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.


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.


Pete said...

This is off-topic, but I wonder if you have looked into the steam generator chemistry issues regarding the new SMRs, such as the NuScale design? Having the SGs incorporated essentially into the reactor vessel could create some maintenance headaches? The NuScale design information I got from the NRC website says they will have 100% flow mixed bed condensate polishers, which is a good thing. But if they only have mixed beds, and say, ammonia for pH control, then the cation resin is going to saturate fairly quickly on ammonia. Will they be able to keep the sodium levels, and crevice pH low enough so as not to create cracking, denting, etc? There is a lot of hope being put into the NuScale, and perhaps other designs. I would hate to see them drop the ball on something so important as SG secondary side water chemistry.

Having worked on the San Onofre condensate polishers, I am partial to the Cation-Mixed Bed set up. However, it does require a bit of work to keep the Cation beds regenerated.

- Pete

Meredith Angwin said...


Thank you for thinking of this.

I have not looked into this and my knowledge is almost certainly painfully out of date. My only thought is that not everything can be in the reactor vessel---certainly the resin beds, ports for sampling the water, etc must be separate? In which case, I don't see that the position of the SGs themselves would cause any particular problems. But....I have not looked at the NRC site. I am speaking from relative ignorance here.

We are all rooting for, etc NuScale! I have been cheerfully imagining that however they maintain the secondary water in a submarine will also work for NuScale. But I have not looked at the geometry.

Do you know any of the NuScale people? Can you write to them? Email me at mjangwin at gmail and we can try to get something going.

Pete said...

Thanks for responding. To my knowledge, I do not know anyone associated with NuScale. The NRC page with the design information can be seen here:

Chapter 10 deals quite a bit with secondary plant chemistry, condensate polishing, etc. There are tables that give the operational limits for various contaminants such as sodium, chloride, etc. Those limits look pretty good. I thought I remembered you saying that part of your nuclear experience was in SG secondary side chemistry. I will keep your e-mail handy, in case I find something that you may be interested in.

- Pete

Meredith Angwin said...


Yes, that is part of my experience. The kinds of issues I worked on included
- organohalides sneaking past the resins and breaking down into halide salts in the steam generators,
- whether copper was required to form a pit in alloy 600 in the tubesheet crevice area (copper was often found in the pits) or whether oxygen could make pits without copper.
- All sorts of corrosion tests of 600 and 690.
- Computer programs for predicting pH in the crevices,
- Ideas for dealing with fluctuating water chemistry inleakage in areas where the cooling water source was influenced by the tides (Is it saltwater, and it will concentrate acidic? Is it freshwater, and it will concentrate basic? Gosh, it's both!)

I'm not sure any of this qualifies me to assess NuScale's plans, but I am happy to be kept in the loop. Thank you for the questions!