The early 20th century film comedy team of Laurel & Hardy entertained millions of movie goers and later became a staple of TV programming in the early 1950s.
Since then some of their famous lines have entered American idiom including “Well that’s another (fine)(nice) mess you’ve gotten us into.”
Yet, the two intrepid sojourners, who were always cast in their films as looking for the next best thing, managed to demonstrate unswerving commitment to each other as friends and to their pursuit of the American dream.
This tradition has led to some organizations to make virtual awards of “Laurels” good results, named after Stan Laurel; and, “Hardlys”, which are screw ups, named after Oliver Hardy.
In their films, Hardy was portrayed as the organizer of each new scheme and Laurel as the man with a six pack minus a few beers. Yet, it was Laurel who often saved the day as in Saps at Sea. Never considered to be one of the duo’s film masterpieces, it nevertheless encompasses all of the qualities needed to determine if events are worthy of a “Laurel” or a “Hardley.”
So, this week this blog resumes the practice of occasionally reporting the Laurels and Hardlys earned, sometimes with distinction, by elements of the global nuclear industry. While it would be easy, and tempting, for your humble correspondent to offer the labels up front, instead, I will report events and you can decide which award goes with each story.
DOE opens funding opportunity for advanced nuclear reactors
The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced Dec 11 the formal release of a solicitation for federal loan guarantees for up to $12.5 billion to support advanced nuclear projects.
According to the government’s press release, the loan guarantees would support construction of innovative nuclear energy and front-end technologies that reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Eligibility for the loan guarantees include projects involving small modular reactors (50-300 MW), uprates and upgrades to existing facilities, and elements of the nuclear fuel cycle including uranium enrichment, conversion, and fuel fabrication.
The government has no financial liability unless a loan defaults. Applicants must raise their own funds from investors and also pay the government fees that are a combination of covering administrative costs and credit risk insurance premiums, which are financially feasible for applicants if in the range of 1-3% of the size of the loan.
Front end fuel cycle projects might draw applications from GE-Hitachi which has a laser enrichment process or Centrus, formerly U.S. Enrichment Corp. (USEC) which recently emerged from bankruptcy proceedings.
Applications are due by March 18, 2015. Once received they will get a two part review, one for eligibility and a second for financial due diligence.
MOX advocates beat DOE budget cutters to continue construction
Congressional support for the MOX fuel fabrication facility in South Carolina beat back a challenge from the Department of Energy’s green eye shade crew getting $345 million to continue construction of the plant.
The project is running behind schedule, and over budget. It has been held up as an example of run away federal pork by its critics.
U.S. Senator Lindsay Graham (R-SC) took a point position getting funding restored to the project. He said in remarks to his home state news media that the budget cuts “were short sighted.”
Rep. Joe Wilson (R-SC), who is no friend of the Obama Administration, said in a press statement the project is 63% complete. Wilson earned TV media notoriety when he spontaneously called the President a “liar” during the 2009 State of the Union speech.
It isn’t clear whether the budget cuts were enrolled in response to the government’s unmet expectations to keep to a schedule and budget for the plant, or whether the DC rules of punishing enemies and rewarding friends of the White House resulted in retribution aimed at Wilson for his outspoken outburst.
New Mexico slams DOE with $54 million in fines over WIPP incident
The saga of “green kitty litter” and a mysterious explosion deep underground at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) has resulted in the largest fine ever levied by a state on a federal agency for noncompliance with safety requirements.
The penalties were assessed against DOE and its contractors for a series of errors and omissions that led to a radiation release resulting from a fire and explosion in volatile waste that was placed in an underground vault at WIPP.
To make the point about how angry the state is about the incident, New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez and Ryan Flynn, the state’s Environmental Department Chief, hand-delivered the compliance orders to DOE Secretary Ernest Moniz at a meeting held in Las Vegas on Dec 6.
Cleanup of the plant and restoration of operations are expected to take at least two years and cost $500 million. The Santa Fe New Mexican newspaper has been digging deep into the incident with a series of detailed analyses and reports like this one.
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