Archive for Friday, July 16, 2010

Statehouse Live: Sunflower Electric joins group seeking development of nuclear energy

July 16, 2010


— The Kansas utility that has been pushing for construction of a controversial coal-fired electric power plant is also promoting development of nuclear energy.

Hays-based Sunflower Electric Power Corp. has joined a consortium that supports the construction of smaller commercial nuclear reactors and the regulatory changes needed to bring them to market.

“Sunflower’s board is pretty visionary. We are always investigating new technology,” Sunflower spokeswoman Cindy Hertel said Friday.

The consortium includes a number of utilities promoting a proposal by Babcock & Wilcox Co. to build small nuclear reactors that can be built in factories and then shipped to sites. Babcock, based in Charlotte, N.C., now makes small reactors for the Navy.

Babcock got a big boost in its effort this week when leading engineering company Bechtel Corp. announced it would partner with Babcock to develop the 125-megawatt plants that would be housed underground.

The alliance is being called Generation mPower. “The formation of Generation mPower is a turning point in the nuclear power plant industry,” said Jack Futcher, president of Bechtel’s power business. Futcher said the alliance hopes to advance development of nuclear power with the first plant deployed as early as 2020.

Sunflower Electric’s Hertel emphasized the consideration of nuclear energy is in the beginning stages. “We’re just part of a consortium that says this is a viable technology that needs to be pursued,” Hertel said.

Sunflower Electric currently is seeking a permit to build an 895-megawatt coal-fired plant in Finney County. Public hearings on that project are scheduled next month in Overland Park, Salina and Garden City. Under the proposal, most of the power would be sold to out-of-state customers.

Environmentalists have been opposed to nuclear energy. The Kansas chapter of the Sierra Club said Sunflower’s energy needs don’t merit consideration of either a new coal-fired plant or nuclear unit.

“If we’re thinking about what’s in the best interest of ratepayers, new nuclear and coal capacity is not the least cost option, and that’s exactly why there aren’t new coal and nuclear plants being built now,” said Stephanie Cole, a spokeswoman for the Kansas chapter of the Sierra Club.


lounger 7 years, 9 months ago

Bad Idea. Where do we put spent waste?

rorik23 7 years, 9 months ago

Not sure how the cost breaks out, but I'd be surprised if Sunflower's load justified the cost of a small nuclear generator.

LogicMan 7 years, 9 months ago

"Where do we put spent waste?"

In a very deep hole in the ground such as an old mineshaft. In Colorado or Nebraska would be my first choices.

rorik23 7 years, 9 months ago

LogicMan - somewhere near Lincoln or Boulder, preferably.

nobody1793 7 years, 9 months ago

It will be cooled by Frank Martin's icy stare.


Nathan Atchison 7 years, 9 months ago

“Sunflower’s board is pretty visionary. We are always investigating new technology,” (except for anything renewable.)

Clark Coan 7 years, 9 months ago

If they install one in Kansas, it should be right next to the CEO's mansion. Also, the CEOs of the utilities which own Wolf Creek should build their mansions right next to the plant if they think they are so safe.

mr_right_wing 7 years, 9 months ago

During this administration nuclear is a dangerous idea.

The obama administration was derelict in monthly inspections of the BP rig.

Obviously the obama NRC would be incapable of safely regulating nuclear.

Perhaps the next President...

Janet Lowther 7 years, 9 months ago

Nuclear waste can be dramatically reduced by the simple and time-honored tradition of recycling.

The most dangerous parts of spent nuclear fuel can be recycled into more reactor fuel. This eliminates nearly all of the very long lived reaction products.

The French have been doing it for decades, and the US used to recycle it's commercial nuclear waste 'till congress intervened and forbade the AEC from doing it.

These little 250MW nukes are a great idea: They can be built by the dozen and located close to users, unlike the typical 1,000+MW plant, which will save transmission losses.

All of the US nuclear power plants to date have been one of a kind. By standardizing on one fairly small design, you can leverage the experience of each plant to make all of 'em safer.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 9 months ago

'Hopes that the “fast breeder”– a plutonium-fueled nuclear reactor designed to produce more fuel than it consumed -- might serve as a major part of the long-term nuclear waste disposal solution are not merited by the dismal track record to date of such sodium-cooled reactors in France, India, Japan, the Soviet Union/Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States, according to a major new study from the International Panel on Fissile Materials (IPFM).

Titled “Fast Breeder Reactor Programs: History and Status,” the IPFM report concludes: “The problems (with fast breeder reactors) … make it hard to dispute Admiral Hyman Rickover’s summation in 1956, based on his experience with a sodium-cooled reactor developed to power an early U.S. nuclear submarine, that such reactors are ‘expensive to build, complex to operate, susceptible to prolonged shutdown as a result of even minor malfunctions, and difficult and time-consuming to repair.’”

Plagued by high costs, often multi-year downtime for repairs (including a 15-year reactor restart delay in Japan), multiple safety problems (among them often catastrophic sodium fires triggered simply by contact with oxygen), and unresolved proliferation risks, “fast breeder” reactors already have been the focus of more than $50 billion in development spending, including more than $10 billion each by the U.S., Japan and Russia. As the IPFM report notes: “Yet none of these efforts has produced a reactor that is anywhere near economically competitive with light-water reactors … After six decades and the expenditure of the equivalent of tens of billions of dollars, the promise of breeder reactors remains largely unfulfilled and efforts to commercialize them have been steadily cut back in most countries.”'

average 7 years, 9 months ago

I'm pro-nuke. Designs are a lot better now than the 40-year-old reactors we're flogging today. Not only would I move near one, I'd apply for a job.

The issue with a nuke in western Kansas is water. A nuke plant takes a reliable source (mind you, so does a coal plant). The difference is that if you have to shut down a coal plant in 25 years due to uneconomic water supply, you've already paid off the construction years ago. A nuke is amortized over 40-50 years if it's ever going to operate in the black. And no one is betting on there being adequate surface or aquifer water in Western Kansas for gigawatt-scale power plants exporting 90% of their power (Locked in the contract! Kansas consumers can never get access to 90% of the power made there.) to Front Range Colorado. Especially ironic when you consider the water wars with Colorado.

Adequate water is even a limiting factor on being able to build a Wolf Creek Unit 2, let alone in the High Plains.

mr_right_wing 7 years, 9 months ago

Most of the people on here aren't willing to listen to, or accept what the two of you say.

They'd rather blindly regurgitate what they heard about in the 70s. (Or what groups like the Sierra Club tell them to think.)

Your truth is falling on deaf ears. They're not willing to accept any innovations that may have taken place over the last 30 years. To them nuclear is exactly the same now as it was then. Unlike everything else in this world, nuclear is void of any improvements.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 9 months ago

So, since nuclear is such a slam dunk, you'd be willing to see a repeal of the Price-Anderson Act, and requirements that there be truly safe disposal systems in order to get nukes a green light?

Ken Lassman 7 years, 9 months ago

OK Mr. Right, I'll bite: -Which energy sources have produced more new energy in the past decade? Nuclear, solar or wind? Nuclear comes in LAST, both in the US (zero--no new nukes built due not to anything but simple economics!) and in the world. Wind is first, followed by solar. Don't believe it? Look it up yourself.

-I'm old enough to remember why the US decided against reprocessing nuclear fuels--are you? It's not due to the economics or the waste issue--it's because of the high risk of nuclear weapons proliferation. Anyone who reprocesses nuclear fuel can make their own bombs. Why do you think there's such a stink being made about Iran?? So your choice is: reprocess it to reduce the amount of waste and drastically increase the chances of some wackos making their own bombs, or try to figure out how to store the waste safely for the next 25,000 to 100,000 years. Good luck with either path, buddy, and still make it economically viable.

-Then there's the little issue of the nuclear industry: why after 56 years of SERIOUS subsidies that true renewables can only drool over, is it still not economically viable? Do you realize how much taxpayers are being milked to develop this new effort? Not only is there heavy subsidies to develop these "new generation" nukes (read: "beam me up, Scottie"), we taxpayers, through the congress, have signed up to guarantee billions in loans to build the plants, so that if the utilities go belly up, the corporations who built them are going to get paid anyway thanks to you and me! And if any plant melts down or otherwise pollutes, the Price-Anderson Act limits the amount of liability to a miniscule amount, so that, unlike BP, which hasn't found a way out of paying for the Gulf cleanup yet, these nuclear players just say, "oops! here's the bill--sorry guys!"

So tell me, Mr. Right, who's blind and deaf again?

mr_right_wing 7 years, 9 months ago

All mute points.

The obama administration has proved to be negligent in safely regulating oil rigs; I shudder to imagine how sloppy an obama Nuclear Regulatory Commission would be...

I'll say it again; nuclear during obama's regime is too dangerous.

Even if that weren't the point, I've grown weary of arguing with folks who ignore facts. Please, don't take my, or anyone else's word for it. I did a lot of research when I heard someone talking about how nuclear was a safe efficient alternative to coal; I had the same knee-jerk reactions as you. But then I went past all the propaganda. You can too, it just takes a little time and effort. What keeps nuclear safe today is strong regulation; obamas administration has proven they are incapible; so I've changed my mind....nuclear at this point is a very bad idea.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 9 months ago

"The obama administration has proved to be negligent in safely regulating oil rigs; I shudder to imagine how sloppy an obama Nuclear Regulatory Commission would be..."

The regulatory system Obama had been using was pretty much the one he inherited from BushCo, a wholly owned subsidiary of the oil industry. So while Obama certainly deserves blame for not fixing it, Republicans and right-wingers shouldn't get all finger-pointy for his failure to fix every vestige of their corrupting influence on government regulators.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 9 months ago

Nuclear is only considered "safe" when compared to technologies such as coal, which has always been dirty and dangerous, and is slowly killing us.

Ken Lassman 7 years, 9 months ago

Right, Not moot points at all; all three points were equally valid before Obama and will be valid after Obama. Your logic is completely absent here.

Nuclear power is inextricably linked to getting access to nuclear materials that could either be made into dirty bombs or further processed into fission bombs. End of story.

Nuclear power industry continues to get the biggest subsidies of any energy production source and has recieved sweetheart loans backed with taxpayers' dollars and waived of all but the smalest liabilities because of Price Anderson act.

And yet, despite these incredible subsidies, the industry struggles to come up with a plan that makes economic sense, so much so that wind and solar continue to produce more new power worldwide than new nuclear has in the past decade.

Modular nukes only spread the risk and potential hazards--it will require increased security and corresponding restrictions of civil liberties. Is that really what you'd want in your neighborhood?

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