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View Diary: Energize America - A Blueprint for U.S. Energy Security (Fourth Draft) (311 comments)

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  •  I think the plan has 4 flaws in it that must be (4.00)

    I think the plan is starting to look very good but it needs 4 major changes:

    1. All the billions in Coal and Nuclear Subsidies and research funding are continued under this plan, with money that will go to Pebble Nuclear Reactors, which will not have containment buildings and were declared unsafe by the German Government in the 1980s.  We need a level economic playing field, so "all subsidies for mature technologies will be eliminated" should be the philosophy in a progressive people-centered energy plan.

    2. Missing is any mention of Natural Gas Co-Generation and the re-siting of thermal industries around cogeneration plants, where the coal can be sequestered and then later easily switched to biogas or hydrogen when they come online.  With efficiences of 70% to 80% in Combined Heat and Power plants Amory Lovins shows how NG Cogeneration reduces carbon faster than anything else by replacing current thermal sources of power.

    3. There is also no mention of additional hydro that can be gained from EXISTING dams in the US.  Not one dam would be built and some regs reformed and the US could have an additional 20 GW of large and small hydro by 2020, according to FERC.

    4. There is no Greenhouse Gas Pollution Tax, the new form of a Carbon Tax.  This is absolutely essential if a level economic playing field is to be allowed.

    With Natural Gas CoGeneration, and sequestration of carbon and the additional hydro, there would be no need for the expansion of expensive and polluting nuclear power in the form of Pebble Bed Reactors, (and pro-nukers please don't even bring up the breeder reactor or the little nuke battery design--all will take deades to design, site and build--too late).

    Mateosf has not joined us yet.  But he stresses that a level economic laying field be created, as that certainly does not exist yet, a long with a

    Amory Lovins of the Rocky Mountain Institute reveals the truth of nuclear power economics and why this old technology can never be part of the solution for global warming.

    Enthusiasts claim hypothetical new reactors might deliver a kilowatt-hour for 6¢, vs. 10+¢ for post-1980 plants. (Nearly 3¢ pays for delivery to customers.) But super-efficient gas plants or windfarms cost 5-6¢, cogeneration of heat and power often 1-5¢, and efficient lights, motors, and other electricity-saving devices under 2¢; and they're all getting cheaper.

    ... buying nuclear power instead makes global warming worse. Why? If delivering a new nuclear kWh cost only (say) 6¢, while saving a kWh cost (pessimistically) 3¢, then the 6¢ spent on the nuclear kWh could instead have bought two efficiency kWh.

    So the big question about nuclear "revival" isn't just who'd pay for such a turkey, but also...why bother? Why keep on distorting markets and biasing choices to divert scarce resources from the winners to the loser--a far slower, costlier, harder, and riskier niche product--and paying a premium to incur its many problems? Nuclear advocates try to reverse the burden of proof by claiming it's the portfolio of non-nuclear alternatives that has an unacceptably greater risk of non-adoption, but actual market behavior suggests otherwise.

    * About 266 GW (billion watts) of mostly gas-fired decentralized cogeneration (emitting ~30-80% less CO2, depending on fuel), 47 GW of wind, 47 small hydro, 37 biomass/waste, 10 geothermal, and 4 photovoltaics.

    The world's nuclear plant vendors have never made money, and their few billion dollars' dwindling annual revenue hardly qualifies them any more as a serious global business. In contrast, the renewable power industry earns ~$23 billion a year by adding ~12 GW of capacity every year: in 2004, 8 GW of wind, 3 GW of geothermal/small hydro/biomass/wastes, and 1 GW of photovoltaics (69% of nuclear's 2004 new construction starts, which PVs should surpass this year). PV and windpower markets, respectively doubling about every two and three years, are expected to make renewable power a $35-billion business within eight years. And distributed fossil-fueled cogeneration of heat and power added a further 15 GW in 2004; it does release carbon, but ~30% less than the separate boilers and power plants it replaces, or up to ~80% less with fuel-switching.

    Windpower's 50+ gigawatts of global capacity, half of U.S. nuclear power capacity, paused in 2004 due to Congressional wrangling, but is expected to triple in the next four years, mainly in Europe, which aims to get 22% of its electricity from renewables by 2010. One-fifth of Denmark's power now comes from wind; German and Spanish windpower are each adding as much capacity each year (2 GW) as the global nuclear industry is annually adding on average during 2000-10. No country has had or expects economic or technical obstacles to further major wind expansion. The International Energy Agency forecast in 2003 that in 2010, wind could add nine times as much capacity as nuclear added in 2004, or 84 times its planned 2010 addition. Eight years hence, just wind plus industry-forecast PVs could surpass installed global nuclear capacity. The market increasingly resembles a 1995 Shell scenario with half of global energy, and virtually all growth, coming from renewables by mid-century--about what it would take, with conservative efficiency gains, to stabilize atmospheric carbon.

    Whenever nuclear power's competitors (even just on the supply side) were allowed to compete fairly, they've far outpaced central stations. Just in 1982-85, California utilities acquired and or were firmly offered enough cost-effective savings and decentralized supplies to meet all demand with no central fossil-fueled or nuclear plants. (Alas, before the cheaper alternatives could displace all those plants--and thus avert the 2000 power crisis--state regulators, spooked by success, halted the bidding.)

    Today's nonnuclear technologies are far better and cheaper. They're batting 1.000 in the more competitive and transparent processes that have swept most market economies' electricity sectors and are emerging even in China and Russia. A few Stalinist economies like North Korea, Zimbabwe, and Belarus still offer ideal conditions for nuclear sales, but they won't order much, and you wouldn't want to live there.

    No wonder the world's universities have dissolved or reorganized nearly all of their departments of nuclear engineering, and none still attracts top students--another portent that the business will continue to fall, as Nobel physicist Hannes Alfvén warned, "into ever less competent hands," buying ever less solution to any unresolved problem than in the days of the pioneers. Their intentions were worthy, their efforts immense, but their hopes of abundant and affordable nuclear energy failed in the marketplace.

    - Amory Lovins

    Competitors To Nuclear: Eat My Dust

    Nuclear advocates say there is a new "inherently safe" design, the Pebble Bed Modular Reactor.  However, the only large Pebble Nuke resulted in a 1986 graphite fire in Germany, which the government then permanently closed as being "unsafe".  Pebble nukes also produce 10 times the waste of conventional nukes.

    Because they are "modular" and "inherently safe", the industry wants to build them all WITHOUT containment buildings, so they can keep adding reactors in series.

    "It may well be true about the pebble bed and waste," he allows. "But then, okay, back to the old drawing board!"

    - Stewart Brand, who is receiving fat consultant checks from nuclear power companies and recently came out for nuclear power, said this upon on hearing that the new Pebble Nukes produce 10 times the radioactive waste of old designs.  In short, Pebble Nukes are not the answer either and we need a level playing field with a Greenhouse Gas Pollution Tax.  

    If we just go level playing field and Greenhouse Gas Tax most of problems will work themselves out.  

    The government should steer, not row.

    Subsidizing old useless, even harmful technologies is rowing, rowing for the corporations that control coal mining and oil wells.  

    •  More on the Pebble Nukes: (none)
      "It has some good features," says Dave Lochbaum at the Union of Concerned Scientists. "Studies have shown that even if a [PBMR] cooling line breaks, it won't melt down.

      I've come to Lochbaum, who works out of a tiny, barely ventilated office in Washington, D.C., because he has a reputation among anti-nuclear activists and industry advocates alike for limiting his assertions to what he knows to be true. And his organization is as nervous about climate change as it is about the perils of nuclear power plants.

      "By not using water you've significantly reduced the amount of low-level waste you generate," Lochbaum says, and then pauses. "On the other hand, there is no free lunch. While it may not melt down, it could catch on fire. The pebble bed is like the Chernobyl reactor in that it uses an awful lot of graphite. None of our reactors operating in the United States use graphite in the core. Graphite's just carbon. If the carbon catches on fire, it's pretty hard to put out. It's particularly hard if you're using airflow to cool the reactor, which the pebble bed does. If you have a fire and you stop the airflow, you also stop the heat removal. So you may stop the fire and start the meltdown.

      "You may not be able to get `fireproof' and `meltdown proof,'" Lochbaum says. "You may have to pick one or the other."

      Which one is worse?

      "I don't know," he says. "The Three Mile Island accident was a meltdown. It released a lot of radioactivity into the environment. We've never been sure how much. Chernobyl was a fire. Smoke carried the radioactivity into the environment. I guess they're pretty much the same."

      There's one other problem with the pebble-bed reactor, one that's less a safety issue than a logistical one: "Because the pebble-bed doesn't have the same power density, or octane rating, as our current plants do, it generates about 10 times as much spent fuel for the same amount of electricity." In other words, 10 times the waste.

      The industry says these plants are "inherently safe".  Taint so...

    •  As far as NG Co-Gen goes (none)
      I will not discourage it, but NG as a fuel of choice for power generation has massive implications on the energy market pricing, shipping etc.  Plus it would fail to address one of the key components of the plan which is reduce dependence on imported energy stocks.  

      Co-Gen makes sense in general and could be included in the plan.  I'm not sure where as it impacts building and power generation, but it makes sense.    

      •  Here is more on Combined Heat and Power (none)
        CHP is a very efficient technology for generating electricity and heat together.

        A CHP plant is an installation where there is simultaneous generation of usable heat and power (usually electricity) in a single process. The term CHP is synonymous with 'cogeneration' and 'total energy', which are terms often used in the United States or other Member States of the European Community. The basic elements of a CHP plant comprise one or more prime movers usually driving electrical generators, where the heat generated in the process is utilised via suitable heat recovery equipment for a variety of purposes including: industrial processes, community heating and space heating.

        CHP can provide a secure and highly efficient method of generating electricity and heat at the point of use. Due to the utilisation of heat from electricity generation and the avoidance of transmission losses because electricity is generated on site, CHP typically achieves a 35 per cent reduction in primary energy usage compared with power stations and heat only boilers. This can allow the host organisation to make economic savings where there is a suitable balance between the heat and power loads. The current mix of CHP installations achieves a reduction of over 30 per cent in CO2 emissions in comparison with generation from coal-fired power stations, and over 10 per cent in comparison with gas fired combined cycle gas turbines. The newest installations achieve a reduction of over 50 per cent compared with generation from coal-fired power stations.

        You have to do some planning to make this work right, so that thermal industries that need heat for their factories are placed near each other.  They will relocate because it will save them energy costs.  Plus large facilities like a campus or hospital, it makes economic sense.

        Then when biogas or hydrogen arrive you just convert the cogenerator for little relative cost.

        •  Co-gen has its problems too (none)
          I work at a university that is powered by a first of its kind (in 1980s) co gen plant.  It has been a proud fixture for the administration . . . until natural gas prices EXPLODED this season.  

          Co-gen has the environment and efficiencies covered, but in terms of the geopolitical and macro-economic arguments I feel it is distant to the renewable investment and real nuclear solutions presented in Energizing America

          Gosh its fun to use it as a reference point!

          •  There's nothing to say (none)
            you can't co-gen with coal.  Traditional boilers, fluidized bed, ICGCC all can be co-gen sources.  Go to any older norther large city.  The older powerplants are nearly all co-gen sending steam under the streets to building all over town.  
          •  NG & Co-Gen (none)
            The problems with Co-Gen are two-fold.  As Sherlock noted, there's a siting issue -- not many urban facilities are sited so that co-gen could be easily put in place (though many cities had co-gen facilities decades ago and foolishly knocked them down in the spirit of "energy is cheap, land is valuable").  The bigger issue is probably the one you cite: gas prices.

            All the economic models that brought gas into the electrical generation market assumed prices of $3-4/MMBtu or less.  With gas prices more than three times that at the moment, even the additional economies that co-gen brings to the game can't make gas-fired electricity competitive.

            Gas has gone from the rising star of the electrical generation field to yesterday's news in record time.  Unless pricing changes, it may soon be restricted to just those areas where other fuels are unavailable or can't be used.

            Political Cortex -- Brain food for the body politic.

            by Mark Sumner on Tue Dec 13, 2005 at 11:53:56 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  There will soon be cheaper gas (none)
              Lots of it.  Right now We have only 4 bcf/day of NG a day. 17 more bcf/day is already approved in new LNG terminals, while over 2 bcf/day will be added to current facilities.

              So the amount of natural gas available is about to quintuple!

              THis will drive down prices.

              As of June 29, 2005, there were five operating liquefied natural gas (LNG) import terminals in North America with a combined peak sendout capacity of  4.4 Bcf/d and expansion plans for another 2.44 Bcf/d of peak sendout capacity:

                Excelerate Energy's Gulf Gateways Energy Bridge offshore Louisiana, the newest North American LNG terminal;
                Dominion's Cove Point LNG in Lusby, MD;
                Suez Energy North America's Everett LNG terminal in Everett, MA;
                El Paso Corp.'s Elba Island LNG terminal in Elba Island, GA; and
                Southern Union's Trunkline LNG terminal in Lake Charles, LA.

              In addition, there were plans for another 55 LNG import terminals with an expected total combined peak sendout capacity of nearly 62 Bcf/d. Of those 55 terminals, 13 terminals with a combined peak sendout capacity of more than 17 Bcf/d had received final regulatory approvals in the United States, Canada or Mexico:

                Irving Oil's Canaport LNG terminal in St. John, NB, was approved by Canadian authorities;
                Anadarko Petroleum's Bear Head LNG terminal in Cape Breton Island, NS, also was approved in Canada;
                Freeport LNG Development's terminal in Freeport, TX, was approved by FERC;
                Cheniere LNG's Sabine Pass terminal in Sabine Pass, LA, was approved by FERC in March 2005;
                AES Corp.'s Ocean Express Pipeline was granted a certificate by FERC in 2004 but is awaiting Bahamas approval of its Ocean Cay LNG terminal;
                Suez Energy North America's Calypso Freeport Bahamas pipeline was granted a certificate by FERC but its LNG port has not received a permit from the Bahamas;
                Sempra Energy's Cameron LNG terminal in Hackberry, LA, was approved by FERC in September 2003;
                ExxonMobil's Vista del Sol LNG terminal and pipeline were approved by FERC;
                Chevron's Port Pelican LNG port was approved by the Maritime Administration (MARAD);
                Shell's Gulf Landing LNG port also was approved by MARAD in February 2005;
                The Altamira LNG terminal proposed by Shell, Total and Mitsui, in Altamira, Mexico on the Gulf Coast was approved by Mexican authorities;
                Sempra Energy and Shell's Energy Costa Azul LNG terminal in Ensenada, Baja California Norte, Mexico, was approved; and
                Chevron's Terminal GNL Mar Adentro project offshore Tijuana, Mexico, received final authorization from Mexican authorities in January 2005.

              Out of the 55 planned terminals noted above, about 26 LNG import projects were on file at regulatory agencies in Canada, the U.S. and Mexico, but had not yet received final approvals. If approved and constructed, those projects would provide more than 31 Bcf/d of additional peak sendout capacity to the North American gas grid. Meanwhile, about 16 additional LNG projects with 12.8 Bcf/d of peak sendout capacity still remained in the planning stages as of mid June.


              Much of the gas delivered to the Canadian and Mexico terminals by the way will end up in the US.

              Yes, we got gas!  We got no bananas, maybe--but there will be PLENTY of cheap gas it appears.

              •  Yes, nat. gas prices are coming down (none)
                but these imports still do not solve the macro-scale problem of exporting energy dollars or the geopolitical issues. I'm working on the nuclear comment below, its much more difficult (considering your strong arguments against the energy bill provision and my own developing stance on nuclear).
                •  I would agree with that we do have to import (none)
                  the natural gas.  But that is a small price to pay if we can conserve imports in other ways.  Besides this is going to happen whether we blog about it or not.

                  So within a few years we will be awash in much cheaper gas, I think we are now agreed...

          •  Natural Gas prices are actually going to come down (3.66)
            by the end of the decade.  Huge LNG terminals are currently approved and will soon be built.  Many more are proposed.  

            Saudi Arabia and Russia, along with Canada and many more areas in the Americas have huge super-giant fields that have never been tapped.

            There will be plenty of natural gas in a few years and we have to plan for it.  

            What is the real nuclear solution you speak of in Energizing America?  Nukes take 15 years to design site and construct.  You can't get around that.

            Plus the government pays for catastrophic insurance and tens of billions more every year in unfair subsidies.  Which nuclear subsidies would you eliminate to make it a level economic playing field?  Energizing America appears to keep them all.

            The energy bill conference report (H.R.6, "The Energy Policy Act of 2005") negotiated between House and Senate conferees contains more than $13 billion in cradle-to-grave subsidies and tax breaks, as well as unlimited taxpayer-backed loan guarantees, limited liability in the case of an accident, and other incentives to the mature nuclear industry to build new nuclear reactors.

            Given the latest revelations about data falsification in analyses of the proposed Yucca Mountain repository site - in addition to other numerous unresolved problems at the site - and the reports by the National Academy of Sciences and the Government Accountability Office pointing out security vulnerabilities of the highly radioactive waste stored at reactor sites, the government should not be promoting the construction of new reactors, which will only add to the nuclear waste problem.  More taxpayer handouts to the nuclear industry are not part of a sensible and responsible energy plan.

            Nuclear subsidies in the conference report include:

            R&D subsidies = $2.9 billion

            • Authorization of more than $432 million over 3 years for nuclear energy research and development, including the Department of Energy's (DOE) Nuclear Power 2010 program to construct new nuclear plants, and its Generation IV program to develop new reactor designs [Sec. 951 and 952]

            • Authorization of $580 million over 3 years for DOE's program for research and development of nuclear reprocessing and transmutation technologies, which reverses the long-standing U.S. policy against it and needlessly augments security and environmental threats [Sec. 951 and 953]

            • Authorization of $420 million over 3 years for DOE to develop a plan to improve infrastructure at national laboratories for nuclear energy R&D, including a plan for the facilities at the Idaho National Laboratory [Sec. 951 and 955]

            • Authorization of $149.7 million over 3 years for DOE to invest in human resources and infrastructure in the nuclear sciences and engineering fields through fellowships and visiting scientist programs; student training programs; collaborative research with industry, national laboratories, and universities; upgrading and sharing of research reactors; and technical assistance. This program would further subsidize the nuclear industry and entrench nuclear power research within the university system. [Sec. 941 and 944]

            • Authorization of $1.1 billion over 3 years for the Fusion Energy Sciences program for fusion energy R&D. Authorization for DOE to negotiate an agreement for the United States to participate in the ITER (International Fusion Energy Project). Requirement of DOE to submit a plan for a domestic burning plasma experiment if ITER becomes "unlikely or infeasible." The fusion process requires deuterium and tritium, and would produce low-level radioactive waste [Sec. 961 and 962]

            • Authorization of $100 million for DOE to establish two demonstration projects for the commercial production of hydrogen at existing reactors [Sec. 634]

            • Authorization of $18 million over 3 years for DOE to survey industrial applications of radioactive sources and develop a R&D plan for developing small particle accelerators [Sec. 951 and 957]

            • Requirement of DOE to use 0.9 % of its applied energy R&D budget for matching funds with private partners to promote "promising technologies" for commercial use, which could include nuclear power technologies [Sec. 1001]

            • Authorization of $60 million over 3 years for DOE to give grants to train technical personnel in fields in which a shortage is identified, including the nuclear power industry, which has been very vocal about its shortage of skilled workers [Sec. 1101]

            • Authorization of $250,000 for research and development to use radiation to refine oil [Sec. 1406]

            Construction subsidies = $3.25 billion +

            • Authorization of $2 billion in "risk insurance" to pay the industry for any delays in construction and operation licensing for 6 new reactors, including delays due to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission or litigation.  The payments would include interest on loans and the difference between the market price and the contractual price of power [Sec. 638]

            • Authorization of more than $1.25 billion from FY2006 to FY2015 and "such sums as are necessary" from FY2016 to FY2021 for a nuclear plant in Idaho to generate hydrogen fuel, a boondoggle that would make a mockery of clean energy goals [Sec. 641-645]

            • Exemption of construction and operation license applications for new nuclear reactors from an NRC antitrust review [Sec. 625]

            • Unlimited taxpayer-backed loan guarantees for up to 80% of the cost of a project, including building new nuclear power plants. Authorizes "such sums as are necessary," but if Congress were to appropriate funding for loan guarantees covering six nuclear reactors, this subsidy could potentially cost taxpayers approximately $6 billion (assuming a 50% default rate and construction cost per plant of $2.5 billion, as Congressional Budget Office has estimated) [Title XVII]

            Operating subsidies = $5.7 billion +

            • Reauthorization of the Price-Anderson Act, extending the industry's liability cap to cover new nuclear power plants built in the next 20 years [Sec. 602]

            • Incentives for "modular" reactor designs (such as the pebble bed reactor, which has never been built anywhere in the world) by allowing a combination of smaller reactors to be considered one unit, thus lowering the amount that the nuclear operator is responsible to pay under Price-Anderson [Sec. 608]

            • Weakens constraints on U.S. exports of bomb-grade uranium [Sec. 630]

            • Production tax credits of 1.8-cent for each kilowatt-hour of nuclear-generated electricity from new reactors during the first 8 years of operation for the nuclear industry, costing $5.7 billion in revenue losses to the U.S. Treasury through 2025. Considered one of the most important subsidies by the nuclear industry [Sec.1306]

            Shut-down subsidies = $1.3 billion

              - Changes the rules for nuclear decommissioning funds that are to be used to clean up closed nuclear plant sites by repealing the cost of service requirement for contributions to a fund and allowing the transfer of pre-1984 decommissioning costs to a qualified fund, costing taxpayers $1.3 billion    [Sec. 1310]

            Public Citizen on Energy Bill

            More Public Citizen on Energy Bill

    •  Partially, I agree with ... (4.00)

      "Low-head" hydroelectric and "run-of-the-river" hydroelectric could provide considerable amounts of new electricity in small bits at reasonable cost and minimal environmental impact. But the big gains would come from extremely expensive turbine upgrades at already existing large dams.

      Cogeneration (combining heat and power systems) is, and has been, a significant source of new power since the Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act was passed in 1978. Additional cogeneration is obviously a good idea and would require removing existing institutional and legislative barriers. But tying new cogeneration to natural gas means, as has been pointed out, tying it to imports. Re-siting is also a good idea, but it's a massive process that will take decades and be replete with local and regional political fights. Worth doing in the long haul.

      I'm personally for a Greenhouse Gas Emissions tax,  but adding a gasoline tax AND a GGE levy at the same time is a recipe for certain squelching of Energize America.

      You continue to distort what we're saying about nuclear power.

      The blueprint is a compromise among people who are committed to a new energy paradigm. Our team has varied opinions about a number of things put forth in Energize America, and that includes the safety, financial, environmental and security issues accompanying nuclear power. Nevertheless, even those of us like me who are extremely wary of new nukes (even as dozens are being built around the world) agree that a DEMONSTRATION project meets the needs of everyone across the spectrum.

      It's a sort of "put up or shut up" offering that will 1) help our overall plan's chances of being adopted, 2) lead to an expansion of nukes or drive a stake through their heart for another 25 years, after which some of us hope we won't need them, and everybody will see clearly that we don't need them.

      For those who think nuclear MUST play a big part in our future, the demo-nuke offers a chance to prove themselves. For those of us who think nuclear is probably or definitely a bad idea, it gives us a chance to prove they're wrong (too expensive, too glitchy, not as safe as claimed). Without such a demonstration, we're never going to get past the fundamental divide over this issue.

      Secondly, this plan is not dependent on pebble bed reactors. Any "inherently safe" design could compete. The South Africans (in partnership with Westinghouse) expect to have their pebble bed reactor on line in 2010, and it would probably take until 2015 before any new design reactor could be built in the United States. By that time, optimists on our team think we might be far enough along in our conservation and renewables efforts that nukes will be obsolete and the demo plant will be the only one built.

      Whether or not you think nuclear power, even a demo-nuke, is a good or bad idea, we are not arguing for full-steam ahead as we are in other arenas in the blueprint. It's a test for technical and political reasons. Ditto when it comes to coal-to-liquids. If the demo projects meet out stringent parameters - I don't think nukes can - THEN we can talk about expansion, not until.

      Creating a level playing field is an excellent idea, in theory. In practice what you get is a political attack on any energy subsidies. I saw this happen firsthand in the transition from Jimmy Carter to Ronald Reagan.

      Another good idea, in theory, is to tax energy sources according to their social and military impacts. How much of our health care trillions are spent on ameliorating damage by burning fossil fuels? How much of our military budget is to protect our access to petroleum. In practice, however, you can't get such proposals through Congress, even an overwhelmingly Democratic Congress.


      •  Thanks for the comments MB (none)
        I think we are past the divide on nuclear power and so a Pebble Reactor test is not only unnecessary, as wind, solar, extra hydro and NG can carry the load, but a Pebble Nuke test would be extremely dangerous for the reasons noted above.  A graphite fire among the pebbles could lead to a fire and yes, even a meltdown.  All without a containment building, without a net.  The industry will insist on no containment building for convection and the modular need for Pebble Nukes.

        My worry is you are letting the camel's nose in under the tent when we know we don't want that camel.  You're assuming you can stop the nuke industry even with a failed test.  Unless it is a total disaster they will declare it safe and build them everywhere and the Energizing America plan right now sets it up for them to push it through.

        Therefore it's just more billions every year for a dead-end technology.

        But we can agree to disagree.  If you believe in the level playing field, do you see any of the nuclear subsidies I posted above your reply that should be taken out of Energizing America?

        Because right now they are all in there unless we take them out.

        Like this one:

        • Authorization of $2 billion in "risk insurance" to pay the industry for any delays in construction and operation licensing for 6 new reactors, including delays due to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission or litigation.  The payments would include interest on loans and the difference between the market price and the contractual price of power [Sec. 638]

        How much solar power research and carbon sequestration research would $2 billion buy?  That's just one program out of many.  Is Energizing America for example repealing this giveaway or not?  I do not think it is clear if you intend to repeal this which is already law.  If you do of course I commend you but it should be made clear, expecially as you outlaw mountaintop removal for coal for example but appear to leave in the massive nuke subsidies.

        •  I've never been fond of ... (none)
          ...the risk insurance subsidy or of Price-Anderson. But, in the short run, we have to decide if what will be seen as an attack on nuclear power (with its political clout) will hurt us or help us get the rest of the plan enacted.
          •  Here's numbers from a govt study, all voters (none)
            Looks like it will hurt politically more than help by far.  Cutting nuke R&D is number 1 for voters at a third, while "Support for natural gas, other fossil fuels, and nuclear power tax incentives only measured in the single digits for each".  

            If you're worried, the plan will be opposed by the industry and Congress, it will anyway because overall it is too renewable for their taste.  

            Federal Energy Budget Issues

            For the third year in a row, a majority (56%) of all voters, and nearly two-thirds (66%) of those expressing a preference, would give the highest priority to funding the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) renewable energy and energy efficiency research and development (R&D) programs. On the other hand, nearly a third (31%) of respondents selected nuclear power as the first R&D program that should be subject to budget cuts, followed by fossil fuels (21%).

            A plurality (45%) of voters favor maintaining funding for EPA's Green Lights, Energy Star and other voluntary energy efficiency programs at the current levels, and 24% favor increased funding.

            A plurality (44%) of voters also oppose Congress funding the nuclear pyroprocessing program. Opposition is particularly strong among Republicans and Independents, where 54% of voters expressing an opinion were opposed to continued funding.

            Tax Incentives and Priorities

            Although 73% of respondents said that cutting taxes made at least some difference in how they voted for Congress, a majority (52%) of all voters, and nearly two-thirds (62%) of those stating a preference, supported tax incentives for either renewable energy or energy efficiency efforts. Support for natural gas, other fossil fuels, and nuclear power tax incentives only measured in the single digits for each.

            Moreover, an overwhelming majority (83%) noted their preference for redirecting tax breaks to renewable fuels while only 10% felt they should continue to be given to oil companies. Nearly three-quarters of voters (71%) also support continuing the federal tax exemption for ethanol-blended gasoline while only 20% are opposed.

            Appliance Efficiency Standards

            Nearly two-thirds (65%) of voters, including a majority of Republicans (53%), favor strengthening appliance efficiency standards. This support exists even though a majority of respondents (56% vs. 35%) -- when asked about the role of government in the economy -- believe that the government is generally doing too many things. In response to a similar question asked a year ago, only 48% of voters favored having the government continue to strengthen appliance efficiency standards while 46% preferred letting the market place determine new standards.

            Climate Change; Signing an International Agreement

            For the second year in a row, over seventy percent (71%) of voters said they viewed global climate change as a serious threat. This view extends across all political party affiliations including Reform Party members (83%), Democrats (82%), Independents (72%), and Republicans (56%).


      •  I'm finding different figures on US hydro (none)
        You said: "Low-head" hydroelectric and "run-of-the-river" hydroelectric could provide considerable amounts of new electricity in small bits at reasonable cost and minimal environmental impact. But the big gains would come from extremely expensive turbine upgrades at already existing large dams.

        There are 4,316 MW of "incremental" hydropower available at sites with existing hydroelectric facilities. "Incremental" hydropower is defined as capacity additions or improved efficiency at existing hydro projects.

        According to river basin analyses, there are nearly 70,000 Megawatts (MW) of potential hydropower generation in the U.S. when only engineering and economic factors are considered. When screening for environmental, legal and institutional factors at potential sites, there are 29,780 MW of hydro generation-most of which can be developed without the construction of a single, new dam. There are 16,998 MW available at dams without hydroelectric capacity.

        So only 4 GW is possible through increased efficiency but there is 30 GW possible at already existing dams and there are 17 GW possible at existing dams that currently produce no hydro (part of the 30 GW figure).

        30 GW in renewable energy by 2020 is a lot of very cheap electricity to leave out of the plan.  Could you see that is added?  

        The expensive 4 GW through new turbines I agree with you may not be worth it.

        •  Practically speaking ... (none)
          ...for political AND technical reasons, the emphasis has to be on the word "possible" with that 30GW. It's "possible" to power the whole U.S. with wind power, too, but there are too many obstacles to actually do that.

          Still, some attention to hydro would be a good idea.

          •  Thanks for all the work MB!! (none)
          •  3 miles from me is a reservoir that could power (none)
            a 3 Mw plant.  Right now it sits there producing 0 Mw, even though there are homes and towns all around it and the power lines are a few hundred feet away.  

            Do just a hundred of those together and bingo -- 300 Mw for very little cost and very high capacity.  In certain regions--I'm sure if we looked--this would make lots of sense.

            Other regions not so much sense.

            Don't forget even 20 GW of hydro would be 96% capacity I think, so the generation is damn close to the capacity.  Better than nuclear even!  So generation-wise it makes a huge baseline impact in those good regions over other renewables.

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