By Chris Nelder
Posting in Design
Stick a fork in U.S. nuclear power. With four plants closing this year and more to come, the dream of electricity "too cheap to meter" is dead.
Stick a fork in U.S. nuclear power. The dream of electricity “too cheap to meter” is dead.
It died last Friday with Edison International’s announcement that it would permanently close the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (SONGS) located north of San Diego. The plant (pictured above) has been shut down since January 2012 due to a leak in a tube in its steam generating system.
The reason? It would cost too much to fix.
The leak stemmed from work done by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, which replaced the plant’s steam generators in 2009-2010. Errors in its computer models, which made the replacement parts to finer tolerances than the initial design, reduced the contact force of anti-vibration bars restraining thousands of tubes in the steam generators. This allowed the tubes to rub together, eventually resulting in one of the tubes springing a leak. Replacing the tubes thus became a monstrously expensive job. Public opposition to reopening the plant was made worse by UPI’s revelation in May that plastic bags, masking tape and broomsticks were being used to temporarily control the leak, and that internal documents reported degraded equipment with “hundreds of corrosion notifications.” Fending off continued legal challenges, which might have required seeking a time-consuming and expensive amendment to the SONGS license, finally doomed the plant, which cost about $1 million a day to keep ready for a restart.
Falling like dominoes
SONGS, with its 2,200 megawatt (MW) generating capacity, is the fourth nuclear plant to be closed this year due to economics.
Exelon just opted to pull the plug on its 44-year-old, 630 MW Oyster Creek nuclear power plant in New Jersey after workers discovered that underground pipes were leaking tritium. Replacing them with new cooling towers was too costly, Exelon decided.
Duke Energy announced in February that it would close its 37-year-old, 860 MW Crystal River plant in Florida. The plant has been shut down since 2009, when workers cracked a concrete containment building during an upgrade and refueling procedure. After unsuccessful attempts at repairs, Duke decided it was too expensive to continue trying to fix the plant.
In May, Dominion Resources permanently closed its 39-year-old, 556 MW Kewaunee plant in Wisconsin. The plant’s contracts to sell power were ending, and with the current low price of natural gas, continued operation was deemed to be unprofitable. Dominion tried find a buyer to take over the plant, but failed. The company’s CEO said the decision to close the plant "was based purely on economics."
Even new plants still under construction are coming under fire. Southern Co.’s new reactors at Vogtle in Georgia reportedly are running over budget and recovering costs long before the plants are to begin operation, arousing the ire of locals. SCANA Corp.’s new Summer Nuclear Station in South Carolina is running over budget and incurring delays. The Tennessee Valley Authority’s new 1,200 MW Watts Bar 2 plant, on which construction was halted in 1988, is soon to be completed at a cost of $4.5 billion, 80 percent over its initial budget, the utility says.
Budget overruns and delays are the norm for nuclear plants. As a 2009 study by the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) shows, the actual cost of nuclear plants has routinely come in at three times their initial estimates. Cost overruns, canceled plants and stranded costs total more than $300 billion in 2009 dollars, the study said. At a final construction cost of $4.5 billion in 1984 (equivalent to $10 billion in 2013 dollars), SONGS was finished at 10 times its original estimate.
Plans for new nuclear plants in Texas and Maryland have also been scrapped as costs continue to rise. And last week, MidAmerican Energy dropped its plan to build a $1 billion nuclear plant in Iowa after a poll showed that 77 percent of Iowans opposed allowing the utility to charge ratepayers up front for its construction. MidAmerican now intends to spend $1.9 billion to build new wind turbines.
Last month, Duke signaled its intent to “suspend” its application for two new reactors at its Harris station in North Carolina, because the units “will not be needed in the next 15 years” according to the utility’s forecasts.
Recovering the lost investments in the closed plants, and paying for their decommissioning, is already fraught with dispute. Florida ratepayers will be on the hook for $1.6 billion in reimbursements to Duke Energy for the closed Florida plant; decommissioning could take 40 to 60 years.
Decommissioning SONGS is also expected to take decades, largely because there is nowhere else to put its 3 million pounds of hot radioactive waste. It will be easier and safer to let the reactors sit in a mothballed state for up to 60 years to let the radioactivity decay before cleaning and dismantling operations proceed. Edison estimates the full cleanup cost will be around $3 billion, of which $2.7 billion has already been collected from surcharges on customer utility bills. Edison has said it will take a $450 million to $650 million charge on the closure. Ratepayers have already paid about $1 billion to Edison for the plant during its closure, and the remaining costs of closure and decommissioning are likely to be borne by ratepayers, not Edison shareholders, save any damages the utility is able to recover from Mitsubishi Heavy Industries.
It’s a safe bet that further litigation lies ahead, as ratepayers seek to push the costs of the failures back onto Edison.
It’s not surprising that reactors begin to show wear and tear after around 40 years of operation, the duration of their original license period. As I explained last year (“Regulation and the decline of coal power”), the majority of the U.S. nuclear fleet is long in the tooth; many of the plants were built in the 1970s, and most are 21 to 40 years old, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA). More than half of the plants in the current U.S. nuclear fleet have had their licenses extended for an additional 20 years.
More maintenance issues have come to light this year. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has just ordered 31 older nuclear reactors -- a third of the U.S. nuclear fleet -- to overhaul their vent systems to prevent a buildup of hydrogen and to keep temperatures from rising in containment buildings. The order resulted from a safety review in the aftermath of the Fukushima meltdown in Japan, which resulted from rising “decay heat” from nuclear fuel. In April, the former chairman of the NRC said that all U.S. reactors suffer from the same design flaw and cannot be fixed, and speculated that the reactors currently operating under extended licenses probably wouldn’t last to 60 years of age. He resigned from the NRC last summer after a conflict over safety issues with his colleagues.
It now seems inevitable that U.S. nuclear capacity is bound to continue falling, with planned new units unlikely to make up for plant closures. As the remaining fleet approaches 60 years of age, it is highly likely that wind and solar will become the cheapest way to add new capacity, decreasing the likelihood that retired plants will be rebuilt.
Meanwhile, nuclear costs have continued to rise, along with construction costs in general. The UCS study noted that between 2002 and 2008, the cost of nuclear plants tripled to an average $9 billion per plant as construction and financing costs exploded. Early cost estimates made by consultants, government and academics to construct new plants have typically run on the low side at around $2,000 per kW ($/kW) of capacity, while utility estimates cluster in the $3,000 to $5,000/kW range, and the estimates of independent analysts and Wall Street run in the $6,000 to $10,000/kW range.
Of those ranges, I believe only the high-end estimates of Wall Street and independent analysts are close to reality, indicating a true cost of about $100 per megawatt-hour ($/MWh), or $0.10 per kilowatt-hour (kWh), of actual production. That is the estimated cost of power from the new nuclear plant under construction in the Kaliningrad region of Russia, a German lawmaker said in April. That’s also in the same zone as the EIA’s current levelized cost of new generation estimates, released in January as part of the Annual Energy Outlook 2013 report, which give an average cost of $108.40/MWh for new “advanced nuclear” plants in 2018. (Comparing the costs of various power generation technologies is a complex task involving many assumptions, but most analysts recognize levelized cost as the best basis for comparison.)
New solar plants are sharply undercutting the cost of new nuclear. As I mentioned in my analysis of carbon capture and storage costs in March, the new 50 MW Macho Springs solar plant under construction by First Solar in New Mexico will deliver power for $50.79/MWh under a 25-year power purchase agreement with the local utility. That price was confirmed last week by Greentech Media. Other U.S. solar projects have come in this year in the range of $70 to $90/MWh.
Compared to nuclear power, solar cost estimates are absolutely rock-solid. They don’t leave billions of dollars worth of decommissioning costs off the books, to be foisted externally onto ratepayers. They don’t leave the cost of managing nuclear waste hanging for decades in an uncertain future, where it will likely be pushed onto taxpayers via federal programs. They don’t require federal insurance liability protection or billions of dollars worth of federal loan guarantees. If solar developers can’t come up with the money to build a plant on budget, it simply doesn’t get built. And the power that solar plants generate is sold under a fixed long-term contract, not bumped up over time as initially lowballed costs inflate. Ratepayers are beginning to recognize that solar (and wind) costs are simply far more trustworthy than nuclear costs.
In addition to cost and safety considerations, renewables have the distinct advantage of being something utilities can build quickly, using much smaller chunks of capital. Instead of committing to spending $5 to $20 billion for a nuclear plant that will take a decade to build -- and decades more to recover the investment --utilities may look on investments in renewables more favorably, particularly in the current environment of utility business model disruption, uncertainty, and the growing popularity of renewables. Renewables are also much simpler and less risky than insanely complex nuclear plants; a wind farm or a solar plant isn’t suddenly going to develop flaws that require billions of dollars to fix.
The nuclear plants recently closed or kiboshed are only the beginning, the swan SONGS if you will, of nuclear power’s demise. The cost trends are clearly in favor of renewables and natural gas (at least so long as the latter stays cheap, which is uncertain) and against nuclear. On current growth trends, according to a new analysis by Gregor Macdonald, solar will overtake nuclear generation globally by 2020.
It’s only a matter of time.
(Photo, courtesy SoCal Edison/NRC)
Jun 11, 2013
some of the plants will certainly close . when they do it's then time to take away the fuel and reprocess it the most vulnerable locations should go first . enough material needs to be removed to limit the chain reaction so it wont heat up and melt if the cooling was interupted " walk away safe" which is what all of the nuclear plants should be . where reasonably possible convert a Uranium site to Thorium, LFTR a mildly contaminated site after the cleanup would be a perfect place . Power lines and infastructure is already there rather than taking a new site . the idea of walk away safe should satisfy most of the anti nuclear folks . one more Idea out of SCI Fi is Many small plants interconnected and set up to disconnect a faulty , or disabled plant and keep the grid working add all the renewables in as they become available but remember renewables carries it's own issues with it .
One megawatt is a thousand kilowatts. One year is 8760 hours. So if the thing only runs for 20 years, it'll produce about 200 billion kWh in that time. That comes to about two cents a kWh, capital cost. Even if it is over budget, it sounds pretty inexpensive compared with the "renewables". And it's only a Light Water Reactor. It is well known that capital cost greatly exceeds fuel cost for nuclear reactors.
It is true that big Nuclear Light Water Reactors are on the way out. They may be replaced by small factory built modular reactors that are gas cooled and eliminate most of the inherent problems with Light Water Reactors. But, my important point is that this column is an example of an unfortunate trend in Green reporting on energy. The author totally ignored the Elephant in the room. And it is a very large Elephant. That is he totally ignored the intermittent nature of wind and solar power. He acted like it was possible for wind and solar (especially fixed panel PV) to replace nuclear power and, therefore, that it was the relative price that mattered. Well, the wind doesn't always blow and the sun isn't always at solar noon (in fact half the time it doesn't shine at all) so it wouldn't matter if wind and solar PV power was free, it wouldn't be able to directly replace nuclear power. It is really dealing with this intermittent nature of wind and solar PV -- the engineering problem of storage -- that is more important than the declining price of wind and solar power.
I have no doubt it will worsen California's air. I have suspected for some time that nuclear power is unsuitable for the private sector. The benefits to the general public are greater than the available profits and commercial risks confer upon entrepreneurial owners. Carbon taxes do not work in terms of stoppping greenhouse gas emissions. In fact, the poisonous pollution emitted by coal burning, as sulfur and nitrogen oxides, or neurotoxic mercury vapor, vastly exceed what a nuke plant emits even when it dies. As for "decommissioning costs" has anybody ever seen the costs of decommissioning the coal mines in Pennsylvania or Appalachia? No? Oh, they just don't bother! I hoped to make a copy of the SONGS analysis of the alternatives to that plant. They include huge expanses of wind turbines and solar farms, and far filthier "clean natural gas" (an oxymoron, or is it two (clean,natural)) and coal burning. I failed, it's gone. Ontario, Canada has cleaned up its smog problem over ten years, in large part by shutting down all coal burning, and substituting nuclear. I very strongly suspect that the criteria of perfection for that leak would be far more lenient, in rerms of actuall health risk, if it were a traditional fossil fuel plant. Edison gets some of its electric energy from the wind farm at Altamont Pass, which killed over 1000 'protected' raptors in 2004, and was supposed to have been improved, but I have not seen any reports. The entire farm produces a trifling amount of unreliable energy, compared with one reactor.
Yes, the old-fashioned "fast-breeder" Uranium powered reactors are obsolete, but stand back for the rise of the Thorium reactor. Thorium is much cheaper, safer, more abundant and more efficient than Uranium -- at least when it comes to generating power. Just ask India, which has commissioned the building of four new Thorium plants this year.
Read: http://machinedesign.com/archive/wind-power-without-wind-turbines for alternatives to wind turbines which are an environmental problem. I used to work in the uranium exploration industry doing logging of the drill holes. Back then (1978) you had the oil company or other energy company drilling holes in prospective areas in order for my company's logging truck to drop a probe in the drill hole to record the radiation levels present at varying depths. You had the fossil fuel of the drilling rig and my log truck at the site as well as the travel to and from the site. I am guessing that it is still handled in the same basic way, except the probes and the computers they are attached to are more sophisticated. I believe that nuclear is still better than coal or even natural gas, go to southern Wyoming for examples of large coal mining operations, and Southeast Kansas for the results of the long ago strip mining of coal--small lakes in what are the leftover strip pits, some are used as recreation areas, but many are just eyesores, especially since the EPA has banned using them as landfills for a city's trash. Thorium reactors were mentioned in a post inthe same issue of SP mailed 6/14 "Glowing plants; social influencers; nuclear's demise? | SmartPlanet Weekly" The article spoke of two movies touting nuclear energy. "It's showtime for nuclear"
Californias Emissions Could decrease if the CPUC: 1. Stopped hoarding all the energy upgrade money it already has collected. 2. Raised the qualifying amounts for Energy Upgrades 3. Required the Utilities to start paying owners of solar panels what they pay themselves for energy generated, at the time it is generated. 4. Increased Energy Rebates, which would create more clean green jobs. BTW: In CA the Grid is billed as a separate fee to Energy used... Germany is aiming to be 100% renewable by 2050, why not CA?
"... even if the net loss of nuclear capacity were directly replaced with high-reliability renewable generation such as hydropower or geothermal, thatâs still that much renewable capacity not available to displace higher-emitting generation. Opponents of nuclear power may see that as progress, but it looks like a step backward to me." http://www.csmonitor.com/Environment/Energy-Voices/2013/0614/San-Onofre-the-fallout-from-closing-California-s-nuclear-plant
Nelder's commentary is that nuclear power plants are too expensive to maintain. Technological advances in wind and solar make it the power generation choice of the future. This theme runs throughout not only this article but all his energy future articles. Itâs specious to compare next generation solar and wind to past generation nuclear or anything else. If youâre going to factor in where solar will be 10 years from now, give the same consideration to nuclear. Nuclear plants built in the 70s will continue to produce clean affordable power as long as there are no significant repairs that need to be done. This will be the case for most of those plants currently producing for the next 20 years. If substantial repairs are needed, they will likely just be shut down instead. The future of nuclear power does not lie with these reactors. Molten salt reactors are safer and cheaper than the old designs. If a bloated US government bureaucracy canât work with industry to approve workable designs then they will be designed and tested in India, China, England or elsewhere with many US scientists aiding in the process. With working designs around the world, the US will eventually respond in kind. I have little doubt there will be working MSRs within 10-15 years safely producing power significantly cheaper than wind or solar. Since producing electricity is at its core just boiling water for a steam turbine, we will be finding out about LENR/LANR pretty soon. Brillouin Energy has a contract to convert a small conventional power plant to its âBrillouin boilerâ. The boiler has already been verified by Los Alamos lab and SRI international. After completion of this project, we will have real world numbers on what it costs to produce electricity this way. Current projections are under a nickel per kwh with long term estimates closer to a penny. Rossiâs e-Cat and Defkalion are also working along these lines. We will know if this is all smoke and mirrors or a real energy game changer within a couple years. Also, donât count fusion out. Here is a good summary of where nuclear fusion is at this time. http://nextbigfuture.com/2013/05/nuclear-fusion-summary.html. There are more than a half dozen companies working on this. Perhaps fusion wonât be ready this decade but it certainly can be before most of our current nuclear reactors are shut down. Keep in mind wind and solar wonât be cost effective against coal and gas this decade either. All three of the ânew nuclearâ technologies mentioned have the potential to make the currently in vogue ârenewablesâ just a memory.
I'm surprised that the author has failed to mention the possibility that Thorium can be used to generate electricity far more safely and at lower cost than current facilities. I think that the death of current technology is a good thing!
I'm counting on the NRC to complete all its investigations into what was going on at San Onofre and especially how SCE was able to build their 465 million dollar RSG without going through a CFR 50.59 process, which includes public hearings. Sweeping all the investigations "under the rug" will be a dis-service to both those that reported what was happening at San Onofre and to the NRC's role as a regulator to the nuclear industry! The NRC should be issuing fines and or other types of enforcement as well a re-thinking one of its core beliefs that only one SG tube can ever fail at any one time which San Onofre proved could happen!
'Decommissioning SONGS is also expected to take decades, largely because there is nowhere else to put its 3 million pounds of hot radioactive waste.'' Why don't they bury it next to the people who support nuclear energy?
Not dead, just not to be provided by nuclear fission reactors.... Nuclear would be a lot less expensive if Westinghouse had been forced to adhere to the contract for U235 that they signed with GE back in the late 60's...but despite the contract, they were permitted by the courts to raise prices...substantially. Nuclear, oil, gas, and coal plants cannot compete on even terms with orbital solar systems nor ground solar/wind power...if you include the costs of mining. transporting, refining and then disposal of wastes. None of which were ever included in the cost comparisons made in the 70's. Any product which doesn't have to clean up it's environmental costs, but rather, passes those costs on to the taxpayers, is going to out-compete any similar product which actually pays it's environmental costs. Merely switching hot water heat to solar would make an incredible difference in the energy use profiles. And it is cost-effective over nearly all of the USA. Yet it is PV that the government pushes, despite the higher cost and longer payback periods. Solar is best used in the form it arrives: heat & light. ANY conversion is inefficient and will have longer payback time. Of course, we'd save trillions if w merely required people to build tornado-proof buildings in tornado and hurricane prone areas. Instead, we let them build houses which disintegrate in high winds...so they can be rebuilt regularly. Oh. That would save LIVES too! There are going to be major problems with giant wind-farms and solar ground collectors...what they will be can only be guesstimated at this time, but there will be serious issues once we start covering thousands of hectares of the planet with energy extraction devices. We compete for that energy with other life, and such installations will affect huge areas of ecosystems. This is one of many reasons our long-term goal should be to remove the majority of energy generation off-planet.
"It will be easier and safer to let the reactors sit in a mothballed state for up to 60 years to let the radioactivity decay before cleaning and dismantling operations proceed." This is a highly debatable statement both in concept and in real dollars. Consider the continued maintenance required even to keep "mothballed," the continued risk from natural disasters like earthquakes and from being obvious targets of terrorists. There are solutions to disposing of this 3 million pounds of nuclear wastes (subduction zone disposal) that are likely cheaper than than the maintenance, risks, and their inflated cost over time.
You're comparing 30 year old nuclear plants to modern solar/wind power. Where was solar or wind 30 years ago? If the resources spent on those technologies were spent for nuclear developement, imagine what Modern nuclear capability would be. Emotional knee-jerk reactions & scare tactics (ie. nuclear = bad, developement = bad, industry = bad, mother earth = good) have all but ruined humanity. Thank goodness there are still logical forward-thinking people who don't give in to the emotionalism and continue to help humanity in spite of itself.
"Macho Springs solar plant under construction by First Solar in New Mexico will deliver power for $50.79/MWh " That's fine in New Mexico, where the sun is 'on' for much of the year.
All these companies with dead reactors have to do is declare bankruptcy - then we're on the hook for the costs. Fixing Capitalism - it's time to end limited liability for corporations http://open.salon.com/blog/marc_erickson/2011/10/31/fixing_capitalism
It's too early to make the call on that technology. Uranium fueled reactor tech was chosen partly because of the weapons grade plutonium they produce and have been under development for at least 50 years. China announced the building of a molten salt one in 2011and some other groups are working on them now - so we'll know better in five to ten years.
âGOLDEN FLEECE AWARDâ GOES TO DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY FOR FEDERAL SPENDING ON SMALL MODULAR REACTORS $100 Million in âMini Nukeâ Corporate Welfare Already Doled Out, Another Half Billion Dollars Or More in the Pipeline for Major Corporations that Could Pay for Own R&D, Licensing WASHINGTON, D.C. â The federal government is in the process of wasting more than half a billion dollars to pay large, profitable companies for what should be their own expenses for research & development (R&D) and licensing related to âsmall modular reactorsâ (SMRs), which would be about a third of the size or less of todayâs large nuclear reactors. In response, the nonpartisan group Taxpayers for Common Sense today handed out its latest âGolden Fleece Awardâ to the Department of Energy for the dollars being wasted on SMRs. Titled âTaxpayer Subsidies for Small Modular Reactors,â a related TCS background report is available online at www.taxpayer.net. Ryan Alexander, president, Taxpayers for Common Sense, said: âThe nation is two days away from the across-the-board budget cuts known as sequestration. But at the same time we are hearing the Department of Energy and the nuclear industry evangelizing about the benefits of small modular reactors. In reality, we cannot afford to pile more market-distorting subsidies to profitable companies on top the billions of dollars we already gave away.â Autumn Hanna, senior program director, Taxpayers for Common Sense, said: âThe nuclear industry has a tradition of rushing forth to proclaim that a new technology, just around the corner, will take care of whatever problem exists. Unfortunately, these technologies have an equally long tradition of expensive failure. If the industry believes in small modular reactors and a reactor in every backyard â great â but donât expect the taxpayer to pick up the tab.â The federal government already paid for a version of SMR R&D when small reactors were designed for the U.S. Navyâs nuclear submarine fleet. Now some highly profitable companies â including Babcock & Wilcox, Westinghouse, Holtec International, and Fluor Corporation -- are at the federal trough for another round of federal support for small modular reactors that could go into suburban American neighborhoods. The TCS Award announcement takes place a few weeks before the release of President Obamaâs latest budget outline, which is expected to call for a continuation of SMR licensing and R&D funding at taxpayerâs expense. The Department of Energy has already provided nearly $100 million for these so- called mini reactors while their commercial viability remains in question. In addition, DOE has committed up to $452 million over the next five years in an attempt to fund up to two separate demonstration projects.
Swan song? or as reported by ZNET today... taking off again? http://www.smartplanet.com/blog/bulletin/drum-beat-grows-louder-for-nuclear-restart-in-japan/21647?tag=nl.e550&s_cid=e550&ttag=e550&ftag= Projected costs vs actual costs... Projected risks vs actual accidents.. All their numbers are created by people with differing accounting ideas. Easy to get numbers.. hard to verify the numbers with agreed upon terms. Lies, Damn lies, statistics... (sorry Mark) Real facts that everyone can agree to, are very hard to find. Swan song? well , likely for some types of Nuclear power generation..But I doubt if that can be applied to all types of Nuclear power generation.
Westinghouse 225MW Small Modular Reactor (SMR) should turn things around when it is approved. Much simpler to build and install, it should reduce/eliminate budget overages. Typical poor journalism here, though, yet again, considering only the worst case and ignoring the potential solutions to create a doomsday story. The old plants need to be replaced and new plants built to reduce the carbon burning. However it is nice to see renewables being considered and implemented. Too bad states (especially southern states) didn't institute mandatory solar roofing for new homes and businesses about a decade ago (or start now)...Solar would be efficient and cost effective by now and the 'bonus' energy in the middle of the day would offset the energy used for air conditioning reducing the peak energy needs for the power companies.
Maybe we should "stick a fork" in mediocre journalism. Our entire power system is a hodge podge of differing corporate/state interests, regulations, etc. Texas isn't even connected to the US grid -- they do love connecting to our $ for oil, etc. The author might want to study what the French did decades ago so that they now have ~80% of their power nuclear, sell emissions-free, carbon-tax-free output to other Euro countries, and are not faced with the absurd waste problems our foolish politicians imposed on US nuclear power... ieee4life.org/2013-03-20Meeting/presentation.pdf (p7 & 21 on) And the author might want to write about waking us up to another way we're falling behind the world -- nuclear power expansion across the globe... www.smartplanet.com/blog/bulletin/china-steps-up-efforts-to-export-nuclear-reactors-including-westinghouses/19985?tag=nl.e660&s_cid=e660&ttag=e660 www.smartplanet.com/blog/bulletin/russia-to-emerging-countries-well-build-operate-your-nuclear-reactors/19573?tag=nl.e660&s_cid=e660&ttag=e660 How about an article that explains just how bad our Balance of Payments will be if we're so foolish as to think we can buy advanced power systems from other countries? Maybe include something about further corrosion of advanced education, jobs and industrial capability too? -- Dr. A. Cannara 650-400-3071
Nuclear power is still the cheapest way to generate as much power as the world needs. Without it, prices will skyrocket. That means things that make sense now, like EV cars, will be priced out of the market. That is also bad news for the environment.
Not to be overly sarcastic or anything like it but if the cloning of human beings ever becomes a reality I can imagine a time when future generations will clone our remains just so they can put us all on trial for saddling them with the cost of managing our toxic waste.
Great story, Chris. Here's more from me today: http://www.anewerworld.net/?p=892
Still beating that anti Nuc drum aren't you Nelder. We're seeing closures due to a number of reasons, all economic--the current cheap cost of natural gas, the decreased economy with the concurrent drop in electric demand, and finally, the closures are of damaged plants based on 40-50 year old technology which would not be built today. We'll see an increase in solar and wind power. (Who cares about those Chinese peasants being poisoned/displaced by the rare earth mining required for the high efficiency magnets for the wind generators anyway?) However, as demand eventually ramps up, we'll see the need for new baseload supplies which will have to include newer technology nuclear power. Just look to China, where along with extensive solar and wind development, well over a hundred nuclear units are under construction.
A solar superstorm can cause blackouts lasting for months worldwide. We are in a solar maximum year and the next two look equally vulnerable. After two weeks without grid power nuclear plants will meltdown causing "hundreds of Fuskushimas". See www.aesopinstitute.org
Yes, we will soon see solar everywhere as ever more people demand the State of CA not to waste this wonderful resource; if they want us to use less, why should they not lead the way by using Solar (of all flavors) on all State owned buildings and property! Streetlights cost about $22 each per month, why not have them self powered by the sun instead, plus they would remain in operation during earthquakes and other grid problems!
Since Fukushima and now the debacle at San Onofre, many are ashamed of the nuclear industry for not getting involved and sharing their expertise. Instead of posting informative articles explaining what was happening, most of the responses to non professional articles and blog comments have been high school-ish attempts at little more than bullying! For those Experts that did speak out, and dared to describe what a meltdown might result in for those living near by, they were and still are treated as outcasts to the Industry. If the nuclear industry was so smart, as they all claim to be, why have not more professionals actually shared their knowledge and demanded that ongoing serious engineering problems be corrected instead of just remaining mum. Time will show that was a major blunder for the very industry that promised 100% safety, yet failed to even speak out in order to protect young mothers and children after Fukushima, each of which will become yet another nail in the coffin of "safe" nuclear power.
My Nano friend, The existing nuclear capability of breeder reactors, the IFR's Experimental Breeder Reactor II, demonstrated in 1986, a week before Chernobyl, that it was immune to meltdown. A descendant design can run for 20 years at 100 MW on a 21 ton fuel core, producing about 1.7 tons of actual waste at the end of that time, and capable of being reloaded at a cost of the same amount of unenriched uranium. If the enthusiasm of the environmental movement were spent on supporting that .... I believe that the Sierra Club's lobbying that got the IFR canceled in 1994 has done much harm to the environment, and encouraged the fracking lobby. Wind turbines need backup, and gas turbines are the commonest provider. Back in the days of yore, people relied upon wind for sailing. Even then, the birds weren't safe. Consider the Ancient Mariner, and the albatross. The Industrial Revolution happened because even one billion people could not live in comfort with such meagre resources. Now we're running out of fossil carbon, it's time to recognise that the supermassive atoms that are the fossil remains of supernovae are the only answer.
$50.79 per MWh ? Four digit accuracy for a plant "under construction" ? Half a cent per kWh? Even for New Mexico, I do not believe a word of it.
Or, indeed, international. But for now, ÃlectricitÃ© de France was so successful that the other energy companies of the EU bullied France into "privatising" it. It now owns British Energy, and about half of the reactors at Calvert Cliffs, in Maryland. The USA should simply build reactors and get timid civil servants instead of "risk-taking entrepreneurs" to run them. We should also quit allowing the DoD to tell the DoE that the TVA's reactors should be producing material for thermonuclear weapons.
China is buying up uranium supplies, and looking into breeder reactors. The USA actually has two technologies that only need to be assessed fairly in terms of their ability to replace coal and petro-hydrocarbons, and the masses of actual waste and historical safety record compared even with hydro. Remember how the RAF flooded the Ruhr, with a clever attack upon three German hydropower projects?
I heartily agree about the quality of the Nelder report. But the fact about "renewables", whether solar, wind, biomass, or even hydro, is that they are capricious. There was a winter, when the snows on the Sierras were inadequate. This left less than enough energy above the dams supplying California with reliable peak reserve power. California's distributors paid through the nose for "spinning reserve", gas turbines kept idling ready to meet demand jumps.
http://www.taxpayer.net/library/article/golden-fleece-award-goes-to-department-of-energy-for-federal-spending-on-sm Download: TCS Webinar Presentation on "Subsidizing Small Modular Reactors" (pptx) Taxpayers for Common Sense was invited today to present on federal taxpayer subsidies and liabilities surrounding small modular nuclear reactors (SMRs) in an event hosted by the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy. To date, the Department of Energy (DOE) has directed approximately $100 million to the nuclear power industry to commercialize SMRs in the United States. Further, DOE has committed more than $450 million to SMRs between 2012 and 2017. In a time of fiscal austerity and a nearly $17 trillion national debt, taxpayers should not be forced to provide the mature and profitable nuclear power industry with additional handouts. http://www.taxpayer.net/library/article/tcs-presents-subsidizing-small-modular-reactors
French Nuclear Disaster Scenario Was So Bad The Government Kept It Secret http://www.businessinsider.com/potential-cost-of-a-nuclear-accident-so-high-its-a-secret-2013-3 via @bi_contributors snip Catastrophic nuclear accidents, like Chernobyl in 1986 or Fukushima No. 1 in 2011, are, were incessantly told, very rare, and their probability of occurring infinitesimal. But when they do occur, they get costly. So costly that the French government, when it came up with cost estimates for an accident in France, kept them secret. But now the report was leaked to the French magazine, Le Journal de Dimanche. Turns out, the upper end of the cost spectrum of an accident at the nuclear power plant at Dampierre, in the Department of Loiret in north-central France, amounted to over three times the countrys GDP. Hence, the need to keep it secret. The study was done in 2007 by the Institute for Radiological Protection and Nuclear Safety (IRSN), a government agency under joint authority of the Ministry of Defense and the Ministry of Environment, Industry, Research, and Health.With over 1,700 employees, its Frances public service expert in nuclear and radiation risks. This isnt some overambitious, publicity-hungry think tank. It evaluated a range of disaster scenarios that might occur at the Dampierre plant. In the best-case scenario, costs came to 760 billionmore than a third of Frances GDP. At the other end of the spectrum: 5.8 trillion! Over three times Frances GDP. A devastating amount. So large that France could not possibly deal with it. Yet, France gets 75% of its electricity from nuclear power. The entire nuclear sector is controlled by the state, which also owns 85% of EDF, the mega-utility that operates Frances 58 active nuclear reactors spread over 20 plants. So, three weeks ago, the Institute released a more politically correct report for public consumption. It pegged the cost of an accident at 430 billion. There was no political smoothening, no pressure, claimed IRSN Director General Jacques Repussard, but he admitted, its difficult to publish these kinds of numbers. He said the original report with a price tag of 5.8 trillion was designed to counter the reports that EDF had fabricated, which very seriously underestimated the costs of the incidents. Both reports were authored by IRSN economist Patrick Momal, who struggled to explain away the differences. The new number, 430 billion, was based on a median case of radioactive releases, as was the case in Fukushima, he told the JDD, while the calculations of 2007 were based more on what happened at Chernobyl. But then he added that even the low end of the original report, the 760 billion, when updated with the impact on tourism and exports, would jump to 1 trillion Euro's.
Nuclear is currently one of the most expensive ways to generate power. I see no prospect of that changing in the near future.
I had to laugh at the suggestion to look to China for our energy strategy (right after it was mentioned about their peasants being poisoned by their government-controlled mining industry). The main article's author brings up the major negative points of nuclear power---the billions of dollars worth of decommissioning costs placed off the books to be foisted externally onto ratepayers, the cost of managing dangerous nuclear waste for many generations in the future, where it will likely be pushed onto taxpayers via federal programs, the always present potential catastrophe requiring federal insurance liability protection and billions of dollars worth of federal loan guarantees. That photo of a nuclear plant next to the unpredictable ocean and near a major earthquake fault should scare anyone. No one needs to beat an anti-nuclear drum.....the facts speak for themselves.
It is not just solar storms that could cause a long term outage then what, besides moving away? Japan almost lost Tokyo, that should be warning enough for mankind!
The plain truth is, that the trouble here is not a "meltdown". There have been three significant meltdowns, worldwide, in the past fifty years. The land around Chernobyl is almost a Nature Preserve, because the best thing that can happen to wild organisms is to keep the humans out. The death toll from radioactivity at Fukushima is trifling compared with the extraordinarily violent tectonic activity that flooded the reactors, and the health consequences of the remaining, diminidshing radioactivity will be less than those of the fossil fuel burning that replaces the lost power. The fact is that my fellow environmentalists have been bamboozled by fears and propaganda that help keep the fossil fuel industry in business.
The only reason I regard these moneys as being wasted is a very good one. The DoE already have, in the name of the People, two more than adequate SMR technology designs that could make the USA superior to France's nuclear electric ownership. Deep science is rewarding only to people who don't have to keep proprietary secrets. That's why the search for the Philosopher's Stone, that turns lead into gold, was a failure. The USA actually owns a technology that can safely turn a kilogram of U-238, which is presently so cheap it's better than lead for destroying enemy tanks, into Pu-239. A kg. of that is enough to generate ten million kWh of electrical energy. We pay from 8 to 10 cents per kWh, and solar power people get more than that. So ten million kWh is worth quite a lot more than a kilogram of gold. It is called the Integral Fast Reactor. There's another, that turns thorium into fissile uranium, equally valuable. For those ten gigawatt-hours, you have to get rid of guess how much waste? One kilogram. That's one thousandth of a metric tonne.
The ignorance is arithmetic. For every ton of fissile isotope, you need more than a million tons of coal, oil, or gas for the same energy. Perhaps the most horribly misleading item in this article is references to leaks of tritium. There is exactly one reason for a reactor to be leaking tritium, and that is the US Department of "Defense" The USA's persistent refusal to let its stock of thermonuclear weapons dwindle away means that the DoE requires or pays certain reactors to manufacture tritium, a radioactive isotope of hydrogen, from lithium. A Hydrogen Bomb is a tritium bomb, because ordinary H-1 doesn't fuse easily enough. Tritium decays, so the stock of bombs needs to be replenished. Why, when the Clinton administration canceled the IFR, "because it creates plutonium", did not they also abandon the entire policy of thermonuclear weapons?
The majority of the nuclear power industries' expenses are regulatory not technical. Change in management at the NRC could greatly reduce the cost of new nuclear designs to levels less than even coal or gas. These changes can potentially happen every 4 years. Not a certainty of course but definitly a possibility. If your intention is that antiquated designs won't get cheaper to maintain then fine, but nuclear power is far more than decades old LWR plants.
The greatest disaster to non- human life on this planet is the species that styles itself Homo sapiens. As a matter of fact, I believe that the chemical industry's misdeeds at Bhopal were 100 times as bad as the Soviet bloc's secrecy about Chernobyl. But in the interval between 1986 and 2006, I have no doubt that the generation of the Chernobyl reactor's level of output, by coal burning instead, was also 100 times as bad, or worse, than the actual health and economic consequences of that most mis-managed of all nuclear reactor blundering.
Ask the Japanese about how they are enjoying their Trillion Dollar Eco-Disaster at Fukushima... A Nuclear disaster has the ability to bring down a country and it produces mountains of radioactive waste which must be cared for, for generations at whose cost?
Yet, Japan has not been brought down, their balance of payments has shot through the roof with extra imported oil, and their initial knee-jerk reaction against nuclear is being wound back.