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UK New Nuclear: fairy tales, taxes and a very lucrative trade.

image credit: Credit: Netflix

In this Article, I rebel against a ludicrous PR campaign orchestrated by EDF with the complicity (or naivete) of the Financial Times. I easily debunk their worn-out arguments on Security of Supply and the supposed lack of zero-emission technology alternatives to dig into the real inside story of a dying behemoth protecting the last jewel in the crown: an incredible lucrative deal.

 

Laurent Segalen's picture

Thank Laurent for the Post!

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Discussions

Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Jun 18, 2020 11:36 am GMT

Thanks for sharing, Laurent. An interesting read, and it's true that most campaigns (regardless of which side they are one) need to be read with a careful eye at what the goal is and who is delivering the message.

I had one question on this: 

But now it’s the 2020’s and the Energy Transition is about Decarbonisation (Nuclear - tick), Digitalisation (Nuclear - not tick) and Decentralisation (Nuclear - not tick).

Can you explain what you mean when you suggest that nuclear is not in line with digitalization? When I think of digitalization I tend to think more about the grid and T&D processes, the smart technologies used, etc, and less about the generation source. What about nuclear doesn't fit with a digital utility of the future?

Also, do SMRs tap into the need for decentralization, in your opinion? 

Thanks!

Laurent Segalen's picture
Laurent Segalen on Jun 18, 2020 3:09 pm GMT

Matt,

thank you for reading. 
re big N, they are pretty inflexible. When they talk about flex, they remove rods from the boiler, but it creates wear. N cannot be linked digitaly to switch on and off. Very analog management. You need human intervention.

re- SMR, that's a very US debate of how to build on an existing tech which are submarine reactors.

The economics are impossible to demonstrate. And no private money wants in. So it's either Bill Gates or the Gvt. Have Bill Gates finance on real plant and see how it goes, and I'll be happy to change my mind.

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Jun 22, 2020 4:25 pm GMT

"big N, they are pretty inflexible. When they talk about flex, they remove rods from the boiler, but it creates wear. N cannot be linked digitaly to switch on and off. Very analog management. You need human intervention."

Lauren, your description is one of nuclear plants built half a century ago:

"Most of the currently operating Generation II nuclear reactors were designed to have strong maneuvering capabilities. Nuclear power plants in France and Germany operate in [automatic, digitally-controlled] load-following mode. They participate in the primary and secondary frequency control, and some units follow a variable load program with one or two large power changes per day. In France, load-following is needed to balance daily and weekly power variations in electricity supply and demand since nuclear energy represents a large share of the national mix."

Load-following with Nuclear Power Plants

Though modern nuclear plants can follow the gentle curves of customer demand capably and reliably, they're less adept at remediating the difficulties intermittent renewable energy impose on grid stability:

"In Germany, load-following became important in recent years when a large share of intermittent sources of electricity generation (e.g. wind) was introduced to the national mix."

The technological solution is simple: replace wind and solar resources with flexible, modern nuclear plants, with the added benefit of reducing dependence on fossil fuel gas.

The problem of correcting public misperceptions, however, is a hurdle clean energy activists in the U.S. have yet to overcome.

Joe Deely's picture
Joe Deely on Jun 19, 2020 4:20 am GMT

that French Nuclear power generation is forecasted for 2021 at only 300TWh, the lowest level in 35years!

Ouch!

BP had France at 437 TWh in 2015 and 399 TWh in 2019.

Note: this should be "forecasted for 2020" not 2021.

Laurent Segalen's picture
Laurent Segalen on Jun 20, 2020 8:32 am GMT

Yes Joe... but they've gone back and forth on that statement... They seem super confused themselves. 

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Jun 24, 2020 4:17 pm GMT

"First of all, EDF should have the decency not to gloat about carbon neutrality while planning to use 200 diesel generators at Hinkley Point."

Laurent, this is absurd. EDF neerds the generators only for construction of the plant. They wouldn't need them if offshore wind in the UK could provide them with a reliable supply of electricity, but it can't!

Joe Deely's picture
Joe Deely on Jun 26, 2020 1:13 am GMT

EDF neerds the generators only for construction of the plant.They wouldn't need them if offshore wind in the UK could provide them with a reliable supply of electricity, but it can't!

Great comment from someone who always mocks corporate purchases of renewables. 

Also, per usual, your timing with this comment is perfect.  The data for UK fuel mix - Q1 of 2020 - is out.

Offshore windfarms powered the largest increase in renewable energy in the first quarter of the year, climbing by 53% compared with the previous year, while onshore wind generation grew by a fifth.

In total, wind power generated 30% of the UK’s electricity in the first quarter, beating the previous record of 22.3% set in the final months of 2019.

Also so far this year:

Work has started on Dogger Bank Wind Farm.  It will start generating power in 2023.

Construction on the world’s largest offshore wind farm, the Dogger Bank Wind Farm, has begun. The project, a joint venture between SSE Renewables and Equinor, is made up of three offshore wind farm sites in the North Sea, totaling 3.6 GW: Creyke Beck A (1.2 GW), Creyke Beck B (1.2 GW) and Teesside A (1.2 GW).

The wind farm is located near the coastal village of Ulrome, East Riding of Yorkshire, England, and will make use of the world’s most powerful turbine, GE’s Haliade-X.

Curious Bob - will Hinkley Point be generating electricity for the grid by 2023/2024?  There will be a lot of closing nuclear generation to replace.

 

 

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Jun 26, 2020 4:41 am GMT

"Curious Bob - will Hinkley Point be generating electricity for the grid by 2023/2024?  There will be a lot of closing nuclear generation to replace."

I hope so. The only other reliable sources of electricity in the UK are either "natural gas" (methane), or "biomass" (clearcut trees chipped n' shipped fresh from the US).

"Evidence from contemporary trends in energy production likewise suggest that as renewable energy sources compose a larger share of overall energy production, they are not replacing fossil fuels but are rather expanding the overall amount of energy that is produced.”

Energy transitions or additions? Why a transition from fossil fuels requires more than the growth of renewable energy

Below, the bumps in wind generation correspond exactly with the bumps in gas generation. Wind, it appears, isn't replacing gas, but making GB even more dependent on it. Idn't it?

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Jun 24, 2020 5:34 pm GMT

"EDF withdrew its financial targets for 2020 and 2021 on Tuesday due to the economic turmoil caused by the coronavirus pandemic."

The lowest level of generation in 35 years, during the worst pandemic in over a century.

Looks like nuclear is holding up remarkably well. Ouch!

Charley Rattan's picture
Charley Rattan on Jun 20, 2020 8:59 am GMT

Interesting and well informed article.

Mark Silverstone's picture
Mark Silverstone on Jun 23, 2020 1:50 pm GMT

Thanks Laurent - Here I was thinking that the incredibly inept lobbying groups would sink the nuclear ship, at least in its present state.   But, apparently, their hype continues to fool enough people in the UK to keep them afloat.  They continue to deny their carbon emissions in both mining and operations. They deny that there is a waste problem.  They deny that their costs are absurd. And, as you point out, they deny 21st century reality.

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Jun 24, 2020 4:09 pm GMT

Mark, maybe there is a huge conspiracy of investors seeking to profit from building dangerous nuclear plants, to earn untold $billions as they poison the Earth for millions of years into the future. Maybe they're actively working to supress renewable technologies that are cheaper, cleaner, and more sustainable.

But I'd ask you to contemplate another possibility.

Maybe nuclear energy has always faced stiff resistance not because it's dirty, or dangerous, or unsustainable, or too profitable. Maybe it's faced resistance because it isn't profitable enough. Maybe, the current trend to "decouple" electricity rates from consumption have left utilities with no profit margin on electricity, and they've become vendors of fuel. Possibly, oil companies have recognized a shift to electric transportation signals the end of gasoline, that a profitable future means dominating sales of a fuel that can generate electricity: natural gas.

Maybe, with the ridiculous amount of energy generated by a small amount of uranium and its low cost, selling nuclear fuel just isn't that profitable. So oil companies, to get a wary public to overlook the copious CO2 emissions of natural gas, welcome the notion nuclear waste is dangerous for millions of years, and not hundreds; that nuclear is incredibly expensive, and not cheapest of all. Maybe they donate hundreds of $millions annually to organizations like "Rocky Mountain Institute", "Environmental Defense Fund", "Natural Resources Defense Council", "Greenpeace", and "Sierra Club" not to promote a transition to carbon-free energy, but to maintain the status quo - to promote sources of energy that will never compete with their core product, ones that will instead guarantee it an unlimited future.

The first possibility is an appeal to emotion, the second, an appeal to fact.

Shell Aims to Be The World's Biggest Electricity Producer Using Natural Gas

Mark Silverstone's picture
Mark Silverstone on Jun 24, 2020 5:17 pm GMT

The world is awash with conspiracy theories. Thanks for stoking.  Oil companies are not heroes. Got it.

But, tucked into your rant, I think, is an admission that nuclear is too expensive. No one wants to pay for it.

Agreed.

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Jun 24, 2020 5:25 pm GMT

No Mark, I pointed out nuclear is "cheapest of all" - but you wouldn't know, because you didn't read it.

But I'm obviously wasting my time. Have a nice day.

Joe Deely's picture
Joe Deely on Jun 26, 2020 6:44 pm GMT

Bob quoted:

"Evidence from contemporary trends in energy production likewise suggest that as renewable energy sources compose a larger share of overall energy production, they are not replacing fossil fuels but are rather expanding the overall amount of energy that is produced.

Wow.. so when you generate wind or solar you are not really replacing anything you are just adding to the overall total.  Interesting math...  

Sounds like something from the governor of West Virginia or perhaps the current administration.

Here is the data on fuel sources for UK over the last decade. 

Note: as mentioned in previous comment - Q1 of 2020 saw a huge increase in wind generation. NG generation was down 26% Y-Y.  

Also, in answering my nuclear question you  said:

The only other reliable sources of electricity in the UK are either "natural gas" (methane), or "biomass" (clearcut trees chipped n' shipped fresh from the US).

Sounds like you are including nuclear as a reliable source for the UK?? really?

Due to numerous outages nuclear generation is down 20% in just two years.  Down another 6% in Q1 of 2020.  

What's reliable about that? Did you mean consistent?

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