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Nuclear Energy: Mark Bittman's Renewables Delusions

Nuclear and Renewables

Nuclear provided America with about 180 times more energy than solar last year, and is one of our cheapest, safest baseload sources of zero-carbon energy, and yet New York Times food columnist Mark Bittman insists that solar and other renewables are better positioned than nuclear to replace coal. This post debunks Bittman’s column. 

New nuclear plants are being built around the world including in the United States. Bittman incorrectly suggests that nuclear energy is going away. In fact, there are 69 nuclear power plants under construction around the world right now, dozens of which will come online in the next year. China has 28 plants under construction, Russia has 11, and there’s even a small handful in Europe. Japan is not only restarting some of their idled reactors, but also approving construction of new nuclear plants.

In the wake of Fukushima, no countries announced plans to cancel new nuclear reactors, and several countries (UAE, Turkey, Jordan) announced plans to begin construction on their very first nuclear power plants. The United States is indeed closing a few old plants — Vermont Yankee operated for four decades — but we also have four new larger nuclear reactors under construction.

Renewables require a massive expansion of the grid, not its demise. Bittman imagines that renewables are like personal computers displacing mainframes, essentially freeing us from the grid, but this is the opposite of what the NREL study he cites actually claims. NREL’s study relies on a huge expansion and upgrade of the electrical grid, not its dismantling. Renewable energy like wind and solar, by their intermittent nature, require more grid infrastructure not less.

In Germany, for instance, the government is currently spending $25 billion on 2300 miles of new high-voltage transmission lines, and when the sun doesn’t shine (which is often the case in Germany) the country relies on the interconnected European grid to import electricity from other countries (like nuclear-powered France).

Renewables, on the other hand, are far from ready to replace fossil fuels in any country. Germany, in fact, is building new coal plants.

Nuclear receives far less subsidies than renewables. Bittman attacks nuclear subsidies, but they are far smaller than renewables subsidies. Since 1950, nuclear power has received $3.60 in federal subsidies for every megawatt-hour of electricity it has produced, compared to $1.50 for coal, $5.70 for gas, $6 for hydro, and over $100 for solar and wind. Germany has committed over $130 billion to solar subsidies since 2000, yet only receives 5 percent of its annual electricity from solar.

Renewables are far more dependent on subsidies than nuclear. Meanwhile, renewables are completely dependent on federal and state subsidies. When the federal PTC for wind expires, new wind projects plummet. And these are not loans; these are direct payments, tax credits and grants ($10 billion from 2009-2014). Wind and solar may be competitive with coal in some areas, but that’s including these massive subsidies. Renewables also receive many implicit subsidies like renewable portfolio standards, priority access to the grid, net metering, etc.

Utilities pay billions to insure their nuclear plants. What about insurance? Utilities are required to buy the maximum amount of insurance available and pay into an additional fund of $12.6 billion in the event of an accident. And while federal loans for nuclear power plants are quite new (only one has been accepted), new nuclear power projects are under construction in South Carolina sans federal loans.

Nuclear scales seven times faster than renewables. Bittman claims renewables can scale quickly while nuclear is slow — the opposite is the case: nuclear can be scaled seven times faster than renewables. One recent analysis examined how quickly countries could add energy from various sources over an 11-year period in terms of how much additional energy was added per person (MWh/person/yr). Sweden, France, and Belgium’s nuclear build-out were the fastest, adding 5-7 MWh/person/yr. What of Germany’s push into renewables over the last decade? It added just 1 MWh/person/yr of wind and solar over the same amount of time.

The only country that has decarbonized at a fast enough rate to meet climate targets was France during its massive nuclear build-out. It went from zero percent nuclear to 80 percent in 30 years.

Sweden voted in 1980 to phase-out nuclear power by 2010, but this plan was cancelled over concerns of climate change and the realization that renewables were not a feasible option. And while coal use is shrinking in the United States, it is because of cheap natural gas, not a valuation of externalities. 

No energy technology is perfectly clean, and solar panel production creates toxic waste. Bittman imagines solar is clean but the mining of materials used in solar panels is extremely toxic, and the production of PV solar panels produces more SO2 than when coal is burned (per unit of energy created). About 80 percent of European solar panels are manufactured in China, whose environmental and occupational protections may not be up to Bittman’s standards. In 2011, massive protests erupted in China after an accident at a solar panel factory resulted in a toxic waste spill.

Advanced nuclear reactors are being developed around the world. There have been a variety of designs built and tested over the decades, from salt-cooled to gas-cooled, pebble-bed to liquid fueled. In 1986, the US EBR-II plant performed a demonstration of its advanced passive safety features, where power was shut off, cooling ceased, and the reactor was able to shut-down and cool itself without any human or mechanical intervention. A similar test was performed with a gas-cooled reactor in China in 2004. The Superphénix plant in France – another sodium-cooled fast reactor that operated from 1986-97 – was 1200 MW, larger than most commercial nuclear power plants today. None of the examples above are “coulds.”

Since they use fuel much more efficiently, advanced reactors would lessen the need for uranium mining. Some new reactors can use nuclear waste as fuel or decommissioned weapons material, meaning there is much less need for new uranium to be mined. And while uranium mining can indeed be dangerous, it’s not nearly as dangerous or environmentally harmful as coal mining.

Antinuclear activists are one of the greatest threats to action on the climate. Bittman likely has no sense of the scale that’s required to deal with climate change. Consider that if a single 500 MW nuclear reactor is taken off the grid, over 100,000 solar home installations and 750 wind turbines would need to be installed in order to generate enough power to fill the void. Bittman fears the new nuclear craze, but what’s crazy, and scary, is his insistence that we shut down the development of new, advanced nuclear plants that have proven to be able to displace coal. As former NASA climate scientist James Hansen said, “The danger is that the minority of vehement antinuclear ‘environmentalists’ could cause development of advanced safe nuclear power to be slowed.”

Photo Credit: Renewables Delusions/shutterstock

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Michael Keller's picture
Michael Keller on Sep 6, 2013 6:32 pm GMT

I never said transitions will be smooth – I said innovations will occur.

As to the price of phosphate, it is a commodity subject to volatility created by events and emotions in the marketplace. An obvious way to reduce demand is to stop dumping our food supply into gas tanks (that would be corn ethanol). That would also directly help the poor as food prices would drop.

Michael Keller's picture
Michael Keller on Sep 6, 2013 6:38 pm GMT

Your fundamental assumption of catatrophic global warming is suspect, based on the inability of the climate models to predict the +15 “pause” in global temperatures. A more sound argument would be based on the air pollution from burning coal

Nuclear power is too expensive, relative to the alternatives in the US. Much better deal for consumers is deploying combined-cycle power plants when additional power is needed.

Alain Verbeke's picture
Alain Verbeke on Sep 6, 2013 7:09 pm GMT

” Are you familiar with the Silicon wafering process? I am highly doubtful that any silicon cells are made completely by means of renewable electricity as the process is very heat and energy intensive. “

The same can be said of nuclear power plants, whose massive concrete and steel set-up are requiring a lot of carbon… Cement generates 5% of man made global CO2 emissions on it’s own…

 

http://www.pv-tech.org/news/_a/solarworld_places_faith_in_competitive_manufacturing_in_germany/?utm_source=PV+Tech+-+Newsletter&utm_campaign=4994ccdf7a-PV_Tech_Newsletter01_06_2010&utm_medium=email

 

SolarWorld is investing € 350 million in the new production facility and brings internal solar wafers production to 750MW by the end of the year. To remain competitive with low-cost regions in Asia, SolarWorld has automated the entire manufacturing process as well as built facility systems that use less energy and water to reduce costs. An example of cost reductions is the use of waste heat from the crystallization process to heat the entire building, according to the company. The facility also includes approximately 1MW of solar modules on the rooftop.

Mr Röttgen said, “The constantly progressing climate change is forcing us to make our energy supply more and more carbon free. My idea is that by 2050 the renewable energies will cover our energy needs almost completely. A new market is emerging, in Germany and worldwide.”



George Stevens's picture
George Stevens on Sep 6, 2013 7:18 pm GMT

Yes conservation will help developed countries stagnate demand, but electric transport and the increasing need for desalination will keep it pretty steady.

A large fraction of the global population does not yet have electricity or personal transport, but there is little doubt that they will gradually gain these things. Conservation cannot stop global energy demand from rapid growth. Better energy generation technologies are essential.

 

George Stevens's picture
George Stevens on Sep 6, 2013 7:28 pm GMT

Darrell,

Off the grid works, that is true.  But off the grid electricity is significantly more expensive than grid-interconnected electricity, which is why few people have it and most that do have it out of necessity (no grid access).

 

The electrical grid supplies electricity that is precisely responsive to demand. Variation in the voltage or frequency (power quality) of the electrical supply from the grid can have negative consequences such as brown-outs, black-outs, or damage to motors, appliances and electronics plugged into the wall.

 

Solar and wind are variable sources, meaning that they supply electricity as unpredictable as the weather. The other electrical generation sources on the grid such as hydro-power, coal, or natural gas plants make up for the variability of wind and solar contributions just as they would ramp-up/down when you turn a light-switch or an appliance on or off.

The problem is that adding more variable load into the grid (wind and solar are variable reverse-load but act the same as variable load) creates more inefficiencies and more cost.

It is comparable to a scenario where a company hires a factory worker who has unpredictable narcolepsy. The worker might fall asleep at any moment and his task is continuous and essential. So although he is being paid the company needs to pay a seperate worker to standby and step in when the worker with narcolepsy falls asleep. This creates a redundancy in costs. There are many other ways in which grid-interconnected renewables are impractical but this is a basic way to explain why they don’t work on a large scale for their current pricetag.

George Stevens's picture
George Stevens on Sep 6, 2013 7:42 pm GMT

The Carneige Endowment for International Peace may have that opinion, but what has the Carneige Endowment done that would give them authoritative opinion on the matter? I think I will side with the Energy Commissioner of the EU on this one, someone with actual influence.

Alain Verbeke's picture
Alain Verbeke on Sep 6, 2013 7:46 pm GMT

” Your rooftop system is irrelevant to ‘scale’. When we examine the transition of energy sources on a national scale renewables have thus far seen the most rapid growth in Germany, which is a 7 times slower transition than France’s adoption of nuclear. “

Educate yourself first before arguing or trolling around….

1. My roof topsystem is very relevant to my own electricity bill, which is now exactly zero euro. It was uch higher in the year 2000, when I had to pay for nuclear power supplies.

2. I live next to France (in Belgium), and just finished a natural gas storage project in France, so I know a bit more than you about the real PP picture over there.

3. France took 30 years to go from zero to 80% nuclear, and is now going from 80% back to 50% nuclear, because they cannot afford the decommissioning costs of their old NPP’s, nor can they afford to build a new batch of ten’s of new NPP’s to replace the old ones, way too expensive for EDF or the French country.

4. They have a mammoth NPP decommissioning fund available, which was funded over decades by a small % paid on each kWh produced. Even then, it is now proven that this fund will be exhausted long before the last old NPP will be fully decommissioned. So much for life cycle analysis scaling.

5. The irony of it all, is that France will increase it’s share of renewable energy to 23% of it’s power park by the year 2020, that is what they have planned, let’s see if they can pull it off….

6. By the way, Portugal did it in 10 years to go to 70% renewable, Spain went in 10 years to 40%, Sweden went to 47%, Norway is already at 90% and so on. So in fact Germany is the BIG LAGGARD, when it comes to adaptation on a national scale of renewable energy…

I repeat, educate yourself before trolling around.

 

http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2013/09/04/2568981/obama-sweden-energy/

September 4, 2013. Why Obama Just Named Sweden As A Model For Energy Policy. Sweden gets most of its electricity from hydroelectric and nuclear power, dating from investments in the 50s and 60s. Renewable energy — mainly wind — has also been on the rise, such that right now, over 47 percent of all energy consumed in Sweden comes from renewable sources. The vast majority of the electricity mix comes from renewables and nuclear. The switch is the result of a concerted effort to reduce dependence on fossil fuels, which in the mid-70s had constituted around three-quarters of total energy supply. The main driver has been a long-standing and uncontroversial carbon tax.


 

http://www.windpowermonthly.com/go/windalert/article/1043722/?DCMP=EMC-CONWindpowerWeekly

 

http://www.renewableenergyfocus.com/view/12389/renewable-energy-growth-in-portugal-anticipated/

 

Portugal continues to improve RE grid capabilities. Five years ago only 17% of Portugal’s grid power originated from clean and renewable energy resources, but that number is now half of the nation’s grid power (2010).

 

 

 

http://theenergycollective.com/josephromm/210896/70-percent-renewable-power-possible-portugal-just-did-it-3-months

 

April 15, 2013. Portugal Achieves 70 Percent Renewable Energy in First Quarter

 

http://www.ree.es/ingles/sala_prensa/web/notas_detalle.aspx?id_nota=180

 

https://demanda.ree.es/demanda.html

 

http://www.windpowermonthly.com/go/windalert/article/1059397/?DCMP=EMC-CONWindpowerWeekly

 

http://www.renewableenergyworld.com/rea/news/article/2011/01/spain-generated-3-of-its-electricity-from-solar-in-2010#readercomments

 

31 March 2011 – Spain’s central government objective for renewables to cover 40% of total electricity supply by 2020 is achieved in 2010. Red Electrica reported that in the first quarter of 2011, the renewable technologies covered 40.5 percent of the demand, a little less than in the same period in 2010 when it reached 44 percent.

 

In March 2011, 57.9% of Spain’s electricity was generated by technologies which do not emit CO2, and wind power energy was the technology with the largest production of electricity. Spain generated nearly 3 percent or 6.7 TWh of its electricity from solar energy, wind turbines generated 21 percent or 55 TWh, and hydroelectricity’s share was 17 percent or 44 TWh.

 

The new renewables of wind and solar in combination provided nearly 24 percent of supply. Together both new and conventional renewables delivered 40.5 percent of Spain’s electricity. Cogeneration (15 percent), natural gas CCGT (17 percent), coal (13 percent) and nuclear (19 percent) provided most of the rest.

 

Spain’s climate, geography, and population are similar to that of California. Spain’s 46 million inhabitants consume some 260 TWh per year. California’s 37 million people consume about 300 TWh per year. However, wind energy generates less than 6 TWh per year and solar less than 1 TWh per year in California. Together wind and solar provide only 2 percent of California’s electricity.

 


 

Alain Verbeke's picture
Alain Verbeke on Sep 6, 2013 7:59 pm GMT

” I don’t condone Michael’s insults towards the groups above, but there was a distinct difference between the internet railroads vs wind and solar PV. Wind and solar on the other hand provide services – emissions reduction – that are more cost effectively met by other options when comprehensive costs are considered. “

 

Well, I di$agree again. The $olar PV panel$ on my home roof have now reduced my yearly electricity bill to zero, I just pay a fee for the grid connection allowing me to receive 100% renewable $ourced electricity from the grid at night or when it is raining.

Thus my solar PV panels are providing a GREAT service toward my own wallet for the next few decades to come, whatever the electricity price increases will be with all those new expensive nuclear power plants to be built according to the author ….

George Stevens's picture
George Stevens on Sep 6, 2013 8:13 pm GMT

I am quited educated on this topic, why don’t you instead educate yourself:

http://theenergycollective.com/robertwilson190/264361/renewable-energy-g...

all existent data shows that nuclear can in fact scale much faster than wind or solar, neither of which compose a large share of national energy anywhere in the world and require storage solutions which are not yet commercially available to do so. 

Again, your rooftop system is not relevant because the word ‘scale’ implies GWs of energy capacity, not a 6 kW residential rooftop PV system.

“3. France took 30 years to go from zero to 80% nuclear, and is now going from 80% back to 50% nuclear, because they cannot afford the decommissioning costs of their old NPP’s, nor can they afford to build a new batch of ten’s of new NPP’s to replace the old ones, way too expensive for EDF or the French country”

Umm no, France has 59 operating nuclear plants, 56 of which were built within 15 years of the inception of the Messmer plan.

Decomissioning costs have nothing to do with France’s decision to diversify its energy mix. It is illogical to assert decomissioning costs are relevant because taking nuclear plants offline prematurely results in decommissioning costs hitting ahead of time and ROI on the overall asset being lower = less decomissioning funds collected. If we reference Germany’s energy transition it is abundantly clear that replacing aging NPPs with new NPPs would be significantly more cost-effective than using wind or solar. France’s move toward more renewables is partially to avoid uranium and fossil fuel volatility, but mostly it is just political hot air.

6. By the way, Portugal did it in 10 years to go to 70% renewable, Spain went in 10 years to 40%, Sweden went to 47%, Norway is already at 90% and so on. So in fact Germany is the BIG LAGGARD, when it comes to adaptation on a national scale of renewable energy…

And the common theme in all of these countries is significant amounts of hydro power, an alternative energy source which is not available in most places due to the lack of large and undammed flowing bodies of water around the world.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Alain Verbeke's picture
Alain Verbeke on Sep 6, 2013 8:15 pm GMT

” All Candu’s build in the last 20 years were done on time in less than 4 years and  budget at less than $3B/Gw. 3 cents a kwh – the cheapest energy there is. The reburb process has now being worked out as well. with costs of $1,5B/Gw,

The EPR;s built in China are also on time one budget based on the experience gained in Finland and France. “

 

I do not know about the CANDU’s, and given that your Gw is wrongly written, it must be GW in electrician’s laguage, I suspect that your figures are a pure lie. I won’t waste my time rebuting it, but I did find this for the Areva EPR:

http://nuclear-news.net/2013/03/12/first-fuel-produced-for-chinese-epr-b...

Taishan 1 and 2 are the first two reactors based on Areva’s EPR design to be built in China and form part of an €8.0 billion ($10.4 billion) contract signed by Areva and the Guangdong Nuclear Power Group (CGNPC) in November 2007. Unit 1 should begin operating in 2014, with unit 2 following in 2015. Two further EPRs are planned for the site.

 

That is 6 years for the Areva EPR’s in China, where zero construction regulations exist and people work for $15 a day on the site. Do the same in “OSHA” USA at $15 per hour per man on the site, and you can forget the underneath copied approach….concerning the budget and the planning time.

George Stevens's picture
George Stevens on Sep 6, 2013 8:24 pm GMT

“The same can be said of nuclear power plants, whose massive concrete and steel set-up are requiring a lot of carbon… Cement generates 5% of man made global CO2 emissions on it’s own”

In an area with average solar resource, a typical nuclear reactor (lets say AP1000) creates an annual amount of energy equivalent to 18 million solar panels (300W each) operating at a 20% capacity factor. The Nuclear plant also has an operating life 2x as long. Now it doesn’t take a mathematician to conclude that the carbon emission involved in manufacturing 18 million panels, several thousand central inverters, miles of wiring, and tons of aluminum racking is going to be more than producing one nuclear reactor.

The carbon life cycle emissions by energy source calculated by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change confirm this to be true before accounting to the GHG emissions incurred through variability compensation on the grid:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Life-cycle_greenhouse-gas_emissions_of_ener...

 

George Stevens's picture
George Stevens on Sep 6, 2013 8:29 pm GMT

You benefit from a Feed-In-Tariff, which is a form of government subsidy. It does not reflect the real cost of your PV system or the real value of the energy it creates (which is equal to the avoided cost of fuel for a dispatchable generator).

Feed-In-Tariffs cause electrical rates to go up:

http://www.pv-magazine.com/news/details/beitrag/eu-energy-commissioner-c...

There are quite a few things about grid electricity that you do not fully understand.

Alain Verbeke's picture
Alain Verbeke on Sep 6, 2013 8:56 pm GMT

” I am quited educated on this topic, why don’t you instead educate yourself:

http://theenergycollective.com/robertwilson190/264361/renewable-energy-g...

all existent data shows that nuclear can in fact scale much faster than wind or solar, neither of which compose a large share of national energy anywhere in the world and require storage solutions which are not yet commercially available to do so. And the common theme in all of these countries is significant amounts of hydro power, an alternative energy source which is not available in most places due to the lack of large and undammed flowing bodies of water around the world.”

 

Dude, pleaase again educate yourself on the topic. If renewable energy was only wind and solar, then we would be dead in the water. I am a shareholder of EcoPower cvba, a cooperative supplying my home with 100% renewable sourced electricity 34/7/365 when my home soalr PV are not producing. And wind and PV solar are a small part of their overal generation scope. Biomass & biogas in all it’s forms and hydropower are the bigger share. Geothermal is zero, as is Solar CSP, no such activity where I live.

Concerning your last paragraph, pleeeaaase educate yourself on the topic. Spain is “bonedry” compared to many other European countries. So is Portugal. Never heard of the Amazon, Congo, Parana, Ganges, Yangtze, danube, Nile, Tigris and Euphrates, Thames, Mississippi, etc ? :

 

http://theenergycollective.com/josephromm/210896/70-percent-renewable-power-possible-portugal-just-did-it-3-months

 

April 15, 2013. Portugal Achieves 70 Percent Renewable Energy in First Quarter, hydroelectric power supplied 37 percent of total electricity, Wind energy represented 27 percent of the total share.

 

 

 

http://www.ree.es/ingles/sala_prensa/web/notas_detalle.aspx?id_nota=180

 

https://demanda.ree.es/demanda.html

 

http://www.windpowermonthly.com/go/windalert/article/1059397/?DCMP=EMC-CONWindpowerWeekly

 

http://www.renewableenergyworld.com/rea/news/article/2011/01/spain-generated-3-of-its-electricity-from-solar-in-2010#readercomments

 

31 March 2011 – Spain’s central government objective for renewables to cover 40% of total electricity supply by 2020 is achieved in 2010. In March 2011, 57.9% of Spain’s electricity was generated by technologies which do not emit CO2, and wind power energy was the technology with the largest production of electricity. Spain generated nearly 3 percent or 6.7 TWh of its electricity from solar energy, wind turbines generated 21 percent or 55 TWh, and hydroelectricity’s share was 17 percent or 44 TWh.

 

The new renewables of wind and solar in combination provided nearly 24 percent of supply. Together both new and conventional renewables delivered 40.5 percent of Spain’s electricity. Cogeneration (15 percent), natural gas CCGT (17 percent), coal (13 percent) and nuclear (19 percent) provided most of the rest.

 

Spain’s climate, geography, and population are similar to that of California. Spain’s 46 million inhabitants consume some 260 TWh per year. California’s 37 million people consume about 300 TWh per year. However, wind energy generates less than 6 TWh per year and solar less than 1 TWh per year in California. Together wind and solar provide only 2 percent of California’s electricity.

 

 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hydropower

 

Hydroelectric power now supplies about 715,000 megawatts or 19% of world electricity.

 

There is a common misconception that economically developed nations have harnessed all of their available hydropower resources. In the United States, according to the US Department of Energy, “previous assessments have focused on potential projects having a capacity of 1 MW and above”. This may partly explain the discrepancy. More recently, in 2004, an extensive survey was conducted by the US-DOE which counted sources under 1 MW (mean annual average), and found that only 40% of the total hydropower potential had been developed. A total of 170 GW (mean annual average) remains available for development. Of this, 34% is within the operating envelope of conventional turbines, 50% is within the operating envelope of microhydro technologies (defined as less than 100 kW), and 16% is within the operating envelope of unconventional systems.

 

 

http://www.waste-management-world.com/articles/print/volume-14/issue-4/features/how-waste-to-energy-could-help-the-us-tackle-ghg-emissions.html

 

2013. According to the 17th Nationwide Survey of MSW Management in the U.S., the country currently generates almost 390 million tons (354 million tonnes) of solid municipal waste (MSW) per year – that’s 7 pounds (3.2 kg) per person per day. It is collected on a weekly basis, and is usually sent straight to landfill.

 

But there is another option that could help stem the flow of waste, and thus pollution emissions, but that has not been significantly utilised – waste to energy (WtE). According to the EPA, for every ton of waste processed at a WtE facility, approximately one ton of emitted CO2 equivalent is prevented. This is because it is prevented from generating methane as it would at a landfill, and because metals are recycled instead of landfilled. Additionally, electricity generated offsets the GHGs from fossil fuel power generation. The European waste sector achieved a 34% greenhouse-gas emissions (GHG) reduction from 1990 to 2007, the largest pollution reduction of any industry in the EU.

 

Of the 1900 landfills in the country, all of which are covered by the EPA’s air emissions and solid-waste management regulations, around 560 use techniques to capture methane and generate electricity. But even those equipped with methane recovery systems generate significant emissions for a number of reasons. When waste in landfills begins to emit methane, only an average of 34% is recovered to produce electricity. Another 38% of methane is flared and the remaining 28% experiences no recovery whatsoever. Landfills are the third largest contributor of anthropogenic methane emissions in the country.

 

EPA scientists concluded that sending waste to WtE facilities is the better option not only for generating electricity, as the technology is capable of producing ten times more electricity than LFG to energy technology, but also because GHG emissions from landfills, even those with optimum conditions for capturing methane and turning it into electricity, are two to six times higher than those of WtE facilities.

 

Hauling waste to landfills is expensive for large cities. New York City, for example, paid more than $300 million last year just to transport waste to out-of-state landfills. In these cases, WtE facilities could be immediately beneficial by saving governments money while generating jobs and local revenue. On a long-term economic basis, WtE facilities cost less than disposing of waste in landfills due to returns from the electricity sold and the sale of recovered metals.

 

Despite the economic benefits of WtE facilities, the country as a whole is not taking advantage of the technology, especially when compared to Europe. Countries such as Germany, the Netherlands, Austria, Belgium, and Sweden have proved that recycling and WtE go hand in hand. These five nations have the highest recycling rates in Europe and have reduced their dependence on landfills to 1% or below of waste disposal. Because of strong nationwide policies, the EU member states sent 19% less waste to landfills in 2011 compared to 2001.

 

 

 

http://www.epuron.de/en/desktopdefault.aspx/tabid-204/414_read-531/

 

EPURON, a member of the Conergy Group, is currently developing a 1.79 megawatt biogas installation in Jüterbog, Germany (near Berlin in the state of Brandenburg). Energy generated would be sufficient to supply the entire Jüterbog community with electrical power. The installation, which will go on stream in April, is designed to handle the fermentation of approximately 24,500 tons of pig liquid manure and 31,500 tons of corn silage per annum. Input feedstocks will be supplied by a neighboring pig farm and the Jüterbog agricultural co-operative society. A long-term supply has been contractually secured. The fermentation substrates by-product from the power generation process will, in turn, be purchased by the agricultural co-operative society and used in local fields as organic manure. This mass has less odor compared to conventional manure and does not pollute the environment. Six and a half million cubic meters of biogas will be produced annually in three fermenting vats with a total capacity of 7,500 cubic meters. The biogas will thereupon be converted to approximately 13.7 million kilowatt hours of electrical power in three block power heating stations. The electrical power will be fed into the E.ON.edis grid over a period of at least 20 years. The annual electrical power output is sufficient to supply some 4,000 households; i.e., more than the population of Jüterbog. In addition, e.distherm, a partner company of E.ON.edis, has agreed to purchase a large portion of the heat produced by the power generation and feed this into its long-distance heating network.

 

 

 

 

Alain Verbeke's picture
Alain Verbeke on Sep 6, 2013 9:27 pm GMT

“”3. France took 30 years to go from zero to 80% nuclear, and is now going from 80% back to 50% nuclear, because they cannot afford the decommissioning costs of their old NPP’s, nor can they afford to build a new batch of ten’s of new NPP’s to replace the old ones, way too expensive for EDF or the French country”

Umm no, France has 59 operating nuclear plants, 56 of which were built within 15 years of the inception of the Messmer plan.

Decomissioning costs have nothing to do with France’s decision to diversify its energy mix. It is illogical to assert decomissioning costs are relevant because taking nuclear plants offline prematurely results in decommissioning costs hitting ahead of time and ROI on the overall asset being lower = less decomissioning funds collected. If we reference Germany’s energy transition it is abundantly clear that replacing aging NPPs with new NPPs would be significantly more cost-effective than using wind or solar. France’s move toward more renewables is partially to avoid uranium and fossil fuel volatility, but mostly it is just political hot air.”


http://k1project.org/energy/france-a-study-of-french-nuclear-policy-afte...

France decidedly became the world’s leader in nuclear energy after the 1973 oil crisis. That year, France’s Prime Minister, Pierre Messmer, developed a plan to open 80 nuclear power plants by 1985 and 170 by 2000. Due to the “Messmer Plan”, France constructed a total of 56 new reactors between the years of 1974 and 1989.

 

I stand by my original statement. You are wrong. The first French NPP sets were built in 1981, that is almost 40 years ago, using Westinghouse licenses. Time to mothball them, no? They are at the end of their forecasted life after 40 years, and the decommissioning funds were full for the 3 that were decommissioned. The funds proved to be way too low for those three, and simple extrapolation to the next 56 to be done gave an awfull picture. Decommissioning cost ARE relevant for a radioactive plant. You simply can mothball any power plant and recycle the materials (cement, steel, copper, silicon, etc). No so with radioactive elements. They require special handling, making it more expensive thus VERY relevant to the overall cost picture. Again, France has decommissioned ONLY 3 nuclear power plants of their 56. Others are in the pipeline, each passing year. I watch French TV on a daily basis (cable network). This extraordinary global French decommisioning cost picture that is now emerging, IS a big discussion item in France, given the global economic picture over there, and 75% income tax on people earning more than $1 million per year….

They also have to go to war in Mali to protect their uranium supplies from African Talibans. Even without that issue, the price to be paid for the ore was getting more expensive by the day, since the Chinese are paying Mali a lot more for the same ore than the French, and Mali is a third world country, who therefore play both against each other to increase its revenue streams.

The French are now investing into 2000 MW of offshore wind turbine parks forecasted to operate 50% of the time, according to 2 years measurements of wind speed done 10 miles offshore. It is cheaper than building a new NPP with current French laws and decommissioning prices. Besides that, they also are increasing baseload hydropower in the Alps, Pyrenee, and Jura mountain areas. And they have a magnificent biomass/biogass potential that is getting developped all over the place, in a decentralised way. Onshore wind is not prevalent, they are adamant in keeping the scenery clean, and solar power is not very popular, given that they have to import it from Germany or China (they are chauvinists on that…).

 


Alain Verbeke's picture
Alain Verbeke on Sep 6, 2013 9:49 pm GMT

“In an area with average solar resource, a typical nuclear reactor (lets say AP1000) creates an annual amount of energy equivalent to 18 million solar panels (300W each) operating at a 20% capacity factor. The Nuclear plant also has an operating life 2x as long. Now it doesn’t take a mathematician to conclude that the carbon emission involved in manufacturing 18 million panels, several thousand central inverters, miles of wiring, and tons of aluminum racking is going to be more than producing one nuclear reactor.”

Duh, pardon my insolence, but you are really being dumber than I thought. If renewable energy was only solar PV, then we are in BIG trouble. Luckily for mankind, renewable energy encompass much more than that, simply read the previous links where I replied to your hydropower non-sense and added some examples of biomass/biogas/waste-to-energy/windpower/geothermal examples.

 

 

http://www.businessgreen.com/business-green/news/2270949/centrica-ignites-pilot-light

 

The £2.5m Didcot facility uses an anaerobic digestion system to turn sewage sludge into biomethane. Impurities are then removed from the biomethane before it is fed into the natural gas grid. The whole process – from flushing a toilet to natural gas being piped to people’s homes – takes about 20 days, said Centrica.

 

The completion of the pilot project represents a major step forward for a green natural gas sector, which according to a National Grid study could account for at least 15 per cent of the domestic natural gas market by 2020, allowing people in the U.K. to cook and heat their homes with natural gas generated from sewage.

 

 

 

http://www.powergenworldwide.com/index/display/articledisplay/2433971833/articles/powergenworldwide/distributed-generation/cogeneration-chp/2010/07/4000-cows_and_a_biogas.html

 

20 July 2010 – Powered by manure from 4000 cows and a GE Jenbacher gas engine, the first biogas cogeneration plant in the Ukraine has completed nine months of successful operation at the Ukrainian Milk Company, located near Kiev. The CHP plant is able to substitute the equivalent of 1.2 million m3 of natural gas and prevent the emission of 18 000 tonnes of carbon dioxide annually. Once converted into biogas, the manure from the cows produces 625 kW of electricity and 686 kW of heat energy. The excess power produced at the plant is being sold to the grid. The initial periods of operation for the plant took place during the most severe winter in the last 20 years, with constant below-zero temperatures, reaching -30°C at times. Despite the low temperatures, GE says that the operation of the plant remained at a favourable level.

 

 

http://www.bioenergy-news.com/index.php?/Industry-News?item_id=2456

9 August 2010 — In Washington, US, Nippon Paper Industries is planning the construction of a cogeneration plant. The $71 million (€53.5 million) facility will be built at its mill in Port Angeles and generate steam and electricity from forest biomass that would otherwise remain unused or be burned. The 160 000 tons of biomass required per year will be supplied from waste wood in the surrounding area. The biomass will produce 20MW of energy which will be sold to utility companies, while the new plant will add another 20 employees to its current 200-strong workforce.

 

 

http://africaresearchonline.wordpress.com/2013/05/28/morocco-investing-in-renewable-energy-in-the-southern-desert/

 

May 28, 2013. Morocco on May 10th officially launched the construction of a 160-megawatt solar power plant near the desert city of Ouarzazate, the first in a series of vast solar projects planned in the country. Meanwhile the country is also ploughing ahead with a programme to boost wind energy production, particularly in the southern Tarfaya region, where Africa’s largest wind farm is set to open in 2014.

 

The kingdom, with no hydrocarbon reserves of its own, hopes to cover 42% of its energy needs with renewable sources by 2020, and has launched a plan to produce 4,000 megawatts.

 

Half of this will come from solar energy while wind power will supply the remaining 2,000 MW, and Morocco’s wind-blown southern coast, where many of the new farms will be built, already resembles a huge building site.

 

 

 

http://www.grist.org/article/2010-06-21-is-a-utility-only-cap-and-trade-bill-worth-passing/

From Sean Casten :

It is good to start examining the huge spread of prices paid for ‘clean energy’. For everyone’s edification, not one of the 260 energy recycling projects built by companies I have led have ever received more than 6.5 cents per kWh in external power sales. A few backpressure turbine projects in small facilities displaced more than 10 cents per kWh, but our major projects pencil at 6.5 to 8.5 cents per kWh, and there are no line losses or need for standby generation. All of the approaches that use energy twice including Biomass CHP, gas fired CHP and recycling of industrial waste energy pencil at under the 9.9 cents per kWh.

 

Re nuclear, we repeat the assertion that all new nuclear will raise the current rates. Amortize $5,800 per kW over 25 years at 11% all in costs, assume the plant operates 8,000 full load hours per year, and you need 8.6 cents per kWh just for capital. Add labor, O&M, fuel, and reserves for decommissioning and spent fuel disposal and the owner will need 12 to 13 cents per kWh for the investment to pencil. I am not aware of any evidence that the $10,300 per kW estimate is high, and it is in the middle of the Vogtle Georgia NPP estimates.

 

Bottom line: There are options that cut or eliminate CO2 and lower the cost of power. They all involve generating both heat and power – using energy twice.

 

 

http://www.energy-daily.com/reports/Oettinger_EU_wants_Norway_natural_gas_999.html

Brussels (UPI) Mar 8, 2013 – The biggest customers for Norwegian energy major Statoil’s natural gas are gas-fired electric power plants but competition from cheaper coal and state-subsidized renewable energy is prompting energy providers to rethink plans for for further investments in natural gas infrastructure. European power companies are hedging their bets on gas-fired power plants as their profitability is coming under pressure. German utility E.ON indicated last month it is considering partial closure of one of Europe’s most modern gas-fired power stations in Irsching, Bavaria. E.ON’s CEO Johannes Teyssen said the move has being made because “the rapid growth of renewables has made gas-fired plants largely uneconomic to operate. Going forward, they’ll likely operate far fewer than 2000 hours per year and won’t generate enough revenue to cover their costs. Under those circumstances, we could no longer justify their continued operation.”

 

William Hughes-Games's picture
William Hughes-Games on Sep 6, 2013 9:50 pm GMT

This supply of inexpensive natural gas may be relatively short lived.  Part of the reason it is so cheap at present is that many drilling companies had time limited drilling rights.  If they didn’t bring in the wells by a certain date, they lost the concession.  This resulted in a glut of gas which will work its way throught the system.  Fracking is actually a fairly expensive way of getting gas and once fracked, the output of the well decreases rather rapidly.  This necessitates more drilling and more fracking.  It wouldn’t be so bad if, as a society, we used all the profits from this all too short bonanza to install renewables, insullate houses install LEDs etc. but being human, we think that our problems are over and we don’t have to do anything because energy is once more cheap.  The other nice aspect of natural gas is that by replacing coal, the carbon output of America has actually decreased.  If we put in lots of renewables with the gas profits, we could keep the gains that gas has given us.  Unfortunately, we will probably go back to coal as natural gas becomes more expensive.

Michael Keller's picture
Michael Keller on Sep 6, 2013 10:17 pm GMT

A big driver in the US behind “fracking” is the liquid hydro-carbons that are recovered from the drilling  – the natural gas is somewhat of a byproduct, hence the low price of natural gas. How long this will last is difficult to forecast, but consensus suggests 5 to 10 years. After that, who knows.

Renewable energy is generally a complete waste of money as it cannot be relied upon. Further, the impact on global CO2 emissions (if you are inclined to believe that is actually a problem) is negligible.

Alain Verbeke's picture
Alain Verbeke on Sep 6, 2013 10:28 pm GMT

” You benefit from a Feed-In-Tariff, which is a form of government subsidy. Feed-In-Tariffs cause electrical rates to go up. There are quite a few things about grid electricity that you do not fully understand.”

I pay 59% taxes on my income, and do not get 59% benefits from those taxes, since we are in perfect health, live frugally, and do save a lot so that we won’t have to depend on a meager government pension payment once its time to retire.  The country we live in (Belgium) imports 100% of it’s fossil and nuclear fuel since the 70’s. All are rising in price year after year after year, if I read my electricity bill from Electrabel. Then the EU voted for the Kyoto Protocol, putting an added CO2 tax on my grid electricity bill, which became even more expensive. I switched to a cooperative (EcoPower cvba) in 2004 because they promised 100% renewable sourced electricity to my home, through the grid. They asked me to become a member by buying a share for $250. I became a member, and got a 6% dividend on that $250 each year. In 2004 we were less than 5000 users, today 2013 we are more than 100 000. My electricity bill instantly became 20% cheaper, no fossil fuel import duty taxes, no CO2 taxes, no fossil fuel and nuke waste recycling taxes anymore, because I used 100% renewable sourced electricity produced 100 clicks around where I lived, and put on the existing grid. In 2010, I put solar PV panels on my homes roof, 4kW plant. The government gave us a once in a lifetime opportunity to use their services. Remember, I pay 59% taxes on my income and do not often use government services. The FiT system is now almost canceled, new solar PV installation in 2013 are basically not FiTted anymore over here, and by 2015 it completely over. The FiT that I receive is $1000 a year, for the next 20 years, then it stops. I pay $350 per year to my grid supplier for use of the grid at night, when my home solar PV panels are not producing. I paid 100% of the PV installation installation cost, no rebates. I now pay zero for my electricity consumption and the plant wil be paid off in 2020. Without the FiT it would be 2027, if FF and nuke grid supplied electricity prices stay the same as today. They won’t, we import it all, and it gets more expensive year after year after year. So even without a FiT, I would have done it, because grid electricity only goes up, while my solar PV panels production is capping it all at a fixed price of $20 cents/kWh, which is today in 2013 already cheaper than Electrabel’s FF and nuke power supply by the grid ($22 cents/kWh). But we now import 12% of our electricity from Germany, who has a surplus, selling it to “us” for peanuts, which of course discourage the construction of new FF or nuclear plants, given the cost of capital… My solar PV panels are guaranteed for the next 20 years, they will last 40 years, given how sturdy the EU manufactured panels are assembled, and given that there are zero moving parts, no tornadoes, hurricane and such endeavours to destroy them in Belgium. I will lose 0.5% in production capacity each year due to “lost silicon electrons”, meaning in 20 years, they will produce 0.005×20= 10% less than now. I do no need no stinking NPP in my backyard. I have solved it otherwise. 

Roy Wagner's picture
Roy Wagner on Sep 6, 2013 11:12 pm GMT

There are several innacurate statements in the Original Post that aside.

Some well thought out arguments for both sides. Given a choice between Nuclear and Coal Nuclear wins every time.

Including Hydro electricity there is more Renewable capacity than Nuclear.

If you include all 50 years of subsidies for Nuclear in today’s dollars, Renewables have recieved a much lower amount in comparrison. 

Renewables have also recieved a much lower amount of R&D funding

Renewable energy sources accounted for 49.10 percent of all new USelectrical generating capacity installed in 2012 for a total of 12,956 MW, 


The reactors so far built in the US range up to about 1100 MWe electrical output, but new ones up to about 1500 MWe are planned.

Not one has ever been completed on time or without huge budget overruns. 

In one year the equivilant of 8- 10 Nuclear plants of renewables were deployed.

So in the 10 years minimum to construct just one new Nuclear plant.

Considering that the cost of renewables is falling that should equal the installed capacity of at least 100 Nuclear Plants over the next 10 years or less.

Which is going to reduce GHG from coal the fastest?

Nuclear power stations also require upgrades to the grid and new transmission lines to be built.

FERC and now California are mandating Energy Storage be added to the Grid



Alain Verbeke's picture
Alain Verbeke on Sep 6, 2013 11:15 pm GMT

” Being a 3rd world country, doubtful Kenya could afford nuclear. Also, as long as you are use to unreliable power (pretty much the calling card of a 3rd world country), put in wind. Otherwise, put in gas turbines, diesel engines and coal plants so the living standard of the folks can actually get much better. “

Kenya has geothermal resources and is developping them. 

They still want to use wind, and given their great insolation rates, solar PV daylight or solar CSP thermal are also an option, since they can be implemented in smaller batches.

http://www.gdc.co.ke/

The Geothermal Development Company (GDC) is a Kenyan corporation wholly-owned by the Government of Kenya (GoK). Its core business is surface exploration, drilling, production drilling and concession the wells to independent power producers.

http://en.openei.org/wiki/Kenya

Geothermal resources in Kenya are located within the Rift Valley with an estimated potential of between 7,000 MWe to 10,000 MWe spread over 14 prospective sites. Solar Potential 1,857,790,042 MWh/year

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hydroelectric_power_in_Kenya

Hydro Power currently accounts for about 49% of installed capacity, which is about 761MW. However, the Kenyan Government is strongly pushing for a shift to other alternative resources of electricity generation. By 2030 hydro power will only account for 5% of total capacity at 1,039 MW. Even though the capital and largest city in Kenya, Nairobi is situated on high altitudes which is Southern Kenya, most of Kenya especially the counties in the North of Nairobi especially past Isiolo are either Arid or Semi-Arid and are therefore classified as ASAL Areas. Thus there isn’t much potential of Hydro power in Kenya.

 

http://www.renewableenergyworld.com/rea/news/article/2010/07/kenyan-women-light-up-villages-with-solar-power?cmpid=WNL-Wednesday-July14-2010

Kenyan Women Light Up Villages with Solar Power. Currently, only 20 percent of Kenyan households are connected to the national grid. Patrick Nyoike, the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Energy, said it is virtually impossible to connect every Kenyan household to the national grid system by 2030 due to the huge capital investments needed. According to Zachary Ayieko, the CEO of REA, solar energy offers a huge power potential for the nation since solar energy in Kenya could potentially generate up to three times the current daily national grid requirements. Though the initial costs of a solar kit are higher as compared to kerosene lamps, the overall cost of the solar kits is lower because there are no operational costs attached to them.

“Prices range between $10 and $93 for the solar kits depending on their capacity as compared to the monthly average of $10 spent by each household on kerosene,” said Arthur Itote, the project manager at the Lighting Africa Private Enterprise Partnership for Africa (LAPEPA). Joyce Matunga says that the solar energy kits can also be used to power irrigation pumps. This, she said, would be a big step forward as the farm produce would then generate income for poor households and the ripple effects across the villages will be poverty alleviation as a long-term benefit. According to research conducted by GFSIT, village women spend between Kenya Shillings (Kes) 850 and 1,200 [approximately US $10 to $15] every month on lighting alone. The women, notes Ndiege, use various sources such as paraffin and firewood to light up their homes after dark and to cook food.

 

“This has negative effects on the environment as they have to cut down trees for firewood, while paraffin poses health risks to the women and their families on inhalation of the harmful fumes from paraffin lamps,” said Ndiege. “In that case, we identified solar energy as the most affordable alternative energy source that we could use in the villages. We partnered with the Barefoot College in India, which trains semi-illiterate rural women to fabricate, install and maintain solar lighting systems in the villages.”

Ndiege said that the women acquired vital solar engineering skills that they are currently applying in the remote villages of Olando and Got Kaliech. Under the Village Solar Committees (VSCs) program, village folks will contribute between Kes 500 and 800 [approximately US $7 to 10] in monthly subscriptions from each household to keep the program running.

“The village women have also started income generating activities that include a posho mill that is powered by solar energy to generate some income for the women groups and a small workshop where local youth can gain skills and eke out a living while supporting the village solar program as well,” explained Ndiege.


 

 

 

Alain Verbeke's picture
Alain Verbeke on Sep 6, 2013 11:33 pm GMT

” Nuclear does not require storage and there are several ways in which off-peak energy can be diverted away from the grid – desalination, hydrogen or other liquid fuel production, thermal salt storage, industrial heat supply – All of these storage methods/usage are more efficient and cost effective atpresent day than battery storage that PV and wind would utilize. Give me a call when PV + Li-ion systems become cost competetive with other energy options. “

 

Nuclear DOES need storage for when there is NO demand for their electricity at 3AM or at the 4th of July or on any summer weekend barbecue event. A nuclear power plant cannot be shut down for a half a night, it is too complex to do that, they have to best run 24/7/365. This is said by someone who works for an US Utility, mister Troll, just read the provided link hereunder. And the cheapest way is to pump it up in hydropower reservoir, or transform it into compressed air injected in ex-natural gas storage salt cavern (CAES). I didn’t decide this, the free market has. Desalination is great for bonedry Middle East countries, hydrogen is great for petrochem plants but they are cracking it from their natural gas supplies using  steam, and other liquid fuel production are just still connected to the grid as all users are, molten salt storage has proven to be expensive and technically far more complex than pumped up hydro and CAES, that is why pumped up hydro is representing ten of thousands of MW in backup storage capacity and molten salt storage basically nothing…

 

 

http://www.renewableenergyworld.com/rea/news/article/2010/05/taking-grid-energy-storage-to-the-edge

Taking Grid Energy Storage to the Edge, by Brad Roberts, S&C Electric Co.

The concept of storing electricity generated in a utility grid has been tried since the beginning of the power industry.

In the U.S., large-scale storage projects flourished in the 1960s, ’70s, and ’80s as utilities added 18 000 MW of pumped hydro facilities to support the rapid build out of the fleet of nuclear power plants across the nation. Nuclear plants run best at higher power ratings, so pumping water in these hydro plants presented ideal off-peak loads during nights and weekends when customer demands are lowest.

Now, as the grid faces a rapidly growing component of renewable energy sources (wind and solar), the job of balancing generation sources and load demands is becoming more challenging. With most regions of the U.S. trying to achieve renewable portfolio standards (RPS) of 20 to 30 percent in the next 10 to 20 years, stable and reliable control of grid voltage will be a bigger task for utilities and system operators. Utilities and regulators know they must deal with this, and major changes are in the works.

Paul O's picture
Paul O on Sep 6, 2013 11:39 pm GMT

a v,

 

Are you saying that your experience is replicable for everyone in Belgium? If so why is anyone still not using the same sources you do?

Alain Verbeke's picture
Alain Verbeke on Sep 6, 2013 11:57 pm GMT

” The justification for this is “protection of public health and safety”.  Well, Fukushima showed that even the full meltdown of several large reactors cases no deaths or measurable health impacts (i.e., pretty much does not represent a significant threat to public health and safety). “

 

What is the price of human hubris ?????????????????????

 

 

http://www.nuclearpowerdaily.com/reports/Viewing_Fukushima_in_the_cold_light_of_Chernobyl_999.html

Aug 23, 2013. The Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster spread significant radioactive contamination over more than 3500 square miles of the Japanese mainland in the spring of 2011. Now several recently published studies of Chernobyl are bringing a new focus on just how extensive the long-term effects on Japanese wildlife might be. Mousseau and Moller have with their collaborators just published three studies detailing the effects of ionizing radiation on pine trees and birds in the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone. In the journal Mutation Research, they showed that birds in Chernobyl had high frequencies of albino feathering and tumors. In PlosOne, they demonstrated that birds there had significant rates of cataracts, which likely impacted their fitness in the wild. And in the journal Trees, they showed that tree growth was suppressed by radiation near Chernobyl, particularly in smaller trees, even decades after the original accident. “There’s extensive literature from Eastern Europe about the effects of the release of radionuclides in Chernobyl,” Mousseau said. “Unfortunately, very little of it was translated into English, and many of the papers – which were printed on paper, not centrally stored, and never digitized – became very hard to find because many of the publishers went belly up in the 1990s with the economic recession that followed the breakup of the Soviet Union.” A large body of this work finally came to the attention of Western scientists in 2009 with the publication of “Chernobyl: Consequences of the Catastrophe for People and the Environment” as a monograph in the Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences. “The uniform theme we find from these papers is that, when you look carefully, in a quantitative way, you see numerous biological impacts of low doses of radiation. Not just abundance of animals, but tumors, cataracts, growth suppression.”

 

http://www.nuclearpowerdaily.com/reports/Japan_unveils_ice_wall_plan_for_Fukushima_water_leaks_999.html

Sept 03, 2013 . Tokyo on Tuesday unveiled a half-billion dollar plan to stem radioactive water leaks at Fukushima, creating a wall of ice underneath the stricken plant, as the government elbowed TEPCO (the utility operator) aside. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said his administration will step in with public money to get the job done. The utility — one of the largest in the world — has been effectively nationalised by vast government bailouts needed to stop it from sinking beneath the weight of bills from the clean-up and compensation claims. Vast tracts of land had to be evacuated as a direct result of the radiation leaks, with tens of thousands of people still unable to return to their homes.

 

Robert Bernal's picture
Robert Bernal on Sep 7, 2013 12:41 am GMT

There has been no “pause” unless you can confirm that the expansion of the oceans (caused by a warming biosphere) is, in fact, not happening. Excess CO2 is from humans (being sooo last century) wasting all the precios fossil fuels on “mere” combustion!

Robert Bernal's picture
Robert Bernal on Sep 7, 2013 1:00 am GMT

“Dumber than I thought” for a solar and nuclear comparison? Really? Why can’t you get out of your preconceived notions and accept the fact that since nuclear is on the order of 1,000,000x as energy dense as coal, it will require the LEAST amount of fossil fueled processes per unit of generated electricity.

Sure, it is dangerous, just as everything else. What’s better… damming all the rivers, covering hundreds of thousands of square miles of deserts, erecting millions of wind turbines (and all the extra capacity needed for storage, too)… OR simply mass producing a few tens of thousands of little molten salt reactors (which, bty, can NOT melt down), to power a growing planetary civilization. This, all of a sudden becomes a definite, like duh realization!

Marcus Pun's picture
Marcus Pun on Sep 7, 2013 8:47 am GMT

It’s the oceans you better be thinking about. The atmosphere has a mere fraction of the heat capacity of the ocean or 7%. Simply means that you can have major changes in the heat content of the atmosphere but they are dwarfed by the heat changes in the ocean.  BTW, that +15 is not linked to reality given that most of the record air temperature years have happened in the last 15 years.

This chart shows the heating of the oceans down to 700meters since 1955.

http://www.epa.gov/climatechange/science/indicators/oceans/ocean-heat.html

More to the point, the recent study released by Levitus et al show a fairly constant rise in ocean heat content from 1955-2012 that is quite large.

GEOPHYSICAL RESEARCH LETTERS, doi:10.1029/2012GL051106

 

World ocean heat content and thermosteric sea level change (0-2000), 1955-2010

 

Key Points
  • A strong positive linear trend in exists in world ocean heat contentsince 1955
  • One third of the observed warming occurs in the 700-2000 m layer of the ocean
  • The warming can only be explained by the increase in atmospheric GHGs

 

Authors:Sydney Levitus et al

one of the key results. :

“The global linear trend of OHC2000 is 0.43×1022 J yr-1 for 1955-2010 which corresponds to a total increase in heat content of 24.0±1.9×1022 Joules

In other words the oceans are heating at a rate of 136 trillion Joules per second. Or the equivalent heat energy of more than 2 hiroshima size a-bombs detonating per second.
  Levitus et al. note that this immense ocean heating has not slowed in recent years as more of the heat goes into deeper ocean layers. 

Marcus Pun's picture
Marcus Pun on Sep 7, 2013 8:48 am GMT

My partner the chemistry Ph.D. talks about petrochemical stock depletion a lot. ;o)

Marcus Pun's picture
Marcus Pun on Sep 7, 2013 9:06 am GMT

Jessica that is incorrect as this news item shows. From the LA Times.

SACRAMENTO — Closing the San Onofre nuclear power plant is in the “best interests” of Southern California Edison‘s 4.9 million customers and those ratepayers should be prepared to pay a portion of the shutdown costs.

That’s the message in a public letter published as a full-page advertisement in the Los Angeles Times on Monday.

“If a utility asset must be retired before the end of its expected life, the utility recovers from customers its reasonable investment costs,” Edison wrote.

 

and this article

http://www.utsandiego.com/news/2013/jun/08/struggle-over-who-pays-for-nu...

exceerpts:

It turns out that cheap nuclear energy hasn’t been cheap at all, at least in Southern California.

The uncollected costs to build and run San Onofre stand at roughly $4.3 billion. In filings to federal regulators Friday, Edison said its share was $3.4 billion. San Diego Gas & Electric, which owns 20 percent of the plant, estimates its costs at $866 million.

In addition, Edison estimates that “decommissioning” the plant will cost $4.12 billion. This is a process that, for decades, will employ 400 workers or so dismantling the reactors and storing spent nuclear fuel.

Consumers have already been paying for this massive project for about 30 years, through a line item on utility bills called “nuclear decommissioning fee” or something similar. The project is about 90 percent funded, with the money in a state-run investment pool, Edison officials say.

This brings us to about $8.4 billion in costs for San Onofre. That’s a big number, but bear in mind that nearly half is already squirreled away.

Meanwhile, the California Public Utilities Commission is conducting a giant, quasi-judicial process to decide who pays that $4.3 billion of uncollected cost.”

…..”This leaves the PUC with a tough decision. If it socks the utilities too hard, they won’t be able to attract enough capital to install all the “smart grid” gadgets necessary for California’s transition to greater reliance on wind, solar and other renewable energy sources.

If the brunt is piled onto the bills of consumers, who already pay among the nation’s highest utility rates, regulators risk further increasing the drag on the state’s lagging economy. My prediction is that consumers will indeed get the worst of this debacle, but regulators will trickle the damage onto bills in small amounts over decades.”

…”that $8.4 billion tab to retire and pay for San Onofre boils down to $1,333 per meter for Edison and SDG&E’s customers.We should know in a year or two who pays it.”

 

Marcus Pun's picture
Marcus Pun on Sep 7, 2013 9:11 am GMT

George you are incorrect.

In California there is no such benefit. At most the homeowner gets about 30% less than market rates as PGE dings you for every fee under the sun. The E-6 tariff schedule allows for $.20/KWH only during summer peak, all other times of the day and of the year its at 7 cents or much lower. Note that average homeowner pays up front 13 cents per KWH, plus all sorts of fees including nuke plant decommisioning costs.

Marcus Pun's picture
Marcus Pun on Sep 7, 2013 9:19 am GMT

Good lord. What twisted logic Railroads supply a transportation service. Transportation is not a service? When comprehensive costs are considered rail was faster and cheaper than boat or wagon train.  Internet is not a service? .The internet provides communication in the form of data. We can do it other ways like a 200 baud modem, connecting from your phone line to my phone line.  The internet is a better alternative SERVICE. ISP- internet SERVICE provider. Wind and solar provide energy just like coal, etc., as well as carbon reduction, pollution reduction and very significant water use reduction compared to the 700gal/MW of only the most efficient plant. . If we want to talk comprehensive costs bring it on and tell the energy folks in texas who are building out as much solar and wind as possible because they have barely enough water to cool their power plants and maintain agriculture and drinking water deliveries.

Marcus Pun's picture
Marcus Pun on Sep 7, 2013 9:30 am GMT

Incorrect. As shown in California there is declining demand for electicity. California has also shown that rapid economic growth need not be accompanied by rapid electical generation growth. compare energy usage between California and most any other state.  Having the rest of the country copy the program in California would result in hundreds of billions of savings for consumers and businesses
 as well as drastically reduce overall consumption and lower generating needs.

Conservation and alternative energy would also result in major reductions in water use and thus lower the need for desalinization.

Very good discussion on water use for power generation here

http://www.ucsusa.org/clean_energy/our-energy-choices/energy-and-water-u...

upshot, about 40% of power plants use once through cooling. that consumes 20,000-50,000 gal/MWH for coal plants, 7,500-20,000/MWH for combined cycle and 25,000- 60,000 gal/MWH. So when you use a kwh of electicity you are using up 7 to 60 gallons of water.

 

Marcus Pun's picture
Marcus Pun on Sep 7, 2013 9:43 am GMT

Very behind the times and the technology I see.  The commercial operation at Gill Onions in Southern california is commercial. In fact the owner sought out various storage mthods and settled on the VBR sytem from Prudent Energy. This is a commercial installation from a commercial (and Chinese) company. In fact it is the largest one, temporaril,y under operation at 3.5MWH No exact cost is available but assuming the currently known cost of 700/kwh, and that they can get 10,000 cycles of buying 5 cent/KWH  baseload at night to use during the 20cent/kwh peak cost during the day, I roughly figured a 2.5 million cost but saving the company 4 million  over the lifetime of the installation (use that loosely as all parts can be replaced as well as the electrolytes) for a net savings of 1.5 million dollars. now that’s commercial.

BTW, Sumitomo is building a 60MWH install in Japan to balance solar. 

from wiki.commerical installations.

  • A 1.5 MW UPS system in a semiconductor fabrication plant in Japan.
  • A 275 kW output balancer in use on a wind power project in the Tomari Wind Hills of Hokkaido.
  • A 200 kW, 800 kW·h (2.9 GJ) output leveler in use at the Huxley Hill Wind Farm on King Island, Tasmania.
  • A 250 kW, 2 MW·h (7.2 GJ) load leveler in use at Castle Valley, Utah.
  • Two 5-kW units installed at Safaricom GSM site in Katangi and Njabini, Winafrique Technologies, Kenya.[13]
  • Two 5-kW units installed in St. Petersburg, Florida, under the auspices of USF’s Power Center for Utility Explorations.
  • A 100 kWh unit supplied with 18 kW stacks manufactured by Cellstrom (Austria) has been installed in Vierakker (Gelderland, The Netherlands) as part of an integrated energy concept called ‘FotonenBoer’/’PhotonFarmer’ (InnovationNetwork/Foundation Courage)
  • A 400 kW, 500 kWh output balancer in use on a solar power project in the Bilacenge Village in Sumba Island, Indonesia.
jan Freed's picture
jan Freed on Sep 7, 2013 1:25 pm GMT

I really wonder at the “allegiances” of the author. If nuclear energy were really cheap, safe, and rapidly installed, I would be overjoyed, regardless of who got the profits. It is not so.

Everything I have read about this new nuclear resugence contraditcts her assertions.: New nuclear (and old) is as far from “hunkey dorey” as black from white. 

From the Union of Concerned Scientists:

Just a quote from these is food for thought:

The economics of nuclear power alone could be the most difficult hurdle to surmount. A new UCS analysis, Climate 2030: A National Blueprint for a Clean Energy Economy, finds that the United States does not need to significantly expand its reliance on nuclear power to make dramatic cuts in power plant carbon emissions through 2030—and indeed that new nuclear reactors would largely be uneconomical.

That analysis shows that by significantly expanding the use of energy efficiency and low-cost and declining-cost renewable energy sources, consumers and businesses could reduce carbon emissions from power plants as much as 84 percent by 2030 while saving $1.6 trillion on their energy bills. And, under the Blueprint scenario, because of their high cost, the nation would not build more than four new nuclear reactors already spurred by existing loan guarantees from the Department of Energy (DOE) and other incentives.

A forced nuclear resurgence, in contrast, could make efforts to cut the nation’s global warming emissions much more costly, given the rising projected costs of new nuclear reactors. A nuclear power resurgence that relies on new federal loan guarantees would also risk repeating costly bailouts of the industry financed by taxpayers and ratepayers twice before.

 

 

Robert Bernal's picture
Robert Bernal on Sep 7, 2013 6:50 pm GMT

I wrote to the UOCS asking “Why don’t you promote LFTR, or other MSR?” and they replied saying basically… We don’t want to deal with anything that’s new and different (and the fluff you listed as links).

Therefore, I decided NOT to become a member. They don’t promote the 400,000 square miles of global CSP (required in the absence of FF’s and nuclear) either.

Sad isn’t it, being that they… (say it sarcastically)… are supposed to be scientists. Sad, that they appear oblivious to the actual global capacity required for each and every type of electrical generation, especially for a growing planetary civilization praying to wean itself from fossil fuels.

Speaking of “wean”, that means to transition to a more abundant source, not lessor.

Do you not realize that back in the 1960’s ANYTHING was possible (yes, even freedom from fossil fuels!)? Seems to me, the UOCS is just another “hoopla” group trying to make money of off the simple awareness of global warming (excess CO2). Just as with all the others including Al Gore, they gain their money by promoting FLUFF to the scientific illiterate and do NOT give any solution other than a few little tips on how to turn off a light, how to hire an expensive contractor to install solar on the rich person’s rooftop, etc. They are against very large scale wind, very large scale solar, molten salt reactors, any more of the”regular” nuclear, too. They only appear to be against all fossil fuels because they do not offer ANY real solutions. Thus, they are fooling those who are too lazy to do the math for themselves.

They do, however, provide tips on how nuclear can become safer without mentioning anything about the very much more inherently safe feature of molten fuels… Hmmm, go figure!

Does “the dumbing of America” ring a bell?

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Sep 7, 2013 8:09 pm GMT

Jan, though nuclear is not cheap, it is by far the safest form of baseload energy when computed on a per-kilowatthour basis. It’s not rapidly installed either, but once operational it provides reliable energy for 60+ years. There is no credible empirical evidence that renewables will be able to provide enough energy for an energy-hungry world; the Energiewende in Germany is proving to be an unmitigated disaster in terms of increased carbon output and expense.

The “Union of Concerned Scientists” has a lawyer, an actress, and an investment banker on their board; what they don’t have is one climatologist. James Hansen, one of the world’s leading climatologists and the man who introduced the public to global warming, endorses nuclear energy without qualification as the “best candidate” for alternatives to fossil fuels.

You don’t need to wonder about Dr. Hansen’s allegiances. His awards:

1977  Goddard Special Achievement Award (Pioneer Venus)
1978  NASA Group Achievement Award (Voyager, Photopolarimeter)
1984 NASA Exceptional Service Medal (Radiative Transfer)
1989  National Wildlife Federation Conservation Achievement Award
1990  NASA Presidential Rank Award of Meritorious Executive
1991  University of Iowa Alumni Achievement Award
1992  American Geophysical Union Fellow
1993  NASA Group Achievement Award (Galileo, Polarimeter/Radiometer)
1996 Elected to National Academy of Sciences 1996 GSFC William Nordberg Achievement Medal
1996  Editor’ Citation for Excellence in Refereeing for Geophysical Research Letters
1997  NASA Presidential Rank Award of Meritorious Executive
2000 University of Iowa Alumni Fellow
2000  GISS Best Scientific Publication (peer vote): ‘Global warming – alternative scenario’
2001  John Heinz Environment Award
2001 Roger Revelle Medal, American Geophysical Union
2004  GISS Best Scientific Publication (peer vote): ‘Soot Climate Forcing’
2005  GISS Best Scientific Publication (peer vote): ‘Earth’s Energy Imbalance’
2006  Duke of Edinburgh Conservation Medal, World Wildlife Fund (WWF)
2006  GISS Best Scientific Publication (peer vote): ‘Global Temperature Change’
2007  Laureate, Dan David Prize for Outstanding Achievements & Impacts in Quest for Energy
2007 Leo Szilard Award, American Physical Society for Outstanding Promotion & Use of Physics for the Benefit of Society
2007  Haagen-Smit Clean Air Award
2008  American Association for the Advancement of Science Award for Scientific Freedom and Responsibility
2008 Nevada Medal, Desert Research Institute
2008 Common Wealth Award for Distinguished Service in Science 2008 Bownocker Medal, Ohio State University
2008  Rachel Carson Award for Integrity in Science, Center for Science in the Public Interest
2009  Carl-Gustaf Rossby Research Medal, American Meteorological Society
2009  Peter Berle Environmental Integrity Award
2010  Sophie Prize for Environmental and Sustainable Development
2010 Blue Planet Prize, Asahi Glass Foundation

Robert Bernal's picture
Robert Bernal on Sep 7, 2013 10:21 pm GMT

Consider a theoritical “all lithium powered” world. Lithium prices go up as conventional extraction techniques are overloaded. New, but more expensive ways are invested in (just as with NG and fracking) and within a few years, there is enough to meet the demand. The lithium in batteries only account for a small percentage of the overall markup. Add in economies of scale, and chances are, the batteries become cheaper, even though the actual cost of the lithium itself is, perhaps quadruple.

They say that peak phosphorus is two centuries away. I agree with you that it must now be addressed, because there is less of it than, say, lithium (per unit of need ???).

However, there is NO way to properly address anything without a transition to an ever more abundant source of energy.

Perhaps, it will be cheaper to use hydroponics for food production (to reduce phosphuros loss from irrigation run off) and to totally recycle it from the sewage system… than to apply the “need creates more” trick via advanced extraction techniques. But then again, it will still take energy to recycle it and deal with all the extra processes of a billion or so little hydroponic setups.

I used to promote like 400,000 sq mi of solar necessary for its storage, to power a growing planetary civilization… The reason that I shy away from that grand (and old fashioned) idea is not really that it should be on the order of about twice as costly than modular made nuclear, but that the effects of excess CO2 itself will ultimately reduce the solar potential, because as the Earth’s oceans continue to warm, they will cause more water vaper, and more clouds. Reflectivity and rain will prevent the runaway (to Venus effect), but still, there will be too much CO2, thus a natural repeat of the excess clouds (until, eventually, the methane comes out from the deep oceans).

The only way to clean up the excess CO2 is by use of VAST 21st century power requirements.

Now, if only we can find a solution to the toughest of all the problems… the “political manipulation of public mindsets”!

jan Freed's picture
jan Freed on Sep 8, 2013 2:12 am GMT

Yes, I truly value Dr. Hansen’s contribution to an understanding of climate change.  He deserves those awards.    Also, he supports a carbon fee (fees rebated to the public), which would create a gradual shift away from fossil fuels.  Kudos for that as well.

However, he is not at all qualified to discuss issues not related to climate, such as the new energy economy.

If you look at the authors’ of the studies submitted in the UCS links i provide above, I think you would be impressed with the range and extent of expertise they hold in the fields related to the relative safety and economics of nuclear power.

I think the fact that wind/solar are growing exponentially and that nuclear has foundered for 50 years indicates that the most rapid build up will and should be from RE, such as wind and solar.  Dr. Jacobsen of Stanford has shown these are feasible for 80% replacement of fossil fuels, without the attendant risks.  And please don’t talk about bird mortality.

 

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Sep 8, 2013 2:45 am GMT

Jan, Mark Jacobson, as I’ve pointed out here many times, reaches a wide audience because he’s one of a very few scientists at a respected university to hold the opinion he does about renewables. He’s become quite a prophet by telling a lot of people what they want to hear.

What people want to hear is seldom a good platform for policy. Jacobson’s most oft-quoted paper earned him an article in the popular journal Scientific American called A Plan to Power 100% of the Planet With Renewables. The paper is deeply flawed. Actually, it goes beyond that – it’s ridiculous. Here, Barry Brook analyzes one of Jacobson’s assumptions:

“Nuclear power results in up to 25 times more carbon emissions than wind energy, when reactor construction and uranium refining and transport are considered.

 Hold on. How could this be? I’ve shown here that the “reactor construction” argument is utterly fallacious – wind has a building material footprint over 10 times larger than that of nuclear, on energy parity basis. Further, Peter Lang has shown that wind, once operating, offsets 20 times LESS carbon per unit energy than nuclear power, when a standard natural gas backup for wind is properly considered. I’ve also explained in this post that the emissions stemming from mining, milling, transport and refining of nuclear fuel is vastly overblown, and is of course irrelevant for fast spectrum and molten salt thorium reactors. So…?

Well, you have to look to the technical version of the paper to trace the source of the claim. It comes from Jacobson 2009, where he posited that  nuclear power means nuclear proliferation, nuclear proliferation leads to nuclear weapons, and this chain of events lead to nuclear war, so they calculate (?!) the carbon footprint of a nuclear war!”

http://bravenewclimate.com/2009/11/03/wws-2030-critique/

The attribution of casualties and carbon from nuclear war to nuclear power is childish, hyperbolic trash which does the renewables movement no favors – yet this nonsensical paper reappears like a zombie time after time in discussions of climate change, and has over 30 references on the Union of Concerned Scientists’ website.

Steve Frazer's picture
Steve Frazer on Sep 8, 2013 2:59 am GMT

Jessica,

Having worked at a nuclear plant, I feel I have earned the perspective to beg to differ with your position on the issue.

I often wonder how many people understand the true cost of operating nuclear power plants.  For example, are you aware that your U.S. Federal tax dollars paid $3.2B in 2012 to manage the nuclear waste material from the 1942-1946 Manhattan Project?  When calculating EROEI for an energy source, the energy necessary to send out a team of inspectors for 5,000 years really tilts the scales so most EROEI reports on nuclear energy comes back at about 1:10. 

Nuclear is basically dead and we will see most of nuclear reactors in the world shutdown during our lifetimes.

Regards

Michael Keller's picture
Michael Keller on Sep 8, 2013 3:22 am GMT

I would not be so sure about that. Never underestimate the ability of technolgy to pull a rabbit out of the hat

Roy Wagner's picture
Roy Wagner on Sep 8, 2013 3:29 am GMT

@ Bob I am not against safe advanced Nuclear.

However please answer 3 SImple Questions

Why has no one built one or who is building one?

When and if someone decides to build them in the USA will they be available to do the Job?

What do we do in the meantime apart from twiddle our thumbs?

 

 

Nathan Wilson's picture
Nathan Wilson on Sep 8, 2013 7:53 am GMT

The Union of Concerned Scientists has an impressive sounding name, but they are basically an anti-nuclear group.  The mainstream scientific consensus is that nuclear power is safe and beneficial to society (consider the thousands of scientist and other professional who work in the industry, who apparently belief they are helping the world!).  

The anti-nuclear movement is like the Creationists movement: they believe what they want to believe, and write scientific sounding papers to support their positions.  The big difference is that the anti-nuclear movement aligns well with the economic interests of a powerful industry (fossil fuels) and is therefore extremely well supported, and they are able to play on peoples fears of nuclear war.  Hence anti-nuclearism, though it is rejected by mainstream science, is accepted by the mainstream media.

A nuclear resurgence does not require government subsidies; a national commitment to end the use of fossil fuels would be enough.  All of the credible claims that nuclear is too expensive are relative to fossil fuels.  Compared to solar and wind with energy storage, nuclear is a bargin.  

The dirty little secret of the renewables industry is that the current low cost of wind power (and the hoped-for future low cost of solar PV) is completely dependent on these variable renewables having a low (under 20%) penetration compared to dispatchable power sources; when renewable power is cycled through energy storage (to eliminate the fossil fuel dependence), the price is much, much higher than that of nuclear power.  The common notion that future breakthroughs will push down the cost of energy storage ignores the maturity of our current battery technology and the size of the cost gap.

Paul O's picture
Paul O on Sep 8, 2013 1:45 pm GMT

Question:

1) China is building them,

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/comment/ambroseevans_pritchard/9784044/China-blazes-trail-for-clean-nuclear-power-from-thorium.html

http://www.globaltimes.cn/content/754006.shtml

 

2) Yes

3) In the meantime we stop shutting down perfectly good reactors, and standardize the design to make them cheaper.

 

Stephen Nielsen's picture
Stephen Nielsen on Sep 8, 2013 6:59 am GMT

NRC staff reviewed Yucca Mtn. and found that it meet all the (impeccible, unprecedented) requirements, i.e., that it demonstrated containment of the wastes for as long as they remain hazardous, a standard that no other waste stream has to even come close to meeting. “

Why is it then that current NRC chair, Allison McFarlane is a significant critic of the choice of Yucca mountain?

 

The barriers to nuclear waste disposal are completely political”

If so we are in real trouble.  Political decisions are often based on compromise, short term expedience or even corruption rather than sound science. For example: Since Yucca mountain was accepted (largely for political reasons) and then rejected (largely for political reasons), the fickle winds of politics have begun to blow in the direction of a far inferior geological choice; the ground beneath Mississippi.

http://www.nola.com/business/index.ssf/2013/08/mississippi_nuclear_waste_plan.html

…this stinks.  It’s clear (to me at least) that there is some sort of ongoing internal political conflict going on behind the scenes in this nation over nuclear and that the Jaczko was only the tip of a very large iceberg.

Marcus Pun's picture
Marcus Pun on Sep 8, 2013 7:20 am GMT

Apparently you have not heard of uranium mine tailings. One tone of ore yield about 1 – 4 pounds of usable ore. The rest is stored in huge impoundments.

BTW I keep hearing this solar is expensive meme.  True the initial cost of solar, just like the initial cost of nuclear is high, $8,000 for a typical 4,000-watt residential system or $2000/KW. The nice thing is that nowadays in California, Texas and many other states, you system pays for itself before the  20 year lifetime of the panels and you end up with a profit, not a cost. In California, excluding the tax credits, the payback happens in 12 years or less, depending on location and use. If you are under PG&E, the rebate is $.65/W or for a 4KW system, $2,600. So now that $8K system is $5,400 and your payback is 8 years or less.

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Sep 8, 2013 9:09 am GMT

Roy, I can’t tell you how many times I have pondered the same questions myself. I am a proponent of molten salt technology and have a website, thorium-now.org, devoted to education and promotion of 4th  generation nuclear technology. This spring I read a paper by a chemical engineer whose sentiments were along the same lines as my own, so I wrote him to ask his opinion of why MSRs were not being researched. This is his report:

“We have discussed the prospect MSR development here in the U.S. with several key players from the DoE and the NRC – very high ups, including the Asst. Sec’y under Dr. Chu who just left.  The answer from the former Asst. Sec’y of Energy was, ‘I personally am in favor of modular reactors and MSRs in particular.  Unfortunately, Congress and the legislative process is so tainted, MSRs have very little chance of being developed here in the U.S. and will very likely be developed abroad.’

We have approached over 70 members of Congress (House and Senate; Democrat and Republican) and have gotten exactly zero results.  I then resorted to the more nefarious route: I have spoken directly with lobbying firms as well as Republican and Democrat operatives.  I now have the dollar figures needed to buy the votes in the respective House and Senate Energy subcommittees.  This is despicable, but apparently requisite.  At least I have a goal in terms of the capital I am currently in the process of raising (about $14.7 million, total).  Even with this in hand, I am still skeptical, since ‘Big Uranium’ is quite firmly entrenched and unwilling to accommodate.

It’s the reason why my colleagues have already formed a for-profit entity outside the U.S. with the explicit intention of building the world’s first assembly-line-ready MSR.”

Is “Big Uranium” really powerful enough to force the DOE to sit on a potentially revolutionary, globally-transformative technology? Digging further, I discovered historical signatures of what might be behind it all. What follows is a copy of something I’ve already posted on TEC but to which I no longer have a link.

In 2007 the Yucca Mountain Nuclear Waste Repository was looking like a done deal, but the state of Nevada didn’t want it. At about this time Harry Reid learned that MSR technology would not require significant storage and could actually burn up existing waste. Utah was another state that was a potential target for a repository, and so in October 2008 Reid and Utah Senator Orrin Hatch co-sponsored the Thorium Energy Independence and Security Act of 2008, allocating $250 million for MSR research. The bill was referred to the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, where it died.

Why? There are several possibilities, but the most credible ones involve the committee’s chairman, Jeff Bingaman (D-NM). MSR technology would only require minimal amounts of uranium to start the reactor, and New Mexico has the second largest known uranium reserves in the country. The state is home to several institutions which profit from traditional uranium fuel cycle research, including Sandia and Los Alamos National Laboratories. Also, New Mexico is more friendly to waste storage than either Nevada or Utah – the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant near Carlsbad is the source of almost $630 million in annual federal funding.

But possibly the biggest influence of all was the international uranium and processing consortium URENCO, which in 2004 began construction of a $1.8 billion facility in New Mexico with U.S. energy mega-players Exelon, Duke and Entergy, as well as Cameco, a uranium mining company and Westinghouse as co-investors under the pseudonym of “Louisiana Energy Services, LLC”. In 2004 NM Senator Pete Dominici was the chairman of the Senate Energy committee, and Domenici’s top committee aide, Alex Flint, spent two years as a paid lobbyist for two companies that would benefit from construction of the facility.

It’s fairly clear to see that any nuclear alternative which uses a minimal amount of uranium (like MSRs) wouldn’t be popular in a state so intimately intertwined with the processing of, and profiting from, that mineral. And so it played out – Reid’s bill was re-introduced in 2009 and 2010 and died both times, with Bingaman at committee helm. Meanwhile, Reid promised to support Obama’s nomination if Obama named Gregory Jazcko as chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, who openly opposed Yucca. Obama won, Yucca lost, and MSRs were still dead in the water.

Now Ron Wyden (D-OR) is chairman of the Senate energy committee and I and other thorium fuel cycle advocates are “lobbying” him to the best of our limited ability. Wyden appears to be more sympathetic but developing the groundswell of interest is the hard part. Time will tell.

Will they be able to do the job? There is not one physicist, metallurgist, or nuclear engineer who has come forth with a compelling reason why not. The MSRE reactor at Oak Ridge in the 1960s generated 8 megawatts of power for four years from a reactor vessel about the size of five bathtubs.There are some challenges which lie ahead, but unlike practical storage for renewables, none are deal breakers. With a moonshot-priority program it’s my belief we could have the first full-scale utility plants online in 5-7 years.

Roy Wagner's picture
Roy Wagner on Sep 8, 2013 9:12 am GMT

 

What about the UK Sellarfield may be interested if you have funding. 

Lot’s of talent available as thier programs are also being decommisioned.

I have heard an exerpt of one of President Nixon’s audio tapes where he chose bertween reactor types based on Jobs for his cronies in California.

I know that there was a working thorium reactor at that time but without Nixons support the program was cancelled.

The US Military also needed a supply of weapons grade fissile material.

I do not know if what you describe in Washington is true but disclosing the fact your doing it may be counter productive.

We need safe Nuclear energy thorium has that potential there are still risks to be addressed.

I support the Bill Gates sponsored wave reactor that would solve the disposal problem too,

I wish you luck in your endevours.

 

 

Robert Bernal's picture
Robert Bernal on Sep 8, 2013 4:24 pm GMT

Solar is great when the sun is bright. It also allows homeowners to actually reduce their carbon footprint. Will it work when the sun is down? Yes, at 4x the cost plus storage. Will it eliminate the footprint? Most probably “no” for a very long time.

Molten salt heat storage is at least ten times cheaper than even the cheapest of batteries but entails a great efficiency loss due to heat loss in the turbine. Thus, the absolute dire necessity of initiating advanced machine automation of utility scale batteries (in order to make solar “better” than nuclear). This is where I finally “gave up” on solar. Because I know that utility scale batteries will not be made for 10x cheaper anytime soon. But I hav’t given up completely. I know it is possible for such to materialize!

Sadly, I believe that there is NOT anymore, a tech challenge to both cheap batteries and the molten salt reactor, but that there is a greed intercept. The best way to power a growing planetary civilization is to use a source with minimal wastes, minimal mining, and that provides MORE power than fossil fuels could ever dream of. Such as the proven concept of LFTR…

But who really wants to displace the 5,000,000,000 tons of coal, the 5,000,000,000,000 cu ft of natural gas, the 31,000,000,000 barrels of oil, not to mention the 65,000 tons of uranium (globally, every year) with just…

Less than 10,000 tons of thorium!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uK367T7h6ZY&feature=c4-overview-vl&list=PLl7wz1JXaNOzHzDbclSuvBhtcMV53deQe

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Sep 8, 2013 5:43 pm GMT

Durwood, no one doubts that the immense power of nuclear energy creates an equally immense resonsibility – one which in the past has been miscalculated (or shirked, depending on your point of view), with tragic results.

Proportion is the key here. Right now, an equivalent of a Chernobyl exclusion zone, every year, is being made uninhabitable by sea level rise due to climate change. Without dramatic and immediate action on the climate by 2040 we’ll be losing the equivalent of six and a half Chernobyl exclusion zones every year.

www.ehs.unu.edu/file/get/4097‎

We’re inundated (please excuse the pun) by the latest news from Fukushima, as we were in the 1980s from Chernobyl, largely because media capitalizes on a widespread misunderstanding and fear of nuclear power in a simple calculus of exposure = profits. With 13,000 Americans anonymously losing their lives every year due to complications from the burning of coal, nuclear’s media coverage is clearly not commensurate with its danger (imagine the uproar following a similar number of fatalities from a Seabrook or San Onofre accident!).

This is a problem which we urgently need to remedy if we expect to take control of our runaway climate.

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Sep 8, 2013 5:39 pm GMT

Roy, thanks for your encouragement, I only wish I had enough influence to think discussing my plans on TEC would matter.

Unfortunately these are the political realities and going up against them is about as productive as banging your head against a wall.

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