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?
Capture and storage tech developments secure coal’s future.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
Federal failure to fulfill spent-fuel obligations creates expensive risks.
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.
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.”
Public Utilities Reports 11410 Isaac Newton Sq., Suite 220, Reston, VA 20190 Voice: (703) 847-7720 | Toll Free: (800) 368-5001 FAX: (703) 847-0683
Dear Reader: Welcome to our new website! We’ve spent the past several months rebuilding Fortnightly.com from the ground up, and we’re now in the process of putting it through its paces. We’ll announce our Grand Opening shortly, but in the meantime we hope you’ll excuse our mess, while we bring Public Utilities Fortnightly magazine to an all-new online platform. Your feedback is welcome!