Skip to main content

Running on Empty

A guest post from Scott Peterson, NEI’s senior vice president for communications:

jackson brown They’re back…

Aging rockers that comprise Musicians United for Safe Energy (MUSE) will be performing this weekend in Mountain View, Calif., as a fundraising event for Japan disaster relief and to “promote safe non-nuclear energy.”  Supporting the people of Japan displaced by the horrendous earthquake and tsunami is, of course, a commendable goal.  MUSE’s energy policy, however, remains forged by Jimmy Carter-era thinking.

I recall listening to my older brother’s No Nukes album late in 1979, especially riffs by Bonnie Raitt, Tom Petty, Bruce Springsteen and Ry Cooder. These artists remain in my collection of old albums, cassettes and CDs … and on several playlists. This weekend’s version of the 1979 No Nukes concert shapes up to be a B-side performance with secondary lineup and a message that’s been overtaken by decades of safe performance at America’s nuclear energy facilities. Expecting rational energy policy from MUSE is like looking to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid for the next Billboard hit.

In advance of this weekend’s show, there’s other news out of California.  A new study shows that increased efficiency at America’s 104 commercial reactors has saved consumers $2.5 billion annually and decreased carbon dioxide emissions by almost 40 million metric tons each year.  The study by two U.C. Berkeley economists won’t garner many headlines, but is sweet music for consumers and the environment. They found that efficiency at U.S. reactors increased by an average of about 10 percent from 1999 to 2007 as the electric utility industry deregulated in many states and nearly half of America’s nuclear energy facilities were consolidated into a smaller number of highly efficient operators. Here’s the short version of their findings:

“Deregulation has been accompanied by substantial market consolidation and today the three largest companies control more than one‐third of all U.S. nuclear capacity. We find that deregulation and consolidation are associated with a 10 percent increase in operating efficiency, achieved primarily by reducing the frequency and duration of reactor outages. At average wholesale prices the value of this increased efficiency is approximately $2.5 billion annually and implies an annual decrease of almost 40 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions.”

The bottom line: increased reliability and safety at America’s nuclear energy facilities, more greenhouse gas prevention than was achieved by all U.S. wind and solar power combined during the same period of U.C. Berkeley’s study and lower electricity prices for consumers.  Now that’s worth singing about!

Jackson Brown. Good music, message a little off key.

Comments

Brian Mays said…
"Expecting rational energy policy from MUSE is like looking to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid for the next Billboard hit."

Or like looking to Jackson Brown for the next Billboard hit, for that matter. It's not just the thinking that's "Jimmy-Carter-era."
donb said…
If I were still living in the Bay Area, I would probably be at the concert carrying a sign reading something like "Fukushima Nuclear Plants Save 5000 Lives". I am not sure of the exact number (it is about what I stated). There certainly were thousands of deaths avoided by building the nuclear plants instead of building coal-fired power plants, which were the only alternative.
gunter said…
Google "Musical celebrities supporting nuclear power."

Whoddya get?
gunter said…
Funny, "Running on Empty" is so appropriately the nuclear industry theme song these days...
Anonymous said…
Actually, "Running On Empty" is more appropriate for wind power, at least in my area. It is producing nothing. There is a big, fugly wind turbine a few miles from me that has been sitting still every day I go by it. Why? A high pressure system cooking the whole area. Just when we need electricity, wind isn't producing any. Running on empty, indeed. How about, never producing nothing, not ever, never will.

Popular posts from this blog

How Nanomaterials Can Make Nuclear Reactors Safer and More Efficient

The following is a guest post from Matt Wald, senior communications advisor at NEI. Follow Matt on Twitter at @MattLWald.

From the batteries in our cell phones to the clothes on our backs, "nanomaterials" that are designed molecule by molecule are working their way into our economy and our lives. Now there’s some promising work on new materials for nuclear reactors.

Reactors are a tough environment. The sub atomic particles that sustain the chain reaction, neutrons, are great for splitting additional uranium atoms, but not all of them hit a uranium atom; some of them end up in various metal components of the reactor. The metal is usually a crystalline structure, meaning it is as orderly as a ladder or a sheet of graph paper, but the neutrons rearrange the atoms, leaving some infinitesimal voids in the structure and some areas of extra density. The components literally grow, getting longer and thicker. The phenomenon is well understood and designers compensate for it with a …

Why America Needs the MOX Facility

If Isaiah had been a nuclear engineer, he’d have loved this project. And the Trump Administration should too, despite the proposal to eliminate it in the FY 2018 budget.

The project is a massive factory near Aiken, S.C., that will take plutonium from the government’s arsenal and turn it into fuel for civilian power reactors. The plutonium, made by the United States during the Cold War in a competition with the Soviet Union, is now surplus, and the United States and the Russian Federation jointly agreed to reduce their stocks, to reduce the chance of its use in weapons. Over two thousand construction workers, technicians and engineers are at work to enable the transformation.

Carrying Isaiah’s “swords into plowshares” vision into the nuclear field did not originate with plutonium. In 1993, the United States and Russia began a 20-year program to take weapons-grade uranium out of the Russian inventory, dilute it to levels appropriate for civilian power plants, and then use it to produce…

Missing the Point about Pennsylvania’s Nuclear Plants

A group that includes oil and gas companies in Pennsylvania released a study on Monday that argues that twenty years ago, planners underestimated the value of nuclear plants in the electricity market. According to the group, that means the state should now let the plants close.

Huh?

The question confronting the state now isn’t what the companies that owned the reactors at the time of de-regulation got or didn’t get. It’s not a question of whether they were profitable in the '80s, '90s and '00s. It’s about now. Business works by looking at the present and making projections about the future.

Is losing the nuclear plants what’s best for the state going forward?

Pennsylvania needs clean air. It needs jobs. And it needs protection against over-reliance on a single fuel source.


What the reactors need is recognition of all the value they provide. The electricity market is depressed, and if electricity is treated as a simple commodity, with no regard for its benefit to clean air o…