At least the EPA did one thing right in the new emissions regulations: Don’t nix the nukes

posted at 6:41 pm on June 3, 2014 by Erika Johnsen

While the emissions regulations mostly meant to not-so-gently steer the country’s power plants away from coal are likely to be hugely, regressively costly in terms of job- and wealth-creation, the eco-radical set would argue that those costs are ones to which we should readily resign ourselves in order to bring us one step closer to climate-change mitigation. The most glaring problem with that reasoning, however, is that these regulations are not going to be particularly effective at achieving significant carbon-emissions reduction.

The United States’ electricity generation only accounts for about a third of its carbon emissions, and the U.S. is no longer the lone major polluter on the planet — and it is going to become even less so as other countries’ economies develop and the world’s population continues to grow in both wealth and numbers. As Jonathan Adler points out in an excellent post at the Volokh Conspiracy/WaPo (that you should definitely go read in full if you’re into environmental issues), these regulations are really only serving to highlight the incredibly limited effectiveness we can ever ever hope to have via regulation and top-down central economic planning. What we really need are more advanced, diversified, cost-effective, and clean technologies that can keep providing heightening energy efficiency for fewer monetary and environmental costs. …In a nutshell, the type of major innovations that Big Governments is exceptionally poor at creating when they are leading both the science community and investment dollars around by the nose while simultaneously squashing the competitive influences of the free market via politically-directed subsidies and regulations.

Here, for instance, is a very recent example of this phenomenon: The EPA expects that the coal plants it is effectively shutting down with these regulations will be replaced by cleaner-burning natural gas, but the rise of natural gas was largely brought about by free-enterprise-driven innovations in hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling on state and private lands. (And, sidebar: I would merely like to take this opportunity to once again condemn the eco-radical movement for what must be either its stupidity, its obstinacy, or else its lack of sincerity concerning its true goals in trying to rid the world of fracking. The degree of counterproductivity there is mind-numbing.)

In that vein, then, I suppose we can at least be glad that the EPA didn’t decide to follow the ideological and ill-advised path laid down by Germany’s grandiose climate-change ambitions. In what was supposed to be their super-green and pioneering Energiewende transformation, Germany decided to get rid of their nuclear power plants in favor of subsidizing expensive solar and wind schemes — with the end result being a ridiculously pricey and horribly intermittent energy grid that they then had to back up by bringing more coal plants online and perpetuating net emissions that were higher than they were when they started out.

The nuclear power industry is in the throes of its own set of economic problems when it comes to competing with coal and natural gas plants (and it is on the receiving end of its own set of government subsidies), but it produces virtually zero emissions without taking up too much land. What’s more, it produces reliable, around-the-clock energy output that puts it light years ahead of wind and solar energy, and fortunately, the EPA isn’t trying to punish it with the new emissions regulations like some of the other hysterical policymakers of the world have been doing lately. Instead, the agency’s rule looks to “discourage premature retirement” and “encourage deployment of nuclear unit designs that reflect advances over earlier designs”:

The Obama administration today threw a potential — and limited — lifeline to the country’s ailing nuclear industry, highlighting the ability of existing reactors to help states curb emissions.

U.S. EPA unveiled a proposal for curbing emissions from existing power plants that pointed to the United States’ fleet of about 100 reactors as playing a critical role — alongside ramping up efficiency and shifting to natural gas and other low-carbon alternatives — in cutting the utility sector’s greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent compared with 2005 levels by 2030.

At issue is EPA’s finding in the proposal that preventing the closure of “at-risk” existing reactors could avoid up to 300 million metric tons of carbon dioxide during the initial compliance phase of 10 years.

“Policies that encourage development of renewable energy capacity and discourage premature retirement of nuclear capacity could be useful elements of CO2 reduction strategies and are consistent with current industry behavior,” the agency said. “Costs of CO2 reductions achievable through these policies have been estimated in a range from $10 to $40 per metric ton.”

As ever, I find little use for subsidy schemes of any sort beyond choking off innovation and investment elsewhere — and I think the government could be spending our money much more effectively with things like technology inducement prizes, as Adler notes — but if the Obama EPA insists on regulating the heck out of our energy sector, they could be doing it even more illogically by trying to specifically stamp out nuclear, as a handful of other crazed countries have done. That’s all I’m saying.


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If they did one thing “right” you can bet that A, it was an oversight soon to be fixed by Carole Browner types or B, there’s an ulterior motive. Nothing happens by accident.

Judge_Dredd on June 3, 2014 at 6:44 PM

No nixing nukes, only coal…well, that certainly closes a “subsidy” loophole, doesn’t it…

Newtie and the Beauty on June 3, 2014 at 6:44 PM

That’s all I’m saying.

Good bye Erika. Thanks for all your hard work. Good luck.

Bmore on June 3, 2014 at 6:45 PM

…they were to inept to cover nukes yet!
will miss you Erika!…good luck with the studies!

KOOLAID2 on June 3, 2014 at 6:47 PM

At least the EPA did one thing right in the new emissions regulations: Don’t nix the nukes

One thing at a time, or the great unwashed hoi pollie might actually notice what they are up to.

oscarwilde on June 3, 2014 at 6:48 PM

Knock ‘em dead in college, Erika! Keep the facts on your side!

Newtie and the Beauty on June 3, 2014 at 6:48 PM

GaPower expansion.

Bmore on June 3, 2014 at 6:49 PM

At least the EPA did one thing right in the new emissions regulations: Don’t nix the nukes

The best we can hope for is an act of omission to find a silver lining in any of this…anyway, it’ll be a long time before any new nuke plants can be built…and I don’t think that many (any?) are in the works anyway. Plenty of time to shiver and sweat.

AUINSC on June 3, 2014 at 6:50 PM

Photos

Bmore on June 3, 2014 at 6:53 PM

Well, the country that glows together, goes together…

Newtie and the Beauty on June 3, 2014 at 6:54 PM

Photos

Bmore on June 3, 2014 at 6:53 PM

Ok, there’s one.

AUINSC on June 3, 2014 at 6:54 PM

Yeah, they didn’t bother the nukes because it takes several lifetimes to get a new one up and running, making the time and efforts cost prohibitive.

vnvet on June 3, 2014 at 6:58 PM

Photos

Bmore on June 3, 2014 at 6:53 PM

These shall be used as evidence at your trail for crimes against Mother Gaia… <— Insert very worried laughter here…

oscarwilde on June 3, 2014 at 6:58 PM

Simple solution … Just have the coal plants shut down 30% of the time and let the dominoes fall and then point at the President.

TooTall on June 3, 2014 at 7:05 PM

Simple solution … Just have the coal plants shut down 30% of the time and let the dominoes fall and then point at the President.

TooTall on June 3, 2014 at 7:05 PM

And who, exactly is it that you think has the testicular fortitude to do the pointing?

oscarwilde on June 3, 2014 at 7:12 PM

Implement rolling blackouts nationwide.
Refuse to discuss it.
Do it.

Tard on June 3, 2014 at 7:13 PM

That’s all I’m saying.

Good bye Erika. Thanks for all your hard work. Good luck.

Bmore on June 3, 2014 at 6:45 PM

Ditto. Good luck Erika. We’ll miss you.

Judge_Dredd on June 3, 2014 at 7:15 PM

Who’s Erika?

Akzed on June 3, 2014 at 7:25 PM

oscarwilde on June 3, 2014 at 6:58 PM

Lolz!

Bmore on June 3, 2014 at 7:43 PM

For the official HA record. My favorite of the photos I linked is the one of the smiley face on the crane grapple. : ) Makes me think of Dire.

Bmore on June 3, 2014 at 7:48 PM

If I was a Mark Zuckerberg type multi-billionaire, rather than pissing away a billion plus dollars on some plug-in social media startup, I would buy my way into Mexican government and propose to develop Thorium as the next age of energy generation.

Why Mexico? Because their corruption is predictable and isn’t anti-Mexico. Getting the permits to even explore the idea of developing Thorium power plants in the West would be impossible and every enviro-nazi would work tirelessly to either bankrupt me or have me thrown in prison for crimes against Gaia. In Mexico, everyone has a price.

Once the Thorium plant is built and running, the technology patented, the power would be profoundly cheap and would attract manufacturing out of China and other places to relocate and recruit local talent, sucking back home to Mexico many illegals occupying the US.

Then I would be well on my way to becoming the world’s first Trillionaire.

Reuben Hick on June 3, 2014 at 8:02 PM

Who’s Erika?

Akzed on June 3, 2014 at 7:25 PM

lolz.

That is funny beyond words.

coolrepublica on June 3, 2014 at 8:37 PM

Reuben Hick on June 3, 2014 at 8:02 PM

Why do you want to re-invent the wheel? There’s already been a thorium reactor which was operated commercially for several years. Not very successful though. The operators did not become trillionaires, matter of fact they went broke. Look up Fort Saint Vrain.

Oldnuke on June 3, 2014 at 8:41 PM

in cutting the utility sector’s greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent compared with 2005 levels by 2030.

2005 was one of the four highest years for CO2 emission in US history. Using that as a base line we are already ~10% below the 2013 baseline and by all projections we will be well below the target before 2030 even if we do nothing else. The economy is not going to come roaring back anytime soon to spur increased emissions.

I think this is all a sop to his base (and his Legacy) and wont amount to a hill of beans by next year after the election. He is just trying to stir up the eco freaks to get out and vote Democrat this November.

Johnnyreb on June 3, 2014 at 8:48 PM

They’re not even selling this crap as climate change. They’re selling it as “savings in healthcare costs”. My prediction is none of the EPA mandates will ever take effect.

John the Libertarian on June 3, 2014 at 8:53 PM

Haha yeah the nuclear units are great for the emissions rules EPA’s ramming down our throats, but they won’t be able to pass the CWA 316(b) impingement/entrainment rules they just signed a couple weeks ago. Those plants use a massive amount of water, and it will be difficult for almost all once-through cooling water plants to meet the new regs.

specialkayel on June 3, 2014 at 8:55 PM

They’re not even selling this crap as climate change. They’re selling it as “savings in healthcare costs”. My prediction is none of the EPA mandates will ever take effect.

John the Libertarian on June 3, 2014 at 8:53 PM

I concur. Mid-term election Year theatrics to stir up the non voting base and establish Obamas legacy as a take charge guy on Climate change and Pollution. We are already 1/3 of the way to the “target” without doing anything. And if the economy keeps doing what it has done in the last few years, we will reach the goal without doing anything at all. Mission accomplished!

Johnnyreb on June 3, 2014 at 8:59 PM

specialkayel on June 3, 2014 at 8:55 PM

These idiots keep beavering away at creating ever more onerous regulations – even as they will set aside any regulation that gets in the way of their precious renewable energy schemes.

My fave is how the Left screech loudly about “mountain topping” when it comes to coal mining, but have no problems with mountain topping works done to set up solar power facilities. Ditto for bald eagle kills by wind turbines.

Amusing, if not horribly sad.

Wanderlust on June 3, 2014 at 9:05 PM

Those plants use a massive amount of water, and it will be difficult for almost all once-through cooling water plants to meet the new regs.

specialkayel on June 3, 2014 at 8:55 PM

Nuke steam plants use more cooling water than fossil fuel steam plants?

Oldnuke on June 3, 2014 at 9:12 PM

There’s already been a thorium reactor which was operated commercially for several years. Not very successful though. The operators did not become trillionaires, matter of fact they went broke. Look up Fort Saint Vrain.

Oldnuke on June 3, 2014 at 8:41 PM

May explain why the Chinese are very interested in Thorium technology – they like to lose money.

Unlike the half-baked application at FSV, the MSR reactors look to be very promising.

What would happen if instead of throwing money away at wind and solar, a fraction of that was spent on Thorium MSR development and the rest of the money returned to taxpayers?

Reuben Hick on June 3, 2014 at 9:14 PM

Even lefties recognize that these EPA regs are stupid, and will accomplish nothing for the environment, while costing many Americans their jobs, and some even their lives.

http://www.commentarymagazine.com/2014/06/02/sacrifices-on-the-altar-of-obamas-vanity-epa-climate-change-carbon-emissions-coal/

It is insane that we are not stopping this.

AZCoyote on June 3, 2014 at 9:14 PM

Wanderlust on June 3, 2014 at 9:05 PM

Yup, exactly. It’s all emotional thinking for them. They’re told solar/wind is great for the environment, so they don’t ever care about any real world consequences.

specialkayel on June 3, 2014 at 9:31 PM

May explain why the Chinese are very interested in Thorium technology – they like to lose money.

Unlike the half-baked application at FSV, the MSR reactors look to be very promising.

What would happen if instead of throwing money away at wind and solar, a fraction of that was spent on Thorium MSR development and the rest of the money returned to taxpayers?

Reuben Hick on June 3, 2014 at 9:14 PM

Thorium is a viable alternative to the uranium cycle but so far it hasn’t been thought worth the effort to develop it. With today’s regulatory environment it is highly unlikely that anyone will front the money to do so either.Trust me, it’s not a wonder product for the power industry either. It’s just another fuel like oil, gas and coal. I like PWRs because that’s what I’m familiar with having operated and maintained them for close to 40 years. I’m comfortable around PWRs The BWR guys feel the same way. They always made me nervous. The uranium/plutonium cycle is proven and understood well developed. It works, it provides large power density with reasonable costs. Even with that only a few are willing to actually move forward with other than token efforts. Too much investment with uncertain returns. The Westinghouse APR looks to be an interesting beast. I’d like to see it in operation. Wind and solar on the other hand, well you don’t want to get me started on them. Suffice it to say that they are nothing but pie in the sky liberal ideas. If the subsidies ever stop they’ll be abandoned faster than the Titanic. As far as the Chinese, they’re interested in lots of stuff.

Oldnuke on June 3, 2014 at 9:32 PM

the MSR reactors look to be very promising.

Reuben Hick on June 3, 2014 at 9:14 PM

Forgot to add. In nuclear power things that look good in theory aren’t. Equipment that works on paper will fail in application. You would be amazed at the “Promising” things that I’ve seen that looked great but didn’t work.

Oldnuke on June 3, 2014 at 9:36 PM

Oldnuke on June 3, 2014 at 9:12 PM

No, not necessarily. I know of some fossil fuel plants that are comparable in scale. It’s just that nukes generally have more of a heat load, so they typically use more water in the form of once-through cooling water.

The 316(b) regs will hit all of them, but my main point was that just because the nukes might be out of dodge with the emissions regs, it doesn’t mean that there aren’t other onerous ones out there.

specialkayel on June 3, 2014 at 9:43 PM

Suffice it to say that they are nothing but pie in the sky liberal ideas. If the subsidies ever stop they’ll be abandoned faster than the Titanic.
Oldnuke on June 3, 2014 at 9:32 PM

Haha yup! I’m curious to see if Britain is going to have some rolling blackouts in the near future because they traded many of their old plants for that crap.

specialkayel on June 3, 2014 at 9:48 PM

ut it produces virtually zero emissions without taking up too much land.

Except for all the water vapor Erika

WryTrvllr on June 3, 2014 at 9:51 PM

Except for all the water vapor Erika

WryTrvllr on June 3, 2014 at 9:51 PM

Shhhh!!!

Now for your penance, Climate Sinner, say ten I love Mother Gaias and watch The Day After Tomorrow without laughing. Go and sin no more.

Wanderlust on June 3, 2014 at 10:10 PM

No, not necessarily. I know of some fossil fuel plants that are comparable in scale. It’s just that nukes generally have more of a heat load, so they typically use more water in the form of once-through cooling water.

The 316(b) regs will hit all of them, but my main point was that just because the nukes might be out of dodge with the emissions regs, it doesn’t mean that there aren’t other onerous ones out there.

specialkayel on June 3, 2014 at 9:43 PM

They’re actually closer in scale than you might think. Heat rejection for nukes is only slightly higher than the dirt burners. If you go by gpm cooling water nuke vs fossil it’s nip and tuck they’re very close. One of the biggest differences outside of the primary cycle is that the fossil plants have superheat, nukes don’t. Well Indian Point had an oil fired superheater at one time but I think they 86′d it. One of those ideas that sound good on paper but didn’t work out all that well. Pretty much all steam plants being built these days are closed cycle utilizing cooling towers. A lot of plants are being backfitted with them. One of the exceptions is the plant where I worked. They may eventually end up with cooling towers but we went to great lengths to call our discharge portion of the lake that was made to serve the plant “The Waste Heat Treatment Facility”. It’s all part of the lake in reality but officially it’s the WHTF. Even though it’s commonly called the hot side of the lake. We still had to fight a bunch of enviro weenies over it. The odd thing is that the local county residents are overwhelmingly favorable to the plant. All the activists and protesters have to be bussed in. The plant is the single largest taxpayer in the county and the largest employer. We used to take a facsimile of the tax check paid to the county and plant it in the lobby of the county courthouse every year. It was on a board about 3′ tall by 5′wide and it was a high 7 figure number. We’ve been fighting those changing regs for so long it’s business as usual. So far we’ve been able to work around them and comply but they keep trying.

Oldnuke on June 3, 2014 at 11:50 PM

specialkayel on June 3, 2014 at 9:48 PM

Oh yeah, forgot. Rough rule of thumb for cooling water is 20,000gpm/Mwt to 50,000gpm/Mwt for fossil fuelers and about 25,000gpm/Mwt to 60,000gpm/Mwt for nukes. Lot of overlap there and actual usage will vary depending on a lot of conditions. Don’t hold me to those numbers cause I’m digging deep and my memory ain’t what it used to be.

Oldnuke on June 3, 2014 at 11:56 PM

Wanderlust on June 3, 2014 at 10:10 PM

Hey, don’t laugh!!! I CAN do that! That scene with the tsunami in the Himalayas….make me feel like I am eating a York Peppermint Patty!

WryTrvllr on June 4, 2014 at 3:16 AM

Oops sorry. Wrong apocalypse.

WryTrvllr on June 4, 2014 at 3:20 AM

Yeah, no, I can’t do that.

WryTrvllr on June 4, 2014 at 3:20 AM

If Coal provides 22% of the power for the US and nuclear provides 8.5%, what happens when one fifth of our power generating capability is removed from the grid?

Keep in mind that much of the fuel used to power the nuclear plants comes from Russia, whom we are working furiously to alienate and anger. What happens when the nuclear plants have to shut down because Russia decides to stop selling us uranium; another ten percent of the power source for the grid is removed.

Add to that the fact that the administration wants to open the floodgates to millions of illegal immigrants which will add a tremendous load on the grid.

This is a disaster in the making that will send America back to the stone age. Start thinking about how you will survive without electricity and very likely water and sanitation services, and of course food.

ron at rongoulden dot com\Literary dot html

xmanvietnam on June 4, 2014 at 9:10 AM

Will someone please inform the EPA that steam is invisible and the water vapor coming out of the cooling towers is not smoke. Their use is to cool the generators exhaust steam back to water. With the clean air act precipitators and scrubbers are cleaning the exhaust from the fossil fueled plants and again the water vapor is visible from the stacks.

mixplix on June 4, 2014 at 12:35 PM