Monday, August 13, 2007
GOOD NEWS ! PICTURES OF BENNY ZABLE'S INTERNATIONAL VIGIL OUTSIDE INDIAN PEE ARE FINALLY IN.
PARK BENCH , COURTESY OF Kev AND Pam Timmons EXPERIMENTAL ANIMAL EUTHANASIA CAMP, 350 FUNK ROAD, SCHODACK LANDING NY.
Thursday, August 9, 2007
Remy Crapolier and Sherwood Fartnsmelly are so isolated from the real people of the Hudson Valley that they misread everything into which they come in contact. There is no intimidation of local people to accept Indian Point. Everybody wants to work there. Those who don't work there maintain independent service businesses, caterers, gardeners, carpenters, all the skilled trades, fabrication shops, electrical suppliers- you name it - the list of people doing business with Indian Point is long, long, indeed, and the relationships are cordial. Those who neither work or trade with Indian Point, appreciate the steady uplift the plant creates. Electricity, yes. The power is always there, without soot, noise or insult, and the Indian Point staff are family people, raising kids, leading cub scout packs, coaching baseball teams, volunteering as EMT's & firemen. This is America. These are our neighbors, and I myself have lived right here for 6 decades. My father lived right here for 9 decades. That's 15 cumulative decades.
When will these two oddballs wake up, that it is THEM who have a problem. (If indeed there is any problem at all). Several disinterested observers have noted that both of these guys avoid the standard environmental activist groups, because basically, they are hyping themselves, and joining Riverkeeper would just make them anonymous. ( I have been a dues paying member of both Riverkeeper and Scenic Hudson for 20 years).They are antinuke wannabes , to the Nth degree, and nothing more. They want Myspace seduction victims to send them $100 each (they have already asked for it).
Crapolier, born in France, living off his Mom's inheritance, in her house in Weston Connecticut (he's 57...she's still alive) has never worked, as most Americans know the meaning of that word. He has skated for almost 60 years off of Mom's indulgence, sells marijuana over the web (as "Hemp Protein"), does S&M bondage photography, has no children, and has never been married. Is this the avatar, the spokesman, the leader that "Poor Slumbering Peekskill" wants.... to lead them to "Liberty"? You decide. This fruitball freak belongs nowhere, and not in Peekskill, either.
Fartnsmelly has a similar domestic case. He is 52, does not work, never had any children, and is supported by a wife who works at Bronx Community College. Daughter of a noted Italian-American sculptor, she remains a respected person, despite her bad choice in granting Sherwood her family name (He took her name when they married). Observers have noted that if any bad debts or arrest warrants were out there , seeking Sherwood, that he has attained maximum cover via his kindly (but much demeaned) wife.
Whatever fruity bullshit Crapolier writes, he opposes everything that Peekskillers want, and he is out of it. Neither of these birds is important enough to worry about, I just watch them from afar, to keep them honest.... kind of like keeping a cockroach farm in a glass jar. I don't even need raid.... in the end, they will eat each other.
Remy, you foreign-born space-cadet liar!
In 2006 you photographed Betcee May across the river, at Thompkin's Cove. You were NEVER near Indian Point (I have the picture right here). Betcee May now calls you a freak, and hates your guts. Why?
"Hundreds of Union Members Standing guard around Peekskill making sure nobody gets out of line"? Are you daft? If an S&M photographer visits my town, YES, I want to know it. Your posters disappeared? Ever think they were offensive to the people whose town you were visiting? Nobody stands guard, but maybe somebody should, if you intend to come around offering our kids "Hemp Powder Supplements" (Pot).
Shame on YOU Remy, for never working, for never marrying, for ripping off Native American Pow Wows as antinuke protest venues (I myself have worked dozens of Pow Wows as a musician..... While there, I paid attention to tribal realities..... not my own.)
Alice Slater, the grants distribution executive behind Benny Zable, and his 12,000 mile trip here, has Helaine Heilbrunn Lerner's $265 million dollar Tamarind Foundation paying fake revolutionaries like you to storm around the east coast and pretend there is an antinuke movement (there is not). There is just Alice Slater's fake "Women in Pink", her fake "Benny Zable", and NOW it seems, her fake Remy Crapolier.
Nobody is listening. Nobody cares. Be glad the Peekskill people are so magnanimous, that no harm came to your little freak show. Some of the teenagers along Park Street don't like sexually odd strangers hanging out. They might just razz you. (Wasn't Sherwood's arm broken, at the Paramount theater, by Grateful dead fans)?
One item of note, though: In a desperate effort to simulate an antinuke movement, Alice Slater was forced this time, to reach half way around the planet and import the Australian anarchist Benny Zable, because nobody local wanted the job.
There IS no antinuke movement, and that's what Sherwood and Remy complain about, ad nauseam. If there was an antinuke movement, they could have settled down long ago into collecting $5 here, $20 there, and been on their merry way. But its just the two of 'em. (and maybe a dozen other old communist leftovers like octagenarian Connie Hogarth, or maybe Kevin & Pam Timmons...350 Funk Rd, Schodack Landing NY, ...518-732-1248).
I guess, if Remy's Mom says yes. and Sherwood's wife agrees, ... they can collect from each other., (or Trustco Bank) and finally find happiness.
I think that's what they actually do.
Is it possible to be so isolated, so eccentric, and have such a unique view of reality, that the sum effect is tantamount to living as a caveman? Can the scanning of dense indecipherable documents by a caveman bring any useful results? Just because a caveman stays at a Holiday Inn one night (in the dumpster, of course), does that make him suddenly NOT the only Neanderthal in town? Is a "Quest For Fire" a smart thing, when everybody else has electric heating?
Had the engineering world remained stuck in a 1979 time warp, much of what Porgie Tirebiter writes about EPRI research into aging management might seem to an outsider to be true. However, what is NOT contained in any report, is the difference in methodology, a rennaissance of ways and means, that has taken place since the current array of nuclear power plants was designed and built.
Prior to the general, routine use of computer calculation to model engineering problems, the community of responsible engineers faced a large problem of calculability. Its a tough word CALCULABILITY. Sliderules, and small hand calculators were the only tools available before the 1983 introduction of the PC, and Lotus123. Large problems, such as designing buildings, were thought to be not calculable, to any precision.
Actually, they could have been precisely modeled, but the time required would have meant either years of repeat calcs, each time changing the input a little, or else whole gymnasiums full of willing engineers, each one doing a slightly different math run. To do business, to get results in a timely fashion, so that a profit could be made, and safe buildings could be built in months, instead of in decades, required a different tactic.
The tactic used, was the limiting case.(By another, less attractive name, it has also been called the "worst case scenario".) The limiting case was used in tandem with the "safety factor" in a specific way, to intentionally overbuild everything, just to be sure. Not knowing exactly where a concrete dome would fail, engineers calculated the strength they thought would be required at its worst case, and then multiplied their result by five (the safety factor), and the dome was built accordingly.
The fleet of 104 American nuclear plants is therefore built much stronger than it needs to be, in fact. It is also much stronger than it needs to be in every detail, because every detail, such as thickness of a pipe, the amount of rebar in a concrete wall, the number of anchors holding a support to the rock, etc., was calculated by the same obsolete intentional overkill.
Intentional overkill was the best tool they had, back then.
But not now.
What Porgie sees as a vast evil conspiracy to allow failure (and cover it up) is not that at all.Porgie assumes everything done by any corporation is evil, and he assumes that everything either done, or not done, by NRC is a failure to live up to something. However, he forgets that the 104 plant owners, and the NRC do not exist to educate Porgie in Engineering realities, but to serve the public.
EPRI research is done to discover, with modern precision, just how strong the plants really are. Yes, it is calculated at each plant, because each plant IS different. Yes, there is no overall program of making results known to the public, because it is ongoing, it is vastly complicated, it is funded by individual plant owners, and thus too huge an information store for Porgie (or any other civilian) to understand. What Porgie sees as an NRC "conspiracy" to "hide" the facts of plant aging from activists, is simply the collection of 104 sets of separate results, and the conscientious use of those results to individually manage the individual plants. No plant owner wants any failures. Each plant owner wants a viable long-lived asset, to provide his paid service to the communities of customers thirsting for power.
Porgie not only omits any consideration of the 80% of the public who are not offended by the plants (like he is), but he omits any consideration of the 100% of the public who are using their services right now.
Are you willing to pay your electic bill, so you can have modern civilization? Of course you are. This is not some sleazy "conspiracy", it is the civil compact of our very society. Porgie misreads this banal cooperation, as some dark plot to confuse activists, hermits, and those "illuminati" who "realize" that its better to live in a cave, than to allow humankind to utilize the power in the atomic nucleus.
From that eccentric's, hermit's, caveman's point of view, I guess that yes, it may be a plot. Sorry, Porg!
TAGS: indian point porgie epri nrc martinelli sherwood nuclear
Sunday, August 5, 2007
BGA is a standard non-nuclear engineering firm with a long, well established relationship with (C E), drawing blueprints, and they only ever worked at (IP)as a (CE)blueprint contractor, doing menial drafting work, and did no (N) work at all. When (En) bought (IP), the synergy between BGA & (CE) meant that BGA more or less ceased doing any work at (IP). (September 2001).
So, to call BGA "nuclear" is not only wrong on facts, its just one more instance of RemyCrapolier straining to make everything fit his latest cracked promotional ideas, and cover up his own personal oddities, unsuitability, and foulups once again.
What normal people in the public domain see, is an unmarried 57 year old eccentric, unable to get along with Betcee May, unable to get along with Summer Raine Oaks, and most likely unable to get along in a natural way , with any woman at all. (unless she's in Dominatrix drag, and whipping him).
In point of fact, within the "Green Explosion" that's big right now,
a mamasboy / Geriatric / Gurdjieff-cult / Sado-masochistic / anti-nooklear /
UFO-chasing / Pro-marijuana / French-Born Native American activism is a decidedly fringe phenomenon, obviously bonkers, and liable to be left out of the running no matter who ever hires Betcee May, BGA, or Ms. Oaks.
Oh, and by the way, in 2006, the extra-terrestrial Redman Remy wrote: "The other day I woke up and decided to save the world, by coming out against Indian Point". So what's this "Long Term Antinuclear Stance" you're talking about? It's one year old, pal. When your bogus "Enviro Library" fizzled in 2005, and the Tiki nights dried up in 2006, you sought a new promotion, and (IP) was it. That makes you nothing more than an opportunist manque. And Stacy Fine now owns your concert idea. Nice going!
Tell your unemployed friend Steve Fuller I said hi.
For those who need to find out more...ckeck out:
Friday, June 22, 2007
Sherwood Fartnsmelly, Nowhere to Puke.
Sherwood Fartnsmelly, schuyster con artist now bilking $1 out of innocent Myspace minors via bad writing, bad English, and very, very bad intentions, harps on & on about impossible scenarios, because the man has no other thoughts, no other interests, no peer group, no friends, no information about anything, and no reason to post on the web.
If he just wants to service his well-advertised "Open Marriage", he might do better to simply advertise in the personals columns of the Pennysaver (he might already be doing this).... but Sherwood wants to feel "Special", so he goes on and on about crap that everybody else is fed up hearing about, digging himself deeper and deeper into a small, lonely below-ground space with no decorations, no air holes, no entrance, no exit, no phone, no internet connection, nothing but rats, bugs, mold, and darkness.
But the thrill of getting even ONE web reply is so great to this major faux pretender, that he keeps it up, because nobody wants a garden landscaped right now, and he's gotten too lazy and "too committed" (ha ha ha) to ever do any work again. Yeah, he is now fooling himself, too, as well as the 12 year olds who view his predatory Myspace flypaper site. Forget his nincompoop wife, who he scammed into providing him with house, home, a cover-name to evade his past with..... she still thinks he's the "dreamdragon" from 5 years ago. But he's not.
The degradation due to drug & alcohol use has brought on a severe egotistical dementia, and the man is hell bent on becoming a celebrity. In short, he is exhibiting the same autosexual obsessive traits as his new mentor-in-madness.... Remy Crapolier. If Remy existed for 57 years as Momma's boy, with no income, chasing UFO stories, and running Tiki nights at bars, well.... why not old Sherwood the Deadwood?
Here's an idea for ya, Sher. Go over to Division street, and offer to perform every Friday night as an "Activist Poet" for free, at one of the little bistros. You can sit in a small spotlight, and test your ideas with customers face to face, instead of hiding in a deceptive, isolating website, like you have started doing of late. Maybe Pina, or somebody, can do little chalk portraits of the audience members, and gather names & phone numbers for ya. I'm sure you can get somebody with a guitar to fill in during your off sets. Peekskill can then be revived into an antinuke neo-Greenwich Village, with YOU at the center of it. Do it for 6 months, and the Journal News can interview you getting applauded, and Pina doing public art "for the cause". It would cost you nothing to do.Remy can photograph it all, and put it in his LU magazine. Oh, there IS no Lu magazine? Oh, sorry about that.
Here's another one...... walk naked from Division Street, down to the train station, with your body painted flourescent green, and Remy filming the "procession". Call it "Action Art". You will DEFINITELY get in the news if you have the nougats to pull THAT one off. But you won't. No guts. No committment. It also could be done absolutely for free.But You just blog, and blog, and blog. Why? to suck in the unsuspecting young people that you wish you were, but are not, and get cash from strangers. It's pitiful, really.
You are NOT an activist.
You are a scheming scam artist, a beggar with a big head, who needs a shave.
And, .... sorry, pal, but there's no Green Simulated Butt-Fly, either.
Just a disorganized tawdry scam blog, bilking kids for money.
For Shame, Sher...... For Shame!
And oh yeah.... we have to add these tags, (like you do)..to get indexed in Technorati:
Indian Point Nuclear Activism Radiation Death Cancer Doom Gloom Sherwood Martinelli Dolls
without those tags..... who would even notice?
Friday, June 8, 2007
Thank you, thank you, thank you!
Even WITHOUT a right hand, look at all the great dollies we've played with , and just in the last 2 hours!
WOOPS.... that top one is just my LEFT HAND!
Now lets get some great tag action going,
by using the two magic fame-inducing words....
Your Dolly Buddys, Porkie'n'Rem
Sunday, May 6, 2007
Why the U.S. Needs More Nuclear Power
Your typical city dweller doesn’t know just how much coal and uranium he burns each year. On Lake Shore Drive in Chicago—where the numbers are fairly representative of urban America as a whole—the answer is (roughly): four tons and a few ounces. In round numbers, tons of coal generate about half of the typical city’s electric power; ounces of uranium, about 17 percent; natural gas and hydro take care of the rest. New York is a bit different: an apartment dweller on the Upper West Side substitutes two tons of oil (or the equivalent in natural gas) for Chicago’s four tons of coal. The oil-tons get burned at plants like the huge oil/gas unit in Astoria, Queens. The uranium ounces get split at Indian Point in Westchester, 35 miles north of the city, as well as at the Ginna, Fitzpatrick, and Nine Mile Point units upstate, and at additional plants in Connecticut, New Jersey, and New Hampshire.
That’s the stunning thing about nuclear power: tiny quantities of raw material can do so much. A bundle of enriched-uranium fuel-rods that could fit into a two-bedroom apartment in Hell’s Kitchen would power the city for a year: furnaces, espresso machines, subways, streetlights, stock tickers, Times Square, everything—even our cars and taxis, if we could conveniently plug them into the grid. True, you don’t want to stack fuel rods in midtown Manhattan; you don’t in fact want to stack them casually on top of one another anywhere. But in suitable reactors, situated, say, 50 miles from the city on a few hundred acres of suitably fortified and well-guarded real estate, two rooms’ worth of fuel could electrify it all.
Think of our solitary New Yorker on the Upper West Side as a 1,400-watt bulb that never sleeps—that’s the national per-capita average demand for electric power from homes, factories, businesses, the lot. Our average citizen burns about twice as bright at 4 PM in August, and a lot dimmer at 4 AM in December; grown-ups burn more than kids, the rich more than the poor; but it all averages out: 14 floor lamps per person, lit round the clock. Convert this same number back into a utility’s supply-side jargon, and a million people need roughly 1.4 “gigs” of power—1.4 gigawatts (GW). Running at peak power, Entergy’s two nuclear units at Indian Point generate just under 2 GW. So just four Indian Points could take care of New York City’s 7-GW round-the-clock average. Six could handle its peak load of about 11.5 GW. And if we had all-electric engines, machines, and heaters out at the receiving end, another ten or so could power all the cars, ovens, furnaces—everything else in the city that oil or gas currently fuels.
For such a nuclear-powered future to arrive, however, we’ll need to get beyond our nuclear-power past. In the now-standard histories, the beginning of the end of nuclear power arrived on March 28, 1979, with the meltdown of the uranium core at Three Mile Island in Pennsylvania. The Chernobyl disaster seven years later drove the final nail into the nuclear coffin. It didn’t matter that the Three Mile Island containment vessel had done its job and prevented any significant release of radioactivity, or that Soviet reactors operated within a system that couldn’t build a safe toaster oven. Uranium was finished.
Three Mile Island came on the heels of the first great energy shock to hit America. On October 19, 1973, King Faisal ordered a 25 percent reduction in Saudi Arabia’s oil shipments to the United States, launching the Arab oil embargo. Oil supplies would tighten and prices would rise from then on, experts predicted. It would take some time, but oil was finished, too.
Five months after Three Mile Island, the nation’s first energy secretary summed up our predicament: “The energy future is bleak,” James R. Schlesinger declared, “and is likely to grow bleaker in the decade ahead. We must rapidly adjust our economics to a condition of chronic stringency in traditional energy supplies.” Fortunately, some argued, the U.S. could manage on less—much less. Smaller, more fuel-efficient cars were gaining favor, and rising gas prices would curb demand. The nation certainly didn’t need any new giant electric power plants—efficiency and the development of renewable sources of power would suffice. “The long-run supply curve for electricity is as flat as the Kansas horizon,” noted one right-thinking energy sage.
In the ensuing decades, however, American oil consumption rose 15 percent and electricity use almost doubled. Many people aren’t happy about it. Protecting our oil-supply lines entangles us with feudal theocracies and the fanatical sects that they spawn. The coal that we burn to generate so much of our electricity pollutes the air and may warm the planet. What to do? All sober and thoughtful energy pundits at the New York Times, Greenpeace, and the Harvard Divinity School agree: the answer to both problems is . . . efficiency and the development of renewable sources of power. Nevertheless, the secretary of energy, his boss (now a Texas oilman, not a Georgia peanut farmer), and the rest of the country should look elsewhere.
The U.S. today consumes about 100 quads—100 quadrillion BTUs—of raw thermal energy per year. We do three basic things with it: generate electricity (about 40 percent of the raw energy consumed), move vehicles (30 percent), and produce heat (30 percent). Oil is the fuel of transportation, of course. We principally use natural gas to supply raw heat, though it’s now making steady inroads into electric power generation. Fueling electric power plants are mainly (in descending order) coal, uranium, natural gas, and rainfall, by way of hydroelectricity.
This sharp segmentation emerged relatively recently, and there’s no reason to think it’s permanent. After all, developing economies use trees and pasture as fuel for heat and transportation, and don’t generate much electricity at all. A century ago, coal was the all-purpose fuel of industrial economies: coal furnaces provided heat, and coal-fired steam engines powered trains, factories, and the early electric power plants. From the 1930s until well into the 1970s, oil fueled not just cars but many electric power plants, too. And by 2020, electricity almost certainly will have become the new cross-cutting “fuel” in both stationary and mobile applications.
That shift is already under way. About 60 percent of the fuel we use today isn’t oil but coal, uranium, natural gas, and gravity—all making electricity. Electricity has met almost all of the growth in U.S. energy demand since the 1980s. About 60 percent of our GDP now comes from industries and services that use electricity as their front-end “fuel”—in 1950, the figure was only 20 percent. The fastest growth sectors of the economy—information technology and telecom, notably—depend entirely on electricity for fuel, almost none of it oil-generated. Electrically powered information technology accounts for some 60 percent of new capital spending.
Electricity is taking over ever more of the thermal sector, too. A microwave oven displaces much of what a gas stove once did in a kitchen. So, too, lasers, magnetic fields, microwaves, and other forms of high-intensity photon power provide more precise, calibrated heating than do conventional ovens in manufacturing and the industrial processing of materials. These electric cookers (broadly defined) are now replacing conventional furnaces, ovens, dryers, and welders to heat air, water, foods, and chemicals, to cure paints and glues, to forge steel, and to weld ships. Over the next two decades, such trends will move another 15 percent or so of our energy economy from conventional thermal to electrically powered processes. And that will shift about 15 percent of our oil-and-gas demand to whatever primary fuels we’ll then be using to generate electricity.
Electricity is also taking over the power train in transportation—not the engine itself, but the system that drives power throughout the car. Running in confined tunnels as they do, subways had to be all-electric from the get-go. More recently, diesel-electric locomotives and many of the monster trucks used in mining have made the transition to electric drive trains. Though the oil-fired combustion engine is still there, it’s now just an onboard electric generator that propels only electrons.
Most significantly, the next couple of decades will see us convert to the hybrid gasoline-and-electric car. A steadily rising fraction of the power produced under the hood of a car already is used to generate electricity: electrical modules are replacing components that belts, gears, pulleys, and shafts once drove. Steering, suspension, brakes, fans, pumps, and valves will eventually go electric; in the end, electricity will drive the wheels, too. Gas prices and environmental mandates have little to do with this changeover. The electric drive train simply delivers better performance, lower cost, and less weight.
The policy implications are enormous. Outfitted with a fully electric power train, most of the car—everything but its prime mover—looks like a giant electrical appliance. This appliance won’t run any great distance on batteries alone, given today’s battery technology. But a substantial battery pack on board will provide surges of power when needed. And that makes possible at least some “refueling” of the car from the electricity grid. As cars get more electric, an infrastructure of battery-recharging stations will grow apace, probably in driveways and parking lots, where most cars spend most of their time.
Once you’ve got the wheels themselves running on electricity, the basic economics strongly favor getting that electricity from the grid if you can. Burning $2-a-gallon gasoline, the power generated by current hybrid-car engines costs about 35 cents per kilowatt-hour. Many utilities, though, sell off-peak power for much less: 2 to 4 cents per kilowatt-hour. The nationwide residential price is still only 8.5 cents or so. (Peak rates in Manhattan are higher because of the city’s heavy dependence on oil and gas, but not enough to change the basic arithmetic.) Grid kilowatts are cheaper because cheaper fuels generate them and because utility power plants run a lot more efficiently than car engines.
The gas tank and combustion engine won’t disappear anytime soon, but in the imminent future, grid power will (in effect) begin to top off the tank in between the short trips that account for most driving. All-electric vehicles flopped in the 1990s because batteries can’t store sufficient power for long weekend trips. But plug-in hybrids do have a gasoline tank for the long trips. And the vast majority of the most fuel-hungry trips are under six miles—within the range of the 2 to 5 kWh capacity of the onboard nickel-metal-hydride batteries in hybrids already on the road, and easily within the range of emerging automotive-class lithium batteries. Nationally, some 10 percent of hybrid cars could end up running almost entirely on the grid, as they travel less than six miles per day. Stick an extra 90 pounds—$800 worth—of nickel-metal-hydride batteries in a hybrid, recharge in garages and parking lots, and you can shift roughly 25 percent of a typical driver’s fuel-hungriest miles to the grid. Urban drivers could go long stretches without going near a gas station. The technology for replacing (roughly) one pint of gasoline with one pound of coal or under one ounce of uranium to feed one kilowatt-hour of power to the wheels is now close at hand.
So today we use 40 percent of our fuel to power the plug, and the plug powers 60 percent of GDP. And with the ascent of microwaves, lasers, hybrid wheels, and such, we’re moving to 60 and 80 percent, respectively, soon. And then, in due course, 100/100. We’re turning to electricity as fuel because it can do more, faster, in much less space—indeed, it’s by far the fastest and purest form of power yet tamed for ubiquitous use. Small wonder that demand for it keeps growing.
We’ve been meeting half of that new demand by burning an extra 400 million tons of coal a year, with coal continuing to supply half of our wired power. Natural gas, the fossil fuel grudgingly favored by most environmentalists, has helped meet the new demand, too: it’s back at 16 percent of electricity generated, where it was two decades ago, after dropping sharply for a time. Astonishingly, over this same period, uranium’s share of U.S. electricity has also risen—from 11 percent to its current 20 percent. Part of the explanation is more nuclear power plants. Even though Three Mile Island put an end to the commissioning of new facilities, some already under construction at the time later opened, with the plant count peaking at 112 in 1990. Three Mile Island also impelled plant operators to develop systematic procedures for sharing information and expertise, and plants that used to run seven months per year now run almost eleven. Uranium has thus displaced about eight percentage points of oil, and five points of hydroelectric, in the expanding electricity market.
Renewable fuels, by contrast, made no visible dent in energy supplies, despite the hopes of Greens and the benefits of government-funded research, subsidies, and tax breaks. About a half billion kWh of electricity came from solar power in 2002—roughly 0.013 percent of the U.S. total. Wind power contributed another 0.27 percent. Fossil and nuclear fuels still completely dominate the U.S. energy supply, as in all industrialized economies.
The other great hope of environmentalists, efficiency, did improve over the last couple of decades—very considerably, in fact. Air conditioners, car engines, industrial machines, lightbulbs, refrigerator motors—without exception, all do much more, with much less, than they used to. Yet in aggregate, they burn more fuel, too. Boosting efficiency actually raises consumption, as counterintuitive as that sounds. The more efficient a car, the cheaper the miles; the more efficient a refrigerator, the cheaper the ice; and at the end of the day, we use more efficient technology so much more that total energy consumption goes up, not down.
We’re burning our 40 quads of raw fuel to generate about 3.5 trillion kilowatt-hours of electricity per year; if the automotive plug-and-play future does unfold on schedule, we’ll need as much as 7 trillion kWh per year by 2025. How should we generate the extra trillions of kilowatt-hours?
With hydrogen, the most optimistic Green visionaries reply—produced by solar cells or windmills. But it’s not possible to take such proposals seriously. New York City consumes so much energy that you’d need, at a minimum, to cover two cities with solar cells to power a single city (see “How Cities Green the Planet,” Winter 2000). No conceivable mix of solar and wind could come close to supplying the trillions of additional kilowatt-hours of power we’ll soon need.
Nuclear power could do it—easily. In all key technical respects, it is the antithesis of solar power. A quad’s worth of solar-powered wood is a huge forest—beautiful to behold, but bulky and heavy. Pound for pound, coal stores about twice as much heat. Oil beats coal by about twice as much again. And an ounce of enriched-uranium fuel equals about 4 tons of coal, or 15 barrels of oil. That’s why minuscule quantities contained in relatively tiny reactors can power a metropolis.
What’s more, North America has vast deposits of uranium ore, and scooping it up is no real challenge. Enrichment accounts for about half of the fuel’s cost, and enrichment technologies keep improving. Proponents of solar and wind power maintain—correctly—that the underlying technologies for these energy sources keep getting cheaper, but so do those that squeeze power out of conventional fuels. The lasers coming out of the same semiconductor fabs that build solar cells could enrich uranium a thousand times more efficiently than the gaseous-diffusion processes currently used.
And we also know this: left to its own devices, the market has not pursued thin, low-energy-density fuels, however cheap, but has instead paid steep premiums for fuels that pack more energy into less weight and space, and for power plants that pump greater power out of smaller engines, furnaces, generators, reactors, and turbines. Until the 1970s, engineering and economic imperatives had been pushing the fuel mix inexorably up the power-density curve, from wood to coal to oil to uranium. And the same held true on the demand side, with consumers steadily shifting toward fuels carrying more power, delivered faster, in less space.
Then King Faisal and Three Mile Island shattered our confidence and convinced regulators, secretaries of energy, and even a president that just about everything that the economists and engineers thought they knew about energy was wrong. So wrong that we had to reverse completely the extraordinarily successful power policies of the past.
New York has certainly felt the effects of that reversal. In 1965, the Long Island Lighting Company (LILCO) announced plans to build a $75 million nuclear plant in Suffolk County, to come on line by 1973; soon after, it purchased a 455-acre site between Shoreham and Wading River. A bit later, LILCO decided to increase Shoreham’s size and said it wanted to build several other nuclear plants in the area. Public resistance and federal regulators delayed Shoreham’s completion. Then Three Mile Island happened. In the aftermath, regulators required plant operators to devise evacuation plans in coordination with state and local governments. In early 1983, newly elected governor Mario Cuomo and the Suffolk County legislature both declared that no evacuation plan would ever be feasible and safe. That was that. By the time the state fully decommissioned Shoreham in 1994, its price tag had reached $6 billion—and the plant had never started full-power commercial operation. To pay for it all, Long Island electric rates skyrocketed.
What scared many New Yorkers—and thus many politicians—away from nuclear power was what had originally attracted the engineers and the utility economists to it: nuclear facilities use a unique fuel, burned, in its fashion, in relatively tiny reactors, to generate gargantuan amounts of power. Do it all just right, end to end, and you get cheap, abundant power, and King Faisal can’t do a thing about it. But the raw material itself, packing so much power into so little material, is inherently dangerous. Sufficiently bad engineering can result in a Three Mile Island or a Chernobyl. And these days, there’s the fear that poor security might enable terrorists to pull off something even worse.
How worried should we really be in 2005 that accidents or attacks might release and disperse a nuclear power plant’s radioactive fuel? Not very. Our civilian nuclear industry has dramatically improved its procedures and safety-related hardware since 1979. Several thousand reactor-years of statistics since Three Mile Island clearly show that these power plants are extraordinarily reliable in normal operation.
And uranium’s combination of power and super-density makes the fuel less of a terror risk, not more, at least from an engineering standpoint. It’s easy to “overbuild” the protective walls and containment systems of nuclear facilities, since—like the pyramids—the payload they’re built to shield is so small. Protecting skyscrapers is hard; no builder can afford to erect a hundred times more wall than usable space. Guaranteeing the integrity of a jumbo jet’s fuel tanks is impossible; the tanks have to fly. Shielding a nuclear plant’s tiny payload is easy—just erect more steel, pour more concrete, and build tougher perimeters.
In fact, it’s a safety challenge that we have already met. Today’s plants split atoms behind super-thick layers of steel and concrete; future plants would boast thicker protection still. All the numbers, and the strong consensus in the technical community, reinforce the projections made two decades ago: it is extremely unlikely that there will ever be a serious release of nuclear materials from a U.S. reactor.
What about the economic cost of nuclear power? Wind and sun are free, of course. But if the cost of fuel were all that mattered, the day of too-cheap-to-meter nuclear power would now be here—nearer, certainly, than too-cheap-to-meter solar power. Raw fuel accounts for over half the delivered cost of electricity generated in gas-fired turbines, about one-third of coal-fired power, and just a tenth of nuclear electricity. Factor in the cost of capital equipment, and the cheapest electrons come from uranium and coal, not sun and wind. What we pay for at our electric meter is increasingly like what we pay for at fancy restaurants: not the raw calories, but the fine linen, the service, and the chef’s ineffable artistry. In our overall energy accounts, the sophisticated power-conversion hardware matters more every year, and the cost of raw fuel matters less.
This in itself is great news for America. We’re good at large-scale hardware; we build it ourselves and keep building it cheaper. The average price of U.S. electricity fell throughout the twentieth century, and it has kept falling since, except in egregiously mismanaged markets such as California’s.
The cheap, plentiful power does terrific things for labor productivity and overall employment. As Lewis E. Lehrman notes, rising employment strongly correlates with rising supplies of low-cost energy. It takes energy to get the increasingly mobile worker to the increasingly distant workplace, and energy to process materials and power the increasingly advanced machines that shape and assemble those materials.
Most of the world, Europe aside, now recognizes this point. Workers in Asia and India are swiftly gaining access to the powered machines that steadily boosted the productivity of the American factory worker throughout the twentieth century. And the electricity driving those machines comes from power plants designed—and often built—by U.S. vendors. The power is a lot less expensive than ours, though, since it is generated the old-fashioned forget-the-environment way. There is little bother about protecting the river or scrubbing the smoke. China’s answer to the 2-gigawatt Hoover Dam on the Colorado River is the Three Gorges project, an 18-gigawatt dam on the Yangtze River. Combine cheaper supplies of energy with ready access to heavy industrial machines, and it’s hard to see how foreign laborers cannot close the productivity gap that has historically enabled American workers to remain competitive at considerably higher wages. Unless, that is, the United States keeps on pushing the productivity of its own workforce out ahead of its competitors. That—inevitably—means expanding our power supply and keeping it affordable, and deploying even more advanced technologies of powered production. Nuclear power would help keep the twenty-first-century U.S. economy globally competitive.
Greens don’t want to hear it, but nuclear power makes the most environmental sense, too. Nuclear wastes pose no serious engineering problems. Uranium is such an energy-rich fuel that the actual volume of waste is tiny compared with that of other fuels, and is easily converted from its already-stable ceramic form as a fuel into an even more stable glass-like compound, and just as easily deposited in deep geological formations, themselves stable for tens of millions of years. And what has Green antinuclear activism achieved since the seventies? Not the reduction in demand for energy that it had hoped for but a massive increase in the use of coal, which burns less clean than uranium.
Many Greens think that they have a good grip on the likely trajectory of the planet’s climate over the next 100 years. If we keep burning fossil fuels at current rates, their climate models tell them, we’ll face a meltdown on a much larger scale than Chernobyl’s, beginning with the polar ice caps. Saving an extra 400 million tons of coal here and there—roughly the amount of carbon that the United States would have to stop burning to comply with the Kyoto Protocol today—would make quite a difference, we’re told.
But serious Greens must face reality. Short of some convulsion that drastically shrinks the economy, demand for electricity will go on rising. Total U.S. electricity consumption will increase another 20 to 30 percent, at least, over the next ten years. Neither Democrats nor Republicans, moreover, will let the grid go cold—not even if that means burning yet another 400 million more tons of coal. Not even if that means melting the ice caps and putting much of Bangladesh under water. No governor or president wants to be the next Gray Davis, recalled from office when the lights go out.
The power has to come from somewhere. Sun and wind will never come close to supplying it. Earnest though they are, the people who argue otherwise are the folks who brought us 400 million extra tons of coal a year. The one practical technology that could decisively shift U.S. carbon emissions in the near term would displace coal with uranium, since uranium burns emission-free. It’s time even for Greens to embrace the atom.
It must surely be clear by now, too, that the political costs of depending so heavily on oil from the Middle East are just too great. We need to find a way to stop funneling $25 billion a year (or so) of our energy dollars into churning cauldrons of hate and violence. By sharply curtailing our dependence on Middle Eastern oil, we would greatly expand the range of feasible political and military options in dealing with the countries that breed the terrorists.
The best thing we can do to decrease the Middle East’s hold on us is to turn off the spigot ourselves. For economic, ecological, and geopolitical reasons, U.S. policymakers ought to promote electrification on the demand side, and nuclear fuel on the supply side, wherever they reasonably can.
Tags Indian Point, American Survival, Global Warming, High Tech Energy