Deeply troubled by FitzPatrick and Pilgrim announcements. We need their clean electricity production to continue
Several of the therapists I have visited over the years have told me that I need to stop taking too much responsibility for events that are beyond my control. It’s not always easy advice to follow even for someone who has been aware of similar advice from the Serenity Prayer for the better part of 50 years.
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can,
And the wisdom to know the difference.
The most recent gut punches that have put me into a funk were the Entergy announcements that they plan to close the Pilgrim Nuclear Plant on Cape Cod (October 12) and the James A. FitzPatrick Nuclear Power Plant in Oswego, NY. (November 2). Though I have never visited either plant and cannot name any acquaintances that live near the facilities or are employed by them, I’m deeply troubled by my awareness of the painful human effects that are an inevitable result of the announcements of the premature closures.
Part of my problem is an inflated view of my persuasive powers. I have trouble getting past the idea that there was something I could have changed if only I had worked a little harder, reached a few more people, or crafted a few more explanatory paragraphs about why closing the plants now is exactly the wrong action to take.
Going back to the second line of the Serenity Prayer, I keep telling myself that I need to have the courage to change the misunderstandings that are causing companies like Entergy to believe that they must close existing nuclear power plants.
It doesn’t make environmental sense, it doesn’t make sense for the economies of the local regions, it directly hurts a lot of hard-working people, and it doesn’t even make economic sense for the company that made the decision.
I know the last clause in the above sentence is subject to virulent dispute by Entergy and its defenders, but I’m stubbornly certain that nuclear plants can make money now and have the strong potential to make even more money in the future. Part of the path towards profitability involves firm resistance to excessive requirements that provide little or no marginal improvements in safety or security.
It probably involves rolling back existing requirements, especially in the physical security area.
I know it is considered to be risky to resist regulatory ratcheting, but nuclear plant operators must recognize that the US has an adversarial legal and regulatory system. Without firm, well-supported resistance, regulations inevitably pile up and add costs that the market will not absorb.
Regulators have a responsibility to ensure adequate protection without regard to costs, but an industry with the safety record of the US nuclear industry has already achieved adequate protection. Any additional requirements must be subjected to honest cost benefit analysis.
No matter what power sources fill in the market space left by halting production at Pilgrim (677 net MWe) and FitzPatrick (848 net MWe) there will be negative consequences for the environment.
Existing nuclear plants produce massive amounts of reliable electricity with no air or water pollution and no greenhouse gases; they do not require any rural land to be turned into new construction sites or any pipelines to be built; and there are no wells to be drilled or shale formations to be fracked.
Accepting the environmental impact of closing two moderately large nuclear power plants “for economic reasons” at a time when the federal government is still spending $6 billion or more each year in investment tax credits (ITC) to encourage low carbon fossil fuel alternatives is absurd. The ITC is just part of the costly incentive package that makes investors interested in “renewable” energy; they also qualify for accelerated depreciation, low interest loans, favored market access, renewable portfolio quotas and some state-funded incentives.
The absurdity of the economic situation is made more apparent because federal and state government have taken actions that added substantially to the cost of owning and operating emission-free nuclear plants.
Aside: I am aware of the fact that the ITC “in lieu of” a production tax credit (PTC) program that has been in place almost continuously since 2009 has officially expired under current law. I’m also aware that it has been extended several times in the past couple of years by obscure language in bills passed just before the holiday recesses. I’d say there is a better than even chance of that happening again this year. End Aside.
The pain for the 1200 or more people directly employed at the sites, for their families, and for their neighboring economies is already real. There must be a sense of betrayal among former Vermont Yankee employees that trusted their employer and faithfully accepted jobs at plants that were not too far from home. Their stress and uncertainty-filled existence will now continue for another couple of years.
In my opinion, the way that Entergy handled the FitzPatrick announcement borders on psychological torture. Entergy told investors and the press that they would be announcing their decision by the end of the month of October. As of Friday, October 30, the company had not made an announcement, so they issued an 800 number that their employees could call during the weekend to find out if there was any news about their employment status. There was no announcement during the weekend; employees received the news first thing Monday morning even though the company apparently made the decision on Friday.
For longtime Pilgrim or FitzPatrick employees, especially those who are in the large demographic group of current nuclear plant operators and maintainers older than 50, there must be a growing realization that they will have difficulty finding new jobs at anything close to their current salaries and level of responsibility. The number of displaced nuclear operational and maintenance specialists has grown quickly in the past three years as closing nuclear plants has become almost a fad among merchant power generators.
Mobility in the nuclear energy field can be somewhat more difficult than in similar industries because the qualifications earned at each of the unique plants in the US fleet are not transferrable. For a senior reactor operator who is working as a shift supervisor, regaining a similar level of qualification can take several years after moving to a new facility.
As a frequent commenter on the Save Vermont Yankee FaceBook page often laments, few companies are interested in putting someone in their late 50s or early 60s into a licensed operator training program because they will be too close to retiring when they finish.
It is never easy to move when you are established in a community and it can be especially troublesome when you are in a “sandwich” position of having responsibilities for taking care of parents and sending children to college.
I realize that the economy is never static and that jobs come and go, but electricity is a product that is not going out of style. No matter what numskulls like Jon Wellinghoff and his disciples believe or chant, reliable [baseload] power generators are vital.
Even if the facilities are a few decades old, their product — dependable electricity — is sparklingly new every second of every day. It is what allows us to live the comfortable, productive, and healthy lives we do. People that produce that valuable product shouldn’t have to be worried that their jobs will suddenly disappear.
The above comments don’t necessarily apply to the hundreds of security specialists who have been added to plant payrolls since 2001. I’m sorry to toss them under the bus, but there are way too many of them for adequate protection.
Before I close this lament, I need to remind readers that the point-of-no-return has not been reached for either plant. There is the possibility of a deus ex machina development that will change the story’s ending all the way up until the current operating license has been converted into a “possession only” license at the NRC.
If any readers know how to put together billion dollar deals, please begin performing your due diligence. (Note: It looks like some effort has already begun for FitzPatrick. Investor owned corporations might not like the fact that their actions are lending momentum to a revived push for public power.
In the meantime, people who realize that Pilgrim, FitzPatrick and all other operating nuclear power plants in the US are national assets that benefit all of us can encourage our representatives to investigate the real reasons why companies believe that merchant nuclear plants cannot make enough money. Inquiries and hearings might buy enough time to let the production inertia in the natural gas industry die off enough to expose the shrinking supply surplus.
Drilling activity began slowing more than 18 months ago; production is finally peaking. Corporations and investors that lost billions of dollars during the overproduction era are not likely to invest in new drilling activity until prices have risen more than a few dollars/MMBTU. Once they decide to move, they might have a difficult time convincing betrayed workers to return.
When gas and electricity market prices rise; the nuclear plant owners will be happy they rode the commodity cycle and did not give up just when it was ending.
This is all such _unnecessary_ bad news for employees concerned and nation — and world — as whole!
I’m clueless about the practical political points of this musing so that’s why i bow to you all regarding this: Though it’s undoubtedly possible under a dictatorship, is there some deeply shelved protocol or executive order short of martial law (even the Pentagon supposedly has a file on how deal with UFOs) that would allow a new commander-in-chief with the wave of their pen to freeze all nuclear plant demolition and only mothball decommissioned plants under the banner of designating nuclear plants as ready emergency mainline non-Co2 contributing assets in the event of catastrophic proof or events related to global warming? Hope I’m saying this right!
Ironically, Governor Cuomo of NY is apparently upset with the closure of Fitzpatrick (located Upstate) while doing all he can to shut down Indian Point (near NYC).
Actually, it’s not ironic, it’s hypocritical.
He currently doesn’t allow fracking on the NY State portion of the Marcellus Shale.
He will, once the market expands and the prices for natural gas support the extra supply.
Shutting down Fitzpatrick and Indian point would be conducive to their having political dominance over the “gas boom”, since their acquiescence will eventually be required. Their timing seems perfect.
We have yet to design a market that adequately addresses long-term issues. Markets are notoriously short-term. The nuclear retirements are the result of decisions regarding de-regulation and reliance on markets. I hope we will come to realize the value of these facilities before it is too late.
Respectfully disagree with the security comment; As a nuclear security professional with 13 years of protecting this critical national asset, it is a necessary evil. While I wish at times that the NRC would show some reasonableness with many of these requirements, nuclear power is always 10 minutes from being on CNN for something. Having worked for two separate utilities in decommissioning, spent fuel storage and operating power, there is some reasonable basis for these requirements. Hang around a NPP during a refueling outage and see the kind of behaviors occurring and it becomes quite clear that the security staff is just as important to nuclear safety as any other engineered barrier that protects the fuel.
Thank you for your comment.
Security is one of those topics that is almost as difficult to discuss rationally as non-proliferation.
I just don’t see the safety issue or the vulnerability that you imply exists. I’ve visited enough nuclear plants to believe that they would be difficult targets even if there was only a guard or two. Not only are they difficult targets, but they are not terribly attractive targets in the sense that they don’t offer the opportunity to cause real harm to anyone.
The absolute most damage I can imagine would result in the facility being destroyed, which is exactly the result that is happening anyway, partly as a result of excessively large payroll costs associated with protecting the plants.
There are certainly grounds for dispute, but I can’t help remembering the tiny guard force we used on strategic missile submarines in the 1980s, even when we were in non military port facilities.
Definitely agree with security being tough to discuss, particularly in detail, considering the fine details that play out in safeguards space vs. a good conversation about engineered barriers inherently built in to protect workers and the public from radiation. However, my Engineering friends can give me several, non-technical ways to disable our power plant without blinking an eye, and it doesn’t take rocket propelled grenades and an army. I certainly also don’t disagree with how we’re destroying ourselves from the inside, by piling unnecessary requirements on until the cost of doing business isn’t worth it. I am literally watching this unfold from the ground floor myself.
What I will say is, in the scheme of keeping something this special and unique free from the type of disruptions that would hurt utility bottom lines if an adversarial attack were to occur, the price of approximately 5 million dollars a year for a well trained counter force is cheap. It’s been demonstrated consistently for many years to be effective in deterring such attempts.
If you want to see real cost impacts, look no further than the one size fits all, self imposed Fukushima projects hitting utilities from now until their licenses expire…the numbers are staggering for “beyond design basis,” which is pretty much laymen’s terms for not going to happen. My utility is in the middle of it now and it’s an arm and a leg, plus training, procedures, equipment, you name it…all for what? And the industry did it to themselves, so we can’t really cry about it. That’s what us nukes are, our own worst enemies with our knee jerk reactions to situations that don’t fit every plant. We will run ourselves out of business and then the public will realize someday we shouldn’t have done things the way we did…then we’ll start over.
If feel really bad for my brethren in the merchant markets, but, the utilities wanted deregulation, which now looks awfully short-sighted….they bet and they were wrong…and now they have no recourse because profit and stock prices and dividends are all that matters these days.
Let’s just say that almost everyone who is already sitting on a camel with a broken back will say that they are not the one who broke it.
I’m a former military man and long time student of national policy; I have strong opinions about the holders of responsibility for protecting all of us — including vital infrastructure — from attacks by armed forces.
We agree regarding costs of Fukushima reactions; they can certainly be described as self-imposed or voluntary. Many, however, would argue that they were supposed to fend off even worse impositions from the NRC. (If that was the strategy, it failed.)
I feel really bad for my brethren in the merchant markets, but, the utilities wanted deregulation, which now looks awfully short-sighted….they bet and they were wrong…and now they have no recourse because profit and stock prices and dividends are all that matters these days.
I’ll offer one correction – any company that supported deregulation was not led by a utility leader. Utilities are special organizations that provide a vital product or service to the best of their ability.
They might be profit-making entities owned by investors, but the profits are limited to a fair return on investment under an obligation-to-serve construct. They are supposed to be investments appropriate for widows and orphans. Leaders of those organizations should expect to be paid on a scale similar to people who are public servants – topping out in the neighborhood occupied by mayors, governors, generals, admirals, and cabinet secretaries.
A company led by people who want to capture the kinds of compensation packages that are now offered to those running big companies in a “free market” without the risks of losses that accompany market price cycles don’t deserve to be called “utility leaders.”
Oh man, Rod, you a gonna p*ss off the 10% you be talking like that.
Trump might broadcast your phone number or somethin’!!! Or worse, Levin or Beck, (maybe even EP), will brand “socialist” on your forehead!
I don’t worship capital, so I don’t consider myself a capitalist. As a career US military professional, I lived in a reasonable approximation of a meritocracy with strong socialist underpinnings. Leaders were inculcated with the twin mantras “Rank has its responsibilities” and “Rank has its privileges.” Servant leaders were not only highly respected, they were often the most accomplished people at all levels in the hierarchy.
No claim to perfection; there are certainly lots of problems in the military and plenty of people in positions of responsibility who probably shouldn’t be there. However, the system isn’t half bad and allows plenty of room for individual accomplishment and advancement while attempting to achieve a situation where even the entry level people are respected and cared for.
Concur on the correction, and well stated. The golden parachutes at the upper levels are staggering. Ratepayers left holding the bag.
Moderator comment: I decided to publish the following comment because the author refrained from directly attacking anyone but me. My skin is pretty thick. I thought others might be as amused by the rant as I am.
Rod Adams, you have puplicly admitted to being a socialist. Then go to a socialist country like North Korea or Cuba. A capitalist isn’t one who worships capital. Your twisting of words and principles is quite Orwellian. A capitalist is a person who competes fairly in the free market. We do not have enough of them these days. People like you socialists have created this system of corporate socialism, and now you complain about it. Politicians in govt are the same kind of avaricious and greedy and power hungry men that you accuse capitalists of being, yet you trust politicians in govt over capitalist? Oh the irony!
I work for seven years at Fitz and a total of 33 years in the commercial nuclear iindustry. You worked ZERO years at a commercial nuclear power plant, and you dumped out of the only private company that you worked for after a couple of years. That’s all available in the public forum. Simple research will show that. You have no business being a self-appointed expert because you never worked at a commercial nuke. You know nothing about commercial nuclear security. Nothing.
Further, you voted TWICE for the failed policies and anti-nuclearism of Obama and under his watch we have a slew of nuclear power plants being shut down while natural gas corporations profit mightily. And he appointed anti-nuke Jackzo as NRC Chairman! This is under the watch of YOU liberal progressives, whether you call yourselves Democrat or Independent.
No, I am NOT a lover of Republicans. I hate RINO hypocrisy. But I will never ever vote for your kind, and yes, given a choice being any Democrat and Donald Trump, I will hold my nose and vote for Trump NOT because I like him BUT because I hate the anti-nuclearism of Democrats, and more importantly their wicked and idolatrous policies on the great moral issues of our time. You know what those issues are. I cannot express the utter loathing and disgust that liberal progressivism inspires, and I am far from the only one who feels that way. As Sir Winston Churchill stated, “Socialism is a philosophy of failure, the creed of ignorance, and the gospel of envy, its inherent virtue is the equal sharing of misery.”
I will fight socialism to my dying breath. Pope Leo XIII admonished against socialism in his encyclical Quod Apostolici Muneris, and the current commie crucifix Marxist Peronist occupier of the Seat of Peter cannot overturn 2000 years of Sacred Tradition and Scripture. You people are just like Judas Iscariot who carried the money purse and complained to Jesus about how the costly oil being poured on his feet could have been sold to help the poor. Like all you socialists, Judas said that because he used to pilfer from the purse. He cared not one iota for the poor, the same as Obama, Cuomo, Hillary, Jerry Brown and all the rest of you. The incident with Judas is recorded in John chapter 12. Read it some time, assuming Sacred Scripture is still taught in your church started by an adulterous king who created schism in the 1500s. Oh, I forgot – history that occurred before your birth isn’t relevant.
Small correction – I ran a small private firm for three years and then was the general manager of another one for an additional three years in between two lengthy stints on active duty. That information is in my resume.
What is not in my resume is the fact that I started working in the private sector when I was 13 years old with a small, but profitable lawn mowing service. Before entering the Naval Service at 17, I worked as a delivery driver for a small local pharmacy, as a worker for a small cleaning firm that specialized in construction sites and after hours office cleaning, as a summer camp counselor, as a marina attendant, and as a lifeguard. I understand the free market pretty well and happily engage in entrepreneurial activity.
My beef with capitalism is the way-too-often-repeated notion that companies only exist to make a profit. IF/WHEN that is true, then I reject that system.
I’m also quite curious about your characterization of the current Pope. I’m not a Catholic, but my impression is that he was selected in the approved, time-honored way. Did something go wrong in the process? Why do you put yourself and your opinions above his?
Gads. Thats oughta give “devout” a bad rap.
What is it about religious wackos that makes them think God is a jerk?
There are regulatory ways to deal with the executive compensation issue. In my state we look at the measures used to determine the variable compensation. If it is things like shareholder value, EPS, cash flow, etc. then the executive is working for the shareholder and not for the ratepayer, and thus the ratepayer should not pay for any of the variable compensation. [When ratepayers don’t pay it comes out of shareholder returns]. Conversely, executives could get compensated for measures like reliability, often mentioned now, or low rates, a measure which executives are almost never compensated for.
The other thing that bothers me is all the utilities that say their executives need to be given above average compensation in order to draw the best talent. Never have I seen a utility say “we need to be in the fourth quartile of executive compensation”. Of course when all utilities need above average executive compensation then that just perpetuates the growth of the average. That to me is why executive comp in the utility industry has increased so dramatically.
I would welcome anyone’s thoughts on what utility costs should be reflected, or not reflected, in utility rates.
Number of COLs approved under Obama: 5.
Number of COLs approved under G.W. Bush: 0.
Which one is the anti-nuke?
If ya can’t back up reality with scripture, its just fantasy. Get with the program, will ya?
The current COL process was passed in the Energy Act of 2005. There is no way a utility could have filed after the law was passed and then had the COL approved during the Bush administration. So I do not believe that simply counting the approved COLs means much. COLs filed might be a better measure, but I will leave that argument to someone else.
Well, actually, the process that is used to obtain a construction and operating license (COL) at the same time is 10 CFR 52, a regulation that was completed and issued in 1989. Obtaining a COL has nothing to do with the Energy Policy Act of 2005.
Keith’s comment does deserve a tiny correction – the license issued to Watt’s Bar Unit 2 is an OL (operating license). It was licensed under the two step process defined by 10 CFR 50. TVA obtained the plant’s construction permit in 1973 (I think). It then took its sweet time completing the facility in fits and starts before obtaining the operating license when the facility was complete — including having a staff of trained and qualified operators — and ready to load fuel.
Therefore the score might be stated as:
Number of COLs approved under Obama: 4
Number of OLs approved under Obama: 1
Number of COLs or OLs approved under G.W. Bush: 0
COLs or OLs under Clinton: 1 (Watts Bar Unit 1 in 1996)
COLs or OLs under G. H. W. Bush: 0
I’d have to do quite a bit more research to figure out how many licenses were issued by each administration before January 1989 when G. H. W. Bush was inaugurated.
Number of COL applications submitted under G.W. Bush: 26
Number of COL applications submitted under B.H. Obama: 2 (Turkey Point, Units 6 and 7, only five months into Obama’s first term.)
Number of COL applications withdrawn or suspended under G.W. Bush: 0
Number of COL applications withdrawn or suspended under B.H. Obama: 13
Number of operating nuclear plants closed under G.W. Bush: 0
Number of operating nuclear plants closed under B.H. Obama: 6 (assuming that Entergy is serious about closing FitzPatrick)
A better metric of the health of the US nuclear industry is how optimistic utility companies are.
Only five COL’s being approved is nothing to be proud of. There should have been a lot more. That there’s only five just reinforces how hostile the Obama administration has been to nuclear power. It’s the nuclear industry that should be proud. Its hardworking people were able to accomplish this in spite of Obama’s energy policies and NRC appointments, not because of them.
Rod – Perhaps Keith was referring to Fermi, Unit 3.
Thank you for the reminder about Fermi unit 3.
I also accept your additional information. As your good friend poa points out, effective opposition to nuclear comes from both parties.
My reading and interactions with corporate decision makers certainly supports your contention that optimism is at a low ebb. The plant closure decisions support that contention as well.
Nearly everyone who I’ve spoken to, however, tells me that the primary problem is the low market price of electricity. There is very little free cash flow available.
That low price is driven partly by an oversupply of natural gas. Some of the oversupply comes from the anemic recovery, some from the rapid rate of drilling, some from the innovations in hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling. There are also some who point to provisions in the Energy Policy Act of 2005 as providing a key enabling mechanism for rapid drilling programs by reducing the regulatory burdens of the Clean Water Act.
The energy policy arena is complicated. There are few white or black hats involved.
“Number of COL applications submitted under G.W. Bush: 26”
How many were approved under GWB?
poa – You seem to be laboring under the misunderstanding that the COL approval process is instantaneous. It’s a process that requires many years.
Bush spent most of his time in office reversing the damage that had been done over decades, beginning in the Ford administration and accelerated during the Carter and Clinton administrations. Almost all of these COL’s were submitted in 2007 and 2008, the last two years of Bush’s time in office. It was impossible for any of them to be approved by January 20, 2009, considering the amount of work that needs to be done, the number of public meetings that need to be scheduled, announced, and held, and the overall glacial pace that government bureaucracy tends to move at.
Rod – I tend not to think in terms of good (white hats) vs. evil (black hats). It makes more sense to me to think in terms of competent and incompetent.
I agree that it is complicated, which is why I thought that a record that is more complete than just the number of COL’s granted (which is a misleading statistic given the time and issues involved in getting a COL application through the regulatory process) was warranted. It is precisely because the situation is complicated that we need someone competent making the important decisions. Let’s face it — Obama’s appointments to head the DOE and the NRC have been complete duds. They’ve done more damage than good.
Certainly, I don’t blame Obama for every bad statistic. For example, the closure of Crystal River 3 was entirely the fault of Progress Energy, who destroyed their containment by choosing to perform a “do-it-yourself” job instead of hiring professionals with experience at this type of work.
But it’s also more complicated than just “cheap fracked gas.” Energy policies enacted by the Federal and State governments — particularly when it comes to “renewables” — also are distorting markets in a way that make even low-marginal-cost electricity from existing nuclear plants unsustainable. While it’s tempting to blame what’s happening on the shortsightedness of free markets, the markets where the plants are closing down due to “economic reasons” are a long way from being really free.
“As your good friend poa points out
How’d you know I have a soft spot for the handicapped?
I’ve said it before and I will say it again……there is absolutely NO reason Security should be the largest department at a Nuclear Power Plant. We have 170+ Security Officers and 200+ during outages. That’s just the Officers. 100% ridiculous. Security can hire 20 Officers at a time on a whim while it takes us sometimes over a year to get Upper Management to replace ONE HP Tech. Our plant looks like a freaking SuperMax prision. Almost all departments are losing head count due to cut backs in hopes of driving down our operating costs…….except of course, Security is actually increasing their head count. Why? Where is the risk to justify that? We are located on the Hanford Reservation, if anything we are the last plant terrorists would be interested in…….Hanford is already the most contaminated (radiologically……but lets not forget about the chemicals either) area in the USA.
You’re right about Fukushima. We will end up spending 70+ million for “upgrades”……at a plant that is 3.5 hours from the coast. Fukushima “upgrades” should simply be protect your emergency diesel generators from anything that’s even remotely possible……even if its something out of a Science Fiction novel. Not having their DG’s is EXACTLY what brought Fukushima down. You don’t need any of the other modifications if your DG’s are protected.
Me, I don’t agree with any of the modifications that are required from Fukushima……I simply tip my hat to Mother Nature and realize those three damaged reactors and one damaged reactor building haven’t killed anybody, and most likely wont. Not restarting the perfectly good reactors in Japan has done MUCH….MUCH more damage to Japan than Fukushima could ever possibly have done..
Well, that is definitely strange for a waste dump garnering those levels of security. As for the operating world, yes, security is typically one of the largest departments. Didn’t used to be that way, but bean counters cut the other disciplines out via contracting just the same. At my utility, hiring anyone but an operator is a miracle. Only Ops seems to have a consistent pipeline. Nuclear power plants have all seemed to go that route.
“Well, that is definitely strange for a waste dump garnering those levels of security”
No I work at a commercial Nuclear Power Plant, its called Columbia and its located on the Hanford Reservation.
Sensible precaution based on credible threat makes good sense. However, often times threats are contrived in order to justify policy. If nothing else, the last three decades have made this painfully clear to anyone with even half a brain.
Oops, sorry about that! Thought you were saying Hanford needed all that security…I have good friends at Columbia, great plant!
I still disagree somewhat. Before the Energy Act of 2005 the process was separated. The operating license was separate from the design and construction license. Therefore the COL, with the C standing for combined, did not exist in its current form until the 2005 Act.
I see know that our disagreement is about the acronym, “COL”. In my world, the “C” stands for combined. See the following from DTE Electric’s last rate case.
@!#%$!%$ Messed up the block quote. Here is the language from DTE.
Applicant is requesting recovery of expenditures related to completing the
Combined Operating Licensing application (COLA) for an additional nuclear generation unit at the Company’s Fermi Nuclear site (FERMI 3), and maintaining the license as part of the Company’s long term generation strategy. The Commission approved the initial COLA expenditures in its January 11, 2010 Order in Case No. U-15768.
You are correct that I messed up the words making up the acronym — COL does stand for combined operating license — but I stand by my statement that the “one-step” process for submitting a combined construction permit and operating license application was codified by 10 CFR 52 issued by the US NRC in 1989.
The Energy Policy Act of 2005 contained a few incentives to encourage potential customers to begin the process of applying for licenses and beginning construction, but the process had been in place for more than 15 years by that time.
Those EPA 2005 “incentives” have imposed few, if any, costs on taxpayers so far. They were all promises of support that would only be fulfilled upon completion and operation of facilities.
I detect a chink in Rod’s usual optimism. The Serenity Prayer is only useful if one adheres to its message. And the truth is, that we, as a people, have become irrelevent to the political process. And short of massive dissent, we are powerless to change that truth. And massive dissent is not in the cards, because our media masks the need for such action by keeping the masses in abject ignorance of the truth. Science and the people’s welfare doesn’t decide the issues Rod concerns himself with, corrupt politics does. When one admits this to himself, than Cuomo’s seemingly schizo positioning on these two pending closures becomes understandable.
As stated in the article, I admit that I might have an inflated view of the power of the pen (or keyboard) in this case. I have not yet given up hope or tossed in the towel, as you have apparently done. Perhaps it has something to do with the firm belief that my friends from the nuclear world and from my time in the Navy are at least as smart as the people in power. Some of them are even pretty well-connected.
Citizens need to assert the power that they have always had, but sometimes forgotten.
I haven’t “given up”, Rod. I have just come to the realization that all I can do is hope to have an effect on my immediate sphere. And hope that those whom I affect do the same. Like ripples from a stone cast in water……
There’s hope. The masses are tired of the status quo. Obama slithered into office offering “change”. It was a lie. Trump, and the Tea Party, are also offering the same rancid deception. As does the murderous shrew Clinton. Realizing we are fed up, it is the only marketable pitch, no matter how insincere. But the charade has a finite duration. The masses learn slow, but they do learn. If one of these idiots makes it to the Oval Office, and manages not to drop the football and blow us all up, its liable to be a real eye opener to those still naive enough to have bought the pitch.
By and large I agree with your assessment of the current state of the political process. The “anger” of Cuomo and Schumer is meant only for their voting block. It defies belief that they don’t know the market structure created by politicians is the reason Entergy cannot make money on these plants. Cuomo and Schumer have the ability to intervene and ensure the markets value nuclear power. Instead, they bluff and bluster on the public stage as to how it is all Entergy’s fault. It is pure political theater.
If our “leaders” were really serious about doing something to preserve these assets and not pandering for political support, they would be crafting policy and legislation that would offer a safety net for protecting these facilities, recognizing that they are strategic assets and important as a component to our national energy security. Thus, when the “free market” and private industry fail to preserve them, a national agency has to step in to fill the void. I’d rather it not be that way, but to preserve assets that directly affect national security, it may be necessary. That our “leaders” turn a blind eye to the plight of these plants, and in some cases encourage their demise, shows that, at best, they don’t care about doing anything, and at worst, don’t care about our energy security, which I think in some ways is traitorous. Think about it for a minute:
Kewaunee: nothing wrong with it, decades of useful life left
Vermont Yankee: nothing wrong with it, decades of useful life left
Pilgrim: nothing wrong with it, decades of useful life left
Fitzpatrick: nothing wrong with it, decades of useful life left
All perfectly functional, operational facilities, operating staff in place, licenses in place or in progress, yet they are being thrown away whole. Is there really any precedent for such waste?
Is there any precedent for throwing away the human capital involved in these shutdowns? Where are the people going to go? How many more surplus employees can be absorbed? How many times can an employee be abused, transferring from one power plant to another and then having it shutdown right under them? On that, I agree with the posters on SaveVY. The people cost, as well as the infrastructure, is horrendous. You have experts with decades of knowledge and experience being put out on the street just because they are older workers. That borders on criminal.
One poster on SaveVY noted that NYPA did not renew the Fitzpatrick PPA last year and that this was the reason why Fitzpatrick is unprofitable. If so, could Cuomo direct NYPA to negotiate a fair PPA to allow Fitzpatrick some breathing room? Is that all it would take? If so, why don’t they do it?
You are getting at something important. The designers of the markets expected a lot of binary contracts (PPAs) with some amount of residual energy and capacity being traded. After the prices on the markets were nowhere near the PPA amounts, all utilities began dumping their PPAs and buying more and more on the markets. Kewuanee also went down because of a lost PPA which could not be successfully renegotiated. I am convinced the markets are flawed, but I can not yet point out exactly what that flaw is. I am hopeful that my state remains regulated, as it seems that this is the only way that stability for all parties can work.
It seems they have traded the assurance of stable and affordable prices via a PPA for the uncertainty and temporary price advantage of buying in the markets. I always thought businesses were adverse to uncertainties, and relying on purchasing power in volatile markets is not a good way to avoid uncertainty. A PPA is a way to avoid uncertainty. It may also provide a mechanism by which the value of a nuclear plant as a reliable, carbon-free generating asset can be incorporated in the price. The “market” really should incorporate this value, and also devalue the product from polluting, unreliable sources, but the opposite seems to be true. If that isn’t a flaw, I don’t know what is.
Everything in this article resonates with me, from the acknowledgement that over-regulation (as well as skewed markets and policies) is the primary problem, to the part about knowing the difference between what you can and cannot change.
I’m feeling a lot of the same things Rod is. A feeling of helplessness as I watch all these bad things happening to nuclear, and a feeling of disappointment in not being able to make any difference (at least not yet). To hear this from Rod, who has done so much more, and has been so much more active than me, is very troubling. No matter how much I write, inform and argue, the same ignorant and wrong-headed points of view seem as prevalent as ever. It’s like it made no difference at all…..
Many people I know (e.g., my father, a local judge) decided to “make a difference” working at the local level, where a single person is actually able to have a tangible impact. But no, that was not enough for me (and my ego). I had to take on something “important” i.e. a national/worldwide, major issue; one that involved fighting powerful, motivated and entrenched interests (and attitudes). In other words, it didn’t involve making a difference by simply volunteering to do the work (to make some improvements in others lives, etc..). I chose a cause that involves defeating powerful opposition. My reward for this (egotism) has been frustration and futility.
“Everything in this article resonates with me, from the acknowledgement that over-regulation (as well as skewed markets and policies) is the primary problem, to the part about knowing the difference between what you can and cannot change.”
I’ve seen some of what Jim Hopf has written and I think he has made some difference.
Perceptions can be changed. Nuclear power is the key to saving the environment. Two perceptions must be altered before this can occur. Right Wingers have to accept that global warming is a reality and that reality must be dealt with. Left wingers must accept the fact that nuclear power is one tool in the toolbox for solving the climate change problem. They must further accept that it is often the best tool.
Once these perceptions are changed, the government hurdles can be reduced to a pragmatic level.
I disagree. It was a big mistake to tie support for nuclear power to global warming. It swayed very few of the cultists who are pushing global warming for the same reasons they are anti-nuclear: it is effectively people control. Notice how their environmental concerns are tossed aside over the impacts of wind turbines, solar farms and ethanol. Or how they jet around the world to attend conferences.
There are plenty of environmental reasons (acid rain, particulate emissions, land disturbance) to favor nuclear power over over coal and natural gas. Then there are safety and national security reasons that argue in favor of nuclear. So the only way left to stifle it is to make it too expensive relative to the alternatives.
Frankly, there will be no nuclear renaissance with our current structure of government (which is nothing like what was promised during ratification of the Constitution) and the corrupt people that are drawn to it. But honestly, the American people let this happen. Our system and our leaders were not forced upon us by a conquering power. We (repeatedly) voted it into existence.
Our system and our leaders were not forced upon us by a conquering power. We (repeatedly) voted it into existence.
And we can vote it out of existence.
“And we can vote it out of existence.”
Beverly Harris has good reason, and no small amount of evidence, to disagree with you.
Since 1960, we’ve had 13 presidential elections and even more Senate/Congressional elections. With a few exceptions, each election result has been worse than the preceding one. And those debatable exceptions may have only temporarily arrested the decline. Each seems to build on the faults of those who came before. You would have better odds flipping a coin. (I picked 1960 because that seems to be about the last time this nation had a genuine sense of optimism)
If we assume that we have free and fair elections, the inescapable conclusion is that it’s the people (voters) that are at fault. See George Carlin on this.
If we don’t have free and fair elections, then either the system is pre-disposed towards this outcome, or there is a concerted effort to drive it this way.
Regardless, of which is the case, it would seem that it is optimistic to expect the voters or the system to undergo any fundamental change from within.
Regardless, of which is the case, it would seem that it is optimistic to expect the voters or the system to undergo any fundamental change from within.
I’m putting my money right now on an independent candidate who has experience working in the system but who has determined that his positions cannot fit into the dogma of either party. I’m well aware of the difficulty of the path forward and the probability of failure on the first try.
Can we argue it from the conditional? IF human-induced climate change is happening, then using nuclear energy can be helpful in alleviating that. And even if it isn’t, there are plenty of valid environmental benefits to using nuclear over fossil fuels. I realize that throwing in the conditional weakens the argument, but it may broaden support among those who may be ambivalent about climate change.
“(I picked 1960 because that seems to be about the last time this nation had a genuine sense of optimism)”
Reagan gave us optimism or maybe it just seemed like optimism after the Carter malaise.
Were the election held today, I’d vote for Ted Cruz. I like how he stood up to his party leaders and called Mitch McConnell a liar to his face.
I do hope Democrats hold their nose and vote for the Republican nominee because Hillary is as corrupt as they come and Sanders is communist lite.
The optimism under Reagan (and Clinton) was fueled by easy money FED policies. While Clinton claims to have balanced the budget, you will notice that federal debt continued to increase.
It is true that the regulatory juggernaut was somewhat slowed temporarily under Reagan.
On to a more specific issue……,
One article I read quoted Cuomo as saying that they would not discuss any financial help until after they announce the plant’s closure. His reason was that he didn’t want to give aid that would simply go to Entergy’s bottom line, if they were just bluffing (i.e., weren’t going to close the plant anyway).
Well, perhaps this is Entergy’s predictable response, calling Cuomo’s bluff. It could be that this is all a dance (negotiation). I like the suggestion about the PPA. Seems plausible. I hope that some solution like that is found. Another thing they may consider is a reduction in local taxes. Such deals are often offered to new employers coming into an area. Same logic should apply for not leaving. After all, they will be paying little to no taxes if they close.
Hi Jim. I’m trying to locate you and some contact information on the internet. Do you live in Syracuse, NY or do you just comment widely on articles around the country related to nuclear? I’m trying to meet people in Syracuse where I live to help set up a public forum or debate on nuclear energy. You responded to one of my recent articles on the Syracuse Post Standard “Why NY’s Nuclear Subsidy Makes Sense”. Please get in touch if you can! Ethan Bodnaruk firstname.lastname@example.org
Some of the posters on the syracuse.com website where the articles on Fitzpatrick are posted along with comments have suggested that the PPA be negotiated with enough of a per kwh charge added to reflect the value of an emissions-free, carbon-free, high reliability energy source like Fitzpatrick is. Enough to make it profitable again based on this heretofore unrecognized (except by us) and unpriced value. If that could be done it might be a very good thing, not only for Fitzpatrick, but other nuclear plants as well, whose value is underpriced in the so-called “free” market. Other state agencies could look at this as precedent for their own efforts to negotiate PPAs for nuclear plants that recognize their true value in a carbon-constrained world.
Rod Adams wrote:
Accepting the environmental impact of closing two moderately large nuclear power plants “for economic reasons” at a time when the federal government is still spending $6 billion or more each year in investment tax credits (ITC) to encourage low carbon fossil fuel alternatives is absurd.
Environmental impact statements are required for construction projects of just about any magnitude. Perhaps we need environmental impact statements when nuclear power plants are closed, where the subject is the impacts of the replacement power and energy, and where it really comes from — not some vague “conservation will suffice”, or wind/solar will do the job, but what really happens as more natural gas turbines are fired up
I agree with most of the sentiments on this page. Like Bonds 25 i was at an operating nuke plant, from career start in 1970 until retirement. But about the security issue. While I agree with what most of what TLS has said, especially in “qualifying” comments, I think the over-the-top issue is security issues from “external forces”. Plants have always been fairly hardened and even in the “old days” manned and armed and trained past the levels of local county sheriffs and police. And they are equipped to handle threats from within and have been. What Rod is discussing is threats from the outside, like attack from a foreign enemy. And that clearly was, is, and will be the primary function of the US government and US military. Not the electric company. As stated above these plants are US security infrastructure. And they should be fortified by and protected by the US military, not an electric company. That is just one of several straws breaking the camel’s back. The amount of money spent on security since 9/11 is huge, not proportional to the actual risk to society from the plant, way past what is present at other large industrial complexes, never ending in demands, and NOT THE JOB OF AN ELECTRIC COMPANY.,
I thought the NRC regulated the peaceful use of nuclear energy. Then suddenly the security rules are based on military-level adversaries? I agree that keeping military adversaries away is the government’s job, not the utility’s.
I agree with this. It comes up often when discussing the role of the security organization in interfacing with LLEA, FBI, etc. You can only do so much as an electric company…in an all out adversarial attack (i.e., foreign militants), the local and federal governments must take over at some point. My site is RIDICULOUSLY fortified…you’d have to be insane to even try to do something to it. If energy security is important to us, you’d think we would have designed the structure better. Great comment.
My opinion: there is no point in Privates arguing about policy set by the Generals. It is sound and fury signifying nothing, unless one is contemplating a conspiracy for mutiny? We have to recognize the forces in play, and our role therein, and be realistic. The power of the USA was founded on fossil fuels. The ESTABLISHMENT, the richest / most connected and powerful got there by means of oil and gas riches over multiple generations. We have to understand that and work within that framework. Change of this magnitude, where an entire privileged order must roll over to a different one, happens over GENERATIONAL time-scales, i.e. decades to centuries.
The best we can hope for here is to educate and inform the lower-ranks and hope to TWEAK the course of the ship of state through lobbying of sci/tech/regulartory/industry policy changes. After all, Russia and China know the score about the value of cheap, secure energy represented by fission, which is now independent of US influence and control. The only way for the USA to re-assert a leading role on the future of energy (and recover a leading role in the future of the global post-carbon economy) is to think more like Google and Apple with new nuclear technologies and less like Standard Oil.
Oh yeah – and we must also work to change the zeitgeist concerning the ethics surrounding inherited riches and the role of taxes on windfall billions bestowed upon entitled heirs, to limit the politico/economic power implicitly conferred upon those without merit, received only by virtue of aristocratic entitlement (notice how changing the language from “death taxes” changes the meaning…?) This is the best way to limit the curse of inter-generational economic-politico path-dependencies and accelerate the true pace of change… as was fully recognized by Teddy Roosevelt (a REPUBLICAN – the irony considering our recent history!).
The laws of nature dictate that nuclear energy must prevail should reason have any say in the matter. Either that or humanity is doomed over the long-run. How long must it be for this transformational process to play out in the theatre of politics, economics, and global military conflicts… I don’t have a CLUE.
You may believe you are a Private; others who read these articles feel differently. Organizing a reordering of the slate of leaders is not a mutiny, even in the military. Using the existing processes of engagement, discussion, selection boards, campaigns and elections is the proper way to make changes. Those changes don’t have to take generations. Our constitutional democracy offers abundant tools for reordering and reorganizing. Our system has proven its ability to change directions far more rapidly than some might imagine.
The real power of the USA was founded on creative, visionary people who were enabled to do a lot of work using cheap power sources. Fossil fuels were/are relatively cheap, accessible and easy to understand.
People who understand how to use fissile and fertile fuels to supply even cheaper energy using fewer material inputs will be able to compete and mitigate the power of accumulated money. That statement is especially when that money is in the hands of hereditary leaders who have the mistaken belief that they were destined to rule.
One key is breaking the stranglehold that has been placed on fissile and fertile fuels by the fictional tale that radiation is so especially hazardous that there is “no safe dose.”
“…there is no point in Privates arguing about policy set by the Generals.”
If all we do is argue, you’re right. However, incense and crystal peddlers and tin-foil hat wearing yoga practitioners have been quite successful in steering the General’s jeep.
I’m pushing the “like” button.
“meritocracy with strong socialist underpinnings. Leaders were inculcated with the twin mantras “Rank has its responsibilities” and “Rank has its privileges.” Servant leaders were not only highly respected, they were often the most accomplished people at all levels in the hierarchy”
Well said, and every bit as arrogant as the words of any officer I recall.
I was a “servant” in the US Navy in the 70s and 80s, and those lines took me back 40 years.
Highly respected, but underclass nonetheless.
I guess you’re a socialist, Bravo Zulu for the confession. It didn’t pay well enough for me to convert.
The point was well made in previous posts that utilities sought deregulation in the 1990s.
At the time I worked for (what was) Illinois Power. The CEO had a meeting with us. He brought a generic cereal box with “Megawatt Hours” on it. Power is fungible, an unbranded product. People flip a switch and whatever the ISO has prioritized is delivered. This is the market sought by those educated men of rank in our corporate boardrooms.
The motivator was Enron, the fradulent fabrication of Jeff Skilling, Ken Lay et al. Utilities saw merchant power as “The Next Big Thing” and gas turbines were going up everywhere. Fast construction, no NRC to deal with, no spent fuel or decommissioning costs, very few operators required and very low maintenance. The antithesis of utility based nuclear power, then seen as the junk bond funded dinosaurs in the business papers.
Utilities considered the paper tiger Enron a threat to their existence.
The damage done by that series of events is inestimable. The closures you see today are a result of business decisions made over Enron.
I dont think the government is going to fix anything in commercial nuclear power. The Yucca Mountain debacle should give you an idea of why I think that way. We collected a Waste Fund, and government did eveything imaginable with it except open a repository.
You might be right about socialism, though. I never thought government would require my Health Insurance company to cancel my plan and force me to buy another plan. That’s some real magic.
A “servant leader” is not a leader of people who are considered to be servants. A servant leader is one who believes that their role is to serve the people they are entrusted to lead. I’m sorry your experience was not positive. As I said, the organization has many imperfections, largely because it is composed of many imperfect components.
Thank you for this post.
As people can see, I have had trouble even posting at all.
I did a bunch of posts about why to keep Fitzpatrick open, but since the closing was announced…nothing. Well, luckily I had promised to do the Carnival this week, so I did end up posting something. Otherwise, my blog basically went dark.
For me, the serenity prayer is not always helpful. I do know that it is important, and I think of it sometimes, but usually, I use a different mantra.
To keep motivated about writing, one has to feel that the work is at least somewhat important. So being able to “tell the difference” can sometimes be described as “demotivating myself.”
I personally find this mantra more helpful:
– Show up
– Pay attention
– Tell the truth
– Don’t be attached to the consequences.
In this mantra, when the consequences are not what I would like, I tell myself “Well, I did the first three steps” as opposed to “I can’t tell the difference, can I?” And I can say: “Oh well, the fourth one is always the hardest, but I did the first three.”
You always do the first three. I hope you know that this is noticed and loved and respected.
Best always and always,
How can Fitzpatrick not be profitable and yet the Nine Mile Point station next door be profitable? Don’t they both sell into the same market?
I’m assuming they are saying its due to Fitz being a single unit and total megawatt production.
Fitz – 850 megawatt
Nine Mile – 1700+ total
Here are some possibilities I pointed out to the Syracuse newspaper a week ago that could be done for Fitz, although all are unlikely:
1) Schumer could lead others in Congress to offer the same tax breaks, incentives, and mandated power purchases to nuclear as they generously provide to other sources of emission-free generation;
2) Cuomo could offer Fitz the same 10-year tax breaks he gives to out-of-state businesses who relocate to NY;
3) Cuomo could broker a deal with next-door neighbor Nine Mile Point (Exelon), tear down the fence, combine organizations, and purchase Fitz (probably with incentives);
4) NYPA could repurchase the plant, and put it back under Cuomo’s state control – or, just negotiate a fair long-term PPA.
Cuomo won’t do anything that will aid Entergy’s bottom line. That leaves #3 and #4.
I wonder how much cash is in the Decommissioning kitty. Is it 1 mil / KWH?
No one in Albany is talking about transferring the plant back to PASNY. Why not transfer it for $1? Is pocketing some decommissioning money part of Entergy’s goal?
“There is currently $728 million in the plant’s decommissioning trust fund…. The New York Power Authority, which sold FitzPatrick to Entergy 15 years ago, still holds the decommissioning fund for the plant. The power authority has the option to turn the money over to Entergy, or maintain control of the fund and hire Entergy to perform the decommissioning, Mohl said.”
Rod, like you, I’ve been in this business since 1979.
But the accountants have put the price tag at -$60,000,000/year loss.
Good number to use for tax purposes. Kind of like buying a home for $35,000, reappraising the home 20 years later at $350000, then the market dropping causing the sale of the house to $200000, and being able to take the “LOSS” of $150000 off the taxes.
One other little note Rod. NYPA didn’t trust Entergy to “HOLD ON” to the decom fund of $775,000,000. So if Entergy walks away with their “TAX LOSS”, NYPA has to pay for the decommissioning. No more incumbrance upon Entergy.
Isn’t it amazing that we, the US, started the world level builds, and now, with 68 new builds in the world, the US only has 4, while people like China have 28.
Blessings upon your work Rod.
@Rod. Before pushing government owned “Utilities” especially Electrical Power, look long, hard and deeply at TVA. It is like the local DMV on steroids. Even if you live in Alaska portions of your tax dollars are supporting TVA. Count the number of employees that make more than the president of the USA, let alone any governor oaf any state they provide service to. Same for the large municipal utilities in California and Nebraska. Their retirement package is unbelievable and will be staggering for future generations to pay for. Worse yet, many municipal utilities, though tax exempt, support local communities with payments in lieu of taxes, do not register the vehicles as tax exempt – instead buying normal license plates, paying property taxes on the vehicles, and many other back room deals. All my seem great on a casual view, however this practice of “paying our fair share” as they call it makes the cost of electricity higher. That means the poorer pay more than they should as they are paying taxes hidden in their electric bill that the richer people would have been paying as part of their higher property taxes. The poorer are paying again because the higher cost of electricity means fewer manufacturing jobs come to the area. They even buy insurance for their vehicles and property? WHY? Is it because they can’t operate a budget? Like the “Capitalists” you knock, they too are evaluated on the bottom line, and the quarterly/annual expenditures can make or break the division manager. Right before I retired from a “municipal” utility, a CFO was hired. He was given a salary of more than 4 times that of the governor, and instantly credited with 20 years “longevity” towards the retirement package. That meant that he could retire the next day at 50% of his income! He also go none years pay as a signing bonus up front. And, that is only the public portion of what he was given. As long as there are non-municipal utilities they will always have an excuse to make the pay package “competitive” with the non-municipal utilities.
There are many public power utilities that are not TVA.
There are also many investor-owned utility companies that are not Exelon.
Publicly owned power companies are not a panacea, but at least they recognize that there are more measures of effectiveness and reasons for being that the short term bottom line of a financial statement.
Electricity is a vital ingredient to a modern economy. It is not something that should be left to fair weather friends who like to compete when prices are high and generating is easy and then disappear when demand temporarily slacks or when the storms are rolling in.
We are so nice here at Energy Northwest that we sell our power at cost 😉
In my state and in my experience I would have to say there is no clear winner in the public/private utility space. We regulate the investor owned (IOUs), and they clearly have their problems due to investors and the profit motive. Our local municipal seems to act like a bank to balance the budget, contributing cash whenever there is a budget shortfall. They say they answer to the people, but I think my muni is less responsive to customers than the IOUs are. There is no clear answer, although there is lots and lots of debate.
Agree. In the case in which the electricity supplier is a true utility that is regulated with the recognition that maximizing profit as the sole goal is unacceptable, it does not make too much difference whether it is public or investor owned.
Historically, public power was more important in areas where providing power was too much trouble because of low density or difficult terrain for investor owned utilities to bother trying.
Public power, or the threat of public power, is often a good way to achieve goals that aren’t important to purely “for-profit” enterprises — like maintaining existing nuclear plants through a temporary market lull.
My view on the security issue is as follows.
A successful attack on a chemical plant, large dam, oil refinery, LNG terminal, any tall building, or any large gathering of people would result in *more* loss of life than any successful attack on a nuclear plant. Fukushima showed how limited the loss of life is, even in the case of an absolute worst-case event/release.
So why are nuclear plants the only facilities that are required to be able to defeat a group of (12?) dedicated, well-armed attackers? Hell, such a group would get a lot more mileage (i.e., cause far more deaths) by just getting some machine guns and attacking a high school.
Are all high schools required to repel an army? All tall buildings? Are any of the other facilities I mentioned? If not, the nuclear industry should demand that either ALL those other facilities have the same requirements, or that the requirement for nuclear plants be dropped. If they can’t achieve this politically, they should try the courts.
If I can extend your argument… Since we are not addressing a probable threat, these security measures are being extended to help the public deal with a psychological threat. We are trying to make people feel better and safer.
As an aside, after the sub-station attack in California, I believe all major sub-stations will eventually be manned and guarded. It is just an unfortunately reaction to our expectations for grid performance.
I take your point about the main impacts of a nuclear release being psychological (and that the main tangible impacts, i.e., economic costs and impacts on people’s lives, will be due to unjustified over-reactions).
The tragedy here is that this attempt at appeasement actually backfires, i.e., has the reverse effect. When the public see govt. and the industry acting as though nuclear-related stuff (nuke plant attacks, and potential releases) is the greatest threat out there, their reaction is to believe them. Should we be surprised? People make their judgments based on what we do, not what we say. And what they see us *doing* is acting as though nuclear-related risks are uniquely large. The unique security requirements being one example.
The industry tried to appease the opponents, and public in general, by taking greater and greater precautions against smaller and smaller risks (potential impacts). They also promulgated absurdly low dose limits (orders of magnitude below those required to have any observable effect) in order “ensure more safety”.
This lead to two things. First, opponents now get to say that nuclear is unsafe AND expensive. (Did anyone think that they would stop saying it’s unsafe?) Second, the more and more precautions the public sees us taking, the more *dangerous* they think nuclear is. (This includes containment domes, large evacuation planning zones, images of people walking around in moon suits, etc.. and lower and lower dose limits.)
Our actions (requirements, responses, etc..) need to be in line with the actual risks and potential impacts involved. That is actually more “honest” with the public, in that it leaves them with the correct risk perception.
Exactly why I contacted Senior Management when I saw ANOTHER fence of (ridiculously positioned) razor ribbon being installed…….another meaning the 4th around my plant. Are we a SuperMax prison with violent offenders or are we a clean energy producing plant with a remarkable safety record who is desperately trying to win over the hearts of the public?
It doesn’t matter……Security has an unlimited number of blank checks at their disposal. A very sad and MASSIVE expense for Nuclear Power.
Re: “.. the more and more precautions the public sees us taking, the more *dangerous* they think nuclear is. (This includes containment domes, large evacuation planning zones, images of people walking around in moon suits, etc.. and lower and lower dose limits.)”
These bogeymen images and antis fodder are the highest PR challenge nuclear faces. It CAN be overcome. Who in their right mind back then would’ve imagined that most everyone living along the U.S. Gulf coast today has virtually forgotten or take as ‘just spit in a puddle’ the fatal BP Gulf spill and the near-Doomsday hysteria of live videos during that event? Today, BP Gulf’s repute is almost clean as a whistle, Amazing! _Aggressive_ nuclear Ads/public mass media education can do the same trick BP Gulf pulled and pols will think twice about going along with measures to drain or curb nuclear if they see an enlightened public wholeheartedly receptive for it. It can be done on the cheap in an age where taxi and wedding services and Puppy Rescue still ply ads on $$ NYC airwaves. We have to start calling nuclear SAFE, not almost there or trying to do better but BEEN Safe now. We have one totally enviable sterling nil-mortality rate/nil-destruction record to back us up going back to Stagg Field! HAWK IT!! Planes crash at far higher frequencies than nuclear accidents but you’ll never catch the FAA or airlines saying we’re constantly trying to make air travel safe — they always declare that it’s ALWAYS been safe and just needs tweaking now and then. Fukushima notwithstanding this also must be part nuclear’s creedo! Nuclear’s Darth Vader image can be rinsed like Gulf Coast beaches IF the WILL to survive is there!
Kevin – as a regulator, I suspect you are already familiar with the NRC SOARCA, which is essential background knowledge on this topic.
But it is so important to widely disseminate this information (as Rod has: https://atomicinsights.com/nrc-releases-draft-of-reactor-accident-consequences-study-for-public-comment/ ), that I will deign to repeat it again here: http://pbadupws.nrc.gov/docs/ML1234/ML12347A049.pdf
“So why are nuclear plants the only facilities that are required to be able to defeat a group of (12?) dedicated, well-armed attackers?”
Well, because governance by the boo factor gets two, count em, TWO, bonus justifications for policy…..
One, that nasty ‘ol muslim heathen is gonna get us, just you wait and see, so we better bomb the shit out of the middle east!
And two, radiation is bad…..baaaad….BAAADDDDD!!!!!
And 3, the people responsible for failure to protect the USA from a foreign attack (the primary responsibility of a government) were allowed to “change the subject” and not address how/why they allowed that to happen; why they failed at their primary responsibility to the American people. And with the help of the press, they got away with it… at least in a lot of minds.
I reject the notion that the primary responsibility of a government is to protect us from attack. A well run country that believes in the human rights it professes shouldn’t be much of a target for attack. Sure, there is a big role for government in making sure that we don’t look weak and ripe for plunder, but hunkering down behind a bristling array of armaments is also not the right course of action.
But weren’t we attacked BECAUSE of our freedom and respect for human rights?
Yes, Fermi, you’ve got it right. Those twelve saudis attacked us because they hate us because of our freedoms. Thats why we, in turn, attacked Iraq and Afghanistan.
Its really a brilliant strategy. Honest.
Wasn’t it 15 out of 19?
GHWB has some interesting comments in his new biography about Dick Cheney and Don Rumsfeld. Even mildly criticizes GWB.
“GHWB has some interesting comments in his new biography about Dick Cheney and Don Rumsfeld”
He’s just pissed off because they taught his pup to heel. A skill he was never able to successfully instill in his dear boy. But thats understandable, as no one should expect a father to accept that his spawn was born without a brain.
Well….maybe. Trouble is, two or three of them ended up being still alive. So they misidentified some of these master villains. So who knows, really? Interesting that the list was never revised. But, really, the whole thing served its purpose, so whats a few minor questions in the scheme of things?
BOO!!! Quick, get under your bed! And if you’re foolish enough to come out, kindly get in line, will ya?
Our government will protect us, while winning hearts and minds in the middle east.
Sign up for TSA’s PreCheck program.
Look into Bhopal India and what happened there. Now look at how many and where the various pesticide and fertilizer plants and the size of the storage tanks.
For one example – Fort Calhoun has spent millions to be prepared for the maximum theoretical dam breaks up river (The closest dam would allow more than ample time for the NPP to shut down safely and be in a stable cooling mode with NO corrective actions needed.) However just a mile north of Ft Calhoun is a massive ammonia fertilizer plant, an ethanol plant and other facilities far more dangerous with no action plan other than shutting down, Several RPG’s could cause enough damage resulting in 100 to 1,000 times the number of deaths of the worst case scenario for the NPP and their security force is not much more than a guard at the front gate. The ammonia in the Missouri River would make water supplies unusable beyond KC. It would be easy to devise a plan that could wipe out many more.
Fitz is probably faced with building a cooling tower, a seiche on lake Ontario and providing other Fukushima mitigating measures and the combined costs could be just to much to be worth the effort.
I haven’t heard anything about a cooling tower, although I believe Fitz did just replace the main condenser. (Cuomo says he wants IPEC to build two cooling towers, at a cost of $2B)
I’m thinking that at Fitz the cost of FLEX implementation may have been a big part of the economic disadvantage cited – they had until the end of the Fall 2016 refueling outage to complete them, and by end of August hadn’t started on much of it: http://pbadupws.nrc.gov/docs/ML1524/ML15240A370.pdf
That begs the question then, why are the two BWRs next door at Nine Mile not similarly disadvantaged? Is it just the economy of scale for a two-unit site? If so, then the solution is obvious – Fitz needs to join the Exelon Club.
There is a documentary on HBO called “Indian Point. Imagine the unimaginable”. It stars Robert Kennedy Jr and it’s based on what would have happened if the 9-11 terrorists continued down the Hudson and instead of hitting the World Trade Centers, they slammed the planes into Indian Point.
Kennedy’s theory is it would have killed millions in NYC
Reality…….it would have saved thousands of lives.
Re: Bonds 25 “There is a documentary on HBO called “Indian Point. Imagine the unimaginable”.”
Er, are there any preemptive corrective video or print rebuttals by the likes of ANS or NEI or other nuclear power media organs? I didn’t so.
Shhh, don’t wake the nuke PR honchos in their quiet cozy offices (too harsh? How long would you last as a car salesman by hawking cars like nukes?)
My blood was literally boiling the entire time I watched it. I found myself fantasizing about punching Bobby in his idiotic throat.
HBO…. It’s their Venue. What do you expect? Personally, Don’t buy their mind numbing product.
Of course it stars RFK Jr. – the director is his daughter, Rory. You can express your blood-boiling opinions on places like Rotten Tomatoes and IMDB:
(I haven’t seen it, but also apparently starring nuclear security expert Al Franken)
The REAL blood-boiler is that there’s ZERO public rebuttal by any nuclear power entities, even the outfit running Indian Point. Is it a wonder antis run amok unchecked? The antis are like jackals that pounce on lambs; I can’t knock them because that’s their nature, like birds fly. NOT being their victim or hatchet job IS one’s life duty and self-preservation and failure for one to do that most deserves my scorn. Maybe IP and other nuke plants ought hire BP Gulf to defend and clean up their repute and turn public jeers into amnesic cheers, just like they did with forgotten explosive oil spills.
You make good points, as always, James. If I had a vote, you’d be on the board of NEI.
Gordon McDowell has been shooting a lot of interesting video over the last 5 years. I wonder why he can’t get Thorium Remix (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P9M__yYbsZ4) on HBO? Is it because he’s not Gordon Kennedy?
He also has a Kickstarter project – THORIUM Molten-Salt Reactor [LFTR] – The Future of Energy – accepting donations.
You make good points, as always, James. If I had a vote, you’d be on the board of NEI.”
Board, heck! Make me Chairman for a month — for $1.00 salary — and I’d REALLY change public nuclear opinion around 180 — Serious!!! 🙂
Before you sign on, get your members to pony up for a tripling of Scott Peterson’s budget: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuclear_Energy_Institute#Key_personnel
And get him a dozen interns dedicated to de-FUDifying Wikipedia.
And a couple of attack-dog lawyers as well. The antis always seem to have the ball – show them what being on the defensive looks like.
2015 budget was $53.15M: http://www.nei.org/About-NEI/President-Report
NEI seems to average about $1.8M/year on lobbyists: https://www.opensecrets.org/lobby/clientsum.php?id=D000000555
Can’t find what they spend on media ads. Reckon it’s quite a bit less than ANGA, with their ubiquitous black-pantsuited blonde.
As of 2012, NEI was paying Marv Fertel $2.4 million per year and the Edison Electric Institute was paying Tom Kuhn $6.7 million per year.
In contrast, the Chief of Naval Operations, the Army Chief of Staff, the Director of Naval Reactors, and a whole bunch of other four star flag officers were adequately compensated for arguably far more challenging and responsible positions with total pay packages of about $350 K/year
What do you think we could accomplish with the kind of money that could be made available by paying flag officer level salaries for association leadership?
I think Fertel does a good job, but I would happily do it for $1M (negotiable) – and I’ve held SRO licenses! I vow to put all the remaining $1.4M into public outreach.
If that’s too rich, James’ offer is still on the table.
Jim – Why do you need a group? Why do you need machine guns? All it takes is one sociopath suffering from Asperger syndrome to walk into a school with a small-caliber, semi-automatic rifle.
“Gun free zone,” you know.
I would also like to draw your attention to an editorial by John T. Sullivan, former mayor of Oswego:
New York Power Authority should buy FitzPatrick back
FitzPatrick was owned publicly until the Pataki administration sold it off. Sullivan suggests that the NYPA buy it back. Considering that Entergy effectively values the plant at zero, it should come cheap.
Keith, LILCO sold Shorham to Long Island Power Authority for a buck (that’s $1.00, or one hundred pennies). Shorham was 100% completed and had done low power (<5%) testing. Then LIPA dismantled it. (I think that was before e-bay and Craig's list, they should'a held out for at least a buck-10)
Mario Cuomo, Andy’s dad, rammed that deal through. To add insult to injury, the story goes that when it came time to trash Shoreham, he had a button placed on his desk in Albany and when he pushed it, a plasma torch started and punched a hole in the Shoreham pressure vessel, so that it could never be used again and had to be sold for scrap. Lousy punk.
One guy I heard who was trained as a C&HP tech at Shoreham and when they laid everybody off Lilco said that they’d “take care” of him. Now, that sounds an awful lot like the “take care” of problems you hear from the characters in Goodfellas or The Godfather. It wasn’t quite that bad, but almost. They “took care” of him by making him a forklift operator on the loading dock of one of their warehouses. Great future, that. Go to school to learn C&HP, and end up driving a forklift.
Finally — and this is a bit OT — I’ve recently been looking at EPA’s map of radon risk, and have asked for (and gotten) county-level tabular data for the entire US.
Both before and after correction for smoking, there is no correlation between radon and lung cancer rates. (There is a statistically insigificant hormesis effect both ways.)
This is contra rates of adult smoking, which show a strong correlation with lung cancer. Yet EPA continues to insist that radon is a risk factor for lung cancer.
In an earlier AI post, EL helpfully linked to the following article
Radon and Lung Cancer in the American Cancer Society Cohort .
This study forms part of the basis of claims that Radon is, after smoking, the second most important cause of lung cancer.
If you actually look at table 4, a different picture emerges:
1) Current smokers have a 16 times higher risk to die of lung cancer than people who never smoked. That is an ERR of 1500%
2) The alleged ERR for people exposed above the EPA action level of 148Bq/m^3 radon is just 34%.
3) If you have a confounder as massive as smoking, the only honest way to deal with it is to restrict the study to non-smokers. Almost all medical studies are restricted to non-smokers anyway.
4) For non-smokers the hazard ratio was actually <1, i.e. the lung cancer risk decreased with increasing radon concentration, though this decrease was not significant. HR=0.77 (0.47-1.25). The alleged increase in risk was only for smokers.
5) For me the take home message is: If you worry about lung cancer, don't smoke. If you don't smoke, there is no need to worry about Radon.
Yes. A good rule of thumb is always be suspicious of a study that reports a RR of less than three.
Anyone hear reports that Obama solidly plans to issue homeowners solar panels for FREE before he leaves town??
People, stop dreaming that Washington has the slightest regard for nuclear power!
Speaking of free solar panels, you might want to check out the business model that NRG Home Solar has come up with (http://www.nrg.com/home/solar). Given that the price of panels is so low but the price of land and transmissions lines is so high, NRG is effectively renting the space on America’s rooftops, and giving the home owner a cut of the energy proceeds. As far as I can tell, the home owner does not own the panels or connection infrastructure (micro-inverters, wires, monitors). They also come with a maintenance agreement.
What’s not to like: the transmission lines are in place, the space is mostly available, the home owner gets a benefit of reduced electricity bills and NRG gets to call itself a “green” company. No need to create huge solar farms that consume lots of land, steel, concrete and environmental diversity. Seems like a win-win.
Only problem: NRG operates only one nuclear plant in Bay City, Texas. Of course they should look into converting their coal and gas plants to nuclear and they should have started yesterday because solar, no matter how deployed, will not satisfy the coming demand and the oceans will continue to acidify with business-as-usual.
I’d be more supportive of NRG’s program if it wasn’t dependent on renewable portfolio standards, investment tax credits that provide 30% of project cost within a year of operation, 5 year accelerated depreciation, and probably additional state and local tax incentives.
I wish everyone would drop the accelerated depreciation argument. All capital investment qualifies for accelerated depreciation, thus it is technology neutral. The renewable people use it in their talking points against nuclear too. They shouldn’t.
Does the maintenance agreement cover decommissioning? When the solar panel wears out or is irreparably damaged by a storm, I’d hate to be the homeowner stuck with removing and disposing of it. This is the problem with a lot of the unreliable energy systems. There are no laws on the books, unlike nuclear, that require owners to remove their structures when they go out of business. They can just walk away and leave them to rust. All those farmers who think they are making out like bandits now, renting their land out to windmill operators. Well, wait in about 15-20 years when those windmills are obsolete or worn out or the subsidies that keep them in business run out or dry up. You know who will be stuck with the rusting hulks, don’t you?
absolutely yes — whatever generators pick up the nuclear slack, the impact on the environment will be negative. It will almost certainly increase the amount of carbon that’s being dumped into our air.
There’s a certain high-tech billionaire who appears extremely bright and motivated about leaving the world in better shape, who like all high-tech people loves bright shiny next-big-things. I really wish people like him would prioritize their love of bright shiny next-big-things below their love-of-planet and invest in the only that has proven capable of powering societies — affordably and with total reliability — with zero air pollution.
I wonder if that guy could bring himself to cutting a deal with a utility. This is not R&D, but it would be a far far more effective way to invest his money.
(1) When an electricity plant is not selling electricity, it costs far less to run a gas plant than a nuclear power plant.
(2) Except for Vermont, all US North East states have deregulated electricity markets.
(3) In 2011, Vermont refused a long term contract to buy nuclear electricity at below market rates.
(4) Unless Entergy can sell the nuclear electricity to Canada, they have no choice but to close the NPPs down and open gas-fired plants instead.
(5) In theory, an alternative might be to mothball them, but I don’t think so. I’m told no NPP once shut will open again.
Did I get anything wrong there? I don’t think so. One has to accept that this battle has gone to the anti-nukes.
I think the honchos at Entergy, whose corporate headquarters are in New Orleans (with the nuclear division in Jackson MS) failed to fully understand the perversity of New England energy politics when they decided to start buying up northern plants for their merchant fleet about 16 years ago.
Down south, the general population seems to have a greater appreciation for job-creating, non-polluting, reliable electricity generation, and less affinity with kneejerk antinuclear dogma. Maybe their mamas taught them the parable about killing the golden goose.
Depending on pipeline constraints, 2019 could be a rough winter for both Boston and Syracuse. About that same time, the first AP1000s should be at full power in GA and SC.
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