By Cal Abel
At some point the lights will go out in New York. This kerfuffle over Jazcko and his replacement is indicative of a major effort to attack those who support nuclear power over “safety”. The people who oppose the use of nuclear energy attack those of us who understand it the best and are not afraid as not having the interest of public safety in the forefront of our minds. They imply that we are therefor greedy and unethical. Because we fight to do what we know is right and safe and do not belong to a particular political sect, we are demonized as putting people at risk for our own betterment.
Public opinion does not matter. Recent polls suggest the public is evenly divided on nuclear energy. It is the voice of the mob that is being amplified to suit policy needs that is driving what we are seeing. The mob gets the noise and the attention.
Germany is going to take a hit of over 100 billion euros with the
Greece exit from the Euro. Shutting down their nuclear reactors will easily cost twice that sum in construction and monetary impact. It may very well be more than that, but the combined loss of wealth will certainly enough for the Euro Zone to enter a full recession.
Unless Japan starts up their perfectly safe (just not publicly safe) reactors soon, that important industrial power will suffer long term restructuring of both capital and labor markets. This process is well underway; capital is leaving Japan to support production in other locations. Labor is going to shift; their unemployment numbers do not yet support this claim, but labor has a longer time delay to adapt to changes than capital.
On May 12, oil prices started to fall. I think this is a first signal of a global economic correction. Europe and Japan will determine if this becomes a recession or creates bank runs that governments can’t stop with subsidies or bailouts. Half of global oil supplies 99% of our transportation fuel and the other half is used to manufacture the goods we produce. Oil production hasn’t increased, leaving the price reduction due to a reduction in demand. The falling global economy cannot support current energy prices, especially as politically powerful forces seek to shut down the most inexpensive form of power, nuclear fission.
Our margin for error is not very good in the US. Our currency has had a mass of capital influx from Europe and Asia, which along with low natural gas prices has kept inflation down supporting the value of the dollar. The capital flows and low gas prices are not permanent; when they reverse, there will be unavoidable repercussions.
Our politicians and economists do not think that energy has anything to do with our economy, other than being just another commodity. Instead they rely on such fanciful things as exogenous growth multipliers, which are akin to fairies and unicorns, they just call it “technology”. Technology will save us, “Invest in new technology…” “… support technology startups.” are the mantras of this ideology.
Energy, more specifically exergy, is the sole component of a real exogenous growth multiplier. I had an economist friend at the Atlanta Fed explain to me that even though rising exergy input into the economy correlated to the unexplained residual growth with over 99% accuracy for the last 112 years that this was not a valid theory. He did not have a suitable replacement and instead relied upon current theory of the “Solow Residual” to explain it, even though that theory does not provide a justification to the economic patterns history shows.
Whose permission does it take to operate our nuclear reactors, and our coal plants? It is the owners and the operators who’s permission is needed to operate the reactors. If they say, “No.” their word is final. Washington politicians want us to have to ask for their permission to operate productive energy facilities. They seek to make it sufficiently difficult to obtain that permission so that we are grateful for their lenience in granting it to us this one last time. Jazcko was playing a game with Southern California Edison with regard to its San Onofre Nuclear Generation Station (SONGS). He has made public announcements that leads one to believe that the responsibility and decision of the plant operation ultimately rested with the NRC. Dan Yurman, who blogs at Idaho Samizdat had an excellent piece on this last week titled
Reactions to reactor restart remarks about San Onofre.
In reality, it is the owner and the operators who determine if the plant operates. The company has a license and the technical ability to operate SONGS, the NRC can shut it down with a specific order, but only the company and its employees can decide that they want to operate the plant. The same is true for the 104 plants in this country that create 5% of our GDP. For those nuclear operators out there, think of this the next time you are sitting in your pre-shift brief. The plants that contribute most to our GDP have the highest retail prices, price signals value. Those are the reactors that are most at risk of being shut down and are the most prominent political targets today.
Many of the reactors that are being targeted for action by antinuclear activists are located in the Northeast portion of the United States. I think the political problem with the Northeast’s reactors is because they haven’t given sufficient campaign contributions to the regional politicians. They have not bought enough protection or paid adequate rent to their rate payer’s politicians. They are making profits that have been deemed to be too high (Entergy is funded in large part through those handful of reactors). The opposition wants people to believe that the American company that owns these plants is socially dangerous, because that company is making money and not wasting it by spending on unnecessary capital projects pushed by nuclear energy opponents to make nuclear energy less competitive under the guise of improving public safety or improving the environment. Paradoxically, the high prices in the Northeast are more than likely due to the restrictions on permitting and constructing any new energy facilities. The restrictions are based upon policy implemented by the same politicians blaming the utilities for exorbitant profits.
I can only attribute the behavior of politicians as insanity. They keep on doing the same old stuff and expecting different results. More stimulus, more regulation, tighter controls, all supposedly done for the public good and public safety. And across the globe we keep on electing these jokers. We too are insane. The insanity is reflected in our public discourse.
We have a choice. We can accept the current state of affairs or we can decide to take a more active role in securing our future. Our showing up to work and doing what others cannot is a profound responsibility and duty. It is not enough. Some of us will have to leave the security and comfort of what we are familiar and take on new roles in the public arena either as an avocation like what we see with the nuclear bloggers or as a vocation and enter public service. A political friend told me, “If good people don’t run for office someone else will.” Complaining about the lack of meaningful candidates is idle chatter of old men. Do something about it. Participate as a volunteer, a candidate, or support someone who is a good person and wants to run.
It is our action that decides the consequences we achieve.