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« Power Plant CO2 + Sodium Hydroxide = Baking Soda | Main | Ethanol Blends can Provide Better Fuel Economy than Gasoline »

December 05, 2007

Comments

Dezakin

Thats silly. Fuel price is responsible for less than 1% of the electricity price of nuclear power.

Kit P

Ender, solar thermal still sounds like a stupid idea but you make coal sound better all the time.

Just for the record, Australia exports lots of uranium and coal, two commodities that are very plentiful in the US. Leave it to the Greens to try to blackmail the US so ineptly.

Nucbuddy

Ender wrote: As a compromise to pass other legislation the Greens demand that we only sell uranium to countries that do not have nuclear weapons

Selection of whom one sells to, based upon sheer bigotry, is illegal.
google.com/search?q=%22free+trade%22+australia

Cyril R.

Bill: So much for freedom of speech eh?
Don't get me wrong, your comments about nuclear power are great, keep posting. You don't have to convince me of the potential usefulness of nuclear power, it's just that it appeared somewhat unfair to me to already exclude wind power. There's more room for improvements. We've got direct drive now. Bigger windmills, bigger projects and offshore are some areas with a lot of potential for improvement.

As for the comment that wind and nuclear wouldn't be a good match, it's just not relevant right now considering the tiny amount of wind power, and there are many methods of dealing with this, one very promising one may be nuclear with thermal storage to complement intermittent sources (on an hourly-daily basis) such as wind and solar. A relatively small amount of bio-energy could also deal with some of these issues. Geographical distribution is another one.

Dezakin: if fuel price is responsible for <1% of electricity cost, then Bill's 0,49 cents per kWh figure would imply an electricity cost of >49 cents/kWh???

DaveMart

Perhaps the amounts are tiny in the US:
'As for the comment that wind and nuclear wouldn't be a good match, it's just not relevant right now considering the tiny amount of wind power',
but they sure aren't in many places in Europe, including Britain, where I live.
I personally am pretty agnostic about wind power produced by turbines.
I think what gets a lot of nuclear advocates is that they feel it distracts attention from the more complete package in dealing with low-carbon energy, which they feel that nuclear represents.
Certainly I would rather see China at the moment building two nuclear plants a week, rather than two coal plants, and there is no prospect of them replacing that sort of build with wind power, although it can help.

DaveMart

Just to put some figures on proposed European wind source development, the UK proposes 33GW of headline power production from wind by 2020.
Adjusted to the electricity consumption of the US, that would be a build of around 350GW!
(figures taken from Wiki)
That's around 3 times the total installed nuclear capacity in the US!
Spain, Germany and Denmark propose similar rates of penetration, with substantial increases in capacity elsewhere.
Quite a chunk of generating capacity!

Dezakin

Dezakin: if fuel price is responsible for <1% of electricity cost, then Bill's 0,49 cents per kWh figure would imply an electricity cost of >49 cents/kWh???

I honestly don't know where he got those figures. To be entirely fair, fuel rods comprise some 4% of the price of nuclear power, with nearly the entire rest of it being capital costs for plant construction. But most of the cost of fuel is fabrication and enrichment, with less than 1% being the uranium.

DaveMart

I get pretty confused - you can't accuse a lot of people here of not giving their references, they do, and I do to.
The problem arises because a lot of the figures are more or less unreconcilable,short of expert knowledge which I don't possess.
Working out what is going on, for instance in the costs of nuclear vs wind power is almost impossible.
General whinge aside though, it is clear that fuel costs for nuclear are an inconsiderable part of total costs - which incidentally is why we have a waste 'problem' - it is just not economic to re-process this perfectly good fuel source.

Kit P

DaveMart, it is okay to be confused judging by how often the experts get it wrong. References are good for documenting past performance, but building power plants for 60 years is a story of certainty. I think it is more certain that reprocessing fuel will be economical before solar thermal breaks $100/MW-hr.

Bill Hannahan

But promoting nuclear by using rather dubious (unscientific) arguments against wind (or any other form of power generation for that matter) should not be necessary. ….advertise with the strengths and merits of your own plans?

Please give some examples of unscientific arguments.

My recommendation is to boost R&D to $60 billion and push every technology as hard as possible. Build prototypes of everything. Build demo plants of promising technology. The results are in for wind.

The merits of nuclear power are included in my paper.

http://www.nuclearcoal.com/energy_facts.htm

Cyril R.

Please give some examples of unscientific arguments.

That's not too difficult:

Windmills are a mature technology

That's like dry water.

they have no chance of keeping up with improvements in other energy sources.

How did you establish this 'fact'?

Windmills are a fad like hula hoops and they will go away.

How can you possibly know that for certain? Perhaps you could elaborate on the science of hula hoops. Must be enlightening for sure.

Also, your analysis about the high cost of power in some European countries is incomplete and thus misleading. You should include things like no different market (usually less liberalized than in the US), resulting in more expensive generation plus particularly in the Netherlands more expensive gas plants are far more common. Combine that with transmission and distribution costs and the high Euro price, or rather, the low dollar and the electricity cost per kWh is already extremely expensive. Add in kWh taxes, usually rather high in European countries. Then add the cost for the connection to the grid. And wind and solar subsidies haven't even entered the calculation yet. They are a relatively tiny part of the average electricity cost to the consumer.

Cyril R.

Just read your paper. It looks good overall. However it's also incomplete sometimes, some facts were omitted. Things like:

* The nuclear industry has had a longer timeframe to develop and commercialize than wind power. It wasn't all that long ago that nuclear fission was very expensive, and dangerous. It may very well be that wind is just past the Tsjernobyl phase. One strong indicator it the wind capacity installed vs nuclear capacity installed. Fission is just way ahead of the learning curve. Perhaps wind can't be pushed far enough - perhaps fission is inherently better - but in the end we'll never know if we give up on it now.

* Analysis of using geographical dispersion to reduce intermittency in the case of wind. Or other forms of storage such as pumped hydro, CAES etc. And synergy with bio-energy backup etc. And demand side management, such as thermal buffering etc. And the correlations with demand itself and... you get the picture. There are very complex models that include these factors and many others, perhaps you could mention this as well?

* Stuff in the previous post.

The first part of the paper is also contradictory in essence to the second part. First you say that we should push everything very hard, then you almost literally take the position that wind and solar power are no good. If you're so sure then why bother?

Also in the paper you look at nuclear, wind and solar seperately but that's perhaps overly simplistic. It is entirely likely that all three, and many more forms of power generation, will be used to a certain degree. (Local) conditions and markets almost demand it.

Bill Hannahan

Windmills are a mature technology
That's like dry water.
they have no chance of keeping up with improvements in other energy sources.
How did you establish this 'fact'?
Windmills are a fad like hula hoops and they will go away.
How can you possibly know that for certain?

Cyril,
Windmill efficiency has shot up dramatically in recent decades and is now very close to theoretical maximum. Our primitive nuclear plants split 1% of the uranium mined to fuel them.

Windmills are mass produced in factories, nuclear plants are hand built on site, but floating plants could be mass produced like jumbo jets.

Likewise solar cell efficiency is low and manufacturing cost is high. There is enormous room for improvement in solar photovoltaics as well as in solar thermal and bio solar. You cannot biotech wind power.

Fusion is 20 years away, as it was 40 years ago, but someday it may actually be practical.

We are at the beginning of a renaissance of energy production technology. The intense focus on energy is bound to result in new and better technology. Wind does not have enough room for improvement to keep up. It is getting more expensive, not less expensive.


Also, your analysis about the high cost of power in some European countries is incomplete and thus misleading. You should include things like no different market (usually less liberalized than in the US), resulting in more expensive generation plus particularly in the Netherlands more expensive gas plants are far more common. Combine that with transmission and distribution costs and the high Euro price, or rather, the low dollar and the electricity cost per kWh is already extremely expensive. Add in kWh taxes, usually rather high in European countries. Then add the cost for the connection to the grid. And wind and solar subsidies haven't even entered the calculation yet. They are a relatively tiny part of the average electricity cost to the consumer.

The European country that has pushed wind the hardest, Denmark, generates most of its electricity from fossil fuel, and has the highest electricity cost in the world, 30 cents / kWh.

The European country that has pushed nuclear power the hardest, France, generates almost 80% of its electricity from uranium, and has the lowest electricity cost, and the lowest carbon output per person, in Europe, 14.4 cents / kWh.

The factors you have listed are about the same for both countries, in fact Denmark is heavily dependent on hydro and nuclear power from Norway and Sweden. How do you explain the huge difference in cost?

http://www.world-nuclear.org/info/inf99.html


http://www.cphpost.dk/get/100287.html

http://www.cphpost.dk/get/102200.html

DaveMart

I would go along with Bill. I have done a fair amount of checking of costs and figures today, and posted the results here in the thread on Britain and offshore wind.
I'll reproduce it here for convenience, if you will forgive me:
The information I have been able to locate shows wind power onshore as being around twice as expensive as nuclear, and offshore 3 times.
Coal and gas depend on how you feel about carbon dioxide.
'A UK Royal Academy of Engineering report in 2004 looked at electricity generation costs from new plant in the UK on a more credible basis than hitherto. In particular it aimed to develop "a robust approach to compare directly the costs of intermittent generation with more dependable sources of generation". This meant adding the cost of standby capacity for wind, as well as carbon values up to £30 per tonne CO2 (£110/tC) for coal and gas. Wind power was shown to be more than twice as expensive as nuclear power.'
http://www.uic.com.au/nip08.htm
The supply and costs of natural gas seem likely to go through the roof before long, say by 2012:
http://europe.theoildrum.com/node/3283#more
Sure you can take costs out of wind, but as Bill says the potential is nothing like that which is available in solar or nuclear.
The costs of the new Finnish reactor are running less than onshore wind in most locations, if you look at the actual energy generated rather than nameplate figures.
And that is with the first reactor built in the west for donkeys years with a new design.
Series production will bring the costs way down.
For offshore wind you have to have a platform first - most of the oil platforms generate around $300million of revenue a year, a wind platform generates around $5million.
It is not easy to build robust structures with those cost constraints.
So offshore will always be much more expensive than onshore, and that is not very competitive with nuclear, even before taking intermittency and so on into account.

Kit P

'Windmills are mass produced in factories, nuclear plants are hand built on site'

I am thinking Bill H. has never shared the road with large components when a large wind farm is being developed. Components for nuclear power plants are produced in factories and shipped to the site where sections of piping are welded together. One relatively small reactor vessel per 10,000 very large wind mill components.

If you are building a nuclear power plant, windfarm, or solar thermal plant; start with lots of heavy construction equipment for excavating and road construction. Then build a batch concrete plant and start pouring concrete. At a nuke plant, it will take a couple years. The solar thermal plant will take about 75 years to pour concrete to match the output of a nuke plant.

Use Google Earth of MSN live mapping to get a satellite view the area between Barstow and Mojave.

Bill Hannahan

However it's also incomplete sometimes, some facts were omitted. Things like: * The nuclear industry has had a longer timeframe to develop and commercialize than wind power

Cyril,
Windmills have been around for over 300 years.

. It wasn't all that long ago that nuclear fission was very expensive, and dangerous.

I would like to see a reference. Early U.S. reactors were built quickly and cheaply, they paid for themselves quickly, and have been safe. In fact they have prevented thousands of deaths from the coal plants not built.

“Several large nuclear power plants were completed in the early 1970s at a typical cost of $170 million, whereas plants of the same size completed in 1983 cost an average of $1.7 billion, a 10-fold increase. Some plants completed in the late 1980s have cost as much as $5 billion”

http://www.phyast.pitt.edu/~blc/book/chapter9.html


Analysis of using geographical dispersion to reduce intermittency in the case of wind. Or other forms of storage such as pumped hydro, CAES etc.

Did you review this post and its links?
http://thefraserdomain.typepad.com/energy/2007/12/noted-in-pass-2.html#comment-93199064


The first part of the paper is also contradictory in essence to the second part. First you say that we should push everything very hard, then you almost literally take the position that wind and solar power are no good. If you're so sure then why bother?

The answer is in the final Discussion section.

“Why push every technology if nuclear is the way to go?

1 I might be wrong.

2 This is a strategy any thoughtful person can support. If your preferred technology is best it will emerge as the leader in the shortest possible time.

3 Given the enormous stakes, the money spent on unsuccessful technology is cheap insurance to guarantee that the best technology gets developed as fast as possible.

4 R&D projects sometimes develop useful technology outside their original scope.”


Cyril R.

Hey Bill,

Windmills are mass produced in factories

True, but the total installed worldwide wind capacity is vastly smaller than the nuclear installed capacity. They may be mass produced, but in a relative scale it is still very tiny. I'm sure you're familiar with typical learning curves of the industry. Economy of scale alone can push the cost of wind down a lot further.

As Davemart notes, wind may never be as cheap as fission, which I believe is likely especially when transmission and backup costs are brought in the equasion. But like you mentioned in the paper we just won't know if we don't try. Also, there are longer term options such as high altitude wind, which may turn out to be highly valuable. Or just another fusion, always decades away. At the very least these are interesting and ambitious science projects.

You cannot biotech wind power.

You can also not biotech nuclear fission. (Although, in this vein an interesting development would be organical lifeforms that feed off of the radiation.) Making this argument sounds a bit like stating that dolphins are not good at climbing trees.

The European country that has pushed wind the hardest, Denmark, generates most of its electricity from fossil fuel, and has the highest electricity cost in the world, 30 cents / kWh.

There is a list of reasons why electricity is expensive in some European countries. I already gave you a few. The non-liberal nature is one very strong one, which typically leads to higher costs in every aspect of the electricity business, from generation to transmission and infrastructure to linkup cost etc.
Some natural gas generation in Europe costs over 10 Eurocents per kwh. That's just pure generation itself. You do the Dollar math. In the case of Denmark in specific, there is also the fact that they suffered from being early adopters of wind power. This resulted in high early R&D costs, the mistakes and breaking down of entire windmill parks later on.

Windmills have been around for over 300 years.

There you go again, making fallacious arguments. Those windmills did not produce electricity on a large scale commercially. In fact they did not produce any electricity at all. That's almost as silly as saying fusion has been around for 15,000,000,000 years.

Did you review this post and its links?
http://thefraserdomain.typepad.com/energy/2007/12/noted-in-pass-2.html#comment-93199064

That's interesting. Are you aware of the fact that many nuclear powerplants are also prone to failure in extreme heat conditions? Failures have actually happened a couple of times recently. Solar is much more useful in these situations.

At the very least, I don't think it would be a good strategy to focus solely on any one source of power.

To be fair, nuclear has some short term problems that have to be solved, for instance sea water uranium mining has not be proven to be scalable to provide terrawatt levels of power output worth of uranium. Not one large nuclear power plant has been dismantled yet. You know the list, probably been bombarded with it too many times. In all likelyhood this will be proven to be trivial matters. Untill they are, I'm keeping several options on the table. That's the part of your paper I absolutely agree upon.

Cyril R.

Early U.S. reactors were built quickly and cheaply, they paid for themselves quickly, and have been safe. In fact they have prevented thousands of deaths from the coal plants not built.

Wikipedia saves the day. Ahem.

Electricity was generated for the first time by a nuclear reactor on December 20, 1951 at the EBR-I experimental station near Arco, Idaho, which initially produced about 100 kW (the Arco Reactor was also the first to experience partial meltdown, in 1955). In 1952, a report by the Paley Commission (The President's Materials Policy Commission) for President Harry Truman made a "relatively pessimistic" assessment of nuclear power, and called for "aggressive research in the whole field of solar energy."[13] A December 1953 speech by President Dwight Eisenhower, "Atoms for Peace," emphasized the useful harnessing of the atom and set the U.S. on a course of strong government support for international use of nuclear power.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuclear_power#Origins

It should be disclaimed that note # 13 comes from an anti-nuke site. But facts are facts. A lot can happen in fifty years.

Cyril R.

And then there are of course, Europe and Russia, the latter of which has plants running right now that don't comply to US safety regulations by a long haul. This brings up one of the most important points: it's not just about technology on it's own, or just economics, but also about politics and government.

DaveMart

I don't disagree with the general thrust of what you are saying Cyril, but it should perhaps be noted that solar PV can also fail or reduce efficiency in extreme heat conditions - electronics like to remain reasonably cool, so a baking hot desert can cause them problems, as can concentrated solar if the beam wanders for a fraction of a second - fried receptor.
So for instance the greens argument that nuclear is unacceptable because we can't yet describe every detail of the technologies needed to, for instance, use thorium or breed more fuel should perhaps be taken with a pinch of salt, as the technology developments needrd for an economy based on renewable fuels are even less defined.
As an example, using current lithium deposits we would only be able to run maybe 80million cars from batteries.
That stretches into the tens of billions if you use lithium in seawater, or if you are able to use sodium batteries, but just the same, we can't currently do this, and the technology to do so is much more blue sky than, for instance, liquidising coal and sequestering.
So really I would agree with both you and Bill, and say we should pursue many options, but for the moment nuclear is some way ahead on any reasonable cost analysis.
That might change in ten years or so for solar though, or with something like high-altitude wind, but relying on it is a bit of a Hail Mary play.

Cyril R.

Totally forgot!

Three Miles Island

Sure, there were no casualties. But reactors that melt down, even partially, aren't very economical now are they? Plus the cleanup was very expensive. Not to mention the indirect financial damage of the accident. Point is, this isn't that long ago and look how much has changed. Wind isn't technically mature (there's just no such thing; even coal isn't mature), and even if it was that doesn't mean that there is no room for serious cost reductions by e.g. size of both windmills or project scale.

I can't see an inherent reason why wind would be way too expensive in the near and especially medium term, even without considering new technological breakthroughs.

And solar thermal appears to have even more significant potential for cost reductions, with attractive features over wind such as inexpensive storage, load-following and the use of arid unfertile lands.

DaveMart

That's an argument in isolation, Cyril - you haven't included in that how many deaths there are from coal over the same period, or even from wind, where fooling around at a height of 100meters is not too safe.
Coal power, if it paid for it's collateral damage, would be very expensive energy - and that is before you take into account carbon dioxide emissions.
I agree that there may be further cost reductions in wind technology, but that applies to it's competitors too, and there is no real reason to think that reductions will be greater in wind technology than the others.
I was really comparing it to the recent British proposals for off-shore wind though, where it does sound expensive - in many places in Europe we are running out of land.
In the US I can certainly see the case for quite an expansion in wind power.
I agree with you about solar thermal, and see a lot of potential in PV and high altitude wind.
The point I was making was a narrower one, that the only sure-fire way we know at the moment to really minimise greenhouse gases at an economic cost, and including baseload generation is nuclear.
That may change and I hope it does, but that is the state of play at the moment.

Cyril R.

Dave, that's absolutely true. Don't want to rely on any one thing in particular either.

If you're in the desert solar thermal may be better. But even rooftop PV would work just fine - just don't put the inverter in the sun. A bit of passive cooling can also do wonders, and some forms of PV suffer less from high temperatures anyway.

I don't get the not enough lithium argument. By the time 80 million plug-in cars have been built, there will likely be other solutions (sodium you named, also got that link, very promising, but perhaps other chemistries as well, or even ultracaps). If not, then consider that lithium price will only be a part of a plug-in car retail price (to the consumer). Even if the price of lithium doubles, that doesn't make plug-ins completely unaffordable; the batteries aren't solid chunks of lithium and also there is more to an electric car than just batteries. A doubling of the lithium price however, does increase the reserves quite a bit: with a higher price the economically recoverable reserves will increase. So more batteries can be made. If we can't figure out to make other, more abundant chemistries work after that... well maybe we're just a stupid species...

The point I was making was a narrower one, that the only sure-fire way we know at the moment to really minimise greenhouse gases at an economic cost, and including baseload generation is nuclear.

Absolutely, that's one of the main reasons I support the US nuclear industry. Not so sure if we really need that much baseload eventually though. Load following is, in principle, even better than baseload. I'd really like to see a nuclear load following plant (maybe with an extra turbine powered by thermal storage), but the industry doesn't appear to have solid plans for one, right?

DaveMart

Cyril, I made the lithium argument not because I think it is a showstopper either - I think it can and will be overcome, but just to illustrate some of the arguments the anti-nuclear folks are making, that nothing should be come because we don't have all the answers with every dot and comma - we don't have all the answers for renewables either, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't press ahead.
I am pretty keen on solar thermal, but most particularly in residential solar thermal, which has a rate of 15% of households in Austria - it seems such a shame that is is so little used in the US with it's far better solar resources.
It's a heck of a lot cheaper than PV at the moment, and should be economical in new builds.
In respect of PV there is a lot of potential for cost reduction, but then again there has to be - ironically the biggest installers at the moment are in Germany, with it's lousy solar resource.
Apparently they are on course to install 1.5GW of nameplate capacity this year.
That means that during the depths of winter, when it is most needed they will only get around 150MW from it, and on average around 300MW
I hate to think what the coat per Kw of generated power is.
It's just plain weird that Germany should be the hub of PV power, not LA, with it's far better resource!
If I were German, I would take a nuc any day! - still it's nice of the Germans to pay for everyone else by developing the technology!

DaveMart

I just read the last part of your post more carefully, Cyril, and as I understand it there is no real problem in designing a load-following nuclear plant - it is just that with almost all of the costs in building it and very little in the fuel, there is no real point in throttling the power down, as you can always get something for the energy.
Should be handy for plug-in Ev's
PS - I believe the pebble bed reactors Bill (and I!) are keen on can adjust for load quite easily - must check my sources on that.

Cyril R.

Odds are those buyback contracts have something to do with it... I would have installed PV yesterday if I got fourty cents for a kWh pumped back into the grid! Still, you're right, Germany providing the incentives for developing the technology has it's advantages. Then again, they may produce the panels domestically and export them with a hefty profit to other countries and win out eventually. And solar thermal panels for domestic hot water needs, yes can be a really good idea. Considering how relatively simple these things are you'd wonder why these systems cost several thousand $ sometimes. I'd reckon greater volume production and standardization could go a long ways in making them cost hundreds of $ rather than thousands.

Doesn't Israel have a law that requires all new homes/buildings to have thermal hot water systems? Perhaps this could be done in the SW as well. Let the industry prepare now and make it mandatory in a few years or so. Maybe it's a bit radical, but it would definately push thermal hot water systems development up.

Cyril R.

Heh, looks like I'm always a post behind...

About load following nukes, what bothers me is if you choose to go full baseload, you have to compensate the grid with backup peaking. Yes that's right, baseload nuclear needs 'backup' too to be technically correct. Right now that means a gas peaker, which is expensive and GHG spewing plus doesn't do much for energy security. Considering these issues, and from a total grid viewpoint, load following nuclear powerplants would be desirable. That is, a full baseload turbine combined with a peaker turbine. The primary turbine can be made slightly smaller (or the nuclear thermal generating capacity slightly higher) so that the extra heat can be buffered in thermal storage. To be used in the secondary turbine during high demand. That way there's the benefit of economical baseload plus the peaking flexibility provided by the secondary turbine. I'm not sure but I think this would add only about 10-20 percent per kWh delivered, with current nuclear designs and turbine costs.

So that would probably be cheaper than backup gas peakers as those wouldn't be needed anymore. Add to that the energy security and GHG gains and the potential of load following nukes becomes apperent.

Nucbuddy

Cyril R. wrote: baseload nuclear needs 'backup' too to be technically correct. Right now that means a gas peaker

...And why would one not (as DaveMart just suggested to you) choose a nuclear peaker, instead?

Nucbuddy

Cyril R. wrote: I would have installed PV yesterday if I got fourty cents for a kWh pumped back into the grid! Still, you're right, Germany providing the incentives for developing the technology has it's advantages. Then again, they may produce the panels domestically and export them with a hefty profit to other countries and win out eventually.

Indeed, the pyramid scam is such an attractive economic animal -- is it not? It is amazing to consider how much we could get for nothing, if we would all just simply pull together as a team.

DaveMart

Just to be clear, there is an enormous cost difference between residential solar thermal and PV.
In the UK, installing a thermal system on an old house would cost around £5k, a comparable PV system around 12k.
The cost of installing thermal on a new house would be pretty negligible, and would provide around half the hot water a house uses for a minimal system.
That is the cheap, cost effective system that I am shocked is rarely installed in the states and the UK.
As for PV panels, at least in the German climate, they are eco-bling for the time being.
Costs are dropping rapidly though, but LA would certainly be a better location for them for the forseable future.
As for my 'advocating' non-load following nuclear, I really do not have a position on this, nor is one needed, since we are not building nuclear plants to cover the much easier base-load at the moment.
By the time we get around to doing it, if we ever do, then costs and technologies will have changed.
A major program of building nuclear would greatly reduce costs, although this might be mitigated or even reversed by the need for different fuel cysles to stretch our uranium reserves.
PV costs, as I said, are on a rapid downward curve, and in the 20 or 40 years needed for a base-load nuclear build might well become cheaper than the nuclear alternative.
There are also different strategies available to cope with running a nuclear reactor full0tilt all the time, as well as throttling it back.
One alternative would be to make liquid fuels from the excess capacity (liquid, not hydrogen, the losses in energy from producing and distributing hydrogen are huge, and all the talk from the auto makers of the hydrogen economy strike me as the purest green washing)
So IOW it ain't worth worrying about how you deal with non-load following nuclear at the moment, nor is it possible to assess properly.
What seems to me clear is that base-load nuclear should be advocated, and even more so that passive solar thermal should be mandatory on all new builds.

Cyril R.

Hey Nucbuddy:

...And why would one not (as DaveMart just suggested to you) choose a nuclear peaker, instead?

In either case you'd need another turbine, obviously. However with my proposal, a lot of power plant equipment, including the reactor, can be shared in one powerplant.

The marginal cost of two seperate reactors and other power plant equipment is almost certainly higher than the marginal cost of thermal storage and one (albeit bigger) reactor. If it's not then a peaker nuke would be better, but I doubt it.

Cyril R.

It may be a small matter though. The most important gain is not needing natural gas anymore, and thus loosing all of the downsides this form of power generation has. That's really why I think that nuclear load following - standalone peaker or integrated peaker - deserves more attention.

Solar thermal would go a long ways here as well. Considering it's almost inherent load following properties. I have high hopes (perhaps a bit too high to be called rational) for Ausra and others, there was just a positive announcement on this blog on manufacturing capacity going online.

Cyril R.

Darn, mind your spelling Cyril...

Cyril R.

One alternative would be to make liquid fuels from the excess capacity

Interesting, didn't consider this as an option. Could be very a good solution as well.

BILL HANNAHAN

They may be mass produced, but in a relative scale it is still very tiny. I'm sure you're familiar with typical learning curves of the industry. Economy of scale alone can push the cost of wind down a lot further.

How? If the world car market doubled in size would a Toyota assembly plant become more efficient? If the market were cut in half would it become less efficient?

The world spends more on jumbo jets than on paper clips. Does that prove that there are big savings to be made in the manufacture of paper clips?

Number of units produced is probably a better measure of experience. Denmark has been mass producing windmills since the 70’s and the number of windmills produced vastly exceeds the number of nuke plants

After thirty years of windmill mass production with little change in cost other than inflation, you predict a big price cut, where will the savings come from and why now, not 20 years ago?

. No two nuclear plants are exactly alike. Nobody has started mass producing nuclear power plants yet, we have yet to build the Model T of nuclear power plants. That is where the big savings lie.

Are you aware of the fact that many nuclear power plants are also prone to failure in extreme heat conditions? Failures have actually happened a couple of times recently. Solar is much more useful in these situations.

Actually I am not. Please provide a reference. I am aware of a few instances where cooling water was in short supply due to drought. That can affect any thermal plant.

Offshore nuclear plants have the ocean as a heat sink, no problem there.

Photovoltaic efficiency drops with increasing temperature, so less output during heat waves.

Solar thermal plants will most likely be built in the desert and have lower thermodynamic efficiency than conventional thermal plants. Maximum theoretical efficiency is;

E max = (T high – T low)/ T high

Use an absolute temperature scale. During summer heat, solar thermal output may drop due to higher heat sink temperatures. Solar thermal plants will evaporate more cooling water / kWh than a conventional thermal plant. A nuclear plant in the desert uses less water than a solar thermal plant of equal output in the desert.

BILL HANNAHAN

I split this up to keep the spam gods happy.

sea water uranium mining has not be proven to be scalable to provide terrawatt levels of power output worth of uranium.

Yes it has been proven, but it has not been done on a large scale.

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

Suppose a venture capitalist said, “I want to build a uranium extraction plant that will make a fortune if uranium prices go above $200 / pound and stay there.” Will you invest your life savings in this project?

Historically prices have been under $40 / pound with a few big spikes.

http://www.uxc.com/review/uxc_g_hist-price.html

Would you bet on uranium staying above $200 / lb. I don’t think so, and neither will professional investors.

On the other hand DOE reports in the 70’s estimated sea water uranium cost at $8,000 / pound, so if the technology keeps improving it may happen sooner than most people think.

Even if the price of lithium doubles, that doesn't make plug-ins completely unaffordable… . A doubling of the lithium price however, does increase the reserves quite a bit: with a higher price the economically recoverable reserves will increase.

You take a reasonable position on lithium, why not the same attitude about uranium, 0.7 pounds / year with our primitive 1st gen reactors, 0.3 pounds / lifetime with breeders.

Not one large nuclear power plant has been dismantled yet.

Actually several plants have been dismantled successfully.

BILL HANNAHAN

This spam filter really sucks. I cannot cover one point.

the Arco Reactor was also the first to experience partial meltdown, in 1955

So a small experimental test reactor overheated in 1955. How many people were killed? The Wright Flyer killed more people.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_Selfridge

Had we nipped aviation in the bud think of all the lives we could have saved.

Wait a minute, airliners are over forty times safer than cars,

http://www.airlines.org/economics/specialtopics/Airline+Safety.htm

if we eliminated the airliners many more people would have died in cars.

Politicians can say “I’m going to make (XXXX) as safe as possible.” Engineers know that the most important quality in a good engineer is the ability to compromise wisely. If we make anything as safe as possible it will be totally impractical, and nobody will use it. This is why there are few if any good engineers in politics. They cannot make the irrational statements that are required to be elected.

Commercial aviation and nuclear power are both too safe. If we eliminated all the regulations with a very poor or negative cost / benefit ratio, more people would fly instead of drive. There would be more nuclear plants and fewer coal plants. Overall, life would be safer and of a higher quality, despite a slightly higher risk in these two fields.

Coal plants kill 20,000+ each year in the U.S., maybe over a million world wide.

http://www.cleartheair.org/dirtypower/docs/dirtyAir.pdf

BILL HANNAHAN

Continuing;

Next generation nuclear plants are designed to contain a full meltdown without hurting anybody.

http://www.areva-np.com/common/liblocal/docs/Brochure/BROCHURE_EPR_US_2.pdf

http://www.ans.org/pubs/magazines/nn/docs/2006-1-3.pdf

Replacing coal with fission saves lives.

Load following is, in principle, even better than baseload. I'd really like to see a nuclear load following plant

Nuclear plants can follow a load as well as any, they have fast control systems. It is required to avoid over speeding the turbine after a grid disconnect, as with any steam plant.

Study the GE BWR literature. It can transition to hot standby after a grid collapse, with no reactor trip, and help bring the grid back up. It does not need offsite sources of emergency power, due to inherently safe design features. Don’t try that with windmills, they depend on conventional power plants for stability.

... I would have installed PV yesterday if I got fourty cents for a kWh pumped back into the grid!

Right, I wonder how many Germans have a little diesel generator tucked away cranking in extra kWh’s. They might surprise us with some great capacity factors.

The marginal cost of two separate reactors and other power plant equipment is almost certainly higher than the marginal cost of thermal storage and one (albeit bigger) reactor. If it's not then a peaker nuke would be better, but I doubt it.

The most reasonable approach would be to build a very large nuclear plant, and build a flow battery installation at the end of each high power transmission line extending out from the plant.

Advantages are;

Provides a distributed source of cheap peaking power.

Increased average capacity of transmission lines, delaying or eliminating the need for new transmission line construction.

Improved grid stiffness and reliability. This should appeal to wind and solar buffs because it gives their systems a source of storage and regulation subsidized by the nuclear power industry.

DaveMart

Bill, great post(s)
The thing I have against nuclear is that they are not building them.
By default shed loads of coal powered plants are being built, as the costs of most renewables are still horrendous.
So we effortlessly achieve the worst of all worlds.
Hopefully the gridlock will be broken with the construction of new design reactors on China demonstrating their safety - the Finnish reactor should do that anyway for Areva.
The transition to a more nuclear future will take a long time anyway - a lot of the expertise has been lost in the last 30years - in Britain we would be more or less starting from scratch, and even in China they have a lot of problems getting the pressure vessels.
If coal just had to pay for the other pollutants emitted, never mind CO2, then the economics of nuclear would become clearer.
In Britain at least cheap gas effectively killed nuclear for years.

Cyril R.

I'm with you DaveMart, don't have anything against nuclear either. Nor against windmills. Suppose I could go nitpick why wind power isn't all that bad, and a lot of other stuff Bill posted up here, unfortunately I don't have the time right now. Plus, pointing out the evident is really tiresome. Really Bill... you should read the posts on this blog - and it's references - on wind energy more often.

DaveMart

I can't see the downside of more windpower in the States.
A link the energy blog gives in the top story today says a lot:
http://www.econ.cam.ac.uk/electricity/publications/wp/ep74.pdf
Up to, say 20% then it can increase security of supply with marginal need for extra backup.
In the States there are plenty of opportunities to cherry pick the very best resources, too.
My reservations about wind power are specific to the British context - as a small, crowded island I would hate to see every beauty spot taken up with huge windmills, and off-shore power looks very expensive from all the figures I have seen.
None of these constraints apply to the States, and there is a very long way to go before rates of penetration reach anything like the levels where it might be a good idea to re-check costs and feasibility.
As always, it is horses for courses.
Nuclear is very favourable for northerly, crowded Europe - the balance may be very different for the States with it's much greater land resource and more southerly location leading to higher solar incidence.

BILL HANNAHAN

Suppose I could go nitpick why wind power isn't all that bad, and a lot of other stuff Bill posted up here, unfortunately I don't have the time right now. Plus, pointing out the evident is really tiresome.

I find the time to correct mistakes because energy is a life or death issue for billions of people. If I am wrong I want to know about it, I am far more interested in verifiable facts than groundless opinions, so nitpick away and provide references.

Really Bill... you should read the posts on this blog - and it's references - on wind energy more often.


I have read them and much more. They breakdown into two categories.

1. Practical real world reports on how expensive electricity is in countries pushing wind very hard, while still burning mostly fossil fuel.

2. Summaries of academic hand waving exercises like this

http://news-service.stanford.edu/news/2007/december5/windfarm-120507.html

with ridiculous comments like this from the report;
But interconnecting wind farms with a transmission grid reduces the power swings caused by wind variability and makes a significant portion of it just as consistent a power source as a coal power plant…..This study implies that, if interconnected wind is used on a large scale, a third or more of its energy can be used for reliable electric power

Wow! Average wind capacity factor of 0.3 and one third is reliable, 10% of data plate rating. How is that as reliable as coal or nuclear? Actually it is not that good, during the 2006 U.S. heat wave wind peak output in California was down to 5%.

http://gristmill.grist.org/story/2007/3/12/63111/0928/#37

If every windmill in the U.S. was connected to a single grid, it would have been down 20% during the heat wave when demand was up 20%. I would love to see an hour by hour graph of total U.S. wind production. I suspect we could find times when it was well below 10% nuclear power was up 10%, which is very impressive since average capacity factor is 0.9

These analyses treat the variability of wind power plants as independent power swings that can be averaged out by a large grid. In reality there are large seasonal variations that affect all of them at the same time, and weather systems can be several hundred miles in diameter.

No quantity of differential equations will change these facts.

My report comes with a spreadsheet with calculations and references. Where is the spreadsheet for this report, show me the data, not just the conclusions.

Wind needs backup capacity, the cost is never included in wind cost, nor is the cost of the super grid to interconnect it.
The break even cost of wind power is the cost of the fuel not consumed, and the cost of nuclear fuel is about one half cent per kWh. Wind is an expensive fad.

Krishna

Solar PV and Solar thermal can be the ultimate solution but we need to spread the technology and the design methodology of solar PV systems so anyone and everyone can design and build their systems - costs can come down only either by large scale adoption or a technological breakthrough like the one Nanosolar is working on.

Krishna
www.roanakh.com

丰胸

丰胸

Discount Furniture Los Angeles

I agree, it really is the best solution. Look at nature it sustains itself... and most of that is sustained by the sun. Why don't we follow that example.

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