Nuclear New York?

The New York Times magazine section has a nice overview of the nuclear industry and even mentions peak oil.

New York State currently gets about 40 Megawatts of its electricity from nuclear power, the most from any single source. Many of these nuclear plants are reaching the end of their 40 year licence periods. Leading candidate for NY governor Attorney General Eliot Spitzer (D) is against renewing Indian Point Nuclear. A recent study concluded that NY State would have to build a Liquified Natural Gas facility to generate enough energy to make up for that shortfall.

New York City has decided to not build another power plant and instead employ a variety of conservation measures to prevent the need for one in the future. By law, NYC needs to produce 80% of its own power. However, NYC still depends on Indian Point and other upstate nuclear plants to meet it's daily needs.

NY State stands at a critical moment in making choices about it's energy future. Enter former mayor Rudy Guilinani.

Guiliani's consulting firm does a lot of work with energy companies and is strongly recommending more Nuclear power for the state::

The centrism came in the policy speech, which found the former mayor in full-on Ross Perot mode with a series of charts and graphs detailing 1) how U.S. energy demand has far outstripped domestic production since 1960 and 2) how countries like France and Belgium are far outstripping the United States in their use of nuclear power.

Drawing on his experience managing New York City's power problems, Giuliani spoke of the government red tape that makes it virtually impossible to build power plants, oil refineries and (especially) nuclear-power facilities.
Summing up U.S. energy policy since the 1970s, he was blunt: "We haven't done anything." We haven't drilled in Alaska. We haven't built oil refineries. We haven't ordered a nuclear power plant since 1978.

We need to start doing these things, he said, to diversify. Energy independence, he said, is simply the "wrong paradigm," despite the idea's popularity in quarters of both the Left and the Right. Instead, in a global economy, "We have to diversify, that's our strength . . . You can be independent by being diversified."

In fact, this emphasis on diversity of generating sources is exactly what I recommended back in March, although without increase in conservation efforts and renewables (or the drilling in Alaska):

While imperfect, it seems to make sense to keep in place New York's existing diversified infrastructure of coal, nuclear, NG and Oil until the renewables can be ramped up to meet demand (which should be shrinking). They can serve as a diversified bridge to the next phase. This may take a long time, but until then it makes no sense constructing any more fossil fuel electric generating capacity.

Frankly, the worst situation for New York would be power shortages that force politicians to simply build another coal fired power plant to meet the needs. If the older nuclear plants are going to be decommissioned (and serious examinations need to be done on how long they might effectively be safe and economical) then it may makes sense to build a new nuclear power plant to maintain a diverse energy portfolio until renewables can be ramped up.

NG and Oil until the renewables can be ramped up to meet demand (which should be shrinking)

Sorry for nitpicking (again) on this one but a picture is worth thousand words:

The graph represents electricity consumption in US by sector.
Point one:
In the history of US, electricity consumption has never, ever been dropping in any sector with the small exception of industry consumption dropping a few percent in the recession years of 1981-85.

Point two:
Even during the oil shock induced recessions of 1973/74 and 1979/80 electricity consumption in all sectors was rising! Part of this I suppose was due to replacement of oil with electricity (electricity heating instead of oil heating for example), which makes sense to me. Now when we are headed for an oil-scarce future again... what should we expect?

So absent a miracle, I can not agree with your optimism regarding what conservation would do in the real world we live in. Even keeping consumption flat would represent a heroic achievement IMO.

Actually New York has done a wonderful job of proving that theory wrong. In 1990, NY required 135 million MWhs/year which rose to 146 million MWhs/year in 1999, which was a growth of a little over 1 million MWhs/year. However, with only the most basic energy conservation techniques it was able to REDUCE energy demand back to 137 million MWhs/year in 2004 - an absolute decline of 9 miilion MWhs/year over just 5 years. With a much more aggressive conservation program, I think New York could do much better. And renewables are still at just the tip of the iceberg.

Source: Follow the EIA link from the original post on this data

The numbers you provide there are for electricity power generation. To find out state of NY consumption you need to account for net exports/imports from other states and from Canada. The correct data is this one.

Total retail sales of electricity in the state of NY (mln.MWh):

  1. 129
  2. 129
  3. 128
  4. 130
  5. 131
  6. 130
  7. 132
  8. 132
  9. 134
  10. 139
  11. 142
  12. 144
  13. 147
  14. 144
  15. 145

Thus from 1990 to 2004 the state of NY increased its consumption to from 129 to 145 mln.MWh or at the good pace of 0.8% per year.

Your data goes to show that during that period NY  turned from a net exporter (+6 mln.MWh in 1990) to a net importer of electricity (-18 mln.MWh in 2004) and is getting worse over time.

IMO this trend should be rather worrying for the long term availability of electricity supply in NY. The good news is that you have diverse energy sources, and a relatively proactive local government that looks more favorable to building new capacity than other states. Unfortunately there is no sign of real efficiency gains in sight.

Sorry about that - you are absolutely right. I had the wrong data set on demand. From the sub-level data it seems that Residential and Commercial have increased even more rapidly than industrial, probably reflecting the decline in manufacturing jobs upstate and the continuing sprawl of commerical and residential sectors despite minimal population changes...
Intuitively I agree with you - there is an overwhelming amount of pure waste within the system. The problem is I don't see how to eliminate it effectively within our current arrangement.

Essentially it is that same old "tragedy of the commons" problem that has lead us to this stage altogether. From the point of view of the mass consumer conservation and energy issues are problems of the society, not their personal problems. Within our current set of values nothing forces anyone to change his/her ways until the whole train hits its natural limits, after which the individuals will be forced to change either because of limited affordability (read much higher prices than today) or by rationing.

Therefore I admire your efforts for promoting energy awareness. This is the thing we need to start changing first - ourselves. I just don't believe in the ability of society to change that fast beacause of the dreamworld most people live and because of the so much vested interests to keep the status quo. On the other hand if power down turns to be too painful or too fast, I expect people to go on the other extreme - trashing every bit of environment we have left. Clearly we have to approach the problem at both sides. Renewables of course will help, but the elephant in the room is nuclear - I know that technically we can make it right but I'm worried by that same stupidity that brought us here to start working the other way if we wait too long.