Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Nuclear "Waste"

Yucca Mountain is off the table and the blue ribbon panel meetings are starting to discuss long term solutions for waste storage. Will waste reprocessing be a viable option? Seems like a huge waste of potential energy to simply bury the spent fuel. On the other hand, the US has a lot of catching up to do to get into the waste reprocessing game.

Currently weapons grade fuel and reprocessed spent fuel is converted into mixed oxide (MOX) fuel for use in power reactors in several countries. The US has dedicated a significant amount of government research, but there is no current reprocessing or plans for future reprocessing.  There is a new facility in the works to convert weapons grade fuel into MOX fuel.  This is a new facility construction partnered by AREVA and Shaw Group.  http://www.moxproject.com/

History of reprocessing and associated technology

The main reason for reprocessing used fuel has been to recover unused uranium and plutonium in the used fuel elements completing the fuel cycle, gaining some 25% more energy from the original uranium in the process and thus contributing to energy security. A secondary reason is to reduce the volume of material to be disposed of as high-level waste to about one fifth. In addition, the level of radioactivity in the waste from reprocessing is much smaller and after about 100 years falls much more rapidly than in used fuel itself.

The recovery of all long-lived actinides together including plutonium can be then be used in fast reactors as they then end up as short-lived fission products. Long-term radioactivity is reduced in high-level wastes, and reducing the plutonium proliferation of the fuel cycle.

An Areva study (pdf) concludes that reprocessing and recycling would reduce U.S. waste volume by a factor of four for the same cooling period as once-through spent fuel -- about 50 years. Cooling period refers to the storage timer prior to internment in a long term waste storage site.  Such a cooling period allows radioactivity levels to be reduced to allow transport and storage.

Excellent article detailing the French process and state of US policy as of 2009:

I will add some additional technical data soon

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Electrical and Water Cyber security-- Time to innovate

Clinton: Cyber Security and Energy Security as NATO Priorities

During her NATO strategic concept speech, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton argued that "threats to our networks and infrastructure such as cyber attacks and energy disruptions" should be considered an Article 5 action, in which an attack on one is an attack on all.

The world is starting to realize the vulnerability of our automated and IT utility infrastructure.  The future may very well hold a wave of infrastructure and control system modernization.  Most of these systems will require a renewed and much more intense focus on data integrity, security, and control. 

DOE Office of the Chief Information Officer


The DOE CIP has created a new Qualified IT Project Management designation for work on government IT projects for both government employees and contractors working as PMs.  There is also a renewed focus on project management and PM certification.  IT quality assurance and systems engineering are specifically called out.

Top 50 VC-Funded Greentech Startups

Greentech Media announces the top 50 startups in greentech


Who has the best chance of survival as a new Green tech startup?  The following business areas were reviewed and the top candidates selected:

Smart Grid and EV Infrastructure
Green Buildings, Lighting
Biofuels and Biochemicals
Batteries, Fuel Cells, Energy Storage
Other Energy -- Wind, Nuclear, Cleaner Coal, Geothermal
Green IT

Monday, March 15, 2010

Nuclear market surges in 2008 and then dips in 2009--2010?

Seems like the "Nuclear Renaissance" was in full steam in 2008 with plans for many reactors and the announcement of new reactor component manufacturing facilities.  The vendors were ready to roll!  Then the economy had trouble, oil prices and energy demand dropped to the floor, and the uncertainty of loan guarantees cast a shadow on the Renaissance.  Our colleagues at the EPCs suffered some layoffs or slow downs.  Now we are focused on getting the first couple reactors kicked off, hoping to build momentum for the rest of the industry.

See previous post: http://powertrends.blogspot.com/2010/03/first-nuclear-plants-to-be-built.html

GlobalData's new report "Nuclear Energy Quarterly Deals Analysis Q4 2009"

Investments In The Nuclear Energy Industry Declined By 70% In Q4 2009
Global investments in the nuclear energy industry witnessed a huge decrease in deal value, reporting $12.5 billion in Q4 2009, compared to $41.4 billion in Q3 2009. The number of deals also declined from 186 deals in Q3 2009 to 141 deals in Q4 2009. On a year-on-year basis, the nuclear energy market declined by 39% in the number of deals and 72% in deal value in Q4 2009, when compared 233 deals worth $44.7 billion in Q4 2008. The difficulty in raising finance and start-up expenses, coupled with the global economic downturn, led to an overall decline in investments in Q4 2009.
The authors expect the industry to flourish in 2010 because the WNA energy index registered positive signs in Q4 2009, which will certainly boost investments in the near future. Meanwhile, new reactor projects are in progress in the US, the UK and other established nuclear countries. In the coming three to five years, however, Asia will likely dominate new reactor construction, led by China and India. Around 18 reactors were under construction at the end of 2009 in China and India signed the nuclear cooperation agreement.
The year 2009 ended with some positive news for the industry, as one of the potential countries in the nuclear energy market, the United Arab Emirates, awarded a contract for four nuclear reactors to Kepco of Korea, while the Canadian Government signed a civil nuclear cooperation agreement with India.

Source: http://finance.yahoo.com/news/Research-and-Markets-Nuclear-bw-2328486093.html?x=0&.v=1

Saturday, March 13, 2010

The price of Carbon Dioxide Emissions

A single nuclear reactor will cut carbon dioxide emissions by 16 million tons a year compared to a coal fired plant with similar electricity output. As stated by President Obama, building one of the new reactors will have the equivalent impact of taking 3.5 million cars off the road.

Many companies and countries are holding their breath for an international price on carbon.  Such a price would make carbon offsets possible.  A price on Carbon would put low or carbon free technologies at an immediate advantage, including nuclear.  Wasman Markey legislation includes carbon capture for coal plants and carbon offsets.

Waxman Markey legislation

This bill has been passed in the House. The bill now goes on to be voted on in the Senate. Keep in mind that debate may be taking place on a companion bill in the Senate, rather than on this particular bill. [Last Updated: Feb 28, 2010 6:05PM]

Good summary of major points of the legislation:  http://www.grist.org/article/2009-06-03-waxman-markey-bill-breakdown/

Friday, March 12, 2010

Relative comparison of energy production methods

A 1000-MW coal plant – our standard plant - is fed by a 110-car
“unit train” arriving at the plant every 30 hours – 300 times a year.
Each individual coal car weighs 100 tons and produces 20 minutes of
electricity. We are currently straining the capacity of the railroad
system moving all this coal around the coun...try. (In China, it has
completely broken down.) A nuclear reactor, on the other
hand, refuels when a fleet of six tractor-trailers arrives at the plant
with a load of fuel rods once every eighteen months. The fuel
rods are only mildly radioactive and can be handled with gloves. They
will sit in the reactor for five years. After those five years, about
six ounces of matter will be completely transformed into energy. Yet
because of the power of E = mc2, the metamorphosis of six ounces of
matter will be enough to power the city of San Francisco for five

Author William Tucker




Is baseload power really required?  Can conservation, solar and wind solve the problem...
This article says yes to baseload power and no to a future without new nuclear, coal, gas power plants:  http://www.theenergycollective.com/TheEnergyCollective/61753

Operating Expenses

The following graph from NEI shows the breakdown of fuel costs.  Nuclear is expensive upfront requiring large investments and loan guarntees to minimize the risk of investment.  Once built Nuclear is cheap and the KWhr costs are less than that of other utilities.  Hence the large profit that can be made with a reactor.  For example CT attempted to enact a windfall profit tax on utilities for the profit derived from cheap reactor operating costs.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Short term Power Generation Industry action--What Technologies are up and Coming

With the first Nuclear plants coming online in 2016/2017 and major construction, startup and testing in 2013/2014 what will we focus on in the next three years? 

Perhaps we will put our money on Advanced Biofuels and Carbon Capture Technology (CCT) or carbon-capture-and-sequestration (CCS) technologies.

Lets take a deeper look:

Algae Biofuel

Algae Bioreactor from: http://algaefuel.org/ shown in pic on right is a lab scale photo bioreactor.

DOE initiative-July 2009
Department of Energy (DOE) announced that they would offer up to $85 million in funding for the development of algae-based biofuels and advanced, infrastructure-compatible biofuels. The funding comes as part of the funds released from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The goal of the monies is to bring together a group of leading algae and advanced biofuels scientists and engineers from both universities and private industry in an attempt to bring new technologies and fuels to market in an accelerated time frame.

The trick is getting CO2 and light to a bioreactor and then control the growth and harvest the algae and protein.  Some are using light tubes others natural light.  CO2 can be harvested from smokestacks.  Some (Old Dominion University) are using sewage for growth media.

How an algae bioreactor works:

CO2-rich gas streams are introduced to the bioreactor, in which algae are suspended in a media with nutrients added to optimize the growth rate. A portion of the media is withdrawn continuously from the bioreactor and sent to dewatering to harvest the algae. The dewatering operation uses two stages of conventional processing. Primary dewatering increases the algae concentration by a factor of 10-30. Secondary dewatering further increases the algal solids concentration to yield a cake suitable for downstream processing. Water removed from the dewatering steps is returned to the bioreactor, with a small purge stream to prevent precipitation of salts. Make-up water is added to maintain the media volume. A blower pulls the flue gas through the bioreactor. Using an induced draft fan provides several operating advantages, including ensuring minimal disruption to power plant operations, simplifying retrofits to existing facilities.
The “downstream” unit operations for algal oil extraction and conversion of the dewatered algae into final fuel products, in contrast to the ”upstream” unit operations, are conventional technologies currently practiced on a large scale, e.g. biodiesel is currently produced from vegetable oils via transesterification (several algae species have lipids, starch, and protein compositions similar to soy and canola beans). Consequently the same facilities can be adapted to produce biodiesel from algae and conventional agricultural feeds. Some downstream processing options are listed below:
Final Product Primary Processing Steps
Biodiesel Extraction and transesterification
Ethanol Fermentation
Methane Anaerobic digestion
Hydrogen, synthesis gas Gasification
Solid biomass Drying

Source: http://www.warren.usyd.edu.au/bulletin/NO47/ed47art4.htm

Work at KU

University of Kansas November 2009
The Lawrence (KS) Journal-World & News reports University of Kansas scientists are working on one of just a few in the world functioning, pilot-scale bioreactors connected to a municipal wastewater treatment plant, where they’re turning sewer waste into the green fuel:
“From the point of view of the EPA, this should be like heaven,” said Val Smith, a KU professor of ecology and evolutionary biology. “We’re harnessing a waste, making it do work for America, and purifying it all at the same time.
“It’s like a win-win-win-win-win.”
The KU effort is being financed by the university’s Transportation Research Institute, using money from the U.S. Department of Transportation.
Bob Honea, the institute’s director, is confident that the work of KU researchers — collaborating on a “Feedstock to Tailpipe” program that includes a wide variety of biofuel efforts — is on the right track. Gasoline prices eventually will return to $4 a gallon or more, he said, and the world will continue to seek ways to lessen a reliance on petroleum.
Using algae to make biodiesel simply makes sense, Honea said, given the aquatic organisms’ built-in advantages compared with traditional crops: higher yields on less land.
KU officials believe they are the verge of a major breakthrough.

Active BioAlgae company- Sapphire Energy

 Sapphire has already developed breakthrough technology to produce fungible, drop-in transportation fuels—including 91 octane gasoline, 89 cetane diesel, and jet fuel—all out of algae, sunlight, and carbon dioxide (CO2). Or, what we like to call Green Crude.

In 2008, Sapphire successfully produced 91-octane gasoline from algae that fully conforms to ASTM certification standards. In 2009, we participated in a test flight using algae-based jet fuel in a Boeing 737-800 twin-engine aircraft. That same year, we provided the fuel for the world’s first cross-country tour of a gasoline vehicle powered with a complete drop-in replacement fuel containing a mixture of hydrocarbons refined directly from algae-based Green Crude. In 2010, we will break ground for our Integrated Algal Bio-Refinery in Southern New Mexico, a project that was awarded more than $100 million in federal grant money from the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act through the U.S. Department of Energy and a loan guarantee from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Bio-refinery Assistance Program.

Advanced Biofuels (Biomass) 

BP Initiatives

In April 2008, we acquired a 50% stake in Tropical BioEnergia SA, a joint venture with Santelisa Vale and Maeda Group, to produce bioethanol from sugarcane, the most efficient and lowest-carbon biofuel available today. Tropical’s first facility in Edéia, Goias State, Brazil, began production of bioethanol in September 2008 and is expected to have a capacity of 115 million US gallons.

In August 2008 we announced a $90million investment and strategic alliance with Verenium Corporation, US to develop lignocellulosic bioethanol, an advanced biofuel. Lignocellulosic ethanol is expected to have many advantages over first-generation ethanol including the use of non-food feedstock, such as miscanthus and energy cane, greater yield per acre of feedstock and potentially greater greenhouse gas emissions reductions compared with conventional fuels.

We have been working with DuPont since 2003 to explore new approaches to the development of biofuels. The first product from this collaboration will be a new fuel molecule called biobutanol. Biobutanol can be blended at higher concentrations than bioethanol, potentially providing further reductions in GHG emissions. We have also partnered with ABF (British Sugar) and DuPont to construct a $400 million world-scale bioethanol plant in Hull, UK. The plant will use some of the UK’s surplus of feed-grade wheat as its feedstock.

We are investing in a number of research programmes to develop advanced biofuels. These include:

  • A $500 million investment over 10 years in the US-based Energy Biosciences Institute (EBI), at which expert biotechnologists are investigating many applications of biotechnology to energy, including advanced fuels.
  • A $9.4 million project in India to examine the possibilities of using jatropha, an inedible oil bearing crop which can be grown on marginal land, as a biofuels component.
  • A research partnership with Arizona State University and Science Foundation Arizona to develop a renewable source of biofuel. One of the feedstocks being investigated is algae.
  • A collaboration with Mendel Biotechnology to develop energy grass feedstocks for the production of cellulosic biofuels.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The first Nuclear plants to be built?

Federal loan guarantee money is released and the race is on!  Southern Company is ahead with the certified Westinghouse AP1000 design and all their ducks in a row.  STP was to be next but they are having some trouble with partner CPS possibly leaving Calvert Cliffs and V.C. Summer as the ones to look for to secure the remaining federal loan guarantee money.   In the mean time President Obama is seeking an additional $36B in loan guarantees.


-Approved $8.3 billion in federal loan guarantees for two new Westinghouse AP1000 1,150 MW nuclear reactors at Southern's Vogtle site, Georgia

The rest of the peloton:

-Unistar Calvert Cliffs, MD using AREVAs EPR and
-V.C. Summer, SC for 2 Westinghouse AP1000 reactors
-NRG/CPS STP site in Texas using Toshibas ABWR

-Areva and Northrop Grumman are building a component manufacture facility in Newport News, VA.
-The Shaw Group and Westinghouse are building a similar plant near Baton Rouge, LA.
-Babcock & Wilcox are expanding their manufacturing capabilities in the Midwest.

Nice link on overall construction costs:  http://nuclearfissionary.com/2010/03/10/construction-costs-of-new-nuclear-energy-plants/

Recent news regarding a proposed reactor in Utah

Newcastle holdings is looking to build at the former uranium boomtown of Green River, UT.  Water rights are the first of many hurdles for this project.  It is in the initial planning stage.  The reactor will use a closed loop cooling water cycle so diverted water from the Green river will not be returned or used for other purposes.


Retrospective report on Powergen 2009, Las Vegas

General Impressions:
Record attendance at over 18,000 attendees with 27 countries represented.  Attendees are there to spend 1 to 2 days walking the exhibits looking for services and new industry trends.  Compared to most conferences where the attendees are forced to walk through the exhibit hall to get lunch and breaks.

Lots of startup and commissioning opportunities. Startup, commissioning, and independent verification recognized as important and vital to project success. 

There was a separate Nuclear Power section which was much much smaller and appeared to be very lightly attended. 

    State of the industry:
    -Smart grid getting $138M grant for Vegas.  General trend for smart grid improvement.
    -Energy efficiency is one of the keys for reducing energy use and CO2.  How can industry integrate commissioning and other services to help industry realize efficiency gains?
    -Once International and US sets a “price” for CO2 emissions the stage will be set for carbon capture and for increased likelihood of Nuclear and renewables.
    -Waxman Markey legislation passed house and is onto the Senate.  Huge implications for reductions and energy usage.
    -A global pact between US, India, China, and others which agrees on a path forward will be required to bring carbon and emission limits to a reality.
    -Natural gas plants have a 25% load factor.   Why only 25%?  Turns out it is utilization of those assets. -Biomass was mentioned as the next big project area.

      Welcome to this new blog


      My goal is to take news and information from various sources to inform and comment on the implications to the power industry and the much anticipated nuclear Renaissance.  

      From nuclear, coal, gas, to algae and advanced biofuels.