Thursday, September 30, 2010

Thursday at the Montshire: Energy Education Project Kick-Off

This evening is the first meeting of the Energy Education Project. The meeting will be held at the Montshire Museum of Science in Norwich at 6:30 p.m. The Energy Education Project is hosted by the Ethan Allen Institute, and the acting president of the Institute, John McClaughry, will introduce the two speakers.

Both speakers aim at putting some of the recent controversies about Vermont energy in an informative perspective.
  • I am going to speak about ISO-NE (Independent Systems Operator for the New England grid). To make good energy choices, people need to know where their electricity comes from, and how it is dispatched and priced.
  • Bob Hargraves will inform people about the history of the Vermont Yankee plant.

I have been pretty busy preparing for this talk, but you can expect some good blog posts after the meeting. I also plan to post links to the talks at the Energy Education Project web site.

The formal mission statement of the Energy Education Project is:

The Energy Education Project helps people in Vermont understand their energy options in terms of cost, reliability, environmental impact and government support.

The informal mission statement is: Energy Information for Vermont...without the hot air!

And yes, there's a tip of the hat to David MacKay's book on Sustainable Energy in the informal statement.

Hope some of you can come this evening!

And if you can't come, please go to the Energy Education Project website, click on the PayPal button and join. We're trying to get a rational message out there, while many irrational things are being said by well-funded opponent organizations. Membership is the Energy Education Project is $30 per year, and tax-deductible. Join now! If you can't join, please consider donating a smaller amount. Thank you!

Here's a link to my post about the project that was in the ANS blog. It gathered some nice comments.

See ya later! Maybe tonight!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

The Energy Education Project

The fellow on the left is Ethan Allen, a famous figure in Vermont. He led the Green Mountain Boys during the Revolutionary War. Actually, he started by fighting against New York State for Vermont's independence before the war. When the Revolution began, he switched from fighting New York to fighting the British. He captured a major British fort almost immediately.

Good move, Ethan.

The Ethan Allen Institute Energy Education Project

The graphic above is the logo of the Ethan Allen Institute, which is hosting the Energy Education Project, a not-for-profit group which will inform Vermont citizens of their energy choices....without hot air.

The idea for the Energy Education Project started this summer. In July, NRC Chairman Jaczko came to Brattleboro and met with seven "citizens groups" opposed to Vermont Yankee. I felt we needed at least one citizen's group to tell the truth about energy. I was very happy when the Ethan Allen Institute agreed to host the Project.

A little about the Ethan Allen Institute and its leadership. The Ethan Allen Institute, founded in 1991, is Vermont's independent, nonpartisan, free-market-oriented public policy think tank. John McClaughry, acting head of the Ethan Allen Institute, is a former member of the Vermont legislature. He holds a M.S. degree in Nuclear Engineering, and spent some of his career at GE

ANS (American Nuclear Society) Announces Project

ANS Nuclear Cafe blog announced the Energy Education Project today. ANS is hosting View From Vermont as a regular feature; here's a link to Howard Shaffer's View From Vermont post of about two weeks ago. Thank you, ANS, for showcasing the Energy Education Project today!

How to Join the Energy Education Project

Yearly dues for the Energy Education Project are $30, but donations in any amount are very welcome. Since the Ethan Allen Institute is a 501(c) 3 Corporation, dues and donations are tax deductible. The membership page includes a PayPal button, as well as an address.

If you don't want to join the Energy Education Project at this time, consider joining our email list by sending an email through the project website.

Our First Meeting, Thursday, September 30

On Thursday, September 30, the Energy Education Project will present Energy Choices for Vermont: 6:30 to 8:30 p.m., Montshire Museum of Science, 1 Montshire Road, Norwich.

At this first meeting, the president of the Ethan Allen Institute, John McClaughry, will introduce the project. After his introduction, Meredith Angwin will describe the role of ISO-NE in grid reliability, and Dr. Robert Hargraves will present a history of the Vermont Yankee power plant.

I hope you can come to the meeting, but not everyone lives close enough to attend. However, everyone can consider joining the project. If you have any questions, please email me at mjangwin at gmail.

We plan to make a difference to the energy debate in Vermont.


I don't want my friends at the Vermont Energy Partnership (VTEP) to call me up and say: "Hey Meredith. What do you mean there's no group now? What are we, chopped liver?" VTEP does a great job, but they have a different organizational and membership structure, slightly different goals, and different activities than the ones we have planned. Of course, we plan to cooperate with VTEP.

A Quote from the Press Release:

Ethan Allen Institute announced the Energy Education Project in a press release on Friday.

The Ethan Allen Institute today announced a new Energy Education Project , designed to educate Vermonters about their energy choices without the usual “hot air.”

The Project will address current issues, such as relicensing Vermont Yankee and the federal legal challenge to Vermont’s method of paying for renewables (Feed In Tariffs). In a broader scope, the Project will provide education about the economics and environmental impacts of conventional and renewable energy generation, including new technology now on the horizon....
The Project plans educational outreach programs including community meetings, energy debates, and social media.

John McClaughry, acting president of the Ethan Allen Institute, says: “Ethan Allen Institute is pleased to host this project. The subject is timely, and the scope of the project fits with the Institute’s mission of building a stronger and more economically prosperous Vermont.

Ethan Allen Graphic courtesy of the Ethan Allen Institute
Graphic of VY 4 VT courtesy of Entergy Vermont Yankee. (It is a lawn sign.)

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Economics and Vermont Yankee

In an earlier set of posts, I analyzed several economic reports about the impact of shutting down Vermont Yankee. I posted the most straight-forward reports as Economic Report Well Constructed. These reports reviewed the situation if Vermont Yankee continues to operate past 2012 with the situation in which it shuts down. With VY continuing to operate, reports show $60 to $80 million dollars a year more disposable income in Vermont, and around $7 million a year in state taxes.

This also translates into jobs lost or jobs gained. The graph of job creation and loss (above) comes from the Legislative Consensus Report, released in March of this year. The comparison between shutting down Vermont Yankee and keeping it open is straightforward, and agrees with results from several other economic studies. The job consequences are shown in the chart above.

Aside: As I discussed in another post, Economic Reports: De-Constructed, the assumptions for job creation for the Green scenarios are a bit murky, so we are sticking to the simple cases. End Aside.

If you double click on the chart, you can compare the black line (Vermont Yankee keeps running, no other change) with the red line (Vermont Yankee shuts down, no other change). You will see that shutting down Yankee leads to a job loss of around 1000 to 1500 jobs in the state. This loss goes on for years. It's ugly.

Rumors and Experience

Recently, however, I have been thinking that these estimates of job loss in the state are far too low.

Rumors about IBM

The rumor is that IBM might shut down its wafer fab plant in Essex Junction and move out of state if electricity rates rise. According to Wikipedia about Essex Junction, IBM has been in town since 1957. According to everyone, including Wikipedia, IBM is the largest employer in the state. Various websites list the facility as having around 6000 employees.

The latest word-on-the-street that I have heard is that some people in Essex Junction are selling their houses and looking for jobs out of state. They believe that the IBM plant will close if Yankee shuts down and electricity rates rise.

Is there any basis for these rumors? Who knows? I do know, however, IBM is very concerned with electricity rates. For example, when Vermont added an electricity surtax to fund Efficiency Vermont, IBM and other large electricity users insisted on a way to partially opt-out of the surtax. So Vermont started the Energy Savings Account program, allowing eligible Vermont business customers to self-administer energy efficiency through the use of an Energy Savings Account (ESA).

Experience with Other Manufacturing

In my day job, I write for various Vermont businesses, and one of my customers has been the Vermont Manufacturing Extension Center (VMEC). VMEC's primary mission is "To Improve Manufacturing in Vermont and strengthen the global competitiveness of the state's smaller manufacturers." VMEC is a public-private partnership, partially under the auspices of the National Institute of Standards (NIST). Among other things, NIST is the home of the Balridge National Quality Program and the prestigious Malcolm Balridge Quality Awards.

On VMEC's web page, Impacts and Successes, the right hand column contains links to many success stories. (I wrote some of these.) I hope you will look at these stories. Think about which of these manufacturing operations probably use a lot of electricity.

A partial list of the businesses of these VMEC clients includes:

Do you think these companies have significant electric bills? I think so.

Would a rise in electricity prices cause all these companies to fold? No. I'm not into the worst-case doomsday scenarios. (I leave that to the plant opponents.) Would it make them less competitive, less likely to hire, more likely to cut someone's hours? Would some of them perhaps fold?

I think so. Look at the companies, and draw your own conclusions.

The Tip of the Iceberg

In between rumors about IBM, and the list of VMEC clients, I believe the economic costs of a rise in electricity rates will be much worse than the legislative report indicates. Much worse. I hate to use hackneyed phrases, but possible job losses around Vernon are "just the tip of the iceberg" for the effects on Vermont prosperity.

It's a big cold iceberg, and we don't need it. If we don't relicense Vermont Yankee, we'll be inviting that iceberg to dinner.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Energy Use and Feminism in My Family

My aunt Blanche Stein Vision is 88 years old. She lives in a retirement building (apartments with lunches and some housekeeping provided) in Arizona. Though the daughter of very poor immigrants, she managed to graduate Phi Beta Kappa from University of Chicago. She went to law school at Columbia University. This was practically unheard-of for a woman in those days.

Later, she worked as a lawyer for the FTC: Federal Trade Commission. If you visit a model home, it may have some labels. For example, the fancy tile in the kitchen may have a sign next to it: This tile choice is an upgrade to the base price of the house. That's Blanche's work. She led the FTC project on mislabeling and truth in advertising in model homes.

She usually reads my blog, but doesn't always comment on it. Two days ago, though, she did comment.

Liked your VY blog today. When I was a real little kid we had a coal heater in the in the kitchen and was not allowed to go near it because if we touched it we could get burned, we had a coal stove for cooking, and we had an ice box that needed to have a large chunk of ice replaced in it every few days to keep the food cold. Who knew any better--but as the finances of our family improved we could move into an apartment that had all the "modern" facilities-- steam heat, a gas stove and a real refrigerator with the electrical mechanism on the top. And my mother was able to go to work. Give me convenience any time! And bless whoever invented the washing machine!

I asked her if I could use this post in my blog. She answered:

Sure, do anything you want with it -- I delight now in the "luxury" of air conditioning, heat, hot water, ice and a cooking surface all that can be summoned with the press of a button!

With much love,


To me, this story is a blending of the third-world energy use and modern energy use, and how energy use affects the life of women. And it all happened in my own family.

19th Blog Carnival of Nuclear Energy

The 19th Blog Carnival of Nuclear Energy is up at Next Big Future. Stories include: Hyperion is building at 25MW Fast Reactor at Savannah River. When the Sierra Club and the Cato Institute agree on why we don't need more capacity, Rod Adams gets suspicious about motives, as in "Hey, doesn't that mean continuing to use the old fossil plants?" Nuclear Green discusses the Molten Salt Reactor. And more, even more! Always something new at the Carnival.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Prosperity and Energy and Convenience Revisited. Warning: Feminist Angle


I wrote a post about how access to energy improves lives in in the third world-- It's the Energy. Why I Love Nuclear. Karen Street, of A Musing Environment blog, read that post. She suggested that I should probably say that I did not mean to encourage rich people to be wasteful of energy. In her opinion, while energy is essential for people in the third world, many people in developed countries use it wastefully.

I thought about her comments and realized that energy makes life better, even if you already use a fair amount of energy. In my answering blog post, Prosperity for Rich Folks, I said that something that looks like "waste" to one person can be very important to the life of another person. The example I used was big refrigerators. I honestly can't imagine how I would have worked and raised two kids without an American-size refrigerator, though many would consider it wasteful.

In response to my post, Karen posted an excellent argument for conservation and moderation in Are we richer if we make perceived convenience the priority?

Karen defined the problem clearly, and I planned to answer her post. Yet...time went by, as it so often does. I didn't get around to writing an answer. However, this morning, Rod Adams posted about efficiency versus abundant energy, and that made me think about the subject again.

Can Nuclear Do It?

The crux of the matter is whether nuclear can provide enough energy for rich people to live a life we consider convenient. If nuclear can provide abundant energy, then everything is fine. If not, I am burning the world's limited supply of fossil fuels for my lifestyle. Karen points out that there is no peer-reviewed study that shows nuclear can provide this level of power for everyone.

I think nuclear can provide large amounts of inexpensive power to everyone in the world. I cannot prove this. Perhaps others can. One could argue that I should live a life of deep energy frugality until it is proven.

By the way, about deep energy frugality. Karen absolutely walks the talk. She has not owned a car since 1991. I have the greatest admiration for her. Karen not only lives a careful life, but she is a clear thinker. As she pointed out, the crux of the matter is whether inexpensive, low-emission power is abundantly available. Or not.

What is Convenience, Anyway?

Back to my fridge. I can't prove that nuclear can provide enough energy, but I do want to talk a little about word choice. I don't like the words Karen used in her essay title: Are we richer if we make perceived convenience the priority?

In my opinion, "convenience" and "perceived convenience" are pejorative terms for people's choices. I chose certain material things (a big fridge, say) because then I could live the life I wanted to live: a scientist AND a wife and mother. My desire to be a scientist and a mommy may have been inappropriate according to some people's ideas. Perhaps it it took too much energy (my own car! a big fridge!) But it was, indeed, what I wanted to do with my life. This is beyond mere "convenience."

So, it boils down to this. If energy is abundant, then my choices were all right. If not, I would have had to choose. I could work, or I could have kids. I believe it is truly as stark as that. Being a working mom is tough enough, using every possible support you can get. If I had to hang the laundry in the morning and take it in if it looked like rain, if I had to shop every day for my family, it would have been impossible to combine motherhood and career.

Aside: I read an early interview with Dr. Chu right after he became Energy Secretary. He talked about biking to work every day at Berkeley. Someone asked him if his wife also biked. He answered something like: "No. She doesn't bike. She needs a car to carry the kids and groceries." My feminist antenna went on full alert. I thought: "Ah, he stays on his bike, riding along on the moral high ground, while she does the schlepping. So admirable! Or maybe, not so admirable?" Yeah. I'm cynical. End Aside.

The Bottom Line

In poor countries, women are liberated from lives of poverty and endless childbearing by access to energy. In rich countries, women are liberated to have both children and careers by having abundant energy. Nuclear power can provide that energy. That's how I see it. I don't have the statistics to back this up, but that's how I see it.

To some extent, a blog is a set of opinions. This is my opinion on women and energy.

The image is a painting by Albert Anker: "Excess" From Wikimedia.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Monday Blue Ribbon: Howard Shaffer and Public Outreach

Howard Shaffer: Knowledge, Outreach, and Perseverance

Howard Shaffer has been an advocate for Vermont Yankee for years. He debates anti-nuclear activists, testifies at hearings, writes for the press, and is a member of the American Nuclear Society Public Information Committee.

The problem with writing about Howard Shaffer is that he is my mentor in nuclear outreach. It's not easy to write about someone whom I admire so greatly. But I'll try.

How I Met Howard Shaffer

I was writing a novel. Specifically, I was writing a mystery, Nuclear Gentleman. Most of the action takes place in a power plant, and my nuclear plant experience was out-of-date. Also, in my working life, I had been a researcher. I visited nuclear plants to solve problems. For my book, I needed information on daily life in a nuclear plant.

I had just moved to Vermont, so I scoured the local newspaper for pro-nuclear letters to the editor. There was a letter from Howard, and it included information on the town in which he lives. He was in the phone book, and I called him up to ask him about life in a nuclear plant. It was the beginning of a wonderful friendship.

I soon learned that Howard had been a start-up engineer on Vermont Yankee, Chin Shan in Taiwan, and a pumped storage plant. He was also an engineer for for Dresden, Seabrook, Watts Bar 1, and a member of the GE SBWR project. Howard is a licensed professional engineer in Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Illinois. He was a Congressional Science Fellow in 2001. He was a submarine officer. His engineering degrees are from Duke University and M I T.

In other words, he can answer almost any question about BWRs with significant authority and practical experience.

What he spends his time on now, though, is outreach.


Howard attends meetings, testifies in writing and orally at hearings and debates against anti-nuclear activists (when they are willing to debate). He writes letters to the editor. His article, The Downside of Nuclear Power, By An Advocate, was published in the Vermont Journal of Environmental Law. ( This Vermont Law School publication is not known for pro-nuclear views!) Despite its title, Howard's article is pro-nuclear.

He also answers comments in local papers, being a strong voice for nuclear when not that many voices are available. Here he is, today, answering a letter from old-line anti-nuclear activist, Gary Sachs, in the Rutland Herald. Or countering a comment from another nuclear activist who commented on a Rutland Herald article. Today, Howard summarizes both the geography and the politics of Vermont in a View From Vermont blog post in ANS Nuclear Cafe.

Teaching Me About Outreach

I don't know how to say this without sounding a bit sappy. Howard constantly teaches me about outreach. He manages to be unwavering in his support of the plant, and a gentleman to plant opponents. Both at the same time. Howard brings handouts to meetings: some that he writes, some he obtains from NEI. He is a firm presence at these meetings, both in what he says and what he does. He talks gently to people on both sides of the fence. He respects people, even when he disagrees strongly with their opinions.

I constantly learn from Howard.

Photograph of Howard Shaffer used by permission.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

The Politics in Vermont

In between the High Holy Days and a reconciliation hymn for September 11, my mind has been elsewhere. It's been somewhere spiritual. Somewhere positive.

Time to bring my thoughts back in balance. No more harmony-with-the-universe stuff.

Time for politics in Vermont.

Governor of Vermont

The Democratic primary was a five way race, with Shumlin ahead of Racine by about 200 votes. The recount finished two days ago. Shumlin also won the recount, again by 200 votes.

Shumlin will run again the Republican Brian Dubie for governor this November. A few things to note:
  • Shumlin won by 200 votes out of 75,000 cast.
  • Dubie has released his financial statement, and Shumlin seems reluctant to release his own.
  • Shumlin spent about $230,000 of his own money on his primary campaign. In Vermont, that's a lot of money. Dubie's warchest, including money from the Republican Governors Association, was about one million dollars shortly before the primary.

For those who tuned in late: Shumlin is eager to shut down Vermont Yankee and Dubie wants to keep it. This excellent Vermont Digger article about Dubie and Shumlin describes the issues around revealing financial statements. The article also describes a new soft-money not-for-profit which is active against Vermont Yankee. And against Brian Dubie.

Soft Money

Green Mountain Future is the new not-for-profit, apparently designed expressly to funnel soft money into the campaign against Vermont Yankee and against Brian Dubie. Political campaign contributions must be revealed. Campaign contributions are supposed to be visible to the public. However, contributions for not-for-profits do not have to be revealed. Green Mountain Future can take any amount of money, from anywhere, and not say very much about who gave that money. This is a great advantage in a political campaign. Of course, such organizations are not supposed to participate in political campaigns.

In this case, a Green Mountain Future anti-Vermont Yankee TV ad is now running on many stations in Vermont. The final words of the ad are "Tell Brian Dubie No." Yet somehow, this is not political. As Terri Hallenbeck of the Burlington Free Press says in a blog post: In the world of fine lines, a nonprofit can weigh in on policy but not come out and tell you who to vote for.

Interesting. If you don't say "vote for Joe," you CAN say "Tell Jim No." You are still an educational-charitable not-for-profit. You didn't actually tell anyone who to vote for, right? Just who to vote against...

And In Conclusion (I hope not)

The Brattleboro Reformer just ran an interesting article called Want a high-paying job? Move to Massachusetts. Thank you to Vermont Tiger blog for leading me to this article.

September 11 and Some Notes

September 11

I can't forget it happened. I don't want it to be a call to war. So I fall back on what I did on the first anniversary of September 11.

I had volunteered to teach a noon yoga class once a week at TIBCO software while they looked for a more qualified teacher. About a dozen people came to my class regularly, including six or seven people from India. Most of the Indian class members were Hindu, but there was one Sikh. He wore a simple headcovering in yoga class, not his turban.

When I first realized that I was going to be teaching on the anniversary, I almost cancelled class. I didn't know what to do. Ignore it? Moment of silence? What?

Finally, I decided to remember the day by using Gandhi's favorite hymn, Raghupati Raghav Raja Ram which he and his followers sang on the Salt March. The original hymn was dedicated completely to Rama. Gandhi added a healing reference to Allah. (That's the kind of thing he would do.)

Beloved, praise Sita and Rama,
God or Allah is your name, (meaning that the supreme can be called by many names)
Lord, bless everyone with this wisdom.

It worked out well in the yoga class that day. All the people from India knew this song and its meaning and its connection to Gandhi. I started the class terrified of singing in public. But when everyone joined in, the lifted voices were warm and loving. One woman in particular had a beautiful voice, and I learned that she had studied Hindu chanting for many years. After the September 11 class, I began asking her to lead a chant near the end of each yoga class.

If I hadn't decided we would sing Raghupati, I would never have known about her voice and her knowledge.

May today be a day of healing for all, and of openness to learning from others.

A Few Notes

The 18th Carnival of Nuclear Energy is now posted at the new blog, ANS Nuclear Cafe. I am particularly fond of Charles Barton's post about pro-nuclear activists: we are people with a viewpoint, not "shills." Steve Aplin of Canadian Energy Issues also reviews anti-nuclear propaganda, a post with the intriguing title Poisoned Rats Aren't Ham. Visit the Carnival! Always something new! Always something interesting!

I also want to point Rod Adams blog today. Rod challenged Mark Cooper of Vermont Law School in a conference call. Cooper, a sociologist, writes papers containing slanted economics of nuclear power. (Cooper often quotes Mr. Lovins, that famous economist.) In this call, Rod asks Cooper one question and he is supposed to be able to ask a follow-up after receiving an answer. He can't ask the follow-up. It doesn't happen. He tries to get back in the queue, he tried everything. No dice.

A technical glitch, no doubt, which was peculiar to Rod's connection.

I also like Rod's post because there's a picture of me in it. It's the jolly group of bloggers in France. In the picture, we are standing in front of the new construction at Flamanville. As I disclosed earlier, Areva paid the majority of my expenses on the trip to France.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

A Good and Sweet Year

For the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah, I wish everyone a good and sweet year of health, happiness and peace.

Friends in Israel, one of whom is a professional photographer, sent me this picture yesterday. It was part of their New Year's email of good wishes. It shows a Sea Daffodil, flowering in August despite temperatures in the 90s and months without rain. (Months without rain is standard for a Middle Eastern summer.) The flower is in the amaryllis family, and many people believe it may be the Rose of Sharon, since Sharon is on the coast of the Mediterranean. It is so beautiful that I wanted to share it on my blog.

May we all have joy, health, and unexpected beauty this year.

And to everyone who reads this, I send the traditional greeting for a good year:

Photograph Copyright to Elisheva Werner-Reiss, and used with her permission.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Tuesday Blue Ribbon: Suzy Hobbs of PopAtomic Studios

A week ago, I started a new feature on this blog. Monday Blue Ribbon, People Making a Difference to Nuclear. My idea is to honor people who are making a difference to nuclear power. It's easy enough to "cover" only the negative. I think: I admire what that person is doing. Then I don't bother to write about it.

Monday Blue Ribbon is my way of giving credit to those who inspire me. I hope this feature inspires others, and helps my readers start their week in an upbeat manner. However, for me, it really comes down to gratitude.

(Yes. I know the feature is running on Tuesday this week. That's because Monday was a holiday.)

Suzy Hobbs, Art, and Reshaping the Vision of Atomic Energy

When I first heard of PopAtomic Studios, back in February of this year, the website did not include the name of the artist. The site had strong art showing nuclear in a positive light, but no named artist. As Rod Adams noted in a February blog post about PopAtomic, this is a quote from her website at the time:

I currently live in an aggressively liberal city and have lefty leanings myself aside from this one issue. That said, the anti-nuclear sentiment in my community makes this experiment particularly challenging. If you know who I am please do not mention my personal info.......Lord knows I don’t want any trouble.

Out of the Closet and Into the Limelight

After a month or two, though, Suzy Hobbs came out of hiding, and began to acknowledge and grow PopAtomic Studios. It is still a small place, and the artists haven't given up their day jobs yet, but what a change there has been in a few months!

  • There are five or six artists contributing to the Studio at any time. Several are listed on PopAtomic's Biography page. Mel Chin, conceptual artist who specializes in public installations and earthworks, is one of Suzy's mentors and will contribute to PopAtomics next exhibit. Dawn Dalto is teaching Suzy slip-casting techniques for a sculpture project involving graphite from the original Chicago Pile 1 reactor. Suzy informs me that these sculptures will be available to order next month.
  • The studio has an Etsy shop on-line, with T-shirts and tote bags for sale. The shop even includes some underwear with the PopAtomic logo. This may be a product for people who want to wear a pro-nuclear logo, but not visibly. People who don't want any trouble?
  • PopAtomic designs posters, ads, and logos. The most recent poster, Green Footprint, is shown below. Other posters are shown on their website.
  • The studio looks forward to bigger art, including public installation art, such as Mel Chin has built. Among other things, Suzy hopes to paint some cooling towers. Her ideas for the Bellefonte Station cooling towers are shown above. These colors were inspired by Mark Rothko and Color Field painting.
  • The PopAtomic studio is organizing as a not-for-profit, with a very distinguished board of advisers.
  • Suzy has brought Atomic Art outreach into the schools with great success. I learned a great deal about how to get people engaged with nuclear in her blog post Art Based Nuclear Outreach Proves Successful.
  • Suzy recently was invited to visit Idaho National Laboratories. This visit will undoubtedly lead to more art and more contracts in the near future.
  • PopAtomic Studios has a beautiful website which is always worth exploring. For example, I just discovered the blog ChickenFist (Blue Collar Art) on the blogroll.

Suzy Hobbs as an Inspiration

I urge you all to visit the PopAtomic Etsy store and buy something, or order your next logo or website banner from PopAtomic.

However, as I wrote this, I realized that the list above felt a little like a resume. PopAtomic does this, PopAtomic does that. That's not enough. I have to answer the question: "Why does PopAtomic inspire me so much?"

Suzy Hobbs and PopAtomic inspire me because they carry the pro-nuclear message in an entirely new way, an artist's way. The bright colors themselves are part and parcel of the message.

The problem with me is that I am geeky to the core. Many of the other pro-nuclear bloggers are the same. We honestly think we can sway people with facts and numbers. Suzy Hobbs and PopAtomic Studios reminds me that it takes more than numbers to persuade people. It takes art, and it takes heart.

Thank you, Suzy Hobbs!

All images on this post are copyright to Suzy Hobbs of PopAtomic Studios, and used with permission. Contact Ms. Hobbs through PopAtomic if you seek permission to use these images.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Vermont Yankee, Reliability and Connecticut: De-Mystified

ISO-NE Insists on Vermont Yankee

Yesterday's post described how ISO-NE (the New England grid operator) required Vermont Yankee to stay in the 2013 forward electricity auction. Yankee had asked to drop out because it has neither a license renewal nor a certificate of public good past 2012. ISO-NE, however, said that Yankee had to stay in the auction because

with or without Vermont Yankee, the system in Vermont has reliability issues that must be addressed; without Vermont Yankee in service, those issues are more severe and could affect neighboring areas.

Since ISO-NE cannot actually force Vermont Yankee to operate, I found this puzzling. I decided to try to understand this incident in a broader context. Or at least, understand it at all.

The Measurement of Reliability

As I did when I was confused about the Hydro-Quebec contracts, I called David Lamont at Vermont Department of Public Service. As before, Lamont was thoughtful, clear and complete, and gave me much more information than I can put in a blog post. Here, greatly paraphrased, are my questions and his answers.

Q. I thought the ISO just dispatches electricity. How can they keep a plant in the energy auction if the plant says it doesn't want to participate, or can't participate?

A. ISO does that if the grid would have reliability issues without the plant.

Q. What do you mean by reliability issues? I mean, I'm not trying to quote the opponents or anything, but the plant does go on refueling outages and electricity continues to flow.

A. ISO judges reliability by the N minus one minus one method. Basically, when the system is running at full capacity, that is the baseline: N or Normal. It should be able to withstand a problem with a large transmission line (minus one) and still be capable of running properly. If a second major element (usually a transmission line) goes down, everything should still work as expected. That is, we plan for N minus one, and minus one again. That's the level of reliability we build into the system. That's how it's designed.

For the southern Vermont, southern New Hampshire, northern Massachusetts area, we meet that criteria now. But not with very much to spare.

Q. And without the plant?

A. ISO is concerned that the N minus one minus one criteria would not be met if the plant were permanently removed from the system.

Opinion: I didn't ask Lamont this, but I think that if the plant were to have an unexpected outage in the middle of the summer, that would be a minus one condition right there, but they would still meet the second minus one condition. But if the plant weren't there, the plant-outage condition would be baseline, and the grid couldn't take two minus-ones on top of that.

Q. But if the plant is not allowed to operate by the Senate, I don't see it helps anything to have the ISO telling it that it must "stay in the auction." Looks to me like the grid is just going to get a little riskier there, and there's not much the ISO can do about it.

A. No. If it were certain the plant was not going to be available, ISO would have to do something to keep the grid reliable. They would almost certainly have to pull in temporary resources.

Q. ISO would pull in temporary resources? What do you mean?

A. You know, things like gas turbines and diesels and other generating systems that can be moved in quickly. They would probably send out an RFP (request for proposals) for emergency generation. That's what they did in Connecticut.

Q. Connecticut?

A. In 2003, ISO-NE determined that Southern Connecticut had a lot of load growth, but not enough transmission lines. Reliability was compromised. ISO sent out an RFP called Request for Proposals For Southwest Connecticut Emergency Capability. ISO is required to keep the system reliable.

NOTE: I have attempted to summarize what Mr. Lamont said. I do not have a recording of our phone call. Any mistakes that are found in this summary are completely my own.

An RFP for Fossil

Instead of continuing to paraphrase Mr. Lamont here, I shall quote some other sources and give some opinions.

These alternatives could include interim solutions such as emergency generation brought into Vermont temporarily, more expensive generation from outside Vermont, and demand-side resources. Long-term solutions would include transmission line upgrades as well as other possible solutions, such as private development of new generation, increased energy efficiency, and new sources of imported power. All these options will come at an additional cost.

I further quote from the Connecticut RFP about the types of generation they sought (and found) for Connecticut when Southwestern Connecticut no longer met the ISO reliability standards:

Eligible Resources: Five types of resources are qualified to provide the service contemplated in this solicitation. These resources are (a) new quick-start peaking capacity, (b) incremental quick-start capability at existing resources, (c) demand response resources capable of 10- minute or 30-minute dispatch response and eligible to participate in one of the LRP programs that provides for Installed Capacity (“ICAP”) credit, (d) emergency generators capable of 10- minute or 30-minute dispatch response and eligible to participate in one of the LRP programs that provides for ICAP credit, or (e) C&LM projects that result in permanent load reduction sduring on-peak periods defined in Section 6.4. Existing capacity and C&LM projects are prohibited from providing the services contemplated in this RFP.

The Bottom Line

If ISO-NE decides that Vermont Yankee is not going to continue to be available, it would probably have to send out an RFP for Vermont similar to this RFP sent for Connecticut. ISO-NE will keep the grid going, at the cost of emergency generators of various kinds, probably diesel and gas-fired. Wind and solar do not meet the dispatch requirements described above, and coal and nuclear aren't put into place very quickly.

Of course, the dispatch requirements might be different in the Connecticut RFP and in a (theoretical) Vermont RFP in the future. However, we have one model RFP here, and it looks pretty much like "bring me your diesels."

I think that the ISO-NE kept Vermont Yankee in the auction because the alternative was issuing an emergency generation RFP. They don't want to do that until they are absolutely sure it is needed.

Emergency Generation and Renewables

Plant opponents claim that Vermont Yankee prevents renewables from happening. They claim that Vermont would be filled with solar and cow power if only Vermont Yankee didn't exist.

Actually, the future without VY is probably an RFP for emergency diesel and gas fired generation. Next time the plant opponents start to paint rosy pictures of solar panels and wind turbines, ask them about Southern Connecticut. Ask them about diesels.

Important Update

After reading this post, Mr. Lamont sent me an email which explained some other issues. I am very grateful for his review and clarification!

1) An RFP for emergency generation is one of the options that ISO has used in the past to ensure grid reliability. We cannot predict that an RFP would be the option chosen if Vermont Yankee is not available. For example, ISO would also look at transmission line upgrades, load interruption, or other fixes. These may or may not be possible.

2) Reliability improvements will cost money. Ratepayers have to pay for diesel generators, transmission upgrades, etc. Saying that "ISO will issue a request for proposal" may be misleading: ISO does not pay for this sort of improvement, but the cost is shared among ratepayers. Depending on the type, location or cause of the upgrade, it is also possible that a subset of ratepayers (Vermont) can be assessed these charges, or they can be shared by all.

3) Like most power plants, VY plans its outages for the shoulder seasons (spring and fall) when the load is lowest. However, grid reliability is assessed for more extreme weather conditions, usually defined as load equivalent to the load on the 90th percentile hottest day on record. The fact that the grid continues to operate when VY is out of service does not mean that the plant is not needed for reliability. It means that the plant was not out of service during an extreme weather event when several other pieces of load support equipment were unavailable as well.

Vermont Yankee and the Grid. ISO-NE Knows We Need Yankee

The Auction and the Drop-Out

On August 30, ISO-NE held an auction for power supplies in 2013-2014, the Forward Capacity Market Auction. ISO-NE is the grid manager for New England, responsible for power supply and grid stability. As ISO-NE announced in a press release that day, Vermont Yankee dropped out of the auction. Actually they didn't drop out forever. Yankee attempted to do a "dynamic delist" from the auction, which could be temporary.

This led to a certain amount of speculation. What was the plant's motivation for dropping out? Why didn't they drop out months ago? The plant isn't making much money, maybe that's the reason they dropped out?

In my opinion, the plant explained itself well. According to the Rutland Herald, Entergy spokesman Larry Smith said that: Entergy requested not to participate in the auction because Vermont Yankee’s license to operate from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and its certificate of public good from the state of Vermont both expire in 2012 and have not been renewed.

Withdrawing from the auction doesn't mean the plant won't operate past its current license expiration date, but it does mean that the plant isn't promising to operate past that date. The plant refused to make a promise that it might not be able to keep. To me, that seems honorable.

Except, of course, that Vermont Yankee did participate in the auction. ISO New England wouldn't allow VY to drop out.

ISO Keeps Vermont Yankee in the Auction

ISO New England insisted that Vermont Yankee remain in the auction. A few quotes from their press release about the auction:

If the ISO’s reliability analysis shows that the resource is needed, it is not allowed to withdraw from the capacity market....

Vermont Yankee

....Studies for future system needs in Vermont and New Hampshire have been ongoing for more than a year and are being updated to reflect the possibility of a Vermont Yankee shutdown in order to identify impacts on the regional power system. The studies completed so far have shown that with or without Vermont Yankee, the system in Vermont has reliability issues that must be addressed; without Vermont Yankee in service, those issues are more severe and could affect neighboring areas...ISO New England does not have authority to require Vermont Yankee to operate without the appropriate permits and licenses, but it does have the responsibility to ensure a reliable power system. This responsibility requires the ISO to develop alternative solutions...These alternatives could include interim solutions such as emergency generation brought into Vermont temporarily, more expensive generation from outside Vermont, and demand-side resources.... All these options will come at an additional cost....

What Is Reliability, Though?

I have an inquiring mind, which is sometimes a liability. I agree with ISO-NE that we need Vermont Yankee, but I really didn't understand it all.

How does ISO-NE judge reliability? Have other areas of New England ever had reliability problems? If they had problems, what did ISO-NE do about it? Why did ISO-NE keep Vermont Yankee in the auction, if there is a chance that Vermont Yankee won't be operating?

These questions will be answered, but they deserve a post to themselves. Stay tuned for the post on reliability. N minus 1 minus 1.

The Seventeenth Blog Carnival Of Nuclear Energy

The Seventeenth Blog Carnival of Nuclear Energy is up at Next Big Future. New types of reactors, safety on the job in the energy industry. Great stuff! Read and enjoy. Nothing like a Carnival on Labor Day.
Carousel at Avignon, again.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

A New Blog and New Signs. It's a New Year!

Well, it's not actually a new year (Rosh Hashanah) until the middle of next week, but there are new things happening now about Vermont Yankee and nuclear.

New Signs of Support for Vermont Yankee

One of the problem with being FOR Vermont Yankee is...what could you do about it? The opponents had signs and posters and pins and...

But that's old news! That was so Last Year. The New News is that Entergy finally got some signs together for plant supporters. Some signs, some bumper stickers, some campaign buttons, some refrigerator magnets. These all have a simple message:

Entergy quickly gave all their first-printing of these materials to local supporters. They ordered more, however, and the order just came in. You get some of these for yourself and your family. You can adorn your car, lawn, lapel and refrigerator with your support of the plant. Let's be visible!

The email address to ask for pins, bumper stickers, etc is here.

American Nuclear Society Blog

The American Nuclear Society (ANS) has a new blog. the ANS Nuclear Cafe. Cafe is a great word, because it means "a place to have coffee and informal meals" and it also means a place to have small informal public discussions. My husband and I have talked about starting a version of Cafe Scientifique in this area, but it has just been one-of-the-things-we-talked-about. I welcome the ANS Nuclear Cafe blog.

Well, I admit it. I also welcome it because I will be one of the bloggers. ANS acknowledges that what is happening in Vermont is important beyond the borders of Vermont. The new blog will include a View From Vermont on a regular basis. Howard Shaffer (often a guest blogger on this blog) and I will be co-blogging the feature.

Dan Yurman of Idaho Samizdat was instrumental in getting this ANS blog going. Dan and Laura Scheele of ANS Outreach will be in charge of it. Dan has a very informative post about the new Nuclear Cafe, listing some of the guest bloggers, including yours-truly. Rod Adams of Atomic Insights will blog about the view from Washington. The absolutely amazing Ted Rockwell of Learning About Energy will also be blogging. Also, Nuclear Cafe will host the Blog Carnival of Nuclear Energy once a month.

The blog is on my blog roll already, and I look forward to following it.

Double-espresso image from Wikimedia commons.