Open letter to President Macron

This open letter, signed by 45 environmentalists, writers and academics, was originally published on Energyforhumanity.org

July 1, 2017
Dear President Macron,

We are writing as environmentalists, conservationists and climate scientists to congratulate you on your win in the presidential election, and to applaud your push for a carbon tax. Nobody has done more for advancing clean energy on the grid than France. In light of this knowledge, we are also writing to express our alarm at your decision to move France away from clean nuclear power.

Few nations have done more than France to demonstrate the humanitarian and environmental benefits of creating a high-energy, nuclear-powered, and electrified society. Not only was France host of United Nations climate talks, it also has some of the lowest per capita carbon emissions of any developed nation.

Any reduction in France’s nuclear generation will increase fossil fuel generation and pollution given the low capacity factors and intermittency of solar and wind. Germany is a case in point. Its emissions have been largely unchanged since 2009 and actually increased in both 2015 and 2016 due to nuclear plant closures. Despite having installed 4 percent more solar and 11 percent more wind capacity, Germany’s generation from the two sources decreased 3 percent and 2 percent respectively, since it wasn’t as sunny or windy in 2016 as in 2015.

And where France has some of the cheapest and cleanest electricity in Europe, Germany has some of the most expensive and dirtiest. Germany spent nearly 24 billion euros above market price in 2016 for its renewable energy production feed-in tariffs alone, but emissions have remained stagnant. Germany is set to miss its 2020 emission reduction goals by a wide margin. Despite its huge investment in renewables, only 46 percent of Germany’s electricity comes from clean energy sources as compared to 93 percent in France.

Solar and wind can play an important role in France. However, if France is to make investments in solar and wind similar to those of Germany, they should add to France’s share of clean energy, not inadvertently reduce it. Renewables can contribute to the further electrification of the transportation sector, which France has already done with its trains and should continue to do with personal vehicles.

Shifting from nuclear to fossil fuels and renewables would grievously harm the French economy in three ways: higher electricity prices for consumers and industry, an end to France’s lucrative electricity exports, and — perhaps most importantly — the destruction of France’s nuclear export sector. If the French nuclear fleet is forced to operate at lower capacity factors, it will cripple the French nuclear industry by adding costs and shrinking revenues. Eventually this will lead to poorer safety standards and less opportunities to fund research, development and efforts to export French nuclear technologies. Nations seeking to build new nuclear plants rightly want to know that the product France is selling is one that France itself values.

The French nuclear program has historically been the envy of the world. It demonstrated in the 1970s and 80s that the decarbonization of an industrialized country’s electricity sector is in fact possible. For France, the next necessary step to help combat climate change and improve air quality is to increase clean electricity from all non-fossil sources and massively reduce fossil fuels used in heating and the transportation sector. Nuclear power must play a central role in this.

Signed,

James Hansen, Climate Science, Awareness, and Solutions Program, Columbia University, Earth Institute, Columbia University

Kerry Emanuel, Professor of Atmospheric Science, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Hans Blix, Director General Emeritus of the IAEA

Robert Coward, President, American Nuclear Society

Andrew Klein, Immediate Past President, American Nuclear Society

Steven Pinker, Harvard University, author of Better Angels of Our Nature

Richard Rhodes, Pulitzer Prize recipient, author of Nuclear Renewal and The Making of the Atomic Bomb

Robert Stone, filmmaker, “Pandora’s Promise”

Pascale Braconnot, Climate Scientist, IPSL/LSCE, lead author for the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report and Fifth Assessment Report

Francois-Marie Breon, Climate Researcher, IPSL/LSCE, lead author for the IPCC Fifth Assessment Report

Ben Britton, Ph.D, Deputy Director of the Centre for Nuclear Engineering, Imperial College London

Claude Jeandron, President, Save the Climate, French association

James Orr, Climate Scientist, IPSL/LSCE

Didier Paillard, Climate Scientist, IPSL/LSCE

Didier Roche, Climate Scientist, IPSL/LSCE

Myrto Tripathi, Climate Policy Director, Global Compact France

John Asafu-Adjaye, PhD, Senior Fellow, Institute of Economic Affairs, Ghana, Associate Professor of Economics, The University of Queensland, Australia

M J Bluck PhD, Director, Centre for Nuclear Engineering, Imperial College London

Gwyneth Cravens, author of Power to Save the World

Bruno Comby, President, Environmentalists for Nuclear Energy

Wolfgang Denk, European Director, Energy for Humanity

David Dudgeon, Chair of Ecology & Biodiversity, School of Biological Sciences, The University of Hong Kong, China

Erle C. Ellis, Ph.D, Professor, Geography & Environmental Systems, University of Maryland

Christopher Foreman, author of The Promise & Peril of Environmental Justice, School of Public Policy, University of Maryland

Martin Freer, Professor, Head of Physics and Astronomy, University of Birmingham, Director of the Birmingham Energy Institute (BEI)

Kirsty Gogan, Executive Director, Energy for Humanity

Joshua S. Goldstein, Prof. Emeritus of International Relations, American University

Malcolm Grimston, author of The Paralysis in Energy Decision Making, Honorary Research Fellow, Imperial College London

Mel Guymon, Guymon Family Foundation

Steven Hayward, Senior Resident Scholar, Institute of Governmental Studies, UC Berkeley

John Laurie, Founder and Executive Director, Fission Liquide

Joe Lassiter, Professor, Harvard Business School

John Lavine, Professor and Medill Dean Emeritus, Northwestern University

Martin Lewis, Department of Geography, Stanford University

Mark Lynas, author, The God SpeciesSix Degrees

Michelle Marvier, Professor, Environmental Studies and Sciences, Santa Clara University

Alan Medsker, Coordinator, Environmental Progress – Illinois

Elizabeth Muller, Founder and Executive Director, Berkeley Earth

Richard Muller, Professor of Physics, UC Berkeley, Co-Founder, Berkeley Earth

Rauli Partanen, Energy Writer, author of The World After Cheap Oil

Peter H. Raven, President Emeritus, Missouri Botanical Garden. Winner of the National Medal of Science, 2001

Paul Robbins, Director, Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Samir Saran, Vice President, Observer Research Foundation, Delhi, India

Michael Shellenberger, President, Environmental Progress

Jeff Terry, Professor of Physics, Illinois Institute of Technology

Tim Yeo, Chair, New Nuclear Watch Europe; former Chair, Energy and Climate Change Parliamentary Select Committee

 

https://assets.rbl.ms/8188149/980x.jpg

Climate Change: losing sight of the real target.

[this article was originally published on medium.com. We thank the author Bob. S. Effendi]


In September 2015, German Environment Minister Barbara Hendricks made a statement which shock the world, Germany is likely to fail its 2020 emission reduction target which fall short by seven percent [i].

How could this be, to a Climate Change champion with its 520 Billion Euro Energiewende Program which aim to make German energy mix 80% by clean energy, that is mostly wind and solar by 2050.

As its stand by 2015 Germany’s renewable already up to 30% of the total energy mix, probably the largest renewable energy mix in the world. But the irony is with all that renewable how could Germany predicted to miss the emission reduction target? Isn’t the premise to increase renewable shares so that to reduce CO2 emission.

It turns out that German electricity is consider among the dirtiest in Europe not only that but to make thing much worse in the past 5 years after the implementation of Energiewende, German electricity tariff has double making it the most expensive in Europe and is not affordable to some German.

According to Eva Bulling-Schröter, energy spokeswoman for Die Linke, Germany left party, between 2011 and 2015, about 300,000 German homes get their power cut off because they can no longer afford to pay their bills [ii].

McKinsey just release a 20 pages report on German Energiewende which was featured in Die Weld, a German National Newspaper, that Energiewende does not achieve its goal in reducing emission and it has put burden on the economy but despite these obvious facts German Government refuses to acknowledge that their energy policy has become a dismal failure [iii]. Basically, what McKinsey is saying that Energiewende is a 500 Billion Euro disaster.

The fact of the matter, Germany does not make it into the 10 cleanest electricity in Europe according to real-time map which measure CO2 intensity (www.electricitymap.org) created as an open source project by Tomorrow, a Climate Change concern organization. Germany CO2 intensity is runs around 350–450 gram CO2/kwh whereas Norway at no 1 (8 gram), Sweden at no 3 (37 gram), Switzerland at no 4 (63 gram) and France at no 5 (66 gram) [iv].

 

According to Massachusetts institute of Technology study even if the whole signatories of Paris Accord do everything what they pledge to do, it will only result in a slight reduction in global temperatures of just 0.2°C by 2100, global temperature will still raise to 3.1–5.0 degree to pre-industrial level. [v]

According to the study to meet the target, deeper cut on fossil need to happen. Which is obvious that a lot of these countries are not willing to give-up fossil as a dependable cheap economic driver and has become a strong industry with far reaching political influence but instead focusing on renewable. This should make you rethink maybe the world has lost sight what the real target is? Is the Paris Accord is really about climate change or something else?

It’s a simple question, if the objective of climate change is carbon reduction, then what should be the measuring stick then, is it: a) How much renewable energy you put or b) How much CO2 is in your electricity.

It’s a no brainer, off course is how much CO2 in your electricity (CO2/kwh) or how much CO2 per energy per capita (CO2/capita). Germany has shown that the more renewable you put does not relate to reduction of CO2 emission in fact it has the opposite effect which is as also shown in California.

Even in California where strict environmental and climate legislation has been enforced for many years and has the highest renewable mix in the US, but with all those effort it still is fail to reduce its emission and increases the electricity tariff which makes California electricity become the most expensive in the US [vi].

Ron Kirk, US Trade Representative, Clean and Safe Energy Coalition co-Chairman and former Mayor of Dallas put it bluntly “The more you put renewable the higher your emission and so is your electric bill as proven by Germany and California” [vii].

What Germany and California has proven is that you cannot make intermittent renewable, such as wind and solar as primary energy because of several reasons: 1) its low energy density thus requiring huge amount land and 2) can only deliver at best less than 25% of capacity thus at the end require a fossil backup 3) its intermittent nature, creates a problem to grid making the gird unreliable thus maintaining a reliable electricity service become costly for utility.

With that in mind, we should not lose sight of what is the real target, obviously not renewable but carbon reduction and the measuring stick should be CO2 intensity or CO2 per capita not renewable and to achieve that there is only one way to do it that is replacing all fossil especially coal as primary energy with another zero-emission energy source which can act as base load meaning operating 24/7.

It’s a simple formula, your primary energy mix should be more than 65% zero carbon energy, It’s either Hydro or Nuclear or combination. With Norway its 97% Hydro, or with France its 79% Nuclear or combination of the two like Sweden with Hydro 36% and Nuclear 35%.

It is a simple fact that without combination of these two form of energy there is no way you could achieve a decarbonization economy, it is not a theory but it is an indisputable fact. In fact, Nuclear produces more than 60% of zero carbon electricity in the world.

So it is ridiculous for countries which committed to climate change but follow in the foot step of Germany by closing down its nuclear power plant, such as Switzerland [viii]. The fact is that Nuclear was never on table or discuss in any UNFCC document. Even in the latest UN Deputy Secretary General speech on The Goal of Climate Change, there is a lot of mention of clean energy, a lot mention of wind and solar but no nuclear. Is Nuclear not a clean energy? [ix]

So in the end, if the discussion on climate change does not include Nuclear on the table then the Billion Dollar Question is: are they seriously want to fight climate change or just being anti-nuclear ?.

Jakarta, 6 June 2017

Bob S. Effendi

End Notes

[i] Germany unlikely to meet carbon reduction targets for 2020 | http://www.dw.com/en/germany-unlikely-to-meet-carbon-reduction-targets-for-2020/a-17802417

[ii] Over 300,000 poverty-hit German homes have power cut off each year | https://www.thelocal.de/20170302/over-300000-poverty-hit-german-homes-have-power-cut-off-each-year

[iii] ‘Die Welt’ Article Warns: German “Energiewende Risks Becoming a Disaster” …As Costs Explode! | http://notrickszone.com/2017/03/08/die-welt-article-warns-german-energiewende-risks-becoming-a-disaster-as-costs-explode/#sthash.3Ewp4tPQ.dpuf

[iv] List of countries according to the lowest emission | https://www.electricitymap.org/?wind=false&solar=false&page=highscore

[v] MIT News, Report: Expected Paris commitments insufficient to stabilize climate by century’s end | http://news.mit.edu/2015/paris-commitments-insufficient-to-stabilize-climate-by-2100-1022

[vi] Climate Change, and California’s Failed Solution | http://www.realclearmarkets.com/articles/2016/05/05/climate_change_and_californias_failed_solution_102154.html

[vii] Bloomberg TV interview May 25, 2016 : Ron Kirk | https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vqELgPdaX-g&feature=share

[viii] Switzerland votes to ban nuclear plants, shift to renewable energy in referendum | http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-05-22/swiss-voters-embrace-shift-to-renewable-energy/8545844

[ix] Energy is at the Hearts of Global Goals and Paris Agreement | http://newsroom.unfccc.int/unfccc-newsroom/energy-is-at-the-heart-of-global-goals-and-paris-agreement/

Accident at Hanford

[this article was originally published on blog.safecast.org. We thank the author and the editors.]

 

Above: Photo showing the 20ft x 20ft hole which resulted from the collapse of a PUREX storage tunnel at Hanford (Image: Hanford Emergency Information page)

News wires have been buzzing about a tunnel cave-in at the Hanford nuclear facility in Washington State. The Hanford facility is extremely large, 580-square miles, or about half the size of the state of Rhode Island. It produced the plutonium used in the bomb dropped on Nagasaki, and during the cold war facilities were greatly expanded for weapons production. The last reactor at Hanford was shut down in 1987, and decommissioning and cleanup operations have been ongoing since 1989. The site has been fraught with problems stemming from the storage of radioactive waste, and because of the risk of releases of radioactive material to the environment, particularly the nearby Columbia River,  it is closely watched by environmental groups.

The accident yesterday involved the collapse of a small (20 x 20 foot) section of a storage tunnel built as part of the Plutonium Uranium Extraction Facility (PUREX), detected by workers on the morning of May 9th. These tunnels, constructed in the 1950’s and 1960’s, hold rail cars loaded with contaminated discarded equipment. They were constructed of wood and concrete and covered with approximately 8 feet of soil. The collapse is probably due to the degradation of wood used in construction.

Tunnel construction

(From Hanford facility dangerous waste permit application, PUREX storage tunnels)

Railcar-by-railcar breakdown of what’s stored in the PUREX underground tunnels at the Hanford Site and how radioactive it is, c/o Stephen Schwartz‏  @AtomicAnalyst.

Hanford Challenge twitter feed; this group has represented Hanford workers for the past 20 years.

Because the Hanford site is so large, only very large radioactive releases can be detected off site. This makes it difficult if not impossible to verify official data regarding releases. Official reports so far have indicated that no airborne releases of radiation have been detected due to the tunnel collapse. Nevertheless, an emergency was declared, and personnel were evacuated from nearby areas of the site and required to shelter indoors in others. As of 8pm on May 9th, work had begun to stabilize and fill the opening of the collapsed section.

Cheryl Rofer, formerly of the Los Alamos National Laboratory, posted an informative blog at Nuclear Diner, in which she concluded that the risk of large releases due to this accident are small.

At the same time, the tunnel collapse should call attention to the greater risks posed by deteriorating infrastructure at Hanford. The Washington Post notes:

“An August 2015 report by Vanderbilt University’s civil and environmental engineering department said the PUREX facility and the two tunnels had “the potential for significant on-site consequences” and that “various pieces of dangerous debris and equipment containing or contaminated with dangerous/mixed waste” had been placed inside the tunnels.”

(Update) Our colleagues at the NRDC communicated the following to us:

— NRDC assessment is that this accident does not pose a risk off site but will create increased risk for Hanford Site workers dealing with the accident, with substantial increased cleanup costs;
— This accident illustrates the difficulty of the cleanup of the US Cold War legacy of nuclear weapons production — the largest environmental cleanup project in the world costing over $6B a year (nearly $2 billion per year alone at Hanford) – every nation that has made nuclear weapons has hurt its own people and natural environment in the process – it further illustrates some complicated regulatory problems (lack of EPA and State authority over the site, where NRDC has long pushed for transparency).
— Continued risk at Hanford is greatest from the 56 million gallons of toxic, liquid high level-radioactive waste held in 177 very large tanks some of which are leaking – this underground plume threatens the Columbia River.

To summarize, this particular accident appears to be quite small and localized, but that may just be luck. In this instance, Safecast is concerned about the lack of independent monitoring at the Hanford site to confirm official statements about radiation releases.

Iodine-131 Over Europe: Probably Medical

Nuclear Diner

In early January, slightly elevated levels of iodine-131 were observed over northern and western Europe. The levels were measured during a temperature inversion, along with elevated levels of naturally occurring radioisotopes.

This, along with the deployment of an American WC-135 aircraft to the Mildenhall Royal Air Force Base in the UK, has led to speculation that the Russians have carried out a nuclear test. This is highly unlikely for several reasons.

View original post 645 altre parole

No, radiation levels at Fukushima Daiichi are not rising

[this article was originally published on blog.safecast.org. We thank the author and the editors.]

This grating inside Daiichi Unit 2 was likely melted by falling fuel debris (TEPCO photo)

 

— Yes, TEPCO has measured very high radiation inside Daichi Unit 2.

— No, it does’t mean radiation levels there are rising.

In response to visual investigation results and high radiation measurements recently taken by TEPCO inside Fukushima Daiichi Unit 2, many news outlets have published stories with headlines like “Fukushima nuclear reactor radiation at highest level since 2011 meltdown.” (The Guardian, Feb. 3, 2017).

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/feb/03/fukushima-daiichi-radiation-levels-highest-since-2011-meltdown

http://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20170202/p2g/00m/0dm/087000c

https://www.japantoday.com/category/national/view/record-radiation-level-detected-inside-damaged-fukushima-reactor

This has led to a number of alarming stories claiming that radiation at Daiichi has “spiked” to unprecedented levels. That’s not what the findings indicate, however. In addition, Safecast’s own measurements, including our Pointcast realtime detector system have shown radiation levels near Daiichi to be steadily declining. As described in the Safecast Report, Vol.2, Section 2.1.4, TEPCO and its research partners have been developing robots and remote visualization devices to search for melted fuel debris deep inside the Daiichi reactor units, and to help plan for its eventual removal. On January 30th, 2017, a long telescoping device with a camera and radiation measurement device attached was inserted through an existing opening in the reactor containment of Unit 2 for the first time, and successfully extended approximately 8 meters into in an area known as the “pedestal,” to measure and take images from immediately below the damaged reactor pressure vessel (RPV). In addition to finding the area covered with molten material likely to be fuel debris, radiation levels of 530 Sieverts per hour were detected, which would be fatal to a person exposed for only a few seconds.

The recent investigation used existing openings in the Unit 2 reactor to obtain images an measurements inside the pedestal area.(TEPCO image)

The telescoping arm (in yellow) was designed to reach inside the pedestal area to obtain visual imagery and radiation measurements.(TEPCO image)

It must be stressed that radiation in this area has not been measured before, and it was expected to be extremely high. While 530 Sv/hr is the highest measured so far at Fukushima Daiichi, it does not mean that levels there are rising, but that a previously unmeasurable high-radiation area has finally been measured. Similar remote investigations are being planned for Daiichi Units 1 and 3. We should not be surprised if even higher radiation levels are found there, but only actual measurements will tell. Unit 4 was defuelled at the time of the accident, and though the reactor building exploded and the spent fuel pool was dangerously exposed, it did not suffer a meltdown, so similar investigations are not being conducted.

The “Scorpion” crawler robot is designed to be inserted through a pipe and to fold for operation. It’s deployment is likely to be further delayed.(IRID photo)

Under a consortium called IRID, TEPCO and its research partners have been developing robots and other devices to assist in investigations inside the damaged reactors, where radiation levels are too high to allow humans to safely enter. The recent investigations at Unit 2 were intended to help plan the travel path of a folding crawler robot called the “Scorpion.” This device is designed to crawl around on the metal grating deck inside the pedestal and gather further imagery and measurements. The recent investigations, however, have revealed a 1×1 meter section of the deck to be melted through, and much of the rest may be impassable for the robot. In addition, the high radiation levels will likely limit the amount of time the robot will be able to operate before malfunctioning to about 2 hours, instead of the planned 10 hours. Much more melted fuel debris is assumed to have settled beneath the pedestal grating on the concrete basemat of the reactor. It was hoped that the Scorpion would be able to provide imagery of this. Not surprisingly, TEPCO is once again revising its plans based on the recent findings. These investigations are technically quite impressive, but they have already been delayed for over a year due to the need to more adequately decontaminate the area where human workers must operate and to solve other technical problems. This recent imagery is extremely informative and helpful, and had been eagerly awaited by many concerned people, including Safecast. If nothing else, we have learned to be patient as TEPCO proceeds slowly and cautiously with this work.  The process of removing melted fuel debris from the damaged reactors at Fukushima Daiichi is expected to take decades, and these recent findings remind us once again that TEPCO has little grounds for optimism about the challenges of this massive and technically unprecedented project.

Stitched vertical panorama showing conditions underneath the Unit 2 RPV. (TEPCO photo)

For more information:

TEPCO Reports:

Pre-investigation results of the area inside the pedestal for the Unit 2 Primary Containment Vessel Investigation at Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station(examination results of digital images)

Images Inside Fukushima Daiichi Unit 2 Need Further Examination Including The Possibility Of Fuel Debris

TEPCO Photos:

http://photo.tepco.co.jp/en/index-e.html

http://photo.tepco.co.jp/en/date/2017/201702-e/170202-01e.html

http://photo.tepco.co.jp/en/date/2017/201701-e/170130-01e.html

Video here:

NHK Video (in Japanese)

Mainichi Shimbun:

 

Making America great again

Bellefonte NPP, started in 1974, abandoned in 1988, will it be completed?
Bellefonte NPP, started in 1974, abandoned in 1988, will it be completed?

In our honest opinion there is a man who is already doing it! His name is Franklin L. Haney and he is 75 years old.

This Chattanooga, Tennessee-based mogul picked up a nuclear power station in Hollywood, Alabama at an auction last week. Yes, you read well, a nuclear power station, for just 111 million dollars! That’s the famous never completed Bellefonte.

As reported by CGR (Global Construction Review) online magazine, Haney said “the rejuvenated plant would ‘transform communities’ hit by coal-plant closures in Alabama and Tennessee.” And “completing the plant will employ up to 4.000 people; while operating it would create 2.000 ‘permanent, high paying jobs’.”

But he will need to bring all his deal-making talents to bear on this new asset: construction of the 2,6 GW power station was halted in far 1988 and it is likely to request several billion dollars to get it completed, because unit 1 is deemed approximately 55% complete, and unit 2 approximately 35% complete, having for years been ransacked for spare parts.

In addition, to hold him to his promises regarding the site, the seller, state utility Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), stipulated that the buyer must invest at least 25 million dollars on the property within 5 years of closing the deal.

Well, imagine our shock, if this won’t happen!

We mean, we aren’t sufficiently oriented to wishful thinking about nuclear power to forget that business is business. And Mr Haney could always change his mind, provided he hasn’t already now (in a drawer somewhere) a different idea from that he has shown so far.

But let’s still dream for a while, with Haney’s words. “Today marks the first step of an exciting new journey for the people of Alabama and Tennessee,” he said in a statement. “The Bellefonte Nuclear Station will help transform communities across the region. This project will bring new life to the region by creating thousands of jobs while providing assured access to reliable, affordable, zero-emission energy.”

How not to agree?

Surprisingly this words match with some (not all) statements heard during the last presidential election campaign, about which we are standing with high hopes!

Hey, don’t take this as a galvanized reaction to the the news of November 9th, 2016. U.S. President-elected Donald J. Trump has still to demonstrate to be really ready and willing for a new cursus of energy policies, and only History will tell us if this shall be also in favor of a new nuclear renaissance for America.

And by the way, it’s hard to miss the fact that Mr Haney, a long time Democratic donor, funded the campaign for President Obama’s reelection 4 years ago. Not to say he has also been several times under reflectors due to the fact he has built his business around developing government-supported real estate projects – being even indicated as a “Government Landlord”.

And so on and on, you can find by yourselves a lot of interesting further information or silly yak-yak on the web. This is not the point.

We were simply wondering if Haney’s iniziative in coincidence of Trump’s election could be a symptom of a new sight on America’s energy future. In other words, if such a kind of investment is a claim of “innovative financing”; if it will possibly suggest some good ideas to the President-elected; and ultimately if it can really change the approach to nuclear power in the U.S. and, as a reflection, all over the World – maybe a tangible way to make America great again.

Well, our guess and hope is: yes, yes and yes!

024

11/25/2016 Update: Maria Korsnick, CEO of the Nuclear Energy Institute, has recently discussed about the future of the American nuclear industry under Trump administration. You can watch the video of the interview at this link.

 

Comparing nuclear power plants and wind farms resilience to hurricanes

Hurricane Matthew affected the continental US last week, the first since 2005. It was a category 5 hurricane that caused more than 1000 deaths, mostly in Haiti, and about 7 billion dollars damage as a preliminary estimate.

As Matthew quickly moved toward Florida and the Carolinas, rigorous procedures to ensure safe operations of nuclear power plants in the affected areas were implemented.

Four NPP are located within the affected area: St. Lucie (FL), Robinson (SC), Harris and Brunswick (NC), for an overall capacity of about 5600 MW.

Previous hurricanes have shown that NPP are robust facilities able to withstand strong hurricane winds and storm surge [1], nevertheless the “unusual event” status – the lowest NRC’s emergency condition- was declared for all the plants [2].

Hurricane Matthew in a snapshot from NASA, with the location of NPP. After [2].
Hurricane Matthew in a snapshot from NASA, with the location of NPP. After [2].
The plant personnel made sure that all the equipment potentially affected by heavy wind and rain were secured and a “walkdown” inspection through the plants response to disaster condition was initiated, including assessing the availability of emergency diesel power generators for at least a week.

When Matthew made landfall in South Carolina, early on Saturday, Robinson plant safely shut down due to loss of power and flooding of transformers. Harris suffered power outage too, but was already shut down for scheduled refueling. Brunswick was instead fully operational but was required to modulate down to 50% capacity on Sunday in order to respond to reduced capacity of the grid. By Wednesday all nuclear plants exited their “unusual event” status and, after routine safety inspections, ramped back to full capacity.

Wind power is the fastest growing renewable source in the US. According to DOE scenarios of 20% wind power in the US by 2030 (2008, [3]), offshore wind should contribute with 54 GW. Most of this power should come from shallow to intermediate depth farms along the Atlantic coast, that has a potential capacity of 920 GW and the Gulf region, with a potential capacity of 460 GW [4]. Incidentally, those regions are the preferred hurricanes corridors! Regardless the accuracy of these estimates and the feasibility of the envisioned goals, how would the wind farms stand a hurricane?

In August 2003, the typhoon Dujuan hit the southern part of China and caused severe damage to a wind farm located in the coastal area of the Guangdong province. The wind turbines were designed to survive a maximum gust of 70 m/s, but a maximum gust simultaneously with significant yaw error and rotor standstill had not been considered. The actual maximum gust did not exceed the design maximum gust of 70 m/s. Several wind vanes were damaged during the cyclone’s passage [5].

Few days later, typhoon Maemi almost flattened a wind farm on Miyakojima Island (Japan) [6].

Miyakojima Island 6 turbines wind farm after the passage of typhoon Maemi. Modified after [6].
Miyakojima Island 6 turbines wind farm after the passage of typhoon Maemi. Modified after [6].
While blades are relatively easy to replace, tower buckling is a severe damage that can require months to years for restoration [7].

At present there are no wind farms offshore the US East coast and in the Gulf of Mexico, but several are planned.

Thus a recent paper [7] estimated the resilience of offshore wind farms to storm conditions. Wind turbines are designed to operate with winds up to 25 m/s, over this threshold they shut down for safety reasons. The turbines currently on the market (Class 1) may (ideally, as Dujuan typhoon taught us) stand winds up to 70 m/s, but hurricane winds often exceed 80 m/s. Although the design of hurricane resilient turbines would be possible (Class S), this option comes with compromises on the productivity (i.e. they need stronger cut in wind to operate) besides higher costs [8].

Rose et al. (2012) [7] model both the risk from a single hurricane and the cumulative risk over the lifespan of a wind farm, through 4 sites offshore the Gulf and the Atlantic coast where farms are planned. Considering a farm size of 50 turbines, a considerable number of them is expected to be buckled down over a 20 years period by passing hurricanes: 16 out of 50 in Galveston County (TX) and 8 out of 50 in Dare County (NC), while numbers decrease in NJ and MA, where usually hurricanes loose strength.

Expected number of turbine towers buckled in 20 years for sample 50 turbines wind farms planned on the Gulf and Atlantic Coast. After [7]
Expected number of turbine towers buckled in 20 years for sample 50 turbines wind farms planned on the Gulf and Atlantic Coast. After [7]
Stronger hurricanes, category 4 and 5, cause more damage although occur less frequently. Overall, the damage occurrence over a turbine lifespan is dominated by one or two hurricanes. Most of the offshore wind potential is concentrated offshore Texas, Louisiana and North Carolina. The same for hurricane occurrence, at least one every 4 years, thus making the risk of significant loss of the capital investment relevant over a 20 years long period.

Rate of hurricane occurrence against Offshore wind resource. They go nicely together. After [7]
Rate of hurricane occurrence against Offshore wind resource. They go nicely together. After [7]
Yawing wind turbines, i.e. those that can oscillate and move accommodating fast wind direction changes, have better chances of survival. This would come to the expense of providing them a power back up, worth $ 30.000-40.000 each. The overall additional costs to improve hurricane resilience are estimated in 20-30% for onshore turbines, something less for offshore.

Another concern of a massive penetration of wind farms in hurricane prone areas would be how to assure the stability of the grid, thus of the power supply, through the shutdown period or the even longer time span required to restore severely damaged turbines. Again, as the recent case of Southern Australia showed [9], a base load of non intermittent and programmable is required. Thus here we are again talking about conventional thermoelectric power, you would think. Indeed “new energy” is often synonym of new unreliable installations with expensive back-up powered by fossil fuels, at best by natural gas. No thanks: our mind always run back to nuclear power!

 

Sources

[1] https://public-blog.nrc-gateway.gov/2016/10/06/hurricane-matthew-and-the-nrc/

[2] http://www.nei.org/News-Media/News/News-Archives/Southeast-s-Nuclear-Plants-Easily-Weather-Hurrican

[3]Shwartz M, Heimiller D, Haymes S, Musial W (2010) Assessment of Offshore Wind Energy Resources for the United States. (National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Gold- en, CO).

[4] Lindenberg S, Smith B, O’Dell K, DeMeo E, Ram B (2008) 20% Wind Energy by 2020: Increasing Wind Energy’s Contribution to US. Electricity Supply (National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Golden, CO).

[5] Clausen N, et al. (2007) Wind farms in regions exposed to tropical cyclones. (Germanischer Lloyd WindEnergie GmbH, Hamburg) European Wind Energy Conference and Exhibition.

[6]Takahara K, et al. (2004) Damages of wind turbine on Miyakojima Island by Typhoon Maemi in 2003.

[7] Rose, S., Jaramillo, P., Small, M. J., Grossmann, I., & Apt, J. (2012). Quantifying the hurricane risk to offshore wind turbines. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences109(9), 3247-3252.

[8] Musial, W. (2011). Large-Scale Offshore Wind Power in the United States: Assessment of Opportunities and Barriers. DIANE Publishing

[9] http://www.news.com.au/technology/environment/preliminary-report-reveals-cause-of-south-australia-blackout/news-story/92606772798e23e1ceec8c53f4256900