Archive for the ‘Government & Policy’ Category

April 1, 2014 | 4:41 pm

Five Letters to the Obama Administration (and a Russian report) Raise Concerns about Stopping MOX Project

GrahamScottLtrA combination of concerns about nuclear nonproliferation, recent actions by Russia, proposed budget reallocation by the Obama Administration, and the unsupported declaration of “cold-standby” status for the MOX Project by Department of Energy (DOE) Secretary Moniz prompted a surge of questions from seven senators and more than 20 Congressional representatives, the Chair of the DOE-designated Community Reuse Organization for the Savannah River Site, the president of the Nuclear Energy Institute, suppliers and others.

In a recent letter to President Obama following the announcement of securing 700 pounds of weapons-grade plutonium from Japan, Senators Tim Scott (R-SC) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) stated,

“While we understand the need to secure vulnerable materials, we remain extremely concerned about the reckless decision in your Fiscal Year 2015 budget that abandons the Mixed Oxide Fuel (MOX) program at the Savannah River Site (SRS) that is intended to turn weapons grade plutonium in to usable fuel for commercial power reactors. Your Administration has failed to propose any alternative to the MOX program, which if shuttered will abandon 34 metric tons of weapons-grade plutonium in South Carolina and Texas for an indefinite period of time while the Federal government pays hundreds of millions of dollars in fines to the state … The completion of MOX facility is paramount to the United States upholding the Plutonium Management and Disposition Agreement (PMDA) with Russia to dispose of a total of 68 metric tons of weapons grade plutonium- 2 14 times the size of the agreement with Japan.”

Additional concerns were emphasized in a letter from 21 Members of Congress to Secretary Moniz about the potentially significant national security risks incurred by the Administration’s proposed actions,

“At a time when The Administration is attempting to negotiate a nuclear nonproliferation agreement with Iran, defaulting on our own agreement sends a conflicting message to the international community. Additionally, halting progress on MOX will allow Russia to discontinue efforts towards disposing of their material. This could prove dangerous for our allies around the world and jeopardize our own national security as environmental cleanup of the plutonium at SRS would be stymied.”

… and the appropriate use of Congressionally approved funding for completing the 60% constructed MOX Project facility without redirecting the money for placing the project on cold-standby,

“The funds were not authorized or appropriated for cold standby, and we request they be used only for construction as Congress intended. We are concerned that the intent of Congress is being ignored and as a result we may see a usurpation of Congress’ power of the purse.”

Prior to the recent international Nuclear Safety Summit at The Hague, Rep. Joe Wilson (R-SC) discussed with Secretary of State John Kerry (video) the potential negative impacts to America’s global nonproliferation leadership if the Obama Administration’s FY 2015 budget proposal to Congress minimally funds the MOX Project and subjects the project to “cold-standby” stagnation while re-examining previously discarded options.

A recent report by the Center for Arms Control, Energy and Environmental Studies based in Russia clearly describes as unacceptable the Obama Administration’s consideration of alternative options to the agreed upon MOX process,

“It is evident that the eventual repudiation by the American side of the previously agreed upon method of plutonium disposition will have an influence on the implementation of the PMDA Agreement …  Immobilization does not guarantee full irreversibility since mixing plutonium with radioactive waste does not change its isotopic composition and does not exclude in principle the possibility of plutonium extraction from the mixture … A deviation from one of the basic provisions of the Agreement would hardly find a positive response from Russian experts who always asserted that a real weapon grade plutonium disposition is possible only through its irradiation in MOX fuel of civilian nuclear reactors thus assuring an irreversible withdrawal from weapon’s program.”

Five county officials in the MOX Project region stated strong reservations in a letter to Secretary Moniz about the Administration pursuing undefined alternative options other than honoring the mixed oxide process detailed in our agreement with Russia, and the ongoing weapons-grade plutonium security risks to their region from perpetuated storage.

“However, down-blending through H-canyon currently does not meet the definition of “disposition” in the Plutonium Management and Disposition Agreement. Thus, to make down-blending acceptable, U.S. negotiators will have to get that concession agreed to by the Russians. Clearly, all of this will take time, which means the plutonium will remain in its current dangerous form longer and be stored in our state and region longer.”

… and questions the Department of Energy’s undefined and undisclosed calculation of overall lifecycle cost for our nation’s plutonium disposal program and its application to the single program segment represented by the MOX Project.

“DOE officials assert the current “life cycle costs” analysis indicates the project is unsustainably expensive and less expensive alternatives will be evaluated. However, to our knowledge, DOE has not provided specific documentation to identify less-expensive options nor provided timelines to demonstrate a new alternative would remove plutonium from South Carolina faster than the current MOX program. Furthermore, documentation of life-cycle costs has not been made available to stakeholders. This seemingly contradicts the Administration’s strong stance on transparency.”

The MOX Project is designed to permanently change 34 tons of U.S. surplus weapons-grade plutonium into safe, stable, and secure nuclear reactor fuel to reliably power American industry, hospitals, and homes. By processing this 34 tons of plutonium into 1,000-plus nuclear reactor fuel assemblies, the MOX Project output would represent more than $20 billion worth of electricity (enough power for 15 million homes for a year) and create more than 4,000 American jobs.

U.S. utilities have expressed an interest in receiving MOX nuclear fuel, but inaction by the Department of Energy has stymied progress in this area, as described in this letter to Secretary Moniz by Dr. Winsor, Board Chair of the Savannah River Site Community Reuse Organization (SRSCRO) – the U. S. Department of Energy’s designated Community Reuse Organization for the Savannah River Site (SRS).

“A theme constantly used by those opposed to MOX is the lack of a commercial customer for the MOX fuel. The real story is that several of America’s largest nuclear operators have expressed interest in MOX fuel. However, the MOX contractor is unable to complete any commercial contracts until DOE signs the Commercial Agreement (also known as the Master Fuel Contract) that allows the negotiation of sales prices, terms and conditions. Bona fide negotiations of this Commercial Agreement, between NNSA and the MOX contractor, were completed more than a year ago, but DOE has provided no reasons why the Agreement has not yet been signed to date.”

The U.S. nuclear industry also encourages the Administration to honor its signed commitments with Russia and the American people to complete the MOX Project and demonstrate its ability to fulfill its obligations. As stated in this letter by NEI president Marv Fertel,

“To cancel, suspend or simply reduce funding for the project will, unfortunately, validate those critics of the Department of Energy who claim it simply cannot complete complex projects, particularly those concerning nuclear materials disposition. Unfortunately, DOE’s history with this and other large complex projects does not instill confidence in the commercial industry that the MOX program will be able to deliver commercial fuel to utilities on an agreed-to schedule. However, DOE can and should begin to reverse this trend, and begin to restore confidence by following through with the construction and operation of the MOX facility on a set schedule.”

Taken together, these letters provide a comprehensive perspective on the value of MOX Project, the negative impact of a “cold-standby” status, and the many benefits achieved by its completion as originally defined, approved, contracted, and funded by Congress and the Administration.

September 5, 2012 | 9:49 pm

Nuclear on the National Agenda

This political season provides a rare opportunity to engage our elected representatives in an energy discussion on the national stage.

Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi responds to reporters at The Monitor Breakfast. (Image source: Sarah Beth Glicksteen/Special to the Christian Science Monitor)

To spark this conversation, AREVA hosted media events at both conventions, first with House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner, and then today with Minority House Leader Nancy Pelosi.

Both representatives referenced their parties’ support for clean energy—nuclear energy is in both the Republican and Democrat platforms—and the need for cooperative efforts to achieve it.  

Both parties are discussing “all of the above” national energy strategies to achieve an agenda of economic and environmental goals, though they have varying priorities. As Minority Leader Pelosi said this morning,

“If you don’t have an agenda, if your agenda is “Do nothing,” there’s nothing to negotiate. Better that you have an opponent with a full agenda.”

As both party platforms indicate, their energy agendas include a solid national foundation of low carbon nuclear energy. With that foundation, America can make the best use of our regional renewable energies.

We have long held the position that nuclear isn’t the only solution, but it must be part of the solution to provide everyone access to safe, clean and affordable electricity.

Minority Leader Pelosi also emphasized the cooperative value of a long-term energy vision, noting how her party negotiated an energy agreement with its own members, and then with President Bush to pass the Energy Policy Act of 2005. The same legislation was recently used by President Obama to advance automotive fuel efficiency standards for the first time in 32 years.

We applaud these efforts to develop long-term energy strategies. As we stated in our earlier post with Speaker Boehner, “Such a visionary plan achieves our [national] environmental and energy goals while spurring U.S. jobs and economic growth, and regaining global technology leadership.”

These goals are goals we all want, and as Minority Leader Pelosi concluded,

“And so, if they had something they want, then you can make some kind of an agreement. Nobody was elected monarch. We all have to compromise on these things. Not our principles, but some of our timing of our goals.”

Sounds like the start of productive energy negotiations.

August 28, 2012 | 8:12 pm

“All-of-the-Above” Built on Nuclear

On Monday, U.S. House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner echoed a statement that we at AREVA have been saying for several years now. A successful energy policy is an “all-of-the-above” national energy plan.

Speaker John Boehner responds to reporters at The Monitor luncheon. (Image source: Sarah Beth Glicksteen/Special to the Christian Science Monitor)

Speaker John Boehner responds to reporters at The Monitor luncheon. (Image source: Sarah Beth Glicksteen/Special to the Christian Science Monitor)

Speaker Boehner’s comments came during Monday’s AREVA-sponsored Monitor Lunch, one of the activities at the Republican National Convention. In a conversation with journalist Elena Shore, Boehner stated that his colleagues in the Republican Party are for an all-of-the-above national energy plan.

We agree with Speaker Boehner and believe the best national energy plan must make the best use of all forms of energy today, and cast the vision for transitioning to a clean energy economy using non-carbon-emitting sources in the future.

This is a future based on “all of the above” clean energy sources—like powerful, steady, nationwide nuclear energy combined with a broad portfolio of regional renewable energies. We have long held the position that nuclear isn’t the only solution, but it must be part of the solution to provide everyone access to safe, clean and affordable electricity.

Such a visionary plan achieves our environmental and energy goals while spurring U.S. jobs and economic growth, and regaining global technology leadership.

This is a vision that also requires political leadership, and we thank you, Mr. Speaker, for joining us at the Monitor event and discussing the important topic of our nation’s energy future.

To read more about Monday’s event, check out the event videos and commentary.

November 22, 2011 | 1:32 pm

GAO Report: Recycling Used Nuclear Fuel in U.S.

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report last week detailing used fuel options for the United States as reviewed by the Department of Energy (DOE) titled, “NUCLEAR FUEL CYCLE OPTIONS: DOE Needs to Enhance Planning for Technology Assessment and Collaboration with Industry and Other Countries.”

Beginning on page 46 is a 12-page analysis and commentary of AREVA’s used nuclear fuel recycling process in France, including a graphic (pg. 52) summarizing the process fuel output and waste generated. This section highlights the fact that about 96% of the energy in used nuclear fuel can be recycled, and this recycling reduces by around 75% the physical amount of leftover fuel needing long-term storage. In France, both recycled uranium and plutonium are used as fuel in reactors and reliably provide the French with the lowest cost electricity in Europe without carbon emissions.

With the ongoing U.S. used nuclear fuel debate in mind, we encourage you to review the report [PDF link] and learn more about the benefits gained by implementing the complete nuclear fuel process here in the United States.

November 18, 2011 | 1:45 pm

Christine Todd Whitman: “Nuclear Needs to Remain Central”

Yesterday we saw another very solid well reasoned and powerful op-ed from former administrator of the EPA, Christine Todd Whitman.

And we applaud the argument that it isn’t “nuclear vs. renewables” but that nuclear energy provides a crucial compliment to renewable energy sources as an always on backstop or “baseload” source of energy. As she put it well:

Renewable power suffers from problems of intermittency; it is very difficult to predict how much the wind will blow or how strong the sun will shine. The American electricity grid — built to connect massive, centralized, “always on” power plants to consumers — is unable to handle the unpredictability that a substantial increase in renewable power would bring. Natural gas, too, faces economic hurdles — it has a history of rapid and extreme price fluctuations that have made utilities reluctant to rely on it.

Until these problems are solved, our electricity system requires a stable, cheap source of energy to provide “always on” baseload power. The only candidates for such power in today’s energy mix are nuclear or coal power plants. We are learning that mining and burning coal provides too much danger to human health to base our electricity system on it: a new study in the American Economic Review has found that the air pollution emitted by coal-fired electricity generation is greater than the value it adds to economy. Nuclear power, on the other hand, can provide emissions-free baseload power at a low cost.

Today, a total of 104 nuclear reactors are operational around the country. They provide about 20 percent of the country’s total electricity. No other electricity source can combine the benefits of knowing that it will always be on with its affordability and its lack of emissions….This cheap, always available, zero-carbon power is an important backstop to the growth of new technologies. It can help smooth the price fluctuations that natural gas is vulnerable to and it provides the “always on” capacity that renewable power cannot.

Read the whole article here.

October 25, 2011 | 4:46 pm

Recycling Option Debated at Latest Blue Ribbon Commission Hearing

The Blue Ribbon Commission (BRC) on America’s Nuclear Future held its latest public meeting in Washington, D.C., on Oct. 20 to solicit comments on its draft recommendations for managing the nation’s nuclear waste. Over the past month, the BRC has held meetings at locations around the country to receive feedback on its draft report that it will give to the administration next year.

In a panel focused on advanced technology, the discussion focused on whether recycling nuclear fuel could provide a feasible option for the United States. David Jones, Senior V.P. at AREVA Inc. and Chairman of the U.S. Nuclear Infrastructure Council, pointed out that recycling nuclear fuel is a proven, economical and safe option for the United States to consider as a possibility for managing some of the nation’s used fuel.
read more…

October 18, 2011 | 10:52 am

Governor’s Conference on Energy

We’re watching the good discussions from political and business leaders coming from the “Governor’s Conference on Energy” in Virginia… good to see former EPA head Christine Todd Whitman’s voice on how nuclear is “extremely safe” and the “most important” form of clean energy. And good to see other voices highlighting the serious energy needs and challenges we face as a country.

If you are there and have any of your own impressions of things, do add comments here or you can also send us those via Twitter or on Facebook.

October 17, 2011 | 11:32 am

Quote of the Day

“Virginia voters approve 71 – 20 percent of using nuclear power to produce electricity and support 60 – 32 percent the construction of new nuclear plants in the commonwealth.”

From Quinnipac University polling of Virginia voters, October 12th, 2011

October 5, 2011 | 3:53 pm

Take Action Supporting Nuclear Power

Brian Wang highlights on his blog a petition supporting nuclear power that is being submitted through the White House’s “We the People” program. This government initiative provides U.S. citizens a means to petition the government.

The pro-nuclear petition needs 5,000 signatures by 10/23 to be accepted by the Obama Administration for consideration.

The petition states,

We petition the Obama Administration to:

Educate the Public Regarding Nuclear Power.

This petition is a response to the “End taxpayer subsidies for new nuclear reactors” petition.

Due to the manufactured controversy that is the nuclear reactor meltdown in Fukushima, Japan, perpetuated by a scientifically illiterate news media, the public is unnecessarily hostile to nuclear power as an energy source.

To date nobody has died from the accident and Fukushima, and nuclear power has the lowest per Terra-watt hour death toll of any energy source known to man:

http://nextbigfuture.com/2011/03/deaths-per-twh-by-energy-source.html

The Obama administration should take better strides to educate the public regarding this important energy source.

Go to the “We the People” website and take action.

August 17, 2011 | 6:44 pm

SPOTLIGHT: U.S. Nuclear Safety is as Nuclear Safety Does

Multiple strengthening grids integral to EPR reactor construction.

Being defined by one’s actions instead of just words can be a daunting reality, but modern nuclear reactor facilities and designs unabashedly confirm the U.S. nuclear industry’s commitment and culture focused on safety.

This commitment created an astounding statistic: From the day President Eisenhower commissioned the first reactor to the present day, the ongoing commercial operations of U.S. nuclear reactors have caused zero (0) deaths in the workforce and general public. And modern reactors are designed to maintain that safety commitment with advanced technology and techniques.

For example, AREVA’s 1,600+ megawatt U.S. EPR™ reactor design completing review by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) represents additional advancements in secure, robust construction and multi-layer preventive and reactive safety systems. Here are the details divided out by the numbers …
read more…