NewEnergyNews: Holiday Reading: How Broken Is the San Onofre Nuclear Plant? The NRC provided numbers, and a nuke watchdog group provided context.

NewEnergyNews

Gleanings from the web and the world, condensed for convenience, illustrated for enlightenment, arranged for impact...

The challenge: To make every day Earth Day.

YESTERDAY

  • FRIDAY WORLD HEADLINE-NOW CO2 TOO HIGH FOR PLANTS AND OCEANS TO ABSORB
  • FRIDAY WORLD HEADLINE-NEW ENERGY IS THE WORLD’S BEST OPTION
  • FRIDAY WORLD HEADLINE-SWEDEN WINNING SCANDINAVIAN WIND RACE
  • FRIDAY WORLD HEADLINE-INDIA DISPLAYS SOLAR'S VERSATILITY
  • THE DAY BEFORE

    THINGS-TO-THINK-ABOUT THURSDAY, Sept. 11:

  • TTTA Thursday-GETTING GREEN BY MIXING RED AND BLUE
  • TTTA Thursday-PRICEWATERHOUSE COOPERS’ CLIMATE CHANGE NUMBERS
  • TTTA Thursday-THE RACE FOR EV DOMINANCE
  • TTTA Thursday-THE BIG FUTURE FOR ZERO ENERGY BUILDINGS
  • -------------------

    GET THE DAILY HEADLINES EMAIL: CLICK HERE TO SUBMIT YOUR EMAIL ADDRESS OR SEND YOUR EMAIL ADDRESS TO: herman@NewEnergyNews.net

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    THE DAY BEFORE THE DAY BEFORE

  • THE STUDY: THE 2013 U.S. DISTRIBUTED WIND MARKET
  • QUICK NEWS, Sept. 10: A WAY TO INVEST IN WIND ENERGY; SOLAR POWER TOWERS GET SAFER; TEST COMING FOR GIANT TURBINE BLADE
  • THE DAY BEFORE THAT

  • THE STUDY: COMPARING SOLAR IN JAPAN AND THE U.S.
  • QUICK NEWS, Sept. 9: CLIMATE CHANGE TO GET MORE THAN HALF OF ALL BIRDS; U.S. OFFSHORE WIND STARTS BUILDING; THE EMERGENCE OF COMMUNITY SOLAR
  • AND THE DAY BEFORE THAT

  • THE STUDY: THE ENERGY FUTURE (SOLAR, BATTERIES, ELECTRIC CARS AND UTILITIES)
  • QUICK NEWS, Sept. 8: NEW ENERGY INVESTMENT HITS $5.7 TRILLION; CALIFORNIA RE-ORIENTS ROOFTOP SOLAR; THOSE WHO LIVE W/WIND DOUBT ‘WIND SYNDROME’
  • THE LAST DAY UP HERE

  • THE STUDY: THE ENERGY FUTURE (SOLAR, BATTERIES, ELECTRIC CARS AND UTILITIES)
  • QUICK NEWS, Sept. 8: NEW ENERGY INVESTMENT HITS $5.7 TRILLION; CALIFORNIA RE-ORIENTS ROOFTOP SOLAR; THOSE WHO LIVE W/WIND DOUBT ‘WIND SYNDROME’
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    Anne B. Butterfield of Daily Camera and Huffington Post, is a biweekly contributor to NewEnergyNews

  • Another Tipping Point: US Coal Supply Decline So Real Even West Virginia Concurs (REPORT)

    November 26, 2013 (Huffington Post via NewEnergyNews)

    Everywhere we turn, environmental news is filled with horrid developments and glimpses of irreversible tipping points.

    Just a handful of examples are breathtaking: Scientists have dared to pinpoint the years at which locations around the world may reach runaway heat, and in the northern hemisphere it's well in sight for our children: 2047. Survivors of Superstorm Sandy are packing up as costs of repair and insurance go out of reach, one threat that climate science has long predicted. Or we could simply talk about the plight of bees and the potential impact on food supplies. Surprising no one who explores the Pacific Ocean, sailor Ivan MacFadyen described long a journey dubbed The Ocean is Broken, in which he saw vast expanses of trash and almost no wildlife save for a whale struggling a with giant tumor on its head, evoking the tons of radioactive water coming daily from Fukushima's lamed nuclear power center. Rampaging fishing methods and ocean acidification are now reported as causing the overpopulation of jellyfish that have jammed the intakes of nuclear plants around the world. Yet the shutting down of nuclear plants is a trifling setback compared with the doom that can result in coming days at Fukushima in the delicate job to extract bent and spent fuel rods from a ruined storage tank, a project dubbed "radioactive pick up sticks."

    With all these horrors to ponder you wouldn't expect to hear that you should also worry about the United States running out of coal. But you would be wrong, says Leslie Glustrom, founder and research director for Clean Energy Action. Her contention is that we've passed the peak in our nation's legendary supply of coal that powers over one-third of our grid capacity. This grim news is faithfully spelled out in three reports, with the complete story told in Warning: Faulty Reporting of US Coal Reserves (pdf). (Disclosure: I serve on CEA's board and have known the author for years.)

    Glustrom's research presents a sea change in how we should understand our energy challenges, or experience grim consequences. It's not only about toxic and heat-trapping emissions anymore; it's also about having enough energy generation to run big cities and regions that now rely on coal. Glustrom worries openly about how commerce will go on in many regions in 2025 if they don't plan their energy futures right.

    2013-11-05-FigureES4_FULL.jpgclick to enlarge

    Scrutinizing data for prices on delivered coal nationwide, Glustrom's new report establishes that coal's price has risen nearly 8 percent annually for eight years, roughly doubling, due mostly to thinner, deeper coal seams plus costlier diesel transport expenses. Higher coal prices in a time of "cheap" natural gas and affordable renewables means coal companies are lamed by low or no profits, as they hold debt levels that dwarf their market value and carry very high interest rates.

    2013-11-05-Table_ES2_FULL.jpgclick to enlarge

    2013-11-05-Figure_ES2_FULL.jpg

    One leading coal company, Patriot, filed for bankruptcy last year; many others are also struggling under bankruptcy watch and not eager to upgrade equipment for the tougher mining ahead. Add to this the bizarre event this fall of a coal lease failing to sell in Wyoming's Powder River Basin, the "Fort Knox" of the nation's coal supply, with some pundits agreeing this portends a tightening of the nation's coal supply, not to mention the array of researchers cited in the report. Indeed, at the mid point of 2013, only 488 millions tons of coal were produced in the U.S.; unless a major catch up happens by year-end, 2013 may be as low in production as 1993.

    Coal may exist in large quantities geologically, but economically, it's getting out of reach, as confirmed by US Geological Survey in studies indicating that less than 20 percent of US coal formations are economically recoverable, as explored in the CEA report. To Glustrom, that number plus others translate to 10 to 20 years more of burning coal in the US. It takes capital, accessible coal with good heat content and favorable market conditions to assure that mining companies will stay in business. She has observed a classic disconnect between camps of professionals in which geologists tend to assume money is "infinite" and financial analysts tend to assume that available coal is "infinite." Both biases are faulty and together they court disaster, and "it is only by combining thoughtful estimates of available coal and available money that our country can come to a realistic estimate of the amount of US coal that can be mined at a profit." This brings us back to her main and rather simple point: "If the companies cannot make a profit by mining coal they won't be mining for long."

    No one is more emphatic than Glustrom herself that she cannot predict the future, but she presents trend lines that are robust and confirmed assertively by the editorial board at West Virginia Gazette:

    Although Clean Energy Action is a "green" nonprofit opposed to fossil fuels, this study contains many hard economic facts. As we've said before, West Virginia's leaders should lower their protests about pollution controls, and instead launch intelligent planning for the profound shift that is occurring in the Mountain State's economy.

    The report "Warning, Faulty Reporting of US Coal Reserves" and its companion reports belong in the hands of energy and climate policy makers, investors, bankers, and rate payer watchdog groups, so that states can plan for, rather than react to, a future with sea change risk factors.

    [Clean Energy Action is fundraising to support the dissemination of this report through December 11. Contribute here.]

    It bears mentioning that even China is enacting a "peak coal" mentality, with Shanghai declaring that it will completely ban coal burning in 2017 with intent to close down hundreds of coal burning boilers and industrial furnaces, or shifting them to clean energy by 2015. And Citi Research, in "The Unimaginable: Peak Coal in China," took a look at all forms of energy production in China and figured that demand for coal will flatten or peak by 2020 and those "coal exporting countries that have been counting on strong future coal demand could be most at risk." Include US coal producers in that group of exporters.

    Our world is undergoing many sorts of change and upheaval. We in the industrialized world have spent about a century dismissing ocean trash, overfishing, pesticides, nuclear hazard, and oil and coal burning with a shrug of, "Hey it's fine, nature can manage it." Now we're surrounded by impacts of industrial-grade consumption, including depletion of critical resources and tipping points of many kinds. It is not enough to think of only ourselves and plan for strictly our own survival or convenience. The threat to animals everywhere, indeed to whole systems of the living, is the grief-filled backdrop of our times. It's "all hands on deck" at this point of human voyaging, and in our nation's capital, we certainly don't have that. Towns, states and regions need to plan fiercely and follow through. And a fine example is Boulder Colorado's recent victory to keep on track for clean energy by separating from its electric utility that makes 59 percent of its power from coal.

    Clean Energy Action is disseminating "Warning: Faulty Reporting of US Coal Reserves" for free to all manner of relevant professionals who should be concerned about long range trends which now include the supply risks of coal, and is supporting that outreach through a fundraising campaign.

    [Clean Energy Action is fundraising to support the dissemination of this report through December 11. Contribute here.]

    Author's note: Want to support my work? Please "fan" me at Huffpost Denver, here (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/anne-butterfield). Thanks.

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    Anne's previous NewEnergyNews columns:

  • Another Tipping Point: US Coal Supply Decline So Real Even West Virginia Concurs (REPORT), November 26, 2013
  • SOLAR FOR ME BUT NOT FOR THEE ~ Xcel's Push to Undermine Rooftop Solar, September 20, 2013
  • NEW BILLS AND NEW BIRDS in Colorado's recent session, May 20, 2013
  • Lies, damned lies and politicians (October 8, 2012)
  • Colorado's Elegant Solution to Fracking (April 23, 2012)
  • Shale Gas: From Geologic Bubble to Economic Bubble (March 15, 2012)
  • Taken for granted no more (February 5, 2012)
  • The Republican clown car circus (January 6, 2012)
  • Twenty-Somethings of Colorado With Skin in the Game (November 22, 2011)
  • Occupy, Xcel, and the Mother of All Cliffs (October 31, 2011)
  • Boulder Can Own Its Power With Distributed Generation (June 7, 2011)
  • The Plunging Cost of Renewables and Boulder's Energy Future (April 19, 2011)
  • Paddling Down the River Denial (January 12, 2011)
  • The Fox (News) That Jumped the Shark (December 16, 2010)
  • Click here for an archive of Butterfield columns

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    Some details about NewEnergyNews and the man behind the curtain: Herman K. Trabish, Agua Dulce, CA., Doctor with my hands, Writer with my head, Student of New Energy and Human Experience with my heart

    email: herman@NewEnergyNews.net

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  • Friday, December 28, 2012

    Holiday Reading: How Broken Is the San Onofre Nuclear Plant? The NRC provided numbers, and a nuke watchdog group provided context.

    Holiday Reading: How Broken Is the San Onofre Nuclear Plant? The NRC provided numbers, and a nuke watchdog group provided context.

    Herman K. Trabish, July 16, 2012 (Greentech Media)

    California’s transmission system operator is scrambling to meet a load deficit caused by the 2,300-megawatt outage of the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (SONGS). The system operator is bringing shuttered natural gas plants on-line, calling for Southern Californians to conserve electricity and warning of the possibility of blackouts.

    The two steam generators (2E088 and 2E089) of the 1,172-megawatt Unit Two at the SONGS were replaced in January 2010.

    The two steam generators (3E088 and 3E089) of the 1,178-megawatt Unit Three at the SONGS were replaced in January 2011.

    Unit Two began a scheduled outage for refueling on January 10, 2012, and was out of service when control room operators shut Unit Three down on January 31, 2012. Both units have been offline ever since. Neither is expected to be ready for service before the end of this summer.

    Without recently activated transmission and the other efforts, California Independent System Operator Director of Communications Stephanie McCorkle recently told GTM, the LA Basin would be short 240 megawatts on a high-demand hot day, and the San Diego area would be short 337 megawatts. With them, she said, there are reserve margins of only thirteen megawatts in San Diego and 212 megawatts in the LA Basin.

    The SONGS Unit One was first-generation Westinghouse technology. It went on-line in January 1968, and was built to last until 2004 but was decommissioned in 1992 due to wear.

    Unit Two went on-line in August 1983, while Unit Three went on-line in April 1984. Both units rely on an old and less efficient technology built by Combustion Engineering (subsequently bought by Westinghouse). The replacement of the steam generators at the SONGS was done by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries.

    The steam generators are where the heat generated by the light water reactors turns water into the steam, which drives the facilities’ electricity-generating turbines. This type of turbine can also generate electricity with steam created by water boiled with coal, natural gas, geothermal stations or concentrating solar power stations.

    “Think of a steam generator as a large egg filled with water and thousands of long, thin metal tubes in a U-shape formation attached at the bottom of the egg,” wrote Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) Public Affairs spokesperson Lara Uselding in March. “As the hot water travels through the tubes, the rest of the water in the egg becomes steam. The steam is transferred to the turbine.”

    Each SONGS steam generator is 65 feet tall and weighs 1.3 million pounds. Each has two large U-shaped tubes which have 9,727 U-shaped, three-quarter-inch-diameter tubes running through them.

    The failure of a steam generator tube, Uselding went on, “is a problem, because radioactive water that passed over the nuclear reactor and into the steam generator may escape into the created steam through a hole in the tube. Then, the radioactive steam could end up at the turbine and eventually may escape to the environment.”

    To prevent faulty tubes from leaking radioactive steam, plant operators do regular inspections and catalog indications of wear. If a tube is found to be severely worn, it is plugged.

    According to the NRC, the “total plugging for Unit 2 was 205 tubes in 2E088, and 305 in 2E089.” There was “extensive plugging and selective staking of 807 tubes in Unit 3 (420 in 3E088 and 387 in 3E089).”

    Southern California Edison (SCE), the SONGS operating utility, reported “1,595 tubes showed wear of some type” in Unit Two and, of the 510 tubes plugged, six were plugged because of “wear of more than 35 percent and the rest for preventative measures.” In Unit Three, SCE reported, “1,806 tubes showed wear of some type,” and of the 807 tubes plugged, 381 were plugged “for wear of more than 35 percent and the rest for preventative measures.”

    Vermont nuclear watchdog group Fairewinds Associates, at the request of Friends of the Earth, used NRC data to compare “the replacement steam generator plugging at both San Onofre Units Two and Three to the replacement steam generator plugging history for all other replacement steam generators at U.S. nuclear power plants.”

    It concluded that the San Onofre reactors “plugged 3.7 times as many steam generator tubes than the combined total of the entire number of plugged replacement steam generator tubes at all the other nuclear power plants in the U.S.”

    Fairewinds also evaluated a report by SCE that found that Unit Two is ready to be restarted and concluded, “There is no difference in the failure modes between the two units and both should remain shut down until extensive modifications or fabrication of replacement generators are completed.”

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