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The Self-Limiting Future of Nuclear Power, Part 1

By Joe Romm  

"The Self-Limiting Future of Nuclear Power, Part 1"


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My analysis on nuclear power for the Center for American Progress Action Fund is finally finished and online here. I think you will find it useful because it has many links to primary sources and tries to avoid the typical discussions by nuclear proponents and opponents, focusing instead on the rapidly escalating cost of nuclear power.


My point in this paper is not to say nuclear power will play no role in the fight to stay below 450 ppm of atmospheric CO2 concentrations and avoid catastrophic climate outcomes. Indeed, I even include a full wedge of nuclear in my 14-wedges “solution” to global warming here — though as will be clear from the study, “The Self-Limiting Future of Nuclear Power,” achieving even one wedge of nuclear will be a very time-consuming and expensive proposition, probably costing $6 to $8 trillion.

Fundamentally, the large and growing risks from climate change, particularly the real danger that failure to act NOW means we will approach a horrific 1000 ppm by century’s end (see here), means two things:

  1. We must seriously entertain any strategy that can significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
  2. We must focus on the lowest-cost options first, because we simply don’t have an unlimited amount of capital.

My primary point in this paper is to shatter the widespread myth among conservatives — and others — that nuclear power will be a dominant solution to global warming. No. It is extremely unlikely to even be 10% of the total solution. This is particularly true in the United States, where we have so many more cost-effective alternatives NOW, as I explain in the paper, including energy efficiency, wind power, solar photovoltaics, and concentrated solar power.

Here is the executive summary of the report:

Nuclear power generates approximately 20 percent of all U.S. electricity. And because it is a low-carbon source of around-the-clock power, it has received renewed interest as concern grows over the effect of greenhouse gas emissions on our climate.

Yet nuclear power’s own myriad limitations will constrain its growth, especially in the near term. These include:

  • Prohibitively high, and escalating, capital costs ƒ
  • Production bottlenecks in key components needed to build plants ƒ
  • Very long construction times ƒ
  • Concerns about uranium supplies and importation issues ƒ
  • Unresolved problems with the availability and security of waste storage ƒ
  • Large-scale water use amid shortages ƒ
  • High electricity prices from new plants ƒ

Nuclear power is therefore unlikely to play a dominant–greater than 10 percent–role in the national or global effort to prevent the global temperatures from rising by more than 2°C above preindustrial levels.

The carbon-free power technologies that the nation and the world should focus on deploying right now at large scale are efficiency, wind power, and solar power. They are the lower-cost carbon-free strategies with minimal societal effects and the fewest production bottlenecks. They could easily meet all of U.S. demand for the next quarter -century, while substituting for some existing fossil fuel plants. In the medium-term (post-2020), other technologies, such as coal with carbon capture and storage or advanced geothermal, could be significant players, but only with a far greater development effort over the next decade.

Progressives must also focus on the issue of nuclear subsidies, or nuclear pork. Conservative politicians such as Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) and other nuclear power advocates continue to insist that new climate legislation must include yet more large subsidies for nuclear power. Since nuclear power is a mature electricity generation technology with a large market share and is the beneficiary of some $100 billion in direct and indirect subsidies since 1948, it neither requires nor deserves significant subsidies in any future climate law.

The full report is here.

Related Posts:

‹ Ten Industry Arguments Against Action on Global Warming … and Why They Are Wrong

Nukes, Part 1.5: Nuclear Bomb ›

57 Responses to The Self-Limiting Future of Nuclear Power, Part 1

  1. Colin Beavan says:

    Hi Joe–
    There also the fact that the nuclear industry cannot get insurance above a certain level. If the market won’t insure it, that’s a free market signal that the technology is not ultimately safe.

    Hey, the thing I want to know, though, is how long until we hear from you on Markey’s iCap?
    All the best,

  2. Robert says:

    Energy conservation is more important than energy efficiency. There is a subtle difference.


    Energy efficiency suggests BAU, whereas energy conservation allows for some sort of retreat from our current ridiculous “affluenza” lifestyles.

  3. silence says:

    The PDF at http://www.americanprogressaction.org/issues/2008/pdf/nuclear_report.pdf has such messed up formatting as to be unreadable. You’ll want to fix this.

  4. Joe says:

    Silence — it works for me in both IE and Firefox. Anybody else have problems?

    Robert — you need ‘em both. I’d say they are both equally important.

  5. John Hollenberg says:

    PDF opens fine for me in Firefox on Win XP.

  6. You got my attention with $6-8 trillion for a partial solution.

    As a benchmark, the Federal Reserve Board’s Flow of Funds report shows that the aggregate net worth of all households and non-profits is about $58 trillion. http://www.federalreserve.gov/releases/z1/Current/z1r-5.pdf at Table B.100, Line 41 The Fed’s triennial survey of household finances (latest available year 2004) naturally has a number in the lower 50s for households only. Don’t assume there are other big pockets of wealth, because most land and corporate stock is ultimately owned by households (or the Harvard endowment). Annual GDP is about $14 trillion.

    As important as I think it is for us to “tread lightly” on the environment, it is also important to “tread lightly” on the economy. Where is your plan on the economic feasibility continuum from readily affordable to LOL fantasy?

  7. Peter Foley says:

    Joe, Joe, repeating a falsehood doesn’t increase its truthfulness, just its truthiness.

    1. High capital costs? as more companies compete to build ever more common Nuke plants they’ll get cheaper just like guns, cars, airplanes etc….
    2. What bottlenecks? Iron is one of the few elements more common then Uranium. Surely the US can build a very large forge for containment vessels if NEEDED. Just how did we build all those old plants that litter the country side? I’m still waiting for the solar cells that cash flow.
    3.Long permit times do NOT equal long construction times. As monkey copy plants are chosen permit times could drop to near zero.

    4. Uranium shortage? This is the BIGGEST BIG LIE, Uranium is 35 times as common as silver, and there is always plan T, thorium, even your granite counter top has some uranium.

    5.Security problems, after 60 years have you any proof of large scale loss of life or waste? Nine years ago I could of drove on any plant storage site and stole some used fuel,—any proof that it has happened? More die from being run over by coal trains yearly then have ever died from civilian nuke power in the US.

    As soon as congress grows a pair the nuke waste problem is over. Used up salt mines and a little concrete.

    6.What water shortage? It is a mile deep over 71% of the surface of the Planet. Another ‘BIG LIE’. You keep promising 80 feet more water, then in the same paragraph say there is a shortage. Pick one only please.
    They don’t use much more water then a coal plant and they don’t puke out mercury over the countryside. And no ashes

    7. Higher then the ‘old’ plant that are paid off yes, higher then plants built with $250 a ton steel and $40 yard concrete with $15.00 per hour labor, yes. But cheaper than part time solar or wind (that still requires 100% back conventional power plants.)
    But ‘high’ cost 24/7 power is much cheaper then brown/blackouts.

  8. Jay Alt says:

    Here is some recent news from the UK. The cost estimate to close 19 of their nuclear stations rose to 73 billion pounds in January. And British experts say that figure is probably now too low.

    I get power from one of the most expensive nuclear plants ever built in the US. It was years late, the foundation had to be redone and many welds re-inspected. Then the company that ran did maintenance work without submitting safety plans. But it will cost the Brits more to close each of their plants than it did to build that project.


    I’ve lived with nuclear engineers as roommates, worked with them and later mentored some.
    And it is true that they don’t have the slightest idea how expensive it will be to clean up the things they build.

  9. Peter Foley says:

    Jay, locally we’ve decommissioned 3 reactors on or near campus, we’re using all three sites now. No big thing, Now life cycles can be 60+ years even further lowering demo costs. Even a wind mill costs more to lower then to raise. It would cost more than my house cost new then to tear it down now also.

    Why not build a “new” plant on the old grounds? Two birds one giga-pound.
    Every day even the blotched plant runs it gets cheaper.

  10. Jay Alt says:

    Peter, I doubt the Brits are worried about the costs associated with closing up puny research reactors.

    Perhaps you could put in a low bid of 70 billion pounds, pickup a mop and finish the job out at Sellafield

  11. Finnjor says:

    Have a look of the effect of price: I think price is the only solution. We must hope the scarcity of oil sets the price of energy let´s say double in two years, again double in four years and so on.

    We have only two issues we must take care of: food and health. Food and health we can manage with GDP 90 % lower as present. All other is vanity and luxury. We are going to see this fact within a decade.

  12. Todd McKissick says:

    Finnjor, While price increases would definitely spur more development it would still be misdirected. Today’s dollars are spent on only those technologies that do not threaten the entrenched interests in energy, namely PV, ethanol and Wind. They won’t spend a dime on solar thermal (CSP) or the others that are truly viable on all levels. I’ve been promoting CSP plants for 10 years and watched as the US bought into it’s development and then promptly sat on it. They even tried that with Spain’s development and delayed it for a couple years. Now that the rest of the world is installing them everywhere, the US is finally saying they ‘might’ be viable.

    Peter, You fail to see how the nuclear industry differs from others. With such stringent safety and security concern all the time, prices rise with increased demand. They don’t fall as with mass production. All the ‘expert’ skill level required in each position becomes increasingly rare and commands higher salaries from competition.

    Sure, U and T are plentiful all around us, but that’s like saying Hydrogen is too. Problem is that it’s not concentrated enough to just dig up a scoopful. To get a single pound (or is it an ounce??), you have to dig up around 30 tons of dirt. Then there’s a rigorous processing needed just to make it usable. If you don’t want to go that route, you can try in-situ mining which does permanently contaminate entire aquifers with many things, mercury included. However, it’s not the U shortage that will impact it’s use, it’s the U ‘production’ and delivery that will.

    On the water use issue, please research the difference between cooling tower quality TREATED fresh water and oceanic salt water. Comparing them to a coal plant is deceiving because your comparison disregards the fact that five 600 mw coal plants spread that water use out while a single 3 gw nuclear plant concentrates it on one river. France is having local disputes all over because the heated discharge water has permanently affected the local wildlife and marine life in their stream.

    My last point is that renewables can easily be integrated to match the shortage that already exists in the grid and can easily redirect their excess (if oversized) toward other time-independent loads so there’s little, if any, validity in the statement that they “still need 100% backup conventional power plants.”

    Appologies… I mistakenly posted my first nuclear related comment to the “Part 1″ of this series. I covered other issues in that one.

  13. Peter Foley says:

    Todd McKissick, If CSP was mature tech, other power systems would store power the same way– The person that invents a method of storing electrical power will make Bill Gates look poor.

    Safety demands have risen on air travel and autos while costs went down. True safety doesn’t require genius operators,–it is moron resistant. The nuclear ‘art’ will advance with more commercial plants in the USA,

    Uranium mining like all other mining will get cheaper as technology marches on–even wastage of valuable by-products will decrease.

    Sea water to drinking water reverse osmosis is only 900 dollars an acre foot now–400 gallons a dollar or compared to oil 10 cents a barrel.
    All other sources are cheaper–many places the heated water is a valued commodity. The are local water shortages, but they all are a result of poor planning (political misleadership) I live in a desert, and the damn government(taxpayers) won’t subsidise my stupidity anymore.

    If french commies can run Nuke plants with 35hr a week employees surely we can to.
    Any power plant, nuke, coal, solar, wind, etc.. will produce ‘waste’ heat.
    most AGWers = Anti-tech nut job.
    So building 400 % capacity windmills and a quadrupled grid net,(where is the environmental gain there?) you still have blackouts with slow/high speed wind events. Have you run even a basic simulation of an peninsular state like Florida with your ‘renewable’ powered ‘green’ grid? Talk about uninsurable.
    Solar is even more unreliable with cloud cover and the Earth’s seasonal tilt.
    Yes, we’ll still need 100% back up in the real world.

  14. Joe says:

    Peter — How or why could other power sources use the storage means that CSP does? They generate heat and store it. How could PV or wind do that? Why would coal or nuclear do it?

  15. Joe says:

    Oh and you get plenty of blackouts thanks to nukes, especially in hot, dry weather!

  16. Rick Bowen says:

    I am sorry guys but the cost factor is a complete falsehood. There are 6 major electric companies (that i know of – may actually be more) who are actively working to add additional reactors on existing sites and build completely new facilities. For the first time in almost 35 years Virginia Power (Dominion Resources DOM – NYSE) recieved intial approval to add an additional reactor to its existing plant outside Richmond, Virginia. They would not be spending the time or money to pursue these projects if there was not money or profit to be made. This is happening in a state where you coal is everywhere and has one of the largest coal distribution facilities in the world. The point is that nuclear is affordable and profitable and if the companies want to build them (spending their money and the shareholders will let them) then the US Government should support it. $100 Billion is certainly cheaper in comparison to what we have spent on Gulf War I & II. One thing that I think is overlooked in the equation is the technology advances since we built the last reactor. The Navy & Newport News Shipbuilding have build more Nuclear Reactors than anyone in the world. They have built them fast, efficiently, and extremely cost effective. Is everyone telling me that we can’t build them smaller, faster, more cost effective than we currently do on the private sector side. Hell if your worried about someone stealing the Nuclear Fuel then have the same guys that handle the refueling at Newport News Shipbuilding transport it. They seem to be able to refuel a Carrier or Sub about every two years (different ones of course) without an issue. Build them on all the military bases we have around the nation that occupy all this beutiful water front property. No security risk there. Tell me how 10 guys on a nuclear sub or 35 on a carrier seem to manage those reactors with no more than high school educations and two years worth of training? It can be made safe or safer and offers a renewable long term resource today and in the volume we need. To put this in perpective, I live 40 miles from one nuclear power station, 5 miles from another nuclear power plant, 4 nuclear aircraft carriers, 4 nuclear powered subs, a shipyard that is currently refueling a nuclear carrier and building 2 new ones, as well as two Naval Weapons Station that have nuclear ordinance in mainrenance and storage. Do you know what i worry about? I worry about the soot from the two local coal plants and one oil refinery that turns the white paint on my house dull. I have to power wash the damn thing two times a year. The fact is why is money the issue. If they are willing to spend THEIR money to build them then more power to them. Let streamline the process – especially for the companies that already operate plants with good safety records!!! Go Nukes….. Lets do solar, hydro, wave action, and wind as well but Nuclear needs to be a major solution and part to the puzzle.

  17. Ric Merritt says:

    One sure-fire way to diagnose a shallow right-winger who falsely claims to be conservative is an unrealistic, often very aggressive and nearly exclusive, emphasis on a nuclear solution to climate problems. Given the giganticism inherent in nuclear power plants, the potentially dire security problems, and the resulting inescapable role of big government (you wanna see the spiritual heirs of Enron and Halliburton in private control of the next Chernobyl, and nuclear waste generally?), the true conservative would have to lean toward conservation (!), wind, and solar, and put nuclear way down on the list.

  18. Rick Bowen says:

    I also forgot to mention that we have a gentlemen in the southern part of Virginia that inherited farm land from his family that has never really generated a substantial income for him or his ancestors. He happens to be sitting on one of the largest reserves of uranium in the United States. Estimated value is somewhere in excess of $10 Billion and the state of Virginia who has allowed multiple nuclear power plants to be built has placed a moritoriom on mining any Uranium in the State. It does not make and sense that the shipyard and the power plants can ship highly enriched nuclear material up and down our interstate system but a guy cant mine less dangerous ore from his land. Not to mention the nuclear tipped tomahawks they ship into the bases. This whole thing reminds me of the joke about the three men on a sinking ship. I wont tell you the whole joke but the moral was that we have to be smart enough to recognize when God or anyone else send us a life preserver instead of waiting around for a miracle to some how manifest itself and save us. My other idea was to have the ship yard build us 100 – $4 billion dollar nuclear carriers. Park them in the rivers all around the nation, attach them to the grid, man them with sailors to run the reactors, and open them as tourist attractions. We spend $400 Billion dollars plus up keep and refuel them every 20 years and we are good. Problem solved.

  19. Rick Bowen says:

    Trust me, If I thought creating Biofuels from algea farming or any other solution could be implemented at the scale we need to divert us from hitting the proverbial brick wall or point of no return in climate matters I would right a check to support it. The fact is we have some good companies out there doing managing existing nuclear power plants with good records and a proven record of safety. Whats wrong with them? As far as i know there have only been two major accidents world wide in over 50 years and one of them was the Russians ( come on that does not count). A lot has changed since Three Mile Island. As far as security, I would like for anyone to name one event (even an attempt) of anyone trying to steal nuclear material from any facility worldwide ever! It’s never happened. Could it happen? Sure someone could try but why would they when they could simply buy actual warheads from russian arms dealers (actual weapons grade!) material. They might as well storm a medical facilty and raid the xray machines. The point is its going to take all forms and technolgies to meet the future needs and not cap but reverse the effects and accumulations of co2. Since we cant control the Chinese, Russians, or India who are building coals plants like they are Starbucks Franchises, we need to be prepared to not only do our part but also compensate for their policies.

  20. Peter Foley says:

    Joe Romm, Old-timers? RE: thermal storage, the CSP is theoretically able to operate 24/7 on the thermally stored heat. If the thermal storage part of CSP was mature, other low cost energy sources could bank surplus power/heat in the thermal ‘batteries’ thus raising profits and lowering costs.
    Unfortunately that part of CSP is still under development.
    Think how refrigeration has lowered the cost of meat–even thermal storage with a 50% efficiency would save billions of dollars.
    1.Wind, during periods of low demand or high wind, thermal storage is heated up, then used in peak load or during the 75% of the time the wind mill isn’t working.
    Solar, the original model, the 400% over built collector uses the 300% over capacity to heat the thermal storage for the 18 hours a day the sunshine isn’t adequate/dark to run the turbine. Actually the percentages are too low to cover cloudy days.
    Photo voltaic–maybe mounted as a pass through film on the lenses of the mirrors. Have you priced a battery inverter set for solar, the tech is two or three generations away from competing where the grid is available.
    Coal or nuclear, they both have start up costs every time the plant is cycled cold to hot. If a 1000 Mega Watt plant had 6-8 hours of thermally stored heat, the majority of the plant could stay cold saving money without degrading the reliability of the grid.
    Just a little planning will eliminate any drought related outages. The hot water from cooling is cheaper to pump through a R.O. plant. Just place the nuke plant down stream of the sewer plant.

    [JR: You don't understand the difference between thermal storage and electric storage.]

  21. Todd McKissick says:

    Whoa.. So much misinformation and misdirected engineering ‘fact’ being spewed out. Allow me a few corrections; I’ll try to concentrate on only the glaring ones.

    First off, Solar Thermal or CSP (Concentrated Solar Power) is by definition collecting and concentrating SOLAR power which comes in the form of light and then heat. The very design of the systems means that heat is stored before it becomes electricity. Now, there are systems that compete in high peak price regions (SoCal) that decided for economic reasons not to store this longer than it took to get it to the ‘turbine’ (whatever form that took). Other plants have either stored it or had the capability all along. The pumping and valve complexity was the cost there while the storage itself was cheap and >99% perfect. Only after this storage process is behind us does the energy get sent to the power block to pump those little electrons down the line. In other words, collecting the sun is analagous to receiving a coal shipment to a coal plant in that we are only receiving a fuel shipment. How can efficiency and capacity measurements be compared to other sites that don’t get compared on that basis. Regardless of the fuel (coal, gas, U235 or solar heat), the plant capacity is how long the turbine generates power. Don’t take liberties and mix apples and oranges.

    Not all power plants create waste heat that’s bad. Sorry to break it to you, but that comes from the engineer school mantra that ‘our way is the only way’ to do things. First off, the more distributed the technology, the higher the percentage of that waste gets to be renamed CHP or domestic / water heating or even air conditioning. Strike one for any central utility. For those that don’t have this option, the Dish-Stirlings don’t have any replenished water use for cooling. (Disclaimer: They do use a little water rinsing the dishes) Other methods also exist to cool without evaporating 300,000 to 1,000,000 gallons of filtered and treated water each day. (That’s just what our little cooling towers use) I like how it was ok to call the waste heat from reverse osmosis a comodity but not for CSP.

    Just like with the storage vs. generation capacity argument, different renewables need to be compared seperately for the reliability (and dispatchability) and grid support required. Sure, wind has unpredictable output but it has to be dispersed anyway (the farms, not the individual turbines). Why doesn’t that count as a plus for it’s transmission load or security? In the case of distributed (say residential scale) sources, they can much easier be setup to shave peaks as well as reduce grid load at all levels. Here in Nebraska, we had an ice storm that killed power to many people for nearly 6 months. One guy made the news because he had solar powering his house and never lost power for one minute. Needless to say, he had a full house before too long.

    The average house uses 25 kwh of electricity per day and around double that in heat (your mileage may vary). Homework question: What efficiency from a combined heat AND electricity solar system would you need to supply that from the average rooftop? Hint: There’s over 350 kwh hitting the roof ON AVERAGE and half that in January’s average. That includes regions as far north as Lake Huron. Yes, California has more with some homes receiving over 1200 kwh/day. Are you guys telling me we need enormous, high financial risk nuclear plants sending power over vulnerable land raping lines because we can’t solve the problem above for enough people? Sorry, but God didn’t send my life preserver in hazardous ore needing refinement. I subscribe to the KISS principle and since I think He would too, I believe it’s arriving via sunlight.

    As far as why we don’t see these plants going in like nuke plants is that probably more than 99% of the population has never heard of them – including reporters. They are going in but we don’t hear about it. Approaching 20 worldwide for a technology that’s only been really begun on the private sector 2 years ago isn’t a bad start. Uncomparable to nuclear in that aspect.

  22. Todd McKissick says:

    Regarding nuclear security, I have another analogy. Mac computers don’t have viruses because they can’t. The PC platform is a much easier and more lucrative target so hackers concentrate there. With a large scale switchover to mostly nuclear energy, where will the target be? Also, people always argue this security in terms of radioactive harm to people. Taking out a nuke could be as simple as disabling their substation or feeder leg. At up to 4 GW concentrated in one area, how likely would that be to trip other plants in a 2003 type of chain reaction?

    A couple years ago the industry was challenged on their claim of software security. They hired a network guru and challenged him to break in and alter the most secure plant. He had control before he went to the meeting 3 days later and they decided against publishing the event. Where there’s a target, there’s a way. I also read a short story suggesting what would happen if you tossed a few 5 gallon buckets of dish detergent into the cooling tower of a nuclear plant. Long story short was that no one could definitively answer.

    Rick Bowden: “Trust me, If I thought creating Biofuels from algea farming or any other solution could be implemented at the scale we need to divert us from hitting the proverbial brick wall or point of no return in climate matters I would right a check to support it. ” Ok, since you said to trust you, let’s see if you stand by that. Would a residential scale, solar thermal system that provided heat, cooling and electricity in large enough quantities 24/7, only required a little emergency natural gas each year as backup and could pay for itself in less than 20 years qualify? They can go in on nearly any scale since the financing, installation, maintenance and equity is distributed to the most local services. (Think satellite dish adoption rates in the 80′s) If so, please contact me because no-strings startup money is so much cheaper in the long run than giving control to outsiders that were placed on your board or directors.

  23. Jonas says:

    What’s all this with the strange list of technologies and priorities?

    First off, solar photovoltaic power is by far the most expensive of them all, up to 10 times as expensive as the least costly (which is biomass).

    Secondly, the aim of 450ppm is pretty absurd and a recipe for arriving at catastrophic tipping points; we need to aim for 350ppm or less (please read James Hansen).

    This means our priorities are far different from investing in ‘carbon-neutral’ technologies like wind or solar (which also happen to be quite expensive). These technologies can play a role, but we need to focus massively on carbon-negative energy technologies (bio-energy with carbon storage via geosequestration, and biochar or the sequestration of inert C in soils – both priorities for Hansen) as well as on establishing natural carbon sinks (reforestation, avoided deforestation).

    In short, I’m highly skeptical of Romm’s rather conservative and politically correct scenario.

    Ban coal, let the market of renewables do the rest without subsidies (that is: biomass will win, wind comes second, CSP maybe third, photovoltaics are out of the loop), and subsidies the carbon-negative technologies and actions which we really need to achieve the obligatory target of 350ppm.

  24. Joe says:

    Strange list?
    You are quite wrong about solar PV. Talk to the SunEdison folks.
    You’re also wrong about biomass. It is neither cheap nor scalable.
    You’re telling me to read James Hansen? Funny! Read this blog, before Making such a silly comments.
    We have PASSED 350 ppm. It may be “pretty absurd” to aim for 450 ppm, but only for someone who doesn’t really understand energy.

    “Romm’s rather conservative and politically correct scenario” — first time anybody has accused me of that. Live long and prosper, my friend!

  25. Peter Foley says:

    Joe, Joe, PHD in physics? Stored power is stored power, if the CSP was ready for use–24/7 electricity production, the thermal storage tech would be used by other power sources to lower costs. CSP tech now is like a city solar powered water well without a water tower between the users and the well, the town only has water when the sun shines.

    If the thermal storage is developed, all thermal sourced electrical plants would use it to “warehouse” power as HEAT.

    [JR: Peter, Peter, pumpkin-eater? Why would a thermally sourced electrical plant that already provides baseload power waste a nickel on a thermal energy storage system? Nuclear and coal plants don't need storage -- that's the whole point. CSP does because it relies on the Sun, but unlike battery storage, thermal storage is cheap and efficient. Maybe it's time for you to stop eating pumpkins and go back to school. Yes, CSP right now is starting to use storage, in spite of your clever but incorrect nonexistence proof. Try again.]

  26. Todd McKissick says:

    Peter, I don’t know what online company gave you your degree but there is a world of difference between using storage for most of these technologies. On top of that, there’s no reason to store the energy in coal or natural gas as heat when it’s already being stored in the tank.

    Heat storage has a few problems that apply differently to each conversion also. To convert a fuel to heat, you must burn it and then exhaust the byproduct at that same temp. The higher temperature you want to store your energy at, the more energy you waste in exhaust. Sure there are recovery methods, but they balance cost against gain. If you decide to lower the storage temp to alleviate this problem, you lose efficiency on the conversion back to electricity so there’s no way around it. Solar thermal has the advantage of not having an exhaust so it doesn’t have this problem. It does lose energy from re-radiation at the receiver but this can be dealt with in other ways.
    Converting anything into electricity has about the worst efficiencies so no one’s going to take electricity that exists and turn it back into heat to store, only to have to turn it back into electricity again. That round trip would probably lose a minimum of 75%.

  27. Peter Foley says:

    Joe Romm, what happen to the post? you haven’t yet grasped the concept–Electricity now can’t be economically stored–if CSP was a mature tech- that would require a mechanism to operate 24/7, a thermal storage method, which then would be adopted by other power systems to lower their unit costs. A large fraction of conventional power plant cost is the thermal inertia of the boiler – turbo generator sets. A “hybrid” thermal plant would store excess power that would allow reduced standby consumption of coal/gas/fission fuels.
    You’re the one with the understanding deficit–the thermal storage would be used as a near direct substitute for the golden fleece of electrical utilities- a means of storing electricity for latter use.

    Todd McKissack, Coal/gas and a cold boiler/generator are 6 to 8 hours away from producing grid electricity. Thus any system that allowed nearly instantaneous return to electrical power production would be immediately adopted. Stanley steamers went out of business because people didn’t want to wait fifteen minutes for the boiler to warm up. All your statements Re: heat storage are generally correct, but you fail to give the solar’s lack of 24/7 production of power the weight it deserves in an industrial society. If and when the tech to make CSP work is developed other types of power will adopt that facet of the tech.

    JR where is the 24/7 CSP plant?

  28. Joe says:

    Who needs a 24/7 CSP plant? The country has way too much electricity at night. Sure, some CSP plants are being designed with 14 hours of storage, but 6 to 8 is probably what makes the most economic sense. Then the plant can be load following.

  29. Joe, referring to my comment June 2 at 3:46 about your $6-8 trillion dollar cost for nukes, isn’t that the approximate capital cost to replace ALL existing generating capacity of ALL types with nukes at $6-8 per watt? Current total generating capacity is about 1 billion kilowatts. http://www.eia.doe.gov/emeu/aer/pdf/pages/sec8_41.pdf In other words, the big number you scared me with is not just for a wedge. Right? Or maybe you meant one 1000-megawatt nuke would cost $6-8 billion (not trillion)? I know you’ve been busy with the Senate floor debate, but you might want to clear this up for the record.

  30. Joe says:

    So far, I see little evidence that nukes would achieve economies of scale, if that’s what you are talking about.

    One wedge of nukes is 1000 GW = 1,000,000 MW = 1,000,000,000 KW.
    Hence the $6 to $8 trillion cost.

  31. Rick Bowen says:

    Mr. Mckissick,
    I would be more than interested to hear more about what you propose but my point was more about providing a source that could meet the needs of the grid while eliminating or reducing the need for fossil fuels. On a house to house basis it needs to be product that can be install in gated communities as well as out in the country at an affordable price otherwise it will never be widely applicable and thus will never make the changes we need. The most i have been able to get away with has been a tankless water heater, geothermal heat pump system, and a small solar panel that runs my exterior lights. We can’t all move to the country and put up multiple solar cells and a 10 meter windmill. Tell me more about what you have. Rick.Bowen@cox.net *** I would like to hear anyone or everyones opinion about plasma gasification plants. *** This technology can’t solve all the problems of the world but does offer some fantastic positives. I have invested in this!

  32. I guess I don’t get the concept of “wedge.” As you define it, it’s equal to all current generating capacity–coal, nukd, gas, and everything else–as I read the graph I linked to at EIA. I’m not thinking about economies of scale.

  33. Joe says:

    A wedge is a global strategy that starts at 0 and rises linearly to save 1 billion tons of carbon a year in 50 years.

    See http://climateprogress.org/2008/03/31/is-450-ppm-carbon-dioxide-politically-possible-1/

  34. Rick Bowen says:

    Maybe I am lost in this equation. Who cares what it cost if we are not paying for it. My understanding and from everything i have read about the latest approvals and additonal early site approvals for Nuclear Plants have only public (government gaurantees) of construction loans and insurance but do not require any public moneys. Even if you take into account the inital tax breaks used to entice contruction of more nuclear facilities, its still not a net cost. It’s their money (the shareholders) let them spend a gazzillion dollars for one as long as the juice coming out of it is competative with everything else on the grid. And guess what! It has to be. Most states, like VA, regulate prices due to the monoploy issue and they are still competeing with coal fire facilities and natural gas / gas turbine operations. So please enlighten me on the cost issue! In one report i read today the regulators were commenting how one company is planning to build two plants in Texas where they are not even gauranteed a return on construction cost let alone a profit. Again its their money so who cares.

  35. Peter Foley says:

    Joe, Who needs 24/7 power? Any three shift factory, an aluminum smelter, street lights, hospitals, and homes, your basic 21st century civilisation. Or could it be wind and solar are still part time unreliable power? how is that CSP plant’s output during a 7 week long sun free winter? Next time you turn on or plug into the electric grid note if the sun is shining or if the wind is blowing between 28 and 50 mph, then thank the rational actors that allowed the building of our reliable grid.
    What example of 1000 items produced that didn’t end up with ever lower unit costs as experience increased?
    I think your wedges are an answer to a question no one asked, but if accurate nothing currently in existence can equal nuke power for carbon free 24/7 output.

  36. Joe says:

    Peter — I’m tired of your misstating what I write. Lots of people need 24/7 power, but we have a huge excess of nighttime capacity. It makes no sense to add capability to CSP so it can deliver power at 4 am, not for decades.

    Plus CSP can be built to provide 24/7, it just doesn’t make sense to now.

    Nuclear power is the example of “1000 items produced that didn’t end up with ever lower unit costs as experience increased.”

  37. arclight_arclight says:

    All: I see a lot of emoting in this “discussion”, and a lot of one-upmanship, and a lot of variations on “You’re a moron”. That tells me that (a) what facts there are are not shared, (b) logic is suffering, and (c) the ability to consider issues dispassionately is absent. All these are precisely backwards from where they must be if this issue, or any of the other several large issues this country is facing, is to be successfully solved.

    As an aside, I am thoroughly dissatisfied with the level of scholarship on the issues surrounding “global warming”. I have not seen from either proponents or opponents of that position a rigorous and honest self-assessment of where their models, their facts, and their logic may be incomplete or incorrect, but there’s plenty of “assessment” of what’s wrong with the OTHER GUY’S position. On an issue of such magnitude, it would be normal for adults to (a) be extra severe in their own self-evaluation to ensure that errors in their own positions are found first, (b) be equally severe in the positions of others for the same reason, and above all (c) not be swayed by emotional appeals in any direction. In today’s childish emotions-above-everything environment, none of this will happen. Too bad; a lot of bad decisions are going to be made, and a lot of wasted effort will take place, as a result. Additionally, those who have other agendas will be able to continue to use “the environment” as another front for pushing those agendas, and they won’t be caught at it and receive the punishment that such behavior deserves.

    Changing subjects: There’s no reason that a nuke plant necessarily has to be huge. I’m glad to see that someone referenced the Navy’s operation of nuke vessels. They standardize on plant design and training (standardization…what a concept). If I were going to make a serious push for nuclear power in this country, I’d make sure that their best and brightest directed it, as opposed to having industrial types (who are slaves to their shareholders, don’t forget) calling the tune. Cost and benefits need to be rigorously scrubbed, and the same economic rules applied to all the technologies.

    One item that hasn’t been brought up yet with regard to distributed power generation is the complete lack of technical ability present in most to nearly all Americans. That translates into a staggering liability cost to deploy any deeply-distributed power generation technology. I can certainly manage the operations and maintenance of any number of local generation technologies (e.g. solar, wind, combinations, etc.), and I suspect most of the commenters here can as well; however, the overwhelming majority of Americans can’t get much beyond plugging something in the wall. That’s one of the reasons why we have grid-delivered power.

    If we want to do something to help, why are we not simply pursuing squeezing more efficiency out of the existing grid? It wastes some 65% of the energy put into it before that energy ever arrives at the end user’s premises. What would a 10% increase buy us? Additionally, the transformers used in the grid are one-of-a-kind devices–THERE ARE NO SPARES AVAILABLE. Domestic and foreign terrorists, are ya paying attention here? Building a more efficient set of hardware would not only reduce costs of operation but would provide us spares in case destruction of some components occurred, for whatever reason.

    For what it’s worth. All comments are welcome!

  38. Rick Bowen says:

    arclight – I agree with most of your comments. I was the one that posted the Navy reference and i later posted about changes having to be made at the grid level instead of doing this one home at a time. I think that you are right in that there is not enough shared information concerning the technologies. I continue to hear about water temparatures and thermal polution of lakes and streams as well as other issues with security. The technology is already in existance. Nuclear Subs for example have no thermal signature due to heat exchange. There is no reason we can do the same at full scale plants. Why not use the temparature differential of subgrade earth to assist in the process along with the evaporators. There are many solutions already available to us that have not been brought to bare on some rather rudimentary issues. I will bet you if you called a evaporation / condensing / refrigeration guy in from the brewing industry he could find an affordable and efficient solution. It is also my understanding that the Navy nuclear reactors also put out twice the juice per pound and 3 x the juice per volume. I got that info from a retired NAVY NUKE so i cant attest to its validity but i beleive he would know. I beleive the technology exist to make them smaller, more efficient, and more powerful while increasing the safety. As far as the safety of the grid…..I dont think there is a definite solution. Anytime something covers vast areas of real estate with most of it over uninhabited areas, you are going to run the risk of some idiot climbing a tower and frying himself or some terrorist taking out a substation, tower, or transformer. Hell even I put coins and rocks on the railroad tracks when I was a kid. When given enough privacy and time anything can be breached. I think you are in the ball park in being concerned about the soft targets instead of a fortified and monitored facility.

  39. Peter Foley says:

    Joe R. I see the failure to have any 24/7 alternate power as ‘proof’ we need to stay with what works. Why spend trillions for plants that require the maintenance and operation of coal and nuclear plants for a reliable system? Your power grid would be like me driving my car on solid wood wheels with four modern pneumatic spares in the trunk, only using the radial metzlers when the wood wheels fail, then driving to the village blacksmith to repair and remount the wooden wheels.
    Re: the 1000 nuke plants, every month added regulations and layers of permits to create added barriers to completion and operation of nuke power in the seventies and eighties. If tree-huggers hadn’t stopped nuke power in its tracks would you even be writing about alleged CO2 forced-AGW? I think not.
    I am rather short fused with any that are tipping my rice bowls by increasing taxes and lowering world growth for the foreseeable future. I’d rather pee on a campfire of stupidity then try to halt a full-blown global tulip-mania of anti-carbon cultist’s wealth destruction after trillions of dollars of lost GNP.
    I can sit at home and refute carbon-forced warming because the science is so weak, I don’t have a position other than, let us have a working science before it takes over world government, Even if carbon AGW was true, The green warmists don’t automatically get to take over, Sorry, Joe about Obama not calling.
    Actually improving what works, that is crazy talk—If you could personally develop a technology that improved power house thermodynamics even one per cent, universities would be rightly named after you.
    Thankfully your statements about substations/transformers aren’t factual—I hope you are interviewed by homeland security, do you always post helpful tips for terrorists? I liked the all caps for the lazy jihadist.
    Rick Bowen,
    I generally agree, but I think you fail to see the magnitudes of difference between operating at 20 knots at sea and a fixed plant on a 1000 cubic feet a minute river. Call one of your old nuke puke engineering sea dogs to explain how a motionless nuke sub can’t operate at nameplate output without some external auxiliary water pumps. Hasn’t the navy used tied up ships for emergency shore power before? I thought floating nuke plants were considered as a possible end run around silly NIMBY groups in the 80s.
    A warship has certain size constraints, the shore based N plant is optimized for output, with weight and size being nearly meaningless other then material costs. As the US’s nuke industry was either Adm. Rickover trained or AEC, I’m sure the PWRs on shore have most of the features of the floating reactors.
    I respectfully suggest you read up on the heat sink capacity of various sub-grade soils, and review the Carnot cycle in regards to the evaporator/condenser issues.

  40. Rick Bowen says:

    Peter, I dont disagree with you but i think that if we streamlined the process and reduced the upfront cost for building new reactors then far more capital could go into research and development on everything from materials science, controls, and environmental safety. Microsoft spent more on developing Vista than the whole industry, including the government, in developing (R&D) nuclear energy. Also including the fusion reactor currently being developed in England. Where is the sense. Lets scrap it all and build the Tesla coil grid he proposed in the early 1900′s. I don’t think the CO2 argument is the only consideration. I think we should pursue cleaner technologies just because we can not to mention our dependence on oil. We have a major change coming in the auto industry whether anyone wants to acknowledge it or not. Hell even GM finally got their heads out of the sand (almost 5 years to late) and are going to pursue electric cars. When electric cars begin to hit the market, we are going to see a wholesale change over and a huge draw on the grid that i have not seen anyone acknowledge. These cars have mass apeal and with fuel prices so high it is clear that as prices come down on these vehicles more camry buyers will make the change. Cars like the Tesla already sell out of productions runs even at over 100k per unit. Wait until they put out the sedan that is supposed to come in at 40k. How much juice does it take to power 1,000,000 electric cars for one charge. GM projects the new Volt they are working on will sell 200k copies of the first production run and as more familiar vehicles take on the power system that sales could climb to over 750,000 per year with a growth rate of 10 per year. Its coming and coming fast and my concern is do we actually have the ability to meet demand if we started building the cheapest easiest to build plants today. (coal, nuke or other). I beleive this is going to take a comprehensive approach to meet the need. Windmills along the rockies and wind belt, solar in the southern states, offshore windmill sites, gas and oil exploration in alaska, hydroelectric, current turbines along the rivers or coastal areas, plasma gasification plants along waste sites and at trash collection plants, wave action generators, along with anything else. It does not have to just be nuclear but all of the avaiable technologies. They are all tested technologies with the capability to produce energy for the grid. I bring up all of these technologies because i know they have working models or in the case of alaska i dont think anyone disputes there are reserves there. I think we need to keep the energy companies feet to the fire with emissions standards and clean air requirments while offering tax incentives for clean air technologies. Look at the auto industry. They testified in front of congress talking about how there was no way to meet clean air or fuel consumption standards and look at us now they met them and exceeded them in many cases but it would have never happened without some form of mandate. I think nuclear has to be a major part of the solution. As far as the Carnot cycle i will review it.

  41. Rick Bowen says:

    Looking for a way to get electricity from heat gradient? Check out a Thermoelectric Converter developed by the Fraunhofer Institute in Freiburg, Germany (ref article in the Financial Times Page 5 June 6th ed). They are looking to use it for utilizing exhuast and cooling fluid in cars to convert electricity from heat differentials. Sound like this could also be used to generate electricity from waste flue gases, cooling tower steam, and nuke waste water. I would assume that this would also take something from the process by way of reducing the temparature of the incoming feedstock allowing for less of an environmental impact. I am researching the process now. If i find any links i will be glad to forward.

  42. rick bowen says:


    Thermoelectric converters information.

  43. Todd McKissick says:

    Rick, So you’re considering a thermoelectric converter to recoup waste heat from a nuclear plant? First off, Stirling engines can do that much better and have a longer life and they’re going to be cheaper for quite a while on a per/output basis. Second, why not consider using a few simple concentrated suns for the heat source and just eliminate all the hassle of nuclear. There are just too many steps spread out over too many years to make it feasable in the massive scale needed. Seems irrational to me to slap our 10th generation decendants with keeping sites secure and safe 100-200 years from now. How much cost and energy does that part of the process cost over the full term?

  44. Mike says:

    We can not stop nuclear power needs. But it would be absolutely wrong not investing more money in alternate power forms. The more countries starting projects in clean power, the faster development will go on.

  45. Cyril R. says:

    Nope, can’t use Stirling engines for lightwater reactors due to far too low temperatures. Simple as that.

    Thermo-electrics aren’t useful either, because they’re so insanely inefficient. Maybe later, when they are more efficient, they will be useful as an addittion to turbines. Don’t count on it though; progress on thermo-electrics is slow. Progress on nuclear power is slow. Progress on thermo-electric nuclear power is pretty much nonexistent.

    Nuclear power has a negative learning curve. That doesn’t suggest it’s a competitive option in the future. I’d say the nuclear companies have work to do if they want to be competitive now and in the future. Lots of work.

  46. The reality is nuclear power must and will play a role in our future. This is because of the laws of physics-which limit how much power can really be generated with wind and solar. Its actually wind and solar that are cost ineffective and that will play a limited role. Nuclear power is by far the most efficient means to obtain energy. What makes it expensive is the safety angle, but the facts are nuclear safety is actually well understood-what it takes now is strict regulatory enforcement to make sure the people designing and operating the plants actually follow it. As oil becomes more scarce nuclear will eventually stand out as the only option if a modern technological society is to continue. “Alternative” and “renewable” energy are myths that have limited applicability.

    [JR: My patience has run out on comments like this that are not backed up with any facts and which have in fact been thoroughly debunked on this blog.]

  47. Jonas said:

    “Ban coal, let the market of renewables do the rest without subsidies (that is: biomass will win, wind comes second, CSP maybe third, photovoltaics are out of the loop), and subsidies the carbon-negative technologies and actions which we really need to achieve the obligatory target of 350ppm.”

    This is the same argument used against renewables in general.
    The idea that renewable are not right because they need subsidies is absurd for the simple reason that every form of energy they are competing with is heavily subsidized.
    You don’t take into account how fast the prices for PV are falling.

    “Nanosolar’s founder and chief executive, Martin Roscheisen, claims to be the first solar panel manufacturer to be able to profitably sell solar panels for less than $1 a watt. That is the price at which solar energy becomes less expensive than coal. With a $1-per-watt panel,” he said, “it is possible to build $2-per-watt systems.According to the Energy Department, building a new coal plant costs about $2.1 a watt, plus the cost of fuel and emissions.”

    Let the market decide? Yeah and maybe we should let the market decide which species we should allow to go extinct. If conservatives have their way, we’ ll be waiting to see if the market decides if it’s worth it to stop global warming or not.

    I’ve seen two estimates for oil subsidies $39 billion annually and $84 billion annually. Nuclear has had over $100 billion as Joe said. Coal is about $3 billion a year.

    Why are these estimates so far apart? They’ve been adding them as earmarks for decades for one thing.
    It takes a Sherlock Holmes to find them all.

    The $84 billion number is from

    According to a study- Koplow’s 2007 report to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development:
    “Estimating U.S. oil and gas subsidies is very challenging. Subsidies rarely involve cash payments. Instead scores of U.S. government agencies and departments create hundreds of programms to support the U.S. energy sector. And there is no requirement for the federal government to keep track of all this.”

    “Energy subsidies are often simply hidden from public scrutiny. It’s only recently been revealed that 40 companies granted leases between 1996 and 2000 for drilling in the Gulf of Mexico do not have to pay royalties for the publicly-owned resource. This is worth nearly a billion dollars a year in lost revenue to the federal government, according to a 2008 study by Friends of the Earth (FOE), a U.S. environmental NGO

    “Subsidy programmes from 1918 are still in place. “I’m not aware of any oil and gas subsidy that has ever been phased out,” said Koplow, the leading expert on U.S. energy subsidies”
    “In a time of skyrocketing oil prices and profits, why did the George W. Bush administration in 2005 authorise an additional 32.9 billion dollars in new subsidies over a five-year period?”

    “This massive government intervention distorts energy markets, making it very difficult for alternative energy sources to compete without similarly massive subsidies. “And it promotes America’s addiction to oil,” Larsen added.”

    The security issue with nuclear.
    Rick Bowen talks about having military personel guarding the power plants. Can we expect this much security all over the world if nuclear power proliferates everywhere?
    If you need that much security, you are only proving how dangerous nuclear power could be.
    To cite the lack of harm done by nuclear plants in the last 50 years as proof that they are safe is not convincing.
    And Chernoble certainly does not fit the image of having done no harm. Sure it was a lousy design, but it shows that it only takes one mistake with nuclear to have devastating consequenses. We haven’t had a nuclear holocaust yet either, but that doesn’t make me feel any better about nuclear weapons.

    We are told that the oil industry is safe. How safe if safe? We’ve had at least 3 oil spills this year alone. Do you honestly think no one will ever make a human error with nuclear power? With nuclear power there is NO room for error ever. Can you guarantee that? I doubt it.

    The Argonne National Lab has said that an airliner crashing into a nuclear plant could cause a complete meltdown, even if the containment building isn’t compromised. Think the twin towers was bad?

    Does that mean we should have no nuclear? No, but we have cheaper, safer options that are quicker to get up and running. And in the public policy debate, nuclear should not get any more subsidies, not when it will take dollars that would be better spent elsewhere, developing new technology and getting them up to scale, like CSP.

    Peter Foley Says:
    “Unfortunately that part of CSP is still under development(heat storage)”

    Hamilton Sunstrands Rockedyne subsidiary has developed a good system for molten salt that is ready for commercial development now. In fact, they’ve started their own solar thermal company, Solar Reserve.

    I think Todd McKissick has it right when he points out that 99% of Americans and reporters haven’t even heard of CSP. The lack of awareness is a big factor.

    David McMahon
    You are making unfounded and incorrect statements about wind and solar. They are nonsense.
    Wind cost about $1400/KWH to build. Nuclear cost about $4000/KWH to build.

    You are just perpetuating the myth that the fossil fuel industry is trying to fool the public with, the idea that renewables can’t power much of the country is simply not true. Period

    You are a perfect demonstation of just how uninformed, misinformed and disinformed the public is about renewable energy.

    If nuclear will be the only solution, I’d like to know where the fuel will come from, the moon?
    You hear nuclear proponents talk of getting uranium from sea water. Sounds good until you find out that we would have to filter 40,000 cubic mile of seawater every year to supply 200 reactors. The low hanging fruit of rich uranium deposits won’t be there, which would require more and more cost and environmental damage from the mining of uranium from less rich deposits. And we now import most of our uranium. How does that equate with energy independence?

    The proposal published by Scientific American, A Solar Grand Plan, says we could have a 69% solar powered grid by 2050 and 100% by 2100. They propose subsidies of $400 billion over about a 35-40 year period, with subsidies ending about 2040 or 2050. That’s roughly $10 billion a year.

    If we take the lower estimate of $39 billion a year in subsidies and tax credits for oil, then for 1/4 of those giveaways to oil, we could power most of the country with solar, as far as tax dollars.

    And that doesn’t even count all the other hidden costs of the fossil fuel industry, which make the subsidies seem small by comparison.

  48. Pete Best says:

    James Hanse has spoken of 4th generation nuclear power that feeds off nuclear waste reducing it but it was halted during the Clinton years. Would this or thorium nuclear reactors make a difference ?

  49. See the December 2005 issue of Scientific American article
    on a new type of nuclear reactor that consumes the nuclear
    “waste” as fuel.
    Americans are paranoid about all things nuclear. NMR
    [Nuclear Magnetic Resonance] had to be renamed MRI
    [Magnetic Resonance Imaging] to get sick people into the
    scanner. Apparently, the average American doesn’t know
    that all matter, including people, is made of atoms and that
    atoms have nuclei. The NMR/MRI machine aligns the
    spins of the nuclei in the atoms in the patient using a big
    magnet. Since different atoms have different nuclear spin
    resonances, the NMR/MRI machine can see one element at
    a time. I have no idea what the sick sick patients were

  50. Asteroid Miner says:

    Dear Joe Romm:
    Here are some of the references you wanted:

    Book: “Power to Save the World; The Truth About Nuclear Energy” by Gwyneth Cravens, 2007 Finally a truthful book about nuclear power. Gwyneth Cravens is a former anti-nuclear activist.

    Book: “Environmentalists for Nuclear Energy”, by B. Comby
    English edition, 2001, 345 pp. (soft cover), 38 Euros
    TNR Editions, 266 avenue Daumesnil, 75012 Paris, France;
    ISBN 2-914190-02-6
    order from: http://www.comby.org/livres/livresen.htm
    Read a review of this book by the American Health Physics Society at:

    Oak Ridge National Laboratory:
    Coal contains so much uranium and thorium that more energy goes up the stack than into the wires.

    Spent fuel is so valuable that Israel steals it.

    Conference report:
    by Alex Gabbard
    Oak Ridge National Laboratory
    Oak Ridge, TN
    Selections from the 19th Annual Conference
    March 14,15,16, 1996
    Nashville, Tennessee
    Published by the
    Edited by Jack D. Arters, Ed.D.
    Conference Director

    Nuclear reactor FACTORY advertisement:

  51. Asteroid Miner says:

    Finding truth on the web: Don’t believe the top articles Google gives you. They are paid for. Go to the bottom of the list.

    Reference: “Google and the myth of universal knowledge” by Jean-Noel Jeanneney 2007 The original is in French.

    When you do a Google search, you get “sponsored” links on the right side and “non-sponsored” links on the left. The “NON-SPONSORED” links on Google ARE LISTED IN THE ORDER OF THE HIGHEST BIDDER to lowest bidder. Companies pay dollars to Google to get web sites other than their own that lie in favor of the paying company to be at the top of the “non-sponsored” list. Google search results in your getting nothing but corporate propaganda. Since the coal industry has a $100 Billion per year income at stake, they can and must share a lot of money with Google.

    Page 32: 62% of internet users questioned make no distinction whatever between advertising and other information, and only 18% proved capable of telling which data were paid for by companies for their promotion and which were not.”
    “92% of users of search engines have full confidence in the results of their search, and 71% (users for less than five years) consider that information from this source [Google] is never biased in any way.”

    Suggestion: Use only Google Advanced or Google Scholar. On Google Advanced, specify either the .gov domain or the .edu domain.

    George W. Bush messed up as many government web sites as he could get away with, but your chances are still clearly better than going to the richest propagandist .com or .org.
    Better yet: Get a degree in science so that you can figure it out for yourself.

    There should be a law requiring Google to disclose the above and the donors and the dollars for each “non-sponsored” link. Environmentalists should work on Google legislation first.

  52. Asteroid Miner says:

    We have enough nuclear fuel for FIVE THOUSAND YEARS according to “Environmentalists for Nuclear Energy”, by B. Comby. “Breeding” fissionable fuel and recycling nuclear fuel greatly extends the supply. We have many possible uranium mines that we haven’t started mining. The reasons we are not doing so are political and psychological. Most people have an irrational fear of anything nuclear caused by coal industry propaganda.

    Everything, including yourself, is made of atoms. All atoms have nuclei. You have many atomic nuclei inside yourself since you are made of atoms. The simplest nucleus is one proton [hydrogen]. That would be a hydrogen atom. An oxygen atom has 8 protons and either 8, 9 or 10 neutrons in its nucleus. All other nuclei also have neutrons. Uranium has 92 protons and either 143 or 146 neutrons. If it has 143 neutrons it is U235. If it has 146 neutrons, it is U238. Nuclear fuel is only 2% to 8% U235, the kind that fissions/divides, providing energy. The rest is U238 that doesn’t fission. A nuclear reaction happens when a neutron is captured by a nucleus. If a U235 nucleus captures a neutron, the nucleus and the atom split approximately in half and 2 or 3 neutrons are released because the 2 smaller nuclei don’t need so many neutrons. If a U238 nucleus captures a neutron, it ejects an electron and the neutron becomes a proton. The U238 thus becomes Plutonium 239 [Pu239]. In a power reactor, the Pu239 quickly captures another neutron, becoming Pu240. Pu240 is useless for making bombs, which is why governments that have plutonium bombs have their own special reactors to make Pu239. Plutonium is fissionable, which means that plutonium is a good fuel. If you add Thorium to the fuel, you can make more fissionable uranium. If a Thorium atom nucleus captures a neutron, it ejects an electron and the neutron becomes a proton. The Thorium atom thus becomes U233. U233 is fissionable.

    Depending on the design of the reactor and the mix of the fuel, the fuel % in the reactor can either grow or shrink. It is kind of like the fuel gauge can go either up or down, but it is more like the reactor can run hotter or cooler over time. The temperature is kept constant by adjusting the control rods. A breeder reactor is a reactor designed to make the fissionable part of the fuel load grow rapidly. In the US, fuel is left in the reactor for about 10 years, or 10% of the fuel is replaced eachyear. The reprocessing step sorts out the fuel and puts the percentage of fissionable fuel back to the starting percentage. In the process, plutonium may be removed and either wasted or used as fuel. If we add thorium to the fuel, we can make more uranium than we put in. Since the earth contains more than twice as much thorium as uranium, it would be wise to make thorium into uranium. By reprocessing nuclear fuel, we get an enormous, many centuries long fuel supply.

    The products of fission are also removed when fuel is reprocessed. These are just other atoms that are no longer useful as fuel. The quantity is very small. We should reprocess fuel to keep the fuel load at the correct percentage of fissionable fuel for the particular reactor design. Instead, we go through the expensive process of making more “virgin” fuel for each new fuel load. This greatly increases the price you pay for electricity. We are not reprocessing nuclear fuel for political reasons. France reprocesses fuel and France has a nuclear waste repository.

    I have zero financial interest in nuclear power, and I never have had a financial interest in nuclear power. My sole motivation in writing this is to avoid extinction by H2S gas. H2S is how global warming kills everybody if we don’t act. The H2S is made by sulfur bacteria in hot oceans.

  53. msn nickleri says:

    We must seriously entertain any strategy that can significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
    We must focus on the lowest-cost options first, because we simply don’t have an unlimited amount of capital.

  54. Jim Newberry says:

    If the atomic fission “industry” was exposed to free market capitalism through free market risk assessment (insurance), instead of being indemnified (held harmless) since 1957, all owners would retire these plants due to massive liability. In other words, they are based on economic fraud.

    In addition, electric utility restructuring (deregulation) that has occured in nuclear powered states over the past decade was most likely based on nuclear bankruptcy restructuring because large customers refuse to pay the high market cost. So costs were socialized to the smaller ratepayers.

    Furthermore, the technology is based on nuclear weapons systems since the reactor was invented by the military for the production of plutonium used in the second bomb dropped on Japan. (One would have seemed sufficient.) Plutonium is a small part of the “waste” which is just jargon, since waste is something you “throw away” and we can never throw plutonium away (half life 24,000 years). The spent fuel liability for taxpayers is measured in hundreds of billions of dollars so far just in this country, including the energy and materials required for its indefinite management. Corporate owners want the public to take responsibility of this cost (assume possession) in addition to their market liability. Look at your homeowners insurance – nuclear damages (such as radiation contamination) excluded.

    These problems and the substantial concerns about nuclear weapons proliferation across the world can be addressed by a phase out and moratorium of this technology. Then the $trillions of future funds can be invested in sustainable energy paths that promote peace and are far more cost effective than the falacy, fraud and liability of using atomic fission for electrical services.

    J. Newberry for People’s Action for Clean Energy

  55. Hocus Locus says:

    I would like to call attention to a fascinating read, an old study [1972]


    which explores means and method for building nuclear power plants underground. I am considering that ‘slightly new’ scaled-up fission designs that make intelligent use of gravity/earth for containment, located in geologically stable areas — might well be the ONLY CHIP on the table that could bring us past oil and coal dependence for the grid. The only real question is who will come up with the best-fit means and method — first.

    I go on the my-child rule.

    Putting primary focus on any energy “solution” that hinges on sunlight reaching the ground or assumed-reliable wind patterns is simply, in my book, a NO GO.

    Because any catastrophic sky cover and/or climate change stops the music. It does not matter what form it would take, it can and will probably happen. When it happens my child (and yours) would perish.

    Oil will cease, gas will cease. Fission driven steam in our time will keep the electricity ON for as long as it takes for my-child (and yours) to refine the process and up-scale it until they have attained a responsible objective: an INEXHAUSTIBLE SURPLUS of energy for the foreseeable future.

    Pure energy to do with as they see fit (not us). Want to sink CO2 from the atmosphere? Extract hydrogen to pellet form to fuel safe transportation? Charge those hybrids? Survive a volcanic winter? Bring the grid to every corner of Africa, which is what they really want? Heal the planet? These all require the additional input of human know-how… and applied energy.

    Whether my-child (and yours) has access to that degree of energy, or even the amount necessary to survive a natural or man-made calamity, is not just a good thing… for me it is the only thing.

    Thanks for listening.

  56. Theodore says:

    If aliens came to earth and saw with fresh eyes two power plants of equal capacity side by side, one CSP and one nuclear, which would they recommend?

    CSP plants are said to be quick to build. Is it possible that the factors that make them quick will eventually be revealed as the same factors that make them cheap? The nuclear power industry is mature. Solar is not. In 30 years, we will realize that solar power was cheap all along and we didn’t know it because it had not been fully commercialized.

    I think the aliens would be able to see this immediately.

  57. ChaO says:

    I have zero financial interest in nuclear power, and I never have had a financial interest in nuclear power. My sole motivation in writing this is to avoid extinction by H2S gas. H2S is how global warming kills everybody Dizi” if we don’t act. The H2S is made by sulfur bacteria in hot oceans.