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Climate report aims at 5 percent emission cut

Original post made on Nov 27, 2007

A 144-page action plan released over the Thanksgiving holiday by the City of Palo Alto -- which outlines ways to cut the community's greenhouse-gas emissiona -- was greeted warmly by the City Council Monday night.
A vote on the plan is scheduled for next Monday.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Tuesday, November 27, 2007, 6:37 AM

Comments (93)

Posted by Mike, a resident of College Terrace
on Nov 27, 2007 at 9:38 am

from the report: "Transportation, including commuting and air travel, produces 40 percent of city's emissions"

Let's see if policy-makers can put their votes where their passions and public statements lie. It's a known *fact* that we have a severe jobs/housing imbalance, and that building more in fill housing near transport corridors - including the construction of local housing that keep people from commuting - is the MOST effective way to reduce transport emissions.

I'm hopeful that we'll see *action* taken that follows up on all the stated concern for the environment, in a way that far outweighs the small (but important) things done to make City Hall operation greener.


Posted by Housing, a resident of Ventura
on Nov 27, 2007 at 10:18 am

About housing, last night Council member Kleinberg emphasized that Stanford does not / should not have to build housing for the thousands of new employees that will be added in their expansion.
She used to describe herself as a housing advocate.


Posted by Mike, a resident of College Terrace
on Nov 27, 2007 at 10:53 am

She is a housing advocate, and always has been. She doesn't believe that Stanford should be solving Palo Alto's problems. Did we ask Google to build housing for the new employees that will becoming to Palo Alto as residents.

Finally, common sense begins to take hold.


Posted by Housing, a resident of Ventura
on Nov 27, 2007 at 11:28 am

Google is not expanding in Palo Alto. They are renting existing office space.
What problem of Palo Alto's is Stanford being asked to solve?

Anyway, Kleinberg doesn't need those housing people anymore. She has bigger fish to fry now, Google, Stanford, the Stanford Shopping Center and other developers.


Posted by Mike, a resident of College Terrace
on Nov 27, 2007 at 11:37 am

"What problem of Palo Alto's is Stanford being asked to solve?"

Our jobs/housing imbalance, that comes as a natural consequence of our desirability as a commercial destination.

Incidentally, Google IS expanding in Palo Alto. The rental houses an overflow and new groups. This is just the beginning: stay tuned.

And just so you get my point, did PA ask Wilson-Sonsini to build more houses? hp? Varian? Lockheed? Nordstroms? PAMF?


Posted by Housing, a resident of Ventura
on Nov 27, 2007 at 11:53 am

Stanford is only being asked to add housing for their expansion which will bring in something like 5-6,000 new people. Nothing to do with our excess of jobs over housing.

Come to think of it, several (not all) of the most visible housing advocates in town have been speaking repeatedly for the Stanford expansion, not for housing the new people. Their real loyalty to developers is also becoming more evident.


Posted by Mike, a resident of College Terrace
on Nov 27, 2007 at 11:57 am

"Stanford is only being asked to add housing for their expansion which will bring in something like 5-6,000 new people. Nothing to do with our excess of jobs over housing."

Then why didn't we ask Wilson-Sonsini to build more houses? hp? Varian? Lockheed? Nordstroms? PAMF?

Seems to me that you want some organizations to pony up for housing the employees that migrate here, but not others. How is that?


Posted by Greenie, a resident of Midtown
on Nov 27, 2007 at 12:09 pm

Hey, please stop hijacking discussions and turning them to other subjects. This article isn't about Stanford and housing, it is about climate change. I know that there is a connection, but let's focus on the main topic here.


Posted by John, a resident of College Terrace
on Nov 27, 2007 at 12:51 pm

Has anybody ever studied the ACTUAL CO2 footprint of people who live locally vs. people who commute to work? Most people who live locally (and work semi-locally) still use their cars, both to make the short trip to work, AND various errands around town. Local people create a lot more local traffic compared to job commuters from non-local places.

For example: "Jim" lives in Midtown, and works in Mt. View. He drives to work. His wife, "Jane" is a homemaker with two kids. She is very active, and uses her car to shop, take the kids to soccer practice, attend PTA meetings, etc. When Jane is super busy, she calls Jim at work to have him make a quick trip home to deal with the plumber, and to pick up drugs at Longs or Walgreens. Both of them have busy weekend schedules, which require several car trips each weekend.

"John" lives in Salinas, and gets up early each weekday to drive to Palo Alto for his job in the Stanford Research Park. It is a one hour commute, each way. He does his local business in Salinas, so he does not run errands in Palo Alto. His wife, "Sally" runs her local trips in Salinas. They have three kids, and live in a three-bedroom home, with a reasonably good size yard, in a new tract in Salinas. John would take CalTrain to work, if it extended to Salinas, instead of just Gilroy, and if there was a reasonable connector bus to a dropoff near his job.

Question: Which of these two families produces more CO2 in Palo Alto?


Posted by a long time resident, a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Nov 27, 2007 at 1:27 pm

Stanford has the land for housing, Palo Alto dosen't except for West of 280. Developers cant make the aprox. $200,000 profit from each unit built if Stanford was involved in building the housing.

Where in College Terrace is the 1000 housing units going? Hanover should be opened to thru traffic to cut down on CO2 emmissions and traffic on ElCamino.

Much of the isolated park in Barron Park could be used for housing I guess

I guess if CO2 is created outside of Palo Alto it dosen't count toward global warming. Commuting to Palo Alto isn't an issue with or involving Palo Alto. What kind of looney logic/non-sense is this kind of thinking.


Posted by Doesn't-Everyone-Exhale-CO2?, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 27, 2007 at 2:18 pm

> What kind of looney logic/non-sense
> is this kind of thinking?

The kind that seems to have captured City Hall.


Posted by Not so fast, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 27, 2007 at 2:25 pm

I think Stanford should suggest that the foothill area be used for housing to satisfy those PA residents who expect Stanford to provide housing, while other private companies are given a free pass


Posted by John, a resident of College Terrace
on Nov 27, 2007 at 4:15 pm

long time resident,

Commuting to Palo Alto makes a lot of sense, IF efficient commuter trains are available. If, for example, CalTrain extended to Salinas, then "John" (in my scenario above) would take the train. If the train was fully electrfied (instead of diesel-electric), and the electrcity was produced by clean power generation sources (e.g. nuclear, solar, wind, hydro), then commuters would be less of a CO2 burden than locals, who would not take the train, becasue they like the flexibility of their own cars to do their local errands.

Increased density does NOT, necessarily, mean more energy efficiency. Beyond the energy issue, BMRs are NOT housing for critical worker in Palo Alto...they are just welfare housing, and they will, likely, bring additional social welfare costs with them. In other words, they are a DRAG on our local economy, not a benefit.

Getting back to the green energy issue, I read a letter in today's Daily, suggesting that a small nuclear power plant be built at City Hall. It was facetious, but it made some logical sense. The only thing that will significantly reduce CO2 is nuclear energy. If Palo Alto signed contracts to buy more of its electricity from nuclear sources, this single act would do much more to reduce CO2 than all the small stuff currently being proposed.


Posted by Chris, a resident of Midtown
on Nov 27, 2007 at 4:47 pm

Amen, John. By listening to the extremist anti-nukes, we've wasted a good 30 years in developing newer, safer nuclear power plants.


Posted by Where's W_E_W?, a resident of Ventura
on Nov 27, 2007 at 5:55 pm

OMG- Walter are you out there? Where is your pithy comment on this report?


Posted by Greg, a resident of Southgate
on Nov 27, 2007 at 7:27 pm

It's nice to know that there are a few other rational people in Palo Alto, regarding nuclear power generation. Today, on NPR, there was a brief discussion of nuclear power (first of three segments). It is clear that nukes are back. They should never have been delayed in the first place. Nuclear power is clean, and completely within our own means to produce it. Think: No more dependence on Mid East oil. If that doesn't hit you upside the head, nothing will.


Posted by Walter_E_Wallis, a resident of Midtown
on Nov 27, 2007 at 7:52 pm

"carbon dioxide, a top greenhouse gas"
When you start with a flawed premise like that, the topic is beyond criticism. Kinda like nucular power generation - all the questions were answered years ago but opposition has become a holy writ in the Church of the Intellectualoid. Damn Sagan and his lying "science" for the people's good.


Posted by Greenie, a resident of Midtown
on Nov 27, 2007 at 9:16 pm

Cross-town traffic is a major source of pollution, and should be a big target in this effort. Cars emit their highest levels of pollutants during the first few minutes of running, before they reach their operating temperature. Many short trips with lots of cold starts produce far more emissions than longer trips with a hot engine. The short trips are also good targets for replacement with biking, walking or shuttles. These are mostly within Palo Alto and are within our capability to eliminate. Whether you believe on global warming from CO2 or not, there is no question that eliminating these short car trips can lead to cleaner air and a healthier population.


Posted by Mike, a resident of College Terrace
on Nov 27, 2007 at 9:39 pm

"Many short trips with lots of cold starts produce far more emissions than longer trips with a hot engine. The short trips are also good targets for replacement with biking, walking or shuttles. These are mostly within Palo Alto and are within our capability to eliminate."

Right. Now add to this more infill housing and less commuters, and we have a double win!


Posted by read first, then opine, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Nov 28, 2007 at 12:42 am

You'd never know it from the comments on this forum, but there's actually a serious document under consideration by the City Council, with a set of proposals on how our fair city and those of us who live and work here can start to reduce our carbon footprint. Why not at least read the article before commenting??

Kudos to the PA Weekly for posting the full draft of the proposed Climate Protection Plan with a link on the front page of this website -- thanks Jay and Becky, it's a real public service !**

Here's the link in case you missed it:
Web Link
How about some discussion on the feasibility of 5% reduction by 2012? or 20% by 2020? It's a draft, it's for discussion -- but unless we get serious and actually turn this around, we are just fiddling while Rome burns. At least some staff at City Hall are working to define actionable items that could make a difference. If our esteemed leaders can get informed and take action.

===============================
** Just for twisted amusement, try searching for the Climate Protection Plan document on the city website. I'm sure it's there somewhere!! How fascinating to search through the "news details" and find no actual news, just disembodied old sound bites by some clueless p.r. person with NO links to documents or who to talk to if you want more information. And why call documents "Filebank Items"? And why did the new calendar feature tell us that there was going to be a study session on Monday -- but not what the study session was about? ...Off topic, I know, but when is this nightmare of a website going to be replaced by something useful? It can't be fixed.


Posted by Walter_E_Wallis, a resident of Midtown
on Nov 28, 2007 at 7:20 am

Remember when the basics of life were available within walking distance? Corner groceries, corner gas stations, corner saloons? Then the all wise planners decided that mixed use was untidy and instituted Big Brother Knows Best zoning.
So now the same confidence in central planning as opposed to individual discretion should take over the rest of the economy?


Posted by Mary Carlstead, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 28, 2007 at 7:32 am

And a 'neighborhood shopping center" Edgewood Plaza just sits there day after month after year falling apart and taking up space - and no word from Sand Hill Properties and Tze what they are going to do with it. It is time for the City of Palo Alto to tell Tze et al to put up or shut up. Build it or sell it to someone who can and will for something productive: retail, housing, or a mix of both. Just do it.


Posted by Not so fast, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 28, 2007 at 8:22 am

Mary--if it only where that simple. Remember this is Palo Alto. Look at Alma Plaza--that has been dragging along for 10+ years.
Edgewood has even more issues--it was an Eichler building (all bow to Eichler in Palo Alto--the world's greatest builder). Some people want the buildings maintained as is, somew ant it totally torn down.
Once the issue comes before council, everyone in PA will want to put their two cents in and the city council, afraid too upset anyone will not take a stand on it.

Check out these sites if you think that the Edgewood re-development will be easy:

Web Link
Web Link


and do not forget that the "traffic" issues will need to be addressed also.


Posted by Mike, a resident of College Terrace
on Nov 28, 2007 at 9:00 am

Walter does have a point, about zoning.

Here is some interesting food, for thought.
Web Link



Posted by Walter_E_Wallis, a resident of Midtown
on Nov 28, 2007 at 12:07 pm

Everyone is an expert on how to spend other people's money.


Posted by talk is cheap, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 28, 2007 at 12:17 pm

The city of palo alto has a huge fleet of vehicles, perhaps more than 800. The council should be proactive here and take away all of the vehicles from employees for in-town work, requiring them to use public transportation (bus, shuttle) or city-provided bicycles.

There is no reason for the city government not to lead by example.


Posted by Walter Mitty, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Nov 28, 2007 at 12:35 pm

Talk is cheap,

The next time you want a civil code officer to meet you at Midtown to check out a sign violation, how about having him take the bus? NOT!

I wish more citizens would lead by example, with common sense.


Walter, Except for Libertarians? :)


Posted by Greg, a resident of Southgate
on Nov 28, 2007 at 12:41 pm

read first,

Well, I read the report, but I cannot find any recommendations to do the MOST effect thing: 1) Sign contracts for electrical power from nuclear power suppliers. Did I miss it? 2) Throw our full polictical support behind building muclear plants in California, so that we will be able to access as much nuclear electricity as possible, as soon as possible.

This report is locked into an ideological straightjacket. It simply refuses to acknowledge that the greenest of all cuurently available power sources is nuclear. It proposes a variety of measure that are expensive, and which accomplish very little. A serious report would have given a nod to conservation and solar/wind, etc., but would have concluded that only nuclear can save the day.

This report is a 90% failure. The Council should reject it as a course of serious action.


Posted by Mike, a resident of College Terrace
on Nov 28, 2007 at 12:58 pm

Greg, That's a "glowing" argument; unfortunately, we're into its fourth half-life iteration, and fading.


Posted by John, a resident of College Terrace
on Nov 28, 2007 at 1:24 pm

Mike,

You may be getting nervous, as a true luddite, but nukes are here, and they will not be denied. Nor should they.

Imagine base-load electricty that is abundant and relatively cheap? If you can, then: Imagine an entire fleet of cars, buses and trains that are 100% electric? Imagine the USA being 100% free of depedence on foreign oil? Imagine desalination plants to produce fresh water?

Mike, all your densification and luddite stuff is a fantasy. Won't happen, except as a true believer mandate...then only at a severe social cost to Palo Alto (overcrowded schools, much more local traffic and increased social welfare costs).

Greg and the others who are promoting nuclear are right. Palo Alto can make a strategic decision to decrease CO2, by a large amount, by signing contracts to buy electricity from nuclear providers.


Posted by talk is cheap, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 28, 2007 at 1:45 pm

> The next time you want a civil code officer to meet you
> at Midtown to check out a sign violation, how about
> having him take the bus?

Huh? There is a VTA bus that runs every half hour down Middlefield, as well as a shuttle that also tends to run every half hour right past Midtown. So .. what makes this "code officer" any better than anyone else?

Oh, and why is a code officer even going to the field for a sign violation anyway? Take a digital photo of the "offending" sign, email it to the officer. Either the sign is too large, or it isn't. If it is too big, then the officer can do what he has to do ..

1950 was a long time ago .. time for the city employees to get with the program.


Posted by talk is cheap, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 28, 2007 at 1:46 pm

> Palo Alto can make a strategic decision to decrease CO2,
> by a large amount, by signing contracts to buy
> electricity from nuclear providers.

Ditto ..


Posted by Greenie, a resident of Midtown
on Nov 28, 2007 at 2:31 pm

Utilties is NOT the most effective way to reduce CO2 emissions, and just because your favorite recommendation was not in the report does not make it worthless. Having read the report, it concludes that transportation is responsible for more emissions than electric generation, almost double (41/22). Further, in the transportation arena the City itself produces much less in the way of greenhouse gases than do the citizens. There are recommendations to encourage City employees to get to work without driving and to reduce emissions from City vehicles. By far the biggest problem, though, is in-town non-commute trips by residents. This is 65% of emissions, and vastly outweighs the emissions from those commuting to, from or within Palo Alto. There are some concrete recommendations, but it is not within the City's regulatory power to implement them. It will need to encourage people to take action on their ownn, a strategy that hasn't worked well here in the past.


Posted by Greg, a resident of Southgate
on Nov 28, 2007 at 2:45 pm

Greenie,

Transportation can only head towards all elctric if there is a realiable base-load. The goal should be to convert all motorized moving vehicles to electical. This means that about 63% of PA CO2 emmissions could be eliminated, IF we had nuclear power availalbe to us (as well as better batteries). Wind and solar and conservation and mechanical efficiencies will never touch the level of savings that nuclear provides. Nuclear is here and now, no dreams necessary. Let's do it!


Posted by Mike, a resident of College Terrace
on Nov 28, 2007 at 8:13 pm

Greg, Does a belief in radiation have an adverse effect on forward judgment? I'm thinking it may.

Incidentally, you pointed out an NPR report (three parts, the second part played today) to support your nuke preferences. I notice you didn't mention today's report. Here's why.

Part II of this series came on as I was driving. This installment talked about the huge resistance that Turkish officials are getting from their citizenry, and others. Turkey is in a major earthquake zone. What a downer. one commentator asked why anyone was considering such a dirty and dangerous technology.

Tomorrow's report is about how the Germans are moving toward closure of their nuke plants


Posted by Greenie, a resident of Midtown
on Nov 28, 2007 at 9:05 pm

Greg, that isn't exactly what I had in mind. My red bike and my white shoes are greener than any electric car will ever be, even nuke-powered. They are also available today, with no research, capital investment or long-term waste management issues. I grew up in a uranium mining area and I know that it takes a lot of energy to mine, mill, extract and conentrate that fuel, and uranium miners suffer more lung cancer than other miners because of the radon daughters. Nuclear power isn't free or problem-free, it just has different problems that are not so familiar to most of us.


Posted by Greg, a resident of Southgate
on Nov 28, 2007 at 9:28 pm

Mike,

I tuned in, but just missed it (second NPR segment on nuclear power).

"In reality, a reactor meltdown would have to occur every two weeks to make nuclear power as deadly as the routine emissions from coal-fired power, from which we get about half of our electric power in the United States. (Note: some newer nuclear power plant designs cannot possibly meltdown.) And if the United States went completely nuclear for all its electric power for 10,000 years, the amount of land needed for waste disposal would be about what is needed for the coal ash that is currently generated every two weeks."

Web Link

I offer the above just to put things in perspective.

Turkey, being a rational nation, would certainly want to develop nuclear energy. Why not? There are engineering designs that allow nukes to be built, safely, in earthquake prone environments. Much of the resistance against Turkey comes from xenophobic Europeans who are fearful of being surrounded by Muslims (including the "Islamic Bomb" syndrome). NPR is probably influenced by the BBC on this issue.

The German greens have expressed a desire to go green, independent of the greenest of energy sources (nuclear), but they have not, and will not, achieve such a fantasy. If Russia turns off the natural gas spigot, Germany will freeze in its own angst. BTW, the German mentality is starting to turn around on this issue. France, with so much nuclear supply, is in pretty good shape, compared to Germany. In general, the EU, with all its hyper concerns about global warming, will have no choice but to embrace nuclear energy big time. In fact, Margaret Thatcher created global warming in order to promote nuclear energy. A twist of irony....


Posted by Walter_E_Wallis, a resident of Midtown
on Nov 29, 2007 at 4:57 am

Lots of nukes in quaky countries, lots of quake experience, all successful designs. Green is not the first foolish fad the Germans fell for.


Posted by Nukes are nuts, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 29, 2007 at 8:57 am

Nuclear is being sold as green; it isn't. One mistake with a nuke plant, and an entire region is off limits for centuries. Too much risk.

Wait until the first Chinese accident. And btw, what about the spread of fissionable material - all over the globe, in this time of terrorism.

Anti-nuclear is a national security issue. We don't want more terrorist targets


Posted by Richard, a resident of Midtown
on Nov 29, 2007 at 9:19 am

As a physicist who knows a bit about nuclear power and reactor design, I would say that both sides are mis-representing the issues. "One mistake with a nuke plant, and an entire region is off limits for centuries" is a gross overstatement assuming the absolute worst scenario. Nobody died from the 3-mile Island accident and the area is not off limits. It is also possible to make reactors using a fuel cycle that does not produce bomb-grade material, making the ploriferation argument superfluous. So far nobody has designed a reactor to use that fuel cycle, though.

On the other side, it is certainly possible to design and operate a triply-redundant earthquake-safe nuclear power plant, but achieving this extreme level of safety will drive the costs way up. No money-making utility will come anywhere close to that level of safety unless absolutely forced to do so by government requirements, reviews and inspections ($$). The Japanese were very upset recently to find out how much damage one of their "earthquake-proof" reactors suffered. Nobody died, no massive contamination, but a lot of damage and embarrassment.

As I said, both sides are mis-representing the issues, and it doesn't serve either side well. The pro-nukers should face up to the problems and challenges and address them honestly instead of trying to sweep them under the rug. That would generate a lot more support from those like me who are skeptical but willing to listen. The anti-nukers should do their homework so they can make rational and reasonable arguments instead of relying on exaggerations and emotion.


Posted by Walter_E_Wallis, a resident of Midtown
on Nov 29, 2007 at 9:38 am

Come on, Richard, sweeping under the rug? Engineering is all about designing to withstand known and predictable unknown perils. The Japanese "disaster" was some minor spillage contained in the plant. All power plants are designed under stringent government and insurance regulations. In 1906, there were dozens of boiler explosions a week - since I entered the profession a half century ago there have been two or three, and these required gross mismanagement.


Posted by Greg, a resident of Southgate
on Nov 29, 2007 at 9:41 am

"Anti-nuclear is a national security issue"

Nuts, you got that one right! Without nukes, our national security is severely compromised. We need to get away from foreign oil dependence. It won't happen without nuclear power.

The various scare tactics by anti-nuke loonies should be ignored. USA nuclear plants have an excellent safety record, and much has been learned. New plants will be even safer. Coal, on the other hand, is dirty, dangerous and radioactive.


Posted by Mike, a resident of College Terrace
on Nov 29, 2007 at 10:18 am

"The Japanese were very upset recently to find out how much damage one of their "earthquake-proof" reactors suffered"

Yup, and it could have been MUCH worse, if the Richter forces had been more severe. Thus, the main question keeps popping up. "Are we willing to support an old, dirty, and dangerous technology that has the frightening possibility of despoiling massive regions of land, and from which we have no real solution for waste disposal?"

On the policy side, we are going to continue to hammer the nuke sector, because it is mostly promoted by those who have no interest in the effort to reduce waste by other means, or create power by other means. Most of the pro-nuke types would rather see the earth despoiled from rampant development - as long as there's cheap easy power available to do it. In other words - let's use nuke power to continue the unsustainable material development and raping of our earth, instead of looking for more innovative ways to move forward.

As for national security - BOTH fossil fuels and nukes present big problems. the way forward is new materials design, improved conservation, and STRICT disincentives to waste. (or GREAT incentives to prevent waste). Nuclear proponents are basically lazy about innovation.

We have been listening to the despoilers for too long. And we've trusted engineers for too long. Engineering is only *part* of the product solution, even though many (not most) engineers think that their linear problem solving methods are best suited for a non-linear environment. A word to the wise: "surprises happen". Then what are the engineers going to say? "I'm sorry?" Forget it. There is no way that we will let nukes happen here.

Anyone want to make a long bet? How about 10 years forward?
Web Link



Posted by Greg, a resident of Southgate
on Nov 29, 2007 at 10:24 am

Richard,

Fair enough. However, your notion of triple redundancy and excessive costs is probably wrong. The safe new designs will incorporate passive fail safe elements. For instance, pebble beds ( Web Link ). This particualr design also dramatically reduces the proliferation concern. South Africa and China are moving forward with this design, BTW.


Posted by John, a resident of College Terrace
on Nov 29, 2007 at 11:07 am

"On the policy side, we are going to continue to hammer the nuke sector, because it is mostly promoted by those who have no interest in the effort to reduce waste by other means, or create power by other means. Most of the pro-nuke types would rather see the earth despoiled from rampant development - as long as there's cheap easy power available to do it. In other words - let's use nuke power to continue the unsustainable material development and raping of our earth, instead of looking for more innovative ways to move forward."

Mike, you continue to impress me with your true-believing ludditism. If I sat down and tried to come up with a short paragraph to reveal a luddite view, I don't think I could improve on what you just offered.

Perhaps, Mike, most of the citizens of N. California do NOT want to be constrained by arguments to 'less'(and increased density, and forced bicycle riding, etc.). I would be willing to make a long bet that N. Calif. people, by a large majority, want to be able to be free to pursue happiness. Mike, if you and your designs guys (or Google) can come up with a solar panel technology that produces abundant electricity for a total cost that equals that of coal, I will buy it, and so will many othe people. But you are not even close to that mark. Nevertheless, even if you succeed, nuclear will still be required for base load (no getting around that one).


Posted by Mr. Radiation, a resident of Esther Clark Park
on Nov 29, 2007 at 11:41 am

"nuclear will still be required for base load (no getting around that one)."

Reminds me of Watson (IBM) predictions about how the world will only need a few hundred commuters. Wrong!

btw, the real Luddites are the nuclear fanatics that are so hooked old technology.


Posted by Greg, a resident of Southgate
on Nov 29, 2007 at 1:20 pm

Mr. Radiation,

Base load electrical will come from either fossil fuels (coal or natural gas) or nuclear. Why? Becasue the sun does not shine at night, and the wind is unreliable, especially at night.

As has been mentioned on these threads, before, the base load will increase dramatically, as plug-in cars start to dominate the transportation scene (most will charge at night). Only nuclear can provide carbon-clean electricity to meet that demand.


Posted by Old Nuclear Fantasies Revisited, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 29, 2007 at 1:23 pm

Mr. Radiation:

Don't forget also about those old stories published pre-TMI in Popular Mechanics and elsewhere that claimed nuke power would be "too cheap to meter."


Posted by LOL Over That Slip, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 29, 2007 at 1:32 pm

Greg,

In promoting nuclear power, you say:
"Coal, on the other hand, is dirty, dangerous and RADIOACTIVE."

Guess you hit the "submit" button before thinking that one through!

I could just picture Jon Stewart having a field day with that one!


Posted by Greg, a resident of Southgate
on Nov 29, 2007 at 2:10 pm

LOL,

Not at all. Coal contains a number of radioactive elements, and they do get spewed into the bioshphere.

"What would happen if a nuclear site was reported to be freely exhausting ~27 metric tons (~60 Curies) of radiological material into the biosphere annually? Meanwhile, a strong case can be made that every 1000 MWe coal-fired steam plant does it year after year, and no one cares."

Web Link

Perhaps Jon Stewart needs a little education, ya think?



Posted by Richard, a resident of Midtown
on Nov 29, 2007 at 2:52 pm

Walter says "Engineering is all about designing to withstand known and predictable unknown perils." That is correct and is exactly the problem. We can only design to withstand what we can know and predict.

From a Nature article on the Japanese plant: "Based mainly on historical precedent, TEPCO designed the reactors at Kashiwazaki-Kariwa assuming that the area would have a maximum ground acceleration of 274 gal. Yesterday, the number 1 reactor at Kashiwazaki-Kariwa experienced an acceleration of 680 gal as the ground slid from east to west; the number 5 reactor accelerated at 442 gal east/west, and the number 6 reactor was hit with 488 gals up/down, as measured on site."

The engineers got their predictions wrong. They were lucky the damage was not worse than it was.


Posted by Walter_E_Wallis, a resident of Midtown
on Nov 29, 2007 at 4:25 pm

"They were lucky the damage was not worse than it was." You just can't admit that safety factors were adequate, can you? No one was injured. We build good bridges, too, but if you don't change the oil a hundred grand roadster is a block of useless iron oxide.
"STRICT disincentives to waste" There's the nubin. The USSR had strict, centrally planned disencintives nee coercion, and they still collapsed. Capitalism is the only disincentive to waste that really works. And electricity too cheap to meter? No problemo. After all, most of our highways are too cheap to meter.


Posted by LOL, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 29, 2007 at 10:18 pm

Greg,

Nice weblink there - from the "Global Deactivation of Radiation Corp" - certainly always MY first choice for reliable info.

Jon Stewart is laughing even harder now!


Posted by Greg, a resident of Southgate
on Nov 30, 2007 at 8:37 am

"According to the National Council on Radiation Protection and Measurements (NCRP), the average radioactivity per short ton of coal is 17,100 millicuries/4,000,000 tons, or 0.00427 millicuries/ton. This figure can be used to calculate the average expected radioactivity release from coal combustion. For 1982 the total release of radioactivity from 154 typical coal plants in the United States was, therefore, 2,630,230 millicuries."

Web Link

LOL,

At least do a minimum of homework before you make absurd statements that coal is not radioactive. Even Jon Stewart could have found this one.


Posted by LOL, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 30, 2007 at 10:27 am

Greg,

Many things are "radioactive" if you have sensitive enough measuring devices - just like chemicals, the danger is in the dose.

Throwing around those release figures means absolutely nothing - what are people actually exposed to and what additional load does supposed "coal exposure" represent. (Where's Walter E. when you need him?)

By the way, your source this time - the National Council on Radiation Protection and Measurements - is doing a study on radiation exposure for the US population:
Web Link

Funny, but they don't even list "coal exposure" as part of their investigation - could it be because its so low to not even bother with? :)

Nice try, but sorry, that dog don't hunt!


Posted by Greg, a resident of Southgate
on Nov 30, 2007 at 11:06 am

"The fact that coal-fired power plants throughout the world are the major sources of radioactive materials released to the environment has several implications. It suggests that coal combustion is more hazardous to health than nuclear power and that it adds to the background radiation burden even more than does nuclear power. It also suggests that if radiation emissions from coal plants were regulated, their capital and operating costs would increase, making coal-fired power less economically competitive. "

Web Link

LOL,

If you are not worried about coal radiation, then why are you worried about nuclear power radiation? Coal contains aout 1 ppm (part per million) or uranium and about 2 ppm thorium. In other words, for every 1 million pounds of coal that is burned, 1 pound of uranium (0.1 lb of U-235) and 2 pounds of thorium are put into the bioshpere. Coal ash has been proposed as a possible ore for uranium mining.




Posted by Greenie, a resident of Midtown
on Nov 30, 2007 at 1:49 pm

Greg and LOL are both correct. Burning coal releases radioactiove elements which can be ingested or inhaled by those living near the plant. Someone living within 1 km of a large coal-fired plant might receive 1-5% of background from this effect. It is not huge, but it is real and when integrated over all the people exposed will certainly cause an increase in some cancers.

Burning coal also releases mercury and acids that caused acid rain before they were required to be trapped. Coal is probably the nastiest fuel source that exists, being very dangerous to those who mine it as well as in its combustion byproducts. Its one big advantage is that there is a lot of it.


Posted by Greg, a resident of Southgate
on Nov 30, 2007 at 2:14 pm

Greenie,

Your statement on coal ("nastiest fuel source that exists") is probably correct, in terms of a major fuel source. We have just gotten used to it. It fueled our industrial revolution. It continues to fuel about 60% of our current electrical needs. My view is that it should be phased out, replaced with nuclear and solar/wind/conservation efficiencies. However, I don't want to do anything that increases our dependence on foreign fuels, thus I do not favor an immediate ban on coal (as much as it deserves it, from an environmental analysis). Specifically, I do not want to become dependent on imported natural gas as a coal replacement. We should be building nuclear plants as fast as possible to produce clean/green energy, and then phasing out coal, without increasing our foreign imports.

The original point of this thread was to reduce greenhouse gases by 5%. We could blow that number out of the water by going nuclear! I posted, because this obvious solution was ignored by the report.


Posted by Coal-Powers-America, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 30, 2007 at 4:02 pm

The following is a fairly comprehensive overview of the issues associated with radioactivity from burning coal:

Web Link

Radioactive elements in coal and fly ash
should not be sources of alarm


Posted by Greg, a resident of Southgate
on Nov 30, 2007 at 4:29 pm

"Radioactive elements in coal and fly ash
should not be sources of alarm"

Coal,

I agree. Since nuclear power plants produce much less radioacitivity in the biosphere, compared to coal, this issue should not be held against nuclear power. Can we put this one to sleep?


Posted by Mike, a resident of College Terrace
on Nov 30, 2007 at 6:04 pm

"The original point of this thread was to reduce greenhouse gases by 5%. We could blow that number out of the water by going nuclear! I posted, because this obvious solution was ignored by the report."

It's only an obvious solution to those who ignore public opinion, and the long-term.


Posted by Richard, a resident of Midtown
on Dec 1, 2007 at 10:17 am

Nuclear power plants can be made to operate safely, provided that we enforce stringent requirements on them. I am confident that engineers can design to whatever standards we impose upon them. My concern is with the regulatory agencies that set those standards, since they tend to be filled with political appointees and thinly-disguised industry lobbyists. The recent earthquake in Japan produced accelerations on the power plant that were 2-3 times the design value. The plant stood up, but it was clearly designed to specifications that were inadequate. No engineer feels good about that, but there is immense pressure to keep the specifications less stringent in the interests of lowering costs. The result is that nuclear power plant safety really comes down to a political issue, not an engineering one, and that is what makes me uncomfortable.
The issue of waste is similar, but even more intractable. We have absolutely no experience making structures that last for tens of thousands of years. We don't know that the environmental, seismic and hydrological conditions of the storage locations will remain constant over that time. We need to be seriously investigating methods of transmuting the waste elements into those with shorter half-lives, even if it involves power-hungry accelerators that reduce the overall efficiency of the nuclear power system. I have no faith that we can safely store radiocative waste for the time period presently required, and the only thing that would make me feel better would be to reduce the required storage time by several orders of magnitude. That means hotter waste since, for a given number of atoms, the activity goes up as the half life goes down. Still, I think we can handle hot waste for a short time better than cooler waste for a vastly longer time (assuming we impose strict enough safety standards).


Posted by Mike, a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Dec 1, 2007 at 12:17 pm

"The result is that nuclear power plant safety really comes down to a political issue, not an engineering one, and that is what makes me uncomfortable."

Exactly, and this variable will NOT change, because there is too much influence that impacts the political sphere from interests who could care less about the long term

We need more appropriate technology solutions, and behavior modification incentives.


Posted by Greg, a resident of Southgate
on Dec 1, 2007 at 1:10 pm

Richard,

Passive, self-dampening nuclear core designs exist that should overcome your fears. Some, like the pebble bed model have been proposed without containment buildings. These designs just shut down at a temperature that is manageable, even if the building breaks in an earthquake. Aside from core design, engineering principles continue to advance, including base isolation methods that protect against extremely large seismic events.

Nuclear "wastes" (primarily U-238/U-235) are, as I am sure you know, feedstock for breeder reactors that deplete the major portion of the uranium contained within them. But you are right, there will still be some radioactive residue. You claim that there needs to be some sort of infintely safe dopository that cannot be achieved. I claim that it already exists: Subduction zones. Vitrify the stuff, encase it in stainless steel, then drill it 500 ft. into the Pacific subduction zone. It will not appear, again, until it is spewed out in a volcano, millions of years from now. Yucca Mountain, or similar sites, should be looked at as depositories of incredibly valuable fuel stock for the future (a nuclear Fort Knox). Nevada would be wise to demand the stuff, instead of rejecting it, if it is allowed all potential profits from selling it to the future breeder reactors. In fact, if breeders are allowed to move forward, Palo Alto should demand to store the stuff...we could become an immensely wealthy city, will no taxes, at all.

The practical alternative to nuclear is economic disaster. Don't let guys like Mike fool you, there is no other low-carbon emitting alternative than nuclear. The only realistic alternative to nuclear, for base load electrical, is coal. Take your pick.


Posted by Mike, a resident of College Terrace
on Dec 1, 2007 at 1:39 pm

Greg's argument is so glib as to appear flawless. Remember the "paperless office" predictions by those with a never-ending faith in technology?

We've been hearing paeans like Greg's for coal, gas-powered autos etc. etc for decades, and where has it led. Ultimately, to environmental chaos, and projected near-death for substantial parts of the planet.

No matter that, Greg will keep spewing his fringe website references, with the minikin researchers who populate those websites looking for ways to sell their sensationalist books.

If what we're discussing wasn't so downright dangerous, it would be kind of funny to consider Greg's desperate arguments for what is probably the MOST dangerous power supply technology on earth, especially when the 'political' variable (explained above) is thrown in.

Of course, like all technocrats, Greg has a strong avoidance of the 'political' and 'greed' variables. He says "trust is", even as he glows into the fading dusk of nuclear energy's day.


Posted by Coal-Powers-America, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 1, 2007 at 2:10 pm

> The issue of waste is similar, but even more intractable.

Lawrence Livermore has some ideas about the "transmutation of waste":

Accelerator Transmutation Of Waste:
Web Link
Web Link

Other ideas about waste management include some very low tech ideas too. Given that all radiation is natural, some have promoted the idea of adding nuclear waste to steel, so that the radioactive waste would be distributed in very low concentrations all over the world. Some have suggested that it be put into a slurry form and distributed into the oceans. One of these days, it will be possible to launch it into orbit, collect it, and put it on a slow "barge" like vehicle which is pointed at the sun. Once there, it won't be coming back any time soon.

And then there is "fusion"--which won't be generating waste as fission does.


Posted by John, a resident of College Terrace
on Dec 1, 2007 at 8:55 pm

Coal,

You can rest assured that the luddites, like Mike, won't like fusion either. All that clean energy would destroy their plans to diminish and control human material happiness.

I like the subduction idea. It has been around for some time, but there is no serious effort to explore it, as far as I know.

Your notion of diluting/dispersing the radioactive material back into environment from whence it came also makes sense. The uranium from coal fly ash is distributed into cinder blocks, which are used to build our buildings.

I think, in general, that Greg has some good ideas. He's a little bit out there with a couple things (like submersible nukes), but he is thought provoking, unlike Mike.

Please keep posting, Coal. I like your stuff.


Posted by Mike, a resident of College Terrace
on Dec 1, 2007 at 9:04 pm

"One of these days, it will be possible to launch it (nuclear waste) into orbit, collect it, and put it on a slow "barge" like vehicle which is pointed at the sun."

That's the day that many people will begin to consider nuclear energy a valid technology; until then, it's a pipe dream for large scale development in America, and certainly in California.


Posted by Greg, a resident of Southgate
on Dec 3, 2007 at 7:56 pm

So now we have a request for $100K of City funds, as well as significant amounts of staff time to try implement a convoluted plan to reduce CO2 emmissions by 5%. Bern Beechem says that we need to do the possible job to recude the most CO2 for the least cost.

The ONLY way, folks, to achieve that goal, is nuclear power. The gains are huge, and it won't cost an additional cent of expenditure from our general fund. 5% is a pathetic goal. We should be asking for 10% immediately. We can do this by signing on to nuclear energy contracts.

This report to council is pathetic.


Posted by Chernobyl, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 3, 2007 at 8:54 pm

Nyet to nukes!


Posted by Susan, a resident of Palo Verde
on Dec 5, 2007 at 2:37 pm

I think Greg is right. Why don't we just sign contracts to buy our electricity from nuclear producers of electricity? It would help much more with carbon dixoide spewing, compared to what is being proposed by our City Council. Then we could move to electric cars, which save much more.


Posted by Alyssa, a resident of Midtown
on Dec 5, 2007 at 2:43 pm

Right now, the city allows environmentally conscious utility consumers to elect to receive their power from green sources (and put a spiffy sign in their yards bragging about it.)

Why doesn't the city allow those of us who think the best contribution to global climate change could be achieved by nuclear power to choose to receive our power from nuclear plants? And why can't we have a spiffy sign?

Seems only fair.


Posted by Susan, a resident of Palo Verde
on Dec 5, 2007 at 2:56 pm

Yes Alyssa! I am willing to pay more, if necassary, for nuclear electrcity. I think many other Palo Alto citizens may be willing to do the same. It could be a good example of choice in a democratic way. My family has been signed up with PA Green power for some time. However, it is limited in its choices of green power. It should add nuclear power to its mix. I think it would find a much greater interest, if it did so.


Posted by Earl Killian, a resident of Los Altos Hills
on Dec 6, 2007 at 12:42 pm

There seem to be a lot of pro-nuclear folks in this thread making claims that are not correct because those folks don't know about alternate technologies and other issues.

First, nuclear energy is not renewable and it is not unlimited. According to MIT, there is enough economically recoverable U235 in the world to power 1000 1GW reactors for 40 years. Thus U235 cannot power the world. It could make a temporary dent in greenhouse gas emissions, but it has to be followed by something renewable anyway. Th232 and U238 can provide much larger quantities of power than U235, but this requires breeder reactors. This becomes a political issue (e.g. proliferation), not a technical one. So far the world has said not to breeder reactors. Global warming might change this, but that will take a long time.

Second, nuclear power is not as cheap as many posters have suggested. In fact, it now looks like a renewable baseload electricity power plant is cheaper: solar thermal with thermal energy storage.

Third, there is an incorrect assumption that only coal and nuclear are baseload electricity. Besides leaving out natural gas (about 3x better than coal on greenhouse gas emissions), there is solar thermal with thermal energy storage. Storing the sun's heat from the day and running the steam turbines all night off of the stored heat can allow the steam turbines to be used 24h a day instead of 10-12h. This can lower costs in the long term. Interestingly, a Palo Alto company is one of the pioneers in this area, so I am surprised you are not aware of it. The company is Ausra. Ausra and the DOE estimate that solar thermal in large deployments can generate at $0.07/kWh, which is cheaper than nuclear and cheaper than coal with carbon capture and sequestration.

Fourth, nuclear may have very low greenhouse gas emissions, but that does not make it "green". Zero or low GHG emissions is of course a necessary, but not sufficient, component of being green.

Fifth, nuclear power takes a long time to build, and probably cannot help California meet its AB32 2020 targets. Solar thermal apparently can (California's three largest utilities have signed contracts with solar thermal companies such as Ausra, BrightSource, Solel, and Stirling Energy). Nuclear could help California meet its 2050 targets, but right now the 2020 targets are looming.

Sixth, nuclear and coal have large cool water requirements that may not be possible to meet if (1) it is as widely deployed as some would suggest (e.g. to the U235 limit of 1000 new reactors), and (2) if we experience the droughts predicted by scientists from global warming.

I am not inherently anti-nuclear, but given the above, it doesn't seem to be the first choice.


Posted by Greg, a resident of Southgate
on Dec 6, 2007 at 2:32 pm

Earl,

Thank you for your rational discussion of nuclear and altrnatives.

First, let me respnd to your assertions and questions, then I will ask some of you.

Uranium supply: U-235 supply, which is what you are referring to (not U-238) is NOT in short supply. Since the price of nuclear fuel is a small fraction of the cost of electrical production for nuclear plants, the availability of U-235 is MUCH larger that your MIT study suggests (see: Web Link ). In general, uranium is about as abundant as zinc. In other words, it is VERY abundant. In practical human terms, it is infinite. The only real question is extraction costs.

Breeder Reactors: Yes! Breeders are the future. They convert the super abundant U-238 into Pu-239, then use the Pu-239 for energy, even as more Pu-239 is produced...unitl the U-238 is depleted. Natural uranium is about 99% U-238 (less than 1% U-235), so that is about a 100-fold increase in uranium supply. Breeders also dramatically reuce so-called 'nuclear waster'. For a layman's discussion of this issue see: Web Link .

Thus, I respecfully disagree with your statement, "Thus U235 cannot power the world. It could make a temporary dent in greenhouse gas emissions, but it has to be followed by something renewable anyway". In fact, by the time uranium fuels are depleted (centuries from now), we will have fusion power.

Yes, initial nuclear startup capitalization is very expernsive, but much of this is due to unnecessary scare tactic litigation. Remove the scare tacts, and nuclear will bloom like flowers in the USA, as it should.

Natural gas, as baseload, like coal, is CO2 emitting. Nuclear is not. It (gas) also creates foreign dependency. It will fade away, becasue of these two essential issues.

Questions for you:

Solar thermal is an unproven technology. I am aware of the claims, and I hope it works out, but we are far from that point. Even if thermal storage is solved, where do you suggest we put all those solar collectors? 10,000 square miles of the Southwest desert is not as easy to come by as it once was. Do you think the EPA is going to sign off on that one? Talk about long lead times! Nuclear will beat solar thermal hands down, once approved to move forward, becasue it has a very small geographical footprint, compared to solar. Solar will not make significants gains vs. the 2020 goal. Maybe by 2050...maybe.

Cost: You don't really mention this. What would be the cost per kW-hr for solar? Please compare that cost to coal, gas, nuclear.

Water requirements for condensation cooling: Same for solar thermal. Turbnes are, essentially, heat engines, and their efficiently depends on the differential of input vs. output temperatures. The advantage of nuclear is that it has the potential to go to sea, unlike solar.

I look forward to your comment. At least we are having a rational discussion.

Regards.



Posted by DontSayIDidntWarnYou, a resident of St. Claire Gardens
on Dec 6, 2007 at 3:22 pm

ATTENTION, NEWBIES:
Do not feed the (nuclear) troll!


Posted by George, a resident of Fairmeadow
on Dec 6, 2007 at 4:21 pm

I like Greg's posts on nuclear power. He is taking on a tough subject in Palo Alto. I think he is making headway. I just read the links he provided above, and they seem legit to me. His arguments are not that of a troll.


Posted by Earl Killian, a resident of Los Altos Hills
on Dec 7, 2007 at 10:52 am

I don't see any of the data you cite refuting the points I made. The U235 data you cite is less than what MIT used in making their estimates (e.g. see page 44 of their report, where they point out that a 1500 GWE reactor fleet requires 15 million tonnes of uranium over 50 years and compare that to the 4.7 million tonnes estimate in your reference). MIT assumed greater reserves than your reference, which seems generous to the nuclear case. I therefore do not see on what basis you can write "Thus, I respecfully disagree with your statement,...". (Remember you were rebutting my point about U235 supply and the once-thru fuel cycle here.) You have provided no data to indicate otherwise.

As another point, Aldo V. da Rosa's textbook has a U235 energy estimate of 2000 EJ (exajoules = 10^18 joules). MIT's 1500 GWE for 50 years is 2129 EJ. Pretty close.

You say that solar thermal is unproven, but multiple solar thermal power plants exist and California's three largest utilities have all signed contracts with the solar thermal players (they are not doing the same with nuclear that I know of). According to RedHerring.com, PG&E signed a 177-megawatt solar thermal power purchasing agreement with Ausra, a 553-megawatt power purchase agreement with Israel-based Solel Thermal Systems, and has also entered an agreement with BrightSource Energy for a 500-megawatt plan to be announced soon. Southern California Edison has entered into a contract with to buy electricity from a 500-megawatt solar farm (due to open in 2009). San Diego Gas & Electric has contracted to buy 300 megawatts (MW) of solar power, also with Stirling Energy Systems, with the potential to grow to 900 MW within 10 years. I suggest this is a level of maturity that exceeds that of breeder / spent-fuel reprocessing industry. Sure, demonstration breeder reactors exist (e.g. one in France), but that implies that it is technologically feasible, not wise or economic (so far the lack of progression beyond such demonstrations suggests it is not wise or economic). If I had to bet on a technology which could get to wide-scale deployment quickly, I certainly would pick solar thermal. Breeders and spent fuel reprocessing are certainly possibilities, but they are not possibilities I think we can depend upon in the AB32 timeframe.


Posted by Greg, a resident of Southgate
on Dec 7, 2007 at 1:09 pm

Earl,

The report I offered agrees completely with the MIT report. A snapshot of currently known reserves and the theoretical projected requirements in the MIT study example pale in comparison with what will be discovered. The take home message from the MIT report was: "In sum, we conclude that resource utilization is not a pressing reason for proceeding to reprocessing and breeding for many years to come.

Let's be honest here, Earl. There is no shortage of uranium fuel, even for single pass. All of this is on page 44 of the MIT report, if you care to read it.

Thermal solar, as a base load and on a large scale is unproven. Investments by electrcity suppliers, that are under the political gun to invest in so-called 'green' technologies do not tell me much. I am skeptical, but I hope I am wrong. I am all for such alternatives, if they are cost effective. At this point, it sounds like a beta test.

You didn't respond to my question about where all these solar arrays are going to be located. Would you care to tell us how many square miles of covered up desert would be required to supply 50% of the electrcity for the USA? Where, exactly, would they be built? What is the water requirement for condensation? Until proven otherwise, there is no reason to believe that solar is a base load technology.

As you know, Jimmy Carter banned any breeder reactor development in this country in 1977. He was a foolish man, and we are left with the consequences of his folly. Nevertheless, we can use our free minds to overcome his mistakes. Breeders should be given the green light (and funded for research). Breeders will massively reduce the current nuclear 'wastes' that are produced by single pass reactors. They will also yield much more energy from the same ton of uranium ore.


Posted by Earl Killian, a resident of Los Altos Hills
on Dec 7, 2007 at 2:54 pm

Greg, I didn't say there was a shortage of U235; I said it "is not renewable and it is not unlimited". Please don't try to put words in my mouth. I cited MIT's 1000 nuclear reactors operating for 40 years (pg14) and pointed out that therefore U235 was not sufficient (MIT's pg44 scenario is slightly different, using 1500 GWE for 50 years). I do believe U235 *could* be a component of low greenhouse gas electricity, for a few decades. (E.g. the MIT report projected nuclear power could provide 29% of world electricity in 2050.) I am not sure it is wise however, given the alternatives and the short-term need to change.

A point I didn't make before is that nuclear is ill-suited to providing more than a percentage of our electricity because it is too expensive to vary its production of power to match the load, so nuclear plants are not sized to more than the minimum demand for electricity (which is less than half of peak demand); peaking power has to come from elsewhere. (Peaking power generally comes from NG in California.)

At first you said "the availability of U-235 is MUCH larger that your MIT study suggests" and now you say "The report I offered agrees completely with the MIT report." I am puzzled by what you are arguing. I wish you would make up your mind.

Greg, this my last post on this thread. It seems pointless to continue. I'll try to answer the questions you posed as I depart.

Where would solar arrays be located? Here is a good place to start:
Web Link

How many square miles? Ausra made an estimate here:
Web Link
Their answer was 21,000 km^2 "to produce today's total annual US electricity generation". For comparison, the Mojave desert is 57,000 km^2, the Sonoran desert is 311,000 km^2. I.e. the U.S. could be powered using 5.7% of the land area of these two deserts. Now no single technology should be relied on to power the U.S.--a mixture is appropriate--these numbers are meant to give a sense of the scale. (As an aside, Iraq is 438,317 km^2. I suspect the desert southwest is also a little easier for the U.S. to defend than Iraq.) I do not know the water requirement for CSP, but it seems to be less than for nuclear or coal. I suspect that is because of the greater area available for cooling.


Posted by Ken, a resident of Evergreen Park
on Dec 8, 2007 at 3:50 pm

Earl,

I, too, have been watching this muclear discussion on this blog. I find it very interesting. I hope you will stay with it.

I think both you and Greg agree that solar and nuclear are part of the mix for electricity generation, and that they should become a larger part of the mix. Frankly, I don't see why nuclear could not supply the base load (displacing coal/gas), and solar/wind the peaking demand. I am not comfortable with solar as the main base load, even if you are right about its potential. A serious cloud cover event could prove economically devastating.

One problem I see with the nuclear vs. alternative arguments is that they try to diminish each other. There is no foreseeable shortage of uranium for nuclear, even at much increased demad levels. The uranium supply is enormous, although it will require more discovery and technology to keep it so. Greg is right about this. You are correct in saying that solar has the potential to become serious base load.

My question is, why not do both, and as soon as possible?


Posted by Nukes are nuts, a resident of Green Acres
on Dec 8, 2007 at 7:39 pm

Ken, Because a serious cloud cover event is not likely. Especially one serious enough to cause even short term disruption. Backup systems and smart switching will take care of the rest.


Posted by Ken, a resident of Evergreen Park
on Dec 8, 2007 at 8:26 pm

Nukes are nuts,

Serious cloud events are a real possibility, and the proponets of solar, like me, acknowledge them. Do we really need to hammer on each other about the realities of nuclear and solar? Both, together, are a real possible answer to our current problems, including national security and greenhouse issues. Why can't we just agree on that premise, and move forward?


Posted by Nukes are nuts, a resident of Green Acres
on Dec 8, 2007 at 11:11 pm

Ken,

Nuclear power is a non-starter, politically, and in terms of severe long-term waste and other problems. There is no compromise on this issue.

When in the last two millenia have we had a serious cloud event sever enough to create the kind of havoc you're worried about?


Posted by Greg, a resident of Southgate
on Dec 9, 2007 at 7:01 am

"It is possible that a rare long-lasting cloud event could cause
a state-wide shut down of generation very occasionally."

Web Link

Ken, cloud cover events over sizeable desert areas do happen.

Your idea of using nuclear as base load and solar as peaking supply makes eminent sense. Don't let the naysayers get you down...they are not confronting reality.

For those who say that nuclear cannot match demand loads, I say why is that necessary? If nuclear is 100% of generation capability non-peak electrcity can be used to do many useful things such as desalination, plasma waste plants, etc. This is not a serious issue.


Posted by Well Said Ken and Greg!!, a resident of Midtown
on Dec 9, 2007 at 7:28 am

All I can say is HEAR HEAR!

My goal is NO dependence on foreign anything, period.

The way to do that is very quickly drill locally as a short term solution while building nuclear as a mid-term solution while continuing to work on non-oil, non-nuclear, non-coal, non-gas alternatives that actually work reliably...

As long as we continue to deny ourselves energy independence through being in control of our own drilling and refining and our own nuclear plants, in the hope that we will be able to come up with a 5th energy source "in time", we are only putting ourselves in danger.


Posted by Liz, a resident of Fairmeadow
on Dec 9, 2007 at 2:27 pm

I have never understood why we stopped our nuclear energy growth. It always seemed like a parnoid reaction to me.

Could someone on our City Council please tell me why we cannot have the option to purchase nucelar green energy, along with solar and wind from PaloAltoGreen? Palo Alto has been signing up for much more hydro power, in order to claim that it is lowering our carbon dioxide footprint. That is disingenuous, becasue that hydro power already exists, and we just outbid some other cities in order to make our "green" claims. There won't be very many new hydro dams built, if any, but we can certainly build a lot more nuclear plants.


Posted by Nukes are nuts, a resident of Green Acres
on Dec 9, 2007 at 7:45 pm

Greg, I suggest you read the last part of the paper you linked to, above. They don't like nukes :)


Administrative Hearings rejected the proposed Mesaba
IGCC plant, saying that NOx and mercury emissions are not
improved over a conventional coal plant with modern
pollution controls16, that the basic plant would cost 9-11
cents per kWh, and that capturing and transporting the
carbon would add at least 5 cents per kWh17. This is a
significantly higher cost than STE plants now being
contracted. Sequestered coal is also more polluting, and the
sequestration technology is unproven.

Nuclear fission supplies about 17% of global electricity
generation. Economically recoverable uranium fuel
resources are just 2.8 million tonnes and would last just 42
years at the current level of uranium consumption,
calculated to be 67,000 tonnes per year18. Unless nuclear
fuel costs and energy investment are dramatically increased,
there is simply not enough nuclear fuel to carry on after
mid-century with current technology and there are serious
downsides in proliferation and decommissioning. Fuel
resources can be extended with breeder technology, at the
unacceptable price of increased vulnerability to terrorism,
according to a major MIT study.

There are several new clean technology suggestions under
development for grid usage, such as deep geothermal
generation, but they are unproven and we have limited time
for their deployment. The only large scale option with a
sufficient resource, adequate lead time, rapid installation,
and a 24 hour delivery capability is STE. Although
Parabolic Trough plants are expected to drop to competitive
prices by 20207, CLFR plants will be built by 2010 with
generation below peaking gas prices in the USA and will
drop to coal generation prices soon after.

Of course, there is a necessity for continued development: in
particular, STE needs more field proof of storage systems.
This is expected to be complete by 2010 for Andasol molten
salt and Ausra water-based systems, but it would be
incorrect to think that this is a major hurdle. These storage
systems are much simpler than the technology required for
effective coal sequestration or nuclear reprocessing and
decommissioning.


5. SUMMARY

Although it is often said that "solar cannot produce base
load electricity", it should now be recognized that base load
is what coal and nuclear technologies produce, not what is
required by society. Because humankind evolved to be most
active when the sun was up, human activity and energy
usage correlates significantly with the delivery from direct
solar systems. Human activity does not correlate with base
load coal or nuclear on a daily basis. Load-following clean
technologies are what we should be seeking. **Coal and
nuclear could be designed to be load-following, but the
industry clearly thinks that the cost would be so high that
they would rather use expensive gas peaking plants.**

This paper suggests not only that STE is a energy option of
great significance, but it has sufficient seasonal correlation
to supply the great majority of the US national grid (and by
logical extension, those of China and India) on an annual
basis with only 16 hours of storage at its optimal price.
Indeed, STE is probably the only technology which can be
considered for such a dominant role over the next 40 years.
It can also accommodate and assist non-storage technologies
such as PV or wind where these offer price or seasonal load
correlation benefits.

There are many ancillary benefits to STE. There are no
waste issues of significance and the technology is very safe.
Rapid construction has been demonstrated. It is better
distributed around the grid network; many widely
distributed sites can achieve high fleet reliability. It is
potentially lower in cost than coal or nuclear, and the STE
scenario in this paper eliminates expensive peaking plants as
an added system benefit of load-following.

STE is also well distributed internationally, and would
decrease international unrest by allowing most countries to
source adequate electricity and vehicle energy from within
their region or borders. The USA is particularly well placed
to deliver 100% of supply from renewable energy, much of
it solar.

Zero emissions technology is required to replace most of
current generation by mid-century to meet stringent climate
goals. What is now required as a climate safety, economic,
and security imperative is a rethink of the function and form
of electricity grid networks, and the inclusion of high
capacity factor solar electricity technology in the design of
continental electricity systems.



Posted by Greg, a resident of Southgate
on Dec 9, 2007 at 7:58 pm

Nuts,

I referenced that paper by Mills, who owns a company that is trying to sell the idea of solar, becasue even he admits that significant cloud events can happen, and solar must be backed up with fossil fuels.

There is no paucity of uranium, period. There are no serious proliferation issues caused by USA nukes. Study the issues, Nuts, then get back to me.


Posted by Nukes are nuts, a resident of Green Acres
on Dec 9, 2007 at 8:09 pm

I'd be happy to, as soon as you find some studies to refute the one I just quoted (put up originally by you). You might as well be living on Venus, because this planet will not see nuke power as a main source of energy, ever. See you around...


Posted by No nukes!, a resident of Greater Miranda
on Dec 9, 2007 at 8:39 pm

I can wait until we figure out nuclear fusion. It will take a few decades. Much cleaner, and we'll be applying the technology just as fossil fuels are really getting expensive.


Posted by Nukes are nuts, a resident of Green Acres
on Dec 10, 2007 at 3:25 pm

another one of thousands of new innovations that will eliminate the need for odangerous fuel sources, like nukes

Web Link


Posted by Greg, a resident of Southgate
on Dec 10, 2007 at 3:53 pm

Nuts,

And where will the electrcity (or fossil fuels) come from to charge all those car batteries, before they are discharged back into the grid?

Actually, I like new ideas like this, but they cannot create energy from nothing. Nuclear has the capability of providing the base load electrcity to allow such new ideas to move forward. It does this without a major CO2 footprint.

Nuclear is clean, safe and plentiful. We should be demanding more of it.

If it was not such a serious issue, it would be somewhat funny to entertain the various chicken little arguments against nuclear. Unfortunately, humor must be set aside for a while, becasue national security issues and global climate change are in play.


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