Comments ... #
One of the greatest wrongs that humanity has wrought upon itself is its failure to further embrace nuclear power.
I don't think the future is quite as bleak as the article states though. Many new reactor designs have been developed, and the process of licensing new plants has already begun with many existing utilities. Hopefully we will have the strength to acknowledge and pursue the tremendous advantages this technology offers.
I think new plants have been prohibitively expensive for quite sometime. Then add in the liabilities and externalities and it's even worse.
The Gen-IV reactors with Thorium sound promising and feasible, but conventional reactors are getting phased out around the world.
NRC just gave a big NO to nukes, believe it or not. Utilities are trying to get customers to pay for the reactors now even though NRC says they won't be approved till after 2012, if then. Further, the utilitis won't tell the customers how much they will cost, not even an estimate. Here's the article, nuclear power is the most expensive way in the world to make electricity, and you will pay for it if its built. Nukes would sink Ohio's economy and people.
Featured stories in this issue...
An Epidemic of Extinctions: Decimation of Life on Earth
Species are dying out at a rate not seen since the demise of the
dinosaurs, according to a report published in May -- and human
behaviour is to blame.
Oil: The Final Warning
"There is a growing realisation that we are teetering on the edge
of an economic catastrophe which could be triggered next time there is
a glitch in the world's oil supply. A number of converging forces are
making such an event more likely than ever before."
NASA's James Hansen Renews His Plea for Action on Warming
The director of NASA's Goddard Institute of Space Studies warns
(again) that "disastrous climate changes will spiral dynamically out
of humanity's control" if we don't take preventive action soon. And he
urges that fossil energy company CEOs be tried for "high crimes
against humanity and nature."
Life Expectancy Is Declining in Some Pockets of the Country
"In the U.S., there has always been a view, stated
or unstated, that we can live with some inequality if everyone is
getting better. This is the first sign that not everyone is getting
Causes and consequences of the wide-and growing-gap between rich
Too Young for a Cell Phone
The brains of young children absorb twice as much as radio
frequency energy from a cell phone as those of adults.
Nuclear Regulatory Commission's Devastating Blow To Nuclear Power
Despite millions of dollars of high-priced hype, the "new
generation" of "standardized design" nuclear power plants actually
does not exist.
Sorry,, here is the article::::::::
NUCLEAR REGULATORY COMMISSION'S DEVASTATING BLOW TO NUCLEAR POWER
New Nukes Not Ready for Prime Time
By Harvey Wasserman
A devastating blow to the much-hyped revival of atomic power has been
delivered by an unlikely source -- the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
The NRC says the "standardized" designs on which the entire premise of
returning nuclear power to center stage is based have massive holes in
them, and may not be ready for approval for years to come.
Delivered by one of America's most notoriously docile agencies, the
NRC's warning essentially says: that all cost estimates for new
nuclear reactors -- and all licensing and construction schedules --
are completely up for grabs, and have no reliable basis in fact. Thus
any comparisons between future atomic reactors and renewable
technologies are moot at best. And any "hard number" basis for
independent financing for future nukes may not be available for years
to come, if ever.
These key points have been raised in searing testimony before state
regulators by Jim Warren of the North Carolina Waste and Awareness
Reduction Network and Tom Clements of the South Carolina Friends of
the Earth, and by others now challenging proposed state-based
financing for new Westinghouse AP-1000 reactors. The NRC gave
conditional "certification" to this "standardized" design in 2004,
allowing design work to continue. But as recently as June 27, the NRC
has issued written warnings that hundreds of key design components
remain without official approval. Indeed, Westinghouse has been forced
to actually withdraw numerous key designs, throwing the entire
permitting process into chaos.
The catastrophic outcome of similar problems has already become
tangible. After two years under construction, the first "new
generation" French reactor being built in Finland is already more than
two years behind schedule, and more than $2.5 billion over budget. The
scenario is reminiscent of the economic disaster that hit scores of
"first generation" reactors, which came in massively over budget and,
in many cases, decades behind promised completion dates.
In North and South Carolina, public interest groups are demanding the
revocation of some $230 million in pre-construction costs already
approved by state regulators for two proposed Duke Energy reactors. In
both those states, as well as in Florida, Alabama and Georgia,
Westinghouse AP-1000 reactors have been presented to regulatory
commissions to be financed by ratepayers as they are being built.
This astounding pro-utility scheme forces electric consumers to pay
billions of dollars for nuclear plants that may never operate, and
whose costs are indeterminate. Sometimes called Construction Work in
Progress, it lets utilities raise rates to pay for site clearing,
project planning, and down payments on large equipment and heavy
reactor components, such as pressure vessels, pumps and generators,
that can involve hundreds of millions of dollars, even before the
projects get final federal approval. The process in essence gives
utilities an incentive to drive up construction costs as much as they
can. It allows them to force ratepayers to cover legal fees incurred
by the utilities to defend themselves against lawsuits by those very
ratepayers. And the public is stuck with the bill for whatever is
spent, even if the reactor never opens -- or if it melts down before
it recoups its construction costs, as did Pennsylvania's Three Mile
Island Unit Two in 1979, which self-destructed after just three months
According to Warren and Clements, Duke Energy and its cohorts have
"filed some 6,500 pages of Westinghouse's technical design documents
as the major component of applications" to build new reactors. "Of the
172 interconnected Westinghouse documents," say NCWARN and FOE, "only
21 have been certified." And most of what has been certified, they
add, rely on systems that are unapproved, and that are key to the guts
of the reactor, including such major components as the "reactor
building, control room, cooling system, engineering designs, plant-
wide alarm systems, piping and conduit."
In other words, despite millions of dollars of high-priced hype, the
"new generation" of "standardized design" power plants actually does
not exist. The plans for these reactors have not been finalized by the
builders themselves, nor have they been approved by the regulators.
There is no operating prototype of a Westinghouse AP-1000 from which
to draw actual data about how safely these plants might actually
operate, what their environmental impact might be, or what they might
cost to build or run.
In fact, as the NRC's June 27 letter notes, Westinghouse has been
forced to withdraw key technical documents from the regulatory
process. The NRC says this means design approval for the AP-1000 might
not come until 2012.
The problem extends to other designs. According to Michael Mariotte of
the Nuclear Information & Resource Service, the "Evolutionary Power
Reactor" proposed for Calvert Cliffs, Maryland, "is way behind in
certification" causing delays in the licensing process. Similar
problems have arisen with the "Economic Simplified Boiling War
Reactor" design proposed for North Anna, Virginia and Fermi, Michigan.
"All of these utilities seem to want standardization for the other
guy, not for themselves, so most of them are making changes to the
'standardized' designs, says Mariotte. "Even the ABWR," being planned
for a site in south Texas, which has actually been built before, "has
design issues" that have caused delays.
The problem, says Mariotte, "is that the NRC is still trying to go
ahead and do licensing even with the designs not certified. This is
going to lead to a big mess later on."
But in the meantime, Public Service Commissions like the one in
Florida, have given preliminary approval to reactor proposals whose
projected costs have more than doubled in just one year. Florida Power
& Light's two proposed reactors at Turkey Point, on the border of the
Everglades National Park, are listed as costing somewhere between $6
billion and $9 billion. FP&L refuses to commit to a firm price, and is
demanding south Florida ratepayers foot an unknowable bill for
gargantuan projects whose costs are virtually certain to skyrocket
long before the NRC approves the actual reactor designs. By contrast,
the "huge" preliminary deal just reached between Florida,
environmentalists and U.S. Sugar to buy some 180,000 acres of land to
save the Everglades is now estimated at less than $2 billion, less
than one-sixth the minimum estimated cost of the two reactors proposed
for Turkey Point.
In the larger picture, the depth of this scam is staggering. With no
finalized design, and no firm price tag, a second generation of
nuclear power plants is now being put on the tab of southeastern
citizens whose rates have already begun to skyrocket. These reactor
projects cannot get private financing, and cannot proceed without
either massive federal subsidies and loan guarantees, or a flood of
these state-based give-aways. They also cannot get private insurance
against future melt-downs, and have no solution for their radioactive
waste problem. Current estimates for finishing the proposed Yucca
Mountain national waste repository, also yet to be licensed, are
soaring toward $100 billion, even though it, too, may never open.
By contrast, firm costs for proposed wind farms, solar panels,
increased efficiency and other green sources are proven and reliable.
These projects are easily financed by private investors lining up to
become involved. Some $6 billion in new wind farms are under
construction or on order in the United States alone. They are
established and profitable, and can in many cases can be up and
running in less than a year.
The high-profile campaign to paint atomic energy as some kind of
answer to America's energy problems has hit the iceberg of its
economic impossibilities. The atomic "renaissance" has no tangible
approved design, and no firm construction or operating costs to
present. There are no reliable new reactor construction schedules,
except to know that it will be at least ten years before the first one
could conceivably come on line, and that its price tag is unknowable.
In short, the "nuclear renaissance" is perched atop a gigantic
technical and economic chasm that looms larger every day, and that
could soon swallow the entire idea of building more reactors.
As always, Mr. Wasserman continues to cling to this idea that we can solve our energy needs with windmills and solar panels. I think his heart is in the right place - he really does care for the planet - but he needs to face some facts.
Renewables are by far the most expensive method of producing energy - if it were otherwise we'd see a lot more of them. I agree with Mr. Wasserman that wind and solar projects are being built in the US. And that's a good thing. But for many years he has supported the idea that most or all of our energy can be produced with renewables. This simply is not the case. Renewables can supplement, and with technological improvements can and hopefully will produce a large percentage of our nation's power needs. A large power source will always be needed as backbone - and for the next several decades the options will be coal, oil, or nuclear.
Looking at these three options, coal is cheapest but the most environmentally devastating. Burning coal causes acid rain, puts mercury in the fish in lake erie, rips up mountains and destroys rivers, and is the largest source of CO2 emissions. Significantly more radioactive material is released from a coal power plant than a nuclear plant. Oil obviously has similar problems. Nuclear power, while not without its flaws, produces zero greenhouse gases at a cost that is comparable to (and in many cases is less than) a comparable fossil fuel plant.
I'm not saying its perfect - nuclear waste is a large, expensive problem. But I would rather deal with (and pay for) several hundred tons of nuclear waste than continue to belch several million tons of toxic pollutants from fossil fuels directly into our atmosphere.
Your cost figures are terribly wrong.
(all caps for emphasis, not hollering)
Seek out the numbers from Progress Energy on their proposed new power plants, also another southern utility whose name escapes me. Their cost estimates came out higher ,, that right HIGHER, than the cost of solar. Wind is already several times cheaper than nuclear power.
Coal, IS NOT , the cheapest power source, WIND IS. This is simply factual, and any government energy department can verify it.
Making nuclear fuel generates about 40-50% of the United States ozone destroying CFC emissions. So even if a nuke plant doesn't evacuate northern Ohio like besse almost did, or require an army to protect the waste, its still screwing things up and increasing skin cancer rates which are already too high. Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the U.S.
Another thing to consider is that the more money any utility company spends to make electricity, the more money they make. Its a cost plus contract, like Haliburton. If it costs them $1.00 to make some electricity, they get to charge $1.12,, for instance, but if the same amount of electrcity costs them 6 dollars to make, they get to charge you $6.60
Thats why they hate wind power, its so damn cheap that it will cut their earnings. They don't give a damn that coal pollution is killing off the worlds fish, and poisoning them with mercury too, and acidifying the oceans to the extent that it can't take any more if we want to even have fish. Thats why F.E. isn't building wind power, and isn't building solar.
All new demand for power in the U.S. should be met by solar and wind , else our economy and our planet and so our people, are screwed.
I just went to Progress Energy's website. They announced today an application with the NRC to build 2 nuclear reactors at a site in Levy County, Florida. From today's press release: Nuclear power, along with additional renewable energy resources and expanded energy-efficiency programs, is Progress Energy Florida's strategy to address climate change and the need for greater fuel diversity.
Clearly Progress Energy thinks nuclear is a sound business choice despite the costs. Utilities spend a lot of money on making decisions like these - and 17 utilities have applied to license 29 new nuclear reactors: http://www.eia.doe.gov/cneaf/nuclear/page/nuc_reactors/reactorcom.html?featureclicked=2&
Solar and wind really aren't lower cost. And I couldn't find a single government energy department that said so. Not the US, not Europe, not Canada (that's as far as I went.) In fact utilities charge a premium if you want your electricity to come from renewable sources. (btw - this is a nice service that is offered by many utilities, including Ohio. This is one of the lowest cost ways that an individual consumer can support renewable energy. Here is a link: http://www.eere.energy.gov/greenpower/buying/buying_power.shtml?state=OH )
Utilities don't hate wind power. Heck, they probably love the 1.7c/kWh tax credit that wind power is guaranteed. And the argument about the $6 vs. the $1 charge doesn't make sense at all. It's simple economics - if someone can make a cheaper product, people will buy it instead of the more expensive one. Many/most states have deregulated energy markets, meaning competition rules - if someone can sell power for $1 while the other guy is selling for $6, the $1 guy wins the business. If wind were cheap, thousands of companies would be racing to build windmills all over the place. You just don't see that happening because wind isn't cheap!
The CFC emissions you are referring to come from the uranium enrichment facilities in Paducah, KY and Portsmouth, OH. These facilities are 1950's era and use Freon (that's the CFC) as a coolant. The Portsmouth site has been shutdown and the Paducah site will be replaced in 2010 with a new centrifuge facility that will use no CFCs. I've never heard of the 40-50% figure. Most realistic figures I've seen put Paducah at less than 1% of the current total. Even if it's higher, it's still a drop in the bucket compared to the enormous gains that have been made through regulation of CFCs in consumer products and industrial processes: CFC emissions have been virtually eliminated since the late 90s.
I don't like to argue, but this is one of those things I'm really passionate about. I work for a solar panel company, so of course I want solar and wind power to succeed. I think they have a bright future. I'm even happy to pay increased taxes and costs to support solar and wind.
But I also recognize the sun doesn't always shine, and the wind doesn't always blow. A baseload (i.e., constantly available) power supply is an absolute necessity. Our options are fossil fuels or nuclear. Nuclear is the best option if we give a damn about our planet and the people living in it.
Solar and wind are lower cost when you consider the panels coming out of Zunlight and Nanosolar. But if you are talking cost you have to add in the costs that are taken out of our taxes, like the near complete coverage we the people take on for damage caused by a nuclear catastrophe, the costs of storing the nukes, and the continuing fuel costs, and eternal massive rebuild campaign that you have to do on a nuclear plant to keep it running safely. What percentage of your bill each month is going toward paying for Davis Besse's eternal repairs?
Utilities do hate wind power, First Energy actively lobbied against it in Columbus when the energy bill was being sold out.
Dear god, you think that a cheaper product like wind matters when First Energy owns the grid and dictates charges to others who want to use it? No it doesn't. Why would a new company come in and install wind power when their entire profit would be usurped by First Energy grid fees? Even other coal utilities can't sell power in the First Energy/Toledo Edison service area. Why? Because they have to compete against that phony charge on your bill, the charge that says you pay 5.6 cents per killowatt hour, when you really pay 11.9 cents if you do the math on your total KWH used for the month and the total of your bill.
That, is what another company would have to comete against, not the 11.9 cents, but the ridiculously and falsely low 5.6 cents.
Yes, the sun doesn't always shine and the wind doesn't always blow,,, in our area. But its blowing somewhere and the sun is out somewhere, thats why we need the new dc power grid.
The overcapacity that has to be built, and the storage capacity, pale in cost to the increasing price of coal and nuclear power. Coal keeps doubling in price faster and faster, nukes keep going up in price and NRC still hasn't approved the reactor designs. The utilities won't even give the true cost of the new nukes, yet are allowed to pass on the cost to us regardless of how much that cost is. Add in the much higher cost of running a new coal and especially nuke plant, and the constant rebuilds of both (especially nukes) and wind and solar are cheaper.
If we care about our planet I would guess that solar and wind are better. We almost lost northern Ohio twice to one nuke plant, 150 more will increase both the costs and risks accordingly. There is no clean coal, they already know that underground sequestration of carbon increases earthquake faults, and liquified co2 melts rock. They will build the coal plants, then announce that sequestration at the site has failed. Then they get to continue running the plant and releasing the co2.
If a utility could produce electricity at lower cost they would do so. FirstEnergy has purchased almost 500 MW of renewable energy - most of it from wind. This makes them one largest purchasers of renewable energy. Hard to see how they hate wind.
FirstEnergy wasn't lobbying against the renewable provisions - they were lobbying against the continued regulations proposed by the new state energy bill. They want a truly open market so they can charge us what it actually costs to produce and deliver the power. Whether this is a good thing or not is a matter of debate (like nuclear power!).
Another part of that same bill is a greenhouse gas reduction requirement that, by 2025, 12.5% of the state's energy supplies need to come from wind/solar and another 12.5% from clean coal or advanced design nuclear.
Single utilities never own all of the transmission lines. There are even companies out there that exist solely to own transmission lines and work with renewable suppliers to get power onto the grid: http://www.investors.com/editorial/IBDArticles.asp?artsec=7&issue=20080718
We didn't almost lose northern Ohio to a nuclear disaster. Had Davis Besse's reactor lid been ruptured, its contents would have been released into the enormous containment building designed specifically to hold the released contents of the reactor. This is exactly what happened at Three Mile Island - the reactor ruptured, but there was no environmental damage to the local area at all. In fact, the other reactor at that site (TMI-1) is still operating today. This is a great testament to the safety of American designed nuclear plants.
Our governments are recognizing that renewables and nuclear are the best option if we are going to combat global warming and supply our people with low cost energy. The two really go hand in hand. New nuclear should supply to baseload power to replace older coal/gas/nuclear plants, and in the meantime we should get as much wind and solar out there as we can.
Really, and where are these 500MW of wind turbines? Certainly not in Ohio. Ohio is by statute and rule still a protected monopoly for F.E.
They did lobby against a renewables standard, and also against the efficiency standards. They also very recently bought a coal mine in Montana, just a week ago. Seems clear they intend to continue with coal for a long time. @025 reductions on the order of 12.5 and 12.5 are not enough compared to a real priority for renewables.
I strongly suggest that what F.E. was lobbying for in their "free market" effort, was a continuation of their monopoly in areas like the Toledo Edison area. We have seen by recent history that NO utility is willing to come here to compete against F.E.'s fraudulent 5.6 cent rate,, when its really 11.9 cents.
How many of the grid companies trying to get renewables on the grid, are getting renewable power to us in Toledo? Why not? Because we are paying for Davis Besse on our bill, and the grid rental is too expensive here.
Your judgement of the Davis Besse incident differs with the NRC's version, they said we were days of weeks away from a possible breach of containment.
The containment building had cracks in the concrete, and a pump that had never worked since the reactor was built. A hydrogen explosion could have occured and caused a release. Keep in mind its a pressure reactor, with pressures over 2000 PSI. Other nozzle heads could have been affected too.
TMI is a testament to the unsafe design of todays reactors, not a testament to its safety as you say. There was a release, and they lied about it. I've read acocunts of the poeple who became sick from it. The release was downplayed.
I stronly question the need to engage in a nuclear fission reactor to boil water, for the sake of turning a turbine to make electricity. The sun and wind can do all of this and the power can be stored for overnight and or next day use.
Nuclear goes hand in hand with much higher prices, have you seen the Progress Energy cost estimates per KWH, and the other co too. They are costing between $4000 and $8000 per KWH of built capacity, with of course the right to spend whatever it takes and pass it on to consumers. When a nuclear reactor reaches the end of its designed lifetime, that lifetime is magically extended, just like Davis Besse's was extended, they then become a massive and continuous and costly rebuild job.
Two different and respected groups have detailed how to supply all baseload power with wind and solar. One was ,, I think the IEEE, have you seen these studies and what do you think of them?
If our government were not influenced by utility's market share concerns, they would embark on a massive collaboration with companies that supply wind and solar, and start building that DC grid that all of us can use.
Net metering should pay home users market price for power, nothing less. When wind and solar manufacturers in Toledo are allowed a market to build massive solar fields in Ohio, that would be evidence of serious commitment by the state and grid owners. When those things happen, then let First Energy have their "free market" for electricity. They will be priced out of the market, even their old coal plants. Thats why they lobbied against renewables in Ohio.
Here is what your renewable dollars buy under First Energy's "green" program:
What types of alternative energy resources would be supported through the Green Resource Program?
RECs in the Green Resource Program will come from at least one of the following resources: wind, solar photovoltaic, biomass co-firing of agricultural crops and all energy crops, hydro (as certified by the Low Impact Hydro Institute), incremental improvements in large scale hydro, waste coal, coal mine methane, landfill gas, biogas digesters, biomass co-firing of all woody waste, including mill residue but excluding painted or treated lumber.
Most of it is hardlygreen, the program looks pretty poor.
Believe it or not, I actually worked at Davis Besse for a while. When you're inside the containment building you realize just how small the reactor is compared to the building designed to house it, then it's easier to believe the containment system will hold the reactor contents no matter what happens. The best description I can think of is that the reactor is like a shot glass in an oil drum - it's just tiny. Had the reactor breached, the containment building would have held, just like it did at TMI. I know this because we actually pumped up the entire containment building with compressed air to verify the system would hold. It did.
NRC's report stated that the reactor vessel was in danger of breach, not the containment building. Full report is here (really dull reading though): http://www.nrc.gov/reactors/operating/ops-experience/vessel-head-degradation/vessel-head-degradation-files/cr02-0891-root-cause-report.pdf
MIT and EPRI (Electric Power Research Institute) both did studies on supplying >50% of the nation's power through renewable energy. Most of the power storage options I've seen involve storing compressed air underground or pumping water uphill only to allow the water to drain back downhill through a turbine. The latter is done today with excess power available at night - and if there's a less efficient way to store power I can't think of it! The compressed air idea is interesting and probably feasible, again though, very inefficient way to store power - compressing air takes a lot of energy. Some work has been done with using a catalyst to split H2O into H2 and O2 using these for later power use when wind/sun isn't available - if this could be accomplished it'd be damn near ideal. This is still a research topic and requires a lot of development. (I saw a MIT press release about this over the weekend. Looks promising but still needs a LOT of development. I've no doubt these guys will get all the funding they need.) A new DC power grid would be required also.
In short, baseload power could be achieved with renewables. The catch is the price tag: $400 billion. That's about equivalent to what we spend on the military in one year. Yikes. To make this happen soon would require a project of size and urgency similar to the Manhattan Project. Personally I don't think our politics would allow such a project to happen. It'd be cool if it did though - a far better alternative to coal/oil, even nuclear (look! we agree on something! :) ). I'd be happy to pay the extra money on the utility bill too.
Probably the best recent article on this topic is from Scientific American. The article is free here: http://www.sciam.com/article.cfm?id=a-solar-grand-plan&page=1
The reactor is arguable, especially with the crack in the containment building, and 1500 to 2000 psi pushing stuff through the cracks, and the wham of some hydrogen explosions, but who knows. Its telling that the execs didn't go to jail, and only the fear managed engineers are being persecuted,, er prosecuted.
If we look at the cost of oil, the cost of the Iraq war and continued presence, the ever increasing view of coal as a world-priced commodity, and the exploding material, labor , design etc costs fo nukes, its easy to see how most of our baseload power could have been supplied by clean renewable wind/solar etc.(without added nukes). If you look at real and total costs of nukes they just don't stop, they keep getting more expensive, especially when the design lifetime is extended. Corporate ownership and operation of nukes really needs to be looked at hard in light of our near misses and mistakes that were greed driven by management.
But I think we are way behind in the game, and each time Hansen revises his super computer models things look worse. If we are forced into more nukes it will be due to a failure by leaders to lead, and they are good at failure to lead.
Thanks for the articles, I'll check them out.
The study or studies I was referring to described a lot more than 50%, I'll keep looking for it to post here.