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What a Waste – Vermont Yankee is in Beautiful Condition

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The Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant in Vernon, Vermont is a relatively young steam plant that uses a low-cost, essentially emission-free fuel. It is strategically located in an area with few fossil fuel resources, extreme weather, and frequent spikes in electricity prices. It has a well-trained, experienced operating staff that has an excellent performance record. Three years in a row — 2010, 2011, and 2012 — it was voted as the best place to work in Vermont. It has a license to operate from the federal government that is good for another 18 years.

However, politicians in the state — several of whom have substantial financial links to the natural gas and renewable energy industry — have cooperated with emotional activists to add enough extra costs to convince its current owners that it is not worthwhile to continue operating the plant. Those same politicians have somehow convinced their public utility commission that there is question about whether or not the plant is beneficial so the process of granting a “certificate of public good” has been held up for several years.

When its current fuel is exhausted. the 620 MWe nuclear power station will shut down and the owners will give up the operating license. That tragic event is currently scheduled to occur sometime near the end of 2014. Replacing its output will require burning approximately 100 million cubic feet of natural gas every day. During a 100 day winter like 2013-2014, the plant’s electricity output reduces demand on regional gas storage and delivery systems by an important 10 billion cubic feet.

I knew all of those facts before I visited the plant on March 27, 2014. What I did not realize was just how impressive the plant’s current physical condition would be. There is no doubt that the plant has been lovingly cared for, often by people who have spent their entire professional career at the facility. I was fortunate enough to have a tour guide, Bernie Buteau, who was one of those VY career people. He started working at the plant the same year I finished high school — nearly 39 years ago. He will be retiring when the plant retires.

I’ve had the opportunity to tour a large number of steam plants over the past 50 years. I started early; my dad was an engineer at the local power company who he wanted his children to understand what he did for a living. I was a steam plant engineer in the Navy for many years, and have taken a number of tours of various types of facilities whenever the opportunity arose. I don’t think I have ever seen a place as clean, well-labeled, and well-preserved as Vermont Yankee.

I’d love to be able to show you some photos taken during my tour, but cameras are not welcome at nuclear power plants. For some reason, people have decided they are vulnerable targets instead of the sturdy, resilient pieces of infrastructure that they are. As we were leaving the plant, Bernie described how much the site had been forced to change and become far less inviting and beautiful as a result of what I consider to be severe overreaction to 9-11. Many maple trees had been removed, new parking lots had constructed at distant locations, and close-in parking lots had filled with fences, razor wire, and security buffers.

Other, less visible security-related alterations also added a considerable ongoing cost of owning and operating the plant.

There is no doubt in my mind that most of the people living in Vermont and neighboring states will suffer negative effects when the plant shuts down without any available replacement other than burning more gas, coal and oil. Electricity costs will increase, home heating fuel costs will increase and the air will be a little dirtier.

I spoke at length with some local people who have been keeping a close eye on the political actions that contributed to Entergy’s decision to close the plant as no longer being worth operating and maintaining. They told me that the main plans for replacement power depend on future construction of gas pipelines from the Marcellus shale region, gas pipelines from Canada, and electricity transmission lines from Canada.

None of those projects has started construction or has all of the required contracts and permits. In other words, there are hopes and prayers but no firm plans other than to struggle along with systems that are either already in place or can be delivered in a short period of time.

This past winter, the region ended up burning diesel fuel and jet fuel to produce electricity when the installed gas pipelines could not deliver any more fuel. There were days when 1000 cubic feet of natural gas — a standard trading unit of fuel that contains about 1/6th of the energy content of a barrel of oil — cost more than $100 on the spot market.

It is unlikely that very many of the affected people will realize why their cost of living has increased or recognize the perpetrators of the virtual crime that stole a valuable asset from them.

Maybe, in the 9 months that remain before December 28, the currently scheduled last day of operations, there will be a white knight who rides in to save the day.

Do you know anyone who wants to buy an operating nuclear plant, make a few dollars producing a product that will never go out of style, save about 600 jobs, and make life a little better for a large number of people?

The post What a waste – Vermont Yankee is in beautiful condition appeared first on Atomic Insights.

Photo Credit: Vermont Yankee Use/shutterstock

Rod Adams's picture

Thank Rod for the Post!

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Bas Gresnigt's picture
Bas Gresnigt on March 29, 2014

That happens thanks to progress.
Especially if a technology does not make substantial progress, the ‘old’ technology often is replaced by newer more efficient (less dangerous, etc), cheaper ones.
It also happened to the sailing ships, the steam engine, etc.
Those still have devotees, who mourn the loss of those technologies.

And now it is happening with nuclear power plants.
Not strange.
Since half a century ago no real progress.
Still the same old designs….
Only lost dreams, such as the fast breeder, etc.

John NIchols's picture
John NIchols on March 29, 2014

 

You can thank wind energy for helping to take the plant off-line.  Big wind can bid into the grid for nothing  late at night, because of the money earned from the PTC, and because wind does not have fuel cost. The zero bid reduces the amount of money the nuclear plant operator can earn at night, which is generally when wind energy is available, and society needs it the least. The loss of reliable, clean, low-cost baseload nuclear energy, in favor of intermittent, non-dispatchable, non-baseload generation, that adds next to nothing to capacity, is so stupid, the word stupid does not begin to describe what is going on. The PTC is deliberately designed to destroy baseload generation..  Maybe the socialist Bernie Sanders can figure it out. If he can’t get a new Senator.

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on March 29, 2014

John, I think you’re giving the efficacy of Vermont’s windfarms more credit than they’re due.

In 2011, Vermont wind generated 33 GWh of energy. In contrast, Vermont Yankee generated 4,073 GWh, or 123 times the amount provided by all VT windfarms combined. The fact that Vermont wind nameplate capacity is about one-sixth of VY’s nameplate is a testament of wind’s poor capacity factor. In the state with the highest recorded wind speed on Earth, it works out to just under 9% – about one-third of what enthusiasts claim is typical.

The real reason for VY’s closure is a tangled mix of influence peddling, corruption and favoritism, and the result will be the generation of 35% less clean energy in Vermont. A good summary of the situation can be found here. Suffice to say – the number of businesspeople and their corrupt political operatives who should be in jail would require at least two hands to count.

Thomas Garven's picture
Thomas Garven on March 30, 2014

There is a place for nuclear in our energy mix but the industry basically antiquated itself. We built a bunch of plants in the 1980’s and then just sat on its behind while others continued the research and development of things like High Temperature Gas Cooled reactors [HTGR], and other technologies. We have known for a long time that someday water use and plant efficiencies would become an issue yet we basically did nothing to design or retrofit our plants with things like desalination as secondary products to enhance profitability.

We understand how to build plants that are cost competitive but continue to build the old designs instead. We have failed to do the necessary research and development over the last 30 years that would have resulted in new reactor designs that use our existing spent fuel as new fuel or have longer refueling cycles to reduce costs.

There is no one to blame but the nuclear power industry itself and the CEO[s] who couldn’t see past the next quarterly report. Now we are attempting to play the catch up game that no one seems interested in playing.

A truly sad state of affairs to a once promising technology.  


p.s. Could someone please add or fix spell check or post how to use it!  Thank you.    

John NIchols's picture
John NIchols on March 30, 2014

Solar and wind are not just ‘intermittent’.  They can never be baseload, without a cost-effecitve storage solution.  While a cost-effective distributed energy storage solution may present itselft, near term; utility scale is a long way off.  Because of this, wind and solar adds very little to capacity. Even at 5 cents per kwh, it is still cost plus the reliable back-up.  When you add the cost of the back-up for solar and wind, they are not such a great deal.

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on March 30, 2014

Bas, as N Nadir has noted repeatedly and as you continue to ignore, solar power has had just as much time on the world stage as nuclear and is still more expensive than nuclear. You seem to believe denying it over and over again will somehow lend veracity to this unfounded opinion.

Nuclear has, by any measure, already been wildly successful at delivering carbon-free energy to not only productive uses, but so that the world’s anti-nuclear bloggers might continue to post views motivated more by fear than facts. Thus far the one real-world experiment in high-saturation solar has proven an unmitigated failure, pushing both carbon emissions and electricity prices through the roof.

Let’s hypothesize this trend continues, and a solar-powered utopia proves elusive. How long would it take for you to admit solar is a “lost dream”? Ten more years? Twenty?

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on March 30, 2014

George, ironically people living next to this supposedly toxic and dangerous plant overwhelmingly support keeping it open. Vested business interests are propping up VT’s feeble wind industry as a cover for hawking natural gas.

Nuclear power is, right now and excluding externalities, more expensive than natural gas. It’s also cheaper than wind or solar. Its price remains stable, while spot gas prices fluctuate by a factor of ten or more. And it doesn’t create any carbon emissions.

That’s a bargain by any standard.

Rod Adams's picture
Rod Adams on March 30, 2014

It is amusing how activists who repeatedly called Entergy a liar during the past several years are now quoting the company’s offered reason for shutting down the plant.

I’ve worked as a financial analyst. When a large organization says they are making a decision because a complex activity is “unprofitable,” it behooves people to look hard at all of the numbers in order to gain understanding. What are all of the costs associated with operating a nuclear power plant in the state of Vermont? Who controlls those costs? What are the revenue opportunities? Are there any restrictions on sales activities? Can the plant expand and spread costs over a large number of units? Are there any imminent repairs required? Are there any new costs being added by changing regulations? Why?

Until very recently, Entergy was selling electricity from VY to the state of Vermont for 4.1 cents per kilowatt hour. It was a profitable activity at the time. A couple of years ago, when that legacy contract expired, Entergy offered a long term contract at 6 cents per kilowatt hour with revenue sharing if wholesale prices exceeded that level. That offer was rejected.

Rod Adams, Publisher, Atomic Insights

Bas Gresnigt's picture
Bas Gresnigt on March 30, 2014

…solar power has had just as much time on the world stage as nuclear and …
The big difference:
Solar power started in the sixties with:
– yields of ~3% at labs; now ~45%; improvement 15x ;
– Panel prices per W of >$25 in 1980; now $1,=; improvement 25x
– PV panel yields of ~3% in the seventies; now ~20%; improvement 7x
And this development continues during next decades.

While nuclear only became more expensive and lost many dreams.
Still stuck with the same old (expensive) high pressure steam-turbine / generator combination.
So of course CSP cannot compete as that also uses that dated steam-turbine / generator combination.

“…. and is still more expensive than nuclear.
Depending on the place, electricity generated by nuclear is >3times more expensive than electricity generated by PV-solar.
E.g.
In Austin recently a new contract for PV-solar: $50/MWh.
The new Hinkley nuclear power plant will produce for ~$180/MWh in 2023, price going up with inflation during 35years. To that price you have to add:
– major liability subsidies (accident + waste). Worth: ~$50/MWh;
– Loan guarantees £10billion. Worth: ~$60/MWh
– Other subsidies such as decommioning, etc.
That implies that the real cost-price is $190/MWh for new nuclear, rising as the major component rises with inflation. While PV solar will become much cheaper. Estimations are ~$30/MWh in 2023.

….Nuclear has … been wildly successful at delivering carbon-free energy…
If that would be true than the share of nuclear in the world electricity production would have gone up and up. But after a peak of ~17% in the nineties it went down towards ~10% now.
Even the volume produced is in decline.
From 2,660 TWh in 2006, decreasing towards ~2,500TWh now (~5% less).

Realize that a paradigma change is going on.
Even the ‘iron’ combination (steamturbine/generator) gradually becomes obsolete. Following the steam driven ocean liner, the steam locomotive engine, etc.

Bas Gresnigt's picture
Bas Gresnigt on March 30, 2014

Solar and wind are not just ‘intermittent’.  They can never be baseload…
That is correct. Baseload power plants are past.

The combination of different generation methods using many distributed small sources, deliver more reliable electricity than one can do with baseload plants.

Just check the big reliability improvement in Germany during the past years when wind+solar became substantial.

 

Nathan Wilson's picture
Nathan Wilson on March 30, 2014

“…no one to blame but the nuclear power industry…”

What nuclear power industry, GE, B&W?  Those companies also build fossil fuel and renewable plants.  Why should they care what kind of plants their customers order?  Tearing down an old plant and building new ones is always good for business.  Remember, they work for their share holders, not the public.

It’s the job of the public and the public utility commissions to demand clean and sustainable energy.  It’s the job of business to give the customer what they want.  The Vermont public got duped by self-seeking politicians, and now the world will pay the price due to the added pollution and the people of Vermont will loose jobs and likely pay more for electricity.

Joe Deely's picture
Joe Deely on March 31, 2014

“In 2011, Vermont wind generated 33 GWh of energy. “

No reason to use 2011 generation data when we have data that is only a few months old.

      –      http://www.eia.gov/electricity/data/browser/

Vermont wind generated 107GWh in 2012 and 238GWh in 2013. In January of this year it generated 31 GWh. It looks like capacity factor for January was about 35%.

Your point about shutting down nuclear is well taken – no need to cherry pick old data in an attempt to denigrate wind.

Thomas Garven's picture
Thomas Garven on March 30, 2014

Well Nathan of course you are right.; why should GE and  B&W really care.  But I was just thinking of the thousands of people that once worked in the industries that supplied the nuclear components or those companies and utilites which operated the plants.

 

 

Robert Bernal's picture
Robert Bernal on March 30, 2014

No, that is not progress. The CO2 free electricity it generates would have been sold for about 6 cents/kWh had it not been for… what? Subsidized wind?

Are you working on a tech that will make 24/7 baseload renewable power for less than 6 cents/kWh? What I see here is profit seeking destroying the biosphere via the need to build more coal or NG.

Robert Bernal's picture
Robert Bernal on March 30, 2014

Kill a perfectly good plant in order to displace cheap electricity for expensive… Ya, real progress (and to think I used to like wind, solar and NG)!

At least, they should preserve it so when NG becomes expensive again, the residents could demand its restart.

Bas Gresnigt's picture
Bas Gresnigt on March 31, 2014

@Nathan,
So the public and the public utility commissions went wrong by not demanding generation IV decades ago? And by not demanding a solution of the waste problem?

Now they have cheaper and less dangerous alternatives, that:
– generate less CO2 (no fuel at all, no mining);
– add far less heat to the earth;
– without a waste problem for next 1,000 generations;
– takes less land (higher power densitiy);
and leads to more reliable electricity supply (thanks to distributed generation) as a.o. Germany shows.

Bas Gresnigt's picture
Bas Gresnigt on March 31, 2014

…a tech that will make 24/7 baseload renewable power for less than 6 cents/kWh?…
The combination of:
– distributed generation by thousands of small units;
– different methods / technologies
deliver more reliable electricity 24/7, than big power plants can.

A big plant fails sometimes within a second and then there is a problem.
A small unit fails also sometimes within a second, but then there is no problem as there are thousands of other units running.

Btw.
Wind and solar production is variable but highly predictable as German grid operators and the whole sale markets show.

 

Bas Gresnigt's picture
Bas Gresnigt on March 31, 2014

Rod,
Do you really think that Entergy decided to close a profitable business?
If, their shareholders should move the board out.

Elias Hinckley's picture
Elias Hinckley on March 31, 2014

Undermining public confidence can be costly – http://www.boston.com/news/local/vermont/articles/2010/02/24/nrc_confirms_2005_tritium_leak_at_vermont_yankee_plant/

Regarding the leak: “Plant officials admitted last month that they had misled state officials, sometimes under oath, by saying the plant did not have the sort of underground pipes that could carry tritium.”

Robert Bernal's picture
Robert Bernal on March 31, 2014

Imagine a graph of all the solar and wind ramping up and down, turning off and on. Your idea needs massive storage in order to be better than what you call “past. Massive storage (and the collection) needs to be much cheaper in order for your idea to become practical. In the meantime, in order to avert the accelerating emissions of excess CO2, we need to develop nuclear baseload, plain and simple.

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on March 31, 2014

Joe, could you provide an accurate link to your information? Thanks.

Bas Gresnigt's picture
Bas Gresnigt on March 31, 2014

Just check the German studies and experience.
German utilities are busy closing baseload plants, replacing them with flexible fluidized bed plants.
Being at the stock market, so with CEO’s P&L responsible, they do that for good economic reasons.

Your ideas:”…all the solar and wind ramping up and down …Massive storage … “, seem logic but are not supported with the outcome of scenario studies, neither the German reality.

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on March 31, 2014

Elias, it certainly can, and it was stupid of Entergy officials to lie.

They could have trusted media to point out the insignificance of the leaking tritium, which  showed no elevated levels outside of one well on VY property – couldn’t they?

They could have trusted media to point out the additional deaths which will result from replacing VY with burning biomass (aka, old-growth forest), coal, and natural gas – couldn’t they?

Even if media didn’t step up to the plate, they could have trusted Vermonters to see through the hysteria peddled by the Arnie Gundersens, Helen Caldicotts, and Robert Alvarezes of the antinuclear fear circus.

Couldn’t they?

Robert Bernal's picture
Robert Bernal on March 31, 2014

I like the idea of wind and solar and nuclear, all competing to keep prices down. I also like the idea of cheap storage, so that wind and solar can become practical in the real world, you know, where baseload IS depended on even more so than in the past.

I hate the idea of wind and solar “only” because that necessitates coal and ng fired back up. Don’t believe it, search duck graph.

Bas Gresnigt's picture
Bas Gresnigt on March 31, 2014

@Bob,

Your remarks imply that no pro-nuclear statement by any utility (such as statements regarding safety, etc) can be trusted…
Which is not far off the impression I often get.

Joe Deely's picture
Joe Deely on March 31, 2014

Bob,

Not sure what you are asking for here??

I did provide the link in my comment – here it is again.

http://www.eia.gov/electricity/data/browser/

Just select filter/order button and pick Vermont to see a breakdown.

This table shows the same number you quoted for 2011. 

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on March 31, 2014

Joe, interactive pages like that one which present hundreds of options usually can be linked to with the specific search you describe already selected. Makes it easier to find what you’re referring to.

Thanks for updated information. I see that all operational Vermont wind in January provided about 1/15th of Vermont Yankee’s generation with a capacity factor ~two and one-half times less. And although this source says

However, based on the current operation of the Searsburg facility a generalized factor of 1kilometer of ridgeline per 0.55 MW of built capacity seems reasonable for estimating the potential ridgeline ‘consumption’ of developing wind energy projects.

Searsburg is also an old project (1997) – newer projects might only result in razing 1km/MW, or 108km of clearcut ridgeline for Vermont’s total. In acreage/MW, it works out to about 200 times the footprint of VY, which of course only matters if you live there.

Who needs to cherry pick?

Joe Deely's picture
Joe Deely on March 31, 2014

Bob – Point taken on links.Thanks.

Again, I do not have a problem with your position regarding closing of Vermont Yankee. The closure will increase the CO2 generated by NE region and it may also cause problems for an already weak NE electricity market over the next few years. See this EIA article for more.

However, situation for Vermont itself is not as dire as you seem to indicate.  Here are some points to consider.

– Vermont only used 2,167 GWh of the electricity generated by Vermont Yankee in 2011. The rest went out to the New England market.  (see pg e8 in the link)  So, they will not need to replace all 4,000 GWh with wind and the 238 GWh generated by wind in 2013 becomes much more significant. Instead of the 1/123 mentioned in your earlier comment – wind is actually at 1/10 of nuclear usage in Vermont.

– About 1/3 of Vermont’s electricity comes from Quebec Hydro. Here is an article detailing the agreement.

– Green Mountain Power has also signed an agreement to purchase nuclear from Seabrook.

Here is the fuel mix for Green Mountain Power in 2014. Note – nuclear mix will go up substantially  in 2015 based on above agreement. 

“Green Mountain Power, a unit of Quebec’s Gaz Metro, will buy 15 MW from NextEra for 2012-2014 to replace expiring power supply contracts, including some power from Vermont Yankee. Green Mountain Power will buy 60 MW starting in 2015”

 

My point being in all the above is that the closing of Vermont is a regional issue not a Vermont issue. 

 

 

Meredith Angwin's picture
Meredith Angwin on March 31, 2014

There were many investigations of Entergy’s statements, including three major investigations by the NRC, by the Public Oversight Panel, and by a legal firm.  All investigations ended up basically saying that Entergy made mistaken statements, but had no intention to mislead.  Maybe four investigations: the Attorney General also did an investigation and then announced that there just wasn’t enough evidence to file charges.

I have several blog posts about this, and the posts have links to original documents. 

http://yesvy.blogspot.com/2011/07/no-criminal-charges-vermont-attorney.h...

http://yesvy.blogspot.com/2011/07/vermont-attorney-general-will-soon.htm...

http://yesvy.blogspot.com/2011/07/vermont-yankee-vermont-attorney-genera...

Robert Bernal's picture
Robert Bernal on March 31, 2014

I believe that’s “your” German reality. As you said, they are replacing (whatever) with fluidized bed plants which are coal, better than old coal but still coal. So, in replacing the old coal, good! But in replacing the CO2 free sources, well that’s just like ripping a larger percentage of their solar and wind out, right? I believe very strongly that it is the desire to make even more money from coal that will bring destroy the biosphere.

P.S. the general news today (on the radio) says that climate change is even more serious than ever!

Robert Bernal's picture
Robert Bernal on March 31, 2014

Your coal plants add even more heat to the Earth. Remember that infographic about how much water coal uses? Anyways, that heat is infrared which will escape to space unless those coal plants keep getting built instead of nuclear (or major CSP).

Solar panels also cause heat. Here’s a simple equation: Heat gain = albedo – albedo of land used to put solar panel on + eff. Deserts are hot, but they appear to be much lighter in color than solar panel material, thus additional heat gain. Perhaps, no big deal (unless it is to the locals!). Remember, it will take huge amounts of land for solar to offset the power of just one nuclear reactor. If the albedo of panel is 10 (really dark) and the eff of panel is 15%, that makes the panel as 35 and if the albedo of the land is 60, then heat gain is from the difference, 25. Now, that 25 is greater than the 15% eff of the panel, therefore, almost twice the heat is given off due to inability to make the panel “only as dark as it needs to be”. These figures could be wrong because sand… is really light in color!

The preferable major land covering solar is mirrors (CSP) for this reason, and because it has molten salt storage (unless PV can be made almost as light in color as its efficiency, say albedo of 80 for 15%).

Nuclear: The waste should be fissioned in MSR’s or fast reactors, the remaining fission products to be isolated for 500 years, not 10,000. Alvin Weinberg invented both the LWR and the MSR… it can more easily be done now… 50 years later… and it should be.

Almost all physicists would agree that nuclear, especially the closed cycle, is the best weapon against excess GHG’s. They would also say “It is possible“.

Nathan Wilson's picture
Nathan Wilson on April 1, 2014

The president of the company is seldom technical (for utilities or most any industry), you should only trust technical statements he says while reading directly from material prepared by his technical staff (except in rare cases like Elon Musk whose CEO and chief engineer).  A utility president should not be expected to know what fluid is in which pipe. 

If you want real details, ask for the “white paper” (which is always written by the technical staff).  If you want to know about a regulated utility, look at their regulatory paperwork.  

It is childish to pretend that nuclear utility officials are uniquely untrustworthy.

Bas Gresnigt's picture
Bas Gresnigt on April 1, 2014

Your story about albedo is interesting.
Someone should do real measurements and calculations.

Only your comparison with desert sand misses the point that rooftop PV-panels are enough to deliver all electricity needed (if ~50% of all roofs are covered).

CSP wil not become a factor as it is clearly more expensive than PV-panels and can only be used in deserts. And worse, there is no clear path towards substantial lower costs (the max. cost level is ~30% of present costs in order to compete in the next decades).
So CSP technology looses from PV+storage.

Btw.
CSP generates roughly same heat as overall yield is not much better due to the old steam turbine used to generate electricity. While the yield of PV-panels improves each year ~0.5%.
The best (I know) commercial rooftop PV-panels now have 21.5%, while Sunpower announced new panels with yield of 24% next year.

…The waste should be fissioned in MSR’s or fast reactors…
That are ideas / dreams from more than half a century ago. Almost all important nuclear countries tried these and lost hundreds of billions$. France tried twice with Phenix and Super-Phenix.

Even if we get the process under control in some future, it will reduce the volume of the waste. The reduction of long living highly radio-active products towards near zero is nearly impossible (part will be replaced by others). So the smaller waste volume still will have to stay isolated for a million years.
Which is the reason France is now spending billions in order to find a safe storage place.

Bas Gresnigt's picture
Bas Gresnigt on April 2, 2014

Agree. Entergy’s board is no bunch of criminals.
But that is not the issue.

Mistakes leave a bad feeling at the public and at the government people in the oversight / control boards. 
Making that feeling much worse if the utility board starts with denial that things are wrong, and declares that the public is safe (Chernobyl, Fukushima, etc).
Responsible people that have to check, start to mistrust Entergy.
In reaction Entergy tries to show all is fine even more, etc.

So trust is destroyed and in the end the relation.
It creates a climate in which nobody can operate.

 

Bas Gresnigt's picture
Bas Gresnigt on April 1, 2014

Nathan,
If the CEO doesn’t know the issues, he should bring a guy that knows.
Or he should state that he doesn’t know, thank his audience for their remarks which gives him the opportunity to start a thorough investigation, and ask his critical audience whether they can choose one (or few) persons that take part in the investigation commission which involves also external experts.

Then you may improve the relation / trust.
Denying and then having to admit is the method to kill relations (even in marriages).
It was done with Chernobyl, Fukushima, etc.

The CEO is responsible. He should know what he can state and what not.
The CEO chooses his technical staff/advisors, his organisation.
So if you cannot trust his statements, the company cannot be trusted (sell the shares if you have some of them).

Robert Bernal's picture
Robert Bernal on April 1, 2014

I forgot to mention that rooftops are usually really hot, anyways. I’m sure there are a bunch of calculations about albedo by now. 

The dreams of yesteryear must be implimented if they are real and proven concepts at CO2 reduction (and waste reduction to boot). The only reason these dreams were not realized is that there were actually cheaper ways to generate electricity… the already proven (in naval ship) water reactor concept, and of course, cheap fossil fuels. In fact, these “dreams” were purposely put off till a more urgent time

Here are some mention of these dreams from some rather notable sources.

  • Weinberg was thrilled with the success that would lead to inexhaustible energy. ORNL then developed a conceptual design for the Molten Salt Breeder Reactor for sustainable commercial power generation. Considering the burgeoning global population demand for resources, he wrote, “humankind’s whole future depended on the breeder”. His Energy as the Ultimate Raw Material described applications of cheap energy: desalination, gasoline from coal, ammonia, iron by electrolytic reduction, chlorine, steel, and aluminum production. Burning the Rocks pointed out that ordinary dirt contains thorium with energy content far exceeding that of the same amount of oil.

http://atomicinsights.com/alvin-weinbergs-liquid-fuel-reactors-part-1/

 

Bty, Mr Weinberg also helped to establish what now is the NREL because his office was interested in solar power.

Bas Gresnigt's picture
Bas Gresnigt on April 2, 2014

Robert,
Check the German figures (the PDF under “Stromerzeugung nach Energieträgern”).
They replaced nuclear with renewable and even replaced part of fossil with renewable already, reducing coal consumption.

Even in the last 7 years, while they closed almost half their nuclear fleet (8 of 17) in 2011 and had cold winters in 2012/2013 (this winter is soft; so I expect CO2 improvements).

Bas Gresnigt's picture
Bas Gresnigt on April 2, 2014

I like the idea of wind and solar and nuclear, all competing to keep prices down.

With a level playing field, solar+storage+wind is much cheaper and will become even cheaper. Just calculate all costs (incl. the liability subsidies granted by nuclear laws, etc.).

In Germany the program for small rooftop solar installations (=~70% of all) to add batteries is a huge success. They expect that the 30% subsidy on the investment can be lowered to zero in ~3 years, as the increased volumes create lower prices. And battery prices drop anyway.
 

Bas Gresnigt's picture
Bas Gresnigt on April 2, 2014

I support renewable.
Especially solar+storage+wind, helped by hydro and geo-thermal.

Those (together) have the capability to take over all nuclear and fossil.

Rod Adams's picture
Rod Adams on April 2, 2014

@Bas

It is quite unbecoming to be so disrespectful of your ancestors as to ignore all of their knowledge and accomplishments.

Do you really believe that human beings first started noticing that the sun provides energy to the earth “in the sixties?” Are you so dismissive of technological history that you believe it began in your time?

Solar energy collection had a massive head start on the controlled fission chain reaction. Humans have known about the energy from the sun since the very first one figured out that it was warmer and lighter when it was out than when it was not. People have been using that energy for industrial purposes since they started tanning hides and cultivating more food than they needed to feed themselves.

However, the really studious and observant humans that gravitated to the sciences also recognized the numerous technical disadvantages of a power source that regularly — and irregularly — disappears, leaving the collection systems idle or worse. As soon as they discovered fire, they began gravitating to more capable and controllable power systems.

Sure, there are talented engineers who love the challenge of trying to make more efficient collection systems, just like there are talented engineers who love improving systems for capturing the wind for racing sailboats. Both are interesting hobbies that have little or nothing to do with providing sustaining or abundant, reliable energy for billions of people.

Rod Adams, Publisher, Atomic Insights

Rod Adams's picture
Rod Adams on April 2, 2014

@Bas Gresnigt

I believe that Entergy management decided to close a plant that was not meeting its profit requirements based on historical numbers.

Other enterprise models, like an Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP), or a cooperative business, have a different profit requirement. Entrepreneurial management might take a different look through the numbers, visit the area, and recognize the potential for both cost reductions and revenue increases that would change the P&L statement.

Businesses buy and sell assets all of the time and new owners can often make a go out of something that has not worked out for others.

Rod Adams, Publisher, Atomic Insights

Bas Gresnigt's picture
Bas Gresnigt on April 2, 2014

@Rod,
Times are changing, as science progesses. Again.

Now more advanced science & engineering brings us:
 – cheaper and cheaper electricity by PV-panel solar and wind turbines;
 – cheaper and cheaper electricity storage;
 – advanced computerized grid management technologies;
which result in more reliable and cheaper supply of electricity than grids with big nuclear power plants.

Shown by Germany where the av. total supply interuption for the av. customer improved a factor two.
From ~30min./year before renewable became substantial, to ~15min./year now!
Netherlands still is at the 25min./year level (less wind+solar). UK & France ~60min./year.
USA ~120min./year (not counting outages due to weather disasters).

Bas Gresnigt's picture
Bas Gresnigt on April 2, 2014

@Rod,
Considering the profound way Energy destroyed it’s relations with Vermont’s supervising board and important parts of the public, it is unlikely the Entergy board would get enough manoeuvre space for such operation (if they wanted that).

Apparently they concluded that too, as they tried to sell the plant during some years.

But apparently no entrepeneur could figure out a positive business plan.
Very sad for the people who put their working life in it.
But not strange.

Future wholesale electricity prices show a downward trend.
For the next years (until ~2020) one can see that looking at the prices of Futures. Even at the Amsterdam market.

For the longer term, one has to look at the fundamentals.  
And those predict that at ~2030 cost prices for PV-solar will be ~$30/MWh, Wind ~$50/MWh and that storage will add only ~$10/MWh to those prices (estimations for New England).
Many/most customers will then have their own PV installation which implies the whole market wil shrink substantially. Germany’s major utilities experience that already to their dismay.

I assume that VY and most other nuclear power plants cannot compete in such environment, despite the major subsidies they enjoy (liability, etc).
Only nuclear plants that enjoy special protection (e.g. Vogtle) may survive. Thanks to relative high contributions of their rate & tax payers.

Robert Bernal's picture
Robert Bernal on April 2, 2014

You invest in wind and solar and I will continue to inform people that we need some sort of nuclear in order to power 10 billion people without interuption. BAU is not enough to stop excess CO2. It should be mandatory curriculum – energy awareness 101

 

John NIchols's picture
John NIchols on April 2, 2014

 

  Bob.

  The people who tout wind and solar as the solution to modern technological challenges are either delusional or have another motivation.  The real reason they want wind and solar is because, in their minds, it will change the structure of society.

Their vision of utopia is small hamlets populated with just a few people, who grow their own vegetables (no meat allowed, too much flatulence) and live in harmony with the environment. A reference to Hobbits seems appropriate, but this would be an insult to Hobbits. Sounds great, huh?

The only problem is the few billion people already on the planet.  Don’t worry they have a “solution” for this “problem” too.  The same solution offered by Lenin, Stalin, Hitler, Mao, Pol Pot, and every other two bit dictator that has ever lived, or lives, on planet earth.

This ongoing debate has nothing to do with energy, it is about ideology. The name of the site says it all, “The Energy Collective”.    When will all of the real scientists, engineers, accountants, and mathematicians, rise up, and as the comic Lewis Black has said on another topic, “Rise up as one, and (metaphorically) slay them”. 

 

 

 

Elias Hinckley's picture
Elias Hinckley on April 2, 2014

Nuclear has had the support of a PTC for several years, w/o the sunset issues of renewables and there are exactly two plants in construction based on that (plus a huge loan guarantee and rate recovery backstop), but I am sure you are right that the PTC is Bernie Sanders’ diabolical plan to make us live in hamlets.

Rod Adams's picture
Rod Adams on April 2, 2014

@Elias Hinckley

While it is true that the Energy Policy Act of 2005 included provisions for a production tax credit for NEW nuclear power plants, that provision has not yet resulted in a single dime going from the federal government to a nuclear project to help defray the enormous hurdles erected by the federal government to slow nuclear energy development down. The production tax credit does not start helping until after the plant is actually producing electricity.

The PTC included in the EPA 2005 was quite limited:

Only available to the first 6,000 MW of new nuclear using technologies licensed after 1998 – which means that Watts Bar Unit II will not qualify and neither would the completion of the Bellefonte plants (which is a project that was considered and is now back on hold.)

Not adjusted for inflation. While the PTC for solar and wind is now 2.3 cents per kilowatt hour, the PTC rate for new nuclear – once the plants are completed – WILL be 1.8 cents per kilowatt hour.

No more than $125 million for any one reactor in any calendar year. If an AP1000 runs for a full year because it only needs to shut down for refueling, it could use up its PTC allowance in about 10 months and then operate for the next two months without any additional support.

Only available for the first 8 years of operation.

Only applicable for a plant that enters commercial service before the beginning of 2022. That means that it is unlikely to apply to any of the currently proposed SMR projects, though the very first B&W mPower unit MIGHT make it in time.

Rod Adams, Publisher, Atomic Insights 

Elias Hinckley's picture
Elias Hinckley on April 2, 2014

So the subsidy should be larger? (that’s actually a real question)

To the original point – the idea that the PTC is some conspiracy to encourage moral decay through the development of wind and solar remains, to my limited understanding, absurd.

Joris van Dorp's picture
Joris van Dorp on April 2, 2014

It is bias which causes people to overreact to reports of ‘mistakes’. It’s not defensible normal behaviour as you seem to propose.

http://www.skepticalraptor.com/logicalfallacy_files/Fundamental_Attribution_Error_o.html

The bias of the public in this case, however, is artificial, because it was caused principally by anti-nuclear propaganda which takes such mistakes and then blows them completely out of proportion in order to further a pre-existing agenda.

The rational reaction to such a mistake – if any – is to investigate, evaluate and report, which was done four times as Meredith Angwin showed. Sadly for California and arguably the world, anti-nuclear forces prevailed in the case of SONGS.

From your earlier anti-nuclear commentary, I would presume that you of all people can see (and appreciate) a successfull anti-nuclear propaganda campaign better than most. At least you could bother to read Mederith’s reports on this?

Joris van Dorp's picture
Joris van Dorp on April 2, 2014

Bas. You forget the integration costs of intermittent renewables. Again.

Please consider the system LCOE of intermittent renewables. It is far higher than the very low costs you always present. So much higher in fact that it turns your rosy solar/wind fantasies into ashes. Others are starting to notice this fact. This fact will end the German “Energiewende”. Germany will never close all it’s nukes.

“Abstract – Levelized costs of electricity (LCOE) are a common metric for comparing power generating technologies. However, there is qualified criticism particularly towards evaluating variable renewables like wind and solar power based on LCOE because it ignores integration costs that occur at the system level. In this paper we propose a new measure System LCOE as the sum of generation and integration costs per unit of VRE. For this purpose we develop a conclusive definition of integration costs. Furthermore we decompose integration costs into different cost components and draw conclusions for integration options like transmission grids and energy storage. System LCOE are quantified from a power system model and a literature review. We find that at moderate wind shares (~20%) integration costs can be in the same range as generation costs of wind power and conventional plants. Integration costs further increase with growing wind shares. We conclude that integration costs can become an economic barrier to deploying VRE at high shares. This implies that an economic evaluation of VRE must not neglect integration costs. A pure LCOE comparison would significantly underestimate the costs of VRE at high shares. System LCOE give a framework of how to consistently account for integration costs and thus guide policy makers and system planers in designing a cost-efficient power system.”

https://www.pik-potsdam.de/members/Ueckerdt/system-lcoe-working-paper

 

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