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Dutch Renewables About Face Towards Nuclear

Willem Post's picture
President Willem Post Energy Consuling

Willem Post, BSME'63 New Jersey Institute of Technology, MSME'66 Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, MBA'75, University of Connecticut. P.E. Connecticut. Consulting Engineer and Project Manager....

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  • Feb 13, 2011

The Borssele Nuclear Power Station, Borssele, The Netherlands, capacity 485 MW, output 3,625 GWh/yr, started producing power in 1973. It has a pressurized water reactor, PWR, similar to other nuclear plants in the US. It is the only nuclear power plant in the Netherlands. 


Areva, a French company, reprocesses the spent fissionable material in La Hague, Manche, Basse-Normandie, France. Part of the agreement is that the radioactive waste, i.e. the products of the reprocessing which are not useful, are taken back by the Netherlands. They are stored at the Central Organization for Radioactive Waste, COVRA, also in Borssele.


COVRA is the national storage facility for all radioactive wastes. It is a surface facility suitable for the next 100 years. Borssele produces around 12 metric tons of high level waste per year.


In 1994, government and parliament decided to close down the Borssele plant as of 2004. However, due to legal action by owners and employees of the plant and changes in government policy in 2002, the decommissioning was delayed until 2013, a 40-year life.




Dutch Opposition


The Netherlands annual consumption is about 108,200,000 MWh/yr. It has about 2,000 onshore and offshore wind turbines. Installed capacity of wind turbines has been stagnant for the past 3 years. It was 2225, 2229, and 2245 MW at the end of 2008, 2009 and 2010, respectively. The main reason for the stagnant onshore capacity is that the Dutch people’s opposition to up to 450-ft tall wind turbines has increased during the past 3 years.


Wind energy production was (2,229 + 2,245)/MW x 8,760 hr/yr x national capacity factor 0.203= 3,972 MWh/yr in 2010, or about 3.37% of total annual electricity production.


The Dutch national wind capacity factor is a dismal 0.203. The German national wind capacity factor is an even more dismal 0.167; Holland and Germany are very poor places for wind power.


Expanding wind power to meet the European Union’s 20% renewables targets by 2020 meant adding at least another thousand 3 MW, 450-ft tall wind turbines to the Dutch landscape at a cost of about $6 billion. The Dutch people found that to be an unacceptable, environment-damaging, health-damaging intrusion into their lives and an unacceptable return on their investment, especially when considering the small quantity of CO2 reduction per invested dollar.


An additional 3,000 MW of offshore wind turbines was considered but rejected, because the capital cost of about $10-$12 billion was found to be too excessive and the wind energy produced too little. The wind energy would have to be sold at very high prices to make the projects feasible. The proposed offshore Cape Wind project in Massachusetts is a perfect example of such a project. See Base Power Alternatives…… website below.


Solar power was considered but rejected, because of the German experience which has a dismal national PV solar capacity factor of 0.095 out of a theoretical maximum of about 0.115. The reasons for the deviation is that PV panels are aging, roofs are not true-south facing and are not correctly-angled, snow covers the panels for about 20-30 days during the winter, etc.


For the same reasons, Vermont’s statewide PV solar capacity factor is about 0.12 out of a theoretical maximum of about 0.143; also dismal. Germany and New England, because of their rainy, snowy and cloudy weather, are very poor places for solar power. See Impact of PV ….. Germany website below.


As a result of the above and other drawbacks of variable, intermittent wind energy, nuclear plants became less controversial and is again viewed as one of many possibilities to reduce CO2 emissions and increase national energy self-reliance.


The Dutch government decided in 2006 that Borssele would remain operational until 2033, a 60-year life, the same as dozens of similar plants in the US.


The governments of Sweden and the UK have also reversed themselves and decided to keep their existing nuclear plants in operation, extend the lives of many of them to up to 60 years, and build new nuclear plants.


Danish Opposition


Denmark’s prevailing winds are from the North Sea, across Denmark, to the Baltic Sea. The best winds are on Denmark’s northwest coast. Denmark has more than 4,000 onshore wind turbines with a capacity of about 3,150 MW, nearly unchanged since the end of 2003. About 90% of the onshore wind turbines are supplied by Vestas. The increases in capacity in 2009 and 2010 are due to offshore wind turbines almost all supplied by Siemens.


High Wind Periods: If the wind blows strongly in Denmark, and as the marginal cost of operating wind turbines is near zero (i.e., ignoring non-variable capital and O&M costs), there is a big incentive to maximize wind energy even if it is not needed by the Danes, such as during low demand periods.


To avoid disturbances on the small Danish grids and excessive balancing operations by the hundreds of small combined-heating-power, CHP, plants, the large wind energy surges are accommodated by the much larger Scandinavian grid by using the hydro plants of Norway and Sweden as balancing plants.


Studies of grid operating data show that Denmark exports electricity to Norway and Sweden, and that those exports are highest during strong wind periods. This saves water that is used for subsequent energy production.


However, sometimes they refuse to take Danish wind energy. In that case grid operators who control the wind turbines in Denmark will reduce the output of a percentage of them (by feathering the blades or stopping them), according to pre-planned sequences.

Low Wind Periods: The hundreds of small CHP plants and a few big central power plants perform the wind energy balancing function and energy is imported from Germany, Sweden and Norway.


Very Low Wind Periods: Almost all wind turbines are idled (too little windspeed) and energy is imported from Germany, Sweden and Norway. That is a lot of eye sores standing idle all over Denmark; no wonder the Danes are fed up looking at them. Their slogan: “No more onshore and, if offshore, over the horizon”. It shows the extent of their disgust with wind energy.


Does Wind Energy Pay?: Because Denmark is a MODERATELY windy country, and many of its wind turbines are older, less efficient units, and the above output management, its national average wind capacity factor was 0.242 for the 2005 -2009 period, not high enough for a private enterprise to make money with wind power, unless the subsidies are great.


The newer, offshore wind turbine facilities have CFs approaching 0.40. However, because the installed cost is well over $4,000/kW and the O&M is about 3 times that of Danish onshore wind turbines, it is doubtful their wind energy is more competitive than onshore wind energy.


For a private enterprise to make money with wind power, low installed cost, say $2,000/kW, low O&M (1/3 of offshore) and a capacity factor of about 0.40, such as in many areas of the Great Plains states in the US, are required for the costs of moderately-subsidized, newer wind turbine facilities to be competitive with electricity of existing coal, gas and nuclear plants. Such Great Plains wind energy would cost less than the cost of electricity of NEW coal, gas and nuclear plants.


The low capacity factor, the additional grid management efforts to deal with wind energy, the transmission losses of sending wind energy to Norway’s and Sweden’s hydro plants, the wind energy output management, the wind energy integration fees paid to Norway and Sweden, and the above-market-rate FITs all make Danish wind energy a money-loosing operation; some of the losses are hidden in government accounts and the rest is recovered by adding very high taxes to Danish residential electric rates. As a result Danish household electricity cost of (energy+taxes+fees)/kWh are the highest in Europe. The untaxed Danish COMMERCIAL electric rates are at about 1/3 of the residential rate; a government manipulation to advantage its industrial companies?


The Danish wind elite will not find it easy to own up to this in public, so they advise other nations to “do as we do” and “go offshore”; Vestas, their national wind champion, will do more business as a result.


If the Danes cannot make wind pay at a national CF of 0.242, the Dutch (CF 0.203) and the Germans (CF 0.167) will not be able to make it pay either. 


Growing Opposition to Wind Turbines: As the Danes became aware, largely because of the internet, that the poor economics of their heavily-subsidized wind energy is a major reason for Denmark’s high residential electric rates, opposition to the 400-ft tall onshore wind turbines increased so much over the past 6 years that Dong Energy, the giant state-owned utility, finally announced in August, 2010, that it would abandon plans for new onshore wind turbines and that any future wind turbine development would be offshore; “Every time we were building onshore, the public reacts in a negative way and we had a lot of criticism from neighbours,” said a spokesman for Dong Energy. “Now we are putting all our efforts into offshore windfarms.”  Anders Eldrup, the CEO of Dong Energy, told TV2 News: “It is very difficult to get the public’s acceptance if the turbines are built close to residential buildings, and therefore we are now looking at maritime options.”


This may have elicited a sigh of relief from the Danish people and a feeling they have some control of their government after all.


The reason for the slowness of Dong Energy is to protect Vestas, a national champion; with government subsidies it became the largest such company in the world (GE is second).


Wind Energy and Job Creation: In 2009, the Institute for Energy Research commissioned the Danish think-tank CEPOS (Centre for Political Studies) to report on electricity exports from Denmark and the economic impact of the Danish wind industry. The report states that Danes pay the highest residential electric rates in the European Union (partly due to subsidized wind power), and that the cost of saving a metric ton of CO2 between 2001 and 2008 has averaged $124. The report estimates that 90% of the jobs were transferred from other technology industries to the wind industry, and that 10% of the wind industry jobs were newly created jobs, and states that as a result, Danish GDP is $270 million lower than it would have been without wind industry subsidies. 


Subsidized job creation and industry building are economic downers not only in Denmark, but elsewhere as well, including Vermont, as shown by the White Paper Report by the VT-DPS.


Net Jobs From Renewables is a Hoax: RE promoters and politicians often tout job creation by RE projects, but do not mention the jobs lost in others sectors of the economy. 


Economists have used standard input-output analysis programs for at least 40 years to the determine the plusses and minuses of various economic activities. Numerous studies, using such economic analysis programs, performed in Spain, Italy, Denmark, England, etc., show for every job created in the RE sector, about 2 to 5 times jobs are destroyed in the other sectors. 


Also, for every 3 green jobs created in the private sector, 1 job is created in government, but, as a general rule, for every job created in government about 2 jobs are destroyed in the private sector, largely due to added economic inefficiencies; no one would claim government is more efficient than the private sector. In tabular format:


Total job gain from RE subsidies = 3 in RE sectors + 1 in government = 4.

Total job loss in private sector due to RE subsidies = 3 times (2 to 5), due to 3 RE jobs created + 2, due to 1 government job created = 8 to 17

Net job LOSS due to RE subsidies = (loss 8 to 17) – (gain 4) = 4 to 13 


Such job “creation” is unsustainable. Whether these government jobs are good or bad, needed or not needed, is irrelevant.

Note: This is not the case with increased energy efficiency subsidies. They create jobs in the EE sector, but also create a net increase of jobs in the other sectors, because the reduction of energy costs enables more spending on other goods and services.


Likely Scenario of Opposition to Wind Turbines


What caused these three nations to invest in wind turbines, and in case of Germany to also invest on a grand scale in PV solar power, when much less capital intensive measures, such as increased energy efficiency, would create much quicker and greater returns per dollar invested AND reduce CO2 more effectively per dollar invested AND create more jobs per dollar invested? 


The scenario likely was as follows: 


– a suitable cause for people to believe in (global warming). 

– an optimistic, can-do, should-do renewables hubris (fortified with proponents’ PR, favorable legislation and subsidies). 

– a charging-ahead without knowing likely outcomes (lack of engineering studies or ignoring them). 

– a hiding-of-the-facts (higher capital costs, lower power production and CO2 reduction, bigger environmental impact and less job creation than promised) by insiders (legislators, vendors, developers, financiers) when the reality of subsidized outcomes veered from what was envisioned, sold to the public and promised. 

– multiple analyses of the facts by credible, knowledgeable skeptics slowly entering the consciousness of the electorate. The insiders likely already knew the adverse outcomes they had been creating and, with PR and campaign donations, tried to minimize their importance and/or made promises things would get better over time. 

– and finally opposition by the aggrieved electorate and the defense of the status quo by the ones (legislators, vendors, developers, financiers, etc.) who have dug their way to the vault (favorable regulations, subsidies, re-election, a growing business, etc.) and will do anything (such as threatening to move their businesses out of state) to prevent the vault from being moved.




Recently, the Netherlands


– became the first nation to abandon the EU-wide target of producing 20 per cent of its domestic power from renewables by 2020. 


– reduced its targets for renewable energy, such as wind and solar energy, and reduced subsidies from 4 billion euros to 1.5 billion euros. If the Danes cannot show a profit from their wind turbine investments with a national wind capacity factor of 0.242, then the Dutch would certainly not show a profit from their wind investments with a national wind capacity factor of 0.186, and neither would the Germans with a national wind capacity factor of 0.167; the losses are reflected as higher electric rates.


– approved construction of an up to 2,500 MW nuclear plant at Borssele which could consist of (2) Westinghouse AP1000 units @ 1,154 MW each.


The Netherlands policy U-turn means that: 


– the EU renewable targets aren’t set in stone; other nations will follow the Dutch.

– there are more cost-effective ways of reducing CO2, such as nuclear energy and increased energy efficiency.


New Dutch Renewables Plan: On November 30, 2010, the government unveiled its new renewables plan and reduced annual subsidies from 4 billion euros to 1.5 billion euros.


In the new system, which will take effect halfway through 2011, the government will allocate subsidies in an entirely different, and rather complicated way. Subsidies are made available in four “stages” (on the basis of first-come, first-served).


– In Stage 1, a government subsidy of 9 eurocents/kWh (or 79 cents per m3 for gas) will be offered, to producers of technologies that have “deficits” of less than 9 eurocents, such as biogas (“green gas”), hydro, gas from waste processing, and gas from fermentation processes.


– If money is left after Stage 1, Stage 2 will be opened up, in which a subsidy of 11 eurocents/kWh (or 97 cents per m3 of gas) will be offered to producers of onshore wind energy and fertilizer-based gas.


– If money is left after Stage 2, Stage 3 will be opened up, in which a subsidy of 13 eurocents/kWh (or 114 cents per m3 of gas) will be offered to producers of hydropower and small-scale biomass.


– If money is left after Stage 3, Stage 4 will be opened up, in which a subsidy of 15 euro cents/kWh (or 132 cents per m3 of gas) will be open to electricity produced from all-purpose fermentation processes.


Not included in any of the four categories, because they are too expensive, are solar power, large-scale biomass and offshore wind power.


In the past, subsidies came from the general budget. In the future, consumers will see a surcharge on their energy bills. The new direct billing could cool the public’s ardor for additional building of “green energy.”




Nuclear Energy


Energy production by the new nuclear plant would be: 2.308 GW x 8,760 hr/yr x capacity factor 0.90 = 18,196 GWh/yr.

Capital cost: 2.308 GW x $7 billion/GW = $16.2 billion. 

If factory-built, modular reactors are used, the capital costs will be significantly less. See Base Power………. website below.


Nuclear Energy:


– is steady, 24/7/365, CO2-free, has a small foot print, relatively low-cost. 


– requires long-term radioactive waste storage. The waste is currently stored at nuclear plant sites and various other sites. A permanent site at Yucca Mountain in Utah, is being developed.


– requires long-term financing, interest-during-construction expenses and up to ten years construction periods for conventional plants; all three can be significantly reduced with standardized modular reactors that have lower costs/kW. 


B&W has developed a 125 MW nuclear power module that will be built in US factories under controlled conditions to reduce costs and ensure quality. Several modules can be combined to create power plants of 1,000 MW, or greater. The plant can be arranged for water or air cooling. The modules use standard 5% enriched U-235 uranium and have a 4.5-year operating cycle between refueling. The modules are fully-assembled and rail/barge-transportable to a plant site. B&W has partnered with TVA and Bechtel to build a plant at a TVA site. B&W is planning to supplement its nuclear module with a fully-assembled, steam turbine-generator module that is rail/barge-transportable to a plant site. It will likely partner with GE for the TG module


– systems have useful service lives of about 60 years.


Wind Energy


Energy production by new onshore wind turbines would be: 11.168 GW x 8,760 hr/yr x national capacity factor 0.186 = 18,196 GWh/yr.

Capital cost: 11.186 GW x $2 billion/GW = 22.34 billion.

Number of 3 MW wind turbines required: 11,186 MW/3 MW = 3,729


Wind energy:


– is variable and intermittent; has a huge footprint; highly visible; emits health-damaging infrasound and low frequency noise; relatively low-cost with moderate subsidies, if capacity factor is high, i.e., 0.35, or greater, such as in the Great Plains.


– requires balancing plants (continuously running and on standby) to accommodate varying wind outputs to the grid. Such plants consist of intermediate and peaking generating units, such as gas-fired CCGTs and OCGTs, capable of quickly increasing and decreasing their outputs. 


– is not available “on demand” and therefore has no dispatch value to a grid operator. Wind energy is minimal during summer, moderate during spring and fall and maximal during winter; at all times it is maximal at night. About 10-15 percent of the year windspeeds are too low (less than 7.5 mph) to turn the rotors, or too high for safety; icing conditions requiring curtailed operation or shutdown.


– has a capacity value for scheduling purposes, defined as the statistical expectation of capacity over time, typically a year; it is relevant for capacity planning purposes. In Texas, ERCOT, the grid operator, sets the capacity value at 8.7% of the nameplate rating of Texas wind turbine facilities. 


– is variable which means it needs more capacity of continously running, quick-ramping balancing plants, such as gas-fired, CO2-producing OCGTs and CCGTs. The inefficient operation of the balancing plants requires more Btu/kWh and emits more CO2/kWh than operated without the presence of wind energy, thus partially offsetting the theoretical CO2 reduction from the wind turbine facilities mentioned by wind energy promotors.


– requires additional transmission and distribution system changes and greater grid management efforts.


– has additional costs of about 0.4-0.6 cent/kWh to accommodate the wind energy to the grid.


– turbines have useful service lives of about 20 – 25 years. Significant investments would be required at about the 20th year to upgrade the turbines for operating them for another 20 years or, if upgrading is unfeasible, new turbines would need to be installed. Newer nuclear plants have useful service lives of about 50- 60 years, at least 2.5 times longer than wind turbines.




France made a wise decision to go nuclear about 50 years ago. While France will be enjoying low electric rates, its competitors, such as Germany, the US, etc., will be increasing their electric rates, because they need to invest trillions of dollars over several decades to get to France’s low CO2 intensity; a major competitive advantage for France.


– France produces about 570 TWh/yr, exports about 70 TWh/yr, consumes about 447 TWh/yr, T&D losses are about 53 TW/yr. 

– France has about 79% of its power from 19 nuclear plants with 58 reactors, and about 12% hydro. Its PWR nuclear plants and hydro plants are designed to be load-following.  

– France has leading global nuclear companies, such as Areva, GDF-Suez and EDF.

– France reprocesses its “spent” fuel, and that of other nations, to make new fuel for nuclear reactors, thereby much better utilizing the uranium and greatly reducing waste. The nuclear fuel burnup is about 5% at the end of a 300-500 day refueling cycle. The other 95% is available for reprocessing. 

– France has among the lowest electric rates in Europe. 

– France has the lowest CO2 intensity, 0.37 lb of CO2/$ of GDP, of all industrialized nations.

– France built a national, 180-mph rail system that runs on nuclear power.  

– France is developing EVs to boost nighttime electric demand to better utilize its nuclear plants.

– Denmark, paragon of renewables, 0.43 lb of CO2/$ of GDP, has among the highest electric rates in Europe.




A much more economically-viable and environmentally-beneficial measure to reduce CO2 would be increased energy efficiency. A 60% reduction in Btu/$ of GDP is entirely possible with existing technologies. Such a reduction would merely place the US on par with most European nations.


It would be much wiser, and more economical, to shift subsidies away from expensive renewables, that produce just a little of expensive, variable, intermittent energy, towards increased EE. Those renewables would not be needed, if we use those funds for increased EE. 


EE  is the low-hanging fruit, has not scratched the surface, is by far the best approach, because it provides the quickest and biggest “bang for the buck”, AND it is invisible, AND it does not make noise, AND it does not destroy pristine ridge lines/upset mountain water runoffs, AND it would reduce CO2, NOx, SOx and particulates more effectively than renewables, AND it would not require any distribution network buildouts, AND it would slow electric rate increases, AND it would slow fuel cost increases, AND it would slow depletion of fuel resources, AND it would create 3 times the jobs and reduce 3-5 times the Btus and CO2 per invested dollar than renewables, AND all the technologies are fully developed, AND it would end the subsidizing of renewables tax-shelters mostly for the top 1% at the expense of the other 99%, AND it would be more democratic/equitable, AND it would do all this without public resistance and controversy.


The real issue regarding CO2 reduction is energy intensity, Btu/$ of GDP; it must be DECLINING to offset GDP and population growth. To accomplish this energy efficiency needs to be at the top of the list, followed by the most efficient renewables of which hydro power is the best and residential small wind is the worst, in fact, it is atrocious. EE is so good that it should be subsidized before any and all renewables, because it is much more effective per invested dollar. 


Effective CO2 emission reduction policy requires that all households eagerly participate. Current subsidies for electric vehicles, residential wind, PV solar and geothermal systems benefit mostly the top 5% of households that pay enough taxes to take advantage of the renewables tax credits, while all other households are required to pay for them by means of fees and taxes or higher electric rates; the net effect is much cynicism and little CO2 reduction. Improved energy efficiency policy will provide much greater opportunities to many more households to significantly reduce their CO2 emissions. 


Energy efficiency will have a much bigger role in the near future, as energy system analysts come to realize that tens of trillions of dollars will be required to reduce CO2 from all sources and that energy efficiency will reduce CO2 at a lesser cost and more effectively. Every household, every business can participate.


For example: there is a massive energy source right at our fingertips — but, so far, this resource remains largely untapped. This energy resource is available in every state, every city and every town, does not require mining and drilling and costly power plants, makes no noise, is invisible, does not harm the environment and fauna and flora and creates more jobs than renewables per invested dollar. 


The majority of our existing building stock is old and most are inefficient buildings that are destined to be in service at least 25 years or longer. Reducing the energy that is normally wasted in existing buildings offers more potential for cost-effective energy savings and CO2 emission reductions than any renewables strategy. 


Energy efficiency projects:


– will make the US more competitive, increase exports and reduce the trade balance.


– usually have simple payback periods of 6 months to 5 years. 


– reduce the need for expensive and highly visible transmission and distribution systems.


– reduce two to five times the energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions and create two to three times more jobs than renewables per dollar invested; no studies, research, demonstration and pilot plants will be required. 


– have minimal or no pollution, are invisible and quiet, are peaceful; no opposition groups demonstrating against them, something people really like.


– are by far the cleanest energy development anyone can engage in; they often are quick, cheap and easy.


– have a capacity factor = 1.0 and are available 24/7/365.


– use materials, such as for taping, sealing, caulking, insulation, windows, doors, refrigerators, water heaters, furnaces, fans, air conditioners, etc., that are almost entirely made in the US. They represent about 30% of a project cost, the rest is mostly labor. About 70% of the materials cost of expensive renewables, such as PV solar, is imported (panels from China, inverters from Germany), the rest of the materials cost is miscellaneous electrical items and brackets.


– will quickly reduce CO2 at the lowest cost per dollar invested AND make the economy more efficient in many areas which will raise living standards, or prevent them from falling further. 


– if done before renewables, will reduce the future capacities and capital costs of renewables. 










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