Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems (UAMPS) is basically a group of cities that provide electrical service to their residents. These cities have banded together to produce, purchase, and distribute electrical power to their members throughout Utah and surrounding areas.

UAMPS was established in 1980 under the Utah Interlocal Cooperation Act, Title 11, Chapter 13, Utah Code Annotated 1953, as amended, and is a political subdivision of the State of Utah. Its 45 members (the “members”) include public power utilities in eight states: Utah, Arizona, California, Idaho, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon and Wyoming. Each of the Members has entered into the UAMPS Agreement for Joint and Cooperative Action, which provides for the organization and operation of UAMPS. UAMPS’ purpose include the planning, financing, development, acquisition, construction, operation and maintenance of various projects for the generation, supply, transmission and management of electric energy for the benefit of the Members.

UAMPS is a project-based organization and presently operates 16 separate projects that provide a variety of power supply, transmission and other services to the Members that participate in them. The Members make their own elections to participate in UAMPS’ projects and are not obligated to participate in any particular project. In general, UAMPS and its Members that elect to participate in a project enter into a contract that specifies the services or product to be provided by UAMPS from the project, the payments to be made by the participating Members in respect of the costs of the project and other matters relating to the project.

UAMPS has recently made some preliminary movement towards producing power with nuclear energy. Here is part of their press release on the subject:

Nuclear energy has long been attractive because it emits no carbon or pollutants and produces massive amounts of reliable, stable energy, decade after decade. But the promise of a “nuclear renaissance” was dramatically interrupted by the March, 2011, catastrophic failure at the Fukushima, Japan, nuclear plant. Today, however, a new generation of small, modular reactors promises a new phase of the nuclear renaissance. We believe the technology being developed by NuScale Power, of Oregon, will produce small modular reactors (SMRs) that are safe, cost-effective, and simple. SMRs are as different from the enormous large-reactor plants built in the 1960s as a 2015 Prius hybrid is to a1960s-era Cadillac with its enormous fins and terrible gas mileage.

UAMPS has entered into a Teaming Agreement with NuScale and Energy Northwest outlining the parties’ intent to investigate developing a Carbon-Free Power Project using SMR technology, possibly at the Department of Energy’s Idaho Laboratory (INL) near Idaho Falls. It could be the first SMR project in the world. INL, whose mission is the development and deployment of advanced nuclear technologies, has immense reactor experience, sufficient water resources, access to transmission lines, environmental data needed in the DOE permitting process, and strong local political support.

The Carbon-Free Power Project could consist of up to twelve 50 MW SMRs (600 MW total). Each reactor sits within a containment vessel measuring 76 feet tall x 15 feet in diameter. Each reactor and containment vessel operates independently of the other reactors inside a water-filled 8-million gallon water pool that is built below grade.

The reactor operates using the principles of natural circulation; hence, no pumps are needed to circulate water through the reactor. The system uses the natural physics convection process, providing the ability to safely shut down and self-cool, indefinitely, with no operator action, AC or DC power, and no additional water. The design simplicity allows the NuScale Power Module to be factory-built, and transported to the site on trucks. The design makes the plants faster to construct, and less expensive to operate. The footprint of a 600 MW plant is small, only 44 acres. NuScale recently won a $217 million DOE grant to develop the SMR and apply for NRC design certification approval.

No final decision regarding a Carbon-Free Power Project should be expected before 2017. But the UAMPS Board of Directors has directed management and staff to carefully investigate the possibilities and to monitor the certification and licensing process. A plant would likely not be operational before the end of 2023, when UAMPS coal plants will likely need to be retired.

Publicly-owned utilities like UAMPS are under tremendous pressure to provide cleaner energy and reduce reliance on carbon-based fuels. UAMPS believes it is prudent and wise to carefully investigate a Carbon-Free Power Project as a possible source of safe, clean, emission-free, reliable, baseload energy.

As you may know, the NuScale approach to nuclear power is to use existing light water fuel and technology (ceramic uranium oxide fuel pellets and zirconium cladding), but with much smaller reactor sizes (50 megawatt electric) that can cool completely passively in case of station blackout.

I think this is great, and if the reactors are every built at INL, I would actually get to use nuclear generated electricity at my home!

I intend to write to the city council and mayor of Brigham City to ask that they support UAMPS with this projects.  I will keep you updated.


Congratulations to Atomic Insights!

Recently, Rod Adam’s website, Atomic Insights celebrated its 20th anniversary. A hearty congratulations to Rod for his tireless work in promoting nuclear energy!

As part of the celebration, Rod republished electronically the first paper issue of his newsletter.

Here are a few samples from the newsletter:

One pound of uranium contains as much energy as 2 million pounds of oil. Releasing that energy from the uranium results in less than one pound of waste material that can be stored in a simple container for decades with no effect on the environment.

A pound of uranium is easy to move while transporting 2 million pounds of oil requires the service of about thirty standard sized tanker trucks.

People in industrialized countries are told that their way of life is wasteful and that there is not enough fossil fuel in the world to allow developing nations to duplicate our kind of prosperity. We are rarely told that the world’s stockpile of uranium and plutonium represents many decades worth of energy resources or that extensive deposits of uranium exist in the United States, Australia, and Canada. The fact that thorium, an element that is more common than uranium, has been used to fuel certain kinds of reactors is virtually unknown.

Many Americans believe that nuclear reactors are too big or too expensive. Nuclear power plants the same size as a truck engine have been built for space applications.

At least five of the 25 lowest cost electricity producers in the United States are nuclear plants.

The nuclear industry in the United States has amassed an incredible safety record of zero deaths caused by radiation. Nuclear powered submarines, cruisers and aircraft carriers have combined for over 100 million miles of ocean travel during a forty year period. The energy source has proven its merit and deserves to be carefully considered and discussed.

The newsletter concludes with this:

A New Era

It is time to begin a new discussion about energy in America, one that is based on facts and comparisons instead of one based on fear, vested political interests and ignorance. Since our government has abdicated its role in educating and moderating active debate in favor of subsidizing the interests of narrowly focused groups, we will take on the responsibility for bringing you information and discussion.

We encourage your participation in this newsletter. With the help of your questions and our attempts at response, we expect to produce a lively source of information unavailable elsewhere. Let the fireworks begin.

So, again, Congratulations Rod!


The Oracle of Omaha

There is a large and contentious ongoing debate about alternative energy, wind power being one of those alternatives. Much has been written about wind power being unpredictable and fickle,well, like the wind. This is certainly true.

I have considered economics to be the bigger issue with regard to the alternatives.  Are they really cost effective? After all, in this world, resources (time, money, and raw materials, etc.) really are scarce.  If you eat all your seed corn over the winter, when it comes time to plant in the spring, there is nothing to plant and then you are going to starve.

If wind mills are built instead of reliable nuclear power plants, we will have less energy and less money to do other things.

Well, none other than Warren Buffet has weighed in on the economics of windmills.  Here is what he says,

“I will do anything that is basically covered by the law to reduce Berkshire’s tax rate. For example, on wind energy, we get a tax credit if we build a lot of wind farms. That’s the only reason to build them. They don’t make sense without the tax credit.”

That pretty much puts the issue to bed for me. It’s not that I admire Mr. Buffet all that much, but I acknowledge that from an investing and financial perspective, he certainly knows what he is talking about. Windmills do NOT make sense without the tax credit.

Anti-nuclear forces have worked for decades to increase the costs of nuclear power providers, while working to get very generous subsidies for alternatives. Then they say that nuclear can’t compete with alternatives. Please!

End the subsidies to windmills, or give the same subsidies to all energy sources. After all, don’t we pretend to believe in equal protection under the law?


Lewis Strauss and Hugh Hefner

Maybe I have a penchant for wacky and obscure analogies, but bear with me on this.

 Lewis Strauss was chairman of the US Atomic Energy Commission from 1953 to 1958, under President Eisenhower (Ike).

I started this article somewhat differently than where it is now leading me, but to make a long story short, Lewis Strauss was a member of the establishment elite and a significant one. He was the personal financial adviser to the Rockefeller Family, whose fortunes came from oil and banking. This was in 1950 when Strauss had just left the AEC as a commissioner and before returning as the chairman in 1953, at the request of Ike.

That this has to be spelled out is disturbing in and of itself. Here is a man beholden to the Rockefellers and their oil money becoming the chairman of the US Atomic Energy Commission in 1953. Did anyone notice at the time?  Did anyone think that Strauss had a conflict of interest?

Here is an analogy that most Utahns will understand: Having Lewis Strauss as chairman of the AEC is like have Hugh Hefner (the pornographer) as the president of the young woman’s mutual improvement association. There was a blatant conflict of interest that was damaging to nuclear power in the case of Lewis Strauss.  I don’t have to research all the great things he allegedly said about nuclear this and that when he was in the AEC. What I need are 10 professional researchers and access to the AEC and Rockefeller archives for about 10 years to attempt to reconstruct what was really done and not what was said.

Please remember that in 1953 the Eisenhower Administration and the CIA overthrew Mohammad Mosaddeq as prime minister of Iran so that five oil companies (Standard Oil of New Jersey, Socony-Vacuum — formerly Standard Oil of NY, and now Mobil — Standard Oil of California, Gulf, and Texaco) could get 40% of the oil coming out of Iran.

Am I really supposed to believe that Lewis Strauss, the personal financial adviser to the Rockefellers did not doing their bidding in the AEC at the same time that the CIA was doing their bidding in Iran?

Again, I am not calling for the reform of the NRC (successor of the AEC) to make things less bureaucratic for nuclear power. I am calling for the dissolution of the NRC. Defund the NRC!

This leads me to a question:

Why are American political institutions so ridiculously easy to take over? As I have discussed, oil had its man in the AEC from the very beginning in 1946.

I don’t want the ring of power, I want it thrown into Mount Doom.



Gresham’s Law

Maybe you have heard about Gresham’s Law? Simply stated it says that bad money drives out good. Here is how the Bionic Mosquito states it:

Gresham’s Law is often stated: bad money drives out good. This is incomplete, and an incomplete statement of Gresham’s Law. It is more accurately stated: Bad money drives out good if their exchange rate is set by law.

If different “money” is free to trade, without any hindrance from legal tender laws, tax preferences, etc., bad money will not drive out good, nor necessarily will good money drive out bad. Different “monies” will find their value in the market, and will trade. Period.

However, if one money is protected by legal tender, and the valuation is fixed by government, then yes, the bad money will drive out the good. All will get rid of the over-valued (by government decree) money, as it MUST be accepted by the counter-party, and accepted at a value higher than the market would determine.

This is how it works. Up until 1965, the US 25 cent piece, a “quarter” was 90% silver. The metal content of the quarter was more than 25 cents and the US Mint was losing money making them. So, the marvelous Battelle Memorial Institute came up with the sandwich quarter made of copper and nickel, which has been in circulation since. Since both coins are valued by law as having a value of 25 cents, people who are smarter than the decrees of the feddle gummint keep the silver coins and use the sandwich quarter for purchases. (Perhaps you ask why the the US Mint didn’t just continue making the silver quarter and sell them to the public at market value and not legal tender/face value? Well, because then the counterfeiting/money debasement operation of the Feddle Reserve, in full swing since the beginning <1913> would be obvious to everyone. We can’t have that. <sarc>)

What does this have to do with electricity? A lot. Bad (unreliable) electricity drives out good (baseload) electricity . Let me explain. When net metering laws value unreliable electricity the same as nuclear baseload, the unreliable electricity (wind and solar) drives the good baseload electricity (nuclear) out of business. How does this work in practice?

We have actually seen this in practice.

Consider when nuclear baseload is producing electricity and the wind starts blowing. By law, the utility companies have to buy this power, sometimes at retail rates when it is produced. Since the baseload can’t be throttled in an instant, (that’s why it’s called baseload.) the excess electricity has to go somewhere, which means that sometimes the utilities have to pay someone to use the electricity.

This undervalues nuclear baseload generation and overvalues unreliable and unpredictable wind and solar. The results are as predictable as with silver and sandwich coins.  The silver coins go into hoards and the sandwich coins circulate widely. In the case of nuclear, fewer, if any plants are built, others are closed while more and more wind and solar are installed. (Tell me that this was not the plan in the first place.) The result is increasing electricity costs and more outages.


A Way Forward

In my occupation as an engineer, I regularly field questions regarding the products my company produces.  Someone will call me and tell me a story about such and such that happened while the product was being manufactured, or this and that happened during transportation of the products from point A to point B and are the products still good?

My first response to such questions is to ask if something similar has happened before.  Frequently, the answer is yes. “Well then,” is my response, “let’s just do what we did last time this happened. No need to reinvent the wheel.”

This is also a good experience to apply to the NRC, DOE and FERC.  What have we done in the past to bloated, inefficient, anachronistic bureaucracies that have outlived their usefulness, if ever they had one? We got rid of them. They no longer exist.

For example, let’s consider the state of affairs in 1969 with the Civil Aeronautics Board, the Interstate Commerce Commission, the Federal Communications Commission and the telephone companies.

Airline regulation was an oligopoly. The Civil Aeronautics Board controlled ticket prices for all interstate flights. It controlled flight routes. That disappeared a decade later under Jimmy Carter. There is price competition on a scale never dreamed of prior to Carter’s presidency. It is cheap to fly anywhere in the world.

Or what about the Interstate Commerce Commission?

The Interstate Commerce Commission still controlled freight rates in 1969. That organization was literally shut down in 1995. There is freedom on the highways as never before.

And the Federal Communications Commission?

 The FCC controlled the licensing of airwaves broadcasting. It still does, but broadcasting is fading in importance. (It is fading very fast. ed.)

What about telephone companies?

We lived under a virtual monopoly of the telephone system. Then came the 1968 Carterfone decision by the Supreme Court. That broke the monopoly of the telephone cartel.

Each one of these changes was opposed by those whose illegitimate income depended on officers with guns enforcing the arbitrary rules against upstarts and entrepreneurs.

Does anyone want to return to 1969?  Some might ask what will we do without the NRC, the DOE and FERC? The same questions were asked a generation or two ago. Today we know the answers. We will have more freedom and richer lives with products we never before dreamed of.

The sky is the limit and let nuclear innovation go forward! Goodbye to the NRC, DOE and FERC. Life will be better without them.  That is the path forward for a nuclear renaissance!

The quotes are from Dr. Gary North.

Integral Fast Reactor

Rod Adams (check out his website) put me onto this fantastic book about the Integral Fast Reactor that was developed by Argonne Labs (now Idaho National Lab) from 1984 to 1994.

Plentiful Energy CoverI have been reading the book for the last few days and find it fascinating. Even though I have been a nuclear advocate for decades, I continue to learn new things about nuclear all the time.

I am also amazed at how much the anti-nuclear folks have defined the terms and framed the area of acceptable debate regarding the role of nuclear energy in the US for the last 40 years. In short, they have created the reality that they want.

Consider this paragraph from page 108 of the book:

This is the situation: Plutonium, as used in the IFR, cannot be simply demonized and forgotten. It is the means to unlimited electricity. The magnitude of the needs and estimates of the sources that might be able to fill those needs lead to one simple point: Fast reactors only, taking advantage of the breeding properties of plutonium in a fast spectrum, much improved over any uranium isotope, can change in a fundamental way the outlook for energy on the necessary massive scale. Their resource extension properties multiply the amount of usable fuel by a factor of a hundred or so, fully two orders of magnitude. Fine calculations are unnecessary. Demand can be met for many centuries, by a technology that is known today, and whose properties are largely established. This technology is not speculative, as are fusion, new breakthroughs in solar, or other suggested alternatives. It can be counted on.

Instead of plutonium being the most evil and toxic thing on earth (according to the antis), it is in fact, the means to “unlimited electricity”.

The book is well worth reading.




Jesus, the NRC, and Nuclear Power

This is probably the first time that Jesus has ever been talked about in the same breath as nuclear power and not as an expletive.  Just bear with me for a moment.  I am not trying to be cute or sacrilegious.

In Matthew 25, Jesus tells the parable of the talents. It goes like this:

14 For the kingdom of heaven is as a man travelling into a far country, who called his own servants, and delivered unto them his goods.

15 And unto one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one; to every man according to his several ability; and straightway took his journey.

16 Then he that had received the five talents went and traded with the same, and made them other five talents.

17 And likewise he that had received two, he also gained other two.

18 But he that had received one went and digged in the earth, and hid his lord’s money.

19 After a long time the lord of those servants cometh, and reckoneth with them.

20 And so he that had received five talents came and brought other five talents, saying, Lord, thou deliveredst unto me five talents: behold, I have gained beside them five talents more.

21 His lord said unto him, Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.

22 He also that had received two talents came and said, Lord, thou deliveredst unto me two talents: behold, I have gained two other talents beside them.

23 His lord said unto him, Well done, good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.

24 Then he which had received the one talent came and said, Lord, I knew thee that thou art an hard man, reaping where thou hast not sown, and gathering where thou hast not strawed:

25 And I was afraid, and went and hid thy talent in the earth: lo, there thou hast that is thine.

26 His lord answered and said unto him, Thou wicked and slothful servant, thou knewest that I reap where I sowed not, and gather where I have not strawed:

27 Thou oughtest therefore to have put my money to the exchangers, and then at my coming I should have received mine own with usury.

28 Take therefore the talent from him, and give it unto him which hath ten talents.

The NRC, of course, in my analogy, is the wicked and slothful servant who went and buried the talent (nuclear energy) since it was created 4 decades ago.  Go ahead and lump the DOE in with the NRC.  It is also wicked and slothful.  The NRC was created by an act of Congress and began operations on January 19, 1975. What has happened since then? Not much of anything.

“Of the 100 reactors now operating in the U.S., ground was broken on all of them in 1977 or earlier.

There has been no ground-breaking on new nuclear plants in the United States since 1974. Up until 2013, there had also been no ground-breaking on new nuclear reactors at existing power plants since 1977. Then in 2012, the NRC approved construction of four new reactors at existing nuclear plants. Construction of the Virgil C. Summer Nuclear Generating Station Units 2 and 3 began on March 9, 2013. A few days later, on March 12, construction began on the Vogtle Electric Generating Plant Units 3 and 4. In addition, TVA’s new reactor at the Watts Bar Nuclear Generating Station is at an advanced stage, after construction was resumed after being halted in 1988.”

Oh, and the wicked and slothful NRC gets paid $279/hour to destroy the industry it regulates.  The power to tax is the power to destroy. So, then the power to regulate must also be the power to destroy.

How could we ever think that these jokers would expand the nuclear enterprise, instead of acting just like any bureaucracy and protecting only themselves?

Shame on us for believing that they share a desire to bring nuclear power to the world.

Take from the NRC/DOE (and don’t forget that other evil, FERC) their oversight of all things nuclear and give it to the states and counties.  I am certain that some of the states will create identical NRCs at the state level, but I am also sure that some of the states and counties that are starved for prosperity will adopt a rational approach to nuclear power regulation.  Such is the nature of decentralizing the cosmos that has accumulated on the Potomac.




Intellectual Discovery and Cognitive Dissonance

I enjoy discovering new things, things that I never knew about or never thought of before.  Even when I have spent 30 years studying nuclear energy as an avocation, I find out things that didn’t know.

Recently, I was reading AtomicInsights and followed a link to a guest post by Len Koch, who worked for Idaho National Lab (and its predecessor) on the Experimental Breeder Reactor I and II.  I actually visited EBR-1 a couple of years ago and was impressed to see the technology that was invented before I was born.

What I learned about EBR-II was more interesting.  It produced power for 30 years for the INL site, which, by the way, is very remote and desolate, and it did so as it was producing more fissile material.

Anyway, Len mentioned that the DOE (US Department of Energy) has in its custody 700,000 tons of depleted uranium (DU), which can be bred into fissile plutonium.  Len has a photo of a container of DU, which typically contains 14 tons.  This is the energy equivalent of 100 million barrels of oil.  The DOE has about 50,000  of these containers! This amount of potential energy is incomprehensible!  I love to discover things like this!

Depleted Uranium Cylinder

Deplete Uranium Storage Container

One hundred million barrels of oil times 50,000 containers of DU = 5 trillion barrels of oil! (Other countries have even more DU.)

What are we waiting for? I, for one, am tired of the lame fear and pathetic excuses peddled by fossil fuel interests (and others) that keep us from using this virtually limitless source of energy. That is my cognitive dissonance.


The Tale of Two Power Plants

There are two power plants in Nebraska that vividly illustrate the difference between coal and nuclear power, as explained on pages 38 and 39 of Terrestrial Energy.

Terrestial Energy“Let us look at how this works in real life. The North Omaha Power Plant in Omaha,Nebraska, produces 500 megawatts (MW) of electricity, about one-fifth of the power needed to run the city. Every three days, a 110-car unit train arrives, each car is loaded with 125 tons of coal. One car produces twenty minutes of electricity. The plant occupies more than two square miles—much of it needed to store the mountains of coal.

Each day’s consumption of 4,500 tons of coal at North Omaha will combine with atmospheric oxygen to form 15,000 tons of carbon dioxide…Across the country, America has 600 similar coal plants that provide half our electricity and put 3 billion tons of CO2 into the atmosphere each year—10 percent of the world’s total. This is the greatest single source of global greenhouse gases on the planet.

About thirty miles south of Omaha lies the Cooper Nuclear Station on the banks of the Missouri River. The plant occupies two square miles, slightly less than the coal station. Every eighteen months, a single tractor-trailer arrives carrying several dozen bundles of 18-foot nuclear fuel rods. These rods are only mildly radioactive and can be handled safely with gloves. They are loaded into the reactor core, where they will undergo nuclear fission for three years. After the fuel rods are spent, they will be removed from the reactor core looking exactly as they did when they went in, except they will be highly radioactive. They can be stored in a 40-foot-deep, on-site “swimming pool,” where their radioactivity dissipates in six feet of water. There, they can remain for decades. After three years, when the radioactivity has dropped by half, they may be moved to nearby outdoor dry casks. There they may remain for almost a century. The Cooper Station produces no sulfur emissions, no mercury, no soot, no particulate matter, no ash, no slag, and no greenhouse gases. And it does produce more electricity than North Omaha—750 MW.

Terrestrial [(nuclear)] energy is something completely new in human history, qualitatively different from anything we get from the sun. That is why there has been such a lag in public understanding. Solar energy, in its many forms, has accustomed us to the idea that using energy must create huge environmental impacts, either by polluting or by occupying vast tracts of land. Terrestrial energy is so highly concentrated that it can provide us with enormous amounts of energy while barely leaving a trace. Combined with the contributions of solar power, terrestrial energy offers us the opportunity to power the world while eliminating all manners of environmental degradation.”

So there are the advantages of nuclear; no ash, no soot, no mercury, no exhaust!