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  1. It is sad that we had to wait for the net to find support in the form of others like us. All too well I remember being treated like a nut-case for daring to suggest that nuclear energy was anything but undistilled evil. Once in 1972 my suitability to work at one company was questioned by a superior because of a stand I took in a discussion on the matter.
    Yes we are working for the grandkids, it is just too damned bad we started so late.

    1. @DV82XL – I agree, but since we did wait so long there is no time left to wait. We have to move hard and fast. We are being given another chance to capture attention – we must seize that opportunity.

  2. Great column! Putting the need for nuclear energy into straightforward terms like this helps with people who may not be swayed by more scientific or technically-based reasoning — your words are something that everyone can relate to.

  3. I’m asked all the time “who’s paying you to be a shill for the industry.”
    I gladly do it for free, but I’m not above capitalism, so if anyone would care to augment the tens of dollars google adsense paid me last year (nearly enough to cover hosting and NJ LLC fees), then I’m willing to talk.
    Oh yea, and my kids haven’t even been born yet, but I do it for them as well.

  4. While “doing more with more” is a route to happiness and stability for many, and an excellent legacy to leave to future generations, what about “doing more with less” and using our finite resources of land, water, engineering ability, and capacity to do great work with energy, and in a more responsible way. Just because something is cheap and affordable (and widely available) does not necessarily translate into economic growth, better management of finite resources, and practices that are efficient with respect to energy utilization, waste production and management, and creating positive opportunities for future generations.
    I see a problem here

    1. @EL,
      How do solar panels and wind mills spread across thousands of square miles of currently pristine wilderness areas, deserts, and oceans represent a “more with less” mindset?
      How does the natural gas burned in turbines needed for grid reliablity to back up the weak technologies of wind and solar thereby creating more GHG emissions represent a responsible use of that resource? There are other uses for natural gas that might be better from a long term strategic standpoint but not as profitable as quickly as it is when burned in power producing turbines.
      How does the growing ecological disaster in China directly attributable to mining of rare earths for the wind and solar industries pointed out by the Daily Mail article represent the best use of our finite mineral resources? Wouldn’t it be better in the long term to use those rare earths for high density batteries for EV’s not solar panels or windmill generators? Yes uranium will have to be mined for fuel but many of those mines are already under environmental controls whereas the mines in China are not and uranium is a single purpose mineral.
      Your concern that nuclear might create another bubble is not warranted in my opinion. The economic bubbles we have had are directly and indirectly tied to the price of petroleum products. The futures and speculation markets in NY and Chicago are very remotely tied nuclear power. They are tied directly to buying, selling, and speculativly trading in oil, natural gas, and other petroleum products. Billions of dollars are literally trading hands every day on the petroleum markets, stock markets, forex markets, etc. directly due to the price of a barrel of oil.
      If you are worried about the destruction of those speculative markets and their effects if nuclear and coal were to switch their positions in the electrical generation arena then I would say that is a valid discussion to have.
      Your political discussions are also heavily based on oil as well. How many of our international policy decisions and their effects have been directly tied to maintaining a supply of foriegn oil? 90%? 95%? 100%? Daniel Yergin’s books and others like them are good references for those type of dicussions.

      1. “How do solar panels and wind mills spread across thousands of square miles of currently pristine wilderness areas, deserts, and oceans represent a ‘more with less’ mindset?”
        Indeed. Iit’s a definite case of doing “less with more” if I ever saw one. That’s really the definition of energy utilization at lower densities.

    2. @EL, I’m not sure I understand your point, exactly? I don’t think anyone is advocating for gross waste of power. There’s no reason we can’t simultaneously work on efficiency and waste reduction, while also building nuclear power to ensure we have an adequate energy supply for the future. I don’t see why people insist on framing the issue as nuclear VS. efficiency?
      Energy costs money, so people already have incentives to do things like insulate their homes, buy high-efficiency heat pumps, etc – to save money. Building nuclear power plants is unlikely, in our lifetimes, or our grandchildren’s lifetimes, to lower the price of energy so much that people stop having economic incentives to not waste energy – even if generation costs were to drop to 1 cent/kWh (which I think is somewhat unlikely), most people still have to pay transmission costs which are 5-10 cents/kWh. In any case, short of something like fusion power, I don’t think anyone really thinks nuclear power can get quite that cheap (although, perhaps the LFTR people are right, and LFTRs could be built for $200 Million which produce as much power as an $8 Billion uranium-fueled plant, but I’m a bit skeptical of their numbers at the moment, since none have actually been built).
      In any case, people want to save money, so they’ll still have some incentive to be efficient, but I don’t see continuing to burn up expensive, dirty fossil fuels, in the name of increasing efficiency, as being a winning proposition.

      1. @ Jeff,
        I agree whole heartedly with your point on the nuclear vs efficiency debate. That should not be the two options on the table for discussuion in an either/or fashion. We can do both as you point out

    3. @EL: You assert that “Just because something is cheap and affordable (and widely available) does not necessarily translate into economic growth, better management of finite resources, and practices that are efficient with respect to energy utilization, waste production and management, and creating positive opportunities for future generations.”
      As somewhat of a student of the history of technology, I will disagree with the first part of your statement; economic growth is driven by cheap energy. Cheap energy is like a virtual army of invisible servants who have replaced things that were once done by hand with technology. The key to the great US economic expansion from around 1866 or so to 1973 or so was – more than anything else – cheap energy. Cheap energy – or energy less expensive than human labor – made this country a superpower. During the First Industrial Revolution in the US, the technologies for which originated in Great Britain, and took place, say from 1866 to around 1910 or so, cheap energy allowed us to replace manual laborers doing repetitive work day in and day out with machines powered by steam. Then in the Second Industrial Revolution, which was a mostly American invention, and took place from around 1910 to 1973, cheap energy allowed us to replace the standalone, fuel-inefficient distributed low-pressure boilers powering those machines with highly efficient, massively integrated central stations that generated electricity which was then transmitted to the now electrified machines. As labor has always been expensive in the US, cheap energy allowed us to do more with more, and even in the face of expensive labor, the Second Industrial Revolution – driven by cheap energy – allowed us to become the pre-eminent manufacturing power in the world. It even allowed some of our manufacturing firms to generate so much excess through increasing efficiencies that they could be described as “social insurance companies with an automotive manufacturing department”.
      Based on economic and technological history, one can incidentally point to the start of the decline of the US as a (manufacturing) superpower – the “inflection point” of US economic and technological history – the point when energy ceased to be increasingly cheaper – as the moment of the Arab oil shock of 1973, and the obstruction of our best science, engineering, and technological response to the Arab oil shock in the form of nuclear energy.
      Incidentally, it will be interesting to historians of the future that both the Soviet Union and the US started to decline at about the same time, but due to highly different reasons and at highly divergent rates of speed. The Soviet Union started to decline due to purely endogenous forces acting upon a system with tremendous internal fragility; Brezhnev going senile and the division of the economy into multiple feudal and feuding chieftanates. On the other hand, the US began to decline due to a thousand exogenous and endogenous cuts: a gradual but increasingly tighter and tighter “squeeze” produced by rising energy prices and obstruction of new forms of dense energy; to corporations more interested in eking out the last bloody cent of maximum short-term profit than developing the capabilities to make greater long term profits and serving the nation that made them so profitable to begin with; a gradually ossifying bureaucracy at all levels of government that causes tremendous lost opportunities by preventing the future from being born while not adequately even servicing the needs of the present; to a very long and very harried logistics train for our energy supplies requiring immense quantities of blood and treasure to defend, and even more immense quantities of blood and treasure to respond to the inevitable blowback from defending that very long logistics train. There are other forces too, “soft forces” like trends in non-religious beliefs, worldviews, culture, and politics, that have played a role in the US decline, but that is beyond the scope of my comment.
      Though I hope the US will not end up in the same place as the former USSR, as we are a different and far more resilient society than the former USSR was (we bend rather than breaking), and there is indeed hope that the US’s decline can be arrested as we have less embrittlement in our system, and better capacity for change, the hour is very late.

    4. El, it’s comments like these that convince me you are one confused individual or just a typical troll.
      You’re missing Rod’s point entirely or the point of nuclear energy entirely – he is advocating for doing more with less – more clean energy with far less environmental impact at lower cost. He is advocating for using our resources in a more responsible way. Why don’t you understand that?
      You said “Does technological innovation and energy utilization at higher densities necessarily lead to more stable, secure, open and productive societies?”
      To answer your rhetorical question, yes, for the most part it does, but political systems are a different factor. North Korea is a terrible example to boost your argument. Why you ask? Because NK does not have a nuclear power plant for one. Second, they don’t innovate, they copy, their energy per capital is low, their standard of living is low, and live under extreme oppression – they are a run by a dynasty of thugs, not communist idealists.

      1. Thanks for the very interesting, historically relevant, and informative replies. My comment was intended to raise two questions: one concerning consumption (we can’t get away with much more of it, certainly if the rest of the world intends to follow our lead), and the other about control of energy resources (and nuclear as an opportunity for some to disconnect from global and cooperative frameworks, and pursue a different path). These seem to be legitimate risks of a “very dense” energy resource, and I wanted to ask the question of “what else is missing,” how are we to deal with these important and long-standing concerns. I see energy markets as being entirely inadequate to the task! They price energy at levels that encourage consumption alone (not conservation, careful stewardship, and management). And utility companies have sometimes been controlling partners in meeting our long time energy challenges, lobbying the government for the wrong reasons, and protecting their vested interests in long-term energy markets. We are a long ways away from manufacturing plants being run as “social insurance companies with an automotive manufacturing department” (although this certainly was a model that brought a great deal of positive social transformation and contributed to the rise of the middle class). So my question has to do with vision (and policy), and how to promote energy paths that help meet our long term goals

        1. Can there be any doubt at all after this excursion into hallucinatory realms that EL is anything other than an antinuke troll?

        2. @El, stop drinking the Amory Lovins Kool-Aid.
          Wind turbines are a perfect example of an energy source that kills indiscriminately, even the so-called big ones which are “safer”. It kills the animal and leaves everything to waste. Example:
          <iframe title=”YouTube video player” width=”425″ height=”349″ src=”http://www.youtube.com/embed/jwVz5hdAMGU” frameborder=”0″ allowfullscreen></iframe>
          You think this large $2 million+ fixture is freeing anyone? I don’t. It makes scam artists rich and kills majestic rare birds – lots of them – while producing piddly amounts of energy.
          I invite you to read another perspective from another nuclear blogger about solar energy. Even if your best solar fantasies come true, it wouldn’t make a significant dent in clean energy production:
          http://depletedcranium.com/does-every-little-bit-really-help/
          Follow up with this article as well, you need it:
          http://depletedcranium.com/the-top-ten-things-enviornmentalists-need-to-learn/

        3. @EL – Why do you assume that a concentrated energy source is “big” while a diffuse energy source is “small”. Have you any comprehension of the size of a wind turbine, chemical battery system, solar panel type of installation that MIGHT be able to provide sufficient energy to power a US home?
          In contrast, I know exactly how large a tiny reactor was that was built and operated in a research station in Greenland and provided all of the electricity, heat, and fresh water needed to supply a crew of several hundred. I also know exactly how small the power plant was that drove my 9,000 ton submarine around the ocean for 15 years without new fuel and how small the power plants are that are now projected to last for 33 years on the VA class submarines.
          Concentrated fuel can be used in very large facilities – and there are good uses for those large facilities in supplying stable power to large load centers. Concentrated fuel can also be used in right sized facilities that can be quite small, compact and locally controlled. Though we have to pass through the “mini” stage first, I believe it is technically achievable to build micro sized reactors that might even be scaled small enough to be called PRs (personal reactors). Some of the designs that NASA has developed are the right size to put in your basement to provide all of the heat and electricity you could ever want. Of course, they are far too expensive for that use NOW, and there are plenty of political considerations to overcome, but the energy density of uranium, thorium and plutonium make me believe that I am not guilty of unrealistic fantasies.
          I do not have to depend on “and then magic happens” as those who dream about 55% efficient solar panels do. (By my way of measuring efficiency, even a panel that can convert 100% of the sunlight that hits it to electricity has a maximum useful efficiency of about 25% in the very best locations on earth. Who cares how perfect the machine is when it reaches its full capacity for a few minutes a few times per year?)

          1. @Rod. That sounds like a very attractive system. Mainly because it challenges the conventional notion that you have to buy your electricity from a large industrial producer (who’s business model is selling electricity), and you can do it (more or less) on your own. I can see local co-ops, municipalities, people in large energy efficient buildings, multi-unit apartment complexes, investing in local source generation in the same way that we invest in residential heating systems, energy efficient windows, or insulation. Small in this instance is the amount of energy generated (not the size of the power plant). We are already pushing the envelope with net zero energy building designs (where energy needs for a 222,000 square foot office complex are met entirely by passive systems and solar). The magic is already here (today!), building costs are estimated around $259 per square foot, in the ballpark for a typical LEED design (and with lots of savings over the lifetime of the building). How did they do it: “We went back to simple design techniques that were used before there were electric lights and before we had air conditioning compressors” (so there is a craft element here and local trades that are lost when energy is something that is cheap, plentiful, and taken for granted, or left exclusively to government, city planners, and large energy companies to design and engineer). In the discussion above I used the term “energy dense sources” or “large concentrated sources” as a way to get us away from thinking about a particular source (per se), but more to do with energy design and implementation

            1. @EL – Nuclear energy might be “more of the same”, e.g. concentrated energy, but “the same” works, doesn’t it? It’s allowed us to carry what is it, somewhere between 1 and 2 bn people with ~80 year lifespans and standards of living orders of magnitude better than in the past, has it not? Concentrated energy and the way of life it enables (and there are variations, some more healthy than others – not saying which, North American, European, Japanese-Korean) are what people in the Third World want so desperately that they’re willing to mess up everything to get it. And they will get it, one way or another.
              Distributed energy paths driven by intermittent renewables are things that the rich in the rich countries can afford, and even then, many of them – people in the cities or living in apartments where the landlord has no incentive to improve efficiency or install generation – probably can’t afford the increased prices that intermittent-based distributed energy will cause either. Further, there seem to be insurmountable obstacles between distributed energy paths driven by intermittent renewables and the goal of the electrical system, which is reliable energy supply at a reasonably level price – by reasonably level, I mean that you can charge on-peak/off-peak, but not change peak periods or prices for end users in realtime. The goal of the system – reliability at a reasonably level price – is not really up for negotiation, either. For one, I doubt batteries – or any energy storage medium – will come down in price sufficiently to cost-competitively enable intermittent renewables for commercial applications or even residential applications – remember, batteries are so much less energy dense and so costly compared to something like oil. Further, to assure reliability, you have to size the solar panels and size storage (most of the cost will likely be in storage) to peak demand on the entire day and night of the Winter Solstice, while allowing a sizable reserve of storage capacity – likely days of storage – for weather. Buildings like the one you cite, according to the comments on the article, have a 50% price premium, even using generous estimates, and further, with all due respect to the Times – the building is not “net zero energy” – as there’s a major difference between “dumping power” that is produced when electricity isn’t being demanded and “meeting demand” when power is needed. The building’s demand – especially in winter – likely does not match the building’s generation, which is highly biased towards the summer. Further, in winter, lighting load is the highest, and windows aren’t open, meaning air handlers have to work more and harder.
              Distributed energy paths driven by reliable technologies such as small modular reactors, though, could be viable, and could even be less expensive than the present day system in dense areas, with CHP added in. But, even still, distributed energy paths are something that we rich nations who have moderate-sized concentrated industrial sectors can afford. Nations who need to build industrial sectors so as to industrialize will still get most of their energy from the central stations used to power their heavy industries.
              As such, though our choice in the US could be between a distributed energy path and a centralized energy path, I think humanity’s choice as a whole in the short and medium term is between a sustainable centralized energy path driven by technologies like nuclear, hydro, and geothermal and an environmentally devastating centralized energy path driven by coal and what scraps of oil we have left – a path that wrecks everything.

            2. @EL: I’m not sure why people are so gung-ho about the idea of producing electricity at your own home or apartment complex. I spend my time doing what I like, and what I’m good at. For me, that is working with computers and writing programs. I really have no desire, even if it were ever possible, to run my own micro-nuclear reactor, or even to maintain my own solar panels (who really wants more shovelling in the winter? Bad enough you have to shovel snow off the sidewalks and driveway, but now you have to shovel your roof too?)
              I like the modern system of people each sort of specializing in something, and providing that service or product to others at a reasonable price. I like that when the power fails, it’s someone else’s problem – I just have to pay my bill every month. As long as that bill is not an unreasonably expensive burden on my budget, I’m happy to make that trade.
              I don’t like monopolies, however. In the electricity industry, we’ve been moving away from monopolies, though. Here in Ohio, I can buy generation from multiple different vendors. Which means that if one of those producers is smarter than the others, and invests in technology which allows them to sell electricity cheaper than their competitors, I can buy my electricity from them, instead. This is not a terribly bad system.

              1. @Jeff Schmidt. That sounds good, except “smarter” in this competitive framework usually means cheaper, which means more coal

                1. @EL – while it is good to have a very smart guy as the Secretary of Energy, I am still hoping for the day when scientific dreamers have their visions mitigated by hard core engineering realism.
                  Soaring accomplishments like improving energy density of batteries by a factor of 3-5 may sound terrific to anthropologists who have little respect for the extent of our current knowledge of chemistry and physics, but they simply are not going to happen on this planet under the limitations provided by the movement of electrons. It boggles my mind to think that a guy as smart as Chu would actually say such a thing.
                  I have written extensively about the high cost of off-shore wind and the inevitable and unavoidable challenges that will never be overcome – like those calm days of the Bermuda high when entire arrays of the most sophisticated machines imaginable would still be idle monsters just when the customers needed the power the most. Notice the conditional tense in that last sentence – I am pretty sure that there will never be more than a handful of wind turbines built off of the coast of the United States. We are not as ignorant as those hypnotized voters in Europe. Even the least aware of us will learn from their experience that it is a god awful waste of money to build wind turbines, especially when you try to put them in salt water off the coast.

              2. ‘Centralised energy’ is just one of those shibboleths the anti-nuke crowd like to throw around as some kind of slur against nuclear energy. When the time comes to show how ‘renewables’ could be made to work, this sort invariably comes up with some plan for highly centralised vast solar and wind farm infrastructure which makes it absolutely clear that all this ‘decentralisation’ drivel meant nothing at all to them. They’ll happily make plans for continental-scale HVDC lines to transfer power from the middle of nowhere to the industrial and residential heartland and skip over their previous anti-centralisation talk as if it had never happened. Nuclear reactors, and hopefully in the future small modular reactors in particular, will do more to ‘decentralise’ the power grid in real terms than page after page of blather from the advocates of renewables.

                  1. “It seems to me HVDC would be a big benefit to nuclear as well? Chu spoke about local transmission being so congested in places that peak wholesale prices can be as high as 500 cents/kWh. How is this in any way good for the rate payer?”
                    EL – If congestion is an issue, then the problem is an insufficient number of wires. In this case, HVDC is not a good solution, since AC transmission will work just fine, and you’ll get much more bang for your buck building up the significantly less expensive AC technology. HVDC would simply be a waste of money.

                  2. @EL – who wrote:
                    If an internal combustion engine (at some 30% efficiency) can power a car 100 miles, why is it so hard to imagine an electric engine (at some 80% efficiency) moving a heavier consumer oriented car three times that distance?
                    Because I understand that gasoline contains 114,000 BTUs per gallon or the equivalent of 33.4 kilowatt hours. That is roughly 45.7 MJ/kg. The highest energy density listed for any type of chemical battery on the Wikipedia page (with references) is about 2.54 MJ/kg.
                    Do the math – 45.7 x .3 = 13.7 MJ/kg while 2.54 x .80 = 2.1 MJ/kg (most battery chemistries are WAY below that value, by the way).
                    The battery weight to store enough energy to meet a goal of 300-500 miles for a heavier vehicle shows you how quickly you meet the diminishing returns. Then figure out how many kilowatt hours you need to put into that battery and recognize how high the current has to be to make that possible in a limited period of time.
                    Imagination is not useful here – simple arithmetic is all you need to understand.
                    I could not care less what some company “promises” – show me the science experiment first and then I might believe that it is possible to produce such a battery. Failing that, I expect the funding to produce as much result as all of the other silly DOE expenditures enabled by the stimulus package.

                  3. @ EL:
                    Your response is an attempt at humour, right? I was talking about the centralisation/decentralisation issue, and HVDC lines were raised in the context of providing low loss power transmission over vast distances, an essential feature for any highly centralised renewables proposal using large-scale generation infrastructure in remote locations, such as the SciAm Solar Grand Plan.
                    But of course, you don’t wish to focus on that, and now wish for everyone to forget all about your decentralisation trip, and go chasing some other red herring now you’ve been called out.

                    1. @EL – I checked one of your links. Part of your problem is that you seem to believe everything you read that agrees with your world view and to ignore or discount that which does not agree.
                      Here is a quote from the article about the Audi achievement – it makes me question every single number in the article.
                      “The battery, based on what DBM Energy calls the KOLIBRI AlphaPolymer Technology, comes with 97 percent efficiency and can be charged at virtually every socket. Plugged into a high-voltage direct-current source, the battery can be fully loaded within 6 minutes, Hannemann said.”
                      I will leave it to others to help you understand just why that statement is so terribly wrong.

                    2. “you can take a look at the 10 projects funded by the ARPA-E Batteries for Electrical Energy Storage in Transportation (BEEST) program.”
                      Drink that koolaid, EL! Chug! Chug! Chug! 😉
                      Have you ever submitted a proposal for a government grant? Do you know how many of these “ambitious” (the word used by BEEST) projects ever come close to achieving their goals?
                      No … I suppose you do not.
                      My advice? Curb your enthusiasm now, so that you lessen the pain of disappointment later.
                      “and the same could be said for many advanced nuclear technologies as well”
                      Except that most nuclear technologies that are currently classified as “advanced” in the US have already been implemented, built, and demonstrated decades ago, either in the US or abroad. Compare this to your assessment of the current state of battery technology, where only a miracle can sustain the hopes of ever deploying this technology practically for applications like transportation.
                      However, I notice, from your many post here, that your religion seems to believe in such miracles. So perhaps I should refrain from further comment out of respect of freedom of religion.

                    3. Many of the battery technologies in ARPA-E have already been successfully commercialized. The zinc metal air battery that looks so promising from the vantage point of specific energy density is a 130 year old technology, and has been used widely in hearing aids, railway signaling, remote communications, navigation buoys, and emerging markets of stationary generators (Power Air Corp), electrical buses and scooters (Powrzinc Electric Inc), mobile electronic devices, electric cars, and possibly even firm storage for renewables (in megawatt hour range). The ARPA-E funding looks at prospect for grid level deployment (high risk and reward), and removing one technical obstacle to this battery which has to do with charge cycles and dendrites forming on electrodes during charging. Fluid Energy (and video) is taking one approach: “an electrode scaffold with multi-modal porosity, meaning it has a range of pore sizes down to as small as 10 nanometers.” The technology has been around for a while, and shows many benefits when compared to lithium ion batteries and hydrogen fuel cells: high specific energy (since cathode material is atmospheric oxygen), unrestricted outdoor siting, ability to refuel quickly, low cost, availability of zinc (domestic sources within US), fuel recycling, non-hazardous fuel storage, low maintenance cost, and technology that is “closer to commercialization” (here). Project has supplemental funding from Satcon and Chevron.

  5. I have no children. Bur there is this Country to which I am Loyal. I wore a uniform in active service with the US Navy. It surely was not a money motive that put me in the service of my country. It was the knowledge that greed puts us all at risk from within and without that motivated me. When energy companies put profits above our national security I am given cause to ponder where the real enemy is. Wonder no longer. Corrupted energy company clout has effectively halted innovation in energy development. Give the DOE a proven method and apparatus that competes with carbon based fuel and they will call it a threat to stability of our system. The system is corruption and the deliberate complexity put in the path to innovation is the buffer between their corruption and our justice system. Wake up America! Our kids, our way of life and having a roof over our heads is at risk from corruption. I serve the US Constitution and not a corrupt system run by Wall Street Bankers who own our government via the debt pit they have created.
    How is it that in the Service I was not to have debt and yet ,,,,,,,,back home debt is the monster that threatens our future. We are a nation controlled by debt until the arrival of other world powers forces on our shores. Wake up America!

  6. Rod. Thank you. This is truly why many of us are doing this. Anti-nuclear activists make a living from scaring people about nuclear and then promising to “save” them. The future indeed is nuclear and we help it happen.
    Cute picture, too!

  7. Great post Rod
    You and many of us who read your posts are old enough to remember how good life can be. We have all had better days than what younger generations are going through now. What Nuclear energy can do for us is improve the quality of life. And considering the downward spiral in the last few decades that’s something worth fighting for.

    1. I’m not as old as you guys, but I’m old enough to remember buying $0.92/gallon gas in my high school years, and for a couple years after graduation. Cheap gas meant that you could decide to go on a spur-of-the-moment weekend road trip and not worry if you could afford the gas. It enabled me to go visit places more often, that now I would say, well, I’m not sure I can afford $200 for gas (which, the same trip at 92-95 cents/gal I could do for like $60-70). Good times. . .
      I’m not sure how much nuclear power can help with the cost of transportation fuel. I suppose, if we’re not too worried about carbon emissions from cars and trucks, nuclear actually could make gas cheaper. . . if Nuclear begins to displace coal, and the coal industry then decided to develop more commercial coal-to-liquid plants to tap a market where nuclear can’t as easily compete, the competition from coal could perhaps help reduce the price of gas/diesel. Also, nuclear heat could be used to start massively tapping the Athabasca Oil Sands up in Canada (and other, similar deposits in oil shale in the U.S.), which could, maybe, increase supply and reduce prices.
      Of course, that just means more carbon released for transportation fuel use, which would probably be better to avoid. *sigh*

  8. I was doing another Google news search, and found a posting up on the NRDC website about Nuclear Waste.
    http://switchboard.nrdc.org/blogs/mmckinzie/sixty_thousand_tons_of_commerc.html
    I took that as an opportunity to try to do some outreach about recycling and the IFR as a solution to our waste ‘problem’. Dunno if my comment will last, or be deleted (NRDC is famously anti-nuke, so they might not appreciate me muddying the water with “truth” and “facts”), so here’s what I posted if any of you are interested:
    While I certainly don’t think it’s ideal to be storing our fuel at Nuclear Reactor sites forever, in the short term, I don’t think it’s a terrible problem.
    One point I would like to bring up is that ‘spent fuel’ is more than 95% *unused fuel*. I hope we can begin to think about this problem as an opportunity.
    The DoE ran a project from the 70’s to the 90’s, called the Integral Fast Reactor, which was canceled when it was almost finished, by the Clinton Administration, but which had demonstrated, technically, almost all the technologies necessary to recycle spent nuclear fuel.
    I highly suggest reading up on the IFR sometime – I think it’s a program we need to bring out of retirement, so to speak.
    Key points:
    * The nuclear waste which is left over after running fuel through an IFR style reactor, is only radioactive for about 200 years – and it’s only highly radioactive for a few decades, after which time it becomes weakly radioactive for about 150 years – so it is NOT a long term waste problem.
    * It can consumes our current nuclear ‘waste’, and also, it can consume ‘depleted uranium’ (this is uranium which is left-over from the enrichment process currently used to turn natural uranium into fuel for current-generation ‘once-through’ reactors). Because it can consume both waste and depleted uranium, it is estimated that IFR, using our current ‘waste’ could provide 100% of electric power to the U.S.A. for 500-1000 years (depending, of course, upon how much energy we use each year).
    * It is inherently melt-down proof – the physics of a fast reactor are different than the physics of our current reactors, which could potentially melt-down if they aren’t kept actively cooled. IFR is designed so that if it starts to heat up, the extra heat interferes with the physics of the nuclear reaction, and the reaction automatically shuts down – there’s no control rods needed or anything. The heat itself causes the reaction to stop.
    Nuclear Waste: Please Recycle – we owe it to future generations to clean up the waste we’ve already created, and since we can get power while doing it, there’s no good reason not to.

  9. Scott, thanks from Vermont. I’ve spent almost 35 years in the Nuclear business (including the Navy) and have always felt that electrical generation and distribution is a life transforming technology which we take for granted with no sense of what life was like before reliable energy on demand. In Vermont the inmates have taken over the asylum. Your blog at least gives us hope.

  10. Can there be any doubt left after that excursion into hallucinatory realms that EL is nothing more than an anti-nuke troll?

  11. Rod, Joe Schuster is a good friend of mine. My wife worked for Joe’s company Teltech for 20 years. His book is a great read.

  12. I am also working for my grandchildren as a nuclear advocate (as that somewhat relaxed timetable is more convenient for NRC regulators overseeing reactor license applications given current staffing limitations).
    The last license to build a new US reactor that became a successful operating nuclear reactor was issued in 1973. Not one application for a license to build a new nuclear reactor has made it through the NRC regulatory process to become a successful operating reactor since NRC opened its doors in 1975.

    1. Robert, would that be because no company applied for a new license or because all subsequent applications fell through? It would be one thing to blame the NRC for fouling up new applications but if no one applied that’s a little different.

      1. Jason – I unfortunately do not have as much data as I would like regarding the detailed record of new reactor license applications since NRC opened its doors as regulator. NRC came into being as an agency as a result of the Energy Reorganization Act of 1974, mostly as a result of critics and opponents of nuclear power (Union of Concerned Scientists, early anti-nuclear

        1. Robert, wanted to follow-on to your post. I recall reading somewhere that the NRC’s charter is to ensure that civilian use of nuclear energy should be as safe as other sources of energy (ex., coal, gas, petro, etc.). However I can’t recall the NRC ever actually performing this type of comparison. The results would be interesting if they ever did.

          1. Those who framed The Energy Reorganization Act of 1974 claimed that reorganization of nuclear regulation to install NRC as a “pure regulator” that single mindedly pursues safety over any consideration of development of nuclear technology or the health of the nuclear industry would be higher levels of public safety as a result of eliminating the internal “conflict of interest” in the AEC.
            I suggest that the actual result of installing NRC as a segregated “pure regulator” that pursues SAFETY ABOVE ALL OTHER CONSIDERATIONS is just to obstruct the building of new nuclear energy to the point that no new reactors have been initiated as projects and built in the US in the last 35 years.
            In the interest of increasing public safety, those who have installed segregated NRC nuclear regulation have actually decreased US public safety by virtue of the fact that they forced less safe nuclear to be priced out of consideration over the last 35 years and caused much less safe fossil fuel (coal) power plants that produce thousands of fatalities a year in lung disease related deaths to be built in their place.

  13. @EL – Nuclear energy might be “more of the same”, e.g. concentrated energy, but “the same” works, doesn’t it? It’s allowed us to carry what is it, somewhere between 1 and 2 bn people with ~80 year lifespans and standards of living orders of magnitude better than in the past, has it not? Concentrated energy and the way of life it enables (and there are variations, some more healthy than others – not saying which, North American, European, Japanese-Korean) are what people in the Third World want so desperately that they’re willing to mess up everything to get it. And they will get it, one way or another.
    Distributed energy paths driven by intermittent renewables are things that the rich in the rich countries can afford, and even then, many of them – people in the cities or living in apartments where the landlord has no incentive to improve efficiency or install generation – probably can’t afford the increased prices that intermittent-based distributed energy will cause either. Further, there seem to be insurmountable obstacles between distributed energy paths driven by intermittent renewables and the goal of the electrical system, which is reliable energy supply at a reasonably level price – by reasonably level, I mean that you can charge on-peak/off-peak, but not change peak periods or prices for end users in realtime. The goal of the system – reliability at a reasonably level price – is not really up for negotiation, either. For one, I doubt batteries – or any energy storage medium – will come down in price sufficiently to enable intermittent renewables for commercial applications or even residential applications – remember, batteries are so much less energy dense and so costly compared to something like oil. Further, to assure reliability, you have to size the solar panels and size storage (most of the cost will likely be in storage) to peak demand on the entire day and night of the Winter Solstice, while allowing a sizable reserve of storage capacity – likely days of storage – for weather. Buildings like the one you cite have a 50% price premium, even using generous estimates, and further, with all due respect to the Times – the building is not “net zero energy” – as there’s a major difference between “dumping power” that is produced when electricity isn’t being demanded and “meeting demand” when power is needed. The building’s demand – especially in winter – likely does not match the building’s generation, which is highly biased towards the summer. Further, in winter, lighting load is the highest, and windows aren’t open, meaning air handlers have to work more and harder.
    Distributed energy paths driven by reliable technologies such as small modular reactors, though, could be viable, and could even be less expensive than the present day system in dense areas, with CHP added in. But, even still, distributed energy paths are something that we rich nations who have moderate-sized concentrated industrial sectors can afford. Nations who need to build industrial sectors so as to industrialize will still get most of their energy from the central stations used to power their heavy industries.
    As such, though our choice in the US could be between a distributed energy path and a centralized energy path, I think humanity’s choice as a whole in the short and medium term is between a sustainable centralized energy path driven by technologies like nuclear, hydro, and geothermal and an environmentally devastating centralized energy path driven by coal and what scraps of oil we have left – a path that wrecks everything.

  14. Interesting summary of the history behind the creation of NRC. It sort of sounds to me like, “Humpty Dumpty was pushed off a wall. Humpty Dumpty had a great fall. All the king’s horses and all the king’s men, cannot put humpty back together again.”

  15. Thank you for the thorough research and images. Seems like we need a separate agency that does nothing more than promote and educate the public about nuclear energy, but the time has passed for creating new agencies when there is barely enough money to keep the ones we have running. Too bad.

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