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Question

Given the Climate Crisis - Is More Nuclear Power an Option?

Julian Jackson's picture
writer and researcher BrightGreen PR

Julian Jackson is a writer whose interests encompass business and technology, cryptocurrencies, energy and the environment, as well as photography and film. His portfolio is here:...

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  • Nov 5, 2021
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I've been thinking about the epochal crisis we face in the climate crisis. It seems that a total conversion to renewable energy is impractical. Should countries be looking to build new nuclear plants? Will they take  too long to come online? What are the costs and benefits?

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No Nuclear is not an option for China or any other place on earth.  Nuclear is the most expensive power ever made. It uses water to cool it and the deadly waste and terror threat is too high. Uranium is also a finite material. We will run out. 

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Nov 9, 2021

"Nuclear is not an option for China or any other place on earth.."

Jim, be sure to contact the Chinese embassy and share your feelings of foreboding and terror with ambassadors there. It seems energy officials in the world's most populous country have been deluded into believing nuclear is not only safe, but represents a way to reduce the deadly coal pollution choking Chinese cities:

"As of this month, China has 49 nuclear reactors in operation with a capacity of 47.5 GW, third only to the United States and France. And 17 under construction with a capacity of 18.5 GW. None have been shut down. Nuclear provides only 2% of China’s electrical power now, but the country intends nuclear to eventually surpass all other sources."

"According to Luo Qi of China’s Atomic Energy Research Initiative, “By 2035, nuclear plants in operation should reach around 180 GW” which will be more nuclear than the United States and France combined. China is even setting up a nuclear university in Tianjin to train nuclear workers for this expansion."

China Will Lead The World In Nuclear Energy Sooner Than You Think

Andrew Blakers's picture
Andrew Blakers on Nov 9, 2021

Its important to get some perspective.

In 2020, China installed 120 GW of new solar & wind. And it will do it again (and more) in 2021, and in each subsequent year.

Nuclear is a cottage industry compared with solar & wind.

 

Mark Silverstone's picture
Mark Silverstone on Dec 14, 2021

"...the world's most populous country have been deluded into believing nuclear is not only safe, but represents a way to reduce the deadly coal pollution choking Chinese cities..."

By your logic, we clearly we need to catch up with China in coal consumption too.

China currently consumes more than half the world's coal, burning three billion tonnes in 2020 alone. It has by far the largest amount of proposed coal capacity, with nearly 97 gigawatts under construction and another 163 gigawatts in planning – on top of China's existing 1,100 gigawatts, according to GEM.

Why in the world would one assume that China has a perfectly thought out plan that they are carefully implementing?

Who is deluded?

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Dec 15, 2021

By your logic, Mark, I should be accepting data from the renewables faithful at "Global Energy Monitor" as gospel truth. But why in the world would anyone do that? Provide data from a reputable source and I'll take it seriously.

"Why in the world would one assume that China has a perfectly thought out plan that they are carefully implementing?"

I have no idea. If my source is correct, however, and China intends nuclear to eventually surpass all other sources, they have a plan with a track record - not one based on feeble, intermittent, sources of energy, ones addicted to gas-fired electricity powered by Royal Dutch Shell's gas. You did know that adding renewables to as grid increases carbon emissions, didn't you?

“All other things equal, a 1% percent increase in the share of fast reacting fossil technologies is associated with a 0.88% percent increase in renewable generation capacity in the long term,” the study reports. Again, this is over 26 separate countries, and more than two decades.

“Our paper calls attention to the fact that renewables and fast-reacting fossil technologies appear as highly complementary and that they should be jointly installed to meet the goals of cutting emissions and ensuring a stable supply,” the paper adds.

Turns out wind and solar have a secret friend: Natural gas

Have not establish that there is a crisis; remains conjecture. That being said, seems to me the main driver should be economics. Does nuclear energy represent a cost effective approach? Depends on the type of nuclear technology. Some are better than others. Same observation applies to nuclear safety.

One-size-does-not-fit-all when considering renewable energy. Same observation applies to nuclear. 

Should countries pursue nuclear energy? Depends on their mix of indigenous energy resources, but in general I'd carefully consider whether or not the citizens can afford nuclear energy.  Excessive worry about the imponderable distant future is a pretty poor justification for massively raising the price of energy today, as is currently occurring by overzealously embracing green energy.  Apply a balanced approach and don't-put-all-your-eggs-in-one-basket.

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Nov 8, 2021

"Have not establish that there is a crisis; remains conjecture."
Michael, though you might challenge the existence of a climate crisis, its existence is unchallenged by the vast majority of climate experts.
Proof is established by the consensus of experts, whether or not you choose to accept it.

Michael Keller's picture
Michael Keller on Nov 9, 2021

It is not a crisis. Period.

The “experts” have been manufacturing all manner of dire climate predictions that have not materialized. Fact is, we are not able to accurately predict the distant future. Stop pretending we can.

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Nov 9, 2021

Michael, you can say "period", or even stamp your foot. But usage determines the meaning of words, including 'crisis'.

Most Americans say climate change is a crisis. So whether it's the danger of climate change, or the meaning of the word 'crisis', you're wrong. And that's a fact.

Julian Jackson's picture
Julian Jackson on Nov 8, 2021

I really don't accept that the greenhouse gas-driven climate crisis is conjecture, it's solid, scientific fact. 

Michael Keller's picture
Michael Keller on Nov 9, 2021

Nonsense. Climate crisis is a theory, not a fact. 

Andrew Blakers's picture
Andrew Blakers on Nov 12, 2021

The theory of general relativity is just a theory, and we know if is incomplete because it doesn't mesh with quantum theory.

But if we ignore GR, then our GPS system doesn't work.

The universe doesn't care about your opinion. Physics will play out regardless.

Nuclear is too slow and expensive. According to the World Nuclear Association, global nuclear generation fell slightly over the past decade. Meanwhile, solar & wind generation grew by an order of magnitude, and now constitute 75% of global net generation capacity additions because they are cheap and quick to install and have low running costs and social pushback.

Have a look at Australia to see what could happen in the USA: 36% renewables, tracking towards 50% in 2025. South Australia has 73% solar & wind, and the wholesale spot price is $US44/MWh.

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Nov 5, 2021

Also according to the World Nuclear Association: global nuclear generation is up over 10% since 2012,

and solar growth has slumped by over half since 2018. Wind is barely higher.

If renewables don't have social pushback, they certainly are getting it from investors.

Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Nov 8, 2021

What are the units in this graph showing? % growth in capacity additions? 

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Nov 8, 2021

Yes

Andrew Blakers's picture
Andrew Blakers on Nov 9, 2021

Here is a graph of net annual global capacity additions in absolute numbers. It is far more useful than the graph above. As you can see, solar/wind are now 75% of net annual global capacity additions.

 

Plainly, renewables are getting lots of investor capital.

 

Julian - since you asked (commence eye rolls of other EC posters), more nuclear power is the only option.

"Will they take too long to come online?"

Possibly in the U.S.; in China & Russia new plants come online in one-fourth of the time at one-third of the cost. Where there's a will, there's a way.

"What are the costs and benefits?"

The capital costs are large, the benefits, larger:

1 ) There's no reason a properly-maintained nuclear plant can't last indefinitely; the lifetime of a solar or wind farm is less than 40 years

2 ) They have a fraction of the land-use requirements and impacts on wildlife

3 ) They offer round-the-clock, clean energy

4 ) Fuel costs are minimal compared to the cost of gas or coal per unit of energy

5 ) They provide a clean, reliable source of power for desalination / agriculture, electric vehicle charging, and production of carbon-neutral synfuels


Ask a leading climatologist: nuclear power paves the only viable path forward on climate change.

Andrew Blakers's picture
Andrew Blakers on Nov 9, 2021

For solar & wind:

1 ) There's no reason a properly-maintained wind/solar plant can't last indefinitely; bits get replaced at different times, a bit like grandfather's new axe

2 ) They have low land-use requirements and impacts on wildlife; wind turbine towers occupy ~20m2 per MW and rooftop solar occupies no land at all. Solar farms co-exist with agriculture and can increase or decrease agricultural production depending on the crop

3 ) They offer round-the-clock, clean energy when balanced with storage & interstate transmission

4 ) Fuel costs are zero

5 ) They provide a clean, reliable source of power for desalination / agriculture, electric vehicle charging, and production of carbon-neutral synfuels

6) No radioactive waste, no radioactive accidents, no weapons spin-offs, minimal utility to terrorists, one third the cost of nuclear energy, and 100X faster deployment rate to help mitigate climate change.

What is not to like?

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