Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Bill Hannahan's on his difficulties getting his Archer-Jacobson review published

As I indicated in the introduction of Bill Hannahan's critical review of the Jacobson & Archer claims about Wind baseload power, Bill went through quite a struggle to get his paper published, both by the The Journal of Applied Meteorology & Climatology (JAMC) and by the Internet site the Oil Drum. Bill's efforts were frustrated by both. This is especially disturbing in the case of the JAMC, because it was obliged by the standards of science and its own publication rules to publish Bill's second round paper. The failure of the JAMC publish Bill's second round paper should be itself reviewed as a potential ethical lapse. The Oil Drum simply passed up a good opportunity, and I suspect that was at least as much a matter of style as of substance. Bill's current account is long, but it concludes with an important point about the effect of the internet on the speed of human knowledge growth.

Can interconnected windfarms replace baseload power plants, Part II

By Bill Hannahan

The Journal of Applied Meteorology & Climatology (JAMC) published a peer reviewed paper by Stanford professor Mark Jacobson and Cristina Archer called

“Supplying Baseload Power and Reducing Transmission Requirements by Interconnecting Wind Farms”

A first round review comment on the electrical engineering portion of the analysis was submitted in accordance with the published procedure which calls for two rounds of comment/author response, with publication of the second round. The authors submitted a response to the first round comment. The final comment was submitted.


The response to the review comment revealed the following facts.

1… Author Mark Jacobson did not identify any errors in the final review comment.

2… Interconnected windfarms cannot meet the reliability standards required to replace any fraction of baseload power plant capacity.

3… Stanford President John Hennessey has a B.E. in Electrical Engineering and a PhD in computer science. He did not identify any errors in the final comment, yet he refused to take any action to diminish the damage being done by the flawed Stanford paper which is still on the Stanford web site.

4… The Journal of Applied Meteorology & Climatology (JAMC) violated its published policy by refusing to publish the final review comment and by repeatedly trying to publish the first round comment without the author’s permission.

5… Peer review does not guarantee high quality or accuracy. Quality and accuracy depend entirely on the quality of the people involved.

6… Peer reviewed journals are an inefficient out of date mechanism for reviewing scientific papers. The internet makes possible faster more detailed and more accurate reviews that are transparent.

7… Nate Hagens, Kyle Saunders, Gail Tverberg and five more editors at The Oil Drum found no errors in the review comment yet they refused to publish the facts.


The editor informed me that the authors refused to respond to my final comment and insisted on publishing the first round comment/response, in violation of published AMS policy.

I sent the following letter to members of the AMS in a position of leadership.

[WARNING, it is a long and disjointed letter, reflecting the process.]

I received the following note from the JAMC editor.

Dear Mr. Hannahan,

I have been informed by the authors of the original manuscript that, after receiving your revised version of the Comments, they have no time, nor are they interested in, revising their reply to match the new version. Although your revision has followed the instructions that the comments need to be standing alone, the number of comments have now doubled compared from the original version and, as a result, the comments and replies are now out of sequence, making it impossible to publish the pair. This leaves me no choice but to go with the initial pair of Comments/Reply. I have carefully compared the new and old version of your comments and I feel that publishing the original version won't lose all the major points that you are trying to make in your
revised version

I recognize and appreciate the work that you have put into the revision, but in the interest of moving the process forward and getting the comments published, I have to accept the original Comments/Reply pair (April 2008).

I responded to the editor with the following note:

“This is the second time you have tried to publish my first round comment without my permission. Why are you trying so hard to publish my weakest comment?

My first round review comment was written and submitted in compliance with the AMS procedure, which calls for two rounds, of which only the second round will be published. Only my final comment is approved for publication.

You wrote;

I have been informed by the authors of the original manuscript that, after receiving your revised version of the Comments, they have no time, nor are they interested in, revising their reply …. This leaves me no choice but to go with the initial pair of Comments/Reply.”

It is interesting that the authors would rather go with the first round comment that they found objectionable than to address my final comment that lacks the offensive material.

The AMS procedure does not require an author response, it is optional. In fact the AMS procedure specifies the author’s right to respond at a later time. There is no reason to revert to my first round comment. Why do you want to publish the inferior comment when the final comment is so much better?

The AMS procedure gives the authors the last word which is normally a huge advantage. If the authors forgo that privilege in an effort to suppress the superior comment, why should they be rewarded for that strategy? Why should the readers be denied the best argument? Are the authors practicing science or playing chess.

You wrote;

I have carefully compared the new and old version of your comments and I feel that publishing the original version won't lose all the major points that you are trying to make in your revised version.”

So it is OK to delete half or more of my points, especially the most important ones, because the authors do not want to address them? I don’t think so.

The final comment is much improved over the first round comment. It clearly documents the defects and omissions in the reports analysis and it lacks the controversial content of the first round comment that the authors and you found objectionable.

Clearly the authors do not want my final comment published because it contains devastating points that they cannot answer. The authors must not be allowed to hide the facts by simply refusing to respond to them.

You wrote;

I recognize and appreciate the work that you have put into the revision, but in the interest of moving the process forward and getting the comments published, I have to accept the original Comments/Reply pair (April 2008).”

To recognize my work, and to allow others to appreciate it, and to complete your obligation in this matter, simply forward my final comment for publication.

Stanford received thousands of dollars to create this deeply flawed report. The authors received thousands of dollars to write this deeply flawed report. JMAC and the reviewers were well paid to publish this deeply flawed report.

I spent many precious hours of my time researching and composing my final comment. While that time was unpaid, my final comment more accurately reflects the unreliability of wind power than does the deeply flawed Stanford report, and it deserves to be published.

The nineteen points in my final comment should have been raised by the peer reviewers. Had they done so, the deeply flawed conclusions of this report would not be spread across the internet and other publications, and the many hours I dedicated to this effort could have been put to other use. Publishing my final comment will not un-ring the bell, it will not undo all the damage caused by this report, but it will be a start.

Since the authors have given up their right to respond in a timely manner, I request that you publish my final comment now with a note that the authors choose not to respond. Or publish all three comments with a note that the authors choose not to respond to the final comment. They have the right to respond at a later time. Your readers are intelligent well educated adults. They will understand.

The length of my final comment will be similar to that of both first round comments combined. Given the length of the deeply flawed Stanford report, the length of my comment should not be an issue. Energy and climate change are the two biggest problems faced by mankind.

The Stanford paper plays a role in delaying the implementation of the best possible energy policy. As a result billions of people around the world will experience more pain and suffering needlessly, and many lives will be shortened over the next several decades. It is the people on the lowest rung of the economic ladder who will suffer the most for this.

This comment process is now in its 14th month. The ball has been in my court a small fraction of that time. The U.S. is about to spend hundreds of billions of dollars on energy policy. The truth needs to come out soon.

The JAMC editor ignored the points made in this response and violated the published AMS policy for correspondence, page 14 of the authors guide pdf, at least 7 times.

1… The editor withheld the author’s first round comment from me for six weeks, (June 12, 2008- July 20, 2008).

2… The editor tried to publish my first round comment without my permission, (June 25, 2008).

3… The editor allowed the authors to introduce diversionary issues not contained in my review comment or in the original paper (July 20, 2008).

4… The editor tried to publish my first round comment without my permission a second time, (March 5, 2009).

5… The editor claims that the final comment is too long, (March 12, 2009). The editor did not identify any points that were wrong, irrelevant, insignificant or otherwise appropriate for deletion. AMS procedure does not limit the length of comments.

6… The editor refused to have any of my comments reviewed by an electrical engineer with experience in the generation and distribution of electric power.

7… The editor refused to publish the final comment while agreeing that it is of high quality, (March 12, 2009).


There is a lot of material here. There are two key points to keep in mind while evaluating this material.

1… The first sentence of the introduction to the AMS author guide.

The constitution of the American Meteorological Society lists as its objectives

the development and dissemination of knowledge of the atmospheric and related oceanic and hydrologic sciences and the advancement of their professional applications.””

2… The fact that my final comment is the best comment. None of the authors, editors or reviewers have identified any fault with it.

Do you believe that it is in the best interests of science to have an unobstructed debate of the best ideas? Do you believe that theories and analyses should be subject to thorough independent examination? Do you believe that science should not be “Pay to Play”? Do you believe that scientists should not be able to hide the flaws of their work behind institutional and procedural barriers? Do you believe that the points in the final review comment have merit and deserve a full airing?

If these are your beliefs I ask that you explain them to JAMC chief editor Rob Rauber,

rauber@atmos.uiuc.edu and ask him to publish the final comment without the author’s response, as provided for by the AMS procedure, or publish all of the comments.

I also ask that you copy your remarks to AMS president Thomas R. Karl,


and to me at mc2essay@yahoo.com .


Postscript: A Contrasting Example and a Recommendation

In his first round response and in his other energy papers, author, Dr. Jacobson references the work of Dr. Benjamin Sovacool. Sovacool claims that the lifecycle CO2 emissions from nuclear power are 66 gms/kWh.


Unlike Dr. Jacobson, Dr. Sovacool engages in public discussion of his work. Consider the following exchange:

Hannahan… Is you goal to produce a paper on; (A) The world’s historical emissions of CO2 from nuclear power plants, or (B) CO2 emissions from future Gen III reactors built in the U.S.?

Your calculation of capacity factor is consistent with A. To make the cost estimate consistent with A, average the actual construction cost of all plants built so far. I would expect a number around $1.00/watt.

Your use of U.S. Gen III construction cost estimates, the highest in the world, makes me believe that your objective is a paper that will be useful to policy makers deciding the future of nuclear power in the U.S., therefore your goal should be B.

To be consistent you should estimate the capacity factor of future Gen III reactors in the U.S.. Gen II reactors in the U.S. have ramped up from 50% in the 70’s to about 90% in recent years


in spite of the fact that Gen II plants are handicapped by an old decaying grid that experiences occasional outages requiring nuclear plants to throttle back or shutdown. Experts agree that we need to overhaul the grid to increase capacity and reliability, regardless of the energy source mix.

Gen III plants are Gen II plants that incorporate the lessons learned over the last 40 years. They have reduced complexity, inherently safe design features and vastly improved instrumentation and control systems, making them more reliable. With these improvements the most probable capacity factor for U.S. Gen III reactors is well over 90%, not 81 %.

Sovacool… Point well taken. Really the paper was not meant to be either A or B—I just wanted to see what the literature said about GHG emissions from nuclear plants—but in the end I suppose it ended mixing A and B up. This is because many of the studies analyzed mixed them up, with some looking at historical emissions in places like the US, and others looking at future emissions in places like Japan or Sweden. I think a more careful paper that does either A or B would be very useful, and if it did B, it would need to account for the high capacity factor of US nuclear plants that you point out.

Hannahan… U.S. Gen II plants were designed for 40 year lifetimes. Almost half have received license extensions to 60 years.


Gen III plants are designed for 60 years with possible extension to 80 or more years. The assumption of 30-40 year lifespan for future Gen III reactors is not appropriate.

You would not evaluate the future performance of wind and solar based on 1950-1980 windmill and solar cell designs. Nuclear power plant design has been frozen at an immature level for several decades, roughly equivalent to the DC-3 in aviation, but the DC-3 had the advantage of being factory mass produced. There is enormous room for evolution in nuclear power plant design and construction.

Sovacool… The 40-60 year lifetime for newer plants is also a good point, and this is the first I’ve heard of it (much of the literature I’ve read says 20-40 years). Naturally, the longer nuclear plants operate, the lower their emissions per kWh from construction and decommissioning will be. Scarcer supplies of uranium could offset this improvement if more GHG are emitted to mine and enrich the uranium, but your point is valid.

Hannahan… By far the biggest problem is the assumption that the energy mix does not change over the life of the plant. Most wind and solar emissions come before the first watt hour is produced, whereas half of the nuclear emissions are released after 20-40 years of operation. What are the odds that coal will be generating 50% of our electricity 20, 40, 60, 80 years from now? There is rapidly growing resistance to more coal in the U.S. and many existing plants are nearing end of life. Dr Hansen (NASA) believes we must get off coal soon. Of course in 80 years global cooling might be the big issue, but for now the up front CO2 loading of wind and solar is a disadvantage nobody is talking about.

The transportation mix is going to shift away from oil into natural gas, electric and biofuel, reducing fossil carbon/ton mile substantially. Do you distinguish between fossil carbon and recycled atmospheric carbon?

Accounting for these changes over the life of the plant will dramatically reduce average fossil CO2/kWh for nuclear plants, less so for other options with shorter life spans and higher up front emissions.

An easier method, yet still reasonable for comparison purposes, would be to assume that all electrical inputs are from the technology being evaluated.

Underground uranium mines are largely electric, open pit mines will shift toward natural gas, electric and biofuel, sea water uranium can eliminate mining.


Milling and enrichment are electric, cold war diffusion enrichment plants are going away. The U.S. is building two centrifuge enrichment plants and two more are in planning.

Sovacool… I hope you’re right about coal, and as I’ve told many others on this website nuclear plants are far superior from coal plants for a variety of reasons. The amazing thing is that electric utilities in the US are still talking about adding huge amounts of coal and natural gas capacity in the coming years. Both the EIA and IEA, for example, project that by 2030 and 2040 fossil fuels will provide the SAME mix of energy services that they do today, if not more. So while I agree many of the shifts you talk about would indeed be welcome (and more efficient), I’m sceptical that they will occur.

Hannahan… Gen 4 reactors will reduce uranium requirements / kWh by a factor of 60-100. Gen 4 plants using sea water cooling could extract all their fuel directly from the condenser cooling water.

Sovacool… [no comment]

Hannahan… An alternative viewpoint is to see each study as the correct answer to a different question, depending on the boundary conditions and assumptions it is based on.

From this perspective, the first step is to decide which question we want to answer. The most important question is the one your paper is most often claimed to have answered.

“If we build new Generation III nuclear power plants in large numbers, how much CO2 / kWh will that release?”

Each of the calculations in your study should be evaluated to see if it answers this question. For example, do they account for;

A… The fact that the fossil carbon content of electricity will go down dramatically over the next 60-80 years. Over 70% of our electricity comes from fossil fuel now. If we replace the fossil plants with a large number of Gen III nuclear plants, the CO2 per kWh will drop by a huge factor, and that will feedback into a further reduction of nuclear CO2 per kWh. If we do not build large numbers of nuclear plants the CO2 content of nuclear kWh's is irrelevant because it will have a minor impact on our problems.

B… Capacity factors above 0.9

C… 60+ year lifetimes.

D… Continuing modest improvements in fuel design with gradually increasing energy yield per ton.

E… Continuing modest improvement in decommissioning techniques including the use of advanced robotic technology likely to be available in 60-80 years when Gen III plants begin reaching end of life.

F… The fact that cold war diffusion enrichment is going away soon and centrifuge technology will continue to improve at a modest rate over the next 60 years. Laser enrichment may reduce enrichment cost further but need not be considered at this stage.

G… A rational approach to spent fuel. Recycling into Generation IV reactors or a simple, safe, easy, low energy consumption solution like deep seabed disposal.


After weeding out all the studies that do not meet these criteria you will be left with a small number of studies with results that are clustered within a narrow range of the correct number. Average those numbers and you will have a valuable result. I would expect it to be near the low end of the results you reviewed.

Sovacool… I don’t think the correct question to answer is “If we build Generation III nuclear plants …” Those plants may never be built, given the recent increases in the capital cost for nuclear power plant construction, public resistance towards siting and the transportation of nuclear waste, and the risk of proliferation and accident (and no matter how many times we go back and forth about these issues in Scitizen, people will still believe what they want to believe). The better question, for me, is “what are the greenhouse gas emissions associated with the current lifecycle,” the plants that will be operating for the next few years, the ones that are competing against existing generators. And here, I see a number of advantages in favor of wind, solar, etc.

Hannahan… True or False. If we stopped burning fossil fuel completely, the fossil CO2 per kWh of nuclear power would be near zero.

Sovacool… If we stopped burning fossil fuels completely, and even used nuclear power plants or renewable power plants to create the electricity needed to enrich uranium etc., I do agree the c02 per kWh for nuclear would decline. But I suspect it would still be much higher than the c02 per kWh from other sources such as energy efficiency or renewables.

Hannahan… Vattenfall generates electricity in Sweden. It gets 37.5 % of its electricity from hydro and 61.7 % from nuclear. Only about 1/4 % comes from fossil fuel. The very low fossil carbon content of Vattenfall’s electricity makes the fossil content of its nuclear kWh's very low.

The lifecycle CO2 emissions of Vattenfall nuclear power is only 3.5 gms CO2 per kWh, 5% of your reports number. The lifecycle CO2 emissions of Vattenfall wind power is 10.5 gms CO2 per kWh, three times higher than nuclear.


If the U.S., or any country, replaces its fossil power plants with Gen III nuclear plants, the fossil carbon content of its kWh's will also be very low. Combine that with the effects of longer life, higher capacity factor, improved construction techniques and more efficient enrichment capacity, and the CO2 per kWh of nuclear power will be lower than it is in Sweden now.

Sovacool… No Comment.

Hannahan… Consider these two questions.

A… What are the CO2 emissions associated with the current lifecycle of existing Gen II nuclear plants?

B… If we replace our fossil power plants with Gen III nuclear plants, what are the CO2 emissions / kWh associated with the lifecycle of those new plants.

Which of these questions is most important to the future of the human race? Our Gen II reactors were designed in the 60’s and built in the 70’s – 80’s. We are not going to build more of these reactors, or more Titanics or more Model T Fords. Do you compare the performance of 60’s reactor technology with the performance of 60’s model windmills, solar energy systems, geothermal and biomass technology? Almost none of them are still working, and the comparison would be meaningless for the future.

Sovacool… No Comment.

Hannahan… … Benjamin, you have candidly acknowledged that A is the, “better question, for me”. For those of us looking for the answer to B, will you acknowledge that your report does not answer question B?

Sovacool… No Comment.

Hannahan… Why is Vattenfall wind power CO2 per kWh three times higher than nuclear? Windmills use much more steel and concrete per kWh than nuclear, and those emissions are almost all up front, before the first kWh is generated.

Sovacool… No Comment.

Hannahan… Vattenfall has already gone a long way towards this goal. If we leave the fossil carbon atoms in the ground in the form of coal, oil and natural gas deposits, the fossil CO2 emissions of nuclear power, and any other surviving energy source, would be approximately zero. If necessary we can even make nuclear power carbon negative by using some of the energy to extract CO2 from the atmosphere.


Sovacool… No Comment.

Hannahan… Extracting uranium from seawater using ships anchored in the Gulf Stream and Black Current, powered by water turbines in the current, can provide fossil carbon free uranium for hundreds of years using Gen III reactors, and billions of years with Gen IV reactors.


Sovacool… No Comment.

These and many more interesting exchanges are available here;



In the span of a few weeks this discussion has teased out important points regarding CO2 emissions from future nuclear power plants that I have not seen in any papers on this subject. The debate was cordial, respectful and even humorous at times.

Contrast that with the 16 month ordeal at JAMC resulting in zero comments published and procedurally limited to two rounds with only the last round published, had the editor followed the AMS procedure. Think how much would have been lost if the Scitizen site limited debate to one or two rounds, or less if an author was intimidated by a comment.

Although I disagree with Dr. Sovacool on some points, my respect for him is infinitely higher than for Dr. Jacobson, because Sovacool VOLUNTARILY discusses his work in a public forum.

If Dr. Jacobson posted his wind reliability paper on Scitizen it would be ripped apart like a piece of meat in a tank of hungry piranhas. He would be forced to improve the quality of his work dramatically, and to stick to the subjects for which he has expertise. More importantly, his conclusions would not be posted all over the internet and other publications misleading people and political leaders, distorting energy policy, resulting in needless suffering in the decades to come.

Limiting comments to one round may have made sense before the electronic age when comments were hand written and type was handset but we can do much better now. I urge AMS to take the lead by setting up a site like Scitizen on AMS’s computer system where issues can be fully aired out.

For the record;

My degrees are in electrical and nuclear engineering. I support nuclear power, but my energy recommendation is neutral. Conduct R&D on every technology, build prototypes of everything, publish the results, level the playing field, pick the best technology.


If this recommendation is implemented the best solution will emerge, whatever it is. I believe wind power will be stopped dead in its tracks.

My energy paper is here;


The supporting calculations, assumptions and references are here.


I thank you in advance for your help in getting my final review comment published.


Bill Hannahan


They did not respond to any of the points raised and continue to refuse to publish the final comment.

A slightly revised version was sent to Stanford president John Hennessey. Here are the revised sections.

“President Hennessy, do you believe that it is in the best interests of science to have an unobstructed debate of the best ideas. Do you believe that theories and analyses should be subject to thorough independent examination? Do you believe that science should not be “Pay to Play”? Do you believe that scientists should not be able to hide their work behind institutional and procedural barriers? Do you believe that the points in the final review comment have merit and deserve a full and accurate response?

If these are your beliefs please explain them to author Dr. Mark Jacobson. He takes the opposite point of view. If he responds to the final review comment, the Journal will publish both documents.

If he still refuses to provide a response, I ask that you contact AMS president Thomas R. Karl, and ask him to publish the final comment without the author’s response, as provided for by the AMS procedure. I also ask that you remove the paper from your website or post my review comment with it.

Since this paper was published Dr. Jacobson has produced at least one more deeply flawed paper.


It assigns the effects of nuclear war to commercial nuclear power plants. It assigns the emissions from fossil fueled power plants to imaginary nuclear plants that have not been built. The author claims that windmills can replace baseload power plants, citing his wind reliability paper, which he knows is deeply flawed, having read my comments…

The journals are becoming an anachronism due to their failure to use the best technology to accelerate the progress of science. I urge you to take the lead by setting up a site like Scitizen on Stanford’s computer system and requiring Stanford personal to defend their work in an open environment. That is not to say they would have to respond to every crackpot with a dumb remark, but they would ignore thoughtful substantive comments at their peril.”

I receive the following response 2 weeks later.

Of course, I have no right to interfere with the processes of the JAMC. Furthermore, Professor Jacobson's decision on how he wants to respond is well within his prerogative as a faculty member.

I am sorry I cannot be of further help in resolving your issue.

Best wishes,

John L. Hennessy


1… When I wrote the first round comment I had not reviewed IEEE Std. 762-2006 or the data from the North American Electric Reliability Council. The first round comment did not contain items 2, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 16. These are fact based points that cannot be refuted.

2… I am not allowed to publish the author’s response to the first round comment. It is short, shallow, error filled and illogical on some points. It did not address all points in the first round comment. It also includes new issues not found in the paper or my comment including an attack on nuclear power claiming high CO2 emissions for nuclear power.

That attack triggered the idea of using the Sovacool discussion as an example of how a back and forth discussion can develop important points.

3… I am sure that Charles Barton will welcome and post a full uncensored response from the authors, president Hennessey or the editors. I hope they take advantage of that opportunity.


1… Stanford President Hennessey has a B.E. in Electrical Engineering and a PhD in computer science. He did not identify any errors in the final comment, yet he would not lift a finger to diminish the damage being done by the flawed Stanford paper.

There is a growing religious belief that renewable energy can replace fossil fuel with little or no reduction in quality of life or increase in human suffering. Science is not a religion.

Consider the history of the Big Bang Theory.

1916 … Einstein’s theory of relativity published.

1927 … Georges LemaĆ®tre proposes theory of an expanding universe. Einstein claims the universe is fixed.

1929 … Hubble studies red shift, finding that galaxies are moving away from our galaxy at a speed proportional to our distance from those galaxies.

1945 … George Gamow proposes neutron reactions that could explain the formation of light atoms in a big bang environment, and he proposes the existence of background radiation from that event.

1965 … Penzias and Wilson, Bell Lab engineers, detect the background radiation.

1970 … The Big Bang theory attains scientific consensus and enters school textbooks.

1970-present … Cracks appear in the theory. The distribution of matter in the universe is not uniform. Galaxies rotate too fast for the known mass in them. Expansion seems to be accelerating.

In the future the big bang theory will be modified or removed from the textbooks altogether if something else attains greater scientific consensus.

Contrast that with supporters of creation theory who want to put it in the school science books first and create a generation of supporting scientists later.

The worrisome thing about renewable energy true believers is that they include people with parchment claiming expertise in science and engineering, like president Hennessey, the authors and the leaders at AMS. They are willing and determined to use their standing in the world of science and engineering to promote renewables at all cost and to suppress opposing information.

Somehow they obtained degrees in science and technology without learning the fundamental principles by which scientific knowledge expands and improves in quality. The free exchange of ideas subject to continuous testing against the reality of nature is essential for the progress of science and technology.

2. In academia the rule is publish or perish. Some Journals have become engines that convert money into paper without respect to quality. In the worst case they suppress documents of high quality if they do not bring in revenue or if they conflict with high dollar customers.

3. My attempt to publish a single comment at JAMC lasted 16 months. The ball was in their court most of that time. The discussion with Dr. Sovacool lasted a few weeks and provided important insight on the issue in a friendly and respectful environment. In the words of a famous song, I have never received “so much resistance from behind.”

If the journals continue to operate as they did in the nineteenth century they will become irrelevant. Internet sites like Scitizen and Nuclear Green are accelerating the pace at which knowledge is critically reviewed and distributed.

3. Peer review does not guarantee accuracy. None of the authors or reviewers of this paper are electrical engineers in the power industry. Authors are asked to suggest reviewers for their work. Are the students at Stanford allowed to suggest fellow students to grade their term papers? This is a sign of laziness.

The editors should do the leg work to find independent reviewers. Any senior grid manager, of which there are hundreds, could have done an excellent job.

Two civil engineers published a deeply flawed electrical engineering paper in a journal for meteorology and climatology. The paper is being used to mislead the public and political leaders. It has been referenced repeatedly on numerous blogs and publications.

4. A comment does not have to be perfect to have value. Even flawed comments can improve the quality of science by revealing new insights. In the discussion with Sovocool there may be errors on both sides of the discussion, but the overall conclusions are still valuable.

5. The authors, editors and Stanford president did not identify any errors in the final comment. Even if they did find errors, that does not justify suppressing the comment unless all points were flawed. The leaders of the AMS have yet to explain why they violated their published policy and suppressed this comment.


DV8 2XL said...

well if nothing else this goes to show how deeply the rot has gotten into the process. Peer-review has been showing signs of trouble for years now, but now it is clear that it is no longer any indication of quality control.

The only saving grace, is that Hannahan does have other outlets that will publish his work, and will carry the story of how he wasn't able to publish it through the proper channels.

In the long run, those with any background in power engineering, (or even commonsense) can and will see that the Jacobson and Archer paper is deeply flawed, and this controversy will do more to bring these flaws to public attention, that publishing Hannahan's revised comments ever would.

The onus now is on the bloging community to give this farce the widest possible circulation.

Gail the Actuary said...

I am sorry that we could not publish Bill's comments at The Oil Drum. In order for an article to be published at The Oil Drum, it really needs to be self-contained--explain the entire background and then give the arguments as to why the arguments of the other side are not right.

If Bill Hannahan's comments had been published on JAMC, the readers would have had the proper context--they would have background on the subject, and would have read the Archer-Jacobson article, so they would fully understand the discussion.

If the article as submitted were published on The Oil Drum, it seems like readers would sort of be walking into the middle of a discussion. The article would likely to have been more confusing than helpful.

I wish Bill were not so critical of The Oil Drum. As much as we would like to redress every wrong, we can't really do that. Our scope isn't quite broad enough to encompass what Bill would like us to do. IMO, the organization that should be publishing the review is JAMC, not The Oil Drum.

Charles Barton said...

Gail, I do not share Bill's judgement about the Oil Drum. Bill's point is, however, an important one, that the process if vetting critics of flawed scientific papers is very flawed, and there is no real place to talk about the problem. Bill tried the Oil Drum, and in a sense that suggests a high regard for it, but the oil Drum was perhaps not the best place for Bills complaint.

Anonymous said...

FROM: Bill Hannahan

“I wish Bill were not so critical of The Oil Drum.”

I simply stated the most basic facts with no editorial comment. If the facts are critical that is not my fault. I could have included the editorial responses from the Oil Drum editors, some of which were inappropriate in my opinion [not from Gail], and commented on them.

The Oil Drum was my first choice because it has the best comment format that I am aware of. It allows an organized compilation of strings of comments on individual points within the body of comments.

Any Oil Drum editor could take 5 minutes to generate a warning label pointing out that these two documents are long, dry, difficult, technical, rambling essays. Better than Ambien without the side effects.

If the warning label drives off 95% of the readers that is good with me as I am only interested in the thoughtful comments of knowledgeable readers.

The Oil Drum can still take this course and I will revise my comment.

donb said...

DV8 2XL wrote:
well if nothing else this goes to show how deeply the rot has gotten into the process. Peer-review has been showing signs of trouble for years now, but now it is clear that it is no longer any indication of quality control.

Amen to that! I read the Jacobson and Archer paper shortly after it came out, and saw a few shortcomings myself (electrical engineer, but not specializing in electric power). If I can see such shortcomings, then the peer review process is indeed broken.

Bill Hannahan, who has expertise in the field, has pointed out quite a few more shortcomings. With so many difficiencies in the original paper pointed out, JAMC is under even more obligation to go out of its way to publish rebutals.

The rot appears to be wide spread. My own professional organization (IEEE) has recently published articles both in the general circulation magazine (Spectrum) and general professional journal (Proceedings) stating that "renewables" (excluding nuclear) are sufficient to meet the energy needs of the world.

Unfortunately, I am very time limited, and cannot undertake comment on these articles with the quality necessary.

Brad F said...

I also read the paper shortly after was published, since it had made such a splash in the blogosphere at the time. My take on the thing was pretty much the same as number 3 (the second 3) in Bill's Conclusions. Two civil/environmental engineers wrote a paper with conclusions related electrical engineering and published it in a journal for meteorology and climatology. It is apparent from the results (it was published) that none of the peer reviewers had any expertise in power systems. The authors basically made up their own definitions without regard to the real world.

In the paper there is a generation duration curve (fig. 3) that represents the output of 1, 7 or 19 interconnected wind farm sites. Vertical lines are drawn at 79%, 87.5% and 92% along the horizontal axis that show how much capacity is available at those points, and those values are used as the firm capacity, although some rather creative calculations are used to inflate those numbers. Aside from the authors' creativity, what struck me was that they ignored what happened to the right of the those points. All three curves STILL WENT TO ZERO by the time they reached 100%. These generation duration curves are not representative of a baseload generation system, even for the 19-site interconnected case.

As Bill correctly pointed out, the proper comparison would have been to compare the 19 wind sites to a small fleet of coal plants. I have access to data for a small fleet of 8 coal plants that are used for load following in addition to baseload. The far right hand side of the generation duration curve sits at 55% of total capacity. In other words, at no time in the year did the output fall below 55% of nameplate capacity, including nighttime operation when the plants were operating below capacity due to light loads. Now THAT is a characteristic of baseload generation.

Bill did a fine job in laying out the flaws in the Jacobson/Archer paper.

Edward Peschko said...


A quick sidenote, but youtube is holding a 'ask questions to the president' session on citizentube, at:


There are a bunch of questions about nuclear, pro and con - including questions about thorium - and I was hoping that this could both make it into all the nuclear blogs and that people could go, submit questions and vote.

Right now, nuclear is doing ok, but it's falling behind such 'technologies' as burning hemp (sigh).

Anyways, I know that people might be skeptical about both this forum and how effective it is, but I ask folks to give it the benefit of the doubt and give it a try...



Engineer-Poet said...

Defending The Oil Drum here, TOD does not do comprehensive reviews of articles.  It's simply not possible to do so.  The staff and contributors are busy, and have neither the time nor the expertise to review all submissions for accuracy.  This has led to some embarrassing incidents; I recall one time when an article with gross errors in things like basic arithmetic wound up on the front page, though I believe it was taken down again (I'd dig up the reference but Yahoo's mail-search function is broken).

Due to this, it would not be difficult to pull a Sokal-level hoax on The Oil Drum; merely exploiting it as a vehicle for propaganda is all too easy.

Charles Barton said...

Engineer-Poet I take Bill's view to be an expression of Frustration at being unable to get his paper published in a venue, that would give it the airing it should have received. Jacobson's paper is often assumed to prove that wind generation systems are reliable enough to eliminate the need for nuclear base generation capacity on the Grid. I was and am aware that Bill's paper did not fit into the usual editorial expectations of Oil Drum editors. Whether the Oil Drum editors should have made an exception because of the importance of Bill's paper is something that they should consider, but the Oil Drum's loss was Nuclear Green's gain. I was thrilled by the opportunity to publish Bills papers.

Engineer-Poet said...

Bill is not the only one frustrated.   However, it is interesting that some pushback over TOD editors' censorship of comments has come out in the post about HO's retirement (I didn't know about the other poster when I wrote; I just finished reading that thread a few hours ago, after comments closed).  Whether this leads to a change in editorial policy, and perhaps editors, remains to be seen.

zainuddin said...

thanks for share


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