Category Archives: Political Letter

Letter to Governor Brown of CA

This week, I would like to share a letter about how nuclear energy is essential to fighting global warming, sent by Dr. James Hansen the leading climate scientists in the world, plus a long list of other environmentalists, to the State of California. This letter applies to every state in the Union.

The Honorable Edmund G. Brown, Jr., Governor of California

August 11, 2016

Dear Governor Brown,

Several months ago we wrote to you to raise our concerns about Diablo Canyon, California’s last nuclear plant. Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) has now agreed in a Joint Proposal with Friends of the Earth, the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Alliance for Nuclear Responsibility and other groups to close the plant in 2025.

We request that you ask the California Public Utility Commission (CPUC) to delay consideration of that and any other proposal to close Diablo until the legislature and the public, who will have to foot the bill, can openly debate how California can most quickly and cost-effectively stop the damage to the climate from our electrical system emissions. There are serious questions about whether this proposal is good for ratepayers, the environment and the climate.

Retirement of the plant will make a mockery of California’s de-carbonization efforts. Diablo Canyon’s yearly output of 17,600 gigawatt-hours supplies 9 percent of California’s total in-state electricity generation and 21 percent of its low-carbon generation. If Diablo closes it will be replaced mainly by natural gas, and California’s carbon dioxide emissions will rise.

The economic losses from Diablo Canyon’s premature closure will also be substantial. Electricity rates will rise from the replacement of cheap nuclear power with more expensive renewable power. According to the Joint Proposal, ratepayers will pay a “non-bypassable charge” to make good decommissioning costs that would have been funded had Diablo completed a typical 60-year service life. San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara counties will lose $27 million per year in local tax, 1,500 well-paying jobs at the plant and a yearly payroll of over $200 million that indirectly supports a further 2,800 local jobs.

These problems are all familiar from the closure of the San Onofre nuclear plant a few years ago. Despite environmentalists’ hopes, San Onofre was replaced mainly by gas-fired generation. Greenhouse emissions and electricity rates increased. California’s share of gas-fired generation immediately rose from 45 percent to 61 percent.

That gas dependency will increase further, to 70 percent or more, if Diablo Canyon closes. When natural gas prices rise again, higher dependency will mean economic vulnerability as well—and undermine California’s reputation as a leader on climate policy. Under your own administration, the percent of electricity generated in-state from clean sources declined, mostly because of San Onofre’s closure.

Given the serious harm to the environment, the economy and ratepayer interests that will flow from Diablo’s closure, we are deeply troubled by the lack of democratic process surrounding the Joint Proposal. It was decided in secret negotiations between PG&E and unaccountable anti-nuclear groups, some with financial ties to the renewables sector.

[removed unnecessary paragraph] to size the article for publication in local paper.

The loss of one-fifth of California’s clean electricity is of such significance as to merit the direct attention of the state legislature. These questions deserve a broad, considered and transparent discussion by the public and their elected representatives. We ask you to support this position, and to help initiate the public debate that needs to happen.

It would be a tragedy if we were to allow irrational fear to harm the climate and endanger the future our children and grandchildren. As California’s governor you have an opportunity to safeguard your environmental legacy by overcoming anti-nuclear prejudice that is jeopardizing our progress on clean energy.

Sincerely,

James Hansen

Honorable Senator Stabenow,

Thank you for your email post regarding your vote to sustain the President’s veto of a bill that would have forced the Administration to approve the Keystone XL pipeline. As I said in my previous correspondence, I respectfully disagree with your position on the KXL project. It is not about oil as it’s primary purpose, but about jobs and safety.

Why do I say safety? The development of the tar sands in Canada will continue regardless of whether there is a KXL Pipeline through the US or not. The tar sands are already being heated and converted to a liquid state for transport through the US on trains and by trucks, which have both proven to be quit dangerous as witness by several severe explosions in both Canada and the US. A pipeline would greatly improve that safety record.

You say, “A pipeline that increases carbon pollution and further hastens climate change does not serve our national interest” and I say I flatly disagree with that reasoning. The oil will be processed and sold on the world market anyway because the demand is there. A pipeline would only provide a safer and more cost effective solution to the transport of the oil. Therefore, the KXL is not about any decrease in carbon pollution as you say but primarily about long term temporary construction jobs for thousands of workers and more permanent jobs in the well established oil and gas industries. The KXL is not about the oil industry making more money and a greater profit either because they are going to do that anyway. They are in the business to market oil and make a profit. As a Senator, I am sure you already understand what it means to make a very large salary and a huge profit over the average blue collar middle class hard working American. Nice, isn’t it, and I’m having no problem with you making that much. It is your incentive like it was mine at one time. So let’s leave those 1% out of the discussion. They provide a lot of jobs.

You also said, “We should be investing in clean energy technologies that will eliminate carbon emissions while also creating good-paying jobs for American workers” and I agree 100% and the direction the US Energy policy should be going is Nuclear Energy. If you want to achieve the goal of your statement, there is no other cost effective or environmentally safer solution than investing in the latest state of advanced nuclear reactors and nuclear fuel streams. The US is currently building only 5 generation 3+ passive light water reactors after a 40 year hiatus following the Three Mile Island incident back in 1979. The one and most important drawback to continuing the investment of Gen3+ reactors is that we still are left with unused uranium fuel rods that have to be stored and managed. The solution is for commercial nuclear reactors to consume all the nuclear fuel (even from those stored rods) so that long term storage above ground or below ground is not necessary.

Can that be done? Yes, it has already been proven with molten salt reactor demonstration prototypes as far back as the 1960’s at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee, USA. I emphasis USA because our scientist designed and developed molten salt technology for nuclear reactors and our current administration has ‘given’ all the design material along with consultant services from our prestigious Universities to China. Yes, I said ‘gave it to China’ to develop and most likely IP as their own technology. Why would we, the USA, do such a thing? I do know and understand why the Chinese are so interested in the molten salt reactor (MSR) technology and I support their effort to develop it. But why should they be the ones to do it first?

I understand why you and other Senators are more interested in a pipeline with a little bit of oil flowing through it or concerns over a little bit of fighting going on in the Middle East, but I can tell you this from a purely scientific perspective. The world energy sources beyond oil, gas and a few wind mill and solar panels is a larger concern for a stable future. Provide the world with unlimited cheap energy and a lot of those smaller distractions will not seem so news worthy. How would bountiful world energy supply be provided? With advance molten salt nuclear technology developed by the Chinese, who now have a head start and the US will be left behind.

What is molten salt technology?  I am not going to explain the details of the technology in this letter response. I only want to bring it to your attention and would encourage that you or your aids take a little time to get a better understanding. I would also encourage you and your staff to also spend some time and get a better understanding of wind and solar technologies and not rely on just all the hype sound bytes.

A few of the many sources for Molten Salt Reactors and Thorium Fuel Streams:

An Educational Library: http://www.egeneration.org/

An Organized Foundation: http://www.energyfromthorium.com/

Efforts by a US Company: http://flibe-energy.com/

Efforts by a Canadian Company: http://terrestrialenergy.com/

Thank you

Martin Kral

A learned science hobbyist

CC: Senator Udall (D-NM), Senator Heinrich (D-NM)

“First I voted for the KXL, and then I voted against it”

February 12, 2015

Dear Mr. Kral,

Thank you for contacting me regarding the Keystone XL pipeline, including construction standards. I appreciate hearing from you on this important issue.

In September 2008, the Canadian company TransCanada applied for a permit from the U.S. Department of State to cross the U.S.-Canada international border while constructing the Keystone XL pipeline project. If constructed, the pipeline would carry crude oil produced from the oil sands region of Alberta, Canada, to U.S. Gulf Coast refineries. Keystone XL would have the capacity to transport 830,000 barrels per day, delivering crude oil to the market hub at Cushing, OK, and to further destinations in Texas. TransCanada also is planning to build an additional short pipeline so that oil from the Bakken formation in Montana and North Dakota can utilize the Keystone XL pipeline as well.

The construction of petroleum facilities connecting the United States with a foreign country requires a Presidential Permit from the State Department based on a determination of national interest. One element of the determination for the Keystone XL project is the preparation of an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). Publication of the final EIS on August 26, 2011, marked the beginning of a 90-day review period for the national interest determination. During that period, the State Department consulted with other relevant federal agencies and conducted public hearings necessary to make its determination. According to the State Department, a wide range of public comments both favoring and opposing the pipeline project was received.

On November 11, 2011, the State Department announced that the final decision on granting a Presidential Permit was delayed pending an extensive review of the intended route. The announcement was made following the Nebraska state government’s concerns over Nebraska’s environmentally sensitive Sand Hills region, which is along the proposed pipeline’s route. This concern led the Nebraska legislature to enact new state pipeline citing requirements that would alter the pipeline route through Nebraska. The Sand Hills region is a nearly 20,000 square mile sand dune formation with highly porous soil and extensive areas of very shallow groundwater. The groundwater in question, the Ogallala Aquifer, also provides water to parts of Northeastern New Mexico. The sitting process in Nebraska was the subject of pending litigation, which was a factor in the delay of the pipeline. On January 9, 2015, the Nebraska Supreme Court overturned a lower court ruling that struck down a proposed route for the pipeline through the state.

A number of members of Congress have argued that the administration should make a decision on the Keystone pipeline quickly, and I agree. Others have also demanded that the Administration approve or deny permits for the pipeline immediately. I have not pushed for or against the pipeline–which is a specific project by a private sector company–other than to say it should be evaluated properly with all environmental and economic factors taken into account. In the past several years, several provisions have been included in legislation to either require President Obama to grant a permit for the Keystone XL pipeline project, or to require expedited consideration of the permit. On January 6, 2014, Senator John Hoeven introduced S. 1, a bill to mandate immediate approval the Keystone XL Pipeline. Similar legislation, H.R. 3, was introduced and ultimately passed in the House of Representatives. S. 1 was up for a vote in the Senate on January 29, 2015 and I voted against this bill. This legislation passed with the final vote count at 62-36. The bill will be sent to President Obama’s desk to be signed into law or given a presidential veto.

I have opposed these legislative efforts to force approval of the pipeline because I do not believe Congress should short-circuit the established legal review process for a specific pipeline project for one company. Instead, I believe that the president and federal agencies should conduct these environmental and policy reviews in an objective, unbiased manner, following the laws that Congress has enacted covering these issues, and make the decision in the national interest. Please be assured I will continue to follow this issue closely and will keep your thoughts in mind.

Thank you again for sharing your thoughts with me. Please feel free to contact me with your concerns regarding any federal issue by visiting my website at www.tomudall.senate.gov. For more information, you may also visit my Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/senatortomudall and receive up to the minute updates through my Twitter page at http://twitter.com/senatortomudall.

Very truly yours,

Tom Udall

United States Senator

Dear Honorable Senators Debbie Stabenow, Tom Udall, Martin Heinrich

Thank you for your email letter concerning your vote against the Keystone XL pipeline. I am not sure where you got my email address but I am located in New Mexico, Senator Tom Udall and Senator Martin Heinrich territory. Those two Senators also decided to vote against the pipeline and they come from a state with thousands of oil workings who will soon be losing their jobs because of the oil price war with Saudi Arabia and other Middle East countries. Drilling in New Mexico has already started to dry up and the guys will be looking for other jobs and willing to move to work on the Keystone project. But if it doesn’t occur, these man and some women will be on the job market. I am not just talking about a few hundred, but thousands not only from NM, but TX, OK, CO, all the way up to ND and also from the oil industry commercial business infrastructure. People from Michigan should know what that feels like. If you think fossil is the energy source of the past, what is the energy source of the future? What ever that energy source is, it needs to be sustainable and that pretty much eliminates fossil and renewable. Why renewable? Well first you have to ask this simple question. When is renewable not renewable? Pick one:

  • When it requires extraction of finite rare minerals to manufacture towers and panels.
  • When it requires large swath of land to setup those towers and panels farms.
  • When it requires fossil fuels to supplement intermittency in capturing the sun or wind.
  • When it requires food crops for ethanol instead of feeding the increasing masses.
  • When it requires massive amounts of potable water to grow algae in an arid ecosystem.
  • When it requires huge government subsidies in grants, loan guarantees and tax credits.

There is no wrong answer. Does wind, solar or biomass have a place in the energy spectrum? Solar PV does have some promise. It is great for personal use on your homes, business, farms, ranches and even to power satellites that connect us all together through the internet. While wind turbines are more efficient than solar, it clutters our landscape and takes a very special type of person (my wife) to think that is beautiful. As for bio-fuels, there is a place for biomass and the dairy farmers here in Chaves Country NM are doing just that: converting cow manure into ethanol, solid fertilizer and potable water. The best renewable source of energy is hydroelectric. However, it does not come without adverse effects on the river ecosystems they are build on. So, is renewable really renewable, or even sustainable? We have 5 billions years to resolve that question because that is when the sun won’t come out tomorrow. If there were an energy source that was so clean, safe, reliable and abundant for longer than the sun will shine on this earth, wouldn’t it be something that we should be investing our hard earn dollars into? Well, there are actually three sources of energy fuel that can sustain the energy requirements for the 7.2 billion people on this plant in 2015 and even the additional 3 billion by 2050. What are they? The first source is uranium (U-238). There are hundreds of years of available uranium already extracted from the earth and in storage at every single nuclear power plant in America and around the world. Some people call this waste because it is unused uranium fuel from our nuclear reactors, but it still contains tremendous amounts of U238 and some Pu239 fuel that can be used in an advanced liquid nuclear reactor (Gen4). Another source of uranium that is basically unlimited can be extracted form our ocean water. And of source, uranium can still be removed (in situ) from the ground without the hazards of mining it from the surface ground. The second source is thorium (Th-232). Thorium is at least four times more plentiful than uranium and can be located in almost every country around the world. Most of our beach sand contains thorium although there are many other concentrated locations for mining. Thorium is also a by-product (waste) from rare earth mining operations. Thorium is an ideal breeder fuel that can be used as a liquid in a molten salt reactor. These Gen4 liquid fuel reactors are being developed in several non-government privately sponsored companies here in the US and Canada. However, China is the most serious country about development of the liquid thorium reactor with billion dollar budgets and hundreds of engineers dedicated to that task. Their design is based on the demonstration project at Oak Ridge National Labs back in the 1960’s. It is unfortunate that the US did not capitalize on molten salt reactors then, but there is still time if someone in DC would champion it through the DOE. The third source is deuterium (H2). We live in a water world. Three quarters of the earth’s surface is water. Water is the essence of life. When I questioned my science guys on the internet about water as a future energy source, this is one of the many answers I got back. “The energy content of deuterium (H2) in seawater would be enough for 29.5 billion years of energy supply.” To put that response into perspective I thought I would also include the calculations as much as I hate to bore you with numbers: “The complete conversion of deuterium nuclear fuel releases an energy content of 250 x 10^15 joules per metric ton of deuterium. The quantity of deuterium in the world’s oceans is estimated at 4.6 x 10^13 metric tons. Deuterium present in seawater will yield around 5 x 10^11 TW-years of energy. In the year 2013 the entire planet consumed around 17 TW-years of energy”. Hence the estimated 29.5 billion years of energy supply. To fully appreciate that estimate of energy, you have to remember that the earth will only be around for another 5 billion years. To give all 10 billion people expected to be living on the planet in 2050 at the level of energy prosperity we in the developed world are used to, we won’t have a problem with finding that energy. The real problem that has to be overcome is how to deliver the energy to all those people. All that energy would have to be based on clean nuclear fusion reactor technology which is still in the development labs around the world. In the meantime, we still have semi-clean fossil (with NG) and safe nuclear fission technology to work with to fulfill the increasing demand for more energy based on continued increases in population and industrialization. Your vote for or against the Keystone XL really doesn’t matter that much when you consider the energy source for the future. Your vote for or against the Keystone XL only effects those people who need jobs. That project is no different than all the renewable projects the last couple of years. They provided hundred, maybe thousands, of jobs during the construction phases, but only a few permanent jobs long term. Therefore, it is the construction phase of the pipeline that is of value to the economy, not the oil itself. If the oil industry wants to build it without government funding, I am okay with that because it will provide good paying jobs for several years until the next project comes along. Thank you, Martin Kral Roswell, NM Cc: Senator Udall, Senator Heinrich