Nukes in Las Vegas. ANS Winter Meeting 2016 part 1
The ANS winter meeting for 2016 will officially begin today, but the weekend has been full of committee meetings, hallway gatherings and organized sessions for the Young Members Group and the High Temperature Reactor (HTR) embedded topical discussion.
I learned long ago that I needed to arrive at ANS meetings well before the President’s Reception on Sunday evening, but I now regret that I made my arrangements to be here Sunday morning instead of Saturday morning. I apparently missed some useful sessions on HTRs, a couple of spirited discussions among the young members, a gathering of the Clean Power Coalition and a highly praised concert featuring a cover band who played the standards from the 1970s and 1980s.
Margaret Harding was tweeting highlights of the HTR sessions @M2harding.
As usual, the area near the registration desk turned out to be a target-rich environment for running into old friends and long time acquaintances. I’m not going to tie commentary to names, but I’d like to share some impressions from my highly unscientific and biased sample.
There was a relatively balanced mix of optimism, pessimism and equanimity about the future of the nuclear enterprise in the US.
Researchers were, as is often the case, concerned about the lack of sufficient grants and other forms of funding for their interest areas. They shared stories of colleagues who had decided to find other interest areas. Those at the meeting are hanging on, hoping that money will eventually follow at least some of the nicely worded pro-nuclear legislation introduced — but not passed — during the Congress that has almost finished its work.
People at advanced reactor and SMR start-up enterprises described intense levels of fascinating work, some frustration with paperwork burdens, and a bit of concern about long-term funding and market issues.
I did not find anyone who is working on the AP1000 construction projects. That’s no surprise; they are likely to be working long hours with few, if any days off from activities that are on the critical path for completing those projects.
There is a strong student and young members contingent. One of the best hours of my day was participating in the Mentor session and talking with people who are technically trained, but very interested in communications, policy and advocacy.
I attended part of the decommissioning committee meeting. As I departed, I tossed out the question for them to ponder about idling or mothballing nuclear facilities as an option to destroying their future utility. I think one of the members of the group was involved in the study that resulted in a finding that Ft Calhoun could never be economically competitive; I’d really like to engage in a more detailed discussion about the assumptions and methods used.
The communications committee meeting was well attended and covered some interesting future programs. One of the more intriguing discussions involved a gentleman who has wanted to accomplish something in encouraging better writing about nuclear science for the general public but he had never had the resources he thought he needed. He’s come into some money that he did not expect or depend on and is now going to make it useful. We need more people like this!
I had a couple of depressing discussions with people who were concerned about the future of nuclear energy in the US. They pointed to the plant closings, the project cancellations and the lack of substantive action from the federal government to help the public recognize the value of clean nuclear energy. They described a noticeable exodus of talent to other industries; people who qualify to be nukes are eagerly sought by many employers in various fields of endeavor.
I also had an uplifting conversation with a young friend who has impressive international experience and technical expertise who has decided to focus more on the business and policy side of the nuclear enterprise. She’s started a position with one of the up and comers where she will be building business relationships and working public and policy issues associated with her new employer’s product. I’ve always said that nuclear needs more talented marketers.
This year, I didn’t attend the President’s Reception so I have no reports to share about that event. That might have been an incorrect decision, but my frugal upbringing couldn’t allow me to cough up $75 for a 2-hour cocktail hour. (Regular and student attendees don’t pay extra; the reception comes with their normal fees.)
On that note, I wonder when Vegas hotels changed their habit of moderately priced food and beverages as a way of encouraging expenditures on tables and slot machines. My in room Kuerig coffee maker has a $13/serving price tag while burgers at one of the “bar and grill” restaurants in the casino area were listed at $20+ on the menu. Food court for me.
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I’m looking forward to today’s plenary sessions for both the general meeting and the HTR2016 embedded topical. I also have the President’s Special Session Identifying The Nuclear Grand Challenges on my list of “must attend” sessions.
I’m also looking forward to participating in a panel discussion on Tuesday titled U.S. Reactor Fleet Viability in a Challenging Financial Market.
Here is the blurb about the session taken from the meeting agenda.
Sponsored by: OPD Cosponsored by: YMG
Session Organizers: Timothy M. Crook (Texas A&M), Catherine Perego (Westinghouse)
Cochairs: Timothy M. Crook (Texas A&M), Hitesh Bindra (KSU)
Location: Octavius 6 Time: 1:00-4:00 pm
The U.S. nuclear fleet is faced with both external and internal nancial pressures. As the industry internally attempts to reduce costs through Delivering the Nuclear Promise, operating plants are being forced into early shutdown because of unfavorable market conditions driven by external factors. This panel will discuss the financial impact of corporate and governmental policies, socio-technological changes, decommissioning, and operational challenges on the nuclear energy industry. Representatives from nuclear engineering academia, nuclear energy industry, and environmental protection organizations will participate in this panel to envision the current and future roles of education, outreach, policy, and advocacy in addressing these challenges.
Michael Shellenberger (Environmental Progress) or Eric Meyer (Environmental Progress)
Kathryn McCarthy (INL)
Paul Wilson (Univ of Wisconsin)
David Fein (Exelon Corp.)
Rod Adams (Atomic Insights)
“…….and the lack of substantive action from the federal government to help the public recognize the value of clean nuclear energy.”
Egads. I hope there are not many scientists, advocates, and industry insiders naive enough to think the feds are gonna bail you guys out of your doldrums. Heck, its the federal government that is largely responsible for your fall from grace as it is. And they are gonna admit to the public their regulations are absurd, overly costly, and contribute to the continued use of fossil fuel? The federal is joined at the hip with the fossil fuel industry. Our foreign policy is largely based on fossil fuel interests, and our economy flows and ebbs on fossil fuel concerns. If NE advocates think the federal government is gonna handle “educating” the public about NE, in an honest and positive manner, they’ve dived headfirst into the rabbit hole. Your PR, “educating”, and marketing ain’t gonna get handed to you by the feds. And it ain’t gonna come cheap, and it ain’t gonna even exist if you don’t get some strong and innovative, (AND LOUD), leadership within the industry.
Well yeah, the Feds are the primary stakeholder responsible for the debacle that is the US nuclear industry. But they share this with the energy industry as a whole…equally.
There has never really been a Federal policy to build nuclear plants. Yes, they had a ‘policy’, that is real enthusiasm, in the 1960s and 70s to build nukes in the flawed “public-private” partnership that resulted in 104 nuclear plants being built (more actually including plants decommissioned) though each one a very expensive one-of-a-kind non-standardized reactor.
We did not do what France did. We need to do what France did, and make proposals now about a serious *mostly* Federally run energy system modeled on the TVA and BPA with an toward how EDF did it.
The problem obviously is the lack of independence of the NRC and other regulatory bodies that are highly subject to politics. We need an NRC that is akin to the FDA (minus Big Pharma control) in that the *mission* of the NRC should be *expanded* to include redoing our regs to enhance, not delay, the deployment of nuclear energy. An NRC that can actually negotiate with vendors along with, perhaps (my wish) a hugely expanded public-power entity that can run and generate power for it’s use and not for profit (akin to the mission of the BPA and TVA).
French Model – Has there been much discussion of the growing impact of the nuclear plant shutdowns in France?
( http://www.reuters.com/article/france-power-winteroutlook-idUSL8N1D92V1 )
Single designs and single source operations are vulnerable to single failures.
Rod. Thank you for this posting. I wish I were in Vegas!
And yes, when did “everything is cheap in Las Vegas if you don’t gamble” change to “everything is pricey in Las Vegas.” I don’t know when that transition was. Maybe when the Bellagio was built? If I still lived in CA, I would be annoyed.
I am so happy to see you and Eric (or Michael) on an ANS panel. For years, many panels had a very predictable make-up. I am glad to see that the group of panelists has increased, with more people and more insights. For nuclear going forward, the view-from-the-street will be as important as the view-from-the-executive-suite.
Everything in Vegas is cheap if you gamble. The cash prices are heavily discounted if you sign up for the player’s comp cards.
Of course then you’re on their mailing list and you’ll get a constant barrage of “special offers” in your inbox.
Thank you Eric!
It’s been a while since I was in Las Vegas.
Perhaps with all the ideas for outreach floating around, someone could ask the ANS leadership what they plan on doing to promote nuclear and improve our PR.
“…..someone could ask the ANS leadership what they plan on doing to promote nuclear and improve our PR.”
Ask??? Really, I think its time you guys started DEMANDING strategies, answers, and solutions to the dearth of PR and marketing efforts.
Well that was embarrassing wasn’t it ? I dont see how “people” (the mainstream media narrative version) could have been proven more wrong on the issues they believed were critical; that were clearly not.
But beyond all that forgettable mundane stuff a golden opportunity possibly exists now to shift regulation in nuclear power’s favor and industry again to American production. Hopefully they wont blow it .
Yes I am embarrassed, Jon. For the whole country. Read some international op-eds, and see how the world is reacting. Its unbelievable that this piece of blustery megamaniacal humanity rode ignorance all the way to the Oval Office. Two years from now, when its far too late to fix the damage he’ll most assuredly do on a global scale, it will be interesting to watch how his supportors will squirm to shift blame. And forget nuclear, the fossil fuel monster was just handed our environment on a silver platter.
Cry a river of liberal crocodile tears, poa. Boo hoo for you. Please remember that Obama and Harry Reid destroyed the Yucca Mountain Project after a License Application was completed and accepted by the NRC. Not to speak of the billions of ratepayers and taxpayers dollars spent. Since the DC Circuit court ruled that the program was unlawfully shelved the NRC has Issued all 5 SERs and an updated EIS. Hillary publically announced in Vegas last January that she opposed Yucca Mountain; when cornered, Trump refused to make such a pronouncement. He said he would defer to the experts. With a Republican POTUS and Congress (and the departure of Reid and Obama) hopefully all projects nuclear (including Yucca) can be funded and advance. Perhaps you can seek employment in the windmill or solar industry.
“Cry a river of liberal crocodile tears, poa”
Kinda impossible for some of you to shed your partisan stupidity, isn’t it? You see it all as “right versus left”. Like I said, this man rode IGNORANCE all the way into the Oval Office.
. . . and the not-so-good ship IGNORANCE appears to be the favored mode of arrival to the White House this century. Yet another thin-skinned guy who knows how to get people to imagine him as the answer to the country’s problems. Even Trump’s victory speech sounded like Obama’s. I gave Obama the benefit of the doubt in 2008 and I’ll give Trump the same — even though I didn’t vote for either of them.
Hope & Change and all that good stuff.
Im not embarrassed especially knowing some of the realities of any country criticizing us. If any even do on a formal level. I would be embarrassed if the Republicans behaved like many Democrats are after the election. I cant believe what I am seeing.
The point is its over. Many didn’t believe the propaganda and probably more still dont. There is no significant undercurrent in the other direction either. Quite the opposite really.
Its time to be refraining arguments for nuclear power with respect to the party in power and there are plenty of good one that will resonate.
Please move on.
I completely agree. We have an opportunity to do a thorough rethink of our entire regulatory stance in regards to nuclear power (amongst other things). If that happens, we, as an industry, need to be ready to compete on cost with the fossil fuels. I believe that will be a huge challenge for us as many of our processes and cultures would need to be (drastically in some cases) changed. We all need to remember that we have, in the past, be able to compete with fossil fuels and it can happen again. Now we need to be ready to make many hard choices if we are going to make it.
Amazing. Trump has promised to gut fossil fuel regulation, claims that global warming is a hoax, and advocates expanded coal and oil mining/drilling/fracking/usage. How can anyone be so naive as to believe that nuclear energy, under those conditions, can be competitive, or will even be considered by this adminstration as an energy source? Its astounding how the Trump supporters have this ability to completely separate themselves from reality when fantasizing about what a Trump presidency is going to entail. Its as though they are admitting that what Trump said he would do is completely polar to what he is actually going to do. Its pathetic, really. Nog only is Trump willing to say ANYTHING, (no matter how absurd and unrealistic), to advance his cause, his supporters, as well, exercise the same kind of license. Like I said, he rode into the Oval Office on a train of ignorance. The majority of the populace here, (he won the popular vote), as well as the global community, saw through this man and his blustering say anything platform of hatred bigotry, and division. It doesn’t speak well of this nation that so many citizens were unable to. And it COMPLETELY lays waste to any Republican party claims to integrity, or even basic knowledge or concern for the intent of our founding fathers. This is a huge disaster inthe making, for our nation, our environment, and the global community. Many times here I have suggested to Rod to put in a garden. It has never been better advice than it became on Tuesday.
You’re basically right.
When nuclear advocates wrack their brains on how we can make anything positive happen from this disaster, all we can think of is that it may be an opportunity to reduce nuclear’s excessive regulations. The result being reduced costs. The argument being that Trump has spoken of reducing regulations, and believes in fair competition on a level playing field. (The other area where Trump, and the Republican majorities, could be a benefit is in the area of waste, e.g., moving Yucca Mountain forward.)
But, as you point out, it is the fossil industry that has Trump’s ear, not the (non-existent) nuclear industry. Thus, there is a good chance that he will rebuff any attempts to reduce nuclear regulations (at the behest of his fossil benefactors). Furthermore, he is likely to actually reduce fossil regulation, thus making the regulatory playing field (between nuclear and fossil) even more un-level. Finally, he will thwart all efforts to do anything at all about global warming, which was one of nuclear’s only hopes for the future.
To add insult to injury, subsidies and mandates for renewables only are likely to continue. The just-passed 5 year extension of the renewables PTC will extend to the end of his 4-year term. Also, Republicans have shown some support of renewables subsidies (believe it or not); much more support than they give genuine, enlightened anti-GW measures such as carbon taxes. That’s how the PTC extension was passed. Finally, it’s doubtful that Trump will do anything to actually repeal or interfere with state subsidies and mandates for renewables. So, nuclear will continue to be given no advantage at all vs. fossil (to reflect its non-polluting nature), while massive market intervention on renewables’ behalf will continue.
Anyway, I essentially agree with you that this is a disaster for nuclear. But what can we do? My opinion is that pursuing regulatory relief for nuclear is one of the only things we can do, given that pursuing global warming-related support for nuclear is now pointless. There is one exception to this, however. We can still pursue support for nuclear (as part of a global warming effort) on the state level. In general, I think that’s where our efforts will shift, for the next 4 years, at least.
This impending disaster does not have four years. It will be showing immediate negative ramifications, already exhibiting themselves in urban centers across the nation, and in the newspapers of the global community. It will be interesting to see how tightly this man’s security is managed, and on what scale, because I guarantee his campaign rhetoric painted a huge target on his back. I predict that it will not take long for the ugly specter of domestic fascism to become exposed, as this man surrounds himself with jackboots.
“it is the fossil industry that has Trump’s ear” – true
“not the (non-existent) nuclear industry” maybe not true. There are rumors that Don Hoffman is being considered for something in the administration…hence Ron’s recent tweet. Regardless, we have a mountain to climb.
“all we can think of is that it may be an opportunity to reduce nuclear’s excessive regulations. The result being reduced costs. The argument being that Trump has spoken of reducing regulations, and believes in fair competition on a level playing field. (The other area where Trump, and the Republican majorities, could be a benefit is in the area of waste, e.g., moving Yucca Mountain forward.)” – yes, that is my reasoning. I assume it is John’s as well.
“Trump has promised to gut fossil fuel regulation, claims that global warming is a hoax, and advocates expanded coal and oil mining/drilling/fracking/usage. How can anyone be so naive as to believe that nuclear energy, under those conditions, can be competitive” – We were competitive before when the regulatory playing field was more level that it is today. I may be naïve, but I think we can be competitive again. I could be wrong, but I would rather try to make it work than just give up and complain. The way I see it, we had one side that was lukewarm to nuclear but very pro (brainwashed) renewables and the other side that is very pro low cost power (i.e., extremely pro fossil fuels) and (so far) neutral to nuclear but against government regulation. We have a track record of disappointment on one side and an unknown track record on the other. It may not go our way, but we need to try.
This about sums it up. Why would anyone invest in the lengthy process of building NE plants, when the infrastructure is already in place for expanded fracking, drilling and coal mining? With no carbon tax, and massive deregulation of the fossil fuel industry, as well as marginalizing the EPA and even denying that global warming is an issue, how can anyonr be ignorant enough to think thay thesr policies, mandated, and ideologies can spell anything other than disaster for NE, our environment, and our children’s future?
Its hilarious, (but not really funny), seeing people here on this website, who have often cited the disasters and health costs of the fossil fuel industry, now heralding and celebrating the prospect of deregulating the industry.
“A Trump bump for oil, gas and coal could mean fewer dollars flowing into renewables and nuclear. Though candidate Trump spoke about the need for America to build more nuclear power plants, nothing will change the fact that without a cost of carbon neither nuclear nor renewable can compete with natural gas.”
Meant to say…..”he LOST the popular vote”.
Candidate Trump did not earn my vote. President-elect Trump has earned the right to do what a President can do to make America greater and, incidentally, make the world a more prosperous place.
During his acceptance speech, he thanked a lot of people, but seemed almost especially effusive in his praise for Senator Jeff Sessions, a man who has been a staunch advocate for nuclear energy.
It might also be worth reading an article I posted on Forbes.com yesterday.
Elections and their results are important, but the job of being a citizen in a country where the government works for the people and is selected by the people does not stop in the voting booth. We have the right and the responsibility to petition our government and to help it make the best possible decisions every day.
The nightmare begins. Google “Myron Ebell”, the climate change denier that Trump has picked to head his EPA transition team, and quite possibly head the EPA.
According to Ebell, “EVEN IF” global warming is a fact, its not a bad thing because “fewer people will die of the cold”. The major contributers to his think tank? Exxon and Koch industries. So, (geniuses commenting above), care to enlighten us about what NE assets Exxon and Koch have in their portfolios?
re: “climate change” and poa
You do know, do you not poa, that all of James Hansen’s (formerly of NASA GISS) “projections” for temperature rise due to yearly CO2 rise *overshoot* the temperatures actually measured for the last about 30 years?
Upon what article of faith (since it must be faith, and not science) do you then believe to continue to make claims so closely linking CO2 to purported global warming calamity?
Nuclear and fossil fuels are not mutually exclusive industries. Inexpensive and abundant fossil fuels as well as more complex issues like domestic industrial production, higher disposable incomes, quality of life and general health also depend on inexpensive and available US energy.
On the eve of a huge natural gas opening to export coming to fruition and probably increasing coal for export as well there is no better time to be investing in a stronger nuclear infrastructure. It makes incredibly good sense to be strong advocates now.
Maybe it’s simplistic to say, but my gut tells me it’s closer to the truth than other; Trump admires fighters like him and those who struggle to make top dog, something the fossils have been very good at in the face of the whole world and its leaders. Nuclear has not only merely appeared a chronic loser fossil challenger PR-wise, but afraid to even climb into the ring. i.e. This Vegas meeting seems to treat PR and mass education as a brief token afterthought if at all, not a critical major element of survival.
Well, look at Kosnick. After being appointed to a position of power within the industry, she has chosen to go into hybernation, rather than lay out a game plan, or state her intentions and strategies for when she actually assumes her position. Now is the time for engagement with the NE community, the public, and the political players in the energy sector, so she can hit the ground running.
You all now have a powerful ally in the Administration :
Op-Ed Contributor: The New Atomic Age We Need By PETER THIEL ( http://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/28/opinion/the-new-atomic-age-we-need.html?_r=0 )
It’s kind of obvious that Mr. Trump likes to please people. He thrives on the positive attention. If he reverses some of the policies on coal, he will receive some fine accolades from the many laid off coal miners in this country. Promising people what they need, like getting their jobs back gets you votes. Following up and actually delivering will get him gratitude. If you had to choose between a livelihood and global warming, what would be your choice?
Our coal burns generally cleaner than Chinese or German coal too. Its certainly a better idea than forest fuels in some tropical areas. Also agriculture remains the leading cause of extinctions. In world markets coal keeps the price of other kinds of energy down.
“Our coal burns generally cleaner than Chinese or German coal too”
Well, thats an argument bound to expand our use of NE, eh? You’re a real mensa, aintcha?
Is that appropriate discourse where you are from?
“Is that appropriate discourse where you are from?”
Well, in an age when a Presidential candidate can brag about committing sexual assault? Apparently yes, it is more than acceptable; its presidential!
“It’s kind of obvious that Mr. Trump likes to please people”
Yeah, getting groped, insulted, stiffed for your labors, and criticised for your race is very pleasing indeed. He’s a real charmer, ain’t he?
“Give me clean, beautiful and healthy air – not the same old climate change (global warming) bullshit! I am tired of hearing this nonsense.” …said Trump.
I suggest those of you with your noses pushing your belly buttons outwards, pull your heads out, (What a loud popping noise that’ll make!), and research the organizations that Ebell is involved with, and who finances them. Start with the Heartland Institute, which has apparently removed Ebell’s essay on their “about us” page. Gosh, I wonder why?
Its too bad people so concerned with climate change didn’t think it important enough to significantly expand nuclear power. That would have sent a significant message when it mattered.
That and that they really haven’t made any significant progress on the matter beyond what market conditions have improved. I dont care. Really. Look at the disaster the “environmentalists” have made in California. Emissions rose and electricity prices for some went up 80 percent this year alone.
But why should environmentalists automatically want nuclear after all that unchallenged bad press since forever? This is almost entirely a failure of the nuclear industry/community to de-demonize themselves of an undeserved Darth Vader image. It’s always been like nuclear energy arrogantly assumed it was obviously such a superior power source that it was a no-brainer choice and just relax and let that fact sink by osmosis into the public’s head. Bad idea. At least even wind and solar try to flaunt themselves in people’s faces. Nuclear doesn’t have have a cricket audience. It’s hard to be for someone who doesn’t even try to fight for survival. If oil and coal get over, all the due power to them.
Depressing but true. Its been the stable aloof expert technical choice in a PR and cost decided fluctuating social world.
I have been trying to find some A-test video without watermarks or added soundtracks to try to piece together something about “Megatons to Megawatts”.
It’s not easy.
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