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These days, clean energy ranks right up there with Mom, apple pie and ice cream as an All-American attribute. You can barely sit through a TV show, listen to the radio, or even read a blog without coming across an ad from someone extolling the virtues of some "clean" energy form or another.
Never mind that some of them—from nuclear power to "clean" coal—bear no resemblance to  the cleanest solutions like wind, solar and energy efficiency. Some industries have more money to spend on ads than others....

But clean energy has become All-American for good reason: we need clean energy for the 21st century. I’m a huge clean energy advocate, and I spend my days working to encourage implementation of clean, sustainable energy technologies.

So what could be more virtuous than a federal Clean Energy Bank? On the surface, the idea sounds perfect: the federal government would set up a bank to support the development and implementation of clean energy technologies, especially those that private investors can’t or won’t fund. In fact, it’s so perfect the Senate Energy Committee has already approved the concept as part of its upcoming energy bill, and the House Energy Committee is considering adding a Clean Energy Bank proposal from genuinely clean energy advocate Rep. Jay Inslee (D-WA) to the Waxman-Markey cap and trade climate bill.

So why is the environmental community lining up to oppose the Clean Energy Bank and considering it must-defeat legislation?

Well, there are a couple of teeny-tiny little problems with the concept as written in both the Senate energy bill and Inslee bill in the House. Kind of like there were teeny-tiny little problems with unregulated derivatives trading, or lack of federal oversight and regulation, or corporate greed, that brought our economy to its knees last October.

It is not at all far-fetched—indeed, it’s completely foreseeable—that, as the Clean Energy Bank legislation is currently written, we could see trillion dollar or more taxpayer bailouts of "clean energy" technologies within the next decade. You didn’t like TARP? Wait until taxpayers have to bail out the likes of Duke Power, UniStar Nuclear, Southern Company and even your local mom and pop solar and wind concerns at levels that would make even Citigroup or General Motors blush—except that there are a lot more "clean energy" companies and projects out there than there are national banks or car manufacturers.

I could be wrong, of course, but it’s my personal wild guess that taxpayers are getting a little tired of bailing out corporate America. And, if you follow my personal wild guess reasoning, the idea that taxpayers might be forced to bail out a trillion dollars, or even a few hundred billion, in "clean energy" failures would probably destroy any hopes of building a genuinely sustainable energy economy or effectively dealing with the climate crisis; not to mention, coming on the heels of what we are still going through as an economy, raising the specter of permanent recession. And, of course, any presidential administration that oversees such an eventuality is not likely to be around to cope with the next such eventuality. These are high stakes, folks, and all from the innocuous, even virtuous-sounding, Clean Energy Bank.

THE DEVIL IS ALWAYS IN THE DETAILS
A thousand mea culpas. This should have been posted and distributed a few weeks ago, before the Senate Energy Committee even started considering Senate Energy Committee Chairman Jeff Bingaman’s (D-NM) proposal to add a Clean Energy Deployment Administration to his energy bill. But we missed it, and so did everyone else, except, perhaps, the Nuclear Energy Institute.

Let’s face it: it’s pretty tough for environmentalists to oppose something called a Clean Energy Bank, or even a Clean Energy Development Administration, which is starting to sound a little more bureaucratic. Maybe we just wanted to believe.

But here’s the reality: Sen. Bingaman’s Clean Energy Bank bill would provide more concrete government backing for dirty energy technologies than anything any lobbyist for the nuclear power or coal industries could have dreamed of even a year ago. And here’s the rub: even if the Bank funded only renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies, it would still be an economy-wrecker. It is simply unacceptable on any grounds.

And here is why: ‘‘(3) RELATION TO OTHER LAWS.—Section 14 504(b) of the Federal Credit Reform Act of 1990 (215 U.S.C. 661c(b)) shall not apply to a loan or loan guarantee under this section.’’.

What this seeming gobbledygook actually means is that there is NO limit—none whatsoever—to the amount of money that can be directed to "clean energy" technologies by this proposed bank. $10 billion? No problem. $100 Billion? No problem. $1 Trillion? NO PROBLEM!

(We have to wonder if Rep. Inslee—a strong clean energy advocate and not exactly a good friend of the nuclear industry—might have missed the implications too; perhaps he hasn’t fully realized that his bank legislation, which was modeled after Bingaman’s, would set up an unlimited slush fund for the nuclear power industry)

The Bingaman Clean Energy Bank bill, as well as Inslee’s bill (which is nearly identical, with one minor improvement), would authorize this new entity—the Clean Energy Development Administration, which would have an administrator and a nine-member Board of Directors, and virtually no other oversight—to issue as much money in taxpayer-backed loan guarantees as it feels like for any projects that might fall under an exceedingly broad "clean energy" definition.

Let’s take a look at what might be funded under this definition: New nuclear reactors, for one, as many as the industry might consider building, at whatever cost the industry thinks necessary. That alone has the entire environmental community up in arms, since no matter what industry propaganda may say, the environmental movement remains adamant that nuclear power is an unacceptable solution to the climate crisis. It’s dirty—even without a catastrophic meltdown, it releases radiation into the air and water at every step of the nuclear fuel chain; it’s dangerous, because there is always the risk of catastrophic meltdown even with new reactors; it creates lethal long-lived radioactive waste we don’t have the slightest idea how to handle for millennia of millennia; it undercuts non-proliferation efforts abroad; and, even if none of the above were the case, it is the most costly method of producing electricity available and using it would divert resources from the cleaner, safer, cheaper, and faster means of addressing the climate crisis we need to implement.

"Clean coal" could also be funded under this definition, including such environmentally dubious (ok, I mean destructive) concepts as coal-to-liquids (a two-in-one pollution punch), as well as unproven carbon sequestration technologies.

But even if this Bank were only oriented toward renewable energy and energy efficiency, we would still have to oppose it. With all respect and love toward our compadres designing and building new solar PV, solar thermal, wind, geothermal and other 21st century technologies, even they don’t deserve unlimited taxpayer backing for their projects.

The Congressional Budget Office and Government Accountability Office both have already projected a 50% or greater failure rate for loan guarantees for new nuclear reactors. And there is no denying that the failure rate for renewable energy projects is going to be above zero, possibly above 20%. While it’s fine for taxpayers to take some risk for new energy technologies, it’s not fine to bet hundreds of billions of our dollars on new energy projects or take risks of 50% or more, especially on such capital intensive projects as new nuclear reactors, which are now projected to cost some $10 billion or more each.

And, for the skeptics out there, let’s face facts: the nuclear power industry is the one most in need of this money. Why? Because there is no private capital available to support construction of new nuclear reactors.  It’s that simple—private investors simply won’t take that risk. If Bank of America or Citigroup have been thinking for the past few years that nuclear reactors are too risky but subprime mortgages aren’t, then I have to think a 50% projected failure rate might be too low. Admittedly, these are somewhat hard times for new renewable energy facilities as well, but until last October money was flowing freely to them, and as the recovery begins, private investment will begin flowing to them again. But private money won’t flow to nuclear power under any circumstances without the taxpayers taking the risk.

The reality is that the nuclear industry has already asked for $122 Billion in taxpayer-backed loan guarantees (most of which would actually be taxpayer-funded as well, through the Federal Financing Bank). And that would cover only about 20 reactors. Getting to the GOP’s dream of 100 new reactors by mid-century (outlined by Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn, in the GOP Saturday radio address a couple weeks ago), would cost at least five times that amount—and that’s before the cost overruns start rolling in. For comparison, a Department of Energy study of 75 existing reactors found an average cost overrun of 207%. If that level holds true for a new generation of reactors, we’d be looking at trillions of taxpayer dollars at risk.

AND WHAT CAN YOU DO?
Yes, I believe in supporting renewable energy and energy efficiency with taxpayer dollars—but limited taxpayer dollars. The potential for unlimited taxpayer loan guarantees for any technology offers the potential for economy-killing failure, for misdirection of money, for rampant corruption.

Have our Congressmembers learned nothing from the debacle of the banking, mortgage and various other crises? Apparently not.

But hopefully the public has, and together we can stop this nonsense.

Please join us in opposing the absolutely unconscionable Clean Energy Bank proposals now before the Senate and House. Contact nirsnet@nirs.org to get on our e-mail list to be able to take effective action; you can also sign up at www.nirs.org. We’ll keep you up-to-date and give you action ideas and opportunities. Or contact the local or national environmental group you’re already a member of—we’re all in this together. But act fast, these bills are moving quickly, even though no one, including Hill staffers, seems to understand exactly what they do.

Note: Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md) has offered a different Clean Energy Bank bill, but it explicitly includes nuclear power and "clean" coal as "clean" energy technologies, and thus, while it doesn’t provide for unlimited loan guarantees, is also unacceptable. But you might want to contact Van Hollen and tell him that if he’ll amend his bill to include only genuinely clean energy technologies, it might be a good alternative to the unacceptable bills making their way through Congress now.

Michael Mariotte
Nuclear Information and Resource Service

Originally posted to nirsnet on Thu May 14, 2009 at 08:42 AM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  You're a little bit behind on.. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    terrypinder, Joffan

    nuclear technology developments. The one mentioned in my signature is 15 years old.

    Moderation in most things. Except Reactors. IFR forever!

    by billmosby on Thu May 14, 2009 at 08:50:39 AM PDT

    •  behind? (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      badger, peace voter, terrypinder

      The IFR still doesn't exist, and no utility is even considering putting one into commercial operation. Nor has the Nuclear Regulatory Commission even begun to consider certifying an IFR design.

      The IFR is decades away. By the time it could roll around, renewables and efficiency can--and hopefully will--make it obsolete.

    •  Are you with the Nuclear Energy Institute? (0+ / 0-)

      (or some other front group promoting nuclear power?

      If not, you may be missing a paycheck.

      just saying...


      ````
      peace

      •  I'm retired from Argonne-West. (5+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        badger, terrypinder, Joffan, bryfry, Mcrab

        I'm at the observational phase of my life, and dabble in iPhone App development these days.

        At Argonne, I did nondestructive assay measurements for nuclear material control and accountability. I didn't work on the IFR program directly, but did have to become familiar with certain aspects of its fuel cycle in the course of my work. The last couple of years of my career, I got to do safeguards measurements as a monitor for the HEU Transparency program, which took me to certain Russian closed cities for weeks to months at a time.

        So the future, in this regard, is pretty much already nostalgia for me. It probably won't happen in this country at least. But I like to point out from time to time that the kind of hackneyed objections to nuclear energy represented in this diary have already been addressed.

        I find it comforting that there is at least one thing I am comfortable with that so many people find more scary than climate change.

        I wonder if the usual Daily Kos nuclear supporters will show up soon, or if they're getting tired of the subject.

        Moderation in most things. Except Reactors. IFR forever!

        by billmosby on Thu May 14, 2009 at 09:20:40 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  thanks for taking the time to answer thoughtfully (0+ / 0-)

          it does seem that there's an organized group that shows up to promote nuclear power in the comment section of most Michael Mariotte, Harvey Wasserman, et al diaries.

          I'm someone who takes climate change very seriously - I also oppose using the threat of climate change as a tactic to sell us on dangerous and costly nuclear power.

          We've already wasted too much $$$ on subsidizing nuclear power.


          ````
          peace

          •  You're welcome. (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Joffan

            Very few of my ANL-W co-workers felt like using climate change to promote the IFR. Some because they weren't convinced that climate change was real (we're talking early 90s here), mostly because they were convinced of its merits on its own.

            I hope I live long enough to see if some solution is found for the current spent fuel problem. Reactors based on the IFR concept could shorten the hazard lifetime of that material rather drastically. Otherwise, based on the history of the stuff to date, it seems destined to rot in place. Maybe I should produce a Google Earth overlay to help people know where the various storage locations are for those who would like to stay away from them.

            Moderation in most things. Except Reactors. IFR forever!

            by billmosby on Thu May 14, 2009 at 11:59:28 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

        •  Count me as a supporter... (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Joffan, Mcrab, billmosby

          All the arguments have been hashed out many times, I'm sure. Suffice to say that I think the risks of nuclear power are less severe than the guaranteed coal climate calamity.

      •  Some people think nukes are a good idea (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        terrypinder, Mcrab, billmosby, Blubba

        I don't agree with them, mostly, as this diary addresses, on economic grounds. But I think they should be able to express their opinions here without their motives being impugned.

        Je suis Marxiste, tendance Groucho

        by badger on Thu May 14, 2009 at 09:37:47 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  could you post the relevant sections (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Joffan

    of Section 14 504(b) of the Credit Reform Act that relate to this

    ‘‘(3) RELATION TO OTHER LAWS.—Section 14 504(b) of the Federal Credit Reform Act of 1990 (215 U.S.C. 661c(b)) shall not apply to a loan or loan guarantee under this section.’’.

    because without it I'm having a bit of trouble seeing the "unlimited slush fund." Other then your word, I can't oppose anything without more information.

    (0.12, -3.33) disagreement does not automatically render one a shill. duh.

    by terrypinder on Thu May 14, 2009 at 09:37:47 AM PDT

    •  now you see.... (0+ / 0-)

      why we missed it earlier as well. It's pretty darn obscure and it wasn't until yesterday, when Senate staff explained this provision to people from UCS and NRDC, that the implications of this provision were understood by the environmental community.

      •  Not organized enough to get Senate staff briefs (0+ / 0-)

        Michael: - You did not answer terrypinder's question. Can you provide access to the briefing materials or notes from the meeting where Senate staff members explained to the UCS and NRDC how the current version of Sen. Bingaman’s Clean Energy Bank would have the effect of creating an unlimited liability?

        Since I was not invited to the meeting, I thought I could do some personal research to read the current language of the US Code, so I could at least understand what part would not be applied to the Clean Energy Bank rules. However, the citation provided (215 U.S.C. 661c(b)) sort of matches the normal format, but is invalid. Here is the search guidance provided at the Legal Information Institute (a service of Cornell Law School):

        If you know the citation for the US Code material you want to find, fill in the title and section numbers below. (eg. 22 USC 1501 would be Title 22, Section 1501). You need to fill in both title and section.

        The problem is that the USC only has 50 titles, not 215. I tried searching the Office of Law Revision site (http://uscode.house.gov/search/criteria.shtml) but came up empty there as well.

        Please help those of us that do not get briefings from the Senate staff to understand the issue so we can discuss it intelligently.

        Rod Adams
        Publisher, Atomic Insights

      •  Found it! (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Joffan, bryfry

        Took a while, but I have found the actual proposed legislation and the applicable section. Turns out there was a problem with Michael's cut and paste which made the citation invalid. I almost made the same mistake - the online PDF of the bill's mark up version has line numbers to enable editing. If you cut and paste from the PDF and are not careful, the line number (15) shows up right next to the title (2) of the USC. Here is what the bill really says:

        ‘‘(3) RELATION TO OTHER LAWS.—Section 504(b) of the Federal Credit Reform Act of 1990 (2 U.S.C. 661c(b)) shall not apply to a loan or loan guarantee under this section.’’.

        Here is what that section of the law says:

        (b) Appropriations required

        Notwithstanding any other provision of law, new direct loan obligations may be incurred and new loan guarantee commitments may be made for fiscal year 1992 and thereafter only to the extent that—

        (1) new budget authority to cover their costs is provided in advance in an appropriations Act;

        (2) a limitation on the use of funds otherwise available for the cost of a direct loan or loan guarantee program has been provided in advance in an appropriations Act; or

        (3) authority is otherwise provided in appropriation Acts.

        Establishing the Clean Energy Development Administration with an exemption from this section simply removes the complication of setting up a bank that is dependent on appropriating and setting aside money to pay for the politically determined potential costs of defaults instead of allowing the specialists associated with the program to do what the bill also requires by setting the loan fees to a level that will cover expenses.

        For example - anti-nuclear activists continually cite an OMB study as computing a 50% default rate when the actual study ASSUMES a 50% default rate as an example and then computes what the subsidy cost would be IF that rate of defaults occurs. There is a HUGE difference between the two since actual default rates will be determined by experience and actual project specifics.

        It must be remembered that there is plenty of money on the side of the anti-nuclear activists. Every new nuclear plant will remove a market demand for between 4-5 million tons of coal per year or about half a billion cubic feet of natural gas per day.

        Rod Adams
        Publisher, Atomic Insights

  •  So are you against all government loan (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Joffan

    guarantees, even for new technologies which the private sector will not support?

    Your caution for using this bank for funding coal and nuclear is well-taken but....

    This seems like a purist position that is misguided into the notion that the private sector will finance new tech in the clean energy sector.

    How much are some environmental groups playing right into the Repub hands and the agenda of climate change denial types by cutting up the waxman bill into a thousand little pieces.

    Next year will be impossible to pass climate legislation. And 2011? Depends on the mid-term elections.

    •  Not at all (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      peace voter, polar bear

      No, we're not at all against some federal support for energy technologies. But we are against a bank that allows unlimited taxpayer support--the potential for abuse is just too great.

      And we don't believe the government should be in the business of funding enormously expensive and dirty energy projects rejected by the private sector, like new nuclear reactors. This would divert funds from the genuinely clean alternatives.

      But clearly, emerging energy technologies can and should benefit from some govt support.

      •  Rejection by Wall Street (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        bryfry, billmosby

        Michael - there is little argument on the point that nuclear power plant developers have had a difficult time in obtaining access to the capital that they need in order to effectively construct the projects that they are planning. However, don't you think it is a bit disingenuous to point to that fact as a condemnation of a technology rather than recognizing that the market may be saying that it is simply not set up to provide the kind of patient capital required for large projects with long term payback?

        It should be pretty obvious to most observers of Wall Street financial decisions during the past 15-20 years that the system was skewed towards "investments" that help dealmakers get rich quick. I have spent a lot of time in front of investment bankers over the past few years and provided them with a lot of spreadsheets.

        Through that process I learned that they had an appetite for very large transactions that generate massive fees, that they wanted to be able to transfer as much risk as possible, and that they wanted to show complete return of initial capital within 3-7 years.

        The economic advantage for nuclear power is that the plants are durable, reliable (8000+ hours per year) electricity providers with low fuel costs. (Current price for manufactured fuel is about 0.5 cents per kilowatt hour including all mining, enrichment, fabrication, transportation, interim storage, security, and the federal fee on used fuel.)

        Even if we are talking about something other than nuclear power and energy markets, building durable machinery lasting many decades requires careful work with multiple second and third checks and a fair amount of engineering margin. This kind of manufacturing or construction cannot be rushed and the material inputs have to meet exacting standards, so there is an initial cost penalty compared to something with lower quality standards and a shorter operating life.

        However, if the high quality machinery then lasts for many decades and produces a valuable product with low marginal costs, the initial investment can pay good returns. If your banker, however, wants his money back within 3-7 years, there is little hope of a project approval.

        There is a good reason why people that want to build long lasting projects often require government loan guarantees in order to attract sufficient capital. Those guarantees help the project developer gain access to the kind of capital investors that want steady returns over a very long period of time. Patient capital investors include life insurance companies, pension funds and income oriented mutual funds.

        Getting rejected by "Wall Street" is actually a bit of an endorsement. It means that the projects are not attractive to selfish people whose main motive is scrabbling together enough personal savings so that they can retire by age 30-35 or so that they can live a lifestyle that most of us find obscene.

        Rod Adams
        Publisher, Atomic Insights

  •  There is no *organized* supporters (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Joffan, billmosby

    of nuclear energy on the DK. Just people who do what everyone else does, scan for energy diaries and they pop up in the search engine here. Either that, or, there is on I just don't go to the meetings...

    If you want to read about climate change and the IFR, go to Barry Brooks blog at http://bravenewclimate.com/

    Barry, in addition to being Australia's foremost advocate of the IFR, along with a repository of IFR documents, is also on of that nations foremost climate activists.

    Fortunately (or unfortunately if you are American) the world isn't waiting for the US on either Gen IV IFR OR nuclear energy. They are going right ahead and investing money in developing it. Like they are with solar, wind and every other conceivable form of non-carbon AND carbon spewing generation.

    David

    Dr. Isaac Asimov: "The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds new discoveries, is not 'Eureka!' but 'That's funny ...'"

    by davidwalters on Thu May 14, 2009 at 03:54:10 PM PDT

    •  That reminds me.. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Joffan, bryfry

      It might not be very well known, but the Japanese chipped in several million dollars on the IFR program. More than 20 million if I remember correctly. Not a whole lot compared to the, what was it, 700 million or so that the U.S. spent on it over about 10 years back there. Again, if I remember correctly. However, that did buy them some rights to the technology. I believe the French either did put a bit of money into it, or were about to when the cancellation happened. I suppose more support might have been forthcoming, but the contract for the work included limits on how much non-US-gov't money could be accepted by the program. Wouldn't want it to get out of control of the DOE, don't you know.

      I don't know if you have happened onto another IFR IFR supporter I found. See what you think of him if you haven't. A Silicon Valley entrepreneur. He was even nice enough to email me back a "welcome" to my "thanks".

      I had heard that Bill Gates was investing in some company or other that was interested in commercializing IFR technology, so I googled on "IFR gates hansen" (that's James Hansen) and that's what popped up among other interesting stuff.

      Moderation in most things. Except Reactors. IFR forever!

      by billmosby on Thu May 14, 2009 at 09:54:19 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Thanks for the nostalgia! (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Joffan, bryfry

      I just took a look at your bravenewclimate link, and what should I behold but almost the exact same view of EBR-II that I enjoyed from my office window for several years out at good old Argonne-West. Brought back memories of just how remarkable that little site was. It was small enough that you could walk the whole perimeter fence in about 13 minutes (at my top walking speed, that is), and yet it included the EBR-II, ZPPR, AFSR, and NRAD reactors. There is a fifth reactor, about a mile from the site, called TREAT. They put it there because it is a transient reactor used for overpower accident tests. It can be pulsed up to about 18 GW for a millisecond. In addition, there were a couple of half-football-field sized hot cell complexes, several fuel manufacturing facilities, a radiochemistry laboratory with about 30 chemists working in it, and a total of about 600 people. Gotta admit I sometimes miss the old place. All in all, the most complete gathering of fast reactor research and development equipment ever put in one small space, I'll bet. The design and theory side of the operation was at Argonne in Illinois. I think they retired or otherwise disposed of that expertise, while Argonne West slowly transitioned into other projects. The RTGs for NASA are built there now, in a facility built onto the old ZPPR facility. It would be hard to do any fast reactor research at Argonne these days, I suppose. Given the usual criteria for DOE record storage, I would not be surprised to find that a lot of the research details are history, too.

      Moderation in most things. Except Reactors. IFR forever!

      by billmosby on Thu May 14, 2009 at 10:14:25 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  A sad loss (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        billmosby

        especially if what you speculate about records loss is true. One of government higher duties should be the complete maintenance of information from its past investigations, whether they are successful or not. It's one of the reasons I expect things undertaken by government to cost a little more than private sector.

        This is not a sig-line.

        by Joffan on Fri May 15, 2009 at 06:28:28 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Unfortunately, more than speculation.. (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Joffan

          The ZPPR facility I mentioned was a reactor which could be loaded with a real core and used to simulate almost any kind of reactor, and in sizes from a few kg to a few tons of fuel of many different kinds and with many different kinds of structural materials and coolant materials. Its 30 years of experimental data, including detailed core loading records and neutron and other measurements was very useful in validating computer codes used for doing calculations of the performance of many different reactor designs and operating conditions. When the NASA RTG program came to ANL-W, they needed room, and the movers and shakers of that program were largely ignorant of the value of the ZPPR data. One of my coworkers saved it from the trash (found it in the trash, actually) when he went looking for some data that had been requested by somebody at another organization for just the reasons I mentioned above. Luckily, he was able to obtain funding to have it all scanned and transferred to CDs before the hardcopy was eventually trashed. DOE guidelines generally require saving records for 5 or 10 years, if I remember correctly.

          Moderation in most things. Except Reactors. IFR forever!

          by billmosby on Fri May 15, 2009 at 07:04:13 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Yikes. (0+ / 0-)

            Now that's scary. I hope the IFR records are kept better than that, against the day when a similar project is restarted.

            This is not a sig-line.

            by Joffan on Fri May 15, 2009 at 05:21:26 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  There was one thing.. (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Joffan

              One of my bosses came back after retirement to write a history of the program. That might have resulted in some things being saved. But the usual fate of old paperwork at that lab was that it was shipped off to a warehouse somewhere and saved for a specified length of time based on somebody's assessment of its importance. Usually 5 to 10 years. For a determinedly orphaned project like this, I imagine the importance level would not be commensurate with "infinity". 15 years? Not likely. But I really don't know.

              Moderation in most things. Except Reactors. IFR forever!

              by billmosby on Sat May 16, 2009 at 04:50:52 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  Wouldn't a lot of the data (2+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Joffan, billmosby

                -- certainly the parts that would be more relevant for taking the design past the conceptional stage -- have been kept by General Electric, as part of its S-PRISM program?

                Apparently, GE kept working on the design until 2002 and pitched it as part of their proposal for GNEP last year.

                Of course, GNEP is now dead, and GE's future in the nuclear business is somewhat uncertain, given their recent setbacks with the ESBWR. So perhaps the paperwork is doomed to die finally after all.

                An idealist is one who, on noticing that a rose smells better than a cabbage, concludes that it will also make better soup.
                -- H. L. Mencken

                by bryfry on Sat May 16, 2009 at 06:52:31 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  Yes, I think that would be right. (2+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  Joffan, bryfry

                  However temporary it might have been.

                  One good thing is that an IFR design tends to be pretty simple compared to a lot of other types. A more difficult part is the fuel cycle facility. However, I believe that has been operated almost up to the present day to put the spent fuel from EBR-II into a more stable chemical configuration. So that data would be a lot newer.

                  There have been many papers published over the years on various facets of the IFR research, and those will be around for a long time. But someone may have to rediscover a lot of details if some new design is to be created. Maybe GE will save the PRISM information in hopes of selling the design to someone else.

                  Even in the worst case, recreating something whose main outlines you know is easier the second time around, especially if you know it was successful. Just may take significantly longer.

                  Moderation in most things. Except Reactors. IFR forever!

                  by billmosby on Sat May 16, 2009 at 04:45:08 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

    •  Interesting that comments are focusing on the IFR (0+ / 0-)

      ....which wouldn't be receiving any money from this "clean energy bank" for years, if not decades. But for you Gen IV supporters (and I'm, of course, not one of them), you can at least take some solace in seeing that Obama's DOE budget increases Gen IV research funding....

      But those kinds of reactors, as I pointed out above, are a long way from commercial deployment.

      •  A long way only because (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Joffan, bryfry, Mcrab

        the program was abandoned 15 years ago. EBR-II actually did put power on the grid during its 30 years of operation, and reliably, too. Only 20 megawatts electric, I'll admit, but as a fast reactor technology demonstrator, not a bad record. It had been designed as what was later called an IFR from the outset, and operated its fuel cycle facility successfully from 1964 to 1969. The later addition of electrorefining during the 80s and early 90s updated the system to the current IFR concept.

        Moderation in most things. Except Reactors. IFR forever!

        by billmosby on Fri May 15, 2009 at 07:11:31 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Bill, what nirsnet is doing is (5+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          wonmug, Joffan, bryfry, Mcrab, billmosby

          to put forward a "statis" methodology. To wit "it won't exist for 10 or 20 years, so let's not put any money into it". Basically all the anti-nuclear supporters are against any R&D for Gen IV reactors. They won't admit it (although they have in politer company) but they see these as a threat because if they are deployable in a safe, cheap and reliable manner, it represents a threat to them.

          No all anti-nuclear activists are like this, however. You'll seen people here and other places speaking VERY highly of Gen IV R&D AND be totally against the LWR.

          Personally I think they will rise and fall together. At energyfromthorium.com, it's often a debate on this as we have several strong anti-LWR folks over there.

          David

          Dr. Isaac Asimov: "The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds new discoveries, is not 'Eureka!' but 'That's funny ...'"

          by davidwalters on Fri May 15, 2009 at 07:35:58 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Agree. (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            wonmug, Joffan, bryfry

            And I don't often indulge in pointing out why it won't exist for 10 or 20 years, but sometimes I can't help myself.

            Not all that long ago, the water reactor folks looked askance at the IFR for some reason. As did the Yucca Mountain program folks. Everybody can be protective of their government money turf. I wonder how it would be if everybody started thinking about how various pieces could fit together instead of how to grow their own piece. Then I remember I'm still a member of the human race.

            Moderation in most things. Except Reactors. IFR forever!

            by billmosby on Fri May 15, 2009 at 07:46:24 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  Important point - infighting (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              bryfry, billmosby

              billmosby - you have made a very important point. One of the ways that organizations like NIRS have been so effective in their opposition to new nuclear developments is that the supporters of nuclear fission have often been very parochial in their advocacy. Instead of recognizing that the real competition for energy market dollars is the technology that currently has a 90+% market share (fossil fuel combustion) we have often scrapped amongst each other for a slice of the government pie that does not even influence the market.

              That kind of activity is still going on. Some supporters of Gen IV will gladly trade off support for commercial development of Gen III in return for a few scraps of research money for their favored technology.

              In my view, the development of the IFR is a great thing, but its real value is the fact that it can enable Gen III reactors that are ready to begin construction to move forward and take markets away from coal, gas and oil within a few years. (I did not mention the NIRS favored alternatives of wind and solar since the two of them combined have about a 1.5% share of the US electricity market. That share is not worth the effort compared to the 70% share held by coal and gas or even the 3% share held by oil.)

              As Gen III plants operate, they will provide clean energy that is not dependent on massive destruction of mountains, deep drilling under cities, massive LNG infrastructure, or pipelines snaking across the country. They will also be building an inventory of IFR fuel that will last for centuries.

              Gen III plants will be safe, reliable, affordable and clean. They will not be perfect, but they are a heck of a lot better than their competition for producing power over the time that will be needed to fully develop IFR or molten salt or even high temperature pebble beds.

              Rod Adams
              Publisher, Atomic Insights

  •  Descent into mad-eyed dogmatism (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    bryfry

    Yep, folks, this is where the anti-nuclear industry is. They will work to wreck any legislation, no matter how much promise it has on climate action, that could potentially benefit the largest current source of low-carbon electricity.

    NIRS is a wholly negative presence in the American discourse on energy and climate.

    This is not a sig-line.

    by Joffan on Fri May 15, 2009 at 06:57:03 AM PDT

    •  Ascent.... (0+ / 0-)

      At least you had the courtesy not to call nuclear a carbon-free technology...

      We support speedy, strong action to deal with the climate crisis. That's a key reason we oppose new nuclear construction: new reactors are too expensive and take too long to build to effectively deal with climate. We need faster, cheaper, and yes, cleaner alternatives now.

      But from a taxpayer perspective, unlimited taxpayer loan guarantees for any energy technology, outside the Congressional appropriations process, simply doesn't make sense. That's taking on an extraordinary level of risk, and setting the stage for yet another taxpayer bailout of private industry.

      As we've learned too painfully over the past year, we don't have unlimited resources: we need to direct those we have where they'll be most useful. And, in our view, new nuclear reactors flunk that test.

      •  Pardon me? (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        bryfry, Mcrab, billmosby

        Nuclear is as carbon free as wind is, considering the massive amount concrete, steel and aluminum per KW wind takes to build.

        Hansen considers it carbon-free. ONLY anti-nuclear activists/lobbyists try to pin a carbon count, statistically so low as to almost be nothing, on nuclear.

        David

        Dr. Isaac Asimov: "The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds new discoveries, is not 'Eureka!' but 'That's funny ...'"

        by davidwalters on Fri May 15, 2009 at 07:37:46 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  OK, ascent into mad-eyed dogmatism (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        bryfry, Mcrab, billmosby

        ... you're probably right, the old chanting "No Nukes" and inventing random numbers game will not work any more, so the anti-nukes have been forced to sound more technical recently and actually try to assemble cogent arguments rather than just telling everybody that plutonium is the deadliest subtance and other obvious lies. So, ascent from mad-eyed rabble-rousing into mad-eyed dogmatism. It's progress of a sort.

        The rest of your response is mendacious claptrap.

        Climate change is not a key reason that NIRS opposes new nuclear construction. NIRS opposes nuclear construction because that is its raison d'être. Pretending that nuclear construction is slow (which it is not especially, per GW) is an excuse to carry on doing what you do anyway.

        Blocking license extensions is proof positive that you care absolutely nothing about climate change. IF you had theslightest inkling about what "efficiency" means, you would not be frviolously trying to close down existing infrastructure, which negates your claim about wanting to promote the most rapid responses.

        Your unlimited taxpayer story is a total fabrication. You have shown absolutely nowhere that the result of the clause indicated has anything like the effect you claim.

        Putting no finanacial limit on loan guarantees is  the kind of action needed (not necessarily the only option) to unblock the system and get the response to climate change out of first gear. Since loan guarantees are assessed on a technical level to limit the possibility of default and are paid for by those receiving them, it is appropriate that there should be no limit, since the financial calculation is aimed at budget-neutral in the first place.

        What we have learned over the past year is that when a real crisis is preceived widely, vast amount of money can be conjured up by government.

        If you insist we should fight climate change while wearing a straitjacket, expect us to lose.

        This is not a sig-line.

        by Joffan on Fri May 15, 2009 at 05:36:04 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Good for you to get this surprising news out. (0+ / 0-)

    It is too bad. The bill itself is great, but it needs to be modified to eliminate the unlimited funds clause. I will weigh in at the Senate switchboard and spread the word.

    Cooling our planet one building at a time in the Bay Area.

    by dotcommodity on Fri May 15, 2009 at 07:17:01 AM PDT

    •  Surprising because fabricated. (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      bryfry, Mcrab, billmosby

      Make no mistake, this is just NIRS misleading people into opposing action on climate change, in support of their anti-nuclear dogma.

      Unlimited loan guarantees are not unlimited funds. NIRS relies on this fundamental deception to further their anti-nuclear crusade. The loan guarantee charge - with the loan-taker pays to the government - is intended to be risk-neutral, and cover the cost of default in aggregate. The qualification process protects public funds from unsafe guarantees.

      Loan guarantees without a financial cap would be a bold step that could help progress on climate change counters immensely. NIRS is acting against progressive interests.

      This is not a sig-line.

      by Joffan on Fri May 15, 2009 at 06:47:09 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

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