Making Nuclear Power an Environmental Topic

Written by Christopher Bergan

I have recently had my suspicions reinforced that all people can be like sheep (sheeple?) – and to be perfectly frank, I have sometimes been in that category also. I am not talking specifically about work or politics here, but just being a member of society. None of us really has time to become an expert in all things so we take mental shortcuts, which psychologists and philosophers call heuristics. No this isn’t an academic paper – more of a lament that many important issues like the environment, energy infrastructure, and climate change are only superficially understood by otherwise well informed people. Most will nearly always trust simplistic ideas or even gut reactions rather than explore any topic deeply for themselves.

What I’m trying to describe are issues in which a person is willing to donate time, money, or become otherwise proactive. Yet few ever take the initiative to actually learn about these issues on their own and confirm the information being presented to them. Generally people will make a conscious decision to trust what a knowledgeable person says, with little regard as to whether there might be any bias or hidden agenda. The hard questions almost never get asked.

There’s a local group in Iowa which is very passionate about the environment, called 100 Grannies. Several members are well educated and many are semi-retired. They are willing to travel several hours to a protest, just to show solidarity with oppressed groups and occasionally get arrested. I do admire them for that tenacity. I found a post on their website about another environmental arrestee: Dr. James Hansen. The Grannies entry concerned Hansen’s trip to the COP21 meeting in Paris and his promoting of the Carbon Fee & Dividend as proposed by the Citizen’s Climate Lobby. The Grannies don’t mention Hansen’s views on nuclear energy – neither does the CCL site, even though they also quote him from COP21 – which is where he & three scientist friends specifically stated that nuclear power must be part of the solution.

I’ll add that the 100 Grannies usually meet only a few blocks from the Van Allen building on the University of Iowa campus, named after the university professor that mentored Hansen back when he was a student at U of Iowa. Ironic.

What did Hansen & friends actually say about nuclear at COP21? That video can be found with Energy for Humanity, a group co-founded by award winning documentary film-maker Robert Stone. EFH Director Kirsty Gogan introduced these Four Climateers (if I may be allowed to co-opt Victor Hugo’s term), and here are some of their statements:
There’s really only one technology that I know of that can provide carbon free power when the sun’s not shining or the wind’s not blowing at the scale that modern civilization requires – and that’s nuclear power.” Dr. Ken Caldeira

There are a lot of people who see this as an opportunity to advance one agenda or another….; but why are four climate scientists, who don’t have strong backgrounds in nuclear physics, here today talking to you about nuclear energy? It’s because we are scientists and we can do the math. If we truly are sincere about solving this problem – unless a miracle occurs – we are going to have to ramp up nuclear energy very fast! That’s the reality.” Dr. Kerry Emanuel

But the decisions we make in the next 5, 10, 15 years will determine what’s possible after 2030. So this initial period – ratifying the INDC, making sure we don’t just look for a Renewable Energy targets but we look for a clean energy target future – that’s the primary concern of this particular meeting.”
Dr. Tom Wigley

We have to use all of the things that we have at our disposal, and clearly nuclear power – next generation nuclear power especially – has tremendous potential to be part of the solution.” Dr. James Hansen

We can scale up solar and wind pretty quickly up to a certain limit, and then we run headlong into the barriers dictated by intermittency.” Dr. Kerry Emanuel

We shouldn’t be building new fossil fuel power plants. It doesn’t make sense.”
Dr. James Hansen

Sweden, for example, they have carbon free electricity. That’s the solution to the climate problem. If we had carbon free electricity in all countries, you solve the problem! Because we can make liquid fuels for transportation from energy if you have abundant, carbon free electricity.”  Dr. James Hansen

CO² / KWh

There’s also a blogger named Paul Beckwith who attended COP21 and filmed a different talk Dr. Hansen gave there. Mr. Beckwith is a physicist/engineer from Canada. I can almost understand Beckwith not mentioning any energy source as, in the three part video (which Beckwith recorded himself), Hansen doesn’t really talk about any energy source except to say that fossil fuels are bad for the climate. What is discussed in these videos is the magnitude of climate change, CCL’s Fee & Dividend proposal, and socio/political implications. So actually Hansen might be partly to blame for confusing his message by not mentioning nuclear energy as one of the climate solutions at every opportunity. But it has been a part of his climate change message for awhile now – just as carbon fee & dividend is. In my opinion it is only those that turn a deaf ear that can’t hear the nuclear aspect which many of the best informed & honest environmentalists advocate.

A Dutch acquaintance of mine named Joris van Dorp recently found a similar problem in his country. He wrote:

I had a discussion recently with some members of the Dutch Green Party. Here are my findings. The party has just unveiled its party program for the 2017 elections. It has made the immediate shutdown of Dutch nuclear power a central part of its political program, as well as a ban on new nuclear power plants.

As such, the Dutch greens have clearly torn-up the IPCC AR5 assessment of climate science, which states that a quadrupling of nuclear power is consistent with most assessed pathways to the timely and sufficient reduction of co2 emissions. They do this while continuing to claim that climate change is a priority issue for them. Obviously, it is not.

Interestingly, the party members I discussed this with eventually admit that they don’t personally agree with their party’s insistence on shutting down nuclear power.

In the past, I’ve grudgingly accepted the Green party’s open assault on nuclear power, because I knew that quite a few party members didn’t support the party line. In fact, the majority of the party’s scientific committee was in favour of new nuclear, even after Fukushima. I calculated that the 2017 elections might well include the greens on a pro-nuclear platform, especially since the IPCC made the importance of nuclear for climate clearer than ever before in its history.

Now that my hopes have been proven naive, and given the fact that there is no more time to wait for action on nuclear for climate, I feel I must now drop my traditional tolerance of the Dutch green party’s antinuclearism. In the coming months, during the political discussions I’m going to have, I’m going to be recommending that people do NOT vote for the greens, if they value the environment.

Any other party is better than the greens, where climate is concerned. Even the nationalist brown party is a better choice, mostly because they (alone) are actively pushing for an ambitious nuclear power program. They deny that AGW is a problem, but they do believe in the value of environmental protection and they fully accept the superior environmental performance of nuclear power.

This avoidance of clean & powerful nuclear energy by environmental groups has become de rigueur. No doubt most find it easier to delete “uncomfortable subjects” rather than twist the truth. This is likely why the well known anti-nuclear advocate Helen Caldicott has said, “We don’t need to talk about nuclear as we all know it’s dangers”. I am not claiming any of these groups are actually evil or have nefarious agendas, but a few who are considered environmental leaders are also being disingenuous by ignoring nuclear as part of the solution. They should acknowledge and discuss all aspects of climate change instead of burying some topics under cheap and often unsupported assumptions. There are several environmentalists who have been through this process already.

A June of 2015 article in The New Yorker had a great phrase; “Conservation requires conversation; protecting nature while still using it to meet human needs is a paradoxical mission, …”. People tend to trust what organizations say, and when messages are severely edited proper solutions can become hidden for decades. It’s time to tell the whole message, whether gently or blatantly. Let’s move past the hand wringing and empty gestures to begin implementing solutions. If the human race can assess any progress along the way with honest and critical evaluations, poor solutions can be weeded out and the better ideas will remain. In the meantime the Energy Reality Project will try to share this whole message as best we understand it. It’s “the rest of the story”, as news commentator Paul Harvey used to say; and there are often a few more bits of vetted information that can be added to the tale. So please, leave any insightful comments below and be part of the solution.

It’s time to create an abundance of objective discussions. As Dr. Hansen recently wrote on his CSAS blog, “There is a dearth of objective discussion of the role of advanced nuclear power in the future of clean power and the phase-out of fossil fuels.”

Let’s include nuclear power as an environmental topic.

Additional Information:
http://ecolo.org/index.html
http://cravenspowertosavetheworld.com/
http://www.environmentalprogress.org/clean-energy-crisis/
https://jmkorhonen.net/2016/05/17/what-is-ecomodernism-a-lecture/

https://youtu.be/Yy5f5RMR8Xc James Hansen Lecture at Univ. of Iowa Oct. 2014
www.sfen.org/en/le-blog-des-energies/cop21-world-needs-nuclear-end-energy-poverty-address-climate-change

www.dailykos.com/story/2016/03/18/1503359/-Wind-and-Solar-s-Fukushima-The-Methane-Meltdown-at-Porter-Ranch

new-york-rally-for-nuclear

Carnival of Nuclear Energy Bloggers #322 – Special Edition – Nuclear Energy to the Rescue

Welcome to the 322nd Carnival of Nuclear Energy Bloggers who are a necessary group of pro-nuclear advocates who recognize the importance of a transition to a more dominant role for nuclear power in our energy mix.

There have been a lot of firsts lately that point in a positive direction for the future of the nuclear industry and therefore the planet. I have made it no secret that Energy Reality supports nuclear energy mainly because it provides the best and perhaps only solution to irreversible tipping points that are forever events.


EnergyRealityProject.com : 1 Post by Rick Maltese

Thanks to the Power of Pickering Nuclear Plant We Replaced Coal

    There are still a number of people who beloeve false things about Pickerng Power Plant. It has to do with reports of minor mishaps being blown out of proportion.

energyrealityproject.com/thanks-to-the-power-of-pickering-nuclear-plant-we-replaced-coal/


Yes Vermont Yankee: 1 post by Meredith Angwin

The New York Clean Energy Standard

    A quick description of attending the New York Public Service Commission meeting in which they voted for the historic Clean Energy Standard which supports both nuclear and renewable power. Links to other posts and to a video.

yesvy.blogspot.com/2016/08/the-new-york-clean-energy-standard.html


Forbes.com: 2 posts by James Conca

Climate Guru Tells California Governor Not To Close Diablo Canyon Nuclear Plant

    On Thursday, Dr. James Hansen and the leading climate scientists in the world sent a letter to Governor Jerry Brown of California, about how nuclear energy was essential to fight global warming. The letter was prompted by a recent announcement by Pacific Gas & Electric Company to close its well-running, low-carbon, low-cost nuclear reactors at Diablo Canyon because of political pressure from the state of California and especially its Lt. Governor. New York addressed this issue just last week when it passed a true Clean Energy Standard that supports both renewables and nuclear. But, strangely, California doesn’t seem impressed by the threat of global warming.

www.forbes.com/sites/jamesconca/2016/08/14/global-warming-and-nuclear-energy-jim-hansen-and-governor-brown/

Exelon Buys Fitzpatrick Nuclear Plant, Setting The Standard for US Carbon Goals

    With New York’s passing of a true Clean Energy Standard this week that supports both renewables and nuclear, Exelon Generation has agreed to assume ownership and operations of Entergy Corporation’s James A. FitzPatrick nuclear power plant in Scriba, New York. This will save 7 billion kWhs of carbon-free electricity a year, $500 million for the local economy, 600 high-paying direct jobs and over 1,500 indirect jobs. It should serve as a guide to other states, especially Illinois, that are facing similar conundrums of warped markets closing carbon-free nuclear plants and threatening each state’s carbon goals and local economies.

www.forbes.com/sites/jamesconca/2016/08/11/exelon-buys-fitzpatrick-nuclear-plant-setting-the-standard-for-us-carbon-goals/


AtomicInsights.com: 1 entry by Rod Adams

New York’s environment progressed one step forward

    Rod Adam’s reports on the apparently successful rally by a coalition of pro-nuclear environmental groups with a special thanks to Environmental Progress rin by President Michael Shellenberger

atomicinsights.com/new-yorks-environment-progressed-one-step-forward/


EnvironmentalProgress.org: 1 entry by Michael Shellenberger

Climate Scientists urge Governor Jerry Brown to let Legislature, not PUC, decide Diablo Canyon’s Fate

    The situation has recently shown more promise for the future of the nuclear industry in the U.S. Michael Shellenberger reports about the steps that would prevent a seriously grave decision from taking place.

www.environmentalprogress.org/big-news/2016/8/11/climate-scientists-urge-gov-jerry-brown-to-let-legislature-not-puc-decide-diablo-canyons-fate


NeutronBytes.com: 1 entry by Dan Yurman

Utah Utility selects Idaho site for Nuscale SMR

    There is a positive news story that a new kind of nuclear plant has been given a green light for a location to a modern Small Modular Reactor. Now it’s a matter of waiting for approval from the NRC that takes 3 or 4 years.

neutronbytes.com/2016/08/12/utah-utility-selects-idaho-site-for-nuscale-smr/

pickering-plant_SiteSunset721x319

Thanks to the Power of Pickering Nuclear Plant We Replaced Coal

Pickering Nuclear plant went from a non-event to pre-event condition back in 2014. The not so “Clean Air Alliance” is trying to close down a perfectly good zero carbon energy source. The Ontario Clean Air Alliance (OCAA) would like to take credit for shutting down coal and now they think they can shut down Nuclear plants. Coal dominated a very large portion of Ontario’s energy mix for many years. The abundance of power was daunting. Nanticoke Coal plant at one time Generated 4000 MW of power. It was the largest coal plant in North America. In 1981 it consumed 35,000 tonnes of coal per day. In 2007 it emitted 17,887,649 tonnes of CO2. Thankfully Ontario’s abundant Nuclear Power and Hydro allowed it to replace all the coal plants (bigger than average) by 2014. Pickering and Ontario’s other nuclear plants are in the habit of reporting such non-events, in effect, practicing for reports of actual incidents with updates – should there ever be a serious incident.

The OCAA thinks the Pickering Plant poses a threat letting irrational fear win over. They support a foolish and potentially disruptive solution to go all renewable. New York State just made an important decision to keep it’s Nuclear Plants alive. How else can the States reach their emission content goals? Why should Ontario be any different. Try replacing 14% if Ontario’s power with renewable energy. It would be terribly expensive and wasteful.

These OCAA people resemble over 200 other green lobby and special interest groups who can’t even look at their shadow without fear.

The worse thing is that their ignorance of science is revealed by the fact that adapting their policies in a time of climate crisis can actually bring on the tipping point even faster.

They also claim they will close down natural gas which is laughable… no coal, no nuclear and now no natural gas. The renewables certainly cannot match that abundant supply of nuclear which runs at about 60% of Ontario’s energy.

What does OCAA claim as the saviour?

Apparently Quebec who has never offered to give Ontario any of their so-called abundant hydro power is supposed to have enough to share with Ontario when in fact they have shortages in winter as it is. The 1998 ice storm cause the worst blackout in Quebec’s history. That was due to lengthy power lines collapse from the weight of the ice caused by the ice storm. The same kind of expensive powerlines would be needed for transmission to Ontario. This hypothetical situation is not sustainable. See Steve Aplin article from 2011.

The hydropower-from-Quebec fantasy resurfaces in Ontario gas-industry propaganda

Steve Aplin:

“Unlike hydropower though, nuclear involves land use that is, by comparison, barely noticeable. For example, Ontario’s 18 nuclear reactors occupy a total of 23.4 square kilometers (Darlington occupies 480 hectares, or 4.8 square km; Bruce occupies 9.3 square km; and Pickering, also 9.3.) Their total installed capacity is 12,530 megawatts. So the Ontario nuclear land-use footprint works out to 0.186 hectares—about a fifth of an average size city block—per installed megawatt…”

“Quebec’s hydropower land use footprint is 177.8 hectares per megawatt (30,230 km2 is 3,023,000 hectares; divide that by 17,000 megawatts).”

“For every patch of land Ontario nuclear power requires, Quebec hydropower needs 952 times that. This, among other reasons, is why Parizeau favoured nuclear power.”

“I mention this because, every now and again, somebody floats the cockamamie idea that Ontario should start importing clean hydropower from Quebec. Some advocates of this fantasy are self-styled environmentalists who haven’t done their homework and crunched the easy numbers like I have done above. Because of an unexamined and comically off-base anti-nukery, they think that the Darlington nucelar station should be shut down and that its 25 billion annual kilowatt-hours of electrical energy output should come instead from the Belgium-sized man-made lake in northern Quebec.”

“Nor do they appear to have considered what it would take, engineering-wise, for the Quebec electric utility, Hydro Quebec, to wheel 25 billion annual kWh of energy into Ontario from that lake. Quebec already wheels huge amounts of that energy out-of-province: to the U.S. northeast. American customers are served with Quebec hydropower on long term contracts; that was why Quebec built the transmission lines to the U.S. in the first place. What about those customers?”

“None of the Ontario advocates of Quebec hydropower appears to have ever taken the matter up with… Hydro Quebec. I’m sure the utility might have interesting things to say.”

“No serious person believes Ontario will ever import such massive amounts of electric power from Quebec. So why the sudden spate of media articles taking it up?”

“Well, it’s all about money. Specifically, the money that can be made by the fossil fuel industry if Darlington, which is slated for refurbishment beginning in less than a year, is not refurbished.”

“The main cheerleader for Quebec-hydropower-to-Ontario is the Ontario Clean Air Alliance, a gas-industry lobby group. The OCAA’s aim is to replace Ontario zero-carbon nuclear plants with carbon-heavy gas-fired plants. Given that the current concentration of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the global atmosphere is just about 400 parts per million (see Item A1, above), you’d wonder why an organization allegedly advocating for clean air would want to add to those 400 ppm.”

“The OCAA knows full well that the Quebec-hydropower-to-Ontario fantasy is just that—a fantasy. The OCAA is not actually advocating for Quebec hydropower to Ontario. What it really wants is business for its gas-industry clients. And those clients will get plenty of business if Darlington does not get refurbished. So it is striving mightily, with the cooperation of a mainstream media that today finds ad revenue increasingly scarce and gas-industry ad revenue increasingly valuable, to get us Ontarians to actually believe this Quebec-hydropower-to-Ontario nonsense. That way, they hope, we will be more amenable to letting Darlington, an enormously valuable clean-energy centre—and revenue generator for the people of this province—go idle. Yesterday the OCAA wanted us to believe that windmills and solar panels could do it. Today it’s Quebec hydropower. Tomorrow, who knows. Maybe a perpetual motion machine.”

“Jacques Parizeau got to see an example of nuclear’s vastly superior land-use footprint, right in his own province, and under his watch as PQ finance minister. During that tenure, Hydro Quebec built and commissioned Gentilly 2, a 635-MW CANDU 6 reactor. It was, until its premature shut-down in late 2012 (by another PQ government, sans Parizeau), Hydro Quebec’s biggest single generator.”

“The premature shutdown of G2 was undertaken by, as I said, a Parizeau-less PQ government. Parizeau disagreed with much of that government’s policies. I wonder if he disagreed with the G2 decision also.”


In a response letter to an article published in the Toronto Star by one of many antinuclear groups in Canada the President and CEO of Ontario Power Generation said this

“Re Too much trust in old nuclear plants, May 30”

“I read with interest the Ontario Clean Air Alliance (OCAA) opinion piece about Pickering Nuclear. The only ‘fact’ in the article that I was able to verify is that ‘Stairway to Heaven’ was released by Led Zeppelin in 1971.”

“The six nuclear units at Pickering were built to very robust standards and are operating safely, to the highest performance standards. The electricity from the six operating units provides about 13 per cent of Ontario’s annual demand, is free of greenhouse gas emissions and comes at a cost lower than almost all other sources of energy. Continued operations will save Ontario customers $600 million and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by eight million tonnes over the 2020-to-2024 period.”

“Both Pickering and Darlington nuclear stations enjoy strong community support, and a recent survey indicated 85 per cent of those polled supported the continued operations of the Pickering station.”

“Ontario relies on nuclear power to provide 60 per cent of its electricity generation. The plants at Darlington, Pickering and Bruce have excellent performance and safety records. Nuclear is Ontario’s best option for cost-effective, GHG emissions-free, reliable, base-load generation and have been a critical resource in ensuring clean air for Ontarians. We look forward to our nuclear fleet continuing to be part of the solution in the battle against climate change.”

Jeffrey Lyash, president and CEO Ontario Power Generation, Toronto”


On the same page is a comment by Don MacKinnon:

“Monday’s anti-Pickering Nuclear Station Extension editorial diatribe by the Ontario Clean Air Alliance (OCAA) is typical of their ‘dreamweaver’-like campaigns — heavy with the spectre of environmental disaster and fast and loose with the facts.”

“The Pickering Nuclear Station is licensed and its operations, including emergency preparedness, are overseen by the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC), an independent regulator. The CNSC has 70 years of experience and is highly regarded internationally.”

“Additionally, the Pickering Nuclear Station, owned by Ontario Power Generation (OPG), a provincial Crown corporation, routinely provides information and consults with local communities about the plant’s operations.”

“When the province approved OPG’s plan to pursue the continued operation of Pickering beyond 2020 to 2024, it noted that final approval would be required from the CNSC. Pickering would continue to employ over 4,500 people in Durham region and 8 million tonnes of greenhouse gases would be avoided. Yes, extending the operation of the Pickering Station is about clean air.”

“The OCAA claims that cheap, low-carbon electricity imports from Quebec offer a superior option, but those claims have been disproven by a number of highly credible analyses, including Ontario’s Independent Electricity System Operator. Billions of dollars would need to be invested to build and improve the transmission interties and transmission lines in Ontario and Quebec. Ontario currently exports low-carbon nuclear power to help Quebec meet its winter peak and refill its reservoirs. Even if Quebec could supply, large-scale electricity imports would mean tens of thousands of jobs and billions of dollars flowing out of Ontario.”

“The only real alternative to base-load 24/7 nuclear in Ontario is fossil fuel generation, and we believe the OCAA knows that. Less nuclear generation in Ontario would mean dramatic increases in greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution at a time when the entire world is transitioning to a lower carbon environment.”

Don MacKinnon, President of the Power Workers’ Union, Toronto”

I believe the OCAA has ulterior motives as both Steve Aplin and Don MacKinnon suggested. When you look at other Clean-Air NGOs such as the Clean Air Task Force they have a logical rational point of view when it comes to nuclear energy. Look at New York’s recent decision to go with keeping the Nuclear Plants in their state alive. All that emission-free energy is just too valuable to pass up.

Additional Reading on the subject:
http://www.environmentalprogress.org/big-news/2016/8/11/climate-scientists-urge-gov-jerry-brown-to-let-legislature-not-puc-decide-diablo-canyons-fate

Carnival #315 with reports from March for Environmental Hope



Forbes.com: 2 posts by James Conca

Pro-Nuclear March In San Francisco To Protest Closing Of Diablo Canyon Nuclear Plant

    On June 24th, a coalition of environmental groups will march from San Francisco to Sacramento to protest the potential closing of the Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant which will wipe out most of the progress in clean energy made by the state with wind and solar power. In 2015, all wind energy in California only produced 12 billion kWhs. The two Diablo Canyon nuclear reactors produce 17 billion kWhs every year, and will for the next 20 years if not prematurely closed for political reasons. Unfortunately, PG&E announced today they will close the plant in 2025, devastating the local economy and putting 1,500 people out of work.

www.forbes.com/sites/jamesconca/2016/06/21/pro-nuclear-march-from-san-francisco-to-sacramento-on-june-24th/

World-Wide Risk From Radiation Very Small

    The Health Physics Society, the scientific society that includes radiation protection scientists, recently put out a revised position statement on Radiation Risk In Perspective. In it, they advise against estimating health risks to people from exposures to ionizing radiation that are anywhere near natural background levels because statistical uncertainties at these low levels are great. In other words, any health effects resulting from radiation levels below 10,000 mrem/yr (100 mSv/yr) are in the noise. It’s why the thousands of cancers and deaths predicted for Chernobyl and Fukushima never appeared, although the fear certainly did.

www.forbes.com/sites/jamesconca/2016/06/24/radiation-poses-little-risk-to-the-world/


ANS Nuclear Cafe: Nick Thompson

Nuclear Energy Today: A Tale of Two Cities

    An overview of the current state of the industry from my perspective, and at the end has a “call to arms” for ANS members, and Young Members in particular, to start actively advocating for solutions.

ansnuclearcafe.org/2016/06/21/nuclear-energy-today-a-tale-of-two-cities/


Yes Vermont Yankee: Meredith Angwin

Diablo Canyon and What To Do About It

    PG&E announced a plan to close Diablo Canyon by 2025, and will not ask the NRC for a license renewal. Well, much can be done before 2025. In this post, Meredith Angwin provides a link for signing a pro-nuclear petition, and another link for donating to the people who are organizing the pro-Diablo march in California. It’s time to take action! With these links, everyone can take action, whether or not they live in California.

yesvy.blogspot.com/2016/06/diablo-canyon-and-what-to-do-about-it.html

Northwest Clean Energy Blog: Meredith Angwin

Shameless in Seattle

    In this post, John Dobken describes a Seattle City Council resolution aimed at restricting the use of nuclear energy for the city. It’s a hands-on post, mostly direct from the council meeting. It includes the Seattle council members speaking scornfully of people in Central Washington (where the plant is located), and the sound of people snickering when a nuclear supporter spoke to the council. Watch the video clips of the pro-nuclear statement and admire the speaker! We must all support clean air nuclear energy–at every opportunity to do so!

northwestcleanenergy.com/2016/05/31/shameless-in-seattle/


Forbes.com by Rod Adams

Breaking! NRDC Announces PG&E has agreed to kill Diablo Canyon


Atomic Insights: Rod Adams

Hopeful Days for Environmental Progress in California

    Rod is in touch with David Walters directly from the march.

atomicinsights.com/hopeful-days-environmental-progress-california/

Backroom Diablo Destruction Deal Will Fail/
    Rod Adams presents an account of why the proposal to shut down California’s Diablo Canyon Nuclear Plant will fail.

atomicinsights.com/backroom-diablo-destruction-deal-will-fail/


ANS NUCLEAR CAFE: Will Davis

PG&E Will Halt Diablo Canyon License Renewal

    In this opinion piece at ANS Nuclear Cafe, Will Davis points out how ratepayers will be on the hook for everything that happens relative to replacing Diablo Canyon nuclear plant, including community impact mitigation.

ansnuclearcafe.org/2016/06/22/diablo-canyon-pge-cancels-license-renewal/#sthash.9ByifkZQ.dpbs


Nuke Power Talk: Gail Marcus

    At Nuke Power Talk, Gail Marcus reports on the appointment of Margaret Chu to NRC’s ACRS. With Margaret’s appointment, there will be 2 woman on the ACRS for the first time. Gail identifies the very limited history of women on the ACRS and the now-disbanded ACNW.


nukepowertalk.blogspot.com/2016/06/women-at-acrs.html


Next Big Future: Brian Wang

Third Generation Laser Enrichment

    Third Generation Laser Uranium Enrichment Technology is likely over 5 times more energy efficient and more compact than the best centrifuges

    New laser-based uranium enrichment technology may provide a hard-to-detect pathway to nuclear weapons production according to a forthcoming paper (25 pages) Ryan Snyder, a physicist with Princeton University’s Program on Science and Global Security.

    Research on the relevant laser systems for laser enrichment is also currently ongoing in the United States, Russia, India, China and Iran.

nextbigfuture.com/2016/06/third-generation-laser-uranium.html


Salute to the American Nuclear Society (ANS)

This is a well deserved salute to the ANS

    “ANS has made, and continues to make, important contributions to the use of nuclear science and technology, and consequently to the larger society beyond ANS. It achieves this through its many products and services, including meetings, publications, standards, outreach, honors and awards, scholarships, teachers workshops, Organization Members, and representation in Washington, D.C.”

    “ANS continues to be a professional organization of scientists, engineers, and other professionals devoted to the peaceful applications of nuclear science and technology. Its 11,000 members, from over 40 countries, come from diverse technical disciplines ranging from physics and nuclear safety to operations and power, and from across the full spectrum of the national and international enterprise, including government, academia, research laboratories, and private industry. Making it all succeed are a Board of Directors, 20 standing committees, 19 professional divisions, one technical group and two working groups, 32 local sections, over 35 student sections, liaison agreements with over 30 non-U.S. nuclear societies, and a headquarters staff of about 50 people.”

www.ans.org/about/history/

Environmentalists Announce Climate March to Protest Nuclear Plant Closures

13 US NUCLEAR PLANTS AT RISK OF CLOSURE PRODUCE 3 TIMES MORE ELECTRICITY THAN ALL U.S. SOLAR IN 2015

With 13 nuclear plants at risk of closing and taking the United States backwards on climate change, a coalition of environmental groups is announcing a historic pro-nuclear protest march from San Francisco to Sacramento, June 24 – 28.

“If we lose all 13 of the nuclear plants at risk of premature closure we will wipe out three times more clean power than all of our solar provided in 2015,” said the March’s Lead Organizer, Eric G. Meyer. “If you care about renewables, clean energy and climate change, you should support keeping nuclear plants open.”

In Illinois, a coalition of anti-nuclear groups including by Environmental Law and Policy Center (ELPC), Sierra Club, and NRDC blocked legislation that would have saved two of the state’s nuclear plants, Clinton and Quad Cities.

ELPC has said it wants to replace the nuclear plants with natural gas, and gradually wind and solar. “Everybody looks with excitement when a new natural gas plant is built,” ELPC head, Howard Learner recently told a journalist when explaining why he supports closing Clinton and Quad, an extraordinary statement coming from a self-professed environmental activist.

“Anti-nuclear groups should be forgiven for their advocacy because they believe nuclear energy is something it’s not, and can’t see it for what it is,” said Alan Medsker of Environmental Progress, Illinois, “but we cannot allow them to shut down Quad and Clinton. It’s time for Sierra Club, the Citizens Utility Board, and Environmental Defense Fund to break from ELPC. There’s still time to pass legislation that would invest not only in renewables but also protect our largest source of clean energy.”

If Clinton and Quad close, 1,500 workers will lose their jobs and carbon emissions will increase the equivalent of adding two million cars. The proposed subsidy for distressed nuclear plants is less than half the cost the wind production tax credit.

Nuclear plants around the country are closing prematurely because they areexcluded from the various federal subsidies and state mandates for solar and wind. If nuclear were included in state Renewable Portfolio Standards, or received a fraction of the subsidy for wind or solar, nuclear plants would be economical.

“The evidence is clear: nuclear is far more effective at replacing fossil fuels and reducing pollution and carbon emissions than solar and wind. To exclude it from any clean energy standard in the face of irreversible climate devastation is simply unethical,” said Meyer.

“It’s a mathematical certainty that closing nuclear plants results in more fossil fuel burning and emissions,” says Oscar-nominated documentary filmmaker Robert Stone, whose award-winning film “Pandora’s Promise” documents the conversion of many environmentalists from anti-nuclear to pro-nuclear. “California’s reputation as a leader in the fight against climate change is at stake if Diablo Canyon is shut down.”

“It’s vitally important for any of us that care about the environment — progressives or conservatives — to share that message with Governor Jerry Brown,” said Richard Rhodes, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Making of the Atomic Bomb. “People fear nuclear power largely because they associate it with nuclear weapons, but the two don’t equate. Nuclear power is not only an important part of the answer to climate change. It has outstanding public health benefits as well, greatly reducing air pollution.”

The March will occur in the run-up to a Tuesday, June 28, California Lands Commission meeting, where Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom and two other members could deny a critical permit to Diablo Canyon, California’s biggest source of clean energy.

March coalition members includes Mothers for Nuclear, Thorium Energy Alliance, Environmental Progress, Pandora’s Promise, and Energy for Humanity — all are organizations independent of energy companies and interests.

“We can’t let irrational fears put our children at risk,” said Mothers for Nuclear co-founder, Heather Matteson, an environmental activist who was once anti-nuclear but changed her mind and now works as a reactor operator and procedure writer at Diablo Canyon.

The 13 nuclear plants at high risk of premature closure produce three times more electrical power than the US produces from solar. Diablo Canyon produces 11 times more power than the world’s largest solar farm, Solar Star, will produce.

Rather than simply replacing fossil fuel use, as nuclear plants do, plants like Solar Star increase the demand for natural gas when the sun is not shining which is on average more than 75 percent of the time.

Eric G. Meyer, 28, quit his job as a nurses union organizer and drove to San Francisco from Minnesota last month to be the Lead Organizer of the March. “My heart breaks every time they announce a nuclear plant closure,” said Meyer. “We’re going to fight hard to save every last one of those 13 plants. This is going to be remembered as the summer that we saved our largest source of clean energy.”

For Immediate Release:

Julia Pacetti, JMP Verdant Communications, (718) 399-0400
Eric Meyer, March for Environmental Hope!, (218) 384-1645
With Nuclear Plant Closures Increasing Emissions, Environmental Coalition Announces Historic Protest, June 24 – 28, SF – Sacramento
March-for-Environmental-Hope

Join the First Ever Climate-Environment-ProNuclear March – June 24-28

FRIDAY, JUNE 24 :: SAN FRANCISCO

12:00 Assemble Kaiser Lot. 22nd st. and Kaiser Plaza, Oakland
12:45 Rally at Sierra Club, 2101 Webster St. Oakland
1:36 Board Yellow BART 19th and Oakland to Greenpeace
2:10 Arrive at 16th St. and Mission. March. 4 miles North
2:30 Rally at Greenpeace, 1661 Mission St.
3:10 March to NRDC
3:45 Rally at NRDC 111 Sutter Street, San Francisco
4:15 March to PG&E, Embarcadero BART Station
4:31 Take Yellow BART Line to 19th St. and Oakland
5:00 Dinner
6:00 Leave for Lake Solano
8:00 Arrive at Solano, Set Up Tents
8:30 Campfire, Singalongs, S’Mores, and Stories

SATURDAY, JUNE 25 :: FAIRFIELD

7:30     Good Morning Yoga and Calisthenics with Matt Meyer
8:00      Breakfast in Camp (Day-Use Area)
9:45      Shuttle to 500 Solano College Rd. Fairfield, CA
10:30    Arrive and Prepare to March
10:45    March! 3.8 Miles Along I-80
12:00    Lunch at Allan Witt Park
12:30    Community Discussion — Theme: “Water is Life” 
2:00      Swim at Allan Witt Park!
4:30      Shuttle back to cars and Solano
5:15      Arrive at Camp Solano–  R&R
6:00      Dinner (Day-Use Area)
7:00      Capoeira Lesson with Rauli Partanen
8:00      Campfire, Singalongs, S’Mores, and Stories

SUNDAY, JUNE 26 :: VACAVILLE

7:00      Potential march time for our Long-Hikers (12.2 Miles)
7:30      Good Morning Yoga and Calisthenics with Matt
8:00      Breakfast
9:45      Shuttle marchers to 201 E Monte Vista Ave, Vacaville
10:15    Assemble
10:30    March! 2.8 miles (54 minutes)
11:30    Community Grill Out in Andrews Park
1:00     Speakers and Performances. Theme: “Creation Care”
2:30      Shuttle marchers to base camp
3:00      Arrive at Solano: R&R
4:00      Activities.  (Filming/Music/Climbing Trees)
6:00     Dinner at base camp
7:00     Show and Tell Activities
8:00     Campfire, Singalongs, S’mores, Stories.
9:00     Outdoor Movie Screening.

MONDAY, JUNE 27 :: DAVIS

7:30     Good Morning Yoga and Calisthenics with Matt
8:00     Breakfast
10:15   Shuttle marchers to 1525 Tulip Lane, Davis, CA 95618
10:45    Assemble March
11:00   March! (2.0 miles)
11:20  Rally by Solar Installation at 3817 Halcon Plaza
12:00  Lunch in the Park
1:00    Visit EXPLORIT Science Center
3:00    Shuttle Back to Camp
3:40    Arrive at Base Camp
4:00    Activities (Crafts/Music/Filming)
6:00    Dinner at base camp
8:00    Campfire, Singalongs, S’mores, Stories.

TUESDAY, JUNE 28 :: SACRAMENTO

6:30     Breakfast at Camp
7:15     Drive To Sacramento
Park Near Cesar Chavez Park or Sacramento Station
8:15     Meet at Cesar Chavez Park and Prepare for March.
8:30     March! around the Capitol and Ending at the Lands Commission meeting.
9:15     Rally at Lands Commission Meeting at Holiday Inn Capitol Plaza
10:00   Pack the room at the Lands Commission Meeting
11:00   (TBA)
12:00   End of March

Collection on Germany’s Energy Problems

Germany’s Energiewende Finds the Sour Spot

http://thebreakthrough.org/index.php/programs/energy-and-climate//cost-of-german-solar-is-four-times-finnish-nuclear/

http://theresilientearth.com/?q=content%2Fgermanys-solar-failure

http://www.dw.com/en/how-far-along-is-germanys-nuclear-phase-out/a-18547065

Germany’s Wind Power Chaos to Leave them Freezing in the Dark

http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/11/01/us-germany-nuclear-idUSKCN0SQ1G520151101

More than Das (cheating) Auto: how malware misleads millions, allows mega-pollution

http://www.dw.com/en/german-co2-emissions-targets-at-risk/a-18862708

http://www.spiegel.de/international/germany/high-costs-and-errors-of-german-transition-to-renewable-energy-a-920288-2.html

Energiewende and Caliwende – the Heavy Cost of Ideology

http://notrickszone.com/2016/03/04/german-medical-doctors-warn-hazards-of-wind-turbine-infrasound-are-very-real-worse-than-first-thought/#sthash.kILVYYtz.dpbs

Two cars, and a daily decision: an Ontario parable

http://www.powermag.com/germanys-energiewende-new-turning-point/

https://energy.stanford.edu/events/economic-challenges-and-chances-german-energy-transition

map-of-globe

Nuclear New Build

China, Korea & UK
Alternate title: Rising competition from China, Korea
and a new development model for British nuclear power
April 14th, 2016 Andrew Daniels

No other country in Europe is developing nuclear power with as much zeal as the UK. The goal is to abolish coal power by the mid 2020s. The ‘dash to gas’ is in the past, and future wind power development can only offer declining returns. Having explored and reached the limitations of gas and wind power, it is clear decarbonization can only be accomplished with nuclear power. Three consortia have developed plans for nuclear power plants on six different sites. Adhesion to construction schedules is the number one cause of serious cost overruns, so these projects will be considered successes or failures depending on the efficiency of the construction process.

Given the poor record of past British nuclear power development, this drive towards nuclear power is even more remarkable. The British nuclear industry had a particularly dismal record of poor performance with Magnoxes and AGRs. Using a poor development model during the 1960s until the 1980s, the UK built one uncompetitive gas-cooled plant after another. Each plant was built by a different consortium with a different design, and each used unique parts and required unique fuel elements. Construction delays were insufficient to cancel a project. The British tradition of ‘muddling through’ led to eventual completion, even if some plants were obsolete upon commencing operation. One plant took an astonishing twenty years to complete. The policy was framed as government support for British technology. Even as Whitehall pursued a ‘national champion’ policy, not enough investment was channeled into nuclear power to give this unique path, their nuclear sonderweg, a hope of success. Gas-cooled reactors were never able to build up a similar body of experience as did the water-cooled reactors. Operating loads were lower, maintenance costs higher, and construction times were consistently longer throughout their history.

At one point, France was pursuing the same gas-cooled reactor technology as the UK, but a decision was made to abandon it. The rationale was that French industry would be better served by aligning with global trends instead of bucking them. Adopting water-cooled reactors en masse facilitated the extensive nuclear roll-out pursued by France in the 1970s and 1980s. The structure for this expansion was a publicly funded development model with a single operator running every plant in the country. Rather than increase costs from a lack of competition, it facilitated skills transfer, uniformity and keeping costs down.

Eschewing the French dirigiste state-driven model, the new development model draws on private sector elements of the old model. New nuclear power plants in the UK will continue to be built via consortia, but this time they will use existing designs. Hinkley Point C will put its first reactor into operation in 2025, which will be the first in Britain since Sizewell B in 1995. This project will be a first for many things; it is the first British plant built with minority foreign participation (China General Nuclear (CGN) and China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC) are both minority investors.) Hinkley Point C will be the first in the world to receive a public subsidy as renewable power at the rate of £92.50 per MWh. This anticipates construction time of up to 10 years and the guaranteed price is indexed to any future rises in electricity prices. In the case that the plant is closed early, the company will receive compensation. This mitigates the risk of any forced premature closure without compensation for any reason, political or otherwise. Supporting nuclear power with this style of feed-in tariff is a first, though it may have started a trend. Now the two American states of Arizona and Utah are offering similar public support. The effect of this contract is monumental if it heralds a new era of public support for nuclear power, similar to the support for solar and wind. This project is tremendously important for Areva and the Evolutionary Power Reactor (EPR), as future sales of the EPR will be heavily influenced by the construction time at Hinkley Point C. This will be a chance for Areva to wipe the slate clean and move past the numerous construction delays at Flamanville and Olkiluoto. A success at Hinkley Point C 1 & 2 will pave the way for another pair of EPRs at Sizewell C.

The second project will develop two sites with ABWRs: Wylfa Newydd on the Isle of Anglesey and Oldbury-on-Severn. Hitachi claims these are more likely to be completed on time than EPRs, due to the ABWR construction record in Japan. The company prefers to reference the successful construction of ABWRs in Japan, rather than the Lungmen project in Taiwan. The Taiwanese plant has been delayed repeatedly due to political interference, greatly inflating costs.

Finally, the third group seeks to develop the AP1000. Manchester-based NuGeneration Limited is formed from a partnership between Toshiba (Westinghouse) and GDF Suez. Nugen plans three AP1000 at Moorside, and secured 200 hectares for the project in 2009. If construction goes ahead, it will employ 6,000 people. By that point, these will be the 17th, 18th and 19th AP1000s in operation. Westinghouse will provide the reactors but GDF Suez will run the plant. The commitment to invest will be made in 2018 and the first unit will begin operation in 2024.

All of these projects are being driven by reactor vendors keen to promote their designs. These are being pursued in the UK in the hope of winning future contracts in other countries. After seeking more uniformity and serialization, the UK is still embarking on multiple directions with numerous designs, partners, and operators. Perhaps this will not increase costs as much as in the past, as all of these designs will be supported by identical copies outside of the UK.

China also prioritized uniformity and domestic development, yet they currently use the reactor designs of France, Canada, Russia, and the USA as well as their own. The development of Chinese nuclear power was delayed in the past by canceling the water-cooled reactor program twice. First, Mao canceled it to focus funding on the development of nuclear weapons, then it was canceled a second time by the Gang of Four during the Cultural Revolution (1966-76) to focus on developing a molten salt reactor. After an all-out effort to develop a molten salt reactor failed, China finally devoted time and resources to develop their first water-cooled reactor at Qinshan-1.

A clear policy choice remained on whether to prioritize indigenous development or assimilate foreign technology in order to develop indigenous technology later. Though it was decided to pursue indigenous technology and use as few reactor designs as possible, other considerations would subvert this policy. It was diplomatically advantageous to buy CANDU reactors to reduce isolation after Tiananmen Square sanctions. AP1000s were selected as China’s official Gen III reactor. Yet a decision to build two EPRs was also taken. After the deal with Areva, the president of CNNC, deputy president of CGN and the president of China Triumph Industrial Engineering Co were accused of taking bribes. These three groups selected the EPR in a closed process with no international tender competition. Russian VVER-1000s were also built, possibly due to the availability of soft loans.

Ostensibly, China has exported one plant to Pakistan, but this order did not establish them as a reactor exporter. Their lone export order to Pakistan failed to establish them as a competitor, Chashma was badly built by the time it was completed in 2000. Rather than showcase Chinese capabilies, it illustrated a lack of capacity. It was difficult for it to be a copy of Qinshan-1 as intended, when most of Qinshan-I was unable to be supported by Chinese suppliers. The pressure vessel came from Mitsubishi, coolant pumps from West Germany, turbines from Sweden and the control system from Areva. Chashma was built using Chinese parts suppliers who had never supplied a nuclear power plant before. The project was delayed, and there were errors in construction. When internal sensors were damaged, they rattled around inside the core, unknown to the plant operators. Westinghouse assessed the plant and said the designers did not understand the effect of coolant flow on the core and components.

That was twenty years ago, and since then CGN and CNNC have completed many reactors that perform very well. The Chinese adaptation of Westinghouse designs in the CPR-1000 are completed on time, and have excellent operating load. Their domestic performance is an effective advertisement for export orders. This is the strongest bull market for nuclear power in Chinese history, as the latest FiveYear Plan (2016-2020) includes many new reactors. There are 42 planned reactors and 170 proposed reactors, in addition to the 22 under construction. Current policy is to not build any new wind turbines or coal mines, yet existing coal mines have the capacity to produce an additional 2 billion tonnes over the current annual production of 4 billion tonnes. This means falling coal prices will increase competition for nuclear power even in the absence of any new coal mines. On the other hand, construction costs will be assisted by falling steel prices. Massive overcapacity in steel, aluminum, glass, paper, and other heavy industries will push down prices as companies compete to avoid being driven out of business. Chinese workers used to strike for higher wages, now they strike over unpaid wages. Current plans to curtail production will cause 500,000 job losses in the steel sector and 1.3 million job losses in coal. The eventual job losses and company closures in the steel industry will likely be followed by similar contraction among other heavy industries. The collapse of the steel industry could start an avalanche, magnified in impact as numerous loans go bad. Since private debt has soared from 120% of GDP in 2008 to 240% of GDP in 2015, any companies that collapse or default on debt payments will have a domino effect throughout the economy. CGN and CNNC will perform well in these turbulent times, and will continue to find easy access to financing. They will be a calm port in the storm as they grow in a contracting economy.

In many ways, China is simply hoping to follow the path of South Korea. China’s entry into the international export market truly begins with an order from Argentina for the Hualong One reactor. Hwever, no Hualong One is in operation and only one is currently under construction which began in 2015. China sweetened the deal by offering financing for 85% of the $15b project. It seems reasonable to anticipate CGN and CNNC to continue to easily find financing for foreign construction projects.

The strongest competition for future export orders will come from Korea Hydro and Nuclear Power (KHNP), owned by the Seoul government via the holding company Korean Electric Power Co. Known as KEPCO, it should not be confused with Kansai Power Co. (also KEPCO), who also operate nuclear power plants. The first APR-1400 at Barakah is 90% complete and on track to be completed in May 2017. Barakah-2 is 60% complete. In addition, one APR-1400 is already operational at Shin-Kori-1, although its construction took seven years. It was delayed due to poor quality cabling associated with a falsification scandal. The on-time completion of Barakah-1 will be a persuasive advertisement for future new sales. KHNP is not only selling reactors, but also South Korean management capable of keeping projects on schedule. The value of this is appreciated by the UAE, who has contracted 50 KHNP employees to work at Barakah and asked for Korean assistance in setting up their training program at the Institute of Applied Technology in Abu Dhabi. Korean reactors continue to become cheaper. They are bucking the trend toward ever higher costs, as each reactor achieves a lower cost per MWh than its predecessor. Falling costs and a long history of completing plants on-time makes KHNP a strong competitor for future export orders, selling not only a reliable design but a reliable schedule.

The more things change, the more they stay the same. We are seeing new development models, yet they draw on many elements of the old. New British development will use international designs, but still will not establish real uniformity throughout the British nuclear industry. China and Korea are driving state-owned businesses to try to conquer new export markets. That being said, their reputation in sticking to the schedule in domestic construction by Chinese and Korean companies addresses the most important factor in cost control for nuclear power. This makes them powerful competitors, at a time when nuclear power is expanding to new markets.

 
Andrew-Daniels
Andrew Daniels is the author of After Fukushima: What We Now Know, a history of the fear reactions towards nuclear power and radiation. This book will be available in the summer of 2016 on amazon.com. A historian with three degrees, a Hon. B.A. in History and Japanese Studies, B. Ed, and a M.Is, he is polyglot, fluent in English, French and Japanese plus a smattering of German, Italian and Swedish.
www.afterfukushima.com
@After_Fukushima
image

Are Electric Cars Clean?

January 14, 2016
By Philip Ord, B.S.
President, Americans for Nuclear Energy

To the average eco-conscious consumer, electric cars are very enticing. All you have to do is mention Tesla, and people’s eyes brighten with enthusiasm. An ever-growing range of 200+ miles on a single charge, with zero exhaust exiting a tailpipe. To many, the company’s CEO, Elon Musk, is the real-life technology genius Tony Stark from Iron Man. With all due respect, Musk’s team has produced a truly excellent electric car, and they just seem to be getting better. Electric vehicles are now competitive with combustion vehicles, at least for the wealthy. Tesla’s new SUV, the Model X, will cost you $80,000.

Strolling around my hometown of Denver, Colorado, I saw a Tesla sedan with a vanity plate that read “ZEROGAS.” Indeed, no gasoline was powering said vehicle, but as any physicist can tell you, there is no free lunch. Colorado produces filthy electricity. Sixty percent is produced with coal-fired power plants, which is the most carbon-intensive process on the face of the earth. A quarter of our electricity comes from cleaner, still carbon-intensive, natural gas. This is what runs a Tesla in the city of Denver. Zero gas, yes. Zero carbon pollution, absolutely not.

But here is the difference between as Tesla and a combustion vehicle, efficiency. Electric cars can put more of its battery-stored energy to propulsion than a combustion car can from its gasoline-stored energy. This simply has to do with the physics of how work is done in an electric motor versus an internal combustion engine. But this efficiency does not matter if you burn coal to charge a battery. A 2013 Slate article explained that a Tesla in West Virginia (96% coal-produced electricity) emits about as much carbon as an ordinary Honda Civic does with gas.1 A rule-of-thumb when in comes to electric cars, they are as clean as the electric grid in which they are plugged.

Washington State receives about ninety percent of its electricity from carbon-neutral sources, a large majority from hydroelectric dams.2 Here, an electric vehicle is worth the investment, if you want to decrease your carbon intensity. Knowing the Pacific Northwest, most people, my sister included, consider themselves “eco-friendly.” Let’s remember that most states are not this clean. The breakdown of electricity by source in the United States is as follows: coal (39%), gas (27%), nuclear (19%), hydroelectric (6%), wind (4.4%), biomass (1.7%), oil (1%), geothermal (0.4%), solar (0.4%)3 We still heavily rely on fossil fuels, which is making climate change an ever-growing danger.

What is the largest source of low-carbon electricity in the country? Nuclear power, producing a whopping fifth of our electricity. Often, people are shocked to hear this. In fact, the United States leads the world in quantity of electricity produced by nuclear fission.4 Believe it or not, this makes us the producer of the most low-carbon electricity on the planet. Unfortunately, our nuclear fleet is getting old, and many are facing decommissioning.5 If too many close, we risk being unable to meet carbon cuts, mandated by the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan. This will also make our electric vehicles even more dirty. Many will place hopes on wind and solar power to fix our grid, but based upon cost and reliability of these sources, don’t hold your breath.6

We can have clean electric cars, we can have a clean electric grid. How will we do this? We need a nuclear energy renaissance. Aging nuclear plants need to be updated and retrofitted. New nuclear plants must be built. Money needs to be set aside for next-generation nuclear technology. Scientifically illiterate environmental groups will push back, claiming terrible danger. Ignore this idea, this does not reflect the reality of nuclear power,7 In fact, nuclear power arguably clocks in as the safest form of electricity production. Per unit energy (kilowatt-hour) produced, nuclear energy has claimed the lowest number of lives.8

There is still another problem surrounding transportation. The vast majority of vehicles in existence today use combustion for propulsion. It will take a huge amount of time to phase all these things out. More than likely, combustible liquid fuels will always be utilized. Hydrocarbons still remain a safe, efficient, and affordable way to move people by road, air, and sea. What if I told you that you can make hydrocarbons without fossil crude oil? A Canadian company called Carbon Engineering is testing a prototype that pulls carbon dioxide out of the air and into a solution.9 With enough energy (perhaps from nuclear fission), you can combine the carbon dioxide with hydrogen from water to create high-purity, carbon-neutral fuel. The only byproduct would be oxygen gas put back in the atmosphere. This process is called reverse combustion.

Are electric cars clean? Yes, only if they are paired with a clean electric grid. With the promise of cheap, plentiful and carbon-free power from nuclear reactors, we can decarbonize electric and combustion vehicles. Essentially, all of transportation and electricity could be possible without the release of greenhouse gas. Exploiting the thermodynamic efficiency of electric motors will of course be the next big step in transport, but the gap can be bridged until we get there. Those who are electric vehicle enthusiasts, demand research in development in nuclear power. Demand research and development of carbon neutral fuels. Demand that people like Elon Musk are being honest about emission profiles. You must take all factors into account to remain consistent to an ecologically-friendly lifestyle.

Sources

[1] www.slate.com/articles/technology/technology/2013/09/how_green_is_a_tesla_electric_cars_environmental_impact_depends_on_where.html

[2]
energy.gov/maps/renewable-energy-production-state

[3]
www.eia.gov/tools/faqs/faq.cfm?id=427&t=3

[4]
www.world-nuclear.org/info/current-and-future-generation/nuclear-power-in-the-world-today/

[5]
thehill.com/policy/energy-environment/259199-nuclear-power-plants-warn-of-closure-crisis

[6]
www.theenergycollective.com/rodadams/306636/limitations-unreliable-energy-sources-aka-renewables

[7]
www.washingtonpost.com/national/nuclear-power-is-safest-way-to-make-electricity-according-to-2007-study/2011/03/22/AFQUbyQC_story.html

[8]
www.forbes.com/sites/jamesconca/2012/06/10/energys-deathprint-a-price-always-paid/#2715e4857a0b643b020749d2

[9] www.technologyreview.com/news/542226/test-facility-begins-capturing-carbon-from-air/

pteropodpics1_med

Ocean Acidification: An Immediate Threat or Why all the Hubub About Climate Change?

By Christopher C. Bergan

The whole world is talking about Climate Change. Anthropological Global Warming. Global Disruption. This is planet wide terra-forming with Green House Gasses (GHG) as the primary modus operandi, and it seems that a few billion people weren’t expecting this challenge to our collective survival. 195 of 196 nations were charter members of the UN Framework on Climate Change (UNFCCC), which was first proposed at the Rio Conference in 1992 and entered into force in March of 1996. That’s a lot of delegates! And after years of being confronted with melting glaciers, expanding deserts, extended droughts, record flooding, and record hurricanes; these delegates have finally agreed that steps need to be taken to mitigate any human-induced factors which might have created this climate change. This is a first step. The other important step was to agree to continue to meet and reassess every five years. It is my belief that the greatest danger of climate change is not the warming or the rising seas, but the changing chemistry of those seas. This effect is a lowering of P/H levels which acidifies the oceans. By the end of this century most life may be extinct in the oceans, which will mean greatly lowered oxygen levels for humans and other creatures as well as the possibility of a runaway greenhouse effect. This all centers on tiny plankton. But first allow me to backtrack a bit.

History of CO² knowledge.

Many reading this will have already heard of the Swede, Svante Arrhenius. In 1896 he was finishing up some complicated equations to explain how CO² might have affected the ice ages and glaciers. He then turned to a colleague, Arvid Högbom, to get some assistance on natural CO² cycles from volcanoes and oceans. Then Dr. Arrhenius decided to include factory emissions (mostly coal at that time) – and things got interesting. He calculated that within three thousand years mankind could raise the planet’s temperature by as much as 6°C! OK, not quite a compelling problem. Dr. Arrhenius eventually wrote a book which was published in 1908. Upon revisiting his calculations he looked at continued coal emissions, and calculated that mankind now would cause significant global warming in less than a millenia. Other scientists glanced at this work, did some independent calculations of their own, and had quite different outcomes. In short, Dr. Arrhenius’ work was labeled as flawed and was soon ignored by the majority of the science literate. In 1938 an English engineer, Guy Stewart Callendar, began to champion the idea of global warming. But since he was an amateur meteorologist, the minimal factors which were accounted for in his papers left room for doubts by many professionals. In the 1950’s and 1960’s some better work was done by Kaplan, Suess, & Revelle which paved the way for the acceptance of Arrhenius’ work. Then C. David Keeling began tracking CO² levels and published his Keeling Curve Chart. A detailed account of this history is found here. About the time Herr Hitler succeeded Gen. von Hindenberg as German Chancellor, a graduate student in Chicago was starting his master’s thesis on the quantum aspects of the infrared absorption spectrum of CO². In later years, when Dr. Alvin Weinberg was Director at ORNL, he continued to have an interest in the work being done on the implications heat absorption by CO². After being “ousted” from ORNL in 1973, Weinberg wrote a paper on the energy economy which included possible global warming scenarios – which were now anticipated to be only a century away. These concerns were presented to Congress in 1975 – and politely ignored. In 1981 a ten page article in Science Magazine titled Climate impact of increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide introduced a new name into this tale, Dr. James Hansen of NASA. In 1988 Dr. Hansen testified before congress and the hubub about climate change finally began to be taken seriously by the general public.

What does plankton have to do with climate change?

The oceans are 99% of the known livable space on the earth. In spite of the fact that human beings are mostly excluded from that living space, there are several thousand known plants & animals that do live in the oceans. So I’d like to repeat that phrase: The oceans are 99% of the known livable space on the earth! That fact is important. There are now about 5,000 species of plankton in the world. One of the 3 types of plankton is Phytoplankton (theses include both fresh water or oceanic organisms), which absorbs sunlight and carbon dioxide. Abundant yet tiny, phytoplankton forms the bottom of the water-based food chain. Phytoplankton (mostly single celled plants) does three things;
  1. Phytoplankton are sometimes eaten by small animals and baleen whales, forming the base of the oceanic food chain. Nearly half the human population lives within 60 miles of the ocean and is a part of that food chain. The seas also provides the biggest source of wild or domestic protein in the world.
  2. Phytoplankton absorbs CO² and sequesters it in their tiny shells which eventually fall to the bottom of the ocean – should they not get eaten first. By total mass, nearly half of all life in the oceans are comprised of these tiny plankton!
  3. As these bits of plankton take in CO² for nourishment, they also give off oxygen. In fact, it has been estimated that up to 80% of the earth’s oxygen is produced by phytoplankton! Breathe deeply as you consider this fact.

What happens when plankton becomes scarce? Or extinct?

It is known among scientists that nearly 40% of the plankton around the world has disappeared in the past 50 years. In fact, Professor Jean-Pierre Gattuso believes that arctic plankton could be completely extinct before 2030! These aren’t random hypotheses – the process is being documented now! Whether passively or specifically, some people are defiant when confronted with the urgent context of this situation. They believe that taking back democracy from the super rich will save our preferred climate – as if Dr. Lovelocke’s conception of Gaia (Mother Nature if you prefer) cares how we distribute and use her resources. It matters not how morally those natural resources are used; if they are used too quickly the planet cannot keep pace with these induced changes and there are penalties. The penalties for dumping GHG into the environment include terra-forming the planet so that glaciers melt and increasing water acidity changes habitats so that many become less hospitable to life. We need to admit that this is a global chemical & energy problem! Yes there are societal implications, both for humans as well as mammals, insects, & fish (they seem to have a type of society too). But terra-forming the earth (or Geo-Engineering) is real science, & Ocean Acidification (in my opinion) is the biggest problem associated with anthropological climate change! Here’s how I see it:
  1. The oceans absorb CO² & heat.
  2. This process is exacerbated by excess CO² absorbing infrared wavelengths.
  3. Plankton use that carbon to make billions of tiny shells each month.
  4. Plankton makes a lot of oxygen. More than land-based plants actually!
  5. Some plankton are eaten as the base of the food chain.
  6. Tons of uneaten plankton fall to the ocean floor – providing natural CO² sequestration
  7. Some minute amounts of CO² are not made into plankton shells, but instead become carbonic acid.
  8. Carbonic acid interrupts the life cycle of plankton by dissolving shells – no circle of aquatic life!
  9. Activies #1-6 slow and eventually stop occurring in increasingly acidic oceans.
  10. Goodbye oxygen for fish & mammals. Goodbye ocean food chain.

Hello global starvation and extinctions! Hello runaway greenhouse effect – Venus gets a twin!

Not to worry though; Gaia will likely create another intelligent being after Homo “Deluded” Sapien disappears. Just a shame we might take a few thousand other creatures with us into extinction. The earth will continue to spin and orbit – in the next billion years there will likely be several intelligent new species similar to chimps, dolphins, ants, cats, dogs, and such. Perhaps the dominant species of the next great era will be more similar to a grasshopper or octopus rather than the ape? I insert one question at this point for social activists who have been so busy as of late:  How could “taking back democracy” actually impact activities #7-10 as listed above?  How are populations of fish schools coupled with the distribution of wealth within capitalistic land-based societies? Does the voting record of union members change how CO² absorbs in three distinct spectrums? Global Chemistry is a hard science best solved by those trained in STEM education. We laypeople need to listen and learn about scientific convention, not fight against those that best understand how to mitigate Global Climate Change.  [end personal rant]

No need to take my word for all this.

I would suggest watching a talk entitled Acidification, Climate & Energy by Dr. Alex Cannara. This was given in June of 2015 at the TEAC7 conference. He has other talks online as well. Then there’s also an excellent documentary called Racing Extinction by Oscar winner Louie Psihoyos. This is an excellent overview the many of the problems which all inhabitants of the earth are facing. While I didn’t personally care for the “Save the Whales” mentality which bookends this documentary (Sorry, but I am also a hardcore fan of Star Trek TOS and just didn’t appreciate that aspect of the fourth movie – at the time), I do recognize that this over-fishing issue is a point to which the general public can relate. The core of the greater issue is found in the middle third of the Racing Extinction film: Ocean Acidification. To summarize yet again; currently several species of plankton are already under duress and numbers have begun to dwindle. I would ask what good is saving whales, dolphins, turtles, tuna, lobster, or seahorses in the 21st century if all sea life will be extinct in the 23rd century? Kelp and jellyfish excluded. It is this issue of ocean acidification which excess CO² exacerbates. So please, watch that middle portion of the Racing Extinction documentary a second time. Then perhaps watch a Ted Talk or use the internet to find recent information directly from researchers.

Context: the long view is equally important.

Can we avert this mass extinction scenario? Is it too late to avoid even some of these effects? We all should think carefully about this in the coming months, then act decisively in accordance with good science and engineering precepts – not fantasies based on feel-good ideas. I will say here that neither journalism nor political science are actual sciences. Valid scientists interact with dozens or even hundreds of fellow experts to build a solid story from their research. Less trustworthy scientists often rely on a very few cohorts (or on themselves alone!) to support a position. So let’s find actual experts & learn the basic science of climate change. Then find qualified engineers & architects that can build what science experts tell us are the best solutions. Yes there are short term societal concerns to keep us busy, but the hubub of daily concerns won’t matter much if we have no descendants to remember us. We must make the time in this century to return the earth to it’s proper, natural climate cycle. If our global village procrastinates even a few decades, our wealth of information and many achievements may disappear from the face of the earth in the coming centuries with only the distant artificial satellites of Pioneer & Voyager to mark our temporary learning curve.  

Perhaps the greatest commitment to come out of the recent COP21 is the agreement to meet again. Cop22 is in 5 years & COP23 in 10 years. We absolutely have to get it right by then – or else!

RECOMMENDED READING & WATCHING

This is how the ocean makes Earth livable

Racing Extinction Documentary panel @ UCTV

Phytoplankton fading global seas

Meeting the Renewable Energy Challenge: James Hansen Lecture

Nature decline ocean phytoplankton global warming boris worm

What is ocean acidification?

Arnold Schwarzenegger Climate campaigns need focus right now not 2050?