1. Does anyone know, or know of a source, that shows how the Chairman voted on the final AP1000 approval?

    Not that it really matters but I’m curious.

    1. Paul,

      I think there is a voting mechanism that allows the NRC commissioners to ‘show’ their vote to the public. Jazcko was the first to make his vote ‘public’ although as you point out, others had casted their vote internally.

      1. The timing of Jaczko’s public declaration of his favorable vote should be remembered. He made his decision public on the morning of December 9th at about 9:30 am.

        By the end of that same day, the letter from his four colleagues to the Chief of Staff of the President of the United States complaining about his abusive leadership style and his assumption of more power than authorized by law was made public.


      2. @Daniel–Not sure how this became a thread about natural gas but never mind. In response to your post, it is unusual for commissioners to make their votes public until the SRM is written or at affirmation. The simple matter is that until affirmation, votes get changed, added to, or sometime withdrawn. Occasionally, a commissioner will make their vote public early to press a point. In this case, Jaczko voted after the majority had already approved the AP-1000. His vote was irrelevant to the outcome, the matter had already been decided.

        1. @Paul – as always, I appreciate your informed views of the inner workings at the NRC. It is great to have someone with your experience involved in the discussions here.

          With regard to your question about how the discussion turned to natural gas, that is because I mentioned the relationship between Markey’s career of antinuclear political activism and the fact that his district hosts the oldest liquified natural gas terminal in the US.

          Without sustained efforts to discourage nuclear energy development and actions to prematurely shut down Maine Yankee, Millstone 1, and Connecticut Yankee, I believe that facility would have been the same expensive white elephant that Cove Point was for several decades. There would have been no market for the product that it continued to import from Trinidad.

    1. Since I assume the LNG terminal which Rod previously cited as a reason for Markey to oppose nuclear power would be just as effective* at making money if used to export LNG rather than to import it, maybe Rod needs to think again about Markey’s motivation for fighting nuclear power.

      Or am I getting this wrong? Would LNG exports be from a different location, meaning that the terminal in Markey’s district could only be used for importing?

  2. If Everett has no liquifaction facilities and other ports do (e.g., Cove Point in Maryland), then they would stand to lose money. I do believe that Rep. Markey is also ideologically opposed to nuclear energy in addition to the economics. After all, there are folks like me who went into nuclear engineering with our ideas first and made careers later. 🙂

    1. @Robert:

      You may be right, but since nuclear fission energy has proven to be clean, safe and reliable, no one who is grounded in reality could possibly be ideologically opposed. There HAS to be some other motive. I believe that people fundamentally behave in a rational fashion, even if it looks irrational to outsiders because people also have a strong tendency to hide what they know to be an ugly truth.

      My experience in dealing with a reasonably large sample of people is that greed and a desire for power over others are fairly standard human motives for taking what appear to be inconsistent positions.

      1. Excuse me? In my experience the opposition to nuclear power is entirely ideological. Economic arguments are used, misused, or ignored depending on whether they fit the desired conclusion. While greed is a reliable motivator, I think it’s a mistake to assume all anti-nukes are nakedly corrupt. They just have different goals and priorities.

        1. I do not believe that all antinuclear people are corrupt. I do believe that the ones who count, the ones who make decisions or take leadership roles, ARE corrupt.

          It is possible to be misguided and illogical, but those descriptors rarely apply to people who succeed in life. As much as I dislike Markey, it is hard to argue with the fact that he has had a successful career and obtained a position of power.

  3. @George:

    The machinery needed to compress, liquify and refrigerate natural gas is completely different from the equipment required to expand and gasify the same substance. LNG reception terminals are very definitely a one way piece of infrastructure.

    Some terminals, notably those in the Gulf of Mexico, have sufficient space and a sufficient supply of locally produced gas to be now considering making the very substantial (measured in billions) investment required to allow the option of export.

    In New England, even with some local production from the Marcellus Shale deposit, there is not enough locally derived gas to meet the demand. It would be completely uneconomical to pipe gas into New England just to then compress it, liquify it and ship it somewhere else.

    Besides, I would bet that the terminal near Boston does not have enough available land at a reasonable price to consider additional infrastructure development to enable export.

  4. I suspect that Rep. Markey’s screetching and whining about the NRC’s approval of the AP1000 is fear-based. He is afraid that, in combination with the proven construction record in China; and in combination with the Chinese units being connected to the grid in 2014, there will be a tipping point/domino effect in the USA. Also, it seems to me that with oil prices climbing inexorably higher, this might compel more CNG usage for interstate trucking, and as a matter of national defense too. This would have upward pressure on natural gas prices. Utility executives are not fools, and the smart money is to buy AP 1000s, not gas turbines. Markey, that contemptible, blow-dried Chicken Little, is scared.

  5. The enemies of Fissioning and Power Dense Systems (PDSs) seem to have learned from their long history of activism that they’re far better off marshaling grassroots political power and not straying too far from it. The AP1000 had to be approved sooner or later. Now is later.

    The big lie is that those that slow the development of PDSs do so in favor of safety.

    If Markey, Boxer, Jaczko and all were in fact all about safety, they’d convert the NRC into a more encompassing Energy Safety Commission (ESC), and extend the regulatory coverage to energy extraction and pipelines.

    I remember the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, and all the Natural Gas fires that resulted. We have also seen the more recent fatal natural gas explosions in places as geographically separate as California and Connecticut. A friend of mine had a home Propane explosion that knocked his house off it’s foundation; Miraculously, his wife and baby, in the house at the time, escaped unharmed.

    It would save many more lives if an Energy Extraction Commission could mandate, in the event of an earthquake or rapid depressurization, a mechanism that would be in place to instantly fill any and all gas pipelines with some halide fire suppression gas. Think of the live saved! Woaa! Sure it would cost many billions of dollars, but… isn’t human life worth it?

    So long as the enemies of PDSs have exclusive use of the “human life / safety” lever, it will be tough to win any debates with respect to energy technologies. Boxer’s ham handed use of the “safety” lever in the recent Jaczko hearings are only one case in point.

    I’m going to use the fact that combustion safety can be much more dynamic in saving lives than ever more Fission safety. We only need to compare any combustion “incident” in the media with Fukishima. Given that any combustion incident in the media certainly cost life, and given that Fukishima didn’t, I think the case that combustion costs lives and Fissioning doesn’t can be brought home to the public in a very good and realistic way.

    1. John Ch-
      I like your idea of an Energy Safety Commission.

      We certainly don’t have that now. While the NRC arguably may be making nuclear energy as safe as reasonably possible, they have also made it difficult and expensive to do. As a result, instead of a lot of safe nuclear power plants, we have a lot of (less safe) coal and natural gas power plants. The paradox is that in their quest for (nuclear) safety, the NRC has in fact decreased overall energy safety.

      1. Counting up all the deaths resulting from radiation from commercial U.S. nuclear power plants (ZERO), safety has reached the pinnacle based on a simple metric of deaths. ZERO can’t be improved upon.

        1. Yeah well tell that to your 86,000 victims of the US nuclear behemoth who since 2001, have received from the Department of Labor, $7.4 billion to cover their medical expenses for radiation diseases and associated illnesses.

    1. Seth – the cost estimate that you made has to be based on many assumptions. Building the capability to export LNG is capital intensive, so producing a per mcf number requires many assumptions about production volumes, ship lease rates, interest costs, and duration of sales contracts.

      I have written about some of the LNG projects that the majors have developed in Qatar and off of the coast of Australia. The project totals sometimes push $100 billion.

        1. @seth

          $40 billion is not peanuts to anyone, even someone in the oil business.

          It would be enough to pay cash for at least 4 1600 MWe EPRs. Each of those projects would employ a workforce of about 3,000-5,000 people for five – seven years.

          If you filled the Rose Bowl with 100,000 people you would have to write a check to each one of them for $400,000 in order to spend $40 billion.

          Here is a quote from the article to which you linked:

          “Meanwhile, for Asian gas users, which import 20 billion cubic feet a day, another source of supply would enable them to drive a harder bargain.

          But that dynamic poses a threat to Cheniere and other infrastructure firms. They may have to spend up to $40-billion building the new export plants, according to IHS Cera. If they swamp the global market with LNG, a price collapse could render their investments unprofitable.

        2. Sorry you are having so much trouble with this Rod.Let me simplify it for you

          $40B for 12B cu ft at day works out to a payback period of a year and half, and a rate or return on investment of almost 70%. They don’t have to spend the $40B all at once.

          British Columbia alone has three such gas plants looking for approval already.

          There is no better lower risk investment for Big Oil unless your conspiracy theories are correct ie Big Oil is holding gas prices down artificially losing a fortune doing it in hopes that a bunch of utilities will put in gas plant replacing the coal plant that the EPA is making so difficult to keep going.

          Just as an aside remember your claim that one meltdown per hundred years per reactor was acceptable.

          The US navy has over 200 reactor plants in operation. With your numbers they’d lose two every year to meltdowns. I’d suggest you need to rethink?

          By the way, note that the latest Japanese report has criminal negligence charges under study for our friends at Tepco that thought your one in a hundred year numbers were just fine. I can imagine what the navy would do to an engineering officer who assumed that 1% chance was just fine as well.

  6. RE: Gas Exports

    I have mixed feelings about exporting gas. For starters, yes, it would help nuclear (and renewables) in this country as it would raise the price for gas.

    More philosophically, on one hand it is a “bad” thing in that it increases gas prices, but on the other hand it’s a good thing, as it will improve our balance of trade.

    One of the US’ biggest problems is the structural trade defecit, with us apparently having a lack of valuable things to export. High US labor costs? Perhaps, but one amazing statistic (I believe) is that most or all of the trade defecit is due to payments for foreign oil. In other words, if we were energy independent, the trade defecit would mostly disappear.

    Well, we’re not going to stop importing oil anytime soon. It could be that, at least over the short to mid term, exporting gas to offset our oil imports may be one of our best options for reducing the trade defecit.

    It may also be good for domestic employment. Not only would more jobs be created in the gas extraction and handling industries, but there would be more jobs in the energy alternatives to gas (e.g., nuclear and renewables) since those industries would be more competitive with gas, and domestic non-gas generation sources could actually go forward.

    Besides, I hear Japan is going to need a whole lot of gas in the coming decades (grumble!). Suffice it to say that I’m disgusted with the political response in Japan, with the public basically advocating going back to fossil fuels, never mind the clear statistics showing that they are thousands of times as dangerous and harmful.

    After thinking about the Japan situation, it occurred to me that one of the strongest arguments for SMRs could be reduced vulnerability to sovereign/populist risks like this (link below). When crap like this happens, you just pick up the reactor module and take it somewhere else. There will always be an ample number of locations what would be happy to take a reactor at a significantly reduced price, so you could almost say that SMRs can mostly eliminate the impacts of such political actions, in terms of total nuclear generation, as well as the associated financial risks.


    1. @Seth

      There are a few terms missing in your comment. What is your assumption for the cost of the gas? How much does it cost to get the gas to the terminal? What is the daily rate for the ship? Where is the market and how long is the journey? What is the price at which you will sell the gas? Are the customers locked in or are they free to shift to another supplier? How much of the production is sold in advance? How much does it cost to operate the facility?

      Your payback period math reminds me of the “new math” used by solar panel promoters.

      1. All the information you need is in the two links I provided.

        $40B cost of plant , 12000 mmcf/day, $3 mcf domestic, $9 Europe and $15 asia split half an half, production shipping cost $1.6 mcf

        Have at’er

        1. @Seth

          Those are assumed values with no error bars and no risks. That is not the way that people make multibillion dollar decisions. How do they know that gas in the US will remain at $3 per mcf? What assurance do they have that new pipelines will not be opened from Iran or one of the “…stans” to compete with their LNG? How do they know that Japan will not suddenly recover its rational decision making processes and start up the currently shut down, but undamaged nuclear plants?

          Where are they going to charter the required ships? How many ships do they need for the volume and distances that you are describing? Are those ships even available for charter? If not, how many will they need to build? How long will it take to build them? How much will each ship cost and what is the risk of cost or schedule overruns?

          This is not a simple math problem and the numbers are not small, no matter how large the company is.

  7. Excellent teaching rebuttal, Rod. My sole regret is omitting comparative industrial accident worker/public mortality rates — the only language the public half understands in these issues.

    The pursuit and mark of fairness and accuracy is their publishing it. But with a title such as Asheville CITIZEN-Times, I ruefully doubt it.

    James Greenidge
    Queens, NY

  8. Of ~9,000,000 bbls a day of oil imported into the US for our use as part of the 18,000,000 a day we use in various forms, we export about 4,000,000 a day back out again to Europe as value-added diesel fuel. In fact, we export more in terms of refined products than we import:


    So…regulations for liquid petroleum don’t exist but for gas, it does. Interesting as I didn’t know that. of course this might be the lack of LNG export facilities as well.

    I’m against higher energy prices in general, but I am against, from this angle, the purposeful lowering of NG prices so they BUILD more which reflects the *political* perspective of wanting to raise the % of NG generation in the US. So in this case I’m for not keeping the prices artificially low, which I think it is.


    1. @David – I tend to agree with you. I believe some accurate descriptions for the current multinational petroleum company strategy with regard to natural gas marketing is US are as follows
      Price war
      Loss leader
      Hooking new addicts
      Anti competitive dumping

    2. While we export about 4,000,000 bbls/day of gasoline and diesel fuel, we import quite a bit of gasoline (especially the East Coast). It is only recently that exports of finished petroleum products have passed imports, so presently we are a small net exporter. Thus we are still importing close the 9,000,000 bbls/day of crude and net finished petroleum products.

  9. Rod,

    Having worked on some of the AP1000 safety and severe accident assessments well over a decade ago, let me assure you that Markey’s comments are ludicrous.

  10. Great article, thanks for it. I can understand it makes blood boil. Hopefully this issue is seen for what it is as much as possible.

  11. Speaking of one in a hundred meltdown events whenever Markey discusses the risk of nuke power, perhaps a few pointed remarks on what would happen if some terrists decided to target his local LNG storage facility while a tanker was unloading. Would Hiroshima comparisons be out of line?

  12. One aspect of natural gas commodity prices not discussed is storage. From the latest NEI market report:

    ““Frigid weather in the East, contrasted with milder temperatures in other parts of the country, led to a mixed market over the week with little major movement in prices at most locations. … Inventories at the end of the year were at their highest levels for that week since EIA began tracking storage levels.”

    About 10% of out NG is imported mostly from Canada. Only about 10% is LNG so LNG is not a significant part of the US market. We already export LNG from Alaska to places like Japan and South Korea. LNG is simply a way to market stranded NG or balance production with demand.

    A source of NG for the Northeast is the Maritimes and Northeast pipeline that bring production from Sable Island offshore wells. The US has huge offshore NG reserves other than GOM. I am at a loss of why we are using shale has before these resources other than politics.

    1. @Kit P

      In addition to all of the often discussed political challenges of drilling off shore, there are also substantial start-up costs associated with opening up a new area to development. GOM has a lot of sustaining infrastructure already in place to support off shore development; there are not too many other areas in the country that have such a well developed base of service vessels, shipyards, and trained workers.

      I am sure that the infrastructure could be developed, but the industry is understandably reluctant to make the required investments because of the uncertainty in the politics. It is always hard to get people to invest in a business where a political stroke of a pen can put you out of business and put you on the hook for dismantling the expensively constructed infrastructure.

      1. You are kidding me, right?

        We have huge industrial capacity in the US that is being underutilized. Shall we start with the shipyards in the Norfolk area.

        1. Kit, are you speaking of generic “industrial capacity”? Rod appeared to be talking about specific infrastructure.

          What are you arguing in this comment?

        2. @Kit P

          I did not say there were not any areas, I said there were not many. I am well aware of the shipyard infrastructure in the Tidewater area; I used to be in the small OPNAV group that analyzed their financial requirements. I have visited most of the yards and seen what they can do.

          They are certainly capable of building the kinds of service vessels and offshore platforms required, but they have not done so yet. The investment would not be small.

          In addition, it is not enough to have the shipyards close by. You also need some good prospects for high rate production. There is also some understandable reluctance on the part of my former employer to allow too much development in areas that we use pretty heavily for training and for simple passage. Exercises among off shore platforms could get pretty interesting, though I guess it would be good practice for 5th Fleet ops.

          I agree that we have underutilized industrial capacity. I was simply trying to point out some obstacles for putting that capacity to use to develop offshore resources. There is both political and physical uncertainty.

          Politicians can cut off the industry on the stroke of a pen and there are never any guarantees of profitable exploration. It is a big bet; I know I am in a minority, but if I wanted to remain in the energy business, I would be directing the capital to new nuclear power plants that will produce the equivalent of about 180 – 200 million cubic feet of natural gas every day for at least 60 years. That investment would not eliminate the political component of risk, but I am very confident of the production quantities.


  13. Markey is lying. Of course! He is a Democrat. When will you ever learn? Jackzo worked for Markey and then Reid. In a deal with Reid to let John Roberts nomination to SCOTUS go thru, Bush appointed Jackzo and NEI pitched a fit, so Bush also appointed Senator Pete Domenici’s Peter Lyons as balance. Vitriol edited out by moderator got in (yeah, I am giving him all the respect that you all still give my President, George Bush) and put Jackzo in charge, demoting Dale Klein and then letting Klein and Lyons leave. So is it any surprise that an anti-nuke Democrat abuses workers at the NRC with vile invective and demeaning mannerism? Duh! You got what you voted for. Exactly and precisely what you voted for. And I warned you this would happen three years ago.

    Oh, BTW, I have learned more about Ron Paul since I last posted: anti-Semitic, conspiracy theorist, extreme isolationalist, but Rod supports him. Well, he would remove the DOE and any govt funding for Rod’s favorite form of energy. Do you support that?

    OK, delete this post, but you know I speak the truth and for that reason it has to be deleted. Tolerant Liberal! Hah!

  14. Speaking of liars, (funder of Swift Boat liars) T. Boone Pickens has apparently invested $150 million in his former firm Clean Energy Fuels. “Clean Energy raised $450 million in 2011 with the latest investment, Chief Executive Andrew Littlefair said.
    That puts it among the highest-funded companies in Orange County. Clean Energy has annual revenue of more than $200 million and hopes to clear earnings hurdles by building a network of fueling stations for the largest segment of the market: heavy-duty haulers that consume some $30 billion of fuel annually. … The funding backs Clean Energy’s plan to develop corridors of natural gas fueling stations throughout the country and other projects. The goal is to establish what Clean Energy is calling “America’s Natural Gas Highway.” When the multi-year project concludes, major transportation arteries in California, Texas and the Midwest are expected to have natural gas stations spread out every 250 miles or so.” Congress may fund tax credits for fleet conversion to natural gas engines. I see this as a positive for nuclear energy, and thus a worry for Markey et al.

  15. @Ioannes I only have to point out that half the ethic charges including ‘lying’ are eagerly grabbed by Republicans. From Nixon to the last George Bush who orchestrated a stupid, organized, lying campaign to the American people to get us into the war with Iraq, Democrats hold no monopoly on lying. The “only of course” prefix belongs to “…they are politicians”.


  16. “What are you arguing in this comment?”

    Joel I am not arguing anything. I did provide some information that I knew about after checking NEI and EIA to make sure my facts were correct.

    I think it is just a little odd that Rod would explain why we can not bring natural gas from Sable Island to New England when we have been doing it for 10 years.

    1. I think it is just a little odd that Rod would explain why we can not bring natural gas from Sable Island to New England when we have been doing it for 10 years.

      Where did I say anything like that?

      How much gas do we move from Sable Island to New England? What is the transportation fee per unit? I’m interested in the delivered cost per unit for natural gas at the LNG terminal in the Boston Harbor that we have been discussing.

      I am also interested in learning how much of the proposed export quantity of 12 billion cubic feet per day (nearly 4.4 Trillion cubic feet or 18% of the current US consumption) that source would provide.

        1. For those who like a big picture graphic check out:
          Figure 13. Principal Interstate Natural Gas Flow Summary, 2010

        2. @Kit P

          The EIA is a very good source of information on energy. Who knew!

          Believe it or not, I knew. If you searched through the 2050 or so blogs that I have written you might be surprised by how many links or references you will find to EIA tables.

          There was a reason I asked the rhetorical questions that I did. The figures that you posted help to illustrate why I am pretty certain that no one is going to invest $40 billion or more to build the infrastructure necessary for the US to begin compressing and refrigerating its vast supply of “cheap natural gas” for export to the rest of the world.

          If it costs $4.94 per MMBTU to bring 131 billion cubic feet per year (0.36 billion cubic feet per day) from Canada to Calais, Maine, which is still 325 miles from Boston, MA, how is anyone going to think about profitably exporting a several (someone up thread mentioned 12) billion cubic feet per day when the importers are landing liquified gas from their sources into the Everett terminal for $4.79 per MMBTU?


          On another note, I am getting numerous complaints about your discussion style from a variety of sources. I have a pretty thick skin so it does not bother me much. However, as a discussion host, I have to pay attention when one guest begins to grate on the nerves of other guests to the point where they want to leave. If you cannot share your vast knowledge and experience without talking down to others and respecting the fact that many of them are at least as smart and experienced as you are, I will block you from participating.

          This is your warning.

  17. Thank you Rod for your stand against uncivil, and uncivilized, discussion. Obsessive-compulsive mania for self-aggrandizement is tiresome.

  18. “This is your warning.”

    Really Rod! As a former navy officer I do not think your standard for being civil is very high. Do think that maybe you set the tone for your blog by starting out like this.

    “Markey is lying.”

    1. I don’t understand. Perhaps you object because, since Markey is a politician, Rod’s statement is a mere tautology?

    2. Kit, what is wrong with calling a spade a spade?

      Would you suggest a more gentle way of indicating that Markey was lying in saying that the AP1000’s design certification was fast-tracked?

  19. Brian and Joel I agree. I could not say very much about Markey and remain civil nor do I see any reason to be civil. Furthermore, I do not consider if too feasible to export LNG from an east coast terminal.

    I am not objecting to anyone about the civility of the discussion. However, Rod is warning me to me more civil.

    1. @Kit P

      There are subtle differences in our outlook on civility. I was very specific in my accusation against a particular “action” by Rep. Markey. I have also been general in my analysis of his motivation for a long, documented history of fighting against nuclear energy.

      In contrast, you come into “my house” and demean my service and my technical knowledge. You used to bang on me unmercifully for living and working in a big city, even though I was there as a result of something called “orders.” There are lots of other examples of the way that you attack my thoughts and writing. However, as I mentioned, I have a thick skin and did not worry much.

      However, you have also attacked Cal, a man with 10 years of naval service including a tour as the Engineer Officer of a nuclear powered submarine. He has a masters in Nuclear Engineering and is working on his PhD with some research that might make a huge difference in the energy security of the entire world.

      You have often personally attacked Brian, also a man with a PhD who is a nuclear energy professional.

      Your attacks did not stop there, they have been addressed to almost everyone else on this board.

      Think hard about why so many people have complained to me about your comments, both in the threads and in personal emails. It is one thing to criticize a politician; it is another to directly get into the face of someone who is trying to carry on a useful and intellectually stimulating conversation.

  20. “In contrast, you come into “my house” and demean my service and my technical knowledge. ”

    You should be proud of your service as am I. However, your service and my service and technical knowledge in naval nuclear power may not apply to stationary power plants.

    I fell pretty well demeaned by the likes of Rod and Cal who discount the work and experience that all of us in the nuke industry to get where we are. Surely we deserve a lot of criticism for many of our early failures.

    Rod unfairly demeans some or our most respected leadership like John Rowe. Just keep in mind ‘your house’ runs on ‘our electricity’ and is made possible by people like Rod’s and my father literally fought to protect our rights to disagree.

    1. Rod’s criticisms of Rowe make sense to me. I’m sure Rowe is a great manager and possibly even a great leader, but Rod has laid out (quite clearly, in my opinion) how Rowe’s incentives are aligned toward NOT building NEW nuclear plants nor in making any effort to resurrect Zion, which could have been a rather valuable asset if it had been refurbished.

      I think that is a very valid critique, even if Rod may have played up the greed angle a bit.

      Have you ever read “Freakonomics” or “Super Freakonomics”, Kit? Human actions are nearly universally based on an incentive in some form or fashion.

    2. @Kit P

      I do not discount the work and experience of all of the people in the nuclear industry. The operators and maintainers have done a terrific job. The people who recognized the discounted value of plants like Vermont Yankee, Indian Point, and Oyster Creek and brought them up to high standards of performance did an excellent job.

      I remain critical of the people who have allowed others to decide that doubling our coal consumption since 1976 was a better choice than building new nuclear plants. I remain critical of the people who allowed costs to get so out of control that plants ended up costing 8-20 times as much as their initial budget. I remain critical of people like Rowe who cares more about selling electricity at a high price than he does about producing more electricity to enable more people to live more like the way he does.

      You may respect Rowe, but I work with many people who used to work for him and have shared stories about what it was like. There are many reasons for their departures, but one of the frequent threads is that they felt like they were being driven harder and harder with every passing year to make the executive bonus pool grow.

  21. Joel, have you tried forming your own opinion on Rowe? For example, Rowe has established magnets schools and even teaches history in one. This does not sound like a greedy person to me yet Rod puts his picture next to the heartless fictional character from one of my favorite movies, ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’.

    I have found no reason to attack Rowe’s character.

    The second thing is that Rod’s critique is not valid. I was working at Commonwealth Edison plant when the closure of Zion was announced. Rowe had nothing to do with it. I do not know anyone who thinks that Zion can be refurbished after 15 years. My company makes a lot of money ‘refurbishing’ nuke plants so they will run for 60 years so we know a lot about the economics.

    Rowe’s position is perfectly reasonable while Rods is based on his unrealistic expectation but in any case it is not a case of being civil.

    “Have you ever read “Freakonomics”…”

    Joel are you trying to bait me into ranting about economists who write books?

    It seems to me that people like to say provocative things because it more interesting than real life. If you work at a nuke plant or are flying in an airplane, boring is good.

    1. @Kit P

      I do not know anyone who thinks that Zion can be refurbished after 15 years.

      Your company is not the only one with experience. I spoke to Ashok Batagnar from TVA; though he was pretty circumspect and not willing to openly criticize the decision making at another utility, he acknowledged that his organization’s experience in restoring Browns Ferry after an even longer shutdown indicated that the project could be completed for substantially less than the cost of building a new nuclear power plant. I also have had extended email conversations with David Hollein, who was a Westinghouse engineer that was intimately familiar with the material conditions at Zion. There are plenty of people in the industry who believe that the plant could have been refurbished for somewhere between $2 – $3 billion; that is a pretty reasonable price for more than 2,000 MWe of reliable, emission free generation capacity.

      With regard to Rowe’s sponsorship of “magnet schools” and teaching a class – plenty of wealthy people get involved in philanthropy. Even Potter, the fictional character, did. That does not change their behavior or the evidence that they have spent their lives making decisions that are driven by accumulating more and more money. Rowe is of the type that keeps score by how much money he has made; in my book that comes really close to the definition of greed.

    2. @Kit P

      I was working at Commonwealth Edison plant when the closure of Zion was announced. Rowe had nothing to do with it. I do not know anyone who thinks that Zion can be refurbished after 15 years.

      The Zion nuclear station was permanently closed in February 1998. It completed the transfer of its nuclear fuel to the spent fuel pools in March 1998. John Rowe became the CEO of Commonwealth Edison in March 1998. At least three times during his tenure, people within his company suggested that it would be worthwhile to investigate the possibility of restoring Zion, which had been kept in reasonably good condition since its turbine was being used as “synchronous condensers to support grid stability”.

      Each time, the analysis showed that the completion of the project included the risk of reducing profits from other operating facilities because the additional power supply would drive down the wholesale market clearing price. Exelon sells power as a merchant generator in a deregulated wholesale power market. That risk was of sufficient magnitude to make the project seem uneconomical compared to other alternative ways to invest money. (Source – unnamed former executive at Exelon. The notes I took during our May 10, 2010 conversation are still in my files.)

      We looked at it several times. Each time it boiled down to a question of “does northern Illinois need the power.” If the answer came back no, then any investment made would simply result in depressing the price of power.

      Lowering the price of power might have had unpredicted side effects, like encouraging heavy industry to investigate the possibility of relocating back into the upper midwest. After a few years of lower power and gas prices, the Rust Belt might have started to look a bit more shiny and Exelon might have seen steadily increasing unit sales volumes.

      1. @Rod Adams
        “At least three times during his tenure, people within his company suggested that it would be worthwhile to investigate the possibility of restoring Zion, which had been kept in reasonably good condition since its turbine was being used as “synchronous condensers to support grid stability”.

        Maybe it’s being whimsical, but I recall in those rabid anti-nuclear days here ace sci-editor Earl Ubell quipped (and borrowed by Charles Krupthammer) after a regional nuclear plant had been “mothballed” (maybe Conn Yankee or even pre-oil Shoreham) that “if it were a national priority because the world would end in a year if we didn’t we could reactivate these plants withing six months.” I suspect he was talking “no holds barred” techniques and measures and blank checks to do the job, but he was way too solid a (maybe the last of the true breed) sci-editor to just make a flippant remark like that. If Earl’s remark has engineering credibility, then it suggests there’s a heck of a lot of “wiggle room” between six months and 15 years it takes to restart shut-down/mothballed nukes!

        James Greenidge
        Queens NY

    3. Kit,

      If you want to rant, feel free. My point was simply that people respond to incentives.

      I would probably not know anything about Zion if Rod hadn’t written about it here on his blog. Back in 1998, I was far too busy being a 13 and 14 year old in the southeastern U.S. to have any clue of what was going on near Chicago.

      I do know that getting over 2000 MWe of > 85%capacity factor generation for less than $3,000,000,000 would (on its own merit) be far beyond a steal in most any market. I am for capitalist markets, but I share some of Rod’s distaste in this instance.

      The fact that additional generation from refurbishing Zion would have possibly reduced the profit margin from Exelon’s other plants enough to make a refurbishment project seem less than worthwhile and Exelon as the now owner is simply able to start D&D at Zion is in a way a monopolistic action. Also, the fact that the rate-payers who paid for Zion initially aren’t getting the benefit of the lower rates that would be available had Zion been refurbished is a bit disheartening.

      I take issue with your attempt at suggesting that because I share a few aspects of an opinion with Rod that I am not a free-thinking individual. I would guess that Rowe possesses plenty of positive qualities as a person.

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