Thursday, March 18, 2010

The inside game at Oyster Creek

oysrter shellsEnvironmental groups win if Exelon makes good on its threat to close the reactor

Environmental groups in New Jersey are trying to force Excelon (NYSE:EXC), the owner and operator of the Oyster Creek nuclear reactor, into a corner. They’ve convinced the State of New Jersey to issue a draft water quality permit for the plant that would require the utility to build cooling towers. The reason is their claim the once-through cooling system is killing fish and heating area waters along the New Jersey shorelines.

For it part Exelon has repeatedly objected saying that if its is forced to pay $600-800 million to build the cooling towers, it will close the plant. In doing so it will eliminate 700 high paying jobs and a big chunk of carbon emission free electricity for one of the most urbanized states in the country.

“If cooling towers are required, we’re going to have to shut the plant down,” Exelon spokesman David Benson said. “The cost is more than the plant is worth.”

Greens win if Exelon loses fight over water permit

Here’s why the environmental groups win if Exelon makes good on its threat to close the plant if the cooling towers are required in the water permit. These groups will have succeeded in forcing the owner to close the reactor after having failed to convince the NRC to deny a 20-year license renewal last year.

Forcing a politically pliant regulatory agency in the final days of the previous governor’s administration foists a flawed process on to the new governor as an unwelcome legacy of the now out-of-power Democratic party.

The new governor can’t just turn off the water quality permit process like a tap over the kitchen sink. He has to let the wheels of administrative procedure work themselves out. He also has much bigger issues such as dealing with a nightmarish budget battle with the state legislature.

Greens want Exelon to hit the red switch

crude-oil-spill-clear-up In the meantime, what the environmental groups hope is that Exelon will indeed make good on its threat and close the reactor over the cooling tower issues. It will do itself what they failed to do. Green groups will win and the Garden State will become a consumer of an additional 600 MW of higher priced fossil fueled electricity.

Let’s be clear about the inside game the environmental groups are playing in New Jersey. Their objective is to close the reactor – period. They can fend off criticism that they are "playing chicken" with the future of the reactor. The reason they can make this case is that they don't want any future for the reactor so this isn't a game of chicken. It is end game.

When regulation becomes a tool of politically motivated activist groups, it ceases to be a impartial regulator of the public good. Public confidence in the environmental agency’s integrity and credibility will become suspect poisoning the legal environmental as surely as the effects of a major oil spill in Barnegat Bay.

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Blogger bites junkyard dog

Vermont politician's remarks on solar energy get attention

JunkYardDogReaders may wish to take a look at the story in the March 18 edition of the Brattleboro Redformer a Vermont newspaper. about mis-statements of fact by Vermont State Senate Leader Peter Shumlin.

In a TV interview, Shumlin asserted that Germany gets 30% of its electricity from solar energy. The real number is 1%. In response to an inquiry from the newspaper, Shumlin replied he is "not an expert" on Germany and was merely repeating information he'd been given by others.

Shumlin is an outspoken critic of renewal of the NRC license for Vermont Yankee and a political candidate for Governor. His comment about solar energy got a strong response including a quote in the newspaper from Meredith Angwin who publishes a blog about Vermont Yankee. This is the blog post that got her the media notice.

This is one of those instances where fact checking by a nuclear blogger played a role in providing the mainstream news media with the information needed to correct the public record.

It is unlikely one wrong statement about solar energy is going to significantly affect Shumlin's campaign. However, no political candidate can sustain momentum by accumulating a track record of repeated corrections of mis-statements of facts on a key campaign issues, or can he?

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Tuesday, March 16, 2010

President’s Science Advisor replies to Shanahan

JohnHoldrenJohn Holdren writes Obama approved $8.3 billion in federal loan guarantees and supports funding for Generation IV advanced nuclear energy R&D

Readers of this blog will recall that John Shanahan, a Denver-based civil engineer who has worked on numerous nuclear power plant projects, wrote a letter Feb 1 to President Obama's Science Advisor John Holdren (right) about the administration’s support for nuclear energy.

Over 300 people world-wide signed on to support the letter. Holdren has now replied to Shanahan. The letter, (PDF format) is short (two pages), but basically positive.

It states a few things that are obvious to many, but the most important thing is that it is positive and the reply came quickly.

U.S must get back in the global nuclear energy game

The emerging difference with President Obama is that his administration is recognizing reality and supporting nuclear energy. The rest of the world is building new reactors.

The U.S. needs to catch up for national security reasons and to support exports of American technology. Other nations will not take the President’s call for an international fuel bank seriously unless we are in the business of supplying that fuel and reactors to burn it.

While the Holdren letter doesn't say so, it is in our country's best interests to be a leader in the global nuclear energy industry. American jobs at home building components for these plants will depend on it.

Holdren's letter represents progress. Hopefully, there will be more of it.

Video extra – John Holdren in Q&A session at AAAS Annual Meeting April 2009

Lots of questions on climate change, economy, and the environment. Good answers.

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Illinois clears a path for new reactors

legislationPresident Obama’s home state looks to join the nuclear renaissance

The Chicago Tribune reports that the Illinois State Senate voted March 16 to drop the ban on building nuclear power plants in Illinois. The measure was sent to the House on a bipartisan 40-1 vote.

According to the newspaper, Sen. Mike Jacobs, (D-Moline) who sponsored the proposal (SB 3388), said Illinois follow the lead of President Barack Obama, a former Illinois state senator, to back new nuclear power projects. He cited federal support for a power plant in Georgia.

On Feb 16 President Obama announced $8.3 billion in federal loan guarantees for Southern's Vogtle plant which will build twin Westinghouse 1,150 MW AP1000 nuclear reactors.

RockIslandLine Platts reported there could be opposition to the bill in the House, but much depends on the leadership. The train has clearly left the station with a 40-1 bipartisan vote.

According to Platts, House Speaker Michael Madigan holds strong anti-nuclear views. State Representative Patrick Verschoore, (D-Rock Island) and the bill's sponsor in the House, told Platts he hopes to have the House endorse the measure before the legislature adjourns on May 31.

Illinois and nuclear energy have a long history

Exelon (NYSE:EXC), the owner and operator of multiple nuclear power plants in Illinois, has not been successful in securing loan guarantees for a proposed new reactor in Texas. The company is planning to file an Early Site Permit for the Victoria, TX, site later this year.

According to the Energy Information Administration (EIA), there are six operating nuclear power plants in Illinois: Braidwood, Byron, Clinton, Dresden, LaSalle, and Quad Cities. With the exception of the single-unit Clinton plant, each of these facilities has two reactors. The two reactors at Braidwood and both reactors at Byron are pressurized light water reactors (PWR). The reactors at the other facilities (Clinton, Dresden, LaSalle, and Quad Cities are boiling water reactors (BWR).

Squash court success

enrico_fermiAccording to the EIA, the origin of all of the commercial and military nuclear industries in the world can be traced back to December 2, 1942 at the University of Chicago. On that day, a team of scientists under Enrico Fermi (right) initiated the first controlled nuclear chain reaction.

Seven decades later, Illinois is the national leader in nuclear capacity. Illinois has almost as much nuclear capacity by itself as the United Kingdom.

Twenty-one other countries with at least one nuclear plant have less capacity. In 2009, the State of Illinois ranked 1st in the U.S. in nuclear capacity and 1st in nuclear generation.

It looks like the State of Illinois has remembered its history and is taking it as a springboard to the future.

Video Extra – Johnny Cash singing about the Rock Island line

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Monday, March 15, 2010

India expands Russian reactor deal

putin-singh_1India 'Roadmap' includes four more Russian reactors at Kudankulam . . . but ruling coalition withdraws bill to cap liability for U.S. firms after protests from left-wing parties

15 March (NucNet): India has agreed a ‘roadmap’ for the construction of further nuclear power plants in the country in cooperation with Russia.

Indian prime minister Manmohan Singh said on March 12 that the roadmap for additional nuclear plants was agreed during a visit to the country last week by Russian prime minister Vladimir Putin.

India’s Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) said the roadmap outlines timelines for steps to be taken for the construction of units 3 and 4 at the Kudankulam nuclear power plant in the state of Tamil Nadu in the south of India.

The roadmap also provides for the construction units 5 and 6 at Kudankulam and two reactors at Haripur in West Bengal in eastern India.

Two Russian VVER-1,000 reactor units are already under construction at Kudankulam. According to the Nuclear Power Corporation of India (NPCIL), those units are scheduled to begin commercial operation in September 2010 and March 2011.

The roadmap includes plans for a progressive shift to Indian-based for reactors to be constructed in collaboration with Russia beyond the level already being planned for Kudankulam-3 and 4.

In December 2009, both countries signed an agreement to increase civilian nuclear energy cooperation that is likely to see Russia building four nuclear reactor units at Kudankulam in the southern state of Tamil Nadu.

Indian Congress deals setback to U.S. firms

lawsuitThe Los Angeles Times reports that the Indian government’s effort to place a $385 million cap on liability for construction and operation of new nuclear plants was frozen by the government’s decision to withdraw the bill rather than face a showdown with left-wing parties. The action is a setback for U.S. firms seeking to enter the Indian nuclear market, especially G.E. Hitachi, which has plans to open a nuclear reactor components manufacturing center there for domestic projects and exports.

Opposition to the bill, which would have set a limit on liability in the event of a nuclear accident, came from members of the lower house in Parliament. They accused the government of “safeguarding the interests of the U.S. at the expense and safety of the Indian people.”

Bloomberg reported that if the legislation is not passed, it will lock U.S. firms out of the Indian nuclear market which expects to build 20 GWe of electrical generation capacity by 2030.

According to wire service reports, Indian Science & Technology Minister Prithviraj Chavan said he needed to reevaluate support for the measure. "There is no urgency to introduce the bill."

The intensity of the debate is driven by memories of the 1984 Bhopal Gas accident at a Union Carbide plant in which over 8,000 people died and 10,000 were injured. In December 2009, 25 years after the event, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh told the BBC, "The enormity of that tragedy of neglect still gnaws at our collective conscience."

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Sunday, March 14, 2010

Indexing the nuclear renaissance

Money futuresThe profit potential of the global nuclear industry is closely tracked by several financial services

The growth of nuclear energy over the next two-and-half decades will vastly shift energy use from carbon-based to carbon-free uses.

The key elements of this shift include significant change from fossil fuel sources for electricity generation to uranium for nuclear reactors.

Three nuclear energy indexes track company and industry performance

energycollective_logoThe question asked by anyone looking at this scenario is how soon can investors make a profit from new reactors?

To answer this question, three organizations are tracking various sectors of the global nuclear industry and the financial performance of the top firms in each sector.

Full details of how these Indexes work and why they are important to investors can be found exclusively at the Energy Collective.

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