Sunday, April 23, 2017

Fun with Marching False-Alarmists

Subtitle:  Still No Warming Despite Marching Protesters

Yesterday, April 22, 2017, was not only Earth Day but was the date a few thousand people "marched on" Washington, D.C. to protest what they believe is unfair treatment of scientists.

Apparently, there is some concern that government funding of certain areas of science is about to be reduced or eliminated.   

I'm a big fan of science when it is conducted properly, but not a fan at all when false-alarmism is the result.   Regular readers of SLB will know that AGW, or anthropomorphic global warming, and CAGW, or catastrophic AGW, is entirely bunk.  I have written many thousands of words on the subject.  

How do we know what is proper science, and what is false-alarmism?   That one is quite easy, it is clear by the evidence when compared to the predictions.    I can toss a dense ball exactly 32.2 feet up into the air, near the sea shore, and that ball will hit the sand exactly one second after pausing at the peak of the upward travel.   The theory of gravity predicts that exact outcome, and the measured data shows that to be true.  Every time.  

False-alarmism is what CAGW scientists are doing, with false statements such as the real data shows real warming.    Below is a graph of surface temperatures in California, in the 20th century, segregated by size of population in the county where the measurements were taken.   These were taken and published by James Goodridge, retired California State Climatologist. 

A proper scientist would know that the hypothesis is that man-made CO2 causes global warming over decades and centuries.  What is improper is for scientists to lump together all the data, cities and rural, and call that proof that global warming is real. 

As the Goodridge graph shows, there was no warming for almost the entire century in small counties that had less than 100,000 people in the 1990 US Census (the lower line on the graph).   Since proper science is not arbitrary nor is it capricious, it is not possible for CO2 in the atmosphere to selectively warm the cities and ignore the low-population rural areas.  

Goodridge's findings are borne out in many other states, where large cities (New York City, Boston) show steady and substantial warming, while small towns and rural areas show no warming at all, or a cooling occurred.    What is even more instructive is the proximity of a large, warming city to a small, cooling town or village.   

These are just a sample of the kinds of issues that President Trump and his advisors know to be true, and the basis for reduction or elimination of funding of junk science.  

I watched the various news and media reports on the scientists' march on Washington and other cities yesterday, and with great amusement.   It is actually quite sad to see the tactics now that the false-alarmism is exposed, and the methods are known that produce a trend of warming where none exists. 

The proper scientific term is proper attribution of causation.  Cities are known to warm by many factors, at least ten such factors are written about on SLB.   It is quite instructive to note that the false-alarmists refuse to construct a temperature trend that uses only valid data from rural areas.  

There is no warming.  There is also no cause for alarm.   There is, though, great need to review federal and state funding of science research and stop the waste of taxpayer dollars on junk science. 

Roger E. Sowell, Esq.
Marina del Rey, California
copyright (c) 2017 by Roger Sowell - all rights reserved


Topics and general links:

Nuclear Power Plants.......here
Climate Change................here  and here
Fresh Water......................here
Engineering......................here  and here
Free Speech.................... here
Renewable Energy...........here 

NRC Seeks Public Comment for SMR Safety Regs

Subtitle:  SMR Safety - So Small They Are Intrinsically Safe

Here's the chance for all the nuclear power pundits, the arm-chair experts, those with far more faith in nuclear designers than in wind and solar designers, and in grid-scale battery designers, to show the NRC what few safety regulations are really required for those (so-called) ultra-safe SMR (small modular reactor) nuclear plants.   Just show up in Maryland on May 10, 2017, and make your case for why these SMR plants are so safe they don't even require emergency preparedness..  

After all, it's just nuclear fission at issue.  With all the deadly, radioactive byproducts like Plutonium.   There's clearly no problem with the residual heat from nuclear fission, so clearly there's no need for safety cooling systems.   And it's smaller, so no need for spent fuel storage systems to safely contain the radioactive byproducts of fission.    There's absolutely no need to consider a LOCA, loss of cooling accident, which would trigger an emergency evacuation.  

Go ahead.   Make your case.    Recall, though, that this is a public venue and all comments will be recorded for posterity.  

NRC posted this notice at see link

"The Nuclear Regulatory Commission is seeking public comment on a draft regulatory basis for
new emergency preparedness requirements for small modular reactors and other new technologies, such as non-light water reactor facilities.

"In addition to accepting written comments, NRC staff will conduct a public meeting May 10 to
discuss the draft regulatory basis. The meeting will be held from 9-11:30 a.m., in the Two White Flint
North auditorium at the NRC’s headquarters in Rockville, Md. Visitors will need to enter through One White Flint North, 11555 Rockville Pike. Additional information on the meeting, including a telephone bridge line, will be made available in a public meeting notice.

"A regulatory basis is an early stage in the rulemaking process in which the NRC staff explains
the rationale for developing new regulatory requirements and seeks input from the public. After the
regulatory basis is finalized, the staff will develop a proposed rule, which will also be issued for public comment before the staff produces a final rule. The draft regulatory basis, in part, explains why the NRC believes the existing regulations should be updated, revised, and/or enhanced; presents
alternatives to rulemaking; and discusses costs and other impacts of the potential changes.

"The nuclear power industry is developing small modular reactors and other advanced reactor
technologies that differ in size, scope and hazard from the large light-water reactors operating in the
U.S. today. Their smaller size or innovative safety features are likely to lead to lower risk or less
challenging accident conditions than today’s reactors. This rulemaking would establish emergency
preparedness requirements appropriate to these technologies. Existing requirements for current reactors will not be part of the scope of this rulemaking."

Note that NuScale Power LLC see link has already begun the NRC safety review process for their 50 MW, 12 module (600 MW total) SMR nuclear plants.  Their design, as published, is hopelessly complex and uneconomic with 12 large pressure vessels, equipment, piping, and pumps just to supply 600 MW of electricity.    However, the NRC does not pass judgment on economics, but evaluates only the safety aspects.  The market will judge the economics.  

Roger E. Sowell, Esq.
Marina del Rey, California
copyright (c) 2017 by Roger Sowell - all rights reserved


Topics and general links:

Nuclear Power Plants.......here
Climate Change................here  and here
Fresh Water......................here
Engineering......................here  and here
Free Speech.................... here
Renewable Energy...........here 


Saturday, April 15, 2017

Mars Mission Poses Deadly Radiation Risks

Subtitle: No Known Preventive Measures for Deep Space Radiation

The recent article, "NASA Likely to Break Radiation Rules to Go to Mars," see link, gives an overview of the radiation hazards a manned Mars mission will encounter. 

Excerpt:  “Based on current knowledge, astronauts on a mission to Mars would exceed NASA’s career radiation dosage limits. Although the Agency plans to continue efforts to develop countermeasures to address the radiation risk, NASA is likely to seek an exception from the current standards for those that cannot be fully mitigated.”

Deep-space radiation in the form of galactic cosmic rays is deadly to humans.  The Sun's massive magnetic field deflects most such GCRs away from Earth; however the Sun's magnetic field is weakening.  NASA has various satellites "up there" that monitor such things.   

And, if death is not the immediate result, several other debilitating illnesses or diseases result: ". . .  cancer-inducing radiation can also cause cardiovascular and degenerative diseases—like cataracts, premature aging, and endocrine problems—a risk “of much greater concern than previously believed.” It can also rejigger the central nervous system, screwing with everything from cognition to spatial perception to hand-eye coordination. Then there’s the infertility, the cataracts, the slow wound healing, and the problems that astronauts could pass on to future children if they make it back from the long trip to Mars and manage to procreate."

SLB has a few earlier articles on a manned Mars mission, 

"Mars Colony - A Bad Idea"  see link

A portion of "A Week That Was July 2016" - excerpted below:

o  A serious doubt for the future of manned space exploration re-surfaced this past week, with evidence and a report that lunar astronauts suffer (and some have died) from much higher incidence of cardio vascular disease; almost none of the non-flying astronauts, nor the low-earth orbit astronauts have this; the explanation is exposure to intense deep-space radiation and ionizing high-energy particles (galactic cosmic rays) by those astronauts that flew past the Earth's Van Allen Belts and went to the moon.   This has deep implications for the proposed moon-orbiting manned space station, any manned Mars missions, and especially a Mars colony.   The long-term orbiting astronauts on the International Space Station provide valuable data on some medical aspects of space life, but that is all within the protective shield of the Van Allen Belts.  see link to Nature article on deep-space radiation effects on astronauts, "Apollo Lunar Astronauts Show Higher Cardiovascular Disease Mortality: Possible Deep Space Radiation Effects on the Vascular Endothelium"

Roger E. Sowell, Esq.
Marina del Rey, California
copyright (c) 2017 by Roger Sowell - all rights reserved


Topics and general links:

Nuclear Power Plants.......here
Climate Change................here  and here
Fresh Water......................here
Engineering......................here  and here
Free Speech.................... here
Renewable Energy...........here 



NRC and DOE to Hold Third Advanced Reactor Workshop

Subtitle: With BWR and PWR Failures; Now Vendors Grasping Desperately

From the NRC news site for April, 2017, this item 17-016 (see link) is excerpted below   

"The Nuclear Regulatory Commission and Department of Energy are continuing their joint
workshop series on innovative reactor technologies, April 25-26, in Bethesda, Md.
“We are encouraging interested parties to continue discussing the most efficient and effective path forward to safely develop and deploy advanced reactors in the United States,” said Vonna Ordaz, acting director of the NRC’s Office of New Reactors. “We expect to discuss topics such as modeling and testing innovative technologies, as well as how vendors might approach getting their designs approved for U.S. use.”

"The NRC defines advanced reactors as those technologies using something other than water to cool the reactor core. The NRC is currently discussing one such advanced design with a vendor considering applying for design certification. The NRC remains available for early-stage discussion with other potential advanced reactor vendors." -- end excerpt

Sowell Comments

The NRC reviews and approves nuclear reactor designs only on the issue of safety; it does not concern itself with costs to design, to construct, to operate, to refuel, to repair, to perform maintenance, nor to decommission.  These advanced reactors, as NRC defines them, would include reactors that use things such as molten salts, liquid sodium, helium, and supercritical CO2 as the primary coolant.  

What is most interesting is the question: "Why even consider advanced reactors when existing nuclear power plant designs are supposedly the safest, most reliable, and cheapest form of electricity on the planet?"  That question is, of course, posed in jest by me but the claims are stated loudly and often by the nuclear proponents.   The facts are quite the opposite, as shown in the 30-article series on SLB "Truth About Nuclear Power."  (TANP)  see link

Just on the construction cost basis, nuclear power plants that use the PWR (pressurized water reactor) technology such as Westinghouse AP-1000 cost 9 to 10 times as much for the same output, compared to natural gas-fired CCGT (combined cycle gas turbine) plants. 

Operating costs on a $/MWh basis are also higher or about the same for PWR plants, when compared to the CCGT plants.  

Load-following is quite easy and very safe for CCGT plants, but a PWR nuclear reactor has great difficulty in adjusting load.  Operating at reduced rates to follow the load requires the nuclear plant to increase the sales price of electricity to obtain a constant revenue stream.  PWR plants are already too costly to operate, as evidenced by the many shutdowns in the US. Increased operating costs to load-follow make a bad situation even worse.  

Given all the above, and those points to not include any safety nor decommissioning costs, perhaps it is no wonder that nuclear designers are back at the drawing board, scratching out new designs in an attempt to overcome the failures of BWR and PWR reactors. 

Two of the new technologies are discussed in the TANP series, with thorium -powered molten salts, and gas-cooled high-temperature reactors in Articles 28 and 29, respectively. 

Perhaps this time, some creative nuclear designer will find a way to make nuclear power safe, cheap, and reliable.   It is instructive to remember that if all power plants were nuclear-powered, the changing loads on the grid require that the plants run at approximately 50 to 60 percent on an annual average basis.   Minimum loads occur at night in the Spring and Fall seasons, and typically reach approximately one-third to one-fourth of maximum or peak load.   Peak load typically occurs in mid-afternoon on a late Summer day.    However, some grids have peak loads in the Winter as heating demands are greatest.    These issues are discussed in some detail in Article 2 of TANP (see link)  

Roger E. Sowell, Esq.
Marina del Rey, California
copyright (c) 2017 by Roger Sowell - all rights reserved


Topics and general links:

Nuclear Power Plants.......here
Climate Change................here  and here
Fresh Water......................here
Engineering......................here  and here
Free Speech.................... here
Renewable Energy...........here 




Sunday, April 9, 2017

Climate Science - Dr. Curry Says a Ruling Theory is Premature

Subtitle: The Evidence Shows No Climate Change from Human-caused CO2

At the recent Congressional hearing, see link,  and this link,  Dr. Judith Curry emphasized the fact that "the climate community has prematurely elevated a scientific hypothesis on human-caused climate change to a ruling theory through claims of a consensus."  Also, that claimed consensus results in stifling dissent from those not in the consensus and harm as uncertainties are not given proper consideration. 

A few observations on this.  First, Dr. Curry's blog ClimateEtc has quite a number of articles that explore the topic.   Next, a few points of my own on why many engineers (such as myself) understand that global warming is merely false-alarmism. 

This post uses the time-honored principle for ascertaining the truth, in four steps: first, posing an issue, second, stating the rule or rules that govern that issue, third, applying the rules to the facts of the issue, and fourth, drawing a logical conclusion based on the facts and application of the rule. 

Dr. Curry's conclusion is set out above: "the climate community has prematurely elevated a scientific hypothesis on human-caused climate change to a ruling theory through claims of a consensus."

First:  The Issue

The issue, then, is Do human activities that release carbon dioxide (CO2) into the atmosphere cause climate change?   This is the scientific hypothesis, which must be verified or disproven by the collection, then analysis, of appropriate data.  

Second:  The Governing Rule

The basic and essential rule in science is to pose a falsifiable hypothesis, then verify that hypothesis by obtaining and comparing appropriate, valid data to what the hypothesis predicts must be true.  If the data agrees with the predictions from the hypothesis, one continues with the hypothesis while even more data is collected.  Over enough time, and with enough data that confirms the hypothesis, the hypothesis may be upgraded to a proven theory.   A proven theory has no valid data that contradicts the hypothesis.  

An example of a proven theory is gravity, which holds that just above the Earth's surface, an object is accelerated (falls) toward the Earth at a rate of 32.2 feet per second-squared.   However, it is known that some objects fall faster than do others, for example, a feather falls slower than a small stone.   Such differences were studied and correctly attributed to the effect of air resistance, with a feather's fall slowed noticeably by air resistance.   The theory was then modified to state that "in a vacuum, objects at or near the Earth's surface are accelerated toward the Earth at a rate of 32.2 feet per second-squared."  There is no evidence to the contrary for that statement of gravity.  

However, where the data disproves the hypothesis, or the data is mixed so that some data agrees while other data disagrees, the hypothesis cannot be upgraded to a proven theory.  Instead, the hypothesis must be discarded, or revised if possible to encompass the data.  As above with gravity, the presence of air was determined to require a slight modification of the basic statement.  In some areas, no revision or modification is possible to explain the data, or to have agreement with the data, so the hypothesis must be discarded.  

Third: Applying the Rule to the Issue

In applying the rules to the facts of the issue, we examine the issue very carefully.  "Do human activities that release carbon dioxide (CO2) into the atmosphere cause climate change?"   Stated as a scientific hypothesis gives: "Human activities that release CO2 into the atmosphere causes climate change."   In its simplest form, this equates to "X causes Y."

Parsing this into "Human activities that release CO2 into the atmosphere," it can be seen that non-human activities must also exist that release CO2.   These are the natural emissions of CO2, among which are ocean warming as waters flow from the polar regions to the tropics, decay of vegetation, forest fires from natural causes (lightning strikes), animal respiration (breathing out CO2), and volcanic eruptions where magma hits limestone such that CO2 is released.   This is very important, because this requires that actual causation, if any exists at all, must be correctly attributed to the CO2 source.  

There are equally a number of human activities that release CO2 into the atmosphere.  Among these are the burning of fossil fuels in power plants, industrial furnaces, and combustion engines.  It is well-known how much of each fuel is burned each year, including methane as a component of natural gas, petroleum products, and coal.   Other human activities also release CO2, including fermentation of sugars to produce alcohols, calcining of limestone to produce cement, carbon anode conversion to CO2 in aluminum production, smelting of various metal ores, and others.  Extracting raw natural gas from the ground and processing the raw gas into pipeline-quality natural gas also produces CO2 that is released into the atmosphere.  

An additional complication arises because some compounds that are sent into the atmosphere decay at a later time into CO2.  Methane is one such compound.  Therefore, natural and man-made methane releases must be considered.  

The remainder of the statement parsed above is simply ". . . causes climate change."

The preliminary step in evaluating the hypothesis is to determine if there is any climate change, or not.  Much effort has been devoted to measuring aspects of the climate over time, especially average near-surface air temperatures.   Considerable doubt exists as to the accuracy of such temperature measurements, especially as measurements were made with little care.   Modern scientists have adjusted temperature records, not just once, but time after time.  That alone calls the accuracy into question.    Climate scientists, at least a few of them, have concluded that climate change has already occurred.  As Dr. Curry stated, climate scientists claim to have a consensus on this matter.   It is certainly not a 100 percent consensus, however the claim of 97 percent consensus is widely stated.  Even that number is unproven, and inaccurate depending on the statistics one employs. 

The next step is to determine if there is any demonstrable link between atmospheric CO2 and climate change.  Scientists have constructed time-series graphs of both CO2 in the atmosphere and global average air temperature anomaly, which show some apparent correlation.   The anomaly is the slight difference between a baseline temperature and measured temperature.  

Using that correlation between air temperature anomaly and CO2 in the atmosphere, scientists concluded that human-produced CO2 is responsible for the warming.   The scientists dismissed the natural emissions of CO2 and methane that decays into CO2, instead blaming the rise in temperature on man-made CO2.   Note that this violates one of the essential basics of good science: correct attribution of causation when multiple causal factors exist.  This is discussed in more detail below. 

Scientists then developed very complex computer models to predict various outcomes if CO2 from human activities continues to increase.   These predictions are listed on various publications and websites, with many of them listed below.   The success or failure of the various predictions can be ascertained by measurements, and the validity of the basic hypothesis determined.   It is well to recall that any contrary data must result in rejection of the hypothesis, or sufficient modification as was done with the gravity hypothesis to account for air resistance.

Predictions

1 Atmosphere hot spot in tropics
2 Less snow 
3 Arctic ice disappearing
4 More hurricanes, more powerful hurricanes (and tropical cyclones)
5 More tornadoes, more powerful tornadoes
6 More drought, worse droughts
7 More floods, worse floods
8 Warmer average temperatures, especially winter nights
9 Agriculture harvests worse as hot summers and droughts occur
10 Sea level rises, islands underwater, cities at seashore flooded
11 Glaciers receding and disappearing
12 Tropical diseases found farther from equator
13 Ocean surface hotter
14 Antarctic Ice breaking up, floating away     UPDATE 4-15-2017: Several more predictions exist; some are added below. -- 

15.   Ocean "acidification" - a misleading scare tactic, oceans are alkaline 
16    Prolonged heat waves, more heat waves
17    Polar bears' numbers falling, extinction looming
18    Many other species extinction looming or will occur
19    Coral reefs bleaching and dying off
---- end update ----   

Each of these initial 14 predictions is discussed next. 

1.  Atmosphere hot spot in tropics --  This is a measurable phenomenon that should happen if the climate change due to CO2 is correct.  The short version is that no hot spot has been detected despite many years of hard effort by many scientists.  Dr. John Christy has an excellent discussion on this in his Congressional testimony.  

2.  Less snow -- This is also a measurable phenomenon predicted by the climate models.  As Dr. Christy has shown, there is no reduction in snow.  In many places there is more snow.  

3 Arctic ice disappearing -- the measurements of Arctic ice are limited, going back to 1979 when satellites began observations.  Before that, very little data exists.  The climate scientists love to point to this as proof of man-made climate change, as there is some data that shows less Arctic ice now than in 1980.  However, there are multiple problems with their causal determination.  First, for many years there was almost no change in ice extent; then for a few years a rapid decline occurred; but in recent years the decline stopped and has been stable or ice has slightly increased.   There is strong evidence to suggest that pattern is consistent with dark particles of coal soot and jet airplane exhaust deposits on the ice that accelerates melting.   There is also evidence that underwater volcanic activity heats the ocean currents that enter the Arctic region.  A line of volcanoes and vents along the mid-Atlantic ridge heats the water. 

There is also substantial evidence from boulders carried by icebergs that fell to the ocean floor as the icebergs melted that Arctic ice has retreated and advanced many times in the past.  The boulders have been identified in the Atlantic offshore of North America.  Such ice retreats before 1960 could not have been caused by the increase in human-related CO2 that started in approximately 1960.  

4 More hurricanes, more powerful hurricanes (and tropical cyclones)  -- the data shows the opposite, there are fewer hurricanes and tropical cyclones.  Worldwide ACE (accumulated cyclone energy) has been collected for many years.  ACE is at or below 1970 levels. 

5 More tornadoes, more powerful tornadoes  -- the data for tornadoes also shows fewer, not more, and fewer of the largest F-5 rated ones. 

6 More drought, worse droughts -- the data shows no more and no worsening of droughts when compared to the modern record of the past 150 years (more or less); and recent droughts are no match at all for those recorded in geological evidence.  

7 More floods, worse floods  -- as with drought, the data shows no more and no worsening of floods when compared to the modern record of the past 150 years (more or less); and recent floods are no match at all for those recorded in geological evidence.  

8 Warmer average temperatures, especially winter nights  -- the data shows that some places do have warmer winter nights, however these are in more densely populated areas where warming from increased building proximity is known to create local warming.   There are at least ten known factors that cause local temperatures to increase, but none of those ten are increased atmospheric CO2.  (1.  Increased population density in cities (more buildings in a small area); 2.  Increased energy use per capita (each building uses more energy, and people use more); 3.  Increased local humidity due to activities such as lawn watering, industry cooling towers; 4.  Prolonged drought (the opposite, regular rain, reduces temperatures in arid regions); 5.  Reduced artificial aerosols via pollution laws being enforced; 6.  Change in character of the measurement site, from rural to more urban with pavement and other artificial heating; 7.  Wind shadows from dense buildings prevent cooling winds from reaching thermometer; 8.  El NiƱo short-term heating effect in many areas (e.g. the US South and Southeast); 9.  Reduced sunspot activity and number that allows more cloud-forming cosmic rays to reach Earth; and 10.  Fewer large volcanoes erupting with natural aerosols flung high into the atmosphere)

The consensus scientists point to the average temperature increasing, which is after their multiple adjustments.   However, and this is critical, there are many hundreds of locations that show zero warming or a cooling trend over a century or more.  James Goodridge published the data for California in the 20th century that shows exactly that: areas with low population had zero warming or had a cooling, but densely populated areas showed a warming.  The average of all locations showed a modest warming.   Small towns across the US also show no warming.  

9 Agriculture harvests worse as hot summers and droughts occur -- harvests are the same or better than in the past.   Some harvests are worse due to local cold conditions. 

10 Sea level rises, islands underwater, cities at seashore flooded -- the data shows some evidence of shoreline cities flooding, but the causal factor is accelerated land subsidence due to human activities such as pumping groundwater.  The rate of sea level rise itself has not increased for decades.

11 Glaciers receding and disappearing  -- the data shows glacial retreat began approximately 150 years ago, long before increases in CO2 occurred.   There is nothing to suggest that human-produced CO2 is a factor in glacier retreat. 

12 Tropical diseases found farther from equator -- there is no evidence to support that claim.  Some diseases are brought to foreign shores by people, however. 

13 Ocean surface hotter -- some areas of the ocean appear to be warmer, however, that is consistent with fewer hurricanes and tropical cyclones.   It is known that hurricanes and tropical cyclones act as cooling mechanisms for the ocean surface.  Satellites can detect the path of hurricanes just by observing the ocean surface temperatures. 

14 Antarctic Ice breaking up, floating away -- there is some evidence of large chunks of Antarctic ice breaking off the ice shelves and entering the ocean currents.  However, the area where the ice chunks originate is known to be above an active volcanic zone on the Antarctic peninsula.  Other areas of Antarctic ice are growing and overall ice extent is at record high levels since satellite records began in 1979. 

Fourth: Logical Conclusion

As above, any contrary data refutes the hypothesis.  With the fourteen items discussed above, almost all represent contrary data and therefore refute the hypothesis.   The few that did occur are due to non-CO2 factors.  Where multiple possible causal factors exist, good scientific method requires every competing causal factor to be eliminated, leaving the one standing.  In this case, the evidence is overwhelming that human-created CO2 is NOT causing climate change.  

UPDATE 5-15-2017: It is certain that it is premature to elevate a disproven hypothesis on man-made global warming to a ruling theory.  -- end update. 

Roger E. Sowell, Esq.
Marina del Rey, California
copyright (c) 2017 by Roger Sowell - all rights reserved


Topics and general links:

Nuclear Power Plants.......here
Climate Change................here  and here
Fresh Water......................here
Engineering......................here  and here
Free Speech.................... here
Renewable Energy...........here 

Coal Stockpiles and Natural Gas Pipelines

Subtitle: Coal, Natural gas, and Clean Power Plan in the courts.   

The president of a pro-coal industry group, the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity, argues that coal is more reliable than natural gas for power generation, because 80 days of coal can be stockpiled onsite at coal power plants, whereas natural gas must be transported via (unreliable?) pipelines.  The conclusion (he says) is that the Clean Power Plan should not be made into law, nor enforced.  see link to Washington Examiner story of 5/9/2017. 

Somebody bring a screwdriver, because there are more than a few screws loose in this one. 

It is fine for the president of a coal-industry coalition to argue for more use for coal.  That's what he is paid to do.  However, it is laughable to bring that particular argument.  

For instance, how many remember the recent near-miss in coal-powered generation near Chicago, when more ice than usual on the Great Lakes (and much later in the year) prevented coal-carrying ships from delivering their cargo?  see link to April, 2013 article 

And this, the lack of adequate rail capacity, from oilprice.com in October, 2014:  "Part of the reason (for power plants having below-average coal stockpiles) is the country’s oil boom. Moving oil by rail has become so widespread that train backups are making it hard for utilities to receive shipments of coal, which in some cases is leaving power plants critically low on fuel supplies.  . . Coal stocks were inordinately depleted during the unusually long, cold snowy winter in the U.S., which saw an elevated level of electricity demand. Months later, coal-fired power plants are still struggling to replace their coal supplies."

So much for coal being ultra-reliable.  

Now, as to natural gas-fired power plants having their gas supplies curtailed due to pipeline problems.  Yes, that did occur in California when El Paso Corporation (the gas supplier at the time) reduced pipeline flows that resulted in a few power plants not running.  That resulted in a great many lawsuits and Federal investigation, and a huge fine was assessed. 

As I wrote in February, 2016 on SLB, see link "A few years ago, an artificial shortage of natural gas was created in the El Paso Natural Gas Company fiasco, and California experienced electrical shortages, rolling blackouts, and outrageously high electricity prices.   Part of that fiasco was due to the untimely shutdown of a natural gas pipeline that brings natural gas to California from Texas. ( see link to a copy of the settlement agreement between El Paso Corp and various parties.  This describes some, but not all, of the activities that created the electricity shortage.)"

And, there was a time decades ago when a widespread cold period created a natural gas shortage across Texas because the infamous Coastal Corporation of Oscar Wyatt, had over-sold the available natural gas.  Colleges and businesses were shut down so that power plants would have enough gas to keep the grid running.  See 1973 winter gas shortage in Texas. 


But, it is clear that natural gas-fired power plants enjoy a clear advantage in reliability of fuel supply.  Pipelines are not affected by ice on Great Lakes, nor on overcrowding on rail lines.  


Roger E. Sowell, Esq.

Marina del Rey, California
copyright (c) 2017 by Roger Sowell - all rights reserved



Topics and general links:

Nuclear Power Plants.......here
Climate Change................here  and here
Fresh Water......................here
Engineering......................here  and here
Free Speech.................... here
Renewable Energy...........here  


Sunday, April 2, 2017

NuScale Small Modular Reactor Begins Safety Certification

The nuclear cheerleaders should be cheering like mad over this one:  see link.  That's a welcome thing in their world, given the recent disastrous news of Westinghouse Electric filing for bankruptcy earlier this week.  see link to SLB article 
NRC To Begin Full Certification Review of NuScale Small Modular Reactor
“The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has docketed for review NuScale Power LLC’s
application to certify the company’s small modular reactor design for use in the United States.
“The company submitted its application Jan. 12 for the design, in which the reactor building holds 12 co-located pressurized-water reactor modules for a total output of 600 MWe. NuScale is the first company to submit a small modular reactor (SMR) design for certification. SMR designs seek to meet NRC safety requirements through smaller reactor cores and passive safety features. The NRC, after completing its acceptance review, has concluded NuScale’s application is complete enough for a full design certification review. The staff soon will provide a review schedule.
“The NRC’s certification process determines whether a reactor design meets U.S. safety
requirements. Companies can then reference a certified design when applying for a Combined License to build and operate a reactor in the United States. The NRC’s Advisory Committee on Reactor Safeguards provides input on design certification reviews. If issued, certifications are valid for 15 years.
“The NRC has most recently certified Westinghouse’s AP1000 and GE-Hitachi’s Economic Simplified Boiling Water Reactor designs.”
Sowell Commentary
The certification process evaluates only the safety aspects and has zero concern over economics, costs to construct, time to construct, costs to operate, reliability or onstream factor, costs to decommission, etc. SMRs have zero chance of producing economically attractive electricity.  An earlier article on SLB see link discussed the economics of SMRs, and concluded they must have very short construction times to have any advantage over conventional, large (1000 MWe or greater) plants.  
Excerpts from that earlier SLB article include:
"The analysis for two 600 MW plants shows construction must be finished within 5.5 years to break even with the costs to build a 1200 MW plant.  Similarly, for SMRs of 300 MW, where four plants would be required to produce 1200 MW of power, and 200 MW, where six plants would be required.  The results are as follows.  The 300 MW plants must be constructed in 4 years to have zero savings, with any savings produced only if construction time is 2 or 3 years.  The 200 MW plants must be constructed in 2.1 years to have zero savings over the cathedral design.    It seems highly unlikely that small, modular plants can be built on such short timescales."  (end excerpt)
The NuScale design purports to have twelve, 50 MWe reactors in the same containment building to produce 600 MW electricity.  From the NRC documents filed by NuScale, 
"A NuScale Power Module (NPM). . . is a collection of systems, sub-systems, and components that together constitute a modularized, movable, nuclear steam supply system (NSSS). The NPM is composed of a reactor core, a pressurizer, and two steam generators integrated within a reactor pressure vessel (RPV) and housed in a compact steel containment vessel.
"The NuScale advanced small modular reactor plant design is scalable, such that from one (1) to twelve (12) NPMs operate within a single Reactor Building."
So, the question is, can this design result in lower construction costs and operating costs compared to, e.g. AP-1000?   There are orders of magnitude more equipment.  For 1100 MW output, the AP-1000 has one reactor, while the NuScale has 22.  Similarly, the AP-1000 has 2 steam generators, and NuScale has 44.  The amount of piping to connect all that equipment is magnitudes greater for NuScale.  That means many more welds, pipe supports, which greatly increases costs. 
As is the usual case with nuclear, it will be years and years before anyone knows the answers based on an actual, operating plant.  The design certification review will require some years.  Finding a suitable utility to invest will require more time, then fabrication and construction will require more years.  
Only then will we truly know how much SMR-produced electricity costs.   My bet is it will be twice or three times the cost of renewable-based electricity with grid-following storage technology. 
Roger E. Sowell, Esq.
Marina del Rey, California
copyright (c) 2017 by Roger Sowell - all rights reserved


Topics and general links:

Nuclear Power Plants.......here
Climate Change................here  and here
Fresh Water......................here
Engineering......................here  and here
Free Speech.................... here
Renewable Energy...........here  

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Solar in California Sets Record - Again

Subtitle: 9700 MW on March 28, 2017

Setting new records for grid-scale solar output is becoming routine in California, with what appears to be the current record set last Tuesday (March 28) at approximately 11:15 a.m..  The chart shows a screenshot of CAISO's webpage with solar output by hour in the gold color.  The red arrow shows a peak of approximately 9700 MW.  This is the combined output of solar PV and solar thermal, of which solar thermal is approximately 500 MW.  

New solar plants are being added to the grid each year.  

UPDATE 4/22/2017:  Another record was set yesterday with combined grid-scale solar at 9,854 MW at 1300 hours.   -- end update

Roger E. Sowell, Esq.
Marina del Rey, California
copyright (c) 2017 by Roger Sowell - all rights reserved


Topics and general links:

Nuclear Power Plants.......here
Climate Change................here  and here
Fresh Water......................here
Engineering......................here  and here
Free Speech.................... here
Renewable Energy...........here  

An Amazing Week - March 27-31 of 2017

Subtitle: A Week That Changed History - Climate, Nuclear

The events of this week were of profound importance for the climate change or global warming debate, also for nuclear power in the US and worldwide.  In no particular order, 

Climate Change

On March 28, 2017, President Trump signed the "Presidential Executive Order on Promoting Energy Independence and Economic Growth."   This Executive Order revoked Obama's:

(i)    Executive Order 13653 of November 1, 2013 (Preparing the United States for the Impacts of Climate Change);

(ii)   The Presidential Memorandum of June 25, 2013 (Power Sector Carbon Pollution Standards);


(iii)  The Presidential Memorandum of November 3, 2015 (Mitigating Impacts on Natural Resources from Development and Encouraging Related Private Investment); and

(iv)   The Presidential Memorandum of September 21, 2016 (Climate Change and National Security).

and rescinded Obama's:

(i)   The Report of the Executive Office of the President of June 2013 (The President's Climate Action Plan); and


(ii)  The Report of the Executive Office of the President of March 2014 (Climate Action Plan Strategy to Reduce Methane Emissions).

The Energy Independence and Economic Growth executive order has many more provisions that can be read in the entirety here:  see link

Next, a Congressional hearing on climate science was held in Washington DC on Wednesday, March 29, 2017, titled "Climate Science: Assumptions, Policy Implications, and the Scientific Method."  Four scientists testified at the hearing, Drs. Judith Curry of Georgia Institute of Technology, John Christy of University of Alabama at Huntsville, Michael Mann of Pennsylvania State University, and Roger Pielke, Jr. of University of Colorado. see link to the proceedings and written testimony.  The live testimony is also online. 

The Congressional hearing will have its own article here on SLB, with the summary as follows:

1.  Dr. Curry emphasized the fact that "the climate community has prematurely elevated a scientific hypothesis on human-caused climate change to a ruling theory through claims of a consensus."  Also, that claimed consensus results in stifling dissent from those not in the consensus and harm as uncertainties are not given proper consideration. 

2.  Dr. Christy emphasized the complete disagreement between the climate models' results and measured data that show there is no warming in the atmosphere.  Essentially, the scientific method has the model output (that shows a warming should already be evident) as the hypothesis, and actual temperature measurements that show no warming as the experimental results.  Where the data disagrees with the hypothesis, the hypothesis must be rejected or revised.  Essentially, greenhouse gases increasing in the atmosphere (at the tiny amounts of 280 ppm increasing to 400 ppm over 57 years) did not create any warming. 

3.  Dr. Pielke, Jr. emphasized the negative impacts of abuse of governmental power in shaping scientific research and results, giving his own very negative history of being falsely accused by Obama's Science Advisor John Holdren and investigated publicly (some say persecuted) by Congressman Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), an Obama crony.   Dr. Pielke Jr. had earlier testified (correctly) that extreme weather events are not getting worse even though atmospheric CO2 has increased.   Dr. Pielke Jr. was also falsely accused (and later vindicated) of having received funding from fossil fuel interests (ExxonMobil and Koch Foundation).   The result was he as a leading scientist that published the actual data and results (no increase in extreme weather) was ostracized and forced to switch research interest to a field unrelated to climate. 

4.  Dr. Mann emphasized what he believes is a consensus in climate science, stating "at least 97 percent of scientists publishing in the field have all concluded, based on the evidence, that climate change is real, is human-caused, and is already having adverse impacts on us, our economy, and our planet."  Incredibly, Dr. Mann used his testimony to recite a litany of criticisms against himself and his work.  

Nuclear Power

Next, the nuclear power industry received a huge shock as Westinghouse Electric Company LLC filed for bankruptcy under Chapter 11 in New York Southern Bankruptcy Court on March 29, 2017.  Westinghouse is famous for having designed and built several of its much-touted AP-1000 nuclear reactors for power plants.   These reactors are so good that Toshiba, a Japanese corporation, purchased Westinghouse Electric Company LLC a few years ago.   Huge losses in the US$ billions resulted, and Toshiba is in serious financial trouble.   There are four of the AP-1000 reactors under construction in the US (Vogtle and Sumner) with articles on SLB describing the litany of construction problems, delays, and cost overruns.  The bankruptcy filing places these four projects in serious jeopardy.  However, Obama extended the US government backing in the form of loan guarantees.  It is unclear at this time if the guarantees are sufficient to finish the four projects.   More information will likely be available in the coming weeks and months.  

NRC To Begin Full Certification Review of NuScale Small Modular Reactor - announced 3-15-17

Nuclear plant subsidies to keep unprofitable plants operating continue, although there are legal challenges.  

LNG exports from US will lead to increased natural gas price and provide a small measure of support for US nuclear power plants that are struggling to compete. 

Conclusion

These topics are all worthy of separate articles on SLB, which are presently being written.  In addition, California set what appears to be a solar power production record this week at 9,700 MW.   The March 2017 average sunspot number was published, at a very low 17.7 spots; this is very early in the sunspot cycle for such low numbers. March also had more than two full weeks of zero sunspots    NASA's EPIC satellite photos of Earth from 1 million miles away (toward the Sun) show amazing cloudiness over both polar regions and Canada. 

Roger E. Sowell, Esq.
Marina del Rey, California
copyright (c) 2017 by Roger Sowell - all rights reserved


Topics and general links:

Nuclear Power Plants.......here
Climate Change................here  and here
Fresh Water......................here
Engineering......................here  and here
Free Speech.................... here
Renewable Energy...........here