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Slow Start for Revival of Nuclear Reactors
Matthew L. Wald, NY Times
…When nuclear reactors were first commercialized almost half a century ago, every self-respecting electric utility wanted one. They were encouraged by a government that saw nuclear energy as a peaceful, redemptive byproduct of the deadly power unleashed at Hiroshima. The federal official for promoting nuclear energy, Lewis L. Strauss, said it would produce electricity “too cheap to meter.”
It has never given consumers anything like that. But with the industry now consolidated so that most reactors are in the hands of a comparatively few operators, utility executives are sharply divided over whether nuclear power offers an attractive choice as they seek to satisfy a growing demand for electricity.
For them, the question comes down not so much to safety and environmental impact but to whether the potential reward is worth the financial risk. And those who already operate several reactors are prone to want more.
The debate within the utility industry over reviving nuclear power has taken on added importance, though, because unlike plants that burn coal and other fossil fuels, reactors do not produce gases that contribute to global warming.
And once again, Washington is encouraging utilities to push ahead.
(22 Aug 2006)
Commentary from peakguy at The Oil Drum.
Radioactive Leak Reaches Nuclear Plant’s Groundwater
Seema Mehta and Dave McKibben, Los Angeles Times
Radioactive, cancer-causing tritium has leaked into the groundwater beneath the San Onofre nuclear power plant, prompting the closure of one drinking-water well in southern Orange County, authorities said.
Officials have not found evidence that the leak from the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station, California’s largest, has contaminated the drinking water supply.
As a precaution, San Clemente officials shut down and are testing a city well near the contaminated area.
“We owe it to our residents and business folks to properly test the water,” said Dave Lund, San Clemente’s public works director.
In recent years, tritium leaks have been found at more than a dozen nuclear plants across the nation, prompting the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to form a task force this year to study the cause of the contamination. The findings are scheduled to be released this month.
(18 Aug 2006)
Nuclear pitch for oil sands
Dave Ebner, Globe and Mail
An upstart Alberta company, which includes oil patch heavy hitter Hank Swartout as a backer, has a deal with Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd. to market the Candu nuclear reactor to firms in Calgary looking to operate oil sands projects.
“Western Canada has to come to grips with atomic energy at some point in time. It’s an extremely clean-burning fuel,” said Mr. Swartout, chairman of Precision Drilling Trust and a partner in the recently formed Energy Alberta Corp., where he provides what he calls “quiet background help.”
Energy Alberta is targeting developers of projects that use steam injection to recover bitumen from the oil sands.
(17 Aug 2006)