Sunday, March 30, 2008

News From the Week of March 24, 2008

Indian Point Guards Test Positive for Cocaine & Are Suspended

NRC Endorses Industry Revised Guidance On Conducting Hostile Action-based Emergency Drills

The Vermont Yankee Nuclear Plant Moves Step Closer to Re-licensing

Major Business Group Opposes Appeal of Power-plant Permit

Indian Point Guards Test Positive for Cocaine & Are Suspended
BUCHANAN, N.Y - (The Associated Press) - Mar 22

Two Indian Point nuclear power plant security guards have been suspended for coming to work with cocaine in their systems, a spokesman for the plants' owner said.
The workers' apparent drug use didn't compromise safety at the plant 35 miles north of midtown Manhattan, Nuclear Regulatory Commission spokesman Neil Sheehan said.
The security guards' suspensions came a month after a construction company supervisor tested positive for alcohol use and was barred from working at the plant.
The security guards - employed by New Orleans-based plant owner Entergy Nuclear - are on paid leave for two weeks. The company fires employees who fail drug tests twice, Entergy spokesman Jim Steets said.
One guard was tested for drugs after leaving her post unexpectedly and failing to respond when commanders radioed her Wednesday; she was found sick in a bathroom, Steets said. The other guard was tested Thursday because he was returning from an absence of more than 29 days; he had been on military leave, according to plant officials.
Federal regulations say there can be no trace of alcohol or drugs in anyone working at a nuclear plant. Only 209 of the more than 70,000 tests of nuclear plant workers and contractors nationwide in 2006 came back positive, according to the NRC.
Steets said the security guards' test results were unfortunate but showed that the plant was succeeding in efforts to make sure workers were fit for duty. The NRC is "satisfied with how the company is handling the situation," Sheehan said.
Another Indian Point security worker got into trouble in August, when the armed guard was found dozing at an inner-ring security gate. The NRC later determined the incident was of "very low security significance."
The plant has about 1,300 employees.
Critics regularly express concern about the plant's safety, but federal regulators have rejected calls to shut it down. Entergy has applied for new licenses that would let Indian Point keep running into the 2030s.

NRC Endorses Industry Revised Guidance On Conducting Hostile Action-based Emergency Drills


The NRC issued a document today endorsing revised guidance developed by the Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI) for how nuclear power plants should voluntarily conduct baseline hostile action-based emergency preparedness drills. The Regulatory Issue Summary (RIS) requires no action or written response by licensees.

Current NRC regulations do not require licensees to use hostile action scenarios in their emergency preparedness drills and exercises. However, in 2005, NEI offered a phased approach for licensees to voluntarily conduct such drills within a three-year period. These "off-year" hostile-action based drills, also called "Phase 3 Drills," are not evaluated by the NRC or the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), and provide a "no fault" opportunity for licensees to demonstrate responses to the unique challenges
security actions pose to existing emergency preparedness programs. During 2007, nine hostile action-based drills were conducted, and 26 are scheduled for 2008.

The revised guidance being endorsed clarifies the scope and methods of demonstration of key objectives of these hostile-action drills. NRC is working with FEMA to identify proposed changes to emergency preparedness regulations and guidance to incorporate hostile action-based scenarios into biennial emergency preparedness exercises. A copy of the RIS can be found

The Vermont Yankee Nuclear Plant Moves Step Closer to Re-licensing
MONTPELIER, Vt. (The Associated Press) - Mar 21 - By DAVE GRAM Associated
Press Writer

The Vermont Yankee nuclear plant on Friday moved another big step closer to being to run for 20 years beyond its currently scheduled 2012 shutdown date with the approval of its license renewal application by a Nuclear Regulatory Commission panel.

The federal agency's Advisory Committee on Reactor Safeguards said it had reviewed a safety evaluation conducted by NRC staff and concurred with the staff that Vermont Yankee, a 650-megawatt reactor in Vernon in the state's southeast corner, could operate safely until 2032.

"The programs established and committed to by the applicant to manage age-related degradation provide reasonable assurance that (Vermont Yankee) can be operated in accordance with its current licensing basis for the period of extended operation without undue risk to the health and safety of the public," the panel concluded.

It also agreed with the staff's call for more analysis of metal fatigue in some plant components, including the nozzles of valves used to move water to and from the reactor.

"Performance of the remaining analyses at least two years before entering the period of extended operation will be a license condition," the panel said in a letter to NRC Chairman Dale Klein. "We agree with the staff's conclusion."

Vermont Yankee spokesman Robert Williams hailed the ruling.

"This is a very positive decision from the ACRS and a major milestone for us," Williams said. "It was an independent look at the NRC's recent safety evaluation and this independent scientific panel agrees that our long-term maintenance and inspection programs will ensure safe operations under a renewed license."

Arnie Gundersen, a nuclear safety expert who has testified in regulatory hearings as a witness for groups critical of nuclear power, took a different view. He said he remains worried that running the plant for an extra 20 years, in combination with the permission it won two years ago to boost its power output by 20 percent, had narrowed safety margins.

The positive ruling from NRC headquarters came the same day lawmakers in Montpelier continued to give headaches to Vermont Yankee owner Entergy Nuclear. In legislative developments:

-The Senate passed a bill that would require Entergy to top off Vermont Yankee's decommissioning fund before spinning the Vernon reactor, as well as five others into New England, New York and Michigan, off to ownership by a newly created company. Supporters of the bill expressed concern that the new company might not have the money to cover dismantling the plant when it eventually shuts down.

-Lawmakers had heard in committee testimony that the decommissioning fund is about $260 million short of current estimates of what is needed. Williams disputed this in an interview Friday, saying the fund's current funding level meets minimum NRC requirements.
-The Senate gave preliminary approval to a bill that would set up a new siting authority to find a new location for storage of highly radioactive spent fuel now being stored in dry casks at the plant site in Vernon.

-Senate President Pro Tem Peter Shumlin, whose Windham County district includes Vermont Yankee and who has been a fierce critic of the plant, has pushed this measure, saying he wants other parts of Vermont to share the risks of hosting the high-level waste.
Williams took a dim view of this as well. The Vernon site is "licensed for nuclear operations," and is under 24-hour guard, making it "obviously preferable" for storage of high-level radioactive waste, he said.

-Meanwhile, a House committee began taking testimony on a Senate-passed bill calling for a special inspection of Vermont Yankee before it gets a license extension.

Major Business Group Opposes Appeal of Power-plant Permit
VERNAL, Utah (The Associated Press) - Mar 24

The nation's largest manufacturing group is asking the federal government to allow expansion of a coal-fired power plant in Utah.

The National Association of Manufacturers is challenging an appeal by conservation groups, which claim the plant would release nearly 2 million tons of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere annually.

The Environmental Protection Agency issued a permit Aug. 30, approving the expansion at the Bonanza plant southeast of Vernal. The new generating station is designed to turn waste coal into energy.

The EPA said it did not have to consider the effect of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse-gas emissions. Critics challenged it, citing a 2007 Supreme Court ruling that said the federal agency has the authority under the Clean Air Act to regulate greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming.

The issue at the
Utah plant is over carbon-dioxide emissions.

The National Association of Manufacturers is concerned that including carbon dioxide in EPA approval regulations would bog down the system well outside the energy industry because the gas is so common.

"The EPA has the discretion to interpret what the permit requirements are in respect to carbon dioxide," said Quentin Riegel, vice president of litigation for the group.

NAM, the American Petroleum Institute and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce filed a brief last week with the EPA appeals board, saying that considering carbon-dioxide emissions in the permitting process would mean anything from schools to restaurants would need EPA permits.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

News From the Week of March 17, 2008

Energy Department Floats Public-Private Plan for Nuclear Waste Dump At Yucca Mtn.

Boston Red Sox Join Solar Energy Team

DOE: Expect License Application For Yucca Mtn. After All

Renewable-Energy Supporters Rally in Reno Against Coal Plants

Wal-Mart's Latest Green Store Cuts Energy Use Up to 45 Percent

Cost of Coal Power is Rising

Energy Department Floats Public-Private Plan for Nuclear Waste Dump
- By ERICA WERNER Associated Press Writer
WASHINGTON - Mar 13, 2008 (The Associated Press)

Energy Department officials trying to promote nuclear power are suggesting that private industry assume some responsibility for the country's nuclear waste.

Edward F. "Ward" Sproat said Thursday that the idea could ensure more stable management and financial support for the long-delayed Yucca Mountain nuclear waste dump project in Nevada that he manages.

"I do think that providing some sort of an organization with legislative fiat that provides that stability and fixes some of these institutional problems is a good idea," Sproat said after addressing a conference of nuclear regulators. "But it's got to be done right." He heads the Energy Department's Office of Civilian Radioactive Waste Management.

Even Yucca Mountain supporters say stability has been lacking at the 77,000-ton repository planned 90 miles northwest of Las Vegas. It is intended as the resting place for the spent reactor fuel and high-level defense waste piling up at power plants and other sites around the country.

Yucca Mountain's most ardent critic, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., is in position to engineer annual budget cuts of $100 million or more.

Sproat suggested a public-private partnership modeled on, for example, the Tennessee Valley Authority, the nation's largest public power company. The TVA was created by Congress and has a board of directors appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate, but raises its own money and manages its own employees.

A power point briefing prepared for lawmakers by Dennis R. Spurgeon, the Energy Department's assistant secretary for nuclear energy, includes a slide showing a "nongovernmental entity" that would manage nuclear waste disposal and fees from nuclear utilities in concert with a still undeveloped recycling program supported by the Bush administration. The power point was obtained Thursday by The Associated Press.

Yucca Mountain's opening date has been delayed repeatedly since the original 1998 goal. Sproat had pegged 2017 as the best achievable opening date. But that has slipped and he could not give a new one on Thursday. He did say that plans to submit a required construction license application to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission by the end of June are back on track, after coming into doubt this year because of Reid's budget cuts.

Meanwhile, liability to taxpayers is surpassing $7 billion because the department contracted with utilities to take possession of their nuclear waste beginning in 1998.

The idea of a public-private partnership to manage Yucca Mountain and other elements of spent fuel disposal has support from the nuclear industry and is garnering some interest on Capitol Hill. But the change would require legislation that also would have to deal with the liability to utilities and dedicating money from a special nuclear waste fund paid into by utilities, according to Sproat. No one thinks that could come about anytime soon.

"A move like that would greatly enhance the chances of success of the Yucca Mountain project and recently Congress is not inclined to enhance the success of the Yucca Mountain project," said Steve Kraft, senior director for used fuel management at the Nuclear Energy Institute.

Reid has long been declaring Yucca Mountain dead and his spokesman said no new plan would change that. "It's hard to privatize something that's not going to be built in the first place," said Reid spokesman Jon Summers.


Boston Red Sox Join Solar Energy Team

Posted by David Beard, Staff March 14, 2008 05:55 PM

Batter up for solar!

Construction will soon begin on a solar hot-water project at Fenway Park, an energy official said. The move is one of several efforts to make the park more environmentally friendly before its 100th anniversary. The disclosure came Thursday at a solar energy session of the Building Energy ‘08 conference.

According to Christina Halfpenny of National Grid, the Sox will be able to meet 37 percent of its water-heating load in a system that will take 16 years to pay for itself, after incentives.

The Red Sox would not confirm the details on Friday. "It would be premature to make a comment at this point," a team spokeswoman said. She added that the team plans to make an announcement next month that will discuss some of the changes fans will see at Fenway Park during the 2008 season, including "greening" initiatives the team is pursuing.

In September, the Sox announced it would explore making Fenway Park "even more green" through a series of environmental initiatives before Fenway's 100th anniversary in 2012.

Among the items considered at that time, beyond some rooftop solar panels, were recycling, improved refuse removal, and the installation of more energy-efficient lighting.

Editor's Note: The Sox will join the Cleveland Indians, and, in the National League, the Colorado Rockies and the San Francisco Giants in using solar power at their home fields.


DOE: Expect License Application After All
Mar 17.2008 (Las Vegas Review - Journal)

The Energy Department has readjusted its Yucca Mountain work plans after a deep budget cut and will be ready after all to apply for a license in June to build a Nevada nuclear waste repository, the program director said Thursday.

Managers postponed work on a Nevada rail line and other segments of the Yucca program, and redirected money and personnel to reach the most pressing goal of meeting a June 30 license application deadline, according to Ward Sproat, director of the Office of Civilian Radioactive Waste Management.

Applying for a construction license has been a long-sought but out-of-reach milestone for DOE at Yucca Mountain. The department has encountered legal and budget problems, and a number of internal missteps in recent years.

Speaking at a conference organized by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Sproat expressed confidence the application will pass initial muster to be docketed by the NRC for more thorough safety reviews and hearings.

Cutbacks will reduce the work force from 2,600 to 1,500-1,700. The Energy Department has singled out key scientists and engineers within DOE, the U.S. Geological Survey, the national laboratories and contract firm Bechtel SAIC who will be needed to defend the license.

"We have identified who those people are to make sure they know their jobs are not in jeopardy," Sproat said. "We have an army of national lab PhDs and engineers on our defense team."

Sproat's upbeat assessment came minutes after a lawyer who represents Nevada in its ongoing battle against Yucca Mountain declared the program is on a "death watch" and is destined for failure.

Martin Malsch, of the firm Egan, Fitzpatrick & Malsch, said DOE will continue to face increasingly severe budget problems. He said DOE's application will be rushed and incomplete and predicted a "huge dispute" over whether it should be accepted for review by regulators.

Beyond that, Nevada is poised to challenge DOE's qualifications andother key aspects of the project, he said. On top of that, both Democratic presidential candidates have pledged to stop the program if elected.

"Yucca Mountain's breaths are short and its heartbeat is faint," Malsch said. "I really don't think it has very long to continue." In response, Sproat said: "The death watch is going to continue for a very long time because I see this program being very alive and well."

The Energy Department was sent back to the drawing boards late last year when Congress cut the 2008 Yucca Mountain budget by $108 million, a 22 percent reduction.

Sproat initially expressed doubt DOE would meet its deadline, but he said managers deferred work on all but the most pressing tasks. For instance, work on a proposed Nevada rail line to the site has been pushed back. To save money further, technical specialists were rotated in for short periods to perform specific tasks and then let go, Sproat said.

Questions remain about the repository, which would need billions of dollars to be built. Sproat confirmed the Bush administration is considering a proposal to reorganize the Yucca project and other nuclear waste programs into a government-chartered corporation similar to the Tennessee Valley Authority or the Bonneville Power Administration.

Promoters contend such an organization would have the advantages of a private business to hire and fire managers, set salaries to attract talent and promote accountability. Sproat said it would stop a revolving door that has seen numerous top managers trying to run the Yucca program for short terms.

But such a big change would require a number of fundamental changes and approval by Congress, which might not be willing to give up control.

The Energy Daily in a Feb. 26 story quoted sources saying the DOE proposal has been at the White House for consideration since at least December. Sproat could not confirm that, saying he understood the concept still was being mulled within DOE.

"I personally don't expect we are going to make anything significant happen on this over the next three to six months," he said. Steve Kraft, senior director for used fuel management at the Nuclear Energy Institute, said a "move like that would greatly enhance the chances of success of the Yucca Mountain project and recently Congress is not inclined to enhance the success of the Yucca Mountain project."

Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., long has been declaring Yucca Mountain dead and his spokesman said no new plan would change that.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.Contact Stephens
Washington Bureau Chief Steve Tetreault at or
(202) 783-1760.

(c) 2008 Las Vegas Review - Journal.


Renewable-Energy Supporters Rally in Reno Against Coal Plants
By MARTIN GRIFFITH Associated Press Writer

RENO, Nev. - Mar 15, 2008 (The Associated Press)

A group of renewable-energy supporters rallied Saturday in Reno against plans to build three coal-fired power plants in eastern Nevada near the Utah border.

Speakers urged Gov. Jim Gibbons, Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto and other local and state officials to join Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., in opposing the use of coal and supporting development of alternative energy sources.

They said coal-fired plants spew out pollutants that contribute to global warming, and a shift to renewable energy would create jobs in a state rich in geothermal, solar and wind power.

"As a mother, I am concerned about mortgaging our children's energy future with polluting coal plants instead of investing into positive renewable energy resources", said Sara Bruso of the Nevada Clean Energy Campaign. "Nevadans are looking to (Gibbons and Masto) for leadership on this."

About 50 people gathered at the downtown's Brick Park for the rally. They placed pictures of windmills and solar panels into a plastic "pot of gold" as a symbol of the bright future the new technologies promise for Nevada.

The rally comes as Sierra Pacific Resources, Dynegy-LS Power Group and Sithe Global Power are pursuing separate plans to build the coal plants near Ely and Mesquite. Gibbons, a Republican, has said the proposed coal plants will burn cleaner than older plants and are crucial for economic development.

Demonstrators urged Masto, a Democrat, to recommend a suspension of state proceedings on the plants. "Senator Reid has already taken a strong stand on this and our state and local officials should do the same," said state Demographer Jeff Hardcastle, who spoke as a private citizen.

David von Seggern of the Sierra Club praised the Reno City Council's recent resolution encouraging the use of solar power in city buildings.

Coal plants provide just over half of the nation's electricity. They also are the largest domestic source of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide, emitting 2 billion tons annually, about a third of the country's total.

Wal-Mart's Latest Green Store Cuts Energy Use Up to 45 Percent
By MARCUS KABEL Associated Press Writer

BENTONVILLE, Ark. - Mar 18, 2008 (The Associated Press)

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. will open its latest generation of energy-efficient test stores this week with a Las Vegas Supercenter that uses new cooling technology to cut overall energy use by up to 45 percent.

The Las Vegas store opening Wednesday builds on advances in earlier pilot stores that reduced energy use in areas including lighting, refrigeration and water flow.

The previous pilot stores in the Midwest cut energy use up to 25 percent compared to a typical Supercenter built in 2005, the year Wal-Mart launched a broad environmental program to reduce energy use and packaging waste and to sell more sustainable products.

Wal-Mart said the new Las Vegas store adds to those savings with a new cooling system based on water evaporation for total energy savings of between 35 percent and 45 percent.

Wal-Mart has said it is the biggest private user of electricity in the world and has huge potential to cut back on greenhouse gases from fossil fuels burned to create electricity. It aims to use technologies proven in the pilot stores to develop a prototype in 2009 for all new Supercenters
that will be between 25 percent and 30 percent more energy efficient.

An outside engineering and efficiency expert said Wal-Mart's advances in saving energy, including the new Las Vegas store, are leading the field for big-box retailers. "This is not just a baby step. This is a big step," said Terry Townsend, past president of the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers.

Townsend said Wal-Mart's pilot stores are important because they show other retailers how to use available technology to improve energy efficiency. Wal-Mart says it is sharing its lessons with retail industry

The latest store is built specifically for the arid climate of Western states, where water evaporates faster than in the more-humid East. It uses rooftop cooling towers to chill water that then runs in conduits under the floor of the store. The radiant cooling from the floor
replaces traditional electricity-powered air conditioning.

The store also incorporates innovations from the previous pilot stores that include recycling heat from refrigerators and combining low-power LED lights in freezer cases with sensors that turn off those lights when no customers are around.


Cost of Coal Power is Rising
Mar 20, 2008 - The Kansas City Star (Kansas City, Missouri)

Electric bills are poised to soar for customers of utilities building coal-fired power plants.

The plants, long-trusted purveyors of low-cost power, no longer seem like such good bets because of soaring construction costs and the surging cost of coal. Moreover, many think Congress will impose penalties on emissions that contribute to global warming.

To be sure, some in the electric industry still view coal-fired plants as the best low-cost option to provide year-round power. But the growing costs, driven by burgeoning global demand, have prompted warnings of "seismic shifts" in the way the industry views the plants.

"It's a very tough environment right now," said Lawrence Makovich, a vice president for Cambridge Energy Research Associates.

Topeka-based Westar Energy, for example, was so troubled by the changes that it tabled plans for a coal-fired plant. But the shift is being played out in a more dramatic fashion at Kansas City Power & Light, which is leading a group of four utilities already building Iatan 2, an 850-megawatt coal-fired plant near Weston.

The plant, which was originally estimated to cost $1.3 billion, already is $400 million beyond that figure and is expected to go up further. In the wake of "cost pressures," KCP&L now is "refocusing" its Iatan 2 budget and could release a revised estimate as early as April.

"What we're seeing is that increased pressure on prices," said Michael Deggendorf, a vice president for KCP&L.

The utility has faced questions about mismanagement of the construction. But the utility has denied that and added that KCP&L has fixed prices on some components of Iatan 2, which should help moderate the increased cost.

Even so, the eventual cost of the plant could be daunting. The cost of similar plants built elsewhere have doubled or more. That could mean that Iatan 2 could ultimately cost $2.6 billion, plus financing expenses.

That would set the stage for a rate shock for KCP&L customers, which will be responsible for paying for a majority of the plant. At the original price of the plant, KCP&L estimated that rates could go up 20 percent. But a rate increase of as much as 40 percent is conceivable if costs mount as much as at other plants.

Such a spike in electric rates would have implications not only for the utilities and their customers but also for economic development. Affordable electricity has served as a major selling point for Kansas City in attracting business investments.

"The increased cost is an issue that we're facing all over the country," said Jim Zakoura, an area lawyer who represents industrial customers.

Cost vise

KCP&L isn't alone in getting squeezed by coal-plant costs. The cost for the two generators that Sunflower Electric Energy Corp. wants to build in western Kansas has more than doubled to $4.2 billion, according to industry experts.

David Schlissel, a senior consultant with Synapse Energy Economics, said cost issues facing utilities are akin to building a new home without knowing how much it would cost, how much the taxes would be or the cost of financing.

"It is a worn-out cliche, but I call it a train wreck," he said.

KCP&L officials said a specific cost estimate for Iatan 2 would not be available until the current review was completed. But they said it would be competitive with other new coal-fired plants. Iatan 2 could be open as early as 2010.

"We're moving forward," said Matt Tidwell, a spokesman for KCP&L.

The same goes for Sunflower Electric, which along with two partners is pushing plans for 1,400 megawatts of coal-fired generation in Kansas. Thecontentious project was halted last fall by the state's top environmental regulator. The project was resurrected by the Kansas Legislature, but that decision now faces a gubernatorial veto.

Steve Miller, a spokesman for Sunflower, said not building new coal plants could affect the economy because Americans continue to use more electricity.

"Does that mean we are going to continue to run dirty old power plants and we can't grow the consumption of electricity?" Miller said. "Surely America is not going to get to that point." Others are taking a more cautious approach.

Westar in late 2006 said it was postponing plans to build an 800-megawatt coal-fired plant. The plant's cost had initially been estimated at just over $1 billion. But rising costs for materials and labor increased the price to $1.7 billion. Today it would be more than $2 billion, said Jim Ludwig, a vice president for Westar.

In addition, the possibility of a carbon tax on greenhouse gases could cost utilities dearly. Even the price of coal can no longer be safely predicted. "All these things are converging," Ludwig said.

Westar decided to postpone the plant indefinitely. It sketched out its plans in a document released in February called "A Strategic Plan for Uncertain Times."

The document mentioned "seismic shifts" in the industry and recommended a plan to keep demand down as much as possible with energy efficiency. The company could improve the distribution of electricity on its lines so less power is lost. Meanwhile, consumers would be encouraged to conserve.

Westar also plans to have 300 megawatts of wind energy in operation by the end of the year. Gas-fired plants, which cost less to build but more to fuel, also would be used more by Westar. The utility relies on natural gas to generate 4 percent of its power. The national average for natural gas is about 10 percent.

Concerns about coal plants are spreading. "You've got to ask: 'Do you think we have reached a point where it economically doesn't make sense?' " said Michael Dworkin, law professor and
director of the Institute for Energy and the Environment at Vermont Law School.

The stakes are enormous, especially for utilities that are in the middle of constructing coal-fired plants.

Wall Street investors last month announced that loans to build coal-fired power plants were risky because of escalating costs and uncertainty about environmental regulations. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has stopped providing loans and subsidies to rural and municipal
utilities to build coal plants.

In a letter to Rep. Henry Waxman, a California Democrat, the agency's administrator wrote that there would be no loans until the agency could "develop a subsidy rate that reflects the risks associated with the construction of new base load generation plants."

Ripples from such decisions are already being felt. This month, Associated Electric Cooperative, whose territory includes all of Missouri except Kansas City and St. Louis, decided not to build a
plant 50 miles east of Kansas City. The cooperative was turned down for a federal loan.

In 2004, Southern Montana Electric Generation and Transmission Cooperative wanted to build a 250-megawatt coal plant. By last fall, the estimated cost of the plant was $750 million, said Jay Fletcher, spokesman for the federal government's utilities program.

On Feb. 19, the cooperative's request for a loan was turned down.

"One of the things we cited is the extremely high cost of the project," Fletcher said.

Fletcher said that in each of the past four years, the cost of building a power plant has gone up 30 percent. The measurement used to estimate costs reveal the increases. A few years ago, it cost about $1,500 a kilowatt hour to build a plant. The cost to build an almost 1,000-megawatt plant planned by AMP-Ohio is now at $3,000 a kilowatt hour.

Then there is the fuel.

Coal is still considered the cheapest fuel except for nuclear. But coal prices have gotten volatile.

In 2003, a ton of coal delivered to electric utilities was $24.74 a ton. Last year, it was $36.09, an increase of nearly 50 percent.

Prices are being pushed higher by burgeoning global demand driven by emerging economies such as China. Some estimates call for coal prices to eventually be less volatile, but others expect prices to continue to increase.

"There's not going to be a reduction short of a war or plague or radical new technology," Dworkin said.

Carbon taxes

Soaring construction and coal costs are known factors for the utility industry. What is less certain is when Congress will enact global-warming regulations requiring utilities to pay for emissions of CO2, a greenhouse gas.

Waxman and fellow Rep. Edward J. Markey, a Democrat from Massachusetts, filed a bill Tuesday that would place a moratorium on all new coal plants until technology is developed to control global warming emissions or CO{-2}.

"This bill will make companies prepare for the future and prevent them from building low-tech, coal-fired power plants before a global warming bill is passed," said Markey, chairman of the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming.

One approach being considered is used in Europe, where emissions can cost up to $30 a ton.

"Federal regulation of greenhouse gases is no longer a matter of if --it is a matter of when," Schlissel said in testimony submitted to the Kansas Legislature.

Schlissel calculated that the CO{-2} emission penalties for Sunflower's proposed 1,400-megawatt plant could be from $67 million to $334 million annually by 2015. By 2030, the range is predicted to be $387 million to $966 million.

Experts do not think that the technology to prevent CO2 emissions will be available until at least 2030 -- if ever.

Miller, of Sunflower, discounted the cost of CO2 regulations. "I cannot believe our Congress, and our Legislature, is going to allow the price of electricity to get so high the common person can't afford to pay their bill," Miller said. "In the end, it is all going to be about what the ratepayers are going to pay. I can't see Congress putting trillions of dollars on the taxpayers."

To reach Steve Everly, call 816-234-4455 or send e-mail to To reach Karen Dillon, call 816-234-4430 or send e-mail to

Thursday, March 13, 2008

The NRC seems to have forgotten their mission as an independent oversight agency

EDITOR'S NOTE: The NRC seems to have forgotten their mission as an independent oversight agency, and now seems more interested in promotion than their charter would seemingly allow. They should be admonished for this by the public and the Congress. Of course, we all recognize they are a captured agency and a revolving door to high-paying industry jobs.......................

US Government Loan Guarantees For New Nuclear Too Small - NRC -- Dow Jones & Company, Inc. - Mar 10

The U.S. government's $18.5-billion federal loan guarantees falls short of the $500 billion needed to build the country's next generation of nuclear powered reactors over the next decade, the commissioner of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission said Monday.

The loan guarantees would only be enough to finance two to three nuclear reactors and could ultimately hinder companies from building all the new units they apply for, said the NRC's Gregory Jaczko in London.

"It's a far cry from what's needed," said Jaczko. "Congress is supportive, but have decided not to provide more federal loan guarantees - there's a disconnect there, so financing would have to happen without federal loan guarantees," he added.

The U.S. is on the verge of a nuclear power revival after 30 years of no new build and companies say the loan guarantees are crucial to get the first wave of new plants up and running.

"That first wave of new nuclear would need assistance as there's no commercially available financing now because of the uncertainties and because it's been 30 years since one was built," said Michael Wallace, CEO of Constellation Energy Group Inc. (CEG).

"But once we demonstrate that, we should be able to finance the next wave with commercial loans," Wallace told Dow Jones Newswires on the sidelines of a utilities conference.

Constellation Energy hopes to break ground on a new nuclear power reactor at its Calvert Cliffs plant in Maryland at the end of this year following a final decision in November. The company plans for the 1.6-gigawatt reactor to come on line in 2015.

To date, the NRC has received five complete applications and one partial application for licenses to operate and construct a nuclear power plant, Jaczko said. He expects to receive 17 applications for 30 nuclear power reactors with around 45 GW of capacity over the next two to three years. It's not yet clear how many licenses will be approved, Jaczko said.

Some construction, such as site clearing, can begin before a company receives a license, he added.

The NRC is likely to settle on three new reactor designs out of the five it is currently evaluating so as to simplify the licensing process and encourage standardization across the industry, he said.

Nuclear power is on the verge of a revival in the U.S. due to efforts to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions, reversing three decades of stagnation following the 1979 disaster at the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant. Last September, NRG Energy Inc. (NRG) became the first company in 30 years to file an application to build new nuclear power plants.

Jaczko said around 50 new nuclear reactors would be needed to replace the country's aging plants and keep the amount of electricity produced from nuclear steady at 20%.

-By Selina Williams, Dow Jones Newswires, +44 207 842 9262;

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

News from the week of March 10, 2008

Energy Secretary Envisions 20% Wind

Clean Energy Bank Proposed: Domenici Backs Tech Investment

Judge Threatens Audience Evictions at Westchester Nuclear Hearing

NY Senators Demand More Indian Point Hearings After Audio Woes

Court Rejects Challenge to Nuclear Waste Storage

Utah State Board Rejects Import of Italian Nuclear Waste

Southern Utah Developer Builds Zero-Energy Houses

Nuclear Reactors' Cost: $17 Billion

NRC Announces Opportunity To Request Hearing On License Renewal Application For Three Mile Island Nuclear Plant

SC Utility Rebate Available For Solar Panels

Renewable Energy Continues Rapid Global Growth in 2007

Report Places Even Odds on Hoover Dam Running Dry by 2017

Senate Advances Bill Calling for Vt. Yankee Inspection

Matheson Moves to Block Foreign Nuclear Waste

Settlement Over Diablo Nuke Plant Generator Replacement

Energy Secretary Envisions 20% Wind

- Mar 10, 2008 (Wind Energy Weekly)

Pointing to the dramatic achievements of the wind energy industry as an indication that the world is moving toward a cleaner energy future, U.S. Secretary of Energy Samuel Bodman expressed a vision for wind to provide 20% or more of the nation's generation capacity.

Bodman addressed attendees of the Washington International Renewable Energy Conference on March 4. "In 2007, the United States installed 5,240 MW of new wind power, a 45% increase over 2006," said Bodman. "The U.S. has had the fastest growing wind power capacity in the world for the last three years in a row, and is anticipated to resume its position as the world leader of total installed wind capacity by the end of 2009."

Thanks in large part to wind power, said Bodman, "[R]enewable energy sources accounted for 30% of all new nameplate electricity capacity additions in the U.S. in 2007-up from just 2% in 2004. And we envision a future where wind supplies 20% or more of our total national generating capacity."

Bodman said such numbers confirm that federal policy supporting renewable energy is having an impact and underscored the need for even more "predictable and durable policies that enable greater private investment." That statement resonated with the wind industry, which is urging Congress to quickly pass an extension of the production tax credit (PTC), which expires at the end of the year, so that the industry can operate in a stable policy environment. Bodman, however, did not specifically reference the PTC, instead following the remark with a mention of the $38 million in loan guarantees the Department of Energy is arranging over the next three years primarily to support the next generation of nuclear plants or other technologies that sequester or avoid greenhouse gas emissions.

"This whole set of global energy challenges grows more acute with time," said Bodman. "But I'm confident that we will meet them. And, even more than that, I'm optimistic that they represent a major opportunity for the world. Because just as the components of the problem are all too clear today, the components of the solution are also coming into focus-and more so everyday."

Clean Energy Bank Proposed: Domenici Backs Tech Investment
- Michael Coleman Albuquerque Journal, N.M.
-Mar 7, 2008 (McClatchy-Tribune Regional News)

Sen. Pete Domenici wants to put more federal financial muscle behind new clean energy technology, and he has proposed a U.S. Clean Energy Investment Bank to do it.

Domenici, the top Republican on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, introduced a bill Thursday that would create a bank structured similar to the U.S. Export-Import Bank and Overseas Private Investment Corporation.

The clean energy bank would focus solely on spurring U.S. clean energy technology investment. It would take over the Department of Energy's existing loan guarantee program, which has been criticized for not issuing loans fast enough.

The new federal bank would have the ability to issue loans, loan guarantees, equity investments and insurance products.

During a speech on the Senate floor Thursday, Domenici said renewable energy entrepreneurs need the solid financial footing the government could provide.

"Unlike traditional fossil energy projects, which are able to more easily secure long-term debt financing, clean energy markets have a greater level of risk both commercially and technically," Domenici said. "That is why the certainty provided by federal government support would be

The bill has been referred to the Senate energy committee for a hearing.

Sen. Jeff Bingaman, Democratic chairman of the energy committee, is intrigued by the idea of a clean energy bank but wants to know more before committing to it, an aide said.

"Sen. Bingaman thinks this is an interesting idea," said Jude McCartin, the senator's press secretary. "He'd like to learn more about the particulars of the legislation and looks forward to having further discussions with Sen. Domenici about it."

EDITOR'S NOTE: Given Domenici's support for nuclear power, it would not be a surprise this will be the funding source for that technology intransitional economy nations like Namibia.


Judge Threatens Audience Evictions at Westchester Nuclear Hearing
By JIM FITZGERALD Associated Press Writer
WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. - Mar 10, 2008 (The Associated Press)

An administrative judge at a federal hearing on the relicensing of the Indian Point nuclear power plants has refused to make arrangements that would allow the public and the news media to clearly hear testimony.

The judge also threatened to evict anyone who questioned his decision on Monday.

Lawrence McDade, chairman of the Atomic Safety Licensing Board and one of three judges at the hearing in Westchester County, told those present: "The next time somebody in the audience speaks out, we will ask them to be removed from the facility."

He made the remark after Michael Kaplowitz, a Westchester County legislator, complained from the courtroom's gallery.

Nuclear Regulatory Commission spokesman Neil Sheehan said it was the judge's call, but he hoped something could be done to make testimony audible.


NY Senators Demand More Indian Point Hearings After Audio Woes
WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. - Mar 11, 2008 (The Associated Press)

New York's two senators and four other members of Congress are demanding a do-over of an Indian Point nuclear power plant hearing that was nearly inaudible to the public.

The first several hours of a hearing Monday on new licenses for Indian Point were conducted without microphones for most of the participants, and the presiding judge threatened to evict anyone who complained. Additional microphones were installed later.

In a letter sent Tuesday to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission's chief administrative judge, Sens. Charles Schumer and Hillary Clinton and Reps. Nita Lowey, John Hall, Maurice Hinchey and Eliot Engel say Monday's events cast doubt on the commitment to an open process. They want another day of hearings.

The NRC hasn't commented.


Court Rejects Challenge to Nuclear Waste Storage plan
By STEPHEN SINGER Associated Press Writer
HARTFORD, Conn. - Mar 10, 2008 (The Associated Press)

The state Supreme Court on Monday upheld a lower court ruling allowing the Millstone nuclear power plant in Waterford to build onsite storage units for spent radioactive fuel rods.

The justices ruled unanimously that a New Britain Superior Court judge properly dismissed a legal challenge by Nancy Burton and William Honan, members of the Connecticut Coalition Against Millstone who sued to overturn a decision by the Connecticut Siting Council.

The Siting Council had granted a certificate allowing Dominion Nuclear Connecticut Inc. to build the storage facility. The Supreme Court said the Siting Council acted within its jurisdiction in reviewing the distance of the plant from residential areas, a flood zone and other environmental matters. The decision "largely serves to support and validate how we conduct our work here," said Derek Phelps, executive director of the Siting Council.

A message was placed seeking comment from the Connecticut Coalition Against Millstone.

The Connecticut Siting Council in 2004 granted a permit for bunkers and dry casks to store spent fuel at Millstone Power Station, but prohibited the transfer of spent fuel from other sources to Millstone. Millstone has already built 10 concrete bunkers to store the rods, spokesman Peter Hyde said. The rods will remain at the site until the federal government decides where to build a national repository, he said.

"We're obviously pleased the Supreme Court agreed with the Siting Council and upheld the decision," he said. "We're confident we can safely store the nuclear rods."

The Supreme Court also agreed with the lower court's ruling that the Siting Council is pre-empted by federal laws and regulations from considering radiological risks of nuclear storage and the related potential impact on the environment.


Utah State Board Rejects Import of Italian Nuclear Waste
SALT LAKE CITY - Mar 8, 2008 (The Associated Press)

Utah's Radiation Control Board will ask federal regulators to deny a request to allow Italian nuclear waste to be imported here for storage.

Utah-based EnergySolutions has asked the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission to allow 20,000 tons of Italian waste into the country for disposal. About 1,600 tons of waste would go to the company's Clive, Utah facility about 80 miles west of Salt Lake City. The rest would be processed by the company's Bear Creek, Tenn., site.

In a letter approved unanimously Friday, the state board cites concern for maintaining storage capacity for domestic waste and questions the tact of a country that uses nuclear power, but sends its waste elsewhere.

"We believe 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," says the letter. "Development of nuclear power should go hand in hand with the development of disposal options."

Lisa Roskelley, spokeswoman for Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, said the governor will likely draft a cover letter to accompany the radiation board letter, stating his full support of the board's position. Utah's Democratic Rep. Jim Matheson has also spoken against bringing the Italian waste to the state.

EnergySolutions officials insist the company has no intention of becoming the primary source of disposal for the world's nuclear waste. In a letter sent Feb. 21 to the radiation board, company CEO Steve Creamer said he believes it is "essential to maintain Clive's capacity principally for
domestic needs."

The NRC is taking public comment on the issue through June 10.
go here to comment

here are some talking points on the issue from HEAL Utah


Southern Utah Developer Builds Zero-Energy Houses
- Mark Havnes The Salt Lake Tribune
Mar 10,2008 (McClatchy-Tribune Regional News)

A Southern Utah developer is building zero-energy houses -- homes he believes will offset utility bills and give cash back to owners over the years.

Aaron Needham, with sponsorships from General Electric and JP Morgan Chase Bank, is building the houses in Ivins and Washington City, as well as in Midway. His company, Needham Homes and Development, has been building energy-efficient houses for two years in Cedar City. Recently, he had his renewable-energy-credit building program certified by an independent

"We now have documentation that will guarantee lower utility bills," Needham said. Kevin Emerson, with Utah Clean Energy, described the builder's concept as "unique and innovative."

Clean Energy is a 6-year-old, nonprofit that works with Utah residents and government agencies to educate and advocate for energy-efficient policies.

"[Needham] is definitely breaking new ground," said Emerson. "Other builders in Utah are building zero-energy houses, but nothing like [Needham's] model. "He is working with some impressive partners, especially Building America that gives him the measure of verification he needs."

Needham said the energy-efficient homes are not subject to negative forces currently influencing the real-estate market in states other than Utah. That, he said, makes them attractive to build. The homes range in price from $200,000 to $500,000.

"The reason people are not building homes now is because a lot of them [in markets elsewhere] are worth less the day you finish them than the day you started," Needham said. "Our homes are appreciating -- not depreciating."

Needham said owners of his homes can expect to see a reduction of 70 percent in utility bills. Such savings are achieved through construction methods that pay attention to sealing exterior doors and windows, installing special insulation and using energy-efficient appliances, furnaces and air conditioners.

The houses also use wind and solar power for generating electricity and heating. And they provide renewable-energy credits. A credit is equal to a single megawatt of electricity produced by the homeowner through solar panels or wind generator. The homeowner will be paid up to $500 a year by a program that will then broker the credits to offset the carbon footprint of another person or company. Other ways the homeowner will save are through federal and state tax credits, Needham said.

And when buying the house through JP Morgan Chase Bank -- Needham's preferred lender -- up to 9 percent of the home's sales price will go toward a reduced down payment, a lower interest rate and offset six months of the first year's mortgage payment.

Needham said while the concept of energy-efficient construction is not new, his claims can be quantified and verified according to independent research. That research was done by Consol, a Stockton, Calif., firm that manages the Building America program for the U.S. Department of Energy.

Abe Cubano, a research engineer for the company, said he has evaluated and authenticated Needham's efforts, saying they are in line with federal standards. He believes the green builder is the nation's first to bring different elements such as financing constructing, brokering renewable energy credits and appraising together in a single package.

"He's done all the legwork, and it's amazing what he has done," said Cubano "[Needham's] homes produce something. They create a residual income. No one else in the nation is doing this."

Cubano said Utah is a good place for such a program to lay its foundation because it does not have the bureaucratic hoops to jump through like California., pointing out that the Beehive State's housing market is healthier than other parts of the country and more conducive to Needham's innovative ideas.


Nuclear Reactors' Cost: $17 Billion
Mar 11, 2008 (The News & Observer)

Building two nuclear reactors in Florida would cost Progress Energy $17 billion, which would increase the bills of the company's customers in that state by an average of 3 percent to 4 percent a year for 10 years.

The cost estimates, to be filed with Florida regulators today, are an early indication of Progress' potential nuclear costs in North Carolina. The utility, based in Raleigh, is considering two new reactors at its Shearon Harris site in Wake County. The reactors proposed in Florida -- the Westinghouse AP1000 -- are the same models that Progress is planning at Shearon Harris.

The costs of building multibillion-dollar power plants are paid by utility customers through their monthly bills over several decades. Such costs have been shrouded in speculation as utilities, vendors and manufacturers sought to promote a resurgence in nuclear power while avoiding the negative repercussions of sticker shock.

Today's filing before the Florida Public Service Commission will be the subject of hearings in that state this year about the need for nuclear plants. It's one of the nation's first cost estimates for new reactors and is consistent with a recent appraisal from Florida Power & Light for two
Westinghouse units.

Progress officials promote nuclear energy as the cheapest option for meeting growing energy demand. Several years ago, the company was projecting a cost of $2 billion to $3 billion per reactor, but since then the cost of labor and materials has skyrocketed amid increasing global demand for energy.

Nuclear energy had stalled after the 1979 accident at Three Mile Island in Pennsylvania, but the technology has gained new advocates because of concerns about global warming.

The operation of nuclear generators, unlike that of coal-burning power plants, does not produce carbon dioxide, the greenhouse gas blamed for heating the planet. Supporters promote nuclear energy as a clean fuel, despite its lethal byproduct: radioactive nuclear waste.

Nuclear critics who advocate renewable energy and conservation programs are sure to seize on the newest estimates as evidence that nuclear costs are spiraling out of control.

During the last period of nuclear expansion three decades ago, critics say, utilities lowballed nuclear cost estimates only to revise them mid-construction. In the 1970s, for example, the construction of Shearon Harris was originally projected to cost $1.1 billion for four reactors, but the actual cost was $3.9 billion for one reactor. The other three reactors were canceled amid cost overruns and reduced demand forecasts.

Progress is expected to submit a more detailed cost estimate for the Florida nuclear plants in May. The company's nuclear cost estimates include financing, land acquisition, construction, labor and regulatory fees. Progress spokesman Rick Kimble warned against extrapolating costs in North Carolina from the Florida estimates. He noted that the utility has not signed a contract with Westinghouse for reactors for North Carolina and could continue negotiating for months.

Progress officials have said they would not reveal cost estimates for new reactors at Shearon Harris until the company negotiates a contract. Progress' Florida cost estimate includes $3 billion to build about 200 miles of transmission lines and substations in 10 counties, an expense not anticipated in North Carolina.

In this state, the new reactors would be placed at a site that was designed for four reactors. The Florida nuclear plants, however, would be built about seven miles from the company's Crystal River Nuclear Plant on 3,100 acres of former timberland that Progress bought for about $43 million last year.

The first of Progress' planned nuclear plants in Florida is expected to begin operation in 2016, with the second unit going online in 2017. In North Carolina, the first unit would begin operating between 2018 and 2020 if the company decides it can afford to build it. A final decision is at least a year away.

EDITORS NOTE: If one 1100-mW nuclear plant and infrastructure costs $8.5 billion, then the installed capacity cost is $7,727/kW. If such a plant operated with a 90% capacity factor and 20% of the gross generation was lost to meet the needs for the parasitic requirements of the facility's internal
pumps and such, and said facility was financed at a 9% interest rate for a 30 year period, then the amortization would result in a cost of about 12.0 cents/kWh. Adding to that the roughly 2.0 cents/kWh needed for the production costs means the busbar power cost is about 14.0 cents/kWh.

Accounting for the non-factored costs of transmission and distribution will be a roughly 2x multiple of the busbar cost, meaning that the delivered cost to the end consumer is roughly 25.0 cents/kWh. By logic, any conservation, efficiency or renewable technology placed on the customer's side of the meter that costs less than 25.0 cents/kWh should be deployed first, as they will be more "cost-effective" than buying the electron of nuclear generation.

While the use of the Shearson Harris site in NC will provide some common infrastructure, there will be a cost for adding the required upgrade to transmission lines and substations. Even if no infrastructure upgrades were required, the busbar cost at Harris would still be about 12.0 cents/kWh.


NRC Announces Opportunity To Request Hearing On License Renewal Application For Three Mile Island Nuclear Plant
- Mar 11, 2008 (The Associated Press)

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission today announced the opportunity to request a hearing on an application to renew the operating license for the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant, Unit 1, for an additional 20 years.

Three Mile Island Unit 1 is a pressurized water reactor located 10
miles southeast of Harrisburg, Pa. The plant owner, AmerGen Energy Co., submitted the renewal application Jan. 8. The current operating license for Unit 1 expires April 19, 2014.

The NRC staff has determined that the application contains sufficient information for the agency to formally docket, or file, the application and begin its technical and environmental reviews. Docketing the application does not preclude requesting additional information as the reviews proceed, nor does it indicate whether the Commission will renew the license.

A notice of opportunity to request a hearing will be published soon in the Federal Register. The deadline for requesting a hearing is 60 days after publication of the notice. Petitions may be filed by anyone whose interest may be affected by the license renewal and who wishes to participate as a party in the proceeding. Background information regarding the hearing process was provided by NRC staff to members of the public during public information sessions conducted March 4 near the plant.

A request for a hearing and a petition for leave to intervene must be filed through the NRC's E-Filing system. Anyone wishing to file should contact the Office of the Secretary by e-mail at at least five days before the filing deadline to request a digital ID certificate and allow for the creation of an electronic docket.

The Three Mile Island license renewal application is posted on the NRC Web site at

A schedule for reviewing the application will be posted soon. License renewal reviews typically take 22 months with no hearing, or 30 months if a hearing is granted.

Information about the license renewal process can be found on the NRC Web site at


SC Utility Rebate Available For Solar Panels
- Mar 11, 2008 (McClatchy-Tribune Regional News - The Sun News, Myrtle Beach,S.C.)

Santee Cooper launched its Solar Homes Initiative on Monday, meaning homeowners can apply for up to a $12,000 rebate to install a solar panel. People can apply through April 10, and Santee Cooper will give 10 qualified homeowners a rebate. To qualify, homeowners must be Santee Cooper customers, have owned the free-standing property for at least a year and live in it.

They also must agree to get their power through the Green Energy Buy Backs Program -- where Santee Cooper buys excess green energy customers produce -- for at least five years.

Coupled with up to $5,500 in available federal and state tax credits, a homeowner could get as much as $17,500 for a 4-kilowatt solar panel and installation.


Renewable Energy Continues Rapid Global Growth in 2007
- Mar 12, 2008 (EERE Network News)

The global use of renewable energy sources continued its rapid growth in 2007, with 40 gigawatts of new renewable energy capacity added throughout the world, according to a new report. That capacity growth, which includes large hydropower, brings the world's renewable energy generating capacity to more than a thousand gigawatts. Excluding large hydropower, renewable generating capacity grew by 33 gigawatts to a total of 240 gigawatts, a 16% annual growth rate. At 95 gigawatts, wind power is the largest of the newer renewable energy sources, while grid-connected solar photovoltaic systems increased by 53%, reaching 7.8 gigawatts.

Among other renewable energy sources, ethanol production reached 12 billion gallons, biodiesel production exceeded 2 billion gallons, and there are now enough solar hot water systems to produce 128 gigawatts of thermal energy. The United States now leads the world in new wind capacity added each year and in annual ethanol production, and it also features the largest installed capacities for geothermal and biomass energy power plants.

While the REN21 report estimates last year's investments in renewable energy at $71 billion, analysts at New Energy Finance have increased their estimate to $148.4 billion, more than double the REN21 estimate and a significant increase from New Energy Finance's previous estimate of $117.2 billion, which was released in January. The new figure includes transactions made near the end of the year but not disclosed until more recently, and it reflects a 60% increase over investments in 2006, according to New Energy Finance.


Report Places Even Odds on Hoover Dam Running Dry by 2017
- Mar 12, 2008 (EERE Network News)

A new study warns that the 2,080-megawatt Hoover Dam could have too little water to produce power within the next decade. The study by researchers at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography concludes that the growing demand for water in the West, combined with reduced runoff due to climate change, are causing a net deficit of nearly 1 million acre-feet of
water per year in the Colorado River system, which includes Lake Powell and Lake Mead. Lake Mead feeds the Hoover Dam, and the researchers estimate a 50% chance that Lake Mead could drop too low for power production by 2017. According to the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, the Hoover Dam is one of the largest hydropower facilities in the nation, producing enough power to serve 1.3 million people in Arizona, California, and Nevada.

With recent droughts in the West, the Colorado River system is currently operating at only half of its capacity, and the researchers estimate that the system is already operating at a deficit. They find a 50% chance that Lake Mead could run completely dry by 2021 if the climate
changes as expected and if future water demand is not curtailed. The research paper has been accepted for publication in "Water Resources Research," a publication of the American Geophysical Union (AGU).


Senate Advances Bill Calling for Vt. Yankee Inspection
By DAVE GRAM Associated Press Writer
MONTPELIER, Vt. - Mar 12, 2008 (The Associated Press)

The Vermont Senate has given preliminary approval to a bill calling for an independent inspection of the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant before the state acts on its bid for a 20-year license extension.

The Senate voted 24-3 Wednesday on the bill. Final approval is expected Thursday.

The bill attempts to answer a call by critics for a top-to-bottom review of the 36-year-old Vernon reactor. A similar one helped lead to the shutdown of Maine Yankee a decade ago.

The Legislation comes as Vermont Yankee awaits final approval from the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission to extend its license for 20 years beyond its current 2012 expiration date. The Legislature and state Public Service Board also would have to approve such an extension.

Plant critics noted that the vote came on a day when Vermont Yankee was reported - by an NRC Web site - to have reduced to 65 percent power. Power reductions are often indicative of a problem at the plant, pointing to the need for a thorough inspection, they said.

"We think it's great that this vote should come on this particular day, when they've cut power by 35 percent," said Bob Stannard, a lobbyist for the anti-nuclear Citizens' Awareness Network.

Vermont Yankee spokesman Robert Williams said the power reduction was not due to a problem at the reactor. It was "a normal routine thing we do quarterly" in which fuel rods in the reactor core are rearranged "to ensure balanced power output in the reactor core," he said. He said the plant is expected to be back at full power by Thursday.


Matheson Moves to Block Foreign Nuclear Waste
By Thomas Burr
Mar 13, 2008 (The Salt Lake Tribune)

Posted: 6:56 PM- WASHINGTON - Rep. Jim Matheson and two colleagues want to hand the Nuclear Regulatory Commission the power to prohibit foreign nuclear waste from being dumped in the United States, a move that could block a proposed shipment from Italy to Utah.

Matheson, along with Rep. Bart Gordon, D-Tenn., and Ed Whitfield, R-Ky., say the measure, introduced into Congress today, would ban the importation of low-level radioactive waste from foreign countries unless the waste was generated in the United States or from U.S. military facility.

It's a direct broadside aimed at plans by Salt Lake City-based EnergySolutions to seek a license to import 20,000 tons of low-level nuclear waste from decommissioned nuclear reactors in Italy. Most of the waste would be processed in Tennessee, but 1,600 tons will end up at the company's facility in Tooele County, according to the EnergySolutions' license request.

Matheson says the legislation likely would throw out any chance of the Italian waste hitting Utah, because while EnergySolutions has applied for the license, it hasn't been approved.

"The license hasn't been granted yet, so I think that in terms of that specific application, until it's granted, nothing is grandfathered," Matheson said. But, he added, the goal of the measure is broader as well: to ensure that America doesn't end up as the recipient of everyone else's radioactive waste.

"We're about to enter a period where a number of nuclear power plants will be decommissioned in Europe," Matheson says. "When that happens you will have substantial volumes of low-level radioactive materials that will need to be disposed of. And since these countries in Europe have not identified any disposal option, my fear is they will all look to follow the path to the United States."

Currently, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission's regulations allow foreign countries to ship low-level radioactive waste to the United States if the recipient of the waste has a license to manage or dispose of it. The bipartisan group of congressmen says that's wrong.

"No other country in the world is accepting nuclear waste from other countries," Gordon said in a statement. "By doing so, the United States is putting itself in position to become the world's nuclear dumping ground."

EnergySolutions officials called the rationale for the bill baseless. "We believe that Congressman Gordon's legislation stripping the Nuclear Regulatory Commission of its jurisdiction over an issue within its purview is unwise, unwarranted and unnecessary. The NRC has the scientific and technical expertise to make thoughtful decisions based on the facts," the company said in a statement.

NRC spokesman David McIntyre declined comment because agency officials had not see the legislation.

The anti-nuclear waste group, Healthy Environment Alliance of Utah, applauded Matheson for pushing the legislation and called on Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. to do what he can to block the potential shipment.

"Gov. Huntsman can slam the door shut for Utah by telling the NRC "No Grazie" to EnergySolutions' request," said Vanessa Pierce, HEAL's executive director. Huntsman said last week that he supported a letter sent by the state's Radiation Control Board to the NRC opposing the EnergySolutions' proposal.

The legislation, expected to be assigned to the House Energy and Commerce Committee, on which all three sponsors sit, would allow the president to waive the importation ban if it would impede national security.

The NRC has received an unprecedented amount of interest during its public comment period on the potential to import the Italy waste. The agency has extended the time it will accept comment on the proposal to June 10.

go here to comment

here are some talking points on the issue from HEAL Utah


Settlement Over Diablo Nuke Plant Generator Replacement
SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. - Mar 13, 2008 (The Associated Press)

Environmentalists have settled a lawsuit challenging a decision to allow a steam generator replacement project at the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant.

The Coastal Law Enforcement Action Network sued the California Coastal Commission in 2007 after the state agency issued a permit allowing Pacific Gas and Electric Co. to go ahead with the project. The lawsuit claimed violations of various environmental laws.

The company is moving forward with the replacement project. According the environmental group, in the settlement reached this week the gas company agreed to a variety of programs including developing an osprey and bald eagle nesting program at Montana de Oro State Park.

Pacific spokeswoman Emily Christensen confirmed the settlement but couldn't immediately provide details.


Monday, March 10, 2008

March 10, 2008 Energy News Update.

High coal price may cost you: Soaring costs paid by utilities to generate power could mean higher monthly electric bills

Mar 8 - McClatchy-Tribune Regional News - Greg Edwards Richmond Times-Dispatch, Va.

An upward trend in coal prices could mean higher electricity bills for consumers.

The cash price for coal that utilities burn to generate electricity exceeded $101 per ton this week at a West Virginia mine served by Norfolk Southern Railway.

The price was reported yesterday in Platts, a trade publisher for the energy industry. The price adds an exclamation point to a trend that saw the average price of high-quality, Central Appalachian coal climb from less than $50 per ton on the spot, or cash, market in October to roughly $85 per ton at the end of February.

High-heat, low-sulfur coal from Central Appalachian mines is popular with utilities because it burns cleaner and helps them comply with federal clean-air rules. Five years ago, the same coal was selling for around $30 per ton.

With half the state's and half the nation's electricity produced from coal, the price trend could mean higher electricity prices for Virginians. Utilities generally are allowed to pass along the increased cost of fuel for their power plants.

Behind the higher coal prices is a global shortage of utility coal that has led to increased U.S. coal exports. Also playing a role is a weaker dollar compared with foreign currencies that has made U.S. coal attractive abroad, said Ted Pile, a spokesman for Alpha Natural Resources Inc. of Abingdon, the largest producer of Virginia coal.

"The coal industry has never seen anything like this, at least in recent history," Pile said.

A severe winter in China caused that heavily coal-dependent country to halt its coal exports, Pile noted. Coal shortages also hit utilities in India and South Africa, the latter of which has seen blackouts.

Alpha Natural Resources was the largest U.S. coal exporter last year, shipping 8 million of the 59 million tons exported by U.S. mines. U.S. export numbers are expected to jump at least 20 million tons this year and could exceed 100 million tons total, Pile said.

At the same time, some utilities, such as Dominion Virginia Power, have found it economical to import coal for some of its plants from places such as South America.

Contact Greg Edwards at (804) 649-6390 or

Progress Energy sells noncore assets RALEIGH, N.C., Mar 07, 2008 -- AP

Progress Energy Inc. said Friday it has closed the sale of its Powell Mountain Coal Co., Dulcimer Land Co. and Kanawha River Terminals to an investor group for $94 million.

The utility first reported the deal in December as part of a restructuring plan to shed noncore businesses.

The transaction was the final step in the plan, which has allowed Progress to "strengthen its balance sheet and reduce (its) overall risk profile," Chief Executive Bill Johnson said in a statement. Progress is now positioned to focus fully on its utility business, Johnson said, with an emphasis on efficiency, renewable energy and "state-of-the-art" power plants.

The buyer group consists of Traxys North America LLC, Pegasus Capital Advisors LP and Kelso & Co.

Powell Mountain and Dulcimer hold about 40 million tons of coal reserves on 30,000 acres in Lee County, Va., and Harlan County, Ky. Kanawha operates five terminals on the Ohio River and its tributaries.

The facilities have the capacity to transfer, blend and store more than 40 million tons of coal and other commodities each year.

Progress shares fell 21 cents to $41.50 in morning trading.

Copyright 2007 Associated Press.

Clean Energy Bank Proposed: Domenici Backs Tech Investment Mar 7 - McClatchy-Tribune Regional News - Michael Coleman Albuquerque Journal, N.M.

Sen. Pete Domenici wants to put more federal financial muscle behind new clean energy technology, and he has proposed a U.S. Clean Energy Investment Bank to do it.

Domenici, the top Republican on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, introduced a bill Thursday that would create a bank structured similar to the U.S. Export-Import Bank and Overseas Private Investment Corporation.

The clean energy bank would focus solely on spurring U.S. clean energy technology investment. It would take over the Department of Energy's existing loan guarantee program, which has been criticized for not issuing loans fast enough.

The new federal bank would have the ability to issue loans, loan guarantees, equity investments and insurance products.

During a speech on the Senate floor Thursday, Domenici said renewable energy entrepreneurs need the solid financial footing the government could provide.

"Unlike traditional fossilenergy projects, which are able to more easily secure long-term debt financing, clean energy markets have a greater level of risk both commercially and technically," Domenici said. "That is why the certainty provided by federal government support would be beneficial."

The bill has been referred to the Senate energy committee for a hearing.

Sen. Jeff Bingaman, Democratic chairman of the energy committee, is intrigued by the idea of a clean energy bank but wants to know more before committing to it, an aide said.

"Sen. Bingaman thinks this is an interesting idea," said Jude McCartin, the senator's press secretary. "He'd like to learn more about the particulars of the legislation and looks forward to having further discussions with Sen. Domenici about it."

EDITOR'S NOTE: Given Domenici's support for nuclear power, it would not be
a surprise this will be the funding source for that technology in transitional economy nations like Namibia.

Southern California Edison Plan Attracts More Than 2,500 Megawatts of New,
Cleaner Power Projects to California ROSEMEAD, Calif., Mar 07, 2008 -- BUSINESS WIRE

Southern California Edison (SCE) has signed four long-term power purchase contracts with winning bidders in a competitive solicitation program designed to attract new power generation facilities to help serve the region's growing power needs.

The contracts represent a potential generating capacity of 1,351 megawatts (MW) and bring the results of SCE's new generation initiative to a total of 2,556 MW, enough power to serve 1.7 million average Southern California households at a point in time. Contracts executed this week are subject to California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) approval.

"We thank all who participated in this important process that will significantly increase the reliability of our region's electricity system in coming years," said Alan Fohrer, SCE chairman and chief executive officer.

The new contracts are the outcome of a plan recommended by SCE in response to state forecasts of inadequate new power plant construction. The utility proposed offering 10-year power purchase contracts to new generation developers with the benefits and costs of the new resources allocated to all customers within SCE's service territory who would benefit from the enhanced reliability. The plan was approved by the CPUC on July 20, 2006.

SCE subsequently launched an open, competitive solicitation that has produced a total of seven agreements with five different project developers who have agreed to construct new, state-of-the-art Southern California generating resources. Many of the projects will produce electricity more efficiently and with far fewer pollutants than older power plants. In addition, several of the projects will use new turbine technologies capable of adjusting more rapidly to changes in power supplies and demand.

(a) Peakers using new, lower-emission technology.

(b) SCE's request for offers included the option of bidding a transmission project that would connect an existing generation resource with a remaining design life of at least 30 years to the California Independent System Operator grid serving SCE's service territory.

"This special procurement process provides a transitional means to attract much-needed new generation while a market framework is put in place that will provide new resources when needed," said Pedro Pizarro, SCE senior vice president of power procurement.

Background Facts

-- Initially, SCE was authorized to issue a request for up to 1,500 MW of new or repowered generating capacity. Subsequently, regulators expanded the authorization to up to a total of 3,200 MW and SCE included the option of bidding into one or more of three different "tracks," depending on when the bidder's project would be online. Contracts signed this week were bid into the third phase of the program.

-- Aug. 1, 2007 was the online deadline for Track 1 projects. Track 2 projects are expected online by Aug. 1, 2010. Contracts signed this week are for facilities that will be operational by Aug. 1, 2013.

Explanation of SCE's Competitive Solicitation Process

-- SCE power contract solicitations adhere to specific rules established by the CPUC to ensure the utility's power procurement process is open, fair, and transparent and delivers the greatest value possible to customers.

-- As the process begins, a public request for offers is widely distributed and solicitation information is posted on SCE's public access Web site. Independent power producers are encouraged to propose projects that will meet the future needs of SCE's customers outlined in the solicitation.

-- Bidder briefings are held to answer questions and provide information power producers need as they consider preparing contract

-- Contract bids are received and evaluated by SCE. A short list of the most attractive offers is selected and final negotiations occur. At the same time, a detailed analysis is done of transmission resources available or needed to deliver the new generation to market.

-- Winning bidders are chosen and contracts signed and submitted to the CPUC for review and approval.

-- During the course of the solicitation, an independent evaluator (IE) oversees the process, verifying that no preferential treatment is provided to any bidder. Additionally, SCE consults frequently with an independent procurement review group comprised of CPUC staff members and representatives of consumer, environmental, and labor groups that are not market participants.

An Edison International (NYSE:EIX) company, Southern California Edison is California's largest electric utility, serving a population of more than 13 million via 4.8 million customer accounts in a 50,000-square-mile service area within central, coastal, and Southern California.

SOURCE: Southern California Edison

Duke Energy fighting for plant expansion Mar 7 - McClatchy-Tribune Regional News - Drew Brooks The Star, Shelby, N.C.

Duke Energy officials say a federal court ruling made last month would not delay construction on its Cliffside expansion, even as a coalition of environmental groups asks the state to reconsider its decision to grant a permit to the company.

Nineteen groups sent a letter to the director of the N.C. Division of Air Quality, the governor, EPA officials and others on Wednesday.

"The groups have always said their main objective was to try to delay the project," Duke Energy spokesperson Marilyn Lineberger said. "This plant is good for our customers and it's good for North Carolina."

Written by John Suttles and Gudrun Thompson, lawyers for the Southern Environmental Law Center, the letter said Duke Energy's permit was invalidated by a ruling in the federal court of appeals that overturned federal mercury emission limits.

"North Carolina has issued an illegal permit that violates the Clean Air Act and a federal court ruling," Thompson said in a press release. "The Division of Air Quality must now go back and do its homework by first identifying the highest achievable level of control for this hazardous pollutant and then requiring Duke to implement it."

In response to the ruling, Duke Energy issued a release stating that there would be no impact on the Cliffside project.

"Construction continues at the site," said James L. Turner, president and CEO of Duke Energy. "No delay is expected as a result of this ruling."

The release said the new facility would emit between 70 and 80 pounds of mercury each year. Including the four units that will be shut down after construction is completed, the site currently emits an estimated 150 pounds each year.

Mercury can damage developing fetuses and cause harm to very young children.

Construction on the Cliffside project is expected to create jobs for an estimated 1,200 full-time employees for the four-plus-year job and would also require an additional 800 subcontractors.

The $1.8 billion investment is expected to economically benefit the surrounding region, area business leaders said, and was wholeheartedly supported by the Cleveland County Chamber.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

Bids requested on Colo. uranium leases GRAND JUNCTION, Colo., Mar 07, 2008 -- AP

Leases of public land for exploration, development, and mining of uranium and vanadium ores are up for bids in southwestern Colorado near the Utah border.

The U.S. Department of Energy announced Thursday it will accept bids for 19 tracts of land in the Uravan Mineral Belt between the communities of Gateway and Egnar through May 9.

Uranium mining came to a near standstill when the bottom fell out of the industry when the Cold War ended and uranium from weapons stockpiles flooded the marketplace. Its price plummeted from $40 a pound in the late 1970s to less than $10 a pound in the 1980s, according to the Colorado Geological Survey.

With worldwide demand up, uranium prices are hovering around $90 to $100 per pound.

Copyright 2007 Associated Press.

N.M. among sites considered for uranium enrichment factory ALBUQUERQUE (The Associated Press) - Mar 8 - By MATT MYGATT Associated Press Writer

A company is considering building a $2 billion uranium enrichment factory in southern New Mexico, the same general area where another company already is building one.

The proposed factory would enrich uranium provided by utilities to fuel their commercial nuclear reactors, said Nancy Lang, external communications manager of Areva Inc., based in Bethesda, Md.

Areva Inc., a subsidiary of Paris-based Areva, also is mulling possible sites in Idaho, Ohio, Texas and Washington state, she said Friday.

The company hopes to select a site "in the coming weeks," said Lang, who declined to pinpoint the New Mexico site under consideration.

Areva Inc. would employ about 1,000 people during the factory's construction and about 250 people when the facility is in regular operation, she said.

The market for nuclear fuel is expected to increase as global warming concerns make nuclear energy more popular. Mining companies have been showing renewed interest in uranium in the Grants area of northwestern New Mexico as the price has hovered around $90 to $100 a pound.

Louisiana Energy Services is building its $1.5 billion National Enrichment Facility on one square mile of desert in southeastern New Mexico five miles east of the small community of Eunice. The factory will make fuel for commercial nuclear power plants.

Bob Poyser, vice president of Areva Inc., said his company has not hired lobbyists or an outside counsel in New Mexico.

"We're getting excellent cooperation from the individuals interested in the project in southern New Mexico," he said. "It's allowed us to work without lobbyists or outside counsel."

Areva Inc. officials have spoken with representatives in Gov. Bill Richardson's office and the state Environment Department, Poyser said.

Lang said Areva Inc. is judging each site on geological, environmental, economic, social and public acceptance factors.

"We consider that public acceptance is at least as important as any of the technical criteria," she said. "We don't want to be in a place where people don't want us."

The U.S. Nuclear Regulator Commission awarded LES a license to build its Eunice-area factory in June 2006. It was the first major nuclear facility to be licensed in the United States in three decades.

LES - made up of European-based Urenco, British Nuclear Fuels Unlimited and minor U.S. partners - expects to begin production by mid-2009.

The LES plant will become the first U.S. installation to use centrifuge technology, rather than a process known as gaseous diffusion that has been around since World War II.

Poyser said his company would use the same technology in its proposed factory.

Areva and Urenco are partners in Enrichment Technology Corp., which manufactures the centrifuge, he said.

Lang said Areva has a uranium enrichment facility in France using gaseous diffusion, which uses more electricity than centrifuge technology. Areva is in the process of building a second facility at the same French site that uses centrifuge technology, she said.

Uranium 235, a fissionable isotope, makes up 0.7 percent of uranium but needs to be increased to 3 percent to 5 percent in fuel used for power production.

Centrifuges in the proposed factory would spin uranium in a gaseous form at high speeds to create a centrifugal force that pushes the heavier nonfissionable isotope uranium 238 outward.

The Areva Inc. factory would increase the concentration of one of the two isotopes in natural uranium to make it suitable for fuel.

Areva Inc. has 5,000 employees in 45 locations in 20 states, Poyser said.

Associated Press Writer Sue Major Holmes contributed to this report.

Richland WA one of five finalists for uranium plant RICHLAND, Wash. (The Associated Press) - Mar 7

Richland is one of five sites under consideration for a new uranium enrichment plant to be built by Areva, Inc., the company said in a letter to Gov. Chris Gregoire.

The plant would cost $2 billion to $3 billion and have 350 to 400 permanent workers, according to projections by the Tri-City Development Council.

A site decision is expected before the end of the month, Anne Lauvergeon, Areva chief executive officer, said in the Feb. 27 letter to Gregoire.

Areva has a Richland plant that has been fabricating fuel for commercial nuclear power reactors for 38 years.

According to other news accounts, Areva is also considering sites for the enrichment plant in Idaho, Ohio, Texas and New Mexico.

The market for nuclear fuel is expected to increase as global warming concerns make nuclear energy more popular.

"Now, as we approach a final decision in the coming weeks, we are focused entirely on the economic evaluation of each site, including land and infrastructure costs, of course, but also tax structures and economic incentives," Lauvergeon wrote to the governor.

Areva, a French-based company, already employs about 650 people in the Tri-Cities, and also has workers in the Seattle area.

"The Tri-Cities is ideally suited to this kind of business and this is exactly the kind of high-quality business and good-paying jobs our state should be working overtime to attract," Todd Young, chief of staff for U.S. Rep. Doc Hastings, R-Wash., said Wednesday.

Areva is proposing a gas centrifuge facility to enrich uranium that would require 20 megawatts of electricity seven days a week.

Washington has an attractive tax structure, said Gary Petersen, Development Council vice president of Hanford programs. Areva would not be required to pay sales tax on the plant or equipment and should receive a tax break on the state's business and operations tax based on its number of employees and their wages, Petersen said.

The plant would increase the concentration of one of the two isotopes in natural uranium to make it suitable for fuel. Uranium 235, a fissionable isotope, makes up 0.7 percent of uranium but needs to be increased to 3 percent to 5 percent in fuel used for power production.

The gas centrifuges in the proposed plant would spin uranium in a gaseous form at high speeds to create a centrifugal force that pushes the heavier nonfissionable isotope uranium 238 outward.

Now, enriched uranium is shipped to Richland for fuel fabrication at Areva NP, which produces nuclear fuel pellets for about 25 percent of the 103 operating commercial reactors in the United States, according to the Development Council. If the enrichment plant is based next to the existing Richland plant, unenriched uranium would be shipped to Richland instead.

The enrichment process would produce depleted uranium as a waste product, and plans call for sending the waste to Utah or the Nevada Test Site's low-level waste disposal facility.

Vermont Yankee Nuclear Plant Seeks To Extend License Dow Jones & Company, Inc. - Mar 7

Vermont Yankee nuclear plant has formally filed an application for a certificate of public good to stay open for 20 years past its scheduled 2012 license-expiration date.

Plant owner Entergy Nuclear, a unit of Entergy Corp. (ETR), filed the application with the state Public Service Board on Monday.

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission's review is under way, but the plant still needs approval of Vermont regulators and the Vermont Legislature, which isn't expected to vote on it until next year.

"This plant has proven itself a great asset to the region, and it's a great candidate for continued operation," said plant spokesman Rob Williams. "We've submitted our case on the environmental and economic benefits of continuing on after 2012.

"There are clear benefits. This country still burns coal for half its electricity, and I think most environmentalists believe that we must continue to make good use of our nuclear plants here and around the world," Williams said.

Department of Public Service spokesman Stephen Wark says the litmus test for certificate-of-public-good applicants is whether the facility provides a substantial good to citizens of Vermont.

Vermont Yankee's owners say it does, but lawmakers may take a dimmer view.

A series of events last summer - including the collapse of a cooling tower - have stepped up public scrutiny of the plant, which critics say shouldn't get the extension.

State Rep. Robert Dostis, D-Waterbury, who chairs the House Natural Resources and Energy committee, said the Legislature's decision could hinge on public perception.

"If Entergy is not able to convince the general public that they are good corporate citizens, that they are taking care of their plants and are truly concerned with its safety and the safety of people in the state, I think that will weigh very heavily on the decision-makers next year."

This summer, the Atomic Saefty and Licensing Board is expected to hold a trial on safety issues raised by the anti-nuclear group New England Coalition.

Con Edison Sets Record for Winter Electricity Mar 07 - MARKET WIRE

Con Edison set a record for winter electricity delivery of 14,732,319 megawatt hours in December through February. That topped the 14,443,186 megawatt-hour record set last year.

This winter's record usage follows the 2007 annual record usage of 62,591 gigawatt hours (GWh). One gigawatt hour equals 1,000 megawatt hours. A megawatt is enough electricity to power approximately 1,000 homes.

To continue delivering reliable electricity to 9 million New Yorkers in Westchester County and New York City, Con Edison is investing more than $7.5 billion over the next five years. EnergyNY, the company's recently announced plan to meet the future energy needs of its customers through infrastructure upgrades and energy efficiency programs, can be viewed at

New construction and increased use of new electrical devices, including flat-screen televisions and associated on-screen games, computers, and various handheld gadgets, as well as record numbers of home offices, are all part of downstate's prosperity and contribute to increasing use.

Con Edison has the largest underground electrical system in North America with 94,000 miles of underground cables, enough to wrap the earth 3.6 times. The company also maintains 36,000 miles of overhead cables.

Con Edison is a subsidiary of Consolidated Edison, Inc. (NYSE: ED), one of the nation's largest investor-owned energy companies, with approximately $13 billion in annual revenues and $28 billion in assets. The utility provides electric, gas, and steam service to more than 3 million customers in New York City and Westchester County, New York. For additional financial, operations, and customer service information, visit Con Edison's Web site at

Contact: Chris Olert 1-212-460-4111
SOURCE: Con Edison Co. of NY, Inc.

Beshear Trumpets Ky. Coal Mar 07 - Evansville Courier & Press

Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear made clear that coal will continue to be a cornerstone of energy in Kentucky, but he added coal must be burned more cleanly and power must be used more efficiently.

"Kentucky is a coal state," Beshear said in remarks at the Illinois Basin Energy Conference here Thursday morning. "Let's not be bashful about it."

"Kentucky can be a national leader in energy technology and production," the governor said. "I intend to put this state on that path. I intend to make energy a top priority of the Beshear administration for the next four years."

Kentucky in 2004 produced 119 million tons of coal, with mines employing 15,000 people and paying $759 million in direct wages, he said.

But while coal provides 90 percent Kentucky's electricity, there are consequences, such as the release of vast amounts of carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas suspected of causing global warming.

"Our power plants emit 93 million tons of carbon dioxide" per year, Beshear said. "We rank seventh in the nation."

That may not be permitted in the future. Congress has considered legislation limited carbon emissions.

Future lending

Further, "Wall Street banks have announced that emissions will factor into their willingness to loan money for building power plants," Beshear noted.

So, he said, "We must be a leader in clean coal technology."

Beshear said because of the energy bill passed last year, Kentucky is funding research and commercialization of carbon dioxide controls as well.

And the state is offering "hundreds of millions of dollars of incentives" to companies such as Peabody Energy Corp. if they build multi-billion-dollar plants to turn coal into substitute natural gas. Peabody is considering building such a plant in Western Kentucky.

"We stand ready to do whatever we can to make that a reality," Beshear said.

"There's a balancing act between jobs versus the environment, between coal versus other fuels," he said. "It's imperative to perform the balancing act and to know that protecting the environment does not mean losing jobs."

Energy efficiency

"In Kentucky we've been sloppy," failing to conserve electricity because Kentucky-generated power has long been cheap, Beshear said.

"We must use energy more efficiently as we transition to a carbon-constrained world," he said.

He applauded Henderson County officials who have formed the West Kentucky Regional Energy Team to promote energy production and research here and for expanding it to include Union and Webster counties.

Approximately 350 people registered for the conference held Thursday at the Henderson Community College Fine Arts Center.

The audience consisted of representatives of energy and utility companies, university and government researchers and public officials.

(c) 2008 Evansville Courier & Press.

Renewable Resources Are Rising Stars Mar 07, 2008 -- STATE DEPARTMENT RELEASE/ContentWorks

At the three-day Washington International Conference on Renewable Energy (WIREC), participants from public, corporate and private sectors repeatedly stressed the importance of quickly harnessing the earth's sustainable natural resources for energy.

Global warming is an increasing threat and its effects will worsen if damaging greenhouse gas emissions are not curbed. And, with oil hovering around $100 a barrel, there is even greater impetus for oil-dependent nations such as the United States to go green.

When President Bush addressed delegates of more than 100 nations on March 4, he picked up the theme, saying developing clean technologies was vital for security and environmental reasons.

"The United States is committed, and we're firm in our commitments, to deal with energy problem and to deal with global climate change," he said, after enumerating renewable technologies being funded by the U.S. government and businesses.

Besides federal funding, "There's a lot of smart money heading into the private sector to help develop these new technologies," Bush said.

The president said he aims "to reduce our dependence on oil by investing in technologies that will produce abundant supplies of clean and renewable energy and at the same time show the world we are good stewards of the environment."

First on his list were automobiles. He cited the mandatory reductions in passenger vehicle emissions of 20 percent over 10 years, a reduction mandated by the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007. He said he sees biodiesel made from oil crops and recycled waste as "the most promising" of clean fuels.

Production of corn ethanol has risen markedly, which is good for corn growers, but has a downside: rising prices of foods that depend on corn. It also cuts into profit margins of livestock ranchers and manufacturers of corn-based products. Acknowledging the problem, Bush said, "The best thing to do is not to retreat from our commitment to alternative fuels but to spend research and development money on alternatives to ethanol made from other materials."

Cellulosic ethanol made from switchgrass and woodchips was an example he gave, adding that the U.S. Department of Energy is investing nearly $1 billion in this research. Other technologies receiving Bush administration support are hybrid vehicles, both electric plug-in and hydrogen fuel cell-powered varieties.

Although Bush said his administration continues to back nuclear energy as an electrical power source, he also said that wind power is gaining traction in America. "This is a new industry for us, and it's beginning to grow." The solar energy industry also is growing fast.


"The United States is serious about confronting climate change," he said, adding renewable energy technologies "are an integral part of dealing with climate change." He urged the major economies to set clear goals and develop strategies to meet the goals.

"It'll be different from country to country. We've got a different energy mix than a lot of nations do," he said.

One aim is to use clean-energy technology to help developing countries improve their quality of life and economies. Bush proposed an international clean-technology fund that would provide money "from the wealthy nations to help poorer nations clean up their environments."

The U.S. government is hosting WIREC 2008 to bring together the many entities in the field of renewable energy to evolve concrete strategies and make pledges to implement practices that will reduce greenhouse gas emissions and develop sustainable energy sources in the short term. More than 100 nations are represented at the conference.

A large trade show, co-located with the conference in the Washington Convention Center, showcases technologies now on the market, from photovoltaic film and solar reflectors, to wind turbines, to a joint Volvo-Mack truck diesel-electric hybrid that is currently on the road and in use by the U.S. Air Force.

The conference runs from March 4-6. For more details see the WIREC home page at

Additional information on the Bush administration's energy initiatives is available in a White House fact sheet on investment in renewable and alternative-energy technologies.

Nuclear Power Stations, Uranium Processing Planned Windhoek, Mar 07, 2008 -- Namibia Economist/All Africa Global Media

The government has made a bold move towards making the country more self reliant in power generation. It has announced plans to ensure that the country maximises benefits derived from uranium oxide, which is currently on high demand on the world market. After months of speculation, the government has made known its intentions to develop nuclear power stations and uranium processing plants.

The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting said in a statement this week that Cabinet has granted approval to the Ministry of Mines and Energy to develop a nuclear regulatory framework.

The framework is meant to pursue nuclear power and uranium beneficiation strategies, which the government said will provide a long term solution to the shortfall in electricity generation and enable the processing of uranium resources locally.

"The electricity shortages being experienced in southern Africa are expected to persist for many years. New electricity generation capacity installations appear to have become the trend worldwide towards achieving energy self-sufficiency, of which the southern African region and Namibia in particular should be no exception," the statement said. "Namibia has significant uranium reserves and the country can gain more if these reserves could have value added to them prior to export."

The statement said the beneficiated uranium product (BUP) is currently selling at US$3000/kg compared to roughly US$100/kg for yellow cake. The cost of producing BUP depends on processing levels and electricity costs, but a net profit margin of at least US$1000/kg can be expected, the statement added.

"Before Namibia can build either nuclear power stations or uranium processing plants, it requires a nuclear regulatory framework to be in place and to be developed in conjunction with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)," the statement said.

The IAEA was set up as the world's "Atoms for Peace" organisation in 1957 within the United Nations family. The agency works with its Member States and multiple partners worldwide to promote safe, secure and peaceful nuclear technologies.

Dr Wotan Swiegers, who is a member of the Uranium Stewardship Committee of the Chamber of Mines of Namibia, told the Economist this week that it will be a long way before Namibia can build nuclear power plants, as the country does not have the infrastructure and personnel to manage such plants and stations.

"Uranium enrichment is at the high end of the process. What we know best at the moment is mining uranium. So it may take some time before we reach that stage," he said.

On its part, the uranium industry in the country has come up with the committee to safeguard the interests of the sector.

"We don't want rogue operators in the country. We want people who adhere to best practices and principles," said Swiegers.

If the government goes ahead with constructing a plant, Namibia would become the second country in Africa to have such a station after the Koeberg Power Station in Cape Town, South Africa, which is the only nuclear power station on the continent.