NUKESPEAK: “Clean” hydrogen from nuclear?!
[Image: Front cover of the 1983 book NUKESPEAK, republished with a new introduction post-Fukushima.]
Orwell is spinning so fast in his grave, he could be hooked up to a turbo-generator and qualify for clean energy production tax credits (a paraphrase of a 2006 joke by then-Congressman, now U.S. Senator, Ed Markey (Democrat-Massachusetts), about DOE nuclear loan guarantees, invoking Adam Smith instead)!
The U.S. Department of Energy has granted up to $1 billion to the Midwest Alliance for Clean Hydrogen (MachH2), a project based in Michigan. The funding will be used to develop regional supply chains for the production, distribution, and use of hydrogen in trucks and heavy-duty vehicles. The hydrogen hub, which will serve six Midwestern states, aims to utilize hydrogen in various industries including steel and glass production, power generation, heavy-duty transportation, and sustainable aviation fuel.
MachH2 has the support of around 70 partners, including the Detroit/Wayne County Port Authority, Holtec International (owner of the Palisades nuclear power plant), the Flint Mass Transportation Authority, ExxonMobil, universities, energy companies, and transportation providers…
Canary Media has also reported on this story, including that Holtec is double-dipping on this federal subsidy:
Here’s a handy…guide to the most active participants named in the DOE’s chosen hydrogen hubs (with hubs listed in parentheses):
Holtec (Midwest, mid-Atlantic)
Holtec looms large in the nuclear power industry: It services and maintains nuclear power plants, stores nuclear waste, and even developed its own design for a small modular reactor that just might see the light of day some year in the future. Holtec is participating in two of the hubs that we know will tap existing nuclear fleets to supply carbon-free power for electrolysis. Wind and solar can produce green hydrogen when they’re available; nuclear could provide carbon-free power round the clock. The 24/7 industrial demand for hydrogen production would make for welcome commercial demand at legacy nuclear plants that have struggled to keep their doors open.
Of course, nuclear power is not clean. It releases hazardous radioactivity during so-called “routine” operations, let alone catastrophic reactor core meltdowns. Nuclear power also pollutes at every stage of the uranium fuel chain, from uranium mining, milling, processing, enrichment, fuel fabrication, and radioactive waste generation. High-level radioactive waste will remain hazardous for more than a million years.
“Clean” hydrogen, generated by nuclear power, is oxymoronic.
And reporting that “nuclear could provide carbon-free power round the clock” is an overstatement. Atomic reactors must regularly power down to refuel. These outages can be extended, sometimes not for weeks but months. Holtec is trying to argue that Palisades is in an extended refueling outage, which isn’t true. They are actually trying to restart a closed reactor, which is unprecedented (not to mention extremely high risk, and exorbitantly expensive). But if Holtec is to be taken seriously, the current “refueling outage” at Palisades began on May 20, 2022 (the date previous owner Entergy closed it for good, we thought), and won’t end till August 2025. That’s a 3 year, 3 month-long “refueling outage.” Certainly not “round the clock” or “24/7” power. And Holtec will be lucky pull off an August 2025 Palisades restart. It certainly won’t be safe if they do make that date-certain goal.
But Palisades also had a low capacity factor in its first decade or two of operations, in the 1970s and 1980s — one of the worst in American industry. Its performance after Fukushima began was also very poor, and alarming, including a very serious loss of electricity in the control room in 2012, an infamous leak of radioactive water into Lake Michigan in 2013, etc. Claims of reliability at Palisades fly in the face of the atomic reactor’s actual history.
Also Orwellian is the fact that DOE has awarded a Holtec-led consortium $2 million, in its “consent-based siting” initiative, seeking consolidated interim storage facilities for high-level radioactive waste. It is most ironic, because Holtec has continued, for many years, to try to shove a CISF down New Mexico’s throat, despite the state repeatedly making clear it does not consent to what would be the world’s largest de facto permanent high-level radioactive waste dump (100,000 to 173,600 metric tons of irradiated nuclear fuel and Greater-Than-Class-C, “low-level” but highly radioactive waste).
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