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Chopp: Nuclear Power Will Rise Again

by Joel Connelly
Seattle Post-Intelligencer, July 24, 2009

Speaking in the Tri-Cities, where two partially built nuclear plants sit abandoned nearby at Hanford, state House Speaker Frank Chopp has raised the possibility that nuclear energy will again have a glowing future.

Chopp predicted that nuclear power will be part of the solution to America's dependence on foreign oil, according to a report by the Tri-City Herald.

But first, he said, public attitudes must change.

"We have to be patient," said Chopp. "Most politicians are a little leery of the issue because some people are very emotional about it."

No place is that more true than Washington.

Nearby Richland was headquarters for the Washington Public Power Supply System, which in the 1970's set out to build five large nuclear plants - at once. But cost estimates soared from an initial $4.1 billion to $23.9 billion. Big rate increases caused consumer protests in the early 1980's.

WPPSS (now Energy Northwest) eventually triggered the largest municipal bond default in American history. One of the projects was completed - at seven times its first cost estimate - and is the Northwest's only operating nuclear plant.

Four other projects, at Hanford and Satsop, were abandoned. The Trojan nuclear plant on the Columbia River has also been shut down and dismantled.

Chopp was critical of a statewide energy initiative adopted in 2006 with heavy support from Democrats.

I-937 requires the state's larger electrical utilities to meet a portion of their electrical load through use of renewable energy sources and greater energy efficiency. The initiative did not include hydroelectric power in its list of renewables.

Chopp told his Pasco audience that hydropower should be considered a renewable energy source.

According to the Herald report, the Seattle Democrat said that many voters may not have understood everything included in I-937 when it passed. Chopp indicated support for changing the law, saying: "We need to keep working to build the political will to do the right thing."

The Tri-Cities voted against I-937, but new energy sources are nearby. The nation's largest wind energy farm is located along the Washington-Oregon border just south of Pasco.

And Energy Northwest, once a builder of nukes, has become an advocate and planner of wind projects.

Comments posted on the P-I website following the above article.

anchorone at 7/24/09 10:50 p.m.
My primary residence is in Elma, WA and I see the Satsop nuke plant site every time I travel to town. I watched the boom and bust, noted the crooked contracting and games, and supported stopping this plant in its tracks. We did the right thing beyond the shadow of a doubt. Keep track of what it costs to shut a site down now, and then tell me where the nuke waste goes...

I will never support any fission plant and will fight like hell to prevent one from occurring again in this state. Those of you in the Tri City areas had best get used to the idea that this state is anti-nuke and plan your lives accordingly. You have one hell of a mess to clean up as it is...

Lookitsme at 7/25/09 8:41 a.m.
Why don't you pro nuclear types get back to us when you've finished cleaning up the myriad messes that you've already left for future generations to deal with...

In related news, anyone who can't pronounce the word "nuclear" has no business being involved in the discussion... :-)

unregistered user at 7/25/09 9:20 a.m.
Why do not the neo-con earth killing people wake up?

We have all the wind and solar power that we need, we just need to wake up and harness the energy that our lord and savior barry obamas has given us, the truly fortunate and blessed.

We will use the wind and sun and earth, be free from oil, have free health care, black professors, white kkk cops, will all hug and sing 'we are the world'

Wait, I need to eat, ohhhh I found some Hope that I will find Change in my couch seat cushions.

unregistered user at 7/25/09 9:21 a.m.
The South did rise again. Confederates picked Nixon, Carter, Reagan, Bush, and Bush as your presidents.

unregistered user at 7/25/09 9:22 a.m.
We are very fortunate in Washington State. Hydroelectric power provides base power which can used when the sun is not shining or the wind is not blowing. Solar power and wind power are both renewable sources but have the disavantage that they cannot provide base power. Hydroelectric power is a renewable power source unless it stops raining or snowing in Washington State and in Canadian sources of the Columbia River. Stronger building codes, better public transportation and other conservation practices may make it unnecessary to add nuclear power to existing sources. S. E. Vandenbosch

unregistered user at 7/25/09 9:22 a.m.
"Most politicians are a little leery of the issue because some people are very educated about the insane risks behind it."

AksalaSeawolf at 7/25/09 9:28 a.m.
Our President supports nuclear power for Iran.

falkenbury at 7/25/09 10:24 a.m.
It may be a question of 'renewable' vs 'non-renewable' but the other, almost more powerful question is "Centralized" vs "Non-centralized power.

The question is: "Do we produce electical power in a single, huge, central location--like a dam, a nuclear plant or even wind-farm or do we produce the electricity in a small unit--such as a solar panel on your home's roof--, producing the electricity you need (and maybe a little bit more)?

Many politicians favor "Big Projects" centralized power because it produces lots of jobs, contractor fees (and the campaign contributions that go with these two) and the energy it produces can be both sold and taxed--endlessly. Compare that with a self-sustaining solar power panel or micro-windmill: it can only be taxed at the time of the sale and never again.

Even some of the solar solutions have been "king-sized" to cover 400 acres, when there is no need; you get the same energy from an array of panels on your roof. But the desire to build big, sell electricity and tax the whole thing is so large that it will take a mighty force--like logic--to keep energy simple and scale it down to our real needs.

I see a time when most individual and household energy use will be small-scale, leaving the centralized production of energy for big industrial and business use. But don't fall for the cry for "Big Prjects, producing Big Electricity".

Dick Falkenbury

Kary L. Krismer at 7/25/09 10:50 a.m.
Wow, who let the Seattle Times posters in here! ;-)

Sirkulat at 7/25/09 11:34 a.m.
The business community does not want the public to have a choice about where and how electricity is generated.

Imagine a modest rooftop photovoltiac solar panel system matched with plug-in hybrid vehicle battery storage. This could keep household electric devices operating in an emergency grid failure. The household with this sort of back-up power supply gains the choice whether to drive or cut utility bills. They gain the means to more closely monitor energy consumption. They gain an incentive to drive less, whereby more trips eventually can be made without having to drive. Walking and bicycling become more viable travel options, and mass transit more practical to arrange.

The business community wants customers to drive as much and as far as possible -- the sooner the need to replace the cars, finance, insure, fuel, pay to park, etc.

The business community wants consumers to use as much electricity as possible. Nevermind that energy efficient houses are more comfortable, cleaner and healthier.

The United States business model is to create monopoly whereby choice is removed and products are designed for "planned obsolescence". Frank Chopp is a poor excuse for a public representative. He only represents the business community. Perhaps he's as clueless as George Duh-bya Bush.

grousefinder at 7/25/09 11:59 a.m.
Chopp is going to run for Governor. There is no other reason for a dem politico to throw red meat at the Tri-City downwinders. Why else promulgate a dead technology with environmental and social consequences that stretch 100,000 years into the future?

frankchopp at 7/25/09 1:01 p.m.

Your posting does not accurately reflect my position on these issues. For example, I strongly support requirements and incentives for new renewable energy sources of wind and solar power. This past session, I repeatedly supported the environmental community's position regarding the proposed, though not enacted, changes to Initiative 937. And while I was in the Tri-Cities, I heard from proponents of several solar energy projects and companies.

Please call me to schedule a time for us to discuss your concerns. My district office phone number is 206-729-3223.

Frank Chopp

You Melted The Ice Age at 7/25/09 3:06 p.m.
Well if we do build nuclear plants we may as well build them out in the east side where they have a lot more conservatives.

I wouldn't worry about the Columbia river as it flows down along Oregon and Portland then goes south once it hits the ocean so no great loss there either.

Besides with the global warming sea level rise the waters will pick up so much shoreline pollution the small level off radiation would be the least of our concerns.

Mt4t at 7/25/09 4:06 p.m.
Chopp has revealed himself as one of the least knowledgeable legislators in the state when it comes to infrastructure. Why anyone would believe him on power is beyond comprehension.

usnr-bb at 7/25/09 4:27 p.m.
While I am a strong proponant of renewable energy sources, both large and small, I also am a proponant of nuclear power. We need a strong base to provide a constant and reliable source to support our electrical needs. Unfortunately, hydroelectric power no longer is sufficient to meet those base needs.

To those who think that nuclear power if fraught with danger, I suggest you do a little more research. The United States Navy has shown again several times over the safety, efficiency, and efficacy of nuclear power. Yes, there is the problem with waste but we have that problem with our everyday activities, we ship it off to Oregon.

To those who ask if I would want a nuclear plant in my back yard. The answer is of course not. I don't want a car dealership, fast food restaurant, or coal fired power plant there either. Solar cells for my house, yes, if I could afford them.

The point is, we are going to need a mix of power sources for the foreseeable future. We need to get off our fossil fuel dependency. If for no other reason than it is a very dirty and limited resource.

unregistered user at 7/25/09 4:36 p.m.
It is nice to see people interested in the subject. If you will take a few minutes to take a research the situation as it is now, you will be better able to add light, and not just heat and noise, to the discussion.

First, anyone who thinks that Washington, or even the United States, choosing to not build new reactors will improve the situation globally needs to re-think. China is building about a dozen reactors, and has the intention of building about 100 in the next 50 years. France will continue to supply most of their electricity from nuclear power, building new reactors as needed. India has some interesting designs that they will build prototypes for within the next ten years or so. Other countries will build their own or buy reactors from China, Russia, France, India, or possibly others. Nuclear power over the next several decades will be like a steeple-chase race, where the leaders set the course. If we are left at the crossroads wringing our hands, we will have no say in where it goes.

Second, those who point to WPPSS, Three Mile Island, DOD contaminated sites, etc., are like people objecting to jetliners because of the Hindenburg accident. The technology now is vastly different than it was in the 1950s and 60s. That is not only true for the current reactors (that have all had major upgrades of important systems), but even more true for the new reactor designs that are being worked on.

Third, solar, wind, tidal, and geothermal power on the level needed to run cities have environmental costs that in all likelihood exceed those of nuclear power on a kilowatt-hour per kilo-watt hour basis. The sun shines and the wind blows for free, but turning either into electrons flowing in a wire costs. 1,200 one megawatt wind turbines cost more to build and operate than one 1,200 megawatt nuclear power plant, both in money and environmental terms. And both probably cost more than three hundred 40 megawatt modular reactors sited closer where the power is needed.

I am happy to see people involved in the discussion. I hope that they will realize that if they haven't been reading things on both sides of the issue in the last couple years, then what they think they know may well be wrong. I hope that they will take the time to learn what is happening now.

Terrorist at 7/25/09 5:09 p.m.
Frank are you trying to alienate your liberal district?

unregistered user at 7/25/09 11:40 p.m.
What mess do you associate with nuclear power? Do you speak of the cleanup needed at Hanford which resulted from creating the plutonium for most of our nuclear arsenal NOT the Columbia Generating station? All waste from U.S. nuclear plants is very safely contained on site ready to be shipped(in the massively reinforced containers it is stored in) for final storage or to be re-processed. After providing power for six years, 96% of a spent fuel rod's original energy content remains.

To gauge the mess from using coal used to produce 50% of our electrical power or from powering our cars with fossil fuels, take a deep breath. Don't worry it's there- - it blows in from Oregon, Wyoming, even China. If that doesn't work, talk to the folks in Tennessee where 1 billion gallons of toxic coal ash sludge toppled cars and houses on its way to reaching a nearby river. Why not fret over a real problem like the 92,000,000 tons of toxic sludge left over from burning coal every year, not to mention the carbon dioxide that is belched out. That kind of pollution NEVER goes away even after a trillion years.

Why is making power locally such a cozy notion? It makes about as much sense as making your own cell phone, microwave or car.. Creating power at 10 to 20 times the cost doesn't seem to be worth saving 7% in transmission losses.

Pretending that wind and solar will provide the power we need WHEN we need it will not help the environment. It will just deplete our resources and distract us from making progress in protecting the environment by generating our power from viable clean energy sources, conserving more energy, and using domestic natural gas for transportation instead of electricity production.

Once battery technology becomes cost effective enough for transportation, we will need far more electric power than can be freed up through conservation, especially as population increases. Heck maybe we can phase out some of the older coal plants when they wear out, but that means we will need even more effective clean generating capacity.

Mark Case

Kary L. Krismer at 7/26/09 12:39 p.m.
UU, WPPSS wasn't a technological disaster, it was a financial disaster. They built reactors that didn't need to be built if you simply raised prices.

Stated differently, with the low prices we had here from hydro-power, nuclear couldn't compete.

unregistered user at 7/27/09 12:25 a.m.
Anti nuclear activists campaigned for the specific goal of making nuclear power too expensive for utilities. They stonewalled every single nuclear construction project, regardless of what evidenced based reasoning would say.

And then they have the gall to tell the public that nuclear power is to expensive. I hope a newer, smarter generation will wise up to this.

Joel Connelly
Chopp: Nuclear Power Will Rise Again
Seattle Post-Intelligencer, July 24, 2009

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