Developing a national energy policy for a country of our size does have significant challenges. Making one set of guidelines for a diverse set of regions and jurisdictions is a challenge so not every guideline will be a perfect fit. For those looking for number crunching, graphs and citations you will be disappointed. I keep my comments in the realm of the educated-guessing bloggers often do. Energy policy in our case needs to make the case that nuclear energy has the most potential to do the most benefit. So our energy policy includes educating people to draw their own conclusions based on comparing the options which I hope our website will eventually provide.
But we need to make nuclear energy and nuclear science more important to everyone. It’s true that we need more scientists and engineers but we need the general public to embrace nuclear. Part of the problem is that most people feel that it is too complicated to understand nuclear. We can change that perception. It is not so esoteric. It can be made into a more easy to digest subject by starting with the numerous non-energy benefits of nuclear. For this point to be understood simply look at the wide range of benefits nuclear science has given us beyond energy and weapons. See youtube video The Future of Nuclear Technology … After Fukushima with Alan E. Waltar ( http://youtu.be/NQ_7-BNgBew )
Times have changed. We used to be able to ignore what science and industry were doing. We could get on with our lives in particular areas of self indulgence. It was a lesson of democracy, freedom of choice and laissez-faire. But what has changed is that now the balance has been tipped. The paradise is sick. The responsibility to correct the problem needs to be shared by all of us, from our grand parents to our grand children.
The introduction of mandatory supply of iodine pills has been suggested for the areas near the plants in Ontario. This ruling should not be a deterrent and cause for fear. But it is. (See: Toronto Star: Article) The thinking behind such decisions need to be understood in the larger context. So we know how a vital technology can help a society progress. We need to advocate that we should learn to accept the hidden world of nuclear, make it a part of education and general knowledge. Acceptance of nuclear would also allow it’s cost to come down.
When politicians realize there is more acceptance they can push for reforms. Replacing coal won’t happen until it becomes acceptable to use nuclear. Only then can we begin to reverse the momentum of increased CO2 and consequently global warming and growing ocean acidity which will kill the oceans and bring about many calamities.
The biggest obstacles to nuclear energy acceptance are irrational fear and the energy competitors to nuclear know this and play it up. Our focus in delivering an energy policy is to make sure the majority of the people understand why nuclear is the best energy choice. Although explaining and comparing the various energy sources are beneficial it is not so beneficial to stress one kind of reactor over another. They are all better in the sense that a car is better than a bicycle.
The product we already believe in, is great in all current commercial reactor configurations. What’s left to explain are the limits, the margins, the deceptions, the misconceptions, the probabilities and therefore whether current policies are problematic and need changing.
Nuclear Power Plants
We want to keep all, or most, of the current operating reactors running as long as their useful lives last. It is wise to keep these power horses going. Nuclear energy is dense, carbon free, and affordable with many economic and environmental advantages.
The AP-1000’s most limiting factor to growth is the expense but still we need to encourage awareness of the long term benefits and the eventual return on investment. This is a good example of economies of scale. There is no other energy source other than hydro that gives back so much and for so long. Reactors that cost up to 20 Billion dollars or more are still a safe long term investment. We also support North American initiatives such as Molten Salt Reactors and Small Modular Reactors (SMRs) with commercial roll-outs in 7-12 years.
SMRs we encourage but specially because they are passively safe and will help allay the common fears about reactors. Non-pressurized reactors in particular are the safest for future reactors. All current reactors have aspects that, although engineered very well, still scare people. Pressurized water explosions (or even nuclear detonations – tell them not possible) and the potential for subsequent widespread contamination are likely the biggest fears.
The word “renewable” is an over-used and inappropriate term that has won the hearts of too many. What good is renewable energy if they are only available twenty percent of the time as is the case for wind. ( see article: Wind Farms Generate Below 20 Percent of Their Supposed Output…
2014 Nuclear Issues Vol 37 No 7 September ) It is not yet a feasible technology. Wind, waves and solar may have their place but not as a grid source for dependable electricity. The wind and solar farms are not ready for prime time. In fact they are harmful to industry and existing full time energy sources. It’s called resonance or sub-synchronous power that because of their intermittent, unreliable supply actually cause wear and tear on the system. Keep in mind that the polticians are the ones who put pressure on the utilities for what energy mix to make. So just as misconceptions affect the outcome for nuclear they also affect the outcome for renewables.
The economics of renewables is tied in with the load following energy sources of power that replace wind and solar for during their downtime, which is most of the time. They are referred to by utility people as negtive load sources. Here’s the catch 22. Add renewables to the mix and you are automatically going to need backup. No city can survive with intermittent power. So more than half (the inconvenient truth) is that wind and solar are not producing so the void is filled with natural gas, coal or nuclear.
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Renewables are also land-intensive. Trying to compare them to nuclear is futile. They lose on so many levels that it’s just plain silly to compare. Again it is like a car compared to a bicycle. Simply not a fair comparison. But it is the farms we mostly are against because they can have sudden spikes of power that traditional grids are not designed to handle.
Wind has the most money spent for electrical power gained disrupting smooth grid transmissions. The economics of renewables are such that the consumer pays more for electricity because of the subsidies that guarantee rates whether there is wind or sunlight available. The impact is that the consumer is paying twice. Once for the gas and once for the stalled wind and solar.
Solar can be less disruptive if installed & used by local home rooftops, schools, or businesses because they have not yet reached saturation where they can be disruptive. In such a scenario they might eventually become a grid of their own letting the cities prime functions alone.
But more importantly Wind and Solar and other intermittent energy sources need to be rethought and the separation of baseload dependent electrical use and less critical electrical use so that renewable energy sources can be applied locally and coupled with storage and not a part of the same grid that carries baseload.
If energy policy includes making responsible decisions about how we spend and the environmental impact from the development to the final installation, then a whole range of factors that go beyond merely delegating what power sources to use but also considering what materials from rare earths that come from China are part of the wind mill’s and solar panel’s design. They are long term hazards. Factors such as desert preparation needing to kill any wildlife or vegetation near a solar farm that could possibly allow growth or interference with the unmanned panels. How much thought has gone into disposal of end-of-life panels and windmills. There is indeed an inversely proportional amount for how much land and construction materials are needed and how much energy is produced when comparing small footprint nuclear energy to renewables.
The worst offenders by far are Coal Plants! London’s Great Smog of ’52 is a perfect example. Read about it here:
There are states that still have over 50% of their power from coal. But it is true that the US burns less coal than they once did but that is a deception. The coal they mine is still being burned but just not in the US. We need to consider creating more coal gasification plants to keep the coal business alive which means less exporting and more developing. But the long term goal should be to phase out coal mining for fuel. Again energy awareness needs to take the big picture into account. We can’t ignore that China is building a new coal plant every week to meet their expanding economic needs. We export coal but we used to export knowledge too. Somehow we fell behind. Catching up to our once proud position as the most technologically advanced country will begin when we accept nuclear science as part of our reality.
Because of some bad apples, fracking has got a bad name. This under-regulated industry has examples of abusing, disfiguring and despoiling the land and water tables but there are sources that indicate it has had a positive impact on reducing CO2. On the one hand America is thankful for natural gas for helping the US to become more independent of Arab countries but on the other it is a threat to the environment in several ways. Water, wildlife and landscape have all suffered from the invasion of once pristine and relatively untouched countryside. The economics of natural gas is strongly connected to big business and the deep pockets give those companies more leverage to artificially keep prices low to make nuclear less able to profit. The utilities are forced to buy the cheapest energy sources.
What about labeling methane as natural? Does calling it natural gas accurately describe it’s function and properties? Methane is a much stronger greenhouse gas than CO2. It will stay in the atmosphere for 29 years before converting to CO2 which still remains. In addition, methane is explosive and has killed far more people than nuclear. So if explosions are natural then the name works but the intent of labeling it “natural” implies that it is unspoiled by human intervention. We know now that human intervention in the fracking sense is very un-natural.
The Misinformed Green’s Are Unwitting Accomplices in Slowing Economic Recovery and Preventing Ecological Recovery
There have been a few cases where antinuclear protests and lobbyist efforts have forced the closing of nuclear plants such as Vermont Yankee and San Onofre plants and successful efforts to cancel nuclear projects. Lawyers, who belong to the profession we most love to hate, really take advantage of the under-educated green movement by working with nuance and counting on the fact that the judges and jury are not well informed on nuclear energy and they help bring about the closings of perfectly good productive nuclear power plants. The outcome is almost always an increase in use of fossil fuel to replace this energy. The pollution affects the air and ocean acidity and the utility bills go sky high. We must continue to give examples of how much carbon dioxide is being added by removing nuclear energy from the equation. If the “greens” want to pretend to be concerned about the quality of life as a so-called “environmentalist” it is a must to know the facts. You can’t play it both ways. It is tantamount to superstition. Have we really regressed that far as a civilization?