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!