Tag Archives: Nuclear

How to save what is left of Nuclear Energy

In the past, most Americans (and probably many Europeans and Japanese) were either for or against nuclear. These days, a large middle area has opened up because nuclear is not fossil fuel, and may have an important role in future energy economies.

Having said that, building new nuclear plants have mostly moved into the pipe dream category. It is jut not happening. But maintaining and continuing to run existing plants is probably important, no what you think about nukes.

Here’s the thing. There are two reasons to shut down an existing plant. 1) It is too old or otherwise unsafe and needs to be closed. This is fairly rare but will become more common over the ext 30 years, and eventually, every one will be shuttered and converted over to nuclear waste storage facility. 2) it is too damn expensive to run.

We need to shut down the type 1 plants. We can have a conversation some other time about the strategy of replacing such plants with new nukes. We should not be shutting down type 2 plants now, because that puts pressure on the industry, which is relatively dumb when it comes to making long term decisions, to maintain or even build new methane, oil, or even coal plants.

But how do we save these type 2 plants from premature decommissioning?

With a carbon dividend. (I do not call this a carbon fee and divided or carbon tax because those terms are inaccurate. See: “The Carbon Dividend Is Not A Tax“)

This post at Think Progress outlines the problem and the solution. Warning: Ironies are exposed, so wear your face gear.

Decarbonizing the not so low hanging fruit

We, we humans, need to stop releasing fossil carbon into the atmosphere well before 2100 or we are doomed.

The main reason we are not heading headlong into that project, getting it done right away, is because of the fossil fuel industry combined with a deep seated self-hate on the part of Republicans, who would rather end civilization and make all of our children suffer than to do something an environmentalist might suggest.

The road to decarbonization is the same as the road to electrification plus the road to making all of our electricity with something other than coal, oil, methane, and the like. This could involve a certain amount of liquid fuel that is generated using wind and solar power, and magical bacteria or something, perhaps with a mix of plant material or other bio-sources.

There are easy ways to do part of this fast. For example, building wind farms is easy and produces piles of electricity. Same with solar. “But wait wait,” you say. “Those sources are intermittent, we can’t…” But I say to you, if this is your first thought, you are out of date (or are a Republican?). Solar and wind are indeed intermittent, but we can still use them as the backbone of our power system. This is a problem, but not one that can’t be figured out and has been, in fact, largely solved using a number of approaches. And, that is off the topic of this post.

We can also put solar panels on our roofs to a much greater degree than we do now. It has been estimated that a reasonable, not overdone but pretty thorough, deployment of PV panels on the roofs of America would cover about 40% of our in-building electrical needs as they stand now. This added to the eventual (though expensive, yet easy) deployment of heat pumps and total electrification of everything in those buildings probably averages out (the heat pumps reduce energy demand, the electrification increases demand for electricity as compared to gas or oil).

There are other types of low hanging fruit as well, such as increasing efficiency, telecommuting.

But what about the hard to do stuff, the major uses of energy that can’t be changes so easily?

There is a new review paper out in Science that discusses this. The paper is:

Net-zero emissions energy systems, boy Steven Davis, Nathan Lewis, Matthew Shaner, et al. Science 360(6396).

If you click on that link, you might be able to see the paper, as I think it is OpenAccess.

The paper identifies the following areas as tough nuts to crack:

  • Aviation
  • Long-distance transport
  • Shipping
  • Steel production
  • Cement production

It identifies the following technologies as helpful:

  • Hydrogen and ammonia fuels
  • Biofuels
  • Synthetic hydrocarbons
  • Direct solar fuels

The paper also identifies “highly reliable electricity” and energy storage as key areas of further development.

I do not see any major surprises in this paper, but that is because it is a review paper. I think it is a useful read to help organize one’s thinking on the transitions we will attempt, should the Republicans allow it, over the next decades.

UPDATE Chance Typhoon Neoguri Will Hit Nuke Plant Increases?


The new forecast track of Neoguri is shown above as well as the location of two nuclear power plants.

The forecast track has moved south, and is now in a very good (and here good means bad) position to strike the Sendai nuclear power plant very directly. Keep in mind that this forecast may change.

On Tuesday mid day UTC the storm will likely be in the later phases of a turn to the right, aiming roughly at the Sendai plant. At this point maximum wind speed near the center of the storm will likely be about 90 mph, which puts the storm in the middle of the Category One range. That evening, possibly near midnight, the center of the typhoon should be coming ashore. During this time the storm will weaken.

The exact track matters a lot. It is quit possible that the right front quadrant, near the eye, will come ashore very near the plant, which would mean a very severe storm tide. But, the strength of the storm will be attenuated so perhaps the storm tide will be reduced.

Even though the storm now seems to be more or less aiming at a shut-down nuclear power plant, I’m thinking this will all result in little more than a very wet nuclear power plant. If the storm was stronger I’d be more worried about the effects of storm surge. I think Japan will have other problems caused by this storm to worry about.

Old post:

Screen Shot 2014-07-07 at 4.28.42 PM

Yes and no. The question really has to be understood to refer to a “meaningful” hit, one that matters to the plant.

<li>Yes because Super Typhoon Neoguri (which means "raccoon" in Korean) is on its way to Japan and there is no way that at least two nuclear power plants, those facing the southwest in the vicinity where the Typhoon is likely to make its first major landfall, will not be affected by this storm because the storm is huge.  It is going to hit everything. </li>

<li>No because it is possible Neoguri will not be a Category Five storm when it hits this part of Japan, it is more likely to be a Category Two storm by then.</li>

<li>Maybe, because the currently predicted path of Neoguri, as indicated on the graphic above, is highly uncertain at any level of detail at this time.  It is quite possible that the right punch (right leading quadrant) of the storm, and thus the storm tide, will come ashore in a bad place.  In this situation, the bad place would be at Sendai ... Genkai is probably more protected.  But the storm could come assure in a lot of places, we just don't know yet.</li>

<li>No, because even if there is something of a direct hit, the Japanese nuclear authorities have ashore us that the plants, which are all shut down, are secured and can easily handle this.</li>

<li>Maybe yes because if you accept what the Japanese Nuclear Power authorities say at face value you are a moron. That should be obvious by now. </li>

In the end, though, I do think that nuclear power plants are generally well built and secured and I’m sure a big storm won’t bother them too much. But, even if shut down, as they are, cooling of fuel is still required and a major storm could do the kind of damage that interferes with that. So we’ll see. The chances, though, of a nuclear disaster related to this particular storm are minimal. The storm itself is the problem.

There is some great coverage on the storm here:

<li><a href="http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2014/07/07/3456862/typhoon-neoguri/">‘Once In Decades’ Typhoon Approaches Japan, Two Nuclear Power Plants</a></li>

<li><a href="http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2014/07/supertyphoon-neoguri-japan-nuclear-plants-fukushima">A Scary Super Typhoon Is Bearing Down on Japan…and Its Nuclear Plants</a></li>