"We're Not in Love with the Technology"

We all knew it was coming, In today's News and Observer, Progress Energy confirms plans to build 2 more nuclear reactors at Shearon Harris with a target completion date possibly 10 years from now.

McGehee, Charman and CEO of Progress Energy, says he "doesn't expect major opposition to the Shearon Harris plan, especially after the company lays out its arguments that nuclear power is safe, clean and reliable."


According to the N&O, "The final decision whether to build a nuclear reactor won't be made for about two years. However, Progress Energy plans to begin holding town hall meetings within several weeks to start making its case to the public for the need for more nuclear power." Progress Energy will also need to convince the N.C. Utilities Commission that the plant is necessary.

Progress Energy invites you to email your thoughts www.progress-energy.com

Good coverage of the story at http://www.newsobserver.com/104/story/392027.html

Interestingly, McGehee also says in the N&O article, "Frankly, if the community's (support), the public support and political support is not there, we're not in love with the technology."



I grew up around strip mines and black lung. I don't fear atomic energy as much as most readers of this fourm. Mountians that have stood for 200 million years are being leveled so we can have our waters wrecked with mine waste and our air fouled with carbon monoxide. We can only guess what the outcome of the greenhouse effect will be. I'll hazard a guess no good will come of it. Yeah, I'll take my chances with nuclear.

One thing about that the N&O peice didn't mention was the question of importing fuel rods from out of state. Progress Energy had been wanting to bring in rods. Thier arguement was that they had storage based on a plant design with more reactors. If they add the reactors they no longer have the extra storage for out of state rods. Doesn't seem to add up.

I didn't see a place "to give Progress Energy your thoughts'" on the website.

I for one am all for it. If you look at the facts and scientific data, it is not such a bad thing. Scientific American had an article about a new "fast neutron" technology that will reduce the waste to about 1% of what it is now, and will also be an atmospheric as opposed to high pressure design which is inherently safer. The waste is also only hazardous for a couple of hundred rather than many thousand years. I know a couple of hundred years is a long time, but not relative to what we have today. I hope this technology gets going quickly, our reserve of uranium is limited.

I am hopeful that this will be a factual, technologically based, rather than emotional discussion.

I'm OK, relatively, with nuclear *replacing* coal. I'm less inclined for it as an added source of electricity. I can't help but think that with education and incentives for conservation, and incentives for homeowner/business solar power (3 billion could go a long way), the need for additional power plants could be negated. There is so much wasted electricity.


They are looking at something like 1100 MW- to add to the 900 they have. 550 new customers a week!! The plant sounds somewhat advanced:

"Progress Energy has selected Westinghouse to supply the reactors for possible future expansion of its nuclear generating fleet in the Carolinas. The AP1000 is an advanced 1,100-megawatt nuclear power plant that uses passive safety system designs and engineering simplicity to enhance plant reliability and reduce construction costs. The AP1000 has 87 percent less cable, 83 percent less pipe, 50 percent fewer valves and 35 percent fewer pumps than the generation of reactors in operation today"

I am all for alternative energy, but last time I checked the amount of raw energy from the sun, e.g. was 1 watt per square meter. If you do the math, 1,100,000,000 watts of solar would cover a lot of area, to say the least.

I say, build the plant, raise equipment efficiency levels, and make alternatives affordable for the long run.

Bill Johnson, president and COO, of Progress Energy was on last night's Global Climate Change panel at the UNC School of Business. He said that they are exploring a number of new technologies in addition to the application for a new nuclear plant. I only remember two: gassified coal and hydrogen cells. He and Paul Anderson from Duke Energy were both pretty revv'd up on the gassified coal. It's very expensive right now but they expect the cost will come down. They claim that the US could exist for up to 800 years on the coal found within our boundaries. (I know nothing about this technology--just reporting what I heard)

Wow, coal gasification was big when I was in engineering school, but it never panned out. Sounds like it is worth researching.

John K.,

I'm with you on keeping this discussion fact-based and not getting emotional over it.

For some interesting facts on the economic viability of nuclear power, it's worth understanding why private funding cannot be found for these projects.

For more interesting facts, it's worth understanding the level of government subsidies that make it possible for energy corporations to build and run nuclear plants.

For some interesting facts on the level of risk from an insurance industry persepective, it's worth understanding why no private insurance companies will sell nuclear power insurance, so the government has to provide it.

For some interesting facts on the alleged need for nuclear power and its supposed benefits vs a vis global warming, it's worth understanding how much energy efficiency can be purchased right now with the huge amount of money it will cost for the huge number of nuclear plants it will take to put a dent in global climate change.

Smart energy advocates have been putting forth excellent data on the potential of efficiency, renewables, and decentralized local co-gen plants for decades only to be met with the emotional arguments of pro-nuclear advocates. The profit potential from this heavily government-subsidized, low governmenmt oversight activity has caused their emotions to cloud their reason.

So I'm with you John. I've heard way too much bombast on nuclear power from those that are emotionally involved with the industry.

Now if I may briefly express a somewhat emotional thought.

The reaction of the local officials around the Shearon Harris area is truly pathetic. It reveals once again that Wake County is but a colony of Progress Energy. And now their boy Bunky is helping them in Chatham.

All those millions in bribes (oh, sorry, community grants...)that they spread around are paying off for them in the spineless subservience of those miserable ass-kissers.

We remain in a difficult position as a nation in regards to energy substitution, which I outlined before on this thread.

Unless we deal with our high level of oil and natural gas dependency, the need to eventually substitute coal as a supplement to declining oil supplies will keep policy heading in a direction that increases the number of nuclear plants.

Actually, I would rephrase that:

Unless we deal with our high level of dependency on energy mega-corporations, the artificial need to give them whatever they request will result in energy policy that is harmful to the social, environmental, and economic health of the citizenry.

There's no economic or environmental justification that supports additional reactors at Shearon Harris. Heck, Progress still haven't dealt with the safety issues associated with their current rod storage facility (which I assume will continue to accumulate spent fuel from other sites if the new reactors go online - swelling the danger at an accelerating rate).

Funny article in on the BBC the other day that quantified the amount of energy new-tech devices squander in the UK by being on standby mode. They figure 7 Terrawatt hours are "wasted" on electronic's "passive" usage of electricity. One report says this equivalent to the total output of one nuke plant per year.

I bet if Progress tightened up on transmission losses, they'd recover more electricity than these new nukes would generate. Where's their $2-3 billion effort to upgrade their transmission system?

Someone at Monday's nights forum said the bulk of our world energy use is divided into thirds: one third generation, one third transportation, and one third farming. All 5 of the panelists were agreed that the most important energy decisions revolve around urban planning and transportation.

My understanding is that energy deregulation is one of the biggest obstacles this country faces in developing sound energy policy. Currently, there are few incentives for energy conservation; the more energy the big power companies sell, the more money they make.

Coal gassification technology holds some promise: Hydrogen is clean. The hydrogen not needed for peak electrical needs could be used to run cars. We can handle the coal gassification byproducts safely (hydrogen sulfide and carbon monoxide)--- but will we???.

The big question I have is about the safety of coal mining (human and environmental). I assume we know how to handle coal particles by now...

BTW, those coal particles that used to pollute the air actually decreased global warming by reflecting energy...

Also, John K., I'm no energy expert, but your 1 watt/sq meter number is without use of a solar collector. With a solar collector, the average goes up to 300 watts/sq meter.

Mary, the problem with hydrogen is that it's not an energy source. It's an energy carrier.

Where do we get the hydrogen? The easiest and cheapest way these days is extracting it from natural gas, the fossil fuel most in decline.

Electrolysis using water and renewables is far more promising as a sustainable enterprise, but for all the talk about hydrogen, nobody talks about powering it via renewables, at least at a decisionmaking level where it would matter.

Mary- I checked that number out, the gross sun power is 1 watt/sq meter and the net at the earth's surface ranges from 0.4 to 0.6, very roughly speaking. To get 300 watts per square meter you would need a concentrator of some sort. Perhaps you read 300 milliwatts per square meter, that would make more sense.

If we want to avoid another nuke plant, or coal plant, etc etc (cogen at UNC is coal fired, no great deal there) then we ALL need to reduce our load. I have had three people in the last week complain to me about their gas and/or electrical bill. My bills were about a third or fourth of theirs, for the same square footage house. The secret?? I turn my heat down to 55 F for 16 hours of the day, and it never is set more than 65. If more people wore sweaters and turned down their heat pumps and gas furnaces it would make a difference. Oh, and I am vigilant about turning off the lights too.

CP and L is building a plant to meet the demand. It is as simple as that. They are not in control of the demand, we are. What means they choose to meet it with is a business decision- if there are government grants available, then they should go for it, just like anyone does for various things. I am considering installing a wind turbine generator (not for around here!) in large part because of the tax breaks available.

And, I think transmission losses run in the 3-5% range, though I am not sure- I don't see that as a big savings. Of course if the load were less then the losses would be less.

JohnK, distribution and transmission losses alone account for %6.5-9.5 losses depending on whom you read. Losses due to other grid mechanisms (transformers, electro-mechanical components, etc.) account for an additional %2 to 4.

Roughly %70 of the transformers and transmission lines in the 3 major US grids are 25 years-old or older. %60 of the circuit-breakers/control equipment (mainly electro-mechanical) are 30 years-old or older.

The grid has seen a decrease of roughly %1 a year since 1992 in capital improvements by private interests (Progress, etc.) in improving the grid. Due to some notable recent failures (NY, Ohio, Canada), the grid is getting some increased attention though expenditures to increase capacity are lagging way behind those to increase production. Capacity to carry new power will lag by %60+ over the next decade (in other words, we're increasing production, injecting it into an already tottering grid and we're only building out new transmission/distribution capacity at %30 of the new load over the next decade). The hope is transmission/distribution capacity will eventually "catch up" to production before the current grid is saturated.

The 2005 Energy Act (yeah, I know it was porked out), allocated $12 billion for improvements in all our systems - a small part is going into improving the grids using "smart grid" technology (solid state components, new low loss transformers, new types of transmission lines, smarter control of the sub-networks, etc.) Private investments in the grid that would reduce or remove the need for expensive centralized production facilities is not forthcoming.

Of course, point source production, smart local distribution and other "smart" distributed energy tech could reduce our reliance on the "brittle" national network but investments in decentralized mechanisms are not very popular with the big energy folk.

Way cool, WillR! Thanks for the technical explanation. I work in lower voltage, under 500, so I was extrapolating. I stand corrected.

My guess is this decreptiation of the infrastructure is in part due to the nonsense they pulled about "free market" energy distribution a while back which probably left the infrastructure the responsibilty of no one. What a shame, and you are correct, an upgrade would pay off based on your numbers, but since they roll those losses into our bills, we will have to gripe to get anything changed.

Part of the problem is with the Utilities Commission. Conservation turns rates upside down. The Utilities Commission task is to keep prices as low as possible. So the 'system' has competing goals that cannot be separated without legislative interference. To add to the complication, the 'for profit' utilities are serving two masters--the Utilities Commission and investors. Yes, there are technological problems, but there are also structural issues that would create problems even if the technology was more clear cut.

My understanding is that the amount of solar energy available in a meter square area is about 300 watts.

I read, “…in North America the average power lies somewhere between 125 and 375 W/m², between 3 and 9 kWh/m²/day…” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solar_power

Wikepedia could be wrong. What's your source?

I hate to base my response on a TV show, but who hasn't used "The West Wing" in conversation like it was real life?

Last week's episode was on a major malfunction at a nuclear plant and here's Footnote TV's write up (a journalistic site that reviews the "fact" behind West Wing):


Mary- http://www.physicalgeography.net/fundamentals/6i.html

Check out the second graph, it is in watts/M2 x 10-2 or milliwatts per square meter. Seems on the surface more believable than an encyclopedia?

Ginny- that is "so believable"! Just like the China Syndrome! Maybe that is where they got the idea for the show, if so, how original?? Perhaps you should get your information from the scientific, rather than the entertainment industry on such matters.

Oops, sorry some of it IS believable:

The Three Mile Island incident, which occurred at a plant still operational near Middletown, Pennsylvania, involved an accident on March 28, 1979, resulted in no deaths or injuries,

Yeah, but it doesn't sell tv commercials.

John, I assume you are talking about graph 3 which is in watts per meter square. Seems to me, if we average the 30 and 60 degree latitudes in that graph, we'd come up with the Wikepedia numbers-- or something close. I'd say our two sources agree... with me.
In some ways this doesn't matter, you make a valid point that it would take a lot of land to capture the same power that a nuclear power plant does.

Yes, Mary, but nerd that I am, I want to know the right answer! I thought it read watts per meter to the MINUS 2 power (or times .01). At the risk of boring everyone else, let me check "off web" and let you know what I find.

And, er, I scrolled too fast- I should have said third figure sorry about that.


I have spent time with Three Mile Island residents who were there during the accident and plume release. They report huge spikes in cancers and many livestock and plant mutations. Having met them and heard their reports, I believe them.

One quick factoid:

If all the lighting in the United States were to be changed to the most efficient type, this would offset the amount of nulcear power being generated.

The show's pretty well researched...
at any rate, I think the show highlighted some of our own "real life" concerns about federal regulation, the effectiveness of evacuation plans, and the vulnerability of nuclear power to accidents or sabotage. The show also seemed eerily timed to developments in local news.

Since you don't like the fictional comparison, how about the real life version?
"Federal inspectors are looking into concerns about possible security violations at the Shearon Harris Nuclear Power Plant.
They plan to remain here through the week.

The visit comes nearly a month after a local watchdog group filed complaints with state and federal leaders. They allege that guards slept on the job, alarms didn't work and overtime hours were being paid with gift cards.

Plant officials say it is secure and protected." - WTVD

I'm not necessarily opposed to the plant expansion, especially since it's expanding a plant already there rather than building a new plant. But in a society where we enjoy scaring ourselves with the media hype and dramatization, isn't it true that sometimes the fear is well-founded or based on grains of truth?

I dispute that this region needs an additional 1100 megawatts. Further, no credible solar proponent would argue that solar is sufficient to fullfill all our electricity needs, but this is what johnk resorts to when he argues against solar. Moreover, any solar effort need not be concentrated in a single area. Consider all the wasted space that exists on rooftops.

When my wife and I moved into our 1976 1350 sq ft ranch 13 years ago, we noticed Duke power personnel examining our meter. Why? Because the power bill from 250 Indian Trail suddenly dropped from it's previous $200 per month (or whatever) to it's current about $30 per month. Our house is electric and wood heat and we use roughly 9-12 kwh a month year round.


Wayne, I am not arguing against solar, it has its place. I am hopeful that it will increase in viability too. But, you cannot get the concentrated power output of a generating plant, so it requires a lot more area. Sort of analogous to the gasoline vs. hydrogen debate- the energy density is not the same, and therein lies the rub.

If my calculations are right (Lord help me Mary!) it would take about 750,000 homes with roofs pointed ideally to take in the maximum sunlight, assuming a 1500 SF roof area per home to generate 1100 MW. And of course at night you get nothing, so you would need batteries or some other storage means. Messy.
It would be interesting to compare the cost of solar vs. nuclear from a construction standpoint, nukes ain't cheap.

And, I read recently that burning wood is equivalent to 7 idling diesel buses from a particulate emissions standpoint. Can't remember if that was with or without a catalytic converter, but hardly a good thing either.

Pick your poison, folks. Shutting things off and changing habits is the quickest fix. All you need to do is be willing to work at it.

And Mary, as a matter of record, it is about 100 W/M2. Shame on me for relying on my memory from Thermodynamics 101 in 1979.....

Again, I'm not advocating generating 1100 mw; just some! Photovoltaics can be pumped back into the grid, and other types of solar exist.

I realize wood burning produces particulates, but strive to minimize them. But most people don't realize that burning wood is carbon neutral, especially deadfall which we use exclusively, and wood is renewable. But I'm not advocating for wood burning...

I say people power is the real answer. Let's see, I can sustain 350 watts for an hour.....

Wayne, human dynamo

Wayne is right. We need more Waynes, that is how we can avoid building more plants.

There was an article in the N&O this morning (sorry Jim, I haven't cancelled my subscription yet) about some former Cree people developing LEDs for home lighting. They say that they can provide the output of a 60-watt bulb at 1/3 the energy cost and with no heat generation. Plus they last for 10-20 years. What does everyone think about this technology? Would it make a significant difference?

The LED example is just one of many indications that the energy market is changing rapidly, with efficiency and more "work per watt" as the theme.

This is probably the biggest tragedy with the misguided plans of the Big Energy profiteers to build more nukes. An incredible amount of money will be wasted (except for making a select few even more wealthy) and we will look back and think of how much efficiency and renewable energy we could have bought with this money.

I'm bullish on Cree having bought stock a few years ago. It's been a wild ride, but ultimately I think the technology is too good to ignore. A few more technological hurdles, and LEDs are going to hit the big time. The end of incandescent bulbs, and maybe florescents, is in sight.


Here's a mind-bendingly vacuous editorial from the Daily Tar Heel that is so devoid of factual underpinning that it could very well have come straight from the nuclear industry. Put on a Happy Face.


I must not have read the same article, sounded pretty straightforward to me, and factual.

Sounds like Progress Energy wrote it-- not a word about spent fuel rods. Guess tens of thousands of years of radioactivity is a small concern to some, not worth mentioning...

Mary, the MSM hasn't spent much time on the spent fuel rods - stored in a fairly dangerous fashion at S. H. S.H. became a repository for additional rods just because it had 4 pools and 1 reactor. Now that they've filled 2 of the pools, where are the rods from the new reactors going? Yucca?

If they could wait until the latest technology is proven out it will be much less risky. (See prior rant) Yet, they are adding hundreds of homes at a time to the load. A bad deal all around. I would not want to be in CP and L's shoes.

I'll take nukes over coal or gas any day. Lemme go check and make sure all the lights we don't need are turned off.

Will, I thought N&O did a good job 1/24/06 (original post).


Community Guidelines

By using this site, you agree to our community guidelines. Inappropriate or disruptive behavior will result in moderation or eviction.


Content license

By contributing to OrangePolitics, you agree to license your contributions under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 United States License.

Creative Commons License

Zircon - This is a contributing Drupal Theme
Design by WeebPal.