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Why Nuclear

William Hughes-Games's picture
Retired Retired

Graduate in maths and physics.  Worked in Mariculture research, most of my career and taught Physics, Maths, Chemistry and general Sicence in High School.  Retired and working on our small holding.

  • Member since 2018
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  • May 14, 2020
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I' puzzled why anyone is still considering nuclear power.  Wind and solar plus battery storage has so far outpaced nuclear in cost effectiveness and is only going to get better and better as the years go by.  Add to this, the C19 crisis showing us, if we didn't realize already, that things can come along to trash our society which we are not expecting, leaving nuclear power stations and spend fuel repositories all over the place that we will not be able to afford to keep safe.  A pandemic is only one of the causes that could wreck our society.  How many empires of the past still exist.  None.  With nuclear we are setting up a really nasty situation for future generations.

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Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on May 14, 2020

William, since you ask:

  1. That wind + solar + batteries "has so far outpaced nuclear in cost effectiveness" is a lie, a sales gimmick used to great effect by wind + solar + battery salesmen. Not one grid in the world is powered by wind + solar + batteries - and never will be, for reasons grounded in science.
  2. The risk of harm from nuclear waste is infinitesimally small compared to the risk of harm from climate change, partly because the waste itself is infinitesimally small:
    a) The high level nuclear waste created by the electrical needs of a family of four, over one year, is the size of a pack of cigarettes.
    b) If all the electricity you use in your lifetime was generated by nuclear power, its waste would fit inside an empty 16-oz water bottle.
  3. There is no evidence a single individual in the U.S. has been killed, or injured, by nuclear waste.
  4. An estimated 13,000 Americans die each year from respiratory illnesses atributable to smoke from coal plants.
William Hughes-Games's picture
William Hughes-Games on May 14, 2020

To Bob Meinetz

Hi Bob

Looking at the chart in this article (below) on the energy mix in the UK, it looks like coal is virtually finished, gas is still a big player, nuclear is decreasing moderately and wind and solar is on the way up and is now a bigger player than nuclear with likely more to come.  They don't mention the price of the various types of energy but we have had reports of individual days over the past few years in which all the energy into the grid was from renewable sources.  I look at the experience of the Horndale plant in South Australia.  Their mega battery will pay off it's total capital cost in a tad over 3 years and economics trumps all other considerations.  There are many other battery technologies in the offing including liquid metal and Zinc bromide plating batteries which have promise for much cheaper energy storage than Li ion with no degragation over time and energy storage has always been the weakness of renewable energy.  At any rate, the next 5 years, at the rate things are accelerating, should show which energy source will be dominant.

https://www.ofgem.gov.uk/data-portal/electricity-generation-mix-quarter-...

Here is an interesting comparison of the Capital costs of various sources of electricity (scroll down to Capital Costs)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cost_of_electricity_by_source

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on May 15, 2020

"Their mega battery will pay off it's total capital cost in a tad over 3 years and economics trumps all other considerations."

William, economical, or "giving good value or service in relation to the amount of money, time, or effort spent" depends on whom you ask. Does Horndale save money for South Australia ratepayers? Evidently not. The price of SA electricity, at 37.79c/kWh (AUD), is the highest on the continent. Why?

"...the combination of significant network investment over the past decade, recent increases to gas prices, more concentrated wholesale markets, and the transition from large scale synchronous generation to variable and intermittent renewable energy resources has had a more pronounced effect on retail prices and number of offers in South Australia than any other state in the National Electricity Market."

Horndale has proven valuable at regulating the voltage and frequency on SA's grid, but both irregularities are casualties of renewable energy. So we can tack the entire cost of Horndale onto the cost of wind and solar - it wasn't needed before.

As far as cost effectiveness for powering the grid on cloudy, calm days, Horndale is useless. During a brief power outage in 2017, South Australia was run for a total of three minutes on batteries before they were dead. How much would it cost to buy enough batteries to power SA for one cloudy, windless day?

$89M (cost of Horndale) x 480 (number of 3-minute intervals in 24 hours) = $42.7 billion, or roughly two years of SA's entire state budget.

William Hughes-Games's picture
William Hughes-Games on May 15, 2020

Hi Bob

I suspect that the high cost of electricity in South Australia and in many other parts of the world has more to do with the following than any technical considerations.  https://mtkass.blogspot.com/2018/01/wasted-effort.html  And the price of electricity is the least of the problems that this causes.

William Hughes-Games's picture
William Hughes-Games on May 15, 2020

Bob

This may give you a heads up on where thing is going

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pP971PYzQJs

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William Hughes-Games on May 18, 2020

There are a number of reasons why I think that nuclear is a non starter.  There may be an exception for a country like India if they master the level 4 nuclear power plant that burns up existing nuclear waste and uses the far safer Thorium.

V to P (vehicle to power plant) and VPP (virtual power plant) technology is coming and will cause a jump in the economical viability of the already viable wind and solar.  No longer will you have to feather the wind turbines or simply not use the power generated by solar arrays.  There is one hold-up to VPP.  At present you wouldn't want your Tesla or other electric car to be connected because, with only being able to us the capacity of your battery between 30 and 70%, without degradation of your battery, you wouldn't want to risk it. 

The advent of the Li battery that can be fully charged and discharged with very little weakening of the battery changes the situation completely.  It looks like such a battery is just around the corner.  At present, teslas on the road have the capacity of 580 Horndale batteries and growing, but won't likely participate in VPP.

A company called Redwood is tooling up to recycle Li batteries.  A stack of Li batteries is a far richer ore for the various metals than what you dig out of the ground.  Some folks will opt to change their Tesla batteries right away to the million mile battery in order to take advantage of earning from belonging to VPP.  Others will wait until their present batteries wear out.

Tesla, knowing what is coming, has applied for a electrical utility license in the UK.  They wouldn't do this unless they think that the technology is in the offing to make it economically feasible.

In addition, there are a couple of batteery technologies that already have zero degradation such as the liquid metal and zinc bromide plating batteries.  Neither are suitable for mobile use but the liquid metal battery would be completely suitable for industrial use and the Zinc bromide battery for home use or industrial use. Niether has the cycle efficiency of the Li battery but this is trumped by their longevity.  They can both be part of VPP.

Then there is the capital cost of solar and wind compared to nuclear.  Nuclear is about 5 times more capital expensive than either of the renewable options.  Better still, as you build a solar or wind farm, or put panels on your roof, each module goes on line as soon as it is finished while the nuclear plant has to be completed and run in before it generates profit.

Add to this the greater regulatory hoops you have to jump through and public angst you have to contend with, all which take time, before you can begin to build a nuclear plant, by the time you have got all the needed permissions, Solar and Wind will have made even more technical advances that make nuclear even less attractive by comparison.

 

 

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on May 20, 2020

"At present you wouldn't want your Tesla or other electric car to be connected because, with only being able to us the capacity of your battery between 30 and 70%, without degradation of your battery, you wouldn't want to risk it."

Because any discharge / charge cycling of EV batteries reduces their useful lifetime, unlikely any EV drivers will consent to it without remuneration.

"...just around the corner", "...is in the offing", and other speculation needs support before it can be considered seriously.

"Nuclear is about 5 times more capital expensive than either of the renewable options."

Comparison doesn't include plant lifetime or backup fron natural gas generation necessary for non-dispatchable resources.

"Add to this the greater regulatory hoops you have to jump through and public angst you have to contend with, all which take time..."

Public angst is the result of misperceptions based in irrational fear. Far more cost-effective to provide counseling (and medication) if necessary.

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