Westinghouse CEO: Decommissioning is part of the nuclear life cycle

Editor’s note: This guest post is in response to Westinghouse’s Roderick shifts resources from SMR to AP1000.


By Danny Roderick

I enjoy your blog and overall you get it right so I wanted to provide a little comment about growing our Westinghouse decommissioning business. Our fundamental business is growth in new units and servicing/fueling the existing fleet. Westinghouse is very aggressive in doing both of these. We have more new unit orders than we have plants on the decommissioning backlog so the net is still a positive trend for our industry.

Another obligation our industry has is to fulfill our promise to return the land that these plants used during their service life and show that our overall impact was positive to the environment. Part of the mystique about nuclear power is that it is widely believed that plant sites will be a forever wasteland, which is completely untrue. We as an industry have to eliminate that fear and show how we can return the land to useable property to gain support for new build.

Westinghouse’s decommissioning business is not a negative. It is a recognition of a life cycle that is manageable. Yes, it is a business opportunity for job growth, but it is also a way we develop new tooling and technology that we use in our new units and in our operating fleets.

Danny Roderick
Chief Executive Officer
Westinghouse Electric Company

Danny Roderick is president and chief executive officer of Westinghouse Electric Company, headquartered in Pittsburgh. Westinghouse is a leading nuclear energy company and worldwide supplier of nuclear plant products and technologies.


Response from Rod Adams

Here is the quote from the original post that stimulated Roderick to respond.

In a rather depressing conclusion to the article, Roderick noted that Westinghouse sees a growing opportunity to build its reactor decommissioning business. His company believes that market for destroying nuclear plants may provide as much annual revenue as building new reactors.

I hope Roderick is wrong.

My initial comment was not as much about Westinghouse’s business model or its decision to expand a business line that customers seem to want. It was about the current level of value placed on the output of nuclear power plants that are still in the prime of their life. Leaders in government and in the utility industry need to do a better job of recognizing and explaining the importance of generating electricity without producing CO2, NOx, SOx, fly ash, scrubber slurry, and other unmitigated waste products.

When nuclear plants need to be repaired, they should be repaired with a minimum level of external interference, especially when that intervention is aimed at increasing cost, slowing the schedule and inserting uncertainty into the process. The government must stop ratcheting rules to increase cost without a commensurate increase in safety or reliability.

No state level bureaucrats should believe that they have the power to harass a nuclear plant that serves customers in other states so much that its owners decide to shut it down. As long as they follow federal safety rules and maintain their federal licenses, nuclear plants should be allowed to quietly serve their customers. Electricity is a vital product in interstate commerce; it is not a business whose impact stops at state lines. That is especially true for a facility like Vermont Yankee, which is located within a few dozen yards of the state line.

To borrow some words from Jeff Immelt, I hope that Roderick’s successor’s successor will be glad that Westinghouse has developed a world beating reputation for being capable of taking apart old reactor plants that can no longer perform their task of generating clean, low cost electricity.

Decommissioning nuclear power plants should be a big business once existing nuclear plants reach 60 or 80 years old. Even in the US, the home to some of the oldest nuclear plants in the world, we still have about 20 years to go before that condition arrives.

Even when the decommissioning business becomes important, few, if any projects should plan for greenfield restoration. Efforts to decommission old nuclear plants should be structured to prepare the site for continued use as the host of new nuclear power plants. After all, electricity is not a fad. Its replacement energy source is not even visible in laboratories.

Plant sites should never be considered to have the potential to be “forever wasteland,” but their owners should start now in helping people understand that they will most likely be in perpetual use as nuclear energy generating stations. It is hard to imagine a higher and better use for a licensable piece of land that already has a well supported place in the electrical power grid.

Rod Adams
Publisher, Atomic Insights

About Guest Author

70 Responses to “Westinghouse CEO: Decommissioning is part of the nuclear life cycle”

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  1. Daniel says:

    Well maintained plants can go well beyong 60 years.

    This is another myth worth destroying.

  2. jmdesp says:

    I think people who have read the environmental statement of the existing nuclear plants can realize that opposite to a wasteland, many of them are precisely, today, allowing wild life to thrive.

    The Davis-Besse unit has actually created around itself a wild life preservation area that enable bird to thrive, Navarre Marsh is actually protected by the nuclear plan, becoming one of the least disturbed examples of a marsh habitat in Northwest Ohio, and the statement reports an **increase** in American Bald Eagles nesting near the plant.
    http://www.examiner.com/article/navarre-marsh-sits-protected-by-davis-besse-nuclear-power-station

    The area around the Clinton plant has become a state recreation area, where people can enjoy boating, as well as the beach, on the artificial cooling lake.
    http://dnr.state.il.us/lands/landmgt/parks/R3/clinton.htm

    Despite all the opposition to it’s construction, the Diablo Canyon plant’s buildings actually use a really small area, and the strong access restrictions help preserve all the rest of the buffer zone in it’s natural state :
    http://www.zimfamilycockers.com/DiabloCanyon.html

    Nuclear professionals should stand proud about what they actually do, instead of giving undeserved munitions to their opponents to attack their industry. Fracking and coal have a lot more negative points against them, but they never hesitate to do that.

  3. Shaker Cherukuri says:

    At this stage in the life-cycle of the 110 Nuclear Power Plants in the US, the total spend in the GW+ Baseload segment is likely to be higher for decommissioning rather than new construction in the next two decades.

    I believe we are headed towards more of a distributed power generation. Wind, solar and SMRs are likely to play a bigger role in this new architecture as coal and fossil fuels get phased out. Natural Gas could continue to be a player although I am not sure about the huge 100MW Gas turbines. Electric vehicles could serve a dual-purpose as storage for the grid.

    • Cory Stansbury says:

      I would be pretty upset at the idea of the grid cycling my battery to compensate for a poorly thought out, unstable generation base.

      • Rod Adams says:

        @Cory

        I suspect that Shaker has no concept of the cost associated with battery use. Either that, or he expects people to give their valuable and limited cycles away as a public service to the grid.

      • Brian Mays says:

        Cory – Actually, in this scheme (scam?), there is very little cycling of the car batteries.

        I’ve actually read many of the papers on V2G (Vehicle to Grid) that were published by the professors at the University of Delaware who pioneered this idea. The technical aspects of this concept are glossed over and merely assumed to work. These papers focus only on the economics.

        In order to make this scheme work, the owners of the vehicles are not paid much money at all to supply electricity to the grid. Rather their income is based on what high-cost, low-capacity generators — such as inefficient oil- and gas-burning peaking plants — are paid simply to be available.

        Thus, for this to work economically for the car owners (assuming that massive subsidies are not involved), they would need to sign a contract agreeing that they would leave their car at home and plugged into the grid connection about 18 to 20 hours every day, making the car mostly worthless as a form of transportation.

        This scheme would work fine for a third or fourth vehicle owned by a relatively well-off family, who wants to make a few bucks on the side with their extra car. But if the purpose of this idea is to encourage people to go into the amateur electricity supply business, then it makes far more economic sense simply to buy a couple of industrial-sized batteries (the kind used by data centers) and park them in a corner of the basement. These batteries would be (1) less expensive, (2) more reliable, and (3) require less maintenance/upkeep than the crazy “I’m going to power the grid with my car” scheme proposed by the V2G fanboys.

    • Daniel says:

      Distributed power generation? It is being tried in Germany. Are you sure you want to go there ?

    • robjoh says:

      Electric vehicles could serve a dual-purpose as storage for the grid

      I heard this idea a number of times and every time I hear it I must ask myself if people that suggest it are serious. The whole idea to have your electrical car plugged into the electrical grid is that it should be fully charged when you come back to it. Using electrical vehicles for grid storage means that you remove the only advantage the electrical car has. No need to go to the petrol station for your everyday commute.

      • Engineer-Poet says:

        Yes, they are serious.  No, most of them don’t have a clue; an easy majority is outright innumerate, and a large fraction of the remainder couldn’t do a dimensional analysis to save their lives.

        That said, there IS a remote possibility for doing just this.  For instance, if the iron-molten-air battery can be packaged for mobile use, it would be possible to cram twice the energy of the Tesla Model S battery pack into less than 5 gallons of (heavily insulated) cells.  If your car is packing close to 200 kWh of storage and upwards of 500 miles of range, you could reserve 100 miles of capacity for the next few days of commuting and let the grid manager use the rest as a buffer.  You’d order it fully charged before long trips.

        I don’t see such batteries coming to market soon.  Too many gotchas.

  4. Mitch says:

    It’s decommissioning perfectly good plants like SONGS, VY, all of Germany’s that hurts…
    But how come we never see any down-side reports of wind and solar shaving off mountains and mowing down countrysides and deserts and ruining seascapes, like they’re perfect non-impact things? Strange…

  5. David Walters says:

    Well, first, it’s great the CEO of a major energy corporation that produces everything from solar, wind, coal, gas, and nuclear is reading this blog. That shouldn’t go without noting. Which means that people in “The Industry” take note of what pro-nuclear activists say. As they are very often come under criticism from our side of the nuclear debate, it shows at least an interest…if not a kind of reconnaissance…on what is going on in the community.

    Secondly, this shows the problem with the capitalist mode of production as it’s practiced in the U.S. For corporation it’s generally both the bottom line and, the responsibility to the stock holders. Ahead of actually developing a national energy policy that services the 300 plus million Americans who use electricity…just about everyone. The closing of San Onofre NPP was based not on what the population of California needs but on the needs to the corporation and the immediate financial stakeholders. So they closed it. Leaving nuclear to the “Market” is both a-historical and self-defeating. It’s not happening and it won’t happen, even with massive regulatory reform (which should occur anyway). We need a true energy policy akin to the Chinese, the French, even the British.

    • Cory Stansbury says:

      The Westinghouse of which Danny Roderick is CEO (Westinghouse Electric Company LLC) is ONLY a nuclear company. We do nothing with any other form of energy. Nuclear Fuels, Engineering Equipment and Major Projects (Services), Nuclear Automation (I&C), Nuclear Power Plants, and now Decommissioning of older units are our sole business areas.

      On a personal opinion note, I don’t see how Westinghouse recognizing a future expanding market (well within our competence) and starting to develop products and services for that market is somehow a negative. It’s not like us having a decommissioning business is making a utility say, “Oh, Westinghouse can tear this down? Sweet! “Hey Barry, go ahead and SCRAM this thing. We’re done here.”” There are some nice things Westinghouse has developed which will hopefully provide less ammo for anti-nuclear folks in regards to “how dangerous decommissioning is.” I also don’t see how Westinghouse and our evil capitalist mentality has much to do with the USA’s complete lack of an energy policy.

      • Brian Mays says:

        For what it’s worth, the company that I work for, AREVA, also sees the potential business opportunities in the decommissioning field and is aggressively moving to position itself in this expanding market. In company jargon, decommissioning falls under the “The Back End” Business Group (a rather unfortunate name, since it makes you think that you’re working in the derriere of the company ;-) ), which includes other such things as fuel recycling and waste disposal.

        Perhaps AREVA’s term “rehabilitation of nuclear facilities” is a better one to use than decommissioning, since these old nuclear facilities can also be “rehabilitated” into new nuclear facilities that can continue to generate electricity.

        • Rod Adams says:

          @Brian

          I like “rehabilitation”; restoration might be another positive term. It brings to mind the wonderful industry devoted to restoring old homes and historic buildings.

          • Brian Mays says:

            Rod – My home is 102 years old. I like old things, and it makes me glad to see when old, well-built stuff can continue to be useful and serve a meaningful purpose.

          • Jeff Walther says:

            “I like “rehabilitation”; restoration might be another positive term. It brings to mind the wonderful industry devoted to restoring old homes and historic buildings.”

            Our house is only 40-years-old, but we have a number of old appliances, large and small, including the original harvest gold gas range that came with the house.

            Occasionally, something will break, and Diane will ask me if instead of fixing it, we should just get a new one. To which I often respond, “Well, that would be a lot less trouble for me (the one repairing), but would a new one be as durable as this old one has been?”

            Even a lot of household electronics are repairable, without complex diagnosis. The most common failure is in the electrolytic capacitors, and the power supplies usually have several. So, electronics age, caps die, power supply becomes wonky, device starts acting erratically.

            I fixed our 20-year-old sprinkler system controller by replacing three capacitors last Fall. A new one would have had more features, but the switches (moving parts) on this one are really durable.

            Okay, I’m way off topic. Apologies. Old things can be great. I agree. I agree even more strongly as I am ever increasingly, an old thing.

        • donb says:

          To me, the rehabilitation of a nuclear facility would be where the reactor is replaced. We have seen a number of examples where the steam plant portion of a nuclear facility has been rehabilitated via the replacement of steam generators. No doubt other major components (condenser, turbine, electrical generator, etc) have also been replaced.

          Questions: Are there any examples of a commercial nuclear power plant where the reactor has been replaced? Are there any examples of a commercial nuclear power plant being demolished and a new one built on the same site?

          • Rod Adams says:

            @donb

            There are several examples where early units have been shutdown while the site continues to host new units. Off the top of my head – Indian Point 2&3, San Onofre 2&3, and Millstone 2&3.

          • Brian Mays says:

            Dresden, Peach Bottom, and Fermi. (Don’t forget that not all of the early reactors were LWR’s.)

          • Cory Stansbury says:

            Sadly, Ft. St. Vrain has also been re-purposed as an NG plant if memory serves me right.

          • Joel Riddle says:

            donb,

            I know of no Reactor Vessel cavities that have experienced a Reactor Vessel replacement yet, and I would say that isn’t going to be economically feasible with Gen II designs. I think some of the SMR plants (maybe all) are being designed such that a module could be replaced in the future, similar to a Steam Generator Replacement (SGR) in a Gen II PWR.

            Major turbine and generator components have been replaced/refurbished, perhaps most infamously the Stator of Unit 1 at Arkansas Nuclear One. There were pretty extensive repairs made to the turbine building there after that one.

            I don’t know of any full-blown condenser replacements. That would be a substantial undertaking.

            The Crystal River 3 experience indicates that any major issues with containment vessels is a pretty big deal. I think as part of the SGR project at CR3, either the hot or cold legs (maaaybe both?) of the Reactor Coolant System were also replaced.

            The issues with SONGS 2 and 3, however, show that even a pretty well-understood issue can prove to be uneconomical to fix, depending on the overall situation of things (massive regulatory uncertainty in that instance).

    • Engineer-Poet says:

      David Walters wrote:

      The closing of San Onofre NPP was based not on what the population of California needs but on the needs to the corporation and the immediate financial stakeholders. So they closed it.

      You’re ignoring the decades-long agitation by pressure groups to close it (and Diablo Canyon), the hostility from state pols, and the NRC’s action to hold hearings (involving months or years of delay, “intervenors”, etc.) before allowing the plant to operate again.  THAT is why the plant was closed, instead of being repaired or merely de-rated.  It was the only option the company truly had.

      If California actually supported carbon-free energy and stopping climate change, there would be several AP1000s under construction on the left coast just like the east.  Instead, they are destroying the ones they have.  Madness.

      • David Walters says:

        Yes of course, Keith, I was assuming that as a “given”. But their was virtually no, and has never really been, the needed educational offensive over energy *akin to what natural gas* does on an almost hourly basis on TV and the radio. No ads in major newspapers or web based new services. Westinghouse, GE and numerous other nuclear based industries *do nothing* to defend the technology. Yes, on youtube Westinghouse has some great AP1000 material and Areva and Southern Energy have a great videos as well. No one watches them. As much as I detest Rush Limbuagh on everything, he said something pertaining to liberals on the radio: “They need to lean into the mike…”.

        The owners of SONGS and Diablo Canyon (my former employer in the latter case) need to defend their technology and what it means in terms of cheap energy, GHG emissions and the environment. They don’t. Ever. So the forces of darkness a described by Keith have an open field of battle because the corporation are afraid to stand up and come up with a plan and a vision. And that is why, despite the 4 AP1000 being built in the US, it’s likely they will be the last. No vision.

        David

  6. Keith Pickering says:

    I agree with you, David: there are more important issues at stake in energy policy than any company’s bottom line, or even any industry’s bottom line, the most obvious being climate change.

    That being said, however, it’s entirely possible to achieve important national policy goals in the energy sector within a capitalist framework, provided we have government policy that is intelligent and properly directed. For example, a relatively cheap and carbon free grid could be easily achievable using only changes in the tax code: a rising fossil carbon tax, combined with a rapid depreciation allowance on new nuclear build would do the trick. Renewables already have accelerated depreciation, and there is no rational reason nuclear shouldn’t enjoy the same advantage.

    Finally, if Mr. Roderick is still listening, I was most interested in your comment that “[w]e have more new unit orders than we have plants on the decommissioning backlog”. Should we take this to mean that there are now firm orders for the AP1000 in the UK, and in Bulgaria? If so, that would be good news indeed.

    • Daniel says:

      Westinghouse has not even started the AP1000 certification processing the UK. Mr Roderick is waiting for the entire Hinckley point saga with the EU to wrap up. (Not in this decade I would think)

      On that note, I would hope that western nations with similar regulators would piggy-back certifications. For God’s sake, the AP1000 is certified in the US. The EPR is certified in France. The Russian reactors are certified in Finland.

      Enough !

      • Cory Stansbury says:

        Are you sure about that? I’m pretty sure that’s entirely false. Last I heard, we were very close to certification in the U.K. Maybe I’m misunderstanding what you’re saying?

      • Old Nuke says:

        Unfortunately, “certification” means different things and has different legal implications in different countries. For example, the UK certification is not the same process and does not have the same legal weight as the NRC’s design certification in the US. Trying to reconcile different processes and different criteria used by different countries’ regulatory agencies would be a nightmare. (“Similar regulators” is a matter of opinion; each country has its own laws. regulations, standards, etc.)

        I might also note that the Atomic Energy Act requires that reactors that are going to be deployed in the US MUST be reviewed by the NRC–even if they’re “certifiied” elsewhere. The NRC cannot delegate that responsiblity to another country’s regulatory agency.

        However, there is ongoing cooperation between national regulators in countries planning to deploy new reactor designs via the Multinational Design Evaluation Process. That’s probably about as good as it’s likely to get in the foreseeable future.

  7. William Vaughn says:

    @Mr. Roderick

    I urge you to consider what Rod says when he states, in part:

    ” … their owners should start now in helping people understand that they will most likely be in perpetual use as nuclear energy generating stations.”

    The nuclear industry, right now, has to stop thinking in terms of decommissioning and instead think in terms of RECOMMISSIONING.
    Read “Cradle to Cradle” and “The Upcycle” to understand what’s a stake here. I think your long-term business model has to change.

    There are huge “sunk” costs in a nuclear plant site. The best long-term use of that infrastructure is to keep producing electricity for as long as possible. Use those decommissioning funds, once regulations allow, to start planing reactor upgrades, installing 5-10 SMRs around the site to take up the slack once the main reactor really has to be dismantled. The long-term model for a nuclear plant site would be 10-20 SMRs with one or two always in the process of being upgraded, refueled, maintained, or whatever. The plant can always be at 90% capacity for the foreseeable future. Of course, there are many variations on this theme, but I think you see what I’m saying.

    Is this a feasible scenario, Mr. Roderick?

    • starvinglion says:

      There are no qualified personnel to maintain reactors. The business model of the small nuclear reactor vendor is install and then quickly disappear off the map. No liabilities to worry about.

      The Nuclear Engineer is a Dodo Bird. Good luck maintaining reactors with mechanical, electrical, and chemical engineers.

      Too many socialists ripping off taxpayers to keep anything going that requires maintenance. The “Shut it down” mantra is only going to pick up steam.

    • jmdesp says:

      It’s not even needed to look very far to see the model of that. At Hinkley, Hinley Point A is already stopped, and C will replace the B unit. In France, Chinon, Saint Laurent and Chooz are exemple of site where older unit are at various stage of dismantling, but newer reactors continue to operate.

  8. Sean McKinnon says:

    Mr. Roderick,

    Thank you for taking the time to come here and write a blog post for us. I know how busy a CEO is and I think it speaks volumes that you took the time to do this. Thank you.

  9. Joris van Dorp says:

    Very interesting post, this one.

    FWIW, while I think I understand mr. Roderick’s comment, I agree that the nuclear industry has an important corporate responsibility to openly advocate and explain the use and development of nuclear power, at least as much as competing and far less bona-fide industries do today. If the nuclear industry does not do this vigorously, the public is right to both doubt the intentions of the industry and the need for nuclear power in the first place. Because if nuclear power is so wonderful, then why is the industry not shouting it from the rooftops? If the industry doesn’t care whether a coal plant or a nuclear plant is built, then why should anyone?

    This comment by Mr. Roderick, Mr. Adams reply, and the comments on this thread are fascinating but worrisome to me – an industry outsider who believes that the conspicuous absenteeism of the industry from the public space, where a war for hearts and minds rages perpetually, cannot be reconciled with the importance of the job that he believes he sees for nuclear power in the human effort to prevent global climate and energy security issues from spiraling out of control sooner or later.

  10. Joel Riddle says:

    Sherrell Greene’s term “Centurion Reactors” fits in pretty closely with the ideas discussed here.

    http://sustainableenergytoday.blogspot.com/2014/01/post-90-nuclear-power-natural-gas.html

    • Ed Leaver says:

      “Centurion Reactor” … I was thinking much the same thing when I saw this piece in the Minneapolis Star Tribune last fall: Xcel Defends Expensive Nuclear Upgrade. Here Xcel Energy was at the end of an upgrade project at its 600 MWe Monticello nuke. The upgrade had taken place over five years during scheduled fuel&maintenance downtime. It is impressive, but ultimately not cost competitive with just decomissioning and replacing with gas UNLESS Xcel privately hopes to get forty years out of the upgraded plant (which they obviously can’t put on the books ‘cuz they won’t know ’till 2030) OR if they can justify the decreased carbon emission of uranium vs methane.

      Xcel is talking the latter route. In public. Good for Xcel.

      And the possibility of wringing eighty years out of a sixties-era BWR that went online in ’71… sorry guys, but its past my bedtime.

  11. Eino says:

    From above:

    “There are several examples where early units have been shutdown while the site continues to host new units.”

    Don’t forget Elk River, Minnesota, a nuclear plant converted into a garbage burner!

  12. PissedOffAmerican says:

    As I said on another thread…

    “Isn’t that just good business sense, if considered in the terms of new technology replacing old? Perhaps it is actually good for the nuke energy sector to be able to point at old technologies, that are widely distrusted by the general public, and use the decommissioning of these plants as a marketing tool for “newer safer” technologies. The PR opportunites, presented by the phasing out of older technologies are myriad, if capitalized upon. Surely, Rod, you recognize the need for a fresh narrative that presents nuclear energy technology as having advanced past the “accident prone” and “dangerous”, (in the minds of John Q Public), technology that gifted us with TMI, Chernobyl, San Onofre, and Fukushima. In burying these older technologies, and presenting the public with new improved technologies, (advocated and marketed skillfully), the decommissioning of these older plants may well be the door into wider public acceptance of nuclear energy as a viable competitor to the so called “green” technologies”

    Seems Roderick “gets it” just fine.

    • Rod Adams says:

      @POA

      I have no problem with new technologies replacing old. Let’s start with replacing all of the older coal plants and then move on to replacing the nuclear plants once they have actually reached their end of life. Until we are actually building new nuclear plants to replace the old ones, shutting the old ones down is premature.

      John Q. Public is wrong about existing reactors. The industry has not yet done a good job explaining that to the public. There is no time like the present to begin that difficult, but not impossible task.

      • PissedOffAmerican says:

        “John Q. Public is wrong about existing reactors. The industry has not yet done a good job explaining that to the public. There is no time like the present to begin that difficult, but not impossible task”

        From a perception viewpoint, Rod, I would disagree. There are too may “Yeah buts” that the cynics and the antis can throw back in your face. The past “accidents” speak much louder, and have had the podium for far too long. You guys need an entirely new narrative that touts the advancements and capabilities of fresh nuclear technology, and utilizes these past “accidents”, (and the decommissioning process of dated plants that the public perceives as dangerous), as a marketing tool for fresh and safer technologies. Your argument that these older plants are safe will inevitably be countered by the citation of past accidents, industry malfeasance, and the public’s perception of ruined and uninhabitable tracts of land. There is far too much “science” involved in convincing the public otherwise. John Q. Public is not interested in deep intellectual engagement about this issue, nor is he capable of understanding the majority of the science behind your arguments. John Q is tittilated by blurbs, not essays.

        In short, Rod, its too late to tout the safety of a technology that is percieved as dated and unsafe, and has a citable history by which an uninformed public can justify its fears. Its like trying to sell the Corvair all over again. And it is irrelevent whether the public’s fears are based on false perceptions. You need to give them a future to take thier minds off the past. Something sexy. Innovative. New.

        Case in point, these “SRM’s” discussed on another thread. Using myself as an example, I was interested by the idea of small reactors servicing individual communities. Yet when I directly posed simple questions about capabilities and costs, it was more important to you to focus on old technologies, and the fact that you rued the idea that decommissioning of older plants might be a profitable endeavor.

        My interest in the SRMs, Rod, could easily have been converted to support and advocacy. I only offer this to underscore a point. How “you guys” present yourself and your technology has to speak louder to the future, and quiet the demons of the past.

        • Rod Adams says:

          @POA

          My interest in the SRMs, Rod, could easily have been converted to support and advocacy. I only offer this to underscore a point. How “you guys” present yourself and your technology has to speak louder to the future, and quiet the demons of the past.

          Why should I sacrifice the opportunity to explain the value of dozens of multibillion-dollar assets on the possibility of converting an anonymous Internet commenter?

          Why do you think your opinion matters to me?

        • Joris van Dorp says:

          “You need to give them a future to take their minds off the past. Something sexy. Innovative. New.”

          John Q needs to be told that his fear of nuclear power is unjustified, because nuclear power has been proven to be the safest and cleanest form of power in history. When nuclear fails – as in TMI and FUkushima – the resulting environmental and health effects are smaller than the routine environmental and health effects of fossil fuel burning. Rather than ‘take his mind off the past’, John Q might look to the past in order to see that his fear is unjustified by histroy. His fear is purely the result of the anti-nuclear propaganda which was part of a policy to delay and stop nuclear power development in the USA, even while nuclear development outside the USA has been continuing at pace.

          The purpose of delaying and stopping nuclear power in the USA was ostensibly to stop proliferation of nuclear weapons, reduce the ‘nuclear waste problem’, and increase global security, but we now know that anti-nuclear policy in the USA had no positive effect on any of those things.

          The end of nuclear power development in the USA would weaken the role played by the USA in international nuclear affairs. As such, anti-nuclear policy may be seen to increase (rather than reduce) nuclear proliferation risks, by reducing the positive role of the USA. The fear of John Q due to his propagandized misunderstanding of the past could ironically be seen as a cause of greater nuclear risks, if anything.

          John Q should fear his fear of nuclear power, since it allows international nuclear affairs to develop outside of the influence of the USA. He can look to the past with open eyes as a means to alleviate his fear and thereby allow the USA to return the forefront of nuclear affairs where it has always been and should remain.

          • PissedOffAmerican says:

            Joris…thanks for your response. But it seems to me that unjustified fear is still fear. I suspect the argument that, “well, they were bullshitted into thier fear” will not be a very effective way of alleviating that fear.

            For example, they can look to Chernobyl, and see that it is still a ghost town. And thier attention span is simply not long enough for you to make a credible argument that Chernobyl need not be a ghost town. I suspect this is going to be true too in Fukushima. Fear will drive the decision making process, authorities will err on the side of caution, competing industries will capitalize on the fear, and bingo, the nuclear industry is left twiddling it’s thumbs while wind and solar are the salve with which John Q treats his fear. What’s occurring in Japan is a perfect example of this. You ain’t going to counter it by screaming “But wait folks, there’s nothing to fear”. Fact is, they are already in fear. Too late man.

            Better, I believe, that the industry takes a fresh tact in its PR efforts, presenting new reactor technologies as safer, generating less waste than the older technologies, having smaller footprints than renewables, etc. Rather than denying the percieved danger posed by past accidents, stress the unlikelyhood of new technologies suffering such calamities.

            I remember as a child how excited my parents were by the early ads the nuclear industry ran, how the amazing nuclear powered subs and surface vessels seemed so futuristic, space age, clean, innovative. The industry lost that alluring mystique to a series of accidents, media sensationalism of those accidents, and the capitalization of those accidents by competing industries. You simply do not have time to reverse the fears borne by over a half century of these damaging dynamics. Looking backwards, and trying to convince John Q he has been wrong all these years just seems, to me, self defeating. You need a new presentation.

            I noted in yesterday’s paper the large article about the huge wind farm being erected in Wyoming, (which will service exclusively the California market). Within the first one or two paragraphs a sentence was inserted that went something like this; “This windfarm will supply the amount of electricity that 3 nuclear facilities would produce”. Well. Eeenie meenie, miney moe, eh? That kind of PR is going to be very hard to better. You won’t do it by saying “But hey, Fukushima just wasn’t that bad”. I mean, the industry can give it a try, but don’t be suprised if John Q just doesn’t want to hear it. Particularly when you get all technical and us against themish in attempting to convince him that his fears are just the result of being hoodwinked by the nasty ‘ol greens and the greedy soot covered fossil guys. That ain’t good PR, man.

            Rewrite the script. Its your best chance.

          • Rod Adams says:

            @POA

            You may be right. However, I think one of the most effective ways to change a large number of minds in as short a period of time as possible is to forthrightly explain to the public that they have been purposely deceived into being afraid of nuclear energy by people with vested interests in competing power sources.

            The public already has a built in dislike of “Big Oil”; it’s possible to capitalize on that dislike.

            Of course, it is a strategy that is not very popular in the industry. That’s okay by me; I don’t work for “the industry”; my motive is that I am enthralled by the technology and its potential to improve the human condition.

          • Joris van Dorp says:

            @pissedoff,

            I see what you mean. For one thing, saying that ‘new nukes are safer’ has problems as well. ‘safer’ implies both that existing nukes are not safe (which they arguably are) , and it implies that new nukes are still not “completely” safe (whatever that means). In my advocacy, I try to limit usage of the words ‘safe’ and ‘risk’ as much as possible. Whenever I do use those words, I use them relative to something. So I might say “NPP’s are safer than coal plants because … ” Or I might say “The risk of negative health effects to the public is smaller than a meteorite hitting the area, because …”.

            Otherwise, I agree with Rod that it is a good strategy to use the small window of attention that you might have when talking with people to impress upon them one thing: that statically everything they think they know about nuclear power is wrong and often the complete opposite of the truth. It’s a good way to get a lively conversation started in my experience.

            For example, I was shocked (but not surprised) last weekend when I read a major Dutch serious newspaper leader for the weekly science section which stated that the German move away from nuclear power was smart ‘because there is only a few decades of uranium left’. In the same piece, the author (the ‘scientific head editor’ of that newspaper, no less!) stated that there is ‘200 years of coal’. Well, he’s right about the coal abundance, but the fact that he is completely off-base about the practically unlimited abundance of nuclear fuel can be a searing reminder to everyone that society is currently suffering from deep and chronic misunderstanding about all things nuclear. Nukes can therefore feel confident in opening almost every discussion about nuclear with the challenge that ‘all you think you know about nuclear is probably false’ and then take it from there.

            BTW: I mailed the particular editor to ask him how he came to the conclusion that nuclear fuel will not last more than a few decades, since in actuality the availability of nuclear fuels is practically limitless, as explained in http://www.mcgill.ca/files/gec3/NuclearFissionFuelisInexhaustibleIEEE.pdf. Looking forward to his reply.

  13. PissedOffAmerican says:

    Your “us against them” attitude is self defeating. You see my comment as egotistical, and self focusing. Thats not why I offered it. I don’t think my opinion matters to you. Nor do I think it is “important” as an individual opinion. But your concern, the industry’s concern, needs to be the collective. And you and your industry are a dismal failure at reaching them in a manner that will win them over.

    Hows your current PR working out for you and the industry, Rod?

    Frankly, I’m a bit perplexed that you took offense at my post. And a bit amused. You really don’t get it, do you? I doubt even Mr. Roderick can talk some sense into you.

    • Brian Mays says:

      Hows your current PR working out for you and the industry, Rod?

      Americans Still Favor Nuclear Power a Year After Fukushima – Majority also still sees nuclear power as safe

      I’d say not too bad. You really need to get over yourself.

      • EL says:

        I’d say not too bad.

        @Brian Mays.

        You probably want to look a little closer.

        Yes, 57% of respondents favor use of nuclear as one of the ways we produce electricity in the US. Was nuclear at some risk of entirely disappearing? It’s a pretty broad and neutral question.

        Ask whether folks want to see nuclear expanded or not, and you get a pretty different result. Since Fukushima, there are now more people who oppose it’s expansion than favor it.

        http://www.people-press.org/files/legacy-pdf/3-19-12%20Energy%20release.pdf

        And results from Gallup are even worse (from March 27, 2013):

        http://www.gallup.com/poll/161519/americans-emphasis-solar-wind-natural-gas.aspx

        71% of respondents favor more emphasis on wind, 76% on solar, and only 37% on nuclear (a smidge above Coal).

        • PissedOffAmerican says:

          Well, EL, this’ll be where Brian exhibits some of his great skills at ad hominem in his rebuttal. No wonder the guy doesn’t like discussing PR.

        • Brian Mays says:

          EL – What part of “Americans Still Favor Nuclear Power” and “Majority also still sees nuclear power as safe” do you not understand? And this survey was only a year after the Fukushima accident.

          Say whatever you will, but nuclear power is still more popular than Obamacare, President Obama, and both houses of Congress. ;-)

          Ask whether folks want to see nuclear expanded or not, and you get a pretty different result. Since Fukushima, there are now more people who oppose it’s expansion than favor it.

          What really matters for the expansion of nuclear power is the economics. Public opinion matters only in the localities where the new reactors would go, and for the foreseeable future, they are going to be built at currently existing nuclear plants (e.g., Vogtle and V.C. Summer). Poll after poll has shown that the support for nuclear power is strongest in the communities surrounding the existing plants. This support regularly exceeds 90%.

          Who really cares what the loons in California think about nuclear power? Nobody is planning to build a new nuclear reactor there, because they still have a moratorium on the technology. They’re just happily setting themselves up for another Enron-like scam. You reap what you sow.

          71% of respondents favor more emphasis on wind, 76% on solar, …

          And I’m sure that if we were to survey the same people on whether the US should get its power from rainbows and unicorn poop, the results would probably be about the same, and this is without the benefit of expensive ad campaigns that are funded by multi-national oil companies.

          So what?

          Piss – “Ad hominem?” That’s quite surprising to hear coming from someone whose recent arguments have been limited to calling someone an “obnoxious ass.”

          • PissedOffAmerican says:

            Well, Brian, its not my fault I’m an excellent judge of character. Born with it, I guess.

            And like any smug and insufferable ass, I see you’ve managed to ignore the fact that you set the tone for this exchange with your obnoxious baiting and antagonistic spit. Yes, Brian, you’re an unmittigated ass. And thats not ad hominem, its just accurate observation of a fact.

          • PissedOffAmerican says:

            “Who really cares what the loons in California think about nuclear power?”

            Californians??? Where did you pull that lump of crap out of, Brian? I mean, being obnoxious is one thing, but being purposely disingenuous (a liar) is quite another.

            “Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted March 7-10, 2013, with a random sample of 1,022 adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia”

          • EL says:

            What part of “Americans Still Favor Nuclear Power” … do you not understand

            @Brian Mays

            Did you look at the question. I appear to understand it pretty well. How about you?

            Public opinion matters only in the localities where the new reactors would go …

            That’s certainly is news to me. You actually believe such nonsense?

            And no … support does not exceed 90% for those who are neighbors to nuclear plants.

            If you don’t want to provide credible facts on the site, could you please stop posting!

        • Rod Adams says:

          @EL

          There is no doubt that the wind and solar marketers (aka propagandists – to use Bernays’s more accurate term) have been quite successful in selling their product over the past several decades. In contrast, the nuclear industry seems to be plagued with leaders who are too reticent or apologetic about inconsequential incidents.

          I will continue to remind everyone that electrons pay no attention to popular vote. Designing and building a reliable power grid is not a popularity contest.

  14. PissedOffAmerican says:

    “You really need to get over yourself”

    Bait.

    I’m not interested, Brian.

    In Hawaii, Senators are actually having to pass legislation mandating radiation monitoring, Not because of the actual danger, but because of the level of concern being voiced by constituents.

    San Onofre is decommissioned, despite the assertions we see here that said decommissioning is unnecessary and unwarranted. Why? Because of a successful PR campaign by the industry?

    Interesting the poll cited by Brian. I wonder, now that the Fukushima event has achieved a crescendo of negative rumor and apocalyptic predictions on the “alternative internet news sites”, how that poll would do today?

    In Rod’s own words….

    “John Q. Public is wrong about existing reactors. The industry has not yet done a good job explaining that to the public. There is no time like the present to begin that difficult, but not impossible task”

    It appears, Brian, that Rod does not share your high opinion of the industry’s PR prowess.

    • Brian Mays says:

      Yes, I realize that you’re not interested in what the public really thinks, so of course you’re not interested in polls. You just like to hear yourself talk. Why are you so surprised then when nobody is interested in anything that you have to say?

      Please, get over yourself, or just go away.

  15. PissedOffAmerican says:

    “Please, get over yourself, or just go away.”

    “Why are you so surprised then when nobody is interested in anything that you have to say?”

    Once again, Brian jumps in with his wisdom, and unfailing ability to speak for everyone else. And who can miss his winning eagerness to turn things adversarial? He’s like Rod’s snarling little attack terrier. And I’m the one with the ego problem?

    I’m not “going away”, Brian. The sites that are not sensationalizing the Fukushima event are in the minority when one is interested enough to attempt internet research into the pros and cons behind nuclear energy. Here I have found some legitimate “pros” that are forcing me to rethink my opposition. And this despite the rude and abrasive horseshit that a couple of you think you have to interject into the discourse. Rereading my post that seems have have bunched your panties, I find nothing even remotely meriting Rod’s offense, or your self imposed role of blog spokesman and axman.

    And you are mistaken. Polls DO interest me. So does the phrasing of the questions, whose answers determine the conclusions of the poll.

    I wonder, what do you think the results of the poll would have been, post Fukushima, if the question would have read something like this…

    “Do you favor or oppose nuclear powerplants being constructed in the immediate proximity to your community?”

    A suspect with some certainty that the results would have differed drastically. You think?

    Reading the above bevy of comments, I note a number of posters have lamented the current narrative, or lack thereof, that seeks to ingratiate the nuclear industry with the public.

    ***

    “Yes, on youtube Westinghouse has some great AP1000 material and Areva and Southern Energy have a great videos as well. No one watches them. As much as I detest Rush Limbuagh on everything, he said something pertaining to liberals on the radio: “They need to lean into the mike…”.

    “The owners of SONGS and Diablo Canyon (my former employer in the latter case) need to defend their technology and what it means in terms of cheap energy, GHG emissions and the environment. They don’t. Ever. So the forces of darkness a described by Keith have an open field of battle because the corporation are afraid to stand up and come up with a plan and a vision”

    ***
    “FWIW, while I think I understand mr. Roderick’s comment, I agree that the nuclear industry has an important corporate responsibility to openly advocate and explain the use and development of nuclear power, at least as much as competing and far less bona-fide industries do today. If the nuclear industry does not do this vigorously, the public is right to both doubt the intentions of the industry and the need for nuclear power in the first place”

    “…..an industry outsider who believes that the conspicuous absenteeism of the industry from the public space….”

    So, Brian, why aren’t you sinking your snarling little yellow canines into thier comments and opinions? Who needs to “get over themself”??? Perhaps you oughta examine your history of interaction with me. Frankly, Brian, you’re an obnoxious ass.

    • Rod Adams says:

      @POA

      I’m not sure what you mean by “Rod’s offense.” I was trying to explain why I continue to defend existing nuclear power plants against the ill-informed FUD that overlooks the fact that they reliably operate at a 90% capacity factor with a rather remarkable safety record. On this blog, I am targeting the established nuclear industry leaders as much as I am members of the general public.

      We need their assistance and their resources to get the result that we desire of a growing nuclear industry that continues to supply reliable, affordable, ultra low emission electricity. However, I don’t try to flatter them; I believe that loyalty includes providing “tough love” that points out areas where they have not done a good job.

    • Brian Mays says:

      The sites that are not sensationalizing the Fukushima event are in the minority when one is interested enough to attempt internet research into the pros and cons behind nuclear energy.

      Piss – We’ve already covered this. Please stop wasting everyone’s time with nonsense.

      • PissedOffAmerican says:

        I think most here are relatively intelligent, Brian. If reading my comments and opinions is a “waste of thier time”, I think most have the brains to…well…stop wasting thier time.

        Obviously you don’t seem to possess that degree of intelligence.

    • PissedOffAmerican says:

      I wonder, what do you think the results of the poll would have been, post Fukushima, if the question would have read something like this…

      “Do you favor or oppose nuclear powerplants being constructed in the immediate proximity to your community?”

      I suspect with some certainty that the results would have differed drastically. You think?

      ****

      Hmmm….according to this account, I fear I must stand corrected….

      http://www.world-nuclear.org/info/Country-Profiles/Countries-T-Z/USA–Nuclear-Power-Policy/

      Neighbour surveys

      In mid-2009, a survey of 1,152 people living within 16 km of 64 nuclear power plants in the USA, but without any personal involvement with them, showed very strong support for new nuclear plants13. Some 84% favoured nuclear energy, 90% had a positive view of their local nuclear power plant, and 76% would support construction of a new reactor near them. The survey also found that 88% give the nearest nuclear plant a ‘high’ safety rating, 91% have confidence in the company’s ability to operate the power plant safely, and 86% believe the company is doing a good job protecting the environment. On nuclear waste, only 56% said it can be safely stored at the plant and 82% said the federal government should get on with developing the Yucca Mountain repository, despite the Obama administration’s decision not to proceed with it. A surprising 91% said that the USA should recycle used nuclear fuel. Regarding accurate and reliable sources of information about nuclear energy, various nuclear plant sources were rated 75-76%, compared with environmental groups 42% and anti-nuclear groups 19%.

      It was the third time since 2005 that this survey – commissioned by the Nuclear Energy Institute and conducted by Bisconti Research with Quest Global Research – was carried out. The overall findings are slightly more positive than those in 2007, where the researchers concluded that “Nimby (not in my back yard) does not apply at existing plant sites because close neighbours have a positive view of nuclear energy, are familiar with the plant, and believe that the plant benefits the community.”14

      The mid-2012 Bisconti survey of people living within 16 km of 61 nuclear power plants in the USA, but without any personal involvement with them (N=1089), showed continuing strong support for new nuclear plants. Some 81% favoured nuclear energy (47% strongly so), 86% had a positive view of their local nuclear power plant, 89% are confident of its safety, and 68% would support construction of a new reactor near them. 91% agree with renewing the operating licence for nuclear power plants that continue to meet federal safety standards, and 64% strongly agree. More broadly, 90% believe that nuclear energy will be important in meeting the nation’s electricity needs in the years ahead, and 57% believe it will be very important. For the next decade, 82% agree that electric utilities should prepare now so that new nuclear power plants could be built if needed, and 50% strongly agree. On nuclear wastes, while 62% are confident that used fuel is stored safely at their local plant, 82% believe that it should be consolidated at regional storage facilities while the Department of Energy develops a permanent repository, and 90% agree that the government should develop such a repository as long as the site meets NRC requirements. The question about recycling used nuclear fuel was apparently not asked in 2013.

      • Rod Adams says:

        @POA

        It is a big person who can publicly correct himself. Bravo.

      • EL says:

        Neighbour surveys

        The nuclear neighbors survey (NEI/Bisconti) is not a poll of general public attitudes, but is a survey of a target or focus group (those who live within 10 miles of a power plant, and who haven’t worked there in the last year).

        For the question POA asked … the most recent neighbor survey indicates 68% would support construction of a new plant in their community. 30% would oppose. 2% not sure.

        For the general public, however, support for siting a nuclear plant in you own community is not so high. MIT has a study of this question from 2008 (I haven’t really found any others).

        Public Attitudes About Siting a New Power Plant within 25 Miles of Home.”

        Coal: 77.1% (oppose), 22.9% (support)
        Nuclear: 76.5% (oppose), 23.5% (support)
        Natural Gas: 58% (oppose), 42% (support)
        Wind: 25.5% (oppose), 74.5% (support).

        Over time, I would expect wind to line up near some of the other sources (as more experience is gained with the technology). People just don’t really like siting power plants in their own back yard. Once they are there, however, I guess these poll results indicate that they get used to them. I don’t find this that surprising.

        • PissedOffAmerican says:

          Interesting. The community I live in is adjacent to a number of massive windfarms. From downtown Tehachapi you can actually see hillsides covered with turbines just east of town. Suprisingly, when a local land owner recently wanted to situate a wind farm on his property that is a series of mountains that overlook the community due south, there was a tremendous outcry by the community, opposing the project. Whereas the existing wind farms are situated in high desert terrain, the newly proposed project would have required clear cutting pine forested mountains.

          Then, across highway 58, on a huge cattle ranch that is mostly grassland and oak, (The Loop Ranch), that landowner is meeting the same kind of opposition by our community. Apparently, enough is enough with this community. Too bad for the landowner, as his property could sustain both the cattle, AND the wind farm. (Cows just don’t seem to care if you wanna hang a wind turbine over thier dinner)

          But I imagine this little burg would oppose any future construction of any sort of energy facility.

          Uuhhhhmm…..unless of course someone came in and said…”Look, we can give you a source of energy that has a minimal footprint, can exclusively service your community with affordable power, is safe, and is air and environment friendly.”

          • EL says:

            @POA

            Wind advocates are typically quite proud of public polling on this topic.

            http://www.windenergyfoundation.org/wind-at-work/wind-consumers/polls

            So too are nuclear advocates it seems (for folks living close to power plants). Typically, these things aren’t measured very well by anecdote. I tried to find public polling results for Tehachapi, but nothing came up in a quick search. I’m sure something exists, especially related to environment reviews. It might be interesting to get a survey on this basis, since wind development has been very aggressive in your area.

            With well planned projects, and for assessments that involve local communities and regional stakeholders, I’m pretty convinced these things go pretty smoothly. This could even be true for nuclear in many locations … when there is adequate oversight and public confidence in a project (and with substantial progress on the waste issue … rather than continually sweeping it under rug and saying it is a non-issue, as you hear often on the site). This still doesn’t mean you don’t get local opposition (but whether it is representative or not is an entirely different question).

            Even projects that make a lot of sense from a development perspective can be poorly executed (and be needlessly delayed and challenged). Keystone XL is a pretty good example of this. Canada flubbed a lot of the diplomacy on this, and TransCanada appears to me to be almost completely clueless. Bluster doesn’t get projects built, but finding common ground (and even getting out of the way of a looming PR storm) does. A few gestures of compromise at the end can go a long ways. They miscalculated, thought this resource was needed (no matter the cost), and appear unwilling to budge. They’ve only managed to make opposition stronger in this instance, and elevated their claims. Again, the opposition to Keystone isn’t very extensive or widespread, the greater problem was how TransCanada (and to a lesser extent Canada) decided to deal with it.

  16. BobinPgh says:

    In case Mr. Broderick is still around, here is what I wrote to Westinghouse:

    Dear Mr. Broderick,
    I was at Walt Disney World recently and was impressed with the Universe of Energy pavilion. But the ride, Ellen’s Energy Adventure needs an update. In it Bill Nye mentions nuclear energy is “expensive and controversial” but not much else. I think it would be great if Westinghouse could be a sponsor (there is no sponsor now) and be part of an update or replacement of Ellens Energy Adventure. The pavilion was better when it had Exxon as a sponsor and Exxon also had hands-on exhibits in the neighboring Communicore building. Why not have nuclear power parts and exhibits in what is now Innoventions? Actually, the present film implies that renewables and fossil fuels are limited, making nuclear look good. I would love to see, on my next trip to Epcot, A Universe of Energy sponsored by Westinghouse and hands on activities in Innoventions. Please give Disney a call about this, thank you
    Bob Connor