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16 Comments

  1. The answer is very simple:

    Only in Vermont Law School.

    But I think the most immoral behaviour comes from Mr Bradford. He played the game at the NRC and made sure nuclear could not be cost competitive. And then he comes and publicly attacks the industry as being out of control with costs and schedules.

    Ethics is the word that comes to mind. And I just cannot reconcile that with an institution that has Law and School in front of its porch.

  2. Perhaps Mr. Cooper – just like Mr. Sovacool has stated about himself – is simply fundamentally convinced that there really are cleaner and safer alternatives to nuclear power? If one has such a conviction, then all sorts of rubbish is free to come out of one’s mouth, without causing any ethical questions. Because after all: hammering on nuclear power relentlessly – with half-truths if necessary – will hasten the happy day when nuclear has been replaced by all these cheaper and cleaner alternatives.

    I suspect that the most prominent and confident anti-nuke propagandists all subscribe to the assumption that cheaper and cleaner alternatives to nuclear energy are just around the corner, if not quite yet available. That is the only way I can understand their ability to spew nonsense about nuclear all these years without getting bad dreams or wincing at themselves whenever they look into a mirror.

  3. Nice questions! I can give an answer to the technical one directed towards the future situation (there are probably other valid answers too).
    The question has two parts:

    Why do … new technology makes the concept of baseload electricity irrelevant?
    Because some new technologies have near zero operational costs (<$1/MWh) and NPP's do not. e.g. PV-panels and Wind turbines.

    So when solar and/or wind produce enough (all power the grid needs), they will continue until prices become negative. Hence if enough solar and wind capacity installed, e.g. each 2 times the max that the grid needs, prices will be below the operational cost price of NPP's (~$20/MWh?) during ~80%? of the time.

    notes
    – 80% depends on grid management, distribution of wind and solar over the country in combination with grid capacities.
    E.g. With long distance high capacity lines in USA, solar can deliver ~14hours of the day. Wind during ~80% of the other 10 hours (if no wind at Vermont then wind in Texas, etc). The rest (2 hours) to be filled by pumped storage or nuclear (if competitive in that situation) or Waste/Biomass plants.

    Sorry, I forgot other forms of electricity generation such as hydro, etc. They can fill the last gaps together with other storage (electricity to gas/fuel conversion and vice versa, etc).

    … any idea how vulnerable computer systems are … how costly outages can be?
    I do not know whether Cooper has any idea.
    I managed the start of a small computer center. In order to convince potential customers, we installed redundant Uninerruptabel Power Supply systems (UPS), diesel generators, etc. So we couild operate independent of the grid, just as all computer centers I know.
    (In 4 years we had one short outage. Not because the grid failed, but because an operator made a fault due to the complexity of our full redundant infra-structure. So operational all that money for UPS etc was a waste here in NL, but without you don’t get customers).

  4. Bas, have you ever even gone through the chore to run a simple hourly energy system simulation using a few years of weather data from a few removed locations, to investigate various mixes and matches of wind, solar and storage against a stereotypical national demand profile, just to see ballpark figures for the amount of plant you would need in order to simulate what could pass as a working electricity system? Did you notice just how much unavoidable curtailment you get, fairly quickly? Did you notice the impressive power fluctuations and extended outtages of wind and sun, requiring days and weeks of storage? Did you – like me – recognize that eliminating fossil fuels was not feasible, not even to the degree needed to reach the goal of 95% GHG emission reduction? Not without CCS?

    I don’t believe you have. But I have. And I can say that what you are proposing is nonsense. You can ignore what I say, but you cannot ignore what these guys are saying:

    http://www.poyry.com/sites/default/files/imce/files/intermittency_-_march_2011_-_energy.pdf

    You see, these guys did what I did, only they dutifully modeled the entire Northern European energy system. They didn’t try modelling a truly 100% renewable energy system, and they didn’t even try modelling a 95% GHG reduced system, but their conclusion is quite similar to my own humble conclusion, namely that you are full of crap.

    I suggest you study that report very carefully. I know you probably won’t, because I already suggested you read that report some time ago and you obviously haven’t, but I’ll suggest it again nonetheless. Have fun!

      1. @jmdesp
        Interesting link!
        The issue is:
        What are the extra costs (per MWh) if the wind turbine continues to produce versus the situation that the turbine is stopped?
        In other words, how much Maintenance and Operational (O&M) costs are saved if the turbine is stopped?

        The article states O&M goes down with ~10%/year (producers and utilities learn).
        Now ~$15/MWh for bigger turbines. Assume ~$10/MWh in ~2020.
        Assume the savings of the O&M costs if the turbine is stopped ~10%. So it is $1/Mwh.
        If you are pessimistic it can be $3/MWh but I do not believe that.
        For sure not for a 2030 situation.

        Just a remark.
        The article states wrongly:”…weight of larger rotors … increases by the cube, power generation only increases by the square. In other words, increasing rotor lengths from 40 to 80 meters increases weight by a factor of eight, but energy capture only by a factor of four….
        That rule is wrong as rotors are hollow. The real rule scaling rule is rather complicated.

        1. – I said “implying”, because if carefully reading one will realize you’re talking about marginal incremental cost, not coveringthat fact the non-marginal cost is not zero.
          – Taken literally your quote “have near zero operational costs” is indeed false, to be correct, it’s needs the precision that you’re not talking about the whole operational costs, but about the variation in operational costs that would come from generating or not 1 MWh.
          – What you say in your answer shows you really have a bizarre logic. The savings in O&M comes from improvements in the industry that’s progressively learning to optimize the cost of maintaining a wind turbine in working order, and also building newer turbines where the most common failure causes are corrected, so needs less frequent repairs. They have no connexion at all with stopping the turbine ! Further, a young industry will have a lot to learn and make a lot of progress this way initially, but it slows down later.
          And there’s also two contradicting tendency, the one of building longer lived turbines, but also the one of building cheaper turbines. Some trick for building cheaper will directly oppose the aim of building longer lived, and it’s not obvious which way it will go. For example, for cars it’s known chain transmission will save you costly replacements over a transmission belt. But the belt is cheaper. The builder will decide which one is the best compromise, but will not be able to gain on both aspect.

          Lastly, in the limited meaning that you use, NPP also frequently have in effect a zero cost of generating 1 additional MWh. The only saving on a NPP from reducing the power output will come be from being able to delay the reloading of the nuclear fuel. But the date at which it will be done is scheduled month or even years in advance, and nobody will move it because the burnup of the fuel is a little lower than the maximum rate technically possible.

          In the US, refueling is scheduled to be done in the season where the demand is lower, and prices go down. If doing it one or two month later, the small gain in fuel cost would probably be negated by the loss in power price. So in effect US nuclear plants are really saving nothing at all if asked to reduce their output.

          1. I think that NPP’s ‘burn’ fuel and that the fuel costs are in the range of $10MWh. Furthermore that a down regulated NPP ‘burns’ less, hence refueling can be later.
            But may be you can tell the more correct figures?

          2. As I explained above, yes when you divide the cost of fuel by the number of MWh it allows to generate, you arrive at a cost in the range of $10/MWh.
            But that does not mean that if you ask the operator to generate at half power during 6 days, he will be saving $10 per non generated MWh from the capital gain of doing the fuel reload 3 days later.

            As listed, he has already planned when he will do the reloading, and there’s by far not enough gain to justify doing the reload 3 days later. Or one week, Or one month. Maybe for 6 month. But then the increase in fixed yearly cost vs the number of operating hours in the year, would make the unit a lot less profitable, so that’s not interesting either.

            So the logic by which you’re not taking into account the yearly maintenance cost when talking about generating or not one MWh for a wind turbine, can very well be applied for a nuclear plant, even for fuel cost.

  5. Ern Monz (Chairman from the DOE) wants the concept of eGallon to catch on. (electric gallon for cars running on electricity)

    Nice. So my electric car is being charged from a coal or gas fired thermal plant. How are my eGallons doing ?

  6. Mark Cooper was a lobbyist for a Nader tied organization. Whether or not he is still employed by that organization is an open question. The source of his funding is also an open question. The Vermont Law School and Cooper have not opened the books. I take it that the Vermont Law School is operating an anti-nuclear lobbying organization and that the financing of this organization’s activities is dubious and may involve lavish financial “gifts” from the renewables industry and even the fossil fuel industry. Whatever the case, we are not going to be told by Vermont Law School or Dr. Cooper the funding sources for their lobbying efforts.

  7. Rod

    Your headline on this article is unprofessional and detracts from your message. Instead of attacking the man, how about attacking his ideas. Additionally, who cares about — or even knows about — the publications of the Vermont Law School. It is an academically backwater institution on the fringes from one of the least influential states in the union. Constantly dredging up its dreck only furthers the amount of press its message is receiving.

    On the professional level, academic institutions (such as the Vermont Law School) loath the sort of argument that your headline screams. It denies the right of multidisciplinary intellectual examination that is the very reason for such institutions and is considered the last act of desperate men. Academics may mutter the same sort of criticism under their breaths in private, but would never do so in public or in the presence of their peers who would consider such comments highly unprofessional. I knew an economics professor who was once taken to task professionally for musing outloud that Robert Reich was a lawyer and had no business selling himself to the country as a “political economist”.

    As an academic institution, albeit a backwater from an unimportant state, it is the school’s right and duty to examine any area of social policy it desires from any academic discipline it so desires. I applaud your efforts to publish the other side of this story, but you will be more effective in doing so by keeping it professional and not running down your opposition.

    1. @Robin

      You tell me that my headline is “unprofessional” and then go on about how the academic world would not like what I had to say about Mark Cooper’s lack of any education or qualifications demonstrating any expertise in economics (not to mention manufacturing, engineering or construction).

      What makes you think that academics have a lock on defining “professional” when it comes to commentary or discussion? There are many professions in which a person has to prove his or her level of knowledge through rigorous testing before being listened to in any meaningful way. In other professions, like engineering, a code of ethics restricts practicing members of the profession from making official pronouncements about areas outside of their expertise. Cooper apparently does not adhere to that kind of professional code.

      My post says nothing about Cooper as a person. It simply points out that he has marketed himself as an expert in economic analysis and asks him to explain what he has done to gain that expertise instead of just taking his marketing message at face value.

      It also points to a few fatal flaws in his economic message, namely a seeming assumption that restricting energy supply by eliminating a proven source of power will somehow benefit customers and not suppliers.

      I also find it quite offensive that he works hard to discredit the growing number of energy professionals that recognize the signs of a collapsing gas bubble.

      http://www.rigzone.com/news/oil_gas/a/124801/Musings_Will_Barnett_Shale_Study_End_Debate_Over_Gas_Outlook

  8. Oh, I know how Mr. Cooper got into Vermont Law School. It is probably part of a Vermont College. Why sociology? Mr. Cooper was probably an student athlete, and was probably recruited, especially if he played football or basketball (swimming, not so much). Most students athletes are not the best students so they major in subjects like phys ed, communications, and – sociology. I mean you don’t get athletes with majors like pre med or physical therapy. Also, for women, sociology is a common subject to get their MRS degree.

    Of course, when you can’t get a job with one of those degrees you go to law school.

    Most journalists major and communication and were probably college athletes too and it could be as soon as they find out Mr. Cooper played basketball like they did, they run his story.

    1. @BobinPgh

      Please do not insult college athletes. There are photos of Mark Cooper available; somehow I doubt that he was an athlete.

      You have also insulted women.

      Besides, no one has ever said that Cooper went to law school; he is not even a teacher at a law school. He has never even been on the tenure track, despite having recieved a PhD in Sociology based on his study of state capitalism in post-Nasser Egypt.

      His position is “senior research fellow for economic analysis” at a think tank that happens to be associated with a politically active non-profit organization that is affiliated with the Vermont Law School.

      http://www.vermontlaw.edu/Documents/IEE/Mark%20Cooper%280%29.pdf

  9. As a journalist who is also a computer scientist, here’s my view on it:

    Journalists are often very bad to, as you suggested, take things at face value. Also, despite journalism somewhat touching on the same academic areas as the social sciences, it seems few people—journalists certainly included—know what training, methods, or background a sociologist would have or what the valid areas of inquiry for such an academic might be, so when you’re confronted with someone who is a senior professor or such, you just take his word as gospel.

    This is a very bad mistake though. There is, in my view, a very real issue with people in the social sciences and to less of a degree the humanities (English, history) of feeling they can waltz into any field of inquiry, cage their questions in the jargon of their discipline, and then approach the issues of that field as an expert. If an chemical engineer said she was going to work on line-of-sight microwave transmission issues, we’d all want to know how this came to pass and what she’s going to contribute. But it seems a social scientist is welcome to come into anything—economics, engineering, medicine—and offer their views. I can see their views having merit when it comes to sociocultural workforce issues or the like, but indeed, Dr. Cooper seems an odd choice for the billet he’s been given.

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