Wednesday, January 14, 2015

growing threat of nuclear retirement parties in northeastern U.S.

New York’s apparent lack of interest in keeping its nuclear plants operating is ironic in that observers have noted that closure of some or all of these plants would send the state’s carbon dioxide emissions skyrocketing, upsetting the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative market and likely making the state’s CO2 reduction goals unattainable.
Ginna (picture from Democrat and Chronicle)
They wont' care.

An informative article from Power magazine on nuclear generation units - tweeted with the teaser, "The nuclear renaissance has turned into a nuclear retirement party":

U.S. Faces Wave of Premature Nuclear Retirements | POWER Magazine:
The nuclear renaissance has turned into a nuclear retirement party.
As recently as 2012, the U.S. had 104 operating nuclear reactors. With the retirement of Entergy’s Vermont Yankee plant at the end of December, that number has now fallen under 100 for the first time since the 1970s.
Yet as rapid as that pullback has been, the U.S. fleet may not be finished contracting. As many as 10 to 15 additional reactors are at risk of closure—not because they have reached their end-of-life but because of local political opposition, an inability to compete in an electricity market that is vastly changed from what existed when these plants were first conceived, or both.
Following is a state-by-state review of at-risk plants.
Please read the entire article at POWER Magazine

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Big Small Modular Reactor news

Treats for nuclear followers: James Conca in Forbes, on Terrestrial Energy, and Rod Adams on his site with ThorCon.

Nuclear Power Turns To Salt, James Conca, Forbes:

Today, the United States Department of Energy announced that its Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) in Tennessee is partnering with Canadian nuclear company Terrestrial Energy Inc. (TEI) to assist with TEI’s new Integral Molten Salt Reactor (IMSR). The engineering blueprint stage for this GenIV reactor should be reached in two years. The reactor should come online in less than ten.
Image from Forbes article
Think of it: a nuclear reactor that
- is cheaper than coal
- creates much less waste and few long-lived radioactive elements
- uses almost all of the fuel which lasts 7 years between replacement, and can be recycled easily
- is modular, from 80 MWt to 600 MWt, able to be combined and adapted to individual needs for both on and off-grid heat and power

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Low gas prices make people think poorly, so...

Many stories on oil pricing: 2 initial citations to restore sanity to the discourse, and then some on distasteful politics attempting to take advantage of a perceived crisis - that crisis being people paying less for fuel.

What is bad about low gasoline prices? Are they unusual? | Vaclav Smil:
Falling oil prices have been called shocking, unprecedented, and (most incredibly) a highly regrettable development that will end the rise of American stock market and create unrest and uncertainty around the world. However, what we are experiencing is the eighth oil price decline of more than 30 percent during the past 30 years.
Oil prices have been falling — and with them the quality of reporting and writing about this periodic event.
...my advice is to enjoy low oil prices, knowing that we are living through yet another down chapter of a prolonged undulating saga. What is the best thing to do? Old World herbalists and modern promoters of chamomile tea agree: the golden-hued beverage has a mild sedative effect, it eases anxiety and insomnia and it leaves a soothing aftertaste. I recommend increased doses of this classic tisane (with a touch of honey) as long as the current oil price fall lasts. By the time the trend, inevitably, reverses itself, your drinking of chamomile tea might become a new, and beneficial, habit — ready to ease the anxiety brought on by the rising prices.
Top 10 News Stories of 2014 | Tom Whipple and Steve Andrews
...The cause of the crash was a combination of rapid growth in US shale oil production and weakened demand for oil products largely stemming from the slowing Chinese economy and continuing weakness in Europe, the US, Japan and other countries. The result was a global oil surplus of 1.5 – 2 million b/d.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Rethinking Ontario’s Long-Term Energy Plan

Readers of my original work won't be surprised I am urging people to read Marc Brouillette's commentary for the Council for Clean & Reliable Electricity.
My criticisms of Ontario's Long-Term Energy Plan noted emissions would increase and the capacity requirements (of NERC) would not be met. Brouillette notes both these issues, and covers the economics of the flawed "Quebec import" suggestion that is now broadly dismissed.

Rethinking Ontario’s Long-Term Energy Plan | CCRE Commentary (.pdf)
The 2013 Ontario Long-Term Energy Plan (LTEP) is a roadmap claiming to “provide clean, reliable and affordable energy Ontario will need now and into the future.” However, compared to other options in the 2010 LTEP it replaces, this 20-year plan represents a cost of $60 billion and 110,000 jobs to Ontario’s economy. As well, implementing this plan increases greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 50 per cent.
Figure 5 From CCRE Commentary (.pdf)

Why these serious downsides? For one thing, the plan places too much emphasis on renewables, specifically wind, at the expense of reducing the nuclear power generation capacity that would best meet future energy needs. Independent analysis (Brouillette, 2013) has shown that, among the available supply mix choices, a greater emphasis on nuclear, such as in the previous 2010 LTEP, is a much better route to achieving the current plan’s stated objectives.

The consequence is that, far from being “clean, reliable and affordable,” the 2013 LTEP supply mix represents a decision:
  • against a greener electricity system;
  • against greater system reliability;
  • against the lowest-cost solution for ratepayers;
  • against growth in Ontario’s economy; and,
  • against a better footing from which to build Ontario’s energy future.

1) AGAINST A GREENER ELECTRICITY SYSTEM
The 2013 LTEP infers that the Green Economy Act (Ontario 2009) is responsible for the phase-out of coal and associated GHG reductions. Yet, the true enabler of the coal phase-out has been nuclear refurbishment and new natural gas capacity. Together along with the recent recession, they have removed 85 per cent of the CO2 emissions from Ontario’s electrical generation system since 2005 – a reduction of 25 megatonnes/year...
Please continue reading Rethinking Ontario’s Long-Term Energy Plan | CCRE Commentary (.pdf)

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Hawthorn: Nuclear power is clean and affordable

"Ontario will end 2014 with nuclear power providing about 60% of our electricity at 30% below the average cost of power in the province. That’s a fact."

Duncan Hawthorne, president and CEO of Bruce Power, currently the largest operational nuclear power station in the world, has a commentary in the Toronto Sun today.

Nuclear power is clean and affordable | Opinion | Toronto Sun:
Ontario will end 2014 with nuclear power providing about 60% of our electricity at 30% below the average cost of power in the province. That’s a fact. 
Graphic created for post on Ontario's electricity supply costs
In a year where there has been a wide-ranging discussion about and attention paid to so many issues when it comes to energy, nuclear power has again been a topic that is largely absent from this discussion, both in terms of its importance and role. 
While this is often a disappointment to me, I accept that.
Our job is to be there every day when people need us, in the cold winter and hot summer days, 365 days a year.
This is a role we have played for decades and, I believe, should and will continue to play.
We do this safely and have done so for decades.
Our safety record in Canada speaks for itself. 
Canada is respected internationally with a strong, independent federal regulator with the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC). 
It’s only when we don’t have enough power that the discussion shifts to talk about the importance of nuclear. 
In recent weeks we have seen many examples in the U.S. when nuclear plants were not life extended and now there is a significant power crunch. 
The problem is, by then it’s too late."
Continue reading at the Toronto Sun:

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Green policies to add up to 40 percent to cost of household electricity

A ...spokesman said a decision had been taken to withhold the tables because it was “thought to be confusing”.
I can write about the Ontario Energy Minister condescending remarks about complicated issues and people not understanding - and I can do so by quoting the exact same approach to obfuscation from across the pond!



Green policies to add up to 40pc to cost of household electricity - Telegraph:

...the tables showing the actual cost of green policies on future electricity prices for households and businesses in 2020 and 2030 were kept secret because they were “thought to be confusing”. 
Their release now will embarrass ministers, who are accused of presiding over an expensive consumer subsidy system. 
The Government’s climate change policies include complex consumer subsidies for wind and solar farms, as well as grants for energy efficiency measures such as loft and wall insulation, available to certain households.
The introduction of smart meters, which it is hoped will encourage lower consumption, also helped contribute to rising electricity prices.
Dr John Constable, director of Renewable Energy Foundation, the think tank whose Freedom of Information request was responsible for forcing DECC to release the price impact tables, said: “The striking scale and increasing trend of the climate policy energy price impacts are bad enough in themselves, but DECC’s attempt to conceal these vitally important figures is breathtaking.”
Dr Constable said he had been told by informed sources that pressure had been put on DECC to withhold the tables.
“This is a very unsatisfactory situation," he said, "Energy price impact data is so intrinsically important, and policy transparency so crucial to public trust in government, that very firm intervention is needed to clear the air and ensure that it will not happen again...”
Read the entire article at the Telegraph:

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Ontario's inexplicable Vacuum Building Outages

I was away for some of the week and missed a particularly poor report on a particularly lackadaisical scheduling of outages at Ontario nuclear generators.

Planned shutdowns of nuclear plants could mean higher prices for consumers | CTV
The planned shutdowns of two of Ontario's biggest nuclear plants during normally high peak times could mean soaring prices for consumers next year.
The Bruce Power and Darlington Nuclear Generating Stations will be shut down at the same time next spring and summer for 16 weeks for planned repairs.
Paul Bliss is usually a better reporter; this statement is wrong or misleading. The outage at Bruce Power is likely to be around 4 weeks, as Bruce Power explains:
There has been some recent interest in planned outages within Ontario’s nuclear fleet in 2015, specifically the Bruce B Vacuum Building Outage (VBO).
This interest is not surprising given the importance of Bruce Power’s nuclear output to meet the needs of the province; however, additional context is important.
The Bruce B VBO will be approximately a month in duration and commence in mid-April. Bruce Power works closely with the Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO) to ensure the timing of these outages can be accommodated to meet the needs of the system. These outages are approved just before they begin and discussions with the IESO will continue to ensure the system needs of the province are maintained.
There are 4 reactors, so perhaps Bliss misinterpreted 16 reactor weeks as 16 weeks (not four weeks at each of 4 reactors).

It would be interesting to know if the IESO is orchestrating this, or if Bruce Power and Ontario Power Generation (OPG) just didn't co-ordinate their outages.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Auditor General of Ontario annual report, and what we already knew

The Auditor General's 2014 Annual report is now out. It'll take some time to digest the full report, but in the interim, here are portions of the main news release, augmented with links to past articles by myself or Parker Gallant.

Key Issues of Value for Money and Service Delivery Highlighted in Auditor General’s 2014 Annual Report

(TORONTO) Ontario government programs that we examined didn’t always provide value for money or deliver services as effectively as the public has the right to expect, Auditor General Bonnie Lysyk said following the release today of her 2014 Annual Report.

“Both of these two issues were at the heart of the 12 value-for-money audit reports we prepared this year,” she said after tabling the 600-page Annual Report, her second since becoming Auditor General in 2013.

In some areas, taxpayers did not get value for money from the large amounts of public money spent. In other cases, services were not delivered as effectively as Ontarians have a right to expect.”

Among the findings in this year’s Annual Report:

• Although nearly $2 billion was spent to install new “smart” electricity meters across the province, the government’s stated objectives of reducing power demand at peak times and eliminating the need for new sources of power are not being met.
Parker Gallant, July 2010: Ontario’s Power Trip: Is this ‘smart’? 
Scott Luft, January 2011: Smartiness: Smart Meters and Smart Grids Without Smarts

Universities and Climate Change

Posts from Berkeley's Severin Borenstein usually interest me; the latest particularly so as it relates to a couple of issues I write on.
The first is implementing carbon pricing where it's possible to do so - and the point is made that universities make great candidates.

What’s a University to do about Climate Change? | Energy at Haus:
...university action against climate change should start at home, with a campus carbon tax. All expenditures by campus units would be assessed a tax based on the GHG emissions associated with whatever they are buying or activity they are supporting. Of course, that raises issues like how large the tax should be and who should get the money, which I return to below."
The idea is brilliant. First, it avoids the hypocritical appearance of the divestment movement, marking fossil fuel producers as evil polluters while happily continuing to consume their product. Second, it puts real incentives in place to reduce GHG emissions and sets a price against which reduction strategies can be compared. Third, and probably most valuable, it makes the campus grapple with all the difficult real-world issues that come with trying to implement cost-effective national or global policy for carbon reduction. In doing so, it creates teachable moments that could fill many courses and inter-disciplinary research projects.
Read the entire article at Energy at Haus

I've written on one area where carbon pricing can be introduced easily - Ontario's electricity system.

From my Ontario perspective, "hypocritical" is something our largest universities are doing well, and "grabbling" with issues of higher energy costs something they are avoiding neatly.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Nuclear power isn't 'economically feasible' in Australia, but ...

Hopefully this is repetition to readers of this blog - but in a very readable presentation from Barry Brook and Ben Heard.

Nuclear power isn't 'economically feasible' in Australia, but ... | The Conversation:
According to the updated Australian Energy Technology Assessment 2013, the five lowest-cost electricity-generating technologies, based on dollars per kilowatt hour, are, in ascending order:
  • Wind, on-shore
  • Fixed solar photo-voltaic (no tracking of the sun’s movement)
  • Gigawatt-scale nuclear light-water reactor
  • Other biomass waste power plant (wood)
  • Single axis tracking solar photo-voltaic (tracking the sun in one axis).
These costs are projected for 2020, based on recent trends in electricity costs using the metric “levelised cost of electricity” (LCOE). All of these technologies produce zero carbon emissions at the point of generation, and we would expect all of them would do well under a policy that sought a major increase in zero-carbon electricity.
The problem of supply
But these very different technologies also come with a range of economic advantages and disadvantages.
For instance, solar panels and wind turbines have the advantage of incremental expenditure (you add relatively small amounts of new generation at a time) which is easier to finance.
But the electricity they generate is at the whim of climate: without storage, they depend on the sun shining and the wind blowing.