Beware Politicians Declaring War On Local Power Sources

Beware Politicians Declaring War On Local Power Sources
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Ventilators aren’t much use when there’s no power to run them. Doctors who can’t see their patients can’t do very much to help them.  Which is why it’s odd that a Pennsylvania politician is publicly berating a power company for doing what it had to in order to keep the lights on - and the ventilators running.

Rep. Madeleine Dean of Montgomery County PA says she is “concerned” over the way a regional nuclear plant - the Limerick Generating Station, which is located near the Schuylkill River in Limerick Township - performed a critically necessary refueling earlier this month.

The Limerick plant - which is operated by Exelon - has two reactors (or units) that, together, are capable of generating more than 2,300 megawatts of electricity, sufficient to power some 2 million homes in the region, as well as critical health care infrastructure such as the hospitals dealing with the Coronavirus outbreak.

Like all nuclear power plants, the Limerick plant has to be periodically refueled in order to be able to generate the power so vital to critically necessary infrastructure. But refueling a nuclear power plant entails an outage - the reactor has to be taken offline during the process of replacing the uranium fuel rods within the reactor. These - immersed in water - generate the heat used to create the steam which is what makes the electricity in a nuclear power plant.

Replacing the fuel rods is a complicated process that requires great care; plant communications director Dave Marcheskie says there are some 1,500 different procedures that must be performed, including multiple safety checks and re-checks, for all the obvious reasons.

There’s no second chance when it comes to nuclear safety.

Which is why it can and usually does take about a month to take a reactor offline, refuel it and get it back online.

However, no power is produced by an offline reactor. For this reason, outages for refueling are planned well in advance, to avoid any problems resulting from the power not being available and to make provisions for unanticipated additional demand, as during a crisis. 

Dean had to have known this - or had an obligation to know it. It certainly should not have taken her by surprise.

Limerick managed to complete the refueling process in just 16 days - nearly two weeks faster than the national average and setting a new record for the facility.

Not for the sake of speed but because of the emergency.

Exelon worked fast to make sure the power didn’t go off - not just in people’s homes but in area hospitals and nursing homes and senior care facilities where a large percentage of the people who’ve not only contracted the Coronavirus but became deathly ill because of the virus reside.

These especially vulnerable elderly people also depend on power for heat - and for cold, (via AC) when it’s hot outside, as it soon will be.

An offline power plant can’t power heaters and air conditioners - or ventilators and ICUs. Exelon went the extra mile to make sure that didn’t happen. Additional workers were hired to make the job go faster; these extra workers were carefully trained and got the job done - and the power back on - in half the time.

And Rep. Dean is upset about it. 

Not because anyone died. But because some of the workers got sick. From the virus - not radiation. She blames Exelon for this, for not rigidly enforcing “social distancing guidelines,” something Exelon denies. 

It has been said - reasonably - that the cure for COVID-19 can’t be worse than the virus. Shutting down the source of energy for millions of homes and businesses, inckduing nursing homes and hospitals, would certainly qualify, in most minds, as the cure being worse than the problem.

But not according to Dean:

“While I recognize the nuclear plant as a vital part of our infrastructure,” she told local media, “we must ensure that proper measures are taken to keep both the workers and our community safe” from the Coronavirus.

Dean lectures about the “health and safety” of the public. Exactly so - except she seems indifferent to both. The health and safety of the public depends on the power being on - not off - and sooner rather than later. It depends on the ventilators and lights working at hospitals; on homes being heated - and air conditioned.

Exelon took unprecedented steps - using Dean's own words, but in the right manner - to “meet this pandemic” with the critically necessary countermeasures. But Dean is upset because some workers may have walked within less than six feet of other workers.

Dean's “concern” may not even be for the supposed safety of the workers - or the public - but for her dislike of nuclear power, with COVID-19 proving the cover for an attack on it. Dean has allied herself with something called the Radiation and Public Health Project - which the press blandly characterizes as “a nonprofit educational and scientific organization that conducts research on the health hazards of nuclear power” and “educates” citizens and public officials.

In fact, it is an anti-nuclear lobby. 

In other words, power is the problem - not the virus - and no matter how many millions would be actually hurt by shutting down reactors like those at Limerick permanently, which is precisely what this “educational” outfit - and Dean - appear to want.

With “concerns” about the virus being their excuse.

Dan Perkins, is a Registered Investment Adviser with over 40 years of investments experience investing in all energy assets all over the world.

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