The Atomic Show #160 – Bumps in the Renaissance Road
The nuclear renaissance in the United States is not moving forward very quickly. Several more companies have announced delays in previously released schedules and others have imposed hiring freezes or actual work reductions. The opposition is strong; supporters need to redouble efforts.
Meredith Angwin and Charles Barton joined Rod Adams to talk about some of the reasons and effects of that slowing progress. They also discussed a nuclear education outreach program involving art being run by PopAtomic Studios and an exciting nuclear video documentary project being developed by a couple of sharp and involved high school debate students.
If you are interested in finding out how to support the video project, please send Rod Adams an email at rod(underscore)adams(at symbol)atomicinsights(dot)com
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The requirement to address the free marketplace economics in new nuclear construction appears to be a situation unique to the US and Great Britian. Everywhere else the government has stepped foward and mandated nuclear development. South Korea, China, UAE, etc. are agressively moving forward while the US flounders with a lack of leadership in this area. Nuclear is wanted for green, global warming conderns, but there is no allowance for any cost increment beyond a good old dirty fossil plant in making that happen.
Wind and solar factories are overseas because other countries have embraced the technology years ago while the US hemmed and hawed and would not offer consistent tax incentive structures for the programs. Nuclear heavy manufacturing is oversea for the same reasons. The postponing of the N-G/Areva Newport News facility is another sign of this disfunctional energy policy in this country, and will lead to more manufacturing being done outside the US as other countries move forward agressively.
The US is poised for another round of R&D producing new technology that will be embraced by the rest of the world while it is not fully implemented in this country.
I may have missed it in your discussion, but one factor that appears negative for the “nuclear renaissance” is the assumption among many “movers and shakers” that there will be abundant natural gas extracted from US shale, as well as global shale, in the future, for the next number of decades.
I was studying “The Role of Natural Gas in a Low-Carbon Energy Economy” by Flavin and Kitasei of the “Worldwatch Institute”. They point out that
“natural gas power plants now represent 31% of US generating capacity (excluding gas-fired peaking plants, which contribute another 13%), compared with 33% for coal” reference: Form EIA-860 Database Annual Electric Generator Report? (Washington, DC: March 2010), at http://www.eia.doe.gov/cneaf/electricity/page/eia860.html
“with the peaking plants excluded, gas-fired power generators are under-utilized, operating at an average of only 42% of their capacity” same reference.
“The carbon emissions of the US power sector could be decreased significantly simply by running some of the existing plants more frequently and operating coal plants less, which would have a significant effect on carbon emissions. In a 2010 study, the Congressional Research Service found that if existing combined-cycle plants could be operated at 85 percent of their capacity, gas could replace nearly one-third of coal generation and reduce power sector carbon dioxide emissions by 19 percent. Taking into account transmission and siting constraints, however, the author estimated that the amount of current coal generation that could be displaced by natural gas might be closer to 9 percent.” reference: Stan Mark Kaplan, ?Displacing Coal with Generation from Existing Natural Gas-Fired Power Plants? (Washington, DC: Congressional Research Service, 19 January 2010
Now Flavin and Kitasei, authors of this tome, are environmentalists, not “movers and shakers”. Their perspective is how to reduce carbon emissions.
Never mind carbon emissions for the moment, just leaving coal generation at the level it is and ramping up existing gas alleviates capacity problems for some time, i.e. avoids the necessity to start construction of those new nukes.
I corresponded with Kitasei suggesting natural gas may not prove to be as low carbon as most presently think, pointing out the preliminary work of Robert Howarth i.e. “Preliminary Assessment of the Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Natural Gas obtained by Hydraulic Fracturing” http://www.eeb.cornell.edu/howarth/GHG%20emissions%20from%20Marcellus%20Shale%20–%20April%201,%202010%20draft.pdf He stated they’d change their position if Howarth is right, but he had exchanged views with Howarth and not been convinced as yet.
I corresponded with Howarth asking him if he had anything to add to this paper. He replied saying he’s busy working on it and contact him again in a few months. In other words, he may be thinking his preliminary assessment is not bogus, and likely to shake things up.
So I’d think there is a factor that is affecting nuclear now, and it is, notwithstanding that all the people who committed to gas as if the price would always be low got burned, the prevailing opinion is that gas prices will be low for a long time to come, and the bonus is the greens are not going to raise a fuss if they build more gas generators. So they use their coal less and existing gas more, make money and sell the idea as “green”.
Why build new nukes now with all the advantages of gas to utilities (if the price was going to be low and stable, duh). So it has to factor in, the execs must be staring into their crystal balls, will the price of gas be low and stable? I don’t think they are thinking that the greens might turn on them if guys like Howarth are correct. That’s a wild card that may factor in though.
Just some thoughts that came to mind. I always enjoy listening to your shows.
I listened for just a short period of time. It didn’t take you long to knock renewables. My question is not of who is right or who is wrong. My questions is, do you believe that we can only rely on one source of energy? If we are to reduce green house gas emissions, find ways to reduce the stress on the utility grid during peak hours, and diversify our energy sector there has to be a well balanced mixture of all sources of energy. That includes renewables, Nuclear, and the others. Is that something you can agree with?
“I’m a Liberal. I like jobs.”
That may not be an exact quote of you. Might be a “heh heh” in there. Your implication is that that Conservatives stand in the way of jobs. In the modern American parlance, who stands in the way of MANY jobs with unreasonable laws and their offshoots, unreasonable regulations? Maybe you mean small-L liberal, or the people who get out of the way of business. If so, then you’re not a Liberal but a liberty-lovin’ person like me. That’s been my impression lo these 160 episodes.
Congratulations on that, by the way. It was (nearly all) a fine ‘cast.
Who stands in the way of the next generation of nuclear power? Your “smoking gun” folks are prominent and proven. But for whom is their pablum tailored? (Mixed metaphors, right?) Dare I say “environmentalists,” “hippies,” “Liberals,” people who think we can return to the cave or hut and live as one with nature (as if combustion and electricity aren’t natural).
Your “choir” is quite pro-job. Your hippies and environmentalists are not, at least judging by their actions. Maybe they’re pro-job in the centrally-controlled, anti-freedom sense, if you know what I mean.
Reese – yes, I suppose I would not use a capital letter in my description of liberal. It is more like liberal in the sense of the John Paul Jones description of an officer.
“It is by no means enough that an officer of the Navy should be a capable mariner. He must be that, of course, but also a great deal more. He should be as well a gentleman of liberal education, refined manners, punctilious courtesy, and the nicest sense of personal honor.
He should be the soul of tact, patience, justice, firmness, kindness, and charity. No meritorious act of a subordinate should escape his attention or be left to pass without its reward, even if the reward is only a word of approval. Conversely, he should not be blind to a single fault in any subordinate, though at the same time, he should be quick and unfailing to distinguish error from malice, thoughtlessness from incompetency, and well meant shortcomings from heedless or stupid blunder.
In one word, every commander should keep constantly before him the great truth, that to be well obeyed, he must be perfectly esteemed.”
(Note: When I checked to verify my memory of that quote from my Plebe Summer Reef Points, I found out that history has been revised and that current editions of Reef Points attribute the quote to Augustus C. Buell.)
I maintain that the “hippies and environmentalists” would have no influence or power at all if it were not for the fact that restricting supplies of commodity products is good for the profits of established suppliers. They might talk about returning to the cave, but that is all show. I know some leaders of activist environmental groups. I have rubbed shoulders with them at expensive cocktail parties held in big homes and seen the automobiles that they drive.
Thank you to Mr. Barton and Ms. Angwin. That was a swell conversation.
And Mr. Adams, thank you for the quote. Profound no matter the origin. Though never an officer, I shall strive to have “tact, patience, justice, firmness, kindness, and charity.” Charity of my own choosing, of course, inherent in most definitions of the word.
May we all drive such automobiles and live in such big homes. Extrapolate from two hundred years ago. Let’s raise the tide some more. You can obviously see what wealth and luxury to which we have access compared to a pharaoh of 5K years ago. Extrapolate from that time.
Bill Whittle wrote a funny essay about that a few years ago.
Googling…. Ah, yes. It goes straight to the “energy slaves” we command and of which you have written:
http://www.windsofchange.net/archives/the_great_pharaoh_cheops_at_the_7-eleven_store.html . (This is a quoter’s archive. Mr. Whittle’s old site is murky, but the full essay is called “Sanctuary.”)
That’s not that far removed from two hundred years ago, the early-morning of the Industrial Revolution.
Anyway, yes, the restrictions of supplies come from misinformed votes swayed by political power which is money. As I wrote in my 2002 essay (before I ever read you), the whole world could live in luxury beyond the pharaoh’s if not for irrational fears– fed by and consumed by so-called-big-L Liberals.
Big-L Liberals want the control so only they can ensure it for themselves.
I’d like to address a passing remark Rod made that Nuclear does not compete in motor fuel. While I’m sure that’s currently true, there are projects mostly using wind or solar, to “Recapture CO2.” I envision this as an alternative to rechargeable storage batteries. I haven’t been able to find overall cycle efficiency numbers or final product price estimates , but I’m proposing it as a possible future source of liquid fuel for motor vehicles, from nuclear power.
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