Thursday, August 17, 2017

Thorium Energy Alliance Conference this weekend




The Thorium Energy Alliance Conference in St. Louis

The Thorium Energy Alliance will take place in St. Louis starting this weekend.  I signed up to attend long ago, but people are still joining right now.  Here's the link to the website.   I encourage you to attend if you can!

Much of the conference will be about molten salt reactors, of course.  But there will be much more! More than two hours of how-to-do-advocacy workshops, led by leading advocates such as Eric Meyer of Generation Atomic and Heather Matteson of Mothers for Nuclear. (I will be a co-leader in one of the sessions.) There will be great talks by many authors. One of the featured talks is by Victoria Bruce, and people who register for the meeting will get her latest book, free with their registration.  Sellout: How Washington Gave Away America's Technological Soul, and One Man's Fight to Bring it Home.  Mathijs Becker will be a speaker.  He will be here from the Netherlands. He is the author of one of the few books debunking Jacobson's "100% renewables" claims (The Non-Solutions Project) as well as posting an excellent youtube channel, the Nuclear Humanist.

It will be a great conference.  But why should you come?

A Conference that is truly  for the "Rest of Us"

I have been to many pro-nuclear conferences, and I love them all.  Most of the conferences are sponsored by an industry group.

Sometimes, these conferences don't feel very welcoming to people who are not in the industry.  This conference feels very different.  Some of the speakers are from industry (EPRI advanced reactor group), and some are from industry start-ups (ThorCon, Elysium, Terrestrial and others). However, many speakers and attendees are "just" nuclear advocates. They are people who have never worked in the nuclear industry, but have a presence in the world of advocacy, ideas and books engaged with new versions of nuclear power.

The "just advocates" are the most important people at the conference, in my opinion.  They are the group that can reach out to other groups, and to their neighbors.

This is a very welcoming conference. I encourage you to attend.

Note: if you are defending an existing nuclear plant, you will be right at home.  You don't have to be a molten salt maven to get a lot out of this conference. For example, I could annotate the list of speakers, giving examples of the important and brave things various speakers have done in defense of our current fleet of reactors.  Look at the bottom of the conference page for the list of speakers.

Another note: The conference will include a break for Eclipse Viewing.  How many conferences are planned around something like that?

This will be a great conference.  I hope to see some of you there.   Here's the conference link, again:

Thorium Energy Alliance Conference 8


Monday, August 14, 2017

Update: Not WARNing at V.C. Summer

June 9, 2017 photo of Summer construction
SCEG photo
Update:

SCEG withdrew its original petition to abandon the Summer Project, but this was only to facilitate government review of the petition.  After withdrawing the petition,  SCANA held a press conference and re-iterated its plans to abandonn the nuclear project.

Meanwhile, knowledgeable people have emailed me that the construction workers at Summer are probably not covered by WARN, but employees of Westinghouse and Fluor probably are covered.  I am not a lawyer, and I am merely repeating what they said.  It is probably true, however.

None of this is good news for the project or the workers.


The Stop-Work at Summer

At the V.C. Summer construction site in South Carolina, a stop-work order was issued by the plant owners. Within hours, thousands of people had to turn in their badges and leave. There is simply no way to sugar-coat this story.

Actually, there are at least two stories here: the first story is about why V.C. Summer was cancelled. That story has been widely discussed.  The second story is about how the  layoffs happened, and their legality (or not).  This story has not been covered very much. It will be covered here.

At the end of this post, I have an annotated list of resources  about the first topic, why Summer was cancelled.

The Human Cost

On Facebook, one friend wrote about how difficult the Summer closure was for his family.  I will not quote his statements here, but his post made me feel very sad for all the hard-working people at Summer.  I mean I was feeling bad already, but his post made me feel worse. The cancellation of Summer had a huge human cost. You can't lay off 5600 people without immense pain, and immense ripples in the community.

It is too mild to say that the layoffs themselves were not handled well.  In my opinion, the way the layoffs were handled was certainly immoral, and may have been illegal.  In this article, Fired nuclear construction workers crash State House, workers said they had "no warning from superiors before being let go about lunchtime Monday." In a video at WLTX, workers said "We met at our lunch location and they read these letters to us...."

It's impossible to get numbers, but most sources say 5000 people were affected by the equivalent of letters-read-at-the-lunch break.  In the video above, a worker says that he has never heard of so many people being laid off at one time.

My first reaction was that I thought that such a layoff was simply illegal.  A federal law, the WARN act, requires employers to give advance notice of large layoffs. Nolo.com has good article on the WARN act and South Carolina. (Nolo sells consumer-oriented legal books and software.)

WARN and the big boys

WARN covers employers who have at least 100 full-time-equivalent employees.  If 50 or more employees are laid off at one job site, WARN requires sixty days notice. (You can read the fine print at Nolo.com)

On Facebook, I said that I thought the short warning of this layoff was probably illegal. One person commented that I was making unwarranted assumptions.  In his opinion, a big employer would read the laws and obey them. Okay.  Basically, he was right about the biggest of the big boys on the job site: SCEG. According to this video and article from WISTV, SCEG notified the state of 615 layoffs at Summer (layoffs of their own employees), giving the requisite 60 days notice according to the WARN requirements.

However, they gave Westinghouse no such 60 days notice, because Westinghouse is a contractor, not an employee. Westinghouse immediately "furloughed" 870 employees, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.  However, these employees have no reason to believe that they will be called back from  this "furlough."  According to Post-Gazette article, a field engineering manager at Westinghouse has sued Westinghouse for violating WARN. He is attempting to achieve class-action status with his lawsuit.

SCEG covered its own employees, but employees of large and small subcontractors seem to be subject to the largest sudden layoff that I have ever heard about.

WARN and the not-so-big-boys

Westinghouse, with hundreds of employees on this project, is one of the big boys. Nevertheless, it seems to have issued as quick a lay-off notice as might have been issued by any local supplier of portapotties. Westinghouse is now being sued.  I suspect that many of the other contractors may also be sued.

Chess Pawn, Wikipedia
Opening Gambit or Closing the Door?

Why did the layoff happen in this sudden way?  It saved some money for SCEG, until they get sued, of course. It devastated towns and businesses and gave locals a pretty grim idea of what their utilities think about their welfare. Looking at a project that is over budget by billions of dollars, I don't think saving two months worth of salaries was the entire motivation. Decades of bad feelings are likely to arise from the sudden layoffs, and two months payroll was saved? To me, it doesn't make sense.

That is just my opinion, of course, but there it is.  Sometimes, dramatic events are the opening moves in fierce negotiations.  "Now that I have  your attention...."

Sometimes, of course, dramatic statements are the closing moves: "Look, I mean it, and nothing you can do will change my mind." However, that sort of statement often comes after a long fruitless negotiation.  Not always, but usually.

Games people play

If this were a chess game, I would say: This is more likely to be an opening gambit than a closing statement.

But wait, V.C. Summer is not a chess game!  In a chess game, the pawns are little pieces of plastic or wood or ivory.

At V.C. Summer, the pawns are more than 5000 real live people.

----------
Addendum:  Why V.C. Summer was cancelled.

I recommend three excellent blog posts on the reasons for the project cancellation.

In 2016, Will Davis wrote at ANS Nuclear Cafe: Nuclear Plant Costs-- A Look Back and Ahead 
This post describes the cascading effects of various types of cost overruns, including changes to the specifications, delays, and incomplete planning.

On July 31, 2017, Dan Yurman at Neutron Bytes wrote Utilities Pull the Plug on AP1000s at V.C. Summer.  He looks at the cost overruns, but also notes that Santee Cooper refused to go along with a plan to complete just one of the reactors.

On August 1, 2017, Rod Adams wrote: Tragic day in South Carolina as 5,000 people lost their jobs at VC Summer. Rod's post concentrates on design changes, specifically the Aircraft Impact Assessment Change.  There are 120 comments on that post.  Many of these comments are from very knowledgeable people.






Thursday, July 13, 2017

Defeating Trolls: Join the Conversation

The Fremont Troll lives under a bridge in Seattle.
He has captured a Volkswagen.
Graphic from Wikipedia
Recognizing and Defeating Anti-Nuclear Trolls

At my nuclear advocacy blog, my recent post Defeating the Trolls has developed an interesting and informative comment stream. People are sharing their anti-troll strategies. I urge you to visit the post and join the conversation!

The marks of a troll

Let me emphasize that not everyone who disagrees with you is a troll. Trolls have a specific way of interacting.  Within my post, I describe the three marks of a true troll:

  1. Repetitive posting
  2. Repetitive links
  3. Must have the last word in a thread
Many other types of bad behavior are just...bad behavior. For example, not everyone who is insulting is a troll, though some trolls are also insulting. (This actually makes it easier to deal with those trolls.)   

A major strategy for neutralizing trolls is to shift the conversation from a discussion of their claims to a discussion of their behavior.  Read more about dealing with trolls at the post, and also in the blogging and Facebook chapters  of my book, Campaigning for Clean Air

True trolls are difficult to deal with, which is why I am happy to see such a good discussion on my blog post.

Please join the conversation!

I hope you will go the Defeating the Trolls post at my advocacy blog, and join the conversation on anti-troll strategies.  

As I often say, we are not alone in our pro-nuclear advocacy. We can help each other. We can share strategies. Let's do it!

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Was Hamilton Pro-Nuclear? Independence Day and Advocacy

Lin-Manuel Miranda in his musical Hamilton
Photo by Steve Jurvetson, Wikimedia

Hanging Together

We all know the quote from Benjamin Franklin.  At the signing of the Declaration of Independence he said,  "We must all hang together or, most assuredly, we will all hang separately."

That's the short version, isn't it?   We must all hang together, so we do all hang together, and then we win.

In my advocacy blog post today,  Was Hamilton Pro-Nuclear? A Post for Independence Day, I look at the more complex version.  The musical Hamilton tells the tale of the American Revolution.  The founding fathers were not all that agreeable with each other:  The musical ends after Burr shoots Hamilton.  That is truly being disagreeable!

Hanging together is hard work.

Real movements are complicated

In my essay, I note that astro-turf has a carefully crafted message, but real movements are complicated.  The Revolution was complicated.  Similarly, the current pro-nuclear movement has factions, disagreements on methods, and even disagreements on goals. Just as the situations described in Hamilton.

I am proud to be part of the widespread, messy, pro-nuclear movement.   It has factions.  It is real.

I hope you will read my post about Hamilton and the Nuclear Movement at my advocacy blog.  Here are the concluding paragraphs:

As Hamilton says, people do not know how we will be remembered. In particular, we don’t know how the pro-nuclear advocates of this generation will be remembered.
But I hope we will be remembered in clean skies and moderate climates and non-acidic seas.
Hail to the pro-nuclear advocates of this generation!


Thursday, June 29, 2017

Two Days Only: Bonus Offer for Advocacy Book

Advocacy on the rise

My  book Campaigning for Clean Air: Strategies for Pro-Nuclear Advocacy continues to have great success. About a week ago, I was on a communications panel at the American Nuclear Society's Annual Meeting in San Francisco.  I was delighted with the interest in my book.  It's kind of fun when people quote your own book to you! I was surprised and happy about the overall interest in advocacy at this meeting. Besides being on the communications panel,  in another session I was role-playing conversations with undecided people.  In  other sessions, I listened to young people talk about why they support nuclear.  A great meeting!

A special limited-time bonus offer!

My book is a guide to advocacy.  Right now, I am offering some special bonus material about emotions and advocacy.  This limited-time offer ends at midnight on Friday. Buy Campaigning for Clean Air at Amazon or at your bookstore.  Then write me at mjangwin at gmail that you have obtained it, and I will tell you how to get the bonus material. This offer ends at midnight, Friday, June 30.

Your own advocacy

My book is designed to help you find your way to support nuclear. Early chapters will help you take those crucial first steps in supporting nuclear power.  Later chapters can guide you into more public roles, including testimony at hearings and even street rallies.  People have written me that this book has inspired them to write letters, make videos, and more. Read it and be inspired!

The book in the news

At the recent Nuclear Energy Assembly meeting in Arizona, the organizers made a bulk purchase of Campaigning and put the book in the welcome packages of the NAYGN attendees.   Yes.  Hundreds of young pro-nuclear people received the book! More such announcements are in the works.

A few days ago,  I was on the Global Energy Leaders podcast, talking about the book, and talking about why I wrote the book.  I think you will enjoy the 20-minute podcast.

Some Quotes From Readers

"Like the best how-to books, Meredith’s little instruction book for budding nuclear advocates is punchy, filled with practical exercises, gives step by step instruction with options and provides pointers to additional sources of help and information. It’s well organized and motivating; there are times when you want to simply put down the book and take one of her recommended actions to see how it works and feels.." 
-- Rod Adams, blogger at Atomic Insights

“Far more than a “how-to manual”; it is a life’s journey into greater understanding of how to responsibly address public concerns about nuclear power”
---Dr. Dale E. Klein, Former Chairman, NRC

“…this book is a primer for nuclear advocacy, and a fascinating guidebook and educational tool”
-Thomas P. Salmon, Governor of Vermont (1972-1977)

"...Campaigning for Clean Air (is) perhaps a pro-nuclear advocacy equivalent of Carville and Begala’s Buck Up, Suck Up which they, a pair of Democrat strategists, wrote.... during George W. Bush’s ascendancy." 
---Steve Aplin, blogger at Canadian Energy Issues

“[Meredith Angwin’s book] is likely to be a resource for years to come as we work to bring Weinberg's vision of the second nuclear era into fruition. “
--Eric Meyer,  Executive Director, Generation Atomic

Buy it now, while you can still get the bonus material!  Buy it by Friday!

Campaigning for Clean Air: Strategies for Pro-Nuclear Advocacy.


Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Vermont Yankee Decomm: In Vermont, Do Not Make Predictions.


NorthStar Capabilities
From Entergy May 25 presentation
Concrete volume of VY is green bar at the right
This is Vermont.  Do not make predictions.

I'm reading Whiskey Tango Foxtrot. The book was originally called the Taliban Shuffle, but now that the movie is out, it's Whiskey Tango Foxtrot.  As I am reading, I am struck by how author Kim Barker is sometimes utterly dumbfounded by local people's reactions. Men become surprisingly violent after what she considers to be minor incidents, while major problems are greeted with shrugs about "fate." Several of her anecdotes end with her musing something like: "This is Afghanistan: what did I expect?"

Her story is sort of like the story of Vermont Yankee decommissioning.  As I observe the process, I keep getting dumbfounded by what people do.   (At least, nobody is shooting at anyone else.) I explain the situation to myself by musing "This is Vermont; what did I expect?"

The advantages of the NorthStar sale

Entergy has arranged to sell Vermont Yankee to a consortium of decommissioning companies headed by NorthStar. This is unusual, as a matter of fact, it is first-of-a-kind.  Other plants have handed their licenses to a decomm company  (Zion plants and EnergySolutions) with the expectation of getting the licenses back at the end of decomm.  At the end of decomm, the original plant owner is responsible for the site. 

With Vermont Yankee, NorthStar will buy the site, and will own the site.  When the used fuel is removed, NorthStar can sell the site.

The sale to NorthStar is attractive to the state because, if owned by Entergy,  the plant was going to be in SafStor for close to sixty years. In contrast, NorthStar expects to complete decommissioning by 2030.  Similarly, Entergy was going to begin moving fuel into dry casks around 2020.  In contrast, NorthStar expects Entergy to finish the process at that time. (Fuel moving is starting now.) An early article in VTDigger gives the basic story of the sale. 

Last month's NDCAP meeting

I was at the May 25 NDCAP meeting (Nuclear Decommissioning Citizen's Advisory Panel).  NorthStar and Entergy made presentation, and there were public comments.  Here's a link to a video of the May meeting, which was actually pretty civilized.  Though the NRC was there, the meeting was run by NDCAP, and they kept decent order.  In general, the NRC itself does not keep good order at meetings in Vermont, but the NDCAP  meeting shows it can be done.   Many of my comments below stem from the May 25 meeting. If you want to see me speaking at the meeting, I'm at the 1:45 mark, approximately.

There will be a NDCAP meeting tomorrow night at the Governor Hunt House on the Vermont Yankee campus.   I won't be there this time.

NorthStar consortium can decommission Vermont Yankee effectively

After listening to the presentations, I am convinced that NorthStar can decommission the site quickly and relatively inexpensively.  The company has experience with all sorts of sites containing both large structures and environmental disposal issues.  While nuclear opponents think that radiation is very different from any other possible contaminant, companies that actually clean up coal plants and industrial plants know how to deal with all sorts of potential problems.  NorthStar will  treat radiation with respect, but not fear or awe.  Entergy had a slide show at the May 25 meeting: I have stolen their Concrete slide to head this post, and I include the Contaminated Soils slide below.

Contaminated soils volume (VY at right, green bar)
From Entergy May 25, 2017

Of course, the opponents claim, sometimes loudly, and sometimes near tears (watch the video), that radiological contamination is so very different that all of NorthStar's capabilities don't matter. Whatever else NorthStar has done, they have only decommed rather small reactors.  Therefore, according to the opponents, they are not qualified.

This is Vermont.  What did you expect?

Transparency

NorthStar wants to keep some of its costs and overhead structures confidential. The state of Vermont is basically okay with that, but intervenors object vociferously.  

In my statement at NDCAP on May 25, I talked about the time that I tried to track down the costs of different phases of decommissioning for other power plants. I couldn't track the costs I wanted to track. Everyone (the plants, the decomm companies, the NRC) told me that I was trying to obtain proprietary information, and they could not share it.  

Judging by my experience, NorthStar is not being especially opaque. Yet the opponents continue to claim to be upset about transparency.

This is Vermont. What did you expect?

Forever?

Since the Department of Energy still has not set up a plan for picking up used nuclear fuel, the fuel is stored on-site at the power plants. Though the fuel is cooled and in dry casks, it still requires some security, until the Department of Energy picks it up, or until forever, whichever comes first.

When vertically regulated utilities are in charge of taking care of something "forever," this kind of works. Of course, the utility will not necessarily last forever, but if it merges or goes bankrupt, the utility has regulators that will (hopefully) make sure it fulfills its obligations. In the case of a merchant plant (like Vermont Yankee) or a consortium (like NorthStar), no regulator has such a clear obligation. 

Nuclear opponents worry that "the taxpayer" will pick up the bill.  I am sure NorthStar will decomm the plant successfully, so the only bill I imagine the taxpayers might have would be a bill for ongoing security around some dry casks. Not a huge bill, year by year, but a bill.

 I think the problem of paying for security would be about jurisdiction, not safety. This problem is not unique to Vermont. The question of "who is in charge decades later" could happen in any RTO area.  

Yet there is one aspect that is unique to Vermont. One entity, Entergy, is planning to sell the plant to another entity, NorthStar consortium.  As I said at the beginning, this is a First of a Kind financial arrangement for decommissioning. 

My feeling is that since neither entity is supported by being part of a regulated utility, it probably doesn't matter that much. 

But I admit it: This is Vermont, and I don't know what to expect.

Three more issues:  Rubble,  Employees, PSB appointments

This post is too long.  So I will go over these issues rather quickly.

Rubble: Northstar plans to fill the large foundation holes with rubble from the buildings.  This is a standard practice, and far less expensive than trucking the rubble out to disposal and trucking fill in to the site. However,  Entergy said that they would not use this technique, so the opponents attack NorthStar for bad faith in saying they will use the technique.  Well, when you transfer a plant to another company, the other company is not obligated to do everything the same way the former owner said it would do things. It's up to the PSB to decide what needs to be done. Howard Shaffer wrote an excellent letter on this topic, which has appeared in several local papers. 

Employees: I continue to worry about what will happen to Vermont Yankee employees who are near retirement age when NorthStar takes over. See my note at the end of an earlier post. This is an unresolved issue, as far as I know.  

PSB appointments: Governor Scott appointed a new Chairman for the three-person Public Service Board (PSB). The PSB will rule on whether or not Vermont will approve the sale. Governor Scott appointed Anthony Roisman to be chair of the Commission. Roisman is against Big Wind, but some of his cases have been against nuclear plant owners. Roisman has recused himself from the Vermont Yankee decision, which I think was a correct choice.

In Conclusion

This is Vermont.  Don't make predictions.

Monday, June 5, 2017

How to Help Nuclear Plants in Ohio

Davis-Besse
NRC photo

Two plants and three ways to help them

Ohio has two nuclear plants,  Davis-Besse and Perry.  They add up to around 2000 MW electric. Ohio as a whole is a coal and natural gas state.  I did a quick addition, based on this table of power plants in Ohio. By my calculations,  Ohio has about 14,000 MW of coal. That is a lot of coal.

 I grant you that some of those coal units are scheduled to close, and will probably be replaced by natural gas.  Nevertheless, it is clear that these two nuclear plants are essential for Ohio to avoid being completely fossil power.

As a Vermonter, I do not want Ohio to have nothing but fossil-powered electricity.  The prevailing winds are from the West, and Vermont has a long history of resenting the acid rain visited on our forests by the coal-burning states of the Midwest.  The rain is less acid nowadays, but our soils have not fully recovered.  And "less acid" does not mean: Good for the forests.  It does mean: Better than it used to be.

Three ways to help nuclear in Ohio

How can you help nuclear in Ohio? Three ways, and you can do it now.

1) If you live in Ohio: Write your legislator in support of two bills that value nuclear for its zero-emissions electricity.   NEI has a post  with links. Exelon Rep Urges  Ohio Lawmakers to Support Zero-Emission Program. 

2) If you don't live in Ohio (or even if you do) donate to Generation Atomic. Generation Atomic has been going door to door in Ohio, building support for the nuclear plants.  They have a plan, they have volunteers, they have an App for your phone, and they are having success, including more than a thousand people who are now actively in favor of nuclear, and excellent press coverage.  Here's their latest field report (Notes from the Field, Week 5, Sandusky Ohio)  And here's a very important link for people: the Donate screen for Generation Atomic.

3) If you live in or near Ohio, go to the rally-symposium June 13!  Well, okay, the event is called an educational symposium on nuclear technology. (I added the "rally" part because I think of it as a rally.) The symposium will include panels, speakers and questions. This event at the Ohio Statehouse atrium includes American Nuclear Society Michigan-Ohio Section, the AFL-CIO, and North American Young Generation in Nuclear.  Maria Korsnick, president of NEI, will speak. Be there!  I think this symposium  (rally?) will be heavily covered in the press, and quite important.

Help the Ohio nuclear plants keep generating clean low-carbon power.  The environment needs you!


Generation Atomic open meeting in Ohio