based on Bethlehem, PA, will also make large steel pieces for the Newport News plant.

Supply chain links up

The construction of heavy forgings and other large components for new nuclear power plants is a major step in the revivial of the supply chain for the industry in the U.S. The announcement by Areva is a very significant step in the commitment of the nuclear energy industry to build new plants in the U.S.

Even the normally taciturn New York Times noted that the new plant for key reactor components is a signal that nuclear power plants are ready to be built again. Perhaps it was the statement by CEO Lauvergeon who told the NYT, "We have a long term vision."The NYT also reported that BWX Technologies, a subsidiary of McDermott Intl, is setting up a plant in Mount Vernon, Indiana, to manufacture reactor vessels.

River access for shipments a key factor

cv-71-95Northrop-Grumman has built U.S. Navy nuclear aircraft carriers including the USS Enterprise which is powered by eight nuclear reactors. It will use its shipyard facilities to load 600 ton nuclear reactor components on barges for delivery via the James River saving millions in costs.

The factory will make parts for Areva's U.S. design of the Evolutionary Power Reactor (EPR). Two nuclear power plants based on the European design are under construction - one in Finland at Oikiluoto and the other in France at Flamanville. The U.S. design for Areva's EPR is currently under review for certification by the NRC. (graphic BBC)

Areva EPRWorking with Unistar, a U.S. consortium, Areva has plans to build new nuclear plants at multiple locations in this country. Sites include Calvert Cliffs in Maryland, Nine Mile in New York, Blue Bell in Pennsylvania, and Ameren in Missouri.

If those companies go forward with the new reactors, the first unit could enter service in 2015 at Constellation's Calvert Cliffs site in Maryland, followed by the others in 2016 and 2017.

Granting of federal loan guarantees will be a key success factor in building the Unistar Plants. In all U.S. nuclear utilities have applied for a total of $122 billion in guarantees. Congress will likely address the current inadequate ceiling of $18 billion when it convenes in 2009.

Second big lift for nuclear energy in two months

The announcement by Areva follows one just two months ago by Westinghouse which is building a similar facility in Lake Charles, Louisiana with the Shaw Group. There Global Modular Solutions LLC will produce equipment components for the AP1000 reactor. The facility is expected to employ up to 1,400 people when it achieves full operation. Initial production is expected to begin by the end of 2009.

J. Bernhard, chair, president and CEO of Shaw, said: "After an extensive search of potential sites, the Port of Lake Charles was chosen because of its deep water access, its proximity to other important modes of transportation and the availability of a skilled workforce."

The Westinghouse AP1000 reactor has been referenced for 14 news units in license applications to the NRC including two each at the following locations.

  • Harris
  • William Lee
  • Turkey Point
  • Levy County
  • V.C. Summer
  • Vogtle
  • Bellefonte

Westinghouse also has orders on hand to build four AP1000 reactors in China, two each at two locations.

Some of the components for those units will come from Doosan Heavy Industries in Korea. (graphic BBC)


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Another blogger for nuclear energy

Standing tall for it down under in Australia

Channelling the Strong Force

high energyI have reached the conclusion that a positive future both for humanity, and our planet's biosphere is utterly dependent upon the success of the current global push for expanded nuclear power.

The purpose of this blog is to lend what support I can to that end. The key to our future liberty is the shattering of the prison walls of electron-shell energy levels.

Welcome to the blog sphere.

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Idaho Samizdat on the radio

New media meets the old media on the Internet

Rod Adams and I spent some time talking about the state of the nuclear industry this week on his Atomic Energy Radio Show #111. You can listen to it online or download the entire show to your favorite MP3 player for portable listening.

Show synopsis - A couple of atomic geeks chatting about their favorite technology's history, economics, prospects and competition.

Rod writes about the show, "We talked for well over an hour and covered projects in locations ranging from Florida to Idaho, Vermont to India, Utah to Brazil, and Finland to Texas."

Thanks Rod for the chance to be on your radio show. It was a blast.

Note that Rod also publishes the excellent Atomic Insights Blog. Be sure to check it out.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Free web seminar on costs and politics of nuclear energy

CEO (Duke Energy), banker (Morgan Stanley), and blogger (Idaho Samizdat) team up for an online discussion

TEC_callout4Thursday, November 13th
11:00 am Eastern /
8:00 am Pacific (time may change)

This fall the Energy Collective will present three new Webinars on topics related to energy and climate. Our panelists include writers, policy-makers and entrepreneurs in their fields, and are drawn both from inside and outside The Energy Collective community.

Registration is free: click here

Nuclear Energy Session

No topic in energy is more controversial than nuclear power. It promises great benefits even as it faces significant obstacles. Unlike any other method of energy generation, it is zero-carbon, base-load, and potentially unlimited. Yet cost and political considerations may slow the nuclear energy industry from gaining ground.

  • In this Webinar, our panelists will analyze the potential for a nuclear future in America.
  • What are the key factors driving the costs of bringing new nuclear plants online?
  • How might the introduction of carbon pricing alter the picture?

The panelists will discuss whether politics, ability to attract investors, costs, and regulatory obstacles can be overcome?

After brief opening statements from the panel, the audience will have the ability to submit questions to the panel in real time.

Panelists for Energy Collective online discussion

  • Jim Rogers
Mr. Rogers is chairman of the board, president and chief executive officer of Duke Energy. He has nearly 20 years of experience as a chief executive officer in the electric utility industry. He was named president and chief executive officer of Duke Energy following the merger of Duke Energy and Cinergy in April 2006. Before the merger, Rogers served as Cinergy's chairman and chief executive officer for more than 11 years.

He is current chairman of the Institute for Electric Efficiency, as well as of the Edison Foundation, and he co-chairs the National Action Plan for Energy Efficiency and the Alliance to Save Energy. He serves on the board of directors and the Executive Committee of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development. Rogers is also a member of the Honorary Committee of the Joint U.S.-China Cooperation on Clean Energy (JUCCCE).
  • Ashton Poole
Ashton Poole is a Managing Director in the Global Power and Utility Group, Morgan Stanley, New York. He is responsible for investment banking coverage of selected domestic electric and gas utilities, financial sponsors with utility and energy interests, and for coordination of Latin America utility opportunities.

He has worked on several industry-defining transactions, including the Duke / PanEnergy and AEP / Central and South West Corporation mergers. In addition, Ashton played a key role in numerous Federal and State utility privatizations in Brazil.

Prior to Morgan Stanley (1989-1992), Ashton was a strategy consultant with Gemini Consulting, where he focused on the utility and telecommunications industries. He holds a B.S. from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a M.B.A. from the J.L. Kellogg Graduate School of Management at Northwestern University.
  • Dan Yurman

Dan Yurman has worked in the nuclear industry since 1989, including 10 years in the strategic planning office of the Idaho National Laboratory in the areas of technology commercialization and business development for nuclear and environmental technologies. He writes for Fuel Cycle Week, a nuclear industry trade newsletter, published in Washington, DC. His topics include the civilian nuclear energy industry and uranium mining in the western U.S. He publishes 'Idaho Samizdat', a blog on nuclear energy, which has readers in more than 70 countries.

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Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Western lands uranium gopher for October 20, 2008

An occasional column on money and mining news items

gopherThe rise of nuclear energy, a second act if ever there was one, has given 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. The purpose of this occasional column is to separate the really interesting stuff from promotional fluff.

The choices of the subjects is based on what looks interesting mostly in 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 the series is titled the "western lands uranium gopher." These are news notes and the content is not to be considered investment advice.

~ This column is an expanded version of an article published in Fuel Cycle Week V7 N299 on 10/15/08 by International Nuclear Associates Inc., Washington, DC. Portions of this blog post did not appear in FCW. ~

Price of uranium drops like a rock

Platts and several trade journals all reported that the spot price of uranium continued to decline and is currently at $44/lb U3O8, according to Ux Consulting, a $2/lb drop over the price Ux published a week earlier. TradeTech also dropped its price by $2/lb, to $45/lb U3O8 late October 17.

BLM plans to spike Grand Canyon lawsuit with rules change

BLM logoFederal officials are reported to be planning to abolish a rule that allowed a congressional committee to block future uranium mining along the south rim of the Grand Canyon. The agency told the Arizona Republic on Oct 10 that it was removing rules that allow for an “emergency declaration” because it is “redundant” with current environmental laws.

BLM spokesman Chris Paolino told the newspaper, “I know there are protections in place for the canyon and all public lands. Whether it is the Clean Water Act, Clean Air Act, the protections are in place.”

Last June Arizona Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.) rammed through an emergency resolution in the House Committee on Natural Resources under a little used provision of the Federal Land Policy & Management Act. However, Secretary of Interior Dirk Kempthorne questioned the legality of the move and continued to authorize additional mining claims near the park. So far three exploration projects have been initiated and four more have been authorized all for hard rock mining.

Predictably, environmental groups, who have filed lawsuits against the agency in federal district court, were furious with the latest twist in the ongoing dispute.

Taylor McKinnon, speaking for the Center for Biological Diversity, based on Tucson, Ariz., said, Nothing, not laws, not Congress, will impede this administration’s accommodation of industry on our public lands.” [press release]

BLM has given the public 15 days to comment on the rules change.

Uranerz expands Wyoming holdings

Uranerz Energy Corp (AMEX:URZ) announced that it has acquired additional uranium mineral leases within the company's North Reno Creek project area in Wyoming. The North Reno Creek project has significant historic uranium resources and was at one time permitted through the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality for commercial in-situ recovery (ISR) production by Power Resources Inc., a wholly-owned subsidiary of Cameco Corporation.

The North Reno Creek project is located in Campbell County in the central Powder River Basin of Wyoming, approximately 20 miles east of the company's Nichols Ranch ISR Uranium Project. The Nichols Ranch ISR Uranium Project includes a central processing facility at the company's Nichols Ranch property and a satellite facility at the Hank property. The central processing facility is being licensed for an annual capacity of 2 million pounds of uranium.

Uranerz is working to acquire the past exploration and development data for North Reno Creek, and may conduct some limited drilling to validate the historic information to support a National Instrument 43-101 report.

Uranerz is continuing to acquire strategic land holdings in the Powder River Basin of Wyoming, and the company now controls 122,501 acres or 191 square miles in the Powder River Basin.

The value of the current acquisition was not reported. The company did not set a date for release of an NI 43-101 report.

License renewal hearing for Crowe Butte

The NRC wrapped up a two-day field hearing in Chadron, Neb., last week on the issue of whether to grant standing to groups and individuals opposed to expansion of Cameco’s Crowe Butte ISL operation there. So far 13 parties have filed for standing to oppose the plant saying it is a threat to drinking water supplies in the area. Officials from the mine say it is not possible, given the geology of the area, for the mine to impact drinking water supplies on the nearby Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. The NRC did not indicate when it would make a decision about the issues raised in the hearing.

Powertech advances permits for Dewey-Burdock

In South Dakota Powetech (TSE:PWE) reports progress with permits for an ISL mine at its Dewey-Burdock project. The state of South Dakota Board of Minerals & Environment issued a permit for exploratory drilling in Edgemont and Custer counties in 2007.

Powertech is now requesting permission to drill 30 more holes to establish the location for surface facility for the ISL mine. The application also includes a request for the state to grant a permit to operate the mine.

ESO expands Utah properties

ESO uranium (CVE:ESO) reports it has signed an option agreement with private parties to acquire claims and state leases in Grand County, Utah, comprised of 19,200 acres. ESO has committed to earn a 100% share in the properties by the end of 2011 through planned expenditures of $1.2 million.

If production begins it will pay a 5% royalty to the former owners. The firm made an initial payment of $55,000 and 200,000 shares. The stock closed on Oct 10 at $0.07/share against a 52-week range of $0.05-0.46/share making the 200,000 shares worth $14,000 at the current price.

New Mexico argues against NRC’s GEIS

The director of New Mexico’s Environmental Division has criticized the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s plan to use a generic environmental impact statement (GEIS) for in-situ leach (ISL) uranium mining. Ron Curry sent a letter to the NRC arguing that the plan would block the ability of residents to have “meaningful involvement” in the federal process to approve permits for ISL mines. He said the generic process would prevent in-depth analysis of each ISL mine permit application.

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Monday, October 20, 2008

Tucker - Terrestrial Energy

The power of the atom is found in a journey to the center of the earth

tucker book coverWilliam Tucker's new book on nuclear power Terrestrial Energy is out and available. He first told us about it in a guest blog post published by the New York Times last August.

Tucker is an advocate for nuclear energy and he positions it in comparison to coal, solar, wind, and geothermal sources. He's also an award winning journalist who has garnered kudos from the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times among others.

He writes clearly pointing out that the concentration of power in the nucleus of the atom is incredible. The disintegration of a single uranium atom produces two million times more energy than the breaking of carbon-hydrogen bonds in coal, oil, or natural gas. it also has zero carbon emissions and emits zero greenhouse gases.

Here's a slice from the NYT blog post . . .

What is the source of this energy? Amazingly, 50 to 90 percent of the earth’s heat (no one is sure of the exact figure) comes from the radioactive breakdown of uranium and thorium, which make up two percent of the earth’s crust. The energy released from these radioactive elements is enough to raise the earth’s internal temperature to 7,000 degrees Fahrenheit — hotter than the surface of the sun.

GTYel02So here’s a suggestion. Instead of digging down ten miles to access terrestrial energy, why not use its source on the surface?

What Tucker is talking about is not the Yellowstone hot spot. He's talking about the nuclear fuel cycle which starts with mining uranium and ends with the recycling of spent nuclear fuel.

No question he's going to drive the geothermal, solar and wind people nuts. Big coal, which has been mounting a campaign to turn back the advance of nuclear energy, has some explaining to do when it comes to greenhouse gases and the the amount of energy, pound for pound, you get from uranium compared to coal.

Early readers of the book, even one or two nukes, think it is worth your time. Kirk Sorensen, at Energy from Thorium writes,

"Terrestrial Energy" is outstanding . . . this is a book that I would recommend without reservation to all of my friends and colleagues who are concerned about the severe energy crisis that is only beginning. I promise you, no matter how much you know about energy and energy policy (and I don't consider myself a novice in the field) you will learn more, or at the very least have a greater insight into these issues after reading Mr. Tucker's book."

The wisdom of crowds?

If you're interested in asking Mr. Tucker a question or two about his new book, NEI is conducting a poll. Wander over to their blog and leave a message with your question for KPB who will talk with Tucker next week. The answers will be posted as part of the published interview.

Terrestrial Energy: How Nuclear Energy Will Lead the Green Revolution and End America's Energy Odyssey

Update - Tucker's book was reviewed in the Wall Street Journal on 12/17/08

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Exelon offers to buy NRG

That's a really big deal

The Wall Street Journal reports that Exelon Corp. (NYSE:EXC) said it made a $6.2 billion all-stock offer to buy power generator NRG Energy Inc., (NYSE:NRG) an indication that falling stock prices in the power sector are creating demand for deals like this one.

An acquisition of NRG could have strategic importance for Exelon. Each firm is planning to build a nuclear reactor in Texas, but NRG is further along in the process. Taking on NRG's assets would also allow Exelon to beef up its balance sheet, which could make it easier to finance an expensive nuclear project.

Exelon is offering NRG 0.485 shares of stock for each share of NRG stock which is at a slight premium. In the current financial environment, the market could hammer either stock throwing NRG's board into a state of indecision trying to figure out whether, how, and when to close on the deal. At market close Monday Exelon was at $$53/share and NRG at $24/share. A drop in Exelon's share price could delay the deal.

Exelon is the largest nuclear operator in the U.S. NRG owns and operates the South Texas Project. It has two operating reactors and is building two more. In September 2007 NRG was the nation's "first mover" filing its combined construction and operating license application with the NRC, the first in more than 30 years.

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