Nuclear Energy

Published on March 30th, 2016 | by Joshua S Hill

143

Japan OK’s Ice Wall At Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant

March 30th, 2016 by  

The nuclear regulator in Japan has OK’d the use of a frozen wall of soil to prevent water entering the damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.

Just a little over 5 years ago, the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant suffered the world’s second largest nuclear disaster, and the Japanese Government and electricity utility, Tokyo Electric Power Co. (Tepco), have been working flat out ever since to mitigate the scale of the disaster. In the past month alone, numerous reports have been published investigating just how damaging the disaster has been in the immediate aftermath, and in the five years following.

Greenpeace, in its stereotypical inflammatory manner, recently published a report saying that the Japanese Government’s “massive decontamination program will have almost no impact on reducing the ecological threat” of the disaster. At the same time, a study published by a Stanford University professor highlighted three key lessons that must be taken away from the Fukushima disaster.

Fukushima Daiichi ice wall - 460 (Tepco)This week, however, the Japanese nuclear regulator has given approval to activate what is being called an “unprecedented refrigeration structure,” which will create a massive frozen barrier of soil to prevent any more water entering the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant premises, thus mitigating the continual build-up of contaminated water.

According to a note published by The Associated Press, the government-funded project costs 35 billion yen ($312 million), and is built using pipes designed to freeze the surrounding soil, eventually forming a massive 1.5 kilometer long wall around the reactor and turbine buildings.

The premise of the wall — a technology which is not new, but has never been designed at this size — is to keep groundwater coming down from the nearby hills from entering the area, and to keep existing contaminated water within — contaminated water which has provided a massive problem for Tepco and the Japanese Government, and is only recently being dealt with with much effectiveness. “In the last half-year we have made significant progress in water treatment,” Akira Ono, chief of the Fukushima Dai-Ichi plant, said last week during a tour of the facility.


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About the Author

I'm a Christian, a nerd, a geek, and I believe that we're pretty quickly directing planet-Earth into hell in a handbasket! I also write for Fantasy Book Review (.co.uk), and can be found writing articles for a variety of other sites. Check me out at about.me for more.



  • 543grund

    NEI says :

    “despite the water table being higher, some of the contaminated water still leaks out of the basements and into the soil and the groundwater.

    The ground water that flows into the buildings becomes contaminated because, once it enters the basements, it mixes with the contaminated cooling water that leaked out of the reactor coolant system. The groundwater that enters the basement accounts for approximately 400 tons/day of water that TEPCO pumps out of these facilities. This contaminated water includes radioactive Cesium, Strontium, and Tritium. Cesium moves very slowly in groundwater. Strontium is adsorbed less than Cesium and moves faster, while Tritium remains with the groundwater as it flows toward the harbor. As discussed, TEPCO plans to impede the flow of groundwater through a series of engineered solutions, such as impermeable walls. [1] [2]”

    FIve years later, the ocean is still being contaminated.
    http://pbadupws.nrc.gov/docs/ML1502/ML15021A530.pdf

    • Joffan

      Your NRC reference paper is from January 2015 – at that date, the impermeable sea wall was not completed. That happened in October the same year.

      • 345grund

        “TEPCO announced last week that the steel and concrete sea wall they installed and recently closed the last section of had been damaged. The wall was bowing outward due to increased groundwater pressure. A recent presentation to METI shows why.”
        http://www.fukuleaks.org/web/?p=15179

        • Joffan

          Yep, well aware of this side-effect of closing the sea wall. The wall itself is still good but the horizontal paving nearby opened up some cracks, which were sealed. The usual misinterpretation from anti-nuke sites, of course, to try to make the problem look as bad as possible, but what it absolutely does show is that the wall is very effective in blocking the groundwater path to the sea.

  • BrianSheller

    An ice wall huh? That makes me feel great.

    What a joke. They’ll build another nuke plant to run it and keep it frozen.

  • Joffan

    And are you able to see that your linked article is making exactly the mistake I talk about? The process that didn’t work was a drain-blocking exercise, not the soil-freezing ice wall. The two different activities have been thoroughly mangled in the reporting there.

    • Anthony Santagato

      Exactly why I sent it

    • Anthony Santagato

      so is any of the two any good? both useless and no way out of this disaster ? do they have any viable solutions? wondering if animal die offs on west coast of North America are related to plumes of radiation crossing the Pacific

      • Joffan

        What on earth are you talking about? The drains were blocked using a different technique, the ice wall is working, the impermeable sea wall is in place. There is no ongoing disaster, except perhaps in some people’s morbid imagination, There is no impact on Pacific ecology. There are no “plumes” in any recognizable sense – there are minute changes in radioactivity only detectable by focussing on one radioisotope.

        Your ideas of widespread problems are simply wrong. Fukushima’s effect in all practical respects was highly localized. Our ability to detect vanishingly small quantities of radioactivity does not imply that those substances are having any detrimental effect.

  • eveee

    Contaminated groundwater has been seeping into the ocean from the start. Tepco is still searching for solutions. This is one of many attempts to stop it. Previous attempts failed.

    “In August 2014, for instance, TEPCO admitted that the ice wall between the unit 2 turbine building and the cable tunnel was not working. Approximately 400 tons of ice were injected into the ground but failed to lower the temperature enough to freeze the soil.(2)”

    “TEPCO is finally starting to come clean about the severity of the Fukushima disaster in other respects, as well. A new declassified report from the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission, written about a week after the disaster occurred, revealed that 100 percent of the total nuclear fuel spent at reactor number four was released into the atmosphere. ”

    http://www.fukushimawatch.com/2016-01-13-groundwater-radiation-levels-at-fukushima-power-plant-increase-despite-clean-up-efforts.html

    • Joffan

      The media generally have been very confused between two separate uses of freezing at Fukushima:
      1) the attempt to block free-flowing drainage channels with a freezing solution
      2) the frozen soil “wall” described in this article.

      Your links describe one of the former channel-blocking efforts. Some of these worked – of course the media studiously ignored those – and some didn’t, or not completely. Tepco resolved some of those channel-blocking efforts with a free-flowing slow-setting cement.

      The ice-wall of frozen soil – which involves the slow seepage of groundwater, not free-flowing open water – has far fewer technical uncertainties. It’s bigger than previous uses of this technology, but not really novel. It’s also tolerant of minor problems; even if due to a problem part of the wall unfreezes, it doesn’t make the remaining frozen sections more vulnerable or stop them blocking groundwater .

  • Anthony Santagato

    How long do we have before the technocratic corporate-state destroys our planet ? Nuclear energy is a complex fusion process that generates steam for electrical power. Steam. Wow all this for steam & electricity & nuke warfare apparatus of course. Contractors supported by mad science have reaped trillions off of nuclear power and were wiling to jeopardize our planet. And yes they have. Once this nuclear Pandora’s box was open it would not be allowed to be closed. Fuku is in the China Syndrome stage & the sociopaths have no way out and neither do we. We will all be collateral damage. How many more die offs must we witness off the Pacific coast ? How many more whales, seals, seabirds? Radiation levels across American cities are off the charts but you won’t about hear that in the mass corporate-state media. Cancer rates are going to sky rocket and not a damn thing we can do about it. All you freak sociopathic trolls… Understand this … Not everyone is asleep ! Yes we will have death of our natural world and you may get your futuristic dream of escaping the confines of our planet and evolving into a non dependent cyborg; however, before that happens know that you may perish along with us. We wish you Godspeed on your journey to immortality as you ensure humanity’s fate Have a good chunk of radioactive blue fin tuna tonight and enjoy the nausea.

  • Ronald Brakels

    Chirihama beach is a beach that is famous in Japan because of the amount of fresh groundwater flowing through it through means the sand is always stable which means it can be driven on like a road. However, it is disappearing on account of rising sea levels. I hope they have taken rising sea levels into account at Fukushima. Not to mention the odd tsunami.

  • Peter Holland

    Greenpeace’s stereotypical inflammatory style? Really?

  • Scott Gordon

    What are they going to use as a refrigerant?

    • DecksUpMySleeve

      I wondered this as well. That’s a lot of ‘cold’.

      • Armchair Hydrogeologist

        Ground is a good insulator. .. probably most of the heat flow is due to underground water flowing through. It’s an interesting problem, I’d think you’d want to pump the groundwater down up gradient and dump that to sea, even if it meant some temporary increase in radioactive discharge

        • DecksUpMySleeve

          Yeah, but you’re also fighting the surrounding and innate temperature. Keeping anything outdoors freezing year round right beside the ocean, that’s quite the challenge.

          • Armchair Hydrogeologist

            I don’t know anything about the project but I’m assuming that the rough box of the icewall is 30mx600mx100m so its about 150,000 sq meter of exposed surface area. Assuming (1) about 3C/W*m for frozen soil and a (2) -15C seawater chilling antifreeze solution, and a (3) average ambient temp of 15C, (4) a “ice wall thickness” of about 5m covered with polystryene on the perimeter top, you’d get about 100kW of chilling needed at a COP of about 1.5 that’s really only an average 75kW of juice needed to keep it cold.

            My guess is that they overengineered the hell out of the thing. You only really need to sink 5m deep injection and 120m deep extraction wells for the -15C seawater every 10m on center around the perimeter to pull this off. It would freeze solid in about a month. The problem is that the extraction wells are going to be full of radioactive crap initially which is why they probably are overthinking it.

          • DecksUpMySleeve

            You really think they can keep a constant -30C 30m deep 1,500m long wall that efficiently, all while surrounded by a much warmer body?

          • Armchair Hydrogeologist

            I read the plans and I guess it is closer to -30C vs the -15C that I was assuming. That’s a -45C difference which would need 150kW of chilling and a *much* worse COP since it is so cold compared to ambient.

            But yes, dirt is a good insulator over the scale of several meters, even when wet or even frozen. When frozen its thermal conductivity triples but it is still pretty low.

          • DecksUpMySleeve

            Can’t say I know as much about frozen dirt’s thermal conductivity, should be an interesting application to observe either way.
            Not sure what to think of the efforts, underwhelming but at least it’s something.
            It feels much like the movie Sadlot, I’d prefer we go ‘Erector Set’ instead of the vacuum/containment route. We need a global effort for the massive endeavor of creating an instrumentation of removal.
            If the cores are burrowed in the Earth deeply or if extraction unruly we need an answer for the current as well as future catastrophes.
            The world needs far more automation and a blank check on disasters of this scale.
            I calculated the worst case for Fukushima, since extraction is loosely set at 2042, an appalling one in eigthteen cancer rate could be reached by that date. As if nothing else will go wrong by then with the hundreds of other poorly placed/implimented Nuclear Plants.

        • BrianSheller

          That’s a thought provoking post.

          Ground with water flowing through it may not be such a great insulator.

          And what about the water running up against the ice wall becoming frozen, transfering radioactive particles into the ice itself?

          Or in the event of a power failure the deluge of water flowing that’s been previously impeded by the ice wall?

          I get to thinking about rainwater filling the inside perimeter of the wall and apply pressure outward.

          Shifting soil and failures…
          I have very little faith in this project…

          And where are we if another wave hits?

          I get the feeling someone out there has a good idea of how fubar’d this thing is and is happy to keep quiet.

    • Bob_Wallace

      Extracts from the hearts and souls of the government and Tepco officials who approved this plant.

      • DecksUpMySleeve

        Don’t forget their GE suppliers, and the UN/JPN/US/CIA officials whom didn’t act swiftly and decisively upon im/explosion ;P

    • Joffan

      I believe the cooling pipes circulate brine.

  • Joffan

    Good news. The regulator has been dragging their feet on this one for a while and seemed to be threatening to only permit the frozen soil wall one stage at a time. That would have been positively counterproductive, a bit like insisting a table has to work with only one leg, then two legs, then three, before allowing the proper configuration of four legs.

    This project is government funded because it’s the government’s idea. Tepco weren’t going to go this route.

  • Ross

    I hope the refrigeration is renewable powered.

    • Scott Gordon

      environmentally safe in case a leak happens …

      • Ross

        A PPA for renewable would do.

      • Armchair Hydrogeologist

        A leak is assured given the size of the pipes and the frost heave.

        You might not even want to use pipes closed loop. Maybe an injection wells and extraction wells with a Eco friendly antifreeze.

    • Armchair Hydrogeologist

      It could be if they slightly oversize the chillers, ground can store a lot of heat.

  • neroden

    Inventing stuff as they go along because they have no idea what to do. This is unfortunately typical of nuclear “safety”. There are just no standards at all in most of the nuclear industry.

    • Joffan

      You could try actually reading the article. Comments that bear no relation to reality are unfortunately typical of anti-nuclear activists.

      The premise of the wall — a technology which is not new, but has never been designed at this size — is to keep groundwater coming down from the nearby hills from entering the area

      Faced with the reality of a tsunami-wrecked power plant to clean up and contain, I’m glad we have people there who are able to innovate from proven precedents and reach out to the global community for new ideas.

      • Bob_Wallace

        First attempt at an ice wall failed. Now they’re going to test a second one.

        Too bad we have to waste hundreds of billions of dollars and the brain power of those people who are able to innovate cleaning up an avoidable problem.

        Stupid is as stupid does….

        • Joffan

          This is the only ice wall; the other attempts to use freezing were totally different issues (trying to block free-flow drainage channels) which were then resolved with low-viscosity slow-setting cement.

          Do your “stupid” mistakes on the amount of money involved mean that everything else you say should be dismissed? It is very tempting, I admit.

          An avoidable problem – well, I’m not going to disagree that the problem could have been far less serious, for various reasons. But we have to deal with problems we have, not wish them away. And learn for the future.

          • vensonata

            One can certainly find estimates up to several hundred billion dollars out there for the total clean up. And if you try you will find estimates as low as 15 billion. What we are dealing with here is spin, spin, spin. Just like the oil spills and drilling platform explosions and the fracking consequences. There are well paid sociopaths willing to say anything to cover their butts. It is up to the interested citizen to find their way through the maze of deception.

          • Joffan

            One can certainly find all kinds of junk on the internet. Sociopaths unwilling to sully their anti-nuclear purity in order to fully tackle climate change included.

          • vensonata

            Sociopaths are unlikely to have “anti- nuclear purity”. Sociopaths are intrinsically without humanistic ideals. The anti nuclear crowd may at times be not fully informed but generally they hold their positions out of concern for the well being of the many. As for the pro nuclear crowd, they do have some people who would sell their mother for a dollar. Not all, but you see, there is big money involved, that attracts them, as the proverbial fly.
            And yes there are those who are convinced, for the good of humanity, that nuclear is the only way. Fine. They are wrong, and I will allow them a grace period of 5 years to realize that.

          • John_ONeill

            ‘.. there is big money involved ..’
            The world’s biggest nuclear companies are minnows compared to the oil and gas companies. The largest cost for Japan after Fukushima has been the extra hundreds of billions spent on coal and gas, to replace the fifty-odd reactors closed down over the year following the accident. This was completely unnecessary, since the surviving reactors had already proved capable of coming through the worst earthquake in a thousand years, and many of them were on the opposite coast, not subject to tsunamis.
            Japan’s annual balance of trade has been in deficit since Fukushima, for the first time in forty years. This has lowered the value of the yen, and this combined with greatly increased LNG imports to push gas prices to about four or five times what they are in North America. Of course, Japan also abandoned climate targets as their CO2 emissions soared, so they weren’t the only losers. ( Uranium prices have also dropped, but since fuel costs are only a tiny fraction of the cost of electricity, that has little effect on power prices, whereas the cost of fossil fuels is the biggest factor in prices, apart from taxes.)
            http://www.worldcoal.com/special-reports/13052015/Japan-coal-demand-what-does-the-future-hold-coal2265/

          • Bob_Wallace

            It probably was not necessary to close down most of Japan’s reactors but that was what the public demanded.

            Now there are reactors which could be fairly safely used but there is immense public pressure to leave them shut down.

            The nuclear industry does not publicly talk about how all the reactors in the US or western Europe could go out business overnight were there to be a Chernobyl/Fukushima level disaster ‘in the neighborhood’.

          • John_ONeill

            The reactors ‘ in the neighbourhood’ of Fukushima and Chernobyl didn’t shut down overnight. The other three reactors at Chernobyl kept running for decades, and the unflooded Japanese reactors, after the checks for earthquake damage, kept going until their next scheduled shutdowns. The ‘ overnight shutdown ‘ was in Germany, for purely political reasons, not safety related or technical. It can only happen if enough people have a skewed perception of real hazard – rather like global warming, really. The best protection against that is to reeducate the peasantry, which is why I persist with my thankless efforts on your blog, and elsewhere. Thank you for the venue.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Within 14 months of the Fukushima disaster all Japanese reactors were shut down. That’s pretty much ‘overnight’ when considers the number closed and the amount of generation lost.

            That aside, I did not claim that either the Ukraine or Japan shut down their reactors shut down overnight. That’s just something you made up.

            You know damn well if we popped one off in the US it be all over for the US nuclear industry.

          • 345grund

            The evacuation compensation cost is 57 billion so far. The plight of evacuees is poor.

            “When housing aid ends in April 2017, people in apartments under the government program will have to start paying rent or move out. Those whose homes in Fukushima that are in areas still off-limits for living will continue to receive the aid.”

            “Onoda angrily talks about how authorities are treating people like her. Why didn’t the government give her land elsewhere to build a new home?”

            They are refugees, not evacuees, and have no home even in Japan.

            ““We don’t even know their real numbers,” he said, noting the government lacks a clear definition for “evacuees,” and bases its figures on tallies of those receiving aid. A recent count in Fukushima and a neighboring prefecture found the total number may be as high as 200,000, Kino said.

            “Evacuation is a term that assumes the situation is temporary, and there is a place to go back,” said Kino.”

            “Okada says she wants to apply for U.N. refugee status and move to Europe with her family, if she could.

            “I know Japanese can’t become refugees now. But I wish we could,” she said. “It is about our staying alive.”

            http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2016/03/11/national/nuclear-refugees-tell-distrust-pressure-return-fukushima/#.VwW9N0s-MWB

          • Bob_Wallace

            Cost to date exceed $100 billion. The cleanup spending will go on for many, many years.

            http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/0/97c88560-e05b-11e5-8d9b-e88a2a889797.html#axzz44PcG5FNo

            There are estimates that the cleanup cost will exceed $250 billion by the time the job has been completed.

            Estimates are that compensation costs for the people who lost property in the disaster will be more than $57 billion.

            http://phys.org/news/2015-07-tepco-fukushima-compensation-bn.html

            Why don’t you find out what the costs are going to be prior to claiming someone has made a mistake?

          • Joffan

            OK so your link contradicts your bold assertions – this high estimate includes evacuee compensation and also includes future work. So you’re still wrong.

            Of course there are idiots out there who will attempt to inflate and exaggerate the costs at every turn, Suggesting they should be given any credence is just bringing their idiocy onto yourself.

            As above, compensation is already included in to $100bn current-and-future cost estimate that the professors came up with.

            Why don’t you investigate the claims you so boldly exaggerate before you make them?

          • Bob_Wallace

            You are correct. I did not read the first link carefully enough.
            Costs to date are in the range of $100 billion. That is the cost to date. It does not cover future costs which will likely be extensive.

          • Joffan

            The text in Japan Times says that the $100bn includes the estimate of future costs also. (that’s linked through from the FT).

            You’ll pardon my cynicism for expecting that (rather too often) journalists don’t actual read their sources properly. Even the Japan Times, indeed, does the same, contradicting themselves to try to put higher numbers in front of their readers, which are clearly not borne out by the actual headline study.

          • Bob_Wallace

            “The Fukushima nuclear disaster has cost Japanese taxpayers almost $100bn”

            Has. Not will.

            Where are you seeing the link to the Japan Times?

          • Joffan

            Under the professor’s name, further down…. I’ll try to reproduce it:

            The Financial Times used Ritsumeikan University professor Kenichi Oshima’s estimate that the disaster has cost Y13.3tn ($118bn) to date relative to the loss of equity value for Tepco shareholders.

            The FT makes the same mistake in that paragraph also of course.

            The opening wording of the Japan Times article is:

            The Fukushima nuclear accident will cost an estimated Y11.08trillion… according to a recent study by Japanese college professors.

          • Bob_Wallace

            I cannot find a source for the amount that has been spent to date on the Fukushima disaster. I’ll amend my comment to read –

            “Too bad we have to waste over one hundred billion dollars and the brain power of those people who are able to innovate cleaning up an avoidable problem.”

          • Joffan

            Ack, caught in link moderation…

            this paragraph has the link:

            The Financial Times used Ritsumeikan University professor Kenichi Oshima’s estimate that the disaster has cost Y13.3tn ($118bn) to date relative to the loss of equity value for Tepco shareholders.

            The FT makes the same mistake in that paragraph also of course.

            The opening wording of the Japan Times article is:

            The Fukushima nuclear accident will cost an estimated Y11.08trillion… according to a recent study by Japanese college professors.

          • Bob_Wallace

            The Japan Times article which estimates that the cost will be ¥11.08 trillion is from 2014.

            The Financial Times article which states has cost almost $100 billion is from 2016.

            I see no indication that the FT used the 2014 JT article as their cost source. In fact, the FT states that they did the calculations to arrive at $100 billion spent to date.

          • Joffan

            The FT did the currency conversion, perhaps 🙂 I doubt they did anything else. Anyway, the link in the FT article at the professor’s name went to the 2014 JT article (I didn’t notice the age of it).

          • Armchair Hydrogeologist

            I wonder how much the cost would be if most of the radiation didn’t blow out to sea as we were very lucky in this case. What if a reactor in Illinois or Pennsylvania melts down? I’d guess a trillion or more.

            With or without storage, a large investment in HVDC lines will give the grid enough “security”, i.e. robust reliability, to start shutting our worst ageing reactors down.

          • Joffan

            No need to wonder. A reactor in Pennsylvania did melt down. The liability costs were fully covered by the operator’s liability insurance. Less than $200 million, if I recall correctly.

          • Armchair Hydrogeologist

            Sort of true… in TMI the meltdown that did happen was slow enough to not blow out of the containment and we were able to stop it. There are credible, albeit unlikely, scenarios where we aren’t so lucky and significant radiation gets released. It could ruin an entire state-sized swath for agriculture for a couple decades and make a couple countries virtually uninhabitable to the general public without a massive “industrial hygiene” effort for a couple decades. Imagine trying to scrub Cook and Kane county clean and having Indiana and Michigan useless for farming.

          • Joffan

            It seems to me that you’ve stretched the meaning of “credible scenario” beyond defensible bounds in order to conjure up your apocalypse.

            The NRC, not known for taking an optimistic view, undertook a study of these questions in their SOARCA study a couple of years ago (final report). It includes some consideration of Fukushima, which occurred before publication.

            – Existing resources and procedures can stop an accident, slow it down or reduce its impact before it can affect public health;

            – Even if accidents proceed uncontrolled, they take much longer to happen and release much less radioactive material than earlier analyses suggested; and

            – The analyzed accidents would cause essentially zero immediate deaths and only a very, very small increase in the risk of long-term cancer deaths.

          • Modok EvilMastermind

            SOARCA really? Was TMI SOARCA? Or does SOARCA mean 1970s nuclear technology? Which was nearly how old Fukushima reactors were.

            I don’t grudge that technology has improved nuclear power plant safety in the last 30-40 years but reading this site has taught me that the economics of building plants is pretty crazy.

            If you get enough public investment to build one it seems to take 2-4+x more investment than originally estimated (and forget any private investment wanting to touch it by themselves). On the flip side, how many plants cannot start to decommission because they have not invested enough money to pay for it yet? Sorry. Nuclear as it stands seems like a bad enough idea even if you ignore safety risks, public fear, or long term storage of used fuel.

          • Joffan

            TMI was an accident that injured no-one, so that’s pretty representative of what was found – under worse conditions but with better systems, today. Passive hydrogen combiners, which have been used in US plants for decades, would probably have avoided explosions at Fukushima.

            Your expertise in pulling numbers out of thin air seems to be running full throttle. At least you understand that nuclear plants actually all have a dedicated fund for decommissioning, even if you don’t exactly understand how it’s used. Governments of all levels have shown their repeated intransigence in the nuclear build process; it seems natural that any other investing group wants some financial binding from government to avoid such shenanigans.

          • neroden

            The dedicated nuclear plant decommissioning fund, in the US, is typically raided for other expenses while the plant owner avoids decommssioning through the dodge of “SAFSTOR”.

            See Entergy and Vermont Yankee for a particularly extreme example. It’s quite clear that Entergy plans to loot the fund dry for 60 years and then refuse to pay out anything for the actual decommissioning. They’ve said as much.

            If the nuke plant owners weren’t such damn crooks, I would trust the industry a lot more. The US Naval Reactor Program is quite clean and well operated, and I don’t think they’re dangerous. The record with TRIGAs has been just fine.

            By contrast, the commercial nuclear power industry has been a complete disaster, and I wouldn’t let them build a research reactor if it were up to me.

            TEPCO is a good example of the corruption and untrustworthiness of the nuclear power operators. Did they proactively install passive hydrogen combiners? Of course they didn’t! That would cost money upfront! Better to just risk lots of lives and destruction of other people’s property.

          • Joffan

            Decomm funds are carefully monitored and only decomm expenses are allowed to be used from them. Using time to allow radioactivity to reduce in the reactor vessel itself is a perfectly valid and efficient way to decommission. Your paranoia on this matter does not alter the facts.

          • Bob_Wallace

            If that’s the case then why are we hearing that some energy companies are trying to avoid closing plants because the decommissioning costs would be so high?

            If they’re losing money operating the plants and have the money set aside to decommission them, money they can’t use for anything else, why wouldn’t they close the plants and stop the bleeding?

          • Joffan

            I haven’t heard anything like that. so perhaps you would like to provide a link.

            If anything, I’m more aware of the opposite problem: nuclear plants facing a (probably) short-term price challenge from gas, and the easy option to keep the accountants happy is to close the plant, because the decomm funds are already in place.

          • Calamity_Jean

            If closing the plant is “the easy option”, why is Exelon putting up such a fight to keep its money-losing reactors going in Illinois (where I am)?

          • Joffan

            Exelon’s “fight” exactly aligns with the ease of closing a nuclear plant. They are using the threat of closure to try to reduce the financial pain from unpenalized fossil competition. If closing the plant were a difficult or expensive option, their threat would not be believable.

          • Bob_Wallace

            What you wrote does not make sense to me.

            1) Exelon has been losing money with their nuclear plants for more than five years.

            2) Exelon (according to you) has the money on hand it would need to decommission those plants. Money which cannot be used for any other purpose.

            3) Closing money losing plants is good for company profits.

            What’s missing from this summary, in your opinion?

            And a second question. Why is threatening to close a plant a threat if the power the plant produces is not needed?

          • Joffan

            What you are missing is the changing perception of fossil gas prices. As long as cheap gas was regarded as a temporary phenomenon, the future money-earning asset value of the plant was sufficient to allow absorbing small losses (which I think were actually operating profits not-quite-covering the regulatory fees, so net losses). When gas gets seriously cheap and looks like staying that way, the financial picture changes. Now keeping the plant open has a much less certain future money-earning value. At that point the no-extra-cost option of closing the plant starts to look good to the accountants.

            A particular difficulty for nuclear plants is that the regulators don’t have a mothballed status fee – either pay the full operating fee or close down, more-or-less.

            And your second question almost answers itself: clearly, the power from nuclear is needed, or there would be no threat. Needed to keep carbon dioxide emissions down, specifically.

          • Bob_Wallace

            What you are missing is that I am fully aware of what has caused roughly 25% of the US nuclear fleet to become money losers. Those plants with operating costs higher than the cost of electricity from a CCNG plant are in deep doodoo. That is why Kewaunee closed.

            The Illinois reactor output is not needed. Exelon argued for capacity payments in order to keep reactors open in the event that the power might be needed in a future polar vortex event. Their power was not needed in the previous event.

            I am not arguing against keeping the reactors on as a way to lower CO2 emissions. But since we do not tax carbon emissions where is the financial argument for not closing the plants?

            1) Company is losing money.

            2) Output from reactors is not needed.

            3) Closing reactors would stop loss and not cost anything.

            Can you explain the rationale for Exelon if the above statements are true?

          • Joffan

            The downside of closing a nuclear plant is that you lose an operating asset, and potentially you lose customer base (which is probably more important if the nuclear plant is a big portion of your company generating portfolio). So, if the plant has long-term viability, it’s better to keep it if the short-term pain is not too great.

            We have a problem that requires long-term thinking; simplistic short-term economics is a terrible way to go about it.

            We can either tax carbon or (somewhat equivalently) support non-carbon emitters. At the moment we are supporting some non-carbon emitters but not nuclear, which is hurting nuclear pricing from both sides.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Come on. If you can’t explain why a company would continue to operate a plant that has lost money over several consecutive years when closing would cost them nothing then admit you can’t explain it.

            There’s no customer base. They’re having to discount their product below production costs in order to dump their electricity on the grid. If the grid actually needed their output then the grid would pay enough to cover costs plus some owner profit.

            Long-term thinking tells you that there will be more and more wind and solar coming on line undercutting the cost of electricity out of these reactors more and more.

            If you’re losing money and the future looks even worse then the smart move is to cut one’s losses and bail.

          • Joffan

            I just did explain it – long-term asset value – but apparently you don’t want to listen. And then you finish up in the position of agreeing that Exelon can easily threaten to close the plant if they don’t get a better deal on their electricity price.

            Long-term thinking is that we need to stop burning fossil fuels. Fossil gas is what is dictating the short-term price. Subsidies, and privileged grid access, are what is keeping wind and solar in the game.

            Exelon’s threat is not idle – they will close the plant if there is no adjustment, because the fossil gas price is staying way too low.

          • Bob_Wallace

            No, you did not explain it. You talked around the problem.

            “Long-term thinking is that we need to stop burning fossil fuels. Fossil gas is what is dictating the short-term price. ”

            Correct. But there is no reasonable expectation that we will have a price on carbon in the near future which would stop the losses plus recover the losses per date.

            Natural gas did cause the first problem for nuclear but now wind is also part of the picture. And wind, costing less than CCNG, makes the problem worse.

            Wind, without subsidies, is now under 4c/kWh and heading toward 3c/kWh. Subsidies are not causing the problem. It’s the rapidly falling cost of wind generation.

            Furthermore, it doesn’t matter if the problem for nuclear was subsidized wind. Nuclear either competes with other available supplies or it doesn’t. In this case it does not.

            “Exelon’s threat is not idle – they will close the plant if there is no adjustment, because the fossil gas price is staying way too low.”

            Only one of their money losing plants was given capacity payment subsidies, IIRC. Why are not the other plants closing?

          • Joffan

            Every nuclear plants that closes, changes the electricity market, increasing the value of the remaining generators. Exelon is not going to close all of its plants. If Illinois doesn’t wish to value predictable and carbon-free electricity, Exelon will close enough plants to take its business valuation on operations back into the black.

            And that will be a setback for the fight to minimize climate change.

          • Bob_Wallace

            So Exelon is going to keep its nuclear plants operating at a loss to them in order to keep other plants from increasing in value.

            Do you realize how stupid that argument sounds?

            Why is it nuclear advocates cannot admit problems with their big love?

            (I don’t expect you to answer that.)

          • Joffan

            Do you realize how stupid you sound?

            Exelon will close a nuclear plant, maybe two, if it doesn’t get some sort of break on price or other support. That will change the market enough to make their other plants viable. Why are you not able to read what I am writing?

          • Bob_Wallace

            Here’s where we started –

            “If that’s the case then why are we hearing that some energy companies are trying to avoid closing plants because the decommissioning costs would be so high?

            If they’re losing money operating the plants and have the money set aside to decommission them, money they can’t use for anything else, why wouldn’t they close the plants and stop the bleeding?”

            You’re finally agreeing that Exelon will close some plants.

            BTW, how about bringing some data to the argument that closing some plants will make the others profitable. All were losing money and Exelon had to argue that some should get survival subsidies in the form of payments for (probably not needed ) capacity.

          • Joffan

            Perhaps you finally understand that there is no decommissioning fund barrier to Exelon closing the plants.

            Of course Exelon might close some plants. That’s obvious from what I was saying throughout. They can’t threaten to close plants if it’s not a real option for them – which it is, because there is no decommissioning payment hurdle. But if they can get some support, maybe even comparable support to other carbon-free options, they wouldn’t have the financial need to close any for the short-term balance sheet.

            The capacity is needed, to keep burning as little coal and gas as possible. Of course if you don’t care about carbon dioxide emissions, then no, it isn’t needed.

          • Bob_Wallace

            You nuclear advocates are certainly tiresome.

            You can’t explain why Exelon hasn’t closed money losing nuclear plants. You simply assume all the decommissioning funds are in place and not that Exelon might be trying to avoid spending money it doesn’t have. Bleed slowly in order to keep from bleeding fast.

            And you try to switch the discussion from the economics of nuclear energy to an environmental issue. No one is paying extra for low carbon electricity in the market. The market is all about cost of generation.

          • Bob_Wallace

            “Perhaps you finally understand that there is no decommissioning fund barrier to Exelon closing the plants.”

            Looks like you either didn’t know what you were talking about or were not being honest…

            “Among the underfunded plants are FirstEnergy Corp.’s Three Mile Island in Pennsylvania, site of the 1979 partial meltdown, and Entergy Corp.’s Indian Point, about 35 miles north of New York City.Among the underfunded plants are FirstEnergy Corp.’s Three Mile Island in Pennsylvania, site of the 1979 partial meltdown, and Entergy Corp.’s Indian Point, about 35 miles north of New York City.”

            ” 82 of the 117 U.S. nuclear power plants, including seven in the process of shutting down, don’t have enough cash on hand to close safely, according to NRC records”

            http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2015-05-03/radioactive-and-short-on-cash

            Now, do you think the reason Entergy might be dragging its feet over closing the Illinois plants might be that they’d have to come up with a larger amount of money than what they are now losing per year?

          • Joffan

            No, this is just the usual media misrepresentation, trying to make drama out of nothing. “Cash on hand” is not needed for adequate funding – decommissioning takes place over a long enough time frame that growth of funds is part of the equation. Decomm funds are monitored and topped up as required.

          • Mike Carey

            Bob would know this if he checked the NRC site for information on how they handle decomm funds. Cheers.
            From 2009 press release –
            “NRC REQUESTS PLANS FROM 18 NUCLEAR POWER PLANTS TO ADDRESS APPARENT DECOMMISSIONING FUNDING ASSURANCE SHORTFALLS

            “The NRC has contacted 18 nuclear power plants to clarify how the companies will address the recent economic downturn’s effects on
            funds to decommission reactors in the future. Nuclear power plant operators are required to set aside funds during a reactor’s operating
            life to ensure the reactor site will be properly cleaned up once the reactor is permanently shut down. The NRC’s review of the latest reports on decommissioning funding assurance suggests several plants must adjust their funding plans. “We’ll discuss this with the plants over the next few weeks so they can explain to us how
            they’ll get the funds back on track to account for their decommissioning cost estimates,” said Tim McGinty, director of Policy and Rulemaking in the NRC’s Office of Nuclear Reactor Regulation. “This is not a current safety issue, but the plants do have to prove to us they’re setting aside money appropriately.”
            ——-

          • Bob_Wallace

            I had not checked the NRC site, so thanks for bringing it to our attention.

            “. The NRC’s review of the latest reports on decommissioning funding assurance suggests several plants must adjust their funding plans.”

            Which tells us that the decommissioning funds are not in hand for several plants.

            ““We’ll discuss this with the plants over the next few weeks so they can explain to us how they’ll get the funds back on track to account for their decommissioning cost estimates,”

            Which says that the owners are going to be queried as to how they will find the decommissioning funds that they don’t have on hand but are supposed to have on hand.

            So you’ve found another source to confirm what the Bloomberg article reported. Money is not where it is supposed to be.

            If one of these companies goes bankrupt before they fully fund their decommissioning account then the taxpayers get handed another screwing.

            Good work finding that, Mike….

          • Mike Carey

            Here’s the message from the NRC – after 6 years – it is not a problem. Apparently, they have adjusted their plans, Bloomberg not withstanding, right?
            Cheers.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Mike, if the funds aren’t in place then they are not in place.

            If the plan is that the companies will eventually pay up what’s due then there’s a potential problem. Companies go bankrupt with some regularity.

            This seems to be the plant breakdown for Exelon – 55 percent nuclear, 24 percent natural gas, 8 percent renewable including hydro, 7 percent oil and 6 percent coal.

            We know they have been losing money for several years on some or all of their nuclear plants. If they are far enough behind the eightball on their decommissioning funds there won’t be enough value in their NG and hydro holdings. Their oil and coal plants are probably close to worthless.

            This could be a picture of a company whose execs are riding the pony into the ground, keeping their salaries alive as long as possible. Let the debts pile up until it’s time to grab their golden parachutes and jump out the door.

            Now I’m not saying that’s the case. I haven’t dug into their financial statements. But you need to try to understand that if the funds are not in place there may be a low chance that companies will survive long enough to pay into the fund.

            And back to the original issue. If the decommissioning funds are underfunded that could explain why Exelon has been taking a multi-year operating loss rather than closing money losing plants. Costs less to cover the loss than to pay up the decommissioning fund.

          • Mike Carey

            Gee, Bob, you don’t sound so certain in your opinions:
            – if the funds …
            – if the plan …
            – if they are …
            – this could be …
            – I’m not saying …
            – again if the funds …
            – and again if the funds …
            – that could explain …
            – blah, blah, blah.

            What do you know for *certain*, Bob?

            Here’s what I know for certain:
            – Exelon’s share price is near its 12 month high
            – Exelon’s market cap is over $31 *billion*
            – Exelon is *not* contemplating bankruptcy.

            Compare that to SunEdison:
            – SunEdison is contemplating bankruptcy
            – SunEdison’s share price has dropped to an all time low below $50 *cents*
            – SunEdison’s market cap is down to less than $200 *million*.

            So, let’s speculate that:
            – “someone” has been riding SunEdison’s “pony” into the ground
            – all the SunEdison executives have been paid their salaries over the past few years
            – all of the SunEdison salesmen have been paid their commissions
            – all of the SunEdison lobbyists have been paid their fees
            – and all of the politicians SunEdison supported have received their contributions
            – but *not* all of SunEdison’s creditors are going to receive the payments that are due.

            And back to the original issue – which company seems to be in the better position to meet its long term obligations?
            Cheers.

          • 345grund

            The funds will be restored. If the companies don’t go bankrupt.
            The original TMI company went bankrupt.

          • Bob_Wallace

            I’m not sure what sense it makes to compare Exelon to a company in a different business, successful or not. Best to look carefully at Exelon and see what sort of shape it is in.

            Exelon has 15 nuclear plants. Some, we don’t know now many have been losing money for several years.

            They have 14 oil burning plants. 10 natural gas plants. And 4 coal plants. They also have one hydro plant, one PuHS and one solar farm.

            Coal isn’t exactly a good business to be in these days. Like nuclear it’s being undercut by cheaper renewables. I don’t know how profitable their oil plants might be. They might just be old dogs that sit around hoping they’ll be needed some day.

            That leaves Exelon with 10 NG facilities. If most of the nuclear plants are now sour or will be soon would Exelon be able to raise the cash needed to pay up their decommission funds? Someone would have to dig into their financials to see what their risk of bankruptcy looks like.

          • Bob_Wallace

            NPR ran a piece today in which the future of nuclear energy was discussed. I’ll post over a few bits…-

            “It would be very difficult for any company to make a decision to try to build a new nuclear plant,” says Mike Twomey, a spokesman for Entergy Nuclear, which runs nuclear power plants.

            Entergy has already taken one unprofitable reactor offline in Vermont and plans to close two more plants that are losing money in upstate New York and Massachusetts.

            In all, 19 nuclear reactors are undergoing decommissioning, of which five have been shut down in the past decade, according to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

            ….

            “We think that the costs of new nuclear right now are not competitive with other zero-carbon technologies, renewables and storage that we see in the marketplace,” says Joe Dominguez, executive vice president for governmental and regulatory affairs and public policy at Exelon , a nuclear power company that has announced plans to close one of its existing reactors in New Jersey.

            Three other plants that are losing money in Illinois and upstate New York are also being reviewed for possible closure, Dominguez says.

            “Right now we just don’t have any plans on the board to build any new reactors,” he says.

            Mycle Schneider, a nuclear industry analyst , says nuclear also faces growing price pressure from wind and solar. Renewable energy is so cheap in some parts of the U.S. that it’s even undercutting coal and natural gas.

            “We are seeing really a radical shift in the competitive markets which leave nuclear power pretty much out in the rain,” Schneider says

            http://www.npr.org/2016/04/07/473379564/unable-to-compete-on-price-nuclear-power-on-the-decline-in-the-u-s

            That’s Entergy and Exelon saying no mas….

          • Mike Carey

            Okay, Bob, you say –
            “I’m not sure what sense it makes to compare Exelon to a company in a different business, successful or not. Best to look carefully at Exelon and see what sort of shape it is in.”

            “A different business”, really?
            Both companies are in the *energy* business, Bob. Here’s a description of SunEdison –
            “SunEdison, Inc. (SunEdison) is a developer and seller of photovoltaic energy solutions, an owner and operator of clean power generation assets, and a developer and manufacturer of silicon wafers.”
            Here’s is their recent operating performance –
            2015 Q3 & 2014

            Net profit margin
            -69.75%
            -51.54%

            Operating margin
            -52.73%
            -21.22%

            Here’s Exelon’s recent operating performance –
            2014 Q4 & 2015

            Net profit margin
            4.40%
            7.66%

            Operating margin
            10.57%
            14.97%

            So, Bob, again, which company is in a better position to meet its long term obligations for decommissioning funds, or whatever, a money losing PV company with *billions* in debt outstanding that is on the verge of bankruptcy, or a profitable energy company like Exelon?
            Cheers.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Mike, whether another company is failing or wildly successful has no bearing on the issue. Bringing in SunEdison is nothing but a red herring.

            What one needs to look at is how burdened Exelon and other owners of nuclear plants are. Are they top heavy with nuclear plants which may be among the ~25% which are financially failing? Does the company have the financial resources to withstand the closure of failed nuclear plants which could mean having to pay significant amount of money for decommissioning?

            It does appear that some reactors do not have fully paid decommissioning funds waiting to be spent over the decades it takes to return the site usable condition. Some decomm funds assume that the owner will continue to stay in business and be profitable enough to continue to pay the bill for 60 to 100 years.

            If any of those companies go under sometime over the next century then the burden will be borne by taxpayers.

          • Mike Carey

            No, Bob, you are wrong – again.
            Here are the facts about nuclear decommissioning funds:

            Background
            “Every nuclear power plant in the United States is required, by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, to set aside sufficient funds to decommission the plant when it reaches the end of its useful life.

            “These monies are collected from electricity consumers as part of their electric bill and deposited in a trust fund.

            “These nuclear decommissioning trust funds are not the property of the electric utility. They are outside the electric utility’s control.
            In bankruptcy situations, for example, decommissioning trust funds cannot be used to satisfy creditors’ claims.”

            Please try to get the facts before you start making things up. Thanks.

          • Bob_Wallace

            A few hours ago, in this very thread, someone posting as Mike Carey copied in the information that tells us your claim of deommissioning funds being paid up is incorrect.

            “”NRC REQUESTS PLANS FROM 18 NUCLEAR POWER PLANTS TO ADDRESS APPARENT DECOMMISSIONING FUNDING ASSURANCE SHORTFALLS

            “The NRC has contacted 18 nuclear power plants to clarify how the companies will address the recent economic downturn’s effects on funds to decommission reactors in the future. Nuclear power plant operators are required to set aside funds during a reactor’s operating
            life to ensure the reactor site will be properly cleaned up once the reactor is permanently shut down. The NRC’s review of the latest reports on decommissioning funding assurance suggests several plants must adjust their funding plans. “We’ll discuss this with the plants over the next few weeks so they can explain to us how they’ll get the funds back on track to account for their decommissioning cost estimates,” said Tim McGinty, director of Policy and Rulemaking in the NRC’s Office of Nuclear Reactor Regulation. “This is not a current safety issue, but the plants do have to prove to us they’re setting aside money appropriately.””

            Pay attention to the last few words, Mike. (Are) setting aside money appropriately. One does not need to be setting aside money if the money is in the fund.

          • Mike Carey

            So, Bob, from the previous post, I noted that the 6 year old advice from the NRC probably meant that the plans *were* adjusted to meet the funding requirements.

            Down in the weeds of financial accounting there are financial accounting standards, “FASs”, that deal with the ways to estimate and account for the trust funds. Those accounts are audited and overseen by the trustees, the NRC, and annually by a corporation’s outside accounting firms.

            So, there is *no* indication that there are any *real* issues with the decommissioning funds. You say there are, but that is just in your fevered imagination. Take care.

          • Bob_Wallace

            This is from January, 2016. It is from the World Nuclear Association website…

            “In USA, utilities are collecting 0.1 to 0.2 cents/kWh to fund decommissioning. They must then report regularly to the NRC on the status of their decommissioning funds. >About two thirds of the total estimated cost of decommissioning all US nuclear power reactors has already been collected, leaving a liability of about $9 billion to be covered over the remaining operating lives of 100 reactors (on basis of average $320 million per unit).”

            http://www.world-nuclear.org/information-library/nuclear-fuel-cycle/nuclear-wastes/decommissioning-nuclear-facilities.aspx

            If two thirds have been collected then one third is yet to be paid.

            Furthermore, it looks like decommissioning funds are be raided and spent for other purposes.

            This is from last October…

            “With a federal promise to take highly radioactive spent fuel from nuclear plants still unfulfilled, closed reactors are dipping into funds set aside for their eventual dismantling to build waste storage on-site, raising questions about whether there will be enough money when the time comes.

            It violates Nuclear Regulatory Commission rules for the plants to take money from their decommissioning trust funds to pay for building the concrete pads and rows of concrete and steel casks where waste is stored after it is cooled in special storage pools. But the NRC is granting exemptions from those rules every time it is asked.

            “All of the plants that have permanently shut down in recent years have sought, and been approved for, the use of decommissioning funds for spent fuel storage costs,” NRC spokesman Neil Sheehan wrote in an email in response to questions from The Associated Press this past week.”

            “Vermont Yankee’s decommissioning fund already is short enough — it contains about half the estimated $1.24 billion cost of dismantling the reactor, removing the waste and restoring the site — that the plant plans to follow an NRC-allowed procedure called “SAFSTOR,” in which the closed reactor is mothballed for up to 60 years in hopes the fund will grow enough to cover the cost.

            Vermont Yankee spokesman Martin Cohn said Entergy had taken out a $145 million line of credit to cover capital costs of building its on-site waste storage.”

            http://bigstory.ap.org/article/9a80e8005c974c368bb942439c18e170/nuclear-plants-dip-dismantling-funds-pay-waste

            The money is not where you say it is, Mike.

          • Mike Carey

            Oh, Bob, this is so embarrassing for you. As someone who frequently claims to know so much about energy costs, you now seem to be completely unaware of how funds are accumulated to meet future needs.

            If you take time to think again, can you think of any reason why 2/3s of the amount needed to dispose of an asset has been accumulated through 2/3s of the useful life of that asset? This is really simple stuff, Bob.

            And the funds for on site storage – is that really a mystery to you? Everyone who has been even partially aware of the Yuca mountain battles knows that the nuclear industry has been paying into the fund that is supposed to provide for a permanent storage facility. And since the feds have been politically blocked from using it, those funds have just been sitting there unused. Of course it made sense for the NRC to allow exemptions for use of those funds to provide for on site storage. It is the safest thing to do given the political intransigence of nuclear opponents.

            Really, just look under your bed tonight. You will sleep better know that there are no boogie men hiding there.
            Take care.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Try to use your brain, Mike.

            If the funds for decommissioning are not in the fund then the funds for decommissioning are not in the fund.

            If payment of those funds are dependent on the reactor owner staying in business then the funds will not be paid into the fund if the owner goes bankrupt.

            The funds for decommissioning are separate from the funds earmarked for radioactive waste storage.

          • Mike Carey

            Bob, you say –
            “The funds for decommissioning are separate from the funds earmarked for radioactive waste storage.”

            That is exactly *why* the NRC issued the exemptions. They are sane enough to insist on keeping the US nuclear program safe in the face of determined special interests such as your own.
            Sleep tight, Bob.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Your dishonesty is not appreciated, Mike.

          • Mike Carey

            Yes, I understand, Bob.

            When frustrated in conversations like this you have frequently reverted to your usual pattern of taunts, abuse and threats.

            Nothing new so far.
            Take care.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Don’t troll, Mike.

          • Mike Carey

            Here, comes the abuse right on schedule, Bob.
            What’s next?
            Take care.

            Ps-got it. You’ve decided to remove comments that embarrass you. That’s really sad, Bob.

          • Bob_Wallace

            No more warnings, Mike.

          • Mike Carey

            Yup, right on schedule again, Bob.
            Frustration followed by taunts then abuse then threats.
            Real classy, Bob.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Take a little time out Mike. Think about how you want others to view you, whether you want to be thought of as an honest person.

            I’ll turn you back on in a few days and we’ll see if you’ve decided to clean up your game.

          • 345grund

            One of TMIs original companies went bankrupt. Most of them did fancy footwork to dodge paying. Rate increases were bandied about to keep them alive.
            The most likely scenario in the event of a major disaster is bankruptcy.
            Tepco would be long gone were it not for Japanese government intervention. The only question is who it will bankrupt first, Japan or Tepco.

          • 345grund

            Thats right. Example: Vermont Yankee.

            “A high cost structure for this single unit plant. Since 2002, the company has invested more than $400 million in the safe and reliable operation of the facility. In addition, the financial impact of cumulative regulation is especially challenging to a small plant in these market conditions.”
            http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/entergy-to-close-decommission-vermont-yankee-221304391.html

            The biggest problem with Yankee was it was just plain old and cost more to operate as it aged.

            “The plant had withstood opposition from activists since it opened, but from 2007 to 2010, the collapse of a cooling tower, radioactive tritium leaks and misstatements from plant executives that had preceded them further eroded public confidence in the company”
            http://www.nytimes.com/2015/01/05/us/vermont-yankee-nuclear-plant-begins-slow-process-of-closing.html?_r=0

            All this points to another issue. That the nuclear companies want to shove decommissioning costs onto ratepayers.

            “Entergy, for example, has only about half the needed money in its decommissioning fund (and even so still found it cheaper to close the reactor than keep it running); repeat that across the country with multiple and larger reactors and the shortfalls could be stunning. Expect heated battles in the coming years as nuclear utilities try to push the costs of the decommissioning fund shortfalls onto ratepayers.”

            http://safeenergy.org/2015/01/05/nuclear-industry-goes-hysterical/

            The reality of decommissioning fund uses is a far cry from nuclear fans imagination.

            “Vermont officials have been battling some of Entergy’s proposed uses for Yankee’s decommissioning trust fund, including property tax payments and long-term spent fuel management. ”

            http://vtdigger.org/2015/11/05/entergy-juggling-shutdowns-at-multiple-nuclear-plants/

            Cooper has the best analysis of aging reactor costs.
            https://will.illinois.edu/nfs/RenaissanceinReverse7.18.2013.pdf

          • 345grund

            There is always the possibility that a company will go bankrupt over the long term of the decommissioning. The NRCs response is that its all OK, just put the money into more risky investments to make up the lack of funding and wait longer. But if the company goes belly up, that puts a whole new cast on things. If there is a shortfall that cannot be made up, there is only the public holding the bag.
            A play by play of the buck passing (literally) and bankruptcies here:
            http://www.tmia.com/corp.historyTMI
            The issue of bankruptcy in the event of nuclear disaster was clearly foremost on legislatures minds.
            https://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/politics/1979/11/10/senate-panel-tries-to-find-a-plant-bankruptcy-answer/1ebf8711-4600-4383-9f99-94b161577e07/

          • 345grund

            Tepco essentially did go bankrupt. Bailed out by the government. 51% owned.

            “On July 31, 2012, TEPCO was substantially nationalized by receiving a capital injection of 1 trillion yen (US$12.5bn) from the Nuclear Damage Liability Facilitation Fund (currently Nuclear Damage Compensation and Decommissioning Facilitation Corporation), a government-backed support body. The Fund holds the majority (50.11%) of voting rights with an option to raise that figure to 88.69% by converting preferred stocks into common stocks.”

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tokyo_Electric_Power_Company

          • 345grund

            Pilgrim, Fitzpatrick, Vermont Yankee, there is along list. Those plants already closed. More are likely. Aging plants cost more to operate.

            http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/report–over-three-dozen-us-nuclear-reactors-at-risk-of-early-retirement-12-face-greatest-shutdown-pressure-215857411.html

          • Not-a-crook

            Yep, just like the gas tax on each gallon of gas sold in the US goes directly to maintaining roads and bridges…oh, wait, yeah, our infrastructure is falling apart…well documented and in new frequently. Hmm, how’d that happen.

            Yeah, funds are constantly monitored, and ways to defraud the taxpayer and get at stashed funds are constantly worked on as well.

          • Joffan

            Maybe if infrastructure maintenance funds were kept in dedicated and independently audited accounts, accessible only through regulatory permission, they would be adequate to the purpose. But they aren’t, so your comparison fails.

          • Calamity_Jean

            The gas tax hasn’t been raised in ages, the rate is too low and the road maintenance fund doesn’t have enough money.

          • 345grund

            “Yet 82 of the 117 U.S. nuclear power plants, including seven in the process of shutting down, don’t have enough cash on hand to close safely, according to NRC records. And closing tends to cost more than operators expect. Based on NRC filings, the actual combined cost may be somewhere in the neighborhood of $100 billion — $43 billion more than the current balance of the trust funds.”

            http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2015-05-03/radioactive-and-short-on-cash

          • 345grund

            The reality of decommissioning fund uses is a far cry from nuclear fans imagination.

            “Vermont officials have been battling some of Entergy’s proposed uses for Yankee’s decommissioning trust fund, including property tax payments and long-term spent fuel management. ”

            http://vtdigger.org/2015/11/05

          • 345grund

            “The reactor was shut down in 1976. The remaining cost to decommission the plant once and for all -– cleaning up lingering radiological dangers, dismantling the remains — will be about $441 million, according to its owner, PG&E Corp.

            The question is who will pay — for Humboldt Bay, and for dozens of other reactors that are in the process of closing or might soon. Nuclear operators like PG&E are supposed to lay up enough money to cover the costs, similar to how corporations fund pensions. Turns out, most haven’t.

            PG&E’s Humboldt Bay trust fund, for instance, is currently $308 million short, according to a company filing to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission. PG&E customers will shoulder the cost in the form of higher electricity bills.”

            http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2015-05-03/radioactive-and-short-on-cash

          • Joffan

            Humboldt Bay is not really a typical case – a very small and early reactor, closed after 13 years operation – but even for that, much of the cost overrun in cost is due to what you might call “mission creep” – a shift in the requirements for decommissioning to standards beyond those expected while the plant was in operation.

            The “Turns out, most haven’t” line is a throwaway fiction.

          • 345grund

            “Yet 82 of the 117 U.S. nuclear power plants, including seven in the process of shutting down, don’t have enough cash on hand to close safely, according to NRC records. And closing tends to cost more than operators expect. Based on NRC filings, the actual combined cost may be somewhere in the neighborhood of $100 billion — $43 billion more than the current balance of the trust funds.”
            http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2015-05-03/radioactive-and-short-on-cash

          • Bob_Wallace

            Humboldt Bay was a real jewel in the crown of nuclear energy. Built on an active earthquake fault and in a tsunami zone.

            There was so much coverup while the plant was operating that the managers should still be in prison. But, of course, no one even shook a finger at them for their crap.

            And to cap it off, one of the fuel rods has gone missing. Maybe it’s laying the bottom of the tank in pieces. Maybe it got shipped out and the paperwork was screwed up. Maybe it will turn up at a flea market close to your house….

          • 345grund

            “The reactor was shut down in 1976. The remaining cost to decommission the plant once and for all -– cleaning up lingering radiological dangers, dismantling the remains — will be about $441 million, according to its owner, PG&E Corp.

            The question is who will pay — for Humboldt Bay, and for dozens of other reactors that are in the process of closing or might soon. Nuclear operators like PG&E are supposed to lay up enough money to cover the costs, similar to how corporations fund pensions. Turns out, most haven’t.

            PG&E’s Humboldt Bay trust fund, for instance, is currently $308 million short, according to a company filing to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission. PG&E customers will shoulder the cost in the form of higher electricity bills.”

            http://www.bloomberg.com/news/

          • eveee

            “Vermont officials have been battling some of Entergy’s proposed uses for Yankee’s decommissioning trust fund, including property tax payments and long-term spent fuel management. ”

            http://vtdigger.org/2015/11/05

          • 543grund

            A reading of the accounts of what went on at TMI paints a different story than the official version which was whitewash.
            That story needs to be told.

            http://www.tmia.com/node/118

          • 345grund

            “Among the underfunded plants are FirstEnergy Corp.’s Three Mile Island in Pennsylvania, site of the 1979 partial meltdown, and Entergy Corp.’s Indian Point, about 35 miles north of New York City.”
            http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2015-05-03/radioactive-and-short-on-cash

          • neroden

            The NRC is, in actual fact, known for taking sunnily optimistic “nothing can ever go wrong” views. They routinely allow nuclear reactor operators to *not fix known problems* for decades after the NRC issues corrective orders — this is easy enough to look up.

          • Not-a-crook

            Not just to not fix problems, but reduce the safety initially engineered into the system by saying ” well, it didn’t eat through the pipe yet, so next time we’ll make the pipe thinner, cause ya know, cheaper.”

          • Armchair Hydrogeologist

            I agree that newer plants are safer and have substantially mitigated many risks… in exchange for a hefty price increase.
            But what we have in the US an existing reactor fleet that getting quite old. While it’s true even an older US reactor may take a few days to blow its containment in the worst case scenario allowing people to evacuate to avoid immediate exposure problems, you could still have Chicago or New York covered with Cs137, Cs134, and Sr90 which is dangerous for 30 years unless cleaned up. To move back in it needs to get totally hosed down (where… into our rivers?). The top few inches of soil has to be plowed to the side and buried. This would take a lot of work. In the mean time are people going to accept living indoors and wearing N95 masks while their children can’t play outside in the dirt? Maybe some will think it’s okay… but I’d think it might be a big long term hit to the area’s housing value? What about all the business that have to relocate for at least several years? How will they ever move back? Basically the two counties downwind are going to be nearly abandoned and screwed up for decades.

          • Armchair Hydrogeologist

            Here’s a credible scenario:

            North Korea launches a couple missiles with lightweight boosted fission gun-type U235 warheads of 10kt yield with minimal gamma absorbing cladding. The missiles detonate several dozen km over Wisconsin and Lake Ontario. A few hundred miles to the south, a 20kV/m E1 EMP wave couples to the motor windings of all the pumps and windings in the transformers cooling the reactors and spent fuel rods. In addition to the motor windings, the SCADA systems that control them are screwed up too. In tests, this kind of E1 EMP wave damaged about 35% of the windings through partial electric discharge with a similar BIL (basic insulation level) rating to coolant pumps.

            Now several nuclear reactors in Illinois, Pennsylvania, Ohio, etc… can no longer pump water. The power grid and communication networks are screwed up. Due the confusion and us being overwhelmed, a couple of these reactors take more than a couple days to get the coolant flowing again and meltdown and blow their containment. Significant plumes of radioactive crud lands in Chicago, Cleveland, Pittsburgh and Philadelpha.

          • neroden

            TMI unit 2 meltdown was thank goodness mostly contained by the containment.

            It has NOT been cleaned up, of course, and there are still large residual liability and cleanup costs. They won’t be addressed until TMI unit 1 is shut down.

            TMI was the Babcock & Wilcox PWR design. They’re not the safest design…. But they’re relatively safe compared to the GE BWR design of Fukushima. Which is significantly safer than the Westinghouse “ice condenser containment” design which is used by five extremely dangerous reactors. Which is safer than Chernobyl’s graphite-moderated design.

            CANDU has proven safer than the PWR (but with more waste) and Magnox has proved safer than CANDU (but with a much higher waste volume) and AGR has proved safer than that…

            But even AGR is not a good design.

          • 345grund

            There have been notable problems with the AGR design.
            http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2007/apr/18/energy.nuclearindustry

          • 345grund

            Correct, TMI is not cleaned up yet.

            “Among the underfunded plants are FirstEnergy Corp.’s Three Mile Island in Pennsylvania, site of the 1979 partial meltdown, and Entergy Corp.’s Indian Point, about 35 miles north of New York City.”

            http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2015-05-03/radioactive-and-short-on-cash

          • Bob_Wallace

            Yes, had the wind been blowing toward Tokyo the cost would have been enormous.

            RE: transmission. Do you know any studies that compare the cost of transmission vs. storage in order to achieve a renewable grid?

          • Armchair Hydrogeologist

            Not 100% sure on good studies. It’s a very complex problem with a lot of regional dependencies. There’s the CIRES study that claims that a mix of up to 78% renewables is cheaper with HVDC before adding significant storage:

            http://www.carbonbrief.org/us-could-cut-power-emissions-78-by-2030-using-existing-technology-says-study

            One extreme case in US is the southeast which has poor wind resources and overall good but labile PV sun resources. To get a high renewable mix in the southeast, you’d need a lot of either deep storage, excess transmission from the windbelt, or a lot of peaking capacity…. Probably all three.

            The key is to making HVDC make $en$e is find statistically uncorrelated renewables and loads. One example is southern Wyoming wind and LA’s power mix. Some rich oil dude (Anschutz) is running an HVDC line to the hoover dam area from Wyoming to take advantage of this. A similar project is proposed to go from west Texas area to LA/Hoover as well for similar regions.

            But to get to a level of 1 major regional brownout per 10 years, you still need a very deep amount of dispatchable power.

          • Bob_Wallace

            A bit off topic, but it turns out the Southeast has pretty good wind resources. People just weren’t looking in the right place. Go up higher with 140 meter hub heights and one finds plenty of wind.

            Wyoming wind does seem very promising. I think that HVDC project will tie into the Intermountain Intertie (Path 27). And I seem to remember a plan to tie the northern end of the Intermountain to the Pacific Intertie in order to create a loop and increase reliability.

          • Calamity_Jean
          • eveee

            Its 57 billion for evacuees alone, and that number is mounting. That is not a permanent cost for them, its an ad hoc one. Given the other costs involved, its not very hard to conceive of 100 billion dollars as costs.
            Here is a Japanese academic study examining the costs and coming up with $108 billion for example. They provide a breakout of costs. Already, the evacuation costs exceed those in the study.
            https://www.rt.com/news/183052-japan-fukushima-costs-study/
            It appears estimates keep going up, not down.
            Greenpeace has a take on who is paying for this.
            http://www.greenpeace.org/international/en/getinvolved/They-profit-you-pay/

          • neroden

            Indeed, we do have to learn for the future. We have to shut down most of the nuclear industry before it causes any more of these disasters.

            The workers with expertise in the industry will still have employment for the rest of their lives, and we will still need to train and employ more workers, *just to do the cleanups*. We’re still cleaning up *Windscale*, for goodness sake, and we’re even still cleaning up *St Louis* where they stopped all nuclear stuff by 1945 — not to mention the uranium mines.

            We won’t finish cleaning up Chernobyl or Fukushima in the lifetimes of my great-grandchildren, and we’ll *never* be able to clean up Bikini Atoll or the Nevada Test Site.

          • Joffan

            The usual claptrap confusing nuclear weapons problems with nuclear power.

            Enjoy moving back into a cave, if that’s the lesson you wish to learn from any challenge.

        • Radical Ignorant

          That is not fair. This was worst natural disaster in modern history of Japan. Almost 20 thousands people died. And you say not avoiding it is stupid.

          • Bob_Wallace

            You seem to have experienced a reading failure.

      • neroden

        I’m also glad that people are rising to the challenge of this disaster.

        But they shouldn’t have to, because the disaster should not have happened. It was preventable. It would not have happened if not for the appallingly bad safety record of the nuclear power industry. It was known that they (a) shouldn’t have located the plants in an earthquake zone, (b) shouldn’t have located the diesel generators where they could be flooded by a tsunami, (c) shouldn’t have used the GE Mark I containment system, which is crap, (d) shouldn’t have used the GE “insert control rods upward” system, which is crap, (e) shouldn’t have used the GE “second story cooling pool” design, which is crap, (f) shouldn’t have kept operating reactors for years after their design life…. do I need to go on?

        The TRIGA is a safety-conscious reactor design. The stuff used in the nuclear power industry is garbage.

        It is probably not coincidental that the sales of TRIGAs are actually profitable. The companies which made big power reactors (GE, Westinghouse, Areva, etc.) appear to have lost money on them.

      • 543grund

        This effort is necessary because others have failed. Water has to be pumped out to prevent it from flowing to the sea and to attempt to limit groundwater contamination. Five years later, it’s not over.

    • Scott Gordon

      yep, build it and worry about the problems when they come up..

      • 345grund

        Like this:

        “TEPCO announced last week that the steel and concrete sea wall they installed and recently closed the last section of had been damaged. The wall was bowing outward due to increased groundwater pressure. A recent presentation to METI shows why.”

        http://www.fukuleaks.org/web/?p=15179

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