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Billion dollar decommissioning industry:

For those that don’t track nuclear energy development like I do, might be getting mixed signals about the future of nuclear power plants (NPP) in the United States. The US hasn’t been building NPP’s for the last 40 years and only has two reactors under construction at an existing NPP site. Several US utility companies are decommissioning older NPP’s because of overhead cost created by cheaper electricity generation with Natural Gas.

There is a multi-billion dollar NPP decommissioning industry being developed by Holtec International Decommissioning Division. When a utility company can not justify operating loses from their NPP, they have to make a decision to protect their share holders and employee investments.

One of those ways is to sell off assets that are losing money and replace it with a more profitable energy source. Natural gas has become that cheaper energy source. Another option is to ask state governments for subsidies to help cover the cost of operation. New York State has decided not to save their perfectly good NPP’s and Holtec International has decided to seize the moment for pennies on the dollar.

Holtec has reached an agreement with the Entergy Company to acquire Indian Point Energy Center (a NPP) after the last of the three reactors shuts down in 2021. The sale includes the transfer of the licenses, spent fuel, decommissioning liabilities, and Nuclear Decommissioning Trusts (NDT) for the three units. There are billions of dollar in those trust paid by customers over the decades that will cover the cost of the NPP decommissioning and the storage of unused nuclear fuel rods.

In addition to Indian Point NY, Holtec has already acquired and started closure on two other request for license transfer; the ongoing Oyster Creek (NJ) and Pilgrim (MA) License Transfer Applications (LTAs), which are moving smoothly through the NRC agency, with anticipated approvals. The infamous Three Mile Island plant is also in the decommissioning queue.

All the spent nuclear fuel rods have to be removed and stored at an interim storage facility. Holtec International is the company that has proposed the HI-STORE CISF project in partnership with Eddy-Lea Energy Alliance (ELEA) for the interim storage of unused nuclear fuel rods here in New Mexico near WIPP.

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A ‘new wave’ of nuclear energy:

The primary reason for the current nuclear renaissance at this time is because of the ‘fear of climate change’. It is so ironic that the ‘fear of nuclear’ was the primary reason for continued use of fossil fuels that eventually caused our alleged climate concerns. The shift to renewable wind and solar to address climate change will eventually have an unintended ‘favorable’ consequence for more nuclear energy.

Currently the US produces the most nuclear reactor net capacity of clean commercial electrical power (30%) worldwide with France a distance second. Based on the documented 55 Gen3+ nuclear reactors currently under construction around the world, the United States clean nuclear electricitical capacity will drop all the way down to 8th place on the list of countries that will out produce us. Of course, China will lead the world in clean nuclear energy capacity.

After a forty year absence from building nuclear reactors in the US, it is still the leader in designing nuclear reactors for the future. The next generation, referred to as Gen4, are walk away safe small modular reactors (SMR) still based on solid fuel rods like the existing nuclear fleet except they are self contained factory built vessels that won’t melt down. Another Gen4 reactor design is the use of liquid fuel instead of solid fuel rods.

The US is now on a fast track with NuScale’s first SMR nuclear power facility (with 12 small reactors) scheduled for 2026. The plant will be owned by Utah Associated Municipal Power System, built at Idaho National Labs and could generate enough power for about 540,000 homes. Terrestrial Energy is also on a fast track with Canada’s first Integrate Molten Salt Reactor (IMSR) power plant being sited at the Canadian Nuclear Laboratories near Montreal.

This ‘new-wave’ of nuclear power has already pushed into the GEN5 development cycle with Molten Chloride Salt Fast Reactors (MCSFR), scheduled for the 2030’s. These MCSFR power plants will use existing spent and depleted uranium fuels in liquid form and will completely eliminate stored solid fuel rods and the long term need for the proposed interim storage facility known as HI-STORE CISF in Carlsbad, NM.

To overcome our fear of nuclear:

We know that fear can be a powerful driver in our behaviors.  What is not always clear is why we choose to fear things to the point of trauma when they are proven safe, yet don’t get too worried about things that should actually be of concern.  As a result, it is not enough to fight fear with facts.  Fear is a strong emotion. The facts may be clear but all you need is just a bit of doubt and the fear remains.  And it is easy for those opposed to something to cause doubt.

The people in Germany today are investing hundreds of billions of dollars in decarbonizing the German economy through its Energiewende; yet they seem to be comfortable replacing low carbon nuclear plants with new coal plants greatly impacting their ability to achieve their climate goals.  So, what does this say?  Clearly Germans believe nuclear power is far more frightening than climate change.  Again, this is not consistent with the facts, but the public remains supportive.

The reality is, if we are afraid of something, we need a strong reason to change our views.  Just telling someone there is no need to be afraid by explaining the facts is going to fall on deaf ears.  What is needed to revisit one’s fear is understanding that there is a greater issue at hand, a bigger problem to solve.  Only then may we be willing to reconsider our long-held beliefs.  Not because we suddenly believe the facts, but rather because we finally feel a need to actually listen to them to solve a greater concern.

For example, it is not enough to say nuclear can help in the fight against climate change because the public already believes a viable solution is available with renewables.
Closing perfectly good nuclear power plants decades ahead of schedule is a bad idea if you care about the environment, especially if you care about carbon emissions. That’s because nuclear is the best source of low-carbon energy and actually produces most of our low-carbon electricity already – twice as much as all renewables combined. And twice as much as hydro.

Nuclear power is already a mature technology and the latest fast spectrum generation are even better because they just cannot melt-down and will eliminate the waste.

New Mexico’s real green energy

The Farm Bill of 2019 – 2023 has placed algae among the nation’s top priorities for new crop deployment and provides support for the development of algae and related technologies in nutrient management, soil health, carbon recycling and other farm and rural applications, according to an analysis by the Algae Biomass Organization (ABO).

New Mexico already has the largest algae crop farm in the US and it is only 100 acres and producing billions of dollars in omega-3 supplements. NM has the perfect conditions for farming algae with plenty of sunshine and saline water year around and requires very little energy for electricity. Algae does not have a growing season like other crops and grows continuously year around. It is almost the perfect crop.

The Farm Bill assurances makes algae farming very attractive to private investors. The one major enhancement is that algae has been added to the federal crop insurance programs. What is ironic is that the Government is still focused on biofuels and not on food stuff and other products made from algae. Research has already proved that algae biofuels are way to expensive to produce. Some day the government will realize that all biofuels are a waste of time.

The Farm Bill also provides Biomass Crop Assistance Program eligibility for algae. BCAP provides financial support to farmers for establishment, production and delivery of new biomass crops. This will not only expand the algae farming industry in New Mexico. It will also aid in the development of secondary businesses. Yes, this is a subsidy. So what.

Bill Gates has already shown up at the door. As a philosophical anthropologist who believes in the essence of humankind, he will definitely accelerate the growth of algae farming in New Mexico. Maybe Gates will also build one of his molten salt nuclear reactors in New Mexico too. As some of you already know, Bill Gates started his little Microsoft business in New Mexico. It is only appropriate that he returns to his roots.

Algae crop farming is the future and it is here now in New Mexico and West Texas. As I recall, there is another industry wanting to start up in those same two location as well: consolidated interim storage of unused nuclear fuel, also a multi-billion dollar business.

New Mexico’s other green energies

This week I want to share some thoughts on future crop potential in New Mexico. Many thought the 2019 Legislature was sure to legalize regulated recreational cannabis, but SB 577 – Cannabis Regulation Act did not pass. However, SB 581 – Hemp Manufacturing Act, did pass and it will define how hemp products will be regulated in New Mexico. Both crops require very little water and land use.

There is yet another green crop already in production without any legislation from our Blue Government and it requires less energy, less water and less land and already generates billions in revenue. That crop is algae or also known as green gold.

Medical cannabis has been regulated in New Mexico for many years now and has expanded the qualifying conditions list (SB 406) this year. Also SB 204, regulates medical cannabis use within our public school system, administered by school nurses, for predefined students with severe medical conditions. There are differing opinions of whether this was wise or not. For those who wanted recreational cannabis approved, you will have to wait until next year.

Hemp is an interesting crop and the only reason is was restricted as a farm crop is because of it’s close chemical relationship to cannabis but has virtually no psychoactive properties. Hemp has many industrial uses like clothing, food and beverages, paper products and building materials. Hemp will be a good cash crop like alfalfa but require less water and it can grow almost anywhere in NM.

Back in the 1970 (oil embargo) biofuels was the solution as a replacement to O&G. Can I get an LOL here? The Department of Energy granted millions of dollars for algae farms in the middle of New Mexico’s desert. Algae only needs three sources to grow; sun, CO2 and saline water and NM has plenty of those. After many years of development, algae as a biofuel was to expensive to produce.

Today, that same $300 million public-private algae biofuel development effort is now an algae food farm producing a billion dollar food business on just 100 acres of NM desert by a private farmer who probably bought it for pennies on the dollar.

How to manage the fear of Climate Change: (Updated: 4/17/2019)

The primary reason for the current nuclear renaissance at this time is because of the ‘fear of climate change’. It is so ironic that the ‘fear of nuclear’ was the primary reason for continued use of fossil fuels that eventually caused our alleged climate concerns. The shift to renewable wind and solar to address climate change will eventually have an unintended ‘favorable’ consequence for more nuclear energy.

Currently the US produces the most reactor net capacity of commercial electrical power (30%) worldwide with France a distance second. Based on the documented 55 Gen3+ nuclear reactors currently under construction around the world, the United States nuclear energy capacity will drop all the way down to 8th place on the list of countries that will out produce us. Of course, China will lead the world in nuclear energy capacity.

After a forty year absence from building nuclear reactors in the US, the US is still the leader in designing reactors for the future. The next generation, referred to as Gen4, are walk away safe small modular reactors (SMR) still based on solid fuel rods like the existing nuclear fleet except they are self contained, passively cooled, factory built vessels that won’t melt down.

Another Gen4 reactor design is the use of liquid fuel instead of solid fuel rods. These integrated molten salt reactors (MSR) are also self contained moderated factory built vessels that are never refueled. After 10 years the used contained vessel is replace with another self contain reactor.

The US is now on a fast track with NuScale’s first SMR nuclear power facility (with 12 reactors) in 2026. The plant will be owned by Utah Associated Municipal Power System, built at Idaho National Labs and could generate enough power for about 540,000 homes. Terrestrial Energy is also on a fast track with Canada’s first IMSR power plant being sited at the Canadian Nuclear Laboratories in Montreal

This ‘new-wave’ nuclear power has already pushed into the GEN5 development cycle with Molten Chloride Salt Fast Reactors (MCSFR), scheduled for the 2030’s. These MCSFR power plants will use existing spent and depleted nuclear fuels without reprocessing and will completely eliminate existing stored fuel streams and the long term need for the interim storage facility known as HI-STORE CISF.

NuScale Technology: https://www.nuscalepower.com/technology

 

 

Inconvenient Energies – Not In My Back Yard – NIMBY:

Now that SB 489 is official, it needs to be physically implemented. In order to meet the clean energy requirements of the bill. A lot of industrial wind and solar farms with natural gas backup power generators and transmission lines have to be built at great expense all over our enchanted landscape.

These industrial wind and solar farms require a lot of building materials like cement, steel, resins, plastics, silicons and several finite rare earth minerals (from China). Also, land as far as you can see has to be acquired through leasing or purchase.

There has been an increasingly aggressive opposition by local communities and conservationists trying to preserve wildlife and scenic views on the lands these industrial scaled energy farms require.
In 2017, Iowa enacted a law that prohibits the use of eminent domain for high-voltage transmission lines. The move doomed a 500-mile, $2 billion, high-voltage direct-current transmission line that was going to carry wind generated electricity from Iowa to eastern states.
This resistance is also happening in New Mexico with the SunZia project which will build two 1,500 megawatt high voltage lines running 520 miles from central New Mexico to carry wind generated electricity to western states. After ten years, this project is still in the courts because it requires a lot of private land easements.
On the same note, Oil &Gas (O&G) pipelines of all kinds also face staunch opposition from climate change activists. A key difference is that renewables require far more land above ground, 700 times more, to produce the same unit of energy.

Small nuclear reactors and micro reactors have the smallest footprint on the environment with the greatest amount of clean energy output. They take can be built underground near existing grid transfer substations and plugged into the local, regional or national grids. However, there is this misguided resistance to all things nuclear.

So, where is New Mexico actually going to get it’s electricity when all energy delivery systems are not desired in our backyards? No coal power, no nuclear power, no hydro power, no thermal power, no transmission lines, no biofuel fuel, restricted gas and oil pipelines and restricted drilling with fracking. SB 489 has all the answers.