Sen. Lamar Alexander plans to nuke his own agenda

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"Sen. Lamar Alexander plans to nuke his own agenda"

By CAPAF’s Daniel J. Weiss and Richard Caperton.

On Friday, December 3, Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN), the Senate Republican Conference Chair, plans to release the Senate GOP’s agenda for 2011.  According to Roll Call, Alexander will say that it will focus on “jobs, debt and terror.”  There is at least one big problem with his proposed agenda – it includes his call to build 100 new nuclear power plants.  This plank would create fewer jobs relative to its huge cost, add billions of dollars to the deficit, and increase the risk of terrorists getting radioactive material.  In short, Alexander’s proposal would nuke his own jobs, debt, and terror agenda.

Alexander plans to unveil his agenda at the right wing Hudson Institute, which has been funded by the Koch Foundation, ExxonMobil, and other anti-clean energy interests.  Roll Call reports

Alexander will call for investment in clean-energy-technology development and the nation’s transportation system, as well as for the construction of 100 nuclear power plants. While such spending proposals were staples of the platforms of conservative and libertarian leaders about 20 years ago, they have fallen out of favor with many conservatives today.

JOBS

Alexander’s 100 nukes proposal would require a federal expenditure of at least $6 billion (see below for more details), and certainly would create jobs.  However, investing this same amount of federal money in clean energy could create three times more jobs.  An analysis by the University of Massachusetts’ Political Economy Research Institute projects that an investment of $1 million in nuclear energy creates roughly one-third of the direct and indirect jobs compared to investing $1 million in wind and solar energy, or building efficiency retrofits.  In other words, the public and private funds required to build 100 power plants would create three times more jobs if invested in clean energy.  The Alexander plan carries a significant employment opportunity cost.

Another study found that nuclear power does create more jobs than wind power per gigawatt of new electricity generation capacity.  This research falls short because it does not consider a full suite of clean energy investments such as energy efficiency, which is very labor intensive.  Right now job creation is a top priority, but the government has only limited funds to invest in it.  Therefore, it should maximize the jobs created per dollar of investment rather than focus on other criteria.

DEBT

Alexander’s plan to build 100 new nuclear power plants would double the number of U.S. plants.  Private investors, however, are very reluctant to invest in new plants because they are such a risky investment.  The Energy Policy Act of 2005 established a federal loan guarantee program to back stop 80 percent of investment in each project so that taxpayers would pick up the tab if borrowers default.  So far, only one loan guarantee has been issued, for a plan to build two reactors in Georgia.  Another proposed loan guarantee for a reactor in Calvert Cliffs, Maryland is on hold because the credit cost of the loan guarantee was too high based on the plant’s cost and the risk of loan default.

The cost of a new nuclear reactor is extremely uncertain because no new reactor has been built in the United States since the 1970s.  However, given the history of cost overruns in nuclear construction in the US, and examples of dramatic cost overruns for plants currently under construction in other nations, a new reactor could be expected to cost at least $8 billion.  This estimate is very optimistic.  The Calvert Cliffs plant’s price tag is $10.5 billion.  In 2009, the government of Ontario put its plan to build a new plant on hold after the price more than tripled to $26 billion.

Under the existing loan guarantee program, the financing of 100 plants would require loan guarantees of at least $640 billion.  By law, the Department of Energy will collect credit fees from investors to cover the federal governments risk exposure.  For instance, DOE estimated that the credit cost of Calvert Cliffs plant would be 11.8 percent of the total loan guarantee.  CAP estimates that the credit fee would be about 10 percent of the total loan guarantee for a typical plant.

The Congressional Budget Office, however, projects that DOE will underestimate the actual prospects for default on the loan guarantee, and therefore collect fewer dollars than necessary to protect taxpayers from financial risk.  CBO warns that

fees paid by borrowers would be at least 1 percent lower than the amount needed to cover the costs of the guarantee.

This would require an appropriation of $6.4 billion for 100 plants at $8 billion each, which would be added to the deficit.

Alexander’s nuclear plan would add $6.4 billion to the deficit – and that assumes no spike in the cost of nuclear plant construction.  This is an ineffective use of scarce financial resources at time when the Republican Pledge to America promises to

Cut government spending to pre-stimulus, pre-bailout levels saving at least $100 billion in the first year alone.

There are many more beneficial uses of these funds.  For instance, $6 billion could retrofit over one million homes to make them more energy efficient, save owners’ money, and cut pollution.  Or they could pay for 120,000 college scholarships.

TERROR

Existing nuclear reactors produce approximately 20-30 tons of high level nuclear waste per reactor per month.  The operation of 100 new nuclear power plants would dramatically increase this waste by millions of pounds.  This additional waste would dramatically increase the risk to public health and the environment.  The Nuclear Regulatory Commission describes the threat.

High-level wastes are hazardous to humans and other life forms because of their high radiation levels that are capable of producing fatal doses during short periods of direct exposure. For example, ten years after removal from a reactor, the surface dose rate for a typical spent fuel assembly exceeds 10,000 rem/hour, whereas a fatal whole-body dose for humans is about 500 rem (if received all at one time). Furthermore, if constituents of these high-level wastes were to get into ground water or rivers, they could enter into food chains. Although the dose produced through this indirect exposure is much smaller than a direct exposure dose, there is a greater potential for a larger population to be exposed.

Currently, there is no long term storage plan for existing nuclear waste, which remains radioactive for 10,000 years.  Sen. Alexander proposes to address the waste problem by reprocessing it to reuse as fuel in reactors.  The Union of Concerned Scientists describes the danger of this approach.

From the perspective of terrorists seeking a nuclear weapon, reprocessing changes plutonium from a form in which it is highly radioactive and nearly impossible to steal to one in which it … could be stolen surreptitiously by an insider, or taken by force during its routine transportation.

This situation is made worse by the fact that the theft of enough plutonium to build several nuclear weapons could remain undetected for many years at a reprocessing facility.

Some reprocessing advocates claim that a new generation of so-called “proliferation-resistant” reprocessing technologies now under development would resolve the proliferation concerns of conventional reprocessing. However, there is little evidence that these technologies would be significantly more secure.

Reprocessing high level nuclear waste increases the risk of proliferation, and its use by terrorists.  One hundred more nuclear power plants dramatically increases the risk of fissible material falling into the hands of terrorists or exposing Americans to highly toxic radioactive waste.

CONCLUSION

John Rowe is the Chairman of Exelon, the nation’s largest nuclear plant operator.  His company does not plan to build any new reactors right now.  He said recently that

his company would not break ground until the price of natural gas was more than double today’s level and carbon emissions cost $25 a ton.

Sen. Alexander and nearly all of his caucus opposed action on global warming in the 111th Congress.  And all but one of his newly elected GOP colleagues are climate science deniers, further decreasing prospects for putting a price on carbon pollution that is the essential condition that makes build more nuclear power plants economically viable.  They refuse to create a market that values nuclear power’s most beneficial characteristic – its low carbon pollution.  Instead, GOP Senators have blocked the one action that would make building more nuclear reactors viable.

Senator Alexander’s nuclear proposal would add relatively fewer jobs compared to clean tech, add to the budget deficit, and create opportunities for terrorists.  In short, his “Blueprint for 100 Nuclear Plants” would blow his own agenda to pieces.

Daniel J. Weiss and Richard Caperton

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79 Responses to Sen. Lamar Alexander plans to nuke his own agenda

  1. Peter M says:

    So much for GOP solutions in the coming chaotic future of 21st Century America – they have none.

    It seems like the stale redux of ‘socialism for the rich’ no coherent energy policy- and massive deficits to support new wars.

  2. Jeff Huggins says:

    Freezing

    Joe and CP, I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on Paul Krugman’s piece today, “Freezing Out Hope”, in terms of how you see that whole problem relating to the climate change and energy issues.

    Be Well,

    Jeff

  3. Ed Hummel says:

    Nuclear power, in fact any large scale industry, assumes a stable and peaceful society. I think anyone that assumes such a thing over the next few decades is living in a fantasy world.

  4. BillD says:

    I personally think that a long term plan to increase nuclear power is a good idea. Clearly it is only part of the solution and I don’t expect that we can start, much less finish construction on 100 plants during the next few years. Thus, nuclear is certainly not the main solution.

  5. Great article, but it actually understates the financial risk to taxpayers of this proposal.

    Most, if not all, of these nuclear loans are not just “guarantees,” they will come from the government’s Federal Financing Bank (FFB). In fact, any “guarantee” for the allowable maximum 80% of project cost MUST come from the FFB. The Vogtle loan will come from the FFB, the Calvert Cliffs-3 loan was to come from the FFB.

    Quick math: 100 new reactors at the conservative $8 billion each, at the allowable 80% of project cost, means the actual outlay from the treasury would be more like $640 billion, rather than $6.4 billion.

    In the first nuclear construction go-round (1960s-1980s), about half of the reactors ordered were never built, even though substantial construction (and thus substantial costs) were incurred on many of them. And, of course, we had massive bond defaults (WPPSS), bankrupt utilities (Public Service of New Hampshire) and huge losses by many utilities (and ratepayers being forced to pay then-exorbitant electricity rates).

    Not only would it be difficult to deliberately design a less effective jobs creation program than nuclear construction, but the likelihood of tens and perhaps hundreds of billions of dollars of losses of taxpayer money on a program like this should make any legislator concerned about fiscal responsibility run away from it like the plague.

    Unfortunately, “should” doesn’t necessarily mean “will.” So the public will have to mobilize against it if this proposal begins to get serious consideration.

  6. Zach says:

    “The operation of 100 new nuclear power plants would dramatically increase this waste by millions of pounds. This additional waste would dramatically increase the risk to public health and the environment.”

    This is well and good, but isn’t this site called Climate Progress? Are we talking about how much heat’s generated by the radioactive material? There are public health, environmental, and security issues posed by increasing the amount of waste out there (I doubt they scale very well with the quantity of waste, though), but I thought Climate Progress was generally in agreement that global warming is a problem of a much larger magnitude than any of that.

    You can compare spending on nuclear plants in the near future to what you’d ideally like to spend money on, but spending on nuclear power is beneficial to (1) the climate and (2) the economy. It may not be as beneficial as other spending, but if the other spending won’t happen in this political climate, I’ll take what I can get. Any movement on nuclear power also pushes us towards actually dealing with waste.

    I do think that GOP rhetoric on nuclear power is incredibly irresponsible more often than not (in the way it convinces folks that nuclear power is someone sufficient or scalable on relevant timescales to provide a large chunk of American, let alone global, electricity demand). And of course there’s the irony of the GOP consistently backing the eternally bailed out nuclear industry (with the government on the hook for catastrophic losses at minimal cost to industry) and wanting to massively increase subsidies to nuclear construction. I don’t much care how hypocritical it is if it’s a net positive, though.

    It seems sort of ridiculous on a site seemingly dedicated to eradicating climate change that you’re advocating college scholarships over direct clean energy subsidization of any sort. To the extent that 120,000 scholarships could have any effect on climate change, that effect will be delayed for over a decade or so (ie too late).

    Massive subsidies can surely nuclear power plants commercially viable even if a carbon tax or cap would be a more efficient route to that point.

  7. Conservation, energy efficiency and labor intensive efforts to cut energy waste need to be implemented regardless of the means of power generation.

    Building nuclear plants would be highly jobs intensive during the period of construction. Wind and solar provide for more balanced employment throughout the life cycle. I see nuclear and renewables as complimentary power sources, not competitors.

    The enemy of climate progress is coal and fossil fuel, not nuclear power.

  8. Larry Gilman says:

    Dear Zach:

    Reasoning that spending on nuclear power plants is beneficial to the climate because they have no (operating) greenhouse emissions is flawed because there are spending options. Spending on nukes incurs opportunity costs: you can’t spend the same dollar twice. Thus, if there are more effective things a dollar can do to mitigate climate change than buy a buck’s worth of nuclear power, buying that buck’s worth of nuclear power actually _worsens_ climate relative to making the more effective purchase. At current market prices — which are steadily turning against nukes (by the industry’s own estimates), in favor of renewables — wind is already cheaper than nuclear, and efficiency gains many times cheaper.

    The heat generated by radioactive material? I think you’re joking, but just to be clear, the heat released by nuclear and all other fuels is far too small to alter climate and has nothing to do with climate change. Radioactive wastes are dangerous because they are extremely persistent, carcinogenic, and readily enter biological systems: they can also be used as terrorist or war-time weapons (e.g., by blowing up repositories or adding wastes to conventional bombs); and they may be dispersed by accident (explosions, plane crashes, other boo-boos). Most forms of nuclear fuel are not usable for bomb construction without further refinement, but even this slightly reassuring fact is not true of the fuels proposed for breeder reactors.

    To say that a technology can be made “commercially viable” by “massive subsidies” is something of a self-contradiction. If nukes require never-ending massive subsidies, commercial viability is precisely what they lack. There’s such a thing as a launching subsidy later phased out, like Japan’s support of photovoltaics, but nukes have been getting “massive subsidies” for over half a century now — really _really_ massive subsidies, direct and indirect (e.g., Price-Anderson Act) — and are more expensive than ever per kWh, and are crying out for bigger, more astonishingly huge subisidies than ever. And, after about a decade of talk of a “nuclear renaissance,” global nuclear output continues to stagnate. If this is not failure, what would failure look like? If this is not permanent (and worsening) addiction to “massive subsidy,” what would _that_ look like?

  9. Zach says:

    @FishOutofWater: “Conservation, energy efficiency and labor intensive efforts to cut energy waste need to be implemented regardless of the means of power generation.”

    Exactly. If I’m going to pick a fight with an Alexander or a McCain or (tragically) a Graham, it’s going to be on the idea that electrifying a small minority of American cars or subsidizing the development of a single battery is a remotely sufficient scope for conservation efforts.

  10. Zach says:

    @Larry – “Spending on nukes incurs opportunity costs: you can’t spend the same dollar twice.”

    This logic assumes that there’s some defined chunk of money that the government has allocated to spending on energy. There isn’t; we could and should be spending much, much more money subsidizing energy conservation, clean energy use, the clean energy supply, and clean energy research (in that order). A dollar spent on a loan to build a nuclear plant is not a dollar not spent elsewhere. In fact, if you look at the recent history of Senate negotiations on energy legislation, it’s clear that a compromise can be made in which a dollar spent on nuclear power is paired with a dollar spent on something else. To that end, you’ll see that Alexander doesn’t propose subsidizing nuclear power in isolation, but also doubling Federal spending on energy research (this shouldn’t imply that I support his plan specifically, though). Compromising on nuclear power can benefit everyone… except, I guess, for people who are irrationally more worried about running short- and medium-term deficits than catastrophic climate change.

    Ideally, I’d like to see nationalized nuclear power generation (but with privately built plants and power delivery). This would sidestep many of the factors ramping up nuclear cost.

    Lastly, I’m not very familiar with this, but are the current wind costs per kWh sustainable? I currently use 100% wind power (via offsets) and pay less than I would with the default local utility. Are those prices are sustainable if demand for offsets were to increase demand at the point of wind power generation? And is wind power sufficiently scalable to be discussed as a competitor to nuclear power in the long term? I’m all for building up as much capacity for wind power as possible, but my understanding is that it’s limited in much the same way as hydroelectric power (finite capacity that’s much less than American electricity demand, geographically isolated source).

  11. Michael says:

    Re: Nuclear waste issue

    I don’t know how feasible this is, but why not make a reactor that is able to fully utilize its fuel and produce little or no (radioactive, especially the long-lived stuff) waste? I believe that current reactors extract less than 1 percent of the available energy, thus all of the waste produced and the ability to reuse/reprocess it.

    Also, if large numbers of reactors are built, uranium demand will increase, and just like oil, there is “peak uranium”; we are already using much more than is produced (mined uranium is roughly 58% of demand) and drawing from stocks (largely decommissioned warheads).

  12. Larry Gilman says:

    Michael:

    Reactor burnup of waste products is indeed proposed as part of next-generation nuclear power. However, it is expensive and messy — European reprocessing cycles are funded by governments, not the market — and notions of 100% burnup are fantasy (though I have even heard Jim Hansen claim that such a thing is on the table!) In the “UREX+” fuel cycle proposed by the US government in 2006, reprocessing would separate the spent fuel from existing once-through reactors into four streams, only one of which (transuranics, including plutonium) would go to fast-neutron reactors for transmutational burnup; the other three would all be waste. One waste stream would consist of the 30-year-half-life fission products, mostly strontium-90 and cesium-137, constituting the majority of the radiological hazard, to be placed in interim surface storage for several centuries before ultimate deep burial. Mark that: fourth-generation nuclear power, as actually proposed, does not offer anything close 100% burnup (if a thing sounds too good to be true, it probably is) but rather will continue to generate a large, high-intensity, multigenerational, surface-storage waste burden, with all the vulnerabilities (e.g., terrorism) that such a burden entails. A review for the International Panel on Fissile Materials of the technology and rather grim economics of this matter is given by physicist Frank von Hippel at http://www.carnegieendowment.org/files/FvHReprocPanelCarnegie26June07Rev.pdf .

  13. Larry Gilman says:

    Dear Zach,

    It is actually quite fair, as a first-order approximation, to assume that federal budget allocations for energy and climate-change mitigation are a zero-sum game. Especially in these “austerity”-pushing days. The _very_ large sums and guarantees ladled out to nuclear power on the golden shovel _do_ directly pinch what’s available for alternatives — even if not in a perfectly one-to-one way.

    There is no ground for the view that nationalizing nuclear power would stop costs from ramping up. Nuke costs in France, usually cited as the how-to-do-nukes-right country, have been ramping too: inflation-adjusted French cost per nuclear kWh more than tripled from 1970 to 2000 ( http://www.iiasa.ac.at/Admin/PUB/Documents/IR-09-036.pdf ).

    Wind power costs are not only sustainable but — unlike nuclear costs — are following the classic declining experience curves for any mass-produced technology: http://www.ewea.org/fileadmin/ewea_documents/documents/press_releases/factsheet_economy2.pdf (As Amory Lovins likes to say, windmills are built like cellphones, reactors like cathedrals.) Ditto for solar costs.

    Not that I say — or that anybody who pays attention to the technicalities says — that wind power is a panacea. But the idea that we somehow need nukes in our portfolio, that we must fund all options to be wise, is like arguing that a diverse financial portfolio needs to include _bad_ investments (another Lovins point). It doesn’t. And we shouldn’t.

    Regards,

    Larry

  14. Mike Roddy says:

    There are all kinds of problems with nuclear, mostly ones of simple feasibility. Sometimes I think that nuclear is being secretly promoted by Koch and Exxon apparatchiks, since they know that its limitations will result in more gas and coal being sold by them.

  15. RobLL says:

    We probably should be building a plant every year or so. And when/if we come up with a really great design consider more. It has also long struck me that smaller plants have a number of advantages. The primary one is that a nuclear plant needs a guaranteed customer for all that power. Current plants may be too large in many situations.

  16. Theodore says:

    The reason some people recommend and support nuclear energy is because it is familiar. You can’t expect old people to support some new-fangled solar energy system that they don’t remember from long ago. Older ideas are always best to older people. This isn’t an issue of logic or cost. It’s an issue of comfort and familiarity.

  17. Zach says:

    @Larry “It is actually quite fair, as a first-order approximation, to assume that federal budget allocations for energy and climate-change mitigation are a zero-sum game.”

    I provided a concrete example of when this absolutely isn’t true. In fact, I can’t see how an energy bill with significant subsidies for wind, solar, conservation, research, etc gets through this Senate absent huge nuclear subsidies… never mind how impossible it will be to get any energy bill through the next Congress. We’re not talking about allocating current resources, but about passing legislation to provide more resources. If progressives bargain on nuclear plants, we get more money for everything else and more nuclear power to boot, which may not be the most efficient way to forestall climate change, but unquestionably moves us in the right direction.

    The United States could and should be spending much, much more subsidizing energy development. If you think that the Congress will balk on anything else after putting up a trillion or so in collateral to get new nuclear plants running, then you may as well give up anyway because the actual cost (whether disbursed by Congress or paid by some cap or tax) will be much greater. Furthermore, the amounts of money we’re talking about has essentially zero impact on our long-term debt dilemma. The feigned austerity in the 2008 election cycle isn’t

    Preventing catastrophic warming becomes more difficult and expensive each year we do nothing. Sitting on the sidelines for an entire Congress and hoping we can get a good bill passed through the next one is simply irresponsible and more expensive in the long run than throwing a few tens of billions at the nuclear industry. People who want to stop climate change should simply bargain as hard as possible for a bill that does as much as possible to slow climate change, and provided a bill emerges that isn’t counterproductive (say, one that ties the EPA’s hands going forward), vote for it no matter how we think the money might be better spent.

  18. Zach says:

    @Larry – “Nuke costs in France, usually cited as the how-to-do-nukes-right country, have been ramping too: inflation-adjusted French cost per nuclear kWh more than tripled from 1970 to 2000 ( http://www.iiasa.ac.at/ Admin/ PUB/ Documents/ IR-09-036.pdf ).”

    What’s the inflation-adjusted cost per kWh for natural gas and coal in Europe? If French power is so expensive, how is France able to export so much of it? That number is meaningless without this context.

    One of the five sections of that study is notably titled “Anatomy of a Success,” and while figure 8 shows that the cost per kilowatt (not kWh) for new construction has tripled, the operating cost per kilowatt-hour has been flat for the last 4500 terawatt-hours generated (after dropping quickly for the first 500).

    Let’s extrapolate figure 8 and assume that new construction costs are 20,000 FF(1998)/kW or about $3000 USD/kW. That’s $3 billion for a gigawatt plant; operating at 80% capacity for 25 years, that’s about 200 terawatt-hours. Over the plant’s lifecycle, that’s $0.02/kWh construction costs. The operating cost has held steady at around 0.12FF or $0.02 USD/kWh. How does $0.04/kWh generated compare to other power options in Europe? Considering that nuclear generation costs are about 4-fold lower than coal in the United States, I think it’s pretty favorable.

    Of course, the French experience with nuclear power can’t be duplicated here (Figure 12 in your link illustrates why), but it’s absurd to write it off as some failure.

  19. DRT says:

    Where do small modular reactors, SMRs, fit in this picture? See:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Small_Modular_Reactors
    Could economies of scale with factory built SMRs bring down the cost of nuclear power sufficiently to make them more competitive? In reference to a previous post, can a nuclear plant become less like a cathedral and more like a…..well maybe not a cell phone, perhaps an airplane?

    I am all in favor of covering the wind belt with wind farms and the southwest with solar plants and the coasts with off shore wind, etc., but I also think that we need distributed power with resilience and redundancy, and I think SMRs might have role to play here.

  20. Bill Woods says:

    According to Michael Kruse, consultant on nuclear systems for Arthur D. Little, the Chinese are ready to spend $511 billion to build up to 245 reactors.

    President Hu Jintao wants non-fossil fuels to produce 15 percent of China’s energy by 2020. Although the Chinese have spent plenty on wind turbines and solar panels, only a buildup of nuclear power can make that target reachable.

    http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2010-12-02/china-nuclear-boom-sees-reactor-builders-risk-know-how-for-cash.html

  21. Mike Roddy says:

    Zach, your numbers are way off. Do some research about what nuclear actually costs these days, both in plant construction per Mgw and delivered cost per kwh. It ain’t pretty.

  22. quokka says:

    Mike Roddy,

    China is building the indigenous CPR-1000 reactor for overnight cost of around $1.5 billion per GWe with construction time of 52 months. The cost for Westinghouse AP-1000 and Areva EPR are a little higher $2 – $2.2 billion per GWe. The EPR being built in France is about $4 billion per GWe.

    The IEA 2010 projected costs of electricity generation with a $30 per tonne CO2 price are given here: http://www.iea.org/Textbase/npsum/ElecCost2010SUM.pdf

    Recent peer reviewed meta study of costs of baseload generation finds nuclear to be the lowest cost low emissions technology:

    http://bravenewclimate.com/2010/11/30/the-arithmetic-adds-up-to-nuclear/

  23. Prokaryotes says:

    2009
    France imports UK electricity as plants shut

    France is being forced to import electricity from Britain to cope with a summer heatwave that has helped to put a third of its nuclear power stations out of action. http://business.timesonline.co.uk/tol/business/industry_sectors/utilities/article6626811.ece

  24. Prokaryotes says:

    dec 2nd

    French engineering company Areva SA is building the world’s first new-generation nuclear reactor here. Some 4,000 workers from across Europe toil in the shadow of its vast concrete containment dome.

    But the Olkiluoto-3 reactor has had a deeply troubled history. Originally slated to cost around $4 billion (€3 billion), its price tag has nearly doubled to $7.2 billion (€5.3 billion). And it is four years behind schedule. http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703865004575648662738551250.html

  25. Prokaryotes says:

    Special Report – Nuclear’s lost generation
    There’s a hole in the nuclear workforce, not just in Finland but across the Western world. For the moment, the operator of the Olkiluoto 3 plant, power utility Teollisuuden Voima Oyj (TVO), is getting by with its most experienced staff. As those workers retire, though, the skills shortage could become a crisis.

    “The global community is facing this big problem — where is this human resource?” says Yanko Yanev, head of the IAEA’s nuclear knowledge management unit, set up 10 years ago when the Vienna-based agency first sounded the alarm. “When we started this programme, people said, ‘Ah, give us a break!’ Now they are realising the problem is more complex than they had first thought.” http://af.reuters.com/article/worldNews/idAFTRE6AS1OG20101129

    And all it takes is a virus today, to shut down the entire operation …

  26. Bill Young says:

    This article quotes the UCS as saying: “…reprocessing changes plutonium …to [a form]..which..is not radioactive…”

    Unless this is a misquote, there are no scientists at the Union of Concerned Scientists. Plutonium is inherently radioactive.

    Nuclear fuel reprocessing can chemically separate plutonium from other material with more intense radiation but it does not change the nature of the plutonium.

    The plutonium extracted from used fuel from any of the commercial power reactors in the US is absolutely not suitable for militarily useful weapons. It could, of course, in the wrong hands be used to create mischief but there is no shortage of other materials which are much more accessible and easier to use to do this.

    [JR: UCS statement was poorly worded.]

  27. quokka says:

    Bill Young

    That is the situation as I understand it too. Normal used nuclear fuel contains too much of the PU240 isotope to be viable bomb making material. This cannot be separated from PU239 chemically. To avoid excess PU240 requires a short fuel cycle which is essentially impractical for pressurized water reactors because they must be shut down for refueling. Some details here:

    http://depletedcranium.com/why-you-cant-build-a-bomb-from-spent-fuel/

  28. Zach says:

    @Mike Roddy, “Zach, your numbers are way off. Do some research about what nuclear actually costs these days, both in plant construction per Mgw and delivered cost per kwh. It ain’t pretty.”

    I took those numbers directly from a report cited in this thread as evidence of why nuclear power is not commercially feasible. The numbers run through 2000 or so. In fact, it is feasible in France, as evidenced by the demand for French power outside of France (I presume France does not export for charity). As I also said, replicating French success isn’t possible within the American nuclear industry as it stands today. I’m entirely for a nationalized nuclear generation utility that operates in partnership with private reactor manufacturers and the private electricity delivery infrastructure. The study that Larry Gillman cited notes that French estimates of inflation in reactor construction costs were actually projected quite well. Given that the nuclear power industry collapsed in America and the former USSR during the projected period (taking a bunch of money and experience out of reactor development and construction), that’s a pretty good record. France generates carbon-free electricity at rates comparable with super-cheap American coal and natural gas.

    So, I think France is an example of how nuclear power can work, but the sort of shifts advocated by the GOP (subsidies and reduced safety standards) aren’t going to bring us much closer to French construction and operating costs. I’m fine with spending money on American nuclear power inefficiently, though, especially if it’s paired with other clean energy subsidies.

  29. DavidCOG says:

    > Existing nuclear reactors produce approximately 20-30 tons of high level nuclear waste per reactor per month.

    Holy [redacted expletive] radioactivity, Batman! That makes the claims of the nuclear fan club – nuclear waste is a trivial problem – even more ludicrous.

    Would anyone like to offer suggestion why conservatives love nuclear? Because progressives are generally against it? Because corporations can make billions of easy $$$s from it? It’s kind of taken me by surprise how hysterically angry the ‘Rush Limbaugh / Teabagger demographic’ becomes when you point out that nuclear has flaws – serious flaws.

  30. DavidCOG says:

    @19. Zach:

    > …the French experience with nuclear power can’t be duplicated here …, but it’s absurd to write it off as some failure.

    Define ‘failure’.

    - The Crash of France’s Nuclear “Success”. The myth of a successful nuclear power industry in France has melted into financial chaos. With it dies the corporate-hyped poster child for a “nuclear renaissance” of new reactor construction that is drowning in red ink and radioactive waste. http://www.pacificfreepress.com/news/1/3907-the-crash-of-frances-nuclear-qsuccessq.html

    - The reality of France’s aggressive nuclear power push. Even the French no longer want it. http://www.thebulletin.org/web-edition/op-eds/the-reality-of-frances-aggressive-nuclear-power-push

    The French have recently set up a 1.35 billion+ € renewable energy fund and have invited tenders for 3 GW of offshore wind, to be online by 2015. There are good reasons these things are happening – and it’s not because nuclear is the road to some energy utopia.

  31. Prokaryotes says:

    Nuclear Industry

    * “Nuclear death probe – but family in the dark” – The Star August 12, 2005
    * “None hurt in INEEL gas leak, evacuation” Idaho State Journal June 25, 2004
    * “NRC blames radioactive leak on human error” Associated Press January 7, 2004
    * “Cause of Radiation Leak Unknown” The Southern Illinoisan December 22, 2003
    * “Paducah plant workers receive medical testing” The Courier Journal July 14, 2003
    * “More good news for Piketon” – Chillicothe Gazette (Central Ohio) December 19, 2002
    * “New Recycling Facility Will Convert Uranium Waste Cylinders in Paducah, Ky” – The Paducah Sun September 19, 2002
    * “Officials Say Cleaning up Plant Site will take Years” – St Louis Post-Dispatch February 11, 2002
    * “Congress Limits Survivor Benefits” – New York Times May 25, 2001
    * “Poisoned Workers & Poisoned Places” – USA Today September 6-8, 2000
    * Cleanup resumes at Paducah plant – The Associated Press July 13, 2000
    * “Some Paducah workers were used in uranium experiments” – The Associated Press February 7, 2000
    * “Fluoride, Teeth & the Atomic Bomb” – Joel Griffiths & Chris Bryson, Waste Not 414, 1997
    * “Huge Tanks of Nuclear Waste Rusting Away” – The Columbus Dispatch March 10, 1996
    * “Radioactive Material Leaks into Air for Three Weeks” – The Associated Press January 12, 1986
    * “Lethal Acid is Product of Chemical that Leaked” – New York Times January 6, 1986

    FLUORIDATED GREENHOUSE GASES:

    “Unlike the other ‘main’ greenhouse gases (carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide and methane) F-gases have no natural sources4. They are called ‘F-gases’ because they contain fluorine. The ‘F-gases’ are sometimes also called PIGGs, or Potent Industrial Greenhouse Gases, because they are much more powerful atmospheric heaters than carbon dioxide on a weight-for-weight basis. F-gases or PIGGs are present in the atmosphere at low levels, and in most cases have only been produced in recent years. Their emissions are however rising very rapidly and some of the gases (SF6 and PFCs) persist in the atmosphere for a very long time (as do the greenhouse gases N20 and CO2).” – Multisectorial Initiative on Potent Industrial Greenhouse Gases, 2002

    * F For Forgotten: Why Potent Industrial Greenhouse Gases Deserve More Attention Multisectorial Initiative on Potent Industrial Greenhouse Gases, 2002
    * New report highlights warming risk from F-gases Multisectorial Initiative on Potent Industrial Greenhouse Gases, 2002
    * The Capture of Standards by the F-gas Industry Multisectorial Initiative on Potent Industrial Greenhouse Gases, 2002
    * Potent New Greenhouse Gas Discovered Environmental News Service July 31, 2000
    * New Greenhouse Gas Identified, Potent and Rare (but Expanding) New York Times July 28, 2000

    http://www.fluoridealert.org/f-pollution.htm

  32. DavidCOG says:

    @23. quokka:

    > China is building the indigenous CPR-1000 reactor for overnight cost of around $1.5 billion per GWe with construction time of 52 months.

    Even if that highly unlikely claim is true, the cost of building nukes in China is not the same as building nukes elsewhere.

    > The EPR being built in France is about $4 billion per GWe.

    How would you know? It’s not finished, it’s behind schedule and a billion+ € over budget – so far.

    > The IEA 2010 projected costs of electricity generation…

    Highly biased towards nuclear and not representative of real world, new nuclear costs.

    > Recent peer reviewed meta study of costs of baseload generation finds nuclear to be the lowest cost low emissions technology: http:// bravenewclimate.com/2010/11/30/the-arithmetic-adds-up-to-nuclear/

    Contrary to Brooks’ claims, nuclear is actually likely the most expensive option, e.g.:

    - Nuclear likely to be priciest option. Nuclear energy will be more expensive than most forms of renewable energy by 2020, according to the University of NSW energy expert Mark Diesendorf. http://www.smh.com.au/business/nuclear-likely-to-be-priciest-option-20101130-18fc2.html

    Citing Barry Brook and his ‘Brave New Climate’ blog for energy is like citing ‘WattsUpWithThat’ for climate science. A while ago he was offering ‘business cards’ that said ‘Renewable power does not work’ and the scare-mongering nonsense of ‘Nuclear Power or Climate Change: Take Your Pick’.

    If you’re serious about understanding energy, avoid Brook and his blog.

  33. Mike Roddy says:

    Quokka-

    We can disregard China’s nuclear plant cost. If they are willing to allow thousands of coal miners to die every year, we can assume that their safety standards are low. France has the most data, but their reactors are said to be leaking, and they have also not solved the storage problem.

    There is no comp in the US, since the industry has been moribund for years. When an actual project arrives, projected costs balloon to the point where the plant is canceled, as in San Antonio, where construction costs ended up in the $9 million/mgw range. The same thing happened in Ontario.

    Wall Street loves nuclear, since they get a USG loan guarantee, and the fees on multibillion dollar projects are huge. Coal loves nuclear too, since it takes forever just for design and permitting, and uranium supplies are limited. And the cost projections you cited don’t include terrorist risks or the little problem of nowhere to store the waste, especially now that Yucca Mountain is off the table.

    Other studies (ethree, Lazard) are US based, and come up with entirely different numbers than you cite. These numbers are unfavorable for nuclear and supportive of wind (already cheaper) and solar (soon to be).

  34. Bill Woods says:

    DavidCOG (#30): “Holy [redacted expletive] radioactivity, Batman! That makes the claims of the nuclear fan club – nuclear waste is a trivial problem – even more ludicrous.”

    Here’s what’s left of Connecticut Yankee, which generated about 110 TW-h (12.5 GW-year) of power:
    http://maps.google.com/maps?hl=en&ie=UTF8&ll=41.481407,-72.486023&spn=0.004115,0.006813&t=h&z=17
    At that rate, a single square mile of desert could hold the waste from generating all US electricity for decades. The US has many, many square miles of desert. (And you could still use the land to generate a comparative trickle of solar power, if you put panels on high poles.)
    Spent fuel isn’t a serious problem; it’s an excuse used by nuclear denialists.

  35. Zach says:

    @DavidCOG – You’re just repeating the same claims as above. I read the report that Larry Gilman posted as evidence against the French nuclear program and it turns out that the program’s lived up to expectations with some caveats. I’ll trust that report, written by an IPCC-contributor/editor-of-a-relevant-journal with the aid of other experts over the uncited opinions of “a co-founder of Musicians United for Safe Energy.” And the sorts of policies most Climate Progress readers want have no chance if we’re going to rely on public opinion polls to set policy; the rest of the article you link boils down to: “The French nuclear program does have some problems, French transportation still runs on oil, and exporting French technology won’t be very easy.” I agree with all of that, but it’s not evidence of failure.

    It’s fantastic that the French are subsidizing the growth of more clean, domestic energy production, but 3 GW of generation is a small (but significant) fraction of French consumption, and if we wait till 2015 to start bringing significant quantities of clean energy online we can stop talking about stabilizing CO2 levels anytime soon.

  36. Joffan says:

    @DavidCOG

    That’s 20-30 tons of highly radioactive spent fuel per YEAR, not per month. Hopefully the article will be corrected soon. For comparison, this is the same as the weight of ash (excluding CO2) generated by about two HOURS of 1GW coal plant operation. (And in case you’ve forgotten, coal generation is 50% of all US electricity generated).

    And for nuclear power that 20-30 tons is from generating 8 billion kWh of electricity. Roughly the output of 80 2.5MW wind turbines over twenty years.

    Dry casks hold about 10 tons of fuel and are in shipping container size range, so the fuel from 40 years of operation can be (and are) held safely in a very small area.

  37. seth says:

    It seems most Americans either don’t believe in global warming or like all deniers don’t believe the science that is telling us that the timeframe to do something big about it is less than ten years away.

    With the Repugs in power, wind and solar solutions are dead in the US, and with the recession in the rest of the world.

    Only nuclear power with costs dropping geometrically has any potential to save us from a civilization ending global warming peak oil crisis.

    As opposed to the climate denier approved junk science alternet published works of activists with liberal arts diplomas, real peer reviewed articles from real scientists and engineers at MIT and Energy have US nukes at $4B?Gw and the lowest cost alternative fro clean energy respectivly.

    http://web.mit.edu/mitei/docs/spotlights/nuclear-fuel-cycle.pdf
    http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.energy.2010.10.039

    Budget figures for US nuclear plant are $3.7B/Gw (South Texas), $4.4B/Gw (Scana), and 2.6B/Gw (Idaho)

    http://www.powergenworldwide.com/index/display/articledisplay/6308156985/articles/powergenworldwide/nuclear/reactors/2010/10/Constellation-back-out-aftermath.html

    The Chinese are already building nukes at $1.2B/Gw ($2007)

    http://noir.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=newsarchive&sid=a5.20kg0SOY0

    Costs are expected to drop to less than $1B/Gw with less than 3 year build times.

    http://nextbigfuture.com/2010/08/china-leverages-learning-curve-cost.html

    With labor already only a small part of the cost of a nuke, the Chinese are now building almost no labor factory nuke modules. Westinghouse and AECL both claim domestic factory nuclear construction in under 3 years at less than $1B/Gw.

    The Repug’s have promised to eliminate America’s major cost and delay factor – the NRC – and upgrade it to an OECD standard regulator.

    The engineers that run China as opposed to lawyers that hold 100% of the political power in the US, have increased Chinas nuclear commitment from 70 GW to 120Gw by 2020, so pleased as they are with progress on current builds. Chinese wind planning has maxed at 8 Gw avg and it is unlikely much of it will get built.

    In the US onshore wind costs $12B/Gw and offshore $20/Gw while solar starts at $30B/Gw. Add storage and transmission cost not required for nuclear power and those figures triple. These costs have bottomed out and are increasing.

    The cost of coal pollution in the US is $120B per annum from early death and medical expense, and the US spends $800B per annum on fossils. The $2500B cost in new factory produced nuclear at under $1B/Gw required to eliminate US fossil fuels comes at the rate of return on a public power investment approaching 40% per annum.

    As we convert to nukes, NG electricity and heating applications would immediately convert to nuclear electricity. The freed up gas would be available to make CNG, methanol, DME (propane), and synfuel transportion fuels as we transition to nuclear produced synfuels and electric vehicles.

    Call it the nuclear Picken’s plan.

    Obama by embracing this national nuke conversion using FDR’s TVA and Bonneville models would overnight end unemployment, end the global warming/peak oil menace, save the live sof tens of thousands of Americans every year and create the greatest construction boom.

  38. DavidCOG says:

    @ 35. Bill Woods:

    > Here’s what’s left of Connecticut Yankee, which generated about 110 TW-h (12.5 GW-year) of power:

    A Google Earth image? Not exactly conclusive evidence that is all the nuclear waste produced from a reactor that was operational for 28 years.

    Even if it is true, it still needs to be guarded and monitored for *thousands* of years.

    > At that rate, a single square mile of desert could hold the waste from generating all US electricity for decades.

    You make it sound so simple! As if rain didn’t exist. Or leaks, accidents, sabotage – or that the USA is the only country on the planet.

    The reality is that radioactive waste is a massive problem that no one has a solution for, other than digging holes in the ground and hoping they will be geologically stable for millennia – and hoping that none of the waste enters the water table.

    > Spent fuel isn’t a serious problem; it’s an excuse used by nuclear denialists.

    Talking of denialists, I note that ACC deniers are nuclear fans to a man. They *love* it. They love that centralised control that allows the billionaire’s club to continue controlling the planet’s energy systems. Although, they probably don’t realise that is what they are supporting – they’ve just been given the usual rightwing dog whistles.

    That aside, your claim is drivel – evident to anyone with an internet connection and an ability to type words in to the Google.

  39. DavidCOG says:

    @ 36. Zach:

    > …the program’s lived up to expectations with some caveats.

    And what would those “caveats” be? Massive and spiralling costs? Unreliability and the need to buy electricity off the British and Germans during heatwaves – and during cold spells? Leaks and contamination of water supply? Shipping nuclear waste across Europe to be dumped on Russian soil?

    Yeah, there are some “caveats”.

    > …it’s not evidence of failure.

    You’re certainly giving that strawman a damn good beating.

    > …but 3 GW of generation is a small (but significant) fraction of French consumption…

    Do you think they’re going to stop at the 3 GW? No. They’re going to build more. They’ve already constructed one of the largest solar PV plants in the world.

    The French are stuck with a rapidly ageing fleet of reactors and spiralling costs for replacing them. That’s why they are now turning to renewables. Renewables can be scaled. Renewables can be deployed much more quickly. Renewables are falling in cost. Renewables are often lower carbon emitters than nuclear. Win / win / win / win.

  40. DavidCOG says:

    @ 37. Joffan:

    > That’s 20-30 tons of highly radioactive spent fuel per YEAR, not per month.

    OK. But the principle still applies – the stuff needs to be stored, monitored and guarded for *thousands* of years.

    > For comparison, this is the same as the weight of ash (excluding CO2) generated by about two HOURS of 1GW coal plant operation.

    A totally spurious comparison. The level of toxicity is the difference between a slight head cold and cholera.

    > Roughly the output of 80 2.5MW wind turbines over twenty years.

    And the risk from those turbines is virtually zero. Maybe one falls over and squashes a man walking his dog.

    > …the fuel from 40 years of operation can be (and are) held safely in a very small area.

    It’s not the volume – it’s the toxicity and longevity of the waste. It is an expensive, dangerous problem that cannot be hand-waved off – no matter how much some people try to do it.

  41. Zach says:

    “Talking of denialists, I note that ACC deniers are nuclear fans to a man. They *love* it.”

    Holy irrelevance, Batman! Not to mention that Koch industries bankrolls a majority of notorious warming deniers and has no hand in the nuclear industry. Here’s the first Google result for “Koch nuclear” – http://www.cato-at-liberty.org/atomic-dreams/ – “If nuclear power could compete without government help, I would be as happy as Mr. Adams or the next MIT nuclear engineer. But I am no more “pro” nuclear power than I am “pro” any power.” And here’s an article about a handful of Koch-backed interest groups protesting Obama’s nuclear loan announcement: http://content.usatoday.com/communities/greenhouse/post/2010/02/obamas-nuclear-loan-guarantees-draw-broad-opposition/1 … to a man?

  42. Zach says:

    @DavidCOG – Do you know what a strawman is? You purported to present evidence of failure by posting two poorly sourced stories, one written by a musician who’s apparently parroting the blog of a political party (it’s the only link in the piece), and another that does not characterize the French nuclear industry as a failure.

    The “caveats” are spelled out in the report linked above. And, like I said, costs haven’t spiraled out of control. If you read the report you’ll see that operating costs are very low and that construction costs are within the range predicted years ago; remarkably so given that the misfortunes of nuclear power in the States.

    How in the world can you advocate for French wind over nuclear power based on the inability of the French to run their nuclear plants at full capacity 24x7x365? If you are right, why are the French still building plants? Why are American corporations partnering with France to build new reactors here?

    [JR: Areva has lots of problems selling reactors anywhere in the world as the links show. They won't even give a guarantee for the current $8 billion price for a new nuke.]

  43. DavidCOG says:

    @ 41. Zach:

    > Not to mention that Koch industries bankrolls a majority of notorious warming deniers and has no hand in the nuclear industry.

    If you don’t understand how support of nuclear benefits fossils then you need to do a lot more reading and a lot less typing. Starting clue: time to deploy nuclear.

    > … http:// http://www.cato-at-liberty.org/atomic-dreams/ – “…I am no more “pro” nuclear power than I am “pro” any power.”

    And you believe what the Cato Institute prints?! There’s one born every minute….

  44. Zach says:

    Search for FreedomWorks, CATO, George Mason University, etc and “nuclear power” and see how many folks there publicly call for subsidies for the nuclear industry. I can see how increasing the share of nuclear electricity in the States helps utilities in general, but subsidizing nuclear power will drag down the price of competing power sources. Companies that aren’t involved in nuclear power, mining, and electricity distribution will not benefit. CATO et al will give lip service to the canard that if we just reduce safety regulations and hand out permits, nuclear power will flourish, but they won’t abandon their often-abandoned libertarian principles to advocate for nuclear subsidies.

  45. Zach says:

    @JR – I’m saying that the French nuclear industry isn’t an unmitigated failure spiraling out of control; I’m not ignoring the reality of problems that are cropping up rolling out reactors around the world (including at Calvert Cliffs in my neck of the woods). And, even at $8 or $10B for an EPR reactor, the life-cycle-averaged price per kWh will be cheaper than solar power and competitive with wind. If the money’s available for any project that will (1) reduce CO2 emissions and (2) not take money away from a project that would do so more effectively, we ought to spend it as quickly as possible. Looking into the French data, they’re currently looking at spending over $12B USD to add 3GW wind capacity (~1-GW nuclear reactor based on France’s 2009 capacity factors). Lifetime and operating cost for wind and nuclear are comparable, so it’s hard to see how investment in wind over nuclear is such a no-brainer if your overriding concern is CO2.

  46. quokka says:

    Wrt the French nuclear programme: French government puts up funds for Astrid

    It seems the long term view is to migrate to fast reactors in the 2040 time frame, driven by issues of security of fuel supply and to manage the waste from the fleet of thermal reactors by burning the long lived actinides leaving a much reduced mass of fission products with short half lives.

    Rumors of the death of the French nuclear programme are just that – rumors.

  47. quokka says:

    Mike Roddy #34

    We can disregard China’s nuclear plant cost. If they are willing to allow thousands of coal miners to die every year, we can assume that their safety standards are low. France has the most data, but their reactors are said to be leaking, and they have also not solved the storage problem.

    You can disregard whatever you like and assume whatever you like, but with China’s actions being so pivotally important to meaningful emissions reductions, I would suggest that not understanding what is happening in China is very unwise. In particular, China’s demonstrable and growing capabilities in large scale civil engineering projects as evidenced by such things as the build of high speed rail will very likely be of world wide significance in the coming decades. China now is very much more than a nation manufacturing trinkets for western consumers.

    Some recent comments by James Hansen: China and the Barbarians . I pretty much agree with everything Hansen says.

    China is rapidly changing and to equate the old unsafe coal mines with new showcase projects such as nuclear or high speed rail is just nonsense. China is trying to close down the worst of the old mines, and I hardly need to make the reminder that coal mining always has been and always will be a dirty dangerous business – and not only in China.

    If you have any specific evidence for unsafe practices in nuclear operation or construction in China then post it. Unsubstantiated accusations are worthless.

    The IEA figures for cost of NPPs for a number of nations are given here. Notably Sth Korea costs are not much higher than the Chinese costs. If the US cannot get it’s act together do not presume that other nations are similarly afflicted.

    IEA/OECD projected nuclear costs for 14 countries

  48. Joffan says:

    @40.DavidCOG

    The comparison with coal waste – and I hadn’t even got to the carbon dioxide – is significant because an equivalent coal plant will produce 50,000, fifty thousand, tons of ash in a year. There is no way to take the kind of care of that waste stream the way that nuclear power does of its small amounts of spent fuel. It’s the coal generation that’s a cholera epidemic to the nuclear power’s remote chance of a cold.

    We’re talking industrial power here. Getting that power without massive waste streams is a great benefit of nuclear, particularly as it doesn’t turn our atmosphere into a giant ecological climate experiment.

    There is this myth – which too many have encouraged and bought into who could easily know better – that nuclear waste is wildly dangerous for thousands of years. Yes, I know that the politics around Yucca mountain and nuclear power generally have meant that repositories have striven to be secure for enormously long periods of time. But actually the waste is not lethal in any normal sense after two hundred years or so. If you were to lie in a pile of it for an hour, you might just about manage to kill yourself. There is no way, once the waste is put in a reasonably inaccessible place, like a few hundred feet underground, that it needs complex monitoring or guarding, BUT the money has been put aside already, collected as part of the value of the electricity sold, to do all that and more.

    I agree that great care should be taken of spent fuel. But not ridiculous, open-ended, paranoid, fantastic care. Just great care.

  49. DavidCOG says:

    @ 44. Zach:

    > Search for FreedomWorks, CATO, George Mason University, etc and “nuclear power” and see how many folks there publicly call for subsidies for the nuclear industry.

    Yes? I’ve already told you – support for nuclear is tacit support for fossil fuel. It takes 10+ years to deploy a single nuke. The fossil corporations *love* the idea of that. Plenty of time to squeeze profits out of their ‘death factories’.

    > …subsidizing nuclear power will drag down the price of competing power sources.

    You’re just making it up as you go along. Tip: expand your reading beyond the nuclear propaganda blogs that you’ve evidently been suckling at.

    > CATO … won’t abandon their often-abandoned libertarian principles to advocate for nuclear subsidies.

    lol. They won’t abandon their principles that they abandon every time it suits their profits? You need to think a little harder before typing.

    > I’m saying that the French nuclear industry isn’t an unmitigated failure spiraling out of control

    No one described the French nuclear industry as “an unmitigated failure” except you. You show that strawman what for!

    > …the life-cycle-averaged price per kWh will be cheaper than solar power and competitive with wind.

    You’re just making it up again – or swallowing nuke propaganda without question that bears little relation to the *real world*. Joe has covered it many times. Here’s another expert analysis:

    - Nuclear likely to be priciest option. Nuclear energy will be more expensive than most forms of renewable energy by 2020, according to the University of NSW energy expert Mark Diesendorf. http://www.smh.com.au/business/nuclear-likely-to-be-priciest-option-20101130-18fc2.html

    > Lifetime and operating cost for wind and nuclear are comparable

    Nonsense repeated is still nonsense.

    - New nuclear power plants are currently far and away the most expensive form of non-fossil fuel power you can (try to) buy: http://climateprogress.org/2009/11/07/david-frum-conservatives-heart-nuke-power/

    - Nuclear power in Saskatchewan too expensive. Capital costs of new nuclear estimated at $4,000 per kilowatt hour, solar is the same, Coal ($2,438), biomass ($2,500), wind ($1,700) and natural gas ($700) are the other options cited. Fixed annual operations and maintenance, nuclear was most expensive at $100 per kilowatt hour, followed by coal ($45), solar ($33), wind ($25) and natural gas ($20). http://www.vancouversun.com/technology/Nuclear+power+Saskatchewan+expensive+report+argues/3329829/story.html

    > …it’s hard to see how investment in wind over nuclear is such a no-brainer if your overriding concern is CO2.

    - Lifecycle CO2 emissions g / kWh: wind = 10, hydroelectricity = 13, solar thermal = 13, solar photovoltaic = 32, biomass = 14 – 41, nuclear = 66, natural gas = 443, coal = 1050. Ref. Sovacool meta study.

    Is there a ‘bible’ published by the nuclear propaganda mill that you all work from? Because the flawed claims and distortions are the same in every forum where nuclear gets mentioned…..

  50. DavidCOG says:

    > There is this myth – which too many have encouraged and bought into who could easily know better – that nuclear waste is wildly dangerous for thousands of years.

    The myth is actually the one propagated by the nuclear propaganda mills that radioactive waste is a trivial problem. It is a lie. And it is obviously a lie to anyone capable of thinking and reading for themselves, e.g.:

    - “The repository could eventually operate for at least a century, after which it would be sealed. A few thousand years later, the stainless steel would corrode away until it was ruptured by the pressure of the rock, leaving the vitrified waste, and the rock itself, to provide containment. … it would take hundreds of thousands of years for them to diffuse to the surface. By that time, he says, their low concentrations and lower levels of radioactivity would render any environmental contamination negligible. A more worrying problem is the possibility of a rock fracture, which could lead to radioactive leaks.” http://www.nature.com/news/2010/100810/full/466804a.html

  51. DavidCOG says:

    @ quokka:

    > Rumors of the death of the French nuclear programme are just that – rumors.

    We could have a barn dance with all the straw(men) being thrown around.

    The argument is not that France’s nuclear program is “dead”, it is that the French nuclear utopia put forward by the nuke fan club is mirage. There are significant problems with reliability, leaks, waste storage and now costs as their ageing reactors become due for replacement.

  52. DavidCOG says:

    [Joe, reposting this because I'm not sure first time worked - apologies if it is a dupe]

    @ 42. Zach:

    > Do you know what a strawman is?

    I do. It is a fallacious argument where someone attacks an argument that his opponent did not make. Why do you ask? You certainly have not demonstrated that I have done any such thing.

    > You purported to present evidence of failure by posting two poorly sourced stories…

    Empty rhetoric. Provide evidence they are “poorly sourced”.

    > …one written by a musician…

    Ad hominem. And it seems to be a complete fabrication. The two articles I cited are written by:

    1. Harvey Franklin Wasserman (born December 31, 1945) is an American journalist, author, democracy activist, and advocate for renewable energy.

    2. Mycle Schneider (born 1959)[1] is an energy consultant,[2] nuclear analyst,[3] nuclear power opponent,[4] and co-author of The World Nuclear Industry Status Reports.

    > …who’s apparently parroting the blog of a political party (it’s the only link in the piece)…

    A complete misrepresentation of what the article describes.

    > …and another that does not characterize the French nuclear industry as a failure.

    Your subjective opinion has been noted.

    > The “caveats” are spelled out in the report linked above.

    So what are they? “Read the article” is not an argument.

    > And, like I said, costs haven’t spiraled out of control.

    And you are simply ignorant and misinformed about the cost of *new* nuclear and the massive costs looming down on France as their ageing fleet of reactors reach end of life.

    > If you read the report you’ll see that operating costs are very low …

    Yes. The massively subsidised, nationalised French energy system can appear “very low cost” if you only look to the past and forget the massive subsidies it received.

    > …construction costs are within the range predicted years ago;

    No idea what this evidence-free claim is referring to. I do know *reality* shows it to be nonsense, e.g.:

    - France: EDF Said to Raise Flamanville Costs to $6.5 Billion, Delay Reactor Starts. http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2010-07-29/edf-said-to-raise-flamanville-costs-to-6-5-billion-delay-reactor-starts.html

    > …remarkably so given that the misfortunes of nuclear power in the States.

    I have no idea why you think the half century of French nuclear deployment is made “remarkable” by what happens in a country a couple of thousand miles away.

    > How in the world can you advocate for French wind over nuclear power based on the inability of the French to run their nuclear plants at full capacity 24×7×365?

    You neatly come full circle with an idiotic strawman. I made no such assertion.

    > If you are right, why are the French still building plants?

    Here’s a freebie for you: France is massively invested in the nuclear industry. If they don’t eat their own dog food, how can they expect to sell it to others?!

    > Why are American corporations partnering with France to build new reactors here?

    They are? Cite. Regardless, can you think why nuke corporations might be interested in billions of $$$ in government handouts? It’s not a trick question.

  53. quokka says:

    @51 DavidCOG

    Define “significant problems”. Just about any industrial activity has from time to time “significant problems”. So what if reactors are reaching the end of their service life – this is what happens eventually with all infrastructure. What is so unique about nuclear? You have said nothing. You want to make a point – quantify it.

    Here’s a number. France’s CO2 emissions from electricity generation are around 80 grams/kWh. This is far below any other nation that does not have huge hydro capacity. What’s more these low emissions have been maintained for years. Now this really is one hell of a problem – but not for France. This is no mirage and has nothing to do with “nuke fan club”.

  54. Zach says:

    @DavidCOG – I responded to someone else that it wasn’t a failure. You write, “Define ‘failure’,” and go on to present links supposedly showing how it’s a failure but not actually doing so.

    I don’t think I’ve ever read a nuclear propaganda blog or any blog focused on nuclear issues outside of nonproliferation. I thought the premise of this article was misguided (that we shouldn’t spend on nuclear because it’d be better to spend on something else), said so, and did calculations based on numbers presented by nuclear opponents in this thread which wound up showing that nuclear power is more than competitive with other sources in France and competitive with renewable sources in the States even with insane cost overruns. You’ve gone on to present numerous non-peer-reviewed estimates showing higher costs and I could (and have) found a bunch showing the opposite. Everything I calculated was extrapolating real, historical costs because available estimates vary so wildly. None of this changes the fact that non-solar renewable energy cannot scale to meet American electricity demands (this includes nuclear). How does the cost of each additional MW of wind generation change as the most ideal geography is filled with turbines?

    Like I said, nuclear is comparable with other renewable sources (besides solar) in the States. We should be deploying it as well as those other sources if it’s politically feasible.

    Basically when you write “Lifecycle CO2 emissions g / kWh … nuclear = 66, natural gas = 443, coal = 1050″ that’s all I care about. A dollar of nuclear subsidies isn’t a dollar of no wind subsidies. Also, if you go beyond the Wikipedia article to read the study that that number comes from, you’ll see an estimated range of 1.36 to 288.25 gCO2/kWh. Making policy based on the mean of 66.08 isn’t particularly responsible. And, the study excluded analyses that were publicly available but behind subscription firewalls. The two that they mention have emissions estimates of 5-12 and 5 gCO2/kWh. Including those brings your mean down to 59 or so. Reports in foreign languages were also excluded. There’s no reason to be remotely confident that a new reactor will have 66 g/kWh emissions over its lifecycle.

  55. Rod Adams says:

    @DavidCOG (#50 above)

    You wrote:

    Yes? I’ve already told you – support for nuclear is tacit support for fossil fuel. It takes 10+ years to deploy a single nuke. The fossil corporations *love* the idea of that. Plenty of time to squeeze profits out of their ‘death factories’.

    Your comment belies a certain ignorance of history and technology. There are some of us here who have been advocating the rapid development of nuclear energy for more than 20 years, but folks like you have been working against it, often with the same “it takes too long argument”. Do you realize that during the period between 1963 and 1983, the US brought about 100 nuclear plants onto the grid?

    Here is an interesting statistic to think about with regard to the impact that nuclear energy has on the fossil fuel industry and why I am certain that fossil fuel interests have provided a significant amount of cash to the antinuclear industry in order to support their efforts against a common enemy (competitor).

    A new 1400 MWe nuclear plant operating at 90% capacity factor can replace burning 5.7 million tons of coal or 86 billion cubic feet of natural gas a year that emit 11 million and 5.5 million metric tons of carbon dioxide, respectively.

    I would be happy to share the math behind that statement.

    If you know anything at all about the coal, oil and gas industry, you will know that their profitability is closely tied to the sales price of their product. You may also know that the sales price of their products depend heavily on the balance between supply and demand.

    The price collapse in natural gas in 2008 did not come from a generous move by the oil and gas industry, it came because the demand for their product dropped about 5% – which was enough to turn a tight market into one that was “oversupplied”. There are some who claim that the excess supply came from all that new “shale gas” but if you take a good look at the historical natural gas production figures at the Energy Information Agency, you will find that today’s “record” production is just one TCF per year more than the US natural gas production in 1970 – 40 years ago.

    When demand fell by 5%, the price did not fall by just 5%, it fell from about $12 per million BTU to about $3-$4 per million BTU. Several large oil&gas companies almost went bankrupt when their revenue stream dropped and they were left having to pay off exploration debts that were taken on assuming sales prices in excess of $8 per million BTU.

    Demand destruction does not take place just in a recession. It also takes place when a tough new competitor with low marginal costs starts operating and stealing the customers that you have assumed were yours for the foreseeable future.

    There is no love lost at all between oil, coal, gas and the nuclear industry. The fossils know know that there is no way that they can compete with an operating nuclear plant, so their strategy is to do all they can to prevent the plants from becoming or staying operational. They do not mind using “strange bedfellows” type arrangements to make that happen.

    Rod Adams
    Publisher, Atomic Insights

  56. DavidCOG says:

    @ quokka:

    > Define “significant problems”.

    How many examples do you need? Plenty have been given. Needing to shut down reactors in heat waves – which are predicted to become more severe and frequent – is a “significant problems” by any rational definition.

    > So what if reactors are reaching the end of their service life…

    It’s already been explained: cost. You need to read the conversation to join in.

    > What is so unique about nuclear? You have said nothing.

    You may not be able to read and absorb the arguments and evidence presented, but anyone of average intelligence can.

    > France’s CO2 emissions from electricity generation are around 80 grams/kWh.

    Cite. And we need total *lifecycle* costs.

    Regardless, that is based on *historic* construction.

    > This is far below any other nation…

    The past is not necessarily a guarantee of the future. France has realised this, hence the massive investment in renewables. You can ignore this reality until you turn blue, but it will not go away.

  57. DavidCOG says:

    @ Zach:

    > I responded to someone else that it wasn’t a failure.

    I replied to you – not anyone else. You’ve still failed to provide *your* definition of failure. I suspect you have only one, narrow, rigid definition – ‘total lack of success’. No, that is very obviously not what people mean.

    > You write, “Define ‘failure’,” and go on to present links supposedly showing how it’s a failure but not actually doing so.

    The links show wide-ranging problems and a very different picture to the utopia in France that the nuclear fan club imagines and promotes. That’s the point you’re failing to abosrb.

    > …did calculations based on numbers…

    Yes. I’ve seen the same type of simplistic calculations many times before. The people who do them seem incapable of grasping that they do not match reality – no matter how many times the evidence is put in front of them.

    > Like I said, nuclear is comparable with other renewable sources (besides solar) in the States.

    You’ve said a lot based on zero evidence or *estimates* that do not match reality.

    > There’s no reason to be remotely confident that a new reactor will have 66 g/kWh emissions over its lifecycle.

    No, it could rise higher as uranium ore reduces in quality and becomes progressively more expensive and CO2-intensive to mine.

  58. quokka says:

    @56 DavidCOG

    The IPCC AR4 WG3 assessment of CO2 emissions by the various electricity generation technologies:

    http://www.ipcc.ch/graphics/ar4-wg3/jpg/fig-4-18.jpg

    Nation specific figures for Grams CO2 / kWh:

    France: 86
    Germany: 438
    UK: 497
    OECD Europe Mean: 343

    Page 107 of the 2010 IEA CO2 Emissions from Fossil Fuels report here: http://www.iea.org/co2highlights/co2highlights.pdf

  59. Zach says:

    No, it could rise higher as uranium ore reduces in quality and becomes progressively more expensive and CO2-intensive to mine.

    This is modeled into many of the studies that that meta-analysis uses.

    The links show wide-ranging problems and a very different picture to the utopia in France that the nuclear fan club imagines and promotes.

    While that’s debatable, they don’t describe failure of the French industry unless you mean “failure to build reactors in countries that aren’t France.” Then, yes, this process has failed because people have balked in the face of uncertain costs and increasing cost estimates.

    However, even at the scary possible price tag of $10B for a 1.6GW reactor at Calvert Cliffs, that’s 2.4 cents/kWh (40 yrs permitted, 0.75 capacity factor) in construction costs. Let’s compare that to another real-world example: the the Thanet wind farm. Exclusively relying on numbers in promotional materials for the site, thats 780GBP ($1.2B) for 300MW installed capacity over the 20-year advertised lifetime of the 100 turbines. At a generous capacity factor of 0.25, that’s 9.1 cents/kWh in construction costs alone. Which of these numbers did I get the nuclear fan club?

  60. DavidCOG says:

    @ quokka:

    > The IPCC AR4 WG3 assessment of CO2 emissions by the various electricity generation technologies:

    Yes, also a very nuke-friendly estimate based on data provided by nuclear corporations. When we get our estimates from academia and other independent sources, we often see much higher results, e.g. 2:

    - While these greenhouse gases are expectedly lower than those of fossil technologies (typically 600–1200 g CO2-e/kWhel), they are higher than reported figures for wind turbines and hydroelectricity (around 15–25 g CO2-e/kWhel) and in the order of, or slightly lower than, solar photovoltaic or solar thermal power (around 90 g CO2-e/kWhel).

    There is no definitive number for carbon emissions from lifecycle nuclear because of the wide-ranging assumptions needed to calculate, but it is nearly certain that the numbers provided nuke corporations and many government departments based on the same data, is fantasy.

    Also, the lifecycle estimate for nuclear is not the end of the story. The fact it takes a *long* time to deploy nuclear also impacts on the contribution it can make to ACC mitigation:

    - Nuclear Power Cannot Solve Climate Change. Nuclear power plants cannot be built quickly enough and in a safe and secure manner to be a major global solution for climate change. http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=nuclear-cannot-solve-climate-change

  61. DavidCOG says:

    @ Zach:

    > This is modeled into many of the studies that that meta-analysis uses.

    You keep making sweeping claims and not providing a shred of evidence – and, much like your insinuation that I was arguing against a strawman, you fail to defend your claims when challenged.

    The reality, despite denial from some, is that peak uranium is on the horizon with *current* nuclear deployment – let alone with the massive deployment of nuclear around the planet needed to make any meaningful contribution to ACC mitigation.

    Remember – we are looking for a *global*, sustainable solution. Nuclear is not it.

    > While that’s debatable…

    No. It is not debatable that French nukes keep getting switched off in heatwaves. It is not debatable that French nukes have contaminated drinking water. It is not debatable that France is looking at a *massive* bill to build enough new nukes to replace the old ones. It is not debatable that French nuclear waste is transported across Europe and dumped in open compounds in Siberia.

    > …this process has failed because people have balked in the face of uncertain costs and increasing cost estimates.

    You’re getting it. And not “cost estimates” – *cost reality*. Nuclear does not get built without the taxpayer being mugged.

    Regardless of the simplistic mathematics you and others produce based on ‘estimate cost to build * years of operation * capacity factor’, the reality is that new nukes are not getting built for some very good reasons. Amongst which are: massive capital cost; a history of project failures; time to deployment being 10+ years; being more expensive than many renewables and renewable + natural gas combo; falling costs of renewables; the intractable problem of nuclear waste; most countries don’t have any uranium; environmental and health damage from uranium mining; public opinion being often against nuclear and strongly in favour of renewables.

    These realities explain why many credible analyses show that nuclear will remain a niche energy source:

    - European Commission report projects that 41% of all energy installations in the next 20 years will be wind. Another 23% will come from other renewables like solar, biomass and hydro. 17% of new capacity to come from gas, 12% from coal, 4% from nuclear and 3% from oil. http://www.renewableenergyworld.com/rea/news/article/2010/09/wind-and-solar-the-action-continues?cmpid=rss

    > Which of these numbers did I get the nuclear fan club?

    Not the numbers specifically – it’s the cherry-picking and the entire ‘script’ you are working through. I’ve seen it all before and it’s not persuasive. It’s simplistic and myopic, ignoring a wide range of factors that explain why nukes are not being deployed outside a few Asian countries. Read more widely – Joe has provided good coverage for starters – and it should become apparent why reality is as it is and why the future must be clean, safe, equitable renewable energy.

  62. quokka says:

    The recent MIT report The Future of the Nuclear Fuel Cycle concludes that

    “There is no shortage of uranium resources that might constrain future commitments to build new nuclear plants for much of this century at least.”

    web.mit.edu/mitei/docs/spotlights/nuclear-fuel-cycle.pdf

    Going on previous form, I now expect to hear accusations that the MIT study has a pro nuclear bias, just like the IPCC and IEA. Hmmmm …..

    But in the event that the price of uranium should rise to uneconomic levels, there would almost certainly be a move to fast spectrum uranium/plutonium reactors and/or thorium breeder reactors. In either of these latter scenarios there would be enough fissionable and fertile material to last for practical purposes indefinitely – certainly more than long enough for some exotic new technology to come onto the scene.

  63. DavidCOG says:

    @ quokka:

    >

    Yes, I’ve already seen that. Curious that it contradicts what MIT was predicting just three years earlier:

    - Lack of fuel may limit U.S. nuclear power expansion: http://web.mit.edu/newsoffice/2007/fuel-supply.html

    It also contradicts numerous sources that warn of uranium shortages. As always with nuclear there are contradictory reports, which I think is a product of the amount of propaganda that clouds the subject.

    > …there would almost certainly be a move to fast spectrum uranium/plutonium reactors and/or thorium breeder reactors.

    Just like that! It’s amazing how easy it all is if we simply accept assertions in comments on the internet. Sadly, reality does not work like that.

    Global warming is here *now*. We must deploy what works *now* and that can be deployed quickly. That is renewable energy.

  64. DavidCOG says:

    @ quokka:

    > The recent MIT report The Future of the Nuclear Fuel Cycle concludes that…

    Yes, I’ve already seen that. Curious that it contradicts what MIT was predicting just three years earlier:

    - Lack of fuel may limit U.S. nuclear power expansion: http://web.mit.edu/newsoffice/2007/fuel-supply.html

    It also contradicts numerous sources that warn of uranium shortages. As always with nuclear there are contradictory reports, which I think is a product of the amount of propaganda that clouds the subject.

    > …there would almost certainly be a move to fast spectrum uranium/plutonium reactors and/or thorium breeder reactors.

    Just like that! It’s amazing how easy it all is if we simply accept assertions in comments on the internet. Sadly, reality does not work like that.

    Global warming is here *now*. We must deploy what works *now* and that can be deployed quickly. That is renewable energy.

  65. quokka says:

    @64 DavidCOG

    Global warming is here *now*. We must deploy what works *now* and that can be deployed quickly. That is renewable energy.

    If you really want to run a beauty contest, then I suggest you take due note of the following two charts:

    France: Electricity Generation by Source

    Denmark: Electricity Generation by Source

    How long has Denmark been building wind turbines? And what is the outcome? It took France ~20 years to build out nuclear.

    It is plainly obvious what works *now* and has been working for quite a few years. Nuclear supplies around 14% of the worlds electricity. Solar/Wind/Geothermal about 3%.

    You may be able to nail some PV panels on rooftops quickly, but when it comes to large scale electricity production there is no convincing evidence that solar/wind can be built any faster than nuclear. Above all else, solar is not price competitive and while that remains the case it will not be deployed on a scale large enough to make any practical difference. That’s reality.

  66. quokka says:

    @64 DavidCOG

    > …there would almost certainly be a move to fast spectrum uranium/plutonium reactors and/or thorium breeder reactors.

    Just like that! It’s amazing how easy it all is if we simply accept assertions in comments on the internet. Sadly, reality does not work like that.

    The reality is that fast reactors are in the long term plan for a number of the leading countries in nuclear power – France, Japan, India, Sth Korea and China. As usual the US is dithering but there are moves to build at Savanah River a demonstration GE-Hitachi PRISM based on the IFR developed at Argone National Labs. The Russian reactor is called BN-800 – a development of the successful BN-600. China is buying two of the BN-800s. This is reality, I am not making up. I suggest you do a little digging before making silly remarks.

  67. DavidCOG says:

    @ quokka:

    > If you really want to run a beauty contest, then I suggest you take due note of the following two charts:

    Do you understand the concept that the past is not necessarily an indicator of the future?

    What is more important is the *trend* of CO2 emissions. Note how Denmark and Germany are declining but France has remained virtually flat for the past 20-odd years?

    > Nuclear supplies around 14% of the worlds electricity.

    And it has been deployed for 50+ years! That should tell you something.

    > …when it comes to large scale electricity production there is no convincing evidence that solar/wind can be built any faster than nuclear.

    Again, reality is not on your side: e.g. Germany deployed enough solar in the first 8 months of 2010 to supply 1% of its electricity. Also:

    - Wind Power Soars by 16GW in first half of 2010. Global wind turbine capacity hit 175 GW by mid-2010 and is heading for 200 GW by the year-end. http://www.renewableenergyworld.com/rea/news/article/2010/10/wind-power-soars-by-16gw-in-first-half-of-2010?cmpid=rss

    > …solar is not price competitive…

    A pattern is forming where you make a claim and it proves to be, at best, doubtful: [Google] “Solar and Nuclear Costs – The Historic Crossover”

  68. DavidCOG says:

    @ quokka:

    > The reality is that fast reactors are in the long term plan

    Once again: plans and reality do not necessarily meet – especially when discussing nuclear. It’s similar to my plans to bed Scarlett Johansson – I’m not confident it will happen.

    > The Russian reactor is called BN-800 – a development of the successful BN-600.

    This should be embarrassing for you by now – every substantive claim you are making appears to be flawed:

    - Despite the fact that fast breeder development began in 1944, now some 65 year later, of the 438 operational nuclear power reactors worldwide, only one of these, the BN-600 in Russia, is a commercial-size fast reactor and it hardly qualifies as a successful breeder. The Soviet Union/Russia never closed the fuel cycle and has yet to fuel BN-600 with plutonium. http://www.fissilematerials.org/blog/2010/02/history_and_status_of_fas.html

    > I suggest you do a little digging before making silly remarks.

    Given the ease with which I am rebutting your claims, and the evidence I am offering, it should be obvious to anyone that I have done plenty of “digging”.

    Further, it seems clear that you are the one leaving a constant stream of “silly remarks” which do not match reality.

    “Despite the often repeated claims that the technology for fast reactors is well understood, one finds that no evidence exists to back up such claims. In fact, their huge construction costs, their poor safety records, and their inefficient performance give little reason to believe that they will ever become commercially significant.” http://europe.theoildrum.com/node/5929

  69. Bill Woods says:

    DavidCOG (#67): “A pattern is forming where you make a claim and it proves to be, at best, doubtful: [Google] “Solar and Nuclear Costs – The Historic Crossover””

    That study debunked itself. The example solar system in Appendix A is more than 3 times as expensive as any nuclear plant in Appendix B.

  70. Zach says:

    @DavidCogg – You keep making sweeping claims and not providing a shred of evidence – and, much like your insinuation that I was arguing against a strawman, you fail to defend your claims when challenged.
    You provided the lifecycle CO2 emissions numbers without citation. I found the Wikipedia article you likely got the numbers from, followed that to the original study that calculated those exact numbers, and found that it did, indeed, take diminishing uranium yields into account.

    No. It is not debatable that French nukes keep getting switched off in heatwaves.

    It’s debatable that this is a “wide-ranging problem.” Is it a problem that wind turbines don’t generate electricity when it’s not windy? That hydroelectric installations cannot capture all of the available energy after a big storm?

    European Commission report projects that 41% of all energy installations in the next 20 years will be wind … 4% from nuclear.

    (1) This is capacity, so you’ve got to adjust all numbers to reflect that nuclear installations generate at least 3 times as much energy per MW capacity. Plus, a nuclear reactor runs longer than a turbine, so the total amount of offset CO2 emissions over the lifetime of things constructed between 2010 and 2030 has to take that into account.
    (2) I’m looking at the report right now. It shows that in 2030, 1083694 GWH will be produced by nuclear and 643895 by wind. There’s a projected 3-fold higher change in wind than nuclear output from 2010 to 2030. Even keeping nuclear output constant for 20 years will require new reactors as old ones are decommissioned.

  71. Zach says:

    “Note how Denmark and Germany are declining but France has remained virtually flat for the past 20-odd years?”

    Looked at your chart. It will take 20 years for Germany to match France’s current per capita emissions if you simply extrapolate those trends, at which time we’ll already have conceded quite a bit of warming irreversible for the next thousand years or so. Look how fast the French curve goes down from 1980 to 1990. I wonder what happened that decade?

  72. Zach says:

    Those curves also show roughly exponential decays from 10-12 ton/capita to 6 ton/capita. Will German and Danish wind installations offset the transportation, home heating, and industrial emissions that provide that baseline?

  73. DavidCOG says:

    @ Bill Woods:

    > That study debunked itself. The example solar system in Appendix A is more than 3 times as expensive as any nuclear plant in Appendix B.

    You’ve clearly not understood it. Did it not seem curious that the conclusion of the report was the polar opposite of what you worked out from cherry-picking single data points from the appendix?

    I don’t know how to simplify it. Perhaps read it again? http://www.ncwarn.org/?p=2290

  74. DavidCOG says:

    Zach says:

    > You provided the lifecycle CO2 emissions numbers without citation.

    Wrong. I stated “Ref. Sovacool meta study.” I didn’t include the link to avoid the auto-moderation queue – knowing that all you needed to do was put the obvious words in Google to find it.

    > I found the Wikipedia article you likely got the numbers from…

    It is not the study I was referring to. You have made multiple claims without providing evidence – most of your output here. Also, *again*: you insinuated I was arguing against a strawman, but you keep failing to defend your claims when challenged.

    > It’s debatable that this is a “wide-ranging problem.”

    It’s only debatable if you think producing no electricity is not a problem. Is that what you are arguing?

    > Is it a problem that wind turbines don’t generate electricity when it’s not windy?

    Big difference: it’s designed in to the system. It’s planned for. Also, the issue is massively overplayed by the anti-renewable propaganda mill and the dupes they fool.

    >> European Commission report projects that 41% of all energy installations in the next 20 years will be wind … 4% from nuclear.

    > This is capacity,

    Wrong. This is becoming a habit.

    It is power *generation* (page 27 / 28), not nameplate capacity. You need to stop arguing from a position of confirmation bias and read the evidence.

    > I’m looking at the report right now. It shows that in 2030, 1083694 GWH will be produced by nuclear and 643895 by wind.

    Yes? I never claimed otherwise. This does not alter the fact that renewables are going to be rapidly deployed over the next two decades and nuclear is effectively flat – for all the reasons I have already explained.

    > It will take 20 years for Germany to match France’s current per capita emissions if you simply extrapolate those trends…

    You said it: “simply extrapolate”. That is not what is planned.

    > Look how fast the French curve goes down from 1980 to 1990. I wonder what happened that decade?

    The French nationalised their energy production and made the nuclear industry a charity case, paid for by taxpayers. That plan is not looking so clever now that it’s time to replace many of those nukes – hence the French investment in renewables.

    > Will German and Danish wind installations offset the transportation, home heating, and industrial emissions that provide that baseline?

    You do know that wind is not the only renewable energy source?

  75. Bill Woods says:

    #73. DavidCOG: “You’ve clearly not understood it. Did it not seem curious that the conclusion of the report was the polar opposite of what you worked out from cherry-picking single data points from the appendix?”

    Not at all. The organization makes no pretense of being open-minded on the subject of nuclear power:

    NC WARN: Waste Awareness & Reduction Network is a member-based nonprofit tackling the accelerating crisis posed by climate change — along with the various risks of nuclear power —

    Their “Past Victories” page http://www.ncwarn.org/?page_id=36 shows that opposing nuclear power has had a much higher priority than opposing climate change.

    To their credit, the authors of this report lay out their methodology:

    As pointed out in the summary above, solar and nuclear costs given here reflect the costs that would actually be paid by consumers. They are net of a variety of financial incentives for each technology. This is as close as one can get to an “apples to apples” comparison (see note 6). In the solar case, the incentives are federal and state tax credits.

    But — as they say themselves — those tax credits cover 65% of the cost of solar. Hardly apples-to-apples.

    Oh, and “cherry-picking single data points from the appendix”?

    I said “any nuclear plant in Appendix B.” You don’t trust the numbers in the report’s own appendixes? Then why should you trust its conclusions?

  76. DavidCOG says:

    @ Bill Woods:

    > The organization makes no pretense of being open-minded on the subject of nuclear power:

    This always puzzles me. The nuclear fan club always try to argue that any organisation that opposes nuclear energy is driven by blind ideology when in fact it is obvious they are driven by a range of *facts*, science and cohesive arguments.

    In fact, blind ideology seems to be a defining quality of those who defend nuclear – no evidence or argument or reality impedes their belief in a future nuclear utopia.

    > Oh, and “cherry-picking single data points from the appendix”? I said “any nuclear plant in Appendix B.”

    Very well. You have simply reached a conclusion by pointing at one part of the data and failed to understand the entirety – hence your conclusion being the polar opposite of the study. I find I have a better hit rate trusting published sources rather than internet experts who tell me those sources are wrong.

  77. Bill Woods says:

    76. DavidCOG:
    > “any organisation that opposes nuclear energy is driven by blind ideology”
    I didn’t speculate about what drives them; I simply pointed out that they are driven — they make no bones about being anti-nuclear.

    > “You have … failed to understand the entirety”
    ‘You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.’

    What they’re doing is really not that hard to understand: They want to make an argument against nuclear power. On this occasion they follow the principle that ‘you can’t beat a horse with no horse’, so they claim that solar is cheaper. The facts aren’t really on their side, so they bend them to fit.

    The irony — for anyone whose concern is global warning — is that the dispute is pointless. Nuclear and solar don’t really compete with each other, they’re complementary. Nuclear competes with coal to meet the baseload demand; while solar competes with gas to meet the peak load.

  78. DavidCOG says:

    @ Bill Woods:

    > …they make no bones about being anti-nuclear.

    And why? Because of facts and reality.

    > ‘You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.’

    That’s the usual, weak response that the nuclear fan club eventually seek refuge in.

    > They want to make an argument against nuclear power.

    And it’s not too difficult because of the wide-ranging arguments against nuclear.

    > The facts aren’t really on their side, so they bend them to fit.

    With solar (and other renewables) receiving massive investment and deployment all over the planet, I’m inclined to accept their assessment than your contradiction.

    > Nuclear and solar don’t really compete with each other, they’re complementary.

    - Nuclear Energy Steals Billions from Other Technologies. http://stephenleahy.net/2010/07/19/nuclear-energy-steals-billions-from-other-technologies/