Monday, April 28, 2008

News From the Week of April 21, 2008

Geothermal Bounty Bubbles With Potential

Two Vermont Yankee Bills Advance

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

EPRI Analysis Shows Energy Efficiency Can Curb Need for New Generation

Government to Release Proposed Fuel Economy Rules

Nuke Plant Near NYC Shuts Down

NY Reactor Restarted Again

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

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

Lawmakers Set to Pass Comprehensive Energy Bill

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

US Government Scientists Complain About Political Pressure

SC Senate Gives Key Approval to Energy-Saving Incentives

Cost of Nuclear Plant Fuels Two-State Battle

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

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

So what's the holdup?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Apr 19 - The News & Observer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


EPRI Analysis Shows Energy Efficiency Can Curb Need for New Generation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The energy bill addresses a wide range of topics:


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

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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For more information:


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Sunday, April 20, 2008

News From the Week of April 14, 2008

Domenici Pans Yucca-Only Approach
Cashing in on Your Solar Savings: Bill Would Force Utilities to Pay for Excess Power

NRC Issues Report on Italy Waste

Justices to Decide Environmental Dispute Involving Utility Industry

Senate Passes One-Year Extension For Renewable Energy PTC

NRC Indicates 'Human Performance' Issues at Perry Nuclear Plant

Xcel Requests Extensions on Nuclear Plant Licenses

Utah Nuclear Waste Company Ramps Up Campaign Contributions

Unit 1 Corrections To Be Applied To Other 2 Reactors at Brown's Ferry NPP

Activists Warn Ontario Taxpayers on Hook for More Cost Overruns at Bruce Nuke Plant

Domenici Pans Yucca-Only Approach
Apr 11 - Las Vegas Review - Journal

Political support for a Yucca Mountain repository eroded further on Wednesday when a leading Senate advocate of nuclear power said it has become "foolhardy" to plan to store used nuclear fuel at the Nevada site.

Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N.M., said the strategy to place spent nuclear fuel underground has become badly outdated in light of advances in waste reprocessing that could wring more energy from the assemblies. Even after nuclear fuel has been recycled, the resulting waste products might not need to be placed in the Nevada volcanic ridge, he said. At that point, the waste would be less toxic and could be stored safely in salt formations in New Mexico or elsewhere.

"The current strategy of limiting our options to a permanent repository for the disposal of spent fuel is deeply flawed," Domenici said. He said he was writing a bill that would alter the "Yucca only" approach.

"I'm talking about a bill that will start over and draft new law that puts America on a new path for commercial waste," he said after a Senate energy and water subcommittee hearing on the Yucca Mountain budget.

The senator's comments are reflective of a shift among key lawmakers frustrated by a decade-long delay in developing the Yucca Mountain repository, and who now are more amenable to alternatives they say are becoming more viable.

In the meantime, the Department of Energy continues to work toward licensing and building an industrial site 100 miles northwest of Las Vegas to handle 77,000 tons of waste generated by the government and commercial utilities.

At the hearing, senators praised DOE nuclear waste director Ward Sproat, saying he has put the Yucca program finally on a track. But Domenici, a 35-year Senate veteran who has written a book on nuclear policy and authored key bills promoting the technology, said it might be too late.

"I am not saying that Yucca should go away, but I am saying you don't need Yucca" for managing power plant fuel, he said. "It would never have been the direct policy of the country for Yucca if you were going to have recycling like we are talking about. I want to make it very clear that I would not stop Yucca flat now," Domenici said. "I wouldn't just say cut it off because it may be used for something," perhaps burial of waste from Navy ship reactors, other military nuclear waste and other highly radioactive material that cannot be recycled.

Domenici said he was writing a bill that would divert a portion of the nuclear waste fund being set aside to build Yucca Mountain. Some of the funds in the account, which now totals $21 billion, would be steered to finding and developing reprocessing sites, and temporary nuclear fuel storage nearby. The bill would direct the Department of Energy to negotiate with interested communities.

Domenici is retiring from the Senate at the end of the year and was uncertain whether his bill would go anywhere. He said he is shopping it to senators and influential members of the House.

"This one I am really going big on," he said. "I don't know whether we can get this done while I am still a senator. ... But I want to lay down at least a cornerstone to what I think is absolutely imperative."

(c) 2008 Las Vegas Review - Journal.

Cashing in on Your Solar Savings: Bill Would Force Utilities to Pay for
Excess Power

Apr 12 - San Jose Mercury News

Electricity generated by a solar roof cuts a homeowner's utility bill, but some of those folks are upset when they learn that the best they can do is end up with a $0 bill, no matter how much power they produce.

That could be about to change.

AB 1920, working through California's Assembly, might mean that big utilities, such as Pacific Gas & Electric, would have to write checks to customers whose solar-roof power generation exceeds the amount they use.

California could be the first state with such a program, although others, including Michigan, Minnesota and Rhode Island, are considering similar strategies. Under California's Solar Initiative and current laws, the size of a solar installation is limited so that generation and consumption are roughly equal.

That's why Chris Bellizzi, who lives in a 5,100-square-foot home in Saratoga with a 3.73-kilowatt photovoltaic array on his roof, ended up owing PG&E just 25 cents in September. (Customers with solar systems reconcile generation/consumption accounting with PG&E once a year.)

Bellizzi sees an unfairness in the system. "If you owe them, you've got to send them a check," said the owner of a tree service. "If they owe you, they'll pocket it."

In fact, he said he abandoned his usual power-conserving ways last year when it looked as if PG&E would get $100 he feels he earned from his solar roof. "I used a bunch of power I normally wouldn't," he said, telling his kids they could run the air conditioning more.

That's just the type of "perverse message" that prompted Assemblyman Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael, to introduce AB 1920. The measure passed the assembly's utilities and commerce committee this week and will be heard by the natural resources committee Monday.

The state, through the California Solar Initiative, wants 1 million solar roofs. Huffman said his bill will reduce some of the impediments to getting to that goal.

Right now, the size of a solar installation directly relates to the amount of power a homeowner or business uses, he said, so bigger systems that make more power aren't allowed. "If they generate surplus power beyond their own energy needs, that's a gift to the utility," he said. "There's no compensation."

That's enough to keep some folks from installing solar, Huffman said, and it certainly limits the size of installations.

"This bill for many people will improve the economics," he said. PG&E, based in San Francisco, has 20,000 solar customers right now, generating 175-megawatts of electricity. Of those, spokesman Keely Wachs said, 22 percent have a financial credit at year's end. That's because the state mandates that utilities pay solar owners a "premium rate" of 30 to 35 cents a kilowatt-hour for the power they generate. But even if they earn it, those customers don't get the extra money.

Only 7 percent of PG&E's solar customers generate more kilowatt-hours than they use, Wachs said.

The utility, which touts itself as a major proponent of solar, finds itself in the unusual position of arguing against AB 1920. PG&E feels the bill would mean that all of its customers would end up subsidizing those with solar systems, who tend to be wealthier customers. Plus, as written, the bill requires only investor-owned utilities, such as PG&E and Southern California Edison, to make payments, not municipally owned utilities, Wachs said.

The utility feels that AB 1969, passed in 2007, offers a better solution, he said. Under that law, customers can decide to become energy producers and sell power to PG&E. But with that option, they would lose both solar-initiative rebates and the premium rate for their power, earning a market rate of perhaps 9 to 10 cents a kilowatt-hour. And this would apply only to customers who decide to enter into the agreement and forgo other payments, while Huffman's AB 1920 would apply to everyone with a solar roof.

A San Francisco ratepayer advocacy group shares PG&E concerns, which itself is a rare occurrence. The Utility Reform Network, which usually criticizes PG&E for wasting customer money, opposed AB 1920. "Homeowners who generate excess electricity should be paid fairly for that electricity, but shouldn't be subsidized a third time by the rest of the ratepayers, who already fund generous subsidies for rooftop solar," said TURN staff attorney Marcel Hawiger.

Supporters of the bill include Environment California. "We should take away any disincentives there are," said Dan Jacobson, the group's legislative director. "We don't expect this to be a huge moneymaker," he said. "It's not like people won't need to get jobs and live off their solar. This will only help to pencil out solar a little faster."

Huffman said it's likely the bill will be altered to reflect some of the concerns, and questions about how much to pay for the excess power haven't been resolved. He thinks the bill's chance for passage is "pretty good."

Contact Matt Nauman at or (408) 920-5701.


NRC Issues Report on Italy Waste
Apr 11 - Deseret News (Salt Lake City)
By Stephen Speckman Deseret News

In an uncommon move this week the Nuclear Regulatory Commission issued what it calls a "fact sheet" on EnergySolutions' application to import low-level radioactive waste from Italy. NRC spokesman David McIntyre said release of the document was due to an outpouring of interest that includes members of Congress. The public comment period on the issue was recently extended to June 10.

"We have received an unusually high number of comments on this application," McIntyre said. There are over 900 comments, "overwhelmingly against" EnergySolutions' proposal.

EnergySolutions wants to import up to 20,000 tons of contaminated materials from decommissioned nuclear facilities in Italy. Most of the materials would be recycled in Tennessee and less than 1,600 tons of what's left over would be shipped to Clive, Tooele County, for disposal at an EnergySolutions dump site.

EnergySolutions spokesman Mark Walker would only say Thursday that the new NRC document is part of the process. His company will continue to follow the guidelines of the process until a decision about its license is made.

McIntyre said one of the main questions the NRC answered in an April 9 letter to Rep. Bart Gordon, D-Tenn., comes down to whether EnergySolutions is properly licensed in each state to do what they're proposing. "Both Tennessee and Utah have said 'yes' to that," McIntyre said.

The gist of this week's letter to Gordon described the NRC's role as regulatory, to ensure that the import process can be done safely and securely under state and federal laws, McIntyre said.

Last month Gordon and fellow House Energy and Commerce Committee members Reps. Jim Matheson, D-Utah, and Ed Whitfield, R-Ky., sponsored legislation that would ban import of nuclear waste unless it was originally produced in the U.S. An exception would be U.S. military waste generated abroad.

According to the NRC's fact sheet, the Low Level Radioactive Waste Policy Act places the responsibility of regulating access to low-level radioactive waste disposal facilities on individual states. The document goes on to say that the NRC will consult with all affected states before it
grants the license to import the waste.

The NRC still expects to hear from the eight member states of the Northwest Interstate Compact on Low-Level Radioactive Waste Management, which McIntyre said is scheduled to meet in May to discuss the application. There may also be an adjudicatory hearing for the Atomic Safety Board's chance to weigh in on the matter.

Utah's own advisory Radiation Control Board wrote a letter to the NRC opposing the import proposal. Gov. Jon Hunstman Jr. penned a cover letter to the NRC urging it to be the deciding agency on whether portions of the "finite" amount of this country's disposal space for radioactive material should be set aside for importing waste from other countries.

If EnergySolutions can clear all of the hurdles currently in its way, it could begin importing waste from Italy as soon as August. To critics of the proposal, the NRC's fact sheet this week has only added fuel to a growing opposition movement.

"Though it may contain useful information, people should not take issuance of a fact sheet to mean the license application will be opposed by the NRC," Friends of the Earth's Tom Clements said Thursday. "Pressure should be kept up to stop the license and prevent Tennessee, Utah and the nation from becoming an international nuclear waste dumping ground."



Justices to Decide Environmental Dispute Involving Utility Industry
WASHINGTON (The Associated Press) - Apr 14 - By PETE YOST Associated Press

The Supreme Court on Monday agreed to hear an environmental case in which utility companies want to revive an industry-friendly regulation put in place by the Bush administration. The dispute with environmental groups revolves around the harm
companies cause when they draw water from rivers and lakes to cool electric generating equipment, then return it to the waterway. The process kills aquatic life.

The Environmental Protection Agency allowed the industry to forgo the most expensive solution, installing closed-cycle cooling systems which would cost billions of dollars at 550 generating units around the country including 104 nuclear power plants. The units account for 40 percent of the country's energy production.

The EPA rule allowed the companies to decide how to comply with the Clean Water Act by conducting cost-benefit analyses of the available options. The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York City ruled against the companies, saying they must adopt the best technology available.

The appeals court called into question EPA's conclusion that closed-cycle cooling costs could not be reasonably borne by the industry. Last month, the Bush administration said in a court filing that it would support the industry position were the case to come before the Supreme Court.

With a new administration taking office next January, an EPA run by different presidential appointees might choose to change positions on the issue.

Robert Goldstein, general counsel at Riverkeeper Inc., one of the environmental groups involved in the dispute, said "it's about time this law enacted in 1972 get some teeth."

"We've seen this so many times with this administration, regulations basically to alleviate the burdens of the law rather than to impose the burdens of the law," said Goldstein.

The cases are Entergy Corp. v. EPA, 07-588; PSEG v. Riverkeeper, 07-589; and Utility Water Act Group v. Riverkeeper, 07-597.


Senate Passes One-Year Extension For Renewable Energy PTC
Wind Energy Weekly - 4/14/08

The U.S. Senate overwhelmingly approved a housing bill amendment from Senators Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) and John Ensign (R-Nev.) that includes an extension of the renewable energy production tax credit (PTC).

The Clean Energy Stimulus Act provides for a one-year extension of the PTC, a federal incentive which provides a tax credit of 2 cents per kWh to wind farms and other renewable energy facilities for electricity produced. Following the vote, AWEA released the following statement by Senior Director of Governmental & Public Affairs Gregory Wetstone:

"Today's 88 to 8 Senate floor vote on the Clean Energy Stimulus Act is a testament to the strong support for renewable energy across the political spectrum. We are especially grateful to Senators Maria Cantwell and John Ensign and the many bipartisan cosponsors of this legislation. We look forward now to working with our many friends in the U.S. House of Representatives to secure an extension of the renewable energy tax credit, spurring economic growth and creating jobs even as we move to reduce global warming pollution."

This was the fourth time the full Senate has voted on a PTC extension. The three previous efforts narrowly fell short of the 60 votes needed to overcome a filibuster, in two cases by a single vote, as a result of partisan disagreements over issues related to how the credits are paid for. This latest vote is a demonstration of the broad bipartisan support the wind industry can secure when it is able to separate the PTC from other sources of controversy.

The next challenge is to get the House of Representatives to support this approach. The House has on multiple occasions passed a long-term PTC extension coupled with provisions designed to offset the budget impacts of an extension through the elimination of tax incentives for the oil and gas industry. Wind energy advocates generally seek to decouple the PTC extension from issues related to tax policy for the oil and gas industry to allow for smoother passage.

AWEA urges its members to contact their Senators to thank those who supported the Cantwell- Ensign amendment and to express disappointment to the few who did not.


NRC Indicates 'Human Performance' Issues at Perry Nuclear Plant
PAINESVILLE, Ohio (The Associated Press) - Apr 14

Regulators overseeing the Perry nuclear power plant in northeast Ohio have expressed concerns about staff performance. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has sent a letter to the power plant's management about what is described as "an adverse trend in human performance."

Akron, Ohio-based FirstEnergy Corp. operates the plant in North Perry, about 25 miles east of Cleveland. Company spokesman Todd Schneider says FirstEnergy intends to explain at a public meeting Tuesday in Painesville how it has a plan to satisfy NRC concerns with how the Perry plant staff follows procedures.

In May of last year the NRC ended a period of heightened regulatory oversight at Perry.


Xcel Requests Extensions on Nuclear Plant Licenses
MINNEAPOLIS (The Associated Press) - Apr 15
Xcel Energy says it wants to extend licenses to operate the Prairie Island nuclear plant near Red Wing. Xcel submitted applications Tuesday for 20-year license extensions for the two reactors at Prairie Island. The plant's current licenses expire in 2013 and 2014.

Xcel also wants to increase Prairie Island's power generation capacity. The company says it will ask the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission later this spring to increase the generating capacity of each reactor by about 80 megawatts. Right now each reactor generates up to 538

Xcel also says it will ask state regulators to increase the number of used fuel storage containers at the site.

Xcel officials say the Prairie Island plant generates about 20 percent of the electricity used by Upper Midwest customers.

Editor's note: The plant is owned by Northern States Power Company (NSP), a subsidiary of Xcel Energy, and is operated by the Nuclear Management Company (NMC). In 1991, the company requested permission from the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission to eventually store waste in 48 dry casks on the site. Opposition by environmentalists and the neighboring Prairie Island tribe led the Minnesota Legislature to decrease the number of allowed casks to 17. Eventually, those casks filled, and Xcel Energy requested that the limit be expanded beyond 17 casks. The legislature granted the request, but required the company to make greater use of renewable energy such as wind power and to pay the local Indian community up to $2.25 million per year to help with evacuation improvements and the acquisition and development of new land and to help pay for a health study and emergency management activities.


Utah Nuclear Waste Company Ramps Up Campaign Contributions
SALT LAKE CITY (The Associated Press) - Apr 16 - By BROCK VERGAKIS
Associated Press Writer

A Utah disposal company seeking federal permission to import more than 20,000 tons of nuclear waste from Italy has raised its campaign contributions to lawmakers by hundreds of thousands of dollars. Salt Lake City-based EnergySolutions Inc. is aggressively donating to members of key energy committees in Congress as it increasingly seeks lucrative federal contracts and legislation beneficial to the nuclear power industry.

Since 2005, the company's political action committee, executives and investors have poured nearly $400,000 into congressional campaigns through January, up from about $40,000 in the four previous years, Federal Election Commission reports show.

The company's growing influence in Washington will be tested this year as it tries to kill a bill that would ban the importation of low-level radioactive foreign waste, which would be disposed at its dump in western Utah's desert.

"I'm sure this means many millions of dollars to them, so I'm sure they're going to be working hard to stop it," said Rep. Bart Gordon, D-Tenn., the bill's co-sponsor. U.S. Rep. Ed Whitfield, R-Ky., is also a co-sponsor.

EnergySolutions increased lobbyist spending from $680,000 in 2006 to more than $1 million last year, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan research group.

The company already handles some foreign waste, but the amount it wants to import from Italy would be the largest ever from another country, Nuclear Regulatory Commission spokesman David McIntyre said.

The volume and the publicity surrounding it have generated more than 900 public comments on the company's application to the NRC, he said. Import-license applications typically don't receive more than a handful of comments, if any.

EnergySolutions says it welcomes the comments but contends Gordon's bill is unnecessary.

"The NRC has the scientific and technical expertise to make thoughtful decisions based on the facts," EnergySolutions spokesman Mark Walker said.

The company has never shied away from the fact that it donates heavily to state politicians, but the emphasis on contributing to nearly four dozen federal lawmakers from across the country is new.

Political giving, Walker said, "gives us the opportunity to participate with elected officials and offer solutions to growing concerns within the energy sector."

Last year, EnergySolutions CEO Steve Creamer donated the maximum allowed by law - $28,500 - to Democratic and Republican senatorial campaign committees.

The biggest recipient of EnergySolutions' recent spending spree is Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., an ardent supporter of nuclear energy. Graham has received $24,000 in campaign contributions from EnergySolutions' PAC and more than $19,000 from company investors and
executives since December 2006. He is encouraging the NRC to allow the construction of two nuclear power plants in South Carolina, where EnergySolutions manages the site through which the Italian waste could be imported.

The company wants to import the waste through the ports of Charleston, S.C., or New Orleans for processing in Tennessee.

After processing, about 8 percent, or some 1,600 tons, would be shipped to EnergySolutions' Utah facility, about 70 miles west of Salt Lake City, for disposal. It is the largest and only privately owned radioactive-waste dump in the United States.

The plan has drawn opposition from environmental groups.

"Public opinion should rule and not political opinion that's influenced by campaign donations," said Tom Clements of Friends of the Earth in Columbia, S.C. He fears Charleston will become the nation's gateway for nuclear waste, putting it at risk in the event of an accident.

The bill by Gordon, Whitfield, and Jim Matheson, D-Utah, would allow only nuclear waste that originated in the United States or came from an overseas American military base. "If we start taking it from other countries, then it's going to diminish our ability to take care of our waste with a rejuvenated nuclear power industry," Gordon said.

EnergySolutions says capacity is not an issue, insisting that the Italian waste would represent less than 1 percent of all waste disposed at its Utah site each year.

Gordon said the bill would also limit the possibility of terrorists targeting a shipment at a U.S. port.

It's unclear when the legislation will receive a hearing, but the NRC is expected to rule on the Italian waste this summer.

Gordon, Whitefield and Matheson sit on the House Energy and Commerce Committee. Since 2005, committee chairman John Dingell, D-Mich., has received $6,000 from EnergySolutions' PAC, while executives and company investors have given him more than $7,000 since December. Matheson has received $6,000.

EnergySolutions has spent heavily to polish its image and bought the naming rights to the arena where the NBA's Utah Jazz play. It became a publicly traded company in November.


Unit 1 Corrections To Be Applied To Other 2 Reactors at Brown's Ferry NPP
Apr 17 - McClatchy-Tribune Regional News - Karen Middleton The News Courier,
Athens, Ala.

Earlier this year the Nuclear Regulatory Commission assigned a yellow performance indicator for the newly restarted Unit 2 reactor because of five unplanned scrams in its first 7,000 hours of operation.

The NRC uses color-coded performance indicators and inspection findings to evaluate performance at all nuclear power plants. The colors start with "green" and then increase to "white," "yellow" or "red," commensurate with the safety significance of the issues involved.

While yellow indicates "substantial safety issues" in the grading system, NRC Region II officials said in a Wednesday meeting at Browns Ferry Nuclear Plant that all three reactors "operated in a manner that preserved public health and safety" throughout 2007.

Unit 1 was restarted May 22, 2007, after a 22-year shutdown and a five-year, $1.8 billion recovery. The Tennessee Valley Authority took Unit 1 off line in 1985 because of safety concerns.

Unit 1 is one of just eight reactors of a total 104 in the U.S. to receive the yellow performance indicator.

Thierry Ross, senior NRC resident inspector said within the industry, 7,000 hours is not enough hours to give an idea of overall reactor performance. "Typically, it takes 36 months of data for a valid performance indicator," said Ross.

NRC Public Affairs Officer Roger Hannah further explained during a break that, "If you have a bad period, the findings are not valid until your have larger period of time to gauge performance. It should not be gauged on an isolated period."

It was determined that the Unit 1 shutdowns -- or scrams -- resulted from problems in the electronic hydraulic controls and in the moisture separator drain tank.

Browns Ferry Site Vice President Rusty West said the lessons learned from Unit 1 reactor's first 7,000 hours would be applied to units 2 and 3. "We do value the process and agree," said West.

West said that although the yellow performance indicator might make it seem that plant officials do not value the health and safety of the public, that is not the case.

"We will make sure we resolve this before going forward," said West. "Safety is paramount to TVA. All the corrective actions will be applied to all three units."

Unit 3 reactor is currently down for refueling. TVA spokesman Craig Beasley said that when Unit 3 was taken out of service for refueling and maintenance a month ago, it was expected it would be off line for two or three months.

Typically, those in the nuclear industry are vague about the length of outages because of how it can affect the price of energy on the open market.

NRC will conduct a supplemental inspection of Unit 1 in the summer.


Activists Warn Ontario Taxpayers on Hook for More Cost Overruns at Bruce Nuke Plant

(The Associated Press) - Apr 17

Environmentalists are warning that Ontario electricity consumers are on the hook for some of the escalating costs of refurbishing two reactors at the Bruce nuclear station.

Bruce Power says the estimated cost for bringing the two reactors back on line could be $3.4 billion, up from the original estimate of $2.5 billion.

The World Wildlife Fund says the province's hydro customers will have to pay more than $237 million as their share of the cost overruns to date.

WWF spokesman Keith Stewart says that figure dwarfs the $163 million the Liberal government spent on energy conservation programs during its first mandate.

Bruce Power spokesman Steve Cannon says the nuclear sector isn't alone in facing higher costs for construction materials and labour.

Cannon says about 60 per cent of the work on the two reactors has been completed, including many jobs such as replacing steam generators that had never been done before.

The two reactors at the Lake Huron nuclear plant that were idled in the 1990s are scheduled to be back on line by mid-2009 or early 2010.


Monday, April 14, 2008

News From the Week of April 7, 2008

Sierra Club Sues Duke Energy Over Coal-gasification Plant

Study: New Street Light Technology Could Save Energy, Money

Local Woman Takes On a Power Giant

"Unusual Event" at Waterford Nuclear Power Complex

Bills Offer More Tax Breaks to Save, Produce Alternative Energy

Labor, Environmentalists Join Forces to Launch National 'Green Jobs for America' Campaign

NRC Monitoring Unusual Event At Millstone 2 Nuclear Plant

US Senate Votes For Solar, Wind Tax Credits; Faces Hurdles

Senate Passes Tax Incentives for Energy Efficiency

Feds Propose Florida Power & Light Fine for Sleeping Security Guards at Nuclear Plant

Sierra Club Sues Duke Energy Over Coal-gasification Plant
INDIANAPOLIS (The Associated Press) - Apr 4 - By RICK CALLAHAN Associated
Press Writer

The Sierra Club is suing Duke Energy Corp. over an aging coal-fired power plant in southwestern Indiana set to be replaced by a high-tech plant, alleging that the current facility violates provisions of the Clean Air Act. The federal lawsuit filed Thursday in Indianapolis is the Sierra Club's latest action targeting Duke's planned $2 billion coal gasification power plant in Edwardsport. It alleges that Duke has not obtained required permits for changes it has made over the years to the 160-megawatt coal-fired plant and has failed to install rigorous pollution controls the group contends are required under the Clean Air Act.

Because of that, the lawsuit claims, Duke cannot claim emission reductions from the shutdown of the older plant toward its new 630-megawatt coal gasification plant, for which the company obtained a state air permit in January.

"That plant has been operating illegally without pollution controls for over a decade so they can't take credit and claim voluntary reductions when those emissions have been illegal for all those years," said Bruce Nilles, a Madison, Wis.-based attorney for the Sierra Club.

Duke spokeswoman Angeline Protogere said Duke's Edwardsport coal-fired power plant operates in full compliance with the Clean Air Act. She said the air permit approved in January by the Indiana Department of Environmental Management is a "legal air permit." Because the new plant's future emissions were compared with the existing plant's emissions as part of the permitting process, Protogere said Duke contended that it did not have to go though a review to identify the best available control technology. She said IDEM agreed with that position in approving the permit.

"Some critics don't acknowledge the plant's advanced technology because they don't want anything to do with coal," Protogere said in a statement. "Once this plant is completed, it will be one of the cleanest coal-fired plants in the world."

Protogere said construction is under way on the new coal gasification plant along the White River near Edwardsport, about 15 miles northeast of Vincennes. The current plant was built in stages between 1944 and 1951, she said.

The Sierra Club's suit asks the court to prohibit Duke from building the new plant and from continuing to operate the current plant unless the company makes the emissions control upgrades and obtains the permits the group maintains are needed.

Dan Murray, assistant commissioner for IDEM's Office of Air Quality, said the Sierra Club's contentions of Clean Air violations are not correct. "I am not aware of any pending or open enforcement actions against Duke for any of these things the Sierra Club is alleging," he said.

Duke says the plant, tentatively slated to open in 2012, stands to become the nation's first large scale project to use coal gasification technology. Unlike traditional coal-fired power plants that burn coal to produce electricity, coal gasification converts coal into a synthesis gas that's processed to remove pollutants such as mercury and sulfur. That gas is then burned in a traditional turbine power plant to produce electricity.

In February, the Sierra Club joined three other groups in appealing Indiana's approval of an air permit for the new plant. They contended that plant would allow air pollution increases that would raise nearby residents' risk of heart and lung ailments and other conditions.

They also warned that the plant would boost emissions of pollutants linked to global warming and burden Duke ratepayers with paying for a costly coal plant.


Study: New Street Light Technology Could Save Energy, Money
WASHINGTON (The Associated Press) - Apr 7 - By SARAH KARUSH Associated Press

The nation's roads are a major source of greenhouse gases - but it's not just from the cars and trucks traveling on them. The lamps that light the way for those vehicles gobble up their share of energy, too.

By switching to a more efficient lighting for their roads, the 10 largest metropolitan areas could reduce annual carbon dioxide emissions by 1.2 million metric tons - the equivalent of taking 212,000 vehicles off the road - and save $90 million a year, according to a study released in March.

"Even if there wasn't the thought of global warming, this would make sense because it saves electricity, it saves taxpayer dollars," said Robert Grow, the study's author and government relations director of the Greater Washington Board of Trade. "It's really a no-brainer."

Grow wrote the report as part of a fellowship on sustainable growth funded by the Ford Foundation through the American Chamber of Commerce Executives. He focused on two strategies. One would be to simply change the type of lamps used to electricity-sipping light-emitting diodes, or LEDs. The other would be to create a centrally controlled street-light network that allows managers to adjust brightness based on environmental conditions and to quickly pinpoint malfunctioning lights - including ones that stay on in broad daylight.

Grow said he was surprised to learn that more hasn't been done already to improve street light efficiency around the country.

Perhaps the biggest effort is in Ann Arbor, Mich. The city announced in October that it would convert all its downtown street lights - some 1,400 - to LED lights, an effort estimated to cut electricity use in half. The Ann Arbor lights are manufactured by Durham, N.C.-based Cree Inc.; other manufacturers promise similar savings.

LED traffic lights have become common in much of the country, but LEDs that produce white light, instead of red or green, use newer technology. Ram Sarma, street light coordinator for Virginia's Arlington County, said LED street lights have only now been around long enough for local decision-makers to have data about actual costs and potential savings.

Arlington, which has committed itself to reducing greenhouse gases produced by the county government by 10 percent from 2000 to 2012, is in the process of installing five LED street lights. The county wants to gather feedback from drivers on the quality of the light they produce before it embarks on a wholesale replacement project.

The high pressure sodium lamps that the county now uses are about a decade old. They are about 25 percent to 30 percent more efficient than the mercury vapor lamps they replaced, Sarma said.

Besides LEDs, Grow looked at the centrally managed street light network being implemented in the city of Oslo, Norway. The system feeds data into a control center that keeps track of lights that need to be fixed and automatically dims street lights based on the season, local weather and
traffic density. Street lights at dawn, for example, don't have to be at full power to still do their job, said Julia O'Shaughnessy, a spokeswoman for San Jose, Calif.-based Echelon Corp., which owns the technology being used in Oslo.

Sarma said he had heard about that technology but that the capital costs were too high and potential savings not great enough for Arlington to try it.

Grow estimated it would cost nearly $70 million to install such a system throughout the entire Washington region and would take about seven years to pay for itself in energy and maintenance savings.

Based on Oslo's experience and the estimates of LED streetlight manufacturers, Grow's analysis assumed a 50 percent reduction in electricity usage for any kind of street light improvement. He calculated the Washington region alone could save $6 million a year on electricity and reduce carbon dioxide emissions by nearly 78,000 metric tons.

Grow then extrapolated his basic assumptions to the 10 largest metropolitan areas. Besides Washington, they include New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Dallas, Philadelphia, Houston, Miami, Atlanta and Detroit.

Maryland State Highway Administrator Neil Pedersen said his office was reviewing Grow's report and that it would seriously consider efficiency improvements to the lights on the roads it operates.

"There are capital costs associated with it that we need to understand," he cautioned. "There's still questions about what the longevity is of some of these lights."


Local Woman Takes On a Power Giant
Apr 6 - McClatchy-Tribune Regional News - Stephanie Vosk Cape Cod Times,
Hyannis, Mass.

For Christmas, Mary Lampert asked her husband for a nuclear engineer.

For her birthday -- the Duxbury resident will turn 66 tomorrow --Lampert is just looking for some peace and quiet.

Since moving to town in 1987, Lampert has been fighting for change at the Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station in nearby Plymouth. She formed the citizen group Pilgrim Watch in 2004. She has spent day after day, dollar after dollar, preparing to almost single-handedly take on Pilgrim's owners at a hearing before a panel of judges from the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission's Atomic Safety and Licensing Board on Thursday.

Pilgrim Watch has about 70 members, but it's Lampert who has researched endlessly and taught herself how to battle a power giant. It's Lampert who has succeeded in a demand for a hearing, a stage only one other citizens group has reached in the relicensing of about 50 nuclear power plants across the country.

"I'm not a lawyer, I'm not a nuclear engineer, the group is unfunded," said Lampert, who has degrees in the field of sociology. The last chemistry class she attended was at the Beaver Country Day School in the ninth grade, she said.

With the nuclear engineer and hydrologist she hired in tow, Lampert will argue one reason why the plant -- about 15 miles from her house -- should not be relicensed for 20 years.

Her contention that the plant does not have an adequate plan to maintain buried tanks and pipes is the only one of many issues she raised that made it to the hearing stage.

"I have a right to live here in safety and know what's being emitted," Lampert said. "I have a right to feel secure."

Entergy Nuclear Operations, which owns the plant, will present its own experts to dispel Pilgrim Watch's argument, spokesman David Tarantino said. "The plant is saying that the plan for ensuring the integrity of underground pipes and tanks is working and they are in good condition and that we have adequate monitoring in place," he said.

Tarantino declined to speculate on the hearing's outcome or the possibility of an appeal by Entergy, but he said if the safety and licensing board makes reasonable recommendations, the plant would likely comply.

Pilgrim's license expires in 2012.

Last September, a watchdog group in New Jersey argued before the safety and licensing board that the drywell casing at the Oyster Creek Generating Station would not survive another 20-year license. A drywell casing is part of the containment system for a nuclear reactor. The board disagreed, but the case is still on appeal.

The New England Coalition on Nuclear Pollution, another citizen watchdog group, will get its hearing in July on the relicensing of the Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Station.

Whether the watchdog groups are successful in their quest to block relicensing, the hearings draw out the relicensing process. Without hearings, decisions are handed down in about 22 months. With hearings, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission sets a 30-month timeline for relicensing decisions.

The Oyster Creek relicensing process has already gone beyond 30 months, NRC spokesman Neil Sheehan said.

In most of the relicensing cases in recent years, the NRC did not get hearing requests, he said. In New Jersey, while the outcome of the Oyster Creek hearing is still up in the air, it nevertheless helped to spotlight the issue, Sheehan said.

No relicensing application has ever been denied.

"It's the way the process is designed to work," Sheehan said. "It's another opportunity for any individual group or governmental body that wants to raise issues to do that."


"Unusual Event" at Waterford Nuclear Power Complex
WATERFORD, Conn. (The Associated Press) - Apr 7

Operators at the Millstone 2 Nuclear Power plant in Waterford say they detected "an unusual event," the lowest of four emergency classifications, during preparations for a shutdown Sunday. The plant is beginning a shutdown process for refueling and maintenance.

A spokesman for Millstone owner Dominion Nuclear Connecticut says that in preparation for the refueling outage, water has to be moved through the system.

In Sunday's incident, about 1,000 gallons of water from the reactor coolant system flowed into a 500,000-gallon refueling water storage tank. Spokesman Peter Hyde and the NRC say the leak was stopped and none of the water had been released into the environment.

Some low-level radioactive gas was released through the tank's designed vent but Hyde said it was within allowed federal limits. The NRC said is evaluating the release and sent inspectors to the plant to monitor the company's actions.


Bills Offer More Tax Breaks to Save, Produce Alternative Energy
COLUMBIA, S.C. (The Associated Press) - Apr 7 - By JIM DAVENPORT Associated
Press Writer

Bills offering bigger tax breaks for South Carolina residents to buy energy efficient homes and appliances are expected to come before lawmakers this week.

"Based on everything I see, we're heading toward energy shortages up the road unless we employ energy conservation, energy efficiency and energy production," said Senate President Pro Tem Glenn McConnell. The Charleston Republican has three bills Tuesday before the Senate Finance Committee that deal with energy-related tax breaks.

One bill eliminates sales taxes on a variety of home products that meet or exceed federal Energy Star rating requirements including refrigerators, water heaters, dishwashers, clothes washers, air conditioners, fluorescent light bulbs, programmable thermostats and doors and windows. But the items must be bought this October or April 2009 and the break is limited to $2,500 in merchandise.

"Every kilowatt hour we can save off of energy efficiency is the cheapest energy we can produce," McConnell said.

People tend to buy the cheapest and least energy efficient models because there's little incentive to look for energy efficiency in South Carolina, said Erika Hartwig, the renewable energy coordinator for the State Energy Office.

A second bill would give a sales tax break to companies buying machinery, tools or parts to produce electricity from alternative sources, including solar, wind, tides and biomass.

That kind of break and other energy production incentives have been a huge benefit for companies like Ecogy Biomass, a company that began turning soy oil into biodiesel in Estill in January.

Hal Wrigley, president of Ecogy Biomass and Knightbridge Biofuel said the soy oil for his biodiesel cost $1.75 a gallon a last year and was $5.25 a gallon last month. "Right now, the only lucrative place to sell it is over in Europe," Wrigley said.

Wrigley wants to see more incentives that encourage companies to mix biodiesel with regular diesel and tax breaks for truckers and other consumers buying biodiesel. Other bills being considered address existing incentives for people installing solar water heaters or panels to generate electricity.

State and federal income tax breaks for installing those devices have helped Bruce Wood's Sunstore Solar in Greer. South Carolina had lagged North Carolina and Georgia for years in state tax breaks, Wood said. That meant that he was doing 70 percent of his business out of state. But now 75 percent of his business is in South Carolina and his payroll has tripled to nine people.

"There's a green movement that's afoot," Wood said.

The tax break makes the cost of putting in solar panels more reasonable while shortening the time it takes for the systems to pay for themselves with reduced energy bills. A solar hot water system that costs $6,000 comes earns an $1,800 federal tax credit and $1,500 from the state.
That means the system will be paying for itself in less than six years, instead of the 12 years it would take without the break, Wood said.

Encouraging alternate sources of energy could help the state's economy too. One recent report showed the state could expect to create more than 22,300 jobs in wind, solar, geothermal and biomass production, Hartwig said.

Energy independence has another benefit in South Carolina. "Last year we spent $18 billion on energy in South Carolina and almost all of that money left the state to import" oil and coal, Hartwig said.


Labor, Environmentalists Join Forces to Launch National 'Green Jobs for America' Campaign
PITTSBURGH, April 8, 2008 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ --

The United Steelworkers (USW), the Sierra Club, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and the Blue Green Alliance, a partnership of the USW and Sierra Club, today launched the national Green Jobs for America campaign. The campaign will focus on the ability of a serious commitment to clean, renewable energy to make us more energy independent, help us end our dangerous dependence on fossil fuels and create over 820,000 new green jobs

The time for a national push for renewable energy is now, said USW International President Leo W. Gerard. What is really exciting about this campaign is the opportunity to create jobs, help fix our broken economy and contribute to solving the biggest environmental challenge of our generation at the same time.

The Green Jobs for America campaign will demonstrate that investing in clean, renewable energy is the best way to fight global warming, bring skyrocketing energy costs back under control, create new, good-paying jobs and put us back on the path toward economic growth and prosperity. In addition to encouraging the right investments from the private sector, the
campaign will also focus on the kinds of policies that are needed to fight global warming, expand clean energy production and reform unfair trade agreements.

The public education campaign will take place in New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Indiana, Missouri, Virginia, Tennessee, Florida, Oregon, and Nebraska. The campaign will run through September 15, 2008.

Teams of organizers from the USW, Sierra Club, NRDC and Blue Green Alliance will undertake grassroots organizing activities, conduct a series of public events, release independent studies highlighting the potential for tens of thousands of new green jobs in each state and generate thousands of signatures on a petition calling for green jobs, clean energy solutions and fair trade agreements.

An independent study conducted last year for the Blue Green Alliance by the Renewable Energy Policy Project found that these twelve states in particular stand to gain nearly 170,000 new manufacturing jobs in wind turbine manufacturing and almost 93,000 new manufacturing jobs making the parts for solar power equipment.

Blue Green Alliance Executive Director David Foster said that green jobs are not only those that produce a green product designed for a specific environmental purpose but also include existing jobs that involve a green process or a green purpose. He said that steelworkers building components for wind turbines are performing green jobs, as are chemical workers making
products that are not harmful to humans or the environment.

The green revolution isn't just creating new and different jobs," Foster said. "It's revitalizing and creating new investment in a lot of the jobs we already have.

The campaign builds on the momentum of the Good Jobs, Green Jobs National Conference held in Pittsburgh last month, which brought together over 1,000 participants, over 80 organizations, elected officials, and leaders from industry, community groups, environmental organizations, and labor unions. The Green Jobs for America Campaign expects to add additional allies to this new national movement focused on making the clean energy future a reality.

We saw a glimpse of the clean energy future last month in Pittsburgh, said Sierra Club Executive Director Carl Pope. The Green Jobs for America campaign will bring the power of that future to communities across the country. We aim to show people that we can start building that clean energy future today -- a future that promises a strong economy, good jobs, fair trade agreements, a clean environment, and a stable climate for our children and grandchildren.

Energy efficiency is a largely untapped resource that can save consumers and businesses money on their energy bills and cut our global warming emissions, all while creating tens of thousands of new jobs.

Technologies like wind and solar are just part of the story. This is also about job security. Making homes, offices and factories more energy efficient not only saves money, it also represents a huge growth opportunity for the people who build our communities and keep them running, said Frances Beinecke, President of the Natural Resources Defense Council. Were talking about architects and engineers. Drywall and lighting contractors. Electricians and carpenters. Everything from construction to computing. And these are jobs that cannot be shipped offshore, and pay lasting dividends to the American economy.

Founded in 2006, the Blue Green Alliance is a strategic partnership of the United Steelworkers, North Americas largest manufacturing union, and the 1.3 million members and supporters of the Sierra Club, the nation's oldest and largest grassroots environmental organization.

The Natural Resources Defense Council is a national, nonprofit organization of scientists, lawyers and environmental specialists dedicated to protecting public health and the environment. Founded in 1970, NRDC has 1.2 million members and online activists, served from offices in New York, Washington, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Beijing.

For more information, please visit:

SOURCE Blue Green Alliance


NRC Monitoring Unusual Event At Millstone 2 Nuclear Plant
(The Associated Press) - Apr 8

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) is monitoring an Unusual Event declared early this afternoon at the Millstone 2 nuclear power plant in Waterford, Conn. An Unusual Event is the lowest of four levels of emergency classification used by the NRC.

Dominion, the plants owner and operator, made the declaration at 1:17 p.m. after an increase in unidentified leakage was detected at the plant. Millstone 2, a pressurized-water reactor, was shut down at the time for a scheduled refueling and maintenance outage.

When operators placed a system into service to further cool down the plant, they observed increased reactor coolant system leakage and an increasing level in an on-site water-storage tank. The leakage between the reactor coolant system and the storage tank was captured by the tank and therefore there was no liquid release to the environment. The leakage to the tank has since been halted.

The storage tank, by design, has a vent to the atmosphere. Some low-level radioactive gas was likely released through the tank vent. The NRC is independently evaluating any potential release and radiological consequence.

The NRC began formally monitoring the event at 2:30 p.m. today. Inspectors assigned to the plant reported to the site to follow the company's actions in response to the event. In addition, the Incident Response Center at the NRC's Region I Office in King of Prussia, Pa., was activated to track developments at the plant, maintain close communications and determine if any additional actions were needed.

Millstone 3, an adjoining pressurized-water reactor operated by Dominion, was not affected by the event and continues to operate at 100-percent power.

Federal and state officials have been notified regarding the event.


US Senate Votes For Solar, Wind Tax Credits; Faces Hurdles
Dow Jones & Company, Inc. - Apr 10

The U.S. Senate on Thursday voted to extend tax credits for wind-power and solar-energy projects, but the measure is unlikely to become law in its current form due to concern it would add to the nation's deficit.

By 88-8, the Senate added the renewable-energy tax credits to a major housing bill. Companies such as utility XCel Energy Inc. (XEL), the largest U.S. seller of wind-generated energy, have been calling on Congress to act quickly. The tax credits expire at the end of the year, but executives are making decisions now about whether to invest in renewable projects beyond
this year.

The U.S. House of Representatives has hardened its opposition to this version of the tax-credit extensions, which are estimated to cost $6 billion over 10 years. House leaders have strong objections to deficit-financed tax breaks, and with few exceptions offset lost tax revenue with tax increases or spending cuts elsewhere.

"I doubt that the House will accept these extensions without some corresponding offsets," said Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., on the Senate floor. "This leaves the administration with a key role to play in developing a compromise that will be acceptable to both chambers."

The warning to the White House came amid negotiations with Bingaman and Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., about a compromise measure that would offset the budget shortfall created by extending the renewable-energy tax credits. While the Senate Democrats have reportedly given ground by dropping plans to finance the renewable-energy
tax breaks by taking away tax breaks from oil companies, the talks appear to have reached an impasse.

The White House "rebuffed our request to identify any acceptable offsets," Bingaman said. He called on the Bush administration "to work with Congress in good faith to find a way to pay for these incentives."

A Treasury Department spokeswoman referred calls to a Treasury tax aide, who declined to comment.

Details Of Senate Measure

Under the Senate measure, put forward by U.S. Sens. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., and John Ensign, R-Nev., companies would be able to continue taking a tax credit equal to 30% of the cost of buying solar equipment through the end of 2016.

Companies would be able to take a tax credit for starting up through next year new projects that produce electricity from renewable sources such as solar and wind power.

A host of other tax credits would be extended, including those for producing energy-efficient dishwashers, washing machines and refrigerators, and for residential purchases of solar hot water heaters and solar panels used to generate electricity.

Solar energy company stocks and options surged last week on optimism that Baucus was working on a compromise bill. Stocks in companies including Evergreen Solar Inc. (ESLR), First Solar Inc. (FSLR), SunPower Corp. (SPWR), Energy Conversion Devices Inc. (ENER), and Suntech Power Holdings Co. (STP) all rose at least 7% on Friday.

-By Siobhan Hughes, Dow Jones Newswires; 202-862-6654; Siobhan.Hughes@


Senate Passes Tax Incentives for Energy Efficiency
ROSSLYN, Va., April 10, 2008

Today, the U.S. Senate passed a comprehensive piece of housing legislation that included several critical tax incentives that encourage use of energy-efficient technologies and renewables. The bill, S. 3221, aimed to assist ailing homeowners included several provisions that are set to expire. The tax incentives included in this bill are one-year extensions that will allow homeowners and businesses to better plan for the future and should have a stimulative effect in the economy. Due to these tax incentives, such as the energy-efficient commercial buildings tax deduction, more energy-efficient products manufactured by NEMA companies will be used in the marketplace.

This Senate-passed legislation includes:

-An extension of the energy-efficient commercial buildings tax

-Extension of the renewable energy production tax credit,

-Extension of the solar energy and fuel cell investment tax credit,

-Extension of residential energy efficient property tax credit.

The current commercial building tax deduction will expire on December 31, 2008. The deduction and incentives assist homeowners and businesses to purchase and install energy-efficient technologies, which provides economic benefits in lowering energy bills, contributing to construction and manufacturing jobs, and benefiting the environment. "While negotiations continue on a long-term extension of these tax incentives, NEMA calls upon the U.S. House of Representatives to act swiftly to pass this legislation so it can be signed into law," urged NEMA President and CEO Evan Gaddis.

"NEMA has been vigorously lobbying Congress for a long-term extension of the commercial building tax deduction and other energy efficiency and incentives, and while this is only a one-year extension, NEMA praises the U.S. Senate for its action on ensuring this vital incentive is continued," commented Gaddis.

NEMA is the trade association of choice for the electrical manufacturing industry. Founded in 1926 and headquartered near Washington, D.C., its approximately 450 member companies manufacture products used in the generation, transmission and distribution, control, and end-use of electricity. These products are used in utility, medical imaging, industrial, commercial, institutional, and residential applications. Domestic production of electrical products sold worldwide exceeds $120 billion. In addition to its headquarters in Rosslyn, Virginia, NEMA also has offices in Beijing, São Paulo, and Mexico City.


Feds Propose Florida Power & Light Fine for Sleeping Security Guards at
Nuclear Plant
MIAMI (The Associated Press) - Apr 10

The federal government wants to fine Florida's largest electric company $130,000 because security guards slept on duty at a nuclear plant.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission says Florida Power & Light Co. violated security requirements at the Turkey Point plant from 2004 to 2006. It says guards served as lookouts while others slept on the job.

The commission says in a letter to the utility that its "inattentive behavior" is of particular concern and can't be tolerated.

The utility's nuclear spokesman says the company has made security changes to ensure this doesn't happen again.

The guards were employed by Wackenhut Nuclear Services. Wackenhut did not return phone messages.

The commission says Wackenhut has agreed to make sure its workers are
attentive on the job.