Wednesday, October 15, 2014

32. New Blog Post coming soon (dormancy ending)

It has been far too long since I have written a new blog. For that, I apologize.

My upcoming post will feature a song from Shovels and Rope. 

If anyone is reading this or following this blog closely, a new posting will happen soon. Sorry to not write anything since April 2013. I can make no promises regarding posting frequency in the future. I recommend Rod Adams' Atomic Insights for regular pro-nuclear slanted postings.

Friday, April 12, 2013

31. Risk vs. Benefit and the Best of Intentions


Pro-Nuclear Advocates vs. Anti-Nuclear Crusaders

Simplifying Unverified Assumption (NOTE: not always true):

The motives of advocates on both sides of this issue are pure, and are not driven primarily by greed nor generic financial interests.

The above, somewhat grossly simplified, Unverified Assumption (UVA for short) is simply for the purposes of this discussion. Independently exploring the frequency of the truth of this assumption for each side would make for an excellent homework assignment for anyone that happens to read this post, and could possibly be the subject of future postings here. Determining the accuracy of the assumption is far from an easily-completed task, particularly in cases of either undisclosed motivations or sources of funding (emphasis fully intended).

Aside: If you don’t mind thinking with an open mind and would be interested in exploring some thoughts about some possibilities for some of these undisclosed items from people fighting against Nuclear Power, I would recommend reading some of Rod Adams’ “Smoking Guns” series of posts as a starting point. I would not recommend accepting any of Rod's theories without critical thinking, but I don't think they should immediately be dismissed without a fair amount of further thought.
/End Aside

So, assuming that both Pro-Nuclear Advocates and Anti-Nuclear Crusaders are each driven by “pure” motives, what are the primary arguments forming the basic building blocks that each side stands upon?

This again requires some simplification and an ideal situation of people thinking through the issue rationally, but my view is that arriving at a strongly held position should fundamentally come from an in-depth weighing of the Risks of the Peaceful Use of Nuclear Power vs. the Benefits derived from the Peaceful Use of Nuclear Power.
Risks on one side               Benefits on the other
Or, if you prefer, like a see-saw.

The oversimplified position of Pro-nuclear Advocates (such as myself) is that the Benefits side of the ledger outweighs the Risks side (by a significant amount, in my case).  

The oversimplified position of Anti-nuclear Crusaders is that the Risk side outweighs the Benefits, and one would have to think that the staunchest of those Crusaders think that the margin is widely in their favor.

Benefits

For an example of the benefit of Abundant Energy, I present this excellent video that has completely no mention of nuclear power. In case you aren't able to watch it at the time of reading, the video shows the progression of all the countries of the world's average wealth and average life expectancy from the year 1810 to the present. Based on the years that I have studied and given deep thought to energy-related issues and on my knowledge of the progression of energy sources that have been at our disposal, I couldn't help but watch the upward progression of both wealth and life expectancy over the past 202 years and note that the upward progression correlates essentially perfectly to people gaining more and more access to increasingly dense sources of energy at their command.

I highly recommend reading this post regarding human ingenuity that has been one of the most pivotal influences in my thinking regarding the issue of our need for nuclear power.



Recently, I was referred to on Twitter as a “Nuke True Believer” and a dreamer. I take NO offense to either term. I still believe in the future. I have spent a considerable amount of time thinking about the limited nature of fossil fuel resources in comparison to the "for all intents and purposes inexhaustible" nature of fission fuels, once Generation IV designs are ready to be built (which is admittedly, probably 9-14 years away). I watched as increasing gasoline costs provided the needle that burst the housing bubble in 2008. Without greatly increasing the amount of energy utilized from fission fuels, I see practically no way that the 2 Billion people in world presently lacking access to electricity will be able to move to that upper right quadrant in the video above.

Risks

Given the simplifying UVA at the beginning of this post, Anti-Nuclear Crusaders must truly believe that the risks of nuclear power generation outweigh the benefits.

Do I think that Nuclear Power Generation is a completely risk-free endeavor? Absolutely not, but neither is virtually anything on this planet we call Earth. Not to be callous, but the eventual death rate of people here on Earth is a rather staggeringly high 100%. Yes, Chernobyl was a horrific occurrence. Yes, the Earthquake and Tsunami in Northeast Japan were also terrible. Avoiding the areas of highest contamination that resulted from both of these occurrences is the right thing to do. I don't really see any major points of disagreement between either Pro or Anti-nuclear people on the relative scale of these incidents (outside of one particular piece of work, which may have been rather short on usage of the scientific method).

From my vantage-point, however, the major point of disagreement in regards to the risks of Nuclear power result from views regarding to the risks of lower levels of radiation. Much of the rhetoric that is the primary tool I have seen used by Anti-Nuclear Crusaders to convey their conclusion of weighing the Risks vs. Benefits is based on the use of adjectives that attempt to give the impression that any single ionization caused by radiation will absolutely cause a cancer. This is simply not the case. Whether the LNT hypothesis is true or not, at low enough doses of radiation, the increased cancer risk incurred from very low radiation doses is grossly outweighed by the numerous other cancer risk factors that we are faced with in our normal every day lives.

It may go without saying, but I have arrived at my position of being a Pro-Nuclear Advocate based on my weighing of these factors.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

30. Call Me "Johnny Atomicseed"

In addition to being something of a folk hero, "Johnny Appleseed" was an actual real-life pioneer who lived in the early days of America's existence. His actual name was John Chapman. American school children grow up learning that Johnny Appleseed traveled the American country-side in the pioneer days, planting apple seeds (or at least they learned that back in the late-1980's and early-1990's).
Depiction of Johnny Appleseed: If anyone has free time to create a Johnny Atomicseed logo, please do

So, I know you are asking "What does Johnny Appleseed have to do with Peaceful Atomic Energy?"

Nuclear power is an investment in future generations. It is an investment in technological progression. To oppose nuclear power is to be in favor of either a large amount of increasing combustion to meet energy needs or "Endarkenment" (Also: in favor of additional deaths in comparison to alternative means of cost-effective, reliable generation according to this recent study).

Like planting apple trees (or other fruit trees), building nuclear power plants is not an investment that pays off in the short-term. It is a long-term investment that provides benefits further into the future. You can't bake an apple pie next month from apples grown on a tree you decide to plant in your yard today. However, if you do decide to plant an apple tree today, 10 years or so from now (depending on many factors), you should have the benefit of some home-grown apples.

Nuclear power is not conducive to a mere quarterly financials-style outlook, which is far too common the default in today's society.

"How does building new nuclear plants pay off?" you ask. 

By providing the lowest life-cycle cost of electricity generation.

Even considering the massive investment outlay of roughly $14 Billion for the 2 new Westinghouse AP1000's being installed at Vogtle near Augusta, GA, the total life cycle cost of the electricity is estimated to be up to $4 Billion less than the next best generation option. The reason that number is uncertain and requires the words "up to" in front of the $4 Billion is primarily due to the volatility and future uncertainty of natural gas prices. From March of 2012 to March of 2013, the Henry Hub spot price of natural gas fully doubled from a low of under $2.00/MMBtu to over $4.00/MMBtu within the past few weeks.

For a similar real-world lowest-cost estimate, FPL/NextEra Energy estimates (per this fact sheet) that their Extended Power Uprate (EPU) projects at St. Lucie and Turkey Point would save their customers approximately $3.8 Billion for the time period of the remaining life of the 4 Units in comparison to other generating options.

Feel free to question these numbers from both Southern Company and FPL, but these 2 utilities are required to testify in front of public service commissions to justify that their costs for adding this new generation are reasonable and prudent, and they wouldn't have undertaken these projects if they didn't trust their own math.

The same FPL fact sheet linked above mentions that 2 new AP1000's at Turkey Point (Units 6 and 7) would save customers $58 Billion over their operational lifetimes. That even almost sounds absurd to me right off hand before giving it much thought. If you actually stop to consider that 2 AP1000's will generate 1100 MWe each, should be fully capable of operating for 60-80 years, and that the residential price of electricity in the presently nuclear generation-free Los Angeles area is about $0.23/kW-hr, the $58 Billion savings number starts to actually make a decent amount of sense. Would anyone want to sell me any natural gas futures with a 2030 delivery date at even $6.00/MMBtu?

Even further into the future

So far, I have only referred to conventional Gen II and III light water reactors (LWRs). Plenty of potential exists in the future for Generation IV reactor designs with many, many improvements over Gen II and III designs, particular in terms of the utilization of natural Uranium. Nuclear power being allowed to continue to progress will "plant seeds" for future generations to properly utilize the naturally-occurring 0.7% of Uranium that is fissile U-235 to be the seeds for virtually unlimited power by way of breeding fertile Thorium and the 99.3% of natural Uranium that is U-238, while reducing other potential impacts to levels below even the minuscule impacts of the present generation of light water reactors.

Nuclear power is an investment in the future. From my viewpoint of knowing a great deal about it, and about its potential for even further future improvements, I think nuclear power is THE investment in the world's future. A new nuclear power project started today won't pay dividends next quarter, but over the next 60-100 years, it will help make the world a better place by helping more people get close to a situation of having Energy Abundance.


Disclaimer: I did notice when I Googled the terms "Johnny Appleseed" and nuclear, that A.Q. Khan popped up several times with people calling him a nuclear Johnny Appleseed due to his role in past weapons proliferation, but that was not even close to the point of my post. Here at Entreprenuclear, I prefer to stick to talking about the benefits of peaceful atomic energy. So, I will  

Saturday, March 30, 2013

29. Energy Abundance, The Moral High Ground

Using energy does not make you a bad person.

A dangerously seductive idea has been adopted by many very intelligent people overestimating the possible benefits that can be obtained by foregoing the usage of energy/electrical power. The term "Negawatt" has been derived to refer to an amount of energy saved. Please, DO NOT twist my words to suggest that I am against the elimination of wasteful usages of energy or am against pursuing increasing energy efficiency, as I would disagree with either assessment. That said, I would like to make several points.

"Negawatts" have never powered desalination plants to change a single gallon of ocean water into clean drinking water or powered a single piece of life-saving medical equipment. Would anyone argue that those aren't desirable?

A "negagallon" of fuel has never powered the transportation of any person anywhere or delivered any goods to a new destination. The freedom provided by access to transportation is a major positive. Thanks to me owning a road-worthy personal vehicle and to the existing infrastructure of fueling stations, I was able to decide during the day on Friday (the same day as she broke her hip and had surgery) to travel 7 hours to visit my grandmother in the hospital 3 states away. I will fortunately be joined in the car by my two brothers who each live more than 4.5 hours away from me. Having the freedom of transportation to be able to travel and visit family (or friends) is certainly something that can easily be called a good thing.

A "negawatt-hr" of electricity has never powered a dishwasher or washing machine, 2 appliances which drastically reduce the needed human input time of accomplishing household chores. I would have considerably less time to read blogs if I had to handwash my clothes. Do you think that there might be a few people living in the less well-developed parts of the world today that would be happy to have the opportunity to have leisure time, rather than needing to strive for survival at every instant?

Negawatts don't keep lights on at night to allow people to study, learn, and improve their overall positions in life. Yes, candles can provide some light at night, but they do pose a higher fire risk than most electric lights.

On occasion, I have little thoughts of self-doubt that my goals of increasing the availability of energy and electricity will simply allow people to become increasingly lazy and be able to do more completely non-value added things, like send cat pictures around the Internet. (Ok, I admit that there is an ever-so-slight amount of value added by the 1,322,650,448th cat picture.) Yes, more cheap energy availability is likely to cause an increase in frivolous or wasteful uses of energy. When I think about the positive aspects of access to energy, though, like being able to travel three states away at almost the drop of a hat to join my Mom in visiting her Mom in the hospital, the positive aspects of access to energy far outweigh the meager negatives of greater potential for laziness and of increased frivolous usages of energy.

With access to sufficient energy, other needs like food and drinking water are fully attainable. Energy poverty begets poverty of all forms.

Guilt-derived negawatts "generated" (sarcasm intended) within America will do nothing to solve poverty in other parts of the world. Increased usage of nuclear energy, particularly within markets beyond baseload electric power, has the potential to enhance energy and thus other resource abundance, significantly reducing worldwide poverty. These effects would subsequently enhance people's levels of freedom and reduce the incentive to fight over constrained resources, since with abundant energy, other essential resources would become increasingly abundant. People whose needs are met are much less likely to feel a need to fight.

Late addition: Here is a song titled with what you don't need to feel.

Never feel any shame or guilt for utilizing energy for a non-frivolous purpose that fits within your personal budget. Don't be seduced by the idea that a soft energy path is a path that leads to a better future. A truly better future for the world is a future with increasingly affordable energy abundance, with minimal environmental impacts. Increasing usage of peaceful nuclear power and new beyond baseload electricity utilizations of nuclear energy are a means of achieving such a desirable future of abundance.

Avoidance of energy usage is not inherently morally superior to the numerous positive uses of energy.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

28. Nuclear Risks are Acceptable, YOLO

Up-front Warning, this post will include a humorous video courtesy of Andy Samberg's "The Lonely Island" (which also features Maroon 5's Adam Levine). Skip ahead and scroll down to watch that if you don't care all that much about reading how I tie it into Nuclear Power. Now, on to your completely irregularly-scheduled Entreprenuclear blogging.


Earlier this week, I read this excellent piece written by Dr. Robert Hargraves (author of Thorium: Energy Cheaper than Coal) regarding how opposition to nuclear power approaches superstition. There is no point in me re-hashing that post here, so just go read it.

HERE is an even bigger link to it. (note the interesting list of publications at the end that chose not to publish it)

On a very similar note, not too long ago on Forbes, this article from Jim Conca described how the risks of low-level radiation are so small that they get lost among all other background risk factors. I also recommend reading this article if you haven't yet and get a chance. 

Now for the embedded funny video, which I will then (hopefully sufficiently) relate to the gist of this posting, in case it is somehow non-obvious to anyone who might read this.



Oh, in case you're reading my blog somewhere that is not conducive to watching the video embedded above, I will describe it for you. The video is from the group The Lonely Island and features Maroon 5's Adam Levine (also one of the judges on "The Voice"). If you are familiar with The Lonely Island, their videos have often been featured on the highly popular show Saturday Night Live, often simply referred to as SNL. The song is titled YOLO, which stands for "You Only Live Once". The song and music video accomplish what I found to be an outstanding job of poking fun at the idea of people being excessively risk averse in stark contrast to the presently-popular "YOLO" mantra (the battle cry of a generation, per this song).

The song starts off with the lyric "This life is a precious gift, so don't get too crazy, it's not worth the risk." Lonely Island then takes this absurdity of risk aversion to the extreme by suggesting such things as you should pull out all your teeth to avoid biting your tongue and that you shouldn't go to loud clubs because it is bad for your ears. It suggests burying all your money in your backyard, never traveling anywhere by any mode of transportation, and wearing a titanium suit in case a piano might fall on you. Basically, nothing in life is 100% safe, and to actually live a life worth living, taking risks is an absolute necessity.

Most people probably wouldn't immediately think so, but fears of low-level radiation from nuclear power are every bit as outlandish as the risk aversion that The Lonely Island parodies in "YOLO". The reason that might not seem to be the case for many people is that people have been systematically taught over the course of decades to have outlandish fears of radiation (even at levels below detectable/discernible impacts). Here is a graphic from IDigUMining.com of the ACTUAL numbers for how safe various sources of energy are.

Risks from low-level radiation are minuscule (also sometimes spelled miniscule), to the extent that they get lost in the statistical noise. Risks of having insufficient energy are much, MUCH greater.

The total production capacity of the worldwide economy is limited by the amount of useful energy available to be used. To attempt to claim otherwise would be a losing battle. People currently living in poverty in the world could best be brought out of their poverty by having sufficient access to clean and reliable energy. Having more energy at a person's command gives them the opportunity to more access to clean water and to sufficient food. Energy also gives people sufficient freed up time doing more than merely surviving the day that they can become educated, and even pursue leisure activities.

Regardless of possible anthropogenic global warming impacts from CO2 emissions, I absolutely don't believe that the world has sufficient quantities of easily accessible fossil fuels to pull the existing population of impoverished people out of their poverty. Therefore, as inhabitants of planet Earth, we need to increase the percentage of our energy that is derived from peaceful atomic/nuclear sources.

To be afraid of nuclear power or to be anti-nuclear because of nuclear power's risks, when viewed in light of the risks that would be presented by insufficient access to energy, is equivalent to the absurdity of cutting out your teeth to avoid the risk of biting your tongue.

YOLO - You Only Live Once, preferably not in Energy Poverty

Saturday, February 9, 2013

27. Musings on Unused CR3 Steam Generators


There was some somewhat bad news in the nuclear world this week. Duke Energy announced that the Crystal River Unit 3 (CR3) nuclear plant, that was obtained as part of the Duke-Progress merger, will be decommissioned rather than repaired after not operating since a 2009 outage.

During the 2009 outage, a hole had to cut in the containment to allow for new steam generators to be installed. As part of cutting the hole, the containment's concrete was cracked. An initial crack was repaired, but then in 2011, there was additional damage. This put Progress Energy, and following the merger Duke Energy, into the position of having a very tough decision to make of whether it would prove to be economical to repair the containment. It should be noted that the damage was not irreparable damage, but that the repairs carried enough uncertainty (both cost and schedule-wise) that the damage proved to be uneconomical to repair.

The 2009 outage included replacing CR3's steam generators. Replacing steam generators is far from a trivial maintenance operation, considering steam generators weigh in the hundreds of tons. Here is a rather incredible time-lapse video of the replacement of the 4 steam generators at Sequoyah Unit 2 which occurred towards the end of 2012.



Since Crystal River 3 never came back online following that outage, the steam generators have never entered service and should be brand new for all intents and purposes. With such valuable pieces of equipment being free of any wear and tear (other than being welded into place within the CR3 reactor coolant system, feedwater system, auxiliary feedwater system, steam generator blowdown, and main steam systems), it would be nice if they could somehow be re-used somewhere for their designed purpose of generating steam (with zero emissions, of course).

Being the entrepreneurial thinker that I am, I spent a few minutes trying to think of a few options to re-use these very valuable components. Here are the 3 options, in the order in which they came to mind.

1. San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (aka SONGS) Units 2 and/or 3

This would almost be a perfect match, considering the SONGS early-life steam generator wear issue that has kept both Units 2 and 3 there shut down since January 2012. Sadly though, there are several extremely intractable problems that would arise from trying to fit the CR3 steam generators into either unit at SONGS that would make such an arrangement an impossibility economically. CR3, being a B&W-designed plant, has a completely different steam generator design than the Combustion Engineering-designed plants at San Onofre. The engineering and modifications that would be necessary to put once-through B&W steam generators (OTSGs) into a Combustion Engineering plant with U-tube steam generators would be intractable, sadly. It would be pretty far beyond trying to fit a square peg into a round hole. The biggest reason for this being that OTSGs have the primary side water enter at the top of the steam generator, whereas U-tube steam generators have the primary side enter at the bottom.

Additionally, Crystal River’s lower designed core thermal power (2609 MWt) would be poorly matched to the designed core thermal power of either of the San Onofre units (3438 MWt). The power level would be rather close to the 70% level that has been proposed by the owners of San Onofre Unit 2 for the trial 5-month period after restart.

2. TVA's Bellefonte Unit 1, scheduled to come online around 2021-ish

TVA had maintained the partially/mostly-completed plants at Bellefonte for quite a few years prior to cutting into their steam generators and selling the metal from the steam generator tubes in the 2006 or 2007 time-frame. With no tubes, a steam generator is basically worthless for its intended purpose. So, as one of the earliest steps following the August 2011 decision to complete construction of Unit 1 at Bellefonte, the procurement process for new steam generators was at least kick-started. I have no knowledge of how far along that process is, but I do know that Bellefonte, like CR3, is a B&W-designed plant. The 2 plants at least share the once-through steam generator (OTSG) aspect of their design. Sadly, the power level of Bellefonte is grossly mismatched from what the CR3 SGs were designed for (3,600 MWt vs. 2609 MWt , >1200 MWe vs. < 900 MWe, and 205 fuel assemblies vs. 177 fuel assemblies).

3. One of the 3 Duke-owned Units at Oconee  

Ah, finally, this could be a great place to utilize this pair of enormous and valuable components - three units to pick from, B&W-designed, entered initial operation at almost the same time as Crystal River Unit 3, now owned by the same parent utility as CR3 following the Duke-Progress merger, and nearly exactly the same power level as CR3 (2,568 MWt vs. CR3's 2,609 MWt). But alas, the 3 units have had their SGs replaced since 2003, so with a good chemistry program in place to prevent corrosion, etc. the units at Oconee could very well not need new steam generators during the duration of the 20-year license extensions they have already received. Maybe they will need them during a subsequent 20-year renewal period.

Concluding

So, maybe there is no good way to actually utilize the Crystal River Unit 3 steam generators at this time. The amount of work that would be required to remove them from CR3 and transport them to anywhere other than where they are positioned right now within the CR3 containment building would be considerably expensive, so the best place for them at this time is likely right where they are. Also, as the NEI blog, Nuclear Notes, noted in a posting on the same subject, who knows what the future might hold. Perhaps Rod Adams will prove prophetic in his bet with Steve Skutnik regarding natural gas prices and repairing Crystal River could make economical sense.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

26. A Nuclear Power/Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Analogy

After finishing up my evening run today, I came across an article about Universities preparing students to work within the coming domestic drone/unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV)/remotely-piloted aircraft industry. I don't anticipate this posting to be especially profound, but simply a slightly intriguing analogy.

Here is a link to the article.

So, if you've read many of my postings here, you're probably asking, "What in the world does this have to do with peaceful nuclear power?" Well, I am about to tell you.
This image of a UAV was posted on Dan Yurman's now-retired blog Idaho Samizdat 

The main comparison that jumped out at me between the impending useful, economical, and peaceful uses of drones domestically and useful, economical, peaceful, atomic energy is that they have had and will continue to have perception problems to overcome. In general terms, these perception issues both stem from the same roots - that unmanned aerial vehicles and harnessing the power of the atom both made immense development strides solely due to military uses. Numerous other technologies that are now in use in everyday life share a comparable origin in terms of their militarily-derived developmental paths, but they have managed to not carry a stigma.

I anticipate that the term drone will carry more of a negative stigma than the acronym UAV and that UAV will carry more of a negative stigma than "remotely-piloted aircraft", despite them all being the same thing. For branding purposes, many domestic drone operations will probably jettison the term drone as quickly as possible. I don't have an immediate recommendation for a more publicly-accepted name for nuclear power, but going back to Dwight D. Eisenhower's Atoms for Peace program I like to emphasize here that nuclear power is a peaceful use of atomic energy.

Slight Aside: Consider this sentence my acknowledgement that there are definite privacy concerns to be hashed out relating to UAVs, but my purpose here is not to discuss those aspects.

I am not about to say that UAVs are going to come anywhere close to being as important to the global economies future as I believe nuclear power is and will be, but they will provide a lot of economical utility for legitimate, peaceful, and non-invasive purposes. Hopefully the stigma for both technologies can be lessened for the usages that deserve no stigma.

As I said, nothing profound, just an interesting analogy that I noted.