One of our readers, R, keeps me up to date on happenings in the nuclear industry, and it sounds like shale gas is putting another nail in the coffin:
“Markets have to address these issues or you will see a fallout of perfectly well-run units such as Vermont Yankee, and potentially others,” says Bill Mohl, who heads Entergy’s merchant nuclear operations in Massachusetts, Michigan, New York and Vermont. “You can’t stack the market with state regulations and environmental policies and expect competitive fuel sources to effectively compete.”
Mohl’s contentions: The abundance of shale gas has resulted in sustained low natural gas and wholesale energy prices while market designs especially in the Northeast have resulted in artificially low energy prices. That’s a vague reference, in part, to wind energy that is subsidized and that does not provide electricity around the clock.
R on occasion sends me links to NRC write ups of events that occur in nuclear plants, and though we can certainly disagree on the amount of oversight necessary for nuclear operations, Federal law grants the NRC incredible power over a nuclear plant. One example is that operators who have an off-duty DUI have to be reported to the NRC. Contrast that with the free-for-all in the fracking world, where the chemicals used in fracking water are treated as trade secrets even though they may be full of cancer-causing chemicals:
At the federal level, natural gas developers have long been allowed to keep the mixture of chemicals they use in fracking fluid a secret from the general public, protecting it as “proprietary information.” The industry is exempt from the Environmental Protection Agency’s Toxics Release Inventory—the program that ensures that communities are given information about what companies are releasing. In 2005 the industry successfully lobbied for an exemption from EPA regulation under the Safe Drinking Water Act as well, in what is often referred to as the “Halliburton Loophole.” The Obama EPA has pressed drillers to voluntarily provide more information about fracking fluids, but the industry has largely rebuffed those appeals.
In a few years when the cancer clusters from the polluted fracking groundwater start to show up, these drilling operators will be long gone, and Uncle Sugar will be footing the bill. To paraphrase a famous sage, given the choice between nuclear energy and gas from fracking, I’d rather have a known known than an unknown unknown.