Nuclear Energy

TVA to Start First New U.S. Nuclear Plant in Nearly 20 Years

The Tennessee Valley Authority received approval from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to begin operating a reactor in Tennessee. Originally licensed 4 decades ago, the reactor suspended construction until 2007. The plant is expected to begin producing power in 2016. Read more here.

A Plan for Energy Scarcity

The Obama Administration this week unveiled its agenda aimed at combating climate change. The problem is, if we take the President at his word that carbon-based energy (which provides around 80% of all energy used in the U.S. and the world) is damaging the planet, then his plan to regulate energy use in the U.S. will have no significant impact on global carbon dioxide levels.

We can all agree that reducing emissions is a good thing, but  methods for emissions reductions should be considered in the context of the economy and U.S. competitiveness.  Policy actions that increase the cost of energy will have a direct negative impact on the U.S. economy at a time when jobs and household incomes are the overriding quality of life issues in America.

President Obama mentions that U.S. CO2 emissions are down to where they were 20 years ago. Total U.S. carbon emissions for this year are about 5.2 billion, while the 1990 figure was about 5 billion.

And while he does mention the U.S.’s steady decline of carbon emissions, he fails to mention that China and India will continue to be big emitters and therefore cause global CO2 levels to rise. By hindering U.S. development of a new generation of coal technologies, these overseas emitters will continue to burn coal in the traditional manner and will render U.S. government initiatives moot in terms of the overall global picture.

It is worth noting that in this sweeping proposal there is not  serious consideration of nuclear power, the one truly scalable and reliable source of carbon free energy. President Obama mentions the resource once, and that is merely to announce that we are building our first reactors in more than 30 years in Georgia and South Carolina. If the Administration was truly concerned about carbon dioxide levels in the environment, one would think it would be a strong advocate for aggressive expansion in nuclear power.  Instead it didn’t have much to say about America’s nuclear future.

The American public should understand that the Administration’s intention is to regulate energy from coal, America’s largest source of electricity, to the point that it’s priced out of the market.  In other words, electricity costs will increase, and domestic fuel options, a key U.S. competitive advantage, will decrease.   A U.S. economy that has always thrived on abundant, affordable energy could soon be an economy facing energy scarcity, and a sector that has been a foundation of our country and produces numerous high quality jobs will soon be scaled back severely all because we continue to further restrict ourselves while the rest of the world burns on.


Hot Topics at the Institute

Energy Intensive Manufacturing: The shale revolution has made America the most energy rich country in the world, when counting all domestic energy sources. Because of this advantage, energy intensive manufacturers worldwide looking to expand are looking in the U.S. and some are reshoring in the U.S. after stints overseas. With the myriad of interstate natural gas pipelines and robust electric power generation and transmission, Mississippi is uniquely positioned for manufacturing expansion. A reliable supply of energy is a critically important requirement for long-term investments, so how does Mississippi leverage its energy supply to attract industry? Related News:

Energy Workforce: Energy related jobs in Mississippi pay about twice the private sector average. While the national economy is sluggish, one of the bright spots is energy, and Mississippi has a good reputation as a place for energy investment. To keep up with workforce demand in an ever-changing and more technology-oriented energy sector, special attention to workforce development in the energy sector makes sense considering the high wages in this industry. If Mississippi’s goal is to expand its energy sector, including energy-consuming manufacturing, an adequate workforce pipeline system is required. Related News:

Nuclear Power Industry: In the early 1980’s, the federal government rightfully adopted a policy to establish a consolidated storage and management system for nuclear fuel used in nuclear power plants. Thirty years later, very little progress has been made. To position itself as a nuclear energy industry leader, Mississippi communities should consider the economic opportunities associated with consolidated fuel storage. Technology options today and on the horizon include fuel reprocessing, small modular reactors, and fast reactors or other advanced reactors. Wherever the location, consolidated fuel storage could attract tremendous investment and nuclear industry activity (i.e.high-paying jobs) and is worth serious consideration as a major economic development initiative. Related Commentary:

Research and Development: While the four Mississippi research universities perform well in various energy related research fields, Mississippi as a whole has had very little private R and D or technology commercialization in energy. For sustainable economic growth, innovation is required, and if Mississippi can stake a reputation in technology development over time, a long-lasting economic impact will be the result. Related News:

Diversity, Stability Key to State’s Energy Future

The following opinion article was written by Patrick Sullivan and published in the 2/9/13 edition of the Clarion Ledger.

One year ago, I wrote about the difficulty of building large infrastructure projects and developing energy in America today. At the time, the Keystone Pipeline project, which would supply our country with more oil, as well as offshore energy expansion in Mississippi waters, was the subject of debate.

If we want our economy to grow, infrastructure expansion and energy development are absolutely necessary, and many of these projects like power plants, ports, pipelines, sewer systems and highways are rather large and capital-intensive. They are projects that require a great deal of coordination and broad support from the people and their elected officials. That is why it is so discouraging to see organizations with no real answers for energy in our state attempt to block important projects, thereby hurting our competitiveness, raising expenses and potentially costing jobs. Mississippi Power’s lignite gasification electric power plant in Kemper County is the latest target of this build-nothing-anywhere movement in America.

For those confused by the arguments for or against this project, looking at a previous example may help. In the mid-1970s, Entergy set out with plans to construct a large-scale nuclear power plant at Grand Gulf in Claiborne County. The debate then was quite similar to today’s debate on the Kemper County plant. Opponents said the Grand Gulf plant would cost too much, while proponents said it was the right long-term decision. We now have the benefit of 30 years of experience to judge the performance of that project. The opponents were wrong, just as they are today.

Were the initial capital costs for construction high, requiring rate increases in the 1980s? Of course, but the guiding policy principle then is still the same 30 years later. That is, in electric power generation, avoiding over-reliance on one energy resource is too risky. It is better to diversify.

The capital cost of power generation projects is high, and that cost of capital is critically important to Mississippi ratepayers. Therefore, when investors in energy projects are able to look at Mississippi as a more predictable and safer place to invest, rates will be lower and large projects will cost Mississippi energy consumers less.

Having diversity in energy and producing more of our own energy should be major guiding policy principles. It makes sense both financially and from an energy security perspective. Innovative financing and, importantly, certainty to encourage investment are key components to keeping rates down when we have to build a new power plant. Experts and public officials agree that a new base load power plant is needed by 2014.

Getting down to it, we have three main fuel options for base load power production today — natural gas, nuclear and coal. Natural gas is abundantly available and favorably priced, and natural gas power plants are relatively inexpensive. However, about 65 percent of electricity in Mississippi is made with natural gas, meaning that the future for Mississippi energy consumers is already heavily leveraged on the future of natural gas prices, and the price of fuel makes up the biggest part of power bills. Both coal and nuclear are considerably more costly during construction but have lower and more stable fuel costs over the decades of operations. A healthy mix of all three energy sources is in the best interest of reliability and risk management, and that’s exactly what a coal gasification plant helps achieve. By approving the Kemper County project, the Mississippi Public Service Commission has taken an important step toward long-term energy security for our state.

Nuclear Proven to be Safe during Hurricane Sandy

With Japan’s Fukushima disaster still fresh on minds, Hurricane Sandy provided the U.S. a good test against nuclear power facilities and other infrastructure along the highly populated East Coast. Nuclear proved to be the best when tested against the strengths of Hurricane Sandy in the Northeast. Some of the nation’s oldest nuclear plants rode out the strongest Atlantic storm in history.

Recycling Spent Nuclear Fuel: An Easy Answer for the U.S.?

The United States does not recycle its used nuclear fuel like Russia, Japan and other European countries, but new advanced drivers are reviving the possibility of recycling the nation’s spent nuclear fuel. According to Andrew Sowder, senior project manager in EPRI’s Used Fuel and High-Level Waste Management Program, “The primary driver for the recycling of UNF is to increase utilization of available natural resources for energy generation. Waste management benefits are secondary and advanced fuel cycle technologies are not needed for the safe disposal of used fuel and high-level waste.” Read more from Nuclear Energy Insider  here.

MEI Participates in Nuclear Infrastructure Council Meeting

The Mississippi Energy Institute participated in a Special Workshop on Centralized Spent Fuel Management Approaches hosted by the United States Nuclear Infrastructure Council. The event was a gathering of industry experts and groups from eight states interested in opportunities and solutions associated with used nuclear fuel. The Mississippi Energy Institute is monitoring various Congressional proposals for used nuclear fuel management and continues to view conceptual solutions as a major, long-term development opportunitiy for Mississippi in terms of federal investment, jobs, R and D, and nuclear power industry expansion.

Southern Co. Receives Approval of Georgia Nuclear Reactors

Atlanta-based Southern Company received approval for the contstruction of two nuclear reactors at Plant Vogtle in eastern Georgia. These two reactors will join two existing reactors that have been in operation for 25 and 23 years. The new reactors are expected to begin operation in 2016 and 2017. This will be among the largest construction projects in Georgia’s history, representing capital investments of $14billion and bringing the state, by the firm’s estimate, 3,500 construction jobs and 800 permanent jobs.