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34 Comments

  1. Coal not dirty? A few days ago, I was riding in a car that was passing through Downtown Knoxville. I saw a black stone wall and realized that what made the stone black was coal smoke. My father who was a University of Tennessee student in Knoxville in the early 1930’s described to me how on winter morning he would walk from the rooming house where he lived to the University. In the gutters would be a layer of coal soot that my father described as looking like black snow. I remember my mother complaining about how coal soot soiled the just washed white clothes she hung on the line. Coal not dirty? He must be mad! Utterly insane.

  2. I recommend to anyone puzzled about which resource is preferable to visit a coal-fired plant and then visit a nuclear plant. The 600 or so coal-fired plants store their waste in the soil, water, air and in human tissues. Waste from coal and gas-fired plants causes 25,000-30,000 deaths per year just from fine particulates; in addition there are hundreds of thousands of cases a year of lung and heart disease, including nonfatal heart attacks. (Abt Associates study for Clean Air Task Force). Airways in children and the elderly are especially vulnerable to this pollution. About 120 million tons per year of solid waste is generated. It’s placed in open pits, often unlined. True, some of it is recycled into bowling balls and wall board and paving material. I visited a coal-fired plant that had won awards for being environmentally friendly, etc. Our guide was coughing, and my friends and I were too. The guide told us how advanced the plant now was in terms of emissions reductions: people living in the area used to get soot in their hair whenever they went outdoors.
    By contrast you can eat off the floor in a nuclear plant it’s so clean. The small volume of waste is always isolated and contained. There has not been one death in the US to the public due to the operation of a nuclear plant. The accident rate in the nuclear power industry is lower than that of the real estate and banking industries, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.
    When I give presentations on nuclear power around the country, the vituperation occasionally aimed in my direction has come more from defenders of coal than from anti-nuclear renewables fans.

  3. Basically saying coal isn’t dirty redefines what dirt is. Oddly, you will find few in the coal industry itself, *especially* on the users end, that think coal is NOT dirty. The argument is that it can be ‘cleaned up’. Also, don’t forget: coal particulate is not regulated. The relative lowering of coal particulate in the 2.5, 5 and 10 micron size is the result of other forms of regulated emissions from coal plants: they are still HUGE prodigious polluters, the worse there is, in FACT.
    Secondly, the troll never gives any arguments against why he thinks coal is dirty, inversely: why he think it’s clean. His “prove it” method suggests that he is not only trolling, he may actually think pollution itself is not dirty (even if they are synonymous in effect).

  4. Coal is a fuel whose time has passed. It’s best if we all get together and figure out how to make a transition from it where everybody wins and nobody loses rather than the coal community putting their backs to the wall and making everyone else’s lives miserable. There needs to be an economic analysis of the entire coal industry as well as their networks and nexuses with other industries – to figure out who would “lose” in the transition from coal, and then figure out how we can guarantee that they don’t lose.
    Also, in this transition, there needs to be something done for rural Appalachia, which used to be rich because of coal but has slowly been sliding into poverty with the gradual shift away from coal. Perhaps an “Ohio Valley Authority” to complement the TVA could be created to repower the northern part of Appalachia.
    I would ask those connected with coal to ask themselves – does it matter what you do to get paid so long as you get paid? I wouldn’t stand for a transition that kicked those with good jobs to the curb – we have to figure out how to ensure this is not the case.
    Let’s figure out how we can go into the future together rather than fighting about a technology that has served us well, but we need to move on from for everyone’s sake.

  5. Dave, you are singing my song! People resist change, particularly when it affects them financially, as would be expected. We all want financial security (and it matters not how each person defines that – let their conscience be their guide), good health, stable families, a government strong enough to referee disputes but not so strong as to stifle productivity and innovation, etc.
    Imagine the boost to our national morale if we had leadership that recognized the “big picture” of how everyone could benefit from a robust, clear-minded, arithmetically-justified (as opposed to emotion-based fantasies) energy policy. Make that the new “Apollo-project” that actually has immediate relevance and demonstrates to the world that we can and will lead again.
    There is no scarcity, other than that of leadership, in DC. And both sides of the aisle are guilty of it.

  6. Doc – as an aside I do not like the Apollo or Manhattan Project analogies. Compared
    to establishing a viable energy infrastructure, those were mere sprints to a one time demonstration. The projects that I believe are better models are the Interstate Highway System, the air traffic control system, land grant colleges, the Rural Electrification Administration, and the Arpanet/Internet.

  7. Merry Christmas Rod
    I am very pro-nuke. This is what Rod need to do. They are proposing a new nuke near where Rod lives. Rod needs to attend every public meeting for that plant. Rod needs to become very knowledge about the benefits of the plant to his communality. Rod needs to write letters to his local elected officials and papers.
    The rest of you should do the same. We live in a democracy. Part of the citing process for power plants is public input. However, regulators and decision makers are not impressed with absurd ignorant claims about other generating choices.

  8. “Yeah we could not possibly close the death camps, all those poor employees of the death camps would be jobless!”
    Are you f****g kidding me?!?

    1. I certainly agree with the spirit that action is needed now, is needed yesterday, is needed 10 years ago, but the form of how you say it leaves something to be desired.
      These are real people and they aren’t engaged in mass murder – even if the ultimate consequences of the use of coal, according to the projections, may as well be that. Realize that unless we help to solve the coal industry’s problems with the future – they will get in the way. Assume that if the proper inducements are given, they will get out of the way and get on our side. We don’t need more enemies. Buying off enemies might be crass, but the alternative is to have them drag everyone down. We don’t need a fight to the last breath until the last drop of blood is spilled. Better to offer honorable terms to a worthy opponent, let them take our colors, and carry the day. War to the hilt will destroy everyone and cause problems with our future, and with our future, everyone’s future. Humanity’s future.
      Besides, is it the fault of the coal industry that AGW is taking place? The answer to that question is no. They aren’t the f*****g Nazis. This isn’t a zero-sum game where if those who support AGW win, the people who need to change their behaviors in a carbon-limited future have to lose, or at least, lose that much. Instead, we have to figure out how to solve their problems to make transition to non-carbon energy forms painless enough for them that they win too and they join us instead of trying to beat us over the head with a coal shovel and drag everyone down with them. We can do that. We’re a society that solves problems. And solving the problems of others with the future is how business is done.

    2. With that being said, it often does help if you have a bunch of folks who do think that the coal industry is a reincarnation of the Third Reich bang on the door of the smoke-filled room where the deals are made just as a reminder to the coal industry that terms and finality need to be arrived at.
      E.g. “Deal with us…OR DEAL WITH THEM!” 😉
      Merry Christmas to all!

      1. Thanks for your eloquent reply Dave, as usual I agree fully.
        Merry Winter Solstice, Christmas, and other Holidays you may celebrate this time of the year 🙂

  9. There is nothing “ignorant” about the proof that coal kills. It produces prodigious amounts of particulate and fly ash. All of which is heavy metal laden. It causes pollution Kit. You know what “pollution” is? I think the problem is that expect the rather well read audience here to buy into your shilling for coal.
    No one, at all, denies the importance of coal, historically, in providing energy. But to deny the health effects of coal puts you into the loony category. I’ve lived in coal country and down wind from coal burners (both for steel and power). I never, ever, want to do that again.
    You’ve been answered here. If you are pro-nuclear, it means you are for phasing out coal as there simply is no reason to continue to hydro-carbon burning for energy, destroying the mountains of W. Va and using this stuff if you are in favor of proceeding toward nuclear.

    1. What if you want to use nukes for electricity, and coal for Fischer-Tropsch gasoline and diesel?

      1. I think that what Guest meant to say is that Fischer-Tropsch requires syngas as the feedstock (syngas being carbon monoxide (CO) and hydrogen (H2).) This requires a higher-temperature heat source than LWRs can provide as they max out at 300oC or so, and this isn’t hot enough.
        You need a temperature of at least 500oC minimum, if I recall. Probably even higher if you want to avoid all the PAH/”tar” issues that could lead to F-T cat fouling – perhaps 750-1000oC to convert coal really quickly without catalysts if materials permit. Doubtful that you’ll get above 850-900oC but that’s enough. What happens at this point is you take the coal and inject it into a fluidized bed reactor along with supercritical steam at that high temperature range. You don’t allow any oxygen to enter; the coal does this:
        C + H2O = CO + H2
        This is the water gas reaction. It’s somewhat endothermic – it is heat absorbing, not heat liberating – but with the reactor to keep the steam supercritical, there’s no problem with this. There will be issues, though: coal isn’t a pure substance. You’ll have to remove ammonia and hydrogen sulfide at the next phase. Following desulfurization and deammonification, you have a relatively pure syngas stream. You then cool the syngas down, and route it into a catalytic reactor where depending on what kind of catalysts are used, the syngas will form into long-chain hydrocarbons. I believe that heat will be evolved in the process – cooling the catalyst will be a challenge, but a solvable one.
        H2 + CO = CxHy + CO2
        You’ll want to use the reactor to power some kind of plant to capture the CO2 from this, and figure out some way to deal with it. You could probably Sabatier it, given enough energy, and the right catalysts if you wanted to, and use it as a very pure source of elemental carbon, for composites or the like, which would be kind of cool.
        After you finish converting the syngas into long-chain hydrocarbons, you then run it through the normal refinery processes, which are significantly aided by the lack of contaminants in the synthetic oil and the rich heat source of the nuclear reactor. In essence, a properly designed coal to liquids plant with nuclear power could be a refinery that only produces carbon in the form of its finished products, bringing a relatively pollution-free process to an old industry whose refineries are now major sources of air pollution. Plus, you would be able to cut unstable foreign elements out of the liquid-fuels loop, which would be priceless. In addition, you’d reduce the carbon pollution generated by refining now.
        In the long run, if biomass could be grown on a large scale and made transportable, you could run the same processes on the biomass that you run on the coal and turn it into syngas in place of the coal. But there would be EROEI issues there – still, it represents a possibility for the much longer term.

  10. @Rod – Thanks for the more appropriate comparisons than the Apollo project. I will keep them in mind. Making the comparisons using readily-identifiable structures provides for the greatest understanding by the widest audience.

  11. @Carty: if you can capture the CO2 then yes. We’ve talked about this on energyfromthorium.com in the past. But not with LWRs you LFTR or VHTR

    1. http://www.ecomall.com/greenshopping/cleanair.htm
      Foreword
      John D. Spengler, Professor of Environmental Health, Harvard School of Public Health (Boston, September2000)
      While incidents like London’s “killer fog” of 1952 clearly demonstrate a link between air pollution anddeath, only in the past decade have tremendous advances in medical science and epidemiology allowedresearchers to quantify the health impacts of everyday air pollution levels. In studies conducted incities throughout the world, epidemiologists have consistently found that more people are hospitalizedand die from respiratory and cardiac failure in proportion to elevated levels of soot, or “fineparticles,” and other pollutants. The consistent worldwide findings, combined with a much clearerunderstanding about how we are exposed to outdoor air pollution, have convinced most experts that theseresults are not a coincidence. In particular, two landmark studies established that people living in morepolluted areas suffer a higher risk of death from fine particle pollution than those living in lesspolluted areas.
      These studies and many others formed the basis of U.S. EPA’s 1997 decision to issue a new nationalambient air quality standard for “fine particles” known as PM2.5 and defined as particles smaller than2.5 microns-one millionth of a meter in diameter (less than one-hundredth of the width of a human hair).EPA estimated that attaining the annual fine particle levels required by the new standard would prevent15,000 deaths per year. And recent monitoring data suggests that if present air pollution levels persist, the health standard EPA established will be violated every year in hundreds of communities in the U.S. What is more, as EPA acknowledged, the science underlyingthe standard indicates that deaths occur even at levels below the standard. Indeed, the science now tellsus that health effects extend to lower levels of fine particles in our air, suggesting there is nodefinite threshold below which the air is safe to breathe.
      Not surprisingly, industries that contribute to this air pollution, such as the electric utility industryand diesel trucking industry, are disputing EPA’s decision and the science on which it was based. Theyclaim EPA relied on “junk science” and then sued in court to block the standards. They demanded access tothe data underlying the seminal studies to help refute the results. In the end, the Health EffectsInstitute, a research center co-funded by industry and EPA and founded to be a neutral arbiter forpolicy-related health science disputes, was called upon to reanalyze the studies.
      This past summer, HEI announced the results of its reanalysis, which unequivocally confirmed the findingsof the two major studies underlying the fine particle standard. HEI also re-leased a new study thatfurther supports the link between particles and death. And while the fate of the fine particle standarditself awaits resolution in the courts, there is no longer any legitimate doubt that fine particles atlevels commonly experienced in many parts of the U.S. contribute significantly to death and disease.

    1. Kit – I agree with part of your comment. My driving 100 miles per day is not “clean”. I am working hard to change that. I wish I could find a cleaner car than my 45-50 MPG diesel, but so far, no joy.
      In contrast, power plant purchasers have had a cleaner alternative for more than 50 years. You may think that coal is clean enough; I don’t. If there was no alternative, I would choose burning coal over not producing power – lack of electricity is far more hazardous to human health than breathing coal combustion emissions. However, that is NOT the alternative and you know it.
      We have a cheaper, cleaner, more abundant alternative for power plants than burning coal; the only disadvantage that it has is that coal marketers have done a more effective job at fighting to retain their sales than uranium marketers have in trying to capture the sales.

  12. I have observed a large percentage of Americans smoking. Never say anyone killed. I have thought about killing a few. Disgusting habit but is hard to find smokers who are not busy doing a lot of those other things. Especially getting old!
    So as well as denying that particulate pollution from coal plants is a health hazard, you now wish to deny that smoking cigarettes is a health hazard? Is that what you’re trying to say here?
    I’m sure that will bolster your credibility no end.

  13. Finrod, are you denying that getting old is a significant health hazard?
    Sorry to break the new to you all but the risk of getting old and dying is 100% barring some more violent end.
    The fear mongering industry trades on junk science to make a living. Finrod, I do not make a living selling books. Part of my job is keeping co-workers out of body bags. Smoking in an explosive atmosphere is a significant heath hazard. Smoking in bed is a significant heath hazard’
    So Finrod, if you can come up with a benefit of smoking I will be happy to weigh the benefits. However, there are manipulating cigarettes commercials, the manipulating fear mongering industry,

  14. Kit P, I find your discussion with me to be somwewhat illogical and disjointed. You said:
    I have observed a large percentage of Americans smoking. Never say anyone killed. I have thought about killing a few. Disgusting habit but is hard to find smokers who are not busy doing a lot of those other things. Especially getting old!
    In the context of your post this can surely only mean that the evidence for deaths caused by particulate pollution from coal burning power plants is as weak (or as strong) as the evidence for deaths caused by smoking tobacco. You appear to have put yourself in the ‘tobacco smoking causes cancer’ denialist brigade… which is your right, of course, but a rather bizzare strategy to my mind. Or is that not what you meant? If it isn’t, what did your remark mean?

  15. Finrod, the logical conclusion of having clean air is that a coal plant (or anything else) is not making air dirty.
    A clean environment can be defined mathematically using methodology approved by regulations.
    Toxicity and carcinogenicity are two different mechanism of causing harm to our bodies. I can distill the nicotine out of tobacco and inject into a mouse. It will die very quickly. Plutonium has about the same toxicity of nicotine but no one is selling plutonium. The toxicity of many substances is well know.
    It is the dose (toxicity x concentration x length if time exposed = dose) that makes the poison.
    There may be a toxic effect of PM but the level is so small that it is just a theory. Furthermore, air quality is is generally so good that it is not a problem. If it was a problem we would see it when old people like my wife and I rake and burn leaves dead in the yard.
    This is why the doctor from Harvard is a lier. As a medical profession he should know the correct way to communicate dose relationship. His conduct is unethical and the medical profession should police itself. Fat chance of that happening.
    Smoking does not cause lung cancer. Like very high doses of radiation, smoking has a well established risk factor for cancer. The same tables used to look up toxicity have another column for carcinogenicity potency factor. The higher your exposure the higher your risk. How often has you heard that Radon or second has smoke is the second leading cause of lung cancer? Pure fear mongering!
    So for cancer and toxicity with no defined lower threshold of harm risk is caclculated.
    So as a professional and practical matter, I need know several things to protect workers and the public. What is the concentration of a pollutant where the people are and what is the dose relationship. If the calculated risk is a very, very small number you are done.
    A quick example, I measure the PM in the air for Rod’s family. I calculate the risk Rod’s family. OMG they should be dead. I look around for a source. I turn off Rod oil burner POV. After waiting 5 minutes I again measure the PM in the air for Rod’s family. This time the calculated risk is a very, very small number.
    The logical conclusion of having clean air is that a coal plant is not making it dirty.
    http://www.airnow.gov/

  16. Rod,
    Calling someone names like “Pro Coal Troll” does nothing but make you look petty and ignorant. It also may cause you to lose credibility and respect from people that may not be as pro-nuke as yourself. It’s all about the big tent. If you come across as welcoming, then you may change some minds. If you call people names, it makes you look no better than your run-of-the-mill divisive political pundits like Keith Olbermann and Sean Hannity.
    Here’s to hoping that you’ll do better next time.

    1. Kit – considering the arguments that you gave me about using nuclear energy for ships, remote locations, and as replacements for the boilers in existing coal fired power plants, it would be difficult to figure out how you consider yourself more pro-nuke than I am. I may not work at a commercial plant, but I am quite involved in the technology on a variety of professional levels.
      Closing Rancho Seco was a political and economic tragedy, but you give the “intervenors” too much credit. The plant owners did a poor job defending their asset, the plant employees did not effectively communicate the good that they were doing, and the competitive fuel suppliers to the plant probably provided aid and comfort to the more vocal opponents.

  17. Quoted here are several reports (in fact EVERY report) that shows PM to be a hazard. I may of missed your response to these but you really fail to show even a smidgen of evidence that PM is not a hazard or there is so little of it from coal plants that it makes no difference.
    The contrary evidence to this assertion on your part is overwhelming as you know. You are reduced to calling it ‘junk science’. Your inability to even IMPLY any science, AT ALL, that cigarettes don’t cause heart desiese and cancer it to be expected: there none. You reduce these deaths to “old age”. Do you believe ANYONE believes this? You believe, really, lung cancer AS the cause of death for people who smoke cigarettes is the SAME as those who don’t?

  18. David did you go to:
    http://www.airnow.gov/
    Just how much evidence do you need? What air pollution are you talking about from coal plants?
    Please provide me a value and reference for the toxicity of PM in regulation so I can compare it observed values. You can not because it it is still in the research phase.
    The research is not junk science. The conclusions in the reports that there is a hazard, is junk science.

  19. Uh…thanks for the link. From the same link:
    http://www.airnow.gov/index.cfm?action=particle_health.page1#1
    “Are you at risk from particles?
    People with heart or lung disease, older adults, and children are considered at greater risk from particles than other people, especially when they are physically active. Exercise and physical activity cause people to breathe faster and more deeply and to take more particles into their lungs.
    Man at Risk to Particle PollutionPeople with heart or lung diseases such as coronary artery disease, congestive heart failure, and asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)are at increased risk, because particles can aggravate these diseases. People with diabetes also may be at increased risk, possibly because they are more likely to have underlying cardiovascular disease.
    Older adults are at increased risk, possibly because they may have undiagnosed heart or lung disease or diabetes. Many studies show that when particle levels are high, older adults are more likely to be hospitalized, and some may die of aggravated heart or lung disease.
    Children are likely at increased risk for several reasons. Their lungs are still developing; they spend more time at high activity levels; and they are more likely to have asthma or acute respiratory diseases, which can be aggravated when particle levels are high.
    It appears that risk varies throughout a lifetime, generally being higher in early childhood, lower in healthy adolescents and younger adults, and increasing in middle age through old age as the incidence of heart and lung disease and diabetes increases. Factors that increase your risk of heart attack, such as high blood pressure or elevated cholesterol levels, also may increase your risk from particles. In addition, scientists are evaluating new studies that suggest that exposure to high particle levels may also be associated with low birth weight in infants, pre-term deliveries, and possibly fetal and infant deaths.”
    The problem with PM2.5 and PM10 is that it is NOT regulated. Thus EVERY study conducted by every “.gov” used independent research to conduct health effects. Coal industry doesn’t want it regulated. Every study shows nasty health effects. Junk science? Hardly.
    Fortunately, there appears to be now one else but you how is pro-nuclear and pro-coal (and pro-cigarettes, despite your own abstaining from them). BTW…why has the RATE of cancer increased for those that smoke AT THE SAME age versus those that don’t? Anyone? Can anyone name a physicians group that thinks cigarettes are not as bad as they are. BTW…combine cigarettes with coal dusty and you are likely to die of cancer.
    david

    1. >> Older plants must retrofit BAT <<
      It would be nice if it was true. But it is not. The issue of grandfathering was pointed to you numerously, besides as an insider you should have known about grandfathering without any additional help.
      Summary: Kit you are lying through your teeth!

      1. Besides, the Best Available Technology for producing electricity using steam plants involves a nuclear fission heat source that produces ZERO emissions. It is hard to get better than ZERO when the goal is minimum emissions.

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