Atomic Show #196 – Atomic Optimists

On Sunday, February 17, 2013, a group of five nuclear energy professionals gathered to share their thoughts about the current state of the atomic energy business.

Participants included:
Margaret Harding (@M2harding), 4 Factor Consulting
Meredith Angwin (@yes_VY), Yes Vermont Yankee
Andrea Jennetta (@NuclearBuzz), Fuel Cycle Week and I Dig Uranium
Cal Abel (@cal_abel), PhD candidate GA Tech
Rod Adams, Atomic Insights

We covered a lot of ground, groused a bit about the industry’s lack of aggressive marketing, and worried about how so many people have lost touch with where things that make their lives comfortable come from. We discussed uranium mining in Virginia, competing against natural gas, using nuclear heat to upgrade coal into a much more valuable liquid or gas fuel product, and the human side of engineering as a profession. We worried together about the fact that some leaders in our nation seem to be happy to be directing a post industrial economy despite the fact that people still want things, not just services like those provided by lawyers and accountants.

In the end, we agreed that nuclear energy use will grow dramatically because it is so abundant, so clean, and so affordable when done correctly and at the proper scale. We agreed that humans need energy and that the best available fuel source for providing that energy is the uranium, thorium, and plutonium that we know exists in sufficient quantities to provide for abundant use for thousands of years.

We are atomic optimists, we hope that others in the nuclear energy profession will join us in talking about why we do what we do.

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About Rod Adams

50 Responses to “Atomic Show #196 – Atomic Optimists”

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  1. Josh says:

    As an authentic environmentalist, I want to see nuclear power used and developed safely. The need for it is obvious. However, given the post-fukushima goebbels-like media reponse, its going to be difficult to quell peoples anxieties with reason and objective facts. This is compounded by alleged experts such as Dr Peter Karamoskos (a radiologist) who denounce nuclear power as evil and unsafe, despite evidence to the contrary. I hope that in time, others will realise the importance of nuclear and that growth in the industry will pick up.

  2. John Tucker says:

    “the industry’s lack of aggressive marketing” seems like a colossal understatement.

    It would be nice if people like the NRC chairperson(s) would just do their jobs and publicly address the role of nuclear power in combating pollution, land use issues, warming and acidification. Especially if she is going to go out of her way to fixate and discus the storage non issue.

    How difficult/expensive is that?

  3. Daniel says:

    Since the discovery of Graphine won the Nobel prize in 2010, these guys are up to a new battery called a capacitor.

    http://www.upworthy.com/see-the-scientific-accident-that-may-change-the-world-or-at-least-your-battery-l?c=upw1

    Feedback anyone ?

    • DV82XL says:

      First there is nothing new about capacitors, (sometimes called condensers). The Dutch physicist Pieter van Musschenbroek invented the first ones in 1746 which he named the Leyden jar, after the University of Leiden where he worked. Capacitors are widely used as parts of electrical circuits in many electrical power circuits and electronic devices.

      Supercapacitors (or ultracapacitors) have been under development since 1966, and on the market for various applications since 1978. Development has continued with capacitance values per unit volume and energy density steadily improving all the time.

      However this field has also suffered from the effects of a bit too much hype on occasion and thus it is best to take press releases on the subject with a grain of salt.

      • Cyril R. says:

        The Dutch word for capacitor is condensator. Which can be really confusing to English speaking crowds, as condenser means something really different.

        • Engineer-Poet says:

          Except for those of us whose knowledge of electronics extends back a few decades.  Even in English, the capacitor used in a breaker-point ignition system is still called a “condenser”.

    • donb says:

      The video was long on hype and very short on numbers.

      Don’t get too excited. They showed their supercapacitor running an LED for minutes. A common alkaline AA flashlight cell contains enough energy to run an LED for days.

      • Engineer-Poet says:

        The real value of a supercapacitor is mostly that you can run it from full to empty and back again in seconds, and it can sustain millions of cycles with minimal degradation.

  4. Daniel says:

    the Virginia nuclear industry was asleep at the wrong time. A while ago when the Uranium mining ban was prolonged in Virginia, I shared this bit of news from Andrea Jennetta:

    The overwhelming silence of Virginia’s thriving nuclear industry. Just in case you didn’t know, the commonwealth is home to four nuclear power stations, a nuclear fuel processing plant, two nuclear plant design organizations and the U.S. nuclear Navy. Without uranium, none of them can operate.

    Yet none of them — Dominion, Babcock & Wilcox, AREVA and the zillion defense contractors that service the U.S. Navy’s seven nuclear aircraft carriers and six nuclear submarines — has stepped forward to publicly state its support for lifting the moratorium or even stated for the record that uranium can be, and currently is, mined safely.

    Well, there you go again.

    • James Greenidge says:

      You’d think silence is suicidal in this case, unless they’re all arrogantly complacent that a fuel source will always be there. I should shoot a letter to each to hear their excuse.

      James Greenidge
      Queens NY

      • Andrea Jennetta says:

        Please do. Let me know what they say–IF they respond (which they won’t). I’ll have an argument to counter each of their excuses. :D

  5. John Tucker says:

    Germany increased their nuclear output eight percent in November 2012 over the same month in 2011 – hehehe. ( http://www.iea.org/stats/surveys/mes.pdf )

    • Josh says:

      The Germans should swallow their pride and re-open the reactors that were prematurely shut in 2011. Thet could probably run them until the 2030s at least. Regardless of whether the planned closures go ahead or not, Germany will continue to consume nuclear-generated electricity after 2022.

      • George Carty says:

        Yes, plus they should put Gerhard Schröder on trial for treason (selling his country out to the Russian gas pushers).

        • Josh says:

          Indeed, yet Schroder feels he has been vindicated by Fukushima. Before they were corrupted by the diseased ultra-left, the German Socialist party were strong proponents of nuclear generated electricity.

        • Engineer-Poet says:

          It would probably be a bad idea to do this while they’re still dependent on Russian gas.

  6. Daniel says:

    On the more tragic side, 5 months after Odaka, about 8 miles from Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, was removed from the no-entry zone map, it remains a nuclear ghost town. Some 13,000 people used to live here.

    Here is a link to some pictures:

    http://www.bloomberg.com/slideshow/2013-02-15/revisiting-fukushima-s-ghost-towns.html#slide3

    So. Why was it again that these poor people were evacuated ?

    • James Greenidge says:

      I know this is almost whimsical but maybe the Japanese government should formally write off that real estate and release it for free homesteading, all civilian and corporate squatters settling vacant homes and property valid as residency and exempt all legal responsibility for any environmental health effects and see how fast Casper and company are pushed out of that town!

      James Greenidge
      Queens NY

  7. Jim Baerg says:

    Re: the saying about ‘advanced technology’ and ‘magic’.
    It is by Arthur C. Clarke.

    I think this is also relevant :-)
    http://freefall.purrsia.com/ff300/fv00255.htm

  8. James Greenidge says:

    This was a good show! I miss Will Davis and Ben Heard’s input, next time maybe? I think there was too much knocking on politicians for not hawking nuclear, though. I don’t carry any torch for them but they’re only going to support issues where the public wind is at their backs. You have to constantly _educate_ the population about the virtues of nuclear to create that wind. Mavericks mostly only do well in “social” issues. This dawned on Paul Newman too late as he was going make nuclear advocacy (vis-a-vis global cooling) as passionate a crusade as he was into marketing organic foods, yet still it was his political interest in Millstone that also helped keep it from suffering the same fate as Maine and Connecticut Yankee. As long as Greenpeace and FOE and Arnie and Helen and Billy Nye and perky Doc Kaku are calling nuclear’s public perception shots it’s always going be the poor stepchild Darth Vader in our energy scene. The real pity of it is that if you have the pockets like the nuclear industry and professional organizations do, public education is easy and cheap as squat with the right humble and knowledgeable spokesperson and constant aggressive and adult PSAs. Doesn’t even take guts. Just Will. I think the future of mining is going to have to bend the envelope to be generally acceptable; if we can use slant drill techniques to unobtrusively drill oil under quiet pastures and playgrounds miles away, can’t such similar concepts be used to tunnel boring machines mining coal? Just asking — though I know such would mean waves of unemployment, but these might be resource acquisition issues in the future.

    James Greenidge
    Queens NY

    • Andrea Jennetta says:

      Dear Mr Greenridge,

      I know you are a frequent commenter at Atomic Insights and I always appreciate your thoughts and willingness to DO something. The industry needs more of that! Thank you.

      Let me explain where I was coming from on the podcast. After 25 years in the nuclear industry I believe that POLITICS is the only thing that holds nuclear energy back. This would be the politics of NIMBYism and the politics of radio phobia. That’s why I don’t see how we can have a discussion about nuclear energy without talking politics.

      During the podcast, the situation I described in Southside Virginia, where to a man the all-Republican local legislative delegation is opposed to lifting the uranium mining moratorium, perfectly illustrates my view.

      Generally speaking, Republicans are pro-nuclear, pro-mining and pro-development. But here we have a situation where NIMBYism and radio phobia have combined in a perfect storm of strange bedfellows to block lifting the moratorium. It is mind-boggling that activist Republicans and “environmentalist” Democrats in a specific region of the Commonwealth are on the same side of an issue. But they are.

      At the same time, we have deafening silence from Virginia’s thriving nuclear energy industry. While I can understand (up to a point) the unwillingness of corporations to take a public stand, I am frustrated that more nuclear energy industry individuals and professional organizations have not.

      We might have gotten somewhere–if only a fraction of the thousands of individuals who work in Virginia’s nuclear energy industry would have attended the dozens of public hearings on the moratorium issue over the past two years.

      We might have gotten somewhere–if only they had shown up and said with pride that they work in the nuclear energy industry because they believe it has the power to save the world–and that uranium IS mined safely all over the world.

      We might have gotten somewhere–if only they had taken 5 minutes to tell their local elected officials how they feel.

      But they didn’t and Virginia pols didn’t have to think twice about their positions on the moratorium.

      (By the way plenty of those pols HAVE thought twice. But they don’t have the political cover to vote to lift the moratorium. They heard from more constituents who were against lifting the ban than who were for it. In the Hampton Roads area, home of the US Nuclear Navy, you have to wonder what you have to do to get nuclear supporters off their asses and exercise their democratic rights as individual citizens.)

      While it is true that a sustained, comprehensive education program would help it will not get us where we want to be if we don’t acknowledge the politics we are up against.

      If providing the facts worked the planet would be covered with nuclear power plants. And the antis are far more adept and willing to do what it takes to block nuclear energy projects and add to their FUD bag of tricks than we are.

      When you see this same phenomenon happening over and over and over again, regardless of nuclear project or location–my first job was with the Yucca Mountain project 25 years ago–you can’t help but be frustrated, particularly when with just a little effort we in the industry could change a few things.

      We need a grass roots political movement to promote nuclear energy, not a top-down one. That’s what I’m advocating, because politics is the only thing that is holding nuclear energy back.

      I’d be happy to explain in greater detail and provide references–although with the very messy nature of human beings and their fears it’s difficult to supply quantitative analysis…which might be one of the gajillion reasons the nuclear industry has failed so miserably when it comes to communications, politics and empathy. :D

      But please feel free to contact me. I’m looking forward to a good discussion!

      • Brian Mays says:

        And the antis are far more adept and willing to do what it takes to block nuclear energy projects and add to their FUD bag of tricks than we are.

        A serious problem is that nuclear professionals have day jobs. Meanwhile, the ranks of the “antis” are filled with underemployed (or unemployed) hippies, naive and misguided students, retired busybodies who live for meddling in other people’s affairs, and full-time professional activists.

        In other words, the sociopaths simply have more time and energy to spend on activism.

        Now consider that it is far easier to get a bunch of losers with too much time on their hands to protest against something than it is to come up with sane, reasonable, intelligent public policy and elucidate this policy to the public. The recent “Occupy” fiasco is a fine example of what I’m talking about.

        Finally, keep in mind that anyone who works for a private company in the nuclear sector is in a position that could be described as “damned if you do, damned if you don’t.” No matter how many times you explain that you are presenting your own personal views and not those of your employer, you’re immediately labeled a “corporate shill.” For some unfair reason, the value of your opinion is diminished because of possible conflicts of interest.

        When you take all of this into account, is there any surprise that there’s a PR gap at the grassroots level?

        • Andrea Jennetta says:

          Don’t misunderstand, I’m not surprised that there’s a PR gap at the grassroots level. But “PR” isn’t what I’m suggesting. “PR” is slick bullshit.

          I’m talking about passionate individuals organizing for something they believe in, because they care about the environment and the future of humankind and their children.

          Let’s not forget: there are more of us than there are of them. FIVE minutes, Brian. FIVE minutes to sit down at your computer, type out an email to your elected politician, and click send. When was the last time any of us did that? Did the individuals who work in Virginia’s nuclear energy industry take FIVE minutes to write their elected officials? Nope.

          As for the corporate shill label, so what? That’s what the antis say; it has nothing to do with voting and politicians GETTING RE-ELECTED–which is, for most of them, all they care about.

          Corporate shills are voting citizens. Corporate shills get to participate in democracy. Corporate shills get to say things like, “sure I get paid but why would I choose to stay in an industry that is reviled if I didn’t believe in it? Why would I stay, even though I am accused of being a killer? How is it possible that tens of thousands of people on the planet are involved in the conspiracy the antis think exists? Sure I get paid but that doesn’t mean I’m wrong about radiation not being as dangerous as the antis make it out to be. If it were that dangerous why isn’t everyone in the nuclear industry dead?”

          We can develop messages to counter the “paid nuclear shill” card. And if there are 100 “paid nuclear shills” in the audience at a public hearing, exercising their rights as citizens, it sends a pretty powerful message, doesn’t it?

          If there are lady engineers who bring their children to public hearings, and get angry when hippies and sociopaths accuse them of “baby killing” that’s pretty powerful, isn’t it?

          What if there were some oncologists and rad health physicists in the audience who got a little teed off? Or some folks in the food safety industry? Wouldn’t that shut up a lot of average citizens who let their fear get the better of them? Wouldn’t that grab the attention of a media that is interested in drama and ratings?

          There is a wing of the Republican party that is composed of devout Christians. I’m guessing that plenty of them have day jobs. Nevertheless they managed to affect the policies and direction of a national political party.

          There is a wing of the Republican party that is composed of Tea Partyers. I’m guessing that plenty of them have day jobs. Nevertheless they managed to affect the policies and direction of a national political party.

          We’ve given up before we got started.

          I refuse to believe that underemployed (or unemployed) hippies, naive and misguided students, retired busybodies who live for meddling in other people’s affairs, and full-time professional activists are smarter and more politically astute than we are. They sure as hell aren’t smarter or more politically astute than me. Not buying it.

          If we don’t get off our asses we won’t have an industry–and a technology that can, literally, save the world.

        • Rod Adams says:

          @Brian

          While I understand your position, I also have a day job. I managed to make it to several of the public meetings. Of course, I also have the advantage of having grown children, so maybe the real issue is that nuclear professionals often have both day jobs and growing families.

          • Andrea Jennetta says:

            Public hearings are wonderful opportunities for family time. Bring your family, participate in Democracy, teach your children the importance of citizenship, civility, negotiations, diversity.

            Plus you’ll be humanizing the nuclear energy industry, which we desperately need to do. It’s easy to demonize a faceless corporate bogeyman. It’s a lot harder to demonize people who are just like you.

          • Brian Mays says:

            Rod – Been there, done that. I’ve been to my fair share of public meetings and events, particularly with regard to North Anna Unit 3. I’ve attended “pro-nuclear rallies” and even held a sign or two.

            But you’ve seen shows up to these meetings. There are a few genuinely concerned locals, a few people like you and me, and a bunch of people with too much time on their hands. The latter group act like a bunch of clowns.

          • Rod Adams says:

            @Brian

            Great. Battle is still going on, so when you can make it, come on out!

      • James Greenidge says:

        Happy to hear from you!
        Yucca must’ve been an interesting historic assignment (if not frustrating) to be attached to! Actually I’m a pretty simple guy, and cut my teeth and tongue on politics when mom tried running for state assemblywoman in Queens in the early ’70’s. I think I most learned was what great generally technically-clueless social windvanes most (most all?) politicians are. They’re keen enough to know that salesman slogan “the customer is always right” applies to the public that’d be voting for them. I also learned how vain deep-steeped social crusaders and champions the media is, even at the expense of bending and omitting fact to win the buddyship of the public (“We’re WCBS-TV, On Your Side!”). I remembered how cool the media was about Project Apollo, mostly casting it as souped-up horse race then the steeping stone and keys of a greater universe for humankind and the proigenior of awesome new technologies. You can’t be hailed and revered as a media champion for Apollo but you yourself can be a hero and champion in the eyes of the underdog. To me, touchy-feely has been the media’s shadow creed where technology issues are either boring, toys or mundane. So they covered Apollo and the SST with mild critical enthuse in a civil rights era while riding high leading the underdog-moral front for a public whose fascination in science and technology started to wane after the end of the NY World’s Fair in my view. This really came to light for me by how the NYC media hounded Shoreham, exploiting not just nuclear ignorance, but its mix of Hiroshima guilt, B-movie nuclear fears, and the lumping of anything nuclear into the same Darth Vader kettle. That was also when it become really obvious to me of of the shadow affection and alliance of the media toward anti-nuclear groups. “We have to banish/punish the atom in all its forms for all the unnatural deaths it perpetuated at Hiroshima and billions more waiting in tinderbox silos!” Yea, sounds corny but it’s way closer the heart of the media than they’ll ever admit. I also saw with Shoreham how politicians were folding like cheap cameras under the cries of a public whose nuclear ignorance and frets were fanned by these anti-nuke groups who warped facts and records like a preztel under the tacit compliance of the fellow-feeling media. The politicans were pretty feckless windvanes and the anti-nukers played them like violins as they did with a science-illiterate non-self-researching public by whipping up fear and concerns that move massive votes with the sailing of a kindred media. It’s now happening locally for me with Indian Point with a windvane governmor and an energy company that has tied its own hands behind its back defending itself with zit nuclear education PSAs and nil counterpoints to anti-nuclears making near scheduled appearances on NYC television. It’s dismaying to me that the means to counter anti-nukes is so well at hand but being utterly forsaken. Even today, Hudson River green groups are citing Hanford’s leaking tanks as a prompt to shut down Indian Point, logic and circumstances be damned — because the uneducated public swallows the warped logic! If we want to get serious promoting nukes — “we” being the nuclear ‘industry’ and its nuclear professional orgs which have the pockets, ought take a cue from the Tylenol damage-control folks and get out nuclear education PSAs _overnight_ for general nuclear reactor enlightenment, and second, to educate and put in perspective current nuclear incidents like Fukushima and Hanford than wait for anti-nukes to fill the void with their poison. Hey, here in NYC “Puppy rescue” runs PSAs on NYC cable — the nation’s priciest market. If this tiny outfit can get its word out daily, what’s keeping the nuclear community from wholesale delivering facts and records about nuclear energy in the mass media instead of lame local tupperware party teach-ins? Just stand there and eat all the smears and media-FUD? Can you spell self-promotion means self-preservation? Crazy! Hand in hand PSAs you start moving the public with hard _adult_ nuclear ed town hall or even cable special programming campaigns hosting with a nuke Carl Sagan type to go toe-to-toe with “media nuclear consultants” as Kaku and Arnie to take the peril and evil out of nuclear and you’ll give politicians a little spine to stand up on their hind legs and support nuclear energy under the banner of a clean environment and lots of power with minimal health and scenic effects even in the worst of accidents that any energy source can endure (compare, Compare, COMPARE!), but they’re not going to move on their own without a movement at their backs. I mean they’re windvanes of course!

        James Greenidge
        Queens NY

        • DV82XL says:

          James – Paragraphs are your friends.

          • James Greenidge says:

            Re: “Paragraphs are your friends.”

            Er, yea, sheepishly sorry here. I was on a non-proofed ramble rant at the time and maybe thought I did page breaks. Incompetence just ticks me off, but unwillingness to save yourself ticks me off even more. Even if the “nuclear industry” is compromised by its own parents from promoting itself, what’s the excuse from atomic workers unions and nuclear professional organizations for not taking up the PR education and PSA torch? In other fields these groups have no problem tag-teaming to promote their core specialties. Really, I’d like to see the head honchos of such unions and pro orgs tied down at a Atomic Show and be grilled on their really inexcusable chronic lack of simple and cheap mass public outreach. Forget the greater good for more clean cheaper safer power, it’s their own livelihoods and careers that’s directly involved — I think!

            James Greenidge
            Queens NY

        • Andrea Jennetta says:

          “This really came to light for me by how the NYC media hounded Shoreham, exploiting not just nuclear ignorance, but its mix of Hiroshima guilt, B-movie nuclear fears, and the lumping of anything nuclear into the same Darth Vader kettle.”

          Brilliant! “Like” eleventy billion times!

          You have quite a way with words, Mr Greenridge. I think you need to be the head PSA copy writer. :D

          And I agree with everything you’re saying. There are a few simple, cost-effective things “the nuclear industry” could do that would make all the difference. That we don’t, well, that’s a podcast subject for another day.

          • Engineer-Poet says:

            Maybe the problem is that the “nuclear industry” as such is so inter-twined with the utility industry in general, it has no separate voice.

  9. Brian says:

    Rod, I was introduced to you by your appearance on .Net Rocks. I really enjoyed your clear, concise, and authoritative discussion of the technologies with Carl and Richard. I started following your blog and this was the first podcast I’ve listened to.

    I have to tell you, building on what Mr. Greenidge wrote, this show did not shine a very positive light on your arguments. I am cautiously pro-nuclear. I’ve been on a tour of the Catawba facility here in SC and got a great education there. Very impressive facility and personnel. But when I hear what I would consider to be snarky comments and faux-voice imitations and generalizations of people with real concerns, I can see your opponents grinning as you make it harder to make your own case.

    Mr. Greenidge is right – focus on education. Grouse and vent off the ait. It will really help you out.

    Thanks for you time!

    -Brian
    Clover, SC

    • Rod Adams says:

      @Brian

      Thank you for listening and for providing feedback. I am always willing to listen to constructive criticism. Can you be a little more specific about the particular part of the conversation that bothered you? The five of us have known each other for quite some time and we have been involved in the challenging struggle for many years. I hope you can understand that it can get frustrating at times. I am quite interested in talking with people who have real concerns and in finding ways to help them overcome their fears by understand more about why I am so excited about the potential benefits of using more nuclear energy.

      • Brian says:

        @Rod

        Thanks for the reply!

        I would have to re-listen to get specific time-indexes. It is very clear you have all worked together and are close friends. Usually it is fun to hear that sort of comraderie. There were specific topics of conversation, for example NIMBY, and ‘people don’t know where things come from,’ and granite mining in Mayberry where you all come across as talking down to the multitudes who ‘just don’t get it.’

        I sympathize, I really do, but it jumps out at me becuase we’re working with a business coach here at my company who is helping us to avoid coming across this way. I won’t go into details, but believe me when I say we work with folks who are, well, not quite as sharp as we’d like. We are trying to avoid speaking with them in a condescending tone.

        Your audience is (hopefully) many of the people you’re trying to convince and connect with. I worry that the tone I heard puts them off.

        Great content though – I learned a lot!

        -Brian

        • Margaret Harding says:

          Brian,

          Thanks for your comments. Your points are quite valid. Generalizations are always dangerous. However, my comments regarding the lack of concern about how electricity is generated some from actual data. Having attended a SmartGrid conference in 2009 the folks there were frustrated in their efforts to get end-users interested in shifting energy use and/or reducing consumption. During the conference statistics were presented that revealed 90% of people simply didn’t care.

          NIMBY has become increasingly evident with virtually every single industrial project installation as well as T&D. Germany has seen it with the refusal of villages to allow T&D to move wind energy from north to south. Despite their support of shutting down nuclear, the same people do NOT want to support the infrastructure needed to support such changes.

          With that, I’m out of room.

          • Andrea Jennetta says:

            First, let me say “good for you” and your exploration into nuclear energy. The simple touring of a nuclear reactor goes a long way to de-mystifying what for many folks is a scary technology.

            Now let me respond to your comment by relating anecdotal proof:

            I asked a commenter who responded negatively to one of my recent op/eds whether the problem was uranium mining or all mining. He said that he is against all mining because — and I paraphrase — it is “dirty and bad.”

            Yet he communicated his thoughts and opposition to uranium mining in VA on a computer made of mined stuff, in a building made of mined stuff, using electricity that is generated with mined stuff. He was (hopefully) wearing clothes that were made of stuff harvested from the ground and might have been drinking a cup of coffee made of stuff farmed in the ground.

            That he had no self-awareness of the irony of his rejection of all things mining (and grown) was painfully obvious.

            So when we podcasters bemoaned Americans’ lack of understanding about where things come from, you can perhaps begin to appreciate where we are coming from. I mean, how do you begin to educate people who are that disconnected from the industrial world? How do you talk to them about nuclear energy and radiation–which also comes from the earth and is in the air–when they don’t have a fundamental understanding of where stuff comes from?

            I’d love to hear your thoughts, especially because of the training you’ve undergone to communicate more effectively to customers and “regular people.”

  10. Jason C says:

    Sometimes it’s hard to be enthusiastic after I just read the Kewaunee NPP will be closing because “The low price of natural gas in the wholesale power market made the nuclear power sold by Kewaunee too expensive”. Somehow, I just don’t believe that to be the whole story.

    • Engineer-Poet says:

      That’s my impression too.  The advantage of gas is ephemeral, lasting another year or two at most; what’s the NPV of a 20-year license extension against gas likely to go to $7/mmBTU or higher for who knows how long, if not permanently?

      The problem is that pols are deciding based on their fantasies of costs, and not reality.

      • George Carty says:

        Politicians aren’t that stupid — it’s more likely that they’re using these fantasies of cost to justify their decisions to the public, when the real reason for favoring gas is that they’ve been bribed to do so.

    • Rod Adams says:

      @Jason C

      The sad thing about this situation is that the loss of Kewaunee will help the gas suppliers increase their market share and have more control over the price of their fuel. In 2012, Kewaunee generated 4.52 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity. Removing it from the grid is equivalent to increasing the demand for natural gas by approximately 32 billion cubic feet per year assuming a 7,000 BTU/kwhr gas plant is used to replace Kewaunee’s output. That increased demand will put upward pressure on natural gas prices.

      At $3.50 per 1000 cubic feet, the increased sales for natural gas will be $112 million per year, but at $7.00 per 1000 cubic feet that doubles to $224 million per year without any increased capital or labor costs. If gradually reducing nuclear output works as the gas industry would like, prices might recover to their 2008 levels in a rather prompt fashion, causing much joy in mudville.

  11. Joris van Dorp says:

    I thought this podcast was very interesting, thanks to the participants.

    Concerning ways to win the debate on nuclear, for instance about granting rights to mining that uranium. I agree that pro-nukes need to take of their gloves. Try doing a good-cop-bad-cop approach. The good-cop approach is all we see, and it doesn’t work. The bad-cop approach would would include arguments such as:

    – Hindering the responsible and efficient usage of nuclear power is the single greatest cause of increasing global CO2 emissions world wide.
    – Nuclear power prevents climate change and air polution. Not using nuclear power conversely condemns millions of people to death, possibly including your own children or grand-children.
    – Doctors and health professionals do not celebrate when a nuclear power plant is delayed or closed early due to contrived litigation, sabotage or astro-turf protesting and roadblocking. But they wince when another fossil burning plant is opened, knowing how many thousands of people die needlessly from air polution every year. Nuclear power plants emit no air polution and therefore kill no-one. Nuclear power plant workers have a less risky job than the average office clerk.
    – Maintaining climate stability requires a global 5% co2 emission reduction *per year* for the next 40 years. There is no chance in hell that solar and wind alone will enable this, even if wind turbines and solar panels were free, which they are not at all. Power transmission and backup costs would still make solar and wind too expensive as a full replacement for fossil burning. Solar and wind power are for the rich only, who use them to shirk responsibilty and be percieved as ‘green’. Nuclear power is for the people and the workers.

    Anti-nuclear arguments are fabricated by psuedo-environmentalists and pro-fossil fuels think tanks. They are almost as old as the nuclear age itself. None of them stand up to scrutiny today. All have already been addressed in detail for decades, but anti-nukes simply ignore this, rinse and repeat, preying with undeserved succes on the ignorance of the public. The health and safety requirements of handling and using nuclear fuels are a well known field of applied science. Denying this is a lie. Anti-nuke propandist have no respect for the public, since they depend on the ignorance of the public and aim to keep the public ignorant.

    You will never get a straight answer about anything claimed by an anti-nuke. All they have to say is based on fantasy and gross denial of evidence. Anti-nuclear advocates rely on feelings of distrust and doubt, withholding key information from you, misrepresenting the science, and engaging with you on a narrow platform of fear and ignorance, nurturing those incessantly. Conversely, pro-nuclear advocates point to established physical facts and historical evidence that are transparant and in the public domain. They honestly rely on your competence as a thinking, compassionate human being and will engage with you holistically on that high-ground, seeking to promote critical thinking and compassion for the planet and hope for the future.

  12. Mikael Ros says:

    Another Atomic Optimist is Ernest Moniz, the likely new Energy Secretary.

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