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January 31, 2008



The wind cost figure I gave was from the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), which is funded by investor-owned utilities. It is only for the Western U.S. and Canada, and we have found it to be accurate as far as the prices wind-farm owners are offering (as low as 3.1 cents/kWh at night recently). You'll find their studies at epri.com

DOE's levelized cost estimate for wind is considerably higher, around 7 cents/kWh I believe (don't quote me on that one), which I believe generally reflects the fact that the Eastern U.S. has much less wind resources. But way out West, its much cheaper than that.

The big problem here with wind is avian mortality, and California presently has a moratorium for building new turbines at the two largest existing wind parks until the bird kill issue is resolved. Other parks are still expanding rapidly, and almost all the older turbines have recently been replaced with newer more efficient ones.

Kit P

Cyril wrote,

“Kit - start reading my posts.”

I would like to read how you came up with the figure of 80%. I think your numbers are wrong.

Speaking of wrong numbers nrgxprt has been busy again

Levelized Cost of Electricity Generation by Resource Type

(cents per kwh)
8.68 – 10.22 CC
9.10 – 11.83 advanced nuclear
10.98 – 14.36 dairy biomass
6.56 – 7.58 binary geothermal
6.14 – 8.42 wind
31.83 – 59.96 SC

DaveMart keep in mind these are California numbers where the cost of doing business is very expensive compared to other parts of the US. Your link to wind power helps explain some of the cost associated with getting the electricity 1000 miles from where it is not needed to California.


Kit, thanks for the link - it is useful, but I can't find on their site any indication of what assumptions they are using, which makes a vast difference to any consideration of levelised costs.

Here is a link that Cyril gave me for his 80% subsidy:
Technology Review: Nuclear Energy Revs Up

Cyril R.

Cyril, I don't read that as a subsidy of 80% of total cost, just a guarantee against cost increase due to legislative changes and such.

The technology review article made it quite clear. The numbers make it clear too. I can't imagine these are typos.

At my rather high estimate of $6br for a 1.6GW reactor, and 89% subsidy would mean you got a reactor for $1.2bn, and I think at that price they would be going up like crazy all over the country!

But that's not the point! Some of the points are:

* Discounting. There's a huge difference between 5% discounting and 15% so just knowing the capital costs alone is not enough.

* Government's task should not be to almost completely finance any build. It should be to provide the right framework. For example, putting a value on the CO2. And fast and efficient legislation procedures. Perhaps also stimulate and speed up new transmission expansions. In the context of globalisation and internationalisation it is highly dubious that very high direct subsidies would be needed just to get the US nuclear construction industries up and running. In fact it shouldn't even be necessary. We don't pruduce various fruits because these can be produced in China much more competitively. We do produce a lot of corn as this can be produced very competitively. It's a globalized symbiotic exchange. This works. Forcing change often does not work, and even when it does it will likely be sub-optimal and can actually do more harm than good, especially in the long run (e.g. higher inflation).

Seriously, why bother taking unnecessary risks with something so crucial as electricity? CANDUs offer some advantages over LWRs in the US, and are ready for large scale deployment. With recent cost rises in LWRs there should be similar (or better) economics.

I would hate for Big Politics to get in the way of the best solutions. Again.


Yep, re-reading that link made me realise that you seem to be right - the reason I thought perhaps it was not the case it that it seemed so daft!

I have always liked Candu technology, and strongly support it.

On another subject I have recently found data which indicates that wind power is a far better resource for the UK than I had previously imagined:

This is a report commissioned by the Government and indicates that in the UK at least wind tracks demand very well indeed.

That throws a totally different light on costs, as it means less back-up and more availability.

It would also make wind power and nuclear power far more compatible, as it would take much more of the peak and far less of the base load requirements than I had thought.

They also give good estimates on how much more back-up would be required, and of grid connection costs.

In the northern parts of the US at least similar wind distribution patterns appear likely, and also grid connections.

You also have far more possibilities than in the UK to put your turbines on land, and better wind resources generally so the economics look far better than I had thought.


Poor Kip. Just can't get anything right.

Those were last year's figures, and for IPP only. I noticed you neglected to list the lower prices for IOU and POU. Hmmm, some might say that's intellectually "dishonest." I'll also note that it still lists wind power as two-thirds the cost of nuclear, and that the price for "advanced nuclear" (none of which exist yet in the U.S., so it's obviously an estimate) is pretty much exactly the same as the average IOU retail rate in California. Guess our rates will have to go way up as we shift to nuclear, eh?

Mine are the projected future prices, which are the only prices that matters in planning.

Really Kip, you should spend more time trying to find a clue, rather than bloviate about how stupid everyone else is.


My apologies for the intellectual dishonesty accusation: Kip did give the range of prices off that sheet, for IPP, IOU and POU, and did not cherry pick the lowest price as I had first thought.

My other criticisms still stand. Those are outdated data.

Kit P

Cyril, you do understand that the technology review article is wrong? A journalist made a mistake describing the loan guarantee program. Since you did not believe what I wrote before, here it is from a different source.


This is what is being said at NEI, “ ...under the loan guarantee program authorized in the Energy Policy Act of 2005. The legislation empowers the Secretary of Energy to provide loan guarantees for up to 80 percent of the cost of “innovative technologies” that “avoid, reduce or sequester air pollutants or anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases.”

The loan guarantees are not an actual appropriation and, therefore, do not represent an outlay of taxpayer dollars when the clean-energy projects are successfully completed. They are designed to boost investor confidence and allow worthy projects to move ahead with debt financing on more reasonable terms that ultimately will lower the overall cost of electricity generated by those projects.”

DaveMart, you are correct about not finding the assumptions that the levelized cost are based on. This why you must be careful about comparing cost. I plugged the same design/location of dairy farm biomass into a business plan for a merchant plant and for a PUD. The results were different for the cost electricity. I also did technical review for similar projects in California which were again much higher. Each project must stand on it own merits and what the customer wants.

There are numerous causes for cost being higher in California. When I worked in California, used lube oil was considered hazardous waste by regulations. What physically happens to the lube oil is the same in any state. In California, there is lots more expensive paper work.


Quoth nrgxprt:

Nuclear plants do incur extra cost because of public opposition, but so does every other major power plant.
Name the other technology which had near-zero construction in the USA for ~3 decades, largely because of pressure-group opposition.
Just take a look at the organized opposition to the planned off-shore wind farm near Cape Cod.
It seems to be mostly an old boy's club headed by one fat rich guy who keeps getting re-elected to the Senate because his constituents like pork and influence more than they hate corruption.  Hasn't stopped 5 GW from going up elsewhere in 2007.

The California problem is due more to institutional idiocy.  Replacement of old turbines (e.g. Altamont pass) is blocked by a committee demanding information on bird kills, when experience already exists to show that newer, bigger turbines would be a big improvement.  But if the committee just signed off (even on a demonstration set), they'd lose all their importance and power.  In a sane world, the penalty for this would begin at spending time in a carnival dunk tank and escalate through time in stocks in front of city hall, with firing squads for the most egregious cases.

And rather than seeing a reduction in its effectiveness in the future, the more we look at DSM, the more possibilities we see for cost-effective solutions.
We have a whopping amount of energy demand that needs to be transferred from e.g. petroleum motor fuels to electricity.  DSM is essential, but it only goes so far.
Until and unless we see decreasing returns on our investment in DSM, I see no reason to pursue any other strategy to address greenhouse gas production.
Will DSM replace the ~2000 TWH/yr of power from coal, AND the ~800 TWH/yr from natural gas?  Will it get rid of the carbon emissions from both fixed and mobile petroleum and natural gas consumption?  Looks to me like about 30% of US electric consumption comes from non-GHG emitting sources; 70% is a huge gap to cover with DSM even before you start electrifying transport.

For an energy expert, you don't seem to have considered too many implications.

Kit P

“Name the other technology which had near-zero construction in the USA for ~3 decades, largely because of pressure-group opposition.”

E-P's underlying assumption is wrong. The reason construction slowed for new coal and nuclear plants is that base load plant capacity was over built because demand for electricity did not increase as fast as predicted in the 60s. About 1/3 of the nuke plants canceled before TMI.

When new plants were needed, natural gas was an easy economic choice and faced much less challenges from activists but there was still significant legal battle to build gas plants especially in California. It may not get the headlines the anti-nukes get but all plants that do not understand the legal process will fail.

The problem with natural gas comes in the opposition to developing new sources. As E-P suggests, DSM will only go so far. Also every resource planning document accounts for DSM.

“For an energy expert, you don't seem to have considered too many implications.”

Notice how nrgxprt avoids the topic of importing LNG to make electricity in California. nrgxprt is not an energy expert, he is a professional anti-nuke.


"All countries need to follow Germany's example."

Are you refering to their rapidly expanding use of coal power or their expensive, highly subsidized wind turbines that need to be backed up with several times nameplate capacity in natural gas turbines/hydro?

Tom Arnberg

To the blog author: I can asssure you my blog is not "comment spam". It is a scholarly work, but if you object to some aspects, as being against the blog's policy, please advise me and I will edit it.

Tom Arnberg

Energy blog-Post#1
Future generations
bigTom January 31, 2008 at 01:36 PM
“I think it's immoral to burden future generations with the costs of our energy use today.”
This message is being repeated in various ways as part of the latest anti-nuclear assault by the environmentalist fringe. A common tactic is to repeat a little truth, but not the whole truth, and thus mislead the reader. The approach is all the more effective when it comes from people respected because of their elevated degrees (PhD, etc.), or high level positions held (e.g. S. David Freeman states, ‘The law should require that a gradual retirement of coal and nuclear [plants] be completed in thirty years.’ “Winning our Energy Independence {an Energy Insider SHOWS HOW}, 2007, Gibbs Smith publisher, page 17; Freeman was head of the TVA under the Carter Administration when the Clinch River Breeder Reactor program was cancelled.) Let us select one on the many instances of the use of this tactic, which is directly related to big Tom’s introductory sentence (above). Words similar to the following:
“The time of peak radiation can occur millions of years in the future.”
This is a true statement; the truth, but not the whole truth, and it is totally misleading. The “true” part is that the radiation from each isotope in the decay chain will reach a maximum (peak) at some time, which may be millions of years in the future. The reason for this is simple physics. If the decay chain produces a particular isotope faster than it decays (because of their differing ‘half-lives’) then the mass of that isotope will increase (and the corresponding radiation from that isotope will increase) up to the peak. When the isotope is no longer being created faster than it decays, its mass and radiation will decrease. What the statement does not say is that the total radiation will continuously decrease, very rapidly, even when viewed on a graph using logarithmic scales. The curve is a function of many variables, such as reactor type, the make-up of the fuel, etc. Of the many graphs “out there” my favorite is by Brett T. Mattingly using data from Zhiwen Xu, 2003 The graph shows the peak for Uranium-238 to occur at about 2 million years, and the peak for Neptunium-237 to occur at about 6 million years. At this time the total radiation from the used nuclear fuel is about 20 Curies per Metric Tonne of Heavy Metal (MTHM, which includes the entire fuel element along with its casing). The approximate radioactivity of the used fuel element when removed from the reactor was about 3 million Curies per MTHM. This indicates that the total radioactivity of the Spent Nuclear Fuel (SNF) is about 0.000007 of its radioactivity when removed from the reactor, and furthermore, it is continuing to decrease rapidly. This is the “great flare-up” that they are referring at the time that Np-237 reaches its “peak of radiation”.
I read values from Mattingly and Xu’s graph and plotted curves of total radiation and radiation from the isotope Americium-241 using uniform scales. Total radiation decreases very rapidly, as you would expect, and the radiation from Am-241 builds up from near zero to a peak of about 64% of the total radiation at 400 years, and then drops to about 2% of the total radiation at 1000 years. This build up of Am-241 in the used nuclear fuel presents a major problem in the reprocessing and recycling to close the fuel cycle (and take advantage of the 95% of the SNF that can be made into new reactor fuel, called MOX). The problem is that Am-241 does not readily capture neutrons, so it is difficult to eliminate from the SNF. Consequently, for up to 1000 years after removal from the reactor, Am-241 contributes undesired radiation to the used nuclear fuel.
Instead of developing special reactors to “burn” the Americium and other “actinides”, wouldn’t it be nice if we could make use of this special property, i.e. the near immunity from deterioration by neutrons in the reactor. If we plated the neutron reflector, or the interior surface of the steel reactor vessel, with Americium-241, thereby protecting it from radiation, perhaps they could reach the 100 year reactor life they desire for optimum economics of nuclear power plants.
Tom Arnberg

Tom Arnberg

I guess I am doing something wrong, or my post is otherwise unacceptable. I finally got it attached above, only to find it gone a few hours later. Will I receive any feedback on why?
Tom Arnberg

Tom Arnberg

My post is back. Thank you. Now if I receive encouraging feedback, I will write a comment on the "popular" subject of climate change, and the relationship of this subject to nuclear power.
Tom Arnberg

Tom Arnberg

Energy blog-Post#2
Do We Need Yucca Mountain?
Disposal of waste is by far the greatest question facing nuclear plants.
Posted by: Ken | January 31, 2008 at 04:21 AM
“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.”
Yes, we do need Yucca Mountain.
No, we should not use Yucca Mountain for “interim storage”, i.e. to hold it for later reprocessing. That would be excellent from a security point of view. However, back in the 1980s the DoE specified that the spent nuclear fuel (SNF) should be stored so that it could be “monitored” and “retrievable”, thus the “Monitored Retrievable Storage facility” (MRS), came into being. It would be very cumbersome and costly to use the Yucca Mountain repository for this purpose, and Ken’s suggestion would be the best for an MRS.
However, a look at security would be in order. This is a very sensitive subject, obviously, and I get the impression that the people in charge of the nation’s security would prefer that it not be discussed. But the anti-nuclear people are not bashful about publishing volumes of material on the subject, as their position is that nuclear plants should be shut down because of the “waste problem”. They point out the vulnerabilities of canisters stored in clusters above ground.
On the matter of reprocessing and recycling, (separate from “interim storage”), history has been controversial. It is confusing when “experts” speak out on both sides of an issue. I agree with Senator Pete Domenici, R-NM: “The bottom line is that by taking out the uranium (95.6 percent) left in the spent nuclear fuel, burning the plutonium (0.9 percent) as fuel in a light water or high-temperature gas reactors, transmuting the long-lived fission products iodine and technetium (0.1 percent) and fissioning the long-lived actinides (0.1 percent), the volume and radio toxicity of wastes that must be emplaced in a geologic repository will be significantly reduced [to 3.3%].”
The troublesome Americium-241 that I discussed in my blog#1, was not mentioned. This isotope contributes 64% of the radioactivity after 400 years from the time it is removed from the reactor. My suggestion was that its special properties (virtual immunity from transmutation) should make it ideal as a neutron reflector or shield in a nuclear reactor. It is presently separated in small quantities for use in smoke detectors.
Another component of “waste from nuclear power plants” is Iridium, which has marvelous characteristics as an alloying element for steel, imparting hardness and corrosion resistance. It is not economical at this time, but may become valuable and competitive at some time in the future.
As Steve Kidd said, “Don’t say it is waste [SNF] until you are sure about this.” {Head of Strategy & Research at the World Nuclear Association; COMMENT, NEI Magazine, 17 March 2004.}
The economics of recycling has changed rapidly with the recent skyrocketing price of uranium ore (yellow cake). Whereas MIT emphatically recommended continuation of the “once through – open cycle” for nuclear fuel in their 2003 report (use it once and throw it away), indications are that “recycling – closed cycle” became competitive by 2006. President Bush’s 2005 energy plan, and the related Global Nuclear Energy Partnership, pertaining to recycling of SNF, appears to be a plan “whose time has come”.
In conclusion: Definitely store the SNF securely, so that it can be monitored, recoverable for reprocessing, and ideally at a reasonable cost. Recycling to recover fuel for nuclear power plants will become increasingly more competitive. Some day other components of SNF may become valuable and competitive. The Yucca Mountain Repository will be needed for the 3 to 4% of the waste from SNF that will remain, in addition to the high level waste from the weapons programs.
Tom Arnberg

Kit P

If the congress allowed my engineering company to make a profit from the large pot of money that rate payers have given the government for the task the protecting the public (forever) from the hazards of spent nuclear fuel, the job would have been done 20 years ago. There are many good engineering solutions, pick one and get on with it. It is not all that hard.

I will give you an example. When I relocated for my job, the company allowed my wife and I five days on expenses to find a place to new live. We used all five days and found a place to live. Another time and another company, I was allowed 30 days in a 4 star hotel.

When Bill Clinton was president, I worked on Yucca Mountain. I am an expert of expensive hotels in Las Vegas. The decision for YM was on Bill Clinton's desk. It was an easy engineering decision but a hard political choice. George Bush made the decision.

One of the unintended consequences of the anti-nuke political battle is that every commercial nuke plant as licensed on site storage. Do we need YM to build new nukes. No. The legal question has been answered. Anti-nuke nukes can say whatever they want in public meeting and hearings but the regulations are now in place.

Bob Wallace

"There are many good engineering solutions, pick one and get on with it. It is not all that hard."

One major problem is that there is a significant disconnect between "good engineering solutions" and real world implementation.

Too often good engineering solutions are jettisoned due to greed or incompetitance.

Part of a tunnel falls in, one person gets killed.

A bridge is poorly maintained, a handful of people die.

Stuff happens. And stuff happens in the nuclear industry. Nuclear has a track record.

But the potential for major hurt is a lot larger in the nuclear industry than in essentially any other interprise.

People, in general, don't trust the nuclear industry. And there's a reasonable basis for that mistrust.

Tom Arnberg

Energy Blog Post#5 (#3 and #4 seem to be lost)
What is wrong with the suggestion that we greatly increase nuclear power, thereby greatly reducing carbon dioxide input to the atmosphere, and possibly avoid triggering (tipping theory) a climate change disaster? Some anti-nuclear activists say it is too late for nuclear power to “save the day”. This, after they have done everything in their power to hinder and obstruct nuclear power expansion for the last 50 years. They back instead the “renewable energy sources”, solar, wind, biomass, geothermal, etc. Realistically, these could not make a small fraction of the impact that nuclear can make. Unlike the renewables, nuclear technology is proven, not in the prototype stage
By all means, implement efficient cars, appliances, etc. And in-so-far as the “renewables” are really cost effective, and energy effective (generate much more power than they consume) they too should be implemented. [For example, flexible, thin-film photovoltaic panels promise a 10x decrease in cost by utilizing rotary printing press technology.] But boondoggles like ethanol should be stopped. A massive movement to expand large scale nuclear power, development of small scale nuclear plants, and especially co-generation nuclear power plants (hydrogen production, desalinization of brackish and salt water, and generation of steam for petroleum production from tar sands) should go forward as quickly as possible [Manhattan Project style]. OK gals and guys. I know the battle-lines are already drawn, and it has become more religious warfare than science, but please comment!

Gamal-Omar Soliman

Oap!! Waht are the world doing ?first Israel
uprate the power for Nahal Swareek and Dimona
So We are Egypt make smaller atomic bombs
in our small research reactor breaking the Godiva
for the critial radius= 8cm,
the critical mass = 571.39 gm for
the critical power >>>27.26 MW
Egyptian nuclear engineer: Gamal-Omar Soliman

Gamal-Omar Soliman

Let you know, Our problem now in Egypt is to
overcome the nuclear explosion ?? is medium dependant as the explosion products is soft
x-ray, hard x-ray and shock wave by conrolling
the medium properties, lower ionizaion potenial, lower extremely pressure to provide
no true fire-ball ,charge transfer collision
and intersystem-crossing we are egypt prevent
the nuclear explosion!!Its our world today
Egyptian nuclear Engineer: Gamal-Omar Soliman

Gamal-Omar Soliman

Iran very happy by its centrifugal enrichement
but!! We are Egypt have got the calutron enrichement nuclear weapon: is 148'' cycloron-
mass spectrometer device in which ionized uranium gas is accelerated in electric field
by magnetic current and the massive particles
U-235 is travelled in larger arc where collected in uranium carbide plate ,The U-235
separated in one through pass
Egyptian nuclear engineer: Gamal-Omar Soliman

Potassium Chloride

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I didn't even know what Yucca Mountain was before this...

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this is a tricky subject, I hope they don't do anything that is going to endanger any of us.

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It'd definitely be preferential to store the waste somewhere else.

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Haha, I can't help but laugh at some of the people on this site and their debates.

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It says planned repository, so does that mean we are using this area?

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Disposal of nuclear waste is a huge problem, I think before we start jumping in and making plants everywhere we really need to
think about long term storage and possible environmental effects of this.

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I'm a bit confused, is Yucca Mountain actively storing waste yet? Or was this just an idea.

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It's definitely better to store the waste near the plants I would think.

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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.

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