Thursday, May 6, 2010

Nucleonics Week

I said that I would keep people informed of reactions and reviews of the Coalition for Energy Solutions report Vermont Electric Power in Transition.

A brief review of the report is in Nucleonics Week, May 5 edition. The review is by Suzanne McElligott and appears on page 8 of the magazine. Since I know what our report says, I was more interested in the article's quote from James Moore of VPIRG. Moore is the author of the Repowering Vermont report which we reviewed.

A few days ago, Moore had this to say about us and our report in the Brattleboro Reformer: Their analysis, if you can call it that, is disingenuous," he said. "It’s a Vermont Yankee support group manipulating the numbers to paint the picture that they want."

In Nucleonics Week, he seems to have changed his tune. Instead of "their analysis, if you can call it that," his new words are "no surprise." Here's the quote:

If coalition members “were just focused on capital costs then yes, building hundreds of megawatts of renewable generation costs a lot. Building hundreds of megawatts of anything costs a lot, this shouldn’t’ be a surprise.”

I was wondering what part of our analysis was disingenuous. That word has a nice ring to it, but it is more accurate to acknowledge that the high costs of renewables are "no surprise."

I am glad Moore noticed, however belatedly, that our report simply quantifies a situation that is intrinsically-- no surprise.

Matt Dunne

While I was in Montpelier for the press conference, I gave a copy of our report to Matt Dunne, a candidate for the Democratic Gubernatorial nomination. Today, Vermont Buzz has a review of his web site and energy policies. Like all the Democratic candidates, he wants to shut down Vermont Yankee. Still, I found the review interesting because Matt acknowledges the need for baseload power, but plans to supply it with biomass. Many environmentalists in Vermont seem to think that baseload is "your father's Oldsmobile."

Otter Creek

This just in....

The small Otter Creek Hydro station, which has supplied locals with inexpensive power for years, needs maintenance and has been sold to CVPS. It is 18 MW (actually, we are talking about a series of hydro plants here) and was sold for $33 million. A further $13 million in maintenance will be required. Rates are going up for the plant's customers.

Even existing renewables are not free.


David said...

Merideth, Your focus on this very specific issue is sooo helpful. When I was studying for my master's in divinity I had a professor who spent 6 weeks on 3 verses. He felt that surveys were worthless you needed to dig out all the specifics of a passage.

In this case, we are getting a full and clear picture of the people both for and against a nuclear power plant because you are NOT surveying the problem but covering it in great detail.

As the detail unfolds so do the motives. Actual danger or enviromental harm is not the issue, tritium is basically harmless and no other actual source of danger is shown. Cost of power to consumers is not the issue - they are willing to pay a lot more for other kinds of power.

So, what is the issue? It seems to me that Rod Adam's argument that many people stand to gain financially when you oppose or get rid of a Nuclear power plant is getting clearer and clearer here. Finacially, everyone - except the consumers - stands to gain from the shutdown of Vermont Yankee. Decomissioners, New renewables, Hydro Qubec, and a whole host of others stand to gain money - big money by charging consumers more for the same product they already receive safely and reliably from VY. The politicians stand to gain from demonizing VY and getting the donations for their political campaigns from the various OTHER interest groups.

Unless someone wakes up the consumers that they are about to be taken they will end up paying big for "green" while loosing theirs.

Meredith Angwin said...


Thank you for the support! It's a microcosm here in Vermont, but not because we're a bunch of hayseeds off in a funny little state up north. We have been targeted. Greenpeace has opened an office for this. One activist in a "local" anti-group was recruited here from the midwest. I don't mention how often I see one of the Beyond Nuclear guys. They practically shuttle up here from New York City.

If the anti-s can pull this off in Vermont, getting the legislature involved to shut down the plant (we passed a law and the law says we have authority), they will move the model south and target other plants. Indian Point. Oyster Creek. You are right. There's an awful lot of money on the table.

Thank you again and again for your support.


David said...

Yes, the whole world in a drop of tritium.

I have often been to car repair shops that want to sell me a repair and tell me that my thingamajig attached to the dufloppy is worn in its jumperfund and will surely leave me by the side of the road. It will only cost me $500.00 for the repair.

A few months ago I was in a repair shop with my daughter trying to understand if the repair was actually needed. In moments after a few technical questions I could see the mechanic was honest and the repair needed. So I asked him for the parts, turned to my daughter and began to explain why the repair was needed. Her first reaction was "OH! I don't know anything about that...!!" I assured her that she was an intelligent (actually well above 100 IQ) young woman and that she actually could understand this, if she would just follow what I was showing her.

She calmed down and I showed her how brakes work in general and then how her brakes had worn and needed replaced. She began to ask good questions and when we were finished she was confident in the repair and I doubt she will have a problem in the future talking to the next mechanic about brakes.

Nuclear power is NOT as complex as a typical car or even airplane for that matter. There are a few terms to understand, some fairly simple machines, and basic physics. People really can understand this when they are taught what is happening. Of course the level of understanding needed to see how it is working is much less than the level needed to construct a working plant.

A materials engineer might be horrified at my simplification but the fact of the matter is that this is NOT beyond understanding for a person of average intelligence. I have known a large number of back yard mechanics who, with some exposure to the concepts - as Nuclear Fissionary is doing - could quickly tell you if someone is pulling a scam or if there is an actual repair needed.

Maybe, we need to focus on regular folks in repair shops rather than on politicians. "Hey Mary - look this is how the thing works. What are they all up in arms about?"