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Senate bill good news for energy security May 14, 2010

Posted by cleanidahoenergy in Politics and nuclear, President Obama, reprocessing.
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A proposed bill the US Senate would greatly promote the development of new nuclear generation and reprocessing facilities, according to this story in the Weekly Nuclear News. We hope it gets traction!

New energy policies for America

13 May 2010

A radical energy bill is on the table in the USA including stronger support for new nuclear generation and moves for a reprocessing research centre.

The 987-page Clean Energy Jobs and American Power Act, introduced to the Senate by John Kerry and Joe Lieberman on 12 May, leads with issues of nuclear power under the heading Encouraging Domestic Nuclear Power Generation. It is the most significant update to policy since the Energy Policy Act of 2005 which specified support for nuclear that has yet to really materialise.

After the section on nuclear come passages on a national strategy for carbon capture and sequestration, renewable energy and efficiency, cleaner transportation including electric vehicles and a set of overall goals for emission reduction.

Under the bill, “global warming pollution” would be reduced to 95.25% of 2005 levels by 2013, to 83% by 2020, 58% by 2030 and 17% by 2050. The method for this would be cap-and-trade, under allowances set by the Environmental Protection Agency.

Most immediately for nuclear, the bill echoes a request already made by President Barack Obama to boost the scope of loan guarantees for nuclear development to $54 billion. This is a big improvement on the current limit of $18.5 billion, which is only enough to aid finance for two or three projects.

It calls for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to “implement an expedited procedure” for more straight-forward applications to build – those with approved reactor designs, concerning sites with an Early Site Permit, or that come complete and with demonstrated financial backing. The NRC would have to suggest ways it could accelerate its processes within 90 days if the bill was passed. Within a year the commission would have to outline a way to “develop technology-neutral” guidelines for nuclear licensing “which will allow for a more seamless entry of new technologies into the marketplace.”

And for the construction phase, insurance against the risk of regulatory delays is to be boosted from the first six new reactors to the first 12 with a maximum payout of $500 million.

Small reactors

The bill contains language to help bring in a new era of small reactors: “Not later than 180 days after the date of enactment of this paragraph, the secretary [of energy] shall develop and publish on the website of the Department of Energy a schedule that contains an outline of a five-year strategy to lower effectively the costs of nuclear reactors.” A sum of $50 million is authorized in the bill for this program which includes research on “modular and small-scale reactors.”

Commitment to Excellence

Within one year, one of the USA’s national laboratories would have to be designated a “spent fuel recycling research and development centre of excellence to serve as the lead site for continuing research and development of advanced nuclear fuel cycles and separation technologies.”

This would be a major step in US policy away from President Jimmy Carter’s 1977 proliferation-inspired policy to never again separate plutonium. New methods could be developed where plutonium remains with fuel materials useless for nefarious bomb-makers. The USA’s entire management strategy for high-level waste and used nuclear fuel is under review in the wake of the decision to abandon the Yucca Mountain project.

Tax

A range of tax changes are also included to encourage utilities to build and manufacturers to enter the nuclear supply chain. Among these are an investment tax credit for nuclear power facilities and the inclusion of nuclear plants as qualifying for ‘advanced energy project’ credit.

For the supply chain, duty fees on certain nuclear components not available from US manufacturers will be suspended for ten years.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News

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US public support for nuclear at record high April 2, 2010

Posted by cleanidahoenergy in Energy policy, public opinion, reprocessing.
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American public support for nuclear just keeps increasing. According to the World Nuclear News, US public support for nuclear energy has reached a record high, with 74% of people saying they are in favour of nuclear energy.

Surveys have shown a significant change in the US public’s view of nuclear energy over past years. In 1983, a Bisconti poll showed 49 percent of Americans supported nuclear.

The latest poll found 80 percent of  men and 68 percent of women favor nuclear. It also showed 33 percent strongly favored nuclear, more than triple the number who strongly oppose it. Some 87 percent of those questioned said they believe “nuclear energy will play an important role in meeting the nation’s electricity needs in the years ahead.”

In addition, 70 percent of respondents agreed the USA should “definitely build more nuclear power plants in the future”, compared with 28 percent who disagreed. The poll also showed high support for the US government  encouraging investment and 72 percent of those questioned said they backed government loan guarantees.

In addition, 82 percent said existing US nuclear power plants are “safe and secure” and some 79 percent  also said they would support a US plan to recycle used nuclear fuel rods in order to generate more electricity and reduce the amount of waste.

“This unprecedented support for nuclear energy is being driven largely by people’s concerns for meeting future energy demand and environmental goals, but it coincides with statements by President Barack Obama and other national leaders who have voiced strong support for new nuclear power plants,” said Ann Bisconti, president of Bisconti Research. “The President’s State of the Union speech and his subsequent announcement of federal loan guarantees for new nuclear reactors in Georgia clearly has elevated the issues in people’s minds.”

Last week, by the Gallup polling organization published a public opinion poll that also found a record high support for use of nuclear energy in the USA.

Greenpeace eases opposition to nuclear a bit November 5, 2009

Posted by cleanidahoenergy in environmentalists, renewable energy, reprocessing.
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Few organizations have been as stridently anti-nuclear as Greenpeace. They’ve taken credit for scuttling nuclear plants (and doing nothing as coal took their place) and made opposition to nuclear energy a near-religious experience. However, with concerns about global warming and the growing realization that only nuclear can provide abundant, low-cost, always-on energy that society needs, even Greenpeace is holding back on the criticism.

In October, Greenpeace ran an advertisement in the Times of London about climate change and for the first time, there was no explicit policy against nuclear power. Instead there were stipulations for any new fossil power plants to come with CO2 abatement and for renewables to make up 15% of all energy. The ad promoted “low-carbon” energy but did not rule anything in or out of that.

Greenpeace UK’s executive director John Sauven adopted the same language in an open letter to British politicians which said: “If we don’t change the politics and take real action here and internationally we will lose our chance to save the climate… So far bold action has been trumped by short term interests.” Greenpeace UK executive director Stephen Tindale welcomed the change in its stance as a “positive step.”

Tindale, who ran Greenpeace from 2000 to 2005, is one of four prominent British environmentalists who are now lobbying in favor of nuclear power. Tindale reversed his opinions on nuclear power earlier this year to support it as a bridging technology to a time when renewables can take the major role in power generation.

Uranium is one of the most plentiful minerals in the Earth and we could power civilization for hundreds or even thousands of years with it, especially if the US reprocessed spent fuel like other nations, so we see it as a fairly permanent technology. Indeed, given the intermittency and unpredictability of renewables, we have no other choice if we are to sustain civilization as we know it.

“Only nuclear power can now halt global warming,” said James Lovelock, creator the Gaia theory, which regards the Earth and its abundant life as a kind of “organism.” We look forward to Greenpeace further moderating its stance along with other forward-thinking environmentalists, and taking a more all-of-the-above approach.

Nuclear power – a thumbnail sketch October 9, 2009

Posted by cleanidahoenergy in AEHI, reprocessing, Uncategorized.
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We recently produced this one-page handout for public meetings. While there’s a growing appreciation for the role nuclear power plays in creating carbon-free energy, there are still a lot of myths out there and handouts like this will help set the record straight. To see it at full-size, you may click and drag it to your desktop or save it to a folder.

One-page handout with facts about nuclear power.

One-page handout with facts about nuclear power.

Obama signals pro-nuke stance in Steven Chu pick January 20, 2009

Posted by cleanidahoenergy in balanced approach, Barack Obama, Global Nuclear Energy Partnership, international, nuclear industry, Politics and nuclear, President Obama, reprocessing, Steven Chu.
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I welcome President Obama to the leadership of the United States. While Obama has always been a supporter of nuclear power, his pick for Energy Secretary, Steven Chu, is especially encouraging.

On Jan. 13, Chu sat before the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources and confirmed the Obama administration’s strong desire to push our country “towards energy independence, ” including a “continued commitment to nuclear power.”

Chu affirmed he was “supportive of the fact that the nuclear energy industry is, and should have to be, a part of our energy mix in this century.” Alluding to the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership, Chu said he’s “confident that the Department of Energy, perhaps in collaboration with other countries, can get a solution to the nuclear waste problem” and that reprocessing of used nuclear fuel “can be a part of that solution … certainly recycling is an option that we will be looking at very closely.”

Chu also told Senators that he supports the loan guarantee program to use $18.5 billion as security to encourage lending for low-carbon generation technology.

“Nuclear power, as I said before, is going to be an important part of our energy mix. It’s 20 percent of our electricity generation today, but it’s 70 percent of the carbon-free portion of electricity today and it is base-load. So I think it’s very important we push ahead.”

As I blogged previously, Obama also made a good pick in his National Security Advisor, James Jones, a retired Marine general and former president and CEO of the Institue for 21st Century Energy, an affiliate of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Jones advocates a comprehensive overhaul to U.S. energy policy in the name of national defense.

Idaho Statesman publishes our response December 24, 2008

Posted by cleanidahoenergy in AEHI, Agriculture, economic benefits, Elmore County, Energy policy, Greenfield nuclear development, Idaho Statesman, nuclear industry, Politics and nuclear, reactor types, reprocessing, rural nuclear, Snake River Alliance, Water policy.
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For the past 30 years, the nuclear industry has kept a low profile, producing more energy with fewer reactors and with the best safety record imaginable. The industry is now making an effort to better publicize itself and that includes responding to misinformation.

The Idaho Statesman was kind enough to print this response to a recent Sierra Club column. You can see the online version at The Statesman’s site as well as the ensuing discussion.

Jennie Ransom: Nuclear power is very much a part of our green energy future

READER’S VIEW: ENERGY
Edition Date: 12/23/08

jennifer-ransomJessica Ruehrwein’s Nov. 12 Reader’s View repeats many of the same myths about nuclear power and we must present the truth. (While we disagree with Ruehrwein, her tone is a welcome change from the trademark incivility of the Snake River Alliance.)

Anti-nuclear activists are becoming increasingly isolated. Indeed, Scott Howson, one of Ruehrwein’s colleagues and chairman of the Rappahannock Group of the Sierra Club, said, “I see a solution ultimately in nuclear energy. It’s non-polluting, and that’s what we’re all looking for.”

The Pew Center on Global Climate Change, Wildlife Habitat Council, African-American Environmentalist Association, Natural Resources Defense Council, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and Environmental Defense are also willing to consider nuclear as part of a solution to global warming. In this past election, both Barack Obama and John McCain supported nuclear, as did all Idaho Republican and Democrat congressional candidates. A record 74 percent of Americans favor nuclear energy, according to a September 2008 Bisconti survey.

Like many people, I used to be opposed to nuclear power, until I did my homework. There is no other source of carbon-free power that can provide the reliable, low-cost energy our nation needs to remain secure and prosperous.

Alternate Energy Holdings is proposing the Idaho Energy Complex (www.idahoenergycomplex.com), the first base-load power plant in Idaho in 30 years. In contrast to first-generation reactors that need 30 million gallons of water daily, we’ll consume as few as 100,000, thanks to a hybrid cooling design. Water will move through the facility for cooling and go to farmers, a biofuels facility and greenhouses. Our opponents know this, yet they continue repeating misinformation (see our blog at cleanidahoenergy.wordpress.com).

It is true nuclear plants have high capital costs. The trade-off is that nuclear fuel is very inexpensive. A pound of uranium sells for about $45, yet a fuel pellet the size of your fingertip produces as much energy as 17,000 cubic feet of natural gas or 1,780 pounds of coal.

Despite the supportive rhetoric, environmentalists routinely oppose wind farms because of their potential to decimate bird and bat populations and the large amounts of land they consume. In contrast, nuclear plants take up relatively little land, fit both urban and rural areas and the land around them typically becomes habitat. Ruehrwein also omits mention of the subsidies that all forms of energy require, including renewables.

The spent fuel from American reactors over the past 50 years could cover a football field about 15 feet deep. That’s not much when you consider nuclear provides 20 percent of our nation’s energy and 80 percent of its carbon-free energy. All this spent fuel can be reprocessed into more fuel, as in other countries, but we don’t reprocess because of environmentalist opposition.

Our opponents conveniently forget to mention the merchant wind farms and geothermal producers that are already exporting Idaho power. They join the merchant farmers, food processors and computer chip makers who bring money and provide jobs in Idaho. The IEC would generate more energy than we could consume in the current market and help capture some of the $2 billion that Idahoans send out of state for power annually.

Oddly, critics seem to have no problem with merchant renewables. And neither do we. In truth, we have much in common with opponents in our support of renewable energy. However, we – and most Americans and political leaders – know national economic and security interests demand a mainstream, inclusive approach that recognizes renewable, nuclear, natural gas and other clean and low-carbon approaches.

Given nuclear power’s contributions and stellar safety record, we believe it is extremist and closed-minded to exclude any form of energy from our nation’s future.

Jennie Ransom is vice-president of administration of Alternate Energy Holdings Inc.

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.