Forum on Energy
Forum on Energy
February 26, 2015
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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February 9, 2015
Gwyneth Cravens is a well-known political activist who’s traced her evolution from anti-nuclear activist to agitating for acceptance of nuclear power.
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February 4, 2015
President Obama released his Fiscal Year 2016 Budget Proposal on Monday, calling for nearly $4 trillion in federal spending.
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January 28, 2015
Stephen G. Burns began his tenure as Chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission on January 1, 2015.
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January 26, 2015
Brazil is among the largest energy consumers in the world. Rich in natural resources, Brazil has a vibrant export market in oil, gas and uranium.
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January 13, 2015
Jessica Lovering of the Breakthrough Institute asks “Does Japan need nuclear power to reduce carbon emissions?”
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February 26, 2015

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.

Areva Losses Could Lead to Greater Cooperation Between French Nuclear Agencies
In reaction to an announcement by Areva that it lost $5.6 billion in 2014, France’s Energy Minister has announced that all options are on the table. The government is currently considering a financial injection into the state-owned energy companies, and the possibility of closer cooperation with Electricite de France (EDF), a utility and Commissariat a l’Energie Atomique et aux Energies Alternatives (CEA), a research institution. In the meantime, new heads have been assigned to the three institutions in order to bring a “fresh look without prejudice” on the sector following years of conflict and internal rivalries.
Source: Bloomberg

TEPCO Leak Could Delay Decommissioning Efforts
This week, TEPCO officials announced the existence of a leak at Fukushima Daiichi that they have known about since April, but for which they were only recently able to identify the source. Naohiro Masuda, president of Fukushima Daiichi Decontamination & Decommissioning Engineering Co., the internal unit in charge of scrapping the meltdown-hit plant, said that the leak — and especially the backlash TEPCO has receive over not announcing the leak earlier — means that “all of the schedules for the decommissioning tasks could be delayed, but we’d like to rebuild trust as soon as possible.” The leak was found in a gutter that passes water into the Pacific Ocean; the gutter has been closed.
Sources: Japan Times, New York Times, Power Technology

A New Rule on U.S. Nuclear Energy Exports to Take Effect March 25
The U.S. Department of Energy has agreed to an amendment to the rules governing nuclear technology export after three and a half years of haggling. The section in questions covers the export of unclassified, nonpublic technology related to most of the nuclear fuel cycle — from conversion of uranium ore concentrates on the front end, to reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel on the back end. As a result of this change, dozens of countries that were generally authorized under the current rules will need to gain prior authorization before an export can occur. Some countries such as the United Kingdom, France, Japan, the Republic of Korea and Canada are unaffected by the amendment.
Source: National Law Review

Top Nuclear Companies Attend Platts Energy Conference
The 11th Annual nuclear energy conference attracted top energy executives in Washington, D.C., this week. Discussion topics included whether new clean energy policies distort the market for nuclear energy. According to Donald Moul, vice president of commodity operations for FirstEnergy Solutions, nuclear energy, which provides valuable base load energy, is facing difficulty competing with renewable energies that benefit from incentives and subsidies for clean energy. Recently, a draft proposal by the EPA to regulate CO2 emissions allows states to only allow 6 percent of nuclear energy to count towards their reductions targets versus 100 percent for renewable energy. This position sends mixed signals to an industry which, according to DOE calculations, avoids 600 million ton of CO2 emissions a year, the equivalent of taking 130 million cars off the road. As nuclear energy groups seek to educate policy makers on the benefits of nuclear energy, watchdog groups criticized the nuclear companies for spending over $30 million per year on lobbying activities.
Sources: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, E&E News, MapLight

Unexpected Cracks in Belgian Reactors Cause Shutdown
Recent inspections of two Belgian nuclear reactors revealed that damages due to operational wear and tear are far more extensive than initially thought. Belgian Federal Agency for Nuclear Control (FANC) director-general Jans Bens has called for inspections of all reactor facilities around the globe. But regulators in the UK are not as concerned, as the only plant with a similar steel reactor vessel has passed inspection. The situation in Belgium does not challenge the conclusions of the British inspectors.
Sources: Interfax, Power Engineering International

February 19, 2015

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.

Additional Two Reactors Win NRC Approval to Restart
This week two reactors run by Kansai Electric have passed NRC’s inspection of operational safety. This is the first hurdle in a lengthy process to win approval to restart the nuclear reactors. The two Takahama reactors are the second pair of reactors to win NRC’s approval, out of about twenty reactors that have been registered. After all 48 of Japan’s nuclear reactors shut down, the utilities have used expensive imported fossil fuels for electricity production, driving most of them into deep financial losses.
Source: World Bulletin

India and Sri Lanka Sign MOU on Civil Nuclear Cooperation
India and Sri Lanka have agreed to collaborate on nuclear energy projects, particularly on connecting reactors to small-size grids, in addition to collaborations on maritime security. Observers see the move as a decisive step away from China, which has made overtures of nuclear cooperation to Sri Lanka in the past.
Source: Washington Post

NuScale’s Steam Generator Set to Start Tests in Italy
NuScale announced this week that its helical coil steam generator is ready for testing. The coil, which will be used in NuScale’s SMR, is the first of its kind. Testing over the next several months will measure the generator’s thermal performance. The data gained from these tests will be used to validate NuScale’s computer codes and help its vendors optimize the performance of their steam turbines for use with a NuScale reactor.
Source: World Nuclear News

Russia and Hungary Enter Nuclear Cooperation Deal
Hungary has agreed to an offer by Russia to finance, build and supply a nuclear power plant. The country already depends on Russian natural gas for its electricity. The new power plant is expected to power one third of the country’s electricity by 2025. A former Soviet State, Hungary is a key ally in a region that views Russia’s expanding sphere of influence as a security concern.
Source: Washington Post

February 12, 2015

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.

Sendai Restart is Scheduled for June
The Japanese government aims to restart the first Sendai reactor in June, after a lengthy approval process. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s administration has supported returning to nuclear energy despite popular opposition. By waiting until June, the government has ensured that the NRA will complete all final inspections and that the restart will distract from local elections in April.
Source: Reuters

Vienna Nuclear Safety Convention Unanimously Adopted
In Vienna this week, the 77-member convention on nuclear safety unanimously voted to adopt the Vienna Declaration on Nuclear Safety. The non-binding convention states that countries will do what they can to improve the safety of nuclear reactors in a timely manner. A push to amend the treaty to include more stringent objectives such as requiring back-up systems to contain radioactive contamination was quashed by the American delegation, citing concerns that the associated high costs of upgrades are not politically feasible.
Source: Bloomberg

China to Build 6 Reactors in Pakistan
China confirmed this week that it will build six nuclear reactors in Pakistan. Additional export opportunities are being supported by the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), a branch of the Chinese government, which is drawing up new supportive financial policies for exports in the nuclear sector.
Source: Toronto Telegraph

Robotic Snake Set to Explore Fukushima Damage
A robotic snake developed by Hitachi-GE debuted this week in Tokyo. The nearly 2-feet-long robot has a lamp at the front and is designed to crawl into the Fukushima Daiichi containment vessel through a 4-inch-wide pipe. It will be released into the molten core of Unit 1 reactor. Once inside, it will explore the vessel for cracks. TEPCO will use the information to make the Unit water tight for eventual flooding. The snake’s first assignment is scheduled for April.
Source: Japan Times

February 9, 2015

“The Forum on Energy is featuring content from the recent 7th annual U.S.-Japan Roundtable conference. Check back soon for new entries in the series.”

earthlightGwyneth Cravens is a well-known political activist who’s traced her evolution from anti-nuclear activist to agitating for acceptance of nuclear power. The reason for her conversion is a greater understanding of nuclear science she gained as a result of writing her book, The Power to Save the World.

In a presentation to the Annual U.S.-Japan Roundtable Conference, Cravens showed that her strongly-held anti-nuclear beliefs turned out to be unsupported by science. Such beliefs, which are common in the general public, have profound effects on human life if they drive down rates of electrification or reliance on CO2-emitting fuels. For example, fully electrified lifestyles can double an average lifespan from about 43 years to about 80 years. The reasons include better refrigeration of vaccines, freeing women and children to receive education, a stronger economy and, in some cases, cleaner air and water. 

Fear of nuclear energy is essentially a fear of an invisible death — but the number of recorded deaths is the lowest among all sources of electricity. On average, nuclear energy production causes 0.04 deaths per trillion watts of energy produced per hour. While even a single death may seem like too many, compare that to the risk from natural gas (four deaths) or coal (1,780 deaths) at the same rate of production. Cravens also discovered that no nuclear reactors can spontaneously explode, as she once believed. Also, radiation exposure at low levels is not harmful. In fact, it is everywhere. A human would absorb more radiation by eating a banana than by standing next to a nuclear reactor. 

As a result of her comprehensive study of nuclear energy, Cravens concludes that it is time to stop fighting nuclear energy production and instead cooperate with it.

View Cravens’ full presentation below.

The Power to Save the World

February 5, 2015

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.

US Attempts to Outcompete Russia in European Electricity Market
The U.S. government is engaged in a campaign to decrease energy Central and Eastern European countries reliance on Russian natural gas and other energy sources. Moscow has historically forced political decisions in former Soviet satellite states by shutting off oil and gas pipelines that originate in Russia. The U.S. government is helping these countries build new pipelines and terminals, while also pushing U.S. company bids for nuclear power and fracking. A successful campaign would increase competition and stabilize energy markets in the region.
Source: Associated Press

Chinese Government Approves $96B Merger
The Chinese government gave the OK for two state-owned nuclear companies, China Power Investment Corp and State Nuclear Technology Corp, in a move that is likely to increase the country’s capability as a nuclear technology exporter. The first owns a tenth of the Chinese nuclear market while the latter is in charge of managing the technology transfer resulting from a Westinghouse deal. It is expected that China will become a major exporter of nuclear technology by 2030.
Source: Power Engineering International

Eurasia Review Analysis Shows Economic Case for Nuclear Energy in Japan
A recent analysis by the Eurasia Review assesses the economic cost of shutting down nuclear energy in Japan. Without nuclear energy, Japan is able to meet only 9 percent of its energy needs through domestic energy production. Almost all of its fossil fuels are imported. “Despite some strength in export markets, the yen’s depreciation and soaring natural gas and oil import costs from a greater reliance on fossil fuels and sustained high international oil prices through the first half of 2014 continued to deepen Japan’s recent trade deficit.”
Source: Eurasia Review

NEI blogs on the Perils of Relying on Natural Gas for Heat in New England
An op-ed by nuclear engineer and New Englander Howard Shaffer has attracted some attention by pro-nuclear bloggers among others. According to Shaffer, a problem with the natural gas supply during last year’s polar vortex caused utilities to turn to higher cost fuels, including jet fuel, and the price of oil rose to $400 per barrel. As NEI blogger Mark Flanagan points out, natural gas is not as reliable under cold weather conditions as it might be in more temperate environments. With the shutdown of Vermont Yankee, many observers worry that without the stabilizing base-load of nuclear energy, electricity prices will sky rocket this winter, as well.
Source: NEI

February 4, 2015

obama_budgetPresident Obama released his Fiscal Year 2016 Budget Proposal on Monday, calling for nearly $4 trillion in federal spending.

The budget accentuated the administration’s focus on climate change and clean energy technologies, including $7.4 billion in research and development funding for clean energy and climate science across different agencies and another $239 million for the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Clean Power Plan, which is aimed at power plant carbon emissions reduction. The plan mandates that the nation’s fleet of existing power plants cut carbon emissions 30 percent by 2030 from 2005 levels. Also included in the budget is $4 billion in incentives for states that reduce carbon emissions in excess of the EPA’s proposed levels.

According to the budget the Departments of Energy, Defense and Agriculture and the National Science Foundation are the largest funders of clean energy technology programs, with Energy Department providing about 75 percent of the total government-wide funding. The department’s clean energy technology investments include “$900 million for programs and infrastructure that support the advancement of nuclear energy technologies, including R&D in advanced nuclear reactor technologies, life extension for existing power plants, and innovative fuel-cycle concepts.”

The requested $2 billion increase in funding for the Energy Department will be difficult to pass through the Republican-controlled Congress, but according to The Hill, Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz said that “We are prepared to defend this budget.”

Sources: White House, Forbes, Politico, National Journal (1,2), The Hill, Daily Caller, Reuters, ThinkProgress, The Fiscal Times

January 29, 2015

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.

IEEJ: 25% Nuclear Power Target is Optimal for the Economy
A report by IEEJ comparing economic impacts of nuclear energy usage concludes that of the four hypothetical scenarios ranging from 0 percent nuclear to 30 percent nuclear, a scenario in which a quarter of the energy mix was nuclear would be the most beneficial for economic recovery. Lower levels of usage would increase the average cost of electricity “remarkably.” For example, “Even if nine nuclear power plants restart, the electricity generated by nuclear power for FY2015 is still less than one sixth of its FY2010 level, raising the average power generation cost by about JPY3,000MWh compared to FY2010,” the report said. In 2014, household spending on energy in 2014 increased by more than JPY300,000 ($2,547.13).
Source: IEEJ

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German Supreme Court to Decide on Nuclear Power Company Lawsuit this Year
Three German power companies have sued their government over costs resulting from the government-mandated accelerated phase out of nuclear power plants. The phase out violates their property rights, keeps them from meeting their contractual obligations to supply electricity and forces them to pay higher costs for decommissioning the plants, according to the lawsuit. Germany decided to phase out nuclear power in reaction to Japan’s triple reactor meltdowns.
Source: Nuclear Street

Obama and Modi Make Headway on Nuclear Liability Issue
U.S. President Barack Obama and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi were triumphant in their breakthrough nuclear deal this week. The new deal resolved differences over the liability of suppliers to India in the event of a nuclear accident and U.S. demands on tracking the whereabouts of material supplied to the country. India currently allows individuals to sue foreign suppliers, a legacy of the 1984 Bhopal chemical accident which killed 1000 people. The new deal has the Indian government negotiating with state-backed insurers to create an insurance pool for accident victims while indemnifying suppliers against liability.
Sources: Wall Street Journal, Reuters

China to Build Five Reactors in 2015
China General Nuclear Power Group (CGN) announced that it will start operating five nuclear reactors in 2015. China currently has 22 reactors in operation and another 26 under construction. Despite concerns over the Fukushima meltdown in 2011, China has resumed its breakneck construction pace. In December, the government approved designs for CGN’s long-awaited homegrown “third-generation” reactor known as the Hualong I, designed jointly with its rival, the China National Nuclear Corporation.
Source: Investor Intel

January 28, 2015

Stephen G. Burns began his tenure as Chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) on January 1, 2015. Burns joined the NRC in 1978, working in various positions including legal counsel and operations, until he left in 2012 to work with the Nuclear Energy Agency in Paris.

Burns cites safety and security as the top priorities for the NRC, noting that flexibility to change will be key in the face of the limited resources and budget available to the agency. He will focus his efforts on completing the post-Fukushima safety program and reviews; meeting licensing needs for small modular reactors and Generation IV reactors; and building relationships with policy makers and industry.

“I hark back to my prior experience and know that the staff of the agency, and the leadership of the agency, has always risen to the occasion and faced those challenges—and met them I think,” he said. “So I look forward to working with my fellow commissioners and working with the staff to address the issues we will have in front of us in this environment.”

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