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|21 July 2008|
Support for nuclear energy rises in California
Support for the construction of more nuclear power plants in the US state of California has grown over the past two decades, with half of Californians now in favour of new reactors, according to a recent poll conducted by Field Research Corp.
California's Diablo Canyon plant (Image: PG&E)
The latest poll, conducted 8-14 July, questioned 809 registered voters in the state about their reactions to rising oil prices. When asked whether "the building of more nuclear power plants should be allowed in California," 50% of respondents agreed that new plants should be built, while 41% disagreed and 9% had no opinion.
The poll showed that support for new nuclear plants was greatest among Republican voters (64%), while 41% of Democrats were in favour.
A similar Field poll conducted in 1990 found that 38% of Californians were in favour of more plants and 56% were against them. An earlier poll, in 1984, showed that 33% approved the construction of new nuclear plants and 61% were opposed. The earliest Field poll on nuclear energy, taken in 1976, put support for new plants at 69% while just 19% of Californians opposed them.
Support for new nuclear plants in California dropped to 37% in 1979, with 55% of residents opposed, following the accident at the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant in the state of Pennsylvania, according to a Field poll conducted that year.
The Field poll has operated continuously since 1947 as an independent, non-partisan, media-sponsored public opinion news service. Each year the poll covers a wide range of political and social topics examining Californian public opinion.
California, the most populous state in the USA with over 36 million inhabitants, has set targets to reduce carbon dioxide emissions to 1990 levels by 2020.
The state has a moratorium on nuclear power plant construction. A 1975 law prohibits the use of land in California for the construction of new nuclear power plants until the State Energy Resources Conservation and Development Commission confirms the existence of "an approved and demonstrated technology or means for the disposal of high-level nuclear waste." At the current rate of progress, the USA national radioactive waste repository planned for Yucca Mountain would not be ready before 2017 at the earliest.
In 2007, a bill was introduced in California's state legislature by Republican assembly member Chuck DeVore calling for the moratorium to be lifted. However, the bill failed to receive the necessary support to make it into law. Meanwhile, state governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has said that he thinks nuclear power has a "great future" and that the state should seriously reconsider using the "beneficial" technology.
There are currently four nuclear power reactors in operation in California: Diablo Canyon 1 and 2 (owned by Pacific Gas & Electric Co) and San Onofre 2 and 3 (owned by Southern California Edison Co and San Diego Gas & Electric Co). The plants provide some 16% of California's electricity needs.
11 July 2008
US solicits bids for loan guarantees on nuclear construction
The US Department of Energy has invited applications for loan guarantees to support the construction of advanced nuclear power plants (up to $18.5 billion) and uranium enrichment plants (up to $2 billion). Loan guarantees are to encourage the commercial use of new or significantly improved energy technologies and "will enable project developers to bridge the financing gap between pilot and demonstration projects to full commercially viable projects that employ new or significantly improved energy technologies."
On the basis of the 2005 Energy Policy Act DOE announced that it would guarantee the full amount of loans covering up to 80% of the cost of new clean energy projects including advanced nuclear power plants. The loan guarantees are expected to act as a catalyst and reduce financing cost by demonstrating government support, without cost to the taxpayer. Any preliminary approvals issued next year will be conditional upon the applicant receiving a combined construction and operating licence (COL) from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and these are not expected before 2010.
18 - 25 June 2008
ENERGY & ENVIRONMENT:
CEOs make climate recommendations to G8
20 June 2008
Recommendations on a post-2012 framework for global climate policy, backed by international business leaders, have been submitted by the World Economic Forum (WEF) to the G8 leaders ahead of their meeting in Japan. The businessmen see advanced nuclear power as part of the solution.
First concrete for new reactor at Novovoronezh-II
25 June 2008
First concrete for a new reactor has been poured at the Novovoronezh phase II nuclear power plant, marking the official start of construction. This is the first unit in Russia's wave of new build, which could benefit in future from foreign investment, politicians and officials said in Moscow today.
Bruce Power to study use of nuclear in Saskatchewan
18 June 2008
Bruce Power launched a new energy initiative in the Canadian province of Saskatchewan, which includes a feasibility study for the construction of province's first nuclear power plant. The company intends to begin its analysis this summer and issue a report by the end of the year.
REGULATION & SAFETY:
Safety authority asks for steam generator work
24 June 2008
Electricité de France has been given until 30 September to implement preventative safety measures in steam generators at its French nuclear reactors including plugging tubes affected by an anomaly in anti-vibration measures.
EdF allowed to continue concreting
20 June 2008
Concreting work is to recommence at Flamanville 3, after safety authorities accepted Electricité de France's plans to improve quality control. The company intends to train workers in the necessary safety culture and must report on progress for six months.
French transparency committee meets
19 June 2008
France's new national committee on nuclear information - the High Committee for Transparency and Information on Nuclear Safety - held its first meeting on 18 June. The committee's mandate is to act as a forum for the discussion of all issues related to public access to nuclear safety information.
UK opinion swinging towards nuclear
25 June 2008
Over half of the respondents to a new public opinion survey feel that the UK should increase its nuclear capacity - and those living closest to existing nuclear plants are most strongly in favour of new nuclear.
Brown calls oil producers to invest in nuclear
23 June 2008
UK prime minister Gordon Brown thinks oil producing countries could stabilise their market and secure long-term futures by investing in alternatives, including nuclear. He told OPEC leaders he will open up the UK's energy industry to such investments.
New turbines for Exelon plants
19 June 2008
US utility Exelon is upgrading steam turbines at six of its nuclear power units. The $420 million project should result in about 240 MWe more power. Exelon's Quad Cities, Dresden and Peach Bottom plants will benefit from the work, which would see two boiling water reactors at each receive steam turbine retrofits.
BE performance, earnings down
19 June 2008
Technical problems at some of its nuclear reactors resulted in lower output and earnings for British Energy during the 2007-2008 financial year, despite overall operational improvements. Speculation continues about the future of the UK nuclear generator, currently up for sale.
Global investors circle new nuclear markets
18 June 2008
Investors see the USA as the best place in the world to engage in nuclear build projects, followed by the UK and China, then South Africa. The banks, however, are yet to make serious moves. The list comes from Ernst & Young research commissioned by the UK government, a summary of which was presented in London
EXPLORATION & NUCLEAR FUEL:
Galvani to work on Brazil's largest uranium reserve
24 June 2008
Industriás Nucleares do Brasil (INB) has selected Galvani, a regional phosphates company, as the sole partner in the exploitation of the Santa Quitéria reserve ahead of international miners Bunge and Vale.
Cameco completes GLE's front-end loop
20 June 2008
Uranium producer Cameco has joined the Global Laser Enrichment (GLE) venture, promising tie-ins across the front end of the nuclear fuel cycle. The stakeholders in GLE have uranium mining, conversion enrichment and fuel fabrication business units.
Namibian mine gets the green light
19 June 2008
Namibian uranium miner UraMin, a 100%-owned subsidiary of French nuclear giant Areva, has gained approval for a mining licence and a positive record of decision on its desalination plant for the Trekkopje Uranium Project. The miner will use an innovative leaching system and put back displaced top soil.
WASTE & RECYCLING:
Radball ready to roll
24 June 2008
Nuclear decontamination and clean-up jobs could be simplified in future by a novel tennis-ball-sized device able to help map radiation sources. Using the device should be cheaper and easier than robotic or manual surveying.
Second of three Hanford contracts
23 June 2008
A $4.5 billion contract was announced on 19 June, the second huge deal in a program to clean-up the USA's legacy Hanford site. The site's central plateau is the focus of the work, which includes much remediation and environmental monitoring.
Belarus adopts nuclear energy law
25 June 2008
The House of Representatives of the National Assembly of Belarus has passed the second reading of a bill on nuclear power. The bill covers "fundamental principles" for the introduction of nuclear power and declares that benefits to citizens and society must outweigh any negative impacts of nuclear energy.
Inspectors in Syria
23 June 2008
A team from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) flew to Syria on 22 June to examine the alleged nuclear site near Al Kibar. The team of inspectors would spend about three days in Syria inspecting the site and talking with Syrian officials, before reporting to IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei, a spokesman told WNN.
French uranium employees kidnapped in Niger
23 June 2008
French nuclear company Areva is working with authorities in France and Niger to liberate four of its expatriate employees kidnapped by Tuareg rebels in Niger's Arlit region. Areva confirmed that the four kidnapped employees were in good health.
Nuclear power competes with pedal power
20 June 2008
On 24 June, a 700 km cycle race kicks off from the Volgodonsk nuclear power plant in southern Russia to the Zaporizhzhya plant in Ukraine. The cycling team is headed by Gennadiy Fomenko, human resources director of Volgodonsk.
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US finalizes "clean energy" loan guarantees
The US nuclear industry has welcomed the announcement by the US Department of Energy (DOE) of final regulations for a loan guarantee programme that will pave the way for federal support of clean energy under the Energy Policy Act of 2005.
"Loan guarantees aim to stimulate investment and commercialization of clean energy technologies", Secretary of Energy Samuel W Bodman said, adding that the regulations were bringing the US "one step closer to being able to use new and novel sources of energy on a mass scale to reduce emissions and allow for vigorous economic growth and increased energy security."
Under the new ruling, the DOE may issue guarantees for up to 100% of the amount of a loan, subject to the Energy Policy Act limitation that it may not guarantee a debt instrument for more than 80% of the total cost of an eligible project. DOE does not plan to use taxpayer funds to pay for the credit subsidy costs of loan guarantees. To be eligible for the loan guarantees, projects must employ new or significantly improved technologies that avoid, reduce or sequester air pollutants or anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases compared to commercial technologies currently in use in the USA.
Frank L (Skip) Bowman, president and CEO of US nuclear industry policy organization the Nuclear Energy Institute, welcomed the ruling. "We are pleased that the Department of Energy has taken this important step to implement the loan guarantee provisions of the Energy Policy Act. Electric generating companies have begun to file license applications for new nuclear plants with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, and it is imperative that the Energy Department have in place a loan guarantee program that will support the financing for these large, capital-intensive power plant projects," he said.
His sentiments were echoed by Michael J Wallace, executive vice president of Constellation Energy, which recently filed a partial Combined Operating licence (COL) application for a new nuclear unit at its Calvert Cliffs site. The rulemaking "recognizes the need for federal loan guarantees that mitigate the inherent risk in bringing innovative technologies to the marketplace," he said, adding: "We have consistently maintained that a workable loan guarantee program is essential to ensure nuclear power delivers on its promise as the only safe, reliable, emission-free technology that can meet the nation's energy needs in the 21st century. Today's announcement appears to provide for such a workable framework."
Wallace described the regulations as a "substantial improvement" on earlier proposals, and said that Constellation would spend the next few weeks carefully reviewing the new rules to gain a full understanding of their impact on pursuing new nuclear development activities.
DOE has invited 16 project sponsors who have already submitted pre-applications now to submit full applications for loan guarantees. The list is made up of projects covering advanced fossil energy, industrial energy efficiency, solar energy, electricity delivery and energy reliability, hydrogen, alternative fuel vehicles and biomass.
|US government agrees new build insurance|
Companies building new nuclear power plants in the USA can now qualify for a share of $2 billion in federal risk insurance, under a Conditional Agreement released by the Department of Energy (DOE).
The insurance covers costs associated with certain regulatory or litigation-related delays that, through no fault of the company, can delay plant start-up. According to the DOE, the risk insurance, authorized under the Energy Policy Act of 2005, "provides incentive and stability in spurring construction of new nuclear power plants and meeting our energy needs in a clean, safe, economical manner."
Energy Secretary Samuel W Bodman, announcing the agreement, noted: "Conditional Agreements pave the way for risk insurance contracts that will provide the first project sponsors constructing new nuclear power plants with assistance if they face delays in expanding the use of nuclear energy across the nation."
The coverage of the government-backed risk insurance would include delays associated with regulatory reviews of inspections, tests, analyses and acceptance criteria, as well as certain delays associated with pre-operational hearings or litigation in federal, state or tribal courts. Normal business risks, such as employment strikes and weather delays, would not be covered.
Under the Energy Policy Act, the DOE is authorized to enter contracts to provide risk insurance with the first six sponsors to begin construction of new nuclear facilities and that meet all other contractual conditions. Coverage of up to $500 million will be available to the first two plants which begin construction, with up to $250 million for the next four. Application for coverage is a two-step process, with sponsors required to enter a Conditional Agreement first and then, if eligible, a risk insurance contract. The Conditional Agreement is available to any sponsor of an advanced nuclear facility once its application for a Construction and Operating Licence (COL) is docketed by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). However, only the first six that are issued a COL and begin construction will be eligible for the risk insurance contract with DOE.
The DOE is working with industry to promote the expansion of nuclear power in the country and work towards the submission of COL applications for new nuclear plants though its Nuclear Power 2010 program. The first two Early Site Permits for new plants - Entergy's Grand Gulf and Exelon's Clinton - were issued by the NRC earlier this year. NRG Energy has recently filed a COL application for two new units at its South Texas Project site, while UniStar has filed the first part of a COL application for a third unit at Calvert Cliffs earlier in the year.
US Department of Energy
The text of the Conditional Agreement
DOE's Nuclear Power 2010 program
WNA's US Nuclear Power Industry information paper
WNN: COL application filed for new South Texas plant
WNN: Second US site gains new build permit