1. Thanks Rod. Its an uphill slog, but there’s folk out there ready if not eager for more knowledge.

    I attended a public round table discussion of EPA’s Clean Power Plan this past Tuesday (June 23), at the University of Denver, organized by Environment Colorado. Panelists included our regional EPA and HHS administrators, two health care professionals engaged in sustainable energy initiatives for hospitals (which are very energy intensive and — oddly or not — attached to reliability to the point they (nearly?) all have standby diesel.

    And three state legislators. It was well attended, some people drove down from northern Weld county (think Gaslands) to attend. During Q&A one of these made a very strong statement that fracking is no where near as clean as the industry would have us believe, that previously healthy kids waking up with headaches and nosebleeds after the rigs moved in is no coincidence.

    I wouldn’t know. Sounds like a job for EPA, though in the face of Clean Power Plan they’re faced with a bit of a conflict.

    Lots of voices for solar. Lots of kudos to Tesla. Folks are against coal. They’re against fracked gas. They want wind and sun. And they do not understand the cost, at least not at the 90+ emissions reductions required to make a difference. Here and throughout the world.

    A well-informed twenty-tree year old spoke up about the absolute necessity of nuclear power to address these concerns. Interestingly, one panelist — the Sustainability Director of a Boulder(!) Hospital — stood up to agree with him. Usual caveats about safety, but none of us disagree.

    I engaged another health professional in lengthy conversation afterward. He’s involved in an innovative startup, and said he’d be all in favor of expanded nuclear power “were it not for Fukushima” — then went on to explain all the radioactive fish off our west coast and the Cs-137 in the Black Hills. I tried to explain that one of the Really Neat properties of ionizing radiation is that one can readily detect it down to the last atom, that really matters is the amount over natural background.

    Jaw drop. Blink. Knowing smile. “I’m sorry. Have you never heard of Helen Caldicott???”

    Sigh. It is an uphill slog.

    1. I understand your frustration. I do three or four presentations about nuclear power locally every year. I hear some of the same arguments. I get funny looks when I tell them that they are radioactive themselves. That they shouldn’t eat bananas because they are full of radioactive potassium. That if they are married that they are getting irradiated by their partner. I also sometimes ask them if they’ve heard of carbon dating and how that works. These facts can sometimes help crack the no radiation is good radiation fixation. Keep plugging.

      1. Not to an uninformed medical professional. Not their face. The goal is friendly conversation, gratuitous insults get one nowhere. This gentleman was no himself an MD, but had bought into Dr. Caldicott’s LNT extravaganza completely. I tried to tactfully observe that Dr. Caldicott was not a radiation professional, had not herself practiced medicine in 30 years, and promulgated highly misleading information.

        My conversation partner asked for specifics, I gave him Brave New Climate’s url and Geoff Russel’s current piece on Dr. Caldicott because its what immediately came to mind, then discussed some of the shortcomings of LNT.

        Could have done better. I usually have misgivings recommending Geoff to the uninitiated; he rarely lets tact get in the way of hard numbers. As I was walking back to my ride I kicked myself for not simply sending this gentleman, as a medical professional, to S.A.R.I. and, most appropriately, Hiroshima Syndrome.

  2. As the objections to nuclear power have been whittled down, one of those that is frequently mentioned is “cost.”

    Nuclear plants are more expensive.

    When comparisons are made, is it a true A vs B comparison? Extensive transmission lines have to be built from some wind farms. These include new or upgraded substations. Sometimes the wind farms are many miles from the customer’s electrical load. Do environmentalists consider this cost when considering the cost of wind energy?

    The public needs to know the full extent of what they are paying for in order to ensure the proper energy choices are made.

    1. @JCG

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

      As part of the announcement, the Energy Department is awarding over $31 million to 43 university-led nuclear energy research and development projects across 23 states to develop innovative technologies and solutions through its Nuclear Energy University Program (NEUP).

      Are you telling me that the DOE nuclear energy research budget is $155 million ($31/0.2)?

      The article also described a variety of additional programs that add up to another $29 million to bring the total amount awarded to $60 million, but at least some of those funds will go to national laboratories and some are for physical infrastructure at colleges and universities. If the total for university research is $60 million, that would still only bring the DOE NE research budget to $300 million.

      Falling back on my training as a budget analyst instead of relying on press releases, I looked for the budget documents. Here is link to the portion of the DOE budget request and justification for FY2015 that includes the nuclear energy line items.


      It’s a long document; the Nuclear Energy pages start at 399.

      Page 406 includes some details about the Nuclear Energy University Program, which receives an allocation of up to 20% from the following three lines in the DOE NE budget:

      Reactor Concepts Research, Development and Demonstration
      Fuel Cycle Research and Development
      Nuclear Energy Enabling Technologies

      According to the table on that page, the total has remained essentially flat at ~$53 million for the past three years with some rearrangement among the three lines.

      Page 408 reveals the figure that must have precipitated the comments I heard at ANS. Up until FY2015, there was another program line titled “Integrated University Program” that was ~$4.5 million in FY2013 and ~5.5 million in FY2014.

      In FY2015, the number is ZERO.

      Wonder why?

      One more item of note is that the total DOE NE budget for FY2015 dropped by almost 3% in nominal dollar terms (meaning that it fell even more in inflated dollars) and it includes a new program start with $27.5 million for “Supercritical Transformational Electric Power Generation”.

      I’m sure that the sponsor of that program thinks he has done something good for our country’s nuclear energy research program, but the money all came from decrementing other lines in the budget since the total did not grow, it shrank by 3%. Two of the big “donor” lines in the realignment were:

      SMR Licensing Technical Support, which fell by $13 million
      and Reactor Concepts Research, Development and Demonstration, which fell by $12.3 million

      1. @JohnGalt

        None of the programs that you mentioned have anything to do with commercial nuclear energy. I wish that some of the Naval Reactors treasure trove could be released to the public; IMO it should be.

        In the near future, I will talk more about what gets included in that large $860 million total. It’s pretty well loaded with items that are not really helping the advancement of nuclear technology. Then again, that’s not the real purpose of the DOE Nuclear Energy program, is it?

        1. @JohnGalt

          The DOE budget for atomic energy reflects the national priorities, i.e. mostly for weapons and their delivery, like it or not.

          Agreed. I don’t like it. Hence the reason I’m doing everything in my power as a citizen to change those priorities. Some of my actions are visible here, others are not.

        2. @JohnGalt

          Uranium enrichment supported fuel for reactors; therefore, the cleanup does too.

          Also agreed. What you seem to misunderstand is that the commercial nuclear industry has been charged already for its share of the cleanup and has already paid that assessment. Unlike the government agencies, which keep kicking the can down the road and not requesting or appropriating (depending on whether you are talking about the agencies or the Congress) the required funds.

          Here is a briefing paper of the nuclear industry’s position on the issue – http://www.nei.org/Master-Document-Folder/Backgrounders/Fact-Sheets/Nuclear-Industry-Opposes-New-Tax-for-the-D-D-Fund

        3. Who should pay for mis-management of nuclear infrastructure that benefited nuclear power plants, if not the nuclear utilities?

          Who should pay for mis-management of weapons infrastructure, if not the public?

  3. NEI ran a June 16 piece on NRC’s Project AIM 2020, anticipating at least some modest reforms. It isn’t clear to me if or how they will materially affect NRC’s ability to evaluate and license new Gen IV technologies in a timely and cost-effective manner, or whether this thing aims more for increased efficiency of the current business plan.

  4. Rod. Just wanted to comment that some of the excitement about new types of reactors is that the innovations provide more than just energy for electricity. This point may be obvious to you but I wonder how many of your followers see nuclear plants as solutions to industry and various processes that will not only create jobs but also solve problems that no other technology can.

    1. I second Andrew Benson’s suggestion to add Sacramento to the list of Bloomberg-BNA venues. The west is geographically under-represented in the current list of six venues.

  5. Rod, if you get a chance to voice your third recommendation to Bloomberg and/or Nuclear Matters, I would like to suggest Sacramento. I know the ins-and-outs of the “policy community” here, such as a popular forum (that isn’t a hotel, but is located downtown) where people regularly gather for these kinds of discussions, and who to put Bloomberg/Nuclear Matters in contact with.

  6. 16th paragraph:

    “Neither one agreed that they would be willing to divert attention from their current issues by strongly advocating for deregulation. Perhaps that is a job best suited for a independent observers and trained problem solvers.”

    Should “deregulation” in the first sentence be “re-regulation?”

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