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

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: 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...

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House Releases Draft Climate Change Bill and A Bit of Nuclear Nistory (Podcast Episode 65)

Listen to the Podcast Here Operation Sea Orbit – 1964 (Front to Back: USS Enterprise, USS Long Beach, & USS Bainbridge) The Markey / Waxman Climate Change Bill Momentum is building towards greenhouse gas regulation in the United States. Two weeks ago the house of representatives released draft climate change legislation sponsored by Rep. Henry Waxman and Rep. Edward Markey. On Friday the US Environmental Protection Agency turned up the heat when they declared CO2 and other greenhouse gasses “hazards to public health” and labeled CO2 a pollutant. This action gives the EPA authority to regulate CO2 emissions even if congress does not pass legislation focused on curbing greenhouse gas releases. The Waxman/Markey draft legislation would evoke a national renewable energy portfolio standard that will force electric utilities to get a large percentage of the energy they sell from renewable sources. The legislation defines renewable energy as solar, wind, hydro, geothermal, biomass, landfill gas, and wave energy. The required percentages would phase in starting at 6% in 2012, increasing to to 25% by 2039. Calendar year Required annual percentage 2012 ……………………………………………………………………. 6.0 2013 ……………………………………………………………………. 6.0 2014 ……………………………………………………………………. 8.5 2015 ……………………………………………………………………. 8.5 2016 ……………………………………………………………………. 11.0 2017 ……………………………………………………………………. 11.0 2018 ……………………………………………………………………. 14.0 2019 ……………………………………………………………………. 14.0 2020 ……………………………………………………………………. 17.5 2021 ……………………………………………………………………. 17.5 2022 ……………………………………………………………………. 21.0 2023 ……………………………………………………………………. 21.0 2024 ……………………………………………………………………. 23.0 2025 through 2039 ………………………………………………………… 25.0 Utilities who are unable to meet the mandated standards would be fined $50 per megawatt hour of every megawatt they sell that exceed the renewable limits. That penalty could very quickly bankrupt companies that fail to comply. For example, a single 1000 megawatt coal fired power plant would be fined $1.2 million per day. This is a nearly impossible mandate to meet. If this provision becomes law several things will happen: There is already a huge amount of capitol flowing into wind and solar energy because of the lucrative subsidies that pay much of the installation costs, plus tax credits that some states and the federal government have put into place to encourage investment into these politically favored but uneconomic energy sources.  Taxpayers are already footing a lion’s share of the expense of installing most wind and solar power plants. A national renewable portfolio standard will cause even more demand for these intermittent power sources. Unfortunately there is no way the supply can keep up with demand.  Utilities in areas of the country with plentiful hydo power will initially be able to meet the standards, but most of the USA has little hydro power.  According to the Energy Information Administration, in 2007 the combined total for wind, solar, wood and other biomass, and geothermal accounted for...

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Rep.s Edward Markey & Henry Waxman Release Draft Climate Change Legislation

It has not received any attention in the media, but on March 31, 2009 House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Rep. Henry Waxman and Rep. Edward Markey, Chairman of the House Committee on Energy and Environment released their plan to fight global warming.   As I predicted back in Episode 62 of This Week in Nuclear ,  they are promoting a federal mandate on wind and solar power funded by huge increases in energy costs. Although nuclear energy produces 70% of the CO2-emission free energy in the USA today, in the entire 648 page bill the word “nuclear” is mentioned only twice (once is to provide an editorial change to a prior bill). Full Text of the Draft Legislation House Press Release Key parts of their plan: Create a national renewable portfolio standard to force utilities to generate (or purchase) at least 25% of the electricity they sell from “renewable sources” and pass the cost to rate payers (see page 15 of the bill) Establish a green house gas trading system (see page 358) And yes, federal government regulation over personal hot tubs (see page 223) The Markey/Waxman bill would force California-style energy rules on the entire USA.  We all know how that turned out!  The Senate will have their hands full in creating a more balanced, logical approach to fight climate change that is based on sound science and good...

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