Saturday, April 25, 2009

CO2 Endangerment Finding Published in FR

The EPA has published in the Federal Register its proposed finding that CO2 and other greenhouse gases endanger the public health and welfare of current and future generations. This starts the clock for public comments, which must be submitted no later than June 23, 2009.

From the Federal Register, April 24, 2009 (Volume 74, Number 78), [Proposed Rules] [Page 18885-18910]

"SUMMARY: Today the Administrator is proposing to find that greenhouse gases in the atmosphere endanger the public health and welfare of current and future generations. Concentrations of greenhouse gases are at unprecedented levels compared to the recent and distant past. These high atmospheric levels are the unambiguous result of human emissions, and are very likely the cause of the observed increase in average temperatures and other climatic changes. The effects of climate change observed to date and projected to occur in the future--including but not limited to the increased likelihood of more frequent and intense heat waves, more wildfires, degraded air quality, more heavy downpours and flooding, increased drought, greater sea level rise, more intense storms, harm to water resources, harm to agriculture, and harm to wildlife and ecosystems--are effects on public health and welfare within the meaning of the Clean Air Act. In light of the likelihood that greenhouse gases cause these effects, and the magnitude of the effects that are occurring and are very likely to occur in the future, the Administrator proposes to find that atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases endanger public health and welfare within the meaning of Section 202(a) of the Clean Air Act. She proposes to make this finding specifically with respect to six greenhouse gases that together constitute the root of the climate change problem: carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons, and sulfur hexafluoride. The Administrator is also proposing to find that the combined emissions of carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and hydrofluorocarbons from new motor vehicles and new motor vehicle engines are contributing to this mix of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Thus, she proposes to find that the emissions of these substances from new motor vehicles and new motor vehicle engines are contributing to air pollution which is endangering public health and welfare under section 202(a) of the Clean Air Act. 

DATES: Comments on this proposed action must be received on or before June 23, 2009. If you submitted comments on the issues raised by this proposal in dockets for other Agency efforts (e.g., the Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on Regulating Greenhouse Gases under the Clean Air Act), you must still submit your comments to the docket for this action (EPA-HQ-OAR-2009-0171) by the deadline if you want them to be considered. There will be two public hearings. One hearing will be held on May 18, 2009 in Arlington, VA. The other hearing will be on May 21, 2009 in Seattle, WA. "

Roger E. Sowell, Esq.
Climate Change Attorney
Legal website

Friday, April 24, 2009

Speech to AIChE on June 16 2009

I had originally been scheduled to speak on October 27, 2009 in Long Beach, California. However, due to scheduling conflicts I have agreed to speak on June 16, 2009 to the Southern California chapter of AIChE. The topic is California's Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006: What Chemical Engineers Should Know.

This meeting will be at the
Quiet Cannon in Montebello, California. The GWSA, aka AB 32, has several important aspects of interest not only to chemical engineers, but other engineering disciplines also. The overall purpose of the Act is to reduce climate warming by essentially eliminating CO2 and other greenhouse gases (GHG). It is doubtful whether there is any link between GHG concentrations and global temperature, according to many who investigate the underlying data and analysis. Even so, this landmark Act is now the law in California, and includes certain specific steps to achieve the GHG reduction goal.

Some of the industries and activities targeted by the Act include:

Petroleum Refining
Chemicals Manufacturing
Hydrogen Production
Power Plants
Transportation Fuels and Motor Vehicles

Ethanol and other Bio-fuels
Cement Plants
Bio-mass Methane Capture
Dry Cleaning (potentially)
"Green" Building Materials
High-performance Batteries
Carbon Capture and Sequestration (CCS)

There is a cap and trade provision that will impact many areas.

The presentation will briefly discuss the history and purpose of GWSA, the timeline and events for implementing its goals, the current situation, then focus on impacts on industry sectors, and conclude with what to expect next. Chemical engineers will have great opportunities and challenges in many industry sectors as a result of AB 32 requirements.

Mr. Sowell will discuss how the GWSA meshes with and complements other California legislation, and future federal legislation along similar lines.

Thank you to Mr. Alan E. Benson, AIChE Southern California chapter president, for extending the invitation.
UPDATE: June 17, 2009

This meeting was very well-attended with approximately 50 very attentive engineers. I was pleased to announce that the NorCal section of AIChE has asked me to make this speech on September 17th, which I am delighted to accept. Also, I will write a paper based on this speech and present the paper in November at AIChE's Annual Meeting in Nashville, Tennessee. I am also honored to be a panelist in a panel discussion comprised of five attorneys who are also chemical engineers at the annual meeting. The panel topic is Global Warming Laws.

The meeting in Montebello was a great success, with wonderful audience participation and many excellent questions following the speech. This topic is of keen interest to chemical engineers. I am grateful to all those who introduced themselves to me both before and after the speech, and the many kind words about the presentation. As I promised, I have made available copies of the slides used in the presentation, and will send a copy to those who request them via email at

Roger E. Sowell, Esq.
Contact Roger Sowell at this website.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Nuclear Plant Cancelled in Missouri

AmerenUE announced they will no longer pursue building a new nuclear power plant in Missouri, due to inability to obtain financing without legislative changes that would allow the utility to charge existing customers for construction work in progress.

" "A large plant would be difficult to finance under the best of conditions, but in today's credit constrained markets, without supportive state energy policies, we believe getting financial backing for these projects is impossible. Pursuing the legislation in its current form will not give us the financial and regulatory certainty we need to complete this project.”
A repeal of the state’s 30-year-old Construction Work in Progress [law] was the most controversial legislation under debate this session, with proponents and detractors taking out television ads to influence public debate.
The proposed nuclear power plant in Callaway County was estimated to cost between $7 billion and $14 billion and create 3,000 jobs."
This is very good news for consumers, as nuclear power is not only unsafe, ultra-hazardous, and produces toxic waste products that endure for thousands of years, it produces power that must be sold for 30 to 40 cents per kwh in order to pay for the plant.  A financing company must be willing to invest approximately $10 billion for a 1,000 MW plant, and $20 billion for a 2,000 MW plant, after including construction costs and interest on construction loans.  The plants require 6 to 8 years to construct, even if nothing goes wrong.  And, something almost always goes wrong.  In the final years of a long project, any delay is very costly, with interest costs of $1 billion per year at that point.  
It is good news, indeed, to see that some sanity has returned in America.  With the very low costs of natural gas, due to a glut on the market that is not likely ever to disappear, it is a wonder that any utility is even considering building a nuke.    Florida and South Carolina should take notice.
Roger E. Sowell, Esq. 

Friday, April 17, 2009

EPA Says CO2 Endangers Health

Today the EPA issued a proposed finding that CO2 and other greenhouse gases endanger the public health.   This was done in spite of the overwhelming scientific evidence that CO2 and other GHGs in the atmosphere have absolutely no controllable effect on global air temperatures.  In fact, as CO2 and other GHG's have risen over the past 200 years, global air temperatures have fallen, at times remained relatively constant, and risen slightly at other times.  This is utterly uncontroversial, and completely destroys the basis for EPA's proposed finding. 

"Pursuant to section 202(a) of the Clean Air Act (CAA

or Act), the Administrator proposes to find that the mix of

six key greenhouse gases in the atmosphere may reasonably

be anticipated to endanger public health and welfare.

Specifically, the Administrator is proposing to define the

“air pollution” referred to in section 202(a) of the CAA to

be the mix of six key directly emitted and long-lived

greenhouse gases: carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4),

nitrous oxide (N2O), hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs),

perfluorocarbons (PFCs), and sulfur hexafluoride (SF6). It

is the Administrator’s judgment that the total body of

scientific evidence compellingly supports a positive

endangerment finding for both public health and welfare.

The Administrator reached this judgment by considering both

observed and projected future effects, and by considering

the full range of risks and impacts to public health and

welfare occurring within the U.S., which by itself warrants

this judgment. In addition, the scientific evidence

concerning risks and impacts occurring outside the U.S.,

including risks and impacts that can affect people in the

U.S., provides further support for this finding.

Under section 202(a) of the CAA, the Administrator is to

determine whether emissions of any air pollutant from new

motor vehicles and their engines cause or contribute to air

pollution which may reasonably be anticipated to endanger

public health or welfare. The Administrator further

proposes to find that combined emissions from new motor

vehicles and new motor vehicle engines of four of these

greenhouse gases – carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide,

and hydrofluorocarbons – contribute to this air pollution.

The other greenhouse gases that are the subject of this

proposal (perfluorocarbons and sulfur hexafluoride) are not

emitted by motor vehicles."

This is an excellent opportunity to be heard by the EPA.

I want to share some thoughts about making public comments, as I attend many public hearings on various issues before agencies and commissions, listen to the comments, observe the commenters, and read many of the written comments that are submitted. I also make comments from time to time. I meet with various commissioners and members of public agencies, and get their views and feedback on comments and those who make the comments.

One of my public comments on California’s Global Warming law is here:

Comments are made in all forms and styles. Some are more effective than others. For those who want to view some comments on other issues, for style and content, please have a look at the link below. Some comments are one or two sentences, and others extend for several pages. Length does not matter, but content does.

For the most effect, it is a good idea to consider the following format for a comment:

Use letterhead. When the letter is complete, scan it and attach the digital file to your comment.

Identify yourself and / or your organization, describe what you do or your experience. It is a good idea to thank the EPA for the opportunity to make comments. (They like reading this, even though they are required by law to accept comments). If you work for an employer who does not support your view, it is important to state that your views are your own and do not represent anyone else.

Organize your comments into paragraphs.

Use a form letter only if you must. It is far more effective to write a comment using your own words.

However, if someone else’s comment states what you wanted to say, it is fine to write and refer to the earlier comment, by name and date, and state your agreement with what was written. The agency appreciates that, as it reduces the number of words they must read.

It is important to know that the agency staff reads the comments, categorizes them, and keeps a total of how many comments were made in each category. So, the number of comments do count. Encourage your friends to make comments, too.

Make your statement/point in the paragraph, refer to actual data where possible, and give the citation or link. Tell them why you hold your view. Try to maintain a positive, reasonable tone, and if criticizing the EPA, tread gently. Point out the inconsistencies of their view compared to other respected publications, or to accepted methodologies.

It is a good idea to describe how you are affected, or will be affected, by this proposed rule.

Close by thanking the EPA for considering your view.

Sign your name (comments get much more serious consideration when signed).

The link to public comments on U.S. government issues:

Roger E. Sowell, Esq.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Sea Level Decreases since 1993

The image above, from NASA, shows how ocean surface heights have changed from 1993 to now.  1993 to 2008 is the time span, because that is when satellites were used to accurately measure sea levels world-wide.   The key result shown on this map is that the dark blue area off the west coast of North America shows the seas are not rising, instead, they are falling at the rate of about 2 to 3  mm per year.  That is roughly one inch per decade.  

This has, or at least it should have, significance to policy-makers in California who initiated AB 32, the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006, and who are currently implementing the regulations pursuant to AB 32.  One of the key drivers of AB 32 was the threat of rising seas and the catastrophic damage to California's coastline.   In fact, just two days ago in Oxnard, California, the California Coastal Commission received a presentation on the horrors of sea level rise.  Those making the presentation were serious, and painted a stark picture.  Unfortunately, the facts as provided above in the image show this is a waste of taxpayer resources.  

A better question to ask is what will those who manage the bays, harbors, and ports do when the sea level continues to fall, and access to those areas is limited?   Harbor dredging companies may find this a boom time, as their services are required more frequently.  

The facts just do not seem to matter to those of the CO2 - is - going - to - kill - us - all  belief.  

Sound public policy is based on facts, not conjecture.  Unsupported conjecture, or wrong conclusions based on falsified data are not appropriate grounds for public policy making.  

This raises an interesting question:  when one is an elected official with responsibility for making public policy, or at least voting on matters of public policy, how does one know which information that is received is valid?   It is interesting to observe this in action.  One putting forth information, and the conclusions drawn from data and analysis, almost always presents his or her qualifications, or pedigree.   Having deep qualifications and experience increases the import of the information conveyed to decision-makers.  Each of us has likely experienced this in a personal way, I know that I have.    But, qualifications and pedigree are not sufficient.  

As an example of qualifications and pedigree being insufficient, Albert Einstein was given a very high level of importance following his publications in relativity.  Few men, before or since, have been given such a high place in the world.  Yet, for all his accolades, his beliefs on quantum mechanics did not match the theories and experimental results of others.  Einstein was noted for saying, "God does not play dice."  This was in reference to the uncertainties, the probabilities, that are a core part of quantum mechanics.   Yet quantum mechanics does work, and is the basis for many electronic gadgets we accept as commonplace today.  

If public policy makers, and private enterprises, proceeded solely on the basis of qualifications and pedigrees, they would have listened to Einstein and not invested resources in communications satellites, military systems, computers, and a host of others that are based in some way on quantum mechanics.   

The parallel to today is the debate over global warming.  On one side, there are the scientists who have qualifications and pedigrees, and the institutions with pedigrees.   These have taken a vastly complex subject, and developed computer models that project dire consequences, indeed, catastrophic consequences from so-called "tipping points."   These "tipping points" are a reference to dumping water from a half-filled bucket, with the handles attached just above the bucket center.  As the bucket is slowly tipped over, the water reaches a point at which the bucket is unstable, and tips over suddenly, causing the water to rush out.  

One of the supposed causes of the "tipping points" is the increase of carbon dioxide, CO2, in the atmosphere, caused by man's burning of fossil fuels.  The projection is that CO2 traps heat from escaping into space, warms the earth and particularly the oceans, the oceans melt the Arctic icecap, then the atmosphere itself warms, this melts the icecaps in Greenland and Antarctica, and the seas rise from all the ice that melts.   

There is another side, with persons having high qualifications and pedigrees, who hold the opposite view from the global warmists.   Known by various labels, my preferred description is knowledgeable climate realist.   A KCR is not taken in by bad science, or by unsupportable conjecture, but examines the claims and projections against factual, observable events.   Thus, when the warmists claim that rising CO2 causes the atmosphere and the oceans to heat up, a KCR looks at the record.  The record clearly shows that the atmosphere sometimes heats up, but many times remains the same, and many times cools down, all while CO2 rises.   At that point, a KCR begins to doubt the warmists.  

Next, a KCR examines the record with respect to the warmists' claims that the oceans are heating up.  This can be measured in at least two ways, one with an array of thermometers or temperature sensors, and the other by sea level change.  Ocean water expands when warmed, and contracts when cooled, as does all water.  The sea level should increase if the ocean warms, and satellites can measure quite accurately the change in sea level over time.  The sea levels are not rising, as may be seen in the image above, except in a few isolated areas.   At this point, a KCR seriously questions the information from the warmists.  

The California policy makers embarked on the wrong road with AB 32.  The seas are not rising, as the deep blue areas off the west coast clearly show.  The laws being implemented to reduce CO2 from California activities are crushing the economy, and with no good justification.    

Roger E. Sowell, Esq. 
Climate Change Attorney

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Nuclear Nuts

A few weeks ago I crossed the internet path of one internet nuclear advocate [the "gentleman" hereafter], a self-proclaimed “knowledgeable nuke” and one who fervently believes that nuclear energy is “safe, reliable, and affordable, a huge boon to mankind.” He is an advocate for very small nuclear power plants, with thousands to be built and located in city neighborhoods and industrial facilities.
Further, this gentleman states that nuclear power via atomic fission does not release any deadly materials in an uncontrolled fashion into the environment, unlike burning fossil fuels.
And last, the gentleman states that I am dead wrong when I stated that atomic energy is the most dangerous and toxic form of energy man has ever devised.
I have run across his type before: a true zealot, a true believer, and one who is not to be swayed by the force of any evidence supported by facts, as his mind is closed to any new or contrary information.
So, knowing in advance that this is a hopeless endeavor, that is, persuading the gentleman and others of similar ilk of the error of his beliefs, I press on, but only this one time. I have far too many things to accomplish in this life to waste more time arguing with one who will not listen to compelling arguments. Taking his assertions in order, “1) safe, 2) reliable, 3) affordable, and 4) a huge boon to mankind.”
Is nuclear power safe? As an attorney highly familiar with negligence and liability, both strict and otherwise, nothing is perfectly safe at all times. Safety is a matter of degree. Measuring sticks one can use to determine the level of safety include how many safeguards are required, how many injuries or deaths occur, and how the law views the matter. For example, driving a car may be considered safe. Yet a car (at least in the U.S.), must have quite a number of safety features before it is allowed to operate on the roads. These safety features include side impact doors, crash-absorbing bumpers, frame crumple zones, air-bags, seat belts, padded headrests and dashboards, the list goes on and on. In addition, there are laws for operating motor vehicles that are designed to increase safety, such as no talking on cell phones and no texting while driving, stopping required at red lights and stop signs, speed limits, operating the headlights at night, not driving while impaired by drugs or alcohol, and others. Yet thousands of people are killed or injured each month while driving. Even though driving a car kills people, driving is not considered an ultra-hazardous activity under the law.
An ultra-hazardous activity is defined under the law as “an activity that necessarily involves a risk of serious harm to the person, land or chattels of others which cannot be eliminated by the exercise of the utmost care, and is not a matter of common usage. Examples of ultra-hazardous activities include blasting, other uses of explosives, radioactive materials, and certain chemicals.
Nuclear power from fission uses radioactive elements, and is by definition an ultra-hazardous activity. The legal consequence of this is that no matter what happens, and no matter the contributory negligence of the plaintiff, the owner of the ultra-hazardous material is at fault when the plaintiff is harmed by the ultra-hazardous material or activity.
Next, safety can be measured by the amount of harmful material released into the environment, and the harm resulting from that material. Nuclear power plants have exploded (Chernobyl), have leaked radioactive water into the ground and streams (numerous times), and have sunk to the bottom of the sea in submarines, thereby poisoning the surrounding seas. The preparation of nuclear fuel leaves in its wake devastating damage to the environment, as for example the uranium mines in the U.S. Southwest. The Kerr-McGee plant that processed plutonium is another example of nuclear radioactive material that poisoned people, as the Karen Silkwood lawsuit clearly showed.
From the above, it can be seen that nuclear power is anything but safe. The industry makes claims to a safety record, but in reality the record is not yet written. Many thousands of tons of deadly radioactive waste material, as spent fuel rods, are stored in the more than 100 operating nuclear power plants in the U.S. These deadly radioactive wastes will likely be processed in one form or another someday, and the accidents, radiation burns, early deaths, radiation sicknesses, and long-term health consequences such as cancers from radiation have not yet occurred. But they will.
The removal from service and disassembly of many of the oldest nuclear power plants have also not occurred, with the attendant disposal of the radioactive portions of those plants. How many more radiation-related illnesses and premature deaths will occur at that time?
Further, nuclear fission that occurs in power plants produces the raw material for nuclear bombs: plutonium. No amount of denial by pro-nuclear forces can alter that fundamental physical fact. Also, the other, non-plutonium portion of spent nuclear fuel can be used to deadly effect in a dirty bomb, in which conventional explosives are wrapped in nuclear fuel and exploded. The resulting spread of toxic radioactivity is deadly to lifeforms. For those who deny that nuclear power plants produce bomb material, why is there so much angst in the world over some nations acquiring nuclear power plants, such as North Korea and Iran?

Point two, is nuclear power reliable? One must put the question in context, reliable in relation to what? If the comparison is to intermittent renewable energy sources such as wind, or solar, nuclear power is a bit more reliable. But compared to coal-fired plants, nuclear is no more reliable. Compared to gas-fired plants, it is no more reliable. And, compared to load-following gas-fired plants, it is less reliable. No utility can place a phone call to the nuclear plant on its grid during a peak power situation and ask the operators to crank it up another 20 percent for the next few hours, but a gas-fired plant can easily do that. No nuclear plant can be brought from a cold condition to full generating power within an hour, as can a gas-fired peaker power plant. The nuclear plant is designed to run at a steady output, and no other. Furthermore, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission can, and does, order nuclear power plants to cut back production or shut down entirely for various reasons. This certainly adversely affects the reliability.
Third, is nuclear power affordable? Many experts thought so in the 1970’s, but few would agree today. In fact, with a 2008 / 2009 cost estimate of $17 to 20 billion for a 2200 MW twin-reactor plant, nuclear power is one of the most expensive options around. That cost estimate was made before the NRC issued a new ruling, that every new nuclear power plant in the U.S. must be designed and built to withstand the impact of a large commercial aircraft. That alone will increase the construction cost by another 10 percent or more. As Craig Severance, CPA, has written, to justify the enormous initial cost and long construction time, the sales price of nuclear-generated power from a new plant must be 25 to 30 cents per kwh. By my estimates, when the aircraft impact design features are included, that will likely be 30 to 35 cents per kwh. In stark contrast, power from a new gas-fired plant is around 12 cents, and from a new coal-fired plant 9 to 10 cents.
Also under the subject of affordability, the gentleman claims that U.S. states with the highest nuclear power generation have the lowest costs of electricity. He cites the southeastern states for this proposition. The opposite turns out to be the case. In all modesty, I took a look at published, reputable data from the U.S. Energy Information Agency, EIA. From my engineering days, I have simple yet adequate skills in plotting data points on a graph, and determining the coordinates of the best-fit linear trend line through those points (see Figure 1 below). In all fairness, developing a trend-line is rather easy these days, when one uses a commercial spreadsheet such as Microsoft’s Excel™. The trend-line shows a positive slope, indicating that power price increases as the percentage of nuclear power generation increases in a state. The data showed that 31 U.S. states have nuclear power plants, with the lowest percent of total generation in Ohio at 6 percent, and the highest in Vermont at 70 percent. Interestingly, the average price for residential retail power in Ohio was 9.5 cents, and in Vermont was 48 percent higher, at 14.1 cents per kwh, in 2007. Connecticut was the highest of all, at 19.1 cents per kwh. The slope of the trend line shows a 0.75 percent increase in power price for a 1 percent increase in nuclear power generation in the state. For a 15 percent increase in nuclear power, the average power price will increase a bit more than 0.9 cents per kwh, or roughly 10 percent of the 2007 price nationwide. For those who advocate increasing nuclear power up to the level achieved by France, 80 percent, this chart clearly shows that would increase the average power price in the USA by 40 percent.
Yet, this data for 2007 uses power produced from mostly aged, nearly-paid-for nuclear power plants. New nuclear plants would, as shown above, require much higher power prices and would increase the cost of power to customers by much more.

Figure 1.
Power price increases 0.63 cents per kwh
for each 10 percent increase in nuclear power

This brings me to the gross unfairness of nuclear power on electricity prices. The poor and those on fixed incomes suffer the most from high power prices, as they have few options but to pay the price or do without. This is dangerous to health and safety in extreme heat and extreme cold.
Fourth and finally, is nuclear power a huge boon to mankind? Given the above, that nuclear power is by definition ultra-hazardous, produces vast quantities of toxic, radioactive wastes that can be used to manufacture nuclear bombs and dirty bombs, is not reliable due to mandatory power reductions or shutdowns, and is one of the most expensive forms of power on the planet that causes grossly disparate effects on the poor and those on fixed incomes (the elderly), the answer must be an emphatic and resounding NO.
The only thing positive about a nuclear power plant is the fuel is cheap. But, there are energy sources that are cheaper still. Four of those energy sources are solar, wind, wave, and ocean current. A fifth is geothermal, but it is very limited. Yet a sixth is hydroelectric, but there is virtually no possibility of increase. The natural resources of those first four power sources are enormous, and have scarcely been tapped to date. Each has features to recommend it, and each has certain drawbacks. But the drawbacks to not include the use of ultra-hazardous materials, do not include generation of deadly toxic wastes that endure for decades or centuries, and do not include power sales prices at 35 cents per kwh or more. Even the reliability issue is minor and getting smaller with new developments. Innovative and cost-effective storage systems are under development and testing in the national laboratories for wind, wave, and solar, which will forever make moot the reliability issue. Ocean current will not require energy storage systems, as the ocean currents flow no matter what is happening in the environment around them.
In conclusion, the propositions that nuclear energy is safe, reliable, affordable, a huge boon to mankind, and releases no toxics to the environment are clearly wrong. The facts clearly show this. No amount of dreaming or wishing or hoping by the gentleman or anyone else with similar opinions will change that.
UPDATE 1 (Nov 4, 2009): After several months and many comments, it is instructive to compare my assertions and facts to the beliefs stated by some of the commenters. First, much more natural gas has been found, just as I said. So much so that gas storage in the U.S. is completely full, and gas prices are very low. So much so that wind power projects are at a reduced rate because wind power generally replaces gas-fired power. Europe is drilling for and finding gas in their shale deposits, especially in Poland. New LNG import terminals are being delayed due to the vast amount of natural gas now available in the US. No need to import it if we can open a valve on land.
On the nuclear power plant front, South Texas Nuclear Project's proposed expansion is on the ropes - due to cost. This is just as I predicted. The cost estimate was $13 billion, and just recently was increased to $17 billion. The City of San Antonio is rethinking their involvement, and postponing their decision. How could such a thing happen, since nuclear proponents insist (indeed, shout it out loud) that such plants are proven technology with well-known cost estimates?
A second major event rocked the new nuclear power plant world this week, as the Areva company (the French vendor for the Finnish plant under construction) has just received a slap across the face for inadequate safety systems. The design must be revised to satisfy the nuclear regulatory agencies from France, Finland, and U.K. How could that be, since we are equally assured by the nuclear proponents that such plants' designs are safe? One would think that the design as approved was truly safe. Apparently not.
And a further point on the cost increase to withstand an impact from a large commercial aircraft. Some commenters stated that all 103 of the US plants already meet that safety standard. This is not true. The new safety standard applies to more than just the reactor dome, it also applies to the cooling system, and spent fuel storage.
It is also increasingly apparent, after a very cool summer and early killing frost, increasing polar ice at both poles, and almost zero hurricanes in the Atlantic, that CO2 has nothing to do with the earth's temperature. If the IPCC and AGW alarmists were correct, the increased CO2 (from 350 all the way up to 388 ppm) should have roasted the earth already. We should already have islands underwater (where are they?), seaports and seashores disappearing (where are they?), an early Spring and late Fall (not in the northern hemisphere, nor the southern), many more hurricanes (did not happen), and Arctic ice almost gone (it is increasing back to the 2005 level). [end update 1]

Roger E. Sowell, Esq.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Micro Nuclear Power Plants A Dream

A question came up on WUWT, about the small nuclear power plants (around 20 to 50 MW).  

“. . . a bit ago there was a mention of micro-nuclear power plants. is there anything more for or against that you could recommend? or I am I just making too much of popular reporting.”

My reply:
Any micro-nuclear power plant must be approved and receive a license for construction and operation from the NRC. From NRC’s website,
“The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) was created as an independent agency by Congress in 1974 to enable the nation to safely use radioactive materials for beneficial civilian purposes while ensuring that people and the environment are protected. The NRC regulates commercial nuclear power plants and other uses of nuclear materials, such as in nuclear medicine, through licensing, inspection and enforcement of its requirements.”
“The Atomic Energy Act of 1954, as amended, requires that civilian uses of nuclear materials and facilities be licensed, and it empowers the NRC to establish by rule or order, and to enforce, such standards to govern these uses as “the Commission may deem necessary or desirable in order to protect health and safety and minimize danger to life or property.” ”
Getting a micro-nuke design approved and licensed would take years, if such approval were ever issued, and ensuring the public safety from one of those would pose serious problems. To me, about the only good thing about a 1200 MW nuclear power plant is that it is huge, heavy, all in one place, and can be guarded fairly easily. The suitcase-sized micro-nukes are likely never to meet the NRC standards for protection of public health and safety, and danger to life or property, and as such are very likely just a dream. I may be proven wrong, but nuclear fissionable materials are just too dangerous to ever be allowed to proliferate as micro-nuclear proponents would like.

Roger E. Sowell, Esq.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Tire Inflation Rule Causes Liability

UPDATE 1, July 3, 2010 -- The tire regulation has been postponed, it is not in effect as of July 1st. There are problems with the wording that require ARB to re-draft the language. -- end update.

Original post begins:

There are numerous problems with the AB 32 tire inflation measure, soon to be law in California. The law goes into effect July 1, 2010. As a result of this ill-considered law, many vehicles will have tire-related accidents, and many lawsuits will be filed. Victims will need an attorney such as Roger Sowell who understands this law, and the issues surrounding tire inflation. The tire inflation law seems simple enough, but there are several problems.

Tires have a target inflation pressure written on the sidewall. Even if the service technician inflates the tire to the pressure from the sidewall, many things can make that the wrong pressure just a few hours later. The wrong pressure can lead to tire failure, causing injury, property damage, and / or death. Two of the things that can go wrong are discussed below.

First, the tire may be hot when the technician adjusts the pressure. A hot tire will have an elevated pressure, if it was properly inflated earlier when the tire was cold. Tires become warm or hot when driven at high speed for an hour or so. The air in the tire also becomes hot. Tires are designed to perform properly at the elevated temperature and pressure, if properly inflated when cold. If the tire is hot when the technician checks the pressure, he may let out some air to bring the pressure down to what is written on the sidewall. Later, when the tire cools down, the pressure will decrease and the tire will be underinflated. The hot tire problem is complicated because it is very difficult to measure the air temperature in a tire. If one could measure the air temperature, a simple correction table can be used to inflate the tire to the correct amount so that when the tire cools down, the pressure will be as written on the sidewall.

For example, if a tire is to be inflated to 32 psi when the tire is cold, or at 70 degrees F, the tire should be inflated to approximately 35 psi if the air temperature in the tire is 100 degrees F.

Second, the compressed air used to inflate the tire may be hot. Hot air flowing into a tire will eventually cool down, and the tire pressure will decrease. Air compressors heat up the compressed air as they run, and the air may remain hot in the storage tank. An air compressor usually has a storage tank, and the smaller the tank, the greater the chance that the air will be hot. This is especially true if the compressed air is used frequently. Only when the air compressor stops running for an hour or two will the air tank cool down. However, the opposite can happen when the air tank has been sitting overnight in the cold ambient air. If the air tank is cool and is at a high pressure, perhaps 80 to 100 pounds per square inch (psi), any air placed into a tire will be much colder due to expansion across a valve. Air auto-refrigerates when it is expanded across a valve. This is known as the Joule-Thomson effect. One can sometimes see this if one blows a small amount of air from the compressed air hose on a humid day. The cold air condenses the water vapor in the air, forming a small fog cloud that dissipates rapidly. If very cold air from auto-refrigeration is placed in the tire and the tire is inflated to proper pressure, the tire pressure will increase when the cold air warms up. Over-inflated tires can be dangerous, can rupture, and can cause accidents.

The legal liability that will result from the California tire inflation law should give all automotive service providers pause. With the record-keeping requirement, an attorney for a plaintiff who has a tire-related auto accident will turn first to the service provider that most recently adjusted their tire pressure. There is no practical and safe way the tire service company can properly inflate the tires, without letting the tires cool down to 70 degrees F, using 70 degree air from a compressor station, and double-checking that the tire gauge is properly calibrated and used properly. Tires do not cool down quickly; they take hours to cool down. The AB 32 tire inflation lawsuits are just waiting to be filed.

Roger E. Sowell, Esq.

Mr. Sowell can be contacted at his legal website.