Thursday, May 28, 2009

Nuclear Alexander; Middle East's Nuclear Renaissance

Nuclear energy: some people love it, some people hate - it's never without controversy. Promoters point to vast resources of uranium, its greenhouse emissions, its potency for energy; the detractors point to waste (I could somewhat refute that), its high economic cost, it's potential for danger (more people die each year as a result of coal mining accidents and pollution than nuclear work-related incidents; the Chernobyl reactor was a joke). Nuclear energy - love it, hate it? Ghawar guzzler isn't here to endorse either position, it's here only to report the news. If there are better options than nuclear, they should be welcome to contemplation.

Here's some "explosive" developments on nuclear. First, Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) is calling for the construction of 100 nuclear power plants withing 20 years, effectively doubling America's nuclear power plants. Here's an excerpt:

Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) today told participants at the Tennessee Valley Corridor National Summit that “the United States should build 100 new nuclear power plants during the next 20 years” to put America on the path to clean energy independence.

He said, “One year ago, I came to Oak Ridge to propose a new ‘Manhattan Project’ to put America on the path to clean energy independence. The project would focus on seven ‘grand challenges’: plug-in electric cars and trucks, carbon capture from coal plants, making solar power cost-competitive, recycling used nuclear fuel, advanced biofuels from crops we don’t eat, green buildings and, finally, fusion.

“Today I am in Oak Ridge to propose that the United States build 100 new nuclear power plants during the next 20 years while scientists and engineers figure out these grand challenges. This would double America’s nuclear plants which today produce 20 percent of all our electricity, but 70 percent of our pollution-free, carbon-free electricity.

[...]

"Right now there are 17 proposals for 26 new reactors in licensing hearings before the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. That’s a start. But I think we need to go well beyond that. I propose that from the years 2010 to 2030 we build 100 new nuclear reactors to match the ones we already have operating.

The Huffington Post also reports Senator Alexander wants $700 billion for his grand vision.

The other big piece is a long, but excellent Huffington Post about a nuclear renaissance occurring in the Middle East (comes with a nice interactive map). Below:

Putting the Chernobyls and Hiroshimas aside, in the Arab world, at least thirteen nations - both oil-rich and oil-thirsty - are collaborating with world powers to build nuclear energy programs with unprecedented determination.

As energy and water needs grow, they are confronting the inevitable depletion of oil and natural gas and the nuclear option has trumped renewables (both in terms of feasibilty and economics) as a means to generate electricity while guaranteeing long-term security.

[...]

With electricity and desalination demands estimated to increase by about 10 percent annually by 2015, the GCC is in dire need of diversifying its energy sources.

The UAE alone estimates it would need 40,000MW of electricity to meet domestic demand by 2020. With drafted plans to generate 15,000MW of electricity from nuclear energy by 2020 at a quarter of the cost of gas powered plants, the UAE already has several construction companies bidding to sign on.

Meanwhile, France, Russia, China and the US are ardently working to sign lucrative deals with the eager Arabs, who are also competing with one another to attract the best investors and suppliers, despite previous plans of regional cooperation.

The UAE is moving fast to be the first Arab country to develop a nuclear power program as they have been fast-tracking the process (which usually takes 10-15 years) to fulfill the requirements by 2016. Through engaging vendors and supplier countries at events such as last week's nuclear summit, their plans may soon become realized.

Within a decade there could be about a dozen nuclear reactors in the region, which makes the option of having a regional enrichment facility extremely viable.

"Regional cooperation makes economic sense rather than investing foolishly," Araj said.The issue of waste disposal poses a key incentive for Arab states to work together. A nuclear repository would reduce stress on smaller countries like the UAE by excusing them from needing their own. "It doesn't make sense for each country to have a nuclear repository to store high-level waste for a long long time," Araj said.

"If one nation were to host the regional repository in exchange for financial incentives, they would need to safeguard the waste for 100-150 years until the radioactivity had decreased to the environmental levels - then it would no longer pose a threat."

Other noteworthy nuclear developments are:

- Brewskie

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