There Will Be Winners When Ignalina Shuts Down; The Winners Will Not Be Lithuanian Power Customers
Back in February 2007, I noted that there was a lot of interest among businesses that saw an opportunity to make some money by replacing the power output from the Ignalina Nuclear Power Plant in Lithuania. That plant currently supplies 70% of the electricity consumed in Lithuania. It is a valuable anchor for the Soviet era electrical power grid that supplies Lithuania and its neighbors, but the plant has been scheduled for an early termination as part of the 2004 agreement that the little country made when it joined the European Union.
Despite the efforts of many local residents and businesses who are going to see their power bills eventually double once the plant is no longer contributing to the local power supply, the momentum for the planned shutdown never really abated. On December 31, 2009, the plant will stop producing electricity and turn from a contributing part of the energy infrastructure into a pure cost that generates nothing of any salable value. Energy intensive industries will suffer and perhaps move away. The planned shutdown is coming during the middle of one of the worst recessions in recent history; the area may never recover lost opportunities as more and more of the local income must be devoted to purchasing fuel and electricity from the country’s former rulers in Russia.
Here is an excerpt from an article titled Estonia faces toughest challenge to cut emissions that illustrates some of the effects of the ill timed shutdown. (In my opinion, any shutdown of a nuclear plant before it reaches the end of its design life is ill-timed, especially in a situation where the replacement power source has not even begun construction.)
Lithuania is currently well ahead of the EU restrictions, but how the next decade will look is uncertain. Znutienė said that the country of nearly 4 million has reduced emissions to 50 percent of what they were in 1990, and will meet the strict Kyoto targets that were set earlier this decade.
But Lithuania is looking at a number of problematic situations in the next ten years. The most prominent is the closing of the Ignalina nuclear power plant, which produces almost 70 percent of the nation’s energy. In 2004, as a precondition for joining the EU, Lithuania agreed to shut down the plant because other EU members were worried about its similarities to the Chernobyl reactor that melted down in the late 1980s. No one had foreseen that its closure would coincide with Lithuania’s worst economic downturn ever, and this will force the country to import electricity and fossil fuels for the foreseeable future, rather than try to develop more expensive, sustainable sources.
“We worry a lot about the closing of the nuclear energy plant,” Znutienė said.
Kęstutis Navickas, project manager for the Baltic Environmental Forum, an environmental group, said that he expects a rise in emissions, and is “not sure if it will be for a short time.” But those in the government were more optimistic about the country’s environmental impact over the next ten years.
I do not understand the basis for the optimism; other than the fact that something has got to improve if you look far enough into the future. I am sure that the enterprises who sell the replacement electricity and fossil fuels will benefit by the closure as will the vendors and construction contractors that will be engaged in building any replacement power facilities. However, the best available course of action would be for the European Union to back off on its demand that the plant be shut down. It has been significantly modified and upgraded, its workers are well trained and have demonstrated a high degree of reliability and dedication. It is not another “Chernobyl” and it should not be shut down in order to benefit a small number of greedy suppliers.
Besides, how completely hypocritical is it for the European Union to demand emissions reductions from its member countries at the same time that it is forcing an emissions free facility to be shutdown with its output to be replaced by burning fossil fuels?
The Ignalina RBMK-1500 is probably the safest RBMK reactor anywhere as it has been upgraded with Western instrumentation and Western operational inspections – this is strictly a case of international bullying by EU politicians pandering to Green Party voters
Russia is ready to fill the gap, and is gearing up to build a two-reactor nuclear plant just 10 miles from the Lithuanian border in Russia’s exclave of Kaliningrad, wedged between Poland and Lithuania. The planned $5 billion Baltic Nuclear Power Plant, to be built near town of Sovetsk, would be overkill for Kaliningrad, a region of 1 million people whose future energy are already taken care of.
I am having a very hard time understanding why the Europeans are comfortable with the growing Russian hegemony in energy related matters; it is not as if they lack the historical context to compare their actions to. What we are witnessing here is a power grab by Russia that would give Tzar Pyotr pause, and before it is over there will be hell to pay for Western shortsightedness in this matter.
Perhaps we should also mention the other nuclear power plants downed in the new EU member countries for pure political reasons: 4 units of Kozloduy plant in Bulgaria http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kozloduy_Nuclear_Power_Plant and 2 units in Bohunice plant in Slovakia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bohunice_Nuclear_Power_Plants
All these were VVER-440, totaling 6×440 MWe = 2,640 MWe of clean power lost. This power will be replaced by burning some 30 000 metric tonnes of coal every damn day.
I wonder how many European politicians are on Gazprom’s payroll…
Just another example of the smoking gun.
Rod, unless you can show the robust concrete containment building that has a chance of surviving an airplane crash and system to capture and treat I-131, I would have to say it is another “Chernobyl”.
Sure causing an additional 1800 thyroid cancers in children is not numerically a significant health hazard but it sure is contrary to ARARA principles.
Kit – didn’t you recently tell us all that you were not anti-nuclear? Why do you think that it is necessary for a power plant to be able to survive an airplane crash? What is the special hazard of I-131 that is so much more dangerous that the routine emissions of coal plants that you readily accept? Is it really more hazardous that the cigarette smoke that you have recently been defending?
If nothing else, Ignalina exists and provides reliable power. If it was so dangerous, why did the EU let it continue to operate for another five years after Lithuania joined the Union. Heck, if it was so dangerous, why have its neighbors accepted its operation for the 23 years since Chernobyl happened?
My point here is why “break before make” and allow the region to suffer another body blow of removing a well operated, reliable, low marginal cost power plant that does not require continuous fuel deliveries from Russia.
Nice dodge Rod. You do not seem to understand why this plant is like Chernobyl. At first I thought is was an oversight.
If you join the EU, you are to the rules of the EU. It does not matter what I think.
I do not know what the standards were for the USSR. In the US and EU, nuke plants must be designed for external and internal hazards. Things like hurricanes, tornadoes, and accidental plane crashes if the power plant was near and airport. Every FSAR for a US nuke plant shows how the plant is designed to meet these requirements and protect the public during normal operation and an accident. Annual reports show each US nuke plant has emission levels within limits. TMI demonstrated that the design was two orders of magnitude safer than expected.
US design protected children. There were no adverse health effects have been detected as would be expected based on the amount of the releases. However, a phd from U. of Pittsburgh claimed 50,000 dead.
The plant in Lithuania is being closed because it does not meet EU standards as it was built to USSR standards. So Rod to suggest greed is the motive is more than a little dishonest on your part. To suggest that there is not an important safety issue is more than a little dishonest on your part.
Furthermore Rod, your continued misstating my position on coal plants is more than a little dishonest on your part. Coal plants are regulated under the CAA and CWA. No adverse health effects have been detected from the operation of coals.
Both regulations and my personal standards require that making electricity have no adverse affects on public health. Observation support my position. Granted I have not observed all power plants but air quality and radiation levels are easy to measure. Smoking gun please not have baked theories that defy common sense.
To be clear Rod, I am not defending smoking at all but pointing out your methodology is flawed. Surely there is someone out there knowledgeable in power plant environmental regulations that explain why regulations are very conservative. Somebody besides me must be able to explain why background levels of radiation and PM are not a hazard.
Kit – You keep asserting that coal plants are regulated under the Clean Air Act, but neglect to mention the fact that many operating plants are grandfathered so that they only have to meet the standards that were in effect when they were built unless they have been substantially modified. Many owners go to great lengths to avoid making qualifying modifications so that they can avoid the expense of meeting current standards.
More information about new source reviews and grandfathering of standards:
I will grant that the EU has the right to whatever policies they desire. I have the right to comment on those policies and to offer suggestions to whoever might have a more personal interest in the matter. I would not recommend the construction of an RBMK reactor today, but it sure seems wasteful and economically hazardous to shut it down at this point in time. Since poverty is one of the biggest health risks in a developed society, economic hazards can become health hazards. That is especially true in a place that is known for rather severe winter weather.
I also want to make something a bit more clear. I have never advocated action to shut down a coal fired power plant that is operating within regulations. I have merely stated on a number of occasions that those plants do not have to pay the full cost of their operation because they distribute their waste products into the environment. Some of those waste products are deadly – at least in the form and concentration that exist when and where they are created. The ONLY way that you can continue to claim that the air is clean is because your solution to pollution is dilution via a tall smoke stack.
In a world where all energy sources had to meet remotely similar standards for safety and internalizing their costs, nuclear would win a large portion of the market. Certain it would not always win, but it would win enough to significantly change the market and reduce the profitability of selling coal, oil and natural gas.
Kit, this plant is not like Chernobyl. It was substantially modified. In particular it does not suffer the drawbacks of Chernobyl which caused the trouble. Therefore your “another Chernobyl” claim is a scarce tactics inconsistent with facts.
The replacement power will be coal, emitting SO2, NOx, particulates, mercury, arsenic, cyanide, benzene, benzyl chloride, methyl chloride, acetaldehyde, toluene, methyl-ethyl ketone, tetrachlorethylene, hydrogen fluoride, and other yummy stuff.
However if you consider cigarette smoke harmless, I suspect you either fall for (or work for) the propagandist lies from groups such as Americans for Prosperity, or other apologists of industrial polluters.
Would this qualify as an example of the “Law of Unintended Consequences”? The Greens rail against the evils of nuclear power while dismissing its zero-emission capacity, its 90% capacity factor, its 60 year life span — all in favor of a policy that exacerbates the cost of energy. Seems to me the Greens are nothing more than eco-bullies who exert undue influence on decisions affecting millions of people that produce marginal, if not downright lousy, results.
More control by the elites, the political class, the intelligentsia and less freedom and liberty for the rest. In light of the abject failure of Copenhagen and Kyoto and the growing questioning of the veracity of AGW, doesn’t it make sense to step back and reassess the priorities? Or is Bjorn Lomborg to be dismissed as a “shill” for some carbon-energy-related corporate group? Please.
“More control by the elites, the political class, the intelligentsia and less freedom and liberty for the rest.”
Sure, the far left is bad. Also, we cannot forget about the powerful and monied interests of those who sell fossil fuels. I would say these people you see over in Russia and elsewhere are far more a threat than some ivory tower intellectuals and eco-paradise seeking idealists. Not saying these people are good, but you can’t just look at one side.
In light of the abject failure of Copenhagen and Kyoto and the growing questioning of the veracity of AGW, doesn’t it make sense to step back and reassess the priorities?
Among who are we seeing this growing questioning of anthropogenic climate change? (Global Warming is a misnomer so let’s call it what it is) Sure, I saw a poll of the general public says belief in climate change to be decreasing. This means very little, if anything, about whether ACC is true. More relevant is to ask the experts, the people who actually study long term weather patterns or climatologists. Last poll I saw a few years back, support for the idea seemed to be over 90 percent. Has this changed significantly? I don’t know for sure, but I would like to see some evidence that the growing questioning of ACC is actually relevant.
This does not make the status quo right, they may very well be wrong. However, the burden of proof is not upon the consensus to continually validate their position, but rather upon those who wish to overturn it.
While the Russians and others who profit by selling carbon-based energy products certainly influence economies – personal and national – I think it’s a stretch to call the sale of those products a “threat”. Could we agree that it would be better for all if every nation adopted our Clean Air Act restrictions and worked toward replacing older, less efficient coal-fired plants with NPPs? Jim Holm at http://www.coal2nuclear.com has done a yeoman’s job of crunching the numbers on what that would take and the priority of replacement.
Science isn’t decided on “consensus” but it seems that is the rallying cry of the pro-AGW side. The Law of Gravity or Thermodynamics isn’t agreed to on “consensus”. Science is based on hard facts, raw data and robust debate with complete transparency as to methodology and calculations used to come to a conclusion. The raw data from UAE-CRU has been destroyed or “lost”, thus making it impossible for others to independently verify what these scientists have determined and how.
Here’s one group that questions the AGW theory: http://www.petitionproject.org; see also http://www.CO2science.org; http://www.climaterealists.com; http://www.antigreen.blogspot.com. I can, and do, go to http://www.realclimate.com and the Energy Collective to get a feel for what the “other side” has to say. I don’t consider Joe Romm an unbiased authority on the topic, and one who is vehemently anti-nuke, as is Amory Lovins.
The burden of proof rests on those who stake a claim on a new finding. That new finding is that CO2 causes or contributes to global warming – to an extent heretofore not observed. It isn’t up to the skeptics to dis-prove that contention. To take a favorite example from the pro-AGW side: Conventional Wisdom stated the earth was flat; the new claim was that the earth was round. The new claim was proved to be true – the skeptics didn’t have to prove the earth was flat (mainly because they couldn’t). That proof wasn’t arrived at by consensus but by raw, verifiable observation.
Is AGW happening? Maybe. Possibly. Is it worth $40 Trillion per year to combat in order to “control” the earth’s temperature by 2 or 4 degrees over the next 100 years? Not compared to what that $40 T could do to mitigate or eliminate poverty, malnutrition, lack of clean water, lack of affordable power, lack of sanitation over wide swaths of the globe. Pick your battles wisely.
Science isn’t decided by consensus. CO2 absorption in IR bands is hundred years known experimental fact and not a subject to scientific discussion, as much as the laws of gravity. The fact that human activity caused the increase of CO2 emissions from 200-270ppm during the last millions of years to the current nearly 400ppm is also an experimental fact. The heating of the planet is another experimental fact, well explained by the climate models. There is no doubts among relevant scientists that AGW is happening. There is no “Maybe” or “Possibly”. Actually this wide and large disconnect between what is already well understood scientifically and what is comprehended by the public, is the single biggest issue with the climate change.
All those “maybe” and “perhaps” seem to me like plain guilt rationalizations. The crux of the political issue is that those who are now 50+ (and thus likely in position of power) will certainly die well before the climate change is going to influence the quality of life significantly (at least in the rich countries), therefore their self interest is to keep on polluting the lands, the oceans, and the climate. They will not pay the piper, so why to give a damn, right?
To comfort this position there is a bunch of AGW denialists, who either do not follow the science, or could not care less about any science, or have emotional issues at stake, or are payed to say that the Earth is flat and the stuff falls upwards. Paper takes anything. See the above “coal burning is good for you” example.
Governments are legitimate instutions only in so far as they rule with the continual consent of the governed. Neither Brussels nor Washington exist in a vacuum.
Without substantial reform I do not believe the US has more than a few years before it collapses like the Soviet Union under it’s own weight. The EU, unlike the US, has not commited financial rape on this generation and the next in order to bail out the oligarchs and scammers; it would not surprise me if Brussels is allowed to continue running Europe into the ground for a few more decades before it comes to the end of its rope.
Prior to the excessively large positive void coefficient and the graphite-tipped control rods being taken care of, the RBMK was dangerous. It isn’t highly dangerous now. It’s suboptimal, of course, lacking a containment, but it generates electricity, and should be kept online at least until a replacement nuclear power plant can be built.
The MKER is a distant descendant of the RBMK that has a negative void coefficient, massive improvements to systems and plant, and a hardened containment, for instance.
(As far as the threat of aircraft, events this past week have further reinforced that the threat of a hijacking of a passenger aircraft is no longer credible, as the passengers will resist.)
“As far as the threat of aircraft, events this past week have further reinforced that the threat of a hijacking of a passenger aircraft is no longer credible, as the passengers will resist”
It has also reinforced a couple of other notions as well.
It has reinforced the notion that terrorists are incompetent. Even some random kids can mix up a perfectly working batch of PETN: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eZENvUVG6TE . Note also that this amount of PETN is similar to that used by the terrorist; it would clearly have destroyed his leg and probably ruptured some ear drums but would it have done any serious damage to the plane?
It has reinforced the notion that centralized bureaocracies fail miserably at everything they attempt and every time the fail they use it as an opportunity to grow larger. US, nigerian and Saudi authorities had been explicitly warned by the father that he might be plotting an attack against the US; his visa was not revoked. He had no passport, they let him onto the plain anyway.
It has reinforced the notion that terrorists have clear motives that you ignore at your own peril. The pants-bomber says he did it because you’ve started bombing Yemen(this is true) and because you’re in the middle east and making a mess of things(this is also true).
Shortly after 9/11 Bin Laden said that his motivation was to draw you into an unwinable war in the middle east and financially bleed you dry; to use your presense there to incite hatred against the US and radicalize more muslims to his cause. The US government is so painfully incompetent that even when Bin Laden carefully explained to you that he was setting a trap and exactly what the trap consisted of the government just bumbled straight into anyway.
It cost millions of dollars to plan and carry out 9/11. The attack itself did billions in damage and cost thousands of lives. The US government’s response to 9/11 has caused MULTIPLE TRILLIONS in damage(much of it in unfunded liabilities to care for veterans), it has cost the life of 1 MILLION Iraqis and another 9/11 in terms of dead soldiers. Terrorism against the US and Britain is a bigger problem now than it ever was.
Please clarify the explosive effect of the amount of PETN this terrorist used. The ABC News report video has a significant failure to the fuselage with less PETN used. I consider ANY amount of explosive on board a plane in which I am a passenger (other than the fuel, which is designed to be there and used appropriately) as an existential threat.
Government bureaucratic incompetence seems to grow in relation to the size of the bureaucracy and the increasing unwillingness to confront a declared enemy. Call it Political Correctness run amok. Radical Islamists have declared war on the West – you could trace it to the Tehran Embassy hostage taking, at least – and the West has been unwilling to face that stark reality. Are all Muslims terrorists? Of course not. But all terrorists, so far, have adhered to a radical form of Islam. With which other faiths do you see this behavior and on as large a scale?
Please cite your reference for the “1 MILLION Iraqis” killed. The number I have seen as most credible places it under 200,000. That does not diminish the loss of innocent civilian life, but let’s have some accuracy and perspective. During the Blitz, around 40,000 Londoners perished in a matter of days due to the German bombing.
I agree with you regarding any explosive being onboard a plane being an existential threat to the plane. It’s best not to involve civil aviation with explosives of any type, just as a general rule. Having a forced depressurization of an aircraft at altitude is not OK. This was an incompetent terrorist, but a terrorist all the same. Thankfully, the explosive was buggy, and when the passengers knew what was up, further bad stuff was stopped.
With this said, the passenger reaction leads me to have no doubt that further hijacking attempts would and will fail. In essence, this really should end any sort of musing about imaginary terrorist threats of aircraft to nuclear power plants.
As to your other comments:
I wouldn’t assume that all Islamic people are the same. For instance, the Shia have a whole different set of grievances than the Sunnis – and though it might appear that the 1979 hostage taking was part of a continuum continuing to the present – these are two very different branches of Islam. In fact, the Sunnis and the Shia both have a long history of butchering each other. Iran and al Qaeda _do not_ get along; they hate each other; al Qaeda killed Iranian diplomats in Afghanistan, for instance.
I think that Soylent was correct: OBL’s overarching objective is to draw the US into what he referred to as “vexation operations”, to cause the US to overreach. The long-term goal of terrorist organizations like al Qaeda is to encourage an overreaction on behalf of the victim group so as to radicalize other members of the religious/political community that they believe they represent to cause them to move towards active opposition to the victim.
This is not to say that no response or a lesser response was justified in 2001. Our response in Afghanistan and adjacent areas was, is, and continues to be proportionate (with certain exceptions in treatment of prisoners, but that had nothing to do with the military, and instead was a political affair, and the failings were of political and moral leadership), and now is growing in effectiveness and selectivity with the use of highly accurate and effective fires provided by the Predator and other combined combat & ISR platforms, the learning of lessons and their integration and dissemination the same to our forces, the growing intercultural competency of our ground troops allowing them to fight and win the war for hearts and minds, and their continuing heroism in the face of great adversity.
But Iraq, unlike Afghanistan, was a trap. It was a step too far. It couldn’t have been done better if it was scripted by OBL himself. This is the unfortunate truth. We got led into a trap – a “vexation operation” par excellence – by our political leadership, and it was only when Rummy was fired from his Armchair General position and there was competence restored to the civilian leadership of the Pentagon that our military finally had enough wiggle room to extricate us from the al Qaeda bear trap that got caught on our leg, to do the necessary steps of closing with, terminating the command of, and destroying in depth the al Qaeda elements there who were responsible for the great chaos – and the near civil war – that was unleashed, killed hundreds of thousands (200k – at least) Iraqis, killed thousands of Americans, wounded tens of thousands of Americans, and harmed the overall objective of trying to stop terrorists from attacking the United States.
The answer to terrorism is to respond carefully and proportionately, thinking deliberately about everything that you do prior to doing it, forthrightly assessing whether engaging in certain actions is going to increase or decrease the terrorist threat, rather than being gung-ho and going with a hyper-kinetic response to every threat that presents itself to be serviced. Interestingly enough, the military seemed to be far more cautious and much less anxious to charge into situations guns blazing than our political leadership during the Bush years, at least prior to Gates taking over.
Terrorism is a long-term problem that cannot be charged into, but instead needs to be carefully and cautiously resolved in a manner consistent with our Constitutional principles. We cannot allow it to change who we are, but instead must respond with meticulous precision in dealing with it in a way that does not increase the threat and is consistent with our most deeply held ideals. If we change who we are because of what the terrorists do, they win a victory far more final than any bomb detonated or building collapsed. For the terrorists may take our lives, but only we can do the Republic dishonor, and damage it with a force and a finality that they are incapable of bringing to bear.
The war on terror is both a war on terrorist groups, but also is a war within ourselves for self-restraint in dealing with them.
Some terrorists are radical Islamists, others are radical Christians, or other nutcases. Without going to pre-9/11 history, let’s look at the recent terrorist attacks inside the US: anthrax letters, DC sniper, Luke Helder’s pipebombs spree, Egyptian gunman attacks at LAX, Mohammed Reza Taheri-azar SUV attack, Omeed Aziz Popal SUV rampage, the UU church shooting in TN, Dr. Tiller’s murder etc.
Now the US government was run by the last 8 years by people who do not believe that a government can function in principle, and to prove their point they often nominated incompetent cronies as heads of the respective agencies. Concerning the violent radical muslims: just before we could have killed ObL and his rotten company in Afghanistan, the aforementioned great thinkers decided to turn around and invade another (quite secular) country where there were virtually no radical muslims. That was smart.
Now the US government is clearly in total disarray after all those years of mismanagement – “If we can’t catch a Nigerian with explosives in feminine underpants, whose father alerted the U.S. embassy, whose ticket was bought in cash, who didn
Folks – very interesting discussion, but I think it might be a good idea to get back on topic. The comments have strayed quite far from anything remotely related to shutting down Ignalina later today.
Back on topic, I am fascinated by the otherwise well educated and well meaning friends of mine, for whom the fact that “Iganlina is similar design to Chernobyl” is enough of an argument for shutting it down later today. Besides the obvious difference between old Soviet RBMKs and the upgraded version – Why not a year ago, next year, or 10 years from now, after there actually is a clean replacement energy source?
The timing here was extremely unfortunate. At the time when Lithuanian accession was being considered, nuclear power was in many cases considered a dead issue, and Germany actually seemed likely to shut down its existing plants (this is now highly unlikely to happen). I suspect that if accession was negotiated today, the outcome would be rather different.
rsynnott – What is stopping all parties to this situation from coming back to the table and recognizing that the previous decision was wrong? From what I have read, the plant is in good condition. Nothing has been destroyed yet. If people quietly accept this because “that train has left the station” there will be a lot of suffering endured in order to enrich a few people who want to sell the fuel for replacement power and the plants that the region is still considering starting sometime in the indefinite future.
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