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Do We Need an Airbus for Nuclear?

Author and pro-nuclear activist Michael Shellenberger recently wrote that the nuclear sector, to survive, must embark on a radical new course: create one company, comparable to Airbus in the aircraft sector, that will develop a standardized, efficient reactor design.  Josh Freed and Todd Allen of think tank the Third Way and Ted Nordhaus and Jessica Lovering of think tank The Breakthrough Institute argue that this approach will not solve anything. They believe the nuclear industry needs innovation rather than standardization. Article courtesy The Third Way.

In a February 17 article (republished on Energy Post on February 27, editor) our colleague Michael Shellenberger calls for a massive, state-directed consolidation of the nuclear sector in developed economies. A single state-sponsored nuclear behemoth, consolidating the nuclear divisions of Toshiba, Westinghouse, General Electric, Areva, and EDF would deploy a single standardized light-water reactor design in the United States, Japan, Great Britain, and western Europe and compete with Korea, China, and Russia for export markets abroad. To assure demand for the new conglomerate’s product, low-cost public loans would encourage utilities in developed economies to build the new standardized reactor.

As we discussed in a previous post, Shellenberger’s analysis is based upon a mischaracterization of the drivers of nuclear costs around the world. His follow-up proposal is further problematized by a misreading of recent developments in both the aviation and nuclear industries. In this post we consider what might be learned from the aviation industry, the geopolitical reasons why consolidation is unlikely, and how US policies and institutions will need to change in order to revive the nuclear industry.

A cautionary tale

The explicit model for Shellenberger’s proposal is Airbus, which competes with Boeing to divide the global market for wide-bodied aircraft. But if anything, Airbus offers a cautionary tale for the kind of problems an international industrial nuclear consortium might face. Many of those problems began with the huge bet that Airbus and its member companies made on the A380.

The A380 was designed and built to take well-established aviation technology and scale it up, in order to capture economies of scale associated with carrying more people around the world on fewer planes. But Airbus massively misread the changing aviation market, designing an aircraft a third larger than a 747 to serve the traditional hub and spoke design of international air travel at precisely the moment greater fuel efficiency and longer ranges for smaller aircraft were disrupting that model, allowing cheap point to point international air travel that had historically not been feasible.

If anything, Airbus offers a cautionary tale for the kind of problems an international industrial nuclear consortium might face

Boeing by contrast anticipated that market and designed a new aircraft from the ground up to take advantage of it. The 787 may not have broken with jet propulsion technology, a fact that Shellenberger invokes in order to claim that it represented an incremental evolution of jet airplane design. But in multiple ways, the 787 represents precisely the sort of radical break from traditional aviation technology that Shellenberger rejects.

Where the A380 was a third larger than a 747, the 787 was a third smaller than Boeing’s flagship.[i] The jet engines for the 787 were radically redesigned, with a hybrid electric jet propulsion system that dramatically improved fuel efficiency. The chassis was entirely built from carbon composites, the first large aircraft ever to be built primarily of carbon, not aluminum.

The 787 has sold well and is now widely accepted to represent the future of long distance air travel. The A380 has seen poor sales and has mostly been purchased by state sponsored airlines, most famously Emirates. It is difficult to say to what degree Airbus’ consortia ownership contributed to its failed bet on the A380. But if there is an aviation analog to the approach to nuclear deployment that Shellenberger is advocating, it is Airbus and the A380, not Boeing and the 787. That, if nothing else, should give nuclear advocates pause when considering the sort of centralized, state-led, multinational nuclear consortium that Shellenberger is calling for.

The geopolitics of nuclear energy

There are multiple further challenges that agitate against the sort of multinational nuclear consortium that Shellenberger advocates. The various geopolitical imperatives that have driven nations to invest in substantial nuclear energy capacities have also historically driven nations to endeavor to indigenize their nuclear industries and supply chains.

Most reactor fleets around the world started with licensing established reactor designs. Almost all, one way or another, can be traced back to early US light-water reactor designs. Japan bought and built reactors from GE and Westinghouse, later leasing these designs. France’s large fleet of reactors trace their origins to a Westinghouse design. While Korea initially built Canadian heavy-water reactors and French pressurized water reactors, its standardized reactor fleet is based on a pressurized reactor from Combustion Engineering, an American firm.

The primary focus in all of those nations was then to indigenize the designs they had licensed and develop domestic supply chains such that their energy security could not be compromised by geopolitical competitors — that, after all, was the reason that most nations went nuclear in the first place.

Absent some meaningful technological innovation, it’s not clear what Airbus Nuclear would have to offer that its competitors didn’t

Shellenberger argues that those imperatives no longer hold. Russia and now Korea are building and even operating reactors in other countries. China is an investor in the proposed European Pressurized Reactor in Great Britain and is clearly ramping up its domestic nuclear industry with one eye squarely on the export market. And Great Britain has decided to allow state-owned foreign companies to build planned new reactors rather than rebuild its domestic industry.

But once a nation has relinquished those geopolitical imperatives, it is unclear what else would motivate the kind of consortium that Shellenberger envisions. If Korean or Chinese companies are already producing standardized reactors based upon well established technologies, mature supply chains, and experience gleaned from multiple previous builds, what reason is there for the United States, Great Britain, and France to make large public investments to reinvent that particular wheel?

The only ostensible reasons — safety and jobs — could as easily be achieved without the creation of a new consortium. Any foreign firm would have to go through the same licensing process in Great Britain or the United States as would the new consortium and would be subject to the same regulatory oversight during construction and operations. And any deal to have foreign firms build new plants in developed nations could include domestic content or manufacturing requirements to assure that there are substantial local employment benefits.

Moreover, it is not clear what comparative advantage such a consortium would bring in export markets. China, Korea, and Russia already have first mover advantage and aren’t burdened by the sorts of complications that a multinational Airbus style consortium would have to navigate among its members before negotiating with its export targets. Absent some meaningful technological innovation, it’s not clear what Airbus Nuclear would have to offer that its competitors didn’t.

Radical nuclear innovation must be informed by markets, end users, and modern fabrication and manufacturing methods

Shellenberger does suggest that the member nations would also make large shared investments in “alternate” reactors. But if one accepts the basic premise of Shellenberger’s argument, it is hard to imagine why they would. He argues that technological innovation in reactor designs impedes learning-by-doing and that alternatives to light water reactors are unlikely to bring significant cost benefits. Why then invest in research and development for alternative reactors?

Innovate or Die

If Shellenberger’s proposal doesn’t hold up very well under scrutiny, it does help clarify the choice that nuclear advocates and policy-makers today face. The industry is in crisis. That crisis, at bottom, is the result of the industry’s inability to adapt to changing economic, institutional, and technological realities. Shellenberger argues that we can turn back the clock on those realities. Our view is that we cannot.

In a world in which fossil fuels are cheap and abundant, not costly and scarce, nuclear will need to be substantially cheaper to build than it has historically been even under better circumstances. That sort of cost decline will not be possible so long as reactors are water-cooled and operated at high atmospheric pressures, requiring enormous containment structures, multiply redundant back-up cooling systems, and water cooling towers and ponds, which account for much of the cost associated with building light-water reactors[ii].

Nor will it be possible so long as nuclear reactors must be constructed on site one gigawatt at a time. At one GW scale, the only way to get learning-by-doing is to basically commit a substantial share of national generation to a single reactor type and design, as France and Korea have done. And as we note above, there are few places, if any, where there is likely to be sufficient geopolitical reason to do so.

At 10 MW or 100 MW, by contrast, there is ample opportunity for learning by doing and economies of multiples for several reactor classes and designs, even in the absence of rapid demand growth or geopolitical imperatives.

A radical break from the light water regime that would enable this sort of innovation is not a small undertaking and will require a major reorganization of the nuclear sector. State-led development of advanced designs, bringing together large incumbent firms and scientists from national laboratories failed in United States, France, Britain, Japan, and Germany in the 60’s and 70’s. It will likely fail as well in Korea, China, France, and Russia today.

There is a growing advanced nuclear sector in United States that is ready to transform the nuclear industry if we are willing to give it the chance

What will be necessary is not new physics. The basic physics of virtually all nuclear fission technologies has been well understood and demonstrated by America’s national laboratories since the late 1950’s. Rather, radical nuclear innovation must be informed by markets, end users, and modern fabrication and manufacturing methods. This is centrally a job for entrepreneurial engineers, not scientists at national laboratories, technocrats at the Department of Energy, or division heads at Westinghouse or General Electric.

Public policy that empowers nuclear innovation and entrepreneurship will need to support engineers and start-ups, not direct them. Such a shift would be major, but not unprecedented. The era of cheap genetic decoding became a reality when decades of federal research and development was handed off to Craig Ventor, an entrepreneur who used technologies and basic science pioneered by federal scientists to develop a better and cheaper way to decode the human genome. This made possible the modern biotech sector, which was further enabled by important changes in the way that the FDA licensed and tested new drugs, and by changes to the federal tax code and to patent law that incentivized public institutions to get research out of their laboratories and into the hands of entrepreneurs and venture capitalists.

NASA over the last two decades has undergone a similar transformation, creating policies and incentives to support a diverse and growing commercial space industry where space flight was once the sole province of NASA and its large contractors.

A strong federal program will support early innovation at universities to spawn new entrepreneurs, open up the national laboratories to provide start-ups with technical advice, test facilities, and test beds, reform NRC licensing for advanced reactors, and provide advanced market commitments and other competitive grants for companies that demonstrate that they can build reactors at economically competitive costs.

None of these measures, individually or in sum, are any guarantee that we will develop cheap, economically competitive advanced nuclear reactors. But there is little reason to think that large light-water reactors have much future outside of a few rapidly growing state-led economies in Asia or that continuing, incremental innovation in light-water design is likely to change that.

Today, there is a growing advanced nuclear sector in United States that is ready to transform the nuclear industry if we are willing to give it the chance. Innovation, in nuclear technology, business models, and the underlying structure of the sector, not revanchism, is what will be required to save America’s nuclear industry.

Notes

[i] Note: Several different metrics for size (passengers, length, weight) give different comparisons. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/news/Boeing-Dreamliner-787-Airbus-A380-and-the-jumbo-jet-How-do-they-compare/

[ii] Black & Vetch Holding Company. Cost and Performance data for Power Generation Technologies. National Renewable Energy Laboratory (2012).

By , , and

Josh Freed is the Vice President for Clean Energy at Third Way. Todd Allen, Ph.D., is a Professor at the University of Wisconsin College of Engineering and Senior Visiting Fellow at Third Way. Ted Nordhaus is the Co-founder and Executive Director and Jessica Lovering is the Director of Energy at The Breakthrough Institute.

This article was first published by Third Way and is republished here with permission from authors and publisher.

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Jessica Lovering's picture

Thank Jessica for the Post!

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Discussions

Darius Bentvels's picture
Darius Bentvels on Apr 11, 2017 11:30 am GMT

Such advanced new nuclear won’t arrive at the market before 2030.
Then it meets an environment in which:
– new utility scale PV-solar and Wind are offered for 1 – 3 cnt/KWh;
– high efficient Power-to-Gas reached economy of scale. Covering longer (seasonal) dips in wind & solar production;
– battery costs are decreased a factor X and more users disconnected from the grid as that became cheaper.
etc.

So that advanced new nuclear will have to deliver then at prices below 3cnts/KWh, which is ~5 times less than present new nuclear.

Consider new designs such as the Molten Salt Reactor.
Those imply:
– very (corrosion) aggressive fluoride salt at temperatures of 650-700°C, so fast wear of the steel, etc. The proposed solution to deliver every 4 yrs a new reactor vessel doesn’t decrease the cost price.
– two heat exchangers behind each other (radio-active molten salt => ‘normal’ molten salt => water). Heat exchangers are notorious vulnerable (killed a.o. SONGS).

So, though MSR solves the high pressure reactor vessel problem, one gets other (possible more costly) problems back…
Don’t see how MSR’s can produce 5 times cheaper than present new LWR/PWR’s.

But may be HTGR offers more chance. Didn’t study it yet.
Don’t see other serious candidates.

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Apr 11, 2017 3:12 pm GMT

Jessica, Josh, Ted, and Todd – In the creation of a theoretical, ideal business model to foster the development of safe and inexpensive nuclear energy (which, I think, all agree is the goal here) Shellenberger’s model of Airbus reflects more accurately what is taking place in China.

That model is working. First, government must remain intimately involved in both the design and regulation of new nuclear. Unlike genetic research, nuclear energy can’t be simply “handed off” to private investment when the materials it uses are highly toxic. Even if they aren’t easily weaponized, when released into the environment accidentally (or maliciously) they create big problems for society. And that private investors make horrible guardians of public interest has been demonstrated since time immemorial.

Second, the Chinese are proving groundbreaking new designs are unnecessary. And in the U.S., the idea those designs are “just around the corner” is both inhibiting development of improved PWR designs and hastening the demise of perfectly-functional plants already in existence. Nuclear engineers worldwide have decades of experience and are now building designs which work, and work well.

If it’s true that

That sort of cost decline will not be possible so long as reactors are water-cooled and operated at high atmospheric pressures, requiring enormous containment structures, multiply redundant back-up cooling systems, and water cooling towers and ponds, which account for much of the cost associated with building light-water reactors.

how are the Chinese able to build light-water reactors at one-fourth the cost of American ones? There’s no evidence – to date – that Chinese designs are unsafe, and it might be argued that “multiply redundant back-up cooling systems” are, from an engineering perspective, less safe than simple, durable, predictable ones.

China’s publicly-financed and -run State Nuclear Power Technology Corporation, formed by the Chinese government in 2007, now partners with two private nuclear corporations. It’s succeeding spectacularly in its goal of building out nuclear quickly and inexpensively, and is similar to the Atomic Energy Commission/Westinghouse consortium which produced America’s first exclusively-commercial plant at Shippingport.

So with the imperative of climate change we need to focus on what’s already been proven to work, not what we hope will work. That strategy is failing miserably with renewables/efficiency/storage, and we can learn from it. What’s wrong with the American business of nuclear energy has nothing to do with technology but with public misperceptions – ones shaped by fossil-fuel interests to guarantee their polluting fuel a profitable future. We can either base policy on those misperceptions or on science – sound familiar?

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Apr 11, 2017 4:18 pm GMT

Bas – as usual, you combine the rosiest of predictions for renewables with the most pessimistic ones for nuclear. Neither you nor I know for certain what will happen, but a safe assumption would be neither of your outlier predictions are realistic. They’re based on what you want, not what is viable.

A safe assumption would be that both renewables technology and nuclear technology make modest improvements by 2030. That leaves renewables still wildly deficient in meeting the goals necessary to replace fossil fuels by 2100.

We can thus either base our efforts on half-baked hopes, or what will likely happen. Is there really any decision to be made?

Darius Bentvels's picture
Darius Bentvels on Apr 11, 2017 9:17 pm GMT

To much honor for me. Essentially it are not my predictions but those of scientific studies, think-tank Agora, etc.
Only my question:
I don’t see how in 2030 new MSR’s can produce 5 times cheaper than present new LWR/PWR’s.
Especially considering the extra difficulties such as:
– the steel wear due to the aggressive salt at 700°C;
– the double heat exchangers needed with ~650°C molten salt*);
– the potential instabilities of the fuel containing molten salt (major cause of explosions in the process industry even the small ORNLE was not free of such instabilities;
– the cleaning of the radio-active molten salt after 4yrs.
??
comes from me.
But may be you can explain how?
Or explain another design that may reach that lower cost level?
_________
*) Even with the low temperatures (450°C) of LWR/PWR’s non-aggressive water, heat exchangers are already vulnerable and have to be replaced rather often early. An expensive operation that ended the life of NPP’s, such as that of twin reactor SONGS.

Darius Bentvels's picture
Darius Bentvels on Apr 11, 2017 9:35 pm GMT

Since Fukushima and the associated improved safety requirements, major part of China’s reactor construction projects now also suffer from delays & costs overruns.
They won’t reach the 5-years plan 2020 target of 58GW nuclear operational. Will probably be ~52GW.

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Apr 11, 2017 11:19 pm GMT

Bas, 2-1GW units at Sanmen will cost $3 billion each. Those are 1980s prices for U.S. nuclear, and with no basis for your claim they “suffer from delays & cost overruns”, I’m left to believe you’re making it up. Their cost would have to be 300% higher to compare to U.S. plants.

30% of wind in China is curtailed because of intermittency issues and a crappy infrastructure, making wind (CNY .49 – .61kWh), with a marginal operating cost of exactly nothing, even more expensive than nuclear (CNY .43/kWh).

Darius Bentvels's picture
Darius Bentvels on Apr 12, 2017 6:04 am GMT
John Oneill's picture
John Oneill on Apr 12, 2017 10:50 am GMT

‘ What’s wrong with the American business of nuclear energy has nothing to do with technology but with public misperceptions ‘
I would have agreed with you, Bob – until Vietnam shelved its nuclear programme and reverted to coal, citing cost. ( My cousin lives in Ho Chi Minh City and is doing engineering on one of the coal plants. ) The Vietnamese government isn’t swayed by public misperceptions: it tells people what to think and makes sure they do. China, South Korea, and the UAE – the countries with the strongest LWR growth – are middle rank to wealthy countries. To head off climate change, we need the poor countries to be able to afford energy, and the rich ones to get their industrial heat and their transport fossil free, not just their electricity. So even though a French style government-directed buildout of light water reactors would be a good thing, I think we really do need a radically cheaper alternative.

John Oneill's picture
John Oneill on Apr 12, 2017 11:24 am GMT

Gas cooled reactors can work, but because gas is an inherently less efficient carrier of heat than liquids, they need much larger cores than other reactors for the same power output, and those must be engineered for high pressure. The British CO2-cooled reactors were thus rather expensive to build, although eventually the bugs were sorted out and they are still working well, but none were ever exported.
For similar reasons, molten salt or metal cooled reactors should be much smaller than light water reactors – running at low pressure, they don’t need a huge containment building in case the water all boils. ( Some used a massive store of ice instead, but that has increased maintenance costs.) They should also all be far safer – cesium and iodine, the most problematic radioisotopes at Chernobyl and Fukushima, were problematic because of their low elemental boiling points, but they both bond chemically to lead, sodium, or fluorides, and so are stable to much higher temperatures.
So, no forged pressure vessel with steel thirty centimetres thick. No huge dome with reinforced concrete a metre thick. Steam turbines half the size, the same as are used in thousands of supercritical coal plants. A reactor about the size of the tower base of an 8 MW windmill, but that makes 800 MW – and not just when the wind blows. There’s got to be savings there somewhere.

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Apr 12, 2017 2:44 pm GMT

John, I think you’ll find containment requirements are not significantly reduced with low-pressure cooling systems – in the U.S. at least, nuclear containment must withstand the impact of a fully-loaded commercial airliner.

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Apr 12, 2017 2:46 pm GMT

Bas, you check it. Then when you find it, tell me where I might find the data in support of the point you’re trying to make.

I don’t have time to do your research for you.

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Apr 12, 2017 3:13 pm GMT

John, I’m hoping small modular reactors will fill an important void in CO2-free electricity generation in smaller economies.

But for perspective, Vietnam’s total GHG emissions are less than 2% of the U.S.A.’s, and their per-capita emissions are 11% of ours. So it seems, to me, incumbent upon wealthier nations to get their act together and lead the way – to take some responsibility for the wealth they’ve (we’ve) amassed over the past two centuries as they’ve (we’ve) spewed carbon into everyone’s atmosphere.

Highly-underrecognized is China’s recent conversion of a coal plant to a high-temperature gas reactor (HTGR) nuclear plant. If streamlined and cost-optimized, the process could not only bring nuclear electricity to smaller nations around the globe but realize the potential of synfuel production, using the HTGR’s high temperatures to create elemental hydrogen from water.

Mark Heslep's picture
Mark Heslep on Apr 12, 2017 6:05 pm GMT

I would think a design i) without high pressure steam in the primary, ii) with a subterranean reactor, iii) with walk away safe decay heat, would make aircraft impact moot.

Engineer- Poet's picture
Engineer- Poet on Apr 12, 2017 7:17 pm GMT

The containment is a steel vessel designed to hold anything that leaks out of the reactor.  The shield building goes around the containment; that is what has to handle impacts.

Michael Hogan's picture
Michael Hogan on Apr 13, 2017 4:10 pm GMT

Bob, if you think we know what Chinese nuclear plants are actually costing you’re smoking something, and anyone who’s recently been inside one of the high-rise buildings thrown up by Chinese contractors over the past 30 years will know just how confident, or not, we should be about the standard of construction. The French have already tried this solution, and while they pulled off the illusion of cheap, centralized, standardized nuclear for quite a long time, we’re finally getting a sense of what that model is actually costing the French taxpayer, including the now-apparent fact that only a miniscule fraction of the likely cost of decommissioning the existing fleet has been accrued. Not long ago (within the past 15 years) the Japanese model of a utility-government partnership in the construction and oversight of Japanese nuclear was being touted by US advocates as the blueprint for the future of nuclear. The failure to address even the simplest system vulnerabilities at Fukushima, vulnerabilities that had been identified for years but were swept under the carpet in the interest of cost and ensuring public confidence, blew that illusion wide open. Things may be different in China, but all of our experience tells us otherwise. Jessica et al. are dead right – while government has always and will always play a critical role in whatever future nuclear has, that role needs to put the failed paradigm of the past 50 year behind us and focus on a real future, one that has a chance of succeeding. How many times must Charlie Brown be duped by Lucy before he draws the inescapable conclusion that the football just ain’t going to be there?

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Apr 13, 2017 5:17 pm GMT

Michael, if you think nuclear of the past 50 years has been a “failed paradigm”, I have to ask: what have you been smoking?

Nuclear energy is estimated to have saved 1.8 million lives since 1971, and is in 2014 the safest method of generating dispatchable electricity, hands-down. Possibly you were frightened by overblown media accounts of the Fukushima non-disaster which neither killed nor injured anyone.

So I really have no idea how to respond to your alternative reality, and my interest in doing so (and to that of like-minded others) declines by the day.

Engineer- Poet's picture
Engineer- Poet on Apr 14, 2017 7:34 pm GMT

I see lots of assertions here with no supporting evidence.

we’re finally getting a sense of what that model is actually costing the French taxpayer, including the now-apparent fact that only a miniscule fraction of the likely cost of decommissioning the existing fleet has been accrued.

If so, they’ve obviously not set aside funds like the American model.

But so what.  If decommissioning is too expensive… refurbish instead.  Neutron embrittlement of the reactor vessel is the key limit on the plant’s life.  However, neutron damage can be annealed out.  This would require what amounts to the construction of a furnace inside the containment building, heating of the vessel to the annealing temperature, and cooling again at a controlled rate.  With the number of identical units built by France, engineering and construction of such a portable, segmented (to fit through small doors) furnace should be quite affordable.

And then France would have another 40+ years of service from the same reactors, during which they would STILL put “Green” Germany and Denmark to shame for CO2 emissions.

The failure to address even the simplest system vulnerabilities at Fukushima, vulnerabilities that had been identified for years but were swept under the carpet in the interest of cost and ensuring public confidence, blew that illusion wide open.

It’s sad to see someone who is so ignorant, he can’t identify this as a Japanese cultural problem.  The head of TEPCO could not admit that seawalls had to be raised because it meant that somebody had made a mistake.  The mistake was actually 40-odd years ago, when the potential tsunami height had not been properly determined and the American designers of the original plant called for the bluff to be cut down many meters to reduce the power demands of pumping condenser cooling water uphill.

The Onagawa plant, which received harder shaking and a bigger wave than Futaba, came through in fine shape.  Its hill wasn’t shaved down, and it served as a refugee center for townspeople in the aftermath.

Then there’s the radiophobia of the Hiroshima Syndrome, which manifests today as bullying of Fukushima evacuees (who should have gone home long since and most never evacuated at all).  A cultural pathology… which you transmit and exacerbate here.

Jessica et al. are dead right – while government has always and will always play a critical role in whatever future nuclear has, that role needs to put the failed paradigm of the past 50 year behind us and focus on a real future, one that has a chance of succeeding.

When you get to hand-waving in terms like this, I know you’re lying… and projecting.

We know “renewables” have no chance of succeeding.  People have known their fatal weaknesses for hundreds of years, which is why coal, oil and natural gas were adopted so quickly.  The only reason to push “Green” stuff is to maintain the markets for the sellers of coal, oil and natural gas.  So the planet burns; they’ll have their money.

Engineer- Poet's picture
Engineer- Poet on Apr 14, 2017 7:44 pm GMT

Solar PPAs are regularly going for <$0.07/kWh. Wind <$0.04/kWh

And what does it cost to get when the wind ISN’T blowing and the sun ISN’T shining?

Wind, Solar, Storage and Demand Response. How is that not more viable than nuclear?

Why don’t you tell me how much it costs to “demand respond” to zero on calm nights, and have sewers backing up because the lift pumps are down, food going bad, people dying in hospitals because respirators don’t work, crashes because traffic signals are out, looting everywhere…

You know, compared to immediate health and welfare crises and social breakdown, nuclear power starts looking pretty damn good!

Sean OM's picture
Sean OM on Apr 16, 2017 2:02 am GMT

It might be the safest because of all the regulations, however I doubt it is the cheapest. Or else we wouldn’t be seeing a massive switch to NG.

Mark Heslep's picture
Mark Heslep on Apr 16, 2017 3:39 am GMT

Above the answer was “Wind, Solar, Storage and Demand Response”. A moment later, the answer to a challenge is “Turbines, Solar and Wind “

Engineer- Poet's picture
Engineer- Poet on Apr 16, 2017 5:15 am GMT

Yes, don’t they ALWAYS fall back to fossil fuels, instead of eliminating them?  They could just as easily put a floor under “demand response” so that essential functions are served by non-emitting nuclear base load.  But they won’t.

That’s because their goal is not the elimination of emissions.  It is the elimination of nuclear power, no matter the other consequences (like climate disaster).

Mark Heslep's picture
Mark Heslep on Apr 16, 2017 10:27 pm GMT

Don’t look behind the renewable curtain. Wait! Somebody grab that little dog.

Darius Bentvels's picture
Darius Bentvels on Apr 17, 2017 7:05 am GMT

Solar and Wind are more reliable than nuclear (not just as reliable).

Nuclear Power Plants can and do fail unforeseen within a few seconds which doesn’t occur with wind and solar produced electricity as that involves thousands of physical distributed small generators, whose production is accurately predicted with the weather prediction.

So Nuclear Power Plants need expensive spinning reserve and grid adaptations accordingly.

Still, experience show that renewable countries, such as Germany and Denmark, have an ~10 time more reliable electricity supply than USA (4times better than France & UK).

Germany experienced significant reliability improvements when solar and wind became significant!

Darius Bentvels's picture
Darius Bentvels on Apr 17, 2017 7:21 am GMT

Bob,
The estimation that nuclear is safest, is only made by fanatic pro-nuclear, using unrealistic figures such as 43 deaths due to Chernobyl*). etc.

Nuclear is the most dangerous method, as the Germans also concluded. So they are removing all nuclear power plants with highest priority (done in 2022).
_____
*) James Hansen etal., while an 2009 issue of the Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences concluded 825,000 deaths before 2006, and we know that most deaths still have to come, as increased low level radiation has a latency period of 10 – 60 years before the health damage shows!
Shown by a.o. the RERF studies regarding the Atomic bombs on Japan and similar as with smoking, asbestos, etc.

Even the WHO now admits 16,000deaths while stating that no real estimation can be made.

Darius Bentvels's picture
Darius Bentvels on Apr 17, 2017 8:38 am GMT

EP,
A few corrections of your wrong statements:

Onagawa nuclear plant was only saved because a persistent engineer, Yanosoku Hirai, put huge efforts in his idea that the plant needed an high dike. When the tsunami came the 14.8meter high dike was just high enough…. Otherwise the plant probably had undergone the same fate as Fukushima as it’s not on a hill as you assume.

Bullying Fukushima evacuees?
Research found a 15% highly significant (P=0.001) increase of perinatal deaths in prefectures (areas up to 300km away) that were not evacuated despite the radio-active contamination (the (wrong) idea; little radiation increase, hence no harm).
That increase was less in areas with less contamination and no increase was found in areas without contamination.
So the Fukushima emitted radio-active material is the only viable explanation.
Note that the increase won’t go away soon as the most important fall-out stuff has a half-life of ~30years.

Your assumption: “We know “renewables” have no chance of succeeding.” is contradicted by many scientific studies.
‘Nuclear’ France govt institute ADEME concluded after simulation studies that for 2050 a renewable share of 80% regarding electricity generation would be the cheapest solution, while 100% renewable and 40% renewable would cost slightly more.

So France installed in 2015 two laws:
– One targets the reduction of nuclear from 75% now towards 50% in 2025 (a much faster reduction path than Germany followed);
– One targets to increase the share of renewable fast.

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Apr 17, 2017 4:14 pm GMT

Sean, I’m continually amazed at this “cheapest” argument, because it has no relevance to American utilities whatsoever.

Utilities are permitted, by public utility commissions, to charge ratepayers based on a cost-plus arrangement which varies by state. They are all regulated – otherwise, as natural monopolies, they could charge the public whatever exhorbitant fees they liked. So it makes no difference to utilities how much it costs to generate electricity – they pass the cost on to customers.

In California, San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (SONGS) was closed permanently in 2013 and replaced by supposedly “cheap” natural gas. Yet electricity rates in SONGS’s service area skyrocketed 56% within three years. Why? Sempra Energy, the owner of San Diego Gas & Electric, “sells itself” the natural gas it uses to generate electricity, and now bills its customers on a cost-plus arrangement for the gas as well as the electricity. See how this scam works? It’s permitted Sempra to recognize $17 billion in annual revenue, and PG&E is about to do exactly the same thing with Diablo Canyon (nuclear) Power Plant in Central California.

Jesper Antonsson's picture
Jesper Antonsson on Apr 17, 2017 7:39 pm GMT

Your junk-science on radiation isn’t worth commenting. With regards to France, president Hollande hasn’t been able to shut a single reactor during his term, which is now coming to an end. There’s very little chance this law will stay on the books.

Engineer- Poet's picture
Engineer- Poet on Apr 18, 2017 12:06 am GMT

So, Bas, between France and “green” Denmark, which country has lower per-kWh carbon emissions?

Which one is the model for true environmental protection?

And you’re laundering your links to Scherb again.  You need to come up with new tricks.  I’d suggest telling the truth, but you seem to have an anaphylactic reaction to it.

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