Monday, May 2, 2011

Conference Notes: Uranium Fuel Cycle 2011, Chpt 1

The conference was held in Hobbs, New Mexico, April 27 and 28, 2011.
275 registered for the conference. Among the many students in attendance were 23 from Lovington High School.
The speaker notes and associated comments below are in order of the speaker’s appearance. The notes posted here are not quite half the total. Expect the rest in two or three of four days.
U.S. Rep. Steve Pearce: “All you want as a consumer is to flip the switch. We confuse energy and power. “Power is truly what we need.” He is having continuing discussions with tribes about the legacy issues from uranium mining.
Jon Barela, Secretary of the New Mexico Economic Development Department: He listed the principles for economic development of the Martinez administration. The principles are “so that we can create jobs.”
1. “Government must get its financial house in order.” Barela then linked financial probity to the deliberations of a firm considering where locate a facility. Barela confused “economic development,” i.e. recruiting companies to the area, with developing the economy. However important, economic development is an at-the-margins activity within developing the economy. The remark is another example of the Martinez administration’s failure to get into the question of what really should government be doing.
2. “Ensure we have a business friendly regulatory environment,” especially with regard to energy businesses. “Capital and jobs will flow to the course of least resistance.” “We will never, never compromise the environment.”
3. Three Cs: Competition, climate, culture. “Make sure New Mexico has a competitive tax environment.”
4. A workforce that is ready to take these jobs. Barela complemented the state’s workforce (seriously, apparently) and the community colleges.
5. Viable infrastructure—roads, broadband.
6. Maybe most relevant, “an environment that fosters innovation.”
In the past, economic development has been top down. “If it wasn’t film, we weren’t going to get involved.”
Barela closed with the myth and lie of energy security. He cited the lack of “an energy policy that makes us energy secure.”
Dr. Daniel Fine, New Mexico Tech. Fine had five minutes on the agenda. He took more than 20. Underlying this conference is the possibility of getting a small modular nuclear reactor in southeast New Mexico. Fine pitched the Babcock and Wilcox design.
Hyperion Power Generation of Los Alamos ( is commercializing a small modular nuclear reactor design developed at Los Alamos National Laboratory. Hyperion was not mentioned at the conference, which I find curious.
Dr. Peter Scholle, state geologist and professor of geology at New Mexico Tech.: The salt deposits in southeast New Mexico make the state the best place in the world for nuclear waste storage.
Even without climate concerns, nuclear energy has to be part of the mix. Renewables—wind and solar—will also be part. However, renewables are not available all day and all night, every day. Renewables will consume large amounts of land for their sites and large amounts of minerals for manufacturing.
Overall, the world has a lot of uranium, but presently is producing less than is being used. The United States produces only seven percent of the uranium it consumes. The rest comes from Russian nuclear weapons, a source that ends in 2013. The world-wide resources is “at least 100 years.” Reprocessing would greatly increase supply.
With regard to the Japanese nuclear disaster, Scholle said that as a geologist, he “could not have thought of the poorer place to locate a nuclear power plant.”
He added, “There is no completely harmless way of producing energy.”

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