Former Chief Nuclear Regulator: Nuclear Power is not Best Solution for Climate

January 25, 2020

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 Jaczko 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 estimatedthat 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. 

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.

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.

88 Responses to “Former Chief Nuclear Regulator: Nuclear Power is not Best Solution for Climate”

  1. Canman Says:

    The world’s leading nuclear advocate is Michael Slellenberger. He’s done a lot of work on the history of nuclear energy and has come to a lot of surprising views. He’s come to the defense of large light water reactors and nuclear weapons. He recently testified before congress:

    • Jim Torson Says:

      Here is a response to some of what Shellenberger says:

      Fukushima, Chernobyl, And Three Mile Island Prover Why Nuclear Power Will Never Be Inherently Safe
      https://www.fairewinds.org/demystify/nuclear-power-will-never-be-inherently-safe

    • Jim Torson Says:

      Here’s another example of what Shellenberger’s group Environmental Progress does. There is a ridiculous article on their website (apparently written by a couple other people rather than Shellenberger himself) that attempts to make the argument that the waste from solar energy is a bigger problem that the waste from nuclear power. Here’s some comments on the article that I sent out to some correspondents a couple years ago.

      After I stopped laughing about this ridiculous article from Shellenberger’s nuclear front group, I realized some more explanation might be useful.

      The problem with nuclear waste (aka “spent” fuel) is not the volume or the mass. The problem is that it is so extremely radioactive that it defies ordinary comprehension.

      Awhile ago there was a Nova program about the new Chernobyl arch. I had suggested that a climate scientist friend watch this. He was out of town, so his son recorded it for him and he recently watched it. As a followup, I sent him links to some Nuclear Hotseat podcast episodes on Chernobyl along with these comments:

      ———

      Here is more on Chernobyl. In particular, I would suggest starting with Nuclear Hotseat #284. The interview (which starts about 16 minutes into the podcast) discusses how the new arch is not the end of dealing with Chernobyl – it’s just the beginning of the next phase.

      A big problem with these nuclear things is that the hazard really is largely beyond comprehension. When you pull out the so-called “spent” fuel rods from a reactor, they are intensely radioactive. ***INTENSELY*** radioactive. In the 1970s I was working to oppose the building in Virginia of the North Anna nuclear plant directly on top of a geologic fault, which goes right through the excavation for the reactors. While it was under construction, I went on a tour of the partially completed plant. The tour was conducted by a representative of the company building the plant. This was not some wild-eyed Greenpeace fanatic or something. He explained that if a bundle of spent fuel rods was sitting in a field and you started walking to it, you would not get to the bundle. You would be dead from the radiation exposure before you could get to it. This hazard is so extreme that it really is largely beyond ordinary comprehension. It leaves you thinking, “This can’t possibly be correct.” However, it is correct. Down through the years, I have have seen it described in similar ways by people I consider to be highly credible. E.g., one description said that if you rode a motorcycle past the “spent” fuel bundle, you would receive a lethal dose of radiation.

      I hope you read this blog post about an article in Science magazine (Union of Concerned Scientists and Princeton Univ.) that I sent awhile ago:

      Dangers of Spent Fuel Pool Fires at Nuclear Plants
      https://allthingsnuclear.org/elyman/science-article-may-2017

      This explains that a spent fuel fire could heavily contaminate 30,000 square miles and require relocation of nearly 20 million people. The financial impact could be $2 trillion. As I said, it really is beyond ordinary comprehension.

    • Jim Torson Says:

      The video and that ridiculous article from Shellenberger’s front group mentioned stacking up the nuclear waste (“spent” fuel) on a football field. What a hoot! Here’s what Robert Alvarez (a genuine nuclear expert, unlike Shellenberger) has said about that:

      ———
      The nuclear industry often claims that all the spent nuclear fuel in the U.S. would cover a football field ten feet deep.

      There’s a bit of problem with this assertion. If it were possible to squeeze the single largest concentration of radioactivity on the planet (12 to 14 billion curies) onto a football field, this would unleash nuclear chain reactions involving enough plutonium to fuel about 150,000 nuclear weapons and also ignite a radiological fire that would create severe contamination — making Chernobyl and Fukushima look like pimples on a pumpkin. Thousands, if not millions, of people hundreds of miles away would receive lethal doses.

      Nearly 40 percent of the radioactivity in U.S. spent fuel is cesium-137. With a half-life of 30 years, Cs-137 gives off potentially hazardous external penetrating radiation. Once in the environment it can remain there for hundreds of years where it accumulates in the human food chain and other biota.
      ————

      For the complete article this was in, see:

      America’s Nuclear Spent-Fuel Time Bombs
      https://www.huffpost.com/entry/americas-nuclear-spentfue_b_871718

      • dumboldguy Says:

        Uh—-take a deep breath—–hold a paper bog over your mouth if necessary to get your hysteria under control.

        Anyone who really understands nuclear power knows that NO ONE has ever suggested stacking all the nuclear waste in one spot? That the “pile the size of a football field and ten feet deep” is only used to illustrate how small the quantity if waste really is?

        • ecoquant Says:

          Except when the U.S. military wants to be able to recover the mixed in spent weapon pits to reconstitute them.

          • dumboldguy Says:

            One needs to have a sense of humor before one tries to make jokes. One needs to have command of the facts about nuclear “waste” and depleted uranium projectiles before one tries to link them. You, unfortunately, have neither.

  2. ecoquant Says:

    @jfon,

    There’s no evidence you read or understood anything by Jacobson, Delucchi, and colleagues. You parrot standard complaints about wind and solar without quantifying anything (I want to see figures for your claims about concrete and steel) and you have no mention regarding either buildouts at synoptic scales or the need for fossil and nuclear to overbuild because of waste heat. Moreover you assume solar can only be placed in desert but say nothing about fossil fuel and nuclear being restricted to points having sources of coolling waters, sources which are increasingly precarious. I therefore don’t take your comments seriously.

    • dumboldguy Says:

      “I therefore don’t take your comments seriously”, says Ecoquack as he adds to the ever growing number of comments that ALWAYS accrue to any mention of nuclear power on Crock.

      My only reaction to that is—–“continue to sniff your perfumed sleeve hanky and look down from the high horse of cognitive bias” (and a hearty la-de-da, as well). You might benefit from the curative info in this book:

      BRIGHTSIDED: HOW POSITIVE THINKING IS UNDERMINING AMERICA, by Barbara Ehrenreich, Metropolitan-Holt, 2009

      • ecoquant Says:

        @dumboldguy,

        I said modular might be attractive if the technology could be rolled out fast enough. Surely, I agree, in principle, nuclear has a lot of good features. But the cooling requirements I mentioned to @jfon and the negative learning curve can’t be dismissed so readily. And Jacobson and company are far better experts at this than I am, so I defer to them.

        Facts. I want quantitative facts:

    • jfon Says:

      There’s a detailed paper on steel and concrete for reactors by Per Petersen.
      ‘ The construction of existing 1970-vintage U.S. nuclear power plants required 40 metric tons (MT) of steel and 90 cubic meters (m3) of concrete per average megawatt of electricity (MW(ave)) generating capacity, when operated at a capacity factor of 0.9MW(ave)/MW(rated)). For comparison, a typical wind energy system operating with 6.5 meters per-second average wind speed requires construction inputs of 460 MT of steel and 870 m3
      of concrete per average MW(ave). Coal uses 98 MT of steel and 160 m3
      of concrete per average MW(ave); and natural-gas combined cycle plants use 3.3 MT steel and 27 m3 concrete. ‘https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/519e/a5c55a312f3f45ccfcc4a093a941366c6658.pdf
      When you say ‘buildouts at synoptic scale ‘ do you mean a scale commensurate with energy demand ? Because at the moment wind and solar are making about three percent of the world’s energy, and most of the world is severely underpowered. Scaling the current W&S infrastructure up thirty times would not lead to power savings, as Jacobson envisages for an all-electric economy. It would lead to enormous waste, both from overbuild to ensure supply when the weather was unenergetic, and from power shedding when it was surplus. Storage and transmission losses would add to this. One truckload of uranium can transport, and store, enough energy to run a city for a year. The equivalent in batteries would last seconds. The cost of a transcontinental grid to hopefully find wind somewhere would be more than the truck, however heavily guarded.
      ( I know Jacobson doesn’t like batteries, or bioenergy. Neither do I. But the ‘minor tweaks’ he claims will make a backup system out of current hydro are a nonsense.)

  3. jimbills Says:

    Jaczko is a source like Michael Shellenberger is a source. They are both highly biased, and will both bend the truth to fit their arguments.

    I also see Jacobson is widely cited in the comments. Okay.

    An unquestioning acceptance of what these guys say reveals more about one’s own biases than an actual realistic view of our situation.

    China is going to vastly increase both their nuclear power and renewables in the next ten years, and they are projected to hit the peak in their carbon emissions in that time period. It’s unlikely they would be able to do so with just nuclear or just renewables. And even still, that’s just a peak in emissions.

    • ecoquant Says:

      @jimbills,

      I also see Jacobson is widely cited in the comments. Okay.

      An unquestioning acceptance of what these guys say reveals more about one’s own biases than an actual realistic view of our situation.

      I don’t know about Jaczko and Shellenberger, but I have read (and understood) the several papers by Jacobson and colleagues over the years, including their most recent, as well as the papers of their strident critics, and then the papers by others (than the Jacobson group) who pointed out where the critics are wrong. So I don’t do “unquestioning acceptance”.

      The works by Jacobson, Delucchi, and all are an amazing contribution and really do demonstrate 100% zero Carbon is technically feasible, and put a price tag on it. That policy or preferences impede is really not their fault.

      Jacobson is an amazing guy. A tour of his Fundamentals of Atmospheric Modeling (2nd edition, 2005) suffices to convince on that point.

      • jimbills Says:

        Jacobson’s basic problem is that he takes a hypothetical situation, and as yet unproven in the real world, and then uses it to argue against nuclear power, which has actually moved beyond the hypothetical.

        His plans are EXTREMELY difficult to implement in the real world – the fact that that’s not his fault isn’t the issue. The reality of whether or not we’ll be able to do what he proposes is. The reality of how long that would take in the real world is.

        I would treat him as more unbiased if he just stuck to figuring out how to implement his ideas rather than becoming an activist against nuclear.

        I don’t like nuclear, or trust it. The accidents with nuclear in the past show man’s unerring ability to screw up – and that’s something I do trust to happen with regularity. I prefer a wind’s turbine’s lack of radioactive meltdown.

        But the simple fact is that we don’t have time to endlessly argue about a pure just renewable or just nuclear future. We need to be doing whatever we can right now.

      • Brent Jensen-Schmidt Says:

        Reviewing the comments here there is a trend. The pro camp concentrate on NEED and scientific FACTS. Enough said.
        The anti camp concentrates on COST and QUOTING anti nuke publications of which there are many. ( And watching dramatized movies. )
        James Hanson is pro and trumps Mark Jacobson!

        The world is going to fry FFS.

        • ecoquant Says:

          Assessment:

          Note Why Nuclear Power Represents an Opportunity Cost.

          In short they take so darn long to build, that if bets are placed on them, the world will emit gads more greenhouse gases.

          It’s not at all just cost and ideology.

          • dumboldguy Says:

            They DID take “so darn long to build” in the past—that does not mean that we couldn’t build them a lot faster if we got serious and adopted the “Liberty Ship Model”.

          • ecoquant Says:

            Liberty Ships had a tendency to spontaneously sink.

          • dumboldguy Says:

            “Liberty Ships had a tendency to spontaneously sink”. Just like you.

          • Brent Jensen-Schmidt Says:

            China median build time, 5 1/2 years, that is before one considers a 1000 bed hospital in 10 DAYS.
            You talk as if there is a choice. Well there is, cut out GHG or fry! Cut out GHG or die!
            A novel thought! Build as much RE as fast as we can, whilst building as much nuke as fast as we can.

          • Brent Jensen-Schmidt Says:

            Hello Ecoperson. Liberty ships saved the world from fascism even before the added bulkhead solved the sinking problem.

  4. ecoquant Says:

    Economy-wide Deep Decarbonization
    MIT Climate Action Symposia Series
    25 February 2020

    The fourth of MIT’s six Climate Action Symposia, Economy-wide Deep Decarbonization, will be held on Tuesday, February 25, 2020. Topics will include:

    pathways to scalable, affordable low- to no-carbon fuels;

    the role of biofuels, hydrogen, and long-term energy storage; and

    large-scale capture of carbon dioxide and gigaton-scale utilization.

    Getting our electric grid and automobile fleet to net-zero carbon emissions will be important achievements, but greater challenges remain, particularly in the industrial and transportation sectors. What are the pathways to scalable, affordable low- to no-carbon fuels? What role might advanced biofuels, hydrogen, and long-term energy storage play? Is the large-scale capture of carbon dioxide, followed by its gigaton-scale utilization, important for solving humanity’s climate crisis? Participants will tackle these questions from scientific, technological, and policy perspectives and discuss the research agenda needed to provide answers.

    Schedule
    5:00 pm Framing remarks: Net carbon neutrality by mid-century?
    Ernest Moniz, MIT
    5:15 pm
    Decarbonizing transportation and industry

    Panel I: Electrification of transportation

    Moderator:

    Ernest Moniz, MIT
    Panelists:

    Yang Shao-Horn, MIT
    John Wall, Cummins (retired)
    Interactive discussion with audience questions

    Panel II: Low-carbon fuels

    Moderator:

    Ernest Moniz, MIT
    Panelists:

    Kristala Prather, MIT
    Francis O’Sullivan, Lincoln Clean Energy
    Interactive discussion with audience questions

    6:35 pm Break
    6:45 pm
    Large-scale carbon management and negative carbon

    Moderator:

    Kristala Prather, MIT
    Panelists:

    Howard Herzog, MIT
    Ruben Juanes, MIT
    Arun Majumdar, Stanford
    Interactive discussion with audience questions

    7:45 pm Closing perspectives
    Susan Hockfield, MIT

    • dumboldguy Says:

      ZZZZzzzzz……! JUst more navel-gazing and yada-yada about what we ought to be doing and might be doing IF……

      It’s setting TARGETS rather than getting anything done. Gorge Monbiot speaks to how “targets” are actually delaying action here:

      https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2020/jan/29/climate-targets-committee-on-climate-change-report

      • ecoquant Says:

        @dumboldguy,

        You can insult me all you want. I really do not care. I don’t care what other people think.

        But, whatever you might think of the positions and opinions of the principals at the MIT Climate Symposia — and I do not agree with several of these positions, whether nuclear by Professors Moniz and Emanuel, or proposals for SRM — their knowledge and experience ought to be respected. It would not hurt to listen.

        Instead, it appears the most potent device in your toolkit is name-calling.

        That suggests to me your other opinions — and the opinions of those who agree with you — are built on similarly robust foundations.

  5. redskylite Says:

    Lets stop bickering and at least celebrate the latest positive news, after all we do ALL want to defeat the “Climate Change/Global Warming”crisis and soon don’t we.

    Going ahead with what we’ve got already. Two countries, two solutions.

    UPDATE 1-UAE’s Barakah nuclear plant ready for operation phase -WAM

    https://af.reuters.com/article/commoditiesNews/idAFL8N29X4CQ

    World’s largest wind farm nears completion
    Off the coast of Yorkshire, Hornsea One will supply renewable energy to millions of homes in the UK

    https://www.themayor.eu/en/worlds-largest-wind-farm-nears-completion

    • Mark Mev Says:

      I know this is from wikipedia, but I was wondering about the timelines to build these 2 projects:
      Barakah was awarded the bid in December 2009
      Unit Type Construction start Operation start (scheduled)
      Barakah 1 APR-1400 19 July 2012 2019
      Barakah 2 APR-1400 16 April 2013 2019
      Barakah 3 APR-1400 24 Sept 2014 2020
      Barakah 4 APR-1400 30 July 2015

      • Mark Mev Says:

        I’ll try this again:
        I know this is from wikipedia, but I was wondering about the timelines to build these 2 projects:
        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Barakah_nuclear_power_plant
        Barakah was awarded the bid in December 2009
        Unit Type Construction start Operation start (scheduled) ACTUAL
        Barakah 1 APR-1400 19 July 2012 2019 summer 2020
        Barakah 2 APR-1400 16 April 2013 2019
        Barakah 3 APR-1400 24 Sept 2014 2020
        Barakah 4 APR-1400 30 July 2015 2021
        So about 11 years for from bid to commercial operation for the first 1.345GW

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hornsea_Wind_Farm
        Windfarm 1:
        Bids March 2008
        Zone Development Agreements signed in December 2009
        Seems like evaluation and design kept going on for years.
        Boreholes April 2015
        Final turbine October 2019
        Roughly 11 years from bid to commercial operation for 1.2GW
        Windfarm 2:
        Planning application early 2015
        Commercial operation planned 2022
        1.8GW
        Windfarm 3:
        Initial planning schedule 2018
        Commercial operation planned 2025
        2.4GW

        Hopefully there have been improvements in speeding up all the initial paperwork and design of projects like this.

        • jfon Says:

          As with most things, practice makes perfect. The offshore wind industry benefited from a lot of oil and gas platform building experience. The first big nuclear expansion ( I’m too scared to say ‘boom’), after the 1973 oil shock, saw pretty rapid construction, in Europe and North America. Current construction teams in China and South Korea have a lot of experience, and just get the job done. Western ones, who mostly haven’t built a plant for a generation, keep hitting potholes, regulatory or organisational. In contrast, the US teams who go from reactor to reactor, doing refuelling and maintenance stopworks, have been getting more and more slick. The average refuelling outage has gone down from 80 to 32 days over the last twenty years, and unscheduled stops have also been trending down.

          • ecoquant Says:

            Re: unscheduled stops

            Not enough in the case of Pilgrim in Massachusetts to be highly inconvenient for ISO-NE, whatever the reason.

            And the decision to shut down was made entirely by the plant’s owners: Neither the state government nor ISO-NE wanted it to go away, but they weren’t going to bribe them to keep it open. So at least in that case I question profitability.

            And, no, continuing protest’s by opponents aren’t an excuse: ALL nuclear plants have those, except maybe in China.

          • Brent Jensen-Schmidt Says:

            ‘Don’t know it for a fact’ but will bet that regulatory bum fights, legal challenges and lack of defined intelligent leadership create most of the delays.
            The world fries while narcissists squabble.

  6. jfon Says:

    Jaczko claims he ‘worked in the industry for a decade’, but it would be more truthful to say he worked against it. He was doing academic research on particle physics, with no application in the power industry, when he was brought in to Washington to work as a staffer for Harry Reid and Ed Markey. Reid used his position as senior Democrat in the Senate to block the opening of the Yucca Mountain spent fuel repository in his state, and Ed Markey has opposed every reactor permit for his entire career. They forced Jaczko’s appointment as chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, upon which he was often the sole vote against attempts to licence or relicence reactors. Changes he ordered to the AP1000 reactor design, after four of them had already received permission to begin construction, probably cost the companies concerned several billion dollars, and delayed the start for over a year. He writes as though he turned against nuclear as a ‘road to Damascus ‘ type revelation, when in fact it was just business as usual.

    • jimbills Says:

      Exactly.

      There were questions about his impartiality in the 2005 Congressional record when he was being considered for the NRC. He was instrumental in helping Reid block Yucca Mountain, and the reason he was nominated and selected for the NRC was because Reid held enormous sway over the NRC’s selections at the time.

      Jaczko’s ‘backstory’ over going from a big nuclear energy proponent to a ‘rogue regulator’ is a romanticized fabrication, and he shouldn’t be treated as anything other than a highly biased source.

  7. redskylite Says:

    Here’s the thing: from U.S. Energy Department’s Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory – They highlight the growing realization globally that wind, solar and electric vehicles aren’t enough to stop global warming.

    So we must grow our nuclear capacity, hope and pray giant atmospheric hoovers and carbon storage can be arranged in time, on our ever tight budgets, or god help us look to the other crazy geoengineering options. Our reluctance to vote sensibly and act on the state of the climate, leaves us running very low on choices, while a hotter planet is making light work of our remaining forests.

    “A study Thursday by the U.S. Energy Department’s Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory underscore the challenges California faces as it pushes to eliminate emissions by 2045. They also highlight the growing realization globally that wind, solar and electric vehicles aren’t enough to stop global warming. So policymakers and entrepreneurs are searching for ways to remove carbon dioxide that’s already in the atmosphere.

    https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-01-30/california-climate-goal-may-require-vacuums-to-suck-co2-from-sky?srnd=green

    • dumboldguy Says:

      Giant vacuums to suck up carbon dioxide? HO-HO-HO! Can we first design vacuums that will suck up Repugnants so that we can “store ” them somewhere where they will do no harm?

      While we’re talking BS, I like the idea of painting everything white too—-haven’t heard that one for a while.

      In the meantime……..

    • ecoquant Says:

      @redskylite,

      [NREL] highlight[s] the growing realization globally that wind, solar and electric vehicles aren’t enough to stop global warming.

      I want a more specific and contextually complete citation before I believe it. For example,

      (1) Is this because wind + solar + storage are intrinsically incapable? Or

      (2) Is it because they are not being built out quickly enough (in part) due to local opposition (in part) because of efforts on the part of the Koch Brothers network and places like the Josiah Bartlett Center in New Hampshire? Or

      (3) Is it because economic growth is outpacing the present growth of wind + solar + storage? Or

      (4) Some combination?

      And I also want to know what assessments are there that nuclear power can be built out consistent with and overcoming opposition as in “(2)”, and fast enough to overcome “(3)” or “(4)”? And if the answer is we need a “national crash program”, why isn’t such a program also feasible for wind + solar + storage?

      • redskylite Says:

        Haven’t had time to read the 189 page report yet, so relying on Bloomberg’s reporting.

        Here is the full report…

        Click to access Getting_to_Neutral.pdf

        • ecoquant Says:

          @redskylite,

          I just completed a tour of said LLNL report and note a couple of critical things which show it’s not pertinent to the present discussion. There was no specific citation of the Bloomberg characterization of the report (and I’m not going on the chase of the wild goose to find it), so I won’t address that. Give me one and I will, if the Bloomberg isn’t behind a paywall.

          * The report focuses upon California only.
          * The report focuses upon the need to achieve negative emissions in order to meet California’s 2045 goal.
          * The matter discussed here, that of the efficacy of renewables and electrification, is only touched at the outside of the LLNL report, setting up the need for negative emissions.
          * The claim is simply that even if we get off all fossil fuels and electrify — with no commitment by the report on how that is done — the targets California has advocated cannot be met without negative emissions techniques being deployed at scale.
          * More broadly, rapid decarbonization of atmosphere consistent with the IPCC 1.5 goals cannot be met without negative emissions techniques being deployed at scale.
          * The report does not address at all the relative efficacy of different “renewables” and electrification techniques. In fact the only place where energy sources are differentiated is in addressing the power requirements for negative emissions technology. They mention solar, wind, locally produced natural gas, geothermal, and in one place nuclear.
          * And, indeed, beginning on page 119, the LLNL report addresses nuclear power for negative emissions technology, and strongly notes its downsides, including the negative learning curve which I have mentioned (and has been disregarded by the present discussants), including replicating in their Figure 69 the very figure I have here.

          Indeed, as a microcosm of zero-to-low-Carbon energy needs, the LLNL condemns nuclear as an option pretty strongly.

          This is a lesson in needing to go back to primary sources.

          • dumboldguy Says:

            Here’s Ecoquack, still quacking away and spouting inanities like “This is a lesson in needing to go back to primary sources”.

            I too am a believer in “primary sources”, and I use my “primary” eyeballs and ears to gather data for my brain to connect up, as do some of the other commenters here on Crock—some of us also try not to get sidetracked into sniffing around in obscure corners and reading crap about 1.5, a goal that we will NEVER reach.

            (PS Why don’t you just stop commenting about nuclear power and therefore avoid further embarrassment?—–we don’t need to see any more evidence of YOUR “negative learning curve” re: nuclear power and its benefits.)

      • dumboldguy Says:

        “I want a more specific and contextually complete citation before I believe it”. OOH! Fighting words from one of the resident “analyzers” and one of those who love the sound of their own voices.

        (1) YES Wind + solar + storage are intrinsically incapable? (for the foreseeable future)

        (2) YES IT IS because they are not being built out quickly enough (in part) due to local opposition (in part) because of efforts on the part of the Koch Brothers network and places like the Josiah Bartlett Center in New Hampshire? (and why do you single out such an obscure organization as Bartlett?)

        (3) YES It is because economic growth is ALMOST outpacing the present growth of wind + solar + storage om most places?

        (4) YES Some combination? DUH! It is “all of the above” and many other factors that are part of the equation. We all know that—-why don’t you? (Oh—forgot that you’re just listening to the sound of your own voice here and grooving on it)

        “And I also want to know what assessments are there that nuclear power can be built out consistent with and overcoming opposition as in “(2)”, and fast enough to overcome “(3)” or “(4)”? And if the answer is we need a “national crash program”, why isn’t such a program also feasible for wind + solar + storage?”

        And for the final “DUH” here, anyone who has really looked into the situation knows the answer to “why isn’t?” It has been discussed at length on many Crock threads. Why don’t you know? (oops—forgot again—-see (4)


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