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Trump’s Assault on Solar Masks an Epic Crisis in the Nuclear Industry


#1

Trump’s Assault on Solar Masks an Epic Crisis in the Nuclear Industry

Harvey Wasserman

As Donald Trump launches his latest assault on renewable energy—imposing a 30 percent tariff on solar panels imported from China—a major crisis in the nuclear power industry is threatening to shut four high-profile reactors, with more shutdowns to come. These closures could pave the way for thousands of new jobs in wind and solar, offsetting at least some of the losses from Trump’s attack.


#2

The Sun loves us. Anything beyond her power is greed.


#3

The US senator referred to in the article was Carl Levin. Sander Levin is his brother, a US rep.

Also, this article basically states that the US can not compete with China on solar panel production, despite 10% of current installation being American-made panels. Frankly, I’d prefer to see the experiment play out.


#4

good point on sander levin. will correct.

the tariffs are absurd. won’t help domestic manufacturing. the 2 main companies are german & chinese owned. just another trump stupidity.


#5

So you’re confirming that US manufacturers are simply unable to compete with foreign manufacturers, right?


#6

“In northern Ohio, massive wind potential is also poised to create far more jobs than are currently in place at the two reactors,” This is an entirely irrelevant comparison. You know whats more valuable than 20,000 jobs? 16,815 GWh of annual electric generation. That’s more than ALL solar and wind in the entire state combined. That’s 6% of all electricity in the state of Ohio.

Heres another great fact: Nuclear has NEVER been immediately replaced with solar and wind in world history. This means if you get rid of these plants, one of two things is mostly likely going to happen. They are going to be replaced with coal or replaced with natural gas; both of which are worse for the environment than the nuclear plants.


#7

There are, according to the WHO, about 7 million deaths per year from fossil fuel air pollution. That works out to about 800 deaths per hour.

Chernobyl was the worst imaginable nuclear power disaster, a primitive reactor design with no containment structure suffering a total meltdown. Again according to the WHO, this event caused less than 50 direct deaths with another 4000 possible eventual deaths (decades later) from cancer.

If you distrust science, or believe believe the WHO is part of a global pro-nuclear conspiracy, you can take the numbers pulled out of the air by the likes of Greenpeace or FoE, who will claim death tolls anywhere between 100,000 to about 250,000.

If we take the WHO numbers based on science the Chernobyl incident killed the same number as 5 hours of deaths from fossil fuel pollution. If we take the extreme figures from the anti-nuke lobby the deaths from Chernobyl would be equivalent to 2 weeks of deaths from fossil fuel pollution.

The anti nuclear lobby is responsible for millions upon millions of deaths, as they will also be responsible for the upcoming catastrophe of climate change. Think about that next time you anti-nuclear activists and supporters are claiming to be green or socially responsible.


#8

“But the California commission cut PG&E’s take to about $300 million. To continue running the two fast-deteriorating old reactors would require massive capital repairs. The company also has admitted that all of Diablo’s power can be otherwise produced with zero- and low-carbon green technologies.”

Oh really? I call absolute BS! Diablo Canyon contains two 1100 MW Pressurized Water Reactors that generate 18,941 GWh annually. Just how much is 18,900 GWh?

  • 18,900 GWh is 14.9 times as much generation as Topaz Solar farm that contains 9 million solar panels (you would need 134 million CdTe 22% efficient solar panels at this facility to match Diablo Canyon). This project would take up 156 sq miles of land.

  • 18,900 GWh is 7 times as much generation as the Alta Wind Energy Farm (largest Wind farm in the USA) that contains 750 turbines (you would need 5,289 turbines at this facility to match Diablo Canyon). It was take 352 sq miles of land for such a project.

Heres the reality, under the current contract California now has 6 years to miraculously replace 18,900 GWh of electrical production with some resource. Given the fact that the largest projects in California combined don’t even make up 25% of the generation of this plant and it took 4- 6 years to construct these projects I am dumfounded by this idea that solar, and wind are going to replace this nuclear reactor. The amount of time it would take to construct enough solar panels and turbines is greater than the timeline to shutdown the plant- meaning that it is impossible to claim that the state will have zero-carbon sources replacing these reactors.

Instead we are going to see exactly what happened with San Onofre Nuclear Power Plant, where natural gas replaced all of its production, under the guise of “clean energy” environmentalism. What a crock of bs.


#9

To be fair the reason why Diablo Canyon is closing is more closely related to concerns of Fukushima. However, that being said the concerns are still completely bs. The story goes something like this:

  1. Fukushima Daichi is flooded by a tsunami from the 9.1 magnitude Tohoku earthquake in 2011. This would later result in a meltdown and hydrogen explosion that released radioactive contaminants into the atmosphere.

  2. Following the scenario at Fukushima, geologists at California analyzed two fault lines that were similar to a fault system near Japan. The issue in Japan was that two strike-slip fault lines were connected, and when an undersea megathrust slip occurred the energy released during the event was compounded by the connection of the two fault lines. California does actually have a relatively similar fault system with the Shoreline and Hosgri faults, except that the faults are located closer to the coastline, they are smaller than the ones near Japan, and the oceanic sediment is different near California. Please note that this geological situation is a real concern for the state as it can create a very powerful earthquake. Risk analysis has shown that it could potentially result in a 8.0 magnitude earthquake.

  3. When this geological data was found, the state (who was already against Diablo Canyon for some time) claimed that this data proved that the plant was no longer safe and needed to be terminated because the NRC had rated the plant to only withstand a 7.5 magnitude quake. After a very long fight between PG&E and California Lawmakers it was decided that Diablo Canyon would terminate early in 2024 and 2025.

  4. While the geological conditions present a legitimate concern for the area the connection between Diablo Canyon and Fukushima that the lawmakers pushed is completely inaccurate. The most significant inaccuracy is that the Tohoku earthquake did NOT cause the meltdown, the hydrogen explosion or significant structural damage to Fukushima Daichi Nuclear Power Plant. The cause of generator failure, pump failure and coolant loss was due to the subsequent tsunami- NOT the earthquake. The reason why this is so important to recognize is that Diablo Canyon does NOT face risk from a tsunami like Fukushima Daichi did.

  5. Fukushima Daichi was located at 33 feet above sea level and was protected by a 30 foot seawall, which the tsunami cleared. The tsunami hit the reactor with maximum wave height at 42 feet. Now compare this with Diablo Canyon that is located 60 feet above sea level. Not only is Diablo Canyon located over 15 feet higher than Fukushima Daichi, but a tsunami from the Hosgri-Shoreline fault would not produce wave heights to that of which hit Fukushima Daichi due to smaller fault size and closer distance to the coastline. The State of California inaccurately related the events of the Tohoku tsunami to the predicted worst case scenario of the Hosgri-Shoreline Fault, and proposed an event that has zero statically probability of occurring. It is impossible for lower magnitude earthquake to produce a larger tsunami that would hit Diablo Canyon, which is why their predication is so ridiculous and scientifically inaccurate.

“The high rake angle results for the Hosgri fault show only minor tsunami development at DCPP, with amplitudes of 0.75 m. The results for the 7° rake angle shows even smaller amplitudes.” Figure 9-2 indicates that maximum wave height of a tsunami from the Hosgri-fault would be about 3 meters or approximately 10 feet, which is much lower than the 60ft elevation of the Diablo Canyon Plant.

http://peer.berkeley.edu/tsunami/wp-content/uploads/2010/09/PGE_tsunami_Apr2010.pdf

  • It should also be noted that Fukushima Daichi was not the only Nuclear reactor impacted by the earthquake and tsunami. The Onagawa Nuclear Power Plant was actually closer to the epicenter of the earthquake and was hit with 47 meters waves. Granted this plant was located at a higher elevation, but the plant actually suffered no meltdown, and no structural damage. It is simply amazing how environmental lobbyists targeted a single plant that was impacted and proposed the exact same scenario would occur in a completely different plant that has very different geographical conditions.

#10

So which is it? A 30-foot seawall as you claim in #5 above, or the 19-foot seawall mentioned in the wikipedia article you linked to?


#11

I don’t trust Wikipedia as much. 30ft wall comes from my Stanford source (its actually measured in meters, but I converted). Either way that’s not really the point you should be focused on, as the concern is the elevation of the plant.


#12

A couple of nuclear nunchucks commenting here are pretty brain dead. No nuclear power plant is clean or safe. They all leak and leaks lead to death.

Nuclear power plants do not run without taxpayer funding and will be cleaned up by the taxpayer after profits have been taken.

Without nuclear power plants there would be no nuclear weapons.

Almost all nuclear industry supporters are liars. Do not waste your time reading their BS.


#13

The concerns I’m focused on are the high cost of building the plants, the spent fuel rods, and the incredibly devastating results of an accident.


#14

“The concerns I’m focused on are the high cost of building the plants, the spent fuel rods, and the incredibly devastating results of an accident.” How is this related to Diablo Canyon?
Additionally:

  1. The capital cost of Diablo Canyon is not the reason why the State of California terminated the operations of the plant. The state did attempt to force the plant to upgrade the structural stability of the plant to be able to withstand the force of a magnitude 8.0 earthquake, but given that no other project in the entire state has this criteria despite increased risk of even more seismically active fault lines like the San Andres such a proposition was ludicrous. There is also no evidence that earthquake loads of that magnitude would cause severe damage to the plant and result in a radiological contamination. It was obvious that the state was creating expensive standards for the plant so that the utility would be forced to close Diablo Canyon.

  2. I find it highly suspect that California lawmakers are so concerned over spent fuel waste, when BOTH senators voted against the Yucca Mountain Nuclear Depository plan. The politics against nuclear is unbelievable, where politicians claim that nuclear has no proposal on how to fix nuclear waste, but when the nuclear industry actually submits proposal these same lawmakers consistently an unequivocally vote against them. .

  3. The analysis of a disaster is over-exaggerated as California Lawmakers are projecting an impossible natural disaster. You cant just take a specific scenario in Japan and then relate it exactly to completely different reactors in a completely different location in California. The soil sediment is NOT the same, the distance of fault lines to the coast are NOT the same, the angle of fault is NOT the same, the elevation of the reactors are NOT the same, the type of reactor are NOT the same, the regulatory standards for backup coolant are NOT the same. How on earth could you possibly expect the exact same disaster of Fukushima at Diablo Canyon if all the variables are different?


#15

Before you make claims against nuclear reactors, perhaps it would be wise to actually do some research into nuclear engineering, nuclear science and the current nuclear industry.

“Nuclear power plants do not run without taxpayer funding and will be cleaned up by the taxpayer after profits have been taken.”

  • This is true to an extent that state and federal loans are given to utility companies to operate nuclear reactors, just as they are given to literally every major energy project in the USA. Nuclear plants have very high capital costs for a long list of reasons (ex: historical extrapolation of military LWR models since the 1950s, highly technical and complicated systems, cumbersome regulatory standards), so these loans are typically very high value. However in regards to decommissioning cleanup nuclear owners are actually required by law to appropriate funds from revenue for future cleanup throughout the life of the reactor- this is NOT taxpayer money.
  • Also the Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982 required nuclear reactors to pay tariffs for the funding of nuclear waste projects- this is NOT tax payer money.
  • Sometimes additional funding is required for nuclear waste clean up outside of decommissioning funding as regulated by the NRC and organized with efforts by the DOE. In this case sometimes the EPA Superfund is used to pay for cleanup efforts. It should be noted that the EPA’s superfund is paid for by petroleum feedstock (something the petroleum industry is constantly outraged about)- this again is NOT taxpayer money.

“Without nuclear power plants there would be no nuclear weapons.” In the crudest sense of this sentence this is true, as you need to transmute Uranium 238 into Plutonium 239 in a nuclear reactor and you need enrichment facilities to produce 90% grade uranium for nuclear weapons.

  • HOWEVER, COMMERCIAL REACTORS DO NOT PRODUCE NUCLEAR WEAPONS. Commercial nuclear reactors use a maximum of 5% enrichment uranium during cycles (in the USA by NRC regulation), and plutonium 239 is kept in spent fuel rods and maintained as waste in dry cask storage. Only military reactors reprocess waste for the collection of plutonium 239 and Uranium 235 for the production of weapons. In fact in a recent Dartmouth College published study it was found that commercial nuclear energy has NEVER increased nuclear proliferation throughout the entire world in 65 years.
    http://www.dartmouth.edu/press-releases/nuclear_energy_programs_do_not_increase_proliferation.html

#16

I will provide a video by Argonne National Laboratory that details some of the reasons whey nuclear reactors have such high capital costs related to their designs throughout history. This is a particularly good video because it is made from the view of a risk analysts, so despite his bias towards nuclear he does not shy away from the real causal problems of the current state of affairs for the nuclear industry.

Personally I am not even a supporter of the current nuclear infrastructure, as I believe we should have transitioned the nuclear industry a long time ago into fluid system reactors like Molten Salt Reactors. Instead of increasing the amount of necessary redundant safety systems in Light Water Reactors the chemical and thermodynamic properties of MSRs maintain safety regardless of scalability, which in turn would decrease overall liability of the reactors while also reducing costs.

The two most significant ways in which this is done is by using chemically solvent salts as coolant instead of water and by maintaining liquid fuel instead of solid fuel rods.

  • Light water reactors use water as a coolant, which is an inherent safety flaw. First of all water has a boiling point of 100C, and the typical operational temperature of a LWR is 315C. This means that all LWRs have to pressurize their coolant in order to keep the water a liquid (for neutron transfer purposes during a nuclear reaction). Obviously this is a concern, because increased pressure under high heat puts more stress on your overall reactor core and vessel. In Fukushima the reason why the operators had to release radioactive materials through the venting lines, was because pressure buildup from the decay heat would have triggered a reactor vessel rupture. Second water is a molecule made of two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen atom. In LWRs water undergoes a chemical reaction with zirconium cladding on fuel rods, which leaves excess hydrogen in the reactor core. In Fukushima this was the main culprit for the containment breach, as excess hydrogen was released through venting lines but escaped and reacted with oxygen in the air causing the explosions.

  • By comparison, Molten Salt Reactors use chemical salts (fluoride, sodium or chloride), which have boiling points ranging from 1400C to 1650C. This means that in MSRs the coolant has a higher boiling point than the operational temperature of the reactor (750C- which is important btw*), therefore there is no need to increase the pressure of the reactor. Additionally these salt coolants do not contain any hydrogen, so there is no issue of hydrogen reactions in the reactor core.

  • Light Water Reactors use solid fuel assemblies that are held in place with liquid coolant surrounding the reactor. From a safety point of view this is a concern, because if the coolant boils the solid fuel assemblies can overheat and melt- aka what a meltdown is. Especially considering that these reactors are already using a coolant product with a relatively low boiling point there is increased risk of this happening (to be clear the calculated risk we are discussing is very low, but when comparing the relative risk to MSRs the risk is much higher than that of MSRs).

  • By comparison, a MSR has fuel dissolved into the salt coolant as a liquid. Since the fuel is already a liquid, when introduced to excess heat liquids expand (like sea levels increasing due to heat), which means if the reactor overheats it will naturally decrease fission reactions as neutrons will have a harder time reaching other atoms in the liquid. Additionally since the fuel is already a liquid it cannot by its very nature melt, which means that MSRs literally cannot meltdown.

  • There are also some added safety benefits of liquid systems such as the case of Salt Block containment. In MSRs an additional cooling containment structure is positioned below the reactor core, where the gap between the reactor vessel and cooling containment is refrigerated. In the event of power loss or runaway decay heat this area will no longer be cooled and liquid fuel can flow into the separate containment structure for additional cooling. Because the fuel is liquid it can flow into the separate containment passively by the force of gravity.

  • Lastly I wanted to touch on the added thermodynamic benefit of MSRs. These reactors operate under much higher heat (750C), which enables higher combustion efficiencies excess of 50%, and higher fission probabilities of excess of 15%. This indicates that MSRs could actually produce more electricity effectively than LWRs.
  • Now while I am discussing the benefits of MSRs, be sure not forget that these reactors are in fact more complex than LWR models, which is in part why it is taking so long for the NRC to review commercial reactor designs for this technology. There are both advantages and disadvantages to this technology, which I can elaborate on if people do wish to learn more about nuclear reactors.

#17

Then one would expect these deaths to show up in the mortality statistics for people who spend extended periods buttoned-up in close proximity with the power plant for nuclear submarines. Ever seen any corroborating data on that?

I do think today’s reactors are far from ideal and have a lot of room for improvement. But I almost get the impression anti-nukes don’t want to see them improved.

“Nuclear power plants do not run without taxpayer funding and will be cleaned up by the taxpayer after profits have been taken.”

This is one of the few areas where greens sound like Republicans in denouncing the evils of public spending.

“Without nuclear power plants there would be no nuclear weapons.”

Really? What year did we nuke Japan, and what year did the first nuclear power plant go into operation? Notice anything odd about which came first?

“Almost all nuclear industry supporters are liars.”

Are you calling James Hansen a liar?

“Do not waste your time reading their BS.”

Are you really worried about how other people are spending their time, or are you more worried that people might be exposing themselves to ideas you don’t approve of? I’m fine with it either way. I know what people tend to do when they are ordered not to read something.


#18

No nuclear power plant is clean or safe. They all leak and leaks lead to death.

Please tell us how many deaths have been caused by nuclear power generation. You could also tell us how these numbers compare with deaths from fossil fuel burning.

I await your answer with anticipation, but know I am unlikely to receive one, as your post indicates that you prefer to not read anything which contradicts your irrational prejudice.


#19

A perfect demonstration of how the anti-nuclear crowd rejects any facts that contradict their unsubstantiated prejudices. Why don’t you expose the lies if you are so confident and stop hiding in your fact-free bubble?


#20

bs. nukes worldwide will ultimately be replaced by renewables, as well as efficiency & conservation. once the huge subsidies given these dying nukes are done, solartopia will begin.