The Future Nuclear Plant ..

Remember Occam’s Razor?  ( The simplest alternative is the best answer!!)  It is agonizing to watch the President and his minions try to blame hijacking and school and  street murder on guns.  The obvious answer to their dilemma was solved long ago by our founding fathers … the 2nd Amendment.  Those great men knew the obvious … you are ultimately responsible for yourself … when the government disarms you, you are the mercy of those who would harm you.  The “greenies” always are talking about the environment, something that most of them know very little about.  In a modern society, particularly for the modern urbanite, electricity is indispensable.  Almost all of our electricity is generated by utilizing coal or hydrocarbons either oil or gas.  The greenies, rightly or wrongly, perceive that burning these carbon sources are a threat to the Earth because of the CO2 generated.  The idea that this problem can be solved by wind or solar is ridiculous from an engineering or economic point of view … supplemental, yes … solution, no!  The only solution possible from a non-polluting point of view is nuclear energy.  But wait … isn’t nuclear power super dangerous?

Read the essay that I wrote about a “green” nuclear plant that could and should make everybody happy … a SIMPLE SOLUTION !!!!

The Future Nuclear Power Plant

The Problem:

The United States has reached an energy crisis. The traditional sources of energy are either fully developed like water power, or deemed dangerous like nuclear, or inadequate like wind and solar, or polluting like coal and the hydrocarbons, oil or natural gas. Coal, the most important source of energy, produces vast amounts of gases like CO2 and CO, nitrogen (NOx), sulfur (SOx) and particulate contaminants like fly ash and heavy metal residues. Solar and wind are green non-polluting sources, but intermittent and unreliable and are therefore only supplemental sources. Geothermal is promising and green, but presently it is an apparently minor resource. Deep well systems that tap the Earth’s heat show promise, but are at present totally experimental.

The environmental movement has raised the specter, whether true or not, of the CO2 produced by burning fossil fuels as the cause of global warming or “climate change.” This view has been backed by the agencies of the Federal government. The President has issued an “executive order,” that has the force of law, that the amount of CO2 released into the atmosphere must be reduced by 30% in the next 16 years. Since burning coal, on a molecular basis, is the greatest producer of CO2, this is a direct attack on the use of coal as a source of electrical energy, implying that a new source of energy must be found to supply essentially 30% of our electrical power. The only viable place that this new energy can come from is oil and gas, both of which produce vast amounts of CO2 or from nuclear energy. Nuclear energy is the obvious choice from a green energy point of view, as nuclear plants produce no atmospheric pollution whatsoever, but nuclear energy, as is well known, has its own unique environmental problems.

The nuclear industry in the US produces unusable by-products (radioactive actinides) that pose a potential lethal radioactive danger to human beings for as long as scores, even hundreds of centuries, and therefore must be stored out of harm’s way, basically forever. Additionally, just as millions of Americans were being propagandized about the supposed dangers of nuclear energy by the motion picture, “The China Syndrome,” there was a dramatic nuclear accident at Three Mile Island. Subsequently, highly publicized accidents at Chernobyl and Fukushima have occurred re-enforcing the plot of the movie which, although an unrealistic and untrue scenario, have negatively prejudiced the general public’s attitude toward nuclear power.

What is the answer?

Doctors Alvin Weinberg and Walter Zinn, genius nuclear physicists from the Manhattan Project, were enlisted in the late 1940’s by then naval Captain Hyman Rickover to design the nuclear power plant for a submarine. The first experimental project, supervised by Dr. Zinn, was conducted at the INL (AEC) on the high desert in Idaho. The research produced the plant designated the “Experimental Breeder Reactor #1” (EBR-1) which produced the first electrical energy from nuclear fission on Earth to light a small town, Arco, Idaho. EBR-1 provided electricity for the first time on December 20, 1951. This plant was the prototype plant for the nuclear submarine. It produced a nuclear chain reaction by enclosing a fissioning isotope of Uranium, Uranium-235 (235U) in a crucible of natural Uranium-238 (238U). The heat from the process was carried away by a liquid metal … a eutectic of sodium and potassium (NaK).   The NaK in turn was cooled by water in a heat exchanger, which in its turn changed into the steam used to power the turbine which drove a generator to produce electricity. After this plant had run for approximately 18 months, it was disassembled and it was found that some of the 238U had been transmuted into Plutonium (239Pu); so much 239Pu in fact that the plant had more energy than when it was started. The EBR-1 had “bred” energy.

Dr. Weinberg, who was working at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), and Nobel laureate Eugene Wigner had patented another process that advocated using water as a coolant (and moderator) which resulted in the light water reactors (LWR) that include the pressure water (PWR) and boiling water (BWR) reactors. Variants of these reactors were subsequently adapted to power not only our nuclear submarines, but all the nuclear ships in the navy. Because of the design effort involved, all the commercial reactors in the US and most of the international ones are of this design. LWR’s produce high pressure steam that turns the turbines that turn the generators that produce electricity.   These reactors vary in power from about 10 megawatts (10 Mw) in the early atomic submarines to more than 1.4 gigawatts (1.4 Gw) in the largest commercial power stations.

LWR’s are undoubtedly the workhorses of the nuclear power grid, but they do have some disadvantages. For the most part they are huge and immensely expensive, and subject to monumental regulation. The larger ones employ parts that cannot be fabricated in the US. They can and have had accidents. The two most spectacular cases are Three Mile Island and Fukushima. The Russian Chernobyl plant was not a LWR. Much of the cost of nuclear power plants results from a construction profile that makes them as safe as possible. For instance, all the critical controls and systems are backed up by redundant systems.  The original engineering provided that in event of a coolant failure (the worst case scenario) that there could be no catastrophic meltdown. The plant itself is cocooned within a containment dome designed to contain all the steam in the pressure vessel should a meltdown scenario occur. It is interesting that this worst possible scenario occurred at Three Mile Island and the safety systems contained the entire accident … no dangerous radioactivity escaped. The other giant drawback to LWR’s is that, although they are not breeder reactors in the sense that they produce more energy than they consume, they do breed Plutonium isotopes. One Plutonium isotope, specifically Pu-239, being fissile can be used to fuel other reactors or be made into bombs. Other isotopes (daughters) transmutate into what we call “high level” nuclear waste, which causes the huge and as yet unresolved problem of what to do with them.

After the Navy produced the nuclear submarine, Air Force planners began searching for some way to produce a nuclear airplane that could essentially fly forever. Dr. Weinberg, by then the director of the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), was asked to produce the reactor for the airplane. He opted for a system that could operate at essentially atmospheric pressure. To understand his choice, first we must consider his choices for a nuclear reaction. There are two viable sources of “fissionable” materials, the elements Uranium and Thorium. “Fissile” means that the material expels neutrons naturally; “fissionable” means that the material can be made into fissile isotopes if it is exposed to the fissions of a fissile material. Natural Uranium is 99.3% “fissionable” U-238 and is 0.7% U-235, a natural “fissile” isotope. Thorium has no “fissile” isotope; it is 100% Thorium-232 which is all fissionable. When U-238 is irradiated it produces a number of complex nuclear reactions resulting in a number of fissile isotopes, but eventually producing relatively stable, but fissile Plutonium (Pu-239) which is the preferred material for atomic bombs. Irradiated Thorium produces fissile U-233 and a short lived daughter, U-232. U-233 is considered physically unsuitable for bomb making because the daughter it contains, U-232, radiates intense gamma rays that are lethal to humans and electronic devices. Dr. Weinberg opted to use Thorium for reasons that we shall see. He and his associates decided to expose metallic Thorium to Fluorine, which produced a chemically neutral salt similar to table salt. They then melted the salt into a liquid at approximately 450 °F. U-235, in oxide form, was then introduced into the molten salt until the chain reaction began. The chain reaction ultimately bred fissile U-233 which in its turn sustained the reaction. Obviously, the reaction is not as simple as I have portrayed it, but it is essentially as explained; the aircraft molten salt reactor was a breeder reactor. After the nuclear aircraft project was cancelled by President Kennedy in 1962, Dr. Weinberg continued the research by designing and operating a molten salt test reactor (MSTR) at ORNL which ran almost continually, some 13,000 hours from 1965 until 1969. He became so convinced that the MSR was the key to the production of commercial electrical power that he staked his career on its attributes and ultimately lost his job as head of ORNL over it. The leaders of the AEC rejected it because it did not make the Plutonium that they needed for bombs.

What are the attributes of the molten salt reactor?

  • Inherently safe – As the reactor heats up, the molten salt expands the volume of the solution, therefore reducing the density, so that reactivity goes down … this provides self regulation
  • Stable coolant – The molten salt does not burn, is impervious to radiation, doesn’t react chemically, does not boil until it reaches ~3,000 °C (far above the melting point of steel) and exhibits virtually no vapor pressure
  • Low pressure operation – It operates at or just above atmospheric pressure
  • Leak resistant – Because of the low pressure operation, there is no pressure strain to compromise the reactor vessel; if a leak should develop, it would be self healing, as the salt freezes far above ambient temperatures and would be solid outside the reactor
  • Slow heat up – The liquid salt can absorb large amounts of heat
  • Passive decay heat cooling- In emergencies the fluid drains into a safe cooling container where the volume is much greater than in the reactor so that the reaction cannot continue
  • Fail safe core – In emergencies there is a failsafe plug that opens automatically to drain reactants. This plug is a refrigerated plug in the piping leading from the reactor to the cooling container that holds the molten salt in the reactor. Should the reactor fail, the refrigerator would stop and the plug would melt allowing the molten salt to drain, all without human intervention
  • Less activated waste – Very little ancillary irradiated machinery. There are very few pipes, pumps and ancillary equipment to be contended with upon decommissioning.
  • Less long lived waste – Burns almost all its fuel (an estimated 1000 times less waste than present units). Any fissile material introduced or produced will be consumed in operation
  • Destruction of existing long lived wastes – Will burn up present nuclear waste
  • Proliferation resistance – The Uranium produced cannot be stolen because it is too radioactive to handle. U-233 decays by Beta and Gamma emission unlike U-235 and Pu-239 which are Alpha emitters making it too radioactive to be handled directly by humans. The only experimental U-233 bomb was a dud
  • Thorium abundance – 4 times as abundant as Uranium … enough for thousands of years and the greatest deposit in the western hemisphere is at Tendoy, Idaho
  • And … many other advantages and few unresolved problems (almost all the technical and engineering problems were solved during the 4 year test run.)

The thrust of Generation IV reactors, of which the MSR is one, is to make them portable. For instance, the US Army would like to have access to field portable nuclear reactors for electrical power and process heat. Obviously, there are myriad applications from small electrical stations from remote mines, to electric railroads, to de-salinization, to remote urban areas, to space heat in arctic areas, to third world applications and many other applications.

Truck-able or rail-able reliable reactors would have to be no more than 10 feet in diameter and less than 100 feet in length in order to pass under overpasses or through bridges and tunnels. Preliminary calculations show that reactors of this size would be on the order of 50 Megawatts electrical (~ 62,500 horsepower.) If the anticipated load was greater than this, the reactors could be sited in clusters for any power configuration. If the primary reactors are of this physical size, they can be easily hauled away for de-commissioning or overhaul. To visualize the power of these reactors, it may be noted that the most powerful of railroad locomotives is ~ 3,000 Hp. The largest container ship on the ocean is powered by an 114,000 Hp diesel engine. Two of these reactors would run that ship and one reactor would run far in excess of 20 electric locomotives because they are seldom at full power. 50 Mw would power a half million 100 watt light bulbs. At the average national use of 1400 watts continuous per person it would produce enough electricity for ~ 35,000 people. It is interesting to think of such a self powered power plant that could be trucked to any site.

These plants could be run at any temperature that modern machinery could utilize. Thermodynamically, the hotter that a heat engine can be run, the more efficiently it can be designed to operate. The LWR’s generally run at temperatures less than 300 °C because at temperatures higher than this the pressure in the system becomes too great. The MSR could easily be run in excess of 800 °C; it was in fact tested at this temperature during the ORNL experiment. Of course, the MSR could be designed to power the efficient Rankine cycle steam turbine utilized in the LWR system, but this would require auxiliary heat exchangers to condense the return feed water with its fresh water requirements. Operated at the much higher temperature, it has been proposed that either a CO2 or a helium cycle gas turbine be used that would run much more efficiently than the Rankine cycle and require little or no cooling water.

All in all the MSR is a prayer for green energy come true. The reactor cannot explode. If the reactor vessel should be somehow breached the reactant, the salt, would instantly solidify thereby containing the accident. The specter of long term, high grade radiation from nuclear waste would be finally solved, as the reactor would “burn up” the actinides from the LWR’s and the Plutonium from decommissioned bombs as fuel. The use of reactor clusters would negate the need for massive high voltage transmission grids. The threat of nuclear bomb proliferation would diminish to the point of disappearance. No high level nuclear waste would be produced or have to be stored at or transported from the plant site. After all the high level wastes from other plants have been burnt up, the MSR, being a breeder, could run on into the setting sun basically forever, fueled by its own reaction. The only fuel needed being the inert Thorium fluoride “table salt.”

There is little doubt that a model of the MSR should be built: the most popular current design is the “Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor” designated the LFTR (“lifter”). This design is well beyond the conception stage. Engineering and designs are far along the path for realization. The basic design problems were solved long ago by the working model at ORNL. The “lifter’s” foremost and most articulate proponent is Kirk Sorensen of the Flibe Corporation from Alabama. His (this) design has wide support in the metallurgical academic community of the inter-mountain northwest and is gaining political support in the state and national governments. Professors and administrators of the Universities of Idaho, Nevada, Utah and Wyoming support it. The Governors of Idaho and Utah are on board. US Senators Orrin Hatch and Harry Reid have introduced legislation to promote it. Many scientists, present and past, from INL and ORNL are in support of it.

As to finding the Thorium necessary for the reactor, it should be noted that Idaho has the largest deposits in the western hemisphere. The mining of Thorium collaterally produces most of the “rare earths.” Rare earths are indispensable to the modern computer industry and China presently has a monopoly on them. When rare earths are mined, Thorium is a highly undesirable by- product as it is very difficult to separate out. When Thorium is mined, the rare earths are a lucrative by-product. US Senator Blunt from Missouri has introduced a bill to promote Thorium mining in order to promote the recovery of rare earths.

How do we build the LFTR?

First, the MSR called for in the list of Gen IV reactors is the modular, transportable one. This means that the cost of the unit will be orders of magnitude lower than that of the present LWR’s.  Even in small states the building of the LFTR could be totally accomplished by local fabricators. In many small states, there is a population that tolerates nuclear energy and if the people are properly informed of the beneficial attributes of the LFTR and the economic boon that manufacturing it would bring, they can be reasonably expected to ardently support the industry.  

What is the down side of this project?

  • Large manufacturers of LWR’s will surely oppose the lifter. Companies like General Electric, Westinghouse and Babcock and Wilcox who in the past manufactured the LWR’s now in use and intend to design and manufacture Gen IV LWR’s and who now have multi-billion dollar contracts to refuel their proprietary designs will not be happy.
  • The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) will drag its feet for years to make sure that this “new and radical” technology is “safe.” Experts postulate that licensing and building the lifter would cost around a billion dollars and take up to 30 years if licensed through the NRC. It is interesting to muse about the costs of modern nuclear plants in comparison to the cost of unregulated early plants … the brochures at the INL brag that EBR-1 cost a little over 3 million dollars and that EBR-2 cost less than 24 million.
  • The Environmental Community like the Sierra Club, Friends of the Earth and others will oppose the lifter because much of their fundraising is predicated upon being “anti-nuke” regardless of the technology.
  • It can be assumed that the coal and oil and gas industries will oppose the project because of the competition that it presents.
  • The LFTR is a far more green and viable source of continuous energy than the wind and solar industries, so it can be assumed that they will also oppose it.
  • Individuals and groups of “environmentalists” can be depended upon to march and demonstrate.
  • Minions of the transmission grid will oppose the lifter because of the threat of local power stations tailored to local loads.
  • Power companies will not support it because there is no commercial experience with the technology and no working plants. This disregards the fact that India, China and Japan are all presently building MSR’s and will soon be ahead of us in this technology.

What are the pluses?

  • The LFTR will convert well over 92% of the Thorium fuel to energy whereas only 0.7% of the fuel is used in Uranium reactors.
  • The LFTR will eventually consume almost all the “nuclear waste” now in storage that presently so plagues the nuclear industry, and will be the final destroyer of the waste made in the future by the continued operation of LWR’s .
  • The LFTR does not make bomb material; it is not a vector for “nuclear proliferation.”
  • The LFTR runs at near atmospheric pressure and there is no water in the process to make hydrogen so there will be no possibility of an explosion as occurred at Fukushima.
  • In any imaginable accident, the lifter cannot cause wide spread nuclear contamination; the Thorium salt is a solid at all possible ambient temperatures and is insoluble in water.
  • The lifter, depending upon its design, requires little or no cooling water.
  • The US Army wants a field portable electric source and the lifter fits the bill.
  • Remote locations and third world populations can have a reasonably cost efficient electric source designed to their needs.

How do we do it?

The problems that must considered are economic, logistical, technical, public relations and political. The greatest hurdle is to avoid a bureaucratic veto. It is obvious that if the LFTR is subjected to NRC scrutiny that it will not be built in our lifetimes, so we must go around that obstruction. In the first place no private company would have the resources or patience to see the LFTR through the NRC. Since there is no working molten salt plant in the US and no operating Thorium mine in the country, it makes sense to construct a working prototype to prove the design and to allow the time needed for Thorium resources to become viable working mines. Time is also needed to construct the metallurgical refining system for the Thorium. The prototype would also give local fabricators time to come to speed. Additionally, if the LFTR is built as an experimental project, it can be done through an act of Congress by the Department of Energy, thus circumventing the NRC. Once a much publicized experimental reactor is proved, the NRC would be under immense pressure to certify it commercially and electrical power companies could proceed with confidence.

What are the resources now available to the project?

  • The Energy Department has been storing a 3500 ton stockpile of previously mined Thorium in the Nevada desert; this material would preclude the necessity of mining the material for this project.
  • The Energy Department recently budgeted $434 million to destroy its approximately 1 ton stockpile of excess U-233 left over from the early nuclear age by “diluting” it in spent U-238 …. this material could be used to fuel the startup of the lifter. (The material is supposedly stored at INL or ORNL.)
  • Kirk Sorensen’s design of the LFTR should be evaluated for viability; the metallurgical departments of the universities of the intermountain states, plus the INL and CAES should be brought into the picture to solve metallurgical and technical problems.
  • The research data on the MSR at ORNL from 1965 to 1969 and experiments beyond are available.
  • China, India and Japan are all doing extensive research on MSR’s and will soon hold international patents. They should be consulted.
  • The US Army and the Department of Defense want the field portable reactor and should therefore be a technical and financial partner.
  • The nation is facing an ecologically manufactured energy crisis that only nuclear energy can solve and the present LWR’s are still producing the high level nuclear waste … the lifter is the solution.
  • For the President to realize his goal a 30% reduction of CO2 emissions by electrical power plants, he should enthusiastically endorse the lifter.
  • US Senators Orrin Hatch and Harry Reid have introduced legislation to build the lifter.
  • There many groups and consortiums promoting the lifter and there are proponents associated with the INL and ORNL all of whom should be an asset.

How do we proceed?

The LFTR is not the only small Gen IV nuclear reactor that can be built. The NuScale plant scheduled to be built at the INL is a “small modular reactor” of 50 Mwe size that can be deployed in as much as a 12 reactor cluster unit that would deliver as much as ~600 Mw of electricity. And while it is true that it can be shipped, railed or trucked to its destination it is not portable as we would view portable. A single unit weighs 650 tons and being a LWR reactor it produces Plutonium and actinides which carries a much greater proliferation risk than the lifter. It would be very difficult for small state industries to participate in the manufacturing of these machines. Also, we must assume that the hierarchy of the INL will be prejudiced toward this reactor, as the LWR was invented in Idaho at the INL.  Conversely, the lifter is truck-able and rail-able … portable in the sense that we understand it … it can be moved anywhere and then picked up and moved again.

It is apparent from the analysis of this report that the only possible way to get the lifter into production is to get the Departments of Energy and Defense (Army) behind the project either voluntarily or by Congressional coercion. These two entities have a vested interest in building a green nuclear reactor like the LFTR and the funds to solve their problem; they only lack the project to back. Safety and portability for the Army and safety and greenness for the DOE.

The lifter, because of its simplicity and actinide eating attributes is the key to revitalizing the nuclear power industry. If nuclear waste can be done away with and reactors made super safe, then no one can deny that nuclear energy is the way to go. The MSR is undoubtedly the superior technology for the future of commercial power production, but at the same time is totally complimentary to the present LWR industry. Thorium is the nuclear fuel of the future, small modular plants are the reactors of the future.

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An Electoral Strategy for 2016

To be elected president or vice president of the United States requires a total of at least 270 votes in the Electoral College. Through the strategic spending of other people’s money, especially among minority populations in our major urban areas, Democrats have fashioned an electoral map that gives them a relatively firm base of 22 blue states with a combined total of 257 of the needed 270 electoral votes. Of the remaining 281 electoral votes, they only have to pick up 13 in order to elect a president and a vice president.

Republicans, on the other hand, have a firm base of 23 red states with a combined total of 191 electoral votes, leaving a total of 6 swing states… Colorado, Florida, Iowa, North Carolina, Ohio, and Virginia… with a combined total of 90 electoral votes. In order for a Republican to win in 2016, and beyond, he/she must carry all 23 of the red states, plus at least five of the six swing states. They could afford to lose either Colorado’s 9 electoral votes or Iowa’s 6 electoral votes, but not all 15. To lose both Colorado and Iowa, while carrying Florida, Ohio, North Carolina, and Virginia would leave them with a total of just 266 electoral votes, four short of an electoral majority. It appears to be a nearly insurmountable obstacle for Republicans, but is it?

With a bit of foresight and strategic planning, Republicans could do a great deal between now and November 2016 to mitigate the Democrats’ electoral advantage. In a December 7, 2012 column, titled, Real Electoral College Reform, I analyzed what would happen to the political balance of power in the United States if all 50 states were to adopt the Maine-Nebraska method for allocating electoral votes.

In the Electoral College, each of the 50 states are allotted two at-large electoral votes, one for each of their two U.S. senators, and one vote for each of the state’s congressional districts. With the exception of Maine and Nebraska, the winner of the popular vote in each state takes all of the state’s electoral votes. In Maine and Nebraska, however, the candidate who wins the statewide popular vote is allotted that state’s two at-large electoral votes, while the remainder of the electoral votes are allocated based on the winner of the popular vote within each of the state’s congressional districts.

If the Maine-Nebraska formula had been in effect in all 50 states in 2012, and assuming that the vote for the presidential candidates of each party would roughly approximate the votes for the congressional candidates of the respective parties in each congressional district, Obama would have lost 115 of his 332 electoral votes to Mitt Romney in the twenty-six states, plus DC, in which he won a majority of the popular vote. On the other hand, in the twenty-four red states carried by Romney-Ryan, they would have lost only 39 electoral votes to Obama-Biden.

The end result? In 2012, instead of a 332 to 206 vote victory for Obama-Biden in the Electoral College, the Maine-Nebraska system would have produced a comfortable 282 to 256 vote victory for Romney-Ryan, an outcome that would have been far closer to expressing the will of the people than the present winner-take-all system.

To understand this phenomenon one need only look at the county-by-county electoral map of the United States with the counties colored either red or blue. It is reflective of: a) the preference for Republican principles among a substantial majority of the people, and b) the overwhelming size of the vote for the Democratic “sugar daddy” in the inner city precincts. The electoral process is disproportionately skewed by the fact that, in the heavily-populated inner-city precincts, the vote is nearly always 95-110% for Democratic candidates, while in the suburbs and the rural areas the vote is nearly always within the 60-40 range, one party over the other.

If it is true that “all politics is local,” as the late House Speaker Tip O’Neill once remarked, then to replace the current winner-take-all system with the Maine-Nebraska electoral system would help to bring political decision-making much closer to the people because of the increased interest generated in local and congressional elections.

The Maine-Nebraska electoral system would deemphasize the key battleground states such as Florida, North Carolina, Ohio, and Virginia and require candidates to campaign in all fifty states. As matters now stand, presidential candidates spend little time in states such as California, New York, Oklahoma, and Texas because the outcome of presidential voting in those states is almost always a foregone conclusion. Had the Maine-Nebraska system been in place for the 2012 General Election, Obama would have found it necessary to defend the 15 votes that Romney could have won in California and the 6 votes he could have won in New York, while Romney could not have ignored the 12 electoral votes that Obama might have captured in Texas.

Liberals and Democrats are notorious for expressing appreciation for whatever they see as being most “democratic.” But is there a chance that Democrats in the bluest of blue states… such as California, Illinois, New York, Massachusetts, and Oregon… would agree to such a reform once they figured out that the Maine-Nebraska system would cause them to lose a significant number of electoral votes to Republicans, and that the Maine-Nebraska system would all but guarantee that no Democrat could be elected president or vice president for many years to come? Among liberals and Democrats, when it come to a choice between what is best for the country and what is best for their party, the country will always come out on the “short end of the stick.”

So, while we cannot expect to ever see an electoral system in which all 50 states utilize the Maine-Nebraska formula, is there something that can be done now to level the playing field a bit? The answer is yes, and it can easily be accomplished in advance of the 2016 General Election. Here’s what must be done:

At the present time, there are 11 states with a total of 139 electoral votes that were carried by Barack Obama in 2012 which now have Republican governors. Of those 11 states, the states of Florida, Michigan, Nevada, Ohio, and Wisconsin now enjoy Republican majorities in both houses of their legislatures. What this means is that, if the governors and legislative leaders in those 5 states understood what could be accomplished, they would take immediate steps to repeal the winner-take-all electoral system and adopt the Maine-Nebraska system. With Republican majorities in both houses of their legislatures, Democrats would be powerless to stop them.

Even if Democrats should win the popular vote in each of those 5 states in 2016, as they did in 2012, the Maine-Nebraska formula would create a much different scenario than the winner-take-all system: Instead of winning all 29 of Florida’s electoral votes, Democrats would win 12 and Republicans would win 17; instead of winning all 16 of Michigan’s electoral votes, Democrats would win 7 votes and Republicans would win 9; instead of winning all 6 of Nevada’s electoral votes, Democrats would win 3 and Republicans would win 3; instead of winning all 18 of Ohio’s electoral votes, Democrats would win 6 and Republicans would win 12; and instead of winning all 10 of Wisconsin’s electoral votes, Democrats would win 5 and Republicans would win 5.

Applying these totals to the expected blue state and red state totals, the Democrats’ expected advantage would increase from 257 electoral votes to 258, while the Republican disadvantage would move from 191 electoral votes to 237. As matters now stand, Democrats have to take only 13 (14%) of the 90 swing state votes while Republicans have to take 79 (88%) in order to win the presidency. On the other hand, if Republicans in those 5 states were to adopt the Maine-Nebraska system in the current legislative sessions, Democrats would have to take 12 (28%) of the remaining 43 swing state votes to win, while Republicans would have to take 33 (76%) of the remaining 43. Taking 76% of 43 votes is easier than taking 88% of 90 votes.

But what if many of the low-information Obama voters in Florida, Michigan, Nevada, Ohio, and Wisconsin decide to stay home in November 2016, giving Republicans popular vote victories in all 5 states? After 8 years of disastrous Obama-Biden-Clinton-style governance, it is a distinct possibility. Under that scenario, Republicans could put another 10 electoral votes in their column. Democrats would have 248 electoral votes and Republicans 247 electoral votes before the 43 electoral votes of Colorado (9), Iowa (6), North Carolina (15), and Virginia (13) were won or lost. Democrats would have to win 22 (51%) of the remaining 43 swing state votes, while Republicans would have to win 23 (53%). The playing field would be substantially leveled.

However, in order to greatly increase their chances of victory, Republicans should not hesitate to target Minnesota, with 10 electoral votes; New Hampshire, with 4 electoral votes; New Mexico, with 5 electoral votes; and Pennsylvania, with 20 electoral votes… all winner-take-all states, and all states that Obama carried with less than 53% of the vote in 2012. After eight years of Obama-Biden, at least 5% of the good people in those four states should be anxious for a change.

In the meantime, those readers who live in the states of Florida, Michigan, Nevada, Ohio, and Michigan might wish to place copies of this analysis into the hands of their governors and their legislative leaders. With seven states utilizing the Maine-Nebraska system we may witness the beginning of a trend as other blue states follow suit. The question is, do Republican leaders in Washington and in the state capitals have the political sense to recognize the advantage they enjoy? Given their past history, we know that they are not always quick to act when political advantage falls into their laps. It may be necessary to lean on them a bit.

Paul R. Hollrah is a retired government relations executive and a two-time member of the U.S. Electoral College. He currently lives and writes among the hills and lakes of northeast Oklahoma’s Green Country.



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Judicial Tyranny ..

Can the Judiciary be tyrannical?  You bet!  One of the reasons for this blog is to discover and point out instances of judicial tyranny.  Any justice or judge that says that they believe in a “living Constitution” is telling you that there are no absolutes … such as the Constitution of the United States of America.  They are telling you that laws are not what is put upon paper, but what the judge thinks is implied.  Do you think that the framers of the Constitution thought that the “Commerce Clause” was the open door allowing the Federal Government to usurp all law making in our Republic.  Did the proponents of the 14th Amendment mean to empower the Federal judiciary to reapportion all State legislatures?  Where in the Constitution is power for the Supreme Court to over-ride State Constitutions in regards to marriage?  They don’t have the Constitutional power!  What we are seeing is “Judicial Tyranny!”

How do we gain our freedoms from tyranny? Some of you know about the jury foreman, Edward Bushell, in the sedition trial of Wm. Penn as described in this article from “” that I have reproduced here and some do not … this is for those who have not previously heard it to muse upon …                                                                                                                    _______________________

It was September 8, 1670. William Penn was still an Englishman, living in London.

A young man, he was 26 years old. He had not yet become an American. He had not yet founded the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania (Penn’s Woods which he named for his famous father, Admiral William Penn) or the City of Philadelphia (Brotherly Love).

However … he had already spent time in the Tower of London because the government disagreed with his views.  Now Penn was on trial for his life, charged with sedition against the Crown.

If found guilty, Penn would be executed.

In one of the most famous, magisterial courthouses in the world – the Old Bailey – Penn defended himself. It was a time when defendants charged with a crime were not ALLOWED to have a lawyer. Perhaps that is why so many defendants who stood trial at the Old Bailey ended up dead. For most, the “fix” was in long before the trial started.

And … so it appeared for William Penn. A Quaker, Penn was upset with a law which made the Church of England the only place where people could worship. Called the “Conventicle Act,” the law prohibited any “tumultuous assembly” from meeting outside the Church of England.

Challenging the law, Penn called a meeting at Gracechurch street in the City of London. He preached a sermon which resulted in a “tumultuous assembly.”

He was promptly arrested.

Twelve men from the City of London were selected as jurors.

Ten judges, including the Lord Mayor of London, made up the court.

Because Penn published the trial transcript, in 1670, we have a good record of events. Things did not go as the court planned.

The judges thought trial would be a simple, one-issue case:  Did William Penn preach at Grace Church?  If the answer was yes (and the facts were clear – he did), the case was over. The “Conventicle Act” proscribed the rest of the story.  If he preached then he CAUSED a “tumultuous assembly” by application of the law.

As it happened, however, Penn’s jury didn’t like the law.  And … they did not like how the court treated Penn during the trial.

Upset with Penn’s deft ability at questioning the judges on points of common law, the court locked Penn in the “bale dock.” The jury could hear, but no longer see, Penn during the trial.

When the jury reached its unanimous verdict, the court was shocked. “Guilty of speaking in Grace Church.” That was the end of the verdict. The Lord Mayor of London shouted at the jury:

Was it not an unlawful assembly? You mean he was speaking to a tumult of people there?

No, the jury said.

No, we did not find that.

Thinking the jury would respectfully give the government an unrespectable verdict, the Lord Mayor was beyond himself. The jury would not budge.

The court recorder said:

Gentlemen, you shall not be dismissed until you bring in a verdict which the court will accept. You shall be locked up, without meat, drink, fire and tobacco. You shall not think thus to abuse the court. We will have a verdict by the help of God or you shall starve for it.

Penn’s jury was willing to starve for it.

As soldiers pushed the jurors to the jury room, Penn shouted:

Ye are Englishmen, mind your privilege, give not away your right.

The jurors replied:

Nor will we ever do it.

Two days passed.  The jurors had:

  • No food.
  • No water.
  • No heat.
  • No tobacco.
  • No rest-room facilities.

But … they did not change their minds.

In today’s world, after the jury renders its verdict, the trial is over. In Penn’s world, the court ended the trial without accepting the verdict.

The jurors were fined and sent to Newgate Prison where they were to remain until their fines were paid.

The court made a serious misjudgment regarding four of Penn’s jurors. Led by the foreman, Edward Bushell (a man of property and substance), they held firm. The other eight gave in to the demands of the court and were freed.

Nine weeks passed. Conditions at Newgate Prison were more than deplorable. Jurors were often soaked in their own urine and smeared with their own feces.

Finally, England’s high court got involved.

The Lord Chief Justice, Sir John Vaughn, freed the jurors in response to Bushell’s Writ for Habeas Corpus (bring up the body). It was the first time – in a decision known as “Bushell’s Case – that the High Court of Common Pleas had issued such a writ.

Penn’s case, and his jury, changed the law. In the future, jurors would not be required to rubberstamp the agenda of government officials.

For the first time, government had met jurors whose “Liberty was not for sale.”

William Penn never forget the outrage against him and his jurors.

When he came to America, and founded his colony, Penn’s laws were a model of freedom. (Penn’s Treaty with Native Americans, based only on verbal representations, was never broken by either side.)

Immigrants flocked to Pennsylvania. As an example of his approach to government, compared to the Crown’s approach, Penn reserved the death penalty for murder and treason. Britain used it for 200 different offenses.

Penn also never forgot the effects of the Conventicle Act.

By calling religious dissent “sedition,” the government set up an enrichment program for itself. Sedition, a serious crime against the Crown, allowed the government to throw thousands of people into prison and take all their lands and property. Penn’s wife and her family had lost their family estate through such “legal” shenanigans.

In America, thanks to William Penn, the founders of the United States had a great model to follow when they wrote the Constitution. And … thanks to Edward Bushell and his colleagues, today’s juries can reach a just result even when it is not the popular thing to do.                                  _______________________

… Part of Penn’s defense was the guarantee in the “Magna Carta” of the trial by jury of your peers and the absolute sanctity of the deliberating jury.   You can rest assured that if the jury room had not been sacrosanct that the judge in this case or his minions would have been in the room threatening the jurors individually. Also it is generally unknown that the jury is a tryer of law as well as fact, a truth which is almost never conveyed to a jury in cases in the United States. But the fact is that no one can be held to account for a vote in the jury room … because the vote there is factually and legally secret.  So then,  how could the Court legally know how you voted in order to prosecute you?

The Framers provided for control of not only Executive, Legislative, but Judicial caprice.  I suggest that you study the 10th Amendment to see how patriots like Patrick Henry, Melancton Smith, Richard Henry Lee and George Clinton addressed the PROBLEM … and then think about what we should do!


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