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  1. Any energy CEO claiming Natural gas will be cheap for 10 – 20 years has neglected to look at even a five year chart of natural Gas commodity prices.
    In 2008, Natural Gas prices reached $14.00, 250% more than todays price of $4.00.
    If he wants to call that an aberration, lets include Crude Oil. In 2008, Crude Oil reached $140.00, only 50% more than today’s price.
    What that says to a trader , investor (or hopefully an energy industry CEO) is – Natural Gas price changes are more volatile than even that of (US economic growth crushing) Crude Oil.

    John Rowe didn’t get his federal loan guarantee or his federal Carbon Cap and Trade legislation. He’ll get over it, withdrawal is a slow and agonizing process. The US nuclear industry will either build and grow on its own merit – or it won’t at all.

    I’d like to see it grow, but only in a free market.

    1. I think you overlooked my point. Rowe does not believe that gas will remain cheap. In fact, he is doing everything in his power to drive the price back up. If he really thought that gas would be cheap, he would be looking to raise capital to buy as many gas fired generators as possible.

      Heck, if he was really a believer in the long term viability of depending on gas, he would be selling off his nukes to the highest bidder and using the money generated to buy even more gas plants. I respect the man’s ability to understand the law of supply and demand, his ability to read P&L statements, and his ability to convince others to listen to his “sage” advice.

      I just do not like his morality or his apparent belief that what is best for him is all that counts in this world.

  2. I have always had a great deal of respect for John Rowe and leadership in making nuke plants run better. In the early 90s Commonwealth Edison did a very poor job of using some of its nuke assets to provide power for customers.

    One of the reasons we are building new nukes that poor performance of the past is gone and replaced with cash cows. Poorly performing nukes are like sail boats, a hole in the water to throw money in.

    For those who miss the fundamentals of power industry and NG it is like this. A reliable source of NG is good for American consumers just as is reliable power. Nukes and NG should be a part of the mix. It make a lot of sense that nukes provide base load all year while NG is used in the summer and winter because capital cost are lower.

    1. @Kit

      First of all, you are giving Rowe credit for something that most Exelon managers and operators that I know credit to Oliver Kingsley. I work with several ex-Exelon people; they do not share your good will, especially after all of the expensive, aborted attempts to merge or take over companies like FP&L and NRG.

      We agree that a reliable, low cost nuclear energy and reliable, low cost natural gas is good for American consumers. What I am trying to point out is that Rowe has proven that he does not actually like low priced natural gas. His own words have shown that he thought that the high priced era was great. Like many others, he neglects the role that those high energy prices played in the eventual economic collapse as energy bills started making mortgage payments harder and harder to meet and expensive commutes made big homes in outlying suburbs less and less attractive.

      What makes me wonder about the patriotism and long term view of people in positions of decision making power is the fact that temporarily low gas prices should not be used as an excuse to fail to make the long term investments required to build new nuclear plant capacity. They should be taking advantage of low interest rates, available labor, relatively low commodity prices and low energy prices to build capital equipment that will be paying dividends in the form of reliable, low marginal cost electricity for many decades into the future.

      Rowe has often told people that he benefitted by the construction efforts led by the people who came before him and has almost chuckled at the fact that those people never profited from their work. I am not a selfless person, but I get a lot of satisfaction out of doing things that will make the world a better place, even after I am gone. If I was in Rowe’s position, I would be seeking to build a legacy, but unfortunately, our current economic model seems to favor climbers rather than builders.

  3. Kit P wrote:
    Nukes and NG should be a part of the mix. It make a lot of sense that nukes provide base load all year while NG is used in the summer and winter because capital cost are lower.

    While I would rather see nuclear plants (likely using advanced designs) provide peaking generation as well as base load, the low capital cost of simple cycle natural gas power plants makes their use economically viable to provide peaking power on a seasonable basis.

    Having said they, we need to look further. Much of the natural gas fired generation is being built to make up for the unreliable nature of renewable energy sources. These power plants are often run many hours every day, and sometimes continuously. When I see GE offering a rapid responding combined cycle natural gas fired power plant, I know natural gas has left of realm of seasonal peaking, and has entered the area of base load generation.

    1. My current research is centered around adapting higher temperature reactors ~500C to integrate with energy storage. It separates the reactor from the power conversion allowing control of the prime mover to reside with the dispatcher, and allows load following and peaking generation with the reactor running at 100%. May get the best of every world, problem is the larger capital investment.

      1. Cal, is there any link you could provide for some further information on your research?

        Thanks

        1. I have not put anything online, and am still working on putting together my PhD proposal. Rod interviewed me on the Atomic show and there is some information there.

          I have a website but it is not up yet.

          Part of the concept is to also work out an economic model, so I am studying how to do that exactly.

          Suffice to say it is all in my head for the time being, I just have to put it down on paper, then publish online.

          The technology for storage is what Sandia National Lab is using for the solar thermal project. It consists of solar salt (KNO3 and NaNO3), roughly $0.50/kg and two big thermoses that are buried in the ground. The salts operating range is 565C-260C so it is not able to be integrated directly with LWR’s. It needs IFR or hotter. S-PRISM is the reactor I was going to integrate with the system. I choose it for three reasons.
          1. It is scalable and modular (in construction and power output) and the technology is available within the decade (not without considerable effort ~$3-6 billion)
          2. It closes the fuel cycle and reduces waste liability to 300-500 years.
          3. I have access to enough of the reactor kinetics to do transient analysis using RELAP and do a first order (common sense) system redundancy design.

          I filed a patent application that integrates a temperature amplifier (S-CO2 heat pump) that raises the reactor output temperature (low end 450 C) to 820C using existing materials. When I get the application number I can post that.

          I would like to give you better, but that is all I have for the time being.

          One more thing, the slides for the the presentation I gave at the 2010 ANS summer meeting should be available online. The title was, “Impact of Small Modular Reactors in a Carbon Constrained Economy”. The analysis that I did aggregated a utility that had debt and capital constraints over the entire macro economy of the US to see the impact of the American Power Act (proposed) would have on the price of electricity. I used the heat pump idea to allow utilities to minimize stranded asset costs of early coal plant retires. It also allows the use of as much existing capital investments across the entire economy.

        2. Thanks, right after I asked, I searched your name and found the Atomic Show #174 podcast. I will have to check it out soon.

  4. The karmic debt to be paid by the European greens this winter. A heads up:

    The closure of several of its nuclear reactors has led Germany to increase imports of electricity from neighboring countries, with as many as 2,000-plus megawatts imported daily from France. “During periods of peak demand, however, France has imported electricity from Germany, something which will no longer be possible in the future,” according to the report. This poses a real threat to the continuity of electricity supply during the upcoming winter months of 2011-2012.”

    Merkel is constantly switching her stance on nuclear. Let’s wait 2-3 months.

  5. It would be neat if during the power outages in Europe this winter, people would just go and do some picketing in front of Greenpeace’s head office in Germany.

    Let Greenpeace have a taste of its own dish.

    1. I hate to quote Star Trek, but I will… “Revenge is a dish best served cold.” Sad I know.

      Not so concerned about the lack of heat in the winter as I am the loss of highly reliable low cost energy on Germany’s economic engine. Germany will likely be faced with bankrolling a great deal of the potential default from Greece. Either through funding bailouts of other EU banks, its own banks or Greece directly. If I recall Friday’s WSJ correctly, Germany is the only EU country not contracting, and is hanging on for dear life. Also it seems that Germany is the source of Kapital for the other countries to borrow against.

      So following my at this point doom and gloom reasoning. Germany will be not be able to act as the financier of the EU because of the higher marginal costs of energy.

      I hope they stop drinking the Kool-Aid and turn their nukes back on.

      1. That has been going on for the last 68 years…

        I am concerned more about the decisions impact on the economy and the stability (economic and political) of the entire EU. They are standing at the edge of the cliff with blinders on, and don’t know how close to the edge they are.

        I fear a domino effect within the EU which would have deleterious effects around the globe. I am most concerned about our country. I want to go over there and scream, “Sie sind dumme Köpfe! Laufen Sie Ihre Reaktoren an!”

        1. Right now the EU, lead by France, wants to save the Euro currency and save Greece.

          Greece only accounts for 2% of the Euro zone GDP. So why give a dime ?

          Well French President Nicholas Sarkozy says that saving the Euro currency will prevent wars from happening within Europe again (WWI and WWII types of war).

          I think Europe will never see an intestine war again of the magnitude of a World War and that Sarkozy’s worries are far fetched.

          Germany and France however have to worry about the children of immigrants that were born on their soil and have full citizenship status, while their parents are nothing but migrant workers. That my friend has to be corrected. That my friend will cause intestinal tensions and unhappy citizens.

        2. Oh, I almost forgot. When French and German youths that are full citizens and sons of migrants – that have no citizenships – go to a football game or event, they do not stand up for their own national anthem.

          When their parents who have lived in France and Germany for more than 40 years received their long overdue citizenships, then these two countries (who behave like the Saudis vis-à-vis immigrants) will no longer have to worry about the effect of the Euro on any potential wars.

        3. The Greek military junta of 1967–1974 was the result of political instability in that region, and the seeds for something similar lay dormant in places like Spain, Portugal and even Italy as well as Greece. So the stakes are a bit higher than the loss of one broken economy amounting to 2% of the Euro zone GDP.

          Sarkozy is a student of history, and knows full well that the War To End All Wars (WWI) wasn’t; and the unthinkable happened sooner than anyone thought possible.

        4. I know what you mean. But Greeks don’t even pay property taxes and don’t want to.

          At some point, ship in or ….

    2. Daniel,

      <>

      Some nice outages of household current would do us good. Unfortunately the dispatcher has already carefully planned load throw-offs, with German meticulousness I would think. Obviously there are enough big industrial demands to make that work. We might see an extra day off for the workers at BASF or Mercedes. The normal folks won’t feel it. They are being protected from the consequences of what they want.

      Daddeldu

      1. You’re German IIRC, so could you tell me if feelings of shame over what Germany did to Russia in WWII has made people to reluctant to attack Gerhard Schroeder and other pro-Gazprom fifth columnists?

        1. George,

          >You’re German IIRC

          So I am. But it is not my fault, I was born that way.

          >so could you tell me if feelings of shame over what Germany did to Russia in WWII has made people to reluctant to attack Gerhard Schroeder and other pro-Gazprom fifth columnists?

          I don’t think this is the case. I don’t know why he gets away with it so easily.

          Daddeldu

  6. One up !

    TOKYO — A nuclear reactor in western Japan began starting back up on Tuesday after a month’s hiatus, the first reactor in the country closed for any reason to win approval from a local government to resume operations since the Fukushima nuclear disaster.

    The reactor at the Genkai plant was started up around 11 p.m. local time, and was set to reach 100 percent generating capacity on Wednesday, Kyushu Electric said. But the reactor’s run will be short: the same reactor must be stopped in mid-December for routine maintenance.

  7. If he’s playing the game you claim he’s playing, Rod, then Rowe’s a very, very canny and shrewd businessman. Of course, what Rowe’s doing is not likely in anyone’s interest but his own.

    The whole country will suffer from higher, growth-killing prices for gas, oil, and electricity while Rowe laughs all the way to the bank.

    1. Rowe has a lot of friends who think that higher energy prices are great. He lives in the rarified world of wealthy energy producers rather than with the rest of us energy consumers. For many people, the difference between high and low energy prices is the difference between tight budgets with little extra to spend and a more abundant lifestyle with room in the budget for extras like boats, vacations, sporting events, dining out on occasion, and decent cars.

      In other words, low energy prices are great for the whole economy outside of the people who are actually energy producers.

      Take a peak at the profit and loss statements for the multinational oil&gas companies, however, and you will see what kinds of numbers can concentrate into the hands of the few when energy prices are high.

      1. For a couple of years when I worked for Schlumberger in Tulsa (mid 80’s), people at the company would cheer when OPEC was able to raise prices, etc. On those occasions felt like I was living in a separate country.

        1. @SteveK9 – others can have a similar experience by reading the oil trade press, perusing investor focused web sites or by listening to many financially focused radio shows.

          Here is an example of the kind of language that makes you realize that there are people who LIKE high oil prices and do not care that they put a large burden on a broad swath of economic and personal enjoyment activity.

          http://seekingalpha.com/article/300802-oil-service-stocks-bullish-times-ahead

  8. Rod, I was wondering what is the “sweet spot” price of natural gas that you think would make utilities want to build nuclear instead of gas? Or do all utilities benefit from high gas prices?

    Or does this just happen in a deregulated market?

    1. There is a complex relationship between gas prices, long term thinking, regulations, and nuclear energy.

      Sadly, one of the most effective ways to ensure that the predictors of long term low gas prices are correct would be to build a lot of new nuclear plant capacity. By pushing gas out of the electricity market, the imbalance between supply and demand would push prices down as gas sought other markets.

      The people who invested in the new nuclear plants would thus earn lower revenues in competitive markets, but the country would be in far better shape, with two relatively clean, low cost energy sources competing against each other. In regulated markets, the investors would still get their guaranteed rates of return.

      The extra energy could provide incalculable benefits for our competitive stance in producing things and in making life more comfortable for all residents, thus attracting people from places where the energy policies were more like those of Germany today.

      The nuclear plant boom of the 1970s and 1980s contributed to 15 years worth of very low energy prices (1985-2000) and a huge economic boom in the US and other developed nations.

      I am not a believer in “competitive” electricity markets; what we have today is a price deregulated market dominated by very large suppliers that have almost a monopoly status. That is a scary situation for a commodity as vital to modern life as electricity and provides way too much temptation for people who are more motivated by money than any other measure of an effective human life.

      To answer your question – in deregulated markets, gas prices in excess of $8 per million BTU would stimulate nuclear plant development. Of course, those prices would not be good for the country – they would fill the pockets of the multinational oil&gas companies for 8-10 years before the nuclear projects started making any dents in their profits.

      In regulated markets, I believe that $4 per million BTU gas supports a good business case for moving forward with early units. If we achieve an economical build rate, nuclear plants can be competitive with a long term gas price in the $3 per million BTU range even if there is no credit in the financial model given for lack of emissions.

      1. In an ideal world, both gas and nuclear would be inexpensive, with nuclear being so cheap that largely gas could not compete. As a practical matter, I can still see natural gas contributing to power generation on a seasonal basis to cover peak loads due to the low capital costs of open cycle gas turbines.

        Natural gas should be cheap so that it can used economically to produce plastics and fertilizer. Another good use would be to displace oil for motor fuel in heavy vehicles (light vehicles, i.e. cars, should be electrically powered).

        1. @donb

          It might seem like spending $600-1000 per kilowatt capacity for a combustion gas turbine is a real bargain compared to spending $4000-5000 per kilowatt capacity for an AP1000 or ESBWR.

          However, if you limit that combustion gas turbine to peaking or seasonal operations, it might only achieve a CF of 15-30%. At that point, the capital investment does not look so cheap compared to the nuclear plant that might achieve a CF of 90%.

      2. Competitive electricity market ? We have Enron, California and England on one side. We have TVA, France, Canada, and a lot of nations that keep this service public at low, very low, costs.

        Not everything benefits from being privatized.

  9. @Rod: Tried to post this one yesterday from my mobile phone, but it seemed to get swallowed up in the ether.

    In any case, it seems like you’re trying to have your cake and eat it too with this one. On one hand, you complain about transient low natural gas prices being used as a “hook” to crowd out nuclear; but on the other hand, you vilify Rowe, who favors high natural gas prices, which has an obvious benefit to nuclear.

    Obviously, we both agree that high energy prices are bad. But I think you overlook the general idea that high gas prices open up an opportunity for new nuclear investment.

    Even assuming that Rowe is truly a fool and does not exploit the opportunity to build out more nuclear capacity when energy prices are high, someone else inevitably will. In that sense, I still fail to see where this ends up being a bad thing.

    Inevitably, whether we like it or not, nuclear and natural gas are competing for the same markets.

    Further, I fail to see your rationale that somehow regulated electricity markets are better for consumers – the idea that electricity is a vital commodity just doesn’t hold water. If the goal is to make energy as affordable as possible, the obvious strategy is to force competition to keep prices down. Guaranteed rates of return breed complacency.

    Look at any other market that has been deregulated since the 70’s – trucking, airlines, etc. – and you’ll see that prices have dramatically dropped while options have proliferated.

    1. Steve, your perspective has a great deal of merit.

      That said, in many ways, electricity generation seems similar to other types of infrastructure that are not traditionally very well-suited to private (solely profit-driven) industry, like roads, dams, etc.

      Idealistically, electricity deregulation would provide more options for consumers and extra competition would result in lower prices across the board. Unfortunately, many aspects of our real-world reality do not allow that idealized situation to be realized.

    2. We seem to be forgetting how Enron and deregulation worked for shareholders and the overall public. One day prior to going bankrupt, the good old boys gave themselves juicy, I mean fat, bonuses.

      The next day, the filed for chapter 11.

      There are plenty of examples where publicly owned electricity works all over the world.

      Look at California, England and look at the TVA.

      When deregulated, the buyer is nowhere as free as the seller. We are not talking here about a crisis of the supply and demand for natural resources. We are talking about a crisis that gives all power to the seller.

      Electricity is not like a dozen bagels; can’t be frozen or stored or trucked where needed. And while you can skip your daily bagel, homes and industry just won’t without their daily fix of electricity.

      Blees’ book is pretty convincing on that front. Public ownership of electricity generation and distribution rocks.

      1. Yes, perhaps if we had stuck with the Central Electricity Generation Board here in England, then we wouldn’t have had the Dash for Gas…

      2. @Daniel – one minor correction – homes and industry need a continuous injection of electricity, not a daily fix. Even an interruption of seconds or minutes can be damaging to production in a factory or server farm that does not have a significant investment in UPS devices. It does not take very long for a homeowner to get quite uncomfortable if there is no power.

        1. One more thing that I found in Blees’s book. Enron had a neat practice. When demand was spiking during the hot long summer, the perfectly serviceable power plants were going ‘offline’ for maintenance.

          The prices went from 5 cents kWh to 52 cents kWh in no time.

          Deregulation ? NIMYB.

    3. @Steve during the past 15 years, where has power been cheaper – in the still regulated southeast or in the deregulated markets in the Northeast, California or the upper midwest?

      Electricity is a market where true competition is difficult to achieve, especially when there are dominant producers that are very good at encouraging lawmakers to stack the deck in their favor.

      1. @Rod: First, anyone claiming CA’s energy market is anything close to “deregulated” is either massively ignorant of the reality or being grossly disingenuous. Further, I fail to see how markets both legally closed to new nuclear and/or mandating purchase of renewables at inflated cost can be called “free.”

        But this is beside the point. You haven’t responded to my main issue, which is that it seems you want to have it both ways: cheap natural gas & energy prices while complaining about its adverse impact on nuclear investment. You can’t have it both ways. Higher gas prices will spur investment in new nuclear, so why make Rowe out to be the villain?

        1. I think he is making Rowe out to be a villain due to the glee that Rowe seems to exhibit regarding higher gas prices and the seeming selfishness that comes along with no apparent sense of concern for the negative impact that higher gas prices will have on the average consumer.

          Yes, higher gas prices would cause more investment into nuclear plants, but Rowe is not showing any apparent glee at that consequence (which would not be realized for approximately an entire decade after the gas price spike).

        2. True electricity deregulation would be interesting. This would include the removal of all market barriers to electricity market participation. But we only have faux deregulation so far (no removal of market barriers like the NRC and energy facility siting requirements) along with backdoor reregulation such as compulsory purchase of net metered electricity and renewable portfolio standards. So why pretend that any real deregulation has occurred?

          Now I’ll give you that high energy prices may spur investment in new nuclear, but high energy prices also act as an immense drag on the total economy – they divert resources away from productive non-energy activities and plow them into energy activities instead. Energy is the keystone resource for our economy, and beyond that, our society. Keeping energy prices low is the key to economic growth.

          That strategies like Rowe’s are favored – collusion between market participants, environmental groups, and regulators to effectively drive energy prices up – is ultimately destructive for everyone but those who collude. And it may be destructive for Rowe and Exelon too, in the long term, over a half-century or so.

      2. @Rod: First, anyone claiming CA’s energy market is anything close to “deregulated” is either massively ignorant of the reality or being grossly disingenuous. Further, I fails to see how markets both legally closed to new nuclear and/or mandating purchase of renewables at inflated cost can be called “free.”

        But this is beside the point. You haven’t responded to my main issue, which is that it seems you want to have it both ways: cheap natural gas & energy prices while complaining about its adverse impact on nuclear investment. You can’t have it both ways. Higher gas prices will spur investment in new nuclear, so why make Rowe out to be the villain?

    4. How cheap of a price an item can be bought for on the market depends just as much on supply & demand forces and it is on the “take” of the ownership.

      Why does a guaranteed rate of return breed complacency? If you were getting a fix return on your investment at a rate you liked would you cease to invest more money into it just because the rate is fixed? That is a false statement. Your decision to grow, stay the same, or shrink depends upon the value of the rate, not weather it is fixed or variable.

      10% of 200 is still more than 10% of 100.

      Besides, high gas prices also spur development into gas, not just development into nuclear. The big problem isn’t that gas prices need get higher to promote nuclear. Nuclear should be able to compete at the current gas price. Why it does not is the problem at hand.

  10. The game that Rod plays is class warfare by associating an influential CEO of of the power industry with a fictional character representing the small town unethical banker. The problem I have with Rod’s elitist approach is he looks just like the anti-nukes.

    Last night I attended a NRC public hearing discussing the restart of the closest nuke after a natural event this summer. About 50 people from company invested 6 hours of our time to support the nuclear workers from the plant. Presentations by the NRC and the utility was professional. While I might disagree on technical issues, I have yet to find a reason to question the ethics of leadership in the nuclear industry.

    The Q&A that followed was interesting. The usual subjects took the opportunity to rant in the form a question. I thought the NRC did a good job of finding a question in the rants. The answers were interesting and informative. One of the common anti-nuke themes was to question the ethics of both the NRC and utility. I thought the NRC did a good job of providing a technical answer. One of the NRC speakers recited the oath he took in the navy and to work for the NRC. Judging by the positive reaction of the audience, many take seriously public service.

    I suppose that a few pro nuke prepared statements with question at the end was okay since we listened to the rants. One speaker asked those supporting the plant to stand. Except for the usual subjects, about 400 people stood up. None of us were dressed in Halloween costumes or needed a bath.

    The point here is that standing up and being professional trumps questioning the ethic of those who disagree.

    1. @Kit

      I made an educated guess about the identity of the NRC spokesman you described and had the opportunity to confirm that this weekend. I told him that his response impressed at least some members of the audience.

      You accuse me of “class warfare” but I believe that any warfare going on is a result of the decisions made by people like Rowe who have somehow forgotten why America has worked so well for so long. We used to have leaders who achieved economic success but who recognized that it was a part of their obligation as members of our society to pay back and offer helping hands up to others.

      My aim is to do all I can to encourage the wealthy to invest and build for the future rather than just selfishly accumulating baubles and goodies for themselves. Natural gas is a wonderful resource that enables the production of many important products that make life better for billions of people. We should not be gleefully consuming it as fast as possible now, ignoring the implications for the near future of a world where accessible gas is less and less abundant.

      1. Well Rod maybe you should promote nuclear power based on the merits of nuclear power rather than attacking the character of power industry leadership. Making electricity is a public service just as serving in the military. Nuclear power is just one very good way of doing it.

        The question I would have asked the NRC is would they allow a nuke to start up even if there was a small risk if there was an expected power shortage. Last week’s storm has resulted in at least 5 carbon monoxide deaths in just two news articles I have read. The point here is that people die when power is lost. It is not a hypothetical.

        Twice in my career at commercial nukes I have been test director for scamming at 100% power which would be the final test before being a commercial power plant that the load dispatcher could count on. In the first case a monster winter storm was hitting the area. To the south, ice was taking out power plants. To the north, temperature was dropping below 30 below. The load dispatcher would not allow us to scram citing that the grid would be lost at worst and rolling black outs at best.

        The second time, it was a very hot day with a high of 115 forecast. I knew the governor would not allow rolling blackout just so we could do a test. I tried to tell people that documenting test initial conditions was a waste of time but we did it anyway. As I predicted, the test was delayed for another cooler day.

        It would be nice to know the folks at the NRC understand that risk of not have electricity is very real. While vacationing in the inland PNW on our sailboat recently, a heat advisory was forecast. I decided that we should spend the rest of the day in a nice air conditioned hotel. Instead my wife spent the night in the air conditioned hospital having two stints put in. While I can not say enough about the wonderful state of medical care, having an affordable and reliable energy supply also helps extend our lives and quality of life.

        As far as the future goes, one of the plants that I helped start up will run for 60 years. I see no reason that it will not go for 100 years except maybe something better will come along. The new plants we are building are designed for 60 years. The lessons of metallurgy and maintenance from the past 30 years, leads me to believe the new plants will run economically for 200 years.

        One of the lessons from my first commercial nuke was the value of time. Whenever there was a problem of significance, we would stop for two weeks or however long it took to figure out how to do it right. Nuke plants are long tern assess to benefit customers who are your neighbors, friends, and family. I am not sure that I want short term thinkers building nukes.

        1. @Kit P

          I have virtually no arguments with what you have just written. You may or may not remember that I have a deep personal history with the important concept that making electricity is a calling and a way to serve the public interest; my father was a lifelong (and proud) employee of the Florida Power & Light Company who trained as a member of the storm response team every month. One of my fondest memories of him was when he put on his hard hat (he normally wore a coat and tie) and utilities to go out within hours after a hurricane had passed through to put wires back up.

          My disagreement with you is in your reverence and respect for people like Rowe who believes that electricity production is just another business. He is the guy who proclaims that it was “not economical” for Exelon to invest in refurbishing and restarting the Zion Nuclear power station. He is the guy who is dismissive of people who want to build new nuclear plants; he says that it is easier and cheaper to use gas. That statement might be true TODAY, but I will bet a substantial sum of money that it will not be true for more than a couple of years. Unfortunately, if you do not start a nuclear project now, while gas is relatively inexpensive, you will be a lot farther away from being able to operate that plant when gas prices skyrocket and grid reliability is threatened by silly expenditures for unreliable and virtually uncontrollable wind turbines.

          Rowe is not the only electrical power industry leader who has the same money drive philosophy that irks me. He just happens to be the most vocal and the most frequently quoted one. It is his philosophy and short term money driven decision making that I am fighting in my own little, extremely underfunded way.

  11. From Fukushima, Is this credible ?

    The operator of the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant says it found in the facility’s No.2 reactor radioactive substances that could have resulted from continuous nuclear fission.

    The Tokyo Electric Power Company, or TEPCO, said on Wednesday that it detected xenon-133 and xenon-135 in gas taken from the reactor’s containment vessel on the previous day. The substances were reportedly in concentrations of 6 to more than 10 parts per million becquerels per cubic centimeter.

    Xenon-135 was also detected in gas samples collected on Wednesday.

    Radioactive xenon is produced during nuclear fission.
    The half-life of xenon-133 is 5 days, and that of xenon-135 is 9 hours.

    TEPCO says the findings suggest that nuclear fission may have occurred recently, not just after the March 11th accident, and that a state of criticality could have occurred temporarily in some areas.

    1. I am only a mechanical engineer, but I wouldn’t say that small areas of criticality would be impossible. The key though, and it’s a BIG one, is that the samples were taken FROM CONTAINMENT.

      1. Spontaneous fission is always occurring. If you have a critical mass of uranium and the right geometry, criticality will occur producing lots of heat. We design nuclear reactors to control the power produced. Since the geometry is no longer known, boron is added to absorb any neutrons produced by spontaneous fission so that the chain reaction can not be reached. Since TEPCO is monitoring it closely, I am not too worried.

        1. And with the unknown geometries, I would guess that it is highly likely that there are areas inaccessible to the injected boron, which could end up being some of those fission spots.

          To reiterate though, these samples were taken from the containment vessel, so I would not think it would be cause for too much concern.

        2. I remember of a natural fission process that occurred in Gabon a long time ago. It also burned for a long time.

      2. After the RPV Metal temps displayed (>400C and offscale) I don’t believe the RPV is intact.
        In other words, the containment is where all sampling is conducted – and is the barrier of concern. Fukushima Daiichi U2 had an earlier reported suspected Torus breach – that impedes flooding efforts and makes it difficult to cover fuel until that fuel has migrated to a low elevation. Covering fuel both cools enabling resolidification and suppresses reactivity by boron absorption of neutron inventory. Both these functions are jeopardized by the floodability challenge.

        1. If water can flow freely, then the boron in the newly injected water will reach the fissionable material and absorb neutrons. If the fuel is where there is no water, then there’s no moderation, and the stuff cannot go critical.

    1. Hey, you never know how many will be believe a hoax. To fit in at loon web sites you need to wear a tin foil hat.

      Think about it. We can produce all the energy the world needs with fission until our sun no longer supports life on the planet. Yet some find fault with a near perfect energy source that we have. Trust me here, the unwashed rich will find something to not like about everything to deny the billions in the world without the opportunity for a daily hot shower with clean water.

      Coal and NG are also very good ways to make electricity too. This is a problem why? If you look at the energy mix for North America, I would say we are very fortunate.

      1. In the mean time, Mexico has cancelled plans for 10 nuclear plants and going long on gas fired power plants.

        Are they not choking in downtown Mexico ? Well I digress.

      2. And now, Taiwan announces that their 3 nuclear plants won’t see their licences renewed. However, a fourth plant being built will be allowed to operate.

        Now, you’ve got to love clarity and sense of direction.

        You guessed it, elections are going on in Taiwan.

    2. My only deleted comment here that I am aware of was related to this Foccardi-Rossi device, as it was said to not be an on-topic issue here at Atomic Insights.

      Brain Wang at Next Big Future has been following the tests pretty closely.

      I hope it isn’t a hoax, but we should know for sure within a few more months at the latest, I would guess.

        1. Unfortunately, I’m not familiar with Rossi’s history. If it wouldn’t be much trouble, could you offer a link of an example? If not, I’ll try to find some time to find something for myself.

        2. Joel – You can always check out the Wikipedia page [see “Andrea Rossi (entrepreneur)”], or you could read his story in his own words.

          He has a history of promoting cheap energy schemes. He has been imprisoned for dumping toxins and tax fraud. As soon as one cheap energy scam collapses, he moves on to the next, completely unrelated scam. Finally, he has a huge persecution complex.

          In short, the guy has all of the classic hallmarks of a con-artist and a crank.

  12. Rod you spend a lot of time misrepresenting Rowe in a very disrespectful manner. For example, Rowe has nothing to do with closing Zion which was not the first nuke to close early.

    1. Rowe may not have had anything to do with closing Zion, but that decision is NOT the one that I have continued to criticize. The decision that is wrong today – and that has been wrong for at least 10 years – is the continuing decision to KEEP it closed. At the time that Zion was closed, the price of natural gas was under $2 per MMBTU and was predicted by “everyone” to continue to be low with a rate of increase lower than inflation. At the time Zion was closed there had not yet been a single nuclear plant license extension granted and there was a great deal of uncertainty about the process. The process of replacing steam generators was still very new and the costs were unpredictable.

      All of those conditions changed in favor of restoration of Zion, but Rowe and his fellow accountants could not get past the potential negative effects on the price of electricity from the rest of their fleet. They could not recognize the potential boon to their entire region that those low prices might have stimulated. They could not factor the potential long term gain for their own company into their static spreadsheet models because they have NO VISION and few guiding tenants outside of “Make as much money as possible as quickly as possible.”

      Yes, I disrespect Rowe. I have met the man several times and engaged in some short conversations. He has earned the respect that I grant him.

    2. @Kit P – I also wonder what you think about Rowe’s continued lobbying to disadvantage his colleagues in the electrical power generation business who depend on coal, one of your favorite energy fuels.

      By the way, I have learned a bit more about coal over the years. I still believe it is not good to burn it without good controls, but I also believe it can be safely and effectively used. It also makes terrific raw material for man-made hydrocarbons and is far more valuable in that use than as a direct fuel. Hydrocarbons sell for as much as $21 per million BTU while raw coal (mostly C) sells for about $2 per million BTU and has higher transportation costs.

      1. Rod,

        That 10x difference on a per unit of energy basis is stark. Looking at a long enough time horizon, and considering future innovation in coal-to-liquids technologies, that spread couldn’t be considered sustainable.

        For clarification, did you mean that coal has a higher transportation cost than hydrocarbons (which I presume in this case refers to liquid fuels)? Is the $21/MBtu approximate cost the delivered cost?

        Also, in regards to that comparison, the security costs of securing the importation paths for the liquid fuels that are imported is likely omitted, right?

        1. The price differential would be dependent on the availability of oil supplies, technical and political. The front page article in today’s WSJ brought up a point about how Iran’s nuclear program has continued to grow. In short they describe it as our reluctance to spike global oil prices. Through our fear of the consequence of high oil prices we allowed a regime that has a demonstrated lack of respect for human life access to as many nuclear weapons as they can build. “Teach a man to fish…”

          Iran has a significant strategic position to be able to control the Straits of Hormuz and almost the entirety of the Arabian Gulf. Their country is highly defensible and has thwarted attacks since Alexander the Great. Access to 30% of the world’s oil supply is now controlled by a fundamentalist government with no other objective than to entrench their control and influence.

          I wish we had acted differently, and watched how our overly conservative constraints on nuclear power left us with little options other than to pander to the whims of Tehran. Rickover once said, “Nature is not as forgiving as Christ.” We are seeing that today. The consequences of our policy are becoming more stark.

          I wonder where the threshold will be? Israel attacking Iran? Our president’s private condemnation of Netanyahu to Sarkozy is not a good sign of what will happen to Israel. Will it be Iran taking control of the Straits of Hormuz, either through mining, submarines, surface to ship missiles, or nuclear weapons. Our fleet commander will hopefully have not forgotten the lessons of the Bikini atoll where a close formation of warships was instantly eliminated by a single underwater nuclear detonation. Watch the video sometime and see the consequence. The ships that did not have their hulls sheared off below the waterline became so radioactive from neutron activation that crews would be incapacitated from radiation sickness. Iran has the perfect delivery vehicle, a midget sub piloted with a crew seeking martyrdom in Islamic jihad. Sound familiar to anything in the past decade?

          In your other post you talked about 20-30 years for implementing my ideas. I am afraid that we do not have that luxury, especially, if we desire to keep our economic, diplomatic, and military options open.

        2. I want to add one more piece to the dangers of Iran possessing nuclear weapons. A good analogy is that the Arabian Gulf is a bathtub. It is about 100 ish meters deep.

          Lets scale the analogy. Lets drop a M80 into a bathtub with your kid in the tub on the opposite end and watch what happens. One of the first things they taught us in Sub School is the propagation of acoustic energy in water. There will be some loss due to ground attenuation, but the bathtub effect will focus the normal spherical spreading through surface reflection and bottom bounce into cylindrical spreading.

          So a detonation instead of being a point source is now a line source it goes from 1/R^2 to 1/R. Thus a 3 nm kill zone becomes a 9 nm kill zone. The weapon is more effective.

          Linear attenuation will have some effect as will reverberation and surface and bottom losses, but for an order of magnitude effect it should be within a mile or two.

          Many of my friends, students, and former shipmates are over there now facing these risks. As a submariner, how would you like to be in the Gulf with the threat of nuclear weapons? There is no place to hide.

  13. @Rod – I’ve been continuing to mull this one over, and I want to throw something out there and see if you agree with me or not. It seems like perhaps your fundamental criticism with Rowe, to borrow a phrase from Public Choice Theory, is that he’s basically rent-seeking.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rent_seeking

    That is, instead of developing new energy capacity, he’s simply looking for ways to make everyone else’s source terms more expensive – generally through lobbying the government, but also for what you criticize him for here (egging on a rush to natural gas).

    What do you think?

    1. Not Rod, but that seems to somewhat line up with the Exelon strategy.

      However, they do add something of value with power uprates to their existing units. There are certainly limitations to how much capacity can be added through uprates to existing Units, though.

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