Click on the headline (link) for the full text.

Many more articles are available through the Energy Bulletin homepage

Fusion will be cracked “within 30 years”

Simon Bradley, Swiss Info
Despite the complexity and high research and development costs, scientists are convinced they can unlock the massive power of nuclear fusion within a generation.

On Monday the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor Organisation (ITER) signed a cooperation agreement at the opening of an IAEA fusion energy conference, held in Geneva.

“ITER is one of the most important scientific projects in the world,” said IAEA’s director general, Yuri Sokolov.

ITER, or “the way” in Latin, is an experimental reactor being built in Cadarache, southern France, which has a practical goal: to establish whether fusion, the nuclear reaction that powers the sun and the hydrogen bomb, can be tamed to generate useful power on Earth.

The idea is to fuse two atoms of hydrogen using powerful magnets to form helium. A small amount of mass is lost when the hydrogen atoms combine, in the process releasing vast quantities of energy.

Unlike nuclear fission, only low-level radioactive material, no more dangerous than hospital waste is left afterwards.

ITER, which was officially established in October 2007, will consolidate all that has been learnt over many decades of study and aims to be operational by 2018. If it works, and the technologies are proven to be practical, the international community will then build a prototype commercial reactor, dubbed DEMO in 2040. The final step would be to roll out fusion technology across the globe.
(13 October 2008)

Credit Crisis Meet Power Crisis

Bill Paul, Energy Tech Stocks
New Study Warns US Blackouts Loom in ’09; California Looks Like ‘Ground Zero’ (Pt. 1 of 2)

A new study warns crippling blackouts could hit the U.S. next summer, and the senior policy advisor to the nonprofit group that did the study warns California is most likely to be “ground zero” for a blackout that could take out most of the Western United States.

The study – from NextGen Energy Council, titled “Lights Out in 2009?” – adds up to what could be a knockout punch to an economy that will still be reeling next summer from the combined impacts of the credit crunch, rising unemployment and reduced consumer spending. America’s power markets are in crisis the way its credit markets are, the advisor, Jim Sims, former director of communication for President Bush’s National Energy Policy Task Force, told “We’re flirting with disaster,” he said.
(13 October 2008)

Montana Refining nixes $500 million expansion

Jo Dee Black, Great Falls Tribune
The high price of heavy oil and scarce financing have led to a decision that capacity at Montana Refining Co. will not be expanded.

Calgary-based Connacher Oil and Gas, which bought the refinery in 2006, says it’s shelving plans to bring the facility from a 9,500 barrels of oil a day operation to 35,000 barrels a day. The upgrade would have cost an estimated $500 million.

“The economic conditions that support the refinery expansion are not there,” said Cameron Todd, vice president of refining and marketing for Connacher. “In addition, the capital markets are awful, so it’s not possible to finance an expansion. The conditions it would take to make it go are not likely to exist for a while.”

Connacher Oil mines bitumen, heavy oil, in the oil sands of Alberta, which Montana Refining Co. is capable of refining into gasoline products and asphalt.

“Right now, the market for heavy crude oil is robust,” Todd said.
(7 October 2008)