Former Nuclear Regulator: Ban Nuclear Power

May 18, 2019

Worth a read.
The underlying assumption one might come away with is that some kind of “ban” has been, or could, limit nuclear development.
Fact: the nuclear industry has been all but completely hobbled since the mid-seventies by it’s own ineptitude and out of control costs of new construction.

I wish it were not so, but the story that nuke-bros tell themselves is unfortunately not reality.

Gregory Jaczko served on the Nuclear Regulatory Commission from 2005 to 2009, and as its chairman from 2009 to 2012. The author of “Confessions of a Rogue Nuclear Regulator,” he is the founder of Wind Future LLC and teaches at Georgetown University and Princeton University.

Gregory Jacsko in the Washington Post:

Nuclear power was supposed to save the planet. The plants that used this technology could produce enormous amounts of electricity without the pollution caused by burning coal, oil or natural gas, which would help slow the catastrophic changes humans have forced on the Earth’s climate. As a physicist who studied esoteric properties of subatomic particles, I admired the science and the technological innovation behind the industry. And by the time I started working on nuclear issues on Capitol Hill in 1999 as an aide to Democratic lawmakers, the risks from human-caused global warming seemed to outweigh the dangers of nuclear power, which hadn’t had an accident since Chernobyl, 13 years earlier.
By 2005, my views had begun to shift.
I’d spent almost four years working on nuclear policy and witnessed the influence of the industry on the political process. Now I was serving on the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, where I saw that nuclear power was more complicated than I knew; it was a powerful business as well as an impressive feat of science. In 2009, President Barack Obama named me the agency’s chairman. 

Two years into my term, an earthquake and tsunami destroyed four nuclear reactors in Japan. I spent months reassuring the American public that nuclear energy, and the U.S. nuclear industry in particular, was safe. But by then, I was starting to doubt those claims myself. 
Before the accident, it was easier to accept the industry’s potential risks, because nuclear power plants had kept many coal and gas plants from spewing air pollutants and greenhouse gases into the air. Afterward, the falling cost of renewable power changed the calculus. Despite working in the industry for more than a decade, I now believe that nuclear power’s benefits are no longer enough to risk the welfare of people living near these plants. I became so convinced that, years after departing office, I’ve now made alternative energy development my new career, leaving nuclear power behind. The current and potential costs — in lives and dollars — are just too high. 
Nuclear plants generate power through fission, the separation of one large atom into two or more smaller ones. This atomic engine yields none of the air pollutants produced by the combustion of carbon-based fuels. Over the decades since its inception in the 1950s, nuclear power has prevented hundreds of fossil-fuel plants from being built, meaning fewer people have suffered or died from diseases caused by their emissions.

But fission reactors have a dark side, too: If the energy they produce is not closely controlled, they can fail in catastrophic ways that kill people and render large tracts of land uninhabitable. Nuclear power is also the path to nuclear weapons, themselves an existential threat. 
As the certainty of climate change grew clearer, nuclear power presented a dilemma for environmentalists: Was the risk of accidents or further spread of nuclear weapons greater than the hazard of climate change? In the late 2000s, the arguments in support of nuclear power were gaining traction with Congress, academia and even some environmentalists, as the Chernobyl accident faded into the past and the effects of climate change became harder to ignore. No new plants had been proposed in decades, because of the industry’s dismal record of construction oversight and cost controls, but now utilities were beginning to pitch new reactors — as many as 30 around the country.

But the Fukushima Daiichi crisis reversed that momentum.  A massive release of radiation from that plant, as its four reactors failed, lasted for months. The world watched as hydrogen explosions sent huge chunks of concrete into the air — a reminder that radiation was streaming, unseen, from the reactor core. More than 100,000 people were evacuated from their homes and their communities.
Most have not returned, because only select areas have been remediated, making the surrounding region seem like a giant chessboard with hazardous areas next to safer ones. The crisis hobbled the Japanese economy for years. The government estimated that the accident would cost at least $180 billion. Independent estimates suggest that the cost could be three times more
There were obvious ramifications for the entire industry: Could what happened in Japan happen elsewhere? This accident consumed my work at the NRC for the next six months. I assured the public of the safety of U.S. plants, because I did not have enough information or a legal basis at that point to say otherwise. But I also promised to thoroughly review the safety measures we had in place and to swiftly implement any necessary reforms the agency identified. Agency staffers soon produced a reasonable set of plant improvements that would reduce the chance of a similar accident here. The staff found weaknesses in the programs for dealing with fires, earthquakes and flooding — the kinds of natural disasters that could trigger a catastrophe like Fukushima.

Yet after the disaster, my fellow commissioners, as well as many in Congress and the nuclear industry, fretted that the proposed new U.S. reactors might never be built, because Fukushima would focus too much attention on the potential downsides. Westinghouse and the new plant owners worried that acknowledging the need for reforms would raise even more concern about the safety of reactors. The industry wanted the NRC to say that everything was fine and nothing needed to change. So my colleagues on the commission and supporters of the industry pushed to license the first of these projects without delay and stonewalled implementation of the safety reforms. My colleagues objected to making the staff report public. I ultimately prevailed, but then the lobbying intensified: The industry almost immediately started pushing back on the staff report. They lobbied the commission and enlisted allies in Congress to disapprove, water down or defer many of the recommendations.
Within a year of the accident at Fukushima — and over my objections — the NRC implemented just a few of the modest safety reforms that the agency’s employees had proposed, and then approved the first four new reactor licenses in decades, in Georgia and in South Carolina.

But there was a problem. After Fukushima, people all over the world demanded a different approach to nuclear safety. Germany closed several older plants and required the rest to shut down by 2022. Japan closed most of its plants.  Last year, even France, which gets about 80 percent of its electricity from nuclear power, proposed reducing that figure to 50 percent by 2035, because safety could not be guaranteed. Trying to make accidents unlikely wasn’t enough. 
And here in the United States, those four new reactors — the vanguard of the “nuclear renaissance” — still haven’t opened. The South Carolina companies building two of the reactors canceled the project in 2017, after spending $9 billion of their customers’ money without producing a single electron of power. The construction company behind the utilities, Westinghouse, went bankrupt, almost destroying its parent company, the global conglomerate Toshiba. The other two reactors licensed while I chaired the NRC are still under construction in Georgia and years behind schedule. Their cost has ballooned from $14 billion to $28 billion and continues to grow.
History shows that the expense involved in nuclear power will never change. Past construction in the United States exhibited similar cost increases throughout the design, engineering and construction process. The technology and the safety needs are just too complex and demanding to translate into a facility that is simple to design and build. No matter your views on nuclear power in principle, no one can afford to pay this much for two electricity plants. New nuclear is simply off the table in the United States.

After I left the NRC in 2012, I argued that we needed new ways to prevent accidents altogetherWhen a reactor incident occurs, the plant should not release any harmful radiation outside the plant itself. I was not yet antinuclear, just pro-public-safety. But nuclear proponents still see this as “antinuclear.” They knew, as I did, that most plants operating today do not meet the “no off-site release” test. I think a reasonable standard for any source of electricity should be that it doesn’t contaminate your community for decades.
Coal and natural gas do not create this kind of acute accident hazard, though they do present a different kind of danger. Large dams for hydroelectric power could require evacuation of nearby communities if they failed — but without the lasting contamination effect of radiation. And solar, wind and geothermal energy pose no safety threat at all. 
For years, my concerns about nuclear energy’s cost and safety were always tempered by a growing fear of climate catastrophe. But Fukushima provided a good test of just how important nuclear power was to slowing climate change: In the months after the accident, all nuclear reactors in Japan were shutteredindefinitely, eliminating production of almost all of the country’s carbon-free electricity and about 30 percent of its total electricity production. Naturally, carbon emissions rose, and future emissions-reduction targets were slashed. 

Would shutting down plants all over the world lead to similar results? Eight years after Fukushima, that question has been answered. Fewer than 10 of Japan’s 50 reactors have resumed operations, yet the country’s carbon emissions have dropped below their levels before the accident. How? Japan has made significant gains in energy efficiency and solar power. It turns out that relying on nuclear energy is actually a bad strategy for combating climate change: One accident wiped out Japan’s carbon gains. Only a turn to renewables and conservation brought the country back on target.

What about the United States? Nuclear accounts for about 19 percent of U.S. electricity production and most of our carbon-free electricity. Could reactors be phased out here without increasing carbon emissions? If it were completely up to the free market, the answer would be yes, because nuclear is more expensive than almost any other source of electricity today. Renewables such as solar, wind and hydroelectric power generate electricity for less than the nuclear plants under construction in Georgia, and in most places, they produce cheaper electricity than existing nuclear plants that have paid off all their construction costs.
In 2016, observing these trends, I launched a company devoted to building offshore wind turbines. My journey, from admiring nuclear power to fearing it, was complete: This tech is no longer a viable strategy for dealing with climate change, nor is it a competitive source of power. It is hazardous, expensive and unreliable, and abandoning it wouldn’t bring on climate doom.
The real choice now is between saving the planet and saving the dying nuclear industry. I vote for the planet.

Chicago Business Review:

(Bloomberg) — The only part of the nuclear industry still growing in the U.S. is a small but expanding group of companies that specialize in tearing reactors down faster and cheaper than ever before.
After Entergy Corp. shut its Vermont nuclear plant in 2014, the utility planned to wait until 2068 to dismantle it using a $510 million decommissioning trust fund that would appreciate over time to cover $1.2 billion in anticipated costs. Instead, Entergy sold the plant in January to Northstar Group Services Inc., which plans to do the job in five or six years at a much reduced cost.
The trick: Northstar would avoid up to $8 million a year in fuel-storage costs, and use the trust fund to get paid for the work. And once the job’s done, they get 45% of whatever’s left in the fund. With nine other plants expected to shut by 2025, others are moving to replicate the strategy.

“This business really wasn’t there a few years ago,” said Scott State, Northstar’s chief executive officer, by telephone. “It’s a growth business, and will be for many years.”

The nuclear industry has struggled to compete against a flood of cheap natural gas, and the oncoming rush of solar and wind power. Besides Entergy’s Vermont Yankee facility, five nuclear plants have closed nationwide since 2013, and New York, New Jersey, Illinois and Connecticut have had to approve subsidies to keep others online.
Westinghouse Electric, once a global powerhouse in designing and building reactors, went bankrupt in 2017 after an anticipated renaissance of U.S. nuclear power failed to emerge. After exiting bankruptcy and getting bought, it’s now more focused on dismantling them.

New York-based Northstar has extensive experience with demolition projects and environmental remediation, as well as smaller nuclear facilities at research sites. While Vermont Yankee is its first commercial nuclear project, State said the company is in talks for four more accelerated decommissioning contracts.
When a reactor starts up, operators must establish a trust fund that will eventually cover the facility’s dismantling and cleanup. Under Nuclear Regulatory Commission rules, owners have 60 years to complete decommissioning after it shuts down.
In the past, utilities typically planned to let a shuttered plant sit unused for years, and often decades, while the trust fund grows and the radioactivity decays, said Rodney McCullum, senior director for decommissioning and used fuel at the Nuclear Energy Institute. “Business models we’re seeing now, though, are turning that thinking on its head,” he said.
Northstar, which acquired Vermont Yankee for a nominal $1,000, is the first to close this type of deal, buying the plant and taking control of its trust fund. But other companies are close behind.
Holtec International, based in Jupiter, Florida, has agreed to similar deals for Entergy’s Pilgrim plant in Massachusetts, which will shut down this month. It also has contracts for the Indian Point facility north of New York City that will close in 2021 and the Palisades site in Michigan that will be shuttered in 2022.
For utilities, the movement is a win-win. They no longer carry an unused asset on their books, and they don’t have to deal with the details of restoring the site. “Entergy’s expertise is in operating nuclear power plants rather than taking them apart,” company spokesman Jerry Nappi said by email.

Giving the company part of any surplus in the decommissioning fund creates an incentive to work quickly, adding to the challenges of completing the project safely, said Edwin Lyman, acting director of the nuclear safety project at the Union of Concerned Scientists.
“It’s a pretty risky business model,” he said.

62 Responses to “Former Nuclear Regulator: Ban Nuclear Power”

  1. jimbills Says:

    You dropped a bomb with this one.

    I haven’t entered these nuclear debates for multiple reasons – a lot of people knowing a lot more than I do about the tech is a big one, though. Another reason is that I personally think it’s besides the point – human expansion is the real problem – but I’ll let that go here.

    I’m not crazy about potential bombs being scattered around the countryside, but the either/or argument about it seems really strange to me. Solar and wind currently make up less than 10% of U.S. power. Solar provides around 2% of world power. Battery tech is promising, but it also has a long way to go.

    Nuclear has a proven history of reducing emissions, and on a fairly quick time scale. I understand that nuclear has major problems with costs, but I just don’t get why if the goal is to reduce emissions as quickly as possible the equation is we should only do renewables and zero nuclear. Seems like tying a hand behind our back to me – potentially both if the base load argument is true.

    We’re talking many decades to replace FF at a best case scenario. No countries are currently 100% solar and wind, and that tells me at least that it’s extremely difficult to do so. When we move to EVs, electricity demand will skyrocket. Wouldn’t more electricity from more varied sources be the logical choice? Why couldn’t the argument be – build up as much replacement for FF as quickly as possible, then phase out nuclear as renewables mature?

    • jimbills Says:

      Looked into Jacsko’s Japan argument. Japan has the second largest installed PV capacity in the world behind China. It currently provides 5% of their electricity. They aim for 10% by 2050:

      Emissions have gone done by 8.4% since 2013:

      “due to an increased use of renewable energy and higher utilization of nuclear plants”

      They intend to get to 26% lower than 2013 by 2030, but they’re also building new coal plants. If that’s “back on target”, then okay, but we shouldn’t pretend that’s much of a target.

    • dumboldguy Says:

      It’s less “dropping a bomb” than needlessly and mercilessly beating a VERY dead horse. The anti-nukers have won, the industry is for all practical purposes dead, and we will continue to burn massive amounts of fossil fuel until RE can ramp up to replace it (and DO remember that a lot of the new RE is going to meet growth).

      Too bad that so many folks have (had) such cognitive bias against nukes—but then vaccines cause cancer, (along with wind turbines) and the Earth is flat, so…

      jimbills has it right—-as I’ve said many times, human “expansion” (in all its meanings) is the real problem. I too will let that go here—no one is listening.

    • greenman3610 Says:

      I don’t say that I agree with a nuclear “ban” –
      what I’m saying is that it is an error to think that nuclear’s problems come from
      some kind of government restriction. In fact, there has been a huge amount of subsidy and encouragement for nuclear over the years.
      I think it may even be appropriate to further subsidize certain existing plants- to keep them running while we transition to a renewable economy.
      My concern is that so often I hear people say “Why don’t we just build nuclear plants?” as blithely as if it were, “Why don’t I go to the fridge and crack a cold one?”
      It’s not that easy.

      • jimbills Says:

        Jaczko and Yucca:

        I’m a big believer that if something is truly possible it should show signs that it’s being done. That’s neither true for solar/wind going to 100% in a truly adequate amount of time or for nuclear being easy and cheap to build or even to maintain. Nuclear has major cost issues. A lot of that has come from NG:

        My concern is that so often I hear people say “Why don’t we just build a bunch of solar farms and wind turbines?” as blithely as if it were, “Why don’t I go to the fridge a crack a cold one?”

        It’s not that easy. It’s expensive. It requires governmental interference for it to really take in an adequate time frame. And here’s the stats for world energy: nuclear 11%, wind 4%, solar 2%. If nuclear is currently expensive, okay, I’m just not sure it’s a good enough reason to rule it out, especially as it clearly has shown success for reducing carbon emissions and we are clearly in a crisis.

        The environmentalism of the 70s and 80s was decidedly anti-nuke, largely because of the ‘ick’ factor of the tech as well as Three Mile, Chernobyl, and others. But back then, climate change wasn’t a major concern. It is now. I just think it’s strange to look at a toolbox of wrenches and screwdrivers and just choose the screwdrivers when the house is about to come down.

    • rhymeswithgoalie Says:

      Nuclear has a proven history of reducing emissions, and on a fairly quick time scale.

      The “quick time scale” depends a lot on the socioeconomic setting. In the US, the capital investment into a plant is usually backed up with government money, the design of each plant is typically implemented with varied combinations of vendors that haven’t worked together before (extremely inefficient). Siting new plants near appropriately reliable water sources to serve developed areas entails negotiating land rights for many different individuals and corporations.

      Contrast that with China, which can use the same construction organizations to build plants anywhere the government damn well thinks they should go, without having to play games with investor capital.

    • rsmurf Says:

      First nuclear is still dangerous as hell. Second building the plants takes 10 or more years. Third they have waste that is dangerous for 25,000 years. Fourth they cost an astronomical amount to build. Fifth Chernoble, Fukishima.

      • jimbills Says:

        All those problems exist.

        But let’s do a thought exercise. Say a doctor comes to you and says you have weeks to live, but an operation has a 50/50 chance of saving your life. Then say he can do an additional procedure that can up those odds in your favor by 15-20%, but there will be lifelong side effects.

        To me, there’s a logical choice there. But DOG has a point in that society has largely chosen on this issue. Even France is going to shut down a lot of their reactors. The end result of taking this off the table as an option is that we’re adding years to the ability to replace FF, and if we can do that with just renewables at 100% on even a national scale is still unproven.

        • rsmurf Says:

          If the side effect(s) is that other people will be effected then it’s a no go. It’s a completely different question when it’s one person vs all the people damaged by say Fukushima/Chernobyl.

          • jimbills Says:

            In the thought exercise, view society as one person. That one person represents the world’s population as a whole. Then view the side effects as being limited to parts of that one person’s body – say, the arm or leg, representing regions.

            I’m out after this. I can attempt to explain only as best as I can, then it’s out of my hands.

          • rsmurf Says:

            You can explain, but I don’t have to agree. It’s not like you trying to convince me 2 + 2 = 4, it is and always will be. It’s like you trying to convince me that blue is better than red.

  2. Terry Donte Says:

    The costs of nuclear poser plants are a direct result of the political process of how they are built and approved. The politians simply interfere and the costs go through the roof. As to the building, they are build here like one off race cars. That makes for the builders being inexperience in building them down to the worker pouring concrete. If one built them like one builds cars, the cost would drop to a fraction of the present costs if the politicians would get out of the way.
    Every single mishap has been directly caused by human operators who did not do something or did something wrong including the Japan accident which was caused by the corporate bosses in Tokyo refusing to act to cool the reactors and kicking the can upstairs to the government bureaucrats who sat on the problem until the reactors had overheated.

    Spent reactor fuel is not easy to get at if you are a terrorist. The fuel can be recycled to reduce costs and reuse unburned fuel. Some designs like the CANDU reactor do not require enriched fuel to operate. Again the problem is not with the technical side, it is the politians looking for votes from people in the mob who never have the desire or mind to look at the actual facts. An example, is the hysteria of the transport of some uranium to Nevada which was in the news with the politians jumping up and down about nothing for votes.

    Some have proposed modular reactors built so one can transport the reactor from a central factory to the site which would reduce costs and reduce chances for error in building them like the PGE reactor in California where the contractor put in the earth quake supports upside down which cost tens of millions to fix. Again that brings us back to the very bad idea of building reactors like off off race cars. That mindset needs to be abolished.

    A number of safer designs have been proposed. The politians are again sitting on the subject to gain votes so those designs are not being built or tested. The solar and wind solutions depend on storage. That problem has not been solved for baseline power.

    • rhymeswithgoalie Says:

      Terrorists don’t really need spent reactor fuel, anyway. There are more than enough vulnerable pieces of infrastructure (dams, bridges, reservoirs) that can be taken out with more accessible C-4 or fertilizer bombs. Hell, one person with guns killed 58 and maimed hundreds more.

    • rsmurf Says:

      You made a perfect reason to not screw around with nikes, HUMANS MAKE MISTAKES.

  3. Gingerbaker Says:

    “We’re talking many decades to replace FF at a best case scenario.”

    That’s not the best case scenario, if “many” means more than two. It’s pessimistic.

    • jimbills Says:

      3 decades – absolutely best case scenario in actual, realistic terms. Even then I personally doubt it will happen, as most countries lack the political will (see Australia’s recent election).

      No one is proposing full replacement much before 2040-2050. The world as a whole can’t expect it for several decades after that. Increased electricity demand due to EVs and other sources of growth will only up that pressure.

      • redskylite Says:

        At least Tony Abbott will not be in the 46th Parliament of Australia, he was the arch-denier and held back progress earleir as prime minister.

        Also strides in de-carbonization are being made down under. While the result is not great news, the loss of Abbott is some consolation.

        Lets hope it is echoed next year with you know who. We just have to watch and hope progress in Australia is encouraged under the newly elected team.

        Australian election: Tony Abbott loses his Warringah seat to Zali Steggall

        One of the Liberals’ leading conservatives and Australia’s 28th prime minister, Tony Abbott, has lost his blue-ribbon Sydney seat of Warringah after moderate Liberal voters abandoned him in protest at the role he played in opposing climate change action.

      • Gingerbaker Says:

        The best case scenario would not by tempered by a subjective interpretation of what is “realistic”, it would rather assume full commitment. The limiting factors might include resource scarcity, the timetable for new factory deployment, etc.

        That’s what “best case” means – how quickly could it be done if we really tried our “best”.

        • jimbills Says:

          It is subjective, but it’s also based by taking a long look at what other countries are doing. Let’s look at Germany and Denmark, two of the best examples in the world at replacing FF with renewables.

          Germany is currently running into major issues with their program:

          Germany aims to be carbon neutral by 2050. They started this in 2000. To get there, look at the chart in that article and their targets. They are one of the most ambitious countries in the world at tackling emissions, and they aren’t on track to get there. By 2050.

          Denmark is a much brighter example. They also intend to be carbon neutral by 2050, but they have major wind resources, and they’ve built and are building a monster amount of it for their almost 6 million citizens. They aim to be 59% renewables by 2023.

          There’s a little island in Denmark called Samso, population 4,000. They aim to be carbon neutral by 2030!

          They started their plan in 1997. They are hopeful they can make their target, but are running into issues like needing to replace their existing turbines with new ones.

          These examples really are our ‘best’. We can’t do better, barring a cataclysmic shift in how we view economic growth and/or governmental intervention. The thought that we can just snap our finger and replace FF is a fantasy. We built this way of life on FF – we can’t replace them without major effort sustained over decades of intense focus.

          • Gingerbaker Says:

            Realistically, we will all be dead by the time it truly gets bad. Realistically, the US will not get its act together for at least a dozen years.

            Realistically, at our current pace – according to an article about a year ago – we will get to 100% RE in 400 years.

            But the interesting question is how short a time could it take to build ourselves our new shiny 100% RE system. If we had a WWII effort, I daresay we could do it in a decade. And we would need to start by building a ton of new PV panel factories.

          • dumboldguy Says:

            To look back at another of your comments. the best case scenario MUST be tempered by a FACT-based subjective and rational interpretation of what is “realistic”—glad to see that you are beginning to recognize that in this comment.

            We have no rational basis to assume “full commitment” will occur anytime soon. I have said many times that until some tipping points are exceeded and the SHTF big time we will just stumble along, letting the rich get richer and worrying more about what’s going on with the housewives of beverly hills, the american idol, and what inanities come to us over social media.

            (PS That gives me a thought—-would it be considered anti-social if I stopped making an effort to get out of the way of those walking with their noses in their phones in stores and on sidewalks and just let them run into me?) Big as I am, 99% of them would regret it).

    • dumboldguy Says:

      TWO decades is optimistic? Wake up and smell the planet overheating, GB. I agree with jimbills—-that three decades is the most realistic estimate, and the S**T will likely hit the fan before than and torpedo and slow down further progress.

  4. talies Says:

    There are plans for a nuclear power station in Georgia (in the Caucasus). A very unstable part of the world. The two big accidents were in stable, disciplined countries with technical know-how. (Japan and USSR), and even so there are ongoing problems.

    So I’m against nuclear for that reason. Imagine what could happen if there was social breakdown due to climate breakdown. All we need is more wind turbines, more quickly.

  5. dumboldguy Says:

    Gregory Jaczko is not exactly a hugely credible source. He was forced to resign from the NRC, and has many detractors, both for the policy decisions he made and his personal behavior. He had supporters as well, just about all of them Democrats. LOTS of under the table and political rather than scientific stuff going on there.

    • jimbills Says:

      I read the Amazon reviews of his book:

      • jimbills Says:

        Crud. I wasn’t expecting a bleeping ad from my link. Anyway, clicking the ‘buy’ button without buying it will send you to the page.

    • Gingerbaker Says:

      Right – the NRC is a shining beacon of pure unadulterated honesty without a hint of corruption, self-promotion, or industry favoritism – so the man quoted in this post is therefore suspect (?).

      Despite the fact that what he wrote is compelling and makes sense. Okey-dokey.

      Who is not exactly credible here, again?

      • dumboldguy Says:

        The NRC has NOT been “a shining beacon of pure unadulterated honesty without a hint of corruption, self-promotion, or industry favoritism”—far from it, as you would understand not from your confirmation bias against nuclear power but from reading about it for decades as I have. I have also had the great (mis)fortune to become personally acquainted with a former high ranking NRC official who is one of the biggest A-holes I have EVER met in my 79 years. I wouldn’t be confident that he could collect my garbage without screwing it up, never mind promote safe nuclear power.

        So what Jaczko wrote is “compelling and makes sense” to YOU, a known sufferer from confirmation bias. Okey-dokey. I guess we can equate that to the fact that what Donald Trump says and does is “compelling” to a significant number of Americans (and to his buddy/owner Vlad). Credible, my ass!

        (And all of this is beside the point—-hearing all this emotional bullshit about nuclear power is such a waste of time—-you can’t deny the science of why nuclear power is a good way to generate electricity and the fear-mongering and politicking have pretty much buried nuclear until the SHTF—-why can’t you give it up?)

  6. Medical experts estimate that, on average, between 1 & 5 million people die, on an annual basis, from the health effects of fossil fuel air pollution. (Coal is really bad, Natural Gas the safest.)

    Nuclear power is not even a blip. The worst nuclear accident in history (Chernobyl) caused about 40 deaths; these include 28 immediate responders and about 15 deaths caused among 6000 victims of excess cancers (it’s always very difficult to detect statistically significant excess cancers in the presence of a high natural background rate).

    In fact, I expect more construction workers have been killed installing solar roofs and windmills than all the nuclear accidents combined.

    Hansen, the King of the Hockey Stick, asserts that Nuclear power, being clean, has saved an estimated 1.8 million lives. Hansen, and his co-author, also estimate the saving of up to 7 million lives in the next four decades, along with substantial reductions in carbon emissions, were nuclear power to replace fossil fuel usage on a large scale.

    • greenman3610 Says:

      some folks would disagree with your estimates for Chernobyl etc, but let’s stipulate that they are all true and accurate.
      it is completely immaterial to the argument made in the video above – that nuclear has significant barriers that have nothing
      to do with body counts.
      It is a fact that major investors simply won’t touch a nuclear project in the US without a government loan guarantee or subsidy – that’s been true since the 70s.
      China, which can simply mandate monies to be spent on any particular tech, and imprisons any dissidents that get in the way – has done a lot in the recent decade, but recently their projects have bogged down due to the same kinds of delays and overruns seen in the west.

      South Korea is another program that has gotten a lot of good PR, but there again, the wheels are starting to come off..

      We haven’t even touched on the topic of nuclear proliferation – but I think we would be prudent, if we are going to build
      16,000 850MW reactors around the world (see video below) it might be good to rule out the Irans and north Koreas that you might not be comfortable with, not too mention dozens of other countries in the developing world, and even some in Europe.

      • jfon Says:

        Iran has been confirmed by all the parties to the 5 + 1 deal, including the US State Department, to be following the terms of that agreement. They have one power reactor, with Russia in the process of building two more for them. They’ll use it to offset their own gas use – so they can export it to other countries that haven’t gone nuclear. There’s no way to make a bomb with either the 4.5 percent enriched uranium of unused fuel ( you’d need 90% enriched), or from the intensely radioactive spent fuel. It has about one percent plutonium in it, but of very low isotopic quality. For a reliable plutonium bomb, you need about 90% of the plutonium to be Pu239, and less than 9% Pu 240, or it’s liable to predetonate and just scatter the bits around. The spent rods are also physically hot, very unhealthy to be around, and would most likely fry the electronic timers for a bomb with gamma rays, and cook the high-explosive charges needed to compress the pits, just from their decay heat.
        Korea came to an agreement during the Clinton presidency to stop their weapons program in exchange for two civil power reactors. Congress and Japan never came through with that, and NK resumed bomb research.
        The history of war-prone countries that have built a bomb, compared to those that have tried and failed, would suggest that, as the Romans said, ‘ If you want peace, prepare for war. ‘ The US and the USSR were ready for a scrap for forty years, but with both sides packing nukes, it was never a realistic option on either side. India and Pakistan fought three wars, (and India had several serious border confrontations with China.) then both sides set off test explosions, and finally a ‘ hot line ‘ was put in between New Delhi and Islamabad, like the Washington/Moscow one.Israel and its neighbours also fought three wars between 1945 and 1974, but none since Israel clandestinely acquired a bomb. (The fighting in Lebanon and Gaza has been below the state versus state level – no consolation to the Arab side there, but usually fewer casualties overall, and with less risk of it spilling over to general bloodletting.)
        The three Arab countries that tried, but failed, to get nuclear weapons – Iraq, Syria, and Libya – have been treated like third class world citizens, interfered with by anyone who cared to, and ripped apart by militias often funded from outside their borders. The message for Kim Jong Un could not be clearer – keep your bomb if you want to stay alive.
        Soviet Russia and Red China were both painted, in their day, as rapacious powers bent on world domination. That was true, to some extent. At one stage, when they fell out with each other, the Russians even proposed secretly to the US that China should by taken out of the picture, but by that stage, Beijing also had the bomb. Again, a WW2-scale hot war never came, just a grudging, bloodless cold one. Eventually, as usual, peace broke out.
        I’d take the psychic horrors of an imaginary nuclear showdown any day, over the real butchery of a conventional war. Chemical weapons are quite nasty enough. The first nail in the Kim regime’s coffin will come when Washington declares ‘All options are NOT on the table.’

        • rhymeswithgoalie Says:

          Syria’s Assad knows the trick of killing a city using low-tech arms: When people start to hunker down to avoid the mortar bombardments, snipers and barrel bombs, send in heavier-than-air chlorine gas to find them in their basements. 😦

      • dumboldguy Says:

        Proliferation is a non-issue. The U.S., China, India, Russia, etc all have nuclear weapons and nuclear power reactors. Since they have about 1/2 of the world’s population between them, a lot of good could be done if those countries went to more nukes for electricity generation. Let’s just build 8,000 reactors in those countries.

  7. rabiddoomsayer Says:

    The US Navy has been able to do it, multiple copies of the same reactor. The US Navy has done it safer than anyone else. Not entirely happy with their disposal plan, but still better than anyone else.

    Marine reactors are generally much smaller than land based and have costs not needed on land based systems. But the promise of modular systems has been around for a long time and should result in a cheaper, safer, quicker reactor. But we always want the hand built Ferrari (and Ferrari’s are prone to catch fire)

    Every time we reinvent the wheel and design the reactor from the ground up. We throw in new considerations when the process is underway. We want the waste safe for a thousand years, but we wont be around for a thousand years if we keep using coal.

    • Terry Donte Says:

      If one uses MODTRAN to calculate the CO2 emission and temperature , doubling the CO2 to 800 parts per million would take that 1000 years and raise the temperate about 1/2 of a degree fahrenheit from today’s temperature. I am pretty sure that in 1000 years our ancestors will be either living in caves or traveling to the stars. If caves no problem if the stars no problem either as they will have developed none fossil fuel energy supplies to run things.

      In the more immediate future we do have things to worry about like an unsustainable human population growth and cultures which want other cultures dead. Along the way we could figure out how to store that RE to get off polluting fossil fuels faster. Those problems are ones we need to fix if we are to get to the stars 1000 years from now.

      • redskylite Says:

        Our planet is currently increasing it’s atmospheric CO2 at around 2/3 ppm per year. Currently monitoring around 415 ppm. A recent paper suggested that El Niño events are becoming more intense (rather alarming news), and intense El Niño’s tend to increase atmospheric CO2 concentrations.

        There are no signs of the CO2 trends diminishing, extreme events such as wildfire suggest a difficult battle to achieve a reduction, and we are too slow in stopping coal burning, gas powered ice’s etc. So likely we will reach 800 ppm in less than 150 years

        The most authoritative report I have read suggests 2°C will occur when we have exceeded 425 ppm.

        So I recommend you think again about your “modtran” conclusions.

        • redskylite Says:

          This was released by U.K’s DEFRA in 2006 – if anyone has more recent credible source – please attach link – thanks. (not modtran)

          “Limiting warming to 2°C above pre-industrial levels with a relatively high certainty requires the equivalent concentration of CO2 to stay below 400 ppm.

          Conversely, if concentrations were to rise to 550ppm CO2 equivalent,
          then it is unlikely that the global mean temperature increase would stay below 2°C.

          Limiting climate change to 2°C above pre-industrial levels implies limiting the atmospheric concentration of all greenhouse gases. Based on new insights into the uncertainty ranges of climate sensitivity, a stabilisation at 450 ppmv CO2 equivalent would imply a medium likelihood (~50%) of staying below 2°C warming. ”

          Click to access NAK_BOO_2006_01_summary.pdf

        • redskylite Says:

          Increase in ENSO frequencies and intensity is one of the famous “Tipping Points in the Earth System” .

          “New study reveals “extraordinary change” in El Niño possibly linked to climate change
          By Tom Yulsman | May 7, 2019 8:04 pm

          “That record, presented in a new study appearing in the scientific journal Nature Geoscience, reveals an “extraordinary change” in the behavior of El Niño, according to the researchers. That shift “has serious implications for societies and ecosystems around the world.”

          “Gradual anthropogenic forcing is expected, on theoretical grounds, to interact with natural modes of climate variability by altering the relative amount of time that the climate system spends in different states (52). ENSO is the most significant ocean-atmosphere mode, and its variability is controlled by (at least) three factors: zonal mean thermocline depth, thermocline sharpness in the EEP, and the strength of the annual cycle and hence the meridional temperature gradient across the equator (53, 54). Increased ocean heat uptake could cause a permanent deepening of the thermocline in the EEP and a consequent shift from present day ENSO variability to greater amplitude and/or more frequent El Niños (55).”

  8. redskylite Says:

    For interest I add this article from the locality I used to reside in near to Hinkley Point. It outlines the fear of my fellow locals, normal people (not anti-nukers). In fact nobody asked Bridgewater or Somerset residents if they accepted Nuclear power stations on their doorstep. There was no vote, no referendum. As far as I know this is normal practice, in most (if not all) democratic countries. Lay people are not generally asked their favored method of power generation. A few people protested at the time, but they were ignored and the nuclear power stations were built and provided power to the area.

    So why do some regular Crock bloggers keep blaming anti-nukers, for blocking progress on combating climate change. If by anti-nukers that encompasses killing large amounts of populations with nuclear bombs and rendering large tracts of land inhabitable then count me in, with that label.

    There are many more anti-climate change activists (than anti-nukers) and it’s taking a while for their message to sink in, so how come you think anti-nukers are so successful at influencing the power providers ?

    Also Nuclear power is not suitable everywhere – remote villages in Africa for example, not even on a reliable grid, what use is a nuclear power station there, so please don’t quote the total global electric demands of planet Earth in trying to justify the building of large nuclear power stations.

    And what about the NIMBY crowd, how do they feel next to a nuclear power station. ?

    The most sensible article I have read is from Joe Romm. .

    “To be clear, I don’t think we should take nuclear power off the table or even prematurely shut down safe, working reactors. But it is time for rosy-eyed nuclear enthusiasts like Hansen to stop implying that somehow U.S. activists or progressive politicians are thwarting the Renaissance of an otherwise affordable and easy-to-scale major climate solution.

    Nuclear power remains a highly subsidized energy source that benefits from a myriad of favorable policies in this country, including taxpayer-backed disaster insurance and loan guarantees.”

    • jfon Says:

      ‘Nuclear power is not suitable everywhere – remote villages in Africa for example, not even on a reliable grid, what use is a nuclear power station there..’
      The CO2 emissions of African countries are extraordinarily low – the average American is responsible for around 19 tons CO2 per year, the average Malawian, 0.1 tons. Even if just all the countries that already have nuclear power replaced all their coal plants with nuclear, it would reduce world fuel emissions by nearly a quarter.
      I’ve read a fair bit by Joe Romm, and from Jim Hansen, and I’d put my money on Hansen.
      ‘France has 58 operational reactors, which took the country more than two decades to connect to the grid! That would be a rate of under three per year.
      How do France or Sweden provide any evidence that 115 reactors per year for 35 years is “technically achievable”? Answer: They don’t.’
      France’s GDP in 2019 was 2.8 trillion dollars, 3.2 percent of world GDP. ( It was considerably less, for both, in 1974). They actually averaged 3.4 reactor connections a year for 15 years, so for the whole world, 3.4/3.2 x 100 = 106 reactors for the world !
      Nor should you rule out new technology. Ten years ago, the US was on the point of getting out of commercial space launches, unable to compete with Russia, and with China ready to step in with more state-subsidised capacity. Since then, Elon Musk has made rockets recyclable, and it’s the Russians who’ve been driven out of the business. Several nuclear start-ups are racing to do a
      similar transformation of the nuclear industry. Thorcon claim that using South Korean shipbilding techniques, one shipyard could make a hundred one-Gigawatt molten salt reactors a year. Nuscale, making light water reactors, reckon on a dozen a year from their first plant. Some of these modular eractors are being designed as slot-in replacements for coal- they can fit inside the storage yard for the 100 train wagon loads of coal that a dirt burner needs, and can use the same cooling water, and the same transmission lines. Maybe even the same turbo-generators.

      • leslie graham Says:

        “one shipyard could make a hundred one-Gigawatt molten salt reactors a year

        A one-Gigawatt reactor every 3 days?
        And you actually believe this absurd garbage?

        Jesus wept.

        • dumboldguy Says:

          Why did Jesus weep? Dry his tears. Have you never heard of the emergency shipbuilding program in WW2? Look it up! Mass production techniques allowed thousands of ships to be built in much less time than “normal”

          The SS Robert E. Peary Liberty Ship was built in a record 4 Days 15 Hours 29 Minutes—–the average was closer to six weeks. 100 one-Gigawatt reactor every 3 days is not unreasonable, considering that a Liberty ship was over 400 feet long and a 1 Gw MSR needs to contain only 18 cubic meters of fuel-salt mixture—do the math—-that’s a cube less than 9 feet on an edge.

          • Gingerbaker Says:

            Imagine how many wind towers, PV panel mounts, HVDC inverters etc they could make in a year.

          • dumboldguy Says:

            Yep, but you don’t need “shipyard techniques” for that—auto assembly line types of factories would work. Why haven’t we started?

        • jfon Says:

          The CEO of Thorcon, Jack Devanney, has a lot of experience with the ship building industry. ‘He served on MIT’s faculty of Ocean Engineering for ten years. In his later career he designed and managed building and operating 440,000 ton ultra large crude carriers — the world’s largest oil tankers at the time. Devanney was responsible for specifications, financing, yard negotiations, supervision, and all major technical and commercial decisions. Devanney’s MIT education includes a BS and MS in naval architecture and a PhD in management science.’ His team’s proposal is to scale up the molten salt reactor technology pioneered at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in the seventies, and assemble units on site in the highly efficient South Korean shipyards. All-steel, below grade construction would avoid the complications of pouring massive, heavily reinforced concrete domes.No water in the reactor means no chance of a steam explosion, so the containment can be about twenty times smaller than for a light water reactor.
          ‘Steel for such a 1-GW LF underground power plant is 36,000 tons. The world’s single largest shipyard can fabricate 2.5 million tons of steel into ships,annually; industry capacity exceeds 15 million tons/year, enough to manufacture more than 400 1-GW power plants per year. Moreover this manufacturing capacity already exists and is underutilized, so production can start soon.’
          ‘…Figure 5 shows one of eight ships built by ThorCon’s predecessor company. This ship is the largest double hull tanker ever built. She can carry 440,000 tons of oil. Her steel weight is 67,000 tons. She required 700,000 man-hours of direct labor, a little more than 10 man-hours per ton of ship steel. About 40% of this was expended on hull steel, the rest on outfitting. She was built in less than 12 months and cost 89 million dollars in 2002…ThorCon uses exactly the same production process.’
          Two other molten salt designs are making progress in Canada, where licencing is less onerous than in the US, as is another sodium cooled design based on the 20MWe Experimental Breeder Reactor, that ran successfully for thirty years in Idaho.

        • jfon Says:

          Just coincidentally, this further item came out today. ( A hundred reactors a year doesn’t mean each one took three days. Boeing’s Everett factory, though, can build a 737 in nine days. The plane is a lot more complex than this reactor. In 2011, Hyundai’s Ulsan shipyard built 82 ships, many far larger than the Thorcon plant will be.)

  9. jimbills Says:

    I’ll add a video series from one of my favorite systems thinkers on energy, Nate Hagens, here:

    It fits with this post in that the question of how we view energy is vital to our future. It’s a commitment to watch these (and takes some energy), but I think it’s worth it.

    #14 is especially appropriate here. On #16, I think he’s downplaying the effects of climate change and other environmental issues, the end of growth and its effect to economies and tensions inside and between nations because of it, and he’s overplaying our ability to prevent these issues before they happen (i.e. he’s too optimistic), but then he’s made the series for young college students, and it would be nice if we miraculously ended with his #3 scenario. Maybe we’ll get there after a period of #4. Anyway, it’s all fascinating, at least to an obsessive like myself.

    • redskylite Says:

      I guess I must be guilty of “obsessiveness” too, sometimes wish I could give it away. I’m sure others feel like that, when so many people are absolutely and happily oblivious to the science.

      This article caught my eye, I love cars, my son doesn’t have one or give a damn about them.

      Sorry to be a baby boomer, damn Adolf – what have you done ?

      Another upcoming election taking us away from decent action coming up ?

      Climate change concerns sour Germany’s love for cars

      On one side are younger, urban voters, demanding immediate steps to become a carbon-neutral country. On the other, are an older, rural generation who grew prosperous under Germany’s coal-powered, automobile-driven economy.
      “Young people are much more involved with digitalization now,” explains Ferdinand Dudenhoeffer, director of the Center for Automotive Research in Duisburg-Essen.
      “They are almost more happy to get the latest iPhone as a present than a car.”

  10. redskylite Says:

    The Piper Alpha oil platform incident in 1988 killed 167 workers in a terrible, horrible and painful manner. The total lack of decent safety management did not effect the popularity of gasoline and petroleum products in the slightest, also there was ExxonValdez, and Deepwater Horizon incidents and many other incidents- yet oil is still a driver of economies and the current price is soaring, partly due to the political tension in the gulf and the trade dispute between U.S.A and China.

    It is understood that safety procedures can prevent incidents in any industry and disasters should not be repeated in hindsight. Society is poised at a dangerous and critical brink – we must not fall into decline. our progress must not be reversed. The decent side of humanity must see the light.

    “The Chernobyl disaster: What happened, and the long-term impacts
    The accident at a nuclear power plant in Ukraine shocked the world, permanently altered a region, and leaves many questions unanswered.”

    At least 28 people initially died as a result of the accident, while more than 100 were injured. The United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation has reported that more than 6,000 children and adolescents developed thyroid cancer after being exposed to radiation from the incident, although some experts have challenged that claim.

    International researchers have predicted that ultimately, around 4,000 people exposed to high levels of radiation could succumb to radiation-related cancer, while about 5,000 people exposed to lower levels of radiation may suffer the same fate. Yet the full consequences of the accident, including impacts on mental health and even subsequent generations, remain highly debated and under study.”

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