Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Nuclear Power - Rusher's Column

In which Wendy joins the debate, Rich D surfaces again, and energyguy again states his position. Wendy disagrees, and is rather dubious about energyguy's intentions, but is rather vague about what she means. David from Oklahomoa chimes in, stating solar does not work after the sun goes down. Energyguy corrects David's misconception. ModMark has a good question, but energyguy does not have sufficient time to address it tonight.

This is from William Rusher's column on Townhall of July 28, 2008 advocating nuclear power as the solution to the U.S. high energy prices.

Energyguy wrote:
With respect, Mr. Rusher, like many others, you have been deceived.

Some agree with you that nuclear power is safe, efficient, and will forever provide cheap power for the world.

Others, including myself, disagree. I listed 7 reasons not to glow nuclear on Rebecca Hagelin's recent column on this, at: 4/nuclear_power_lighting_the_future

You have not mentioned the two show-stoppers for nuclear power in the U.S.: First, prohibitively high costs to build, with the very long construction times due to lawsuits, and Second, safe handling and disposal of the highly toxic wastes.

Solar power is competitive, and runs 24/7 in the Sun Belt. Wind power investment is booming, with far more than enough wind in the U.S. to shut down all the nukes forever. Wind-energy storage systems will soon make that a reality.

For any who are interested, I posted my thoughts on renewable energy at: rgy.html

I have zero commercial interest in that blog. I created it solely to avoid typing that stuff over and over as more columnists weigh in on the same issues.

-- Roger E. Sowell
Energy Attorney
BS Chemical Engineering

Wendy wrote:
I have already read your "7 reasons" post, and it was just as silly the second time.

1. The reason nuclear plant construction is so expensive is because, as you yourself suggested, there are lawsuit issues, permit delays, environmental regulations, etc. that double the time and expense to build. This suggests that the problem is that our legislatures need to roll back the ridiculous anti-nuclear legislation that is on the books.

2. Safe handling and disposal of waste is only an issue for environmentalist wacko freaks. It is not a prohibitive issue to a serious mind.

Rational minds also do not suggest that wind and solar power are serious alternatives to sustain an industrial civilization, or that lack of brainpower in America makes it impossible to make our civilization nuclear-powered.

By the way, everyone on this board knows what your real interest is, and it is not the well-being of your fellow man.

Nuclear power won't happen overnight and will not replace oil in the near term (and should not), but if we wish to survive, it is our only solution on the horizon for the long-term.

David from Oklahoma wrote:
Subject: energyguy
Energyguy says solar power is available 24/7 in the sun belt. I live in the sun belt. This may surprise you, but the sun does actually set here like any place else. Liberal wingnuts like energyguy is the reason right now that nuclear cost so much to built and takes so long to come online.

Energyguy responded to David:
wrote: "Energyguy says solar power is available 24/7 in the sun belt. I live in the sun belt. This may surprise you, but the sun does actually set here like any place else. Liberal wingnuts like energyguy is the reason right now that nuclear cost so much to built and takes so long to come online."

Take a look at the CSP plant in Phoenix, Arizona. It uses solar power and generates electricity 24/7.

Yes, David, the sun goes down. Every night, even in Phoenix. But geeks and engineers figured it out, and did it with no toxic wastes.

As to nuclear construction costs, actually, you can blame the Chinese and Indians (from India, not the U.S. native groups). Their growing economies caused prices to skyrocket for construction materials like steel, copper, and cement. Nuclear power plants use a lot of those.

-- Roger E. Sowell

Vic tries to bait Energyguy into a response with:
Construction costs are no more for NUke plants than any other large construction. What costs money is delays caused by eco-idiot intervenors and regulators wanting continuous changes in design as you are building it.

Energyguy just ignores Vic; he has demonstrated no ability to use facts and logic but hurls weak insults instead.

Location: NY

Reply # 27
Date: Jul 29, 2008 - 10:45 AM EST
Subject: David
" Liberal wingnuts like energyguy is the reason right now that nuclear cost so much to built and takes so long to come online. "

Now EnergyGuy is a big boy and does not need me to defend him, I am afraid that defend him just make him a liberal in your mind.

I have no doubt that he is quite conservative and nothing worst than a true conservative being labeled a liberal.

But I must ask, why is energy production such a left vs right issue?

Why do you care how those electron flowing into your house is produced? Solar, wind, nukes, NG co-gen or that nasty coal all can produce electrons.

Just a matter which is cheapest for me.

ModMark poses a question to Energyguy:
Now EnergyGuy
" First, prohibitively high costs to build, with the very long construction times due to lawsuits,"

You not going to make any friends by talking lawsuits.

If you do your homework, why should lawyers be able to shut down a new AP1000 nuke plant?

Westinghouse did all the proper work and design, it has been approved by the government and is ready to roll.

Can my AGW lawyers start shutting down NG co-gen systems since they do produce CO2? In fact, those same lawyer may join the nuke side since it does not produce CO2.

Rich D wrote:
Subject: energyguy
Unless I'm mistaken, you left the previous forum where we were having a discussion without responding. Anyway, I just went to the Hagelin article and agree with some others that your seven reason post is not reflective of up-to-date nuclear technology. Just a few miles from Pittsburgh, Westinghouse has been advertising and getting many engineers and technical folks to staff up a new design center. Also, a critical mass of supporters and candle haters would be enough to put the Luddites in their place.

I don't know why you seem to ignore the new designs that produce little or no serious waste after reprocessing and contain considerably fewer components, shutdown safely even without an operator, and can be assembled from prefabricated, tested modules made off site.

Also, I see no response from you on the comparative generation and life-cycle costs of the co-gen plants that you advocate. Why is that? I respect your credentials, but others here are not ignorant of technology.

Energyguy responds to Wendy:
Please, spell out what you believe is my true interest?

I don't know how many, if any, who disagree with me are engineers. Not to make a big deal out of it, but I think I know whereof I speak, after 30-plus years as both an engineer, and an energy attorney.

Everyone is entitled to their views and opinions, but I expect those who want to argue to bring some facts and logic. Unsupported rants or insults are worthless.

I have previously posted the link to my website, so all can view my biography. Not that it matters to some.

I am a realist. I lived through the agonies of the utility companies building the first round of nuclear power plants in the U.S. I followed the litigation, and the delays that were not caused by intervenors. On a different column, I posted what happened at the South Texas Nuclear Plant.

At STNP, part of the problem were engineering errors, completely unrelated to the reactor side. Incompetent management also led to serious delays, thus increasing the final project cost. Things were bad there, including falsified x-rays of critical welds. Who knows why, and who knows if anything like that will happen again. I hope not.

I am intimately familiar with modular construction, indeed, it is the in-vogue style for much modern construction. It can increase quality control, and can reduce costs and time to construct. But, I can assure you it is not foolproof, either. Airbus, the company that makes the A380, is living proof of that. Boeing is having their own issues with the concept in building the Dreamliner.

But, to your first point on Congress removing laws that can be used by anti-nuclear groups. Many of those laws could have a nuclear plant exemption written into them by Congress, and then signed into law by a President. I seriously doubt that will occur. The political fallout would be immense.


-- Roger E. Sowell

energyguy Location: CA
Reply # 61
Date: Jul 30, 2008 - 12:18 AM EST
Subject: Wendy - pt 2
I wish all of you would read what I wrote about the Nuclear Death Spiral. It was real. And it hurt the innocent, the poor, those who had no ability to obtain power elsewhere. It got very little press coverage, but all the engineers I know are keenly aware of it.

I don't want to see that happen again.

Next, about nuclear wastes. Everyone has their opinion on this. I know how to handle toxic wastes, some of the stuff we make in chemical plants is incredibly dangerous stuff. As in cyanide, or phosgene, chromium-6, liquid chlorine, and tetra-ethyl lead (no longer, thankfully). I used to respond to HazMat situations.

The difference with nuclear wastes is that it lasts a very long time. Longer than any of us will be alive. I have heard the arguments pro and con for years, all from experts with serious credentials.

If I am wrong, then I am wrong. But I will not live near a railroad track that ships the stuff for reprocessing. I have seen too many chemical train derailments. No container is strong enough. (that usually gets a storm of disagreement...stay tuned).

-- Roger E. Sowell

energyguy Location: CA
Reply # 62
Date: Jul 30, 2008 - 12:36 AM EST
Wendy - finally
Your point about rational minds not touting wind or solar, and we don't have the brain power to do nuclear again.

You may be right. I just give my opinion, with facts taken from others, and sometimes my own experience.

The fact is that most farmers love a windmill. Just like most ranchers love an oil well on their land. The cattle love to scratch their sides up against it. It also brings more wealth to the rancher.

And, who are you to say that it is irrational to believe the DOE and their measurements on wind velocity and duration? Have you seen the Wind Energy Map of the U.S.? Those guys said there is sufficient wind energy at 20 miles per hour or greater.

And I happen to know that there is far more available wind energy at lower speeds, from 10 to 20 miles per hour. So does the DOE, and the guys at eere. That low-speed technology is in the works, and will be available soon.

I also know that Mr. Hails, PE, who wrote in to the Wall Street Journal the other day has serious credentials.

But, we engineers may all be wrong. There are probably thousands of bright grads out there with the smarts in math and physics and engineering and applied economics who are flipping hamburgers to pay their bills. They are just waiting for the nuclear renaissance to deliver them from a doom of sprinkling salt on french fries.

As to society's survival, just how did we manage for the 10,000 years or so before this past 40-year period of nuclear power?

Nuclear power is not a necessity. It is a luxury.

-- Roger E. Sowell

energyguy Location: CA
Reply # 63
Date: Jul 30, 2008 - 12:52 AM EST
Subject: Rich D
I don't always have time to post, just like everyone else. Tonight I do.

I can assure you, it is not cowardice that keeps me from responding!

As to the new technologies that you and some others speak of so lovingly, fine, great, but remember it is new. Not proven. Not tested.

But it is a way for nuclear design companies to generate more business. Maybe it will work. Maybe the plants can be built to generate 1000 MW at 90 percent or greater. And maybe they can be built for $1 billion each, and in 3 years.

That is a lot of maybes. And once again, speaking as a realist, there will be hordes of anti-nuke groups filing one lawsuit after another to block these things. But not me, that is not my thing.

I am not sure if anyone on TH fully appreciates just how pervasive the enviro-lawsuits are these days. I recently attended a seminar on airport construction, where one topic was a lawsuit filed by an unheard-of group (three members) to block a runway extension at Santa Barbara, California. The runway was needed for improved safety.

The runway was finally built, but it took much more time and money to fight the lawsuit. Yes, that was California, where people are nuts.

But the enviros have done the same in Chicago, specifically Whiting, where BP is expanding a refinery. They want the Whiting refinery to use the same level of technology as is required in California for air emissions controls.

Said that Chicago people are just as valuable as California people. Imagine that.

-- Roger E. Sowell

energyguy Location: CA
Reply # 64
Date: Jul 30, 2008 - 1:17 AM EST
Rich D
This next bit gets a little technical. Oh well. Here goes.

The next argument against nuclear and for combined cycle cogeneration that burns natural gas, is thermal pollution.

The fact is that a fission-based nuclear power plant wastes 75 to 80 percent of the heat generated in the reactor. So, for 1000 MW of power produced, an additional 4000 MW goes out the cooling tower as heat. That is somewhat simplified, for the purists out there.

In contrast, a CCC producing 1000 MW sends only about 250 to 300 MW of heat into the sky.

You can check my facts, and I expect some will do so.

Which is more environmentally sound? 250 MW with a bit of CO2, or 4000 MW with no CO2? Remember that clouds reflect heat as much or better than C02 in the sky. How many nuclear power plants are located in cloudy areas?

(Answer: most of them). I can think of three that are not: Palo Verde, San Onofre, and Diablo Canyon. I have driven past all three of those.

Another argument in favor of CCC over nukes is that no power lines need be built.

Another is that CCC generates valuable heat to the refinery, and nukes do not.

A final argument is that most modern refineries, and many chemical plants, have an excess of waste gases that can easily be burned as fuel in the CCC. The alternative is expensive treatment, or flaring.

The reality is that refineries and big chemical plants considered all their options and concluded (and still do) that CCC beats purchased power. As I wrote earlier, BP just bought a 500 MW CCC for the Whiting refinery.

But, not only refineries and chemical plants. As I posted earlier, the EIA's own figures show that utilities overwhelmingly choose CCC for their new gas-fired generating plants. They choose CCC 90 percent of the time.

-- Roger E. Sowell

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