Senate accepts Yucca plans

The US Senate has, after a 20-year debate, agreed to establish Yucca Mountain as America’s first nuclear waste repository.

At a cost of $7bn, teams of scientists and engineers from national laboratories and the US Geological Survey discovered that Yucca Mountain can meet the environmental and safety standards for the long-term storage of used fuel. Nuclear power companies across the country supported the decision. Dominion, which owns three nuclear stations in Virginia and Connecticut, was delighted with the decision.

Spencer Abraham, the US energy secretary, praised the move stating that the decision will now help to ensure that clean energy generated by nuclear power will remain an important part of the US energy mix.

Tall, light towers reduce costs

The US Department of Energy has approved submissions from the Utah-based Pyramatrix Structures for the development of tall, light and low-cost wind turbine towers to generate electricity.

The company uses carbon fibre and fibreglass to build towers that are 12 times stronger than steel-constructed towers. A 14 m high, 46 cm diameter tower can support almost 4 t, while a 5 MW-capacity tower can reduce total tower costs by up to 53 per cent compared to a steel tower.

Wind turbine tower costs rise exponentially with tower height, and tall towers are usually restricted to offshore locations because of transport costs. But Pyramatrix’s lightweight design will allow developers to put large, efficient turbines on land.

ABB bags $93m California contract

After California’s power grid gave the go-ahead to upgrade power transmission lines to avoid a repeat of last year’s power crisis, ABB has been signed to solve the bottle neck that exists between northern and southern California in a contract worth $93m.

ABB will design, manufacture and install a 3100 MW system to refurbish the current installation located at Sylmar near Los Angeles. ABB will deliver new converter transformers, HVDC thyristor valves and control and protection equipment. A third 500 kV line will be added to the two which currently traverse California’s Central Valley.

The total estimated project costs are in the region of $73m. Installation will be completed in 2004. ABB built the original terminal at Sylmar during the early 1970s, and upgraded it twice in the 1990s.

Peru settles for $500m sale goal

Peru has cut its privatization revenue goal from $500-550m from an earlier target of $800m to attract foreign investors to its economy. The base price for the sale of four regional transmission companies was set at $260m in July.

Sales of some utility assets have been delayed at the request of bidders, while gencos Egasa and Egesur were sold to Tractebel for $167m.

Peru’s privatization process was thrown into doubt after violent protests in southern Peru in June. Peruvians fear mass job losses if the privatizations go ahead. The government has put the sale of some utilities on ice as a result.

Brazil energy giant selects fibre optic services for network

Eletronorte, a major Brazilian electricity company has signed up Multiservice Access Platform products from RAD Data communications to lay down a 1600 km fibre optic Synchronous Data Hierarchy (SDH) network.

The network provides management and control of all of Eletronorte’s substations and network devices. When complete, it will be one of Brazil’s most extensive SDH networks over optical fibre ground wire cables.

The cables simultaneously support overhead power transmission and high-performance communications applications.

Three US utilities seek pre-approval for nuclear plant sites

The US Department of Energy (DOE) has selected three utilities to participate in the body’s public-private initiative to evaluate and obtain pre-approval for nuclear power plant sites.

Dominion Resources, Entergy and Exelon are to submit applications under the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s

permit process. This enables a utility to obtain NRC clearance for a planned site as part of a streamlined licensing process.

The companies will receive $17m in DOE funds as part of the Nuclear Power 2010 initiative, a public-private cost-sharing programme created to prepare for the construction of an advanced-design nuclear power plant in the US by the end of the decade.

In addition, Canadian firm AECL Technologies has unveiled a small, low-cost nuclear power plant design that could help US utilities build new nuclear power generating capacity by 2010.

News digest

Brazil: Taylor DeJongh has been awarded a unique joint advisory engagement to represent US Ex-Im Bank and SACE (the export credit of Italy) on the Ibritermo Brazilian thermal power project. The project is a $203m capital undertaking, sponsored by Edison and Petrobas.

Brazil: The Brazilian government plans to reduce the cost of power generation at local gas-fired thermoelectric plants through subsidies to ensure that they can compete on an equal footing with hydroelectricity. Brazil is waiting for the gas market to mature before prices are competitive.

Canada: Emmax Energy has backed out of a joint venture with coal producer Fording to build a 1000 MW, coal-fired power plant in Southern Alberta due to market conditions and regulatory uncertainty. Fording will continue with its plans.

Canada: Ontario Power Generation has acquired 9m t of carbon dioxide emission credits it will use to meet its greenhouse gas emissions limit. In 2000, OPG purchased more than 10m t of emission reduction credits.

Mexico: ABB has won a $115m contract from Mexico’s national power company, Comision Federal de Electricidad, to build a 242 km high-voltage power transmission system to strengthen the connection between the country’s largest hydroelectric plant at Manuel Moreno and the national power grid.

USA: PSEG Nuclear announced that Siemens Westinghouse Power Corporation has been awarded the contract to provide upgraded turbines for the Salem Units 1 and 2 nuclear generating stations. The four-year project will increase the plants’ capacity by 90 MWe.

USA: American Superconductor (AMSC) and GE Industrial Systems have announced the sale of one of AMSC’s D-VAR voltage regulation systems to BC Hydro, one of Canada’s largest utilities.

USA: Plug Power announced that the California Energy Commission has certified the company’s 5 kW stationary fuel cell system compliant with the requirements of California’s ‘Rule 21’ grid interconnection standard.

USA: Dynegy said that Enron’s option to repurchase Northern Natural Gas Company has expired, with Dynegy maintaining full ownership. Enron will continue to provide certain transition services on a contract basis through January to 2003.

USA: ABB has been awarded a contract with the US Army Corps of Engineers to replace generator circuit breakers at 14 hydroelectric power plants in the states of Washington, Oregon and Idaho.