Mark Nelson is the managing director of the Radiant Energy Fund, which advises non-profits and industry groups about nuclear energy. Robert talks to Nelson about the “funeral” held last Friday in Buchanan, New York to mark the closure of the Indian Point Energy Center, why there was “a feeling of moral outrage” at that gathering, and why electricity prices in states like California are “absolutely exploding.”
Robert Bryce 0:04
Hi, and welcome to the power hungry podcast. I’m Robert Bryce. On this podcast we talk about energy, power, innovation and politics. And this week, we’re talking about the closure of Indian Point. This is Indian Point blackout week and my first guest for Indian Point blackout week is Mark Nelson. Mark, welcome to the power hungry podcast. Hey, Thanks, Robert. Now, I didn’t give your title. So as I warned you, I’m gonna have you introduce yourself. If you don’t mind. Magic just arrived at a dinner party and you’re sitting down and people ask you who are you give us 30 or 45 seconds at a dinner party.
Mark Nelson 0:41
It’s a long story. What do you do? Okay, but for for for this dinner party. I’m the Founder and Managing Director of radiant energy Fund, which is a group dedicated to saving and expanding nuclear energy and AI advising consult for NGOs and industry.
Robert Bryce 1:01
Got it? So you were in Buchanan, New York last Friday and last Friday Indian Point in Energy Center, the twin reactor facility the last unit unit three at Indian Point was shuttered for the for the final timer to shut down for the final time. You were in Buchanan, New York with stand up for nuclear group that was there to protest the closure. What What was it like in Buchanan and why did you go?
Unknown Speaker 1:29
Mark Nelson 1:32
you can is right there on the Hudson. There’s a reason why it’s a it’s a geographical and environmental area that has inspired hundreds of years of painters and nature lovers to explore it that got to be one of the most beautiful areas I’ve been to in the United States. That it was a it was a beautiful day, a lot of birds, geese, ducks, a lot of sunlight, clouds, thick, puffy clouds, interspersed with piercing blue sky. There were little rain showers. You know that sort of the beams of sun coming in after that perfect weather for a funeral. I’ve never felt anything so much like standing vigil over a dying. family member. family member? Yeah, family member. So I was out there with other colleagues of mine in the in the nuclear protection movement, shall we say. And we we needed something big enough to show the harm that was being done because they’re the local politicians, local mayor, we’re holding an event, sort of a kiss off event, we weren’t quite sure what the mood or angle would be. And we didn’t want to step on toes. But we decided to be important to put out one plastic hardhat yellow hardhat attached to this fits that we that was used as a backdrop. And we put 1000 up there to represent 1000 permanent jobs that are about to be lost. We put up a few of our banners. Normally we use our banners to raise awareness of a local plant or to help push to save it or to get support. But in this case, it was putting up banners to say thank you, the people who are about to have their lives up ended and destroyed.
Robert Bryce 3:23
So we talked about this before we started recording and the closure in the endpoint affected me. I wasn’t I wasn’t expecting how it affected me. Because, you know, I wrote about it in my in my book in a question of power. I you know, Entergy hosted me Jerry nappy and his team hosted me at Indian Point and the film crew for juice in 2018. It was just a remarkable plant. I mean, just an amazing bunch of technology that was put together provides a quarter of the electricity in New York City. And on Saturday on Friday, I felt bad on Saturday, I was mad. I was sad. I was just, you know, kind of dumbfounded that this such an important piece of infrastructure for the city of New York was shuttered this way. And I know you know, these stories are complex. But let me ask you so well, first, how many people then were at this event in Buchanan on Friday afternoon?
Mark Nelson 4:18
Well, there seemed to be about seven or eight different news channels or outlets covering in terms of folks who worked at the plant, there were several dozen in terms of local politicians. There’s about a dozen heavy union presidents fire trucks came out there with big banners that put a fire engine right there on the media and of the road and big banner that says thank you so much for all the years um, you know, this is a complicated thing, but there were a lot of signs thanking energy. You can read that in different ways. One we heard during the speeches, just that energy has been an incredible supportive, just bounty of resources for decades huge shouting, making sure that all the unions have absolutely filled out a printed search program. So, anyway, we were we were, you know, happy to see that there were about, probably about a dozen Entergy employees past and present there. So I’d say those of us volunteers of us of us folks in the movement there was probably about
Robert Bryce 5:25
so dozens. And you described it as a funeral that didn’t have that feeling like a week like a rosary in the Catholic church or a funeral for that. Was that a death? That wasn’t an unnecessary death? How do you describe it?
Mark Nelson 5:40
I have some firsthand experience with unnecessary and early deaths that it felt exactly like it felt exactly when you when you have a plant a nuclear plant, you have something that can last 80 years, a century right. At the moment, at the moment, the upper end of the lifespan is about like the upper end of the lifespan of a human okay.
Robert Bryce 6:00
Was this 70 or 80 years something like that, if
Mark Nelson 6:02
you have an early death, an early death you can have grade school teachers go to a funeral of a young adult that they had as a first grader you can have the teachers that had somebody as a as a toddler in their class and they can go to the funeral and there it doesn’t feel like an event of a funeral or wait for somebody whose life was well lived. And that’s what this felt like. And the mood the mood started
Robert Bryce 6:30
life cut short.
Mark Nelson 6:33
A live cut short and and i’ll i’ll take on anyone who thinks I’m being melodramatic because again, I have first hand experience with these things. And it all the notes were there. There were people where the speech started kind of comforting. And then a bit of anger, a bit of shaky voice started taking over. There was a increasing feeling as the speeches went on a moral outrage, where we were basically able to immediately see which of the local politicians has is directly within the patronage network of the of the governor because they were trying to get the mic, Scott and everything.
Robert Bryce 7:11
described that though, I had heard something about that, that there was attempts because any criticism of the governor was not to be allowed.
Mark Nelson 7:18
I mean, look, it was a personal vendetta. Obviously, there were other people that had to help him close the plant, but it was a deep personal family like thing for a while medic kill that plant. It’s not clear whether it has any actual fear of nuclear. I don’t think he fears much of anything. It’s just like, his dad killed one reactor and he wanted to kill two. And that’s what I’ve heard from people who know them both extremely well, is that well, I’m okuma
Robert Bryce 7:44
famously close the Shoreham plant on Long Island before it ever opened.
Mark Nelson 7:48
But that was just that was just one reactor.
Robert Bryce 7:50
But it closed before it was ever opened in Long Island ratepayers are still paying for that, as I understand it now because of the debt that was incurred. And so anyway, but Well, let me ask the question directly, because you were talking about the cromoz. But you’re saying that this was a vendetta that the governor had against nuclear energy as a whole?
Unknown Speaker 8:08
Mark Nelson 8:11
Or he would have probably or it’s not, it seems like that’s probably not the case or the deal to save the Upstate plants wouldn’t have required the killing of any like, it’s just, he wanted it that and he wanted to outdo his father, and his father killed one reactor and he got to, so he beat his dad score by by 100%.
Robert Bryce 8:34
Okay, so surely the governor isn’t acting alone here. Who else? I mean, who know there. There’s responsibility for the closure of this plant? Why was it
Unknown Speaker 8:44
probably the most powerful to
Unknown Speaker 8:47
apologize for interrupting?
Robert Bryce 8:48
who bears responsibility for the closure of Indian Point?
Mark Nelson 8:51
Probably the most powerful two entities that whose cause was taken up and completed by Governor uomo was NRDC, the Natural Resources Defense Council, which emerged in the first place out of an attempt to deny downstate cities like New York City. Grid storage. That’s one of the funniest things whenever you see a group like NRDC, and they’re like, Oh, we need grid storage and you’re like, ah, not really right? Because NRDC was founded to fight storm King what was going to be an essentially invisible, an invisible pump storage system that by itself, with Indian Point would provide one of the most powerful energy security systems for a major metropolitan city any where on the planet, because it would have been depending on how big they eventually made it like a gig water to have extra power and depending on how big they made the the reservoirs could have been as much as like, you know, several hours of storage. In other words, an amount of storage that’s like, billions of dollars if you could even get it done right today. And NRDC found founded itself on the suburban land owners and mansion owners that emerged to fight and kill that project. Initially, they were trying to see Hey, why don’t you build an extra nuclear plant instead of a storage just to show how far the discourse has gone by the by the end of that fight against storm came successful fight against storm King mountain storage, they had decided that nuclear was bad too. So out of that entity comes the NRDC as we know it with nine digits of revenue and mints, immense financial resources, and NRDC leaders get to be at near the top of, of Democratic administrations. So it’s like, if you are a young admin person that wants to be in the NGO like democratically aligned space, if you go to energy, see and rise up and do well, you can be like a presidential right hand, man or woman. And so there’s this real sense of power, and they did come out of denying clean energy, that’s always been their fundamental thing. If the clean energy is grid storage, like storm King or nuclear, they’re gonna try to kill it. Everything else like carbon or pollution, it’s all secondary. All of it are second tier goals compared to the primary goals. Now, you know, when I went out
Robert Bryce 11:08
to start my professional mind, just for a second, because I wanted backup, so everyone that people are listening, understand, storm King was going to be a pumped hydro storage facility in New York. William Tucker wrote a I guess, of the definitive piece on the history of storm King and how it was killed. And we’re talking about the 1970s. Right, is that mid mid 70s. Right. Yeah. So So what is interesting to me, and just to follow on your point about the natural resource Defense Council was that I noted and I wrote a piece, a very short blog piece, and I mentioned it in my Forbes piece that was published on Thursday night, that there was no mention by President Biden last Wednesday, during his address to the joint session of Congress Not a word about nuclear energy, talking about the climate crisis, but not a word about nuclear energy, nuclear weapons, nuclear proliferation, North Korea, it’s shout out to wind energy shout out to electric vehicles, that no mention of nuclear and I thought about this later, and maybe I’m just slow to the game. His senior climate advisor is Gina McCarthy and Gina McCarthy’s job before she was appointed, the Biden administration was the president and CEO of NRDC. Is this a coincidence that in nuclear is not being discussed now, when the Biden administration is telling us climate change is the most urgent issue we have to deal with. I just find this to be my piece in Forbes about cynicism. And I watched, I watched this and I thought, I can’t get cynical enough about this. It happens, it affected you.
Mark Nelson 12:35
Now, I’m an engineer, I grew up dreaming of building going to space building rockets and ships, I trained as an aerospace engineer before I went into nuclear and I went into nuclear because I was like, wow, we can build whole worlds. And I was that weird kid who was like, everybody else was playing with various stories. And at great kindergarten, I’m trying to build the biggest blocks, like with wooden blocks, trying to build a whole steady, make a little train that goes so I was always kind of a strange kid in the sense that I wanted to build. And I used to really hate that one kid who just would start paying more and more attention to what I was building. And then when I was big enough, they kick it over. Well, if you are good enough at kicking over the right structures, you are going to get promoted in the world if you are with that. I’m not saying the Soviets were right to use this word, but they had this word called a record. And that was their accusation. It’s anybody they said was destroying a factory or messing up a shipment of ball bearings or causing issues in constructing dams, they call them records because you’re destroying and you’re cutting your cat you’re destroying our industry. So there is promotion tracks and there are pathways for those who wreck the biggest most important things and unfortunately, it seems like depending on the administration records can go and get to the top I don’t know what what Gina McCarthy I don’t know her personally she may be a nice She’s a nice lady but she was in charge of an organization that delivered the destruction of not just Indian Point but they’re attempting delivered to the destruction of Diablo we know a lot more than is publicly available about Diablo
Robert Bryce 14:11
but you’re jumping ahead to California here which I’ll get to in a minute. Apologies.
Mark Nelson 14:16
Yeah, I’m a little closer to that.
Robert Bryce 14:17
Sure. You lived in California now living in Chicago, right even moved to Chicago recently. But you’re referring the Diablo Canyon nuclear plant in in California, San Luis Obispo County, right. That is slated for closure. Now in 2020.
Mark Nelson 14:31
NRDC is absolutely crucial in destroying that last large power plant in California. So it’s a it’s a it’s a top priority for their organization. Sure, from what from what we’ve heard.
Robert Bryce 14:42
But here’s the reason one of the reasons for my you know, my cynicism can’t keep up to quote Lily Tomlin is here you have two of the bluest states in America, New York, and California, heavily democratic, heavily. They’re led by politicians who say climate change is one of their first concerns and yet they’re killing it. Nuclear energy. Why?
Mark Nelson 15:03
Because they’re lying. They’re just, they’re just lying about the climate change.
Unknown Speaker 15:09
I mean, look,
Mark Nelson 15:09
I so lying is a strong word. Let me put it this way. One of the most unusual lines of attack on Michael Shellenberger is Apocalypse, never a book that I worked very hard on making sure that all the facts were good and that the history was right, and that we got the right research. It was a great honor to work on that book with Michael, one of the most interesting lines of attack where a bunch of people who said that it was wrong to say that Netherlands was a good example for countries like Bangladesh, because they’re both very low lying very densely populated countries that used to die in the hundreds of 1000s. Whenever there was a big flood, right, so 100,000, Dutch people would die in a flood, Bangladesh, a typhoon would come over 500,000 people would die, right? So in both countries, they’ve made it where in the Netherlands essentially, nobody ever dies of floods. And if you talk to the Dutch people, they’re like, yeah, climate change, we should do something about it. But they’re not panicked, even though they’re below sea level. So people said it’s wrong to say that Bangladesh should adapt, and that Bangladesh needs to stop having any power and stop building. But Bangladesh is actively reducing its danger from floods and building nuclear. Right. So that’s one of those criticisms of that book. Bring it back to the your direct question that shows that people who are saying that we can’t saw we can’t adapt to climate change, especially not the way countries are actually adapting to it. They really have this weird, anti human attitude, where they are self important, they’re probably upset, they’re probably unhappy. And they want the world to end in their own time. Because if the world Outlast them, it means that they weren’t that special.
Robert Bryce 16:56
So wait a minute. Now, you’ve lost me a little bit here, because you’re saying that this that the opposition to nuclear isn’t about climate change. It’s not about it’s about sales about a catastrophist mentality about the about the future,
Unknown Speaker 17:11
Robert Bryce 17:12
that’s the I mean, it’s a pretty broad, I’m gonna make it make it clear, you’re making some pretty broad statements about the intention of this group that is now got $100 million from the Bezos Earth fund. I mean, this is a powerful outfit. So it’s not
Mark Nelson 17:27
it’s not clear whether the earth fun does actually support any groups that have made any open statements about nuclear. I know, I knew at least in one case that some of the money for the earth fund is apparently going to a group that I do know some of the money my managers personally like nuclear and maybe help out with a little bit of it. But this is like several several branching trees down from the money pot right. In general, the earth fund money appeared to go to groups that are like NRDC who gloat openly gloat in their public communications with elite trained public communicators, communicating for them to multi 100,000 Twitter accounts openly gloat about the closure of plants. What I thought was interesting about NRDC is the power move of like, you know, hundreds of people are just wrecking them on their tweet gloating about the honor of killing Indian Point.
Robert Bryce 18:20
And Dave’s tweet that NRDC put out on Friday afternoon,
Unknown Speaker 18:23
they put it
Mark Nelson 18:24
out right, as the plant power was tailing off to zero, they said it has been an honor to work with our partners to Yeah, so
Unknown Speaker 18:31
the thing is
Robert Bryce 18:32
honored to work with our partners and fight against hydrocarbon fossil fuels.
Mark Nelson 18:35
Yeah, exactly. They’re not. They are openly saying you are angry at us on Twitter. We’re the ones with the hundreds of millions and funding coming in and our leaders at the top of the administration so you can dunk on our tweet, we literally don’t care enough to retract apologize. Clarify. No, no, that is they won that battle. They won that
Robert Bryce 19:00
NRDC just flexing their muscles that their critics,
Mark Nelson 19:03
because they also they also, they also hold the fate of Diablo canyon in their hands too.
Robert Bryce 19:09
Which is a critically important and this is one of the things that to me was such a remarkable thing. I mentioned it in the Forbes column that I wrote was after the California and Texas blackout. So there were a lot of lessons to be learned here, obviously, after both of them, but nuclear generation performed better than anything else during the blackouts. And if you’re going to if you’re interested in resilience, reliability, well, maybe the policymakers should take note. But yet this this premature closure, it seems to me it well, and I’ve written it and I’ll say it here, bad for resilience, bad for reliability, bad for grid security, and yet it happened to anyway, in arguably the most important city in terms of media in the United States. And yet, wherever the academic standing up for Indian Point, I didn’t see any of them saying oh, no, don’t close this. Instead, it was a lot of reports about we need more renewables and here’s our fancy model and this is how we do it. I mean, you If you’re looking for me to ask you questions, but I just I can’t be cynical enough about this because there’s one that can I help? Sure, please, you’re gonna make my son worse.
Mark Nelson 20:14
It’s always good to expand our abilities and capacities for emotion. Robert, if I can help you achieve new depths of cynicism, then maybe I’ve done?
Unknown Speaker 20:23
I don’t know, bring it Nelson
Mark Nelson 20:25
duty for the day. Right. So what the closure of Indian Point revealed to me, first of all, a bunch of people that had been kind of basically on the sidelines, or saying, Oh, it’s not my task to worry about existing nuclear or a bunch of people drop their masks. And behind that mask, sometimes we saw, oh, this person is angry, they do care. They didn’t do anything on time. They didn’t fight on it in time, whatever. They’re going to be allies in the future. For some people, they dropped their mask. And it’s apparent, they just literally thought that the problem with nuclear was nuclear bros and not like, incredibly powerful and rich organizations fixing anti democratically big thing, the fights behind the scenes, right. So it’s clear that we I’ve seen folks that have spent a career in renewables and renewables communications on Twitter, learning about this stuff for the first time, even though they’ve spent years insulting, laughing, making fun of any of us crazy nuclear people that claim that there’s a conspiracy against nuclear, they’re like, no, it just can’t compete. And then like, wait any endpoint? That seems weird what happened, and we’re like, oh, welcome to the fight. So what happened is, it was one of the true truly profitable nuclear plants in the US. And when it was apparent that it was gonna stay profitable. And it was apparent that it had every ability to keep operating only at that point was the fixed put in to kill the plant.
Robert Bryce 21:57
And the ability to continue operating is key because I mentioned it in juice. In the film, I talked about it in my book, The operating license had been extended, and then the potential operating life of the plant was decades more so this was a plant
Mark Nelson 22:11
we don’t even at this point, we don’t we literally don’t have an upper limit for the life of of Western pw hours of this era. We just literally don’t know how long it’s gonna last. I have to be careful. I don’t want to say a century as if they’re going to stop at a century. Certainly the NRC doesn’t think they’re going to stop at a century. We got to be ready for longer. But yeah, but I’m sorry, just to say all these different academics and researchers and energy people. It’s interesting to see which people are so cross invested against nuclear both professionally and probably financially. That they eat saying wrong, easily disprovable things about why the endpoint was shut down.
Robert Bryce 22:55
So let me interrupt for a moment. I just want to remind everyone I’m talking to mark Nelson. He’s the managing director at the radium Energy Fund. He’s on twitter at energy balance. That’s Banse. Ba MTS, he’s cringing just a little bit as I’m giving his Twitter handle but and also you can follow some of his work and his allies on twitter at stand up for nuclear and that is the numeral four stand up. numeral for nuclear. So radiant energy fund, you’re advising governments NGOs on a nuclear policy. But you went to Buchanan, just to bring back to why I wanted to talk to you on Friday, because it was important to be at the funeral that this this this because I want one of the reasons I want to do blackout weak on Indian point is that, to me, this should really be an inflection point and underscoring the lack of seriousness about climate change in America at this point is allowed to close. It just seems to me there’s really there’s a lack of seriousness and in in the discussion, Does that ring true to you? Because I just said it. My cynicism can’t keep up here. But was that why you wanted to be there? What was it compelled you to show up at the site?
Mark Nelson 24:09
I’ve been to two funerals in one week. One was the beloved mentor and Professor of mine at Oklahoma State University, who, over a teaching career of 60 years 60 years, and as a dean of engineering at Oklahoma State University set up the scholarship programs that sent me with my colleagues over to Japan to Tour Japan steel and the recycling facilities and to see to see the Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and have lunch in the boardroom with their CEO, like that kind of seriousness that he wanted to bring to engineering education. He also was instrumental in me turning to nuclear because he set up the scholarship program that sent me to grad school overseas, when I didn’t, quite frankly, would have never thought to do that. And that’s when I switched to nuclear. At that funeral. It was just clear that he had been such so serious about Giving us young engineers a sense of the ability to build long, build big, and building that just last, right. So five days later, I mean, I hadn’t even made the final decision to accompany my colleagues because you know, there’s, I should be praying, there’s not, there’s not a lot of, there’s not a lot of funding for saving nuclear plants. It’s kind of a weird thing. There’s a lot of, there’s a lot of help. If you want to invent new nuclear that doesn’t exist yet. Or you want to you want to fight nuclear, there’s unlimited funding and career paths, as long as you want to close nuclear. But there’s, it’s, we have to be careful with resources. So I went with my colleagues, because I just after that funeral of my, my professor, I just thought, I’ve got to go, I’ve got to be there was just an instinct, right? Because I knew they could handle handle it without me. And it was when I arrived at that event. I wasn’t thinking of it like a funeral, Robert, I arrived at that event. And everything started to feel so familiar. The people who showed up with a, you know, wrinkled skin and a mustache and said, I helped construct this. They constructed things that should have lasted to their grandchildren’s retirement. And there they are, to hear the speeches, the union locals who said, We trained so many apprentices and it brought in more, and now to talk to, to talk to the plant nurse who stopped by after everyone else was gone. She saw the final few helmets being taken off the fence. And she stopped by and she said, Thank you for doing this. And I said, You appear to be in medical scrubs, do you work at the plant? She said, Yeah, I’m the plant nurse. I’ve done the physicals for decades. And I said, I can’t even imagine to know what you’re going through. But then I kind of felt because I felt like what it feels like to a mother to lose something. And in fact, she’d said that her son had already left moved, it moved away. Why? Because her son is a reactor operator for energy. And he’s going to move his family from Hudson, with with mother and grandmother right with all the family all the life he’s known. He’s moving to Arkansas. I’m from near there, so I get it. But um, it’s it’s going away to splitting up families because otherwise he’s out of a career and out of a job. And that sort of thing. When it keeps happening over and over. It feels like a funeral. And then the wrongful death, the wrongful death. That’s what makes a bit of the anger. It’s good to have the folks I didn’t mean to I didn’t mean to step too hard on the folks that have suddenly discovered Indian Point. Yesterday, or worse, that have only finally realized that in our DC they aren’t brands. I mean, look, I have had many discussions with staff members, younger staff and NRDC where I’m like, Hey, you do know that your organization was founded to fight things like big, long lasting clean energy infrastructure, and they’re almost certainly I can’t be sure, almost certainly still doing it. And they’re like, No, I
Unknown Speaker 28:04
don’t know. I like nuclear. I’ll
Mark Nelson 28:06
talk to my boss. And then I asked him again, and there’s just kind of silence and that sort of thing.
Robert Bryce 28:12
Well, if I can interrupt it, give me a couple things. One is So what you’re saying is that this was a long running conspiracy by a very powerful organization to convince the governor one of the most important states in the country to shut down this critical bit of infrastructure simply because they wanted to wreck it. Is that it? No,
Mark Nelson 28:27
no, they got a governor willing to do the things behind the scenes to close the plant. Now it would have been easier if Indian Point weren’t so critical to the security and safety of New York City, they would have been it would have been much easier to kill the plant. Right. The problem is it’s such a vital
Robert Bryce 28:45
the Upstate plants where they could have been more easily killed those but instead that’s the other part of the cynicism is that Cuomo agreed to subsidize the enter the Upstate plants? Well, that
Mark Nelson 28:56
was the bait that was the bait to kill the down
Robert Bryce 28:58
state. So that but that was three plants upstate, then same
Mark Nelson 29:02
day, we’re going to close they were going to close at the start of his time in office. And that would have led to bad karma numbers, complaints from unions, loss of jobs. Instead, it was used as bait to get the forward closer by the end of his time in office of the most vital power plant in the on the eastern seaboard.
Robert Bryce 29:20
So let’s talk about that then, because the issue of frequency voltage support having proximity to high output nuclear high output generation plants close to cities. This has been understood by grid operators for a long time. The further you have to move power, the more expensive it is. And as resilience reliability you need a variety of fuels to assure fuel security. How was that all ignored in this case, because
Mark Nelson 29:48
the grid operators these days tend to have bosses who themselves are picked for their obedience to power structures that already exist. For example, in California would The situation I know best grid operators are overseen by a board that is selected for their obedience and adherence to the, you know, the Democratic Party structure in, in the state. That’s how the five members of the board have. Yeah. Like they need a little bit of expertise. But they don’t need much expertise.
Robert Bryce 30:22
Fair enough. So the appointees at New York independent system operator, those are political appointees, and they don’t want to they don’t want to get they don’t want to piss off the boss.
Mark Nelson 30:29
I’m less familiar with New York ISO. I know that the few times I’ve talked to some new england ISO and New York, so people in person at like at edit event at work, I say something like, Hey, don’t you think it’s bad that you’re losing these nuclear? And they’re like, well, we do our modeling three years at a time. So that will come up when we do our modeling. Okay, and if your modeling is wrong, no, our modeling is is not wrong.
Robert Bryce 30:55
What what’s going to replace there were a little bit more than 2000 megawatts, two gigawatts of capacity at Indian Point with Unit Two, which closed April 30 of last year of 2020. And now unit three closing this year 2100 megawatts roughly in total electric output, what will replace Indian points output?
Mark Nelson 31:16
So that was one of the tricky things and why Indian Point was they they didn’t want to close it immediately. They needed it to the light because they had to arrange who was getting the payoffs and stuff to get that to get the natural gas facilities built. And I’m not trying to slag off natural gas board knows that the economy in Oklahoma and a lot of my education was paid for by fossil fuel money and it keeps the lights on so we don’t die. But it’s so difficult to build
Robert Bryce 31:40
Tulsa. You’re from Oklahoma City, right? Yeah, exactly. And went to Oklahoma State my full review, my dad went Oklahoma State, my brother went to Oklahoma State. So go pokes.
Mark Nelson 31:48
Well, maybe we’re the conspiracy where it’s just an Oklahoma State pokes attempt to save clean energy and that maybe we should be investigated. Anyway, so back to the natural gas, it’s difficult to build inside anything in rich states, like New York, especially big power plants that are fossil fuels. Because the whole thing in New York like Oh, we don’t like natural gas, and we don’t like fossil fuels, takes a lot of muscle and money moving to get those plants just for sports, right in there, right there by New York City, right by those communities that some of which are even. So commuting communities for Manhattan, for example, you got to have some real muscle to push in. And balls, of course, the push in natural gas combustion in New York with limited pipeline capacity in the year of our Lord 2021. But they did. That’s why that’s why that’s why we had a local, little local assembly woman trying to say cut the mic, got the mics, don’t say things about Cuomo, there’s a lot of fear a lot of power. And that it’s the whole climate change thing. It’s just not important to the it’s not important compared to just getting those deals done to move the money and getting the plants built. Look, I’m not. If you’re going to close Indian Point, you really are gonna kill a truckload of people. If you don’t replace the power in a region like that. You can’t even you can’t even get people like, like in Texas, people were burning furniture and stuff that won’t work in Manhattan. Right, so you had to get that gas now. The gas plants in New York are winterized. What this means is that, among other things, they have large tanks of liquid petroleum products to burn when it gets cold. And they do. So New York has made this accommodation where it does a bunch of fossil fuels, and if it gets cold, they’ll do even more. And if it sustains cold weather, they might just not have very much power. And that’s the price they’re willing to take guaranteed death and economic devastation. who kill probably the best cited nuclear plant in the entire country in terms of good the public
Robert Bryce 34:02
in terms of proximity to a large urban area, small footprint in terms of output, etc. that
Mark Nelson 34:09
I think it’s worth mentioning. I think it’s worth mentioning, what are the critics saying no, this was important. Cuomo just has a very strong emphasis on public safety. He just really cares about public safety and and old people not dying. So it was important for him to close a nuclear plant. So if there was a meltdown, he wouldn’t have to like evacuate nursing homes because He cares a lot about folks in nursing homes right? woman does, except all the nursing
Unknown Speaker 34:32
No, wait, wait, let’s
Mark Nelson 34:33
leave politics out of this. Let’s just say let’s just say Kusama wanted to shut it down. Because you know, he learned from Fukushima if we’d had to evacuate Tokyo, it would have been this whole thing. But really, this is where we get back to this storm came and the origin of NRDC in our DC for let’s say, suburban property owner reasons, decided on its environmental policy in the 70s, and it has not updated it since then. Right? So what this means is they were ready for when Three Mile Island melted. To say this proves that nuclear is gonna kill everybody evacuated accurate evacuate that it wasn’t that Three Mile Island happened and then in RDC formed, right? I mean that, like I need I should check the exact founding date but that’s not the origin that’s not the real origin of the folks in the end movement bind in RDC they had their opinion on nuclear before through my
Unknown Speaker 35:37
Mark Nelson 35:38
the anti nuclear movement was unbelievably strong before Three Mile Island. Right. So what Three Mile Island did is give them a movie like a give them a dramatic like a dramatic license to say See, it’s kind of like we all died because it’s kind of just you know, it’s big in nuclear and so we all it’s just get rid of it. But it wasn’t what for Nancy, nuclear. There’s a lot of confusion of folks I talked to like in Germany, spent a lot of time and effort trying to understand Germany and try to stop those closures that are looming. You think any end points bad. Baby, they’ve got lignite plants ready to roll ready to roll across Germany for for eight gigawatts of capacity that they’re going to close in like, April, so 17 months. But
Robert Bryce 36:23
let me let me let me go back because that
Mark Nelson 36:25
movement against nuclear was there before sheer noble it was there before they didn’t? It wasn’t that they would have been any less nuclear without those events. It’s that they use those events distorted their meanings. Who killed nuclear, which is a goal they decided on anyway, back in the 70s.
Robert Bryce 36:42
So this is just the latest manifestation of an anti nuclear push that’s been around now for 50 years.
Mark Nelson 36:50
Yeah, I mean, I mean, this is a little bit kooky California, but I met I met a lady who had been a part of the original anti nuke movement. And she was he was saying that Fukushima killed the Pacific. And I’m like, you kill the Pacific. You mean, like, we’re dead? And he’s like, She’s like, yeah, we’re basically all dead. The Pacific is dead as like, you mean, like in the most literal sense. Like it’s dead? And she’s like, yeah, no fish. Okay, because it doesn’t matter that Fukushima did or didn’t do anything. It allows this drama of the end of days in our own time to play out, which is of course, the as you know, the the original industrial promoters of the idea that there’s a problem with putting co2 in the atmosphere was, of course, the nuclear industry and underlying scientists. Heck, Margaret Thatcher, lover or hater, she went and delivered a big, bold, brave speech when she was having problems with coal miners. about the importance of nuclear now was margaret thatcher’s talking about climate change only because nuclear was a rule to get rid of coal. Maybe I don’t I see is gone. We can’t judge your instincts. They’re just that she was one of the first major world leaders to make a major global speech on climate change, to promote nuclear energy. And that, that these folks that came after Margaret Thatcher were the opposite. And they haven’t updated. They’ve only added climate change lately, like after afterwards, and they haven’t updated what to do about it. They oppose all the solutions that would reduce land usage and clean up the environment. They just oppose all that stuff. They just it’s the same thing they oppose or supported back before they gave a rat’s ass about carbon. Okay,
Robert Bryce 38:29
so let me let me just, it’s
Mark Nelson 38:30
almost never obvious in our desease tweet, broke the dam, where everyone was assuming they sort of like cared about car and then they tweet gloating about the honor of getting rid of any endpoint at exactly the moment when people who should have been paying attention are finally paying attention. If you want, if you want me to push and find something to be less cynical about Harvard, for us to take away with a bit of optimism. It’s this, that wheat by NRDC may very well save a lot of nuclear reactors.
Robert Bryce 39:01
Well, let me jump back because I want you to make I want to make sure that this point is clear. Is there any doubt that the output of nuke the 16 terawatt hours roughly that we’re coming out of Indian Point? What fuel is going to replace that that output?
Mark Nelson 39:16
natural gas? And then in cold weather? marginally? It’ll be it’ll be oil or diesel.
Robert Bryce 39:21
So there’s just no and that’s the one of the things that seems to me that’s obvious here that that that at the same time that in New York has been trying to restrict gas pipelines, they have blocked several gas pipelines. By closing Indian Point New York has become more dependent on natural gas. Is that Is that a fair assessment? Oh,
Mark Nelson 39:39
absolutely. Without a doubt, now I can feel I can feel a little rotten, it’s out there nibbling my ankles. As I read through this, this stream, they’re gonna say no, that’s just for a little bit or okay. So if it’s just for a little bit, then presumably that wind and solar that comes online is when it’s over that was proposed and suggested that would replace already existing fossil fuels. Meaning either they get to get told that they aren’t any additionality, any help, or that that’s not actually replacing any employment. And they’re just replacing stuff that was planned to be replaced anyway. And all of it, all of it is beside the point, when you look at the locational constraints of New York City on the grid, just like so much of San Onofre nuclear generating stations, power is replaced by not just gas, but even sometimes oil because of the constraint about putting anything, be it be it wind, solar, or whatever, in the West LA basins like geographical region that includes San Diego and la justed. There’s been threats there, the physical constraints are going to run out against the physical demands of putting in wind and, and, and solar. And it just means that the reason they built the gas plants within this sort of New York City zone, this downstate zone is because they knew that that was what was required, and that there’d be the high electricity costs to support the frequent and long term operation of the natural gas assets. So as an example, Robert, in Belgium, where they’re also trying to shut off half the nation’s electricity and replace it with natural gas, the green energy minister is like, you know, like, ah, trying to run around and try to find any corporate group to take on the financial risk of building gas plants. I’m sure she’s offering all sorts of advantages and swearing, swearing pinky swearing, that just because she’s green, she won’t turn around and then say, Okay, now actually, we have to kill their plant. And all these groups are saying, everything we’re hearing from Europe and from Belgium says that we have to strip out our supply of fossil fuels, but you’re telling me you have to build the fossil fuels in order to and they’re not taking the bait, that wasn’t a problem, at any point wasn’t a problem. Because they were able to force it through
Robert Bryce 41:50
sort of the boil this down, you’re saying is that this is something of a bait and switch where Oh, yeah, we’re going to build all this gas, these gas plants, and we’re going to, but we’re not going to use them very long. And we’re going to wait for renewables. But the reality is, correct me if I’m wrong, it’s almost impossible to cite new wind and solar on shore in New York. I mean, the battles they’re ongoing. I’ve written a lot about it. I know this for a fact. But then it’s the promise of Oh, we’re gonna do this offshore now is the offshore wind is easy. Offshore wind isn’t easy. It’s hard and
Mark Nelson 42:18
offshore wind in New York is gonna cost as much as Vogel if I mean that it. So that’s another thing. This is another part of this weird moment that we’ve got to capture, leaving angry as pallbearers from this terrible funeral. Right? It’s the fact that everyone who says nuclear is too expensive. we’re now seeing the hidden unknown costs of maintaining wind and wind offshore wind pop up, or said just announced, hey, we got a little $500 million thing to fix. But don’t worry, that sort of thing is something we’ve changed in future designs. Yeah, it will wipe out all the earnings we ever would have gotten.
Robert Bryce 42:56
But then you’re talking about the Danish wind firm, that just
Mark Nelson 42:59
Dong Dong energy DONG Energy. Once they went International, they decided not to be called DONG Energy anymore.
Robert Bryce 43:06
They just reported earnings in on their European wind farms and said that they were lost several 100 million dollars because of was the cables had been had been had already eroded. We’ve already seen this block
Mark Nelson 43:19
offshore engineering is hard, Robert, that’s what we’ve learned from the oil and gas industry. They’ve always known that. But my point is the scale of projects required to do decarbonisation, as those have been through the scale of projects of even building new nuclear from scratch and countries that are have lost the ability to build like, the way I dreamed when I was a kid in kindergarten with the blocks. Well, it’s becoming harder to support the lie, that we don’t do nuclear because it’s expensive, or it’s hard or whatever, because they’re proposing projects that are as expensive, but are leaving really awful headaches, really awful. Not headaches. I mean, for those who died in Texas is not a headache, they’re dead. And they shouldn’t have died in those blackouts. But they they passed away when 60 $70 billion of wind and solar was not there. And then the folks who are supporting the wind and solar says Don’t worry, it was never intended to be there during the crisis. And so that means it wasn’t us, right. So when you’re talking about the offshore wind, it’s no longer clear that the cost argument still works because they’re asking for there the costs are going to be as expensive as Vogel depending on which which capital cost the two groups were able to secure right.
Robert Bryce 44:33
So about Vogel, you’re talking about plant Vogel, which is Vogel three and four the new nuclear units being built in Georgia that are ap 1000s. The project cost now is 20 some odd billion dollars for about 2029.
Mark Nelson 44:47
It means the first 40 years of operations may be a bit over $100 a megawatt hour. I mean, it’ll lower the cost of operating the entire rest of the system as opposed to when which raises the cost of operating the entire Rest of the system, a little quirk that we don’t hear a lot of from from our experts. But those were the same experts that suddenly just discovered the Indian Point is, you know, it has been closed for stupid reasons they didn’t if they didn’t know that, I wouldn’t count on them to understand other complexities that go against their bread and butter. They’re, that they, I don’t want to, I don’t want to say who gets funding from what it’s just, it’s easy to not understand things that allow you not to stand out from the crowd. And that’s what we discovered at Indian Point. It’s just the crowd suddenly discovered nuclear, during the funeral.
Robert Bryce 45:37
So there is a lot of talk now. And numerous academics have produced reports about renewables. And we know from Stanford, from Cal Berkeley, from Princeton, other places, you know, these elaborate models claiming we can go 100% renewables on but they’re ignoring, as you’ve been talking about, that one of the key issues is land use, and the other is cost. Now, you’ve studied costs in California, let’s talk about that. Just for a moment, California has pushed as aggressively as any state in the country on implementing new renewables, what has the inbound
Mark Nelson 46:12
about as far as I can tell, approximately $80 billion of investment as of 2020. In cash that’s not in that’s not in transmission or anything. That’s the capital investment in wind and solar generation capacity, right?
Robert Bryce 46:27
80 billion in California, and what has been the trend in, in electricity prices in California through 2020?
Mark Nelson 46:35
Absolutely exploding. I hope that EIA has an extra line item in their budget this year to get bigger axes on their digital graphs, because they’re going to need to extend those quite a bit.
Robert Bryce 46:47
So why are the you’ve made the point electricity rates in California are exploding? And is that what’s causing that?
Mark Nelson 46:56
It’s just extremely expensive, difficult and dangerous to operate the grid every single day now, I think that’s it.
Robert Bryce 47:04
And why is that? Why is this because of renewables and if so, how? Why is wherever?
Mark Nelson 47:08
Yeah, because as the renewables as the renewables, promoters, experts, the as the energy experts with PhDs and financial some of the, you know, the people developing the renewables or whatever, sometimes the professors actually hold positions in the renewables energies companies, it’s considered good for the university because they’re bringing in their own money anyway. They say wind and solar were never ever designed to just be depended on you have to spend a lot of money to do that. So
Robert Bryce 47:36
in California, batteries or backup systems,
Mark Nelson 47:38
right, so in California, they’re having to put in all these emergency rules to keep all the gas plants and to basically keep everything dirty, as long as it isn’t clean co2 free nuclear, right though. They’re making emergency diesel generators, emergency natural gas licensed extensions, like all this stuff, California will do anything. Anything to secure capacity as long as it puts out emissions right now the batteries but batteries take energy they they stripped it in time, but they are a net loss, meaning you’re still filling the batteries with something. Right.
Robert Bryce 48:16
So but but delineate the issue on cost. She said absolutely exploding. What are the numbers look like? I know you’ve studied this, what are those numbers are?
Mark Nelson 48:25
So basically, they’re in California is very complicated. We are tearing systems are like who pays what price, but on average, California electricity costs to consumers are rapidly escalating up to the I believe at this point is delivered costs. I should check this for residential specifically, it’s mid mid to hundreds per megawatt hour.
Robert Bryce 48:47
20 cents a kilowatt hour, roughly something on that order? 25 cents a kilowatt hour better. Yeah.
Mark Nelson 48:52
beyond that. Yeah. And so the tricky thing for California is that its industrial customers have extremely high rates, whereas in Texas until the blackouts, right, it’s going to readjust a lot of rates after that. But until the blackouts, Texas was being thrown back in my face and others who study this is an example of how cheap renewable, heavy systems can be. Because the Texas industrial electricity prices were staying pretty low, not true in California, way, way, way, way, up way along with commercial and residential.
Robert Bryce 49:22
I’m just trying to tease this out. But as was between 2011 2020 California’s electric rates were up seven times what the rest of the us is that is that,
Mark Nelson 49:31
um, that may be I’ll need to check that maybe a little out of date. It’s probably higher now because 2020 saw moderate either sustained or slightly lower rates for electricity in most states, but in California, they skyrocketed by i think is like 8%.
Robert Bryce 49:46
And what is it? What do you what are the projections for California is electric rates from over the next few years.
Mark Nelson 49:53
That’s where it gets extremely grim. So we’re back to making you more cynical and sad. It’s really ugly, like, over the next decade over the next decade, the California Public Utilities Commission is looking at like 300 to $400 a megawatt hour. So another doubling, depending on which tier which which rate you’re getting at the moment.
Robert Bryce 50:20
So higher electricity prices, and what is this? What will higher prices mean for low and middle income people?
Mark Nelson 50:29
You want the pessimistic view?
Robert Bryce 50:32
And you answer it however you like
Mark Nelson 50:34
it, what we’re gonna find is that people who claim to be looking out for the poor are going to find that they can’t square that circle. And that that, or just aren’t worth it. Like, I should expand that electricity got paper from 1900 to 2001 century of electricity becoming an unbelievably cheap way to do anything. And from 2000 to now, it’s gone up, but it’s not because we don’t have fossil fuels, hell, gas became great, cheap, abundant, right. So it wasn’t that it wasn’t that nuclear became expensive. Nuclear is operating at an extraordinary level. Like we’re talking most most us plants that have to reactors are anywhere from 18 to the very low, low $30 per megawatt hour for their long run, including capital costs of generating electricity, including feeding off 1000 staff members at a two unit plant to use the any important example right? So it’s not that that like the physical stuff, and certainly everyone says that wind and solar is become cheaper, cheaper. So surely it isn’t that wind and solar parabens and panels got expensive. So how is it that electricity is getting so expensive now after a century of getting cheaper? Right? And, and what we’re seeing is in states like California, what seems to be driving the expense of the system? Is the system needing to be on every second? And to have so much power going to so many?
Unknown Speaker 52:13
Mark Nelson 52:16
Okay, hold up, hold that, Robert, check this out, your rich people, rich people. Go ahead, all the rich people can buy that Tesla power wall and they get solar panels they can get they can spend 10s of 1000s of dollars of their own tax incentives. But look, if they pay the taxes maybe they’ve been getting back i’m not i’m not against I’m for progressive taxation policy. Even for the rich, like you pay out, you get some back maybe right and maybe it’s good. The problem is, those rich are fooling themselves into thinking that if I can do 20 to 50,000 of just random expenditures, mine or anyone else’s money to make my house feel to me emotionally, like it’s better even though it’s so connected to the grid, of course, then they they incorrectly think that that’s gonna either happen in every low income apartment, or this gonna happen in every town on the outskirts of Modesto or, you know, it’s, it’s a
Robert Bryce 53:18
interrupt. So you’re saying the rich can afford the unreliable grid because they can put in their own generac or they can
Mark Nelson 53:25
barely, they can’t really afford it, they’ll leave the Li but they can leave. I so a few books behind me that are kind of important on this subject. If you piece together the story, Rise and Fall of American growth explains how there was this precious period 1870 in 1970, we’re figuring out the base technology, getting the sewers and railroads bell that telephone goes, the electricity gets put in, you know, all these things. Electricity, I would say is the senior resource here. You can do almost anything and get away with almost any lack as long as you’ve got electricity. It’s the mother resource you get everything else from it. I need not tell you or your listeners about the power of juice from the mains, right? But there’s something else here and that’s the lyndon b johnson biographies where you see just what had to happen to make it be the case that electricity service was nearly as an inalienable in our country as male service because the utilities correctly argued that it was not worth the cost to plug in mine pause farm because it was now what they did not what they did not prepare for too far for the end because electricity service was too expensive with small grids and low efficiency, small power stations, low efficiency operations, micro grids, oh sorry, that’s the new word for small systems with heavy capital need for a small amount of delivered power right they call it micro grids. Now, I’m no offense to any my friends and micro grids. But the the Johnson book says that he that they had to fight A war to force the utilities to electrify heck they had to invent quasi governmental groups to go just do it as a threat as a threat to the very existence of private utilities to force them. Now what was discovered is once you started building the grid, the costs assuming you did it the way they did it, like with big power plants efficiently used over long periods of time, replaced in a orderly sequence, where you run out the life of one asset just as the other ones available that made the electricity so cheap that mine Paul used enough that that per general prosperity increase, the grid got cheaper, as it got more centralized and fewer power plants per unit of power. Sure, what we’re doing is going backwards. And I am afraid that what we’re seeing in California is that once electricity becomes expensive, people aren’t worth it anymore. People become the problem in the minds of the policymakers and the renewable energy folks, people are the problem, their behavior, a mother, a single mother of three is washing her clothes, after dark through, that’s when she’s home, that’s when the kids are asleep. It’s not acceptable, because there’s no power. If you’re poor after dark in a world where you just have to provide they use very sterile language, Robert, they say we need to provide price signals, we need to pass along the wholesale price. Everybody has to be on gritty, right? Everybody has to be on gritty. That way. They can modify their behaviors, not the rich, but they can modify their behavior to fit the needs of our renewables lobbyists
Robert Bryce 56:37
are the rates become so high that the working poor, middle class can’t afford to wash their clothes at peak hours when prices are high, so they don’t wash their clothes. But that
Mark Nelson 56:50
actually, here’s some optimism. Here’s a mop, it’s actually cynicism. I’m just using an optimistic tone of voice. California regulators are proposing some things like maybe they do an income verification, and check to see whether you should pay a sudden, like 1000 or 2000 a year just to connect to the grid, right? And then then they’ll keep the rates low or something. Of course, that’s a static view, the costs are exploding, so they’d have to adjust it, you know, just another idea is that they have a Selectric bill. Yeah, you check their California file taxes. And assuming you didn’t, if you’re, you know, rich people never have ways of getting around this ever. So it should work. But assuming your tax bill shows you’re you paid a lot in California, they can just give you extra special electricity rates.
Robert Bryce 57:32
Okay, well, so let me let me back up here. And we’ve been talking about an hour and I don’t want to talk too much longer. Although, you know, we could talk about this for a long time, obviously. But you mentioned the New Deal. And I of course write about it in my new book about the public utility Holding Company Act of 1935, busting the big trusts, electric bond and share among them the insole Empire. But it was the view of the grid at that time that I think isn’t relevant now is the provision of service and access to the electric grid as a public good as something that was positive for the society that the grid was important to extend service to everyone. And is that what it was a much more robust government approach to the idea of electrification? It seems to me now, it’s a point that Chris keefer has made on his on the decouple podcast, he made it on this podcast a few weeks ago, that the grid is the comments and that this is something that we own as a society together and that that is being lost that understanding of the importance, the centrality, you call it the mother, the the what the mother energy, I call it the mother network, right? This is the network upon which every other network in society depends. The electric grid. Is that what’s being lost here? I mean, I’m, I want to zoom out for a minute here, because we’re talking about we talked about California, we’re talking about renewables. You’re talking about New York, but it’s the it’s what’s being lost. He is what is being lost here is this appreciation for the grid as this essential network for that we all rely on and therefore we all have to pay into and yet some people are just, I don’t know, forming their own commune and, and going somewhere else. You understand my question here? Yeah, so
Mark Nelson 59:18
let me answer with a quote that I saw reported recently when that the head of the California Public Utility Commission was told that there are 5.3 million trees that pg&e is going to need to Grimm in California, said, I just can’t believe it. And she said, Yes.
How many trees there are, and she said, it’s not the trees that it’s the that are the problems. It’s the wires. That really captures the view and she’s that head of the California Public Utilities Commission is hand selected by the governor’s team. I don’t know if he cares or knows who the CPUC folks maybe he does. I don’t know. But it’s that ad administrator, head, guardian. of the grid in the state of California said that it’s not that the trees aren’t the problem, it’s the wires. Now, let’s be charitable, maybe she meant that every wire to every home needs to be buried. Now we’re talking 10s of billions of dollars a lifetime of work for no real difference in service, right? In a well operating grid. Between that and what they’ll just it will, it will drain like that you could build a high speed, you can build a high speed train between between San Francisco and LA. But the bigger thing as the sentiment is to say, when confronted with information that would challenge either that you have to cut the trees or that the utilities have to cut the trees and have to be paid to cut them. Or that that wind and solar are having issues. The response we’re seeing from our current generation of policymakers, politicians, NRDC heads all that is to say, No, I’m not going to question what I’ve been doing. It’s the grid, and it’s people that are the problem.
Robert Bryce 1:01:06
So let’s back I mean, it again, this that makes me cynical, and I, as I said, um, you know, the closure of Indian Point, I can’t my cynicism can’t keep up. But let’s
Mark Nelson 1:01:17
call it call it an Elysium. Complex.
Robert Bryce 1:01:21
Sorry, you’ve lost me there, no
Mark Nelson 1:01:22
lesean complex, like to sci fi film, but is that South African sci fi film where there’s an underclass on the ground, and then there’s a space station where everything’s real nice. Now, of course, the energy required to get up there and get down is immense and is taken from the earth. And of course, the maintenance staff. Anyway, it’s a perfect, beautiful world, where there is room and time and space and money to be nice to spend time with your kids and to have everything be nice and clean, and birds chirping and stuff. But it If anything, threatens that arrangement. The problem is people The problem is the people on the ground, there’s dirty people, there’s uninformed people, those those people who didn’t go to IVs, those, you know that the demands being made on administrators to at least have the capabilities that we did 20 or 30 years ago. So that becomes the problem. Okay, so
Robert Bryce 1:02:11
well, what you’re saying here agrees with something that I think is happening is they’re increasing stratification and a lot of that stratification. And Joe Calkins written about this, he’s been on the podcast about the stratification of society and that this energy, the the tinkering around the edges, and undermining the reliability of the grid, will increase that stratification that the Elysium complex, those folks got generac they’ve got power walls there.
Mark Nelson 1:02:34
This Honestly, I don’t think anything is going to have as devastating filtering effect as what’s going to happen to electricity in a state like California, the way it’s currently going,
Robert Bryce 1:02:46
that the prices are going to be the
Mark Nelson 1:02:48
very little is going to be at the point that grid service at home or not, is starts to not be taken for granted. I don’t know what else is going to possibly work right after that. Okay, well, let’s doesn’t mean i’d agree with everything Joel kotkin lives on transit and other so I think he’s wrong on some of that stuff. As the folks saying build more grid are about solving the intermittency of renewables. There’s a whole conversation we could have about comparing adding lanes to a highway for car jams that happen once a once or twice a day and adding more transmission to unreliable energy energy dilute resources, but we’ll have that Joel and Mark debate some other times fair enough.
Robert Bryce 1:03:29
So let’s do a few closing questions that I don’t want to spend too much time on who are your heroes?
Mark Nelson 1:03:40
I want to I want to say one that keeps coming back to me and this is always dangerous because depending on which class of person you single out, there’s a bunch you’re gonna forget and not name. I want to put in a word for Marcel Watteau. And I can feel my wife breathing down my neck if I didn’t say that quite right. She speaks French and I do not. So Marcel, as a boy
Robert Bryce 1:04:01
had his country his last name my friend
Mark Nelson 1:04:03
VOIT. Eu x.
Robert Bryce 1:04:10
What till? Yep. Okay, well, that’s
Mark Nelson 1:04:14
a bee bee bee bee bee. Oh, yeah, I’ll share it with you later and you can send it to your viewers but so this this guy is a young man watch France get invaded. Now there’s a lot of very confortable people sort of the age of, you know, the folks that the top of NRDC and stuff that that said, hey, it’s just different administrators and they’re just more efficient. What’s, you know, our military laws, we just give off, you know, let’s we can work with the Germans. They’re not really so different. Then there are the people like Marcel who are like, I refuse to be a part of this. This is morally wrong. He escaped France as a teenager, went to Italy, shot his way up the peninsula, Chase Germany back into Germany. And then he came back to France got his PhD. He had papers on it. TriCity pricing that are still cited. After after almost 70 years as an economist normally I slag off economists no offense economists, but like they really know anything. But But Marcel did economy economics and then got put in charge of, of increasingly important positions until he was head of EDF. He fought an internal war Okay, in France against
Robert Bryce 1:05:25
electricity defrost. So this is lotto was the head of electricity to France. And was he the architect then of nuclear nuclearization of the French grid.
Mark Nelson 1:05:36
He had to fight some hard battles the folks under De Gaulle closest De Gaulle wanted to use the gas graphite reactors that Britain is currently realizing are all crumbling, and they after be replaced, Marcel said, it’s better to go the way that the world is going, the world is going the way of the Westinghouse designs, any any used early, very powerful political usage of the levelized cost of electricity argument, which works when comparing physically similar resources that humans control. It’s it’s bullshit with wind and solar, it’s a scam. But we’re comparing different types of nuclear reactors. It’s very good, right? So he just showed that the Westinghouse reactors would be lower cost for the nation if they were going to build a lot of them than the ones and he was going up against the military. He was going up against the closest commandant of De Gaulle on this, he was going up against the scientists and the Research Establishment, they were saying to be truly French, you have to do the design we developed in our own country, even though they got help from other places too. But so he said, No, Westinghouse, we will make it fringe. So he did in starting to build out this Westinghouse fleet, his house, where he sleeps with his wife and his children play to quote, a good movie got bombed by terrorists trying to stop trying to stop the nuclear program. And he didn’t, he didn’t flinch, he didn’t flinch. And he saw through the whole build out, he said, No, engineers Get your ass back to this job. You’re not changing the design until the next iteration series. He kept really tight cost controls, and really sharp guidance. I mean, when he left the cost of French reactors that they floated, we it’s still alive, Robert, he still lives in France.
Robert Bryce 1:07:18
So blato then not heard his name. So he’s a hero. He’s the architect of the French nuclear, the French nuclear fleet then,
Mark Nelson 1:07:28
for moral rectitude over a very long life in a way that is true guidance to every young person now. That’s why he’s my hero.
Robert Bryce 1:07:37
What are you reading?
Mark Nelson 1:07:40
A few things. I’m catching up. I’m rereading one of the driest and most fascinating books. Is it scale and scope the dynamics of industrial capitalism? First saw that my time at breakthrough always worth a reread, to remember how to build it’s good for solving cynicism, quite frankly. Then I am rereading Black Swan by Nassim Phillipe, always another good one to read, like, once every year or so. And then what else? Oh, I’ve sort of gotten into Central Asian and Persian carpets, because I just moved to Chicago from San Francisco. And we’re finding that there’s a bunch of there’s a bunch of subcategories of designs that are under appreciated. And my wife and I like it, we’re still very young professional. So we’re not going to we’re not going to get the silk masterpieces. But we’ve found that there’s something really gorgeous about things that are made slowly by hand. It’s not the way we want our electricity to be. But it’s correct for rugs, not differentiation of what’s good for art, and what’s good for electricity is one of the things that scale and scope and and our rug books help us understand. So I’m working on I’m working on getting getting rugs for the house.
Robert Bryce 1:08:54
Gotcha. So last question, then. And again, my guest is Mark Nelson. He’s the managing director of the radiant energy fund. He’s on twitter at energy bands. You can also follow stand up for nuclear stand up numeral for nuclear. So we’ve talked a lot about cynicism. And I didn’t expect the Indian Point closure to to affect me emotionally the way it has. But it has made me more cynical and a piece I wrote in Forbes last week about that cynicism. So long preface to the question. So what gives you hope?
Mark Nelson 1:09:27
You caring enough to keep writing even though you’re cynical. Let’s just face it, you’ve got utterly unjustified optimism, that that you can write something even in the in these times with that level of cynicism and you still finish and ship an article that’s hard. People who are not writers don’t understand how hard it is just to write what seems to be a relatively simple piece. That means that no matter what you tell me about your cynicism, and I know you’re upset, I’m pissed. I’ve been fielding calls from other activists and allies and stuff that are absolutely furious on the verge of tears. You’re not alone. But that’s the hope. You are not alone. We’ve got a lot of Johnny come lately. We’re happy to have them. We got a lot of folks who have spent years saying that the problem with nuclear is that, you know, nuclear bros and you can’t build it right. And now they’re like, wait, but that plant was already built. It was already making money. So what why was it shut down? Welcome to the party. We’re glad to have you strap up. Let’s go fight. And you you having your level of cynicism and how much you know about this issue and still having the daring the hutzpah to, to get out and make these podcasts, get your writing done, and learn more things and keep going. That’s how I’m telling you that in our DC tweet, was a blunder. They should not have gloated before Diablo is dead. And they did take it, print it out, print that out, put it on the wall. Hell Photoshop it into a photo of like, I don’t know, I don’t know your favorite basketball stars are but find your favorite one getting dunked on and put the NRDC tweet on that poster right there and hang it above your bed. Because we are going to get these people their time is done. They think they have it in the bag or they wouldn’t have tweeted that they would not have gloated or they would have deleted it when they started getting hard. ratioed and they didn’t. That means they are overestimating. They’re they’re overestimating how popular it’s going to be. They are overextended. We’re going to get them. We’re going to save the Allah we’ll stop there. And and we’re going to do it together. And then there will
Robert Bryce 1:11:58
be hope question I wasn’t had no idea. Well, I wasn’t asking for any feedback on what I’m doing. I’m just trying to do my part and and keep on going. So listen, it’s been great mark, we need to stop here. We’ve been more than an hour, we could obviously talk a lot a lot longer. We’ve talked in the past for a long time about these. Appreciate your passion for the issues. My guest, Mark Nelson, Managing Director of the radiant energy fund, you can follow him on Twitter, he’s easy to find, add energy band at energy bands, or stand up for nuclear and the fight next, the next fight that you’re going to be involved is there in your new home state of Illinois, and then in California, but in Illinois, the Byron and Dresden plants but we’ll talk about those on another podcast. So Mark to be here, Robert, thanks again for coming on the podcast we and to all you out there in podcast land has been another edition of the power hungry podcast Tune in next time. We’re going to be talking more on blackout week at Indian Point with more guests to come. So tune in right here for the next episode. All right, thanks.