Friday, December 07, 2007

Millstone, Nuclear Power, Dead Fish

An e-mail from Terry Backer, Soundkeeper and co-chairman of the General Assembly's peak oil caucus, about the Millstone nuclear power plant:

Some time ago in a post you remarked that you were not sure what my position was on nuclear power. Your statement was prompted by my position that the Millstone Power Station in Waterford should be required to install close cycle cooling.

I have never called for the closure of Millstone and have focused my attention for more than a decade on its impact on marine life.

Any reasonable person should have reservation about the status of spent nuclear fuel and the lack of a national disposal site. Even then the long term storage of spent fuel rods remains challenging on every front from trucking to storing for 10,000 years. Currently, all the high level contaminated spent fuels rods sit on site. Nuclear power will be touted as a way to reduce our oil and gas use along with greenhouse gases. The dirty little secret is there isn't enough uranium in the world to power all the plants it would take to replace a portion of existing fuels. The US isn't the only country that needs oil, gas or uranium. Any one who doesn't have long term reservation about nuclear power and its long range viability must work in the industry or doesn't care to know. The fact is Soundkeeper Inc. does not have a position pro or com on nuclear power. I personally can accept it as needed at this point and into the future.

That said, I believe that for better or for worse nuclear power generation is here for years to come. It's never been my or Soundkeeper's position to force Millstone to closure. In fact, like it or not Millstone will be needed as natural gas supplies drop over the next several years. This is especially important since the Energy Board Canada in October has said Canadian exports of natural gas will be cut up to 30% between now and 2015.

What I want from Millstone is for them to stop killing winter flounder and other marine organisms, period. I want then to install the best technology available for this purpose, closed cycle cooling. The heat from the closed cycle cooling could be captured and used in cooling or heating a combined cycle per se. Whether they have enough land or not I can't address but I can say that everything seems to be impossible until it is required.

Winter flounder populations are down across their range for a number of reasons. One of the reasons and one that can best be controlled are power station intakes. Consider this: If a fisherman takes a sub-legal fish he can be fined up to $50 per fish even if they have a permit to take fish. Yet, Millstone can take millions upon millions of fish at all stages of life with its operating permit. No fines, no penalties.

I understand that power plants need to run and they need water to do that. I don't understand given the technology available why they would need to use once through water continually sucking the life from the sea.

Soundkeeper's action at DEP is not just about Millstone, our efforts would apply to all the plants that take water from the Sound in the coming years. DEP should require closed cycle cooling at all Long Island Sound power plants now and allow the companies a period of time to demonstrate that closed cycle cooling isn't feasible. A license to operate a power plant shouldn't be a license to kill.




Anonymous Bryan said...

I was curious if Rep. Backer and Soundkeeper were active in trying to shut down Millstone. From his email, it's clear that he's focused on the problems caused by cooling water intakes, regardless of the application. I hope they succeed and I hope that their success influences NYSDEC to do the same.

I also hope Soundkeeper can garner the resources to sketch out a plan to convert Millstone to closed-loop cooling, at least in the basic terms. Otherwise, it would be left to Millstone to push and pursue their own preference (including no action) and trash the alternatives. If Soundkeeper investigated the alternatives now, I think they'd be in a better position to counter whatever Millstone comes up with (as well as all the other power plants). It might also help to avoid some apparent dead ends.

For example, the idea of using the waste heat from Millstone for other purposes sounds intriguing, but I'm not sure it's viable. The waste heat is what's left after the steam has already had virtually all of the useful thermal energy converted to mechanical energy in a closed-loop process. According to Millstone's press info, what's left is 100degF steam at near-vacuum. If there is a need for 100degF water somewhere in the vicinity of the plant, then it would possible to take advantage of it. This water wouldn't be useful as an independent heat source (it's not hot enough) and it would be hard to justify the economics of piping it and pumping it any significant distance.

Finally, if Rep. Backer really believes the "dirty little secret" of peak uranium, then Connecticut is facing much bigger problems than the Peak Oil Caucus has let on, given Connecticut's dependence on Millstone. I'm not a nuclear industry guy and I'm not ignorant of or ignoring the concept, but much has been posted in energy blogs arguing whether peak uranium is a real problem and what its effect will be, in the same way that people debate peak oil and its effects.

12:51 PM  

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