Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Nuclear Utility Declares Bankruptcy

From the Wall Street Journal, Energy Future Holdings Corp, formerly TXU Corp, a Texas utility company operating in north Texas, has filed for bankruptcy.  The company owns many generating assets, including the Comanche Peak nuclear power plant.  Comanche Peak is one of the newer, modern plants with twin reactors, located a bit south and west of Dallas, Texas.   see link 

It appears that the company has too much debt and cannot pay the bills.  The WSJ article states the company gambled that natural gas prices would rise, allowing for higher electricity prices and more money to pay the debt.  However, the gas boom via hydraulic fracturing has decreased natural gas prices, and electric prices also.

This ties in to the first article in The Truth About Nuclear Power series, in which several nuclear power plants are listed as being unable to operate profitably in the US.   see link

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

Sunday, April 27, 2014

The Four By Sixteen Rule for Pipe Flow

Subtitle: Easily Compute Pipe Diameter in your Head

There are dozens, if not hundreds, of quick-and-easy methods to estimate the required size for process and mechanical equipment.  This article addresses a very fast, easy, and accurate method to determine pipe size in a process plant.   The method requires no calculator, no spreadsheet, as it can be done mentally.  It is especially useful for sitting in a meeting and answering a question that may be posed, or quickly verifying a statement made by another in the meeting. 

The method is one I call "Four by Sixteen", or the 4x16 Rule.   I have never seen this anywhere published, but perhaps it is.  

The basic concept for the 4x16 Rule is, at a flowing velocity of 7 feet per second through a pipe of circular cross-section (most pipes), 4,000 gallons per minute will flow through a 16-inch diameter pipe.  A flowing velocity of 7 feet per second is generally considered optimum, or close to optimum for pipe in a process plant where velocity is provided by a pump. (see caveats below)

Engineers can quickly compute that 4,000 gpm in a 16 inch diameter pipe will provide less than 7 feet per second.  The flow is actually 6.38 feet per second.  However, with 16 inch pipe, the outer diameter is 16 inches, and wall thickness is approximately one-quarter inch, leaving an inner diameter of 15.5 inches.   For the 15.5 inch ID, the flowing velocity is 6.8 feet per second, very close to the optimum of 7.  

From this, we can easily determine the pipe size required for other flow rates.  This is based on the property of pipes, that if one doubles the diameter, four times the flow results for the same flowing velocity.  This also works in reverse, if one halves the pipe diameter, only one-fourth the flow results.  Using numbers, an 8 inch pipe is half of the 16 inch, therefore the flow will be one-fourth of 4,000 gpm, or 1,000 gpm.  

What happens if we want to double the flow from above, for example, we want 2,000 gpm?  For this, we use a rough approximation for the square root of 2, that approximation being 1.4.  The pipe size for 2,000 gpm is then the 8 inch pipe times 1.4, or 11.2 inches.  We generally round up to even numbers for pipe sizes, therefore a 12 inch pipe would be selected. 

This works in the upward direction quite easily, too, so that a 32 inch pipe will carry 4 times that of a 16 inch, or 4 times 4,000 gpm or 16,000 gpm.   Or, we can use the 1.4 factor to compute the diameter required for a doubled flow, from 4,000 to 8,000 gpm.  The 16 inch pipe is multiplied by 1.4, resulting in 22.4 inch pipe.  This would be rounded down to 22 because it is so very close to 22 inch and would not be rounded up to 24 inches. 

How does one multiple 1.4 times a number in one's head?   An example shows this:  take the 8 inch pipe from above, then multiply 8 by 0.4 to give 3.2.  Then add 3.2 to 8, to provide 11.2.  

This method is also very useful for validation checks on computer output.  Experience has shown that computers should be trusted only after very thorough and careful validation.  

A few caveats for the 4x16 Rule.  As stated earlier, this is for process plant piping where 7 feet per second is the accepted optimum.  That optimum is for standard pipe, typically made from mild carbon steel and non-corrosive fluids at 500 pounds per square inch pressure, or less.   For substantially different conditions, for example stainless steel piping at much higher pressures, a detailed economic analysis is required to determine the optimum flowing velocity.   

Also, for petroleum pipelines, the flowing velocity is a bit higher, for example the Alaska Pipeline was designed for flow of approximately 10  16 feet per second.  The Alaska Pipeline is a 60-  48-inch pipe with a design flow of 3 million barrels per day.  With the pipe having 60 48 inch OD and half-inch thick walls, as I recall (now verified), the flow is 87,300 gallons per minute at a flowing velocity of 10.2 16 feet per second.  (note: corrections to the TAPS calculations based on a faulty memory, not 60 inch but 48 inch diameter-  RES)

In hopes that this article helps the various process engineers, in whose shoes I also once walked. 

Update: 4/28/2014:  This same procedure works quite well for SI units, also.  The starting point is a 400 mm ID pipe, carrying 16 cubic meters per minute, at a flowing velocity of 2.1 meters per second (same as 7 feet per second).  -- end update --  Roger

Update 2: 5/12/2014 - A similar procedure for heat exchangers is shown -- see link.  -- end update --  Roger

UPDATE: 5-31-2015 - pipeline calculation above is corrected for 48 inch rather than 60 inch diameter -  end update

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

Saturday, April 26, 2014

The Truth About Nuclear Power - Part 13

Subtitle: US Nuclear Plants are Heavily Subsidized

In an attempt to revive a dead industry, nuclear power plants have received, and continue to receive strong subsidies. This, the thirteenth article in the series, discusses nuclear subsidies.  Updated 5/28/2014 -- see below for state of Illinois' attempt to bail out money-losing nuclear plants. 
source: Wiki Commons

Previously, the articles on The Truth About Nuclear Power showed 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, (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, and (twelve) nuclear plants cannot provide cheap power on small islands.  Links to previous articles are found at the conclusion of this article. 

Carbon Tax   

Nuclear advocates argue, firstly, for a carbon tax so their plants will be economically attractive. The idea is that, since nuclear plants are powered by radiation-spewing uranium fuel that produces no carbon dioxide, these type of plants should be credited for not producing CO2.  Their argument is based on the fundamentally flawed premise that increased CO2 in the atmosphere causes global warming.  Other forms of power generation that burn fossil fuels, coal, natural gas, do emit CO2.  Congress did not pass a carbon tax, but the present administration accomplished the same goal via the US EPA.  The US EPA effectively got the same result by regulating CO2 emissions from power plants so that coal-fired plants must shut down.  Nuclear advocates see this as a huge victory.  In a sense, the EPA regulations are a form of federal subsidy for the nuclear industry.  

UPDATE 5/28/14:  see link  From the Chicago Tribune, Nuclear plants cannot compete economically, so the Illinois Speaker of the House introduces a resolution urging federal policies to subsidize nuclear plants based on their zero-emissions of CO2.    "Three nuclear plants owned by Chicago-based Exelon Corp. failed to secure contracts to provide power to the electrical grid at an annual auction held last week.
Exelon’s Byron and Quad Cities plants in Illinois were priced out of the auction by competing power providers, the company said Tuesday, placing the future of those assets in question. Its Oyster Creek plant in New Jersey, which is slated to close in 2019, also didn’t clear the auction."     also, 
". . . [Illinois] House Speaker Michael Madigan [D - IL] wants to help keep those plants open. They are among the top employers in the towns and counties in which they operate. A resolution sponsored by Madigan was introduced to the House last Friday urging the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and the electric grid operators, to adopt policies that are "friendly" to nuclear power. Translation: enact a new rule to curb carbon emissions, which would be a boon to Exelon because its nuclear plants do not release greenhouse gases."  -- end update

Double Standard on Subsidies

Secondly, nuclear advocates also have a double standard in decrying any subsidies for their competition - primarily wind but also other renewable forms of power generation.  Then, the industry happily accepts subsidies of their own, not just the EPA boost from regulating coal-fired plants out of operation.  The nuclear industry also receives subsidies in the form of: 

1) huge loan guarantees from government, approximately $8.3 billion for the Vogtle plant alone.  (Update 5/4/2014: For more on new nuclear projects with loan guarantees, see link -- end update)
2) government legal relief from radiation liability, under the Price-Anderson Act, (see update just below)
3) regulation that no lawsuits during construction will be allowed (with a minor exception),
4) regulation to raise electricity prices during construction to avoid interest costs on construction loans; [UPDATE - 5/31/2014: South Carolina has already increased rates to pay for nuclear construction, now seeks another increase.  "The latest request, if approved, will mean customers will be paying about $20 more per month for their power than they were at the beginning of 2009. "  see link   end update]

5) operating regulations that are routinely relaxed to allow plants to not spend money to comply. (see Article 15 in the series, link here)  

Each of the five subsidies just listed will may be the subject of a more detailed article.  

Update: 5/11/2014 - Price-Anderson Act, summary.  The Act limits the liability of nuclear plant owners to $10.2 billion, with the US government taking the excess liability above that stated limit.  This is, probably, the greatest subsidy of all.  No nuclear plant would be constructed absent this shielding from lawsuits and damage claims from a major nuclear meltdown and release of radioactive materials.   (see link for more details and analysis on Price-Anderson Act on SLB - Part 25 in TANP series)

The language of the Act states: "The Price-Anderson Act requires owners of commercial reactors to assume all liability for damages to the public resulting from an
‘extraordinary nuclear occurrence’ and to waive most legal defenses
they would otherwise have. However, in exchange, their liability
will be limited to capped amounts established in the Act.
First, each licensed reactor must carry the maximum amount of
insurance commercially available to pay any damages from a severe
nuclear accident. That amount is currently $300 million.
Any damages exceeding that amount are to be assessed equally
against all covered commercial reactors, up to $95.8 million per reactor
(most recently adjusted for inflation by NRC in August 2004).
Those assessments would be paid at an annual rate of no more

than $10 million per reactor. According to the NRC, all of the nation’s 103 commercial reactors are currently covered by the Price-
Anderson retrospective premium requirement.
Funding for public compensation following a major nuclear incident
would therefore include the $300 million in insurance coverage
carried by the reactor that suffered the incident, plus the
$95.8 million in retrospective premiums from each of the 103 currently
covered reactors, totaling $10.2 billion. On top of those payments,
a 5 percent surcharge may also be imposed, raising the total
per-reactor retrospective premium to $100.6 million and the total
potential compensation for each incident to about $10.7 billion.
Under Price-Anderson, the nuclear industry’s liability for an incident
is capped at that amount, which varies depending on the
number of covered reactors, amount of available insurance, and an
inflation adjustment that is made every 5 years.
The Act provides that in the event that actual damages from an
accident are in excess of this amount, Congress will ‘‘thoroughly review’’
the incident and take such action as is necessary to provide
‘‘full and prompt compensation to the public.’’ " -- source: Price-Anderson Act Amendments of 2005. [end update]

Cannot Compete Even With Subsidies

Even with the subsidies in the US, nuclear power has stagnated and is barely limping along on life support.  More plants are shutting down than are being built.


Nuclear power plants in the US are, and have been, heavily subsidized via loan guarantees, liability relief, relief from some lawsuits, a form of a carbon tax that shuts down their coal-based competition, and others.   The only conclusion that can be drawn is US nuclear power plants are heavily subsidized. 

Previous articles in the Truth About Nuclear Power series are found at the following links.  Additional articles will be linked as they are published. 

Part Thirteen - this article  

Part Fifteen - Nuclear Safety Compromised by Bending the Rules

Part Sixteen - Near Misses on Meltdowns Occur Every 3 Weeks

Part Seventeen - Storing Spent Fuel is Hazardous for Short or Long Term

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

Response To Levelized Cost of Electric Generation

Response to WUWT post of 2/16/2014 by W. Eschenbach (see link)

I browsed through, looking for something else, and saw the linked article on levelized costs for new power plants from EIA in 2013.  I am too late to add a comment, so offer this as a response.  There are many points made by the author of that article that are simply wrong, or misleading. 

Pumped Storage Hydroelectric Plant - Lake Michigan
approximately 1,900 MW of energy production
Eschenbach writes: “The power grid is a jealous bitch, there’s not an iota of storage.”   That statement is simply not true.  US data shows pumped storage hydroelectric plants presently provide 20 GW (20,000 MW) of energy. [Update 4/26/14: EIA shows 22,368 MW installed as of 2012 see link - end update] That is grid-scale storage.   For some perspective, 1,000 MW is the output from a typical nuclear-powered single-reactor plant.  The photo nearby of the Ludington, Michigan plant shows Lake Michigan in the foreground, and the elevated storage lake in the background.  Off-peak power at night is used to pump water up into the upper reservoir, then the water generates power the next day during peak demand.  It is one of the largest such grid-scale power storage systems in the US.   There is also a battery-based storage system in use on Santa Catalina Island, offshore Los Angeles, California.  

Eschenbach writes: “when demand goes up, as it always does…”   Again, simply not true.  Electric demand historically has followed the population trend, roughly.  When Cleveland, Ohio, for example, experienced its 50-plus percent population decline in the 20th century, the demand for electricity also declined.  More recently, many utility planners remark that decreased demand is confounding their estimates for future needs. Eschenbach ignores the concept of cogeneration, also known as CHP for combined heat and power.  (see link to Truth About Nuclear Power – 7 for chart on CHP growth).    CHP capacity is currently around 100 GW   82 GW [Update 4/26/2014]  That also represents 20 percent of US electric power, not an amount to ignore.  EIA shows 160 billion kWh produced via CHP in 2013.  Total US power generated was 4,058 billion kWh.  That is 160 / 4058 = 3.9 percent or almost 4 percent of all power sold.   The trend is to more CHP, or distributed generation as it is also called.  This also reduces grid demand. 

Eschenbach writes:  “if you add a hundred megawatts of wind at $0.09 per kWh to the system, you also need to add a hundred megawatts of natural gas or geothermal or nuclear to the system.”   This is simply not true.  In fact, the opposite is occurring in today’s market.  In Texas, for example, 12,000 MW of wind-based energy has been installed to date.   The market added additional, non-wind-based capacity (primarily natural gas power plants) but it would have added that capacity in any event.   In Texas, the regulating body is ERCOT.  Their considered assessment of wind energy plants in Texas is that almost 10 percent of installed wind capacity can be included as dispatchable, what they refer to as ELCC, effective load-carrying capability.  This (8.7 percent) is presently at 920 MW out of an installed base of 12,000 MW wind energy.  That 920 MW is non-trivial, almost equivalent to one nuclear power plant.  See link  

Eschenbach writes: “As a result, for all of the non-dispatchable power sources, those gray bars in Figure 1,you need to add at least seven cents per kilowatt-hour to the prices shown there, so you’ll have dispatchable power when you need it.” [emphasis in original]   The opposite is shown for actual prices in states with substantial wind:  Iowa, 5.45, South Dakota, 7.03, Texas 6.4, and US avg 7.12 cents per kWh for industrial price in Feb 2014, latest figures from EIA.   Industrial prices best represent the cost of power production, since there is very little added for transmission and distribution costs.  Iowa and South Dakota each have more than 25 percent wind power on their grids at the present.  Texas has only about 9 percent grid power, but has the most wind energy of any state at this time, at 12,000 MW.   see link 

Eschenbach writes: “Finally, I’m not sure I believe the maintenance figures in their report about wind.”  The value he refers to, of 1.3 cents per kWh, is the same as California’s Energy Commission reported in 2009.   This is based on actual operating experience and millions of hours of operation.  The statement from AWEA is:  “A typical wind turbine requires routine service once or twice per year. Oil and filters need to be changed, operating components need to be inspected, and bolts need to be torqued.”  Also, some parts require replacement after 5 to 15 years, depending on the part.   Unusual environmental or electrical damage also requires replacement.  (AWEA is the American Wind Energy Association)

I write this with the knowledge that Mr. Eschenbach is quite sensitive to any criticism.   He frequently uses capitalized words to indicate shouting in internet useage.  He has, in the past, been quite rude in responses to my comments on his writings.  Quite recently, however, he has shown a more civil tone, and I hope he continues the civility if he chooses to respond to this article.

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

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Drought and Dust

Next time anyone thinks the present drought is bad, consider this: 
Vehicle almost buried in fine soil, or dust, in US Dust Bowl 1930s.
source: Kansas State University

On this day [April 23] in Iowa weather history...
1934: The Dust Bowl was in full swing and Iowa was in the midst of its driest spring on record. In April of that year dust storms were reported in the state on 22 days with the worst storm coming on the 23rd. It covered everything across the state with dust and the fine particles penetrated all buildings, cars, and enclosed spaces. Automobile travel was impossible at times due to low visibility and dust drifting across the roads in high winds. Snow fences were in some cases buried with dust and plows were called out to clear 1 to 3 foot drifts off the roads in Montgomery County. Airmail pilots reported that the dust extended to a height of more than 2 miles above the ground. -- NWS

There is no doubt that some areas of the US are experiencing drought, a lack of precipitation.  However, the climate alarmists who insist that man-made carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuels is making drought worse should pay attention to recent history.  1934 was only 80 years ago.  As the quote above from NWS (National Weather Service) states, the dust from the wind and drought was many times, many orders of magnitude, worse than today's drought.   The 1930s dust bowl and drought were certainly not caused by man's activities, burning fossil fuels, because population was much less and there was far less fuel burned in those days.  The drought was entirely natural.  

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

(where we, too, are experiencing a mild drought.  Just a few years ago, we had more rain and snow than we could use, so naturally the state's water managers ran the water out of the reservoirs and into the ocean.  Great planning...) 

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Climate Science, Free Speech and Legal Liability - Part 1

Subtitle: Lies and Legal Liability

The field of climate science, with controversial issues such as whether the planet is warming
Courthouse in Central Texas
due to man's burning of fossil fuels, or the world is blissfully ignoring additional carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, or perhaps the globe is cooling down into the next ice age, has created and still creates vigorous expressions of opinion, and some name-calling, defamatory statements, and calls for deliberate lies and deceit.  There appears to have also been outright lies, false statements, and fabrication of data, among other deceitful practices.   This article explores some of the legal ramifications, criminal cases and Defamation in Part One.  Part Two will continue the discussion on more of the civil causes of action.

We begin with what is Freedom of Speech?  United States law is the basis here, with the understanding that other countries have different laws respecting Free Speech.   Free Speech is a fundamental right guaranteed by the First Amendment to the US Constitution, "Congress shall make no law... abridging the freedom of speech . . . "   From that simple phrase, many thousands of pages have been written over many decades.   Free Speech means, in general, that a person can say or write whatever he or she pleases, however, there are quite a number of restrictions that legally limit this.  In effect, a person may still say or write whatever he or she pleases, but there can be legal consequences.  Those consequences can range from a nominal award of $1, to millions of dollars in damages, up to the ultimate penalty of death after trial and conviction.  The death penalty sounds harsh, for simply speaking some words, but that is the case and will be examined shortly.   The Free Speech clause in the Constitution limits the government from passing laws regulating speech.  The courts have allowed quite a number of exceptions to Congress’ power regarding Free Speech, so that we have a more orderly society.  There are both Federal and State laws regulating speech.  Also, Free Speech has been recognized to include oral and written communication, plus expressive conduct.

It is convenient to categorize Free Speech laws by the type of court in which the case will be heard, either criminal or civil.  Crimes are examined first.

Speech as a Crime

In the criminal courts, speech can be a crime; for example perjury, sedition, treason, death threats, child pornography, unlawful campaign contributions, false statement to a government official, false statements as an element of fraud, impersonation of another, hate speech, and conspiracy to commit other crimes.   Punishments range from a monetary fine and jail, to prison, to the death penalty.

Perjury is the willful utterance of false statements while under oath.  The penalty can be prison of a few years, however if the false statements under oath result in the conviction and execution of an innocent person, the perjurer is also liable for execution after trial and conviction.   In the climate science context, it is conceivable that a person could be charged and convicted of perjury.  One must merely give false statements while under oath, as a general statement of the rule.  There are numerous caveats, however.

Sedition is “an agreement, communication, or other preliminary activity aimed at inciting treason or some lower commotion against public authority.” (Black’s Law Dictionary; the Federal law has similar language but more detail.)

Treason is “attempting to overthrow the government of the state to which one owes allegiance, either by making war against the state or by materially supporting its enemies.” (Black’s Law Dictionary; as with Sedition above, the Federal law has similar language but much more detail.)

A death threat is a “threat to commit a crime which will result in death or great bodily injury to another person, with the specific intent that the statement, made verbally, in writing, or by means of an electronic communication device, is to be taken as a threat, even if there is no intent of actually carrying it out, which, on its face and under the circumstances in which it is made, is so unequivocal,  unconditional, immediate, and specific as to convey to the person threatened, a gravity of purpose and an immediate prospect of execution of the threat, and thereby causes that person reasonably to be in sustained fear for his or her own safety or for his or her immediate family's safety. . .” (California Penal Code Section 422)  Within the climate science context, it is unfortunate to observe some of the participants escalating the verbal wars to this level. 

Child pornography is “material depicting a child under 18 in sexual activity.” (Black’s Law Dictionary; various state laws have similar definitions; see e.g. California Penal Code Section 311.2(b)).  One hopes that the various players in the climate change arena do not commit this crime. 

Campaign contributions can be considered speech by expressive conduct.  Such campaign contributions are limited by the Federal Election Commission regulations found in 11 CFR 110 and following. 

False statement to a government official is a crime, for example, a false statement to a police officer that a crime has been committed. (California Penal Code Section 148.5)

False statements are an element of fraud where it is a crime to deprive another of money or property by a false statement or misrepresentation.  (California Penal Code Section 484).   This can apply to anyone who obtains money, as in a research grant, based upon false statements in the grant proposal. 

Impersonation of another is a crime where a “person . . .knowingly and without consent credibly impersonates another actual person through or on an Internet Web site or by other electronic means for purposes of harming, intimidating, threatening, or defrauding another person. . .”  Punishment is up to $1,000 and one year in county jail.  (California Penal Code 528.5)  It is also a crime to impersonate a police officer.   In the climate science context, a famous case is that of Dr. Peter Gleick, who allegedly impersonated another in order to gain access to confidential information at the Heartland Institute, a known skeptic organization active in the climate science arena.  See link.  

Hate speech is the crime where a “person, whether or not acting under color of law, shall by force or threat of force, willfully injure, intimidate, interfere with, oppress, or threaten any other person in the free exercise or enjoyment of any right or privilege secured to him or her by the Constitution or laws of this state or by the Constitution or laws of the United States in whole or in part because of one or more of the actual or perceived characteristics of the victim listed: (1) Disability, (2) Gender, (3) Nationality, (4) Race or ethnicity, (5) Religion, (6) Sexual orientation, (7) Association with a person or group with one or more of these actual or perceived characteristics.” (California Penal Code Section 422.55 and 422.6)

Conspiracy to commit other crimes is “an agreement by two or more persons to commit an unlawful act.” (Black’s Law Dictionary)  Where the agreement is made by discussions, or speech, such speech is unlawful.  This brings a great number of crimes within the realm of illegal speech, literally hundreds.  Any crime without a speech requirement, such as but not limited to burglary, theft, arson, robbery, rape, mayhem, murder, manslaughter, assault, battery, trespass, etc. that have an associated crime of conspiracy to commit X, makes the speech illegal.

Speech as Civil Causes of Action - Defamation

In the civil courts, speech can give rise to causes of action in defamation, false light, copyright violation, false claim of inventor, fraud (contract context), deceit, fraudulent statements (intentional, negligent, concealment, opinion as fact), appropriation of likeness, false claim against the government, infliction of severe emotional distress (intentional and negligent) and others.  The remedy for the prevailing party in such actions generally is money damages, but can also include restitution, an injunction, a public apology, public retraction, payment of attorneys’ fees, and punitive damages.  Defamation is discussed briefly below.  The climate science context is emphasized, where the cause of action may involve climate science.   The remaining dozen or so categories will be discussed in Part Two.

Defamation is “the act of harming the reputation of another by making a false statement to a third person.”  (Black’s Law Dictionary)   Where the false statement is made verbally, the tort is slander.  Where the publication is made in writing, the tort is libel.  There are several important distinctions in the tort of defamation, including whether the plaintiff is a public figure or private figure, whether the matter is one of public concern or private concern, whether the false statements were made with malice or not, and whether the false statements were one of a category for which no damages need be proven, or per se.  Given the number of distinctions, libel/slander, plaintiff is a public/private figure, public/private concern, malice or not, and per se or not, there are many possible combinations of the tort and detailed laws for each.  Here, an example is given only with the combination of libel, plaintiff is a private figure, the matter is one of public concern, no malice need be shown, and the statements needed no damages to be proven.   These distinctions are chosen to best match the issue in climate science. 

The elements that must be proven are a false statement, made about another, that injured the other’s reputation, and the statement was made to one or more third parties.  In addition, plaintiff must prove that the third party reasonably understood that the statement was about plaintiff; that because of the facts and circumstances known to the reader of the statement, it tended to injure plaintiff in his occupation, or expose him to hatred, contempt, ridicule, or shame, or to discourage others from associating or dealing with him.  Also, plaintiff must prove that defendant failed to use reasonable care to determine the truth or falsity of the statement; that plaintiff suffered harm to his property, business, profession, or occupation including money spent as a result of the statement; and that the statement was a substantial factor in causing plaintiff’s harm.

Regarding the issue of what is a public concern, courts have observed: “if the issue was being debated publicly and if it had foreseeable and substantial ramifications for nonparticipants, it was a public controversy.” ( Copp v Paxton (1996) 45 Cal.App.4th 829, 845) Climate science, and especially global warming or climate change as it is now known, would certainly qualify as a public controversy.   Governments and non-governmental bodies have produced lengthy volumes of climate science documents, held highly publicized meetings all over the world for decades, and have had the topic front and center in many publications and internet websites, all on climate change. 

The next major point is, what is a false statement in climate science?  A false statement can be intentional, negligent, or by concealment.  An intentional false statement is one which the defendant did not believe to be true.  A negligent false statement is one which the defendant had no reasonable ground for believing to be true.  A false statement by concealment is one in which defendant suppressed a fact when he was bound to disclose it, or when defendant gives information of other facts which are likely to mislead for want of communication of that fact. (California Civil Code 1710). 

This is the heart of the matter, the falsity of the statement.  One can imagine numerous scenarios of defendants making false statements about another that qualify for one or more of the above three definitions: intentional, negligent, or concealment.  Examples of intentionally false would be “he has no training”, “he is incompetent,”  “he makes things up,”  “he takes money from oil companies,” and such.   Negligent falsehoods would be those for which no data exists, or the scientist simply makes up data.  Concealment would be the case where scientists deliberately decline to state the facts that clarify or even provide the true state of affairs.   One of the finest arts of telling a lie, it is said, is to tell only that part of the truth that misleads the other. 

If the statement or statements can be shown to be false, they must next be published to a third party.  In effect, if anyone other than plaintiff reads the libelous statement, that is sufficient.  With the internet, there can be millions of third parties who read the libelous statement. 

Next, the false statement must have injured the plaintiff’s reputation.  Injury to reputation is shown that because of the facts and circumstances known to the reader of the statement (the third party), the false statement tended to injure plaintiff in his occupation, or expose him to hatred, contempt, ridicule, or shame, or to discourage others from associating or dealing with him.   This can be shown by testimony, by business records showing a decline, by statements showing hatred or contempt or ridicule, by plaintiff testifying to feelings of shame, or that others were discouraged or actually stopped associating or dealing with plaintiff. 

Also, plaintiff must prove that defendant failed to use reasonable care to determine the truth or falsity of the statement; that plaintiff suffered harm to his property, business, profession, or occupation including money spent as a result of the statement; and that the statement was a substantial factor in causing plaintiff’s harm.

In the climate science context, it appears that defamation by libel occurs regularly on the various internet blogs (weblogs).  An actual lawsuit for libel is currently in process between plaintiff Michael E. Mann, PhD, and defendants Mark Steyn, National Review, and Competitive Enterprise Institute.  Professor Mann filed the lawsuit alleging libel.  See link 

Note: a related article discussed legal liability for criminal negligence in terms of climate science, see link 

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

The above is written to provide an overview of a general area of the law, and is not intended, nor is it to be relied on, as legal advice for a particular set of facts.  Specific legal advice is available from Mr. Sowell and anyone who seeks such advice is encouraged to contact Mr. Sowell.  

The Truth About Nuclear Power - Part 12

Subtitle: Nuclear plants cannot provide cheap power on small islands
This article explores the idea of using nuclear power plants to reduce the power prices on
Island in the South Pacific
numerous islands.
  The evidence shows that nuclear power would increase the power prices, not decrease them. 
Previously, the articles on The Truth About Nuclear Power showed 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, (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, and (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.   

As written almost 5 years ago on SLB, Nuclear Plants on Islands – A Nutty Idea, see link, there are no nuclear power plants located on islands that have approximately 1 million population.  Such islands could easily support power from a 1,000 MW reactor.  The construction costs are far too high, one plant is far too inflexible in operations, and it is cheaper for islanders to import fuel oil or LNG and generate power that way.  Using fossil fuel is far safer, too.  So, how about smaller modular plants, perhaps 4 of them at 300 MW each, which allows for one to be down for maintenance.   The reason this is not done is economy of scale pushes the power price far above 60 cents per kWh.  It’s cheaper for the islands to burn fuel oil to generate power and pay 25 cents per kWh.   
Here are the 15 islands with populations from 0.8 million to 1.25 million people, and no nuclear power plants.

Island ……………….population, millions
Hong Kong……………….1.18
Xiamen Island…………...1.08
Sao Luis Island……….…1.08
Trinidad…………………...1.03 (this island has abundant natural gas, so of course is not a candidate)
South Island (NZ)……..…1.008
Grand Canary………..…..0.815
Reunion (France)…….….0.793

The same is true for the five islands with 4 to 5 million population: Singapore, Sicily, Bali, and two in the Philippines.  There, the grid could use one 1,000 MWe nuclear plant and provide roughly one-fourth or one-fifth of the total power.  Or, the utility could build multiple smaller reactors to provide 5 GW of power, 5 at 1GW, 10 at 500 MW, 15 at 333 MW, 20 at 250 MW, etc.  But, they have not.   Power prices would still be far too expensive due to economy of scale.   Larger plants provide lower-cost power, while smaller plants produce more expensive power.  
For the smaller islands listed above, multiple small reactors could also be installed but would increase prices far too much due to economy of scale.
It is notable that two contenders in the small, modular reactor market recently failed to attract any customers or any investors.  See link.  Modular reactors and their various problems were discussed at some length in part 8 of the series.  See link

Despite having to burn imported oil or LNG, the many small islands in the world have not adopted nuclear power as a means of reducing their power prices.  The island of Oahu, for example, charges approximately 25 cents per kWh for power based on oil and a small amount of imported natural gas.  Even if small modular reactors were built to provide operating flexibility, nuclear plants cannot provide cheap power on small islands.  The claim by nuclear advocates that nuclear power is cheap is simply not supported by the evidence of all the islands in the world that presently provide expensive power.  If nuclear were indeed cheaper, the islanders would likely adopt that.  

 Previous articles in the Truth About Nuclear Power series are found at the following links.  Additional articles will be linked as they are published. 

Roger E. Sowell, Esq.

Marina del Rey, California