Congress adjourned this week after some last-minute spending drama and dozens of confirmations, and there were other developments on the energy and environmental front.
The omnibus spending measure, for instance, provided money for recovery at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in New Mexico after several mishaps that included radiation leaks, and money for the controversial International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor project, or ITER.
Spot prices for January delivery of liquefied natural gas to Asia dropped by 47 percent from a year ago, down to $10.062 per million British thermal units, the largest one year drop and the lowest level since 2011, according to data from Platts. That is about a cent below the cost to liquefy and ship gas from Louisiana at January prices. Full story
Oregon Democrat Sen. Ron Wyden — long an advocate for tax reform to make dozens of short-term tax credits permanent or longer lasting — was one of the 16 losing votes against a one year extension of most of the credits that will apply to 2014. Full story
Construction of the Kalpakkam fast reactor in India. (International Atomic Energy Agency)
The New York Times had a forward-looking piece on the development of advanced nuclear reactors that gives an interesting overview of the status of technology in the United States, citing ongoing research at places like Argonne National Laboratory as the groundwork for eventual development of advanced reactors:
… if the world decides in the 2030s and 2040s that it is time to deploy a new fleet of reactors, those will be based on work done in the few labs like this over the next decade, experts predict.
That leaves out one salient point: Russia and India have built large advanced fast reactors. Full story
The spending bill Congress passed last week includes $320 million for the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in New Mexico. The funds are intended to support cleanup and recovery efforts following a fire and radiation release at the underground facility in February. Full story
Using the gas separating properties of fuel cells, a Connecticut company is developing technology to add carbon dioxide capturing capabilities to power plants, which it says could provide an economic way to meet EPA’s proposed power plant regulations. The process, developed by FuelCell Energy using a $2.5 million grant from the Energy Department, would also provide additional power generation to reduce the ratio of a coal plant’s carbon dioxide to kilowatts, the New York Times reported:
In FuelCell’s design, a coal plant adds a fuel cell unit next to its smokestack, and the fuel cell soaks up the carbon dioxide and adds power to overall output. Some energy is used — the demonstration unit here would produce eight kilowatts, enough for a midsize commercial air-conditioner, but in carbon capture mode makes only about six kilowatts — but the loss is more manageable than drawing energy from the coal plant for conventional carbon capture.
The process also unexpectedly breaks down nitrogen oxide emissions, a pollutant that is regulated directly and contributes to ozone pollution. The company’s next step is to build a full-sized demonstration facility at an operating coal power plant.
Following Thursday’s nail-bitter as the omnibus bill squeaked through the House, the Senate cleared the bill late Saturday over the objections of more than 20 Democrats. The Senate is around this week to wrap up nominations and potentially clear a package of tax extensions including a break for wind energy. Here’s what else is going on as the holidays approach: Full story
The Senate will consider the House-passed omnibus spending package as soon as today, but lawmakers would need procedural agreements to expedite the process before Monday. The measure includes $34.2 billion for energy and water programs but it would dole out no additional funds for the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository. The bill would include $345 million and a requirement to continue construction on the mixed oxide plutonium facility. Appropriators also tucked in a provision to throw a $97 million lifeline to the troubled American Centrifuge Project. Full story