Let’s Go Energize the Northwest

Burke founded Energize Northwest to develop an energy centered economic boost for the Northwest that could not be duplicated or outsourced elsewhere. He focused on the uniqueness of the Hanford Nuclear Reservation and the Columbia River system’s huge hydroelectric power network. Researching Hanford’s origin, Burke learned that in only 20 months, the Manhattan Project converted a stretch of central Washington farmland into an enormous nuclear operation. He hoped that the dynamic energy of the Manhattan Project’s effort to end the threats of World War II could be recreated to fight the threats of global warming.

From February 9, 1943 when $5 million dollars was allocated to purchase 40,000 acres of farmland near Richland Washington, to the start of the B reactor on September 27 of 1944 was only 20 months. It took only and additional 10 months for the B reactor to convert the uranium, U238, in its fuel rods to plutonium, for the newly constructed “PUREX” fuel recycling plant to separate the plutonium from the other fuel elements, and the plutonium inserted into “the gadget.” The “gadget” being the code name for the first atomic bomb which was exploded near Alamogordo, New Mexico on July 16, 1945. Today, we cannot get a consensus to do something in 20 months let alone design and build a nuclear reactor.
Link to Wikipedia’s Article on the Manhattan Project

For months, Burke mulled ways to “Energize” our previous Governor even looking to the startup of the Manhattan Project for ideas. However, along came Governor Jay Inslee, who has similar views on the urgency of attacking the problem of global warming. He even wrote a book, Apollo’s Fire: Igniting America’s Clean Energy Economy, believing that the project needed an Apollo Moon Project type of effort. Governor Inslee, a United States Representative when he wrote Apollo’s Fire, even submitted legislation urging congress to act. The major piece of legislation was H.R. 2809 (110th): New Apollo Energy Act of 2007. However, his actions gained little traction. Governor Inslee was just ahead of his time!

First, Muster Political Will

Since taking office, Governor Inslee has been actively working on reducing our State’s Green House Gas (GHG) emissions. Working with the Legislature, he hired a consultant to research and evaluate the various ways the State can reduce its GHG emissions. In addition, they formed the Climate Legislative and Executive Workgroup (CLEW) to evaluate the report and present proposals to the legislature. As often the case, the consultant did not study Nuclear Energy as an option. This was a mixed blessing as the consulate was unable to reach the 2020 emission reduction goal using all the other reasonable options available. This makes the construction of new nuclear plants and the shutting down the region’s coal plants an attractive option. The electricity generated by one new Nuclear Plant could replace all the coal generated electricity our State uses and would lower our GHG emissions to below the State’s 2020 goal.

Calculating the quantity of GHG emissions that would be eliminated by replacing high carbon (we will assume coal) generated electricity with nuclear, is as follows. Table 5-1b on page 60 of the State’s 2013 Biennial Energy Report with Indicators shows that the State consumed over 12 million MWh of coal-generated electricity. The chart on page 8 of the Liedos Report shows that generating this electricity produced GHG emissions of 15.8 MMTCO2e (million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalents). If we replace this coal-generated electricity with clean Nuclear energy, the State would exceed its 2020 GHG reduction goal. Subtracting 15.8 from the state’s projected 2015 level of 99.6 MMTCO2e (Liedos Report, page 50) gives you 83.8 MMTCO2e. This is well below Washington State’s 2020 goal of 88.4.

For the fiscal year ending 2014, the Columbia Station, our only nuclear plant, set a new record by generated 9.8 million MWh (from 7/14/2014 press release). A new GE ESBWR nuclear plant is rated at about 12.6 million MWh or about 25% more powerful than the almost 30 year old GE BWR powering the Columbia Station. Therefore, a single new reactor would be able to replace the 12 million MWh of coal generated electricity we consume in the Washington.

Building a second reactor would provide enough energy to replace all of the natural gas generated electricity Washington State uses with enough left over to wean Oregon and Idaho off coal. This would get Washington State halfway to its 2035 goal for GHG emissions reduction. In reality, it is not that simple. Most natural gas generation is used for peaking, not for supplying base load. Such a source switch would require the expansion of our dams’ peaking capacity and replacing their reduced base load generation capacity with Nuclear Power. 

Step Two, Develop a Political Consensus

Combining nuclear generated electricity with hydroelectric power is the only way to significantly reduce the Northwest’s global warming emissions. The Governor needs to develop a consensus among legislators and energy stakeholders supporting this approach. When he does, the legislature must pass enabling legislation; legislation that allows the Governor to work with the energy stakeholders to quickly develop programs to reduce emissions and energize our economy, while maintaining the Northwest’s low power rates. A bipartisan supermajority would be a plus as it would discourage the fossil fuel industry from mounting an anti-nuclear initiative playing on the public’s fears of nuclear energy. We need everyone to be helping us Energize the Northwest’s economy.

Step Three: Mount a Pro Nuclear Publicity Campaign

To be successful, we must have public support. For years the public has been presented with all sort of unfounded negative publicity about nuclear power. In addition the real killers of the planet and its population, the fossil fuel industry, has been promoting their products as they were the elixirs of life. We have to change this! 

One prong of our pro nuclear campaign will be directed toward the people of the Northwest. The recent TV ads by Energy Northwest are a great start. We just need more of them and include some ads with more punch. For example, an ad could compare facts like the number of deaths caused by American commercial nuclear power since the first commercial reactor at Shippingport started in 1957, (0, zero, none, nada, zilch) with the 47 innocent people incinerated in the tanker train accident in Lac-Méganatic, Quebec just this July 19, 2013. Wikipedia on the Lac-Méganatic derailment. 

Our ad campaign could compare the nonexistent nuclear deaths with a long list of fossil fuel caused fatalities like the five samples here.

  1. Two ten-year olds and one 18 youths were killed in Bellingham, WA on June 10, 1990 when a 16 inch gasoline pipeline burst and exploded.
  2. On September 9, 2010 a natural gas pipeline burst and exploded in San Bruno, CA, killing 8 and injuring 58. On April 1, 2014, federal criminal charges were filed against PG&E for this explosion. Click for San Jose Mercury News article.
  3. On July 4, 2012, Zorine and Bert Linder, a married couple, were only a few blocks from their home in Glenview, IL, when a derailed coal train knocked an overpass onto their Lexus, crushing them to death.
  4. On August 2, 2012, Elizabeth Conway Nass and Rose Mayr, both 19, were just sitting on the edge of an overpass in Ellicott City, Maryland, when a CSX coal train passing behind them derailed and spilled its load, crushing them under tons of coal.
  5. Or the eight people who were either burned or crushed to death in a hellacious East Harlem natural gas explosion in 600 block of New York’s Park Avenue on March 12, 2014. Here is a link to a New York Daliy News article with pictures of the damage and the people who lost their lives from the use of “Clean, Safe, Natural Gas.” http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/uptown/victims-east-harlem-explosion-burned-crushed-death-article-1.1724791

Nuclear Power is over a hundred times safer than fossil fuel energy and we need to remind the public of that fact every day.

This quote from the 2013 NASA research paper, Coal and Gas are Far More Harmful than Nuclear Power, summarizes the study.

“Using historical electricity production data and mortality and emission factors from the peer-reviewed scientific literature, we found that despite the three major nuclear accidents the world has experienced, nuclear power prevented an average of over 1.8 million net deaths worldwide between 1971-2009. This amounts to at least hundreds and more likely thousands of times more deaths than it caused.”

The second part of our publicity campaign will be directed toward nuclear industries and nuclear entrepreneurs. We want to make it clear to them that we have places like Hanford and the Idaho National Laboratories that will welcome them. We will inform them that we will fast track required permits and that we have a nuclear-skilled workforce. (In the meantime we need to establish fast track permitting procedures and expand our nuclear training and education programs.) We think the states can avoid the trap of giving new business tax breaks because we have unique locations for their nuclear projects. The nuclear industry has the potential to make billions and the states deserve their share. (Which should be spent wisely on education and infrastructure.)

A simple marketing step could be erecting pro-nuclear signs at our borders. Some examples are


and for our border with Canada.


Canadians will understand this sign’s play on words. In the formative years of the nuclear industry, national pride motivated Canada to design and build their own reactors. Apparently, they lacked the manufacturing capacity to build American designs. So they developed a reactor that uses heavy water as a moderator versus the light water that is the norm for American designs. The CANDU (short for CANada Deuterium Uranium) reactor is a Canadian-invented, pressurized heavy water reactor. The acronym refers to its deuterium-oxide (heavy water) moderator and its ability to use (natural, unenriched) uranium for fuel. Today, CANDU reactors generate the majority of the electricity powering the province of Ontario. It is a good design, maybe even a great design, but our national pride and maybe industry lobbying has kept the CANDU reactor from being licensed in the United States. We should look into sponsoring the submission of the CANDU design to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) for their approval. National pride should not get in the way of developing better, safer reactors.

There is a shortage if certain medical radio isotopes and the construction at Hanford of a CANDU or a Fast Neutron Reactor like the GEH Prism would enable Washington State to be able to supply our Nation and other countries with an alternative source for these critical medical supplies.

Step Four: Establish Initial Project Management

In time, the State may have a “Department of Energizing” but let’s keep it simple to start. There are already government entities in place capable of handling our initial efforts.

We have been impressed with the work of the Energy Office of the State’s Department of Commerce. They seem to have the ability to take reams of mundane energy data and present it in a clear and understandable form. Their staff will need to be empowered with the authority to negotiate contracts based on their knowledge of energy truths.

Energy Northwest can manage the first new power plants and the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) can distribute and sell their power. This existing arrangement is working well for our existing nuclear plant, the Columbia Station, and it makes a good starting point as we expand into a regional organization.

Step Five: Order Two Nuclear Power Plants

This is a big step but a necessary one. If we can not show energy users that fossil fuel generated electricity can be economically replaced with clean Nuclear Power, we will never be able to Energize anyone. Besides this is the only way our State can be sure that it will reach its 2020 goal for reducing Green House Gas (GHG) emissions.

In the past nuclear plants were licensed individually, each reactor plant, its location, and even its owner had to be approved separately for each new plant. This led to excessive customization, delay, and cost overruns. In response, the NRC and the nuclear industry agreed that nuclear plants designs would be standardized and pre-certified. This greatly simplifies the time, effort, and cost to obtain a Combined License (COL).

An NRC-issued license that authorizes a licensee to construct and (with certain specified conditions) operate a nuclear power plant at a specific site, in accordance with established laws and regulations. A COL is valid for 40 years (with the possibility of a 20-year renewal).

Energy Northwest controls the sites of two canceled reactors. Most of the remains of these incomplete plants have been demolished because they would be of little use in constructing newer plant designs. However, the fact that the NRC has previously approved these plant locations and their owner should speed up licensing. Our guess is that much, if not all, of the infrastructure built to support the abandoned plants, is still in place. Of so, this would speed up construction and lower overall costs. See for yourself in this Google picture that includes the Columbia Generation Station on the left and the two abandoned plants on the right.

At the moment, there are only three large nuclear plant designs that are licensed by United State Nuclear Regulatory Agency (U.S.NRC or NRC) to be built and operated in the United States. The first is the Westinghouse’s AP1000, a Pressurized Water Reactor (PWR). Westinghouse has two units under construction in South Carolina and two in Georgia as well as four under construction in China.

The second design is GE’s latest version of its decades old line of Boiling Water Reactors, the ABWR.

The third is GE’s latest design, the Economic Simplified Boiling Water Reactor (ESBWR) which just received its Final Design Approval from the NRC on September 16, 2014.

It took both companies over nine years from their initial Design Certification Application (DCA) to achieve final NRC approval. Each company has been the champion for their particular reactor type for decades. Is one better than another, we don’t know. These two links, PWR and BWR, link to NRC animations explaining the basics of each design. If you want to learn more, these Wikipedia articles seem factually unbiased, however they are technical and lengthy. (Wiki-PWR)  (Wiki-BWR)  Additional material about reactor designs is available in our Education section.

The Governor can call them to a pre-bid conference for the purpose of ordering two nuclear plants with options for up to six more. He can acknowledge that both designs are the safest ever, but as a further assurance to the public, it would be a plus if the plant design can be modified to locate the reactor underground. The vendors are to bid a guaranteed cash price with the option of seller financing with payments over 20 or 30 years. As of Dec. 31, 2012 General Electric had Cash and Short Term Investments of 125.87 Billion, or $125,870,000,000. Surely, GE can spare several billion dollars to finance two of their nuclear power plants. We were not able to get a cash picture for Westinghouse, as they are now 87% owned by Toshiba and they seem to be linking up with China.

Our selection process may be simplified by reviewing the six-year evaluation process used by Dominion Virginia Power to select the GE Hitachi’s ESBWR for its proposed North Anna Unit 3 plant. GE Hitachi has teamed with Fluor, a global construction company, as a consortium for the North Anna Unit 3 project.

Dominion Virginia Power selected GE Hitachi’s ESBWR reactor technology based on the progress made by GE Hitachi towards obtaining federal approval of its design and because the contract enhancements agreed to are expected to benefit customers and stakeholders over the planned 60-year life of the new unit in comparison to other technologies evaluated. (We read this to mean that the cost per kilowatt for a GE ESBWR is less than that of Westinghouse’s AP1000. ENW) If constructed, the GE Hitachi ESBWR unit would provide the North Anna Power Station with an additional 1,470 net megawatts of nuclear-generated electricity. It also offers a simpler design in comparison to other technologies, including passive gravity-based safety features – water stored above the reactor that would flow to the reactor by gravity in the unlikely event of a significant nuclear accident and circulate naturally to maintain cooling of the nuclear fuel.

Let’s start Energizing the Northwest with the construction of two new reactors at Hanford.  Their energy can replace all the electricity produced by coal in Centralia and the energy Washington State utilities purchase from Montana’s Colstrip Plant with power left over to replace some natural gas generated electricity. Click for Puget Sound Energy’s fact sheet on the Colstrip Generating Station. SourceWatch’s website takes a more critical look at all of Montana’s coal power plants including Colstrip. The Centralia Plant is the biggest polluter in the Northwest. Its construction was politically motivated and it should be shut down as soon as possible.

California has four (now two) major nuclear power plants. The two reactors at the San Onofre Nuclear Station have been plagued with problems and as of June 7, 2013,  Southern California Edison has decided to decommission both. All four plants are located on the edge of the Pacific Ocean, near major fault lines, near populated areas, and they are showing signs of their age. Moreover, the public does not want them. Logically, California should build new, safer plants away from earthquake faults and population centers. But, for water short California, that means away from cooling water. However, who are we to argue. Hanford is away from major population centers and major earthquake faults. If Californians want to shutter their other two plants, we could order two more plants and in about six years we could be exporting over a billion dollars a year worth of electricity to California.

Step Six: Start a Garbage Company

Besides generating income by selling electricity, we can generate almost another billion dollars a year by storing other power plants’ Nuclear Waste. Click this link to see how we can start turning Trash Into Treasure.

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