1. Great summary of the summit. I heard Mr. Bradford’s “caviar” comment. For some odd reason, Korea, China, India, and the UAE look at nuclear as an “early bird special”. 😉

  2. “Chairman Jaczko of the NRC once again demonstrated why it is probably not a good idea to put a 38-year-old, especially one who has spent his scientific career on Washington DC political staffs, in charge of a key federal agency.”
    In other words, this is why you don’t send a political flunky to do a man’s job.
    By the way, “scientific career” should be in quotes. Jaczko never had a scientific career.

  3. Thanks for the summary, Rod! Your tweets were also helpful to those of us interested in the event, but located outside of the Beltway. I wish they had made a webcast available.

  4. “Niagara”, not “Niagra”. The omission of the second “a” makes references to the potency of the power source almost irresistable.

  5. A question about DoE Loan Guarantees. . .
    I know you guys have to constantly argue with anti-nukes calling the Loan Guarantees “expensive subsidies”. I was reading Rod’s comment on the Kansas City Star article, and the discussion in his comments made it sound like the government is making the loan itself.
    I thought a loan guarantees is like ‘insurance’ for the lender? I.e. the nuclear developers go to private lenders for the loans, and the lenders agree to loan the money, but only if the loans are ‘guaranteed’ by the U.S. DoE?
    If that’s the case, if there aren’t any defaults on the loans, the guarantees should cost taxpayers almost nothing, right (and since the developers are having to pay a credit subsidy for the guarantees, could potentially *make money* for the government if no one defaults, yes)?
    It seems to me that the logical thing is for the government to use its unique powers to ensure that none of the loans completely defaults. If a developer cannot afford to keep making payments on the loan, they should lose their equity in the nuclear plants, and the government can find *someone else* to finish the plant, and get it into revenue service. Make sure none of the projects fail, and it won’t be expensive for taxpayers.
    Additionally, the federal government should use its powers to ensure that we don’t have any more fiasco’s like Shoreham – once a nuclear plant is licensed to start construction, and all the money has been committed, you can’t let capricious politics stop a perfectly fine plant with no safety problems from going into service.
    Cut the red tape, make sure the plants get built and operate, and there’s not much financial risk to the taxpayer, it seems to me.

    1. As it turns out, Jeff, when the federal government guarantees large loans to commercial enterprises (farming, shipping, etc) they often cut out the middle man and lend the money directly from the Federal Financing Bank. (I just learned this recently.)
      “The Federal Financing Bank is a government corporation, created by Congress in 1973 under the general supervision of the Secretary of the Treasury. The FFB was established to centralize and reduce the cost of federal borrowing, as well as federally assisted borrowing from the public.”
      Perhaps this is one of the reasons that there is not a lot of political support for loan guarantees – the bankers do not get to take their cut of the action of some very large, low risk transactions.

      1. Well, if the government itself is making the loans, in a way, that’s even *better* for taxpayers, right? I mean, the government gets to take a credit subsidy *and* gets to earn interest back on the loan (although they are fairly low interest rates, I’ve heard, but when you are talking about a 10 or 12 Billion dollar loan, even if the interest rates are 1.5 or 2.0 percent, we’re talking about pretty big bucks, aren’t we?), *and* when the plant goes into service, gets tax revenue off the income from selling the power?
        You know what’s funny? I tried using a few of the web-based loan calculators out there (the kind designed to let people estimate their home/auto loans), just to get a ball-park figure for what the interest on a nuclear plant loan is, but none of them will allow me to enter values in the billions of dollars for the loan amount, hehe. Just at a guess, a long term (30 or 40 year loan), even with a low interest rate, I would think that we’re talking about 2 or 3 billion in interest charges?
        I know one person I saw posting on the Internet said that any loan by the government, if it isn’t at the same interest rates that a wall street bank would charge, is a subsidy. I suppose that’s technically correct, but I see a big difference between a small interest rate ‘subsidy’ that *generates revenue* for taxpayers, versus the outright subsidies that solar and wind projects are getting – cash payouts by the government to buy technology that can’t financially compete in the generation market – even if it had ‘subsidized loans’ in the style of nuclear.

    1. A streamlined global regulatory environment set up on a rational basis to facilitate worldwide nuclear power deployment sounds like a very good idea. Please note, however, that it is probably unlikely that in negotiating such an arrangement the US would have everything go its way. Indeed, I could see the other major players looking at a US initiative in that direction with a good deal of suspicion.

      1. Craig – I would hope that the US regulatory standard would not be a close model for the streamlined international regulatory standard. US regulation is, I believe, the single largest factor in shutting down US new reactor starts over the last 30 years. The world needs to build more nuclear over the next 40 years to accommodate the needs of the additional billions of additional inhabitants that will join us oldsters in sharing this planet. Diffuse energy solutions will not be adequate to provide what is needed for preserving decency and quality of life when the population of the world rises to 8 to 9 billion in 2050. A properly framed international regulatory standard needs to be designed to permit practical safe construction of new nuclear power plants. If, as a nuclear manufacture, you have one regulatory standard to design to you can save costs of producing a vast array of regional design variations. With a design made to an international regulatory standard, you can sell that internationally certified design into hundreds of worldwide markets and with genuine international competition, cost to energy end users will inevitably go down while value to the customers will go up.
        One of the more difficult things in the world is to reduce the accumulated body of regulation. I think that Rod is correct in that, given the current NRC; significant change would require the passage of decades. Movement on this slow a scale will ensure that the US will lose its own nuclear industry to emerging Asian superpowers. Joining a process to bring into being a uniform international regulatory standard provides a graceful way to transition out from under a basically hostile US regulatory structure that has effectively shuttered the American nuclear industry and to transition to a flat international regulatory standard that all can respect. Under a properly framed international regulatory standard the American industry gets a real chance to recover and supply a world market.
        For an international nuclear regulatory standard to be effective and well framed it should bear no more than small resemblance to current US regulation. A properly framed international regulatory standard should feature safety achieved through prudent assessment of probabalistic risk, not safety achieved by shutting the regulated industry down for three decades by setting the regulatory obstacles too high (if no body builds anything then there can be no accidents and nothing can go wrong).

    2. @Bob – I did not hear anyone at the conference looking for largess. Mainly what I heard was a request for predictable regulations and some assurance that the selling price of the product that can come from a very large investment in a long term generating asset is not artificially depressed just when the plant comes on line and needs to start paying back the loans.
      I also heard a company executive explain that his company has already invested $440 million into a project that will not even begin to start paying any returns until 2018 at the very earliest.
      Not only was Steven Chu at the meeting, but so was Greg Jaczko, the Chairman of the NRC. Though I agree that there is a need for streamlining of regulations, that is a process that will – realistically – take a long time. What would not take a long time is adding additional reviewing resources to the NRC so that they could handle more than one or two things at a time. As a gate keeper, the NRC leaders have a philosophy more like the folks that run the DMV. Not enough employees – that’s okay, the customers will just have to line up and wait their turn. They cannot go and get the service that we offer anywhere else.

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