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Nuclear Power Policy Activist Independent

I am a passionate advocate for the environment and nuclear energy. With the threat of climate change, I’ve embarked on a mission to help overcome the fears of nuclear energy. I’ve been active in...

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  • Jun 29, 2021
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"According to the IAEA’s data summary, nuclear power in 2020 played an important role as an adaptable and reliable supplier of electricity during the pandemic:

  • Global operating nuclear power capacity was 392.6 GWe from 442 operational reactors in 32 countries.
  • Overall, nuclear capacity since 2011 has gradually increased, including some 23.7 GWe added by the connection of new units to the grid and upgrades to existing reactors.
  • Nuclear power reactors supplied 2,553.2 TWh of low-emission and dispatchable electricity, accounting for about 10 percent of total global electricity generation and almost one third of the world’s low-carbon electricity generation.
  • Nuclear power production was slightly lower compared to 2019’s 2,657.1 TWh. Since 2012, however, there has been an increase of more than 8 percent.
  • Five new pressurized water reactors with 5.5 GWe of nuclear capacity were connected to the grid.
  • Over 44 percent of new capacity, equating to more than 2.4 GWe, was added by two countries with no previous nuclear power operating experience: Belarusian 1 (1,110 MWe) in Belarus and Barakah-1 (1,345 MWe) in the United Arab Emirates.
  • At the end of the year, 52 reactors with over 54.4 GWe of capacity were under construction in 19 countries, including in two countries building their first power reactors.
  • The global median capacity factor was 84.6 percent, in line with the load factor in recent years."
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Joe Deely's picture
Joe Deely on Jun 29, 2021

Heres the most important part of that press release:

Nuclear power reactors supplied 2,553.2 TWh of low-emission and dispatchable electricity, accounting for about 10 percent of total global electricity generation and almost one third of the world’s low-carbon electricity generation.

Nuclear power production was slightly lower compared to 2019’s 2,657.1 TWh

In other words nuclear generation dropped by over 100 TWh in 2020 vs 2019.  Big step backwards.

Looking at the IAEA website you can see that nuclear generation in 2020 dropped back to where it was way back in 2002. Nuclear has been running in place for the last 20 years.

 

In the meantime, solar/wind will grow by at least another 200-300TWh in 2020 vs 2019.

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Jun 29, 2021

Joe, the 54.4 GWe of nuclear capacity in the pipeline right now, at a global capacity factor of 84.6%, translates to 403 additional terawatthours of reliable, baseload electricity each year - electricity that doesn't disappear after the sun goes down, or the wind stops blowing.

Solar and wind are not only dependent on good weather, but on fossil-fuel gas, batteries, efficiency, demand-response, and any number of other desperate crutches renewables advocates cling to, to justify their obsession. They're expensive toys for rich people, who can afford to fall back on fossil fuels when they don't work.

There's a wide world out there, full of people who aren't as fortunate as you and I, who don't have that luxury. They depend on reliable electricity not because it's clean, or dirty, but because it's a matter of survival. Their governments are building nuclear reactors because they work - not just for hobbyists with Tesla PowerWalls in their garages, but for everyone.
 

Reliable nuclear energy is here to stay, Joe - get used to it.

Joe Deely's picture
Joe Deely on Jun 30, 2021

Bob,

I don't think there is a better illustration of how poor nuclear is doing WW than seeing an agency like IAEA publish the above press release pretending that 2020 was a good year for nuclear and then seeing your comment "bragging" about a pipeline of an additional 400 TWh nuclear generation.

Let's start with the obvious. 2020 was a disastrous year for Nuclear WW - the worst year since Fukushima. No amount of spinning or whining about Covid changes this fact.

A deeper dive into your 400TWh comment...

One thing you obviously miss is that many of these new reactors are basically "replacement" for generation that will be shutdown after these units go live.  For example 2.5GW of your total are the new Kursk reactors being built in Russia which are replacing two existing Kursk units .

The 2.5GW Kursk II nuclear power plant (NPP) will replace the existing Kursk NPP in western Russia. Rosenergoatom, a subsidiary of Rosatom, is developing the project at an estimated cost of RUR225bn ($3.5bn approximately).

The two power units of the new NPP are planned to be commissioned at the same time as the decommissioning of the first two power units of the Kursk NPP, which is the biggest source of electricity in the Central Russian Chernozem.

Plus, it looks like two other Kursk units are already scheduled for retirement as well. Russia will need to build two more units to replace these.

 while the third and fourth units are scheduled to close in 2029 and 2031 respectively.

So in reality your 400 TWh is not all "additional" generation. A big chunk of it is replacement. That said, even if it all was new, it's a pathetic total when spread across 5-8 years.  Solar and wind will add 400 TWh annually over the next decade. 

 

As for your comment about solar and wind 

They're expensive toys for rich people,

Is this a joke?  or do you actually believe this? 

 

Here are some numbers for last five years:

 

Renewables(not including hydro):

  • China: 230 TWh in 2014  ---> 732 TWh in 2019 = 402 TWh
  • India:  63 TWh in 2014 ---> 135 TWh in 2019 = 72 TWh
  • Africa: 13 TWh in 2014 --->  45 TWh in 2019 = 32 TWh

 

Nuclear:

  • China: 133 TWh in 2014 ---> 349 TWh in 2019 = 236 TWh
  • India: 35 TWh in 2014 ---> 45 TWh in 2019 = 10 TWh
  • Africa: 14 TWh in 2014 ---> 14 TWh in 2019 = 0 TWh

 

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Jul 1, 2021

Joe, your opinion, and frustration, are duly noted. You might reach out to Belarus and the United Arab Emirates, and explain to them what a horrible mistake they're making.

The UAE probably has among the best solar CFs in the world - yet it's chosen nuclear for its source of 21st-century power. Why do you think that might be?
 

Joe Deely's picture
Joe Deely on Jul 1, 2021

I don't think they are making a mistake Bob - in fact I hope Russia finances a lot more of their nuclear in Eastern Europe - and lowers coal/NG usage. Plus Belarus finished that reactor in 7 years. Better than average.

However, again I can't tell if you are joking with this comment or not.

The UAE probably has among the best solar CFs in the world - yet it's chosen nuclear for its source of 21st-century power. Why do you think that might be?

I'm all for the UAE - one of the richest countries in the world - building nuclear. But do you actually think they aren't building any solar??!  Again, can't tell if you are joking.  Your blinders would have to be really big to miss the growing solar market in UAE.

Solar generation went from 1.3 TWh in 2018 to 4.3TWh in 2019.  There was no nuclear in UAE in 2019 or before and nuclear generation in UAE for 2020 was 1.56 TWh as  BARAKAH-1 was online for a few months.

So far , we have solar generation beating nuclear in 2018, 2019 and 2020. With one full year of BARAKAH-1and maybe a month or two of BARAKAH-2 nuclear should get to 12+ TWh in 2021 - so nuclear generation should beat solar generation in 2021 and for the early 2020s as last two reactors come online. Good job.

What about the longer run? Once the four reactors are finished nuclear should provide 45-50 TWh. Note: total electricity in UAE is about 130TWh.  Great news for nuclear - UAE is an exception to the trend.

How about Solar? Here is some info on one project...

About 1,013 MW of the 5 GW solar park is currently operational. The first 13 MW phase was followed by a 200 MW second phase and a third phase with 800 MW of solar capacity. U.S. thin-film module maker First Solar developed the first phase in late 2013, while the second phase of the massive PV plant was constructed by ACWA Power and Spanish engineering services provider TSK.

French energy giant EDF began work on the third 800 MW phase in 2017. This section of the project will sell power to DEWA at a rate of $0.029/kWh.

The fourth phase, which was originally meant to feature 700 MW of concentrated solar power capacity (CSP), but was later expanded with 250 MW of PV capacity, is being developed by ACWA Power. The PV portion of the fourth phase will sell electricity for $0.024/kWh. For the CSP section, ACWA and DEWA have agreed on a rate of $0.073/kWh.

The Dubai Water and Electricity Authority (DEWA) has signed a 25-year power purchase agreement with Saudi Arabia's ACWA Power for the fifth phase of the massive Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park.

ACWA Power said that the 900 MW project will use bifacial solar panels and will require a total investment of approximately $570 million. It won a tender for the massive PV project in November with a bid of $0.016953/kWh.

The huge solar project is expected to begin commercial operations in the second quarter of 2021.

So obviously UAE is building solar. Why do you think that might be?

Note the price of that last 900MW phase.

ACWA Power said that the 900 MW project will use bifacial solar panels and will require a total investment of approximately $570 million

So the real question for UAE is how much solar do they want to build? Obviously it is way cheaper, easier and faster to build vs nuclear.

My guess is that by the early 30s - maybe sooner - solar generation in UAE will easily surpass the 45-50 TWh that the four nuclear reactors will generate. It's easy for UAE to add 1-2 GW of solar/year.

But who knows maybe UAE will build a fifth reactor. If they start now they might be able to finish it by 2032. One thing I am not clear on - how much water do these reactors use?

 

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Jul 1, 2021

One thing I am not clear on - how much water do these reactors use?"

If they have closed, once-through cooling system like the one at Diablo Canyon, they don't use a drop - 2 billion gallons are borrowed and returned to the ocean each day.

It's the wrong question, anyway. The question should be, "How much fresh water do these reactors provide?"

"As the pressures of water security become more acute around the world, the significance of desalination as means of ensuring potable water supplies has never been greater. But with the expected growth of global desalination capacity comes a problem: processes remain heavily reliant on fossil fuels. According to the Global Clean Water Desalination Alliance, global installed desalination plants emit some 76 million tons of CO2 per year, an amount expected to reach around 218 million tons by 2040.

In Abu Dhabi, UAE, four nuclear power units of 1400 MW are being constructed at Al Barakah; [International Desalination Association Director Dan] Awerbuch expects the developments to have significant consequence in advancing the Abu Dhabi power and desalination program."

Nuclear-Powered Desalination

One thing I am not clear on: how much electricity will that $570 million solar project generate at night...none? No fresh water comes out of the spigot? Tsk, tsk, what a waste of money. If residents want a glass of water at night in a solar-powered UAE, I guess they're out of luck!

Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Jul 2, 2021

That's a disingenuous parallel though-- the intermittency of solar power generation is a challenge because energy storage on a large-scale today is expensive/inefficient (though improving), but for desalination purposes storage is pretty much well figured out. You can plan the scale of a desalination plant in a way to have the solar power to run operations to create the surplus of water you need during regular sun patterns-- you're not reliant on instantaneous generation of energy to create fresh water at the moment that the customer demands int

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Jul 2, 2021

OK Matt, fair enough. Here's another parallel - using windmills to mill wheat.

Milling grain isn't dependent on instantaneous generation of energy to create flour at the moment the customer demands it, either. A commercial baker could fill up a hopper with grain at night, and in the morning have a tub of fresh flour to make the daily bread. So why aren't all grain mills taking advantage of "free" power of the wind to get the job done?

Because like solar desalination, renewable energy is woefully deficient in reliability, quality, and quantity compared to using fossil fuel-powered electricity:

"Solar distillation has been used for thousands of years. Early Greek mariners and Persian alchemists produced both freshwater and medicinal distillates. Solar stills were the first method used on a large scale to convert contaminated water into a potable form...

Solar desalination in the United States began in the early 1950s when Congress passed the Conversion of Saline Water Act, which led to the establishment of the Office of Saline Water (OSW) in 1955. OSW's main function was to administer funds for desalination research and development projects. One of five demonstration plants was located in Daytona Beach, Florida. Many of the projects were aimed at solving water scarcity issues in remote desert and coastal communities."

Just like UAE! 

"In the 1960s and 1970s several distillation plants were constructed on the Greek isles with capacities ranging from 2000 to 8500 m3/day. In 1984 a plant was constructed in Abu-Dhabi with a capacity of 120 m3/day that is still in operation. In Italy, an open source design called "the Eliodomestico" by Gabriele Diamanti was developed for personal [use] costing $50.

Of the estimated 22 million m3 daily freshwater produced through desalination worldwide, less than 1% uses solar energy. The prevailing methods of desalination, MSF and RO, are energy-intensive and rely heavily on fossil fuels. Because of inexpensive methods of freshwater delivery and abundant low-cost energy resources, solar distillation has been viewed as cost-prohibitive and impractical [emphasis mine]. It is estimated that desalination plants powered by conventional fuels consume the equivalent of 203 million tons of fuel a year."

In the Netherlands, one can still buy flour milled at windmills. It's a souvenir, a curio, for rich tourists to take home with them. A baker would have to be crazy to try to compete with a commercial mill, though, even with a modern wind turbine.

Compare to the solar desal plant in Abu-Dhabi that's still operational - it's capable of meeting the fresh water needs of 300 of UAE's 9 million citizens. It would certainly be possible to build 30,000 more like it - but why?

For the people who depend on it, renewable energy is a loser, a failure. Society has already learned that lesson - we don't have the money or time to learn it again.

Joe Deely's picture
Joe Deely on Jul 3, 2021

One thing I am not clear on: how much electricity will that $570 million solar project generate at night.

Bob ... good to see that you now understand that solar is part of UAE's 21st century power and that we can disregard your earlier statement.

The UAE probably has among the best solar CFs in the world - yet it's chosen nuclear for its source of 21st-century power.

Let's see which source provides more generation in UAE by 2030 and which is more supportive of  water desalination.

Dubai Turns To Renewable Energy For Water Production

The emirate depends on desalination for its potable water, with a water production capacity of 470 million gallons per day (MIGD). 

But now, Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (DEWA) is working on powering its desalinated water plants with solar power to generate 305 million gallons per day by 2030.

By using lower cost renewable energy to power desalination plants, Dubai’s main utility will save $13bn between now and 2030.

 

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Jul 4, 2021

Why would UAE make the same mistake Dubai made?

"The Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park in Dubai, when completed, will have a capacity of 5 GW at an estimated total construction investment of $13.6 billion."

With capacity factor, Dubai is paying $13.6B, for only 1.2 GW of solar electricity, by 2030.

Instead, UAE paid $8B for even more nuclear electricity at al Barakah, and it went online three years ago (2018).

Obviously cheaper, faster, and easier to build than solar.

"Let's see which source provides more generation in UAE by 2030 and which is more supportive of  water desalination."

"Let's see?" No, we've already seen, Joe. Time's up.

Below: another reason why UAE isn't following blindly in the footsteps of Dubai. 

Boo-hoo. If it isn't snow and ice in Germany, it's sand in the Middle East!

Joe Deely's picture
Joe Deely on Jul 3, 2021

 

Yet another country is closing down its old nuclear  reactors as their licenses expire and deciding not to build replacements. 

Taiwan nuclear power generator about to end 40-year run

The No. 1 generator at Taiwan's second nuclear power plant will be shut down for good and enter its decommissioning stage Thursday night after producing power for 40 years, state-run utility Taiwan Power Company (Taipower) said Wednesday.

The generator's 40-year operating permit does not expire until the end of 2021, but because its spent fuel pool was almost full, Taipower reduced the unit's power generation capacity by about 20 percent since late February.

Given that the pool is now full, Taipower said the No. 1 985 MW generator at the Kuosheng Nuclear Power Plant in Wanli District, New Taipei, will end operations Thursday night in preparation for a major overhaul of the unit to make sure it is safe before it is ultimately decommissioned.

The plant's other generator is scheduled to operate until March 2023 when its operating permit expires, according to Taipower.

Taiwan's government is committed to phasing out the use of nuclear power by 2025 and replacing it with renewable energy so that renewable energy will account for 20 percent of the country's energy mix.

Taiwan had over 40TWh of Nuclear generation just a few years ago... this will drop to zero after 2025.  Nuclear power WW is continuing its one step forward two steps back.  

Note: there are now over 90GW of nuclear reactors WW that are 40+ years of age. Gonna be a lot of retired generation to replace in the next decade or two.When will we see WW generation reach the peak that it had back in 2006. Maybe never?

 

 

Nathan Wilson's picture
Nathan Wilson on Jul 5, 2021

"Taiwan's government is committed to phasing out the use of nuclear power by 2025 and replacing it with renewable energy..."

That's interesting.  Looking at the graph below (from here), a person interested in reducing emissions of global CO2, reducing local air pollution, and improving our sustainability would likely see the rapidly growing fossil fuel curve (in red), and conclude that reducing fossil fuel use should be the primary concern with  Taiwan's (and global) electricity production.  The article gives the 2020 numbers as: "45% of Taiwan's electricity generation came from coal, 35.7% from natural gas, 11.2% from nuclear, and 5.4% from renewables."  That is clearly a phony clean energy policy.

 

So the answer to your question question Joe: "When will we see WW [nuclear] generation reach the peak that it had back in 2006." is "as soon as people open their eyes and reject the phony clean-energy policy that is anti-nuclearism."

With the help of anti-nuclear activists, fossil fuel has continued to dominate our energy system, long after we've come to realize the high price in human health and damage to the natural world that fossil fuel extraction and usage cause.  Under this mis-guided policy, concerned citizens are encourage to support renewables instead, even though grids are clearly "easier" to manage, when sources of supply/demand variability & mis-match are addressed using a large percentage of dispatchable generation (rather than adding more variable energy sources), and fossil gas is clearly the cheapest way to provide that dispatchable generation. 

In other words, adding variable renewables makes fossil fuel use more appealing, and helps to protect fossil fuel market share from competitors like nuclear (and geothermal btw).

It's no surprise that over three decades into the era of modern renewables, there are still no examples of deep grid decarbonization using renewables, whereas France, Sweden, and Switzerland have all achieved clean grids using nuclear and hydro.  When renewables advocacy groups look at these nuclear clean energy success stories, instead of saying "now they should decarbonize transportation", they typically say, "they should replace nuclear with renewables (and fossil fuel) for electricity".  It is very hard for me to perceive renewables advocates as pro-environmental.

Your implicit argument, that since global nuclear power hasn't seen significant growth in the recent past, we should continue to not grow it, makes no sense.  Unless of course your goal is to protect the fossil fuel industry.  

Joe Deely's picture
Joe Deely on Jul 5, 2021

Nathan,

Agree with your comment that Taiwan has a "phony clean energy policy".  They rank as one of the worst of the "richer" countries. They've got nothing.

However, the rest of your comments are the same old, same old...

  • Blame it on the stupid anti-nuclear activists.
  • Blame it on the stupid renewable activists
  • Blame it on the fossil fuel industry
  • if only everyone could be more like France, Sweden and Switzerland
  • pretend that nuclear industry is doing "good and would be better if we just did this one thing"

 

"as soon as people open their eyes and reject the phony clean-energy policy that is anti-nuclearism."

Nuclear advocates often remind me of the engineer CEO/founder of a company who yells at his VP of Sales and/or Marketing - saying "Why aren't we winning every deal?  our product is by far technically superior to the competition." Good luck with that attitude.

whereas France, Sweden, and Switzerland have all achieved clean grids using nuclear and hydro.

For France and Sweden - the relevant question is  - "What is going on in those countries now?  and the answer to that is - Both countries have closed two reactors in the past couple of years. Nuclear is failing in those markets as well.   It's time to stop pretending otherwise. 

Your implicit argument, that since global nuclear power hasn't seen significant growth in the recent past, we should continue to not grow it, makes no sense.Unless of course your goal is to protect the fossil fuel industry.  

WW here are numbers from BP on Nuclear generation over the decades (in TWh)

  • 1971-1980 : 4,062
  • 1981- 1990: 14,696
  • 1991- 2000: 23,275
  • 2001- 2010: 27,276
  • 2011-2020: 26,174

So really no "significant growth" for the last 20 years, a decline in the last decade and so far it looks like the 2020s will be more of the same.  Let's be clear - this is disastrous.

My arguments would be:

1) Quit pretending that the nuclear industry is doing ok and that everything would be fine if only...  I think Nuclear needs to be completely rethought.

 2) Stop the whining about "fossil fuel industry", try to work with and complement renewables and most importantly get to work and build a product that satisfies the market. 

Nathan Wilson's picture
Nathan Wilson on Jul 7, 2021

"I think Nuclear needs to be completely rethought."

I absolutely agree.  We should abandon our strategy of doing everything we can to make nuclear (and therefore ourselves) fail, and switch of doing everything we can to succeed (including using nuclear).

I know you want to dodge blame, but the numbers are clear: for the energy produced, nuclear uses an order of magnitude less concrete, steel, and energy than renewables; that is a clear success.  Cost comes only from material & energy usage, and human/organization errors.  It is us that are failing, not nuclear.  (I work as a government contractor, so I am very familiar with large organizations that fail as a direct result of working towards a of bunch internal conflicting goals).

 

"... try to work with and complement renewables..."

I think the pitches for nuclear with thermal energy storage (such as Natrium) are just that.  Unfortunately, fossil gas is simply far better suited to that role (and far, far better than trying to do renewables+storage).  So we may see a bit of nuclear+renewables or even renewables+storage in rich countries; for most of the world, renewables will simply be used with a majority share of fossil fuel.

Joe Deely's picture
Joe Deely on Jul 8, 2021

 I know you want to dodge blame, but the numbers are clear: for the energy produced, nuclear uses an order of magnitude less concrete, steel, and energy than renewables; that is a clear success.  Cost comes only from material & energy usage, and human/organization errors.  It is us that are failing, not nuclear. 

There you go - double-down.  Just another way of saying "Nuclear is technically the best product and should be winning. It's not the product fault, it's the implementers or it's the customers".  

Again, good luck with that strategy.

 

Meanwhile in the real world, the Solar and Wind industries will continue to improve their product, will continue to break into new markets, will continue to lower costs and most importantly will continue to scale.

 

BP just came out with their latest annual  - Statistical Review of World Energy 2021"  Here is a chart using their data.

Renewables averaged an additional 300 TWh/year over the last 5 years and about 340TWh/year over the last two years. Looking at current trends there is no reason that this can't scale to 500 TWh/year by the end of the 2020s.

 

It's pretty clear to me which product is better.

 

 

 

 

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Jul 9, 2021

"Here is a chart using their data."

Joe, you might want to provide a link so readers could see how British Petroleum's data was "used" in your link-free, homemade chart.

After all, they might wonder why oil companies would be so eager to offer data showing how wonderful renewables are doing. If it's really displacing their key products, it certainly wouldn't be in their financial interest publicize it. Would it?

Joe Deely's picture
Joe Deely on Jul 9, 2021

Bob 

When you see blue text that indicates a link...

Perhaps you are not seeing blue on your browser. Maybe that doesn't work on Internet Explorer 2.0. 

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Jul 10, 2021

Sorry Joe, I saw your link, but I thought you were familiar with how to cite sources for your claims.

It would be somewhat presumptuous to assume a reader would scour a 78-page document trying to find the page(s) of the data for your homemade chart to verify them - or whether you used any data from the BP Statistical Summary at all. Wouldn't it?

A quick search of Google for "scientific citation style guide" will take you to any number of sources which explain the importance of including a location (page number) with any reference where it isn't obvious. But in case you had tried to search for one and your solar-powered computer was behaving erratically, here's a link to an excellent one:

https://owl.purdue.edu/owl/research_and_citation/mla_style/mla_formattin...

In this case there is only one page to the article, and no author is credited - so just the link should suffice. It's not that hard once you get the hang of it!

Joe Deely's picture
Joe Deely on Jul 12, 2021

 

Sorry Joe, I saw your link, but I thought you were familiar with how to cite sources for your claims.

Gotcha Bob - I mistakenly thought when you said "you might want to provide a link" that you didn't see my link.

Good call out on me doing a better job citing.  The actual link in this case is - https://www.bp.com/content/dam/bp/business-sites/en/global/corporate/xls...

but I linked to source page because some folks don't like links to spreadsheet downloads. That said - I should have mentioned the spreadsheet.

By the way, there is no one "spot" in that spreadsheet that shows all of the source data for my chart. It comes from multiple tabs. As with much analysis, data has to be compiled to show a meaningful insight.  Time and effort are needed.

As always, let me know if you see any discrepancies.

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