Nuclear Power in a Warming World: Solution or Illusion? 4

Posted by Brad Johnson Wed, 12 Mar 2008 13:30:00 GMT

This hearing will explore the degree to which nuclear power could provide a solution for addressing climate change.

The contemplated future role of nuclear power in reducing global greenhouse gas emissions will clearly require a monumental capital investment, many years if not decades of planning and construction, extensive international coordination, and substantial assumption of risk by the general public and by investors. This hearing will examine the feasibility of achieving such a nuclear expansion, the costs and benefits of this nuclear path, and whether nuclear power can play a leading role in solving the climate challenge.

Wtinesses
  • Amory Lovins, Cofounder, Chairman, and Chief Scientist of the Rocky Mountain Institute
  • Sharon Squassoni, Senior Associate in the Nonproliferation Program of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
  • David Lochbaum, Director of the Nuclear Safety Project for the Union of Concerned Scientists

Nuclear Regulatory Commission oversight, focusing on the security of our nation's nuclear plants

Posted by Brad Johnson Thu, 28 Feb 2008 15:00:00 GMT

Carbon, Competition, and Kilowatts 11

Posted by Brad Johnson Tue, 12 Feb 2008 15:30:00 GMT

America’s Energy Future: Carbon, Competition, and Kilowatts: An Address by John Rowe, President and CEO, Exelon Corporation

On February 12, the Brookings Institution will host John W. Rowe, chairman, chief executive officer and president of Exelon Corporation, the country’s largest electric and gas utility and largest nuclear operator, for a discussion of critical energy challenges facing the United States.

Rowe is regarded as one of the utility industry’s leading voices on energy and public policy. He has a long history of participating in collaborative efforts with policymakers and key stakeholders in fashioning pragmatic solutions to energy challenges, at both the federal and state levels. Rowe has served as a co-chair of the National Commission on Energy Policy as well as the Edison Electric Institute; he currently serves as chair of the Nuclear Energy Institute.

Rowe will share his views and recommendations on the pressing and inter-related challenges that must be addressed to meet this country’s growing energy needs in an environmentally responsible manner, including: global climate change and emerging federal legislative energy initiatives; the case for competitive wholesale markets in the electric industry and the risks of returning to traditional state regulation; the need for more low-carbon nuclear power and the roadblocks to its expanded use; and general observations on managing energy politics at the national, state, and community levels.

After the program, Mr. Rowe will take audience questions.

Participants

Introduction and Moderator
  • David B. Sandalow, Senior Fellow, Foreign Policy
Featured Speaker
  • John Rowe, President and CEO, Exelon Corporation

Falk Auditorium
The Brookings Institution
1775 Massachusetts Ave., NW
Washington, DC

Uranium in Virginia 14

Posted by Brad Johnson Wed, 02 Jan 2008 13:06:00 GMT

In today’s Washington Post, Anita Kumar writes Uranium Lode in Va. Is Feared, Coveted:
Underneath a plot of farmland used to raise cattle, hay and timber in south central Virginia lies what is thought to be the largest deposit of uranium in the United States.

Now, three decades after the deposit was found, landowner Walter Coles has set his sights on mining the 200-acre site despite concerns of environmental groups and residents about unearthed radioactive material that could contaminate the area’s land, air and source of drinking water.

Coles is attempting to convince the Virginia General Assembly to approve a $1 million safety study in advance of reversing the 25-year ban on uranium mining in the state. Gov. Timothy Kaine (D) supports the study. Others lobbying for approval include Coles’s brother-in-law Whitt Clement, a former legislator, and investor Henry Hurt, whose son is a state senator.

Enviro Groups Attack Nuclear, Coal Loan Provisions in Appropriations Omnibus 2

Posted by Brad Johnson Mon, 17 Dec 2007 18:11:00 GMT

The omnibus appropriations bill (H.R. 2764) wending its way to passage in the year-end Congressional rush.

As EE News reports, included in the bill are $18.5 billion in nuclear loan guarantees that have been championed by Sen. Pete Domenici (R-N.M.) and Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.). Related provisions grant $6 billion for coal-based power generation and industrial gasification activities at retrofitted and new facilities that incorporate carbon capture and sequestration; $2 billion for advanced coal gasification; $10 billion for renewable and/or energy efficient systems and manufactoring and distributed energy generation, transmission and distribution; and $2 billion for uranium enrichment technology.

The loan guarantees come with the caveat that Congressional appropriators must approve any project implementation 45 days before the Department of Energy could activate the guarantee.

Funding for continuing nuclear programs includes $1.1 billion for DOE’s nuclear programs and $8.8 billion for the National Nuclear Security Administration.

Environmental groups have come out strongly against the nuclear and coal-to-liquids provisions. NRDC’s Heather Taylor told EE News, “The loan guarantee is certainly a poison pill for us. It’s an investment in the bad policies of the past.

In a joint letter to Congress, seventeen environmental organizations wrote:
On behalf of our millions of members and activists, we regretfully ask you to vote no on H.R. 2764, the State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Appropriations Act, 2008 (Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2008) because it would take America down a dirty energy path. Although Congress started with the promise of leading our country into a new energy future, H.R. 2764 breaks faith and continues the misguided, polluting policies of the past.
VOTE NO ON H.R. 2764, THE CONSOLIDATED APPROPRIATIONS ACT, 2008

Dear Representative:

On behalf of our millions of members and activists, we regretfully ask you to vote no on H.R. 2764, the State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Appropriations Act, 2008 (Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2008) because it would take America down a dirty energy path. Although Congress started with the promise of leading our country into a new energy future, H.R. 2764 breaks faith and continues the misguided, polluting policies of the past.

While Congress is poised to take historic steps to slow global warming, those positive steps would be undermined by approving H.R. 2764, which would invest taxpayer dollars in loan guarantees for polluting, expensive energy technologies. If passed, almost $30 billion would go to subsidizing dangerous, costly, and polluting industries, like nuclear power and coal. Rather than promoting clean energy resources, the bill wastes money to help launch an industry that produces liquid fuels from coal (“liquid coal”), which emits about twice as much global warming pollution as gasoline. We acknowledge that key oversight provisions were included, but we still believe that Congress should reject this proposal and keep its promise to forge a clean energy future.

It is also unfortunate that the bill also contains dramatic cuts to the Clean Water State Revolving Fund. The omnibus also includes a bad rider, which the environmental community was told would be deleted, that would interfere with judicial review of aspects of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers St. Johns Bayou/New Madrid Flood control project, which would drain tens of thousands of acres of wetlands and put neighboring communities at risk. While we were pleased to see that there were increases for important environmental priorities like National Wildlife Refuges, the National Park Service, Forest Service road decommissioning, and the Diesel Emissions Reduction Act, these positive improvements are outweighed by the short-sighted investment of billions of dollars of loan guarantees that will increase global warming pollution. It is for this reason that we respectfully ask for you to join us in opposition to H.R. 2764.

Sincerely,
  • Kristen Miller, Alaska Wilderness League
  • Caitlin Love Hills, American Lands Alliance
  • Peter Raabe, American Rivers
  • Lynn Thorp, Clean Water Action
  • Bob Shavelson, Cook Inletkeeper
  • Yochi Zakai, Co-op America
  • Marty Hayden, Earthjustice
  • Mike Ewall, Energy Justice Network
  • Anna Aurilio, Environment America
  • Shawnee Hoover, Friends of the Earth
  • John Passacantando, Greenpeace
  • Tiernan Sittenfeld, League of Conservation Voters
  • Karen Wayland, Natural Resources Defense Council
  • Michael Mariotte, Nuclear Information and Resource Service
  • Bonnie Raitt & Harvey Wasserman, NukeFree.org
  • Tyson Slocum, Public Citizen
  • Debbie Sease, Sierra Club

EE News Interviews ex-NRDC Lieberman Staffer David McIntosh on Bill Prospects 5

Posted by Brad Johnson Tue, 11 Dec 2007 21:55:00 GMT

In Bali, EE News reporter Darren Samuelson interviews David G. McIntosh, Sen. Lieberman (I-Conn.)’s counsel and legislative assistant for energy and the environment, about the prospects for Lieberman-Warner (S. 2191) on the Senate floor in 2008.

Before joining Senator Lieberman’s staff in April 2006, McIntosh served briefly as a Maryland assistant attorney general representing the state’s air agency. Before that, he worked at NRDC as a Clean Air Act litigator and regulatory lawyer. After graduating from Harvard Law School in 1998, he clerked for a U.S. District Court judge in Washington, DC before joining the legal and lobbying firm Covington & Burling, for one year. He is not to be confused with former representative David M. McIntosh (R-Ill.), a strong fighter against environmental regulations.

“We could probably predict a half-dozen issues that would be top-line amendment issues,” McIntosh said during an interview at the United Nations’ global warming negotiations in Bali. “Some of them, we have the ability through negotiation and engagement to have those amendments be presented in a way that is not divisive, that does not divide up the votes that would otherwise support passage on the floor.”

McIntosh predicted Senate negotiations over the climate bill from Lieberman and Sen. John Warner (R-Va.) would center foremost on the economic implications tied to creating a first-ever mandatory cap on U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. He also expects a strong push on incentives for nuclear power.

McIntosh hopes to be able to craft a nuclear title suitable for inclusion in Lieberman-Warner:
The bill’s lead cosponsors are interested in “seeing if it is possible to craft an amendment or to encourage others on nuclear enegry in ways that’d be seen as targetted and relevant and fitting within the confines of the bill rather than efforts to revive every type of support for nuclear power that anyone has ever thought of.”
Sen. Kerry (D-Mass.), the only Senator in Bali, also spoke on Lieberman-Warner:
I can’t tell you precisely when, but we’re committed to having this debate regardless of whether or not we can pass it or where the votes are. We believe it’s an important marker, and we intend to make this part of the debate in the presidential elections of 2008.

Amendment List for Lieberman-Warner Markup

Posted by Brad Johnson Tue, 04 Dec 2007 21:44:00 GMT

Tomorrow morning’s Environment and Public Works markup of the Lieberman-Warner climate bill (S. 2191) promises to be long and contentious, quite possibly to be extended to Thursday. Republicans have proposed over 150 amendments, with Sen. Craig offering 46; EE News reports they expect votes on upwards of 50 of the amendments. Democrats have submitted about 30 amendments.

Below is a summary of the amendments the senators of the committee are planning to submit, in addition to Sen. Boxer’s manager’s mark.

Major amendments include Sen. Clinton’s two amendments. The first establishes 100% auction of permits, and the second dramatically restricts CCS funding. Sanders #4 establishes an 80% target and #7 limits total offset permits. Vitter #10 restricts ownership of allowances primarily to covered entities. Carper #1 places caps on traditional air pollutants and Carper #2 bases permit giveaways to power sector on historical electricity production, not emissions. Isakson proposed various pro-nuclear amendments.

Friends of the Earth has highlighted five amendments they support.

Clinton proposed two amendments:

Amendment 1 (with Sanders) eliminates allowance giveaways Amendment 2 restricts CCS funding to those determined necessary to commercialize such technology

Sanders proposed nine amendments:

Amendment 1 tweaks the the advanced-tech vehicles incentive program Amendment 2 allows auction proceeds for zero/low carbon tech to go to domestic manufacturing of components Amendment 3 restores the subcommittee markup language that makes only CCS projects that meet an 85% reduction eligible for bonus allowances Amendment 4 changes the 2050 target to an 80% reduction Amendment 5 requires EPA to strengthen cap if global average temperature increase not likely below 2 degrees Celsius Amendment 6 replaces the 1/3 state allocation based on fossil fuel activities with energy efficiency efforts Amendment 7 limits total offsets allowed instead of 15% per entity Amendments 8 and 9 restore definition of “leakage” and “reversal” to subcommittee markup language

Carper proposed four amendments:

Amendment 1 caps pollutants such as sulfur dioxide, nitrous oxide, and ozone. Amendment 2 bases emissions permit giveaways on electricity output, not historical emissions (a change requested by PG&E). Amendment 3 supports recycling. Amendment 4 expands and modifies the transit allocation

Whitehouse proposed four amendments:

Amendments 1 and 2 deal with coastal impacts Amendment 3 proposes a tax rebate system for low- and middle-income households Amendment 4 restricts states’ use of free allowances to investment in energy efficiency

Lautenberg proposed five amendments:

Amendment 1 increases the decoupling incentive in permit allocations to states from 1% to 2% Amendment 2 calls for a study on aviations emissions Amendment 3 creates a set aside in auction revenues to fund local energy efficiency efforts Amendment 4 is intended to protect scientific integrity Amendment 5 directs 0.5% of auction proceeds for intercity rail

Barrasso proposed 11 amendments:

Amendments 2 and 3 support Wyoming and Montana coal R&D. Amendment 8 eliminates the Climate Change and National Security Fund Amendment 11 overrides the Endangered Species Act

Vitter proposed 14 amendments:

Amendments 1 and 5 allow offshore and on-land natural gas drilling, respectively Amendments 2 and 3 require studies on industry displacement Amendment 4 allows renewable fuel program credits to qualify as emissions credits Amendments 6 and 9 removes various sources from coverage Amendment 7 removes injury liability from CCS activities Amendment 8 prevents implementation if other environmental regulations are found to be adversely impacted Amendment 10 restricts permit banking to 18 months on non-covered entities (a change requested by the AFL-CIO) Amendment 11 modifies transportation fuel coverage Amendments 12-14 make “technical” corrections

Isakson proposed four amendments, three of which support nuclear energy. Amendment 3 prohibits the enactment of a cap without sufficient known technology, an amendment which failed in subcommittee.

Klobuchar proposed four amendments:

Amendment 1 establishes bonus allocations for renewable energy Amendment 2 reduces allowance giveaways to the power sector Amendment 3 establishes a RES Amendment 4 supports low-income consumer energy costs

Bond proposed eight amendments. 1-6 are designed to protect consumers and industry against economic harm through various means of limiting emissions reductions. Amendment 7 provides a liability system for carbon sequestration. Amendment 8 supports CCS technology.

Cardin proposed three amendments:

Amendment 1 funds the management activities of the federal agencies involved by selling allowances. Amendment 2 increases allowance allocations reserved for mass transit support from one to two percent. Amendment 3 directs auction proceeds to a Global Environmental Monitoring Systems Fund.

Inhofe proposed approximately 45 amendments, some of which are joke amendments (#12 “directs 20% of all auction proceeds be used to build homeless shelters for families without shelter as a result of job displacement due to this Act”). Amendments #23-#28 are pro-nuclear. Amendment #32 increases the auction percentage to 100% by 2029. Amendment #38 overrides the Massachusetts vs. EPA decision.

Craig proposed 46 amendments, many of which add other legislation into the bill. Amendments 2-10 deal with forestry provisions. Amendments 11-20 are “technical” corrections. Amendment #36 allows offshore natural gas drilling. Various amendments scattered throughout deal with nuclear power.

Lieberman-Warner Bill Moves to Full Committee 1

Posted by Brad Johnson Thu, 01 Nov 2007 14:41:00 GMT

At today’s markup of Lieberman Warner (S 2191), changes were made to win the support of Sen. Lautenberg (D-N.J.), ensuring passage by a 4-3 vote (Sanders, Isakson, and Barrasso voting no) to send the bill to the full Committee on Environment and Public Works.

The changes, according to CQ:
  • Extending the scope of the bill to cover all emissions from the use of natural gas. The introduced bill covered natural gas burned in power plants and industrial processes but not in commercial and residential buildings.
  • Requiring the EPA to make recommendations to Congress based on periodic reports from the National Academy of Sciences. The bill already would direct the academy to evaluate whether changes in the law are necessary, based on the state of the environment and available technology.

These were two of the four specific changes called for by NRDC at the initial hearing on the bill.

Amendments were introduced by Sen. Sanders (I-Vt.) and Sen. Barrasso (R-Wyo.). Changes made by amendments adopted at the markup:
  • Advanced tech auto funding limited to vehicles with minimum of 35 mpg (Sanders 3)
  • More allocations given to states, taken from international forest protection (Barrasso 4)
  • Definition of lower-rank coal eligible for 25% of CCS funding changed from “for example, bituminous and lignite” to coal with a heat content below 10000 BTU/lb (Barrasso 3)

Sen. Isakson reiterated his passion for nuclear power, and Barrasso argued for stronger coal subsidies, a sentiment supported by Sen. Baucus. Lautenberg compared their role to that of doctors faced with a sick patient who could become terminal, asking why anyone would withhold the necessary medicine. The Senators often laughed about their needs to compromise and balance each others’ parochial interests.

Sanders and Barrasso introduced several other amendments which were not adopted. Here are some:

Sanders Update: See this post for more on the Sanders amendments
  • Amendment 1 would have designated most of the funds in the zero/low-carbon emissions fund for solar, wind, and geothermal energy. Sanders pointed out that the bill has explicit funding for coal, cellulosic ethanol, and the auto industry but none for renewables.
  • Amendment 2 would have replaced the advanced tech auto funding with funding for local and state energy efficiency grants. Sanders argued that the auto language was too weak to ensure any benefits, saying “If we do not act aggressively Detroit will be shutting down and moving to China.”
  • Amendment 4 would give EPA authority to revise targets. Withdrawn after suggestion to work on issue by Lautenberg to have EPA action with Congressional veto
  • Amendment 5 would have moved to full auction of allowances by 2026
  • Amendment 6 would have put a moratorium on new coal-fired power plants that do not capture and sequester at least 85% of their emissions.
  • Amendment 8 would have replaced the 15% offset allowance for companies with a system-wide cap on total offsets purchased. The amendment was supported by U.S. PIRG, UCS, and NRDC.
  • Amendment 9 would have required economy-wide cuts by 15% by 2020 and 80% by 2050. Lieberman voted no, arguing that the 63% cuts would keep concentrations below 550 PPM by 2100 and saying “Your amendment would break the coalition and have possible other negative impacts.”
Barrasso
  • Amendment 1 would have set up the Rocky Mountain Center of Coal Studies at the University of Wyoming.
  • Amendment 2 would have supported high-altitude Western state (Wyoming) coal gasification demonstration projects.
  • Amendment 5 would have pushed back coal capture and sequestration targets.
  • Amendment 8 would have sunset the bill in five years. Barrasso said that China and India need to implement cap-and-trade programs in that time period.

Loan Guarantee Provisions in the 2007 Energy Bills: Does Nuclear Power Pose Significant Taxpayer Risk and Liability? 1

Posted by Brad Johnson Tue, 30 Oct 2007 14:30:00 GMT

The Environmental and Energy Study Institute (EESI) invites you to learn about the loan guarantee provisions in the 2007 energy bills that have passed the House and Senate and await conference (HR. 6/HR. 3221). The Senate bill’s provision would significantly alter how the Department of Energy (DOE) provides taxpayer-funded loan guarantees for new energy technologies, especially to costly nuclear power plants. Section 124(b) of the Senate bill (HR. 6) allows loan guarantees to be given to multiple projects to construct an existing nuclear power design; exempts DOE’s loan guarantee program from Sec 504(b) of the Federal Credit Reform Act of 1990 (FCRA) which allows DOE to write unlimited loan guarantees without Congressional oversight; and gives DOE unfettered access to the Incentives for Innovative Technologies Fund (EPACT 2005) without requiring appropriations or any fiscal year limitation. This provision, if adopted, would eliminate Congressional authority and the safeguards provided through the appropriations process regarding expenditures for these potentially risky projects and shift enormous financial risk from Wall Street banks to America’s taxpayers. The House-passed legislation on loan guarantees is different; it says that no eligible technology can be excluded from consideration from loan guarantees.

Because of the likelihood of delays and cost overruns in building new nuclear power plants, Wall Street banks are unwilling to accept any financial risks for nuclear power loans. Six of the nation’s largest investment banks-Citigroup, Credit Suisse, Goldman Sachs, Lehman Brothers, Merrill Lynch, and Morgan Stanley- recently told the DOE, “We believe these risks, combined with the higher capital costs and longer construction schedules of nuclear plants as compared to other generation facilities, will make lenders unwilling at present to extend long-term credit.” Our briefing panel will discuss whether the loan guarantee provisions constitute a significant taxpayer liability and/or poor governance. Speakers include:

  • Peter Bradford, President, Bradford Brook Associates; former Chair, New York State Public Service Commission and Maine Public Utilities Commission; and former Commissioner, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission
  • Jerry Taylor, Senior Fellow, Cato Institute
  • Jim Harding, CEO, Harding Consulting
  • US Government Accountability Office (GAO)

Not only is the cost to the taxpayers potentially very high, so is the risk. The Congressional Budget Office has said there is a good chance that the DOE will underestimate the costs of administering these loans and that more than 50 percent of new reactor projects will default on their loan repayments, leaving taxpayers at risk. U.S. taxpayers will be fully liable for any potential shortfalls. The nuclear industry ask is $25 billion for FY 2008 and more than that in FY 2009-more than $50 billion in two years. According to the Congressional Research Service, this is more than the $49.7 billion spent by the DOE for all nuclear power R&D in the 30 years from 1973-2003. This is also well over the Administration’s target of $4 billion in loan guarantees for nuclear and coal for FY 2008.

This briefing is open to the public and no reservations are required.

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