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  1. Rod – I think the basic premise of your Blog article that different standards are being applied between the nuclear power sector and the petroleum sector with respect to releases is very well justified. The contrast of the truly tiny releases of only moderate risk tritium at Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant which threatens to shut down this plant and the potential release of thousands of pounds of hazardous chemicals (benzene) at the Texas BP refinery which went largely un-noticed is dramatic.
    I am however uncomfortable with the suggestion that fully 20% of the benzene flared off in the high temperature flaring stack might pass into the environment unburned. BP bashing makes me uncomfortable in this political environment. I is well to recognize that if BP did not volunteer information about a potential release of hazardous chemicals at the refinery no one, including the self appointed environmental crusaders at Pro Publica or the Sierra Club, would have the slightest idea. The ground level chemical monitors required by Texas regulators showed no chemical release. It appears only BP volunteered measurements over and above Texas regulators requirements taken at a height 300 ft above the ground revealed that a serious release may have occurred.
    I want to see the scientific evidence that would apply to the specific equipment installed at the BP Texas refinery to believe the Benzene burning was only 80% efficient in that very tall high temperature flaring stack.
    Ryan Knutson of ProPublica reports [1]

  2. Robert – the 17,000 pounds of benzene released was reported by BP. That was not a voluntary report; Texas state law requires emitters to file a report for any amount larger than 10 pounds per day.
    http://galvestondailynews.com/story/157738/
    The story that I wrote and quoted indicated that the flaring stack was between 80-98% efficient. It did not claim that it was only 80% efficient.
    As a former equipment operator, I understand a range of performance parameters based on various equipment and environmental conditions. The total emissions reported were what BP reported based on their own computations of what the stack performance had been during the 40 day period that the hydrogen compressor was out of service.
    I am not into “bashing” anyone, but it sure seems to me that the decision makers at the top of BP were driven by quarterly profit numbers and not long term high quality performance. That is an attitude worth bashing.

  3. OMG Rod you went out in the sun. Do you not know how dangerous that is? Sunlight causes cancer. Stupid submariner! Furthermore do you know how dangerous riding a bike is? Go talk to an emergency room doctor.
    The standards for protecting the public, workers, and the environment are the same for the oil industry as the nuclear industry. Rules and regulation may be different because the hazards are different.
    Rod Adams is an adult who likes to complain about junk science aimed at the nuclear industry. He then turns around and dishes junk science about other sources of energy.
    Yes, Rod has a bad case of double standards. Working for the gubbermint I am not sure Rod even know what a standard is. Does the navy know about Rod reckless behavior?
    Standards for industry is based on what society voluntarily accepts. Off duty Rod chose activities with a certain amount of risk. If he got a sunburn and could not work, the navy would dock his pay and possible demote him for being stupid. If he allowed sailors working for him to get a severe sunburn because of improper supervision, Rod could be held criminally responsible.
    There is a standard for how much benzene can be released from a industrial facility. It is based on not exposing the public or workers to harmful levels of benzene. A lower standard exits for Rod’s car because it is a not point source and more difficult to control. Rod’s behavior implies that he accepts the risk. Maybe Rod wants a regulation that says only refineries can produce benzene for his car and all other in the DC area should walk to work. Rod’s mother told him he was special and he still believes it.
    Just to be clear, I am not defending the industrial safety practices and adherence of BP to standards. I also think the nuclear industry approach to safety should be a model to other industries. However, the standards are the same for the energy industry. As an English major I think Rod might have been confused about what a standard is.

    1. Kit – first of all, welcome back from whatever vacation you were on. I have “missed” your comments – sort of the way one misses a hangnail once you correct the issue.
      Secondly, you apparently have missed my announcement that I no longer work for the government and no longer have a daily commute to DC. My commute is now just a couple of steps – indoors away from the sun.
      My point is not about the legal standards. The NRC has made it quite clear that Vermont Yankee has been operating well within its licensed standards. In contrast, BP itself admits to having discharged about 40 times more benzene every day for 40 days in a row than is allowed without reporting within the state of Texas. The company did report their release. I do not know what the “standard” is and what the penalty might be for violating it.
      My point was the difference in media standards. They made a huge deal of the Vermont Yankee tritium leak – largely due to some political and activist pressure and essentially overlooked or ignored BP’s reported emissions. A local paper did report it; the national media did not pick up the story. That was my point. BP followed the rules for reporting, but it is sort of like those requirements to report things that are associated with certain business transactions. You issue a press release to the smallest local paper you can find and hope that it passes unnoticed and quickly forgotten.
      The folks that array themselves in opposition to nuclear energy know the value of repetition. Here is a funny story – one of the VA doctors that I saw recently asked what I would be doing after my retirement. I told him I want to help the US build and operate new nuclear power plants. He asked – what about that Russian accident that happened a couple of years ago? We finally figured out that he was talking about Chernobyl – which we all know happened almost 25 years ago in April 1986. The doctor thought it was only a couple of years ago because he keeps being purposely reminded that it occurred by the people who do not like nuclear energy.
      In contrast, he could not recall any of the three fatal accidents from clean natural gas that have happened in the eastern US in 2010. (Middletown, CT, Upper Big Branch Mine in WV, and Deepwater Horizon in the Gulf of Mexico. To be fair, he remembered the second two but had no idea that “clean natural gas” was the explosive element in those accidents.)

      1. Methane gas releases in the Deepwater Horizon accident is also an under-reported story. I had skimmed over the cause of the accident myself, but I was well aware of the methane releases that still continue. As a GHG it is some 20x more potent than CO2 and cannot be cleaned up in any way that I know of. People also forget about methane releases from thawing tundra lands from global warming and the positive feedback loop potential that has.
        Natural is a misnomer for methane gas and any other product that wants to brand itself as friendly. I think the “natural” gas industry should be sued to stop using that term and call it for what it is: methane gas or CH4.

        1. Jason Ribeiro wrote:
          As a GHG (methane) is some 20x more potent than CO2 and cannot be cleaned up in any way that I know of.
          As with many things, nature does the clean-up job. If I remember correctly, the “half-life” of methane in the atomsphere is on the same order as the half-life of tritium.
          We need to get busy replacing natural gas and oil with nuclear power to reduce the methane load into the atomsphere so that nature can do its job.

  4. One problem is that most non-NRC regulations (EPA, OSHA, NFPA, etc., are imbedded in the nuclear power plant USAR and plant operation procedures, thus a violation of any of these creates a report to the NRC and a release to all local papers. As Rod described, other companies use the weekly “free” trading post newspapers. The only real enforcement for most other industries, including the typical non-nuclear power plant, is the fire insurance inspector. It is often years before action is taken against flagrant EPA violations, and then usually only because of environmental lawyers looking for a quick buck like Erin Brockovich.

    1. @Rich – just out of curiosity – though I know that the movie was a drama with a purpose – what makes you think that suing a major corporation is a way to make a “quick” buck. The process is arduous and there are many lines of defense. You can disagree all you want with our litigious society, but the system was not established by the powerless as a way to bring down the powerful. A significant portion of the money spent on litigation is one company suing another, not a crusader or ambulance chaser suing a big company.
      Of course, the advertiser supported media companies often tell the story a different way.

  5. Just a little note from the past. At one point, working for a contract research company (now part of A D Little), I was prime investigator on a small EPA contract about a certain type of chemical plant. This plant was honest and straightforward with me about its on-going emissions. However, though I knew they had a batch process, they said absolutely nothing about emissions at startup of each batch. “Just the same” they said, more or less, without saying it too explicitly. They just kind of waved their hands and said..well, it’s no different at start-up.
    Eventually, I figured out that I could call the A and E firm that BUILT that sort of plant and ask them about the startup procedures and the batches and how batches started and ended and whether or not there were pollution controls on the start-up emissions. Sure enough, for about three hours (as I remember) at startup of each batch, they put amazing amounts of stuff up the stack. WAAY more than their on-going flare could handle. Since the chemical plant started a batch about every two days (as I recall), and since these were intermittent releases and hard to catch, they were getting away with it.
    The EPA liked the report, and I realized that somebody always knows the truth, somebody who doesn’t care if they tell. The company wouldn’t tell me the truth, but the A and E firm did.
    You will note that well-off people live in nice houses near nuclear plants, though some of them have a hobby of going to meetings to shut the plant down. Downwind of oil refineries and chemical plants, however, you can often find substandard housing and people of color. There’s a reason for this. People KNOW, explicitly or not, where it is safe to live, and where only people who don’t much choice can be forced to live.

    1. Shame on you Meredith. You should know better than resort to such fear mongering. Maybe you are not the professional that I thought you were.
      One method of evaluating environment impact of releases is called source, pathway, and receptor (SPR) evaluations. What fear mongers like to do focus on emissions and ignore that no harm occurs.
      This is easy to explain. Both Rod and Meredith drive cars that produce

      1. Kit. I was telling a story about trying to get some information from an industrial facility. The story is true. Whether the effluent would harm someone was NOT my call. It was the EPA’s call. They hired me to get the data.
        For on-going releases, the plant had a flare. For start-up, they didn’t. They emitted a lot of effluent at start-up. That was what I found out. The EPA was concerned about the amounts they emitted at start-up.
        The industrial facility was doing a far better job of stonewalling me than any nuclear plant would ever get away with. This is not about bashing. It is just trying to put effluents in perspective.
        Near chemical plants and refineries, the housing stock is not very expensive. That is a personal observation. I notice you are not contradicting that part of my post.

          1. Huh? I wasn’t accusing anyone of racism. You think I was accusing you of racism and you were offended. I have no idea where that is coming from!
            I was pointing out that poor people live in polluted areas, and rich people usually don’t. And poor people are often people of color. And there are lovely homes near nuclear plants, but not such lovely homes up against oil refineries. Because refineries give rise to much more pollution than nuclear plants do. I have no idea what wild leap of logic YOU were making to translate these ideas into “accusing of racism.”
            I am sorry you ran into people using “environmental racism” to block a project. I have never understood the terms “environmental racism” or “environmental justice”. They are not terms I use.

            1. “Downwind of oil refineries and chemical plants, however, you can often find substandard housing and people of color. There’s a reason for this. People KNOW, explicitly or not, where it is safe to live, and where only people who don’t much choice can be forced to live.”
              Ok Meredith You did not intend to accuse the people who operate chemical plants of racism.
              You do understand that the nuclear industry has chemical plants. Agriculture too. You are confusing emissions with polluted. Causing to harm to people is a violation of regulations. If you allowed it to happen it shame on you.

              1. @Kit P – Meredith is not confusing emissions with “polluted”. She, like most of us here, seems to understand that a plant that produces significant levels of emissions either continuously or intermittently over a lengthy period of time will eventually pollute its surrounding environment.
                She described a situation where the plant owner was reporting its emission levels AFTER its process had been stabilized, not the emissions that occur during the period when the process was being started up. If the process had been one that starts up once in a great while but is normally operated at steady state for months to years without interruption, that might not have been a big issue. However, she recognized that the process was a BATCH process that required frequent start up processes. As she reported here AND to the EPA, (go back and read what she said, she was not employed by the emitter, she was an outside investigator) the emissions during start up were FAR larger than the emissions during the time that the process actually operated.
                In other words, by ignoring the start up process the plant owner was SERIOUSLY under reporting its impact on its surrounding area.
                She also pointed out that the land area near plants that either regularly or occasionally pollute their surrounding environment is less attractive and valuable. My dad grew up in one such area in Jacksonville, FL where the wind blowing from a particular direction would fill the neighborhood with the odiferous scent of the emissions released from making paper. There was a reason that the developers chose to build small, 2 bedroom shotgun houses there; the richer folks chose to live in areas where the prevailing breezes most often carried the fresher air from the St. Johns river or Atlantic ocean. I personally would have avoided any note about “people of color” because it is far more about the difference between rich and poor – if people have money to move, they will do so to get away from an unpleasant neighbor.
                As Meredith also pointed out, there are a number of examples around the country where some very nice upper middle and upper class homes have been located purposely in the literal backyard of nuclear power plants because they are rather innocuous neighbors. In Calvert County, for example, you need to work really hard to even get a glimpse of the Calvert Cliffs nuclear power plant and you never hear, smell or taste its emissions because there are not any to speak of. It is a bit easier to see Lake Anna or Oyster Creek, but both of them have some attractive homes built on the lake or outflow canals that were built only because the plant exists.
                My point in writing this article in the first place was to point out the enormous gulf in impact to the environment between dumping tons of a chemical like benzene (mixed in with hundreds of tons of other pollutants) and releasing nearly pure water that was contaminated with microgram quantities of a weak beta emitter like tritium. I was also pointing to the vast difference in the way that the advertiser supported media treated the releases.
                In one case, perhaps due to some advertiser calls to speak quietly about the topic, tons of potentially hazardous – and well beyond permitted – emissions were reported once and then forgotten until an investigative reporter from a blog picked up the story. In the other case – again, perhaps due to some calls from advertisers and other interested people – the release of micrograms of tritium has resulted in dozens of stories and national level criticism of an entire industry.
                If you cannot see why that matters, you are politically and economically tone deaf.

                1. Thank you Rod. And Kit, I probably shouldn’t have mentioned color. Rod is right. It’s about rich and poor, not white and black.
                  I was drawing on my own background, which is specific, not general. The Bay Area has always been a high-housing-price area (less so in the current economy). Downwind of the oil refineries in Richmond, however, is an area which is poor, and many people of color live there. It seemed to me that most of the time, when the local paper ran a story “Homes evacuated in Richmond”, it was usually a person of color being interviewed: “Well, I smelled something and then my daughter began coughing and coughing and she has asthma and I had to get her to the hospital.” Etc.
                  Rod and Kit are both quite correct. It is poverty, not color, that I am talking about. And I shouldn’t have muddied the waters here.

                    1. Kit. Of course a great deal of pollution is caused by cars.
                      I’m feeling pretty odd about this. I write about pollution from oil refineries and you seem to answer that oil refineries don’t pollute? You transfer the situation to cars, as if I said that only fossil fired power plants pollute? I don’t understand your point. Of course, we have to do root cause analysis, and that is why California had stricter emissions controls on cars than any other state had, at least for a while there.
                      I also don’t understand how you can “sail” down-wind of Richmond. I admit to not knowing all the wind patterns on the Bay, but the general pattern is west-to-east. Prevailing westerlies, fog rolls in, all that stuff. In other words, downwind of the oil refineries in Richmond is basically
                      inland and basically where poor people live.
                      Anyhow, I have run out of steam on trying to explain what I was saying about a chemical plant getting away with much more emissions than it should have gotten away with. At this point, if people don’t get my point, O K. If people don’t think oil refineries and chem plants emit pollutants, O K. If people think nobody is ever affected in Richmond by emissions from refineries, O.K. If people disagree with me, it won’t be the first time.
                      Bye for now.

                    2. If you think emissions are the same as pollution you are greatly over simplifying the issues. It may be that you only know the SF bay area based on being a rich person living Palo Alto and watching TV.
                      Never though of Richmond as inland or poor. I did keep my boat in Martinez for a while which was downwind of the refineries. Also moored it at Berkeley, Alameda, and Brisbane.
                      I have lived on and off the California since 1960. I remember it before it was the silicon valley and Jack London might still recognize it. I was station in San Diego, Long Beach, Mare Island. Worked for GE and SMUD. I recall when the was clean in in the bay area and dirty in Gary Indiana. I asked my Dad why he picked the bay area rather than LA and he described the air quality based on flying in and out of navy bases.
                      Unfortunately, the beautiful environment of the bay area attracted too many people commuting long distance on freeways. The problem is complex.
                      So Meredeth, you do know sound like an elitist member of the nanny state appointed to take care of the poor without ever bothering to make the effort to understand the real issue. While you may be pronuclear, you sound a lot like Jane Fonda talking about Rancho Seco.

  6. To impose irreconcilable and contradicting standards, they make use of some dirty tricks.
    One of them is to never to talk about the two contradicting decisions at the same time. E.g. millions of barrels of oil spilled by BP and some gallons of tritium.
    Another is the belitteling of one side while talking about the other. Wind power is advertised to reduce our dependence on foreign oil, along with electric cars and so on, but nuclear is providing “only electricity”. They say a wind farm can power “1000 homes” but a nuclear plant “only” provides “500 MW”.

  7. Kit,
    What planet do you come from? Yes, it’s an obvious point that the media has no standards, but to ‘get over it’ and accept it is simply to admit defeat, which has a host of negative consequences.
    We badly need correctives for this. This ‘media has no standards’ fact does *egregious harm* both to us, and our system of governance. The state of media, and lack of education which makes people accept pretty much everything that is thrown at them causes all sorts of misinformation (and hence misrepresentation and misrule) – systemic problems that *may* just end up bankrupting us and destroying our way of life..
    And you think it’s a reasonable position to bash someone for trying to provide a corrective perspective on things??
    Again, what planet do you live on?
    Ed

  8. Well Ed I bash Rod because he does not have the correct perspective. The way to preserve our way of life is to ensure an adequate supply of energy while protecting people and the environment.
    This is not achieved by winning a debate but maintaining standards for the energy industry to follow. The nuclear industry uses media experts to convey a message. I have often explained technical issues to a technical communication expert who is trained to deal with the media.
    I have yet to hear one say sure we screwed up but we did not kill anyone like over at the gas fired power plant. The message is always that the public was protected the public by a diverse set of defenses. If you live near a nuke plant you do not care what BP is doing in Houston. Over time communities with nukes plants gain public acceptance. The battle of misinformation is won by sticking to you message not by spreading more misinformation about others.

    1. @Kit P – We certainly have different perspectives, but I happen to think that yours is the one that is not correct. I guess that is what makes the world go around – there is room for many different viewpoints.
      Based on your comment, it appears that you are a corporate guy who knows how to stay on the message chosen by the leadership. I have worked with a lot of corporate and government media experts over the years – most of them are skilled communicators who are excellent mouthpieces for the message that the leaders have chosen to share. Those messages, however, are not necessarily the right ones, just the ones that some people have decided will win the most friends or make the most money.
      For utility companies that find themselves owners of not fully paid off coal facilities, for example, it would make little sense to make a realistic comparison of coal versus nuclear. The coal plant would look really bad on all kinds of objective measures – especially if there were some good photographs and videos included. Therefore utilities and utility organizations like NEI train their communicators to avoid comparisons and to share an “all of the above” kind of energy system vision. I have had dozens of hallway conversations with NEI and utility communicators during the past 15 years; most of them included an admission that they are not allowed to compare energy sources for fear of adding to their company’s potential targets.
      I “get” that – I just do not agree with it. Nuclear is worth the effort that it takes to get it right because it is superior to other choices. It is hard to explain that to people unless you tell them the truth about the other choices. Neither natural gas nor coal vendors or advocates particularly like the truth – the coal guys talk a good game about “clean coal” as long as no one actually defines it, and natural gas promoters tell people that we have vast amounts even when their own numbers show that you have to include “proven, probable, possible and speculative” resources to show a 100 year supply AT CURRENT RATES of consumption. That is a really scary number to me for an industry with a very useful and valuable depleting resource that is advocating increasing the consumption.
      So, if you do not want comparisons among available energy sources, I suggest that you find a nice, corporate sponsored web site.

      1. Yes, Rod I do work a large multi-nation corporation. It would appear that you agree with our message too. Hint, hint, wink, wink.

  9. Kit – the problem is that other forms of energy production get away with doing a tremendous amount of bad stuff compared to the nuclear industry.
    When a toilet backs up at a plant during a refueling outage, the headlines scream “WASTE PROCESSING SYSTEMS IN NUCLEAR PLANT STOPPERED BY MYSTERIOUS PHENOMENON, REACTOR REMAINS STABLE, NO RADIOACTIVITY RELEASED!” ‘Crazystan, NY – NRC inspectors deployed today to the Clearstream Nuclear Power Plant today to inspect mysterious blockages in the plant’s waste processing systems. After several hours of ultrasonic and industrial radiographic inspection of waste processing pipes, the obstruction was localized and suction was applied using equipment, clearing the obstruction and permitting the waste processing system to return to normal functions. NRC inspectors assured this station that no radioactive releases were possible due to the obstruction. However, Latte Swiller, president of the Suckerfish Coalition, a pro-renewable energy group, expresses her fear that this piping obstruction was just the latest demonstration that plant safety at the 38-year old plant is at a low level and that citizens should be alert for possible radioactive releases, explosions, ensure that they’re stocked up on potassium iodide, and keep their tone alert radios handy. She also called for the plant to be shut until the NRC completed a thorough investigation of the incident.’
    Nuclear is held to a higher standard, yes. But why aren’t the other polluters held to the same standard that nuclear is held to?
    A level playing field for all is all I want to see.

    1. Well Dave you got it. The playing field is level. Now open your eyes and see it. If anything the field is now tilted towards nuclear.
      The regulatory standards are the same, stop ranting about what some idiot says on the Internet.
      After the Rancho Seco closed I go interested in environmental law. Case law for nuclear power is pretty much settled. I do not think the nuclear industry has has a loss in the courts in 15 years.
      Not one power uprate, not one plant life extension, not COL has been rejected. The nuclear industry is pitching a no hitter. Even the Yucca Mountain application rejection by DOE is being challenged in court.
      The rest of the electricity generating industry has lost lots of battles. There is a group of people dedicated to building absolutely nothing anywhere.
      The only reason you do not see it Dave is that you are not looking for it.
      Commercial nuclear power has not harmed one member of the public making electricity. To be fair about it, I can not find many case of the industry in general harming anyone. The case I recall, is a failure at a pumped hydro facility in Missouri. The utility got beat up pretty good in the press and in court. As they should have because they screwed up.

      1. @Kit P – you think the playing field is level? How much new capital got invested in nuclear energy last year? How many articles have you found in the advertiser supported media about a vision for a nuclear future as compared to one using natural gas as a bridge fuel?

    2. Kit – do give me a call when OCGT and CCGT facilities have to get Design Certifications and Construction and Operating Licenses, and there is a resident EPA and OSHA inspector stationed in every one just waiting to pounce on the next non-cited violation. Let me know when the NRC spends the same amount of time and resources that it does on nuclear plant tritium emissions to groundwater on coal plant PM2.5 fly ash alpha particle emissions. (One can actually lead to cancer – oh, yeah, it ain’t the tritium.) Send me a message when EPA charges every fossil plant for the cost of regulation, including both an annual fee of several million dollars, and a charge of $257 per bureaucrat-hour. Tell me when the gas industry using high-pressure natural gas to purge gas turbine pipes – a near insane practice causing gigantic explosive clouds of gas to be discharged into the atmosphere (creating conditions for a fuel air detonation – a.k.a. a “poor man’s nuclear bomb”) – incidentally – what caused the Kleen Energy explosion in CT – is treated the same way the nuclear industry would be treated for using low level liquid waste to purge a primary loop and spilling it all over the containment floor. Send a telegram when every blowout preventer in the Gulf of Mexico has to have a containment dome of at least 1.2 to 2.4 meters of pre-stressed, steel-reinforced concrete.
      THEN there will be a level playing field.
      Until then, I’ll keep fighting to level it. We’ll keep fighting to level it.
      When nuclear is treated as just any other energy industry, each energy industry having its own unique advantages and disadvantages, and requiring regulation scaled to the real comparative hazards presented each of these technologies individually based on sound technical judgment, and not on fear, uncertainty, doubt, superstition, quasi-theological arguments, or, for that matter, who can pay off the most politicians, then we’ll have won.
      (Nuclear fission’s advantages are legion, but it’s main disadvantage – ignoring all the radioactive cruft and focusing on the core merits of the technology – is that it isn’t great for tiny applications of less than a certain critical amount of energy – below 1 MWth, maybe; others know a heck of a lot more than I do about such things. So you’ll never have a nuclear car, but you will have nuclear locomotives, perhaps.)

  10. While I don’t have any experience in the nuclear industry outside of an internship at Argonne labs West back in ’99, I can certainly say that in chemical manufacturing most of the places I have worked over the past decade have had major lapses of “right to operate” mechanical integrity actives and continue to run.
    My understanding is that any nuclear facility would never get remotely close to getting away with these breaches and thus wouldn’t consider trying.

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