Saturday, December 18, 2010

Why Peter Shumlin will save Vermont Yankee

The high cost of closing the reactor will be keenly felt in the state’s economy

Vermont Governor-elect Peter Shumlin (right) must have woken up in a cold sweat in the middle of the night over the future of the Vermont Yankee nuclear reactor.

In troubled sleep, the newly elected top state official might have seen the size of the electric bill Vermonters would be paying for replacement fossil power to keep their homes and businesses warm during the state’s long and frigid winters. Like Scrooge in Dickens’ ‘Christmas Tale,” Shumlin might have also seen the ghost of future utility bills haunting his political legacy.

Also, he might have seen major employers, like IBM with 6,000 workers, leaving the state and heading for places like Vietnam to make computer chips. The reason is that IBM, and other major employers, won’t be able to compete globally with the loss of $0.06/KwHr electricity and its replacement at double or more of that cost. He will realize the shockingly high price price of replacement power, and its consequences, would be blamed on him.

Also, a closed reactor will become a political and visual eyesore for the rest of his term of office and much longer. The spent fuel isn’t going anywhere and decommissioning could take a decade or longer to complete.

Shumlin’s political opponents will have a field day with both issues.

Shumlin’s wake up call

Right after waking up, Shumlin might have immediately placed a ‘wake up call’ to his transition team and ordered them to get him a tour of the plant to begin the process of making peace with the future of the reactor.


It appears that’s exactly what happened. Shumlin hasn't even been sworn in yet, and he's already tackling the future of the state's energy security.

Vermont Governor Elect Peter Shumlin visited the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant this week. He got a tour of the facility and during the visit emphasized the need for Entergy, the utility that owns and operates the reactor, to restart pumping and treating groundwater for radioactive tritium. OK, that’s all well and good even though the tritium isn’t a public health threat to anyone off-site.

The visit raises the significant question of whether Shumlin is softening his tough stance that the plant should not be relicensed by the NRC for another 20 years. On the surface, it appears the answer is no because in an interview with a local TV station, he repeated his call for it to be "retired" in 2012. That's when the current license runs out.

Politics drives purpose

There are political reasons why Shumlin might change his mind.

electric meterThe first is that closing the plant will subject Vermont rate payers to having to buy replacement, fossil-based power at rates as high as $0.15/KwHr. This is two-and-a-half times the rate they pay now for electricity from Vermont Yankee, which supplies about one third of the electricity used in Vermont. That’s a huge hit on voter pocketbooks and its effects will be felt across the state.

(Update: People who think Ontario Hydro will come to Vermont's rescue should think again. The reason is most of the reactors in Ontario run by Bruce Power are going off line in 2012 for an 18-24 month period of refurbishment. It could be a lot longer if AECL's bungled refurbishment of the Point Lepreau reactor in New Brunswick is any indication of the future. While the Bruce reactors are down, Ontario Hydro's power will be needed in Canada.)

The second reason is that closing the plant in 2012 insures that it will become a highly visible political eyesore for Shumlin. It will take two years to move the plant from being actively operated to generate electricity to be ready to begin D&D. It will take another decade to decommission the plant. The spent fuel from the plant will remain at the site for up to 60 years.

He can call for “immediate” decommissioning, but it won’t matter or make a difference. There is nothing the governor can do to change that schedule since the NRC is in charge of this process. The agency will follow its own regulations which lay out a process for safely permanently shutting down a nuclear reactor.

First term recall election?

Shumlin's political opponents won't hesitate to tag him with the responsibility for heart-stopping increases in the cost of electricity and that he's turned an economic asset which supports 700 jobs into a high security spent fuel respository that supports a dozen jobs.

They will also tag him with the loss of thousands of other jobs in a small state as its biggest employers exit in search of cheap electricity.

A first-term loss for re-election in 2012 isn’t outside of the realm of political feasibility if things get really bad with brownouts on top of higher electric bills. Even with replacement power, the loss of Vermont Yankee might make the regional electricity grid unstable impacting other utilities, and their customers, in other New England states. All this will happen on his watch if he succeeds in closing the plant in 2012. That’s just two years from now.

How much power does Shumlin really have?

The decision to close the reactor isn't Vermont's to make. The NRC issues the license, not the state legislature. Entergy spokesman Larry Smith said as much following Shumlin's tour of the plant.

"We are moving forward with our plans at the federal level to get a new license from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and to seek approval from the Vermont Legislature and a certificate of public good from the Public Service Board," Smith said.

That outcome might be based on some changes at Vermont Yankee that even an anti-nuclear arch druid like Shumlin might find to be an attractive alternative to sky high electricity rates and ignominiously losing his job over them.

What price license renewal?

According to WCAX TYV, a new owner at the plant and a new, low-price power agreement might stop lawmakers from pulling the plug. Entergy has confirmed it is talking with other utilities about selling the reactor and transferring its license. A deal would be contingent on settling issues with the Vermont legislature.

A politically savvy source in Vermont told this blog in November Shumlin “gets it” that political reality will require him to make a deal over the future of Vermont Yankee. The only question now is how he gets there and what the deal looks like to voters in terms of its impact on their checkbooks.

Update 12/19/10

Several people have sent comments suggesting the if the current or future owner(s) of Vermont Yankee made a substantial contribution to the Vermont Clean Energy Development Fund, on order of several $millions, that would appease Gov-elect Shumlin.

This sounds at first like a bribe. In in Germany Chancellor Angela Merkel imposed a 50% profits tax on the nation's 17 operating nuclear reactors to generate about $2.3 billion annually for renewable technologies.

This is a proposal for piracy operating under the delusion that solar energy makes any sense in Vermont, which has the same lousy winters as Germany in terms of days of sunshine.

Also, Shumlin is entering a two-year term which places his re-election right in the middle of the first effects on the economy if Vermont Yankee shuts down.

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Friday, December 17, 2010

Western lands uranium gopher for 12/18/10

Year end stock table shows significant improvement over six months ago

This column is an expanded version of my coverage published in Fuel Cycle Week, V9:N404 12/09/10 by International Nuclear Associates, Washington, DC

gopherThe soaring increase in the spot price of uranium from $40/lb June 1 to $61/lb Dec, a 53% increase, resulted in spectacular increases in the stock prices of both uranium juniors and producers. (spreadsheet) For instance, juniors Powertech (TSE:PWE) and Strathmore (CVE:STM) saw significant stock price increases as did producers Denison (AMEX:DNN) and Uranium Resources (NASDAQ:URRE). The increase in the spot price once again proves the principle that stock value is a partially a function of a firms proven uranium resources relative to the spot price. (UX: $61.75/lb on 12/13/10)

An investor who bought 100,000 shares of each of the firms in FCW's selected stock portfolio would have committed just under $800,000 last June and reaped a profit of $1.5 million if the shares were sold Dec 1.

Several firms immediately benefitted from the higher stock prices, though the two that had the most gains trade on American rather than Canadian stock exchanges.

Ur-Energy stock options cash out

Perhaps the clearest signal these surging stock prices are good news for investors is the report that Ur-Energy (AMEX:URG) received $3 million in proceeds from the exercise of stock options that carried a strike price of $1.25/share. The company's stock price cleared $2.33/share on Dec 1.

Bob Boberg, President and CEO, said in a statement the funds will be used to complete mine permits for the firm's Lost Creek Wyoming uranium deposit.

Uranerz offers stock

Another firm to take advantage of rising stock prices is Uranerz (AMEX:URZ) which on Dec 1 said it would offer up to $20 million of stock for sale. A rising stock price results in lower dilution for other investors.

Since last February the firm's stock has risen from $1.35/share to $3.36/share. Had the $20 million been raised last June, the firm would have issued 14.8 million shares of stock. However, at $3.36 the firm only has to issue 5.95 million shares.

The firm said it would use the proceeds to fund construction at its Nichols Ranch ISR mine on the Powder River basin of Wyoming.

Uranium Energy starts production

The spot price wasn't the only factor boosting the stock price at Uranium Energy (AMEX:UEC) which saw a rise over six months from $2.45/share to $6.86/share. The firm has started processing the first shipment of uranium resins at its Hobson processing plant. The action follows the start of production Nov 17 at the firm's ISR mine at Palangana, also in south Texas. Uranium Energy purchased the Palagana site from Uranium One in 2009.

CEO Amir Adnani said the site is expected to produce 400,000 pounds of uranium in 2011. He said that with production for the Goliad site coming online in 2011, the firm expects to produce one million pounds U3O8/year.

Also, Adnani did what all uranium mine CEOs do well. He predicted higher prices for uranium in the next 12-15 months.

Palangana is the first of four mines the firm will bring into production. Harry Anthony, COO, said the firm plans to start production at its Goliad ISR site in 2011.

Energy Fuels acquires supply for planned mill

Rising stock prices have boosted confidence for firms to expand their holdings. Energy Fuels (TSE:EFR) inked an agreement with Uranium One to acquire two Utah State mineral leases and 13 unpatented claims, covering 1,400 acres, adjacent to the Energy Queen mine near La Sal, Utah.

CEO Steve Anthony said the acquisition will improve the economics of the entire operation. The firm plans to reopen the Energy Queen mine to supply ore to its planned Pinion Ridge Uranium Mill, which is being developed as a 500 ton/day facility in Montrose County, Colo.

Energy Fuels plans to develop an underground mining operation at the new sites. Historic estimates, not NI 43-101 compliant, put the resources at 184,000 pounds U3O8 and 800,000 pounds V2O5.

The deal doesn't involve any cash. Instead, Energy Fuels will get the parcels in return for providing unspecified electronic databases of mining information. Uranium One will also receive a 1% royalty on any production from these parcels.

Energy Fuels also acquired a 641 acre lease from the Department of Energy (DOE) in western San Miguel County, Colo. DOE cited a historic estimate from the 1970s for the site of 156,000 pounds U3O8 and 1.5 million pound V2O5.

Energy Fuels CEO Steve Anthony said uranium mined from this lease would also be destined for the Pinion Ridge mill once it is built.

While Energy Fuels was rounding up new resources for its planned mill, anti-nuclear groups focused on the firm's management team. Travis Stills of the Energy Minerals Law Center in Durango criticized the decision by Energy Fuels to hire Richard Cherry, who was CEO of Cotter Corp. from 2000-2006. Stills said Cotter's track record of regulatory violations during Cherry's tenure should have raised red flags for Energy Fuels.

CEO Anthony dismissed this tack saying he hired Cherry as a consultant to help develop uranium supply contracts. Anthony said Cherry won't have management responsibilities related to the mill.

Daneros Mine shows good ore results

White Canyon Uranium Ltd. (ASX:WCU) reports that ore sent to Denison Mines' White Mesa mill in November had a grade of U3O8 processed averaging 0.291%. The company said these results are in line with its expectations. The firm expects to process 40,000 tons of ore at the Denison Mill. The firm said the rising spot price of uranium is an incentive for it to fast track production.

Black Range gets expanded permit

Black Range Minerals (ASX:BLR) got the OK from the Fremont County, Colo., county commissioners to include the newly acquired Hansen uranium deposit in its current exploration permit at the company's Taylor Ranch project. Black Range says historical estimates of the Hansen site, which was extensively drilled in the 1970s, indicate as much as 30 million pounds U3O8 (not NI 43-101 compliant). The acquisition of the Hansen site consolidates holdings by Black Range in the Tallahassee Uranium District in Fremont County.

The company acquired the 21 claims by issuing 500,000 shares of stock. At market close Dec 3, the stock traded at $0.04 a share making the transaction worth $20,000.

The stock was briefly the subject of regulatory review on the Australian Stock Exchange. In October it spiked upwards despite no material information being released by the company. The stock has traded in a 52-week range of $0.02-$0.06 with 638 million shares outstanding.

Despite its exploratory work in the U.S., Black Range has not seen a significant bump in its stock price. Last June is traded at $0.03/share and six months later it is trading at just one penny more. Despite the firm's advanced prospecting at Taylor Ranch, investors haven't lined up to buy the stock.

One reason may be the firm hasn't yet published an NI 43-101 report nor an economic feasibility study. If Taylor Ranch goes into production a few years from now, it will be an underground operation. Another issue will be access to toll milling.

The Cotter uranium mill located in Canon City, Colo., is within easy haul distance by truck from the Black Range site. There is no other mill within economic haul distance by truck for the Black Range site in Fremont county. The good news is Cotter is planning to reopen the mill by 2014 with new equipment.

The bad news is a new state law requires Cotter to clean up the tailings from previous mill operations before a new mill can be built on the site. Cotter is disputing state agency financial requirements for decommissioning the old mill.

Last October the Colorado Department of Public Health issued an order requiring Cotter Corp. to commit $10 million to cover estimated costs to install and monitor groundwater wells and prevent groundwater contamination off-site. A month later Cotter rejected the state's demand and requested mediation to settle on an amount.

The mill processed uranium from 1958 to 1987. In 1988, the mill was designated as a Superfund cleanup site by EPA.

Cotter cannot get state approval to build a new mill until it resolves cleanup issues for the old one. Black Range might have a better chance of building its own mill rather than waiting for Cotter to clean up its old site.

That assumes it can get the permits to build a mine and bring it into production. Those are a lot of "ifs" which may be the reason why its stock price hasn't moved at all despite a rapidly rising spot price.

Peninsula gets NRC visit

The NRC completed a pre-license review at the Peninsula Energy Limited (ASX:PEN) Ross Uranium (ISR) site in Wyoming. This is the first time the NRC has visited a site for the purpose of conducting a pre-submission review. The site visit included a tour of the Ross area, review of data and groundwater models to be used in the application, and a workshop to review the draft of the application.

In its meeting summary of the Oct 26-28 meeting, which took place in Oshoto, Wyo., 180 miles northeast of Casper, the agency noted that the company invited the public to attend the site tour. The NRC also confirmed to FCW the meeting is a first-of-a-kind for the agency.

Tonty Simpson, CEO, said his firm was "pleased with the review," and is now working on NRC's comments to craft a final application.

NRC OKs restart of Irigaray & Christensen Ranch

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has authorized Uranium One USA, Inc., (TSE:UUU) to restart its Irigaray and Christensen Ranch in situ uranium recovery facility, after determining that the company is prepared to protect the health and safety of workers and the public, and the environment, during operations.

The Irigary and Christensen Ranch facility, located in Johnson and Campbell counties in eastern Wyoming, is regulated under a single NRC license. Recovery operations ceased in 2000. Site operator Cogema applied in 2007 for permission to restart operations.

The NRC authorized restart in September 2008 subject to two conditions: that the company update its financial surety for decommissioning, and that the facility pass a preoperational inspection. NRC completed the onsite portion of the preoperational inspection on Dec. 9, and Uranium One, which purchased Cogema this past January, updated the surety on Dec. 16.

The NRC notified Uranium One by letter dated Dec. 17 that it had fulfilled the conditions for restarting operations. The facility is authorized to produce up to 2.5 million pounds of U3O8 annually.

Uranium One closes on sale to ARMZ

Uranium One announced it has closed its sale of two mines in Kazkhstan and properties in Wyoming in the U.S. to JSC Atomredmetzoloto (ARMZ) for $610 million. The primary interest ARMZ has in Uranium One is in two mines in Kazakhstan which are the Akbastau and Zarechnoye mines.

The deal also includes Uranium One's NRC licensed Irigaray-Christensen ranch ISR mine in eastern Wyoming. A brief political tempest in a teapot took place in October when four House Republicans protested the sale on the grounds uranium from the Wyoming property might be sold by Russia to Iran.

The NRC said in a statement these concerns were unfounded as the U.S. subsidiaries of Uranium One lack export licenses to sell their product overseas.

# # #

Thursday, December 16, 2010

SEC files fraud charges against AEHI

A 17 page complaint alleges firm’s CEO enriched himself by secretly selling stock in the firm

fraudThe U.S. Securities & Exchange Commission (SEC) filed a complaint in U.S. Federal District Court in Idaho against Alternative Energy Holdings Inc. (AEHI). The action alleges alleges that AEHI has raised millions of dollars from investors in Idaho and throughout the U.S. and Asia while fraudulently manipulating its stock price through misleading public statements that conceal the secret profits reaped by its CEO Donald L. Gillispie and Senior Vice President Jennifer Ransom. Full text of SEC complaint

The SEC said Gillispie has touted the company as a tremendous investment opportunity that could rival Exxon Mobil in profitability, despite the fact that AEHI has essentially no revenue and minimal operations.

“In light of AEHI’s ongoing efforts to raise funding while promoting itself through a daily deluge of press releases, we needed to take immediate action to get to the bottom of the company’s misleading statements,” said Marc Fagel, Director of the SEC’s San Francisco Regional Office. “Documents we have obtained to date indicate a scheme to personally enrich the CEO at the expense of investors.”

Press releases pumped stock

According to the SEC’s complaint, AEHI’s fundraising was facilitated by a scheme to drive up the company’s stock price, both through frequent press releases (at least 87 in 2010 alone) and efforts of paid stock promoters to manipulate the stock price.

The SEC alleges that the company has made multiple misrepresentations, including claims that its executives had such confidence in AEHI that they had not sold a single share of company stock. Records obtained by the SEC show that Gillispie and Ransom have instead secretly unloaded extensive stock holdings and funneled the money back to Gillispie.

The SEC’s complaint also alleges that AEHI reported to the SEC and investors that Gillispie’s compensation was $133,000. However, Gillispie has actually reaped approximately six times that amount in 2010.

The SEC’s complaint charges AEHI, Gillispie, and Ransom with violations of the anti-fraud provisions of the federal securities laws, and names as defendants two companies controlled by Gillispie and Ransom (Executive Energy Consulting LLC and Bosco Financial LLC).

In a motion filed simultaneously with the enforcement action, the SEC seeks emergency relief for investors including an asset freeze and a temporary restraining order enjoining the defendants from further violations of the securities laws.

Reaction is mixed

AEHI officials have not yet issued a statement in response to this latest action by the SEC. Earlier this week the SEC ordered a halt to trading in the firm’s stock. AEHI confirmed on its website the initial action has taken place and said it would cooperate with the regulatory agency.

According to the Idaho Statesman, AEHI spokesman Dan Hamilton said he had just heard of the latest allegations and had no comment. He said Don Gillispie, the company's CEO, was unavailable for immediate comment.

Martin Johncox, AEHI's long time PR man in Boise, said in a statement on his website that as a result of the charges filed by the SEC against AEHI that he is no longer working for the firm. He added that his exposure is about 40,000 shares. At market close Dec 16, the stock traded at $0.57/share with 323 million shares outstanding. The 52-week range was $0.05-$1.45.

At the Snake River Alliance (SRA), analyst Liz Woodruff said that "victories in our business don't come often, but this one counts."

At Nuclear Town Hall, editor Bill Tucker defended AEHI saying, "The SEC may also discover that AEHI’s ambitions are not as impractical as they might seem."

In an email message to members, Lane Allgood, Director of a pro-nuclear business group in Idaho Falls, said the SEC action against AEHI's CEO did not come as a surprise.

"I think we’ve all been expecting this. Sure doesn’t help with our cause to advocate for nuclear power in Idaho. I feel sorry for the folks that invested in the firm."

The complaint against AEHI is the first step in a long and complex legal proceeding which may or may not go to trial.

# # #

Exelon to close Oyster Creek early

Deal with New Jersey will let it operate for 10 more years without having to build cooling towers

oyster-shellNo one is happy with the decision by Exelon (NYSE:EXC) to close its 615-MW boiling water reactor at Oyster Creek in New Jersey. The company made the announcement on December 8 that it would shut down the plant in 2019, just halfway into its 20-year operating license issued by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in April 2009. The company said in a statement that a "unique set of economic conditions and changing environmental regulations" make ending operations in 2019 "the best option."

The economic challenges faced by the small reactor are the lower demand for electricity brought on by the deep and seemingly intractable recession and the costly maintenance. The environmental challenges are the one that have created the most controversy. At the state level, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie had decided to push the requirement that the reactor be told to build expensive cooling towers as a condition of its water pollution control permit.

Perhaps the most dramatic item in the news is that just prior to Exelon's announcement, Gov. Christie told a group of editors at a media roundtable that he thought the firm was bluffing over the cooling towers issue. For more than a year, Exelon has been telling the state of New Jersey that it would be too expensive to build the cooling towers. The firm said that if the state moved ahead with the requirement, it would close the plant. According to various estimates, the cooling towers could cost between $200 million-$800 million.

Read the full details exclusively at ANS Nuclear Cafe now online.

# # #

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

New book by Patrick Moore

The former Greenpeace leader explains why he quit and now supports nuclear energy

clip_image001Just about anyone who follows the nuclear energy renaissance knows that Patrick Moore has been making the rounds as a spokesman for investment in new nuclear reactors.

Moore’s speaking tours in the U.S. are sponsored by the Clean & Safe Energy Coalition (CASE), which is funded in part by the Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI).

What’s new is that Moore has written a book about his experiences as a leader of Greenpeace, the arch druids of the anti-nuclear movement.

This change of heart is more interesting than the fact that some 1960s activists became successful entrepreneurs. For instance, Chicago 7 member Jerry Rubin (1938-1994) was an early investor in Apple Computer.

Moore’s new book

Patrick MooreConfessions of a Greenpeace Dropout: The Making of a Sensible Environmentalist (publisher link) is Patrick Moore’s firsthand account of his many years spent as the ultimate Greenpeace insider, a co-founder and leader in the organization’s top committee.

Moore (left) explains why, 15 years after co-founding it, he left Greenpeace to establish a more sensible, science-based approach to environmentalism.

‘Confessions’ details Moore’s vision for a more sustainable world. From energy independence to climate change, genetic engineering to aquaculture, Moore sheds new light on some of the most controversial subjects in the news today.

In ‘Confessions’ Moore persuasively argues for us to rethink our conventional wisdom about the environment and, in so doing, provides the reader with new ways in which to see the world.

Moore runs an environmental consulting firm in Vancouver, B.C., Canada.

Prior coverage on this blog

# # #

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

SEC suspends trading for AEHI

The federal regulatory agency raises multiple questions about the firm

SEC logoThe U.S Securities & Exchange Commission (SEC) has suspended trading in the securities of Alternative Energy Holdings Inc. (AEHI).

Michael S. Dicke, an SEC spokesman, confirmed to this blog that the action was taken because of questions that have been raised about the accuracy and adequacy of publicly disseminated information concerning, among other things, the stock sales of certain AEHI officers, the status and viability of funding to build a nuclear reactor, and executive compensation.

The SEC said in a statement released Dec 14 . . .

“It appears to the Securities and Exchange Commission that there is a lack of current and accurate information concerning the securities of Alternate Energy Holdings, Inc. (“AEHI”) because of questions regarding the accuracy and adequacy of disclosures by AEHI concerning, among other things:

  • the stock sales of certain AEHI officers,
  • the status and viability of funding to build a nuclear reactor, and
  • executive compensation.
The next step will be for AEHI to respond to the SEC's actions. Dicke declined to say what the SEC might or might not do next. In the past, similar SEC actions have depended on the information the firm impacted by the stop trading order provides the agency in its response. See the SEC FAQ web page in stop trade orders for additional information.

According to several wire service reports, AEHI spokesman Dan Hamilton says the company wasn't warned of the suspension, but looks forward to an opportunity to answer SEC questions.

Investigation is no surprise

Rumors have swirled around the firm and its future, since last summer, that federal and state regulatory authorities were looking into the firm’s stock and related activities, but until now there was no official confirmation of an inquiry and action.

AEHI has been tough on its anti-nuclear critics. In 2008 the firm sued the anti-nuclear Snake River Alliance for libel after the group’s director called the penny-stock firm “a scam.” It later backed off from the litigation.

The thin-skinned AEHI also filed assault and battery charges against a Twin Falls foot doctor after he handed out anti-nuclear leaflets at a public meeting protesting the proposed plant. The conviction in a local court was set aside on appeal.

Snake River Alliance response

Liz Woodruff, a policy analyst for the Snake River Alliance, told this blog Dec 14 the group feels vindicated today by the SEC’s actions.

stop sign“The Alliance and legions of concerned Idahoans have been urging state and federal securities investigators for more than two years to examine the behavior and financial practices of AEHI. This is a company that has been misinforming Idaho investors, county officials, and others almost since arriving in Idaho four years ago today.

AEHI President and CEO Don Gillispie has tried to explain away the reasons for his company’s failure to attract legitimate investors and to move this project forward, but he cannot explain away an SEC investigation. It is unfathomable that AEHI can now attract any investors with an SEC cloud over its head.”

Woodruff said the Alliance was calling on Payette County officials to suspend further consideration of AEHI’s permit application for the reactor site.

Dale Klein’s ‘no bozos’ speech

Perhaps the original warning came from now former NRC Chairman Dale Klein who in a speech delivered in June 2007 said the nuclear energy industry is not for amateurs.

My subject is something that each of the five Commissioners believe in, and have said before—which is this: owning a commercial nuclear reactor is not a business for amateurs. If the nuclear power business is treated with less than the seriousness it deserves—and people begin to think that anyone can just jump on the nuclear bandwagon—it opens up the very real danger of making the “wave” of the nuclear resurgence look more like a “bubble.” And bubbles have a tendency to pop.

It looks like AEHI’s bubble has finally popped or at least has the appearance of becoming one based on the SEC’s actions.

Prior coverage on this blog raised questions in 2007

This blog has repeatedly questioned the financial viability of AEHI’s plans. In particular, coverage here has exposed the fact that AEHI simply does not have the money, nor the prospects to obtain funding, to build an $8-10 billion nuclear power plant.

This blog has also raised questions about the viability of the sites chosen by AEHI including the original location in Owyhee County, the second location in Elmore County, and the current location in Payette County.

The Payette County location was abandoned in 2007 by a utility owned by billionaire Warren Buffet as not being economically or physically feasible. Two key reasons are water for cooling systems and the lack of transmission and distribution grids to deliver electricity from that location to customers.

Finally, while AEHI claimed it would build a KEPCO 1,400 MW reactor on the site, the design is not certified by the NRC and is years away from a safety review by the agency.

Highlights of blog coverage of AEHI

# # #

Monday, December 13, 2010

Laurels and Hardlys for nuclear energy in 2010

Some have exceeded expectations while others have accomplished things that no one could make up

Laurel & Hardly Awards for 2010

laurelEvery year this blog compiles a list of people who have exceeded our expectations for the good of the nuclear industry. These are Laurels. Also, every year another list is developed of events that fall in the category of "can't make this stuff up." These are Hardlys.

The awards are presented without fear or favor. No one pays this blog to list them in the Laurels categories, and those who were afflicted by the Hardlys have not forked over any cash to get back at their tormentors. There is, after all, an equal opportunity for all concerned to be a hero or bum, or both, and in the same calendar year.

If any were missed be sure to submit yours with a comment.


South Korea's KEPCO wins a $20 billion contract to build four 1,400 MW reactors for the United Arab Emirates (UAE). For its part, the UAE commits to buying its fuel and retrograde spent fuel to suppliers thereby giving up the need to build uranium enrichment and fuel reprocessing facilities. It is an object lesson for the Middle East as a whole.


Despite having no plan to develop replacement power, the States of New York and Vermont continue their ruinous campaigns to close the Indian point (2,200 MW) and Vermont Yankee (600 MW) reactors.

Voters in both states elected new governors committed to spiking the relicensing of these reactors which will result in more expensive electricity from fossil plants. Save fish, pollute the planet.

In New Jersey a sitting governor makes a wisecrack to newspaper editors that Exelon is bluffing about closing Oyster Creek over cooling towers. The utility calls him on it setting a date 10 years before its license expires to shut down.


Positioning federal loan guarantees as a jobs measure, President Barack Obama awards Southern an $8.3 billion loan guarantee for two new Westinghouse 1,100 MW AP1000 reactors to be built at the Vogtle site in Georgia.


The White House takes its eye off the nuclear energy ball allowing the Office of Management & Budget (OMB) to botch the credit risk calculation for Constellation's $8 billion loan guarantee for an Areva 1,600 MW reactor at Calvert Cliffs in Maryland. The utility quits the field leaving everyone involved with egg on their face.


TVA moves ahead with plans to revive the NRC construction permit for Bellefonte, a 1,200 MW reactor begun in the 1980s. The utility also announces plans to evaluate acquisition of 125 MW small modular reactors (SMRs) from B&W for up to six sites. The completion of Watts Bar by 2012 continues on time and within budget.


The new coalition government in the U.K. cancels a loan to Sheffield Forgemasters which would have produced a facility to make new reactor pressure vessels. The decision puts the nation at a competitive disadvantage and will likely delay the ten or so new nuclear power stations that are needed in the next 10-15 years.


Areva advances to complete its environmental analysis to support the NRC license for the Eagle Rock Enrichment Facility in Idaho. The NRC says in a Federal Register notice it expects to issue the license. The Department of Energy awards a $2 billion loan guarantee to Areva to help build the plant.

Urenco's enrichment plant in New Mexico gets the NRC go ahead to start production.

International Isotopes applies for an NRC license for its uranium deconversion and fluorine extraction facility in Hobbs, NM. The firm inks a deal with Urenco to take some of the their depleted UF6 and raises funds for construction of the factory.


Seasonal ski enthusiasts with way too much time on their hands in Telluride, Colo., object to construction of a new 500 ton/day uranium mill 60 miles away in Montrose County. One activist posts a note on his website claiming the mill will produce "weapons grade plutonium" at the site.

The Colorado legislature passes new laws limiting prospects for new ISR mines. Powertech, which is developing an ISR mine near Nunn, Colo., sues over last minute changes to the implementing regulations.

In Idaho the Snake River Alliance continues to oppose Areva's enrichment plant and twists NRC's arm into having a special public meeting in Boise. The Mayor of Boise writes a letter in support of the hearing, but skips the session.


China commits to build 80 GWw of new nuclear reactors in the next 10 years. The government claims to be able to produce a 1,000 MW reactor for $1,500/Kw and complete it in 52 months,

India commits to 20 GWe of new reactors in the next 10 years inking deals with Rosatom (4 reactors) and Areva (2 reactors).


India shoots itself in the foot, politically, by passing a harsh nuclear liability law that imposes accountability on suppliers long after their components will be installed in an operating reactor. President Barack Obama visits India in November, but comes home empty handed in terms of deals for American firms.


Germany saves its 17 nuclear reactors extending their operational lives well into the next two decades.


The Czech Republic takes a second look at building five new reactors at Temelin, which they thought might produce the replacement power needed if Germany committed economic suicide by closing its nukes.

Russian Premier Vladimir Putin asked the Germans if the country planned to burn firewood instead of his natural gas. Yes, he really said that.

The head of the World Nuclear Association rightly calls Chancellor Merkel's plan to ramp up renewables "delusional."


TVA commits to explore the use of MOX fuel in its reactors. Japan takes a shipment of MOX fuel from France and begins burning it in its commercial reactors.


NRC Chairman Gregory Jaczko politicizes the agency's budget decisions complicating the already fractious debate over the Yucca Mountain license and provokes a strong protest from former NRC Chairman Dale Klein about it.

That's all folks!

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