The Nuclear Question

Leslie Carlson

Driving through the Yamhill Valley last weekend, my husband and I were struck with the number of solar panels going up. Sokol Blosser Winery has an array, Stoller Vineyards is 70 percent powered by solar and Torii Mor Winery plans to produce their entire crop of wine--12,000 cases--from solar energy.

The wind energy business is growing by leaps and bounds these days, both internationally and domestically. These visible signs of renewable energy taking hold, as well as Texas Utilities recent cancellation of 8 of 11 planned new coal plants, are enough to make me think that a global transition away from fossil fuels and to renewable energy may be well underway.

That's why I was surprised to hear House Speaker Nancy Pelosi say that nuclear energy was "on the table" as part of her renewed effort to get the U.S. to move away from fossil fuels. Nuclear power? In 2007? After Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, and the fact that some nuclear waste can stay radioactive for a half million years?

The reason may be this: so far, Americans have shown themselves to be poor conservers of energy, and the forecast for energy use continues to grow. Pelosi--and others--may be worried that renewable energy, while clearly a factor for the future, will not grow fast enough to meet the country's demand for electricity. Therefore, they are looking to the only large-scale conventional energy source that does not produce carbon emissions: nuclear energy.

Here's how Angus Duncan, head of the Bonneville Environmental Foundation, framed the consequences of the region's energy demand in a recent article in the Portland Tribune:

Unless we can reduce demand, it is more likely that we will have to build the kinds of (power) plants found in the rest of the country.

By the "kinds of plants found in the rest of the country," I assume Duncan means coal, natural gas or nuclear power plants. And yet, I find it hard to believe that new nuclear plants will start springing up all over the country in the next years. After all, the only nuclear plant in our immediate vicinity, Trojan, was decommissioned just recently.

However, if the consequences of global warming fall hard and fast on our society, it may be that nuclear is a short-term strategy to reducing carbon until we can meet our energy needs with the plentiful and clean supply of sun, wind and waves. This situation seems all the more reason to support the green power programs that local energy utilities offer. Sign up for yours, if you haven't already. You may be putting off a nuclear power plant planned for your neighborhood.

  • BlueNote (unverified)

    To meet the demand for future power in the Northwest we either have to build more traditional power plants or we have to force people to conserve energy, since voluntary conservation has not and will not achieve sufficient reduction in demand. There are two ways to force people to conserve energy. The first is to use some sort of government mandated program like rationing. I don't see that happening. The second way to force conservation is to allow power prices to rise to a point that is high enough that a sufficient number of people will use less power because they can't afford the price. The second approach works, but it will have harsh consequences for the poor and the middle class not to mention the number of manufacturing and industrial jobs that would be lost due to the increased power prices.

    I think it is a fair question to ask voters and consumers whether they want to endure forced conservation or whether they would prefer to have new power plants built in the Northwest. If new power plants are going to be constructed, I would prefer nuclear over coal or natural gas.

  • Ross Williams (unverified)

    There is an effort underway to restore the glow to nuclear power. It is combined with the implication that it needs to be said quietly or it will stir up "emotional" hysteria about nuclear energy.

    But the problems that caused commercial reactors to stop being built have not changed. The problem is not simply technology, but how that technology gets applied in a commercial environment.

    In one sense nuclear power is just a fancy way to boil water. But it is a much more complex operation than an old-fashioned industrial plant that burns fossil fuel for the same purpose. To do it safely requires a lot more technical skills and a different kind of management than most power producers need for their other operations.

    And it is safely, not efficiently, that is the key word there. The extra expense to get workers with better skills is not returned on the bottom line except to the extent they avoid catastrophic accidents or regulatory shutdowns from failing to comply with safety requirements.

    Not surprisingly, companies looking to control expenses cut corners on hiring people. They hire the lowest cost workers who meets the absolute minimum regulatory requirements for the job. In some cases, they have hired unqualified people without any background checks at all.

    The reality is that a Three-mile Island or Chernobyl like disaster is very unlikely. The problem is that when they happen they can have catastrophic consequences. Unfortunately, those kinds of risks are not well handled by the commercial marketplace. This is why we have the Price-Anderson act limiting company's liability in the event of an accident. But the flip side of that is that the people who make decisions for company's are rewarded for immediate bottom line profits, not preventing unlikely events.

    But it wasn't poor management that was the demise of Trojan. It wasn't really even poor design. It was an experimental modern technology. Like the first version of new software, it had lots of bugs. Only those bugs showed up over a period of years and eventually lead the plant to be closed, although Oregon's rate payers are still paying for it.

    And that raises an issue which has changed in other parts of the country where electrical generation has been de-regulated. PGE operated Trojan as a regulated utility that passed on its costs to customers. If its costs went up to make Trojan safer, so did its rates. But in the unregulated environment, power companies will make money on the difference between what they can charge and what it costs. Every dime spent on improved safety comes out of the bottom line.

    Then there are the "environmentalists" who seem to forget about the rest of the nuclear power cycle and its impact on workers and communities. The production of uranium and the disposal of nuclear waste both have significant environmental questions associated with them. We are over 50 years into the nuclear power industry and we still have no acceptable plan for disposing of the the highly radioactive waste. Nor any clear idea of what that will ultimately cost. And the environmental impacts of uranium mining and production are largely dealt with by pretending they don't exist.

    I suspect there is going to be a real push for nuclear power. The technology is still experimental, the commercial organizations to build and operate plants safely aren't really there and the ultimate costs, when decommissioning and waste storage are included, are unknown. But there is money to be made and a whole industry that will start to die if we go another 25 years without building a new plant.

    At some point we will have another catastrophic disaster and the whole process will start over with the same PR buildup, the same implications that any opposition is just emotional hysteria and the same results with technology rushed into production before it has been fully vetted under experimental conditions.

    And that is without considering the current fear mongering around potential acts of terrorism. A catastrophic accident at a nuclear power plant is both a lot more dangerous and a lot more likely than terrorists getting their hands on a nuclear weapon and successfully smuggling it into the country.

  • (Show?)

    The rise of nukes as green power is a fascinating wrinkle in modern politics. I worked to get Trojan closed and was hugely anti-nuke back in the 80s and 90s. Not only was it a danger to health, but also represented foreign-policy danger. But now, if greenies are to look seriously at the reality of global warming, we have to at least put nukes back on the table.

    Their readoption is premature--we still haven't figured out what to do with the waste. However, if you think, as I do, that global warming will radically alter the globe in the next century, potentially bringing with it famine and war, you must be at least willing to consider nuclear power.

    To reframe the question from an environmental perspective: what would it take to make nuclear power safe, unpolluting, and reliable? If we could answer that question, we might be onto something.

    In the interim, you're right--let's go as green as possible as fast as possible first. Nukes should be a last resort. Provocative thoughts, Leslie.

  • (Show?)

    Not advocating N tech, but it's worth keeping up with the new stuff. The new "pebble bed" configuration of fuel, while pretty simple is light years ahead of Chernobyl and even Three Mile Island. Those types of disasters could not happen with pebble bed. If something goes wrong, the whole thing sorta "goes out" like a grill with the coals dispersed.

    That still leaves the whole radioactive waste disposal and the mining and manufacture as really serious issues that need to be addressed.........So I'm with Ross overall on this one.

    The sad fact is that we do have the tech right now to build out the entire country around a distributed system employing fuel cells, solar and wind, but the current energy delivery guys would be forever shut out of such a system, and they will not go gently into that good night.

    Wired Magazine has a short article about a guy living completely off the grid with about a $50,000 investment. Not cheap, but maybe cheaper than a lifetime of invading "resource nations" to support our collective habit. Read about it here

  • BlueNote (unverified)

    My frustration with some of my friends in the environmental community is that when they are asked to make the "Devil's Choice" between nuclear or oil / coal / gas (or LNG), they try to choose "none of the above". My point is that absent very painful mandatory conservation measures, "none of the above" is not an available choice. Notwithstanding Governor K's current fixation with solar, there is no new or renewable technology on the horizon that can produce anywhere near the generating capacity that will be required by the Northwest by the year 2025. Solar panels, fuel cells, wind farms and ocean tide generators will not meet the current demand forecasts, and our country and our region need to decide fairly soon how we are going to meet the demand for power. If we choose to NOT meet the demand, then we need to begin discussions very quickly on what form of mandatory energy conservation will be implemented.

    Choosing oil or coal or natural gas or LNG are all reasonable choices, but as I said, I happen to prefer nuclear as I believe on balance it is the cleaner alternative and it is working very well throughout Asia and Europe.

  • Ross Williams (unverified)

    But now, if greenies are to look seriously at the reality of global warming, we have to at least put nukes back on the table.

    when they are asked to make the "Devil's Choice" between nuclear or oil / coal / gas (or LNG), they try to choose "none of the above". My point is that absent very painful mandatory conservation measures, "none of the above" is not an available choice. Notwithstanding Governor K's current fixation with solar, there is no new or renewable technology on the horizon that can produce anywhere near the generating capacity that will be required by the Northwest by the year 2025

    I think you have a lot of assumptions there that aren't true:

    1) "painful mandatory conservation measures"

    The reality is large amounts of the base need for electricity are air conditioning, heating and lighting. We have not even begun to tap the potential in any of the three.

    You can find houses all over the place that lack basic weatherization that is cost effective even at today's prices. Most people have not moved to compact fluorescents and many downtown office buildings continue to use large amounts of light all night. These measures are hardly painful and probably don't even need to be mandatory.

    2) Wind, solar and wave technologies all have potential to generate substantial electricity. But you are right there are environmental tradeoffs with virtually any power source.

    3) Coal gasification with co2 sequestration appears to be close to ready to move into the commercial stage of development. In some cases the captured co2 may actually be a source of earnings, rather than a cost.

    4) There are probably real savings to be had from reducing transmission losses.

    So your environmental friends answer is correct. They don't have to choose today between today's coal technology and today's nuclear technology. And its likely a lot will have changed in both industries if and when that choice does need to be made. The effort to get people to jump on the bandwagon is driven by business plans, not electrical needs.

  • Garlynn (unverified)

    I don't agree with your assessment, BlueNote. Show me the data that predicts exactly how much demand will increase for power by the year 2025, in Oregon, and in the Pacific NW power grid as a whole. And then show me how sustainable power sources (wind, solar, tidal) won't be able to fill the gap.

    By 2009, one plant in Hillsboro be churning out 500mw worth of solar panels each year, if I read the predictions correctly. That's a lot of capacity. Eastern Oregon/Washington gets a lot of sunshine, 300+ days per year! So, I don't believe the arguments that solar isn't a viable part of the solution. Combined with electrolysis & hydrogen fuel cells to deal with the day vs. night, summer vs. winter issue, as well as with wind power so that if the sun is shining, electricity is produced, and if the wind is blowing, electricity is produced -- and it seems like there's a pretty effective solution right there.

    Especially if you look at the total cost of a new nuclear plant, and look at how much solar/wind-fuel cell combo plant capacity could be built with that funding instead. And also include the lifecycle costs of the technologies.

    So, no, I don't think nuclear is or should be a part of the answer. I think if a fair analysis is conducted, nuclear is still going to lose.

  • Thomas Ware (unverified)

    Little bit of a tangent, but... couple of weeks ago 'ore pints at the pub big, fat rightwinger (Californian) trying to be funny (intimidating) at my expense 'ore discussion of half million year half lives made the classic winger so what we'll all be dead crack. Very quiet, very well educated rightwinger who rarely commments on anything (old Oregon boy) looked right at him and said "not like there isn't enough of that shit, is there?"

  • Some Jerk (unverified)

    I am a huge supporter of renewable energy, but I think dismissing nuclear energy with invocations of Chernobyl and TMI is asinine.

    A) Next generation reactors have abandoned the sort of active safety systems that failed at TMI. The Westinghouse AP1000 is the new standard (a prototype is running at OSU) and uses gravity instead of pumps for emergency cooling, among other passive safety features. Unless the theory of gravity turns out to be as incorrect as evolution, meltdown proof.

    B) Nuclear waste is an issue, but what people don't understand is how half-life works. The "hottest" stuff has short half-lifes. The stuff that lasts a million years is not nearly as radioactive. It's nasty, but at least its all in one place, rather than sent up a smokestack. (yes, coal is slightly radioactive, not just full of carbon)

    C) You need baseload generation to maintain a grid. Wind is unpredictable in many locations. Photovoltaic solar is predictably useless at night. Hydro is already at maximum capacity in the northwest. Right now, we rely on coal and gas fired plants to provide the base that hydro can't. Yes, converting water to hydrogen or spinning flywheels can store some solar or wind energy, but that's $$$$ on a large scale.

    D) What is needed is a vision of where the energy mix will be in 2050. With vigorous conservation, we should be able to hold demand to current levels. As of 2000, the mix was 66% hydro, 24% coal, 8% gas & 2% nuclear. I'd like to see nuclear and renewables step up to replacing that 24%.

  • Joe12Pack (unverified)

    Is it just me or is the general sentiment among so-called progressives far more pro-nuclear power than it was a mere 15 years ago? I seem to recall nuclear power being the big bad bogeyman in the not so distant past as Jeff attested to, but apparently that has been replaced by global warming.

    Though I'd agree that nuclear energy represents one of our best bets as a low emissions energy source capable of generating copious amounts of electricity, it's going to be very difficult to make that happen in the U.S. Our waste management plan is a mess, stymied by politics and environmental concerns. Fear and our "not in my backyard" mentality will only compound the problem of moving forward with nuclear technology.

    Personally I'm most troubled by the waste issue. According to the feds, there's already more than 50,000 tons of nuclear waste piling up at nuclear power plants in 31 states with nowhere to go. Hypothetically speaking, lets say we do manage to construct and put more plants on line. Where do we put the lovely byproducts from the process to sit for thousands of years? Yucca Mountain? That project aint exactly on target and seems to waning in popularity, especially among residents of Southern Nevada. Then there's the matter of storage capacity. Even if developed to it's theoretical maximum, were talking maybe 150,000 tons according to proponents, hardly a real long-term solution. We need to think about that. Developed countries who derive much larger percentages of their energy from nuclear power than the U.S. will generate lower carbon emissions per capita but there's quite a trade off. Call me crazy, but making small incremental improvements in our own meaningless lives- becoming more conscious and energy efficient would make a world of difference without creating another set of problems.

  • Zarathustra (unverified)

    The nuclear question is what you're actually going to do- for real, like get up and walk out the door- about Easter, when you hear on the morning news that we've just attacked Iran with tactical nukes.

    Seriously, environmentalists seem to act like anything matters as long as wars are going on. Even we can't be so consumptive to match in a year what the cleanest war does in five minutes.

  • pedro (unverified)

    "absent very painful mandatory conservation measures, "none of the above" is not an available choice"

    this is so untrue. california's energy intensity (energy use per dollar of gross state product) as of 2001 was more than 25% better than oregons, and that was before the enron "crisis". i can only imagine that it is even better now. california is also aiming at 2% reduction per year; the average is 1.5%, and that is from higher initial usage with more obvious room for improvement. so oregon can do a whole lot better.

    i am hoping the gov k's renewable portfolio plan provides some sort of stimulus or state underwriting for investment in geothermal. in some ways, our cheap electricity have been harmful in the development of renewable source; right now our most promising geothermal sites (the military pass-newberry volcano project, and crump geyser) are being developed by california and nevada!

    we do currently underwrite the above market costs of some renewable energy devlopment, but i believe only cheap, utility-scale development, which basically means wind. i think it would be super forward thinking of the legislature to actually help get a geothermal project going. even though it will cost more than wind, it would give use baseload, rather than intermmitent generation. oregon is projected to have the 3rd highest potential geothermal capacity in the nation.

  • (Show?)

    Blue Note writes:

    My frustration with some of my friends in the environmental community is that when they are asked to make the "Devil's Choice" between nuclear or oil / coal / gas (or LNG), they try to choose "none of the above". My point is that absent very painful mandatory conservation measures, "none of the above" is not an available choice. Notwithstanding Governor K's current fixation with solar, there is no new or renewable technology on the horizon that can produce anywhere near the generating capacity that will be required by the Northwest by the year 2025.

    The problem with BlueNote's assertion is it's not even close to being true. There's plenty of renewable options, combined with conservation measures that actually save us money that would meet any reasonable forecast for energy demand without pushing us onto nuclear, or building new coal/natural gas, and without increases in prices. And that's assuming current state of technology for solar, which continues to improve every year.

  • (Show?)


    Could you post some links or sources for us to look at on this topic? I am no fan of nuclear waste, but given the current options on the table, I would not be opposed to relying on nuclear power plants. I look at the track record in Europe, which is very good, and look at what we're doing (coal and coal gasification), which is very bad.

    So what am I missing here?

  • BlueNote (unverified)

    I am not a scientist, but according to the Northwest Power Council ( NW load demand in 2025 is predicted to average between 25 and 30,000 Megs. Could be higher or lower depending on the economy, population growth, etc. Those figures assume the aluminum plants in the NW will not be restarted, which seems like a valid assumption although I think Alcoa has restarted its Wenatchee plant.

    The amount of base capacity presently available in the NW is a moving target, because a significant amount of capacity is not under contract to anybody and, depending on available transmission capacity, will flow to whatever part of the west coast is paying the highest energy spot prices at the moment. Looks like existing guaranteed fixed demand capacity is about 20,000 Megs.

    If the above load estimates and capacity figures are in the ball park, the Northwest will require around 7,000 to 10,000 Megs of new base load capacity (or a combination of conservation and base load capacity). Hopefully wind will cover at least 10% of that figure if the federal tax subsidy remains in place. World wide geothermal production is only about 6,000 Megs so I don't see that as a viable alternative. Right now, solar is too small to count.

    The above is why I submit that we should begin to discuss adding traditional thermal base load capacity to the Northwest grid at the same time as we explore conservation options. Absent some pretty incredible new technology, conservation and renewable energy are not going to be enough.

  • Ross Williams (unverified)

    Is it just me or is the general sentiment among so-called progressives far more pro-nuclear power than it was a mere 15 years ago?

    I think there are a lot of people who were never really involved with the issue and never understood it. The nuclear industry has picked up global warming as the issue they can pitch their industry around and, frankly, the environmental groups opposed to nuclear power have mostly moved on. Its been over 25 years since anyone seriously proposed building a new one anywhere in the United States.

    For people who really want to dig into the details of future power needs here is a Electric Power and Conservation Plan from the Northwest Power Planning Council. It doesn't really support Bluenote's claims about not being able to meet the region's needs with conservation and renewables. There is no simple yes/no to that question. It depends on a lot of things including technological advances in the next 25 years.

    Here is a quote:

    "Although the Northwest Power Act still requires a 20-year forecast of demand, there are few decisions that need to be made today to meet growing electricity demands beyond the next five years. The lead-time required to put new generating resources in place has been reduced substantially from the large scale nuclear and coal plants that appeared to be desirable in the early 1980s."

    In essence, there is no need to be rushing to make decisions now for large new generating capacity of any kind.

  • Garlynn (unverified)


    Thanks for bringing in those figures. As pedro notes, California has partially dealt with its energy situation using conservation, which is something that Oregon/the Pacific NW should definitely try a bit harder at. Perhaps that 6-7,000 mw figured can be whittled down to 1,000 mw if conservation measures are effective.

    Then, solar/wind/fuel cell/tidal might have a fighting chance of making a difference. According to this San Francisco Chronicle article, one solar project using Stirling engines is expected to produce 500mw. Put a couple of these out in the desert and tie them into some way to store generated power for the down-time (hydrogen tanks, batteries, capacitors, water pumped uphill, whatever), and there might be some real solutions finally from the solar sector.

    My point was, if the amount of money that it would take to build just one nuclear plant were instead used for a portfolio of other wind/solar/etc. projects, similar generating capacity might be produced, especially if lifecycle costs are taken into consideration.

    Given that the pace of technological change is very rapid, it's hard to quantify this right now. For example, one single wind turbine, the Enercon E112, will produce 6mw of electricity -- but pricing for this turbine is hard to come by, as very few have been manufactured so far, as from some prototypes.

    Further, when it comes to wind & solar, distributed generating capacity could very well become even more important than centralized capacity. That is, small wind & solar generators atop homes & businesses could eventually come to meet a major portion of our generating capacity need increases. More incentives should be aimed at promoting this, IMHO....

  • G. R. L. Cowan, boron combustion fan (unverified)
    Is it just me or is the general sentiment among so-called progressives far more pro-nuclear power than it was a mere 15 years ago?

    It is not just you. For a long time gas pipelines would blow up, the afternoon shift would go down in a coal mine and never come up, houses would be depopulated by carbon monoxide, and nuclear people would wring their hands and say, why is the public so irrational. As it turns out, we're not; our opinions were being misrepresented by oil and gas interests.

    The trick, it turns out, is that oil and gas profits are mostly taken as taxes, so the very government that supposedly was pushing nuclear has in fact always been its most cunning character-assassin. And, to be sure, a very aggressive regulator.

  • pedro (unverified)

    i gotta second garlynn, here. the opportunity costs of putting the collective effort towards nuclear are huge. a huge effort in time, and capital; if we choose to do it, we are choosing not to do many, many other things. europe indeed has a good track record with nuclear, but they made their decision to go that route when the options were fewer. we have more options now.

    the first step, as garlynn mention, is to use full life cycle assessment of energy production and use. only this way can the figures not be fudged (like jk does so well with his transportation statistics). if we fail to do that, the numbers are only good until the next rebuild, which in the case of nuclear could easily come sooner then expected.

  • JMG (unverified)

    Surprised not to see much discussion of this important Portland Peak Oil report here--

  • Jeff Bissonnette, Citizens' Utility Board of Oregon (unverified)


    Rather than posting a big, long addition to the conversation, I'll offer a piece we offered on our blog back in July 2006:
    How Clean is Nuclear Energy?

    There are some interesting comments on that entry as well.

    In a related vein, it's worthy of note that the Renewable Energy Standard proposal that's been cited in this discussion (SB 373 - 25% of energy load met by renewable resources by 2025) is calculated assuming load growth between now and 2025. So, what that policy is saying is that much of Oregon's future load growth will mostly be met with a broad range of renewable resources, although primarily wind resources in the next few years.

    At the same time, we need to keep a focus on going after more efficiency efforts (and nowhere near "painful mandatory conservation measures" are needed - many estimates indicate at least 400 megawatts of cost-effective are well within reach, about the amount of a new gas plant would produce); we can reduce our energy load, making the 25% by 2025 standard even more within reach and reducing the need to depend on dirtier resources like coal and natural gas as well as exposing consumers to the vagaries and uncertainties of nuclear technology.


    Jeff Bissonnette CUB

  • lin qiao (unverified)

    Several people in this thread have mentioned the issue of safety, and someone also mentioned how safety can be compromised by cost cutting. It seems we also have to recognize up-front that the safety issue is intimately tied up with the failure of governmental oversight--or, more accurately I would argue, government complicity in the cover-up of safety problems. I would personally favor nuclear power if I had any confidence in legimitate, strict governmental oversight. Given the lies and deception of the past, it will take a lot to convince me. I most definitely would oppose nuclear power development with people like Dubya and his ideological soulmates in charge.

    Another issue is waste disposal. I don't want more nuclear waste accumulating above-ground, and until we get a deep waste repository established, we shouldn't renew nuclear power development. Countries with intensive nuclear power industries, like France, have geologically sound waste disposal. The US could as well. We certainly have geologically and hydrologically appropriate sites. But our political system makes actually moving ahead with a waste disposal site (such as Yucca Mountain, Nevada) practically impossible. France, in contrast, has a highly centralized (not federal-style) government.

  • G. R. L. Cowan, boron combustion fan (unverified)

    One would think "Lin Giao" did not understand that by heavily taxing petroleum and natural gas, whose pretax prices are roughly 30 times that of uranium, government puts itself in a conflict of interest, and the lies it tells about nuclear energy are all in the direction of making people unaware of its lifesaving, but civil-servant-displeasing, record ...

  • Urban Planning Overlord (unverified)

    Here's a table showing nuclear power generation and percentage of energy consumption worldwide:

    Worldwide Nuclear Power generation

    If a country like France, 6% of the size of the U.S., can find room to put nuclear power plants than generate over 50% of the power generated by U.S. plants, I see no reason why the U.S. can't fit a few more nuclear power plants on our rivers and shores.

  • (Show?)

    On the other hand, Germany's much more recent commitment to renewable energy has also ramped up. Percentage of total German power consumption that's renewable:

    2003 7.9% 2004 9.3% 2006 11.6%

    In Oregon there are at least four energy bills running through the leg:

    SB 373-- that sets standards of renewable generation to be in place by 2025

    HB 2210-- Biodiesel and other bio fuels

    HB 2211-- Business Energy Tax Credit

    HB 2212-- Residential Energy Tax Credit

    Here's a link to Jesse Jenkins' blog on this topic:

    I'd bet that danged near all of us could support Jackie Dingfelder's crew on the three house bills.......

    Maybe some of the pros could tell us the effect on the grid if we really got going on these. Would paying for a PR campaign urging that Business and homeowners take advantage of these credits, be cheaper than generation plan X?

  • pedro (unverified)

    urban planning overlord,

    are you just going to be johnny one-note on nuclear power, or do you actually want to engage in a discussion about the opportunity costs of forgoing our other options?

  • BlueNote (unverified)

    In re Germany's success in renewable generation, the following is interesting:

    . . .

    To spur growth of their renewable energy market, Germany has adopted an extreme form of net metering, whereby customers get paid 8 times what the power company charges them for any surplus they supply back to the grid.

    Wow! I wonder how that model would work with private utilities? Would we all pay higher rates to offset the amount PGE would spend buying back power?

  • Steve Snyder (unverified)

    Here is a link to an interesting article on a report that claims "Energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies have the potential to provide most, if not all, of the US carbon emissions reductions that will be needed to help limit the atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide to 450 to 500 ppm".

  • Ross Williams (unverified)

    If a country like France, 6% of the size of the U.S., can find room to put nuclear power plants than generate over 50% of the power generated by U.S. plants, I see no reason why...

    A single French company produces all that electricity and it is government owned. It produces 75% of its power with nuclear plants and exports electricity to other EU member. The company essentially specializes in nuclear power as a result of national policy decisions made in the 1970's.

    I am not certain a similar company would work in the United States. I am very certain it doesn't have a snowball's chance in hell of ever existing. But it is an interesting example because it addresses many of the problems associated with nuclear power in the United States. It established a very centralized authority with control over all aspects of the program, It places them in the hands of a professional operation which specializes in nuclear power. It places the overall operation ultimately under direct government supervision and responsibility. And, because it was a national effort, they were able to call on the best and brightest in the nation to be at the center of its development.

    That is not how things work in the US.

  • Zarathustra (unverified)

    There's the in between option (France v US). A large state owned utility wouldn't fly, but, being state owned they have x number of proven designs, developed, insured and certified safe by the government.

    We could have private corps, but without the HUGE expense of their always designing the reactor. Make them chose from our x standard models.

  • JMG (unverified)

    Speaking of conservation, here's a product no BlueOregonian wanting to conserve should be without. (Note I have no connection to this company, which is Canadian anyway. It's just that they are the first folks I've found who have addressed this in a clever way.)


    it's a device that permits whole-house electric consumption monitoring inside the house, with no electrical rewiring or new meters required! EVERY utility should be required to install these -- but, until that day, every utility should be at least required to offer these to customers on a Pay-As-You-Save (R) basis.

    If purchased in bulk, clearly would cost lots less than the $150 shown here.

    THIS is a huge part of the answer for Oregon's conservation requirements.

    I assume that many BlueOregonians are CUB members. Contact CUB and ask that they put this on their agenda-- that is, getting the PUC to require PGE to offer these devices (or equivalent functionality) to all residential customers.

  • Ross Williams (unverified)

    they have x number of proven designs, developed, insured and certified safe by the government.

    The problem isn't really plant designs. But in any case I doubt the United States is going to embark on a campaign of "energy independence" by having the French take over our nuclear power industry.

    The question is not whether you can operate a nuclear reactor safely. Its whether they will be designed, built and operated safely at a profit in the United States - every time. The history of our last run at nuclear power suggests that is very unlikely. Corners got cut at every stage of the process.

  • G. R. L. Cowan, boron combustion fan (unverified)

    The New Mexico gas pipeline disaster is an example of how power supply can hurt innocent bystanders; the US civilian nuclear industry has done no corresponding harm.

    When questions like "what would it take to make nuclear power safe, unpolluting, and reliable?" are asked, the first thing one should suspect is that the question knows that nuclear power already is safe, clean, and reliable, but is shilling for natural gas.

  • Ross Williams (unverified)

    The New Mexico gas pipeline disaster is an example of how power supply can hurt innocent bystanders; the US civilian nuclear industry has done no corresponding harm.

    That isn't true if you look at the impacts of mining of uranium. Moreover, the amount of energy produced by natural gas dwarfs the amount created by nuclear power plants.

    I don't think anyone is arguing the alternative to nuclear power is to produce electricity with natural gas. At least no one here. And natural gas is mostly used to meet peak load demands anyway, which nuclear power is completely unsuited for.

    The best alternatives to nuclear power are conservation, alternatives like wind, solar and waves and perhaps coal if the technology for burning it can be cleaned up to eliminate the co2 emissions. You can throw geo-thermal into the mix if you want.

    Most of them, even solar panels, have environmental concerns. None of them have the safety concerns surrounding nuclear power. One thing people ignore is that the commercial nuclear industry only really existed for about a decade before it was abandoned after Three Mile Island.

    During that time there were numerous examples of safety violations. The fact that those safety lapses never lead to a complete disaster in the form of a meltdown is largely a result of the public scrutiny the industry received from citizen groups. As safety regulations and enforcement were tightened the industry was no longer economically viable. In fact, you will find claims to exactly that effect from the industry itself - that it was 'over-regulation' that killed them.

  • G. R. L. Cowan, boron combustion fan (unverified)

    Do you believe any country other than the former USSR ever risked a Chernobyl?

  • Zarathustra (unverified)

    The current Russia, where life is still cheap?

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