Forum on Energy
Forum on Energy
September 30, 2014
This week’s tragic eruption of Mount Ontake, which killed up to 36 people, has reignited protests against the nuclear restart in communities near potentially volcanic mountains.
Past volcanic activity at Mount Ontake
October 16, 2014
The Forum on Energy weekly news roundup brings together a mix of global energy stories from around the web. It is published every Thursday morning on Forum on Energy and is available on Twitter via @forumonenergy.
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September 26, 2014
While Japan has been an early and staunch supporter of civil nuclear energy, there is now much debate among officials and the public as to whether nuclear energy should have a role in its future.
Japan_map
September 15, 2014
Forum on Energy spoke with USEC's VP of Communications to discuss their flagship program, the American Centrifuge Project.
RD&D machine installation at the American Centrifuge Project (Photo courtesy: USEC)
September 23, 2014
Dr. James Hansen discusses the need to include nuclear energy as part of any plan to slow Global Climate Change.
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October 16, 2014

foe_newsroundup_blueThe Forum on Energy weekly news roundup brings together a mix of global energy stories from around the web. It is published every Thursday morning on Forum on Energy and is available on Twitter via @forumonenergy.

Japanese Government to Allow Hokkaido Electric to Raise Rates by 15%
The Japanese government has announced that it will allow Hokkaido Electric Power Co. to raise electricity rates by 15.33 percent on average, a decrease from the original 17.03 percent hike sought by the company. In September 2013, Hokkaido Electric raised household rates by 7.73 percent on average. Hokkaido Electric will be the first power supplier in Japan to conduct a second rate hike since the 2011 Fukushima crisis.
Source: The Japan News

France and South Africa Sign Nuclear Deal
Possibly opening the way for French nuclear company Areva to bid to build eight nuclear reactors in South Africa, the French and South African governments signed an agreement on cooperation in nuclear energy. Last month, South Africa signed a similar agreement with Russia. The South African plan to build up to eight nuclear reactors is expected to be worth up to $50 billion for whichever company wins the tenders.
Source: AFP

France Moves from Nuclear to Renewable
France’s lower house, the National Assembly, approved an energy transition bill on Tuesday that will cap nuclear power production at current levels. The text, which is part of a larger bill pushed by Energy Minister Segolene Royal, is intended to boost renewable production with subsidies and by simplifying the authorization process for onshore wind, biogas and hydropower production. The French government has promised to cut nuclear energy’s levels in electricity production from 75 percent to 50 percent by 2025, according to New Europe.
Sources: New Europe, Reuters

Taiwan Plans to Send Waste Abroad
A Taiwanese government task force announced Tuesday that spent nuclear fuel rods, currently stored at two plants that are approaching capacity will be shipped abroad for processing. “The storage sites of the two plants would run out of capacity next year, and the plants would have to be shut down if these plans were not carried out,” said Bob Lee, spokesman for the task force. Bidding for the processing is expected to begin next year, but a French firm has already expressed interest in the contract, according to The Japan Times. Environmental groups have spoken out since the announcement, asserting that transportation of the spent fuel rods is too dangerous. According to the Taipei Times, a new dry storage facility in Taiwan is under construction, but behind schedule.
Sources: Phys.org, Tapei Times, Japan Times

Banks Agree to Refinance TEPCO
Three Japanese banks have agreed to extend uncollateralized loans to Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO). Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corp., Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ, and Mitsubishi UFJ Trust and Banking Corp. will refinance for a period of six months tens of billions of yen of TEPCO loans that are due at the end of the month. The company faces a repayment deadline in December for a total of 150 billion yen (approximately $14 billion) in emergency loans provided by Sumitomo Mitsui, BTMU and Mizuho Bank. Even though the April to June period is the first time TEPCO has been in the black since 2011, the company has been facing growing in payments compensation claims and costs related to the decommissioning of the nuclear plant. The decision follows the establishment of a joint venture between TEPCO and Chubo Electric power Co. designed to boost thermal power operations while reducing fuel costs.
Source: RIA Novosti

October 10, 2014

In an opinion piece for The New York Times earlier this week, Michael Shellenberger and Ted Nordhaus of the Breakthrough Institute react to the recent awarding of a Nobel Prize in physics to three scientists for their invention of the blue LED light. According to the author, energy savings technologies will not lead to savings, but rather incentivize consumption and therefore result in even more energy usage than would exist without the invention. This is not a bad thing. As people around the world strive to improve their living conditions, they will consume more and more energy. The trick, say the authors, is to identify clean sources of energy that will limit impacts on the global environment.

Read the full piece here.

October 9, 2014

foe_newsroundup_blueThe Forum on Energy weekly news roundup brings together a mix of global energy stories from around the web. It is published every Thursday morning on Forum on Energy and is available on Twitter via @forumonenergy.

Argonne National Lab and Korea Atomic Energy Research Institution Team Up to Develop Prototype Sodium-Cooled Fast Reactor
The Argonne National Laboratory and the Korea Atomic Energy Research Institution (KAERI) have announced plans to partner in the development of a 150-MW Prototype Generation IV Sodium-Cooled Fast Reactor (PGSFR). The advanced sodium-cooled reactor uses metal fuel, a fuel type first developed in tandem with the reactor technology by Argonne scientists between 1984 and 1994. Argonne has been studying the fast reactor technology since it developed two fast reactors in 1948. KAERI started developing its own fast reactor technology prototype based on Argonne’s work. KAERI will provide funding for the agreement and Argonne lab will provide the technology support. “We hope to have it licensed by the Korean nuclear authority by 2020, and hopefully have it constructed by 2028,” said Yoon Chang, Argonne Distinguished Fellow and PGSFR Project Manager.
Source: Power Engineering

U.S.-Vietnam 123 Agreement Comes into Force
This week, the U.S.-Vietnam 123 Agreement on Civil Nuclear Energy Cooperation entered into force. The agreement, which was signed by Secretary of State Kerry in October 2013 and passed the Senate in July of this year, establishes the terms for commercial nuclear trade, research and technology exchange between the United States and Vietnam. Vietnam already has plans to construct two Russian reactors and two Japanese reactors for a total of 4,000 MW. Vietnam intends to develop up to 10,000 MW of nuclear energy capacity by 2030.
Source: World Nuclear News

Overabundance of Solar to Stress Japan’s Grid
Half of Japan’s electric utility companies have announced the suspension of proposal reviews for renewable energy producers due to grid concerns. Kyushu, Shikoku, Okinawa, Hokkaido and Tohoku utilities, which announced the halts within the past week, serve about half of Japan’s landmass. Utilities are trying to reform their electrical generation and delivery system and fear that the power imbalance will cause problems for the decentralized power grid. Japan’s power grid is largely divided into two regions that use different frequencies, which limits conversion and distribution between the east and west. The boom in renewables—especially solar power—come in the wake of Japan’s feed-in tariff program benefiting renewable energy programs, which was adopted after the March 2011 tsunami.
Source: E&E News

Bolivia Wants to Start a Nuclear Program
Bolivian President Eva Morales announced plans to launch a robust nuclear energy program this year. Morales, who has previously alluded to nuclear plans, said that Bolivia will invest more than $2 billion in nuclear development over the next decade. Many countries have already offered nuclear technology support for the program, with Russia offering to help Bolivia achieve “their rightful role as a Promethean nation.” Bolivia plans to install a cyclotron PET/CT linear accelerator as well as a nuclear research reactor.
Sources: La Oferta, Forbes, World Nuclear News

Researchers Propose Alternatives to UNFCCC Conventions
Two research groups are questioning the feasibility of limiting global temperature rise to two degrees, and broadly, if the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change treaty even works. William Nordhaus, climate specialist at Yale University, claims that, after all the activity, the Kyoto Protocol has died. He proposes as an alternative a climate club, which would have great benefits of association. Nations would prefer to go through the pain of curbing emissions rather than exiting, he said. University of California San Diego professor Dr. David Victor claims that the two-degree warming goal, while a useful political tool, is just not feasible. The scientific community must identify “vital signs” of the planet, to monitor the actual health and resilience of the planet, he said. The proposals come as nations recognize the need to curb carbon emissions, but the realities of energy and population boom make emissions reduction more difficult to achieve.
Source: E&E News

October 2, 2014

foe_newsroundup_blueThe Forum on Energy weekly news roundup brings together a mix of global energy stories from around the web. It is published every Thursday morning on Forum on Energy and is available on Twitter via @forumonenergy.

IAEA Meetings End in Favor of Nuclear Waste Reprocessing
At the IAEA, two weeks of multilateral meetings focused on waste management culminated in a movement to reprocess nuclear waste. France, Japan, Russia and South Korea are supportive of reprocessing nuclear waste into usable fuel, despite U.S. concerns that nuclear waste reprocessing generates weapons-grade plutonium. U.S. Secretary of Energy Ernie Moniz stated that the United States was neither interested in nor supportive of reprocessing, and asked that countries who move ahead with the technology keep plutonium inventories to a minimum. Gerald Ouzounian, International Director at France’s Radioactive Waste Management Agency, said on Sept. 23 that reprocessing reduces the amount of waste for disposal and also reduces the size of the nuclear waste inventory.
Source: Bloomberg

DoE Pushes Forward Multi-billion Dollar Loans for Nuclear Innovation Systems
GreenWire reports that the U.S. Department of Energy (DoE) released a draft solicitation for $12.6 billion worth of loan guarantees for advanced reactors, small modular reactors (SMRs), equipment upgrades to make existing nuclear power plants more efficient and modernizing the “front end” of the nuclear fuel cycle, such as uranium enrichment. Once finalized, this nuclear solicitation is expected to exhaust the DoE’s loan guarantee authority. Over the past year the DoE has issued numerous solicitations, including for low-emissions fossil fuels and renewable energies, which have yet to be awarded.
Sources: E&E (1,2)

In Farewell Speech, Poneman Cites Nuclear and Climate Existential Threats to the U.S.
In his final speech as Deputy Secretary of Energy, Daniel Poneman identified climate change and addressed the role of nuclear power as essential to ensuring the future of our planet. Poneman, who is stepping down for a position with Harvard University, said: “By my count, there [are] exactly two issues that I think could be fairly characterized as existential threats — in other words, threats that actually relate to the existence of our planet as we know it today. One is nuclear, and one is climate. We’ve got both of them at the U.S. Department of Energy.” Poneman touted the Obama Administration’s efforts to support nuclear power as a carbon free electricity source and called on the United States to play a larger leadership role in building new nuclear power as a way to thwart proliferation of nuclear materials and to fight climate change. Poneman also acknowledged some of the safety concerns raised in the wake of the Fukushima disaster, saying “We need to be safe, we need to address proliferation issues, but [nuclear power] has a role to play in our low-carbon future.”
Source: E&E                                                          

USEC Emerges from Bankruptcy as Centrus Energy Corp
USEC emerges from bankruptcy this week, having renamed itself as Centrus Energy Corp. The company retains its ability to provide its customers with nuclear fuel and support American energy security needs. John Welch, CEO of Centrus, explains that the company is in strong financial standing having restructured its debt and having maintained the ability to meet its customers’ needs on time throughout the bankruptcy procedures.
Source: The Washington Post

September 30, 2014
Past volcanic activity at Mount Ontake

Past volcanic activity at Mount Ontake

This week’s tragic eruption of Mount Ontake, which killed up to 36 people, has reignited protests against the nuclear restart in communities near potentially volcanic mountains.

After the eruption, approximately 7,500 people in Kagoshima Prefecture took to the streets to protest the Sept. 10 Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) safety approval of Kyushu Electric’s Satsume-Sendai nuclear power plant. The protesters — among them former Prime Minister Naoto Kan — said that the failure to predict the eruption at Mount Ontake shows that the NRA did not sufficiently consider the presence of the nearby Sakurajima volcano, which is located 50 kilometers away from Satsume-Sendai.

“No one knows when natural disasters, including earthquakes and tsunamis will strike,” said Yoshitaka Mukohara, a candidate in the 2012 Kagoshima Prefecture governor election who helped organize the protest. “The fact that they could not predict the Mount Ontake eruption highlights that… There were plumes above Sakurajima yesterday and today. We have no idea when something might happen.”

After the rally, the protesters marched through the heart of Kagoshima city, voicing their opposition to the reactor restarts and demanding an end to nuclear power generation.

September 26, 2014

Japan_mapThe Japanese government has been an early and staunch supporter of civil nuclear energy, despite some highly public nuclear weapons incidents and radiation leaks that have left some members of the public with an aversion often described as a “nuclear allergy.” Most recently, the country suffered an unprecedented natural disaster which contributed to a meltdown at a nuclear power plant, which left thousands displaced and temporarily shut down all other power plants in the country. The nuclear accident resulted in no deaths, but fears over the safety of the country’s nuclear program temporarily closed all Japanese nuclear power plants.

For Japan — a resource-poor island nation — nuclear energy is one of the few domestic energy options that can provide sufficient energy and electricity for its industrial and household needs. Today, the government is taking steps to reactivate its nuclear program, although there remains much debate among officials and the public as to whether nuclear energy should have a role in Japan’s future.

The History of Nuclear Energy in Japan

Japan was at the forefront of research into the potential of nuclear energy as early as the 1930s, but it was in 1952 that the nation took its first steps toward a policy that included nuclear energy as key to Japan’s energy security and economic development. This position grew out of the United States’ recognition of Japan’s sovereignty under the Treaty of San Francisco. This Treaty, along with the Security Treaty between the United States and Japan, secured the U.S.-Japan Alliance and its objective to maintain peace and prosperity in the Pacific region.

Japan was among the early adopters of nuclear power. In 1955 Japan passed the Atomic Energy Basic Law, which declared that Japan’s nuclear energy would be restricted to peaceful purposes. One year later, Japan launched the Atomic Energy Commission to promote the development of nuclear power. Japan’s nuclear energy industry was developed with the consent and supervision of bilateral agreements, and later multilateral agencies, charged with safeguarding nuclear technology. The United States shepherded Japan’s emergence as a leader in the nuclear energy industry, first by sharing its reactor technology, by supplying and regulating transportation of nuclear fuel, and later as peer in building global nuclear technology safeguards.

Read More »

September 25, 2014

foe_newsroundup_blueThe Forum on Energy weekly news roundup brings together a mix of global energy stories from around the web. It is published every Thursday morning on Forum on Energy and is available on Twitter via @forumonenergy.

Nuclear Power Emerges in the Developing World Emerges from Post-Fukushima Downturn
Though the accident at Fukushima shook much of the developing world’s confidence with nuclear power, around 25 countries are considering developing nuclear power reactors in the coming years. This is in addition to the 67 reactors that are currently under construction globally, 56 of which are in Asia and Eastern Europe. “There certainly is some interest by some of the emerging markets compared to where we were 10 years ago,” said Preston Swafford, chief executive of Canadian reactor maker Candu Energy. However, many countries are scaling back more ambitions development plans. ”Construction costs are a key determinant of the final nuclear electricity generating costs and many projects are significantly over budget,” according to the World Nuclear Industry Status Report 2014.
Source: Reuters

NRC Certifies GE-Hitachi Nuclear Energy’s Economic Simplified Boiling-Water Reactor (ESBWR) for Use in the United States
After conducting extensive technical evaluation of the design, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) approved the ESBWR for use in the United States. GE-Hitachi Nuclear Energy first submitted its application for ESBWR certification in August 2005. Detroit Edison and Dominion Virginia Power are seeking site licenses for ESBWR reactors. The ESBWR is a 1594 MWe, natural circulation reactor. The design includes passive safety features that would cool down the reactor after an accident without the need for human intervention. These passive features include enhanced natural circulation via a taller reactor vessel; a shorter core and improved water flow through the vessel; an isolation condenser system to control water levels and remove decay heat while the reactor is pressurized; and a gravity-driven cooling system to maintain water levels when the reactor pressure has dropped.
Source: World Nuclear News

Japan to Sign Nuclear Disaster Compensation Act
Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga announced the Abe administration’s intention to submit a bill to the Diet that would authorize Japan’s membership in the Convention on Supplementary Compensation for Nuclear Damage (CSC), which would require member nations to pay in part for damages in the event of a nuclear disaster. Suga expects the bill to be submitted by the end of the year. “By ratifying the treaty, (Japan) can support the participation of overseas companies in the decommissioning of — and measures against radiation-tainted water at — the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant,” Suga said. Thus far, the treaty has been ratified by the United States, Argentina, Morocco, Romania and the United Arab Emirates.
Sources: Power Engineering International, Japan Times, IAEA

South African and Rosatom Agreement
South Africa has not yet finalized a $50 billion deal that has been in discussion with Russia’s atomic energy agency, despite Russia’s announcement that it had won a contract for eight nuclear reactors. According to Global Post, South Africa’s energy ministry denied allegations that President Jacob Zuma had sidestepped procurement rules, saying that the Russian deal “initiates” the procurement phase of the project. An emailed statement by Rosatom and the South African government said that the “agreement lays the foundation for the large-scale nuclear power plants procurement and development program.” Rosatom will use Russian VVER reactors to add about 9,600 megawatts to the South African grid, which is intended to reduce the nation’s reliance on coal. Currently, 80 percent of South Africa’s electricity is produced by coal power.
Sources: Global Post, Penn Energy, Bloomberg

Countries Report on Emissions Targets at UN Summit
At the United Nations climate summit this week, countries will report progress on meeting emissions targets. The United States, despite a growth in emissions in 2013, has reduced both gasoline consumption and CO2 emissions since 2005, due largely to economic recession and changes in energy usage. Despite advances in energy use, if the widespread consensus of climate experts is accurate, the estimated 2.5 percent CO2 emissions and record output in 2013 will likely change the climate.
Source: Power Source

September 23, 2014

In recent interview conducted by Pandora’s Promise Director Robert Stone, Columbia University professor and 46-year NASA veteran Dr. James Hansen discussed the necessity of including nuclear energy as part of a comprehensive approach to slowing Global Climate Change.

Additional Content:  Read a previous ForumOnEnergy story covering this issue, “NYT: Leading Scientists Tout Environmental Benefits of Nuclear Energy.”

Explore an interactive map on nuclear energy opportunities and challenges across the globe.