Thursday, July 24, 2014

Kaya Identity and Energy Crisis 1979

Subtitle:  Response to Energy Crisis Catalyzed by Equation

The Kaya Identity, as posted earlier on SLB, is back for another round. see link.   Apparently, even more bloggers are weighing in, with Dr. Roy Spencer posting his take on his blog, and WattsUpWithThat also having more.    Dr. Spencer, for those who may not
Oil Refinery
source: Wikipedia commons
know, is an eminent, well-respected PhD climatologist at University of Alabama - Huntsville.  see link to his blog article on Kaya Identity Crisis.  

In my earlier post, I wrote that the units on both sides do indeed cancel, and in this post I will demonstrate that even when the same variable appears on each side, an equation is quite useful.   The blog-blather seems to be that, if the equation reduces to CO2 = CO2, then it is useless (where CO2 is in tons per year).  


A bit of background, first.  In a somewhat analogous situation to the current climate scare, in which the entire Earth is said by alarmists to overheat because man's activities emit carbon dioxide, CO2, into the atmosphere, we had an actual energy disruption in the early 1980s.  This was no vague, arm-waving exercise by some data-manipulating maniacs, this was hard, cold fact of oil price increase.   I was a small part of that back then.  But, owing to my recent graduation from college and being early in my engineering career, I did not participate in developing our version of the Kaya Identity, nor in policy discussions on which aspects were to be pursued.  I was, however, on the front line for our private-sector company (multiple oil refineries, gas processing plants, an ethylene plant, various petrochemical plants) and obtaining the desired results in the most profitable manner. 

Thirty-five years ago, in 1979, the oil cartel OPEC increased the price of oil dramatically, to $36 per barrel, more than double the price only a few months earlier.   One of the results, in the US, was a government mandate to reduce energy consumption in the process industries, I believe the target was 25 percent.  

The Equations

The equation that (perhaps) was used back then, very similar to the Kaya Identity, was 

 1)    Eg = P x T/P x Ec/T x Eg/Ec

Eg = Energy, trillion Btu/y, e.g. gross energy consumed
P   = Process plants, a number
T   = Throughput per process plant, tons per year
Ec = Energy consumed in the process plant, trillion Btu/y

Note the similarity to the Kaya Identity, equation 2:

2)  CO2 = P x GDP/P x E/GDP x CO2/E

Each equation 1) and 2) has four terms on the right hand side, the numerator of the fourth term is identical to the left hand side, and all the other units cancel out on the right hand side (P / P, GDP / GDP, E / E all cancel.)

Therefore, if the Kaya Identity naysayers are correct, then equation 1) should also be useless.  After all, in equation 1), the cancelled units on the right hand side are (P / P, T / T, and Ec / Ec), leaving Eg = Eg  

Yet, equation 1) was indeed useful.   

The Usefulness

To accomplish the energy reduction, which at the time was deemed not only necessary but crucial to US economic survival, there were quite a number of things that could be done.   Each will be discussed in turn. 

First, variable P, the number of plants, could be reduced by 25 percent.  That single act would have reduced gross energy.  That path was indeed partly pursued, as a number of inefficient, smaller plants were shut down.  The result was not 25 percent reduction, though, in Eg. 

Second, the throughput per plant, T/P, could be reduced by 25 percent.  That also, alone, would have reduced Eg.  However, the US needed the products from those plants.  Instead, throughput per plant was increased, to make up for the plants previously shutdown.  It is true that a recession also occurred, so overall demand was somewhat less than it had been previously.  This was especially true in some industries, such as oil refining.  Drivers suddenly found ways to cut their gasoline consumption, by driving less or carpooling, for example.    It was found that Eg was reduced, also because the remaining plants were somewhat more efficient in energy use per ton of throughput.  

Third, the energy consumed per ton of throughput at each plant could be reduced.  This is the third term in equation 1), Ec/T.   This area generated the most interest and activity among the process engineers, our supervisors and managers, the group of which I was a part.   As good process engineers, we developed more than 40 different items, or process changes, that could be implemented with a reduced energy consumption.  I won't detail the entire list here, but will provide a few as examples.   

A brief note about how Ec differs from Eg in the above equation 1).  Ec is the energy consumed in the process, not including certain inefficiencies or wasted energy such as the hot gas exiting the smokestack on a fired heater.    Examples of Ec include electrical power required to run motors, steam required to run steam turbines, heat absorbed in the reboiler of a distillation column, etc.   In contrast, Eg includes all the inefficiencies, such as the gross fuel burned in a boiler, which includes the heat loss out the smokestack.  

Examples of process changes that can (and do) reduce Ec, energy consumed, included but were not limited to:

a)  replacing steam turbines with electric motors as drivers on pumps and compressors, and gas-driven compressors with electric motor-drives. 
b)  installing new heat exchangers with increased surface area to increase the inlet temperature of streams heated in a fired heater. 
c)  installing different catalysts that operate at a lower temperature, thus requiring a lower temperature exiting a fired heater
d)  installing different catalysts that provide better yields, thus requiring less feed to a process to obtain the same output
e)  installing improved process units that consume less energy intrinsically (e.g. low-pressure catalytic reforming in oil refineries, compared to high-pressure units)
f)  improve process control to reduce reflux and reboil on distillation columns where over-reboiling was the normal practice
g) add more trays to distillation columns, to reduce reflux and reboil requirements, similarly, more efficient packing could be installed in packed columns
h)  use waste process heat (e.g. medium temperature streams) to preheat boiler feedwater, or generate low-pressure steam
i)  recover more steam condensate and return it to the boiler 
j)  install better insulation, also electric heat tracing instead of steam heat tracing
k) install bottoms-to-feed heat exchangers on distillation columns
l)  run process unit intermediate streams hot from upstream to downstream units
m) purchase less energy-intensive feed, e.g. light crude oil instead of heavier crude oil
n)  reduce waste and consequent reprocessing of off-spec product
o)  install variable-speed motors on large motors
p)  install cogeneration utilities, especially combined cycle gas turbine plants.

There are many, many more items on the list of process changes that reduce Ec.    We evaluated them all, and implemented those that met our criteria for return on investment.  

Fourth and finally, the gross energy per unit of energy consumed could be reduced, Eg/Ec.   This involved increasing the efficiency of fired heaters, among other things.   For example, a furnace that operated initially at 85 percent efficiency and consumed 300 million Btu per hour (a common, ordinary furnace in a refinery), wasted fifteen percent or 45 million Btu per hour out the smokestack as hot flue gases.   By careful engineering, the furnace could be improved to 90 or perhaps 92 percent efficiency, corresponding to approximately 280 million Btu per hour of fuel consumed.  The savings was 300 minus 280, or 20 million Btu per hour.    This was approximately 7 percent savings.    The same could be done in a boiler, and other furnaces across the refinery or chemical plant.  

Details of all these process improvements are not given here, but will be familiar to the process engineers.  Many of us lived this, we designed the improvements, supervised the installation, started up the new systems, and documented the energy reductions.  

All in, the process industries exceeded the target, as I recall we accomplished approximately 27 percent reduction.    

The equation 1) , which does reduce in mathematical terms to Eg = Eg, after cancelling out the various terms on the right hand side, was quite useful.  We made use of each and every term, to a greater or lesser extent.  

Perhaps those who stoutly insist that the Kaya Identity is useless because it, too, reduces to CO2 = CO2, are unaware of the energy crisis of 1979 and the subsequent events in the US.  Perhaps knowing this now, they will pause and reconsider.    One can ask any of us who were engineers at the time, between about 1980 and 1985.   We lived it.  

Roger E. Sowell, Esq.
Marina del Rey, California

Sunday, July 20, 2014

The Truth About Nuclear Power - Part 28

Subtitle: Thorium MSR No Better Than Uranium Process


This article, number 28 in the series, discusses nuclear power via a thorium molten-salt reactor (MSR) process.   (Note, this is also sometimes referred to as LFTR, for Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor)   The thorium MSR is frequently trotted out by nuclear power advocates, whenever the numerous drawbacks to uranium fission reactors are mentioned.   To this point in the TANP series, uranium fission, via PWR or BWR, has been the focus.  Some critics of TANP have already stated that thorium solves all of those problems and
Thorium Molten Salt Reator process
source:  Idaho National Lab
therefore should be vigorously pursued.  Some of the critics have stated that Sowell obviously has never heard of thorium reactors.   Quite the contrary, I am familiar with the process and have serious reservations about the numerous problems with thorium MSR.  

It is interesting, though, that nuclear advocates must bring up the MSR process.  If the uranium fission process was any good at all, there would be no need for research and development of any other type of process, such as MSR and fusion.   Indeed, as already pointed out in TANP, uranium fission plants have barely captured 11 percent of world-wide electricity production after 50 years of heroic efforts.   One would expect, if nuclear power were as great as the advocates claim, that nuclear plants would already supply 80 or 90 percent of all electric power in the world.  Clearly, they do not because they are not at all great, they have enormous and insurmountable drawbacks in cost, safety, and toxic product legacy left for future generations.    Once the thorium MSR process is discussed in this article, the next article will discuss yet a third hope for the nuclear advocates, in case fusion fizzles out and MSR melts away to nothingness.   That next article will be on high-temperature gas reactors, the HTGR.   As will be seen, HTGR also has serious drawbacks.  

One final preliminary point: some of the nuclear advocates that push MSR lament the fact that, many years ago, thorium MSR lost in a competition with uranium PWR to provide propulsion for ships and submarines for the US Navy.   They say, wrongly, that Admiral Rickover chose uranium PWR over thorium MSR so that the US could develop atomic bombs.  What is much more likely the reason uranium PWR won is that the materials used for the MSR developed the severe cracking described below.   No Admiral in charge of submarines could take a chance on the reactor splitting apart from the shock of depth charges.    

The Idaho National Lab MSR Description  (see drawing above)

"The Molten Salt Reactor (MSR) system produces fission power in a circulating molten salt fuel mixture with an epithermal-spectrum reactor and a full actinide recycle fuel cycle. In the MSR system, the fuel is a circulating liquid mixture of sodium, zirconium, and uranium fluorides. The molten salt fuel flows through graphite core channels, producing an epithermal spectrum. The heat generated in the molten salt is transferred to a secondary coolant system through an intermediate heat exchanger, and then through a tertiary heat exchanger to the power conversion system. The reference plant has a power level of 1,000 MWe. The system has a coolant outlet temperature of 700 degrees Celsius, possibly ranging up to 800 degrees Celsius, affording improved thermal efficiency. The closed fuel cycle can be tailored for the efficient burnup of plutonium and minor actinides."  - See link 

Thorium’s Listed Advantages 

a) Fuel is plentiful because thorium is abundant

b) Fuel is cheap on a kWh produced basis

c) Molten salt reactor supposedly is safer, via a solid salt plug underneath the reactor that melts upon overheating if power is lost or some other upset occurs.   This allows the reactor contents, hot molten fluoride salts with radioactive thorium, uranium, and plutonium, to flow by gravity into several separate collection chambers to self-cool.

d) Low pressure reactor using molten salt – supposedly safer than a high-pressure PWR design. 

Oak Ridge  MSR Test Project

a) The reactor was small, with thermal output only 7 MWth.  The reactor process had no steam generator and no electricity was produced.  It ran only a few months.

b) Metal that was used for contacting molten salt developed intergranular cracking; completely unsuitable for commercial reactor use.  see link

c) ORNL then developed (in 1977) an improved and very expensive alloy Hastelloy N for nuclear applications with molten Fluoride salts.   In tests, Hastelloy N with Niobium (Nb) had much better corrosion resistance to molten fluoride salts.  

Future MSR designs and problems

a) The MSR design is much like a PWR design: each has a reactor, steam generator, and turbine/generator for the three primary sections.  However, as shown in the Idaho National Lab drawing above (INL), there are four loops in this design.  PWR has three circulating fluid loops: cooling water, boiler feedwater/steam, and the primary heating loop,  Yet, the MRS has a fourth loop, for radioactive molten salt for MSR.    Any MSR design that hopes to be economic will also be huge, likely in the 1000 MWe output size, to employ economy of scale.  This requires scaleup of approximately 500-to-1 compared to the ORNL project.   With a cycle efficiency of approximately 30 to 33 percent, the thermal output will be approximately 3500 MWth.   Scaleup from ORNL size by 500 times is an enormous challenge.   Note that scaleup with a factor of 7 to 1 is a stretch, yet such a factor (using 6) requires four steps (40, 250, 1500, and 3500) to use round numbers.   Each larger plant requires years to design, construct, and test before moving to the next size, and that is if the larger design actually works the first time.    It is also instructive (and very, very expensive) that the MSR design has a dual-compressor and heat removal fluid instead of the conventional steam condenser system.  Costs and operating problems for this design are much, much greater than for a PWR.  

b) The materials of construction for a very hot molten Fluoride salt mixture will likely be extremely expensive, if made of Hastelloy N to prevent the widespread cracking found at ORNL.   It remains to be seen if even Hastelloy N will have a sufficient strength and thickness after 40 years of service. 

c) Pumping the very hot, corrosive, molten salt mixture will require expensive alloy materials, and due to the salt’s density, high horsepower for pumping.   Also, pumping a hot molten radioactive salt requires sophisticated pump seals to ensure safety and prevent leaks.   As described above, the thorium MSR design will have four main circulating loops, while a PWR system has only three.   However, the cost for MSR hot molten salt circulation pump will be more expensive than the PWR pressurized water circulation pump due to the high-cost alloy required, and the almost double horsepower motor to drive the pump. 

d) If a molten salt pump is not used, circulation can be achieved by a thermal density difference loop.  However, this also presents serious design and control problems.  

e) The steam generator design presents a complex and likely insurmountable problem. Even if a successful design is somehow created, leaks of high-pressure water into the low-pressure molten salt are inevitable and will create all manner of hell. Havoc is too mild for the mess that will happen.   Water that contacts the hot molten salt will explode into steam, possibly rupturing the piping or equipment and flinging radioactive molten salt in all directions.   In addition, the steam generator’s material of construction also must resist the hot, corrosive molten salt.  The steam generator will also likely be made of Hastelloy N, which adds to the already high cost of the plant.   It is also notable that the INL MSR design has two heat exchangers for the steam generator loop, which decreases overall cycle thermal efficiency.   It does not increase safety, as water will leak into the molten salt. 

f) Controlling the plant output, adding more fuel, and removing unwanted reaction byproducts, all are obstacles.  

g) With the low thermal efficiency, MSR plants will require approximately the same quantity of cooling water as uranium fission plants.   That, as discussed previously in TANP, is a serious disadvantage in areas that are already short of water. 


It can be seen then, that thorium MSR has few advantages, if any, over PWR.  They each have three or four circulating loops and pumps, however MSR will have much more expensive materials for the reactor, steam generator, molten salt pumps, and associated piping and valves.   There will be no cost savings, but likely a cost increase.  That alone puts MSR out of the running for future power production.  

The safety issue is also not resolved, as stated above: pressurized water leaking from the steam generator into the hot, radioactive molten salt will explosively turn to steam and cause incredible damage.  The chances are great that the radioactive molten salt would be discharged out of the reactor system and create more than havoc.  Finally, controlling the reaction and power output, finding materials that last safely for 3 or 4 decades, and consuming vast quantities of cooling water are all serious problems.  

The greatest problem, though, is likely the scale-up by a factor of 500 to 1, from the tiny project at ORNL to a full-scale commercial plant with 3500 MWth output.   Perhaps these technical problems can be overcome, but why would anyone bother to try, knowing in advance that the MSR plant will be uneconomic due to huge construction costs and operating costs, plus will explode and rain radioactive molten salt when (not if) the steam generator tubes leak.    There are serious reasons the US has not pursued development of the thorium MSR process.  Reports are, though, that China has started a development program for thorium MSR, using technical information and assistance from ORNL.   One hopes that stout umbrellas can be issued to the Chinese population that will withstand the raining down of molten, radioactive fluoride salt when one of the reactors explodes.  

Previous Articles

The Truth About Nuclear Power emphasizes the economic and safety aspects by showing that (one) modern nuclear power plants are uneconomic to operate compared to natural gas and wind energy, (two) they produce preposterous pricing if they are the sole power source for a grid, (three) they cost far too much to construct, (four) use far more water for cooling, 4 times as much, than better alternatives, (five) nuclear fuel makes them difficult to shut down and requires very costly safeguards, (six) they are built to huge scale of 1,000 to 1,600 MWe or greater to attempt to reduce costs via economy of scale, (seven) an all-nuclear grid will lose customers to self-generation, (eight) smaller and modular nuclear plants have no benefits due to reverse economy of scale, (nine) large-scale plants have very long construction schedules even without lawsuits that delay construction, (ten) nuclear plants do not reach 50 or 60 years life because they require costly upgrades after 20 to 30 years that do not always perform as designed, (eleven) France has 85 percent of its electricity produced via nuclear power but it is subsidized, is still almost twice as expensive as prices in the US, and is only viable due to exporting power at night rather than throttling back the plants during low demand, (twelve) nuclear plants cannot provide cheap power on small islands, (thirteen) US nuclear plants are heavily subsidized but still cannot compete, (fourteen), projects are cancelled due to unfavorable economics, reactor vendors are desperate for sales, nuclear advocates tout low operating costs and ignore capital costs, nuclear utilities never ask for a rate decrease when building a new nuclear plant, and high nuclear costs are buried in a large customer base, (fifteen) safety regulations are routinely relaxed to allow the plants to continue operating without spending the funds to bring them into compliance, (sixteen) many, many near-misses occur each year in nuclear power, approximately one every 3 weeks, (seventeen) safety issues with short term, and long-term, storage of spent fuel, (eighteen)  safety hazards of spent fuel reprocessing, (nineteen) health effects on people and other living things, (twenty) nuclear disaster at Chernobyl, (twenty-one) nuclear meltdown at Three Mile Island, (twenty-two)  nuclear meltdowns at Fukushima, (twenty-three) near-disaster at San Onofre, (twenty-four) the looming disaster at St. Lucie, (twenty-five)  the inherently unsafe characteristics of nuclear power plants required government shielding from liability, or subsidy, for the costs of a nuclear accident via the Price-Anderson Act, and (twenty-six) the serious public impacts of large-scale population evacuation and relocation after a major incident, or "extraordinary nuclear occurrence" in the language used by the Price-Anderson Act.  Additional articles will include (twenty-seven) the future of nuclear fusion, (twenty-eight) future of thorium reactors, (twenty-nine) future of high-temperature gas nuclear reactors, and (thirty), a concluding chapter with a world-wide economic analysis of nuclear reactors and why countries build them.  Links to each article in TANP series are included at the end of this article.

Additional articles will be linked as they are published. 

Part Twenty Three - San Onofre Shutdown Saga
Part Twenty Four - St Lucie Ominous Tube Wear
Part Twenty Seven - Power From Nuclear Fusion
Part Twenty Eight - this article 

Part Twenty Nine - High Temperature Gas Reactor Still A Dream

Part Thirty - Conclusion

Roger E. Sowell, Esq. 
Marina del Rey, California

Kaya Identity and A Good Laugh

Subtitle:  Idiocy over Kaya Identity

Apparently, there is consternation amongst some in the climate skeptic crowd over a basic equation known as the Kaya Identity.  First the equation, then some explanation, then some hilarity. 
credit: Wiki commons

The Equation

Kaya Identity

C =  P x G/P x E/G x C/E

C = global CO2 emissions, tons/year 
P = world population, billions
G = world GDP, trillions of dollars per year

E = global energy consumption, Trillion Btu/year

Using The Equation

The Kaya equation is used, apparently, by those who are overly-concerned that the world will soon overheat due to man's emission of carbon dioxide, CO2, into the atmosphere from burning fossil fuels.  

The idea is that for a given population and GDP, energy use is required to maintain the average standard of living.  Where energy use produces CO2, this results in man-made CO2 increase in the atmosphere.  

The equation can be used to determine "what if" scenarios, in which reductions in CO2 can be accomplished by changing any of the variables.  Reducing P, the population, would work but that is inhumane.  Reducing GDP/P would work, but that requires reducing the standard of living.  Reducing Energy use per unit of GDP would work, but that also reduces the standard of living.   Therefore, the policy-makers focus on reducing the CO2 produced per each unit of Energy consumed.  This is the basis for the drive to eliminate coal and oil in favor of nuclear power, wind, solar, and various bio-fuels such as ethanol, methane capture from landfills, and a few others. 

The idea is that population will grow in the next century, perhaps to 14 or 15 billion.  Even if all other factors remain unchanged, doubling the population would double the amount of man-made CO2 placed into the atmosphere.   The climate change alarmists cannot have that, so they focus on the carbon intensity of energy use, the C/E term in the Kaya equation.  

The Hilarity

A character who regularly posts essays and comments on WattsUpWithThat, Willis Eschenbach, again (how many times is it now?) shows his massive ignorance and lack of formal education with this statement on a recent post on the Kaya Identity on that blog:

"Here’s why I laughed. Lets apply the usual rules of math to that equation. We know that if a variable occurs both on the top and bottom of a fraction, we can cancel it out. Starting from the left, Population on the top cancels Population on the bottom. Then GDP on the top cancels GDP on the bottom. Then Energy on the top cancels Energy on the bottom … and we’re left with …

CO2_{emissions} = CO2_{emissions} 

Pretty profound, huh? CO2 emissions are equal to CO2 emissions. Who knew?"

Eschenbach then goes on to dismiss the equation as useless, saying that it cannot be used to prove anything.

If the Eschenbach "discovery" were true, then engineers could not design and construct the infrastructure, process plants, power plants, and the rest of everything we build.  

Hold the presses.  Somebody call Fluor, and Bechtel, and KBR, and the other huge design firms and let them know that their basic engineering equations are useless.  After all, the inestimable Eschenbach says so.

So, why do I get such a laugh at Eschenbach's expense? 

An example of two of the most fundamental of all heat transfer equations used by both chemical engineers and mechanical engineers will illustrate.   These may be found in any first-year heat transfer college textbook. 

Equation 1:   Q = m x Cp x DT, with units of Btu/h = lb/hr x Btu/lb/F  x F

This is the fundamental equation for heat transferred when a mass flowing at m pounds per hour, having a heat capacity of Cp, changes temperature by an amount F in degrees F.   

Using the Eschenbach "discovery,"  this equation reduces to "pretty profound, huh?"  

The units on the right-hand side do indeed cancel, with lb in the numerator and lb in the denominator, also F in the numerator and F in the denominator.  So, per Eschenbach's "discovery," indeed, Btu/h is equal to Btu/h.    Per Eschenbach The Brilliant, this makes the equation useless.    Absolutely stunning in its brilliance.  

The second equation is much like the first, 

Equation 2:   Q =  U x A x DT, where Q again is Btu/h,  U is Btu/h/sq-ft/F, A is square feet, and DT is temperature change in degrees F.    A similar cancellation of units can be performed, leaving Btu/h = Btu/h.  

For Eschenbach's information, these equations are indeed the fundamentals of convective heat transfer.  Upon them, literally millions of heat exchangers have been designed, built, placed into operation, and work quite well around the world.  They have done so for many, many decades.  

These are but two of the hundreds, indeed thousands, of proven engineering equations that are routinely used by competent engineers world-wide.   

Thanks for the laugh, Eschenbach.   

A word of advice:  talk to a competent, educated engineer sometime. 

Roger E. Sowell, Esq. 
Marina del Rey, California

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Finland Nuclear Plant by Areva Years Late and Billions Over Budget


The poster-child for the nuclear renaissance was supposed to be the French-based Areva nuclear reactor - a pressurized water reactor known as EPR (European Pressurized water Reactor), one of which is under construction in Finland.   It is a massive plant, to produce 1,600 MWe in a single reactor.  As noted in Truth About Nuclear Power series, see link these plants must be huge to take advantage of economy of scale to have any hope of being economically attractive.  The jump from 1,000 to 1600 MW should produce a plant with lower unit costs - for one thing, only one reactor is required.  

But, a curious thing about the Areva design:  it has 4 steam generators.   Thus, the economy of scale does not fully apply.  

In addition, an article recently published describes the possible fraud, or deliberate deception, by the reactor vendor and partner Siemens.  The article states:  see link

"During the time of the Olkiluoto agreement Areva and Siemens (Areva’s former German joint venture nuclear partner) assured TVO that they had the required expertise to see the enterprise through to the end. On hindsight, TVO has speculated that Siemens and Areva minimised their difficulties and covered up their shortcomings to get the deal."

The plant is now at least 6 years behind schedule, probably 7 years, and approximately €3 to 4 billion over budget.  

For the US nuclear proponents, who insist that plants cost too much due to interference by US regulatory agencies, environmental groups and their lawsuits, it is interesting that none of those issues are at play in Finland.  

For more on the unreasonably high cost of nuclear power, see link

Roger E. Sowell, Esq.
Marina del Rey, California. 

Monday, July 14, 2014

California Water Restrictions - 2014

Subtitle: Drought Welcome, Brings Population Decrease

[Update: 7-15-2014, the State Water Resources Control Board approved the new measures, as outlined below. -- end update.]

California is in one of its periodic droughts.  Snow in the Sierras has been below average for the past three years.  Rainfall also has been below average.   Water reservoirs are getting low. (see Lake Shasta photo below)  Farmers are not receiving enough water for irrigation.   The State writes: 

"More than 400,000 acres of farmland are expected to be fallowed, thousands of people
Lake Shasta, California showing low level from drought 2014
source: USGS
may be out of work, communities risk running out of drinking water and fish and wildlife species are in  jeopardy. Many communities are down to 50 gallons a day or less per person for basic sanitation needs. With our inability to predict the effect of the next rainy season, water saved today can improve a region’s water security and add flexibility to systems that may need to withstand another year or more with precipitation below average."

Tomorrow, July 15, 2014, the state Water Board will vote on additional measures to conserve water. ( it passed)  These restrictions apply to outdoor water used in cities and towns.  The restrictions are expected to pass, probably unanimously.   They include:

"1)  The direct application of water to any hard surface for washing. 
2) Watering of outdoor landscapes that cause runoff to adjacent property, non-irrigated areas, private and public walkways, roadways, parking lots or structures. 
3) Using a hose to wash an automobile, unless the hose is fitted with a shut-off nozzle. 
4)  Using potable water in a fountain or decorative water feature, unless the water is recirculated. 

Violations of prohibited activities are considered infractions and are punishable by fines of $500 for each day in which the violation occurs."

This is the type of issue that is very controversial in California.  Some, including myself, believe that the lack of water is a primary means to discourage growth.   In fact, nothing would please the establishment more than to see the population shrink to pre-1960 levels.  If less water is available, people will eventually leave the state.  Perhaps this explains the foot-dragging and roadblocks in the way of any serious water projects.  Whether proposals involve new dams, desalination, or ceasing water-intensive agriculture e.g. rice farming, all are met with fierce opposition.

California has come a long, long way from the days of diverting the Owens River high in the Sierras through an aqueduct into Los Angeles (in 1913).   Yet another river was partially diverted to Southern California, the mighty Colorado River of Grand Canyon fame.   Those days brought surplus water and millions of people.  No more. 

The fact is, though, that only four or five years ago there was a surplus of snow, and water from reservoirs was intentionally sent down-river into the oceans.  This was done to make room for the coming snowmelt and runoff.   To go from a surplus where water is wasted in that fashion, to extreme drought only four year later is a clear sign of incompetence or worse, deliberate imposition of water shortages.  

If, and it is a big if, the snows are below average again this winter (2014-2015), California will experience water rationing as it has seldom seen, if ever.   The ENSO predictions are still 70 percent for an El NiƱo this winter as per NOAA.   Only time will tell.  

For the Fact Sheet from California State Water Board, see link

Roger E. Sowell, Esq. 
Marina del Rey, California

Friday, July 11, 2014

Skeptics on Climate - Lovers of Nuclear

Subtitle: They Know Not What They Do

Reflecting on the 9th International Climate Change Convention earlier this week, there were many moments when I agreed with the words that were spoken, but there were also a few moments when I cringed.  I also muttered a few quiet words at times, such as "BS" or "Not true!."   I didn't quite do a Wilson and yell out YOU LIE!!!, but I did feel like I could have.  

The moments at issue were those when somebody at the microphone said something pro-nuclear energy.  I cannot recall who, nor the exact words.  What concerned me most was the obvious approval across the room, and it is a big room.  It comfortably held 600 people seated at round tables.  There was a smattering of applause.    I knew before the convention that many, if not most, climate skeptics are pro-nuclear.  I knew I would be in a small minority, perhaps a minority of one at the meetings.  

I remember thinking, if only they all knew what I know about nuclear power.  I wish I could convey to each one of them the truth about nuclear power, have them read and understand the many, many issues that show nuclear power is not economic, not safe, and will not ever be safe nor economic.   Instead, it appears they have blindly accepted the talking points from the nuclear advocates.  (a 30-part series on Truth About Nuclear Power begins at this link)

This is just a bit odd, because nuclear advocates have taken to cheering for nuclear because it emits no carbon dioxide - it is "carbon free power" in the latest incarnation of their talking points.  Yet, as climate change skeptics, why would anyone want a power source on that basis?  Surely, more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is not harming the planet, so why use a source that produces zero carbon dioxide?  

One of the speakers mentioned that Germany's government is shutting down nuclear plants because, and I believe I have the quote correct, "Chancellor is afraid a tsunami will hit Germany."  That line drew laughter from the audience.    The Chancellor is well aware that a tsunami will not hit Germany - but she is also keenly aware (after Fukushima) that nuclear plants will meltdown with devastating consequences for any number of unforeseen circumstances.  In short, if the grid goes down for an extended period, and the backup generators fail, the nuclear plant and surrounding population are in a world of trouble. 

I have also read in other places the talking points that nuclear power is low-cost (it is not), see link, the fuel is readily available for thousands of years (it is not), the reactors are perfectly safe and new ones are much safer (they are not), see link,  nuclear power reduces dependence on foreign oil (not true, unless a country is actually burning oil for power, which almost no country does), nuclear plants use very small land area (true only in some cases, but not for those that built their own cooling lake such as South Texas Nuclear Project, and the land area does not consider the uranium mining and processing plants).    Few web sites mention the points raised by Professor Derek Abbott, that both uranium fuel, plus raw materials for the plants are limited and running out, and that suitable plant locations are few and getting fewer as more plants are built.   see link

Also, almost nobody mentions the huge consumption of cooling water in a nuclear plant - four times that of a comparable gas-fired combined cycle plant.   see link

I also read in other places that nuclear plants are highly reliable, yet I wonder if those people who repeat that talking point know the truth: nuclear plants shut down at a moment's notice and with great regularity.  Upon shutdown, the grid operator must somehow find 900 to 1200 MW of power rather quickly, as in a few minutes, or drop some load to balance the grid until the replacement power is humming.   These same pro-nuclear voices complain that wind power and solar power are both unreliable, that they must have "full-time backup" power.  Actually, every nuclear plant also must have 100 percent backup for the times when they shut down.  

I also read that nuclear plants "last for 60 years," which they do not.   see link

Finally, I read that alternative energy technology requires subsidies for their very existence, that no wind turbines and no solar power plants would be built absent these substantial subsidies.  I wonder, though, how many of these people making those subsidy claims are aware that nuclear plants also are heavily subsidized, that nuclear plants would not exist at all unless the government takes on the substantial liability of a major nuclear accident - a meltdown with radiation release that injures or kills people.  see link

Yes, I felt a bit sad at the ICCC9 when people were applauding the pro-nuclear power statements.  I suppose it is best to forgive them (for now), for they know not what they do.   Hopefully, I will be able to present to them the truth.  Whether they will follow the data and question the dogma from the nuclear industry, as they have done with climate science, is another matter.  

Roger E. Sowell, Esq. 
Marina del Rey, California

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Thoughts on International Climate Change Conference - 9

The ICCC9 in Las Vegas is now history, two days and nights of fun, fellowship, meals, and interesting presentations by scientists, economists, and other learned people who see no cause for alarm over increasing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.   I attended the entire conference, and as many sessions as possible.   Out of 73 presentations, I managed to attend 31.  

Some of the presentations were hilariously funny, some were thought-provoking, some were downright fascinating.   As this was my first ICCC, I knew a few people and enjoyed meeting many, many more.  I ran out of business cards.   I met four other attorneys there, and saw but did not get to meet two others.   We attorneys should have our own beer and bull session at the next ICCC.  

It truly was international in attendees, with (as I recall) people from Australia, Canada, Germany, UK, Sweden, Russia, New Zealand, and the USA.  There may have been other countries represented, too.  

The video of each ICCC9 session is online - free - see link.

Blogger Anthony Watts has a new venture, which he announced at the ICCC9, a new membership society for publishing peer-reviewed atmospheric science, known as The Open Atmospheric Society.   From the website:  (see link)

"The OAS is an international membership society for the purpose of studying, discussing, and publishing about topics in atmospheric related earth sciences, including but not limited to meteorology, hydrology, oceanography, and climatology. It is open to anyone with an interest at the associate level, but student and full memberships also are offered.
The purpose of the society is to foster quality atmospheric science and atmospheric science communications through outreach, member education, member publishing, and electronic media."
It seems the novel aspect of the Journal of OAS is no papers will be published without all source data, software/code, procedures, and documentation to ensure reproducibility of the paper’s experiment or analysis by external reviewers.  In addition, peer-reviewer comments will be published - but not the names of the reviewers. 
Roger E. Sowell, Esq. 
Marina del Rey, California

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Skeptic Conference on Climate Change 2014

Subtitle: Skeptics Convene in Desert Heat

[Periodic updates will appear at the bottom of this post - ]

The Ninth International Conference on Climate Change, from July 7-9, 2014, will be in Las Vegas, Nevada at the Mandalay Bay Hotel and Convention Center.  see link

"Come to fabulous Las Vegas to meet leading scientists from around the world who question whether “man-made global warming” will be harmful to plants, animals, or human welfare. Learn from top economists and policy experts about the real costs and
Mandalay Bay Hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada
photo: Roger Sowell
futility of trying to stop global warming.
Meet the leaders of think tanks and grassroots organizations who are speaking out against global warming alarmism. Don’t just wonder about global warming … understand it!" -- Heartland Institute website
I am able to attend this year's conference and am looking forward to meeting many of the presenters and attendees.   The presentations look to be quite interesting, with Anthony Watts (of Chico, California and WattsUpWithThat blog) on Climate Myths, Apollo Astronaut Walter Cunningham presenting on The Right Climate Stuff, Dr. Abdussamatov presenting on Solar Science and Climate, although that one conflicts with another I would like to see: Costs and Benefits of Renewable Energy, and to wrap up Tuesday, Lord Christopher Monckton on International Perspectives on Climate Change. 
Wednesday's lineup includes Dr. S. Fred Singer presenting on Climate Change, Water, and Human Well-being, then Watts again showing his revised US surface stations analysis, a presentation on Reliability of Climate Science, and Dr. Robert Carter presenting on the Global Warming Debate in Australia.  
I would like to attend them all, but unfortunately the presentations run three at a time, so one must choose.   All in, there are 21 presentations in 7 sessions.   
If anyone wants to meet up and visit at the conference, please just send me an email at   It will be great to renew old acquaintances and meet new friends.   See you there. 

Update - 7/7/14, after opening dinner and speakers.  Event has almost filled the ballroom, appears to have the 600 or so attendees.  Met some new people, and saw some old friends.  Also saw some famous skeptics but have not met them.   Interesting conversations at our table at dinner.  

As I have noted before, many AGW skeptics are pro-nuclear.  Therefore, some comments by US Congressman Dana Rohrabacher met with scattered applause when he said during his remarks that the US should have by now a much greater fleet of nuclear power plants than we have, but the Three Mile Island event (he did not say meltdown) was overblown because Jane Fonda's movie The China Syndrome was showing at the same time.   I need to find a way to have Congressman Rohrabacher read my Truth About Nuclear Power articles.  

AGW skeptics are fond of saying that we follow the data and question both the data and the conclusions.  That is precisely the same approach one must follow with nuclear power. The data clearly shows the nuclear plants are not economic, and are not safe.  The only conclusion is they must be shut down as quickly as possible, and no more be built.  -- End update 1] 
Roger E. Sowell, Esq. 
Marina del Rey, California