Scientists to March on Washington?

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  • #51
StatGuy2000
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Thanks for the source. Interesting reading.

Trump hasn't said much about nuclear power in general, so both are open questions. But the waste issue is very relevant to the cost and long-term prospects of nuclear power.

For example, an unintended consequence of Obama's illegal shuttering of the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste facility was that nuclear power got cheaper. The courts ruled in 2014 that due to the violation of the law, the government could no longer claim justification for collecting a surcharge on nuclear power, which was supposed to be spent on collecting and storing nuclear waste. If the Yucca mountain facility comes back, the surcharge almost certianly will too, but either way the utilities currently have to worry about whether they have sufficienct on-site storage for nuclear waste the government is failing to collect. That uncertainty and cost affects decision-making on new nuclear plants.

Source:
https://www.nei.org/News-Media/News/News-Archives/What-NARUC-Sees-on-the-Nuclear-Waste-Fee-Suspensio
Interesting. So my reading from the above is that, in a sense, the shuttering of the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste facility made nuclear power more price competitive, at least to a limited extent, in comparison to other sources of power. On the other hand, as you point out, the utilities are essentially on hook for maintaining on-site storage of the nuclear waste that is not being collected, which of course costs the utilities in terms of expense. I would have thought that the cost of on-site nuclear waste storage will either balance out or outweigh whatever savings results from not collecting to the surcharge on nuclear power.

We'll also have to see if there is in fact renewed interest from the Trump administration to revive the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste facility. My reading on this is that the politics don't split so evenly on party lines on this front, although I could be wrong (or outdated) on this point.
 
  • #52
russ_watters
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I would have thought that the cost of on-site nuclear waste storage will either balance out or outweigh whatever savings results from not collecting to the surcharge on nuclear power.
For the short term, on-site storage is a necessity anyway, so over-using it a little is basically free.

It's just that for the long term, the cost of storing the waste on-site forever certainly wasn't budgeted for in the cost of the plant. Either way you slice it, eventually the government is going to have to do something about the waste and the more they delay and kick the football around, the more expensive it (and nuclear power as a result) gets. And the more nuclear plant owners have to worry about it.
We'll also have to see if there is in fact renewed interest from the Trump administration to revive the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste facility.
Agreed. I don't know where he personally stands -- it also matters how much he cares, not just what his position is*. But the two main barriers to the facility are gone:
My reading on this is that the politics don't split so evenly on party lines on this front, although I could be wrong (or outdated) on this point.
Nuclear power is a heavily partisan issue in the USA, and if anything that has decreased, not increased over time. But it varies from one country to another, so you may not be up on the history for the US: it was heavily and successfully opposed for its perceived relationship with nuclear weapons. Current stats:
http://www.gallup.com/poll/182180/support-nuclear-energy.aspx
47% of Republicans vs 24% of Democrats say "more emphasis" should be placed on nuclear power than is currently placed. But changing public support isn't what killed the Yucca Mountain facility: the facility was killed by the collaboration of Obama and senior Senator from Nevada, Harry Reid. Reid is a Democrat, but his opposition to Yucca was probably at least as much about NIMBYism. He also left office earlier this month.

[edit] *I say it matters how much he cares, but it may not matter a lot. Obama/Reid's actions in opposition to the Yucca Mountain facility were illegal and their policies/actions were largely reversed by court order. There may be some practical hurdles still in the way, but primarily what is needed next is funding. But at least on a balance sheet, the fund that all those surcharges went to exists, so about all they have to do is send it to the NRC to use as the law requires them to. The current next step, as I understand it, is to review and approve the application for opening the facility.
 
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  • #53
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I would have thought that the cost of on-site nuclear waste storage will either balance out or outweigh whatever savings results from not collecting to the surcharge on nuclear power.
The government took money for a service and then didn't provide the service. Now they are still not providing that service, but they are no longer taking money for it. That's why it's a net gain for the operators. Even though it is certainly not the whole story.
 
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  • #54
mheslep
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and a nuclear resurgence
Hopefully. In my view, new nuclear is the only US policy change that can have a large impact with respect to global carbon emissions.
 
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...claim that fracking contributed the most to reducing carbon output
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  • #56
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It's obviously a fairly frivolous example, but I'm reminded of the scene at the start of one of the Indiana Jones movies where Harrison Ford says "Archaeology is the search for fact, not truth. If you want truth the philosophy class is right down the hall".

IMO scientists should speak up when anyone advocates for a policy that can be factually disproved. However, getting involved with direct political advocacy seems like a real short hop to agenda-driven research. Conclusion is the final step of the Scientific Method, not the first. In fact, I would go so far as to say that in the contemporary hyper-charged political atmosphere, scientists have an obligation to set an example of careful analysis and factual conclusions removed from emotional appeal. We have more than enough emotional appeal groups right now.
 
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  • #57
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I think we've seen too much of a mixing of politics and science over the last few decades. There are scientists who claim that solar and wind power will save the world. In reality, due to the need for spinning reserve, all of the solar and wind installations to date have had minimal impact on carbon emissions. Spinning reserve is power that a power company must have available on short notice. Some laws say the spinning reserve must be available in ten minutes, but most companies want it available immediately to prevent brownouts and blackouts.

Conventional power plants, be they coal fired, gas fired, oil fired, or nuclear, generate power the same way. They heat massive quantities of water in a pressure vessel to convert it to steam that then drives a turbine that then spins a generator creating power. Since a conventional power plant must be used for spinning reserve those plants must be kept up and running, just as if they were generating the power. You can't get a cold plant up and generating power in a short period of time, so the plants are kept up and running, burning the fuel of whatever type to heat the water so when a cloud passes over the solar panels or the wind stops blowing, the power stays on. The best analogy is it's like you buy an electric powered car to save the planet, but then because you don't trust the reliability of the electric car, you have someone follow you everywhere in a gas powered car. The net gain is nothing.

Now there's talk of building massive lithium ion battery warehouses to serve as spinning reserve and companies like Tesla are making home batteries (their Powerwall) to try and help with these issues, but to date, all of the billions that have been spent on solar and wind installations have achieved little or nothing due to spinning reserve. All the power that they're generating is being backed up by conventional power plants churning away in the background, burning the fuel just as though they were actually generating the power in case they're needed. You just can't turn massive quantities of water to steam instantly, so the plants have to be kept up and running to be ready when needed.

Conventional power plants typically have the spinning reserve built capabilities built into the plant in the form of additional turbines or generators that can be activated as needed, so there's no offset provided by the solar or wind power. The reality is that given the need for spinning reserve, solar and wind power are nothing more than a placebo. They look impressive, politicians and scientists can say, "Look we're doing something!" But they're achieving nothing, other than wasting billions of dollars.

At this moment the only real answer to reducing carbon emissions is nuclear power. If you don't mind some carbon emissions then small, natural gas powered generators forming mini-grids in neighborhoods might be a good long term solution. The reality is that everyone, scientists, politicians, and lay people fall in love with a concept and assume it to be true. Solar and wind power as the savior of the world is a concept that many have fallen in love with. A closer look reveals that's not true due to spinning reserve.

Oddly enough, the old passive solar systems in wider use in the seventies/eighties to help heat homes do more good to reduce carbon emissions than the photovoltaic panels that are the current trend. The heat captured in a passive solar system directly offsets the fuel that would be needed to burn to generate that heat. There is no spinning reserve needed for a home heating system. If the sun isn't shining your home heater works as normal. If the sun is shining the heat from the passive solar design is free and the heater isn't needed saving the fuel and carbon emissions that would be created. When was the last time you saw a scientist or politician actively pushing for more use of passive solar designs in new home construction? Homes designed to take advantage of passive solar gain would be many times more effective in reducing carbon emissions than photovoltaic or wind power. Unfortunately there's not a big passive solar energy industry out there making billions of dollars, so that's largely ignored these days.

If scientists want politicians to take them seriously, then they have to be open to re-examining their own beliefs and views. Screaming politicians don't care about the environment because they won't spend more money to build more solar and wind installations when solar and wind installations achieve nothing, doesn't help the cause. Push for nuclear power, cleaner burning natural gas, more use of passive solar, or other truly effective solutions, and politicians might just listen more. It would take a very bold scientific community to rise up and tell the world that solar (photovoltaic) and wind power have been a waste of money and that we should look for other options. Such boldness might just impress the politicians however.
 
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  • #58
I am disappointed in all of yall who want to protest. It seems like no one can have an opinion with out getting torn to pieces from everyone else. I am a scientist, but I am a respectful scientist. There is no need for any kind of march. There shouldn't have been one in the first place. Don't put a bad reputation on yourselves which will go on to other scientists who might not feel the same way.
 
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  • #59
rude man
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I think science (and scientists themselves) should remain fairly distant from any sort of political protesting. Report the research, and let them do what they may. To do otherwise just sends the wrong kind of signals about the objectivity of science itself.
If I told you what I think of that you wouldn't like it so I won't tell you.
 
  • #60
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Temporarily closed for moderation. The topic is whether scientists should form a march. We're off topic and no sources are being provided to back up "facts".
 

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