Episode 74 – The Renewable Question and Germany’s Nuclear Reversal (audio podcast)

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Download the Audio File Here

In this podcast I discuss the question “Is Nuclear Energy Renewable?” that I first posed in a recent blog post.

In addition, I added the following discussion of recent news and events:

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Indian Point License Extension Proceeds Despite Anti-Nuclear Hurdles

Despite barriers erected by anti-nuclear groups to block the license renewal for the Indian Point nuclear reactors, the two unit nuclear plant in NY has passed two major hurdles in the life extension process.

  • On August 12 NRC issued their final safety evaluation report and concluded there are no safety issues that would preclude running the plants for another 20 years.
  • On Sept 23 the independent Advisory Committee on Reactor Safeguards, and independent team of experts that advice the NRC, recommended that the license extension be granted.

Unless renewed, the current licenses expire in 2013 and 2015.

In 2007 the anti-nuclear group Riverkeeper filed five contentions opposing the 20 year license extensions.  The NRC granted Riverkeeper a hearing to review arguments on three of their five contentions.  In those hearings Riverkeeper was unable to provide sufficient evidence to support their claims and the NRC ruled the contentions had no merit.

On the NRC’s web site they have a schedule showing a tentative final decision on Indian Point’s relicensing in February of 2010.

Riverkeeper’s opposition of the plant is backed by several elected officials including Andrew Cuomo, the State Attorney General with a long family tradition of anti-nuclear politics.  Twenty years ago his father, then Governor Mario Cuomo successfully closed the brand new Shoreham nuclear plant.  In Super Mario’s deal the state purchased the plant for $1, and passed on $5 Billion in construction costs to taxpayers who received nothing in return except some of the highest electricity rates in the country.  That case was a perfect example of the flawed two-step licensing process in which utilities were first issued a permit to construct the plant, and then after the plant was built they applied for a license to operate the reactor.  The new reactor licensing process is a combined construction and operating license (called a COL) that should be more predictable for utilities and investors.

The NRC has received 17 COL applications from utilities interested in building 26 new reactors, but has suspended the review of four applications at the request of the applicants.

Pro-Nuclear Victory in Germany

This week there was a huge win in Germany for supporters of nuclear energy.  Angela Merkel was reelected Chancellor and vowed to reverse that nation’s plans to prematurely shut down their 17 nuclear reactors.  Nuclear energy currently provides 31% of Germany’s electricity and closing the reactors will mean higher energy costs and greater reliance on imported coal and natural gas.  Her coalition government now has a comfortable majority over the opposition Green Party and Social Democratic Party who were responsible for instituting the nuclear phase out in 1998 in favor of wind and other renewable energy sources.

Germany’s plan to replace nuclear energy and fossil fuels with renewable has not yielded the results that the Green Party promised.  While it’s true that with heavy government subsidies the production of wind energy in Germany has grown exponentially, the amounts are still too small to offset growth in demand.  Since 1991 Germany’s coal imports have more than doubled from 20 million short tons per year in 1991 to about 49 million short tons in 2006 and their natural gas imports have risen by more than 10%.  German utilities are planning to build several new coal plants to keep up with demand.  With the possibility of nuclear plants staying open beyond 2020 some of those coal plant projects will need a second look.

Other News

INL has created a new FaceBook page for news, videos and photo galleries of energy research projects.  They have recently won several new energy research grants (thanks to Tom Fields and Ryan Weeks)http://www.facebook.com/idahonationallaboratory

Upcoming Events:

Center for Energy Workforce Development – Annual Summit October 7-9 in Indianapolis, IN

Symposium on Nuclear Energy in Pennsylvania and the Mid-Atlantic – October 15 – 19 State College PA (thanks to Karen from Penn State)

Thorium Energy Alliance – First Meeting in Washington DC on October 19 and 20, 2009 (Thank you to John Kutsch)

“How to Identify, Control & Mitigate Risk Factors for Time and Cost Effective Project in US Nuclear Construction” – By Nuclear Energy Insider on Oct 26-27 in Washington DC.  $200 discount if you mention “This Week in Nuclear” when you register (thanks to Louise).

ANS Winter Meeting – November 15-19 in Washington DC

Peace!

John Wheeler

Author: John Wheeler

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