Passionate defense of nuclear energy

About two years ago, I made a trip from Virginia to Gaffney, South Carolina to talk at a public meeting being held about the draft environmental impact statement prepared for the proposed William States Lee nuclear power station which will include two 1140 MWe Westinghouse AP1000&#174 reactor units.

That proposed new power plant project is still being pursued, though not on the same schedule as it was in 2012. The final Environmental Impact Statement was submitted to the Environmental Protection Agency in December 2013.

I’m posting this today because I stumbled across it while conducting some site maintenance. I’d almost forgotten that someone had captured my passionate public participation on video.

About Rod Adams

47 Responses to “Passionate defense of nuclear energy”

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  1. John T Tucker says:

    While poking around for some hard numbers – I doubt I could get it but some of you here that are motivated could and should :

    IPCC – Synthesis Report Expert and Government Review
    21 April – 13 June 2014 ( http://www.ipcc-syr.nl/review/registration/ )

    Believe me the incompetent Greenpeace and UCS types will be all over this pushing failing ideas.

  2. Mitch says:

    E-mail this clip to Varney & Cavuto @ Foxnews.

  3. Smiling Joe Fission says:

    Great speech Rod! This is the passion the industry needs.

    • Joris van Dorp says:

      Agree.

      Rod, thanks for posting this. I think you do an excellent job.

  4. John T Tucker says:

    National Climate Assessment ( http://nca2014.globalchange.gov/downloads )

    I went straight to the “Energy, Water, and Land” section. I wasn’t pleased. There seems to be little discussion of scale, intermittentcy and dependence/integration costs. In other words less hard reality than I would have liked.

    I be reading more and looking but it so far to be frank its appears off the bat, in the small parts I have read, like too much UCS type concern trolling and another missed opportunity.

    I hope I am jumping to unreasonable conclusions and am wrong and that many of you will disagree and point out exceptions to me.

    • John T Tucker says:

      BTW the USGS has a blurb up with a nice areal pic of the Sequoyah Nuclear Power Plant cooling towers.

      “Water and energy have a close relationship where almost all energy development ventures require water for a variety of purposes.

      USGS scientists study the consumptive use of thermoelectric power. Water for use by thermoelectric power plants constitutes the single largest category of water withdrawals, but much of that water is not consumed, but returned to the environment. ( http://www.usgs.gov/blogs/features/usgs_top_story/earth-week-a-tributary-to-water/?from=image )

      • John T Tucker says:

        Unfortunately the “LAND USE AND LAND COVER CHANGE” had nothing to do with energy or habitat and more about agriculture and living situations with respect to climate change.

        Very depressing. I was really looking forward to this report as the point where the Obama administration got real and addressed the issues honestly.

        This isnt a new assessment at all. Its a how to on the continued selling a environmentally destructive and at best questionable gas heavy, “all of the above” policy. It uses climate change as a vehicle and a prop. It has no real new, or even up to date science.

        • John T Tucker says:

          Never-mind, I guess the report was more a weighted warning against climate change. Its not a plan, its not anything new. I was probably looking at it wrong. My mistake.

          Obama and Co.’s climate change initiative, and other climate advocacy sites in general are forever reinventing the same wheel battling the ridiculous deniers, fluffing political differences and trying to re package and sell basic atmospheric science. All the while the shysters use and encourage the fray to obscure the realities and sell more snake oil, and the situation just gets worse.

    • John T Tucker says:

      Specifically some parts of the “Energy, Water, and Land” report find incorrect and perhaps even offensive in its dishonesty:

      …Particularly relevant to climate change mitigation are the energy, water, and land risks associated with low-carbon electricity generation. For example, expansion of nuclear power and coal power with CCS are two measures that have been discussed as a potential part of a future decarbonized energy system. Both are also potentially water intensive and therefore have vulnerabilities related to climate impacts and competing water uses.

      Alternatively, renewable generation and combined cycle gas and coal have relatively modest water withdrawals (see also EPRI 24 2011 )….

      …There are evolving water and land requirements for four energy technologies: natural gas from shale, solar power, bio-fuels, and carbon dioxide capture and storage (CCS). Each of these four technologies could contribute to reducing U.S. emissions of greenhouse gases.

      So none of the suggestion are FF free/and base-load. All will contribute to GW as is. A lot of it of it has runoff and significant surface/climate modifications. Some of it unproven and experimental and they forget to mention Nuclear can and has been modified with respect to water requirements.

      I hope other sections are better thought out.

  5. John T Tucker says:

    Oh god a heavily Mousseau influenced “science” piece on the 28th anniversary of Chernobyl in the NYT.

    ( http://www.nytimes.com/2014/05/06/science/nature-adapts-to-chernobyl.html?hpw&rref=science )

    The piece draws more speculation on top of speculation from the same kind of vague statistical basis. Those also were also very poorly done and also some based in discredited east block work.

    The NYT just posts it in there science section like its gospel truth.

    “The weight of past evidence (e.g. IAEA 1992) is that radiation exposures currently pertaining in the vast majority of the 30 km zone cause no significant harm to animal populations. Studies to test this hypothesis should continue, but it should not be rejected without strong, reproducible, refuting evidence from both laboratory
    and field studies.”
    ( http://rsbl.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/4/1/63.full.pdf+html )

    • John T Tucker says:

      I guess that kinda solves the repeatable results thing for Mousseau. As they have “evolved” and are now super swallows and x mutant bugs resistant to the murderous levels of Chernobyl radiation spread far, wide and evidently somewhat evenly everywhere. Proves he was right all along. Hes working Japan now too. I wonder if National Geographic will throw money at him again.

      God how embarrassing.

  6. Phil Weyenberg says:

    Rod,

    Thank you for your knowledge and passion for an essential ingredient in climate stabilization. Cutting through people’s mental blocks about looking clearly at nuclear energy is very difficult. Here in Maine I am telling our Elders Group for Future Generations, that we could power everything in the state with 4-5 Seabrook size reactors. That includes home heating and electric cars. I don’t know if that is exactly correct but it is close. Zero carbon emissions in Maine would beat Sweden and be a beacon for what the whole planet needs to do. Right now the light has not dawned on many but the future is bright and if we don’t mind the boos of conventual thinking, it is a courageous and heroic undertaking.

  7. Mitch says:

    Phil Weyenberg I’m surprised Maine’s not more pro-nuke what the defense shipyards and repair bases up there that need the juice! How’d they ever let a tiny group of clowns shut it down like that??

    • Joris van Dorp says:

      The reason is that the main body public generally does not protest until the resulting ‘unintentional’ problems are too big too ignore. That’s how all bad policy gets implemented. The key is IMO to make sure that the public – once roused in justified dissatisfaction with failed policies as they start to bear their bitter fruits – is guided quickly and effectively toward to specific parties who caused the failed policy.

  8. Phil Weyenberg says:

    We are working hard to stop tar sands coming through South Portland and it’s looking good. But most of the same people still have only dreamy ideas about replacing carbon with with tidal etc. How about replacing superfluous destroyer building with floating nuclear power stations at Bath Iron Works? Have them also make gasoline from sea water for the lobster men, while they’re at it? Thoughts abound.

    • Rod Adams says:

      @Phil Weyenberg

      Though there is nothing wrong with nuclear ship propulsion, I am not a huge fan of locating power plants off shore, especially off of your stormy shore. One of the reasons why nuclear ships have a good safety record is that they generally take evasive actions when a really big storm is on the way.

      It is much easier — and cheaper — to build nuclear plants on land, especially in a relatively low population density place like Maine. They would have little impact on the surrounding population, and they would be a lot better place to work than trying to get to an off shore facility every day.

  9. Phil Weyenberg says:

    Once again you are right Rod. Off shore is actually a pipe dream, and a bad one. Just trying to find work(prosperity) for us. But with abundant energy, the prosperity would follow as it does.
    Where on the land would be the best places to site them if current technology reactors were built? Somewhere along our rivers I suppose.

    Phil

    • Rod Adams says:

      @Phil Weyenberg

      Your shipyards would be good assembly locations for modular reactors, even if they are on land.

      Your rivers and your shorelines would be good locations. I think you also have some large, deep, cold water lakes that would be appropriate for moderate sized plants, but those are the ones that would fit best in your state anyway.

      • Eino says:

        Maine is supposed to be kind of a cold state. Is air cooling unrealistic? I think Fort St Vrain was air cooled. The cooling surface needs to be much larger, but you don’t have the thermal pollution worries of dumping all that heat into a river or lake.

        Seems like Maine could also be a candidate for co-gen. The waste heat from the reactor may be able to heat a neighborhood or three.

        • Engineer-Poet says:

          Some time ago I suggested placing SMRs underground so that low-pressure steam could be used for space heat in winter (and perhaps to drive absorption chillers in summer).  A few hundred feet of rock, including an impervious layer blocking water flow, would be more than enough to keep people safe from any possible reactor mishap.  You’d need some alternate cooling during the seasons when heat wasn’t needed for anything.

          Michigan in particular is underlain by a layer of rock salt.  This has been mined beneath Detroit.  I’m sure there are reactor designs that could be placed in the open spaces.  If you had something like an mPower at 530 MW(th) and a slightly reduced 170 MW(e), you’d have 360 MW of waste heat or 1.23 billion BTU/hr.  At 1034 BTU/ft³, that would replace 1.19 million ft³ of natural gas per hour, 28.5 million ft³/day, about 4.3 billion ft³ from Dec. 1 to April 30; you’d have some more year-round for things like DHW.  The EIA reports about 4.7 trillion ft³ per year of residential gas consumption, so a single small reactor could displace nearly 0.1% of it with its waste heat and every bit of it carbon-free.

          • Engineer-Poet says:

            Continuing that idea a bit further, 1.23 billion BTU is 12,300 therms.  12,300 therms/hr * 24 hr/day * 151 days/yr is 44.6 million therms; times 60¢/therm equivalent cost of NG, that’s just shy of 27 million dollars per year avoided cost, over half a billion dollars over the first 20 years.

            There are Possibilities there.

          • Eino says:

            Only part of Michigan lies on the rock salt. God’s country in da UP is on the Canadian shield.

            Years ago I read about lithium bromide air conditioners that can take steam and use it for air conditioning. I wonder if that is another possibility for better utilization of the heat year round.

        • Rod Adams says:

          @Eino

          Excellent points. It is kind of funny that power plant designers often talk about using air cooling only in places that are very dry, which are often places that are quite warm as well.

          Cold air makes for a pretty good heat sink. SMRs are often touted as being useful for district heating systems because the total amount of rejected heat would be a reasonable match for such a system and because the plants have enough passive safety features to allow them to be located close enough to a load that the piping heat losses would be manageable.

  10. Rich Lentz says:

    Here is what Warren Buffet thinks of Wind Farms telling an audience at last weekends stockholders meeting in Nebraska: “I will do anything that is basically covered by the law to reduce Berkshire’s tax rate. For example, on wind energy, we get a tax credit if we build a lot of wind farms. That’s the only reason to build them.”

    That more than any “study” explains the reason for building therm. PERIOD

    • Joris van Dorp says:

      Absolutely. Two weeks ago, a debate was hosted on Dutch television about government plans to builds thousands of industrial wind turbines onshore in our densely populated country, which is only the beginning of an ultimate plan to build many more thousands in the future. On the pro-wind side, a farmer argued that he was not irritated by the nuisance of the turbines on his property because he was being compensated financially. He argued this in reaction to the argument of a homeowner on the anti-wind side that the turbines were a nuisance to her and a reason for her to try to move to another home. This clear admission of the role of financial compensation for some, while the effects of the nuisance is borne by others, caused quite a stir in the audience.

      Eventually, the anti-wind side won the debate and one of their arguments was that the nuclear option made the wind option less than essential (as was repeatedly claimed by the pro-wind side.)

      Video of the debate (In Dutch, without subtitles unfortunately)
      http://www.eo.nl/ditisdedag/arena/aflevering/arena-10/

  11. Phil Weyenberg says:

    Given that modular reactors are the way to go in a state like Maine,and that they could be positioned in such a way that they do little harm to the aquatic environment, when could they realistically come on line? The U.S. Is a long way from demonstration let alone production of modular reactors. On the other hand to get reactors from China could take longer. Could it be as soon as 2030? I mean powering a zero carbon emissions state….all of it (not counting campfires). Or am I way off? 2040? The clock is ticking.

    • Rod Adams says:

      @Phil Weyenberg

      If we make reasonable progress, your state could have a completely decarbonized power grid before 2030. It would only take a few B&W mPowerTM reactors or a couple of the NuScale 12 unit power stations to achieve that goal.

      • Engineer-Poet says:

        There’s a site of a former BWR (decommissioned) not far from me.  It could easily be re-developed with either of those two technologies (technically, not politically).

  12. John T Tucker says:

    People should be passionate about nuclear now. Surface Ozone as we seen is a growing problem and particulate pollution is getting worse as well:

    Air quality deteriorating in many of the world’s cities

    About half of the urban population being monitored is exposed to air pollution that is at least 2.5 times higher than the levels WHO recommends – putting those people at additional risk of serious, long-term health problems.

    In most cities where there is enough data to compare the situation today with previous years, air pollution is getting worse. Many factors contribute to this increase, including reliance on fossil fuels such as coal fired power plants, dependence on private transport motor vehicles, inefficient use of energy in buildings, and the use of biomass for cooking and heating.

    In April 2014, WHO issued new information estimating that outdoor air pollution was responsible for the deaths of some 3.7 million people under the age of 60 in 2012. The Organization also emphasised that indoor and outdoor air pollution combined are among the largest risks to health worldwide. ( http://www.who.int/mediacentre/news/releases/2014/air-quality/en/ )

    Probably the single greatest global health issue is malnutrition. It is estimated to be a factor in one third of all child deaths and to be the largest single contributor to disease in the world. Not only does climate change play a role in food production high food pricing is also thought to be one of the most common factors influencing malnutrition. Many energy related factors come into play here: fuel costs, competition with fuel crops, fertilizer costs, etc…

    A new study out also reinforces the claims that higher CO2 as a culprit in the lowering of nutritional value of many crops. They are not exactly sure of the mechanism(s):

    Increasing CO2 threatens human nutrition ( http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/vaop/ncurrent/full/nature13179.html )

    BBC story:

    CO2 ‘significantly reduces’ nutrients in major food crops ( http://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-27308720 )

    Experiments show levels of zinc, iron and protein are likely to be reduced by up to 10% in wheat and rice by 2050.

    Around a third of the global population are already suffering from iron and zinc shortages, leading to some 63 million life years being lost annually as a result.

  13. Don Cox says:

    There is a problem with using air cooling in Maine, which is that average air temperatures will rise by several degrees over the life of the plant.

    It will probably still work, but calculations will have to allow for this.

  14. Mitch says:

    Unable to leave feedback at the Times and the antis have a monopoly on the comments. Can anyone else get through?

    http://www.nytimes.com/2014/05/09/opinion/debating-the-merits-of-nuclear-power.html?_r=1

  15. John T Tucker says:

    $1.9 trillion worldwide—the equivalent of 2½ percent of global GDP or 8 percent of government revenues – in Fossil fuel subsidies.

    ENERGY SUBSIDY REFORM: LESSONS AND IMPLICATIONS ( http://www.imf.org/external/np/pp/eng/2013/012813.pdf )

    “On average, the richest 20 percent of households in low- and middle-income countries capture 43 percent of fuel subsidies,”

    “eliminating pre-tax subsidies would reduce global CO2 emissions by about 1-2 percent”

    • Rich Lentz says:

      And are the TRUE subsidies determined? If GE pays no taxes because of their “green Energy” efforts then how big is that subsidy? How many others companies pay no taxes because of their Green expenditures? How much does the middleclass pay extra because of the tax breaks the Greenies get? Friends in up-state NY are complaining about the fact that their property taxes went up because of the “gift” the state/county gave the landowners that have wind turbines, who are also getting paid to have them on their property. Is that factored into the Wind Subsidy? Who is going to pay to remove that stuff when obsolete? The farmer, the county, the state? YOU?

      • John T Tucker says:

        Something that is destructive and injures health so broadly, as fossil fuels do, shouldnt be subsidized. Thats my strong opinion on the matter Rich.

        Im all for much more real subsidies of nuclear power even to the point the actual plants being nationally built, owned then perhaps leased out.

        We can print money to cover it and it would be a much better investment than printing and providing it, zero interest rates, to wall street banks.

        The “green” stuff is probably going to be more trouble than its worth in the environmental scheme as well as others, but whatever, the fossil fuel subsidies need to go away.

        • Rod Adams says:

          @John T Tucker

          Something that is destructive and injures health so broadly, as fossil fuels do, shouldn’t be subsidized.

          I disagree with your characterization. Fossil fuels have done far more good for public health, safety and prosperity than harm. Their harm has been dramatically reduced over the years with improved pollution controls.

          My beef with the subsidies is that fossil fuel companies are some of the largest and richest companies in the world. Their “earnings” don’t always impress people, but their cash flows are world beating. I always take earnings numbers with a grain of salt, knowing that profits are taxable. Many companies who know that their stocks are attractive for fundamental reasons do everything they can to lower their reported profit numbers to keep their tax rate as low as possible. Besides, enormous executive and management salaries are “costs” that reduce profits.

          My numbers are a couple of years old, but I once recognized that ExxonMobil, with a total employee count of 80,000 people had annual revenues that were three times the US Navy’s entire budget – which supported about a million direct employees, a number of supporting contracting businesses, and some very expensive hardware.

          • John Tucker says:

            “Fossil fuels have done far more good for public health, safety and prosperity than harm.” – Of course, by far, but they are also not something to get sentimental about. If their impact can be reduced and/or there is a viable alternative then its time to whip them into shape/kick then to the curb.

            Certainly now after hearing those numbers I am even less keen on them.

  16. John T Tucker says:

    Well, as we all knew, the NG pipeline network is hardly safe and bears no comparison whatsoever to nuclear safety:

    PHMSA’s State Pipeline Safety Program Lacks Effective Management and Oversight ( http://www.oig.dot.gov/library-item/6514 ) the link to the full report is there.

    Its almost comical that NG has been allowed to slide so far when it comes to safety. Even after all the pipeline incidents.

    It would have been easier and probably much shorter if they had said what wasn’t wrong with the process. The summary basically says they don’t even know what they don’t even know!

  17. Paul W Primavera says:

    Good speech. Another smoking gun:

    The Farce Is Complete: Joe Biden’s Son Joins Board Of Largest Ukraine Gas Producer
    http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2014-05-13/farce-complete-joe-bidens-son-joins-board-largest-ukraine-gas-producer

    There is a reason why Democrat politicians are opposed to nuclear energy (or apathetic at best): they are enriched by money from fossil fuels, and all their green energy wind mill and solar cell schemes require constant fossil fuel spinning reserve. Constrict energy supply, Restrict health care access. Stupidify the educational system. And emasculate the military. Such are their tactics.

    I know you think this is partisan, but I am NOT a Republican either. I support low cost, pollution free energy for everyone, affordable health care access, a robust education for our young, and an overwhelmingly powerful military that defends freedom at home and leaves other nations alone. We have none of this under “hope and change”, and our energy system is getting worse. Just the other day I was talking with a friend in a regulatory agency who unabashedly admitted that it is the liberals in government who are devastating the nuclear power industry in this country. You want nuclear power to succeed? I do and I know you do. Then change your paradigm because what you got has shut down SONGS, VY, Kewanee, and Crystal River, and is threatening Indian Point which liberal progressive Democrat Andy Cuomo is opposing tooth and nail just as his father Mario did Shoreham.

    I believe in everything Rod said in his speech. Rod is a good man. But putting his belief into reality requires discarding failed ideas into the trash can of refuse where they belong.

    And PS, no, I am NOT a right wing racist homophobe. I am a Catholic Christian. As such, I do not care what color a person’s skin is (well, actually, I do; my Filipino wife’s skin color is a beautiful shade of brown), or what personal relationship someone has with another person. Not my business. I got enough of my own sins to confess. I do however care about making Rod’s dream a reality because I care about the human race made in God’s image and likeness.

    • Phil Weyenberg says:

      Secret message. To all politicians: Come out now advocating nuclear energy then back it up with sound proposals to succeed. Start with investigating the reason any reactors should be shut down given the Climate challenge. Then change the dynamics somehow. I don’t care if it is a carbon fee, Wall Street reform, executive order, whatever but fix it. Now you’re on the path to ramping up R&D&Demonstration, then lots of factories working 24/7 to build the modules like the liberty ships. By now you have won the Nobel Prize. Instillation means plenty of electricity, heat, exotic fuels and tiny footprint. Calling all Republicans, Democrats, Greens, other, or make one up, but you with leadership skills, who can take the heat, will be rewarded with a job very well done.

      • Paul W Primavera says:

        I agree with Phil. I have a few make or break criteria when it comes to voting. One of them is nuclear energy. If he or she is anti-nuke, then regardless of political party, I vote against. I am not however a single issue voter and my other criteria are moral in nature. I follow Church teaching period. Indeed without deviation those politicians who fail the nuke criteria fail the moral criteria, too. I do not think this is coincidental.

    • John T Tucker says:

      “And emasculate the military.”

      wut??

      Our military is far better force now than it probably has ever been. The stuff they used to waste time on was nearly criminal. If not criminal.

      Sexism, abuse, do you remember the Iowa “investigation” ? Here is a refresher ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/USS_Iowa_turret_explosion )

      Come on. I had 4.0 evals and the reason I left the military was mainly because of their entrenched bigotry. They screwed so many people over back in the day, and the people that did it just sat back and collected retirement – it is something of an insult for someone to try to rewrite history.

  18. William P Gloege says:

    Rod, Lose the sunglasses. You look great without them.

    Good speech. The submarine part is powerful. People living safely and in good health right next to a nuclear power plant. That is very compelling stuff and I wonder why our American sub history is not used a lot to support nuclear for the nation.

    If you want to pursue your conference “fantasy”, write me. It would be west coast however. That may not work for you. A university would be involved.

    Where can I find more submarine information for our nuclear support group out here near Diablo Canyon plant? (Citizens for Green Nuclear Power). Thank you.
    Bill

    • Rod Adams says:

      @Bill

      What kind of submarine information do you want? There are all kinds of good sources depending on your focus area.

      You might be interested, for example in some of the statistics you can glean from the annual reports filed by the NNSA about the health and safety of the submarine force.

      http://nnsa.energy.gov/ourmission/poweringnavy/annualreports

      With regard to your offer about the conference, I’m interested and willing to travel.

  19. Luca Bertagnolio says:

    Great speech Rod! The passion with which you delivered your clear message was visible, and you use hard facts to back up your position. Kudos to you!

    As an Italian, though, I take offence on Edison being the inventor of the battery. It was Alessandro Volta who invented the battery back in 1800, not Edison whom in 1800 was -47 years old! :-)

    Otherwise maybe your wall socket would be a 110E socket, and not a 110V one! ;-)

    Ciao, Luca

    • Luca Bertagnolio says:

      Ah, I have just noticed from the YouTube comments that 2 years ago some other person, likely another Italian, made the same comment on the inventor of the battery. Disregard my message.