Friday, October 1, 2010

ANS Social Media Meet-up Nov 9th

The second annual session has an offical host and an exclusive sponsor

blog symbolA meet-up of anyone attending the ANS winter meeting in Las Vegas who is interested in the use of social media in the nuclear industry will be held Tuesday Nov 9th, from 6-9 PM at the Riviera Hotel & Casino, in the Royal 3 room (hotel interactive map).

The ANS Public Information Committee is the official host of the meeting and exclusive sponsorship is provided by the Idaho National Laboratory.

This is the second time such a meeting has been held. At the 2009 ANS Winter Meeting held in Washington, D.C., last November, we had a informal and successful meet-up of 45 people interested in discussing social media.

The plan this year is to have an informal discussion about how social media, including blogs, instant messages, and web services are shaping public perceptions of the nuclear energy industry. Also, this is an opportunity to meet others who work with these tools in the nuclear industry.

ANS logo "The social media initiatives undertaken by the American Nuclear Society over the past year have broadened ANS nuclear outreach efforts and engaged new audiences," said Candace Davison, ANS Public Information Committee Chair.

"We are excited about the recent launch of the ANS Nuclear Cafe blog and hope that ANS members will become daily readers and active participants."

INL logo blue large "Investing in our social media program at the Idaho National Laboratory, has had big returns for us. Whether it is posting a news tip on Twitter, recruiting a young engineer on Facebook, or building a relationship with a science blogger, we have seen positive results.” said Amy Lientz, Director of Communications and Governmental Affairs at INL.

“We are excited to sponsor this year's social media event and meet in person many of the folks behind the cyber-curtain."

What a difference a year makes

A lot has taken place in the past year. ANS has gotten into social media with the launch September 1 of its blog at the ANS Nuclear Cafe. Since January 2010, ANS has supported a listserv based discussion forum on social media's impact on nuclear energy which has over 100 people signed up.

carnival Also, thanks to the organizing skills of Brian Wang at Next Big Future, an informal team of nuclear bloggers is publishing a Carnival of Nuclear Energy blogs every week. It is now in its 20th edition.

National laboratories and nuclear utilities are using Facebook and other social media tools. In 2010 there are half a dozen new nuclear blogs.

Meeting agenda

The agenda for the meeting on Nov 9 starts with meet & greet with light refreshments from 6:00-6:30 PM. This will be followed by a round robin discussion about current topics in social media and how they impact the nuclear industry.

bloggingOne of the things people will want to hear from you is what you've been doing in the past year with social media in the nuclear industry. Bring your story to Las Vegas!

Plus there are two sessions on communications, advocacy, and social media taking place Wednesday afternoon Nov 10. See the ANS conference program for details.

If you have any questions, please contact me via email at or Twitter @djysrv

Please share this blog post with your friends and colleagues.

# # #

Finally some good news about the UK new nuclear build

The Liberal Party signs up for the nation's energy future

WILLIAM_HAGUE.ashxIt is good news when the foreign secretary of the U.K. government delivers a speech that is talking about the future of the nation's new nuclear build. William Hague (right) told the Council on Foreign Relations in New York Sept 27 the UK intends to build a new generation of nuclear power plants to replace the current fleet. (CFR transcript as delivered including Q&A)

The primary objective, Hague said, is to insure the U.K. meets its goals to reduce carbon emissions. (CFR video of speech)

"We will have from 2020 onward an expanding nuclear power sector . . . we are opening the door to build them."

Hague said the government sees "no other option" to building the new reactors given the carbon emissions that would come from new coal-fired or natural gas power plants.

Hague stressed the world must adopt a sense of urgency in addressing the issue of climate change.

Read the full text of this report on Hague’s speech and related developments exclusively at Cool Hand Nuke, a nuclear energy jobs portal and whole lot more.


Nuclear news roundup for Oct 1, 2010

Italy needs stability for new nuclear build

balance2(NucNet) The chief executive officer of Italian utility Enel has said Sept 30 that the industry’s efforts to begin a new nuclear build program will prove “futile” if the initiative is halted by a future change in government.

Speaking on 28 September 2010 in a Bloomberg television interview, Fulvio Conti said that industry “must have guarantees in the current legislation” to prevent the country’s new nuclear program being stopped for political reasons in the future.

Energy analysts told Bloomberg that if Italy wobbles in its commitment to new nuclear projects, investors will get spooked and the cost of the plants will increase due to perceived higher risk of completing the projects. Carlo Stagnaro, of the think tank Bruno Leoni, told Bloomberg wire service Sept 28 success in project financing requires loan guarantees and government guarantees on the price of electricity from the plants.

Enel aims to build at least four Areva 1,600 MW EPR reactor units in Italy as part of a joint venture with Electricit√© de France. Mr Conti confirmed that the joint venture, Sviluppo Nucleare Italia, would be responsible for 50% of Italy’s new nuclear program, which foresees that a quarter of electricity generation needs will be met by nuclear power.

“For this half of the program, we are earmarking an overall budget in the next 15 to 20 years of 16 to 18 billion euro (22 to 25 billion US dollars), funded by the companies and operators, and possibly project finance.”

Mr Conti said that the availability of long-term contracts necessary for project planning was an issue, but he was “confident” that work on a new nuclear power plant could be started in late 2014 to early 2015. He said the first units could be completed by 2020.

He said new build was not a project for a single operator but for the country as a whole. Italy’s nuclear program had to be “well-explained to local communities” he said, and “all political parties” must subscribe to it.

Italy's local governments are famously opposed to new energy projects until the government pays them enough to accept it. The thousands of construction jobs that come with construction of each of the four reactors is a huge incentive to communities.

Italy’s nuclear program was scrapped following a referendum in 1987.
However, in July 2009 Italy’s parliament approved a package of legislation that gave the green light for a return to the use of nuclear energy. Last February, the government gave final approval to a decree setting out steps for the construction of new units.

pancakes2Short stack of news items

Mexico delays new build - Bloomberg wire service reported Sept 14 that Mexico is pushing back by at least two years a decision to build one or more new reactors. The reason is the lower price of natural gas which is expected to continue. Mexico is a leading producer of oil and gas.

Mexican energy planners have seen natural gas prices from from $13 per million BTU to less than $4/MBtu. However, Eugenio Laris, investment director for the Mexican state-owned power utility, told Bloomberg wire service the firm has plans for as many as 10 new reactors, but may not build any of them as long as gas stays cheap.

Vietnam gets cost estimate - Dow Jones News Wires reported Sept 28 that the cost of new reactors in Vietnam, 4 GWe of nuclear generation capacity, will be $12 billion. The project consists of two sites with two 1,000 MW plants each to be located in the southern coastal province of Ninh Thuan. The plants will be built under contract with Russia's atomic energy export agency.

China facing shortage of nuclear engineers - Reuters reported Sept 20 that China's rapid expansion of its nuclear energy sector is running up against a shortage of nuclear engineers. The country is building 28 new reactors.

Li Ganje, of China's National Nuclear Safety Administration, told Reuters the country is short of specialized talent and especially experienced engineers.

The China Nuclear Society reportedly said the country needs 5,000 new engineers a year for the next two decades. Currently, graduation rates from six Chinese universities are running at about 2,000 engineers/year.

Abu Dhabi will seek investors - Almost half the cost of a $20 billion project to build four new reactors in the UAE will be covered by debt financing according to a UAE newspaper. The Emirates National Energy Corp. appointed Credit Suisse as the financial advisor to the project.

The financing will be composed of export credits, loans, and government bonds sold to investors. Export credit agencies in South Korea, which won the contract, are expected to provide some of the financing.

According to the National, the government is raising the money because it is stretched thin relative to domestic infrastructure projects. For the first time the government is facing a deficit based on reduced revenues resulting from declining oil sales due to the global contraction of economic activity.

Dominion wants a partner - Dominion Resources, a Virginia-based nuclear utility, told the Bloomberg wire service Sept 28, it is looking for a financial partner to help it build a third reactor. Earlier this year Dominion jettisoned plans to use the 1,500 MW GE ESBWR in favor of a similar size reactor from Mitsubishi.

Progress may cancel Shearon Harris - The Raleigh, NC, News Observer, reported Sept 15 that Progress Energy may never build two new Westinghouse 1,100 MW nuclear reactors in North Carolina.

The utility said "slack demand" is behind the change in plans. Original estimates of the need for 2,100 MW of new power over the next ten years have been revised downward to just 550 MW. Instead, Progress said it might take a financial stake in another nuclear reactor project rather than build one on its own.

Santee Cooper may sell stake - Duke Energy may buy a stake in the V.C. Summer station buying it from Santee Cooper which is thinking of offloading some or all of its stake in the project. The Charlotte Business Journal reported Sept 29 Duke is looking at the 45% share in the twin 1,100 MW reactors, but has not made a decision.

Duke has stalled work on its William Lee nuclear project citing an increasingly hostile regulatory environment in North Carolina. The utility complained that the state regulatory agency is making it harder to recover the costs of build a new reactor while it is under construction.

# # #

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Another blogger for nuclear energy

Peter Joseph launches an independent blog about nuclear and alternative energy

I'm an independent pro clean energy supporter for Britain. That means pro nuclear and alternative mix! Let's eliminate fear of the atom one bit at a time!

I shall be writing about a myriad of topics relating to nuclear power and a low carbon future.

Welcome to the nuclear blogsphere Peter.

# # #

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

GE CEO Immelt boils over

He tells Sec. Chu U.S. energy policy is “stupid”

oatmeal cookies You don’t get harsh words, almost a temper tantrum, from the CEO of a firm that is doing well. When the financials are deep in the black, what you get are corporate PR statements with all the excitement of a stack of oatmeal cookies. Current stockholders and future investors line up for firms that have high profits and a low public profile.

So when Jeff Immelt, the CEO of GE, (left) makes headlines Sept 24 in the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times by blowing his stack in a public forum with “sharply worded comments,” you have to wonder what the bottom line looks like?

immeltWhen CEOs blame government regulation, and a lack of support for international deals, for their troubles, it looks more like finger pointing at others rather than a humble self-assessment of what’s wrong with their business.

Immelt is anything but humble. Speaking at a Washington, DC, conference on smart grids, Immelt said America is falling behind China and other countries because of the lack of a comprehensive energy policy.

“The rest of the world is moving 10 times faster than we are . . . We have to have an energy policy. This is just stupid what we have today.”

Steven-Chu Energy Sec. Steven Chu (right) was in the audience when Immelt delivered these remarks. Chu told the WSJ in an interview afterward that energy policy does “need an overhaul,” but he defended the Obama administration’s initiatives in funding clean energy technologies including wind, which is a growing market segment for GE.

Immelt wasn’t done. In what appear to be off-the-cuff remarks, he said the current U.S. regulatory framework “is a relic.” He said China has a much better idea with a single national framework.

He singled out the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) as an impediment to construction of new power lines. FERC’s chairman Jon Wellinghoff made headlines in April 2009 when he said new baseload power plants, including nuclear reactors, might not be necessary.

Energy Sec. Chu told the WSJ in response to Immelt’s remarks about smart grids that China’s central planning model is a brake on innovation compared to America’s entrepreneurial paradigm.

The New York Times reported Sept 24 that Immelt later praised Chu personally for his “entrepreneurial” spirit and support for smart grid and clean energy programs. After this praise, Immelt returned to form telling the newspaper “we probably are not going to lead on nuclear energy.”

U.S. fumbles the loan guarantee program

fumble Immelt’s got a point. The Obama administration has allowed bureaucratic infighting between DOE and OMB to fumble efforts to award loan guarantees to new nuclear power plants. It failed twice to convince Congress to expand the loan guarantee program.

Exelon CEO John Rowe has been quoted as saying that without the loan guarantees, the U.S. could wind up building as few as five new nuclear reactors by 2020.

Rowe has also noted that the low price of natural gas and the lack of a carbon tax contribute to the outlook. The Nuclear Energy Institute cited these factors Sept 23 in testimony before Congress.

Nuclear industry better at press releases than production

pressImmelt also had a razor-edged analysis of what’s wrong with U.S. government support for the nuclear industry. He said the U.S. situation is so bad we aren’t even doing well enough to be in catch-up mode.

According to the WSJ, Immelt said most Americans don’t realize the U.S. is building just one new nuclear reactor while the rest of the world is building 50 plants.

Immelt’s sound byte for the conference was that the primary output of the U.S. nuclear industry is press releases.

That’s a great way to get potential customers, the nation’s nuclear utilities, to beat a path to your door. What was Immelt thinking? It’s not like he has a bulging order book.

What’s wrong with GE’s nukes?

no-excusesGE’s efforts to capture market share with its 1,500 MW ESBWR reactor haven’t produced much by way of results. The two largest U.S. nuclear utilities, Exelon and Entergy, bid goodbye in 2008 to plans to use the reactor in new projects.

Both utilities cited GE’s reluctance to come to terms over how to handle cost over runs and delays. Dominion also scrapped plans to reference the ESBWR in an NRC license application choosing a design by Mitsubishi.

GE hasn’t done well with international markets. It was a distant third in competition for a $20 billion deal won by South Korea for construction of new nuclear reactors in the United Arab Emirates. It is a late comer to the design review process for new reactors in the U.K.

But Danny Roderick, GE’s SVP for nuclear, told the WSJ Aug 25 the firm is focused on Europe where it hopes to sell 15 of the new reactors by 2030. World Nuclear News published an update Sept 28 on the firm's efforts to enter the European market

Prospects may be brighter in India

ElephantWhile Immelt was lambasting the U.S. market, the Nuclear Power Corporation of India LTD (NPCIL) opened talks with GE and Westinghouse to build as many as six nuclear reactors. The deal is said to be worth $10 billion.

India is scrambling to line up a formal announcement of a nuclear deal with U.S. firms in advance of President Obama’s visit to that country in mid-November. A stumbling block is a new nuclear liability law that assigns long-term accountability to suppliers as well as operators.

One possible way out of the dilemma is for NPCIl to be the “supplier” to Indian nuclear plants thus providing domestic indemnification and shielding U.S. firms once their equipment is installed and running in operating plants.

According to the Global Security Newswire for Sept 28, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton discussed the liability issue with her Indian counterpart, S.M. Krishna, at the U.N. General Assembly conference in New York.

"We've taken note of some of the concerns that industry representatives have raised about some of the provisions of the liability bill and that the bill may possibly be inconsistent with international standards," U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Robert Blake said to journalists.

India is said to be offering a bargaining chip in a trade-off that would change the way the U.S. deals with exports of military equipment to India.

# # #

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Germany saves its nukes at what price?

The move comes with steep taxes on the reactors and a delusional energy policy

AngelemerkelGermany’s government saved its 17 nuclear reactors this week with a package of new energy policies. Chancellor Angela Merkel extended (right) the run time of the plants past 2022, but imposed a 50% tax on the profits that will be earned by the life extension. As part of the package, Merkel also committed to lower greenhouse gases by 80% and to get 60% of its electricity from renewable resources by 2050.

Environmental minister Norbert Roettgen, who has opposed the nuclear plant life extension policy, told the Wall Street Journal:

“Nuclear energy has a bridging role, not a future role.”

Is Merkel “delusional”?

Yet, serious energy analysts think Merkel has painted her country into a corner. The head of the World Nuclear Association (WNA) called the policy “delusional.” He said the nuclear industry welcomed the extension of permitted operation, but he also warned of the “unsustainable position” Germany had staked out. WNA Director John Ritch said: (left)

John Ritch "Germany's policy is now headed in the right direction but still rests on delusional foundations. No serious energy or environmental planner believes that a major economy like Germany's can be largely reliant on renewables within the next 40 years."

Ritch isn’t alone. The problem for Germany is that it’s future energy security hangs in the balance.

Patrick Moore, (right) the former head of Greenpeace, and now a keynote speaker for a pro-nuclear group, told this blog in an interview in Cleveland, OH, last week that the plan’s reliance on renewables will force Germany to become more dependent on Russian natural gas to keep the grid up.

moore"Every time Germany builds another wind farm, it buys more natural gas from Russia to keep the grid going. Renewables make Germany more dependent on Russian gas."

What about replacements?

As previously reported here, (see links below) the plan states that reactors built prior to 1980 can operate until 2030. Reactors built after that date can operate until 2036. The plan has no provision for building new or replacement reactors.

As a practical matter, Germany will need to start planning to build those reactors now if it wants to maintain and grow the baseload generation capacity needed to sustain its export driven manufacturing base. There seems little prospects that hard-headed reality, a quality Germans are famous for, is at work in the nation’s energy policies.

German business groups cautioned that the tall order for investment in renewable energy projects will run into a substantial barrier. The transmission and distribution grid in Germany isn’t adequate to handle the variable nature of power from wind and solar projects.

Hans-Peter KeitelBDI Federation President Hans-Peter Keitel (right) told the news media, “huge investments will be needed for such networks.”

Dow Jones News Wires reported that Chancellor Merkel answered the BDI complaint with this statement.

“I admit our targets are ambitious. They are achievable.”

Merkel gave no indication the government plans to use any of the (euro) 2.3 billion/year in new taxes on nuclear reactors to pay for new electric grid infrastructure.

Green groups ‘take no prisoners’ stance

Cashcow cartoonThe government's plan in proposing the tax has two objectives. The first is that the tax is based on the need for revenue and the reactors are fully depreciated cash cows. The second is that the tax collections in a time of economic austerity would make the reactors too valuable to shut down.

This would turn the demand by green groups to close the reactors into a tax issue. It would weaken their position as Merkel could then blame the greens for tax increases to make up for the lost revenue from shut down reactors.

The green groups saw this coming in September 2008 and rejected Merkel’s offer for the taxes and investment in renewables. Green groups have just one non-negotiable demand, and that is to shut down the reactors.

Political opposition to Merkel’s policies erupted in Berlin. Bloomberg wire service reported Sept 27 that the Pswephos polling firm said deep opposition to nuclear energy in Germany could cost Merkel votes in the next election.

pitchforkThe Social Democrats (SDP), who were in power when the original policy to phase out the reactors was enacted, vowed to overturn it if they are returned to power in 2013.

On Sept 12 an anti-nuclear demonstration in Berlin reportedly saw over 100,000 people gather in the streets to protest Merkel’s energy policies.

Green groups are deeply conflicted about the new nuclear policy because the new taxes on the reactors will pay for massive wind and solar energy projects. Environmental Minister Roettgen said (euro) 5 billion will be invested in these technologies. Despite the money, Greenpeace is reportedly going full tilt to protest the energy policies.

Fire sale of 17 reactors?

The four utilities that own the reactors have a more practical response. They want to sell the plants. Bloomberg reported Sept 15 they may sell the assets to avoid a hit on earnings from the new tax. The trump card is a threat to significantly cut dividends.

Stock prices for the four utilities have tanked, but the firms pay generous dividends which many Germans rely on as a safe investment. This threat could backfire with the public demanding the dividends and telling the government to close the reactors and skip the taxes.

Taxes without the renewables?

The German parliament has to approve the energy policies. A pitched political battle is expected over the plan to save the reactors. Merkel’s drive to retain them as part of the energy mix may not prevail despite the give away of billions for an unsustainable energy mix.

Ducks on the lawnIn an outcome in which Merkel does prevail, following a bitter vote, the taxes won’t be used to pay for new wind or solar projects. Instead, it is more likely Merkel will just balance the austerity cuts in her budget with them telling the SDP to stuff it.

It won’t matter to Merkel who owns the reactors as long as they operate and make money for someone. The taxes will find them. The reactors are sitting ducks.

Prior coverage

  • 8/16/10 – Merkel’s nuclear tax backfires
  • 7/27/10 – Germany’s love /hate relationship with nuclear energy
  • 9/27/09 – Merkel’s election saves Germany’s nuclear reactors
  • 9/10/08 – German greens reject fund for renewables
  • 6/10/08 – Teutonic tectonic shift on nuclear energy

# # #

Pandora’s Promise ~ a film about nuclear energy

Guest blog post by Robert Stone

clip_image002For over forty years we have been inundated with countless documentary films about the dangers of nuclear power. I am a documentary filmmaker (right) whose first major film, Radio Bikini (nominated for an Oscar for Best Feature Documentary of 1987) was a cautionary tale of dangers of radiation; in that case about the impact of nuclear weapons tests at Bikini Atoll in 1946.

That so many of us conflated our legitimate abhorrence of nuclear weapons with an equally passionate abhorrence of civilian nuclear power is a subject that is not well understood. Yet it has, I believe, contributed in some measure to at least thirty years of paralysis in our efforts to transition away from fossil fuels.

greenhouse_gases While in the past, the need to make this transition was driven largely by economic and national security concerns, today it is no exaggeration to say that the survival of human civilization is at stake in this effort.

I am sad to say this, but a certain degree of responsibility for the climate crisis must fall squarely on the shoulders of the environmental movement due to its longstanding campaign to completely do away with (rather than to improve) the one technology that has a very real potential to actually end the burning of fossil fuels.

My most recent film, Earth Days, recounted the history of the modern environmental movement between about 1950 and 1980. It was the Closing Night Film at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival, had a 50 city theatrical run and was broadcast on PBS/ American Experience. It is a virtual love letter to the environmental movement of my youth.

New film project ~ Pandora’s Promise

I am now embarking on a new feature-length documentary called Pandora’s Promise (web site) about the history and future of nuclear power, told mainly (though not entirely) through the eyes of one-time opponents of nuclear power who now believe, as I do, that it is a vital necessity in mitigating the potential for a man-made climate catastrophe. The film has been in the research and development stage for well over a year. (Image of Pandora by: Marta Dahlig)

The major figures I will be featuring in this film include such luminaries as: Jim Hansen, Stewart Brand, Richard Rhodes, Stephan Tindale, Charles Till, Gwyneth Cravens, James Lovelock, Anne Lauvergeon, Evgeny Velikhov and several others.

A big focus of the film will be on the game-changing potential of new 4th generation reactor technology like the Integral Fast Reactor. Our first shoot begins next week at Idaho National Laboratory (INL) and an extensive interview with Dr. Charles Till.

Blog at National Geographic

I have just been contracted to blog about the making of Pandora’s Promise as part of National Geographic’s Great Energy Challenge. My blog will appear under the banner ‘Pandora’s Promise’ twice a month on the National Geographic website. It will be mirrored on Huffington Post and several other sites.

Pandora’s Promise is being financed largely through tax-deductible donations through our 501C3 fiscal sponsor, the Human Arts Association in New York. To date we have raised $20,000 in development money, with large-scale commitments of nearly $500,000 once the balance of our $1.1 million budget is raised philanthropically.

But as this story is moving very rapidly, with the media finally getting wind of the sea change afoot within the environmental movement as it relates to nuclear power, we are beginning production right away. Our goal is to have the film ready in time to premier it at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival and to have it in movie theaters before the 2012 general election.

Fund a film

We are seeking financial assistance to continue production. All contributions are fully tax-deductible. Contributions of $1,000 and up will earn you a thank-you credit in the film.

Please visit our website: Robert Stone Productions to make an easy contribution via PayPal or credit card for any amount. Please note that corporate donations from the nuclear power industry will not be accepted.

Robert Stone Productions / Studio Building
11 Morton Road, Rhinebeck, New York 12572
Web page with contact form

# # #

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Nuclear energy videos for Monday September 27, 2010

This week there is an important warning for anyone with a personal computer in their office or home, which is a lot of people. If you find a lost USB stick, do not plug it into your computer to see what's one it. Just smash it and throw it away. Here's why. It could be a social engineering trick to spread malicious software.

Software attacks nuclear reactor

Sept. 24 (Bloomberg) -- Richard Falkenrath, a principal at Chertoff Group and a Bloomberg Television contributing editor, discusses the Stuxnet computer virus. The worm targets Siemens AG software used to control industrial equipment and may be aimed at destroying Iran's controversial nuclear facility, according to Ralph Langner, a German industrial controls safety expert, the Financial Times reported. Falkenrath, speaking from Washington, talks with Deirdre Bolton on Bloomberg Television's "InsideTrack."

Energy Secretary discovers he has a nuclear energy lab, visits same

KPVI: U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu made a scheduled visit last week to the nations lead nuclear research laboratory in Eastern Idaho.

Bridgestone Superbowl 2010 tire commercial

This video really has nothing to do with nuclear energy. It is just a whale of a funny video.

# # #