Five years ago almost to the day (Feb. 9, 2012, actually), the Nuclear Regulatory Commission voted 4-1 to issue a construction and operating license to Southern Company for the 2,234 megawatt Vogtle 3&4 project—the first of the new generation of reactors that was touted as the beginning of the industry’s long climb back from 30 years of dormancy.
At the time, Marvin Fertel, then president and CEO of the Nuclear Energy Institute, the industry’s trade association, sounded almost euphoric: “This is a historic day. [The NRC decision] sounds a clarion call to the world that the United States recognizes the importance of expanding nuclear energy….” Fertel’s optimism was hardly unique: A year earlier, Jim Miller, CEO of Southern Nuclear, the company’s operating subsidiary, told Scientific American: “The nuclear revival is under way in Georgia.”
My, how much has changed in just five years. Today, we are waiting for the other shoe to drop in the Westinghouse-Toshiba fiasco, which is expected later this month. When that happens it will serve as the end point of the revival that never really took place—five years from start to finish, not quite the long-running blockbuster the industry had hoped for.
Continue reading Do You Hear That?
It’s The Fat Lady Singing;
Nuclear Revival Ends
Almost Before It Starts
Few noticed, but the seeds for the coal industry’s survival and the utility industry’s ability to keep coal-fired capacity in its generation portfolio were sown in the past couple of months.
One of those seeds was the official opening Oct. 2 of SaskPower’s Boundary Dam integrated carbon capture control project in Estevan, Saskatchewan. The project will capture 90 percent of the carbon dioxide generated at the 110 megawatt facility, an estimated 1 million metric tons annually (as well as 90 percent of the facility’s sulfur dioxide emissions), using Shell Oil’s Cansolv process. The CO2 is being sold to Cenovus, a Calgary-based oil company, which will be using it in enhanced oil recovery (EOR) operations at the Weyburn field in the southern portion of the province. A portion of the captured CO2 also will be piped to SaskPower’s nearby research facility where it will be injected about two miles underground in a brine-filled sandstone formation to prove that deep storage is a safe, workable alternative. That portion of the project will be overseen by Canada’s Petroleum Technology Research Center (PTRC).
The project has a $1.4 billion price tag, but the utility is quick to note that the CCS portion is just $600 million, with the remainder going to refurbish the aging power plant and install the SO2 controls. The Canadian government contributed $240 million to the project.
Continue reading Coal’s Future
Than You Think