Friday, December 20, 2013

Little Presents: NuScale, Germany, Meateasies

minaturepresentsSustainable Business Oregon presents a interview with Pete Lyons, DOE’s assistant secretary for nuclear energy. It’s fine and worth a read – he talks mostly about the NuScale deal – see posts below for more on this.

Lyons does a good job explaining what NuScale offers specifically and what the interest in small reactors may mean generally:

Small modular reactors offer an opportunity for a new paradigm in how we think about nuclear plant construction. In the past we’ve gone to bigger and bigger plants built at a job site. We have realized there are some economies going to these bigger and bigger plants (built) on site. We’re trying to explore a different type of economy by moving down in size to where they can be built in a factory under factory quality assurance standards and moved intact to a site.

---

The European Union is investigating the deal between the British government and Electricite de France to build a new reactor at Hinkley Point C. That story will require more attention from us when it ripens a bit more. For our current purpose, another EU inquiry is interesting:

The Commission also announced yesterday that it was launching a full investigation into German subsidies for renewables under its renewable energy act (EEG) to determine whether these subsidies constitute illegal state aid. The investigation is looking at the law's exemptions scheme, which makes consumers pay a green surcharge which funds renewable projects, but exempts heavy industry.

“We received various complaints from consumers and competitors on this and the commission must therefore investigate this particular matter in depth,” said Joaquin Almunia, European commissioner for competition.

I’m not sure how many teeth this commission has or how much of the complaining is pure crankery. It does seem as though Germany has really led its people into a financial sinkhole as it tries to move very rapidly from nuclear energy to renewable energy sources.  It also leads to some very un-holiday-like schadenfreude – but we’ll endure it.

---

Some climate change goodness for the vegetarian set:

The analysis also estimates that the greenhouse gas emissions of raising livestock are 19 to 48 times higher than from growing high-protein plant food, such as beans and soy. Last month, a study found that methane emissions in the U.S. were about 1.5 times greater in 2007 and 2008 than previously estimated, and that livestock produced about twice as much methane during that time period than the EPA previously estimated.

The bad news for the vegetarian set is that if the government cannot find a way to grapple with climate change, expecting large swaths of even committed people to abandon meat seems dim indeed. I know from talking with an old 4-H friend that methane mitigation can be done, though still rather theoretically, through feed (see this story from Chemical and Engineering News for more).

The ThinkProgress story suggests that a tax on meat might do the trick, but that’s just silly. Governments like sin taxes because people will pay the tax to maintain their bad habits. But taxing meat as a sin so it becomes prohibitively expensive might well test the elasticity of people’s tolerance for such taxes (meat speakeasies – password “prime rib” – would rise up to feed the protein hungry.) (De)incentivizing behavior through taxation is a tough sell. As we discovered in New York, bans on 32 oz. soda pops to fight obesity doesn’t go over too well, either.

I’d go with the feed idea for now.

---

Happy holidays to our NEI Nuclear Notes friends. We’ve had a great year looking at the interesting, inspiring and sometimes odd happenings in the nuclear energy world during 2013 and reading your views in turn. We look forward to a equally illuminant 2014. Next time out, we’ll start a look at the big stories of the past year. Until then, travel safe and stay reasonably fissionable while hanging around the relatives.

1 comment:

Engineer-Poet said...

I discovered a couple of things highly relevant to Germany.  The first is the increasing trend of coal consumption, graphed by none other than the Rocky Mountain Institute:

http://ergosphere.blogspot.com/2013/12/the-german-climate-debacle.html

The second is my analysis of the bit of publicly-available data from an Argonne study on emissions reductions from increased wind generation in Illinois.  Conclusion:  it runs into diminishing returns VERY quickly.

http://ergosphere.blogspot.com/2013/12/the-false-promise-of-renewables-1-wind.html