Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Free to Comment

I find it troubling when intelligent discussion is stifled by emotions.

We're all human and often victims to the irrationality of our own inner voices, but that doesn't mean we should stop communicating. I don't know anyone that *wants* to be wrong, but we can't all be right either.

So if you feel that your voice isn't being given a fair hearing somewhere else, then feel free to express yourself right here.

I will leave your post intact, but with the following three caveats:

  1. Do not be vulgar or profane. If you can't express yourself without it, then cool off and come back later.
  2. Do not post slander here. If you want to be rude or get yourself into legal trouble then make your own blog.
  3. Do not abuse my hospitality. This blog post is for commentary that you feel would otherwise be stifled - not a bathroom wall for unintelligible or esoteric gibberish.
With that, I welcome your comments...


Kit P said...

I have a problem with being civil with some folks. There is a double standard. It is okay to accuse coal plants of killing tens of thousands with wanted disregard for human life. Nuke plants have often been cited as the cause of childhood cancer or infant mortality with very contrived data.

To the best of my knowledge, the electricity generating has a perfect record of protecting the public year in and year out. The industrial safety record is near perfect which is astounding considering the multitude of hazards present in the work place.

Pointing the record out will get you labeled as a lying stooge of industry just like tobacco executives. Some folks have no interest in being civil.


Mike Stuart said...

Being civil is sometimes difficult, but it's one of the things that allows progress and [arguably] keeps us from being barbarians. While I am not yet able to say that incivility has no place at all, its difficulty alone does not make it OK to choose to be uncivil.

As for coal, you will find little that I have little good to say about it, but I'll also be one of the first people to defend its place in the energy mix. Today's coal - though still dirty in operation and environmentally unfriendly in its production - is the backbone of the stability of our national electrical infrastructure. Without it, the United States would be a third world country with a signficant reduction in life expectancy and standard of living.

There is only one viable technology that I know of that has the capability in scale and known technology to challenge king coal, and that's nuclear. From current mining, fabrication, enrichment, and utilization practices, it is the cleanest, most environmentally sound, and safest large-scale technology to produce mass quantities of energy available to us today.

That's not to say that if a breakthrough in inexpensive, scalable, and environmentally friendly storage technology were to emerge, that renewables would not also be able to provide a significant portion of our baseload power supply.

Now, as for the tobacco executives... Have you seen the movie "Thank You for Smoking"? ;-)

identity crisis said...

Anyone can be polite to a king. It takes a gentleman to be polite to a beggar. - Unknown

Another quote I can't find implies barbaric society is always polite. Civilized society benefits the self-serving choice to be rude without fear of getting one's self killed without warning.

Interesting bullets in your post!

Mike Stuart said...

I'm familiar with the second quote. It sounds like something my best friend would say.

Here's the quote to which I believe you are referring, (though it may have more to do with courtesy than civility):

"Civilized men are more discourteous than savages because they know they can be impolite without having their skulls split, as a general thing." ~ Robert E. Howard

identity crisis said...

Awesome, thanks muchly!

Although as I was checking back here... I was afraid my first post might have been esoteric gibberish, and wasn't sure if it were a permitted comment, or not. Whew, evidently it is.

Thank you for filling in the details. Thank you a lot. I'm disappointed I couldn't find it when I looked, so it's a relief that you provided it!

Mike Stuart said...

"Esoteric" is admittedly subjective and a catch-all for content that I would subjectively categorize as "otherwise inappropriate." I found your comments appropriate, unoffensive, and relevant to the conversation thread.

Kit P said...

I am more likely to be polite to a rude beggar than a manipulative well spoken person.

“cleanest, most environmentally sound, and safest”

Really? The criteria for making electricity is that standards must be met. I do not know any utilities that have different safety standards for coal plants than nuke plants.

There is a subtle aspect of environmental impact. I own two POV, a relatively new car and a 20 year old POS PU. Either POV would have environmental impact on the air quality of Los Angles. Neither would have environmental impact on the air quality in eastern Virginia where the air quality is very good.

In any case, I am very impressed with how my utility uses coal to make electricity as well as the industry in general. The reason I can say good things about coal is that I checked my facts before saying something bad.

Tools like LCA and RCA allows us to make informed choices. Since the largest factor on safety and environmental impact is transportation, banning new nuke plants in California is a poor choice compared to transporting fossil fuel thousands of miles.

Mike Stuart said...


Please define the terms POV, POS PU, LCA, and RCA. They are not intuitive to me.

How can something have an environmental impact in California and not have one in West Virginia? The air may be cleaner in WVa, but the impact is the same. I may not be able to hear a gunshot in a thunderstorm but that doesn't make it any less loud. If anything, one could argue that the impact is greater in WVa, since it would be easier to distinguish from the background.

I'm also not sure what you mean about utilities not having different safety standards for coal plants vs. nuke plants. Which safety standards are you referring to? Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA)? Nuclear Regulatory Commission? Or just simply the electric utility's standards? OSHA's standards may be the same, but nuclear is held to a much higher standard for radiological safety. Coal plants emit more than ten times the radioactivity of equivalent nuclear stations. And my utility's industrial safety goals are stricter for our nuke plants.

Thank you for checking your facts. Too many people oppose nuclear power strictly based on how it makes the "feel" and ignore the facts even when they are made abundantly clear.

Sandra said...

So mike stuart are you more civilized like or savage like?

Mike Stuart said...


Good question!

My Blink reflex is that I am more civilized, but a gut-check tells me that it depends upon the situation. I eat pizza and fried chicken with my hands. Does that count against me?

I can be both, but for the most part, I'm more civilized than savage.

Thanks for the smile! ;-)

Kit P said...

POV = private owned vehicle
POS = piece of dung
PU = pick up truck
LCA = life cycle analysis
RCA = root cause analysis
EV = electric vehicle
EEV = elsewhere emission vehicle

Mike, I do not know about West Virginia but in eastern Virgina; if every POS PU was converted to EVs the good air quality would stay good. Thus there will be no impact. In Los Angeles if every POS PU was converted to EVs the bad air quality would get better. Thus there will be a positive impact. However, in both cases the EVs would be EEVs resulting in emissions from coal plants in other states.

Put simple, emissions are only pollution if you are above a threshold of harm.

Safety standards for public are based on mitigating a hazard so that the risk is insignificant. For coal plants, the total of all cumulative risk from emissions must less than one in a million. For a coal plant 75% of the off site risk comes from radiation. Standards for nuke plants have a similar bases for normal operation. While it is true that many nukes are several orders of magnitude below the standard for release limits in actual performance, debating safer is a slippery slope. The generation of electricity in the US cause no harm to the public. Harmless is harmless, why debate statistics that public does not understand.

Industrial safety standards are the same nuke and coal plants. There is a MOU (memorandum of understanding) between OHSA and the NRC so that generally, the NRC enforces OSHA standards. For example, the hydrogen seal oil system must be designed to the same process safety standards at at power plants with hydrogen cooled generators. However, the waste gas system has both NRC design requirements for off site dose which would also meet OSHA process safety standards.

Finally, there is a difference between standards and goals. I am not sure what Mike means by stricter. Depending on the work environment, there may be more risk.

Kelly L Taylor said...

Industrial safety goals relate to mishaps with the potential to cause physical injury, and are common to any industrial facility that measures or tracks them. OSHA has a VPP program of extraordinary safety records and attitudes for any facility that chooses to try and achieve it (not just nuclear, and not just power stations):

But that's an example of a stretch goal and not a government standard. A utility with many types of power stations will nearly always have stricter goals for industrial safety imposed on a nuclear plant than for any other type of facility.

When was the last time you heard about a transformer fire shutting down a coal or oil or natural gas plant? Or a malfunction in such a plant that put an employee in the hospital? Other power sources don't have perfect safety records, but they don't make news the way a comparable event at a nuclear station would.

As a result of stricter industrial safety expectations, the nuclear station is a safer place to be employed. Fewer injuries, fewer accidents, fewer malfunctions, fewer chances taken by cutting corners, and more news.

Mike Stuart said...

Kit P,

Ok. Let't disassemble my statement and examine it one piece at a time.


I base this on life-cycle emissions per megawatt-hour produced. Life-cycle analyses that I am familiar with put nuclear on par with hydro for emissions. Ask me for citations if necessary.

I also qualified it with "large scale" production, when I would probably have been more accurate to say "base load."

With that said, will you grant me that nuclear is the cleanest?

If not, then what currently scalable technology is cleaner than nuclear for baseload power generation?

Kit P said...

“With that said, will you grant me that nuclear is the cleanest?

Interesting trap Mike. Do you like to set traps to win an argument? The problem with your trap is the anti-nukes play the same game. This is why it is difficult to deal with folks who insist on being civil when you profoundly disagree.

He is as response from a journalist this week to a comments I made, “because your igorance is shocking.”

So Mike, am trying to expand the way you think, not argue with you.

The correct answer Mike question is that coal and nuke plants are both clean enough. Both meet standards. At this time there is not a standard for greenhouse gas (ghg).

When you are using a systematic approaches like LCA and RCA is is important to carefully define the task. Why do we build power plants? To make electricity. Both coal and nuke plants do a very good job of meeting our customers needs.

All things being equal, nukes are very low in ghg. Anyone know what the carpel tunnel syndrome rates are at nuke plants versus coal plants. I am not trying to trivialize safety or environmental issues, the real problems is building both nuke and coal power plants fast enough to keep up with demand and aging power plants going off line.

We need to keep saying over and over that electricity generating protects the public 100% of the time. We are safe and clean. Brag about how good we are group, not how better. One task, to supply a reliable source of electricity, many good choices.

Thought for Food said...

Kit, I like reading your perspective. It provokes me to think. At least twice in this thread, you have...implied distaste for a civility standard. "I have a problem with being civil with some folks." and "This is why it is difficult to deal with folks who insist on being civil when you profoundly disagree."

I am intrigued...What alternative to civility would you prefer, and why?

My viewpoint is this - I am intrigued to investigate the merits of your viewpoint expressly *because* you state it and advocate it with civility. So, what alternative would you prefer? I wonder if your alternative would be, for me, less thought-provoking and therefore less interesting.

Kit P said...

Well Food, I did not intend to imply that civil debate is not my first choice. When out industry is accused of killing people, no matter how nice it is said; it is just not civil no matter how big the words. Often the response to suggesting that electricity generating industry protects the public 100% of the time, is to be called a liar and a puppet.

The problem is how do you deal with folks who do not know how to have a civil conversation? The problem come when civility is one sided and part of civility is refraining from repeating gossip. How often do we hear how dirty coal is or how dangerous radiation is?

It is relatively easy on the internet to get to the base documents and find out both sides of an issue.

For example, politicians frequently bend the truth. A study from a state with a democratic governor said a few fish had higher levels mercury. The source of the mercury was legacy paper and smelting industry, not coal. The state issues a warning to pregnant women about eating fish.

The CDC issues a report that random samples find a small number of young women and children above the criteria to stop random sampling but below the threshold of harm. This very good news gets distorted and a fear mongering press goes into high gear.

The root cause of all these provocative claims is the debate about regulating mercury. Both sides propose regulation that is not very far apart in practical terms. After a few more years of bickering, legislation is passed and signed. Then anti-coal groups challenge in court further delaying regulations to reduce mercury.

After more than 15 years of public debate on regulating coal plant mercury emissions, I could see why Food might be concerned about the amount of mercury in the diet of children. If Food and I have a civil debate, Food might become less concerned or I might become more concerned.

The obvious benefit of civil debate is that the parties can agree on good solutions. However, surrendering the field to fear mongers ensures that good solutions will not be heard.

Mike Stuart said...


Thank you for not trying to argue with me, and thank you for helping me expand the way I think. In all sincerity, I appreciate that.

You seemed to take issue over my claim that nuclear was cleaner. I simply provided a context in which I made my claim, not a trap for an argument. I expect the same from anyone who will make claims, such as nuclear power is "dangerous" or "expensive" or "polluting". What I have found is that when I ask for antis to prove these statements, it's almost always based on an emotional opposition to all-things-nuclear, with hardly any basis in fact. These aren't "traps," they're "ground rules."

You're right, Kit. There are many choices, but the right choice depends upon what the electrical source is expected to do. If it's purpose is to compensate for rapidly changing demand, then gas and oil are the best bets. If it's baseload, then nuclear and coal. If it's low-emission, offset power, then it can be wind.

But as environmental regulations become more strict and IF these regulations eventually include GHG (which is likely), THEN nuclear is likely to be the best option for baseload.

Your patience is appreciated, Kit. I still don't get the "uncivil" option for debate, but I'll stay out of that thread and pay attention to what you have to say about it. I'm a big fan of learning.

Thought for Food said...

"The problem is how do you deal with folks who do not know how to have a civil conversation?"

I make it a habit not to roll in the mud with pigs. It gets me all dirty, and the pigs just enjoy it.

Long long long ago I came to the realization there is no point in arguing with unreasonable people. They cannot tell (or refuse to admit) when you have the better argument - that's what makes them unreasonable.

If a civil discourse is impossible, then 'no discourse' is the alternative, in my book. Beating my head against a wall is not making progress, no matter how well aimed my blows might be!

There is one caveat to that conclusion, however - which you have so ably demonstrated. When you cannot convince an unreasonable opponent, you may be able to persuade the attentive, undecided audience. Had the owner of this blog not been so open-minded to give thought to your points, yet still perhaps I as an onlooker might have agreed with you instead. And THAT is the biggest benefit of maintaining civil discourse, even when the opposition abandons it. Stay true to yourself instead of wallowing in the fear-mongering, and people will notice. When the facts are on your side, you can be emotional about a topic without using that emotion as the primary weight of your argument.

Thanks for your answer, Kit!

Anonymous said...

Sometimes the person who is called unreasonable is actually correct. Sometimes it isn't popular to be correct. Sometimes the person who is correct ends up getting crucified by all the right (I mean left) thinking people.

Take for example the infanticide of the unborn. Murder is wrong. But people want the right to choose. Choice comes BEFORE having sex, not after. You're not a wild animal. So don't act like one. Use your brains. If you don't want a baby, then say NO to sex. It's that simple.

But then again, all the right (er, I mean left) thinking people say othewise in their abdication of responsibility and evasion of accountability. Obama did this when asked at the Saddleback interviews when life starts. He said "above my pay grade". Well the guy above his paygrade - God Almighty - has already decided.

Sometimes right is simply right and all the left thinking people are wrong, pure and simple. Sure, be nice to them. But I'll be darned if I ingratiate myself with baby murderers.

Look at Sarah Palin. The liberal media can't say one good word about her. Instead of murdering her unborn baby with Down's Syndrome as doctors advised, she gave birth. And yes, her daughter Bristol sinned in having committed fornication (that's what sex before marriage is). But Bristol and her boyfriend are stepping up to the plate, carrying the baby to term and making plans for marriage. If she were Obama's daughter, then the baby would have been murdered. Sarah and her family show responsibility. There is nothing but irresponsibility in Obama and his campaign.

And you want me to be civil to baby murderers?

Yes, God loves the sinner, but He hates sin. And the wages of sin are death, but the gift of God eternal life through His Son Jesus Christ. Now that's the truth. Don't like it? Too bad. Jesus wins at the end of the story. Not Obama. Not Biden. Not the baby murderers. And we all will have to stand before the judgment seat of God Himself to give an accounting of our deeds. I have a hard enough time standing in my own two shoes and answering for what I have done and what I have left undone. I can't imagine what it will be like to be a supporter of baby murdering such as Obama or Biden or Kerry or Kennedy or Pelosi.

Indeed, I like how nice Jesus was to the corrupt money changers in the Temple. Or how St. John warned Jezebel in Revelation chapter 2. Or what happened to those kids that teased Elisha about his bald spot - God sent a bear who tore them all apart.

Get it now - the wages of sin are death. And sin is still sin.

Anonymouse said...

I agree with much of what you are saying Anonymous. But why do I cringe at the delivery?

Proverbs 15:1 A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.

Jesus teaches that we are to love our enemies, do good to those that hate us, and bless those that curse us.

I'm not sure what his reasoning was for whipping the money changers, but the rest of his ministry is peaceful and civil.

Maybe you're right. Maybe we should use the words "infanticide" and "baby murderers" but for some reason, I don't think it will win many to our cause and will only serve to marginalize the pro-life movement.

What about the rare cases of profound brain damage to the unborn? What about young girls who are raped?

But even more importantly: What do you say to the families who must choose between the life of the mother and that of the child? Shouldn't the family have some say in those rare and painful circumstances?

memeticist said...

Dearest Mike:

Just read a good report from the folx at RMI (that would be those pro-profit, non-partisan, energy experts who consult with power utilities for a living).

Wonder if you had a counter arguments.

Your mostly civil friend

Paxus in Am*dam
22 Falling Leaves 2K8

Mike Stuart said...


Thank you for taking the time and effort to engage in some discussion over the issue. I am under the delusion that I am a reasonable person, and your willingness to talk to me supports my delusion for now, so thanks.

Now, to address your comments.

I have taken a quick look at Amory Lovins' report to get the gist of it. It would take me a while to familiarize myself enough with all of the details to provide a point by point counter-argument (or even agreement, if the data leads me there). If you really are interested, then I'd be willing to take some time and do just that, but I'd like to see some willingness on your part as well.

There is very little research required here. All you have to do is answer just a couple of questions and we're on our way. To that end, let's just keep it as simple as we can and go from there.

Amory Lovins seems to focus heavily on a cost analysis of nuclear. One way to test his forecast is to compare it to real-world data. So, is there a country that has heavily invested in nuclear technology to provide a significant portion of their country's energy needs? Yes. It's France. Compared to the US, it's a relatively small country with a relatively small economy.

If Amory Lovins is correct, then France's investment in 50+ reactors to provide ~80% of the country's electricity would have been and continue to be a financial disaster. So here are my questions:

Is the state of the French economy consistent with Amory Lovins' predictions?

The French economy doesn't exist independently of the French citizens. Therefore, are the people of France suffering economically? What is the standard of living in France? How do they offset the tremendous financial burden that must have been incurred by massive investment in nuclear technology?

Paxus, you and I can crunch numbers and cherry pick data to support or oppose whatever hypothesis we propose. But we can't argue with real world data. If Amory Lovins is correct, then the emperical data should support it.

From my perspective, the French economy and standard of living does not support Amory Lovins' conclusions; therefore, it would appear that his report is faulty.

Skip the number crunching for now. Can you please give me just a gut reaction of why you think the French aren't in an economic collapse and their citizens aren't destitute from their decision to go 80% nuclear?

memeticist said...

Dearest Mike:

Sure, lets talk about France. I am in Europe now, i am working with some folx who are quite familiar with the French experience and i will gather some data and get back to you.

What i do know is this. For decades the French nuclear program was not supported with private money, it was a state driven operation. EdF while technically an independent company had to be bailed out by the government numerous times and for most of the 80s and 90s wa sa the most in debt corporation in the world. $30 billion in the mid 90s. Things have gotten better for EdF since then.

What Lovins points out is that there is no private capital going into nuclear power. In 2007 it was $0 and contrasted with $71 billion for renewables (excluding big hydro) world wide.

Are you suggesting the US become a socialist country (or at least adopt socialist practices) so that we can have nukes?

My guess is the answer to this is "no", but i should get your views.

I dont consider myself a reasonable person. A reasonable person would not have made a number of the choices i have made. But i am happy to have a polite dialog with you - we will both likely learn something and i respect your willingness to put aside the abusive or dismissive language i often find with nuclear advocates.

And i am wondering, should we do this in a forum which is more appropriate than our respective blogs? And open to all comers. I think you and i both think we are right, but it seems we are both willing to listen. Perhaps that, plus a commitment to civility could be the framing agreement to a conversation which would be edifying to our colleagues and others. I will look into a format which would work - i assume you are willing.

One last point about France. Avera is the replacement for Framatome and (as you certainly know) is building EPR reactors in Finland and France. The Loviisa 5 project was started in 2005, they have not even gotten to the most tricky part of the construction yet and completion is already 3 years delayed and it is already over $2 billion over budget.

This was supposed to be the flagship for the new 3rd generation reactors. This was the big multi-country, joint venture, creatively financed, fixed cost project. Siemens is furious that they are having to put hundreds of millions of Euros into the cost overruns and is considering pullig out of the joint venture.

Similar problems (overruns and delays)
are happening in France with their EPR.

The US government chooses to waste our taxes on expensive wars, the French government chooses expensive nukes. I am not sure this is the model i would like us to be following.

As always your thoughts are appreciated.

Paxus in Am*dam
25 Falling Leaves 2K8

ps i appreciate you mimiced my format
i should tell you that Falling Leaves is the rough English translation for the Czech word for October (or perhaps it is November) so this is a date format. I worked for some years in the Czech Republic against the Westinghouse Temelin reactor complex there. Another hugely expensive, delay, overrun reactor project.

memeticist said...

i just put a proposal up on my blog that we work together on a website showing both sides of the nuclear debate. i hope you will consider this offer seriously.