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  1. Personally I just find it staggering how readily corporations will simply walk away from a nine or ten figure asset because it may be slightly underperforming in the short term due to what everyone knows is an artificially low fossil fuel price.

    I don’t know what the solution is. Perhaps tax credits for all zero-carbon energy sources, or wholesale market incentives for clean power purchase. Perhaps it’s tax penalties for premature closure of energy infrastructure. I wish I had a magic bullet to solve it.

    Taking carbon out of the picture, the electricity from shuttered nuclear plants has to be replaced somehow, and it seems to be natural gas turbines are the current favorite. Natural gas prices won’t stay this low forever, and when they recover – which they will, everyone will be hurting from the providers to the end ratepayers.

    1. American corporations have been forced by a long series of court findings to maximize profit in the short term. This has reduced their horizon to less than a year, often to this quarter. A federal law that reverses these ruling might be good place to start.

    2. @Matt.
      But whether costed or not, carbon is in the picture. And whatever combination of wind+gas+hydro you cobble up to replace a near-zero emission NPP here, could just just as well have been cobbled together to replace an aging coal plant over yonder.

      The net effect is you aren’t just replacing an ultra-low emission NPP with moderately high emission wind+gas+hydro. The net emissions effect of your wind+gas+hydro investment is whatever emission the wind+gas+hydro lash-up emits PLUS the emissions you could have avoided had you chosen the wind+gas+hydro to replace coal, which by choosing to retire the NPP instead you have chosen to keep on the grid, and keep on emitting at ~890 tonnes CO2 / GWh.

      Assume a 2.2 GWe NPP (e.g. DC or IP or SONGS) running about 90% Cf, generating 17 TWh/year essentially emissions-free. Somewhere else you’ve got coal plants generating an equivalent 17 TWy/yr and emitting 15.1 MT (million tonnes) CO2 each year in the process. Generously assume you can generate baseload wind+gas+hydro at 360 tonnes CO2/GWh and consider three ways to generate 34 TWh in a year:

      1. bau: 17 TWh from NPP + 17 TWh from coal => 0 MT CO2 from NPP + 15.1 MT CO2 from coal = 15.1 Mt CO2 each year.

      2. No more nukes: 17 TWh from wind+gas+hydro + 17 TWh from coal => 6.2 Mt CO2 from wgh + 15.1 Mt CO2 from coal = 21.3 Mt CO2 each year.

      3. No more coal : 17 TWh from NPP + 17 TWh from wgh => 0 Mt CO2 from NPP + 6.1 Mt CO2 from wgh = 6.1 Mt CO2 each year.

      1. You’re absolutely right. As long as a significant amount of coal generation is in the region, then closure of a nuclear plant is effectively a choice of coal over nuclear (as opposed to renewables over nuclear, etc..).

        It is disgusting that current policy provides no incentive at all to choose nuclear over even coal. If you have to close one plant, and the nuke is so much as 0.1 cents/kW-hr more expensive to operate than the coal plant, then the nuclear plant will close. That’s just wrong. This is why we need a carbon price….. Even a small one would do.

        One point though. It appears that coal generation is almost gone, in the state of NY. It is being phased out, and replaced by gas (and some renewables). Thus, in NY, it would be more accurate to argue that closing Fitz amounts to a choice of gas over nuclear.

        1. Disagree, Jim. Electrons are mindless little creatures that know no artificial political boundaries — they just go with the flow. Same with atmospheric ghg. Would it were the same with money. But it isn’t.

    3. @Matt

      Isn’t the reason that utilities are willing to walk away from multi-billion dollar assets is that the public service commissions let them charge the whole cost to their rate payers?

  2. Too easy … and too profitable.
    Suppose you’re generating $30 / Mw-hr power and getting beat up by the competition of cheap natural gas and heavily subsidized wind energy. A look at the MISO LMP map shows the Illinois Hub is selling power this morning a $20.93 / Mw-hr. That’s a pretty tough row to hoe when it comes to accounting.

    The decommission subject arises. $200 M write off hits current year earnings. Access to $800 M decommissioning funds occurs right off. Regulatory compliance costs trend towards zero at a refreshing rate. Then the topic of replacement power arises. New construction, capital projects replace the rising O&M costs of the existing asset – these often go into the rate base unopposed.

    It’s a great way to make energy. Power density, zero emissions, all the things that don’t hit a balance sheet. We’ll see a few new builds in regulated markets. We’ll see closures in deregulated markets. The irony is – old ComEd argued for years to get Illinois deregulated.
    Now that they have the deregulated market, their assets competitiveness comes into question.

    Maybe it is a better source for centrally planned nations, less so for free market nations.

    1. Nuclear can succeed in deregulated markets if energy policy is fair. Right now, nuclear is required to spend exorbitant sums to reduce even the chance of emitting pollution to negligible levels (i.e., it is required to be a clean energy source), but it is treated in the market like a dirty energy source. That is, it receives none of the large subsidies and outright mandates for use that the other clean energy sources get. Instead, it is placed in direct economic competition with fossil plants that get to pollute the environment for free. Under any kind of fair policy, all nuclear plant closures would cease. (Whether many new plants would be built is less clear, at least for the near term.)

      Anyway, those policies are the problem, not deregulated vs. planned economies. In some sense, yes, planned economies (or regulated, rate base markets in the US) can effectively neutralize the effects of those unfair policies by “doing the right thing anyway”. But in deregulated markets, the policies have to be correct in order to get the correct outcome. Tangible, desirable goals like pollution and/or CO2 reduction need to be monetized (through subsidy of all non-emitting sources, or taxes or fees on CO2 and/or pollution).

      Finally, your points about how access to the decommissioning fund can improve the (apparent) financial picture of the company is interesting. I’m not enough of an accountant to understand it in detail. It seems clear to me, however, that the rules concerning decommissioning funds must somehow be set so that the fund itself never creates a financial incentive to close the plant.

  3. You can’t force them to stay open and lose money. I suppose you could argue something like: 1) on the grounds that reliable baseload is a strategic public asset and essential to life, 2) the state should be allowed to appoint independent accountants to audit their books, and that 3) they must stay open, provided they are not losing money 4) over, say, a two year period. Yet, in deregulated markets, they will always have an court appeal option against something like that. Last I looked, every North East state had deregulated electricity apart from Vermont.

  4. Is it possible for Entergy to put a plant in a more temporary “winterized” state for a period of 2-7 years? Japan’s restart appears to demonstrate that it is technically possible to reopen reactors after such a time period.

    Considering the length of time it takes for a plant to begin its decommissioning, a lot could happen with the price of natural gas. The ability to reopen a plant OR let it expire in the future would function like an options contract and might serve as a valuable hedge against a highly volatile commodity price.

    1. You raise a very interesting point. I’ve often stated that regulations need to be changed to allow a nuclear plant to be mothballed, and then reopened without much in the way of licensing or inspection activities. As you point out, how is that different from an extended outage?

      A plant should allowed to be able to reduce staff as much as it would if it were decommissioning. Then, if they choose, they should be allowed to start it right up again, as quickly as if they were coming out of a long outage. (Actually, as quickly as a *fossil plant* would if it were coming out of a long outage. Again, nuclear exceptionalism simply has to die.)

      1. Jim Holf, the current fly in the ointment with “cold storage” is without staff reduction you still have high “O&M” costs on staff, programs (to prove readiness maintained), certain licensed operator functions (Spent Fuel is still on site), E-Plan manning, Rad monitoring, etc. etc. Licensed Operators must have NRC Requal Program, INPO certified training program, thus training staff, etc. Includes trained staff for other Q functions.
        To maintain readiness, prove it for “flip the switch back on” there is not much staff reduction possible under current regs. So no cost savings in O&M. Once you let them go from that plant, where are all those qualified folks to call back? You can’t flip the switch back on without all that proven qualified staff back on site.
        Fossil plants don’t face that issue, as they determine staffing is OK, not NRC.

        That’s the issue in a nut shell. If you let the qual’d staff go you are about starting from zero getting NRC to re-approve staff, training, program manning etc. IF YOU CAN EVEN FIND QUAL’D PEOPLE WILLING TO COME BACK. If you don’t let staff go, no real money savings.
        It will never be possible for a reduced staff nuke to restart “as quickly as a fossil plant” under the current regs. And even if the regs are changed to allow long term cold storage, how can it ever be quick to rebuild qualified staff? The NRC operator license program (and other key jobs) is inherently a long drawn out process.

        1. I’m saying that all those regulations and requirements you refer to, and the general mindset (of nuclear exceptionalism) need to be changed/eliminated. The last sentence in your 2nd paragraph is the key one. I know it may be a long shot….

          Why does a nuclear plant have so much to “prove” before restarting, whereas a fossil fuel plant does not? It’s all part of an entire philosophy that has embedded itself in the nuclear industry (as distinct from all others); a philosophy that has to fundamentally change if nuclear is to be successful in the future, IMO.

          One amazing thing about nuclear plants is that there is essentially no way to significantly pollute the environment w/o destroying the plant. It comes at the “price” of the destruction of the plant (the utility’s multi-billion dollar asset). Would that it would be so painful for other energy sources or industries to pollute.

          Given the limited to non-existent public health consequences we saw from Fukushima, frankly, my opinion is that the threat of the loss of the multi-billion dollar asset is sufficient incentive for utilities to prevent meltdowns. I’m not sure regulatory input is even necessary. If the utility thinks that the plant is ready to restart (given the horrendous financial consequences *to the utility* of a serious accident), then it’s ready to start.

          I’m not seeing a reason for a significant difference between starting a nuclear plant and restarting a fossil plant.

          1. I think we probably agree very closely on this, especially at a big picture overview. But the fact the current philosophy is so embedded in the current culture of the NRC, and for years now, I just think it is futile to think you are going to change them. The talk about tweaking the regulatory system here or there to help this or that has to stop. The NRC as we know it has to go or nuclear power in the US will cease to exist.

            The current system track record is clear. The NRC reaction to TMI2 killed all new construction since the ’80s, and the NRC reaction to Fukushima is now picking off plants one-at-a-time. The current fleet is all aging first generation LWR PWRs and BWRs. Where are the shovel ready advanced designs that we all think are better than these huge active safety system, complicated designs? There aren’t any. What’s prevented it? And everyone who thinks they will be ready in time to prevent the future loss of nuclear generation is fooling them self.

            It’s 2015, by 2035 (just 20 years) there are 40 plants in the current fleet who’s 20 year extended license will expire. Pick the year in the future when their replacement needs to start “digging the hole” to be ready on time. And what are you going to build? AP1000s are all on hold with “wait and see.” Rod has predicted 1/1/20 for the first AP1000 on line. Assuming the orders start then, you now have just 15 years to replace the current fleet of 40 (with just AP1000s). Can’t physically happen in time without loosing nuclear generation.

            Extend another 20 years? You just kick the can down the road, even IF that happens.

            It’s still 2015, there are about 25 additional plants in the current fleet still on their original license expiring by end of 2035, or the same 20 year window (several in troubled markets). They will not all renew, more nuke generation will be lost. And with every lost plant the remaining plant’s NRC fees will increase compounding the economic problems for a lot of those plants.

            WE ARE ALREADY OUT OF TIME ON THE CURRENT REGULATORY STRUCTURE! How long does it take to build a new plant? And what design are you going to build? Who will supply the parts in time? What date do you need to start site approval if it’s for an additional plant?

            Back to your original point of staff downsizing for long term cold storage. If the plant has 700 total staff (typical) and you let 500 go, don’t forget INPO in your restart plan. Most of those 500 jobs will have to be proven proficient by an INPO certified training program under the current process, if you chose to keep that training staff in place.

            As the total US nuke % generation decreases it becomes harder and harder to generate the will and effort to save it. Nothing short of a “WE’LL GET TO THE MOON BY THE END OF THE DECADE” national effort starting NOW will save us. And the country can’t even agree the nukes are necessary. We need to collectively decide who needs to hear that message, and then apply the effort (and money) to make that happen.

            I haven’t given up, but I’m not optimistic. And I won’t waste my time discussing “tweaking” the current NRC into what is needed. We are realistically out of time, and the current regulatory structure is responsible for that.

          2. @mjd
            Look at the number of employees for the typical city. http://www.governing.com/gov-data/safety-justice/law-enforcement-police-department-employee-totals-for-cities.html
            Now compare that to the number of employees at the average nuclear power plant.
            I retired from a single unit NPP, with all nuclear support stationed at the plant site. The largest department was the Security Department. Don’t know the exact numbers but several cities with a population over 300,000 have fewer in the Total police department column than were in the Security staff! Why? Read the firearms qualification requirements in CFR 73 and 10 CFR 73 Appendix B. [For other readers, I am sure MJD is aware of those requirements,] Seems like they are training military Special Forces.
            Just up river is an anhydrous ammonia processing plant with several multi-million gallon tanks. One of the engineers at the NPP had calculated that if several of of those tanks were destroyed, that the expected deaths down-stream would be in the high hundreds, hospitals would be overwhelmed, and aquatic life would be destroyed for at least a hundred miles. Then you need to consider where did the wind blow the toxic plume! Their security measures – a gate guard and a cyclone fence around the facility. Even a dumb terrorist can see the real target. And how many other facilities are there just like this within miles of the city center rather than more than 10 miles like most NPP’s.
            Makes you wonder what the real intention of the NRC is.

          3. Jim,
            Regulations could be less strict if nuclear would be more reliable / fail-safe.
            But statistics show that nuclear reactors are far more accident prone than e.g. regular airliners (factor 10 or so).
            Note that those have similar operating periods (30-60years).

            Culture plays an important role.
            The airline industry cooperate with safety authorities in order to improve safety. There is no fight against those authorities.

            In the nuclear industry we even see that rules are circumvented such as with SONGS (leading to inferior SG’s), etc. That no responsible was punished is very unusual in the airline industry.

            1. @BasG

              Please enlighten us with your definition of an “accident” at a nuclear reactor and your definition of an “accident” on an airliner.

              Something tells me you are comparing dust mites to dinosaurs.

          4. @Rod,
            The chance that a regular airliner plane ends in a crash.
            The chance that a regular nuclear power reactor ends in a crash.

          5. Rod,
            We can make the definition more accurate:
            – The chance per year that a regular airline plane ends in a crash.
            – The chance per year that a regular nuclear power reactor ends in a crash.

          6. @Rod @BasG

            A crash by itself doesn’t mean much, it is the impact that crash has. Isn’t a better measure…

            -The chance per year that a regular airline plane ends in a crash with a fatality
            -The chance per year that a regular nuclear power reactor ends in a crash with a fatality

          7. But statistics show that nuclear reactors are far more accident prone than e.g. regular airliners

            But look at their capacity factors. Airliners are in the basement.

          8. @Kevin,
            I wrote ‘accident prone’ or ‘chance on a crash per year’ because that is what counts if we talk about reliability.
            Only few people are worried about airliners because they don’t fall out of the air.

            Including consequences of the crashes, implies an undecided debate. E.g:
            – The economic damage the crashes cause.
            Estimations regarding Fukushima range between $100B and $1trillion.
            – The number of deaths the crashes cause.
            Estimations regarding Chernobyl range between 8000 and 8million.

          9. Bas,

            No, the relevant statistic is deaths per year from airlines vs. deaths per year from nuclear. That is, ~0 for nuclear and hundreds for the airline industry. Even more relevant is the deaths per year from nuclear vs. those allowed for other electricity sources. That is ~0/year for nuclear vs. several hundred thousand per year for fossil fueled power generation (worldwide).

            You suggestion that the nuclear industry has an adversarial relationship with its regulators, as compared to airlines, is positively comical. Orwellian. Nuclear has never fought back against its regulator, in any tangible way. That is one of the reasons for today’s excessively strict regulations and procedures that are making nuclear enterprise all but impossible and is pricing nuclear out of the market. The only language the nuclear industry ever uses with NRC is “how high” (shall we jump).

            Nothing like the fossil industry, which fights every burden tooth and claw. Responds by buying off legislators, etc.., so that even the most reasonable request (i.e., “please stop killing 10,000 Americans every year with your pollution) are not acted on.

            With SMRs, it will be even more clear that even a worst-case accident event will cause no deaths and have no public health impact. There will be economic costs, but those can be paid for by the industry and its insurers. For SMRs, removal of Price Anderson liability limits can and should be on the table. Although sensible rules governing the response to a release (i.e., reasonable public dose limits and cleanup standards) would have to be in place.

          10. @BasG

            Your mentioning of Fukishima and Chernobyl sheds some light on where you are coming from. Chernobyl was being intentionally operated outside of its normal design envelope. More like a stunt plane than a regular airliner. How often do stunt planes crash at air shows? It seems like I hear about them all the time.

            Similarly Fukishima experienced a beyond design basis earthquake and tidal wave. It handled the earthquake fairly well, the tidal wave, not so much. An analogy for a beyond design basis event for a regular airliner could be trying to make an emergency landing on too short a runway (is that a crash if it runs off the runway?) Or do the “crashes” on September 11th count? Clearly a beyond design basis situation.

            I am afraid your analogy is not a good one.

          11. @Jim,
            We won’t solve our difference regarding the deaths. My estimation:
            – Planes:~700 death/yr while ~7000 planes fly on av = ~1 death/flying plane or ~0.2 deaths/plane year.
            – Nuclear: ~1mln/15000 reactor years = ~60death/reactor year.

            Seems we agree that the financial damage nuclear reactors cause per year is substantial bigger.

            My estimation is that those strict rules are also caused because of incidents as with SONGS. Especially since it was not the first time NPP’s decided to avoid the rules (sometimes with adverse consequences).
            Anyway, the airline industry also has strict rules, making flying substantial more expensive. But their general mentality is that those are good.
            Another factor may be that the aviation authorities seem to have more power, at least are more prepared to use their power.

            I doubt whether your plea for less strict radiation limits will work. This summer Germany closed it’s prime nuclear waste storage prematurely because it created a ~10% increase of the m/f sex ratio of newborn up to 40km away. While the radiation protection regarding Gorleben was rather high (thick walled casks in a building with think concrete walls).

          12. @Kevin,
            The issue is that near all such accidents occur “beyond design basis” & “operated outside of its normal design envelope”.

            It indicates that the design basis is not good enough.
            – Dutch NPP Borssele is 6meter below sea level behind a dike, which breaks on av. once in 10K years (Dutch water authority). They operated 25years while the emergency generators air-inlets were below sea level. Still it’s not sure whether they will work when the dike brakes, as only the air inlets are raised and no test whether it works while under water…
            – A crash of an heavy airplane against the dome of a reactor (preferable at the loading door of course) is also beyond the design basis.

          13. @Jim,
            Sorry, I forgot a zero regarding the planes. Please read:
            – Planes:~700 death/yr while ~7000 planes fly on av = ~0.1 death/flying plane or about 0.02 deaths/plane year.

          14. I forgot a zero regarding the planes.

            Your small error is that you’re calculating per unit, not per person served.  A nuclear plant serves as many as 2 million people, 24/7/365.  That error puts you off by about 4 orders of magnitude.

            Your large error is that you forgot that the actual death toll from Chernobyl is less than 100; you are off by another 4 orders of magnitude.

            I keep hoping to see something other than the sleaziest propaganda from you.  I will probably die without seeing it.

          15. @Rod,
            When we compare the reliability of regular nuclear reactors vs regular airline planes than I prefer to compare the chance that those crash beyond repair per year. Because those figures are available and rather reliable.

            According to that measure, airline planes are at least a factor 10 more reliable than nuclear reactors, which implies that the chance an airliner crashes during a year is at least 10 times smaller.

            When we compare the damage they cause we no longer discuss reliability but some other measure. Still it is interesting to know.

            Brian stated that the “CF” of planes is much lower, suggesting that the comparison was not fair. So I took the number of planes that fly in the air on average during the year and corrected that for the 90% CF of nuclear which delivered ~7000 planes flying around on average worldwide.
            Then checked for the av. number of deaths per year all those planes together cause during a year: ~700 (I excluded deaths by war planes, etc).
            So a virtual plane which flies during same 90% of time as a nuclear reactor operates, causes 700/7000 = 0.1 death per year.
            I estimate that the real “CF” is below 18% so a plane causes 0.02 deaths / year.

            For nuclear it’s known all reactors together operated 14,xxx years (WNA).
            So I took that as the base for similar calculation.
            For the low estimation of the death I took the 8000 which I thought WHO estimated now. But I found that they still publish the 4000 of the 2006 cover-up operation (cover-up as they excluded almost all research which would have delivered higher number) so that should be corrected. For the high estimation I took the publications of NYAS and IPPNW. As I estimate that that the real figure may be near 1mln, I used that.

            1. @BasG

              Thank you for the explanation.

              Your stubborn bias against the use of nuclear energy has led you to making assumptions that paint a highly distorted impressionistic picture.

              Here are a few places where your assumptions are either completely false or deliberately misleading.

              There are several orders of magnitude more airplanes than commercial reactors because each reactor is providing all of the electricity needed for roughly 1,000,000 people for about 8,000 hours per year. There is some variation in that number due to size or electricity usage in a particular area, but the maximum variation of reactor sizes is within one order of magnitude.

              Each commercial airplane moves somewhere between a few dozen and a few hundred people from one place to another.

              It is not a “cover up” to exclude research that is based on unverifiable media reports.

              The deaths attributed to commercial air travel are identifiable people with actual death certificates and very strong evidence of a body. There is a record of all people getting onto the plane, a probability of finding a corpse, or a possibility of finding another kind of forensic evidence. Flying-related deaths occur at the time of the accident or very soon thereafter.

              The deaths that are attributed to nuclear reactor accidents are nearly all probabilistic computations based on an assumed dose and an assumed dose response model that is considered to be conservative — it overestimates risk — by nearly every specialist in the field. There is a large dispute about the shape of the curve used in the model and an acceptance of the uncertainty with the idea that “at least we’re not underestimating risk.”

              The actual range of estimates of deaths attributed to nuclear energy accidents is thus a low of 43 (28 identifiable people who died as a result of acute radiation syndrome within a short period after an accident plus 15 more who died up to several years after the accident as a result of thyroid cancer attributable to the I-131 dose received). Every one of those deaths is attributable to a single “accident” at Chernobyl. (I remain suspicious that the event was purposeful destruction by at least a few clever people. There are too many coincidental actions that all led to a reasonably predictable outcome of destruction.)

              Your choice of 4,000 as the low number rests on either misreading the Chernobyl Forum report, misreading the summary of that report, or accepting a third hand report of what the international body of researchers wrote about what they found and predicted. Here is a quote from a 2005 WHO article titled Chernobyl: the true scale of the accident that might be the source of the 4,000 figure that you use.

              A total of up to 4000 people could eventually die of radiation exposure from the Chernobyl nuclear power plant (NPP) accident nearly 20 years ago, an international team of more than 100 scientists has concluded.

              Notice that it says “up to 4000 people.” That is not a firm prediction of 4,000 deaths. It says that the number is unknown and that its upper bound is 4,000. Here is another quote from the UNSCEAR assessment that needs to be better understood by decision makers so that we can respond more effectively to the aftermath of an accident. Sadly, though this statement was written about 5 years before Fukushima, the lesson it contains was not yet accepted and implemented as the basis for planned actions.


              The accident at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in 1986 was a tragic event for its victims, and those most affected suffered major hardship. Some of the people who dealt with the emergency lost their lives. Although those exposed as children and the emergency and recovery workers are at increased risk of radiation-induced effects, the vast majority of the population need not live in fear of serious health consequences due to the radiation from the Chernobyl accident. For the most part, they were exposed to radiation levels comparable to or a few times higher than annual levels of natural background, and future exposures continue to slowly diminish as the radionuclides decay. Lives have been seriously disrupted by the Chernobyl accident, but from the radiological point of view, generally positive prospects for the future health of most individuals should prevail.

              The excessive worry imposed by the “conservative” assumption of risk is more harmful than the radiation. It is not conservative or helpful to people to exaggerate the potential effects of their exposure, especially after the fact, when there is nothing that can be done about the exposures that have already been absorbed. Reassurance is worthwhile; if there is no measurable harm, there is no need to repeatedly tell people that they are victims because they MIGHT suffer an illness in a few decades.

              The health value of a calm, informed response that is not based on an exaggerated assumption of risk is still an important, valid lesson that must be learned before the mistakes are repeated.

          16. Rod,
            Thank you for your elaborate and clear response!

            Too much evidence shows that a.o. UNSCEAR’s view is not correct. Such as the shown significant increase in serious birth defects due to 10% increase in background radiation. So mainstream radiation experts don’t support their vision

            As the sensitivity of measurement tools increase, more health damage is shown and the regulations become more strict. The premature closure of nuclear waste storage Gorleben is an example of the trend.

            Last week my dentist had to take a picture of my teeth. Few years ago he did it while I stayed in the chair and he left the room. But he explained that new regulations made that impossible, he was obliged to construct a special room with walls containing enough radiation absorption material (he said lead & barium). While we both know that it concerns only a few micro Sievert, ~0.1% of annual background…

            Sorry that I let myself seduce to switch topic.
            The topic concerned the much lower reliability of nuclear reactors compared to airliners, which has little to do with the consequences of crashes.

            1. @BasG

              Too much evidence shows that a.o. UNSCEAR’s view is not correct. Such as the shown significant increase in serious birth defects due to 10% increase in background radiation. So mainstream radiation experts don’t support their vision

              Your chosen “experts” might be mainstream in your mind, but they are in a tiny minority among radiation health experts. We’ve spent a lot of time explaining the statistical weaknesses and the poor assumptions that underly their published, but not widely accepted, results.

              I will once again ban you from commenting if you do not stop your incessant repetition of lies about the relationship between tiny doses of radiation and health effects on unborn children. You have pointed to “peer-reviewed studies,” but I do not accept their results. They conflict with every other one of hundreds of studies on similar topics. On a similar note, I do not believe that the Yablokov book has anything to do with reality. It’s not even close and has been soundly discredited.

          17. I will once again ban you from commenting if you do not stop your incessant repetition of lies about the relationship between tiny doses of radiation and health effects on unborn children.

            You’ve given him too many chances already.  He abused this last one, and he’ll abuse any others you give him.

          18. Banning bas is like shooting yourself in the foot. If your purpose is to discredit FUD, than you need FUD to discredit. Rather than banning, it makes far more sense, no matter how tedious, to continue to clearly rebut his claims. The person who truly is seeking truth about NE by searching the internet needs to see argument here, not just NE advocates nodding in each other’s direction.

          19. The person who truly is seeking truth about NE by searching the internet needs to see argument here,

            What they don’t need is to see the same debunked lies posted over and over again. That’s not “argument,” that’s spam.

            If Bas wants to spam that garbage over and over, there are plenty of Greenpeace websites that will take it.

    2. As a conservative Republican, I generally defer to the private sector when making long term financial decisions like closing power plants. However, in the case of nuclear power, every step of the process is highly regulated, so Rod’s proposal for additional public input prior to a shutdown decision has merit.

      The technical community can assist by proposing methods and standards whereby a nuclear power plant can be put in “long term outage” status subject to re-start, without incurring prohibitive surveillance and maintenance costs. Perhaps ANS could look into this issue further?

      1. @Tom B.

        NEI also has a strong interest in this discussion. Its members may believe they are forced into the shutdown decisions, but they might also welcome the opportunity to join in an effort that will increase the long term value of their assets like sites and installed equipment.

      2. For Tom B. Long Term Outage is preferable to shutting down a nuclear power plant but this leaves us with the problem of replacing the power that the shu down plants formerly provided? Any suggestions?

        1. The problem is the cost of the NRC license and the overhead costs of maintaining it.

          It would be better if an operating license could be temporarily downgraded to a possession-only license with the option of going back to operation later.  That would slash the cost of e.g. security and emergency planning while reducing maintenance and inspection costs immensely.  Those costs would go back again with a return to operation, but in the mean time they would present a much smaller incentive to go all the way to decommissioned status.

  5. Thanks for another timely, thought-provoking article!

    Fortunately, leaders in the private sector are finally awakening to the reality that it takes a strong private/public sector relationship to make history. Like any marriage, if either party is weak really bad things happen…

    Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg’s recently formed Breakthrough Energy Coalition is a huge wake up call: http://www.breakthroughenergycoalition.com/en/index.html. Finally, committing serious financial resources, to promote stronger public-private partnerships:

    “between governments, research institutions, and investors. Scientists, engineers, and entrepreneurs can invent and scale the innovative technologies that will limit the impact of climate change while providing affordable and reliable energy to everyone.”

    Additionally, the best and brightest on the planet now live in California, are heavily capitalized, have developed a disruptive culture and sharing economy, and are seriously exploring all emerging technologies, including nuclear power.

    We can build on these confluences of opportunity, by constantly advocating for cooperation between both sectors!

    California, as the 8th largest economy (ranked 20th for global CO2 emissions), is a great place to start. Please continue your hugely helpful support of Californians for Green Nuclear Power’s efforts to keep the last nuclear power plant on the west coast operating.

    Further, supporting these comments, advising the California Energy Commission to revise the Draft 2015 Integrated Energy Policy Report, could answer your question and make make the moonwalk look like child’s play:


  6. If Fitzpatrick Nuclear station used to be owned by New York State Power Authority, why can’t it be transferred back? If Entergy sold to the the NYS Power Authority for a nominal price ($1), Entergy could keep their writeoffs.

    It seems to me that Governor Coumo is very disingenuous.

    1. That may be possible, but having the NYPA operate the plant, presumably at a similar level of loss, would essentially be the same as the (< 1 cent/kW-hr) subsidy that the state has so far been unwilling to offer. One difference between that approach and a subsidy, however, is that it may not require legislation (which could be significant).

      Like many others, Entergy's intransigence sometimes makes me wonder if they actually have other motives (tightening the power market, etc.). On the other hand, however, I'm also skeptical of Cuomo and Schumer's motives. They're not exactly pro-nuke. Part of me thinks that they're only interested in *sounding* concerned for the plant and its workers, etc. Being able to say that "I tried to save the plant, but it was beyond help". (Which has the added "advantage" of convincing the public that nuclear is truly non-viable, economically, thus further serving their actually anti-nuclear interests.)

      The fact is that both politicians have talked about the need for the plants to stay open, but have thus far offered nothing tangible, let alone sufficient to make that happen.

      1. It’s a bit of a fetch, but it could be that Entergy is willing to close Fitzpatrick and Governor Coumo wants to keep it open because perhaps closing Fitzpatrick takes some of the pressure off Indian Point. If Fitzpatrick closes then Indian point will be more needed, and if Fitzpatrick continues to operate, it will be that much easier to close Indian Point. Again, It seems to be a bit of a fetch, but it is possibly an element of the political dynamic. Who Knows?

        More likely, Entergy sees the support Marcellus Fracked gas will have in Albany once the right price points are reached. I believe Governor Coumo currently doesn’t allow Fracking in the Marcellus shale yet because that would put tremendous downward pressure on price, and Gas Frackers aren’t yet coming to Albany with hat in hand promising political support …. yet. Once the price of natural gas is bouncing around the target price point and frackers come begging, then the Governor’s office and his friends in the New York state legislature will feign acquiescence to drilling in the Marcellus Shale for the sake of “jobs”. I therefore expect the Governor will “throw” the attempt to keep Fitzpatrick open, and still try to replace Indian Point also with Natural Gas.

        1. @John C

          Your scenario details about the behind-the-scenes maneuvers are probably not precisely correct, but I think the overall plan is pretty close to the one you illustrate.

          My guess is that the existing state limitations on fracking are welcomed by the people who already have operating wells of any kind because the LAST thing they want for the next few years is a higher level of available supply in the market. There is simply no place for that gas to go, that’s why prices this December are as low as they have been since the mid to late 1990s. I just returned from spending a week in Maine; I didn’t even need to put on a hat the whole time I was there, and I spent hours outside at playgrounds with my grandchildren.

          One of the shipyard workers I chatted with thought it was glorious that he could walk to work in his shirtsleeves and hadn’t even had to turn on his furnace yet.

          When existing wells fall down their depletion curve, a curve that is far steeper in a fracked well than it is in a conventional well, supply will begin to fall. When seasonably chilly weather comes to the northeast, and it will come, the demand will begin to return to more normal levels.

          It will be higher than it used to be because more people will have installed gas appliances and heaters, more gas will be burned to make up for the loss of at least five recently closed nuclear plants, more gas will be burned to make up for the loss of coal plants killed off in the war, more gas will be flowing to LNG export facilities as projects get finished and already approved exports begin, and perhaps even as more trucks and buses convert to burning natural gas instead of diesel fuel.

          For a while, the natural gas industry will reap the rewards of the inevitable price increases, both weather related spikes to astronomical levels and steady increases in long term prices. As prices rise, the suppliers will be able to blame “the market” and “the environmentalists” that campaigned to close nuclear, close coal, and stop fracking. They will chuckle all the way to the bank.

          When prices get painfully high, they will result in sufficient political pressure to resume fracking and to eliminate bans.

          At least, that is the general plan. It’s not a scenario that has any benefits for the vast majority of the people, but some people would love to see it play out.

          It can be derailed. I will be one of the people putting various kinds of material on the track.

          1. @Rod

            We have discussed natural gas before. I am not saying that I would love to see the scenario you described play out. However, I think it needs to play out, at least in part, for people to realize the mistake they have made in not supporting nuclear. Another way of saying this is that a nuclear renaissance is dead on arrival with cheap natural gas prices, so the only way nuclear revives is if natural gas prices go up.

            1. @Kevin Krause

              The current price of natural gas is one of the best reasons that savvy investors should be making huge investments in nuclear construction projects.

              Of course, there aren’t all that many savvy, forward looking investors in leadership positions at companies that produce electricity. Tom Fanning is one of the exceptions.

          2. I’d like to see a rapid shift of the trucking industry from diesel to CNG/LNG.  This would have a number of salutary effects, starting with a near elimination of soot emissions and diesel clatter, but would also increase NG demand substantially and help eliminate the current glut while cutting petroleum imports.  The NG industry doesn’t particularly care where demand comes from, and competing with diesel fuel at $15/mmBTU is a whole lot better than competing with coal and uranium.

          3. @Rod

            I mostly agree with your point. The problem is that investment in nuclear while gas is cheap is a long-term play and most investors and markets are notoriously short-term.

          4. @Rod

            I just don’t understand Entergy’s asset accounting procedures. Why would they want to trade Fitzpatrick’s COL for access to its decommissioning fund. Surely its worth more than that especially, when in just a few more years the price of NG will be higher than today given the LNG export facilities that will be coming on-line by then. Why would an energy company’s profit horizon be less than two years. Doesn’t make sense to me. If it’s stockholder pressure, then it should be resisted; it’s called “leadership”.

  7. Wait – those interested in building a nuclear power plant have to demonstrate a ‘need’? I have never heard of such a requirement for a business before? What is the standard of review for proving need?

    Clearly, the US needs more clean energy. Clearly, more competitors in the marketplace should lead to lower costs.

    I don’t think we make Walmart show that there is a NEED for another department store in a particular locale, before they can open one, or car dealerships, or grocery stores, or auto service shops, or dentists offices, or hospitals? We let the market determine need – if investors think they can successfully compete in the market, well good luck to them. Either they are right that there is a need, and they profit, or they lose money and close up business.

    Does it seem to anyone else that demonstrating ‘need’ for any business is a foolish requirement that has no place in government decision making?

    1. I think that has to do with utilities’ status as a regulated monopoly. I’m not sure that that requirement even applies in merchant power markets.

      1. Every nuclear plant in the US was built by a regulated monopoly or public power organization; though often overlooked, the public has a paid-up, vested interest in those plants.

        Fewer than half of the states in the US have deregulated their electricity markets.

      2. Vermont Yankee was a merchant plant, and the Vermont Gas Pipeline extension is part of Vermont Gas Systems, aka Gaz Metro. Both of these would need a “certificate of public good” in order to operate.

        This means they must go before the Vermont Public Service Board and show that there is a need for the plant and the pipeline. They must show that their infrastructure will be in the “public good.” Most states have something like this for energy projects, whether or not the market it regulated or not-regulated.

        1. Thanks, Meredith, for that additional bit. I didn’t think about a “certificate of public good” as being showing a “need”, but now that you mention it, I suppose that really is what it comes down to.

          How ridiculous to show a ‘need’ for a clean, low-cost energy electric plant. Is it even a question that states NEED that?!

          Sometimes I despair for humanity.

    2. The issuance of an operating license by the NRC is considered a Federal Action. Under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) all federal actions have to perform either a formal Environmental Impact Statement or a less stringent Environmental Assessment. In the case of an operating license, a full EIS is necessary (surprise). The foundation of an EIS is establishment of a purpose and need for project. Hence every COLA or Operating License application has to perform a Need for Power Analysis and an Alternatives Analysis (along with a host of other environmental assessments) as part of their overall Environmental Report from which the NRC issues an EIS. This is painfully redundant to the Certificate of Public Necessity process employed by regulated utilities.

      1. @Mike W.

        Thanks for the detailed information.

        Following along with my suggestion and the precedents you provided, it seems clear to me that accepting the letters that formally tell the NRC that a nuclear power plant has been defueled and will never be operated again constitutes a “major federal action” when the decision is made while there is still a significant period of time remaining on the existing operating license.

        I realize that plant owners pay for the NRC time spent in reviewing license applications, but the agency invests and prioritizes a substantial quantity of resources in the review process, which is essentially wasted in the case where the shutdown decision comes well before the expected end date.

      2. @Mike W.

        If you read the Need for Power part of any of the recent new reactor EISs (it sounds like you may have), you will see that the Certificate of Public Necessity is a key part of that analysis along with any annual integral resource plans that utilities have to provide in regulated markets to the particular state PUC (or equivalent). Other documents are used to support the independent assessment.

        So in that respect, the NRC is not doing something redundant but more of verification and documenting for informing the decision-makers and disclosing to the public (a key aspect of NEPA).

        Hope that helps!


  8. In one of the articles, Cuomo alluded to the notion of finding a way to force the plant to stay open, even if it continues to lose money. I can’t say that I agree with the notion that a money-losing business should be forced to stay open.

    A valid counter-argument to that is, “if the state has such an interest in keeping my plant open, then the state should pony up enough money for me to break even”. Tragically, it appears that the state has not been willing to provide the necessary help, despite the fact that it would take less than one cent/kW-hr of (likely temporary) help to keep the plants open, which is FAR smaller than the subsidies given to renewable projects. Predictably, the governor clarified that nuclear would NOT be included (along with hydro and renewables) for meeting the state’s Clean Energy Standard.

    Whether it’s establishing a long process to be granted permission to close (as Rod suggest) or whether it is fairer treatment under policy (as I discuss above), I wonder what actions could be taken to force either of those things to be done. Would it be legislation? A regulatory rule making (by NRC, in the case of Rod’s suggestion)? Would a lawsuit by the nuclear industry, demanding fair/equal treatment under the law (as I’ve discussed in the past) be a possibility? That is, could nuclear demand to be treated as a clean source (like renewables) in court, or is the only possible path to garner sufficient political support?

    1. Why wouldn’t they just increase the rates the plant can charge? Subsidizing power plants, instead of allowing a rate increase, makes little sense to me?

      1. For Jeff S. I agree. If nuclear plants cannot make a profit I think one of the solutions is to allow them to increase rates instead of shutting down.

  9. In ten years Molten salt reactors will be ready to provide power at a price that is competativev with coal, or a price that will justify shuting down natural gas if CO2 emitters are taxed. We will then wonder about why we grieved so much over the shutdown of a few old nucle4ar plants, and laugh at the way greens are being gored by the shutdown of inefficient renewable generation facilities.

    1. I’m all for molten salt reactors, IFR, etc. But, in the meantime, it makes little sense to shut down our current nuclear plants at a time when we are supposed to be reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

      Let us use Germany as an example. They have embarked on a program to both build solar/wind energy, and shut down nuclear energy.

      The problem is, the market isn’t split into those two choices. There are also coal and natural gas plants.

      Because of the insistence on shutting down nuclear plants BEFORE shutting down the fossil fuel plants, Germany clearly isn’t cutting greenhouse gas emissions as fast as they would be if they simply just kept the current nuclear plants open, built their wind/solar (or, for better effect, built more nuclear plants, but I digress), and shutdown coal plants first, following by gas plants, and only shut down nuclear when/if they somehow achieved enough renewables to actually justify shutting down nuclear plants (a goal which, given the unreliability of solar and wind, would likely never actually be reached).

      Likewise in the US – we shouldn’t close down nuclear plants TODAY, because we may be building molten salt reactors in 10 years that will come online in 20 years. . .

    2. I wish I could believe you Charles, but I don’t. Unless there is significant regulatory reform, NO reactor design has much chance of being economically competitive. This is not a technology problem, it is a public prejudice, policy and regulations problem.

      It doesn’t even matter if you come up with an inherently safe reactor. NRC will still insist on hyper-strict, micro-managing regulation, and maximum (nuclear grade) QA requirements for almost all component fabrication, just because “it’s nuclear”. And it is those requirements, not reactor design, that drive cost.

      Such advanced, inherently safe (safer?) reactor designs may indeed be the solution, but only if the advanced design is followed up by a serious effort to fully “take credit” for the reactor’s inherent safety. That is, fighting tooth and nail to get most of the reactor’s components and systems classified as non nuclear-grade, i.e., allowing them to be built and operated to typical industrial standards. Fighting to have little NRC oversight of on-site operations (i.e., to have running that reactor be much like running a gas plant, with similar staffing levels, etc.). Installing the (modular) reactor on site must also not be much more difficult than installing a gas turbine, in terms of the permitting process, etc.

      With these advanced reactors (due to their inherent safety and much lower potential release), such changes in policies, regulations, and fab QA requirements are justifiable, but they will NOT happen unless the industry is willing to put up a huge fight. Otherwise, NRC will just happily take the (even further) orders-of-magnitude reduction in release probability, and not offer anything back in return. The result will be a release probability (and maxim consequence) that is truly beyond negligible, but a cost that remains non-competitive. As a result, those wonderful reactors will NOT be able to cause a reduction in overall public health risks and environmental impacts from electricity production, since few if any of them will be built.

      1. Jim I think you’re right on this. And I don’t think we can afford to spend 10 years in the desert waiting for Molten Salt to sweep the nation off its feet.

        I think we have to come to terms with the fact that the reactors operating today producing 19% of the country’s electricity will inevitably dip in the next decade before the Renaissance – in whatever form it takes – comes about.

        Sorry to sound defeatist.


        1. @Swain

          I think we have to come to terms with the fact that the reactors operating today producing 19% of the country’s electricity will inevitably dip in the next decade before the Renaissance – in whatever form it takes – comes about.

          I haven’t yet reached that stage. I’ll freely admit that I might be in denial, but I still believe there are actions that we can take that will dramatically slow, and perhaps even stop the decline in the number of operating nuclear plants in the US. Thinking more globally, there are about 45-50 plants that are not operating today that could be operating within a year or so of a firm decision that their output is useful and necessary.

          1. The NEI has targeted 2018 to reduce costs of building nuclear plants by 30%
            If there is a breakthrough regarding switching from LNT to Hormesis Model it might be more than 30%

          2. @Rick Maltese: I’m not sure we need to switch even to an acceptance of hormesis – while the evidence seems good (as presented by the dose-response guys working on that science) for hormesis, I think NRC need only switch to a *threshold* model, without respect to whether doses under that threshold level are hormetic, to get that breakthrough, yes?

            That is, hormesis implies a threshold, but it’s also possible there could be a threshold without hormesis, and all nuclear regulation, I think, needs, is a recognition that doses below that threshold are acceptable?

          3. I agree that prevention of further closures will have to be our main focus in the US over the short term. Options include fighting back against yet additional regulatory burdens, as well as fighting for policies that give nuclear at least some tangible financial credit for its non-polluting nature.

            As for the future, and new build, the best hope I see is for China to be convinced to build a massive, high-volume assembly line for SMRs. Something on the order of one module *per day* capacity (seriously). I don’t even care what type of SMR it is (LWR, MSR, etc…). This would lead to a much lower cost, and (as they did with solar panels) China would sell them to the rest of the world, greatly improving nuclear’s economics and ease of finance.

            The hurdle is NRC, and the US public, allowing the import and use of these Chinese-built SMRs (LWR SMRs may be an easier sell with NRC). Also, NRC allowing the modules to be installed at US sites in a fairly straightforward fashion, with standard industrial (non “nuclear grade”) practices for all balance of plant construction and all on-site activities. The idea being that the module is inherently safe.

            I realize that this vision of the future involves the complete loss of leadership in the nuclear field by the US. That is one area where I AM defeatist. That ship has all but sailed. The US public and political class simply to not support the nuclear industry enough for us to remain leaders.

            1. @Ji9m Hopf

              I realize that this vision of the future involves the complete loss of leadership in the nuclear field by the US. That is one area where I AM defeatist. That ship has all but sailed. The US public and political class simply to not support the nuclear industry enough for us to remain leaders.

              I am a professional submarine officer as well as a nuclear professional. Ships that have sailed are juicy targets compared to those that remain inside the harbor, protected by mines, small diesel boats and nets.

              We have a huge, mostly silent cohort of true American leaders who understand the enormous tactical and strategic advantages associated with atomic fission. It’s time to mobilize that Atomic Army and retake lost positions.

          4. @swain @Rod

            If Swain is or sounds defeatist. Then I am in the same boat, or at least one that is nearby. I remain hopeful that other so called marginal reactors will remain open, but I do not hold any hope for the recent announcements at Fitzpatrick and Pilgrim.

            As for plants in Germany and Japan. They could come back online, which seems much more likely in Japan. I agree with previous commenters that have suggest Germany has chosen coal over nuclear. They would never state it that way, but in reality that is what they have done.

      2. The NRC bends over backwards to ratchet plants into costly changes. All the NRC needs to do is give the plant a few RED findings, and the plant is forced to do whatever the NRC “suggests” to get off of the “watch list.”
        Prime example. I worked at one plant that got a rather sever violation with a hefty fine because they discovered the “test” cap was not on the containment pressure line, leaving the containment open to atmosphere. [Note, the instrument line is just a 1/4 inch stainless steel line.] One of the engineers writing the response to the violation was talking to meat lunch about approaches to mitigate the”violation.” My immediate response was “why did they give you a violation that severe for that? I then went on to explain about my experience when I performed the original construction Containment Leak Rate Test. A few days after performing that test it was discovered that an 1/2 inch cable penetration was open the entire time that the leak rate test was performed and that the test had passed! If the Technical Specifications were met with a 1/2 in pipe open then surely they would pass with one 1/4 inch pipe open! Thus no violation of Technical Specifications. Even with that data, the best we could do was get the level of the violation lowered to the lowest level and the fine rescinded. Several years latter I heard of another plant that got a similar violation and had paid the hefty NRC fine. You can imagine his expression when I told him about how we got it reduced. .
        No safety was affected, no Technical specification was violated. Again, what is the real intent of the NRC?

  10. Answer: Because electricity from natural gas in much cheaper. Because there is no consensus on the long term storage of spent nuclear fuel. Because of a long history, with no exceptions, of prodigious cost over-runs in nuclear plant construction.

    1. @brc

      Why is electricity from natural gas cheaper? Did you know that even “cheap” natural gas costs more than twice as much per unit of useful heat output as fully costed nuclear fuel, including all mining, processing, transportation, enrichment, fabrication and waste storage?

      How long will electricity from gas be cheaper if demand rises? How long would it be cheaper if the currently free waste disposal for gas is eliminated?

      What do cost overruns in construction have to do with the cost of continued operation. Logically, something that is more expensive to build should be operated for a longer period of time so that the earned revenues can build up to cover the initial cost and then provide a profit.

    2. Natural Gas is only cheaper if Global Warming imposes no cost on society. In fact, the science is now pretty clear that Global Warming driven primarily by GHG emissions, is having lots of economic effects on the world (droughts, storm damage, and so on).

      Therefore, Natural Gas is not REALLY cheaper than nuclear. Unfortunately, at this time, those costs are externalized and being paid for by governments and other private organizations and individuals. What we need to do is to internalize those costs, through a price on GHG emissions (carbon, methane leaks, etc).

  11. activities participants can do to raise awareness.

    Statements from James Hansen, Robert Stone, Barry Brook, Michael Shellenberger, Robert Hargraves, Ben Heard, Gwyneth Cravens, George Monbiot, Mark Lynas, Kirk Sorensen and videos put out by Gordon MacDowell are all opportunities for tweeting or Facebook sharing.

    Rod Adams, Meredith Angwin, Dan Yurman, Will Davis, Charles Barton, James Conca on Forbes, Steve Aplin on Canadian Energy Issues are all worth tweeting about. Learn and use the handles of the various people you want to reach for example @HillaryClinton @BernieSanders @NYGovCuomo also by adding hash tags like #nuclear or #energy or less common #nuclearenergy you are providing a way to reach like minded people who understand and share tweets.

    Conclusion. Don’t underestimate the value of tweeting. It takes persistence but it raises awareness and if done creatively it can force the people to either respond or rethink their position. One of the only social media tools that actually has influential people using daily.

    If you are frustrated with the 140 character limited simply link or provide a graphic that Twitter allows you to upload.

    Rick Maltese @pronuclear

  12. Personally, I think that NuScale, Holtec and Westinghouse are primed more than anyone to deliver the next viable, walk-away-safe SMR that will allow gradual adoption of new nuclear power. The big AP1000s, whether done well by Southern or SCANA, are impressive in their own right, but not nearly as enticing as a modular system with limited refueling, almost no security concerns, and can run on air or water. The only thing better for our industry than this is a reactor that can meet these same criteria and consume our current stockpile of barely used fuel to completely destroy the main anti-nuke agenda and keep us moving forward. NuScale has solid backing and is apparently impressing Moniz and the powers that be. I’m betting on them first, and they are being aggressive with the NRC about their product and the licensing timeline. Idaho will be the first one and if they’re successful, this is where I see advanced LWRs going.

  13. Btw, there’s a reason the industry as a collective is trying to standardize operations after 12 straight years of increased costs: They won’t make it through their expensive license renewals to 60 and even 80 years under the current conditions with the way nuclear power has been treated by regulations, etc. My plant just hit 30 years; expertise is leaving for retirement all the time, parts are harder to find and there’s more pressure than ever to get online faster and faster to keep generating after refueling. I just don’t see how they are really looking out past the next dividend. Lord forbid you fall into 95001/95002/95003 space and hand the NRC millions. It is far too easy to shut down a national asset like nuclear power plants…

  14. Rod, Entergy has been shorting maintenance at those plants for years in order to “Maximize profits”. Nothing dangerous mind you, but I liken it to running your car into the ground when you don’t want to do an overhall. The thing about that is the bill eventually comes due and for Entergy it has! Those plants both need extended maintenance outages (As many of the older plants do.) and Entergy doesn’t want to pay the bills! They are not alone in this! With the Feds Subsidizing wind and Solar and Natural gas prices being lower, profit margins are somewhat slimmer. However; It is a myth that they are not Profitable! A good start would be to stop subsidizing the “pie in the sky” stuff and concentrate on what works!

      1. Rod, recently I have come across two inappropriate use of the term NUKE. A front page headline of the Seattle Times (Dec. 14, 2015) states UW’s nuke-reactor building: ‘cold, ugly” and worth saving? This building housed a research reactor which has been decommissioned and has nothing to do with nuclear bombs. Another example is a recent article in Chem & Engineering News which described disposal of nukes in deep boreholes (an MIT idea). the body of the article described a proposal to disposal of spent fuel in deep boreholes. I think this idea would frighten people unnecessarily and the use of the word nuke is inappropriate. I realize this observation is not related to the subject of this post but it was the first reply button I came across. Happy holidays to you and all the others who are interested in important issues.

          1. @Kevin Krause and Susan Vandenbosch

            Sorry, but in my culture, ‘nuke’ is a term of endearment for the hard working people in the back end of the ship who make sure that the lights stay on and the screw keeps turning. Of course, it’s normally said with an unprintable expletive in front because those same people can be a little vain. There’s also a certain amount of jealousy of ‘nukes’ because they receive “unfair” bonuses and special pays.

            The jealousy normally disappears when boats pull into port and “coners” hit the beach while the nukes tend to carefully putting their plant into a safe standby condition.

            It really doesn’t mean much to me when outsiders tell me that “nuke” is tightly associated with nuclear weapons. Heck, on my ships, the people who tended to those were never called ‘nukes.’ They were MTs or FTs; they had not been to ‘nuke’ school and had not earned the right to the nickname.

          2. @Rod

            I did not realize that navy lingo included use of the word “nuke”. Of course I would not oppose it in that context. I just despise it when it is used in connection with a microwave oven.

            1. Why? I like it when people casually used “nuke it” in reference to heating a cup of coffee. That helps to eliminate reflexive fears associated with the word.

          3. It is hard to say. I just don’t think that the heating of food in the microwave spectrum of electromagnetic radiation has anything to do with fission, fusion, or nuclear power in general. I do not believe the association is helpful at all.

    1. “A good start would be to stop subsidizing the “pie in the sky” stuff and concentrate on what works!”

      Will the Federal attitude change after the Paris climate talks? If they are really serious about this global warming thing, it seems like these ostriches need to pull their head out of the sand (or somewhere else) and get some pilot plants going for all these great new ideas.
      They just have to be realistic this time and know that there will be design wrinkles to be ironed out to achieve the desired reliability.

      1. @Eino

        I’m hugely supportive of clearing a safe path for nuclear innovation, including providing secure, evaluated sites with stablished, shared infrastructure for full scale prototypes.

        At that point, most other costs and design decisions need to be made by people risking their own money, with the direct responsibility for outcomes both positive and negative.

        1. “decisions need to be made by people risking their own money, with the direct responsibility for outcomes both positive and negative.”

          The only way I see that happening is if there is a customer out there who is bidding on the best solution for clean energy. This would provide the incentive for more development. Otherwise the investment risk is not warranted. The product you wish to see developed is not exactly on par with some little electronic gadget. As I am sure you particularly know, nuclear innovations are not particularly easy to sell.

          It will happen eventually, but I think the “pump needs to be primed” for that eventuality to be sooner rather than later.

          1. @Eino

            It might be difficult to imagine starting where we are today, but what if a few well capitalized, experienced energy companies recognized that well designed equipment using atomic fission as the heat source was the best way to produce a product they know people will buy – reliable electricity?

            Why plan to sell the equipment when the real revenue comes from selling electricity?

  15. Two things I have wondered about: Why can there not be a team of nuclear reactor operators who can be sent out to a reopened plant on short notice? I’m sure there are some people willing to do this. I can’t believe that even if people have another job, would they forget everything they know about operating the plant? We have a hospital that several years ago, shut their emergency room (economic reasons) and then reopen it. They didn’t have a hard time finding doctors, and are nuclear plant operators any more educated than doctors?

    Also, is it not possible that the tight security at nuclear plants is a make-work program for all the people coming back from the military? But then, I have the opinion that private security in general is a make-work program for drunks (but the nuclear plant ones are sober).

    Oh, and Rod, like your avatar photo!

  16. Rod,

    Isn’t a big part of the problem the fact that the public service commissions allow the utilities to charge the costs of shutting a plant down to their rate payers, like was done at Shoreham and is being done at SONGS?

    1. @Utah

      As a PSC regulator I do not understand your comment. Maybe you could explain the problem you are referring to.

      Cost recovery of shutdown plants (in fully regulated jurisdictions) is standard procedure. We will see a lot of it when coal plants shutdown due to MATS, CASPR, and the CPP. There is no technology bias in this regard, so how does it single out nuclear specifically?

      1. @ Kevin

        In the case of Shoreham this is what I am talking about: A $6 billion dollar productive asset is never used to produce anything. Regulators and legislators allowed the entire $6 billion to be charged to the electricity customers of Long Island with a 3% surcharge to their electric bills for 30 years.

        Are you aware of a coal or gas fired plant that was completed but never used to generate electricity whose entire cost was added as a surcharge to electric customers?

        1. I think Shoreham is partially why we now see the combined licensed approach. For Shoreham the construction license and operating license were separate. While the construction license was granted, it was becoming likely that the operating license never would be. That is no longer possible because the two licenses are combined. Fermi 3 here in Michigan was recently awarded a combined operating license, so there is no risk that the NRC will say no to operation if they go ahead with construction. Therefore, I believe the situation that happened at Shoreham will not happen again.

          To answer your direct question, I have not seen a completed coal or gas plant never used. Although in the current climate it could happen to a coal plant under construction. What I have seen is three years ago a Michigan utility canceled a coal plant for which significant design, engineering, and environmental impact statement work had been completed. The utility was awarded full recovery of the expenses to date. I presume most state commissions would do that.

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