John Horgan helps New Yorkers understand basic equation – No Nukes + No Gas = More Coal

John Horgan, a science writer who lives just a few miles north of the Indian Point Nuclear Power station, has published a pointed commentary in Scientific American titled No Nukes + No Fracking = More Coal? Indian Point Debate Highlights Green Quandary.

As a converted former opponent of the Indian Point facility, Horgan has done the math and researched the actions of Germany and other countries that have claimed they were shutting down nuclear plants and replacing them with unreliables and doing without (aka renewables and energy conservation). What he has found is that the real power that replaces the reliable, emission free output from nuclear energy plants comes from coal and natural gas.

Sure, there have been well-publicized sunny, mild Saturday afternoons when unreliables provided more than half of the electricity that Germans were using. What the reports did not mention was that the occasion probably happened at a time when a fair portion of population had turned off their industrial equipment, televisions and cooking appliances to enjoy a sunny spring weekend outside.

Horgan has recognized that such events are the exception, not the rule.

After Fukushima, German announced that it would close its nuclear power plants by 2022. But to meet its energy needs, Germany has had to build new fossil-fuel plants, including one of the biggest coal facilities in the world. As The Washington Post reported, “Germany’s dilemma shows how difficult it is to balance competing environmental priorities, even with vast resources and popular support for the efforts.”


I must admit I was just a tiny bit disappointed in Horgan’s piece. Not only did he imply that natural gas would be an adequate substitute for Indian Point, he neglected to credit one of the major reasons that he changed his mind about nuclear energy.

Though he mentioned the influence of my good friend, Gwyneth Cravens, in the evolution of his thinking about energy, he did not say that I was the guy who introduced him to Gwyneth. He didn’t provide any links to the initial Blogginheads conversation that we had about nuclear energy in general or the one that we had on March 16, 2012 about nuclear energy in the aftermath of Fukushima. I’m hurt. (grin) Perhaps it is time for us to get together again.

On another topic, I am looking forward to a gathering tonight of the Virginia chapter of the American Nuclear Society. We are meeting after work at Charley’s to socialize and to listen to a talk titled SC-HTGR – a Generation IV helium cooled reactor for cogeneration of process heat and electricity. (Note: SC-HTGR – Steam Cycle – High Temperature Gas Reactor)

This talk will provide an update on a technology that has fascinated me since 1991 – high temperature gas reactors with fuel that is so well protected by its coatings that it will not be damaged until it reaches a temperature of about 1600 C.

Additional links

John Horgan, a Nuclear Energy Skeptic, Interviews Rod Adams for Blogginghead.tv

Guest Blog at Scientific American – The Influence of Information on an Open, Inquiring Mind

John Horgan – Converting to pro-nuclear nut after reading Power to Save the World and touring Indian Point

John Horgan and Rod Adams talk about nuclear energy in the context of an enormous natural disaster

About Rod Adams

14 Responses to “John Horgan helps New Yorkers understand basic equation – No Nukes + No Gas = More Coal”

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  1. Daniel says:

    Rod,

    2 things that must be considered regarding nuclear energy:

    1) As per Nnadir, a nuclear plant is an 80 year long gift to future generations.

    2) As per William Tucker, the advantages of nuclear power are so extraordinary. Just look at Japan and Germany’s stumbling efforts to get rid of nuclear to see it in action.

  2. Joel Riddle says:

    Good work, Rod, even if he didn’t mention you in this writing.

    • Joel Riddle says:

      Also, be sure to take some good notes at the meeting tonight, as I’m sure Cal Abel, myself, and many others would be interested. Somehow I had missed the announcement of the Areva design being selected. As an American, that does sadden me a bit, but Areva probably is the biggest, most close to being purely nuclear corporation that there is (with Rosatom maybe being close behind). Traveling down that thought trail makes me think less of Jeff Immelt and GE’s lack of commitment to nuclear energy and their seemingly excessive crony-ism.

      • Jeff S says:

        As for GE, I’m not sure they’re out of the game. They do kind of seem to have given up on Gen III+, but they seem to still be quietly plugging along with their Gen IV fast breeder (PRISM). They’re supposed to be cooperating with DOE to build a demo reactor, I think, at Savannah River Site, aren’t they? Also, they’ve offered to pay for the upfront-costs for a PRISM in the UK, if the British Govt accepts their proposal (I think GE’s thought their is that they’ll build the plant, then charge the UK government to “dispose” of the UK’s plutonium, while simultaneously selling electricity on the grid. . . which would be a great deal for GE as long as the plant works out – they get PAID to take fuel from the UK’s govt, then get paid again by ratepayers.

        That’s like getting someone to pay you for gas for your car, then being able to charge people for taxi rides in your car.

  3. martin burkle says:

    Rod,
    Should we have a little birthday party? I noticed over at World Nuclear Association that the number of reactor-years as just pasted 15,000.
    Martin

  4. James Greenidge says:

    You know what really says it all? Act as a on-the-street radio reporter and ask people in Manhattan how many people Fukushima killed. Lots of fun. Even if they don’t know what Fukushima is, once you mention that nuclear reactors there were wrecked by a quake, watch their eyes and causality guesses spin! This is just about all the nuclear enlightenment we in New York metro have about Indian Point, and don’t even get into the post-Shoreham media’s brand of “public education”; “Gee, there’s something DANGEROUS” sittin’ up the Hudson there ’cause it’s a nuclear thing! Those domes are just big giant eggshells that just can’t wait to blow and burst raydeashun all over!!” No joke. That’s a prevailing street opinion here. You’d think in the face of a shutdown threat that the outfit running Indian Point would’ve saturated the NYC airwaves with some nuclear education like comparative industrial mortality rates and tangible historical safety records. Think again. Watch New Yorkers happily eat LNG via nuclear ignorance and FUD. At least I have to admire that Vermont Yankee and its proponents rose up on their hind legs and defended themselves. Too bad Maine and Conn didn’t do same!

    James Greenidge
    Queens NY

    • Daniel says:

      James,

      I gather that former NYC mayor Giuliani is still involved with Indian Point on the pro side.

      This fight ain’t over.

  5. David Walters says:

    So…out of curiosity…in the article Rod linked to there is a link provided by a commentator here:

    http://www.riverkeeper.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/Synapse-Indian-Point-Replacement-Study-10-11.pdf

    It purportedly shows that “no natural gas will have to be used” if they follow this “path” to replace the power. I’d like to see a dicing and parsing of this report.

    David

    • Daniel says:

      @ David,

      I stopped glancing at new 4,000 MW of wind and solar resources by 2022.

      They should call 911_Spain_is bankrupt_on-solar. But I guess New york is shinier than Spain.

      But as long as the US ‘lemonade stand’ approach to wind and solar perdures where the state foots up the bill, the illusion will allow some major bucks to be wasted again.

      As for wind, Texas and Chicago have been excluded of the US learning curve. But no for Pickens, who is OUT of wind literally.

      • Jeff Walther says:

        Seth, I think you made some excellent points with real numbers in your comment, but I think it would serve you/us/society better if you made them a little less vociferously.

        Imagine your audience as the mildly interested, undecided reader.

        The anti-nuke people will dismiss your numbers as made up, anyway. That’s what they do, unless a miracle happens and you’re corresponding with one who actually tries to use the scientific method.

        So, when you have such a public debate, it’s a bit like a presidential debate. You want to appear to the be the calm, confident, reasonable person in the argument.

        I know when I imagine myself arguing with an Anti, I get very worked up and just want to explode all over them, but imagine that undecided person over there. He/she is the one you really need to convince, with your cool presentation of clear numbers unclouded by anything that smacks of extremism. You can trust the other side to appear extremist.

        I probably would have skipped your leading sentence adn concluding paragraph. They’re very satisfying, but to an undecided mind, they’re signposts that you are very emotional on the issue, rather that presenting calm, trustworthy facts.

        You can still get the message across about big oil and gas, but state it simply and plainly without the disdain and I think you’ll persuade more folks. We really need to focus on converting the undecided, and get the message out that there is a bright future with plentiful affordable energy, and not the dingy future of poverty spending every spare moment looking for more ways to conserve, conserve, conserve.

        Contrast the future the anti/Greens offer with the future pro nuclear offers. And keep banging the real world example of Germany vs. France: dirty air vs. clean air, $.27Eu/KWHr vs. $.13Eu/KWHr and Germany’s rates just went up a few more hundredths of a Euro.

        Then again, I could be totally wrong.

        • George Carty says:

          I think for many pro-nukes (including myself) the ultimate political goal would be to convince people that anti-nukes are depopulationist maniacs who should be ground into the dust…

          • James Greenidge says:

            If there were only a way (a pro-nuke truth squad?) to chase down the FUD-mongers’ appearances and squash their lies and rhetoric with ready facts and proof that’d do the job well enough, but they get away unchallenged in auditoriums and TV appearances 95% of the time. To me that’s the crux of nuclear’s PR problem. In NYC metro we have (upper class based) anti-Indian Point nature and river groups out to smear facts about nuclear power and stifling its safety record from schools and public along with an outrageously complicit media. They use FUD and exaggerated nit-pick nightmare scenarios and cute seemingly benign and humane-sounding labels like being “peace” groups even though I haven’t heard any of Indian Point cranking out any bombs, yet we get zit in the local media from the outfit running Indian Point countering the FUD. The nuclear industry and nuclear professional organizations have been slaggards and a half at debunking antis and putting them on the defensive for once with some well thought out educational PSAs (Hey, if Puppy Rescue can do it here!…). It’s inexcusable. I mean don’t you want to help save your own industry and careers and the energy security of the nation from being abolished by hysterical tree-huggers?

            James Greenidge
            Queens NY

  6. Mike H says:

    I see a gaping hole in Horgan’s conclusion that “No Nukes + No Gas = More Coal” … he’s assuming there’s capacity on NPCC’s grid to handle transfers from other regions.

    These days its nearly as difficult to get a transmission line built as it is a new power plant.

    Even if there were the capacity within NPCC’s network, ECAR and MACC are going to retire so many additional coal units in the next 10 years because of boiler MACT and CSAPR, I doubt they will have the electrons to spare.

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