Monday, March 19, 2018

Thursday Meeting on Sale of VY to NorthStar

Sign from Wikipedia
The Plan for the Sale

On Thursday, March 22, the Vermont Nuclear Decommissioning Citizens Advisory Panel (NDCAP)  will meet to discuss the sale of Vermont Yankee from Entergy to NorthStar. On March 2, all the parties to the sale (and all but one of the intervenors) signed off on a Memorandum of Understanding.
This Vermont Digger article by Mike Faher covers the memorandum and  is a little easier to read than the legal document.  State, NorthStar strike deal for sale of Vermont Yankee.

Why is the proposed sale a big deal?  I will attempt to answer that question by answering three subsidiary questions and providing some links.

1) What is this deal about?

Choices After Entergy closed Vermont Yankee, the next step was decommissioning.  Entergy looked at the available funding for decomm, and it proposed that the plant be put in SAFSTOR while the funding grew and the radioactivity of the plant diminished. (SAFSTOR can last for up to 60 years.)  Nobody really liked this idea, but it was financially practical and legal.  Entergy didn't like the plan because Entergy has expertise in running plants, but not in decommissioning them.  The state didn't like it because the plant would be just sitting there, for decades.

Decomm Companies Many other nuclear plant owners have faced this issue, and most have hired a decomm company to do the actual decomm.  This is a little complicated, due to nuclear regulations.  For example, when Exelon planned to decommission the Zion units, it hired the specialist firm EnergySolutions to do the actual work.  However, "hired" is not quite the way it happens.  Exelon transferred the Zion license to EnergySolutions, and EnergySolutions will transfer the license back to Exelon when the decomm is complete. The accumulated decomm funds were transferred with the license.  In effect, EnergySolutions owns Zion temporarily, and is directly responsible to the regulatory agencies during decomm.

The proposed Entergy/ NorthStar deal took this type of deal a step further:  Entergy will sell Vermont Yankee to NorthStar, permanently.

A Sale The sale plan led to a lot of excitement among the local nuclear opponents. A first-of-a-kind transfer (direct sale, not temporary ownership), and happening in Vermont? Oh my! The list of intervenors grew and grew. I felt sorry for both of the companies (Entergy and NorthStar) that had stepped into the morass of Vermont anti-nuclear organizations. These organizations saw this transfer as their last chance to show the world how deeply anti-nuclear they are.  I think they also saw it as their last chance to wring concessions of various types from the companies involved.

Signatures The big deal is that on March 2, all but one of the intervenors signed a Memorandum of Understanding on the terms for the transfer. Basically, Entergy and NorthStar added more bonds and more insurance and more money to the pot, and everyone signed off.  It was not just a win for the intervenors though: the decomm is allowed to use rubbilization, which means using clean debris from building demolition to fill basements.  This had been a huge issue. My blog post from last year contains facts and links, Rubble at Vermont Yankee: Framing the Discussion

Well, everyone signed off on the MOU except Conservation Law Foundation, who felt there wasn't enough money or enough guarantees. CLF predicts that the decomm will run out of money and leave Vermonters on the hook, etc.  My own prediction is that CLF will do everything in their power, including lawsuits, to try to make their prediction come true.  

2) What are  the next steps?

There are quite a few. Vermont State agencies, NorthStar and intervenors have agreed on the MOU, but the state Public Utilities Commission and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission must still rule on it.  Once again, Faher at Vermont Digger has a good article on this: Vermont Yankee sale case will extend into summer.  Within that article, note that Guy Page urges plant supporters to come to the Vermont Public Utilities Commission hearing on April 12.  (Guy Page  of Vermont Energy Partnership is a frequent guest blogger at this blog.)

Guy Page's suggestion about the April meeting leads to an easy segueway into the next question:

3) Should I go to the Thursday NDCAP meeting?

Probably.  NDCAP is an advisory committee, and its meetings are often very informative.  This one will include presentations from Entergy, NorthStar and state officials. The meeting is going to be held at a bigger venue (Brattleboro High School) than usual,  because they expect quite a crowd.  In Brattleboro, "quite a crowd" can be unpleasant, as legions of nuclear opponents come in (sometimes by buses) from Massachusetts and all over Vermont and New Hampshire.  On the other hand, the NDCAP meetings are usually fairly orderly.

As I said in my book, meetings are more civilized when the groups are more even. So I do suggest that you go.

On the other hand, I am not sure I will go. I may have a family visit that interferes.  I may be there, or I may not be there.  That makes it harder for me to write: "Absolutely, go!"

If I possibly can, I will be there.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

(Escu) Five things I like about nuclear power

Five Best Things about Nuclear Energy

Suzanne Jaworowski recently asked for input on nuclear communications, specifically for ideas on the best things to communicate about nuclear energy. Jaworowski is Chief of Staff, Senior Advisor, Office of Nuclear Energy at the Department of Energy.

Dan Yurman posted her request at his blog, and I posted my Five Best and Howard Shaffer's Five Best at this blog. Today, Nick Escu (his pen name) contributes to the conversation.  Escu is a frequent guest blogger at this blog, often writing about natural gas prices.

Nick Escu: Five Things I Like About Nuclear Power

1) Baseload power.

Baseload power is the foundation that the grid depends upon. Nuclear, natural gas, and coal are the  three baseload power sources for the US grid.

2) Reliability.

Reliability is the function of being able to continually produce power. Factors include: fuel, fuel supplies, sustainability during severe weather.

Nuclear plants reliably out rank both natural gas and coal. Nuclear plants produce power over 92% of the time. Coal approximately 57% of the time, and natural gas only 53% of the time. As a baseload, nuclear power is more reliable.

3) Resilience

There are several factors involving resilience for grid operation. How much fuel does a plant have on hand? Do fuel supplies become unavailable? How does severe weather affect the plant itself?

Nuclear plants receive fuel either once every 18 months or once every 24 months. Nuclear plants strive to run breaker to breaker, 24 hours/day, 365 days a year, up to 2 years continuously. The nuclear equipment is extremely safety conscious, with redundancy built in, to order to continue running.

Both natural gas and coal have severe limitations on availability of fuel.

Homes receive natural gas ahead of natural gas power generators. When pipeline restrictions begin to be affected, such as in a severe cold period, like the 2014 polar vortex, or the recent winter blast, most natural gas plants don't have reserves. Some natural gas plants are now building oil storage tanks, and burning oil during severe weather.

Coal supplies in the open, FREEZE. So just because a coal plant has 90 days worth of reserves, doesn't mean those reserves are able to be used, because they're frozen. Many coal plants are now installing ice breaking equipment to break up the frozen coal, and transport it into their plants.

At present, nuclear power plants are much more resilient, and in fact, they care for the grid's needs during severe weather. For example, when hurricanes hit Texas, the nuclear power plant's twin units kept supplying power, when all other power sources had shut down.

4) Low Cost

Nuclear power plants are very expensive to build initially, due to the additional safety built into these plants. But the normal pay-off of the initial costs, is completed between 15 and 18 years. But then these nuclear plants run efficiently for the next 40 to 60 years.

The average life span of a natural gas plant is 19 years, before an entire re-build is necessary. Natural gas plants are smaller, power wise, than a nuclear plant. Natural gas plants are able to be licensed quicker than nuclear plants, so a 450 MWe natural gas plant, which costs $2.5 billion is able to be licensed and approved within a year, and constructed with 3 years, as compared to licensing and building for a nuclear plant within 10 years.

So where exactly are the lower costs?

  • First, natural gas is a polluter of the air, and eventually, assessments will be required for the pollutants natural gas spews out every day. 
  • Next, natural gas prices swing from as high as $14/MMBTU to as low as $1.72/MMBTU. Since the recent $1.73 in March, 2016, the steady natural gas prices have risen to $3.65/MMBTU, over a 100% climb in 2 years. That steady climb is partially due to the export of Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) to foreign countries willing to buy nat gas at $17.00/MMBTU. Prices are rising. When natural gas reaches $4.75/MMBTU, nuclear power becomes cheaper than natural gas. 
  • But for now, nuclear plants are less expensive, for several reasons. Fuel for nuclear plants have risen less than 7%/year since the 1990s. Additionally, power is continually produced by nuclear plants: their reliability and resilience far outdistances both natural gas and coal. Natural gas prices spike during severe weather to sometimes more than $500/MMBTU. Nuclear remains steady. 

Nuclear plants are operational for 60 to 80 years, at the same location. Natural gas plants effectively have to replace everything every 19 years. So megawatt vs. megawatt, nuclear power is built much stronger initially. It out lasts and out performs natural gas in a less expensive manner.

5) Community Friendly

Nuclear plants contribute massive amounts in taxes, in community involvement, in family and community building, because of so many exceptionally talented and experienced people, contributing to their local communities for their working and retirement lifetimes. When a nuclear plant is closed ahead of time, communities and people of those communities suffer tremendously.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

(Shaffer) Five Best Things About Nuclear

Five Best Things About Nuclear Energy

Suzanne Jaworowski recently asked for input on nuclear communications. Jaworowski is Chief of Staff, Senior Advisor, Office of Nuclear Energy at the Department of Energy. I read her questions on Dan Yurman's blog post , and I sent her my own Five Best ideas. Later,  I published my ideas in a blog post that has a developed a wonderful comment stream of other people's input.  Please read it, especially the comments!

Today, we have Howard Shaffer's essay on the five best things about Nuclear Energy. He sent this to the Department of Energy, and sent a copy to me. Shaffer was a start-up engineer at Vermont Yankee.  He was an engineer at several other nuclear plants, in the United States and abroad, and an American Nuclear Society Congressional Fellow.  Shaffer is a frequent guest blogger at this blog.

Howard Shaffer 
Five Best Things about Nuclear 

by Howard Shaffer

Communications Continuity  Radiation is natural and man-made, and safe within limits. Limits are well known, based on sound science and over 100 years of experience. Like fire, radiation can be used safely and for great good; but can cause havoc  if misused, or mistakes are made. People are not perfect, so mistakes will be made with all technologies.  We still have fire departments, don’t we? Demanding perfection, or raising decades-old mistakes is unrealistic.

Communication about nuclear power has not prevailed in some areas of the country because of a “missing link” in the information presentation “chain.”  That link is addressing concerns raised by citizens at public meetings.  When these concerns, challenges, and charges are not addressed at the meetings, or immediately thereafter- 48 hours(?)-they become the story.  Local media pick them up, and they get repeated many times. Local media go with  "if it bleeds it leads,” and they also love a David and Goliath story.

Nuclear power plant management has just begun to recognize this is a political fight, and all the modern tools are being used by the opposition.  There is an “Anti-Nuclear Industry” professionally staffed, with some of it headquartered in Washington.  One of the common tools they use is repetition, which works for good or bad information.  When bad information is repeated and not countered by good information, it becomes the story.

As in elective politics nuclear power is a “red state, blue state” issue. The political demographics where nuclear power plants have been forced to shut down, compared to where they continue to run with just a little opposition clearly illustrate this truth.

The Anti-Nuclear industry has been effective in selling “Any amount of Radiation is dangerous.”

Safety  Nuclear power is safe. That does not mean perfect for any technology. When the total casualties and environmental effects for energy technologies are compared, nuclear power comes out way ahead of all fossil fuels and even hydro power.  It has been observed by Prof Von Hippel that, “Some people don’t like this kind of arithmetic.”  Those who don’t like the “spread sheet” type of comparison i.e. all effects and costs, seem to like to focus on the few large nuclear power accidents that have been media circuses.

Anti-nuclear information says that a large nuclear accident will make the surrounding area uninhabitable for thousands of years.  How silly is this when anyone can go on-line and see before and after pictures of the city of Hiroshima.  How much sillier that the plant spokespeople don’t use them.

The operational, health, and environmental records over more than half a century prove the personnel and environmental safety of nuclear power, and all uses of radiation.

Inexhaustible Energy  The fuel for nuclear reactors of the present types, and proven types being developed for the market,  can last for at least a thousand years.  This is possible because the energy from splitting an atom is a million times more than from burning an atom. (Burning gives a thousand times more energy than a moving atom-wind or water)

Benign  The environmental impact of the whole nuclear fuel and plant cycle is small compared to fossil fuels, because so much less fuel material is used.  Used fuel is in solid form and is easy to handle; there are no liquids to leak if there is an accident.

Reliable Nuclear power plants, and fossil fuel plants, can and do run 24/7 to supply the electric grid. Coal and oil plants depend on fuel deliveries and usually keep a 60 day supply on hand.  Natural gas plants depend on pipelines, so a pipeline accident will shut them down.  Nuclear reactors have 1 ½ to 2 years fuel in them when refueled.

End note: 

On Facebook, a friend wrote that Jaworowski had asked for the best things to communicate about nuclear.  He is at least partially correct.  However, for the sake of headline writing, I am going to continue to call this exercise "The Five Best Things about Nuclear."

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

The Five Best Things About Nuclear (Angwin)

Golden Gate Bridge with light-brown photochemical smog behind it.  NOx gives the smog that color.
Wikipedia photo by Aaron Logan
Nuclear energy makes no smog.

The Question: Your Five Best

In early February, Suzanne Jaworowski, Chief of Staff, Senior Advisor, Office of Nuclear Energy, Department of Energy, sent an email to selected people. She asked the recipients to send her "your top five most motivating facts about Nuclear."  Another part of the letter asked "What facts do you tell people and they are surprised?"

Dan Yurman blogged about this letter; his post is DOE wants ideas to educate the public about nuclear energy.  His post includes the entire letter, as well as his ideas for DOE's future actions.

Okay.  I am a little late about blogging about this.  Jaworowski wanted input by mid-February, and I sent my input quite promptly after after reading Dan's post. Alas, it took me a while to get around to putting my Five Best things on my blog.

Please comment or share your Five Best with me!

The Five Best Things About Nuclear, by Meredith Angwin

1)  Economic: Nuclear plants are great sources of jobs and taxes for a community.  They have jobs for people with advanced degrees and for high school graduates.  Plants often have very liberal policies to encourage continuing education for their employees.  Wages are usually higher than other local wages, and they hire good people at all education levels.

2) Safety: Living near a nuclear power plant exposes you to less radiation than you would get by 1) living in the mountains (cosmic radiation) 2) living on granite bedrock 3) taking some cross country airplane flights. People who live near nuclear plants do not have excess deaths from cancer.

3) Clean air.  This is my favorite, and not because of carbon dioxide. I hate NOx, which is formed in all modern high-temperature combustion-power processes, and only partially cleaned up. NOx is the precursor of acid rain, smog, etc.  Very bad stuff. In NOx, the air burns itself: the nitrogen in the air is burned by the oxygen in the air. This happens at the high temperatures in modern gas and coal plants.  Also, the good thing about talking about NOx is that talking about CO2 raises issues with people.  Many people do not buy into man-made global warming.  Mentioning CO2 is audience-specific, while "nuclear plants don’t make NOx" is straightforward. Nobody likes acid rain and smog!

4) Surprising fact: What a half-life actually means, People keep hearing that something has a half-life of  thousands of  years (or whatever) and this is presented as showing that  the substance is very dangerously radioactive.  Then I lead them through what a half-life is, and what  a long half-life actually means (few atoms decaying at any one time, not much radioactivity). A long half-life is low radioactivity.  This is almost always a surprise.

5) Surprising facts on the big accidents: Nobody died from radioactivity at Fukushima, and few or no cancer deaths are expected.  The sister plant (right next door) to Chernobyl was staffed and producing power until about 2000, over a dozen years past the day of the accident.

Please comment!

I spend a great deal of my time writing about energy and about nuclear power, yet this "five best" exercise was very helpful for me!  I hope you will comment on this post, hopefully with your own "five best."  I will be posting Howard Shaffer's list within the next few days.  If I get some great lists as comments, I plan to post them as blog posts.

I look forward to reading your comments.

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Department of Energy: Nuclear policy, nuclear money, and the millennial caucuses

Secretary Rick Perry and Millennial Nuclear Caucus
October 2017
From Department of Energy website
Starting this past fall,  I finally noticed that the current Department of Energy was not the old Department of Energy. In October 2017, DOE cooperated with the Nuclear Energy Institute and held the first Millennial Nuclear Caucus, in Washington DC. At that event, Secretary of Energy Rick Perry met with a group of young nuclear professionals.  In a post on the DOE website, Secretary Perry said: "I had the pleasure of meeting with a number of young visionaries in the nuclear field this morning." As a matter of fact, the hashtag for the Millennial Nuclear Caucus meetings is #NuclearVisionaries.  Here's a brief video of part of the meeting.

More to come
When I saw the announcement of the first caucus, I felt terrific. The Department of Energy promoting young people and nuclear! Well, the only word was--- awesome!

Next, I realized there was more to come. I learned that the Washington meeting was going to be the first of a series of caucuses.  So far, there has been the first Caucus in Washington, another in Ohio, and a third a few days ago at Texas A&M University.  The Caucuses are listed on this page of the Department of Energy website. Videos of the Caucuses are at the U. S. Department of Nuclear Energy Facebook page

UPDATE: The next Millennial Nuclear Caucus will be March 7 in Washington D.C.

The most recent Caucus took place at Texas AMU on February 20. Once again, the millennial panelists were from various types of nuclear facilities: national labs, start-ups, operating plants. This time, the leader from DOE was Suzie Jaworowski, senior advisor to the DOE Office of Nuclear Energy. Here (hopefully) is a direct link to video of the meeting on the DOE Nuclear Facebook page

Hype or real?
Now, first of all, I would be happy even if this new look by DOE were only hype. I am happy that the the government is holding and co-sponsoring events like the Millennial Nuclear Caucus. Previous administrations tended to act as if nuclear power were some sort of embarrassment. The current DOE Facebook page and the nuclear-positive events show a change in attitude.

However, if you go to the video of the Texas meeting on the Facebook page,  you will see Rod Adams ask a question that he admits puts Suzie Jaworowski "on the spot."  (Move the slider to about 1:02) To paraphrase Adams's question: This is all very good, but the DOE budget proposal has less money for nuclear for next year than it had for this year.  Is DOE really going to be able to support nuclear?

Side note:  Optimism, pessimism, realism  and everything in between before the official start of the Advanced Reactor Summit V is Rod Adams post which includes his comments on the Millennial Caucus meeting.

What was Jaworowski's answer?  Since the budget isn't totally set, the answer couldn't be totally set either. Jaworowski answered that DOE is focusing on its priorities. High priorities include keeping the existing fleet going, and keeping the pipeline of future projects underway. There are also plans for public-private partnerships, with government and private money leading to innovations.

Policy or money?
You might say Jaworowski gave a standard-issue answer, and maybe it was.  But I notice the nuclear group at DOE running events, making videos, posting to FB, and I am encouraged.

The federal government has been running immense deficits for years, and the Republicans are the party of "small government and decreased government spending." Therefore, budget cuts were inevitable, from both a practical (deficits) and policy (Republican) point of view.  Considering that budget cuts will be coming, the new pro-nuclear initiatives of the current administration are very welcome.

In other words, if the major role of the government is to spend money, then things are looking bad.  If the major role of the government is to set policy, then things are looking better.  I think this administration's policies will be pro-nuclear. I believe these policies will have an impact.

I am well aware that support of energy initiatives usually requires both policy and money.  I know money/policy is not a simple either-or.  However, setting policy is the first step.

If you look at Rod Adams post (linked above) you can see a somewhat more pessimistic evaluation of the future of nuclear. I'm not so sure of myself as to say he is wrong.  And he isn't completely pessimistic, either. Maybe I am just an optimist.  Still, I am optimistic about the DOE initiatives.

Only time will tell.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Having fun with a book sale

Thank you for your orders of Campaigning for Clean Air!

I was right, and George was wrong.

When I told my husband George that I was going to set up a President's Day reduced-price offer for the paperback version of my book, he said that such an offer was useless. He claimed that my target audience is not price-sensitive. I told him that marketers do this all the time, because everyone likes a deal. Plus---people like a signed book.

I was right. He was wrong.

But the main thing was: I had fun!

Orders and comments

Not only did I get some orders, but most orders came with a comment. If I had known how much fun it is to sell the book myself, and to see all the comments, I would have done something like this sooner.  I quote or paraphrase some of the comments below:

  • Tell your husband that students are price-sensitive!
  • Hope you win your bet!
  • I have a copy of your book, but I want a signed copy that I can keep for myself. I won't lend it to friends (as I do with my current copy).
  • From over here in Vernon, near Vermont Yankee, thank you for everything you do.
  • Tell George he is wrong.
I enjoyed the comments!

The sale is over, but you can still buy a book

The sale is over, but the book is widely available.

Whether you are a member of the American Nuclear Society or not, you can buy both the paperback and the ebook through the American Nuclear Society . Members get a discount.  You can also buy the book from Amazon or Nook or Kobo. Most people seem to buy it from Amazon.

I encourage people to order the audiobook through Amazon (Audible). The narrator, Pamela Almand, is wonderful! I cannot arrange a discount on the audiobook, but there are ways you can get a discount on Audible, as I understand it

Or your library can buy the book for you

If you go to your local library, you can ask them to order a copy of the book. The paperback book is available from Ingram Spark, as well as being available from the various places listed above. As I understand it, libraries prefer Ingram Spark.

The audiobook is available from Overdrive. Overdrive is set up for bulk audio orders, and to fufill orders from libraries.

However you obtain the book, I hope you enjoy it!

Monday, February 19, 2018

President's Day Book Bargain: Prove My Husband Wrong

Campaigning for Clean Air: Limited Time Reduced Price Offer

Prove my husband wrong!

I told my husband George that I was going to set up a President's Day limited-time reduced-price offer for buying the paperback version of my book. You can buy my book from Amazon on $17.95 plus shipping....or you can buy it directly from me at $16, shipping included. Plus...I will sign it! This is the lowest price I have ever offered to anyone.

The catch is that you have to order it today or tomorrow. This is a limited time offer. More about that below.

My husband said that such an offer is useless: my target audience is not price-sensitive. I told him that marketers do this all the time, because everyone likes a deal. Plus---people like a signed book.

Free shipping and a lower price and a signature!

Prove me right. Prove him wrong. Order the book today or tomorrow.

How to order the book

This deal is only on the paperback book. To order the paperback book, go to your paypal account, and choose to "send money" to mjangwin at Send $16. Be sure to include your mailing address in the proper area of the paypal form. This offer closes at midnight tomorrow night (February 20).

If you prefer an ebook edition, you have to order it at full price from Amazon or Nook or Kobo. However, if you are a member of ANS, you can get a reduced price ebook by ordering it through ANS.

I encourage people to order the audiobook through Amazon (Audible). Pamela Almand, the narrator, is wonderful! I cannot arrange a discount on the audiobook, but there are ways you can get a discount on Audible, as I understand it

If you want the paperback, order it from me at a discount. Today or tomorrow!