Bits & pieces
The real thing, electric cars, nuclear problems, coal, worry, and something you can rely on.
Good morning. I was at a wedding this past weekend, and on 9/11, I attended my “old” church where my wife and I were married. We got a treat as Dave Roever spoke. If you are looking for an example of a proper ministry and application of Christian principles to help veterans and active duty military cope with the enormous stress of that life, check out Dave Roever’s ministry. He’s the real thing, and genuinely funny as he spins his yarns, with a serious point: 22 soldiers a day die from suicide. This is unacceptable.
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Here’s something I didn’t know. For years I drove to Nashua, NH every day to work. Many days, I’d drive past Sanders Associates, which was a government contractor (since sold to BAE Systems). I never knew that the very first home video game (which became the Magnavox Odyssey) was conceived and designed in that very building. Thanks Wikipedia for that random fact.
Also, my new (nearing 10,000 miles) Kia EV-6 developed what seems to be a spreading problem. The Meridian sound system made a loud noise while I was driving and then two of the main front speakers cut out. Some owners say to reset the fuse, which I’ll try, but I think it’s probably time to schedule a dealer visit. Lucky for me I selected the 100,000 mile bumper-to-bumper warranty which includes electronics. Music played through the sound system now reminds my wife of her 1980s vintage Toyota: tinny. Since many of the warning beeps-and-boops also play through the main front speakers, I don’t hear them, so that’s a safety issue I suppose. Hopefully Kia has a solution, as I’m clearly not the only one who has experienced this issue.
Another thing I didn’t know (but now do) is that Plant Scherer in Juliette, a Middle Georgia landmark visible for tens of miles around, is the nation’s largest remaining coal-fired power plant, producing over 3000MW of electricity. It’s also the largest single point-source carbon producer in America, taking in two to five trainloads of coal a day and belching steam and CO2 into the sky, dumping its ash into a slurry pond that probably leaches into the aquifer. For many reasons, I am proud of my adopted state, but this is not one of them. I saw that plant almost every day for years.
I’m also not proud of Seabrook Station, the 1100MW nuclear plant I grew up near on New Hampshire’s seacoast. The reactor is still operating. It’s not because I’m anti-nuke—I am the opposite. It’s because that plant bankrupted several owner-operators, and its second unit was never finished. Decades of cost-increasing regulation, massive protests, and a coordinated fear campaign against nuclear energy has all but killed commercial nuclear power. So we’re stuck with natural gas and coal to charge our electric vehicles, or confined to unreliable solar and wind, combined with expensive and resource draining batteries that use minerals forcing us to rely on totalitarian enemies to procure.
At least Georgia is building more nuclear plants, about the only place in America with new reactors going online.
The six reactors at Zaporizhzhia, in Ukraine, Europe’s largest nuclear plant, are now in cold shutdown, which makes them largely safe from the risk of a meltdown. Russia still controls the plant, but IAEA inspectors are on site, calling for a demilitarized zone. Given that Ukraine’s counteroffensive could be compared to Operation Desert Storm—a massive fake with a lightning advance where the enemy didn’t expect—perhaps we should worry that the Russians will blow the plant sky high if they continue to lose ground at such a rapid pace.
My biggest worry about the war in Ukraine is that Russia will lose too quickly and Putin will do something terribly stupid. I hate to say this, but with China/Taiwan, Russia/Ukraine, the Balkans on edge, and a number of other world events, including a coming winter that might freeze Germany, the conditions for another world war are about as ripe as they’ve been since 1939, and I’m including the entire Cold War in that calculation.
As a Christian, my biggest comfort is that Jesus is coming back some day, if not soon, then one day. God has never made a promise He didn’t keep. I know it’s not Sunday, but here’s another worship song by my friends Cody & Julie Oliver. As much as this is an uncertain time, there are things that we can rely on, for certain.
On the topic of commercial nuclear power, I've been building a small investment position in NuScale Power, a young company (by energy company standards) creating a business around smaller reactors:
"A reactor designed by Oregon-based energy company NuScale Power has become the first small modular reactor design approved for use in the US by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), paving the way for new plants that utilize the reactor. The move wasn’t exactly a surprise, because the design passed its final safety evaluation back in 2020, but it is a crucial step towards actually deploying the technology in the field."
"While some SMRs under development rely on exotic new designs that use molten uranium or thorium salts as a fuel, the NuScale reactor, which has been named VOYGR, is not dramatically different from traditional full-scale ones. It is based on a design developed at Oregon State University in the early 2000s called the 'Multi-Application Small Light Water Reactor.'"
"The design consists of a 76-foot-tall, 15-foot-wide cylindrical containment vessel that houses the reactor. Water is passed over a series of uranium fuel rods that generate heat through fission reactions. The heated water then rises up towards steam generators, which use the heat from the water to produce superheated steam. This is then used to drive a turbine that generates electricity."
"Each module is designed to generate 50 megawatts of energy, but the company plans to combine up to 12 SMRs to achieve similar outputs to conventional nuclear plants. The SMRs come with novel safety features designed to prevent the kind of disasters that have hardened public opinion against nuclear power."
We'll have to see how well this bet pays off (it's still VERY early stage, even for a deSPACed publicly traded company), but the chaos around the world that's related to energy is providing a good justification to push down this path.