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David Frum says “Conservatives Heart Nuke Power.” Too bad they don’t “brain” it.

By Joe Romm

"David Frum says “Conservatives Heart Nuke Power.” Too bad they don’t “brain” it."


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I always thought it was conservatives who accused progressives of being driven by their heart and not their brain.  A painfully uninformed David Frum wades into the debate over nuclear power with a post headlined, “Conservatives Heart Nuke Power“:

First Brad Plumer in the New Republic, then Matt Yglesias on his site have marveled at the supposedly strange enthusiasm of conservatives for nuclear power. What’s strange about it? It’s pure cold economic rationality. If you wish to move away from carbon-emitting electricity sources, nuclear is far and away the cheapest choice. If we’re not going to rely more on nuclear power, then the reduction in carbon emissions will have to imply some dramatic reductions in standards of living.


Former Presidential speechwriter Frum is best known for helping to originating the “axis of evil” metaphor (his first phrase, “axis of hatred,” was changed to “axis of evil” by Michael Gerson, Bush’s chief speechwriter, who wanted to use more “theological language,” as Frum explains in his book on page 238).  He apparently hails from the Bizarro World, whose Code states “Us do opposite of all Earthly things! Us hate beauty! Us love ugliness!”

New nuclear power plants are currently far and away the most expensive form of carbon free power you can (try to) buy — assuming you could find a nuclear vendor today that was actually willing to guarantee a price for their product in a Public Utility Commission hearing, which you can’t.

Indeed, the French government-owned nuclear giant, Areva threatened work stoppage in late summer at the Finnish nuke they were building over who would pay for cost overruns.  Areva had made clear in May it wasn’t going to keep swallowing the price escalation risk “” see Areva has acknowledged that the cost of a new reactor today would be as much as 6 billion euros, or $8 billion, double the price offered to the Finns.”

The most detailed independent cost estimate of nuclear power published this year — here on Climate Progress by a leading expert in power plant costs, Craig A. Severance (see “Exclusive analysis, Part 1: The staggering cost of new nuclear power“) — puts the generation costs for power from new nuclear plants at from 25 to 30 cents per kilowatt-hour “” triple current U.S. electricity rates!

And that was just one week after Time magazine noted that nuclear plants’ capital costs are “out of control,” concluding:

Most efficiency improvements have been priced at 1¢ to 3¢ per kilowatt-hour, while new nuclear energy is on track to cost 15¢ to 20¢ per kilowatt-hour. And no nuclear plant has ever been completed on budget.

The price of power plants has soared here and abroad this year.

Progress Energy in Florida had said in 2008 that the twin 1,100-megawatt plants it intends to build would cost $14 billion, which “triples estimates the utility offered little more than a year ago.” And that didn’t even count the 200-mile $3 billion transmission system utility needs, which brings the price up to a staggering $7,700 a kilowatt. Under Florida law, to pay for these nuclear power plants, Progress Energy can raise the rates of its customers a $100 a year for years and years and years before they even get one kilowatt-hour from these plants.

simpsons.jpgRatepayers in the region are being asked to swallow another rate increase (and a 20-month delay) on top of the 25% increase they saw in January (see “What do you get when you buy a nuke?“).

Ya gotta “heart” that.  Or perhaps the better pop-culture reference would be to say, “Excellent!”

It isn’t just this country — see “Turkey’s only bidder for first nuclear plant offers a price of 21 cents per kilowatt-hour.”

Indeed, our nuclear-friendly neighbor up north just saw the mother of all nuclear bids:  “Nuclear Bombshell: $26 Billion cost “” $10,800 per kilowatt! “” killed Ontario nuclear bid“.  And that bid from Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd. was the only “compliant” bid received:

The bid from France’s Areva NP also blew past expectations, sources said. Areva’s bid came in at $23.6 billion, with two 1,600-megawatt reactors costing $7.8 billion and the rest of the plant costing $15.8 billion. It works out to $7,375 per kilowatt,

Areva “was deemed non-compliant, however, likely because Areva wouldn’t guarantee the price.”

That’s right, Areva bid a whopping $23.6, but wouldn’t even guarantee that price.

Ya gotta “heart” that.

Right now, efficiency, recycled energy, wind, biomass, geothermal, new hydro (!), concentrated solar thermal, and even PV [roughly in that order] can deliver low-carbon power cheaper than whatever price you can get guaranteed by a nuclear vendor or utility in this country (see “An introduction to the core climate solutions“).  And that doesn’t even count low-cost fuel switching from coal to natural gas in existing plants (see “Game changer, Part 2: Why unconventional natural gas makes the 2020 Waxman-Markey target so damn easy and cheap to meet“).

Progressives “brain” clean energy!

h/t Yglesias.

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36 Responses to David Frum says “Conservatives Heart Nuke Power.” Too bad they don’t “brain” it.

  1. Brewster says:

    Why does Barry Brook (Brave New Climate) come up with such a different opinion?

    One of the two of you MUST be wrong, and I do not have the expertise to know…

    [JR: Don't know what you mean, but read the links. This is a fact-based post, not opinion.]

  2. Col says:

    Since when do conservatives “heart” picking winners instead of letting the free-market do that?

  3. Brewster says:

    Joe, I’ve read the links, and I have read Barry Brook’s links.

    They are all very persuasive, and all seem “fact based”.

    But they come to diametrically opposite conclusions, and as I said earlier, I do not have the expertise to sort out what’s what.

    Here is a vwery persuasive link from Brave New Climate:


  4. TFMS says:

    Great article, excellent links. If you are interested, we explore some of the renewable energy solutions that will be needed to make the transition to a low carbon economy, many of which you mention in your “introduction to core climate solutions”. http://bit.ly/33cAY6
    You can some extracts here:
    Thanks for a handy summary and links cheers M

  5. David Lewis says:

    Re: David Frum.

    I don’t agree with much, if any, of what he stands for. But I heard him on a Bill Moyers Journal podcast, “A Conservative Plan for Healthcare?” 8/14/2009 and wished there were more Republican voices as civilized as his. To clarify what I mean by “civilized”, here is a transcript of an exchange between Moyers and Frum:

    Moyers: “You have certainly aroused those to your right…”

    Frum: “A lot of the conservative movement in this country is conducting itself in a way that is tremendously destructive, both of the basic constitutional compact with its requirements of good faith, and of their own good sense. When you are going on the air and calling the President of the United States a Nazi, as Rush Limbaugh has repeatedly done, when Mark Levin says the President is literally at war with the American people, it is then people begin, unsurprisingly, showing up a rallies with guns. Obviously, if the President were, let me put it this way, if I believed that the President was a Nazi, was planning a fascist takeover, it would be contemptibly cowardly of me not to do everything in my power, including contemplating violence, to resist such a thing. Every decent person should do that. That’s why you don’t say it when its not true. And this is one of the ways that the constitutional system works. You have some understanding that the people on the other side have slightly different priorities, but they share your constitutional values, they are vested in the same system, the problems they’ve got are hard problems, and even if you don’t like their answers, you have to have some restraint in the way you talk about them, as you would hope they would have about you.

    And I think it is outrageous, it is dangerous, it is dangerous to the whole constitutional system and I am absolutely prepared to fight with them, and by the way it is dangerous to conservatives, because the effect of the talk of people like Rush Limbaugh or Levin is to kill our cause with voters who are under 65. You want to make that man our face, you want to contrast him with someone like Barack Obama who is maybe too expensive, but who seems calm and judicious, its an ugly comparison.”

    Frum is advocating that Republicans change their position on climate change. What he advocates isn’t what you want, but at least he offers civilized debate. He isn’t shouting from the rooftops that Joe Romm is a Nazi or that Joe Romm should kill himself if he thinks climate change is a problem. He isn’t saying the climatologists don’t know what they are talking about. He is saying he believes that nuclear is a cost effective solution that will prove to be cheaper than solar. It should be easy to debate him if what you believe about the cost of nuclear power is correct.

    And I would advocate treating Frum with more civility, however much you disagree with him, in the interests of moving this broken politics of the US away from the preposterous state it is in.

  6. JJ says:

    And Frum is one of the moderately good guys, as far as climate goes. He acknowledges the problem, at least, and is trying to get his party and its base to reposition. (Good luck with that.)

    Frum trying to get his party reality based:


    Baby steps, I guess.

  7. Mark Shapiro says:

    Nuclear power requires government bureaucracy, regulation, and subsidies.
    Nuclear power plant operators are oligopolies at best, monopolies or government owned at worst.
    Nuclear power is the most concentrated form of power on our planet, and it creates concentrated economic power and concentrated political power.

    Since conservatives dislike every one of these attributes of nuclear power, why do they “heart” it indeed? *
    Let us please ask our conservative friends why they like the form of electrical power that has so many anti-conservative traits. And let us remind them — over and over — of the economic superiority of conservation, efficiency, and yes, renewables.

    * We are all awed by power, we all covet power. It is easy to be blinded by an offer of power — especially Einstein’s e=mc2 power.

  8. paulm says:

    In 45mins enough solar energy falls on the earth to power the entire world for a year.

    I think it is much better that we invest our research and resources in developing a more sustainable, less expensive, safer and cheap solution than nuclear.

  9. Ronald Brak says:

    Brewster, if nuclear power is cheap as the link you provided suggests, then all the nuclear power companies have to do for the nuclear power industry to take off is build a cheap nuclear power plant. However, rather than charge a competitive price and take on risk themselves, companies are only offering to build new reactors for a high price. Either they can’t build new nuclear plants cheaply, or they have all decided not to for some reason. If it’s because they’ve decided not to then the nuclear industry’s decline is their own jolly fault.

    If you are still not sure, look up the actual contract price of new reactors that are planned or under construction and divide by the reactor’s generating capacity to get the cost per kilowatt. You’ll see it’s quite high. In places with a free electricity market such as Australia, new nuclear power is simply unable to compete on cost with other low emission sources of energy.

  10. Bob Wallace says:

    Brewster -

    Let me quickly point out three problems with the Brooks’s argument. (There are others….)

    1) The lower priced Areva is a “sucker price” bid. It is not a guaranteed final price. Ontario specifically asked for bids in which the builder guaranteed the final price, relieving Ontario of the risk generally encountered when entering into contracts with reactor construction companies.

    Bid low, run it up , stick the customer (ratepayers).

    Brooks talks as if the Areva $ per kW number is a real number. It’s not.

    2) Then there’s this bit…

    “The most important number in the whole controversy has gone largely without notice and that is the delivered cost of electricity from the plants is in the range of five cents per kilowatt hour.”

    Five cents is the delivered cost from a plant built decades ago and now paid off.

    It’s as if you went down to shop for a new BMW, asked the price, and the salesman asked you what it costs to drive your present 1997 Plymouth. You tell him about $125 for gas, insurance and registration.

    You ask the price again and he says “Well, it costs about $125 a month to drive a car.”

    Same dishonesty in Brook’s argument. No way will power from a newly built reactor reach the customer at $0.05 per kWh. Were that the case private money would be streaming into building reactors. There would be huge profits to be made as coal gets priced higher with carbon fees.

    3. David Waters talks about bringing plants in at $1,400 kW.

    First, there aren’t any plants being built at $1,400 for which we have public numbers. Does a plant being built very inexpensively in China with $10 per day labor, $200 a month engineers and government owned concrete/steel/land sound like anything that we could do in the West?

    Finland’s new plant is at $4,848 kW and climbing. Are US prices likely to be more like China or Finland?

    Let me give you a couple more prices from American companies…

    Nov 2008 – Duke Energy Carolinas, $11 billion for two 1,117 reactors. $4924 per kW. (Duke is apparently upping this number and putting off construction.)

    Early 2009 – Progress Energy, more than $6,400 kW. $7,700 kW including transmission lines.

    The two largest US nuclear energy companies, Exelon and Entergy have stated that they aren’t going to be building any new reactors for the next decade or more. Prices have pushed them out of that business. Exelon is building a new solar installation in Illinois.

    Second, Walters (who often makes very “inaccurate” postings on Daily Kos) is using the “overnight rate”. That is to say, the price if the plant could be instantly built and not over ten or more years.

    The overnight rate leaves out the realities of financing and inflation. Financing alone can easily double the price of materials and labor.

    That’s one of David’s common tricks, stating unrealistic numbers and ignoring financing costs.

    That’s three bogus items in your linked post. I think it reasonable to declare Brook’s post a POS, don’t you?

  11. This seems to be the key point about cost from the post that Brewster cites at http://bravenewclimate.com/ 2009/ 08/ 23/ recent-nuclear-power-cost-estimates-separating-fact-from-myth/

    “First, $26 billion is an aggregate number that includes two reactors, turbines, transmission and distribution infrastructure (power lines or T&D), plant infrastructure, and nuclear fuel for 60 years as well as decommissioning costs. … the widely reported figure of about $11,000/Kw for AECL’s reactor package is also wildly inaccurate because it wraps the entire cost of the package into a single bundle and then allocates all of them to a figure designed to inflate the cost of the electricity generated by the reactor alone.

    “… a report in the Toronto Star on July 14 which pegged the cost of two 1,650 EPR reactors at $7.8 billion. Doing the math, that comes out to just under $2,400/Kw which is a very competitive price.”

    Now, it seems to me that if you want to compare the cost of nuclear power and wind or concentrated solar power, it does make sense to include the cost of nuclear fuel and of decommissioning, because nuclear has these costs while wind and concentrated solar have no cost for fuel and insignificant cost for decommissioning.

    It is misleading to just consider the costs of building the reactors themselves, as they do in their lower cost estimate, and to ignore the other costs of nuclear.

  12. Brewster says:

    Thank you for the replies, gentlemen.

    They give me a much better understanding so that I can evaluate the claims.

    Thank you again.

  13. Leif says:

    The very same problem that Charles Seagel states as a problem with nuclear, (not including the fuel and decommissioning, etc.) is the same problem with fossil fuels. Not including the cost of the environmental degradation cost into the cost of power. The fossil fuel has been allowed to dump it’s waste for free, the taxpayers pick up the tab. Then to add insult to injury, the sustainable industry is being forced to meet this unrealistic subsidized price. What a deal…
    For instance, I have to pay $50 / ton to bring my yard waste to the composting center to grind and make compost. $120 / tone for house hold garbage. We are fight like hell to get the carbon price at $20 / ton.
    Just goes to show you what a few million dollars in lobbying expenses to dubeious “public officials” will do for you. Chump change… What a deal!

  14. Rabid Doomsayer says:

    A further problem with Brook’s argument is that he is treating 4th generation nuclear power as here, now, technology.

    Fast neutron reactors when commercially competitive will reduce the intractability of waste and be far more efficient users of uranium. Unfortunately they are far more expensive to construct to the point where they are not yet competitive (even if all the technical problems where solved)

  15. Chris Dudley says:

    I would feel much more sanguine about conservative opposition to a public option in health care if they were to advocate repeal of the Price-Anderson Act which provides public insurance for nuclear power plants in case of accident. If you figure a big accident every 40 years and that the kind of plant most likely to go next might be a poorly run one like Indian Point, the value of the insurance works out to 4 to 10 cents per kWh, all covered by federal tax payers. If we had a nuclear accident now, the federal government might end up defaulting either on debt or accident compensation (see the exclusions in your homeowners and life insurance for nuclear accident that the government is supposed to cover).

    No, it is very hard to discern a consistent point of view in conservatives in this situation. At least during these poor economic times, I would hope the administration could find a way to disavow Price Anderson liability owing to the systemic risk a nuclear accident poses.

  16. Nuke Spruik says:

    If you guys are so sure about yourselves, why do you argue the point directly with Prof Brook? You’ve never raised these questions on his website. I wonder if you aren’t trying to avoid an answer.

    #15 said: “Unfortunately they are far more expensive to construct to the point where they are not yet competitive (even if all the technical problems where solved)”

    Can’t you see that this is a non-sequitur? First you claim that 4th generation reactors don’t exist. Then you say that they are more expensive to construct and this is why they are not being built. But if they don’t exist, how do you know that this is the reason?

    What unsolved technical problems do you refer to?

    Anyway, in Brook’s post he was talking about Gen III reactors, not Gen IV. I hereby speculate that you didn’t bother to read his post.

  17. ScruffyDan says:

    Seems like an an easy response to pro-nuke people is to say “lets keep nukes on the table, BUT lets make them compete with other forms of non-carbon energy in terms of price”

    I don’t see how any conservative could oppose that.

  18. johne says:

    There are a number of Gen IV reactors now, in France, Japan and Russia and there are a few planned or under construction (Japan, India, Russia and China). They can be configured to Breed fuel, or consume existing nuclear waste, transforming it into more manageable quantities of shorter half-life waste. In this mode they perform a useful function apart from generating power. Despite building the first (in 1946 would you believe at Los Almos), US stopped research in the 1990s – some of the Argonne people involved are trying to get the IFR (Integral Fast Reactor) project up again – I think probably a good thing to do.
    With current reactors, mining, refining and enriching uranium ore is energy intensive, and not the most carbon neutral process!! Take a look at the mining operations in Australia where most uranium comes from – the scale is massive. And then building the reactors is not exactly carbon friendly either!

  19. Nuke Spruik says:

    Quite my point johne, so contrary to #15, they ARE in fact a here now technology. The Chinese purchase of 2 x BN-800s is indication enough of this.

    Everything that requires construction has a carbon footprint. For concrete and steel, the footprint for wind is 10 times that of nuclear, and for solar thermal it is even larger. The graph here is quite revealing of this:

    TCASE 4: Energy system build rates and material inputs

    As for mining emissions, these are factored into any levelised carbon emissions per MWh comparison. Under these conditions, nuclear comes out about the same as wind (wind uses more in construction, nuclear requires fuel etc.). Solar PV is 2-5 times as much, natural gas (Romm’s favorite baby) is 30 times greater than nuclear/wind.

  20. Turboblocke says:

    Johne: the current, newest, nuclear technology runnning in France is the EPR (European pressurised reactor) not the IFR.

  21. Heraclitus says:

    One thing I didn’t see much discussion of on Brook’s site was the legacy of nuclear powerstations for an uncertain future. Solar and wind stations can, I assume, just be left inactive without significant consequence, or easily dismantled if necessary. However if, as seems quite possible, we are bequeathing a future where resources will already be stretched beyond breaking point will Nuclear stations represent an extra burden? Can they be left more or less indefinitely before they need decommissioning without sophisticated monitoring and maintenance?

  22. Couple of points. When the story came out about Areva’s bid in Ontario, here’s what Dan Yurman found out:

    The news media, notably the Toronto Star, had a field day with the numbers sticking provincial politicians like they were morsels on a shish-ka-bob skewer. The problem with all the fire, smoke, and spit from the grill is that the numbers are undoubtedly wrong and wrongly reported in the news media.

    First, $26 billion is an aggregate number that includes two reactors, turbines, transmission and distribution infrastructure (power lines or T&D), plant infrastructure, and nuclear fuel for 60 years as well as decommissioning costs. The most important number in the whole controversy has gone largely without notice and that is the delivered cost of electricity from the plants is in the range of five cents per kilowatt hour.

    In the US, the cost per kilowatt for construction doesn’t include fuel costs for 60 years and decommissioning costs which is why it seemed high to everyone here. As well, here’s what Dan found out about Russia’s bid to build a nuclear plant in Turkey:

    Initially, the deal was held up because Rosatom proposed to sell electricity from the plant at $0.21/KwHr. Electricity from natural gas sells in Turkey for $0.08/KwHr. After some arm twisting, and a visit by Russian Premier Vladimir Putin earlier this year, the price was dropped to about $0.15/KwHr.

    It’s still a bit high, but the first offer was obviously a negotiating starting price that came down and did not represent the real costs of a nuclear plant. And, here’s what we found when looking into Craig Severance’s “exclusive analysis.”

  23. Brewster says:

    Well, I’m glad that’s all settled.

    I suspect, much as Joe stated some time ago, we’re going to need all we can get of all kinds of non-carbon power. Let’s build it all!

    But it sure would be nice to see a thorough, unbiased analysis of costs, from construction to decommissioning.

    Maybe we won’t be able to really know until we build some of each!

  24. Brooks Bridges says:

    I read the article on the tripling of estimated cost of the FPL reactors and saw no explanation for such an incredible increase in one year. Similarly the doubling of costs for the Finnish plant. Has anyone seen an explanation? I’m amazed there hasn’t been at least a cursory explanation.

    In the FPL article I saw only:
    “In the past five years, the price of copper has gone up more than 300 percent, cement has risen more than 30 percent, and iron and steel have risen more than 70 percent. The nuclear industry has already predicted shortfalls in the nuclear work force.”

  25. Bob Wallace says:

    Brooks – a new phenomenon has emerged in the last couple of years. Potential purchasers are now required “full disclosure” when asking for reactor bids.

    No more of the “Well, we’ll build it for $2 billion” and then presenting a $4 billion bill at the end of the job.

    It might be a good idea to go back and see how many of those price increases that astound you are examples of open-ended underbids which, under pressure, have been updated to more accurately reflecting the real price.

    I’d suggest that the nuclear industry has finally been found out. Buyers are realizing that the nuclear industry has a long and well documented history of coming in way over budget.

    Ontario and San Antonio are good examples of this. They didn’t sign contracts with blank bottom lines, they asked for a final price, no surprises. I expect other potential purchasers are now doing the same.

    Putting fuel and decommissioning costs back on the provider makes good sense.

    Brewster – Let me suggest three tests for what we build in our transition away from fossil fuels.

    We should ask ourselves which methods for filling the grid with non-CO2 electricity can be built the 1) fastest, 2) for the least money, and 3) the safest.

    I would suggest that nuclear satisfies zero of these criteria.

  26. Kevin says:

    It is important to not only look at the capital costs, but the amount of energy generated by the source each year. PVs for example can only produce electricity 30% or so of the time. Nuclear produces power 90+% generally. Wind about 30 to 40% of the time. So, on a $/megawatt hour basis, the call is a little closer.

  27. Bob Wallace says:

    Kevin – from above – using current capital costs for nuclear “puts the generation costs for power from new nuclear plants at from 25 to 30 cents per kilowatt-hour”.

    Wind farms are producing electricity for around a nickel per kWh. Best sites, best technology farms are producing at $0.035 per kWh. Those numbers do not include subsidies.

    And, based on Severance’s calculations were we to build CAES storage in order to make wind 100% reliable/baseload the price would rise to about $0.13 per kWh. Without subsidies.

  28. DavidCOG says:

    > New nuclear power plants are currently far and away the most expensive form of carbon free power you can (try to) buy…

    Nuclear isn’t close to being “carbon free”. The consensus seems to put it at 100g+ CO2 / KWh.

  29. SecularAnimist says:

    It’s always been the same with the pro-nuclear zealots:

    “Nuclear power is THE answer !!! … what was the question?”

    As for “conservatives”, what they like about nuclear power is that it ensures that electricity generation remains in the hands of a few giant ultra-rich corporations and keeps electricity generation out of the hands of the people.

  30. Bob Wallace says:

    David – complete lifecycle CO2 outputs for nuclear and wind are about equal. (Wind releases some less as it comes on line quicker and can prevent many years of much higher coal CO2.)

    Wind causes a lot more CO2 to be released during construction as it uses a lot more concrete and steel. Nuclear catches up over time due to mining and requiring more vehicle use in maintenance and operation.

    Here are some numbers I worked up for a different use…

    A study done for the UK Parliament found the carbon footprint over the complete lifecycle in gCO2/kWh to be greater than 1,000 for coal, 5 for wind, 5 for nuclear.

    Japan’s Central Research Institute of the Electric Power Industry found 975 for coal, 29 for wind, 22 for nuclear.

    Vattenfall reported for Sweden 980 for coal, 5.5 for wind, 6 for nuclear.

    Vattenfall reported for Finland 894 for coal, 14 for wind, 10-26 for nuclear.

    Solar PV comes in higher than nuclear or wind, but 90+% less than coal.

  31. Cynodont says:

    Coal is ‘base load’ electric power, and cannot be 100% replaced by renewable energy that isn’t also base load. The only renewable sources of power that can be considered base load are geothermal and compressed air storage (or other electricity storage devices). There simply isn’t enough geothermal and compressed air storage available to replace coal plants.

    Therefore, nuclear is incredibly valuable as part of the overall solution because it is base load. The cost isn’t that bad when you look at the alternative of runaway climate catastrophe. We have to retire coal plants as fast as possible, and nuclear is clearly one of the best ways to do it. Of equal importance is developing better electricity storage devices so that wind, solar, hydro, etc… can be used as base load. But that is going to take some time and will be complimentary to nuclear.

  32. Bob Wallace says:

    Cynodot, there is a flaw in your reasoning. Look at what you say…

    “The only renewable sources of power that can be considered base load are geothermal and compressed air storage (or other electricity storage devices).”

    That’s not exactly true.

    First, approximately one third of all wind produced by wind farms over wide enough geographical area is baseload. You can depend on that one third to be just as reliable as a coal plant (which is reliable about 85% of the time).

    Produce 3 gig, 1 is baseload and the other two are variable.

    Second, there a several ways other than CAES to store electricity including pump-hydro, and flow batteries. In fact, were we to take one of the two variable gigs of power from our 3 gig output farms and use it when farm output was between one and two gigs we could now have two gigs of baseload power.

    And it’s even better. That wind/stored wind electricity is dispatchable. We can turn it on and off as needed. And this is a very big plus. We cannot turn either coal or nuclear on and off in short order, it can take days.

    Now, you argue that we have to build nuclear because their isn’t enough CAES. You overlook the option of building CAES and pump-up and flow batteries. And building them would be less expensive and faster than building nuclear.

    Nuclear is just plain slow to build. The Finland plant was supposed to be a quickie and be running in five years or so. Now they’re saying that they’ll have it going closer to ten. Maybe.

    Slower to implement.

    More expensive.

    And creates its own special glow-in-the-dark dangers….

  33. Jerry Taylor, a Senior Fellow with the conservative Cato Institute identified the “Heart” issue regarding conservatives and nuclear power in his excellent October 2008 article “Nuclear Energy: Risky Business”, here:


    Taylor noted:

    “Nuclear energy is to the Right what solar energy is to the Left: Religious devotion in practice, a wonderful technology in theory, but an economic white elephant in fact (some crossovers on both sides notwithstanding).”

    Coming from a conservative standpoint, Taylor identified correctly all the reasons why nuclear energy is an uncompetitive, government-born-bred-and-fed technology. It is an excellent piece, well worth reading.

    So why do so many on the Right leap to “Heart” nuclear power, against all conservative principles? I fear the “Heart” issue may actually be more a “Hate” issue. We have devolved to the point where we “love to hate each other” so much we can’t agree on solutions to anything. Our politics are now so polarized, if one side likes solar power, the other side feels they must fight solar power and champion something else.

    We are talking about building power plants, folks. There is no such thing as a Republican or Democrat nuclear or solar power plant or wind farm or caulk gun.

    I addressed this in my article: “Nuclear, Solar Not Red or Blue” here:


    If the Right champions nuclear power it will be a very costly campaign indeed, as shown by the Ontario, FPL, and San Antonio cost debacles.

    Is “Heart” a good reason to have U.S. taxpayers back upwards of a trillion dollars (for the GOP’s “100 new nuclear plants” plan)?

    Where are the real conservatives when we need them?

  34. Ronald Brak says:

    In Australia, when our carbon trading scheme is introduced, electricity companies plan to build more wind and other low emission generating capacity and convert current baseload coal plants to become load following. They will also start using biomass in addition or instead of coal. This will allow the amount of fossil fuel used for baseload power to be rapidly reduced. As wind and the projected cost of geothermal and other low emission energy sources are lower than nuclear, our electricity companies see no need to wait for nuclear plants to be built or pay for their expense. But switching away from coal baseload will only be done once a price is put on carbon, as here the cost of coal for some generators is apparently as little as $2.50 a ton.

  35. Thomas Jørgensen says:

    Nukes are indeed, very much the children of dirigiste economic policy –

    The free market just doesnt deal very well with huge investments that pay off over a time scale of decades, because all the costs to the company doing the building happen now, and the profits happens when your successor is running the utility, so he (and it usually is a he!) is the one that is going to get the mammoth bonuses, and to make things worse, the only way to get the costs down to “Somewhat-less-insane” is to build not just one or two multi-billion-dollar plants, but to build them by the dozens so that construction crews are experienced, and the supply chain is a thriving competetive industry, instead of a very small number of firms collecting monopoly rents. (Japan steelworks, I am looking at you) This just does not happen unless governments make it happen.

    This does not mean that nuclear is not a solution to climate change. Because it is. If the governments of the industrial world follows in the footsteps of France, and send down the word from on high that all electricity is going to be nuclear electricity in 20-25 years, those reactors can, and will, be built, and with a construction series in the thousands, costs will come down, and electricity would be, essentially, carbon free, which means a lot of other emmisions can in turn be eliminated by substituting electricity for combustion whereever possible. Electric trains, electric cars, electric heat(pumps), nuclear shipping, are all workable and reasonably economic technologies.

    Both electric and nuclear planes are unfortunately unlikely to be workable, but a future where airtravel is the major remaining source of CO2 is a future where global warming has been solved, once and for all.

    And this is the major reason that nuclear is the answer- It might, barely, be possible to construct enough renewable capacity to replace our current electricity consumption, tough I remain highly skeptical. There is no hope on earth of building enough, and sufficiently cheap, renewable capacity to substitute electricity for carbon in the transport, heating, and industrial sectors.

    Conservation is no answer to electricity demand, because any future that is low carbon will be extremely, massively greedy for electricity. It is nice if your electronic gadgets turn themselves off when not in use, but any savings made there are going to be completely swamped by the way your meter starts spinning when you plug in your electric car for recharging. So an extreme and massive source of carbon free electricity is a nessesity, not an option. Nuclear is the only thing that fits the bill, so the future will be dirigiste energy policy, or ever higher carbon emmissions. There are no other outcomes. CCS is a bondoggle, and renewables will not meet the demand.