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Monday, December 30, 2013

Carnival of Nuclear Bloggers 189 / Nuclear Economics

Here we are right in the middle of the holiday season... and we have a well-populated 189th Carnival to present to our readers!  All you have to do is get past the following game.

What is this?

If you say "hey, that's a nuclear plant!" you get one point.  You can only pass if you can tell me either one of two things:  What plant this is, or else what category of art this illustration belongs to.  That latter description may not seem clear right now, but it will be when I give you the answer.  But before you get to see the answer, you have to read through (and hopefully click on a few of the links for) the Carnival entries!


Forbes - Jim Conca

Merry Christmas California - No Shopping Days Left for Nuclear

California was scheduled to receive a lump of coal for Christmas by Jim Conca, at least, due to having been naughty and shutting down San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station.  This lump of coal actually comes in the form of an extra 18,000,000 tons of CO2 per year delivered to the atmosphere by replacing the 15 billion KW-hrs of electricity each year with a mixture of gas, wind and solar power.  Also lost will be 1500 local jobs and $50 million of revenue to southern California each year.


Nuke Power Talk - Gail Marcus

Knowledge Management - An Ongoing Problem

When she worked at DOE, one issue Gail Marcus dealt with was the concern about the retention of data from experiments long after the research facilities had been shuttered and the researchers who had done the work had moved on. In a post at Nuke Power Talk, Gail recounts her experiences and points out that a recent report finds that the problem exists for all types of scientific research, and indeed, the degree of loss is more severe than she had imagined. Although it is difficult to think about data preservation when one is in the thick of an experiment, she notes the importance of doing so.


Next Big Future - Brian Wang

Japan's Politics Shift

Japanese politics are shifting to a pro-nuclear stance.  Various pro-nuclear mayors are being elected, for example.

Molten Salt Reactor Promises High Power Density

The Terrestrial Energy integrated Molten Salt Reactor, and a companion supercritical CO2 turbine are both under development and could be ready for production in about ten years.  This combination could have a higher power density than even submarine nuclear power plants.

Molten Salt Reactor Could Power SHIELD Helicarrier

Impressive power density promised by molten salt reactors could make a whole new range of vehicles move from the impossible to the possible.


Hiroshima Syndrome - Les Corrice

The Fukushima "Hot Particle" Myth

One of the terms often used incorrectly when discussing the Fukushima accident is "hot particle."  This term unquestionably sounds alarming, but what does it really mean?  By examining the most likely meaning, we find that application to atmospheric releases from the Fukushima Daiichi plant is entirely inappropriate.


Deregulate the Atom - Rick Maltese

Recent Power Outages are Outrageous

Rick takes a look at what the availability of electricity really means to us today through relating his own experiences with power outages (and ramifications thereof) where he lives.  What do we think about when we consider electricity?  Do we think about emissions, or efficiency without considering reliability and, perhaps more sobering, availability in the first place?  How about the physical limitations of the electric distribution network -- the grid?


Atomic Insights - Rod Adams

Cape Wind scrambling to meet deadline for $780 million taxpayer gift

Even with advantageous site attributes and monopoly utility customers that are willing to commit their captive rate payers to pay more than twice as much per unit of power as they have ever paid, Jim Gordon's Cape Wind offshore wind power vision remains stuck at the financing stage.  Finding the money required to build the project will be even more difficult if the project fails to "begin construction" before January 1, 2014.


Yes Vermont Yankee - Meredith Angwin

Breaking News - State and Vermont Yankee Make a Deal

This news has been breaking over the holidays: the state and Vermont Yankee have stopped suing each other in Federal Court, and Vermont Yankee will pay more than $40 million to various funds (including the state). However, the deal still has to be approved by the state Public Service Board.

Be Prompt and Positive with Vermont Yankee (guest post by Patty O'Donnell)

Patty O'Donnell is chair of the Vernon Board of Selectmen: Vermont Yankee is located in Vernon. In this guest post, O'Donnell requests the Public Service Board not to add complex and onerous conditions to its approval of the final year of Vermont Yankee's operation.


Canadian Energy Issues - Steve Aplin

Reducing carbon pollution from electric power generation:  What works?

In the nearly 17 years since the Kyoto Protocol, many countries, especially Germany, have embarked on major efforts to reduce their national carbon footprints. How have those efforts paid off? Steve Aplin of Canadian Energy Issues suggests two fundamental criteria on which to judge the nature of the payoff. These are price, and carbon content, of electricity per kilowatt-hour. He introduces the Electric Power Carbon-Price Matrix as a tool for both evaluating ongoing carbon reduction efforts and guiding electric power generation investment in the post-Kyoto world.


That's it for this week's Carnival entries!  Quite a wide, and thought provoking, spread of topics as we begin to reflect on 2013, I'd say.  All that's left is to tell you what that picture was.

If you said "Oyster Creek Generating Station" or some permutation thereof containing "Oyster Creek," you win.  However, this illustration also falls into the category of "pre-construction artist's conception" art (which I happen to like to collect) so that if you said something along those lines you also win.

This illustration appeared (certainly among other places) in the 1964 Atomic Energy Commission Annual Report to Congress.  Here is the caption for the illustration:

"Oyster Creek Plant.  Artist's drawing of the Jersey Central Power & Light Co.'s proposed Oyster Creek 515,000 electrical kilowatt boiling water type nuclear power plant, 35 miles north of Atlantic City.  The company announced early in 1964 that a nuclear generating facility had been selected for construction 'on a competitive basis' with fossil fuel.  The plant would be built without AEC financial assistance.  A provisional construction permit for the facility was issued by the AEC on December 15, 1964."

... Did everybody catch the key phrases in this description?  Competitive with fossil fuel.  Without AEC financial assistance.  Yes, absolutely true.

We live in a world today where the narrative on nuclear energy has largely been stolen by liars.  That's right - liars.  People who know the truth (or, maybe, should) but deliberately promulgate falsehoods.  This has led to the general notion that nuclear energy is not, and never was, economic... and requires subsidy.

Recently I acquired, through a bookseller, a cache of papers on nuclear energy.  This small group was actually mostly anti-nuclear, including pieces from Physicians for Social Responsibility and the Union of Concerned Scientists.  These pieces are full of lies, half-truths, and deceptions.  Looking at the booklet "Health Effects of Nuclear Power & Nuclear Weapons" -- and note that they can't resist putting weapons right there with nuclear power, which in itself is an enormous but wholly deliberate deception -- we find the following completely false statement:

"...though private industry was initially reluctant to enter the nuclear industry as the nuclear fuel chain appeared to be neither safe nor economically profitable..."

Really?   All we need to do is look at this article to find out that industry was already investing in nuclear energy research prior to being allowed to construct civilian owned and operated nuclear plants.  (Look for the portion wherein President Eisenhower writes to Congress on 'Domestic Development of Atomic Energy.')  Industry was convinced that there was a future, even though it did not know when profit would be achieved.  Always, in industry, research and development comes before profit - a fact clearly lost on anti-nuclear activists who cite the early period of R&D as unprofitable.

We know that Admiral Hyman Rickover testified to the Joint Committee on Atomic Energy in 1957 (when discussing the Shippingport Atomic Power Station) that nuclear power was not at that time profitable, and that he did not know when it would become profitable.  We can also clearly see that by 1964 when Oyster Creek was announced and ordered that utilities saw that nuclear energy had advanced enough to be profitable -- or else they wouldn't have ordered the plants at all.

Some of the best, short quotes we can find to explain the position of utilities back during the heavy first build-out of nuclear power in the United States are to be found in the old, vanishing brochures that were produced for visitors, for those who wrote asking for information, or for educators and students.  Let's close out this Carnival and drive home the point by looking at a few quotes.

"Millstone Station generates electricity for 51 percent the cost of an oil-fired station and for 82 percent the cost of a coal-fired station.  To generate the amount of electricity produced by Millstone 1 and 2 with coal would require a mile-long trainload every day.  The additional cost for oil would add about $5.50 to the monthly bill of an average residential ratepayer." 

Base-loaded oil cost per kilowatt-hour:  3.46 cents.  Base-loaded coal cost per kilowatt-hour:  2.15 cents.  (US average.)  Millstone Units 1 and 2, 1978:  1.76 cents per kilowatt-hour.

(Above from Millstone Daybook, by Northeast Utilities.)


"Nuclear Economics.

When comparing the relative economics of electricity from nuclear and fossil fuel stations, capital and fuel costs are the most significant factors.

Nuclear plants do cost more to build, but the cost of uranium fuel is so much lower than oil or coal that they save money for the electricity customers.

It's like spending more money for a car that gets better gas mileage, or paying more for a high-efficiency air conditioner or gas heating furnace or boiler.  The car saves you considerable fuel, and the air conditioner and gas heating equipment lower your electric and gas bills to more than make up for their higher initial price tags.

The following tabulation of PSE&G's actual fuel costs for 1984 clearly indicates that the cost of nuclear fuel is much lower than that of coal or oil (cost per million BTU.)

Nuclear fuel - 86 cents
New Jersey coal - 227 cents
Oil - 514 cents

Just one plant the size of Salem can save the equivalent of one billion gallons of oil a year, representing huge savings to PSE&G customers.

Financial benefits have accrued to PSE&G's customers from the operation of both Salem and Peach Bottom from 1974 through 1983.  The energy produced from these units has already saved our customers over $2.5 billion in fuel costs as compared with generating the same amount of electricity from oil units.

Although (this is) not a rigorous economic evaluation, it clearly illustrates the tremendous economic benefits nuclear provides.

Nuclear may hold only a slight economic advantage over coal in the northeast, but nuclear and coal are not in competition.  Both are needed.  However, it should be noted that if new nuclear plants were built as routinely as they are overseas in 6 to 8 years, the capital cost of a nuclear plant would be reduced by about one-third and nuclear electricity would be considerably cheaper than coal as well as oil."

(Above from PSE&G Nuclear Energy, PSE&G 1985.)


Much of the energy in the northeast was generated by oil in years past - a fact we've seen hinted at in the above quotes.  The brochure entitled "About: Pilgrim Station," published by Boston Edison in 1981, contains the following as its introduction:

"Why Nuclear Power?

Boston Edison's business is to provide electricity to customers in the most efficient, reliable and economical manner possible.  Right now that means using nuclear fuel as part of the mix of fuel needed to produce that electricity.

Currently Boston Edison uses oil (70%) and nuclear power (30%) to make electricity.  Since 1970, the cost of oil, virtually all of which is imported, has increased more than 1500% - from $2.22 a barrel to more than $35 a barrel.  At today's costs, using oil to produce electricity is not economical for anyone.

At the same time, the price of uranium, a domestic fuel used in a nuclear power plant, has remained stable.  And, a nuclear power plant uses fuel more efficiently than fossil-fired plants.  For example, to generate 7,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity, only one gram of uranium is needed, compared to 2.5 tons of coal or approximately 12 barrels of oil.

As a result, Pilgrim 1, Edison's nuclear plant, plays a major part in the company's efforts to reduce New England's dependence on costly and uncertain oil supplies...."

As it turns out, we don't need to look too far at all to disprove the statement about industry participation and nuclear economics. 

I hope you've enjoyed this week's Carnival and subsequent foray into both nuclear economics and nuclear plant advertising / PR archaeology.

10:00 AM Eastern 12/30/2013

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