Court upholds EPA greenhouse gas regulations

July 18, 2012, 6:00AMANS Nuclear CafeJim Hopf

In a strongly worded unanimous decision, a federal appeals court recently upheld the Environmental Protection Agency's authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions, as well as the EPA's "endangerment finding" that holds that those gases present a threat to human health and welfare. The court also upheld the EPA's authority to "tailor" such regulations as it sees fit, which will allow the EPA to exempt small sources of emissions and focus its regulations on large emitters (which would be more practical, and a less expensive way of reducing emissions). The court stated that the EPA's interpretation of the Clean Air Act (CAA) requirements was "unambiguously correct" and that its proposed rules were neither capricious nor arbitrary.

Congressional debate over terms of future 123 agreements

May 7, 2012, 6:00AMANS Nuclear CafeJim Hopf

In 2009, the United States and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) signed a "123" agreement, which allowed the transfer of US nuclear technology (e.g., reactors, etc.) to the UAE. As a condition of the agreement, the UAE gave up all rights to enrich uranium or reprocess spent nuclear fuel, now and at any point in the future. Thus, the UAE agreed to give up significant rights that are granted to it as a signee of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

Solyndra, and its possible impacts on nuclear

November 29, 2011, 7:00AMANS Nuclear CafeJim Hopf

I'm sure everyone has heard all about the Solyndra "scandal" by now. There have been too many news stories to count on this subject (no need to provide links). So, instead of delving into the details, or giving a blow by blow account of all the events and the hearings in Congress, I will focus on the impacts this whole affair may have on government support for nuclear, and for clean energy in general.

The Dispatch Queue – An Alternative Means of Accounting for External Costs?

September 28, 2011, 6:00AMANS Nuclear CafeJim Hopf

Without much going on recently that hasn't been covered by other blog posts, I'd like to explore a topic not specifically tied to nuclear power or to activities currently going on in Washington, D.C. It involves an idea I have about a possible alternative means of having the electricity market account for the public health and environmental costs of various energy sources, and encouraging the development and use of cleaner sources (including nuclear) without requiring legislation. Given the failure of Congress to take action on global warming, as well as environmental issues in general, non-legislative approaches to accomplishing environmental goals may be necessary.

Small Modular Reactors and Current Policy Initiatives

June 20, 2011, 6:00AMANS Nuclear CafeJim Hopf

Over the past year or so, there has been a lot of buzz about small modular reactors (SMRs). These are reactors whose electrical output ranges anywhere from ~25 MW to ~300 MW, as compared with over 1000 MW for large "conventional" nuclear power plants. With SMRs, the entire reactor (or possibly the entire nuclear island-NSSS) could be built in a factory and shipped to the site. Any site construction would be much more limited, and would only involve the (non-nuclear) balance of plant. Descriptions of some proposed SMRs can be found herehere and here.

Nuclear Waste Policy Recommendations from Blue Ribbon Commission

May 18, 2011, 6:00AMANS Nuclear CafeJim Hopf

On May 13, the Blue Ribbon Commission on America's Nuclear Future released its draft conclusions and recommendations. Despite its more general sounding title, the commission's work mostly concerned the nuclear waste issue. It was created by President Obama's administration primarily to investigate alternatives to the proposed Yucca Mountain repository, after the administration moved to shut that program down. While the commission did release some recommendations on other issues such as advanced reactors and Fukishima, this post will focus on its recommendations concerning nuclear waste policy.

Thoughts on President Obama’s Clean Energy Standard proposal

January 28, 2011, 7:00AMANS Nuclear CafeJim Hopf

In his State of the Union speech on January 25, President Barack Obama advocated a Clean Energy Standard that includes natural gas as well as renewables, nuclear and "clean coal." In my previous post on Clean Energy Standards, I said that if the standard were expanded to include natural gas generation, then the required clean energy percentage would have to be increased substantially in order for the policy to remain meaningful, particularly if gas is given "full credit" (i.e., is treated no differently than non-emitting generation).

China announces a 3000-year fuel resource

January 4, 2011, 7:00AMANS Nuclear CafeRod Adams

On Monday, January 3, 2011, China Central Television announced that scientists and engineers at the China National Nuclear Corporation's No. 404 Factory, located in the Gobi desert in Gansu province, had demonstrated their mastery of nuclear fuel recycling technology that would allow them to improve fuel utilization by a factor of 60 over the current once-through fuel cycle they are using. This means that a resource base that was projected to last between 50-70 years would now have the potential to last 3000-4200 years. For a country full of people who think in terms of millennia, I assume that this was very good news indeed.

Good progress report from South Carolina's new nuclear power plant

November 1, 2010, 11:38AMANS Nuclear CafeRod Adams

A friend wrote me a nice note the other day that has brightened my outlook on the future of nuclear energy in the United States. Like many people who write about both the industry and the technology, I have been focusing on the complex story of nuclear loan guarantees. As an Annapolis, Md., resident and DC area worker, it was difficult to escape the frequently negative news coverage of the troubled Calvert Cliffs unit 3 project.