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January 31, 2008




"What do you think the answer is? and I don't mean to stop building nuclear plants or too use more conservation efforts. In my opinion they are the best solution, in the interim, until renewable power can provide all the incremental power needed to meet our incremental power needs and to replace aging coal plants."

The main thing needed for renewable power to supply the power we need is to build more renewable power plants.


Tom G.

I love renewable energy sources; wind, solar, hydro, bio-fuels and yes even conservation. However until renewable sources can replace our dependence on coal, gas and oil we will probably need some new nuclear plants. Let us not forget however that from site licensing to full power operation it can take from 7-10 years to bring a 1200 megawatt plant online.

I worked at a nuclear power plant for twenty years and yes spent fuel can be stored successfully at the plant site and that is exactly what is happening today. It can be stored in spent fuel pools inside of concrete and steel buildings or spent fuel containers called casks in specifically designed area's on the utility property.

Spent fuel containers or casks are massive, strong and probably impossible for someone to steal. In addition, as soon as you remove the fuel from a cask you would most likely receive an immediate lethal dose of radiation. Also, all plants are required to have an armed security force which can also be augmented by local law enforcement or federal troops if needed to protect the nuclear plant and stored fuel. Hopefully everyone reading this blog understands that a spent fuel cask is not something you just pick up and haul away in the back of your pickup truck ;-)

So yes I agree, it can be done and probable should be. The question then becomes why? When [or if] the nuclear power industry completes a fast breeder reactor design or other design that can use some of the isotopes in our existing spent fuel rods, it will be much easier to get to the fuel at a utility site for reprocessing than from a mountain in Nevada. Besides, spent fuel has real $value$ and to bury it in a mountain for 10,000 years is not really a very wise use of a good fuel source.


Anyone know how much ends up as munitions? Another "good" war and demand could outstrip supply.

Paul F. Dietz

Storing waste in above ground, sealed 'dry' storage is obviously the answer for what to do with spent fuel. It is both cheaper and simpler than underground storage (and much cheaper overall than reprocessing) and forecloses no future options.

The ultimate limitation on above ground storage may be that the waste decays so much the plutonium in it is not sufficiently protected from clandestine diversion. But this will not happen for at least a century after the fuel is removed from the reactor, and arguably not for several centuries (depending on where you draw the line on 'sufficiently'.)

(During the cold war, above ground storage could have been susceptible to dispersal in large scale nuclear attack, but that's probably not a realistic fear now, IMO.)

Anyone know how much ends up as munitions?

No commercial spent fuel ends up as munitions, at least in the western democracies. The closest you could come to this is hypothetical future diversion of separated plutonium from commercial reprocessing efforts. This could allow non-nuclear weapons states with reprocessed Pu stockpiles (for example, Japan) to rapidly acquire large numbers of weapons if they decide to 'break out', assuming they had somehow acquired workable designs beforehand. (Note: no, commercial reactor-grade plutonium is not impossible to use in weapons, even efficient weapons, given a proper design and tritium for boosting.)


If nuclear fuel takes so long to become neutral, possibly thousands of years, why does it become spent so quickly when we use it for power? Shouldn't the same theory apply that it would last a long time in the nuclear plant?

One other question I have, if we store all of this material in one location, does the sum of it become dangerous due to being concentrated in one area?

Like the public, I don't have a very good understanding of this technology.

If nuclear fuel takes so long to become neutral, possibly thousands of years, why does it become spent so quickly when we use it for power?
There is a certain amount of energy in the fuel.  Without intervention, it would be dissipated in decay over hundreds of millions and billions of years.  A chain reaction extracts it very quickly and controllably.  Once the fissile isotopes are too depleted to sustain a chain reaction, the remaining fission products (most of which have much shorter half-lives than uranium) again decay at their own rate.
One other question I have, if we store all of this material in one location, does the sum of it become dangerous due to being concentrated in one area?
No. It takes a correct arrangement of fuel, plus a "moderator" which slows fission neutrons without absorbing too many of them, to sustain a chain reaction. Putting a bunch of spent fuel in dry casks, too far apart for a chain reaction and sheathed in neutron-absorbing concrete, poses no risk of a chain reaction.

"as far as he’s concerned, the waste can stay on the company’s 12,200-acre site for the next century."

Great and what do you think your predecessors are going to do at the end of that century if we don't have a Yucca Mountain?

Stephen Boulet

"Great and what do you think your predecessors are going to do at the end of that century if we don't have a Yucca Mountain?"

I would keep in mind that the technology for nuclear storage is advancing so rapidly that waiting two or three decades before implementing a 'final' solution makes a lot of sense.

That said, I think that the coming success of utility scale solar thermal will change the conversation about energy in the next few years in ways that will make nuclear and carbon sequestration less and less attractive.


Mike Keller

The ideal solution is to chemically strip the Plutonium from the spent fuel, re-use it in a reactor and bury what is left (or perhaps some day transmute what is leftover into a less radioactive form and then bury it). The quantity of waste ends up being not that great and not that dangerous, on a relative scale. Attempting to clandestinely divert the material for making bombs is not creditable in a democratic country. From a technical standpoint, re-cycling is not that hard and has been done in the past. However, with the current price of Uranium, re-cycling is not economical. So store the spent fuel until it becomes commercially attractive to recycle the fissile material.

This is not a technical problem, it’s a political problem. Seems to me that if nuclear power is to move forward, then major efforts need to be made to explain what the dangers actually are, relative to the alternatives. However, that would also require that we, collectively, actually weigh the pluses and minuses in an even-handed fashion and then decide. I fear the fractious, irrational and extremist nature of our current political discourse on the environment render such an approach as unlikely -- bordering on impossible. So we will muddle though somehow and hopefully not slide into economic oblivion because the cost of energy is “off-scale, high”.


At the end of a century, that waste will be a rich resource of metals like iridium.


Tom has the same answer I would give. The reason fuel rods are spent is because they are no longer suitable for use in the reactor. Either they can't maintain the reaction, nuetron absorbed causes a fission releasing some nuetrons with slightly less than one of these spawning another fission in this or neighboring fuel rods. Depletion of the fissionable material -or absorption of neutrons by the waste material could alter this. There is still a great deal of fissionable material left -thats why it would be such a waste to dispose of this stuff.

While I have enthusiasm for solar thermal, even if this becomes cheap and ubiqitous, we still have the problem that at latitudes greater than say 30 degrees the summer/winter solar variation is pretty great, and we will want some continuously available baseline power.


I too come out of the nuclear power industry, now working in integrated resource planning in the electric utility industry.

While I would agree in general that nuke waste is no more dangerous to the public than, say, the mercury emissions from coal plants, I think it's immoral to burden future generations with the costs of our energy use today. We're already paying billions now to clean up past mistakes, such as the massive groundwater contamination found around the uranium mines and processing plants of 50 years ago. I don't want to continue that injustice by passing along the costs of my energy use to my great-grandchildren and beyond.

I see no other choice but immediate and massive investment in renewable R&D. Give the renewable industry half the funding that the nuclear industry has had and I bet we will discover amazing things. All countries need to follow Germany's example.

One technical correction: a "moderator" is only needed for sustaining a critical reaction in a reactor. Remove the moderator (water) in a critical reactor and you have a supercritical reaction, which is when bad things start happening.

Finally, Yucca has not proceeded primarily because its opponents have realized that it is technically impossible to meet its legal requirements: to safely store waste for at least 10,000 years. The oldest human-made structures on earth or only half that age. Proving that a structure built today can safely contain radioactive and extremely toxic substances for that long is impossible. If we really want to bury our waste, we need to change the law.

Personally, I believe the only smart way to dispose of waste is in the deepest trenches of the ocean, since that's the only place where it cannot possibly contaminate the less than 1 percent of the water on earth that keeps us all alive. Do it right, in a subduction zone, and the waste ends up in the earth's core. But I somehow don't see Greenpeace being too happy with that idea.

Remove the moderator (water) in a critical reactor and you have a supercritical reaction
No you don't.  The neutron-capture cross section of U-235 peaks at thermal-neutron energies; if you remove the moderator, the neutrons zip right by and the chain reaction stops.

One tiny bit of knowledge is sufficient to prove this.  The squash-court reactor at the University of Chicago required many tons of graphite as a moderator.  The same amount of uranium metal could not go critical without one, and I would not be surprised if the fast-neutron capture cross-section of U-238 is sufficient to prevent a chain reaction in unenriched uranium no matter how much you put together (I haven't done the calculations so I won't swear to it).


eng-poet is right about criticality in a reactor. My bad, though I was right in that bad things happen when you drain the coolant. LOCA/LOFA!

Not much moderator in a fission bomb, though. A bomb uses HE to compress the Uranium under sufficient temp and pressure to start the chain. I've heard some say buried waste could eventually come under such pressure and temp to start the chain, under the right circumstance, but it seems a stretch to me.

I still think of that poor slob stacking uranium/graphite blocks under the seats of the UofC football stadium. What a horrible way to go.

Just remember, "You can't put too much water in a nuclear reactor."


Stephen Boulet writes:
keep in mind that the technology for nuclear storage is advancing so rapidly

What kinds of advances are they making?


When the French reuse the nuclear waste
By how may times does this bring down the
Mass of the waste any one know?

Kit P

If nrgxprt works in “integrated resource planning” he does not know much about it. He is also completely clueless about nuclear physics and hazardous waste management.

High level radioactive material will be placed in Yucca Mountains drifts (small tunnels perpendicular to the main tunnel) in such a way that it will take hundred of thousand years for surface water to corrode away the cask and zirconium clad fuel rods and wash toxic material into ground water where it could travel to drinking water wells on the way to death valley. So at least two ice ages from now, very small concentrations of toxic materials will be present in ground water that already has very small concentrations of toxic materials.

The principles of a geological repository is that it does not depend on “human-made structures”. The waste is not buried, it is placed in the drifts and then the entrance is sealed.

So yes, we need Yucca Mountain. When and how we put the hazardous waste in the geological repository is much more interesting question.


A little problem with reading comprehension there Kit? I bet someone like you who can make such judgments via two comments must be a real joy to live with....

I said nothing about whether I thought Yucca would work or not. I have no ax to grind there. I merely point out that it is technically impossible to meet the requirements of the laws that established Yucca as our one and only repository for nuclear waste, mostly because the people who wrote the law are "completely clueless about nuclear physics and hazardous waste management." Have you read that law? I'll bet not.

Many of Yucca's opponents have successfully fought it because the law contains impossible standards. If you want to build it, you'll have to change the law. And yes, they have managed to convince the decision-makers involved that there is a chance that the waste will leak into our groundwater in future years. As I said, I think that's a stretch, but I guess that wasn't strong enough for you to conclude how clueless I am.

Yucca is very much a human-made structure. Those tunnels didn't make themselves, and certainly you'll agree that the casks they are buried in are human-made, right? Can you prove those casks will still contain the waste 10,000 years from now? It doesn't matter whether that number has any real meaning in science, or how far away Death Valley is (?), it is the standard in the law that must be met.

You may be right about your theory of what will happen over the "next two ice ages" (the people of Nevada are not likely to agree). But you will never be able to prove it.

I admitted I'm a little rusty on nuclear physics. It's been 30 years since I worked in that industry, and 40 since I studied it. I saw no future in it and left. And I made no claims to having knowledge in that area, other than knowing that the standard in the law cannot be met.

But I'll be happy to debate you or anyone else about integrated resource planning anytime, anyplace. My guess is that you know very little if anything about it, judging by your sarcastic use of "quote marks." But don't worry, you're not alone. Almost no one does, even though it is now the driving force behind energy policy almost everywhere. We're just trying to get the best bang for your utility bill buck, and maybe save the world in the process.


I understand that superconducting rail guns have been made to shoot heavy objects as far as 200 miles, and can be made to put small objects in low orbit.

How much more energy is needed to shoot a small object at the moon or sun, or even suspend it in a single high enough orbit until a few hundred years from now when humans can collect them and shoot them to the sun?



Please, refer to statement.


To answer a few questions raised in this thread:
Will said:
'Great and what do you think your predecessors are going to do at the end of that century if we don't have a Yucca Mountain?'
I doubt your predecessors will do anything at all about it - your descendants might! :-)
Clee asked:
'What kinds of advances are they making?'(in waste storage)
Present Generation 111+ reactors like they are building in Finland and France will turn out a fraction of the waste previous reactors did - a new generation in the UK, for instance, would add by volume only around 10% extra to current waste stockpiles (mainly from weapons) over their 60 year life.
Generation 4 reactors which should be ready to roll out around 2023 would do better yet,
This Fuji molten salt design for instance:
'The MSR can generate 1000 times less uranium and plutonium waste and everything else that is left over has a halflife of less than 50 years.'
kevinb asked:
'When the French reuse the nuclear waste
By how may times does this bring down the
Mass of the waste any one know? '
I don't know, but I do know that the waste from several decades of supplying most of the electricity in France is stored in an area of about 3 basketball courts.
As others have said, you can perfectly well store at the moment in canisters, then later use this valuable fuel resource in later generations of reactors.
The Chief Scientist in Britain recently said that present stockpiles of waste in Britain if reprocessed could power the nuclear industry here for 60years.


I really, really wanted renewables to work, but for running the whole energy needs even with the most generous allowances for future progress, the costs just do not add up.
Here is one of the cheapest ideas I have seen:
You are generating the power by PV in the South-west, and building a huge grid to ship it all over the country, storing energy as compressed air in underground caverns.
Closer examination in discussions here:
Showed that you were talking of a subsidy of $420bn to get started not including the rest of the huge construction budget, and the costs of electric at the end it would still be high.
The storage method would need vast amounts of natural gas to re-heat the air, and where that would come from and at what cost was unclear.
The wind industry is in fact vastly expensive - here are costs for the UK, by the UK government:
Offshore Wind Cost Study (ODE Ltd) - RAB Forum
This means that UK plans for 33GW installed, actual output around 11GW, would likely cost over £40bn, and that is not including the large degree of back-up needed as you are still not getting the power when you want it.
Instead you have a kind of intermittent base load, as because you only get the power sometimes, you have to prioritise that, or you make the already dire economics worse.
That means that it is more difficult to justify nuclear plants for base-load, as their cast is upfront and are really best if run all the time.
So effectively you have locked in a high degree of coal burn, as natural gas is scarce and likely to get scarcer.
You also do not do much at all to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.
Germany and Denmark have some of the highest electricity rates in Europe, apart from taxes contributing a lot to pay for their programs, and yet carbon dioxide emission reductions have been minimal:
All this is without the cost of building a supergrid or storage to move to high rates of penetration.
Denmark only has the rates it does because it is near the vast hydroelectric resources of Scandanavia, and really it is mostly that that powers the Danish grid.
So as you can see from my last link, if you want to reduce CO2 emissions and do not have access to hydroelectric power, the way to go is nuclear - look at their CO2 emissions - way lower than Denmark or Germany.
Solar power will be useful for areas like thee South-West where peak power is for cooling, and it maps well to that and can flatten the usage curve, with nuclear taking care of the base-load.
If you want to reduce CO2 emissions the only way for the forseeable future is to build nuclear.
All the rest are hyper-expensive distractions, which will lock in fossil fuel use.

Cyril R.

DaveMart thinks nuclear power is competitive compared to alternatives.

Perhaps DaveMart would care to explain why the new nukes being built right now in the US are getting up to 80% of project cost subsidized?

No offense Dave but you sound naive. BWRs and PWRs do not spring out of the ground like toadstools. MFR sound nice, with the possibility of mass-production in a factory assembly line, but considering the deployment timeframe it's essentially a moot issue to discuss the usefulness of this technology now.

Fact of the matter is that nuclear powerplants have never been built, anywhere, anytime, without relatively large subsidies of various kinds. A major switch to any alternative power source will require vast amounts of subsidies one way or the other. Some may be substantially cheaper than others of course.

It's very tiresome to hear the nuclear absolutism that has become common ground in your comments Dave. Nuclear power is great, but people who think we can switch to mostly nuclear in a reasonable timeframe without resorting to communism/socialism, are in serious need of reality checks.

Your statement that wind and solar will lock us into fossil fuel usage is really weird. A baseload nuke needs a NG peaker. More nukes with high CF, more NG needed. This problem is lesser in size than for wind, as wind is also intermittent so more NG will be needed. Biogas might be used in the future but I'm not sure if there will be enough of it, at least not everywhere.

If we're going to built loads of baseload nukes, it may make sense to deal with this issue in another way. Perhaps letting all nukes operate in baseload and create methane from excess nuclear capacity during low demand? Carbon dioxide from the air, hydrogen from water. There already exists a large methane (NG) infrastructure so this seems more useful than creating just hydrogen alone as proposed. Also, methane synthesis is fairly efficient compared to e.g. FT diesel. Another option would be to convert the carbon dioxide to carbon monoxide and make methanol which can be turned into gasoline. Also fairly efficient.

I think MIT's recent finding of new reactor fuel geometry to uprate electrical output possibly +50% is very promising. Low capital investment, high IRR, which can be used to revise the old nukes so they can be kept online for a couple more decades. Less dubious than building completely new ones with 80% subsidies if you ask me. Put those subsidies in end-use efficiency instead, and more can be accomplished faster. There's only so much money a government can spend you know!


For completeness, I thought I would add a few more remarks on solar power in northern regions, by which I mean essentially everywhere the main power need is for cooling, not heating.
Even in areas as far south and hot as the Mohave, you only get around 0.25 of the maximum amount of summer power in the winter, due to the greater angle of the sun and longer hours of darkness. I will therefore use this factor of 4 in my arguments, although it should be noted that areas like the UK only actually get around a sixth of the summer power, mostly due to cloud cover, so a nominal 1kw installed in June might give around 150w of power on average through all the hours of the day and night, but in December gives a flow of around 30watts - so an expensive 5kw installation during Dec, Jan and Feb will only average around 150watts energy flow, which is why they need supplementing from the grid.
What makes things worse for cool climates is that peak use is in winter - for the UK at the lowest point on a summers day we might only need 20GW of power - we don't use air conditioning much.
At peak in the winter we use around 75GW.
That's roughly a four-fold increase in use.
This means that if we were to provide for all our needs with solar, we would need and installed capacity 4*6 of what we would actually use in the summer - as I said, not all areas are as cloudy, so to make our case for less cloudy areas in the north as well lets use four times as the generating difference.
So you install name plate of 16times minimum usage.
Even with the most generous estimates of cost declines, it would cost a fortune.
It should be noted that although costs have declined very rapidly in PV manufacture, most of the that fall is in production costs, and that future falls are likely to be less as installation and maintenance cost falls are not of the same order, and will represent an increasing proportion of future reduced costs.
Which is a fancy way of saying that the very fast decreases we have had won't go on forever.
If we use nuclear OTOH it is just as efficient in winter as summer, so you 'only' would have to build a factor of 4 over the minimum summer load, which it is a lot more reasonable to think could be partly absorbed by the production of hydrogen and so on when you had too much power.
More sensibly, you could top up with coal for the peak power requirements, but the difference again is a factor of four less topping up is needed for the nuclear as compared to the solar option.
For the much lower needs of the nuclear option then topping up with biomass is also much more practical.

Cyril R.

Dave may be right about solar in the UK. US is just a different story, which much more consistent output especially solar thermal in the desert southwest. Remember, total demand is lower in winter.

To show the scale of the problem: China has one of the most aggressive nuclear programs in the world. If all goes as planned they will have an extra few percent of the gridmix nuclear by 2020.

Globally, nuclear is important but for quite some to time to come it will be important rather at the margin.


Cyril, it is obvious from the speed of your response that you have not spent substantial time checking the links I gave, which is disappointing as it took me considerable work to find authoritative sources.
As for your point about subsidies, the required subsidy has been against coal and gas, not nuclear.
Gas supplies are tight and insecure, and they are getting tighter, and still produce considerable amounts of CO2
Coal is cheaper because it has had a free ride, belching out it's emissions over the landscape rather then being required to sequester them like the nuclear industry.
That is aside from CO2 emissions, and as others have noted in this thread sequestation is untested at best, and in fact improbable.
The costs are not that much higher than coal anyway, and any charge for carbon would bring them lower than coal.
This is the Royal Academy of Engineerings' comparison:
Although I mention possible future advances in nuclear power generation, my case is based firmly on what is practice right now, which can't be done for any of the renewable resources which always hypothecate decreasing costs with technical advances, although as you say the introduction of better fuel alone would vastly improve nuclear economics.
To compare current costs without any improvements, let's take the reactor being built in Finland:
As you can see, this is not an article which is prejudiced in favour of nuclear power!
Lets ignore the fact that this is the first of a design, and that the workforce is inexperienced. Let's also say that the cost overruns continue.
You come out with perhaps $6bn as the final cost for 1.6GW.
At a typical 90% capacity factor, to replace the UK's 33GW nameplate, 11GW actual with nuclear, you would need around 7 reactors.
So you come out with about £42bn, as against about the same amount for the wind option.
But what have you got for the money?
Reliable base-load, which will displace vast amounts of CO2,as against a resource which is going to come on when it feels like it, and for which incidentally we still have not budgeted the considerable amounts of back-up it would need, or a more extensive grid to improve availability.
As for your comment on my being pro nuclear, I go where the data takes me.
You have merely put a few, rather testy comments down, without apparently having studied the considerable substantiation I have offered - if you wish to properly critique my case, then it needs answering on its own terms and with back-up.
I would love it if you could demonstrate that renewables are likely to compete at all favourably with nuclear in other than for, for instance, peak load in the South-West.
To sum up:
Nuclear is far more competitive than renewables.
Subsidies are only needed against coal and gas - gas availability is doubtful, and the subsides against coal are only needed whilst it does not have to clear up properly, and if no charge is made for CO2 emissions.
If you wish to reply, I would hope that you and do so in a bit more pleasant a manner than that of your first post! :-)


Cyril, You are correct about solar in the South-West.
it's a different ball-game as maximum use is when most of the solar power is generated, so in my view it can certainly take care of peak use, and may with modest improvements in storage, mostly overnight, take care of base load.
That is very hopeful for a lot of hot countries, which is where most people in the world live, as I can certainly see solar playing a big role there.
As for the UK vs the US, even in the north of the US you have better sunshine than in the UK, mainly due to less cloud cover most places except the Great Lakes.
However, I based my case on an optimistic factor of four difference in diurnal sunshine, winter to summer, not the gloomy UK's factor of sixth, so my remarks should apply to northern areas of the US too.
I look forward to chatting with you about the conclusions I have reached if you have time to study the data more fully - the results surprised me too! - there are so many subsidies around it is difficult to arrive at proper costings, so it took a lot of work.
It should be noted that wind is a much better resource in the States than in the UK
but I did not have time to search for all the costings there, and am less knowledgeable on which are the authoritative sources.
The figures for the UK are so bad though I am not too optimistic on US costs, when subsidies are stripped out.
Those subsidies are on a different scale proportionally than anything for the nuclear industry, and in the UK often amount to more than the value of the electricity!
They promised me that if I bought the Brooklyn Bridge, I would get a discount on a second!


I should make it clear that the figures for wind I gave were based on UK figures for 2006 for off-shore wind, which is where the vast majority of the 33GW planned is scheduled to be built - we have limited suitable locations on-shore in the UK.
However, I used figures giving a projected cost decrease up to 2020, when in fact most of them should be built.
The relevant figures for those who would rather not go to the link are:
£1.6millionMW in 2006, rising to £1.75Million MW in 2011, and reducing to 89% of original cost in 2020(£1.28millionMW)
The figures for a 33GW off-shore fleet are:
£52.8bn, £57.75bn and £42.24bn
Onshore costs, 2006 figures only are £0.9millionMW. so 33GW would cost£29bn.
there are no proposals to build this much capacity on land, and the out-turn of how much is built would depend on opposition to land siting - I believe they are looking for around 7GW in the best case as being on land.
All these are installed, nameplate capacity figures, and using the same report's wind capacity figures, and bearing in mind that all the proposals are close inshore, not far out at sea where higher windspeeds are available, you should get utilisation of just under 30% on average.
By allowing foe an average generation form this fleet of 11GW I allowed a higher 33% utilisation, just for the sake of round figures and to make sure my case against this wind power alternative gave it every chance - the actual likely output is 9.9GW, not 11GW based on present data., therefore strictly speaking based on Finnish costs(projected) the likely cost of generating the same power by nuclear means would be around £21bn - I made an error in a previous post, and forget to convert dollar costs to pounds for the Finnish reactor, so I overstated costs of the nuclear option by a factor of around 2(blush!)
So the nuclear option even for an on-shore location is cheaper.
This does not take account of the fact that the costs of a nuclear reactor are amortised over 20years, but have a life-expectancy of 60years, so for the last 40years of their life they turn out power for the (low) cost of fuel, plus maintenance.
Wind turbines have a life expectancy of 20years.
The figures I have given, although they have some rough estimates of cable connection to the mainland, and most would be located fairly remotely, so the estimates I have seen for additional connection costs run at about £10bn, but I have no authoritative figures, which possibly will not be generated until precise locations are finalised.
Connection costs are minimal in the case of nuclear reactors being built, as the use of existing sites is proposed, although some upgrading may be needed.
I have not got figures for on-shore costs in the states.


Cyril, thinking amortisation issues through, the fact that nuclear reactors are amortised over 20years but last 60 effectively deals with your peak load point.
If an initial build was for peak load requirements, then you could, if you carried on building reactors at a slow pace, let's say for convenience 1 1GW reactor a year, then after 20years you have a 'spare reactor' for base load.
No problem, it is already amortised, so you can make an excellent profit running it part of the time, or using it to produce hydrogen or something when not needed for electricity.
If that was the intention you would be better off designing the reactor at the start with that in mind, either to be turned on and off or produce hydrogen.
In practise though, you would not need to for an initial build, as it makes no difference if you own both whether you turn off the old reactor or the new, so at the start of the build you could ignore this requirement, and only make a stop-start reactor or a hydrogen producing one after year 20.

Kit P

Nrgxprt, since you claimed expertise in the nuclear industry by stating “I too come out of the nuclear power industry” it is necessary to point out that you are clueless in the scientific areas that you are making claims about. Notice that I did not slam Tom G or even my favorite target E-P.

Based on what Nrgxprt, wrote I must repeat my statements that he is "completely clueless about nuclear physics and hazardous waste management." Point by point:

Nrgxprt wrote,

“Many of Yucca's opponents have successfully fought it because the law contains impossible standards.”

This is not true. The standards were easily to satisfy with a huge margin. Opponents have successfully argued in court that the 10,000 criteria set by congress was arbitrary.

Nrgxprt wrote, “Yucca is very much a human-made structure.”

Again, this is not true. YM is a very old and very well characterized geological formation. The robust waste canisters are placed 1000 feet below the surface and 1000 feet above ground water.

Nrgxprt wrote, “Can you prove those casks will still contain the waste 10,000 years from now?”

Yes, of course. Extensive studies of this geological formation have characterized the very low amount of surface water flow that would drip on the waste canisters causing them to corrode. the waste canisters or waste package will not start to leak for 30,000 – 40,000 years. However, regulation preclude taking credit for “man-made structures” so the modeling assumes the waste package fails relatively quickly. Since it still takes hundreds of thousand of years for the hazardous material to travel from the drifts to the nearest well, the standards are met because all but long live radioactive elements have decayed away and only very low activity elements in very low concentration remain.

Nrgxprt wrote, “You may be right about your theory ....”

This is not my theory. This information can be found in the Total System Performance Assessment (TSPA) at the DOE YM web site.

Nrgxprt wrote, “But you will never be able to prove it.”

There is no environmental regulation that requires proving anything. Nrgxprt can not prove that people will be living in Nevada ten years from now. Without electricity, there will not be very many there. I can prove that historically very few lived in the area where gound water from YM flows. However, the electricity generation industry must provide reasonable assurance that any risk from making electricity is insignificant. The people of Nevada provide their tacit approval because the rely on electricity to stay alive.

Nrgxprt wrote, “And I made no claims to having knowledge in that area ...”

Then can I assume this statement is a demonstration of your dishonesty?

Nrgxprt wrote, “I've heard some say buried waste could eventually come under such pressure and temp to start the chain, under the right circumstance, but it seems a stretch to me.”

Nrgxprt demand proof but wants us to consider things that he should know are physically impossible just because he heard it. Clueless or dishonest?

Nrgxprt wrote,

“But I'll be happy to debate you or anyone else about integrated resource planning anytime, anyplace.”

Fine then, let see how you do with a home court advantage. The last IRP that I read was from PacifiCorp. They took issue with California's plan to import LNG to make electricity to meet increasing demand. What is a good plan?


Nucbuddy - thanks for the link. I am not convinced that a laser propulsion system is superior to a rail gun to launch objects into orbit.

Also, the issue of sun pulverizing the waste and blowing it back to earth is rather bogus.

First, the waste can be made to enter the sun at an angle so that the blowback moves away in the opposite direction of the earth.

Second, the amount captured by the earth will be a millionth or so of the waste disposed. This amount will get lost in our own background radiation, if it ever finds itself to earth's surface.

3rd - as you say, it is easier to send it out of the solar system compared to sending it into the sun.

So I would think rail guns are a good solution for a permanent nuclear waste disposal.


Dave Mart writes:
Clee asked: 'What kinds of advances are they making?'(in waste storage)
Present Generation 111+ reactors like they are building in Finland and France will turn out a fraction of the waste previous reactors did - a new generation in the UK, for instance, would add by volume only around 10% extra to current waste stockpiles (mainly from weapons) over their 60 year lives.

I was hoping to learn what advances there were in waste storage, not waste reduction, though that's interesting too. Older (predecessor) reactors will still be producing more waste to add to their existing stockpiles for the remainder of their 60 year life.

Kit P

Clee, I like what they are doing at the existing two plant next to the new plant in Finland. The geological repository is adjacent to the existing reactors. Since the site is next to the ocean, leakage out of the geological repository is a moot point.

Waste can be mixed with glass. This is what they are going with the waste at Hanford. Glass is very stable. Vitrified waste could be stored in your drinking water supply, not that I would recommend that. Tell me what city your live and I will forward the idea to your dem leadership since they seem to think YM next to the Nevada test site.


I don't know why people think of this stuff as high level nuclear waste. For a fast neutron reactor this is FUEL, why not use it as such?


First off, I must say I am very impressed by the level of knowledge and the discourse here, including you Kit. I take offense of you concluding how clueless I am because of a few statements I made here, of course, and I will just note that I could easily do the same because of your incorrect use of punctuation, not to mention your syntax in this statement: "Nrgxprt demand proof but wants us to consider things that he should know are physically impossible just because he heard it." But debating such things are pointless.

Here's the basis of our disagreement: you believe, and I don't have to. You believe that studies are "proof." As one who's been reading and writing studies all day everyday for 30 plus years, including reading most if not all the Yucca studies, I'll just note that some studies turn out to be wrong. Remember those studies saying the Diablo Canyon area was seismically inactive? Turned out to be wrong.

I'm sure you are aware of past studies by the opposition finding evidence of previous subterranean water flows in the Yucca area. Obviously, either they are wrong or you are. I have both the pain and the luxury not to have an opinion on that, because I'm essentially paid to be stone cold neutral.

People need power now, and it's my job to figure out the cheapest and least-destructive way to get it to them. We do constant cost-benefit analyses, and nuclear just does not fit. Its costs are already the highest, and with an open-ended disposal cost, there's no way to truly compare it to other resources.

No matter how much we know about metallurgy, geology and hydrology, the only real proof is in performance, as I am sure you are aware. The one and only way you can prove a human-made cask will not leak for at least 30,000 years is to stick it in the ground and watch it for 30,000 years. And even then all you would prove is that one cask, at that location, during that particular time frame, did or did not leak. Everything else is theory. Unfortunately for nuclear proponents, all other resources can easily be tested through performance to find their real costs. Nuclear cannot.

Again, the problem is the standard. You seem to believe that because I merely point out that the standard is impossible to prove now that I must also believe the studies you refer to are wrong. I don't. If someone paid me to come up with an opinion on it, I would. But no one has. My reputation, and my value, is that I remain neutral in these hotly debated topics, and focus solely on actual costs. I will note that the European nations and Japan have already resolved this issue, and we have not, largely because of the differences in laws, ordinances, regulations and standards between our country and theirs.

If you've read the PacifiCorp study, then you almost certainly know my name. We've probably sat next to each other at some conference or hearing or another. It's a very small world in the energy bidness, as you know.

I was peripherally involved in some of the LNG studies in California, and I was surprised about its conclusions. But again, I don't have the luxury to devote time debating it. If someone wants to risk the capital to build an LNG terminal in SoCal or Baja, I see no problem with that as long as the ratepayers are not asked to foot the bill if it doesn't pan out as predicted. Same with nuclear, for that matter, but I think we both know that's not happening any time soon here in the US.

As I am also sure you know, IRPs are heavily politicized, especially on the West Coast. I'd have to think a bit about what would be a "good one," and I'm not sure it's worth my time to continue our discussion.

Perhaps if we can agree not to make conclusions about our relative knowledge or dishonesty, I could see value of continuing. Otherwise, I think I've put too much time into this already. I have a study to get out.


==When the French reuse the nuclear waste
By how may times does this bring down the
Mass of the waste any one know?==

Well first off, when storing waste.
The key issue isn't mass.
And it's not even volume either.
The limit to storage is temperature.

When the French "Reuse" their waste. They are primarily reusing the "chaff" U238.

Considering there's almost no temperature component to the U238. If you remove it, you really haven't done anything significant to change the temperature of the remaining waste.

The only benefit to doing this is that it reduces the mining you need to do for U238. Which isn't really that beneficial, since the mining is cheaper.



I don't think anyone answered my question about how much spent uranium is ending up as munitions - Paul, I was referring to depleted uranium bullets, which have become the standard anti-tank weapon of choice - not the reprocessing of depleted uranium for it's fissionables into nuclear bombs. I suppose that, given that the US has about 500,000 tonnes of the stuff, and the military has it's own waste, the waste stream from commercial reactors needn't directly go into DU munitions but it comes from somewhere and the amount of it is not minuscule.

Kit P

Ken, your question sounded rhetorical and political in nature so I did not think you were really interested in the answer. Natural uranium does not have very many uses aside from producing energy in reactors. So supply uranium with lower isotopic concentration of U-235 does exceed demand considerably.


JDT wrote: I would think rail guns are a good solution for a permanent nuclear waste disposal.

Please show your math.

For nuclear waste, a simple, quick, and easy disposal method would be to convert the waste into a glass — a technology that is well in hand — and simply drop it into the ocean at random locations. No one can claim that we don't know how to do that! With this disposal, the waste produced by one power plant in one year would eventually cause an average total of 0.6 fatalities, spread out over many millions of years, by contaminating seafood. Incidentally, this disposal technique would do no harm to ocean ecology. In fact, if all the world's electricity were produced by nuclear power and all the waste generated for the next hundred years were dumped in the ocean, the radiation dose to sea animals would never be increased by as much as 1% above its present level from natural radioactivity.
Paul F. Dietz

I don't think anyone answered my question about how much spent uranium is ending up as munitions - Paul, I was referring to depleted uranium bullets, which have become the standard anti-tank weapon of choice - not the reprocessing of depleted uranium for it's fissionables into nuclear bombs.

Depleted uranium does not come from spent nuclear reactor fuel, so I don't understand why you're bringing it up.


Nucbuddy, eh, if I had the math, would I be casually "thinking" ? LOL

The navy is testing ship born rail guns that can shoot rather heavy stuff 200 miles with quite some precision.

Thanks for thr pointer anyways.


nrgxprt: I have both the pain and the luxury not to have an opinion on that, because I'm essentially paid to be stone cold neutral.

Right on! Empiricological reasoning comes first and foremost (and always takes a lot of work). Rationalizations - well they are dime a dozen.


Clee said:
'I was hoping to learn about nuclear waste storage, not how much is produced'
Surely if you do not make as much, you reduce the problem greatly, so you are mitigating it by not having a storage issue in the first place?
Present reactors produce far less than previous ones, and it can be reduced massively again by reprocessing.
Reactors on the drawing board like the Fuji would further reduce waste by a factor of around 1000, and it seems to me that this has to be relevant to any discussion of waste disposal.
Dry cask storage is perfectly satisfactory anyway, and we can certainly design future reactors to burn this small remainder.
So, since the 'problem' is held to be long term, we have satisfactory strategies at the moment for containment and we can plan for it's complete elimination in the medium term , I really can't see how the issue could be dealt with any more effectively.
If you were to hypothesise that you wanted to totally clear up the legacy of the coal industry, then you would really have a problem, as the volume of waste is millions of times greater!


nrgexpert said:
'People need power now, and it's my job to figure out the cheapest and least-destructive way to get it to them. We do constant cost-benefit analyses, and nuclear just does not fit. Its costs are already the highest, and with an open-ended disposal cost, there's no way to truly compare it to other resources.'
I would be interested in seeing the figures on which you base this claim.
I have extensively documented here the costings for Britain compared to other resources.
Of course that is not for the US, but the differences are so large that they seem to be robust for all area except for the case of solar in the South West, and possibly some input from wind in certain areas in the States.
With those exceptions nuclear is far cheaper than any other resource save coal and gas.
In the case of gas, where are you going to get reliable cheap supplies from in the future?
For coal, it is cheap because it pays little for its wastes -huge amounts of uranium, for a start, are simply blown around the country through its smoke stacks.
So two different standards are used for the two industries, and then it is hardly surprising if the one with lower standards comes out apparently cheaper, as it has successfully passed most of its costs on to the general community.
That is without considering carbon dioxide.
Any charging for this would reverse the costs, and show nuclear as much cheaper than coal, whilst the difference with gas should be much reduced if not eliminated.
As for the argument about open-ended disposal costs, I assume that you are talking about waste, since decommissioning costs are built in.
The costs of storage are perfectly calculable, and modest.If you wanted a hundred percent costing, then you could budget for a couple of reactors charged with burning waste, which would likely be more expensive but need consist of only a small percentage of the reactor fleet.
I have no idea what the standards are in the US, but if effectively you are trying to build the equivalent of the unsinkable ship, then of course it is not possible to do so in a cost effective manner.
The only was I can see that nuclear could be held not to be cost effective is if the dice were so heavily loaded against it in the first place that no other result is possible.
I await your detailed figures with considerable interest.
Put simply, you appear at least to have allowed nothing for carbon dioxide emissions.


GreyFlcn said:
'When the French "Reuse" their waste. They are primarily reusing the "chaff" U238.

Considering there's almost no temperature component to the U238. If you remove it, you really haven't done anything significant to change the temperature of the remaining waste.'

If storing the higher temperature waste were a great problem you would have a point, but it isn't.
They simply put it in cooling tanks for a number of years.
It seems to me that if you reduce the volume then you make life easier, and in any case if we are going to use nuclear for a substantial proportion of our energy needs then using fuel more effectively is beneficial.

It is interesting in this respect that the British Government Chief scientist recently said that we could power our entire projected new build for nuclear for the entire life of the reactors, 60 years, simply by reusing the waste everyone is so concerned about!
Sounds more like a resource than waste to me!

You raise an interesting point though - most of the alleged 'problems' with nuclear have not been solved because it is not worthwhile to do so at this point.
If we use nuclear for much more of our energy, then the addition of a couple of reactors charged with burning the remaining waste is surely feasible at that point.

Kit P

Let me make a general statement about the safety and environmental impact of producing energy. When I was matriculating in a masters program in environmental engineering, my focus was reducing the environmental impact of producing energy using tools such as life cycle analysis, design for the environment, and industrial ecology. The amount of hazardous waste has been reduced dramatically and it turns out to be very good business. US regulation make handling and treating hazardous waste very expensive.

One example, I found out while studying that a facility near where I lived was one of my counties 'worst polluters.' A few years later I did some consulting for them. Over a period of 10 years, this manufacturing facility had gone from producing one product with multiple waste streams to producing three products with no waste streams.

The there are the dishonest folks like Nrgxprt who claim to be neutral. Using 'Community Right To Know' data the above facility was painted in a very unfavorable light using old data and misrepresentations. How many here think weak solutions of ammonia going to the sewer is a cancer risk to the community?

Nrgxprt may impress folks like JDT who exclaim “Right on!” but it is city, county, state, and federal officials and regulators that must be impressed.

Cyril R.

To sum up: Nuclear is far more competitive than renewables.

With new nuclear project costs in the US subsidized as much as 80%, the word "competitive" simply does not apply by definition.

If the US wants to make a gesture to emphasize the strategical importance of nuclear power for the US, then a 10% subsidy or something would be OK. 80 percent is not. Why? Because this causes untransparency in true unsubsidized costs. These are commercial projects, among other things meant to demonstrate the competitiveness of new nuclear powerplants. 80 percent subsidies for a promising research project is OK if you ask me, but with commercial powerplants it's totally different. Such levels of subsidies are unjustified because they cloak the true economics of new nuclear powerplants in a liberal setting - exactly what we must find out.

If private investors want to put their money in new nukes, fine. It's their money after all. But the govt has to justify it's subsidies. There's only so much govt money and they have to spend it where it counts the most.

Well then, my point is that several end use efficiency approaches as well as nuclear uprating (perhaps MIT's grannular fuel but others as well that are easier to implement) often yield better results quicker. That makes large govt subsidies for new commercial nuclear powerplants unjustified. When diminishing returns in improvements in end use efficiency and uprating older nukes cause new nuclear powerplants to be on pair, then such large subsidies in commercial powerplants might be more justifiable.

We have not yet reached that point.


I am not familiar with your system of subsidies in the US, nor with costings against other sources, which essentially is what subsidies compensate for.
I would agree that if in fact you need an 80% subsidy then it is not worthwhile.
Have you got a link to show this?
I do know that the reactor being built in Finland is likely to come out costing around $6bn for 1.6GW, that it is a first build and that that is cheaper than anything but gas and coal.
Gas is scarce and comes from unreliable suppliers, and also contributes to GW. while coal puts out even more CO2.
Sequestration looks like a non-starter and wind power costs around twice as much as the nuclear option for an unreliable resource, so I can't really see a practical alternative to nuclear if GW is held to be likely.
I'm getting together a blog to set some of these things out - so far I have just posted UK wind costs, but plan articles on solar resource, conservation and nuclear options.
When I can figure out how I will link to this site.
Until then any criticism or comment welcome:


Cyril, if I plug the figures for the Finnish plant into your favoured levelised cost way of reckoning at a 90% utilisation which is fairly typical of a plant now , we come out with a figure for the plant amortised over 25years of around $0.035kwh, add an extra cent for running costs and fuel, and you might be talking about $0.045kwh.

Whilst that may be a bit dearer than coal or gas, I can't for the life of me see why you would need an 80% subsidy on those figures.

You are then left with a plant that will churn out power for another 35years at 1c a kw - not too bad!

Levelised cost:
Solar thermal energy - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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