Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Support increasing for nuclear energy

Kentucky scouts for nuclear plant sites

Daniel BooneState officials in the blue grass state, which is dominated by the coal industry, are scouting potential nuclear power plant sites around Kentucky as part of an effort to expand the state's electricity supply beyond coal-fired generators. One of the potential uses of nuclear energy is to provide process heat for coal gasification plants.

The Louisville-Courier Journal reports the assessment is nearing completion. At the same time legislation to end a 26-year ban on nuclear energy passed in the state Senate. It is awaiting House action. The bill is backed by Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear. His aides know that rational dialog about nuclear energy won’t take place until the ban is taken off the books.

Len Peters, secretary of the Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet, told the newspaper, “We feel that having the ban in place, we cannot have a meaningful conversation” about nuclear energy. The utilities just will not come to the table.”

Chris Whelan, a utility company spokesman at E.On/LG&E, agreed with state officials that the ban restricts utility from doing anything more than talking about nuclear power in Kentucky.

“With the ban in place, we've already thought about looking at other states” if E.On. were to build a nuclear plant, she said.

Gov Beshear's 2008 energy plan envisioned putting nuclear energy roughly on par with coal as an electricity source by 2025. Coal supplies 90% of the state's electricity. So far the nuclear study has found three sites, all in western Kentucky, that are suitable for nuclear power stations. One of them is the Paducah site used by the Department of Energy. The site criteria include;

  • Access to a lot of water for cooling
  • Good evacuation routes
  • Distant from population centers
  • A buffer zone between the plant and its neighbors

In 1984 Kentucky banned new nuclear plants after the Marble Hill project was shut down before completion due to $2.8 billion in costs that included significant over runs of the original estimate.

Washington State Governor calls for more nuclear

Wash Gov GregoireGov. Chris Gregoire (right) says she supports President Barack Obama's recent push for nuclear power. The Associated Press reported this a stance that could cause political headaches in her state. Her political base includes strong support from green groups in the Seattle area.

However, with global climate change being a growing issue, Gregoire says "options that were off the table now are on the table."

Gregoire. a Democrat, has spent a lot of political capital to drive cleanup of the Hanford nuclear reservation in Washington state. Paradoxically, her latest statement is a reversal of a prior position.

In 2007 she expressed indifference and a concern about waste issues when presented with an opportunity to support construction of a uranium enrichment plant in Richland. The $3 billion facility was eventually located in Idaho to the intense consternation of trade unions in Richland.

Now she says the Northwest is in good shape to develop alternative energy sources such as hydropower, wind, solar and - increasingly - cellulosic ethanol from wood chips and grass. She says nuclear energy must be part of that mix.

Hasting WASH district While Gregoire was touting nuclear energy, Rep. Doc Hasting (R-Wash) from the Tri-Cities area, said his district (map left) is in favor of building another nuclear power plant at Hanford.

Hastings addressed the Harvesting Green Energy Conference at the Three Rivers Convention Center.

Hastings told a conference of the green energy entrepreneurs that Hanford is the ideal location to expand commercial nuclear production.

"Unfortunately the politics in the state, particularly on the west side, make it considerably more difficult," Hastings says. "But I would totally embrace another nuclear plant here. We're an ideal place to take advantage."

Germany on track to extend life of 17 nuclear plants

Reuters reports Germany will proceed with its plans to extend the lives of its 17 nuclear plants. A government spokesman discounted comments from the Environment Minister that the government should consider scrap this strategy.

Ulrich Wilhelm, Chancellor Angela Merkel's spokesman, said the government was going ahead with the extension plan.

9321120According to Reuters, Norbert Roettgen, (right) a member of Merkel's conservatives, told the Sueddeutsche Zeitung newspaper in an interview that public support for the plan was too weak and his party should carefully consider whether it wanted to be remembered only for nuclear energy.

In this regard, he seems to have much in common with U.S. NRC chairman Gregory Jazcko. Roettgen includes nuclear safety in his government portfolio. Both men are outspoken critics of the nuclear industry despite having been appointed to roles that require impartial regulation of safety issues.

Merkel's government plans to change a law passed by an earlier centre-left government that requires the country's nuclear plants to be shut down by the mid-2020s.

Swiss support new nuclear power plants in survey results

(NucNet): Most of the Swiss believe it is necessary to build new nuclear reactor units to replace existing units that are taken out of service at the end of their operating lifetimes, according to the latest survey carried out on behalf of Swissnuclear, the nuclear energy section of the Swiss electricity grid companies’ organization Swisselectric.

The telephone survey, carried out by market research company Demoscope, showed that 54.6% of those questioned were in favor of constructing replacement units, while 41.1% were against and 4.3% undecided.

The survey showed that as in previous years most people (82.4%) felt Swiss nuclear facilities were safe.

The number of those who believed nuclear units were essential for providing the country with electricity rose to 73% from 70.4% last year.

Swiss Nuclear said the attitude towards nuclear energy in Switzerland could be summed up as “critical, but favorable”. The group said it had noticed during the 10 years the survey has been carried out that there has been a general tendency towards acceptance of nuclear energy.

But the survey also showed that nuclear waste disposal was considered a significant challenge. However, 53.5%, an increase of 4.3% on last year, considered that solutions could be found in Switzerland.

Switzerland has five nuclear units in commercial operation contributing about 40 percent to the country’s electricity production.

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