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.
Fortnightly Magazine - December 2009
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.
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.”
Customers demand real choices for bill payment.
In the world of utility bill payments, few issues have generated more controversy than the use of credit, debit and pre-paid cards. Generally, regulated utilities have been unable to build a compelling business case to offer no-fee card payments to customers, preferring instead to partner with third-party processors (TPPs) who happily charge convenience fees to card users.
Economists take sides in the battle for DR’s soul.
Back when the U.S. economy and power consumption still were bubbling, PJM reported in August 2006 that customer curtailments during a week-long August heat wave had generated more than $650 million in market-wide energy savings—all at a mere $5 million cost, as measured in direct payments made to the demand response (DR) providers, set according to wholesale power prices prevailing at the time. Where else but the lottery can you get an instant payoff of 130-1?
Dynamic monitoring and decision systems maximize energy resources.
The operations and planning rules for integrating variable resources aren’t the same across the electric power industry in the United States at present. Opinions are somewhat divided about what these should be, as well as the assessments of potential benefits and costs. In order to support sustainable deployment of variable resources at value, it’s critical to identify major sources of potential problems and to proactively design and implement a systematic framework for managing their unique characteristics as reliably and efficiently as possible.
Can climate-policy brinksmanship create a sustainable nuclear industry?
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.
Lawmakers are rushing a costly decision.
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?