Reykjanes Power Station

Geothermal energy is probably most often associated with Iceland, where around a quarter of electricity demand is met by using volcanic heat. This DOE video summarises the technology.

Globally, the technology is a tiny share of supply and generally sits in the “other” pie piece. As the video mentions, much work is being done to pursue the potential for geothermal as a low life cycle emissions energy source.


There has been no news on that ~500 megawatts for quite some time.

In Australia, several potential projects have been under development for some time, as described in the Australian Energy Resource Assessment 2014. The largest pilot plant in the South Australian outback supplies the community of Innamincka with 1 megawatt of power. The remoteness of this location underscores geothermal’s primary constraint. It can only realistically be considered in the immediate vicinity of appreciable underground heat resources, with transmission infrastructure necessary for delivery to load centres.

The Renewables Paradox


Looking at this image, you could be forgiven for assuming wind energy will be taking Costa Rica fossil fuel-free next decade. In reality, fully dispatchable hydro and geothermal energy, paired with subsistence-level energy use, is doing the job.

Geothermal is classified as renewable energy and is readily included as such in various regions’ energy mixes. So, in the example of Iceland, a combination of geothermal and hydroelectricity is 100% renewables. The same reasoning saw Costa Rica recently claim an impressive run of renewables-only electricity generation: about 12% from geothermal with the remainder almost all from hydro.

This seems to be in spite of the geological reality of geothermal – an average of 70% of the heat is due to subterranean radioactive decay of potassium-40, thorium-232 and both major uranium isotopes (235 and 238). 30% is left over energy from Earth’s formation.


Similarly normal radioactivity exists in the food we eat every day.

The other important detail is that enhanced geothermal systems technology involves the same method of accessing a desired volume of underground rock as hydraulic fracturing.

While the strawman argument is an undesirable rhetorical approach, it is probably very safe to say that many activists who uncritically reject the use of uranium in nuclear power plants and stand against unconventional fracked gas (regardless of what science might say) also largely support the use of renewable energy – including geothermal.


EGS is the predominant method currently being pursued.

Furthermore, many activists increasingly bolster the rejection of nuclear energy primarily on grounds of cost. But despite the most recent official Australian levelised cost estimates clearly showing that geothermal is one of the most expensive technologies, it is spared this vocal criticism and exclusion. Indeed, as recently summarised, this is a form of special pleading which has little if anything to do with their true (and even less justifiable) objections.

Just to ensure this list is exhaustive, is it not reasonable to also expect loudly-voiced concerns of groundwater contamination? And considering the many decades of protest surrounding a deep geological repository for radiological waste, activists are dramatically restrained about high pressure fluid being pumped through deep rock heated by radioactive decay.

AERA 2014 states a particularly low average thermal conversion efficiency of 12% as extracted heat is used to drive a turbogenerator. This indicates a substantial loss of thermal energy to the environment. These two considerations are often included in criticisms of conventional nuclear energy, where more like 35% of fission heat is transformed to electricity and the rest lost as steam or into an adjacent river, lake or sea. To be clear, the efficiency of steam-driven turbogenerators is the result of much incredible engineering, and heat rejected to the environment is a relatively trivial concern.

At least we’re all happy that it’s low emissions, right? Well, some motivated commentators seek to exclude nuclear energy on that basis, citing an estimate of the equivalent of no less than 60 grams of carbon dioxide per kilowatt hour generated (gCO2eq/kWh). By this reasoning, geothermal is also out when the US National Renewable Energy Labs estimates a figure of up to 80 gCO2eq/kWh.

By applying basic logic, we should be seeing organised and vocal opposition to geothermal energy. But, of course, we don’t. This isn’t even considering the indefensible perspective of advocates of a radical shift to distributed energy generation – large, distant geothermal renewable energy installations would logically have little or no place in that world.

Myself, I’m excited to see geothermal, as a dispatchable and clean form of energy, flourish and contribute, where practicable, to the challenge of displacing the dominance of coal and gas. In the long run, without misinformed, hypocritical activism ceaselessly opposing it and prohibitively burdensome regulations more than absorbing any economies of scale it can achieve, it may eventually have a good chance.



By Ommission

Today witnessed an attempt by Helen Caldicott to offer commentary on South Australia’s nuclear fuel cycle royal commission. You can read it here but there are no prizes for guessing what it contains. Maybe for what it doesn’t contain, but we’ll get to that.

If I may correct a few highlights (Where to begin? Does she do any research at all?):

The people advocating a nuclear South Australia have no comprehension of genetics, radiation biology, oncology and medicine. Or they are willing to ignore the risks.

My own comprehension of genetics stems from my major in biochemistry, earned at the University of Adelaide, and I advocate for at least the fair consideration of nuclear in South Australia. More authoritatively, the late Professor Wigg was pivotal in bringing the benefits of radiobiology and oncology research and treatment to this state and more widely to the nation, and he also advocated for nuclear energy. He was unwilling to ignore the risks of excluding nuclear.

But more fundamentally, the point Caldicott entirely misses is that her refusal to listen to anything from nuclear professionals makes her worse than mistaken. So when she claims, “But they are wrong. Only 9 per cent of the plutonium successfully fissions, leaving 91 per cent of it with its extensive life, as well as producing deadly fission byproducts” as if she understands the physics involved, and Roger Blomquist of Argonne National Labs observes that this claim is nonsensical, her intentions must be seriously questioned.

The first argument is environmental: that nuclear power is the best way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and as such combat climate change. But this ignores the huge expulsion of greenhouse gas that goes into producing nuclear power.

This polemic appears to hinge on the claims of Storm van Leeuwen and Smith, made on their website and not in the peer reviewed literature. But it has been criticised in the literature and thoroughly debunked. It is also inconsistent with figures presented by the US National Renewable Energy Laboratories.

Heard is advocating the reprocessing of radioactive fuel. This involves dissolving intensely radioactive fuel rods in nitric acid and chemically precipitating out plutonium, which would then fuel small, modular, fast-breeder reactors.



Aside from the fact that countries like France conduct large scale reprocessing of nuclear fuel safely (which helps them run economically on a majority of nuclear power, keeping emissions at world-leading low levels as well as supplying large annual exports to coal-dependent neighbours), what Ben, Barry and others, and now Senator Edwards have been clearly talking about is an unrelated fuel recycling method which utilises electrochemistry in a non-water, molten salt medium. No nitric acid involved here, Helen. The entire idea is that fissionable transuranic materials are not separated (keeping them useless for weapons diversion) and do not and cannot leave the site, instead being recast as alloy fuel and returned to the reactor.

Moreover, the uranium enrichment facility she cites as currently needing so much coal-fired electricity… is shut.

The dump would be constructed on Aboriginal land, near and likely above the Great Artesian Basin.

If this isn’t the most opportunistic and intentionally inflammatory sentence of the entire screed, I don’t know what is. There’s absolutely no basis for claiming a facility would need to be situated within these limits. Indeed there’s no reason for insisting on it being so far from major populations at all.

There would also be americium-241, even more deadly than plutonium…

So “deadly”, we put it in plastic casings and screw it onto our ceilings to warn us of the mundane hazards of house fires.

The BBC is more interested in the facts around plutonium than Caldicott is.

The South Australian population would be likely to experience epidemics of cancer, leukaemia, congenital anomalies and genetic diseases through future generations as the waste inevitably leaked.

You knew it was coming, didn’t you? The shameless prognostication of cancers, mutations and death. But wait – isn’t this what she predicted for Western Japan nearly 4 years ago? Come to think of it,

She hasn’t mentioned Fukushima at all!

Caldicott is given a mouthpiece to perpetuate her own peculiar brand of nuclear hysteria, and not once does she remind us that three reactor cores melted down and released radionuclides over part of Japan just this decade? Has it anything to do with her desperately ill-informed prophesies of catastrophe bearing no resemblance to reality? What about her insistent use of a bogus but frightening chart which everyone else knew was fraudulent? Who knows?

Not that I’m not happy that at least one self-appointed anti-nuclear leader has apparently ceased exploiting – at every opportunity – a deathless industrial accident which happened in the context of a natural disaster that killed thousands. But due to shame over the so far constant fear mongering? Unlikely.

Opportunities to Decarbonise: We Missed You Like Crazy

This was written a little before the publication of Qvist and Brook’s peer-reviewed article that sets out the potential for rapid global electricity decarbonisation through adoption of modern nuclear energy at a rate comparable to what France and Sweden demonstrated – while growing healthy economies – last century. Read it here.


Let’s get excited about what nuclear can do for us. It’s about time, after all, and we have a lot of reasons. New designs are available which need only the fuel that is already mined and refined. Serious accidents result in only localised and wholly underwhelming physical consequences by any professional estimation. Adequate management mitigates this risk.

It can also scale at a rate necessary to both potentially help avert fossil fuel commitment in developing nations, and enable the sort of global emissions cut required by IPCC scenarios. Such was highlighted in a paper out of the University of Adelaide, citing national historical nuclear megawatt hour addition rates, annualised and levelised by population. Working with the relatively modest average rate achieved by France in the 80s, an ultra-low emissions system of renewables underpinned with nuclear power was shown to be quite realistic by 2060. No hourly grid simulations necessary. Prioritise all appropriate technology, especially what has been repeatedly proven, and concentrate on decarbonisation instead of technological tribalism.

It’s quite possible that it didn’t need to be this way. As alluded to, there was a time when reactors were being brought online rather regularly, and it’s plausible that the trend didn’t need to end. In this article, the consequences of the potential sustained nuclear rollout were quantified for the US and the world.


In green, we see the existing global carbon emissions levels and in purple is the U.S. carbon emission levels if it continued to adopt a nuclear infrastructure. In red then, as a result, we see the global carbon levels would have been almost 15% lower than current levels.

I invite readers to extrapolate then where the total global carbon emissions would be if all the post-industrialized nations had adopted nuclear power – as their natural technological progressions would have dictated – if it were not for the hijacking of this process by anti-scientific hyperbole by scaremongering environmental activists. Many organizations – such as Green Peace, still ardently oppose nuclear power. And these levels, mind you, are only about one-tenth of what the Atomic Energy Commission was projecting based on demand during the 60s, where at its height 25 new nuclear power plants were being built every year, and the AEC anticipated that by the year 2000 over 1,000 nuclear power plants would be in operation in the U.S.

Inspired by these calculations, I posed a hypothetical for Australia: If, instead of instituting the prohibition of nuclear energy in 1998, the Democrats and Greens had involved themselves legitimately in working towards proven coal power-replacing nuclear energy, with an appropriate focus on safety and environmental protection.

The CANDU EC6 (now offered as the AFCR) is a reactor of appropriate size for the Australian grid, with a track record of swift build times. Assuming only one started per year following a conservative period for IAEA-assisted regulation establishment (cf. adoption in the UAE), environmental impact assessment and so on, an extra year at the start for FOAK, and assuming megawatt-for-megawatt replacement of coal, what would IEA-sourced national emissions intensity look like?


An incontrovertible downward trend, with over 9% extra reduction by 2012. This is indeed roughly equivalent to France’s average build rate as given in the above paper.

This isn’t limited mitigation by favoured intermittent renewables, or a temporary dip due to vagueries of carbon pricing. It is sustained and historically proven climate action which has been deferred since the nineties.

West European countries including the E C may be able to stabilize or reduce C0 2 emissions by early in the next decade through a variety of measures including taxes, energy efficiency programs, nuclear power, natural gas, and renewables…

– IPCC Response Strategies, 1990

Both the potential impacts of climate change and the decarbonisation success of French electricity were known in the nineties – certainly not as immediately available to all as they are now, but known. Granted, nuclear was particularly unpopular, too, but the ideological opportunism of the Greens and Democrats ensured that it stayed that way while the world warmed.

In hindsight, I feel particularly stung by this situation as I was a Greens and Democrats voter since I’ve been eligible.

But this goes back further than France, or climate change. It goes back before the regulatory ratcheting and uncertainty, the escalation in labour costs, the exceptionally impermanent goal posts between which the first nuclear era was forced to kick. (Incidentally, if you thought this ratcheting all happened in the past, think again: the US regulator is considering cutting the utterly adequate current worker exposure limits by 60% – regardless of cost – merely to be consistent with Europe.)


Figure 1

“While there is little difference in materials cost, we see from Fig 1 that the difference in labor costs between M.E. [median experience] and B.E. [best experience] plants is spectacular. The comparison between these is broken down in Table 1. We see that about half of the labor costs are for professionals. It is in the area of professional labor, such as design, construction, and quality control engineers, that the difference between B.E. and M.E. projects is greatest. It is also for professional labor that the escalation has been largest — in 1978 it represented only 38% of total labor costs versus 52% in 1987. However, essentially all labor costs are about twice as high for M.E. as for B.E. projects.”


Table 1: Breakdown of labour costs for nuclear power plants and coal-burning power plants from the 1987 EEDB*

It goes all the way back to the fifties, the era of the Shippingport reactor, the Experimental Breeder Reactor I and a petroleum geologist named Marion King Hubbert. Hubbert was the first to observe how fossil fuels would run out, and make predictions regarding when. Oil companies didn’t like this, but he was famously proved right when US oil production peaked in 1961. It seemed Hubbert wasn’t worried though. He grasped the potential of peaceful nuclear energy. Crucially, he saw breeder reactors enabling the full utilisation of uranium and thorium fuels into the far future, at a time when their supply was believed to be limited. Doubtless, oil companies liked this even less.

…It appears that there exist within minable depths in the United States rocks with uranium contents equivalent to 1000 barrels or more of oil per metric ton, whose total energy content is probably several hundred times that of all the fossil fuels combined. The same appears to be true of many other parts of the world. Consequently, the world appears to be on the threshold of an era which in terms of energy consumption will be at least an order of magnitude greater than that made possible by the fossil fuels.


Today, we know we have plentiful economically recoverable uranium, even assuming the greatly expanded role nuclear energy still needs to play in the coming decades. This uranium is in no way wasted by use in conventional reactors – the resulting recyclable fuel, along with the depleted uranium left over from enrichment, is all fast reactor fuel. Indeed, it has scant other constructive use.

Greens in Europe doggedly pursue the total phaseout of nuclear, apparently above all else; their affiliates in America are equally stubborn. More locally, the last we heard from our Australian Greens was an insular maintenance of their traditional rejection, but apparently without reference to intractable nuclear waste or ecological hazards.

Indeed, further work from our Adelaide authors has demonstrated the future benefits to biodiversity provided by a renewed focus on expansion of nuclear capacity. At this point we should all be wondering who in their right mind would try to justify a prohibition of nuclear technology as part of an Act concerned with Environment and Biodiversity Protection. Even opponents who generalise that it’s “too expensive” or “takes too long” cannot rationally use that to maintain an outright ban. Moreover, that these drawbacks are somehow intrinsic to the technology, under all that ratcheted regulatory burden, is clearly false.

There has been cost associated with penetration of wind and solar in the last decade, and they have contributed to emissions mitigation. There will be cost in maintaining Australia’s legacy hydro capacity. When nuclear is finally legal here, there will be costs. Should we accept the ratcheted, exorbitant costs that have shackled the technology in the west – particularly in aspects where there’s no associated demonstrable benefit? Or can we recognise the urgency of addressing emissions using all the tools in the box and be really smart about it?

To paraphrase the new federal Greens leader Richard Di Natale, we should always be guided by the science. He has rightly made his and the Greens’ support for childhood vaccination unequivocal. The biology behind vaccination is the same that underpins the development of biological weapons of mass destruction. Separating the two is obvious and exclusively pursuing the benefits of vaccination, despite fringe opposition, is straightforward. Why then do Greens have such difficulty with the comparably valid distinction between commercial nuclear energy and the Bomb? How much longer will they treat nuclear the way they do?


“Accidents, waste and weapons!” Are you scared yet?

It’s that time again when the stale old narrative gets a superficial rewrite over at The Conversation. This guest post consists of Luke Weston’s reply.

Let’s take a quick look at all the source material that Diesendorf cites in this piece.

  • The Guardian
  • Enenews (Seriously? What’s next, InfoWars?)
  • A couple of pages from Areva, Georgia Power and EdF
  • RenewEconomy (Really credible source there, the NaturalNews of energy policy.)
  • RenewEconomy again! And again!
  • ABC Radio National
  • The New York Times
  • The World Nuclear Association’s fact page on Generation IV reactors, and Scientific American, neither of which back up the claims being made.
  • Extreme science-denier anti-nuclear-energy activist organisation Beyond Nuclear.
  • Beyond Nuclear, again.
  • The WNA information page on Small Modular Reactors. Again, it doesn’t really provide any substance to back up what it is that you are claiming.
  • The University of Sydney ISA report, which explains some of the flaws in the methodology of the Storm van Leeuwen and Smith claims, and shows that nuclear energy is “greenhouse gas free” in exactly the same way that wind energy or solar energy are.
  • Diesendorf’s own previous post on The Conversation, which really just parrots the widely debunked claims made by Storm van Leeuwen and Philip Smith on their own non-peer-reviewed website.
  • And another of Diesendorf’s previous pieces on The Conversation.
  • Anti-nuclear-energy activist organisation the Union of Concerned Scientists, which is clearly an anti-nuclear-energy (and anti-biotechnology) organisation. They don’t check that you’re a scientist when you become a member, by the way, you just go to the website, and the only information you have to give them is your credit card number.

As Hans Bethe puts it in the preface to “The Road from Los Alamos”, “I have also worked with the Union of Concerned Scientists on arms control, but I have never become a member because it also opposes the generation of nuclear power for peaceful purposes – a position with which I do not agree.”

The organisation’s anti-nuclear-energy ideology has been very obvious for many years. Saying “we’re not anti-nuclear-energy” is just like the common cry of anti-vaccination activists that “we’re not anti-vaccination!”

  • Diesendorf, Brian Martin and Jim Green’s own “EnergyScience” website, which pushes their own anti-nuclear-energy activism. But why aren’t you publishing any of this in the journals, instead of on your own non-peer-reviewed website?
  • Schneider and Froggatt’s “World Nuclear Industry Status Report” website. The name sounds fancy, but it’s still just a couple of activists with their own website.

Mycle Schneider was responsible in 1983 for establishing the Paris branch of WISE, the World Information Service on Energy – an anti-nuclear-energy activist organisation whose coy and mendacious name is essentially the nuclear energy equivalent of the Australian Vaccination Network. The WISE website proudly self-describes Schneider as an anti-nuclear-energy activist. ( )

Antony Froggatt was the Greenpeace International Nuclear Policy Campaigner from 1989 to 1997, as well as the representative of Greenpeace International for Central and Western Europe and the former Soviet Union. The first of Schneider and Froggatt’s “World Nuclear Industry Status Reports” was issued in 1992 as a joint publication between Greenpeace International, WISE Paris and the World Watch Institute. The second and third iterations of their report, in 2004 and 2007, were commissioned by the Greens EFA Group in the European Parliament.

Neither author appears to have any technical experience or qualification in nuclear engineering, physics, or any related discipline. Furthermore, this report suffers from the problem of reducing all nuclear power plant operations, all fuel cycle activities, all state-owned nuclear power operators as well as commercial operators, and all research and development both in the public and the private sector all around the world into this concept of the monolithic “Nuclear Industry”. This is the classic meme of the “Big Industry” – the monolithic big-business conspiracy boogeyman we see often cited by anti-nuclear energy activists, anti-GMO activists, anti-pharmaceutical activists and the like.

Once again, this is nothing more than another non-peer-reviewed anti-nuclear-energy activist website. Obviously there’s nothing genuinely impartial and “independent” here at all. The “World Nuclear Industry Status Report” is not subject to any kind of peer-review or genuinely independent fact-checking or oversight – it’s really just a report published on the website of a group of anti-nuclear-energy activists. It has no more peer review, and no more credibility, than the work that Storm van Leeuwen and Smith have self-published on their own website, for example.

This is a good example of the problem with seeking out only “independent” data that fits the predetermined ideology, and finding “independent” sources that have about as much intellectual integrity as people on the Internet who publish their own passionate reports and research about the dangers of smart meters and wind turbines, or the dangers of vaccination, fluoridation and chemtrails.

  • The “Chernobyl: Consequences of the Catastrophe for People and the Environment” book

As the New York Academy of Sciences clearly points out on their website – “In no sense did Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences or the New York Academy of Sciences commission this work; nor by its publication does the Academy validate the claims made in the original Slavic language publications cited in the translated papers. Importantly, the translated volume has not been formally peer‐reviewed by the New York Academy of Sciences or by anyone else.”

It contradicts the best available peer-reviewed science and epidemiology we have concerning Chernobyl, the international work of the Chernobyl Forum etc.

So you’ve posted one peer-reviewed source on this subject in the form of the IARC paper, but you’re apparently not happy with “how bad” they say it is, so you add a non-peer-reviewed source making extreme outlier claims and say that this is a range of credible estimates.

The Yablokov book has been reviewed and substantially criticized by health physicists – for one example of a review in the peer-reviewed literature see Radiat. Prot. Dosimetry (2010) 141 (1): 101-104. (

The Int J. Cancer paper you linked to is the only source provided here which comes from any kind of peer-reviewed credible source, and obviously extremely different to what Yablokov et al claim.

What I would say to Mark Diesendorf is the same thing I would say to any anti-GMO or anti-vaccination activist.

Show me the best possible argument for your position (anti-nuclear-energy, in this case) using credible sources that are subjected to, and stand up to, peer review.Show me the best possible, compelling argument that you’ve published in a credible journal for peer review (or indeed, just show me an argument that draws from peer-reviewed sources) and I’ll happily read it.

In a nutshell, to reduce it down to a single three-panel comic strip, this is the problem:

With the exception of one paper in Int J. Cancer, your entire piece is completely lacking any references to peer-reviewed science – plenty of links to non-credible activist websites though. Not one of these is a source with any kind of scientific or academic credibility.


image-20150512-25044-o2pzouUpdate: Manfred Lenzen, whose rigorous analysis has been repeatedly and selectively cited by this commentator as demonstrating unacceptably high life-cycle emissions for nuclear energy, has followed up with a clear article summarising his own work. He saw fit to include the IPCC’s own chart for emissions from different technology. I have abbreviated it to highlight the comparison of solar PV and nuclear. Mark Disendorf has called loudly for a huge expansion of solar power, but by his logic it has unacceptably high life-cycle emissions. I find it simpler to support both, myself.


Anti-Nuclear Climate Inaction: Vermont

Guest articles from Meredith Angwin. You can follow her on twitter at @yes_VY.

Air Pollution and Vermont Yankee – NOVEMBER 11, 2012

My name is Meredith Joan Angwin and I live in Wilder Vermont.  I am here to speak in favor of granting Vermont Yankee Certificate of Public Good for continued operation.  I am the Director of the Energy Education Project of the Ethan Allen Institute, I blog at Yes Vermont Yankee.

I am a physical chemist by training. I worked at improving pollution control methods and corrosion resistance of nuclear, gas, geothermal and coal plants. I was a project manager at the Electric Power Research Institute. I also consulted with many utilities, in the U. S. and abroad.

I am here today as a citizen of Vermont who wants Vermont to remain the clean, green and attractive state that it is today. Nuclear power has the least environmental impact of all baseload types of electricity.  Specifically, it creates no air pollution. Nuclear power creates no nitrogen oxides.

Intermittent renewables like solar and wind must have be backed up by baseload power and dispatchable power.  What kind of backup power will Vermont choose? Hydro, nuclear or fossil?

New hydro plants and new nuclear plants are unlikely to come on-line in this region. Our practical choices are Vermont Yankee, new fossil plants, or buying power from outside Vermont. I will discuss the environmental issues of natural gas versus Vermont Yankee, because I have technical expertise in this area.

Fossil power means air pollution. Natural gas plants are the best in terms of emissions, but they emit acid gases to the air: carbon dioxide and nitrogen oxides.  I will talk about nitrogen oxides, an acid gas that contributes to acid rain and smog.  I have patents in the control of nitrogen oxides.

Controlling nitrogen oxides is difficult. At the high temperatures in gas turbines, the air actually burns itself. That is, the nitrogen in the air combines with oxygen in the air and makes nitrogen oxides (NOX). NOX is only partially controlled by ammonia addition at the end of the process. Sometimes the ammonia itself becomes a pollutant.

NOX is a very acid gas, contributing to acid rain. NOX is also the main cause of smog, which can happen on any sunny day. You don’t have to be in Los Angeles to get smog.  All you  need is NOX and sunshine.

Nuclear plants do not release NOX. They keep our air clean. For clean Vermont air, we need to make our baseload power with Vermont Yankee, not fossil fuels.



Where Vermont Power Will Come From After Vermont Yankee – NOVEMBER 18, 2013

Rainfall in U S during ice storm Does not include rainfall Jan 4 and 5

On Sunday, the Valley News published my op-ed Yankee’s Closing Will Hurt Vermont. 

I always enjoy having an op-ed in the my local Sunday paper.  I hope you read it. It’s about the probable effects on Vermont when Vermont Yankee closes.

Factors Affecting Vermont Electricity 

As I wrote in the op-ed:

Vermont Yankee’s closing will affect everyone in Vermont. It will make our electricity more expensive, more fossil-fuel based and less reliable.

I explained the factors that will affect our power supply and pricing after Vermont Yankee closes.  Specifically:

  • The plant will not be replaced by renewables.  Wind turbine construction in Vermont is practically at a standstill, for example.
  • Our power will come from outside Vermont, and be subject to various sorts of interruption, including too few natural gas supply lines, ice storms, and HydroQuebec needing to use its electricity in Quebec during a cold snap.
  • The electricity price will follow the grid price of natural gas.  According to FERC, the New England price of natural gas is set to rise substantially (from $6.60 MMBTU to $11.75 MMBTU).  In the rest of the country, the price of natural gas is set to remain stable.
  • Grid payments of $75 million to oil-burning plants (the ISO-NE Winter Reliability Program) will be rolled into our electricity costs.
What About the People at Vermont Yankee?

Realtor map of my area Map shows town boundaries Dartmouth is in Hanover My home is in Hartford

Several people asked me why I didn’t mention the people at Vermont Yankee, the effect of the plant closing on the local economy, the effect on the state economy, the effect on the state taxes?

There’s a simple reason.  I live about sixty miles north of the plant, and I think people in this area don’t care very much about southern Vermont.  People here generally commute across the bridge to New Hampshire, where they work at Dartmouth College, Dartmouth Medical Center, and many high-tech industries spawned by Dartmouth (for example, HyperTherm).
People here care where their electricity comes from. They care about reliability and about environmental impact.  They care somewhat about their electric bills.  My own feeling is people here don’t care that much about what happens to Brattleboro or Vernon. They are insulated from many aspects of the Vermont economy through their jobs in New Hampshire.
Therefore, for my local paper, I wrote about things that affect all of Vermont: where our electricity comes from, how reliable it is, how fossil fuels will be used to produce our electricity, and how expensive electricity may become.
The Op-Ed
For an op-ed, Yankee’s Closing Will Hurt Vermont was  very data-dense! Sometimes I wondered–where was the “opinion” part?  Why did I write it this way?
Still, it was fun to write, and I plan to reprint it on this blog in a week or so.
However, I always like to have people access the op-ed at the newspaper for a few days before I begin putting it on my own blog.  I hope you enjoy the article.


These articles were originally posted at Yes Vermont Yankee.

Further reading on the impacts to society of VY’s early closure.