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August 08, 2007

Comments

JohnBo

Hi Calamity you said, “1. What is the rest of the world going to do? Haven’t you noticed that economically growing countries such as China that you mentioned above are copying Western, thus also USA energy generation mixes? That is, mainly coal, hydro, nuclear? If nuclear was the best option, then why are they installing mainly coal fired plants? You know the answers.”

Calamity this is the strangest logic for not building nuclear in the west I have heard to date. Actually it’s not even logic. Folks around the world are not doing things just because we are not doing them. We are not that important. This is a foolish notion.


Calamity you conclude in part with, “No government is three centuries old. No nuclear industry is even close to three centuries old. That is analogous to saying that someone has worked in some company for x years, so this person will certainly work there for another xx years. Ridiculous, because several things might happen:”

I don’t think we are discussing how long a government or worker lives. We are discussing a technology. For example I think the wheel has survived for a while regardless of what the politics happen to be at the time.

If you lived in 1875 and the world followed your logic there would be no steam power, no automobiles, airplanes, electricity, etc. etc. In this message you are projecting centuries beyond the present. You are way beyond being scientific with this type of argument.

Isn’t open debate fun? :) JohnBo

PS: I would rather see thermal solar take off and be used rather than nuclear. I just want the decision left in the hands of scientists, engineers and business leaders. Nuclear in this country (US) needs a fair chance and not be killed for emotional and political feelings.

Dezakin

How long would the domestic supplies of natural uranium last?
Long enough for the argument to be moot.

Specifically, reprocessing can be done at a price point where nuclear power is still very competitive; that multiplies fuel inventories by 2-3 times. Then enrichment can be done twice as long, extending fuel inventories another 2 times. Then theres the fact that fuel reserves at this price point are vastly higher than the reserves avaliable at the spot price today. All this is before technology advances make lower ore grades more economical.

Calamity

"Folks around the world are not doing things just because we are not doing them."

Not to engage in a yes-no debate, but you'd be surprised how many countries are watching others closely in terms of energy policy. Indeed, they even cooperate on many fronts. They're a bit slow and extravagant on doing it though so they call it "politics".

"I don’t think we are discussing how long a government or worker lives. We are discussing a technology."

And yet that technology requires certain favorable conditions, which must be granted by bodies such as governments, or similar entity. You're evading the argument that 300 years of safekeeping (i.e. a relatively stable nation and economy) cannot be casually assumed, let alone guaranteed, neither by the nuclear industry nor by governments. That is the point.

"If you lived in 1875 and the world followed your logic there would be no steam power, no automobiles, airplanes, electricity, etc. etc. In this message you are projecting centuries beyond the present."

No,no,no,no. Where did I imply that such is my logic? Non sequitur moment. Certainly you understand the uniqueness of nuclear fission power. I am actually doing the opposite of projecting centuries in the future - saying that you simply cannot know what will happen and so, nuclear remains a gamble.

"Long enough for the argument to be moot."

Your crystall ball is more transparant than the nuclear industry. Suppose it has to be.

If I'm not scientific in saying the future in uncertain, then what are you doing, saying you know for certain things will be just fine the next 100+ years?

Bill Hannahan


JohnBo says
[The only thing I can see wrong with Bill’s message is that a capital M should be used to designate Mega-Watt-hours as the lower case letter designates milli which is 9 orders of magnitude smaller.]

JohnBo, please provide some references on that, (just kidding), I like picky reviewers, thanks for the correction.

Calamity

Thanks for the references. I must point out that they support my comments. Consider these excerpts;

[Food chain transfer was determined as percentages using CRs, where CR = concentrations in average caribou tissue or muscle divided by the concentration in rumen contents and previously collected lichen samples as the caribou food source. Transfer from dry lichens to dry caribou muscle was 1-3% for U, 6-7% for 226Ra, 1-2% for 210Pb, and 22-26% for 210Po; the transfer from rumen contents to caribou muscle was 5-11% for U, 11-16% for 226Ra, 0.5-1.3% for 210Pb, 6% for 210Po, and 76-90% for 40K, but 250-260% for 137Cs.]


The term concentration ratio may show bias. The term dilution ratio, the inverse of CR, may be more appropriate. The above paragraph would read;
The Dilution Ratio was 3,300-10,000% for U, 1,400-1,700% for 226Ra, 1,000-5,000% for 210Pb, etc.

See how much more impressive the dilution ratios are.
Consider this paragraph;

[Age in caribou showed little correlation with concentrations of the bone-seeking radionuclides 226Ra and 210Pb in bone. Linear regression procedures (Model I) yielded the following equations and insignificant r2 values: Bone = -1.73 age + 81 for 226Ra (r2 = 0.0602, p = 0.32) and Bone = -3.5 age + 684 for 210Pb (r2 = 0.0028, p = 0.83) by Model I regression techniques. The

LOSS (my emphasis)

of these radionuclides in caribou bone over time is attributed to bone turnover as well as the growth and drop of antlers every year.]

The point is that caribou living on the richest uranium deposits in the world have higher concentrations of uranium and its decay products than other caribou. No surprise there. But the body cannot tell which atoms are radioactive, and they do not accumulate like water in a rain barrel.

If we extract that uranium, using environmentally sound methods, cutting off the head of the decay chain, and convert it to fission products, that site and the entire world will become a less radioactive place in a relatively short span of geologic time.

Regarding the second reference. They measured the radioactivity of sea water, and then report only the activity of man made isotopes, leaving out the much higher concentrations of natural radioactive material. It does not report an accumulation of radioactivity with age. A few quotes;


[4.4 Conclusions

The concentration of radionuclides in marine organisms in the Barents Sea is generally low, and seems (in most cases) to be in proportion with surrounding seawater concentrations.


For the suite of radionuclides considered, total doses varied between 1.35 mGy a-1 and 2.5 mGy a-1. The doses were essentially attributable to the natural radionuclides 40K and 210Po.


In all situations, ranging from calculations based on monitoring data through to calculations based on release scenarios, dose-rates derived from artificial radionuclides are below the levels where effects from ionising radiation would be observable upon the reproductive capability of individuals (specifically fish in this case) or populations of aquatic species.


The current collective dose rate from consumption of seafood harvested in the Kara Sea is estimated at about 0.03 manSv/year and can be considered insignificant.]


[. If the USA goes full nuclear then:
1. What is the rest of the world going to do? ]

The rest of the world buys airliners from Boeing. They would buy safe efficient economical floating nuclear power plants from us if we got off our duffs and mass produced them at an affordable price.

[2. How long would the domestic supplies of natural uranium last? IOW will breeders (thorium and/or plutonium) or alternative mining techniques become safe and economical (and legal!) enough in such a relatively short timeframe?]

Our primitive first generation nuclear plants split less than 1% of the Uranium mined to fuel them. In order to produce 5.4 ounces of fission products, for an 80 year lifetime supply of electricity at the US level, we mine 58 lb of Uranium.

Uranium prices have bounced around under $40 per pound since WWII with occasional big spikes. It is now spiking around $100 per pound. Japan has developed technology to extract uranium from sea water for about $200 per pound.

http://npc.sarov.ru/english/digest/132004/appendix8.html


At $200 per pound, a lifetime supply of uranium, using first generation reactors, would cost $145 per year, cheaper than coal. We could do that for hundreds of years.

With the integral fast reactor we would need only 6 oz of uranium, $67 for sea water uranium, 83 cents per year per person.

We can go without breeders for hundreds of years, but the sooner we build them the sooner we can cut back uranium mining to a small fraction of the current rate.


[This is betting on technology without a backup plan and sorry, but that’s not very strategically sound.]

Calamity, what is your primary plan? Identify any existing large scale commercial plants, of your primary type that are now producing affordable electricity, and can be expanded to meet our growing electricity needs and displace coal at the same time.

What is your backup plan? Identify any existing large scale commercial plants, of your backup type that are now producing affordable electricity, and can be expanded to meet our growing electricity needs and displace coal at the same time.


KitP

Sorry, I am late in responding. I was attending a formal public meeting organized by the NRC for the first COL submitted by a US utility. This will be the third unit at that location.

What I found interesting was the overwhelming local public support and how well anti-nuke claims were countered. The NRC moderator did a good job of providing equal time for both sides. The NRC panel did a good job of responding to the questions.

There were clear differences between the concise well reasoned comments from locals to support the new plant compared to the anti-nuke outsiders' rambling rants that sometimes verged on personal attacks.

One case in point is the tax incentives voted by the local county supervisors. It was inferred that the county officials had accepted large campaign contributions and $300 million of taxpayers money was being given to the utility. The existing two nuclear reactors pay a huge amount of taxes and the largest share in what used to be the poorest county in the state. The new reactor would pay about $40 million/year but is getting an incentive by only paying $20 million/year for the first 15 years. In other words, taxpayers are gaining $300 million in tax revenue not counting the 300 -500 new high paying jobs created for the young people of the county.

My favorite was the lawyer from Greenpeace and some of the non-local environmental activist groups. They complained about the right for the public to participate in the public process. Hey dudes, look around. The public is participating and no one is preventing any views from being expressed.

Now to Bill, I expect that zero is the most accurate number of deaths from air pollution from coal power plants. This is from reading EPRI reports correctly using the same methodology.

Okay, Bill if the prevailing winds are from the west and the coal plants are least 200 miles to the east; how does your statement 'Coal plant emissions do not stop at the state line' explain polluted cities? That is right, it's China's fault and not all those car they drive in California.

Bill Hannahan

Calamity wrote;
[I find it very convenient that you consider lead acid as the storage of choice for PV.]

I used lead acid for my cost estimate because that is what the venders were selling for photovoltaic systems when I did the cost estimate. Actually lead acid is not too bad for a fixed land based application.

You have the spreadsheet, plug in the numbers for the battery of your choice and show us the result. The only rules are that it must be commercially available, and you must use realistic values for cost and performance.

I doubt that you will get the cost of a photovoltaic power plant to replace a 1,000MW nuclear plant a great deal lower than my $29 Billion estimate because the batteries are a modest fraction of the total cost, and any savings will be a modest fraction of that.


[No solar thermal either in your paper. Where I’m from this is called “information shopping”.]

The R&D costs of a new energy technology are insignificant compared to the benefits that will accrue if the technology is good.

The really big cost of a new energy technology is in the wide scale commercial application of that technology. If it is good the payback will come, if not it is a millstone around the societies neck.

Denmark has been pushing wind very hard for 28 years, resulting in the highest electricity prices in the world and a paltry 150 watts of wind power per person.

I believe that 100 years from now energy will be cheap and abundant. Wind power will never be cheap or abundant, even if batteries are free, so wind power is a dead end road. That is the lesson of Denmark.

Most Americans do not know the lesson of Denmark, so we are chasing them down that dead end road, at great expense.

Nobody has been pushing solar for 28 years, but Germany is now offering a 15 year guarantee of 51 cents euro per KWh of solar energy, and solar cells are going up all over Germany like crazy.

Germany’s electric prices are already huge due to their big wind power subsidies in recent years. When the full impact of this huge solar subsidy sets in it should be entertaining to watch what happens to their economy.

Many Americans want to follow Germany down that road. Let’s wait and see what happens.

Now solar thermal is in the R&D phase. Maybe the US will take the lead on this technology. Once it has a substantial commercial track record I will put it in the paper. I hope it works out well, but am not counting that chicken before the egg is laid.

You cannot go “information shopping” until the information is available, and solar thermal has no substantial commercial track record yet.

There are many ways to design a breeder reactor. We should come up with the R&D money to design and build test plants of them all. That would have a far better payoff than a big subsidy for an expensive intermittent energy source.

Calamity

Solar thermal is proven technology, some plants performing reliably for 20+ years. It's not high tech rocket science. Simple, conventional technology of which there is plenty of expertise and a ready workforce. Check out NREL, Sandia, DOE, Cramer Junction and various others.

How long do you think it will take to build several hundreds of GWs of nukes? It is far more advanced technology, which requires highly educated workers, operators, engineers etc. There are not enough of them now and educating them takes years.

There is no track record of commercial sea water mining. Same for breeders. Nor is there any on storing waste for 100's of years. And also not on storing far larger amounts of waste, or novel techniques to dispose of them or recycle them. The latest generation reactors are not proven commercially either. There is no track record on the effects of a large scale nuclear industry in the USA on environmental impacts of conventional mining.

And then there are serious social issues. You could try to change the global opinion of people on nuclear power, however such an attempt does not offer any guarantees.

IIRC, there was a nuclear plant in Germany that was being constructed for about 3.5 billion Euros. It generated precisely 0 KWHs over it's lifetime. The cost per KWH were infinite. Due to local opposition, the plant was closed down. A private investor bought it up for a few million or so.

Nuclear is definitely not the fantastic end all solution to our energy problems. Maybe this will change in the future, but "renewables" and solutions to their intermittency and other problems won't exactly sit back and relax. If it takes too long for nuclear to take off big, nuclear might become mostly obsolete.

“There are many ways to design a breeder reactor. We should come up with the R&D money to design and build test plants of them all. That would have a far better payoff than a big subsidy for an expensive intermittent energy source.”

Now I would like to see a reference! How could you possibly know what will have a better payoff, especially on the long run. You cannot, obviously. In your paper, you suggest pushing every technology to the maximum. I fully agree with you there. Let’s just see what happens.

Paul Dietz

You cannot go “information shopping” until the information is available, and solar thermal has no substantial commercial track record yet.

Sure it does! There's the great commercial success of those Enron-financed Luz plants to point to.

Oh, wait...

Kit P

I see no problem with building both solar thermal and nuke plants. People like Calamity are really not for renewable energy, they are against nuclear. The problem is that there is going to be 20% gap between future demand even when considering all the options. We should all hope the future projects are wrong.

It also sounds like Calamity does not understand scaling. It takes about 4-6 six years to build a 1600 MWe nuke from first concrete pour to making electricity. A 1600 MWe nuke will have a slightly larger reactor vessel and containment building than previous generations. Double the capacity and the amount of concrete needed increases by a factor of the square root of two.

It will take about 75 years to build the solar thermal that produces the same amount of electricity based on the recent plant in Nevada. Double the capacity and the amount of concrete needed increases by a factor of two. much ,

The longest and most uncertain part of the process of building a power plant is the Environmental Impact statement. It takes about the same amount of time to get an EIS approved for any large project.

If you are writing an EIS what do you say when for the alternative section. It beats the hell out LNG coming into our ports to make electricity.

This is the big mistake anti-nukes make in the debate. Both renewable energy and nuclear are better options to LNG. What do the LNG folks say? Is there a better choice?

Calamity

Kit P:

"People like Calamity are really not for renewable energy, they are against nuclear."

I am not against nuclear itself; only against power sources with nasty externalities, opaque cost estimates (largely relating to the former) with unempirically low interest rates, currently somewhat uncontrollable aspects (also relating the first) and significant amounts of intergenerational burdening (an aspect of the first).

I do, however, encourage research in the hope that nuclear will be much better in the near term. Even then it isn't likely to be a superiour global solution. Like Bill said in his paper, it would be unfair to give nuclear disproportionate amounts of subsidies and other funding, compared to 'renewables'.

"It takes about 4-6 six years to build a 1600 MWe nuke from first concrete pour to making electricity."

That is somewhat optimistic, however assuming this is true, how many of these could be constructed at the same time i.e. what would be the maximum installation rate per year? You need highly specialised experts and trained people for these projects. At an average rate of 10 GW/year it takes this entire century. At a rate of 1 GW/year it takes this entire millenium.

"It will take about 75 years to build the solar thermal that produces the same amount of electricity based on the recent plant in Nevada."

Based on current installation rates, nuclear power will never ever be the dominant provider of electricity. In fact, it's portion of the energy pie will decline.

Can you see the flaws in your arguments? Can you see that you don't understand scaling yourself?

"Both renewable energy and nuclear are better options to LNG"

A nice fruit basket, comparing apples, oranges and bananas. Yum!

Think I'll visit the local groceries store right now...

Calamity

Oh I've been unfair to the 1 GW/year and the 10 GW/year installation rates. Those rates are assuming 0% growth of energy demand. I also took an average, which is rediculous especially for the millenium, projecting becomes nothing more than speculation. In the next several decades however (when it is needed most for reasons of energy security and the assumptions of climate change) the installation rates will be relatively low, so you can forget 80% nuclear a la France (wich is not privatised) by, say, 2030. On a longer timeframe, installation rates may certainly increase, but it will be too late. Why?

Simple. The learning rate for wind and solar (in particular PV) is much better than the learning rate of nuclear power, and have been very stable. So they are poised to be cheaper than nuclear power in terms of $/KWh. This gap can be used for storage and other ways of dealing with intermittency (distribution, decentralisation etc).

Calamity

Bill said: "When the full impact of this huge solar subsidy sets in it should be entertaining to watch what happens to their economy."

When the full impact of the cost of the huge Iraq war sets in it should be entertaining to watch what happens to your economy.

Maybe it's not so bad.

For one thing, you are omitting domestic financial injections: the "impact" of PV in Germany means money flowing to domestic companies (both producers and installers) and their workers, which has nice multiplier effects for their economy as well as rapidly boosting an entire new industry. Same for the USA: a large part of that money is going to US companies and ultimately citizens, whether they are soldiers or working in the war mill at home. That has very nice multiplier effects and a boost to domestic war industries.

Kit P one more thing, LNG doesn't always compete with nuclear as LNG is used for a large part as peaking while nuclear is best suited for baseload.

One of the problems for switching of energy sources for the USA is that it is so energy hungry. With such demand, major replacement to x source of energy is fiendishly difficult. France is mostly nuclear, but in absolute terms the USA has far greater capacity. With a 10x lower electricity demand it shouldn't have been too hard for France and yet it took decades too get the nukes up and running.

The WEC is very pro nuclear and yet it states:

In conclusion, nuclear power alone may not ensure secure and sustainable electricity supply world-wide, nor may it be the only means to meet the Kyoto Protocol regarding global reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, but it should have an important role in both aspects through technology advancement and innovations. Bold and italics by me.

So much for working with what we've got right now.

Calamity

"There's the great commercial success of those Enron-financed Luz plants to point to."

And let's not forget about the commercial succes of the nuclear company British Energy!

Oh, wait...

Bill Hannahan

Calamity says
[It is far more advanced technology, which requires highly educated workers, operators, engineers etc. There are not enough of them now and educating them takes years.]

That’s what it takes to design and build the first one. How many Master’s and PhD’s can you find in a Toyota assembly plant? This can provide thousands of high paying jobs for people without a college degree.

[How long do you think it will take to build several hundreds of GWs of nukes?]

Between 1970 and 1990 we completed about 5 hand built plants per year with no talk of global warming and no strain on the economy. With mass production techniques we can ramp up to meet any demand. That’s how we built tens of thousands of bombers and ships during WWII


[In your paper, you suggest pushing every technology to the maximum. I fully agree with you there. Let’s just see what happens.]

This is the most important thing either of us has said. We should probably stop here, ahh, no fun in that.


[The learning rate for wind and solar (in particular PV) is much better than the learning rate of nuclear power,]

Wind mills have been around over 300 years. Modern wind mills are operating near maximum theoretical efficiency. They are already mass produced in factories. Denmark has the most expensive electricity in the world and 150 watts of wind power per person. Explain how a few more points of efficiency will make a big difference.

Solar cells have been around about 30 years and are mass produced in factories. We are closing in on 5 Watts per person, at a huge cost per watt. Why worry.

[With a 10x lower electricity demand it shouldn't have been too hard for France and yet it took decades too get the nukes up and running.]

With a 100x lower electricity demand it shouldn't have been to hard for Denmark to reach 80% wind, yet it took decades too get to 150 watts, we need 1,550 watts per person.

I’ll be gone for a week, you folks have fun.

Clee

You cannot go “information shopping” until the information is available, and solar thermal has no substantial commercial track record yet.

The $150/MWH is in line with what I see for Solar Thermal in
http://www.ren21.net/globalstatusreport/gsr1_table2.asp

Nucbuddy

Calamity wrote: France is mostly nuclear [...] it took decades [to] get the nukes up and running.

To what data are you referring? France's decision to rapidly expand its nuclear-electricity capacity was made in 1974. 78% of France's present nuclear-electricity capacity came online before 1990.
world-nuclear.org/info/inf40.html

Kit P

FPL announce today a power uprate of “414 megawatts of power to the grid between 2011 and 2012'” and “build two more reactors at Turkey Point by 2018 and 2020.”

Calamity

The 1974-1990 period was the active construction phase. However, the history is a lot longer than that.

But you're right, it may be more fair to use the 16 year period for 63 GW, that's about 4 GW/year on average.

The USA has to do much, much better than that. Otherwise nuclear will be too little, too late.

Now, Kit P mentioned 0.414 GW for 4 years, so this plant contributes a rate of roughly 0.1 GW per year. Feeble. You need hundreds of these announcements.

Kit P

No, Calamity, 414 MWe at a 95% capacity factors is a lot of electricity in any market especially when you consider that no major construction will be required. This is an example of 'through technology advancement and innovations.' There have also been hundreds of similar announcements.

Calamity

That's not the point. In absolute terms, even 1 MW is a lot. Pass 1 MW through your body and you will be incinerated.

It only makes sense when you consider perspective. Just look at the total installed capacity in the USA. Then look at the growth rate. Even at 95% capacity (actually it'll be slightly less on average) it is a tiny contribution.

Regarding other announcements:

1. How many of the announcements will eventually make it to reality?
2. These announcements are all over longer timelines - several years. When you compensate for installed rate per year, it's not very impressive.

What is important is that various "renewable" options have far better learing curves than nuclear power. So their technology advancements and innovations are far more significant than those of nuclear power. If nuclear power is to be the dominant mode of electricity in the USA, then what is needed is exponential growth for a longer, sustained period. Ten GWs per year isn't going to cut it.

The investment needed for both nuclear and "renewables" will both be draconian. Massive amounts of private investment will be needed.

The difference is that things like PV and solar thermal have less financial risk - they are modular, have very little NIMBY et al issues, and can start delivering power relatively quickly. Nuclear has very long lead times, has risk of simply not being completed or going online because of NIMBY et al and is not nearly as modular as the various "renewable" alternatives i.e. there is risk of a large amount of money being lost.

Those points are not very enticing for investors. The financial risk will often be higher; they will demand a higher interest rate. Nuclear doesn't work very well with high interest rates.

Kit P

Actually 4900 MWe of power up rates have been approved and implemented for nuclear plants. None have been rejected by the NRC or blocked by environmental activist legal maneuvers.

Calamity is as ignorant of renewable energy as she is of nuclear power. Environmental activist lawyers are only interested in their billing rate. When I was developing renewable energy projects, we has a saying, “No good environmental deed goes unpunished.” What about this, what about that, or some other legal hatchet job; can put at risk money invested in renewable energy too.

JohnBo

Wow… what a discussion! After reading the above, I think Calamity is simply an arm waving fanatical idiot who has picked nuclear as the thing to hate. Never mind the facts. Ha-ha. It’s a great read… I love it. It’s free entertainment. JohnBo

Clee

Paul, you said in another thread that TXU, a Texas utility, ordered two new Mitsubishi 1.7 GW LWRs just last March.

I was wondering if that is considered a Generation III nuclear reactor or not. I keep hearing about lots of new nuclear technology and work on Generation IV reactors with better safety and efficiency and reduced waste. I would like to know if the US is actually putting in these newer technologies or if we're lagging behind other countries and sticking to Generation II reactors. Thanks.

Calamity

JohnBo I don't mind a bit of ad hominem from time to time, but your statement is baseless. Baseless ad hominem doesn't get you kudos. Had you actually read my comments, as you obviously have not in contrast to what you claim, you would have noticed this part:

"Don’t get me wrong, I don’t hate nuclear but it’s just that IMHO yes there are better overall alternatives, for example solar thermal with large amounts of storage, in particular CLFR, which can be scaled up at least as fast as nuclear in the USA if someone has the guts to actually do it."

You've misread me before, when you didn't understand or misread the word "analogous".

What I do hate is people that claim that nuclear has *all* of its problems *completely* solved and that it's a perfect solution to not just our energy problems, but also worldwide, for every country and will also be just that for centuries to come.

For someone with no love or hate for x technology, you are surprisingly agitated when I mention some simple facts against nuclear:

- The amount of time needed to store the waste is significantly bigger than even the longest standing government and nuclear industries today. Putting this in perspective, consider what the USA looked like 300 years ago. That is to say, there was no USA yet.
- The learning rate (curve) of several "renewable" technologies is far higher than nuclear power's learning rate.
- Total lifecycle costs of nuclear power are far greater with reasonably high interest rates. Major factors are higher upfront cost in comparison to coal fired plants, high cost to dismantle the reactor at the end of useful life (At least ~$300,000,000 depending on reactor type) and storage costs for, say 300 years.
Just look at the waste, use the given 0.1 cents per KWH and multiply by the amount of Kwh’s used annually in the USA, then do some time value of money calculations, e.g. future value. Use the 300 year period and reasonable rates (6 or 7 or 8 percent)
It is obvious to me that some people would conceal this; they only talk about the low operating costs of nuclear. To understand how incomplete this is, consider that the operating costs of PV farms are also extremely low. It is upfront capital costs that is the killer.)

It is understandable that these facts hurt your poor nuclear heart, since you do not appear to be capable of rebutting them.

Kit P

Clee, think of Gen II reactors as becoming Gen II ½ . Over the years, improvements incorporated into existing designs. That is what power uprates are partially about. No need to worry about the US lagging behind in nuclear technology.

If you want information on new reactors go to www.nrc.gov and look for the new reactor web page (catchy title).

http://adamswebsearch2.nrc.gov/idmws/doccontent.dll?library=PU_ADAMS^PBNTAD01&ID=063200138

Calamity

Here is an excellent site to run the numbers on future value.

Assuming:

6% interest rate
300 year period
$ 400.000.000.000 as the amount of Kwh’s that nuclear would produce to replace nearly everything and then multiplied by 0.1 (cost per Kwh).


This is a case of compounding interest, the calculator gives:

$ 15.624.983.620.818.794.000

Pronouncing this number is quite an exercise.

Kit P

Calamity, JohnBo response was not a baseless ad hominem attack. You certainly do appear to be an 'arm waving fanatical idiot.'

Let us take one point at a time, this should be easy.

I stated that 'Calamity is as ignorant of renewable energy ... ' and she comes back with 'consider that the operating costs of PV farms are also extremely low'. So Calamity, what are the per kw-hr O&M cost for PV farms?

You said you had the facts and I can assure you they will not hurt my fillings. I might be a little embarrassed if you actually enlighten me.

Clee

$300,000,000 to dismantle a reactor.
Say a reactor is a 500MW reactor running at 80% capacity (to be conservative. It's higher these days). Nuclear reactors are often licensed for 50 years, but lets say it's just 40. So the energy a nuclear reactor generates in its lifetime is
500,000KW x .80 x 24 hr/day x 365 days/year x 40 years = 140,000,000,000 KWH.
So dismantling costs are $300,000,000/140,000,000,000KWH = $.002/KWH or 0.2cents/KWH or $2/MWH. That's pretty negligible compared with how much more solar thermal costs per KWH than nuclear.

Kit P, too bad I can't get to that web page you mentioned. It seems to require a logon and something else my web browsers can't handle.

Kit P

Clee, Try http://www.nrc.gov/

1.select “Nuclear Reactor” tab
2.select “New Reactor Licensing” under “regulated activities”
3.select “Design Certifications - Licensing Reviews”
4.Under Pre-Application Reviews click “US-APWR - U.S. Advanced Pressurized Water Reactor by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Ltd.”

The files are long, so it takes a while to download.

The NRC encourages public participation and post documents on various wen sites.

The first part of the “Calvert Cliffs Nuclear Power Plant, Unit 3” COL is also there.

JohnBo

Hi Calamity,

I'm sorry if I offended you. I had read your screed and found it humorous the other evening. :) Clee, Kit and others have answered all your presumptions. Your tact is to repeat the same presumptions even after evidence has been provided that clearly shows you wrong.

I notice you continuously mention one item, the future of the US. No one knows how long the US or France or China or Russia or any other country using nuclear will be here. I agree with you that we do not know the future. I will even expand your point and say, “We do not know if the planet Pluto will remain in the solar system in the future.” Of course, none of this has anything what so ever to do with selecting PV vs. nuclear vs. coal vs. anything else for a power plant in the US today.

Have a great evening. :) JohnBo

Calamity

Kit P:

Here is an example of lowering operating cost. Not entirely fair though as it was a diesel genset that got replaced, but still:

Until late 1998, Joshua Tree National Park and Mojave National Preserve in southern California used diesel generators to produce electricity in remote areas. Like many park energy systems, the diesel generators at Joshua Tree's Cottonwood Campground also produced potentially harmful emissions: 120 tons of carbon dioxide, 5,770 pounds of nitrous oxides, 286 pounds of sulphur dioxide, and 218 pounds of suspended particulates every year.

Today, Joshua Tree has cut those emissions dramatically while reducing annual operating costs by an impressive 90%, thanks to a new photovoltaic (PV) system that harnesses the sun's energy to produce clean electric power. Mojave has also had good results. And both parks continue to provide high-quality experiences for visitors while preserving our natural resources.

"We've had no trouble," said Harry Carpenter, chief of maintenance at Joshua Tree. "We're happy with the system—it works great."

This is in accordance with another source:

Thus PV systems are an attractive option in rural areas where no grid-connection is available, though simple payback terms, because of its high capital costs, PV can often appear unattractive. However, using life-cycle costing, which accounts for all fuel and component replacement costs incurred over the life of the system, PV often compares favourable with the alternatives, which tend to have lower initial costs, but incur significantly greater operating costs.

here's another one:

At today's prices, a typical solar system costs approximately $8.00/watt, installed and has an operating life in excess of 25 years. For all intents and purposes, maintenance and operating costs are minimal.
[…]
Once installed, the cost is fixed. In comparison to traditional sources of energy, the fuel cost is nonexistent, and operational costs are limited. A solar system's cost is amortized over its life, there are no rate hikes due to fuel or operating cost increases.

OK so that’s not hard data. Fortunately, this one is better. Paragraph 4.2 Annual operating costs PV:

Maintenance for the photovoltaic system is assumed to
include the replacement of inverters approximately every
10 years, and an electrical inspection of the system every 5
years. At today’s prices, replacement of the inverters would
cost approximately £9,000, and an electrical inspection
would be about £200. Over a conservative estimate of a 30-
year lifetime, this brings the operating costs to an average
of £640 per year
.

So £640 per year with an average annual output of 13,327 kwh, that is about $ 0.048 per kwh. Hey not too bad. But when you account for capital costs and interest rates, things get scary.

Calamity

Clee didn't you read my comments? You completely ignore the time value of money. However those costs are still relatively small. The devil is in that 300 year drip payment for the waste. If this could be mitigated to 30 years or so, most of the problem would be solved. It would be great if some new technique could recycle the waste allmost 100% over and over again. That would also solve some mining issues (less mining needed) and some terrorist threats as well. Then nuclear power suddenly gets a lot better. See I can be positive about nuclear power!

My point is just that 300 years is not a realistic period for storing anything whatsoever, both financially as well as politically.

Calamity

JohnBo no problem. Just wanted to get things straight. Oh well at least you found me entertaining ;)

"Clee, Kit and others have answered all your presumptions."

Where?

"Your tact is to repeat the same presumptions even after evidence has been provided that clearly shows you wrong."

I must be oblivious or something. Where is that evidence of yours, that clearly shows me wrong?

"I notice you continuously mention one item"

If people continuously ignore to answer my questions what other choice do I have? I'm glad you at least finally replied to me.

“We do not know if the planet Pluto will remain in the solar system in the future.”

The difference is that we can control what power source we choose (more or less that is) but we cannot control whether or not pluto will remain in the solar system. Nor does the latter have significant impact on us humans.

Kit P

Calamity, you failed the test and proved my point. You do not understand making electricity nor economics. Calamity did not present any facts about solar performance. She presented claims about projections but no actual data about real costs or generation.

Now for the comparison:

1.Actual O&M for 103 US nuclear plants = $17.20/MWh
2.Hypothetical UK case = $48/MWh

Simple payback for solar PV in the UK example was 4,267.5 years (Table 2).

Calamity, says “Hey not too bad.” Calamity is either a anti-nuke fanatic or a maroon.

Now, looking Joshua Tree's Cottonwood Campground project based on 1996 numbers, 'Note: The simple payback period for PV was 6.0 years.'

and

“That tariff allowed to install PV systems, controls, batteries, mounting hardware, and other equipment for a fixed monthly service charge equal to 1.6% of the PV system installed cost (or 19.15% annually) for a term of 15 years.”

Considering what has happened to the price of oil since 1996 and that SCE is responsible for O&M, I would conclude that we taxpayers got a good deal in that solar PV is cheaper than oil off grid in the desert southwest.

Next on my agenda is Calamity's anti-nuke fanatic claims about The 'learning curve'. The nuclear industry has learned to operate nuke plants with a 99% availability on hot summer days and cold winter nights with a perfect safety record. The 'learning curve' has been pretty flat over the last ten years because nuclear is already a mature industry. Davis Besse is an example of a 'near miss' where one utility failed to learn from the good practices of the rest of the industry.

Nuclear technologies are at least 100% improved if you are measuring environmental impact. This is not noticeable anti-nuke fanatic like Calamity because the environmental impact was tiny to start with. While new plants may only be able to achieve a 5-10% improvement in the Rankine cycle, the fuel inside the core is producing twice as much electricity per pound of uranium than 30 years ago. Two new uranium enrichment facilities are under construction in the US. It is interesting that anti-nuke fanatics are opposed to efficiency in the nuclear cycle. There is a facility are under construction in the US to get the energy on plutonium destroying it as a weapon. We have learned how to get the energy out of weapons but anti-nuke fanatics hate this most of all.

The 'learning curve' for renewable energy has also been impressive. I can wax poetic on this topic as well when the anti-wind or anti-biofuels fanatics get started.

Calamity

Kit P I did not say that the operating costs of PV were lower than for nuclear. Ask anyone with a roof mounted PV system if you actually want historical data.

You failed the test of actually reading my comments, not unlike other people in this post.

"Calamity, says “Hey not too bad.” Calamity is either a anti-nuke fanatic or a maroon."

Not only is that a non-sequiturist ad hominem that doesn't add to the debate, misspelling insults also aren't any good for getting the point across. Unless you actually mean that I'm stuck on an island. Perhaps you have some arcane meaning for that?

"The 'learning curve' has been pretty flat over the last ten years because nuclear is already a mature industry"

Exactly. This short term strenght may turn into a long term weakness. If nuclear is just a transitional power source, then how is it vastly superiour to coal? GHG emissions?

"It is interesting that anti-nuke fanatics are opposed to efficiency in the nuclear cycle."

Seeing how I've been stamped as an anti-nuke fanatic, please show me where I've stated that I am opposed to efficiency improvements in the nuclear cycle.

NIMBY et al are yet to be accounted for; so are 300 year storage periods with devastating compounded interest rates and political uncertainty.

"The 'learning curve' for renewable energy has also been impressive. I can wax poetic on this topic as well when the anti-wind or anti-biofuels fanatics get started."

Please be my guest.

JohnBo

Hi Calamity,
I agree that PV can fit specific limited applications and be effective. This is being done and it’s great in applications that have the right conditions e.g. as you mentioned when compared to a diesel generator set, in remote locations where the grid is not accessible or of course for small electronics and other low power needs. I agree nuclear is not a good application for a hand held calculator power source. However, comparing these PV applications to base load quantities of electric power is like comparing day to night. You would have a better chance arguing the merits of wind, geothermal or solar thermal all before PV.
I hope thin film PV (TFPV) can get more market share in the future. There is perhaps a slim chance TFPV can compete with grid power generation but it has a long way to go at this point. Wind, geothermal and solar thermal are all more effective. Right now for grid base power, nuclear is the most safe, most green and lowest cost choice.
You have tossed out the life cycle costs of nuclear as if it were bad. Here’s an interesting study from Australia relating to energy yield. Energy yield being the energy it takes to build, maintain and reclaim the power source vs. its lifetime output power. They found that hydroelectric yields 40 to 50 or more times as much energy as it takes to install. Old generation nuclear yields 40 to 50 times, wind 10 to 70, coal 20 to 30 times, natural gas 2 to 25 and bringing up the rear is PV at 5 to 10.
Looking at these numbers one might wrongly conclude wind can yield 70 times the energy it takes to install it so lets get wind installed for all our needs. Of course, the 70 factor is for a machine in the best location for both high wind and low costs. There isn’t but a few such locations on earth. The other green technologies have their similar problems except for green nuclear. If I talk too long, no one will read this and so will close.
Below is the reference on energy yields and their conclusions. JohnBo :)
http://www.uic.com.au/nip57.htm
Life Cycle Analysis, focused on energy, is useful for comparing net energy yields from different methods of electricity generation.
Nuclear power shows up very well as a net provider of energy, and with centrifuge enrichment, only hydro electricity is closely comparable.
External costs, evaluated as part of life cycle assessment, strongly favour nuclear over coal-fired generation.

Calamity

older stuff on solar thermal. $ 24/MWh.

What Kit P fails to realise and what was my point is that O&M are just one aspect of the total cost. Why do you think natural gas turbines make economical sense despite their higher operating (fuel) costs? Because gas turbines are MUCH cheaper (and faster) to build than nukes. Building nukes for peaking is not economical as they only make sense for baseload.

JohnBo

Hey it’s pick on Calamity day,

Calamity you are holding up pretty well under this barrage. I wish your facts were as substantial as your fortitude to argue them.

Regarding your fear of the 300-year problem: Here is a recent update from the NRC which illustrates the competent handling of the now removed Yankee Nuclear Power Plant. It is easy and safe to maintain the spent fuel from this removed plant. Maybe this can reduce your fear of the 300 year unknown factor which you are having trouble accepting? Enjoy :)

http://www.nrc.gov/reading-rm/doc-collections/news/2007/07-105.html

JohnBo

Gas turbines used for peak power will have to go one day. Here’s a recent government study for a peak power alternative to gas turbines. I have copied part of the summary that explains the process. The full report is here:

http://www.ornl.gov/~webworks/cppr/y2001/rpt/121160.pdf

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY (in part)

A peak-electricity nuclear system (PENS) using nuclear hydrogen consists of three major components (Fig. ES.1):
• Hydrogen production. A nuclear power plant is used to produce hydrogen and oxygen from water at a constant rate using thermo chemical or electrolytic processes.
• Hydrogen and oxygen storage. Underground storage facilities are used for the low-cost storage of hydrogen and oxygen. Underground high-pressure gas storage is the traditional approach to the low cost storage of natural gas to meet variable seasonal demand. The total existing natural gas
underground storage capacity in the United States is about 8 trillion cubic feet, a volume far larger than would be required for full deployment of PENS. Underground storage facilities are already used for hydrogen storage in some countries.
• Hydrogen-to-electricity conversion. Large banks of fuel cells are used to convert hydrogen to electricity during periods of higher-priced electricity. For every megawatt of steady-state hydrogen production from the nuclear reactor, the fuel cells would be capable of generating several megawatts of electricity. At times of low electrical demand and price, the fuel cells would produce no electricity.

Clee

Calamity, I'll admit I have some problems with time value of money, mostly because choosing the interest rate seems arbitrary. I prefer to see things in units per KWH or MWH. The cost of decommissioning is at end of life, so if you include the time value of money, I think that means that it should be even cheaper cents/KWH than I calculated, but I could be wrong. I also believe if you apply the same time value of money to the construction cost of the same amount of KWH of PV it will be an even more enormous number than you mentioned for nuclear decommissioning. I'm more worried about another Chernobyl than the cost of nuclear decommissioning. That the waste disposal problem is still in the air is not comforting either. I am disappointed that you failed Kit P's test and picked a case where PV O&M is more expensive than nuclear.

I prefer the example of an actual 5 MW PV plant. According to the huge report that the $150/MWH for solar number came from, http://www.iea.org/Textbase/publications/free_new_Desc.asp?PUBS_ID=1472 for the one solar PV plant they studied in the US, they found an annual O&M cost of $4.8/MWH. That's 0.48 cents/KWH which is less than the 1.26 cents/KWH O&M cost for nuclear.

Dezakin

so are 300 year storage periods with devastating compounded interest rates and political uncertainty.
You realize that this is entirely a noncost? Do you understand discounting?

Kit P

Clee, Good job find some good actual data.

Calamity

"Maybe this can reduce your fear of the 300 year unknown factor which you are having trouble accepting?"

Not if you know that the USA is only some 200 years old. The problem I have with this is that you cannot possibly guarantee anything whatsoever over this humongous timeframe. This is just for the USA, which could likely do the safety and environmental precaustions necessary, at least for several decades. Still 300 years is a long time, and other countries might not be so cautious about a nuclear power program.

"they found an annual O&M cost of $4.8/MWH"

Yes, sorry about not giving empirical data, don't know what was wrong with me. Thanks for the source. But this does prove my point that operating and maintenance costs are an incomplete cost picture. As was mentioned in the report, PV suffered under higher discount rates simply because of the upfront costs. Nuclear less but still significant. Now look at the gas discount figures: barely any difference. Lower upfront costs are a serious advantage, despite higher fuel costs. Together with faster construction periods as was also mentioned in your source, it's no wonder that the DOE thinks gas fired generation will increase drastically. Notice the projected decline of all others, especially nuclear.

But now you people are going to say these are just projections, right? Maybe you could come up with an alternative projection for nuclear power?

I would also be interested in the economics of a hydrogen-nuclear peaking plant. Seeing how everyting that involves hydrogen fuel cell power generation has failed mainstream so far, this sounds somewhat dubious.

Calamity

"You realize that this is entirely a noncost? Do you understand discounting?"

Although the 0.1 cents/kwh can be seen as added "fuel costs" (or some other variable cost), the money is still taken out of circulation for three hundred years. It is not so much discounting in specific, as it is the time value of money in general.

Kit P

Today, lets address the '300 year unknown factor' argument (again).

Calamity will continue repeating this classic argument. We do not know when or if we will run out of fossil fuel, how the climate will change, ect. Scientific prediction and even scientific studies try to define uncertainty.

We do know today that spent fuel can be handle safely and is insignificantly small risk. The is no mechanism to make spent fuel jump out of the mountain except for maybe a volcanoes. It would take a very technological advanced society to 'mine' spent fuel.

So what will happen if society goes to hell in a hand basket and the public health system as we know it no longer exists? Life expectancy will decrease and age dependent issues like cancer will no longer be a risk.

JohnBo

Calamity says,
Although the 0.1 cents/kwh can be seen as added “fuel costs” (or some other variable cost), the money is still taken out of circulation for three hundred years. It is not so much discounting in specific, as it is the time value of money in general.

Calamity you have the economics wrong. For example, money has not been “taken out of circulation” since we dropped the gold and silver standard. The money supply is not affected for funding any type of trust or savings for a future commitment.

Regarding the 300-year doomsday hypothetical possibility, can you give some scenario you envision that relates to building a nuclear plant today? I have trouble seeing a problem here. Thanks

Kit P.

Here is a link to what I think is the PV project that Clee provided the O&M costs for:

http://greenwatts.com/pages/SolarOutput.asp

Clee

Yes, I prefer data over projections.
Data at http://www.eia.doe.gov/cneaf/electricity/epa/epat1p1.html
http://www.eia.doe.gov/cneaf/electricity/epa/epa_sum.html#figes1
shows that from 1997 to 2005 nuclear power increased from 18% to 19% of the electricity generated in the US. I don't know what this says about the future, but it says the decreasing trend in nuclear and oil that they predicted 9 years ago http://www.eia.doe.gov/cneaf/electricity/corp_str/fig7d.html hasn't happened. I am happy to see that coal has indeed been dropping.

Kit P

Sorry to let you in on the bad news Clee. Coal is not decreasing, natural gas is increasing faster because CCGT are cheap to build. For the short term, look at what is happening to LNG.

Clee

You're right, coal is not decreasing in raw KWH. It's only decreasing as a percentage of total electricity generation. But at various times I had been led to believe that coal has been increasing as a percentage, so it is nice to see that it's not. I'll save my LNG questions for a more appropriate blog entry.

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