Um… what the hell is a “Carbonless Energy Park”…?

I was recently forwarded a copy of HB 2002, entitled “An act relating to the generation of electricity in carbonless energy parks,” and while I generally find myself in the pro-parks/anti-carbon camp, I was intrigued enough by the title to read on.  So what is, according to this bill, a carbonless energy park?

(b) “Carbonless energy park” means an unfinished site for a nuclear power project that is located east of the crest of the Cascade mountains and is partially or wholly developed to generate electricity with a production capacity of not less than 10 megawatts;

In other words, this bill specifically refers to the four unfinished nuclear plants left mothballed from the costly WPPSS fiasco.

Huh.  Sounds to me like a “carbonless energy park” is in fact a nuclear power project, as I’m not sure what other carbonless, 10 megawatt-plus generating technologies could possibly be crammed on these four specific sites?  I’m guessing none, but I’ve emailed a handful of legislators asking for further explanation, just in case I’m wrong.

Now, I want to be clear:  I’m a technologist at heart, so I break with some of my fellow environmentalists in automatically rejecting nuclear energy as a viable alternative, especially now that greenhouse gas emissions have been recognized as our most pressing environmental threat.  I believe that nuclear power plants can be designed, built and operated to be both safe and economical, and as soon as I’m persuaded we have an equally safe, economical and secure means of transporting and disposing of their radioactive waste, I’m more than willing to consider construction based on next generation designs.

But dubbing these sites “carbonless energy parks”…?  That’s not an effort to persuade; that’s an effort to deceive.

There are strong arguments to be made for reviving the domestic nuclear power industry—they may not be strong enough to sway public opinion, especially here in sandal-wearing, granola-crunching WA state, but they are valid arguments nonetheless.  So if paving the way for restarting construction at the former WPPSS sites is indeed the goal of HB 2002’s sponsors, let them make their best case possible, rather than hiding their motives behind bullshit, pseudo-green Orwellian language like “carbonless energy parks.”


  1. 1

    YLB spews:

    I’m getting more and more intrigued with the idea of molten salt reactors which are pretty cheap to build in concept, highly safe, highly efficient, very proliferation resistant and can burn the entire inventory of nuclear waste out there AFAIK.

    The devil’s in the details of course but the biggest stumbling block I can see so far is that the fuel is just too damn cheap. The nuke industry makes most of its profit from building fuel assemblies. I saw one guy speculate that it may take oil or chemical companies to bring them to market.

  2. 2

    ArtFart spews:

    If we build more nuclear plants based on the (apparently successful) standardized French design, will we have to mollify the yellow-ribbon-sticker crowd by calling them “freedom plants”?

  3. 3

    slingshot spews:

    “safe, economical and secure means of transporting and disposing of their radioactive waste”

    Good luck with that.

  4. 4


    @1 Sodium Cooled (liquid Metal).

    Goldy, given that Columbia Station here at Hanford is putting out 1000mw or so, that language referencing >10mw could mean something else completely. Such as small self contained reactors producing power for supplemental and/or alternate uses. So it might not be that sinister. Maybe.

    Also, there is some pretty cool work going on with reprocessing. Might make our sandal wearing, granola crunching pals on the wet side think about it.

  5. 6

    kirk91 spews:

    Thought reprocessed spent fuel was easier to make a bomb with? Then there’s protection from terror attacks, earthquakes, incompetence and so on….just doesn’t make sense, even if you consider your religious slant toward technology.

  6. 7

    Charon spews:

    Last I checked there wasn’t enough fuel for fission reactors to supply a large amount of the world’s electricity needs for any substantial amount of time (much longer than a decade). Granted, last I checked was about 6 years ago, but I don’t think that’s changed.

    I’m a physicist, so I don’t get shivers when I hear the word “nuclear”, but the waste products are nasty. It may not be viable, but we should put a fair amount of resources into fusion research. Fission’s not good.

  7. 8

    EvergreenRailfan spews:

    4)I have been following the efforts off and on about Energy Northwest and Columbia Generating Station. It works good, and it is good for drought mitigation when the river levels in the Northwest are not that great, as long as there is some water in the Columbia River(for the cooling tower). ENW’s website is pretty secretive, when it comes to outages. They announce when CGS goes down for either safety-related issues or the routine(now every 2 year) refueling and maintenance outages. Energy Northwest has ventured into WInd, Solar, and other energy fields, but nothing comes close yet to what CGS puts out. Over the past few years there has been talk about restarting construction on plant 1, which is 2/3 complete, and I heard a rumor last year they were talking about going back into nuclear power, as in new plants, but that was on Northwest Public Radio. The technology has got better, and one of the companies pushing their newer designs for NRC review is the major French Nuclear Reactor producer.;SYNC=Y

    Also, I wonder if it is possible for the Centralia Coal Plant to try out the Algae to Biofuel market. Use the land that the strip mines once occupied.(They get all the coal from Wyoming now). I am a firm believer in Electric Transportation(mainly rail and buses, but the Plug-In Hybrid Concept is gaining ground) and the power has to come from somewhere, and I prefer clean sources. Hydro worked for awhile, and I would like to see Puget Sound’s Tidal Power tapped, within reason though. So many industries rely on Puget Sound, that there has to be a balanced approach. The Orca Whale is endangered, but we have whale watching boats out there(doing more harm than good at times by getting too close), and I am sure that many of those are coming from out of state. We got the fishing industry, and the ports. So I am not saying tap all the tides, just some. Plus, a balanced energy portfolio gives one alternative. If there is other generating resources running at the time, might be able to shut down the tidal/wave energy turbines as the whales pass by.

    Also, I saw a piece on Global British Columbia, once again somebody is proposing a bridge across the Georgia Strait to Vancouver Island, and the talk is to use tidal turbines to pay for it. It sounds like the same thing I remember being proposed as they were first talking about tolls on the Tacoma Narrows Bridge.

  8. 10

    YLB spews:

    but the waste products are nasty. It may not be viable, but we should put a fair amount of resources into fusion research. Fission’s not good.

    Check out the presentation I linked to at 9. It may be too good to be true. I’ve never liked nukes because of the nasty waste, the weapons proliferation risks and the huge costs to build them but these MSRs seem to obviate all those concerns to a degree I can live with. With Antarctica melting faster than ever, we need these things NOW!

  9. 11

    cyrano spews:

    I LOVE it! And no political party has a superior claim to the art of re-naming for deceptive purposes, though the Bush administration took it to greater heights than I had previously thought possible.

    When, exactly, did the new pleasant-sounding re-naming take place, and who is responsible?

  10. 13

    ArtFart spews:

    6/7 The part of the waste from a uranium fission reactor that’s “easy to make a bomb out of” is plutonium. This can also be used as reactor fuel.

    It’s always been my impression that if someone wanted to swipe some plute to do something nefarious with it, the place that would be hardest to swipe it from would be inside a running reactor. That there’s a place that’s rather incompatible with staying alive.

  11. 14

    YLB spews:

    13 – Any plutonium that’s formed inside a Th-U MSR core is of very low quality and because the salt is at something like 500 C very difficult to extract.

  12. 18

    Tlazolteotl spews:

    I’m just a chemist, not a physicist, but molten salt sounds caustic as all hell. The wiki article doesn’t say how that is contained for any length of time, and corrosion has been a major safety issue at nuclear plants of all designs I know of.

    I agree in principle that if it can be done and is practical, we really have to do it at least as a stopgap, because once there is too much CO2 in the oceans you can kiss a lot of the world’s biological productivity (that means food for you and me) goodbye.

  13. 19

    spyder spews:

    I am also a bit baffled by the semiotic. It would seem that by definition a carbon-less energy park would have zero carbon life forms (such as plants, trees, people etc.). Also i am mystified how such a project could be constructed without carbon use, CO2 emissions, et al?? But hey, if George Will can get Fred Hiatt to claim that GW has the absolute right to tell lies (well his solipsistic version of what he believes to be true based on his perception of what he reads again predicated by his own solipsism), and that we as shame-filled ignorant be damned for suggesting that maybe facts might actually be facts, then calling a nuclear power plant a carbon-less energy park is perfectly reasonable.

  14. 20

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    I don’t think nuclear power plants should be built unless the government runs them. Private companies have demonstrated they’re neither competent nor trustworthy.

  15. 21

    YLB spews:

    20 – They are run by the government to a great extent. The NRC watches them like a hawk and the safety record since TMI has been good.

    However I just hate PWR, BWR, CANDU – expensive, nasty waste, inefficient fuel cycle. The MSR is none of that. But the NRC should regulate them vigorously just the same.

    18 – All you ever wanted to know about energy from thorium:

  16. 22

    EvergreenRailfan spews:

    Plant 1 at Hanford is producing some Solar Electricity, but not what Plant 1 could theoretically produce, and some of the electrical transmission equipment for the plant is used by the solar plant. As for Plant 1, did they ever install the reactor before construction was halted? Just wondering, because WPPSS used three manufacturers for the scheme, 2 plants from Babcock and Wilcox, 2 from Combustion Engineering, and 1 from GE. The latter is Plant 2. I am not sure if it was Satsop or Hanford 1 that was going to be Babcock and Wilcox, but the latter is the one that built TMI, I believe. Although the safest operating reactor since the meltdown is the other reactor at Three Mile Island.

    Also, I noticed one of the sponsors represents the 8th Legislative District, which includes Hanford.

  17. 23

    Richard Pope spews:

    Tlazolteotl @ 18

    I believe the reactor is MOLTEN SODIUM, not MOLTEN SODIUM CHLORIDE. There is quite a difference in melting points. Na melts at 97.72 C, while NaCl melts at 801 C. Since Na boils at 883 C, there is quite a permissible temperature range for molten sodium. Which offers a lot more flexibility than plain H2O, which tends to end up superheated under extremely high pressure to remain liquid as the nuclear reactor temperature is a decent bit over 100 C in water cooled reactors.

    You are probably correct that molten NaCl would be highly corrosive. No such problem with molten Na. Of course, you have to keep Na away from air, water or any other source of oxidation, but it would be a sealed system with just molten Na in there.

  18. 24

    YLB spews:

    23,18: I’ve heard Na being talked about in some designs but the design that’s getting the buzz uses salts of Flourine. From the thorium energy website:

    The unique attributes of the liquid-fluoride reactor are a consequence of its fuel form. Salts of fluorine and alkali metals are exceptionally stable since they are formed from the most electronegative of elements (fluorine) and the most electropositive (lithium, beryllium, sodium). Due to their exceptional chemical stability, these fluoride salts have low vapor pressures at high temperature (enabling high temperature operation at low pressure) and they do not react with air or water, unlike molten metal coolants such as sodium. The favored combination for a neutronically-efficient liquid-fluoride reactor is a combination of lithium fluoride (highly enriched in the lithium-7 isotope) and beryllium fluoride. Through a proper ratio of these two salts, a solvent with a low melting point can be constructed. The minimum melting temperature of these salts is achieved when a composition of 52 mole % LiF and 48 mole % BeF2 is used. This combination will melt at 356°C. Typical compositions of base salts that have been used in liquid-fluoride reactors are 66 mole % LiF and 34 mole % BeF2.

  19. 27

    YLB spews:

    26 – I like wind but it’s problematic in many ways.

    This very astute engineer likes a hybrid of wind and nuclear with IFR’s or LFTRs/MSRs.

    Realistically if a crash program to produce a licensable design for an LFTR was started now, we’d could see France-style deployment in 2020.

    So yes, until then we should keep building wind and even beyond.