Monday, May 19, 2008

News From the Week of May 19, 2008

Solar Panels Unveiled at Fenway Park

Three Mile Island Nuclear Plant Violated Security Rules

Nuke Waste Move Brings Mishap at Vermont Yankee

EnergySolutions is Willing to Limit Foreign Waste

Idaho Environmental Group Questions Nuclear Waste Shipments

Solar Panels Unveiled at Fenway Park
By Andrew Ryan, Globe StaffThe green at Fenway Park will no longer be limited to the cushiony grass, historic rafters, and 37-foot-high wall in left field. Enough solar panels have been installed on the roof to heat a third of the hot water needed at the 96-year-old ballpark. The solar installation, which is being unveiled today, will provide 37 percent of the hot water needed at the stadium, reducing annual carbon dioxide emissions by roughly 18 tons. The project is being spearheaded by National Grid, which has committed $75,000 to Solar Boston. City and federal officials announced plans for the environmental upgrade at Fenway last month to highlight a $600,000 initiative to increase the city's solar energy output 50-fold by 2015. Dubbed Solar Boston, the effort will map neighborhoods to identify south-facing rooftops ideal for photovoltaic panels; market solar power to businesses and homeowners; and work to overcome technical and financial barriers to solar energy. "The program is designed to jump-start widespread solar installations throughout Boston with a public-private partnership," said James Hunt, the city's environmental and energy services chief. The goal is to increase solar output from the current 1/2 megawatt to 25 megawatts, which is enough to power 3,000 Boston households, Hunt said. Mayor Thomas M. Menino said last month that the goal is to "make clean, abundant, and affordable solar energy the norm and no longer an alternative source of energy." The program will be funded in part by $150,000 from the Department of Energy, a grant the city matched. The federal government will also provide an additional $250,000 in technical assistance over two years, and the state has agreed to contribute $50,000, Hunt said. The Menino administration plans to lead the citywide solar push by installing about $1 million worth of panels on municipal buildings, including Brighton High School, The Strand Theatre, Tobin Community Center, and the West Roxbury Branch Library. That is on top of Boston's $2 million Green Affordable Housing Program that has added solar to the roofs of six city developments.


Three Mile Island Nuclear Plant Violated Security Rules
May 16 - United Press International

Federal nuclear regulators said they will be conducting inspections at Pennsylvania's Three Mile Island Nuclear Generating Station after a security lapse.

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission said the security issue, which occurred last summer, was discovered and reported by the operator of the plant, AmerGen Energy, The Patriot-News in Harrisburg, Pa., reported Friday.

The commission didn't specify the nature of the security lapse, only that it didn't involve inattentive or sleeping security officers and was of moderate to serious significance.

AmerGen Energy officials said the issue was immediately corrected.

A Nuclear Regulatory Commission spokesman said close inspections of security operations at the plant will be conducted during the next 12 months.


Nuke Waste Move Brings Mishap at Vermont Yankee
BRATTLEBORO, Vt. (The Associated Press) - May 17

The first attempt by the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant to move highly radioactive spent fuel from a storage pool to a new concrete pad outside the reactor building ended in a mishap when a crane dropped a concrete storage cask 4 inches to the floor, officials said.

A faulty electrical relay in the crane was blamed for Monday's incident and has been replaced, said Vermont Yankee spokesman Robert Williams. The cask was not damaged and no workers were hurt, he said. The incident was not considered a safety hazard, which would have prompted a public posting on a Nuclear Regulatory Commission Web site. Williams said it is expected the crane will be back in operation sometime this coming week after testing.

The cask contained 68 spent fuel assemblies, the first to be moved from the spent fuel pool in the reactor building to the new "dry cask storage" pad in the adjacent plant yard.

Vermont Yankee won permission for dry cask storage two years ago, saying the fuel storage pool at the now 36-year-old reactor was filling up and that more waste storage was needed or the plant would have to shut down. The space crunch is due to the fact that the federal government has failed to date to open a long-planned site to take waste from nuclear plants, where it is backing up.

Vermont's Department of Public Service, which advises the governor on energy issues, agreed that there was no risk to workers or the public, said its spokesman, Stephen Wark.

Wark said the DPS had its nuclear adviser, Uldis Vanags, "on site as an observer. We have been aware of the transfer incident and backup safety systems worked as designed."

Wark said he was glad Vermont Yankee decided to make word of the incident public, calling it "an effort to further transparency."


EnergySolutions is Willing to Limit Foreign Waste

SALT LAKE CITY (The Associated Press) - May 20 - By BROCK VERGAKIS
Associated Press Writer

The chief executive of EnergySolutions Inc. said Tuesday he wants to import a limited amount of foreign nuclear waste for disposal in the west desert to improve the company's chances of building dumps abroad.

EnergySolutions has an application pending before the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to import 20,000 tons of low-level radioactive waste from Italy. It is the largest import license request for nuclear waste the NRC has ever received.

EnergySolutions wants to bring the Italian waste through New Orleans or Charleston, S.C., for processing and incineration in Oak Ridge, Tenn. The company then wants to bury 1,600 tons in Utah, home of the country's largest and only privately owned low-level radioactive waste dump.

The proposal has led to widespread opposition in Utah and other states the waste would travel through. It has also sparked a bill in Congress that would ban the importation of all low-level radioactive foreign waste unless it originated here or came from an American military facility.

The bill's sponsors worry that the U.S. won't have enough space for domestic waste if it accepts foreign waste.

During testimony in Washington, D.C., before a House subcommittee on the bill, EnergySolutions CEO Steve Creamer said capacity isn't a problem and he wouldn't do anything that might mean domestic customers have no place to dispose of waste.

"We do not want to bring wholesale radioactive waste into this country," Creamer said.

He said the intent in importing the waste is to "have an American company build a strong position internationally."

When the company went public last year, it listed its Utah disposal site as one of its competitive strengths.

In prepared remarks, Creamer told lawmakers that EnergySolutions is increasingly looking for international business, including the decommissioning of nuclear reactors in the United Kingdom.

"We are also exploring opportunities to site low-level waste disposal facilities abroad in order to help other countries address their waste management issues," Creamer said.

To allay concerns about capacity at the Clive, Utah, site about 70 miles west of Salt Lake City, Creamer said he would voluntarily ask state regulators to limit the amount of foreign waste disposed of at the site to 5 percent of the facility's capacity.

However, Gov. Jon Huntsman has said he doesn't want any foreign waste disposed of in Utah.

In prepared remarks, Kent Bradford, chairman of the Utah Radiation Control Board, told the House subcommittee that "any country that has the technological capability of producing nuclear power within its borders should not seek to dispose of its waste outside them. Development of nuclear power should go hand in hand with the development of disposal options."

Earlier this month, Utah used its veto authority on an eight-state interstate compact that governs nuclear waste management in the region to say Utah would no longer accept foreign waste.

EnergySolutions is challenging the compact's authority in a lawsuit in U.S. District Court. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has said the company's import license is dependent on it having a site to dispose of the waste.

A ruling on the license application is expected this summer.

On the Net: House Committee on Energy and Commerce


Idaho Environmental Group Questions Nuclear Waste Shipments
TWIN FALLS, Idaho (The Associated Press) - May 20

An Idaho nuclear watchdog group has asked the U.S. Department of Energy to conduct more environmental studies before going ahead with a plan that would increase the amount of nuclear waste being sent to eastern Idaho for processing.

The Snake River Alliance, in a May 14 letter to U.S. Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman, asked that more analysis be done before going through with the plan that makes the Idaho National Laboratory the nation's primary processing center for transuranic waste from nuclear sites that don't have their own processing capabilities.

"It seemed to us there was a lot of information that wasn't taken into account when the Department of Energy made its decision," Beatrice Brailsford, Snake River Alliance program director, told The Times-News.

Transuranic waste includes building, laboratory and other debris contaminated with nuclear material.

The Energy Department announced earlier this year that it plans to send such waste from 14 facilities to the INL, an 890-square-mile federal nuclear research area in eastern Idaho, for repackaging before it is sent to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in New Mexico.

As part of the plan, 9,000 cubic meters of radioactive waste from south-central Washington's Hanford nuclear reservation and 13 other areas would be sent to Idaho for repackaging.

The Snake River Alliance and four other similar groups say DOE documents contain conflicting information and errors about the shipments, and that could mean some of the waste stays in Idaho.

Joann Wardrip, a DOE spokeswoman, said the plan is meant to more efficiently treat and dispose of waste.

"We feel that the Idaho facility is very well equipped to treat this waste," she said. "It helps us get to our mission of safely cleaning up waste we have across (the country)."

The waste, according to department documents, would only be accepted if it meets requirements of an agreement with the state of Idaho. That agreement requires all waste to be treated within six months and shipped out within six months after that.

An analysis by the department found that any impact to the environment or worker safety would be within allowed limits.

The Snake River Alliance calls into question that analysis and asks for additional study.

Among the concerns noted by the alliance is that the New Mexico facility won't accept the waste from the INL due to shipping containers that have not yet been approved for such use, meaning it would remain in Idaho.

Wardrip declined to comment on specific concerns, noting the department is currently preparing a reply to the alliance.

Brailsford said the group expects to get the letter from the department by the end of the month. She said the group's next move depends on how DOE officials respond to the letter.

Joining the alliance in sending the letter were the Natural Resources Defense Council, Southwest Research and Information Center, Tri-Valley CARES, and Heart of America Northwest.

News From the Week of May 12, 2008

May 20 Public Meeting to Discuss Contamination of Groundwater at Indian Point Plant

Major New Technical Report Finds Wind Can Provide 20% of U.S. Electricity Needs by 2030

Your Home Might Be Turned into a Power Plant

Plan to Store Italian Nuclear Waste Rejected

Duke Energy Identifies Vibration at Oconee Nuclear Station

Nine Mile Point Plant Loses Power, Declares Unusual Event

NRC to Discuss Inspection of Company's Assessment of Groundwater Contamination at Indian Point Plant May 20

The results of a Nuclear Regulatory Commission inspection of Entergy's work on characterizing groundwater contamination at the Indian Point nuclear power plant will be discussed at a public meeting on Tuesday, May 20. Indian Point is located in Buchanan (Westchester County), N.Y., and operated by Entergy Nuclear Northeast.

Scheduled to begin at 6:30 p.m., the meeting will take place at the Colonial Terrace, 119 Oregon Road in Cortlandt Manor, N.Y. Prior to the formal session, the NRC will offer an informational poster-board open house at the facility, from 4 to 6 p.m. At that session, members of the public will have an opportunity to discuss issues related to the subject on a one-on-one basis with NRC staff.

"Throughout the course of Entergy's efforts to determine the extent of the contamination and then develop a plan to address it going forward, we have closely followed the company's actions every step of the way," said NRC Region I Administrator Samuel J. Collins. "As part of our reviews, we have also conducted independent analysis and groundwater sampling. At the meeting on May 20th, we will explain what we found as a result of our inspections and whether we consider Entergy's plans for dealing with the contamination to be reasonable, thorough and protective of the public and the environment."

The groundwater contamination at Indian Point was first identified after cracks were found on a wall of the Unit 2 spent fuel pool during excavation work adjacent to that structure. Entergy notified the NRC of that condition on Sept. 1, 2005. The company initiated an investigation and subsequently determined that there was tritium contamination in the groundwater in the vicinity of the spent fuel pool. That discovery triggered a comprehensive effort to characterize the extent of any groundwater contamination at the site, to identify the sources and to develop a plan for addressing the problem.

On Sept. 20, 2005, the NRC commenced a Special Inspection to examine Entergy's actions in response to the problem. That inspection concluded that the groundwater contamination did not -- nor was it likely to -- affect public health and safety. The results of that review were discussed at a public meeting on March 28, 2006. Since then, the NRC has continued to inspect and monitor the company's activities. Reactor Oversight Process Deviation Memorandums, signed by the agency's Executive Director for Operations, authorized the allocation of additional inspection resources to carry out these reviews.

Entergy submitted to the NRC the results of its groundwater investigation on Jan. 11, 2008. It also provided its plans for remediation and long-term monitoring of the contamination. At the meeting on May 20th, prior to the NRC's presentation regarding its inspection, the company will discuss the results of its hydrogeophysical site characterization effort; its plans for continued monitoring of groundwater conditions at the site; and the upcoming drainage of water and removal of fuel from the Unit 1 spent fuel pool. The actions involving the Unit 1 spent fuel pool are expected to result in the halt of groundwater contamination from that location, which has been the most significant source of the contamination at the site.

The NRC staff will then provide details of its inspection. Among the objectives of the inspection were to understand the cause of the leakage and its radiological significance; ensure that appropriate and timely actions were taken by Entergy to investigate the condition; determine the company's conformance with applicable regulatory requirements; and provide an independent analysis to evaluate the quality of the company's assessment and investigation results. NRC inspectors reviewed company records and previous inspection reports issued by the agency; observed and inspected Entergy activities; interviewed company personnel; and independently collected and analyzed groundwater samples.

A copy of the inspection report will be available in the NRC's Agencywide Documents Access and Management System (ADAMS) under accession number ML081340425. ADAMS is accessible at: Help in using ADAMS is available via the NRC's Public Document Room at 1-800-397-4209 or 301-415-4737, or by e-mail at PDR@NRC.GOV.


Major New Technical Report Finds Wind Can Provide 20% of U.S. Electricity Needs by 2030

Wind power is capable of becoming a major contributor to America's electricity supply over the next three decades, according to a report released today by the U.S. Department of Energy. The groundbreaking report, 20% Wind Energy by 2030: Increasing Wind Energy's Contribution to U.S. Electricity Supply, looks closely at one scenario for reaching 20% wind energy by 2030 and contrasts it to a scenario of no new U.S. wind power capacity.

"DOE's wind report is a thorough look at America's wind resource, its industrial capabilities, and future energy prices, and confirms the viability and commercial maturity of wind as a major contributor to America's energy needs, now and in the future," DOE Assistant Secretary of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy for the U.S. Department of Energy Andy Karsner, said. "To dramatically reduce greenhouse gas emissions and enhance our energy security, clean power generation at the gigawatt-scale will be necessary, and will require us to take a comprehensive approach to scaling renewable wind power, streamlining siting and permitting processes, and expanding the domestic wind manufacturing base."

Included in the report are an examination of America's technological and manufacturing capabilities, the future costs of energy sources, U.S. wind energy resources, and the environmental and economic impacts of wind development. Under the 20% wind scenario, installations of new wind power capacity would increase to more than 16,000 megawatts per year by 2018, and continue at that rate through 2030.

"The report shows that wind power can provide 20% of the nation's electricity by 2030, and be a critical part of the solution to global warming," said AWEA Executive Director Randall Swisher. "This level of wind power is the equivalent of taking 140 million cars off the road," he said. "The report identifies the central constraints to achieving 20% - transmission, siting, manufacturing and technology - and demonstrates how each can be overcome. As an inexhaustible domestic resource, wind strengthens our energy security, improves the quality of the air we breathe, slows climate change, and revitalizes rural communities."

The report finds that achieving a 20 percent wind contribution to U.S. electricity supply would:

-- Reduce carbon dioxide emissions from electricity generation by 25
percent in 2030.

-- Reduce natural gas use by 11%;

-- Reduce water consumption associated with electricity generation by
4 trillion gallons by 2030;

-- Increase annual revenues to local communities to more than $1.5
billion by 2030; and

-- Support roughly 500,000 jobs in the U.S., with an average of more than 150,000 workers directly employed by the wind industry.

At 20% of electric power generation, significant growth in the manufacturing supply chain would create jobs and remedy the current shortage in parts for wind turbines.

Reducing the use of natural gas could save money for consumers due to the resulting downward pressure on the price of natural gas, according to AWEA.

"The report correctly highlights that greater penetration of renewable sources of energy - such as wind - into our electric grid will have to be paired with not only advanced integration technologies but also new transmission," DOE's Assistant Secretary for Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability Kevin Kolevar said. "In many cases, the most robust sources of renewable resources are located in remote areas, and if we want to be able to deliver these new clean and abundant sources of energy to population centers, we will need additional transmission."

"We must look at meeting future electric demands in a cost-effective way," said Suedeen Kelly, FERC Commissioner. "The 20% wind scenario would only cost 2 percent more than the cost of the baseline scenario without wind. At 50 cents per month for the average ratepayer, that is a small price to pay for the climate, water, natural gas, and energy security benefits it would buy--and it does not even count the stability provided to consumers by eliminating fuel price risk."

"Though economic and other factors will ultimately determine our energy future, we believe the 20 percent wind scenario is feasible, but only with a major national transmission highway system. Delivering power from the best windy regions to the growing urban supply requires a bigger, stronger transmission system. Strong regional and interregional planning as well as broad allocation of costs will allow the United States to rely on a broader diversity of generation resources," said Mike Heyeck, Senior VP of AEP Transmission.

The report comes at an important time in wind development. In 2007, wind was one of the fastest growing sources of electricity in the nation, second only to natural gas for the third consecutive year. According to an AWEA report released last week, the U.S. wind energy industry continued new installations at a breakneck pace in the first quarter of 2008, putting 1,400 megawatts (MW) or approximately $3 billion worth of new generating capacity in place--enough to serve the equivalent of 400,000 homes--coupled with investment in 17 new manufacturing facilities over the past year.

"Wind is an important part of BP Alternative Energy's business and of BP's diverse energy portfolio. Siting and wildlife issues will be a challenge, but AWEA and industry leaders are committed to working with stakeholders to make wind the environmental electricity choice," said Bob Lukefahr, President, Power Americas, BP Alternative Energy North America. "This report underscores the benefits of diversifying our electricity sources. Growing to 20% wind requires investment in new manufacturing and capital projects, an estimated 500,000 jobs, and brings rural economic development across the country."


In 2006, President Bush articulated a national imperative for greater energy efficiency and a more diversified energy portfolio. Citing wind energy as part of the solution, he noted that areas of the nation with good
wind resources could satisfy up to 20 percent of America's total electricity demand.

Subsequently, government and industry came together to thoroughly explore the feasibility of generating 20 percent of U.S. electricity from wind by 2030 and produced this joint report to aid policy-makers and the public in better understanding the issues, investments, and likely outcomes associated with pursuing this objective.

To download the full report, please go to

AWEA is the national trade association of the U.S. wind energy industry. The association's membership includes global leaders in wind power development, wind turbine manufacturing, and energy, as well as a broad range of component and service suppliers. More information on wind energy is available at the AWEA web site:


Your Home Might Be Turned into a Power Plant
May 13 - McClatchy-Tribune Regional News - Christopher D. Kirkpatrick The
Charlotte Observer, N.C.

Inside the garage of Duke Energy's chief technology officer, a refrigerator-sized battery-and-computer station processes electricity from rooftop solar panels.

The electricity powers his home directly. But the battery also stores some of it to be tapped later, if needed.

The battery station, with help from the home's new smart meter, also tracks electricity use, appliance-by-appliance, so a homeowner knows how best to save.

David Mohler's Lake Wylie residence, with all its gizmos, is ground zero for an ambitious solar energy experiment the Charlotte utility believes holds the key to meeting power demand more efficiently and cleanly.

"This is a future world," Mohler said as he stood in his driveway looking up at the gleaming panels on his roof. "But we need to figure out how to improve (solar) technology and bring down the costs. Today, it's too expensive."

The company would like to install similar systems in selected homes throughout its Carolinas territory within a decade. With the equipment, the homes and businesses could become mini-power stations, working as an extended network feeding the regional power grid with electricity.

The utility plans to finish outfitting 5,000 south Charlotte homes with smart meters by this summer and already has installed data relay devices on some power lines. The meters are part of an existing program to track and analyze customer power use. Duke said its 4 million customers in five states will have smart meters in five years. They also are key to a future solar network.

Duke plans to ask Carolinas regulators this summer for permission to start building the network. The batteries could come later.

Duke spokesman Tom Williams said Duke hasn't decided yet if customers will be able to volunteer their rooftops.

With the array of new technology, Duke could burn less coal by drawing unused solar power from homes. For example, Duke could draw power while residents are on vacation. It also could grab power stored in the batteries.

Officials estimate the first phase, over the next decade, would cost about $100 million, expenses passed on to customers through higher rates. Duke has suggested it could install the panels and equipment, while retaining ownership. It could then siphon extra power in exchange for breaks on customers' bills or other concessions, Williams said.

Duke and other utilities say they will need solar networks to meet future energy demand more efficiently as they work to curb carbon dioxide emissions from coal-fired plants.

Rogers told shareholders Friday at the company's annual meeting that creating a network was integral.

The idea has been around for 10-15 years, said Steve Kalland, director of the N.C. Solar Center at N.C. State University. But advances in battery-storage technology has made it more practical, he said.

Solar energy's penetration in the Carolinas is almost zero, Kalland said. "I'm cautiously optimistic."

The technology's growing popularity has brought down costs, but price is still a major obstacle to widespread use, he said. The solar panels and installation at Mohler's house cost $24,000. And the battery, manufactured by GridPoint, was $10,000.

Obstacles also include aesthetics. Some homeowner associations have outlawed solar panels as unsightly, Mohler said. "There are some interesting social issues."


Plan to Store Italian Nuclear Waste Rejected
May 09 - Deseret News (Salt Lake City)

The EnergySolutions proposal to store radioactive waste from Italy in Utah received a unanimous thumbs down Thursday from the Northwest Interstate Compact on Low-Level Radioactive Waste Management.

Utah's compact committee member Bill Sinclair, picked by Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr., read from a "clarifying" resolution after a 90-minute closed session to discuss a federal lawsuit EnergySolutions filed this week. Representatives on the eight-state compact all voted to approve the resolution.

The compact's document said EnergySolutions does not have the necessary "arrangement" with the compact to accept the Italian waste. Such an arrangement would need to be adopted by the committee prior to EnergySolutions' accepting that waste in Utah.

Sinclair said the intent of the resolution was to send a "clear message" on the compact's stand on foreign waste. A short time later the committee approved a resolution amendment that states the compact will also disregard a waste classification as domestic after incineration, that is, if the waste being incinerated originated in a foreign country.

The Northwest Compact is one of several throughout the country that help manage disposal of potentially dangerous waste from state to state. Utah is part of an eight-state compact that includes Alaska, Hawaii, Montana, Washington, Idaho, Wyoming and Oregon. Waste coming from Tennessee to Utah is under the watch of the Southwest Compact and Tennessee's own laws governing radioactive waste classification.

The committee's decisions came after EnergySolutions general counsel Val John Christensen asked the compact's committee to look past the "emotional protest of 'not in my backyard."'

In an April 23 letter to compact committee members, Christensen said the company's license application with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has generated "political reactions, based almost entirely on misinformation."

License approval would mean EnergySolutions could accept up to 20,000 tons of low-level radioactive waste from closed nuclear reactors in Italy. The bulk of materials would be processed and recycled at an EnergySolutions facility in Tennessee. About one- third of the materials would be metal to be recycled for "beneficial" use, EnergySolutions' Tye Rogers said.

Then about 1,600 tons of Class A waste left over after processing would be transported to the company's disposal site in Clive, Tooele County. The company is not licensed to accept hotter Class D or C waste, which nuclear watchdog group Institute for Energy and Environmental Research president Arjun Makhijani recently suggested would actually be coming to Clive. EnergySolutions has denied that claim.

For Christensen, the main debatable issue should be whether his company's Clive facility in Tooele County has the capacity to store the waste. Rogers told the committee there is more than enough room, with 33 years of life left at the Clive site if an additional area there is developed for expanded disposal operations.

However, waste competitor Cedar Mountain Environmental's Charles Judd told the committee that EnergySolutions, using the company's figures provided to the state, the Clive site has only about five years of life left. Judd is currently challenging several issues, including capacity, related to the company's operating license, before the state's Radiation Control Board.

Judd said, as a competitor, the amount of Italian waste proposed for importing to EnergySolutions' Clive site was insignificant. He welcomed the resolution as a means of clarifying the waste marketplace.

Christensen also told the committee that for EnergySolutions to play on the "world stage," it needs to be authorized to accept foreign waste at the Clive site.

But the application has been met with opposition by Huntsman, Rep. Jim Matheson, D-Utah, and Utah's own Radiation Control Board. The NRC also took a rare step in issuing a "fact sheet" due to the number of inquiries and negative public comments it received.

John Urgo of Healthy Environment Alliance of Utah urged the committee in Boise not to allow a major precedent-setting policy shift by letting EnergySolutions go after foreign waste, opening the door to more and more overseas shipments.

In their defense, company officials stated in documents prepared for Thursday's meeting that some electricity produced in Italy has come from American- and British-designed nuclear reactors, with fuel for those Italian reactors coming from uranium mined in the U.S. and even in Utah.

The company filed a federal lawsuit this week asking the U.S. District Court to make a declaratory judgment in the company's favor by declaring the compact lacks the authority to bar the company from storing the Italian waste in Utah. The company believes that will eventually allow them to receive the waste.

"We believe the courts will uphold the position that the Northwest Compact does not have authority to interfere with interstate commerce at a private facility," EnergySolutions spokesman Mark Walker said a statement following the meeting.

Sinclair asked Christensen whether EnergySolutions would drop the suit if the compact committee allowed the import of Italian waste under the condition that the amount of foreign waste coming to the Clive site in the future from foreign countries would be limited to 5 percent of the site's remaining capacity. Christensen said, in that case, the lawsuit would be dropped, but that compromise was not reached Thursday.

In its lawsuit and in front of the committee, EnergySolutions outlined several reasons why the compact lacks authority to prevent the company from receiving shipments of Class A low-level radioactive waste from foreign countries.

The company claims the compact, by design, has no statutory authority and that excluding the Italian waste "would amount to discrimination against foreign commerce and would therefor violate the Dormant Commerce Clause" of the U.S. Constitution.

EnergySolutions also believes that a 2007 agreement would be breached between the company and Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. if the compact, namely Utah's representative on the compact, ruled against the company's current state license. That license allows EnergySolutions to receive low-level radioactive waste, which the license has "never" distinguished between foreign and domestic, according to EnergySolutions.

Judd asked the committee at one point what authority Huntsman has in making an agreement on radioactive waste disposal with a private company. He also asked whether that agreement would hold up under a different governor.

"I don't know the answer to that question," Sinclair told Judd.

EnergySolutions also said any action by the compact to exclude foreign waste shipments would be "arbitrary and capricious and therefor invalid."

Committee members asked EnergySolutions officials about why no one in Europe will process or store the Italian waste or whether the company could partner with anyone overseas to handle the waste outside of the U.S. Montana committee member Roy Kemp asked if EnergySolutions has any plans to actually develop another waste site somewhere else. Christensen said his company does not have any such plans right now.

Before voting on the amendment to the resolution, the committee also talked about rules that govern how EnergySolutions classifies foreign waste. Company officials told committee members that some waste from outside the U.S. is no longer considered "foreign" after it is incinerated in Tennessee. In some cases the leftovers after incineration are declared as "Tennessee" waste, not foreign, before it is shipped to Clive for disposal.



Duke Energy Identifies Vibration at Oconee Nuclear Station
GREENVILLE, S.C. (The Associated Press) - May 13

Duke Energy says it's figured out what caused unusual coolant pump vibrations at a reactor at the Oconee Nuclear Station near Seneca.

The Greenville News reported Tuesday a Duke spokeswoman said the vibrations occurred because one of the four pumps was out of service.

Duke's Linda Conley says one pump had a small oil leak and had been shut down before the scheduled April 12 reactor shutdown. Conley says the change from four pumps to three caused the slightly higher vibration.

Conley says the Charlotte-based utility has replaced seals of all four pumps on the reactor.

Roger Hannah with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission says the agency was sending a team to the station Tuesday to study Duke's finding.

Conley says the matter did not affect the safety for the public, workers or the plant.


Nine Mile Point Plant Loses Power, Declares Unusual Event
SCRIBA, N.Y. (The Associated Press) - May 13

An upstate New York nuclear reactor automatically shut down when off-site power to the plant was lost.

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission says the incident Tuesday at the Nine Mile Point Unit 1 reactor is an unusual event, the lowest of its four emergency classifications.

The Lake Ontario plant has two incoming power lines, one of which was shut down for maintenance. Officials are trying to learn why the second stopped providing power just before 8:30 a.m.

Diesel generators at the plant kicked in, providing emergency power. Power was restored later in the morning and the unusual event was declared over at 10:22. a.m.


Monday, May 12, 2008

News From the Week of May 5, 2008

The Resurrection of the Clinch River Breeder Reactor!?

Unexplained Vibration Will Keep SC Nuclear Reactor Shut Down

Electric Bills Will Rise to Pay for New Nukes

Uranium Mining Appears Ready to Surge

Areva Plans to Build $2 Billion Uranium Plant in Idaho

Wal-Mart Selects 20 Capitols for Energy Audits

Ohio Requires 25% Renewable or Advanced Energy by 2025

Company Offers to Drop Lawsuit as States Consider Waste Plan

Utility Eyes Ratepayers for Building Costs: Georgia Power May Ask to Bill Customers for Reactors' Construction

The Resurrection of the Clinch River Breeder Reactor!?
Knoxville News Sentinel

TVA has received $4 million from the Department of Energy to develop a conceptual design for a nuclear waste reprocessing plant, with an eye toward building a demonstration facility, possibly on the former Clinch River Breeder Reactor site.

TVA President and CEO Tom Kilgore said Tuesday in an interview that TVA has long-term plans to develop a small-scale nuclear waste recycling facility to demonstrate technology that would allow useful material in nuclear waste sitting in storage on nuclear power plant sites to be reprocessed as fuel.

With power companies increasingly turning to nuclear as a source for the nation's future energy needs, how to handle the waste generated by these plants has become of increasing concern - and the focus of federal dollars.

"It's a long-term project," he said. "Something like this is going to take a decade, maybe two, to perfect. (This money represents) just a front-end, little sliver."

Such a project would ultimately cost "billions of dollars" if plans come to fruition, Kilgore said, and the demonstration facility TVA is envisioning would be a "10th or 20th" the size of a production-size reprocessing plant.

Kilgore said firm plans for locating the facility have not been made, and the Oak Ridge Reservation - home of Oak Ridge National Laboratory, the Y-12 Weapons Plant and East Tennessee Technology Park - could be a possible location as well.

"Our concept is that it would be close enough so that we would not have to have transport that would be at a very large distance," he said. "We've got Watts Bar and Sequoyah (nuclear plants) already here, so we've got the concept that it's not far from Watts Bar up to our Clinch River site."

The funding is part of a recent memorandum of understanding between TVA and the Department of Energy that DOE announced as a collaborative effort to deal with issues of nuclear waste as part of its Global Nuclear Energy Partnership, or GNEP.

TVA could end up collaborating with Oak Ridge National Laboratory or other DOE labs on the effort, Kilgore said, but that involvement is still in the discussion phase.

The Clinch River property was the planned site of a breeder reactor under development by the Department of Energy but cancelled in 1983. Now known as the Clinch River Industrial site, the property in 2006 was restricted by TVA from general industrial development as part of a policy that reserved the agency's shoreline property for manufacturers needing water for transportation or supply.

The location for the Clinch River Breeder Reactor was a 1,364-acre parcel adjacent to the Clinch River in Roane County but inside the Oak Ridge city limits. When mothballed in 1983 before completion, federal estimates put the cost of completing the breeder reactor at $8 billion.

Business writer Larisa Brass may be reached at 865-342-6318.


Unexplained Vibration Will Keep SC Nuclear Reactor Shut Down
GREENVILLE, S.C. (The Associated Press) - May 4

Investigators say a reactor at the Oconee Nuclear Station will remain off-line until the cause of a vibration discovered as the plant was shutting down for refueling can be pinpointed.

The senior Nuclear Regulatory Commission resident inspector at the plant, George Hutto, says the investigation should be complete in the next couple of weeks.

The Greenville News reported Sunday that a special inspection last week failed to find the cause of high vibrations in three reactor coolant pumps for Unit 1 at the Duke Energy plant near Seneca.

The commission reported that one of the pumps also showed indications of a degraded condition.

The commission says there's is little safety concern because the reactor is shut down and will stay that way until the problem is solved.


Electric Bills Will Rise to Pay for New Nukes
May 05 - The Miami Herald

Your electric bill is likely to go up $2 a month or more next year to start paying for the new nuclear power plants that Florida Power & Light hopes to put in service in 10 or 12 years.

In a filing last week with the Public Service Commission, FPL started the process to recover the costs associated with expanding the capacity at its existing nuclear operations at Turkey Point and St. Lucie, as well as the new nuclear generators planned at Turkey Point in South Dade.

The increase, if approved by regulators, would be a little more than 2 percent, the utility said. The average homeowner using 1,000 kilowatt-hours a month is now paying $102.49.

The nuclear surcharge would first appear on bills next January, recovering costs already incurred, plus costs for the rest of 2008 and estimates for 2009 expenses.

The utility is allowed to recover the costs associated with the expensive nuclear construction well in advance of the completion of construction because of a bill passed by the Florida Legislature and a regulation approved by the PSC. The new plants are not expected to come on line until 2018 or 2020.

The PSC has approved the new nuclear plants -- the first time a state regulatory agency in the United States has approved new nuclear power in 30 years -- but federal regulators and the state Department of Environmental Protection still have to sign off on the project.

The units are expected to cost $12 billion to $24 billion, depending on the technology used.

In March, FPL spokesman Mayco Villafana told The Herald that the utility planned to file a request in May to recover nuclear costs. The costs could fluctuate from year to year but would probably never be more than $6 a month, Villafana said.


Uranium Mining Appears Ready to Surge
LOS ANGELES, May 4, 2008 -- UPI

Uranium mining in the United States may be about to surge, a spike in claims being filed indicates.

In five Western states where uranium is mined, 43,153 claims were filed last year, up from 4,333 in 2004, the Los Angeles Times reported Sunday. The area of interest includes near the Grand Canyon, where U.S. Interior Department records show there are more than 1,100 claims within five miles of the national park, compared to only 10 in 2003, the Times said.

The closure of some mines in Canada and West Africa, combined with plans for more nuclear power plants around the world, has pushed up the price of uranium from $9.70 a pound in 2002 to $65 a pound last week, the newspaper noted.

The possibility of more U.S. mines has sent environmental groups to the federal courts and Congress to try to head off any mining near the Grand Canyon and other sensitive areas, the Times said. Rep. Raul M. Grijalva, D-Ariz., has introduced legislation to withdraw 1 million acres of federal land around the Grand Canyon park from consideration for mining.

However, the measure would not stop claims already staked.

"If you can't stop mining at the Grand Canyon, where can you stop it?" asked Richard Wiles, executive director of the Environmental Working Group.


Areva Plans to Build $2 Billion Uranium Plant in Idaho
BOISE, Idaho (The Associated Press) - May 6 - By JOHN MILLER Associated
Press Writer

French-owned energy services company Areva NC Inc. will build a $2 billion uranium enrichment plant near the eastern Idaho city of Idaho Falls, after winning tax concessions from the state Legislature.

The plant will be built near the Idaho National Laboratory, where scientists have done research into nuclear energy since the 1940s, the company said Tuesday.

A late-session push in the Legislature earlier this year extended a sales tax exemption for production equipment that handles nuclear fuel and capped property tax valuations at the proposed plant at $400 million.

Areva plans to build the plant by 2014. A program in which Russia has been converting weapons-grade uranium to uranium suitable for use in electricity-producing reactors and selling it to an Areva rival expires in 2013.

"The United States needs more clean energy to support its economic growth," Michael McMurphy, Areva NC's president and chief executive officer, said in a statement. "To enable us to meet those needs we have to expand our domestic nuclear infrastructure, secure our supply of enrichment services, and reduce our reliance on foreign imports. This new enrichment plant is a critical part of this process."

Before the plant is built, Areva still must get approval from local, state and national agencies, including a license from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to construct and operate the facility.

Areva selected Idaho over sites in Washington state, Ohio, Texas and New Mexico.

"While we had several attractive sites to choose from, we opted for Idaho Falls, which has strong ties to nuclear energy, and which welcomed Areva and its proposed enrichment facility to become a new member of its community," McMurphy said.

Joe Heaton, a Democratic New Mexico state representative from Carlsbad, told the Carlsbad Current-Argus that Areva decided against the southeastern New Mexico site because of a workforce shortage and concerns about the high cost of electricity.

Areva NC, headquartered in Bethesda, Md., is a subsidiary of France's Areva Group. Areva also is building a similar, larger uranium enrichment plant in France.

The federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission took applications to build seven new commercial U.S. nuclear reactors last year, with 25 more licensing requests expected through 2009. As interest in nuclear power grows, there are two other uranium enrichment plants being built in the United States, one in southeastern New Mexico and another in Piketon, Ohio.


Wal-Mart Selects 20 Capitols for Energy Audits
OVERLAND PARK, Kan. (The Associated Press) - May 6 - By BRIAN CHARLTON
Associated Press Writer

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. has announced partnerships with Missouri, 18 other states and Puerto Rico to help them save on energy and electricity costs at their capitols.

Wal-Mart will pay engineering experts to perform energy audits at the capitols and recommend ways to save energy, lower electricity costs and reduce greenhouse emissions, company officials told state leaders Tuesday at the National Governors Association's State Summit on Clean Power and Efficiency.

Over the past three years, Wal-Mart has worked to cut energy usage at its stores and suppliers. Through its Greening State Capitols partnership with the National Governors Association, Wal-Mart now will start working with the states.

"We want to offer our services and expertise and get them to a point where they can at least see the savings within five years," spokesman Nate Hurst said.

Wal-Mart officials said that since the company is the largest employer in many states, it is important for it to work with state governments.

The program also will help Wal-Mart market its audit services to other interested companies, Hurst said.

The other states included in Tuesday's announcement are Arkansas, Connecticut, Florida, Iowa, Kentucky, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia.

Engineers will visit the capitols in 2008 and 2009 to examine lighting, heating, ventilation, air-conditioning systems, refrigeration equipment and building structures.

Wal-Mart will then provide recommendations based on technology it uses to reduce energy consumption at its stores, said Matt Kistler, Wal-Mart's senior vice president of sustainability.

Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, a Democrat, and Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty and North Dakota Gov. John Hoeven, both Republicans, attended the announcement.

Both Sebelius and Hoeven said their states weren't part of the program because similar audits have already been conducted at their capitols.

Pawlenty said the public-private partnership was an example of how governors can lead an effort to become greener.

"The cleanest and cheapest energy is the energy we save," Pawlenty said.


Ohio Requires 25% Renewable or Advanced Energy by 2025
EERE Network News - 5/7/08

Ohio Governor Ted Strickland approved a bill last week that will require the state's utilities to draw on renewable or advanced energy for 25% of their electricity supply by 2025. Senate Bill 221 requires renewable energy to meet at least half of that requirement, which starts at 0.5% by the end of 2009 and gradually ratchets up to 25% by the end of 2024. So the actual renewable energy requirement starts at 0.25% at the end of 2009 and increases to 12.5% by the end of 2024. The bill defines renewable energy as electricity produced from solar electric systems, wind power, geothermal energy, biomass energy, low-impact hydropower, and fuel cells, regardless of their type and the fuel they use. A small fraction of the renewable energy must come from solar energy, starting at 0.004% of all electricity sales by the end of 2009 and increasing to 0.5% of electricity sales by the end of 2024. At least half of the renewable energy facilities must be located within the state, and renewable energy credits may be used to meet the requirement.

The bill deviates from most state renewable energy requirements by allowing half of the 25% requirement to be met through demand-side management, energy efficiency improvements for customers, and efficiency improvements at existing power plants that increase the plants' generating capacity. It also allows for power produced from customer-located cogeneration systems, which produce both heat and electricity, and from "clean coal" power plants, advanced nuclear power plants, and advanced waste-to-energy plants. Utilities that fail to meet the requirements will have to make payments to the state's advanced energy fund, unless the utility can show that the electricity from renewable or advanced energy sources would cost at least 3% more than electricity from traditional energy sources. The bill also lifts some restrictions on net metering of customer-located power generators and lifts all restrictions on net metering of generators located at hospitals. Net metering is a method of giving credit for power fed into the grid by customers.

While allowing energy efficiency and demand-side management programs to meet a portion of the advanced energy requirement, the bill also establishes separate requirements for energy efficiency and demand-side management. Starting in 2009, utilities will have to implement energy efficiency programs that achieve annual energy savings equal to at least 0.3% of their electricity sales, gradually increasing to 1% of sales for 2014-2018, then doubling to 2% of their sales for 2019-2025. By 2025, this will achieve a cumulative energy savings greater than 22% of today's electricity sales. Utilities will also have to implement demand reduction programs designed to achieve a 1% reduction in peak demand in 2009 and an additional 0.75% reduction each year through 2018. To further encourage such programs, the state's utility commission may approve measures to decouple utility revenues from actual electricity sales, that is, if sales go down because of energy-saving programs, the utility's profits won't suffer. Such "revenue decoupling" measures may also be established for natural gas utilities. Utilities must also report on their greenhouse gas emissions and establish plans to control those emissions.


Company Offers to Drop Lawsuit as States Consider Waste Plan
BOISE, Idaho (The Associated Press) - May 8 - By JOHN MILLER Associated Press Writer

Representatives from eight Western states met privately Thursday to discuss a lawsuit filed by a company that wants to bury a portion of 20,000 tons of Italian radioactive waste in Utah.

When they emerge, they could set a policy that governs foreign shipments of waste to Alaska, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Utah, Washington and Wyoming.

The states are part of the Northwest Interstate Compact on Low-Level Radioactive Waste Management, which was meeting in Boise.

Earlier this week, EnergySolutions Inc. filed a lawsuit to challenge the compact's ability to regulate shipments to its facility in Clive, Utah.

EnergySolutions wants to bring the Italian waste through New Orleans or Charleston, S.C., for processing and incineration in Oak Ridge, Tenn.

About 1,600 tons of waste - five or six rail cars a year - would then be shipped to the company's site in Utah, the largest and only privately owned low-level radioactive waste dump in the country.

Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman has pledged to use the eight-state compact to keep his state from becoming a dumping ground for foreign waste, partly because the move would sap space needed for domestic waste. Environmental groups have also panned the company's plan.

Utah's compact member, Bill Sinclair, could use his state's veto power to quash shipments to the state.

The decision of the compact members is expected to help set broader U.S. policy on shipments of foreign low-level radioactive waste. It could affect other countries as they scramble to find alternative locations if the United States restricts such cargo.

EnergySolutions offered to drop its lawsuit Thursday - if regulators agree to a plan that would restrict foreign shipments to 5 percent of overall storage capacity at the Utah site.

"We have confirmed from detailed analysis that 95 percent of the remaining capacity is more than enough capacity to handle all of the low-level radioactive waste" generated by all 104 existing U.S. power plants, hospitals and universities, said Val Christensen, EnergySolutions vice president and general counsel.

Congress created the compact in 1985 as a regional system for managing low-level radioactive waste. The compact's designated facility is in Richland, Wash. All radioactive waste from the eight states goes there, while EnergySolutions takes waste in Utah from other states.

In its lawsuit, the company concedes it has "coordinated some of its activities with the Northwest Compact" in the past, but insists the panel has no authority over what it handles because the Utah site is privately owned.

The Italian waste would come from four dismantled nuclear reactors. Opponents said the 5 percent storage limit still would mean too much radioactive waste destined for Utah.

"Shouldn't foreign countries be responsible for the waste they are generating?" said John Urgo of the Healthy Environment Alliance of Utah.

If Utah does use its veto, it will have an effect on EnergySolutions' import request at the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the agency considering whether to allow the Italian waste into the United States.

NRC officials said there are a number of options, depending on the meeting's outcome.

"They could say we'd still like to bring the material for processing in Tennessee and dispose of it in some other way, presumably exporting the rest of it back to Italy," spokesman Dave McIntyre said in a phone interview.

The NRC public comment period on the import license ends June 10.

"If we get the letter from (the compact) saying 'No, this can't come to Utah,' I would doubt very much that we would just stamp a rejection on the application," McIntyre said.


Utility Eyes Ratepayers for Building Costs: Georgia Power May Ask to Bill
Customers for Reactors' Construction

ATLANTA -May 08 - Florida Times Union

Slim or not, there's a chance that Georgia Power customers may foot the bill for two new nuclear reactors proposed for the utility's Plant Vogtle nuclear facility near Waynesboro before the 1,100-megawatt units are built.

David Ratcliff, CEO and president of Georgia Power's parent firm, the Southern Co., broached the idea of asking the Georgia Public Service Commission's permission to bill customers for construction costs for the reactors ahead of their construction during the company's earnings conference call last week.

But a decision on whether to do so has yet to be made, said Jeff Wilson, spokesman for Georgia Power.

"We are reviewing what other states have done in terms of financing, but we have not made a decision on that issue at this time," Wilson said.

Critics of the proposal, which would nearly double the amount of power Plant Vogtle can generate by 2016, assert that the PSC could be clearing the way for cost overruns if it were to allow Georgia Power to collect money ahead of construction.

"If they are allowed to, there is no - or a very small - incentive to keep the costs down," said Neill Herring, a lobbyist for several environmental groups aligned against the expansion.

Without the ability to collect ahead of construction, the company might keep a more watchful eye toward construction costs because the money is essentially coming out of investors' pockets, Herring said.

"If you remove that safeguard that provides they will just start spending wildly," Herring said.

Wilson said Georgia Power had no comment on critics' claims.

State law does not appear to prohibit investor-owned companies from collecting construction costs beforehand, but the commission has not allowed the practice since the early 1990s, said Bill Edge, spokesman for the PSC.

Other states, Florida among them, have changed laws that previously barred the practice.

The Florida Legislature nixed such a provision in 2006, and the Florida Public Service Commission has scheduled hearings in September to hear cases in which Florida Power & Light and Progress Energy seek approval on plans to bill customers ahead of construction, said Cindy Muir, the Florida agency's director of public affairs.

Georgia Power expects the cost of the two nuclear reactors will be unveiled this week, Wilson said.

An independent evaluator is analyzing bids for multiple methods of generating additional power. The company would then select the bid it prefers, and submit it to the PSC in August.

Since 2006, Georgia Power has had PSC approval to collect up to $51 million in permitting and licensing costs for exploring nuclear generation as an option for generating additional power, Wilson said.

Georgia needs to add about 1,000 megawatts a year in additional generation to meet demand, Georgia Power estimates.

The proposal comes during an upswing of interest in nuclear power.

Commercial energy companies are evaluating options to build 22 reactors at 16 different sites nationwide, according to the federal Energy Information Administration.


Tuesday, May 6, 2008

News From the Week of April 28, 2008 Web Site Re-Launched

Environmental Group Says It's Suing Detroit Edison

White House Undermines EPA On Cancer Risks, GAO Says

Decision On Nuclear Waste Disposal Delayed

SC Senate Gives Key Approval To Energy-Saving Incentives

Geothermal Utopia Gaining Steam in Utah

Senate Passes Energy Bill

Nuclear Inspectors Visit Oconee Station After Vibrations

Italy's Waste Is Called Too Hot For Utah

Former Nuke Plant Worker Gets Probation For Hiding Damage

GoSolarCalifornia Web Site Re-Launched
- Internet Portal Makes It Even Easier To Learn About Solar Energy
SACRAMENTO - 4/28/08

The California Energy Commission today re-launched, an online resource to help residents learn more about the benefits of new solar and energy efficient homes. The site will also serve as an information resource for home builders interested in developing new solar home communities.

"The Energy Commission is pleased to offer this site which will provide homebuyers with comprehensive information and the resources necessary to make wise choices about new solar and energy efficient homes," said California Energy Commission Chairman Jackalyne Pfannenstiel. "In addition to encouraging consumer interest in solar, the website will help us to educate home builders, local planning officials, and other interested stakeholders, while facilitating the growth of green communities." and the New Solar Homes Partnership (NSHP), are components of the statewide solar program known as the California Solar Initiative. The NSHP provides financial incentives and other support to home builders, encouraging the construction of new, energy efficient solar homes that save homeowners money on their electric bills and help protect the environment. The goals of the NSHP are to create a self-sustaining market for solar homes within 10 years and gain builder commitment in constructing 100 percent solar, energy efficient communities.

The Energy Commission is working with builders and developers to incorporate high levels of energy efficiency and high-performing solar systems to help create a self-sustaining solar market. As part of this effort, the Energy Commission has also developed a builder tool kit that is available on the new site.

Research aimed at consumers, home builders and business owners shows that the majority of new and potential home buyers in California are looking for energy efficient options when purchasing a new home. Additionally, California is increasingly looking to develop communities using smart growth strategies. Building highly energy efficient solar homes are an important step toward reaching the state's greenhouse gas reduction goals and the site will serve as a valuable information tool to help guide smart decisions.

About the New Solar Homes Partnership:

The New Solar Homes Partnership is a component of the California Solar Initiative, signed into law in 2006 under Senate Bill 1 by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. Through financial incentives, the partnership encourages builders to install solar energy systems on new homes as a standard feature for the home buyer. A new home that qualifies for the New Solar Homes Partnership will be at least 15 percent more efficient than the current energy efficiency standards. Beginning in 2011, builders in California will be required to offer solar as a standard feature in new home developments of 50 or more.

For updates about the New Solar Homes Partnership and a copy of the guidebook, visit the Go Solar California Web site at:

For more information:


Former Nuke Plant Worker Gets Probation For Hiding Damage

Environmental Group Says It's Suing Detroit Edison

WINDSOR, Ontario (The Associated Press) - Apr 28

Mercury discharges into the Detroit River are causing cancer, amount to "child abuse" and are damaging the quality of life in this border city, American environmentalist Robert Kennedy Jr. said Sunday.

Kennedy made the comments in announcing that his Riverkeeper group has launched a Canadian lawsuit against Detroit Edison Co. over discharges from one of the utility's two power plants in Detroit.

High rates of cancer - especially of the thyroid - in Windsor could be traced to the river pollution, Kennedy said.

"That's assault and battery, and worse because you can die from it," he said. "What's the difference if you die from a brain tumor or if you die from a bullet? There's no difference."

The lawsuit under the Canadian Fisheries Act accuses the utility of illegal discharges of mercury into the Detroit River, Kennedy said.

The son of the late U.S. Senator Robert Kennedy did not say where or when the suit had been launched.

A spokeswoman from Detroit Edison's parent company DTE Energy Co. would not comment on ongoing or pending litigation but said she was baffled to hear about the lawsuit.

Lorie Kessler said Detroit Edison was spending $1 billion on equipment to reduce mercury emissions by 2010. She also said the utility is working with the state of Michigan to develop legislation to achieve even further cuts to emissions.

Riverkeeper is based in Tarrytown, N.Y., but Kennedy said there is precedent for cross-border lawsuits over environmental conditions.

In 2004, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency successfully sued Teck Cominico over chemical discharges into the Columbia River at its lead and zinc smelting plant in Trail, B.C. That suit argued the discharge was creating pollution in neighboring Washington state.


White House Undermines EPA On Cancer Risks, GAO Says
Apr 28 - Associated Press

The Bush administration is undermining the Environmental Protection Agency's ability to determine health dangers of toxic chemicals by letting nonscientists have a bigger - often secret - say, congressional investigators say in a report obtained by The Associated Press.

The administration's decision to give the Defense Department and other agencies an early role in the process adds to years of delay in acting on harmful chemicals and jeopardizes the program's credibility, the Government Accountability Office concluded.

At issue is the EPA's screening of chemicals used in everything from household products to rocket fuel to determine if they pose serious risk of cancer or other illnesses.

A new review process begun by the White House in 2004 is adding more speed bumps for EPA scientists, the GAO said in its report, which will be the subject of a Senate Environment Committee hearing Tuesday. A formal policy effectively doubling the number of steps was adopted two weeks ago.

Cancer risk assessments for nearly a dozen major chemicals are now years overdue, the GAO said, blaming the new multiagency reviews for some of the delay. The EPA, for example, had promised to prepare assessments on 10 major toxic chemicals for external peer review by the end of 2007, but only two reached that stage.

GAO investigators said extensive involvement by EPA managers, White House budget officials and other agencies has eroded the independence of EPA scientists charged with determining the health risks posed by chemicals.

The Pentagon, the Energy Department, NASA and other agencies - all of which could be severely affected by EPA risk findings - are being allowed to participate "at almost every step in the assessment process," said the GAO.

Those agencies, their private contractors and manufacturers of the chemicals face restrictions and major cleanup requirements, depending on the EPA's scientific determinations.

"By law the EPA must protect our families from dangerous chemicals," said Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., the Senate committee's chairman. "Instead, they're protecting the chemical companies."

The EPA's risk assessment process "never was perfect," Boxer said in an interview Monday. "But at least it put the scientists up front. Now the scientists are being shunted aside."

The GAO said many of the deliberations over risks posed by specific chemicals "occur in what amounts to a black box" of secrecy because the White House claims they are private executive branch deliberations.

Such secrecy "reduces the credibility of the ... assessments and hinders the EPA's ability to manage them," the GAO report said.

The White House said the GAO is wrong in suggesting that the EPA has lost control in assessing the health risks posed by toxic chemicals.

"Only EPA has the authority to finalize an EPA assessment," Kevin F. Neyland, deputy administrator of the White House budget office's Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, wrote in response to the GAO. He called
the interagency process "a dialogue that helps to ensure the quality" of the reviews.

One EPA scientist with extensive knowledge of the changes in the agency's risk assessment policies ridiculed the claim that the EPA still has the final say.

"Unless there is concurrence by other agencies, ... things don't go forward. It means we stop what we are doing," said the scientist, speaking on condition of anonymity because of fear of endangering his career.

"The (EPA) scientists feel as if they have lost complete control of the process, that it's been taken over by the White House and that they're calling the shots," the scientist said.

The GAO investigation focused on the EPA's computerized database, known as IRIS - the Integrated Risk Information System. It contains data on the human health effects of exposure to some 540 toxic chemicals in the environment. New chemicals are being proposed constantly for inclusion under a complicated assessment process that can take five years or more.

After years of stops and starts, the GAO said, the EPA has yet to determine carcinogen risks for a number of major chemicals such as:

-Naphthalene, a chemical used in rocket fuel as well as in manufacturing commercial products such as mothballs, dyes and insecticides.

-Trichloroethylene, or TCE, a widely used industrial degreasing agent.

-Perchloroethylene, or "perc," a chemical used in dry cleaning, metal degreasing and making chemical products.

-Formaldehyde, a colorless, flammable gas used to making building materials.

Environmentalists say these chemicals have been widely found at military bases and Superfund sites and in soil, lakes, streams and groundwater.

The findings, after an 18-month investigation by the congressional watchdog agency, come at a time of growing criticism from members of Congress and health and environmental advocates over alleged political interference in the government's science activities.

Last week, a confidential survey by an advocacy group of EPA scientists showed more than half of the 1,600 respondents worried about political pressure in their work.


Decision On Nuclear Waste Disposal Delayed
Apr 28 - McClatchy-Tribune Regional News - Annette Cary Tri-City Herald, Kennewick, Wash.

The Department of Energy will need an extra year to prepare a report on long-term disposal options for commercial and nonweapons radioactive waste, some of which could be sent to Hanford.

The schedule has slipped as DOE has greatly expanded the potential amount of waste to be studied, said Christine Gelles, director of DOE's environmental management office of disposal operations, during a visit to Richland last week.

A draft environmental study on the waste now is expected in early 2009 with a final study finished in early 2010.

Then DOE is required to report to Congress before making a formal decision on what to do with the waste.

The waste, called Greater Than Class C waste, initially included an estimated 7,280 cubic yards of radioactive metal from decommissioning commercial nuclear power plants and waste from other industrial uses, such as sterilizing medical equipment, treating cancer and testing welds.

But since work began on an environmental study on the waste, an additional 39,000 cubic yards have been added to the study for potential disposal. Much of that would be produced under the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership, which is proposing building an Advanced Fuel Cycle Facility to develop ways to reuse nuclear power fuel.

That project, if it goes forward, would produce debris, such as clothing, contaminated with radionuclides classified as transuranic. DOE has typically sent such waste generated in nuclear weapons projects to deep geological repositories, such as the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant for transuranic waste in New Mexico.

It's considering 10 disposal options in the study, including deep geological repositories in New Mexico and Nevada.

Hanford may be more likely to be considered for waste that includes radioactive metals from decommissioned power plants. That waste also has increased since the report began from 3,380 cubic yards to about 9,600 cubic yards.

Although it's a relatively small amount of waste by volume compared to the low-level waste from past plutonium production to be disposed of in Hanford landfills, its radioactive content is significant. The original 3,380 cubic yards in the study has 110 million curies of radioactivity, which compares to 190 million curies in the 53 million gallons of waste awaiting treatment in Hanford's underground tanks.

Although the waste is considered low-level radioactive waste, the greater than class C designation indicates it's the most radioactive category of that waste.

The additional waste added to the study includes waste from new commercial reactors and from two West Valley, N.Y., nuclear burial sites that might be excavated. Most of the waste will be generated after 2035. Although the study originally included waste generated up to 2062, that may be extended.

The waste could be disposed of in a vault or in trenches with protective barriers and waste packaging. Also under consideration are deep bore holes topped with drilling deflectors to guard against people inadvertently disturbing the waste far into the future.

In addition to Hanford, DOE also is considering commercial disposal in unspecified locations and one or more sites in New Mexico, Nevada, Idaho, South Carolina and Tennessee.


SC Senate Gives Key Approval To Energy-Saving Incentives
COLUMBIA, S.C. (The Associated Press) - Apr 29

South Carolina residents would get tax breaks when they buy energy-efficient appliances and manufactured homes under legislation heading to the House.

The Senate gave final approval to three energy-saving related bills Tuesday.

One proposal eliminates sales taxes on energy-efficient appliances, light bulbs, doors and other items in October beginning in 2009. That month is when groups encourage energy conservation.

The legislation also more than doubles a tax rebate to people buying manufactured houses that meet federal Energy Star requirements.

The proposal requires replacing incandescent lighting with compact fluorescent lights by July 2011 in government buildings and makes agencies set a goal for cutting energy demands by 20 percent by 2020.


Geothermal Utopia Gaining Steam in Utah
Apr 29 - McClatchy-Tribune Regional News - Mark Havnes The Salt Lake Tribune

Gary L. Benson envisions a steam-powered utopia.

Benson is a consultant for the development group NovaTech, which aims to build a self-sufficient community in Provo's Ironton, a former industrial area, by tapping steam to provide electricity and heat for homes and businesses. There are even plans for erecting greenhouses to grow food.

He attended a two-day workshop on geothermal energy last week at Southern Utah University in Cedar City. The workshop brought together experts on the potential use of subterranean steam as a renewable-energy source.

"I am on a learning curve so I can know enough about geothermal to make reliable projections concerning the use of steam," Benson said. "There have been a lot of utopian communities before, both religious and secular, but none completely economically independent like we plan."

Those at the workshop learned where steam resources are, how they can be captured for various uses -- from power generation to heating -- and the importance of snagging state-sponsored incentives to encourage development.

Utah's western desert has vast potential, but the steam is expensive to locate and develop.

The SUU event featured a visit to a steam-powered nursery in Iron County, an exploratory drilling operation in Beaver County and PacifiCorp's Blundell plant, north of Milford.

Started in the 1970s, the Blundell facility draws steam from the Roosevelt thermal reservoir to produce about 35 megawatts of electricity a year.

The company, which has owned the plant for two years, operates two generating units and has just finished a third, which could double the generating capacity.

Once the steam is pumped out of the ground to power turbines, it is reinjected to the reservoir, where it can be heated to about 500 degrees and used again, said plant manager Garth Larsen.

Robert Blackett, a geologist with the Utah Geological Survey, sees great potential for developing steam reservoirs in the Great Basin. "The biggest reasons it has not been developed are the upfront expense and risk of not finding what is hoped for."

But that may be changing.

"I'm getting a lot more calls of people interested in it," Blackett said.

Sam Liu, an engineer and analyst with the state's Division of Public Utilities, cites some advantages of steam -- especially when compared with solar and wind.

"The sun doesn't always shine, and the wind doesn't always blow."


Florida Senate Passes Energy Bill
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) - Apr 30

An expansive energy bill headed for the governor's desk is just the first step in making Florida a national leader in clean energy, a lawmaker said Wednesday.

The Senate passed the bill on Wednesday, just a day after the House passed the same bill unanimously.

While the legislation represents a major shift in energy policy for the state, many lawmakers acknowledged that there was still more work to do. Sen. Burt Saunders, R-Naples, one of the bill's sponsors, said lawmakers will most likely have to look at the legislation again next year to make sure it's implementation is going smoothly. Several major provisions of the bill also require future approval from lawmakers.

The bill, for example, would authorize the Department of Environmental Protection to make electric utilities pay for the pollution they create, an effort to reduce greenhouse gasses. The department would set pollution limits for utilities and require the companies to buy carbon credits when they exceed those limits, offsetting those emissions.

The department also would develop rules that would require new vehicles sold in Florida to pollute less. The pollution limits the department develops for utilities and cars would both have to go back to the Legislature for approval.

The bill also would require private electrical utilities to generate a certain amount of the power the sell from renewable sources like wind and solar power. The state board that regulates private utilities would have to create standards for how much energy comes from those sources, which lawmakers would have to approve.

Lawmakers would also receive suggestion for future legislation from the newly formed Florida Energy and Climate Commission, which would be created by the bill. The board would take the lead in setting energy policy for the state and bring the functions of existing boards and departments into a single group.

Other provisions in the bill would strengthen green building codes and energy efficiency standards for appliances and simplify the approval process for nuclear power plants.

Gov. Charlie Crist said in a prepared statement that the bill signifies a commitment to protecting Florida's natural beauty and stimulating the state's economy. Crist made clean energy a priority for the state during a summit on global climate change last summer.

Earlier this week he announced that another summit will be held in Miami at the end of June. It will focus on attracting companies that use clean energy technologies to Florida to boost the state's economy.

The bill headed to the governor (HB 7135) passed the Senate 39-1.


Nuclear Inspectors Visit Oconee Station After Vibrations
GREENVILLE, S.C. (The Associated Press) - Apr 30

Federal inspectors are spending a few days at the Oconee Nuclear Station after three coolant pumps experienced intense vibrations.

The Greenville News reported Wednesday the vibrations happened while the pumps were shutting down for a refueling outage on April 12.

Victor McCree of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission said the agency also wanted to take a look at a simultaneous leakage from one pump, as well as possibly degraded conditions in a second pump.

Officials will issue a report about 30 days after they complete their investigation.

Duke Energy operates the plant near Seneca. In December, federal investigators said Duke could have addressed safety concerns at the site more quickly.


Italy's Waste Is Called Too Hot For Utah
Apr 29 - McClatchy-Tribune Regional News - Judy Fahys The Salt Lake Tribune

Radioactive waste that Italy wants buried in Utah might be too hot to handle here.

Critics looking at technical aspects of EnergySolutions' plans to import 20,000 tons of cleanup waste from Italy's nuclear reactors say state and federal regulators need more information before signing off on the Salt Lake City company's proposal.

The company's Italy waste plans have already come under fire on policy grounds, with Republican Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. promising to use the state's vote on a regional waste panel to stop future foreign waste imports and Democratic U.S. Rep. Jim Matheson of Utah seeking federal legislation to do the same.

Company spokesman John Ward said EnergySolutions will screen the waste from Italy's defunct nuclear program four times:

--before sending it across the Atlantic;

--prior to recycling it at the company's Tennessee treatment plant;

--after usable metal is melted and recast as shielding; and

--before about 1,600 tons of Class A waste is buried in Tooele County, about 80 miles west of Salt Lake City.

Anything too radioactive will be returned to Italy, under an export license that the company also has applied for, he added. "We won't even begin transporting any material that we can't accept at Bear Creek [Tenn.] and Clive [Utah]."

But Arjun Makhijani, president of the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research, said the company's import application before the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission suggests the material is so radioactive overall it would be Class C waste -- and too hot to be permitted under state law.

"It's very clear that some of this is going to be Class C," said Makhijani, criticizing the lack of details.

"The burden of proof is on EnergySolutions to provide the detailed information that regulators need to make a prudent decision on this request," said Vanessa Pierce, the director of the Healthy Environment Alliance of Utah, who released Makhijani's findings on Monday.

"It's appalling that the NRC and other regulators haven't asked for more" details, she said.

State regulators in Utah and Tennessee have already told the NRC the shipments would be permissible.

Others have raised concerns similar to HEAL Utah's.

Members of the Utah Radiation Control Board questioned EnergySolutions in March about ensuring the waste is safe for Utah.

And Marty Carson, a nuclear industry consultant in South Carolina, urged the NRC in February to require more information to demonstrate that too-hot waste will not be diluted so that it can meet Utah's standards.

"The application doesn't tell enough," said Carson in a telephone interview.

Carson calls himself pro-industry and pro-nuclear, yet he says federal regulators have allowed too many gaps in EnergySolutions' import request.

"I would be opposed to any company engaged in this work the way it's described" in the Italy waste application, he said. "We need to deal with this [waste] properly."


--States, including Utah, generally follow federal guidelines for categorizing and disposing of low-level radioactive waste.

--Class A waste must lose its radioactive punch within 100 years, regulations say. Utah's law allows nuclear waste no more radioactive than this.

--Class B waste is handled more carefully and disposed of with a 300-year safety period in mind. Class C must be contained so that it cannot become a health and environmental hazard for about 500 years, according to the regulations.

--In 2005, Utah lawmakers, with the backing of Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. and EnergySolutions, barred Class B and C waste from the state.


Former Nuke Plant Worker Gets Probation For Hiding Damage
TOLEDO, Ohio (The Associated Press) - May 1 - By JOHN SEEWER AssociatedPress Writer

A judge sentenced a former nuclear plant worker on Thursday to three years' probation for concealing from the government the worst corrosion eve found at a U.S. reactor.

David Geisen, the Davis-Besse plant's former engineering design manager, had faced up to five years in prison after being convicted of misleading regulators into believing the plant along Lake Erie was safe.

U.S. District Judge David Katz opted for probation and a $7,500 fine. The judge noted that Geisen already had been stripped of his license to work in the nuclear industry.

"It is both an economic and a career blow," Katz said.

Prosecutors said Geisen and two other workers lied in the fall of 2001 so the plant could delay a shutdown for a safety inspection. Months later, inspectors found an acid leak that nearly ate through the reactor's 6-inch-thick steel cap. It's not clear how close the plant was to an accident.

Federal prosecutors said Geisen told regulators that an area of the plant the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission was concerned about had been inspected and that there was no reason to worry. But the inspections weren't fully completed and Geisen knew it, prosecutors said.

Following the discovery of the leak, the NRC beefed up inspections and training and began requiring detailed records of its discussions with plant operators.

Geisen never was in a position to know how bad the leak had become at the plant, said his attorney, Richard Hibey. Geisen also had nothing to gain by delaying a shutdown, Hibey said.

Hibey asked for a sentence of probation, saying his client already has suffered a great financial loss and is now struggling to start a new business and provide for his family, including two children in college.

Prosecutors argued that Geisen deserved to spend time in prison because his actions posed a threat to public safety. They declined to comment after the sentencing.

Katz said there was no evidence that residents around the nuclear plant, which is about 20 miles east of Toledo, were in danger, and he said Geisen never profited by keeping the plant operating.

Jurors convicted Geisen in October. A private contractor, Rodney Cook, was acquitted by the same federal jury.

Before sentencing Geisen, the judge noted that there has been speculation that others may have been involved in convincing regulators to delay the shutdown.

The plant's operator, Akron-based FirstEnergy Corp., paid a record $28 million in fines a year ago while avoiding federal charges. It also spent $600 million making repairs and buying replacement power while the plant was closed from early 2002 until 2004.

None of the company's senior leaders were charged in the investigation.

Another former Davis-Besse employee, engineer Andrew Siemaszko, is to go on trial later this year. Design engineer Prasoon Goyal entered into an agreement with the government.


Monday, April 28, 2008

News From the Week of April 21, 2008

Geothermal Bounty Bubbles With Potential

Two Vermont Yankee Bills Advance

Going Solar Without Burning Family Budgets: Duke Energy Looks at a Way to Make Solar Energy Affordable for Many

EPRI Analysis Shows Energy Efficiency Can Curb Need for New Generation

Government to Release Proposed Fuel Economy Rules

Nuke Plant Near NYC Shuts Down

NY Reactor Restarted Again

U.S. Department of Energy Launches Website with Energy Saving Tips for Consumers

Energy Commission Approves New Energy Efficient Measures for California Homes and Businesses

Lawmakers Set to Pass Comprehensive Energy Bill

Energy Commission Approves New Energy Efficient Measures for California Homes and Businesses

US Government Scientists Complain About Political Pressure

SC Senate Gives Key Approval to Energy-Saving Incentives

Cost of Nuclear Plant Fuels Two-State Battle

Geothermal Bounty Bubbles With Potential
Apr 18 - McClatchy-Tribune Regional News - Patty Henetz The Salt Lake

Geothermal energy is clean, runs 24 hours a day and could be providing millions of people with electricity in Utah and the West.

So what's the holdup?

Utah academics, officials and business representatives will make that question the center of a two-day meeting and field trip next week for utilities, municipalities, students, homeowners and anyone interested in the geothermal potential bubbling up from Utah's hot pots.

Geologists, utilities and entrepreneurs already believe Utah possesses some of the best geothermal reservoirs in the nation, resources that could generate 850 megawatts, enough to meet the needs of 2.6 million people. And as the price of coal, natural gas and oil continues to climb, geothermal is attracting more interest.

Cost, though, still is an issue, because "it takes time and exploration dollars" to decide where best to drill, said Dianne Nielson, Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr.'s energy policy adviser.

Big projects can cost $1 million to $2 million to develop and take three to five years to start operations, said Jason Berry, who runs the state Energy Program through the Utah Geological Survey. Further, tax credits and other incentives have been unreliable over the long term, he

But the financial and environmental future for conventional coal-fired energy is murky, too. That's why PacifiCorp is seeking to develop more geothermal energy than the 34 megawatts it generates at its Blundell plant in the Roosevelt hot springs area near Milford, said spokesman Jeff Hymas.

The Blundell generator was built in the mid-1980s and was the first geothermal plant constructed in the nation outside California, Hymas said. Even though the technology is carbon-free and California is willing to pay premium prices for the electricity, the cost-benefit remains shaky, he said.

"There's an inherent risk in developing geothermal resources," Hymas said. "Part of that is the large up-front capital cost."

The simplest way to use geothermal energy is to use steam for radiant heat. Both the Utah State Prison at Point of the Mountain and Milgro Nurseries in Newcastle draw heat from geothermal fields. Even less-technical geothermal heat pumps employ piping in horizontal
or vertical trenches to pre-cool or preheat the air going into air conditioners and furnaces, increasing appliance efficiency by 70 percent to 90 percent.

Large geothermal power plants pull hot water and steam from the ground, use the steam to drive turbines to create electricity, then return water to the ground. Plants also can use relatively low-heat "binary" geothermal technology by passing the hot water through a heat exchanger to boil a fluid such as isobutane at lower temperatures than water to create

Raser Technologies, a Provo company, is just starting on its third small project using the binary system in a kind of prefab plant to profit on Utah's largely untapped geothermal resources, 10 megawatts at a time.

Although Raser wouldn't mind getting tax credits and incentives, "we think these projects are profitable in themselves," said company spokesman Richard Putnam.

The company expects its first plant to start generating electricity in the Escalante Desert by the end of this year, said Putnam. The three plants would generate enough power for about 90,000 people.


Two Vermont Yankee Bills Advance
MONTPELIER, Vt. (The Associated Press) - Apr 18 - By DAVE GRAM Associated
Press Writer

Vermont Yankee's team of lobbyists lost two rounds in separate legislative committee rooms Friday.

By a party-line, 7-4 vote, the House Commerce Committee approved a bill that would require the Vernon reactor's owner, Entergy Nuclear, to guarantee full funding for the plant's eventual dismantling before it goes ahead with a corporate restructuring.

Meanwhile, the House Natural Resources Committee unanimously passed a bill to require a special, independent inspection of the 36-year-old nuclear plant before the Legislature decides whether to allow it to extend its operating license for 20 years past its 2012 expiration date.

The bills are widely seen as among a series of opening salvos this year as lawmakers prepare for next year's debate on the license extension. Vermont is unique among states in that under state law the Legislature has veto power over the license extension. Other states leave such decisions to the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

The decommissioning bill would require the state panel that regulates utilities, the Public Service Board, to certify that Entergy had guaranteed full funding of the decommissioning fund before Vermont Yankee is included in a group of nuclear plants the company plans to spin off into a new, separate corporation.

Rep. Warren Kitzmiller, D-Montpelier and chairman of the Commerce Committee, said in an interview that "in the past, Vermont Yankee was owned by a company with hundreds of billions of dollars of assets. But they want to insulate themselves by passing ownership to a small and highly leveraged company."

Opponents criticized the bill as imposing a new cost on Entergy that could be as much as $400 million. The plant has about $425 million in the fund, down from $439 million last year due to turmoil in the financial markets. Costs of decommissioning are currently estimated to be closer to $800 million.

Critics also maintained that because Entergy's corporate reorganization is currently before the Public Service Board, passing legislation on the topic amounted to undue interference in a quasi-judicial process.

The committee's approval of the bill came after it defeated an amendment that would have merely recommended to the Public Service Board that it consider the adequacy of the decommissioning fund as it reviews the reorganization. That also was defeated on a 7-4 party-line vote, with majority Democrats in opposing the amendment and supporting the underlying bill.

"I very much like my job and I know that my leadership will be disappointed if we amend the bill," Kitzmiller told his committee colleagues.

Entergy lobbyist Gerard Morris later called that an "outrageous" admission of improper influence over a lawmaker.

Kitzmiller said he saw nothing unusual in it. "Gerry's paid to make a stink," he said of Morris.

Kenneth Theobalds, vice president of government affairs at Entergy Nuclear Northeast, said in an interview that the financing involved in the reorganization would make the Vermont Yankee decommissioning fund stronger.

Meanwhile, the House Natural Resources an Energy Committee's bill followed similar Senate action calling for an independent review of Vermont Yankee's plant systems, but appeared to steer that process toward more independence from the NRC.

It would set up a special five-member oversight panel, which would be reported to by a technical team that would do hands-on inspections of eight different plant systems at Vermont Yankee.


Going Solar Without Burning Family Budgets: Duke Energy Looks at a Way to
Make Solar Energy Affordable for Many

Apr 19 - The News & Observer

For decades, the biggest obstacle to adopting solar energy on a large scale has been the huge upfront cost.

Paying for the technology can exceed the price of a luxury automobile, putting solar power out of budgetary reach for most homeowners.

Solar advocates increasingly think that the challenge is no longer a question of technical feasibility, but rather a financial riddle that must be solved to unlock solar's potential to contribute meaningfully to the nation's energy mix.

The solar industry, encouraged by government policies that require public utilities to use more renewable energy, is working on a financing breakthrough.

In North Carolina, Duke Energy is developing a plan that could outfit thousands of homes and businesses with solar panels that would require little or no upfront expense from property owners. That's a welcome alternative to the usual expense: Buying a solar power unit could set a household back $50,000 for the photovoltaic panels required to tap sunlight as an energy source.

Even with federal and state tax credits that can cut the cost of a solar unit by about 65 percent and a subsidy from the state's N.C. GreenPower program, it could take two decades to pay off a system and break even, an unreasonable time span for most people.

The payback can take longer in North Carolina, where solar power competes against some of the nation's cheapest electric rates. One recent financing innovation steals a page directly from the
utility playbook.

The arrangement is gaining popularity in California and other states, where private solar installers own the solar panels on a customer's rooftop and sell the power to the property owner, bypassing the local electric utility.

The solar panels are in essence a rooftop power plant scaled to serve a single customer. The customer contracts to buy 20 years of electricity at a set price, hedging against future price increases.

SunEdison of Baltimore offers contracts with zero upfront costs, primarily in California. The company typically matches or beats the utility rates in other states, said Jigar Shah, SunEdison's chief strategy officer. "The other benefit is that the customer gets to lock in electricity
rates for 20 years," Shah said.

Such private contracts are not allowed in North Carolina, where electric utilities hold monopolies over power sales. Electric utilities could offer such programs to their customers, and Duke is studying a variant of this approach.

Duke expects to present its solar proposal this year to state regulators. The details haven't been worked out, but one possibility is that Duke would cover the cost of installing the solar panels on customers' rooftops. Customers could be rewarded with a discount on their electricity

"We are uniquely positioned to deliver something like this," Duke spokesman Tom Williams said. "One concept we're looking at is putting solar panels on rooftops -- installing them, maintaining them and operating them as we would a power plant."

If these financing models prove successful, some predict that public demand will increase for solar energy, reducing the need to build nuclear power plants and coal-burning power plants. They also would help Duke meet a state requirement to tap renewable resources to generate electricity.

Unlike states with deregulated power markets, North Carolina does not allow private energy companies to sell electricity to homes and businesses.

In California, by contrast, small private solar energy companies compete directly with public utilities. But in North Carolina, where utilities operate as a monopoly, innovative financing breakthroughs will have to be worked out by public utilities.

North Carolina power companies are required to buy electricity generated by independent producers, but the utilities typically pay a wholesale rate for that power -- not enough to cover the operating costs of a solar power generator.

Independent generators have made up the shortfall with state and federal tax credits. Many also collect supplemental payments from N.C. GreenPower, a nonprofit organization in Raleigh.

Some homeowners with solar panels choose not to sell the power to a utility, and instead use the power themselves, striving to achieve energy self-reliance.

They supplement their energy needs with utility power as necessary. For many of these homeowners, the motivation for solar is more about environmental concerns than economics.

But for solar to break into the mainstream in this state, it will have to be converted from an esoteric hobby to a financially sound energy solution.

"Solar has great potential in the Carolinas, but it's too expensive," Duke spokesman Williams said. "It's come a long way, and we're very open to it." or (919) 829-8932


EPRI Analysis Shows Energy Efficiency Can Curb Need for New Generation

Energy efficiency improvements in the U.S. electric power sector could reduce the need for new electric generation by an additional 7 to 11 percent more than currently projected over the next two decades if key barriers can be addressed, according to a preliminary analysis of potential energy savings released today.

The analysis comes at a time when utilities, regulators, and policymakers are aggressively seeking ways to meet growing electricity demand, while reducing the carbon footprint of the U.S. economy. The key challenge is to maximize potential gains in energy efficiency, while
ensuring adequate new electric generation to maintain reliability and meet future demand.

The draft findings were presented by the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) and the Edison Electric Institute (EEI) during an Edison Foundation conference, Keeping the Lights On: Our National Challenge, which examines strategies to meet the growing demand for electricity which is expected to soar 30 percent by 2030, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

That demand growth projection would be even higher without the implementation of existing building codes, appliance standards and market-driven consumer incentives, which will shave electricity consumption by 23 percent, according to the EPRI-EEI study. However, additional
efficiency gains could be achieved only by overcoming major market, regulatory and consumer barriers, the analysis found.

"This study demonstrates the potential of energy efficiency to offsetsome of the projected need for new electric generation as cutting-edge technologies become available and are adopted," said Dr. Michael Howard, senior vice president at EPRI. "We think a 7-percent efficiency improvement is realistic - and gains of 11 percent or more are technologically feasible - depending on the degree to which various obstacles can be overcome."

Essential steps include increased consumer education; adoption and enforcement of aggressive building codes and appliance standards; creation of utility business models that promote increased efficiency within the power sector; and adoption of electricity pricing policies that more accurately reflect the cost of providing electricity to consumers - and give them the information they need to use it wisely.

Diane Munns, executive director at EEI, said the power sector will seek the greatest efficiency gains possible, but cautioned that this will be no easy task and that utilities still must plan for substantial new generation and transmission to assure reliability.

"Achieving efficiency improvements going significantly beyond those already in the pipeline will be a major undertaking," Munns said. "No matter how you slice it, we'll have to build significant new generation to ensure that we meet demand. The greater gains we make in energy efficiency, the better off everyone will be, because we'll have more cost-effective options
for serving our customers," she said. "But if we overestimate what can be accomplished, we could find ourselves without an adequate supply of electricity to meet consumer needs."

Optimal electricity savings can be achieved only if the best available technologies are deployed throughout the U.S. economy, EPRI and EEI said. Much of the research involved in realizing more efficiency is being conducted by EPRI at its Living Laboratory for Energy Efficiency in
Knoxville, Tenn.

EPRI's programs and collaborations that evaluate cutting-edge technologies have identified numerous opportunities to markedly improve energy efficiency through use of "smart" and highly efficient electrical devices. For example, direct energy feedback devices, such as household thermostats that respond automatically to electricity price or demand
signals, can cut energy use and save customers money.

At the same time, consumers' ever-increasing appetite for electricity-hungry devices - even with continuing efficiency improvements - will keep electricity demand on a steady upward trajectory. A 42-inch plasma television consumes two and a half times more energy (250 watts) than a standard 27-inch TV (100 watts). And while many large household appliances
have become more efficient over the years, many smaller devices have not. Two 30-watt set-top television boxes, for example, may consume as much electricity as a large refrigerator.

"While electricity rates will rise due to increasing across-the-board costs of producing electricity, energy efficiency improvements can help reduce some of these costs to consumers," Munns said. "To maximize utility investment in efficiency programs, energy efficiency must be treated as an energy resource on par with new generation."

"We are making remarkable technological advances in the area of efficiency," Howard said. "The question is how much more can we achieve? The key will be finding the will to fully demonstrate and adopt both currently available and emerging, hyper-efficient electric technologies."

Copies of the EPRI-EEI presentation are available on the Edison Foundation's Web site,


Government to Release Proposed Fuel Economy Rules
WASHINGTON (The Associated Press) - Apr 21 - By KEN THOMAS Associated Press

The government on Tuesday plans to release a proposal to raise fuel efficiency standards for new cars and trucks, putting the nation's fleet on track to reach 35 miles per gallon by 2020.

Transportation Department Secretary Mary Peters was making the Earth Day announcement in Washington, responding to a new energy law pushed by Congress last year and signed by President Bush.

Congress sought tougher standards requiring the nation's fleet of new vehicles to increase its efficiency by 10 mpg from its current average of 25 mpg, or a 40 percent increase. The new law represented the first major changes to the auto mileage rules in three decades.

The proposal will set fuel economy standards from 2011 to 2015 and are expected to be finalized before the end of the Bush administration. A Transportation spokesman declined comment on the plan.

The fleet of new passenger cars is currently required to meet a 27.5 mpg average, while sport utility vehicles, pickup trucks and vans need to hit a target of 22.5 mpg.

Members of Congress and environmental groups have pushed for higher standards, arguing that requiring vehicles to become more efficient would help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and the nation's dependence upon imported oil.

Democrats have said the fuel economy requirements will save motorists $700 to $1,000 a year in fuel costs and reduce oil demand by 1.1 million barrels a day when the more fuel-efficient vehicles are in wide use on the road.

Automakers opposed increases to the regulation in previous years, but supported a compromise version of the legislation amid rising gasoline prices and concerns about global warming. The new law is expected to push the auto industry to build more gas-electric hybrid cars, trucks and SUVs running on diesel and advances such as plug-in hybrids and electric vehicles.


Nuke Plant Near NYC Shuts Down
BUCHANAN, N.Y. (The Associated Press) - Apr 21

Officials say New York's Indian Point 2 nuclear power plant has been shut down because operators noticed water levels dropping in the steam generator.

The plant, located in New York City's northern suburbs, had to be shut down manually just as it was powering up from a 26-day outage for refueling and maintenance.

Neil Sheehan of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission says the plant is stable.

A spokeswoman for plant owner Entergy Nuclear, Robyn Bentley, says the shutdown worked the way it was supposed to. The companion plant, Indian Point 3, is operating normally.

Entergy is applying for new 20-year licenses for both plants. Opponents, who want them closed, claim they are unsafe and a terrorist target.


NY Reactor Restarted Again
BUCHANAN, N.Y. (The Associated Press) - Apr 22

Workers at the Indian Point 2 nuclear power plant in the New York City suburbs are trying again to get it up to full power.

The reactor was restarted Monday after a 26-day outage for refueling and maintenance, but had to be shut down within a few hours because of a problem involving water levels in the steam generator.

It was restarted again Tuesday morning after a faulty circuit was replaced, owner Entergy Nuclear said.


U.S. Department of Energy Launches Website with Energy Saving Tips for

Apr 22, 2008 -- Energy Department Documents and Publications/ContentWorks

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) today launched a new internet feature which provides tips to consumers on how to make everyday Earth Day by making smart energy choices to save money while protecting the environment. The interactive web page, at, shows consumers steps to use less energy with household electronics, lighting, and appliances to save on monthly bills and how to avoid wasting energy by improving the energy efficiency of their homes and cars.

The site also features the Department's work to develop cleaner, more affordable, diverse, reliable and sustainable energy sources supporting the President's goal to stop the growth of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by 2025 while meeting increasing energy demands. DOE and its seventeen world class National Laboratories, in partnership with private industry and
universities, perform cutting-edge research to meet these challenges, developing innovative energy solutions in areas such as cellulosic biofuels, solar, geothermal, nuclear, and clean coal power. Other areas of emphasis highlighted include DOE's work to make a smart and efficient electric transmission grid, make homes, buildings and industrial sites more energy efficient, and reduce dependence on oil with Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles and hydrogen-powered cars.


Lawmakers Set to Pass Comprehensive Energy Bill
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (The Associated Press) - Apr 23 - By DAVID FISCHER
Associated Press Writer

Florida could soon have an energy policy that lawmakers and others say would make the state a national leader in clean energy.

Similar bills nearing passage in the House and Senate would promote renewable sources of energy, as well as ways to use less power. A major provision would begin planning for a program that would require polluters to pay for the carbon emissions they produce.

Other provisions would strengthen green building codes and energy efficiency standards for appliances. The proposal also would set new goals for recycling and require gasoline sold in the state to contain more ethanol, a renewable source of fuel.

"Any one of these issues would have been difficult to fathom just two years ago," said Sen. Lee Constantine, R-Altamonte Springs, who has been a strong proponent of the legislation.

He attributes the legislation's success to a shift in attitudes toward clean energy and climate change issues as well as support from Gov. Charlie Crist, who has made addressing both a priority. Many provisions in the energy bill are also based on recommendations from the Florida Energy Commission, which was created by the Legislature two years ago and released its report in January.

While states like California and New York have led their parts of the country in promoting clean energy and fighting climate change, the South has been underrepresented in that effort, said Susan Glickman, a spokeswoman for the The Climate Group, an international nonprofit organization that promotes clean energy. The proposed legislation would give Florida a chance to be a regional and national leader, she said.

The Senate version of the bill (SB 1544) was to be discussed in the Legislature on Wednesday but that discussion was temporarily postponed. Senate and House versions of the bill are nearly identical, but staff members still have a few details to work out, said the bill's sponsor, Sen. Burt Saunders, R-Naples. The House bill (HB 7135) could make it to the floor of that chamber by Friday, said Rep. Stan Mayfield, R-Vero Beach, who chairs the Environment & Natural Resources Council. If that happens, the Senate should be able to pass its bill by early next week, Saunders said.

The energy bill addresses a wide range of topics:


Much of the legislation would focus on changes to the ways utilities are regulated. It would authorize the Department of Environmental Protection to adopt rules for an emissions trading program to address green house gasses released by electric utilities. The department would be allowed to set limits for emissions allowed by utilities and require the companies to buy carbon credits when they exceed those limits, offsetting those emissions.

When developing standards for Florida, DEP Secretary Mike Sole said his department has several models to look at in the country and around the world.

The bill also would lower emissions by simplifying the approval process for nuclear power plants, which produce fewer emissions compared to coal-burning plants. Florida Power & Light and Progress Energy Florida both have plans for nuclear power plants, but even with the changes to the process, it would still take more than a decade for any of the plants to be completed.


Under the bill, utilities may be required to have a certain percentage of the energy they sell come from renewable sources. The bill would authorize the Florida Public Service Commission, which regulates the state's private utility companies, to adopt a renewable energy rule.

Utility customers would also be encouraged to generate renewable energy. Customers who generate more electricity than they need through solar panels or other devices could get credit for that extra power by sending it back out to the power grid. The bill also would create a property tax exemption for such devices, which would otherwise increase the taxable value of a person's home.


The bill would address energy conservation by requiring new homes and businesses to be more energy efficient. It also would require appliances like refrigerators and air conditioners to use less energy. The state would take the lead in this efficiency effort by requiring that all new construction and renovation of state agency buildings meet increased energy standards. Local governments would have to address improving air quality and reducing energy consumption in their long-term planning.

The bill also requires utility regulators the change the way they evaluate energy efficiency programs. The change would allow utility companies to increase rates to pay for efficiency programs, such as giving away compact fluorescent light bulbs and providing rebates to customers who improve their heating and air conditioning systems. Although rates would increase, customers who participate in the programs would save money by using less energy.


The bill would address emissions from automobiles by creating renewable fuel standards that would require all gasoline sold in Florida to contain at least 10 percent ethanol by 2011. This would decrease the state's dependecy on foreign fossil fuels and make up the difference with a renewable fuel.

The bill also would create an incentive for people to purchase hybrid vehicles by allowing them to travel in car pool lanes, regardless of how many passengers are in the car.

Although not in the energy bill, the governor has also directed the Department of Environmental Protection to look at California's clean tailpipe standards, which set limits for the amount of emissions vehicles can produce.


The bill would consolidate the state's climate change and clean energy efforts and create a single commission to address those issues. The newly-created Florida Energy and Climate Commission would take the lead in setting energy policy for the state and bring the functions of existing boards and departments into a single group.

The commission's responsibilities would include administering grants for groups that develop renewable energy, setting goals for utility regulators and advocating for energy and climate change issues. It also would oversee a new consortium of five state universities that would work on developing alternative energy. The consortium's specific goals would include preparing students to work in emerging energy fields and determining ways to make the new technologies profitable.


Energy Commission Approves New Energy Efficient Measures for California Homes and Businesses
Sacramento -- 4/23/08

The California Energy Commission today announced dozens of new energy efficiency building standards for new construction that will save consumers money and reduce energy consumption.

"These new standards demonstrate that California is serious about energy efficiency," said Energy Commission Chairman Jackalyne Pfannenstiel. "These standards will help consumers reduce their monthly energy bills and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by improving the codes used in residential and business construction in California," she added.

The 2008 Building Energy Efficiency Standards, also known as Title 24, regulates construction of residential and nonresidential buildings. The new standards have been updated to include new code regulations for lighting; windows; roofing; skylights; swimming pool and spa equipment; heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) equipment and controls; and the New Solar Homes Partnership.

High performance windows in new homes will now be required to be more resistant to heat and better insulated. Additionally, several changes make heating, ventilating, and air conditioning systems more efficient for homes and businesses.

"Cool roof" standards have also been upgraded to include residential and nonresidential buildings. "Cool roofs" are highly reflective, insulated roofing materials that stay up to 40 degrees cooler than a normal roof under a hot summer sun. "Cool roof" standards are designed to reduce air conditioner demand, save money, and reduce the urban heat island effect. A "cool roof" can reduce a homeowner's electricity consumption by as much as 20 percent.

Efficient lighting in both residential and nonresidential applications is a key improvement of the latest standards. Expanded use of skylights in these standards is evident in large nonresidential buildings. For example, the requirement to install skylights in commercial warehouses larger than 25,000 square feet has been changed to include warehouses starting at 8,000 square feet. As a result, businesses will use more natural daylight and save electricity costs.

Many of the changes in the standards are tailored to help reduce not only overall energy use, but peak energy use - electricity demand on hot summer days when air conditioning loads can cause California's need for power to nearly double. The latest efficiency standards will cut California's peak energy demand by 129 megawatts the first year the standards are in effect and increase cumulatively in subsequent years.

The standards have support from many sectors. According to Natural Resources Defense Council Senior Scientist Noah Horowitz, "By 2013, the new building code will save as much energy as a large (500 megawatt) power plant. These advanced performance standards place California on course to meet its future energy needs and help achieve its ambitious global warming reduction goals." Horowitz added, "Through these upgrades, California once again demonstrates its dedicated environmental leadership by having one of the most advanced building energy codes in the world."

For more information on the 2008 Building Energy Efficiency Standards, visit the Energy Commission's website:

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US Government Scientists Complain About Political Pressure
WASHINGTON (The Associated Press) - Apr 23 - By H. JOSEF HEBERT Associated
Press Writer

Hundreds of U.S. government scientists complain they have been victims of political interference and pressure from superiors to skew their findings, according to a survey released Wednesday by an advocacy group.

The Union of Concerned Scientists said that more than half of the nearly 1,600 Environmental Protection Agency staff scientists who responded online to a detailed questionnaire reported they had experienced incidents of political interference in their work.

EPA spokesman Jonathan Shradar on Wednesday attributed some of the discontent to the "passion" scientists have toward their work. He said EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson, as a longtime career scientist at the EPA himself, "weighs heavily the science given to him by the staff in making policy decisions."

But Francesca Grifo, director of the Union of Concerned Scientists' Scientific Integrity Program, said the survey results revealed "an agency in crisis" with low morale, especially among scientists involved in risk assessment and drawing up regulations.

"The investigation shows researchers are generally continuing to do their work, but their scientific findings are tossed aside when it comes time to write regulations," said Grifo.

The group sent an online questionnaire to 5,500 EPA scientists and received 1,586 responses, a majority of them senior scientists who have worked for the agency for 10 years or more. The survey included chemists, toxicologists, engineers, geologists and experts in the life and environmental sciences.

The report said that 60 percent of those responding, or 889 scientists, reported personally experiencing what they viewed as political interference in their work over the last five years. Four in 10 scientists who have worked at the agency for more than a decade said they believe such interference has been more prevalent in the last five years than the previous five years.

Timothy Donaghy, one of the report's co-authors, acknowledged that a large number of scientists did not respond to the survey and said the findings should not be viewed as a random sample of EPA scientists.

Nevertheless, said Donaghy, "we have hundreds of scientists saying there is a problem" with assuring scientific integrity within the federal government's principal environmental regulatory agency.

Asked to respond to the survey, Shradar, the EPA spokesman, said, "We have the best scientists in the world at EPA."

The EPA has been under fire from members of Congress on a number of fronts including its delay in determining whether carbon dioxide should be regulated to combat global warming. Johnson also has been criticized for rejecting recommendations from science advisory boards on a number of air pollution issues including control of mercury from power plants and how much to reduce smog pollution.


SC Senate Gives Key Approval to Energy-Saving Incentives
COLUMBIA, S.C. (The Associated Press) - Apr 24

South Carolina residents would get tax breaks when they buy energy-efficient appliances and manufactured homes under legislation that has won key approval in the Senate.

One bill eliminates sales taxes beginning in 2009 during October, a month when groups encourage energy conservation.

A second proposal increases a tax rebate to people buying energy-efficient manufactured houses to $750 if the structures meet federal Energy Star requirements. A current energy-efficiency incentive limits the break to $300.

A third bill requires replacing incandescent lighting with compact fluorescent lights by July 2011 in government buildings. That proposal also says agencies have to set a goal for cutting energy demands by 20 percent by 2020.


Cost of Nuclear Plant Fuels Two-State Battle
Apr 24 - The News & Observer

As the fight over nuclear energy shifts from safety to cost, timing the public release of the multibillion-dollar expense takes on an increasingly strategic value to both sides.

The estimated cost of new nuclear power plants has tripled in the past few years, with projections now hitting $6 billion to $9 billion per reactor. Cost estimates are expected to continue escalating. Soaring costs make the prospect of new nuclear power even harder to sell to a public that will ultimately pay for new plants through rate increases.

Nuclear critics are homing in on the staggering costs to lobby their case. It helps the opponents to have a dollar figure to object to, but electric utilities are reluctant to cooperate.

Nuclear opponents are trying to force Duke Energy of Charlotte to disclose the projected cost of a proposed nuclear plant in Cherokee County, S.C., that would serve the Carolinas. The groups have asked officials in both states to require that Duke disclose the estimate. South Carolina regulators are expected to rule on the request today. North Carolina regulators could decide as early as Tuesday.

"If you want the ratepayers to pay for something, are you going to tell them it's none of their business?" said C. Dukes Scott, South Carolina's consumer advocate, who represents the public in utility rate cases.

Scott agrees with anti-nuclear groups that the cost estimate should be made public.

Duke will have to reveal the project cost when it seeks a permit in South Carolina, but such a disclosure may be a year away. Nuclear opponents say the public shouldn't have to wait that long for vital information about such an important decision.

The cost estimates are available to state regulators, public officials and lawyers, as long as they sign confidentiality agreements.

Duke is still negotiating with vendors and contractors, contending that its cost estimates are proprietary and sensitive.

North Carolina's consumer advocate, Public Staff, agrees with Duke that the cost estimate qualifies as a trade secret under North Carolina law.

Releasing the company's preliminary cost projections could undermine Duke's negotiating leverage and ultimately hurt customers, it says.

"Our whole effort here is trying to get the best cost for our customers," Duke spokeswoman Paige Sheehan said. "The people who have intervened in this case are doing anything and everything they can to harm this project."

Nuclear opponents want the utilities to develop alternative energy and efficiency programs and rely on the construction of a power plant as a last resort. The state's utilities maintain that new power plants are needed to meet this region's growing demand for energy.

Nuclear critics insist that a ballooning price hurts the case for new nuclear plants and that cost revisions over time undermine a utility's credibility.

"The thing is just replete with uncertainty and risk on every front," said Jim Warren, director of N.C. Waste Awareness and Reduction Network, a Durham organization that opposes nuclear plants. "There's a lot of denial. They'd like to think they've got this thing nailed down."

Progress Energy won't reveal cost estimates for nuclear reactors proposed for its Shearon Harris nuclear plant in Wake County, where the Raleigh utility operates one reactor.

The company was required by Florida law to disclose the cost of proposed reactors in that state, revealing that each reactor would cost about $7 billion.

But Progress Energy warned that the estimate is preliminary and likely to increase. Residential utility bills in Florida could increase by as much as $25 a month to pay for the plant.

Duke is being challenged to disclose nuclear costs under new laws in North Carolina and South Carolina that allow utilities to start paying debt on power plants before the plants are built -- even if the projects are abandoned.

Duke isn't applying to raise customer rates now, but the company is asking regulators in both states for the green light to spend about $230 million in development costs as the company keeps its nuclear option open. Those costs include preparing an application for a federal nuclear license, federal regulatory fees, site evaluation, land and rights of way purchases, demolition and site preparation, and detailed engineering.

The nuclear reactors that Progress is planning in Florida -- the Westinghouse AP 1000 model -- are the same technology that Progress has proposed for the Shearon Harris site and Duke has proposed for Cherokee County, southwest of Charlotte.

Duke's 1.8 million customers in North Carolina would use most of the electricity generated by the proposed plant and would pay for about 70 percent of the cost of the project.

In February, Duke Energy CEO Jim Rogers told South Carolina regulators that the Cherokee County plant would cost $6 billion to $8 billion, but the company now says that estimate is dated and inaccurate.

Scott, the South Carolina consumer advocate, said that he supports Duke's nuclear plans but that he wants the company to keep the public in the know.

"If the cost wasn't confidential in February," Scott said, "how is it confidential in April?"