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Fortnightly Magazine - December 2009

Nuclear Standoff

Can climate-policy brinksmanship create a sustainable nuclear industry?

Michael T. Burr

American voters dashed the nuclear industry’s hopes for a renaissance last November—or so it seemed. Recent developments in Washington have rekindled those hopes, but will climate-policy brinksmanship lead to a sustainable future for nuclear power?

Carbon Solutions

Capture and storage tech developments secure coal’s future.

William Atkinson

Capture and sequestration will help ensure the future of coal-fired power plants. Demonstration projects are allowing utilities to kick the tires on the latest technologies, and to learn how CCS will affect operations and economics at state-of-the-art plants.

Can We Afford Climate Regulation?

Lawmakers are rushing a costly decision.

Larry G. Berg

Utilities are struggling to predict the costs of greenhouse gas regulation. In the quest for a greener planet, how much should consumers be asked to pay for environmental benefits that might be difficult to measure?

New Day for Prudence

Pre-approvals demand a new approach to managing risks and costs.

Kris R. Nielsen, Patricia D. Galloway and Charles W. Whitney

Proving the need for new infrastructure construction for energy purchases has become more complicated for utilities. State commissions reserve the right to revisit rate-base investments after the fact, even when they’ve been pre-approved.

Buying Into Solar

Rewards, challenges and options for rate-based investments.

Paul Alvarez and Benjamin Hodges

Utilities traditionally have met renewable portfolio standards with power purchases from IPPs. But new approaches are allowing utilities to build their rate bases with investments in solar generation.

Solar Expansion

Technologies are scaling up quickly to meet industry needs.

Scott M. Gawlicki

Like other California electric utilities, San Francisco-based Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) has been scrambling to meet the state’s renewable portfolio standard (RPS), which requires suppliers to obtain at least 20 percent of their power from renewable energy sources by 2010. Though the RPS includes a variety of technologies, renewables developers are choosing utility-scale solar power more than any other resource, says Hal La Flash, PG&E’s director of emerging clean technologies.

Nuclear Standoff - Hope for Change

Michael T. Burr

With the administration and Democratic lawmakers in Congress pushing to enact greenhouse-gas (GHG) regulation, nuclear power has taken center stage as both a clean technology solution and a political bargaining chip. Consequently, the industry’s hopes for new construction projects have brightened considerably. Whether this policy momentum can usher in a sustainable nuclear renaissance, however, remains questionable at best.

Nuclear Standoff - Nuclear Breach

Federal failure to fulfill spent-fuel obligations creates expensive risks. 

Stephen Maloney

For more than 50 years, the federal government has failed to manage spent nuclear fuel (SNF) and high-level radioactive waste (HLW), imposing the burdens for this critical function on the private sector. Nuclear plant operators incurred upwards of several hundred million dollars per reactor in uncompensated expense and risk premiums, and potentially face decades of additional costs and risks coping with SNF and HLW.

Subsidy Addiction

Government incentives are smothering free enterprise.

Michael T. Burr, Editor-in-Chief

When Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) announced legislation in November 2009 aimed at doubling America’s nuclear power capacity within 20 years, he compared the clean-energy challenge to fighting a war. “If we were going to war, we wouldn’t mothball our nuclear navy and start subsidizing sailboats,” he told attendees at the American Nuclear Society’s winter meeting. “If addressing climate change and creating low-cost, reliable energy are national imperatives, we shouldn’t stop building nuclear plants and start subsidizing windmills.”

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