Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Texas Close To Accepting Low-Level Nuclear Waste

Texas is close to allowing low-level radioactive waste from dozens of states to be trucked in and disposed at a site in West Texas, which would become one of only four in the nation that could take low-level radioactive waste shipped from out of state.  Three other sites currently accept low-level radioactive material: Richland, Wash., since 1965; Barnwell, S.C., since 1971; and Clive, Utah, since 1991.

A state agency with oversight of waste imports adopted rules Friday that help clear the way for the 1,338-acre dump near the New Mexico border, despite concerns expressed by environmentalists that such a facility may be unsafe. Its operator, Waste Control Specialists LLC, still needs final approval from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, but expects to receive it within several weeks. The company is majority-owned by Texas billionaire Harold Clark Simmons, one of the nation's wealthiest men and a major donor to Republican state and national political candidates.

Supporters of the project, located in a remote red-clay formation just east of the New Mexico-Texas state line about 31 miles from the town of Andrews, Texas, maintain it is environmentally safe and note that it will generate needed revenue for Texas.
Critics contend that water near the disposal site could become contaminated by the waste, which can include radioactive material from nuclear-power plants, research facilities and hospitals. They also say that truckloads of refuse will be traveling through Texas with insufficient oversight, creating a recipe for trouble if they get into accidents.

Waste Control Specialists estimated that Texas would receive as much as 25% of the revenue from the disposal of imported waste, up to a total of $20 million annually. (WSJ, 3/23/2012, photo courtesy WSJ)

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

$8.7 Billion in Transmission Projects Planned In Next 5 Years

More than $870 million in transmission improvements completed last year

Nearly $8.7 billion in transmission improvements are planned in the next five years, according to the annual transmission report from the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, (ERCOT), the state grid operator and manager of the wholesale electric market.

The planned projects are expected to improve or add nearly 7,000 circuit miles of transmission lines and more than 17,000 megavolt amperes (MVA) of autotransformer capacity to the grid, including the Competitive Renewable Energy Zones (CREZ) transmission additions that are scheduled to be in service by 2013.

The 2011 Electric System Constraints and Needs Report, filed Friday with the Public Utility Commission, identifies existing and potential constraints in the transmission systems that pose reliability concerns or may increase costs to the electric power market and Texas consumers.

Since 2010, ERCOT transmission providers have completed construction and improvements to approximately 966 miles of transmission and more than 5,000 MVA of autotransformer capacity, at an estimated capital cost of $870 million. The largest project completed last year was a 173-circuit-mile 345 kilovolt (kV) line in South Central Texas, the Zorn/Clear Springs – Gilleland Creek – Hutto Switch.


As the transmission planning coordinator for the region, ERCOT works with the region’s transmission and distribution providers and other stakeholders to identify the need for new transmission facilities based on engineering analysis of operational results, load forecasting, generation interconnections, and transmission and system studies. As part of the planning process, ERCOT seeks input from all market participants and stakeholders about options and possible solutions through the ERCOT-led Regional Planning Group. Major projects must be also endorsed by the ERCOT Board of Directors.


In the ERCOT region, the cost for transmission construction and upgrades is rolled into costs that all ratepayers pay – also known as a “postage-stamp transmission rate” because it is the same access fee regardless of location. Transmission and distribution providers must offer access to their wires to all electric providers on a non-discriminatory basis. The Public Utility Commission regulates transmission and distribution providers and approves the rates they are allowed to charge for the delivery of power to retail customers.

  • 40,530 miles of high-voltage transmission, including:
    • 9,249 miles of 345 kV
    • 19,565 miles of 138 kV
    • 11,715 miles of 69 kV
  • $8.7 billion under development in five-year plan, including approximately $5 billion to support 18,000 MW of renewable generation
  • More than 8,500 circuit miles of transmission improvements since 1999
  • Approximately $6.6 billion in transmission improvements added since 1999 (ERCOT Press Release)
The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) manages the flow of electric power to 23 million Texas customers -- representing 85 percent of the state's electric load. As the independent system operator for the region, ERCOT schedules power on an electric grid that connects 40,500 miles of transmission lines and more than 550 generation units. ERCOT also performs financial settlement for the competitive wholesale bulk-power market and administers retail switching for 6.6 million premises in competitive choice areas. ERCOT is a membership-based 501(c)(4) nonprofit corporation, governed by a board of directors and subject to oversight by the Public Utility Commission of Texas and the Texas Legislature. ERCOT's members include consumers, cooperatives, generators, power marketers, retail electric providers, investor-owned electric utilities (transmission and distribution providers), and municipal-owned electric utilities.