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Nuclear energy setbacks will harm climate and raise costs for statesFederal setbacks to nuclear energy will harm climate and raise costs for states, says Carol Browner

Source: 
Press of Atlantic City

There is no time to lose in the fight against climate change. We cannot afford to take a single step backward. Yet while we should be running headlong into smart, collaborative and long-term solutions that help mitigate the immediate climate crisis, our federal regulators have instead jeopardized the good progress made toward transitioning our energy systems to zero-carbon sources.

Appointees of President Donald Trump at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission adopted a rule that requires energy sources receiving state subsidies - for example, renewables and nuclear power - to bid at a higher price in the wholesale electricity market. Ostensibly the rule was meant to preserve competition. But instead, it will become more difficult and expensive for some states to pursue policies that support zero-carbon energy sources such as nuclear, wind, solar and other renewables. Ignoring decisions by legislature to manage their own energy portfolio, the decision forces clean, carbon-free energy off the grid. That clean energy will mostly be replaced by highly polluting sources such as coal and natural gas that are cheaper and can bid at a lower cost.

The result of this new rule will be an inherent favoring of fossil fuels over cleaner forms of electricity generation. And as we know, increasing production from these sources will lead to an immediate increase in carbon emissions, harmful pollutants and particulate matter, which directly impacts environmental and public health - putting lives at risk.

The rule also undermines one of the largest sources of carbon-free energy - nuclear power. Illinois where I live ranks first in the nation in net electricity generation from nuclear power, with facilities providing more than half of the state's total electricity. In 2018, nuclear energy production in Illinois avoided adding tens of millions of tons of carbon pollution into the air. If Illinois' six nuclear facilities become at risk for closure, the result would most likely be a dramatic increase in the burning of fossil fuels.

The state also enjoys growing production from numerous renewable sources such as wind and solar. However, that growth will quickly be stifled and ultimately undone by the new order because of a dramatic decrease in revenue from these sources.

Not only is the environment affected, so too are Illinoisans' pocketbooks. In his dissent to the decision, Commissioner Richard Glick estimated the total cost to consumers of this policy change could be as much as $2.4 billion per year. According to a recent study, the new rule could cost Illinoisans more than $800 million per year, increasing electricity costs by 60% compared to today's prices.

Interference from the commission is picking winners and losers in electricity production and will cost consumers money and endanger public health. Now is the time for action. Allowing the commission to undermine clean energy sources would set the state back years in its fight against climate change. This is a mistake that many states cannot afford.

Carol Browner, a member of the Nuclear Matters Advocacy Council, was director of the White House Office of Energy and Climate Change Policy in the Obama administration.

Copyright 2020 Tribune Content Agency.

Discussions

David Svarrer's picture
David Svarrer on Feb 13, 2020 9:21 am GMT

It is very convenient for all the different Energy Sectors, to now make it look as if they are all the "end solution" to the worlds power demand. 

As discussed severally in this good forum, Nuclear Power is seducingly phenomenal in its enormous amount of power in 1 kilogram of enriched Uranium, and

... it is proven to be NOT safe, yet. 

NUCLEAR POWER

Furthermore, the idea of centrally produced energy only makes sense as long as there is a quite huge benefit from magnitude of scale. This is the case indeed for both Nuclear Power, and all the combustible sources of power - but when the energy is taken down anywhere the wind blows, or the sun shines, there is no reason to maintain a distribution net which has the sole purpose of maintaining the energy source being in the hands of a few more or less corruptible entities.

The very reason for the large scale energy consuming industries such as cement, papermills and steel mills etc., is the very same - namely magnitude of scale of savings - and the motivation is typical, old school, Red Ocean, Zero-game "killing of the competition" behaviour. Therefore, it makes no sense arguing that the large scale energy sources must be present because of the large scale energy consumers, as they claim they need the large scale energy sources (circular proof - rejected by the courts..). Both cement, steel, glass, paper and other large scale production can be very efficiently run in much smaller entities, when there is no need anymore to optimize for energy consumption, at the point when there is sufficient with it.

Therefore, while it is very convenient now with the current climate crisis, and while we see even the Nuclear Power sector pushing more than one type of envelope.

WIND POWER

We just read  Mark's article on how the blades of wind mills end up in the land fills, as they are "not recyclable". It has for years been the argument, that the Renewable Energy is a dirty business too. Well. Should we just sit and accept this, or should we do something about it?

PHOTO VOLTAIC (SOLAR) POWER

Was it not my good friend on this site, Mr. Selenko-Bob Meinertz, who mentioned how the Photo Voltaic cells have a dark side - namely - "What to do with them, when decomissioning"? Apparently the Photo Voltaic cells produce severely polluting rubbish when decomissioned. While indeed by factors not similarly dangerous like Nucler Power - then - the problem mentioned is a resemblance of the same problem in the Nuclear Power sector: 1. Nice Energy, 2. Terrible pollution.

And while Mr. Selenko-Bob is truly right that Arsen and similar materials remain poisonous for eternity, the handling of these are not in any way similarly problematic as are the Nuclear Power residuals. 

I here would like to warn ourselves and others from the typical way of arguing a case: "When it is not as dangerous as for instance Nuclear Power, then we should accept it as the least of evils..".

My point is to take a step back and simply conclude that we should not accept any dangerous or poisonous waste or process. There IS no emergency. We DO have the time to find proper, clean, non-dangerous solutions.

X POWER

We need, as those who are professionals in this sector, to start working together, all of us, and stop having partisan opinions on either or the other energy source, and start working on what we can do to produce our power, without all these problems. Nuclear Power need to clean up their act, as theirs may be the by far worse of them all with its potential world scale accidents of which we have seen quite a few already by now - and we need to grab Siemens, Vestas (on Wind), and the hundreds of solar panel producing manufacturers by their ears, and hold on to them like we would do as a teacher does the student - until they stop dirtifying the diaper. 

Apparently the race has for years been on efficiency, at any cost - and the largest cost we have seen, hitherto - is the cost for the environment, and for future life on Earth. 

SOLAR CONCENTRATED POWER

I carefully made my pick, working in the solar concentrator business, more than 20 years ago, due to that it was a known technology way beyond the 1850's start of the industrial age. The Inka's, Aztec's and Greek and Chinese have worked with solar concentration for thousands of years, in ways which did not involve polluting everything and anything around themselves.. 

Therefore, this can be done, again.. Now we have such unfathomable resources and knowledge at hand, just a keyboard and a screen away, and yet, we who work professionally with energy are still behaving as if we need a nanny to keep us clean. 

It is a disgrace, that we cannot, for instance, use an excellent forum like this here - the "Energy Central" - to join forces. I have experienced one partisan comment after the other. Nobody here seem to have any interest except in gathering momentum for this or that sick solution - with little or absolutely no thinking about the environmental consequences.

INVITATION

I therefore invite to, and request Energy Central, to organize a group of professionals who will have the sole goal of working together to start this research work, such that we, in the short term can make use of these energy sources which do not pollute - and in the longer term, can create Wind, Solar and Nuclear Power which is clean - absolutely clean - no residuals for coming generations to sort out a solution to.

I propose that we join forces under the umbrella of Energy Central, in which ever way this can be possible, and begin by taking a look into the various and many source of energy which exists, and start looking into how we can create a stable grid (or a controllable unstable grid if you want), which can WORK for our people, for the industry, without these devastating side effects.

Sincerely

Rational Intuitive IVS (Denmark, Kenya, Mauritius)

David T. Svarrer

CEO and RED Architect.

David Svarrer's picture
David Svarrer on Feb 13, 2020 12:00 pm GMT

The good article above writes:

zero-carbon energy sources such as nuclear, wind, solar and other renewables

Nuclear power is not a renewable...

Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Feb 13, 2020 12:56 pm GMT

but is it not zero-carbon in the same way as solar and wind?

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Feb 14, 2020 3:56 pm GMT

Thank you, Matt, for once again removing chaff from grain.

David Svarrer's picture
David Svarrer on Feb 14, 2020 5:53 pm GMT

Dear Matt, 

but is it not zero-carbon in the same way as solar and wind?

Yes, that is absolutely correct. Solar, Wind and Nuclear power are - during production - all of them zero-carbon.

2 comments on that note:

Zero Carbon does not mean "Renewable".

Zero Carbon in the common perception is different from the scientific / business perception.

 

On the first comment: It is key, I think, that we get our terminology / nomenclature right, as professionals in energy. 

On the second comment: It is also key that we do not let our fears run away with us such that we start promoting any energy form unless we are actually promoting a true fact. It is therefore wrong to call Nuclear Power "Renewable energy". Nuclear Power consumes Uranium and produces seriously poisonous and dangerous waste. 

When discussing "Renewable energy", we are NORMALLY discussing the energy production, distinctively. It would be healthy that we approached all energy forms also from a point of: 

A) What does it cost CO2-wise to produce the renewable energy source.

B) What does it cost CO2-wise to produce the Nuclear power source.

 

It would ALSO be an important thing to discuss, what is left behind, when a power source is being decomissioned, and to take a look at what has actually happened during decomissioning of a power source. 

Examples:

Nuclear Power stations leave humongous, totally radioactive buildings, with typically millions of tonnes of radioactive concrete, hulls, steel constructions. This is a disgrace.

Windmills apparently (see article of Mark, earlier this passed week) leaves huge parts in landfills - such as humongous wings. This is a disgrace. 

Solar energy apparently (see comment by Selenko-Bob, 2 weeks ago) leaves poisonous and potentially dangerous chemicals, when the PV panels are decomissioned. This is a disgrace.

Geothermal energy seem (please correct me if I am wrong?!) to be the least polluting power form when decomissioned. Least does not mean: "Clean". I have found too little about this.

It is key that we get these different sources of energy under control, such that we on an easy and light weight note can decommission the various power systems without having to look the other way in shame or disgrace.

NOMENCLATURE revisited

It is very important that we do not get tempted to use terminology which is misleading. It is important that we all check our sources and that we are willing to learn from each other in this great energycentral media.

These were my 2 gram of enriched Pu

Sincerely

David Svarrer

 

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