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Conservation and “renting” water September 29, 2008

Posted by cleanidahoenergy in AEHI, Agriculture, economic benefits, reactor types, Water policy.
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I have been in preliminary discussions with landowners in Colorado about the possibility of building nuclear reactors in that state (yes, I’m pretty busy for someone who just turned 65). Like Idaho, Colorado is chronically dry Western state.

Unlike Idaho, in Colorado, water rights are separate from the land. Land is relatively cheap, but water rights are expensive. In discussions with these landowners, we hit upon the idea of “renting” their water.

A traditional nuclear reactor uses about 30 million gallons a day for cooling (those giant waisted towers you see in pictures with steam coming out the top). That’s a huge amount of water, more than Idaho has to spare. These reactors are typically built back East, where water is more plentiful. Their cooling method is akin to pouring water directly on your auto engine. Effective, but wasteful.

We will be using low-water reactors, optimized for dry environments, with cooling systems that will function much like very large automobile radiators. Hot water from the reactor will be pumped through a large system of heat sinks and fans, dissipating heat. Instead of 30 million gallons a day of water consumed, we will wind up consuming no more than 100,000 gallons a day, about as much as a small farm and a fairly small water right. While we have not finalized our reactor choice, examples of suitable reactors include GE’s Advanced Boiling Water Reactor (ABWR), Westinghouse’s Advanced Passive 1000 (AP1000), GE-Hitachi’s Economic Simplified Boiling-Water Reactor (ESBWR), Areva’s U.S. Evolutionary Power Reactor (U.S. EPR) and Mitsubishi’s U.S. Advanced Pressurized-Water Reactor (US-APWR)

Nevertheless, we will need to move several millions of gallons of water through the reactors daily to cool them. But we won’t actually consume this water – we just need it temporarily, for cooling. After that, it could go back to productive use.

“Thermal pollution,” or dumping hot water into lakes and streams, is a legitimate concern, one faced by any power plant that boils water to drive turbines, whether it’s coal, natural gas or thermal solar. Often, this water is held in cooling ponds before being returned to a lake or waterway, but we propose returning it to productive use. We could return the water to the farms that “rent” the water to us. This water is destined for these farms with or without our plant; we simply propose the water take a detour to us before going to the farmers, and we would pay the farmers for allowing us to make use of this resource.

We also propose a biofuels complex and we will invite local entrepreneurs to build greenhouses. These uses will absorb some of the reactor heat, generate jobs and business and put the water to other agricultural uses.

Under this scenario, all the water we “rent” would eventually wind up back in the Snake River in about the same quantity as if we had never existed (less our 100,000 gallons consumption and any additional agricultural uses the hot water may be put to). In the process of running through agricultural fields, the heat in the water will be thoroughly dissipated and will wind up in the Snake River will minimal extra heat. In any case, we will be required to abide by strict Environmental Protection Agency limits on what we put back into rivers and streams. Specifically, plants are not allowed to put water into rivers and lakes that is above the average natural temperature of the waterway and violators face heavy fines and shutdown.

I don’t think we’re the first ones to have ever thought of “renting” water like this and we will need to research the concept more thoroughly. But we have an idea that we will be able to refine as our application moves forward.

Buffet purchase underscores nuclear’s profitability September 23, 2008

Posted by cleanidahoenergy in Greenfield nuclear development, nuclear industry, Warren Buffet.
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Less than a year after getting out of the nuclear business, Warren Buffet is back into it in a big way. Buffet’s Mid-American Energy is purchasing Constellation Energy for $4.7 billion and obtaining ownership in UniStar.

In December 2007, Mid-American pulled out of a prospective nuclear power plant site in Payette, Idaho, after conducting preliminary site analysis. The cries of joy from anti-nukes were loud, proclaiming it’s proof that nuclear isn’t profitable (although I have a hard time imagining these people applauding a profitable nuclear plant). We maintained that nuclear is plenty profitable – some plants generate $3 million a day in profit – but has a longer-term horizon that Buffet is comfortable with. We also maintained that nuke plant development requires a team with considerable industry experience, something that Buffet lacked.

Our analysis has proven correct. Buffet knows nuclear is very profitable and he wants in on the start of the renaissance. What better way than purchasing a turnkey company that has a track record of good management and profitability? Some 60% of Constellation’s 8,700 megawatts of generation capacity comes from nukes and the company plans to build more.

Clearly, Buffet wants even more nuclear with purchase of Constellation and UniStar. He knows a winner when he sees one he is also a significant stockholder in NRG, which is building nukes in Texas. It wouldn’t surprise me if Buffet returned to Idaho with a nuclear proposal in the not-too-distant future – possibly after we have begun building our plant.

“Warren Buffet is a wise businessman and currently is investing in a number of businesses,” said Scott Robertson, regional manager of Areva NP Inc. “That he decided to invest in Constellation, a utility with a strong nuclear focus, demonstrates the value of this sector and also is encouraging for the EPR” (Evolutionary Production Reactor, third generation advanced design).

Wall Street Journal reporter Keith Johnson blogged that Buffet’s embrace of nuclear power could mean that either MidAmerican expects costs for fossil fuels to increase, improving nuclears competitive position, or Buffett expects Washington to sow the seeds of the long-awaited nuclear revival. Either way, its good news for us, for investors and for the nation.

Idaho congressional candidates come out in favor of nuclear September 18, 2008

Posted by cleanidahoenergy in Energy policy, Politics and nuclear.
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Our company recently polled all candidates for federal office in Idaho, asking them their position on nuclear power. I found the results interesting and heartening. If I were the Snake River Alliance’s shoes, I’d be very concerned about the apparent lack of support for their position among credible candidates.

The press release is below:

Idaho candidates for Congress overwhelmingly support nuclear power

Eight candidates seeking Senate and House seats believe nuclear power is a safe, effective way to meet national energy needs; lone candidate against it believes “God doesn’t like it”

Sept. 17, 2008


Martin Johncox, 208-658-9100

Don Gillispie, 208-939-9311

Eight of the nine candidates for federal office in Idaho support exploring nuclear energy as a way to address our country’s energy needs, according to a survey conducted by Alternate Energy Holdings Inc.

Aside from the peculiar response of the lone candidate opposing nuclear, the findings of the survey do not surprise Don Gillispie, president and CEO of AEHI. The company has begun the local application process to build a 1,600-megawatt, advanced third-generation nuclear power plant in Elmore County

“There are few issues that will produce unanimity from such a wide variety of parties and political beliefs, but nuclear is that kind of issue,” Gillispie said. “The results add to the evidence that old-school anti-nuke groups are becoming increasingly out-of-the-mainstream and isolated in the early 21st century. It’s time for them to wake up and join the search for carbon-free, reliable energy sources.”

The survey results are congruent with the positions of the Presidential candidates, reputable and influential environmental groups and the American public. A June 2008 Zogby poll, for example, found 67 percent of Americans support construction of new nuclear plants in the United States. According to the poll, Americans are more likely to back government support for nuclear, wind and solar power.

“I urge Democrats and the small number of anti-nuke Republicans in the Idaho Legislature to take a cue on this issue from their colleagues running for national office, who are attuned to our national as well as our state interests,” Gillispie said. “The demands of global warming, economic development and national security are making nuclear a necessity now more than ever.”

The survey consisted of one question: “How do you feel about nuclear energy?” Candidate Web sites were reviewed and candidates were also allowed to make a statement explaining their position. The survey concerned nuclear power in general and responses should not be construed as a position on the Idaho Energy Complex or any other proposed development.

Here are the results:

U.S. Representative District 1:

  • Republican first-term Rep. Bill Sali said “If we want our children and our grandchildren to enjoy the same prosperous country we have enjoyed, we must get our hands on every bit of energy we can from every possible source. That includes nuclear energy and it includes American crude oil, alternative and renewable energies and conservation.”
  • Democrat Walt Minnick’s spokesman John Foster said “Walt favors an ‘all-of-the-above’ strategy and believes we can’t take any possible solution off the table. A comprehensive solution to the country’s energy problems is going to include taking a look at every possible option, which includes nuclear.”

U.S. Representative District 2

  • Democrat Debbie Holmes said “I am in favor of nuclear as long as we’re reprocessing the spent fuel. We shouldn’t bury the waste when we can reprocess it and get more energy out of it.”
  • Republican Rep. Mike Simpson said “I have been a long and vocal proponent of expanding our nation’s use of nuclear power to meet our growing energy needs and reduce pollutants and carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.”

U.S. Senate:

  • Republican Lt. Gov. Jim Risch’s campaign director, Matt Ellsworth, said “Risch is supportive of expanding nuclear energy.”
  • Democrat Larry LaRocco states on his Web site “Nuclear power plays a key role in energy independence because it has an excellent operating record and generates electricity in a reliable, environmentally safe and affordable manner without emitting greenhouse gases.”
  • Libertarian Kent Marmon said “Nuclear energy has proven to be a safe, clean alternative … It is a system that has been used widely throughout the world, and through lessons learned and technological advances that have been made, is an excellent alternative for power generation.”
  • Independent Rex Rammell states on his Web site “I support all forms of energy production as long as they are clean and safe. In particular, I believe we have overlooked the safety and efficacy of nuclear power and I support the building of more nuclear power plants.”
  • Independent Pro-Life (formerly known as Marvin Richardson), the lone candidate opposing nuclear energy, said “I’m against nuclear powered anything, including nuclear submarines. We haven’t found ways to deal with the byproducts safely. I’m a clean coal technology enthusiast but I wouldn’t vote for government promoting any kind of energy … I think God doesn’t like it [nuclear energy].”

Nuclear power is renewable energy September 9, 2008

Posted by cleanidahoenergy in reprocessing.
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Many people in the nuclear industry have argued it should be considered a form of renewable energy. Recently, Eric Silagy, the chief development officer of Florida Power and Light, told The Miami Herald the best way to reduce greenhouse gases is to define nuclear as a renewable energy source.

According to the Herald, Silagy said ”it just makes sense for nuclear to be included.” Nuclear is a baseload power supply, ”operating 24 hours a day while emitting zero greenhouse gases. Solar power is intermitment,” producing electricity perhaps 22 to 24 percent of the time.

Unfortunately, the story really didn’t explain how nuclear is indeed renewable in the traditional sense. To make reactor fuel, natural uranium must be enriched to contain 3 to 5 percent burnable uranium. Once the percent falls below that, the fuel is considered “spent,” even though 95 percent of energy potential remains. To unlock the remaining energy, the spent fuel must be reprocessed to restore the level of burnable uranium.

Thanks to reprocessing, the “waste” that is spent fuel can be profitably reused and the amount of radiation reduced. After 40 years, the radioactivity of spent fuel drops by 99.9 percent, leaving the more potent transuranic components, which can be reused as fuel if reprocessed.

Eco-conscious France, which gets 80 percent of energy from nuclear reactors, is the top reprocessor, followed by England. For political reasons, the U.S. has pretty much stopped recycling, but reprocessing is an important part of the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership. In March 2007, more then 350 people turned out for a federal government public hearing in Idaho Falls to a possible reprocessing plant in Eastern Idaho.

What could be more renewable than reprocessing your spent fuel, getting more fuel in the process and virtually eliminating harmful waste?

Of course, many environmentalists are aghast at the idea of counting nuclear as a renewable. I suggest they turn their attention to the issue of global warming, as environmentalists, by pushing the country against nuclear power, had a major role in global warming. Energy companies simply moved from nuclear to coal power to meet our national energy needs (and coal, ironically, emits far more radiation, but that’s another story).

I think we’ve taken the advice of the anti-nukes long enough on this issue. It’s time to count nuclear power for what it really is: A highly effective form of renewable energy.

Renewable energy relies on exporting power September 2, 2008

Posted by cleanidahoenergy in Energy policy.
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One of our opponents’ main approaches has been to criticize the likelihood that the Idaho Energy Complex will ship its power to neighboring states. They argue that we should instead put all our eggs in the renewables basket and, presumably, that power would stay in Idaho.

Our opponents are undercutting their own arguments and I think they know it. According to an Aug. 30 story in the Idaho Statesman, renewable energy can only become a significant contributor to our national power supply if we export it between states. The story, sent by the New York Times News Service, talks about the $320 million Maple Ridge Wind farm in upstate New York, which has to shut down even when winds are blowing because there aren’t enough transmission lines to send the power to buyers.

“The dirty secret of clean energy is that while generating it is getting easier, moving it to market is not,” according to the story. Also, making renewables significant contributors “would require moving large amounts of power over long distances, from the windy, lightly populated plains in the middle of the country to the coasts where many people live. Builders are also contemplating immense solar-power stations in the nation’s desert that would pose the same transmission problems.”

Our current national power system has about 200,000 miles of lines divided among 500 owners – it is more like a cobbled-together collection of streets, alleys and roads. The Energy Department has a plan for a 2,100-mile high-voltage backbone to whisk energy between states that sell it and states and buy it. But expanding the grid is painfully slow, with state governments, landowners and environmental groups fighting expansion every step of the way. According to the story, power generation is growing four times faster than transmission ability.

Even if we built the transmission lines, what would people in the Plains states feel about millions of acres covered with 400-foot turbines, exporting all that power to the East Coast? What would people in Arizona think about hundreds of thousands of acres covered solar panels, with all that power going to the Intermountain West?

At some point, our common interests as Americans will need to prevail – for our prosperity, even our national survival. Regardless of where we live, we all want economic growth and clean, affordable, reliable energy. We have no problems selling our food, timber, computer chips and minerals out of state. When we can view energy in the same way, we will have taken a big step toward securing our economy and our future survival.