Kansas legislature

Kansas Legislature

Lawmakers to consider bill for building new nuclear plant

January 21, 2007

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— As the state tries to chart an energy course, Kansas lawmakers will consider a measure aimed at providing incentives to build a nuclear power plant.

The legislation - HB 2038 - is one of numerous proposals in the hopper on energy issues, which has become a major topic for the 2007 Legislature.

A public hearing on the measure is scheduled for 9 a.m. Tuesday before the House Energy and Utilities Committee.

State Rep. Tom Sloan, R-Lawrence, a member of the committee, said there are no plans currently to build a nuclear plant in Kansas.

The bill, he said, "is a recognition that as we look at energy independence for the state, nuclear, renewable energy and coal all have a place," Sloan said.

He added that for the first time in years, "there are noises nationally of restarting this nation's nuclear program."

Driving that in part is the rising cost of fossil fuels and the health implications of building new plants powered by climate changing sources, such as coal. State officials currently are reviewing a request to build three 700-megawatt coal-fired plants in western Kansas.

The legislation would exempt from property taxes any new nuclear generation or new facility at the Wolf Creek nuclear plant near Burlington.

The owners of Wolf Creek, which started operating in 1985, have recently applied for a 20-year extension of its operating license, but say there are no plans to build additional capacity there.

"We are not looking at any kind of expansion at Wolf Creek," said Gina Penzig, a spokeswoman for Westar Energy, which owns 47 percent of the plant. "The capital costs are just too large for a utility our size."

An extension of the plant's license would extend the facility's use from 2025 to 2045.

Sloan said if nuclear energy becomes economically and politically feasible, then the legislation would help lay the groundwork for an effort to expand nuclear power.

While many countries have increased dependence on nuclear power, nuclear energy development practically halted in the United States because of the 1979 accident at Three Mile Island Nuclear Plant in Pennsylvania and the problem of where to store high-level nuclear waste.

Wolf Creek officials have said the plant site has enough space to store its waste through 2025, and hope that by then the federal government will have approved a national storage site. However, a proposed nuclear waste site at Yucca Mountain in Nevada has been stalled for years by environmental groups and Nevada officials.

Bill Griffith, president of the Kansas chapter of the Sierra Club, said the group is adamantly opposed to nuclear energy.

He said the expense of nuclear power and the unresolved issue of a permanent storage site make it untenable.

"So much can be done with efficiency and renewables," Griffith said. "We have just barely touched energy efficiency and wind. Why even talk about nuclear?"

Comments

Richard Heckler 8 years, 4 months ago

It is said that nuclear power is emission-free. The truth is very different.

In the US, where much of the world's uranium is enriched, including Australia's, the enrichment facility at Paducah, Kentucky, requires the electrical output of two 1000-megawatt coal-fired plants, which emit large quantities of carbon dioxide, the gas responsible for 50per cent of global warming.

Also, this enrichment facility and another at Portsmouth, Ohio, release from leaky pipes 93per cent of the chlorofluorocarbon gas emitted yearly in the US. The production and release of CFC gas is now banned internationally by the Montreal Protocol because it is the main culprit responsible for stratospheric ozone depletion. But CFC is also a global warmer, 10,000 to 20,000 times more potent than carbon dioxide.

In fact, the nuclear fuel cycle utilises large quantities of fossil fuel at all of its stages - the mining and milling of uranium, the construction of the nuclear reactor and cooling towers, robotic decommissioning of the intensely radioactive reactor at the end of its 20 to 40-year operating lifetime, and transportation and long-term storage of massive quantities of radioactive waste.

In summary, nuclear power produces, according to a 2004 study by Jan Willem Storm van Leeuwen and Philip Smith, only three times fewer greenhouse gases than modern natural-gas power stations.

Contrary to the nuclear industry's propaganda, nuclear power is therefore not green and it is certainly not clean. Nuclear reactors consistently release millions of curies of radioactive isotopes into the air and water each year. These releases are unregulated because the nuclear industry considers these particular radioactive elements to be biologically inconsequential. This is not so.

These unregulated isotopes include the noble gases krypton, xenon and argon, which are fat-soluble and if inhaled by persons living near a nuclear reactor, are absorbed through the lungs, migrating to the fatty tissues of the body, including the abdominal fat pad and upper thighs, near the reproductive organs. These radioactive elements, which emit high-energy gamma radiation, can mutate the genes in the eggs and sperm and cause genetic disease.

Tritium, another biologically significant gas, is also routinely emitted from nuclear reactors. Tritium is composed of three atoms of hydrogen, which combine with oxygen, forming radioactive water, which is absorbed through the skin, lungs and digestive system. It is incorporated into the DNA molecule, where it is mutagenic.

The dire subject of massive quantities of radioactive waste accruing at the 442 nuclear reactors across the world is also rarely, if ever, addressed by the nuclear industry. Each typical 1000-megawatt nuclear reactor manufactures 33tonnes of thermally hot, intensely radioactive waste per year.

oldgoof 8 years, 4 months ago

so many solutions looking for a problem.

average 8 years, 4 months ago

Yes, the US needs to get with the program on enrichment. Gaseous diffusion (Portsmouth and Paducah) is 30+ years out-of-date.

Notice that sum total, nuclear puts out 1/4 as much greenhouse gas as natural-gas. Then, realize that natural gas is at a dead-end. North American gas production is down, year on year, for several years now. Prices will continue to rise, because we've really run through most of it, and it's just not worthwhile to ship from overseas. Outside of "peaking" stations (to cover the peak minutes of energy demand), natural gas fired power plants aren't happening.

The comparison, then is nuke versus coal. Coal requires every bit as much energy to mine. It burns hundreds of times more diesel to haul. It emits far more greenhouse gas than natural gas (if we had enough). And, it puts out mercury, sulfur compounds, and radioactive isotopes inherent in the coal (more curies than the tritium emissions from a similar sized nuclear plant).

Richard Heckler 8 years, 4 months ago

Western Kansas farmers could become financially better off by providing power to most of Kansas by authorizing Wind Farms on their properties. Their property values could increase substantially. This could be done without using the Flint Hills which is in of itself worth plenty in tourism dollars.

ASBESTOS 8 years, 4 months ago

Merill:

"In the US, where much of the world's uranium is enriched, including Australia's, the enrichment facility at Paducah, Kentucky, requires the electrical output of two 1000-megawatt coal-fired plants, which emit large quantities of carbon dioxide, the gas responsible for 50per cent of global warming."

How the hell much CO2 do you think is emitted in the digging, trucking, processing, and shipping by train of COAL? Let alone that if you burn 20 million tons of Coal you get 15 million tons of CO2.

No merrill, NUke plants are MUCH MORE efficient at producing power because there is so much energy in the bonds of Uranium and other nuke fuels. And when it is coerced in emitting energy, CO2 is NOT one of the emissions.

hipper_than_hip 8 years, 4 months ago

"Outside of "peaking" stations (to cover the peak minutes of energy demand), natural gas fired power plants aren't happening."

Do you have any documentation to support this? Let's see your numbers of how many combustion turbines are in design or being constructed in the US.

There's at least three LNG terminal facilities under construction in the US, so for something that you think isn't worthwhile to import, there's a lot of money being spent to facilitate its import.

ASBESTOS 8 years, 4 months ago

"Do you have any documentation to support this? Let's see your numbers of how many combustion turbines are in design or being constructed in the US."

The Sunflower furror is the best example of this. They want to build 3 700 MW Power plants in Southwestern Kansas. IF Natural Gas was feasible or economically sound they would use the gas there in the Hugoton gas fields. The LNG facilities are being bult in the East, and it is mainly Propane, not methane that is called "Natural Gas".

There is money being spent on oil shale too. BUt all of thes are noe even close to nuke power in terms of generating emission free energy, as well as the amount of energy you get per unit of energy put in to develope said energy. NUKE is king as far as supplying more energy per unit put in as in mining processing and using. YEs it is dangerous, energetic materials always are dangerous. That is why we need functioning state and federal agencies to provide proper oversight.

Richard Heckler 8 years, 4 months ago

¢ More nuclear power means more disasters like Three Mile Island and Chernobyl. Since 1986, the year of the Chernobyl accident, there have been 200 near nuclear accidents at 50 reactors in the U.S. ¢ Radioactive contamination could spread across 40,000 square miles in the event of an accident ¢ Nuclear power is expensive. The first 75 reactors in the U.S. cost $100 billion over budget and U.S. tax dollars paid for much of it. ¢ Nuclear power provides the material and know- how for nuclear weapons. ¢ There is still no safe way to take care of nuclear waste which will remain dangerous for 240,000 years. SOLUTION: ¢ No New Nukes! Shut down nuclear reactors and phase out nuclear power.

¢ More renewable energy such as wind and solar power. These options combined could meet 40 percent of America's energy needs. ¢ Increase energy efficiency and cut the massive waste of electricity. "The idea that the atom is safe is just a public relations trick." James Watson, Nobel Prize winner
and co-discoverer of the structure of the DNA molecule

https://www.greentagsusa.org/GreenTags/

OldEnuf2BYurDad 8 years, 4 months ago

"the mining and milling of uranium, the construction of the nuclear reactor and cooling towers, robotic decommissioning of the intensely radioactive reactor at the end of its 20 to 40-year operating lifetime, and transportation and long-term storage of massive quantities of radioactive waste."

How can you complain about the emissions from CONSTRUCTION AND TRANSPORTATION? That's taking tree hugging to a new level. You don't think you'd get those emissions from constructing wind tubines and solar panels?

"More renewable energy such as wind and solar power. These options combined could meet 40 percent of America's energy needs."

Now THAT is propaganda. Wind and solar would only meet 40% of our needs if we all turned off our computers and if we rode bikes on our commutes into KC. Wind and solar could meet 40% if we RADICALLY changed our consumption needs, which is not realistic.

"Nuclear power provides the material and know- how for nuclear weapons."

Correction: Not "provides" but "provided". That horse has already escaped the barn; like 30 years ago.

Imagine this: half of Americans getting around in electric cars, and doing so without the burning of any fossil fuels (zero impact on air quality). Only nuke power can do that for us.

Richard Heckler 8 years, 4 months ago

We all know that fossil fuels contribute to pollution and global warming. Now that we have clean alternatives like wind power, it's time to flip the switch!

Wind power does not pollute, it is domestically produced and it is renewable. It is the fastest growing source of energy in the world, and its prices are competitive with the cost of electricity from new coal-fired power plants.

With additional investment in research and development, the cost of wind power could drop even more to as little as 2.5 cents a kilowatt-hour within the next few years. In fact, wind could supply more than three times the total amount of electricity currently produced in the United States.

===============================

Additionally solar and hydro are also sources for renewable energy. A combination of sources will be necessary as always. Back in the Reagan/Bush days Wall Street had a dim view of Nuclear Power due it's cost in general. It is high maintenance and requires huge subsidies to provide the appearance of "affordable". Wall Street was actually the nail in the coffin...a little known secret. They were a bad investment.

Economics also played a huge role in the death of a nuclear power project near Tulsa. Ratepayers were not impressed with the high price of nuclear power.

Jamesaust 8 years, 4 months ago

While a bit of an agnostic on the whole subject, I find it curious that the "environmentalists" on the subject of global warming paint a picture of the most dire, time-sensitive threat to biological survival disallowing normal scientific scrutiny and understanding but when an obvious alternative such as nuclear power is suggested the response is close to "nah, we're not that desperate."

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 8 years, 4 months ago

"an obvious alternative such as nuclear power is suggested the response is close to "nah, we're not that desperate.""

If that were the only alternative, you might have a point. But it's not, so you don't.

Jamesaust 8 years, 4 months ago

"If that were the only alternative, you might have a point. But it's not, so you don't."

Back in the world of Reality, nations around the world continue to pursue the "non" alternative of nuclear power. I was prepared that some might judge nuclear power as an objectionable alternative. I wasn't aware that any of the extremists on here was so wacko as to claim that nuclear power wasn't and couldn't be an alternative AT ALL. Who would have believed that the U.S., Canada, Japan, China, Germany, Brazil, France, Sweden, Switzerland, Finland, South Africa, Argentina, and Britain would be simultaneously insane?

Bozo, much like George Bush, seems to believe that if you ignore reality and cling to faith, that you can indeed exercise a Will to Power, making up into down and black into white.

You know you've met an ideologue when he stands staring up at the sun at noon and insists "I don't see anything."

bisky1 8 years, 4 months ago

as thomas sowell sez re the environment and global warming the problem is always capitalism and the solution is always socialism, show me the money. let econmics fix energy production

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 8 years, 4 months ago

"Bozo, much like George Bush, seems to believe that if you ignore reality and cling to faith,"

Hmm, I was going to say the same about you.

BTW, Germany is phasing out all of its nuclear power plants.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/791597.stm

And just because you and the nuke industry haven't totally accepted its obsolescence doesn't mean the rest of us haven't figured it out.

Jamesaust 8 years, 4 months ago

Thanks bozo for the link to the news story ..... from 2000!

Google "Germany" and "nuclear power" and all you find are articles about the German government not implementing this scheme. Errr...maybe because Germany has no other energy sources other than a little dirty coal and a Russia that has - AGAIN - shutoff gas supplies in the dead of winter (do you read the newspapers?).

Here's a leftwing German one that is current: http://www.spiegel.de/international/spiegel/0,1518,460120,00.html

And if you're married to the BBC as a news source, their CURRENT headline on this subject is "Germany May Retain Nuclear Power": http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/business/6249881.stm

Australia, which has pointedly never developed any nuclear energy, now calls nuclear power an "inevitable" choice, as does Ghana (of all places).

Today, so many countries are either building nuclear plants or thinking about it that the term "renaissance" is being tied to "nuclear" (Google current(!) news stories on the subject: 144.), including Newsweek, from Friday(!) "Yes, In My Backyard", and another leftwing German one "A Nuclear Power Renaissance": http://www.spiegel.de/international/spiegel/0,1518,460011,00.html

So the question is: why do you think you can pull an "Arminius" on us and mis-cite the plain facts?

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 8 years, 4 months ago

"So the question is: why do you think you can pull an "Arminius" on us and mis-cite the plain facts?"

All your "facts" show is that there are a lot of misguided people who are willing to damn the torpedoes and use the "easy answer" of nuclear, and hope that its very obvious negative aspects never bite us in the ass.

BTW, decommissioning nuclear is still official German policy.

salad 8 years, 4 months ago

Economics are driving the entire decision wrt energy. There are two main considerations: 1. cost of the fuel 2. cost of the plant

Fuel cost is by far the biggest consideration, and is measured in $/million BTU. so to make 1 million BTU's of heat for power generation, the fuel costs currently are: natural gas: $6.50 coal; $1.40 nuclear: $0.75

The cost of the plant is the main factor for nukes, since they easily run over a BILLION dollars each. But they are quite safe. Other than Chernobyl, which exploded because the opperators were conducting a wacky experiment on it, there hasn't been a release of nuclear material from inside the containment structure ever. TMI released a small quantity of steam that was slightly radioactive, and the result of an unbelieveably convoluted series of unlikely events and a stuck valve. Again, if the opperators had simply left the automated control systems alone, the accident wouldn't have happened. Control systems are much much better today, BTW. Natural gas exists in abundance, but it's almost all in gas hydrate form and too expensive to mine from the seafloor. someday..... Wind is a great supplement, but is highly unreliable, even in a windy place like KS. Most of the time, there is not enough wind to generate power. I personally don't mind what you guys decide to build to make the power you're going to need, either way, Black & Veatch will design and build it for you and I'll have steady work.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 8 years, 4 months ago

"The cost of the plant is the main factor for nukes, since they easily run over a BILLION dollars each."

They can easily run ten-fold of that. And for you to say they operate safely requires ignoring everything that's dangerous about them.

"Wind is a great supplement, but is highly unreliable, even in a windy place like KS. Most of the time, there is not enough wind to generate power."

Self-serving BS.

ASBESTOS 8 years, 4 months ago

Additionally why are we letting Iran build nuke plants, but refuse to build them here??? WHY did we subsidise the N. Korean Nuke plants and refuse to build them here?? WHY does France used Nuke plants for 80% of their national power generation?

The truth is that burning Coal is bad, but it is cheap and the "safety issues" are dilute. Such as a certian health penalty to hundereds of people in the form as increased disease and death from the effluent in air.

However, outside of Cherynoble (sp) and TMI, there are fewer problems with Nuke plants than the Coal. Additionally install huundred thousand or so WInd Turbines and see how many fatalties you have from tipping towers ans Ice accumulation. Look at all the Electrical towers that failed and the TV and Comm. towers that collapsed. NUKE is the way to go.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 8 years, 4 months ago

"However, outside of Cherynoble (sp) and TMI, there are fewer problems with Nuke plants than the Coal."

There is no shortage of problems-- overcoming the denial of them is the biggest challenge in preventing a dangerous escalation in the use of nuclear power.

"Additionally install huundred thousand or so WInd Turbines and see how many fatalties you have from tipping towers ans Ice accumulation."

Yea, that's a really frightening prospect.

"Look at all the Electrical towers that failed and the TV and Comm. towers that collapsed."

Well, I'm looking. Not saying it never happens, but you're grasping mighty hard here, ASBESTOS. There is absolutely no comparison between the dangers presented by wind generation and those by nuclear generation.

delta77 8 years, 4 months ago

"[The Paducah] enrichment facility and another at Portsmouth, Ohio, release from leaky pipes 93per cent of the chlorofluorocarbon gas emitted yearly in the US."

Since 2001, when this statistic was calculated, the Ohio plant has been closed and improvements made to the Paducah facility have resulted in a reduction of CFC emissions by about two thirds.

In addition, the company that operates the facility plans to replace the Paducah plant with one using a newer technology by 2010.

Jamesaust 8 years, 4 months ago

Bozo: "a lot of misguided people".

Translation: "everyone but me"

"decommissioning nuclear is still official German policy"

And bringing democracy to Iraq remains official U.S. policy.

Only the fanatics believe either policy will play out.

Tom McCune 8 years, 4 months ago

FWIW, I used to work for a utility in another part of the country that had all of the usual suspects: hydro, coal, nuclear, gas turbine, pumped storage, and wind. I worked with all of those plants, but I'm not even in the power industry at all any more, so I don't really have a dog in this fight. But here's some things to think about...

  1. The real world answer is that unless you want to radically scale back civilization, you're going to need all of them for the foreseeable future. Conservation programs have been going on for quite a while and they have helped hold down the growth in power demand, but they won't reverse it any time soon.

  2. Uranium is a naturally occurring trace element in some coal. Some actuaries figured that as much as 40 POUNDS of uranium went up the stack of a 1,000MW coal plant every year. They figured that a 1,000MW coal plant created about 100 deaths per plant operating year and that a 1,000MW nuclear plant created about 2 deaths per plant operating year. (Believe it or not, that is a standard statistic in the power industry deaths per plant operating year.) Obviously, you can't sort out which 100 people, but that's what they calculated.

  3. The obvious counter argument is "how many lives did the power from those plants make POSSIBLE?" A 1,000 MW plant produces enough power for something like 2,000,000 houses. It also has to support businesses, industry, transportation, hospitals, street lights, etc. so let's say it supports something like maybe 500,000 people, depending on the area. If that plant goes away only a handful of people can live in the same area and they will be living in stone age conditions.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 8 years, 4 months ago

"Only the fanatics believe either policy will play out."

No, only the fanatics believe that we can continue doing things the same ways as always as we approach 7 billion in population.

"A 1,000 MW plant produces enough power for something like 2,000,000 houses."

So we need new ways of doing things. Nuclear will continue to be part of the bridge answer, as will coal, but expanding its use like the nuclear wetdreamers want to do is just a different form of suicide.

Jamesaust 8 years, 4 months ago

"So we need new ways of doing things. Nuclear will continue to be part of the bridge answer, as will coal, but expanding its use like the nuclear wetdreamers want to do is just a different form of suicide."

Okay. First, that's vile. Temptingly, worthy of removal.

Second, there's only one variety of energy security, and that's diversity. Nuclear isn't a "bridge answer" - it is a part of the final answer.

Thank you for providing not much insight into this topic. I began the day as a nuclear agnostic. But if it inspires such illogical silliness then it must have something to it. Maybe you need to do some more (any?) research. When you denounce basically 'the world' as misguided because they disagree with you, perhaps that might be a signal.

blubba78 8 years, 4 months ago

Merril seems to be a fountain of misinformation.

  1. As has been pointed out by others, Paducah stopped operations in 2001.

  2. The Storm van Leeuwen and Philip Smith study that anti-nuclear types love to quote is an outlier among the various life cycle enery analysis that have been conducted and is hardly objective. It uses 30-year old assumptions and if it were accurate the price of uranium fuel would have had to have been much higher than it was (before the Megatons to Megawatts program depressed the world market price) for producers to be able to recoup the energy costs alone. See http://www.nuclearinfo.net/Nuclearpower/WebHomeEnergyLifecycleOfNuclear_Power.

  3. The reason noble gas releases are unregulated is because it is "not considered a significant respiratory hazard" (10 CFR 20). If you are afraid of the negligible radiation amounts released by nuclear power plants, you should avoid the much greater amounts recieved by natural sources like any food containing naturally occurring radioactive Potassium-40 (which is all food containing Potassium, including bananas) or food containing naturally occurring Carbon-14 (which is all food). For that matter, maybe you should stop breathing (naturally occuring Radon, another noble gas) just to be on the safe side.

Ken Lassman 8 years, 4 months ago

Jamesaust said: "Second, there's only one variety of energy security, and that's diversity. Nuclear isn't a "bridge answer" - it is a part of the final answer."

That term "final answer" gives me the creeps. ;>)

Since you did at one time claim to be a nuclear agnostic, I want to raise some real reservations I have about nuclear that have not been seriously addressed in this discussion.

First of all, it seems to me that nuclear power was born, developed, and is maintained through massive amounts of government subsidies. This will not change if it returns as a newly contributing part of the energy equation of our fine country. By subsidies, I'm talking specifically about the untold billions of dollars underwritten by the feds in the form of research dollars to design and develop the plants, very low caps on the insurance costs in the event of an accident, at which point the taxpayer pays the tab, subsidized fuel enrichment, transport, reprocessing costs, plus waste and spent fuel storage--short and long term, to say nothing of the upcoming decommissioning costs of scores of aging nuclear power plants.

On top of that, you now have security risks that have been greatly heightened due to terrorist risks, who must be sorely tempted to convert a power plant into a dirty bomb by flying a jet not into a containment dome, which might actually survive, but the spent fuel rod storage pools that lay beside most if not all plants.

My main concern about this aspect is that the only way to prevent such an attack if nukes proliferate across the countyside is to create an even more powerful security net, which, in my estimation would look an awful lot like a police state. Is this the kind of centralized power future you were really wanting? It's not in my list of hopes and dreams for my grandchildren.

Finally, my recollection of Kepco, KG&E and the others who financed Wolf Creek is that they have been practically peeing their pants trying to pawn off the increased rates they've had to pay to finance the sucker, working round the clock to pass the rates to Westar customers who did not sign up for the nuke in the first place, but through some really fancy footwork, ended up footing a big part of the bill anyway. Do you really trust that consortium? I sure don't. Now they are already working for creating a tax abatement zone around Wolf Creek to create yet another subsidy for another plant, and I think that's just the beginning.

So when I hear "nukes" as a solution, I look around at my wallet to see who's already got their hands in it, and say 'no, thanks.'

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 8 years, 4 months ago

"When you denounce basically 'the world' as misguided because they disagree with you, perhaps that might be a signal."

Aside from smugness, what have you offered besides the argument that "everyone else does it?"

Linda Endicott 8 years, 4 months ago

Coal and gas plants may be dirty and nasty, and contain their own dangers, but if attacked and/or blown up, they aren't going to take hundreds of thousands of people with them, or contaminate miles and miles of land around them for decades.

That is my main fear of nuclear power plants. One mistake, one disaster, one attack, and people will be paying the price for generations to come. And you can't eliminate all the dangers.

We don't even know yet all of the long-term effects that Chernobyl will have on the world. It hasn't been long enough.

Think of Hiroshima.

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