Thursday, April 5, 2018

PUC meeting on decomm April 12


sign from Wikimedia
Vermont PUC hearing on NorthStar sale set for April 12 in Brattleboro

As I described in a previous blog post, Entergy plans to sell Vermont Yankee to NorthStar for decommissioning. Most (but not all) of the intervenors are now supporting this sale. 

The sale must be approved by the Vermont Public Utilities Commission, and the Commission is holding a public hearing on April 12 in Brattleboro. 

Guy Page of Vermont Energy Partnership has a recent op-ed in the Brattleboro Reformer:  Settlement builds foundation for hope at Vermont Yankee.  In this article, he describes how the terms of the settlement will help the Windham County region, and the entire state. My favorite quote from his op-ed:
"For its part, Entergy will contribute an estimated $30 million for site restoration, and also will contribute another $40 million, if needed. 
To its credit, the state did not use the settlement as an ATM machine to fund state programs, as was the practice of some recent administrations."
Supporters, please come!
Guy wrote an email about the meeting to some plant supporters. Here is a partial quote:
The next - and final - Vermont Public Utility Commission (PUC) meeting is scheduled for Thursday, April 12 from 7-9:00 PM at Brattleboro Union High School in the multipurpose room. An informational session will be held prior to the meeting at 6:00 PM.

Please mark your calendars and plan on attending this public hearing. Even though a settlement has been reached, many longtime critics of Vermont Yankee did not participate in the negotiations, and it is likely that they will make their voices heard. The PUC needs to hear from Vernon, Windham County and the rest of Vermont why they support the settlement and why sale of Vermont Yankee to NorthStar is of economic and environmental benefit.
Please attend if you possibly can.

For more information, contact page at vtep.org  
----
Page is a frequent guest blogger at this blog.

(Note: the Vermont Public Service Board has been renamed as the Vermont Public Utility Commission.)

Friday, March 30, 2018

Nuclear Communications, Tribalism, and Kurt Weill

Chatham House
Wikipedia
Nuclear Communications
I just participated in a meeting on nuclear communications: the meeting ran on "Chatham House Rule." According to the Rule, I cannot say who participated in the meeting, or what individuals said.  I agreed to participate  under this Rule, and I am abiding by that agreement.  Chatham House Rule allows to me use the "information received" but without attribution. I received a lot of information.

Luckily for me, "who was there" and "who said what" was the least interesting part of the meeting.

Tribalism
A major point of discussion was what I will call "tribalism."  People are far more invested in remaining in good standing in their group than in careful evaluation of data. Not being "in" with your group can get you in big trouble.  Humans can only survive in groups. Throughout evolutionary history, a single human, without any group, will soon be a dead human.

Since tribalism is a deep human trait, it is true on the right and on the left.  It turns out that most people who claim that there is no significant issue about man-made climate change are aware of the evidence and science of climate change. Similarly, most people who say that nuclear will not help ameliorate climate change are aware of the evidence that nuclear plants are major sources of low-emission electricity.  (Various presenters at the meeting showed evidence for these statements.)

In other words, right or left, people are not uninformed. They are not stupid.  But, as humans, they are far more serious about group membership than about scientific controversies.

Can we solve the problems of tribalism?
So what do we communicators do about this tribalism?  That was a major discussion point at the meeting.  It did not end with a clearly defined answer.

The answer that I derived for myself was that
we should invite people to accept nuclear, without imposing any kind of loyalty oath.  

Not "accept nuclear because of climate change" for the people who don't publicly accept man-made climate change, and not "accept nuclear because renewables are bunk" for people who are invested in renewables as the way to stop climate change.

Many people, many reasons
There are many reasons to accept nuclear. In contrast, it is unreasonable and even arrogant for communicators to expect people to throw away their group loyalty in order to be pro-nuclear. Different pro-nuclear arguments are compatible with different kinds of group loyalties.  To a large extent, this is why my husband and I put together the book Voices for Vermont Yankee.  In that book, we captured the statements that ordinary people made in favor of Vermont Yankee.  We would never have thought about many of the things that other people said.

As communicators, I believe that we have to open our hearts to the fact we are all human, and everyone needs to be included in some kind of a group.  When we open our hearts to people and do our best not to threaten their group membership, they may open their hearts and minds to nuclear energy.

The role of professionals, and a lesson from Kurt Weill
This wasn't my first rodeo. While I learned more about tribalism at this meeting, I knew about it when I walked into the meeting.

What was new to me was meeting people who had a strong anti-grassroots-advocacy stance. These were pro-nuclear people who felt that most grass-roots advocacy backfired and made things worse. They felt that advocacy should be left to trained professional advocates.

Wow.  Well, first of all, as I wrote a friend after the meeting---advocacy by trained professional advocates hasn't worked, has it? Here's an edited version of what I wrote to some friends who had also been at the meeting:
We should leave nuclear communications to the professional communicators because us free-lance communicators will screw it up?  NO!  The nuclear industry has had professional communicators, with carefully crafted “messages” and brand-recognizable color schemes—had this stuff forever!  Has it worked?  NO! What nuclear needs is people who will step up and communicate their own personal  pro-nuclear message in their own communities. We need all the voices, even if they are not in perfect agreement with each other.

Sort of Worked, Actually
Well.  I have to acknowledge something here.  "Has it worked? NO!" is  too harsh.  The nuclear industry would be much worse off without the professional public relations it has sponsored and continues to sponsor. We have some excellent PR people working for us.  However, these professionals are not enough.  We need grass-roots advocacy. We need ordinary people to communicate their pro-nuclear opinions in their own way.   We need people to communicate at their local meetings and to their own neighbors.  To write letters to the editor at their local newspapers.  And perhaps, even to make their own mistakes and learn from those mistakes. It's not like the professionals have never made a mistake!

Free Speech, Democracy, Kurt Weill
Pro-nuclear people should feel empowered to speak out.  It's about free speech, democracy, and our fundamental values as a society.

In Kurt Weill's song, "Caesar's Death," Weill makes a strong and universal statement.  Hiding behind the professionals is "hiring clever men to do our thinking for us."  This leads to disaster.


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
Millennials 
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.  https://energy.gov/ne/millennial-nuclear-caucus Videos of the Caucuses are at the U. S. Department of Nuclear Energy Facebook page
https://www.facebook.com/NuclearEnergyGov

UPDATE: The next Millennial Nuclear Caucus will be March 7 in Washington D.C. https://www.eventbrite.com/e/millennial-nuclear-caucus-tickets-43452885751

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
https://www.facebook.com/NuclearEnergyGov/videos/215074865735271/

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 earthlink.net. 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!

Sunday, February 18, 2018

ISO-NE Consumer Liaison Group meeting March 1


On March 1, the Consumer Liaison Group (CLG) associated with ISO-NE will hold its quarterly meeting near Portsmouth, New Hampshire. Meetings are free and open to the public, and include a free lunch. (Rather a pleasant lunch, usually, not just some dry sandwiches.)   I am on the Coordinating Committee for the CLG.  

The topic for this meeting is "How Have the Region's Wholesale Markets Evolved Over Time? Why Should Consumers Care?"  In other words, this meeting addresses the heart of consumer concerns with the grid.  I encourage you to attend. You can also register for phone access, and the slides are usually posted.  

The graphic above is merely a screen shot, so the links don't work.  Here are the links that do work:

Most important: Register here (includes information for offsite access)


Wednesday, February 7, 2018

The Oil-filled Grid: Communications

Early January Nor'Easter
Wikimedia, NOAA
Oil on the Grid

About two weeks ago, I wrote a blog post The Northeast Grid and the Oil. This described our early-January polar weather, and how Northeastern power plants could not get enough natural gas in the below-zero weather. Homes had priority for natural gas delivery, and plants that could use oil switched from natural gas to oil.

As a matter of fact, the oil stocks were also getting depleted.

I want to update the cold-snap story with some other posts. The general public doesn't read my blog, so I did some outreach. I wrote an op-ed about the grid for my local paper, the Valley News.  The op-ed was printed on the front page of the Sunday Perspective section on January 28, and has been shared around 200 times on Facebook. Oil Kept the Power Grid Running in Recent Cold Snap.

Why were people so interested in the article?  Because a secure electric supply is an important part of personal safety during extremely cold weather.  Most home furnaces require electricity to spread the warmth into the household. People who have chosen heat pumps are also dependent on reliable electricity.

Nuclear plants and pipelines and controversy, oh my!

There were more articles on the situation, of course, not just mine.  Actually, I think there were too few articles.  Nearly running out of oil when you can't get gas---this can be a major deal during severe winter weather! I will point out some interesting articles, and I hope that people who read this will send links to a few more.

Rod Adams post described the "sobering statements" made by the grid operator about oil supply, and the weird statements made by nuclear opponents.  (Pilgrim should have shut down before the storm? Really?) He shares some graphics from ISO-NE on the weak performance of solar panels during the days of the crisis.  He also discusses Pilgrim going off-line, and whether that could have been prevented. As usual, his post has an active and informed stream of comments. Performance of the New England power grid during extreme cold Dec 25-Jan 8, at Atomic Insights blog.

Meanwhile, over at Forbes, several columnists were commenting on the situation.
Jude Clemente wrote What Happens When You Don't Build Natural Gas Pipeline
David Blackman wrote Amid Deep Freeze, New Englanders Can 'Thank' N.Y. Gov Cuomo For Their High Energy Bills
Christopher Helman wrote Natural Gas Demand Hits Record As Cold Bomb Targets Northeast

Over WBUR radio, Bruce Gellerman has a fascinating seven minute segment on how the power plants actually operated during the cold snap, including an interview with a manager of a peaker plant that runs about 800 hours a year. Do We Need More Natural Gas Pipelines?

There's a lot of controversy built into all these articles. The role of nuclear.  The need (or not-need) for more natural gas pipelines. Will new emissions regulations make handling the next cold snap much harder? Did renewables make a great contribution during the cold snap?  Or not?

The Electric Supply

A steady electric supply is hugely important to winter safety. In my opinion, it should not be such a subject of controversy.  My hope is that  reason will prevail, and we will have the nuclear plants, pipelines and energy security that we need.

Saturday, January 27, 2018

The Northeast Grid and the Oil

ISO-NE Report on Cold Weather Grid Performance

It was dramatically cold here in the Northeast from late December through January 8.  Temperatures of ten below were common. The grid used amazing (30% or more) amounts of oil, as the power plants could not get gas. (I wrote a couple of blog posts about this, which I reference at the end of this post.)

On January 16, ISO-NE issued a report on the grid behavior during this period. Cold Weather Operations, December 24, 2017 through  January 8, 2018.  This document is worth reading.   Frankly, in my blog posts, I simply did not know how bad things were becoming on the grid. Let me quote viewgraph 11 of the ISO report:
"As gas became uneconomic, the entire season’s oil supply rapidly depleted"

Pictures speak louder than words

This is a story best told in graphics.

As I noted earlier, the generation mix on the grid shifted heavily to oil. On December 24, 2017, oil supplied 2% of grid electricity. On January 6, 2018, oil provided 36% of the electricity. ISO slide 14 shows this very effectively.

Slide 14
from ISO report
Double click to expand
Other illustrations are from the same report

Update:  Ed Pheil pointed something out to me: if I don't explain that demand on the grid was rising between 12/24 and 1/1/, the decline in nuclear's share of the grid electricity (from 39% to 27% etc.) is inexplicable.  Did the nuclear plants go off-line?  No. But there are only so many nuclear plants, and they can make only so much power.

The chart below shows a steady line of "daily generation" for the nuclear plants.  It is the green line near the top of the chart. There's one exception: Pilgrim went off line when a transmission line failed.   You can see the dip.

Thank you to Ed.  This was a necessary clarification.

Slide 13


Local natural gas prices soared, while Marcellus shale prices remained fairly steady.  Electricity prices followed the natural gas prices. However, generators that could switch to oil did the switch. Oil was was less expensive. Natural gas prices rose about 30 fold (from around $3 to around $90, as shown below)

Slide 30


Due to power plants using lower-priced oil, however, prices on the grid rose from around $50 to around to $450/MWh, only a ten-fold rise.

Slide 55
Oil Depletion

The region was burning oil far faster than it was replenishing it.  On December 1, we had 68% (of the maximum oil) available to power plants.   On January 8, we had 19%.

Slide 21
For a more dramatic picture, ISO shows a single power plant's oil supply, which went from an eight-day supply to a one-day supply over the same period.
Slide 22
There are many important slides.  For example, slide 17 shows how the generators that were enrolled in the ISO-NE Winter Reliability Program really picked up the slack, and slide 18 compares the amount of oil burned in the two weeks of cold with the amount of oil burned the previous two years.  (More was burned in the two weeks of cold.)  

And then there was all the scrambling to keep things going. Slides 35 and 36 show that there were emergency conference calls about the grid---pretty much every day.  

What have we learned?

Much as I dislike burning oil for power, I dislike widespread outages even more.  I give ISO-NE tremendous credit for the Winter Reliability Program, and for keeping the lights on.

According to the last slide in the ISO program, replenishment of oil is the key issue for reliable operation during cold weather in New England.  ISO-NE is correct,  according to their charter.

slide 62


However, the ISO-NE charter is limited.  For me, the important thing is to keep Northeastern nuclear plants operating. Nuclear plants are thoroughly reliable.  (Yes, Pilgrim went offline due to a transmission line failure.) Nuclear plants keep making electricity, no matter what the weather might be, as long as there is a transmission line to send out their power. 

In cold weather, we need reliability. In cold weather, we need nuclear. 


----

Earlier blog posts:

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Advocates, NEI and Unions. Advocates are essential.

Vermont Yankee when it was operating
Entergy withdraws from NEI

Entergy and NextEra have announced their withdrawals from the Nuclear Energy Institute.  http://southeastenergynews.com/2018/01/18/two-utilities-withdraw-from-leading-nuclear-energy-trade-group/

This could simply mean that these companies prefer to hire their own public relations firms and lobbyists.  Eliminate the middle man, etc. Another possibility is that nuclear energy issues are so state-specific that an institute focused on Washington has become less relevant.  I can think of  all sorts of reasons why this "may not be so bad, really."

But I think it is bad, really.   I consider these major withdrawals from NEI to be very bad news for the nuclear industry.

To me, this also means that ordinary people who support nuclear energy have to be out there, supporting it. The big institutions may not be doing their part in the future.

Update: In a post today, US Industry Faces Watershed Year, Dan Yurman has further background on events at NEI, plus links to this post and other posts on the need for advocacy.

Entergy faces union issues about decomm

Usually, I don't write about "labor negotiations are ongoing..." etc.  However, according to this LOHUD article, Indian Point Strike Deadline, one of the big issues in the on-going contract negotiation is whether current plant workers will stay on to do the decomm, or whether Entergy will turn over the decomm to a separate company: "Topping the list of worker concerns is whether they will have a role in the years-long dismantling process that will follow Indian Point's shut down. "

This just in: Talks have broken down over the weekend. Whether the union workers will be doing the decomm continues to be a major contention. https://www.lohud.com/story/news/local/indian-point/2018/01/20/indian-point-talks-halt-weekend/1051511001/

Keeping the current workers on-site will be difficult, because the people who operate a plant have different skill sets (and usually higher pay) than the people who decommision a plant.

If Indian Point was going to operate for another twenty years, this entire issue would be irrelevant.  Plus, New York would continue to have clean power.

To me, the union request means that ordinary people who support nuclear energy and plant operation have to be out there, supporting it.  

Two News Items, One Conclusion

The big institutions (NEI, unions) are changing their roles. The nuclear industry needs its supporters, now more than ever.  It needs all the people who are willing to write letters, talk to their representatives, speak to a high school group or a Rotary, hold a rally, teach a class at the local community college, everything.

Nuclear advocates: the people of the world need you more than ever!

I am somewhat cheered by the number of pro-nuclear groups that are active now, and the number of pro-nuclear books that are currently being published.  And the videos, blogs, white papers, etc. Still, we pro-nuclear advocates are need to up our game, be out there, be effective.

It's up to us, now.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Watch Carbon Dioxide Emissions in Real Time

Carbon Dioxide and Nuclear

The first meeting of the nuclear energy study group at Dartmouth was true to its name: Nuclear Power for Climate and for People.  Bob Hargraves gave an excellent presentation on carbon dioxide and the role nuclear energy can play in carbon dioxide abatement.

I sent the class members links to sites where you can watch the carbon content of the electricity sector, pretty much world-wide.  Here's the note I sent.


https://www.epa.gov/ghgemissions/sources-greenhouse-gas-emissions
Carbon Dioxide Emissions

Our first session was mostly about climate change.  In general, the electric sector is only part of the problem: industry, heating and transportation are important sources of carbon dioxide emissions.  However, almost all decarbonization plans for those emissions involve using electricity in other sectors: electric cars, heat pumps.  So the carbon dioxide content of the electric sector is essential, right now and in the hopefully-decarbonized future.

Real Time Electricity

Screen grab of electricitymap selection at 11 a.m. January 20
Now, back to the  electricity sector.  Interactive sites are fun, because you can watch them in real time.  Or maybe I just have an odd idea of fun....

Here's a real-time, interactive map of world-wide CO2 emissions. Many (but not all) countries are on it. https://www.electricitymap.org/?wind=false&solar=false&page=map

Little stuff: To move between areas in the map, click and hold. While holding, you can drag the map around with your mouse. You can also zoom in and out with your mouse. Wind and solar are listed as "false" above, because I have not checked the "wind solar potential" boxes. I am suspicious of the word "potential." I want real time data, not projections.

France and Germany

For fun, let's click on France, which is green on the map.
France is at 39 grams CO2 per kWh right now (it generally hangs around at that level)
96% low carbon electricity
25% renewable (hydro, I believe)

Okay, next, let's click on Germany.
Germany is at 470 grams CO2 per kWh (it is at that level a lot, but sometimes goes down to the 300s or even high 200s.  Watch it for yourself.)
It has 42% low-carbon electricity
22% renewable, probably hydro and wind

The difference between the low-carbon and renewable numbers is nuclear--low-emissions but not renewable.

Data is from around 9 a.m. this morning, January 20

New York, Ontario, Alberta

From EmissionTrak at 11 a.m. January 20
This website gives a week's worth of emissions for New York, Ontario, and Alberta. The source of the emissions is color-coded. http://emissiontrak.com/cei/nyOnAb.html

Ontario is mostly nuclear and hydro, New York is mixed, Alberta is coal and natural gas.  I think their "other fossil" is coal. Coal is--- "He who must not be named."

Fun with Maps!

Enjoy these maps. I think "playing around" is the best way to find out stuff. Have fun. We will see you Thursday!



Thursday, January 18, 2018

Nuclear Energy Study Group at Dartmouth OSHER

Black Swallowtail Butterfly
Wikipedia
Dr. Robert Hargraves of Thorcon Power (the Do-able Molten Salt Reactor) and I  will begin leading a four-session study group this afternoon. The study group is a course at Dartmouth OSHER, and the title of the course is Nuclear Power: For Climate and for People.

The course is oversubscribed (has a waiting list).  I always have some butterflies in my stomach before starting something new.  Anything new, despite how familiar some parts of it might be.  Yes, I have taught other courses and been on many stages. Yes, that helps.

I remember an Aikido sensei who told my class: "If you have butterflies in your stomach, make them fly in formation."

I am starting a new course this afternoon, with Bob.  All right.  Get in formation, butterflies!

Nuclear Power:
For Climate and for People

MIT Prof Kerry Emanuel, in his 2017 OSHER@Dartmouth summer lecture, raised awareness of the potential for nuclear power to reduce CO2 emissions that force global warming. Building more nuclear power plants is opposed by many on the grounds of health, safety, and expense. Fission power plants can provide inexpensive, ample power, especially for developing nations desperate to advance prosperity of growing populations. In four sessions we’ll cover the arguments against and for nuclear energy.

We’ll  first have a tutorial on energy, power, sources, uses, value to civilization and prosperity, energy poverty, and civil unrest where there is little. Second, we’ll review Emanuel’s lecture and book on global warming, CO2 in the air and ocean, the solar/ wind bandwagon, and the politics of IPCC, Kyoto, and Paris.  Third, we’ll cover how nuclear power works, why it’s opposed, and the future potential of energy cheaper than coal. Finally, we’ll cover activities of social organizations fighting for/against nuclear power.

There are no required texts for this course.

Robert Hargraves has taught OSHER@ Dartmouth courses on energy, politicized science, and internet money.
Meredith Angwin led The Grid and other courses for OSHER@Dartmouth.

4 sessions, 2:30 PM – 4:30 PM January 18 through February 8, 2018 DOC House - Hanover, NH

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Vermont, "Hot Air," and Puerto Rico

Grid prices in the Northeast.  Running about 37c per kWh at 1 p.m.
You can double click to enlarge the graphics.
Graphics are screen shots from https://www.iso-ne.com/isoexpress/
Vermont

Vermont remains in the deep freeze. It was minus 5 here when I wrote this at 8 p.m. Saturday, and it was about zero at 1 p.m. Saturday when I took these screen shots.

The weather is actually colder now, Sunday morning.  It is minus 15 at 9 a.m. Fuel oil is supplying 37% of the grid now, and the price is around $300/MWh.  I'm going to use the screen shots I took yesterday, because things have not changed very much.  As usual, all charts are from the ISO-NE  ISOExpress web page.

On Saturday, fuel oil supplied over 30% of the grid electricity, and the price of power was bouncing around like crazy between $200 and $400 per MWh (five minute LMP graph at left).

Fuel mix (34% oil) at lower right,
5 minute LMP graph at left totally schizoid:
20 cents to 40 cents per kWh and back, rapidly

Meanwhile, with significant wind chill out there, wind was about half of renewables, and renewables are 11% of the grid, so wind was contributing about 5% of the power. (Same today, Sunday, but wind is about 40% instead of 50% of renewables.)

Wind is about half of the renewables now


Meanwhile, the fuel supply for New England has been getting a bit dicey. (It seems to be hanging in there, for which I am grateful.) According to an article in Reuters, Frigid weather sends heating prices soaring as energy usage spikes, spot gas prices in New England soared to a record-breaking $82.75/mmBTU before falling back to a more normal $3.80/mmBTU. More tankers are heading to the U.S. These tankers are not on a mission of mercy. Right now, the East Coast is the most high-priced market in the world for oil. The tankers can get their best prices, right here.

Coast Guard icebreakers have been used (probably still being used)  to keep open the ports of Boston, New York and Philadelphia.  A Coast Guard icebreaker was even needed on the Hudson River. Overall, the grid is working okay and I am not very worried.

But I must say:
I appreciate the Coast Guard!

Hot Air and Puerto Rico

Meanwhile, some of my earlier posts got some play in bigger media.  Jazz Shaw is a major contributor to the widely read blog Hot Air. On Thursday, Shaw wrote New England Wanted to Use All Renewable Energy...Then It Got Cold. This is a very well-referenced and well-written post.  Shaw quotes my blog extensively, and he also puts the issues in New England together with Rick Perry's aim of rewarding reliable power plants.

I should also mention that Hot Air is a very widely-read blog. As soon as the Hot Air post referencing my blog appeared, email after email arrived: "Hey Meredith, you were on Hot Air!  Great going!" It was fun.

Most of these emails came from my friends, but one note was from someone new to me.  A man who writes the Dark Island Puerto Rico blog wrote to say that Vermont and Puerto Rico seemed to be having some similarities.  He also wrote a blog post about this, also: Weather and Wind Problems.

I have been enjoying reading his blog. Puerto Rico has pretty much disappeared from the main stream news, but there are still huge areas without power. I find it very interesting to hear from a person who is really there, thoughtful and critical of about the recovery effort.  He has posts on the fate of wind farms, the useful possibility of battery back up for solar (but you still need a source of reliable power), how small modular reactors could be used, how cogeneration could be a robust future for Puerto Rico.  I recommend his blog http://darkislandpr.blogspot.com

They say there it is "an ill wind that blows nobody any good," which means that even bad situations can have some good in them.  The situation on the grid isn't great, to put it mildly.  However, my recent blog posts have introduced me to two new blogs: Hot Air and DarkIslandPR.  That is some good, and I appreciate it.

(Note to my readers: the Hot Air blog is mostly political, and DarkIslandPR is mostly about energy.  I don't want people to get the impression that I think the two blogs are very similar: they aren't. )

Thursday, January 4, 2018

A Hole in the Community: When a Nuclear Plant Shuts Down


A hole in the community


What happens when a nuclear plant shuts down


Vermont Yankee

At its peak, the Vermont Yankee plant generated more than 70 percent of the electricity made in Vermont. It was the largest, most reliable source of clean energy in the state and one of the largest plants in the New England grid.

But like many other nuclear plants around the U.S., Vermont Yankee was no longer economically competitive and was losing money for its owners. Its closure would cause harm across many states – and for many years.

The environmental and economic effects of closing Vermont Yankee were severe, and they were completely predictable: air pollution increased, as carbon-free nuclear energy was replaced by natural gas; energy costs increased throughout New England, with utilities warning that customer bills could rise 50 percent or more during the winter; and the region’s economy slowed as 1,000 jobs and $500 million in annual spending dried up.

Most painful, though, was the human toll on the Vernon VT, community as nuclear workers were forced to leave behind loved ones and neighbors in search of work.

In the two and a half years since Vermont Yankee closed, many good people had moved on. Someday, the community might recover. But it will never be the same.

Economic Lessons

When he made his political case that Vermont Yankee should be “retired,” then-Gov. Peter Shumlin promised a “billion-dollar bonanza” for the state. Shumlin argued that, in the short-term, decommissioning a nuclear plant would provide employment, income and spending on par with a functioning power station. While Vermont Yankee was operating, it employed more than 600 people with salaries averaging more than $100,000 a year. Those dollars cycled through the local economy, creating hundreds more indirect jobs.

But closing the plant was not a jobs bonanza – it was a jobs cliff. Hundreds of people lost their jobs, and nowhere near that many jobs were created or likely to be created. To contradict Shumlin’s assertions, I looked at the history of other nuclear plants that closed. What I saw wasn’t pretty. One of the lessons learned about decommissioning was that a closing plant must downsize its staff quickly and aggressively, in order to decommission within the budget of the decommissioning fund.

Lessons learned were everywhere, but they weren’t happy lessons. Wherever a nuclear plant closes, the pattern repeats itself: employment and average incomes fall, which means that tax revenues that fund schools, government services, roads and communities fall, too. To make up the losses, tax rates must rise. In general, the first tax rate to rise is the local property tax.

At the same time, the departure of nuclear workers increases the number of houses on the market, and lowers property values. Local businesses also suffer as temporary workers hired for periodic refueling outages no longer come to town: the outage contractors no longer rent rooms, eat at restaurants, buy groceries or fill their cars with gas. They no longer give the area economy a cheerful boost of workers making good money, with money to spend.

Emissions of carbon and other pollutants rise as clean nuclear energy is replaced by plants that burn fossil fuels. And when a nuclear plant’s around-the-clock supply of electricity is turned off, the law of supply and demand dictates that energy prices must inevitably rise. Even though natural gas prices are low now, when a nuclear plant closes, it creates more competition for the natural gas and the price of gas rises. As natural gas prices rise, so do electricity prices.

About the people

NJ Needs Nuclear: Patty from PSEG on Vimeo.

Nuclear workers are highly skilled, highly trained and highly sought-after. There are jobs to be found at other nuclear plants – for someone who is willing to uproot and leave their friends, their kids’ schools, their churches, their doctors, their favorite restaurants, their church choirs or their poker buddies.

I believe these quotes, left by anonymous commenters on my blog, Yes Vermont Yankee, help illustrate the human side of the story:
Yes, I relocated. No, it was not easy. Selling a house, buying another one, moving, finding a new house with the right schools. Moving away from grown kids. Moving away from grandkids. My wife had to leave a job that she loved …”
“There is no way I will come close to breaking even on selling my house, not with the housing market the way it is … We have elderly parents and we don't know how we are going to manage ...”
In some cases, families were split as one spouse moved to take a new job at a faraway nuclear plant, while the other stayed behind to allow children to stay in school. A plant closure could break up a family for months or years.

Change will never be easy, and it will be harder for some than for others. But plant employees will move on, and they will live well.

For younger people, living well probably means getting out of town, taking their lumps on the declining local housing market and starting anew. Older people may see the loss of a job and community as a betrayal of their lifelong work and plans, and may be less able to start over or go somewhere new.

Today, Vermont Yankee is closed, and the region is forever the worse for it: More carbon in the air, fewer jobs, higher taxes and rising electric bills for those who stay. At one low point, during town meeting, the town of Vernon decided to disband its police force and sell off the cruisers. They could no longer afford their small police force. Hard decisions had to be made.

The Bottom Line

For a plant closure, it is comparatively easy to assess the bottom line in monetary costs.

Economic input to the area down severely, taxes no longer collected, energy prices going up. The human cost – people losing their jobs, becoming discouraged and displaced as they are forced to move to new areas – cannot be calculated.

I believe the nuclear industry will survive. Nuclear workers are smart and resilient. I think the future will work out well for all of them.

I’m less certain about the communities left behind.
_____________________________________________________
The above column is sponsor-generated content from New Jersey Needs Nuclear.
----------
Note: This article is reblogged. It was first printed as sponsored-content in Politico.
http://www.politico.com/sponsor-content/2018/01/02/a-hole-in-the-community

 I wrote this article a while ago. It is partially an update to my earlier article Circles of Pain Around Vermont Yankee closing