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.

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