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Boxer (D-CA) smacks down Crapo (R-ID), Carper (D-DE) says nuclear (which he supports) is “not cheap” and “the cleanest most affordable energy, is the energy we never use.”

By Joe Romm on July 7, 2009 at 10:06 am

"Boxer (D-CA) smacks down Crapo (R-ID), Carper (D-DE) says nuclear (which he supports) is “not cheap” and “the cleanest most affordable energy, is the energy we never use.”"


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Sen. Lautenberg (D-NJ), I believe, pointed out that the GOP members are all about “no, no, no.”

Sen. Crapo (R-ID) responded by saying that when the Republicans were in charge, they tried to pass energy bills and accused the Dems of being against them.

But Sen. Boxer (D-CA) pointed out that in fact the Senate passed energy bills in 2005, 2006, and 2007, so she hopes (fruitlessly, I’m afraid) that the R’s will work together with the D’s on this bill, as the D’s did the R’s.

Sen. Carper (D-DE) is a believer in climate action and all forms low carbon energy, as his remarks made clear.  In particular he gets energy efficiency, noting “the cleanest most affordable energy, is the energy we never use.”

I agree on the importance of nuclear power, but it’s NOT cheap.”

But while he understands that nuclear is “not cheap,” I’m sure he will be among those pushing for a nuclear title in the final bill, as he did in the stimulus (see “Can Obama stop the nuclear bomb in the Senate stimulus plan?

Lamar Alexander (R-TN) calls nuclear “the cheap clean energy solution,” renews GOP call for 100 new nukes, which would cost some $1 trillion

Sanders (I-VT): “I believe we can produce a significant fraction of the country’s energy with solar thermal,” Udall (D-NM): “When you put a price on carbon you are helping nuclear power”

12 Responses to Boxer (D-CA) smacks down Crapo (R-ID), Carper (D-DE) says nuclear (which he supports) is “not cheap” and “the cleanest most affordable energy, is the energy we never use.”

  1. Uosdwis says:

    When global warming makes the rivers used to cool the nuclear reactor TOO WARM to do that job, the plant shuts down. Case closed.

  2. Chris Winter says:

    She also smacked down Sen. Barasso for his bringing up the “censorship” of the Carlin paper. But his next turn (in this time-limited hearing) was to spout about the leaking of the name of a small business executive who submitted negative comments on mitigation economics, and then cite some newspaper article. (I didn’t catch the details of that last.)

  3. gtrip says:

    That’s funny. The Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station, located about 55 miles west of Phoenix, has been the largest power producer of any kind in the United States since 1992…Gets pretty hot out there you know.

    [JR: I think that's the one air cooled reactor. As long as all future reactors are air cooled (sacrificing efficiency and increasing cost) then we're good to go!]

  4. tehdude says:

    When you pass laws with the deliberate purpose of making nuclear power to expensive, then of course it is not cheap.

    Then again, people might eventually catch on to the pass the anti nuclear law and then complain about nuclear power because of the law tactic.

    [JR: Funny stuff. Please identify those (non-existent) laws. In fact, the only laws that have been passed are ones that make nuclear power plants even within the ballpark of conceivable. Absent the Price-Anderson act, whereby all taxpayers cover the liability of a major nuclear accident, we'll certainly would've built far fewer nuclear power plants than we have.]

  5. Chris Winter says:

    A bit off-topic: I want to mention John Fetterman, the Democratic mayor of Braddock, PA (near Pittsburgh) as an important voice in the global warming political debate. He was just on C-SPAN, speaks well and makes sense.

    His best line, in response to the last caller (paraphrased): “What did I do to you, sir, that you want me to watch Glenn Beck?”

  6. nirsnet says:

    No, Palo Verde is not air-cooled; it actually gets its cooling water from the Phoenix sewer system–pumped 50 miles to get there….

    But reactors that use river water are particularly vulnerable to climate change–increased river water temperature is why so many French reactors have been taken off-line recently, and why some U.S. reactors have had to shut down at times over the years (most recently, Browns Ferry, AL, last year).

    There are no commercial air-cooled reactors in the U.S., and not likely to be any–the NRC has never approved an air-cooled design and none have been submitted for approval. One obvious problem with air-cooled designs is that the air needs to flow through the reactor, which means it can’t have the kind of containment structure currently required in the U.S., and just about everywhere else…..

  7. Re nuclear: There’s a difference between water use and water consumption. All nuclear plants use a great deal of water, but a system like Palo Verde’s (which uses lightly treated sewage water) or a closed system (which re-uses the same water after cooling it) limit the amount of water consumed. Palo Verde supplies electricity from Southern California to West Texas with almost no carbon emissions. Why would we want to eliminate that option from the energy menu? Solar and wind are great – during daylight or when the wind blows – but there is no good way to store the energy from those sources for use later.

  8. Peter Wood says:

    Who was the Senator that was saying that we should log old growth forests and have that count as an offset? That was quite bizarre. I wonder where he receives his funding from?

  9. Gaston says:

    I think the best option for nuclear is to not use a coolant that disappears when it gets hot! The Gen IV liquid sodium based Integral Fast Reactors (IFR0 don’t use water for cooling and are starting to appear in energy plans around the world. I still have qualms about cost and time taken to construct them, but apart from those questions they *seem* to solve all the other problems with nuclear fission as an energy source. I have to say though that I’m very interested to see good critiques of IFR reactors as I’m constitutionally suspicious of nuclear fission.

  10. Rod Adams says:

    Joe – Palo Verde, the plant that uses treated sewage water as the ultimate heat sink, has an average production cost of less than 1.5 cents per kilowatt hour. (Reference: Economic Benefits of Palo Verde Generating Station) That is below the average for all nuclear plants in the US (1.86 cents per kilowatt hour in 2008). From a strictly numeric point of view, that conflicts with your response to gtrip’s comment about the facility:

    [JR: As you know, pretty much every nuclear plant is special in its own way -- one reason they are so expensive -- so it is difficult to generalize. Many of the current plants are quite now cheap to run for reasons that have little to do what the costs of future plants would be. But in any case, let's just have every new plant minimize water consumption -- nuclear and otherwise -- and given your comment, I don't see how the nuclear industry could possibly object! In general, however, air cooling is less efficient and more costly.]

    gtrip Says:
    That’s funny. The Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station, located about 55 miles west of Phoenix, has been the largest power producer of any kind in the United States since 1992…Gets pretty hot out there you know.

    [JR: I think that's the one air cooled reactor. As long as all future reactors are air cooled (sacrificing efficiency and increasing cost) then we're good to go!]

    For nirsnet – there are no “air cooled” reactors in the US, though there have been inert gas cooled reactors (Peach Bottom 1, Ft. St. Vrain) and there are inert gas cooled reactors in design with potential plans for US commercial application (NGNP and PBMR). These systems have closed cycle cooling where the gas that goes through the reactor and is potentially contaminated is sealed away from the environment.

    If you are looking towards the ultimate heat sink – the fluid that cools the condensers in the steam plant – then there is at least one air cooled plant on the drawing board. The B&W mPower™ that was announced in June 2009 will use air cooled condensers to enable it to be located without regard to adequate river, lake, bay or ocean cooling and without needing large, hyperbolic cooling towers. http://www.babcock.com/products/modular_nuclear/

  11. Leland Palmer says:

    I think that the cooling water thing is a design defect, not a fundamental law.

    Future reactors, if any, could avoid this problem, at some loss of efficiency, by using closed loop cooling towers, as was proposed on this blog for solar plants a couple of months ago.

    Gas cooled reactors still need cooling water for the steam loop, which may be why a lot of the gas cooled French reactors are shut down.

    I’m kind of indifferent toward nuclear. I think that nuclear could be designed to be safer, and perhaps have inherent safety instead of engineered safety.

    A meltdown would be terrible, but it won’t kill the planet.

    On the other hand, if nuclear power plants are targeted with nuclear weapons during a nuclear war, the huge amounts of radioactivity released could kill most life on earth, according to an article in Scientific American a decade or so ago.

    If we have a new generation of nuclear power plants, we should bury them half a mile deep in the earth, to prevent them from being targets in a nuclear war, as proposed in the Scientific American article.

  12. Leland Palmer says:

    More than you ever wanted to know about targeting nuclear reactors with thermonuclear weapons:

    Even more devastating, though, would be the result of direct hit by a nuclear weapon on a nuclear power reactor, with the nuclear reactor’s radioactive inventory being directly incorporated into the fireball of the nuclear explosion. This inventory would then be incorporated into the fallout cloud from the explosion.[20]

    The short-lived decay products in the reactor mostly decay away during its operation, leaving the longer-lived products such as strontium-90 and caesium-137. Therefore, while the radioactivity from a one megatonne nuclear explosion remains higher than that from a large (1000MW) nuclear power reactor for a few days, afterwards the reactor’s radioactivity poses a greater danger. If many reactor cores were vapourised in this way, large areas of countryside could be made highly radioactive for long periods of time.

    It is possible that nuclear power reactors would be nuclear targets, because of their high economic value, because of their capability of producing plutonium for making nuclear weapons, or because of the devastating radioactivity that would be spread about. The latter effect could also be achieved by attacking radioactive waste repositories or reprocessing plants. The main concentrations of large nuclear reactors are found in the United States, Europe, the Soviet Union and Japan, that is, those areas most likely to be involved in nuclear war in any case. If nuclear power facilities were attacked, therefore, most of the extra deaths and injuries would result in those regions. Because reactor cores are very well protected, dispersal of the core materials is unlikely to occur unless they are the specific target of highly accurate weapons.

    The reference number [20] in the quote above includes the Scientific American article (from 1981) I was talking about:

    20 Steven A. Fetter and Kosta Tsipis, ‘Catastrophic Releases of Radioactivity’, Scientific American, Vol. 244, No. 4, April 1981, pp.33-39; Bennett Ramberg, Destruction of Nuclear Energy Facilities in War: the Problem and its Implications, Lexington Books, Lexington, Massachusetts, 1980; Conrad V. Chester and Rowena O. Chester, ‘Civil Defense Implications of the U.S. Nuclear Power Industry During a Large Nuclear War in the Year 2000′, Nuclear Technology, Vol. 31, December 1976, pp.326-338.

    In the Scientific Amerian article by Fetter and Tsipis, the authors claim that burying the nuclear reactors half a mile deep in the earth would only cost about ten percent of their total cost. They also claim that if all the reactors in the world, I think, were targeted by thermonuclear weapons, it could raise the average radioactivity of the northern hemisphere sufficient to kill all human life.

    So if we are going to have a new generation of nuclear reactors, we ought to bury them, IMO, to keep them from being targets in any possible nuclear war.

    It’s possible that the thorium/U233 cycle is less toxic than plutonium.

    This all seems a little better than global warming, IMO.

    Adding up the risks from such huge catastrophic events is beyond me.