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On Rising Natural Gas Prices Not Enough to Save Kewaunee's Cheap Nuclear Energy

I assume you do not believe that air pollution, water pollution or CO2 dumping are problems worth expending any funds to address.

 

April 22, 2013    View Comment    

On Rising Natural Gas Prices Not Enough to Save Kewaunee's Cheap Nuclear Energy

You may not realize that Kewaunee is a Westinghouse designed Pressurized Water Reactor with a large containment structure; it would not be affected by any new requirements for hardened vents on BWRs.

April 22, 2013    View Comment    

On Half-Hearted Nuclear Energy Cannot Continue, Leaders be "All In"

Leadership decisions make markets move. Don't limit your view of leaders to elected politicians. 

April 2, 2013    View Comment    

On Half-Hearted Nuclear Energy Cannot Continue, Leaders be "All In"

@wind smith

I find it somewhat amusing that you have quoted polling numbers in response to an article about the need for leadership. You have helped me to make my point; nuclear is not popular, despite its enormous technical advantages in energy density, fuel cost, emissions per unit generated, and overall levelized cost of power historically.

The situation begs for articulate leaders that can help people understand what they are giving up when they battle against nuclear energy and what they are signing up to endure by attempting to depend on inherently unreliable power sources as the wind and the sun.

I am reminded of an ancient Peanuts cartoon in which Lucy demands that a vote be called to validate an obviously bad decision. Democracy is fine, but it is often technically stupid to depend on popularity contest results to influence decision making.

April 2, 2013    View Comment    

On Is Bill McKibben Really Serious About Climate Change?

@StephenHJohnson

Nuclear does not have to do it all in order to make a huge difference in the world's energy supply and carbon emissions situation.

It can start with the market application where it has proven to be extremely competitive - supplying large scale, reliable electricity that would otherwise be produced by burning coal, natural gas or oil. It can also take large chunks of market share in another application where its proven capability is just as extensive, though less visible to most of the people in the world - propelling large, fast, emission free ships that would otherwise be powered by burning oil.

As nuclear energy increases its market share and suppliers begin building in earnest, manufacturing economies that are almost guaranteed with any product will enter into the picture. As volume sales increase for all of the special parts that go into nuclear plants, they will become less unique and more standardized, leading to overall cost - and then price - reductions.

Nuclear can enter into markets for both space and industrial process heat with almost as much ease as with the previous two markets I mentioned; there are probably a dozen or more reactors around the world that are already supplying reliable heat to urban space heating systems and at least a couple that have been used to supply industrial process heat.

Factories can either be supplied by the grid or by smaller units on site. We have a great deal of experience in building smaller nuclear plants in the same power output range as would be needed by a moderate to large factory. An on site small reactor (or several for an industrial complex) would be able to be a cogeneration facility that supplies both heat and electricity.

Nuclear heat can play a role in supplying personal vehicles and aircraft with fuel by being an integral part of the process that converts carbohydrates from plants or carbon from coal into a liquid hydrocarbon using processes like the endthermic Fischer-Tropsch for coal to liquid or one of several distillation processes for carbohydrate conversion.

There are many challenges to be overcome between our current state and a state of atomic abundance, but the primary hurdles have been erected by human decision making rather than based on physics or weather. The nice thing about human decisions is that they are easier to change than the laws of nature that limit the competitors to nuclear energy.

Rod Adams, Publisher, Atomic Insights

March 26, 2013    View Comment    

On Is Bill McKibben Really Serious About Climate Change?

@Howard Johnson

If nuclear requires a 20 fold increase to meet energy demand, and you claim that such an increase is "off the table" how much of any increase does a combination of wind, solar and biomass need? Do you think the required increase for those is any more reasonable?

We do not need to get completely off of fossil fuels to make a real difference. We should pick the biggest noises first (direct burning of coal and natural gas to produce electricity and industrial process heat) and work to increase the share of those applications produced by emission free, reliable power sources. Only nuclear fission - in dozens of different forms - has that proven capacity.

March 24, 2013    View Comment    

On Greenpeace: How the $336 Million Multi-National Organization Targets Nuclear, GMOs

A person with a questioning attitude might wonder if there are any individuals with corporate interests that invest in Greenpeace's anti technology efforts as a way to fight off their competitors.

For example, what would the return on investment be for people associated with selling liquified natural gas if they supported Greenpeace's effort to spread fear about nuclear energy by empasizing the effects of Fukushima, even if there are no human injuries?

Greenpeace proudly claims in their own material that their efforts contributed to the Japanese government's decision to force 50 operable nuclear plants to shut down. Replacing the power those plants had been producing is costing Japanese utilities (ultimately Japanese consumers and industries) about $55 billion per year in additional LNG costs. Stated another way, LNG suppliers are selling about $55 billion more in product every year to Japan than they would be selling if the nuclear plants were still operating.

That is a pretty decent ROI - invest $50 million; get a 1000 times increase in sales. (I find it amusing that I am writing this with a Shell Oil add right next to my text input field.)

Similar arguments can be made about GMO's with the funds coming from traditional agriculture giants that are not interested in allowing improved productivity from competitors, even when those competitors are simply trying to feed starving people who would otherwise be dependent on food aid - supplied by the traditional agriculture companies.

It is time to start asking really hard questions about why Greenpeace is so well supported. I do not believe it is from small donations from idealistic contributors.

Rod Adams, Publisher, Atomic Insights

March 22, 2013    View Comment    

On Is Small Nuclear Reactor R&D Fleecing the Public?

@wind smith

Your initial premise is incorrect. Iowa is not a closed system any more than Denmark or Germany are closed systems. In all cases, the geographic boundary of state or country is almost invisible to the electrons that flow over the interconnecting wires that bind the territory with that of its neighbors.

Those neighboring territories enable the large penetration of unpredictable wind energy that is sometimes to much, sometimes to little and rarely just right. Their grids absorb the excesses and supply the power that drives Iowa when the wind is not blowing.

In contrast, there are perfect examples of closed systems completely powered by small modular reactors. They are called "nuclear submarines" and they operate for months at a time without any grid connection, without any fuel supply lines and without producing any waste that requires immediate disposal.

 

Rod Adams, Publisher, Atomic Insights

Disclosure: I am a proud employee of, but not a spokesperson for, the small modular reactor design company that was the recipient of the unjustified "Fleece". I speak only for myself on the Internet; my views are not necessarily shared by my employer.

March 17, 2013    View Comment    

On Is Bill McKibben Really Serious About Climate Change?

I fully understand what IS. I also understand what is possible. Thanks for the challenging discussion and for renewing my motivation to back up words with actions.

March 16, 2013    View Comment    

On Is Bill McKibben Really Serious About Climate Change?

@Davis Carson

I never claim that hippies waving banners had anything to do with the difficulty that nuclear energy has had gaining traction in the marketplace. Hippies waving banners are quite powerless - unless their message happens to be one that makes powerful people very happy.

Nuclear energy was a disturbing development for many of the world's most powerful, wealthy and greedy people - those who have made many billions by selling hydrocarbons to a world population who thought there was no better alternative if they wanted reliable, concentrated, portable power.

Until fission, burning petroleum products was the easiest, cheapest and most portable form of reliable energy. After fission was discovered, petroleum looked pretty feeble in comparison. Even with the primitive first of a kind engine, the USS Nautilus was able to operate for about 2 years without refueling. Today's submarines can operate for 33 years on a single load of fuel from a reactor that would probably fit inside my office. (I know the core of my 1960s vintage boat would fit under my office desk.)

Just think of the implications of having an energy source that is not controlled by OPEC and where percieved scarcity is not an issue. How much do you think oil and gas would cost if there had not been such a focused effort to convince people to fear atomic energy.

You're right about our current situation. That does not make you correct about the basic technology or abiout the future trajectory that will be traveled as more and more people figure out that they have been lied to about the safety, abundance and effectiveness of nuclear energy production.

By the way, despite all of the advances in alternative energy, the annual production from nuclear energy plants (roughly 12 million barrels of oil per day equivalent) dwarfs the output of all other fossil fuel alternatives combined - unless you like to include large scale hydro and burning wood and cow dung in the "alternative" energy category.

March 16, 2013    View Comment    

On Is Bill McKibben Really Serious About Climate Change?

@Davis Carson

What makes you think that nuclear powered submarines do not have anything to do with commercial energy generation. Where do you think the basic technology used in about 80% of today's commercial plants originated?

I understand the technical and economic characteristics of the small, factory produced reactors that power submarines better than most people. Not only did I serve as the Engineer Officer of a sub, but I also served as a requirements officer in Washington. I performed economic analysis of nuclear power training and nuclear power plant maintenance and repair.

There are general lessons from that deep well of professional experience that are applicable to building new commercial power plants, especially those in the category of "small modular reactors". This option has not previously been marketed and is not yet available. It will be soon, however.

Not all new reactors will be smaller; China has more than two dozen reactors currently under construction with many dozens more in the active planning stages. India, Brazil, UAE, Saudi Arabia, and Jordan have all announced major programs. The UK, Finland, France, Czech Republic, and Turkey also have announced programs to build new reactors.

Economics can be changed, especially when the fundamentals are good. The fundamentals of nuclear energy is that the fuel is widely available, it is densely concentrated, it is affordable, and it is one of very few alternatives that produces reliable power without producing CO2.  

Advocacy CAN change reality, just as antinuclear activism tried to overcome reality and almost succeeded.

March 16, 2013    View Comment    

On Energy Facts: Fossil Fuels Replace Nuclear in Japan

@Jesse

How much additional revenue did the global fossil fuel industry capture as a result of that market shift? With your understanding of the market shift, can you get your mind around the magnitude of the number of dollars (yen) involved?

Do you still reject the notion that fossil fuel advertising might have had something to do with the Fukushima Frenzy that forced Japanese political leaders to think they had to shut down perfectly well functioning, undamaged nuclear plants as a result of an accident caused by the confluence of two unlikely natural disasters of a type that do not threaten many of the plants.

March 15, 2013    View Comment