Friday, January 30, 2009

France to build 2nd EPR

EDF will be the project manager

Areva_EPR(NucNet) A second European Pressurized Water Reactor (EPR) is to be built in France, president Nicolas Sarkozy announced Jan 22.

Construction of Areva’s 1,600 MW reactor is expected to start in 2012 at the existing Penly nuclear power plant site in northern France. The new unit is expected to enter revenue service in 2017. It will be the fifth EPR construction project initiated worldwide after those at Olkiluoto in Finland, Flamanville in France and Taishan-1 and -2 in China.

A project management company will be established by Electricite de France (EDF) as a majority shareholder with GDF Suez and will be open to other investment partners.

State-owned EDF, which is France's main electricity provider, is already an EPR plant near Flamanville in northern France. The Flamanville EPR is due to cost 4 billion euros ($5.2 billion), more than an initial expected cost of 3.3 billion. A similar plant is under construction in FInland, and it has also experienced cost over-runs. The amount is in dispute and has been put under arbitration between Areva and Finnish utility TVO.

Areva plans to develop a U.S. market for its EPR reactor. The design was submitted for certification to the NRC last year. Four sites have submitted COL applications to the NRC referencing the EPR design; Nine MIle, NY; Calvert Cliffs, MD; Blue Bell, PA; and Callaway, MO.

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Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Nuke suit stopped

AEHI drops lawsuit against Snake River Alliance

lawsuit1The Idaho Statesman reported Jan 28 that Fourth District Judge G.D. Carey dismissed a lawsuit for defamation brought by Alternate Energy Holdings Inc. (PINK:AEHI) against the Snake River Alliance.

The company sued in August, claiming it was defamed by Alliance Executive Director Andrea Shipley when she described the company and its CEO as "scammers."

Don Gillispie, CEO of AEHI, told the Statesman that Shipley acknowledged the term "scammers" was her opinion, not a statement of fact. For its part, the SRA continued its criticism of AEHI's project in a news release on its web site. So not much has changed except the two parties aren't in court anymore.

And there are other opinions

Here's another opinion. Last September the Idaho Statesman wrote in an unsigned editorial, "We hope Don Gillispie is better at building a nuclear power plant than he is at building relationships."

Maybe he's learned something from the experience, to wit, have a thick skin when you go forth to build a nuclear power plant. Also, there is the possibility Ms. Shipley may curb her tendency to resort to over-the-top rhetoric. Of course, opinion remains divided on this subject as both parties have their supporters in Idaho.

Project Status?

In terms of the status of the project, the Elmore County Planning & Zoning Commission handed AEHI a setback in November voting 4-2 against the firm's request to locate the proposed nuclear plant on a parcel near the Snake River.

Reportedly AEHI has asked the Elmore county commissioners to push back the date of their public meeting to decide whether to accept the P&Z recommendation. In the meantime, AEHI is checking out a new site near Pueblo, Colorado, for the reactor.

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Sunday, January 25, 2009

Ameren goes where no utility has gone before in Missouri

Legislative battle over nuclear energy unfolds in the ‘show me’ state

enterprise in flightNuclear energy utility AmerenUE (NYSE:AEE) has finally left earth orbit and set sail for an uncharted region of the economic and political space seeking strange new alliances in a hostile universe. It is entering the throes of a bellwether battle between ratepayers rights and the need for new zero emission power plants that could set a precedent for the nation.

A bill (S.B.228) introduced in the Missouri state legislature on Jan 18 by Sen. Delbert Scott (R-Lowry City) and Sen. Frank Barnitz (D-Lake Spring) would set aside a three decade old law that prevents utilities from recovering construction costs for a new reactor while the plant under construction.

The law in question, which bans construction work in progress charges (CWIP), was passed in 1976. The new legislation, if passed, would pave the way for a $6 billion Areva EPR providing 1,600 MW of electricity to the state’s ratepayers by 2018. That brings in the plant at $3,750/Kw. AmerenUE is too small to build the plant on its own using a merchant model. It has market capitalization of $7 billion and income for the year ending September 2008 of $2 billion.

Sen. Scott says the proposed law addresses two issues which are having enough electricity to meet demand and keeping costs down. He argues that if consumers force the utility to adopt a merchant business model, then the costs of waiting all that time to repay investors, and the related interest, will be passed on to ratepayers.

As far as the 1976 law is concerned, Scott says, “the time that voters passed it was a time for anti-nuclear forces. Those days are over.”

Consumer groups have attacked the proposal with the ferocity of a Klingon warrior bearing down single handedly on a Federation starship. Mark Hamm, Chairman of Missourians for Safer Energy, told the St. Louis Business Journal, “It is not fair to ask rate payers to pay before the power plant is completed and producing power. It transfers risks from stockholders to ratepayers who would be better off having that money in their pockets.”

Rough surprise as lobbyist switches sides

roosevelt-room-theodore-roosevelt-tade-styka-1909Hamm is in for a rough fight because one of the leading environmental lobbyists in Missouri just switched sides. The St. Louis Post Dispatch reports that Irl L. Scissors, who previously represented a leading Missouri environmental alliance, announced Jan 22 that he is going to work on overturning the law that prevents AmerenUE from charging its customers for the plant’s costs while it is under construction. He’s supporting the bipartisan effort being led by Sen. Scott and Barnitz.

In an email to clients obtained by the St. Louis Post Dispatch, Scissors wrote, "Knowing the economic and political climate of the country and Missouri, I do not feel the effort to stop CWIP is viable and I am not comfortable leading this effort in Jefferson City," he wrote.

Scissors, age 38, once served as a policy advisor to former Democratic Governor Bob Holden. For the past three year, he’s represented environmental groups on issues such as renewable energy, including solar and wind, and environmental regulation of large farming operations.

Kathleen Logan Smith, executive director for the Missouri Coalition for the Environment, called the decision a “huge and unfortunate surprise.”

Here’s another surprise for green groups. A large coalition has formed to support the utility’s effort to change the law including other major utilities in Missouri, large employers, organized labor, and some faith based groups. AmerenUE released a study that showed if the plant is built it will generate 2,500 construction jobs and 400 permanent jobs.

House leader stands up for nuclear energy

On the House side Speaker Ron Richard (R-Joplin) has placed repeal of CWIP at the center of his agenda for the legislative session. He told the St. Louis Post Dispatch he dismisses charges that he benefitted from campaign contributions made by AmerenUE during the November elections. The firm reportedly made $300,000 in campaign contributions to legislative candidates in 2008.

“I don’t care if they give me a dollar or a million dollars. If you can’t take their money, and eat their chicken, and say no, you’ve got no business being around here.”

ameren logoRichard Mark, VP at AmerenUE, says that the utility feels it is doing the right thing for consumers by pursuing a change to the law.

“Power plants of all kinds are expensive to build and we also have an obligation to our customers to find the most cost-effective ways to pay for them,”

AmerenUE submitted a COL application to the NRC last summer, but won’t make the formal decision to build a new nuclear plant until 2011 when the regulatory review is done. It also said it submitted an application for federal loan guarantees. If the utility gets them, the coverage will also help reduce the cost of building the plant. Assuming the utility gets a green light from the NRC in 2011, the new plant could be in revenue service by 2018.

Other states, like Kentucky and Wisconsin, which have laws on the books banning outright construction of new nuclear power plants, are likely watching developments as they unfold in Missouri. If the toughest set of skeptics in the U.S., the ratepayers in the 'show me' state, can change their minds, then much else becomes possible elsewhere.

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Nuclear energy news roundup for 01/25/09

UAE signs nuclear agreement with US

US_uae_nuclear_4In one of its last official acts, the Bush Administration signed a nuclear cooperation agreement with the United Arab Emirates. The Wall Street Journal reported that the pact could help the UAE become the first Arab nation to develop a nuclear-power industry as early as 2017.

The UAE published a nuclear energy policy (large PDF) in last July and has plans to build nuclear power, fossil, and solar generation capacity of up to 40 GWe by 2020. The policy has a strong emphasis on zero emission energy sources.

However, some US lawmakers are seeking to block the UAE because of its ties to Iran. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) the ranking Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, has introduced legislation that would delay the nuclear-cooperation accord until the UAE limits export of key military technologies to Iran.

The WSJ reported that the UAE is among Iran's closest trading partners, and the Emirates have served in the past as a major conduit for military technologies entering into Iran, according to US officials.

"The United States should not even consider a nuclear-cooperation agreement with the UAE so long as that country continues to complicate international efforts to halt Iran's" nuclear ambitions, Ms. Ros-Lehtinen said.

The UAE maintains its nuclear plans will not contribute to a nuclear arms race in the Middle East. The government said the UAE has agreed to give the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) complete access to the Emirates' nuclear sites and the right to conduct snap inspections.

The WSJ reported the UAE has also pledged to import nuclear fuel for its reactors, rather than developing the technology to produce fissile material on its own.

There is no indication what position the new Obama administration will take on the agreement. President Bush did not submit it to Congress for ratification.

World Nuclear News reports that the UAE has signed a similar agreement with Japan.

The UAE has set up a managing entity for its prospective nuclear power program, the Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation (Enec), which then selected CH2M Hill as managing agent for a ten-year period. These steps came after advice from the International Atomic Energy Agency and consultants from Thorium Power (OTC:THPW). Rolls-Royce is helping Enec to asses Abu Dhabi's industrial capabilities in terms of new nuclear construction.

AECL returns to India

AECL SymbolIndia’s accomplishment this year opening the doors to nuclear energy commerce has spurred a series of trade missions and deals. The latest is an agreement between Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd (AECL) and Indian nuclear component maker Larsen & Toubro (L&T).

According to a report by World Nuclear News, L&T said in a statement that it had "joined hands" with AECL "to develop a competitive cost/scope model for the ACR-1000." The reactor is still in the design phase and has not yet been certified by the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission.

L&T and AECL described the design as “an advanced power reactor, whose design represents a hybrid of AECL's earlier pressurized heavy-water reactors and the pressurized light-water models used very widely across the world.“

Additional advantages of the design, AECL said, include that its uranium fuel requires less enrichment than light-water models, and that it can be refueled during operation avoiding the need to shut down.

"Upon completion of the indicative cost/scope model, AECL and L&T agree to begin discussions to develop nuclear power plants in India on EPC (engineering, procurement and construction) basis."

The memorandum was signed by Hugh MacDiarmid, president and CEO of AECL, and M V Kotwal, senior executive vice president of L&T in Mumbai.

India inks uranium supply deal with Kazakhstan

The Hindu reports India and Kazakhstan (map) have signed a major agreement for supply of uranium and a comprehensive cooperation in civil nuclear energy program. Kazakhstan also invited India to join in uranium exploration.

Kazakhstan also expressed strong interest in purchasing nuclear reactors from India. Kazakhstan invited Indian companies and government to enter into joint ventures there for uranium mining. The agreement did not specify whether or how India would build reactors in Kazakhstan using technology transferred from western countries. India’s indigenous low power reactor designs are out-of-date and unlikely to be attractive for export.

Two more EPRs in France?

epr logoReuters reports that the French government is close to making a decision to build two new 1,600 Areva EPRs in France. A decision could come sometime next month. EDF is building one now at Flamanville which is scheduled to enter revenue service in 2012. The plant is expected to cost $5.2 billion at completion or $3,250/Kw. Both Areva and EDF are 85% owned with by the French government.

In a possible related move, EDF issued two U.S. dollar denominated bonds for $2.58 billion each, but one is for six years and the other for 12. The rates are 5.125% and 6.25% respectively. Reuters reported the bonds were oversubscribed in the U.S.

EDF is said to need at least $50 billion to fund its expansion plans which include its stake in the U.S. reactor market resulting from its 49% stake in Constellation Energy. EDF also bought UK British Energy making it one of the largest players in the global nuclear energy market.

Sellafield to host new nukes?

SellafieldReuters reports that the U.K. National Decommissioning Authority (NDA) plans to nominate four of its facilities, including the Sellafield nuclear fuel processing plant, as potential sites for new nuclear power plants. The NDA said it would ask the government to consider Sellafield and the Wylfa, Oldbury and Bradwell power stations as sites.

"Nuclear is crucial to our low carbon future; it is crucial to our energy security and at the same time it represents a massive opportunity for the UK economy and jobs," Prime Minister Gordon Brown said in a statement prior to a visit to Sellafield in northwest England.

A government auction for new sites will take place in March. The government is soliciting site nominations this coming week. Sellafield does not have the grid connections but the other three NDA sites do, potentially making building a power station there more expensive.

French nuclear energy giant EDF wants to build at least four new power stations in the UK, which it is now positioned to do having bought British Energy. EDF said to nominate all of British Energy's sites for the government's strategic siting assessment. EDF has reportedly bought land next to Wyfla on the island of Angelsey and British Energy owns land near Bradwell.

Earlier this month German utilities RWE and E.ON joined forces to build nuclear power stations in Britain. Scottish and Southern Energy and Spain's Iberdrola also plan to work together on new reactors.

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Western states uranium gopher for 01/25/09

Still climbing out of the cellar, but lots of stair stepping

This blog post is an edited version of an article published in Fuel Cycle Week, V8 N311 on 01/21/09 by International Nuclear Associates, Washington, DC.

gopherIn the ongoing ad hoc sample of uranium stocks, all nine continued to slowly climb out of a deep cellar that is characterized by record low prices in the past 52-weeks. Three of the stocks, Powertech, Uranerz, and Strathmore, hit the 20% threshold on their travels relative to their 52-week high. In both cases fundamental progress towards production at new properties is responsible for the market response. Five other stocks rose generally within their respective markets and not because of specific news about their operations.

The spot price for uranium hovered near $50/lb and the long-term contract price stood near $70/lb according to several market reports. The relatively low price of uranium at both marks has done no favors for uranium mining company stock prices or their ability to raise funds for new exploration, production, and general business expansion. Uranium stocks are valued in part due to NI 43-101 compliant reports about recoverable quantities of uranium. As companies are valued in terms of pounds of recoverable uranium per share, and the price the U3O8 brings at market rates, the question is to what degree the low price of uranium is one of the key factors weighing down stock prices and overall market capitalization?

western states 20090116

Powertech (TSE:PWE) submitted a major permit application for underground injection control (UIC) to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for its Dewey-Burdock ISL mine in the Edgemont Uranium District of southwestern South Dakota. The firm also said it would submit its license application for the mine to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) within the next month. The permit work is the culmination of nearly 18 months of environmental monitoring, assessment, and analysis.

An NI 43-101 technical report for the property, completed in December 2005, has determined an inferred resource of 7.6 million pounds of U3O8. The average grade is 0.21% U3O8.

Powertech also swapped non-core properties in three states with Neutron Energy Corp., a privately held firm, for acreage within and adjacent to its Dewey-Burdock mine. The swap expands Powertech's South Dakota holdings by 1,620 acres of claims within the firm's proposed permit area and an additional 4,380 acres of claims and leases outside the proposed permit area but adjacent to the project. Historical estimates by the Tennessee Valley Authority, developed in 1984, indicate the new acreage has approximately 800,000 pounds of U3O8.

Under the terms of the agreement, Neutron will retain a 30% net proceeds interest in any production which takes place on the South Dakota acreage involved in this deal. Powetech will transfer to Neutron 4,056 acres of claims in the Ambrosia Uranium District of New Mexico and 1,656 acres in the Shirley Basin in Wyoming. Powertech President Richard Clement said in a statement that the firm has no historical data on these properties and does not want to spend the significant money needed to conduct exploratory drilling.

Powertech also recently acquired 10,000 acres of mineral rights at the Dewey Burdock mine from Bayswater (CVE:BAY) which exited the U.S. uranium mining industry to focus on its properties in Canada. Powertech also purchased 381 mining claims and 8,186 acres of Wyoming mining leases from Bayswater for $50,000.

Crosshair Exploration & Mining (AMEX:CXZ) announced a merger with Target Exploration & Mining (CVE:TEM) with a focus on achieving production on Target's properties in Wyoming. Crosshair is shifting gears to the U.S. because of the Nunatsiavut Government's decision to place a moratorium on uranium mining on its lands in Canada until March 2011.

Mark Morabito, President and CEO of Crosshair said in a statement, "Although our CMB Uranium Project in Labrador is not directly affected by the Nunatsiavut Government's decision to place a moratorium on uranium mining until March 2011, the moratorium has affected market sentiment towards the region and this cannot be ignored. We are therefore very excited to be acquiring a uranium asset with near-term production potential in a uranium producing region."

Crosshair will issue 14.6 million shares in exchange for 100% of the outstanding Target shares. The deal represents 15.4% of Crosshair's shares outstanding. At market close on Jan 16, the market price for Crosshair was $0.15 making the transaction worth $2.2 million. Target's share price closed at $0.18 on Jan 16 with 12.18 million shares outstanding for a market capitalization of $2.2 million, which is the price of the transaction.

Crosshair is also expected to provide bridge financing to Target in the form of a secured promissory note with interest accruing at 7% and maturity in 12 months from the date the deal closes. The amount of the loan was not disclosed.

Crosshair said the immediate focus in the U.S. is completion of an NI 43-101 resource estimate and completion of the 75% earn-in on the Wyoming Bootheel Project in 2009. Target's Bootheel Project has 11 million pounds U3O8 based on historical estimates. The ISL mine could be in production in four-to-five years Crosshair said in a press statement.

Black Range Minerals (ASX:BLR), an Australian mining company, announced a joint venture with Uranium One (TSE:UUU) to expand its properties in Colorado The Perth-based firm will acquire a 51% interest in the Hansen uranium property which is adjacent on the southern edge of the firm's Taylor Ranch property in the Tallahassee Creek uranium district in Colorado. Initial exploration of the Hansen site indicates the deposit could hold up to 7 million pounds of U3O8.
The firm has encountered conflict and opposition from homeowners in the rural subdivision which has spread into the historic mining district. However, the Fremont County commission granted the firm the necessary permit to conduct exploratory drilling.

In a separate action the company secured a 100% interest in the High Park Uranium Deposit 30 miles northwest of Canon City, Colo. Initial exploration indicats up to 1.5 million pounds of U3O8 for the new project. The Teller County, Colorado, area has several active uranium mining projects by various companies.

Strathmore Minerals (TSX:STM) reported that at its George Ver Property, the company confirmed that it completed the required 12 months of baseline environmental data collection required by the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality for a mine permit application.

Permits have been received for exploration drilling at the Rock Hill and Beaver Rim Properties in Wyoming and are valid until 2011. The two projects are located northeast of the George Ver Deposit, and could host an open pit resource.

Strathmore also confirmed that it had extended its option agreement to acquire an existing NRC license and associated mineral rights over further known mineralization in the Gas Hills Uranium District. Strathmore said that the license hosts "significant" infrastructure required to operate a mine, and is accessible by a paved highway and hosts power, natural gas and fiber optic lines. The firm declined to name the property.

Western Uranium Corp (CVE:WUC) announced a shareholder rights plan "to ensure fair treatment in the event of an unsolicited takeover." With its stock closing Dec 31 at $0.68/share against a 52-week range of a $2.50-0.45, the firm is in the same boat as many other uranium juniors.

An unaudited 3Q2008 financial report issued by the firm showed it had $51.5 million in cash on hand and less than $0.7 million in current liabilities. With a market capitalization based on 59.73 million shares and a share price of $0.68, the firm is worth $40.6 million or $10.9 million less than the cash on hand. A hostile takeover could provide the buyer with significant cash premium at a bargain price.

The firm's primary drilling program is in the Bull Basin and Old Man Springs areas of Nevada. So far the firm has drilled 28 holes for 20,745 feet. One hole was drilled in the Midnight Mine area. The firm has not yet published core drilling results in an NI 431-101 report. The firm indicates on its website it will continue to acquire properties and engage in exploration.

The legislature in the State of North Dakota is considering a bill to expand protection for landowners above mineral deposits including uranium and germanium. The latter mineral is in demand for use in making solar panels. A bill being considered by the Senate Natural Resources Committee provides for notification of damages and compensation to landowners for degradation of water quality. Testimony from state agency officials asked the Senate to limit investigations of damages to the most affected properties which would save an estimated $200,000/year in regulatory costs.

Texas regulators have approved a low level waste project granting two licenses to Waste Control Specialists for a site in Andrew County, Texas, near the New Mexico border and within economic haul distance of the new uranium enrichment plant at Eunice, New Mexico. Wastes from sites in Texas will also be disposed of at the site. The first license allows disposal of low level waste containing uranium from commercial nuclear power plants and medical facilities. The second license allows waste from federal sites that includes radioactive soil, building debris, and general industrial trash.

International Isotopes (OTC:INIS) reported that it is still evaluating three sites in Idaho, New Mexico, and Texas in search of a suitable location for a new facility to extract fluorine gas from depleted uranium. Steve Laflin, CEO, said in an email that the firm expects to make a decision by the end of March 2009 where to build a $55 million plant. He said that a TV news media report that the firm had chosen a site in New Mexico was not correct.

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