It is unfortunate that political spin has so thoroughly infiltrated the science dialogue. Because it has, it is incumbent on the public to read critically and for reporters to question what is said in public, and how they might (or might not) have paraphrased it for print. I recently noted an article in the McClatchy-Tribune Regional News, “Speaker: Renewable Energy Necessary in Global Warming Fight,” published November 16, 2010. It was a report on a presentation given at an energy policy conference at Dakota Wesleyan University by Chuck Kutscher, an engineer and manager from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colorado.
The following statement is taken from the referenced article:
“The atmosphere currently has 390,000 parts per million of carbon dioxide, and action needs to be taken now to reduce the atmosphere to below 350,000 parts per million, Kutscher said.”
This statement does not pass the straight face test. If accurately quoted, it should have been questioned immediately. If paraphrased, it should never have survived proofreading or editing. The quoted value is equal to 39% carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, at which concentration we would have all been long dead. The correct value 390 parts per million.
I don’t point this out simply to correct a typo or a misstatement. Science and math education in the U.S. is in dire straits. When these kinds of obvious errors can make it into print, how many less obvious errors, distortions, or junk statistics make the daily news? The public must be able to critically evaluate the information we get every day. This begins with disciplined science, math, and basic statistics education for everyone. To not understand…, to not question…, is to be led by the nose by histrionics and superficially plausible sound bites.
The energy and environmental decisions we face today are too serious to trust any information simply because it appears in print or on the evening newscast. When it comes to news, politicians lie, experts spin, public interest groups terrify, businesses market, and the media selects. The public’s last defense against this cacophony is to think for itself, critically and logically. To paraphrase Jefferson Airplane’s White Rabbit, “When logic and proportion have fallen sloppy dead…feed your head!”
With the steady demand for electric vehicles by consumers and businesses alike there’s no doubt that going green has finally become more than just a catch phrase in our country. And while no one would argue that electric vehicles emit less greenhouse gases than conventional vehicles, it does raise the question of how we will be generating the electricity to power them.
Case in point, approximately 45 percent of electricity generated in the US is powered by coal, 23 percent by natural gas, 20 percent by nuclear, 7 percent by hydro, 2 percent by wind, and 0 percent (well- really 0.3) by solar. In order to gain the environmental benefits of this new technology we’ll need more clean energy sources – and soon. Otherwise we run the risk of doing more harm than good when it comes to reducing CO2 emissions.
To help put this in perspective here are some “back of the envelope” emission/ fuel source calculations from a friend of ours at the EIA:
The average passenger vehicle consumes about 600 gallons of gasoline per year (assuming about 25 MPG, and about 20,000 miles per year).
That’s right. A single electric car powered by coal would essentially create four times the amount of CO2 emissions than a regular gas guzzling vehicle. And despite all the “clean energy” bragging by natural gas proponents – it would emit twice as much carbon as regular ol’ gasoline.
Unless we start adding more clean energy sources, like nuclear, to our base load supply we’re better off pulling up to the pump when it comes to environmental stewardship.
It’s been said numerous times, but it’s worth repeating: Up to 35 percent of the incumbent nuclear work force may be eligible to retire within five years. Another 11 percent of the work force may be lost through other attrition over the same period.
The College of Southern Maryland (CSM) in Prince Frederick County, Maryland, has taken the lead to replace these workers with with the
introduction of a targeted Nuclear Engineering Technology (NET) degree program, which started this Fall semester with 18 students. Students who graduate from this program with at least a 3.0, and no grade lower than a B, will receive certification from Constellation’s nuclear training department and the National Academy of Nuclear Training, enabling them to work at any nuclear plant in the country.
In addition, anticipating the growing need for qualified technicians, last week CSM unveiled the plans for a new building, to be complete by June 2012, of which 3,000 square feet will house classrooms and laboratories excluseively for the Center for Nuclear Energy Training. With the constant need for qualified employees at the several nuclear energy facilities all within a few hours’ drive, and UniStar’s planned facility at Calvert Cliffs, there is a strong demand for high-quality training programs. Wilson H. Parran (D), president of the Calvert County Board of County Commissions stated that this two-year program will “ultimately provide the expertise needed to achieve employment in an industry that leads to jobs paying good wages, and keeps jobs from being outsourced.”
As George Gellrich, Vice President of Calvert Cliffs Nuclear Power Plant, stated, “The Southern Maryland Community has been so supportive of nuclear energy and of Calvert Cliffs, it only makes sense that we grow our workforce locally, in the same community that we call home.”
Nuclear utilities around the country are working closely with institutions of higher learning to educate and train the future engineers and technicians. Constellation Energy Nuclear Group, LLC and the College of Southern Maryland realize that a strong partnership means the continuation of qualified, skilled, well-paid careers in the nuclear industry, and the long-term economic success for our country.
Recently I had the privilege of participating in a Conference on Drought, Water, and Climate hosted by the Western Governors’ Association and the Western States Water Council. For two days representatives of WGA, WSWC, state government, federal agencies, universities, research groups, NGOs, industry and other stakeholders met to discuss water and drought issues.
The discussion focused on coordinating drought and climate services information among federal agencies and state, tribal, and non-governmental entities to optimize planning and response. WGA has long been a proponent of improving drought information and coordinating drought response to minimize the potentially devastating societal effects of drought. A good deal of time was spent on NIDIS, the National Integrated Drought Information System, which was authorized by Congress in 2006. NIDIS collects, vets, and integrates data from multiple sources and distills the information into a kind of drought status system for the U.S. Available through a Drought Portal, the system continues to be developed and refined. It is intended to be part of a drought early warning system to help forecast and manage drought and to promote public awareness of drought conditions and mitigating actions that can be taken.
Another critical subject on the agenda was climate variability and its potential effects on water supplies. WGA has also been an advocate for a new National Climate Service to improve information gathering and assessment of climate change data. During the conference, Jane Lubchenco, Administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, announced that a panel of the National Academy of Public Administration had completed a study and released its final report to NOAA and Congress that “strongly supports the creation of a NOAA Climate Service to be established as a line office in NOAA.” Administrator Lubchenco stated that NOAA and the Department of Commerce was continuing to develop a proposal to Congress to combine the agency’s world-class climate science and technical capabilities into a new Climate Service within NOAA. She also announced the appointment of six regional directors, to work with states and others to complete an inventory of information needs, assets, gaps and priorities.
One clear need was sounded consistently by participants in the conference. In a time of mounting deficits and major headline grabbing crises, funding for many basic data collection efforts, such as USGS Gauging stations, remote sensing, and other monitoring activities, are shrinking. To be effective, initiatives such as NIDIS and Climate Services must have reliable, continuous data. More funding, not less, is needed for these basic scientific functions to improve the quality and granularity of the data and to develop accurate, validated models to make the data useful for drought management and climate adaptation.
However, we need a lot more than just additional data. While dozens of climate models look out over the next hundred years, they may or may not be able to predict the practical results of international action (or inaction) on the rate of climate change. What we desparately need are accurate, validated models to make the contemporary, real-time data useful for one- to ten-year predictions of regional weather and climate conditions. We are making decisions today on water resource and energy projects that will take five to ten years to implement. These projects will define the options that future energy and water managers will possess in order to deal with drought management and resource allocation in response to regional stress. Without those models, all the data we collect can only confirm what we are actively experiencing, not what happens next. To build properly, to plan for the correct contingencies, and to take action at the right time, we must be able to make confident predictions of drought duration and water availability within our planning horizon.
The EERC is a beautifully designed multipurpose facility, with meeting rooms and a wet lab, in addition to the 6,000 square foot exhibit area, where visitors can learn about electricity usage, energy sources, environmental challenges and climate change.
One of the more popular exhibits is an energy timeline, where visitors move a computer screen over the stationary timeline wall to see energy-related developments and inventions over time.
Another popular site is the computer that tracks the electricity production of the on-site wind turbine and solar panels. One thing I learned is that snow has to melt naturally on solar panels, no brushing away – which explains the low energy production in February 2010, when the northeast got blasted with record-setting snow storms.
[Aside: Yes, I’ll remember the winter of 2009/2010. It’s the one that canceled our family’s much-anticipated Caribbean escape. We trudged a half mile – with luggage – through 27 inches of snow at 3:00 a.m. to the plowed street to wait for the confirmed airport shuttle, which after an hour, still had not arrived. It was NOT a happy day. End aside.]
Visitors also like to calculate their carbon footprint. Asking about driving habits, type of home, eating habits (Red meat? Fish? Veggies per week?), etc., the computer calculates your energy use, and how it compares to the average American. Assuming the entire world’s population used as much energy as the average American, we would need the resources of about six Earths to supply our energy needs. Gulp.
In addition to learning about renewables, there’s a detailed exhibit on nuclear energy, helping to demystify our country’s largest source of non-carbon emitting energy. There is opportunity to learn about radiation, the production of nuclear energy, and even used fuel.
The EERC is being promoted and serves the community as a resource for school outings, teacher workshops, and outside company functions. In addition, the Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI) is using the center’s modular set-up as the start of a “library” for NEI members looking to develop their own energy learning centers. Depending on the size of the facility and other resources, groups can customize their centers to their specific goals and needs. Now that’s saving time, energy, and money!
For groups looking to visit the center, or to find out more information about the EERC, please contact Lisa Barile at lisa.barile at pseg dot com.
Water and energy – a complex relationship in which each resource requires huge amounts of the other for efficient development and distribution.
Energy generation needs water for mining, drilling, cooling, steam turbines, and other processes. Water supplies need energy for pumping, treating, transporting, heating, cooling, and recycling. In the case of energy, there is plenty of potential supply from many different sources…at least on paper. The issue is, which source do you bet on when the predicted need is years away and every possible energy source comes with its own unique combination of economic, environmental, public health, national security, regulatory, political, and public acceptance risks?
Water is in a different situation. Here we have to distribute a finite supply among a variety of competitive uses, each with long term growth trends. The supply is both limited and renewed at an inconsistent, unpredictable rate. Drought is the name we give those times when this rate of freshwater renewal in an area is below the current, unconstrained consumption rate. Basically, a drought is when you are not getting as much of something as you think you need. Under this definition, droughts can occur anywhere and they regularly do.
But nowhere in the U.S. is the situation more critical and more obvious than in the West and Southwest. Reservoirs stand at historic lows and snowpacks are melting earlier and faster. Climate models predict a much drier future for the Southwest. Even if we disregard man-made climate change as a driver, historical evidence would predict longer, drier drought periods for the future. Evidence from tree rings and carbon dating indicates that the last 150 years or so may have been the wettest in the West and Southwest of the last two millennia. Droughts in the medieval period had lasted many decades. Normal climatic variation may be swinging us back to an environment where annual water supplies will be much lower than during than the baseline period on which we have built a large, complex social-agricultural-industrial infrastructure.
Planning for both our water and energy needs must take this possibility into account. Energy sources must make the most efficient use of water possible, including using lower quality water from saline aquifers or gray water. Nevertheless, those energy sources must be ample, clean, and reliable as more power is needed for pumping, treating, moving, and recycling water to squeeze the maximum out of every drop of our freshwater resources. Nuclear energy will be important in this regard since it represents a clean, reliable, 24-7 source of electricity to provide a clean, reliable, 24-7 source of freshwater. Decreasing water usage at generation facilities will mean higher electrical costs, as it will for all thermoelectric and biofuel sources of energy, ultimately increasing the price of water as well. But water has always been an undervalued and underpriced resource. The oncoming disparities in supply and demand may be about to change that. In the words of Ben Franklin, “When the well is dry, we learn the worth of water.”
So – what’s it like for an EDF employee to work at UniStar? Let me start at the beginning….
In 2008, my motivation for accepting an assignment at UniStar was to have a professional experience in the U.S., and to examine two sides of the U.S. nuclear industry, i.e. the utility side and the regulatory side. I also wanted to compare the U.S. nuclear world with the French and European environment that I was familiar with, and initiate a potential synthesis of both safety approaches. Being involved at the earliest stages of U.S. EPR™ technology deployment was also a motivation. How exciting to bring what we had learned about the EPR design to UniStar.
Now for the reality. One of my biggest surprises at UniStar is the very positive relationship between the French and American colleagues. It went way beyond my expectations. Each side was very interested in discovering each other’s culture, background working history – differences as well as similarities. Both the U.S. and French colleagues created a very good professional and motivated atmosphere, and I think that UniStar has a great future in the nuclear business. Thanks to my UniStar colleagues, I was involved in the initial discussions with the NRC, and was designated to be the chairman of the U.S. EPR Design Centered Working Group (DCWG). This organization, formed in response to NRC policy, is comprised of UniStar, PPL, AREVA and any applicant referencing the U.S. EPR. The purpose of a DCWG is to provide a forum for the members to reach consensus on common regulatory issues and to provide unified positions to the NRC. This is an experience I will never forget, and I have a lot of ideas to bring back to the French and European nuclear industry.
Back in France, I am now supporting all international EPR activities in which EDF is involved. I will continue to do my best to keep improving the success of EDF and UniStar in any way I can. I sincerely hope that my UniStar experience was just the beginning of a very long relationship between French and U.S. companies and professional colleagues building and operating a large fleet of new nuclear energy facilities.
For those who cook, build, design, create – are your current creations exact replicas of the first ones you ever made? Or have you tweaked that beloved recipe, used better ingredients, refined techniques, or found better tools to improve your creations?
So it is with the AREVA U.S. EPR™, an evolutionary design that incorporates more than 40 years of lessons-learned from construction and operating experience with nuclear plants from around the world. As we all know, incorporating lessons-learned is not a one step, one time activity. It needs to be a continuous, living process that requires the participation of the entire organization, top to bottom, constantly looking for ways to improve. It is a behavior that becomes second nature. In this way, each U.S. EPR™ that is built is a beneficiary of lessons-learned from all of those that were built before it. Here’s the plan UniStar is implementing:
First, we’re learning from our parents – Constellation Energy and EDF Group. As owner and operator of the 58 nuclear energy facilities in France, incorporating experience gained into its ventures is integral to EDF’s success. The central brain for their lessons-learned implementation process resides at EDF headquarters in Paris. A committee composed of dedicated senior management personnel drives the process and maintains a global connection to all EPR™ projects. Project and construction management collect, review, distribute and monitor implementation of lessons-learned for all EPR™ projects. The process is formally documented in a procedures database. This ever-evolving process empowers all parts of the EDF and UniStar organizations to identify and incorporate lessons-learned into the design, procurement, construction, and operating plans.
Second, Calvert Cliffs 3(the first U.S. EPR™ unit) planned for Lusby, Maryland, will be able to incorporate design and construction lessons-learned from the EPRs currently under construction in Finland, France, and China. This is a significant, strategic benefit for the future U.S. EPR™ fleet. Already, valuable insights are being incorporated from first-hand construction experience, which will reduce construction risks, validate durations of activities, identify valuable design changes, and incorporate more efficient construction practices. All of this results in an optimized generic schedule, cost savings, greater certainty of project schedule and cost, and a reduction in construction risk.
For example, changes in the design from Flamanville 3 (the reference plant for Calvert Cliffs 3) in the configuration of the containment liner have been successfully incorporated into the Taishan design, reducing the time required for installation of the containment liner from 47 weeks at Flamanville to 10 weeks at Taishan. The U.S. EPR will not only take advantage of these design changes but also the additional lessons-learned from Taishan.
Third, we’re also implementing lessons-learned from our own experience in the U.S. during the 1970s and 80s. This information has been captured in industry documents, such as the Nuclear Energy Institute’s NEI 09-02, and Institute of Nuclear Power Operations (INPO) reports. UniStar has also sent teams to benchmark current U.S. projects, and these people have returned with valuable insights. Formal documentation and incorporation of these lessons-learned into procurement specifications, contracts, and procedures, have been and will continue to be a key cornerstone of UniStar’s business model.
Fourth, UniStar has embedded personnel in the EDF Construction Organization for Flamanville 3 and the EDF Operating Experience organization in France. Likewise, EDF personnel are embedded in various UniStar departments in the United States. This allows firsthand experience, personnel development, succession planning, and cross cultural integration between Constellation Energy, UniStar, and EDF. The ultimate result is a real-time model of incorporation of lessons-learned in daily activities between projects.
Finally, in addition to EDF’s “central brain” in France, they have also created a global lessons-learned group, whereby senior executives representing the owners of EPRs worldwide are proactively sharing their experience as a first step in a grand vision of a global EPR owners’ forum.
UniStar’s living, lessons-learned program for the U.S. EPR™ project will be a vital, positive factor in the successful development, engineering, procurement, financing, construction, and future operation of Calvert Cliffs Unit 3, as well as all future U.S. EPR™ projects.
Just as a flood starts with a single raindrop, so a piece of steel can help start the US nuclear resurgence – although this particular piece of steel, measuring more than 13 feet tall by25 feet wide, and weighing more than 63 tons, is a bit more impressive than a raindrop.
This casting is shown in the photo below at Alstom ’s newly renovated -$300 million- turbine generator manufacturing plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Here it will be machined and finished to become a vital part of one of the largest and most powerful turbine-generator trains in the world.
Like most parts of the turbine, generator, condenser, and moisture-separator-reheater, the casing is being delivered in “rough” form for finishing and manufacturing at Alstom’s new Chattanooga facility. The facility, previously used by Combustion Engineering, the nuclear steam system supplier for Calvert Cliffs Units 1 and 2, represents in a significant way what the US EPR™ represents – a source of American jobs, American ability, and, most importantly, American energy independence.
As the construction of the previous generation of nuclear plants ended, so too did many American jobs. While nuclear energy construction stagnated in the United States, other countries took US ideas and US plans and created their own nuclear construction and engineering industries, creating jobs, building plants, and discovering their own energy independence. Today, starting with one 63-ton hunk of steel, UniStar is committed to bringing that expertise, those jobs, and our energy future back home. As an example, the US EPR™ at Calvert Cliffs will create 4,000 construction jobs (at peak), 400 permanent jobs, and generate annually $430 million in sales of goods and services to the local community.
The US EPR™ represents even more, though. Our key suppliers, Alstom SA and Areva NP, are both supporting the US EPR™ with significant investments in US manufacturing – Areva’s creation of a new manufacturing facility in Newport News, VA, and Alstom’s revitalization of an abandoned facility in Chattanooga, TN. UniStar’s deployment of the US EPR™ is demonstrating the significant benefits new nuclear can bring to the United States: real benefits like an increase in highly-paid, highly skilled jobs, expanded domestic manufacturing, and an increased tax base. Coupled with providing a more secure energy future and nuclear energy’s benefit of not generating greenhouse gases, the arrival of the IP turbine casing marks a watershed moment for the United States’ nuclear renaissance. All starting with just one piece of steel.
I’d just like to add a few other points to Rod Adam’s excellent analysis of a paper commissioned by an anti-nuclear group that claims 2010 as the year that solar and nuclear reach a crossover cost point.
The naive NCWarn paper references nuclear plant cost data that are neither accurate nor representative of what the plants will cost. The fact is that plants in progress are still refining their contracts, terms and supplier costs to get them into the lowest range possible with fair risk assumption by owner and EPC (Engineering-Procurement-Construction) contractors. The information showing nuclear costs is misleading, in that it includes owner costs in addition to the nuclear plant, which for some projects include large transmission build-outs.
Additionally their “nuclear into solar” replacement assumptions are generically wrong because renewables will not be applicable to all areas that are in need of and are now planning baseload nuclear – like Florida and other Southeastern states, and the Mid-Atlantic region!
It is interesting to watch the “Interventionistas” play their cards, relying on unvalidated information from Research Fellow (albeit “Senior”!) Mr. Cooper in Vermont for supposed “facts” on an industry he has no primary experience in or knowledge of. Our sustainable economic future depends on accurate energy facts, data and science, not more myth, lore and legend.