This group brings together the best thinkers on energy and climate. Join us for smart, insightful posts and conversations about where the energy industry is and where it is going.

Post

Advocating for Nuclear Power: The Time is Right

Milton Caplan's picture
President MZConsulting Inc.

Milt has more than 40years experience in the nuclear industry advising utilities, governments and companies on new build nuclear projects and investments in uranium.

  • Member since 2018
  • 85 items added with 108,645 views
  • Aug 22, 2017 1:00 pm GMT
  • 1979 views

Your access to Member Features is limited.

We live in strange times.  Globally, populism is growing in response to a deep-seated anger with so-called liberal elites.  Experts are no longer respected over louder voices that support peoples’ strongly held views.  There are no facts, only beliefs.

While most of the world continues to support the Paris agreement on climate, there is a reluctance by some to include nuclear power in the tool-kit to help meet this global challenge.  There is wide spread belief that Germany is going down the right path as it eliminates nuclear from its mix and drastically increases its use of renewables.  The only problem is that fossil fuel use is also increasing and emissions are not going down.  This has not stopped other countries like France, which has one of the lowest emissions in Europe due to their nuclear fleet, setting out a policy to reduce reliance on nuclear.  And now Korea seems to be going down the same path even though it would probably be hard to find another country that has benefited more through successfully implementing its nuclear program.

Does this mean that nuclear power is getting ready to move over and cede the future of energy supply to a fully renewable world?  Not even close.  With 58 units under construction there are now more new nuclear units coming into service each year that in the last 20 years.  The UAE is nearing completion of its first units, a four-unit station as it becomes the newest entry into the nuclear club.

On the other hand, in the USA units are struggling to stay in service in de-regulated states and one of two new build projects has been stopped in the face of Westinghouse bankruptcy.

In the midst of all of this apparent chaos, there is a bright light.  People are standing up saying – don’t close my nuclear plants.  People are recognizing that removing large low carbon emitting stations from the energy mix is no way to improve the climate.  And most of all these people are ready and willing to fight.  In the more than 35 years we have been in the nuclear industry I don’t remember a time when there were strong vocal pro-nuclear NGOs.  Yes, that’s right – there are those who are not directly in the nuclear industry who have taken up the fight for nuclear.  Not because they have any great passion for the technology, but because (as we discussed in May), they see nuclear plants as the ultimate solution to important issues.  They want to save the environment.  They want plentiful economic energy and they know that nuclear is an important part of the solution.

More vocal pro-nuclear NGOs today than we have had in 35 years

These organizations include a growing list of environmentalists such as Environmental Progress, Energy for Humanity, Bright New World and Mothers for Nuclear – to name a few (this list is not meant to be exhaustive so if your organization is advocating for nuclear power, please comment with your name and a link).  What they have in common is an understanding that nuclear power is not the evil that some think it is and that in fact it can help to make the world a better place.  And of more importance they are willing to advocate for it.

The way I look at it, there are two types of advocacy.  First there is the broader objective of securing public support; and then there is the more targeted advocacy that fights in the trenches to get political support for specific projects and actions.   It is this second approach that I want to focus on here.  These pro-nuclear groups consist of many who have spent their lives advocating for what they believe in; and therefore, bring a knowledge of how to influence decision makers and raise the profile of their cause.  I have talked before about Meredith Angwin’s wonderful book on how to be a nuclear advocate.  It’s a “how to” on getting out there and taking action.  Or take the case of the nuclear bus – old fashion grass roots activism.

As was once explained to me, it is always easier to be against something than to be a supporter.  It is anger about things that people believe is wrong in the world that ignites passion and brings them to the streets; supporters often stay at home and discuss these projects with their friends over a glass of wine.   That is in part why there is so much passion about stopping the closure of existing nuclear plants.  It is easier to be against closing them with the impacts to emissions and our communities than to argue in support of building something new.  This is the beginning.

Because after all, it is a numbers game.  200 anti-project protesters can get a lot of press even though there may be 2000 who support the project but who stayed home.  It’s about getting people out – politicians want to do the will of the people and they need to see this will.  Supporting continued operations of a plant or even a new build is much easier if the preponderance of the people speaking at public hearings are in favour of the project.

The word we use today is “social license”.  But what does this really mean?  If it means securing significant local support for something then it is a laudable goal.  However, most anti-nuclear (or anti-anything) groups take it to the extreme and mean that they have to agree with proceeding; which is something they will never do.  As stated so eloquently by Rex Murphy in his piece on the efforts of the new NDP government desire to develop oil in Alberta – “Notley [the Premier] missed the central point of social licence: its preconditions can never be met, and are not meant to be. It is an obstructionist tactic, designed to forestall and delay.”

So why are countries ignoring the potential benefits of nuclear power as they strive to feed their energy hungry citizens with low carbon economic energy?  There are many reasons as we and others have discussed before.  We certainly believe that the overriding issue is fear.  But we can also see that when people become supporters based on nuclear power being a solution to issues of importance to them, they do their homework and are able to resolve their fear.  So we need to ask ourselves are people really that afraid, or is this also a remnant of the past where environmentally conscious groups were synonymous with being anti-nuclear?  Are we seeing the last vestiges of a generation that fears nuclear power at all costs?  Do we now have the opportunity to start to change the minds of a new generation that is willing to stand up and advocate for nuclear power?   It may well be.

One thing is for sure, we all need to get out there and advocate for what we believe in.  The time for talk is over – it is time to act.  We need to organize and be sure to be out there every opportunity we can to support the decisions that we believe are necessary to achieve our goals.

So,

  • if you believe that climate change is a threat and that fossil fuel use is the main culprit; or
  • if you believe that access to economic reliable energy is essential for progress and is critical to lift people out of poverty; or
  • if you believe that high quality jobs and technological innovation is good for our communities and our economies; or
  • if you want a future for your children and grandchildren with abundant plentiful reliable economic and low carbon energy to support them as they create their own future;

Then the answer is clear – and that answer is nuclear power.

This is a call to action.  We all need to work together to advocate for what we know is right.  We have been involved in this industry for close to 40 years and still are passionate supporters –  because we truly believe we can leave the world a better place than when we started.

Original Post

Milton Caplan's picture
Thank Milton for the Post!
Energy Central contributors share their experience and insights for the benefit of other Members (like you). Please show them your appreciation by leaving a comment, 'liking' this post, or following this Member.
More posts from this member
Discussions
Spell checking: Press the CTRL or COMMAND key then click on the underlined misspelled word.
Helmut Frik's picture
Helmut Frik on Aug 22, 2017

Hmm – use of coal and gas did not rise in germany in electric power generation in germany. It keeps falling. So much about fake news

Darius Bentvels's picture
Darius Bentvels on Aug 23, 2017

“Germany … increases its use of renewable … emissions are not going down. ”
The figures show opposite (figures from UBA):
1990: emissions 761gr/Kwh (=Kyoto reference)
2000: emissions 640gr/Kwh (=start Energiewende)
2010: emissions 558gr/Kwh
2016: emissions 527gr/Kwh =30% less than Kyoto reference.

“if you believe that … reliable energy is essential for progress …”
Then the answer is renewable as shown by the 10 times more reliable German and Danish electricity supply compared to USA.

“…why are countries ignoring the potential benefits of nuclear power … the overriding issue is fear.”
Fear based on real genetic & health damage nuclear causes. Not only via accidents but also by regular operating nuclear facilities and power plants.

The other important factor are the high costs of nuclear. Nowadays 2 -5 times higher than renewable.
Which high costs also imply 2 – 5 times higher emissions than renewable.
As for non-fossil methods of electricity generation, costs imply in the end income (wages, interest, etc) for people, spent on similar CO2 generating products.

So with a restricted money available, it’s far more effective to install renewable for the climate. Also because renewable can be installed fast while new nuclear takes now >15years.

Nathan Wilson's picture
Nathan Wilson on Aug 23, 2017

So why are countries ignoring the potential benefits of nuclear power … the overriding issue is fear.

We must recognize that nuclear-phobia is not a natural thing, it is a learned response. And the teachers are fossil fuel interests and so-called green groups hoping to use that fear to their own advantage.

It should be quite obvious that an environmental policy that is designed to help fossil fuel companies and save coal mining jobs (by suppressing nuclear competition) will never save the climate.

We must demand science based policy. It is coal and other fossil fuels that are the problem. Nuclear should be part of the solution.

michael pettengill's picture
michael pettengill on Aug 23, 2017

To restore nuclear power to its status in 1976, you need to reverse the policy direction of Milton Friedman and Jimmy Carter and reregulate utilities with profits fixed to what would be 6% ROIC where C is the depreciated labor costs of assets. Which at 40 year depreciation means very little remaining value for current nuclear power, or coal, assets.

That would kick in utility management justifying building hugely labor intensive power plant a sets, like nuclear power plants to grow profits by increasing rates a lot.

Milton Friedman wanted deregulation to kill off nuclear power construction by utilities.

Malcolm Metcalfe's picture
Malcolm Metcalfe on Aug 23, 2017

Recent publications in Germany suggest that there are up to 13 coal fired generating plants that are to come on line as the nuclear plants are shut down.
In addition, where will the necessary inertia come from when the nuclear plants are gone? Perhaps from France – at a high cost???

Malcolm Metcalfe's picture
Malcolm Metcalfe on Aug 23, 2017

Great post! Even some of the harshest nuclear critics seem to have changed their views on nuclear power in recent years… solar and wind, while plentiful, need to be backed up with generation that runs on the dark cold nights when there is no wind. While storage prices have dropped well, one needs to examine the quantities needed to provide a reliable and firm source – after coal and other fossil fuels are removed.

Darius Bentvels's picture
Darius Bentvels on Aug 23, 2017

No need for new fossil
In 2016 Germany had a net export of 54TWh (8.3%). Nuclear produced 85TWh.*) So when all nuclear closes the deficit is 31TWh.

Renewable production increased past 4yrs with >11TWh/a**)
So in the 6 years until all nuclear out at the end of 2022 renewable production will increase >66TWh/a. Which implies that net export will continue with ~19TWh/a (3%).
Or with zero net export 12TWh/a (=1.5GW at 90% CF) of fossil production will be competed off the market.
So no need at all for additional fossil plants.

Note that:
– nobody will invest in fossil plants unless there it are specials (e.g. CHP). Because after 2022 when all nuclear is out, the increase of renewable will compete fossil off the market with a rate of >11TWh/a = 1.4GW (assuming CF=90%)…

– CF of the wind+solar mix will increase as the share of cheap offshore wind will increase substantially. Nowadays offshore wind has a CF of >50% thanks to the bigger wind turbines (8MW and bigger).

Together with accelerated increase of off-shore wind, which has a separate installation path, it implies that the figures above are pessimistic. A more realistic estimate is that renewable production increase will be 85Twh/a, so net export will stay at present high level or substantial consumption increase is absorbed.

…where will the necessary inertia come from…
– Hydro + biomass produce ~10%. Those give some inertia. They are gradually changing the rules such that their owners will migrate to become flexible producers.

– The expected production increase of (renewable) syn gas in Germany also implies that production by gas (now 12% by NG) won’t vanish.
Though part of that may change towards remote controlled fuel cell assemblies using H2 (no moving parts, faster response, less NIMBY).

– German grid installed first (flow-)batteries. Batteries can react extremely fast to changes in frequency, phase, voltage.

– Furthermore grid operator (computers) can immediately shut down some wind & solar at bigger farms. Such curtailments did cost ~0.5% in 2014 but are decreasing as big consumers (e.g. alu smelters) learn fast. They adapt electricity consumption to the prices.
As all houses in NL will have smart meters in ~2020, you may expect that even households will choose rates adapted to whole sale market prices (e.g. whole sale price +13cnt) and (dish) washing machines, etc. will start following an algorithm using pricing signals from the meter.
________
*) Figures from AGEB and Fraunhofer ISE.

**) In past 6yrs it was 14TWh/a due to the undesired temporary solar boom in 2010-2012. In those years solar decreased greatly in price during the year while FiT adaptation occurred only once a year. It caused a real solar boom at the end of the year. Since 2013 FiT adaptation is each quarter based on installed rate in previous 12 months.

Helmut Frik's picture
Helmut Frik on Aug 23, 2017

There is only one coal power plant still under construction (Datteln IV) which was blocked by legal battle for many years, and there are zero more planned. But many are going offline because of being completely uneconomic.
Inertia can be delivered by generation III or IV Wind Turbines, if this is required, by battery storages which are errected for this purpose, and for some time by the remaining conventional power stations. Be aware that Gen IV wind turbines can inject more power into the grid per MW nameplate capacity in case of grid problems than usual synchronus generators. Be even more aware that battery powered inverters, build toprovide grid services, can replace the inertia of conventional power stations which are multiple timmes bigger in nameplate capacity. So do not eblieve all fake news which you find on the net.

Helmut Frik's picture
Helmut Frik on Aug 23, 2017

Yes Fake news, as so often CO2 emissions rise in the transport sector. So you propose nuclear powered vehicles?
Or you accept that CO2 emissions from power production is falling despite closing down nuclear power pants.
Traffic is a problem, but it is a different problem, for which nuclear is no suitable solution.

Engineer- Poet's picture
Engineer- Poet on Aug 23, 2017

Traffic is a relatively simple problem, as these problems go.  Have vehicles “platoon” in traffic.  E.g. moving out in synchrony when lights turn green.  This multiplies the effective capacity of roads and is easily done with radar/lidar cruise control.

To clean up emissions, make everything PHEV and charge vehicles with nuclear electricity overnight.  To the extent that the minimum demand is boosted by charging demand, the total amount of nuclear electricity on the grid can be increased without having to reduce output.  If chargers are demand-side managed, the overnight demand minimum can be controlled rather than having to manage the generation side.

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Aug 23, 2017

Helmut, thanks but no thanks for your Fake News Update.

Nuclear-powered vehicles are a reality, they’re also known as “EVs powered by nuclear electricity.” 100% carbon-free (ask any Swede how that works).

And only a devout anti-nuclear ideologue would be incapable of recognizing hard coal and lignite fell because German imports of French nuclear are higher. “Thank you, France, for saving us from our own stupidity.” Avec plaisir.

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Aug 23, 2017

Milton, another thoughtful article on the benefits of nuclear power.

But in the half-century I’ve spent as an advocate, the time was right long ago. Now, it’s “better late than never”.

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Aug 23, 2017

mulp, utility profits have never been “fixed to what would be 6% ROIC where C is the depreciated labor costs of assets”. The “C” in ROIC stands for capital, and includes not only labor but all capital construction costs.

Capital costs on new nuclear plants are not cheap. But not in the wildest stretch of imagination does that imply “very little remaining value for current nuclear power.” Rates have always included recovery of fuel/O&M costs plus a profit margin – and with capital costs paid off, clean, nuclear electricity can be generated for $.4/kWh – a cost competitive with any other clean energy generation.

James Hopf's picture
James Hopf on Aug 23, 2017

Imagine how much emissions would have fallen if they kept all the nukes open (now and after 2022) and closed an equivalent amount of coal capacity instead. Nothing changes the fact that Germany spent a huge amount of money on renewables and then decided to (primarily) use it to replace nuclear instead of fossil (including coal and even lignite). This is a clear sign that reducing CO2 emissions was not their main priority.

Thorkil Soee's picture
Thorkil Soee on Aug 23, 2017

I should think you forgot to mention France.
Hoping, it will help a little, I inform you that France generated 530 TWh and managed with approx. 0.058 kg of CO2/kWh
Further, it may be worth noting that construction time in Russia, Korea and China is about 5 years. Sometimes less.

James Hopf's picture
James Hopf on Aug 23, 2017

While anything will help, the time for nuclear advocacy was decades ago (to counter the decades-long propaganda campaign against it). I fear that now it may be too little, to late.

Also, I’m coming to increasingly understand that much of the problem came from within the industry itself. Regulators relentlessly increased regulations and requirements, far out of proportion with any tangible hazards, and they essentially held all activities to a standard of perfection (in a misguided attempt to appease the anti-nukes and calm public fears). It was completely counter-productive.

And the industry went along with it, possible reasons being that it can justify research grants and actually allow nuclear companies to make *more* money (as long as nuclear survives, that is). And perhaps many of them thought nuclear would survive anyway (despite all their inefficiency and profiteering), since they thought that it was necessary and inevitable. Until recently, many people thought that fossil fuels would run out and that renewables would never amount to anything.

Helmut Frik's picture
Helmut Frik on Aug 23, 2017

Germany usually imports only surplus nucleaar power in summer nights when nobody needs that power and it’s almost free. And it exports to france when they urgently need power because their nuclear power stations are not capable to supply the grid. Remember germany expoerts more TWh than france. And maninly independent of renewable generation. Danke SChön Deutschland the french shold say.

Helmut Frik's picture
Helmut Frik on Aug 23, 2017

Exactly Still CO2 emission reductions happen parallel to the nuclear phase out. And new technologies have been developed to supply cheap CO2 free power for the world.

Helmut Frik's picture
Helmut Frik on Aug 23, 2017

So I guess the US or Sweden already have a 100% PHEV Fleet or BEV Fleet, if that’s so easy?
Capacity in densly inhabited area is much easier to achieve by public transport, as you can see here in every city. Still the existing fleet of ICE cArs consumes too much fuel today.

James Hopf's picture
James Hopf on Aug 23, 2017

I agree that much of the nuclear-phobia is due to efforts of the fossil fuel industry and “environmentalists” who are (knowingly or unknowingly) stooges for said fossil industry. However, the problem goes deeper than that, and much of the blame falls on the industry itself (see my post above).

It can be argued that regulators were cowed by the (fearful) public when the created all those excessive regulations (a literal standard of perfection for one industry only, being 1000 times better than the fossil alternatives not being enough). However, one must ask why the industry went along with it (I give some suggestions above).

On top of that, many messages from the industry itself actually fed public fears. The industry itself relentlessly talked about safety being their sole concern, and all the (excessive) things they were doing about it. When people see extraordinary measures being taken, they assume that the hazard is extraordinary. The industry, in both its words and actions, essentially told the public that it is true that any release of nuclear materials is absolutely unacceptable and must never happen. They basically said, yes we should be held to a standard of perfection. They agreed to absurd dose limits, that are many orders of magnitude lower than that which would have any measurable health impact, thus telling the public that even the industry agrees that such low levels of exposure are dangerous.

Any thorough post-mortem of nuclear power should include (or perhaps center on) why the industry behaved as it did. Why it went along. Why it accepted, and even seemed to welcome, those huge burdens and resulting high cost structures. Were they actually so naïve to think that the public, and anti-nukes would be appeased by those actions? Or were they motivated by the chance to make more money off those burdens? Did they really think nuclear could have such high costs and survive? Why did they focus all their efforts on a Quixotic quest to develop more and more “perfect” technology as opposed to spending more efforts on public relations and political influence (in order to resist)? Why couldn’t they understand that no reactor technology can compete if all activities are held to a standard of perfection (while competing sources are not)?

It could be that the industry is comprised of engineers, and they love finding engineering “solutions” to (supposed) problems. They never had a chance….

Thorkil Soee's picture
Thorkil Soee on Aug 23, 2017

Hope it is not fake news, but data is available from The Energy Collective from 2016:
– Germany generated 545 TWh and polluted approx. 0.560 kg or CO2 / kWh
– France generated 530 TWh and polluted approx. 0.058 kg or CO2 / kWh

Thorkil Soee's picture
Thorkil Soee on Aug 23, 2017

More about Germany and the famous Energiewende.
Have a look at http://wp.me/p1RKWc-11F

Malcolm Metcalfe's picture
Malcolm Metcalfe on Aug 23, 2017

There is one significant problem with the logic. You are comparing energy from nuclear with energy from renewables.. The renewable energy is intermittent. The nuclear plant provides dispatchable power, energy, inertia, and reactive power – essential to control voltage. The renewable sources essentially provide energy – and the other services will need to be provided by storage and power electronics. I am certainly not opposed to renewable supply – and I am a huge fan of reducing emissions, but we need to be reasonable. I note that Germany’s cost of electricity has risen by a significant amount in the past few years, and I would suggest that much of the increase is caused by the conversion to renewables.

Wind can provide some inertia – but the amount is tiny when compared to what comes from a heavy generator running at 1,500 RPM or more. Nuclear generators are among the best at providing inertia.

I worry that a lot of the world is going to be in a position similar to what happened last winter in Ontario Canada – people had to choose between food or electricity – they could not afford both.

I also watch the people promoting zero energy homes. These are very well designed homes that are efficient in energy use, and the net energy used in a year is zero (or less), so the customer pays only the monthly service charge. But the customer (in the US) has average use over a year of about 1 kW and peak use of about 25-35 kW. They draw the peak power when energy is expensive, and return it over a very long period – when average prices are much less. Meanwhile, the utility is working hard to minimize costs, and collect enough revenue to meet requirements. The two processes, for the most part are independent. A number of utilities are working to implement demand charges for residential users. One that I know of has looked at delivering the energy for free, and charging a demand charge for 12 months – based on the peak capacity taken in the last 12 month. That could cause cause economic issues for the zero net energy homes…

Any real solution is going to require cool thought, one team (Generation, Delivery and Users). There are many opportunities to work together on such a solution that could deliver clean power at a low cost. I expect that despite the claims of opponents. Such a system will include a full range of supply options, including renewable and nuclear capacity..

Engineer- Poet's picture
Engineer- Poet on Aug 23, 2017

One that I know of has looked at delivering the energy for free, and charging a demand charge for 12 months – based on the peak capacity taken in the last 12 month. That could cause cause economic issues for the zero net energy homes…

That’s a killshot for net metering, all right.

It would also drive huge business for ice-storage A/C, overnight DHW and laundry systems, and a bunch of other things.

Any real solution is going to require cool thought, one team (Generation, Delivery and Users). There are many opportunities to work together on such a solution that could deliver clean power at a low cost. I expect that despite the claims of opponents. Such a system will include a full range of supply options, including renewable and nuclear capacity.

The only way to make intermittent sources work at large penetration is to have something which can productively sink huge amounts of power at a low capital cost.  The holy grail of renewables has always been water electrolysis, but the cost figures don’t work out and mass storage is problematic due to hydrogen-metabolizing bacteria.  Until that solution is developed and deployed, nothing is going to make renewables worth more than the fuel they displace and the fossil-burning backups they require will always make them inferior to nuclear in that respect.

Darius Bentvels's picture
Darius Bentvels on Aug 23, 2017

And Datteln IV is a special as it’s a CHP and produces special power for German railway’s too.
Furthermore it’s very flexible so, other than nuclear, capable to operate in a high wind & solar environment.

Darius Bentvels's picture
Darius Bentvels on Aug 23, 2017

Read Milton Friedman. He wanted deregulation & a free market for near all monopolistic govt regulated businesses. So also for electricity generation.
Which is good thing as it improves services while bringing the costs down.

Darius Bentvels's picture
Darius Bentvels on Aug 23, 2017

Yes solar and wind need such back-up, and statistics show that such backup will run only ~20% of the time. So it’s economic to minimize investment in and operating staff & know how for such backup.

Hence development is towards unmanned, remote controlled simple gas turbines (burning now NG and later on renewable produced syn gas). Further also fuel cell assemblies assuming the price of those come down enough.

I don’t see how nuclear with its high investment and major staff, can compete in such role?

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Aug 24, 2017

Malcolm, unlikely that one team of generation, delivery, and users will agree any more than one team of doctors, pharmaceutical companies, medical insurers, and patients will agree on the best system of healthcare. Everyone has a different perspective on to what they’re entitled – that’s when government steps in and creates a “best compromise” method of providing a product or service which everyone needs – one which benefits society as a whole.

For utilities in the U.S. that happened in 1935. But influence-peddling by energy megacorps gradually eroded Roosevelt’s New Deal accomplishment to where we’re back to where we were in the 1920s – and just like then, energy monopolies are having a field day.

That humans have to learn this lesson again and again is probably inevitable. The real tragedy in the 21st century is an environmental one – after the earth’s largest cities are underwater and 1/6 of the planet’s species are extinct, there’s no do-over.

Nathan Wilson's picture
Nathan Wilson on Aug 24, 2017

Well, wind turbines can only provide inertia if they are spinning. But sure, rich/green countries can always throw money at the problem. One hour of batteries is plenty if you have full fossil generation backup. Go with 15 hours of storage, and maybe you only need 80% backup. [hypothetically that is; in the real world, pumped-hydro is the only storage technology which has gone big].

Poor countries simply won’t install batteries or high penetration renewables. They’ll stick with their coal and nuclear baseload, and just throw in ten percent or so of renewables to comfort their children.

Diarmuid  Foley's picture
Diarmuid Foley on Aug 24, 2017

@mulp – interesting . I know that Carter was an avowed anti-nuke. Do you have any llnks or sources re Friedman s position or as he just a good old fashioned Malthusian ?

Helmut Frik's picture
Helmut Frik on Aug 24, 2017

Exactly. While a usual synchronus generator can oly inject a small fraction of the energy of the spinning parts, the wind turbine can provide the major part of the energy of the spinning parts, that’s the difference.
A thermal power station also provides no inertia when it is not running. But wind turbines by nature run almost always on partial load, but with almost full inertia, while thermal power stations either run at full capacity or not at all.
Both effects cause that Gen IV Wind turbinesespecially can provide a much higher inertia to the grid than thermal pwoer stations do.
Germany has around 38% renewables in the grid, with zero poblems. Having backup costs very little, in case someone wants to have it. Good diesel gensets cost 10% of coal power stations. So even wind +solar+ full backup + no trade of power with neighbouring countries is cheaper today than new coal power in most places. The number of planned new coal power stations is falling accordingly.

Darius Bentvels's picture
Darius Bentvels on Aug 24, 2017

The prime motive to develop the Energiewende scenario in the nineties was the removal of all nuclear asap.

It’s easy to understand.
Just map the Chernobyl exclusion zone on Germany assuming a similar accident occurs with a NPP in the south-west of Germany.
It implies ~10 million of people being evacuated and will cripple the whole country for many decades.

Same when you map the Fukushima exclusion zone, whereby you should correct for the fact that 97% of its radiation was immediately blown to the ocean, while Germany doesn’t have such favorable winds….

Even while 1000miles away Germans suffer from Chernobyl:
– Many additional serious birth defects: http://goo.gl/ZTqxLB
– ~50% of wild boars meat still not eatable, same with mushrooms.
– increased infant mortality: http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(89)91091-X/abstract
etc.

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Aug 24, 2017

Bas, it is easy to understand – it’s motivated by primal fear.

When I was in Mexico for a total solar eclipse in 1991, pregnant women in local rural communities covered their abdomens with copper pots to protect their babies from “harmful rays” of the solar corona.

Some Germans (and Nederlanders) would perform a valuable service for the rest of us if they wore copper pots over their heads, to prevent harmful renewables advocacy from spewing thenceforth and damaging public policy.

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Aug 24, 2017

James, you bring up an interesting point: that some in the nuclear industry “went along” with onerous regulatory hoops through which to jump, for the purpose of getting funded. No doubt there’s been some of that.

The bulk of nuclear’s problems with public perception, in my opinion, have their source in coddling public fear to avoid being perceived as careless. Instead, proponents should have campaigned with mercilessly realistic assessments of the dangers of environmental radiation. Early on, and aggressively. By not doing so, the industry has only played into that fear, and hobbled itself.

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Aug 24, 2017

Helmut, if “nobody needs that power” why is Germany importing it? Has the sun retreated behind the earth, and the wind stopped blowing?

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Aug 24, 2017

Bob, I think you meant “nuclear electricity can be generated for $.04/kWh. Have another cup of coffee.

Engineer- Poet's picture
Engineer- Poet on Aug 24, 2017

You made me go and check something.

The criteria for distinguishing between the “confiscated zones” and lesser-contaminated parts of the Chernobyl exclusion zone is 40 Ci/km² of Cs-137.  This comes to about 1.4 million Bq/m².  The decay energy of the Ba-137 decay daughter of Cs-137 is 661 keV.

Assuming a human being covers 0.2 m² of ground and absorbs all the gamma rays coming from it, the gamma emissions at 40 Ci/km² impart a dose of 112 μSv/hr or about 980 mSv/yr.  This is barely above the ~700 mSv/yr believed to be the human optimum for radiation hormesis.  Any land at the 20 Ci/km² level would be well below that.  (In practice, humans are not terribly good gamma-absorbers and the actual dose imparted would be smaller.)

What this means is that the vast bulk of the “exclusion zone” is perfectly safe for human habitation and should have been re-occupied years ago, and the decay and soil mobility of Cs-137 has probably shrunk that area to next to nothing by now.

Wild boar is perfectly safe to eat.  Suppose you got one that measured out at 9800 Bq/kg and you ate 1 kg of that meat.  The dose you’d receive is only about twice what you get from internal K-40 decay, and it would decrease rapidly as the biological half-life of cesium is only about 10 days.

James Hopf's picture
James Hopf on Aug 24, 2017

Bas,

Thank you for acknowledging Germany’s real priorities. But no, it’s not even remotely understandable.

The overall health risks and environmental impacts faced by the Germans from their coal and lignite power plants are many orders of magnitude larger than any associated with nuclear power, and Chernobyl, etc.. There is near-universal scientific consensus on that.

If Germany’s actions only affected themselves it would be one thing, but their actions are affecting us all, through global warming and the fact that coal plant pollution does not respect borders. Much of this was due to the influence of a powerful coal industry in Germany. Unforgivable.

Engineer- Poet's picture
Engineer- Poet on Aug 24, 2017

The criteria for distinguishing between the “confiscated zones” and lesser-contaminated parts of the Chernobyl exclusion zone is 40 Ci/km² of Cs-137.  This comes to about 1.4 million Bq/m².  The decay energy of the Ba-137 decay daughter of Cs-137 is 661 keV.

Assuming a human being covers 0.2 m² of ground and absorbs all the gamma rays coming from it, the gamma emissions at 40 Ci/km² impart a dose of 112 μSv/hr or about 980 mSv/yr.  This is barely above the ~700 mSv/yr believed to be the human optimum for radiation hormesis.  Any land at the 20 Ci/km² level would be well below that.  (In practice, humans are not terribly good gamma-absorbers and the actual dose imparted would be smaller.)

What this means is that the vast bulk of the “exclusion zone” is perfectly safe for human habitation and should have been re-occupied years ago, and the decay and soil mobility of Cs-137 has probably shrunk that area to next to nothing by now.

Wild boar is perfectly safe to eat.  Suppose you got one that measured out at 9800 Bq/kg and you ate 1 kg of that meat.  The dose you’d receive is only about twice what you get from internal K-40 decay, and it would decrease rapidly as the biological half-life of cesium is only about 10 days.

greggerritt greggerritt's picture
greggerritt greggerritt on Aug 24, 2017

The entire industry started based on the lie of “Too cheap to meter” It continues to tout itself with more lies;. One lie is that the economy will keep growing. Can not grow infinitely on a finite planet with serious ecological collapse going on. The economics of nuclear power continues to be lets go broke rather than a profitable industry. Or are the republicans saying lets reregulate and guarantee the corporate criminals more profits? And finally there is no place to put the nuclear waste. Clearly Siemens thinks they will make more money if nukes get built, but no one can take this newsletter for a real news source.

Malcolm Metcalfe's picture
Malcolm Metcalfe on Aug 24, 2017

Actually Bob, people will listen – because they will be offered incentives to participate. There is no reason why the folks,wouldn’t listen – and shouldn’t get a share of the benefits. I think that given a choice of higher rates and rates that might make their solar investment unfeasible, they would do what is best for them…

Darius Bentvels's picture
Darius Bentvels on Aug 25, 2017

… one significant problem … renewable … is intermittent. … nuclear plant provides dispatchable power, energy, inertia, and reactive power – essential to control voltage.

In addition to the contributions stated in the second part of my comment above power electronics, such as phase shifters, now also deliver an important contribution to stabilizing the grid.

Considering that availability is superior in the Northern German states where wind supplies ~70%, your issue is solved well.

… Germany’s cost of electricity has risen by a significant amount … much of the increase is caused by the conversion to renewables.

Yes.**) Especially the burden of the 20yrs guarantees of high FiT’s from the period until 2013 play a major role in the Energiewende levy of 7cnt/KWh. With the decrease of the costs of wind, solar, and storage expectations are that the levy will gradually decrease after 2022,.
Note that in 2024 first new offshore wind will be delivered subsidy free, so at the whole sale price of ~$30/MWh.

Compare with the $15-20/MWh for new nuclear.

… clean power at a low cost … will include … renewable and nuclear capacity.

Considering the costs wind & solar will become a major component. If those deliver 50% than they will deliver >100% during ~90 days a year*).
As NPP’s won’t throttle below 70% because of high risks & costs (hair cracks, fuel poisoning, etc), those then become a burden.
Especially since bio- & syn-fuel, hydro & pumped storage, (flow)batteries offer far more flexibility and cost less.
_____
*) In Denmark wind will generate >50% in 2020, so Danish authorities studied the consequences and predict that then wind will supply >100% during 100days. Denmark is also Power-toGas facilities using German experience.

**) Average German household pays a lower share of its income for electricity than av. US household. They consume less energy than US households. A good reason to keep energy prices high with taxes (also car fuel); it helps the climate, etc.

Note that in US states which consume relative little electricity, prices are also higher.

Darius Bentvels's picture
Darius Bentvels on Aug 25, 2017

… delivering the energy for free, and charging a demand charge for 12 months

Seems to me a wrong choice considering efficiency and the climate.

In NL we are installing smart meters. So every connection / house will have a smart meter in 2020. Germany does the same though a few years behind,

I expect that we will get:
– utilities which offer to deliver electricity for whole sale prices at the APX plus some surcharge, etc.
– appliances (dish washer, etc) which will start based on a signal from the meter based on some algorithm which indicate cheap electricity for the next 90 minutes (pricing at the APX is in chunks of 15minutes).

That seems to me a far more economic solution which will also be much better for the climate.

Darius Bentvels's picture
Darius Bentvels on Aug 25, 2017

Seems that you are not aware of the major German Power-to-Gas developments including their road map and their expanding major pilots on the pages behind,

Nathan Wilson's picture
Nathan Wilson on Aug 25, 2017

So even wind +solar+ full backup + no trade of power with neighbouring countries is cheaper today than new coal power in most places.

Ok, but we know that utilities around the world are still building coal-fired power plants in large numbers. So either they are wrong, or you are.

The coal industry is shrinking in some places, but mainly in countries with stagnant or shrinking electricity demand, and/or fossil gas frac’ing.

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Aug 25, 2017

Kristin, spoken like someone who knows something about nuclear energy…like someone who plays a personal part in generating 2 billion watts of clean electricity for California, but whose contribution – and career – are threatened.

Welcome to a growing chorus of like-minded individuals here on The Energy Collective.

Helmut Frik's picture
Helmut Frik on Aug 25, 2017

The numbers of new planned coal power plants is falling drastically, and also those under planning process or under construction are often cancelled today due to too high costs of coal power. In a business where 10 years between start of planning and start of operation is not very long, these changes happen extremely fast.

Malcolm Metcalfe's picture
Malcolm Metcalfe on Aug 25, 2017

You think that a demand charge is bad, but put yourself in the position of a utility that is expected to meet the high ramp rates as solar starts and stops each day. They need to change in order to remain volatile. Much of Canada and the US already has smart meters, so this is an easy change. The problem is that a large number of people want solar and wind power, and the utilities cannot continue with the current model. CAISO published a press release recently showing that solar was driving wholesale prices negative during solar peaks. But as the sun sets, and solar is gone, the ramp rate to generate for the evening peak load is very large, and a big expense to meet.

You suggest that power electronics can do a lot. I know that this is true – but at what cost??

The ONLY way to get this to work at a reasonable cost, is to find ways for the utilities and the customers to work together. The overall efficiency of the grid is about 30-40% and that needs to be improved… putting all flexibility and reserve capacity at the grid edge may do that. – but solar and wind advocates may not like that..

Some people in rural Ontario last winter had to choose between buying food or electricity last winter. That was caused by well intended government policies. Sadly, many of the people making decisions, don’t have all of the facts. I would really hope that we can all learn from other people’s mistakes. Germany and Ontario seem to want to boast of huge success, when the numbers tell a very different story.

Malcolm Metcalfe's picture
Malcolm Metcalfe on Aug 25, 2017

But why are ANY coal plants being built? And inertia from some wind turbines may be possible, but it is small, tiny when compared to a nuclear generator. You can also generate inertia with electronics – but at what cost? My bet – Germany will have to purchase inertia from France – at a high cost.

Helmut Frik's picture
Helmut Frik on Aug 25, 2017

Tiny- nope. Especially since usual synchronus generators can just use a small fraction of rotational energy, and are always in danger to go out of sync. Gen IV wind turbines do not have these limitations. And it’s mainly a different software version for the turbine control.
And why are any coal power stations being built? here in europe just a few get finalized, which are far beyond the point of no return. At other places – because there are existing contracts, politicians which have received too high payments, etc?

Pages

Get Published - Build a Following

The Energy Central Power Industry Network is based on one core idea - power industry professionals helping each other and advancing the industry by sharing and learning from each other.

If you have an experience or insight to share or have learned something from a conference or seminar, your peers and colleagues on Energy Central want to hear about it. It's also easy to share a link to an article you've liked or an industry resource that you think would be helpful.

                 Learn more about posting on Energy Central »