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Sunday, April 10, 2011


Stan Gibilisco

As I continue to obsess over ways in which I might free myself from the yoke of the energy establishment (translate Black Hills Power), my dreams have turned toward photovoltaics and ground-source heat pumps.

Ordinary citizens, living on small lots, might go for alternative-energy systems that they can afford, and that won't require the installations of structures that attract lightning, neighborly hate, and mutants of Don Quixote.

Depending on location, a ground-source heat pump can offer up to 600 percent efficiency, so I've heard. That, I presume, means that for 100 watts of electrical power consumption, one can get 600 watts of heating power.

I'm looking into the photovoltaic/geothermal option for my own living scenario. I've pretty much given up on wind. However, I'd have to relocate to a place more favorable for geothermal heating to make this dream come true.

A vegetable garden and a venue for hunting and fishing would do no harm either.


Stan, a wood burning stove you can supply from your shelter-belt is something else you might want to consider, at least as an emergency backup source.

George Mason

Stan; You may want to reconsider your statement about heat pumps because it contradicts the law of the conservation of energy. What you should consider is installing a small turbine in one of the streams in the hills. This will supply you with reliable, uninterrupted power. Any one who wants wind or solar to supply their power had better be prepared to live in the dark regularly and frequently. The other side of wind and solar is that the return on investment is longer than the expected life of the equipment. Without picking the pockets of the taxpayer this whole wind and solar business would collapse in 24 hours.

Donald Pay

This is pretty shallow analysis. You aren't providing the entire picture. First, you really are comparing apples to oranges. A nuclear plant is centralized power sources used as a baseload plant. A single wind turbine is decentralized power source never meant to operate in the same way or for the same purpose..

Second, the current capacity factors for nuclear power have been obtained by deferring maintanence until shutdowns for fuel reloading. This is a risky practice.



The old nuclear technology you're referring to should be replaced by modern designs, the huge centralized plants (that are certainly a safety concern) should have been removed from service and replaced years ago.

The biggest safety issue concerning nuclear power, is the political fear mongering of anything nuclear that's prevented us from upgrading our nuclear power resources.

George Mason

Wind and/or solar is unreliable period, whether for base load or peak load or anything in between. Modernized nuclear or hydro are the cheapest and "greenest" energy available.

Donald Pay

Another way to compare energy sources is by efficiency. How much of the energy of the fuel is actually converted to useful energy? Coal and nuclear efficiency is around 33% at the plant, with most of the fuel not actually being converted to useful energy. The wasted energy (heat) is a partially socialized cost. Couple these sources to an incandescent bulb and you waste about 95% of the energy produced by the fuel rods or coal.

Wind turbines efficiency is around 40% of the energy in the wind and 70% of the Betz limit at moderate wind speeds. With wind, however, there is no impact to the "wasted energy" in the wind.

Donald Pay

For nuclear plants the efficiency is further degraded by a huge factor that is never considered in most analyses. A lot of the energy remains in the spent fuel, and that requires considerable costs (again, mostly socialized) to assure safety.

Ken Blanchard

Donald: someone reading this blog might suspect that I am paying you to post. We couldn't be subsidizing wind, solar, and biofuels as we are unless the wealth and energy were coming from somewhere. It ain't coming from fairy flatulence. It's coming from coal, oil, natural gas, dams and, damn it, nuclear power.

Maybe the nuclear power industry has sacrificed maintenance for fuel reloading, whatever that means. It remains true that more people have died in wind power accidents in the U.S. than in accidents involving nuclear reactors.

My point, however, is that wind power is a very expensive fantasy. There is no possibility that wind power can make a significant contribution to the power needs of modern nations. That was my point and the study I cite establishes it.

Donald Pay

A report completed by a group of experts during the Bush Administration concluded wind could contribute about 20 percent of US installed capacity by 2030.


Donald Pay

KG, explain to me the deaths from cancer of virtually all the workers who cut out the piping at the Pathfinder plant near Brandon, SD.


Wind plants = gas plants



Donald: I need a citation on Pathfinder. I am very skeptical, but give me some clues. As for wind energy making up 20% of our power generation, sure; right after we harness Godzilla's nuclear breath. I note in the study that 36% capacity is included with a straight face. See above.


No need for a citation Professor, the Pathfinder plant was built in the 1960s and asbestos was still the prevalent fireproofing material used at that time.

The "link" between cancer as asbestos wasn't accepted until the mid-1970s.

For 5000 years before that, it was considered a miracle.

The fireproofing qualities of asbestos were largely responsible for our ability to create the urban "modernity" we credit to civilization.

Some of the most intense exposure to asbestos occurred during WWII ship building where for every thousand workers about fourteen died of mesothelioma and an unknown number died from asbestosis (.014& and "unknown"). (Wiki, I know but I'm tired and need to go to bed, but it's not disputed).

Overall, if we want to review the benefits versus the costs of asbestos to society, as we know it today, I'll choose asbestos. I'd also argue,that given what we know today we could continue to use it safely and reduce the mitigation costs, if we had not over-regulated its use and over-regulated the specifics of its mitigation.

How many lives could have been save on 9/11, if we hadn't been so "muddle-headed" about asbestos?
Asbestos Fireproofing Might Have Prevented World Trade Center Collapse
Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,244698,00.html#ixzz1JNawiJd4

Donald Pay

The deaths of the original Pathfinder pipe cutters was going on during the nuclear waste fight in South Dakota during the 1980s. Francis Dircks was a Sioux Falls plumber who knew most of the workers who went into the plant during the late 60s and early 70s to cut pipe from the plant. Francis spoke at a number of state legislative hearings and meetings and talked about the workers who had died or had cancer at that point. He attributed the deaths to radiation exposure, but there was asbestos exposure as well. No doubt both played a role in the deaths. Further work on the piping was done in and around the time it was partially decommissioned (early 90s), and it is believed some of these workers have or are dying from asbestos-related cancers.

The plant was shut down with little public notice in 1967 after a test in which the plant shook uncontrollably. There is a lot about this incident that has never been fully disclosed to the public. I remember that Dr. J.D. Thompson, a physics professor at Augustana College, believed this was a serious incident resulting in some radiation release into the environment. Since this was one of the first commercial nuclear plants, any public admission of radiation release at Pathfinder might have ended nuclear power before it could get off the ground. Since the immediate vicinity of the Pathfinder plant had a number of dairy farms, it is likely that any release of radioactive iodine would have quickly made its way into milk products sold in the area.

Ken Blanchard

I ask again for some footnotes or links.

Donald Pay

Some documents and information on the Pathfinder Plant are in the Technical Information Project archives at the School of Mines and Technology in Rapid City. Jerry Wilson, who used to teach at the college (closed?) in Yankton did some research into this, and may have additional information. I can't remember if the Technical Information Project obtained FOIA information on the Pathfinder Plant. That, of course, may not include the most sensitive documents. I know I obtained information on the 1990s partial decommissioning since I attempted to intervene in that process. I think all that information is housed in the TIP archives.

Donald Pay

Here's a link to an NRC summary page on the Pathfinder Plant. There may be quite a few documents describing the incident at NRC and/or at the Energy Department. The old Atomic Energy Commission handled regulatory matters before its functions were split between NRC and the Energy Department.


Ken Blanchard

Donald: interesting, but until or unless some more specific information turns up, there isn't a story here. How many workers were involved in refitting Pathfinder? How many died and from what causes? If cancer were the culprit, were the ages of onset unusual? Were there alternative causes, such as asbestos.

What remains clear in any event is that nuclear power has an astonishingly low fatality rate.

Donald Pay

"...there isn't a story here." Now there's a statement we've heard many times from many an apologist for the nuclear industry.

I'd say there's a very interesting and very huge story here. You have good questions, but they appear to be directed at trying to pooh-pooh this well-known incident and the sad aftereffects than in insisting that the nuclear industry come clean about this. That's what I've come to expect from the nuclear industry and its fellow travellers.

I can tell you I tried to find out who, how many, etc. Francis said the people affected and their families wouldn't talk publically, or even openly in private, about their health conditions. Many were getting settlements for their families, and getting health care benefits while they lived. I suspect there were legal documents preventing them from disclosing anything. I expect this sort of behavior from the nuclear industry.

You might want to read up on the health impacts of low-level radiation at nuclear facilities (including the uranium mines, fuel fabrication facilities, etc.). You seem to be mindlessly regurgitating the nuclear industry propaganda. You might start with the BEIR process.

Ken Blanchard

Donald: I understand that you have a deep prejudice against nuclear power and that you cling to unsubstantiated rumors that would discredit it. You can't produce any evidence of a single death in the pathfinder story, or any evidence that there was a story. A lot of vague innuendo is all you CAN produce.

You write: "I can tell you I tried to find out who, how many, etc. Francis said the people affected and their families wouldn't talk publicly, or even openly in private, about their health conditions." Let me explain what that means: you have no evidence at all that anything really happened. You don't know "how many" were affected. That means you don't know that anyone at all was affected.

By contrast, consider the effects of coal power. http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/5174391/ns/us_news-environment/. Information here is easy to find. Nuclear power has the best safety record of any form of power generation. That is a glaringly obvious fact.

Donald Pay

What's "glaringly obvious" is you're talking through your tinfoil hat. You're willing ignorance is to be pitied.


The entire nuclear enterprise is one of the most disasters in human history.

Ken Blanchard

Only on planet Pays.

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