|The Week That Was
February 28, 2004
1. New on the Web: OUR FAVORITE COMMENTATOR GORDON PRATHER GIVES ADVICE TO CALIFORNIA'S GOVERNOR: GO METHANOL - AHNOLD!
2. ENERGY NEWS FROM EUROPE: TRYING TO MEET KYOTO DEMANDS WHILE DISDAINING NUCLEAR POWER
3. WIND GENERATION WON'T DO IT
4. CONFLICTS IN EMISSION TRADING
5. SOME ADVANCES FOR NUCLEAR ENERGY
6. INSIDER REPORT FROM HANFORD, WASH-what a waste!
7. A MEMORABLE STATEMENT ON ENERGY
2. Germany wants protection for coal in EU emissions scheme-
[SEPP Comment: Read this Orwellian statement]
Coal accounts for over half of Germany's power generation, but 50 percent of this is home-produced brown coal, a big emitter of CO2, which many believe is a major contributor to global warming.
The coal industry argues that without the fuel, Germany will not be able to meet its target to phase out nuclear power by the 2020s.
"I don't want any structural changes from the emissions trade scheme. I think Germany's present energy mix (for power generation) is reasonable," Wolfgang Clement told reporters during the annual Handelsblatt energy conference. "We must safeguard coal's role as an alternative source to replace nuclear energy."
The EU scheme sets limits on CO2 pollution for thousands of companies across the continent but allows them to trade the right to produce the pollutant to help meet their targets. National governments have until the end of March to set their company limits under National Allocation Plans (NAPs) ahead of introduction of an initial trading phase in 2005-2007.
Britain said on Monday its NAP would cut its CO2 emissions in excess of its international obligations under the Kyoto treaty and would particularly target coal-fired plants.
Germany's Green Party-led environment ministry openly favours energy sources, which are lower in emissions, such as gas or renewables. But Clement said Germany's dependence on its huge brown-coal reserves would not allow it to follow the UK's lead. "We won't do more than meet Kyoto obligations. (Emissions trading) must be manageable in line with German conditions."
He said the country's brown coal will limit its dependence on imported oil and gas for power production, especially with nuclear currently supplying another third of power. New German clean-coal technology was well advanced and might help create virtually emissions-free coal plants by 2020-25 with top efficiency rates, he said.
SEPP Comment: Fat chance!
Germany's wind sector last year increased by 17 percent its contribution to national power generation, securing the country's place as the global wind energy leader, a research institute report said. But Germany still relied on its vast coal generation facilities, which contributed 51.1 percent to total output compared with 50.5 percent in 2002, to overcome losses from lower hydro output due to the overly dry summer, the DIW economic research said late on Wednesday.
Germany aims to raise the share of renewable industries -- mainly wind and hydropower -- to compensate for the planned phase-out by the early 2020s of nuclear energy, which supplies 26 percent of total electricity. But it must reconcile this goal with its commitments to lower carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions under global treaties to protect the environment, which means it cannot swap non-CO2-emitting nuclear for coal, which is the most heavily polluting generation method.
The wind industry constructed 2,500 MW worth of new turbines, bringing total capacity to a total 14,500 MW -- the highest national capacity in the world -- raising the sector's contribution to total power output to 3.1 percent from 2.7 percent in 2002. The summer drought reduced hydro production by 9.6 percent to 24.5 billion kWh. Mostly imported hard coal and gas increased their shares of total power output by eight and 6.5 percent. Hard coal was used to generate 146 billion kilowatt hours (kWh) and gas for 57.5 billion kWh within the total, which rose an overall 2.7 percent to 596 billion kWh.
Domestic brown coal -- even more polluting than hard coal but produced domestically thus saving on energy imports -- supplied a slightly steadier 159 billion kWh, up from 158 billion kWh in 2002, accounting for 26.6 percent of the power mix.
Nuclear energy was broadly stable at 165 billion kWh, although the 340 megawatt (MW) Stade reactor was the first of 19 to close last November under the long-term withdrawal programme. Some 5.5 billion kWh of power, or 0.9 percent of the total, came from oil-fired plants. Renewables biomass, waste and solar and other energy sources supplied a total 20 billion kWh, or 3.4 percent of the total.
Germany's power consumption in 2003 rose by one percent to 588 billion kWh, DIW said. Germany had an export surplus of eight billion kWh from imports of 45.8 billion kWh and exports totalling 53.8 billion kWh, having been a net importer of 700 million kWh in 2002.
DIW, one of Germany's six leading economic think tanks, counts in production and usage of power on industrial sites not connected to the public grid. This means its figures are higher than those recorded by power industry association VDEW.
NOTE: The costs of power transmission for wind energy are 20%, and 50% for offshore. The economics dictates larger turbines of up to 10 MW. But then the stresses become too large for most conventional materials.
An important name in Germany, Carl Christian von Weizsäcker, in an interview: One cannot justify the subsidies for wind and solar on any economic basis.
4. Conflicts in EmissionTrading
Big conflicts are brewing between German environment ministry and the industrial sector. The latter wants free CO2 emission certificates for 500 million tons. This corresponds approx. to 2000 emissions of 334 mtons by the energy producers and 165 mtons by energy-intensive concerns. [Total 2000 emissions were 1000 mtons, incl transportation and smaller industries.]
The operators of nuclear plants, Eon, RWE, Vattenfall and EnBW, also want free certificates to replace plants to be phased out in the next 20 years.. They also complain that the government does not allow properly for the increased demand of economic growth.
Meanwhile, the Greens in the Bundestag have decided to reduce emissions by 40% by 2020 and 80% by 2050 (Buendnis 90, Nov 2003).
Finland orders a nuclear power plant, the first in the EU since 1991. The 1600 MW EPR (European Pressurized Reactor) will be constructed by Framatome and power plant by Siemens. Cost is 3 billion Euro; construction time 57 months; projected life is 60 years. Using 15% less uranium, it will deliver power at a cost that's 20% less than the best natural gas plant. (FAZ Dec 19).
Several Finnish communities are competing for the location of the burial site for spent nuclear fuel.
Germany is still set to sell its MOX (mixed uranium-plutonium oxide) nuclear fuel plant in Hanau to China for $50 million. Its construction cost was $700 million. But it never went into operation because of opposition by Joschka Fischer, then environment minister of Hessen.
By 2020 China will have 30 reactors delivering ten times the present nuclear electricity. Hence the interest in the MOX plant. By 2020 China may importing 70% of its oil (FAZ Dec 4).
The sale is part of a pattern of sales of German industries and research laboratories to China.
France builds a new uranium enrichment plant for 3 billion Euro using novel centrifuge technique. Will be in operation by 2007.
I was a project manager on the Basalt Waste Isolation Project (BWIP) [for nuclear waste] here in the mid 80s, heading up the Engineered Barriers division. I lasted one year and it ended shortly thereafter. The BWIP was a precursor of the Yucca Mountain repository in Nevada. (BTW, no one has ever made the safety case that such wastes have to buried in geological formations).
The anti-nukes made the flimsiest of safety cases, carried full force by the media, promoted by the state and federal agencies, and state and federal legislators. Naturally the swarms of contractors, seeing billions to be spent protecting the public from zero risks, kept, and still keep, their mouths shut. Much of the nuclear waste disposal and geological disposal activities do not pass the "snicker test" when the normal rules of risk analyses and risk management are applied.
In the mid 80s we had more than a 100 outside contractors working on BWIP, many of the geology departments of major universities, Harvard, Penn. State, UC Berkeley, Univ. of Washington, New Mexico State, etc. We also had the US Geological Survey under contract out of Denver. They were terrific self-promoters of geological scare stories and carried a lot of political clout as well. I took some of them out into the field. They could conjure up some of the finest stories of geologic upheavals, uplifting, shifting, perhaps lava flows, etc. Little mention was made of the geological times required for all of this to happen, let alone mentioning that it required, say, 100,000 half-lives for Cs-137 and Sr-90!!
Others at the trough here are the five "affected" Indian tribes, who also get millions to provide Hanford oversight, hire their own lawyers, consultants, investigators, travel to all points of the nation, and regularly to Washington, DC. In several instances, my Congressman travels to and from DC in coach, while the Yakima Nation's reps are in 1st class.
We also operate under what is called the Tri-Party Agreement, which is a bureaucrat's dream. It is an agreement between the Dept of Energy, EPA, and the Washington State Dept of Ecology. At the ground level, this means that all cleanup activities must have the approvals of 3 different agencies. This, still at the ground level, means that not 3 but perhaps 4-6 signatures from each organization must sign off. Lots of time, energy, and money are required just to iron out differences in agency needs, interpretations, ground rules, etc. For radiation safety issues, all are faithful adherents to the strictures of the LNT [linear, no-threshold] hypothesis, known to be scientifically unsupportable. There are no mechanisms through which to appeal the unsupportable dose limits of radiation. They are the dictators and they are the law. It would be political suicide to challenge any of this. One courageous guy in the Wash Dept. of Health tried to do so, and his career was immediately changed and was side-pocketed.
Here in Kennewick, about 300 miles from the Hdqtrs of the Dept of Ecology, Ecology maintains a field office of about 150 people the last time I checked. Their jobs have a single purpose, to keep the people of Washington safe, making sure that the contractors follow all rules and regulations. There are lots of rules and regs, and they are more than prepared for the "gotcha" games, public embarrassment, lawsuits, career alterations, constantly on the lookout to demonstrate how politically powerful they are.
You should also know that some serious risk analyses have been done at Hanford, including full-blown EISs (Environmental Impact Statements required by NEPA). As you know, EISs must include the "No action" option, which permits the estimation of the death and injury resulting from taking "no action" at Hanford. In the more recent EIS, called Tank Waste Remediation System, Final Environmental Statement (TWRS, FEIS),1996, Table D.5.15.3 "Estimated Fatality, Population Dose (person-rem), and Maximum Incremental Dose (mrem) for the Columbia River User Over 10,000 years" the total number of fatalities in 10,000 years is 2.8 people (for the No Action alternative).
That's 0.00028 people per year!! in a state where there are more than 40,000 funerals per year. Obviously, such EIS reports and their findings carry little weight in the risk management of DOE sites. The preferred methods are simply to scare hell out of the public, take their tax money (now at $2 billion/yr), and tell them (with considerable posturing) they are being protected from non-existent harm.
SEPP Comment: An important lesson for Yucca Mountain. If EPA were
to adopt realistic radiation standards based on experience not convenience,
the nuclear waste disposal problem would be easily solved.
UK minister: "Of course, the carbon tax would be levied on nuclear electricity, otherwise nuclear would gain an unfair advantage."'