Saturday, December 25, 2010

Top Blog Posts for 2010

Ghostlight ~ the blog will be dark for the holiday break.

ghostlightEvery once in a while it is worth getting away from the keyboard to take a break and shake the cob webs out of your brain. I'll be away from blogging for a few days during the holidays.

Twitter updates will continue. Comments will stack up, and will be moderated when I get to them.

As always I welcome ideas for new topics so feel free to send them in. @djysrv on Twitter or same ID without the @ on Gmail.

Top blog posts of 2010

Google Analytics tracks the number of page views for each post on this blog. Based on reader interest, here are the top 10 for the past 12 months in descending order. The top three are about small modular reactors.

  1. NEI white papers on small modular reactors
  2. Small fast reactor design for 100 MW
  3. GE-Hitachi briefing on PRISM reactor
  4. Bob Herbert’s hatchet job at NY Times
  5. Will Constellation walk away from Calvert Cliffs
  6. Areva enters the nuclear medicine market
  7. Laurels & Hardlys for nuclear energy in 2010
  8. Competitive scenario for NGNP
  9. Patrick Moore ratchets up the rhetoric
  10. Germany saves its nukes but at what price

Blog readership in 2010

In terms of round numbers, Google Analytics reports the blog had 38,000 unique visitors from 71 countries, 80,000 visits,and 102,000 page views. These numbers exclude "bounces" which are people who click on a link to content on the blog, but then leave realizing it isn't what they are looking for.

Of total visitors, 55K came from the U.S., and another 20K came from Canada, Australia, the U.K., France, India, Germany, Slovakia, and Finland.

It is difficult to track readers by state because ISPs and their subscribers can be anywhere. It is interesting that California, which has a 30-year old ban on new nuclear reactors, is the state with the highest number of readers.

The top search term was South Korea’s APR1400 reactor, presumably due to the design being awarded a $20 billion contract in the United Arab Emirates.

Other nuclear blogs that people read, in no particular order, include Atomic Insights, NEI Nuclear Notes, the Energy Collective, Next Big Future, NuclearGreen, Yes Vermont Yankee, ANS Nuclear Cafe, US Areva Blog, Energy from Thorium, Brave New Climate, and the Energy Source blog at the Financial Times.

Blog Content Notes

The blog is syndicated with a full RSS feed at the Energy Collective. Selected exclusive blog posts also appeared at the Energy Collective, CoolHandNuke, and the ANS Nuclear Cafe.

The blog hosts expanded versions of my coverage at Fuel Cycle Week of the uranium mining industry in the U.S. and Canada. The content appears on a delayed basis 10 days after publication.

I’d like to thank my readers for your interest in the blog. In 2011 the blog will begin its fifth year of publication.

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Thursday, December 23, 2010

Energy Collective names three posts from this blog for 2010

It is an unexpected outcome

energycollective_logoThe Energy Collective, (TEC), which hosts dozens of bloggers on a wide variety of energy topics, on Dec 22 published its list of the top posts on its site for the year. Three of them came from this blog.

They are:

The Energy Collective pulls more than 40,000 page views a month.

In June 2010 the New York Times said this about the Energy Collective . . .

“...a valuable aggregator of views on one of the prime challenges of our time - how to provide the energy required to foster a smooth path beyond 'peak us' while cutting the risks of economic turmoil, resource conflicts or disruptive climate change. ”

I’d like to thank the Energy Collective for the recognition and look forward to continuing to post there in 2011.

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Monday, December 20, 2010

Areva updates nuclear energy bloggers

There’s no shortage of news here

blog symbolOne would think, on reflex, that a giant, state-owned and vertically integrated nuclear energy conglomerate in France would have little interest in nuclear bloggers in the U.S. That's not the case.

In fact, Areva's team, based in Bethesda, MD, has been holding monthly conference calls with nuclear bloggers for about two years. One of the values Areva has emphasized is transparency. The firm backs it up with unscripted interviews with its key executives including CEO Jacques Besnainou.

This week Areva put Mark Marano, VP for New Plants, on the wire. As always, there was an interested group of nuclear bloggers on the line with a wide variety of viewpoints about the future of the nuclear industry.

Read all about it exclusively at CoolHandNuke now online.


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Sunday, December 19, 2010

Some fearless predictions for nuclear energy in 2011

The worst that could happen is that I’ll be wrong

crystal ballEvery year analysts in various industries like to dust off their crystal ball and see what the future holds for their line of business. The nuclear energy industry is no different. Here are some ideas about what might happen in 2011.

Some are dark and some are exhilarating. The enthusiasm for the nuclear renaissance has taken a few knocks in the past year. It is going to take longer to happen, and may evolve in ways we can’t yet imagine.

Some developments are obvious, but others require some deep thoughts. What’s in your crystal ball? Add them to the post as a comment.

What nuclear renaissance?

The U.S. nuclear renaissance will not have a sputnik moment. Instead, it will sputter along due to the lack of loan guarantees from a dithering Congress. Absent new loan authority, the government will either collapse in bureaucratic paralysis or split the $9 billion that's left between NRG and Scana.

The combination of a low price for natural gas and the drop in demand for electricity, due to the seemingly intractable recession, will convince utility executives to postpone new reactor initiatives by five-to-ten years.

The lack of a price on carbon, now or in the foreseeable future, stops a drive of investments to non-fossil sources. It is likely utilities will bank their licenses as they are issued by the NRC holding them until the financial attractiveness of nuclear energy in the U.S. gets much better.

Some firms will place bets for the next decade like Ameren at Callaway and Dominion at North Anna.

But . . . Calvert Cliffs will get back on track

Unistar and EDF will put together a broad-based syndicate of investors to form a utility to satisfy the legal requirement of U.S. ownership for a new 1,600 MW Areva EPR. It will be an type of independent power producer, or virtual nuclear utility, but which will own assets.

Other nuclear utilities will be the primary investors taking 100-500 MW slices of future electricity generation capacity. They will find this maturing project to be a better choice for prudent investment rather than going ahead with "bet the company" 1,000 MW projects on their own.

The new investment profile will convince the government to keep Calvert Cliffs on the short list for a loan guarantee despite being a merchant play. Success in restarting the project may be a confidence booster for the industry and even get Congress to pay attention.

There will be no joy in Fresno

California will not remove its now three-decade old ban on new nuclear power plants. Despite the efforts of powerful agribusiness interests in Fresno, the Sierra Club will see the ban as their last stand against the evils of nuclear energy. The state will continue to use a colonial strategy of buying electricity from nuclear reactors in Arizona and investing in a new project in Utah.

Small nuclear reactors will license offshore

U.S. developers of small modular reactors, except B&W, will provide cash out strategies for their investors by licensing mostly complete designs to international investors. Without reform of the NRC cost recovery rule, and the agency's focus of limited resources on conventional large LWR designs, SMRs have little hope of getting design certification without onerous costs and delays.

On the other hand, there are lots of smaller nations who think that a nuclear reactor with 100-300 MW of power is just right for their grids and demand profiles. Examples include Malaysia, Jamaica, Philippines, and other places that rely way too much on diesel fueled generators.

The Russians will continue to sell reactors like they were trombones

The Russians know the territory which is why they are inking deals for new reactors with India, Vietnam, Turkey, and maybe the Czech Republic.

The Russians, not having a viable SMR design of their own, will be one of the licensees for an American design. The intended use will be to generate electricity to pump natural gas through 6,000 miles of pipelines from Siberia to Europe. The payback will be a huge new volume of natural gas now going to market which is currently used to run the pumping stations.

Canada will lose its place in the nuclear world

The mandarins of Ottawa don't share China's enthusiasm for new nuclear energy projects. They will sell off AECL in whole or in pieces assuming Canadian voters don't notice the fire sale prices being offered by bidders.

The Darlington new build, composed of two new reactors, will likely go for a CANDU 6. Ontario will go this route rather than pay for completing the design and licensing of the ACR1000.

Areva will make a play for two new reactors in New Brunswick province and propose to offer electricity to New England states in the bargain.

There'll be a slow down in China

The mandarins in Beijing will discover they're outrunning their ability to build out their plans for 80 GWe of new reactors in ten years. There are limits to how much concrete, steel, and nuclear engineering talent can be put into play in that short a period of time. They might build 25 GWE in ten years.

China will amaze the world with what they do accomplish. They are headed in the right direction with a focus on shorter delivery times and lower costs through modular construction. Eventually, Chinese utilities will become exporters of technology transferred to them by Westinghouse and Areva.

India will get smart about nuclear liability

Despite a big black eye courtesy of the opposition parties in parliament, PM Singh's government will seek to ratify the IAEA convention on nuclear liability in order to open its huge nuclear energy market to American firms. India needs U.S. technology, fuel, and talent. Given India's ambition to build 20 GWe in 10-15 years, it can’t get everything it needs from Russia or France.

The U.K. will really build nearly 20 GWe of new nukes

Like the man says, there is nothing like a hanging in the morning to clarify the mind. North Sea gas will run out and the age of the existing reactors and coal plants is simply alarming.

To avoid brown outs, or outright outages, the survival instinct of the Brits will come to the fore to build new reactors at eight sites. The first two will enter revenue service before the end of the next decade and all of them will be operational by 2030.

Save fish and pollute the planet

In New York Gov. Andrew Cumo will be thwarted in his efforts to deny Indian Point a renewal of a 20-year license from the NRC. Entergy, the owner and operator of the two reactors, which supply 2,200 MW to the state, will appeal and then litigate the state's demand for cooling towers instead of fish screens.

When the administrative appeals over the water quality permit run out, Entergy will likely go to court. It has the U.S. Supreme Court ruling as leverage which says states may use cost-benefit analysis when considering best available technology for permits under the Clean Water Act. For political reasons, New York doesn't want to do that. The courts may see it differently.

Vermont has hundreds of types of cheese and only one reactor

The big cheese in Vermont when it comes to the future of the Vermont Yankee plant is now Governor Peter Shumlin. He wants to retire the plant in 2012. He might change his mind if (1) Entergy sells the reactor to someone else, (2) the new owner offer great rates for electricity, and (3) the utility pumps money, ok a bribe, into Vermont's state managed Clean Energy Development Fund to keep the solar and wind people from cannibalizing it.

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UK market reforms will promote nuclear energy

Chris Huhe commits to keep the lights on

Chris HuhneWhen the current government took office in May 2010, Liberal Member and energy secretary Chrios Huhne, (right) a British arch druid in the anti-nuclear movement, was widely quoted as calling nuclear energy as a "tried, tested, and failed technology." A

fter less than a year of grappling with the crushing realities of having to replace the nation's aged fleet of nuclear and coal-fired power stations, Huhne has published a new market strategy that is a 180 degree reverse of this position.

The new strategy abandons Huhne's previous delusional obsession with renewable energy technologies. It adopts a cross-cutting energy strategy that focuses on the price of carbon emissions. The reason for the shift is that it became crystal clear to the government, with input from the major business association of heavy industry in the U.K., that wind and solar power would not, by themselves, meet the nation's future demand for electricity.

The result of limiting investment to "renewable" would have been brown outs or total loss of service. The new strategy reinstates a sense of urgency for build new, carbon emission free base load power generation capacity.

Huhne called it "a once in a generation chance to rebuild our electricity market."

The support for a rising price on carbon emissions is an action forcing mechanism that will shift investment from coal and natural gas to nuclear energy.

Victor de Rivaz, CEO of EDF in the U.K., which will build four of the nation's new reactors, said the new carbon price mechanism and electricity market reform are "two distinct steps" which will "encourage investment by putting values on decarbonization and security of supply

Read the full details exclusively at the Energy Collective now online.


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