Saturday, October 1, 2011

72nd Carnival of Nuclear Energy Bloggers

carnival The latest edition of the Carnival of Nuclear Energy Blogs is up at Yes Vermont Yankee.

This post is the collective voice of the best pro-nuclear blogs in North America. If you want to hear the voice of the nuclear renaissance, the Carnival of Nuclear Energy Blogs is where to find it.

Past editions have been hosted at ANS Nuclear Cafe, NuclearGreen, Deregulate the Atom, Atomic Power Review, Canadian Energy Issues, Idaho Samizdat, and CoolHandNuke, as well as several other popular nuclear energy blogs.

If you have a pro-nuclear energy blog, and would like to host an edition of the carnival, please contact Brian Wang at Next Big Future to get on the rotation.

This is a great collaborative effort that deserves your support. Please post a Tweet, a Facebook entry, or a link on your Web site or blog to support the carnival.

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Thursday, September 29, 2011

Scots drop out of UK nuclear new build

Were they ever really in it?

pitch pulled off the moundScottish & Southern Energy (LON:SSE) has taken its ball and glove and marched off the field leaving an alliance, called NuGen, with GDF Suez and Iberdrola to build new nuclear reactors in the U.K. The other two investors bought out Scottish & Southern's shares, worth 25% of the project, for an undisclosed price increasing their respective stakes to 50% each.

SSE said would now focus on renewable energy projects and with natural gas plants fueled by North Sea fields to keep the transmission lines humming when the wind doesn't blow. This may be the utility's real comfort zone and some question whether it ever really had its heart in the effort to invest in the nuclear field.

According to a Bloomberg wire service report for Sept 22, Investec analyst Angelos Anastasiou said, "Renewables are their favored area and where they see themselves in the forefront. The nuclear side was always half-hearted."

Cheers from the post-industrial greens

wnf-logoMeanwhile, in Scotland, post-industrial visionary green groups cheered SSE's decision. In widely reported rhetoric, Dan Barlow, a key figure at Scotland's World Wildlife Fund (WWF), said his organization welcomed SSE's abandonment of the nuclear project. And he went further calling on the remaining investors to give up their nuclear plans as well.

The government in Scotland, like Germany, has a delusional vision that it can provide up to 80% of its electricity needs with offshore wind power.

Scotland's energy minister Fergus Ewing echoed the statements of the WWF signaling perhaps a closer than expected relationship between green groups and the government. It raises the question of whether SSE made its decision to pull out based solely on financial risk or whether it was pushed into a retreat.

Ewing claims that the decision by SSE to pull out of a consortium to build a nuclear reactors is a "vindication" of one of the Scottish Government's policies to promote renewable energy.

And push back from realists

blinkered Not so fast says Tory finance and energy spokesman Gavin Brown, who accused the Scottish Government of being "blinkered" in its opposition to nuclear power.

"Nuclear power has a vital role to play in Scotland's future energy policies, as it provides stability and security for energy supplies, as well as being low carbon.

Many countries around the world pursue pro-nuclear policies, so it's regrettable and worrying that the SNP is being so blinkered on this."

According to news wire reports, Scottish Labor's finance spokesman, Richard Baker, also called on the SNP to explain how it would reach its renewables target of 80% by 2020.

"We believe there should be mixed energy sources and welcome the drive towards renewables. But there is a role for nuclear power, as part of this mixed approach. The SNP Government needs to show how it will meet the renewables energy target it has set itself."

In other words, prove it.

It's the money honey

Alistair Phillips-Davies, a spokesman for SSE, told financial wire services is was the money, and not politics, that drove the decision.

"We have concluded, that for the time being, our resources are better deployed on business activities and technologies where we have the greatest knowledge and experience."

SSE had put money on the table to get into the nuclear game. With its two partners at NuGen, in 2009 the alliance bought the government approved site for the planned reactors for £70 million ($109 million). At a 25% share, that works out to a commitment of about £18 million or around $27 million. This may sound like a lot of money, but SSE has a market cap of just over £12 billion which makes the site acquisition costs a sneeze on a summer day.

In point of fact, the NuGen alliance only made a down payment of £19.5 million on the site so SSE's actual cash outlay was probably just under £5 million or about $8 million. For a firm with a market cap of over £12 billion, it would be easy to walk away in favor of natural gas plants, and wind, knocking down claims by green groups they swayed the utility to drop its nuclear energy plans.

In short, Scottish & Southern barely had its toe in the nuclear waters and pulled it out after hardly ever getting wet.

SSE's heart is in wind

offshore windIn the category of putting your money where your mouth is, consider that SSE's real investments have been in renewables all along.

SSE's capital investment spending has been in projects like the £500 million Clyde wind farm (land based)(152 turbines) and the £650 million Greater Gabbard offshore wind farm (planned to be 140 turbines).

Overall, the utility's real money of £1.7 billion has been put into wind and natural gas plants. That's 14% of total market capitalization and represents real money.

The gas plants are a lot faster and cheaper to build than nuclear reactors and the fuel comes right off platforms in the North Sea. The base load power from the gas plants will keep the power lines humming when the wind isn't blowing, or blowing enough, to light Scotland's cities and power its factories.

Is the U.K. serious about nuclear?

Karen Dawson, an energy consultant at PwC, was quoted by Reuters on Sept 23 as saying SSE's announcement means the U.K. government hasn't done enough to lower the risk of building new reactors. The decision comes only a few months after the U.K. government unveiled plans to promote nuclear energy through a policy focus on "low carbon" energy sources.

However, Dawson points out the policy lacks effective means of providing a guaranteed rate of return on the huge capital expenditures required to build new reactors.

Chris Huhne Energy Minister Chris Huhe (left) has repeatedly said the government will not offer loan guarantees or other financial incentives to builders of new nuclear power plants. For their part, the major nuclear consortiums have said that what they want is a high price on carbon to drive investments to the nuclear sector.

Another financial analyst, Lakis Athanasiou, at Evolution Securities, told DowJones Newswires September 23 he thinks the SSE move is significant because "it casts a shadow" over the government's ambitious plans to build nearly 20 Gwe of nuclear powered electricity generation by 2025. Athanasiou says given current financial conditions, and Fukushima fed public skepticism about nuclear energy, he thinks the country "will be lucky to get 10 Gwe by 2030."

Not so dour an outlook

That said the plans by the two remaining investors in NuGen are nothing to sneeze at. They include development of 3.6 Gwe of nuclear reactor generating capacity with the first units entering revenue service in 2023. The firms say they will make formal financial commitments to the projects in 2015. The reactors are planned to be built at the Sellafield in West Cumbria.

The two remaining investors in NuGen are not so dour on the prospects for making money with new reactors. In a joint statement, GDF Suez and Iberdrola pronounced themselves "confident" of their direction and said, "there is no reason why the decision by SSE should impact our plans or timetable."

The other nuclear new build consortiums said the decision by SSE would not affect their plans. The German consortium (Horizon Power) composed of RWE and E.ON plan to invest up to £15 billion to build up to 6 Gwe of nuclear powered generating capacity at sites in Wylfa on Angelsey and Oldbury near Bristol. The projects are expected to enter revenue service by 2025.

In a statement the Horizon Power project said SSE's move has nothing to do with them and that their project would proceed as planned. EDF with its partner Centrica also said they remain committed to developing new nuclear reactors.

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Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Nuclear bloggers to hold live Q&A session with NRC’s Jaczko

It is a first of a kind webinar for the Chairman of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (reminder - there is still time to submit your questions)

Gregory Jaczko NRC March 2011The American Nuclear Society (ANS), in coordination with the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), announces a live online webinar for nuclear bloggers on Tuesday, October 4, 2011, from 11 AM - 12 Noon Eastern Time.

The webinar will be an unscripted question and answer session with NRC Chairman Gregory Jaczko. (left)

NRC Chairman Jaczko is participating in the session in order to broaden NRC outreach with the nuclear social media community. A similar one-hour session will be held October 6 with representatives of organizations who are critical of and/or oppose nuclear energy.

How to Register - registration is free

The webinar link is: https://www1.gotomeeting.com/register/208508233

For those unable to hook up by computer, the toll-free line to listen is: 888-469-3064 (passcode: 33572 )

Audio will be available through the web link for those persons using speakers or headphones.

How to submit questions

Participants in the October 4 session will be able to submit questions ahead of time using a designated NRC email address: BlogMtg1.Resource@nrc.gov

While Chairman Jaczko will likely be unable to answer all of the questions submitted in the time available, Eliot Brenner, Chief of NRC Public Affairs, said, "The agency will endeavor to address them online after the webinar via its blog at: http://public-blog.nrc-gateway.gov/

Time will also be allocated to answering questions submitted by participants via an online form on the webinar website. Those without web access will be able to dial in to listen to the webinar via a toll free telephone line, but will not be able to submit questions by phone.

Focus of discussion

The focus of the session will be on policy issues and the broad regulatory and safety objectives of the NRC. Questions which are most likely to be selected for the live session will be those that have broad public interest in terms of the NRC's mission.

"The NRC will answer any detailed technical questions about specific nuclear plant systems on its blog. Also, if we see a similar question submitted by several participants, we’ll ask a composite question," Brenner said.

Dan YurmanLaura Scheele, ANS Manager for Communications & Policy, said that the NRC session will be facilitated by Dan Yurman, (right) a nuclear blogger, on behalf of ANS.

He is a member of the American Nuclear Society and serves on the organization's Public Information Committee. Yurman will be on site at NRC headquarters for the session.

Scheele noted that the support of the elected officers of ANS was important to the NRC in organizing the event. They include Eric Loewen, President; Mike Corradini, Vice-President, and Joe Colvin, Immediate Past President.

Brenner added that the webinar would be archived as a podcast and available for download or online listening via the NRC website.

The announcement above is also available via the ANS website here: http://www.ans.org/misc/NRC_Webinar.pdf
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Sunday, September 25, 2011

Some countries make progress on nuclear energy despite Fukushima fears

Germany’s decision to close its reactors rejected as unrealistic

bid cover sheetSince the March 11 earthquake and tsunami hit the six TEPCO reactors at Fukushima Japan, anti-nuclear groups have been on a roll.  Germany’s panic attack which will result in closing 17 reactors accounting for a quarter of its electricity is widely touted as a bellwether example for other countries.  

The goal of post-industrial visionaries is to get the mainstream media and the public to accept a scenario of the inevitable end to the use of nuclear energy in as many places as possible.

But is this trend really taking place?  Recent developments indicate it is not.  Here are some examples.

China to lift ban on new projects

By early 2012 China will resume approving the start of new nuclear energy projects following completion of a national nuclear safety plan.  According to wire services, the China Securities Journal is reporting that in August the government completed the inspection of its existing fleet of nuclear reactors which provide about 11 Gwe of power. 

It said that plants under construction, including four from Westinghouse and two from Areva, were also part of the review. 

In an unexpected move, the Journal said the government would offer greater transparency on nuclear safety issues by making the results of the safety reviews available for public inspection.

Czech utility CEZ plans Europe’s largest reactor complexes

The Czech government is planning a significant expansion of nuclear energy now that Germany has moved to shutter its 17 reactors by 2020.  A national energy strategy would call for building two or more new reactors at Temelin and three more at Dukovany. The two sites house a total of six existing reactors and grid infrastructure. 

martin-kocourekCzech Industry & Trade Minister Martin Kocourek (right) told the Bloomberg wire service  September 8 the country will not give in to anti-nuclear influences from Austria or Germany.

“Czech doesn’t need ideology.  What it needs is a rational update of its energy strategy.  The current ideology-driven policies of some countries is one thing; our reality is another.”

If state-owned Czech utility CEZ builds all five reactors, worth about $28 billion, it will export electricity to Germany and Poland.  CEZ is expected to release documents related to the bid process next month.  The bidders are Areva, Westinghouse, and Rosatom.  An award for the first two new reactors to be built at Temelin is expected in 2013.

On September 15 CEZ named Daniel Benes, 41, as its new CEO with a mandate to execute a national energy strategy that includes building new nuclear reactors.  On September 20 Benes told financial wire services it will be his top priority linked to the goal of energy security for the Czech Republic.

Vaclav Klaus at UN On September 23 Czech President Vaclav Klaus (left) spoke at the United Nations in support of nuclear energy.  According to English language Czech news media, Klaus said: . . .

“We consider what happened in Fukushima did not by any means question the arguments for nuclear energy.  These arguments are strong, economically rational and convincing.”

He called Germany’s decision to close its reactors an “irrational populist event.” 

In a parallel statement trade minister Kocourek said that CEZ would not expand renewable energy sources beyond 13% because it is unrealistic to expect to run a modern country on them.  He added CEZ “has big doubts” about biomass.

South Korea to invest in Romanian nuclear plant

A South Korean nuclear energy consortium may invest in a project to build a third and a fourth reactor at Cernovoda in southeast Romania. The consortium replaces an investor group which pulled out of the project earlier this year. 

The project manager for the new reactors is EnergoNuclear.  Right now Romania’s state owned electric utility holds an 85% share in the project and Italy’s ENEL holds another 9%. If the deal goes through, the South Korean group could take up to a 45 % stake in the project which is estimated to cost $5.7 billion. 

Romania has two CANDU reactors at the site near the country’s Black Sea coast.  South Korea has experience with the CANDU design so it is plausible it may reference it in a proposal to build the next two units.

This would be a huge win for AECL which recently was split up with its reactor division sold off for peanuts to SNC Lavalin.  AECL has marketed itself in eastern Europe hoping for this kind of development.

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UAE nuclear reactors to break ground in December

The biggest single new nuclear power station on the plant will be located on the Persian Gulf

UAE reactor complex artistic rendering - source BBCConstruction of four new 1,400 MW nuclear reactors worth $20 billion, supplied by South Korea, will begin at Braka, 270 km west of Abu Dhabi on the shores of the Persian Gulf, in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) as early as this December. The actual date will depend on regulatory approval.

The first of the four new units, shown in this artist’s rendering, will come online in 2017 followed by the others through 2020. (Image right: BBC)

Korea's state-owned KEPCO made the announcement in Seoul, South Korea, this week.

KEPCO will provide a complete turnkey solution to the UAE including engineering procurement construction, nuclear fuel, operations, and maintenance support. The post construction phase of the project, for all four reactors, is estimated to be worth another $20 billion.

Read the full story exclusively at CoolHandNuke online now.

coolhandnuke

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