South Dakota Fiscally Flounders, Minnesota Money Merrily Mounting

While South Dakota struggles to hold its head above budgetary water, while we wonder if our K-12 schools will get even the meager 1% boost Governor Daugaard promised to salvage from the cruel, trickster jaws of IM22, Governor Mark Dayton of Minnesota is able to propose a 9.6% increase in his state budget without blinking, thanks to a $1.6 billion surplus:

Both Minnesota Republican and Democratic leaders agree being in the black on a state budget is better than the alternative. Minnesota has had four years of budget surpluses, which followed five-and-a-half years of budget deficits.

“It’s good news,” said Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka (R-Nisswa). “It makes it easier to balance the budget.”

…Experts says much of positive budget news is due to overall good health of the economy. More jobs means more people are paying more in taxes [Heather Brown, “Good Question: How Did Minnesota Get a Budget Surplus?” WCCO, 2017.03.01].

South “Galt’s Gulch” Dakota’s revenue forecasts have gone limp, while in the People’s Republic of Minnesota

…Minnesota’s economy has continued to grow slowly, adding jobs and economic output over the last several years. In 2015, its gross state product grew 1.9 percent — 0.6 percentage points slower than the U.S. as a whole.

In part because Minnesota has a tight labor market — only about one person to fill every available open job — the number of hours Minnesotans work and their wages have seen an increase.

When Minnesotans make more money, so does the state, as income tax is one of the biggest sources of state revenue. Income tax revenue projections for the 2018-19 biennium are $24 billion, up $274 million from November’s prediction.

Wednesday’s forecast for sales tax, another major source of state revenue, is also projected to increase, thanks to optimism surrounding consumer spending. Put together, income and sales tax make up more than 75 percent of the state’s revenues [Greta Kaul, “The February Budget Forecast Sets the Terms for the Debate at the Minnesota Legislature. Where Do the Numbers Come From?MinnPost, 2017.03.01].

I keep thinking of my neighbor Larry Spitzer, who asks why we would ever want to be like Minnesota. I think some Legislative appropriators could give a good answer to that question this weekend at the crackerbarrels.

144 Responses to South Dakota Fiscally Flounders, Minnesota Money Merrily Mounting

  1. Robert McTaggart

    Meanwhile, the Senate is deliberating on S. 512, the Nuclear Energy Innovation and Modernization Act, which addresses regulations, licensing, advanced reactors, and uranium issues.

    The bill states that Congress finds that a 1,000 megawatt nuclear plant generates about 500 permanent jobs, $40 million in annual wages, $470 million in local goods and services, and $83 million in Federal, State, and local taxes.

    Oh by the way, Minnesota generates nuclear power.

  2. Bob Newland

    Even in the face of the bad news about state revenues, the Christian Taliban in the legislature continue to do all they can to make SoDak unattractive to anyone who’d like, above all, to enjoy the blessings of liberty. Neal, Brock, Jimmy B., and Al provide quite a show. Unfortunately it resembles an SNL parody.

    The saddest part of all is that, every two years, the voters have a chance to replace at least some of these clown with people who have at least a glimmer of what an idea looks like, and the voters most often choose the unlit mind.

  3. Roger Elgersma

    And they do not even tax food. I moved to Minnesota a few months ago and when looking at houses, the taxes for the same house here was half of Sioux Falls. House prices are lower as well for same house. Minnesota thinks much more positive and gets better results. Has to be more than that because positive or negative thinking is not all that reality is, but Minnesota is much more positive when funding education. Maybe South Dakota has a better future now that they started increasing funding for education. Hope so.

  4. mike from iowa

    But Minnesota’s surplus actually belongs to the koch bros who aren’t above spending hundreds of millions to get their hands on a billion plus.

    If South Dakota wingnuts could angle drill their way into Minnesota’s treasury they would have it made.

  5. Darin Larson

    If South Dakota can’t increase funding for education by more than 1% per year, we either need better priorities or better sources of funding. We have been the Mississippi of the Midwest for far too long and it shows. Minnesota has made education a priority and it shows.

    All of the states around us are more prosperous and most of those prosperous states have a state income tax. In South Dakota, we operate under the tax principle that the wealthy should pay much less tax than the wealthy in other states as a percentage of their income and that the poor should pay higher taxes than the poor in other states as a percentage of their income.

    We spend millions trying to attract businesses here, but most high tech businesses are not going to come to a state that invests so little in education. If you want a place for a call center, SD fits the bill. If you want a place for a software company, SD makes little sense. High tech workers want their kids in world class schools. We are never going to have world class schools here with our third world funding mentality.

    We can do more with less funding in SD than some states, but we can’t continue to starve education funding and expect anything to change. What I have observed is that many of SD’s best and brightest do not find what they are looking for in our state–be it jobs, cultural opportunities, diversity or a commitment to equality. This net outflow of talent results in the diminishment of our state’s future growth opportunities.

    How can the Republicans leading our government in this state understand the value of investment in so many contexts like business and infrastructure, for example, but fail to see the connection between investment in education and the future prosperity of SD?

    SD is in a macro cycle of poverty that favors the wealthy among us and penalizes the poor while not prioritizing our children’s future. We made a step toward meeting our educational funding needs last year while exacerbating our regressive tax system. With the most likely .31% funding increase to education this year, we will be right back to 51st in the nation in teacher pay within a couple of years.

    Our state rainy day reserve funds and our REDI funds for economic development runneth over with excess, but the legislature will cut education funding to the bone once again. Roughly one-third of the legislature last year complained that we did not need to raise taxes for education because they could find $40-60 million in the existing budget for education. Now this year comes along and these same folks can’t come up with $6 million in new money for education. We put tens of millions into the state rainy day general reserve over the course of the last five years, but those funds seem to be off limits to education.

    Conservative budget projections were used to justify small increases to education funding over the last five years and then when the revenue came in predictably higher at the end of the fiscal year the extra money was not given to education–it was squirreled away in reserves or spent on the governor’s pet projects. Now when we are confronted with a year when projections for revenue were overly optimistic, we take the shortfall out of education’s hide once again. For education funding in SD, it is darned if the revenue projections are conservative and darned if the revenue projections are optimistic. It is heads the governors pet projects win or tails education loses.

    We are not going to starve our way to prosperity in this state and it is high time our political leaders learned this fact.

  6. Isn’t this really an issue of HOW we collect revenue? The economy and growth are not tanking in SD, just the collection of taxes/state revenue are. Is this the sign of a broken system that has prosperity out of sync with revenues?

  7. South Dakota has not even paid off their 3rd and 4th quarter bills yet. Broke as a joke. So where is that 10 million smiley was blathering about calling it a surplus? But we will be able to carry concealed guns around, so we got that going for us, which is a good thing.

  8. Education will not even get the .3% required by law, let alone the 1% as proposed. The SD Legis will once again break their own law on funding K-12 education.

  9. South Dakota’s economy is such a one trick pony. Agriculture. When times are good is a pretty good trick and it makes our Republican controlled government look like rock stars. But when ag suffers our state suffers, and our lack of a workable economic plan becomes painfully obvious. You can’t just cut your way to prosperity.

  10. South Dakota’s economy is such a one trick pony. Agriculture. When times are good is a pretty good trick and it makes our Republican controlled government look like rock stars. But when ag suffers our state suffers, and our lack of a workable economic plan becomes painfully obvious. You can’t just cut your way to prosperity. And you can’t just sit around and pat yourselves on the back when ag is strong and pretend like you had anything to do with the state’s economy being strong. You need to be working on expanding your state’s portfolio.

  11. It’s Obama’s fault! It’s Amazon’s fault!
    It’s everyone’s fault except the regressive policies of the moronic republictards.
    Could they just grow up?!

  12. Maybe the magic tax fairy will come tonight.
    Maybe libbies just like to whine.
    Maybe it’s nobody’s fault.

  13. Darin Larson

    O, you asked about whether this is a “how” we collect taxes problem. I believe that it is a how problem first, but it is also a priority problem, second.

    The priority problem is we could have had Medicaid expansion which would have contributed $1.3 billion to our economy per year and more than wiped out our sales tax revenue problem. The priority problem is we all so could prioritize education over other pet projects and special interests.

    The How problem is we don’t have a three legged stool to balance our revenue stream. We have a two legged revenue stream–sales and property tax. The two legged stool falls over when a stiff headwind blows. Right now ag is facing a stiff headwind and our two legged stool is falling over.

    We should take the sales tax off of food, reduce property taxes by at least a third and put a relatively low graduated rate income tax in place to offset the reduction in sales and property taxes. When sales taxes under-perform, income taxes will help to take up the slack. When income taxes under-perform, sales taxes will help to buffet the changes. Property taxes will be a relatively stable income source in either case.

  14. Would not a 4 or 5 legged stool be even better than a little shoe-shine 3-legger? I think the legislatures are working on a full table of options and will figure a way out of this mess. They do have some of the brightest minds in the upper-midwest there working on this.

  15. Maybe if they’d spend less time pulling fire alarms to see how quick the cops show up, repealing the will of the voters, or worrying about who pees where or adopts kids, and more time figuring out how to facilitate more non-farm jobs, we wouldn’t have this problem. How about trying to get some young people to move into this state that actually generate and spend taxable income vs a bunch of old retirees who live here because it’s a tax haven and don’t work or spend?

  16. What are a couple of your favorite legs Gruzdick?

  17. Darin Larson

    Grudz, you can try to reinstate the personal property tax and the inheritance tax if you want to get that 4 or 5 legger going. I think they make up for those taxes that went away by putting bigger fees on everything so that is another leg. They have learned that a little fee here and a little fee there and pretty soon you are talking about real money.

    When you say we “have some of the brightest minds in the upper-Midwest there working on this” you should post a warning before statements like this. I could have had milk running out of my nose!

  18. So Dakotan that Got Smart!

    I’m a born and bred South Dakotan, moved to Minnesota to have a future and I have a great tech job with 3M.

    The Minnesota wealthy pay their fair share, they’re not leaving and we have great services. Bwahahahahahaha!

  19. I am 150% with Darin Larson on this.

    SD’s talent export has been abundantly clear since the early days after I moved here. Our lack of economic opportunity makes SD universities and colleges into the great catalyst for the exportation of young people.

    Most disturbingly, our economy actually breaks up families more than any other factor. If your kid goes to college, the best you can hope for is them visiting you on the holidays. It’s that simple.

    And the conservative delusion… that being a cheapskate is the road to prosperity, that an income tax is unfair, that tax cuts for the wealthy pay for themselves many times over by boosting the economy.

    Ultimately, SD suffers (culturally, intellectually and economically) because of a lack in symbiosis with the country it’s in. SD has been so different than what the investment class of this country finds attractive; they’ve sort of left us out of many generations of American development.

    So, what are we gonna do about it? What do you do when your state has been exporting 90% of its brightest most motivated people for literal decades? What kind of people do you suppose SD has been left with? Trumplicans, that’s who.

  20. What do you do about it? You introduce a bunch of gun bills. Because that’s what’s important…

  21. And you make sure Kweers can’t adopt, just as God would have wanted it. This attracts young people like a magnet.

  22. Let the last person out the door thank Bill Janklow before turning the lights out. Had Bill Janklow not eliminated usury caps to lure credit card issuers here in the ’80s, all of South Dakota would look like Pine Ridge. (No offense, Pine Ridge). Nobody in the GOP-dominated government since Bill Janklow has had any ideas about developing the SD economy. It’s been all about splitting up the pie rather than baking more pies since then. Coincidentally, or maybe not, no other state has gone as long as SD has without a party change in the governor’s office. We get the same lazy leeches playing musical chairs going from one cushy appointment to another in Pierre just hanging onto their little fiefdoms and funneling jobs to their relatives and taxpayer money to their friends for stupid arse things like ad campaigns against spanking your monkey while driving or telling the world it’s not as bad to live here as to die on Mars. If SD ever deserves better it will get better. Right now SD gets what it deserves.

  23. We seem much more likely to follow the Kansas model of economic “success”.

  24. mike from iowa

    Libs see the fiscal cup as half empty, wingnuts see the need for more guns. Libs want more pay for people, wingnuts want more guns. Transparency means 2 different things to Libs and wingnuts. Libs see transparency as a good thing. Wingnuts see Trans Parents-see and want more guns to protect themselves from Trans people in the biffie.

  25. Anybody from out of state reading my last comment would think I’m making things up. No state would spend money on ad campaigns against spanking your monkey while driving or telling the world it’s not as bad to live here as to die on Mars. Those ad campaigns really happened. Cost SD taxpayers millions $$. The ad agency is owned by the former chair of the SD Republican Party who of course received a no-bid contract, and the Governor’s daughter works there. Now you know, out-of-staters, that SD really is THAT state. You thought it was Alabama or South Carolina. No, it’s South Dakota.

  26. John Kennedy Claussen, Sr.

    The Dow Jones has experienced almost a 25% gain in the past three months. No doubt this gain has worked to the advantage of states like Minnesota (which have a state income tax) through capital gains taxation. And this is another example of how South Dakota is missing the boat in terms of tax equity and thus, state funding capability.

    I am also reminded of what Mr. Mercer reported last May about then Economic Development Director, Pat Costello, and Costello’s comments concerning a state income tax and what South Dakota loses without one:

    “The lack of a state income tax causes people from income-tax states to question why South Dakota doesn’t have one and what they would have to give up if they move to South Dakota, he said [Bob Mercer, “No State Income Tax = No Trust?” Pure Pierre Politics, 2016.05.17].”

    It is time that the good folks in Pierre got with it and smelled the coffee, instead of nickel and dime the working poor with regressive sales taxes and video lottery….While the elite laugh all the way to the bank…..

  27. Or state has undoubtedly enjoyed the fruits of that deal, but I would hardly consider whoring yourself out to the credit card industry part of a grand master plan. Ironically the voters went against just that sort of shady lending this year. Even Daugaard’s deal allowing the state and banks to raid idle accounts sooner was a nice deal but not necessarily sustainable. The next state over can just sweeten the pot and bit more and those banks will forget South Dakota ever existed.

  28. I think South Dakota’s elite Think that, “there’s only so much money in South Dakota, and I don’t want to have to make my slice of the pie smaller just to share gains with out-of-state investors.”

    And so they hold the state back intentionally. They don’t really want to attract outside investment because they are too self-serving.

  29. …and shortsighted

  30. Robert McTaggart

    Let’s also just skip opportunities like the borehole. Who really wants South Dakota companies and researchers to pursue testing that will improve how nuclear waste is one day disposed of on this planet?

    We oppose anything related to the safe storage or disposal of nuclear material. In fact, we are fine with the emission of unregulated radioactivity from coal burning or oil/gas exploration, as long as they complement renewables.

    At the end of the day, all that unnecessary carbon from avoiding nuclear won’t impact the Missouri River ecosystem, hydropower, tourism, or agriculture in the state at all…will it?

  31. As long as slick Dennis can stand on the steps and tell everyone that the budget is balanced, no one cares. But hey, trump is gonna put all people to work with high paying wages starting at least at 15 bucks and hour. With the immigrants being turned away, now is the time to grab that 15 to 20 buck an hour job and start buying stuff that will increase sales tax.

  32. Donald Pay

    Dr. McT,

    Minnesota leaders or professors aren’t raising their hands to take care of their own radioactive wastes, let alone the nation’s wastes. Minnesota has ample crystalline rock, just like South Dakota, that is considered a target for radioactive waste disposal by deep borehole or other methods.

    I sense that Minnesota has an appropriate level of pride in its land and its citizens. It doesn’t view itself, as some of South Dakota leaders and professors do, as a dumping ground. Minnesota leaders, in fact, have a history of snookering South Dakota leaders Bill Janklow and George Mickelson, into taking other wastes off Minnesota’s hands, and South Dakota ended up with the sewage ash scam. That grand disposal project was far less dangerous than radioactive waste burial, and it was supposed to be the beginning of a grand process of turning feces to gold that would make a few people in South Dakota rich. That scam created a few jobs, for which the workers got blisters and boils from shoveling sewage ash all day. The workers didn’t get paid as promised, and lots of Hills’ area businesses were owed lots of money when the company went out of business.

    South Dakota leaders have a tendency to back such enterprises, while passing on real economic development potential, such as wind and solar power. They do that because they are bought by utilities and petroleum, nuclear and coal interests. For some reason, the PUC protects the industries of the past and ignores the growth in new energy sources. They ignore the fact that South Dakota is the Saudi Arabia of wind.

  33. Robert McTaggart

    Agreeing to do the borehole research does NOT imply anything about future acceptance of nuclear waste in the state. It only serves to make nuclear waste disposal methods safer in general.

    Don’t you want to make nuclear waste disposal as safe as it can be? It seems pretty neighborly to me for South Dakota to refine the method and then Minnesota to use it.

  34. Robert McTaggart

    How do you know that Minnesota won’t eventually bury its own waste? Seems to be more likely if consent-based methods for centralized storage and disposal are continually opposed and nobody wants to work together.

    You have as much evidence opposing the notion of ultimate waste disposal in Minnesota as you do in support of waste coming to South Dakota……zero.

  35. To raise more money, couldn’t we renegotiate our bargain basement taxes to the pipeline builders? We are the worst of all states in getting funds from the foreign profiteers.

  36. Robert McTaggart

    Not sure about South Dakota being the Saudi Arabia of wind. We’re doing pretty good, but Texas seems to be doing better.

    The one thing the PUC is not ignoring is the fact that wind is still intermittent. None of us stop typing on the blog when the wind isn’t available or isn’t enough. More wind just means burning more carbon to make up for more intermittency. Or we could stop living in the past and build the load-following nuclear plants.

  37. Robert McTaggart

    It’s likely that existing pipelines like Keystone will not have to use American steel now, despite what Trump has said.

  38. Robert McTaggart


    I should add that for the foreseeable future the borehole method would apply to defense wastes. I don’t think Minnesota has any of those.

    If you are talking about deep borehole disposal in the future for any commercial wastes (which would require considerable engineering I might add), I would like to see a couple of things happen first.

    1. We should be reprocessing our spent nuclear fuel so we get more energy out of it, we don’t have to bury as much, and we reduce its radioactivity.

    2. We should consider vitrifying the remaining waste product that is buried and isn’t useful for anything else (i.e. “glassification”). That would help immobilize isotopes even if they decay further, which could eliminate the risk of groundwater contamination altogether.

  39. Richard Schriever

    Best way to dispose of nuclear waste is put on a rocket with the controls set for the heart of the sun.

  40. We can’t attract employers like everyone else, we gotta take on the risks of experimental boreholes if we want jobs.

    If they put in a nuclear borehole, they might get an Applebee’s out in that small town – NOT.

  41. barry freed

    South Dakota has a nuke plant. It was built here by Minnesota and it is still emitting radiation from its melt down over a half century ago.

    Fukushima has poisoned the Pacific and West Coast. It will continue to poison us and our food until the END OF TIME. Ask them 5 years ago and all nuke proponents would have pontificated on how safe Fukushima was, even on the shoreline. Ah, the Engineer’s ego. Anyone who thinks a Trump NRC can be trusted to successfully build a nuke in SD, or anywhere, stand on your head. We can easily imagine how little they would care about, or respect us hicks in SD. (or is it “we” hicks?)
    Safeguards? Safeguards? We don’t need no stinkin’ safeguards. It’s South Dakota!

    When will Minnesota’s nukes melt down and poison us? It will be when the New Madrid Fault slips again, that will be in the next fraction of a second, geologically speaking.

  42. Robert McTaggart


    If you are concerned about the spread of radioactivity, or the risk of the spread of radioactivity, placing large quantities of nuclear waste on top of a rocket is not the way to go. There is a large expense for mandating zero failure for those kinds of things.

    Plus that would be the most expensive means of dealing with our waste possible. First of all, nuclear material is much heavier than the aluminum that NASA likes to use in their spacecraft. Second, you have to expend a lot of energy to change the orbit of the rocket so that it gets to the sun.

    It is not as simple as aiming straight for the sun. The earth has some momentum, so if you simply aim for the sun, you will put the waste in an elliptical orbit and it will come back to earth orbit at different times of the year. So you have to either cancel out that momentum, or you increase the speed so that the waste leaves the solar system altogether.

    Either way, the engineering and fuel that are necessary make such a proposition extremely expensive (recall that you would not just do this once, but many, many, many times…too big and heavy to do it all at once).

  43. Robert McTaggart

    Barry Freed,

    South Dakota HAD a nuclear plant. It was quickly converted into a natural gas plant, and did not produce any commercial power as a nuclear plant. There hasn’t been any nuclear material stored there since the 1990’s when they took it all away.

    You’d think that if Fukushima has poisoned the Pacific, that they would definitely see effects in fish and other marine animals near Japan. They have not.

    The Pacific has never been radioactivity-free. Naturally-occurring radioisotopes from the decay of uranium, thorium, and from Potassium-40 run off into the oceans every day for the last 4.5 billion years or so. Furthermore, due to cosmic ray production, nitrogen in the upper atmosphere is converted in Carbon-14 which makes its way into the food chain or mixes directly with the oceans. Tritium (Hydrogen-3) is also produced in the upper atmosphere and finds its way into the ocean.

    The plants at Fukushima survived the earthquake and shut down successfully. They did not survive the subsequent tsunami that eliminated their capacity for back-up power to cool the reactors and the spent fuel. The larger problem I think was NIMBY, which led to 6 of these being sited together, and a business approach that reduced the staff on-site and failed to take the extra precautions necessary (like securing back-up fuel).

    You should be much more concerned about all of the extra carbon emitted into the environment because we avoid nuclear. The goal of the proposed borehole research is to emit zero into the environment whatsoever. Solar and wind have no such goal, and in fact indirectly emit radioactivity from fossil fuels when they are not available or not enough.

  44. Robert McTaggart

    One of the reasons that Minnesota has been able to attract and keep many different kinds of industries is the availability and reliability of their power grid. Nuclear power contributes mightily to that, with capacities over 90% annually. Wind is something like 25-30%.

    Also, 30% of the electricity that Xcel Energy provides to the upper midwest comes from nuclear.

    About 75,000 consumers in South Dakota get their electricity from Xcel Energy.

    So to say that South Dakota gets no nuclear energy at all is completely incorrect. That nuclear energy comes directly from Minnesota.

  45. Robert McTaggart

    But you bring up an excellent point Barry. In effect, the site of the Pathfinder Plant served as a temporary nuclear material storage facility for almost 30 years.

    Nothing happened to the nuclear fuel during that time at the Pathfinder plant, and no releases of radioactivity occurred.

  46. barry freed

    Mr. McTaggart,

    You make some wild and opinion based claims that you cannot prove or provide citations thereof. It appears that you source only from citations that reinforce your belief system and please your employer. Pathfinder is not something talked about in SD and many readers here are probably learning of it for the first time. It is your and the industry “nothing happened” position that makes me uncomfortable with nukes. People who cannot, or will not, admit mistakes are dangerous.

    Pathfinder was run and taken to full power on schedule. After 30 minutes of full power, it had a meltdown, just ask the people who lived next door. I have, as I have friends who grew up next to and downstream of Pathfinder. The significant increase in childhood leukemia they experienced was in the forefront of their concerns for years. If you refute my personal experience, make sure you find a citation for: incidence of childhood leukemia and not just “deaths” of childhood leukemia as Big Nuke will steer you towards.
    Pathfinder was a “Hardened SAFSTOR” guarded with machine guns. I know that as a SDSU Professor took us there for a field trip in the late-70’s. It looked like it was deserted, but we were confronted by the armed guards before we got on the property. That means the melt-down was serious.
    It was “quickly converted” as you say, to cover the meltdown and avoid lawsuits. One doesn’t consider the “gross failure repair” of things that didn’t break. Why was SAFSTOR so long in coming, with clean up 30 years later?

    From: Eric Crenshaw, “Forgotten Sioux Falls”
    After spending much time and money assembling the plant and trying to get the superheater working the way it should, they finally pushed the plant to run at full output, which lasted about 30 minutes. During that 30 minutes, it was decided that they should never do that again. The flaws in the superheater became evident, and it was deemed too expensive to repair.

    From the pro-nuclear ANS Nuclear Cafe:
    After the full power run was completed, the reactor was disassembled partly for examination and removal of some poison shims. Alarmingly, it was seen that the bottom ends of the steam separators around the reactor core had suffered “gross failure,” and the superheater elements’ seven and a half thousandths (just over 1/16th) of an inch thick cladding was suffering high erosion. Further, during the shutdown the main condenser tubes had leaked, and some contamination had spread to the secondary plant. NSP had seen enough; in November, just two months after the 30-minute full power test (which came about five years after originally planned) it decided to shut down the plant permanently and decommission the reactor. – See more at:

  47. Robert McTaggart

    Operating for 30 minutes is not generating commercial nuclear power. That’s called a test.

    Did any nuclear material leave the containment structure? You mean the containment structure did its job? You mean dedicated engineers interested in safety protected people? Amazing.

    You mean other engineers interested in safety are working on the borehole to make sure that a future deep borehole disposal facility releases no radioisotopes into the biosphere? Imagine that.

    Please explain how there can there be any link or causality to any disease if no radioactivity or radioisotope escaped.

    So Pathfinder failed as a commercial nuclear facility. But you have to admit it succeeded in safely storing nuclear material for 30 years or so, and implemented a successful decommissioning of the plant.

  48. Robert McTaggart

    Heavy security is par for the course for nuclear.

    Now if you could bury nuclear waste 3 miles underground, maybe you wouldn’t need as much security because it wouldn’t be accessible….but then you couldn’t complain about how much security there is.

  49. Robert McTaggart

    The design of Pathfinder was completely new…it attempted to increase the efficiency of a nuclear plant with superheated steam, which up until then could only be done with fossil fuel plants.

    However, the same design has not been built since. Research has moved away from trying to combine water-cooled reactors with superheated steam. Nevertheless, the quest to boost efficiencies has not diminished. When you increase efficiencies, you reduce the waste that is produced. To a large extent that means operating at higher temperatures.

  50. Here is what could be put in Dakota lands to develop fiscal greatness. This meat and production is more in line with what could be called a traditional means of providing meat and complete use of an animal. You can get more with less thereby cutting greenhouse emissions. On top of that, Yak’s use less water so that saves energy as well.

    This is not re-wilding the west, but close. This would give ranchers something to yak about as they do not need mineral supplements nor do they need corn and all the other expenses that go with a cow calf operation. There ya go

  51. Robert McTaggart

    Don’t forget the trains you will need to send all of that meat to market :^). There is some economic development!

  52. Yak meat is juicier than beef and is delicious! In fact, it tastes better than bison or elk, and is more nutritious than either. Yaks are acclimated to mountainous regions in Tibet, and develop their fat layer on the outside of their meat, just under their skin layer.

    These can be polled or left alone. Transportation would not be any more of an issue than that of other bovines. We can do more for less and will need to be thinking along those lines sooner than later. With cattle prices in the crapper, here is an opportunity to change the direction of northern economy.

  53. Robert McTaggart

    Why not ostriches instead?

  54. Maybe industrial hemp could be put on the table to combat the waste that we seem to think is a smart move. Get it started for the inevitable leak or “accident” as they like to call it.

    Let’s face it, we here in South Dakota don’t have much to offer in line of economic development. Just ask the chosen 35 that punch the clock each day to look at one another and sigh.

  55. Robert McTaggart

    You’d still have to bury the hemp somewhere, it would just be inside the hemp instead of in the soil.

    But if hemp is so great at absorbing bad elements and isotopes, why would anyone want to ingest or smoke anything similar?

  56. Forget about renewable energy in South Dakota, it ain’t gonna happen while the utility companies reap huge profits from the coal fields in Wyoming. The EPA is a dead man walking so we are where we are. As we have lots of land here with no one living on it, time to put it to use with something that will feed us. Make the production of corn for food a top priority. Stop the use of nitrogen and chemicals in the ground to turn that crop land into organic farming. Put the profit back into the lands rather than the loss of it. As commercial grade producers, pay an income tax on that growth on a more business like manner.

  57. Robert McTaggart

    Phosphate-based fertilizers used by agriculture are regulated with regard to radioactivity, but they are still enhanced in NORMs. Their use in agriculture redistributes them in the soil, and they get blown around in the dust as well. Fossil fuel development also redistributes NORMs via oil/gas development or the burning of coal.

    Nature produces Carbon-14 in the upper atmosphere due to interactions of cosmic rays/solar wind with Nitrogen. Because biomass has more recently been in equilibrium with the environment than the oil used to make gasoline (by hundreds of millions of years), burning biofuels emits more Carbon-14.

    The corresponding levels of radiation are considered safe, and nobody is going to shut down ranching and farming or stop fossil fuel development or the production of biofuels because of these low levels of radioactivity.

    So if the concern for any nuclear waste facility is the release of radioactivity, please note that nuclear is mandated to emit far less than the above processes already emit into the environment. In fact, that can easily be verified by radiation detector survey.

  58. Interesting article about the wind charger in Scotland. Why would anyone want to publicize that sort of thing unless it is a fellow with a golf course close by. Thanks for carrying the water doc, you are a real prince.

  59. No economic development in being a trash dump dude. I agree there are to many chemical put into the soil. We could eliminate them with different farming practices.

  60. Robert McTaggart

    Are you saying there is something wrong with being a garbage man? That’s probably not a good message to run on ;^).

    Particularly since a key component of being an environmentalist is picking up one’s trash and disposing of it properly. And nuclear produces less volume of trash per kilowatt-hour to be disposed of as well.

    I would agree that simply burying our waste is not the best approach. I would recycle the wastes and extract all the value I can first, which would shrink what needs to be buried.

  61. Robert McTaggart

    Wind turbines are generally shut down at about 55 mph to avoid damage.

    They don’t start up until wind speeds get up to around 10 mph.

  62. Nuclear power plants are legally obligated to shut down in high wind conditions as well. So what.

  63. Robert McTaggart

    70-75 miles per hour according to the Nuclear Energy Institute. They shut down as a precaution a couple hours before something like a hurricane. That has more to do with the grid than the actual reactor itself.

    I was actually taking a tour of a nuclear plant when there were tornado warnings in the general area….couldn’t tell a thing from inside. Too much concrete!

    So days like today, you would still get nuclear power, but wind may be shut down.

  64. South Dakota just got fiscally floundered by a bunch today, courtesy of the swamp. Damn, these guys don’t miss a lick to stick it to the rest of us.

    Farmers, you are gonna have to get smarter when it comes to production. It is clear that ethanol is a looser. Use the corn for what it was developed for by the Indians, use it for food. Go back to the future, feed the world.

  65. Robert McTaggart

    The “design tornado” appears to have the following characteristics for nuclear power plants:

    Maximum wind speed – 300 mph
    Maximum rotational speed – 240 mph
    Maximum translational speed – 60 mph
    Radius of maximum rotational wind from center of tornado – 150 ft
    Atmospheric pressure drop – 2.0 psi
    Rate of pressure change – 1.2 psi/sec

    The probability of seeing a tornado with wind speeds greater than this are less than one in a million. Basically this is a civil engineering exercise…what forces are applied by the winds on different structures, and can your structures take it.

  66. barry freed

    You present yourself as some kind of expert, yet you didn’t respond as someone learned of Nukes would when it was suggested that we shoot waste into Space.

    Your response should have been from: Nukes 101, Day 1, Freshman Class Introduction:
    We can’t shoot deadly radioactive material into Space as the delivery vehicle might explode and spread the materials throughout the atmosphere.

    This is BASIC stuff, how is it you failed to point it out?

  67. Miranda Gohn

    I would agree with Robert McTaggart in that we now need to take a hard look at the latest generation of Nuclear Power going forward as a reliable base source of energy. The CO2 buildup in the atmosphere and our oceans are alarming. The environmental damage from the use of fossil fuels is building up also. Are we any closer to Fusion which has long been held up as the safest and cleanest way to generate power?

  68. Robert McTaggart

    “If you are concerned about the spread of radioactivity, or the risk of the spread of radioactivity, placing large quantities of nuclear waste on top of a rocket is not the way to go. There is a large expense for mandating zero failure for those kinds of things.”

    That’s what I said above.

    Actually we have shot radioactive material into space, but this because we use radioactive decay to produce heat in satellites and land rovers. Plutonium-238 decays with an alpha particle, which generates heat, which in turn can be converted into electricity to run the satellite.

    So it is not impossible, but just very expensive for a small amount. Astronomically more (pun intended) if you want to dispose of large amounts of spent nuclear fuel that way….zero tolerance for any problems in the launch.

    The Soviets used similar stand-alone radioisotopic generators to power weather stations in remote locations (with very bad weather!). When the break-up of the Soviet Union occurred, the United States helped with collecting those orphaned sources and others.

    Once you get past the orbit of Mars, if you want to use solar power you need a much larger surface area…NASA hasn’t yet implemented such a solar collector yet or any “solar sail” via the solar wind.

    If you are interested in radiation safety for astronauts in deep space flight, the sooner you get to your location, the less radiation dose you get from the solar wind or galactic background. Mars missions may be able to use chemical fuel, but outside of that you will likely need space nuclear power.

    …why not just call me Rob instead of Taggart? Just because I have a different opinion doesn’t mean we are enemies.

  69. Miranda Gohn

    Rob, The oceans are becoming more acidic also.

    Ion drive for faster space travel or does some form of Nuclear offer greater potential for speed?

  70. Robert McTaggart


    Some of the new nuclear power plants will be able to provide baseload and load-follow to work with solar/wind. Nuclear can load-follow today, but you end up losing less money instead of actually making money (if that makes sense!). As you know, burning natural gas still emits a lot of CO2 when we are trying to reduce emissions as much as possible.

    There are still big hurdles for fusion. The primary one is making sure that fresh fuel is always available and the waste products can be removed.

    To get fusion to occur, you must overcome the electric repulsion of protons in the nucleus. This means high speeds (and high temperatures) are necessary, which is the other major hurdle. The Sun does this with gravitational confinement. Other methods under consideration are magnetic confinement of a plasma (ITER), or laser-based compression of the fuel (National Ignition Facility).

    You still have irradiated waste material to deal with, but only 100-200 years of isolation instead of hundreds of thousands of years (reprocessing in the fission cycle would be in the same ballpark of a few hundred years).

  71. Robert McTaggart


    There probably are designs where either does pretty well. NASA has implemented ion propulsion for satellites, but only studied space nuclear propulsion.

    Fusion propulsion:

    Nuclear thermal rockets:

    “Nuclear thermal propulsion is ‘the most effective’ way of sending humans to Mars.”

  72. Robert McTaggart

    The short answer is that one could probably design space transportation from any of the alternatives to chemical fuels: ion propulsion, fusion-based propulsion, nuclear thermal propulsion, etc. Cost and performance (if not re-usability of the spacecraft) will be deciding factors at the end of the day.

    Perhaps if they sent astronauts to Mars using a fusion or fission based system safely while reducing the travel time, there would be more acceptance for those technologies by the public to generate clean energy.

  73. I don’t why we should send people to colonize Mars when we have water and plants can actually grow right out of the ground in this barely-settled state of South Dakota.

    South Dakota: Better Than Mars!

  74. Robert McTaggart

    I hear you can only get alcohol there at the local Mars bars….

  75. I bought some Bob’s Red Mill brand hempseed hearts a while back. I think they are great tasting and fact is: they are very nutritious.

    Too bad Bob’s Red Mill has to get that stuff from Canada to sell in the U.S. when we could grow it right here in West River gumbo and even produce building materials and chemicals for industry with the byproducts.

    If we want to attract investment from outside of South Dakota, why not get on the front end of a new Ag industry?

    Final point, the best way to hold off on implementing an income tax in SD might be to legalize (and regulate) recreational pot like cigarettes or alcohol.

    Get creative.

  76. AND – it looks like Bob’s Red Mill is going to have to stop selling that product in our ‘free’ market because of Jeff Sessions and G.D. Republicans.


  77. Robert McTaggart

    Or we could look at manufacturing and safety for nuclear power. That wouldn’t require any nuclear power plant or waste facility…and would offer a global market to diversify the portfolio.

  78. Miranda Gohn

    Rob that is a great idea but would those who manufacture for the Nuclear Power industry prefer to locate closer to Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory or the other areas in the country such as New Mexico or Tennessee where other research facilities are and a concentration of talent?

    Those would be very high paying jobs I would imagine for South Dakota. It will be interesting to see how the Trump administration along with Sec of Energy Rick Perry will influence policy. What will the global market be for Nuclear Power and will there be the incentives and support domestically?

    Curious to know where South Dakota is in regards to it’s own baseline power supply vs demand. Is South Dakota an exporter with an abundance of power or like some states where they import.

  79. Robert McTaggart


    Engineering design and manufacturing can occur just about anywhere. Many of the systems operate outside the core, so instead of radiation the focus is on robust operation. A lot of the design work is really computational in nature (why irradiate until you have to).

    You can always do things elsewhere and partner with one of the national labs for testing/expertise. But yes, having a hub of activity would be beneficial. If you could partner with the universities regarding design or testing, and have a couple of niches (i.e. don’t do everything) then it could work.

    Most of the growth is in China and India, and China is going to take over our leadership in nuclear if we are not careful. Russia is also being aggressive in selling their nuclear technology. That has ramifications for nuclear security, and when they do the manufacturing we lose out on the jobs.

    Domestically, I think there will be a push to allow the existing reactors to operate longer as long as they are safe, which may be an extra 40, 60, or 80 years. Basically they are paid for, but need to be maintained.

    New reactors are in a design and licensing phase. I would expect some of the smaller reactors based on light water to slowly come out in the next 10 years or so. They need to have a lower cost of construction while complementing renewables.

    I think we actually export more energy than we consume, but that may include biofuels, not just electricity. When we don’t consume the wind we generate, we send that elsewhere (especially overnight).

    Rule of thumb is that the current grid is fine with 30%-40% or so penetration of renewables, but then after that you start running into problems with getting power whenever you want. A small reactor that load-follows and generates process heat for industry (like biofuels or hydrogen) would be interesting.

  80. Robert McTaggart

    If we end up electrifying our transportation sector to replace oil, then the amount of electricity we consume will only increase. How much depends on how many electric vehicles we have and how big they are. But 50% more electricity wouldn’t surprise me. Capturing process heat from nuclear allows you to make hydrogen for fuel cells at the same time you are generating electricity.

    Still a role for biomass/biofuels in all that. Either as liquid fuel back-up, source of methane/hydrogen, or a source of biobased materials for various elements of said vehicles.

  81. The fact is that if the US government had not agreed to accept all nuclear waste at the dawn of the nuclear era there would have never been a nuclear power plant built! The actual cost to us and future generations has never been assessed and hangs over our head while fools like you folks advocate more waste and idiotic schemes of just burying it and forgetting about it.

    When the PURPA act of 1978 was passed I was young and foolish and though that little people would actually be allowed to produce electric power and feed it into the line and be payed for it. I envisioned every farmer making power by some method…there are many…. Instead we now have what I should have known we would have. No farmers and the only people allowed in the power business is BIG business. The tiny handful of folks in the Black Hills that tried it are even hit with a charge for using the utility’s lines!

    Tom Dashle and Tim Johnson tried to push through a bill that would allow “wheeling” of power for a set fee so that independent producers could bypass unreasonable utility’s that, of course, went no where.

    If this country wants an excess of power all that is necessary is to allow independents to make a profit. Sioux Falls has two megawatts of hydro capacity going to waste at the flood control bypass. Power that doesn’t need transmission lines to get it to consumers.
    Iowa is full of hog confinements. Brazil has copied our hog industry except they have methane digesters making electric power and feeding it into the line. The list is endless if we just can wrest the power industry away from the monopolies that now control it.

  82. What is actually needed is a HUGE tax on carbon and nuclear fueled power plants that reflects their actual cost to society!!

  83. Robert McTaggart


    The nuclear waste issue is one of our own making. We have not carried through with the original plans to dispose of it. We have imposed a regulatory structure with various costs that we end up not wanting to pay for. There is some money available (a nuclear waste fund), but we have not touched it so far.

    If you can generate your own power and store it for later, then you do not have to sell it back to the utilities. But the utilities have a point that if you are going to use the grid that they built, the operation and maintenance and other services need to be accounted for. I guess if you build your own power line infrastructure, then you can charge the utilities :^).

    So far, I don’t think there is a town that does not require external grid power to meet their electricity demands. Perhaps some areas export more than they take in, but they still need to import to fill in gaps when they occur. Distributed energy grids will occur more often in the future…external grid power may be reduced, but not eliminated.

    I believe that the new reactors will do a better job at reducing waste and recovering energy and other critical elements from it. It is really what needs to be done with the waste from present reactors that is the issue. We may end up needing a special reactor design to burn up the present waste prior to burial.

  84. mike from iowa

    Doc- Japan is reporting glow in the dark wild boars overtaking 2 towns near Fukishima. What does it mean for bar b q?

  85. Well, Mr McTaggart, you have got my hackles up now. I can go on and on for pages about how the energy monopolies we now have took over independent local power production and through government granted eminent domain ran their power lines willy nilly all over this country. My own small town began producing electric power as many did with hydro and ended up using natural gas. They could produce their power just as cheaply as buy it now except they are tied into a long term contract.
    When the Missouri river dams were built the scheme that they finally came up with was to price the power at a price so low that the dams and even the cost of maintenance would never be payed for. A select few giant utility oligopolies got to buy a percentage of their power so cheaply that no community could compete with it. Hense total utility monopoly!!

    As I said, if the utility monopolies had to pay for the true cost of the deadly to all life nuclear waste poison, there would have never been a nuclear power plant built and there should never be another built.

  86. barry freed

    Mr. McTaggart
    The utilities DID NOT build the transmission lines in Rapid. WE the consumers did.

    BHP is a “cost plus” monopoly, which means they get the actual Cost, plus a percentage for profits, then a large percentage to pay dividends to stockholders.
    BHP paid NOTHING for wires, equipment, or labor, we paid for EVERYTHING, so we have a Legal Right to Net Metering and be paid what BHP gets paid for production.

    BHP did not ask our advice when they RECENTLY designed their two new Power Plants and how to meet demand, so I don’t want to hear anything about my solar not working at night.

    When we abolish the PUC and vote ourselves Net Metering, BHP and the Big Nukes will have plenty of surplus capacity and can keep the night shift. Day shift power will come from us.

  87. Further, if a nuclear reactor could be built that would consume this waste that would be great. I’ve heard lots about this but, surprise, nothing on it so far. The best I’ve heard only concentrates the poison.

    Yes there have been lots of people talking about doing something about this for a long time but the reason nothing has been done is because no one can come up with a safe way to store this stuff for thousands of years!!!

    The Hanover site was sintering dry waste into glass blocks which is about as safe as you could get but the costs were astronomical. Other schemes I’ve heard involved sealing away waste that was several hundred degrees HOT and would stay the way and pretty much just forgetting about it!!

    I don’t think you can bury anything that won’t eventually, over thousands of years, have water get to it. Once water gets to it, where it goes next is anybody’s guess.

  88. Robert McTaggart

    Consumers provided the money to a business that runs the grid. Certainly that counts. But if you are saying that you personally put up the materials and oversee the distribution of power, that is false.

    If you don’t want their business, then disconnect. That is happening right now with the cable industry in fact.

  89. Robert McTaggart

    We can bury the waste. We can vitrify the waste in a glass form that protects it from water, and we can select super-dry desert environments in which to store them, if not underground salt mines that self-enclose around the waste over time to protect it for thousands of years. But as with the borehole, you have to get public consent to site such a facility.

    Once it is isolated from the biosphere, don’t visit the waste in the facility and you will be fine. But not following through on plans to emit zero radionuclides into the environment while at the same time complaining about the nuclear waste issue is pretty cynical.

    Uh-oh barry….no link to thyroid cancers in Fukushima due to radiation. Time to get another scapegoat other than radiation. Was it the natural gas tanks that exploded there instead?

  90. Robert McTaggart

    If you don’t want to store nuclear waste for thousands of years, there are some alternatives. Transmutation is another one. It would be interesting if a modified CANDU reactor from Canada could help consume our waste, but there are other reactor designs on the table.

    The Oklo “reactor”, a 2 billion-year old natural reactor, depleted uranium sources below that of the normal natural abundance. Conditions were just right at one point in earth’s history for fission to take place. There are significant and positive lessons to learn from the travel of fission by-products over time in an un-engineered fission environment.

  91. Robert McTaggart

    Any waste facility, including the borehole, must deal with water. For a Yucca Mountain kind of facility, they need to space the waste vessels far enough apart so that the resulting heat cannot generate steam….that is an example of a defense-in-depth measure eliminating potential means of radioisotopic dispersal.

    If you can show that there is a reduced availability of water at the site, that the flow of water is significantly hindered, and the radioisotopes can be successfully contained by defense-in-depth measures, then the borehole approach may work (there would still be cost and politics to deal with however).

    One of the issues for the borehole regarding consent is that the initial testing will not cover all of the defense-in-depth issues nor the radiation safety of workers at the surface that people want to see. This first one is just looking for water in the granite and what is in it, and to see if they can drill straight.

  92. Mr McT
    You suggest that one can always disconnect and that is happening. With the removal of much of the subsidy to REA that power cost is becoming prohibitive and the idea of pumping water by other means is becoming vogue again. So…as I suggested…tax carbon and nuclear power at a price that reflects some of its true cost to society and demand will fall. No need for more nuclear power!!! There are something like 8000 dams in this country with the capability of producing hydroelectricity that are not doing so at this time. The list goes on while BHP and their ilk are guaranteed a profit regardless of how they do business. You seem very learned on the subject….I’d like to know what the current cost is of the government paying for the storage of nuclear waste on the site of these plants. Again a cost that the taxpayer should have never been forced to pay and shouldn’t be forced to pay in the future. Continuing this nuclear propagation without assessing the true cost before the plants are built is criminal and easy disposal will only guarantee the scheme will continue till a major leak or catastrophe renders a large part of the planet uninhabitable. Japan is very lucky that adjoining plants didn’t go up as well or that country could be running out of places for people to live now.

  93. Robert McTaggart

    Hi Clyde,

    So, consumers should get all the benefits and not have to pay for the waste issues of their choice of energy? Do you think that there is actually an energy source that doesn’t produce waste?

    There is a lot of spent nuclear fuel. But there is a lot more coal fly ash. And there would be a lot more if not for nuclear power. You’re welcome.

    Per kilowatt-hour, nuclear energy generates the least amount of volume for its waste than anything else, because the power source is so concentrated. As you generate more solar and wind, you will generate more kilowatt-hours, and therefore you will generate more chemical waste that you do not want in your drinking water. And that volume will be larger than nuclear’s.

    I think there will be some growth in hydro, but only for pumped hydro storage. Recall that the amount of hydropower changes over the course of year, and depends upon the flow of water. Hmmm…climate change….drought….what happens to hydro? Better build some advanced nuclear that doesn’t use water as a moderator!

  94. Robert McTaggart

    It seems one of the issues with public acceptance of nuclear waste repositories is radioactivity. Even though the goal of all these facilities is the escape of no radioactivity at all. But everything is based on probabilities, so they pick some arbitrarily small probability that people can live with.

    Burning coal emits radioactivity. Those low levels are safe, but the amount is greater than nuclear is permitted to emit.

    The distribution of phosphate-based fertilizer and potash-based fertilizer emits radioactivity into the environment, both for agriculture and for lawn care. Those levels are safe, and nuclear is permitted to emit far less than that.

    Carbon-14 made by nature is absorbed into plants used for biofuels. Gasoline doesn’t have that issue, since its Carbon-14 has decayed over millions of years. The burning of biofuels therefore redistributes radioactivity into the environment that can be breathed in. Those levels are safe, and nuclear is permitted to emit far less than that.

  95. Robert McTaggart

    Mike from Iowa,

    Yes, the folks in Fukushima have more to fear from the wild boars that have taken over when the people left, than from the radioactivity.

  96. Robert McTaggart

    I note in passing Clyde, that this is a liberal blog. So the following should be important.

    Power clean water around the globe
    Make lots of clean energy to increase standards of living
    Replace fossil fuel in transportation
    Support high paying jobs
    Increase diversity in the workforce
    Reduce workplace accidents as low as possible
    Generate the least amount of waste possible
    Use the least amount of land possible

    If only there were a source of energy that could do all of these things :^).

  97. Doc, your whole list can be achieved with green energy. Today, there are more solar jobs than coal jobs in the US. It’s clean, safe, reliable and more often than not – you can use the crappiest farm land to make more money with solar than poor crop yields would. Wind turbines can be placed in and amongst currently used farm land too. The use of land is negligible, and the land that does get renewable installations become more profitable to the farmer/rancher.

    Nuclear’s cost/benefits analysis proves to the global investment community that it has too many drawbacks. That’s why it’s a dying obsolete industry.

    Pumping the idea of nuclear in today’s world is like laid off old coal miners out in West Virginia just wanting those coal jobs to come back – Aint never gonna happen, and screw them for being so shortsighted and selfish in regards to global warming. The free market says, “move your ass to a location with different jobs.” Coal miners say, “No, I want the coal jobs to come back.”

    Pumping for more nuclear civilian power in this day and age is almost the same. It’s just simply an obsolete approach to solving modern challenges.

  98. Robert McTaggart

    I would agree that the business model of building the same old nuclear plants is not going to work as long as the price of natural gas is low, and that in theory there is more public acceptance for wind and solar (until somebody proposes one next door).

    The current nuclear plants have been paid for and their fuel costs are low, so we need to keep them as long as we can (particularly if we are really interested in fighting climate change).

    So nuclear has to reduce its upfront costs for NEW construction, load-follow more than it does today, and solve its waste disposal issues. That does not mean nuclear isn’t needed to actually generate the energy we need without carbon…just means that the economic model must be different for new reactors.

    The accident rate for nuclear is far less than both solar and wind. Thyroid cancers at Fukushima, as well as any marine animal deaths around Japan, have not been linked to radiation. And it isn’t safe? Wild boars at Fukushima are thriving apparently!

    Don’t forget the costs of transmitting your solar or wind power (particularly if you are sending it a long distance), or whatever you need to make up the difference when the wind and sun are not enough. Plus maintenance, replacement, etc.

    Load-following nuclear that is allowed to reprocess in situ AND wind AND solar is a better solution in my opinion than renewables by themselves.

  99. Robert McTaggart

    One solar roadway test failing apparently, when they walk on the panels, let alone drive on them. Hopefully other start-ups can do better.

  100. Robert McTaggart

    I don’t think selfish is the word I would care to use to describe coal miners.

    They have given their bodies and lungs so that other people can have cheap and reliable electricity, regardless of what people think about how that electricity was generated.

  101. mike from iowa

    Doc-it isn’t the miners, it is the greedy mine owners with too much sway to protect their profits, but not the miners.Remember the Pennsylvania coal mine cave in shortly after Bush was appointed potus? He had just recently cut funds for mine safety inspections and then went on tv to grandstand when those miners were rescued safely?

    Then there was the mining disaster in Utah, I believe where the miners were never recovered. I also believe that the owner of that mine was appointed to head the government office of mine safety-if I remember correctly.

    Anybody else have any recollections?

  102. Robert McTaggart

    Yes, leave the miners out of that characterization. But remember it isn’t regulations hurting coal, it is really cheaper and cleaner natural gas.

    There probably is an opportunity for the Democrats to win back West Virginia. But Trump has to bumble health care for the miners, if not fail to bring back jobs (not necessarily coal jobs). Democrats need to come up with a better solution for both.

  103. mike from iowa

    Robert Murray is/was a big campaign donor to wingnuts in the aughts. Dems weren’t so lucky. Murray is the owner of the mine that collapsed in Utah and left 6 miners behind.

  104. Dems need to cut WV coal miners out of every policy proposition. The coal jobs ain’t never going back to WV and what the abandoned coal miners want just happens to be so misguided and ignorant that it’s not only terrible for the whole entire world, but they have actually devolved to the point of voting for a Commander Marmalade sort of figure – all so they can make money while destroying the surface ecosystem of this Earth.

    F ’em. I am no longer sympathetic for their dumb asses.

  105. If you live in a town with no jobs, and you really actually want a job, then you will move to where the jobs.

    If all you do is whine about how the same jobs that left years ago need to come back to your town, then you’re stupid and lazy.

  106. Fukushima’s children are dying

    South Dakota’s children will be dying too. Their deaths here could have been prevented by NOem and her party had they not been so careless with healthcare. Minnesota has Medicaid Expansion to help drive down costs of healthcare, South Dakota has NOem.

  107. Oh, Mr McT
    Of course there is less waste associated with nuclear power. When I lay a yard of concrete it is full of coal power plant fly ash but it better not have an once of nuclear waste in it.

    You think that the only future for hydro is in pumped storage because the only future you see for power production is to continue the broken system of supposedly PUC controlled power monopolies. Anything small scale isn’t worth considering. Like the 2 MW of hydro that is going to waste in Sioux Fall’s. The advantages of huge economy of scale do not trump the economies of mass production in many cases or by very much in all cases. When you have a system that is designed to keep competition from the big power monopolies however, that is very effective.

    Not every alt energy idea is a good one. The first overloaded truck over a new SD road breaks them all to H but…hey…we love the trucking industry and don’t much worry about where the tax payer money comes from in that case. Solar roads don’t make any more sense than filling the country with nuclear power plants. However, there are now roof tiles being made that look like a slate roof that are actually solar panels.

    Well, its obvious that I’m not changing your mind and you are not going to change my mind so I think I’m done with this argument.

  108. Clyde, thanks for taking the time and effort. You may not change Doc’s mind but I really appreciate the way you put what you know.

  109. mike from iowa

    But Trump has to bumble health care for the miners, if not fail to bring back jobs (not necessarily coal jobs). Democrats need to come up with a better solution for both.

    As of today, Drumpf supports Ryan don’t care of removing millions from insurance rolls to cut federal spending in one area to pay for taxcuts to the wealthy like Drumpf.

    Dems had a better solution in Obamacare and some cooperation between parties would have made it much better. But the miners fell for Drumpf’s lies about bringing the jobs back. Drumpf continuously takes credit for deals that occurred long before he was elected.

  110. I grew up in a manufacturing town where ever since the day I was born, the jobs kept trickling out/away to Mexico and China.

    Today, my 98% of my high school class is spread all over the country. We have regional class reunions because no one lives where they grew up, and everyone is MUCH happier and better off for it. In fact, many of us actually made something of ourselves out there in this country!

    Everyone who still lives back ‘home’ endures nearly the worst quality of life I can imagine outside of Pine Ridge.

    Abandoned West Virginian coal miners don’t actually want jobs or they would have already moved to find one. If they wanted to be retrained for different work, they’d have voted for the other Presidential candidate.

    Moving to where the jobs are is THE MOST American principle of them all.

  111. …And that’s why we have such a small population for such a large state (decades of poor state management and misguided leadership).

  112. mike from iowa

    Adam- I believe the Obama administration had job retraining programs in place to help these folks out. It wouldn’t surprise me to find wingnuts cutting funding for them and claiming it was socialism or some such tommy rot.

    Drumpf had no such programs and only lies about bringing jobs back. Seems pretty obvious that Dems made attempts to help while wingnuts just fan the fires of hate and fear.

  113. Adam, how much do you think it costs to uproot your family and move them to a job that may not be there? These folks cannot move unless they were able to get a stipend of a couple thousand a month until they got situated. To move across country or across the state costs several hundred dollars. To rent a place, with first month and last month deposit another couple of thousand. To put utilities in your name requires a deposit that could be quite large. Then the food. Then the wait for the first paychecks.

    Adam, the only thing these folks have is each other, they share each other’s misery and each other’s drugs. They go to church on Sunday to hear the preacher man say they must vote republican or they will go to the fires of hell. After living in hell since mountain topping began and quit and seeing how the oil and gas glut has taken their pensions with bankrupt coal companies, it is no wonder they kill themselves at an astounding rate with opioid addiction.

    Pine Ridge is not really any different than Deadwood, South Dakota. Deadwood got its life back in 1990 with a huge influx of state and federal money. Before that lifeline, you could have purchased the main street there for a couple hundred thousand including inventory. Put that kind of money into Pine Ridge with the same kind of infrastructure and you would see one helluva change.

  114. mike from iowa

    HRC had a 30 billion dollar plan to help retrain and invest in infrastructure in Appalachia, Drumpf was gonna bring back jobs to mine coal that is too expensive to burn. Fat lot of good that would have done.

  115. Jerry, a guy can secure, or nearly secure, a position with another employer before he moves to a new town.

    When your town ain’t got no jobs, and you can’t see a way for the old jobs to come back, you just gotta move. Anything less would is uncivilized – that is – unless you’re a worthless piece of crap to this economy. If you can’t adapt to a changing ecosystem, then you die. That is the law of nature.

    West Virginians whine that they want change so bad, but also stomp their feet while refusing to change themselves. It’s anti-American.

  116. You are correct Adam if that guy has the background to do the job. These guys are coal miners, that is there trade and life. If you could find a job that is similar to that, for sure you could nail the job down. If it is something other than that, no way. The trick is to train these folks so they can do something else and then they could have a chance.

    BTW, what jobs are open? I seem to remember that we were gonna be swamped with great terrific jobs. It is clear they ain’t coming to South Dakota that is for damn sure. In the rest of the country, I do not see these new ones either. But if you go to some of the places around the area, you can sure find folks that work there…and there other job as well.

    In West Virginia as well as all Appalachia country, the big work should be in reclamation. West Virginia has some beautiful country, spent time around Charleston and checked it out some years back. Mountain topping devastated the streams and fishing there, put the people to work right there, doing what they do best, working the land. Why move if you can find a niche that puts pride in your step and cornmeal in your belly.

  117. Jerry, in general, I am really with ya man.

    My grandparents moved to the jobs. The way my parents (Boomers) ended up working, they did not have go anywhere. My generation, and everyone that followed, had to move from the factory-based home town. So, that’s the context for whatever bias(s) I might have.

    I’d like to believe that factory work, construction and mining don’t require too differing of skill set. Experience in these fields is what pays well, and unions often help. However, you can’t get said experience if there ain’t no construction or factory work in old WV mining towns. So, they gotta move – just to get the ball rolling on getting experience doing anything/something different.

    Instead, they chose to work their not so fertile land land, give their whole state’s electoral vote to Trump because they refuse to relocate. They aren’t normal, traditional, entrepreneurial, innovative, red blooded Americans. They’re more like feral human beings. They’ve been left behind so long that there might not be any coming back.

    If somebody were to propose that we raise taxes on the top 1/10 of 1% of income earners so that we can subsidize the relocation of old WV town populations back into society, I would probably support it.

    I totally supported HRC’s retraining platform. I think inevitable relocation was a big secret behind making it work.

    Mountain top removal was done at the hands of the mining workers as well as the fat cat industrialists. When a man is paid to kill another man, do we not also consider the assassin a morally handicapped individual as well as the employer?

    And now, today, we’re talking about humanity on the line with global warming, and these WV SOBs are crying out -TODAY- for more coal jobs?! F ’em! And tell them right to their face – until they change their minds about that!

  118. Robert McTaggart


    I guess drought from climate change will have no impact on hydropower whatsoever. And hydro will always be there when wind and solar are not? Go have some micro-hydro….you underestimate the amount of electricity that we will need as our demand grows, particularly for replacing fossil fuels in automobiles.

    Pumped hydro storage and compressed air storage have been around for some time. But despite the growth of solar and wind they have not caught on. Which is kind of a downer, because storage without the heavy metals in batteries would be a big plus.

    Such storage has an environmental impact, and they have limits on how much they can store. But the bigger deal may be that they cannot respond quickly enough to our electricity demands. So you must have a variety of storage tech, which we do not have. Thus you are left with load-following natural gas or load-following nuclear. One of these emits a lot more carbon than the other one.

    Thus I support load-following nuclear with whatever carbon-free tech we have to deliver the power that the consumer demands when they want it, not when you say we can have it.

    Sorry Clyde, there is radioactive material in coal fly ash. It comes from the decay of naturally occurring Uranium, Thorium, Potassium, and any progeny they produce. Those levels have been deemed safe by the EPA.

    If nuclear actually emits far fewer radioisotopes into the environment than the fossil fuels used to back-up renewables when they fail (….and once again, fossil fuel emissions of radioactivity are SAFE), and it has fewer workplace accidents, and it generates more carbon-free power…..then which technology is safer or better?

  119. Robert McTaggart


    Is it any wonder why Democrats lost this election, when the folks doing the dirty jobs are not valued? Wouldn’t Hillary have liked those electoral votes from WV that Democrats historically took for granted?

    We live in a nation of dessert-first politics. Forget the vegetables, and forget the clean-up in the kitchen afterwards. The legacy of health issues for coal miners is one such issue that people don’t want to keep their word on, because they want to spend money on other issues and delay their own political interests.

    Hillary wanted the chance to bring in renewable jobs and other kinds of jobs, but she did an awful job communicating that to the people in Appalachia. Once the message became putting miners out of work, WV was lost.

    Certainly, one option is simply moving away when things do not work out. But the more sustainable option is to fix that economy for the long-term. The skill sets they have built over the last few decades do not necessarily match up with the jobs that exist. Employers will hire the candidates who can help them out right now, not after a couple years of re-training.

    In some sense coal miners and ex-military face the same challenges with regard to re-employment.

  120. mike from iowa

    HRC had planned and outlined a 30 billion dollar plan to help people get retrained for jobs in the hard hit coal areas. She was honest enough to admit the jobs were leaving and would be replaced by green energy tech.

    I suppose she should have lied her ass off and told the people about pink unicorns full of coal mining jobs just waiting to be had.

  121. Robert McTaggart

    Sorry, I meant to say they don’t want to delay their own political interests above.

    I would agree with you Adam that I would like to see Appalachia diversify its economy away from coal. And I would agree with jerry that I would not choose to do mountain-top removal because I love the mountains of West Virginia.

    But if you are pro-infrastructure, there are certain types of coal in Appalachia that are preferred to help make the steel. There are also trace amounts of critical elements like the rare earths in the coal fly ash, but it is expensive to get, and requires a lot of acids to separate it out.

    The holy grail is carbon capture and sequestration (CCS). For the most part, coal has been cheap because a lot of its environmental and health impacts are not accounted for up front, but the costs of CCS cannot be avoided in the same way.

    So there are ways to generate the power we need without nuclear, but don’t be surprised if we start building more advanced coal plants with CCS that reduce emissions by 25% or something instead, nor that the cost of electricity rises just to avoid nuclear. The end result will be higher carbon and radioactivity emissions than nuclear would provide.

  122. Robert McTaggart

    USA Today had an article yesterday about the plight of infrastructure in Southern WV. Coal doesn’t need highways because they can ship their product by river, and the locals can do the work. But other industries need highways for rapid deployment of goods, services, and people.

    Sanders is on MSNBC tonight from West Virginia with Chris Hayes (taped…synopsis at

    “McDowell County doesn’t need to be left behind — we need to be included. We need we need drug rehab. We need it so badly. We need jobs. We need infrastructure. We need drinking water that’s clean. We need housing. There are so many things,” said Evans.

    “West Virginia was built on the backs of McDowell County coal miners. Now, whether people believe that or not — it’s true. This was the billion dollar coal fields. The coal that came out of here that made the steel across America, the tanks for the war.”

  123. When the farel West Virginians thought about HRC’s retraining programs, it just sounded like waaaay too much work for such sick, dumb and dying people.

    They thought, “going to them school systems’ never did me no good; can’t see why I’d go back to school; I’d prolly just flunk out all over again like I did back in high school.” – farel people tend to think.

    I don’t see anyone proposing to re-domesticate the wild feral hogs running wild all over TX. How much money should we spend trying to re-domesticate old coal miners in WV.

    “Trump is a good and smart man,” says the fool who couldn’t make it through high school to save their inbred soul.

    I believe in an America that does not necessarily include WV. Sometimes you gotta cut the fat, remove the tumor or whatever ya wanna call it.

    And tell WV that right to their face – just until they change their mind about global warming, coal jobs and Trump.

    What is it that those idiots need to hear to change their minds?

  124. mike from iowa

    They need clean drinking water and yet many cheered when Drumpf allowed coal mines to dump waste in the rivers and streams again?

    I’m not making sense of this. I recall some West Virgins bragging about Drumpf keeping his promise to bring coal mining jobs back when this roll back was announced.

  125. Robert McTaggart

    Pretty simple. Not much can replace the coal mining job with the same salary at the moment…besides another coal job. If anything else (like renewables) were offering higher salaries for even more jobs than they had before, then other industries would take off in WV. They haven’t.

    WV is simply not the best place for solar/wind power either…not like Arizona for solar or the Midwest for wind. It would be like Germany, where they focus on solar/wind, but keep their coal plants going to make the power they actually use.

  126. I appreciate you all putting up with me on this absolutely harshest critique of a voting demographic. I really do.

  127. Robert McTaggart

    What they need to hear Adam is that the alternative economy to the coal economy would be as good or better. The renewable energy industry has so far not come through in this regard in Appalachia… far. We’ll see if there is a niche that WV can participate in…perhaps in some type of manufacturing, but probably not as much renewable energy generation as you could see elsewhere.

    Food and music and culture they have plenty of. They need infrastructure. Not just highways, but other things to support advanced manufacturing, including some re-training. The coal miner is really an all-around engineer, technician, and problem-solver when you get right down to it.

  128. mike from iowa

    Coal miners are sitting ducks to cave-ins, gasses, drownings when the watchdog agencies allow violation after violation to pile up w/o required fixes because the mine owners are politically connected and because these people need these jobs.

    CBO report is out and more people are losing healthcare than signed up for it. CBO estimates 24 millions lose.

  129. Robert McTaggart


    It therefore escapes me why we are not deploying all of the carbon-fighting tools at our disposal to solve the problem as quickly as possible.

  130. Robert McTaggart

    Kentucky of all places is potentially lifting its moratorium on nuclear power. A potential hedge against the future of coal.

  131. Mr McT

    I’m afraid I can’t leave well enough alone after all. I’m out of touch on some of what I spoke about and need to correct it. Instead of 8 thousand dams not producing power there are 80 thousand. The department of energy claims 50 thousand of those dams could produce power for a total of 12 gigawatts of power. Is that micro-hydro Robert?? Missouri River Energy, a NON PROFIT small utility based out of Sioux Falls just put 36 megawatts of hydro turbines into the Red Rocks flood control dam in southeast Iowa. Is that micro Robert??
    Of course they will use some “wheeling” scheme to get the use of it to their customers in South Dakota…something I couldn’t do as a small producer. Instead if I were a customer of BHP I would be hit with a charge for using the power lines!
    BTW, there is no better way to adjust for varying loads than with a hydro facility with water storage capacity. When the sun goes down and your solar panels aren’t producing power till you want to go to bed just run a little more water to the turbines.
    Of course there are occasional drought’s and if we weren’t squandering our new found fracking wealth it could provide a backup for a long time. Instead petroleum industry projections show this will likely be gone in the blink of an eye.
    When the PURPA act of 1978 was passed, as mentioned, I was young and with an engineering degree as well as being a farmer I struck on the idea of putting a old unused municipal hydro facility back into service. As fast as I raced around the state of Iowa looking for unused plants I couldn’t get ahead of the utility company’s scrapping them out. They had sat unused for decades but as soon as the threat of a private individual putting them back in service came along they were scrapped. That’s the way the current utility monopolies do things! The only oversight is a state PUC that is in the pocket of big business and that needs to go away. We don’t need nuclear power, we need to develop the resource’s we have and use them efficiently and we need to change the whole industry to do that.
    As I mentioned we need to tax the devil out of carbon and nuclear so that their true cost is somewhat assessed. We need to get away from subsidizing the things we want to promote at the same time. Subsidy’s are never equitable. IMO the reason we have so much wind power is because they are big and visible and people that know no better get a warm fuzzy feeling when they drive by them thinking we are actually doing something that is good for the future. Hense plenty of subsidy for wind. Little for anything else. Let’s just get rid of the hidden subsidy’s for carbon fuels and nuclear and let sensible power sources have the market with regulation that stops favoring only the big.

    On radiation from fly ash….the radiation in the dirt around my house will kill me. We don’t need to greatly add to it but of course, there is some we are going to have to accept. I don’t know for sure but I’m guessing that fly ash radiation isn’t terribly high.

    On the subject of battery’s. Battery technology is evolving rapidly….If I had nothing but a house to power using REA power I would look very hard at disconnecting and using solar and wind plus salt water battery’s to store the power.

  132. Robert McTaggart

    Thanks Clyde,

    Unless they are discovering new Missouri Rivers, it’s micro. 12 GW of power is like 12 nuclear plants today. And that will be less with climate change drought. So that isn’t going to replace all of the power plants (nuclear, gas, coal) that we use for power today, nor the extra power we will need in the future.

    Not saying it won’t help, and by all means let’s make the most of what is available to us, but we’re not doing everything with hydro.

    The rate at which it can provide power does not match demand by the public nor supply curves of solar and/or wind. Essentially the process is constrained by gravity…any faster and you eat up the stored energy before it becomes electricity. So we must burn natural gas or coal and emit carbon without nuclear to make up the difference.

    Renewables don’t have subsidies? Really?

    You are right that radiation from fly ash or from the fertilizer you buy at the store and spread on your lawn is low and it is safe. That radioactivity is unregulated and it is safe. Every dam is in effect a storage facility for low levels of naturally-occurring radioactivity (soil/fertilizer runoff, coal-burning, tritium from the upper atmosphere). That won’t stop hydro.

    Nuclear emits far less radioactivity, is regulated to do so, and strives to emit zero, but somehow it is not safe when everything else redistributes a lot more and is not regulated.

    Biology is simply awesome at repair with low levels. Note that billions of years ago, biology had to develop in much higher levels than we have today. About once a second a uranium atom in the human body decays. That is pretty low.

  133. Robert McTaggart

    And as battery tech is getting better, so is nuclear power.

    Commercial battery storage for large quantities of energy would be a boon for nuclear power. Nuclear interests would welcome such a development.

  134. No ideas on making South Dakota fiscally responsible though. The only ideas are to pollute the state’s air and water. We have proven disasters like CAFO’s that depend on illegal workers to make ends meet for the rich. We have proven disasters like Uranium mining that will do nothing for the state except kill us with radiation. We have a lot of land here that is pretty much marginal for anything other than grazing. The small grains that are planted need so much poison that their production kills us as well.

    Maybe the answer would be smaller scale operation that grow only organic meat and organic produce. The smaller scale operation would require more ranchers and farmers to get the production to commercial levels of supply. We could then ship these products all over the country from our central location. Of course that would require infrastructure, something that is sorely lacking in South Dakota as well as the rest of the country.

  135. Robert McTaggart

    Uranium mining by pick and shovel underground or by steamshovel is a different animal than in situ. And when uranium mining occurred before in SD, recall it was pre-Three Mile Island. A lot has changed with regard to the regulatory oversight since the early 70’s.

    But if a particular energy storage tech would work, I wouldn’t oppose manufacturing it in South Dakota. But I agree there likely would be some unique infrastructure that would be necessary.

  136. The infrastructure needs for South Dakota with existing roads, bridges and rail would be an honest way to make us fiscally sound here. You can go to just about any rancher, unless they are connected, and see that the roads and bridges to there home places and beyond, are in terrible need. The jobs and maintenance of the infrastructure needs would mean that we could now count the reservations in the mix of employment and proudly proclaim the low numbers we would be seeing. It would be a win win for the bigger communities as well as the smaller main street ones.

    Ask a county commissioner how they feel about the infrastructure of their county and what is needed to just bring them up to what would seem normal.

  137. Robert McTaggart

    Meanwhile, the borehole that is proposed would work on improving roads to deliver equipment.

    One wonders what else could use those upgraded roads during or after any drilling.

  138. When you put trucks on the roads, heavy trucks, you break up the roads you just built. We are looking for solutions, not perpetual motion.

  139. Robert McTaggart

    Sounds like a lot of good jobs to maintain those roads that bring in the heavy equipment to stimulate the economy.

    And perpetual motion is what you get when you expect energy for free without any waste…which isn’t possible.

  140. Robert McTaggart

    I guess then leave wind energy out….jerry says no heavy equipment on our roads to boost the economy ;^).

  141. Robert McTaggart

    Borehole info…

    Regarding consent…

    “So a true consent-based program more heavily weights the opinions of those who live closer to the proposed site, as it should be. And this idea has gotten traction in our Nation’s capital.”

  142. Robert McTaggart

    NuScale’s small modular reactor making progress on the certification front. NRC has accepted its design application, which means a full review of the design is now possible.

    This is the kind of reactor that addresses the issues that most people have with nuclear. Manufacturing, testing, and safety could be done here in support of these SMRs, and they would help wind, solar, and biofuels.

    “This nuclear reactor is something that we’ve never seen before – a small modular reactor that is economic, factory built and shippable, flexible enough to desalinate seawater, refine oil, load-follow wind, produce hydrogen, modular to make the power plant any size, and that provides something we’ve all been waiting for – a reactor that cannot meltdown.”