I am reminded of a famous letter, dated October 13, 1862 that President Lincoln wrote General George B. McClellan, who had already been removed at the Commander in Chief of the Amry but was still Commander of the Army of the Potamac. An excerpt of the letter reads as follows:
You remember my speaking to you of what I called your over-cautiousness. Are you not over-cautious when you assume that you cannot do what the enemy is constantly doing? Should you not claim to be at least his equal in prowess, and act upon the claim? As I understand, you telegraphed General Halleck that you cannot subsist your army at Winchester unless the railroad from Harper's Ferry to that point be put in working order. But the enemy does now subsist his army at Winchester, at a distance nearly twice as great from railroad transportation as you would have to do without the railroad last named. He now wagons from Culpeper Court House, which is just about twice as far as you would have to do from Harper's Ferry. He is certainly not more than half as well provided with wagons as you are. I certainly should be pleased for you to have the advantage of the railroad from Harper's Ferry to Winchester, but it wastes all the remainder of autumn to give it to you, and in fact ignores the question of time, which cannot and must not be ignored..
The bold is mine, inserted for my own purposes, which, in fact, have little or nothing to do with the American Civil War, but is in fact, about the proposed nuclear reactors in Levy County Florida whose construction has been pushed back because of high construction costs and "cheap" dangerous natural gas.
One may read about the unfortunate scheme to build the nuclear reactors in Levy Country Florida here: Levy Nuclear Project Moved Back by Three Years.
I will qualify the word "unfortunate" in connection to the nuclear plants below, but to return to the matter of the Civil War, within a month of writing General McClellan thusly Lincoln fired him, ending forever his military career, the result being (although no one knew it at the time) that millions of Americans constrained in the most cruel circumstances imaginable were freed and enabled to enrich the American culture that came to define that culture. Firing McClellan changed America forever in ways that can only be described as supremely positive. Within a month of firing McClellan Lincoln wrote this famous beautiful and timeless locution:
It is not "can any of us imagine better?" but, "can we all do better?" The dogmas of the quiet past, are inadequate to the stormy present. The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise -- with the occasion. As our case is new, so we must think anew, and act anew. We must disenthrall ourselves...The world knows we do know how to save it...We shall nobly save, or meanly lose, the last best hope of earth...I have unashamedly and mercilessly mangled Lincoln's beautiful text by cherry picking phrases - in most ways stripping it of its original meaning - to my own purposes, of course, to insert a different meaning for the timeless locutions than Lincoln intended. He had no idea that the issue I am discussing would even exist.
I'm not a particularly original thinker, nor a particularly original writer, and I can't help myself that I'm always stealing phrases more or less directly from Abraham Lincoln's locutions, "...last, best, hope..." for instance.
Last. Best. Hope.
Enough Civil War; I will change the subject and talk about "cheap" dangerous natural gas:
I contend that dangerous natural gas being "cheap" is totally a function of the undeniable fact that dangerous gas waste can be directly dumped, without treatment, directly into one of humanity's favorite waste dumps, the planetary atmosphere, that the suppliers and the users of dangerous natural gas - and I am among them - have pay no economic or moral penalty for its use and the dumping of its waste...
Right now the concentration of one form of dangerous fossil fuel waste, carbon dioxide, is at a record level: 396.78 ppm as of this writing,, meaning that roughly 0.4% of the planetary atomosphere consists of the most important, if not the most immediately toxic dangerous fossil fuel waste. The concentration of this waste has risen by 0.1% in just 50 years, representing a huge change on a planetary scale in the composition of the atmosphere.
(The concentration of this species of dangerous fossil fuel waste, carbon dioxide, will fall for a few months as it always does in summer in the Northern Hemisphere so we should expect the next new record in May or June of 2013: Humanity will do nothing meaningful to stop it.)
The Citizens of the State of Florida were dumping roughly 227 million metric tons of carbon dioxide directly into the atmospheric waste dump in 2009, 57 million metric tons of which represented waste from dangerous natural gas and 55 million metric tons involved the practice of burning coal in Florida.
One may find this data on the pages related to state by state emissions of the dangerous fossil fuel waste carbon dioxide on EIA website by poking around in the tables on the right: State-Level Energy-Related Carbon Dioxide Emissions, 2000-2009.
All of humanity dumped 30.3 billion tons of the dangerous fossil fuel waste carbon dioxide that same year. This means that to a first order of magnitude the State of Florida dumped about 0.91% of all the dangerous fossil fuel waste carbon dioxide dumped on Earth in 2009.
For the record, Florida has about 19 million people, or roughly 0.027% of the world's population, meaning that Florida's dangerous fossil fuel waste dumping rate is more than 300% per capita of the rest of humanity.
As I noted above, 55 million metric tons of the dangerous fossil fuel waste carbon dioxide dumped in the planetary waste dump, Earth's atmosphere, comes from dangerous natural gas and 57 million metric tons comes from coal, 112 million metric tons total, in case you've joined Greenpeace and are incapable of doing arithmatic operations. It can be show by appeal to tables 2 and 4 in the State by State dangerous fossil fuel waste carbon dioxide emissions page linked above, that essentially all of this dangerous fossil fuel waste is dumped to generate electricity.
The electricity generation profile of the State of Florida on the EIA website is given here: Florida State Electricity Profile, 2010. One may click on table 5 and open a spreadsheet showing how Florida's electricity is generated.
Approximately 86.3% of the electricity generated in Florida is generated from dangerous fossil fuels with all but a tiny fraction of the waste (nitrates and sulfates are probably removed) being dumped in the planetary atmosphere.
As it happens, a recent paper in Environmental Science and Technology , a publication of the American Chemical Society, covers the sources of dangerous fossil fuel waste of all types in the Southern Eastern United States. Environ. Sci. Technol. 2012, 46, 5479−5488
I've imported Table 1 from the paper into Excel and looked at the data. (Carbon dioxide, which may prove to be the most dangerous of all the dangerous fossil fuel wastes - although it is not so yet - is not listed, but sulfur oxides, nitrogen oxides, volatile organic compounds, and particulate matter are all listed. (Particulate matter is probably responsible for the bulk of the 3.3 million people that dangerous fossil fuels and renewable energy - in the form of biomass - kill each year, but sulfur oxides and nitrogen oxides are no walk in the park.) Power plants in the South East are included under a general rubric of EGU (Electrical Generating Units) which are included in "point" sources: These consist of EGU fuel, industrial fuel, other fuel (excluding residential fuel), chemical, metals, petroleum, other industrial processes. These types of facilities - to give some insight to electrical generation in Florida, although the paper covers all of the states in the Northeast. According to the paper, 95.6% of the 1,338 thousand metric tons of sulfur dioxides come from these types of facilities, 40.21% of the 495 thousand metric tons of nitrogen oxides, and 25.89% of the 116 thousand metric tons of the most dangerous particulates, those that are less than 2.5 microns in size, come from these types of facilites.
And let's be clear on this: These things do kill people during the normal operations associated with their use.
Much as Cato the Elder could not avoid ending each of his speeches with the aggressive threat Carthago delenda est, "Carthage Must Be Destroyed," I include in the majority of my remarks the following link and comment:
3.3 Million People Die Each Year From Air Pollution, According to the World Health Organization. Half of these deaths occur in people under the age of 5.Nuclear energy produces 10.5% of the electricity in Florida.
The motivation for writing this diary was hearing the same old tired conservative crap we've been hearing for decades about nuclear energy from a group that points to any feature of nuclear energy and views it in isolation from its alternatives. In this case the predictably insipid anti-nuke here produced one of my favorited among rote "pot and kettle" anti-nuke chants, the one that goes "Nuclear energy is too expensive," in which which he or she or it pointed to an exorbitant price tag on the new nuclear reactors described above.
It's almost as good as the complaint about nuclear energy that is raised by anti-nukes operating coal fueled computers that "no one knows what to do with the waste," which is a statement by implication that someone knows what to do with dangerous fossil fuel waste, which kills, to repeat - as one can never repeat it enough - 3.3 million people per year.
The number of people who have been killed by the storage of used nuclear fuel in this country is zero. Said fuel has been stored for more than 5 decades. This makes such storage safer than driving cars, which kills tens of thousands of people each year with or without safety band-aids on cars, safer in fact than bath tubs and electric sockets. It makes it safer than living in a coastal city during a hurricane, or, for that matter, living in a coastal city in a tsunami.
So let's talk about the "$24 billion price tag on the two reactors." Predictably, the inane anti-nuke raising this point pointed not to the observed case, or even the range of estimated cases, but to the estimated worse case. The inane anti-nuke also included the 3 billion cost for transmission lines to the plant in with the cost of the reactor itself.
Anti-nukes almost never complain about transmission line costs when they are coming up with a hair brained scheme to run Southern California on, say, wind farms in North Dakota. Nor do they have anything to say about the fact that at least one analyst, Professor Dennis Silverman at UC reports that Arnie Schwartenegger's Million solar roof scheme would cost $20 billion dollars to build the equivalent of one large gas powered plant, except that it would be impossible to shut the gas plant because of the regular occurrence of something called "night."
Let me return to a minute to "poor" General McClellan was rather famous for writing the President of the United States to tell him what was impossible and what couldn't be done because of all the consequences he imagined.
The President's response to McClellan pointed out that no matter what McClellan said was the reason for his performance, that other people were doing what McClellan said he couldn't do, and were doing it under even more primitive conditions that those conditions that McClellan said made even the idea of him attempting to do these things unworthy of action.
Right now, in Finland, a nuclear reactor is nearing completion. It is the reactor number 3 at Olkiluoto. The reactor is very large, and is designed to produce 1600 MW of electricity. Operating at 100% capacity utilization, the plant would produce about 50 petajoules (0.05 exajoules) of electricity in a single building.
The reactor is over budget and delayed beyond the anticipated schedule. Ground broke for the reactor in 2005 and the reactor is expected to be functioning commercially in 2014.
Initially the reactor was supposed to cost 3 billion Euros and be complete in 4 years.
Its completion will cost about 5.3 billion Euros, and it will be complete in 9 years.
No self respecting anti-nuke - and it is remarkable that anti-nukes are so disconnected with reality as to imagine that they are worthy of any respect, even their own - although apparently they do think highly of themselves irrespective of whether people like me regard them as intellectual and moral Lilliputians - would do anything than point to Olkiuoto-3 and point out with satisfaction and glee that it is, um, late and over budget and report that the reactor is a failure.
But is it?
The price of industrial electricity in Finland is 0.1377 Euros/kwh, which is roughly 17.2 US cents per kwh at the current exchange rate for the basket case Euro. This is roughly 70% higher than the average price of electricity in the United States, which comes in 10 cents per kwh.
Although Finland's electricity prices may seem high to us, they are actually near the lowest prices in Europe, about half of the electricity prices in that gas and coal fueled hellhole in Germany - only Denmark pays more for electricity than Germany - where they have shut their nuclear plants in a paroxysm of fear, ignorance and superstition, coupled with a bit of climate change moral indifference thrown in for good measure.
France has a lower price than Finland for electricity, but with the exception of some Baltic States and Bulgaria, French electricity is about the cheapest in Europe.
The typical capacity utilization for well run nuclear power plants is on the order of 90%. If the 1600 MWe reactor at Olkiuoto runs at this capacity, it will produce about 12 billion kwh of electricity each year. At Finnish electricity prices, this translates to about 1.7 billion Euros per year, or $2.2 billion (US) per year.
The reactor is designed to operate for 80 years. Thus the value of the electricity produced at today's prices would represent about $173 billion dollars, although it must be said that this amount of money would not be accrued until the Obama sisters now living in the White House were very, very, very, old women.
But who has a problem with this?
Everyone apparently given our culture of selfishness, self-delusion, and short term thinking!
The problem with the Finnish reactor is that the costs accrued for building it are paid by the current generation, and the benefits below to future generations. Nuclear reactors are gifts to the future.
We, in this generation, in this country, would be burning much more coal had not our fathers and grandfathers built the 100 nuclear reactors that now operate in this country, not one of them, zero, zilch, resulting in a loss of life.
The Finns give a shit about the future of their country. We, um, don't.
The Finnish experience of building Okliuoto-3 has not by the way, soured the Finns on nuclear power. The Finns, before now, had not built a nuclear reactor since 1982. Part of the problem with the cost over runs and delays on this reactor must be attributed to inexperience of modern Finnish regulators with reactor construction and also the inexperience that Areva had with building the reactor. These kinds of problems are called "FOAKE" problems - for First Of A Kind Engineering problems.
The Finns apparently are drawing the correct lessons from Okliuoto - that it is stupid to build an infrastructure, including a regulatory infrastructure, and then discard it in favor of something less effective and less desirable.
California, by the way has not built "one million solar roofs." Like every other bit of California energy legislation it was all hat and no cattle. If they did try to build this infrastructure, they wouldn't have $20 billion bucks to build the equivalent of a gas plant. They can't even maintain their world class university system, their schools, their parks. They're um, broke, just like that other solar power powerhouse, Spain.
(Look for Germany to follow as an economic basket case. They've already begun shutting aluminum plants in that country and firing people because they can't afford the electricity.)
Back to California.
After all the caterwauling about solar energy in California, this failed and toxic form of energy produces in the entire state as much energy as a very, very, very, very small gas plant, an average continuous power of 103 MW.
That is about 1/10 the amount of energy a single average nuclear power plant can produce in one relatively small building.
And back to General McClellan:
Finland's "failed" reactor, which will produce $100 billion dollar quantities of energy did not cost $12 billion dollars. It cost considerably less. Moreover, it is 1.6 times as powerful as each of the two proposed Levy County reactors.
The 103 reactors that the United States built did not cost the equivalent of a modern day $1.2 trillion dollars.
China is building reactors right now under budget and before schedule, some apparently at half the cost of the Finnish reactor.
I don't know the guys at Progress energy, and I know nothing of how they calculate the costs of their power plants. I have no idea whether they are interested in future generations in Florida or if they would rather just burn the gas, dump the waste, take the short term money and run.
But I assure you, if large parts of Florida sink beneath the waves, as most climate change models have it, it will be an expensive affair, and probably not for a future generation much removed from our own. Undoubtedly their are thinking people alive today who will see it.
But they ought to think like Lincoln thought, and ask themselves how it is that the Finns are doing what they seem to think cannot be done, building a reactor at much lower cost than they think they can do.
Indeed, we as a nation ought to consider how the engineers of the 1960's and 1970's did what we say we cannot do.
Don't we know more than they did? Do we not have more powerful tools, much as General McClellan and more and better horse than did General Lee?