Harvey Wasserman, a perennial anti-nuclear advocate, has once again posted a polemic against new nuclear power developments. In Ohio, an industrial state in the upper midwest where 85% of the electricity is provided by burning coal and where the ranks of the unemployed continue to grow as the manufacturing base of the United States continues to shrink, Wasserman is selling a vision of a solar powered future economy. He apparently believes that his fellow Ohio residents never look out of the window to see night or clouds.
The Areva, Duke Energy, USEC, and Unistar Nuclear project at the former Portsmouth enrichment facility has received wide political support from both local and state government leaders. Organized labor is also supportive.
The president of the union whose workers are cleaning up the adjacent Piketon site of the former Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant said he learned several days ago the announcement would be made, and it was tough to try to keep it under wraps.
“It’s going to be a big deal,” said Bobby Graff, president of USW Local 5-589.
Wasserman and his “no nukes” friends are coming out in force to try to preach the dogma of conservation and making do with what we already have – which effectively means that they are fighting for the coal plants and coal mines that are the source of nearly every kilowatt used in Ohio. They talk about the length of time that it will take to get the new plant licensed and built and worry about the cost of the project. Of course, what they do not like to admit is that this will be a plant that can move a bit faster because it is going to be number 5,6 or 7 out of a series of identical reactors and it is being built on a site that has already been fully characterized.
My impression is that the anti’s are waking up and girding for battle; those of us who regret their success in the past must also strengthen ourselves, work on our communications and do all we can to prevent their future success. It will not be easy – there are a lot of minds that need changing and there is plenty of financial and political support for the opposition. Here is the response that I wanted to provide on the Huffington Post. I cut it down by about 60% to fit in their 250 word limit, but thought you might enjoy the more complete version.
The really cruel hoax is the one perpetrated by Harvey Wasserman, the long time advocate of Solartopia, a mirage that asks gullible people to believe that night no longer exists and that the wind is not only always blowing somewhere, but that the people in the areas where the wind is blowing will gladly send you their power for little or no cost when your breezes stop. Oh yeah, he also asks you to believe that there will be a wire leading from that wind resource to your door.
Providing clean, reliable, affordable energy is hard work. Building and operating machines that can do the job for 40-60 years cannot be done overnight, but it certainly can be done. The operating record of the 104 nuclear power plants that are running today – no thanks to the efforts of people like Wasserman, who is proud of having participated in the movement that resulted in such victories as the conversion of Zimmer to burning fossil fuels – proves that atomic fission is an affordable way to generate emission free power.
The average nuclear power plant in the US produces its full rated capacity for approximately 8000 hours (out of 8760) per year. The best wind or solar installations in the country produce their rated capacity less than half of the time and the average is more like 25% of the time. That leads to an enormous waste of huge capital investments that are idle – not producing anything of value – through much of their lives. Partially because of their productivity and partially because uranium is an incredibly cheap source of heat, the average operating and maintenance cost of nuclear power plants in the US is about 1.7 cents per kilowatt hour, 20% less than the cost of the average coal fired power plant and about 1/3 of the cost of the average gas fired power plant.
Solar and wind industries – made up of such small and disadvantaged companies as General Electric, Siemens, Vestas, Shell Oil, Chevron, Kyocera, Sharp, and FPL – are completely dependent upon federal and state direct payments and are increasingly vocal about demanding mandated market shares and carbon taxes in an attempt to keep them profitable.
Unlike nuclear power – which has real potential for cost reductions as manufacturing revives and licensing processed get streamlined because the regulators gain familiarity with the new plant designs – solar and wind have a much greater chance of increased costs as the best locations are taken. When you start building solar systems in Ohio or wind generators in the hot, muggy, still Southeast, you find that they are somehow not as productive as the loss leader demonstrations built in the desert southwest or the windy plains.
Harvey is a journalist who has made his living in well funded escapades designed to halt the development of atomic fission power plants that compete for market share without much help and a whole lot of organized resistance. He has celebrity friends in the entertainment field that take on the challenge of slowing nuclear developments.
In contrast, I spent a dozen years operating and supervising fission power plants in the US Navy and another fifteen years in business, financial, technical and political positions of responsibility. My paycheck does not come from the nuclear industry. We both write and speak a bit on the topic of nuclear power.
You get to decide who is more qualified to offer advice and commentary about a challenging technical field with a lot of hidden business and political interests involved.
Publisher, Atomic Insights
Host and producer, The Atomic Show Podcast
If you want a more balanced view of the Piketon, Ohio project that is not mine, you might want to read Laura Shin’s article titled Duke Considering First New U.S. Nuclear Plant in 30 Years on SolveClimate.com.