Feb 102013

Duke Energy’s dinosaur ways

Duke Energy recently made two decisions that provided a tiny glimmer of hope to North Carolinians who have been dismayed by our utility’s reliance on polluting energy sources. … Perhaps Duke was beginning to recognize that antique energy sources like coal and nuclear power are not viable in the 21st century when more modern options exist. Unfortunately, Duke’s 20-year energy plan for the Carolinas, the subject of a Utilities Commission hearing in Raleigh on Monday night, extinguishes the hope that Duke’s good news could start a trend. … Duke’s plan forecasts that in 2032, 72 percent of its energy will come from coal, nuclear and gas-fired power plants. Only 2.25 percent will come from wind and solar power.

From Greenpeace’s QUIT COAL (and apparently Nuclear) campaign. The article parrots tidbits about Germany’s great wind and solar generation, but conveniently leaves out the pretty major problems they’re suffering because of it (wind is great, but you need SOME non-variable generation to stablilize the grid).

I really hate how this, as usual, lumps nuclear in with coal and natural gas. The weasel word clean is used to imply that sources of energy other than wind and solar are killing the planet, whitewashing the environmental impact of e.g. solar panel construction (there’s no free lunch). And… dinosaur? Is that implying that Uranium is a fossil fuel? I guess if you count the last generation of stars as dinosaurs. Is it implying that Uranium is a limited fuel? I guess if “we can extract enough to power civilization until the current relationship between the earth and sun ends” counts as limited (hopefully there’s some on any other planets we might colonize, but I’m not gonna be around in two billion years to find out!).

The problem is that we are in the global warming endgame. The previous three generations knew this would happen and lived their lives sucking down fossil fuels without concern for us in this day. So we have to stop using carbon generating energy sources now. And we have the technology: Nuclear Power.

Germany was a shining example of a country that drastically reduced emissions. And then they shut down their nuclear power… returning to relying heavily on fossil fuels.

And cannot operate their grid AT ALL without massive amounts of imported power from France… nuclear power from France. And… the entire thing is a sham, it turns out having massive peak load with no use, no ability to store it (because physics says we can’t build batteries large enough), and limited baseload generation is destabilizing the entire European power grid. I’m sure the folks suffering through rolling black outs in Bavaria are glad they have renewable power sources that don’t provide heat for them in the winter.

So… Germany and Japan shutting off nuclear means both of them have already announced they will not be meeting their carbon emission reduction promises. The last vestiges of the Kyoto protocol have gone up in … smoke (couldn’t help myself, forgive me).

A lot of this anti-nuclear “green” power stuff is just playing right into the hands of the fossil fuel industry! They are taking advantage of the fear of complex systems; hatred of nuclear power invokes similar reasoning as hatred of technological society as a whole.

Instead of abundant filthy, atmosphere destroying coal we’re just shifting to scarce … filthyatmosphere destroying … natural gas.

Wind… wind and solar have problems with land use. You can build gigawatts of nuclear in a mere square mile of land! Perhaps a couple hundred megawatts of solar in the same… land is a scarce resource, see e.g. the recent problems with Brazil displacing a tribe for clean hydro power. People like to sweep problems like that under the rug.

Shearon-Harris is the only reason the triangle enjoys below-average energy prices. Whereas all other sources of power have become more expensive to operate, nuclear has become cheaper: Shearon-Harris was uprated twice, has been online more than 95% of the time for the last decade (the 5% offline for fueling outages), and the cost of Uranium hasn’t changed much (fuel, however, contributes almost nil to the operating costs of the plant).

The rate hikes we face are ultimately caused by the rabid, unfounded opposition to nuclear in the 80s and 90s. If Shearon-Harris hadn’t been stonewalled (leading to construction of units 2-4 being halted, a huge increase in capital costs for Unit 1, and the lost resources that went into planning and beginning construction of the other units…) we would have four 960MW reactors i.e. all of central North Carolina would have been powered by carbon free fuel for over 20 years now. Let that sink in: and then think about how the same farce repeated itself all over the country.

If NC WARN hadn’t stonewalled the attempt to expand Shearon-Harris, we’d be building those first new AP1000 instead of Georgia, and would enjoy carbon free power in three years instead of ten years (not to mention the thousands of jobs building it, and then hundreds operating it). Instead, good intentioned environmentalists have undone their own work!

Really, scorning reliable baseload power is foolish. We need a mixture of solar, hydro, wind, nuclear, geothermal, etc. Scorning an energy source out of trumped up fears with no basis in science or engineering reality is foolish, and anti-environment. Which is why I cannot take Greenpeace seriously–they work AGAINST saving the biosphere!

And, alas, it seems they are quite effective at it.