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  1. As a brain storming session, let’s start a list of ideas for near term solutions, in no particular order (and in addition to Rod’s idea).

    1) Allow people to pay more for clean energy (as they used to -perhaps still do – for wind) on their utility bill.

    2) Change all Renewable Energy Portfolio standards to clean energy portfolio standards by including nuclear (which is explicitly excluded, except for Ohio).

    3) Change the way the regional power markets work to better value stable, reliable electricity producers.

    4) Fight to end the production tax credit for renewables.

    5) Get nuclear its own production tax credit.

    I am sure that I am missing many good ideas. Anyone else?

    1. Good ideas for tiding us over until we can pass a carbon tax. As James Conca commented in the original Forbes article:

      “Nuclear is key to any future with energy security, environmental sustainability and energy reliability [so] that this is the time for government to step in and value nuclear as a national resource worth protecting. Just a percent of what wind gets in tax credits would do it.”

    2. You missed one. That being to Enact an emissions penalty, preferably fuel-side. We all know wind and solar, while great, depend on gas to meet demand. Until and unless the miracle storage tech comes around, they will be little more than fuel-saving devices for gas turbines. If you enforced a tax or other financial penalty on those who burn the fuels (As i said, ideally by assessing an emissions penalty on the fuels themselves) the only logical place for utilities to go is nuclear because it is the only option that is actually able to meet demand without incurring that penalty.

  2. There doesn’t seem to be too much appetite for a level playing field, whereby all costs are internalised and all subsidies are ended.

    For fossil fuels, that means a straightforward tax on emissions.

    For nuclear, the cost of decommissioning and insurance against accidents.

    For renewables, the system costs of them connecting to the grid.

    That way the market can optimally choose the energy source that has the lowest costs (instead of today’s lowest prices).

    I personally think nuclear would win hands down. But if it didn’t I’d be happy in the knowledge it was a fair fight.

      1. NPP pay for the storage of all generated waste. Much of it is significantly below the level that most building demolition contractors would just dump at a land fill disregarding the fact that the radiation level requires safe storage because it was “created” at a NPP. The nuclear power plants are paying for Yucca Mt,, except those that have sued to get out due to non compliance of the law by the government, i.e., providing a storage space. They pay for all on sight storage also, and additional unnecessary cost.
        Further the NPP pays for the decommissioning of the plant. Unlike Wind Turbine farms they cant just walk away from them or sign them over to the property owner in the fine print. Search “abandoned Wind Farms.
        As far as insurance, when considering actual risk, they are paying more than most other industries. The program was set up back when there was no definitive risk assessment based upon actual actuarial experience, which is what real insurance companies do. Since it is part of the law, it would be basically impossible to change it to a “Private” insurance program.
        Do some research. I wrote a thesis on NPP Insurance back in the mid 70’s and the information is now on the internet to find making it much easier than the work I had to do to find it. The process they set up to determine NPP risk and consequences has evolved into the basis for the Risk Based Assessment Programs used throughout all industries and even investing/finance programs today. They are even using the concepts of those early studies for the “Warehouse in the Cloud” programs wherein supplies are delivered based upon computer prediction.

        1. Why do I need to do any research? I never said nuclear PP didn’t pay for insurance, waste or decommissioning. Only these costs should be internalised for the market to work efficiently.

          They are in the case of nuclear, not in the case of fossil fuels or wind and solar.

          So not a level playing field then.

  3. I would like to from the onset complement the author on a splendidly researched article on a key issues before the nation that bear directly on America’s future prosperity and technical leadership.

    I regret that I must take issue however with the suggestion offered in the article on how to save America’s existing commercial reactor fleet. I do not favor introducing a carbon task to change the energy playing field preferentially for my favorite nuclear power generation technology, I would instead prefer to reduce operating costs by reducing existing regulatory mandates on the number of employees required to operate existing nuclear plants and permit digital control rooms and instrumentation which would permit fewer employees to safely operate existing plants. Regulatory requirements for a large operating staff accounts for a large part of current nuclear power plant operating cost. Safely reducing staff by many hundreds of employees at current fully paid for Gen-II nuclear plants would make current power plants more cost competitive and viable. It costs nothing to take excessive and unwarranted nuclear regulation off of the books. It requires no new money to be voted by Congress to streamline existing nuclear regulation. The surest way to improve the long term viability of nuclear is to reduce the unwarranted regulatory burden placed on the nuclear industry.

    The thing that is most hopeful, progressive, and does the most for lifting the majority of men (and women) out of poverty and economic want and misery is to actually lower the cost of energy. When you directly drive down the cost of energy with better and more efficient technology you broadly enable and stimulate all business in the United States that uses energy as part of manufacture or uses energy to transport products to market. Innovative new nuclear that is cheaper than coal or natural gas is fully prototyped and lab demonstrated but is currently uncommercialized. Such new nuclear technology would directly drive down the cost of electricity.

    If you artificially price up carbon with taxes, you may indeed succeed in reducing the use of fossil fuels while stimulating the launch and adoption of half a dozen tottering, sub-standard, renewable energy pretenders that, with the tax, now appear to be economically viable (at least as long as taxpayers are willing to pay the feed-in tariffs, PTC, and subsidies) and in confusion, a large number of these deficient, uneconomic, and unsound renewable energy systems will indeed get built (along with maybe just a few token new nuclear plants heavily burdened by existing nuclear regulation).

    I would rather forget the carbon tax and build economically viable new replacement nuclear reactors that employ new, more cost effective technology to support the preservation of American military strength, industrial strength, and quality of life. I would rather build new more competitive nuclear technology and directly drive down the cost of energy while making cheap energy more widely available to all Americans rather than to dissipate wealth and effort on a bunch of boutique renewable energy experiments that in the end just can’t deliver. Building innovative new nuclear, instead of a bunch of economically unviable renewable wind and solar systems, will allow the nation to compete against its industrial competition in Asia and keep jobs and business in America.

    1. @Robert Steinhaus

      Clarification – If there is a CO2 fee and dividend, feed in tariffs, PTC, ITC and RPS should disappear.

      The dividend puts more money into the pockets of most consumers than the fee takes out. Median per capita energy consumption is lower than average energy consumption because a small number of people consume substantially more than the rest of us.

      Retrofitting existing nuclear plants with digital controls wouldn’t save money. The newest of the facilities doesn’t have enough remaining operational life to recover the capital costs associated with creating new systems.

      I cannot argue with your ultimate goal of cheap power; I just have a different interpretation of the best way to get there. Iterative design and manufacturing improvements combined with operating experience and growing customer demand is the proven method of reducing system cost for almost any manufactured/constructed product.

      1. Go to the area in Lynchburg where the majority of the poorer people live and do a survey of their electric and heating (gas, oil, Electricity) and get a feel for what the Poor will pay in increased costs from this “carbon tax”.
        My home has four times the sq ft of many just a mile from me. Yet I pay 1/4 the amount they do to heat my home as they do to heat their home. ALl that the Obama Energy Savings Assistance Program did was give them a new Gas Furnace – if they qualified. My heating bill ( on level pay) is less than my landline phone bill. They did not need a new fur nice, they needed 18 – 24 inches of insulation in the attic and the outer walls filled with foam or other blown in insulation.
        A carbon tax hurts the poor the most.

        1. If the poor spend more on energy than the rich, then adjust the other taxes/benefits to mitigate any undue burden on them. It’s not rocket science.

          1. The poor spend a larger *fraction* of their income on energy, but their *absolute* energy spending is smaller. For that reason, the proposed carbon fee and dividend policy is actually progressive, since all American families get the same dividend check amount, rich or poor.

            Analyses show that the majority of the population, including almost all low-income people, actually come out ahead under the policy.

        2. A carbon tax (where the govt. keeps the money, to waste on various things) would hurt the poor, yes, as they spend a larger fraction of their income on energy. A revenue-neutral fee and dividend program, no (for the reasons I give below). The poor would actually come out ahead.

    2. I completely agree with you, Robert, about nuclear needing to reduce costs, much of which are driven by excessive regulations and needless requirements.

      At the same time, however, I believe that the negative impacts of CO2 emissions are significant and tangible, i.e., there is a real, tangible cost. Thus, as a matter of principle, those costs should be reflected in the price of fossil fuel.

      Deciding to “make” fossil fuels more expensive? No. It’s about paying what it actually costs. Fossil fuels already were more expensive (than their price suggests). This is just being honest about it.

      When the market accurately reflects what things really cost, the market can make correct decisions. Putting a correct price on negative impacts (e.g., CO2 emissions but also air pollution) and letting the market decide how to respond will, almost by definition, achieve emissions reductions (or reduce other negative impacts, in general) at the lowest cost.

      Yes, cheap energy can improve people’s livelihoods, but that statement only makes sense if you’re referring to the real, actual, total cost of that energy. Just calling something cheap (or making it appear artificially cheap) by ignoring real costs/impacts is inaccurate and dishonest. It reminds me the “clean coal” campaign, as though simply declaring something to be clean would make it so.

      In the above vein, my general response to concerns about the poor, due to increased fossil fuel costs, would be: “of all the ways to help the poor, one of the last ways I would think of would be to specifically subsidize their use of dirty energy.” But that’s basically what current policy is doing. Concerned about the poor? Hell just write ’em a check. That would make more sense.

      It must be noted again, however, that the poor would NOT suffer a reduction in economic standard of living under the Carbon Fee and Dividend proposal. Analyses show that they would actually come out ahead, with their dividend checks more than offsetting increased energy costs.

      1. @Jim Hopf

        “of all the ways to help the poor, one of the last ways I would think of would be to specifically subsidize their use of dirty energy.”

        You mean like winter heating oil programs?

    1. @Stew Melville
      Thanks for bringing this petition to my attention. I read and signed it. The petition needs to garner 100,000 signatures within 30 days of initiation in order to be placed in the queue for review by the White House (by July 8th). It has only received slightly over 8000 in the first 10 days.

      Despite being reasonably tied in to the nuclear conversation this escaped me until your alert. This sort of begs the question…..Why hasn’t EVERY site that cares about demonstrating support for nuclear power been sounding a clarion call by posting a link to the petition? Although it is certainly not a panacea it would serve as a mechanism to provide evidence of strong support if everyone concerned was aware and signed. Then again, perhaps there’s not as great a concern and support as those of us in the echo chamber believe or would like to think.

    1. @Stew Melville
      Read your post at ANS NuclearCafe, missed it earlier. The “Nuclear Matters” site now also has a link to the petition posted. I have signed and have sent numerous alerts to friends and family to sign as well as encouraging them to further the effort to bring awareness to the petition. I hope EVERYONE takes the 30 seconds it requires to jump on “THIS BANDWAGON”

    2. @Stew

      I read the article and received an email from the ANS President. Of course, I signed the petition. I also sent it out to my entire local section (the Kansas Section), and I will be sending it out to multiple entire work group on Monday.

      I salute you for thinking out of the box with the petition, but looking at the numbers, I don’t think we will get enough signatures. If we don’t, we need to collectively think about ways to get the word out better. Facebook, Twitter, all of the blogs, personal conversations. We should also send it to groups that we might not traditionally think of…unions, environmental groups, engineering firms, nuclear suppliers. If we don’t get enough signatures, then we need to try again…this time with a more forceful push. Frankly, we need the leaders in our industry groups to utilize their organizations (in addition to all of our grass roots-level efforts). Are the management of the plants informing their employees?

      The only way we’re going to change this situation is if we push for a change. We need to be out there talking to everyone in our own industry as well as Johnny Q. Public. I like the petition. If we need to do another one, let me know what I can do to help.

  4. Look at the size of the security force at the average NPP. In early 1970 the security force was typically a “rent-a-cop” at the front gate that looked at your badge. Shifts were set up so that there were two on duty at the time of shift change for the utility workers. On a job interview I drove up to the gate told the guard I had an interview for employment scheduled, he asked my name and I drove in and parked next to the front door in the”visitor” parking. Since 9/11 the security force now has federally mandated training requirements and proficiency qualification. Typically it is the largest department on site. Along with the NRC work time requirements it takes 5 or 6 shifts to provide the needed 24 hour coverage, training, qualification, minimize overtime and long workdays. The doctor giving you heart surgery could be on his 36th hour of work, but not the security guard that checks your badge, or is looking for a firearm, explosives, or gives you a screening more thorough than the TSA. The number of personnel in the security department exceeds the number of employees in the Police Department for the typical city of 200,000 to about 250,000, and the total cost of that department is about the same for each. Look at what it costs to operate your local police department. What are they really protecting against, other than FUD? It is easier to get onto the submarine piers of New London Submarine Base in civilian clothes. I know, I have been there. Yet there is now talk of installing a Phalanx type system to shoot down aircraft and or missiles. What is next? Anyone that can not see that the regulations are forcing the NPPs out of existence are not keeping up with reality. Why would any terror group want to attack a facility, [actually fortress, as they have higher security than any Top Secret Naval facility I have been to or even Fort Knox.] defended with even half the number of employees as at a NPP?

  5. Gents,

    Starting a petition like this is way outside the box for me. Being outside the box is all I have going for me. I am on twitter @stuville77 and I know that NEI, ANS, NAYGN, and my company Entergy have pushed this petition via numerous outlets. I have tweeted at every major and nuclear specific news outlet that I can think of. I also sent this to my local congressman, Senators GE, AREVA, Westinghouse, and nuclear friendly environmentalist that I have found.

    I do agree that the numbers are daunting. You have to get 150 sigs before the White House will even acknowledge it. The Save Fort Calhoun and Fitzpatrick groups got us those first sigs. With that said, the last 72 hours have seen 7000+ signatures. Rough math is 2500 sig per day. That puts us short, by a good bit at the 30 day point. We need 4500 signatures per day.

    Continued reminders, requests for children and spouses to sign will be key.

  6. “Look at the size of the security force at the average NPP. In early 1970 the security force was typically a “rent-a-cop” at the front gate that looked at your badge. ”

    Is it really needed? When I worked at a nuke plant (& I was involved with security) it seemed as though the worst thing that happened was a raccoon causing an animal alarm to the E field.

    I also question the worth of some of the programs. Can’t the work be done and then are completed? I saw an Appendix R engineer, a PRA engineer, EQ engineers, engineers who worked on nothing but design bases, electricians on night shift doing nothing but there to support the Emergency Plan, and I’m sure there are many more examples. One that comes to mind is having two or more guys to do a job that one guy could easily do. A lot of this stuff does not seem to be involved in the business of generating electricity.

    Right now I am working at a substation next to a peaker plant. Most of the time it is empty. An operator is dispatched when they make electricity. Quite the contrast between that and the nukes.

    Will the new ones they are building still need all of this “extra” support?

  7. Again, it should be– Federally mandated– that utilities must produce a gradually growing percentage of their electricity through carbon neutral power (nuclear, hydroelectric, biowaste, wind, solar, geo, etc.) with a 90% carbon neutral mandate for utilities by at least 2040.

    A 100% sin tax should be placed on all carbon polluting electricity for utilities that fail to reach the Federal mandates.

    1. I believe that such a goal is too small.  It aims only at electric power, not the sum total of activities which put fixed carbon into the atmosphere.  The rest of energy consumption must also be addressed (including space heat and DHW, industrial process heat, and transport energy consumption) plus change in carbon inventories from land use.

      If you attempt to minimize carbon emissions from the electric grid alone, you will have a lot of carbon “leak” out elsewhere.  This gets you chasing “unanticipated” side effects that are perfectly predictable.  This is no way to get the job done… but I’m sure that the fossil-fuel moguls have plans to protect their profits using exactly this sort of tactic.

      Bottom line:  anyone dragging the red herring of “renewable grid” around without explicitly acknowledging the rest is either a FF propagandist or one of their unwitting dupes.  And wouldn’t you know, that’s exactly what Mark Z. Jacobson does.

      1. Indeed, we need cheap and abundant and clean and reliable electricity to tackle fossil fuels in heating and transport. In Germany, the EEG surcharge has made storage heaters and heat pumps utterly uncompetitive so people heat with gas, oil or wood pellets.
        A carbon price would have the opposite effect, especially if nuclear generation is allowed.

      2. That’s why I also believe that there should be a 50% carbon neutral mandate by 2030 and a 90% carbon neutral mandate by 2040 on all transportation fuels sold in the US.

        The mass production of remotely sited Ocean Nuclear power plants for the production of carbon neutral methanol, gasoline, diesel fuel, jet fuel, and dimethyl ether should be the primary means to achieve this goal, IMO.

        Marcel

    1. Continuing to rapidly add excess CO2 to the Earth’s atmosphere is a positive if you’re OK with:

      1. Putting coastal cities like New York, Boston, Washington D.C., Philadelphia, Houston, New Orleans, Miami, London, Rome, Berlin, Beijing, Tokyo, Bangkok, the entire state of Florida and the entire nations of Cambodia and Cuba underwater

      2. Causing the mass extinction of high latitude species such as the polar bear, walrus, and elephant seals,

      3. Enhancing the environmental conditions for the proliferation of the number one animal killer of humans on Earth, the mosquito

      1. Please address all comments to Dr. Patrick Moore. Appears you do not agree with the learned professor. Perhaps he can enlighten you.

        1. Dr. Moore needs to be enlightened if he thinks that drowning the world’s coastal cities is a great idea!

          Marcel

          1. And how does shutting down NPP’s, as the administrations present plan is forcing, reduce the rate of increase of sea level?
            With the shutdown of the NPP’s since the conception of President Obama’s CPP, not giving them credit in 5 have shut down, 15 more are seriously considering shutting down, and by 2030, even with the creation of 20% of the power by “renewables” the USA will have greater CO2 emissions than before. Also need to look at those Renewable numbers in the CCP. They are counting Name Plate output, which is five to ten times higher than the actual delivered power. Thus, not only will we have more CO2, we will have less electricity. Or is that the desired effect?

      2. The dire consequences of CO2 that you list are no doubt “known” by many of the world’s leaders and opinion makers. They have access to the best scientific advice modern civilization can provide. Yet they are ambivalent at best towards nuclear power. Except for Beijing (is it really a coastal city?), one could even say they are hostile towards nuclear power.

        If there was a chance they would embrace or at least accept nuclear power, we would have seen it by now.

        Either they are so blind that they cannot balance objective information or the whole doom by CO2 is our era’s version of the “Domino Theory”. The fact that many of these “leaders” insist on swamping us with third-world refugees and involving us in futile wars and sanctions against nations that don’t go along with their agenda suggests that maybe they really don’t have humanity’s best interest as a priority.

        In either case, “education” or a PR campaign would be futile.

    2. You have to royally take into account that Greenpeace — which is not shy about outright lying and skewing facts as any means to advance its cause (simply because they go totally unchallenged — NEVER put on the hot seat!) — is not going to endorse or admit that their top anathema – War II’s bastard baby, nuclear power — is the one major reliable power source that can totally replace fossils and “renewables” to avoid global warming. It should be a flag that most climatic experts and research institutions don’t cite Greenpeace as a reference and they can’t cough up any hard facts or studies in their camp that can’t be verified outside wildly stretched spectulation. FOE and Greenpeace don’t give a damn if millions of people have died and will die by their actions denying them power to create clean water or having ample genetically enhanced crops for food or insecticides to kill mosquitoes with, just so long as they can conceitedly appear as the Oh-So-Caring-Earth-Saving-Crusaders! darling white hats in the media. Big fat hypocrites. Big fat KILLING hypocrites.

      James Greenidge
      Queens NY

  8. Appears the rumors about Diablo Canyon were based on fact. This in a state that fears CO2.

    Yeah, the global warming crusade has been really good for nuclear power. We should work with these people more closely.

  9. Solar/wind are placebos
    The public sees them and feels all comfy not knowing how basically useless they are.
    And politicians react to the public pacifying while lining their pockets via cronyism.

    The article I just read on Diablo states that plant supporters “claim” that replacement power will be gas? Claim?
    It’s like “claiming” that gravity exists yet it’s questioned. And yet the public and pols eat it up.

    Only solution is a CO2 credit for nuclear and the battle will be local NY and IL

  10. How is it that I am 20 pages into this excellent blog (having read most posts on the prior pages) and have yet to see any discussion on how to increase demand for electricity? That’s the surest way of reaching Robert Steinhaus’ well-stated objective of lowering energy costs while fostering advanced nuclear for its unique advantages over all competitors. Contrarily, anything increasing risk that America’s already hollowed out industry will pack up and leave for less greener, but cheaper pastures elsewhere–which a carbon tax could result in, as increased energy input costs to the business won’t be made up by the SS administration’s rebate–does not seem the best way to advance nuclear energy.

    I like to say there’s more work to be done than you can shake a stick at and how is it that the stop sign and traffic light have yet to be obsoleted? Might electric roads (maglev) offer advantages over electric vehicles, particularly in urban areas and across interstate highway systems? Putting the engine in the roadway will lighten the weight of the vehicle, thus roads can run as high as buildings rise, rather than be confined to the surface. Safe, autonomous driving at lightning speeds in vehicles with built-in bars, because, sadly, drinking and driving is the American way. No more dead from drunk driving. No more dead from driving, period.

    I’m for big projects that will stimulate industry–projects that will pay for themselves again and again, because they bring leverage, like advanced nuclear promises with new process heat applications. I agree with you, Rod, when you score the nuclear industry for its marketing. They could better advocate for increasing demand for both electricity and process heat and edify Americans in particular that money simply is not an issue for getting big things done. Indeed, in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis US agencies brought into being $23.7 trillion in credit facilities that reckless gamblers of the day could tap and tide over what were hoped to be temporary revenue shortfalls, effectively proving money in this country need never be an issue when there’s concerted political will to get something of considerable value done. The nuclear industry should be telling that story with suggestions for cutting edge public projects they would be best positioned to power.

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    Renewables people are masters in marketing. Unreliable intermittent generators whose output is all over the place, and usually badly correlated…

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