1. That’s an amusing analogy Rod, I got a chuckle from a few lines. With your headline, I thought maybe you might say something about affirmative action programs as some opponents of affirmative action programs would often ask “would you want your brain surgeon to have been accepted to medical school because of affirmative action?”
    Though there might be an analogy to be drawn between affirmative action and renewable subsidies, the big difference is that humans can change and get better with experience, but energy sources are pretty much fixed by what nature provides. Cutting someone a break because of their background gets some people very angry, but it’s overall impact on whether that affected someone else’s opportunity is probably nothing. It’s a different scenario with energy, however, as our mindset has lead our nation in a difficult position.

    1. Jason – Remember, I am a liberal. I see no comparison between affirmative action programs that help people who really do have equal potential to succeed and programs that support weak and unreliable alternatives.
      I am talking about programs that attempt to mainstream power sources that are fundamentally and permanently disadvantaged. The analogy I am looking for is giving NBA contracts to midgets or medical school admission to someone born with mental retardation that limits their maximum maturity to that of a six year old. (Oops, that was not politically correct, I should have said “little people” or someone who is differently abled.)

      1. We are in agreement. I happen to be quite ok with affirmative action and if little people want to start their own vertically challenged basketball league I’m ok with that too 🙂

    2. ‘some opponents of affirmative action programs would often ask “would you want your brain surgeon to have been accepted to medical school because of affirmative action?”‘
      Have people really asked that? It seems to me there’s a very simple, reasonable answer to that question – it doesn’t matter how they got *into* medical school, it only matters how they got *out* of medical school? Did they do a good job with course work, did they get high marks on the medical license exam, did they do a good job in their subsequent internships, do they have enough experience to be good? Seems kind of stupid to worry about how someone *began* the process when what matters is how they finished it.

      1. I agree Jeff and that is exactly the counter argument that is brought against that question. Affirmative action is a very divisive issue. I know Rod was not using that as an analogy, though my thoughts speculated about it as I read the post headline.
        The wind and solar supporters seem to be pitching the idea that these subsidies are temporary and once these sources can stand on their own two feet, they won’t be needed anymore. Or, they seem to be hoping that a big breakthrough with battery storage is right around the corner. And then, there are the companies that produce the turbines and the panels who want to see their business grow. In all these cases, the fundamental shortcomings of these energy sources is eschewed in some delusion that they can fake it until they make it.

  2. As long as the public continues sliding to lower expectations, allows their regulators to enable such outcomes and parts with their money for such, we will continue to see unreliable and erratic power sources trying to penetrate the grid.

  3. Hi Rod, Great article once again, I would like to ask you a question that I can’t remember ever having being raised. If humans had not been so fortunate to discover nuclear energy and knowing what we know of the problems with pollution and energy security of burning billions of tonnes of fossil fuels. What would the future path for humans be like. Without all the mineable fossil and nuclear fuels it seems that the cupboard is pretty bare energy-wise. Would renewables have more legitamacy in such circumstances and is that the only case that they could ever have a meaningful role in proceedings?

    1. @Alex878 – I know it is terribly unscientific of me, but I believe that the earth has order that did not occur by random chance. Humans discovered the energy that had always been locked up inside the atomic nuclei just in time because we were ready for it at that time.
      If we had not been ready, there would have been self-limiting economic collapses and famines that kept our population within the carrying capacity of the earth until such time as we were ready.
      Renewables had their day – it was sometime before the lucky guy figured out how to control fire indoors.

      1. @Rod – A nice property of our universe is its vastness. There’s nearly a mole of stars in the known universe so even if the formation of a planet that supports intelligent life were an excedingly rare event, say only once for each galaxy, that still results in over 80 billion earth-type planets over the age of the universe. All that is required is randomness.

  4. This is a little bit off-topic, but I think more generally is on-topic. I was reading the latest power over at Gail Marcus’s “Nuke Power Talk” blog, titled, “The Change In Congress: What It Means For Nuclear Power”. She made an observation about the Republican Party, “. . .and second, their commitment to less government interference in the marketplace makes them less favorable to some of the government support mechanisms that have been proposed for nuclear power, as well as for other energy technologies.”
    Now, on the one hand, I do think that perhaps, in the U.S. the nuclear energy industry has become a bit ‘stalled’ in terms of construction of new plants, and if we want to get it restarted, it might take a little bit of help from the Government, so I’m not really opposed to things like Loan Guarantees (where there is a substantial likelyhood that the money will get repaid, so that the ‘subsidy’ doesn’t cost taxpayers any actual money in the long-term). On the other hand, as I posted as a comment on Gail’s blog post, it seems to me that the real focus for nuclear advocates, and industry lobbyists, ought to be to try to use this change in power in the House of Representatives, along with a President who has expressed a fairly “pro-nuclear” opinion in the past (although he has a mixed score-card, since he let Yucca Mountain get ‘canceled’ by his NRC appointee), to push for some meaningful regulatory and lawsuit reform vis-a-vis nuclear plants.
    In the long term, if nuclear power is the A-student that Rod claims in this article, and I believe he’s correct, *it will succeed on it’s own merits*. Well, it would succeed, except, right now, someone is cheating against it. It has to contend with rules (from what I’ve heard Rod and others claim in other articles) which make it much less competitive than it otherwise would be. One example I do know of is the Shoreham Nuclear Power Plant which was completed, and which from what I understand, had no technical safety problems, but which because of bad regulations which allowed the NY State governor to “veto” the plant *after* it was constructed and the money spent – a plant which was planned and began construction *decades* before that person was elected governor. That’s just a *ridiculous* way to run a high-capital cost industry like nuclear power. Who in their right mind would *ever* invest in nuclear power plants if someone elected to office 15 years after your investment can shutdown the project on the very eve of it going into commercial revenue generation?
    As Gail Marcus pointed out, the Republicans have been very vocal about, “their commitment to less government interference in the marketplace”, so let’s hold them to their rhetoric. Let’s try to use this new Congress to push for reforms which would allow nuclear to succeed on its own merits. Long-term, that is, I think, far more important even than loan guarantees (though as I said above, I think loan guarantees have a legitimate place in the budget, also, but it might be hard in the current political/fiscal climate to get enough Repubs and Dems to agree).
    Also, try to get the Republican’s (this ought to be popular with the Tea Partiers) to take the Budget Axe to some of the subsidies for Wind and Solar. We’ll see how enamored investors are of wind and solar if they don’t get big subsidies for building them – heck, make it so that the only subsidies wind and solar can get are the same types of Loan Guarantees, at the *same terms* (Rod has posted before about how Wind and Solar projects get their Loan Guarantee “Credit Subsidy” [or maybe it was called “Risk Subsidy”, don’t remember exactly now] fees payed for by the government, but nuclear doesn’t). Create a level playing field for everybody, and nuclear will almost surely succeed on its own merits.

    1. I also look at this question in a similar way, it doesn’t look like Republicans have a clear or organized strategy for getting more nuclear power plants built in this country. They have an ad hock political strategy to minimize the effectiveness and/or electoral gains of Democrats (particularly the current pro-nuclear democrat in the White House). The biggest blunder for them in this regard, which signals to me they have far many more irons in the fire of the fossil fuel industry than they do with nuclear, is their strident and stubborn opposition to cap and trade. The DOE has been struggling with the financials for the nuclear industry for some time. Subsidies exist in the form of loan guarantees, but also in the form of of waste disposal costs (the share picked up by the government), accident indemnification (and the Price Anderson Act

      1. “and they can’t even keep an existing power plant open (and it doesn’t even need expensive retrofits).”
        I haven’t heard of any nuclear plants being closed in Wisconsin. I’ve heard that the power uprate at Point Beach is being opposed by supposedly “green” groups – and funnily enough – also by “consumer” groups supposedly fighting for a low cost of energy.

    2. Statement: Subsidies exist in the form of of waste disposal costs (the share picked up by the government)
      Response: The government is sitting on top of tens of billions of nuclear industry money paid fair and square to dispose of the waste, while the nuclear industry still has the waste it’s paid the government to dispose, and is still paying to manage this waste which is really the government’s problem. So where are these waste disposal costs being picked up by the government?
      Statement: accident indemnification (and the Price Anderson Act

        1. “The Nuclear Waste Fund needs an overhaul … primarily to adjust for real projected long term costs of a future storage facility (it’s original purpose). As it stands now, revenues are mainly collected for interim storage and not future projected long term costs …”
          No, no, no! Wrong!!
          Once again, EL, you manage to embarrass yourself by flaunting your ignorance. A more intelligent person would have learned to keep quiet by now.
          The 1 mil per kWh fee imposed on electricity generation from nuclear is not collected for interim storage. Those costs are borne by the utilities themselves.
          The sole purpose of the Nuclear Waste Fund is to pay for the costs of constructing and operating a permanent repository. After the government reneged on its obligation under the 1982 Nuclear Waste Policy Act to begin taking the used fuel by 1998, a number of utilities have sued the federal government and have been awarded about $1 billion by the courts to recover their storage costs. The money awarded to the utilities (and the money wasted by the government in fighting these lawsuits) comes from taxpayer funds, not from the Nuclear Waste Fund. It’s simply incorrect to claim that the NWF is used for interim storage.

          1. I appreciate the correction. So taxpayer funds for interim storage are coming out of court penalties and liabilities for government inaction (rather than the Act itself or the industry). It sounds like nobody likes how the current system works. With Yucca off the table, the whole thing sounds like a mess.

  5. “NUCLEAR power isn’t PERFECT. It’s just BETTER than the alternatives.”
    I think that’s the best bumper sticker or T-shirt version of the pro-nuclear position. Perhaps PopAtomics could make a some.

    1. Or, perhaps a slight modification, to make it a play off of one of Winston Churchill’s famous quips. . .
      It has been said that fission is the worst form of energy except all the others that have been tried.

  6. I like the “A” vs “F” student analogy, however I believe the energy picture can be reduced to an issue of suitability. For example, the USAF F-22 is an incredible aircraft, not likely to be matched in combat for years to decades. The F-22 is not suitable for moving airborne troops into/intra theater. Solar panels are excellent power sources for satellites operating within the orbit of Mars or remote forest service stations in New Mexico or Arizona. Solar is not suitable for Germany (this time of year their 15,000-MW of installed solar produce a daily average of 500-MW), but for some insane reason they are still investing billions in solar. Windmills are suitable for pumping water in situations were daily or weekly variability isn’t an issue.

    1. If this article (in German) is anything to go by, Germany’s obsession with wind and solar power is due in a large extent to massive cross-party political corruption:
      As for German hostility to nuclear power, I think the fact that anti-nuclear-power activists often started out as anti-nuclear-weapons activists is key. Think of the old jokes about “German towns are two kilotons apart” and “A tactical nuclear weapon is one which lands on Germany”.

  7. Look into how the Nuclear power plants are graded. They are getting A’s and B’s in the “Honors” classes and are being compared to those with similar grades in the remedial classes. Just one of the many inconsistencies is that “Lost Time Accidents” (LTA) are factored into the INPO (Institute of Nuclear Power Operators) and NRC grading system, yet, the absolute worst LTA number for any nuclear power plant is superior to that of any fossil fueled plant and is actually better than many corporations that perform little manual labor, such as a CPA firm. Look up the numbers your self.
    Worse yet, a dropping LTA number for a NPP will cause other measured parameters to be lowered when evaluated by INPO or the NRC.

  8. “Who Would You Want As Your Surgeon – An ‘A’ Student, or An ‘F’ Student?”
    I wouldn’t want either: I’d want someone who had a demonstrable track record of years of successful operations but who isn’t so old that their visual acuity or manual dexterity is suffering.
    Grades don’t cut it when it comes to cutting human tissue.

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