Monday, July 20, 2009

A Little More Nuclear, Please

energy-use625x374 And we really mean a little more, as a new set of flowcharts from the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory suggest that folks used more renewable energy and a little more nuclear energy in 2008 than 2007. Science Daily reports:

Nuclear energy also saw a slight increase from 8.41 quads [quadrillion BTUs] in 2007 up to 8.45 quads in 2008. While no new nuclear power plants came online in 2008, the existing plants had less down time. Over the last 20 years, the downtime for maintenance and refueling at nuclear power plants had been decreasing.

"There's an incentive to operate as much as possible," [A.J.] Simon [, an LLNL energy systems analyst,] said. "It's a smart thing to do. You can't earn revenue by selling electricity when you're down."

Gulp! I’m sure if Mr. Simon talked to any nuclear energy supplier, he’d learn that less downtime for maintenance has everything to do with the growing capabilities of the work force and the development of best methods in a mature industry, with profit a collateral benefit. Nuclear energy plants are too tightly regulated, internally and by the NRC, for things to be otherwise.

The article opines that building more wind turbines also account, logically enough, for the increased use of that power source, but really, how many people get to choose their electricity provider? In more cases than not, this is a truer measure:

"I'm really excited about the renewed push for energy efficiency in this country," he [Simon] said. "Because once that energy is rejected, it's no longer useful. But more efficient power plants, automobiles and even light bulbs really do reject less energy while providing the same energy services."

By rejected energy, Simon means things like waste heat in power plants. But the story fails to mention the elephant in the room: no, not our fathers telling us not to air condition the world while we talk to our friends at the door, but the then-faltering economy. (It does mention the spike in gasoline prices.) That, more than likely, got people turning off lights and pulling the bike out of the garage. Not a peep of that in this story, though. We’d prefer holding off on praising the energy efficiency of Americans until the economy turns around. Then, we’ll really know.

You can see the flowcharts and download the data here.

One of the flow charts. You could live in these things for days.

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