Category Archives: Nuclear

The real worst and best cases of climate change

What do you want? The planet Venus? The current degraded Earth? Or a better world we know how to create?

What if it's a big hoax and we create a better world for nothing?
Joel Pett, Lexington Herald Leader, 18 March 2012, The cartoon seen ’round the world

Mostly I post about solar and wind power winning, which is what I think is happening. But sometimes it’s worth a reminder of what could happen if we do nothing about climate change, and I posted on my facebook page a story about that. Which actually didn’t go far enough to the real worst case. Nonetheless, that story has been attacked by numerous parties of all political and scientific and unscientific stripes for being too doom and gloom. Yet none of the attackers bothered to mention a best case beyond “the same world we have now”. I have news for you: the world we have now is an ecological catastrophe, and we can do a lot better. So here’s the real worst case, the current case, which is far from the best of all possible worlds, and the real best case, as I see it. Plus what we can do to head for the best case.

grinning fossilized skull

First, the story I posted: David Wallace-Wells, New York Magazine, 9 July 2017, The Uninhabitable Earth: Famine, economic collapse, a sun that cooks us: What climate change could wreak — sooner than you think. Notice that word “could”, which a lot of his critics seem to have ignored. He didn’t say “will”, and he clearly labeled what he was presenting as worst case scenarios.

In case anybody thinks he was making any of that stuff up, Wallace-Wells has also linked to an annotated version with footnotes for every substantial assertion. The annotated version notes at the top: Continue reading

Major climate change victory in U.S. House on Bastille Day 2017-07-14

On the anniversary of the French Revolution against a corrupt old regime, the U.S. House of Representatives took a step towards independence from the clammy grip of the fossil fuel companies. This has direct implications on Moody AFB. No more pipelines. Solar power now.

Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian, 14 July 2017, In Landmark Move, GOP Congress Calls Climate Change ‘Direct Threat’ to Security: Extreme weather and rising seas threaten bases from Virginia to Guam. For the first time, a Republican House has voted to recognize that.,

One study last year found that rising oceans threaten 128 military installations on the coasts, including naval facilities worth around $100 billion.

The Pentagon has been aware for years of Continue reading

Video: Solar panels, heck yeah! –Tom Fanning, CEO, at SO stockholder meeting 2017-05-24

Tom Fanning, our genial CEO host, said some things I’ve never heard him say before like Southern Company is “pivoting towards wind” and SO’s board soon has to decide whether to go forward with Plant Vogtle “or not” probably by August. Fanning gets the first and last word in this blog post, plus a complete transcript of what I asked and Tom Fanning’s response, along with summaries of the other questions and answers.

Well see how it develops --Tom Fanning
Please hear me! I think renewables are exceedingly important in the future.
— Tom Fanning, CEO, Southern Company

In SO’s own meeting video of the 25 May 2017 Stockholder Meeting, you can see much praise about solar power and wind and R&D and a smart grid, along with stockholders wondering: Continue reading

Southern Company Shareholder meeting: renewables more than doubled in one year 2017-05-24

While its natural gas percentage remained flat, and coal and nuclear decreased, Southern Company (SO) more than doubled its renewable energy generation percentage in one year. Maybe I’ll mention that at the annual shareholder meeting in May.

2017 Mix:
2017 Energy Mix
2016 Mix:
2016 Energy Mix

When: 10:00 a.m., ET
Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Where: The Lodge Conference Center
Callaway Gardens
4500 Southern Pine Drive
Pine Mountain, GA 31822-2593

Event: Annual Southern Company
Shareholder Meeting

Southern Company has all its SEC filings online, including Continue reading

U.S. electric power source projections: solar still most by 2023

According to FERC’s own figures from 2012 and 2016, my solar projections from 2013 (and former FERC Chair Jon Wellinghoff’s) were pretty good, and more U.S. electricity will still come from solar power by 2023. LAKE Solar Table 2017 Since coal and nuclear are already crashing, and natural gas isn’t increasing even as fast as formerly projected, solar could win even faster.

I constructed table below from the 2012 and 2016 summaries of total U.S. electric power generation from all sources, by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).

Look at the 2012 column: only coal and natural gas generated more than 25% of total U.S. electricity.

But in 2016 it’s only natural gas, because coal’s growth rate actually turned negative: utilities are shutting down coal plants, not building them. Back in 2013 I did not predict that to happen so quickly.

Now look at the growth rates, both my 2013 projections (see also the graph on the right) and my corrected 2017 projections. Only wind (and waste heat) is higher than 5%, plus solar alone at more than 50% new installed capacity per year. According to FERC’s 2016 figures (the “actual:” numbers in the 2016 columns), my 2013 solar projection was a little high by deployed utility-scale solar power, but was actually low as a proportion in 2016, because coal and nuclear are already crashing. Sure, one new nuclear power plant opened in 2016, but more than one closed.

And remember, utility-scale solar power, which is all FERC records in its Energy Infrastructure Updates, isn’t the whole story. FERC recorded 7.748 GW of new solar power in 2016, but SEIA added in rooftop and community solar power for a total of 14.6 GW of new solar power in 2016.

You don’t see rooftop coal, or nuclear, or natural gas. You don’t any of those installed in 9-month or less timeframes, as for solar power: they all require multi-year permitting processes because they’re so environmentally destructive. So it’s very unlikely there are any significant additions to coal, nuclear, or natural gas U.S. energy generation beyond what FERC reported.

Solar power has what we could call the personal computer or mobile phone advantage: anybody can own one. Practically by definition, you’ll never see that advantage for utility-scale power generation.

Looking that the 2021 and 2023 projections in the table, of course they’re naive projections, simply taking the old 2013 rate and the new 2017 corrected rate and projecting them forward. The 2013 rate I made by comparing FERC’s 2012 total figures to previous years. The 2017 rate I made by comparing FERC’s 2016 total figures to its 2012 total figures.

By 2021 coal won’t even account for 25% of U.S. electricity generation, and it didn’t even in FERC’s actual 2016 figures. In 2021 natural gas will account for a higher proportion because of coal’s capitulation, even though it’s actually growing slower than my 2013 projection.

Also in 2021, solar and wind will both be greater than 10% of U.S. generation, although wind will not yet reach that by the corrected projection. Since in 2016 according to SEIA solar actually beat wind for new installed capacity, I wonder if wind is already having trouble competing with solar power.

In 2023, by either my old or new projections, solar power will generate more U.S. electricity than anything else. Wind doesn’t grow nearly as fast by the corrected 2017 factor. Maybe 2016 was a glitch for wind, or maybe there’s something deeper going on.

For how naive these projections are, look at the Total row. U.S. electricty demand is unlikely to increase by 20% by 2021 (only four years from now) and it’s even less likely to increase by 52% by 2023 (only seven years from now). What that actually probably means is that coal and nuclear will crash faster and natural gas will follow them down, leaving solar and wind power as the main sources of U.S. electricity.

These projections and this table are just to illustrate some basic points. Other people are doing much more sophisticated projections, such as Stanford Professor Mark Z. Jacobson and his research team, which graphically show fossil fuels and nuclear crashing while solar and wind win.

Goldman Sachs already called this a year ago, and many other big financial institutions predicted even earlier that solar and wind will win. This economic sea change is driven by solar prices dropping faster than Moore’s Law, which is accelerated by economies of scale as solar deployment increases. Economics are driving politics. Even Georgia in 2015 revised its antique law so third party power-purchase-agreements are now possible, and Georgia has become the fastest-growing U.S. solar market.

LAKE Solar Table 2017

Data from: FERC Office of Energy Projects
Energy Infrastructure Update For December 2012
Energy Infrastructure Update For December 2016
Total Installed Operating Generating Capacity
Projections by: Lowndes Area Knowledge Exchange (LAKE)
2012 2016 2021 2023
Power Source Projected Rates Installed GW 2012
(% of Total)
Projected GW 2016
(% of Total)
Projected %increase to 2016 Projected GW 2021
(% of Total)
Projected %increase to 2021 Projected GW 2023
(% of Total)
Projected %increase to 2023
Coal 2013: 1.3% 2017: -3.6% 337.71
(29.17%)
355.62
(26.93%)
actual: 291.79 (24.65%)
105%
actual:
86.4%
379.34
(19.95%)
corr.: 242.79 (17.13%)
112%
corr.:
71.9%
389.27
(15.13%)
corr.: 225.63 (12.74%)
115%
corr.:
66.8%
Natural Gas 2013: 1.8% 2017: 1.0% 491.82
(42.48%)
528.20
(39.99%)
actual: 511.74 (43.23%)
107%
actual:
104%
577.48
(30.37%)
corr.: 537.90 (37.95%)
117%
corr.:
109%
598.46
(23.26%)
corr.: 548.71 (30.98%)
121%
corr.:
111%
Nuclear 2013: 1.0% 2017: -0.1% 107.01
(9.24%)
111.36
(8.43%)
actual: 106.58 (9.00%)
104%
actual:
99.6%
117.04
(6.16%)
corr.: 106.05 (7.48%)
109%
corr.:
99.1%
119.39
(4.64%)
corr.: 105.84 (5.98%)
111%
corr.:
98.9%
Oil 2013: 1.0% 2017: 1.9% 41.32
(3.57%)
43.00
(3.26%)
actual: 44.85 (3.79%)
104%
actual:
108%
45.19
(2.38%)
corr.: 48.95 (3.45%)
109%
corr.:
118%
46.10
(1.79%)
corr.: 50.82 (2.87%)
111%
corr.:
123%
Water 2013: 1.0% 2017: 0.5% 98.12
(8.47%)
102.10
(7.73%)
actual: 100.59 (8.50%)
104%
actual:
102%
107.31
(5.64%)
corr.: 102.62 (7.24%)
109%
corr.:
104%
109.47
(4.25%)
corr.: 103.65 (5.85%)
111%
corr.:
105%
Wind 2013: 22.8% 2017: 9.2% 57.53
(4.97%)
130.82
(9.91%)
actual: 81.87 (6.92%)
227%
actual:
142%
365.33
(19.21%)
corr.: 127.03 (8.96%)
635%
corr.:
220%
550.90
(21.41%)
corr.: 151.48 (8.55%)
957%
corr.:
263%
Biomass 2013: 3.7% 2017: 2.6% 15.00
(1.30%)
17.35
(1.31%)
actual: 16.78 (1.42%)
115%
actual:
111%
20.80
(1.09%)
corr.: 18.90 (1.33%)
138%
corr.:
125%
22.37
(0.87%)
corr.: 19.89 (1.12%)
149%
corr.:
132%
Geo- thermal Steam 2013: 4.2% 2017: 1.5% 3.70
(0.32%)
4.36
(0.33%)
actual: 3.93 (0.33%)
117%
actual:
106%
5.36
(0.28%)
corr.: 4.23 (0.30%)
144%
corr.:
114%
5.82
(0.23%)
corr.: 4.36 (0.25%)
157%
corr.:
117%
Solar 2013: 60.9% 2017: 57.0% 3.90
(0.34%)
26.14
(1.98%)
actual: 23.70 (2.00%)
670%
actual:
607%
281.88
(14.82%)
corr.: 226.03 (15.95%)
7227%
corr.:
5795%
729.76
(28.36%)
corr.: 557.14 (31.46%)
18711%
corr.:
14285%
Waste Heat 2013: 0.4% 2017: 14.4% 0.69
(0.06%)
0.70
(0.05%)
actual: 1.18 (0.10%)
101%
actual:
171%
0.72
(0.04%)
corr.: 2.32 (0.16%)
103%
corr.:
335%
0.72
(0.03%)
corr.: 3.03 (0.17%)
104%
corr.:
439%
Other 2013: 0.0% 2017: -8.5% 1.04
(0.09%)
1.04
(0.08%)
actual: 0.73 (0.06%)
100%
actual:
70.2%
1.04
(0.05%)
corr.: 0.47 (0.03%)
100%
corr.:
45.0%
1.04
(0.04%)
corr.: 0.39 (0.02%)
100%
corr.:
37.6%
Total 2013: 0.0% 2017: 0.5% 1157.86
(100.00%)
1320.69
(100.00%)
actual: 1183.74 (100.00%)
114%
actual:
102%
1901.49
(100.00%)
corr.: 1417.29 (100.00%)
164%
corr.:
122%
2573.3
(100.00%)
corr.: 1770.94 (100.00%)
222%
corr.:
152%
corr.: LAKE 2013 projection corrected by LAKE in 2017 according to growth rate from 2012 to 2016.
Factor colors: red: < 0%; orange: < 2%; blue: > 5%; green: > 50%. Proportion background colors: darkyellow > 10%; yellow > 25%.

2012 FERC Source: Data derived from Ventyx Global LLC, Velocity Suite.

2016 FERC Sources: Data derived from Velocity Suite, ABB Inc. and The C Three Group LLC which include plants with nameplate capacity of 1 MW or greater. The data may be subject to update.

* “Other” includes purchased steam, tires, and miscellaneous technology such as batteries, fuel cells, energy storage, and fly wheel.

Waste Heat

What is the mysterious Waste Heat that FERC does not define in either of the source reports? EPA defines it like this:

Waste heat to power (WHP) is the process of capturing heat discarded by an existing industrial process and using that heat to generate power (see Figure 1). Energy-intensive industrial processes—such as those occurring at refineries, steel mills, glass furnaces, and cement kilns—all release hot exhaust gases and waste streams that can be harnessed with well-established technologies to generate electricity (see Appendix). The recovery of industrial waste heat for power is a largely untapped type of combined heat and power (CHP), which is the use of a single fuel source to generate both thermal energy (heating or cooling) and electricity.

So waste heat is efficiency measures for existing thermal industrial processes. Thus it is unlikely ever to account for a significant proportion of electricty generation.

Putting it another way, waste heat is greenwashing obsolete power generation. Case in point: Status of Waste Heat to Power Projects on Natural Gas Pipelines, November 2009, prepared for Interstate Natural Gas Association of America (INGAA). Sorry, fracked methane purveyors, waste heat won’t save you.

Solar power will soon account for the largest proportion of U.S. electricity generation.

And that’s just the start. We know how to get to 100% sun, wind, and water power for the U.S. by 2050, for everything, including heating, cooling, and transportation. Solar power will win like the Internet did.

Let the sun rise!

-jsq

Investigative reporting costs money, for open records requests, copying, web hosting, gasoline, and cameras, and with sufficient funds we can pay students to do further research. You can donate to LAKE today!

Pipelines companies don’t detect corrosion or stop explosions

A reminder of why to stop pipeline companies from burying investors’ money in the ground and get on with solar power: the pipeline that exploded in Texas last week was half owned by Spectra Energy, the pipeline company behind Sabal Trail, AIM, Penneast, and numerous other fracked methane invasions and behind thirty years of undetected corrosion resulting in leaks, explosions, property damage, and deaths. The pipeline company didn’t detect it and couldn’t even turn it off quickly. Want to bet that it, like Spectra’s Pennsylvania explosion last spring, was corrosion?

A very Texas report said “no people or cattle were injured” and also notice: “The fire is under control and will burn itself out.” Continue reading

Southern Company Annual Meeting @ SO 2016-05-25

Road trip to Callaway Gardens for the annual question time with Tom Fanning, questions provided by environmentalists and Southern Company (SO) stockholders from at least four states.

Energy Mix This figure from page ii of the meeting Notice illustrates both the problem and the solution for Southern Company. Natural gas has replaced coal as SO’s top energy source, and Nuclear is still in there. But renewables are up to 4%. And over on the right of the same page:

  • Growth in Renewables
    Approximately 3,800 megawatts of announced or added renewable capacity since 2012. This includes the development of what is expected to be the largest voluntary solar portfolio in the U.S. (at Georgia Power Company).

Interesting use of “voluntary”, but never mind that. If SO keeps that up, it will Continue reading

Radioactive tritium leak at Indian Point nuke stopped, but still in groundwater

Papers forged, fire and oil leak into the Hudson River, fracked methane pipeline planned next door, oh, yet built on a fault line, and people are surprised there’s radioactive tritium leaking from Entergy’s Indian Point nuclear plant? Just like at Plant Farley on the Chattahoochee River, Plant Hatch on the Altamaha River and Plant Vogtle on the Savannah River? How about surprised if there are any nukes that don’t leak tritium?

AP, 6 February 2016, Radioactive Material Found in Groundwater Below Nuke Plant, Continue reading

Is Porter Ranch the natural gas industry’s Three Mile Island?

Thirty-six years ago, Three Mile Island turned public opinion against nuclear power. The worst in history, right now still spewing after three months and Los Angeles County and the state of California have declared emergencies at Porter Ranch, is the “natural” gas industry’s Three Mile Island.

Nuclear, too was touted as safe, clean, and infamously “too cheap to meter”. It turned out to be none of those things, and neither is fracked methane. Three Mile Island alone didn’t stop the thousands of nukes President Nixon promised, but it sure helped. The Porter Ranch disaster has already lasted far longer, had worse direct effects, and is in the nation’s second-largest metropolitan area.

Plus TMI was the first U.S. civilian nuclear accident. The “natural” gas industry has leaks, corrosion, fires, explosions, and now earthquakes monthly and sometimes daily. Sure, the shadow of nuclear war hung over the nuclear power industry, but the monthly fireballs from methane explosions hangs over the natural gas industry. The 2010 San Bruno, California explosion is back in the news because, says AP 13 January 2015: PROSECUTORS: PG&E RESISTED RECORD-KEEPING CHANGE AFTER SAN BRUNO BLAST.

It’s time for a complete moratorium on all new natural gas projects, like the moratorium on all new nuclear projects after Three Mile Island. Instead, let’s get on with what we didn’t have back then: solar and wind power already less expensive than any other sources of power, far cleaner and safer, much faster to deploy, using no water, and requiring no eminent domain.

In 1962 President John F. Kennedy famously said: Continue reading

A clean energy future is already arriving –350.org & LNS

I’m thankful we’re already on the way to a clean energy future, Big Light bulb with more jobs, less expense than doing nothing, no new nukes, no coal at all, much less natural gas, no need for any new pipelines, better health, clean air and water, and profit. The COP meeting in Paris can do what it will, and we can still make a better world and profit by it. We’re already doing it, with solar and wind power, energy efficiency and conservation,

The Clean Energy Future: Protecting the Climate, Creating Jobs, Saving Money, by Frank Ackerman of Synapse for LNS and 350.org:

[M]eeting the IPCC targets will… create more jobs and save money.

This report, Continue reading