Comments by Rod Adams Subscribe

On Cape Wind Scrambling to Meet Deadline to Qualify for $780 Million Taxpayer Gift

@Mark Tracy

I am pretty well caught up on my reading. Here is a critique of the Sovacool study that you have quoted and linked to.

There is additional discussion between the critic and Sovacool.

The bottom line is that Sovacool's analysis is flawed, based on poor assumptions, and based on collisions with cooling towers that are not associated with a nuclear plant.

Besides, I personnally believe that there is a difference between killing a swallow, sea gull, or pidgeon in a city and killing a soaring codor or bald eagle in a windy mountain pass. Those soaring birds of prey are rare and valuable. They were using the thermals in mountain passes long before we decided that the resource belonged to humans and should be captured by gigantic spinning blades.

December 29, 2013    View Comment    

On Cape Wind Scrambling to Meet Deadline to Qualify for $780 Million Taxpayer Gift

@Paul O

Your numbers miss a key figure - ExxonMobil's annual revenue is approximately $450 billion per year.

Sure, its "earnings" after deducting expenses is only about $50 billion, but multinational corporations have many ways of turning huge rewards for investors and management into "expenses" that reduce their taxable income.

In my opinion, a key metric is that ExxonMobil's annual revenue is more than 2 times as large as the US Navy's annual budget. A fair portion of the cost of maintaining that Navy enables ExxonMobil and its colleagues in the global hydrocarbon industry to more safely capture huge revenue streams from their far flung operations.

However, ExxonMobil pays just $3 billion per year in US corporate income tax and about $7 billion per year in additional exise and sales taxes. What a bargain for the investors!

Of course, wind turbines in Nantucket Sound have little or nothing to do with oil consumption, but they will result in electricial power systems that favor responsive natural gas fired turbines. Half of ExxonMobil's annual energy production is in natural gas, the other half is in crude oil.

December 29, 2013    View Comment    

On Reuters Breakout Series Focuses on China's Interest in Thorium

@Bob Meinetz

In one way, my blog on Shippingport is not quite a relevant now as it was 18 years ago. In the period since the final core of Shippingport was built, there has been a revolution in manufacturing automation that would eliminate much of the manual labor and potentially bring down the cost of building light water breeder cores.

After my recent period of employment with a fuel manufacturing company (I'm no longer there), I am even more convinced than ever that molten salt advocates vastly overstate the challenges of solid fuel manufacuturing and underestimate the challenges that would be associated with dealing with constantly mobile fuel.

December 26, 2013    View Comment    

On NuScale Wins Second Round of DOE SMR Funding Under FOA

@Simon Friedrich

Thank you for the suggested additional comparison. It makes sense to also compare nuclear energy research and development to other types of energy research and development.

However, my initial comparison remains valid information. Both nuclear energy and wind energy have proven characteristics and both produce roughly the same quantity of CO2 per unit of useful energy.

It is important for me to tell as many Americans as I can possibly reach how much more direct monetary reward the government is willing to give large, politically well connected, established companies to build massive quantities of industrial wind generation. It is important to compare those direct payments to the bottom line of Siemens, GE, Iberdrola, and Next Era to the amount of money that the government is willing to give to small nuclear plant design teams to defray some of the government imposed costs associated with engineering and licensing an improved version of the same technology that is already well proven by five decades worth of safe, reliable operation.

It is also worth noting the timeliness of the funds transfers and the speed with which the government is encouraging the developments.

In my opinion, it is a great example of why we need to recognize the efforts that the fossil fuel establishment is making to distract the public from supporting a real competitive threat to their dominant position by supporting a weakling that cannot stand on its own two feet, even after 20 years worth of direct subsidies.

December 21, 2013    View Comment    

On NuScale Wins Second Round of DOE SMR Funding Under FOA

@Nathan Wilson

Someone has to lose. Besides, it has been clear since this program was initiated that LWRs had inside track.

Circle W's proposed system too similar to B&W's. My friends in design at B&W kept complaining about that, but I knew my friends in licensing were often immersed in reading AP1000 design certification documents.

December 20, 2013    View Comment    

On Is the Wind Energy Tax Credit About to Expire for Good?

@Bill Woods

Do you have a source for subsidies for nuclear energy? It would be interesting to find out what they really are.

For the record, I ran a tiny nuclear energy start up company for a few years. I looked and looked; every energy program I could find had a virtual sign out in front saying "nukes not welcome here."

Of course, since I could never raise enough capital to build anything the Price - Anderson "subsidy" wasn't worth enough to buy a cup of coffee. Neither was the promised PTC to completed plants. Loan guarantees didn't exist at the time - truth be told, they don't actually exist today except in bureaucratic imagination and press releases. Not a single dime has flowed from the 2005 authorized program amount of $18.5 billion into a nuclear related construction project. Not a single weekly paycheck, not a valve, not a switch, not a pumb has been purchased with money enabled buy the Energy Policy Act promises of 2005.

Rod Adams

December 20, 2013    View Comment    

On Is the Wind Energy Tax Credit About to Expire for Good?

My vote is that it is time for the PTC, especially the section 1603 ITC in lieu of the PTC, to die. It has done its job of making wind turbines construction into as efficient an industrial process as possible.

If they still cannot compete economically because of inherent challenges, so be it. There are other sources of clean electricity that could use some federal encouragement.

In a post today on the DOE SMR award to NuScale, I pointed out that the engineering and licensing assistance under that program will amount to about $75 million per year over a six year period. That is not much more than 1% of the cost of the annual cost of the PTC. It really seems strange to pay major companies like GE, Siemens and Iberdrola $6 billion per year to manufacture a refined product and invest 1/100th of that amount in the development of two innovative designs to produce emission free electricity that will be available about 90% (or more) of the year.

Rod Adams, Publisher, Atomic Insights

December 19, 2013    View Comment    

On 60 Years Ago, Ike, the Most Visionary President of the 20th Century, Gave Atoms for Peace Speech

@John Miller

I'm a patriotic American with 33 years of uniformed service. I believe that gives me the right and responsibility to point out that the US signed a treaty more than 30 years ago in which it promised to disarm and stop threatening other nations with our nuclear weapons.

We're making no real plans to follow through on that commitment and we've never renounced "first use." 


December 11, 2013    View Comment    

On 60 Years Ago, Ike, the Most Visionary President of the 20th Century, Gave Atoms for Peace Speech

Why? Do you think UCS is independent of the wishes if ita donors?


December 11, 2013    View Comment    

On Military Continues to Move Forward on Clean Energy

I once read a report from the CNO's Strategic Studies Group (sometime in the early 2000s) on the processes that could be used to manufacture synthetic hydrocarbons. The study made an interesting assertion - the problem was almost trivial if the heat from nuclear fission power plants was available. The group determined that a more "interesting" problem was determining if the fuel could be manufactured if it was assumed that "the public" would not support expansion of nuclear energy.

One of my buddies served on that SSG. He was totally frustrated by the way that his fellow members were more concerned about an intriguing challenge than about providing a viable, defensible alternative that could be used to explain the need for additional nuclear plants on a larger variety of ships, especially including big deck amphibious ships.

Several studies were undertaken in 2008, 2009, and 2010 as a result of language specified by the Defense Appropriation Acts. They showed that nuclear powered ships, even with some disadvantageous assumptions, could compete on a pure lifecycle cost basis with oil fired plants with reasonably forseeable fuel price scenarios. I'm operating from memory here, but I think the breakever prices range from $109 per barrel for high powered cruisers to about $147 per barrel for large deck amphibious ships.

The Air Force fuel problem is somewhat different, but again, it can be eased considerably if the energy from nuclear plants can be used to create synthetic hydrocarbons.

December 4, 2013    View Comment    

On Limitations of Unreliable Energy Sources, aka 'Renewables'


With regard to point #6, how do you propose to expand wind to a point at which it can make a significant dent in overall greenhouse gas emissions if you are depending on the present power plants on the grid to supply the flexibility needed to provide power when the wind is not blowing? As you know, about 75% of our current electricity is supplied by burning either coal or natural gas.

In the Pacific Northwest, where there is plenty of hydro, a week long loss of 4500 MW of wind due to a high pressure zone is no real problem from an emissions point of view, but what happens when similar events take down large quantities of wind in other parts of the country? (By the way, the BPA balancing site shows that there have been two separate occasions in the past couple of months when virtually all of its 4500 MW of distributed wind generation has been missing in action for a week or more.)

With regard to point #2, I will agree that transmission upgrades are often beneficial, but specifics matter. When the upgrades occur in parts of the grid that is already developed, there is an improvement in flexibility. When the transmission project is solely aimed at connecting a nearly unpopulated area with reasonably good wind or solar resources into the grid, there is no overall benefit. The cost of that connection should be born solely by the developer of the remote resource.

BTW, transmission upgrades are generally included in the budget for new nuclear projects as a result of Nuclear Regulatory Commission rules regarding backup power supplies.

Rod Adams, Publisher, Atomic Insights

December 3, 2013    View Comment    

On Military Continues to Move Forward on Clean Energy

I served as a requirements officer in the branch of the OPNAV (Chief of Naval Operations) staff - N4 - that deals with energy and fuel issues. I would be much more impressed by the DoD programs to mitigate climate change if the leadership would have opened their eyes to see that the US Navy already contained one of the world's formost nuclear energy organizations and owned technology that has been proven to provide battle capable power without producing any emissions at all. 

As we learned when the USS Nautilus first went to sea in January 1955, nuclear fission energy is both clean enough to run inside a sealed submarine and powerful enough to drive that submarine at unmatched speeds. The first Nautilus core propelled the ship more than 62,000 miles; the most recent cores being installed in Virginia class submarines will last the life of the ship - perhaps 1,000,000 miles.

The reception I got when pushing an expanded nuclear energy program was discouragement from the politically appointed leaders in uniform. I kept showing them the numbers; they kept saying that nuclear was not popular. During the huge run up in oil prices prior to 2008, my efforts started to gain some traction, but short memories took over once the prices fell during the recession.

Many of the budget types informed me that it was always easier to get Congress to approve a supplemental budget request if fuel prices skyrocketed than to get them to approve ships that cost 20-30% more. They said that future fuel costs disappear in their spreadsheets - I kept pointing out the dishonesty and the lack of historical understanding.

Eventually I retired without having made as much of an impact as I desired, but the truth remains that nuclear energy works. It is zero emission and it provides reliable power on demand. It is the right choice for an organization that already knows how to build some of the best power plants in the world.

I've provided this response because I am quite aware of the fact that the NRDC discourages the use of nuclear energy. I recently had a lengthy conversation with Tom Cochran, who has now retired from your organization; he was insistent that, somehow, the US Navy's nuclear propulsion program contributed to the risk of nuclear proliferation. That makes no sense at all considering the measures taken to provide security to all military systems. 

One more thing - the cost of military nuclear power plants is higher than it should be, but that is mostly due to the very low production rate environment of today. The recent cost reduction program for the USS Virginia demonstrates how production rates can make a big impact on system costs.

Rod Adams, Publisher, Atomic Insights

CDR, USN (ret)

December 3, 2013    View Comment