“The current [upward] trajectory of electricity prices is likely to continue as Vermont mandates production from much more expensive renewables and provides a variety of subsidies to producers of renewable energy. Electricity from wind can cost up to 20 cents per kilowatt hour and solar between 20 and 30 cents. Compare that to the current wholesale price of electricity from Hydro-Quebec, which costs about six cents per kilowatt hour [similarly for natural gas]. Vermont recently decided not to purchase electricity from the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant, which was selling electricity to the state for less than five cents a kilowatt hour”
Vermonters should only be paying 8¢/kWhr, not the 18¢/kWhr they’re paying now, nor the 20¢/kWhr they’ll be paying in the next few years.
These upside-down cost situations occur because what we pay for electricity has little to do with what it costs to produce it. The real costs of producing electricity such as construction, fuel, O&M, decommissioning, have little to do with what its price on the wholesale market. The price has more to do with financing, tax credits, subsidies, mandates, power purchase agreements, weekly power bidding, and other non-technical drivers.
Most Vermonters were led blindly into throwing away the cheapest, cleanest energy available. Energy that made Vermont one of the lowest carbon emitters per capita in the world, a feat that will no longer be possible. Vermont Yankee is already mostly paid for, it had 20 years left, and mothballing it won’t save any money for the State, or reduce the risks that much either. The best thing to do with a nuclear power plant is to run it. Mothballing an active reactor ahead of its time is a wicked expensive waste.
Closing Vermont Yankee in the end will cost Vermonters about $200 million per year for the next 20 years. But Vermonters escaped the worst of that other “wholesale market flaw”, the default credit swap and other financing ideologies, and haven’t been hurt at all by the economic slump of the last few years, so the people of Vermont won’t even notice the lost $200 million. I mean it’s not like it’s 10% of their total State tax revenue or anything.
Here is my attempt at helping you understand why I yawn when someone thinks we should all be frightened by the news that 300 tons of water contaminated with Sr-90 at 30 times the drinking water standard might have leaked out of a storage tank and might soon reach the Pacific Ocean.
According to Chapter 9 (Radiological Aspects) of the World Health Organization’s document titled “Guidelines for Drinking-Water Quality”, radiation standards for drinking water are set with some extremely conservative assumptions.
The levels are established so that a person drinking two liters of water at the limit every day for an entire year (a total of 730 liters) will receive a “committed effective dose” of just 0.1 mSv.
If someone drank two liters per day of the water that we are supposed to be afraid of for an entire year, their committed effective dose would be just 3 mSv; it would slightly more than double their annual background dose. If the entire amount of that water entered the Pacific Ocean, it would contain less than 0.00002 grams (0.02 milligrams) of strontium-90.
The most recent stories have included concerns that additional groundwater is flowing onto the power station site an might become contaminated on its normal path to the ocean. Remember what I wrote earlier; a limited amount of radioactive material does not get any larger just because more clean water is added.
There was a higher radiation reading from a puddle.
This measurement was taken from a pool of water .1 cubic meters in volume on the ground, and appears to be anomalous compared to all other water readings at the site. Until confirmed with other readings from the tank it’s very possible these readings come from cross-contamination from another area of the site, possibly tracked in on a worker’ s boot.
That small accumulation of water, described as 0.1 cubic meter in volume, was also the place where a radiation meter located about 50 cm above the water read 100 mSv/hour (beta + gamma) but just 1.5 mSv/hour gamma. A sheet of paper or a meter or two of distance would be sufficient shielding to protect a person from nearly all of the radiation from that pool. Since most human beings are not likely to drink from a puddle of water on the ground, no one would be likely to ingest the material that was causing the high radiation readings.
It is the height of absurdity to make believe that a 0.1 cubic meter puddle on an industrial clean up site is something people who live in the United States should worry about. Heck, no one anywhere should worry that the material is going to harm them.
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Brian Wang is a Futurist Thought Leader and a popular Science blogger with 1 million readers per month. His blog Nextbigfuture.com is ranked #1 Science News Blog. It covers many disruptive technology and trends including Space, Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, Medicine, Anti-aging Biotechnology, and Nanotechnology.
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