Energy Policy by Headline

The headline certainly draws attention:

“Switch to Clean Energy Can Be Fast and Cheap”

In energy resource development, “fast” and “cheap” are laudable goals, but are seldom realistic.

Before an energy project can be built, it goes through multiple “processes” (planning, permitting, licensing).

It is also subject to various “hearings” (public, legislative, regulatory, even judicial – see Jim Conca’s take on the recent Supreme Court action on the Clean Power Plan).

These things are not fast nor are they cheap.

In the push to show that an “all renewables” electric grid can be readily and affordably implemented, shortcuts (intellectual and other) should not be taken that overlook what is actually needed to develop real-life power generation projects, much less massively reconfigure the national power system.

To summarize the article reprinted in Scientific American:

Wind and sunshine could power most of the United States by 2030 without raising electricity prices, according to a new study from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the University of Colorado, Boulder.

Even when optimizing to cut costs and limiting themselves to existing technology, scientists showed that renewables can meet energy demands and slash carbon dioxide emissions from the electricity sector by 80 percent below 1990 levels.

In less than 14 years! Hey, what’s not to like about that?

The above assumes that a wide variety of technical, economic, and institutional challenges can be successfully overcome by 2030. For example:

MacDonald and Clack said the key enabler for their high renewable energy penetration scenarios is high-voltage direct-current (HVDC) transmission. Photovoltaics and wind turbines often generate direct-current electricity, so transmitting in direct current removes a conversion step that costs money and saps power.

HVDC transmission lines also have fewer losses over long distances than alternating-current transmission. The authors envision an HVDC network across the United States akin to the interstate highway system, shunting power from where it’s produced to where it’s needed in a national electricity market.

In other words, for the U.S. to make a huge, rapid switch to renewables, the study recognizes that the national transmission grid would have to be significantly re-vamped as well. All in 14 years’ time.Pop Mchx Flying Car 1957

Recall the cover of the July 1957 issue of Popular Mechanics that predicted flying cars would be as cheap as automobiles by 1967.

Blowin’ in the wind

As an example, consider the Northwest’s existing wind generating resources. They are heavily concentrated in the Columbia Gorge, for good reason; that’s where the wind is.

But, there are still weeks when the 5,000+ megawatts of wind generation capacity on the Bonneville Power Administration system isn’t contributing much, if anything, to the grid. Without the availability of firm back-up from hydro and thermal (nuclear, coal and natural gas), there’s real trouble. The lights don’t come on.

The study purports to overcome this challenge by building huge new HVDC transmission facilities to link all regions of the U.S. into a single fantastically huge grid. Imagine the expense, and the technical hurdles, that would need to be overcome to make this work.

So back to the “fast and cheap” scenario and the questions that are not asked.

Question #1: Who will pay for it?

Utilities generally don’t build generation projects because they are fond of the technology; they build them because there is a need, i.e. predicted load growth or retirement and replacement of generating resources. But in either case, there is a planning period that typically spans years before the first permit application is even filed. There is also the matter of securing the many millions, or even billions, of dollars needed to build the renewable resources, transmission facilities, control systems, etc.

Question #2: How long would it actually take to design, reach consensus on and then build a massively different power system?

Different regions across the U.S. have diverse mixes of public and investor-owned utilities with different processes located in various states with different rules and regulations and different environmental, cultural and economic concerns. In California, it took seven years just to reach agreement on and start up its regulatory program for reducing CO2 emissions.

It’s not realistic to think that all of the issues and interests could be addressed and then the new power system completed in 14 years’ time.

Question #3: Why an all-renewable portfolio anyway?

If the goal is to reduce carbon emissions, there are more alternatives than just wind and solar. There is hydro, there is nuclear, there is natural gas (which is less carbon-intensive than coal but way above the other two choices). The report does, thankfully, call for continuing existing hydro and nuclear resources, according to Rod Adams at Atomic Insights, who has delved deeper into it.

What some may not realize is that while the wind is free and the sun is free, the technology to convert wind and sun to electricity is not. It is a very mortal process with voices on all sides wanting a say. See the recent legislative episodes in Vermont.

A recent piece in the Spokane Journal of Business makes the case that in the Northwest, solar, not wind, will be the preferred new renewable going forward. A Bonneville Power Administration project engineer told the Journal:

“What we think we’re going to see is the development of solar energy take off. The cost to build is cheaper, and its power can be on a grid in a matter of months rather than years, as is the case with wind.”

But as long as there is a handful of people saying we can power the U.S. with wind and solar, the mantle will be picked up in the comment sections of energy related articles across the country. “So-and-so said we can do it, therefore we can!”

Question #4: How much new wind and solar generation do we even need in the Pacific Northwest?

When it comes to power resource planning, the Northwest Power and Conservation Council does as thorough a job as anyone of reading the landscape to see what’s on the horizon and beyond.

In the draft for their 7th Power Plan (the final plan is approved but not posted yet), the Council made clear that a non-generating resource is supreme:

“In more than 90 percent of future conditions, cost-effective efficiency met all electricity load growth through 2035. It’s not only the single largest contributor to meeting the region’s future electricity needs, it’s also the single largest source of new winter peaking capacity.”

What comes next? Demand response (we do that). And after that? Modest amounts of new natural gas-fired generation.

With just those three resources, load growth in the Northwest is covered through 2035, as projected, according to the draft plan.

As John Harrison of the NWPCC is quoted in the Spokane Journal article:

“It’s free fuel,” Harrison says. “But the bad news for wind power is that it doesn’t produce at capacity in high or low temperatures. We’ve probably maxed out on wind development.”

The Oregon experiment

That sentiment is also prominent in a recent Oregonian article by Ted Sickinger on the effort to move the state’s two largest investor-owned utilities out of the coal game.

The discussion in Oregon is to shift PGE and PacifiCorp to 50 percent renewables by 2040 (10 years later than the NOAA plan). Both would need to do away with a total of 2,400 megawatts of coal capacity, which means nearly tripling the current amount of wind capacity in the state (from 3,000 megawatts to 8,000 megawatts) if that is the chosen replacement resource. Cost: up to $13 billion.

Sickinger writes, “Yet there is a practical limit to the buildout in Oregon. The wind here doesn’t match Montana and Wyoming, and the windiest sites with nearby transmission on the Columbia Plateau are already taken. To maintain reliability, utilities will also avoid clustering all their wind turbines in one area.”

It’s a daunting task and ratepayers will ultimately decide if the environmental benefits of snipping the coal wire (the coal plants aren’t actually located in Oregon) are worth the estimated costs. But it is a shame that carbon-free nuclear energy is not part of the discussion, given NuScale’s development of homegrown small modular reactor technology. $13 billion buys a lot of NuScale modules. Just saying.

Smart energy strategy

More than aspirational dreaming, we need smart energy strategies – ones that take into account the economic, technical and environmental aspects of energy resource development. And what is possible. Also, one that values existing clean energy resources, such as nuclear.

In the real world the lights have to stay on. The heat pump has to work in the winter. The air conditioner in the summer. The margin for error is very small concerning people’s lives and livelihoods. “Fast” and “cheap” may not always cut it. Reliable and cost-effective will do just fine.

(Posted by John Dobken)

How Serious About Climate Change Are We, Really?

“If we let the world keep warming as fast as it is, and sea levels rising as fast as they are, and weather patterns keep shifting in more unexpected ways—then before long, we are going to have to devote more and more and more of our economic and military resources not to growing opportunity for our peoples, but to adapting to the various consequences of a changing planet. This is an economic and a security imperative that we have to tackle now.” – President Barack Obama in Paris, Dec. 1, 2015

Peter Thiel, a partner at the investment group Founders Fund, wrote an op-ed for the New York Times recently urging President Obama to get behind nuclear energy development and deployment, essentially as John F. Kennedy did with the space program, because of climate change.

Thiel acknowledges the wrong-headed nature of anti-nuclear activists who have spent the past 40 years fighting to cripple development and innovation in the nuclear energy industry, with some success. Their victory has meant dirtier air and more deaths from fossil fuel pollution.

Still, with the catastrophes of climate change looming, surely the scales of logic would tip in favor of using more nuclear energy. Surely.

Thiel writes to President Obama, “Supporting nuclear power with more than words is the litmus test for seriousness about climate change.

Hundreds of readers commented on the Thiel op-ed. Sadly, many of them were just fine with failing the seriousness test. Let’s look at some of their arguments.

The Ramp-Up Argument

To battle climate change effectively requires new thinking at every level – and that seems to be happening in some corners. But not when it comes to changing (nudging?) the mindset of those long opposed to nuclear energy.

From one reader identified as Brian Williams: “First off, it’s impossible to build (and fuel!) enough nuclear plants (400 or so at a bare minimum) to replace fossil fuel generated power… in the time frame needed to avert catastrophic global warming.”



China seems to be doing all right with its efforts to ramp up nuclear energy generation with 140+ planned reactors, 21 under construction. That is more than one-fifth of the current U.S. nuclear fleet. France showed that nuclear energy can be deployed relatively quickly once everyone is on board with the plan. Currently, France gets about 75 percent of its electricity from nuclear energy – 17 percent of that from recycled fuel, according to the World Nuclear Association. See also this graph.

As we have chronicled in this blog, even a simple wind farm can take a decade to permit and build. The number of utility-scale wind and solar farms that would need to be constructed to significantly replace fossil fuel would be astronomical, certainly more than the “400 or so” nuclear plants estimated by Mr. Williams.

Peter Thiel writes that wind and solar now account for 2 percent of global energy production. Even if that number became 20 percent in the next 20 years, it would not be enough to address the magnitude of climate change effects. And the amount of natural gas (or even coal) back-up to cover renewables’ intermittency would significantly negate some of the benefits.

To think the permitting and regulatory (and activist) playing field will be cleared for wind and solar development is folly. It would take about 40 50-turbine wind projects to provide the same power as one nuclear plant; each wind project with a separate process to site and permit. And the only reason to do this is to replace fossil, which is a baseload or full-time resource, which means a gas plant (or two or three) to back up those 40 wind farms. More permitting and infrastructure. And carbon.

China gets about 4,200 TWh of electricity from fossil fuels. Can that be replaced with renewables? By when?

France replaced its fossil fuels with nuclear energy pretty darn quickly.

The Free Market Argument

From NYT reader ando arike: “What Peter Thiel is calling for here is a massive government program to stimulate and develop the nuclear industry…”


Truth be told, without government mandates and subsidies, the wind revolution in the U.S. would likely not have happened at the pace and scale seen over the past ten years.

In fact, one wind industry insider told me 90 percent of wind projects are driven by the Production Tax Credit, which pays wind operators $23 a megawatt hour for the first 10 years of a qualifying project.

Following passage of a renewable portfolio standard (I-937 in 2006) in

BPA Resources (1)

Source: Clearing Up

Washington state, thousands of megawatts of wind capacity appeared on the grid. That wind is now being balanced by reducing the generation of clean hydropower. So taxpayers chip in $23 a megawatt hour for wind and then see reduced hydro production, raising costs there, too?

In other regions, the PTC leads to market distortions.

Now, imagine if governments passed clean energy standards instead, which would obviously include nuclear energy. Imagine if states fought to keep their existing nuclear plants open through smart energy policies. The climate would be better off.

What is the difference between a carbon-free megawatt of wind energy and a carbon-free megawatt of nuclear energy?

The nuclear energy industry is simply seeking market reforms to assign the fair and proper value to the clean air energy already produced. If we face fires, drought and rising oceans, this is some very low-hanging fruit.

The Carbon-Free Argument

 A few comments, though not as many as expected, attempted to make a point that nuclear energy is not carbon-free because of the carbon output of its entire fuel-cycle.

As David from The Bronx wrote: “I hear it all the time, ‘Nuclear power is carbon free.’ This is simply not true. The amount of carbon that is harvested for the construction of a plant puts the entire enterprise in a huge deficit from the moment it comes on-line. This does not even include the carbon deficit for mining uranium.”

The truth of the matter is that nuclear power generation is almost as carbon-free as it gets. Wind is a little better, but it also requires mining of iron ore and production of huge amounts of cement (see graph below from The Breakthrough Institute). And depending on the balancing source (hydro or natural gas or coal), wind could even be worse on carbon. Solar definitely is worse.

Cement Use edit

Here’s what DOE’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory found. Because a single nuclear plant can produce tremendous amounts of electricity, carbon-free, for 60 years, its carbon footprint ends up being negligible in the long run.

Lastly, anti-nuclear energy positions for the past 40 years have resulted in a much higher use of fossil fuels and much higher carbon levels for the planet. Rather than owning that, anti-nuclear energy activists simply ignore it and move on. If one is going to take a position, one should be willing to defend the consequences of that position. Every consequence.

The Waste Argument

The effects of climate change will be devastating if realized. Here in the Northwest they already include wildfires, insect outbreaks and tree diseases according to NASA. In other regions, drought and coastal flooding will wreak havoc.

One way to stop this is to switch to low-carbon sources of energy. One low-carbon source of energy is nuclear.

“Oh, but the waste!”

This is the red herring that will likely survive any amount of ocean acidification due to fossil fuel use. This argument was used unsparingly by many NYT readers.

For instance, MRG in L.A. offered, “Nuclear waste is a catastrophic issue we have not been able to tackle appropriately…”

A “catastrophic issue?” How so?

We have dry cask storage canisters that are well-made to protect used fuelA Small Footprint from the environment for a 100 years. If we aren’t using that fuel in an advanced reactor by then (and if not, shame on us), it can be put into another canister for another 100 years. The point is – it’s well-managed.

One hundred years into the future will Los Angeles still be utilizing the same landfills they use now? What about in 10,000 years? So the concept of setting aside ground for specific uses is not unique to nuclear energy. Every community in the United States already does it. What is unique to nuclear is the amount of space needed – it’s tiny! And unlike landfills and mercury (“Once buried, some of the inorganic mercury in the landfill is converted by bacteria living there into a more toxic form, called organic or methylated mercury.”), used nuclear fuel is a solid that will never reach the environment or people. It’s also a valuable commodity that can be recycled, providing hundreds of years of clean energy. So instead of a landfill and waste, with nuclear used fuel think Fort Knox and gold. Carbon-free gold.

Just Plain Silly Arguments

There were a few of these.

Sharon from Worchester County, Mass. writes: “Hanford, WA. located nuclear waste storage on the Columbia River!!! It is now leaking into said river. Nothing more to say.”

Hanford is defense-related nuclear waste from plutonium processing, which has nothing to do with commercial nuclear energy. Some people confuse the two even here in the Northwest. Old habits and what not.

A New Hope (Same As The Old Hope)

Some who used to be against nuclear energy are changing their minds. It’s happening more and more and that’s a good thing. With new generations fully embracing advanced technology; with more distance put between the Cold War nuclear arms race with the fear that evoked; with the realities of climate change beginning to crystallize before our eyes; perhaps we will see a seriousness to our discussions about our energy future.

And by serious, I mean embracing nuclear energy as part of a low-carbon energy strategy.

As Peter Thiel wrote: “We can keep on merely talking about a carbon-free world, or we can go ahead and create one.”

What comes out of COP21 will be telling.

(Posted by John Dobken)

Talking Nuclear Energy from Washington State to Washington D.C.

This fall, two important meetings moved the Pacific Northwest and the nation closer to the eventuality of Small Modular Reactors on the grid, and to building those SMRs in new manufacturing facilities. One meeting took place in Washington state and the other in Washington D.C. The NuScale Power SMR, born of Oregon State University, was featured at both meetings.

Energy Northwest is part of the SMR initiative: The first commercial NuScale reactors are scheduled to be installed in Idaho with the power going to the Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems (based in Salt Lake City), and Energy Northwest acting as the first operator. Hopefully, this will be the first of many SMRs to be installed throughout the country.

Now to the meetings…

The White House Summit on Nuclear Energy: Nov. 6, 2015

The White House organized the Washington D.C. meeting and reaffirmed the U.S. commitment to nuclear energy. The fact sheet for the White House Summit is titled: Obama Administration Announces Actions to Ensure that Nuclear Energy Remains a Vibrant Component of the United States’ Clean Energy Strategy.

Why? The fact sheet makes clear what some are still reluctant to understand:

Nuclear power, which in 2014 generated about 60 percent of carbon-free electricity in the United States, continues to play a major role in efforts to reduce carbon emissions from the power sector.

As America leads the global transition to a low-carbon economy, the continued development of new and advanced nuclear technologies along with support for currently operating nuclear power plants is an important component of our clean energy strategy.

To summarize, nuclear provides clean air energy and jobs. We need both.

Of particular interest to Washington state, the Summit announced many new initiatives for bringing SMRs to market, and to the grid. One major initiative is…

Simulation Support:

The Department of Energy Consortium for Advanced Simulation of Light Water Reactors is signing an agreement with NuScale to develop modeling and simulation tools. In this cost-shared venture, CASL will install simulation tools on NuScale systems, and NuScale will simulate performance using the CASL tools.

And after simulation comes…

Licensing Support:

The Department of Energy is investing $452 million dollars, over a six-year span, beginning in 2012. This money supports the engineering expenses at NRC that will be associated with first-of-a-kind licensing for SMRs. This is also another cost-share agreement with private industry. Without this type of industry-government cooperation, the cost of obtaining a first-of-a-kind license would be prohibitive. Estimates for a first-of-a-kind license run to over one billion dollars.

You can watch the entire White House Summit on Nuclear Energy at this link.

Dr. Jose Reyes of NuScale is a member of the Innovation Panel, which discusses new types of reactors. This panel begins at 3:05  (three hours and five minutes) into the program. During his portion, Dr. Reyes explains the worldwide potential demand for small nuclear reactors.

We’ve provided a video clip of a portion of his presentation below:


The Washington State Task Force

The Washington State Legislature’s Joint Select Task Force on Nuclear Energy focuses on encouraging the possible role of Washington state as a base for the manufacture of SMRs. As you can see in the Final Report from last year (issued in December) some of the members of the Task Force toured NuScale Power in November 2014.

NETF oct 29

Rep. Terry Nealey speaking during the Washington state Task Force meeting Oct. 29 in Kennewick, Wash.

The Washington State Task Force is an on-going effort, and far more focused than the Washington D.C. Summit Meeting, which seems to have been a one-time event.  The DC meeting was a very nice one-time event, because of the support shown for SMRs, but without the virtues of a task force.

In the document above, you can see that the Washington State Task Force reviews many aspects of developing SMRs, both technical aspects and the possible benefits of new manufacturing in Washington state.

The Washington D.C. meeting did not include any written presentations, viewgraphs or visual aids. In contrast, the Washington State Task force has an abundance of information in presentations.  The 2014 presentations are here. I especially recommend the DOE presentation on  SMR market perspective, and the presentation by Energy Northwest, and NuScale Power.

The meeting notes for 2015 are not yet posted, but they are even more informative. In 2015, NuScale shows a slide in which the components necessary for a NuScale reactor are shown in black type, while the components necessary for a full-scale reactor are shown in light-gray type.




This is a very dramatic slide, despite being all words in black and white!  It shows that SMRs are not just shrunken versions of full-scale reactors: They are truly re-engineered and simplified. Passive safety design can actually be a simpler design.

D.C. and Washington State: Both playing their best roles

I would say that if you really want to know about how SMRs are going to be built and deployed, the ongoing task force of the Washington State legislature has solid information and readable documents. However, I hope that the Nuclear Energy Summit in Washington D.C. will also be helpful to the future of nuclear energy and the future of Washington state.  In that meeting, DOE in Washington D.C. announced it would also play its best role: helping nuclear entrepreneurs access the National Labs, and helping new reactors get licensed.

Washington D.C. and Washington state cooperating on Small Modular Reactors: that would be a win-win for everyone.

(Post by Meredith Angwin)


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

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.

275th Carnival of Nuclear Energy Bloggers

Today, we are proud to host the 275th Carnival of Nuclear Energy Bloggers, here at Carnival Featured ImageNorthwest Clean Energy. The Carnival is a compendium of nuclear blogs that rotates from blog site to blog site. This is Northwest Clean Energy’s first time hosting the Carnival. It is a pleasure and an honor to host it.

Why We Need Nuclear Power: Blog posts from near and far

Sweden Better Not Close Its Nuclear Power Plants – It Gets Really Cold There
James Conca at Forbes

Nuclear power provides over 40% of Sweden’s electricity, has avoided over 2 billion tons of CO2 emissions, and has saved tens of thousands of lives by not burning fossil fuel. Sweden is a net exporter of low-carbon electricity to other parts of Europe. Sweden basically cannot import power during extreme weather conditions. If Sweden shut down nuclear power, what would be the effects?

All of the Above: A Matter of Common Sense
Gail Marcus at Nuke Power Talk

At Nuke Power Talk, Gail Marcus discusses an article that helps rebut the argument that we can meet all our energy needs with solar and wind power. One important point that she raises: there is a big difference between what we can do and what we should do.

Anything but what works: why atmospheric carbon is as high as it is, and what we must do about it
Steve Aplin at Canadian Energy Issues

An objective observer of the current public debate over how to power society without dumping carbon into the air would wonder why we spend so much time discussing everything–except what works.

Looking Toward the Future: Blog posts on new initiatives

Atomic Show #241 – Rachel Pritzker, philanthropic problem solver
Rod Adams at Atomic Show Podcast

Rachel Pritzker is a philanthropist who aims to solve problems, even if the solutions require rethinking long held notions. She is the founder and chairman of the Pritzker Innovation Fund, and the Chairman of the Advisory Board for the Breakthrough Institute. She played a role in the production of Pandora’s Promise, and she is one of 18 authors of the recently released Ecomodernist Manifesto.

In this podcast, Pritzker and Rod Adams talked about the importance of nuclear energy as a tool for improving human prosperity and environmental cleanliness. (Podcast is slightly more than one hour long.)

Seven Amazing Takeaways from the NuScale Expo
John Dobken at Northwest Clean Energy

NuScale Power has developed a small modular reactor, based on PWR technology, and with passive safety features. NuScale plans for these reactors to be deployed in the Pacific Northwest (Idaho and possibly Washington state), as early as 2024. Featured Image

Recently, NuScale staged its first NuScale Expo at the Oregon State University campus at Corvallis. John Dobken reports on presentations including the humanitarian need for small reactors, the business potential for SMR development, and the importance of nuclear energy to the Pacific Northwest.

Money: Market reforms good for nuclear, government reports raise financial doubts

GAO Report details challenges ahead for advanced nuclear reactors
Dan Yurman at Neutron BytesMoney Stacks

The US General Accounting Office has published a major report about the prospects for advanced reactors being developed for commercial customers in the US. The outlook is not especially hopeful. In summary, the government watchdog agency found that:

Reactor designers told GAO they face challenges associated with the up to $1 billion to $2 billion cost of developing and certifying a design. Even with a reactor design ready to submit to NRC, the licensing and construction can take nearly a decade or more before a reactor is operational. The time that the NRC would take to evaluate a design is also a barrier.

Pay For Performance Rewards Reliability and Nuclear
Meredith Angwin at Yes Vermont Yankee

Meredith Angwin reviews the Pennsylvania/Midwest grid operator’s (PJM) recent rule changes for capacity auctions. PJM has instituted “Pay for Performance” rules. The new rules favor reliable plants, including nuclear plants.

MOX plant called out on costs
Dan Yurman at Neutron Bytes

An NGO opposed to completing the MOx facility has leaked a DOE red team report to the news media. The findings in the report cast doubt on whether completing the MOX facility is cost effective compared to alternatives for disposing of 34 tonnes of weapons grade plutonium.

Fighting the FUD: A few blog posts on combating Fear Uncertainty and Doubt spread by nuclear opponents

NIRS firing flak at “pro-nuclear fanatics”
Rod Adams at Atomic Insights

The Nuclear Information and Resource Service (NIRS), a reliably anti-nuclear organization, is worried about some new petitions for rulemaking. These petitions ask the NRC to stop using the linear, no-threshold model as the basis for radiation protection regulations. One of NIRS objections is that changing the regulations might make it cost less to operate nuclear power plants.

The horror.

Seven Amazing Takeaways from the NuScale Expo

NuScale Power staged its first-ever NuScale Expo Thursday and Friday on the Oregon State University campus in Corvallis, Ore. NuEx Event

The event, attended by more than 230 people, included a variety of knowledgeable speakers from government and the power industry, as well as tours of the local NuScale testing facilities.

If the intent was to create enthusiasm about how the NuScale small modular technology has the potential to change the energy world, it was a job well done.

To catch-up the uninitiated on NuScale’s plans, from their website:

NuScale Power has developed a small, scalable pressurized water reactor technology, engineered with passive safety features. The 50 MWe NuScale Power Module provides power in increments that can be scaled to 600 MWe (gross) in a single facility.
The small size and design simplicity allows the NuScale Power Module™ to be factory-built off-site. This makes NuScale plants faster to construct, and less expensive to build and operate. The NuScale Power SMR provides Clients with economical, reliable, and carbon-free generation source.

Here are my seven takeaways from the two-day event.

1. “It’s not a paper tiger.”

NuScale CEO John Hopkins made that statement in his opening remarks. And it resonated. Hopkins spent nearly 25 years with Fluor in a variety of posts before becoming chairman and CEO of NuScale in 2012. He also serves as vice-chair of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. One immediately gets the impression that this is a man interested in seeing things built and built right.

I mentioned creating enthusiasm earlier, but Mr. Hopkins’ main thrust seemed to be inevitability, which is equally important. The path to 2024, the date when the first NuScale facility could begin producing carbon-free power, is a difficult one, yes, but manageable with the tenacity and passion on display from the NuScale leadership. Look at any breakthrough technology or development of the past 150 years and you will find those two attributes in spades.

2. “NuScale has the potential to be larger than Fluor is today.”

Fluor CFO Biggs Porter delivered a big dose of inevitability with his presentation explaining why Fluor took a strong interest in NuScale in 2011 – and put its money where its interest was, to the tune of $170 million and counting. As Mr. Porter made clear, the market potential for NuScale is estimated at 1,500 deployed modules by 2035, leading to the statement quoted above. Fluor is #136 on the Fortune 500 with 43,000 employees and revenue of $21.5 billion.

The applications for the NuScale SMR are varied, from balancing renewables to powering desalination plants. In fact, eight NuScale modules could power a desalination plant providing enough drinking water for a city of 300,000 people. Hello, California?

3. Idaho is just fine with being known for potatoes – and nuclear energy.

This blog has a natural predilection for Washington-grown potatoes, but acknowledges that Idaho really put the potato on the map, as it were. And Idaho is ready to do the same for small modular reactors. With Washington state’s help.

Currently, the plan is to build a NuScale SMR in Idaho. Energy Northwest, based in Richland, Wash., has right of first refusal to be the operator. The power would go to member utilities of UAMPS, the Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems, based in Salt Lake City.


Energy Northwest CEO Mark Reddemann.

During NuEx, Energy Northwest CEO Mark Reddemann explained EN’s role in developing the licensing and training programs for operation and maintenance of that first NuScale SMR. There are long lead times involved and work is beginning in earnest to ensure the licensing and operator training programs are in place well before initial criticality (consider procedures need to be drafted; the trainers who will train the operators need to be trained and so forth).

That’s why recent criticism that SMR activity in Washington state, such as siting work, is “premature” is simply misplaced. Why not be prepared?

The Idaho team at NuEx impressed me with the state’s desire to support the location of NuScale’s first SMR, targeted for the Idaho National Lab on Department of Energy land, near Idaho Falls.

Idaho Falls Mayor Rebecca Casper and Idaho Department of Commerce Director Jeffery Sayer, who also spoke passionately about his state, played up the “nimble” and “collaborative” nature of Idaho (and its politics) when it comes to welcoming and developing business partnerships. In other words, they can make it happen.

“Idaho is ready to provide the leadership. This is leadership that NuScale needs, that nuclear needs. And we want to bring this project across the finish line,” Mayor Casper told the NuEx audience.

Mayor Casper is a big fan of nuclear energy and that’s why she’s on board. But also, as it should be with all mayors, her community comes first – and she sees a brighter future in partnering with NuScale so she’s creating the environment for hosting the SMR and perhaps the manufacturing plant to build them.

Could Washington state be home to the second NuScale SMR? As Mr. Reddemann pointed out in an interview, 63 percent of Washington residents support nuclear energy and that number jumps to more than 90 percent in the Richland-area, home to Columbia Generating Station.

“This is the exact opposite of NIMBY. When (electricity) demand recovers, we’d love to be able to build a set of NuScale small modular reactors right next to Columbia,” Reddemann said.

4. NuScale started with an empty room and a $4,000 grant.


NuScale co-founder Dr. Jose Reyes in a NuScale test facility.

New technologies need evangelists and NuScale has a great one in Dr. Jose Reyes, co-founder of the company and its current chief technology officer. One is hard-pressed not to join in his excitement as he explains certain technical aspects of the project’s design, because it appears no matter how many times he relays the information (and it has to be a lot), it still sounds fresh, his eyes still gleam.

In this digital age, recent examples of evangelists are Steve Jobs or Bill Gates. Imagine Apple without Jobs. Would there even be an Apple as we know it with its innovations in technology and design?

Dr. Reyes brings heart and soul to nuclear energy in a vital way for a new technology. When things get difficult, when there are setbacks (as is inevitable), who’s driving the team by reminding them that the heartaches and setbacks are worth it because, after all, we’re changing lives and the world? The evangelist. And the team pushes on and finds a way to succeed because they know it’s important that they do. They know their place in the world and what their success can mean for future generations. That’s what an evangelist can do for you.

From a $4,000 grant to potentially $21.5 billion in revenue? It takes more than a good idea to make that happen.

5. Nuclear energy is safer than Sunday brunch.

Yes, it’s true. Scientist and Forbes blogger Jim Conca was on hand to put the safety of nuclear energy into perspective – in the accessible way he always approaches complex scientific and technical issues.

One of the data points for increased deployment of nuclear energy is its awesome safety record. Mr. Conca utilizes a series of slides to demonstrate just how safe nuclear energy is compared to all the relatively normal activities out there that are actually harming us. The leading category for trouble is iatrogenic illness, what Mr. Conca calls “medicine gone wrong.” You go in for treatment and end up dying. That’s number one. Others include smoking, alcohol, car accidents. There are many things that can do us harm – nuclear energy just isn’t one of them.

Nuclear energy is at the bottom of this list, with a relative danger index of 0.0000001. Eating, or food poisoning, has an index of 0.00008. In the U.S., 25,000 people a year are still killed by food poisoning. None by nuclear energy.

Which is one reason, among forms of energy generation, nuclear, on a per trillion kilowatt-hour basis, is better than all other forms of energy. That’s a fact.

6. “When people are scared, facts don’t matter.”

Dr. Scott Tinker’s presentation laid out the world energy picture now and into the future (with the appropriate caveats about predictions, of course). (Find out more about his documentary “Switch”).

But while all signs pointed to nuclear energy as a necessary, vital part of our energy future, there was also the cautionary statement about the “big lift.” What is it? Public education and acceptance, or as Dr. Tinker put it, “the social right to operate” a nuclear power plant.

Take this exchange recently on social media. Nuclear Comment

With some people, no rational argument will work. Still, engagement is necessary because there are many others for whom it will work, we just haven’t reached them yet.

Going beyond facts is an ongoing and necessary discussion in the nuclear energy universe, because, as Jim Conca explained, during the Cold War we were very good at scaring people about nuclear weapons. Nuclear energy suffered (undeserved) collateral damage.

Just recognizing this communication deficiency is the first step to change, and there are many efforts underway, through blogs, through social media (the team at the Nuclear Energy Institute has been superb), to begin to show the human-side of nuclear energy and that while nuclear weapons are about taking lives, nuclear energy is about improving and saving lives.


Michael Shellenberger of The Breakthrough Institute.

This is the point where Michael Shellenberger and The Breakthrough Institute have been invaluable in beginning to help people understand the true power of nuclear energy to save the environment. Yes, nuclear energy can save the environment!


Shellenberger explained during his talk that nuclear energy uses the smallest amount of resources to produce the largest amount of energy with little environmental impact and leaves the smallest amount of waste. As the planet grows more energy intensive – and it will – nuclear needs to be front and center to lift millions and millions of people out of poverty. More energy means less poverty and more productive lives. Oh, and cleaner air if we get that energy from nuclear.

7. This is the right thing to do.

On so many levels, this is an endeavor that legions of people can embrace. The caliber of people joining the mission is impressive. For instance, NuScale has 17 PhD’s from Oregon State University working for them now. You don’t think they want to play a role in changing the world?

Jobs. Clean air energy. Reliable and affordable electricity. Abundant water through desalination. More renewables through firming. And the safest form of electricity generation made safer.

For those attending the NuEx conference, 2024 can’t come soon enough.

(Posted by John Dobken)

Pain from Closing Vermont Yankee Lingers

On Aug. 27, 2013, Entergy announced it was not ordering fuel for Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant, and it would close at the end of 2014. The plant went off-line permanently on Dec. 29, 2014.

Now, in August 2015, it is two years since the announcement, and seven months since the plant shut down. What are the consequences, so far?

The environment and the grid

The Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant.

The Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant.

Opponents of Vermont Yankee were fond of saying that Vermont Yankee had to be shut down “so we could build renewables.” Others, more quietly, extolled the virtues of natural gas. The natural gas proponents were pretty subdued (“it’s a bridge fuel to renewables and we don’t need much of it because we’re a small state” etc.). Natural gas advocates had to be subdued. Vermont has active opposition to new gas pipelines. Vermont is the home of Bill McKibben, one of the main founders of, a climate policy group. He leads anti-fossil fuel protests all over the country.

So, did Vermont get renewables?

Not really, Vermont has big plans for renewables, but the renewables aren’t available yet. And Vermont Yankee is shut down, right now. Vermont basically did three things: Bought more from the grid (largely fossil fuels including natural gas); tried to buy more from HydroQuebec (but it would take new transmission lines to carry the power), and is buying more from Seabrook Nuclear Station in neighboring New Hampshire.

When the local utilities asked the Public Service Board for permission to buy more from Seabrook, it caused some uproar. Guy Page of Vermont Energy Partnership wrote a short report on Vermont utility plans. As he said: this report hit a nerve. Many articles raised the important question: How green is Vermont, really?

The Seabrook purchase

Let’s look a little closer at that Seabrook purchase. Vermont utilities buying from Seabrook is great for Seabrook: the plant gets a good, long-term power purchase agreement. But it doesn’t change Seabrook’s actual electricity output. The Seabrook purchase is basically a piece of paper. Vermont Yankee no longer makes electricity. Where is the actual replacement electricity going to come from?

The simple answer is natural gas. In other states (not Vermont!) natural gas plants are being built to make up for the closing of Vermont Yankee and coal plants.

Invenergy will build this 900-MW gas plant in Rhode Island.

Invenergy will build a 900-MW gas plant in Rhode Island.

The latest announcement is for a 900 mega-watt natural gas plant, to be built in Rhode Island. The headline in a utility trade newsletter describes the situation: Newly planned 900 MW gas plant will help meet grid operator capacity concerns.

So, as we saw in California with the closing of San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station, the environmental result of closing a nuclear plant is increased carbon emissions. (In its study on Columbia Generating Station, IHS CERA found that Columbia prevents 3.6 million metric tons in annual carbon emissions. Columbia will keep doing that year after year for another 30 years. That’s not an insignificant contribution to cleaner air.)

Well, that’s about pollution and the grid and so forth. What about the people of Vermont Yankee and the area?

The people and the economy

When pressing for Vermont Yankee to be closed, Gov. Shumlin described the possibility of closing the plant as giving a “billion dollar bonanza” to Vermont. What on earth was he thinking? There’s no billion-dollar bonanza. There’s a drop-off in employment, a killing of the local towns, and general misery.

Let’s look at the VY timeline. Entergy kept the plant at full employment until about a month after shutdown. In late 2014, there were 550 employees (down from over 600 earlier in the year). In January, a month after the plant went off-line, 234 people were laid off. This left 316 people at the plant. At that time, the end of January, all fuel was in the spent fuel pools (or on the existing fuel pads).

When the plant closure was announced, Entergy also announced that most of the 316 people remaining in 2015 would be laid off in April 2016. At the end of April, staffing will drop to 127 people. At that point there will be almost no activity except security and some monitoring.

Sometime around 2020, there will be another burst of activity at the plant as the fuel in the fuel pool is transferred to dry casks. (I suspect that little of this activity will be done by people who used to work at the plant. Contractors usually do this type of crane work.) Then the plant will be in SAFSTOR for many years before finally being dismantled. (Read more here).

Yes, I wrote about this jobs-dropoff way back in 2011, when Shumlin was talking up his jobs-bonanza.
Also here.

I wasn’t alone in this. Lots of people knew that there was no “jobs bonanza.” In 2010, there were economic reports done by the legislature and by IBEW (the main Vermont Yankee union). The blog posts above link to these reports. The reports showed that over 1000 jobs would be lost near the plant: (plant jobs and multiplier-effect jobs). Not that it mattered to plant opponents.

The plant closed, and people paid attention

As the plant closed, people actually began to pay attention to the lack of jobs and the depressing effect of the closure on the local economy. A tri-state group did a study of the effects of the closure on the Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts area in which plant staff mostly live. They released the report as a news dump on Christmas Eve last year. This report has been described as “stark.” True enough.

This report showed that the plant closure would lead to the loss of over 1000 jobs in the region. Well, a very predictable report. Many people did economic analyses in 2010 and predicted this outcome. Sheer misery. The anti-nuclear energy ideologues perpetuate a myth that there are more jobs in decommissioning than actually running the plant. Another point on which they are catastrophically wrong.

Entergy tries to help

Entergy has been amazingly pro-active in trying to help the community.

First off, they made a deal with the state of Vermont to give $2 million a year for economic development, for five years, $10 million total. The state has received $4 million to date, but only disbursed about $800,000. The state keeps revamping its guidelines for receiving grants from this money. Gov. Shumlin has the final say on how the Entergy money is disbursed.

Entergy has also made soft-landing deals for the taxes it pays to the school district in town, and recently announced a new grant of $350,000 for nearby towns in New Hampshire.

Nothing helps enough

Let’s be blunt. Entergy is very public-spirited, but its resources for Vermont are limited. It can’t put back the over $60 million dollar payroll that ended when the plant shut down.

Vermont Yankee is not generating any revenue. By the NRC rules for decommissioning funds, these funds cannot be used to pay taxes or for charity. Such funds are only for physical decommissioning of the plant. In other words, whatever Entergy pays to help the Vermont area comes directly out of Entergy’s ability to help support operating plants.

Vermont Yankee is closed, and that area of the country is forever the worse for it. More carbon dioxide in the air, fewer jobs in the area. Perhaps Seabrook and the new natural gas plant are winners, but it isn’t a very nice victory.

I am going to end this with a quote from an anonymous comment on my blog: it’s from a VY employee who got a new job quickly and supposedly had a “soft landing.” I think his comment sums up part of 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. The lying antis don’t care about any of this so long as they get their way…
Vermont deserves everything that is going to happen when the southeast corner of the state collapses from the economic impact.

(Posted by Meredith Angwin)


The Hiroshima Syndrome’s Fukushima Commentary is proudly hosting this week’s edition of the Carnival of Nuclear Bloggers. Actually, it covers the past two weeks of blogs. This time, we have postings by Dr. Gail Marcus, John Dobken, Meredith Angwin, Rod Adams, and Brian Wang.

Click the link below for access to all the postings: