Wednesday, March 11, 2009

William Tucker on "How Nuclear Will Revive"

Here's some grand foresight from the author of Terrestrial Energy:

... Sometime in the next 18 months, Obama will finally bring his carbon emissions program to Congress. At that point, the Democratic Party will split in two. Senators and representatives from Pennsylvania, Ohio and Illinois, which get huge portions of their electricity from coal, will never consent to hiking their electrical bills in the midst of a near-Depression.

Obama and Democratic liberals will be at wit's end. After twenty years of yammering about global warming, they will find themselves unable to do anything about it. Will they skulk off in defeat, blaming the Bush Administration? Perhaps. But I think there's a more likely scenario.

Someone in the administration -- probably Energy Secretary Steven Chu, who knows in his heart that wind and solar can't cut it -- will suggest that that a carbon tax be coupled with the revival of nuclear power. Suddenly, the dam will break. NRC regulatory mazes that are still trying to protect us from Three Mile Island will be swept aside. Construction schedules will be accelerated. (The TVA just built a new reactor at Watts Bar in three years and under budget, using a license granted in the 1970s.) Tens of thousands of construction jobs will be created overnight. The French and Japanese will provide the financing. We may even revive the steel industry in the process.

Then, after decades of backing and filling, the nation will at last be back on the road to creating a stable and economical energy infrastructure. It'll be the best thing that's happened to American industry in twenty-five years.
I think he'll be right. Many European and Asian countries have already gone through this energy debate exercise and concluded that they need to build many more nuclear plants. It's only time until the U.S. comes to the same conclusion...

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

We certainly hope that this optimistic projection comes to be. We really need to open the door to more nuclear to stay in a competitive position in the world economy. We also need major government support for new generation nuclear power and education support for training physicists and engineers.

John Tjostem

Anonymous said...

What bothers me is that the regulatory bottleneck hasn't already been addressed. Its not like Obama can't see the Midwestern Dems' objections coming. The sensible thing would be to significantly up the NRC's resources now. I'm afraid Congress will consider its "support" in the ways it always does, per kwh subsidies. That may be better than nothing to spur optimal nuclear investment now because of its large regulatory hurdles, but it would be far more efficient to just ameliorate those regulatory hurdles, without compromising safety of course.

Marcel F. Williams said...

Nuclear power is easily the largest and most economic source of energy America in the fight against climate change and global sea rise. Yet the nuclear industry is extremely quiet on this issue.

So why isn't the nuclear industry putting full page adds out in major news papers (newspapers around the country could use the money)calling out the US congress, Senate, and the Obama administration to fight seriously against global warming and for energy independence in the US by aggressively pushing legislation to dramatically increase nuclear power plant construction in the US through both private and public financing and to reprocess spent fuel in order to dramatically decrease radioactive waste while producing more clean energy.

The nuclear industry has to be willing to fight for itself in the media. Otherwise, the president may interpret this silence along with the loud voices of the anti-nuclear factions as evidence that the nuclear industry really doesn't have confidence in the energy products that they're offering the American people.

In American business, silence is not 'Golden'; silence can be a business disaster. That's why successful businesses constantly and aggressively advertise their products. If the nuclear industry seriously wants the Obama administration to fight for them then they have to be willing to fight for themselves!

Be bold and mighty forces will come to your aid!

And there's no doubt in my mind that a majority of the American people are behind expanding the nuclear industry in the US if the nuclear industry is willing to fight for itself!

Marcel F. Williams
http://newpapyrusmagazine.blogspot.com/

Anonymous said...

The implementing of a cap-and-trade system (by outvoting MidWestern senators or whatever) is infinitely more likely than a major rollback of nuclear regulations and requirements.

Not only would this be politically impossible, but the bureaucracy is far too entrenched. I can't imagine NRC going along with this. If anything, things continue to get worse (albeit only slightly and slowly). Three years to review a COL for a carbon copy reactor??!!

No, our salvation is going to be the fact that fossil fuels are finally being held to account, and will face requirements more on a level with ours. Once the playing field is finally more fair and level, nuclear will easily prevail.

If one is looking for an alternative to cap-and-trade, this would be another (more possible) alternative, which doesn't cost any section of the country more than the others. A simple, outright ban on new non-sequestered coal (and possibly gas) plants. Everyone would have to pay the same (increased) amount for a new power plant. Even this would be much more likely than a major rollback in nuclear regs.

Jim Hopf

Anonymous said...

Jim Hopf is correct.

Moreover, the USNRC is not the major problem for the reactor vendor's schedules. Their major problem is completing their designs, which is required before the USNRC will give them a combined construction and operating license. Because it is much better to start construction after design is complete, the USNRC requirement is in the best interests of the reactor vendors and their customers.

Anonymous said...

But the NRC most certainly is a mnajor problem as well as the quasi governmental regulator INPO. Anyone who works inside this business can only marvel at the gargantuan amount of "paperwork" createrd for the smallest effort. And most managers at the mid level, steeped in the stigma of 30 years of post TMI regulatory management methodologies, couldny mangae a construction project of a swingset in their backyard let alone a new powerplant. The Corrective action program itself, condoned by the NRC as a "mangement tool" and INPO insistence on subjective good practices, guidelines and constant "findings" having no relevance to safety or efficiency, only serve to bury an already floundering boat on the high seas of power generation. It is interesting the constant reference to a ship. Because most nuclear navy officers have never run or could ever try to run a businessone tenth the scale of an operating nuclear facility.

Anonymous said...

Let's not get carried away here! Nuclear may look like the quick fix, but the issues with the aging NPP's are not going to helping the revival efforts. The cost of operating and maintaining the older plants may be offset by newer plants being added to the fleet, but the maintenance risk and outage impacts will have their toll. The article talks about TVA's WBN plant positive, but it doesn't mention the negatives with it's BFN plant. BFN's U1 over runs and failures by the recovery team is still being felt by TVA. They recently got lowered to a INPO 4 due to their performance. Currently all three units are bottom quartile in the INPO Index, along with nearly 33 other operating units. The equipment reliabilities, aging work force, reactivity management issues and constant management changes seems to have nearly cripple the once shine star of the TVA fleet. Then there is the spent fuel issue. How much can plants continue to store on-site and not create a risk to the environment, public or workers. I think nuclear has advantages but they come at a high cost and with large risk. The bottom lines may look fat, but let a near TMI happen and you will see the tent come down on this revival very fast.