Thursday, November 10, 2011

Entergy, the Company that Owns Indian Point, Wants to Build Nuclear Power Plants Throughout New York City

The people who own and operate the Indian Point nuclear power plants have this amazing vision: powering New York City by building a bunch a small nuclear power plants and scattering them through city neighborhoods. Seriously.

They have this vision because they think that we the public are exaggerating the risks of radiation exposure.

I learned about it just now when I finally read New York magazine's current piece about Indian Point and New York's energy issues, called "A Slight Chance of Meltdown."

It's a good piece, carefully reported, clearly written, and lays out the issues for and against Indian Point. Those issues aren't simple.

And then near the end, there's this little scene, featuring two Entergy employees, Jim Steets, the spokesman for Indian Point, and Rick Smith, an Entergy vice president:

Sitting next to Smith is Jim Steets, director of communications for Indian Point, and together they begin to sketch their vision of a New York City populated with small nuclear plants dotted throughout the boroughs. “It’s a little like an aircraft carrier,” Smith says. “I think modular.”

“I grew up in grade school diving under the desk,” he goes on. “People still have the bomb theory, but a couple of generations down from now, everyone becomes more comfortable with nuclear power. That’s why we try so hard to get the facts out. Everyone who goes through the plant comes away with a better understanding.”

Steets pipes in. “The thing is, there isn’t really anything about dealing with radiation that we don’t understand.”

“You know,” says Smith. “I had an MIT professor, he did a presentation on Fukushima, and I said, ‘Listen, you have to explain what’s going on there and how it’s different from here.’ And he said to me, ‘Rick, you know what the problem is? Today we can monitor radiation to the finest detail, and we report it to the finest detail.’ ” This precision, industry officials believe, has distorted public opinion and led to overregulation; by their thinking, a little exposure to radiation isn’t a big deal. “Even the releases at Fukushima,” Smith says, “most of them would have very little effect on public health and safety.”

“Unfortunately,” Steets adds, “our detractors rely so much on fear.”

Smith nods in agreement.

“They refuse to look analytically.”

That's how the piece ends. It's not satire. I knew Jim Steets years ago when I was a reporter covering Indian Point. He's not given to joking around about nuclear power. And he's sitting there with the vice president of Entergy. And they apparently want to see "New York City populated with small nuclear plants dotted throughout the boroughs."

Mind boggling.



Blogger Rod Adams said...

It sounds like a wonderful vision to me.

Small, safe, clean nuclear plants have been powering ships and submarines for 50 years. We loved having reliable, clean power on my submarine when I was the Engineer Officer. I had no problem at all living within 100 m of an operating reactor. I also enjoyed it when I could bring guests, including my baby daughters, on board for a visit.

You have been taught to fear radiation by the establishment fossil fuel industry. They remain afraid that the world will figure out that there is a viable alternative to enriching them to the tune of about $6 trillion per year in payment for coal, oil and natural gas that they did not even create. Uranium and thorium are amazing fuel sources - a tiny pellet the size of the tip of my pinkie represents a quantity of fuel that produces as much heat energy as a ton of coal using today's early generation technology.

In an advanced breeder reactor, that quantity of fuel will produce as much heat energy as burning 20 tons of coal that would fill the beds of 20 large pickup trucks.

Rod Adams
Publisher, Atomic Insights

7:29 AM  
Anonymous Gwyneth Cravens said...

To reduce radiation exposure in the Greater NY area, it would be a good idea to shut down fossil fuel plants. Coal-fired plants release 100-400 times more radiation than nuclear plants do. And they do this 24/7 year after year. But that's still low-dose radiation and therefore less than we would receive from Mother Nature if we moved to Colorado or New Mexico.

Actually, the bad stuff from the many fossil fuel plants around LI Sound (and that includes many dirty diesel generators on LI) is composed of nitrous oxide and sulfur dioxide gases. These combine with water vapor to make fine particulates that block lung airways and cause around 20,000 deaths per year in the US plus hundreds of thousands of cases of lung and heart disease (see for details).

Therefore, small modular reactors that have been powering the nuclear navy since the 1950s without incident seem to me a much cleaner and safer alternative. Floating reactors often visit NYC. The USS Carl Vinson powered Port au Prince when the earthquake in Haiti knocked out electricity and the supply of clean water. The ship used nuclear power to purify harbor water so that people did not die of thirst. Small modular reactors can be installed in concrete bunkers underground and protected much more thoroughly than your friendly neighborhood gas plant and its pipeline is protected. The skies over LI Sound would be much cleaner and clearer than they are at present, and healthier.

Ocean acidification due to uptake of excess carbon dioxide from fossil plants and vehicles is accelerating. That acidification in coastal shallows is already placing a burden on shelled marine life, which can't adapt as quickly as the pH of the seawater is being altered.

Gwyneth Cravens
(LI resident)

3:39 PM  

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