Skip to main content

Concentric Circles of Irony

San-Onofre-Nuclear-Generating-Station-1Almost too awful:

If a crisis over Iran curbs the supply of liquefied natural gas while Japan's nuclear fleet is shut, it could cause an economic impact greater than that from the March 2011 earthquake, the former executive director of the International Energy Agency said Thursday.

With 20% of its gas and 80% of its oil coming through the Strait of Hormuz, Japan would face a "disastrous impact" from a crisis in the Middle East, said Nobuo Tanaka, now a global associate at Japan's Institute of Energy Economics. He spoke at an event in Washington sponsored by the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Obviously, this is highly speculative. It’s worth pointing out, too, that all those nuclear facilities sitting around over there don’t depend on the Strait of Hormuz to get up and running. But Tanaka is right to make the warning – it isn’t only Japan that would face an energy crunch and some of those countries have fewer options than Japan.

---

Over in California:

In a report presented to the Independent System Operator board Thursday, staffers said that in a major heat wave or transmission line outage during the peak season, South Orange County and the San Diego and Los Angeles areas could face energy shortages without the 2,200 megawatts of power generated by San Onofre.

This one is due to a new steam generator that isn’t working quite right and will keep the facility shut until it is fixed.

It’s probably a little early to start worrying about the summer, but not too early to emphasize the importance of San Onofre to Southern California, especially as advocates gather petitions to try to close California’s two nuclear facilities (Diablo Canyon is the other) via a ballot measure. This is in part a response to the accident at Fukushima Daiichi and in part a California thing – if a question can get onto the ballot, someone will get it there.

A state ballot initiative proposed for next fall would force California's two nuclear power plants to immediately shut down, causing rolling blackouts, spikes in electricity rates and billions of dollars in economic losses each year, a nonpartisan analyst has found.

Closing the plants this way is likely not possible, as only the NRC can close a nuclear facility and then only for safety reasons. That was reconfirmed in Vermont recently. But in any event, San Onofre is in an excellent, terrible position to demonstrate what doing without the plant can mean – and hopefully, that won’t happen.

Even more than in Japan, the situation in California feels a bit like watching concentric circles of irony intersect each other, doesn’t it?

---

I guess another definition for this would be absurdity. But no – for that, we’ll always have Germany.

“After deciding to exit nuclear energy, it seems as if Ms. Merkel’s coalition stopped its work,” said Sigmar Gabriel, a former environment minister and the leader of the opposition Social Democrats. “There is great danger that this project will fail, with devastating economic and social consequences.”

Ms. Merkel conceded in her weekly podcast that, “of course, we need a lot of new investment” for the plan to be carried out. But she insisted that her decision was the right choice.

Because, really, what else can she do?

San Onofre Generating Station.

Comments

Anonymous said…
Sorry to be persnickety, but if circles are indeed concentric, they don't intersect. (I've decided not to bring up the issue of whether circles, concentric or intersecting, have anything to do with irony.)

--E. Michael Blake

Popular posts from this blog

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…

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 …

A Billion Miles Under Nuclear Energy (Updated)

And the winner is…Cassini-Huygens, in triple overtime.

The spaceship conceived in 1982 and launched fifteen years later, will crash into Saturn on September 15, after a mission of 19 years and 355 days, powered by the audacity and technical prowess of scientists and engineers from 17 different countries, and 72 pounds of plutonium.

The mission was so successful that it was extended three times; it was intended to last only until 2008.

Since April, the ship has been continuing to orbit Saturn, swinging through the 1,500-mile gap between the planet and its rings, an area not previously explored. This is a good maneuver for a spaceship nearing the end of its mission, since colliding with a rock could end things early.

Cassini will dive a little deeper and plunge toward Saturn’s surface, where it will transmit data until it burns up in the planet’s atmosphere. The radio signal will arrive here early Friday morning, Eastern time. A NASA video explains.

In the years since Cassini has launc…