Saturday, November 1, 2008

Another blogger for nuclear energy

Welcome Neurovore to the blogsphere

skeptical2N^4 Neurovore's Nuclear News Network is dedicated to bringing you the latest updates on all things nuclear, atheistic, irreligious, and scientific, with a healthy dose of skepticism.

Role models matter

Our blogger, located in Lombard, IL, just west of Chicago, writes why it is worth getting into the game . . .

After following the blogs of several prominent nuclear advocates such as Kirk Sorensen and Rod Adams, I have decided to create a blog of my own in order to keep track of the upcoming developments in nuclear energy.

And in a recent post our faithful correspondent asks whether the anti-nuke groups are running out of arguments. To wit, they are blaming a nuclear power plant for the demise of fish eggs when in fact predation and natural causes are the real reason why so few survive.

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Welcome from Idaho Samizdat. Do well.

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Make no little plans

Exelon's John Rowe wins Chicago "Daniel Burnham' award

DanielBurnhamMake no little plans; they have no magic to stir men's blood and probably will themselves not be realized. Make big plans; aim high in hope and work, remembering that a noble, logical diagram once recorded will not die.
-- Daniel Burnham, Architect 1846-1912

The Chicago Chamber of Commerce presented John W. Rowe, chairman and CEO of Exelon Corp., with the Daniel H. Burnham Award on Oct 30. The award is given annually to a business leader who best exemplifies the Burnham philosophy of "make no little plans."

John_Rowe_web"As someone raised on a farm in rural Wisconsin, it is an honor to receive the Daniel Burnham award from an organization that is the embodiment of 'big city' commerce," Rowe said. (right)

"This award is about vision, and I have strived to attain mine by integrating my most closely held values -- a belief in both opportunity and responsibility, a commitment to financial discipline and environmental stewardship, a respect for history and an allegiance to science,and ongoing support for diversity and education."

The Burnham award honors those civic leaders of today, who, by their leadership and vision, shape the city that has yet to be.

"We are proud to give this award to John Rowe in recognition of his outstanding efforts and involvement in Chicago's business, cultural, education and philanthropic communities," said James C. Tyree, chairman of the board, Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce.

"Burnham had quite a vision for the future of Chicago, and it is up to today's business leaders to continue to be civic minded and build upon Burnham's foundation by continuing to make Chicago great."

Low carbon leadership and roadmap

At the event, Rowe shared his personal philosophies on business leadership and corporate responsibility, including environmental stewardship.

exelon logo"Exelon has staked out an industry-leading position on the issue of climate change and, in the spirit of Daniel Burnham, we have launched our own 'not so little plan' to eliminate the equivalent of our entire carbon footprint by the year 2020," Rowe said. "I do not know if it will stir men's souls, but I hope it will stir policy makers and others in our industry to action."

Exelon's comprehensive plan for addressing climate change, Exelon 2020: A Low Carbon Roadmap, will reduce, offset or displace more than 15 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions by 2020. This is more than the company's current annual carbon footprint and the equivalent to taking nearly 3 million cars off the roads.

nei logoRowe is the longest-serving chief executive in the energy industry. He currently serves as chair of the Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI) and co-chair of the bipartisan National Commission on Energy Policy.

Exelon is also a member of the U.S. Climate Action Partnership. He was among the first CEO in the utility industry to focus on the issue of climate change and first to testify before Congress on the subject in 1992.

ChiChmbrCom-LogoThe Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce has served businesses throughout the Chicago area since 1904. The Chamber's more than 2,600 members employ more than one million individuals throughout the Chicago region.

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Friday, October 31, 2008

Western lands uranium gopher 11/01/08

Mining media reports and press releases for useful stuff.

gopherThis is an edited version of an article originally published in Fuel Cycle Week, V7N301 on 10/31/08 by International Nuclear Associates, Washington, DC

North Dakota mulls local taxes on uranium mining

The North Dakota Association of Counties is working on a study of local option taxes on future uranium mining to mitigate the costs of road maintenance and other infrastructure potentially impacted by the mines. Terry Traynor, assistant director at the association, told the Associated Press on Oct 12, “Just about every state that had or now has uranium exploration has some sort of uranium tax structure.”

Uranium prospecting is now taking place in six counties in North Dakota. Traynor said local officials there want to deal with the issue now and not a few years down the road when mining operations are already underway.

The precedent is that North Dakota counties taxed uranium mining, and the minerals found with it, like coal, in the 1960s. Traynor added that any tax would be based on a formula using the amount of mineral extracted from each mine. He is looking at taxes imposed on the oil industry as a model.

Traynor told AP his group is likely to ask for an interim legislative study as any tax would have to be authorized at the state level. He said counties need to balance the tax imposed “with what is reasonable and what the industry can manage.”

Global Uranium Corp (TSX:GU) has started drilling on 10 claims on BLM land at its White Cloud project in Panaca, Nev. Ten holes will be drilled to a depth of 100 feet. Nearby assays from surface deposits have revealed uranium values from 0.05% to 0.437% U3O8.

Cotter Corp. is now the subject of a federal public health study at Canon City, Colo., following discovery of off-site uranium contamination thought to be coming from a closed uranium mill. The Denver Post reported on Oct 18 that multiple federal agencies including EPA and CDC are conducting the study.

The mill was designated as a Superfund site 24-years ago. The cleanup work for the 2,600 acre facility is reportedly about halfway done. Earlier this year a plume of uranium contaminated groundwater was discovered under a municipal golf course.

Cotter officials have been planning to reopen the mill or build a new facility based on expansion of the nuclear energy industry in the U.S.

Thorium is the subject of pending legislation introduced by Utah Senator Orin Hatch, a republican, and Nevada Senator Harry Reid, a democrat. They have jointly introduced legislation to support development of thorium-based nuclear reactors in the U.S.

The two western states senators propose to spend $250 million over five years. The dual aims of the funding would be to advance the technology and the ability of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to regulate it. The bill also calls for a demonstration project at the Idaho National Laboratory (INL). You wouldn't get a full-scale reactor for that kind of money, but you certainly would get some interesting work done.

A Utah firm Thorium Energy would benefit from the legislation were it to be enacted with funding by Congress. Thorium Energy leases the mineral rights from the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) which manages federal lands in Lemhi Pass, Idaho and nearby Montana. A large deposit of the mineral is known to be accessible at Lemi Pass.

In the press release, Seth Grae, president and CEO of Thorium Power (OTC:THPW) said that the bill is a terrific idea.

“It represents a major milestone toward the recognition that the nuclear renaissance can best be achieved by encouraging new and innovative fuels designs. Senators Hatch and Reid have acted today to strengthen American technology and American business to compete in the global marketplace.”

Thorium is abundant in nature and can be used as nuclear fuel through breeding to uranium (U-233). There are still significant technical and market challenges to the use of thorium which is why the two senators say they are sponsoring the legislation.

Crowe Butte mine under fire – after two days of hearings in Chadron, Neb, it is clear substantial opposition has emerged to a planned expansion of the mine. However, officials from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission did not issue a decision on the requested modification to the license for the facility.

Environmental groups and native American organizations have joined forces to stop the expansion of the ISR operation. The thirteen petitioners are claiming pollution of ground water will occur that will not be cleaned up and that the economic benefits of the mine are overstated.

David Frankel, legal counsel for the protest groups, said resources should devoted to restoring polluted groundwater. He also called for the mine to be seized by the U.S. government and taken away from a “foreign owner.” The Ogala Tribe is making a claim that the mine is located on Indian lands and control of its operation belongs to them under federal treaties from the mid-1800s.

Frankel also said it was unrealistic for the mine to expand when the cost of nuclear reactors is rising rapidly meaning many planned reactors will never be built.

The Crowe Butte mine is operated by Cameco and produces about 800,000 pounds of uranium a year. Attorneys for Cameco contend the mine is operated safely and that geologists hired by the mine have stated it is unrealistic to worry about migration of uranium from the ISR operation to water wells on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. Tyson Smith, told the hearing the petitioners lack site specific data to support their claims. Earlier this year Cameco officials said it was “geologically impossible” for the mine to pollute wells on the Indian reservation.

Uranium stocks take it on the chin

A brief review of a selected uranium stocks from producers and juniors mentioned in these pages over the past few months shows many of them trading at a tenth of the stock value recorded a year ago. The global financial meltdown has clobbered stocks on Canadian and U.S. stock exchanges without regard to the financial position of the firms. There has been a catastrophic loss of value by investors.

The rapid drop in the price of uranium from a high in 2007 of over $120/lb to close to $45/lb is also crimping the expansion plans of the entire industry. The plans by uranium firms expecting to raise funds for future exploration or early phase mine development have for the most part been put on hold.

However, uranium miners attending NEI's conference in Denver earlier this month expressed confidence that the current financial crisis will pass and that business will resume in the not too distant future. Ux Consulting asked its readers in this week's issue whether the industry is "in denial" about how bad things really are financially.

Bluerock Resources Ltd (CVE:BRD) announced on Oct 8 it would shut down for at least two week to preserve working capital. It is the first to do so and unlikely to be the last.

Uranium Energy Corp. (AMEX:UEC) has announced a cutback to its planned expansion and will concentrate its remaining cash, about $15.3 million, on developing near-term production in south Texas. This is the Goliad ISR project. Amir Adnani, CEO, said exploration in the Colorado plateau will be postponed until the financial picture is brighter.

UEC also reported work has been initiated on a NI 43-101 technical report to make compliant the historic resource estimate previously reported for the Nichols Project. The NI 43-101 technical report is scheduled to be delivered by an independent qualified person in December.

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Point Lepreau reactor turbine in the drink

Barge turns turtle in St Johns, NB, harbor

Update July 1, 2009

The Candadian Press reports that eight months after they sank in Saint John harbour (details below), a pair of turbine rotors that are part of the refit project at New Brunswick's Point Lepreau nuclear plant are expected to be delivered to the Point Lepreau nuclear power station in New Brunswick province, Canada.

NB Power spokeswoman Heather McLean says the utility is staggering delivery of the turbines in order not to interfere with the area's lobster fishing season.

The 107-tonne turbine rotors are designed to spin faster, generating an extra $15 million in power each year.

This is an edited version of an article originally published in Fuel Cycle Week, V7N301 on 10/31/08 by International Nuclear Associates, Washington, DC

Siemans turbine[Update below 11/01/08]

The $1.4 billion refurbishment of Point Lepreau, New Brunswick's only nuclear reactor is going to take a lot longer because two 107 tonne turbine rotors were briefly stuck in the mud under 30 feet of salt water in St. John Harbor.The two units are reported to be worth $10M each.

According to the New Brunswick media sources, a barge carrying the two power generation components became top heavy and flipped over dumping the huge devices into the brackish bay. No one was injured in the incident.

Recovery operations have pulled the units back on to the shore where they are now drying out, but their condition at this time is unknown. It is likely the salt water did no favors to the factory mint condition of the two rotors and turbine blades.

The new rotors were being shipped to the Pt. Lepreau plant from Siemans in the U.K. and are crucial to the upgrade of the facility to generate an extra 25 MW and earn the utility an extra $15 million in electricity each year.

Political fallout from the accident came immediately from New Brunswick Premier Shawn Graham who told NB Power CEO David Hay that any proposal for a second nuclear plant in New Brunswick would be canceled if refurbishment of the current plant isn't finished on time.

This outburst produced the entirely predictable wave of finger pointing about who was responsible for the accident and who would pay for the damages. For its part NB Power wants to be compensated for the cost of replacing the now rotors and for the power it will not be able to generate because it doesn't have them installed.

butterfinger_cta2Siemans wants to be compensated for the cost of replacing the two rotors which it is still obligated to deliver to Pt Lepreau. Irving Equipment, trucking firm that was moving the rotors, is the fall guy of the moment, but the investigation into the accident is still underway so no final liability has been assigned to any of the parties.

No one was willing to assign a cost to replacement of the rotors. A late report indicates that the shipment that fell into the harbor waters also included the high-tech turbine blades that are attached to the rotors. Dirk Miller, VP of Siemans Canada said it would take several months to manufacture new blades and rotors if it turns out their brief submersion into the salt water of the bay ruined the equipment.

CBC news added this late breaking report . . .

David Hay, CEO of NB Power, said the damage to the rotors as a result of the plunge 30 feet to the bottom of the bay is visible. The full extent of that damage caused by exposure to salt water isn't known. Also, how much repairing the rotors will cost won't likely be known for months, Hay said, and as yet there is no clear indication as to who will pay.

"Frankly, Siemens is responsible to deliver fully functioning turbines to us at Point Lepreau. That didn't occur — there is not any discussion on that. There is going to be pain all around between shippers, manufacturers and NB Power."

* * *

It is difficult as an observer of the industry to know whether to laugh or cry over this incident. NB Power is mad as a wet turbine, uhm, that's mad as a wet hen, about the incident. Hay is a man looking for someone to pay for the delay in the delivery of the turbines and the lost revenue from not having the 25 MW upgrade in place delivering electricity to customers.

You have to wonder if it made sense for NB Power to say anything at all about the accident since the firm had not yet taken delivery of the turbines. Better to let the lawyers duke it out with flying memorandums in wood paneled offices rather than trusting the news media to shape reality in the court of public opinion.

Update 11/01/08

The following email was received from a spokesperson for New Brunswick Power. I am publishing the relevant portions of the note and then reply below.

MacLean, Heather;
Sat, Nov 1, 2008 at 8:17 AM

Please note that there are several factual errors in your article that you wrote about the Point Lepreau Generating Station. Unfortunately it would appear that some you retrieved from another blog or on-long posting. The errors are as follows:

There is no change to the schedule of the refurbishment due to the incident that happened in Saint John.

The barge did not become “top heavy.” The investigation as to the cause continued and the results have not yet been released.

The Premier did not give our President and CEO any such warnings. The government has spoken, since before the refurbishment even commenced, that the project needs to come in on time and on budget. NB Power had nothing to do with the shipment of the rotors so making such a statement is not factual nor even linked to what happened.

There was no outburst and no finger pointing. We have worked with our supplier on this issue and since it has not yet been determined whether or not the rotors can or cannot be used, I am not certain where you obtained information that we have asked for compensation, or for that matter since no conclusions have been made how that even makes sense.


Blogger's response . . .

In response I would note that several media reports were consulted to write the blog post. The URLs for these reports are cited below.

The blog post is clear that no liability has been assigned for the accident. It is very clear the rotors came off the barge. The use of the term "top heavy" may not be technically accurate, but conveys that the barge and its cargo capsized as a result of an as yet undetermined mishap. That's the intent and it is consistent with the facts. Here's the source of the use of the term "top heavy" from the Times Transcript.

. . . a truck and the turbine units it was carrying slipped off a barge that became top heavy as it was being loaded and en route to the Point Lepreau nuclear generating station.

It is clear that the provincial premier was reported to have made the statement as reported about schedules. There is this direct citation from one of the news reports. See quote and URL below.

"NB Power CEO and president David Hay has been put on notice by Premier Shawn Graham that a proposed second reactor will not become a reality if the refurbishment of Point Lepreau isn't on time and on budget." Times Transcript

On the issue of compensation for NB Power I have two citations. The media has reported that NB Power has brought up the issue of compensation in several instances.

"There is no indication as to whether NB Power will be compensated for the expected loss in revenues, or who will front the cost for the damages to the turbines."

"MacLean said it's also too early to speculate about whether the companies will have to compensate NB Power for loss in output from Point Lepreau. D.L. Leslie, a spokesman for Siemens Canada Ltd., which is responsible for the investigation, said the extent of the damage will be known soon."

Daily Gleaner, 10/23/08

As I have properly cited mainstream media reports, I suggest the NB power has recourse with the Canadian news media. This is certainly the case where the NB power spokesperson asking for corrections is the same person cited by the press making the statement she now disputes.


Other links

"Turbines may be salvageable"

"Rotors destined for nuclear power plant slide off barge into Saint John harbour"

Future of turbines, liability for accident unknown

Daily Gleaner, 10/23/08

Rotor mishap will delay Lepreau plans
The Daily Gleaner 10/18/08

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Japan's emerging plutonium economy

Fossil out, fast reactors in. Funds need for nuclear R&D

The Japan Atomic Energy Agency (JAEA) has released a report which states that by the end of this century two-thirds of all electricity in the country will come from nuclear sources. The report was also critical of Japan's poor track record of putting R&D advances in the nuclear energy field into practical use.

flashThe report projected that one-third of all of Japan's electricity will come from Fast Reactors by the end of this century. [large image]

In a supply-and-demand study called ‘2100 Nuclear Vision: Proposal Toward a Low-Carbon Society’, the JAEA says the aim by 2100 is to reduce CO2 emissions by about 90 percent from current levels. That's fast work.

It estimated the country would need about 230 nuclear power plants by 2100 to realize a society that produces low carbon emissions.That's a lot of work.

The study includes four major proposals:

  • The use of renewable energy and nuclear energy must be increased.
  • Nuclear energy will be used for power generation and also as a heat source in the production of hydrogen.
  • Final energy consumption should be reduced to about 60% of current levels by 2100.
  • The approximate component shares of each type of energy will be 60% for electricity – an increase of 25% from today’s level – 30% for fossil fuels (now 75%) and 10% for hydrogen.

Nuclear energy mix

kwhThe JAEA said the total amount of generated electricity in 2100 is expected to reach around 1,700 billion kilowatt-hours, with nuclear accounting for about 67% of which 18% will come from light water reactors (LWRs), 35% from fast breeder reactors (FBRs), and 14% from other types of advanced reactors.

Today, Japan has 55 reactor units in commercial operation and two, Tomari-3 and Shimani-3, listed by the International Atomic Energy Agency as under construction.

All seven units at the Kashiwazaki Kariwa nuclear power plant remain offline following a strong earthquake in July 2007. The nuclear share in electricity generation was about 28% in 2007.

By 2100, the report says, 120 high-temperature gas-cooled reactors (HTGR) will be in use in the production of hydrogen, with a thermal capacity of 72,000 MW. That works out to an an average size of 600 MW per plant.

By comparison, the "Next Generation Nuclear Plant," (NGNP) which is planned to be built at the Idaho National Laboratory (INL) starting in 2016, is slated to be 300 MW. Lab officials have complained to energy trade journals about the lack of funding needed to meet that schedule.

R&D Investments and outcomes still a problem

If Japan wants to get one-third of its energy from fast reactors, it will have to significantly change the way it funds and manages its nuclear R&D programs.

According to the report there has been little enthusiasm from the government for R&D in nuclear power. The Monju fast-breeder reactor in Tsuruga, Fukui Prefecture, has been out of operation since a 1995 accident. According to a recent report the plant is still facing significant problems. The JAEA is struggling to resolve them and reopen the facility.

unhappyThe report said if the government maintains its "lukewarm attitude toward research," it will not attract young researchers or the research funds needed for progress. Budgets for nuclear R&D over the past 15 years have reportedly been declining and and new scientists are seeking other fields. Does that sound familiar to anyone?

Japan joined GNEP but has little to show for it

In April 2007 JAEA officially joined the GNEP alliance. The other members in the alliance are Areva, Washington Group International and BWX. It was expected that the experience gained from the Rokkasho centrifuge enrichment plant would be a key contribution from JAEA. It was expected the consortium would propose to build fuel reprocessing and advanced fuel fabrication plants at a site in Idaho. The site selection process was canceled by the U.S. government.

GNEP logoU.S. implementation of GNEP has turned into a white dwarf compared to its red giant ambitions when first announced by the Bush Administration. A programmatic environmental impact statement (PEIS) punts future decisions about the program into the next administration. Congress shredded GNEP budget requests over the past three years expressing strong doubts about the Department of Energy's plans for fast-tracing the program.

Securing uranium supplies

In a separate development Japan's Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry has set up a panel to secure stable supplies of uranium and boost the competitiveness of the nation's nuclear power industry.

UraniumSymbol_000The panel brings together academics and officials from businesses including nuclear power plant makers such as Toshiba Corp. and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd.

The strategies include development of uranium resources, support for countries that plan to introduce nuclear power plants, and stronger ties with countries with advanced nuclear power technologies.

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Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Whig bubbles in corporate outreach to bloggers

Public relations with a twist, shaken not stirred

Rose_champagne_infinite_bubblesOver at Total WonKerr, Anya reports that just in case you thought otherwise, folks at Russia’s Atomenergoprom apparently are into the idea that the “nuclear industry should intensify its educational and information activities in blogosphere.”

This is very funny because a very large nuclear reactor vendor doing business in this country thinks exactly the same thing, but so far its actions have yield only comical results.

For the sake of protecting the innocent, the name of vendor will be cloaked in mystery. I will refer to it as 'Mighty Big Reactor Vendor' or MBRV. You won't gain anything by trying to interpret the acronym.I will neither confirm nor deny the name of the firm involved as they are all mighty big.

Here's what happened last week. MBRV sent out an email to a lot of bloggers, including this one, but still missed some of the most influential minds in the blogshere like Rod Adams at Atomic Insights and Charles Barton at Nuclear Green. How can you say you want to influence the blogshere when you aren't talking to some of the people who shape it, at least in the nuclear energy field?

The apparent objective is to close a perceived "blind spot," to wit, bloggers are writing about MBRV's business, and reaching a growing audience, but MBRV has no relationship or even dialog, much less contact, with the bloggers. In other words, the bloggers are like the media. They have readers. Wow, what a concept.

pizzaMBRV wants to shape what the bloggers say about its business, but doesn't want to be ham handed about it. After all , building new nuclear power plants in the U.S. is a touchy subject and even bloggers might sway a few opinions. You don't want to get them bent out of shape on first contact. I guess what it boils down to is you take your influence any way you can get it.

So MBRV crafts an invitation to bloggers to draw them in to a web of corporate influence. Oh heck, I can be had for a good pepperoni pizza so it wouldn't take much. Why the intrigue is a mystery to me.

However, things go awry right from the start. The email I received from MBRV is "informal" to say the least. It had no verification information such as a surface mail address or telephone number or even a graphic with a corporate logo.

If you're MBRV, and spending good money on "outreach," wouldn't you want to differentiate yourself from spam promoting nutritional supplements? You'd want to make double sure that the bloggers you want to influence don't simply hit the delete button on receipt of the first contact email.

emailIconOnly the I.P. address in the email header led back to MBRV, but the name of the person who signed the email was not in the firm's global employee directory. A cross check of public relations firms, with the name in the email, yielded several likely candidates resulting in a "hit" through process of elimination and a cross check to a LinkedIN profile.

The email itself had language which was total catnip to a blogger. It produced nearly irresistible curiosity.

"[We] appreciate the expression of views from online writers such as yourself. We've followed your blog. [We] want you to participate in what we hope will be an ongoing and meaningful discussion of nuclear energy."

A phone call to the startled public relations consultant who sent out the "informal" email produced a few more details, an apology for the lack of verification information, and a promise to answer key questions like, "will you place ads on our blogs?" I also advised him not to send any confidential business information as bloggers are notorious gossips and cannot be trusted with a secret.

Apparently, the plan, which the consultant says is still in the formative stages, is to bombard nuclear energy bloggers with press releases and hope we'll run them. The rest of the outreach effort seems to still be in the realm of high level hand waving including MBRV's plans for its own corporate blog.

baloneyFor now it still looks to me like a whig bubble which could float off on the latest breeze or pop at any time. Maybe MBRV and the Russians should compare notes and try something else, like genuine dialog. Sigh. I was really hoping for a meaningful relationship this time.

MBRV never answered the email response I sent them nor returned my phone call. I guess when you get down to it I'm just another blogger scraping along for lunch money from Google adsense and a brief but stimulating 15 minutes of fame. I don't hold it against MBRV for trying. All I ask is that you think these things through and don't waste my time.

So far I haven't heard from the Russians. If anyone calls you'll be the first to know.

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Monday, October 27, 2008

PST names Energy Advocate Award winners

Elected officials came through for the region

man_on_mountain_top Idaho Falls, ID. October 27, 2008 – The Partnership for Science and Technology (PST) announced the winners of the first annual PST Energy Advocate Awards.

The awards are presented to individuals or organizations that were central to a noteworthy achievement in nuclear energy, non-nuclear energy or an environmental field that is of interest to PST and its membership.

All of the winners are elected officials. In an era when the political process is under intense pressure from all sides, it is remarkable how much a few leaders in Idaho were able to accomplish working at the state, regional, and local level as well as in Washington, DC.

2008 PST Energy Advocate Award Winners

National Award: Office of Civilian Radioactive Waste Management (OCRWM). Accepting the award will be J. Russell Dyer, Ph.D. Chief Scientist. OCRWM was selected for the award based on the submission to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission of the license application for the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository.

Regional Award: C.L. “Butch” Otter, Governor, State of Idaho. Governor Otter was selected for the award based on his work securing needed funding for the Center for Advanced Energy Studies facility, his role in negotiating an agreement to settle the long-standing lawsuit over the INL/DOE Settlement Agreement, as well as his leadership in the recruitment of AREVA to Idaho and his continued support for the Idaho National Laboratory and nuclear energy.

Local Award: Jared Fuhriman, Mayor, City of Idaho Falls. Mayor Fuhriman was selected for the award for his leadership in support of the INL, GNEP, and AREVA recruitment as well as his leadership with energy-linked economic development and promoting energy efficiency/green power initiatives.

Nuclear Energy Advocate Award: Congressman Mike Simpson, Congressman Simpson was selected for this special award based on his tireless and effective advocacy for sound national energy policy and for the research and cleanup programs at the INL. He has worked closely with House Energy and Water Development Appropriations Subcommittee members and staff in both parties in a way that has made him one of the most respected and influential members of Congress.

The awards will be presented at the Annual PST Awards Banquet to be held on November 5, at the Red Lion in Idaho Falls. Contact PST at (208) 313-4166 or for ticket information.


The Partnership for Science and Technology is a nonprofit, grassroots organization formed to advocate for science and technology issues that are in the public interest and to provide accurate and timely information on existing and proposed activities at the INL Site and the region. For more information contact Lane Allgood, Executive Director at (208) 313-4166, or log on to the web-site.

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Sunday, October 26, 2008

India's global shopping trip

The global financial crisis means uranium can be had at a deep discount

Shyam Saran (source BBC)India faces a wide open market for nuclear fuel according to Shyam Saran (right), a special envoy for the prime minister for the nuclear deal cleared last month by the NSG and the U.S. Congress. With its ticket punched based on political commitments, Saran told Bloomberg wire service,

"This creates a favorable condition for India to embark on a truly ambitious nuclear energy program getting the best terms and conditions. We should soon see something of a buyer's market in nuclear power plants and uranium as a consequence of the slowdown of major economies."

Saran said the current global financial crisis is a "blessing in disguise" for India because prices are at record lows. While he didn't come right out and say uranium was available at flea market pricing, other sources easily confirmed these pricing conditions.

flea marketBloomberg reported that JPMorgan Chase & Co. this month cut its long-term price forecast to $65/lb through 2010 citing slower nuclear energy development due to the worldwide credit freeze.

Ux Consulting reported that as of Oct 20 the spot price for uranium was $44/lb. In November of 2007 it was $95/lb. The good news for India's bargain hunting won't last forever. Saran noted, "the window of opportunity will probably close once this crisis is over."

India's big shopping list faces banking challenges

India now says it plans to add 40,000 MW of civilian nuclear energy capacity in the next 12 years. It set the expected spending at $41 billion buying reactors from Areva, Westinghouse, and General Electric. To pay for these purchases, India plans to let a "global bond" raising money from institutional investors.

Banker not making loans todayThat could be a tough sell. Banks are not helping the situation despite huge infusions of new capital. The New York Times reports that major banks, instead of using the money for new lending, are gobbling up other banks in pursuit of eliminating the competition through industry consolidation.

According to the NYT, an executive at JPMorgan Chase told a conference call Oct 24th that it would use $25 billion to buy up other banks. Nothing was said about making new loans with the equity infusion from the U.S. Treasury.

The NYT reported that other banks also have no intentions of turning on the flow of new loans in the near term. Whether these same banks would make loans to India for nuclear reactors by themselves, or in partnership with banks in Europe and Asia, is a key question.

Regulatory and legal hurdles

India also faces challenges to privatize its nuclear industry. Abhishek Singvi told a meeting of the Congress party India must change its domestic laws permitting private firms to build and operate nuclear power plants. Indemnification as an issue for purchase of electricity and for liability in case of accidents are two topics high on the list of companies that want to do business in India.

Carlos_GutierrezU.S Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez (right) told a U.S. India trade group last week that while US companies were eager to contribute to India’s developing nuclear power sector, they required nuclear liability protection in order to do business.

“India must draft and ratify a domestic law” consistent with the international Convention of Supplementary Compensation for Nuclear Damage,” he added.

India last month wrote a letter of intent to sign up to the convention, which US businesses want in order to reduce their liability in the event of a catastrophe.

South Africa and Brazil line up to book sales

Meanwhile, the Indian government's buyer for uranium, Nuclear Power Corp. of India told Bloomberg it plans to purchase 2,000 metric tons of uranium before the end of 2008. Saran told Bloomberg India will seek uranium contracts with Kazakhstan, Niger, and other nations including South Africa and Brazil.

The Economic Times of India reports that South Africa has committed to sell uranium to India now that the NSG has cleared the way for such transactions. South African President Kgalema Motlanthe and Brazilian President Luiz da Silva met with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh last week to discuss uranium deals. Asked if South Africa will sell uranium to India, Motlanthe responded, "we will do so without any difficulty."

Brazil is ramping up its own nuclear energy program to build a third nuclear plant and has said it is developing a project for uranium enrichment for its own nuclear plants and for export of nuclear fuel.

However, Brazil reportedly did not make a public commitment to sell uranium to India, but did endorse joint nuclear projects between the two countries. Brazil's prime minister also reportedly reminded Singh that it had signed the nuclear nonproliferation treaty and expected countries it does business with to abide by its terms.

Japan not as ready as many

Tao AsoSiddharth Varadarajan reports in The Hindu that Japan is not ready to join other nations selling uranium and nuclear technologies to India. Japan's Prime Minister Tara Aso (right) got to the point in a press conference held in Tokyo on Oct 23 following a meeting with India Prime Minister Singh.

Aso said Japan is more interested in seeing that India sticks to is pledges not conducts tests of nuclear weapons. He said, "we are not engaged in discussions regarding nuclear energy with India." That's diplomatic talk for a blunt message of "no sale" and he probably made the statement for several reasons.

First, India is now a competitor with Japan worldwide for uranium even though Japanese firms like Toshiba and Mitsubishi want to sell reactors there.

Second, Japan always looks toward China when it makes foreign policy statements, and is well aware of that country's concerns about India's new nuclear energy drive. China and Japan are both racing to convert their energy supply grids from fossil to nuclear energy.

Third, Japan is clearly nervous about India's claims, mostly for domestic political consumption, that it reserves the right to conduct nuclear weapons testing.

Adopting a wait-and-see approach keeps Japan's options open, but also keeps India at arm's length at least for now.

U.S. trade mission in December

There were no such qualms, at least expressed in public, in the U.S. The U.S. State Department said Oct 15 it will send a mission to India in December which will include the leading suppliers of nuclear reactors, components, services, and uranium. The U.S.-India Business Council will organize the trade mission which reportedly will include representatives from 280 U.S. firms.

Council President Ron Somers projected $150 billion worth of business between US and Indian companies over the next 30 years following the deal. It offers India access to US technology and cheap atomic energy in return for allowing UN inspections its civilian nuclear facilities.

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Italy's nuclear course correction

An official 'mea culpa' puts the cost of not having nuclear energy at 50 billion euros ($63B)

course correction In the next two decades Italy is planning to get 25% of its electricity from nuclear energy, 25% from renewable sources such as solar and wind, and the remainder from fossil (coal & natural gas).

This mix is a complete reversal from that country's decision two decades ago to walk away from nuclear energy and dismantle its reactors. The cost of not having the nuclear plants was pegged this week at $50 billion euros, and for those of you counting zeros, that is indeed the "B" number which is 1,000 million.

ScajolaWorld Nuclear News reports that Claudio Scajola (right), Italy's Minister for economic development, said that the new Berlusconi government is intent on "reversing a terrible mistake" in phasing out nuclear power following the Chernobyl accident in the Ukraine. The Italian populace panicked and voted in 1987 to shut down its nuclear plants. (Photo: World Nuclear News)

Now Italy's costs for electricity are one-third higher on average than any other country in western Europe. The country depends on natural gas for 60% of its energy and most of it is imported.

Energy independence for Italy

Scajola says the goal of investing in nuclear energy is to develop energy independence for Italy and to meet the challenges of global warming. The most practical objective, he said, is to begin construction of a new reactor, the first of several government funding and private utility efforts, by 2013.

He also said that the current legislature will be charged with setting up a legal, regulatory, and technical framework to handle the licensing and oversight of new reactors. A new government agency will be responsible for site and technology selection as well as strategies for eventual decommissioning and management of spent nuclear fuel.

Italy's reversal of policy on nuclear energy now leaves only Germany's Andrea Merkel with an officially sanctioned anti-nuclear energy policy. That situation is in flux and elections in September 2009 may hinge on energy policy with the voters.

EDF to build Italy's nukes

Reuters reports that France's EDF, the world's biggest nuclear power utility will help revive nuclear energy in Italy EDF Italia head Bruno D'Onghia said this week.

'If Italy opens up for the nuclear option then EDF, directly or via Edison, will cooperate for the success of a true Italian nuclear program."

Sergio Orlandi, engineering director at Italian company Ansaldo Nucleare, told an energy conference Italy needs at least 10,000 megawatt of nuclear plants. It would cover 17% of Italy's estimated power demand by 2020, he said.

Taking his numbers at face value, 10,000 MW would be equal to six Areva EPRs. Scajoa called for 10 of them in a speech to the OECD last week. At 17% of Italy's power needs, the country's total requirements would be approximately 58,800 MW. Assuming the government keeps to the formula for energy sources stated by Scajola, that would drive investments in renewable sources for 14,700 MW. That outcome would make Italy one of the greenest energy producing states in Europe.

solar panelHere's an idea, why not co-locate solar panels at nuclear power plant sites? There's plenty of land for the buffer area and the transmission grid will already be in place. It could be called "Solar Kinetic Lighting at Reactor."

Reuters also reports that supporters of the nuclear renaissance in Italy say the credit crunch and economic slowdown are likely to delay an ambitious plan to build new nuclear stations.

Giancarlo Aquilanti, director of nuclear programs at Enel, Italy's biggest utility, said it will be more difficult for utility's like Enel to raise money for nuclear plants in the current financial climate. His timeline suggests a private investment effort to begin construction in 2017 assuming the government has all the policy and regulatory mechanisms in place by 2012. Construction of the plant would take five-to-six years with entry to revenue service in 2023.

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Rating Ameren's case in the 'show me' state

The path to assure the future of a new nuclear plant will be neither short nor easy

boxingAmerenUE (NYSE:AEE) has plans for a new nuclear power plant in Missouri, but two determined opponents stand in its path. What's more a law enacted in that state in the 1970s prohibits the recovery of construction costs from the rate base while a new plant is being built.

It all but chokes off Ameren's future as a nuclear utility. Ameren doesn't have the capital to bet the company on a merchant plant option. In fact, the 1976 law effectively stopped a previous effort by Ameren to build a second nuclear plant dead in its tracks. No one else has tried since then.

Getting the legislature to change the law may be the utility's end game, but before it can move the chess pieces down the board, it must first deal with the Missouri Public Service Commission. That body has just granted "standing" to the Missouri Coalition for the Environment and Missourians for Safe Energy.

Henry Robertson, the legal counsel at Great Rivers Environmental Law Center, which is representing the two groups, told the Columbia Missourian newspaper on Oct 19 the groups are replying on a 1976 law that prohibits charging customers for a new nuclear power plant before it enters revenue service.

Robertson said both groups are opposed to the construction of a second nuclear power plant in Missouri which Ameren says is needed by 2018-2020 to meet rising demand for electricity.

Ameren current operates the Callaway nuclear plant. Built in 1984 at a cost of $3 billion, it provides 1,190 MW of electricity. The two green groups argue that energy efficiency, lower consumption of electricity, and renewable energy technologies will meet Missouri's needs.

Slaying the nuclear dragon

st_george_slayingBoth groups see themselves as a modern day metaphor for St. George slaying a dragon. The anti-nuclear movement born in Missouri in the 1970s has three decades later cloaked its cause in a mantle titled "consumer protection." The "safe Energy" group calls nuclear power a "failed technology." On its web site the group calls for the "phase out" of all current nuclear power plants.

Mark Haim, a leader of Missourians for Safe Energy, told the newspaper that the intent of the law is clear and that Ameren's request to recover the $46 million it spent on submitting a COL to the NRC for an Areva EPR would violate the law.

Ameren spokesman Mike Cleary says the cost of the NRC license application is "necessary" under the definition in state law, and should be included in a rate increase. It is needed, he said, "to ensure future power supply, reliability, and energy independence for Missouri."

For its part the Public Service Commission has ruled that the two groups have shown "good cause," under the 1976 law, in challenging the request for a rate increase to cover the NRC licensing costs.

Lose a battle to win a war?

The legal battle to get the money will likely be lost at the regulatory level. Ameren will have to take its case to the legislature to over turn the 1976 law. The issue isn't just the recovery of the licensing costs. What is at stake the the future of the new nuclear plant and whether Missouri's future supply of electricity will be generated by fossil fuel plants with their greenhouse gases or not.

There's plenty of precedent for what Ameren wants to do. Florida has a law on the books that allows exactly what Ameren wants in Missouri, and four reactors are planned to provide electricity in the sunshine state by 2018-2020.

The battle is joined in the "show me" state. The only question is whether the legislature and the public will see what they are being shown.

show me license_plate

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