Energy Investment Good News for Indiana

A southwestern Indiana company received very good news from Washington last week. Babcock & Wilcox, developing small nuclear reactors, will receive substantial funding from the U.S. Department of Energy.

Below is a portion of the DOE press release. Learn more about the company (headquartered in North Carolina but with a significant portion of its nuclear development operation in Mount Vernon, Indiana) and its product here.

As part of the Obama Administration’s all-of-the-above strategy to deploy every available source of American energy, the Energy Department today announced an award to support a new project to design, license and help commercialize small modular reactors (SMR) in the United States.  The project supported by the award will be led by Babcock & Wilcox (B&W) in partnership with the Tennessee Valley Authority and Bechtel International.  In addition, the Department announced plans to issue a follow-on solicitation open to other companies and manufacturers, focused on furthering small modular reactor efficiency, operations and design.  

“The Obama Administration continues to believe that low-carbon nuclear energy has an important role to play in America’s energy future,” said Secretary Chu.  “Restarting the nation’s nuclear industry and advancing small modular reactor technologies will help create new jobs and export opportunities for American workers and businesses, and ensure we continue to take an all-of-the-above approach to American energy production.”

This project represents a significant investment in first-of-a-kind engineering, design certification and licensing for small modular reactors in the United States. Through a five-year cost-share agreement, the Energy Department will invest up to half of the total project cost, with the project’s industry partners matching this investment by at least one-to-one.  

The Energy Department investment will help B&W obtain Nuclear Regulatory Commission licensing and achieve commercial operations by 2022 – helping to provide U.S. utilities with low carbon energy options as well as create important export opportunities for the United States and advance our nation’s competitive edge in this emerging global industry. The project will be based in Tennessee and will support additional suppliers and operations in Indiana, Maryland, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Virginia.

Small modular reactors – which are approximately one-third the size of current nuclear power plants – have compact, scalable designs that are expected to offer a host of safety, construction and economic benefits. Small modular reactors can also be made in factories and transported to sites where they would be ready to “plug and play” upon arrival, reducing both capital costs and construction times. The smaller size also makes these reactors ideal for small electric grids and for locations that cannot support large reactors, offering utilities the flexibility to scale production as demand changes. 

EPA Proposes Coal Ash Regulation

This is a pretty niche-oriented post, but probably valuable for those in the world of environmental regulations. Andy Bowman of Bingham McHale LLP explains a potential new law, which could impact many Indiana manufacturers. Granted, this information is… I won’t use the phrase "inside baseball" because I can’t stand it, but yes, that’s what it is. Bowman explains what you should know:

On May 4, 2010, the U.S. EPA proposed first-time national rules to regulate the disposal and management of coal ash from coal-fired power plants under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA). Coal ash is also referred to as coal combustion residuals (CCR) and includes fly ash, bottom ash, flue gas desulfurization materials, synthetic gypsum and boiler slag. The proposed rules are largely in response to the 2008 failure of a Tennessee Valley Authority coal ash impoundment which resulted in a massive release of more than a billion gallons of water and coal ash onto nearby land and into streams and rivers, requiring hundreds of millions of dollars in cleanup costs. U.S. EPA is seeking comments on two options for the regulation of coal ash: (1) as a hazardous waste under Subtitle C of RCRA; or (2) as a nonhazardous waste under Subtitle D of RCRA.

Under the Subtitle C option, coal ash would be listed as a “special waste.” As a special waste coal ash would be regulated as a hazardous waste under the cradle-to-grave requirements of Subtitle C of RCRA, except that coal ash would be unregulated if it is reused for certain beneficial purposes, such as encapsulation in building materials or road construction. Under the Subtitle C approach, U.S. EPA will effectively phase out the wet handling of coal ash and existing surface impoundments. Existing surface impoundments must meet land disposal restrictions and would be required to be retrofitted with liners within five years of the effective date of the rule to remain in operation. New surface impoundments must meet land disposal restrictions and liner requirements. New landfills must install liners. Existing and new landfills would be subject to groundwater monitoring requirements. Surface impoundments operated after the effective date of the rule would be required to meet structural stability standards set by the federal Mining Safety and Health Administration (MSHA). The Subtitle C option would require permits for the treatment, storage or disposal of coal ash…

According to U.S. EPA, Indiana ranks third highest among the 45 states which generate CCR. Nationally 56% of CCR is disposed in landfills or surface impoundments. About 37% of CCR is beneficially reused and the remaining 7% is used as minefill. The proposed rule does not address minefilling. U.S. EPA estimates annual compliance costs of $1.4 billion for the Subtitle C option and $587 million for the Subtitle D option. Utility customers can expect to bear the costs of the new regulations.

Bowman and his colleagues from Bingham McHale also author the Chamber’s Environmental Compliance Handbook, which is used by many Indiana companies.