Strange blog post title today. I have been having some difficulty juggling a number of activities recently, and I find that I have missed commenting on a several recent events and updates associated with the NuClear renaissance.
One of my activities has been a continuing conversation with Adam Curry on the DSC. If you have been listening to his recent shows, you will already know that he has been making some impassioned comments stating that he is pretty sure that nuclear power is a useful and valuable path for the future. He is also recognizing that there has been a lot of “programming” by people opposed to nuclear power to make sure that people remain uncertain about things like waste and safety.
Mitsubishi has announced a major expansion of its capacity to produce large components for nuclear power plants. Its new plant will be built in central Japan and be capable of producing two pressure vessels and reactor internals each year. Mitsubishi is also continuing to contemplate a financial investment in the PBMR project – it is already a major supplier in the effort. If Mitsubishi does invest in the South African PBMR, it will add to the list of recent decisions by major Japanese corporations build up their interests in African companies and African development.
One aspect of the Mitsubishi participation in PBMR that is fascinating to watch is the fact that Toshiba and Mitsubishi are major rivals, but Mitsubishi also has a long time relationship with Westinghouse as a licensee of their Pressurized Water Reactor technology. Westinghouse is now part of Toshiba and also part of the PBMR project. In one more twist, Toshiba had a long term relationship with GE as a Boiling Water Reactor licensee and as a partner in the ABWRs that were built in Japan. As any student of American industrial history knows, GE and Westinghouse have been rivals for more than 100 years.
Shaw Group and Westinghouse have now landed a second Engineering, Procurement, and Construction (EPC) contract for a pair of reactors. This time, the customers are South Carolina Electric & Gas Company (SCE&G) and Santee Cooper. Added to the order that Georgia Power placed in April, that now makes four AP1000 reactors that are on order in the US. This is certainly exciting news for both Shaw and Toshiba (Westinghouse’s parent company) and for the nuclear industry as a whole. If you are not watching closely, it will soon become apparent that the aircraft carrier (AKA the Second Atomic Age) is moving away from the pier – if you are watching with bated breath the process can seem painfully slow.
I also came across a number of articles indicating that Italy’s leaders are reconsidering the country’s ban on nuclear power. Interestingly enough, the country, despite having no reactors of its own, already receives 20-30% of its power from reactors located across its borders in neighboring countries. However, most of its electricity generation comes from burning oil or natural gas from North Africa, giving it some of the highest electrical power rates in Europe. Here is a quote from the New York Times article from last week titled Italy Embraces Nuclear Power
“By the end of this legislature we will put down the foundation stone for the construction in our country of a group of new-generation nuclear plants,” said Claudio Scajola, minister of economic development. “An action plan to go back to nuclear power can not be delayed anymore.”
The change for Italy is a striking sign of the times, reflecting growing concern in many European countries over the skyrocketing price of oil and energy security, as well as the warming effects of carbon emissions from fossil fuels. All have combined to make this once-scorned form of energy far more palatable.
Since that article came out, I read several other ones indicating that Italy’s biggest problem would be finding a location for the reactors since the country has a notorious case of NIMBYISM that prevents the construction of numerous necessary infrastructure projects like landfills and incinerators. Of course, a nuclear plant is a much better neighbor than either of those facilities, but the sentiment still exists – despite some evidence to the contrary – that a new plant might not be a welcome addition to a locality.
However, Italy’s neighbors are again willing to “sacrifice” and host a plant if Italians decide to discourage the development. Albania, for example, would love to build plants, keep the jobs and income and sell electricity to Italy.
Albania, together with the United Nations nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), is currently exploring norms and regulations that would allow the Balkan nation to enter the nuclear playing field, Berisha told Corriere della Sera.
‘As soon as we are ready, we will reach agreements with neighbouring countries, first of all Italy. We will finance, together with the government in Rome, a nuclear plant to be built in Albania,’ Berisha said.
Albania ‘offers all the guarantees to produce nuclear power safely. We will have the best fourth generation (technology). No one in the Mediterranean region will have anything to fear,’ he added.
If you get a chance, please also stop by my new efforts at CleanTechnica.com and RedGreenandBlue.com. I am trying to reach out to new people and start new conversations about the use of atomic fission as a useful solution to many of the world’s most pressing environmental and economic issues. My most recent post on CleanTechnica is titled What Do You Do About the Waste? Recycle and Reuse, while my most recent post on RedGreenandBlue is titled Smart Way to Remember Memorial Day. Comments and suggestions are always welcome.