Tag Archive: PSEG

#Science Policy Friday: Small Step for Solar Paves Way for Greener Grid

Promoted by Bill Orr

SciPoliFri_Box.gifThis week’s column is on an important piece of legislation that will ensure that residential and small-business solar continues to grow with the full support of state policy.  As always, thanks to my science and environment intern Arcadia Lee for research and drafting this article. Thank you to NJ Spotlight and NJ.com for their continued coverage of these important issues to the state of New Jersey. Cross-posted at DanBenson.com


You or maybe a neighbor in town has installed solar, and you’ve seen or heard about how the power company’s meter “runs backward” when the solar panels are powering the home.  That means that the homeowner is receiving a retail rate for the power they are generating, making the payback for solar much quicker for the homeowner.  The technical term for this is “Net Metering.”

Net metering is the system that allows people who generate their own electricity using solar panels to feed excess energy back into the grid, sometimes referred to as “nega-watt” energy.  Net metering encourages residential and commercial solar growth and may allow a utility company to avoid costly investments in new transmission and distribution of grid electricity.

Under the current New Jersey law, utilities do not have to offer net metering when generating capacity by net-metered customers equals 2.5% of the state’s peak demand for electricity, and as NJ Spotlight reports, a threshold we are already above. But on August 10th, the governor signed legislation (A-3838/S-2420) sponsored by Assemblymen John F. McKeon, Tim Eustace, Reed Gusciora and myself.  The new law expands the state’s net-metering capacity threshold to 2.9% of total annual kilowatt-hours sold in state. More importantly, this means that the crucial pro-consumer pro-environment and pro-renewable energy job policy of net metering will continue unabated as solar continues its growth in the Garden State.

More on that new nuclear reactor

If you’re interested in the plans for a new nuclear reactor in New Jersey, I recommend the article “Nuclear Growth Puts Region at Risk” in yesterday’s News Journal. It gives a Delaware point of view. It was accompanied by this guide to the possible addition to Artificial Island in Salem County and this article on Obama and the “nuclear renaissance”.

As I’ve said before, it’s easy to see why local politicians are in favor in a county that has only 42,000 people age 18-64:

Plant designers will aim for a 60-year lifespan, with 4,000 people employed during a 5- to 7-year construction period, 600 workers hired full time to operate the site and another 1,000 needed during shutdowns for refueling.

It’s even possible PSEG will decide to build two new reactors on the same site.

We’ve discussed a lot of this before at Blue Jersey, but this was new to me:

In a report about to be released by the NRC, researchers have concluded nuclear power plants are “dramatically” safer than long believed.

The Nuclear Energy Institute, a nuclear power trade group, said the upcoming report, called the State of the Art Reactor Consequence Analysis (SOARCA), could reshape emergency planning for reactors nationwide. One recent NEI comment filed with the NRC said the report’s findings could justify dropping 75 percent of the land now in 10-mile evacuation zones, because there’s little risk beyond four or five miles.

But Edwin Lyman, a senior staffer with the Union of Concerned Scientists, called the NRC report “extremely compromised” and said that the NRC has refused to release documents that explain assumptions used to shape the findings.

Obviously it’s difficult to judge the credibilty of a report that isn’t published yet, but frankly the recent records of the SEC and MMS make me nervous, as Eliot Spitzer wrote :

In both instances, the regulators accepted industry assertions about the reliability of their safety mechanisms while failing to acknowledge — much less investigate — the darker, more complex reality. In each crisis, we had the same story of a belief in the reporting done by corporations, and in each case, we had a failure to recognize the enormous potential for fraud and the lack of incentives these corporate entities have in ascertaining and measuring potential risks to the public. The regulators continued to believe the lies fed them by CEOs even when the lies had become absurd. Both times, the agencies charged with regulating ignored the advice of their own experts, neglected to enforce rules, and engaged in an alarmingly cozy relationship with the industry they were supposed to be monitoring.

So far, the Obama administration has failed to fully grapple with the weaknesses and corruption of the regulatory agencies meant to guard the public from harm.

Could the rot extend to the NRC? On the other hand, Professor Richard Muller in his book “Physics for Future Presidents” argues nuclear reactors are quite safe, and I think he is reliable. He doesn’t think it’s very likely that the reactor fuel could melt through the containment building, which is the position being taken by the NRC. The PSEG application apparently claims that there is only a 1 in quadtrillion chance (whatever that is) of such an accident.  (I can’t help but remember that the economic collapse was made worse by the Wall Street geniuses who underestimated the likelihood of low probability “Black Swan” events?)  In any case, I repeat my recommendation that you should read the excellent article by reporter Jeff Montgomery. In my opinion it’s an example of how the “present both sides” ideal of journalism can actually work well.  

It’s official: PSEG files application for new nuclear reactor site

Here’s how PSEG describes it:

PSEG Power and PSEG Nuclear today filed an Early Site Permit (ESP) application with the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) as part of PSEG’s ongoing efforts exploring the possibility of building an additional nuclear plant.

“This is an important first step in the regulatory process to determine if a new plant is viable,” explained PSEG Power President Bill Levis. “Though it is not a commitment to build, it would determine that the location we have identified for a potential new plant is suitable from a safety, environmental and emergency planning standpoint.”

This “fourth reactor” would be adjacent to the three existing ones.  Such applications are not lightly done:

A dedicated nuclear development team has spent the past two and a half years developing the ESP application that is approximately 4000 pages.

The News Journal has the reaction from the Sierra Club:

“Nuclear is a bad investment for New Jersey’s ratepayers,” Jeff Tittel, New Jersey Sierra Club director, said in a written statement. “Nuclear technology is too expensive, unsafe, and will undermine investment in clean energy sources and the creation of green jobs. It is not green if it glows! “

I understood from the public hearing that it may take up to two years for the site to be approved and I suspect site rejection is quite unlikely.  

Public hearing on new nuclear reactor

I attended tonight’s public NRC meeting on the expected PSEG site application for a 4th nuclear reactor at Salem County. If you think statewide you might call it a “5th reactor” but this one would be close to Salems 1 and 2 and Hope Creek on Artificial Island. The NRC has been told that PSEG will put in a site approval request before the end of the month.

The highlights in my opinion:

  • Approval of a site would not mean construction of an actual nuclear reactor is approved. That is a second process. The site approval process will consider cumulative impacts of having four reactors (such as the effect of the warm plume on the river.)  The NRC will not consider the operating record of the existing reactors in approving another one. Site approval may take up to two years.
  • Local politicians of both parties support a new nuclear reactor. This is the jobs issue and also PSEG’s long presence here. Reactor employees and various Chambers of Commerce also support it.  Environmental groups (Sierra Club, Unplug Salem, New Jersey Environmental Federation, …) are opposed.  None of this is at all surprising. Businesses and politicians think PSEG is a model employer and “good citizen.” Environmental groups think it lies and uses lawyers to evade responsibilities.
  • One fisherman gave the staggering numbers of fishes killed and suggested PSEG build cooling towers for the two older reactors if they have so much money before trying for another reactor.
  • Although willing to step up and say PSEG will address traffic concerns, the representative of PSEG was completely unwilling to make any comment on the potential cost. They do not, by the way, have to specify a reactor design at this stage.
  • A longtime Salem County resident reminded everyone that the original promises were cheap — almost free — electricity, only 25 years of operation, and no onsite storage of nuclear waste. None of those promises came true.
  • In response to a question, the NRC resident inspector said that the 2006 New York Times article on the poor safety record of PSEG at the nuclear plants  was “not inaccurate.” He felt they have been improving in recent years. Of course, if the NRC believed the reactors were unsafe they would shut them down, but I don’t think the inspector was fully satisfied. (I think they said 2006, there was also a similar 2004 article.)
  • There’s a large police presence at these meetings. Guys, it’s not the sixties or seventies anymore. The whole thing was very organized and respectful on all sides. I was slightly late so I missed the beginning. I saw Steve Sweeney afterwards so I reckon he spoke before I got there.
  • News Roundup and Open Thread for Friday, March 30, 2007

  • You already know that Wayne Bryant was indicted.  This article describes how multiple jobs can boost pensions.  If you wonder what Bryant’s defenders think — and remember that Blue Jersey is not among them —  see Mixed emotions over Bryant charges in the Inquirer.  The Inquirer also has a profile of Dr. Michael Gallager who was also indicted.  Finally, check this column which considers this a warning for higher education
  • Christie rejected a call to investigate Corzine’s gifts to Katz.  That’s the kind of restraint that got other USAG’s fired.  He is (reportedly) seeking info on Sharpe James
  • Assemblyman Jeff Van Drew wants to legalize sports betting.  My first thought is that this could be a move to build support to challenge Frank LoBiondo, but then again, I might be totally off base. 
  • By the way, at Blue Jersey we are using the tags of the form “LD3” and “LD37” to refer to legislative districts.  “NJ3”, etc. are reserved for the congressional districts.
  • Senator Menendez is outraged that Republicans blocked a resolution honoring Cesar Chavez
  • PSEG CEO Ralph Izzo called for tough greenhouse gas limits in front of Congress, breaking with most utility executives.
  • Public Service Announcement I:  Several MVC offices are unable to process licenses due to a verizon glitch.  Is this the place to complain that not only did my verizon service not work last night, but the outsourced call center employees who read off scripts are completely useless?  If you have a phone line problem, you get a knowledgable union guy, but DSL is hopeless.
  • Public Service Annoucement II:  New schedules for buses and trains are going into effect.
  • Finally, Cynthia Burton of the Inquirer observes that the Republican state senate delegation is moving right as moderates retire:

    “It’s inevitable we are going to get more conservatives because a bunch of the people retiring are not conservative,” said Assemblyman Michael Patrick Carroll (R., Morris), one of a handful of conservative legislators who refer to themselves as the Mountain Men.

    I imagine that the name “Mountain Men” was chosen to signal how out of touch the group is with New Jersey.  jmelli has already noted the racial angle.  Another interesting quote is here:

    Kevin Collins, a conservative Republican strategist, has been advising clients for years to run to the right. He’s working on the “Reagan Republican Team” race in Bergen, Passaic and Essex Counties.

    Collins says the party can get support from socially conservative Democrats – the kind who voted for President Ronald Reagan – with more conservative candidates.

    Apparently he did not read yesterday’s column by David Brooks which rejects the Reagan/Goldwater tradition in favor of authoritarianism.

  • Public Advocate: Exelon Deal “Falls Far Short”

    We just received a press release from the office of the Public Advocate, which says that the latest deal offered by Exelon for PSE&G is still a bad one, as City Belt noted . According to Ronald Chen’s statement, the new proposal still does not resolve the market power issue, which was indeed the scariest part of the proposal. All the slick PR in the world’s not going to change that.

    For more on the merger, check out City Belt’s story.

    Press release follows: