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

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Connecticut People: Now is the Time to Support Millstone

Millstone Power Station
photo from NEI  Nuclear Notes
Support This Bill. Right now.

Right now.  Today, or maybe tomorrow

If you live in Connecticut: Write your legislator!

Over the next two weeks, the Connecticut legislature will consider SB 106.  This bill will provide financial relief for Millstone Power Station, which produces enough power for two million homes.  The same bill will also encourage Connecticut's fuel cell industry.

Dominion has a good website about supporting Millstone.  Specifically, you can click the Take Action link, and be taken directly to a site where you can write to your legislator.  If you live in Connecticut, use the link, right now.

If you live in New England but not in Connecticut, read NEI's post With Nuclear Plants Closing, Fears Grow for Stability of the New England's Electric Grid. Be prepared to defend your local nuclear plant.

More about the Connecticut bill

Well, it's complicated.  While other bills (such as New York State's Zero Emissions Credits) mandate clean energy payments for zero-emission power plants, Connecticut SB 106 just allows Millstone to bid into certain types of auctions under the same circumstances as other zero-emission plants.

Under this bill, Millstone will be allowed to present proposals to supply energy, and those proposals will be reviewed by the Office of the Consumer Counsel, the Commissioner of Energy and Environmental Protection, and the Attorney General. (Among others...later these proposals must also reviewed be by the state Public Utilities Regulating Authority.) There are no guarantees for Millstone written into this bill.

Frankly, I think you have to be some kind of Connecticut-power specialist to figure out this bill in its entirety.  Here is a link to the SB 106, as it exists now: An Act Concerning the Diversity of Baseload Energy Supplies in the State and Achieving Connecticut's Greenhouse Gas Emissions Mandated Levels.

I have tried to read it, but I came to only one conclusion.  Everything is optional.  This bill does not mandate that Millstone (or any low-emissions source) will be paid any particular amount for their power.  It has many statements such as:

(The Office of Consumer Counsel and the Attorney General)... Shall evaluate project proposals received in response to any solicitation issued pursuant to subsection (a) of this section based on whether such proposal is in the best interest of ratepayers and whether the benefits of such proposal outweigh the costs to ratepayers, based on the following: (A) The delivered prices of such sources compared to the forecasted price of energy, as determined by the commissioner or his or her designee....
This bill levels the playing field. It allows Millstone to bid, along with other low-emissions suppliers.

Naturally, allowing Millstone to bid has infuriated many companies.  This is why you should write your legislator, right now, if you live in Connecticut.

Who are the Opponents?

There is plenty of opposition. Basically, the fossil industry is opposing this bill.

In February, Luther Turmelle wrote about this proposed legislation in  the New Haven Register:  2 Connecticut energy bills aim to help Millstone owner, spur fuel cell use.   His article described the opposition, which includes Calpine, Dynegy, NRG Energy, and the Electric Power Supply Association.  In other words, the opposition includes  the fossil power plants in Connecticut.  These companies and associations represent the plants that do not meet the low-emissions criteria set by Connecticut for energy proposals to be submitted under this bill.

The Time is Now

The problem is that it is spring, and state legislatures either pass bills before adjourning, or...the bills don't pass.  For the sake of the environment, we want this bill to pass.

Time is short. Write your legislator!

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Advocating for Nuclear Advocacy at the NEA meeting

Facebook Post by Sarah Spath, Kristin Zaitz and Heather Matteson of
Mothers For Nuclear

The Conference

Each year, the Nuclear Energy Institute and North American Young Generation in Nuclear (NAYGN) jointly sponsor the NEA Nuclear Energy Assembly.

At NEA, Monday includes the  the NAYGN Professional Development sessions (open to all attendees, not just young members). The Supplier Expo and "Top Innovative Practices" awards are more industry-oriented. These more general events started Monday night and continued to Wednesday, according to the program calendar.  This year, the conference started this Monday, May 22, and ended Wednesday, May 24.



Advocacy at the Conference

I was moved to see the emphasis on advocacy at this conference.  In the NAYGN portion of the conference, there was an afternoon session on Effective Storytelling, described this way: Attendees will hear from panelists on effective strategies in storytelling and industry branding to explore new ideas in how we should be talking about nuclear energy and best practices in reaching a broader audience on issues important to the industry.

Wow.  I wasn't at the conference, but just this description stirs my heart.  And there's more.

At the main conference (the NEA portion, not the NAYGN portion), the president of the Nuclear Energy Institute, Maria Korsnick, unveiled a "Wide-ranging Nuclear Advocacy Effort." This national outreach strategy will appeal to a wide range of advocates.   Here is a link to an article about her speech. But I can't resist one quote: "We have stepped up our advocacy effort not just a notch or two, but by a great margin."

I am so pleased to see this new policy. Nuclear needs a wide range of advocates.

Campaigning for Clean Air at the NEA meeting

I was not at the NEA meeting but my book was there!  Campaigning for Clean Air was given out in the NAGYN welcome packets. If you registered for NAGYN, you received my book!  NAYGN bought the book from me (bulk purchase with a discount) and distributed it.

It's hard to even write about this, because I am so happy.  But please understand, there was a lot of emphasis on advocacy at the meeting, at panels and announcements and more.  My book was just one part of the advocacy events at the meeting. But still: my book was there!

Mothers For Nuclear posted on Facebook about receiving my book in their packet.  I headed this post with a screen shot of this posting. What can I say?

 I can only say Thank You to Kristen Zaitz, Heather Matteson and Sarah Spath for their posting, and Thank You to everyone at NEA for advocating advocacy!

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Bonus Book: Inspiration and Brownies!

Bonus Book:

In May, when you buy Campaigning for Clean Air, you will get a bonus: a short book of inspirational essays– “An Advocate’s Inspiration: Shared Brownies for the Nuclear Soul.” This bonus will only be available in May.

To get the bonus book, buy Campaigning at Amazon, and forward the receipt to me at mjangwin at gmail.

Please share this offer with your friends and with other groups. I would love to send out lots of the short, sweet, inspiration book!

About the bonus book:

I am putting this offer together so people will click: Buy. It's a marketing thing. Yes,  it is.

But "An Advocate's Inspiration" is a book from the heart.  You will enjoy it.

Also, if you bought Campaigning earlier, please send me the receipt and I will send you "An Advocate's Inspiration."  The end-date of the offer is to encourage new buyers, not to discourage my friends who bought the book earlier.


Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Ecomodernist Podcast on "Campaigning for Clean Air"

I was recently invited to talk about my book, Campaigning for Clean Air, on the Ecomodernist Podcast.  The podcast was released, and here's the link.  I hope you will listen to it: I think you will enjoy the conversation.

The Ecomodernist Podcast:

Part of the podcast was talking about my book, There are many books about the virtues of nuclear power, but this is the first book (as far as I know) on how to support nuclear power in the public sphere.  It's the "then what" book:

"Now that I know about the importance of nuclear power, then what can I do to support it?"

My book is a major answer to that question.   I encourage you to read its excellent reviews on Amazon.

However, a good podcast goes beyond just discussing the book.  Gabriel Ignetti and Rick Maltese were great interviewers.

We discussed combustion versus nuclear energy for electricity. Specifically,  we discussed the nasty effects on air quality that are caused by nitrogen oxides from gas and coal-fired plants. Nowadays, carbon dioxide gets all the press, but nitrogen oxides are still out there, making smog and acid rain. We discussed  being members of environmental groups that are fighting climate change, and the importance of sticking up for nuclear within these groups.  Ignetti, especially, had good stories about his involvement in the environmental movement in Florida.  We discussed hecklers and people who really get "in your face" against nuclear, and possibly-effective versus certainly-ineffective ways to deal with them.

At the end of the podcast, Ignetti and Maltese have a short, separate section, sharing some research they did about how nitrogen oxides affect people's health, forest health, and even our sculpture and our buildings.

Ecomodernism

Painted trillium in Pisgah National Forest
A not-power-plant near a waterfall.
I was on the  "Ecomodernist Podcast," and now you may be wondering: what is "ecomodernism"?  Ecomodernism is a movement that started in 2015, with the publication of the Ecomodernist Manifesto. The ecomodernist goal is human prosperity and an ecologically vibrant planet.

This goal will be achieved by humans choosing technologies that can lift people from poverty and supply abundant energy, while using less of the of the world's area for human endeavors.  This means, for example, using compact energy sources like nuclear power, and leaving the ridges, the tides, the woodlands,  the pastures, and the streams to benefit the ecologies that need ridges, tides, woodlands,  pastures and streams.  In other words, giving nature room to breathe, while giving humans enough abundance to live healthy lives.

Ecomodernism hadn't been invented yet, in 2013, when I had an article in ANS Nuclear Cafe: Farmers, City Folk and Renewable Energy. But the idea in my article substantially the same: don't look at every woods and every waterfall as a source of energy, ready for "biomass" burning, or building a nice big concrete dam.

Let much of nature be nature.  Use compact sources of energy, rather than bulldozing the woods.

That is also a goal of ecomodernism.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Nuclear and the Trump Administration: Post at Nuclear Engineering International

NRC Chairman Kristine L. Svinicki and Commissioner Jeff Baran.
NRC photo from 2017 Regulatory Information Conference
Trump and Nuclear

Early this year, Nuclear Engineering International Magazine suggested that I write an article about the future of nuclear energy under the Trump administration.  (The magazine is based in Britain.)

This level of prognostication felt a little above my pay grade!

However,  I managed it, because I worked with an excellent co-author, Dr. Gilbert  Brown.  Brown is  emeritus professor/ director of the nuclear engineering program at University of Massachusetts, Lowell.  He is active in nuclear policy and was a Foster Fellow in the U.S. State Department.  Together, Brown and I wrote the article: Nuclear Power in the U.S.A.  It appeared in the March issue of the magazine.

I call the article "prognostication" because it was published in the March issue of Nuclear Engineering International, and written in February.  A  lot of things were in flux at that point. To quote the description of the article in the magazine itself:

President Donald Trump’s first few weeks in office have been a whirlwind of activity. When it comes to nuclear power, there has been some positive momentum with key industry appointments and initiatives for advanced reactors. What might the future hold? By Meredith Angwin and Dr. Gilbert Brown.

Why this article is different

Doctor Gilbert Brown
Though some parts of our article are now out-of date, most of the article is still relevant. In particular, we pushed some boundaries a little in this article. Many people who read nuclear industry periodicals expect to hear about DOE, NRC and EPA (we covered these agencies).

But many nuclear people are somewhat ignorant of FERC, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which is the commission that oversees the grid as a whole.

Dr. Brown and I covered the effects of the vacancies at FERC.  We felt we needed to expand our article past the "usual suspects."  FERC has so many vacancies on its board right now that it can't hold important meetings or make certain types of rulings.

I think you will enjoy reading our article about nuclear under Trump.  When I linked to it on Facebook, a very knowledgable man commented that it was a GREAT high-level summary article, and more such articles will be required in the future.
-------------

Endnotes about FERC:

In late March, long after we had finished the article, the Washington Examiner looked at possible FERC appointments in an article titled  The Politics of Fixing FERC.

Much of that article has an inside-baseball feel to it. Read it if you choose, but at any event, I think the title of the article ("Fixing FERC")  is an important  statement.  In my opinion, FERC has been  fast-and-free with its mandate, encountering little oversight and almost no press coverage. Most of FERC's actions have been either neutral or not-good for nuclear.

For example,  I keep meaning to write about FERC 1000, but I am every time I get ready to dive into that deep deep sinkhole, I remember that I wrote a book and I should spend  my time publicizing it.  If you want to know more about recent FERC actions, I suggest reading NESCOE's brief in its lawsuit against FERC: the suit is about FERC 1000.   Start reading the brief on page 4.

NESCOE is an association of New England states: New England States Committee on Electricity.  This association is made up of representatives appointed by the New England governors.  I consider NESCOE to be New England's attempt to defend itself against FERC.

NESCOE is rightly concerned that FERC's policy changes will cause states to be forced to pay for other states requirements for transmission lines--lines built for only for state policy purposes.  It is taxation without representation: one state votes in for a state policy, and other states pay for that policy. Before FERC 1000, states only shared the costs for transmission lines that were needed for grid reliability, not for state policy.

Oh heavens.  See what I mean?  I'm heading down the explaining-FERC sinkhole!  Okay! Done with that!  I'm climbing out now! I'll be okay!  Really...I will!

Endnotes about Nuclear Engineering International Magazine 

My most recent blog post based on a Nuclear Engineering International article is Pay for Performance on the U.S. Grid: No help to nuclear

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Pro-Nuclear Advocacy Post at ANS Nuclear Cafe

Great Days, right now.

These are great days for pro-nuclear advocacy. Many states are moving in the right direction to save their nuclear plants. Nuclear opponents are fighting desperately to get the states to stomp on nuclear. ("All you need is a few wind turbines to meet your carbon goals.  That's all you need. Pay no attention to the gas plant behind the curtain.")

In other words, pro-nuclear forces are winning, right now, at the state level! But we have well-armed opponents, and we have to keep fighting!

These are great days for pro-nuclear advocacy.

I have a blog post at ANS Nuclear Cafe about the importance of pro-nuclear advocacy, especially local pro-nuclear advocacy.  I encourage you to read it, and comment either here or at the ANS post.

ANS Nuclear Cafe logo

Pro-Nuclear Advocacy
by Meredith Angwin

Right now, in the United States, citizens have become active advocates on many subjects. Ever since the last election, congressional phone lines have been swamped. .....

However, the backlog on the D.C. phone lines is of little importance to pro-nuclear advocates. For pro-nuclear advocates, right now most of the action is not in Congress, but in the states.

Read the entire post here:
- See more at: http://ansnuclearcafe.org/2017/03/16/pro-nuclear-advocacy/#sthash.C7zs7nuz.dpuf

Monday, March 20, 2017

Nuclear Energy Weekly News Digest 351

Toronto Globe and Mail staff await news of D-Day
Nuclear Energy Weekly News Digest

This is an occasional summary of the best posts from the pro-nuclear blogging community in North America. This week’s collection comes from items submitted for the week ending March 19, 2016. The previous digest was posted on March 12, at Neutron Bytes.

Fukushima Commentary--Les Corrice

Fukushima 6-years-on: Part 1  Japan’s Press subverts Fukushima repopulation
Japan’s popular Press has effectively disrupted the efforts of Tokyo Electric Power Company and the Tokyo government to return the Fukushima evacuation zone to some semblance of normalcy. But one outlet – Fukushima Minpo – has been an objective ray of sunshine, posting more positive articles than the rest of Japan’s popular Press combined.

Fukushima 6-years-on: Part 2  Positive and negative Fukushima 6th anniversary articles
Fukushima accident anniversary articles literally flood the Japanese and international Press. In the past, nearly all focused on the dire and gloomy. This year, most of the reports were once again dedicated to the negative. However, some enterprising news outlets bucked the tide and took the positive approach.

Fukushima 6-years-on: Part 3  Fomenting Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt (FUD)
Fukushima FUD has plagued the internet since March, 2011. The frequency of antinuclear scare-mongering posts increases every year to “celebrate” the March 11 anniversary of the nuclear accident. We are identifying only a few of the disreputable postings concerning this year’s anniversary, rather than give all of them free publicity.

Nuke Power Talk-- Gail Marcus

Energy and Jobs: A delicate balance
At Nuke Power Talk, Gail Marcus discusses the issue of jobs lost when any major facility, be it a mine or a factory or a power plant, shuts down.  These job losses can be devastating for the individuals involved and for the communities that host these facilities.  She cites an article by someone who grew up in coal country who argues that plans to reduce the emissions from burning coal need to take a multi-pronged approach that includes planning for assistance to workers affected by these policy decisions.

Forbes--James Conca

NuScale’s Small Modular Nuclear Reactor Keeps Moving Forward
NuScale Power is on track to build the first small modular nuclear reactor in America, having been notified that their first-ever SMR Design Certification Application was accepted for full review by the NRC after only two months - light speed for our nuclear bureaucracy.

The Beguiling Promise Of John Goodenough's New Battery Technology
A new fast-charging battery technology from Jack Goodenough, the inventor of the Li battery, will again revolutionize electric vehicles and smart phones, using a glass electrode instead of a liquid one, sodium instead of lithium, having three times as much energy density as Li-ion batteries and doesn’t get hot.

ANS Nuclear Cafe--Meredith Angwin

Pro-Nuclear Advocacy
Historically, nuclear advocates have been effective when they take action in their own communities.  As Tip O'Neill said: all politics is local.  (Post includes links to several organizations that take local action.)

Neutron Bytes - Dan Yurman

Banner Week for Progress on U.S. Advanced Reactors
Four major announcements were made this week by developers of advanced nuclear reactors in the U.S. All of them indicate progress towards completing designs and engagement with nuclear safety agencies.

There are significant distinctions between them in terms of technical details of the designs and there are also a range of commitments in terms of the key success factor – paying customers.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Atomic Insights features Campaigning for Clean Air



Yesterday, my book Campaigning for Clean Air was featured on Rod Adams's Atomic Insights blog: How to Campaign for Clean Air While Eating Plenty of Brownies.

Here is a taste of what Rod had to say:

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. 

Read the entire post

Monday, February 27, 2017

Sooner Rather Than Later, the NorthStar Decomm Plans: Guy Page Guest Post

NorthStar Decomm of Triga Reactor, Omaha
The advantage to Vermonters of the sale of Vermont Yankee to NorthStar can be summed up this way: sooner rather than later.

As early as 2021, NorthStar, would begin a decade’s worth of decommissioning. By comparison, the original decommissioning plan as prescribed by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission would begin no sooner than about 20 years from now, and more likely around 2072.

Economic Impact

This advanced schedule means that sooner rather than later, NorthStar’s plan can stimulate broad-based employment and prosperity for retail, food and lodging, housing, and healthcare sectors, as well as government spending on schools, roads, public safety and other vital services in Windham County and throughout the state. Total estimated economic impact: $781 million [Brattle Group study, 12/15/2016].

During regular operations, Vermont Yankee employed over 600 professionals in good-paying jobs. For a five-year period, NorthStar decommissioning will add approximately 1,000 jobs (onsite jobs and secondary spending combined) per year to the local and state economies.

Notably, the funding for decommissioning won’t come from local or state taxpayers, but from the Vermont Yankee Decommissioning Trust Fund, with more than $550 million in asset value. Properly managed with the oversight of the NRC as it has been to date, it will fund the entire decommissioning project, and the funds will begin to be unlocked much sooner with NorthStar.

Northstar Competency

Decommissioning is NorthStar’s core competency as an ongoing business. It has helped decommission more than 300 related projects, including four nuclear power plants in New England. NorthStar has also conducted NRC-approved decommissionings from start to finish for several nuclear reactors at universities and other institutions.

Before it can begin the work, NorthStar must pass the scrutiny of both the Vermont Public Service Board and the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission. The PSB has already opened a docket on the case, and has invited public input through the submission of comments online or through public testimony at two anticipated public meetings this year.

The NorthStar sale also would mean that sooner rather than later, low-level radioactive waste will be safely shipped out-of-state. NorthStar‘s plan to move this material out of state pre-processing – known in the industry as “rip and ship” – will get low-level waste out of Vermont promptly. This removal by no later than 2030 compared to up to 60 years is most welcome. Also, NorthStar proposes to build an eight MW solar farm onsite as soon as 2026, according to the Brattle Group study.

Using the Site Again

The NorthStar sale would also mean that Vernon, the rest of Windham County, and the State of Vermont can benefit from the presence of a new employer on the Vermont Yankee site. This employer – possibly an energy producer or computer data center,  for example– will mean, high-quality employment, with the resulting private and public sector economic benefits.

Perhaps even more important for Windham County and Vermont, a strong, good-paying employer can help create an attractive atmosphere to attract more jobs. Economic development experts say the big problem with Vermont is that not enough high-demand managers, engineers, and IT professionals want to live here - at least, not outside of Chittenden County.

Our cultural, educational, medical and other “quality of life” resources pale in comparison to many other states. This reality may hurt our Green Mountain pride, but many people prefer the lifestyle in places such as Chapel Hill or Austin.

A large, blue-chip employer is a quality-of-life cornucopia: from it will come better schools, more arts, and more attractive neighborhoods. If we want Windham County and Vermont to draw highly-skilled young Vermonters or transplants, we must cultivate employers who will provide economic opportunity for us, our children, and our grandchildren.

Speedy Decomm is a Win for Vermont

Here is a winning scenario for Vermont—the sale of VY to Northstar and a speedy transition to start decommissioning the site.   Let’s embrace the opportunity to advance the timeline for the plant’s decommissioning. It will provide much greater benefits much sooner, and that’s a good thing for Vermont.

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Guy Page is the Communications Director of the Vermont Energy Partnership, a coalition of businesses, trade and industry groups, not-for-profit organizations, labor unions and individuals committed to clean, safe, affordable and reliable power policy in Vermont. Entergy-Vermont Yankee is a VTEP member.  He has frequent guest posts at this blog: his latest post was Wind Power in Vermont, After the Election.

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Some notes by Meredith Angwin

I was reluctant to publish much about the decomm  sale on this website because of my concerns with the current workers at VY.  My concern was that their employer would be gone with the sale, and their pension benefits might well be affected.  Happily,  IBEW local 300 has filed to be an intervenor in the Public Service Board case about the sale to Northstar, so my concerns are at least partially alleviated.

I have always thought that a specialized company should do the decomm, as I noted in my blog post Facts and Opinion on Entergy Sale of Vermont Yankee.

To write your own comment to the PSB about the sale, use this link: http://epsb.vermont.gov/?q=node/32

Friday, February 24, 2017

Campaigning for Clean Air featured on Neutron Bytes



Neutron Bytes banner


Recently, my  book Campaigning for Clean Air was featured on Dan Yurman’s Neutron Bytes blog. Here is a taste of what they had to say:

“In her book, Campaigning for Clean Air, Meredith Angwin presents clear and well-referenced reasons for supporting nuclear energy. These sections of the book are based on her years of experience in energy research and on-site problem solving.”

Read the entire post

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Now Available: Campaigning for Clean Air: Updated

Front Cover of Campaigning for Clean Air


Campaigning for Clean Air: The book is available!

My book,  Campaigning for Clean Air: Strategies for Pro-Nuclear Advocacy, is now available on Amazon!  You can buy it as a Kindle, or you can buy it as a paperback.   It should also be available for order in most bookstores (Ingram-Spark distributor).  Here's my summary:

Pro-nuclear people can make important contributions to the energy debate. This book will help you make your voice heard.  Advocates appreciate the importance of nuclear power for clean air and for our planet’s future.

In this book, award-winning author Meredith Angwin guides you in your advocacy:
• Support nuclear energy while simply sitting at your computer
• Support nuclear energy in public, using the same techniques as professional speakers and communicators
• Speak at a public hearing or be invited to speak to a legislative committee
• Learn how to deal with your own emotions in a world saturated with anti-nuclear messages
• Find other nuclear supporters and have fun together.
Campaigning for Clean Air features anecdotes, examples and insights from many pro-nuclear advocates. This book will inspire your work for a clean energy future.

Update: A wonderful announcement of the book at Dan Yurman's Neutron Bytes blog! Campaigning for Clean Air & Nuclear Energy.   Thank you, Dan!

Why this book?

Happily, more and more books are appearing to describe the advantages of nuclear power.  Power to Save the World, Climate Gamble, The Non-Solutions Project, Thorium, Energy Cheaper than Coal, and After Fukushima: What We Now Know.  Buy all of them! (I did.)  And this is far from a complete list of excellent pro-nuclear books.

But whichever of these books you buy, please also buy my book.  It's a little different.  It's about getting the pro-nuclear word out to the world.   My fear is that with all the pro-nuclear books, pro-nuclear people will read the books and enjoy the books and then....Then what?

We pro-nuclear people have to raise our voices to support nuclear power. That is why I wrote Campaigning for Clean Air.  This book is about how to support nuclear energy, with some discussion (of course) about why to support it.

As one of my friends said: "Your book is a guidebook, a sort of how-to."  Exactly right.  How to write a letter to the editor.  How to organize a rally.  And everything in between.  Campaigning for Clean Air has the subtitle: Strategies for Pro-Nuclear Advocacy.  I  might have subtitled it: Advocacy the Easy Way, or maybe Activism for the Shy. 

More on this later but meanwhile: Buy the book!
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 P.S. If you want to read what others are saying about the book: 

Some wonderful endorsements are scrolling on this page of my new website: http://www.meredithangwin.com/book/

Monday, February 6, 2017

A Perfect Storm for Natural Gas Prices. Nick Escu Guest Post

Recreated Rembrandt: Christ in the Storm
Art by Ankur Patar: Original was stolen

The  Three Storms 

The movie  The Perfect Storm was about two monstrous storms which come together, out in the ocean, and destroy a very solid fishing vessel.

Today, three storms have come together as a Perfect Storm for nuclear energy.

The Westinghouse Storm.

Toshiba’s $4 billion dollar purchase of Westinghouse, in 2006, was hit with
  • the March, 2011 tsumani in Japan.  
  • the  2012/2013 Toshiba accounting problems, and 
  • the merger of Westinghouse with CB&I, while building 4 new AP1000s in the US and 4 new AP1000s in China.  
This perfect storm is forcing Toshiba to possibly auction off Westinghouse.

The Areva Storm

AREVA's headaches as the step child of EDF were initially looked at as a “Begging Session.” Areva wanted to keep operating under French direction. However, French leadership wants to reduce nuclear power by 50%. This is very strange since almost 80% of all France’s power comes from nuclear energy.

But unquestionably, AREVA Nuclear Fuel is now being used by more and more operating companies.  So the stepchild is doing better than expected.

The Henry Hub Storm

Finally, the Henry Hub natural gas price in February, 2016, went from $1.71/MMBTU to $3.44/MMBTU yesterday. That is just over 100% increase in 11 months. But why? Because the Cheniere Liquid Natural Gas plant came on line and exported the first LNG ship overseas. But Cheniere is only the first of the 17 Approved LNG Permits. The others will be coming online this year, next year, and thru 2020.

The world prices at $20/MMBTU clearly show the profits to be made. So what does this have to do with nuclear energy? When nat gas reaches $4.75/MMBTU, nuclear power becomes standalone profitable. AND when nat gas reaches $6.10/MMBTU, even coal power becomes profitable.

My two previous posts on the subject were:
Nuclear vs Gas Economics, a Three Year Projection
Nuclear vs Gas Economics Part 2

After the Storm?

So here we are. With the ability to buy or merge Westinghouse and AREVA, at rock bottom merger prices, while the world hasn’t woken up yet to the natural gas prices climbing to new heights.

But the opposite is also possible.

Westinghouse could be broken up into saleable divisions. Same for AREVA, and then only GE would have their ESBWR or their ABWR to sell throughout the world.

For American nuclear exports, many 123 Agreements are in place, but the  Ex-Im Bank also needs to be funded for foreign sales to increase.

This year will decide the fate of many companies, as well as determining whether existing US plants have a lifeline.

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Nick Escu is the pen name of a person with long experience in the power industry.  He is a frequent guest blogger at this blog.

Friday, February 3, 2017

Vermont Renewable Mandate (video)

The "90% renewables" solution

Vermont has an energy policy that requires that 90% of Vermont's energy come from renewables by 2050. This policy includes all of Vermont's energy, including heating and transportation.  Such a change can most generously be described as "unlikely."  I have at least two blog posts on this subject:  What 90% renewables would look like in Vermont,  and Vermont's renewable plan is wishful thinking   These posts are from 2013.

The renewable policy might become a law

So far, this renewable policy is not law, but it might become law.  The legislature is in session, and, as Mark Twain said: "No man's life, liberty or property are safe while the legislature is in session."  Bills are being introduced to make this policy into an actual law.

The Ethan Allen Institute recently made a video on the folly of 90% renewables for Vermont.  I appear briefly in the video.  I hope you enjoy it.


Saturday, January 7, 2017

Ending the Fear of Nuclear Energy (video)

My friend Michael Shellenberger delivered a TEDxCalPoly talk: How Fear of Nuclear Ends.

This is a terrific talk, tracing opinions on nuclear energy from the days when the Sierra Club policy "Atoms not Dams, (because of the huge ecological impact of hydro plants).  Then he describes  the controversy and confrontation within the Sierra Club as subgroups pushed against nuclear power. The quotes from the early anti-nuclear people are very telling: these people are basically against clean power because it would lead to population growth or economic growth or both.

Shellenberger talks about how anti-nuclear fears were nurtured by a small group of people, and how anti-nuclear fears will end.  One reason they will end is because everyone wants---a better world for our children.


Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Pay for Performance on the U.S. Grid: No help to nuclear

Happy New Year to everyone, and especially to readers of this blog!  

 I plan some posts on nuclear power and grid policies.

This post shows how instituting  Pay for Performance does not help nuclear plants. The post is an expanded version of my article, Pay for Performance on the U.S. Grid, at Nuclear Engineering International, February 2016.   I am grateful to Nuclear Engineering International for permission to use their graphics.

No Help to Nuclear: Pay for Performance on the U.S. Grid

The United States electric system contains both traditional (vertically integrated) and “liberalized” markets.  In the “liberalized” markets, RTOs (Regional Transmission Organizations) and ISOs (Independent System Operators) operate the grid, using free-market auctions.  The RTO areas are the most challenging for the American nuclear fleet. All the nuclear power plants that are in danger of shutting for economic reasons are in RTO areas.
RTO Areas, from FERC

Neither RTOs nor vertical integration are perfect systems for pricing electricity. RTOs are relatively new (started in the 1990s) and are still evolving their policies.  In particular, some RTOs are planning to reward more-reliable plants by instituting “Pay for Performance,” starting in 2018.  Unfortunately, despite the hopeful name, this change is not likely to help nuclear plants.

The RTOs were designed to lower costs for consumers by giving them the benefit of free-market pricing: electricity is bought in an auction. When the ISO needs power, plants “bid in.” ISO chooses the lowest price power first, moving up the bids until all the power needs are met.   Power plants and utilities can also negotiate Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs) at mutually agreeable prices, and a great deal of electricity is sold in this manner. However, in many markets, investor-owned utilities are prohibited from entering into long term PPAs with conventional generation sources. At any event, PPA electricity prices tend to follow grid pricing, though sometimes with a major lag time.


The Missing Money

Actually, there are two auctions: the energy auction (electricity) and the capacity auction (power plant availability).  (See Sidebar below.)

Search for the Missing Money
James Bride, Energy Tariff Experts
Unfortunately for the energy auction theory, the real-time energy auction plan immediately ran into the first “missing money” problem.  Why should owners of higher-priced plants maintain their plants? Their plants are not guaranteed a price (while on the grid) nor are they guaranteed a number of hours that the grid is sure to call on them, and for which they will be paid.

It became clear that paying only for energy (kWh) might not provide enough money to maintain all the plants that are needed for reliable grid operation.

At a recent meeting of the Consumer Liaison Group for ISO-NE, James Bride of Energy Tariff Experts provided excellent graphics on this subject. (See slides 9 and 10 of presentation below, one of which is included above.)
http://www.iso-ne.com/static-assets/documents/2015/10/clg_james_bride_keynote_presentation_10_9_2015.pdf

The Second Auction and the Capacity Payments

To pay plants to be available, plants now bid into a second auction, an availability auction called the Forward Capacity Auction.    As you can see in the following chart (prepared from ISO-NE data by Entergy, and used with their permission), the Capacity Auction made it possible for gas turbines and peaking plants to make up enough money to keep operating.  The capacity auction found the missing money for some of the plants.

As you can also see, nuclear plants get most of their money from energy payments, not capacity payments.  That is because nuclear plants make so many kWh, compared to other types of plants with the same nameplate capacity rating.  Ultimately, of course, the grid is all about kWh delivered.

(See the sidebar below for sample calculations.)
Revenue streams for different types of plants
Courtesy Entergy and Nuclear Engineering International

Problems with Capacity Auctions

Capacity auctions did not completely solve the reliability problem. They find some missing money, for some types of plants. But what happens when the plant receives the capacity money, but then---later---when called upon to run by ISO, the plant doesn’t run?

ISO-NE and other ISOs were aware of this potential problem, and began designing Pay for Performance incentives. These incentives were to start in 2018.  However, meanwhile, the shale gas boom happened, and the grid became more and more dependent on natural gas. The ISOs needed something for winter reliability, something they could put in place more rapidly then Pay for Performance.

Capacity Auctions Mislead the Grid

Prices during a Polar Vortex
In many ways, the capacity auction results misled ISO about the amount of electricity that would be available to the grid in crisis situations.  During cold snaps, much less electricity was available than had been bid into the capacity auction. Natural gas power plants rarely have firm gas transportation contracts with pipelines.

The gas plants made firm capacity commitments to the grid but did not  have firm delivery commitments for natural gas supply. The Polar Vortex laid bare this problem.

In winter, the ISOs needed a quicker winter fix than Pay For Performance, so they started “winter reliability programs.”  These programs were started just in time. During cold snaps, gas plants not coming on-line was driving the grid closer to the situation where it would have to “shed load” in a cold snap.

The Winter Reliability programs were complex, including new types of auctions.  Basically, however, they supported plants to keep oil, CNG and LNG onsite to burn when gas was not available.  ISO paid for oil, or paid storage costs for unburned oil. FERC (the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission) approved the Winter Reliability programs on a temporary basis. But FERC disapproved of the fact that the reliability programs were not fuel-neutral, and ISOs are supposed to be fuel-neutral.  Therefore, FERC and ISO look forward to 2018, and PFP.

Pay for Performance

Pay for Performance (PFP), which will start in 2018, is supposed to be fuel-neutral. PFP is supposed to find yet another kind of “missing money.”  It is supposed to provide the economic incentive that would encourage power plants to come on-line when dispatched during tight situations on the grid.

Sadly, PFP isn’t actually market-based.  It is a complex regulatory system, basically jury-rigged, that satisfies FERC requirements by supposedly being fuel-neutral.

 PFP is a transfer mechanism from poor-performing plants to high-performing plants.  If a plant bids in capacity, but then does not provide energy (electricity) when called upon, it will have to forgo part (or maybe all) of its capacity payment for that month.  The loss of this money is a sort of penalty for the plant. This lost-money will be added to the capacity payments of plants that do perform during a high-load period, as a sort of bonus.

With PFP, a plant might well lose its entire capacity payment for a month if it doesn’t go on-line when it is needed. It might even owe ISO-NE money beyond its capacity payment. This would be quite a blow for a plant that depends on capacity payments, such as a natural gas plant. An ISO-NE hypothetical example shows a 100 MW plant losing or gaining $50,000, $150,000, and $350,000 dollars in a month, under various scenarios.  http://www.iso-ne.com/committees/comm_wkgrps/strategic_planning_discussion/materials/fcm_performance_white_paper.pdf

Nuclear plants may get some extra payments from PFP, but these payments would be part of their capacity payments.  For nuclear plants, capacity payments are a small portion of their revenue stream, and PFP will not make much of a difference to their pay stream.

The major effect that PFP seems to have had is to encourage all new gas-fired plants to be dual-fired, so they can keep oil on-site and keep their capacity payments.

As ISO-NE in their statement about Pilgrim closing: “Most of this new gas-fired generation is seeking to become dual-fuel capable, meaning they will be able to switch to use oil if natural gas is not available, or if the cost of oil is lower than that of natural gas.”
 http://www.iso-ne.com/static-assets/documents/2015/10/20151013_pilgrim_retirement_request.pdf


PFP Problems for Steam Plants

Steam turbine
With PFP, there’s a lot of devil in the details.  One issue is that it does not distinguish between various types of plants, and could penalize plants that raise steam.  PFP depends upon a complex formula which is the result of many debates on how to structure incentives for plants to be online.  The amount of the penalty/transfer payment depends on this formula, and the formula partly depends on the situation on the grid.

There is considerable concern that some of the PFP transfers will be random--power plants will be penalized or rewarded for situations they can do very little about. A representative from NEPOOL had harsh testimony against PFP. (NEPOOL is a voluntary association of New England energy market participants. It was founded about twenty years before ISO-NE.)  http://www.nepool.com

To quote Elin S. Katz, office of Consumer Counsel in Connecticut, testifying behalf of NEPOOL:  http://elibrary.ferc.gov/idmws/file_list.asp?document_id=14178339  (Katz testimony, available only by download.)
PI (PFP) creates excessive investment risk because.... PI’s substantial penalties would impact capacity suppliers that are not operating during particular five- minute intervals regardless of the reason why they were not operating. PI would ignore the actual operating characteristics of a power plant when levying penalties. 

Katz gives an example in which a steam power plant bids into the day-ahead market, is not selected for that market, but then it turns out that ISO-NE does need its power.  Steam plants cannot come on-line very quickly, and ISO-NE PFP assesses penalties on a five-minute basis. The problem in this case is actually the result of ISO’s imperfect prediction capabilities, but the fines will be paid by the steam power plant.

 PFP and Burning Oil

Well, PFP is messy, and PFP may be unfair.  Let’s ask another important question, though. Will PFP help nuclear power?  Will PFP finally reward nuclear plants for their reliability?

The answer is No.  PFP will not help nuclear plants. The main result of PFP has been for natural gas plants to commission or recommission dual fuel capabilities so that they can burn oil.

Nuclear plants get most of their revenue from energy payments, not capacity payments.  Nuclear plants may get some higher capacity payments through pay-for-performance, but this will not make a big difference to them. The pay-for-performance transfer will make a difference to the peaker plants, which will have more of an incentive (however oddly arranged) to become dual-fuel or make other arrangements to be able to come on line when called.

Are RTOs really a market?

The whole RTO situation is getting pretty far from “a market,” as markets are usually considered.  Nuclear power plants in RTO areas of the United States are not well valued for their steady performance and PFP will not change that.  Meanwhile, the RTO market-solution is becoming an increasing series of tweaks and attempts to keep the grid operating smoothly. The tweaking in RTO areas (including PFP) is interesting and complex, and it becomes more complex all the time.

Complex markets become complex as they are regulated to achieve certain goals.  In general, RTO markets favor plants with low capital costs, high fuel costs and low utilization compared to plants with high capital costs, low fuel costs, and high utilization.  This is the outcome of the current market design.

 In other words, RTO markets are unfavorable to nuclear power. Whether this outcome was a goal of the design (a feature) or an unintended consequence (a bug) is not clear.  At any rate, despite all the tweaks, RTO markets allow local grids to move to heavily to natural gas, despite problems with gas delivery. Except for dual-fueled plants, Pay for Performance will make little difference.

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RTO auction sidebar: Doing the math for capacity payments

RTOs generally run two types of auctions: a real-time energy auction, and a Forward Capacity Market auction.  Both auctions work basically the same way: Plants bid in to supply either kWh right now (energy auction) or capacity availability some years in the future (Forward Capacity Auction). The auction requirements fill from the bottom--the least-cost plants are selected first.  In both auctions, plants usually bid the lowest price they can bid, to be sure they are chosen.  The RTO has to fill its needs, however, so it cannot just choose a few low-price plants.  At some point, with higher-priced plants, the RTO requirements are filled. In both auctions, all the bidders get the payment for the highest price plant that is accepted into the queue.  The auctions are meant to move prices in synch with demand, and always provide the lowest price that meets the demand.

Where do different plants get their revenue under this system?

Let’s look at an overly simplified example:

Let us assume that we have a price on the grid of 4 cents per kWh, and a capacity price of $3 per kWmonth. (This is a very rough approximation to the situation on the New England grid recently.)

We imagine a 500 MW nuclear plant and a 500 MW combined cycle gas plant.

  • They will both get the same capacity payment of $1,500,000 per month, because they have the same capacity.  
  • The nuclear plant has a 90% capacity factor, and earns approximately $13 million for energy payments. 
  • The combined cycle gas plant capacity factor is about half of that of the nuclear plant (around 40-50% capacity factor, according to EAI, I am assuming 45%), so it makes half the electricity as the nuclear plant. It earns approximately $6 million in energy payments. 

In this highly simplistic case, the capacity payment for the nuclear plant is about 10% of its revenue stream, but it is 20% of the revenue stream for the gas plant.  If the gas plant were a “peaker,” running about 10% of the time, it would receive the same capacity payment as the other two plants. However, it would earn only $1.5 million in energy payments. For a "peaker" plant,  capacity payments could be about half of its revenue.

One way in which this analysis is overly simplistic is that the gas-fired plants are likely to only be on the grid when the grid prices are running higher than average.  Nevertheless, this gives a high-level overview of capacity and energy payments for various types of plants on the grid.

For a nuclear plant, even a small decrease in energy prices can override a modest increase in capacity payments. This is the main reason why PFP will not affect nuclear economics very much.