Will the USA follow Europe and become reliant on Russian Natural Gas? (Fast Fission Podcast 4)

Get the MP3 Here News stories are not always as benign as they appear. On October 9, 2009 Forbes.com ran a story about Gazprom, Russia’s state owned natural gas company.  It would seem they’ve set up shop in Houston, TX and have begun a very aggressive program to enter the US natural gas market.  They are targeting 5% of the market within 5 years, and 10% within 10 years. Their strategy?  Import LNG into the US and sell it at a price low enough to undercut domestic suppliers.  Since the US uses about 60 billion cubic feet of gas per day, that would mean importing 6 billion cu feet per day from Russia. That amount of gas would mean $64 Million flowing out of the US into Russia every day, along with a loss of American jobs and energy security. Russia already has undue political influence in Europe where they control a large percentage of the natural gas supply.  There’s little the USA can do to prevent the Russians from carryout out their plan; LNG is a commodity bought and sold on the international market.  The only sure way to prevent importing energy is to have a supply of lower cost home-grown energy.  The only large scale domestic energy sources with low enough costs to compete with gas are coal and nuclear.  Wind and solar can’t compete with the price and are too unpredictable for base load energy.  With air pollution and carbon concerns, it’s unlikely coal will be an option for expansion in the near term, at least until carbon capture and storage is commercialized. That leaves nuclear energy as the only option.  And it is a good option too! Each new nuclear plant that comes on line eliminates the need to burn 250 million cubic feet of natural gas per day. Using current natural gas prices,every large nuclear plant displaces $857K per day in gas sales.    The same is true in Europe, where each nuclear plant built takes a bite out of Gazprom’s...

Read More

Will Exelon Job Cutting Derail Future Recruiting?

This past Monday an Exelon representative at the ANS Annual Conference in Atlanta provided a compelling description of efforts they have underway to attract and retain nuclear talent.  Three days later the company announced they will eliminate 500 jobs, including 400 from their corporate staff.  It raises eyebrows because the company is viewed by others in the industry as already “lean” and very effective at corporate oversight of their nuclear operations. Having been through several reorganizations in three different nuclear companies, I certainly understand the need to periodically reassess and adjust the structure and size of an organization.  On the other hand, I can’t help but wonder how the layoffs will be viewed by the company’s workforce development partners and by potential new employees who may be considering careers with one of the industry’s largest employers. Fortunately, there are plenty of opportunities out there for displaced Exelon employees.  A quick look at just one job posting board revealed more than 50 openings. The company also stated they intend to reduce pay and freeze executive salaries to yield a savings of $350 Million next year which is about 3.5% of their operating and maintenance budget. While Chairman and CEO John Rowe blamed the economic slowdown on the need to cut jobs, it’s tough not to consider how the cost-cutting might be related to Exelon’s attempt at a hostile takeover of NRG Energy. Addition 6/26/2009 – Sources at Exelon stated that the layoffs announced earlier in the week would be focused in corporate suppport functions and would not affect nuclear technical functional...

Read More

Nuclear Powered Plug-In Hybrids

I’ve been preaching long and hard that a combination of plug-in hybrid vehicles and nuclear energy can help solve two problems at once; energy independence and CO2 emissions.  It seems The Weekly Standard in the UK has reached the same conclusion. In the United States there are 104 remodeled conventional nuclear power generating plants. … On average they produce more than a gigawatt (a billion watts) each or about 22 percent of total U.S. electrical consumption, without sending a single drop of greenhouse gas into the atmosphere. … By upgrading our own 100-plus plants to that level, we could produce enough cheap electricity to competitively replace gasoline and charge the batteries of every potentially electrified car and light truck in the United States. An additional 40 such plants would be sufficient to power all our buses, heavy trucks, and trains. With 200 plants, augmented by existing and upgraded hydropower, we could replace all hydrocarbon-based power-generating plants and virtually eliminate the U.S. carbon footprint. If this seems too big a task, one need only look at France which gets 80 percent of its electrical power from nuclear...

Read More