2. Nuclear Energy is 1000 times safer than Coal, Oil, and Hydro Power
3. The Myths and Realities of Solar and Wind Energy
4. Anti-Nuclear Singer Elected to US Congress
5. John Hall’s Report Lacking in Key Facts
6. Anti-Nuclear Bloggers Support John Hall
7. Indian Point’s Containments Among the Safest
8. Listen to the show at (510) 248-0360
9. Leave a voice mail at (206) 984-3654
Australian Nuclear Report
This past week the Australian government released their formal study of the potential for expanding the nuclear industry in Australia. The study concluded that even in coal-rich
Some fascinating statistics from the report:
- Nuclear energy accounts for 0.006 fatalities per GWe-year of energy produced.
- Gas powered electricity accounts for 15 times more fatalities than nuclear.
- Coal, oil, and hydo powered electricity account for 1000 times more fatalities than nuclear.
So here’s another independent analysis that shows nuclear energy is the safest form of large scale electrical generation!
The report was greeted, as you would expect, by a flurry of press conferences and official statements by politicians and green party members who condemned the report as biased. Some even threatened legal action.
South Australian Premier Mike Rann, for example, says his government will pass laws to prevent a nuclear power station ever being built in the state. No surprise here – the coal industry is a strong supporter, and will do everything they can to prevent nuclear energy from taking any market share. This kind of reaction is just plain irresponsible in light of Australia’s air quality that claims more lives than traffic accidents every year.
Another report from New Zealand Green Party tries to create public fear of a Chernobyl-type accident by claiming
The Australian report predicts that the first nuclear plants could be running in 15 years, and by 2050 25 nuclear plants could be running. That that would help reduce greenhouse gas emissions in
The Myths and Realities of Solar and Wind Energy
Last Saturday afternoon I was admiring the beauty of the desert while taking a run along the
I’m getting off track because I wanted to talk about solar and wind. On Saturday and Sunday I was thinking
My experience made me wonder what the typical capacity factors are for wind and solar power stations. Nuclear plants on average put out 90% of their rated capacity day in and day out, so that was my benchmark. At 90%, nuclear plants run at 100% most of the time except for planned maintenance and refueling outages every 18 or 24 months that last a month or less.
What I found confirmed what I suspected – in the USA solar photovoltaic stations have an abysmal 21 % capacity factor because the sun doesn’t shine at night, but also because cloudy days and the seasonal changes in the angle of the sun mean that solar panels virtually never operate at their rated capacity. Solar thermal systems, systems that convert sunlight to heat, have slightly higher capacities, but are much more expensive to build.
Wind energy is affected by the weather conditions, and by mechanical breakdowns, resulting in a capacity factor of about 41 %. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been fascinated by wind and solar energy my whole life, and I’d love to see the technologies mature. While both are getting better every year, experts predict that by 2030 wind energy will only produce 1.1% of all the electricity consumed in the
The low capacity factors have another less obvious impact – it raises the cost of producing a given amount of energy. Let me explain this in simple terms; Let’s assume there are two power stations that both put out 1000 MW, and both cost the same to build and operate. Plant “A” runs at 40 % capacity factor, and plant “B” operates at 80%. With this difference in capacity factors, every MW of electricity generated by A will cost twice that of power plant B. That’s a huge consideration in a market where a few tenths of a cent on a kilowatt of electricity is the difference between making a profit and going out of business.
So that brings me back to reality – the capacity factors of wind and solar, when combined with the construction and operating costs put them both way out of line with coal, nuclear, gas and oil. You’ve heard me talk about gas and oil before – they are the highest cost options and we shouldn’t be burning them anyway if were going to reduce our reliance on foreign fuel sources. That leaves the big two – coal and nuclear. Solar and wind will continue to get better and cheaper, but they won’t put a dent in coal or nuclear in my lifetime or even in my daughter’s lifetime. That’s why you don’t hear about large utilities planning to invest in 30 to 50 Gig watts of solar and wind capacity, but they are talking about that level of investment in coal and nuclear. There are other technologies out there, too, like tidal generators, biomass, and a few others, but none have a chance to contribute even 1% of our energy needs in the foreseeable future. That’s why nuclear energy is the only technology that has a chance to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions released by burning coal.
I’ve used statistics from the United States in this discussion, because that’s the data that’s readily available for me. My conclusions hold true elsewhere because the economics are essentially the same elsewhere in the world. Nuclear energy is even more attractive in the EU where they’ve implemented a carbon trading program.
This is the same debate, and the same logic that has brought so many environmentalists around to support nuclear energy; Patrick Moore, for example. He’s one of the founding members of Greenpeace, and here’s what he has to say about nuclear energy…
(Patrick Moore audio plays here)
That was Patrick Moore sharing why he supports expanding nuclear energy.
So reflecting back on my mental wanderings in the
Politics and the Indian Point License Renewal
In my last show I talked about politics at the national level in the
John Hall is vocally anti-nuclear, and he campaigned on a promise to shut down Indian Point Nuclear Plant and turn it into what he calls an “
And tidal power? Well at least we’d have electricity on the full moon!
Oh – I forgot to mention, John Hall claims to want to reduce CO2 emissions, but he also wants to add lots of gas turbines burning bio-diesel. Hey, I’m a big fan of bio-diesel, because it can help reduce foreign oil consumption, but last time I checked burning bio-diesel it still created CO2! There is no way that NY State can meet its obligations under the Northeast Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative under Congressman John Hall’s proposal.
I’m all for developing these technologies, but as I’ve just explained, none of these separately or in aggregate can replace the contribution that nuclear energy makes – not at Indian Point, and not anywhere.
I also have to mention that funding for John Hall’s
John Hall’s suggestions are strangely reminiscent of the Shoreham Nuclear plant deal – remember that one? Then Governor Mario Cuomo brokered a deal where NY State bought a brand new, ready to operate nuclear plant from Long Island Lighting Company for $1 and assumed the billions of dollars of debt that they passed on to the taxpayers. The state tore the plant down, and the people of NY paid for it and will continue paying for it through our children’s lifetimes. The deal also resulted in
I’ll have to give John Hall the benefit of the doubt because he’s obviously been misled on the science, and economics underlying electricity infrastructure in southern NY. We’ll need to give him a chance to use his new position to become better informed on the issues and the facts. He claims he’s been against nuclear plants since the 1970’s and that may be part of the problem. The nuclear industry today is NOT the industry of the 1970’s! Advancements in the technology that have been added to existing plants, 40 years of worldwide operating experience, and improvements in all aspects of how nuclear plants are operated, tested, maintained, and managed paint a striking contrast – I’ve been in the industry for about 23 years and have seen a remarkable change in just that period of time. In the 1970’s most nuclear plants had trouble staying on line for half the time. Today, the industry’s average capacity factor is 90%! That’s better than any other form of electricity generation!
The Hall report also makes an interesting reference to “unscrupulous multinational corporations who have downsized thousands of people.” The only multinational corporation I know of in his district that has downsized thousands of people is IBM. I wonder what IBM thinks about his characterization of their corporate morality?
Congressman-elect Hall definitely got out the radical anti-nuclear vote. One such activist, a blogger who calls himself “Porgie Tirebiter” is publishing misinformation and false accusations about Indian Point. According to Mr. Tirebiter there’s criminal collusion going on between the NRC and Entergy, the plant’s owner, to hide the truth and lie to the public. If you believe him, the plant is spewing glowing green toxic waste, the containments are falling down, and the operators are a bunch of illiterate morons. I really take offence to his characterizations. Yeah, I’m biased, I’ll admit it, but my beliefs are the result of years of study, and personal real world experience. In fact, I spent several years in operations at Indian Point, and held a senior reactor operator license there. I consider myself fortunate to know many of the operators who work there today. To a person they’re smart, dedicated, and highly trained. Being a nuclear plant operator is a great job, but it’s a demanding field that requires intelligence, dedication, and motivation. If you’re missing any one of these traits you won’t make it as a nuclear plant operator.
This reminds me of another fact about Indian Point that the mainstream media seems to miss – the containment system at Indian Point is one of the only ones in the world, maybe the only one – with a full-time liner leak detection system. It’s a unique system that makes the Indian Point Containment one of the safest containments on the planet.
Indian Point's Contaiment Safety is Enhanced
Here’s how it works: The containment is made from three or more feet of steel reinforced concrete. The inside of the containment is lined with an airtight steel liner That steel liner is made of thousands of steel plates welded together, and every one of the welds is encased in a welded steel channel that is pressurized with air. If a liner weld springs a leak then the operators can tell immediately because the pressure in the channels drop and the air flow to the channels rises. This ability for operators to continuously monitor the leak-tightness of the containment liner welds makes the Indian Point containments unique, and among the safest in the world.
Indian Point has some other unique design features that add to the safety of the plant that I’ll talk about in a future show.
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