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.