Saturday, October 10, 2009

Obama names two for NRC

Both commissioner seats are open

George Apostolakis is a professor of nuclear science at MIT and William Magwood is a former DOE nuclear energy official. The White House announced the nominations Friday, Oct 9, which is a "dead zone" for media coverage. Both appointments have been rumored for some time. Last July the New York Times published an assessment by Climate Wire.

nrc logoBusiness groups were reported to be worried that with the appointment to the NRC of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's former aide Gregory Jaczko, who brings a tilt toward anti-nuclear green groups, that further appointments in his camp could be bad news for the nuclear industry. As a Democrat, Jaczko was named as NRC Chairman by President Obama

The two NRC appointments "are very important," said Christopher Guith, vice president for policy at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's Institute for 21st Century Energy. "A number of utility boards are looking to that as a possible sign of where things are going in the future," he said. "There has been great apprehension [that] the wrong appointments could really set a bad tone."

However, these fears appear, at least for now, to be unfounded as both men come with long years of experience in the nuclear industry. Both men are members of the American Nuclear Society (ANS).

jaczkoBy comparison, Jaczko (right) spent his time prior to joining the NRC as a political aide to Sen. Harry Reid. Before that he worked for Rep. Ed Markey who has repeatedly attacked the nuclear industry.

Reid’s prime interest has been to hobble the licensing process for Yucca Mountain by starving it for funds, but this has been for political consumption in his home state of Nevada. Even Jaczko has acknowledged [NRC speech] that dry cask storage at reactors of spent nuclear fuel can continue for decades.

Markey has also attacked the industry’s residuals as a choke point. Last April Markey tried to get the NRC to reclassify depleted uranium from enrichment plant operations as a waste type which is much more stringently controlled and at far higher costs. Industry experts point out that depleted uranium is simply U238 with very little of the U235 fissionable isotope left in it.

Markey’s strategy is one of hard-ball politics designed to make trouble, and increase fuel costs, for the nation’s nuclear utilities as an effort to slow down the growth of the nuclear renaissance. He's also a key figure in the passage of the House bill on climate change last July.

Chamber of Commerce gets heat over global warming

US chamber_commerceParadoxically, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which has a pro-nuclear policy position, found itself abandoned by several of its members earlier this month. The New York Times reported Sept 29 that Exelon, the nation’s largest nuclear utility, quit lambasting the Chamber for its head-in-the-sand policy stance on global warming.

“The carbon-based free lunch is over,” said John W. Rowe, Exelon’s chief executive. “Breakthroughs on climate change and improving our society’s energy efficiency are within reach.”

Several other high profile firms also left including Apple Computer. Speaking to an audience in San Jose, CA, Oct 9, Energy Sec. Steven Chu praised the high tech computer firm’s decision to leave the Chamber and called on other firms to follow in its footsteps.

Chamber president Thomas Donohue is reportedly quite unhappy with Apple's withdrawal and criticized the company for misrepresenting the organization's stance. He said green groups close to President Obama were part of a campaign to undermine the organization.

Three-Little-Pigs4Confirmation hearings will air nuclear issues

All this huffing and puffing will likely have political effects when the Senate takes up the confirmation of the two nominees. The Senate version of the climate bill will likely still be under consideration when the hearings for the two nominees take place. Expect them to be asked about the role nuclear energy can have in the response to global warming. Who knows, that dialog might even given Mr. Jaczko some food for thought.

These are the bios of the two nominees in the official announcements. If confirmed by the Senate, these two nominees will bring the NRC to its full membership as provided by law.

George Apostolakis

Dr. George Apostolakis (right) is the Korea Electric Power Company professor of Nuclear Science and Engineering and a professor of Engineering Systems at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT photo-right]. He received his Ph.D. in engineering science and applied mathematics from the California Institute of Technology in 1973. He is a Fellow of the American Nuclear Society and of the Society for Risk Analysis. He received the Tommy Thompson Award for his contributions to improvement of reactor safety in 1999 and the Arthur Holly Compton Award in Education in 2005 from the American Nuclear Society.

George ApostolakisHe was elected to the National Academy of Engineering in 2007. He is the Editor-in-Chief of the International Journal Reliability Engineering and System Safety and the founder of the International Conferences on Probabilistic Safety Assessment and Management (PSAM). Dr. Apostolakis is a member and former chairman of the statutory Advisory Committee on Reactor Safeguards of the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

His current research interests include methods for risk and reliability assessment of complex technological systems; nuclear reactor safety; uncertainty analysis; the use of Probabilistic Risk Assessment (PRA) in design; infrastructure security; risk-informed and performance-based regulation; and risk management involving multiple stakeholders. He has published numerous papers and has participated in many PRA courses and PRA reviews.

William D. Magwood, IV

William D. Magwood, IV [DOE photo-right] was the longest-serving head of the United States’ civilian nuclear technology program, serving two Presidents and five Secretaries of Energy from May 1998 until he stepped down on May 24, 2005. He then founded the firm Advanced Energy Strategies to provide strategic advice to domestic and international clients.

Bill_MagwoodAs the Director of Nuclear Energy with the U.S. Department of Energy, Mr. Magwood was the senior nuclear technology official in the United States Government and the senior nuclear technology policy advisor to the Secretary of Energy. Under Mr. Magwood’s leadership, the Office of Nuclear Energy encouraged a new consideration of nuclear power technology in the United States. Among other efforts, he led the creation of the "Nuclear Power 2010" initiative, which remains the cornerstone of U.S. industry’s exploration of building new nuclear power plants to provide for the Nation’s future energy needs, and led efforts that reversed the decline in American nuclear technology education.

Mr. Magwood was also a strong advocate of international technology cooperation and was elected Chairman of both the Generation IV International Forum and the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Steering Committee on Nuclear Energy.

Prior to his appointment as Director of Nuclear Energy, Mr. Magwood served as the Associate Director for Technology and Program Planning in the Office of Nuclear Energy for four years. From 1984-1994, he managed electric utility research and nuclear policy programs at the Edison Electric Institute in Washington, DC; and he was a scientist at Westinghouse Electric Corporation in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where he analyzed radiological and hazardous waste disposal, treatment, and handling systems. Mr. Magwood holds a B.S. degree in Physics and a B.A. degree in English from Carnegie-Mellon University. He also holds an M.F.A. degree from the University of Pittsburgh.

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Friday, October 9, 2009

Participate in blog action day

Nuclear energy advocates can add their voice on the topic of climate change

Blog Action Day, Oct 15th, is an annual event that unites the world's bloggers in posting about the same issue on the same day on their own blogs with the aim of sparking discussion around an issue of global importance.

Blog Action Day 2009 will be the largest-ever social change event on the web. One day. One issue. Thousands of voices.

Climate change affects us all and it threatens more than the environment. It threatens to cause famine, flooding, war, and millions of refugees.

Given the urgency of the issue of climate change and the upcoming international climate negotiations in Copenhagen this December, the blogosphere has the unique opportunity to mobilize millions of people around expressing support for finding a sustainable solution to the climate crisis.

You are encouraged to write on your blog about climate change in the context of how it relates to the topic of your blog.

Nuclear energy bloggers have plenty of opportunities to participate in this event. Nuclear energy is a carbon emission free source of base load power. That's a terrific topic and springboard for action related to the event. Please think about writing your own blog post on this issue.

As of October 9th, more than 5,200 blogs, including this one, are participating representing over 10 million readers. You can stay in touch through, of course, a blog about Blog Action Day.

Also, you can sign up and put a badge on your blog, like the one here, showing your participation in the event. Here are a few other things you can do online.

Link to other nuclear bloggers

  • Write to President Obama and tell him to support increases in loan guarantees for new nuclear power plants.
  • Write to your Representative or Senator and tell them to support climate change legislation and to include a robust nuclear title in it.
  • Linkedin logoSign up for the Nuclear Advocacy Network on Linkedin
  • Subscribe to an RSS feed at Clean Energy Insight
  • Check out any of the nuclear energy blogs on the blog roll here.
  • clean energy insight logoPut up your own blog post and offer your ideas.

Ideas for any blogger

If you don't blog on nuclear energy, here are a few more ideas.

To help you start thinking, here are a few ideas about how you might connect climate change to things that you might already write about:

climate_change_carbon_taxA Technology or Business blog might write about emerging clean tech and how innovative companies might be able to help address the problem of climate change.

A Health or Lifestyle blog might write about how climate change will affect our children's health and daily living.

A Nonprofit or Political blog might write about how climate change is deeply connected to many other issues - such as poverty and conflict.

A Design blog might write about new trends in eco-friendly or sustainable design.

First and last, the purpose of Blog Action Day is to create a discussion. The idea is for bloggers to take a single day out of their schedule and focus it on an important issue.

By doing so on the same day, the blogging community effectively changes the conversation on the web and focuses audiences around the globe on that issue.

From the smallest online journals to huge online magazines, Blog Action Day is about mass participation. Anyone is free to join in on Blog Action Day and there is no limit on the number of posts, the type of posts or the direction of thoughts and opinions.

What if you don’t have a blog?

Aiming for a bullseyeIf you don't have a blog, here are some more ways to participate. Take aim art a topic. online.

Sign the Tck Tck Tck campaign's "I am ready" pledge supporting an ambitious, fair and binding climate agreement in Copenhagen this fall: www.

Register for the International Day of Climate Action October 24:

Learn and act with The Nature Conservancy's Planet Change site: c

Watch and help promote Current TV's green-themed video journalism

Support strong climate legislation in the US by making calls to your Senators with 1Sky: 1 sky, one future, one chance

Put yourself on the Vote Earth map and upload your photos, pictures and weblinks to show the world future you want to see:

Add your personal story and tell the world what you will miss the most when you lose it to climate change with the United Nations Foundation Climate Board

Video - Blog Action Day

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Thursday, October 8, 2009

One step forward, one step back

Powertech gets an "incomplete" from South Dakota on its Dewey-Burdock permit

This blog post is an edited version of coverage published in Fuel Cycle Week, V8N347 on 10/06/09 by International Nuclear Associates, Washington, DC

Powertech logoThe State of South Dakota is not happy with Powertech (TSE:PWE) about the quality of its permit application for an ISR uranium mine. In a 41-page letter dated Aug 6, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources determined, in a review for completeness, that "the application lacks sufficient detail to address fundamental questions" about the project.

The state did not reject the application, a claim made by environmental groups, but it did send the uranium miner back to the desktop to finish the job.

ISR uranium mineThe state raised three fundamental objections to the completeness of the permit application for an ISR mine to be located on a 10,600 acre site 13 miles west of Edgemont, SD, near the Wyoming border.

First, the state engineers couldn't figure out whether Powertech intended to use ISR mining methods in an area which has potable water supplies. Second, the engineers said in their letter the uranium miner needed to be specific about the aquifer characteristics of each area to be mined. Third, the miner failed to be specific about its proposed methods for groundwater restoration.

Although the state did not conduct a technical review of the permit application, a representative for area environmental groups used the letter as a springboard for a claim that the application had been rejected by the state.

southwest sunset Paul Robinson, the research director for the Southwest Research & Information Center (SRIC) in Albuquerque, NM, told FCW "the application has been rejected as unacceptable."

"There were fundamental defects in the application," he said.

However, Robinson, who's group is representing a Native American organization called "Defenders of the Black Hills, also allowed that Powertech has the right to resubmit its application in response to the state's letter.

Richard Clement, Powertech CEO, (right) told FCW his firm is in the process of responding to the state's comments. He dismissed Robinson's claim.

"The state did not reject our application. We have the information they want. It's not unusual to get these kinds of questions."

Tom Brander, an engineering with the state's groundwater protection program, also disagreed with Robinson's claim the permit application was rejected on technical grounds.

"It's just not complete," he said. "In a nutshell they [Powertech] haven't provided sufficient information for us to make a thorough review of the application."

Progress at the NRC

nrc logoBecause South Dakota is not an "agreement state" with the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), Powertech must get approval of the mine from the federal government. Clements told FCW his firm is also submitting additional information to the NRC in response to that agency's questions.

Eventually, Clement said, the NRC will publish a draft environmental impact statement and conduct public hearings about the proposed mine. So far the NRC has not published a schedule for completing the EIS or holding the hearing.

On Oct 7 Powertech said in a statement the staff of the NRC found the Company's application [ADAMS documents] for its Dewey-Burdock uranium in situ project acceptable for detailed technical and environmental review.

Energy Fuels gets green light in Montrose, Colorado

energy fuelsIt is a clean sweep for Energy Fuels (TSE:EFR) on the western slope. There Montrose County Commissioners voted unanimously to approve the company's Pinion Ridge Special Use Permit Application for a 500 ton/day uranium mill to be located near Nucla, CO, in the Paradox Valley.

Gary Steele, VP for Marketing at Energy Fuels, told FCW, "it took 13 months to get to this result."

"It was the most significant hurdle to cross."

[See prior blog coverageNew battle lines drawn in Colorado uranium wars"]

He added, "we're anxious to move ahead with our permit application to the State of Colorado.

Bottom line says Steele, Energy Fuels hopes that if all goes well with the state it will "move dirt" in the 1st quarter of 2011 and start production in the end of 2011. "It's a small mill, "Steele said, "and we can get it built in eight-or-nine months."

Asked how the firm would feed the mill, Steele pointed out Energy Fuels owns the Whirlwind and Energy Queen mines which the firm will bring into production when the price of uranium makes it economically feasible.

With the Montrose County decision in hand, Energy Fuels has completed a major milestone on the road to building the first new uranium mill in the U.S. in the past three decades.

Energy fuels operations

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Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Nukes on ice

Washington Capitals NHL team gets unprecedented sponsorship deal

NEI sponsors hockey teamAmong the effects of global warming are signs of earlier than usual melting of ice on Canada’s ponds and lakes which support the nation’s obsession with hockey. It is winter rite of passage for the young men of each generation to step out on the ice with a hockey stick in hand to test their speed, agility, and competitive spirit at an outdoor rink. Hockey players, it seems, now have something in common with the polar bears much further north hunting for seals. The ice is coming later, and ending sooner, and no one is happy about it.

All this is prologue for an outburst of creative thinking from the normally staid suits of “K Street” lobbying fame at the Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI). The nuclear industry trade group, which represents in the U.S. the 104 operating nuclear reactors, among others, has entered into a first-ever partnership with the Washington Capitals of the National Hockey League (NHL) to promote nuclear energy to sports fans attending the games or watching it on TV. [press release]

capitalsGrunge_1024x768The unique public relations campaign will be promoted through multi-media channels including signs at the Verizon Center, where the home games are played, in print and radio ads, and on the Internet at the home pages of the Capitals and NEI. For instance, NEI will pay for 30-second ads on all 82 radio broadcasts of Capitals games. See NEI's blog for more details.

It took someone with a hockey player’s nerves of steel to get this campaign approved by the nominally button-down lobbying group. It’s a breath of fresh air in the NEI’s outreach efforts. It brings the images and excitement of a fast paced game to be shared with the message that nuclear energy is a carbon emission free source of power. Future generations of polar bears and hockey players may have reason to thank the current public relations initiative.

Will NEI’s support for Hockey score a goal in Congress?

The unusual relationship between the NHL and NEI in Washington, DC, comes as the nuclear industry ramps up its lobbying efforts to get an acceptable title and terms in the Senate version of the climate bill. Some political analysts think support for nuclear energy in the climate bill is the key to bringing in some Republican votes.

lamar_alexanderSen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) (right) has made a series of speeches calling for 100 new nuclear power plants. Both Democratic sponsors of the Senate climate bill (Kerry, D-MA, and Boxer, D-CA) support nuclear energy up to a point.

NEI said last week the political stance by the two Senate Democrats is “a start in the right direction,” but the trade group also said it is pushing for a “meaningful nuclear title.” This is “K Street” lobbyist talk. It gives a “laurel” to the senators from the two most stridently anti-nuclear states in the union for even mentioning nuclear energy. It also says their position is “hardly” enough progress to be useful.

The Boxer-Kerry bill does go further than the legislation that passed the house, but the legislative language at this time is just a framework with lots of details to be filled in. Energy Sec. Steven Chu chimed in saying the bill should double the level of loan guarantees for new nuclear reactors from $18.5 to $37 billion. The loan guarantees are a form of insurance for investors and are not direct subsidies for the new plants.

wayne-gretzky Chu has also taken to quoting NHL great Wayne Gretzy (right). Speaking to AAAS last May, Chu said the administration’s energy policies need to be forward looking, that is, “skating to where the puck will be.” Will Sec. Chu also put a sign on his desk that says, “the puck stops here.”

Unlike hockey, in which there is one winner and one loser in every game, getting legislation passed on Congress is based on the art of compromise. Senate Democrats will have to negotiate with Republicans not only over nuclear energy, but also over off-shore drilling for oil and expanded development of natural gas. Environmental groups will find that Al Gore’s tag line about the “inconvenient truth” of global warming also applies to the need for nuclear energy.

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Utah nuclear follies

Depleted uranium and a castle in the sky are in the news

Follies ShowgirlThe Salt Lake City Tribune reported Oct 6 that Utah politicians are up to their usual tricks of thumping the stump about disposal of depleted uranium (DU) at the Energy Solutions site 80 miles west of town. This is a great tactic for raising campaign funds because it qualifies as a fringe issue that distracts voters from more substantive topics like the recession, health care, and climate change. There is nothing like a "showgirl" issue to distract the voters from thinking for themselves.

The latest round of stump thumping about depleted uranium disposal in Utah, as reported by the SLC Tribune, comes from the opportunistic Rep. Jim Matheson (D-UT). He sees a two-month delay in shipments of DU from the Department of Energy’s Savannah River Plant as an opportunity to rile the voters, and raise campaign funds, over the waste issue. The shipment, which is 15,000 drums of U238 (depleted uranium) is part of a multi-billion dollar cleanup effort to dispose of the stuff in a licensed facility.

Joining Matheson in thumping the DU stump is Utah Governor Gary Herbert who did not issue a blockade to the shipments, but is holding high tea with HEAL, Utah’s leading anti-nuclear group.

So far Energy solutions has accepted over 700,000 tons of depleted uranium from various DOE sites. The two-month delay in the next shipment very likely has little to do with Utah politics. The waste will come because Energy Solutions has a license and the Utah Radiation Board does not have the legal authority to reclassify the waste from the NRC designation.

New cork for the nuclear genie?

genielampAlso, let’s be clear about what this issue is really about. Anti-nuclear groups think they have found a new cork to plug the nuclear genie back on the bottle by making it too difficult to dispose of depleted uranium from fuel enrichment processes. The logic goes that if you can’t dispose of the DU, then you can’t make fuel for reactors hence you stop nuclear energy.

What’s wrong with this logic, and what the NRC knows, is that DU is just plain old U238 same as it came from Utah mines since the middle of the 20th century. The only reason it is “waste” is because the U235, the “fissionable” isotope, has been removed to make nuclear fuel for reactors. In the natural state, U235 is less than 1% of the mass in U238.

The current rhetoric from Utah politicians makes about as much sense as the long ago opponents of a young Florida congressional candidate George Smathers, who was defeated in his first bid for office by a vile canard. Posters appeared throughout the rural district that said Smather’s had a sister in New York who “was a practicing thespian.” Absolutely true – she was an accomplished actress on Broadway. Smathers lost that election. He later won a seat in Congress and served for many years.

BTW: This day in history October 7 in 1974 Washington, DC, police in the early dawn hours stopped the car of a very drunk Rep. Wilbur Mills, then chairman, some say tyrant, of the powerful House Rules Committee. In the car with Mills was an equally inebriated Fanne Fox, a stripper, who escape from police custody at the scene. Ms. Fox, also known by her stage name as the "Argentine Firecracker," ran off to jump into the nearby Reflecting Pool on the Washington Mall. Now that's a "showgirl" distraction.

Blue Castle claims it has a customer

aaron tiltonAaron Tilton’s (right) Blue Castle Holdings, formerly Transition Power, issued a press release Oct 5 that Page Electric Utility will participate as an “equity owner” of the multi-billion project.

Blue Castle Holdings is a private equity firm. This the first time it has gone public with the name of one of its investors.

The utility, which is a municipal service of the City of Page, AZ, is an unlikely candidate to lead the financing of such a large project. The town has a population of less than 10,000 people.

It is near the Utah border which is defined by Kane County, the home of Rep. Mike Noel, Aaron Tilton’s former legislative partner in development of nuclear energy and director of the Kane County Water District which has a deal with Blue Castle to supply water to the plant should it be built.

Page AZ logo That said, the press release quotes Bryan Hill, General Manager of the Page utility, as mentioning he doesn’t see new electricity generation capacity coming from coal so he welcomes the opportunity to buy juice from a nuclear plant.

Hill has the right vision for his utility, but he may be riding the wrong horse. So far the key “objective” that Transition Power, now Blue Castle Holdings, has its eye on is developing a license application to the NRC and then selling it to a real developer of a nuclear power station.

There is no precedent in the U.S. nuclear industry for this strategy. Blue Castle must think there is something to it because it named former NRC Commissioner Nils Diaz as its Chief Strategy Officer.

Last August Transition Power said it had hired a major engineering firm to develop an Early Site Permit for a nuclear reactor site near Green River, Utah. That’s not the same thing as a Combined Construction and Operating License, but it can be a precursor to applying for one.

Where we are is that Blue Castle Holdings is on the right track to build a nuclear power plant by starting work on an Early Site Permit. However, the firm is going to need additional equity partners, with much deeper pockets, to be successful with the project.

Aaron Tilton responds to Idaho Samizdat

Note to readers . . . the following text is the entire, unchanged content of an email sent to this blog by Aaron Tilton, on behalf of Blue Castle Holdings. Perhaps most interesting is his statement that the firm does have an objective to cash out once a license is obtained from the NRC.

I would suggest a statement like “Blue Castle’s business model is to pre arrange ownership during the licensing of the site, then transfer the ownership during or after the license is issued."

The full text follows below.

We appreciate all that you do in covering the nuclear industry and specifically our project. Today I read your blog which commented on our MOU with Page Electric Utility. I noticed some errors. I know that you try hard to be accurate and add some simplification to some of the technical aspects to make it more understandable to the average reader.

With this in mind I offer a few suggestions for some corrections or clarification on your latest blog concerning our project. Page Electric Utility (PEU) is not an investor and Blue Castle is not “claiming a customer”. I would suggest stating that they are a potential equity participant in the project by way of an MOU. Characterizing our business model by stating that “selling the project to the highest bidder“ is not accurate, though I know you are trying to simplify the description of the development process to make it more understandable to the average reader.

Also the statement that “There is no precedent in the U.S. nuclear industry for this strategy” is in error. The business model is very similar to the South Texas Project which has MOU participants that do not have definitive agreements in place with municipal utilities. The model has also been followed many times in other large non-nuclear power plant developments that pre arrange multiple equity owners by an MOU. Some time before the licenses are secured a closing on the equity ownership takes place.

Most multi owner/participant facilities that do not have regulated rate recovery requirements follow that type of process. This allows the MOU participants to proceed with a flexible ownership structure as you reported on the STP project. CPS looks like they are changing their ownership percentage via MOU while NRG is in the process of licensing the site. This is a common practice with non-nuclear facilities especially in the West.

I would suggest a statement like “Blue Castle’s business model is to pre arrange ownership during the licensing of the site, then transfer the ownership during or after the license is issued”. We are not conducting an auction.

In the West where the market size in terms of retail customers tend to be smaller but the geographic service area size tends to be spread out over longer distances it is very common for small utilities (PEU) to be part of projects that have more than 10 participants.

Intermountain Power Project in Utah has 36 participants that range in ownership from 74.9% - .04%. IPP has a capacity of 1950 MW.

Another example is Palo Verde Nuclear Generation Station

• Arizona Public Service: 29.1 percent
• Salt River Project: 17.5 percent
• Southern California Edison: 15.8 percent
• El Paso Electric: 15.8 percent
• PNM: 10.2 percent
• Southern California Public Power Authority: 5.9 percent
• Los Angeles Department of Water and Power: 5.7 percent

The press release was needed to make the public aware of our process. We currently have ongoing discussions with multiple potential participants in and out of Utah. Because PEU has disclosure requirements they are the first to be public about their due diligence and MOU.

Please feel free to call or email me with any questions you may have. Our company appreciates everything you are doing for the common sense approach to public awareness for nuclear power development.

Best Regards,

Aaron Tilton
Blue Castle Holdings Inc.
299 South Main St. Suite 1300
Salt Lake City, UT 84111
Aaron Tilton []


Prior coverage on this blog

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Monday, October 5, 2009

Nuclear news roundup for 10/06/09

Siemens to sign off on Rosatom deal by December

SiemensLogoReuters reported Oct 1 that German industrial giant Siemens will seal the deal on its joint venture with Rosatom, the Russian state nuclear corporation, within the next two months. The move comes following the decision by Siemens last January to split with French state nuclear corporation Areva. Reuters quoted an Interfax report saying, “the probability of the agreement being signed [with Rosatom]this year is very high.”

Areva is currently negotiating the terms of the split which could result in a payoff to Siemens of two-to-three billion dollars by 2012. Even worse for Areva, Siemens is expected to invest the proceeds of payoff in the Rosatom deal to develop a new nuclear reactor that will compete head-to-head with the French firm’s 1,650 MW EPR design.

The expected deal with Rosatom, which will hold the majority stake in the joint venture, will also build new power plants with existing Russian designs and modernize units already in service. Siemens makes turbines which are very efficient and can installed to boost the electrical power output of power stations with older reactors.

As expected, Areva has complained that Siemens is disregarding the terms of its joint non-compete agreement. The Siemens / Rosatom joint venture would also represent a competitive challenge to Westinghouse and GE-Hitachi on the global market for new nuclear reactors.

Areva to spool up Georges Besse II by December; Eagle Rock licensed by 2011?

Areva logoDow Jones news wires reports that full testing of the new Georges Besse II uranium enrichment plant in France is in its final phase and will be completed by next month. Full capacity at 7.5 million SWU/year is expected by 2016.

Areva’s design of the Georges Besse II plant is being copied for the firm’s planned Eagle Rock Enrichment Facility to be located in eastern Idaho in the U.S. Currently, the license application for the plant is under review by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

At a meeting with NRC officials last week, Areva reportedly told the government regulators it wants its license by February 2011 to meet contract commitments due in 2014. The French firm said it has contracts in place representing more than half of the nuclear utilities in the U.S.

According to a report published by Ux Consulting on Oct 5, the NRC responded that they would try to meet the early 2011 date. However, the feds also said "their internal timing was dependent on the schedule set by the Licensing Board and various required hearings.” According to the UX report, the NRC said a the final decision will be issued no later than January 2012.

Meanwhile, Dale Klein, an NRC Commissioner, told a meeting of business and civic leaders in Idaho Falls, ID, two weeks ago, that he did not expect any unusual issues to arise which would prevent Areva from successfully completing the licensing process by 2011.

In New Mexico Louisiana Energy Services, which uses the same type of centrifuges, also is expected to spool up its plant by December with expected capacity by 2014 of over 6 million SWU.

Hyperion hypes new plant in the U.K.

Hyperion logoJohn Grizz Deal, the energetic CEO of Hyperion Power Generation, told Nuclear Engineering International (NEI) Oct 1that his firm plans to build a small reactor manufacturing plant in the U.K. Deal said the plant will be the “launch pad” for entry of its 27 MWe “pocket reactor” into the European market.

“This week we’ve made the decision to commit to building a manufacturing plant in the U.K.,” Deal said. He added that the plant’s supply chain will come from U.K. sources. NEI reported that Deal expects to locate the plant near the Sellafield site in Cumbria in northeast England. The plant would employ about 200 people when fully operational.

Deal said the first units would reach the commercial market in 2014 and that he has over 100 options for orders with scheduled deliveries in the 2018-2020 time frame.

The reactor is not yet licensed in the U.K. nor the U.S. Deal said his firm will submit applications for reactor design certification in both countries by 2011.

Italy signs nuclear pact with U.S.

ScajolaItaly and the U.S. have signed a five-year pact that will support construction of up to a dozen reactors at a cost of $3-4 billion each. U.S. firms will be able to compete for contracts to build the power stations. U.S. Secretary of Energy Steven Chu and Italian Energy Minister Claudio Scajola (right) told reporters at the G-20 summit in Pittsburgh Sept 29 . . .

“Italy is restarting its nuclear energy again. It has aggressive goals to decrease carbon emissions.”

A side agreement was signed between Italy’s Finmeccanica and Westinghouse to develop designs for Italian reactors. GE-Hitachi is also expected to bid on Italian jobs. However, the first agreement, already in place, takes a 12.5% stake by an Italian utility in a new Areva EPR being built in France. Scajola said it plans to have the first domestic unit in revenue service by 2018.

San Antonio CPS Energy to take 20% stake in STP

CPS energy logoSan Antonio, TX, municipal utility CPS Energy is reported to be near a formal decision to take a 20% stake in the construction of NRG’s South Texas Project Units 3 & 4. The initial commitment of $400 million, despite being itself a large figure, represents a commitment to just half of what was to have been a 40% stake in the two new ABWR 1,350 MW reactors.

San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro reportedly backed out of the plan to take a 40% stake because of fears of cost over runs in construction of the new reactors. Had he stayed with the original plan, CPS Energy would have kept rates low for San Antonio customers by using 20% of the power and re-selling the other 20% at at profit.

CPS General Manager Steve Barley told local newspapers the recession played a significant role in the decision to scale back to a 20% share. Rate increases associated with building the plant, in the current economic environment, have to be kept within 5% every other year. He said the utility couldn’t come up with a feasible plan to hit that number due to declining revenues from lower electricity usage due to the recession.

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UAE creates nuclear regulatory agency

Government action is a necessary precursor to award of $40 billion in nuclear reactor construction

united_arab_emirates_mapThe Wall Street Journal reports an independent nuclear regulatory body has been set up in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) under a new law that paves the way for up to $40 billion in new nuclear reactor construction.

The UAE's cabinet appointed a board of management for the new regulatory body. The first action by the board was to name William Travers as the body's first director-general. Bloomberg wire service reported he had been working to set up the agency for some time. The board’s action makes its official.

Mr Travers has previously served as a senior technical adviser at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and executive director for operations at the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

According to an English language press report in the UAE, the Board of Management, which will be led by Dr Ahmed Al Mazroui as Chairman, includes Abdulla Nasser Al Suwaidi, Deputy Chairman, Ali Shaer Sultan Al Dhaheri, Saif Mohamed Al Zaabi, Majid Ali Al Mansouri, Ambassador Hamad Ali Al Kaabi, Dr Abdulkader Ibrahim Abdulla Al Khayat, Dr Ali Mohamed Shaheen and Representative of the Ministry of Environment and Water as members.

UAE regulatory agency based on IAEA model

IAEA_logoUAE president Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan issued the long- awaited new nuclear law based on criteria set by the IAEA, the UAE government's Emirates News Agency said.

According to a press statement, the chairman of the board of management, Ahmed Al Mazroui, said:

"We fully understand the unrivalled importance of safety with regard to the peaceful uses of nuclear energy and are committed to ensuring that the benefits of peaceful nuclear energy, whether within the areas of electricity generation, medicine, industry or agriculture, are only made available in a manner that does not compromise public safety or the environment."

Mazroui also said measures will be put in place to ensure the independence and "fiscal sustainability" of the planned Federal Authority of Nuclear Regulation that will oversee the nuclear energy sector and "promote the highest standards of nuclear safety, nuclear security and radiological protection.”

He emphasized that the "development, construction or operation of uranium enrichment or spent fuel reprocessing facilities" is prohibited in the UAE under the new law. He told Dow Jones News Wires, “the UAE can achieve [nuclear] fuel security through reliance on the international fuel services market.”

Bidders wait for US 1-2-3 agreement

Nuclear fuel assembly colorThree international consortiums are bidding for the massive nuclear works project. They are a French group including Areva, Total, EDF, and GDF Suez, a team led by GE-Hitachi, and one from Korea Electric Power Corp.

The UAE plans to build an estimated 4-5 GWe of nuclear powered electricity generation capacity by 2017 to meet three needs; 1) replace natural gas for water desalinization, 2) supply power to its growing aluminum industry, and 3) turn the UAE into a regional supplier of electricity especially to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

Also, the UAE's 1-2-3 agreement is pending before the US Congress. If no negative joint measure is enacted, the UAE will be authorized to acquire nuclear technologies, including fuel, from US firms. The deadline for congressional action mid-October. A decision on the award of the contract is expected in the UAE in December.

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Sunday, October 4, 2009

TVA’s new nuclear deals

By 2020 the government utility will generate 50% of its power from nuclear reactors

coolhandnukeThe fullest expression of the nuclear renaissance to date has been  in 18 license applications to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) mostly by commercial utilities. In the middle of the pile, the  Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) is developing an interesting track record not only in bringing moth balled reactors back to life, but also planning new ones. A nuclear engineer looking for a chance to work on the "big iron" would do well to consider TVA as a place to work.

Two TVA projects define the government utility's future building nuclear power plants instead of using its historical fossil fuel of choice – coal. They are the second Watts Bar plant and the possible construction of at least one new nuclear reactor at the Bellefonte site. TVA also has the enviable record of financial success with its re-start of the Browns Ferry unit.

Read the complete story exclusively at CoolHandNuke, a nuclear energy employment recruiting service and a whole lot more.

Check it out.

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