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Podcast / Audio

Zombie Nuclear

image credit: Credit: EDF

In this new episode of Redefining Energy, Gerard Reid and Laurent Segalen perform the autopsy of the Nuclear Industry, once presenting itself as the invincible leader of the carbon-free movement, now a mere zombie under constant public money perfusion.
Beyond Fukushima, the podcast analyses the deep causes of this decline: capital indiscipline, technological regression, desertion of private capital, industrial and financial disasters in the construction of new plants, unaccounted dismantling costs…

Is there a glimmer of hope with new technological advances, and in which timeframe? And at what sustainable price? As we see the global energy complex being revolutionized by renewable energy, energy storage and also a flood of cheap natural gas, is there still a future for the Nuclear Industry?

 

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Laurent Segalen's picture

Thank Laurent for the Post!

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Discussions

Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Dec 23, 2019 11:37 pm GMT

Is there a glimmer of hope with new technological advances, and in which timeframe? And at what sustainable price? As we see the global energy complex being revolutionized by renewable energy, energy storage and also a flood of cheap natural gas, is there still a future for the Nuclear Industry?

Ooh, haven't had a chance to listen yet, but I'm excited that it sounds like you guys aren't holding back. Eager to listen and also to hear feedback from the Energy Central community-- seems to be fodder for debate and discussion for sure!

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Dec 24, 2019 9:18 am GMT

Laurent, your determination to discredit nuclear energy at all costs is laughable, and only evidence of the advancing threat it poses to purveyors of windmills, sunshine and methane. Two are horribly unpredictable; the other horribly dirty; and nuclear is neither. So I suppose I would feel threatened too, but it's time to face facts: there are no physics to support the idea wind and sun could ever power a modern industrial economy - pumped storage, batteries, and rubber bands notwithstanding.

More accurately, your podcast series might be titled "Redefining Reality," to better describe the alternative dimension one must attain to appreciate the value of wind and solar. To me, they were never more than twenty-first century snake oil.
 

Laurent Segalen's picture
Laurent Segalen on Dec 24, 2019 2:42 pm GMT

Bob, thank you for your support.

Unfortunately, nobody is laughing. Especially not EDF's shareholders who saw its market cap divided by 8 (I repeat, divided by 8; no typo) in the past decade.

We have an open mind; please convince me that new built N-Plants can be built on time and budget; convince me that decommissioning is properly accounted for; convince me that Nuclear can work without hefty public hands-out... and I will change my mind.

 

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Dec 25, 2019 5:45 am GMT

Laurent, show me one multi-$billion construction project that came in on-time and on-budget, and I'll hold nuclear plants to the same standard (it certainly wasn't Cape Wind).

Re: the market cap of Electricité de France, I'd have to see some support for your claim. Since 2017, the market cap of ECIFY has doubled.

Because no one has been killed or injured by radiation from a nuclear power plant that has been shut down (correct me if I'm wrong), I'd have to say decommissioning is being properly accounted for. However, standards demanded by detractors are arbitrary and, like power from a wind farm, change from day to day. So I'd have to know what a "proper accounting" entails.

Maybe it's different in France, but in the U.S. subsidies have overwhelmingly favored renewables, particularly in the past eight years:

"Oil, gas, hydro, solar, wind and biomass received more than 90 percent of all [U.S.] incentives provided since 1950...over the past six years, 2011 through 2016, renewable energy received more than three times as much help in federal incentives as oil, natural gas, coal, and nuclear combined, and 27 times as much as nuclear energy."

Analysis of U.S. Energy Incentives, 1950-2016

Paul Robertson's picture
Paul Robertson on Dec 31, 2019 11:50 pm GMT

Mr. Meinetz - I'm new to this and have an honest curosity into why, if as Greta T claims we are burning, are we not chasing all energy opportunities? Could you suggest some info' sources for a layman on Nuclear.

This blog doesn't seem to be one of them.

Not trolling just asking. I don't have a dog in this fight. It just makes no sense to me that we are not red-lining R&D on fission to get to fusion.

 

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Jan 2, 2020 10:06 pm GMT

Hi Paul - some overviews of why nuclear energy will be essential to prevent the worst effects of climate change:

Why Nuclear Power Must be Part of the Energy Solution

Nuclear Power Can Save the World

We Can’t Solve Climate Change without Nuclear Power
 

"It just makes no sense to me that we are not red-lining R&D on fission to get to fusion."

It makes no sense to me either, Paul, and to a growing number of people who understand the need for abundant, non-intermittent, clean energy will only increase in coming years.

There are just as many (if not more) articles online which appear after these, explaining "Why Nuclear Power Isn't Part of the Energy Solution," etc., written by advocates with little or no training in energy or geophysics.

Accept opinion from both viewpoints in the context of who's writing them; some are members of groups with deceptive names. For example, leadership of the anti-nuclear "Union of Concerned Scientists" includes not one member with a degree in the natural sciences (the president of UCS is an attorney).

Paul Robertson's picture
Paul Robertson on Dec 31, 2019 11:43 pm GMT

You have an open mind? 

You titled your 'podcast' Zombie Nuclear. In your click bait intro' you mentioned a 'glimmer of hope with new technological advances..' and spent all of 45 seconds at the end of a 20 minute 'discussion' on 60+ year old nuclear technology.

I'm just an old Sales and Marketing guy with a limited knowledge on nuclear plants but I do know how to detect what, in North America, is referred to as F.U.D. - Fear, Uncertainty, Derision. You take a series of things that have at least a ring of truth to them and drop them into conversation like little landmines for the competition. It's a rather nasty Marketing technique but it works really with minimal consequence if you're smooth at it. 

You two are very smooth.

I live a couple hours north of an 'N-plant'. It's been there since before I was born. If I drive from here to the plant I'll pass carpets of solar and Wind, (carpeting over some of the best Agri we have in our area but lets not quibble), and all that area still only produces a fraction of the N-Plant.

Another funny thing happened downstream of the fields and fields of solar and wind - my electricity bill went off the chart. Surely that was just the Utility coming to grips finally with the liability of the nasty, old N-Plant? Could not have anything to do with the ridiculous subsidies paid out to the solar and wind interests.

 

 

David Svarrer's picture
David Svarrer on Dec 31, 2019 3:50 pm GMT

Nuclear is stone dead.

It is not complicated to deduct why.

1. The waste problem unsolved

2. The security is not resolved. The apparent new nuclear power systems with Thorium etc.  are not sufficiently tested. People don't trust the nuclear power industry and nobody wants to be victims of more of the industry's experiments.

3. The nuclear industry is a centralised method.  The trend is to get the energy produced as close to the consumer as possible.

4. The nuclear industry has filled us with lies for decades. People don't believe a thing they say. Most recently they now try to relaunch as "renewable energy". 

5. People are tired of the A bomb threat. The A bomb industry depends heavily on a civil nuclear power plan. People know that. 

There are many other  reasons, outside the very nuclear industry itself. In example: The current reality is that we are producing solar energy much cheaper than the once cheapest nuclear energy. Not even considering the expensive waste problem... The solar energy does not leave any waste problems.

Well.

People are not stupid anymore. We do not trust our lying leaders. We do not trust the lying social media "leaders" either anymore. Corporates cannot be trusted either anymore. 

So in this mess, people choose safe solutions which do not pollute. In example solar concentrator solutions for domestic use which more than 40 corporates worldwide are now working on. And likely maybe 100+ research and development programs are exploring this extremely lucrative opportunity.

These were my 50 Watt-hours,

Sincerely

David T. Svarrer

Rational Intuitive

Renewable Energy Design Architect

 

 

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Jan 2, 2020 4:12 pm GMT

"Nuclear is stone dead."

David, I can imagine you stamping your foot for emphasis, but no - the Nuclear Renaissance is just beginning. People who understand energy and climate understand it paves the only viable path forward on climate change.

"China is one of the world's largest producers of nuclear power. ... As of March 2019, China has 46 nuclear reactors in operation with a capacity of 42.8 GW and 11 under construction with a capacity of 10.8 GW. Additional reactors are planned for an additional 36 GW. China was planning to have 58 GW of capacity by 2020."

Since you believe know more than the world's top physicists and climatologists, please contact the Chinese embassy in DC, and let them know their country is making a huge mistake.

"The waste problem unsolved..."

There is no "waste problem."

"The nuclear industry is a centralised method."

And there's a reason: centralized generation is vastly more efficient, more secure, more reliable. These are basic principles of engineering.

"People are not stupid anymore. We do not trust our lying leaders. We do not trust the lying social media "leaders" either anymore. Corporates cannot be trusted either anymore."

Unfortunately stupid people tend to remain that way. Intelligent people who lack knowledge on a particular subject educate themselves before taking a position on it. With nuclear energy, many people who are otherwise intelligent refuse to learn more about it because they're afraid they might be wrong.

Whether to power your life with intermittent wind and solar power, as your ancestors did centuries ago is, of course, your choice. The rest us are moving forward.

 

David Svarrer's picture
David Svarrer on Jan 3, 2020 7:50 pm GMT

Well, you and I are having a great religious discussion, and only the future will tell what will happen. Surely, some will go with Nuclear Power - and may God be with them and what they will be going through. The rest of us will be installing small, local, solar-powered systems - storing energy for later. Others will join slightly larger - maybe village-based or community-based solar-powered systems - with larger storages for energy. 

But your so-called Nuclear Renaissance is all but a wet dream. You may not have read what is coming, Bob, and that is OK. 

I will continue my work on the massively scalable solar concentrator system I am hired to do. I know - as a fact - that 40+ other corporates world wide are working on similar systems - super low cost solar energy systems.

Nuclear power systems cost USD 7+ per Watt to construct. The vast major part of all the upcoming solar power systems I have seen - which are coming up this or next year from ourselves and from numerous colleagues in this business - have a cost of less than 1% - namely USD 0.07 or less per Watt in construction cost. We are discussing LCOE comparable figures.

On top of this, Uranium has its cost - while the solar energy solutions cost nothing. 

Your renaissance was stopped by Fukushima. It has been stone dead every since. 

Solar energy, massively distributed, covering some 200,000 Square kilometer of land spread all over the world, will be able to provide energy for the entire of Earth's current 159 PetaWattHour of annual consumption.

The Solar systems I am discussing has no waste - not even after 50 years - as all components without any exception - can be reused. It is likely that most of these concentrator systems being prototyped these years, will be built to last for even 100 years.

Happy New Year, Bob. 

Mark Silverstone's picture
Mark Silverstone on Jan 1, 2020 9:04 am GMT

Thanks to Messrs. Reid and Segalen for that informative discussion of the nuclear industry.  There seems to be consensus regarding the future of the industry, and the reluctance of financial institutions to get involved in nuclear is telling. The disagreement seems to be what to do about existing facilities.  The costs for maintaining safe operation of existing plants plus the legacy costs for waste management and decommissioning are unknown (other than that they are large). So, it seems difficult to make decisions for these plants´ futures.  From your discussion, I think it is accurate to say that Germany has made the decision to move away from nuclear, France (and Belgium?) have decided to stay with nuclear and Japan remains somewhere in the middle.  I think the US is also still somewhere in the middle as a few new nuclear projects in a couple of markets seem to be getting off the ground.  In other US markets, operations of existing plants have given up trying to compete with gas and renewables. 

Previously, all of these considerations had to be viewed mainly in the light of the climate emergency at hand.  Of course, the US has no climate change policy other than to deny that it exists.  But the role of the military in the US (as well as in France, China, U.K., Russia) is a factor that I had not previously considered (obvious as it seems now).

I anticipate that market and technological developments in the next few years will help clarify the best way(s) forward, especially with respect to renewables, storage and grid hardware and software.  I cannot see that there will be implementation of any new nuclear policy in the next few years that will affect what is observed in the renewables sector in the 2020-2025 time period. By then it may be that France and the US will have concluded that renewables do, indeed, work and that existing nuclear facilities will become only more expensive and less dependable.  The good news is that coal is well on its way out, even in Germany, if not necessarily in India, China and SE Asia.  

I also just listened to your pod-cast on wind energy (now two years old?).  I wonder if you have been surprised at developments since then?  Perhaps it´s time to revisit?

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