What do we do with dangerous waste from nuclear energy production? Energy Bite expert Jared Cohon, Director of the Scott Institute for Energy Innovation and former President of Carnegie Mellon University, discusses the challenges to disposing of our nuclear waste.

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Civilian Nuclear Waste Disposal from the Congressional Research Service

Nuclear and Uranium Data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration

Radioactive Waste: Production, Storage, Disposal from the United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission


Transcript

HOST: Nuclear energy plants generate waste. How is that waste shipped and stored? On this week’s Energy Bite, Jared Cohon, director of Carnegie Mellon University’s Scott Institute for Energy Innovation, has some answers.

COHON: America has a nuclear waste problem. Every year, commercial nuclear power plants must replace a third of nuclear fuel they use. We have the challenge of managing this spent fuel, along with similar waste from the Nation’s nuclear weapons program and nuclear submarines. This nuclear waste is enough to kill everyone on earth.

HOST: That is astonishing. What’s being done about it?

COHON: Today, nuclear waste is stored at the power plants where it’s generated. The spent fuel rods from are put in big, deep swimming pools of treated water while the rods are still “hot.” After they cool down, which takes years, they are placed in thick metal containers that sit on concrete pads at the plant sites. Waste is rarely shipped, but when it is, it’s in similar storage containers.

The U.S. has been looking for a permanent location for its nuclear waste for more than 30 years. The basic problem is that no one wants a nuclear waste facility in their area. It’s a classic case of what we call NIMBY – or Not in my back yard.

HOST: What do you think should be done with the nation’s nuclear waste? Take our poll, see the results, and ask your energy questions at Energy Bite dot org.

ANNOUNCER: Energy Bite is a co-production of 90.5 WESA Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon’s’ Scott Institute for Energy Innovation.

Energy Bite expert Jared Cohon, Director of the Scott Institute for Energy Innovation and former President of Carnegie Mellon University, explains how the National Energy Labs started and the kinds of work they do.

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Commission to Review the Effectiveness of the National Energy Laboratories

The Department of Energy National Laboratories website


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HOST: Perhaps you’ve heard of national energy labs like Los Alamos and Sandia. Have you ever wondered what they do? On this week’s Energy Bite, Jared Cohon, director of Carnegie Mellon University’s Scott Institute for Energy Innovation, has some answers.

COHON: The origin of the national energy labs was the Manhattan project that focused on the development and manufacturing of nuclear weapon systems. Over time, the mission of the labs expanded to other specialized science and technology capabilities.

Today, the United States has 17 national energy labs. Three from the nuclear weapons era such as New Mexico’s Los Alamos National Lab. Four applied labs such as Pittsburgh’s National Energy Technology Lab focused on oil and gas research and Colorado’s National Renewable Energy Lab. And there are ten science labs that conduct basic research in physics.

HOST: How have the labs been criticized?

COHON: Some have criticized the labs as too expensive and too duplicative in their activities. While some of this criticism is fair, a committee I chair for DOE has found the labs play an important role in providing research abilities that no one university or corporation could financially maintain on its own.

HOST: What do you think of our national energy labs? Take our poll, see the results, and ask your energy questions at Energy Bite dot org.

ANNOUNCER: Energy Bite is a co-production between 90.5 WESA and Carnegie Mellon’s’ Scott Institute for Energy Innovation.

Automated vehicles can be safer and make life more efficient than conventional vehicles, but all of that affects energy use. Energy expert Jeremy Michalek, professor at Carnegie Mellon University and Director of the Vehicle Electrification Group, tells us how it works.

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Autonomous Vehicle Technology: A Guide for Policymakers” from the RAND Corporation.

The GM Collaborative Research Lab at Carnegie Mellon University

Self-driving Cars Save Lives and Energy” from IEEE

Self-driving Cars Could Cut Greenhouse Gas Pollution” from Scientific American

Self-driving Cars: The Next Revolution” from KPMG


Transcript

HOST: Will automated vehicles help save energy? On this week’s Energy Bite, Jeremy Michalek, a professor at Carnegie Mellon University, has some answers.

MICHALEK: Some of today’s vehicles already offer early levels of automation, such as adaptive cruise control or lane-centering. When vehicles are automated, they may cause fewer accidents and less congestion, while improving driving efficiency, so energy use could be significantly reduced.

HOST: What about fully autonomous self-driving vehicles?

MICHALEK: With fully autonomous vehicles it’s anybody’s guess. For example, safe 1-seater driverless taxis could revolutionize the commute, enable cities to pack more vehicles per lane, and eliminate the need for a parking lot in front of every business.

But they could also encourage people to live farther from work, spend a large portion of their day in transit, and they could increase travel demand from groups like children or those with disabilities.

Given these massive potential changes, it’s too early to know whether autonomous vehicles will use more or less energy.

HOST: Would you purchase a vehicle with automated features to save energy? Take our poll, see the results, and ask your energy questions at Energy Bite dot org.

Energy Bite is a co-production between 90.5 WESA and Carnegie Mellon’s’ Scott Institute for Energy Innovation.

Energy expert Jeremy Michalek, professor at Carnegie Mellon University and Director of the Vehicle Electrification Group, helps us understand why some charging times are better than others.

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Costs and Benefits of Electric Vehicles in the United States [video]- Carnegie Mellon Department of Engineering and Public Policy

Electric Vehicle Adoption Potential in the United States [video]- Carnegie Mellon Department of Engineering and Public Policy


Transcript

HOST: If I buy a plug-in electric vehicle, when is the most efficient time to charge it? On this week’s Energy Bite, Jeremy Michalek, a professor at Carnegie Mellon University, has some answers.

MICHALEK: Some plug-in electric vehicle owners prefer to charge their vehicles late at night because they’ve heard that it’s better for the electricity grid and that wind power is more available at night.

That’s true, and in places like Pittsburgh, Chicago, and Washington D.C., charging at night could allow grid operators to use cheaper plants and cut electricity generation costs for charging by a quarter to a third.

HOST: That sounds great. Is there a downside though?

MICHALEK: Yes, most of the cost savings I mentioned are due to increased use of inexpensive coal-fired power plants that are available at night. The pollution-related human health costs downwind of those plants can be higher than any operation cost savings.

So until regions like Pittsburgh move to cleaner sources of electricity, plug-in electric vehicle owners hoping to do the best for society should not wait until late at night to charge.

HOST: Would you charge your electric vehicle at night or once you get home? Take our poll, see the results, and ask your energy questions at Energy Bite dot org.

Energy Bite is a co-production between 90.5 WESA and Carnegie Mellon’s’ Scott Institute for Energy Innovation.

This week we learn what the future of electric vehicle adoption could look like from energy expert Jeremy Michalek, professor at Carnegie Mellon University and director of the Vehicle Electrification Group.

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Electric Vehicle Adoption Potential in the United States [video]- Carnegie Mellon Department of Engineering and Public Policy

Costs and Benefits of Electric Vehicles in the United States [video]- Carnegie Mellon Department of Engineering and Public Policy


Transcript

HOST: Will everyone be driving a plug-in electric vehicle in the future? On this week’s Energy Bite, Jeremy Michalek, a professor at Carnegie Mellon University, has some answers.

MICHALEK: Plug-in electric vehicles today make up much less than 1% of vehicles on the road. Right now, the biggest challenges include high cost, limited range, slow recharging, and lack of consumer familiarity.

But even if these problems are all solved, we’ll still face challenges. For example, even though most US households have off-street parking where a vehicle charger could be installed, many don’t have enough spaces for all of their vehicles.

So, a 100% electric vehicle fleet is likely unrealistic without major infrastructure changes.

HOST: So what will our vehicle fleet look like in the future?

MICHALEK: While we’re not likely to stop using oil for the foreseeable future, we will use a lot less of it because of a range of technologies. It’s unlikely that plug-in electric vehicles will make up the entire future vehicle fleet. It’s more likely that we’ll see a mix of technologies in the future – we’ll need more than one solution to cut emissions and address oil dependency.

HOST: What transportation will you be using in the future? Take our poll, see the results, and ask your energy questions at Energy Bite dot org.

Energy Bite is a co-production between 90.5 WESA and Carnegie Mellon’s’ Scott Institute for Energy Innovation.

This week, Jeremy Michalek, a professor at Carnegie Mellon University and director of the Vehicle Electrification Group, explains how electric vehicles can sometimes cause more harm than good for the environment.

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Costs and Benefits of Electric Vehicles in the United States [video]- Carnegie Mellon Department of Engineering and Public Policy

Electric Vehicle Adoption Potential in the United States [video]- Carnegie Mellon Department of Engineering and Public Policy


Transcript

HOST: If I buy a plug-in electric vehicle, how much will it help the environment?  On this week’s Energy Bite, Jeremy Michalek, a professor at Carnegie Mellon University, has some answers.

MICHALEK: Plug-in electric vehicles can create less air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions than traditional vehicles- if they are charged with clean electricity. But not all regions have clean electricity.

Electricity can be generated from pollution-emitting sources like coal or natural gas, as well as cleaner sources like wind, solar, hydro, or nuclear power. And different regions use different mixes of these and other sources.

HOST: When are plug-in electric vehicles not helping to reduce pollution?

MICHALEK: Plug-in electric vehicles may not be a good choice if you live in a region that gets much of its electricity from coal.

For example, in the Pittsburgh, Chicago, and Washington, DC region lifetime emissions from a battery electric vehicle, like a Tesla Model S, can cause two to three times as much cost to human health, the environment, and infrastructure as a gasoline hybrid like a Toyota Prius.

This could change in the future as we move toward cleaner sources of electricity. If we clean up the grid enough, electric vehicles can offer big advantages for the environment.

HOST: Would you choose an electric vehicle based on your region’s source of electricity? Take our poll, see the results, and ask your energy questions at Energy Bite dot org.  
Energy Bite is a co-production between 90.5 WESA and Carnegie Mellon’s’ Scott Institute for Energy Innovation.

On this week’s Energy Bite, Jeremy Michalek, a professor at Carnegie Mellon University and director of the Vehicle Electrification Group, tells us when electric vehicles provide the most benefit for consumers.

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Electric Vehicle Adoption Potential in the United States [video]- Carnegie Mellon Department of Engineering and Public Policy

Costs and Benefits of Electric Vehicles in the United States [video]- Carnegie Mellon Department of Engineering and Public Policy


Transcript

HOST: Have you ever thought of purchasing a plug-in electric vehicle? Are these vehicles the right choice for you? On this week’s Energy Bite, Jeremy Michalek, a professor at Carnegie Mellon University, has some answers.

MICHALEK: Plug-in electric vehicles are quiet and cheaper to refuel with no tailpipe emissions, and they can be fun to drive.

But electric vehicles may not be the right choice for everyone. They tend to be more expensive to purchase, have shorter driving range, and take longer to refuel than traditional vehicles. And you’ll need the space and the right to install a home charger if you want to charge the vehicle every night.

HOST: There’s more to that than I would have thought. When are electric vehicles a good choice?

MICHALEK: Plug-in electric vehicles offer the biggest benefits in stop-and-go driving conditions, but they lose range in extreme weather, and their environmental benefits depend on how clean the electricity grid is. So city drivers in mild-climate regions with a clean electricity grid, like San Francisco or Los Angeles can see the biggest benefits.

HOST: Is an electric vehicle a good option for you? Take our poll, see the results, and ask your energy questions at Energy Bite dot org.
Energy Bite is a co-production between 90.5 WESA and Carnegie Mellon’s’ Scott Institute for Energy Innovation.

On this week’s Energy Bite, Gabrielle Wong-Parodi, a scientist at Carnegie Mellon University, tells us how our social networks can affect how we invest in energy.

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The Role of Community and Social Networking from Penn State University.

Schubert R and Stadelmann M (2015) Energy-using durables – why consumers refrain from economically optimal choicesFront. Energy Res. 3:7. doi: 10.3389/fenrg.2015.00007l


Transcript

HOST: How can social networks affect consumer or business energy investment decisions? On this week’s Energy Bite, Gabrielle Wong-Parodi, a scientist at Carnegie Mellon University, explains.

WONG-PARODI: In talking to small commercial building owners, researchers at Carnegie Mellon were surprised to find out that an important influence on energy decision-making was that owners’ “social network”. Use of a social network saves them the time necessary to find someone they trust and to understand all of the options.

HOST: What about residential consumers?

WONG-PARODI: Appliances are often bought at a time of crisis. For example, a water heater has broken down and we want to replace it right away. As a result, the decisions consumers make are based on the capital cost of that water heater – the price they pay at the time – rather than considering the long-term economic impacts that take into the account the financial savings from a more energy efficient water heater.

In addition to providing information to consumers, this research implies that it is important for installers and salespeople to have training so they can understand the short- and long-term financial implications.

HOST: Who influences your energy-related investment decisions? Take our poll, see the results, and ask your energy questions at Energy Bite dot org.
Energy Bite is a co-production between 90.5 WESA and Carnegie Mellon’s’ Scott Institute for Energy Innovation.

On this week’s Energy Bite, Gabrielle Wong-Parodi, a scientist at Carnegie Mellon University, discusses the energy efficiency of our appliances’ default settings.

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Allcott, H., & Mullainathan, S. (2010). Behavioral science and energy policy. Science, 327(5970), 1204-1205.

McCalley, L. T. (2006). From motivation and cognition theories to everyday applications and back again: the case of product-integrated information and feedback. Energy policy, 34(2), 129-137.

Marc Mosko, Victoria Bellotti,  “Smart Conservation for the Lazy Consumer: People aren’t conserving energy for love or money—you have to trick them into it,” 28 Jun 2012.

James Pierce, Diane J. Schiano,1, Eric Paulos, “Home, Habits, and Energy: Examining Domestic Interactions and Energy Consumption,”Proceedings of the 28th International Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (April 2010).

Appliances and electronics tips: Looking for ways to save money on your energy bill?” from We Energies


Transcript

HOST: Automatically using the default setting on electronics can be pretty easy. But do those settings save us the most energy? On this week’s Energy Bite, Gabrielle Wong-Parodi, a scientist at Carnegie Mellon University, has some answers.

WONG-PARODI: A review at MIT and Harvard found that a lot of our default settings for appliances are not the most efficient from an energy standpoint.  For example, a study at the Technical University in the Netherlands found that removing default temperature settings from washing machines was found to reduce energy usage by 24% as users set lower washing temperatures. There is a great deal of research in this area that tells us that most people keep the default option.

HOST: What actions could be taken to change the default settings so they are more energy efficient?

WONG-PARODI: One option would be for policymakers to require or encourage appliance makers to make the default settings those that are most energy efficient.
HOST: What other options do we have?
WONG-PARODI: Some government agencies and utilities provide information on their websites as to which default setting for our appliances is the most energy efficient.
HOST: What would you prefer? That appliance makers use the most energy efficient default settings, or thatconsumers decide on their own if they want to change the default settings?  Take our poll, see the results, and ask your energy questions at Energy Bite dot org.
Energy Bite is a co-production between 90.5 WESA and Carnegie Mellon’s’ Scott Institute for Energy Innovation.

On this week’s Energy Bite, Gabrielle Wong-Parodi, a scientist at Carnegie Mellon University, discusses the types of information that can motivate the public to modify their energy use.

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Krishnamurti, T., Davis, A., Wong-Parodi, G., Canfield, C., & Wang, J. (2013). Creating an in-home display: experimental evidence and guidelines for design, Applied Energy, 108, 448-458

Delmas, M. & Lessem, N. 2014. Saving Power to Conserve your Reputation? The Effectiveness of Private versus Public Information. Journal of Environmental Economics and Management. 67: 353-370

Omar I. Asensio and Magali A. Delmas, Nonprice incentives and energy conservation. PNAS 2015 112 (6) E510-E515; published ahead of print January 12, 2015,doi:10.1073/pnas.1401880112.

Chen, V., Delmas, M., & Kaiser, W.J. 2014. Real-Time, Appliance-Level Electricity Use Feedback System: How to Engage Users? Energy and Buildings. 70: 455-462.

Matt Lucas, “Want people to conserve electricity? Tell them about pollution-induced asthma.” Berkeley Energy & Resources Collaborative, February 24, 2015.

Transcript

HOST: You’ve heard the phrase “keeping up with the Jonses”. Can knowing how much energy my neighbor uses affect my energy use? On this week’s EnergyBite, Gabrielle Wong-Parodi, a scientist at Carnegie Mellon University, has some answers.

GABRIELLE WONG-PARODI: Researchers have found that a home energy display that provides consumers with their energy use in kilowatt hours- not financial savings- was the most effective way to communicate energy information.

HOST: What other information motivates consumers to reduce energy?

GABRIELLE WONG-PARODI: One analysis found that providing additional information to consumers such as how their energy influences human health really motivates people to reduce their energy use, especially if they have children and elderly living at home with them. Another influence is comparing their energy use to their neighbors.

HOST: When can consumer home energy use displays less effective?

GABRIELLE WONG-PARODI: Although those tested thought financial savings for reducing energy consumption for a particular appliance would be more motivating, that was not the case. This is because the cost of energy use for one device at a specific point of time is very small – say a few cents per hour – so it was not enough to influence behavior.

HOST: What display in your home, if any, would motivate you to reduce your energy consumption? Take our poll, see the results, and ask your energy questions at EnergyBite.org.

Energy Bite is a co-production between 90.5 WESA and Carnegie Mellon’s’ Scott Institute for Energy Innovation.