Existing nuclear plants are valuable and worth saving

Many currently operating nuclear plants are in danger of being permanently shut down due to temporary conditions including low, but volatile natural gas prices, improperly designed markets that fail to recognize the value of reliable generating capacity, quotas and mandates that result in certain types of electrical generators receiving direct monetary payments in addition to wholesale market prices, and insufficient recognition of nuclear energy as a near zero emission power source.

The impulse of current nuclear plant owners to consider permanent closure as a response to current market conditions reminds me of a Jimmy Buffett song that is in frequent rotation on my iPod – Permanent Reminder of a Temporary Feeling.

The song is all about individual people making regrettable, life-altering decisions based on a fleeting feeling. Parents or other responsible people often take the risk of temporary ingratitude to warn their children or charges about the consequences of such actions.

Businesses and governments can be subject to the same kind of regrettable decision making; they need people who are willing to stand up and warn decision makers of the potential consequences of permanent actions — like shutting down well maintained nuclear plants — based on temporary market conditions.

Brief History Lesson

The US has been here once before; during the 1990s natural gas prices went through a lengthy period of sustained low prices and several nuclear plants were closed only part way through their useful life. During the period from 2004-2009 the remaining nuclear plants minted cash as natural gas prices inexorably rose from the 1990s price of $2 per MMBTU to remain above $5 per MMBTU for five straight years with a peak monthly price for electrical power generators in excess of $12 per MMBTU in June 2008.

Monthly Average Gas Prices for US Electric Generators

Monthly Average Gas Prices for US Electric Generators

Nuclear Matters

Nuclear industry stalwarts are making an effort to build momentum to encourage actions that will preserve operating nuclear plants. For example, here is a quote from a May 7, 2014 interview of former Indiana Senator Evan Bayh by EETV’s Monica Trauzzi:

Monica Trauzzi: Senator, you have years of experience on a variety of energy issues. You were a member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee when you were in Congress. Why have you decided to put your efforts behind nuclear energy right now?

Evan Bayh: Because it’s going to be very important going forward, Monica, to some things I care deeply about, No. 1, the vitality of our economy, No. 2, how we’re going to deal with the issue of climate change and CO2 emissions and, No. 3, the reliability and stability of our energy supply for consumers across our country and across my state. It touches upon all of that.

I’ll just give you two data points. Nuclear constitutes 20 percent of the electricity we generate in the country, so one-fifth, very substantial. Many people aren’t aware of that. It’s also 62 percent of the carbon-free electricity that we generate. You have wind, solar, geothermal, that sort of thing. But nuclear is 62 percent. So if you’re going to be serious about our economy, you’re going to be serious about climate change and CO2, you’ve got to be focused on the vitality of the nuclear industry.

As Trauzzi introduced him, former Senator Bayh is a part of a public relations campaign called Nuclear Matters that is starting with an effort to spread information — like the data points he identified above — about the importance of nuclear energy in America. Later in the interview, Bayh explained a little more about the campaign.

Monica Trauzzi: I recently interviewed Exelon’s Bill Von Hoene, and Exelon is facing a particularly challenging environment right now with several reactors that are considered to be economically challenged. What is Exelon’s role in the Nuclear Matters campaign?

Evan Bayh: Exelon is funding the first year of the campaign. We’re hoping to broaden that to several other stakeholders going forward. So Exelon is paying for the first year, but beyond that we’re hoping to broaden to other people who care about this issue.

As the primary initial funder of the Nuclear Matters campaign, Exelon is supporting an experienced and well-connected group of communicators to carry a timely message. In addition to Bayh, the group includes former New Hampshire senator Judd Gregg, former EPA commissioner Carol Browner, former Secretary of Energy and Michigan senator Spencer Abraham, former Secretary of Commerce and White House Chief of Staff Bill Daley, and former Arkansas senator Blanche Lincoln.

Aside: Neither the About Us page on the Nuclear Matters web site nor the “About Nuclear Matters” section of the organization’s press releases clearly identify Exelon as the funding source. The above quote from Senator Bayh, the campaign’s co-chair, makes it clear that Nuclear Matters is not trying to keep its funding source a secret. The failure to mention Exelon in the press releases and on the web site unnecessarily handed a club to anti-nuclear groups like NIRS to use against the campaign. End Aside.

Other Actions

As reported by EnergyWire, on Tuesday, May 13, 2014, Chris Crane, Chairman and CEO of Exelon, called for a combined push by nuclear and renewable energy advocates to ask states to adopt “clean energy” standards as a replacement for their current renewable portfolio standards.

Exelon Corp. Chairman and CEO Christopher Crane said yesterday that states should implement U.S. EPA’s forthcoming regulations on carbon emissions by adopting new “clean energy” standards that would include nuclear power alongside renewable energy sources.

Speaking to an audience at Resources for the Future in Washington, D.C., Crane acknowledged that his company — the largest owner of U.S. nuclear power plants — would continue to lobby on behalf of its portfolio of generation assets, facing advocates for wind and solar power and other energy options.

But he said it would be better to negotiate comprehensive agreements among all energy providers to meet greenhouse gas reduction goals without undermining nuclear power, which he called a crucial resource for backing up renewable power when it is not available and providing grid stability.

On April 28, 2014, the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions (C2ES) hosted an event titled Climate Solutions, the Role for Nuclear Power at the National Press Club. Exelon and Entergy, another company with a substantial fleet of nuclear power plants, some regulated and some competing as merchant generators, were represented in the panel discussions; Bill Mohl, President of Entergy Wholesale Commodities participated in the first panel, and David Brown, Senior Vice President of Federal Government Affairs at Exelon Corporation, participated in the second one.

Eileen Claussen, a longtime clean air advocate and the President of C2ES, opened the meeting with some remarks about the challenges facing the existing fleet of nuclear power plants in the United States. Here is a sample:

Given nuclear’s current importance as a zero-carbon fuel, losing nuclear capacity will make it harder for the United States to meet its goal to reduce emissions 17 percent by 2020.

Unfortunately, that’s the direction we’re heading.

In the past year-and-a-half, power companies have announced the unexpected retirement of five reactors, representing 4 percent of the U.S. nuclear fleet. More may follow. Earlier this year, Exelon, the nation’s largest operator of nuclear power plants, announced that it, too, is considering early retirements for some of its Midwest reactors.

What’s it take to replace the nuclear power we’re losing? To replace the power from five nuclear plants, you’d need 16 natural gas combined cycle power plants, which would emit a total of 12 million metric tons of carbon dioxide per year. If you turned to renewables, you’d need a lot — roughly 7,600 wind turbines or 3.7 million solar PV rooftop panels — to generate the same amount of electricity as five nuclear reactors. And, as I pointed out, wind and solar can’t currently provide baseload power.

I call these nuclear retirements “unexpected” because some reactors are closing earlier than their useful lifetime. This is happening for a variety of reasons, including depressed power prices, higher operating costs, and power market design challenges. Those were among the reasons cited for the early retirement of Entergy’s Vermont Yankee nuclear power station. By the way, an official with New England’s grid operator recently said Vermont Yankee’s shutdown will mean burning more oil and natural gas next winter. Again: the wrong direction.

Not Too Late

Nuclear Matters is delivering an important message. Along with changes in the markets and some key government decisions, all currently operating nuclear plants, even the one whose owner has announced plans to close, can be protected from an ill-advised early retirement. We need all the clean energy we can get, especially in the form of plants that are just now reaching middle age and entering their most productive, lucrative earning years.

I am just slightly past middle age with a dozen working years remaining before I qualify for full social security retirement, yet every one of the nuclear plants operating in the US today was completed after my 10th birthday. The calls of some people to consider those plants old is ageism and contrary to sound environmental principles of reduce, reuse, repair, recycle.

The well-supported actions to spread the message of nuclear energy’s value in our power system is coming just in the nick of time.

I am pretty sure that the era of unsustainably cheap natural gas has ended and believe that the price increase shown during the past few months on the above Monthly Average Gas Prices for US Electric Generators graph from the Energy Information Agency is not a temporary blip. As was the case in the 1990s, a sustained period of low natural gas prices has discouraged drilling activity and will result in a sustained period of prices that are high enough to enable nuclear plants to operate profitably, especially in markets like the heavily populated Midwest and Northeast.

If more nuclear plants unexpectedly retire, gas prices and electricity prices in competitive markets are at risk of wild oscillations, perhaps even more intensive than those that occurred during the winter of 2013-2014. The below slide came from a sobering briefing titled Winter 2013-2014 Operations and Market Performance in RTOs [Regional Transmission Operators] and ISOs [Independent System Operators] provided from the staff of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) on April 1, 2014.

Electricity and gas prices PJM region winter 2013-2014

Electricity and gas prices PJM region winter 2013-2014

The fluctuations shown in the above graph are indicative of a system that is already operating very close to its maximum capacity. There is little room to allow for welcome economic growth and no room to allow for premature, permanent shutdowns of plants like Vermont Yankee. It is hard to imagine the effort and cost that would be involved in attempting to replace its output with anything remotely similar to the reliable, emission-free power it produced throughout the winter of 2013-2014 and during the past 42 years of operating excellence.

For people who live in New England, closing Vermont Yankee will not just contribute to wild fluctuations in electricity and natural gas prices during cold spells sometime in the distant future. The New England ISO holds an annual auction for capacity planning that is three years in advance of the actual need. In February of 2014, the auction for capacity during the period of 2017-2018 resulted in bids that soared from $1.06 billion in the previous auction to $3.05 billion this year.

The key events driving that price ratchet were the announced closure of just enough capacity to drive the market from slightly oversupplied to slightly undersupplied. Market players have reported that the prices might not have moved much at all if both Vermont Yankee and Brayton Point had remained in the auction.

Neither plant has actually closed, or taken any irreversible actions to close. Entergy has made some written commitments to the state of Vermont, but any contract can be renegotiated with the consent of all parties to the agreement.

Going back to my analogy of Jimmy Buffett’s song, even though the tattoo artist has been paid and is poised to begin inking a garish design, it is not too late to stop the madness and avoid the permanent reminder of a temporary feeling.

Additional reading

EIA Issues and Trends: Natural Gas (February 7, 2014) High prices show stresses in New England natural gas delivery system

April 18, 2014 Letter from ISO New England to US House Committee on Energy and Environment

Portland Press-Herald (March 19, 2014) Wholesale power in New England cost 55% more last year

New Hampshire Union Leader (March 22, 2014) Six New England senators call for investigation into natural gas prices

Mass Live (March 19, 2014) ISO New England: High natural gas prices push wholesale electric rates up 55 percent


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About Rod Adams

42 Responses to “Existing nuclear plants are valuable and worth saving”

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  1. Marcel F. Williams says:

    Natural gas cannot save the world from severe levels of global warming. Natural gas is a major contributor to severe global warming.

    The Federal government needs to mandate that all utilities produce at least 50% of their electricity from carbon neutral resources by 2020 and 90% of their electricity from carbon neutral resources by 2030.

    Its that simple.

    Marcel

    • Rod Adams says:

      @Marcel F. Williams

      In addition, natural gas cannot provide abundant power for society for more than a few decades. It is a rather short pier on the oceanfront, not a bridge to anywhere we want our children to go.

  2. Wayne SW says:

    One answer to the ageism charge against nuclear plants is to point out that, on average, our nuclear plants are newer than many generating assets we take for granted and no one whispers a word of protest against. Here are some examples:

    Bass Lake Dam: 1910
    Hoover Dam: 1936
    Grand Coulee Dam: 1942
    Robert Moses Niagara Power Plant: 1961
    Four Corners 1 and 2: 1963 (S/D in 2010)
    Glen Canyon Power Station: 1966

    Many coal-fired stations date back to the middle of the last century, or earlier. If these bums are going after mnuclear plants on the basis of age, they should be going after these other places first, if they are serious about their conerns of aging.

    • Rod Adams says:

      @Wayne SW

      That is a useful list.

      I also like to point to the way that the USS Enterprise plied the world’s oceans for a little more than fifty years. Her reactors were under a much greater amount of stress as responsive power sources pushing a sea-going, catapult-using, mobile air strip than any steady state land-lubbing reactor ever was.

      According to friends who were there when she was decommissioned, the Enterprise’s reactor plants were still in fine operational condition. The retirement was more motivated by the age and repair difficulties associated with her flight deck.

      • Gareth Fairclough says:

        “The retirement was more motivated by the age and repair difficulties associated with her flight deck.”

        It’s a damn shame that such a fine ship had to be scrapped. Rod, do you think it would have been feasible for the big E to have had her flight deck removed and replaced with something more like what is on the Nimitz class ships? If not, what about converting her to server as a supply and replenishment ship for a battle group?

        • Bill Young says:

          Gareth,

          As great a ship as it was, the big E had eight reactors that took up a lot more space than the two somewhat larger reactors on a Nimitz class carrier. Because of this, she carried a significantly smaller aircraft inventory.

          When the Enterprise retired it was due for a refuel and that is a huge investment in time and money for a ship that was over 50 years old. I know some folks who served on the ship and she was due for retirement.

          Bill

  3. Mitch says:

    Well, long as that natural gas lady is dancing on the tube every hour to the gullible clap-along masses without a rival contestant…

  4. poa says:

    I notice that the former senators mentioned as members of “Nuclear Matters” are evenly split along party lines….2 dems and 2 from the right. Daley, the former Chief of Staff, is a dem as well. It is heartening noting the bipartisan makeup of this group of lobbyists. I hope too that the commenters here that are so quick to point a partisan finger take note of the makeup of this group.

    • Rod Adams says:

      @poa

      Many nuclear communications professionals recognize that partisanship is a very bad strategy for an energy source that requires consistent support over many different political cycles. The people behind Nuclear Matters are working hard to build a solid, diverse base. I applaud that.

    • Wayne SW says:

      Glad you noticed that, POA. I was going to point that out in my next post but you beat me to it. Nuclear energy support (or opposition) tends to cross party lines, which means opinion is not monolithic from a political party viewpoint. There are lots of pro-nuclear Dems aside from this list. Bill Magwood, formerly of DOE and now of NRC (but leaving to go to OECD), Mike McCormick, former Congressman from WA who was very supportive of nuclear. On the opposition side, former Congresswoman Claudine Schneider, Republican of RI, fought hard against the Clinch River Breeder Reactor project, because she blamed her child’s leukemia on nuclear energy. I understand she later recanted and blamed it on radon accumulation.

      I so think we are wasting time making this a partisan issue. We need to cultivate those who agree with us and work to convince those who aren’t to reconsider. I have heard that even Jerry Brown has changed his tune a bit because of concerns over CO2 and smog issues (although he couldn’t do much about SONGS, unfortunately).

      • Paul W Primavera says:

        I wish what Wayne wrote were true. However, while there are notable exceptions, the majority of anti-nukes are liberal progressives, usually Democrats, Greens, Socialists and Communists. The majority of pro-nukes are conservative. I can’t sadly call the GOP conservative any longer due to RINO pollution. And yes, nuclear power should be a non-partisan issue. But those who fight hardest against nuclear energy (e.g., Andy and Mario Cuomo of NY State and Ed Markey of Massachusetts and the Vermont politicians) are Democrat. So if the liberals here really want nuclear power to be non-partisan, then they have to kick these politicians out of their party just as Republicans have to do the same to RINOs, and libertarians to CATO Institute people who fail to understand this important issue.

        • poa says:

          Well, Paul, I’m sure we can count on you to keep the partisan bickering alive and blooming. In fact, judging from the vast majority of your comments, I would wager that it is impossible for you to see any issue through anything other than a partisan lens.

          • Paul W Primavera says:

            I am neither Republican nor Democrat, POA, neither Libertarian nor Independent. Simple observation shows nuclear resurgence under Bush and emasculation under Mr. Hope and Change. What irony it is when you guys find a Republican who supports fossil fuel, declaring that’s a smoking gun and not partisan bickering.

            Stop Cuomo.
            Stop Markey.

            Prove you’re not partisan.

          • PissedOffAmerican says:

            “I am neither Republican nor Democrat, POA, neither Libertarian nor Independent”

            Paul, thanks for the chuckle.

            But seriously, if you’re gonna make assertions like that, I suggest that you bear in mind that the full body of your “contributions” here are archived and, that….uh…..I ssume most of us here know how to read.

  5. John T Tucker says:

    Habitat, ecosystem, incursion, endemism : its difficult to believe the hard core reality of those words with respect to environmentalism has fallen out of style with big green. You almost never see them anymore. I think that is intentional.

    Its no surprise also they turn the other way when important environmental assets are lost. Everything is a chance to sell the one size fits all, “renewable” only, feel good philosophy of intermittent fossil fuel supplemented power, unacceptable land use/infrastructure costs and the totally disastrous biofuels path.

    Its time to stop letting them set the narrative. Habitat incursion and land use are going to be something I mention even more.

    I like the nuclear matters site too, I hope they are more active than the high end advocacy I have seen up to now and get out there. I have issue though wirth their portrayal of geothermal and the general inclusion of set down times with intermittentcy.

    As for the political stuff. I still think its best to simply ignore it completely as many of you have more or less stated, (to the point of even getting annoyed when it is brought up) and advocate for nuclear power. You are never going to find “common political ground.” There is no such real and set location. The term itself is a oxymoron, more so even with respect to our current stark political dichotomy.

    Your arguments for nuclear power should be freestanding and affirmative.

    • poa says:

      Ignoring the political arena in a quest such as performing nuclear energy PR is a loser right out of the gate. You can’t afford to ignore it.

      Even if you manage to bring an ill-informed and skeptical public on board, your efforts will be for naught if you don’t convince the folks who are writing and enacting the laws and regulations. Its their hoops you have to jump through, like it or not.

      The trouble with using NE as a political wedge issue is that you lose those politicians that feel the need to exhibit party loyalty above the need to vote responsibly in the best interests of their constituency.

      You need the blessings of both sides of the aisle, and you need to work hard to attain those blessings. You won’t get there by ignoring the very folks that can make or break you.

      • John T Tucker says:

        What? Specifically what is your point? Are you arguing for political advocacy on a legislative level? Fine. Of course. But even there I would avoid too much partisan politics. As a matter of fact I would shepherd it to less political arguments.

        That end of the deal seems to be well taken care of. Or at least somewhat funded although its not even close to the big green anti nuke, “renewable” PR game.

        Having political arguments here however, at the individual level and with respect to environmental and atmospheric science and reality is beyond useless. Its more cluttering and divisive than anything. It has obscured the science, real issues and achievable goals with respect to climate change, pollution, ocean acidification and species endangerment via both habitat incursion and loss. (there I got it in!)

        • John T Tucker says:

          BTW: there is a radiation modeling report out on the WIPP incident. Or radiation release non event as it should now probably be more correctly referred to. Although it still has nothing to do with nuclear power the incident does make a good argument for the achievability of a whole industry of safe waste repositories even withstanding possible mishaps. ( http://www.wipp.energy.gov/Special/Modeling%20Results.pdf )

        • poa says:

          “Specifically what is your point?”

          The same as yours, apparently. Reread my last few comments. I think, if you stop looking for an argument with me, that you will find I’m coming from the same place as you are.

          • John Tucker says:

            well good, and sorry – my bad for not understanding your position more clearly.

    • BobinPgh says:

      John, I have to agree with you, in fact, I think since Reagan and the 80’s I never heard much about ecosystems or pollution as much as in the late 70s. In fact, do you really hear much about solar even anymore? It seems to be all about natural gas from fracking which is much more an environmental disaster than regular gas wells. I haven’t even heard a public service announcement telling people not to litter in decades. It seems like there is a “gag order about environmental issues – that even extends here – I cannot mention the issue that is the “elephant in the room” about climate without someone getting mad at me!

      • John Tucker says:

        Its rather striking when you think about it. Not much has changed with respect to environmental science since then, save advancements in the details.

        The whole movement was cleverly co-opted into selling products in line with preselected philosophies. “Environmentalism” become selling various memberships in anti nuclear organizations, political causes and renewable fundraising and merchandizing movements.

        I think many of the nukes (the people in the field) here, are kinda wondering when the reasonable environmentalists are going to show up. I sure was. But the cavalry probably isn’t coming.

        “Environmentalism” has become so much a dedicated marketing mechanism that it bears little resemblance to actual environmentalism these days.

        Big Green Environmentalism ™ is too busy off selling memberships in anti nuclear groups or promoting other ineffective techs to actually be of use when the best answer seems to point to advocating for more nuclear power.

        Ive begun to think it funny, and also kinda sad, that we (critical, questioning and pro nuclear) are probably it in whats left of the environmental movement now. And most of us here by choice probably only noticed nuclear after fuku. Some of the big names in environmental science and advocacy are coming around to be sure but its as late as late can be.

      • Rod Adams says:

        @BobinPgh

        You’re right. Keep your elephant opinions to yourself. I remain convinced that topic is a huge distraction invented mostly by elites who want to blame problems they have caused on everyone else. BTW, one of the biggest supporters of the theory was one of five brothers from an incredibly rich family.

        • BobinPgh says:

          Actually, I first heard that phrase from Jo Frost on Supernanny. She didn’t think “it” was a distraction. John, I will tell you if there is some way to communicate with you not here but I think you know what “it” is.

          • John T Tucker says:

            Bob Supernanny’s expertise aside Im probably never going to get into the over population thing. Our level of technology pretty much voids petri dish approaches to population and our concepts of individual civil liberties cancels out about all interference in individual reproductive issues.

            There is plenty of matter, energy and space in this universe for everyone if we make the best decisions on collective issues.

        • John T Tucker says:

          BTW Narendra Modi is the new prime minister of India. He has been rather quiet on nuclear energy issues only really vaguely acknowledging them as important to India’s future. I think he resisted considerable pressure to go anti nuclear. I think he will become a strong pro nuclear influence. From 2013 ( http://www.telegraphindia.com/1130807/jsp/nation/story_17204542.jsp#.U3ZiHoYjulM )

          • BobinPgh says:

            John where does this idea of “technology pretty much voids petri dish approaches” come from? To be truthful, me and a lot of other people have never heard that. In fact, “it” was mentioned in the past along with recycling and conserving energy but seems to be taboo today for some reason.

  6. EL says:

    “Utility 2.0″ is an emerging concept in many recent policy, regulatory, and industry discussions looking newer reforms in energy markets (much of which you seem to call “temporary market conditions” in your article above). This seems to be a somewhat natural outgrowth from utility market deregulation (and not a temporary exception due to low pice of natural gas).

    Might be worth looking at several recent efforts and discussions along these lines, and exploring the role and prospects for nuclear power and other capital intense technologies (especially given the experience of early plant retirements). There seems to be many other concerns and issues driving these reforms (beyond the current low price of natural gas).

    A list of recent examples: from New York, Maryland, EEI, and others come to mind. Much of it focused on goals of newer ratemaking procedures, consumer value, system resiliency, and efficiency.

    If nuclear has a role here (beyond baseload and Utility 1.0 approaches), seems worth discussing in some detail. Or risk being left behind in discussions and quickly changing circumstances (much of it already based on fundamental changes in market deregulation and shifts in major stakeholder interests and developments).

    • Jeff Walther says:

      In other words they’ve repackaged and renamed the same old, “smart meter”, we’ll give you retail blackouts and brownouts instead of wholesale, you’re going to be energy poor, and the energy companies and speculators are going to make a killing off the consumer in a supply constrained market, but the consumer should embrace it because it’s the future, line of bull and given it a shiny new cover and are trying to sell it again.

      • John T Tucker says:

        lol – Does the electricity come out of the socket green now? Oh it cant. Perhaps they could install green sockets. Surely worth paying at least double for.

      • EL says:

        In other words they’ve repackaged and renamed the same old, “smart meter” …

        @Jeff Walther

        You’re right … it was so much better waiting for customers to call in to report network faults, and waiting days for power to be restored after a storm.

        http://www.powermag.com/epb-chattanooga-uses-smart-grid-to-future-proof-its-business-model

        http://www.greentechmedia.com/articles/read/Smart-Grid-Spat-in-Chattanooga-Reveals-Grid-Myths-and-Value

        Gigabit internet and a fiber optic connected city … who thought up that one, what a terrible idea. Give us a nuke boiler, and call it a day. “Every residential customer in EPB’s service territory … has realized savings of roughly $330 in their electric rates since 2009.” Pretty dumb if you ask me. And health risks of RF radiation … don’t even get me started.

        • seth says:

          “Every residential customer in EPB’s service territory … has realized savings of roughly $330″

          Yup paid for triple in tax subsidies for wind power.

          • EL says:

            Yup paid for triple in tax subsidies for wind power.

            @seth

            In an era of tea party fanaticism and noisy sensationalism, scary words like “taxes” and “subsidies” just don’t carry the same weight as in the past. How much do folks pay in fossil fuel subsidies, nuclear, etc. Why not just say quintuple or octuple … or something even larger. You left out the word “Solyndra” as well.

            People know what they are paying for (if only on an intuitive basis), and we also know energy is politicized and partisan in our political discourse. Making it even more so (by overusing partisan buzzwords) doesn’t bring a great deal of clarity (and likely does very little to change anybody’s mind). I would guess it probably does more to re-enforce partisan thinking, and rigid or pre-determined ideological attachments and divides.

            Cooper has made an effort to suggest not all subsidies are the same, that subsidies for renewables go “further” than subsidies for nuclear. Any specific thoughts on this or how he has decided to frame the issue?

  7. Susanne E. Vandenbosch says:

    It would be a shame to shut down a nuclear reactor that is currently operating efficiently with little shutdown time. Age, by itself , should not be a disqualifying factor and this is especially true for an energy source that does not contribute to global warming.

    • BobinPgh says:

      It is. I would only hope that the owners of Kewaunee and soon-to-be-shut Vermont Yankee will not take any of those facilities apart for maybe the next 10-15 years in hopes that possibly, the rules might change and they can be restarted.

      • Wayne SW says:

        The Kewaunee situation is tragic, no other word for it. I have been there. It is a beautiful facility. There is absolutely nothing wrong with it. It could easily be operated for another 20 years, maybe 40. The people who have staffed it are consummate professionals. It would cost over a billion dollars to replace. Throwing it away now would be like taking your perfectly serviceable BMW to the junkyard because you’re short of cash to get the oil changed. There really has to be a consensus at the national level that these zero-emissions, reliable, and home-grown facilities are woth keeping.

        • BobinPgh says:

          That is why I say don’t throw it away, keep all the parts there so it can be restarted if Dominion – or some other owner – changes their mind. After all, “they” have 60 years to make it go away and that’s plenty of time to restart if need be. You are right about one of the more “beautiful facilities” as it does have that pretty turquoise blue, why not get rid of an uglier one?

  8. Engineer-Poet says:

    It is truly a pity that we can’t make a bet with the renewables advocates that they cannot actually push fossil-fuel consumption down far enough by doing things their way.  We’d win, and the price of the bet should be doing things our way.

  9. Eino says:

    @WayneSW:

    “There is absolutely nothing wrong with it. It could easily be operated for another 20 years, maybe 40.”

    Is the license defunct? How much hassle would there be with Uncle Sam since it was shut down? Are there maintenance activities that are not being performed that would render the facility permanently inoperable?

  10. Wayne SW says:

    Given the current NRC funding paradigm, the financial penalty for maintaining a license for a non-operating plant is substantial. If that were to change then it might make possible a “dormant plant” license, wherein the yearly costs are lower. Right now it’s an either-or proposition: pay the full amount and operate, or shutdown and give up your license.

    • John T Tucker says:

      That seems exceptionally reasonable and doable now. I wonder why its not a current option.

      • Wayne SW says:

        Well, you said the two words, “reasonable” and “doable”, that make it unlikely that the NRC will act on it. I also have a nagging worry that “the free market” will drive other nuclear operators into the “dormant plant” mode if there is any chance that they can make more money burning natural gas. Until the “market” (or something else) places a real, tangible monetary value on reliable, diverse, emissions-free electricity, at least compared to temporarily cheaper (because of supply, or lack of pollution penalties, or whatever) fossil alternatives, it is going to be a temptation to go dormant. This is shaping up as a classic example of how distortions in the “free” market are destroying the one truly useful, long-term, viable solution to the problem of both stable, reliable supply and environmental preservation.