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Some of your comments on nuclear energy

Uploaded: Jun 28, 2020
This is not a normal blog post but instead a selection of your comments on nuclear energy. Often the comments on a blog post devolve into an argument about nuclear energy. Rather than prohibit such conversations, and rather than allow the comments on a post to go so off-topic and become so repetitive, I am creating a place for those arguments to occur. Here readers can review what’s already been said about nuclear energy and add new perspectives and/or links to reputable references.

Some of these have been lightly edited for conciseness or clarity. Most are from different individuals. There were many anti-nuclear comments that said essentially the same thing, namely that building reactors in the US is cost-prohibitive. Most seemed to be written by the same person. I did not include most of them, as they were redundant. Partly as a result, there are more pro-nuclear comments than anti-nuclear comments below. On the posts themselves, they were more on par.

If you are looking for something a little less home-grown, you might take a look at this writeup by Stanford Professor Mark Jacobson (against nuclear) and this writeup by writer, environmentalist, and nuclear spokesperson Michael Shellenberger (pro nuclear).


“I find myself tentatively in support of a return to nuclear because of its low maintenance, high-availability and super-low operating costs, and of course zero-carbon.”

“The key issue is how to accommodate the public's ever decreasing tolerance for risk.” (The poster was saying this is also true with renewable hydrogen.)

“Take nuclear power; it definitely has advantages for greenhouse gases and energy independence. However, there are inherent risks to using it. Some argue they're overblown, some are authentically concerned about the very long half-life of some of the radioactive materials. I'm not sure; I don't like nuclear reactors in an earthquake zone- pretty sure of that.”

“I had a Chemistry professor in college who argued in favor of nuclear power. He was a staunch environmentalist and often used the classroom to share his thoughts on the matter. He said that the irony was that the biggest opponents of nuclear power were his fellow environmentalists.”

“Nuclear plants take 15 years to build and cost $10-15 billion per (at least, there isn't a recent example to gauge how ridiculously over-budget they would be IRL.) What could we get for ten billion in renewables, ready to go in a year or two, versus waiting 15 years for the first drip from a nuclear plant? Add in improving renewable and storage technology over those 15 years, and the risk, plus storage for thousands of years, plus huge decommissioning problems, etc... Nuclear is a pipe dream.”

“Nuclear power plants cannot be throttled very quickly. While that energy might not be on the grid per se, the excess energy may be given off as heat.”

“Based upon my decade and a half of relatively painful learning curve, we can't get there without nuclear power. We only have a decade to reduce global emissions by 15-20 Gigatons of CO2, according to the IPCC. Yet, because of growing demand, especially in developing nations, we are adding coal and gas capacity. To my mind, anyone who cares about the climate but is standing around allowing Diablo Canyon or any other nuclear power plant to be closed before we have shuttered all of the fossil generation, is virtue signalling and unfortunately, that includes all of Palo Alto, Berkeley (except for the crew at Environmental Progress) and most all environmentalists. According to Dr. James Hansen, the IPCC, The Nature Conservancy, the Union of Concerned Scientists and many others, how we handle nuclear power going forward will determine our fate. This was the surprise finding of my search . . . our best technological energy solution is supported by the experts but not those we think of as our environmental leaders.”

“Too expensive and too slow to get up to operation. Op/ed from 2 days ago: "The World Nuclear Industry Status Report succinctly sums up the situation while sounding the death knell for nuclear: "Stabilising the climate is urgent, nuclear power is slow. It meets no technical or operational need that these low-carbon competitors cannot meet better, cheaper, and faster." https://oilprice.com/Alternative-Energy/Nuclear-Power/Is-This-The-Death-Knell-For-Nuclear.amp.html We must implement renewables quickly, and doing so will continue to drive costs down. The demand for battery innovation will continue in it's 'hockey-stick' phase and new storage solutions will be implemented this decade. As has been pointed out by others, a crash program for new nukes wouldn't generate it's first watt for a decade.”

“I can't say it better than how The Nature Conservancy said it: "In order to both meet increased energy demand and keep the climate in safe boundaries, we’ll need to alter our energy makeup to curtail emissions of carbon and other harmful chemicals. The reduction in carbon-based energy could be offset by increasing the share of energy from renewable sources to 54 percent and increasing nuclear energy to one third of total energy output—delivering a total of almost 85 percent of the world’s energy demand from non-fossil-fuel sources." (See the section titled "A Changing Energy Portfolio" at: https://www.nature.org/en-us/what-we-do/our-insights/perspectives/the-science-of-sustainability/.) We no longer have the luxury of time and wind and solar are growing as fast as possible, but have not succeeded in closing fossil fuel plants. Nor stemming our continued global emissions growth. From what I have seen, they are not even keeping up with new energy demand. We need a way to rapidly replace fossil fuel generation, which has been holding steady at 81% of global energy. Why should we choose to limit our technology options, when new nuclear power can help close fossil fuel plants? If you don't remember, France made the decision to get off of fossil fuels after the Oil Embargo of the 1970s and was able to convert their grid to 70% nuclear power, close all their fossil fuel generation in about a decade and a half. No other clean technology has ever scaled that quickly. As a result, France has one of the cleanest grids, with their nuclear working together with hydro, wind and solar for almost 90% clean energy today. Today, battery technology gets us nowhere. We are paying for large renewable plants but, because these are totally intermittent, we are also paying for natural gas to kick in as much as 70% for solar and 60% for wind of the "name-plate" capacity. In addition to those two duplicative capital expenditures, people are also now planning large battery back-up systems, which are still economically impractical. … Regarding price, in 1977, solar cells had achieved about 10% efficiency cost $74 a kilowatt: today they are up to about 35% efficiency and cost a few bucks a kilowatt. How did the price come down? The application of advanced technologies and low-cost, high-quantity mass production (with zero environmental protection) in China. This is a standard cost-reduction curve. Nuclear is actually not inherently more expensive, especially when you consider its 92% capacity factor and incredible reliability. But it is 1970s technology, which has had several generations of safety upgrades applied. So, despite being uber safe now, it gets no credit for this. Fortunately, the advanced designs coming down the pike will be smaller, modular and mass produced using 21st century technology, so the likely costs for installation of 4th generation systems will also come down by several factors. Meanwhile, I hear that nuclear efficiency may increase by 30 times (which contrasts substantially with solar's improvements). Thus, a system that uses nuclear means we avoid a triple investment in just getting reliable energy and we could invest instead in integrating a range of important "climate services" like water desalination, hydrogen production or carbon sequestration.”

"From Wiki on the two plants under construction in Georgia "Two additional units utilizing Westinghouse AP1000 reactors are under construction. The units have suffered several delays and cost overruns. The certified construction & capital costs incurred by Georgia Power for these two new units were originally $14 billion…. In 2018 costs were estimated to be about $25 billion…. The costs on the first two units started in 1976: "During Vogtle’s first two units construction, capital investment required jumped from an estimated $660 million to $8.87 billion.""

“Well, since it is already operating, I prefer it to natural-gas generation. But, I'm not convinced of its safety wrt tsunami threats. I would like to see it phased out.”

“But even though some technologies are already there the social, economic and political systems often keep them from being used. An uncomfortable example of this might be nuclear power. The nature of the choices we have, and the cost-benefit analyses we use, with a citizenry that does not understand business or science divides us and leads to conflict and inequality.”

“Mark Jacobson, a professor at Stanford has shown that the world can be powered by wind solar and water and we don't need nuclear power to combat climate change: https://cleantechnica.com/2019/01/24/why-excluding-nuclear-fossils-with-carbon-capture-biofuels-from-the-green-new-deal-makes-financial-climate-sense-realitycheck/. As was mentioned above, the waste and cost issues just have not been addressed. Add to this the long lead time and we are wasting time moving forward now with less expensive solar and wind.”

“The biggest accomplishment that we as a community can make is to convince our state government to Keep the Diablo Canyon Nuclear Plant Operating!!! ... If Palo Alto is serious about converting to totally electric power, then it should be demanding that Diablo Canyon stays open.”

“We have to embrace the use of nuclear power. Where else can we produce huge amounts of reliable electricity with zero greenhouse gases? Some people think it's too risky, but, if the consequences of global warming is as dire as the experts claim, then we should accept the relatively small risks associated with nuclear power. The disasters at Chernobyl and Fukushima have turned people against nuclear power, but, consider this. The exclusion zones around these former nuclear power plants encompass about 2,000 square miles. The predicted catastrophic effects of global warming will harm the entire surface of the planet, approximately 196,900,000 square miles.”

“How clean is it? You want the waste stored here in Palo Alto? You may want to ask the folks in the Ukraine, and downwind through eastern Europe and into Germany about clean nuclear power. … Another significant cost is the private insurance company premiums. Oh, wait... insurance companies will NOT insure nukes. Too dangerous/expensive a proposition. So it requires a government intrusion - corporate welfare. Even with government bailouts/corporate welfare, no one even wants to build them anyway. … Might as well just subsidize renewables.”

“I really don't understand why people are so opposed to Nuclear power as a clean alternative. It has been used very successfully in Europe for decades without incident (except for Russia which was foreseeable given how they handled things then).”

“As long as there are adequate cooling facilities, nuke power is the way to go! The entire world's submarine fleets can't be all that wrong.”

“Hoping new nuke tech will evolve rapidly and decline in costs? It really hasn't in years. Remember fusion? Renewables and storage are in the opposite place - they're in the 'hockey-stick' phase of technology growth and cost reductions. We have to move rapidly. I choose the side of the coin that says 'renewables'.”

“I used to oppose nuclear power because of the waste issue. But I've realized that placing nuclear waste in isolated managed repositories is far preferable to disposing CO2 into the atmosphere. And, wishful predictions notwithstanding, we're going to need substantial carbon-free sources to supplement wind and solar for a very long time. Nuclear is the only candidate.”

“Personally speaking, I am somewhat apprehensive of anything nuclear. A nuclear reactor would also have to be sesmically & meteorologically safe. This is difficult to ensure as Mother Nature tends to trump human designs on a whim.”

“People in the US need to get over their irrational fear of nuclear energy. It has a far smaller footprint than any other method of energy production per kilowatt hour of energy produced, it is clean, renewable, much less expensive, and is not subject to the wild fluctuations of solar, wind or hydro. If the French build it ( and I'm not a huge fan of the French), they can put one in my backyard.”

“Just for fun - let's look at some of the disastrous business side of nukes, from the wayback machine - Forbes, 1985 article states: "The failure of the U.S. nuclear power program ranks as the largest managerial disaster in business history, a disaster on a monumental scale ... only the blind, or the biased, can now think that the money has been well spent. It is a defeat for the U.S. consumer and for the competitiveness of U.S. industry, for the utilities that undertook the program and for the private enterprise system that made it possible." Ring up the folks at Westinghouse's reactor business and ask - how'd it work out?”

“Would having something along the lines of a mini-nuclear reactor in each home help to reduce and/or defray energy costs? A colleague of mine from China said that they could manufacture these small-scale reactors cost-effectively but procuring the refined plutonium would be the tricky part due to the cost & terrorism threat/potential.”

“Regarding the cost and construction of nuclear plants, are you seriously suggesting that the French can do something that the US can't? Our economy dwarfs that of all of Europe put together. I'm pretty sure we could do it if the politicians don't create unnecessary and ridiculous problems that increase costs…. If North Korea and Iran can have nuclear power, why can't we?”

“One doesn't need a brigade of cops to patrol the perimeter of wind turbines against terrorists.”

“The planet is at stake and people dither over 80's-era cost effectiveness analyses. And that is how the world ended, on a balance sheet. It didn't pencil out. BTW, what's the price of a new planet?”

“When was the last nuclear plant built in under 15 years?”

“We could build a couple nukes in the middle of nowhere. But build 30? Interesting notion. 12 billion over ten years for each would also buy a lot of wind turbines. Generating a lot, a lot quicker.”

“"Plutonium-239 has a half-life of 24,000 years." What's the half-life of a heat-dead planet? Has Venus cooled any since I last looked? … We got bookoo tons of that Pu stuff hanging around right now already today. … The solutions for the future Pu are the same solutions for the present Pu: Burn it in reactors for carbon-free energy, or stow it underground.”

“We need to embrace nuclear energy as our main power source. Nuclear energy is the cleanest, most cost and energy effective power source on the planet. Do not instantly close your mind to this energy source. Much of the negative information you think you might know about using nuclear technology is just plain wrong. Much has been promulgated by the fossil fuel industry and people/industries with particular axes to grind. The links below, particularly "Roadmap to Nowhere" will give you accurate information on Nuclear as an energy source, and the legion of short and long-term problems with wind and solar. Please look at the links below: Roadmap to Nowhere - The Myth of Powering the Nation with Renewable Energy
http://www.roadmaptonowhere.com/
Molten Salt Reactors - cheap, reliable, CO2-free electric power, now. http://thorconpower.com/ Thorium Energy Alliance - Much information about Thorium and the molten salt reactor technology http://thoriumenergyalliance.com/”

“A combination of wind, solar PV, batteries, and hydro, is probably cheaper in the West and South/Southeast, than nuclear, when you factor in all the "security" costs of nuclear. Check out the chart on the bottom of this "industry" report: https://www.instituteforenergyresearch.org/renewable/wind/levelized-cost-of-new-generating-technologies/ But, I am willing to concede that for the upper midwest, nuclear looks like it might be the cheapest option, although advanced combined cycle (gas turbine+steam generator)+Carbon-Capture is competitive with nuclear, and which I prefer. People also should realize that the fixed costs of the common electrical grid are fairly high, and, about the same regardless of sources: https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/plugged-in/the-u-s-electric-grids-cost-in-2-charts/ Nuclear has issues. Everybody watched "The China Syndrome", and now is "Chernobyl", but what people should be studying are the documentaries about Fukushima. The sequence of events fits the scenarios regarding this type of configuration that environmentalists always worried about. Figure the probabilities and add that to the cost of nuclear.”

"A combination of wind, solar PV, batteries, and hydro? Hope is a good thing, but we have 60 years real experience that nuclear works, even in cloudy weather and at night and when the wind isn't blowing. And remember that batteries go dead when supplying energy. … It isn't the probabilities; it's the product of the probabilities and the Fear Factor. I bet that, if nuclear mishaps were as common as auto or bicycle mishaps, nobody would pay much attention to them. But unfortunately for nuclear power prospects, nuclear mishaps are rare.”

"Help me understand the compelling advantage of sinking ten trillion smackaroos into a power grid wholly dependent on the vagaries of nature, versus investing the same amount in a technology proven to yield a steady reliable controllable energy flow.”

“We cavalierly throw around costs of 10 billion or twenty billion without blinking, for a single plant. Even costs for closing plants: decommissioning costs in the billions, deconstruction costs in the billions. San Onofre closing costs: $8-10 billion Add to the safety costs of storing materials at a closed nuclear plant on a beach near San Diego: "Cost of a major release at San Onofre could top $xx trillion, scientists say" https://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/news/watchdog/sd-me-san-onofre-report-20190108-story.html "The second study said Edison’s plan to transfer 3.6 million pounds of spent fuel from cooling pools into steel-lined canisters planted along the beach is “fatally flawed” due to its location, technology and management." Almost 4 million pounds of storage on a SoCal beach, because we don't have a cheaper solution for storage.”

“If we found a design, with safeguards, and I agree that is the question, the issue, then mass producing them the cost comes way down, as does the cost to operate. The world has had in the last 40 years ( since Three Mile Island ) 3 major counting TMI, which really was not major, nuclear accidents. Chernobyl and Fukushima. The fatalities from these accidents sadly cannot be objectively evaluated against the fatalities from coal and oil, nor the costs in terms of military preparedness to keep world oil flowing. The fear of nuclear still makes rational discussion almost impossible.”

“If we renounce nuclear we will be giving up a technology that we invented and developed... Right now we are close to the leaders of the world in nuclear technology. How many technologies can we just throw to China and other countries and still retain the illusion of being a world leader?”

“I think it is important to push to research, develop and roll out new nuclear technologies and to realize we will probably still have accidents. I could very well be wrong but I don't think future nuclear accidents with these new technologies and plants will have disasters like Chernobyl or Fukushima - but there is no guarantee. We have had nuclear working since 1958, and worldwide there have been two major awful accidents --- in 60 years. That is really not so bad. What did we have with oil ... that I can remember ... Exxon Valdez BP Gulf oil spill Thousands of cancers along the Southern Mississippi cancer alley I think it is called from petrochemical plants and refineries. Megatons of CO2 burned off from venting gas, and I think on the order of thousands of oil spills.”

“From an op-ed: “The South Carolina companies building two of the reactors canceled the project in 2017, after spending $9 BILLION (my emphasis) of their customers’ money without producing a single electron of power. The construction company behind the utilities, Westinghouse, went bankrupt, almost destroying its parent company, the global conglomerate Toshiba. The other two reactors are still under construction in Georgia and years behind schedule. Their cost has ballooned from $14 billion to $28 BILLION and continues to grow. History shows that the expense involved in nuclear power will never change.” https://www.washingtonpost.com/outlook/i-oversaw-the-us-nuclear-power-industry-now-i-think-it-should-be-banned/2019/05/16/a3b8be52-71db-11e9-9eb4-0828f5389013_story.html from 2019”

“On Nuclear, I'm surprised that nobody mentioned the Bill Gates supported venture to create inherently safer nuclear power plants. That sounds very interesting.”

“Modern nuclear reactors are designed for a minimum operational lifetime of 60 years (extendible to 100+ years), compared to the 40 years (extendible to 60+ years) that older reactors were designed for. --- Even what seems like an excessive cost overrun amortized OVER 60 YEARS is not significant and certainly not in itself the deciding factor as to whether nuclear is economic or not”

“It's not my domain, but I'm wondering if highly distributed, smaller, and many more nuclear reactors, made safer, and more cost-effective, would address the power production and distribution problems. Our antagonism to nuclear power stems from prior disasters and enormous cost over-runs. But, moving away from fossil fuel for ever-increasing energy demands is a challenge that renewables (solar and wind) can't totally meet by themselves”

“The distributed 24/7 zero-carbon-emissions compact generator solution has existed for almost seven decades: naval boiling water reactors in the hundred-megawatt class. There has never been an incident with the hundreds of US Navy reactors that have been operated.”

“You're using, as an example of cost savings, THE FRIGGIN' MILITARY, the last place where one would hear the phrase "cost efficient." The one place in the world where money is no object.”

“The first transistor was not cost-efficient….The first solar panels were not cheap, and even today they need subsidies to be deployed. Solar only works for about 1/3 of the day, a 33% uptime, and the cost and toxicity of batteries is a worry. Nuclear is over 90% uptime available.”

“why is it that tsunamis are a huge factor when it comes to nuclear, but there is absolutely no thought given to a scenario of us being majorly dependent on wind power generation and then a tsunami hits and a substantial source of power is gone just as it is most needed?”

“Cost of nuclear? First, take TEN BILLION DOLLARS and put a match to it. Then put aside another TEN BILLION DOLLARS and keep it in reserve for decommissioning and cleaning up any nuclear plant. ... Example: San Onofre in LA - construction costs $10.7 billion in 2018 dollars. (wiki) Decom/shutdown costs: "The $4.7 billion in early shutdown costs are in addition to what it will cost to “decommission,” or tear down, San Onfore. Decommissioning costs are pegged at $4.4 billion. " (OCregister)”

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Comments

 +   61 people like this
Posted by ASR, a resident of College Terrace,
on Jun 28, 2020 at 8:20 am

California is an earthquake country. No nuclear plants are safe. We need to discover different safe energy source.


 +   61 people like this
Posted by NO NUKES IN CA!, a resident of Barron Park,
on Jun 28, 2020 at 9:33 am

The above poster said it best as the earthquake factor in California makes this particular energy source extremely hazardous.

On the other hand, I could care less if nuclear power plants are built in other far away countries...if something bad happens, that's their problem and responsibility to ensure that the contamination does not enter either the air or oceans.

In the event of a nuclear catastrophe, the countries with poorly designed and defective nuclear reactors should be cut off from all global humanitarian, economic and medical assistance from other nations that have stricter environmental mandates.

That will teach them a lesson as one less reactor is better for the world at large.

In the United States where nuclear reactors do exist, we should continue striving towards making them safer but we are under no obligation to assist other countries in this matter.

If a safe and reliable nuclear power plant cannot be built, then certain 3rd world countries (as well as advanced ones) should not have them...period.







 +   1 person likes this
Posted by nuclear fantasies, a resident of Charleston Gardens,
on Jun 28, 2020 at 10:08 am

thanks, Sherry, for the 'sandbox'. Hope you enjoyed the time away!


> “Regarding the cost and construction of nuclear plants, are you seriously suggesting that the French can do something that the US can't?

Well, shucks, history long ago proved that point. Show a list of the COSTS of each of the last ten nuclear plants completed in the US.

Last one was Vogtle, in GA, the ever-rising costs *so far* are almost $30 Billion.

The V.C. Summer in SC that they abandoned after bilking ratepayers for almost Ten Billion doesn't need to be on your list - it will never be completed. Nor the *other* abandoned SC nuclear construction under the name Cherokee (abandoned in the 80's, after a decade of construction, etc..)

Nor does your list need to include closing and decommissioning costs - such as the Eight Billion to close San Onofre, in SoCal, or it's long term storage costs.

- - - - - - -

**Your Challenge**

If you think nuclear is affordable, show us the result of a ten minute exercise. If you're too lazy to do ten minutes to show that you are serious? Thanks for the post, but whatever you proclaim really doesn't matter.

Challenge: "Show a list of the COSTS of each of the last ten nuclear plants completed in the US, and how many years/decades they took to generate the first watt."

- - - - - - -

I took a couple minutes to do the first one for you. Pay particular attention to the notes. They're incredibly instructive.


Example:

Vogtle 3 & 4
predicted cost: $14 Billion
current cost: $28 Billion, so far (see link, at *least* another Billion)
construction start: 2013
hopeful completion: 2021/22*

- notes on updated costs and schedule, June, 2020: Web Link
"According to their recently submitted written testimony, even if Georgia Power does finish on its *latest* timeline, the nuclear project will be $1 billion over its current budget, which was already billions of dollars higher than when the project began."

- note on component failure rates Web Link
"Meanwhile, government staff and monitors wrote that they were “shocked" by an “astounding 80%" failure rate for new components installed at the site."

- note on how low this has sunk, 2019: Web Link
"Fate of $28 billion Georgia nuclear plant down to 'game of chicken'"


Nuclear is affordable. It bankrupts companies and ratepayers.


 +   6 people like this
Posted by Martin Engel, a resident of Menlo Park: Park Forest,
on Jun 28, 2020 at 12:46 pm

Ms. Listgarten, this is, in my opinion, the best blog among the many that have appeared in our local papers, like The Almanac and Palo Alto Daily Post and PA Daily News. Even the comments are far more informed, substantive and adult.

Like some of the other commenters have said, this is not my field. But, I do want to say, regarding "affordability," no large government infrastructure projects are "affordable" any longer, usually with enormous capital development cost-overruns and larger than predicted operating costs.

That said, some of the comments are ones I resonate with. For example,

“. . .I'm wondering if highly distributed, smaller, and many more nuclear reactors, made safer, and more cost-effective, would address the power production and distribution problems."

Also there are several commenters that point out the efficacy of smaller nuclear power producers such as found on Navy vessels such as aircraft carriers and submarines.

“The distributed 24/7 zero-carbon-emissions compact generator solution has existed for almost seven decades: naval boiling water reactors in the hundred-megawatt class. There has never been an incident with the hundreds of US Navy reactors that have been operated."

It is difficult for me to grasp the notion that all the prior technical engineering and cost problems with nuclear power generation commented on above, cannot be solved by the most technically advanced nation in the world.

Cost/benefit can improve by scaling up a single replicable design and finding competitive manufacturing/construction sources.

Today's power distribution is a major cost and operating problem reducible with many more widely distributed sources and therefore shorter power lines.

Most critical comments point out not inherent development and operating problems so much as human failure to implement less bureaucratic and cost-effective infrastructure construction and management processes. Nuclear power plants aren't the only projects in the US that have been funding and design disasters.

In short, when it comes to nuclear power, smaller, better and more of them can become a major base energy source supplemented by wind and solar power production.




 +   1 person likes this
Posted by nuclear fantasies, a resident of Charleston Gardens,
on Jun 28, 2020 at 2:37 pm

> cannot be solved by the most technically advanced nation in the world.

I don't get why we can't. I can't fathom it. All the cost reductions in technology, components, solar, etc.. and yet it comes down to a couple things:

- facts
- history
- reality

We all *imagine* it should be do-able.

Fact shows us that what we imagine, daydream or fantasize about IS NOT REALITY.

- - - - - - -

If it is so easy for laypersons like us, why would Westinghouse Nuclear be bankrupt? Are we somehow smarter about nuclear that the actual nuclear industry? They never thought about smaller, explicable designs? Or just get cheaper contractors? ("finding competitive manufacturing/construction")

Shucks - why didn't South Carolina (10 Billion flushed) and Georgia (30 Billion) think about that? What dummies! We're so smrt out here in the valley! Web Link

$30 Billion for Georgia to add a couple reactors to an *existing* plant (Vogtle - geez, how easy does it get!) and it still has ridiculous cost overruns and delays.

Yet somehow, you and I *think* it should be cheap to add a couple 100mw nuclear plants here on the peninsula, so c'mon nuclear professionals, just do it our way. Right now, please.

Uh-huh.

Anyways, thanks Martin. I'm guessing you started on the challenge posed, but after a couple minutes of searching, realized that the last ten nuclear plants built in the US are not a positive debate point for the nuclear daydream we all wish could be reality.

Let's invest in workable, cost effective renewable solutions that will deliver power in a year or two, not a decade or two. It's not difficult to grasp.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by G.R.L. Cowan, a resident of another community,
on Jun 29, 2020 at 5:06 am

Other conventional energy sources that would need to lose deadly failure modes (Web Link be as safe as present-day nuclear energy. If both were starting with a clean slate today, non-nuclear energies, especially fossil fuel energies, would be leading in body count before this time tomorrow.

However, whenever they score an additional kill, government makes between $1 million and $2 million in additional fossil fuel royalty and tax revenue. So a person wishing to be friends with government money could do less commercial things than saying, in effect, “Safer my foot!" " the lie direct " or, with ambiguity that is intended to mislead, “There are safety concerns".

Maybe not worse things, but less commercial.


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by Jag Levak, a resident of another community,
on Jun 29, 2020 at 11:55 am

nuclear fantasies wrote:
>Fact shows us that what we imagine, daydream or fantasize about IS NOT REALITY.

What we also know is that what we imagine and dream about can become reality. Every piece of modern technology in use today started as a dream, and many useful technologies were once derided as fantasy in their early phases.

The future of nuclear will not be based on the old technology developed more than a half-century ago. But every major problem that old-tech nuclear had might be greatly reduced or eliminated with new kinds of nuclear now in development. Molten salt liquid fuel reactors would be impervious to meltdowns. Low pressure reactors would not be at risk of pressure ruptures. Self-regulating liquid fuel reactors should have good flexibility for ramping power levels up and down. Fast spectrum reactors would use uranium-based fuels efficiently and should have a very small waste profile, and would even be able to consume the waste we have now. (Including depleted uranium and decommissioned bomb cores.)

>Are we somehow smarter about nuclear that the actual nuclear industry? They never thought about smaller, explicable designs?

Xerox thought about personal computers early on, and could have been a leader in the field, but it would have disrupted their core business model. Kodak thought about digital photography early on, but again, they didn't want to jeopardize their core business. Today's nuclear companies are primarily in the business of supplying fuel. Some of the new designs would not not need any fuel fabrication. There are now multiple teams developing various kinds of next-gen reactors, and they are overwhelmingly new ventures which are not connected to the old nuclear industries. (Thorcon, Terrestrial Energy, Moltex, Elysium, Terrapower, Oklo, etc.) Sometimes disruption has to come from outside an industry.

>Let's invest in workable, cost effective renewable solutions that will deliver power in a year or two, not a decade or two.

The "workable' renewable energy options that we have now are not even enough to halt the construction of new fossil-fuel power plants. So, yes, we should do what we can with the options we have now, but the smart hedge is to also invest in the development of better options for the future, and there is no need to arbitrarily restrict our options to renewables-only. There is a zero-emissions Allam-cycle gas plant already operating in Texas, and it only took a couple of years to build that. Sure, we'll run low on gas in another century or so, but that would be a dumb reason not to use something that could help us out now. And nuclear power is specifically excluded from the definition of "renewable" but for no functional reason. It could be as clean and indefinitely sustainable as the very best so-called renewables, and a lot cleaner, more environmentally benign, and more sustainable than burning trees for fuel--which counts as renewable. The goal should be clean, not renewable, and eventually clean and sustainable, but we don't need the sustainable part right now.


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by Anon, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Jun 29, 2020 at 5:28 pm

Posted by Jag Levak, a resident of another community,

>> The "workable' renewable energy options that we have now are not even enough to halt the construction of new fossil-fuel power plants.

My main gripe with nuclear is that it requires militarized security. (It also needs some pumped storage, like PV solar does.)

In California, grid-scale PV generation is already more than 10% of total in-state electricity generation. Lots of data on Web Link Many reports show grid-scale PV to be the cheapest non-coal source except some on-shore wind (wikipedia Web Link references Lazard reports which I've read) . At 4.8 cents/KWH + 25% storage loss = 6.4 cents/KWH. Add 1.5-4.8 cents/KWH for the required pumped storage Web Link, and, I'm estimated electricity to the grid at ~ 10 cents/KWH. Good enough for me. I think California can produce 100% of its electricity through affordable grid-scale PV with pumped hydro storage.

I don't think nuclear can compete with utility-scale PV + pumped hydro.




 +  Like this comment
Posted by Martin Engel, a resident of Menlo Park: Park Forest,
on Jun 29, 2020 at 9:09 pm

1. Let's take fossil fuel energy production off the table. Certainly for the long term if not only to "tide us over" during the major transformation of power sources under discussion here. There should be no disagreement about that.
2. Whether for, indifferent to, or against nuclear energy production, let's also all agree that wind and solar energy production is, inherently, a good and desirable thing.
3. That brings us to having to make choices. Can renewable energy be the sole energy production system? That is, can ONLY solar and wind generation supply all our needs, 24/7, with no other energy sources? At night? With no wind?
4. Is there an electric storage technology that can contain and provide adequate power when renewable production drops well below consumption requirements?
5. If the answer to #4.is no, then what?

Please educate me.


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by Jag Levak, a resident of another community,
on Jun 29, 2020 at 11:22 pm

Posted by Anon, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood:
>"My main gripe with nuclear is that it requires militarized security."

There are multiple ways of doing nuclear, and they have varying security needs. One commenter suggested Navy-style reactors, which are indeed cheap, but they run on fuel enriched all the way up to bomb grade. Those would need crazy levels of security. A buried or offshore molten salt reactor, on the other hand, should only need about the same level of security you might find at a hospital, a municipal water supply, or a hydro-power dam.

>"(It also needs some pumped storage, like PV solar does.)"

I notice you specified PV solar. I'm guessing you already know solar thermal can do thermal storage in molten salts. Old-tech pressurized-water nuclear can't use that form of thermal storage because they aren't hot enough to make it worthwhile. But molten salt reactors would operate in the same heat range as solar thermal molten salt, and they could recharge their storage at night, unlike solar thermal. See the Moltex GridReserve for one example of a developer planning to offer this option.

>"Many reports show grid-scale PV to be the cheapest non-coal source except some on-shore wind"

Cheapest when they are working. The rest of the time, something else needs to fill in. If flexible nuclear could fill that role, then it would never have to compete against solar or wind, no matter how cheap they were. It would only have to compete against other forms of backup.

>"At 4.8 cents/KWH + 25% storage loss = 6.4 cents/KWH. Add 1.5-4.8 cents/KWH for the required pumped storage Web Link, and, I'm estimated electricity to the grid at ~ 10 cents/KWH."

Several of the molten salt developers are trying to bring their units in at under $2500 per kilowatt capacity. At 5 cents per kilowatt hour, that would only take around 50,000 kWh to pay back, with decades of operational life remaining beyond that.

>"I think California can produce 100% of its electricity through affordable grid-scale PV with pumped hydro storage."

I expect it can. But the question is whether that would be the best option.

>"I don't think nuclear can compete with utility-scale PV + pumped hydro."

What I suspect you mean is that you don't see how new installations of old-tech nuclear could compete. I don't see that either. But there are some new kinds of nuclear that look like they have very good potential for being able to compete. The developers certainly think so. I'd like to find out if they are right.


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by nuclear fantasies, a resident of Charleston Gardens,
on Jun 30, 2020 at 5:55 am

> there are some new kinds of nuclear that look like they have very good potential for being able to compete

Hence the phrase "fantasy". The history of nuclear is one costly overrun/delay after another.

But sure, let's keep looking at new technology in various production (all renewables) and storage arenas. If it comes to fantastic, yet to acheive, solutions, my bet is that we are on the verge of seeing hockey-stick leaps in storage solutions.

Building nuclear to scale, to be ready in twenty years? Not going to happen with the daydream of new technologies. It has to be current technology. And that is obscenely costly and unworkable.

Do not put two trillion eggs in that nuclear basket. Start on proven renewables now. Storage will be there.


 +   2 people like this
Posted by Sebastian, a resident of Crescent Park,
on Jun 30, 2020 at 7:17 am

I suppose is going to cause a lot of discussion, while i could meme and fill with irony my way trough this commet i will decide to put a more "sensible" aproach

personally, i'm a guy who is very pro nuclear but doesn't wan't a Fully-nuclear grid, rather a mix of Hydro, Nuclear, Geothermal, Wind, Solar, Waste-to-hydrogen, bio-hydrogen, tidal. I can undestand the opposition to large Hydro and nuclear and even geothermal because of the nuclear and hydropower industry are derivative from the Heavy industry, and geothermal progress comes in hand with oil drilling techniques, which is not often related with ecology, many of the issues with hydropower have been solved with things like fish ladders, sediment tunnel, smooth and very slow rotating wind turbines, dams without reservoir, blah, blah, blah... Countries should use nuclear as a mixture along with their other or other clean energy sources instead of doing fully nuclear grid like the french, For Russia is Hydro+Nuclear, for the UK Wind+Nuclear, for japan Geothermal+Nuclear, for Arab places is Solar+Nuclear


Nuclear? is difficult i suppose, if you are a convinced anti-nuclear there's very little i can do to convince you, if you are a skpetical then i can convince you.

While there's a lot of cost issues with nuclear most of them are unrelated to the technology itself as they are related to the US not building nuclear powerplants in the last 35 years, pushing the thing up again is going to be costly here and everywhere, Russia when decided to but back together their nuclear industry they did spend 10 billion U$D and 11 years to build 2 reactors, and each one toke a decade to be built, Leningrad II units 1&2, but the subsequen reactors pushed the price down, Nozvorezneh II were built in 5 years for 4.4 billion dollars for the two units, 1800U$D per KWe, and they plan to build the VVER-TOI at Kursk-II for 1.8 billion per reactor in 4 years,at a cost 1350U$D/KWe, and they are already nearly 4 months ahead of schedule.


The learning curve for nuclear is very quick, and i put Russia instead of france as an example because like the USA russia is a big country, and nuclear is a good chunk but not most of their electricity, and because like the USA russia runs their reactors at slightly over 100% (load factor of Kalinin-1 in 2019 was 105.8%) while france does load following.

While hinkley point C is touted as overly expensive, one has to take in mind that most of the Hinkley point c cost in their 20 billion pounds price tag is related very little with the reactor itself (altho the EPR is way too big) and more to deal with the 9% financing rate that EDF had to get, had financing be done by the UK government at 3% like they usually do with solar, then HPC would cost half that it does today, if Hinkley point C was financed like japan used to do, or like britain used to do without interest rates in their loans then Hinkley point c would cost around 35% of what it does actually, 6.5 Billion pounds, which is the price china paid for their twin units at taishan.

Taishan was completed due to a very Fordist way of doing things, instead of the toyotist way that nearly every other indutry uses, Fordism doesn't believe in on-time logistics, or in custom made things, fordism believes in backup, in storage logistics, redundancy, and standardization, all things that are generally nuclear characteristics. Vogtle 3&4 costs are so high in part because the US hasn't built a reactor in 3 decades like i said previously, and also because the scheme of Government warranted interest payments is a recipe for disaster, is in the best interest of the Bank who will be paid anyway for the project to having spiraling up costs, having made a government loan at 2% rate or less and saying to the constructor that they will go to jail if the cost raises too much would have been a better idea.

It also has to deal that VC-Summer and Vogtle projects were built by a contractors with little to not experience in the nuclear field, while Bechtel was the only company in the US that kept building reactors even in China and Corea and have some experience on managing this kinds of tasks, a turnkey project is a better idea and is the reason why Rosatom projects, and Hinkley point are made on a turnkey basis.

There are safety concerns, but so there are safety concerns for every energy source, Wind turbines are generally not recycled and the rare earths used for their alternators comes from mines in Asia that produce as much uranium and thorium and they produce lanthanides, in fact a malasyian processing plant has purificed maded 150,000T of Rare earth minerals, but also over 400,000T of Thorium and Uranium that they are gonna send to australia.

Solar produces large ammounts of toxic waste either from panels if they are thin-film, or from the production process, the same with batteries that require cobalt, and we haven find a way of making lithium batteries without cobalt.

isn't true that Storage is that big of a deal for wind and solar, pumped hydro and pumped thermal storage (heat pumps) are cheaper option and more reliable than batteries, that is money that anyway you are gonna spend on balancing the grid with gas turbines, or building redundant capacity. Storage is a bigger issue for hydropower with the seasonal variations, hydrogen is seen as a better option because for example the 3 gorges dam could produce another 50TWh of energy, but it doesn't because the way the grid is setup, even if batteries costed 100U$D/KWh it would cost 5 trillion dollars. And is the same in the USA. You just don't have that much solar outside the Southwest USA, you just don't have that much wind potential outside the great plains, you just don't have that much hydro potential outside the mississippi basin, the northwest and alaska, and you just don't have that much geothermal outside the Western half.

I suppose Safety is a concern right? Why building reactors in a earthquake prone area like California even if they are cheap? well reactors can be designed for erthquake resistance with things like rubber isolators, and tuned mass dampers, all japanese reactors are earthquake proof, fukushima daini failed because of a 12 meter tsunami and the lack of passive safety system that all reactors that are Gen3 or higher have, whats more Fukushima Daiichi sister plant Fukushima Daini, with even bigger reactors survived with minor damage and could be restarted today, altho they decided to decomissioning it.

Even in that way, Fukushima rather than being the example of the dangers of nuclear power is a showcase of its safety, tell me¿What kind of 60's built industrial facility has to be struck with a maginutude 9+ earthquake, and a 20 meter tsunami in order for it to fail, and despite that only killing a single person after 7 years? The tsunami killed 10's of thousands, pollution kill many more a year.

And just to put an example that the japanese are not giving up on nuclear not even close, Toshiba-Hitachi, and Mitsubishi-Kawasaki are in the process of designing and planning the HP-ABWR and HP-APWR, which could have any power up to 1800MWe/4550MWt, efficiencies of 40%, and they expect to build it in less than 30 months (2.5 years) by building it into blocks, and assembling like they do with enormous merchant ships, they also want a building cost of around 1250U$D/KWe, and likely they will put a power rating of 1300MWe/3250MWt because that is the sweetspot for nuclear powerplants, where repeatability and scalability converge.

Much of the waste issues can be solved with fast reactors, preferabily molten salt cooled or fueled, and pyrprocessing, nuclear reprocessing is expensive cause the Thorex/Purex process was designed for weapons production without care for cost, electrochemical pyroprocessing on the otherhand is a adaptation of the same process ussing in all kinds of mining, specially rare earths mining since they are chemically similar to Thorium, Plutonium, and Uranium, is a process way more resistance to proliferation (AKA: nuclear pyroprocessing produces really shitty plutonium to use in a warhead) much cheaper, safer, compact, and it was proven in the 80's with the integral fast reactor.

Only 0.7% of all mined uranium is used as nuclear fuel, and of that 0.7% that is the fission products called radioactive waste, only 12% are truly waste, Sr90 and Cs137, and even those have application like food and water sterilization, cancer treatment, betavoltaic batteries, and thermoelectrical devices, it could also be anhilated in the breeding blanker of a fast reactor, it must be said that from the fission product nearly 1/3 is precious metallic non radioactive material like Ruthenium, Rhodium, Palladium, and Silver, even technecium which is radioactive is potentially a tremendous catalyst for the chemical industry, plus other gases like the stable isotopes of Xenon are worth their weight in gold, Krypton-85 which is highly radioactive is used a lot on the medical field.

Plutonium and Neptunium are not nuclear waste, are valuable fuel, that we decide that is waste, somebody's waste is other one treasure, and is not a proliferation concern in parts because reactor-grade plutonium can't be used in warheads, and because the US already has nuclear warheads, and all countries with nuclear weapons maded them before making a single watt from nuclear power.

i'm not in favour of using fossil fuels to generate electricity, is a better idea to stop using natural gas to generate electricity and heating and rather using it to making synthetic fuel that pollute less and have higher quality, and stop using oil for making gasoline and diesel and using it in the petrochemical industry, stop using coal and rather exporting it or stop mining it all together, hydrogen is a great option for indirect electrification tho.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Anon, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Jun 30, 2020 at 10:59 am

Posted by Jag Levak, a resident of another community,

>> Posted by Anon, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood:
>> >"My main gripe with nuclear is that it requires militarized security."

>> There are multiple ways of doing nuclear, and they have varying security needs.

True, but, *any* form of "nuclear" inherently produces lots of free neutrons, and, that inherently creates potential security problems downstream. I really don't want random people having access to small, scalable reactors, even if that is somehow possible.

>> What I suspect you mean is that you don't see how new installations of old-tech nuclear could compete. I don't see that either. But there are some new kinds of nuclear that look like they have very good potential for being able to compete. The developers certainly think so. I'd like to find out if they are right.

This is a definite maybe for me. If that is the only way to proceed in the upper midwest, we might have to go that way. If that is the only way to get rid of fossil fuels in the upper midwest, then, we will have to do it, but, I would like to limit nuclear to a fairly small number of large secure sites, rather than the scalable/distributed version some may be talking about. Security in all its aspects are a huge problem with nuclear.

>> >"I think California can produce 100% of its electricity through affordable grid-scale PV with pumped hydro storage."

>> I expect it can. But the question is whether that would be the best option.

There is another way of looking at this. Let's think of (closed-loop of course) pumped hydro as *the* electricity-generating mechanism, and think of cost-effective ways to feed power into the pumped-hydro system. I think grid-scale PV is the most cost-effective method now to produce KWHs ("when they are working"), and, I also think it is going to get significantly cheaper. Wind power also can feed the pumped hydro system. Pumped hydro is also required for the most cost-effective use of nuclear, for the inverse reason. Solar PVs are working when the sun shines, nuclear capacity is wasted when not working. (And, even slightly true of older natural gas thermal plants. Gas turbines unfortunately burn gas :-( but, they don't have this problem, since they can do load-following quite nicely.)

IOW, I think any renewable solution is going to use a lot of (closed-loop) pumped hydro, and, I don't think that is a bad thing at all.


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by hurry the heck up, a resident of College Terrace,
on Jun 30, 2020 at 12:19 pm

Current forms of nukes are unsustainable. When could new forms be ready? 20 years? 30 years? 40 years?

I've waited my entire life for fusion.

Aren't we in a hurry? We're all on the same page about speed and urgency, aren't we?

Hello?


 +   2 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon, a resident of Downtown North,
on Jun 30, 2020 at 7:23 pm

"One commenter suggested Navy-style reactors, which are indeed cheap, but they run on fuel enriched all the way up to bomb grade."

No they're not. Some go to 80% enrichment--well short of bomb grade--to stretch refueling intervals to a decade because they need to take the sub apart to refuel the reactor. That fact illustrates the extreme reliability of naval reactors. A readily accessible BWR can run on much more mundane uranium.

Some posters fixate on cost, ignoring that a planet costs much, much, much, ... much more than the fleet of reactors needed to save it from carbon death in the first place.

Argue all you want. The fact is nuclear is objectively the only viable solution in the time available.


 +   2 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon, a resident of Downtown North,
on Jun 30, 2020 at 7:30 pm

"Start on proven renewables now. Storage will be there."

If you build it, it will come.

Sorry. This is a real problem. It is here, now. There is no place for faith-based "solutions."

And sometime, calculate the energy storage you need. Hint: The numbers are in the kilotons to megatons TNT-equivalent. Batteries can (and do) explode like bombs


 +   3 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon, a resident of Downtown North,
on Jun 30, 2020 at 7:34 pm

"nuclear capacity is wasted when not working."

Wrong! You simply throttle the reactor back. Lower reaction rate = fewer fissions = less energy released. The Navy does it all the time.


 +   2 people like this
Posted by Michael Shellenberger Fan, a resident of College Terrace,
on Jul 1, 2020 at 6:46 am


Pertinent to this discussion: “On behalf of Environmentalists, I apologize for the Climate Scare" by Michael Shellenberger

Web Link


 +  Like this comment
Posted by BruceS, a resident of Greenmeadow,
on Jul 1, 2020 at 5:24 pm

BruceS is a registered user.

FWIW, here's the website for Bill Gates' 'alternate nuclear' company:

Web Link

and here's info on the main variant they're pursuing:

Web Link

I'm no expert but it looks at least interesting.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Anon, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Jul 2, 2020 at 1:37 pm

Posted by Curmudgeon, a resident of Downtown North,
on Jun 30, 2020 at 7:23 pm

>> Argue all you want. The fact is nuclear is objectively the only viable solution in the time available.

I posted links to analysis that says that grid-scale PV is cheaper. Please take a look at it. Or, if you prefer a more curmudgeonly response, "Feel free to prove me wrong." (BTW, this is not an argument for distributed home rooftop PV. Significantly more expensive and too much creates grid problems. It may make sense in some rural situations, but, I don't favor it for suburban use.)

>> Hint: The numbers are in the kilotons to megatons TNT-equivalent. Batteries can (and do) explode like bombs

Batteries are already proving highly useful for grid stability and valley filling/load following. That is, milliseconds to 1-2 hours. You are correct that you really don't want gigawatthours of battery storage near your home, and, it costs too much.

>> >> "nuclear capacity is wasted when not working."

>> Wrong! You simply throttle the reactor back. Lower reaction rate = fewer fissions = less energy released. The Navy does it all the time.

That wasn't my point but I will take responsibility for your misconstruing what I wrote. Nuclear cost is capital cost and reactors operating at much below capacity is wasting your investment. With (closed-loop) pumped hydro, you can run the reactor at maximum capacity and store the excess. This is why several pumped hydro systems have been built to support grids with nuclear.

Hypothesis: Utility-scale PV solar is objectively the only viable carbon-free solution in the time available. "Disprove it." Web Link


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by X men wait, a resident of College Terrace,
on Jul 3, 2020 at 12:01 pm

Bill Gates' alternative nuclear!!! When's that ready - 2045?

Anyone care about Climate Change?


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Anon, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Jul 4, 2020 at 5:35 pm

Well, I was hoping for a little more interchange regarding solar PV v. nuclear. Here are a couple of press articles regarding solar PV. Note that there is already a large operational installation in Kern County, with another one on the way with a projected cost, including short-term battery buffer, of 3.3 cents/kWh.

Web Link


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