Tuesday, August 01, 2017

Goodbye VC Summer Construction

What is there to say?

Time to listen to some Johnny Cash and do some thinkin.'

Five thousand highly skilled, strictly screened, hardworking Americans just lost their jobs.

This blog has said very little since mid or late 2008. That was the year when the Great Recession started.

I quit blogging because of what I saw. The banks and cheating mortgage houses were bailed out. The common man and woman were not bailed out.

I made a prediction back then. I predicted that the vaunted nuclear renaissance (which I supported) would not come to be, largely for economic and political reasons.

I really didn't want to brag or share a negative prediction like that about a technology that I support, so I turned to other things, although I still followed nuclear energy supporters on Facebook.

In the nine years since late 2008, I have, among other things:

  • Lived in North Carolina for a while
  • Seen Recession-torn men begging on American streetcorners with cardboard signs, their beloved and loyal guardian dogs always at their side wearing battered but strong collars and leads
  • Traveled internationally and crossed more borders than the Taco Bell chihuahua
  • Entered my 50s
  • Led a major home renovation project - a second storey. We used seismic-resistent concrete-and-rebar construction rather than wooden framing.
  • Experienced several years of life outside the United States
Enough about me. Let's talk about my prediction and why I made it.

By the way, I am NOT an engineer or expert in the field, but my perspective may be a little broader than that of a specialist.


Here are the reasons the nuclear renaissance failed in the United States. Some of these reasons, like the huge expenses of large nuclear projects, are universally applicable. Other reasons are specific to the United States or maybe to western countries. I'll try to note where applicable. Reasons for Failure of Nuclear Renaissance:

  • A. Economic and political dominance of fossil fuel industry - worldwide. I strongly agree with Rod Adams on this issue. The economic and political dominance of fossil fuels is a meta-factor that affects almost all the other reasons below.
  • B. Enormous costs associated with Gigawatt size of additions to VC Summer plant - specific to this project but applicable to others
  • C. Regulatory burdens. Intimately linked to fossil fuel dominance of political system.
    • i. LNT hypothesis in regulations, although it is highly unlikely to be biologically realistic
    • ii. Reworking of major aspects of construction to comply with regulations that regulator admits are not urgent.
  • D. Failure to attach adequate costs to carbon emissions. Bias in favor of wind & solar and against nuclear in climate-change proposals and legislation. This bias reaches to the highest international level - the IPCC. These issues are intimately related to A - fossil fuel dominance of economy and political system.
  • E. Short-term (quarterly) mindset of investment and banking community. Largely specific to US and parts of Europe. Aggravated by 2008 Recession. This is a big part of the reason why a nuclear projects in the UAE can succeed, but they can't in the US. I didn't compare with China or India because they have much lower labor costs than the US or the UAE
  • F. Entrenched anti-nuclear activism. I cannot consider this to be nearly as large a factor in this project failure as it was in projects like Shoreham in New York State. The reason is political. The average South Carolinian loves the outdoors but expresses that in ways consistent with conservative beliefs. Ducks Unlimited, local parks, deer clubs, and college football are much more supported by South Carolinians than are political/anti-nuclear groups like the Sierra Club, NRDC, and FOE. Sure, a few university people join these groups, but the average South Carolinian would rather be in the NRA (hunting) than in the Sierra Club, even a chapter that actually offers hikes.
  • G. Lack of leadership by both Democrats and Republicans in government. President Trump and Energy Secretary Perry have really disappointed here. While Democrats like Obama appoint outright anti-nuclear activists (Jaczko) to the NRC, Republicans like to say platitudes but do nothing in favor of nuclear energy, the strongest alternative to fossil fuels.
  • H. In America, bankers and lawyers run things. In China, the engineers run things.
  • I. Inertia by society in general. While scientists like Dr. James Hansen are highly motivated to support nuclear energy, the millions in the general public rarely have the mathematical aptitude to understand that wind and solar are not enough to replace fossil fuels in the context of a still-growing global population of 7.4 Billion.