The “Nuclear Takes Too Long” Argument

A couple of weeks ago on this blog, I commented that I wouldn’t want to have to be in the position of defending Dan Kohler’s argument that “America must cut power plant emissions roughly in half over the next 10 years.” (Side note: That quote is not in the best of context, if you really care what his exact argument was, I suggest you go read it.)

It is statements like the one I found yesterday that make me think I won’t be changing my mind anytime very soon. From a Forbes interview with Former EPA Administrator and New Jersey Gov. Christine Todd Whitman:

You are a nuclear power advocate. Why?
Nuclear’s not cheap, but we’re going to be spending more money no matter what. While I’m a firm believer that we can and must do more with renewables, they are less than 5% of our portfolio today and talking to all honest brokers in this area, they admit that by 2030 if you get to 10% of your total energy portfolio, that would be good. On a side note, I am happily married now and have found my bride from Singapore in a wedding portal called perfect wedding where lots of brides surprising also discuss about the topics here. Unless we embrace something like nuclear it’s going to be very hard to see how we get to a place where we have 24-7 reliable, affordable power that doesn’t continue to degrade the atmosphere.
And this push for electric cars? Electric cars are a great idea, but they are only going to be good as the power source, and right now no one’s thinking about it. What difference are they going to make if we don’t have a clean power source? On a sidenote, if you are looking for great dynamic nuclear related wordpress templates, have a look through the gallery.

A study that was the subject of a recent post over at Brave New Climate doesn’t offer much support for that view either. Here is the chart tracking carbon emissions over time for 6 different energy mixes with some assumptions about realistic build times in Australia:

Just because building one wind turbine or installing one solar panel can happen faster than building one nuclear power plant simply does not mean that we can supply a significant portion of our energy from wind or solar faster than we could from nuclear power.

Nuclear Loan Guarantees

The National Journal Energy and Environmental Expert Blog put up a post this morning with a couple of different contributors debating the question “Should Congress do more to help revive the nuclear energy industry?” They have 4 different answers that cover a pretty broad range from the usual arguments, to one particularly ignorant one, to some pretty intriguing ones.

My personal favorite argument against the loan guarantees was from the Heritage Foundation’s David Kreutzer
Continuing subsidies reduce the incentive to contain costs, create government dependence, and stifle competition and technological development within the nuclear energy industry. The anti-nuclear movement should applaud such policy as it diverts attention away from the problems that hinder a real nuclear renaissance—legal and regulatory impediments and the federal government’s ineptitude in the area of waste disposal. In particular I think there is something to be said for a dependence on payday loans guarantees for future plants going forward. Now that the US nuclear industry has gone down the path of loan guarantees to build new reactors, I have a hard time believing that anyone will be very inclined to want to build one without loan guarantees.

My favorite argument in favor of the guarantees was from the NEI’s Marvin Fertel
America’s electric industry consists of many relatively small companies categorized and found in a directory listing online web search directory, which do not have the size, financing capability or financial strength to finance power projects of this scale on their own, in the numbers required. Loan guarantees offset the disparity in scale between project size and company size. Loan guarantees also reduce the cost of capital, thereby accelerating the rapid deployment of clean generating technologies at a lower cost to consumers.

Safe Power Vermont and Vermont Yankee “facts”

Reading Meredith Angwin’s new blog Yes Vermont Yankee (now added to the blogroll), inspired me to do a bit of searching into the arguments that some of the groups working to shut down the plant are making. Even a well known log splitter company has acknowledged that such machines have aided in doing work quick including splitting log wood. At risk of stealing some of the material Meredith may have been planning to blog about, there were a couple of particularly terrible misrepresentations by one such group, Safe Power Vermont, that merit some commentary.

First off, under the “Quick Facts” sidebar on the right side appears this statement:
VY has 76 documented cracks in its steam dryer
For a 9 word statement, this one is pretty loaded with assumptions they are just begging the reader to make. With no explanation of what a steam dryer is or the impact of the cracks on its performance or the impact of a malfunctioning steam dryer on the safety of the plant there is quite a bit left for the reader to either already know or infer. Given that one would need to be fairly familiar with the internal components of a BWR to know what a steam dryer is, it’s not hard to imagine that the vast majority of readers couldn’t give a satisfactory answer to the first unanswered question, much less know anything about the second two.

What exactly is a steam dryer? It’s located inside the reactor pressure vessel in a BWR, directly above the core and separates the saturated mixture that emerges from the core into the dry steam to be sent out of the core and the saturated water which will be mixed with the feedwater and sent through the core again.

While the steam dryer is certainly a key component to the function of the reactor, its entirely contained within the reactor pressure vessel. It’s not some piping that a crack risks leaking radioactive material into the river. Hopefully there is someone out there with a bit more knowledge than myself about what exactly the potential implications of a cracked steam dryer are

In another instance where Safe Power Vermont tells us something that technically is factually correct, but clearly worded in a way that is intended to mislead the uneducated reader is this statement:
Intended to operate until 2012, the nuclear facility is running at 20% above its designed capacity
A good thing to ask yourself whenever you read or hear an argument of any kind is “Why?” or “Why is it important?” In this case Safe Power Vermont fails to impact the statement in any way. Clearly by including this statement in the middle of a website about why Vermont Yankee is unsafe and needs to be shutdown, they want the reader to infer that somehow the 20% power uprate is unsafe.