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Friday, November 24, 2017

Peer Review of Wendover Production's "The Nuclear Waste Problem" Youtube Video

Above images from Nuclear Energy Waste--Making Mountains Out of Mole Hills

The YouTube video, The Nuclear Waste Problem was published on November 21, and went viral with about half a million hits in a few days. I learned of its existence when it was presented to me as irrefutable evidence for why nuclear can't be part of the climate change solution.

Technically, it's quite well done. The graphics and music are appealing. The transcript is about two and a half pages long, single spaced. Unfortunately, the narrative found in that transcript is remarkably inaccurate. If the graphics and music are lipstick, the narrative would be the pig.

The author, Sam (last name couldn't be found which may be part of a marketing shtick) hoovered up a collection of old, dog-eared, anti-nuclear talking points from the internet echo chamber to weave this narrative.

Nobody can predict when a video will go viral or why it did so. Its technical quality combined with the following introduction likely elicited an aura of legitimacy:
This video was made possible by Brilliant. Learn to think like a scientist for 20% off by being one of the first 500 people to sign up at the link in the description.
I have news for Sam (whoever he is). This video is not science. It ends with:
If you want to learn more about clean energy or anything else, you should try Brilliant. They have a fantastic course on solar energy complete with approachable explanations, straightforward graphics, and thought-provoking puzzles. I’ve really been enjoying Brilliant because their courses do a great job of providing an overview of complex topics in a way that anyone can understand. As a Wendover Productions viewer who enjoys learning or is serious about science, Brilliant’s interactive puzzles will help you explore all kinds of interesting stuff. If you want to check them out, head over to brilliant.org/Wendover. The first 500 who do and sign up will receive 20% off. I absolutely suggest that you give Brilliant a try because it’s truly a great website and doing so helps make Wendover Productions possible.
Two-thirds of the words in the front of the transcript (parroting anti-nuclear arguments scrounged off the internet) are used to warm you up for the author's final conclusion, which is explained in the last third of the words  (also scrounged off the internet). The conclusion in a nutshell? It isn't possible to store nuclear waste long term because after the fall of civilization curious primitive cultures of the future will always manage to find it and gain access. Part of his problem is that he thinks the access tunnels will be marked with a sign and filled with clay. In reality, the entrance will be hidden and the access tunnel will be filled with concrete and stone, miles of it.

Then what? Well, my guess, if it's still hot enough to cause radiation burns, they will quickly figure out, like we have always done with poisonous plants and animals, that it's bad medicine and rebury it. If not, there may be an increase in some cancers in old age for some. Otzi the five thousand year old ice man mummy had high levels of arsenic in his tissues from copper mining, and his lungs looked like those of a chain smoker thanks to campfires. People have balanced the advantages of things like fire and copper with the downsides for millennia. But this is all academic. A primitive culture would be incapable of getting to it if they could find an entrance, assuming it won't be used as nuclear fuel in breeder reactors.

This video isn't trying to save the world from climate change. It reads more like a spam comment writ large trying to get you to click on some sponsor's link. 

 Below is the description found under the video:

In summary we have the following words to prime viewers:
  • Smart
  • Brilliant
  • Scientist
  • Real Engineering
  • Education
We're all susceptible to marketing. It has been hypothesized that our large brain size may, in part, be the result of an arms race between deception and deception detection. Being convinced to buy a brand of car is one thing. Being convinced with a false narrative that nuclear energy should not be part of the climate change solution because of its waste is another thing altogether.

When I visited the Wendover website I found the following description:
Wendover Productions is all about explaining how our world works. From travel, to economics, to geography, to marketing and more, every video will leave you with a little better understanding of our world. New videos go out every other Tuesday.
In this case, their video left us with a misunderstanding of how our world works. Separating the wheat from all of the chaff found on the internet on a topic this complex and then making a video about it would take a lot longer than two weeks, which may explain why the film is mostly chaff. One advantage of using the printed word instead of video is that you can link to sources, as I do here.

Let me give you some examples:
But that doesn’t necessarily mean nuclear is the long-term solution for the world because nuclear material is perhaps the most poisonous substance on earth.
Not sure what he means by nuclear material, not sure he does. Below is a quote by Bill Nye from Parsing Bill Nye's Anti-Nuclear Energy Keynote Speech where he goes all old-school, pulling a classic anti-nuclear terror tactic out of his way-back machine:
... if you breath just a few micro-grams, breath a few micro-grams of Plutonium, it will kill you. Like arsenic, it will replace the phosphorous in your DNA. So it really is dangerous stuff.
From Wikipedia:
Several populations of people who have been exposed to Plutonium dust (e.g. people living down-wind of Nevada test sites, Nagasaki survivors, nuclear facility workers, and "terminally ill" patients injected with Pu in 1945–46 to study Pu metabolism) have been carefully followed and analyzed. These studies generally do not show especially high Plutonium toxicity or Plutonium-induced cancer results, such as Albert Stevens who survived into old age after being injected with Plutonium. "There were about 25 workers from Los Alamos National Laboratory who inhaled a considerable amount of Plutonium dust during 1940s; according to the hot-particle theory, each of them has a 99.5% chance of being dead from lung cancer by now, but there has not been a single lung cancer among them."

 Plutonium has a metallic taste.
From the WNA:
Comparisons between toxic substances are not straightforward. The effect of plutonium inhalation would be to increase the probability of a cancer developing in several years time, whilst most other strong toxins lead to more immediate death. Best comparisons indicate that, gram for gram, toxins such as ricin, some snake venoms, cyanide, and even caffeine are significantly more toxic than plutonium.
I was surprised how toxic caffeine is at high doses. Google it.
If the power fails and the backup generators fail, the pumps and cooling systems stop working so the water heats up and can boil off. The water is what blocks the radiation so, without water, the radiation just goes right out into the environment. In fact, exactly that happened at Fukushima.
In fact, the water didn't boil and no radiations was released from the cooling pools at Fukushima.
Finland is building just that [a long term waste repository] ...It doesn’t have earthquakes.
Finland has earthquakes.
...for the millions of years that the most toxic nuclear waste will continue to emit radiation ...
The spent fuel will be no more radioactive than the originally mined ore it came from in 1,000-10,000 years, not millions.
The Fukushima disaster, meanwhile, having taken place is a much more populated and developed area, is estimated to set Japan back over $500 billion dollars ...
The direct costs of the Fukushima melt downs will be around $15 billion to clean up over the next two decades and over $60 billion in refugee compensation. Other costs typically blamed on Fukushima include the imported fossil fuels replacing the nuclear power stations that were unnecessarily closed all across Japan by antinuclear fear-mongering. But those costs are on the shoulders of antinuclear groups, not Fukushima.

No point in leaving a comment under the video. There are over 4,000 of some of the dumbest remarks you'll find anywhere. YouTube comments are notoriously terrible. If anyone is interested in a second post that parses the video in detail, let me know in the comments.

 
































Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Simon Holmes à Court thinks 100% Renewable Energy has been Demonstrated to be Possible in Australia

More Twitter activity from Simon.

He starts by asking:
nuclear twitter: does anyone have a simple LCoE for a nuclear power station? i'd love to better understand the economics.
If he's an energy expert, I have to wonder why he's asking for data from strangers on Twitter. You wouldn't see the likes of James Hansen doing that for one of his many papers published in Science and elsewhere. And as is almost always the case with his tweets, you're never sure what he is trying to say. Did he mean an equation? An example calculation? Examples of LCOE for nuclear? A spreadsheet?

It's not just me. Also not sure what he is asking for, Suzy Waldman handed him a link to Lazards which listed various LCOEs and an EIA link that explained the concept of LCOE.


I, in turn, responded to Suzy:



Tom Biegler responds to me:

Thanks. And I don't suppose they include load leveling costs to turn wind and solar into a product that users might like, want and need.
I, in turn, respond to him with a link to an Energy Matters article that tries (but apparently often fails) to explain why you can't compare the LCOE of sporadic sources to baseload sources:
Exactly ...if you want to compare LCOE of wind and solar to baseload nuclear LCOE, you find what it would cost to make them do baseload (answer offshore wind in UK is six times more expensive than Hinkley). 
Missing the point of the Energy Matters article entirely, Simon posts a typically cryptic response devoid of capitalization:
russ, this is nonsense. the market does not demand flat supply. demand for baseload is dropping fast in [inserts flag icon that I am guessing in hindsight is for Australia].
I responded as best I could, given the information at hand:
Both of your sentences are completely nonsensical. You will now ask me, like you did last time, why they are nonsensical and I will tell you because they make no sense. The minimum level of demand on an electrical grid over a span of time (definition of base load) is not dropping at all.
Simon responds with:

So, in the end, what Simon was trying to say is that a deeply biased pro wind and solar report has a graph in it that predicts, in theory, a reduction in the need for power stations that are not capable of varying their output on demand in sun-baked Australia. Part of the confusion was that he failed to say where he was talking about. I was thinking globally, he was just talking about Australia.


According to the report, minimum demand will (in theory) shift from the wee hours of the night to midday and at a lower value, all thanks to everyone having solar panels on their roofs. Ergo, you will need fewer power stations that don't vary their output. On the other hand, you still need enough power stations to meet that same minimum demand in the wee hours of the night, but because they will need to throttle down to the lower minimum demand in the day, they must be power stations capable of significant variation in their output (typically gas). The last thing you want to do regarding emissions, is replace your nuclear with fossil fuels or other low carbon sources because the former is step backwards and the latter is no forward movement at all.


And finally Simon responds to Tom:

When Simon says "baseload gen has already disappeared from SA," I think he is trying to say to us that the power stations not designed to vary their output that had been supplying the base load have been replaced by power stations that can vary their output upon demand (typically gas) to supply the base load.

When Simon says that the Australian Energy Market Operator has looked at 100% renewable energy (he means wind and solar) and has  "demonstrated it to be possible" (whatever that means), I'm guessing that he is mistaking the theoretical predictions in a heavily biased report, for reality. Australia does not get 100% of its electricity, let alone its energy, from wind and solar. You'd think, given the peer review of Jacobson's work, that these guys would be a little more circumspect.




And then, there's the cost:



Source: http://www.afr.com/news/australian-households-pay-highest-power-prices-in-world-20170804-gxp58a


Source: https://theconversation.com/australian-household-electricity-prices-may-be-25-higher-than-official-reports-84681

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Environmental Progress--The Power to Decarbonize

Figure 1

Environmental Progress has a new study out that I found very compelling.  It's just raw data arranged in a manner that paints a global picture. Critics can't punch holes in it by attacking assumptions chosen because it doesn't have any. In a nutshell, it shows a strong global correlation between nuclear energy use and lower carbon intensity, but no such correlation between wind and solar.

It took some effort for me to understand how the graphic shown in Figure 2 below was derived. To make sense of it I had to drop down into the appendices to look at the data for each country:
In service to transparency, we have reproduced all 68 national carbon intensity of energy charts used in this analysis in our appendix, in addition to publishing the aggregated national charts.
Each dot represents a given country's carbon intensity at a given level of annual nuclear, or wind, or hydro, or solar output. Each data point used to plot the thick curve is a kind of average of the dots at a given annual electricity output for nuclear, or wind, or hydro, or solar. The carbon intensity in countries can grow or retract with the addition or reduction in any given energy source (nuclear, wind, solar, or hydro). In Japan, for example, a reduction in nuclear caused an increase in carbon intensity.

I put my anti-nuclear hat on to find a way to punch holes in the results. Could the different horizontal scales be hiding something? Are plots using the same scale hiding something in the clutter for wind and solar? To resolve those issues I overlaid the nuclear and wind graphs at the same scale and magnified the results to make them more visible (see Figure 1).

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Simon Holmes à Court would support fast, cheap, safe, small, flexible nuclear

This post is motivated by a Tweet by Simon who very much thinks he has an open mind about nuclear energy ...like all antinuclearists, but like all antinuclearists, he really doesn't. He's like the creationist who would love to believe the theory of evolution ...if the data would only support it. Classic case of self-delusion combined with a little cognitive dissonance.

His Twitter homepage intro:
interesting theory — data me up! 'likes' are bookmarks not endorsements. ATTN: loopy left & RWNJs: if you think i'm one, you're almost certainly the other.
Bottom line, I would not have had to "data him up"  if he really had an open mind because he would have already sought out the data. Below, he gives an attaboy to a supporting tweeted chart critiquing nuclear. I gave him a few other charts to think about, but no love for me (link):



His supporter then posted a strawman argument coupled with another graph and got another attaboy. Those graphs shown below are actually a positive sign showing how the combination of low carbon sources has joined forces but this guy somehow sees this as evidence that nuclear should not be part of the mix:

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Now for the bad news: 75% decline in insect biomass over 27 years


In a nutshell, no insects = no ecosystem.

I recently took a trip to the Brazilian Cerrado and Pantanal. Click on this link to see photos and videos of some insects I saw there. I'll add a few random insect photos from other places I've been as well. Click on any photo to open a higher-resolution slideshow.

Just in from youngest daughter
doing research in Madagascar

Monbiot's article is worth a quick read unless you're prone to depression (last of the above links):
Every year I collected dozens of species of caterpillars and watched them grow and pupate and hatch. This year I tried to find some caterpillars for my children to raise. I spent the whole summer looking and, aside from the cabbage whites on our broccoli plants, found nothing in the wild but one garden tiger larva. Yes, one caterpillar in one year. I could scarcely believe what I was seeing – or rather, not seeing.
He suggested a few solutions, like limiting pesticide use (while acknowledging that we still need to grow food). GMO corn has reduced the use of insecticides for rootworm and the corn borer, but the anti-GMO crowd (similar in many ways to the anti-nuclear one) will resist that idea to their graves. And then there are the layers of complexity, like the permanent mandated consumption of corn ethanol put into place via rare bipartisan cooperation.

He made a salient point about the growing of food for livestock. From The Breakthrough Institute (co-founded by Shellenberger) Where’s the Fake Beef? Eating Meatless Meat Is Safe for You and the Planet:
The Impossible Burger—the meatless burger that bleeds—has recently been lambasted by some environmental activists for using genetic engineering to make the burger taste and look like meat. It’s a strange accusation, to say the least. The environmental impacts of meat production are large and complicated; reducing them will require modern tools and technologies. And few innovations have as large a potential as meatless meat to mitigate ecological impacts while meeting global demand.
Click on the video below which I shot in the heart of the Pantanal "nature preserve."




Friday, October 20, 2017

First the good news; South Korea’s nuclear will stay online thanks, I strongly suspect, in large part to the efforts of Michael Shellenberger and Environmental Progress


Update 10/25/2017: Moon announced that he still plans to phase out nuclear even though they will finish the two under construction, which makes no sense. Build two brand new power stations only to close them down? Call me a cynic, but he probably thought the citizen group would vote against finishing the reactors, taking the all the heat (used as scapegoats). Plan backfired, so, time will tell.

Read more at Environmental Progress here.

In a nutshell, by vowing to close all nuclear power stations, a South Korean politician took advantage of the anti-nuclear fear-mongering by environmental groups like Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth, Sierra Club, the NRDC, and the UCS (to name a few) to get elected. However, the decision to close South Korea's nuclear power stations was turned over to a citizen committee which just voted 60 to 40 in favor of keeping them open finishing the ones they have under construction.

This is [still] huge. The South Korean company KEPCO (unlike their American counterpart) is at the top of its learning curve when it comes to building nuclear power stations, which means they can build it more cheaply than wind and solar when one accounts for not only the LCOE, but the costs of solar and wind system integration and the impact of sporadic weather dependent gluts on wholesale market power prices.

And more importantly, they have proven themselves fully capable of building it that cheaply for countries like the UAE thousands of miles away.


Wind and solar have a role to play in power grids. Nuclear certainly can’t do it all. Using a Naval task force as an analogy for those of you especially susceptible to feelings of nationalism and for those of you more susceptible to endorphin release from things not powered with fossil fuels, you wouldn’t want to fight the battle against climate change without your nuclear powered aircraft carriers.

More as to why this victory is so important can be found in the following articles:

Is smaller better for nuclear energy?

Michael Shellenberger: Nuclear Industry Must Change — Or Die

Now for the bad news: Warning of 'ecological Armageddon' after dramatic plunge in insect numbers

More on that later.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Twitter debate, a new oxymoron



As a kid, did you ever play a game where you try to talk with someone while under water? That's what it's like to debate someone on Twitter.

This page serves as a place holder for Disqus comments about Twitter comments.


Twitter is great for disseminating links but was not designed for discussion or debate.


Go to the comments section under this page to join in ...or just lurk.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Trip to the Brazilian Cerrado and Pantanal


I’ll be blogging this week about my trip to the Brazilian Cerrado and Pantanal, where there is still a great deal of biodiversity left, although, how much longer it will be there, I can’t say. There’s an assortment of insects crawling across my computer screen as I type. I’ll be sticking random photos that I’ve taken while here into the posts.

Click on any image to initiate a higher-resolution slideshow.


Thursday, August 17, 2017

More thoughts on the robustness of Mark Jacobson’s 100% renewable energy plan

Figure 1: Trickle-down solar collector test rig

When I first saw the paper critiquing Jacobson's 100% renewables plan (see here, here, here, and here) I thought to myself, “If he denies there are any mistakes but then makes changes, I'll know that the critiques had at least some measure of validity.” Lo and behold, after denying that there were any mistakes, he immediately made revisions to the study.

I also thought, “And if any changes made involve his input assumptions, that would suggest that the study results were likely heavily biased by cherry picked assumptions all along (garbage in = garbage out).”

Why did Mark Jacobson limit his 100% renewable game plan to the expansion of wind and solar?

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Greenpeace isn't the only one, the UCS, Sierra Club, FOE, and even the WWF, to name just a few, all share the blame.





Michael Shellenberger is going after Greenpeace in a series of articles exposing their disingenuous anti-nuclear energy activities. More power to him.
  • Climate change isn't a global conspiracy by scientists to solicit research funding.
  • Climate change is the result of mass global deforestation and the combustion of billions of tons of hydrocarbons that have been stored underground for hundreds of millions of years.
  • The oceans are not going to absorb the extra carbon and heat energy forever.
I could be wrong about climate change. You never know. But isn't it about time to stop using coal to make electricity, regardless? Coal was the replacement for wood when parts of Europe ran out of forests to burn. It's old-school, dangerous to mine, environmentally destructive (although less so that burning wood), and filthy. Nuclear has been coal's main competitor for over half-a-century now. It is a much cleaner and environmentally friendly alternative. Maybe we should replace coal plants with nuclear plants and lessen the impact on those who make a living mining coal by facilitating their participation in their construction and operation?

Should we risk trying to decarbonize without help from nuclear, risk the effects of climate change by excluding the world's largest source of proven, scalable, low carbon electricity? Considering that there is no meaningful risk to including nuclear in the energy mix and that the risk of excluding it may be cataclysmic, the answer should be one of those rare no-brainers.

Video of a dragonfly laying eggs

Nature was collapsing all around us long before anyone heard of climate change. Read the latest in a very long line of books about this subject: The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History. Just a few days ago I took the above video of a dragonfly laying eggs in a goldfish pond. This is not an intact ecosystem. It's covered with a net to keep the cats, raccoons, and herons from eating said colorful carp, which are an invasive species, as is the English ivy in the foreground. It has a pump to aerate the water, and the fish are fed fish food made from fish. Being in the middle of a city you can hear the city noises; cars, trucks, aircraft, snippets of conversations. If the larvae of that dragonfly reduce the goldfish population, that's fine, because dragonflies also eat mosquitoes.

Argentine wildlife reserve--Esteros del Ibera

Speaking of which, I once had the pleasure of visiting an increasingly rare, largely intact ecosystem. You have probably never experienced one this intact, and as sad as this sounds, your children and grandchildren are even less likely to do so. While watching caiman, capybara, and any number of other fascinating creatures go about their business at dusk, I witnessed hundreds of thousands of dragonflies rising into the sky to eat mosquitoes (3:17 into above video and pardon the poor quality for I knew not what I was doing). Although it was ideal mosquito habitat, I don't recall being bitten by one, or even seeing one, while there.

What led many of the world's largest environmental organizations to focus on nuclear energy at the expense of nature (nuclear is one of our most benign sources of energy when it comes to ecosystem disruption--Chernobyl actually resulted in the creation of Europe's largest wildlife preserve)?

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Has anti-nuclear fear mongering nullified all progress made by wind and solar since 2000?

Figure 1 Emissions increase resulting from nuclear closures

"Twitter debate" is an oxymoron but once in a while I go down the rabbit hole, and when others get involved, it quickly devolves into a confused muddle not too unlike Alice in Wonderland.

It started when I responded to a tweet by Jonathan Gilligan:


At this point, I mentioned that fear, not economic competition had created the gap between the red and blue curves seen in Figure 1 above. After visiting his Twitter page, I'm thinking that maybe he's not all that enamored with nuclear:

Sunday, July 9, 2017

David Roberts--Solar saving lives while intense battles rage across the country as batteries neuter attempts by utilities to attack it!

Figure 1 NREL Study Results

David Roberts has recently published two new somewhat obtuse energy articles:
The first is a rehash of a joint 2016 Berkeley Labs and National Renewable Energy Lab study touting the benefits of solar titled The Environmental and Public Health Benefits of Achieving High Penetrations of Solar Energy in the United States [When Compared to Coal and Natural Gas, But Not Nuclear]. And keep in mind that solar in the U.S. makes up roughly 0.4 percent of total energy consumption at this point in time.

Like any study, it has its biases, and like any study, the results are largely the result of assumptions chosen. Read The 44% Nuclear, 35% Renewables, 21% Natural Gas Low Carbon Grid and Bounding the Renewables-Nuclear Debate (also see Figure 1).

When talking about water use, they assumed that concentrated solar will use dry-cooled technology (which uses an order of magnitude less water than a typical wet-cooled system). Why would the authors conclude that only solar would do that when there are no laws in place mandating it and if there were laws, why would they not apply to other power systems?

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

The 44% Nuclear, 35% Renewables, 21% Natural Gas Low Carbon Grid

Typical Rube Goldberg machine with its many attendant assumptions and potential failure nodes
Proposed coast-to-coast  HVDC super-grid with its many attendant assumptions and potential failure nodes

Would a continent-sized super HVDC grid be a Rube Goldberg machine writ large?

Back in the day, you would have been hard-pressed to find an article on the internet critical of biofuels. We should all be driving biodiesel or cellulosic ethanol powered cars by now. Politicians at the Federal level from both sides of the aisle saw this as an opportunity to kill two birds with one stone; buy votes from the farm belt, implement a permanent farm subsidy. So, in the end all we have left is the government mandated consumption of corn ethanol. Ethanol made out of corn now replaces roughly 10% of gasoline use. Not quite what everyone was hoping for. Governors and mayors also jumped on the bandwagon with similar dismal results.

Because Seattle is too small to grow its own biodiesel, the goal was to at least source it from Washington State, but for economic reasons, it ended up coming from Canada. So, in the end, there was a transfer of wealth going on from Seattle to Canada for its canola-based biodiesel, which is why all of the biodiesel stations have since disappeared. A similar situation arises with the generation of electricity.

Dozens of studies and white papers supporting biofuels were being pumped out (no pun intended) at the height of the craze. I see all of this as a potential analogy for what we're witnessing today with wind and solar.

The latest low carbon energy system research seems to have given up on storing excess wind and solar generated electricity in a form that will be used to create electricity later (minus the 20%-30% lost from storing and retrieving it) when there is demand for it.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Bounding the Renewables-Nuclear Debate

Figure 1: From NREL Renewable Electricity Futures Study

Very few people out there are arguing for a 100% nuclear future, and most are not arguing for a 100% renewable future. When we toss the extreme views out, the debate is over how much of what.

If you bound your debate to electricity generation in 2017 in a given geographical area, say, Seattle, you get:

Hydro 87.3%
Nuclear 4.7%
Wind 3.1%
Coal 2.1%
Natural Gas 1.3%
Biogas 1.1%
Other 0.4%

Not bad. Who said you can't cost effectively decarbonize with renewables (when 87% comes from hydro)? Doing that with wind and solar, on the other hand, remains an untested hypothesis.

If you bound your debate to electricity generation in 2050 in the continental United States you might get what you see in the lower half of Figure 1 above, which encapsulates the four-volume mega-study from the National Renewable Energy Lab to replace 80% of our electricity generation with "renewable" sources.

If you can't trust the NREL to come up with a competent study biased to favor renewable energy, who can you trust?

Some things to note about that study:

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Do We Have the Tools to End the Fossil Fuel Age?


I turned a comment I made under The Energy Endgame: We AlreadyHave the Tools to End the Fossil Fuel Age into a post. The article was written by “Tyler Norris [who] served as a Special Advisor to the U.S. Secretary of Energy in the Obama administration. Until May 2017, he was a Director at S&P Global Platts/PIRA, a market intelligence consultancy, where he co-led the firm’s cleantech practice.”

There is no indication that he has any engineering background, which may explain why he does not understand basic concepts like baseload and LCOE verses system costs.

The author’s arguments rest on an untested hypothesis. There is no evidence that the world can be powered with renewables alone. From a peer-reviewed study in Science Direct:

While many modeled scenarios have been published claiming to show that a 100% renewable electricity system is achievable, there is no empirical or historical evidence that demonstrates that such systems are in fact feasible.

Of the studies published to date, 24 have forecast regional, national or global energy requirements at sufficient detail to be considered potentially credible. We critically review these studies using four novel feasibility criteria for reliable electricity systems needed to meet electricity demand this century.


Eight of 24 scenarios (33%) provided no form of system simulation. Twelve (50%) relied on unrealistic forecasts of energy demand. While four studies (17%; all regional) articulated transmission requirements, only two scenarios—drawn from the same study—addressed ancillary-service requirements. In addition to feasibility issues, the heavy reliance on exploitation of hydroelectricity and biomass raises concerns regarding environmental sustainability and social justice.

The author continues:
Baseload goes bust
Norris doesn’t seem to understand the definition of baseload, which is the minimum level of demand on an electrical grid over a span of time. Most certainly, that is not going to “go bust.” He’s parroting an old antinuclear argument that never did make any sense but continues to bounce around the internet echo chamber. You can provide baseload in any number of ways; including, but only in theory, the use of wind and solar if you have enough storage and/or an intercontinental HVDC super grid.
That’s why it’s essential to preserve and extend as many existing nuclear plants as possible and continue making long-term public investments in advanced nuclear and carbon capture technology, even if their scale-up is less than likely -- and even if the United States government doesn’t lead.
He is right about keeping existing nuclear power stations open, but there is no need to wait for even more advanced nuclear to deploy more nuclear. Nuclear power station designs being built today are perfectly adequate; safe, and if built by the right company, highly economically competitive. Carbon capture is a canard that is distracting from the conversation.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Amory Lovins's Comments on a Fred Pearce Post

I recently stumbled on a comment by Amory Lovins under an article by Fred Pearce at Yale 360 called Industry Meltdown: Is the Era of Nuclear Power Coming to an End?

360 holds every comment for moderation, which tends to thwart any meaningful dialog but that's a little better than no comment field at all (VOX), and much better than CleanTechnica's method of systematically censoring comments and commenters who have viewpoints that differ from that of the moderator. Watch for his confirmation bias and the backfire effect--a term that describes how people will cling ever more, ah, heartily, to a strongly held belief when confronted with facts that dispel it. There is very little difference in that respect between creationists and anti-nuclearists like Lovins.
Assuming that not all edits and comments will appear or will appear in a timely fashion, I thought I'd throw them into an article. From Lovins:
In the first five years after Fukushima, Japan has displaced 70% (64% without GDP renormalization) of its previous national nuclear output with electricity savings, renewables, and a bit of other distributed generation.

Your link is broken and your source which states that its mission is to “establish a society based on renewable energy,” is suspect. 

From Bloomberg:

From 2011 through 2013, Japan’s trade balance worsened by a cumulative 18.1 trillion yen ($169 billion), estimates Taro Saito, director of economic research at the NLI Research Institute in Tokyo. Of that amount, 10 trillion yen, or 55 percent, came from energy imports.

$169/3 = $56.33 billion
55% OF $ 56.33 billion = $30.98 billion.

2016-2011= 5 years.

5 years x $31 billion/year = $155 billion dollars lost to fossil fuel costs as a result of antinuclear fear mongering that has closed Japan's nuclear. How many nuclear power stations would that have paid for in that brief period?

(Note that my original comment had misinterpreted the $169 billion as being for each year instead of the cumulative total).

The uptick in coal-fired generation ended in 2013

Coal use was 10 percent higher in 2015 than in 2009 (source: BP statistical review).

…and was more than entirely due to record net power exports (particularly to France) as renewables helped drive German wholesale power prices well below French ones. (Data in German…)

Data in German? Wholesale prices drop when wind or solar create a glut on the market (because it has little value). Exporting that glut to areas without wind or solar is a way to minimize damage to the finances of your own domestic power producers (who have bills to pay).

Beware of the many press reports about German CO2 that confuse the power sector with the whole economy. The notion that Germany substituted lignite for nuclear power or built backup capacity for "intermittent" renewables is nonsense…

Beware of those who want you to believe that German emissions would not have been less had they closed coal instead of nuclear. Roughly 40% of German electricity still comes from coal.

The French Academy's "common-sense" claims are a throwback to the 1990s, ignoring extensive European analysis and experience in achieving high renewable electricity shares (e.g. in 2014, as a fraction of total annual domestic consumption, 46% in Spain, 50% in Scotland, 59% in Denmark, 64% in Portugal) without adding backup capacity or bulk storage, and with superior reliability.

 From the Breakthrough Institute:

When wind oversupply would crush their energy market, they export it to other grids that have little wind. So what happens when those grids have as many wind turbines as Denmark? Denmark won't be able to export it. So, in other words, because Denmark is part of the Nordic Synchronized Area, it isn't really supplying 40% of the energy to that Nordic grid with wind. It's supplying about 10%.

Denmark just happens to use most of that wind because the turbines are located in Denmark and closer to the sources that use their electricity. The game's over once the other countries in their grid get as much wind as they have. And that's the point. They will likely stop wind development far short of Denmark because they don't want to be crushed by their own wind causing oversupply. They will use Denmark wind, i.e., Denmark is only supplying about 10% to the grid it is part of. This is also true for the other countries in your list.

Indeed, the ultrareliable former East German utility 50Hertz in 2015 got 49% of its electricity from renewables, three-fourths of them variable (PV and windpower), and its CEO says it could readily go to 60–70%, still without adding bulk storage.

Indeed …but growth of the non-intermittent renewable sources (biomass and hydro) as well as solar are grinding to a halt in Germany which leaves wind as the only source with much potential for further growth. Note that wind currently supplies only about 2% of Germany’s total primary energy consumption.


John Finnegan's cited blog endorsing certain nuclear operating subsidies is puzzling because it tracks only carbon, not also dollars. It therefore overlooks the opportunity to reinvest a distressed nuclear plant's saved operating cost into several times more energy efficiency (or cheap renewables), thus saving both carbon and money by closing the nuclear plant

What I find puzzling is the lack of evidence that high penetrations of sporadic energy sources decrease the electric bills for citizens. Your above comment rests on the assumption that they do.

 

Nuclear advocates' claim that closing a reactor always means burning more fossil fuel is worth examining but is clearly untrue in Japan, Germany, and even Vermont, where the uptick in gas-burning lasted only a year: NE-ISO's 2014–16 nuclear output loss was 91% offset by renewables and hydro-dominated imports, and another 69% by reduced sales.

Japan? Nuclear output dropped 158 TWh while the combination of wind, solar, hydro, geothermal, and biomass only increased 42 TWh (data per 2016 BP Statistical Review). The increase in renewables did not offset the much greater loss of nuclear. And if the rest is from energy conservation, then clearly reductions would have been even greater had nuclear not been shut down.

Germany? Like I said earlier, beware of those who want you to believe that German emissions would not have continued to decline had they closed coal instead of nuclear. Roughly 40% of German electricity still comes from coal.

Vermont? Your comment about Vermont appears to say that 91% + 69% = 160% of nuclear power was replaced by renewables plus hydro power (which is a renewable) along with reduced sales. But a reduction in emissions from energy efficiency would have existed with or without replacing one zero carbon source (nuclear) with others. Certainly, few nuclear plants can be replaced by hydro and if that is really the case in Vermont, it must have been excess hydro not being used by somebody else already or hydro taken from some other user who has had to replace it with something else, low carbon or not.
Grid integration of variable renewables has at least ten flexibility options, not only in supply but also demand (efficiency and flexibility), and not only in bulk electrical storage but also in thermal storage (in buildings' thermal mass, hot water, cold water, ice), hydrogen, and distributed storage worth buying anyway (such as bidirectional smart-charging electric vehicles).

Why did you say “variable renewables” when you mean wind and solar? And why have these options not scaled up in the decades you have been promoting them? Why will they suddenly scale up a few orders of magnitude in the next few decades just because wind and solar need them? And if they are feasible, why couldn’t nuclear baseload charge all of these storage devices at night when demand is low to minimize the need to run gas power plants in the day, and why haven’t they already capitalized on all of this theoretical profitability already?

Well-designed systems running largely or wholly on renewables will need no added backup capacity and little or no bulk storage…
You are confusing untested hypothesis with facts. And again you said renewables when you meant wind and solar.

…that's the costliest option, so it would be bought last, not first, we needn't wait for it, and the market isn't waiting.

We already know that hydro works without need for backup. Don’t know what you mean by “the market isn’t waiting.” Remove wind and solar subsides and growth would come to a standstill, as happened in Germany with reduction of the solar feed in tariff.

Shellenberger's claim about land use is wildly off.
Your renewable energy footprint paper should be used to teach classes about confirmation bias.
Material per TWh by Russ Finley at Biodiversivist.com