[ RadSafe ] [Nuclear News] Polish government to back investors in Lithuania nuclear plant

Sandy Perle sandyfl at cox.net
Sun Mar 4 09:54:44 CST 2007


Polish government to back investors in Lithuania nuclear plant
German coalition split on nuclear energy withdrawal
India planning to supply low-cost nuclear reactors to other countries
Locals speak up for nuclear landfill
The Issue: Florida Energy
Fears over Torness safety
Austria wants to assess possible suit over Temelin Czech nuke
Entergy seeking leeway on new reactor

Polish government to back investors in Lithuania nuclear plant

03 Mar 2007 (Bloomberg) bbj.hu - The Polish government agreed to 
support domestic companies willing to join a nuclear-power project in 
Lithuania to help diversify the region's energy sources and reduce 
dependence on Russia.

Polish Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski and Lithuanian Prime 
Minister Gediminas Kirkilas signed an agreement in Warsaw last night 
which officially "expresses the political will" to build a nuclear 
power plant at Ignalina, Lithuania, the Polish government's press 
office said in a statement. The accord "gives the full support of the 
governments for companies planning to joint the project," the press 
office said. "This should also encourage our partners from Latvia and 
Estonia to give their go-ahead." Under the agreement drafted in 
December, Poland will take a 22% stake in the project, matched by 
Latvia and Estonia, while Lithuania will hold 34%. The EUR4 billion 
($5.3 billion) power plant at Ignalina will have a capacity of as 
much as 1,600 megawatts. The new plant would be the biggest nuclear-
power project in eastern Europe since the Czech Republic built a 
plant at Temelin, which began operating four years ago. Polskie Sieci 
Elektroenergetyczne SA, Poland's national power grid, plans to join 
the project, according to the company's December 8 statement. The 
Polish company will work on the project with Lithuania's AB Lietuvos 
Energija, Latvia's Latvenergo and Estonia's Eesti Energia. Poland is 
also still considering building its own nuclear plant, Kaczynski has 

German coalition split on nuclear energy withdrawal

BERLIN (Reuters) Mar 4 - A split within Germany´s ruling coalition 
over the nation´s withdrawal from nuclear energy flared again on 
Sunday ahead of a European Union summit this week due to address 
climate change.

Conservative Chancellor Angela Merkel, who will host the meeting in 
Brussels, favours extending the life of Germany´s nuclear plants, 
which account for a third of the country´s electricity supply.

But she agreed in the coalition pact with the Social Democrats (SPD) 
in 2005 not to renege on a nuclear phase-out sealed under her 
predecessor, SPD Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder.

Conservative Economy Minister Michael Glos on Sunday sharply 
criticised a decision by SPD Environment Minister Sigmar Gabriel to 
prevent utility RWE RWEG.DE from extending the life of one of its 
nuclear plants.

`With his attitude Environment Minister Gabriel is showing that 
leftist anti-nuclear ideology is more important to him than climate 
protection,´ Glos was quoted as saying by the Bild am Sonntag 

Glos has said nuclear power could help Germany reduce its dependence 
on energy imports from politically unstable regions and cut emissions 
of carbon dioxide blamed for climate change.

A spokesman for Gabriel told Sunday´s Der Tagesspiegel newspaper: `We 
would find it helpful in the climate change discussion if all members 
of the cabinet stuck to an appropriate level of debate.´

RWE wants to keep its Biblis A nuclear plant, Germany´s oldest, 
running until 2011, three years longer than agreed under the terms of 
the withdrawal.

An RWE spokesman said on Friday the company had heard nothing about 
the government´s decision and an Environment Ministry spokesman said 
it would be communicated to the firm in the next two weeks.

Former Chancellor Schroeder said on Sunday nuclear power was a 
dangerous and expensive energy source that caused long-term 
environmental damage and it should be quickly phased out.

`It will not make any decisive contribution to solving our energy 
problems,´ Schroeder wrote in a guest article for Swiss newspaper 

Long-term strategy

EU leaders are due to meet in Brussels on March 8-9 to agree a long-
term energy strategy for the bloc. As holder of the EU´s rotating six-
month presidency, Merkel will lead the talks.

In a speech to the lower house of parliament last week, Merkel voiced 
support for European Commission proposals to cut greenhouse gas 
emissions in the 27-nation bloc by 20 percent by 2020 and by 30 
percent if other big industrial nations join in.

Merkel is hoping an environmental agreement within the EU can set the 
stage for a broader international consensus on combating climate 
change at a Group of Eight (G8) summit she will host in the Baltic 
resort town of Heiligendamm in June.

However, France opposes a proposal to set a binding target for 
renewable energy sources, setting up a potential clash with Germany 
at the Brussels meeting.

India planning to supply low-cost nuclear reactors to other countries 
by joining the NSG 

Mar 4 - India has not only stepped up its diplomacy with the Nuclear 
Suppliers Group (NSG) countries to allow it to access civil nuclear 
technology and fuel but may also become a supplier of low-cost 
nuclear reactors to other countries by joining the NSG. 

India's nuclear establishment is riding high after the Kaiga 3 
nuclear power reactor in Karnataka, developed by Indian engineers, 
achieved criticality early this week. The 220 MW pressurized heavy 
water reactor (PHWR) will start delivering power at the end of this 
month. Glowing in the success of this venture, Anil Kakodkar, 
chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission, has said that completing 
the nuclear power plant, along with low costs, in five years has set 
an international benchmark. Given the low costs - Rs 984 ($22.33) per 
installed KW - Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL) is 
now eyeing the export market for nuclear reactors. India is confident 
of exporting the design to countries like Cambodia, Indonesia, 
Thailand and Vietnam for just Rs 1,200 ($27.24) per KW, which is 
substantially less than the international average of $1,500 per KW, a 
senior NPCIL official told IANS over the phone from Mumbai.

Locals speak up for nuclear landfill

Site provides funds for workers, schools

SNELLING (AP) - In this rural county beset by high unemployment, the 
soon-to-arrive day when the local nuclear-waste landfill closes its 
doors to nearly all debris is no cause for celebration.

Chem-Nuclear, a disposal site for low-level radioactive waste from 
hospitals and power plants around the nation, offers some of the 
county's few high-paying jobs, provides roughly 10 percent of its 
overall budget and pumps $1 million a year into local schools. It has 
also handed out college scholarships and bought equipment for police 
and paramedics.

The landfill has long been under attack from environmentalists, and a 
2000 state law says that starting next year it can accept waste only 
from South Carolina and two other states.

But now, as that date draws near, lawmakers are considering extending 
the deadline to 2023.

Locals say it is vital to change the law and that outsiders don't 
understand how important the landfill is.

"It's been in Barnwell so long, it's part of who we are," said Berley 
Lindler, a jewelry shop owner in the nearby town of Barnwell. "It's 
good for the economy. They're our friends."

About 23,300 people live in Barnwell County, about 55 miles from 
Columbia in the southwestern part of South Carolina, near the Georgia 
state line. The county has no rail lines or interstate access. 
Unemployment stands at 10 percent.

In the past few years, hundreds of jobs in the county have vanished 
with the closing of a gas-grill maker and a window manufacturer. The 
biggest employer, the Dixie-Narco vending machine company, has cut 
about 1,400 jobs over the past several years and was bought out last 
year, said Keith Sloan, chairman of the County Council.

"We've really taken some hits," he said.

Nuclear power plant debris and radioactive hospital clothing have 
been buried here since 1971 atop aquifers that run to the Savannah 

In its heyday from 1980 to the early 1990s, Chem-Nuclear employed 
hundreds of people. In 1980, it collected 2.4 million cubic feet of 
the solid, radioactive waste, which is stored in steel containers 
that are put in concrete vaults and then buried in long trenches. 
Bought last year by Utah-based EnergySolutions, it is now one of 
three landfills in the nation for low-level radioactive waste. Utah 
and Washington have the others.

The landfill was last cited by state environmental regulators in 1983 
for improperly unloading a shipment. In 1999, tritium, a radioactive 
isotope of hydrogen, was found on the grounds of a church next to the 
landfill. The levels were below those accepted by regulators, but the 
company dug up and replaced the contaminated soil.

A year later, then-Gov. Jim Hodges led a campaign to wean South 
Carolina off radioactive waste. From about 120 miles away, residents 
of wealthier Beaufort and Hilton Head, which get drinking water from 
the Savannah River, added to the outcry. State lawmakers passed a 
measure to slowly choke off the amount of waste that could be sent to 
the landfill.

This year, the cap is 40,000 cubic feet of waste, or enough to cover 
a baseball infield to a depth of 5 feet.

Plant manager Jim Lathan said restricting the waste to South 
Carolina, Connecticut and New Jersey means the landfill will run a 
deficit and will probably have to lay off some of the 51 workers who 
are left.

Local impact

What | A House subcommittee will begin hearings on a proposal by Rep. 
Billy Witherspoon, R-Conway, to allow the low-level nuclear waste 
facility at Barnwell to take refuse from all states for another 15 
years. It was to close to all but South Carolina, New Jersey and 
Connecticut next year.

When | Hearing will be at 2:30 p.m. Tuesday in Room 410, Blatt 

The Issue: Florida Energy

Issue: Florida's power needs are growing faster than its population. 
One of the most ominous indicators is a proposal by Florida Power & 
Light to build a $5.7 billion Glades Power Park, a coal-fired power 
plant in rural Glades County near Lake Okeechobee by 2012. Also in 
the works are other coal plants and even a nuclear-power plant. Led 
by Gov. Charlie Crist, lawmakers are pushing to develop alternative 
power sources to make Florida more energy independent. A special 
commission will propose new policies by the end of the year.

Proposal: The Legislature this year plans to double the size of a $15 
million alternative-energy grant program that was a prominent feature 
of the 2006 Energy Act, one that drew more than $200 million in 
requests for money to develop everything from exotic solar chips to 
electric generators spun by the Gulf Stream. Much of the $67 million 
in alternative-energy spending Crist has proposed would go for 
developing "biomass" fuels, turning agricultural products into fuel 
for cars and trucks. The House is also expected to propose a sweeping 
mandate to use bio-diesel fuel in government fleet vehicles. 
Environmentalists want more money invested in energy-saving programs.
Outlook: The Legislature will put more money this year into 
alternative-energy programs, but with a budget squeeze, is not likely 
to fund all of the proposals.

Fears over Torness safety

MORE THAN 30 safety incidents were investigated at Torness nuclear 
power station in 2005, sparking fears about the reliability of the 
East Lothian plant.

The list included four emergency shutdowns; plus incidents involving 
damaged or faulty safety equipment, and a "transformer fire". 
According to experts, some of the events had the potential to cause a 
radiation leak.

A list of 33 incidents was released to Alan Beith, the Liberal 
Democrat MP for Berwick-upon-Tweed, last week. It coincides with a 
prolonged shutdown of Scotland's other nuclear power station at 
Hunterston in North Ayrshire due to boiler defects.

advertisement"It's worrying," Beith said of the list. "You want the 
incidents to be reported and not covered up, but many people will be 
surprised to discovered that there were so many."

According to independent nuclear engineer John Large, some of the 
incidents could have been serious. If undetected, they might have 
caused injury to workers or, in the worst circumstances, triggered a 
radiation release, he claimed.

The list was provided by the UK trade and industry minister, Margaret 
Hodge, in response to a parliamentary question from Beith.

But a spokeswoman for British Energy, the company that runs Torness, 
insisted that the incidents were all minor. She added: "As a nuclear 
operator aiming for high standards of safety, we have an open and 
transparent reporting culture." 

Austria wants to assess possible suit over Temelin Czech nuke

Linz- The Austrian government wants experts to assess the possibility 
to bring a lawsuit against the neighbouring Czech Republic over the 
alleged violation of the Melk agreements on the safety of the Temelin 
Czech nuclear power plant that Czech representatives have repeatedly 
dismissed, APA Austrian news agency reported today. 
Austrian Chancellor Alfred Gusenbauer said that it is still open 
whether Austria would sue the Czech Republic or not. 

In the Melk agreement from 2000 the Czech Republic pledged to upgrade 
Temelin's safety in exchange for Austria's not blocking its then EU 
accession negotiations and preventing further blockades of borders by 
anti-atom opponents. 

The Austrian government today also supported the establishment of the 
Austrian-Czech parliamentary commission on Temelin, on which 
Gusenbauer agreed with Czech PM Mirek Topolanek during his visit to 
Prague last Tuesday, at a closed meeting in Linz today. 

Gusenbauer said that in his opinion the commission could make the 
debate on Temelin more constructive. 

APA writes that Gusenbauer criticised the blockades of Austrian-Czech 
border organised by the Austrian anti-atom association Atomstopp. 
Such blockades are a controversial step with regard to the fact that 
the border checks between both countries will disappear after the 
Czech Republic joins the Schengen area at the end the year, he added. 

Atomstopp announced in a press release today that if only an intra-
parliamentary commission on Temelin were set up, the border blockades 
would continue. The activists will release more details on them next 

In the past few weeks, Austrian Temelin opponents gradually blocked 
one, two and three Czech-Austrian border crossings for one hour every 
Wednesday. They plan to block a total of four border crossings next 

Situated 60 kilometres from the borders of Austria and Bavaria, 
Temelin is sharply criticised by activists in Austria, Bavaria as 
well as the Czech Republic who say it is not safe because it combines 
Soviet design and western fuel and safety technology. These doubts 
were repeatedly dismissed by the Czech Republic.

Entergy seeking leeway on new reactor

Early ratepayer fees, limited reviews pushed 

At the urging of two Entergy subsidiaries, Louisiana's Public Service 
Commission may flip the regulatory process upside down to attract a 
$4 billion-plus nuclear reactor to the state. 

Under a rule that will be debated later this month by the PSC, 
Entergy Louisiana and Entergy Gulf States would start collecting 
millions of dollars from customers years before the reactor ever 
powers its first lightbulb. 

Entergy is also pushing the PSC to limit how much power the 
commission would have to review the plant's costs after it is built, 
thus limiting the ability of regulators to spot inappropriate costs 
that the utility might be trying to pass off on its customers. 
The changes, if approved, would be a drastic departure from 
regulatory practices in the 1980s that cost utilities building 
reactors billions of dollars in disallowed expenses. 

No company will build a reactor in Louisiana if the rules aren't 
changed, said Mike Twomey, vice president of regulatory affairs for 
Entergy Louisiana, which wants the reactor to go alongside the River 
Bend reactor at St. Francisville. 

The company, which also is considering a Mississippi site beside the 
Grand Gulf reactor at Port Gibson, will decide whether and where to 
build based, in large part, on which state comes up with the most 
favorable changes in the regulatory rules, Twomey said. 

"We're just asking that the Louisiana Public Service Commission . . . 
put Louisiana in the best position to attract investment in a nuclear 
power plant," Twomey said. "It's a little bit of a beauty pageant" 
between Mississippi and Louisiana. 

A group of large industrial energy users, including Occidental 
Chemical, opposes some of the regulatory changes Entergy wants. 

"Stripped of its linguistic trappings, Entergy's position is that the 
ratepayers' interest is served by having a new nuclear generating 
facility, regardless of whether the ultimate cost of such facility 
was reasonable," Occidental writes in its filings with the PSC. 

Filling a growing need 

Twomey said Entergy will have no problem meeting the first criterion 
of any regulatory process: establishing a need for the reactor. 
Electricity demand is growing in Louisiana, and Entergy must find a 
source to fill it. And nuclear power is usually the cheapest source 
of electricity, especially as plants age and building costs are paid 

Commissioners, in fact, wanted to explore the prospect of nuclear 
power to help reduce customer cost. 

"Louisiana has to do what it can do to explore new fuels," said 
Commissioner Lambert C. Boissiere III. "Nuclear looks like a very 
viable option." 
Assuming the PSC greenlights the project, Entergy would have to 
provide cost estimates for the plant during each of three phases: 
siting and licensing, design and development, and construction. 

Under the proposed rule, the PSC would have to agree to those costs 
estimates at the beginning of each phase and would periodically 
review them. 

After each phase, the PSC also would have the authority to conduct a 
prudency review, auditing Entergy's expenditures to determine whether 
they are fair and should be borne by customers. 

The reviews can be deeply expensive for a utility found to be 
imposing unfair charges on ratepayers. 

The first River Bend unit, built by Gulf States and later purchased 
by Entergy, was supposed to cost $307 million. By the time the plant 
started operating in 1985, the cost was $4.4 billion. The Public 
Service Commission, in a review, decided that Gulf States should have 
stopped building River Bend after the Three Mile Island accident and 
refused to allow Gulf States to charge its customers for $1.4 billion 
of the plant's cost. 

That scenario, Entergy argues, places too much risk on a utility and 
discourages development of a new nuclear plant. 

Limited reviews sought 

Entergy wants a prudency review to kick in only if there are cost 

"If we say we're going to build it for $4 billion, and we build it 
for $4 billion, we would recommend that the PSC not revisit" the 
plant costs, Twomey said. 

Opening up the review would create "too much opportunity for mischief 
by critics of the plant," he said. 

If the PSC does not limit a prudency review to cost overruns, Twomey 
said, the company would be hesitant to build a reactor in the state. 

"These rules as they currently stand do not send the proper signal," 
Twomey said. 

But Occidental and the Louisiana Energy Users Group, a consortium of 
industrial power users, insist that the PSC retain the right to do a 
full post-mortem on Entergy's costs, especially because no one has a 
firm grasp on how much a nuclear plant would cost. 

"We'll be working off estimates of things that haven't been built in 
20 years. It's kind of the equivalent of a blank check, it just seems 
unreasonable," said Joe Marone, Occidental's director of power 
purchasing and chairman of the energy users group. 

At this point, commissioners don't appear inclined to give ground on 
their ability to conduct a prudency review. 

"The Constitution gives us that right, and we're not giving that 
away," said Commissioner Jay Blossman. The PSC staff is working with 
Entergy to tweak the language to make the company more comfortable 
with any review that would be done, he said. 

Customers pay upfront 

The rule would change the typical regulatory process in another big 
way: A company building a nuclear plant could collect money from 
customers before the plant is built. Usually, a company pays for the 
expenses upfront. Only after a prudency review would the PSC allow 
the company to pass on approved costs to customers. 

Under the rule being considered by the PSC, Entergy would be able to 
collect interest on the money it is spending on the project while the 
reactor is being built. 

Such an interest payment would be equivalent to the profit a company 
gets to tack onto all of its allowed expenses -- usually about 10 
percent. It would amount to pennies a month for the typical customer 
during the licensing and design phases, but it could be several 
dollars a month per customer during the more expensive construction 


Prepayment of interest would benefit customers, Entergy says, because 
the revenue stream would be a signal to financial markets that the 
company is financially stable. That raises the utility's bond rating 
and keeps the cost of borrowing money in check. The bottom line: 
lower overall costs for customers, Twomey said. 

The prepayment also phases in the increase that will have to be paid 
once the plant is operating, said Lawrence "Tubby" St. Blanc, 
executive secretary of the PSC. 

"The rate shock is mitigated," he said. 

Entergy's need questioned 

Public Service Commissioner Foster Campbell said he doesn't think 
Entergy needs to start recovering costs before the plant is built. 

"They are a big company, they have great credit, they can borrow the 
money," he said. "Why don't they pay for it, get it built, and then 
we'll pay them back?" 

Fields also questioned whether Entergy needs to collect interest on 
its capital investment to maintain its credit status.

"This is a very old problem," said Ken Rose, a senior fellow at the 
Institute of Public Utilities at Michigan State University. "There 
have always been large investments to build large power plants. It's 
an old issue how to handle those costs." 

Rose said such arrangements can be beneficial to customers, but the 
regulating body needs to keep a close watch on the plant's progress. 

The PSC set up a pre-collection mechanism for Cleco as it builds a $1 
billion solid-fuel plant in Prairieville. The company is charging its 
customers about $5 a month for interest on the money it is using, 
said Robin Cooper, a spokeswoman for Cleco. 
In Cleco's case, such a structure was necessary to help the company 
balance its financial risk and keep down the cost of borrowing money.

What's best for state? 

Twomey said his efforts are not just on Entergy's behalf. He sees 
himself as a "cheerleader" for Louisiana by pushing rules that will 
give Entergy the incentive to build the state's first new nuclear 
plant in 20 years. 

Other states, including Florida, Georgia and Indiana, have adopted 
similar rules to attract nuclear plants. 

While Entergy's application for a license to build a new reactor is 
further along for the Port Gibson site, Mississippi has not 
considered changing its regulatory process for cost recovery and 
won't do so this year. 

A new nuclear plant in Louisiana would mean an investment of $3 
billion to $4 billion, 1,200 to 1,500 construction jobs and about 500 
permanent jobs, Twomey said. 

But Marone said it wouldn't be a bad thing if Entergy chose 
Mississippi over Louisiana's St. Francisville site. 

"It may be better overall for Louisiana ratepayers. Mississippi 
ratepayers get all the risk, and Louisiana still gets most of any 
potential savings via the system agreement. It could be the best of 
both worlds for Louisiana," Marone said. 

Setig said setting out the rules will let the company and its 
customers know upfront what they are facing if Entergy decides to 
build in Louisiana. 

"If they chose to build their plant somewhere else maybe because the 
rules are too tough in Louisiana," he said, "that's fine." 

Blossman said he simply wants the commission to be able to choose 
whether a new nuclear plant would be a good investment for Louisiana. 

"Voting on the rule doesn't mean we're going to have a nuclear 
plant," Blossman said. "Voting on the rule just keeps us in the 

There's change in the air at Drax 
Europe's biggest producer of coal-fired power is out to prove that it 
can clean up its act 
By Tim Webb 
Published: 04 March 2007 
The politics of energy are shifting. Nuclear power companies used to 
be prime targets of the environmental lobby. But that was before the 
world began worrying about carbon emissions. Now, green protesters 
have turned their ire on the coal industry. 

Drax, the FTSE 100 company that owns the coal-fired power station of 
the same name in North Yorkshire, is very much at the top of their 
blacklist. It is the UK's largest power station of any kind, 
producing about 7 per cent of our electricity. It is also Europe's 
largest coal plant and the single biggest emitter of carbon dioxide 
in this country.

Hundreds of eco-protesters converged on the power station in August 
to try to shut it down, the first large-scale action against the coal 
industry in Britain. At the time, a spokesman for the energy 
companies called them "daft, dangerous and misguided". But beyond 
that, the industry - traditionally publicity averse - made little 
response and was happy to let police deal with the matter.

But now, in her first big interview since the protest, Dorothy 
Thompson, the only British woman serving as chief executive of a FTSE 
100 company, explains how Drax is trying to clean up its image. She 
admits the coal industry has, in the past, been poor at 
communicating, particularly on green issues. "We think that probably 
we need to be a little more open about who we are and what we do."

Thompson, 46, hits out at the protesters and environmentalists who 
want the UK's coal plants - which provide about 40 per cent of the 
country's electricity - closed down. "There are people who disapprove 
of me or other people in Drax because we work in coal generation. I 
struggle with that very strongly. I have problems with them attacking 
someone because they are providing what has been proved to be an 
essential service." And she reveals why last summer's protest - much 
to its organisers' chagrin - may have ended up doing the company a 

Drax reports annual results this week. Analysts predict earnings of 
around £580m, against £239m in the previous year, thanks largely to 
the surge in power prices. Aside from strong numbers, Thompson will 
also announce Drax's ambitious target of sourcing 10 per cent of its 
fuel from biomass by 2009.

Biomass can come from specially grown energy crops such as miscanthus 
(a tall grass), oil palms, willow and poplar trees or from bio-wastes 
such as sewage sludge or the mush left when olives are crushed to 
make olive oil. Drax is proposing to "co-fire" these biomass fuels 
with coal. To meet its 10 per cent target, it will require an 
estimated 1.5 million tons of biomass each year, says Thompson.

The two types of biomass reduce carbon emissions in different ways. 
Energy crops remove as much carbon from the atmosphere while they're 
growing as they release when they're burnt, so their net contribution 
to atmospheric carbon is zero. Bio-wastes release their carbon into 
the air anyway when they biodegrade, so burning them instead produces 
extra energy at no extra carbon cost. In both cases, the amount of 
coal that has to be burned to get the same amount of energy is 
reduced. Drax estimates that if biomass were fully used by all 
Britain's modern coal plants, 21.5 million tons of carbon dioxide 
would be saved a year, or half the savings demanded from the power 
sector under the first phase of the EU emissions trading scheme.

Biomass is already burnt in relatively small quantities by 16 coal-
powered plants in the UK, including Drax. But co-firing has its 
drawbacks. Currently, the maximum amount of biomass that can be used 
in the fuel mix is 20 per cent. Beyond that, the plants become too 
clogged with ash. Depending on coal prices and the kind of biomass 
used, co-firing is two to three times more expensive than 
conventional coal-powered energy and needs government subsidy to make 
it viable.

As with biofuels - energy crops mixed with petrol or diesel - there 
are concerns about the energy needed to grow, transport and 
manufacture the biomass. A recent report commissioned by the 
Government found that most biomass burnt in Britain is imported bio-
waste rather than energy crops. Much of this waste comes from palm-
oil plantations in Indonesia and Malaysia, involving the clearance of 
vast tracts of rainforest.

Thompson, who has held the top job at Drax since the autumn of 2005, 
joining from fellow power generator InterGen, acknowledges these 
concerns but rules out making a commitment to buy biomass only from 
the UK, where its sustainability can be verified. Where possible, 
Drax will source its biomass at home, she says. But according to the 
Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution, if wood chips, say, 
provided all the biomass needed for Britain's coal plants, seven 
million out of a total of 17 million hectares of agricultural land 
would be required to grow enough poplars and willows.

Drax is still working out which type of biomass to use and where to 
get it from, Thompson admits. "I don't want to give everyone our 
secrets. We are more nervous about that than you think."

Drax is spending £100m installing more efficient blades on its 
turbines and is looking at whether the carbon released during 
generation can be captured and stored in nearby coal mines. But 
environmental campaigners are less than impressed with such efforts. 
They point out that, even if Drax uses 20 per cent biomass, it will 
still emit more carbon than modern gas plants. "Co-firing will just 
prolong the life of the coal industry," a Greenpeace spokesman says.

Yet Thompson seems genuinely concerned about climate change. She was 
moved by Al Gore's eco-horror documentary, An Inconvenient Truth. 
"Who would have thought a movie about climate change would get two 
Oscars? You should see it." She concedes that coal is dirtier than 
any other form of power generation. But with old nuclear reactors 
coming to the end of their lives, it is hardly practical to close 
down Drax as the campaigners wish. Lakis Athanasiou, an analyst from 
Collins Stewart, says: "It's a bit daft of protesters to try to shut 
down the most efficient coal plant in the UK because it would result 
in much less efficient coal plants being used more to make up the 

In fact, Thompson reckons, last summer's protest helped Drax to lobby 
for government support for co-firing and carbon capture and storage. 
"People's concerns with climate change echo our concern. Yes, they 
did us a favour in a back-handed way."

She is astute enough to realise the protest is unlikely to be a one-
off: "Whether they'll choose Drax as a venue [again] I don't know." 
Asked if she thinks that communicating with the public will make the 
company less of a target in the future, she concludes: "One can but 

Sandy Perle 
Senior Vice President, Technical Operations 
Global Dosimetry Solutions, Inc. 
2652 McGaw Avenue
Irvine, CA 92614

Tel: (949) 296-2306 / (888) 437-1714 Extension 2306 
Fax:(949) 296-1144

Global Dosimetry Website: http://www.dosimetry.com/ 
Personal Website: http://sandy-travels.com/ 

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