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11 Comments

  1. A small nit in the fourth paragraph.

    It should read: “…from ACR-700, to ESBWR, to US-APWR, and back to ESBWR…”. The US-APWR was Mitsubishi’s ill-fated foray into the N. American nuclear power business.

    They also had a 2-unit project at Comanche Peak in TX that was suspended when Mitsubishi pulled out of N. America in 2013. It didn’t help that Luminant Power, the operator of Comanche Peak, was owned by a utility that later declared bankruptcy.

    1. @Tom Bearden

      Nit corrected. (For the record, I also received a correction request from a friend in Canada. The early version of the article said CANDU-6 instead of the correct ACR-700.)

  2. Interesting – I remember hearing years ago about the ESBWR design, but it didn’t seem, at the time, like GE had any interest in marketing it. This is the first I’ve heard of any activity for ESBWR builds.

    By the way – regarding Cove Point – could Dominion also use it as an EXPORT facility for LNG? It would seem like, right now, the profitable path for gas is through LNG *export* terminals, to Japan, Europe, and elsewhere. . .

    Of course, if Dominion has customers paying them to not grow corn, that’s a good business too, for as long as it lasts. . .

    1. @Jeff S

      Thank you for your question. It helped me realize that the following statement from the article is not as clearly stated as it should be for non specialists in the field of LNG.

      2. Dominion must complete the addition of a $3.8 billion liquefaction facility at Cove Point, the company’s lightly used LNG import facility.

      A liquefaction facility is the modification required to turn an LNG import facility into an LNG export facility. Facilities for importing LNG simply heat and expand the liquid into a pipeline quality vapor and then compress it for transport. A liquefaction facility takes delivered gas from a pipeline and compresses/cools it to turn it into a liquid that can be loaded onto a ship for transport.

      As indicated by the $3.8 billion price tag, it’s not a cheap facility. It is, however, a known technology with a reasonable chance of on time, on budget (or close) execution without too much regulatory interference.

      1. Rod,

        Thanks for the clarification – I was confused because I kind of thought that a Liquefaction facility was used for turning gas into liquid, which seems like what you’d do to export. So, sounds like Dominion will use the profits from selling gas overseas to pay for building a new nuclear reactor in the US in order to use cheaper and more abundant nuclear energy, and profit off of premium prices abroad. That’s smart.

  3. It’s interesting that LNG exports are one of the things that could drive N. American NG prices up close to world levels, which would destroy the cost advantage that NG-fired plants have over nuclear.

    1. Not only that, but for those seeking to profit off LNG, and who are involved in both markets like Dominion is, it may make more sense to build nuclear plants for domestic power, and sell the gas elsewhere at significant markup.

      1. Oh. You mean like Saudi Arabia, and UAE?

        Unrelated, but what does the market potential need to look like in order for GE-H to commit to the lead ESBWR? Will they know it when they see it?

  4. The Bard (EP) wrote:

    “which would destroy the cost advantage that NG-fired plants have over nuclear.”

    Is that an example of necessity being the mother of invention and spurring full development of nuke plants? Alternatively, from previous postings on this site, there appears to be ample supply of natural gas. It just may be at a higher price.

    The time it may take to build a nuke plant may still favor natural gas even at a high price. Gas plants can be built more quickly.

    The distance from the electrical market (load) may favor a natural gas plant. Siting nuclear plants has got to be quite difficult these days. Longer transmission lines are also more costly. If I remember correctly, they try to site them 40 miles from major population centers

    The regulation may serve as an almost impenetrable barrier or shield to building a new nuke plant. In conjunction with this, of course, is the public fear which will be very difficult to overcome.

  5. Michele Kearney has linked Energy rules have Virginia weighing new nuclear reactor at North Anna, from the Richmond Times-Dispatch. Towards the end are some interesting quotes from Walton Shepard, an attorney with NRDC:

    Shepherd said the numbers he’s working through show that Virginia could reach its goal if Dominion Virginia Power’s follows through with its already planned coal-plant retirements and keeps all gas plants running at the same level as 2012, and if the state meets its optional targets of 10 percent electricity savings and 15 percent more renewable energy.

    “The main story in Virginia so far has been this disconnect between what is actually the rule versus what is posed as this insurmountable challenge,” Shepherd said.

    “Dominion is in position to say ‘We have all these plants, how are we going to reduce emissions enough?’ Then they’d say ‘Let’s build this shiny new nuclear plant.’ The environmentalists will come in and say ‘Wait, you don’t need to do that.’

    I think we’re all in favor of increased energy efficiency where practical. But I’m somewhat troubled (alternately amused) by this underlying “environmental” meme that the Clean Power Plan is something to be barely met by the skin of our teeth, rather than a first baby step on a long road toward drastically decreased emissions. I realize Dominion probably thinks they can make more gas money by buying low and selling high than they can by buying high and burning it, but who’s exerting the environmental leadership here, anyway?

  6. Re:
    “A sharper-than-expected shudder from the earth happened on August 23, 2011, in the form of an earthquake centered just a few miles from the site, which also inserted a substantial delay in the combined construction and operating license (COL) review.”

    Wow!! What fragile gigantic eggshells all these nuclear plants are! Pad ’em up quick!!!
    Er, no oil and gas and chem facility checks?

    James Greenidge
    Queens NY

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