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Given the correct framework and conditions, nuclear can be (and is) very competitive in the Netherlands

Mathijs Beckers's picture
Writer The Nuclear Humanist

Independent Energy Analyst, Author, Film-maker

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  • Oct 3, 2019
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Comparative Cost Analysis for Dutch Nuclear Plant Rollout vs Wind & Solar Rollout

Prompted by the 2015 Paris Accord, and the necessity to act on climate change, the Dutch Government is planning to cut domestic emissions by closing coal and gas-fired power plants. To achieve this, they envision the massive and almost exclusive rollout of wind- and solar energy. We question whether this is the most affordable option.

We provide an alternate outlook based on adding 10 nuclear reactors—in the Netherlands—to produce electricity and other energy modalities—at reasonable cost. In this paper, we examine and compare the possible cost-range for building and operating nuclear power plants, solar power plants, and wind farms in the Netherlands, and find that nuclear power is a better option if certain prerequisites are met. We show that nuclear power can be built within a reasonable timeframe, at reasonable cost, and with a large cost benefit ratio. In fact, we find that nuclear energy—in the Netherlands—is more cost-effective than wind and solar. However, do note that we don’t envision a nuclear-exclusive future for the Netherlands. CCS, Renewables, and energy-efficiency measures are still required to reach full decarbonization.

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By deploying 10 reactors, the Netherlands could cut as much as 100 Megatons of annual carbon emissions (~45%).

This article foregoes the need for backup generation and storage for a vast renewable rollout. This will add cost on the renewable side, but these costs are not modeled in this article.

Introduction

The Netherlands is a small but industrious country in Europe with a growing population of 17 million people. According to the Bureau of Statistics, in 2017, carbon emissions per capita per year were 15.4 metric tons of CO2eq.[1] In total the Dutch emit between 260 and 270 megatons of CO2eq per year.

However, the same bureau also states that Dutch carbon emissions were 193 megatons of CO2eq (CO2 163 megatons; N2O, CH4 & F-gases 29 megatons) In 2017.[2]

There are proposals to reduce Dutch carbon emissions by as much as 49%—relative to Dutch emissions in 1990—by 2030 (41 megatons CO2eq). It is important to note that this is a political choice, and the proposed 41 megaton reduction does not constitute 49% of total 1990 emissions (222 megatons CO2eq).[3] They propose ending the use of natural gas for heating purposes; electrifying transportation; and replacing existing fossil fueled electricity production with wind and solar energy. The Dutch Central Planning Bureau estimates that achieving the stated goals would require investments around 80 to 90 billion Euros and increases in annual government expenditures of 3 to 4 billion Euros per year by 2030.[4]

We propose an alternative route that still depends on significant future solar and wind deployments in the Netherlands but will mitigate land and material use[5] by introducing firm baseload / multi-purpose nuclear reactors to a potential future Dutch energy mix. The Dutch government is also planning to shut coal-fired power plants down by 2030.

There are three operational reactors in the Netherlands as of May 2019. Two reactors—the High Flux reactor at Petten and a reactor in Delft—are used for training or medical and research purposes; one is used for electricity production (Borssele 1).

The Dutch Government selected 12 locations for new nuclear reactors in the 1970s. Five locations are still available (Borssele 2, Maasvlakte 1&2, Eemshaven 1&2).

In 2017 Dutch energy infrastructure generated 116.4 Terawatt hours (TWh).[6] Forecasts show that the demand for electricity by 2030 may end up between 115.6 and 138.4 TWh/year.[7]

We propose an alternative to remediate the need for a massive buildout of wind and solar: Adding 10 nuclear reactors to the Dutch energy mix (X Model).

 

Technological Readiness Assessment

To assess the technological readiness of reactor technologies, we create five criteria:  

  • The Dutch government has determined that the minimal requirement for new nuclear deployments should fall within Generation III specifications;[8]
  • The reactors must have been licensed and have been built elsewhere. This means reactors that have a status of “In Operation”, “Construction” or “Licensed” in the Advanced Reactors Information System (IAEA ARIS);
  • To make the most out of the limited space ready for nuclear reactor installation we pick high-capacity reactors (1100+ MWe);
  • Must have passed the FOAK (first of a kind) stage;
  • Reactor vendors cannot reside in countries under sanctions by the Netherlands (which excludes Russian VVER designs).

These reactors will be sorted by number of units operational, under construction, and planned. Initially, we determine that the following reactors fit within the criteria: APR1400 (13 units), AP1000 (12 units), EPR (10 units), ABWR (9 units). See appendix

Productivity Figures & Avoided CO2 Emissions

The aim is to show the volume of carbon emissions that can be offset by closing coal and gas and replacing them with nuclear power plants. We modelled 10 large reactors (X Model) and assume a 0.9 Capacity Factor (CF). We also assume a high carbon footprint of 15 gCO2eq/KWh for both renewable and nuclear energy and this means that the emissions for wind and solar will be equivalent to those stated underneath each reactor technology. Note: the fuel for these reactors can be fabricated in the Netherlands at URENCO.

 X MODEL

EPR

ESBWR

APR1400

ABWR

AP1000

Single unit capacity (MW)

1770

1600

1455

1420

1200

Total capacity of 10 units (MW)

17700

16000

14550

14200

12000

 Assumed minimal Lifetime (years)

60

60

60

60

60

Annual Production of 10 units (TWh)

140

126

115

112

95

Annual emissions (Megatons CO2eq)

2.09

1.89

1.72

1.68

1.42

 

During operation, nuclear power stations incur no carbon emissions. Only during the fabrication of all the materials, the construction of the plant, and fuel production for a nuclear power station will carbon emissions occur. Construction, fueling and maintenance emissions for nuclear power plants are equivalent to those of wind and solar power generators on a productivity-based level playing field.[9] [10]

Dutch Coal Plants run at Capacity Factors ranging from 0.59 to 0.66, with an installed capacity of 4,660 MW. These plants can produce between 24 and 27 TWh per year. The life cycle emissions from coal are between 740 and 910 gCO2eq/KWh resulting in a range from 17.8 to 24.6 Megatons CO2eq per year.[11] [12] [13]

Dutch Gas Plants run at Capacity Factors ranging from 0.38 to 0.79, with an installed capacity of 15,347 MW. These plants can produce between 51 and 106 TWh per year. The life cycle emissions from gas are between 410 and 650 gCO2eq/KWh resulting in a range from 20.9 to 68.9 Megatons CO2eq per year.[14] [15] 

Annual demand in the Netherlands is several TWh higher than is delivered by domestic installed capacity. Therefore, the balance of electricity is consistently imported from Belgium, Germany, Great Britain and Denmark.

In our X Model, all technologies (EPR, ESBWR, APR1400, ABWR, AP1000) displace all coal and all gas-fired electricity generation on the low end of the range offsetting 95 to 98% (36.58 and 91.38 megatons CO2eq) of all emissions from coal and gas. Smaller units are less effective offsetting 71 to 95% (36.58 and 66.46 megatons CO2eq) of all emissions from coal and gas. 10 EPR reactors would generate more electricity than projected demand.

Adding 10 nuclear reactors to the Dutch electricity mix would result in a 36.58 to 91.38 Megatons reduction of annual carbon emissions, almost matching or completely overshooting the Dutch Government’s ambition to cut 41 megatons per year by 2030 but simultaneously bridging a more significant gap towards a fully carbon neutral economy, decades ahead of schedule.

Investment, Annual Costs, Benefits

A recent MIT Study has outlined that it is cheaper to deploy an all-of-the-above electricity mix. Instead of only deploying variable renewables like the Dutch government is planning, the Dutch should include firm baseload power sources, storage, demand response, and CCS. The study offers a new taxonomy for electricity sources: “fuel saving / variable renewables”, “Low Carbon Firm Baseload / Nuclear, natural gas with CCS”, “Fast-Burst / storage, demand response”.[16]

There’s more to nuclear reactors than cost, they also generate large volumes of heat and/or electricity that can be used to add value to the Dutch Economy. Additionally, nuclear reactor facilities pay taxes over the commodity produced; they pay property taxes; and they employ hundreds to thousands of highly skilled, well-paid individuals who each contribute to the economy. According to a report by Deloitte “Every Euro of the nuclear industry’s direct contribution to EU GDP generates an indirect contribution of 4 Euro, totaling an impact of 5 Euro in the EU GDP”; according to the same article, “Every job created directly in the nuclear sector sustains another 2.2 jobs, totaling an impact of 3.2 jobs on the EU labor force market”; and “Every Euro of disposable household income generated due to the nuclear industry translates into a total impact of 3.6 Euro household income throughout the EU”.  It is therefore reasonable to assert that civilian nuclear power plants offer great economic benefit and should be considered seriously.[17]  

In our X model we calculate levelized cost of electricity based on a discount rate range from 3 to 10% with increments of 1%. We assume a maximum reasonable cost-to-produce-electricity of 60 Euro/MWh which is in line with current cost-to-produce-electricity and would maintain a reasonable cost of electricity for end-users (~220 Euro/MWh). We use historical data to set wind and solar capacity factors[18]; Solar has reached its highest CF so far in 2018 at ~10%; Average weighted Offshore Wind CF is ~38% [19]; Nuclear capacity factors have been arbitrarily set to 90% which is lower than the norm in the United States.[20]

Dutch ratepayers pay about 150 Euro/MWh in taxes (VAT & Energy Tax) which means that any form of energy production is a sizeable source of income for the Dutch government. Note: electricity taxes vary from year to year.

We find that capital expenditures for the EPR ranges from 2,000 to 7,000 Euro/kW; the APR1400 ranges from 1,600 to 4,000 Euro/kW; the AP1000 ranges from 2,400 to 10,000 Euro/kW; PV ranges from 770 to 3,900 Euro/kW; Wind ranges from 1,200 to 6,600 Euro/kW.

Our Fixed and Variable cost assumptions are averaged values derived from the February 2019 EIA Electricity Market Module.[21]

Note: the cost of decomissioning a nuclear power plant is an integral element of the Fixed O&M
(it is included in all subsequent LCOE results).

Based on actual Dutch capacity factors, to get a commensurate volume of energy production for each nuclear capacity unit, you have to build 9 units of solar or 3.75 units of wind. On average—in terms of capital expenditure—for every 4,257 Euro spent per kW on nuclear you have to spend 12,024 Euro for 9 kW of PV capacity and 10,678 Euro for 3.75 kW of wind capacity to get a similar volume in annual energy output (with a different and less-dependable delivery pattern).

While analysing the potential cost ranges for the X models and equivalents for the separate technologies we note that all reactor technologies are competitive. The highest level of uncertainty in CAPEX cost can be seen with the AP1000, which is a result of the cost overruns at Vogtle 3 & 4. However, we see higher degrees of uncertainty at the wind and solar power equivalents. This is a function of the lower and unpredictable capacity factor as we are comparing capacities with equivalent volume of annual generation.

The potential investment range of all models for 10 reactors sits between 22 and 115 billion Euro; the equivalent of solar sits between 78 and 561 billion Euro; the equivalent of wind sits between 34 and 275 billion Euro.

We find that the Levelized Cost of Electricity (LCOE) for the EPR ranges from 30.2 to 142.6 Euro/MWh; for the APR1400 ranges from 28.2 to 93.2 Euro/MWh; the AP1000 ranges from 32.0 to 200.8 Euro/MWh; PV ranges from 72.5 to 504.3 Euro/MWh; Wind ranges from 55.4 to 249.2 Euro/MWh.

We find that within this range Nuclear produces a favorable LCOE* in 59.7% of all the possible outcomes; Solar produces no favorable results; and Wind produces favorable results in 2.4% of all possible outcomes, which is near zero and offers negligible benefits, if any.

* favorable means <60 Euro/MWh

Build Time

It is often said that nuclear takes a long time to build. The question is whether these claims are based on real-world outcomes. When we consider the IAEA PRIS Database, we find that the all-time average build time (date commissioned <> date operational) for nuclear reactors is 8.2 years; 67 reactors (16%) have been constructed within 5 years; 266 reactors (62%) have been constructed within 10 years; 94 reactors (22%) took over 10 years to complete. The following graphs copied from the 2018 World Nuclear Performance Report offer more insight.[22]

(figures extracted from report)

With a median build time of 58 months in 2017, down from 74 in the year before, nuclear deployment speeds are sufficiently high to expect that the Netherlands can decarbonize a large portion of their electricity network before or around 2030 by deploying 10 nuclear reactors—thus making significant carbon reductions, mandated by the Paris Agreement, possible.

Avoiding pitfalls

Before considering a new nuclear buildout, it is important to note that nearly failed FOAK projects are not the norm. A study published in 2018 determined several key aspects that can be used to differentiate between low-cost and high-cost power plants.[23]

(figure extracted from report)

For additional insights we refer to The ETI Nuclear Cost Drivers Project: Summary Report.

Electricity cost differences between countries

The price consumers pay for electricity in Germany, is significantly higher than in the Netherlands (300 Euro/MWh over 240 Euro/MWh). One of the reasons why their electricity prices are higher is the renewable surcharge which accounts for one fifth of their electricity bill (64 Euro/MWh); grid charges are one fourth (71 Euro/MWh); supplier’s costs is one fourth (69 Euro/MWh).[24] It seems that with the advent of a massive renewable rollout in the Netherlands Dutch ratepayers will see similar surcharges and a commensurate increase in grid charges. In fact, for offshore wind it is estimated that the average offshore grid charge (on top of regular grid pricing) will be 19 Euro/MWh which is an order of magnitude more expensive than contemporary onshore resources.

Electricity prices in France, on the other hand, are much lower. In fact, they have among the lowest prices in all of Europe—having decarbonized a significant portion of their electricity grid—and this mainly due to a high penetration of Nuclear, built with optimal financing costs. The French pay around 179 Euro/MWh (somewhat more than half of what the Germans pay for their electricity).[25] In France the makeup in electricity costs is almost evenly divided between Supplier’s costs, Grid charges and taxes (~60 Euro/MWh each).[26]

 

Recommendations

Choose a standardized design

If the Dutch Government or a company goes forward with the commissioning of one or more reactors, it would be beneficial to buy a proven design that does not require any significant alterations. This is possible, because there are operational reactors of the types that we’ve used to model the outcome of this article, following the criteria laid out previously. We suggest choosing one of these existing standardized reactors and replicate it 10 times.

Work with experienced partners

To expedite the deployment of nuclear reactors we suggest cooperation between Dutch and international partners that are experienced in managing the construction of nuclear power plants. Consider for instance the four APR1400 units (Barakah 1,2,3,4) that are under construction in the United Arab Emirates and are being built by national and international contractors and reactor vendor KEPCO. Out of the 12 APR1400 reactors, one is operational, 7 more are being built in South Korea and 4 are being built in the United Arab Emirates.

For building EPR power plants, a similar network of partners can be found across many different countries: The Chinese have constructed and completed one EPR unit (Taishan1) and are in the process of finishing the second unit (Taishan 2); Finland is in the process of finishing their EPR (Olkiluoto 3); France is in the process of finishing their first EPR (Flamanville 3) and are planning to build another 2 (sites to be determined); The United Kingdom is building their first two EPR units (Hinkley Point C1 &2) and planning another two (Sizewell C1 & 2); India has plans to build six units (Jaitapur).

Five countries are considering building or have built AP1000 reactor power plants: China, The United States of America, Bulgaria, India, and The United Kingdom.

  • So far, four reactors have been completed (Sanmen 1 & 2, Haiyang 1 & 2);
  • 4 reactors are under construction in the United States (Vogtle 3 & 4), of which two are now halted for economic reasons (VC Summer 2 & 3) but may return to construction once a new owner is found;
  • The Bulgarian government has signed a shareholder agreement for the construction of one AP1000 (Kozlyduy 7);
  • In the United Kingdom the construction of the three planned AP1000 units (Moorside) is unsure;
  • In March 2019, The United States and India have agreed to build 6 AP1000 units.  

There are four operational ABWR units operational (Kashiwazaki-Kariwa 6 & 7, Hamaoka 5, Shika 2).

The APR1400 (KEPCO), AP1000 (Westinghouse), and EPR (AREVA) seem to be the most suitable candidates for blueprinting and deployment in the Netherlands; provided that the Netherlands is willing and able to facilitate higher education domestically to provide the necessary expertise; hire international expertise; work with international construction firms to expedite deployment and introduce new learning opportunities.[27]

Dutch R&D

The Netherlands has strong nuclear R&D potential. There is ongoing research in nuclear materials-science; production of medical isotopes; reactor design (SAMOFAR project amongst others). By investing in and expanding existing infrastructure at the Technical University in Delft and the reactor complex in Petten the Netherlands can maintain a prominent role in nuclear operation and R&D. Also, URENCO, a world leading company in nuclear fuel production has a plant in Almelo, The Netherlands.

Beyond Generation III

Non-Electric Energy Uses / Cogeneration

The Netherlands is home to several energy intense industries: steel production; fertilizer production; chemical production; and oil refining. These industries are notoriously difficult to decarbonize, as they mostly require heat-based energy input instead of electricity. Most of the heat in these industries is generated by burning natural gas and coal. We can use high-temperature reactors (HTR — which do not include the EPR, APR1400, or AP1000) to generate this heat, this offers an alternate avenue to wean the Dutch economy off natural gas without having to eliminate its world-class gas-distribution network. In fact, HTR reactors can be used to create hydrogen that the Dutch consumer can use instead of natural gas. It is also possible to synthesize other lower carbon (or even carbon neutral) liquid fuels to offset natural gas usage.

These high temperature reactors, generally, are small modular reactors that offer more versatility. These technologies will become commercially available before 2030, but likely too late to help the Dutch to get rid of their coal- and gas fired power plants in time. However, we could deploy HTRs in addition to 10 large generation III reactors to create district heat, potable water, H2, NH3, and other commodities.

The Generation III reactors selected in this study are also capable of providing district heat.

Below you can see the outcome of our Cost-Benefit ratio analysis and it shows that nuclear in general, but specifically small modular reactors will likely offer the highest benefit per unit of cost.  The high-end of the Cost-Benefit ratio for SMRs is based on the IMSR600 (Integral Molten Salt Reactor) that is being developed by Terrestrial Energy. There are other startups working on similar designs.

Nuclear Waste

Currently, the Dutch are seeking ways to dispose of nuclear waste. The Dutch have an intermediate storage facility called COVRA (Central Organization for Radioactive Waste). A lot of the waste stored at COVRA comes from radio-medicine.

Spent nuclear fuel is regarded as nuclear waste. And this is true if you consider it from a conventional reactor technology point of view. Less than 5% of the energy has been extracted from the fuel. The rest is sequestered as waste. However, Generation IV reactors (like the Molten Salt Reactor) can recycle this spent nuclear fuel and extract the remaining energy from it, greatly reducing the longevity of said “nuclear waste”. In the future, waste-converting reactors will be commercially available. We suggest rebranding nuclear waste into nuclear fission products and store them in a repository from which they can be retrieved.

Prerequisites for a successful nuclear roll-out

We advise the Dutch government to consider the following:

  • Building 10 new nuclear reactors (APR1400, EPR, AP1000) in order to meet the goals, set in accordance with the Paris Accord;
  • Continue stimulating the construction of wind and solar projects in conjunction with new nuclear deployments;
  • Investigating newer and evaluate which of them would fit within the goal of replacing natural gas with another liquid/gaseous fuel to burn instead, thus keeping a world-class gas-distribution network intact;
  • Investigating newer designs in the context of which of them would fit within the goal of recycling spent nuclear fuel;
  • Re-evaluate their stance on spent nuclear fuel, i.e. nuclear waste, and consider it a resource for future reactors;
  • Invest in new qualified personnel required to operate this fleet of reactors.

Any nuclear roll-out should be based upon the following prerequisites:

  • Finance new energy infrastructure with low-cost (government) loans to keep CAPEX low;
  • Buy a blueprinted product, not a project, and do not allow any unnecessary blueprint alterations after construction has begun;
  • Create a strictly enforced timeline (from the start of the build until commercial operation);
  • Concentrate on increasing build-speed & efficiency from the first until the last unit build;
  • Willingness to work with international experts and construction firms;
  • Willingness to educate a future nuclear workforce.

Conclusion

We find that nuclear is the cheapest option to decarbonize the Dutch electricity network and competes very well with solar and wind. Additionally, nuclear offers more system stability, and offers co-production opportunities, maximizing utility. In terms of cost, given the low capacity factors, solar and wind have higher outcomes than nuclear and seem more expensive considering levelized cost in a truly levelized playing field, for example, when compared using equalized discount rates. We determine that it is feasible to close all coal-fired power plants in the Netherlands as early as 2030 by putting into operation 10 new high capacity nuclear reactors at reasonable capital expenditure (under 100 Billion Euro for 10 reactors); likely to be much lower than the investment required for wind and solar and commensurate backup systems and grid increases. The lower end based on low discount/low CAPEX Chinese reactors; the higher end based on high discount/high capex European and American reactors (Vogtle, Flamanville, Hinkley C, Olkiluoto) will be the more likely scenario for the Netherlands if nothing changes policy-wise. This serves as a stark reminder that nuclear can be done cheaply under the right circumstances and shows us that the Dutch government must enact new legislation to help make nuclear a viable option. Deploying 10 new nuclear reactors will result in a carbon emissions reduction of up to 100 megatons per year.

In this scenario roughly 45% of all emissions have been reduced; and this still necessitates the deployment of more low-carbon energy generation technologies like wind, solar, hydro, goethermal, gas+ccs.

 

 

APPENDIX

ARIS / PRIS check

In operation

ABWR

GE-Hitachi

 

Advanced Boiling Water Reactor

1420 MWe

 

https://aris.iaea.org/PDF/ABWR.pdf

Planned

Under Construction

Operational (or testing)

5

1

3

 

APR1000

KEPCO

 

Advanced Power Reactor

1050 MWe

 

https://aris.iaea.org/PDF/APR1000.pdf

Planned

Under Construction

Operational (or testing)

 

 

 

Under Construction

EPR

AREVA

 

The Evolutionary Power Reactor

1770 MWe

 

https://aris.iaea.org/PDF/EPR.pdf

Planned

Under Construction

Operational (or testing)

4

5

1

 

APR1400

KEPCO

 

Advanced Power Reactor 1400

1455 MWe

 

https://aris.iaea.org/PDF/APR1400.pdf

Planned

Under Construction

Operational (or testing)

 

9

4

 

AP1000

Westinghouse

 

Advanced Passive PWR

1200 MWe

 

https://aris.iaea.org/PDF/AP1000.pdf

Planned

Under Construction

Operational (or testing)

6

2

4

 

Licensed

ESBWR

GE-Hitachi

 

The Evolutionary Power Reactor

1600 MWe

 

https://aris.iaea.org/PDF/ESBWR.pdf

Planned

Under Construction

Operational (or testing)

2

 

 

End Notes

 


[1]             

https://www.cbs.nl/en-gb/news/2018/20/dutch-ghg-footprint-larger-in-2017

[2]             

https://www.cbs.nl/en-gb/news/2018/20/dutch-ghg-footprint-larger-in-2017

[3]             

https://www.clo.nl/indicatoren/nl016529-broeikasgasemissies-in-nederland

[4]             

https://www.pbl.nl/nieuws/nieuwsberichten/2018/voorstel-klimaatakkoord-g...

[5]             

https://www.metabolic.nl/publications/metal-demand-for-renewable-electri...

[6]             

https://energiecijfers.info/hoofdstuk-5-duurzaamheid-energievoorziening/

[7]

www.tennet.eu/fileadmin/user_upload/Company/Publications/Technical_Publi...

[8]             

https://zoek.officielebekendmakingen.nl/kst-32645-1.html

[9]         

https://www.ipcc.ch/site/assets/uploads/2018/02/ipcc_wg3_ar5_chapter7.pdf

[10]

https://www.nrel.gov/analysis/life-cycle-assessment.html

[11]           

https://www.ipcc.ch/site/assets/uploads/2018/02/ipcc_wg3_ar5_annex-ii.pdf

[12]           

https://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kolencentrales_in_Nederland

[13]           

https://www.cbs.nl/nl-nl/nieuws/2016/26/elektriciteitsproductie-uit-stee...

[14]           

https://www.ipcc.ch/site/assets/uploads/2018/02/ipcc_wg3_ar5_annex-ii.pdf

 

[15]           

https://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lijst_van_elektriciteitscentrales_in_Neder...

[16]        

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0306261918303180?via%...

[17]           

https://www.foratom.org/press-release/investing-in-low-carbon-nuclear-ge...

[18]

http://www.solarsolutions.nl/solar-trendrapport/#download

[19]

https://hollandsolar.nl/u/files/hernieuwbare-energie-webversie.pdf

[20]        

https://www.eia.gov/electricity/monthly/

[21]

https://www.eia.gov/outlooks/aeo/assumptions/pdf/electricity.pdf

[22]        

http://world-nuclear.org/getmedia/b392d1cd-f7d2-4d54-9355-9a65f71a3419/w...

[23]        

https://www.eti.co.uk/library/the-eti-nuclear-cost-drivers-project-summa...

[24]
https://www.cleanenergywire.org/factsheets/what-german-households-pay-power

[25]
https://www.statista.com/statistics/418087/electricity-prices-for-househ...

[26]
https://en.selectra.info/energy-france/guides/electricity/cost

[27]           

https://www.mdpi.com/1996-1073/10/12/2169/pdf 

 

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Thank Mathijs for the Post!
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Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Oct 3, 2019

Welcome to the community, Mathijs, and thanks for contributing such a thoroughly researched piece. Really fascinating to read through.

You make your case for the technical and economic argument for Dutch nuclear, but I'm hoping you can comment on the political aspect of it. Is there the popular and/or political will for nuclear to be a solution in this regard?

Mathijs Beckers's picture
Mathijs Beckers on Oct 4, 2019

That's a good question. I'll be brief: 
<60% of the general population is in support. Government support is very tentative, mainly on hold after Fukushima; the ministers responsible are afraid to include it in any plan - hence the reason why it wasn't included; We have a working nuclear industry, and they can function without any real obstruction; The current largest party (VVD) is in favor of nuclear, while coalition partners are either ambivalent or anti. 

The situation outlined in this response, is the reason why I wrote this article. I think we have a chance of turning the "nuclear ship" around and set course into the right direction.

Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Oct 7, 2019

Thanks for the response, Mathijs

Mark Silverstone's picture
Mark Silverstone on Oct 8, 2019

Thanks for this report Matthijs - It seems to me that you are asking the Dutch to put all of their eggs in the nuclear basket. 

You mention "...we find that the all-time average build time (date commissioned <> date operational) for nuclear reactors is 8.2 years.." I´m sure you realize that the time that the clock will tick prior to commissioning will be very long indeed, probably measured at a minimum of a few years. Meanwhile, sun and wind projects can move forward now, with well known costs and timeframes and, not least, reasonably well documented carbon footprints for the construction phase.  The nuclear industry is in serious denial regarding the carbon footprint for nuclear during the mining, construction, waste disposal phases.

Did you mean to say "...<60% of the general population is in support."? It may well be a LOT less than 60%. 

That is not to say that there is no room from nuclear, especially in an advanced society such as  Holland.  I just question whether it is wise, much less realistic, to imagine that Holland will go "all in" with nuclear, given the industry´s record for delivery. The assumption that the waste will be utilized by molten salt reactors is an especially dangerous one.

One thing is fairly certain: The Dutch WILL reduce reliance on fossil fuels. It will be very interesting to see how it is done.

I look forward to watching developments.

 

Mathijs Beckers's picture
Mathijs Beckers on Oct 9, 2019

By no means, this is a hypothetical scenario modelled to show that the chosen way is not the most cost-effective and efficent. What the Dutch Government does, is up to them. They could do it in 10 years because we have the sites, we rely on finished designs, we rely on licensable reactors. 

I don't presume to be able to steer the government or market into the nuclear direction. But it would be a shame if no one bothered to qualify an alternative (especially given the fact that Nuclear was excluded from the so-called Climate Tables-not even invited, despite having a presence in the Netherlands). 

Mark Silverstone's picture
Mark Silverstone on Oct 9, 2019

Thanks for the clarification Mathijs. 

 

Mark Silverstone's picture
Mark Silverstone on Oct 10, 2019

Sorry Mathijs - I don´t mean to harass you!

I searched around in the references regarding "We also assume a high carbon footprint of 15 gCO2eq/KWh for both renewable and nuclear energy and this means that the emissions for wind and solar will be equivalent to those stated underneath each reactor technology."

Can you comment on the source of your assumption?

The following reference looks more closely as comparative carbon footprints of a variety of generating system.

http://web.stanford.edu/group/efmh/jacobson/Articles/I/ReviewSolGW09.pdf

You will notice that  estimates of carbon footprint varies considerably with respect to the type of generating system, the source of the data and a variety of other variables.  I doubt that anyone would claim that this is anywhere near the final word on the subect.

Nevertheless, the author states categorically: "Wind has the lowest lifecycle CO2e among the technologies considered."

Many thanks.

 

Mark Silverstone

 

 

 

 

Mathijs Beckers's picture
Mathijs Beckers on Oct 11, 2019

In essence, replacing coal and gas (in the netherlands) has the same effect, whether you use nuclear, wind or solar.

Jacobson is the worst to cite here, he assumes that building nuclear reactors will lead to nuclear war, and then calculates the carbon emissions of a burning city and adds them to the figure related to nuclear electricity production. Highly contentious! 

There is a plethora of life-cycle emissions analyses and they are all over the place. Most people claim that renewables and/or nuclear are zero-emissions sources of energy, but this is untrue; and will remain so as long as we need fossil fuels to mine the materials, fabricate components, transportation, and installation. These are the emissions that are heaped onto the technology.

What isn't added is the requirement to transport the energy to the place where it is used, and the backup required during moments of low-energy generation (renewables) which, unfortunately, despite all the possible backup technologies, is done by burning gas, coal, lignite, and biomass in most parts of the world. These are always omitted during life-cycle ghg emissions.

So far, this accounting for nuclear is pretty clear. Sovacool and Jacobson like to use old methods of mining and fuel fabrication (+ add ipse-dixit references in which there are hidden assumptions) The life-cycle emissions according to the IPCC are largely on par with each other. 

Since there are so many different life-cycle analyses I decided to arbritrary set wind and solar and nuclear to 15 GramsCO2equivalent/KWh as this is near zero when compared to Coal (up to 1 kilo/kWh and Gas up to 1/2 kilo/kWh). 

Here's some sources to show just how all over the place emissions figures are.

https://www.ipcc.ch/site/assets/uploads/2018/02/ipcc_wg3_ar5_full.pdf

https://www.carbonbrief.org/solar-wind-nuclear-amazingly-low-carbon-foot...

https://www.nrel.gov/docs/fy13osti/57187.pdf

http://www.world-nuclear.org/uploadedFiles/org/WNA/Publications/Working_...

http://energyforhumanity.org/briefings/carbon-emissions/lifecycle-carbon...

https://orbit.dtu.dk/files/118476742/2012_RSER_Turconi_Life_cycle_assess...

Joe Deely's picture
Joe Deely on Oct 5, 2019

Seems like the low-hanging fruit in lowering Dutch CO2 would be to lower coal usage and speed up coal closure... which appears to be going pretty well this year.

One coal plant closing next year and 4 more to go.

 The Dutch government will close one of the five coal-fired power plants in the Netherlands next year, four years earlier than originally planned, to help reach its climate goals

Also, isn't the Dutch government going to enact a CO2 tax that goes into effect in 2021. 

Companies will have to pay 30 euros ($34) per ton of CO2 emitted from 2021, according to a statement from the Dutch government. That tax can go up to between 125 euros and 150 euros per ton in 2030. Proceeds from the plan will be largely used to make industrial firms more sustainable.

If this gets implemented then the remaining coal should close with a couple of years.

With coal on the way out, why couldn't the Dutch government have an auction to replace the remaining fossil fuel - NG?  Specify the rules and see who wins.  Solar and wind with storage or nuclear?

Mathijs Beckers's picture
Mathijs Beckers on Oct 11, 2019

The trouble here is that it's the low-hanging fruit in most of the Northern/Western European countries, and that "Nord Pool" which basically interconnected Northern/Western EU largely consists of countries that unilaterally decide they want to rely on energy-imports to offset the loss of coal. And that's the tricky part, because we can't all lose capacity and then maintain our economies without the required energy.

Some countries are even considering to close down their nuclear plants and replace them with natural gas plants.

David Svarrer's picture
David Svarrer on Oct 7, 2019

Dear Mathijs, 

It is indeed an in depth article on Nuclear Power. But hidden in your long scripture is various assumptions where you are not making ends meet. 

You assume that Solar and Wind produces 15 g CO2 per kWh. You cannot just present page after page of documentation for your nuclear ideal solutions and then just "assume" that solar and wind produces 15 g CO2 per kWh. 

I will not speak for other systems than the ones I know. I am participating in producing a solar concentrator system for domestic use, which does not have any emissions what so ever, beyond the production of the system plus maintenance of the same. 

The system saves 2.5 metric ton of CO2 per kiloWatt of peak energy production capacity per year, and it is carbon neutral (no matter which size) after 12 days of use, and carbon neutral for its 50 year expected minimum life span (construction is made entirely in stainless steel), after a total of 19 days of use.

You can actually make up the figures yourself - the system uses 5.5 kilogram of stainless steel and 8.8 kilogram of glass, per kiloWatt peak effect. Not withstanding the ability to reuse 99.5% of the material in case of maintenance with replacement - we estimate a 1.1% replacement per year of materials due to breakage etc. - and if we do not account for the recycling of these - this means, 55% of the system replaced within 50 years. Thus, the 19 days of use.

We are based on empirics, not assumptions. We have built a prototype, and we are based on empirics in terms of measuring the wear and tear on these materials in ocean-near environments - not theory. 

Therefore, Mathijs, I would also like you to document the feasibility of your costing and CO2 - as they do not - not at all - add up to the just recently published expected (budgetted) cost of the new upcoming British super-power-station in Southern England - Hinkley - where the cost per Watt is USD 7.00+ and the amounts (rather mountains) of materials needed per Watt produced is bordering unfathomable.

You are furthermore assuming a life span of 60 years. Many nuclear powerstations must be left as monuments, and sealed off, way before 60 years, due to various radioactive contaminations which seem not possible to remove.

The solar concentrator solutions which I am employed to deal with, right now, have no such consequences - it is as non-dangerous and non-poisonous and non-radioactive 50 years after, as it is, when constructed. 

I must say that your article seem very well documented - but - you recall the swearing in court cases - the truth - the whole truth and nothing but the truth? I think you - on a scientifically basis - have some issues with the whole truth and the Nothing but the truth. Your assumption of 15 gram CO2 per kWh for at least the solar power I know of - is not only exaggerated - it is outright wrong. Your assumption of 60 years of life span is not documented, and where is the documentation for your pricing, when Hinkley - a super modern facility by all means - cost USD 7 per Watt? 

For the sake of good order, I am not saying, Mathijs that you are lying. It is indeed possible to present something which is not true, in good faith. I believe from my reading, that you have presented what you surely believe is true. But I challenge that truth. See documentation here below - which is reality values (empirical data).

Sincerely

David Svarrer

Documentation: 

Hinkley: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hinkley_Point_C_nuclear_power_station - documents GBP 20.3 Billion

Exceeding budget: https://uk.reuters.com/article/uk-britain-nuclear-hinkley-edf/french-pow... - documents a new USD 22.5 Billion as final cost.

Glass production: 0.3 kg CO2 per kilo glass - http://www.greenrationbook.org.uk/resources/footprints-glass/

Carbon footprint of Steel: 2 kg CO2 per kilo steel: https://www.newsteelconstruction.com/wp/the-carbon-footprint-of-steel/

 

Mathijs Beckers's picture
Mathijs Beckers on Oct 9, 2019

I will not reply to anyone who suggests that I am, or accuses me of, lying.

David Svarrer's picture
David Svarrer on Oct 8, 2019

Dear Mathijs Beckers, 

You are arguing "set the course into the right direction", implying that you apparently have an opinion about that nuclear is the right direction. 

I think that is dangerous. 

For my part, I do not have a particular opinion about the particular solution - as in - what it must be. I have opinions about the side-effects of that solution. Therefore, I don't support large scale Wind energy as these large scale wind mills seem to be polluting quite a lot in terms of noise and materials which cannot be broken down (no cradle-to-cradle). I do not support Photo Voltaic cells as these apparently contains pollutants such as Arsen etc - I do not support Nuclear power, as it seem we (humans) are unable to control these stations, and they seem to end up as radioactive waste blocks of humongous dimensions. 

So - while I am working with solar concentrators for domestic use (am employed to do so) - I accepted only after having understood the concept as being totally safe. I have criticized that the control box is still a computer (a so called embedded computer) where my employer has no solution for how to recycle it - however - one of my tasks is to create a cradle-to-cradle solution for this, before January 1st, 2025. And - when comparing a 6 centimeter by 8 centimeter computer board (a so called Printed Circuit Board) with the several square meter PCB's to run a windmill and the maybe hundreds of square meters of PCB's to run a nuclear facility - I am not nervous to discuss which one I would pick :-)

I have challenged your otherwise very well researched article on some crucial points of truth - and am eager to receive your response. 

Have a nice day.

Sincerely

David Svarrer

(added, 8th of October 2019: Just in case you would like to know how Uranium is being dealt with as ruthlessly as Oil: https://catapult.co/stories/in-the-sahara-a-little-known-nuclear-wasteland)

David Svarrer's picture
David Svarrer on Oct 8, 2019

Dear Mathijs, 

I have also gone through your sources, and that is why I am not blaming you for your writeup. 

In example, your reference [5] - https://www.metabolic.nl/publications/metal-demand-for-renewable-electri... - is making a lot of assumptions on the renewable energy side, namely that storing the intermittent energy from Wind and Solar requires uncommon metals. Well.

Storage in plain stones (!) is working very well for heat - and in example RISOE (Denmark) has recently got into a R&D programme with use of steel/iron encapsulated stones (plain stones), for heat storage at 600°C. - reference is here: http://energilager.nu/en/home/ 

The same article [5] assumes that wind and solar necessarily needs huge infrastructure systems in place, due to the same intermittence of the energy source.

Again - some of the most industrious new solutions are not based on a grid, but based on massive distribution of the energy sources. This energy (solar) is there in plenty - the system to "take it down" costs a fraction of any known energy source - the storage system (stones insulated with plain soil) is cheap and everywhere-present.

On the nuclear side, you see in your reference [23] which is in fact this link here: https://d2umxnkyjne36n.cloudfront.net/documents/D7.3-ETI-Nuclear-Cost-Dr... - on page 17, figure 6, that the cost for completed nuclear power stations seem to "creep" down to USD 2 per Watt - which is in stark contrast to the reality on the ground - again - reference - Hinkley. 

Even so - if the cost - was really USD 2 per Watt, it is still extremely much more expensive compared to the domestic solar concentrator solution. (No need to repeat my earlier response to you).

Lots of your referenced materials are indeed correct - but these are merely statistical of nature and naturally a necessary supplement to build your article argument - however - when I read through them (and I have read 21 of them by now), I have not seen anywhere any challenge of my arguments in my initial response to you. 

Therefore my question still stands - now backed in my own references (given in my responses to you) - and corroborated by reading details in your reference material - question being: 

What argues for Nuclear power when it is more costly, more dangerous, non-recyclable, and beyond the inherent danger in its operation - it produces nuclear waste which we do not know what to do with - dangerous dangerous waste - which Sellafield is a documentation of - and where USA and other countries have similar storages and storage problems.

I am not asking rhetorically. I am asking you for real.

(I have today, 8th of October 2019, added this reference to the Hanford facility and the unsurmountable problems cleaning up the radioactive mess, there: https://www.newsweek.com/hanford-nuclear-reservation-radioactive-waste-4... - beware that these news are official, and documented from Reuters. They support and corroborate the numerous - in the hundreds - articles about Hanford. In short: Cleaning up the mess is expected to cost USD 110 Billion. Billion, not Million. Generally all nuclear facilities ends up with a mess of radioactive waste - I professionally consider it hazardous, careless and ruthless to open even one single more nuclear facility - even if we had no other option for energy - as long as we have not found solutions for the sustainability of nuclear power and a sustainable and easy way to neutralize the waste)

Sincerely

David Svarrer

 

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