Pitching nuclear energy and explaining value of new plant construction
I returned last night from a short vacation to Washington, DC. I am such an atomic geek that my idea of a vacation is to spend a couple of days at the Nuclear Energy Assembly (NEA) in a dim hotel conference room surrounded by a crowd of business leaders, many in dark suits who qualify for a self-effacing description offered by Bill Johnson, the new CEO of the Tennessee Valley Authority – “male, pale and stale”. (I suppose I fit two of the three adjectives, but I am working hard to prevent people from applying one of the other words to me.)
Fortunately, the crowd at the Nuclear Energy Assembly included a growing number of decidedly not “male, pale and stale” leaders like Margaret Harding, Mimi Limbach, Ann Bisconti and Caroline Reda.
It will take me several days to digest all of the things I learned and heard, both from the podium and in the valuable “hallway conversations” that often occur when you meet people in face to face situations. I have some recorded audio that might find its way into an Atomic Show or two. I also arose early one morning to get a sneak peak at a terrific tool for teaching high school students about the basics of radiation and nuclear energy. That tool comes from an organization that is very familiar to the people in the industry. The group normally maintains a low public profile; the high quality of the educational material opened my eyes to the depth of their talent.
The first thing I want to share, however, is an inspiring video produced by the North American Young Generations in Nuclear (NA-YGN) group. They were in town for a meeting that is scheduled to align with the NEA and have a tradition of taking advantage of being in Washington to meet their elected representatives on Capital Hill and tell them a little about nuclear energy.
I was not the only one who thought that the video was one of the more memorable parts of the conference. Late yesterday afternoon, Robert Trigaux published a column titled A busy week of pitching by nuclear power industry, but who’s buying? in the Tampa Bay Times. Here is a quote from that article:
In Washington, D.C., Duke Energy’s deposed CEO-for-a-moment Bill Johnson, now head of the Tennessee Valley Authority power company, stood at the podium of this week’s Nuclear Energy Institute conference to unveil the industry’s secret weapon.
It’s a video of the North American Young Generation in Nuclear, the nuclear power industry’s organization of youthful engineers and others who work at nuclear power plants. Some 300 of them, including a half dozen or so from a Duke nuclear plant in North Carolina, descended this week on Capitol Hill to spread the nuclear gospel to 200 members of Congress.
“It is very important that these people see that there are young people interested in nuclear science and technology and are advocating for a positive future,” says the group’s young chairwoman.
The organization delivers a compelling appeal to Congress to support nuclear power. And the video boosts morale at the Nuclear Energy Institute meeting where an industry gathered to celebrate the nation’s few new nuclear power plant projects — in Georgia, South Carolina and Tennessee. Says NEI: Nuclear is “well positioned to expand” as the economy rebounds.
Trigaux goes on to remind his readers about the recent Tampa Bay Times article questioning the value of the Levy County nuclear power plant project and concluding with the opinion that building a natural gas plant would be cheaper for consumers, even when taking a 60 year plant lifetime into account.
I provided the following comment on Trigaux’s column.
Robert – I attended the Nuclear Energy Assembly and saw the inspiring video of young nuclear professionals sharing information with their elected representatives on Capital Hill. Thank you for noticing the event.
Your paper has done some important work by scrutinizing the high initial cost of building new nuclear power plants in the United States. It is an issue that is certainly worth attention and analysis by people who do not yet understand how interested they should be in the decision process.
As you pointed out, trying to compare the cost of different types of power plants, each with their own unique advantages and disadvantages is a daunting task. However, it is not beyond the capabilities of people who are both outside of the nuclear industry and outside of the professional opposition groups to the nuclear industry.
Many of the inputs of the analysis have more than a monetary component and many of the variables are not independent of the choice that is being made. For example, how valuable is the nuclear plant’s proven ability to store all waste produced over many decades of operation in a small corner of a large site? Who would Floridians prefer to pay, distant suppliers of natural gas and pipeline construction companies or neighbors that hold well paying jobs operating and maintaining a nuclear plant during its 60 year lifetime?
Is it horrible that Duke Energy may earn a reasonable profit for the hard work and financial risk associated with a lengthy construction project? Would it be better for unknown gas suppliers to be able to sell fuel for 60 years at unpredictable market prices that are partially driven by the number of successful – or unsuccessful – nuclear projects?
As Ivan Penn pointed out in his article, there are a number of cost components associated with new nuclear plant construction projects that can be influenced by the public and our elected officials. Do you advocate intelligent action to identify those places where we can decide to help lower costs without sacrificing safety?
After I read Ivan Penn’s initial article, I wrote the following blog post on Atomic Insights – Is Levy County nuclear plant too expensive to compete with natural gas?
You can probably tell that I tend to favor the nuclear plant option. Even though I no longer live in Florida, most of my family does. They are paying the easily affordable extra fees on current bills but they will reap the benefits of the clean, reliable power that new nuclear plants will be able to provide if they receive both political and financial investment support. So will their children and probably their grandchildren.
I’m not sure when Americans became so selfish that they began creating spreadsheet formulas that severely discount the value of making long term investments that benefit future generations. For some odd reason, bankers and investment professionals have taught people to apply factors and equations that result in essentially no value being assigned to benefits that are produced more than about 20 years into the future. Those equations also make future expenditures for fuel look pretty tiny compared to money that needs to be spent in the near future to build long-lasting production facilities.
I’m sure glad my parents and their parents were willing to help build power plants that benefit Floridians today.
Rod Adams – Publisher, Atomic Insights
Former resident of Pembroke Pines, Orlando, and Tarpon Springs
I think it would be wise to quote Nnadir when he says that a nuclear reactor is a gift to humanity for 100 years.
But who is listening.
People confuse the amortization period of the initial build with life of the asset.
Japan has a new NRA in place. Then a new nuclear reprocessing plant on its way in a couple of weeks.
So the reactors are coming back. It is a no brainer.
Now Germany. They have been going 180s a couple of times already on nuclear. You can watch a the electoral results come september and do no be surprised if Angela switches allegances again.
England. EDF is about to land the reactors in a week or two. The strike price issue is on its way to being resolved with the government.
If only Rod could get these SMRs running !
I watched the video. I liked seeing the names of the congress people that the NA-YGN members spoke about issues. Would be interesting to know what were those issues.
Good Show! To anyone in the know; If there’s a way to monitor the Congressional response and feedback from this worthwhile and noble effort please publicize it, along with a hard tally of certified pro-nuclear pols. Be nice to know the strength of the anti-Boxer opposition. I hope the NA-YGN takes a go at producing _adult_ educational pro-nuclear TV/Web Ads and PSAs and getting the media to know that they’re available as nuclear consultants besides Doc Kaku.
I found this page on the NAYGN website where I added a comment which is under moderation. I wrote…
“I recently watched a video on Youtube that was titled “NAYGN Hill Day 2013″ In this video a number of NAYGN members mention the various congress people with whom they spoke. They mention that they discussed issues. I would be very interested to hear what those issues were. I am curious to know what kinds of topics are permitted. I am curious as a blogger and pro-nuclear advocate.
We have the same goals. I wish to spread awareness about the value of nuclear energy and what can be done to make nuclear energy’s acceptance more widespread. As a blogger I often point out the problems with over-regulation and the unsatisfactory efforts by the nuclear energy stakeholders at promoting the industry. I also frequently explain that “an all of the above” energy policy is wasteful and “politically safe.” I would like to see more support for Small Modular Reactors and more R & D in North America in Molten Salt Reactors.
Pandora’s Promise is a new documentary which I encourage NAYGN members to support and spread the word about it’s message. This film interviews people who have had a change of heart. Those who were once anti-nuclear are now pro-nuclear. Many of the myths about Nuclear Energy are debunked and does a good job explaing how nuclear energy can provide a path to reducing climate change.
Thanks Rick Maltese email@example.com“
Ah … I remember participating in Hill Day. It’s really nice that they do it in May, because they have to walk there, and the weather in May is usually really nice.
I remember going to visit aids for Senator Lindsey Graham and some Democratic Congressman from Northern Virginia (the name of whom I cannot remember exactly — it was probably Jim Moran). Graham’s aid was pretty good. I was impressed. He was sharp, well informed, and could focus on and discuss what we had to say.
The Congressman’s aid, on the other hand, was quite a disappointment. As if to gratuitously reinforce the liberal stereotype, the guy had a ponytail. Furthermore, he could not have been more out-to-lunch when it came to energy policy. It was quite a contrast.
How can any of you be pro-nuclear when technology does not exist to safely operate or store spent fuel, yes dry casks leak. Nuclear is destroying our planet look at the Pacific Ocean or Hanford this madness must stop now we don’t need nuclear we have plenty of truly green and clean alternatives i.e. wind, solar, tidal. Please for future generations stop this madness NOW. Thank you for your time concerning this dire matter.
OMG, she’s right! There’s over 200 billion curies worth of radioactive material in the Pacific Ocean!! Oh the horror!!!
Oh wait … that’s all there naturally. Never mind.
Michelle – A good, basic science course would do you wonders. Since you seem to be fixated on “nuclear,” I’d recommend an entry level physics course. The only thing that is “dire” is your need for a decent introduction to scientific fundamentals.
For the sake of reasonable discourse without nonsense and hyperbole, please stop your madness now. Thank you.
There might not be much nuclear material in the Pacific Ocean but there is all that plastic in the Pacific ocean “gyre”. Where does all that plastic come from? Well a lot of it has the Fisher-Price and Little Tykes labels. Yes, all you fathers on here who insist on having kids and having your front yard furnished by Playskool are making the ocean full of plastic. If not for all those kids, the ocean would be a lot cleaner.
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