Tuesday, March 28, 2006

3/28 FHPN Nuclear power in news

"FHPN," "Fair, Honest, Principled News," is a regular feature which gives links and excerpts, with bold emphasis added for key points, from selected recent stories, often focused on a single important theme, and my bold italicized comments. See 3/11 "Digests of my previous posts for busy people" link for blog's core ideas.

Thanks to those who have recently e-mailed or posted their comments, I greatly appreciate it.

This edition of FHPN focuses on nuclear power. I am simply posting summaries of a spate of recent articles on the subject without my comment for now, as I continue to try to evaluate this emotionally charged issue. Given the very high stakes, including national and energy security and the environment, responsibly commenting on nuclear power requires rationally trying to take into account at least the six different perspectives indicated by the acronym BEGETS in my blog's tag line. For a related subject, also see my 3/14 "FHPN Evidence of climate change faster than modeled mounts from Arctic, Antarctica, Greenland" link. The 3/21 FHPN, link, focused on "Real estate slowdown, Spring clearer look at fundamentals, speculative psychology tipping point."

To access multiple articles on some news sites either free register or delete cookies.

3/13 Bloomberg "Uranium May Lead Rally in Metals on Nuclear Revival" link "Nuclear energy's revival can best be seen in uranium, which outperformed the metals markets in 2005 and may do so again this year ... Uranium last year gained 76 percent, beating all but one of the 19 commodities in the Reuters/Jefferies CRB Index. ... Just 60 percent of the uranium consumed in the world's nuclear reactors is mined each year. Without supplies from stockpiles and recycled from Russian warheads, the energy industry wouldn't have enough uranium to keep all of its plants running ...Speculators "have taken out whatever slack exists in the market" ... Investors are "getting to available supplies of uranium before the utilities." After three decades of stagnation, the nuclear industry may receive more than $200 billion of investment by 2030, according to the International Energy Agency in Paris. As well as the 24 reactors now being built, another 41, with a capacity of almost 43,000 megawatts, have been ordered or are planned, according to the World Nuclear Association in London ... [one analyst foreceast] "The uranium market will remain tight for at least the next three years." ... [another] forecasts that wholesale uranium will peak at an average $38 a pound next year and fall to $32 in 2008 as new mines come on stream and reactors use uranium more efficiently."

3/24 AFP "Nuclear an integral part of China's 15-year energy plan" link "China's will speed up construction of nuclear power stations as part of a 15-year national strategy to satisfy massive energy demand, state media has reported. The State Council, or cabinet, has approved the energy blueprint for 2005-2020 with nuclear to play an "integral role", the China Daily reported ... By 2020, the country's nuclear power generation capacity is expected to reach 40,000 Megawatts, or four percent of China's total power output, the report said ... China has to build at least one nuclear power station with a capacity of 1,800 megawatts per year ... an effort to overcome ongoing energy shortages and to build up alternatives to massive coal use ... China already has 11 nuclear reactors in operation ... China's nuclear drive has sparked huge international interest."

3/4 AsiaTimes "China embraces the atom" link Note: this is a thorough review article, from which I can give only limited excerpts, please go to the original. "Beijing has embraced nuclear power as a solution. According to the China National Nuclear Corp (CNNC), the government body responsible for much of the country's nuclear-power program, China plans to invest US$48 billion to build 30 nuclear reactors by 2020. Currently, the country has nine reactors in operation with another two under construction at a combined cost of $3.2 billion ... The US Department of Energy's Energy Information Administration (EIA) predicts China's annual nuclear-energy consumption could rise to 66 billion kilowatt-hours in 2010, up dramatically from 16 billion kWh in 2000. In addition, EIA predicts the country's nuclear electricity consumption will rise to 129 billion kWh by 2015 and 142 billion kWh by 2020, surpassing both Canada and Russia ... fears in Beijing that oil could control the country's destiny, making the identification and development of alternative energy sources a key priority ... A key component of China's energy program is the development of alternative nuclear power technologies. This year, a $370 million, 190-megawatt nuclear plant using "pebble-bed technology" is expected to begin construction. Built by China Huaneng Group, parent of Huaneng Power International Inc, the power plant will use new high-temperature, gas-cooled reactor technology instead of the pressurized-water technology ... In another move designed to develop alternative energy technologies, China has partnered with the United States, the European Union, Russia, South Korea, India and Japan to experiment with nuclear fusion."

3/27 ABC "China looks to Australian uranium deal" link "Australia and China look set to sign agreements on the use of Australian uranium in Chinese nuclear power plants. China's second highest leader Wen Jiabao arrives in Australia this Saturday for the first visit by a Chinese Premier in 18 years. The centrepiece of his four-day trip appears to be a deal over uranium. A Chinese spokesman this afternoon said two agreements will be signed over China's peaceful use of nuclear energy and the exploration and exploitation of uranium."

3/26 AP "France a leader in nuclear power" link "a new crop of leaders, from North America to Europe to Asia, is thinking nuclear ... France the only European country that continued making new nuclear plants after Chernobyl, France has up-to-date expertise that it's keen to export ... even a few environmental activists are reconsidering nuclear power ... China and India are embracing nuclear energy ... The United States and Russia are reviving long-dormant nuclear plans ... Finland is building the first new reactor in Western Europe since 1991 ... Sweden and Germany are shutting down, not starting up, reactors ... France's key partner in promoting that renaissance is an unexpected one: the United States ... Some 25 reactors are under construction around the world, adding to the network of 440 commercial nuclear-power plants spread out over 31 countries that supply 16 percent of the world's total electricity. The Bush administration has enraged environmental groups with its new "alternative energy" plan which, while promising money for wind and solar energy, makes the government's first big pitch for nuclear energy in 27 years ... This month former U.S. Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham was appointed chairman of the board of Areva, the company's U.S. operation... a University of Chicago study concluded that a new fleet of more efficient reactors can be expected to produce power as cheaply as coal and natural gas ... The high-profile battle for control of U.S. nuclear company Westinghouse — which Toshiba recently bought from British Nuclear Fuels for $5.4.billion, twice the expected price — underscores the business world's view that the industry is poised for a takeoff ... While European public opinion remains strongly anti-nuclear, some governments are hoping that a European Union proposal to boost nuclear energy will help them overcome the naysayers."

3/27 GuardianUK "Most EU leaders back reviving nuclear power" link "The overwhelming majority of leaders at last week's European Union summit, including Tony Blair, strongly backed a revival of nuclear power as the answer to Europe's growing dependence on overseas supplies and to combat climate change. Only Germany and Austria explicitly rejected the nuclear option in secret summit talks ... Angela Merkel, the chancellor and a trained physicist, favoured it personally but was bound by her Social Democrat coalition partners to reject it. Andris Piebalgs, EU energy commissioner and author of this month's green paper on a common energy policy, made it plain in an interview that a revival of atomic power was not the "silver bullet" ... Last week's summit endorsed the notion of an EU action plan designed to save 20% of energy consumption by 2020 and plans to raise the 6% of energy provided by renewables to 20% by the same date ... Mr Piebalgs ... indicated that a critical answer to Europe's long-term supply needs was to increase the market for liquefied natural gas (LNG), which could be imported from several countries. He suggested that LNG should provide 20%-25% of European energy within the next 25 years."

3/27 BusRep "Study for another Koeberg is under way" link "[South Africa Public Enterprise Minister] Erwin also painted a rosy picture of the pebble bed project, confirming that the government envisaged setting up 30 of the minireactors in the country. He said the introduction of the pebble bed reactor could not have come at a more economically opportune time. "Its positive attributes from an environmental point of view and its potential link with hydrogen production add immensely to the attractiveness of this technology." Erwin said that the pebble bed reactor would "reduce dangerous emissions" and that its waste was "very highly manageable. It was produced in small amounts that can be stored without harm to people or the environment." The initial reactor project entails the building of a demonstration reactor at Koeberg and a pilot fuel plant near Pretoria ... construction of the demonstration plant is scheduled to start in 2007 and be completed by 2011. The first commercial reactor modules are planned for 2013. Investors in the company running the project include the government, Eskom, the Industrial Development Corporation and US nuclear giant Westinghouse."

3/28 "SA's 'small, safe' nuclear power" link Note: thorough background article on pebble bed modular reactor (PBMR) technology mentioned in articles above on South Africa and China. I will give excerpts from this article later today when I have the time.

3/26 AFP "Japan's long-stalled nuclear power project gets boost" link "Japan's long-stalled controversial plan to use recycled fuel in nuclear power reactors received a boost after a rural town accepted the method despite nationwide safety concerns ... Kyushu Electric plans to start operating a reactor at its Genkai nuclear power plant with MOX fuel in the business year to March 2011. It will become Japan's first plant to use MOX fuel ... In the so-called pluthermal process, plutonium extracted from spent nuclear fuel is combined with uranium oxide to create MOX fuel, which is then burned in light-water reactors. The Japanese government has been pushing the pluthermal process since 1997 as the center of its nuclear-fuel recycling policy to make up for the country's poor reserves of natural resources. Its plan to use a fast-breeder reactor, which produces more plutonium than it uses, had been suspended due to a sodium leak accident in 1995 at its pilot plant Monju ... Japan relies on nuclear power for one third of its electricity, and the ratio is expected to go up to 40 percent by 2010. The Japanese electric industry has plans to use the pluthermal method at 16-18 nuclear reactors in the country by the year to March 2011. But they have been stalled by a series of accidents and scandals. Tsunehisa Katsumata, who heads the Federation of Electric Power Companies of Japan, welcomed Genkai's move as "an extremely significant step forward.""

3/26 RFE/RL "China/India: Emerging Giants Look To Nuclear Power" link "Since [Chernobyl], virtually no new reactors have been built in the West, and many of the more than 440 nuclear reactors in the world will soon be reaching the end of their operational lives ... the soaring price of oil and increasing concerns about climate change have produced a new interest in nuclear power. In Europe and the United States, serious consideration is being given to new power plants, despite the radioactive waste the process produces ... China brought six new reactors on line between 2002 and 2004, and plans at least another 30 in the next 15 years. India, likewise, is aiming for 30, with seven due to come on line by 2008. Both countries are starting from a low base, in that in 2004 nuclear power accounted for less than 3 percent of each country's total electricity production ... Flavin [president of WorldWatch Institute] says the swing to nuclear power must not be exaggerated. Even 30 new reactors each would leave China and India well behind some European countries ... Flavin dismisses doubts about the practicality of renewable energy sources as a "myth" and says this is likely the way China and India will go."

3/24 BBC "Japan's shaky nuclear record" link "The decision by a Japanese court to order the closure of the country's newest nuclear reactor casts a shadow over the future of Japan's nuclear power industry ... Japan has the third largest nuclear generation capacity in the world, with 55 reactors, behind only France with around 80, and the United States with over 100 ... If any of them are even temporarily closed down, it would leave the country with a serious power shortage, as they account for about a third of its electricity needs. In the US, in comparison, nuclear power provides about 20% of the country's electricity ... While Japan holds a good reputation for public safety ... public trust has been shaken by a number of mainly minor accidents in recent years."

3/22 AFP "Germany still needs nuclear power: economy minister" link "German economy minister Michael Glos said his nation still needs nuclear energy, calling for a review of the previous administration's decision to shut down its atomic power plants ... Glos emphasized his view was purely personal and said he realized it would be difficult to reverse the decision taken by the previous government under Gerhard Schroeder to phase out nuclear power. But a review of Germany's energy policy was required because of political instability in oil and gas producer regions, he said."

3/25 AFP "UN nuclear chief wants urgent reform of Security Council" link "The head of the United Nations nuclear watchdog called for urgent reform of the UN Security Council to give it greater powers, especially in addressing the threat of nuclear proliferation. "It is clearly time for the Security Council to be reformed, expanded and strengthened, as part of the current efforts to reform and revitalize the United Nations," said Mohamed ElBaradei, head of the International Agency for Atomic Energy (IAEA) in Vienna ... "When dealing with threats of nuclear proliferation and arms control, the Security Council has too often fallen short." In specific cases of arms control, the Security Council's efforts had not been very systematic or successful."

3/26 USAT "U.S. confronts issue of 'loose nukes' on several fronts" link "With little fanfare, U.S. utilities have been buying uranium that once sat in Soviet nuclear weapons to fuel civilian nuclear power reactors. The program supplies half the uranium used by U.S. nuclear plants which, in turn, generate 20% of all U.S. commercial power. That means, essentially, that one in every 10 light bulbs in America is powered by uranium that once sat atop a Russian missile. Linton Brooks, head of the Energy Department's National Nuclear Security Administration, called the program one of several aimed at preventing a terrorist weapon from entering the USA aboard a container ship. The U.S. strategy against what is sometimes called the "loose nukes" problem includes: Securing sites ... Securing nuclear material ... Reducing quantities ... Border control ... Port security"

3/26 USAT "Official warns of unsecured nuclear reactors" link "One-third of the world's 130 civilian nuclear research reactors lack security upgrades needed to prevent theft of materials that terrorists could use to build an atomic bomb, the chief U.S. nuclear proliferation official says ... The U.S. government won't say specifically where the unsecured reactors are. All reactors in the USA, Russia and Eastern Europe have adequate security, according to the National Nuclear Security Administration and Holly Harrington of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. That's an improvement over 10 years ago when many Soviet bloc research reactors were particularly vulnerable to theft ... That leaves 47 reactors with inadequate or questionable security in China, Ghana, Jamaica, Pakistan and Uzbekistan, according to an International Atomic Energy Agency list. There are also research reactors in countries hostile toward the United States, including Iran and North Korea ... Brooks said security has improved at former Soviet bloc research reactors with U.S. funds of about $1 billion a year ... The world's research reactor security efforts are "at about 3" on a 1-to-10 scale with 10 being safest, said Nunn, who helped create the 1991 U.S. plan to secure nuclear materials."

3/26 AP "Nations look at sites for nuclear plants" link Article gives a summary "look at some countries building or considering new nuclear reactors."

3/24 ColumbiaStar "Nuclear power for electric power, again" link "Duke Power dropped its Cherokee County plans for a new nuclear plant 23 years ago. Now, at the same site, the same company announced last week it is planning a new nuclear power plant, this time in partnership with Southern of Atlanta ... Also talking new nuclear power plants is Columbia's SCANA and Raleigh's Progress Energy. For now, in the present regulatory environment, Duke can sell wholesale electric power to Southern and wheel it through SCANA lines for a regulated fee. So if Duke finishes its next generation of nuclear plants first, Duke can wheel its new-found bulk-rate electric power to the other utilities at a volume discount while SCANA and Progress get their new nukes on line ... Duke, Southern, SCANA, and Progress are saying each needs new nuclear power plants to generate electricity for their designated and regulated and protected respective domains. But the other shoe could drop on the electric utility industry's regulatory protection. The electric utilities could lose their designated, regulated, and protected domains. Competition could come in on the retail level, freeing up access for everybody, and rendering some of the new electric power unnecessary, like in 1984."