The Hiroshima Syndrome’s Fukushima Commentary is proudly hosting the latest edition of the Carnival of Nuclear Bloggers. This week, they have postings by Meredith Angwin, Dr. Jim Conca, Dr. Gail Marcus, and Leslie Corrice.

Blog topics for this edition include… NY Governor Mario Cuomo’s disturbing attitude towards Fitzpatrick Nuclear Plant, nuclear science week celebrated in the state of Washington, China moves to the forefront in nuclear plant construction, whether fusion is really right around the corner, and the Western Press gets it wrong (again) about Fukushima radiation and cancer.

Click to read more:

Energy Northwest Celebrates Nuclear Science Week

Nuclear Science Week, an annual, week-long celebration of all aspects of nuclear science, including nuclear energy, begins today and runs through Friday. Energy Northwest owns and operates the Northwest’s only commercial nuclear energy facility, the third largest generator of electricity in Washington state.

Governor Jay Inslee issued a proclamation declaring this week Nuclear Science WeekNuclear-Science-Week-2015-Proclamation in Washington. The proclamation reads in part, “…nuclear energy in our state and nation is helping to reduce carbon emissions and plays a vital part in the state’s diverse mix of environmentally responsible energy generating resources…” The proclamation also notes Columbia’s longest continuous operating run, 683 days, which came to an end on May 9 when the plant powered down for refueling.

“I want to thank Gov. Inslee for recognizing the performance of our team in providing safe, clean  energy to the Northwest,” said Mark Reddemann, Energy Northwest CEO. “Our region is leading the way in the next generation of nuclear energy and we are proud to be part of that effort.”

Energy Northwest, NuScale Power of Corvallis, Ore. and the Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems, based in Salt Lake City, are teaming to operate NuScale’s first small modular reactor.

Energy Northwest employees who are members of the local chapters of North American Young Generation in Nuclear and Women in Nuclear will visit Enterprise Middle School in West Richland, Wash. for presentations to eighth-grade students about nuclear energy.

“We always get a great response and a lot of interest from the students when we explain the science behind nuclear energy,” said Jamie Dunn, an engineer at Energy Northwest.

The presentations take place Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday at the middle school.

For more on Nuclear Science Week, visit

Read the full proclamation here: Nuclear Science Week 2015

If more wind is the answer, what was the question?

So false solutions like divestment or “Oh, it’s easy to do” hurt our ability to fix the problems. Distinguishing a real solution from a false solution is actually very complicated. – Bill Gates, from the Atlantic, Nov. 2015

The plans

No. This post isn’t about the game of Jeopardy. That’s not the question. The question is about roll-out of renewables. And how reality factors into that.

Mark Z. Jacobson of Stanford University has written a document about renewables. In The Solutions Project, Jacobson describes how each of the 50 states can switch to 100 percent renewables for all energy use by 2050. If you go to the project website and look at the team section, you will see Professor Jacobson (who is a professor of engineering), with a board of directors filled by solar company executives, lawyers and filmmakers.

Well, that’s the board, and boards don’t need have to have technical expertise in the company’s technology. Let’s look at the staff leadership section, instead. In a renewable-energy not-for-profit, I would expect to see an executive director, an engineering group leader, and a communication group leader. There might be more groups, too, such as HR and fundraising. However, this project has four leaders: an executive director (of course), a creative director (huh?), an executive producer (huh?) and a state program director.

This organization sounds more like a film making company than an engineering organization. I don’t think a “creative director” and a “producer” are the most useful titles, if the goal is changing the energy mix in the United States.

I can’t call the Jacobson document a plan. It’s not a plan. (Maybe it’s a film.) Anyhow, I am going to call the Jacobson scenario “the untested vision.” Let’s look at this “vision” for Washington state, and compare it with the real world of that state.

The untested vision for Washington state

When you visit the Solutions Project and click on Washington state, the infographic shows the state relying on 100 percent Wind Water and Solar (WWS) for all energy purposes in 2050. Yes, WWS is supposed to provide energy for electricity, and transportation, and heating/cooling, and industry.

Credit: The Solutions Project

Credit: The Solutions Project

For 2050, the infographic shows the energy mix as approximately 35 percent hydro, 35 percent electricity from on-shore wind, 13 percent from offshore wind, 15 percent photovoltaic electricity, and a smattering of geothermal, tidal and wave devices. Since there is no biomass and no solar-hot-water or anything like that, it looks as if everything (heating, transportation, industry) will be based on generating electricity.

In another section, Jacobson describes the “ramp-up” to renewables for the state. In this document, he keeps the current level of hydro power for Washington, but phases out nuclear and fossil electricity with an array of wind turbines etc. Then he adds renewables for everything else.

Except for phasing out the clean-air nuclear plant and a small amount of fossil electricity, all the new renewables will go to substituting for gasoline, diesel fuel, home heating fuels, and fuels used in industrial processes. Also, by not including biomass in his plan, Jacobson basically excludes burning any fuel to make power or heat a home. He does imagine a hydrogen-based workaround, starting by making hydrogen with electricity, for some of the transportation sector. However, his transportation sector is mainly electric vehicles, as far as I can tell.

Wow. How to start reviewing this? Okay. Instead of trying to review the whole Untested Vision, I will just look at the wind turbines. (Some critiques of the entire scenario are at the bottom of this blog post.)

In the infographics for the Untested Vision for Washington state, onshore wind will equal current hydropower (35 percent of energy use), and offshore wind will add another 13 percent of the energy. Current hydropower makes about 80,000 GWh per year in Washington state. (For the calculations, see the note at the end of the article). A 3 MW wind turbine with a 33 percent capacity factor can be expected to make 8.7 GWh per year. Therefore, 80,000 GWh from on-shore wind would require something close to 10,000 turbines, 3 MW each, in Washington state. Please note that these are huge turbines (in contrast, the largest turbines at Energy Northwest’s Nine Canyon Wind Project are 2.3 MW), and I have also assumed a healthy capacity factor.

Wind TurbinesThat’s a lot of turbines.

I think it is time to turn away from the Untested Vision and look at the real world.

The real-world thing

In the real world, a small nuclear plant (600 MW, 90 percent capacity factor) can make 4,700 GWh per year with no pollution and very little effect on the landscape. This is one of the reasons that Energy Northwest believes in the technology behind small modular reactors, and has first right of refusal to operate a planned NuScale SMR. The reactor will be built in Idaho.

However, Jacobson rejects nuclear as part of his Utopian Untested Vision, so let’s get back to those wind turbines.

First of all, as I have written in other blog posts, the intermittency of wind means that it must be backed up with other sources of electricity. Hydro is the most common back up, because it can ramp up and down quickly, to balance the wind. Hydro can come up quickly when the wind dies down. However, if there is enough wind, it will not be possible to manage the river as a wind-turbine backup. There are many other constraints on managing a river. Studies are showing the Columbia River as close to topped-out for wind-turbine backup.

Adding a great deal of wind to the Northwest grid probably can not be accommodated without adding fast-ramping gas turbines, also.

Nevertheless, Jacobson imagines more wind turbines on the grid than total hydropower. And the wind back-up will be what kind of energy? I have no idea under what balancing scenario Jacobson expects this to work.

What about current reality, though? Is wind being added to the local grid right now? Yes and no. Basically, it isn’t easy.

In the real world, in Washington state, there is an excellent wind turbine site at Whistling Ridge, and some people want a set of wind turbines at the site. A project with just 35 wind turbines has been planned since 2007, but it has always been blocked. Two years ago, in federal circuit court, the wind project won the right to connect to the grid. However, right now, the project is facing another challenge in federal appeals court.

This is not an assessment about this particular project. I am just showing that, in the real world, wind projects can be very hard to site and to permit. I don’t think that thousands of wind turbines are likely to be placed in Washington state over the next few years – or even decades.

If wind is the answer, what was the question?

Why is anyone proposing so many renewables? That is a question, and it has a clear answer. We hope to use renewables instead of fossil to achieve clean air and a low carbon footprint. However, Washington state’s electricity sector is already a leader in clean air power production, with hydro, nuclear and some wind. Only about 14 percent of Washington’s electricity comes from combustion sources: the rest is clean-air.

In Washington, the “dirty-fossil” part of the state energy mix is largely in the transportation sector.

However, despite Tesla’s fast-recharge stations (which are still much slower than filing a tank with gas), the transportation sector has not changed substantially. Moving the transportation sector away from fossil fuels would be a victory for clean air. But this victory would have nothing to do with wind turbines. It wouldn’t even have very much to do with adding Small Modular Reactors, which would be far more environmentally friendly than thousands of wind turbines.

The problem with changing the transportation sector away from fossil isn’t the availability of electricity: the problem (basically the “question”) is the price and range of the cars.

So, Jacobson has an unrealistic answer. However, worse than that, it is the answer to the wrong question.

When someone describes an answer, it is worth being certain that they have asked the right question. Thousands of wind turbines are the wrong answer to the wrong question.

(Post by Meredith Angwin)

Notes and links

Hydro calculation: Hydro calculation: The EIA shows Washington as generating 89,000 GWh of hydro in 2012, but only 78,000 in 2013. I have used 80,000 GWh as my rough estimate. EIA also shows Washington as generating a total of 114,000 GWh in 2013. In 2013, hydro generated 68 percent of Washington’s electricity
Two reviews of Jacobson’s Untested Vision:

1) Critical Review of Global Decarbonization Scenarios: What Do They Tell Us about Feasibility? Loftus et al, Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews, November 2014.

Of the various studies reviewed in the document, the Jacobson studies were among the least feasible. The Jacobson studies required very rapid growth of energy efficiency and renewable energy installations. These growth rates were far above anything that has been experienced in the world of energy technology change.

2) Andrew Revkin of the New York Times on how to tell an Energy Thought Experiment from a Roadmap, January 2015:

A Climate Hawk Separates Energy Thought Experiments from Road Maps.

Public Power Week: Why we have reason to celebrate

(Guest post by George Caan, executive director of the Washington Public Utility Districts Association)

George Caan - Portrait

George Caan, WPUDA Exec. Dir.

Sometime today you will use electricity.  It may be in your office, when you make your morning coffee, or when you login to your computer. Electricity is a staple of our lives and of our economy.  October 4-10 is National Public Power Week; a national, annual event sponsored in conjunction with the American Public Power Association recognizing the 2,000 public utilities across the nation that collectively provide electricity on a not-for-profit basis to 46 million Americans. While Public Power Week isn’t a holiday marked on your calendar and won’t likely be celebrated with family gatherings, special decorations, or a large sphere dropping in Times Square, that doesn’t mean it should go by without at least a little recognition – because here in Washington state, not-for-profit, consumer-owned utilities play an important role in meeting the daily electricity needs of communities.

Public Power’s contribution

Washington’s consumer-owned utilities serve more than half of all electric customers while delivering almost two-thirds of the electricity in the state. Public Utility Districts, part of the public power family, serve almost a third of the state’s electricity needs and about half the state geographically. As not-for-profit utilities owned by the communities they serve and governed by locally-elected boards of commissioners, PUDs not only strive to help residential customers maintain comfort in their homes but also work to support local, mainly rural economies. This Public Power Week is a good time focus on the contribution of public power as an economic driver in our state.

Rates and reliability are key factors in attracting new industry to Washington and helping existing businesses thrive. Washington’s PUDs offer the lowest electricity rates in the nation. Not-for-profit services along with local control and local accountability contributes to affordability and reliability in areas served by PUDs, providing a competitive advantage for existing businesses as well as those seeking to expand or to locate in Washington.

A source of clean energy

But affordability and reliability are just part of the picture. Washington’s consumer-owned utilities offer something else in demand by many businesses and industries: clean energy. Washington consumer-owned utilities are far out ahead of the curve nationally, serving customers with some of the cleanest energy in the nation, thanks to our vast hydropower resources complimented by other renewable energy resources and nuclear power. In fact, 95 percent of the resources that serve PUD customers produce zero greenhouse gases, an attractive feature not only for residents but for businesses and industries seeking to power their operations with clean energy.

Energy Northwest has 27 public power member utilities located throughout the state of Washington.

Energy Northwest has 27 public power member utilities located throughout the state of Washington.

Promoting conservation and efficiency

To maximize our existing clean energy resources and keep rates affordable, PUDs have a long history of promoting conservation and energy as a least-cost, environmentally friendly resource. In 2014 alone, PUDs helped customers save more than 350,000 megawatt-hours of electricity. That is enough to power more than 30,000 homes. Industrial and business customers have seen the financial advantage of working with their local PUDs on energy efficiency improvements with bottom line energy savings.

As Public Power Week gets underway, you don’t have to celebrate by carving a large orange gourd or sending out “Public Power Week” greeting cards; just take a moment when you flip on the light switch to remember there are consumer-owned utilities in Washington working hard for you, for our economy, and for our environment.

Bringing together military veterans and the energy industry

(Post by Kelley Ferrantelli, EN Human Resources)

Visit any nuclear energy facility control room across the country and it’s highly likely you will meet a veteran. The commercial nuclear energy industry grew alongside the U.S. Naval Nuclear Propulsion Program – and the relationship between the two programs has grown stronger over the years. Not only in transitioning veterans to civilian jobs in nuclear plant operations, but in the Maintenance, Engineering, Health Physics and Security departments as well. The energy industry, and nuclear energy in particular, provides an outstanding career opportunity for veterans.

Reaching out to veterans

SignageThe Center for Energy Workforce Development, in partnership with the Edison Electric Institute and six pilot electric companies, developed the Troops to Energy Jobs Initiative. This initiative is designed to establish and maintain outreach to groups and companies across the country to assist in recruiting qualified veterans.

As part of the Troops to Energy Jobs initiative, Energy Northwest is expanding our partnership with regional military bases and veterans. As more members of our workforce prepare for retirement, the need for individuals with training and skills for our careers grows. In many cases, military veterans have the training and skills that directly correlate to the skills required for our positions and are a natural fit for the energy industry. Veterans have a strong sense of pride and fit well with our culture of excellence.

This effort is an ongoing partnership which can last for several months or even a couple years for the transitioning service member.

EN staff communicate with local and regional veterans representatives, bases, transition offices and service members directly for transition opportunities. Communication topics include translating military skills to the utility industry, resume preparation, job search skills, interview preparation, job applications, mentorships and networking.

We also participate in local and regional career fairs, including the Washington state Service Member for Life Transition Summit and Hiring our Heroes career fair held last week at Joint Base Lewis-McChord near Tacoma, Wash.

Kelley Ferrantelli and Matt Evans talk with a job seeker at the career fair.

Kelley Ferrantelli and Matt Evans talk with a job seeker at the career fair.

I was joined there by Matt Evans, EN component group manager, and Spain Abney, Operations crew manager. Evans served in the Navy as a nuclear electrician. Abney served as an electrician’s mate on aircraft carriers.

Abney told me he enjoys talking to military personnel making the transition because he can help them translate their military experience into civilian applications. He says this is particularly important when it comes to creating a resume.

Spain Abney, right, provides information to an attendee at the career fair.

Spain Abney, right, provides information to an attendee at the career fair.

Abney can also deliver the message as to why the nuclear energy industry seeks out veterans. “They have the standards. The integrity they teach in the military where they own their performance. And their background and time they spent serving our country is the attitude and aptitude we seek as an employer.”

Nearly 6,000 transitioning service members and spouses were invited to attend the hiring event at JBLM last week. We talked to a number of strong candidates for opportunities in information services, maintenance, operations, radiation protection and supply chain. In addition, we made several connections for additional outreach and partnership opportunities.

Tips for other companies

Hiring veterans into the organization is clearly a win-win. Prior to implementing your strategy, complete benchmarking for best practices for your industry and obtain recommendations on a couple of key outreach partners to start building relationships. Identify a few internal veteran employees to help champion your efforts and help you with your outreach.

To learn more about the Troops to Energy Jobs Initiative, visit:

To learn more about career opportunities at Energy Northwest, visit our website.