I left a bunch of comments blasting their natural gas calculations in which the author and a lady from SACE negatively responded. Here was my first one:

More work needs to be done on the calculations and analysis. The numbers in this column are too simplified and actually incorrect.

For one, Levy wouldn’t be producing “8.87 million megawatts.” The unit of production is megawatt-hours and it would be 17.7 million MWh a year from Levy. (2,200 MW * 92% capacity factor * 8,760 hours in a year = 17.7 million MWh)

Once this is adjusted, then we can calculate how much it would cost for the fuel for natural gas. According to EIA, it takes about 7.5 cubic feet of gas to produce a kilowatt-hour. Therefore, a gas plant that replaces Levy would need 133 billion cubic feet each year. The annual cost for 133 Bcf at a low \$5/thousand cubic feet comes out to \$660 million. \$660 million times 60 years comes to \$40 billion without any escalation in gas price.

The fuel costs alone are six times more what this column calculates is the total cost of a gas plant. Further, the analysis explanation needs more explanation. What was the capital cost used for gas? What were the construction times? What were the discount factors in order to calculate NPV?

A simple calculation as shown above for one piece of evaluating the costs of competing technologies shows that the column’s cost conclusions are incorrect and need to be reanalyzed.

1. EL says:

David Bradish wrote: “For one, Levy wouldn’t be producing ‘8.87 million megawatts.’ The unit of production is megawatt-hours and it would be 17.7 million MWh a year from Levy. (2,200 MW * 92% capacity factor * 8,760 hours in a year = 17.7 million MWh)”

Article states: “… each of the two units.”

1100 MW x 0.92 capacity factor x 8760 hours = 8.865 million MWh (rounded to 8.87 in article).

2. EL says:

The concern at Levy is not cost-overruns (which you detail for Vogtle), but rising projected costs for new reactors (on top of which any cost-overruns must be added). In Levy County, ratepayers are asked to pay in advanced for new construction (as much as \$50/month on average electricity bill), with an initial cost estimate of \$5 billion and a reactor completion date of 2016. “About half of all reactors ordered of docketed at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission have been canceled or abandoned. Of those that were completed and brought online, 13 percent were retired early, 19 percent had extended outages of one to three years, and 6 percent had outages of more than three years” (here). In other words, new nuclear is risky, Duke understands this (especially after Crystal River debacle), and CWIP (as is widely acknowledged in court challenges, energy utility board staff, and even low public acceptance of the program), shifts the financial risks of such large capital projects away from licensees, vendors, and bond holders onto ratepayers (who may never see a return on their investment in cost effective, reliable, and useful electricity in a deregulated and evolving electricity market). Risk is proportional to reward in most financial settings, but apparently not for ratepayers in Levy County (where risk may very well lead to higher electricity costs than available alternatives).

So yes, I look forward to this discussion and insights from nuclear proponents on a “cost aware” basis (as Rod puts it).

1. @EL

…shifts the financial risks of such large capital projects away from licensees, vendors, and bond holders onto ratepayers (who may never see a return on their investment in cost effective, reliable, and useful electricity in a deregulated and evolving

Oops – I think you slipped an extra word in there. We are talking about a regulated market in which the government oversight is supposed to protect the ratepayers and assures that they get reliable electricity. Yes, there may be some risk being transferred, but that is the whole point of the regulatory compact in which the utility agrees to be bound by an obligation to serve and produce electricity with oversight for both cost and reliability. In return, customers, who are represented by a public utility commission, agree to pay a fair price.

I have no religious conviction that “free markets” are the best solution to all problems. Electricity is too important to be left to chance. Skilled providers with functional oversight seems to be a better solution.

1. EL says:

Rod Adams wrote: “We are talking about a regulated market in which the government oversight is supposed to protect the ratepayers and assures that they get reliable electricity.”

Reliable electricity is a misnomer here (and Progess Energy, now Duke, has been allowed to play on an incredibly long leash). Rate increases were approved for one AP 1000 at \$5 billion and a completion date of 2016 (a second power plant was added to proposal in 2008). They’ve already missed their targets, they failed to win a federal loan guarantee, NG prices are at all time low, total project costs have risen 340 – 440% (excluding financing and cost-overruns), and project now has a completion date of 2024 (18 years from approval of original ratepayer financing deal). Ratepayers are on the hook for billions, and there is little certainty that either of these plants will ever get built.

You already know my view on CWIP (and the Levy County proposal). It’s ill conceived, adds little certainty to private lending, credit worthiness of vendors and developers, lower costs to local ratepayer base, it hurts the industry more than it helps (creating perception the industry needs additional props and supports to be commercially viable), and violates “used and useful” standards for ratebase increases widely followed by public utility commissions. The CWIP Law in Florida was an act of the State Legislature, not public utility commissions representing ratepayers. These are not companies that are in severe financial distress (or otherwise hamstrung from raising funds from private lending markets). The original 1976 FERC rule allowing for CWIP financing for private utility development describes the following (p. 1039):

The FPC [precursor to FERC] will permit, in individual proceedings, inclusion of CWIP in rate base where the utility is in severe financial stress. The financial circumstances that we contemplate are those in which it would be clearly detrimental to utility wholesale customers if some amount of CWIP were not permitted in rate base. In particular, we envision a situation in which the rate of return necessary to enable the utility to maintain its credit and attract capital in accordance with the standards of the Bluefield [262 U.S. 679 (1923)] decision would be materially in excess of the cost of capital for otherwise similar utilities. Such a circumstance might arise, for example, where the exigencies of the utility’s construction program are such as to reduce its interest coverage to such an extent that additional capital cannot be raised at reasonable rates and that an amount of earning sufficient to attract capital would require a rate of return on equity substantially in excess of the cost of equity capital to otherwise similar electric utilities. Under such circumstances, it would be to the benefit of the consumer if the additional earnings necessary to attract capital were permitted by way of a return on CWIP rather than by way of an inflated return on the traditional rate base since the former treatment would eventually be reflected in a lower rate base by way of reduced AFUDC allowance, while the latter would not.

Ratepayers in Levy County need to be asking for their money back. Lawsuits are pending, and considering the significant changes made to the project (including adding a second reactor, and loss of federal loan guarantee) additional due diligence is merited. Ratepayers already have a significant stake in the project, but no authority or voice in decision making. As the article in the Tampa Bay Times suggests, due diligence is likely to be problematical in this instance, and may point to other projects and alternatives as being in the better interest of local ratepayers, adhere to “used and useful” standards with no long construction delays (pitting one ratepayer against another), pose lower risks for private market lenders, and greater reliability and certainty to energy markets from less costly and easier to finance alternatives.

1. Joris van Dorp says:

“less costly and easier to finance alternatives.”

… which is … natural gas I presume? Or coal? But even some Republicans are now saying that they expect some kind of carbon tax to be imposed sooner or later. And natural gas prices will most certainly at least double in the next 60 years, in real prices. If I were a ratepayer in that area, I would be very happy to pay the CWIP in return for permanently low electricity prices with no risk from co2 taxes or expected natural gas price volatility that is already baked into the cake.

Moreover, as a ratepayer, I would write to responsible bodies to urge them to support the new-build and help prevent delays. I would show up at anti-nuclear demonstrations and a pro-nuke and help fight the spread of FUD, etc. Any ratepayer that knows what is good for him will be happy with the CWIP and will support the nuclear new-build, if only for the children. Only short-termist, selfish, natural gas cornucopeans would find fault with this project, I think.

3. Engineer-Poet says:

Powerplants are going to see competition from both LNG exports and CNG/LNG trucks; there are no fewer than 4 Shell/TA branded LNG stations going into Florida, with Flying J and Petro no doubt doing the same.  A full shift of heavy trucks to NG fuel would increase NG demand substantially, and likely eliminate the current surplus.  Gas-fired base-load plants cannot compete with NG at even \$8/mmBTU, let alone the \$12-14 likely to prevail if N. American prices rise to parity with world prices.  Nuclear is going to be a cash cow.

4. James Greenidge says:

An aside energy economics thing;

It’s amusing to me how most people in here NYC metro — even in low income areas — will opt to pay more for \$\$ bottled water and \$\$ organic veggies and \$\$ “free range” meats “because you can never pay enough for health” over plain old standard stuff, but have qualms about paying just a little extra for an electric bill for an environmentally clean and publicly healthy (in normal operation AND rare accidents) low-footprint and often inconspicuous power source. Just thinking such quality of life factors fits into the plant building equation too…

James Greenidge
Queens NY

5. seth says:

The official budget for VC Summer is \$10B for 2200 GW. Where are they getting costs will double when post first of a kind costs generally drop to half which is the cost the Chinese are building their first of kind AP-1000 plant?

Even in 3rd world UAE with no industrial capacity, Korea is building plant for less than the VCSummer cost.

Note not a single gas power plant would be built if owners had to guarantee the input price of fuel for 60 years like nukes in effect do. With the current crop of Big Oil corrupted regulators these sharks just build the dirt cheap gas plant and pass the gas price costs on to the rate paying sucker while tacking on a 15% gratuity needed to satisfy the graft.

Keep in mind that the price of gas will shortly be heading to its cost at \$10/mcf having recently hit \$33 in New York,

Big Oil owns our media and all our politicians. It’s that iron grip more than just the stupidity of the nuclear utility that stops nuclear construction.

In 20 years the West’s third world bankrupt ghg spewing economies will be running on 40 cents a kwh wind and 90 cents a kwh solar but getting all its energy from 17 cents a kwh gas, while the BRIC country’s zero GHG populace will be laughing at our dumb butts while running their prosperous country on penny a kwh Gen IV nuclear.

1. Joris van Dorp says:

Our conned butts. They will be laughing at our conned butts.

6. Paul W Primavera says:

We will reap what we have sown, and we have sown the whirl wind.

“In 20 years the West’s third world bankrupt ghg spewing economies will be running on 40 cents a kwh wind and 90 cents a kwh solar but getting all its energy from 17 cents a kwh gas, while the BRIC country’s zero GHG populace will be laughing at our dumb butts while running their prosperous country on penny a kwh Gen IV nuclear.”

1. James Greenidge says:

“We will reap what we have sown, and we have sown the whirl wind.”

No, no Paul! You got it all wrong!! It’s — “We will reap what we have sown, and we have sown the wind mill!”

Gotta be PC you know! 😀

James Greenidge
Queens NY

1. Paul W Primavera says:

Ha! Ha! James, that’s good! Perhaps not exactly what St. Paul had intended to write so long ago, but he would have approved of your sense of humor! 😀

2. EL says:

“In 20 years the West’s third world bankrupt ghg spewing economies will be running on 40 cents a kwh wind and 90 cents a kwh solar …”

Where is this quote from (it seems to be in several locations on energy related blogs)? Is it some some true believer creed or mantra, crowd sourcing misinformation and deceit at every turn? Where do we get 0.40/kWh wind and 0.90/kWh solar? Or 0.01/kWh nuclear? I thought we were talking “cost aware” analysis, and not made up apocalyptic or anti-science conspiracy?

1. seth says:

15 cents a kwh cost of wind (13.5 cents ontario tariff), 8 cents a kwh 5 times sized transmission cost ( new england iso study), 17 cents a kwh gas backup (Ontario agreement with TransCanada). Solar add 50 cents with 10 cents for 7 times sized transmission and same gas backup (Ontario tariff solar 60 cents /kwh)

1. EL says:

@seth. Ridiculous. FIT is a financing scheme (front loaded to pay off the cost of investment more quickly), and is not comparable to market rates for energy. It’s specifically designed to provide greater security to investment returns on new developments in developing markets. The only transmission costs added to a generation project are to connect it to the grid (all energy resources benefit from the grid, not a single development). And you can’t charge the cost of other generation on the grid to solar or wind. A MW is a MW (last time I checked). You get a small efficiency loss from operation of spinning reserves, and nothing more.

Over the last four years, cost of energy for onshore wind has had a median value of 0.06 cents/kWh (in 109 projects on the open source database provided by DOE and NREL). A high cost of 12 cents/kWh. Solar PV (74 projects) has had a median value of 0.28 kWh (with different technologies and solar availability in the mix). The Ontario electricity market is a unique anomaly … and many folks are paying much higher rates (nuclear included) because of years of mismanagement and a failure of the market to cover actual cost of energy for decades. There are several large scale energy developments in the Province in the near term (coal phase out and nuclear upgrades), and they are rapidly adding capacity to cover the anticipated shortfalls once these programs go into effect. It will be decades before rates and the market stabilizes in the Province.

1. turnages says:

A MW is a MW (last time I checked).

Hmm. I’m willing to bet that you, EL, have never worked in or near the control room of a grid control center or of a power station of any significant size. If you had, you would know that a MW when you need it is worth far more than a MW when you don’t need it.

So what if onshore wind costs 6 cents a kWh, if it’s not there at all when grid dispatch needs it? Useless as a chocolate teapot. Any supplier of dispatchable power needs other generation in his portfolio, typically open-circuit gas, with which to balance his fickle wind or solar at a moment’s notice. Capacity that is typically half as efficient as a modern combined-cycle gas turbine. Capacity that would not be needed at all if the supplier had not lumbered himself with unreliables.

Your figures are not comparing like with like. It doesn’t surprise me at all that the overall cost of *dispatchable*generation that includes wind is well on the way to the cost of the gas backup. How could it be otherwise when the capacity factor of wind is 20-30% and serenely disregards the awkward detail of when it’s actually needed?

2. sethc says:

Ontario is not a developing country. FIT rates are established at the minimal levels necessary to attract the investment . In any case, the largest/latest wind farm in the US – Shepherds flat came in at 15 cents a kwh.

You are quoting subsidized grid pricing under RES not unsubbed construction cost.

Derp.

A windmill generates avg power of 20% peak. Transmission facilities are needed for peak.

More derp.

Wind uses inefficient OCGT plant running up and down with every gust to balance the load. Less gas less GHG using efficient CCGT plant.

3. Paul Lindsey says:

The price paid by a utility for windfarm-generated electricity is driven up by state mandates that XX% of a utility’s power come from “renewable sources”, usually explicitly defined to exclude nuclear or large hydro. The \$/MWH would probably be higher, except that (1) utilities understand that this is intermittent, unreliable electricity (how much would you pay for a car that ran “sometimes”?), and (2) the PTC (and extinct Sect 1603 30% grants) provide a cushion to the windfarm operator.

4. EL says:

You are quoting subsidized grid pricing under RES not unsubbed construction cost.

@Seth. No I’m not. LCOE is unsubbed construction cost and assumptions are provided on the site.

In any case, the largest/latest wind farm in the US – Shepherds flat came in at 15 cents a kWh.

I get 12.2 cents/kWh using CF provided by Caithness and NREL’s LCOE calculator (25 years, 8% discount, \$2367/kW capital cost, 24.2 capacity factor, \$37/kW-yr Fixed O&M, 0 variable, 0 heat, 0 fuel).

Please don’t do that again. It’s really annoying. If you have better facts to provide you are entirely free to do so. So far, I haven’t seen any.

5. Bill Rodgers says:

@EL,

The NREL database itself has the following disclaimer:

The data gathered here are for informational purposes only. Inclusion of a report in the database does not represent approval of the estimates by DOE or NREL. Levelized cost calculations DO NOT represent real world market conditions. The calculation uses a single discount rate in order to compare technology costs only.

So it is not to be used as a tool for cost comparisons. And this subject has been discussed in past posts, maybe not with you but others.

Additionally NREL is a cheerleader for wind and sun funded by the US taxpayer and AWEA. They also self-reference in the database. They use their own reports for various cost issues but very few of their white papers are actually based on real-world situations.

If the database is truly open then why use their own research for the backbone? Why not go out and get widely used reports or commission more independant reports? Why does the database use their report from 1995 as their main mechanism for economic evaluations of energy sources?

Point is that any data used from that “open” source database is suspect in my viewpoint and should not be used for real world market conditions as its own disclaimer recommends.

6. EL says:

The NREL database itself has the following disclaimer:

Indeed. Their disclaimer does suggest database should be used for informational purposes only. I agree with your assessment. Variable discount rates, capacity factors, labor costs, fixed costs for large and small developments, local market rules, etc., are some of the many factors that pertain in real world market conditions (and are not fully captured by baseline LCOE estimates). And subsidies and RES in different States are irrelevant to the estimates in the database. So what numbers do you think are better?

DOE wind market report shows levelized PPA prices in \$30-40/MWh range (which are very competitive with wholesale power prices with PTC and regional market supports in the mix). They report installed project costs in 2011 at 2,100/kW (anticipated to drop further in 2012), and capacity-weighted average energy or sales cost at roughly \$74/MWh. The most current cost of energy surveys from LBNL and NREL are here (with and without subsidies). Wiki has links to other sources, some of them already quite dated (EIA, International Agency for Energy and EDF, California Energy Commission, CSIRO in Australia, RWI in Germany, and others).

I take you will agree with me that the unsubstantiated numbers provided by seth are rather fanciful and unimpressive (and have no objective basis in any of the research reports cited above, or anywhere else for that matter).

If the database is truly open then why use their own research for the backbone? Why not go out and get widely used reports or commission more independant reports?

Database originates from Open Government Directive to provide more transparency and easy access to government sources of information on-line. Given this charge and mandate, it seems entirely appropriate to provide NREL and other sources of government research and empirical studies. It seems to have been designed specifically for this purpose (with government references serving as the backbone).

7. Bill Rodgers says:

@EL,

No I do not agree with your comment about Seth’s numbers. His numbers may not be 100% correct but they do factor in the cost of FIT’s which makes them more accurate in my opinion then numbers from people or organizations whose primary goal is to push wind and solar.

NREL is not an objective source in my viewpoint as I stated already. So I will not look at an NREL source unless it is to understand what latest twist of wind, solar energy efficiency techniques they are attempting to push at taxpayer’s expense

And I also do not accept the other DOE links you provided. They are also wind cheerleaders in my viewpoint. Their primary function is to push wind power onto the US grid which they state right on their main webpage.

These links you keep supplying do not quantify the effect of the various subsidies as they should in my opinion. They typically gloss over the fact that all types of FIT’s, subsidies and legal requirements affect power generation decisions at the boardroom level. And these numbers and legal requirements are important to consider even if you don’t believe so.

Your sources aren’t sufficiently independent to provide defendable numbers due to their goals of pushing more wind and solar onto US grid. They have been given access to US taxpayer money to push wind and solar, not to provide non-biased numbers and cost figures.

The only source that might be objective is the EIA but I have not seen them publish real time cost numbers. They only publish levelized costs for 2018 in their latest annual report. However those numbers are based on advanced nuclear (which has yet to be built so this number is speculative at this point) and simple averaged capacity factors for wind and solar which differ widely across the nation as they state. However they do differentiate between dispatchable and non-dispatchable which is a subject that NREL and DOE try to avoid discussing.

http://www.eia.gov/forecasts/aeo/electricity_generation.cfm

But even the EIA’s numbers are not 100% accurate and are generalizations of several factors that must be considered. The difference between your sources and the EIA is that at least the EIA acknowledge these issues up front in their long list of disclaimers which I have pulled several for this discussion:

The availability of various incentives, including state or federal tax credits, can also impact the calculation of levelized cost. The values shown in the tables in this discussion do not incorporate any such incentives (emphasis is mine)

Policy-related factors, such as investment or production tax credits for specified generation sources, can also impact investment decisions

Conceptually, a better assessment of economic competitiveness can be gained through consideration of avoided cost, a measure of what it would cost the grid to generate the electricity that is otherwise displaced by a new generation project, as well as its levelized cost….. Estimating avoided costs is more complex than for simple levelized costs, because they require tools to simulate the operation of the power system with and without any project under consideration (emphasis is mine)

Think about it this way from my standpoint as one who has supplied cost numbers on a small hydro job. If you had to decide what power source to build but the government was telling you that your organization will be fined if it did not meet the legally mandated 20% RPS requirements AND they were willing to hand over a grant of \$X millions for your organization to build a legally defined “green” energy source what would you do?

You would be hard pressed to walk away from the free government money. You would also have to explain to your board of directors or public oversight committee that they would have to pony up more money out of the company coffers to build the new facility AND get ready to be fined for not meeting state RPS requirements.

So yes government fiats of the RPS requirements and free money supplied at taxpayer expense affects the decision making process of many boardrooms despite your belief they do not.

This discussion goes in line with my other discussion about how to level the playing field to make nuclear less costly. RPS requirements, avoided costs (which is a discussion wind and solar advocates avoid) and policy factors are issues that penalizes nuclear while promoting small, inefficient, intermittent power generation sources, some that are in violation of federal animal protection laws.

http://bigstory.ap.org/article/ap-impact-wind-farms-gets-pass-eagle-deaths

8. EL says:

Bill Rogers wrote: “No I do not agree with your comment about Seth’s numbers. His numbers may not be 100% correct but they do factor in the cost of FIT’s which makes them more accurate in my opinion then numbers from people or organizations whose primary goal is to push wind and solar.”

With all due respect, you haven’t described FIT programs very accurately or very well. Many programs have digression schedules (such as those in Germany). In Germany, the FIT rate on all projects decreases at least by 1% each month (as much as 2.2% in some instances). The initial offer price is not the cost of energy for these developments.

Ontario is unique in many ways. The initial offer price was very high to stimulate the build up of local manufacturing capacity in the Province (the program includes high and every expensive domestic content requirements). They are 20 year contracts (40 years for hydro) that revert to the market rate at the end of the period. Cost of energy is typically averaged over operating lifetimes (and not FIT contract periods). And yes, seth has given inaccurate numbers for FIT contract prices in Ontario: Wind (11.5 cents/kWh), Rooftop Solar (48.7 – 54.9 cents/kWh depending on size of project), Groundmount Solar (34.7 – 44.5 cents/kWh dependent on size). For cost of energy, I would give 25 years to wind, and 30 years to solar PV (as nuclear advocate Peter Lang has done here).

Your sources aren’t sufficiently independent to provide defendable numbers due to their goals of pushing more wind and solar onto US grid.

If you’re going to exclude sources such as DOE, LBNL. NREL, EDF, French Energy Institutes, US State Energy Commissions, RWI, CSIRO, and EIA (with qualifications) I’m not sure what that leaves us with (for nuclear, wind, solar, or any other generation technology). How are we to do resource planning if all we can look at is industry generated statistics, usually proprietary, for projects that have already been completed in the past? You really don’t think there is anything worth considering or using for informational or resource planning purposes from any of these departments and agencies (regardless of topic or focus of study)?

avoided costs (which is a discussion wind and solar advocates avoid)

Who’s not talking about avoided costs? I’ve seen several studies (particularly for non-utility generation) on this basis. Idaho uses “avoided costs” as a compensation tool for independent power producers (wind and solar) on projects smaller than 100 kW (10 MW for non-wind and non-solar IPPs). The challenge from a resource planning perspective is that not all energy resources are the same. Grid reliability, public safety, consumer acceptance, investor interest, variable costs, efficiency and conservation of non-renewable resources, construction timelines, manufacturing capacity, environmental impacts all play a role. If avoided costs were the only variable in the game, wouldn’t we be just fine with a hydro and fossil grid (and little else). Perhaps a smidgen of wind (since it seems to be next in line at \$74 – 96/MWh, no subsidies, and dropping).

2. Bill Rodgers says:

@EL,

Yes I am going to disregard cheerleading sources. End of discussion.

Oh wait … maybe not… just one last point about your NREL resources …Even the DOE themselves are now announcing they are going to revisit their 2008 wind study to apply current market conditions because they are now acknowledging they promoted wind power in 2008 instead of studied it.

Mr. Zayas is incorrect about the effects of energy efficiency versus the effects of the economic issues in lowering energy usage and he is not truly turning over a new leaf about windmillls. But at least he is now admitting that the DOE should only be studying, not promoting, wind going forward. That is about the best acknowledgment I suspect that this administration will take as far as stepping back from promoting one energy source over another at this point in time. The question is if the DOE will actually take this step or if this is a trail balloon to see if the AWEA pushes back since EERE has historically been the dog being wagged by the tail of energy efficiency “experts” and AWEA.

My comment was not to discuss FIT’s as you are now trying to state. That is you trying to change the direction of the discussion. My comment was to critique your sources of information as being cheerleaders for wind and solar.

But since you asked, FIT’s are subsidies plain and simple. They are direct transfers of money from one party to another. You can claim that they are needed for developing solar and wind. I disagree. There were other methods such as tax breaks, grants, government sponsored collaborations, etc that are commonly used for other nascent industries. But instead solar and wind lobbyists wanted taxpayer cash. So FIT’s were instituted which I consider to be a direct raid on a country’s treasury (i.e. taxpayer’s wallets) to line the pockets of a few companies and individuals.

FIT’s and PTC’s should not be needed for a mature technology but AWEA and sun lobbyists keep clamoring for them. Dr. Chu himself stated wind is a mature technology so let’s end FIT’s, PTC’s and other forms of direct cash subsidies for wind and solar.

However, I suspect that the markets for wind and solar would dry up fairly quickly since that is THE major economic aspect in their favor. They were able to slip in another \$12 billion back into the US government expenditures this year by legislative shenanigans. Subsidies no matter what they are called are the reason the wind industry is going gangbusters building this year to ensure they qualify for the PTC’s since they are very concerned next year the trough will run dry.

And you are the one avoiding my comments about the EIA data, the fact that yes – government policy affects utility boardroom discussions, the cuisine art aspect of windmills and my attempt to have you think outside your box by considering yourself in a decision making role for a utility company.

You are now deflecting the debate by providing new sources of data instead admitting that the original sources you provided are substandard to this level of discussion. The sources you first submitted do not discuss avoided costs so don’t try to change the discussion by sidestepping with new sources.

However it is interesting that you mention Idaho since they have been doing battle with FERC about PURPA which, for now, FERC is winning but Idaho’s case will gain strength over time since it based on the cost to its ratepayers not the survivability of wind and solar producers.

http://www.puc.state.id.us/internet/press/032613_FERCNARUCresponse.pdf

Finally I am not discounting EIA data as you stated that I am. I am pointing out that their data set might be the only place to start with to discuss relative system costs by showing you how they qualify their data. The EIA are not in the business of promoting energy sources, only gathering data. There are reservations I have about EIA’s ability to foretell the future but they are about the closest source of independent data out there. If you don’t like their qualifications take it up with them but then you will be fighting an entire economic system not just arguing with nuclear advocates such as myself.

This discussion is about making cost decisions concerning utility systems for the US not Europe or Canada and a good starting point is needed. Your initial data is advertised as the ending point for system discussions but as I have shown that data is not even a good point to start from since the sources don’t even begin to dive into the true system costs of a 24/7/365 functioning grid. Continued attempts to bring in new data indicates a shift in your arguments and I will take that as acceptance that my original points have been proven.

1. EL says:

Yes I am going to disregard cheerleading sources. End of discussion.

Oh wait … maybe not… just one last point about your NREL resources … Even the DOE themselves are now announcing they are going to revisit their 2008 wind study to apply current market conditions because they are now acknowledging they promoted wind power in 2008 instead of studied it.

http://nawindpower.com/e107_plugins/content/content.php?content.11502

Huh?

By current market conditions, they appear to be referring to wind energy’s ability to scale very rapidly, improvements in turbine technology (allowing for better performance in less than robust wind resources), “less foreboding” challenges to transmission adequacy than “originally thought,” and changes to macroeconomic forces (namely, energy efficiency and slowing down of demand growth). So yes, I’m glad you embrace this effort, and redoing reports for advancing and rapidly developing technologies from 2008 that are already out of date.

So FIT’s were instituted which I consider to be a direct raid on a country’s treasury (i.e. taxpayer’s wallets) to line the pockets of a few companies and individuals.

Again. You haven’t really described FITs very well or accurately. FITs involve zero expenditures of taxpayer generated funds. You say you prefer “tax breaks, grants, government sponsored collaborations, etc” for new technologies and developing market support. These are taxpayer generated funds. So your critique isn’t really very well argued or very clear.

In fact, I’m having a little trouble following your critique. It has something to do with eagles. Since we have thrown out all reports on the matter (from the long list of agencies and departments mentioned above … EIA being the exception), I really don’t know where we can take the discussion at this point? The best I can tell, you seem to be saying AWEA is controlling the process, dictates public spending and government sponsored research programs and agencies, and that public utilities are captive to their lobbying interests and stakeholders? I find this pretty far fetched and unrealistic. AWEA barely got it’s PTC extended for another year. They are a small player in Washington. Onshore wind is going to be fine without it’s PTC. Historical figures for energy subsidies on renewables remain small. With nothing left to study the matter, I guess the only source of information left standing is unfounded conspiracy theory … I suppose we can speculate on that indefinitely!!

1. @EL

FITs involve zero expenditures of taxpayer generated funds.

Fine. Call them “ratepayer” funds. It is very rare to find a taxpayer that is not also a ratepayer or a ratepayer that is not also a taxpayer. On a Venn diagram of groups, there is almost complete overlap between the two.

In both cases, the source of the funds is someone who is compelled by government edict to pay the price of government action.

Please remember that FIT stands for Feed In Tariff. In nearly every case I can think of, “tariff” is a synonym for “tax”.

2. Bill Rodgers says:

@EL,

Yes I am always for revisting reports that were cheerleading the effort to switch our grid system from solid, proven baseload system to a weather dependant system.

And as I said in my original comment, Mr. Zayas hasn’t turned over a new leaf nor would I expect him to. His job is to support wind and other non-traditional energy approaches. His commentary leaves much to be desired but the fact that he stated DOE/EERE will now study wind versus promote wind is a different tone then in the past few years.

I still don’t think you get it on FIT’s. This isn’t magic money. It doesn’t just fall out of trees. That money is coming from the government coffers or ratepayers and is going to a few companies and individuals. FIT’s by their very definition require someone to pay higher then retail power rates. That money just dosen’t appear magically. Someone has to pay it. The ratepayers or the government or both pay when FIT’s are implemented.

Tarriffs are supposed to rachet down over time as the technology advances. How many times has that happened for wind or solar? It took a financial crisis in Germany for them to rachet down their solar tarriffs and it took a similar financial crisis here in the US for wind and solar groups to wake up that the trough of taxpayer cash is not endless.

Tax breaks are not cash payouts. 1603 grants are literally cash payouts. PTC’s end up being cash payouts since they are based on power produced not capital costs of the wind generators.

Yes AWEA has provided money and support to NREL for wind reports. Nothing new to report here. Plain to see on some of the NREL wind reports how the NREL people acknowledge the support from AWEA.

Onshore wind is not going to be fine. That is why AWEA got members of the Congress in wind heavy states to slip the \$12 billion back into the US budget at the last minute. Otherwise the money would have been forced to a floor vote and may have been defeated. AWEA is the lobbying arm for several wind mill suppliers. They stood to lose millions if that \$12 billion was not added back in.

And I am not surprised you are having problems following my criticism about the killing of eagles. Most wind advocates are having problems realizing their favorite electricity generation source is given special consideration for killing eagles while fossil fuel companies are fined. It is hard for them to comprehend that a supposedly “green” source of energy is doing environmental damage and is in violation of the federal animal protection acts.

The point being that IF wind power were held to the same standards as fossil or nuclear facilities every wind mill would need an EIS before it would be allowed to generate one more kw-hr of power. All wind production should stop while EIS’s are prepared to deal with the killing of eagles but that isn’t happening because people appear to be are okay with the idea that eagles are dying from collisions with windmills. I am not and will continue to bring this point up to every wind supporter when they preach to me about the evils of nuclear power.

Also no conspiracy to my comments. Just a case of following the money. Who gets it, where it comes from. So don’t belittle my comments by trying to paint me with a conspiracy brush.

End with that note we are done with this discussion since you have declared me a conspiracy theorist. No more useful discussion will occur at this point in time unless you are willing to truly look at the money trails.

3. EL says:

Bill Rogers wrote: “I still don’t think you get it on FIT’s. This isn’t magic money. It doesn’t just fall out of trees. That money is coming from the government coffers or ratepayers and is going to a few companies and individuals.”

Is there anything I described incorrectly? It’s my understanding the money comes from ratepayers (for a service that is delivered and has high public acceptance), and not trees or taxpayer generated subsidies. And it doesn’t go to just a few companies or individuals (as it would for a project that is highly concentrated in a single location). It’s benefits are broadly distributed (just like the resource itself). It benefits producers of locally manufactured content, local contractors during construction, shares owned by local residents and businesses, lease payments to local landowners (typically in range of \$3,000 – 5,000 per turbine per year), boosted local tax revenues (primarily municipal and state), local job and training opportunities, and more. FITs often provide opportunities that wouldn’t otherwise be there for local residents and small community groups and businesses to become owners and operators of their own power generation equipment (and at no additional cost to the government). And the development and financing of these projects is typically entirely private, and over time adds to the public treasury (rather than takes away from it).

So yes, I think once again you have not described FITs very well or accurately. Particularly as concerns impacts on “a country’s treasury”, and benefits to companies and individuals (which you seem to think primarily benefits “a few” large legacy producers and special interests in the industry). If you know anything about Germany, and how FITs have sidelined major utility giants, you might think twice about your statements (with respect to being more informative, but also moving away from your baseless conspiratorial claims).

4. jmdesp says:

@EL : If your description of FIT was correct, to pay someone to dig a hole, and another person to fill it would be a *very* efficient way to boost the economy.

The correct way to measure the dynamism of a sector of economy is to count how much useful goods it’s able to produce per unit of money invested/person employed. As renewable needs more money to generate the same amount of good (electricity), they’re dragging the economy down.

Imagine you’re a shoemaker, and need 1 employee and \$10 to make a pair of shoes. Your client can spend \$10 on a pair of shoes, and then \$10 to go to the restaurant where his spending employs a second person.

Now, somehow things change and you need 2 employee and \$20 to make a pair of shoes.
Your client will spend \$20 on it, and have no money left for the restaurant. The restaurant will have to let go his employee.

Employment didn’t actually grow since the new employee you’re hiring is the one the restaurant had to terminate.
And people have a lower standard of living, because where they could both buy a pair of shoes and go to the restaurant, they now can do only the first.

About Germany, sidelining the major utility giants was unambiguously a bad thing. They are the ones with the big pockets to finance long term projects, and pay people full time to build the future of energy generation.
If it didn’t also have very cheap lignite which is still generating a majority of it’s energy, the choices Germany is doing currently would be suicidal.

5. Bill Rodgers says:

@EL,

Definition of a hypocrite: a person who acts in contradiction to his or her stated beliefs or feelings

You have indicated that name calling is not acceptable behavior in your vigrous and numerous complainants in other articles on Rod’s blog.

However your actions over the past few posts speak louder then your words.

By labeling me as a conspiracy theorist while loudly complaining when your were labeled are the actions of a hypocrite.

You are now in with the catagory of other anti-nuclear advocates I have come across. The ones who consider themselves morally superior to nuclear advocates but resort to the low road when faced with the weaknesses of their preferred power generation sources.

So to conclude, your actions of labeling me are an indication that: a) the points I raised are ones you have questionable experience to debate and that b) because of that questionable experience, you have nothing left in your box of debating tricks so are running to hide behind name calling.

6. EL says:

By labeling me as a conspiracy theorist while loudly complaining when your were labeled are the actions of a hypocrite.

Not in the least. I haven’t called you anything. I’m up for a substantive and objective debate on anything you wish? I don’t find it particularly illuminating to engage in conspiracy thinking on the power of the AWEA (which I consider to be fairly weak), or dismiss most empirical and objective research on renewables on the basis that it may be favorable to renewables (which you label as “cheerleading”).

You’ve simply defended the indefensible (as far as I can tell): plain inaccuracies presented by you and seth on FIT pricing schedules (which are fairly easy to confirm or disconfirm), their relationship to energy costs (when viewed from a perspective of all other sources of information including the EIA), and your conspiratorial charge that resource planning decisions are made with respect to bias, special interest lobbying, and an agenda to fleece the taxpayer and raid the public treasury. I don’t find these statements to be illuminating, or very well argued or substantiated in your comments. On a purely factual and objective basis, I also find many of them to be incorrect (and easy to point out as such).

To be clear, I have called your “arguments” (claims and statements) to be based on conspiracy, to be unfounded (as they appear in some instances), or lack an objective or verifiable basis (not “you” as a person). Especially so when you throw out most relevant empirical and objective studies on the matter that may be used to engage with substantive and objective issues, or even answer some of your own rebuttals (no less). I fully welcome your critical and analytical comments on my posts. If I have stated anything that is factually incorrect, I would hope you would point this out as well. If you have better sources than the one’s I have offered, please provide them. If you think I’m not sufficiently critical of renewables or other energy resources (and their relative costs and benefits, advantages and disadvantages, short term prospects and long term potentials), let’s have that discussion and be as open minded and evidence based as we can be. This doesn’t make me a hypocrite. It makes my arguments (claims and statements) fair game.

And yes … I fully agree with you, and believe like yourself that emotional and personal attacks are as you suggest (a pretty good sign that someone may have lost the argument, and the relevant substantive issues are no longer being debated).

7. EL says:

jmdesp wrote: “The correct way to measure the dynamism of a sector of economy is to count how much useful goods it’s able to produce per unit of money invested/person employed. As renewable needs more money to generate the same amount of good (electricity), they’re dragging the economy down.”

Germany has remained competitive by focusing on high end consumers goods and a highly skilled and well paid workforce, and not on low labor costs. Are they an anomaly?

Renewables compare well with fossil fuels on labor intensity (they are not as mechanized or capital intensive). They scale quickly, are not financed with high debt loads, and have fast rates of return (compared to nuclear). Energy costs are competitive with modest subsidies, often contribute to stabilizing wholesale prices and lowering of peak energy rates, and are getting more affordable (as other energy resources are getting more expensive). And global trends may likely benefit early investment in higher cost renewables (and manufacturing capacity) in terms of longer term benefits, declining costs, and the business cycle.

I don’t necessarily accept your premise they are dragging down the economy. They appear to be a bright spot in some respects, sopping up lots of cash that is sitting around in banks, offshore accounts, and hedge funds … brought out of hiding in financial services casinos and put to use to promote business activity (a benefit by any measure).

I linked to a story below about a bankruptcy filing (here and here) that may be looming in Texas by the private owners of Comanche Peaks. They are being constrained by the high debt load that comes with a 40 – 60 year long term bet on nuclear (and a business climate that is constantly shifting with looming technology shifts, environmental regulations, and evolving market design in the coming decades). For them, the bet was a poor one, and high debt is dragging down their ability to respond to new opportunities.

There are several ways to look at the concerns that you have identified (and the micro economics of productivity, holding today’s business climate static, is just one of them).

1. @EL

Germany has remained competitive by focusing on high end consumers goods and a highly skilled and well paid workforce, and not on low labor costs. Are they an anomaly?

Methinks you answered your own question. How sustainable do you think a world economy can be if all countries focused on high end consumer good produced by a highly skilled and well paid workforce? How many “high end” consumers are there that can afford BMWs and Mercedes?

You also ignore the underlying unemployment and the electric power rates for consumers that are 4 times what I pay here in Virginia. Sure, I use a lot more electricity per year than the average German (or American) consumer, but I like the comfort of a large home, a couple of refrigerators, big screen TVs, large washing machine & dryer, and a fast responding electric stove. Even with all of those conveniences, my electric bill is about 5% of the total ownership cost of my home.

8. Brian Mays says:

Even with all of those conveniences, my electric bill is about 5% of the total ownership cost of my home.

Rod – If you think about it, you’ll realize that this is part of the problem.

I know where you live, and I know that you can get a lot of bang-for-your-buck when it comes to owning a large home. Furthermore, I know that a comparable home in other places — say four hours to the north, where many policy-makers live — is far more expensive. Thus, 5% of the total ownership cost of their home would be a lot of money to you and me, but they probably see it the same way that you do — 5% is not much. To them, paying 4 times what you pay for electricity is no big deal.

This reminds me of the time I spent promoting nuclear power at an Earth Day event in Charlottesville about a decade ago. I remember talking to a middle-aged woman about the social and economic benefits that come with having access to affordable energy, which nuclear power could provide. She disagreed. She was staunchly in favor of “renewable” energy and even went so far as to claim that she didn’t mind paying 10 times as much for her electricity as she does now.

One glance at the jewelry that she was wearing was enough for me to realize why she didn’t mind.

1. @Brian

Since I lived the DC area for the 12 years before moving to our lovely city, I know what you mean about our communications challenge.

I guess part of my advantage (or disadvantage) is that I have also had personal experience that helped me to understand the importance of electricity as a manufacturing input. When I ran a small plastics products factory that make things by heating plastic and injecting the molten fluid into a mold at high pressure, the highest paid “employees” were the two feeds from the local power company. They each made about \$5,000 per month in a factory with a total annual revenue of about a million dollars.

When running that factory, I also met some terrific people who worked very hard and did not make anywhere near as much money as I do now. A cost that is “no big deal” to me or to many policy makers would be HUGE for them.

We need cheap energy that is also clean. That product threatens the wealth and power of influential people, but there are so many more beneficiaries that it will eventually happen. However, I hate the passive voice, so I am actively working to make it happen as soon as possible.

9. Bill Rodgers says:

Brian,

Similar story.. Talking with a co-worker about 4 years ago who was on the admin side of the non-nuclear utility company in the Pacific Northwest where I was working under contract at the time. The subject was the on-going debate about the off-shore wind facility in Massachusetts otherwise known as the Cape Wind Farm (BTW, I really hate the term “farm” used to describe an industrial wind facility.)

Anyway this co-worker was upper middle class, intelligent, and had relatives that just happened to live in Massachusetts who were doing well for themselves but all were anti-nuclear. We would have some good discussions about power generation issues on a regular basis. So we got to talking about putting in an off-shore wind facility as a first-of-a-kind project.

I asked him what his relatives thought about their power rates tripling or quadrupling to support the wind facility since it looked like things were heading that direction.

Response: Well..they can afford it since it is green energy and helps the planet.

Okay…. next question…..What about the low income rate payers that happen to live in Massachusetts? (as an aside – his office was next to the low income assistance office in our office building. So he would pass by that office more then a few times every day and see those that were unable to pay their bills)

Ans. That is what the low income assistance programs are there to do. To help the less fortunate.

Okay…. 3rd Q:. You realize that if the power rates go up that significantly then the state sponsored assistance funds will need additional money to help those in need and on top of that more people will qualify. That may mean taxes will need to go up to keep the assistance plans funded. It also means the utility companies may need to raise more money for their own low income funds as well. So how do your relatives feel about their taxes being raised to support the low income assistance funds?

Response: Well that is expected and the federal wind subsidies should help pay for that as well.

Hummmm……interesting idea…but you realize that federal wind subsidies are coming from all of us (we were in a group of about 7 at that time).

Response: What do you mean?

I mean that WE fund the federal subsidy programs through our tax dollars. So that means WE would end up paying a very, very small portion of that off-shore wind facility based on your idea.

BOOM….Light went on…He understood his GCE* about energy tax and tariff issues that he and I had been discussing for some time.

Needless to say he was not happy with me about bursting his myth balloon about how the governement is financially involved with wind and nuclear generation. Our few conversations from that point on were businesslike and professional but we never had another debate about power generation issues again. Which was actually too bad since he was knowledge even though he several blind spots.

* GCE = Gross Conceptual Error for those that are not used to seeing that acronym.

10. Brian Mays says:

Bill – Your co-worker must have been an intelligent guy, because you were eventually able to get through to him. Most of the people that I have encountered with the kind of preconceptions that you describe never would have made it that far — and it wasn’t for lack of trying on my part to explain it to them.

The attitude of being willing to pay more for electricity that comes from a source that is “saving the planet” is all too common among the upper and upper-middle classes in rich, industrialized Western countries. This is why I have been calling electricity from wind turbines and solar panels “boutique power” for years now.

It’s even marketed like boutique products. Notice that electricity from wind doesn’t come from an industrial plant or facility, it comes from a “farm” like fresh tomatoes. This is sleazy marketing at its most cynical and effective.

What these spoiled yuppies rarely stop to consider is that not everyone can afford to shop boutique for their essentials, and when the government steps in and buys boutique for them, then everybody pays additional hidden costs, and the economy as a whole suffers.

11. EL says:

Bill Rodgers wrote: “I asked him what his relatives thought about their power rates tripling or quadrupling to support the wind facility since it looked like things were heading that direction.”

Did you explain to him that “average” wholesale prices can be reduced by lowering energy costs with additional supplies, and more importantly lowering peak energy rates with additional supplies from power purchase agreements that may be above the wholesale market average?

This is what studies show on the impact of Cape Wind on regional market prices in Massachusetts and New England (and the cost benefit for consumer across the income persepctive).

Charles River Associates have done two studies on the issue. The most recent suggests: “With Cape Wind in service, over the years 2014–2038, the price of power in the New England wholesale market would be \$1.86/MWh lower on average.” For Massachusetts alone, the impact is estimated to be greater, and represents a \$1.95/MWh savings. For the years modeled in the study (with no carbon prices in mix, and projected natural gas prices from EIA in 2012), the aggregate savings are estimated to be \$7.2 billion over 25 years. Greater if natural gas prices rise above projected levels.

12. Brian Mays says:

Massachusetts alone, the impact is estimated to be greater, and represents a \$1.95/MWh savings

Hmm … wholesale electricity prices drop by \$1.95 per MWh. You don’t say?

Meanwhile, the federal government loses \$22 of tax revenue for each MWh produced by Cape Wind. So, while the wholesale rate payer in Massachusetts saves two bucks, the tax payers all over the country lose twenty-two.

That’s surely a sweet deal for somebody, but not me.

You do realize, don’t you, that in a region like New England, with an energy market that has limited access to low-cost baseload power, any additional generation capacity with low marginal costs is going to drive down the wholesale price of electricity.

Do you have any idea what would happen to the wholesale price of electricity if someone were to add a merchant AP-1000 nuclear plant to the market? I guarantee you that the price would drop far more than a tiny 0.2 cents/kWh.

A “savings” of \$1.95/MWh is absolutely nothing. It’s completely dwarfed by fluctuations in the market due to the price of fuel, particularly natural gas. For example, according to ISO New England, the wholesale price of electricity in New England dropped by \$10.59/MWh in just one year, from \$46.68/MWh in 2011 to \$36.09/MWh last year.

If I lived in New England and cared about the price of electricity, I’d be out campaigning for fracking and I’d say screw Cape Wind.

13. EL says:

@Brian Mays. Glad we agree that Cape wind is not going to triple or quadruple energy prices in New England (as incorrectly suggested above).

Meanwhile, the federal government loses \$22 of tax revenue for each MWh produced by Cape Wind.

Not correct. PTC is for first 10 years of production (not the entire life of the project). The cost to you is nothing. As you suggest, the lost revenue in federal taxes is some \$332 million (at 38% capacity factor). The benefits are \$7.2 billion in aggregate cost saving for consumers, 805 construction and manufacturing jobs, and 154 direct permanent jobs in New England. In addition, we finally get started on an offshore industry, and technology development, training, and manufacturing that comes along with it.

If someone wants to build a merchant nuclear plant that will be up and running in 5 – 15 years in New England (with a 40 – 60 year investment horizon), I’m sure there are plenty of good reasons to do that as well (if financing, siting, lower competitive costs, and other concerns can be arranged).

14. Brian Mays says:

Glad we agree that Cape wind is not going to triple or quadruple energy prices in New England (as incorrectly suggested above).

No, that’s according to one study that was commissioned by the company that wants to build the facility. You have to apply the qualifiers. Unfortunately for dreamers like you, reality rarely follows the rose-colored conclusions of such optimistic studies, so no, I don’t agree with you. My opinion is that the jury is still out. The optimistic projection shows a “benefit” that is entirely trivial, but it could be far worse.

Not correct. PTC is for first 10 years of production (not the entire life of the project).

Considering that the anticipated operational life a wind turbine is only 20 years, I’d say that the PTC covers a hell of a lot. If you want to knock it down to \$11 of tax revenue per MWh, then fine. I should point out that’s still over five times the putative benefit to ratepayers that you have suggested. Note, however, that this 20-year estimate is usually given for on-shore wind turbines. It’s unclear today what the real operational life of off-shore wind turbines will be considering the environmental and maintenance challenges that they will face.

… at 38% capacity factor …

Stop smoking crack. It’s not good for you, particularly when commenting on blogs.

The cost to you is nothing … the lost revenue in federal taxes is some \$332 million … The benefits are … 805 construction and manufacturing jobs, and 154 direct permanent jobs …

So we’re talking about between \$100k to \$140k per job just from federal subsidies. Hell, why don’t we just take the money and give it to people?!

Sorry, while I don’t mind paying federal taxes, I would like it to go to something more useful than the hypothetical possibility of saving a bunch of a-holes in New England from paying an additional 0.2 cents/kWh in their electricity bill.

Nevertheless, I agree that it would be wise to transition away from burning oil for electricity (and that is what Cape Wind is largely projected to replace). Only technological backwaters like New England, Italy, and other Third-World regions still burn oil for electricity.

If someone wants to build a merchant nuclear plant that will be up and running in 5 – 15 years in New England …

Er … 5 to 15 years? Cape Wind was proposed in 2001. In case you haven’t noticed, it’s now 2013. The first-of-a-kind EPR nuclear reactor in Finland was proposed three years later, yet it’s probably a good bet that it will be up and running before Cape Wind.

By the way, that EPR will produce over eight times the amount of electricity (on average) than Cape Wind, even assuming your ridiculously optimistic assumption of an unprecedented 38% capacity factor.

15. EL says:

@Brian Mays. 25 year operating life38% capacity factor … lower wholesale cost of energy …

These are basic assumptions for offshore wind, and Cape Wind in particular. Crack has nothing to do with it. Just up-to-date knowledge, familiarity with published research and achievable goals (current and long term development program), and in your instance a willingness to be informative and keep to basic verifiable facts. And perhaps one more thing, when your inaccurate and faulty claims are highlighted, to learn from mistakes, and stop fighting back with childish attacks and additional inaccurate and misleading claims.

So we’re talking about between \$100k to \$140k per job just from federal subsidies. Hell, why don’t we just take the money and give it to people?!

This is not a very informative way to calculate employment benefits (AP has called it “grade school arithmetic”). I take it you oppose the PTC and direct taxpayer loans for new nuclear on this basis? Cost of PTC (8 years, \$19/MWh, 800 direct permanent jobs, 92% CF) for Vogtle will be \$177K per job. Throw in taxpayer debt liability to federal budget from loan guarantee and you get \$10.6 million per job.

So yes, even for a FOAK plant in US, Cape Wind looks like a pretty good deal for ratepayers, federal taxpayer, job creation, and electricity markets in New England. Unless you want to make up some other numbers to suggest the contrary?

1. @EL

I’ve sailed in the area where Cape Wind plans to locate. Perhaps my samples are not representative, but I would bet a substantial quantity of money that a CF of 38% in that area is not achievable. It might be achievable in other off-shore areas, like off of the coast of Denmark.

I also spent a few years as a requirements officer (financial analyst) in the office of the OPNAV staff responsible for paying the bills to maintain ships and submarines. I’m pretty sure that a 25 year life for off shore wind turbines is pretty optimistic since the cost of maintaining equipment exposed to sea water, spray, and occasional nor’easters can become quite high as the equipment ages and corrodes. There will be less incentive and fewer available resources to effect repairs needed anytime after the PTC has ended. As I understand it, that money flow stops at the ten year point.

How many permanent jobs do you think an off shore, industrial wind facility will actually create?

Unlike the wind PTC, the PTC that Vogtle and Summer may qualify for was strictly limited and focused at reviving a nuclear plant construction industry that had been dormant in the US for more than 30 years. The total amount of new nuclear capacity that could qualify was 6,000 MW, there is a limit on the total amount per plant, the number is not indexed for inflation, and it could not be used for any plant using technology licensed prior to 1998. (This specifically leaves out Watts Bar II and Bellefonte as potential recipients.)

Once again, I will also remind you that the highly publicized loan guarantee for Vogtle has never been closed. At the recent Nuclear Energy Assembly, it sounded to me like Tom Fanning is planning to continue moving forward without the loan because the government’s offered terms and conditions are far less attractive than what he can obtain in the open market. There is no taxpayer debt liability to the federal budget and that is likely to remain true.

16. Brian Mays says:

25 year operating life … These are basic assumptions for offshore wind, and Cape Wind in particular.

EL – Hey, Congratulations! You found a wind turbine with and advertised “25 year structural life time — outstanding by industry standards.” How long did that Google search take?

An 8 MW Vestas turbine … interesting, but irrelevant. Now what is the expected life time of a 3.6 MW Siemens wind turbine, like the ones that are planned for Cape Wind? I’m willing to bet that they are the (non-outstanding) “industry standard” of about 20 years.

(Aside: Since we’re being so sloppy about equipment, do you mind if I used the advertised statistics for the EPR when talking about the new plants in Vogtle? I’d really like to claim that Southern is adding 3.2 GW of capacity, instead of 2.2 GW.)

Also, since you have no engineering background, I should explain that the “structural life time” refers to the expected life time of the structural components — e.g., the big pole that holds the turbine up above the water. What is the mechanical life time of this turbine? Vestas doesn’t say. What is the mechanical life time of the actual turbines that will be installed at Cape Wind?

All a 25-year structural life time means is that if your mechanical parts crap out on you after a dozen years, you can stick a new turbine up on the same pole and expect that the pole should last another dozen years.

38% capacity factor … These are basic assumptions for offshore wind, and Cape Wind in particular.

Well, I don’t see where you get that figure from the link you posted, but I am aware that the DOE often uses a ~37% capacity factor (probably at the insistence of the NREL renewable cheerleaders) for some of its projections, but this figure is used for a brand-new plant that is sited in moderately favorable wind conditions. Do you really think that the “farm” will have a 37% capacity factor 10 years into operation, as components and entire turbines start to break down?

The DOE uses 33% as a reference capacity factor for onshore wind turbines, but the experience of countries with wind turbines in Europe tells another story. The capacity factor of wind power in Denmark, Germany, and the UK is always below 30% every year and is typically in the low twenties. An optimistic 38% comes with a huge grain of salt.

This is not a very informative way to calculate employment benefits (AP has called it “grade school arithmetic”).

I agree that it’s grade school arithmetic, but it is an excellent response to your grade-school thinking of pointing out how many jobs a project to build an power plant will create.

It appears that you have entirely missed the point: the purpose of a power plant is to produce power, not jobs. Ideally, such a plant should produce as much electricity with as few jobs as possible, since that indicates a superior average productivity of each worker. The real benefit in jobs will come by applying the electricity to produce other useful goods and services, and the less companies have to pay for energy, the more they can spend on workers. Why can leftists never figure this out?

17. EL says:

@Rod Adams and Brian Mays. Your belief and opinion on these matters (25 year timeframe reported by developers and equipment manufacturers, detailed studies of wind class averages for Horseshoe Shoal, and contract obligations for Southern Company and vendors and proceeding without Loan Guarantee) are duly noted.

How many permanent jobs do you think an off shore, industrial wind facility will actually create?

154.

An 8 MW Vestas turbine … interesting, but irrelevant.

As I said: “basic assumptions.” Here’s the same for Siemens. And yes, “structural capacity” refers to “every component” (including nacelle) not just towers (unless you wish to make things up on a forever basis).

The DOE uses 33% as a reference capacity factor for onshore wind turbines, but the experience of countries with wind turbines in Europe tells another story.

Average CF for Danish offshore wind farms in 2012: 44.9%.

You real need to stop making up numbers, and misleading with entirely faulty statements.

18. Brian Mays says:

Here’s the same for Siemens.

EL – Ah … a 6 MW turbine … you’re getting warmer, but still off the mark.

But I suppose you’re excited about where the brochure mentions that it is “possible to verify the structural capacity of every component” through “Highly Accelerated Lifetime Tests on the complete nacelle, simulating 25 years of real life …” Well, I say more about that below.

And yes, “structural capacity” refers to “every component” (including nacelle) not just towers (unless you wish to make things up on a forever basis).

The nacelle is merely the “shell” that covers the generator, gearbox (if used), etc. When an engineer talks about “structural capacity” it doesn’t refer to a specific component or components; rather, it refers to the ability of the components to withstand a structural load — in this case the high winds that can be encountered during storms at sea — without breaking. It doesn’t refer to the performance of the mechanical and electrical components to do their job of generating electricity, to not catch fire (as they are prone to do), etc.

Furthermore, “simulating 25 years of real life” is not the same thing as stating that the equipment is likely to last 25 years. No competent engineer doing reliability testing would test only to the expected end of life. Testing is done well beyond when the device is expected to fail to understand how failures work for the minority of devices that defy the odds and outlive their life span. All of this is necessary to understand the underlying mechanisms of failure and to get reliable statistics to give a good estimate of when the majority (or other specified fraction) of devices will fail.

Thus, if Siemens is bragging about “simulating 25 years of real life,” then that certainly means that most turbines are not expected to last that long — the standard 20 year life span is a good guess of what they might expect. Their sales staff put in the larger number, however, because they know that corporate executives and people like you, who have no understanding of engineering fundamentals, will get confused and think that the turbines will reliably last for 25 years.

Average CF for Danish offshore wind farms in 2012: 44.9%.

Yes, the data that you have linked to clearly show that capacity factor decreases as the equipment ages. For example, using the 2012 numbers:

New Turbines (age less 7 years): 46% capacity factor

Older Turbines (age between 7 and 14 years): 38% capacity factor

Oldest Turbines (age greater than 14 years): 26% capacity factor

However, I was referring of a larger sample than just 871 MW of capacity (less than the output of one 1970’s-era nuclear reactor; Cape Wind alone is well over half of that). The average capacity factor since 2000 for all of Denmark’s turbines is only 23.3%. The average over the last five years is just 25.5%. This is much less than the 33% that is usually touted for onshore turbines.

This is why assumptions of a capacity factor of 33% for onshore turbines and 38% for offshore turbines are just plain silly. Sure, you might find a couple of examples of fairly new, well-placed turbines that might hit that level or higher, but cherry-picking gives a poor estimate to use for any serious calculations.

Anyhow, this has gone on far too long, and I have already given you too much of an excuse to soapbox. As I mentioned in another comment, I understand that you can dodge and tack and spout nonsense indefinitely. If anyone here were buying the horse manure that you’re spreading, then they would have piped up in support long ago, so I don’t understand what you think you are accomplishing.

But hey … if you want to link to the sales brochure of an Acme 12 GW roadrunner-proof wind turbine because it makes you feel important or fools you into thinking that you have made a valid point, then please go ahead. However, I’m tired and have better things to do.

19. jmdesp says:

@EL:about the study just above the author say that the lowering of electricity price will generate indirect jobs, but actually it doesn’t lower the *cost* of generating power in those alternative units, which means their profit margin lowers, and they’re very likely to terminate jobs, which negates this gain.

What’s more, the indirect job generation only exist anyway if the reduction of the market cost is more than the total cost of the PTC and the cost of grid expansion required, which is quite unlikely.

Did you ever learn about the Hartz IV reform ? Becoming competitive by lowering labor cost is *exactly* what Germany has done, see http://www.dw.de/german-labor-costs-rise-more-slowly-than-in-the-rest-of-the-eu/a-15906818

But the averages don’t tell the whole story, Germany is a mix of highly qualified people who can command a high price on the market because they produce high quality goods, and of low qualified people with no minimal wage and little social protection who makes it very competitive everywhere no high qualification is required, for example installing solar panels at a much lower cost than in the US.

BTW did you really read what you linked to ? The debt is linked to a LBO operation, nothing to see with nuclear, and also surprise ! The last \$2 Bl investment of the grid utility involved was a costly grid expansion required by wind power !! The generator Luminant has 13 lignite and gas units and you dare try to link this to it’s sole nuclear plant ??

20. EL says:

Yes, the data that you have linked to clearly show that capacity factor decreases as the equipment ages. For example, using the 2012 numbers:

New Turbines (age less 7 years): 46% capacity factor

Older Turbines (age between 7 and 14 years): 38% capacity factor

Oldest Turbines (age greater than 14 years): 26% capacity factor

That’s your brilliant insight based on engineering fundamentals? Huh. It really doesn’t “clearly show that.” What it shows instead is that older technology has lower performance then newer technology that has been significantly improved (which is entirely expected).

For older turbines (from Siemens): “A proven 20+ year product lifetime.”

When an engineer talks about “structural capacity” it doesn’t refer to a specific component or components; rather, it refers to the ability of the components to withstand a structural load”

So are we talking only about towers now (as in your original statement) or other aspects aspects of kinetic energy transfer in a direct drive and gearless wind generator (as in the Siemens and Vestas offshore models)? If you’re suggesting that sufficient testing of structural capacity in a turbine model somehow lowers it’s “proven” or projected operational lifetime, you are not doing a very good job.

I don’t understand what you think you are accomplishing.

I thought my contributions were obvious. To provide clear, informative, and easy to verify information on the site, and a necessary counterpoint to misinformation and unsubstantiated claims. In addition, I also wish to make a strong case that you don’t get to more nuclear by burning bridges with every other development interest (particular low carbon and fully sustainable alternatives), or wingnut conspiracy that “people don’t get it” and everyone is out to get nuclear. You get to more nuclear by making solid, substantiated, and well informed arguments (that can be well defended) about the advantages of nuclear, costs and benefits of long term development programs, and it’s competitiveness in the marketplace (hopefully addressing all energy needs, including those beyond baseload).

If you can’t make this argument, and if easy to verify objective facts are nonsense to you, then I am not sure what you think you are accomplishing on the site? You don’t think there is any merit ti a low carbon strategy to energy production, so you appear to be an industry booster and anti-science ideologue (who really enjoys the technology).

21. EL says:

jmdesp wrote: “about the study just above the author say that the lowering of electricity price will generate indirect jobs, but actually it doesn’t lower the *cost* of generating power in those alternative units, which means their profit margin lowers, and they’re very likely to terminate jobs, which negates this gain.”

Yes, it seems we should fully develop other profits centers besides protecting spreads between peak and off-peak prices. These reforms are coming. Adequate transmission and better demand management are important tools. Energy storage has yet to take off, and capacity payments are another approach. All of these benefit multiple market participants, not just one energy resource, and also result in a more reliable, diversified, and flexible energy system. Large centralized utilities have to adapt, and not go away. These changes are happening one way or another. I don’t agree with you that lower and more stable peak energy prices necessarily means that legacy plants that already exist will “very likely” go out of business. It could mean the opposite, and that new incentives will exist for long overdue reforms, and a greater push for investment and new business opportunities in changing and rapidly developing energy markets (leading to new job opportunities, innovation, and expanded global markets). SMRs are part of this (exploiting new and developing market opportunities). Business as usual should be scared of the future. Nothing stays “usual” for very long.

22. jmdesp says:

@EL : Well, I disagree with you about renewable generating more *stable* peak prices, quite the opposite. As demand is quite predictable most of the time, peak prices were also quite predictable, and that was the model on which pumped hydro in Switzerland was relying : Pumping water in the night and having a stable, predictable peak price in the day to sell it.

Now during the day we have a lower price on average, but not guaranteed at all, it’s very hard to organize yourself based on that price.

The only reason why the German grid is still reliable is because it’s oversupplied, and most of the providers are earning no money. Logically they should shut down the units that can not reliably make a profit, until the average market price comes back to a profitable level, but if they’d do that the grid would not be reliable anymore. The constraint to keep units as back up even if they’re not making profit is just why the government accepted to pay E-On to keep the Irsching 5 and 4 units on-line.

And the changes happening don’t impact the renewable sources at all since they’re protecting from that impact by the FIT in Germany, and long term power purchase agreement in the US, that they get thanks to the imposed level of renewable the utilities have to incorporate in their mix.

23. EL says:

@jmdesp.

There’s a great deal of talk on this in Germany, and several viable options for keeping legacy plants in business and continuing to offer reliable services (at a profit) to consumers in a fully reliable grid (which is, as you say, currently in overcapacity). Nobody is going out of business. Hummel and many others want capacity payments (here). Statkraft (despite being hurt by low gas prices) want more storage, grid development (especially to Norwegian hydro reservoirs), price competition for peak generation, a Europe wide electricity market, and demand response (here). I imagine everyone is going to get a little bit of both. Flat rates for gas developers and strategic reserves are another option. We’ll see what solutions developers, market stakeholders, regulators, and policy makers decide (and they apparently have until 2017 to decide).

24. EL says:

==============

@jmdesp.

There’s a great deal of talk on this in Germany, and several viable options for keeping legacy plants in business and continuing to offer reliable services (at a profit) to consumers in a fully reliable grid (which is, as you say, currently in overcapacity). Nobody is going out of business. Hummel and many others want capacity payments (here). Statkraft (despite being hurt by low gas prices) want more storage, grid development (especially to Norwegian hydro reservoirs), price competition for peak generation, a Europe wide electricity market, and demand response (here). I imagine everyone is going to get a little bit of both. Flat rates for gas developers and strategic reserves are another option. We’ll see what solutions developers, market stakeholders, regulators, and policy makers decide (and they apparently have until 2017 to decide).

7. Paul Lindsey says:

There is no incentive to plan for long-term fuel costs when the utility gets to automatically pass on the fuel costs to the customer.

8. BobinPgh says:

Does Levy County have to be that expensive? One question I had about Kewaunee is what did 600 people there do all day? I suspect a lot of it is private security which as far as I am concerned is a make-work program for active alcoholics. Is an AP1000 more automatic so that maybe it might need only 200 people? If engineers could somehow get the number of people and salaries and (good) benefits down that has to help with the cost. But then, I don’t like people. No one has an answer to this question because I guess Rod, you love people ( though I cannot figure out why)

1. @BobinPgh

Yes, I like people. I have many reasons for doing so. Besides, 2/3 of the total cost projected for Levy county are associated with the cost of initial construction, not the cost of maintaining a well trained and reasonably compensated staff.

1. Paul W Primavera says:

When one is a person (singular of persons or people), then it is simply in one’s best interests to like – even love – people since one is as a matter of design (whether by evolution or creation is beside the point) a person who needs love. Heck, I support nuclear power because my species is human made of men and women – people – and since I love myself, I love people and I therefore want my species to succeed. Sure, nuclear power isn’t a panacea and mankind has lots of other problems. But dumping prodigious amounts of CO2 and other gasses into the atmosphere is an untried experiment that will have unintended and disastrous results, regardless of whether one believes in anthropogenic global warming or not. I love people. I love the environment. And it’s simply in my own self interest to see both of those remain healthy.

😉

Can’t believe that I wrote that.

2. James Greenidge says:

Re: “Does Levy County have to be that expensive? One question I had about Kewaunee is what did 600 people there do all day?”

This bothers me a lot. We have nuclear powered mobile cities of 6,000 sailors each on patrol around the world that to my read employs less than a 75 techs specifically to nurse each’s nuclear reactor for at least 13 years (soon over 20?) between refueling. In the Dakotas we got super-secured nearly impenetrable underground missile silos mostly always manned by just two officers. It’s HARD for me to believe a industrial nuke plant can’t be designed to run securely daily under most by 50 people if that. This high personnel number must be basically some union stipulation thing, like at Broadway theaters where you must have someone there specifically employed to carry a ladder and change a light bulb.

James Greenidge
Queens NY

1. Paul W Primavera says:

There has to be a certain minimum staffing at commercial nuclear power plants that includes (as an example only – this isn’t exhaustive or necessarily representative of any one plant):

Operations Dept for round the clock Control Room manning and non-licensed operators in the field for emergent issues
Health Physics Dept for all the periodic surveys and radiological monitoring
Chemistry Dept for daily / continuous primary and secondary chemistry monitoring
I&C Maintenance Dept (constant, daily, weekly, monthly, etc. surveillances)
Mechanical Maintenance Dept
Electrical Maintenance Dept
System Engineering Dept (Maintenance Rule monitoring)
Reactor Engineering (usually in System Engineering)
Component Engineering Dept
Design Engineering Dept (there’s a continuous cycle of plant MODs always going on)
Security Dept
Fire and Safety Dept
QA Dept
Licensing / Reg Affairs / Operating Experience Dept

Operations and Security have the largest staff, I think, because they have to be on-site 24 / 7.

HPs, Chem, I&C, Mechanical and Electrical MTC all have to contribute 1 to 2 staff members for round the clock coverage, and they usually have anywhere from 15 to 30 people per dept.

People from all depts. participate in the E-Plan and in outages.

My experience is that staffing needs are the same whether the plant is 500 MWe or 1000 MWe because the number of systems are the same. Utilities with smaller plants do try to cut back because personnel is just a big expense, but they usually get in trouble when they do.

Sure, automation sounds great, but the US NRC is paranoid about common cause / common mode failures in digital I&C as well as Cyber Security threats and vulnerabilities. Just read RG-1.152 and 1.168 through 1.173, as well as RG-5.71, and BTP 7-14 and 7-19 in NUREG-0800. So saying we can reduce plant staff through automation is problematic at best. Yes, the new AP-1000, ESBWR and EPRs are all being designed for totally digital I&C, but there will still be a host of people in all those depts that I listed above because that’s how the system works, like it or not.

Nuclear is cheap on fuel but expensive in people and I think always will be. Is that a bad thing? Not necessarily.

1. Paul W Primavera says:

Opps, forgot about Information Technology in my list – they maintain the Plant Process Computer and all the LAN infrastructure on site. They usually have 5 to 10 people, with 2 dedicated to the Plant Process Computer.

2. James Greenidge says:

Well, I suppose so. Still, maybe those folks who design those huge super-automated auto plants run with just a handful of people ought have a hand helping design future nuke plants! 😀

One of my favorite “early on thrillers” was Martin Caidin’s “Last Fathom” where he details a 1600 ton 100 knot 40,000 ft crush depth negative buoyancy attack nuclear sub manned by only 2 crew which really made an impression with submariners on Tom Synder on the “Tomorrow” show in the late 70’s. It was funny to hear them say such an advanced concept was too “skull-crushingly unorthodox” for the Pentagon to ever consider, just like how NASA was forced to trash proven atomic drives that could’ve gotten us to Mars and back in the _mid-’80s_! I miss such blazingly progressive thinking today!

James Greenidge
Queens NY

2. Paul Lindsey says:

Actually James, the Reactor Dept on a NIMITZ-class CVN numbers ~350 personnel, incl 24 officers led by a post-command O-5. Rx Dept owns the entire propulsion plant, not just the Rx Rooms, plus the EDG’s. At any one time, there are ~30 personnel on watch in each plant and in Central Control. The manning level allows for at least 3 sometimes 4 sections of watchstanders, plus maintenance, plus dedicated training personnel, plus casualty response. Security is handled by a separate division onbd. (I am a retired USN LCdr, PPWO, EOOW and Engineer-qualified on the NIMITZ-class.)

3. James Greenidge says:

Re: “Does Levy County have to be that expensive? One question I had about Kewaunee is what did 600 people there do all day?”

Yes, this bothers me a lot. We have nuclear powered mobile cities of 6,000 sailors each on patrol around the world that to my read employs less than a 75 techs specifically to nurse each’s nuclear reactor for at least 13 years (soon over 20?) between refueling. In the Dakotas we got super-secured nearly impenetrable underground missile silos mostly always manned by just two officers. It’s HARD for me to believe a industrial nuke plant can’t be designed to run securely daily under most by 50 people if that. This high personnel number must be basically some union stipulation thing, like at Broadway theaters where you must have someone there specifically employed to carry a ladder and change a light bulb.

James Greenidge
Queens NY

1. Wayne SW says:

The numbers I’d seen indicated that Kewaunee was running a \$30 million deficit per year. Assuming \$100,000 per employee (wages and benefits), \$30 million could have been made up by reducing the staff by 300 people. That would leave 300. Could they have run the plant on a staff of 300? It wasn’t that large (in terms of installed capacity) of a facility. I’ve often wondered if Kewaunee could have been saved by some kind of cost reduction measure, maybe a combination of staff and salary cuts.

That would not be good for those taking the hit, I understand. But at least they would have saved the plant from being trashed completely.

But, in the end, I think the owners just wanted to trash the plant. And the people working there seemed resigned to their fate. A combination like that pretty much makes things academic.

9. john tucker says:

Coal and Gas are Far More Harmful than Nuclear Power

“Using historical electricity production data and mortality and emission factors from the peer-reviewed scientific literature, we found that despite the three major nuclear accidents the world has experienced, nuclear power prevented an average of over 1.8 million net deaths worldwide between 1971-2009 (see Fig. 1). This amounts to at least hundreds and more likely thousands of times more deaths than it caused. “ ( http://www.giss.nasa.gov/research/briefs/kharecha_02/ )

In the end I think that supersedes most of the cost arguments. But you are right, the ground isnt even presented level in those as argued in your post.

1. Curtis says:

The issue with your quote John, is that no one looks at history for anything anymore.

Sadly we now live in a “Computer Simulation of DOOOOM” world now. How things have reacted in the real world cannot compete with the Almighty “What If?” that any hack with a computer can spit out.

Many Scientists in today’s age don’t seem to care about reality anymore. Pictures of imminent Doom get headlines, and if your not predicting that Mans actions will kill the world in our generation, you get ignored or worse.\

But I also see a new Shirt In Rods future!

Nukes! 1.8 Million Lives Saved and Counting!

10. nick Negoescu says:

Rod’s financial figures are accurate.
We can and do have wind turbine generators, solar generators, and dammed water generators.
But an established productive economy needs a base of electricity production that can be depended upon.
The baseload the US uses are as follows; Natural gas, coal, and nuclear power.
The green energy which the US uses only account for about 5% of the total baseload.
That is good, BUT it’s not enough and won’t be enough for the next 40 to 50 years of US Government subsidies to achieve the needed baseload which we have now.
Natural gas is subject to market fluctuations. Coal is the greatest polluter, and natural gas comes in at about 1/5 of coal for polluting.
Nuclear power which accounts for 20% of the US baseload has the drawback of mining and spent fuel storage problems. But actually is the cleanest producer of the 3.
We are fracking to obtain the natural gas, and we’re coal mining to produce the needed coal.
All of us have seen the coal ash ponds. Kingston Power Plant was an example of an ash pond gone wild. People have forgotten how many workers died in building and operating natural gas plants.
So environmentally, nuclear power wins.
On an average 1/3 of the workforce in a nuclear plant is security, and these are highly trained, dedicated, usually ex-military people that generally work long hours, and are continually being tested with drills to prove their skills. We must resent a comment that says “I suspect a lot of it is private security which as far as I am concerned is a make-work program for active alcoholics”, is so far from the truth it shouldn’t even be considered.
Nuclear plants, unlike most office work environments, require a Fitness For Duty exam prior to ever working there, and RANDOM drug and alcohol testing for everyone who is badged, both security and everyone else.
We, the nuclear industry, have to be better and to do better. We are a unique work force.
Yes, the nuclear plants initially are more expensive to build. But consider this. These plants were built in the 60’s through the 90’s, and they have supplied the 20% baseload for the entire US for these past 30 to 50 years. These plants do this by continually updating and upgrading the equipment. By good preventive maintenance of the equipment.
It’s rare to find coal units still in operation after 50 years. So many changes, and newer EPA regulations have caused many to be closed.
Enough said.

11. Daniel says:

For those of you who did not Watch 60 minutes last sunday, Bill Gates was on the show to discuss his various projects to help the less fortunates on this planet.

He is involved in a lot of high tech gadgets to help the poor from eradicating malaria, delivering vaccins in tropical surroundings to the closed loop toilet.

But his boldest and most important task to help humanity is …. a nuclear reactor running on depleted uranium.

Maybe some will start to listen.

12. David Walters says:

Folks, let me give you *part* of the difference between the US and most other countries. Craft labor costs (both union and non-union) are very high in the US, in fact the highest in the world by far. Lets run some back of the envelope numbers:

5,000 workers who each work 2080 hours year (or are paid for that with vacation, sick leave) on a nuclear build. Obviously it is not 5000 for the full build but I’m doing this for a 5 years which seems reasonable (this includes NRC personnel, other regulators, engineers, and other crafts not only pipefitters and concrete laborers).

That’s 10,400,000 labor-hours (man-hours). Times 5 (years) that’s 52,000,000 labor hours. Times a *low* wage-benefit package of \$60/hr that comes out to \$3,120,000,000.

This doesn’t include what the contractors charge *per hour per craft worker* as profit. This excludes ALL other costs like the cost of *buying* the reactor/turbine/generator.

The \$60/hr is low, I noted above. In California and the Northeast, it’s closer to \$80/\$90.

In the UAE and China, it’s likely these numbers are *at least* 10 times lower.

David Walters
IBEW 1245, Ret.

UCS has only a couple of people with law degrees on its staff, none of them working as lawyers and none of them working on nuclear power. The moratorium on licensing after TMI – in which all five NRC commissioners concurred – lasted about 18 months, not three years.

Thank you for stopping by. Now that you have disabused me of the notion that UCS has a lot of lawyers, can you tell us how many of the members are practicing or degrees scientists? As I gather from an interview of Harvey Kendall, there was a time when UCS consisted of one lawyer and one academic scientist.

1. Brian Mays says:

Rod – None of the regular staff is a practicing scientist — i.e., someone who regularly publishes research in the scientific literature. Even the ones with scientific degrees work only in public policy. These “concerned scientists” are “scientists” only when it comes to branding and inflating credentials.

Naturally, I welcome any substantiated corrections to what I have just written from Former Commissioner Bradford should he disagree with it.

There’s a breakdown of UCS staff by profession at http://www.ucsusa.org/about/staff/. You’ll find that your characterization of UCS staff scientists doesn’t fit them.

Also “Union” refers not to the staff but to the membership, thousands of whom are scientists by any definition.

1. Jeff Walther says:

“Also “Union” refers not to the staff but to the membership, thousands of whom are scientists by any definition.”

One definition of scientist is having a state of mind in which one looks at evidence in the real world and uses it to create informed opinions.

By that definition, no member of the UCS is or ever has been a “scientist”.

I’ve been following their garbage since they took out ads full of lies in the mid to late 70s and it’s always been the same old non-reality based garbage.

2. Bill Rodgers says:

This may be a trivial observation on my part but in both comments by Peter Bradford, there is a push to claim UCS is comprised of scientists which is fine to do however inaccruate. But there is no pushback about Rod’s comment that UCS is anti-nuclear.

Looking at the nuclear side of UCS I see the following 3 people:

Dave Lochbaum who is a nuclear engineer by training,

Rob Lowin who has a masters in International Relations and has been a policy wonk for what appears to be his entire professional career (not criticizting his career choice only pointing out that he is not a scientist yet is a public voice for UCS on nuclear power issues)

and

Dr Ed Lyman who is the closest thing to a scientist since he has earned an actual PhD. However it appers he has also been a policy wonk for the bulk of his professional career so what true scientific literature or work has he participated in?

Just saying there appears to be little original research (i.e. scientific type stuff such as published reports based on research and/or experiments in one’s chosen field) but there appears to be a lot, and I mean A LOT, of policy papers, interviews, meetings with Congressional members and their staff and those ubiquitous TV and newspaper interviews.

But then backing out to the entire UCS, their webpage lists 17 scientists mainly invovled with climate issues not nuclear power. So I am not seeing a deep bench of nuclear scientists. Just one PhD who is anti-nuclear as they come.

3. Brian Mays says:

Bill – Thanks for fielding this for me before I had the chance to respond.

Dr. Lyman is a perfect example of what I am talking about. He’s usually billed as a “physicist” (at least, that’s what is degree says), but his biography at the link provided by Mr. Bradford, prominently features the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists and Arms Control Today as the journals and magazines in which he has published. These publications do not exactly represent the cutting edge of physics research.

Perhaps Mr. Bradford could enlighten us on the more-scientifically, less-policy oriented articles in Dr. Lyman’s recent publication list?

4. EL says:

Brian Mays wrote: “Perhaps Mr. Bradford could enlighten us on the more-scientifically, less-policy oriented articles in Dr. Lyman’s recent publication list?”

The shifting targets keep flying by (no “practicing scientist,” then nuclear scientists, then Edwin Lyman, and then “recent” publications). Is there a reason why you wish to exclude Lyman’s older publications (and broader CV) pertaining to active research program, proliferation and security publications, conference papers and talks, and postdoctoral work? He head’s up “Global Security Program” at UCS … why is it important that he be publishing on “cutting edge physics research” in your view?

He’s usually billed as a “physicist”

Can you show us where? On UCS site, he’s billed as “expert on nuclear proliferation and nuclear terrorism as well as nuclear power safety and security.”

5. Brian Mays says:

Is there a reason why you wish to exclude Lyman’s older publications (and broader CV) pertaining to active research program, proliferation and security publications, conference papers and talks, and postdoctoral work?

EL – Anything after graduate school would be fine for me, as long as it is in real science (not “social science”).

“He’s usually billed as a ‘physicist'”

Can you show us where?

Sure, I can.

How about here: “Senior Scientist Edwin Lyman, a physicist in the organization’s Global Security Program”

or here: “… according to physicist Edwin Lyman, a senior scientist with the Union of Concerned Scientists’ (UCS) Global Security Program”

Here: “Edwin Lyman, a physicist with the UCS Global Security Program and an expert in nuclear plant design.”

(Of course he is an “expert” because he has designed so many nuclear plants, don’t you know. Or maybe it was all those nuclear engineering courses he took in school or perhaps all of those years spent working as a nuclear engineer. /sarcasm)

Perhaps here: “Dr. Edwin Lyman is a physicist in the UCS Global Security Program. He is an expert on nuclear plant design and the environmental and health effects of radiation.”

(Oh my! In addition to being a “physicist,” now he is a first-rate biologist or epidemiologist or physician or something else in public health! Then again, I guess that if he’s dishonest enough to call himself a physicist, then it not too much of a stretch to claim that he is a “health physicist.” I mean, this lie requires just one more word, after all. /sarcasm)

Satisfied yet? This all comes directly from the UCS website.

If you want to call him a public policy expert, then fine. That’s something different. Perhaps I’m old fashioned, but I happen to think that someone who goes around calling himself a “physicist” should … well … actually do physics.

“Senior Scientist” Lyman, the so-called “physicist,” hasn’t done physics — or any science whatsoever — in 21 years! Not since he left school. Even his postdoctoral work was in policy, not science. He is neither a physicist nor a scientist. I have degrees in physics too, by the way, but I don’t go around calling myself a “physicist.”

Maybe this group should rename themselves The Union of Concerned Pretenders.

6. Bill Rodgers says:

Brian – good to hear that I could provide commentary to support your statements on both threads.

And spot on response about Lyman.

14. BobinPgh says:

Far from the truth? I have worked in several hospitals which have security departments, usually an outside company. In our office, they had to come and “swipe” a stripe to show they were there and we knew when they were coming by the smell. Turns out most of them don’t like to shower and most I have met while working were inebriated. And when they yell watch out for the bad breath! This experience has formed my opinion of private security mostly being an industry for people too lazy to do their 12 steps, kind of a form of enabling. And yes, they are military veterans. I am not but my parents and my brother are and right now, my brother is on his 3rd rehab to try to get off of alcohol. My mom was a Navy nurse and she says there is A LOT of drinking in the military because a lot of her patients ended up in the hospital for binge drinking. One of the jobs offered to him is private security. And to think he was an electrical engineer but did not go to meetings and went to the vodka….

Aside: Rod you say you like people, do you like people like I describe above?

If 1/3 of Kewaunee was security then that would be 200 and 67-69 per shift. If the place is the size of a large hospital why couldn’t they have half as many? The savings may have been enough to make the place economical. Other savings would be with fewer people, the place would need less cleaning, less food service and less a lot of other things.

If I were the designer of a new nuclear plant I would have it run with as few people as possible. Now Rod, would you do that or do you like people too much?

1. Paul W. Primavera says:

Bobnpgh,

Security at Commercial Nuclear Power Plants is completely unlike what you described. I have worked at FitzPatrick and Indian Point, and have visited Pilgrim, Vermont Yankee, San Onofre, Seabrook and others. In each and every case, the Security Officers were professional, courteous, vigilant, attentive to their duties, well groomed and very clean. What you describe is NOT what I have seen, but I have been in hospitals and am dismayed at the continuing deterioration that I see throughout the medical establishment. However, that is a different issue for a different forum.

As for how many people it takes to run a nuke plant, megawatt output does not determine that. The number of components and systems, and the layout of the plant do. A 600 MWe plant will likely require about the same number of people as a 1000 MWe plant. That’s why utilities opt for the big plants – because bigger makes them cost-effective.

2. Brian Mays says:

Hospitals? You must be kidding me! Hell, on any given day, you’re lucky if the doctors and the staff show up completely sober — who cares about the security contractors? If that’s your experience, then it’s no wonder that you have such a jaded attitude.

You need to get out more. As Paul Primavera points out, the Fitness for Duty requirements in the nuclear industry are quite comprehensive. Even I am held accountable to such requirements, and I’m just an engineer. I don’t go to the plants, I only go an office that is nowhere near any nuclear plant, but I’m still held to the same Fitness for Duty standards, including drug and alcohol testing.

I’m sorry to have to say this, but your drunk, idiot relatives simply would not survive long in today’s nuclear industry.

15. Paul W Primavera says:

Well, I’ll try again. I sometimes hate my i-Pad. Here goes with a Windows computer.

BobinPgh,

What you describe regarding security at hospitals is completely unlike security at commercial nuclear power plants. I have worked at Fitzpatrick and Indian Point, and have visited Pilgrim, Seabrook, Vermont Yankee, San Onofre and others. In each and every case the security officers were competent, vigilant, courteous, attentive to detail, well-groomed, immaculately uniformed and all-around professional. None had offensive odor.

As for hospital security, given what I have been seeing happening in the deterioration of the medical industry, none of what you describe surprises me, but it does NOT represent nuclear security in the slightest.

As to how many people a nuclear power plant needs, that is determined not by MWe output but by the number of systems and components, and physical layout. A 600 MWe plant needs about the same as a 1000 MWe plant. That’s why the big NSSS companies and utilities opt for the big plants – AP-1000 at 1000 MWe and ESBWR at 1600 MWe. It makes them economic because the number of people required really doesn’t change that much.

As for your brother being on his 3rd rehab, I will add him to my Rosary prayer list tonight. I thank God that some people at my nuclear power plant back in 1986 had the good sense to “turn me in” and get me help. That’s a long story for a different day in a different forum, and one more reason why I love nuclear trained people: because when your messed up and sick, they won’t let you down.

16. Sean McKinon says:

I would rather pay for people than fuel. Paying people helps drive the economy.

Nuclear is more expensive because of unnecessary regulatory burden and political reasons and not the technology. Look at Shoreham a perfectly good already built plant was scrapped for purely political reasons. Imagine how low power prives could be for lilco customers if the plant was operating?

1. BobinPgh says:

Sean, one of the reasons the natural gas is less expensive is because natural gas power plants have fewer people. In fact, Allegheny Energy is going to build an NG emergency power station that has NO people (Rod probably thinks that is horrible). People will visit the place once in a while to maintain it but it will be started from an office in another city and run by itself just like the gas furnace does in your house. It must just have a fence and locks to keep people out. So why couldn’t a new nuclear plant be designed to have fewer people?

1. ddpalmer says:

Well Bob, a nucler plant could be designed to have fewer people. But as Sean touched on, the regulatory burden and politics prevent many possible cost savings at nuclear plants. Minimum staffing levels are dictated by their NRC license. Minimum levels of inspection and testing are dictated by their license and those inspections and test require people. Then there is required training that takes a worker away from their regular operation/inspection/testing/maintanence job and requires another worker to cover those minimum staffing levels.

2. Smilin Joe Fission says:

Paying for fuel is paying people, just not at the plant.

The miners who extract the uranium, the engineers who design the mining techniques, all of the workers at the mining companies, the people who transport the ore, the people who turn uranium ore into fuel pellets, etc..

Fuel doesn’t just appear from nowhere, a lot of man-hours go into producing that fuel and bringing it to the plant.

1. gmax137 says:

I think Sean’s point was that at the fossil fired unit, fuel cost is high but payroll is low; meanwhile at the nuclear unit, it’s the other way around.

I think that’s true even if you account for the uranium fuel payroll costs you mention.

The difference in fuel cost is just a matter of the relative energy density (nucleon binding energy is about a million times higher than the electron binding energy).

17. BobinPgh says:

Brian, you are totally right, I don’t want some of my relatives near a nuclear plant or in any critical career. I’m just upset that my brother had a future, most likely with Westinghouse in our area and now the next big thing for him is what meeting he will go to.

Paul, Why would each department need 15-30 people? For example I calculated with the operators 3 per shift x 4 shifts (1 extra) would be 12 people. If other departments have 3 or 4 people per shift it comes to a total of 112 people. I did not add the security that is supposed to be about 200 people but if the security officers are so good why do you need so many?

I would also think that in the case of Kewanee could not some of the engineering and other paperwork be done in Virginia? I mean, there is the phone and the mail.

Wayne you may be right that maybe the owner wanted Kewanee gone but then how come the owners of Fort Calhoun (which is not a pretty blue like Kewaunee was) which has so much trouble want to hold onto it?

Also, what will happen to security since Kewaunee is shut down? I mean all the fuel is still on the property so wouldn’t they need just as much security as when it was running? And what are they protecting the place from? I mean, to get the fuel, the terroists would have to tuck themselves into Speedos and swim down 30 feet and I don’t think they would bother to do that.

1. Daniel says:

@ BobinPgh,

These unfounded issues with terrorist attacks on civil nuclear plants really have to stop. Do not worry, terrorist know very well that the low hanging fruits are located at their local Wall Mart outlets. Too bad the NRC has not realized this yet.

Civil nuclear plants have very little to offer to terrorists. The proof ? Nuclear plants in certain countries of the world are easy targets and yet none of them have been overtaken. Have you ever wondered why ?

2. Paul W Primavera says:

Bobinpgh,

Sean is correct:

“Nuclear is more expensive because of unnecessary regulatory burden and political reasons and not the technology.”

To your question, however, there is a discussion of staffing requirements for an expanding nuclear industry at the Next Big Future blog:

http://nextbigfuture.com/2007/11/staffing-expanding-nuclear-industry.html

The US NRC has issued some guidance on staffing requirements for small modular reactors in SECY-11-0098:

Issue 175 to NUREG-0933 discusses shift staffing requirements at nuclear power plants:

There is, I think, an ANSI standard that addresses (in part at least) staffing requirements, but I can’t find it right now. The bottom line is that every nuclear power plant needs (as I listed above previously, but not exhaustively):

1) Operators to operate the plant 24/7
2) Health Physics to do radiological monitoring (site surveys, atmosphere monitoring, contamination monitoring / cleanup, etc.)
3) Chemistry for chemical monitoring / control of the RCS, feedwater, condensate, condensate polisher, etc.
4) I&C Maintenance for I&C surveillance and maintenance of RPS, ESFAS, Rod Control, RPI, SGWLC, MTG Control, RCS control, FW heater level and temperature control, etc.
5) Electrical and Mechanical Maintenance for preventive / corrective maintenance of all the pumps, valves, circuit breakers, motors, etc. in the plant
6) System Engineering for Maintenance Rule monitoring of all the various plant systems
7) Reactor Engineer for refuelling activities, spent fuel pool activities, on-line power manoeuvres, power ascension / descent, etc.
8) Design Engineering for the continuous MODS that go on to improve the plant
9) Component Engineering for component maintenance programs
10) Information Technology for the LAN, all the on-site PCs, and the Plant Process Computer
11) Emergency Planning for E-Plan administration / activities / TSC-OSC, etc.
12) Fire and Safety Dept for National Fire Code compliance and OSHA compliance
13) Security for round the clock security of protected, vital and owner controlled areas
14) QA Dept (hey, that’s me as the software digital I&C QA pain in the neck!)
15) Licensing / Reg Affairs / Operating Experience Dept
16) Admin / Human Resources dept

And people in all these departments have three jobs:

1) Their regular ones
2) An outage job during refuelling outages
3) An E-Plan job

Side note:

You wrote, “…now the next big thing for him is what meeting he will go to.” Even after 27 years sometimes that’s the next big thing for me, too, especially after a hard day at work dealing with nonsense regulations that would drive most normal people nuts. 😉 I already am nuts, so I know what I have to do. 😉 Sorry, couldn’t help myself!

1. EL says:

Paul W. Primavera wrote:

“Sean is correct:

‘Nuclear is more expensive because of unnecessary regulatory burden and political reasons and not the technology.’

Nope. According to a Synapse study of the Levy County development proposal, nuclear is expensive because of the technology (unique manufacturing demands, manufacturing and procurement bottlenecks, high commodity prices, weakness of US dollar when using overseas vendors, high cost for skilled manufacturing labor, etc.).

“The increased estimated costs for today’s new generation of nuclear plants are due, in large part, to a fierce worldwide competition for the resources, commodities and manufacturing capacity needed in the design and construction of new power plants. This competition has led to double-digit annual increases in the costs of key power plant commodities such as steel, copper, concrete, etc.”

“In the case of new nuclear, the very detailed specifications for forgings and other critical components for the construction process can add a new element of complexity and uncertainty … Most importantly, the commodities and world wide supply network associated with new nuclear projects are also being called upon to build other generation facilities, including coal as well as nuclear, nationally and internationally. Nuclear operators are also competing with major oil, petrochemical and steel companies for access to these resources, and thus represent a challenge to all major construction projects.”

And a troubling warning:

“There is no reason to expect that the worldwide competition for design and construction resources or the existing supply constraints and bottlenecks that have affected nuclear power plant cost estimates in recent years will clear anytime in the foreseeable future.”

1. Engineer-Poet says:

nuclear is expensive because of the technology (unique manufacturing demands, manufacturing and procurement bottlenecks, high commodity prices, weakness of US dollar when using overseas vendors, high cost for skilled manufacturing labor, etc.).

IIUC, most of the “unique manufacturing demands” are not inherent to the technology, but are due instead to NRC fiat regarding documentation.  These unique requirements are in turn responsible for most of the bottlenecks, since few producers will go to the trouble and expense of learning to comply with the NRC’s byzantine processes when the market is so small.  The lack of a domestic market for heavy forgings such as PWR pressure vessels led the US producers to shut down their presses, causing the reliance on overseas vendors.

Isn’t it strange that China and S. Korea don’t have such issues?  (Not really.)

All of these problems would disappear if the NRC’s meddling was scaled back.  FAA manufacturing, maintenance and documentation requirements are far less stringent, yet we can trust their products with hundreds of people who will be dead in mere minutes in the event of any number of major failures.  The NRC, and the nuclear-phobic Congress which created it, is the problem.

1. Bill Rodgers says:

@Engineer-Poet,

Well said. As one who has attempted to get quotes from potential suppliers for nuclear applications, your point about suppliers not wanting to spend the money dealing with the NRC’s processes is on target.

I wanted to work with a supplier that had an FAA qualified QA program and they had machinists who knew their trade. However once their management found out their FAA approved QA system would not parallel or even work towards getting certified under an NRC type system, they backed away from the work. It would have cost them too much money to have dual QA systems in effect so they walked away from a whole field of work since they did not see sufficient profit margin from working within the DOE and NRC realms. It was a shame since they had talent and experience that would crossover well into the nuclear field but understandable when looking at the cost figures.

@EL,

For an example of how nuclear costs can be brought down, this point raised by Engineer-Poet are the types of changes that need to happen. These are the issues that strangle the nuclear industry and are particular to nuclear power alone. Not becuase it is nuclear but because there are groups who seek to make nuclear as expensive as possible to attempt to move decision makers away from looking at nuclear power as a solution.

In my case when I found out that a very capable machine shop who was approved to do work for Boeing with an FAA approved QA system however none of that experience could be used to develop an NRC approved QA system; that is when I changed my opinion about the ability of the NRC to do its job effectively due to its focus on safety above all else. Even if that means they regulate the very industry they are in charge of overseeing into the ground, the NRC has traditionally not agreed to cost effective solutions.

When there is an organization that has proven cost effective solutions work in a very competitive environment (Boeing competing with Airbus) but its equivalent organization, the NRC, will not agree to the concept of cost effectiveness yet both organizations oversee systems that affect hundreds of lives then the NRC needs to change, not the FAA. The NRC needs to allow nuclear to compete in the the power generation market instead of strangling it, otherwise the entire reason for the NRC goes away.

To continue, the NRC does not have to care about cost effective solutions. It just isn’t in their charter. First they are paid by the hour for reviews by the organization that is requesting the review with no fixed or upper limits to the review budget. Then they are paid by the government to be an oversight organization. Those two facts right there means there is little reason for the NRC to seek cost effective solutions to issues. They have no skin in the game as the saying goes.

Then add in the anti-nuclear politics the NRC is constantly buffeted by and there is even less reason for the oversight people to work towards cost effective solutions.

Those anti-nuclear issues are on display on two fronts. The first is the Vogtle situation where anti-nuclear groups are trying to make Vogtle cost prohibitive for Southern by filing lawsuit after lawsuit that are being deemed as mertiless but cost ratepayers and taxpayers in the long run. Then there is the SONGS situation where Sen. Boxer is using that event as a means to try and shut down an entire industry, not just SONGS, by holding hearing after hearing about the issues when the technical problems are solvable.

To leave this discussion with another example that we were just discussing in our office the other day. I can take welders who are trained to ASME methodologies, have the requisite certifications and have performed sufficiently demanding non-nuclear work then look to cross them over into nuclear applications. They have the required training, certifications and experience. However a number of those welders or their companines will not move into nuclear because of the issues of working in a nuclear QA environment or they will raise their costs prohibitively. So that means I lose access to a number of good crafts people who just don’t want to deal with the nuclear QA requirements even though they experience dealing with the pressure boiler fabrication, DOE natural gas pipeline or FAA QA requirements.

2. EL says:

Bill Rogers wrote: “The NRC needs to allow nuclear to compete in the the power generation market instead of strangling it, otherwise the entire reason for the NRC goes away.”

For such things as Crystal River or SONGS, an increasingly self regulated industry seems pretty capable of strangling itself and standing in it’s own way (it would seem to me). Private investor appeal (with current low bond ratings and default risk) would not be much improved by lowering regulation, employment, or safety standards (I would think). Others appear to disagree.

Since Energy Reorganization Act of 1974 … nuclear capacity factors have risen from 49% to near 92%. I’d say the NRC is doing a fine job looking after and advancing nuclear’s viability and competitiveness in current power generation markets.

3. Bill Rodgers says:

@EL,

You are assuming the NRC actions had any direct effect on capacity factors.

I disagree with that assumption. The NRC just had a regulator that felt the best operating nuclear power plant was a shutdown nuclear power plant. His actions and the actions of individuals such as Peter Bradford did little to increase capacity factors. They did however increase the operating costs since their focus was on their definition of safety.

The fact that there is currently low appeal for private funds is directly tied to heavy government activity not because Wall Street wouldn’t invest as some anti-nuclear types keep preaching.

Wall Street looks for a profit in the market place not the courtroom. The fact that anti-nuclear types keep trying to increase the cost of nuclear power by legal means is one major issue keeping Wall Street away from investing.

Wall Street’s interest in wind and solar is driven by the fact that the current subsidy market lowers their relative risk to zero since the PTC rules allows for an almost 30% cost recovery without even generating one megawatt. In other words they make back most of their investment even before the wind or solar facility is operational. Nice return which is why Wall Street will miss the PTC.

The reason capacity factors went up is about making money. The longer the plant runs the more money is generated. Management teams learned that fact, painfully sometimes. Plain and simple.

I submit the idea that if the NRC were not involved, capacity factors would have increased on their own anyway. I could state that the NRC may have actually slowed the process down since plants had to go off-line or extend outages to increase the number of backup systems which decreased their capacity factors occasionally.

The NRC is not concerned if a nuclear power plant makes money or is even operational so your assumption that the increase in capacity factors is a direct result of NRC oversight is incorrect. The utility owners themselves would have raised the capacity factors themselves or been forced shut the plants down by their shareholders or ratepayers.

4. Brian Mays says:

Bill – For what it’s worth, I strongly disagree with EL’s assumption. Thanks for the explanation of why.

5. Bas says:

@ Engineer-Poet

… FAA manufacturing, maintenance and documentation requirements are far less stringent …

I once thought those FAA requirements delivered a more reliable situation.
But I found that those deliver ~5 times more accidents compared to NPP’s.

One big accident may deliver the premature closure of all NPP’s in the US.
So you should be glad to have such a strong NRC, despite the hazards.

18. Wayne SW says:

BobinPgh, I don’t know, but it is clear that we as an industry are going to have to try to bring down operating costs even lower than what they are. We know the playing field isn’t level for nuclear. We have to compete with a fuel source whose cost is temporarily depressed, and are not protected by legislation that requires distributors to buy our product at five or six times the going market rate, as solar and wind generators are privileged with. We faced this challenge with outage time reduction and were able to meet it. Every nuclear plant out there has to take a hard look at personnel costs if those are the primary driver in their competitive position in the market. I know there isn’t much we can do about the regulatory burden, but at some point we have to say, throwing people at problems may not be the best way to go.

1. Daniel says:

@ Wayne

Costs can de driven down by the industrial model alone. Look at France. 3 or 4 reactor types. Economies of scale.

Voilà !

This is a bit like the cheese analogy that Sen Demonici used. The US has 2 kinds of cheese and 100 nuclear plant models. France has 2 nuclear reactor models and 100 different kind of cheese.

1. Daniel says:

SMRs will also simplify the manufacturing, training and deployment cycle.

My only frustration regarding SMRs is: IT COULD HAVE BEEN DONE A LONG TIME AGO.

We had the knowledge, the technology. Someone could have made a killing …

2. gmax137 says:

Well, just to get in the ballpark, lets say the 1000 MWe nuke plant employs 600 people, at \$100,000 per year each. That works out to about 0.75 cents per kw-hr. My bill shows the generation charge at 8 cents per kw-hr. So the payroll is roughly 10% of the generation cost? That’s non-negligible but not overwhelming.

19. David Walters says:

gmax…hahahah. You are mixing metaphors here. The 75 cents per kwhr is the cost per ‘installed’ plant. The 8 cents per kwhr you pay has zero…nothing at all… to do with the above number. To look at what those 600 employees at \$100,000 (probably high, I’d say on average it’s about \$75,000 but we can use the larger number) you have to look at the *revenue* over a year means.

You don’t dived the capacity of the plant, 1000MW in this example, by the number of employees to see what it costs to RUN the plant. There is no relationship. It’s how many KWhrs you generate and sell that you arrive at number from which to derive the cost of each employee.

Thus, back-of-the-envelope, you have a 1000MW plant that runs at 1000MWs for 8760 hours a year.. So that is 8760MWhrs per year OR 8760000 KWhrs per year. Now divide that by your 600 employees and you will see that it is an almost irrelevant % of the costs.

David

20. David Walters says:

The above 8760 itself has to be multiplied by 1000. The 8760MWs is for ONE MW multiplied by the number of hours in a year. That’s 876000 MW hrs. You multiply this by 1000 MWs you and get a huge number: 8,760,000. You multiply this number by, say, \$50 per MWhr and you get: \$438,000,000/per year revenue. The 600 employees you noted that make \$100,000/year would mean that of the \$438million/year, \$60million would go to wages/benefits over that year, or around 15% of the total revenue would go to paying these employees.

This means that of the 5 cents per KW in revenue (it would be lot higher in revenue if we used your 8 cents you used in your example) only about 1 cent per KWhr goes to paying these wages.

Phew…!

DW

1. gmax137 says:

David – I used \$80 per Mw-hr (that’s 8 cents per kw-hr) where you use \$50; and I assumed a 90% capacity factor (that’s 7884 hours per year) where you assumed 100%. Otherwise I think we are in agreement, and the real point we both try to make is this: the salaries paid to the plant staff is not a huge portion of the plant cost, despite what a number of the previous posters were saying.

(I got about 9% (0.75/8) where you come up with 15%. For the kind of estimating we are doing here this is essentially the same result.)

1. gmax137 says:

Aha, I see you read my value as 75 cents per kw-hr; no no no it is 0.75 cents – 3/4 of one penny.

21. Bas says:

… Rebar installed … not consistent with approved design standards, … whose inspectors identified the issue last week.

The builders management created an atmosphere of distrust by allowing staff to continue with deviations without consulting the NRC inspectors beforehand.
Builders management should have encouraged staff to cooperate and inform NRC about any deviation they think about before any implementation.

Now the inspectors have to check everything for other deviations, as they cannot trust the builder. That creates even more delay.

So builders incompetent management is the real cause of the delay.
You can expect incompetent management creates more delays.

1. David says:

Hi Bas,

“You can expect incompetent management creates more delays.”

Well, yes incompetent management creates more delays. Inexperienced management can create just as many delays as incompetency. The difference is that Experience – which is the result of making mistakes and correcting them – can improve the results the next time around. But incompetence cannot be fixed.

Still the deviations are only deviations not actual safety issues. I understand that the rebar was installed according to current building standards, rather than the standards that existed when the plant design was approved. So the delay was a matter of excessive regulation rather than incompetency.

1. Bas says:

@David
…the deviations are only deviations not actual safety issues. I understand that the rebar was installed according to current building standard…

1. The contractor agreed to build according the specifications.
So he should have discussed with NRC before implementing deviations.
Now he behaved ‘sneaky’.

So the issue now is: “What more did (and will) the contractor deviate that the inspectors did/will not detect?”
So the contractor created a template for additional delay’s.

Worse, the contractor created doubts regarding the whole project as questions arise: “What more are concealed by the contractor that the inspectors did not detect?

2. With nuclear, small seemingly unimportant, deviations may create unexpected huge consequences. E.g. at the Monju NPP a simpel thermowell caused a damage >\$10billion: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monju_Nuclear_Power_Plant
That was probably also mounted according to current building standards…

2. Bas says:

@David
Is it possible that the contractor earns more money if he creates more delay??
If so, we can expect many more delay’s and costs overruns (wrong contract).

The contractor handled this in such a stupid way, that I find it hard to believe that it was a mistake. Especially as we may assume all contractors of that level have Quality Assurance processes in place (preferable according to ISO900).

1. @Bas

Unfortunately, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission requires a very special and unique brand of quality assurance that is not the same as other internationally accepted standards like ISO 9000. That adds cost and complexity to nuclear work because it often requires a separate set of complex and unfamiliar procedures for people who are used to doing high quality work under the well accepted standard.

The issue at Vogtle was probably more a matter of first of a kind confusion by very skilled workers who might have honestly figured that their drawing was in error since it referred to an obsolete construction standard. They probably did not realize that there is an organization that demands absolute adherence to procedures even if they are obviously incorrect and that requires an excruciatingly slow change process to update standards after they have been approved in the distant past when we were less knowledgable.

BTW – I will not quote a source when making comments about procedures, NQA-1, and 10 CFR 50 Appendix B processes and requirements. I have lived and breathed the dream of implementing a procedure infrastructure for nearly 3 years. There will be continuing work. If I was a certain kind of bureaucrat, I would love the career protection nature of the task, but I don’t. It is a very expensive process that may or may not enhance the final result when compared to more standard and efficient quality systems. I don’t work for free and neither do all of the people who have been involved in creating the system.

1. Bas says:

@Rod
… matter of first of a kind confusion by very skilled workers who might have honestly figured that their drawing was in error ..
Agree.
It shows the incompetent (constructor) management…

Normally you spend some days, introducing your prime workers into the special requirements they have to meet before starting.
So you will have a satisfied customer.
Often then these guys come with issue’s, then you discuss those with the customer (NRC here) in order to find a solution.
Only after that you start the work.

1. @Bas

Do you realize that a design certification application runs to about 20,000 pages of text? The technical documentation supporting that application is probably 5-10 times as much material.

Many of us here are very experienced with the crushing burden of NRC regulation and recognize how it contributes to a situation where a decision that was honestly made and turned out to have been the correct technical choice can result in nearly a year’s worth of engineering effort and regulatory scrutiny to finally approve the choice that the skilled worker made in the first place.

BTW – the whole notion of the NRC being the customer is part of the problem. I am not disputing your interpretation; many of my fellow nuclear professionals think that is the case as well. However, think about it for a moment – is the federal regulator of a power plant construction project REALLY the customer? Are they the people who are paying the bills now and in the future?

2. Bas says:

@Rod
… application ~20,000 pages …documentation … 5-10 times as much
NATO (the transatlantic defense organization) has similar documentation/specifications. Not unusual with big projects.
So you need to organize it well. E.g. appoint different QA managers, no start/continue unless responsible QA manager agreed in writing, demand them to indicate issues months ahead (in order to have time to discuss with the customer), etc.

The issue here: “… noncompliant rebar and unlevel concrete …” sounds rather basic. So management either knew that they were violating and tried to hide it (=very expensive mismanagement, as it affects their relation with NCR); or
management did not know, which is even worse as it shows bad organization.

… NRC being the customer is part of the problem … … REALLY the customer? Are they … paying the bills…
Sometimes I had customers A, B and C who all had to agree that the delivery was fine, before D payed.

Whether NRC is the real customer depends on the contract.
If such delay delivers the contractor a lot of money, then NRC is not the most important customer…
Then the contractor can make a lot of profit through these aberrations, in the meantime blaming the NRC being unreasonable.

So we can only judge after we know the contract..

3. Brian Mays says:

NATO (the transatlantic defense organization) has similar documentation/specifications.

Ah yes, I see now … because NATO has successfully built so many commercially competitive power plants. What an ideal model to use for one’s procedures!

1. @Brian Mays

As far as I know, NATO has not successfully completed any complex project on anything close to a reasonable cost or schedule.

2. Bill Rodgers says:

The NRC is NEVER the customer for a nuclear plant design-build job. Nor is the NRC the customer for operating nuclear power plants.

The NRC is the primary government regulator that all contractual parties (i.e. the design organization, contractor and utility) must work through to bring a nuclear power plant into existence. The NRC is the traffic cop, prosecuting attorney and judge all rolled into one organization.

The NRC has had little concern for commercial contracts as that is not their charter. Nor should they concern themselves with commercial contracts.

When the NRC auditors come to do an audit of both the contractor’s and utility’s records, the one document they never (or rarely) look at is the contract between the prime contractor and the utility unless Part 21 violations have occurred. In several audits I have been involved on the design/fabrication side, I have never seen an NRC auditor ask for the commercial contracts between my organization and either our customers or our fabricators.

The NRC’s only focus is if the design organization, contractor and utility companies are meeting the license drawings developed by the design organization which may or may not have been updated to the latest construction/fabrication standards.

Right now there are many NRC licensed products/plants/facilities that are based on decades old codes and standards. That is not a problem for the most part since there hasn’t been fundamentally significant changes to the major codes in decades. However if the owner wants or needs to update their product to the latest construction/fabrication codes and standards they then must re-file for a new license or a license amendment which is a very costly and lengthy undertaking. There isn’t a smooth, seamless and timely process within the NRC to adjust for the latest codes or standards and then issues like the rebar.

Here is a quick comparison of ISO9001 and ASME NQA-1. There are differences between the two quality assurance systems and some of them are needed for nuclear work but the gaps between the two are a bureaucrat’s playground. And please note that a quality assurance system is not the same as a a design code and standard.

http://rampac.energy.gov/docs/whitepapers/ISO-9001vsNQA-1.pdf

1. Bas says:

@Bill
I understand your frustration. I had engineers that were furious about the rigidity of our government regulators.
But consider it from some more distance:

… NRC is NEVER the customer ..
Yes, as they do not pay.
No, as they may turn down your delivery, so your real customer will not pay (if the contract is sound).
There are ambiguous situations in which the NRC staff can decide to turn your delivery down or to accept some compromise. Then the emotions that NRC staff has regarding you, have influence…
So you better consider and handle the NRC folks as an important customer.

You may be happy (make more profit) if the NRC turns your delivery down if you have a time/material contract. With such a contract you have the luxury to consider the NRC as unimportant, ignore their regulations as long as your paying customer doesn’t notice that, blame NRC for ridiculous regulations, etc…

… NRC has had little concern for commercial contracts …
If they have that type of concern, your NPP’s would be far less safe, and a real disaster may have occurred in the US which would have ended all nuclear …

… NRC auditors … never (or rarely) look at is the contract between the prime contractor and the utility …
Of course not. That is not their responsibility.
They may check those in order to explain seemingly strange mistakes. They may even do so in order to help you out of the mesh.

… NRC’s only focus is if … are meeting the license drawings …
That is also the only thing the NRC auditors should do. At higher level you may start talks about possible changes and how to arrange those in such a way that they improve safety and get NRC approval. That requires a good relation => handle them as an important customer.

… if the owner wants … to update … then must re-file …
Of course as that seemingly safe and logic change, may affect security or disaster control capabilities. So it involves different expertise, and all experts have to sign that the change is safe and will not endanger…

Thank you for the comparison of ISO9001 and ASME NQA-1.
Agree that a quality assurance system is not the same as a a design code and standard. Such a system only help to deliver good quality, but it is possible to deliver ISO9000 certified rubbish.

For me it is strange that the NRC gets the blame (for the delay/cost overruns) because the contractor defaulted regarding his contractual obligations.
Very peculiar.

2. Brian Mays says:

You may be happy (make more profit) if the NRC turns your delivery down if you have a time/material contract. With such a contract you have the luxury to consider the NRC as unimportant, ignore their regulations as long as your paying customer doesn’t notice that, blame NRC for ridiculous regulations, etc …

Only if your customer is the US Department of Energy.

I’m beginning to think that Bas has never worked in the private sector … ever. He doesn’t understand even the basics of how business works. Only someone with no experience whatsoever would consider the regulator a “customer,” regardless of what business he is in.

3. David says:

@ Bas,

So, since your accusation – and I find it strange that you are making accusations – is that a contractor on a NPP build will make more money with delays than if the job is completed in a timely manor. Those nasty contractors are basically dishonest thieves who scheme how to cheat stupid people wanting to build sloppy Nuclear power plants. They sit around picking their noses rather than reading plans.

So, Bas, would you mind actually looking at the contracts for us and helping us understand how they would make more money? Delays? My brother has been a contractor for years on ordinary jobs. Most contract work only pays when the job is finished.

Of course, not being a nuclear contractor, perhaps I am mistaken. Maybe the cost overruns are because those businesses writing the contracts decided to make the contracts a daily pay for showing up rather than payment for completion of work. AH Now I see!! Those building Nuclear Power Plants are way way more stupid than people building ordinary homes. That’s why these are dangerous and have such large cost overruns!

You know, Bas, I can see you are a smart man. But you are too smart by half. Instead of sharing false accusations, why don’t you assume that these are honest and highly competent people who are working under very unusual conditions in which normal human mistakes – like assuming that normal building standards will apply can cause delays which while frustrating are not malicious; not stupid; not unusual.

I am looking forward to you proving these are not honest contractors.

4. Bas says:

@David,
I wrote “…may….if…”. To my knowledge that is about the same as “…perhaps…in case…”. I accused nobody to be a thief.

But the contractor probably took a calculated risk:

1. I bet that the “… noncompliant rebar and unlevel concrete …” delivered the contractor significant costs savings, if NRC auditors did not detect it.

But even now. It seems that the NRC agreed to the non-compliant delivery in the end.
So if the delay cost the contractor only small money, he made a profit through not following the specifications (e.g. if he has fixed price contract without big fine for delays due to NRC rejections)…

2. Preparing a tender/proposal/contract, you involve specialists to find out how much extra those specifications cost. As they may turn your nice tender/contract into a big loss…
Here the contractor even neglected the specifications when he started to build…

3. Often you find overruns because of changing specifications during the project (e.g. the F35 stealth fighter).
But that seems not the situation here.

4. … competent people … unusual conditions … assuming … normal building standards … proving these are not honest contractors
The workers probably are competent, that is not the issue.

Management knew that NPP’s have special requirements.
If not then they knew it when they saw the thousands of specification pages, while preparing the tender/contract.
Even without reading anything, then you know the customer has special requirements on thousands of items. Normal management hires specialists to check (and sign off).

So management either knew those special requirements
or it are dummies.

5. … such large cost overruns! …
It seems that in USA almost all NPP’s are build with huge cost overruns. That was in the sixties and still seems to continue.

If those NPP’s are build for a fixed price, I tend to think that all potential NPP contractors should have been bankrupt by now.

So I suspect that the contract is at least partial time/material, and management took a calculated risk (to raise profit).

As I wrote before , we can only judge after we know the contract..

– Perhaps the utility’s purchase/contract management may also be blamed partially, as they agreed with a contract that allowed the contractor to make such (for him) cost savings mistakes without big fines for the delay he caused.

– Within project organizations of contractors with time/material contracts, you find a different mentality/culture towards delivery according to specifications, on-time and within the scheduled costs,
compared to
project organizations that have to deliver for a fixed price with big fines for delays and not meeting (part of) the specifications.
In this last situation everybody is more oriented towards acting according to the specifications, has more attention for the costs, possible delays and customer satisfaction.

3. Bas says:

@David
Still the deviations are only deviations not actual safety issues.
You cannot be sure about that. Both can affect safety.

rebar
Assume the rebar issue involved the floor being less strong:
=> An heavy subject falling on it may now crash the floor. With such an accident there may also be escaped radio-active fluids on the floor.
So that radio-activity then goes into the ground, due to this rebar deviation…

And heavy items in reactor buildings do fall, as the last accident in the Japanese Monju reactor shows.

unlevel floor
If radio-active fluid falls on the floor, you want it do flow all into the drain.
So the radio-activity of the floor becomes far less and repair is much easier…
With an unlevel floor, dangerous radio-activity fluid may stay behind in shallow pools…

Btw.
It is not strange that change of NRC regulations take a long time and effort.
Those regulations are partly based on advice from university experts that did model studies, risk calculations, etc.
So NRC has to ask advice to these experts (or may get the critics they are endangering USA from those universities).
But many experts are already with pension, or have other interests, or forgot the details of their old study.
So (new) experts have to study the complicated backgrounds of that regulation before they can deliver a well funded advice…

1. Brian Mays says:

you want it do flow all into the drain … With an unlevel floor …

If you have a drain, then you don’t want the surface to be level. You want a gradual slope leading to the drain. Take a look at your sink, tub, or shower to see what I mean.

But “dangerous radio-activity fluid”?! Who talks like that? Please try not to get all of your information from cartoons and movies.

Those regulations are partly based on advice from university experts that did model studies, risk calculations, etc.

No. Most of it is based on work done at US National Labs. They don’t trust graduate students and post-docs to do that kind of work.

2. David says:

Well Blas,

So you avoid the challenge I posed and started the conversation in a different direction. You really remind me of the cults who knock on my door and when I simply read a portion that refutes their main premise – do not challenge me but change the point of the conversation.

This is what makes you a cult follower – rather than a substantial conversationalist. You can’t prove your points so you simply change the subject and try to keep people running in circles. How about you put up or shut up about the evil contractors who make money through delays? Or admit you are wrong about that point?

1. Bas says:

@David
I delivered circoumstantial evidence several times, but somehow it does not arrive here?

3. David says:

Blas,

Your circumstantial evidence is not substantial. You are claiming that delays are caused by contractors who want to be paid more and that the delays will make them richer. This can only be true if their contracts pay on a daily or weekly basis rather than on a job completion basis. To demonstrate that they have VERY unusual contracts that pay them for time spent rather than for job completed you would need to point to an actual contract. Otherwise this is an evil accusation on your part. You imagine some evil motive and attribute it to the contractor – without evidence and against standard practice. I know many contractors who have LOST a great deal of money when the job could not be completed on time. They still had to pay their workers even though they were not paid.

1. David says:

@ Bas,

Sorry for the miss-spelling of your name. I did not notice the slip of my finger until after I hit post.

2. Bas says:

@David,
I meant that I made a special post listing the convincing evidence.
But that post does not arrive here. Don’t know why???

In summary:
The deviations delivered the contractor cost savings (less steel, etc).
Preparing the tender, specialists calculate the costs of all special specs.
The thousands of pages with special specs cannot be overlooked.
So management knew extra steel etc. was needed (unless it are dummies).
So they took a calculated risk. Probably the contract does not have a fine for delays due to NRC non-acceptance (and NRC accepted in the end).

3. Engineer-Poet says:

The deviations delivered the contractor cost savings (less steel, etc).

That is a falsehood.  The drawings called for a certain rebar specification to be used.  The contractor used that specification, but the current revision rather than the older one approved by the NRC (word is that the specific version of the spec was not given on the drawings).  We can expect that different versions of a rebar spec do not differ appreciably in mechanical properties, which would defeat the purpose of a specification.

So management knew extra steel etc. was needed (unless it are dummies).

Are you assuming facts not in evidence?  It looks more like you’re inventing them.  There’s been a ton of back-and-forth with the NRC over this, so you should be able to provide a link to an NRC document which says exactly what you’re claiming.  Do it, or shut up.

22. BobinPgh says:

Ok, so I understand about the labor may not be that much of the cost but what I was kind of asking about is what would keep Levy County from being another Kewaunee? I know its late, but I just have to get this in: You know how Kewaunee was that pretty turquoise on the buildings? I would have had a big meeting with all the people and Dominion and everyone who wanted to keep Kewauness open would wear turquoise shirts, ties and dresses. Then Rod would pop in — wearing a turquoise blue Speedo!

Meanwhile, what about the small reactors — I mean, if they have 600 people they will not be economical at all.

23. BobinPgh says:

What would keep Levy county from becoming another Kewaunee if it would employ that many people? And if small reactors have 600 people how can they possibly be economical? Meanwhile, its too late, but I have an idea to try to save Kewaunee. You know how the buildings there are all that pretty blue? I would have had a big meeting with Dominion and everyone who wants Kewaunee would dress up in turquoise shirts, ties, suits and dresses. Then Rod would come in to speak and make a great impression — wearing a turquoise Speedo!

1. @BobinPgh

You have provided a scary vision for us all today. My days of wearing a traditional Speedo ended many years ago and even my knee length version looks pretty unimpressive considering my “extra insulation” from too many days with too much food and not enough exercise.

2. @BobinPgh

Kewaunee did not fail because its costs were too high. Kewaunee would have been profitable in most other locales in the country even with its existing cost structure. It failed because the price of electricity on the wholesale market in the service territory where the plant is located is artificially low.

24. James Greenidge says:

Know what really turns me off? People who are so irrationally and rabidly fearful of nuclear energy and radiation that they “silently” hope and pray that the major megadeath accident they so dread and nightmare really occurs so that their ardent beliefs are smugly vindicated. There’s not even a word to describe that mindset.

James Greenidge
Queens NY

1. Engineer-Poet says:

There’s not even a word to describe that mindset.

“Ghoulish”.

2. EL says:

There’s not even a word to describe that mindset.

Is it “straw man” perhaps?

Investors, system engineers, regulators, and utilities well understand the risks and opportunities of different energy resources in short and long term perspectives. Their business models and the reliable financing, development, operation, and integration of energy systems depends on it. I really don’t think a noisy subculture or fringe organizations have anything to do with it (except for those in search of a quick and easy scapegoat that doesn’t fight back much).

See comments on Edwin Lyman above. If all you need is a PhD in Physics from 1992 to sideline a multi-billion dollar industry, energy execs from Exelon with direct access to the President, a regulator handing out uprates and license extensions to anyone who asks, and public sector supports from research and development dollars, low interest financing, accident liability, free money from CWIP, and PTC subsidies … I think you folks are in a heck of a lot of trouble.

Advocating for less job creation from an industry soaking up so much public and private debt (Energy Future and Comanche may be the next to go) seems entirely backwards to me, or a severe miscalculation about what sells your product in the first place?

1. @EL

Speaking only for myself, I completely agree with the statement that it is highly unlikely that a noisy subculture or fringe groups have had anything to do with the success of opposition to nuclear energy.

I have repeatedly made the statement that opposing nuclear energy furthers the interests of The Establishment in the form of fossil fuel extractors, the banks the provide finance to fossil fuel extractors, the transportation companies that move vast quantities of hydrocarbons from place to place, the governments that are involved in the trade, the military industrial complex that depends on protecting the trade as a major reason for its existence, and the media that depends on advertisements from the trade.

You have brought up the antinuclear talking point that the NRC “hands out” license renewals to anyone that asks.

Do you have any comprehension of the cost and duration of the reviews required? As you mentioned, utilities are staffed with reasonably savvy people who would not bother to file a license renewal for a plant that they were not pretty darned sure was in good enough shape to not only pass regulatory muster, but also to provide reliable service for the twenty years requested. It is no wonder that there are no examples of license renewals having been denied, though there are examples of applications whose review has lasted more than five years from the time of initial request and the license renewal is still not issued.

1. Bill Rodgers says:

@Rod,

I concur with your statement that it is highly unlikely the noise level of anti-nuclear groups have truly succeeded delaying nuclear power.

I also agree there are many interests aligned against nuclear in preferrence to natural gas as John Rowe himself would prefer natural gas over nuclear any day (a subject you have covered many times.)

https://atomicinsights.com/2012/05/john-rowe-explains-how-exelons-self-interest-is-served-by-promoting-natural-gas.html

http://green.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/02/10/natural-gas-vs-nuclear-power/

Exelon makes millions from selling natural gas with a backup or existing nuclear so why would have John Rowe wanted that cash cow model to change? Industrial wind and solar facilities only provide another market for Exelon to sell natural gas generated power.

However at this point in time I have to agree with DV8XL about debating with EL. It isn’t useful or fruitful once EL starts reframing the argument and splitting hairs when called out about errors realtive to his/her understanding about the decision making process at the utility boardroom level regarding the expenditure of billions of dollars for 20-60 year investments.

Reframing debates by throwing out comments of conspiracy theories is a blatant attempt to put nuclear advocates in the same class as Pres. Obama “birthers” or 9/11 planned attack believers.

http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2010/04/26/skeptics_of_the_world_unite?page=0,0

To paraphrase DV8XL: some anti-nuclear commentators here are like those punching clowns we had as kids – you remember, the blow-up ones with the weighted bottoms, each time you knocked it down it would pop back up unharmed

At this point in time any further discussion with EL on the primary subject of your post is a like driving into a ditch and then blowing a tire without a cell phone. There is a way out but there is also a distinct possibility of getting mired down in the muck until a tow truck happens to come along.

Regards,

1. Brian Mays says:

However at this point in time I have to agree with DV8XL about debating with EL.

And so another one learns. The path to enlightenment begins. 😉

Bill – It is possible to stop EL cold, by the way. You just have to hit him with some solid stuff that he can’t refute and can’t maneuver around (see an example from my comments here).

However, if you fall for the trap of getting into a thread where he is given enough leeway to rattle off his Green ideological nonsense, ad nauseam, then you’ll never shut him up. Whether he strategically tacks by constantly changing the subject or whether he holds firm via a herculean display of cognitive dissonance, you’re not going to stop him or get through to him. The craziness will just keep on flowing like a water from a fire hydrant that has been unplugged.

Take heart, nevertheless. Although I’m sure that EL thinks that he is being clever, making some sort of brilliant point, and “telling you how it is,” I seriously doubt that anyone reading this is buying into any of his nonsense. Certainly, nobody has ever taken the trouble to offer up a comment here praising him for how brilliant/correct/godlike he is.

And that speaks far louder than all of his comments put together.

2. EL says:

Reframing debates by throwing out comments of conspiracy theories is a blatant attempt to put nuclear advocates in the same class as Pres. Obama “birthers” or 9/11 planned attack believers.

@Bill Rogers. You are free to highlight any errors you think I have made (and offer better facts in your own in response). I’m not sure why you are bringing up “Birthers” or “9/11 planned attack believers.” I challenged you on the claim of FITs being a “direct raid on a country’s treasury” (they actually utilize zero taxpayer generated funds and add to the treasury), and the power of a small trade group (0.2% the size of the Sierra Club) to own the will of Congress (particularly against oil and gas) and win the lobbying sweepstakes in DC. Neither is particularly effective (in my view), and extending the PTC for just one more year is hardly a splendid or very impressive feat. If you think this is reframing the debate, you have a funny way of showing it!

1. @EL

What makes you think that the AWEA (American Wind Energy Association) has to work against oil and gas? Is it just a coincidence that many members of the AWEA are oil and gas producers or that the organization was led until December 2012 by Denise Bode, a woman whose immediately previous job was as the head of the Independent Petroleum Association of America and whose father was a Phillips Petroleum executive?

As Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. told the Colorado Oil and Gas Association at their 2010 summer meeting, a large wind or solar facility is a gas facility.

Even with all of the large oil and gas companies that are members of the AWEA, the only large corporate member that strongly came out against renewal of the PTC was Exelon, and they got themselves kicked out of the club.

http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0912/81008.html

3. EL says:

Rod Adams wrote: “What makes you think that the AWEA (American Wind Energy Association) has to work against oil and gas.”

Because front groups for fossil fuels (Heartland, ALEC, IER, AEA) are almost always on the opposite side of the issue as AWEA. Especially as concerns the lobbying effort around extension of the PTC and state portfolio standards.

Not that hard to find stories on the topic (here, here, here, here, here, etc.).

1. @EL

I spent a lot of time in the decision making center of the United States. Stories that you read in the newspaper are not an accurate reflection of the effective lobbying and maneuvering done in the no-longer-smoke-filled rooms where legislation is written.

Sure, there were vocal efforts against the PTC by some groups with fossil fuel connections. However, the really heavy hitters like Chevron, Shell, GE, Siemens, and BP made it clear that they would be happy if the PTC extension was included in a last minute bill.

Heck, it was worth \$12 billion with most of the benefit going to projects with actions in just a single year. That is 24 times as much money as the government is going to spend over a five year period to help support the cost of licensing one or two small modular reactor designs.

4. Brian Mays says:

Because front groups for fossil fuels (Heartland, ALEC, IER, AEA) are almost always on the opposite side of the issue as AWEA.

A beautiful narrative, framed entirely in black and white.

More advanced animals, however, are able to see in color and can perceive more than their primitive cousins.

2. Paul W Primavera says:

At one time I would have taken Rod Adams’ statement the wrong way because of our differing political views, but sadly I think he is correct:

“…opposing nuclear energy furthers the interests of The Establishment in the form of fossil fuel extractors, the banks the provide finance to fossil fuel extractors, the transportation companies that move vast quantities of hydrocarbons from place to place, the governments that are involved in the trade, the military industrial complex that depends on protecting the trade as a major reason for its existence, and the media that depends on advertisements from the trade.”

This has occurred irrespective of which political party in the United States is in ascendency or even in which country one may reside. Now I am not a conspiracy theorist, thinking that some secret, nefarious shadow organization is orchestrating these events. Rather, this is nothing but greed for money and lust for power. It is the manifestation of the concupiscence that we all have taken to a much greater degree, and until that root problem is fixed, then nothing will be fixed.

The people working in nuclear energy seem, however, to be generally of a different type, or they don’t succeed in the industry. That is a happy byproduct of the otherwise onerous and burdensome regulations with which we all become frustrated and about which we all complain (I most vociferously). For example, in the corrective action program nuclear professionals admit their mistakes and report them. Nuclear professionals constantly seek to improve ways of doing things. Nuclear professionals follow procedure or if the procedure is wrong get it changed by competent authority. And nuclear professionals usually act as their brother’s keeper. All these things help keep such concupiscence in check.

But for the man or woman with unlimited financial or political access, that concupiscence usually (not always) dominates. “Power corrupts and absolutely power corrupts absolutely.” Controlling or suckling profit from vast reservoirs of mineral slime and its off-gas products provides that power, and it corrupts equally whether one is a New York Democrat like Robert Kennedy Jr. speaking to the Colorado Oil and Gas Association about a solar or wind facility being a gas facility, or some “evil” Texas Republican oil man in the likes of the fictional JR Ewing. The issue is not party or residency, but the root concupiscence. Things could be different, but as history would have it, nuclear energy is its unhappy target in this era because it is a real threat to the status quo.

1. @Paul Primavera

Here here! We have far more in common that we were once willing to admit.

BTW, Tom G. says hi.

2. Daniel says:

Whatever negative pressure is being put on US nuclear prosperity by all sorts of interests, private and public, there is a planetary arbitrage being done at this very moment with atomic energy. Nuclear is doing very well outside the US and the western world.

A lot of US capital is tied up in China, Russia, Japan and other countries. Those countries are also faced with corruptions but the sheer efficiency of nuclear is very appealing to the ‘must have’ growth being witnessed in the global marketplace for baseload energy. The middle class in these emerging countries must be provided with reliable energy or the governments in place could lose power and face revolutions. No place for wind, solar and all the stuff that do not work.

Russia, China, Korea, Japan and France are all great providers and manufacturers of nuclear goods. Russia dominates enrichment of Uranium with 40% of the market. And they control a significant chunk of both primary and secondary supplies of Uranium. They are building right now more nuclear capacity on this planet than any other country in the world.

The US is a key player with highly skilled workers. But the times they are changing and I am optimistic about the growth of nuclear energy. But not in the US.

I wish that Stone’s Pandora’s promise will turn change peoples opinions in the western world.

US technology will find a way. Capitalism works. Gates is smart. He took his capital and his game on the road. The NRC is anti nuclear. It has to be taken behind the barn and shot.

3. Wayne SW says:

I assisted with the license renewal of a non-power research reactor and it took seven years from the time of the submittal to the granting of the license renewal. During that time there were hundreds of follow-up questions to answer and repeated RFIs that seemed to cover quite irrelevant and insignificant areas (historical preservation sites, for example, this for a less than 1 MW non-power reactor, or coastal impacts, for a site over 600 miles from the nearest oceanic coastline). Not quite the “hands out” process inferred.

25. seth says:

Just to put EL straight on my posts in case he leads too many others astray with his Big Oil based disinformation.

The Ontario tariff is 13.5 cents a kwh for the 4 GW of wind power approved to date. With 2 GW in service and Ontario losing \$2B so far having to dump the wind at negative prices, OPG using lack of transmission facilities as an excuse to block further wind builds.

Only a person who has no clue how venture capital works would think a risky venture like a wind farm could raise capital 8%. Warren Buffet requires 15% before he even looks at a project. The Oakville gas plant was financed at 15%.

Here is a much more accurate NREL site.

https://openpv.nrel.gov/rankings

Lets take Vermont for example. Lotsa greenies there telling us the wonders of solar.

So vermont \$7.51 watt/peak or 7530 kw/peak installed average. Ok so using pV watts in Burlington the one watt peak gets 1.117kwh per annum. Financing at 7% home equity over 20 year life gives approx

53 cents a kwh

now lets add in for the array on every roof scam the low information greenie is wont to propose, 17 cents a kwh for gas backup, and 10 cents a kwh for 7 times sized transmission systems and we get

80 cents a kwh.

While the installed cost might be lower, commercial is similar but financing rates for the typical fly by night solar/wind operator are at least 15% so

90 cents a kwh.

I suggest that EL refrain from bothering folks with his trashy posts full of made up numbers until he can come up with one single real example of an unsubsidized wind farm at his laughable claimed 6 cents a kwh.

1. EL says:

@seth. Is any of that supposed to make sense?

The FIT rate for wind in Ontario is currently 11.5 cents/kWh (as I stated in my post). This appears to be the 20 year contract price for newly approved builds in the Province, which reflects current installed costs, financing, inspection and insurance, and available technology to developers in the Province (and estimated cost-based compensation).

80 – 90 cents/kWh … I don’t think these numbers are worth commenting on. If others think they are worth repeating (I’m pretty confident they won’t be taken seriously either).

26. Leonard says:

Not possible to run a reactor on depleted uranium. Depleted Uranium by definition

1.uranium low in U-235: uranium containing an unusually low amount of the U-235 isotope, usually as a result of having been used as fuel in a nuclear reactor.

U-235 is the isotope in most light water reators like the AP1000 that is the fuel. Light water fuel contains about 4% higher concentration U-235 then is found in nature. If we have to “enrich” natural uranium to be usable as a fuel, then how can we use uranium with less U-235 as a fuel?

27. Brian Mays says:

Not possible to run a reactor on depleted uranium.

Leonard – Sure you can. You just need a reactor with the right neutron spectrum.

Depleted uranium can be used as a fuel source as long as some driver fuel (e.g., plutonium) is provided. Some of the fast neutrons from the fissions are absorbed by U-238 nuclides which become fissionable plutonium. This new stock of plutonium keeps the process going, producing more neutrons to be absorbed by U-238 thereby producing more plutonium.

This process has been understood for a long time, even though much of the technology needed to implement this in practice still remains underdeveloped.

28. Leonard says:

Thanks Brian,

Yep, agree, but that is special fuel that wouldn’t be available to commercial sites and probably not worth the expense. I the MOX facility at SRS was supposed to mix plutonium with uranium for usable fuel at commercial sites. But, as with all goverment run projects, it has been scaled back or shutdown again, about 5 to 10 times over budget and only 60% complete.

The point I wa strying to bring up, depleted uranium is less radioactivce then natural occuring uranium, that is why they use it as ammunition. If Gates was going to use his \$ to resolve radioactive waste, depleted uranium should not be the target.

29. EL says:

Even with historically low interest loans in the mix, PTC subsidies, free money from customers isn’t enough to keep a project going. Risking very little of their own money, Progress Energy (now Duke) went for a two for one deal, and now the ratepayers are left picking up the \$1 billion tab. Another shot to investor confidence, CWIP, bond ratings, and unconventional utility commission practices for long term nuclear financing costs.

Duke Kills Florida Nuclear Project, Keeps Customers’ Money

The decision by Duke Energy (DUK) to scuttle a proposed nuclear reactor project in central Florida leaves utility customers in the state with a tab of more than \$1 billion—most of it already paid to Duke—for unbuilt plants that may never produce a single kilowatt of energy. That’s proved a powerful irritant for customers in the Sunshine State, where air conditioning is a necessity for much of the year.

Two coal units shutting down as well (good news for consumers and the environment). Maybe ratepayers will get some of their money back through court challenges. They deserve every penny.

1. @EL

Read more carefully. The column was published by The Australian. I used a link to a repost so people could read the piece without the barrier of a pay wall.

Aren’t you one of the people that criticizes people that automatically dismiss information based only on source?

1. Brian Mays says:

Rod – EL is as predictable as the tides. I’m sure that he’ll now be criticizing you for citing a Rupert Murdoch publication as a source.

2. EL says:

Read even closer … written by “director of London-based Global Warming Policy Foundation”

And yes, I am one of those people who typically engages with the message and not the messenger. But this instance seems pretty cut and dry, and I lost my interest in the second paragraph (and got lazy). “Mainstream media,” ugh, do you think he even reads the “lame stream media.” The article reads like a mad lib, with all the common buzzwords provided.

3. Brian Mays says:

And yes, I am one of those people who typically engages with the message and not the messenger.

“… but I balk at shibboleths, which means I actually do care about the messenger.”

A convenient dodge, utterly predictable.

4. EL says:

@Brian Mays.

Do I understand you correctly. Your defending London based Global Warming Policy Foundation?

What side of the argument are you on anyway … big coal? I thought we were trying to expose hypocrisy and smoking guns, not run towards them like a soldier facing enemy fire and jumping for a fox hole. If the smoke is bothering you, turning to a bigger gun hardly seems like a defensible or very meritorious approach.

1. @EL

Just for the record, I believe that coal has been unfairly demonized by the oil&gas multinationals that dislike the competition from lower cost, more evenly distributed, more predictably priced fuels.

Coal can be improved to be essentially equivalent to gas through the use of IGCC technology. It is easier to stockpile. It upsets the people that like expensive energy.

5. Brian Mays says:

EL – For a guy who likes to tell himself that he doesn’t “engage the messenger” … man, you really like to go for the throat.

Please keep going; you’re making my day. I’m going to go pop some popcorn, I’m enjoying this so much. 😀

Just for the record, I second Rod’s opinion above about the demonization of coal.

6. EL says:

@Brian and Rod,

So let’s see, the development challenges for IGCC has nothing to do with reliability or cost concerns, but will oil and gas “non for profit” and “charity” front groups and mudslinging media campaigns. Nobody is doing serious or independent due diligence on this stuff, and it’s a war of words and self-interested talking points fighting it out in the public sphere? Or worse, you think there is no merit for regulating carbon emissions, minimizing externalized costs, or better managing sustainable energy alternatives (and mudslinging AGW interest groups are all corporate funded disinformation campaigns, and have it entirely wrong)?

I don’t buy, and nobody else here should either.

1. @EL

Honest researchers like James Hansen, James Lovelock, and Barry Brook recognize that there is a definite risk associated with emitting massive quantities of CO2 as a direct result of human activity. All of them have also come to the conclusion that the only available technology strong enough to compete against hydrocarbons well enough to reduce their overall consumption is nuclear fission.

By implication, that means that they would likely agree that money spent on deploying unreliables that generate at a higher cost than nuclear is being misdirected if the goal is maximum reduction of climate change risk.

My deduction is that any individual or group that is worried about climate change and still fights nuclear is thus a witting, or unwitting advocate for hydrocarbons and that at least part of the reason stems from actions by hydrocarbon interests (oil&gas) to purchase or rent friends with their massive financial resources.

7. EL says:

Rod Adams wrote: “My deduction is that any individual or group that is worried about climate change and still fights nuclear is thus a witting, or unwitting advocate for hydrocarbons and that at least part of the reason stems from actions by hydrocarbon interests (oil&gas) to purchase or rent friends with their massive financial resources.”

I believe that’s called a tautology and not a deduction!

If nuclear is the only “technology strong enough to compete against hydrocarbons,” and groups fighting climate change do not support nuclear, than groups fighting climate change are acting as advocates for hydrocarbons.

Terrific, you’ve created a self-reinforcing logical fallacy where no new information matters, only support for the original and underlying premise, and anybody who argues to the contrary is inconsistent in their claims (or worse has ulterior motives or has been bought or rented by competing interests).

Smoking Gun (implying some actual evidence or credible investigative reporting) or just a shared belief (shared by good “honest” folks like yourself, James Hansen, James Lovelock, and Barry Brook)?

1. @EL

There is plenty of evidence, for anyone seriously interested in facts, to support the statement that nuclear fission is the only available technology that can take market share from fossil fuels by providing the same product – reliable, on demand power and heat – and can perform that feat while producing essentially zero CO2. As a benefit, the fuel is exceedingly cheap and readily available.

Imaginary systems that require new knowledge cannot perform the necessary task.

8. EL says:

Imaginary systems that require new knowledge cannot perform the necessary task.

I find it ironic you appear to be promoting made up fantasies of folks tinkering in their basements (the likes of which Detroit has never seen) in contrast to utility industry studies (here) and national energy labs reporting on current technology assessments (here) as somehow not interested in the facts, engaged with imaginary systems, or somehow bought and sold by fossil fuel interests.

It must be nice to know that everyone who supports nuclear power is absolutely correct, and everyone else is absolutely wrong (deluded, corrupt, or taking paychecks from oil and gas). The problem with conspiracy is that it leaves no room for facts or reason. It actually thrives on the opposite, a breathing of speculation, rumor, gaps in understanding, and heartfelt emotion. I see good reason for coal to be struggling in today’s marketplace (and nuclear too). Particularly in countries with older power plants, and not very rapidly rising demand. None of it has anything to do with branding of coal by opponents looking to market and sell their more expensive and less flexible energy products and fuels.

1. @EL

I’m willing to play along. Why do you think it is natural for coal to be struggling? Is it actually struggling.

9. EL says:

http://www.eia.gov/forecasts/aeo/chapter_executive_summary.cfm

“Low electricity demand growth, and continued increases in electricity generation capacity fueled by natural gas and renewable energy, which when combined with environmental regulations put pressure on coal use in the electric power sector. In some cases, coal’s share of total electricity generation falls below the natural gas share through the end of the projection period.”

Inevitability of carbon rules …

1. @EL

when combined with environmental regulations put pressure on coal use

Do you deny actions by gas sponsored environmental organizations to help write those regulations? Chesapeake Energy, for example, gave Sierra Club \$26 million for its “Beyond Coal” campaign.

Looking at EIA 2013 year to date statistics, coal has recovered about 8% of the market share it had lost to gas in 2012. It’s funny how an 80-90% price increase affects purchasing decisions.

10. EL says:

Do you deny actions by gas sponsored environmental organizations to help write those regulations?

I do … Sierra Club didn’t write these rules. As usual, you give these groups an extraordinary amount of power and leverage … far and above much larger, more powerful, and well organized interests.

And Sierra Club has been fighting coal for decades. This didn’t start with funds from Chesapeake Energy (and it won’t end with such funds). As the article clearly details, the main issue here is that for a membership organization the money was not disclosed (and would have been “sensitive” to many members). The new director seems to be doing much better on disclosure and accountability.

It’s funny how an 80-90% price increase affects purchasing decisions.

This is encouraging news (is it not). Evidence of a well functioning and rational marketplace. When coal prices rise, and the cost of alternatives drop, it seems we’ll have a real opportunity for progress. And lobbying and mudslinging anti-science (or pro-science as you seem to be suggesting) conspiracy and front groups had nothing to do with it.

2. Bas says:

@El,
Quite interesting to see that USA now does the same type of studies, such as the one regarding electricity storage, that Germany did during the nineties!

Seems DOE is now slowly following Germany (time lag ~20years?).
While Germany itself lags ~10years behind Denmark in the shift towards renewable.

E.g. While a permit to build a new house will only be given in Denmark if the house is fully energy neutral (incl. heating), Germany is still far off that type of regulation.
http://notrickszone.com/2013/02/21/tiny-denmark-bans-oil-and-gas-furnaces-in-new-homes-in-a-bid-to-rescue-the-planet/

I spent some weeks biking a thousand miles along Denmark coasts, it’s a quiet country (without poverty) where everybody still has time.
As a biker you get priority from/above cars (rightly as bikers do not pollute and poison other people).
In Copenhagen traffic lights have a button for bikers. Once you push that button you get a green light within ~10seconds (and cars get red / stop).
Everybody seems happy with that.