Let’s Run the Numbers – Nuclear Energy vs. Wind and Solar

Let’s Run the Numbers
Nuclear Energy  vs. Wind and Solar

by
Mike Conley & Tim Maloney
April 17, 2015 

(NOTE: This is a work in progress.
It will be a chapter in the forthcoming book
“Power to the Planet” by Mike Conley.)

Four bottom lines up front:

  • It would cost over $29 Trillion to generate America’s baseload electric power with a 50 / 50 mix of wind and solar farms, on parcels of land totaling the area of Indiana. Or:
  • It would cost over $18 Trillion with Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) farms in the southwest deserts, on parcels of land totaling the area of West Virginia. Or:
  • We could do it for less than $3 Trillion with AP-1000 Light Water Reactors, on parcels totaling a few square miles. Or:
  • We could do it for $1 Trillion with liquid-fueled Molten Salt Reactors, on the same amount of land, but with no water cooling, no risk of meltdowns, and the ability to use our stockpiles of nuclear “waste” as a secondary fuel.

Whatever we decide, we need to make up our minds, and fast. Carbon fuels are killing us, and killing the planet as well. And good planets are hard to come by.

If you think you can run the country on wind and solar, more power to you.

It’s an attractive idea, but before you become married to it, you should cuddle up with a calculator and figure out exactly what the long-term relationship entails.

This exercise has real-world application. The 620 MW (megawatt) Vermont Yankee nuclear reactor was recently shut down. So were the two SONGS reactors in San Onofre, which generated a combined total of 2.15 GWs (gigawatts). But the public didn’t suddenly go on an energy diet; in the wake of Fukushima, they were just more freaked out than usual about nuclear power.

Regardless, the energy generated by these reactors will have to be replaced, either by building more power plants or by importing the electricity from existing facilities.

To make the numbers easier to think with, we’ll postulate a 555 MW reactor that has an industry-standard 90% online performance (shutting down for refueling and maintenance) and delivers a net of 500 MW, sufficient to provide electricity for 500,000 people living at western standards. The key question is this:

What will it take to replace a reactor that delivers 500 MW of baseload (constant) power with wind or solar?

Once we’ve penciled out our equivalent wind and solar farms, we’ll be able to scale them to see what it would take to power any town, city, state or region—or the entire country—on renewables.

The ground rules.

TheSolutionProject.Org has a detailed proposal to power the entire country with renewables by 2050. It’s an impressive piece of work, presenting a custom blend of renewables tailored for each state, everything from onshore and offshore wind, to wave power, rooftop solar, geothermal, hydroelectric, the list goes on.

Costs are offset by the increased economic activity from building and operating the plants. Other major offsets derive from health care savings, increased productivity, lower mortality rates, reduced air pollution and global warming. But since these offsets also apply to an all-nuclear grid, they cancel themselves out.

Instead of exploring each technology the Solutions Project offers, we’ll simplify things and give them their best advantage by concentrating on their two major technologies—onshore wind and CSP solar (we’ll explain CSP shortly.) Both systems are at the low end of the long-term cost projections for renewables.

In our comparative analysis, we’ll be focusing on seven parameters:

  • Steel
  • Concrete
  • CO2 (from material production and transport)
  • Land area
  • Deathprint (casualties from power production)
  • Carbon karma (achieving CO2 break-even)
  • Construction cost

Most of these are obvious, but “deathprint” and “carbon karma” deserve a bit of explaining. We’ll get into the first one now, and save the other one for later.

Deathprint.

No form of energy production is, or ever has been, completely safe. Down through the centuries, countless people have been injured and killed by beasts of burden. More were lost harvesting the wood, peat and whale oil used for cooking, heating, and lamplight. Millions have died from mining coal, and millions more from burning it. America loses 13,000 people a year from health complications attributed to fossil fuel pollution; China loses about 500,000.

Although hydroelectric power is super-green and carbon-free, we too easily forget that in the last century alone, many thousands have died from dam construction and dam failures. Even solar energy has its casualties. In fact, more Americans have died from installing rooftop solar than have ever died from the construction or use of American nuclear power plants. Some people did die in the early days of uranium mining, but the actual cause was inhaling the dust. Proper masks lowered the casualty rates to nearly zero.

Although reactors produce nearly 20% of America’s power, and have been in use for over fifty years, there have been just five deaths from construction and inspection accidents. Only three people have ever died from the actual production of American atomic energy, when an experimental reactor suffered a partial meltdown in 1961. And for all the panic, paranoia, and protests about Three Mile Island, not one person was lost. The worst dose of radiation received by the people closest to the TMI plant was equal to one half of one chest X-ray.

As we contrast and compare the facts and figures for a wind farm, a solar farm, and a reactor, we’ll cite each technology’s “deathprint” as well—the casualties per terawatt-hour (TWh) attributed to that energy source.

[NERD NOTE: A terawatt is a trillion watts. The entire planet’s electrical consumption is right around 5 terawatt-hours. One TWh (terawatt-hour) is a constant flow of a trillion watts of electricity for a period of one hour.]

“Any way the wind blows, doesn’t really matter to me.” — Freddy Mercury

Well, it should. Wind power is all about direction and location. The problem is, climate change may also be changing long-term wind patterns. The polar vortex in the winter of 2013 might be a taste of things to come. Large-scale wind farms could prove to be a very expensive mistake, but we’ll look at them anyway.

At first frostbitten blush, a freight train of Arctic air roaring through the Lower 48 seems to fly in the face of global warming, doesn’t it? But here’s how it works:

Since the Arctic is warming faster than the rest of the world, its air mass is becoming less distinct than Canada’s air mass. This erodes the “thermal wall” of the Jet’s Stream’s arctic corridor, and it’s starting to wander like a drunk, who can usually navigate if he keeps his hand on the wall. But now the wall is starting to disappear, and when it finally goes it’s anyone’s guess where he’ll end up next.

In North America, the median “capacity factor” for wind is 35%.

Some places in America are a lot more windacious than others. But on average, the wind industry claims that a new turbine on U.S. soil will produce around 35% of the power rating on the label, meaning it has a “35% capacity factor.”

One difficulty in exploring renewables is that capacity factor numbers are all over the map. The Energy Information Agency disagrees with the Department of Energy, and the renewables industry disagrees with them both. Manufacturers stay out of the fray, only stating what their device’s “peak capacity” is, meaning the most power it can produce under ideal conditions. Your mileage may vary.

Because wind, like solar, is an “intermittent” source (ebbs and flows, comes and goes) the efficiency of a turbine has to be averaged over the course of a year, depending on where it’s used. But we’ll accept the wind industry’s claim of 35% median capacity factor for new onshore turbines sited in the contiguous states.

And we won’t stop there. Because if we actually do build a national renewables infrastructure, it stands to reason that we’ll concentrate our wind farms where they’ll do the most good, and build branch transmission lines to connect them to the grid. Since the industry claims a maximum U.S. capacity factor of 50% for new turbines and a median of 35%, we’ll split the difference at a generous 43%.

To gather 500 MWavg (megawatts average) of wind energy in a region with a 43% capacity factor (often called “average capacity”), we’ll need enough turbines for a peak capacity of 1,163 MWp (megawatts peak): 500 ÷ 0.43 = 1,163.

Let’s go with General Electric’s enormous model 2.5xl turbines, used at the Shepherd’s Flat wind farm in Oregon, a top-of-the-line machine with a peak capacity of 2.5 MW. That pencils out to 465 “spinners” (1,163 ÷ 2.5 = 465.)

Each assembly is made with 378 tonnes of steel, and the generator has a half-tonne of neodymium magnets, a rare earth element currently available only in China, where it’s mined with an appalling disregard for the environment and worker safety. And, the 300-ft. tower requires a concrete base of 1,080 tonnes.

[NERD NOTE: A “tonne” is a metric ton, which is 1,000 kilograms—2,204.62 lbs to be exact. And no, it’s not pronounced “tonnie” or “tonay.” A tonne is a ton.]

The installed cost of a GE 2.5xl is about $4.7 Million, which includes connecting it to the local grid. That breaks down to $1.9 Million per MWp.

In this exercise, we’re not factoring in the cost of the land, or the cost of a branch transmission line if our renewables farm isn’t next to the grid. But figure about $1 Million a mile for parts and labor to install a branch line, plus the land.

Renewables, like most things, have their own CO2 footprint.

Steel production emits 1.8 tonnes of CO2 per tonne, and concrete production emits 1.2 tonnes of CO2 per tonne. So just the raw material for GE’s 2.5xl turbine alone “costs” 1,976 tonnes of CO2 emissions. [(378 X 1.8) + (1,080 X 1.2) = 1,976.4]

We’ll give them a pass on the CO2 emitted during parts fabrication and assembly, but we really should include the shipping, because these things weigh in at 378 tonnes. And, the motors are made in China and Germany, the blades are made in Brazil, they do some assembly in Florida, and the tower sections are made in Utah. That’s a lot of freight to be slinging around the planet.

But to keep things simple, and to be more than fair, we’ll just figure on shipping everything from China to the west coast, and write off all the CO2 emissions from fabrication and assembly, and the land transportation at both ends. So 378 tonnes at 11 grams of CO2 (equivalent) per ton-mile, shipped 5,586 miles from Shanghai to San Francisco, comes out to 23.2 tonnes per turbine.

Even though we’re not calculating the price of the land, we will be adding up the amount of acreage. Turbines need a lot of elbowroom, because they have to be far enough away from each other to catch an undisturbed breeze. It can be difficult to realize how huge these things are—imagine a 747 with a hub in its belly, hanging off the roof of a 30-story building and spinning like a pinwheel.

Each turbine will need a patch of land 0.23 / km2 (square kilometers), or 550 yards on a side. A rough rule of thumb is to figure on four large turbines per square kilometer, or ten per square mile. But before we put the numbers together, there are two more things to consider.

Wind and solar farms are gas plants.

Don’t take our word for it; listen to this guy instead, one of the most famous voices in the renewable energy movement:

“We need about 3,000 feet of altitude, we need flat land, we need 300 days of sunlight, and we need to be near a gas pipe. Because for all these big solar plants—whether it’s wind or solar—everybody is looking at gas as the supplementary fuel. The plants we’re building, the wind plants and the solar plants, are gas plants.” – Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., board member of BrightSource, builders of the Ivanpah solar farm on the CA / NV border.

Large wind and solar farms are in the embarrassing position of having to use gas-fired generators to smooth out the erratic flow of their intermittent energy. It’s like showing up at an AA meeting with booze on your breath.

Still, it’s considered a halfway decent solution, but only because wind and solar contribute such a small proportion of the energy on the grid. But if renewables ever hope to be more than 15% of our energy picture, they’ll have to lose the training wheels, and there’s only one way to do it. Which brings us to the other thing we need to consider. And this one is a deal-breaker all by itself.

Energy storage.

For the wires to sing, you need a choir of generators humming away in perfect harmony. And for intermittent energy farms to join the chorus as full-fledged members, they’ll first have to store all the spurts and torrents of energy they produce, and then release it in a smooth, precisely regulated stream.

Right now, the stuttering contributions that residential solar or the occasional renewables farm feed the grid are no problem. It’s in such small amounts that the “noise” it generates isn’t noticeable. The amount of current on the national grid is massive in comparison, generated by thousands of finely tuned turbines at our carbon-fuel, nuclear, and hydro plants. These gargantuan machines operate 24 / 7 / 365, delivering a rock-solid stream of AC power at a smooth 60Hz.

That’s baseload power, and every piece of gear we have—from Hoover Dam to your doorbell—is designed to produce it, convey it, or run on it. Our entire energy infrastructure has been built around that one idea. Choppy juice simply won’t do.

(For a more detailed explanation of why this so, please see our article “We’re Not Betting the Farm, We’re Betting the Planet.“)

Dynamo hum.

For renewables to be a major player and replace carbon and nuclear fuels, they’ll have to deliver the same high-quality energy, day in and day out. Up to now, computerized controls haven’t been able to smooth out the wrinkles, because the end result of all of their highfalutin calculations comes down to engaging or disengaging mechanical switches. And mechanical switches aren’t nearly as precise as the computers that run them, because they’re made out of metal, which expands and contracts and wears down. Unless this technology is perfected (and it’s a lot harder than it sounds), glitches will resonate through the grid, and with enough glitches we won’t have baseload power, we’ll have chaos.

So while a national renewables infrastructure will have to be built on free federal acreage—the amount of land required is nearly impossible to wrap your mind around, and paying for it is completely out of the question—the cost of energy storage needs to be factored into any grid-worthy plant.

Remember, we’re replacing a reactor. They crank it out day and night, rain or shine, for months at a stretch, with an average online capacity of 90% after shutdowns for refueling and maintenance are factored in. If a renewables farm can’t provide baseload power, it’ll be just another expensive green elephant on the greenwash circuit.

Pumped-Hydro Energy Storage (PHES).

By far, the most cost-effective method of producing baseload power from intermittent energy is with pumped hydro. It’s an idea as simple as gravity: Water is pumped uphill to an enormous basin, and drains back down through precisely regulated turbines to produce a smooth, reliable flow of hydroelectricity.

Thus far, most pumped-hydro systems have used the natural terrain, connecting a high basin with a lower one. Dams that have been shut down by drought or other upstream conditions can also be used. Watertight abandoned mines and quarries, or any large underground chambers at different elevations have potential as well. But if nothing’s readily available, one or both basins can be built. And if we go big on wind and solar, we’ll likely be building a lot of them.

A “closed-loop” PHES has a basin at ground level connected by a series of vertical pipes to another basin deep underground. When energy is needed, water drops through the pipes to a bank of generators below, then collects in the lower basin. Later, when energy production is high and demand is low, the surplus energy is used to pump the water back upstairs.

It sounds great, but the amount of water needed is mind-boggling. To understand why, here’s a rundown of the basic concepts underlying hydroelectric power.

Good old H2O.

The metric system is an amazing, ingenious, brilliant, and stupid-simple method of measurement based on two everyday properties of a common substance that are exactly the same all over the world: the weight and volume of water.

One cubic meter (m3) of pure H2O = one metric ton (~ 2,200 lbs) = 1,000 kilograms = 1,000 liters. And one liter  = 1 kilogram (~ 2.2 lbs) = 1,000 grams = 1,000 cm3 (cubic centimeters.) And one cm3 of water = one gram, hence the word “kilogram,” which means 1,000 grams. And a tonne is a million grams.

You may have already deduced that metric linear measurements are related to the same volume of water: A meter is the length of one side of a one-tonne cube of water, and a centimeter is the length of one side of a one-gram cube of water.

Metric energy measurements are based on another thing that’s exactly the same all over the world: the force of falling water. One cubic centimeter (one gram) of water, falling for a distance of 100 meters (about 378 feet) has the energy equivalent of right around one “joule” (James Prescott Joule was a British physicist and brewer in the 1800s who figured a lot of this stuff out.)

One joule per second = one watt. (Energy used or stored over time = power. A joule is energy, a watt is power.) A million grams (one tonne) falling 100 meters per second = a million joules per second = a million watts, or one megawatt (MW). One MW for 3,600 seconds (one hour) = one MWh (megawatt-hour.)

They don’t call this a water planet for nothing.

Which brings us back to Pumped-Hydro Energy Storage.

To store one hour’s worth of energy produced by a 500 MW wind farm, we’ll need to drop 500 metric tonnes (cubic meters) of water each second for an entire hour, down a series of 100-meter-long pipes, to spin a series of turbines at the bottom of the drop. (For right now, we’ll leave out the loss of energy due to friction in the pipes, and the less-than-perfect efficiency of the turbines.)

That’s 1,800,000 tonnes per hour, which is a lot of water. How much, exactly? About twice the volume of the above-ground portion of the Empire State Building, which occupies 1.04 million cubic meters of space (if you throw in the basement.)

Remember, that’s for just one hour of pumped-hydro. To pull it off, our wind farm will need two basins, each one the volume of two Empire State Buildings (!), with a 100-meter drop in elevation between them. And, the basins will have to be enclosed to minimize evaporation.

Two ESBs (Empire State Buildings) is a huge volume of water to devote to one hour of energy storage, particularly when we might be entering a centuries-long drought induced by climate change. Replenishing our water supply because of evaporation won’t be an easy option, and will likely annoy the locals, who will probably be fighting water wars with the folks upstream.

Sorry, no free lunch. Wrong universe.

Converting one form of energy to another always results in a loss, and pumped hydro systems can consume nearly 25% of the energy stored in them. But we’ll be generous and figure on 20%. That still means we have to grow our 465-turbine wind farm to 581 turbines to get the output we need.

And remember, we’re just storing one hour of power. If our wind farm gets two hours of dead calm, we’re out of luck. And two hours of dead calm is nowhere near uncommon. But with a national renewables energy grid, maybe we can import some solar energy from Arizona. Maybe. Unless it’s cloudy in Arizona, or it’s after sundown.

Sigh... When you start thinking it through, it’s becomes pretty clear that you have to figure on at least one full day of storage. Some people will tell you to figure on a week, but as you’ll see, even one day is enough to fry your calculator.

The DoE estimates that closed-loop pumped storage should cost about $2 Billion for one gigawatt-hour, or $2 Million per megawatt-hour. First we’ll add the extra turbines, and then we’ll throw in the PHES. (Are you sitting down?)

A 500 MWavg baseload wind farm with Pumped-Hydro Energy Storage.

To get 500 MWavg in a region with 43% average capacity, we’ll need 465 turbines with a 2.5 MW peak capacity: [(500 ÷ 2.5) = 200. (200 ÷ 0.43) = 465].

On top of that, we’ll need to compensate for the 20% energy loss to pumped-hydro storage, so we’ll need a grand total of 581 turbines (465 ÷ 0.80 = 581.)

  • Steel …………………………………………  219,618 tonnes
  • CO2 from steel ……………………………  395,312 t
  • Concrete ……………………………………  627,480 t
  • CO2 from concrete ………………………  752,976 t
  • CO2 from shipping ………………………  29,951 t
  • CO2 estimate for PSH ………………….  1 Million t
  • Total CO2 …………………………………..  2.17 Million t (see below)
  • Land (0.23 km2 / MWp) ………………..  119 km2 (10.9 km / side)                                                                           46 sq. miles (6.78 mi / side)
  • Deathprint ………………………………….  0.15 deaths per TWh
  • Carbon karma …………………………….  181 days (see below)
  • Turbines (581 X $4.7 M) ………………  $2.7 Billion
  • PHES (500MW X 24hrs X $2M) ……  $24 Billion
  • Total cost …………………………………..  $26.7 Billion

Carbon Karma — achieving the serenity of CO2 break-even.

The entire point of a renewables plant is to make carbon-free energy. But it will “cost” us at least 1.17 Million tonnes of CO2 just to get our turbines built and shipped. And remember, that doesn’t include the CO2 of fabrication, assembly, and the land transport at both ends.

Depending on local conditions, we could get lucky and use an old mine or quarry, or dam up a mountain hollow. But we should figure at least another 1 million tonnes of CO2 in the material and construction of the PHES: Two steel-reinforced concrete basins stacked on top of each other, 350 meters deep and 350 meters on a side, with the floor of the lower one 800 meters underground, plus the 100-meter drop pipes to connect them, with turbines at the bottom of the drop. Plus the diesel fuel needed to excavate and build it.

Burning coal for energy emits about 1 metric ton of CO2 per MWh (megawatt-hour) of energy produced. Since our wind farm will be cranking out 500 clean MWs, it won’t be releasing the 500 tonnes of CO2 / hr normally emitted if we were burning coal. Then again, it took about 2.17 Million tonnes of CO2 emissions to get the place up and running, which is nothing to sneeze at.

To pay off this carbon-karma debt, our wind farm will have to make merit by producing carbon-free energy for at least 4,320 hours, or 181 days. (2.17 Million tonnes of CO2 ÷ 12,000 tonnes per day saved by 500MW of clean energy production = 180.83) Sounds pretty good, until you see how fast a 500 MW reactor redeems itself.

“Direct your feet to the sunny side of the street.” — Louis Armstrong

A good song to live by. Except there’s a good chance that, just like our wind farm, our solar farm will be miles from any street or highway. Like wind, solar needs lots of land, and the cheaper the better. Free is better than cheap, but that means it’ll probably be a bleak patch of federal wilderness 50 miles from nowhere.

In North America, the capacity factor for PV (photo-voltaic) solar panels averages 17% of the peak capacity on the label, due to things like latitude, the seasonal angle of the sun, clouds, and nighttime. Dust on the panels can lower the average to 15%. But we’ll be using a much better technology than PV solar.

Sunshine in a straw.

We’ll model our solar farm after the 150 MWp (megawatts peak) Andasol station in Andalusia, Spain. Its Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) technology is far more efficient and cost-effective than PV panels, and uses just a fraction of the land. Instead of flat panels with photo-electric elements, Andasol has racks of simple parabolic trough mirrors (“sun gutters”) that heat a pipe suspended in the trough, carrying a 60/40 molten salt blend of sodium nitrate and potassium nitrate.

Andasol claims a whopping 41% capacity factor due to their high altitude and semi-arid climate, but it’s actually 37.7%. They say they have a 150 MWp farm that produces a yearly total of 495 GWh, so who do they think they’re fooling?

[NERD NOTE: 150 MWp X 8,760 hrs a year = 1,314 GWh. 495 ÷ 1,314 = 0.3767, or 37.67%. So there.]

But aside from that bit of puffery, they do have a good system, and a big factor is the efficiency of their molten salt heat storage system. Costing just 13% of the entire plant, the storage system can generate peak power for 7.5 hrs at night or on cloudy days. And remember, Andasol’s peak power is 150MW.

This means that in a pinch, they can deliver up to 83% of their daily average capacity from storage alone. (37.7% of 150 MWp = 56.5 MWavg / hr. 56.5 MW X 24 hrs = 1,357 MWavg / day. 150 MWp X 7.5 hrs = 1,125 MW. 1,125 ÷ 1,357 = 0.829, or 83%.) What this also means is that the molten salt storage concept can be exploited to produce baseload power.

The Andasol plant is compact, as far as solar installations go: Using 162.4 t of steel and 520 t of concrete per MWp, the $380 Million (USD) facility produces 56.5 MWavg  from 150 MWp on just 2 square kilometers of sunbaked high desert. That’s $2.53 Million per MWp, or about $6.85 Million per MWav.

But since we want to produce true baseload power, we’ll need to re-think the system. Heat storage is all well and good for “load balancing,” which is meant to to smooth out the dips and bumps of production and demand over the course of several hours. But heat dissipates—you either use it or lose it—and baseload is a 24-hour proposition. So there’s a point of diminishing returns for molten salt heat storage, and Andasol figured that 7.5 hrs was about as far as they could push it. We’ll take their advice, and proceed from there.

Producing 500 MW baseload with Concentrated Solar Power.

We’ll have to put all the energy we generate into storage, staggering the feed-in from sunup to sundown. To do this, we’ll have to grow the plant by 3.2 times (24 hrs ÷ 7.5 = 3.2). Like our pumped-storage wind farm, our CSP energy will be distributed from storage at a steady 500 MW of baseload power, with a 24-hr “margin” of continuous operation—meaning if we know we’ll be offline because a big storm is coming in, the masters of the grid will have 24 hours to line up another producer who can fill in. With enough baseload renewables plants in enough regions of the country, 24 hours will (hopefully) be sufficient.

Although solar capacity in the U.S. averages 17%, it’s a dead certainty that if we actually do go with a national renewables infrastructure, we’ll put CSP plants in the southwest deserts where they’ll do the most good. And if some of them end up 50 miles from nowhere, it’ll just be another $50 million a pop (not counting the transmission corridor) to hook them into the grid. Which is chump change, given the overall price tag.

The California deserts have a CSP capacity factor of 33%, so let’s roll with that. Remember, Andasol is high desert, and most of our deserts are at low elevation, with thicker air for the sun to punch through. But the USA is still CSP country.

A 500 MWavg baseload CSP system.

At 33% average capacity, we’ll need 1,515 MWp of CSP (500 ÷ 0.33 = 1,515). Then we grow the plant by 3.2 X to get 24-hour storage, for a total of 4,848 MWp.

  • Steel …………………………………………..  787,315 tonnes
  • CO2 (from steel) …………………………… 1.42 Million t
  • Concrete ……………………………………..  2.52 Million t
  • CO2 (from concrete) ………………………  3.02 Million t
  • Total CO2 …………………………………….  4.44 Million t
  • Land: (0.013 km2 / MWp X 4,848)…….  63 km2 (7.9 km / side)

24.3 sq. miles (4.9 mi / side)

  • Deathprint ……………………………………  0.44 deaths per TWh (for solar)
  • Carbon karma ………………………………  370 days
  • Cost (4,848 X $2.53 M / MWp) ……….  $12.3 Billion

It’s less than one-third the cost of wind, but it’s still enough to make you…

Go nuclear!

Instead of a budget-busting renewables farm that takes up half the county, we could go with a Gen 3+ reactor instead, such as the advanced, passively safe Westinghouse AP-1000 Light Water Reactor (LWR). Two are under construction in Vogtle, GA for $7 Billion apiece.

Four more are under construction in China. We won’t really know what the Chinese APs will cost until they cut the ribbons, but it’ll certainly be a fraction of our cost, because they’re not paying any interest on the loan, or any insurance premiums, or forking over exorbitant licensing and inspection fees.

They also don’t have to deal with long and pricey delays from lawsuits, protests, and the like. Which don’t just cost a fortune in legal fees; you also get eaten alive paying interest on the loan. So the Chinese are going to find out what it actually costs to just build one. And that will be a very interesting and meaningful number.

With 90% online performance, the 1,117 MWp AP-1000 produces 1,005 MWavg of baseload power. And since the AP has scalable technology, the parts and labor for a mid-size AP should be roughly proportional.

Installing a new 555 MWp / 500 MWavg Gen 3+ Light Water Reactor.

The AP-1000 requires 58,000 tonnes of steel and 93,000 tonnes of concrete. Cutting that roughly in half, our  “AP-500” will need:

  • Steel ……………………………………..  28,818 tonnes
  • CO2 from steel ……………………….   51,872 t
  • Concrete ……………………………….   46,208 t
  • CO2 from concrete ………………….   55,450 t
  • Total CO2 ………………………………   107,322 t
  • Land (same as AP-1000) …………   0.04 km2 (200 meters / side)

0.015 sq. miles (about 8 football fields)

  • Deathprint ……………………………..   0.04 deaths per TWh
  • Carbon karma ………………………..   9 days
  • Cost ($7.27 Million X 555)  ………   $4.03 Billion

Let’s review.

We’ve been cuddled up with a calculator, thinking about whether to go with a 500 MW Light Water Reactor, or a 500 MW wind or solar farm.

So far, wind is weighing in at $26.7 Billion, CSP solar at $12.3 Billion, and a Gen-3+ Light Water Reactor at $4.03 Billion. The land, steel and concrete for the reactor is minuscule, the material for wind or solar is substantially more, and the land for the wind farm is enough to make you faint.

But wait, it gets worse…

A reactor has a 60-year service life. Renewables, not so much.

The industry thinks that wind turbines will last 20-25 years, and that CSP trough mirrors will last 30-40 years. But no one really knows for sure: the earliest large-scale PV arrays, for example, are only 15 years old, and CSP is younger than that. And there’s mounting evidence that wind turbines will only last 15 years.

Of course, when the time comes they’ll probably just replace the generator, not the entire contraption. And to refresh a CSP farm, they’ll probably just swap out the mirrors, and maybe the molten salt pipes, and use the same racks. And we should assume that all the replacement gear will be better, or cheaper, or both.

So out of an abundance of optimism, and an abiding faith in Yankee ingenuity, let’s just tack on another 50% to extend the life of our renewables to 60 years.

Putting it all in perspective.

For a baseload 500 MWavg power plant with a 60-year lifespan, sufficient to provide electricity for 500,000 people living at western standards:

Land:

  • Wind: 119 km2  ………..  two-thirds of Washington, DC
  • CSP: 63 km2 ……………  one-third of Washington, DC
  • Nuclear: 0.04 km2 …….  one-half of the White House grounds

(0.03% of wind / 0.06% of CSP)

Deathprint:

  • Wind ………………………  0.15 deaths / TWh
  • CSP ……………………….  0.44 deaths / TWh
  • Nuclear …………………..  0.04 deaths / TWh

(26% of wind / 9% of solar)

Carbon Karma:

  • Wind ………………………. 181 days
  • CSP ……………………….  370 days
  • Nuclear …………………..  9 days

(7.6% of wind / 3.3% of CSP)

60-year Cost:

  • Wind ……………………..  $40 Billion (nearly 10 X nuclear)
  • CSP ………………………  $18.5 Billion (over 4.5 X nuclear)
  • Nuclear ………………….  $ 4.03 Billion

(10% of wind / 22% of CSP)

One step at a time.

Granted, $4.03 Billion is still a hefty buy-in. But power companies will soon be able to buy small factory-built reactors one at a time, and gang them together to match the output of a large reactor. These new reactors will be walk-away safe, with a 30-year fuel load for continuous operation—think “nuclear battery.” Welcome to the world of Small Modular Reactors (SMRs.)

Over the next decade, several Gen-3+ and Gen-4 SMRs are coming to market. The criteria for Gen-4 reactors are a self-contained system with high proliferation resistance, passively cooled, and a very low waste profile. Most Gen-4s won’t need an external cooling system, which requires access to a body of water. They’ll be placed wherever the power is needed, even in the harshest desert.

For a lower buy-in and a much faster start-up time, you’ll be able to install an initial SMR and roll the profits into the next one, building your plant in modular steps and reaching your target capacity as fast, if not faster, than building one big reactor. And you’re producing power for your customers every step of the way.

So instead of securing a loan for $4+ Billion and constructing a single, massive reactor like a hand-built, one-of-a-kind luxury car, you could be up and running with a small mass-produced $1 Billion reactor instead, with perhaps 20% of the output, delivered and installed by the factory. And as soon as you’re in the black, just get another one.

The daunting thing about building a large power plant is more than just the eye-popping buy-in. It’s also the long, slow march through the “Valley of Death”—that stretch of time (it could be years, even decades) when you’re hemorrhaging money and not making a profit, which makes you far more vulnerable to lawsuits, harassments, protests and other delays.

Going big — a carbon-free national energy infrastructure.

A robust power grid would be modeled after the Internet—a network of thousands of right-sized, fully independent nodes. If one node is down, business is simply routed around it. And within these nodes are smaller units that can also stand on their own, interacting with the local area as well as the national system.

Small Modular Reactors can be sited virtually anywhere, changing our grid in fundamental ways—if one reactor needs to be shut down, the entire power plant doesn’t have to go offline. Behemoth power plants, their transmission corridors marching over vast landscapes, will no longer serve as kingpins or fall like dominos. Once a top-down proposition for big players, baseload power will become distributed, networked, local, independent, reliable, safe and cheap.

Aside from the mounting threat of global warming, the productivity and lives lost from rolling blackouts is immense, and will surely get worse with business-as-usual. Ad as our population continues to expand, whatever energy we save will quickly be consumed by even more energy-saving gadgets.

Poverty and energy scarcity strongly correlate, along with poor health and poor nutrition. Unless we start desalinating the water we need, shooting wars will soon be fought over potable water. Energy truly is the lifeblood of civilization.

A word or two about natural gas.

Gas-fired plants are far less expensive than nuclear plants, or even coal plants, which typically go for about $2 an installed watt. Nuclear plants, even in America, could be as cheap as coal plants if the regulatory and construction process were streamlined—assembly-line fabrication alone will be an enormous advance. Still, a gas plant is about a third the price of a coal plant, which sounds great. But the problem with a gas-fired plant is the gas.

CO2 emissions from burning “natural gas” (the polite term for “methane”) are 50% less than coal, which is a substantial improvement, but it’s still contributing to global warming. It’s been said that natural gas is just a slower, cheaper way to kill the planet, and it is. But it’s even worse than most folks realize, because when methane escapes before you can burn it (and any gas infrastructure will leak) it’s a greenhouse gas that’s 105 times more potent than CO2. (If it’s any consolation, that number drops to “only” about 20 times after a few decades.)

Another problem with natural gas is that it’s more expensive overseas. Which at first glance doesn’t seem like much of a problem, since we’ve always wanted a cheap, abundant source of domestic energy. But once we start exporting methane in volume (the specialized ports and tankers are on the drawing board), why would gas farmers sell it here for $3 when they can sell it over there for $12?

A final note on natural gas: Even if all of our shale gas was recoverable (which it’s not), it would only last 80-100 years. But we have enough thorium, an easily mined and cheaply refined nuclear fuel, to last for literally thousands of years.

Natural gas is a cotton candy high. The industry might have 10 years of good times on the horizon, but I wouldn’t convert my car if I were you. Go electric, but when you do, realize that your tailpipe is down at the power plant. So insist on plugging into a carbon-free grid. Otherwise you’ll just be driving a coal burner.

Which brings us back to nuclear vs. renewables, the only two large-scale carbon-free energy sources available to us in the short term. And since all we have is the short term to get this right, we’d better knuckle down and make some decisions.

America has 100 nuclear power plants. We need hundreds more.

Reactors produce nearly 20% of America’s electrical power, virtually all of it carbon-free. And if you’re concerned about the proliferation of nuclear weapons, it may interest you to know that for the last 25 years, half of that power has been generated by the material we recovered from dismantling Soviet nuclear bombs. (And just so you know, power reactors are totally unsuited for producing weapons-grade material, and the traces of plutonium in their spent fuel rods is virtually impossible to use in a weapon. But that’s the subject for another paper.)

Many of our reactors are approaching retirement age, and lately there’s been some clamor about how to replace them. The top candidates—other than a new reactor—are natural gas and renewables. (Nobody’s a big fan of coal, except the coal company fat cats and the folks in the field doing the hard work for them. And of course their lobbyists.)

If the foregoing thicket of numbers hasn’t convinced you thus far, or if you’re still just fundamentally opposed to nuclear energy, let’s apply the numbers to the national grid. Let’s see what it would take to shut down every American reactor, like they shut down Vermont Yankee and San Onofre, and replace them all with wind and solar. And just for fun, we’ll also swap out our fossil fuel power plants, until the entire country is running on clean and green renewables.

A refresher on the ground rules.

TheSolutionsProject.Org has a buffet of renewables that they’ve mixed and matched, depending on the availability of renewable energy in each state. But keep in mind that onshore wind and CSP solar are two of the lowest-cost technologies in their tool kit, and that the actual renewables mix for any one state will probably be more complex—and more expensive—than what we’ll be laying out in the next section.

Thus far, we’ve bent over backwards to give renewables every advantage, from average capacity numbers to CO2 estimates to pumped-hydro efficiency to equipment replacement costs. Projecting how the entire country can run on wind and solar alone is simply an exercise for ballpark comparisons. Your mileage will definitely vary, and probably not in a way you would like.

“Let me live that fantasy.” — Lourde

So after all we’ve been through together, you would still prefer to run the country on wind and solar? Well, okay, then let’s run the numbers and see what it takes.

America’s coal, gas, petroleum and nuclear plants generate a combined baseload power of 405 GWavg, or “gigawatts average.” (Remember, a gigawatt is a thousand megawatts.) Let’s replace all of them with a 50 / 50 mix of onshore wind and CSP, and since our energy needs are constantly growing, let’s round up the total to 500 GWs, which is likely what we’ll need by the time we finish a national project like this. Some folks say that we should level off or reduce our consumption by conserving and using more efficient devices, which is true in principle. But in practice, human nature is such that whatever energy we save, we just gobble up with more gadgets. So we’d better figure on 500 GWs.

To generate this much energy with 1,000 of our 500 MW renewables farms, we’ll put 500 wind farms in the Midwest (and hope the wind patterns don’t change…) and we’ll put 500 CSP farms in the southwest deserts—all of it on free federal land and hooked into the grid. Aside from whatever branch transmission lines we’ll need (which will be chump change), here’s the lowdown:

Powering the U.S. with 500 wind and 500 CSP farms, at 500 MWavg apiece.

  • Steel ………………..  503 Million tonnes (5.6 times annual U.S. production)
  • Concrete …………..  1.57 Billion t (3.2 times annual U.S. production)
  • CO2 ………………….  3.3 Billion t (all U.S. passenger cars  for 2.5 years)
  • Land …………………  91,000 km2 (302 km / side)

35,135 sq. miles (169 mi / side)

(the size of Indiana)

  • 60-year cost ………  $29.25 Trillion

That’s 29 times the 2014 discretionary federal budget.

If we can convince the wind lobby that they’re outclassed by CSP, we could do the entire project for a lot less, and put the whole enchilada in the desert:

Powering the U.S. with 1,000 CSP farms, producing 500 MWavg apiece.

  • Steel ……………….   787 Million t (1.6 times annual U.S. production)
  • Concrete ………….  2.52 Billion t (5.14 times annual U.S. production)
  • CO2 …………………  3.02 Billion t (all U.S. passenger cars for 2.3 years)
  • Land ………………..  63,000 km2 (251 km / side)

24,234 sq. miles (105.8 mi / side)

(the size of West Virginia)

  • 60-year cost …….  $18.45 Trillion

 

That’s to 18 times the 2014 federal budget.

Or, we could power the U.S. with 500 AP-1000 reactors.

Rated at 1,117 MWp, and with a reactor’s typical uptime of 90%, an AP-1000 will deliver 1,005 MWav. Five hundred APs will produce 502.5 GWav, replacing all existing U.S. electrical power plants, including our aging fleet of reactors.

The AP-1000 uses 5,800 tonnes of steel, 90,000 tonnes of concrete, with a combined carbon karma of 115,000 t of CO2 that can be paid down in less than 5 days. The entire plant requires 0.04km2, a patch of land just 200 meters on a side, next to an ample body of water for cooling. (Remember, it’s a Gen-3+ reactor. Most Gen-4 reactors won’t need external cooling.) Here’s the digits:

  • Steel ……….  2.9 Million t (0.5% of W  &  CSP / 0.36% of CSP)
  • Concrete …  46.5 Million t (3.3% of W  & CSP / 1.8% of CSP)
  • CO2 ………..  59.8 Million tonnes (2% of W & CSP / 1.5% of CSP)
  • Land ……….  20.8 km2 (4.56 km / side) (0.028% W & CSP / 0.07% of CSP)

1.95 sq. miles (1.39 miles / side)

(1.5 times the size of Central Park)

  • 60-year cost ………  $2.94 Trillion

That’s 2.9 times the 2014 federal budget.

Small Modular Reactors may cost a quarter or half again as much, but the buy-in is significantly less, the build-out is much faster (picture jetliners rolling off the assembly line), the resources and CO2  are just as minuscule, and they can be more widely distributed, ensuring the resiliency of the grid with multiple nodes.

Or for just $1 Trillion, we could power the entire country with MSRs.

The Molten Salt Reactor was invented by Alvin Weinberg and Eugene Wigner, the same Americans who came up with the Light Water Reactor (LWR). The liquid-fueled MSR showed tremendous promise during more than 20,000 hours of research and development at Oak Ridge National Labs in the late 60s and early 70s, but it was shelved by Richard Nixon to help his cronies in California, who wanted to develop another type of reactor (which didn’t work out so well.)

Today’s MSR proponents are confident that when research and development is resumed and brought up to speed, assembly-line production of MSRs could be initiated within five years. The cost of all this activity would be about $5 Billion—substantially less than the cost of one AP-1000 reactor in Vogtle, Georgia.

Several cost analyses on MSR designs have been done over the years, averaging  about $2 an installed watt—cheaper than a coal plant, and far cleaner and safer as well. A true Gen-4 reactor, the MSR has several advantages:

  • It can’t melt down
  • It doesn’t need an external cooling system
  • It’s naturally and automatically self-regulating
  • It always operates at atmospheric pressure
  • It won’t spread contaminants if damaged or destroyed
  • It can be installed literally anywhere
  • It can be modified to breed fuel for itself and other reactors
  • It is completely impractical for making weapons
  • It can be configured to consume nuclear “waste” as fuel
  • It can pay for itself through the production of isotopes for medicine, science and industry
  • It can be fueled by thorium, four times as abundant as uranium and found all over the world, particularly in America (it’s even in our beach sand.)

Since it never operates under pressure, an MSR doesn’t need a containment dome, one of the most expensive parts of a traditional nuclear plant. And MSRs don’t need exotic high-pressure parts, either. The reactor is simplicity itself.

Overall, an MSR’s steel and concrete requirements will be significantly less than an AP-1000, or any other solid-fuel, high-pressure, water-cooled reactor, including the Small Modular Reactors.

While SMRs are a major advance over the traditional Light Water Reactor, and are far safer machines, the liquid-fueled MSR is in a class all its own. It’s a completely different approach to reactor design, which has always used coolants that are fundamentally—and often violently—incompatible with the fuel.

Like the old saying goes, “Everything’s fine until something goes wrong.” And the few times that LWRs have gone wrong, the entire planet freaked out. In the wake of those three major incidents—only one of which (Chernobyl) has ever killed anyone—the safest form of large-scale carbon-free power production in the history of the world was very nearly shelved for good.

The key differences in MSR design is that the fuel is perfectly compatible with the coolant, because the coolant IS the fuel and the fuel IS the coolant, naturally expanding and contracting to maintain a safe and stable operating temperature.

They used to joke at Oak Ridge that the hardest thing about testing the MSR was finding something to do. The reactor can virtually run itself, and will automatically shut down if there’s a problem—an inherently “walk-away safe” design. And not because of clever engineering, but because of the laws of physics.

Wigner and Weinberg should have gotten the Nobel Prize. The MSR is that different. Liquid fuel changes everything. Liquid fuel is a very big deal.

The bottom line

The only way we’re going to power the nation—let alone the planet—on carbon-free energy is with nuclear power. And the sooner we all realize that, the better.

There’s so much work to do!

SEE another preview chapter We’re not betting the farm. We’re betting the planet.

Copyright © 2015 by Michael Sean Conley. All rights reserved.

140 thoughts on “Let’s Run the Numbers – Nuclear Energy vs. Wind and Solar

  1. Tom Stacy

    Most of what this article puts forth is on solid ground. Except for one large elephant flatulence in the room – their contention that more CO2 in the atmosphere is a problem rather than a blessing. But of course the forces behind the article are promoting nuclear energy, which is by far the least-cost way to lay bare our Earth to the ravages of any future global cooling trend.

    Don’t get me wrong, I believe nuclear has many advantages long term over coal and gas (and certainly over wind+solar+storage). For one, it could be lowest cost under a prudent and balanced regulatory structure. Second, the fuel source could outlast our sun, which calls into question the value of “renewable” relative to “inexhaustible” in the first place.

    But the issue today is keeping the US strong – economically, militarily and politically. Keeping ourselves globally competitive in everything we can is foundational to those aspirations. And foundational to global competitiveness is competitiveness in electricity generation. That means coal (which as incredibly clean already compared with its emissions just forty years ago), and in some areas, natural gas where prudent as an intermediate and peaking load resource.

    The worst thing we could do is invest capital in sources that not only fail to avoid reliability investments, but which actually cannibalize the utilization and profitability of reliable capacity resources. Kudos to these authors despite the snake oil remedy of nuclear to a beneficial condition they label as a disease.

    Reply
    1. Mark Pawelek

      Many, if not all, of the molten salt reactor designs are expected to make electricity cheaper than coal. I don’t think Tom Stacy took that into account when he said: “nuclear energy, which is by far the least-cost way to lay bare our Earth to the ravages of any future global cooling trend”. Oh, by the way, Tom, that was a really convoluted sentence. I had to stop myself for a moment there to figure out what you meant to say!

      Reply
      1. Bruce Miller

        Alvin Weinberg America’s greatest and most benevolent hero of all times! His work was given away to the Chinese who have since modernized, computerized reverse engineered and improved it. U.S.A. hardly includes nuclear plant decommissioning in their calculations? Alvin’s chemical reactor a LFTR, a molten salt reactor would theoretically never need decommissioning and can run on the waste materials and/or thorium, a very cheap and easy to handle fuel?
        Renewables however, are perpetual, eternal energy sources that never run dry, need refueling, or decommissioning and run clean, forever. fact is: USA must now follow China and the rising Pan Eurasian Empire, an empire of electric bullet trains, and soon enough , electric cars. The Jet engine age is not over! It will be fueled by China’s gas moderated reactors as they provide ample and high temperature heat to synthesis “A diesel Like” fuel form waste C02 and nitrogen from the air.

        Reply
        1. william kotcher

          Bruce, if Renewable’s or the Wind and the Sun, will be here forever, but the Wind Turbine or Solar panel are not perpetual, eternal, machines that last forever. Wind Turbines get old and are torn down, as have the first and second generation turbines in Palm Springs, which I attest to for I have lived there. Wind Turbines also require Oil. 250 gallons a year per turbine, times 1,000’s of turbines, that is a lot of Oil.

          Solar plants require water, at the least to clean the mirrors of dust, water which in the drought ridden deserts of southern California is a commodity that is scarce. Solar plants require 100’s of miles of land, and are a literal heat island.

          Solar panels also degrade and need constant replacing.

          Neither qualify as perpetual. Not even the sun is perpetual, it goes down every night, as the wind does not always blow.

          Reply
    2. Willem Post

      Hello Tom,

      The article is on solid ground, except its costs are too high.

      In my article I compare the Jacobson report estimated capital cost (about $15.5 trillion) to my cost (about $23.2 trillion).

      The reason for the difference is the Jacobson low-ball estimates of the capital cost ($1,000,000/MW) for various energy sources, and high-ball estimates of various capacity factors (CFs).

      Both work to reduce Jacobson’s required capacities, acreage, capital costs, and leveled cost of energy, LCOE.

      Here is the URL of my article which compares the Jacobson Plan with two alternatives.
      http://www.theenergycollective.com/willem-post/2264202/reducing-us-primary-energy-wind-and-solar-energy-and-energy-efficiency

      I make changes to the article as new comments are made, and new information becomes available.

      Reply
  2. Don Gillespie

    Excellent work:

    I am tired of being stolen from and then made to suffer from it. Do what is required to promote nuclear power and do it now! Someone, somewhere, get the message to the public and cover the topic like a wet blanket.
    You are quite right. We are in the process of cooking the planet…

    When you get through with this one, take on the massive stealing and farce the corn ethanol people are
    putting upon us.

    Thank you.

    Don Gillespie

    Reply
  3. Parke Ewing

    Excellent article and often thought about the math. Certainly does put the renewable energy scam into perspective. The land usage alone is a major issue. The Co2 savings calculations by the wind turbine industry have never been proven. I will be spreading this around, people need education on this subject because it is costing taxpayers an unnecessary fortune. Wind turbines and solar fields are destroying public lands. I do personally like rooftop solar because new battery storage is available, even though it is lithium batteries, it will help an individual at least partially stay off the grid in milder climate areas.

    Reply
  4. Ike Bottema (@Ikemeister)

    I look forward to your book! Anyway a few comments if I may:

    1. I like the general down-to-earth conversational style. Keeps the reader plunging ahead. But it does become a little scattered at times, where it’s hard tracking where you’re going with the analysis. Perhaps the layout would help plus the use of inserts?

    2. Bang on about the storage issue WRT wind and solar! Not enough attention is given to this critical aspect. However some renewable advocates believe a “smart network” could be put in place to dynamically shuttle electricity from various disparate generation points to where the electricity is being demanded without the need to store an individual power plant’s energy as you postulate. This dream is largely based on research by folks like Mark Jacobson see http://thesolutionsproject.org/ for example. His reasearch takes no account of shuttling the electricity from south-western desert solar farms or mid-western wind farms to the eastern seaboard, rather assumes a “copper plate” transmission line! It would be good to have a more in-depth analysis of transmission costs, especially for HVDC systems being touted as the answer for transporting Terrawatts across North America.

    3. You don’t even consider battery storage which many thing would be a no-brainer way of making wind and solar dispatchable. It would be good to show why current technology doesn’t cut the mustard, how flow batteries fit in, and also explain the concept of molten salt batteries and how this technology could make utility-scale electrical storage feasible.

    3. I most certainly agree that MSR technology is the future. And while I realize that MSR technology is not yet here so tougher to put as much detail into to numbers, it seems to me that without equivalent discussion to the other three options presented, this option appears to be based on hope. Fleshing this technology out a bit more to demonstrate why costs would be reduced so much, would lend more credibility towards this option.

    Reply
    1. Scottar

      The distributed HVDC grid flopped in Europe when the final cost hit the reality wall for the same reasons mention in the article above- Bang per buck infrastructure costs and immunity to terrorists attacks.

      20 years ago the promising battery technology was the fuel cell. Now the inheritance cost hurtles have not been solved. The molten metal salt battery is still in the chicken egg incubator and has yet to be proved out.

      And your sources are biased. With all the inherent problems of renewables, even with this battery I don’t see how renewables can be cost effective. And I have explained why CO2 is not the climate change demon the warmists claim.

      And the only reasons renewables exist at all is mandates, exorbitant subsidies and government- bureaucratic hype distortions.
      And I have read of a technology that makes coal 2x more energy efficient without all the pollution problems, the carbon fuel cell.

      Reply
    2. Asteroid Miner

      The energy storage would cost about a quadrillion dollars, if you could do it. A quadrillion is a thousand trillion. There is a lot of research going on on batteries, but nothing that will be commercially available soon enough. The batteries being researched would be dangerous molten metals.

      “Green Illusions” by Ozzie Zehner: A complete renewable energy system for the US would cost 1.4 QUADRILLION dollars.

      My estimate for the cost of a battery for the US is $0.5 QUADrillion.  5 times 10 to the eleventh power.  About 29 times GDP.  How I got it:  Fairbanks has a battery that can last 7 to 15 minutes.  They paid $35 Million for it.  Fairbanks has 30,000 people.  That is $1167 per person.  Multiply by 400 million people.  Divide 7 minutes into a week.  Multiply that by the number you got before.  You get half a quadrillion dollars.  Batteries are out.  

      Book: “Why We Need Nuclear Power; the Environmental Case” by Michael H. Fox, 2014
      Page 236:  “Nuclear power hits a lot of those hot buttons”
      German feed-in tariff for wind power is 57 cents.  That’s wholesale.  I am paying 7.5 cents retail.  

      There are 2 technologies that would make renewables possible if we had them:  ambient temperature superconductors or batteries about a million times better than what we have.  “High temperature superconductor” means it works in liquid nitrogen and doesn’t need liquid helium.  

      Do the Math
      Using physics and estimation to assess energy, growth, options―by Tom Murphy
      http://physics.ucsd.edu/do-the-math/2011/08/nation-sized-battery/

      http://physics.ucsd.edu/do-the-math/2011/11pump-up-the-storage/
      Hydro storage would require us to lift Lake Erie half a kilometer skyward. Pumped hydro storage is not feasible.

      To go with renewables only, you need a whole week’s worth of battery power for the whole world. How much does that cost? Hint: You run out of the things you need to make batteries very quickly. BraveNewClimate addressed that question for 2 kinds of batteries.
      bravenewclimate.com/2011/11/13/energy-storage-dt/

      bravenewclimate.com/2011/10/29/gws-sg-es/
      
Geographical wind smoothing, supergrids and energy storage
      http://bravenewclimate.com/2011/11/13/energy-storage-dt/#more-5281
      http://ssis.arts.unsw.edu.au/tsw/RE.html
      
RENEWABLE ENERGY – CANNOT SUSTAIN AN ENERGY-INTENSIVE SOCIETY. 
      bravenewclimate.com/2011/07/03/lacklustre-colorado-solar/
      
Be sure to read the linked papers. In the Arizona desert, solar has dropouts in mid day for no apparent reason.
      Wind: There are rare places where wind works locally, but to power, for example, all of Europe, all of Europe and all of Asia has to be linked into one very expensive grid. You need the nameplate power times 4 spread over 12 time zones to get reliable power. The line losses are huge unless you have a superconducting grid, and superconductors now available require liquid nitrogen cooling.
      bravenewclimate.com/2012/02/27/100-renewable-electricity-for-australia-response-to-lang/
      
theenergycollective.com/node/74311
      The Germans are paying ~$1.71 per kilowatt hour for renewable energy, assuming that nuclear + coal costs the same as what I am paying.

      Reply
  5. Colin Megson

    It’s all about dilute sources of energy trying to power devices designed to be as small as possible through the use of concentrated forms of prime movers and electronics. Compact devices means less use of precious resources and energy – but a 300 feet high wind turbine, using 1000 tonnes of steel and concrete is as compact as it gets, to collect the dilute energy source.

    Last year, in the UK, we had 92 continuous days (3 months) of low to no wind. Each wind turbine was only capable of boiling 90 x 3 kW electric kettles.

    So THEWs (TreeHuggingEcoWarriors) are prepared to plonk 1000 tonnes of steel and concrete in the middle of pristine countryside, destroying ecosystems and species and polluting environments, to boil 92 kettles in distant cities: http://idiocyofrenewables.blogspot.co.uk/2014/10/92-continuous-days-of-lolo-wind-thats.html

    Every environmentally concerned person should try to absorb this mental image of a 300 feet high (above ground) structure, consisting of hundreds of tonnes of steel and rare earth elements, on an underground base of many hundreds of tonnes of concrete and rebar and a group of 92 x 1 kg electric kettles.

    This insanity cannot be justified.

    We need to power our ‘concentrated’ devices – that mean so much to living our lives the way we wish to – from concentrated sources of power.

    We have 2 choices going forwards – fossil fuels or nuclear – mine’s nuclear, in the form of Gen IV breeder reactors: http://prismsuk.blogspot.co.uk/2014/01/ge-hitachi-prism-future-of-nuclear.html

    Reply
  6. Scottar

    Although am not against nuclear your cost analysis fails to take into account the cost of handling the radioactive waste materials generated from the fuel and radiated components.

    But all energy technologies have depreciation and maintenance costs that also need to be figured in. Sooner or later all concrete foundations degrade to the point of non usability, the crystalline structure that forms the bond strength degrade over time to a crumbling stone similar to aggregate sandstone.

    My understanding is that the maintenance and depreciation costs are much higher for renewables since they have a much more extensive infrastructure including transmission lines.

    I will submit to you a following explanation of why CO2 is not the global warming factor that warmists claim it is. It’s actually zilch to climate change. And methane only has a life span of 28 days or less as it oxidizes fairly quickly and would take volumes of a continuous stream to do much warming which is more then all the producers could supply directly to the atmosphere.

    Reply
    1. Asteroid Miner

      There is no such thing as nuclear waste. It is spent fuel that needs to be recycled. Even the atoms made by splitting actinides have uses, as radiation sources to cure cancer.

      In the 1960s, we recycled spent nuclear fuel. We don’t recycle nuclear fuel now for two reasons:

      1. It is valuable and people steal it. The place it went that it wasn’t supposed to go to was Israel. This happened in a small town near Pittsburgh, PA circa 1970. A company called Numec was in the business of reprocessing nuclear fuel. [I almost took a job there in 1968, designing a nuclear battery for a heart pacemaker.]

      2. Virgin uranium is so cheap that it is cheaper than recycling. This will change eventually, which is why we keep the spent fuel where we can reach it. The US possesses a lot of MOX fuel made from the plutonium removed from bombs. MOX is essentially free fuel since it was paid for by the process of un-making bombs.

      Please read this Book: “Plentiful Energy, The Story of the Integral Fast Reactor” by Charles E. Till and Yoon Il Chang, 2011
      free download: http://www.thesciencecouncil.com/pdfs/PlentifulEnergy.pdf

      Per Till & Chang:
      The Integral Fast Reactor [IFR] uses “nuclear waste” as fuel and gets 100 times as much energy out of a pound of uranium as the Generation 2 reactors we are using now. The IFR is safer than the Generation 2 reactors, which are safer by far than coal.

      The IFR is meltdown-proof. The IFR can be turned up and down quickly and repeatably. The IFR uses metal fuel that is recycled in a system that makes it difficult to get plutonium239 out of the fuel. To make a good plutonium bomb, you must have almost pure plutonium239. 7% plutonium240 and higher isotopes or other actinides will spoil the bomb. IFR Pyro process recycled fuel is useless for bomb making.

      Elements with more protons than uranium are called trans-uranics alias actinides. Actinides are the part of so-called nuclear “waste” that makes it stay radioactive for a long time. The IFR uses up the actinides as fuel. Actinides include plutonium, neptunium, americium, curium, berkelium, californium, einsteinium, fermium, mendelevium, nobelium and all of the other “synthetic” elements.

      The IFR is the ideal source of electricity since it does not make CO2. The resultant “waste” is very small, will decay in only 300 years and is useful in medicine.

      The following countries either already recycle spent fuel or are experimenting with a recycling process or both:
      France, Japan, Russia, China, India, South Korea.
      The US recycled spent fuel in the 1960s.

      Purex process: The old one. Separates out plutonium, but does not separate the isotopes of plutonium. Any bomb made with this plutonium from a power plant reactor would fizzle.

      Pyro process: Leaves plutonium mixed with uranium and trans-uranic elements. [All fissionable elements are kept together with uranium]
      Other processes [wet] are also under development.

      Free book download: “Prescription for the Planet”
      http://www.thesciencecouncil.com/prescription-for-the-planet.html

      By recycling nuclear fuel, we have a Billion year supply.

      Available now:
      http://gehitachiprism.com/

      Reply
    2. william kotcher

      All the spent nuclear fuel (5% of the energy used) from all our years operating nuclear power plants would fill one football field, no more. Cover it with water and you could stand safely above it. Forever. Water is heavy in Hydrogen, a natural neutron absorber.

      Reply
  7. Scottar

    The Problem with AGW Credibility

    The Warmists could gain credibility if they could explain the Younger Dryas, the Flandarian Transgression, or the Dalton Minimum. All of these events occurred in the last 400,000 years and are recorded in Greenland and Antarctica ice core proxies.

    http://www.leif.org/research/SSN-ApJ-2015.jpg

    The Last Glacial Maximum (LGM) lasted for 100,000 years where most of the northern and southern hemispheres were covered in thousands of feet of ice, ocean levels were 400 feet lower than today. Then 21,000 years ago these huge masses began to suddenly melt, then refreeze, then melt, then refreeze. The final freeze, the Younger Dryas,
    began approximately 13,000 years ago. The final violent thaw began 11,000 years ago. Coincidentally 90% of all large North American mammals disappeared at this time.

    What we consider ‘terra firma’ is in fact more like a molten rock pudding with a thin plastic crust. The Ice Age overburden from up to 3.5 kilometers of ice deformed this crust. As the ice melted huge pools of water formed on top of and below the ice caps. At some point these trapped oceans of ice melt burst through their ice dams to flow as a great glacial wave, it could have attained heights of 600 meters and a cross sectional breadth of as much as 40 kilometers, and a forward speed of several hundred KPH. Suddenly, relieved of over burden, the Earth’s crust rebounded, fracturing the remaining ice cap and sending the even larger volumes of underlying ice melt and mountain sized glacial chunks to the sea. The entire Earth would have been racked with tsunamis, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, all while oceans rose in meters almost instantly. There is no way AGW was responsible.

    The LGM did not end as a result of massive CO2 build up, nor did it end from massive increase of solar radiation output. The Malankovitch cycles could be a factor. It is possible that cosmic rays, neutrino bombardment, planetary alignments, gravity waves or galactic radiation could all have a role in triggering Geo-nuclear reactions. We are limited by empirical data from anything but speculation. The present warm Holocene has lasted 11,000 years, that it’s end will be a violent climatic change with enormous challenges for all living things is a certainty based on what happened in the past.

    Warmists have claimed that the primary reason there is not unanimous support for the CO2 warming hypothesis is because it’s too complex to be understood. To explain the Earth’s energy flow involves 2 science subjects, Thermodynamics and Particle Physics. Completely identifying the forces and interactions is a complex subject for those with lifetimes of scientific study. The heat flow that is in question is Infrared (IR) emission of electromagnetic energy. The warmists claim that this energy is captured and re-radiated by CO2 as a primary factor that warms the planet. The term ‘greenhouse’ is an incorrect word for Earth’s warming factors, the correct term is insulation, which does not warm you, but only slows the rate of temperature change.

    Thermodynamics will provide exact, repeatable quantities for energy flows based on equations with 3 main variables: difference in temperature, mass and specific heat of the substances. The greater the temperature difference, the greater the energy movement, which is the ‘delta T’ component. A pound of water is easier to heat than 10 pounds of water, which is the ‘mass’ component. A pound of Aluminum is easier to heat than a pound of Lead, which is the specific heat component. Q=cm∆T- CO2 has a specific heat of 0.839 J/g- K, which means it gains or losses heat faster than standard dry air which is 1.01, and water vapor is 1.996. For simplicity we will assume this coefficient to be 1.0 J/g- K to simplify discussion.

    http://hyperphysics.phy-astr.gsu.edu/hbase/thermo/spht.html

    Humans produce 28 Gigatons of atmospheric carbon annually. For comparison, 28 G-tons of ocean would be 5.93 cubic miles. What warmists claim is that the ~6 cubic miles of warming ocean significantly controls the temperature of the rest of the 310,000 million cubic miles of ocean. CO2 is a benign molecule that is required for life and is currently around 400 parts per million (PPMV) or 0.04% of the atmosphere. Prolonged exposure to concentrations of up to 80,000 PPMV have shown no adverse side effects. All federal registries listed CO2 as ‘non-toxic’ until the recent EPA reclassification. Calling a substance a ‘toxin’ does not make that substance a toxin, except in the toxic mind of bureaucrats.

    All substances absorb and emit electromagnetic energy in discrete spectrum bands. The Earths outgoing Infrared energy is in a narrow band and can be absorbed by CO2 only in the 5 and 15 micron wavelength range. There is a finite amount of this IR energy, so the absorption is not directly connected with the amount of CO2. The term ‘absorption’ is misleading as it’s actually the amount of time that this IR flow is ‘interrupted’ and is called the lapse rate. The majority of the space around an atom is void, therefore most IR energy passes through the CO2 molecules with no impact. The higher the altitude the less air, therefore the less CO2 and the less the outgoing IR waves will impact.

    Professor Nasif Nahle of the UA de Nuevo Leon has calculated that outgoing IR energy is delayed at most by 22 milliseconds, that is the total extent of CO2 driven global warming, the 97% from natural and the 3% from man. This ‘delayed’ heat transfer is NOT radiated back to Earth, it’s leaving the Earth at night at the speed of light for the cooler outer space and is only delayed ~22 ms.

    The IPCC “experts” base their findings on flawed forcing parameters of climate computer programs that don’t fit the real forcing parameters of the Earth’s atmosphere. If they are run backwards they can’t effectively reproduce the climate cycles of the recent past with it’s cooling and warm interims. They admit the models can’t effectively model cloud activity and other parameters. So how can they effectively predict what will occur 10, 30 or 60 years from now. They can’t even account for the current 17 year stall in warming except by falsifying and cooking the surface temp data.

    Oxygen absorbs energy in the high energy 50 to 242 nm range. CO2 absorbs in the lower 1,400, 1,600 and 2,000 nm range, but the Earth only emits energy in the low Infrared emission of 1 CO2 absorption range based on a low 210o to 310oK temperature range,. The CO2 molecule is linear, with 1 Carbon and 2 Oxygen atoms, exactly opposite each other and has only 1 vibrational mode. Absorption results in a billionth of a second vibration, followed by an emission. This emission, according to the Laws of Energy Conservation, must be of lower energy and longer wavelength. The excited CO2 molecule releases this excess energy to the atmosphere of 79% Nitrogen and 19% Oxygen. This energy is eventually removed from the lower atmosphere to the upper by convective currents but can be transported to cooler areas of the Earth in the interim. The planet wide lapse rate of ~2oC (3oF) for every 1,000 ft of altitude increase is proof that this energy is being removed in accordance with the Laws of Thermodynamics.

    The greatest buffering factor in Earth’s temperature, water vapor, absorbs almost continuously from the 200 nm to the 2,500 nm range, including the 3 absorption bands for CO2. “HITRON spectroscopy shows 37,000 spectral lines for gaseous H2O from the microwave to the visible spectrum”. This does not include the massive number of absorption bands by water vapor in the Infrared range. Water has multiple rotational, vibrational and electronic absorption states in multiple EMR bands.

    Temperature is a measure of the relative local kinetic energy (movement) of a gas, liquid or solid matter. Your body radiates IR energy and mirrors can reflect it, but your IR energy reflected back on your body will NOT increase your temperature. Wrapping yourself in blankets will reduce your convective losses in a cool environment, but cannot warm you by radiant energy. Liquid water absorbs in a range of solar energy bands and when sufficiently excited and transforms from a liquid to gas, by absorbing the surface energy of 2,270 kJ/kg called Latent Heat of Vaporization and releases that energy at high altitudes by Latent Heat of Condensation. To assert that the hydrological cycle is in any way an Earth warming factor is preposterous, it’s a moderator.

    Earth is cooler than the hottest lunar areas and warmer then the coldest lunar areas due to the buffering effects of liquid and gaseous water. The claim that 1 Earth emitted band of CO2 and water vapor energy can over-power the +50,000 bands of water vapor absorbed sunlight, is the faux reality of a Ptolemaic Greenhouse Gas Model of pseudo science. There is a distinction between moist cloudy regions being cooler than dry regions in DAYLIGHT, but warmer at night. That’s because water vapor RELOCATES heat away from the surface, so the surface is cooled by the water vapor. It’s DELAYED cooling / heating of the atmosphere by the action of the water cycle. The mechanism is called LATENT HEAT, not a CO2 driven “greenhouse gas effect.” And that is where the AGW claimants go wrong.

    My thanks to Joseph A Olson, PE for his spot- on articles.

    Reply
  8. Stan Jakuba

    A good article. I should like to add information about the recent CSP – the Ivanpah
    This 392 MW (name-plate) giant was built on 13 km2 of land in Mojave Desert at a cost of $2.2 billion. It generated .4 billion kWh in the year meaning that it was producing electricity at the level of 45 MW.

    Note that it is typical for renewable energy projects to show different units for input, rated output and actual output. This practice makes performance and efficiency comparisons cumbersome and therefore not pursued allowing misinformation to flourish. In the above paragraph, the former value is in “W” but the latter in “kWh.” The author wishes that such reporting use the same unit (W, as is done above), or it states, as an example, “…. the plant produced 12 % of its name-plate power. Either way, the confusion about performance and efficiency would be avoided.
    From the googled data we can calculate several criteria that allow comparisons with other electricity producing plants.

    The ratio of average power produced to the name-plate power, the so-called Capacity Factor (CF), is 45 from 392, or not quite 12 %. This percentage is an embarrassment considering that the CF was projected to be above 30 %. Besides that, the actual CF is not any better than the previous, smaller plants exhibited, and it is worse than the CFs of similar photovoltaic plants in the desert.

    The 2200 M$ price per 45 MW represents 49 $/W investment. By way of comparison, another nonpolluting source of electricity, a nuclear plant, cost 1.4 $/W in the past when they used to be constructed, and should cost about 5 $/W in today’s money. Thus this CSP is about ten times (1000 %) more expensive to build.

    As to the occupied land, the 45 MW spread over 13 km2 represents 3.5 W/m2. In contrast, nuclear plants produce 2000 W/m2 thus utilizing that land over 500 times more effectively.
    Does the sale of electricity cover the operating expenses? With about 1000 employees receiving salary and benefits, the annual outlay for that alone is 100 M$. Selling the 1.4 PJ (.4 billion kWh) at the average 0.028 $/MJ (.1 $/kWh) yields only 40 M$. Ouch! For comparison, our (Connecticut) nuclear plant employs also about 1000, and its two reactors produce 1.87 GW actual. Per employee then, it is 1870 kW vs. the above 45 kW, meaning that the operating cost is higher and not just twice, or five times, but over forty (42) times. This operating cost is just one reason why the “free’ solar electricity is so expensive.

    What is the efficiency, i.e., the utilization of the solar energy by the plant? With the annual average of 180 W/m2 in the sun-rays’ heat in that location spread over the 2.5 km2 of the total area of (only) the heliostat mirrors, the input power is 450 MW. With the above 45 MW output, that efficiency is then 10 %. For a comparison, PV plants in near-by locations utilize 220 W/m2 of the insolation thus reaching higher specific output (W/m2) even if operating at the same efficiency.

    In fairness, with passing years this CSP will likely be made to perform better until aging increases the need for maintenance and repair. Nevertheless, its purpose – cutting CO2 emissions – is unrealistic as the CO2 generated in making, operating, and eventually dismantling this plant will at best match the amount of CO2 claimed to be saved in non-burning fossil-fuels for that electricity. Your article gives numerical values.

    Now I submit corrections to two minor corrections in the Nerd Notes:

    (1) I quote: The entire planet’s electrical consumption is right around 5 terawatt-hours. One TWh (terawatt-hour) is a constant flow of a trillion watts of electricity for a period of one hour.
    The error: The TWh must be accompanied by a time period in this context. If you mean 5 TWh/y, it is simply 0.6 GW. Wikipedia indicates the consumption to be 2.3 TW. In the second sentence “average” is a better term than “constant.”

    (2) I quote: A “tonne” is a metric ton, which is 1,000 kilograms—2,204.62 lbs to be exact.
    The error: Metric ton, or tonne in some English speaking places, is, in SI, the megagram, symbol Mg. Any “ton” is a non-SI term or unit.

    Stan Jakuba

    Reply
    1. Magpie

      A tonne is SI symbol t. It is also a Mg, but I’ve never seen it used, and tonne is a perfectly acceptable SI unit.

      …and Ivanpah had teething troubles, but is now producing more than twice (nearly three times) what it was in the first year. Dunno if that’ll be maintained, but it’s not a very useful comparison to use the old figures until we see some longer term outputs. It’s also a pilot project, and you do expect costs to be higher for first-of-its-kind technologies, yes?

      Reply
      1. Stan Jakuba

        Magpie, Magpie.
        Tonne, ton, t, tuna, …… is not SI, never was, not in a word nor in symbol. 1000 kg is 1 Mg in SI if you mean mass and 10 MN if you mean a ton of force. Refer to NIST or any other national standards, not textbooks.

        Concerning Ivanpah ….”it’s not a very useful comparison to use old figures……. Who used old figures in my conclusion. Read it again. The analysis was done for a plant developing 100 % of planned output. I repeat – analysis under the best scenario.

        Reply
    2. william kotcher

      The World’s Largest CSP, Ivanpah, has completely failed, they are actually running it on natural gas. It does do a good job at zapping birds in mid flight though.

      Reply
  9. Stan Jakuba

    Mike, I have rewritten the final note for you. Please consider this text:
    Now I suggest two corrections to minor mistakes in the Nerd Notes:
    I quote: The entire planet’s electrical consumption is right around 5 terawatt-hours. One TWh (terawatt-hour) is a constant flow of a trillion watts of electricity for a period of one hour.
    The error: The TWh must be accompanied by a time period in this context. If you mean 5 TWh/y, it is simply 0.6 TW. However, that consumption/production is 2.3 TW, four times more. In the second sentence, “average” is a better terminology than “constant” (it does not need to be steady).
    I quote: A “tonne” is a metric ton, which is 1,000 kilograms—2,204.62 lbs to be exact.
    The error: Metric ton, or tonne in some English speaking places, is the megagram in SI, symbol Mg, when referring to a mass. If it were a “ton” of force, the unit would be the newton (N).

    Reply
  10. Mark Pawelek

    Kudos to Mike Conley & Tim Maloney for writing this book.

    Things I’d like to see in your book.
    1. A discussion of regulation. Compare various carbon mitigation regulations such as fee and dividend, renewable obligations, contracts for difference, carbon taxes, and carbon trading.
    2. A discussion on the merits (or otherwise) of the closed fuel cycle for nuclear power with respect to proliferation. Some acknowledgement that ‘cradle to grave’ is an anti-proliferation strategy, and is, therefore, far more political than economic. It follows that the non-development of breeder and converter reactors is best understood as the outcome of politics – not economics. Why talk about this? The traditional answer to the question “why weren’t thorium MSRs developed if they were so good?” is to paraphrase Kirk Sorensen’s early answer. Usually saying something like: thorium wasn’t of any use to the weapons programmes so they never developed it. In fact, the USA decided long ago not the develop breeder reactors; but instead to follow the anti-proliferation route of an open “cradle to grave” fuel cycle. The USA pretty much forced all its Western allies to adopt similar practices. Despite the superiority of the Integral Fast Reactor, the only breeder reactor available anywhere are Russian sodium cooled reactors. [ PRISM is not available. Hitachi would still need to prove the fuel cycle by building a prototype ]. This decision to favour spent nuclear fuel “anti-proliferation” over breeder reactors next begs the question “Is the open fuel cycle really anti-proliferation!?” I ask because one of the main complaints against spent nuclear fuel it that it’s a proliferation risk! So nuclear power can’t win by accepting the anti-proliferation mandate ordained by US Democrat politicians. Both the open and closed fuel cycles are equally demonized as proliferation risks.

    Reply
    1. Timothy Maloney

      Hello Mr. Koss,
      The information concerning concrete, steel, land area, and dollar cost for Concentrated Thermal Solar is obtained from the Barry Brooks bravenewclimae.org post, TCASE4, and derivatives of that post, pertaining to the Andasol, Spain solar project. Also including data obtained from the construction specs document that Barry links to.
      The information concerning wind is derived mostly from the Shepherd’s Flat wind farm in Oregon.
      Info abot Gen 3+ Westinghouse model AP1000 is obtained mostly from the Westinghouse PDF file available on-line, plus some info that Barry Brooks has dug out about the concrete and steel required.
      Some of the numeric data used in this iteration of Run the Numbers is incorrect, sorry to say. We’ve got better data now, and we are revising the essay to reflect same.
      My publications and invention are described at my website http://www.timothymaloney.net.

      Reply
  11. Asteroid Miner

    See my previous comment on recycling spent fuel. Also check thorium. The oceans contain enough dissolved uranium for about a billion years.
    http://sciencelinks.jp/j-east/article/200704/000020070407A0057435.php
    “Cost Estimation of Uranium Recovery from Seawater with System of Braid Type Adsorbent” 2006

    01A1029481 Recovery System for Uranium from Seawater with Fibrous Adsorbent and Its Preliminary Cost Estimation.
    05A0346490 Synthesis and Practical Scale System of Braid Adsorbent for Uranium Recovery from Seawater
    99A0763190 Characteristics of Bundle-Shaped Fiber Adsorbent Containing Amidoxime Groups with Respect to the Repetitive Adsorption-Desorption of Uranium.

    Reply
  12. Stan Jakuba

    W.S.Jourrnal letter to Editor about the operating cost of CSP and nuclear plants (a letter unlikely to be published)

    Dear Editor: This is a comment to the article and picture in THE CRESCENT DUNES Solar Energy Project (WSJ Saturday/Sunday, Aug. 22-23, 2015, C3) that shows the mirrors and the boiler tower of the soon-to-operate Concentrating Solar Plant.

    I wonder why we build these plants when they produce electricity far too costly. Consider a similar but larger, 392 MW plant, in Mojave Desert that completed its first year of operation. It cost $2.2 billion, and it generated 400 million kWh that year. That means it averaged 45 MW. Selling its electricity at the claimed 0.1 $/kWh, it earned $40 million a year. That is not enough to pay even salary and benefits of its 1000 employees. Besides, the common wholesale price is about 0.02 $/kWh, five times less, and it covers also dividend, taxes, etc. By way of comparison, the Millstone nuclear plant in Connecticut, also with 1000 employees, produces 1870 kW per employee vs. the Mojave plant’s 45 kW. I see no benefit to anybody, “green” promoters included, in building plants that have 42 times higher operating cost than a cheaper type, also “clean and green.”

    Reply
    1. william kotcher

      The 392 MW plant you speak of is Ivanpah, which has failed, they now run it on natural gas, it was designed with a Boiler as its heart, with natural gas backup to take over when a cloud passed over. It was declared operational even though it never was operating. The owners applied for a permit to increase the amount of natural gas they use an additional 5 hours per day, on top of the originally planned 1 hour. So they operate 6 hours a day on natural gas, a day of operation being 7.5 hours.

      Both Cresent Dunes and Ivanpah have proved very efficient at frying birds in their respective solar flux fields.

      Reply
  13. Scottar

    If your tired of all the disinformation about nuclear I found this great site by a Professor with Bachelors degree in Nuclear Technology. It covers all aspects of nuclear at a technical level. Excellent site!

    Reply
  14. Stan Jakuba

    To Editor, WSJ
    This is a comment to the article and picture in THE CRESCENT DUNES Solar Energy Project (WSJ Saturday/Sunday, Aug. 22-23, 2015, C3) that shows the mirrors and the boiler tower of the soon-to-operate Concentrating Solar Power (CSP).
    I wonder why we build those plants when they produce electricity far too costly. Consider a similar but larger, 392 MW plant, in Mojave Desert that completed its first year of operation. It cost $2.2 billion, and it generated 400 million kWh that year. That means it averaged 45 MW. Selling its electricity at the claimed 0.1 $/kWh, it earned $40 million a year, which was likely not enough to pay even salary and benefits of its 1000 employees. By way of comparison, the Millstone nuclear plant in Connecticut, also with 1000 employees, produces 1870 kW per employee vs. the Mojave plant’s 45 kW per employee. I do not see any benefit to anybody, “green” promoters included, in building plants that have 42 times higher operating expense than a cheaper type, also “clean and green.”
    Stan Jakuba, MIT ‘70
    I do not know if the letter was published but my guess is it was not.
    Concerning the lack of performance of Ivanpah, the planners argue, and I accept, that it has up to four years (three more years) before it is supposed to reach its full production. The improvement will happen, of course, but it hardly matters on the scale of the above numbers. Should the plant produce twice as much electricity as in the first year, its operating expenses would be “only” 21 times higher than at Millstone. At four times greater output (an impossibility), its operation cost would be “only” 10 times higher. What are we thinking? Would not just twice be enough of a reason for not building those expensive toys? And I am not subtracting the Ivanpah’s output obtained from burning natural gas to make electricity and/or heat for its own use every day at various times. Doing so would decrease the meager output further.
    Should this country replace existing power stations with plants of this much higher operating cost, it would impoverish future generations of, particularly, poor families in their monthly utility bills. Higher electricity cost means also higher cost of everything – food, closing, transportation, hospital care, you name it.
    Let’s look at a few more numerical comparisons with the plants in Connecticut. The Millstone unit 2 cost $420 million (in 1975) and has been producing 800 MW. Millstone unit 3 cost $3800 million (in 1986) and has been producing 1000 MW. The plants’ ratio of construction cost to actual output stands at 0.5 $/MW for Unit 2, and 3.8 $/MW at Unit 3.
    Notice that unit 3, while producing only 20 % more electricity, cost 9 times more. It should be noted that the former was erected before the Dept. of Energy (DOE) was functioning, the latter with the DOE involvement.
    By comparison, Ivanpah cost $2200 million (in 2013), and, if producing 250 % more than it did the first year (i.e., up from 40 MW to 100 MW), then the ratio of the construction cost to actual output would drop from the present 55 $/MW to 22 $/MW. The latter number implies functioning at the highly unlikely CF of 100 / 392 = 0.25 (25 %) and again it omits the energy consumed from natural gas and liquid fuels.
    (Inflation is neglected here to keep the analysis simple; the order of magnitude difference to the nuclear plants’ ratios justifies the brevity.)
    At present, the wholesale price of electricity fluctuates around 2 c/kWh. There is no way a CSP can cover expenses at that competitive rate, never mind make profit, pay dividends, etc. as the traditional plants must do. With several CSP plants in existence and a wealth of data available, a commercial enterprise would gave up a long time ago. But not so with these DOE toys as is the case with most politically motivated projects. To the contrary, more CSPs are planned for. Taxpayers beware.
    We had Prof. Chu creating the “wind” DOE. That failing, now we have Prof. Moniz creating the “solar” DOE. Both gentlemen were/are of the opinion that energy must be made expensive for enabling the wind and solar sources to coexist. If there is anything that makes the poor poorer, it is the higher cost of electricity. Why do we as citizens tolerate this robbery? Why do we need the Secretary of Energy in the first place? Better yet, the DOE?
    Stan Jakuba
    PS: You will recall that Millstone unit 1 was shut down many years ago for what insiders called an improperly filled paperwork. Nothing was wrong with the physical plant, similarly to the other New England plants that are now being decommissioned prematurely.
    PS2: For the picture of the plant google Ivanpah solar.

    Reply
  15. Keith Rodan

    I haven’t read through all of it yet, and it’s quite a read, but on points 3 and 4 of the “upfront things to know” I’d say it would be best to give at least an estimate of how many square miles the AP1000s and MSRs would be needed in -as say, “the size of the city of ____________”

    Reply
  16. Asteroid Miner

    Keith Rodan: A nuclear power plant would require much less than a square mile. It is only excessive safety regulators who would require more.

    Reply
  17. Magpie

    You don’t seem to have factored anything regarding the cost of fuel and personnel, which is a significant advantage of wind and solar over most other forms of generation. The levelised cost of energy has been calculated and compared by governments, utilities, and investment banks. Almost all of them show the cost, over the lifetime of the generator, per unit of energy actually produced, to be similar for renewables and nuclear, with the cost of renewables a little *less* than nuclear now, and falling rapidly. You just… ignored all of that? In favour of back-of-the-envelope musings about the amount of steel used? C’mon.

    And you’ve discussed future technology in nuclear alongside years-old renewables tech (Andasol came online in 2009, while no AP-1000s have even been finished yet), at a time when wind and solar have been improving at a rapid rate. How is that reasonable? Gen IV in the next decade? That’ll surprise the Gen IV International Forum – real nuclear physicists who have promoted the technology for years – who say Gen IV will be ready for commercial deployment in 2030-2040. In the meantime, battery storage has been dropping in price at a ridiculous rate, and as overly-optimistic as the dodgy Tesla wall things are, there’s every reason to think distributed storage will be entirely viable within 5-10 years. It’s *almost* viable right now just in off-peak cost savings. Who the hell is planning on pumped hydro on such a massive scale? What’s the point of talking about it at such length when, AFAIK, no-one is proposing such a thing?

    You also seemed to gloss over the effectiveness of support from peaking plants (not baseload – wind and solar need peaking). Yes, they generally use gas plants. But if the gas plant runs 10 days a year, you’ve saved a massive amount of redundancy in the renewable system at a very small cost in carbon.

    There are great arguments for nuclear, especially in a country like the US, and Gen IV absolutely should be developed and deployed as a matter of urgency. I am genuinely disgusted at how that technology has been allowed to stagnate for so long. But this article is messy. Look at the dot points! You’ve compared the entire area required for wind and solar with the area of a SINGLE nuclear reactor. There’s a really good point to make there! The space and distances required for large scale renewables are a real problem, and nuclear absolutely does come with tremendous advantages there. But you’ve gone and messed the argument up by using blatant spin. There’s no need! The argument is solid. Don’t trap yourself with distracting bias.

    Reply
  18. Asteroid Miner

    Magpie: You forgot the cost of the battery or other energy storage for wind and solar. It would be about a quadrillion dollars. Not counting maintenance, etcetera. For hydro, we could lift Lake Erie half a kilometer into the sky. That just says we can’t do either, so wind and solar are so intermittent that wind and solar are worse than useless.
    http://physics.ucsd.edu/do-the-math/2011/08/nation-sized-battery/
    http://physics.ucsd.edu/do-the-math/2011/11pump-up-the-storage/

    Wind is the dangerous one: Per http://www.caithnesswindfarms.co.uk/page4.htm
    “Indeed on 11 December 2011 the Daily Telegraph reported that RenewableUK confirmed that there had been 1500 wind turbine accidents and incidents in the UK alone in the past 5 years. Data here reports only 142 UK accidents from 2006-2010 and so the figures here may only represent 9% of actual accidents.”

    “Details
    Tim McCartney, fall from tower while removing small turbine. Body found near tower.

    Terry Mehrkam, atop nacelle, run-away rotor, no lanyard, fell from tower.

    250 Turbines exposed to wind speeds of 35 m/sec for 10 min resulted in 9 failures and 30% damaged Pat Acker, 28, rebar cage for foundation came in contact with overhead power lines, electrocuted.

    Jens Erik Madsen, during servicing of controller, electrocuted.

    Eric Wright on experimental VAWT – tower collapsed while he was on it.

    J.A. Doucette, unloading towers from a truck, towers rolled off truck, crushing him.

    Art Gomez, servicing Dynergy crane

    Ugene Stallhut, ground crew, driving tractor as tow vehicle, tractor flipped over crushing him

    John Donnelly, atop nacelle, servicing Nordtank nacelle, no brake, lanyard caught on main shaft protrusion, death attributed to “multiple amputations” as he was dragged into the machinery.

    Dick Hozeman, atop nacelle, entered Polenko nacelle in storm, no brake, caught on spinning shaft.

    Leif Thomsen, & Kaj Vadstrup, both killed servicing rotor, no locking pin on rotor, brake released accidentally, rotor began moving catching man basket & knocking it to the ground, third man clung to tower until rescued.

    Thomas Swan, crane operator, travelling, locking pin failed, boom swung downhill into 66 kV power line, electructing him.

    A 16 year old boy died of asphyxiation in a windmill accident on his family’s farm. Apparently he climbed the windmill to retrieve a broken coupling, and in doing so he was caught by the rotating shaft, and strangled by his own clothing. His mother found him with his arms above his head and his clothing twisted up around his neck. His skivvy was twisted very tightly around the windmill shaft. His mother desperately tried to untangle him, or to lift him, but she was unable to do so. Despite her frantic efforts, she was aware that her son was already dead when she found him. The 1991 date is uncertain but hinted at by a pro-wind group.

    A farmer died after falling from a windmill while attempting to repair its tail section. The top of the windmill was approximately seven metres from the ground and the tail section of the windmill was broken and hanging down. The fan portion was not turning and several blades on the fan were missing. There was a steel ladder, constructed on one side of the windmill, which extended from the ground to the platform (five metres above the ground).

    Richard Zawlocki, descending tower without lanyard, without fall restraint system in place, lanyard found holding nacelle cover open, found at base of tower, fell to death.

    Blades damaged by lightning two weeks after opening

    Reply
    1. Magpie

      You linked to an article that’s 4 years old, talking about lead-acid batteries holding a full 7 days of power. I… honestly, I don’t even know where to begin to discuss how wrong that is.

      Look, a big part of the problem here is how everyone’s opinions about renewables and battery storage were formed 10 years ago, and it’s hard, as humans, to keep up with change. Lithium Ion batteries have plummeted in price, and blazed ahead in effectiveness. MIT recently announced a process that halved the production cost (the first 10,000 in final testing right now). That’s just one innovation in an industry that’s seen massive strides, year in, year out.

      And as I said, just in off-peak savings, the (not good enough yet) Tesla Wall almost pays for itself right now. Five years, battery storage will be a net positive investment. It will, in effect, be a *generation source*, that provides, in effect, *peaking power*. It’ll also support nuclear, eating cheap overnight power and providing peaking during the rush hours.

      You’re not just pouring money down a hole. It’s a net investment. Or it will be. The current crop are… let’s say over optimistic.

      And what on earth was all the dangerous wind supposed to be about? I didn’t mention anything being dangerous. Listing the names of the deceased is a ridiculous, cheap tactic. The number of deaths in *any* large industry is high. Welcome to the planet of earth. Given that, at least until we get to ~20% of generation, wind *right now* is cheaper than nuclear, and more wind now means less coal generation, and given coal’s high death toll, the net effect of wind is probably positive. If you’re going to spend a dollar on new generation, that dollar saves more lives in wind than in nuclear – though it’d be so close it hardly matters.

      In fact, it doesn’t matter. Why are we talking about a piddling number of incidents? Note well: that’s 1500 total accidents and incidents. They only confirmed 9 deaths in 5 years. Ceiling insulation kills more than that. And no, the scary “it MAY only represent 9%” is bull. First, the number is idiotically wrong, as 309 is 20% of 1500, not 9% (seriously, you didn’t notice that?). Second, total incidents couldn’t possibly be ALL deaths and injuries. It’s very likely 300 injuries and 9 deaths were ALL the injuries and deaths in a 1500 figure. The rest would be close calls and accidents and fires which didn’t hurt anyone. I can’t be sure with the vague source, but if I say “there are 20 kids, including 9 boys”, it’s a fair bet there are 11 girls. If I say “there were 1500 incidents, including 300 injuries and 9 deaths”, do you seriously think that means they just took 309 incidents at random?

      As I keep saying: stop diluting a good argument with blatantly silly, biased innuendo. It doesn’t help you.

      Stan: Ivanpah is a silly design, and it’s also a *pilot plant*. No industry in the history of the world ever produced cost-effective prototypes. But who cares about (again, really silly) water-based storage? Wind + utility scale PV + (5 years from now) LI storage and DSM are the *actual* growth areas, where levelised cost of energy is competitive. Why focus on the weird side-bets in the worst renewable sector (solar thermal)? Go look at the very recent Lazards Levelized Cost of Energy – or, hell, just about anyone’s LCOE analysis in the past couple of years. Solar thermal is a dog. Wind and utility-scale PV have come ahead in leaps and bounds in the past few years.

      Renewables have plenty of problems. Nuclear power has plenty of advantages. Why dilute the message by focusing on the fringe? It just looks dishonest (even if it’s not). Don’t grab the low hanging fruit and pretend the rest of the tree ‘aint there.

      Reply
      1. Asteroid Miner

        There isn’t enough mineable lithium in the world to make a battery that could run the US for a week. The basic science hasn’t changed, and neither have the universal abundances.
        Read these:
        http://physics.ucsd.edu/do-the-math/2011/08/nation-sized-battery/
        http://physics.ucsd.edu/do-the-math/2011/11pump-up-the-storage/
        We could lift Lake Erie half a kilometer skyward?

        The battery technology has to be about a million times as good as it is, not a percentage improvement. Nothing important has changed in 5 years. The battery is still a factor of a million away.

        Reply
        1. Magpie

          OK, well, this is the point I stop, because you’re not even bothering to read what I wrote, and you’re just making stuff up.

          Why on earth would we need 7 days of storage? What possible justification do you have for that?

          Why would you invent the factoid that there’s not enough lithium on the earth? Where on earth did you get that from? You can extract the stuff from seawater. It’s 40 PPM in the earth’s crust, fer crissake. We’ve barely started looking for easily extracted deposits, but so far production has been expanding almost exponentially without any problems at all. Lawrence Berkeley and UC estimated *current* reserves as sufficient for 1 billion 40kW LI batteries.

          What, you think people won’t bother to look this stuff up?

          That doesn’t even go into the emerging alternative battery storage technologies. Seriously, *no-one* is planning to use lead-acid for national-scale renewable storage. *No-one* is proposing we store an entire country’s energy in pumped hydro. It’s a straw man. You might as well attack the plan to use potato batteries.

          ONCE AGAIN, the Tesla Wall is *almost* cost effective right now. That is, we have every reason to believe battery storage will be a net *positive* investment in the very near future. You can’t just pretend it’s a factor of a million with no justification! Run the numbers yourself on the *existing* Tesla Wall! Halve the price, and it’s at a no-brainer level of return on investment. Somewhere between today and half-price is the point that it becomes economically viable to mass produce batteries as peaking generation.

          And ONCE AGAIN, nuclear has a good part to play, especially Gen IV, but making silly stuff up about the viability of renewables does not help you. It makes you look dishonest or in denial. I’m not saying you are dishonest! It just seems like you so want to believe a thing that you’re putting aside any scepticism and blindly believing anything that supports your position.

          Reply
      2. Stan Jakuba

        Concentrating Solar Power plants are hardly prototypes, Ivanpah or the others. We have been “prototyping” them in full scale since 1980. That is almost two generations of engineering effort! We landed on Moon quicker than that. The sun radiation is the same, the mirrors are the same, the steam turbines are the same, as are the generators, etc. So is the same the order of magnitude too high a cost of CSP’s electricity. Any more prototyping is going to change the cost by a percent or two at best, if at all. Thank you DOE for wasting my taxes.

        Reply
  19. Stan Jakuba

    I quote: You don’t seem to have factored anything regarding the cost of fuel and personnel, which is a SIGNIFICANT ADVANTAGE of wind and solar over most other forms of generation.
    That statement is false. Read the following excerpt from my article:

    Concerning the lack of performance at Ivanpah CSP the planners argue, and I accept, that it has up to four years (three more years) before it is supposed to reach its full production. The improvement will happen, of course, but it hardly matters on the scale of the above numbers. Should the plant produce twice as much electricity as in the first year, its operating expenses would be “only” 21 times higher than at Millstone nuclear plant. At four times greater output (an impossibility), its operation cost would be “only” 10 times higher. What are we thinking? Would not just twice be enough of a reason for not building those expensive toys? And I am not subtracting the Ivanpah’s output obtained from burning natural gas to make electricity and/or heat for its own use every day at various times. Doing so would decrease the meager output further.

    Reply
  20. Matt

    Great read. I by no means am an energy expert. However, my question revolves around developing the infrastructure to help support these initiatives in growing parts of the world and cost of entry. I think of places like Africa – which is amassing significant populations and is anticipated to grow substantially in the next 20 years. How can places like these provide this as a key source of energy while not creating more environmental issues in the process?

    Reply
  21. Asteroid Miner

    Matt: We are headed for a human population crash from 7.5 Billion to 70 thousand or zero people within 13 years + or- 6 years. We don’t have time for research or fooling around with renewables. Causes of a population crash:

    1. Global Warming [GW] will cause civilization to collapse within 13 years give or take 6 years because GW will cause the rain to move and the rain move will force agriculture to collapse. Famine has been the cause of many dozens of previous population crashes.

    2. Reference “Overshoot” by William Catton, 1980 and “Bottleneck: Humanity’s Impending Impasse” by William Catton, 2009. Catton says that we humans are about to experience a population crash. Population biologist William Catton says that the US is the most overcrowded country. Collapse from overpopulation could happen any time now.
    The Earth has 4.5 Billion too many people. An overshoot in population requires an equal undershoot. We overshot by 4.5 billion, and the consequence is an undershoot by 4.5 billion. The carrying capacity is 3 billion. 3 billion minus 4.5 billion is zero because there can’t be minus 1.5 billion people. This can happen even if there is enough food.

    Catton tells the story of an island with deer but no wolves. The deer population increased to ~3500. There was still plenty of food, but the population crashed to 35. The reason was overcrowding.
    Sharing kills everybody because you can’t survive on half of the required calories. 7 billion people is 4 billion too many no matter how you slice it. “We” didn’t make “Them” have too many children.

    3. Aquifers running dry No irrigation, no wheat. No wheat, no bread. The “Green Revolution” was a bad idea. It caused India to double her population rather than get out of poverty. Now Indian farmers have “discovered” that water is a limiting resource. Water is a limiting resource in the US as well. When, not if, the aquifer under the high plains runs dry, there will be no bread and no pasta in the US.
    We didn’t “cause” third world poverty. They were never “unpoor” in the first place. They were stone age, not poor. We invented science. They didn’t. Their failure to invent science is not our fault.

    4. Resource depletion
    4A oil
    4B minerals
    etcetera.

    War will kill a lot of people. Famine will kill 8 billion out of 7.5 billion. 7.5-8=-0.5, but with population, the crash ends at zero.

    Will there be survivors? Nobody knows. Nor does anybody have any idea who or where the survivors might be, if any.

    NATURE has lots of other ways to kill humans. Don’t provoke her.
    Environmental issues?

    Reply
  22. anon

    1. Except now we have a global commerce network for transferring food whatever we need it, we only actually need oil for transatlantic ships. Except they can be nuclear.
    Also, if the climate continues to get hot, all that useless ice will melt and we will have a massive land for farming, food production will in fact exceed our current need.
    The biggest problem with all those people is not food, is space and other things humans need too, we are not just animals.
    2. I read this paper, it’s actually good. But, it’s applied to natural ecosystems, we don’t actually need the fauna ecosystem to survive, sure, we need to stop eating animals. But we can do something other animals can’t do, that’s precisely what we are doing now, agriculture.
    We just need to industrialize agriculture even more, perhaps by cultivating all food with hydroponics, or just eating algae produced in massive quantities on ocean.
    3. Why people think water just “goes away”. Aquifers run dry because we destroy the vegetation needed to capture and store water, we just destroyed the water cycle.
    We really should have a closed system for water. Water is never lost, it’s only dirty and we have technology to clean it.
    Or we can just use water from the Oceans, it’ll never run out. Of course for desalinization, we need massive power generation.
    For all this to work, we just need electric power. That’s our “food chain”, homo sapiens just eat “electricity”, without it we run out of “power” and die.
    Sure, the ecosystem has a limit, but we are nowhere near it if we just switch to just eating plants.
    Perhaps we can live even only with plants by cultivating them on space, plants only need solar power, that’s the only way to effectively use solar power.
    If the worst scenario, we’ll need to burn plants to power our technology. But we have thousands of years of power that can be extracted for nuclear sources before we deplete them.
    There will be no doomsday for now. Oil prices will keep falling, until production can produce profit anymore, then prices will rise, and that will force a change to nuclear power, because it’s the only economically viable option, solar power and wind power will never be more than 30% of our power grid.
    Nuclear power based on Uranium will last for at least one hundred year before we deplete all easy mined Uranium. Until then, we will have Thorium to use for more 4000 thousand years at 2% usage growth.
    Perhaps until there we find a way to extract solar power from the space and send using microwaves, but who knows what will happen with the Ionosphere.
    It’s not avoidable, the future is nuclear, when oil runs out, we all will see. A new level of prosperity even greater than we have now with oil.
    And for the global warming, CO2 is not the cause, all that enormous amount of water is not getting any hotter. Perhaps we just fucked natural water cycle and that’s why our cities are getting hotter and everything is getting hotter.
    You just need to see what happened, and what happened is modern agriculture, we need to change the way we do agriculture, because it changes the climate, and it changes globally because we just do agriculture globally. Perhaps all those CO2 and warming is caused by the plants and is necessary for them to grow, we just have an entire planet that’s just a “greenhouse” now and that’s why it’s hot, so we can produce enormous amounts of food and all that ICE must go away.

    Reply
  23. Stan Jakuba

    The perceived high cost of electricity, or the “high cost” of nuclear plants generating it, oft cited in the earlier discussions, is incorrect. The cost of a unit of electricity is determined by many factors where only the wholesale price is a reliable criterion for the eventual “bill” is determined by taxation and trickery of the government commissions farmore that the wholesale price is. Renewable sources, as another example, sell their output below cost. No valid comparison is possible.
    But there is one comparison that is simple.
    Here in Connecticut there are two nuclear reactors in operation. The Millstone unit 2 cost $420 million (in 1975) and has been producing 800 MW. Millstone unit 3 cost $3800 million (in 1986) and has been producing 1000 MW. Notice that Unit 3, while producing only 20 % more electricity, cost 9 times more. Both are operating fine. It should be noted that the former was erected before the Dept. of Energy (DOE) was functioning, the latter with the DOE involvement. Do we need to say more?
    As a side issue – France has been the only country that lowered its carbon footprint. It is obvious why – it has been adding nuclear plants. What also helped that industry was what’s beat illustrated by the well know saying: “In France, they have 100 different cheeses and one type of nuclear plants while in the US there 100 different plants and one …..” Obviously France’s approach lowers the operational cost and with it the wholesale cost.
    Stan Jakuba

    Reply
  24. H. Laner

    Several comments point the finger on europes lessons on trying renewables.

    However then, consider germanys current lessons with nuclear energy production.

    Germany does not even mine nuclear fuels for it’s energy production, so it does not suffer the tremendous amount of environmental destruction and social problems of nuclear fuel mining.

    Still, as the energy companies are trying to get out of their remaining nuclear plants, the enormeous economic price becomes visible. The population is just at the begin to understand that the state (thus the people) had subsidized nuclear power for a long time, then let the companys pull out their profits and now are partly on the brink of bankrupt, if forced to remove the nuclear legacy. The waste, created in less then hundred years, has to be secured from environment and people (terrorists too) for thousands of years.

    The US is riddled with nuclear waste sites (like barrels just dropped groundlevel in the desert) in much worse fashion than germany’s are. How is the price for recollecting and securing that some thousands of years?

    Your calculation only respects processes in a certain plant’s lifecycle, which have nothing todo with macroeconomic accounting.

    Reply
    1. RickD Maltese

      A couple of points you exaggerate the facts. The mining of Uranium is not nearly as destructive as coal mining which Germany has now chosen to expand. Also the idea of “nuclear waste” storage for thousands of years is greatly exaggerated. It can mostly be reused in modern reactors that are less than 10 years away.

      Reply
    2. william kotcher

      The U.S. is not riddled with any Spent Nuclear Fuel from Commercial Nuclear Power plants. None.

      All the high level radioactive spent nuclear fuel assemblies, sit on site, either in the spent fuel pool (as in swimming pool filled with water) or in dry cask storage which is also on site.

      55 gallon drums? You could be speaking of compatible low level radioactive waste, which I used to pack at SONGS, for burial at hanford. That stuff is harmless.

      Reply
  25. Matt Hudson

    I’m so glad someone is finally stepping up to say this. However, for some reason I feel you should put this article on Medium.com and include your credentials and sources.

    Reply
  26. H. Laner

    Just go with that: So in 10 (or 50, who knows) years, new reactors will burn up the waste. But those don’t burnt the waste for the last 50 years, like there where no final waste sites for the last 50 years. So practically, the economic calculation is done since 50 years with the idea, there will be something great (or even mundane, still nonexistent, like final disposal sites) in the future that will solve the problems we stockpile for 50 years. This is exactly coined by the term ‘nonsustainable’.

    If a country has deserts with almost no humidity, it may place nuclear waste there as intermediate storage (germany does not have any of this luxury), or forever, on cost of every living being entering the site in a far future without proper procedures.

    Your coal example is correct, but it does not apply against renewable energy. Also, coal mining in germany like uranium mining in germany in the past was accompanied by many measures to relief the the damage done to the people involved (workers and displaced people). Germany however exiting uranium mining a long time ago, which is now left to the canadas, US, but also third world sites, where we can not expect clean procedures.

    Reply
  27. H. Laner

    The german “Bundesamt für Strahlenschutz” (department for radiation protection) actually proposed a target (“Schutzziel”) of one million years for total containement of long time active wastes from the environment. While this is of course not an exact or differentiated number, it is issued on base of scientific research of state departments.

    So even if we begin by using some billions to drill holes into very strong stone formations and drop the waste there, what can we do next in our short livespan in our political and economic system, to ensure the million years? I guess there is no solution, and any procedure that would guarantee even a short fraction of that would destroy the world’s economy, if followed on.

    Of course, using the power of a well running national economy, a country would be easily able to sustain a final deposition site. But who can guarantee that power through wars, catastrophic environmental events, migration?

    So any gram of material activated today is a burden to the future, that will most likely bankrupt the deposition site system and release the waste to the environment.

    In this way, nuclear energy is cheap by economic means, but it has an disastrous effect on the earth that can’t be circumvented by any practical means.

    Reply
    1. RickD Maltese

      There is not very much danger with nuclear waste. The containers are very strong. These waste burning reactors are not a fiction. They are real. Prototypes have been made. Just not recently. The Molten Salt Reactor was a successful experiment that ran in the 1960s. It was politics that shut them down. Just like it is politics that shut down nuclear plkants recently for no good reason.

      Reply
  28. Asteroid Miner

    France already recycles spent nuclear fuel. In the 1960s, we in the US recycled spent nuclear fuel.  We don’t recycle nuclear fuel now for two reasons:

    1. It is valuable and people steal it. The place it went that it wasn’t supposed to go to was Israel. This happened in a small town near Pittsburgh, PA circa 1970. A company called Numec was in the business of reprocessing nuclear fuel. [I almost took a job there in 1968, designing a nuclear battery for a heart pacemaker.]

    2. Virgin uranium is so cheap that it is cheaper than recycling. This will change eventually, which is why we keep the spent fuel where we can reach it. The US possesses a lot of MOX fuel made from the plutonium removed from bombs. MOX is essentially free fuel since it was paid for by the process of un-making bombs.

    Please read this Book: “Plentiful Energy, The Story of the Integral Fast Reactor” by Charles E. Till and Yoon Il Chang, 2011. You can download this book free from: http://www.thesciencecouncil.com/pdfs/PlentifulEnergy.pdf. Charles E. Till and Yoon Il Chang, are former directors of the nuclear power research lab at Fermi Lab, which is the national laboratory near Chicago. It used to be called Argonne National Lab. Get another free book from: http://www.thesciencecouncil.com/prescription-for-the-planet.html

    Per Till & Chang: The Integral Fast Reactor [IFR] uses “nuclear waste” as fuel and gets 100 times as much energy out of a pound of uranium as the Generation 2 reactors we are using now. The IFR is safer than the Generation 2 reactors, which are safer by far than coal. The IFR is commercially available from GEHitachiPRISM.com

    The IFR is meltdown-proof. The IFR can be turned up and down quickly and repeatably. The IFR uses metal fuel that is recycled in a system that makes it difficult to get plutonium239 out of the fuel. To make a good plutonium bomb, you must have almost pure plutonium239. 7% plutonium240 and higher isotopes or other actinides will spoil the bomb. IFR Pyro process recycled fuel is useless for bomb making.

    Elements with more protons than uranium are called trans-uranics alias actinides. Actinides are the part of so-called nuclear “waste” that makes it stay radioactive for a long time. The IFR uses up the actinides as fuel. Actinides include plutonium, neptunium, americium, curium, berkelium, californium, einsteinium, fermium, mendelevium, nobelium and all of the other “synthetic” elements.

    The IFR is the ideal source of electricity since it does not make CO2. The resultant “waste” is very small, will decay in only 300 years and is useful in medicine. The IFR is commercially available now. See: GEHitachiPRISM.com

    The following countries either already recycle spent fuel or are experimenting with a recycling process or both:
    France, Japan Russia, China, India, South Korea.
    The US recycled spent fuel in the 1960s.

    Purex process: The old one. Separates out plutonium, but does not separate the isotopes of plutonium. Any bomb made with this plutonium from a powerplant reactor would fizzle. You can’t make a plutonium bomb with more than 7% Pu240.

    Pyro process: Leaves plutonium mixed with uranium and trans-uranic elements. [All fissionable elements are kept together with uranium]
    Other processes [wet] are also under development.

    By recycling nuclear fuel, we have a 30,000 [thirty thousand] year supply. Not counting the billion tons of uranium in the oceans.

    More later.

    Reply
  29. Asteroid Miner

    H. Laner: Are you from or in Germany? Please read the following. Please read every word before commenting again:

    Stayin’ alive in the gene pool – Part I  
    http://bravenewclimate.com/2013/11/01/stayin-alive-gene-pool-p1/

    Stayin’ alive in the gene pool – Part II
    http://bravenewclimate.com/2013/11/08/stayin-alive-gene-pool-p2/

    Stayin’ alive in the gene pool – Part III
    http://bravenewclimate.com/2013/11/15/stayin-alive-gene-pool-p3/

    Nuclear Waste Part 4: The choice … waste into fuel OR renewable wastelands
    http://bravenewclimate.com/2013/08/01/nuclear-waste-series-p4/

    All the links are still live. I just checked. Most of the world is living in fantasyland circa 1930 or Boris Karloff movies. If we wanted to get rid of spent fuel, we would dump it in the ocean, which is what we did with the first spent fuel. Then we realized how valuable it is.

    Reply
  30. Asteroid Miner

    H. Laner: Where Did Natural Background Radiation Come From?

    The sum of the natural background radiation at Fukushima plus the radiation leak from the reactor is less than the natural background radiation where I live in Illinois. There was no reason for Japan to shut down their reactors. If the reactors at Fukushima had not been shut down, would they have continued to operate normally?

    Where did natural background radiation come from? The universe started out with only 3 elements: hydrogen, helium and lithium. All other elements were made in stars or by supernova explosions. Our star is a seventh generation star. The previous 6 generations were necessary for the elements heavier than lithium to be built up. Since heavier elements were built by radiation processes, they were very radioactive when first made.

    Our planet was made of the debris of a supernova explosion that happened about 5 billion years ago. The Earth has been decreasing in radioactivity ever since. All elements heavier than iron were necessarily made by accretion of mostly neutrons but sometimes protons onto lighter nuclei. Radioactive decays were necessary to bring these new nuclei into the realm of nuclear stability. That is why all rocks are still radioactive.

    Radiation also comes from outer space in the form of cosmic rays. Cosmic rays come from supernovas that are very far away. There will always be cosmic rays.

    Reply
  31. Asteroid Miner

    H. Laner: Coal contains: Uranium and all of the decay products of uranium, Arsenic, lead, mercury, antimony, cobalt, nickel, copper, selenium, barium, fluorine, silver, beryllium, iron, sulfur, boron, titanium, cadmium, magnesium, thorium, calcium, manganese, vanadium, chlorine, aluminum, chromium, molybdenum and zinc. There is so much of these elements in coal that cinders and coal smoke are actually valuable ores. We should be able to get all the uranium and thorium we need to fuel nuclear power plants for centuries by using coal cinders and smoke as ore. Unburned Coal and crude oil also contain benzene, which is a carcinogen. The carbon content of coal ranges from 96% down to 25%, the remainder being rock of various kinds.
    The uranium decay chain includes the radioactive gas radon. Radon decays in about a day into polonium.

    See:
    http://www.ornl.gov/info/ornlreview/rev26-34/text/colmain.html

    Coal fired power plants cannot meet the same requirements for radiation release that nuclear power plants have to meet.

    Chernobyl released as much uranium as a coal fired power plant releases every 7 years and 5 months. You get 100 to 400 times as much radiation from coal as from nuclear. Natural gas can contain radon.

    Reply
  32. Willem Post

    Mike Conley & Tim Maloney,
    It is about time people start to put some numbers on alternatives to wind, solar; PLUS CSP-based peaking, filling-in and balancing; PLUS thermal and electrical storage; PLUS grid expansion.

    The Jacobson Group published a report of a study based on the above. I wrote a critique of the report and discussed it with Jacobson. Of course, he sticks to his study.

    http://web.stanford.edu/group/efmh/jacobson/Articles/I/WWS-50-USState-plans.html

    The article is on THE ENERGY COLLECTIVE, which is somewhat slow due to software problems.
    Here is the URL
    http://www.theenergycollective.com/willem-post/2264202/reducing-us-primary-energy-wind-and-solar-energy-and-energy-efficiency

    My cost estimate its in below table. Alternatives 1 and 2 have 55.6% nuclear and 68% nuclear, respectively

    Summary Table of Alternatives
    …………………………………..Capital Cost………Added Capacities…………….Add.’l Area
    ……………………………………….$billion………………….MW……………….acres…………….sq. miles
    Jacobson Report……………….23.164……………….6,288,911………175,850,940……….274,767
    Alternative No. 1………………….6,291………………1,578,048…………40,981,875……….. 64,034
    Alternative No. 2………………….4,147…………………951,595…………21,914,182…………34,241

    The Jacobson Alternative (95% wind and solar of ALL energy) has an estimated capital cost of about 5.5 times, and an estimated area of about 9 times that of Alternative No. 2. It would have enormous visual impacts.

    Capital Cost Required by 2050: Below are the capital cost estimates of the three alternatives, $billion.
    ………………………………………..Jacobson Report……………Alt. No. 1………………..Alt. No. 2
    Onshore wind………………………..3280……………………………724…………………………362
    Offshore wind……………………….3115……………………………775…………………………388
    Wave……………………………………..243……………………………243…………………………243
    Geothermal………………………………62……………………………..62…………………………..62
    Hydro……………………………………..12……………………………..12……………………………12
    Tidal……………………………………….49……………………………..49……………………………49
    Total solar…………………………..10,930………………………….2412……………………….1206
    Nuclear……………………………………..0…………………………….788……………………….1121
    Bio………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..
    Total………………………………….18091…………………………..5065………………………3443
    Peaking/filling-in/balancing……2967…………………………….655………………………..327
    Total………………………………….21058…………………………..5719………………………3770
    Grid build-outs…………………….2106…………………………….572………………………..377
    Total………………………………….23164…………………………..6291………………………4147
    $billion/y, 2015 – 2050……………662…………………………….180………………………..118

    Assumptions:
    Onshore turbine cost, installed…………$2000000/MW
    Offshore turbine cost, installed………..$4500000/MW
    Wave……………………………………………$9000000/MW
    Geothermal…………………………………..$3000000/MW
    Hydro…………………………………………..$3000000/MW
    Tidal…………………………………………….$5500000/MW
    Residen’l Roof PV………………………….$3500000/MW
    Com’l/gov roof………………………………$3000000/MW
    CSP with 10 h storage……………………$8000000/MW; CF about 0.60
    Nuclear…………………………………………$5500000/MW
    Bio……………………………………………….$3000000/MW
    http://www.rmi.org/RFGraph-Capital_cost_US_pressurized_water_reactors
    http://www.eia.gov/forecasts/capitalcost/pdf/updated_capcost.pdf

    Reply
  33. Willem Post

    I think your capital costs for supplying just the electrical portion of US energy needs is too high. Here is a study you may wish to consider:

    The Jacobson plan is 50% wind and 45% solar, with the rest from geothermal, tide, wave, hydro to supply 100% of all US energy needs.

    The report of the study claims this mix, totaling about 6,500,000 MW, can generate all of US energy needs for about $15 trillion. My article shows the capital cost should be about $23.164 trillion.

    However,
    – using some solar, wind, etc., and about 55% nuclear, the cost would be $6,291 trillion
    – using some solar, wind, etc., and about 68% nuclear (less than France), the cost would be $4.147 trillion

    I hope you will study the Jacobson Report and my article. If you need my spreadsheets to verify numbers, I’ll be glad to send them.

    I have an MSME in energy systems from RPI and an MBA in finance/economics from UCONN, plus over 35 years of energy systems experience at all levels.

    Reply
  34. Asteroid Miner

    Willem Post: Would you be willing to tell all of this to the Illinois state legislature in case they need it? We are trying to keep our nuclear power plants. Also, have you told Obama and the EPA? Please do.

    Reply
    1. Willem Post

      Miner,
      You may use my article for any purposes you like, including sending it to the Illinois legislature.

      I just added NOTE No. 5 at the beginning of my article.

      NOTE No. 5: The Jacobson Plan would provide solar PV and CSP w/storage capacity for peaking/filling-in/balancing primarily located in the US Southwest. That capacity would need to be connected to a US-wide HVDC overlay grid stretching up to northern Maine to provide energy AT ANY TIME local wind and solar generation and storage would be inadequate to serve demand. The HVDC overlay grid would be required to minimize transmission losses. Based on 4 such proposed lines, mostly overhead, from New England to Canada, the capital cost would be about $7.5 million/mile.
      http://www.theenergycollective.com/willem-post/2219181/increased-wind-energy-versus-increased-canadian-hydro-energy-new-england

      Reply
      1. Willem Post

        Miner,

        I added to my NOTE No. 4 (renumbered) the following:

        The wind energy output, MW, is less than 10% of total installed capacity over an area from northern Sweden to southern France several times each year, as shown by the published records of simultaneous hourly wind outputs. For example, during September – October 2015, 60 days, there were four deep regional lulls when the combined output of the 50 GW of installed capacity was less than 5 GW. The lowest combined output was on October 3, at 2074 MW (4.2% of capacity) and the longest lull was October 18, 19, 20, about 72 hours.
        http://euanmearns.com/a-big-lull/
        http://euanmearns.com/wind-blowing-nowhere/

        Reply
    1. RickD Maltese

      Right now I personally approve all comments.
      I may change that so that since you have made a
      comment that’s been accepted you can continue doing so without approval

      Reply
  35. Todd Grigsby

    For an article that seems to attempt to be so complete, there are some glaring omissions.

    If you’re going to include the deaths from installation and construction, then you’re going to have to give credence to all improved safety procedures for all construction types the same way you did with production of uranium. The correct comparison would have been that there are deaths in constructing nuclear plants and in installing solar, but there are zero deaths in solar production once installation is completed compared to deaths in solar and coal once construction is completed. You conveniently gloss over this by blending the two together when talkikng about nuclear. Because uranium must be mined, “nearly zero” is not the same as zero when producing nuclear energy.

    When considering wind farm locations, simply talking about the Arctic jet stream as though it’s the only valid source of wind energy is disingenuous. There are various locations around the United States that provide enough wind to be profitable on a yearly basis that are no where near the Arctic Circle. You continue on after that to discuss the “windaciousness” of the U.S. as a whole, so it’s not clear why you threw in the part abvout the Arctic Circle unless it was to misleadingly introduce global warming as a boogie man for why clean energy wouldn’t work.

    You mention, as most clean energy opponents, that neodymium is mined only in China, leaving out the fact that large rare earth deposits exist in the U.S. but aren’t mined because the cost is higher. That cost is due to the fact that we require the kind of miner safety and tailings disposal that China, as you pointed out, does not. Equilizing tariffs would serve to make those magnets and other rare earth products more expensive but would bring mining and manufacturing jobs back to the U.S.

    Another point on which your article is highly misleading, is that the land used by clean energy cannot be used for anything else. With the exception of solar farms, panels are installed on roof tops and, increasingly, as part of covers for parking lots. Wind turbines are, in a lot of cases, built on the best land for catching unhindered air flow, the tops of mountain ridges, on on land used for grazing livestock. California’s Altamonte is peppered with windmills. It’s extremely hilly, not suitable for crops or structures, and also serves as cattle pasture.

    Suggesting that wind and solar require nearby gas plants is also disingenuous. Your single quote notwithstanding, the image you paint of windmills next to CO2 belching gas burning turbines comes close to a flat out lie. The energy grid is designed specifically to accommodate energy level variations. Battery technology is improving dramatically daily, with innovations in this last year alone that make sodium and silicon based batteries nearly as efficient as lithium. Selling the idea that storage will have to rely in the future on engineering mega proejcts like PHES requires the ignorance of the entire population to scientific advancement. But storage aside, the wind doesn’t start and stop everywhere at the same time, the clouds don’t appear and disappear all over the globe at once, and the sun isn’t off for the entire globe at once. When one source decreases, other sources increase. And you also ignore the fact that our usage fluctuates during the day. Usage and storage is such a complex system, and you spend all your time waxing poetic about a technology that few take seriously and which no one is seriously considering using large scale.

    You mention that it would cost us 1.7 million tonnes of CO2 to produce, ship, and install turbines. You focus on these because they require the most materials to produce. Rounding back up, which seems fair since you so nicely left off the cost of mining and refining, let’s use 2 million tonnes of CO2. You figure in PHES, which I will leave out as ridiculous. You then compare that CO2 to the output of a coal plant. You don’t factor in downstream CO2 savings. Cars alone, worldwide, generate 144 billion tonnes of CO2, but I see you don’t want to include switching to electric in your calculations, let alone switching public transportation to electric. And you don’t even start to compare solar setup to anything else because you can’t — it would blow your whole argument out of the water.

    At this point, I’ve got a job to get back to, so I’ll leave off on the rest of your article. For the record, I am not entirely opposed to nuclear, but that’s a much broader subject than form factors for uranium plants. If you’re going to make it sound like you’re giving every technology a fair shake, then don’t be lazy, and try your best to be completely honest.

    Reply
    1. pete

      Correct!
      What these numbers do not consider is that way more jobs are created around solar and wind energy, and yes work is dangerous and always will be, but at least an accident will not devastate a whole area combined with cancer casualties.

      Reply
  36. Asteroid Miner

    Wind turbine accidents:
    http://www.caithnesswindfarms.co.uk/AccidentStatistics.htm
    “The trend is as expected – as more turbines are built, more accidents occur. Numbers of recorded accidents reflect this, with an average of 16 accidents per year from 1995-99 inclusive; 49 accidents per year from 2000-2004 inclusive; 108 accidents per year from 2005-09 inclusive, and 156 accidents per year from 2010-14 inclusive.”
    “In the UK, the HSE do not currently have a database of wind turbine failures on which they can base judgements on the reliability and risk assessments for wind turbines. Please refer to http://www.hse.gov.uk/research/rrpdf/rr968.pdf.

    This is because the wind industry “guarantees confidentiality” of incidents reported. No other energy industry works with such secrecy regarding incidents. ”

    “Our data clearly shows that blade failure is the most common accident with wind turbines, closely followed by fire. ”

    “Fatal accidents
    Number of fatal accidents: 116
    By year:

    Year 70s + 80s 90s 00 01 02 03 04 05 06 07 08 09 10 11 12 13 14 15*
    No. 9 15 3 0 1 4 4 4 5 5 11 8 7 15 15 4 2 4

    * to 30 September 2015 only
    Please note: There are more fatalities than accidents as some accidents have caused multiple fatalities.
    Of the 162 fatalities:
    95 were wind industry and direct support workers (divers, construction, maintenance, engineers, etc), or small turbine owner/operators.
    67 were public fatalities, including workers not directly dependent on the wind industry (e.g. transport workers). 17 bus passengers were killed in one single incident in Brazil in March 2012; 4 members of the public were killed in an aircraft crash in May 2014 and a further three members of the public were killed in a transport accident in September 2014.”
    These are wind turbine accidents.

    Reply
    1. Bas Gresnigt

      @Asteroid,
      There is a 2 to 6 decades long latency before the health harm of low level poisoning shows. This is showed for smoking (nicotine), asbestos, etc. etc. Also for nuclear radiation as you can read a.o. in the recent RERF report no.14:
      http://www.rerf.jp/library/archives_e/lsstitle.html

      The book published in the annals of the New York Academy of Sciences indicates that Chernobyl alone will in the end deliver more than a million deaths. It’s now available at scientific publisher Wiley and free to download:
      http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/nyas.2009.1181.issue-1/issuetoc
      It implies that nuclear is far more dangerous than wind, solar, etc.

      Reply
  37. Asteroid Miner

    Renewable Energy mandates cause more CO2 to be produced, not less, and renewable energy doubles or quadruples your electric bill. The reasons are as follows:

    Since solar “works” 15% of the time and wind “works” 20% of the time, we need either energy storage technology we don’t have or ambient temperature superconductors and we don’t have them either. Wind and solar are so intermittent that electric companies are forced to build new generator capacity that can load-follow very fast, and that means natural gas fired gas turbines. The gas turbines have to be kept spinning at full speed all the time to ramp up quickly enough. The result is that wind and solar not only double your electric bill, wind and solar also cause MORE CO2 to be produced.

    We do not have battery or energy storage technology that could smooth out wind and solar at a price that would be possible to do. The energy storage would “cost” in the neighborhood of a QUADRILLION dollars for the US. That is an imaginary price because we could not get the materials to do it if we had that much money.

    The only real way to reduce CO2 production from electricity generation is to replace all fossil fueled power plants with the newest available generation of nuclear. Nuclear can load-follow fast enough as long as wind and solar power are not connected to the grid.

    Reply
  38. Asteroid Miner

    References on energy storage, which is required for wind and solar:

    “Green Illusions” by Ozzie Zehner: A complete renewable energy system for the US would cost 1.4 QUADRILLION dollars.

    My estimate for the cost of a battery for the US is $0.5 QUADrillion.  5 times 10 to the eleventh power.  About 29 times GDP.  How I got it:  Fairbanks has a battery that can last 7 to 15 minutes.  They paid $35 Million for it.  Fairbanks has 30,000 people.  That is $1167 per person.  Multiply by 400 million people.  Divide 7 minutes into a week.  Multiply that by the number you got before.  You get half a quadrillion dollars.  Batteries are out.  

    Book: “Why We Need Nuclear Power; the Environmental Case” by Michael H. Fox, 2014
    Page 236:  “Nuclear power hits a lot of those hot buttons”
    German feed-in tariff for wind power is 57 cents.  That’s wholesale.  I am paying 7.5 cents retail.  

    There are 2 technologies that would make renewables possible if we had them:  ambient temperature superconductors or batteries about a million times better than what we have.  “High temperature superconductor” means it works in liquid nitrogen and doesn’t need liquid helium.  

    Do the Math
    Using physics and estimation to assess energy, growth, options―by Tom Murphy
    http://physics.ucsd.edu/do-the-math/2011/08/nation-sized-battery/
    To go with renewables only, you need a whole week’s worth of battery power for the whole world. There is enough lead to make 2% of the US battery.

    http://physics.ucsd.edu/do-the-math/2011/11pump-up-the-storage/
    Hydro storage would require us to lift Lake Erie half a kilometer skyward. Pumped hydro storage is not feasible.

    To go with renewables only, you need a whole week’s worth of battery power for the whole world. How much does that cost? Hint: You run out of the things you need to make batteries very quickly. BraveNewClimate addressed that question for 2 kinds of batteries.
    bravenewclimate.com/2011/11/13/energy-storage-dt/

    bravenewclimate.com/2011/10/29/gws-sg-es/
    
Geographical wind smoothing, supergrids and energy storage
    http://bravenewclimate.com/2011/11/13/energy-storage-dt/#more-5281
    http://ssis.arts.unsw.edu.au/tsw/RE.html
    
RENEWABLE ENERGY – CANNOT SUSTAIN AN ENERGY-INTENSIVE SOCIETY. 
    bravenewclimate.com/2011/07/03/lacklustre-colorado-solar/
    
Be sure to read the linked papers. In the Arizona desert, solar has dropouts in mid day for no apparent reason.
    Wind: There are rare places where wind works locally, but to power, for example, all of Europe, all of Europe and all of Asia has to be linked into one very expensive grid. You need the nameplate power times 4 spread over 12 time zones to get reliable power. The line losses are huge unless you have a superconducting grid, and superconductors now available require liquid nitrogen cooling.
    bravenewclimate.com/2012/02/27/100-renewable-electricity-for-australia-response-to-lang/
    
theenergycollective.com/node/74311
    The Germans are paying ~$1.71 per kilowatt hour for renewable energy, assuming that nuclear + coal costs the same as what I am paying.

    Reply
  39. Asteroid Miner

    Kill mechanisms for wind turbines:
    Failed blade breaks off and hits you
    Ice thrown from blade. Can be a large piece of ice flying fast enough to kill you or more than one of you.
    The machine on top comes off in a high wind and flies like a helicopter ⅓ mile. Weighs 60 tons or more, so it crushes your house. Happened in Germany, but missed the house.
    Tower falls on you
    You fall while working on it
    You or your clothes get caught in the gears. Happened to a child who climbed into the machine.
    Fire in the machine. Firemen can’t get to the fire, so it burns on. Flaming parts fall and start other fires.
    Electrocutions are common.
    Etcetera

    Reply
    1. pete

      “Your clothes get caught in the gears. Happened to a child who climbed into the machine.”
      I wonder what happens if someone climbed into a nuclear reactor.

      Ice flying, turbine tipping over, LOL you are a comedian or what?

      Reply
      1. Asteroid Miner

        You cannot climb into a nuclear reactor. Climbing into a bank vault past midnight would be much easier. The containment building is not meant for human access. Only the fuel-change robot can go there. The containment building is a minimum of 39 inches thick heavily reinforced concrete with a many-ton door that is sized and positioned for robotic refueling.

        Each reactor has an exclusion zone and armed guards, and that was in the old days. Now, due to paranoid people, we also have soldiers guarding the reactor.

        There is no way anybody is going to climb into a reactor. But it is easy to get to a wind turbine. Wind turbines are spread out across the land with no guards. Anybody can just walk up to a wind turbine.

        Reply
      2. Asteroid Miner

        Pete: 136 deaths of humans is hardly comedy. See: http://www.caithnesswindfarms.co.uk
        downloaded some time ago:
        “Indeed on 11 December 2011 the Daily Telegraph reported that RenewableUK confirmed that there had been 1500 wind turbine accidents and incidents in the UK alone in the past 5 years. Data here reports only 142 UK accidents from 2006-2010 and so the figures here may only represent 9% of actual accidents.”

        CWIF says the wind industry had, to their knowledge, 102 fatal accidents resulting in 136 deaths of humans. “17 bus passengers were killed in one single incident”

        ============================
        Summary of Wind Turbine Incidents (December 2008): 
• 41 Worker Fatalities, 16 Public- Includes falling from turbine towers and transporting turbines on the highway.
• 39 Incidents of Blade Failure- Failed blades have been known to travel over a quarter mile, killing any unfortunate bystanders within its path of destruction.
• 110 Incidents of Fire- When a wind turbine fire occurs, local fire departments can do little but watch due to the 30-story height of these turbine units. The falling debris are then carried across the distance and cause new fires.
• 60 Incidents of Structural Failure- As turbines become more prevalent, these breakages will become more common in public areas, thereby causing more deaths and dismemberment’s from falling debris.
• 24 incidents of “hurling ice”- Ice forms on these giant blades and is reportedly hurled at deathly speeds in all directions. Author reports that some 880 ice incidents of this nature have occurred over Germany’s 13-years of harnessing wind power.
        Source: Treehugger

        Reply
  40. Asteroid Miner

    Look up “in situ leach mining” for uranium. In-situ Leach mining is the modern way to mine uranium. There is no excuse for an open pit mine. Water and baking soda can be used to dissolve uranium.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/In-situ_leach
    “In-situ leaching (ISL), also called in-situ recovery (ISR) or
    solution mining, is a process of recovering minerals such as
    copper and uranium through boreholes drilled into the deposit.
    The process initially involves drilling of holes into the ore deposit.
    Explosive or hydraulic fracturing may be used to create open
    pathways in the deposit for solution to penetrate. Leaching
    solution is pumped into the deposit where it makes contact with
    the ore. The solution bearing the dissolved ore content is then
    pumped to the surface and processed. This process allows the
    extraction of metals and salts from an ore body without the need
    for conventional mining involving drill-and-blast, open-cut or
    underground mining.”

    Reply
  41. bub

    I live in a third world country. Do you think nuclear power is suitable for us, and for the rest of the non-American/European world? Should we too pursue nuclear power too or focus on renewables instead?

    I’m thinking of all the news about Iran. I don’t know if this is important or not, but the country is live in is 60% Muslim (though I myself am Christian).

    Reply
    1. Bas Gresnigt

      Nowadays new nuclear is more expensive than renewable; e.g. wind+solar+storage.
      Shown by the costs of the intended new Hinkley nuclear plant in UK.

      Investment $34.8bllion for a net capacity of 3.26GW, which is $10.7/W (£1=$1.42)
      Despite the state aid of $21.5billion*), Hinkley gets an inflation corrected price for all produced electricity during 35years! Assuming an inflation of 1.5%/a that implies:
      – 16cnt/KWh in 2025, when the new NPP is scheduled to starts
      – 20cnt/KWh in 2042, halfway the 35years guarantee period.
      ____
      *) All these figures are not disputed conclusions of the EU accountants, who checked the Hinkley project because of the involved state aid. Such state aid is normally not allowed in the EU. Whether it is allowed for this project still has to be decided by the high court in Luxembourg.
      New nuclear in USA also get major subsidies, etc. However those figures are not well known as those are not fully checked by independent accountants. So those figure are less reliable.

      Reply
      1. Bas Gresnigt

        I assume that the high costs are one of the reasons French government decided to reduce nuclear share from present 75% towards 50% in 2015. A transition of 2.5%/a which is much faster than that of Germany.

        Consider also that their new law targets that in 2030 more than 40% of French electricity is produced by renewable. They are now busy to detail all intermediate targets in order to reach that goal: http://www.pv-tech.org/news/french-solar-capacity-to-nearly-triple-by-2023

        Reply
      2. Ike Bottema

        OK really? Perhaps we in Ontario don’t know how to properly build and operate wind and solar but that’s not been our experience. http://tinyurl.com/zdbu33f (PDF) Page 8:

        The Ontario Energy Board (OEB) has forecast of the cost of electrical “energy” from Nov 1, 2014 to Oct 31, 2015 based on existing supply contracts will be:

         Hydroelectric: 4.8 cents/kWh
         Nuclear: 6.2 cents/kWh
         Wind: 12.3 cents/kWh
         Natural Gas: 16.0 cents/kWh (low capacity factor/peak service)
         Bio-energy: 19.8 cents/kWh
         Solar: 47.4 cents/kWh

        2015 average = 9.5 cents/kWh (about 16 cents/kWh delivered to homes).

        Reply
        1. Bas Gresnigt

          If that are US$ cents than:
          – the prices for wind and solar are indeed ridiculous high; 2-5t times!
          – the nuclear price is fine for old nuclear.
          But even in Canada, new nuclear will cost >2times more.

          Reply
  42. Asteroid Miner

    Yes, nuclear power is suitable for your country. The UN has given every country, including Iran, the right to have civilian nuclear power plants. If you don’t have the trained people yet, arrangements can be made. 31 countries have nuclear power. 9 have the bomb.

    Believe it or not, we will know if anybody tries to build a bomb, Muslim or not. Bomb building is a large project that cannot go unnoticed. I hope you can get over your religion. Same for the moslems.

    Spent commercial nuclear power plant fuel is not a proliferation risk. Spent nuclear fuel is not a proliferation risk because a power plant makes the wrong isotopes of plutonium for bombs. To make a bomb, you need pure plutonium239 [Pu239].
    Isotopes: One chemical element can come in several isotopes. The element [atomic] number describes the number of protons in the nucleus. Different isotopes of an element have different numbers of neutrons. You are made of atoms. Every atom has a nucleus. Each nucleus contains the number of protons required for that element plus some number of neutrons. The number of neutrons for one element varies. For example, oxygen has 8 protons and either 8 or 9 or 10 neutrons. We say that 8O16, 8O17 and 8O18 are 3 different isotopes of oxygen. You breathe all 3 isotopes of oxygen. Some isotopes of some elements are radioactive, while other isotopes of the same elements are stable. You inevitably eat both radioactive and stable isotopes of the elements that you must eat to live.

    To make Pu239, you have to shut down the reactor and do a fuel cycle after one month or less of operation. Since removing and replacing fuel takes a month, a short-cycled reactor operates half the time. A power plant that has a one month on, one month off fuel cycle would stick out a lot more than the proverbial sore thumb.

    A reactor used to make electricity runs for 18 months to 2 years between refuelings. In that time, Pu239 absorbs extra neutrons, becoming Pu240, Pu241, Pu242, 95americium243, 96curium247, 97berkelium247, 98californium251, 99einsteinium25, 100fermium257 and so on. The higher [more protons] elements are made by beta decays, where a neutron becomes a proton, an electron and a neutrino.

    7% Pu240 is enough to spoil a bomb and you get a lot more than 7% Pu240 from a reactor that has been running for 18 months. Separating Pu239 from those higher actinides is a technology that has not been developed. Nobody would try to do that separation because the easy way to make Pu239 is with a short cycle reactor. Governments that have plutonium bombs, have government owned government operated [GOGO] reactors that do nothing but make Pu239.

    Reply
  43. Pingback: The Problem With a Green Papacy | Out of Purgatory

  44. Pingback: Nuclear Power: Friend or Foe? | WorkInProgress

  45. Matt schneider

    Any person with a statement like “The only way we’re going to power the nation—let alone the planet—on carbon-free energy is with …. ” is obviously delusional that you can power anything with a single solution. No doubt, all solutions have a level of “suck” to them. And since the easy energy sources of coal/NG/petroleum have inherent issues, the ‘solution’ will be all non-carbon polluting options. The solution is complex, and to say this and that won’t work, and only this will work, is absolutely naive.

    Reply
  46. Kraig

    Fairly well written article and relatively thorough calculations. I would suggest that upcoming battery storage options are actually far cheaper than pumped hydro so the calculation for the cost of wind plus pumped hydro storage might be quite a stretch since similar results could be accomplished with cheaper storage options. I’ve done similar calculations myself though comparing PV and wind w/storage to nuclear and nuclear did still come out the winner but it was not the stark contrast that is shown here. That said, MSRs are definitely the way to go in the future imo.

    Reply
  47. Bas Gresnigt

    So after all the Germans are right by:
    – installing new super-critical coal plants that are 44% efficient (older plants 33%), that can and do replace gas plants. Due to the low temperature burning circulating fluidized bed process, these plants have similar flexibility as gas plants while exhausting hardly any toxics thanks to the low temperatures.
    – moving gas faster out than their new flexible coal plants.

    In the past five years (from 2010 towards 2015) they:
    – reduced gas by 33% (90 TWh => 60TWh; share now 10%);
    – increased coal by 4% (263TWh => 273TWh; share now 44%).
    – reduced nuclear by 35% (141TWh => 92TWh; share now 15%)
    – increased renewable by 87% (105TWh => 196TWh; share now 32%)

    Reply
  48. Bas Gresnigt

    The calculated costs don’t match! In Germany:
    – Onshore Wind get a Feed in Tarriff (FiT) of <9cnnt/KWh in first 5yrs, then <5cnt/KWh during next 15years. Thereafter sell at the (whole sale) market (av. 3cnt/Kwh last year):
    http://goo.gl/c58O1O

    – PV-solar get <13cnt/KWh (small rooftop) to <9cnt/KWh (5GW/a. So 250GW in 2050.
    Av. consumption 70GW. So many longer periods of overproduction which feed P2G plants, etc.

    – For seasonal storage many P2G pilot plants (~20 at av. 6MW each). Those have a P2G2P efficiency of 40% and run only when whole sale price is <2cnt/KWh (due to overproduction).
    Gas storage in earth cavities is cheap. In NL we store processed gas in those cavities as that allows to design the capacity of gas processing plants on av. consumption and not on peak consumption in winter.
    So they produce electricity for ~6cnt/KWh.

    – New nuclear in UK (which has similar salaries, etc):
    FiT of £92,50 in 2012 £'s (=€12cnt/Kwh), inflation corrected, during 35years of operation.
    With 1.5%/a inflation, that translate to:
    – 14cnt/KWh in 2025 at the start of the new nuclear plant.
    – 18cnt/KWh in 2042 halfway the guarantee period.
    We should also monetize the additional subsidies such as the £10billion loan guarantee, the low max. liability in case of accidents, etc., etc. Those have a value of ~5cnt/KWh.

    – The difficulties of the big Chinese team to develop Molten Salt Reactors, shows those are not cheap or easy. An overview at: https://goo.gl/iUhwxG
    Their project team (since 2011, ~600scientists) schedules the first commercial Molten Salt Reactors for 2035 (was 2030). So for next few decades it will stay a dream.

    Reply
  49. Willem Post

    “At 33% average capacity, we’ll need 1,515 MWp of CSP (500 ÷ 0.33 = 1,515). Then we grow the plant by 3.2 X to get 24-hour storage, for a total of 4,848 MWp.”

    500 MW x 8760 x 0.33 = 1,445,400 MWh/y.

    If 7.5 hours is the maximum for storage, the solar field needs to be 24/7.5 = 3.2 times larger to have continuous operation at 500 x 0.33 = 165 MW gross output, about 145 MW net output to grid.

    Three such plants would provide 500 MW continuous.

    Reply
    1. Bas Gresnigt

      CSP is an expensive, non-competing method of electricity generation. Also shown by the fact that it is not spreading around. As there is no clear path towards much lower cost prices, CSP is doomed.

      The combination of (PV+battery storage) is already cheaper and will become much cheaper.
      Same for the much cheaper alternative (PV+Wind+grid enlargement+battery storage + Power=>Gas=>storage=>Power) the Germans are developing.

      Reply
        1. Bas Gresnigt

          @Willem,
          While I sympathize with the intention ‘sustainable future” shown in your link, it contains to much dubious assumptions, often presented as facts, to be taken serious. *) Sorry.

          Back to the point.
          The new CSP plant in very sunny Ouarzazate (at the Sahara) produces for 18cnt/KWh.
          Than we have to add long distance transport costs, which implies that the price will increase towards 20cnt/KWh.
          Large PV-plants in poorly sunny Germany produce for <8cnt/KWh (in Austin for 5cnt/KWh), which price is predicted (a.o. Agora study) to decrease towards 2-3cnt/KWh in 2050.
          Assume that 50% of PV production has to be stored. Than the storage costs can be 20cnt/KWh before the CSP plant comes near the av. costs for the PV plant are 18cnt/KWh. For that price you can even install expensive Li-ion batteries as German consumer behavior also shows. But that is not needed as there are much cheaper options as shown in my response to Asteroid below.
          Note also:
          – that during most of the evenings & nights the wind will blow, so no storage needed as wind can then supply all: http://goo.gl/zSBfmF.
          – the long term price decrease of PV-solar (~8%/a since ~1980), battery storage (~10%/a).

          While CSP has expensive turbine-generator, etc. which hardly decrease in price…

          Reply
  50. Asteroid Miner

    Willem Post: Yes, that is correct, except that solar gives you 15% of nameplate energy over each day. Remember that solar gives you nameplate power between 11AM and 1PM on June 22. So you need 6.7 rather than 3 solar power plants with storage to equal one nuclear power plant. 1/.15 =6.666666 Round that up to 7.

    Now you can figure out the cost and compare to a small modular reactor. And you see that solar is a nonsensical idea.

    Reply
    1. Willem Post

      Miner,

      Actually, it is worse, because nuclear gives a steady 0.9 CF, whereas the solar CF in winter is as little as 1/25 of in summer, on a daily basis.

      Reply
    1. Bas Gresnigt

      @Asteroid,
      To match the daily variation in consumption and production, quite a number of technologies are available.
      Some of these (from cheapest to more expensive):
      – extending the grid so it covers a larger area (by far the cheapest and it has important other benefits too).
      Such as we in NL now do. Next year our interconnection capacity with the German grid will be doubled. So we can export more of our superfluous electricity to Germany. Especially since the (south-)western winds will first drive our off-shore wind parks and only hours later the German wind parks.
      If UK would agree we can enlarge the interconnection with them too, which will smooth the production variations more. Also regarding solar production.

      – adaptation of consumption.
      E.g. German aluminum smelters, who need huge amounts of electricity, only run when (they expect) electricity prices are low… As electricity is major part of their cost price, they competed the Dutch alu smelter off the market…

      – Flow batteries in the grid, which are even installed in US nowadays. Also to improve frequency control

      – Standard LI-ion batteries such as those German consumers, who have rooftop solar, install nowadays to cover their evening consumption.

      – Pumped storage facilities. Germany has ~35 of such small installations. They all make losses as those are relative expensive. Even the one in Switzerland, with altitude difference of 1000meter, makes losses.
      Also because there is no real need for storage until renewable produce >50% of all electricity. It’s now 30% in Germany only. Considering the influence of the (new) interconnections renewable share has to increase to >60% before those are needed and can make a profit.

      Seasonal variations (winter) are easily and cheapest covered by P2G2P as it’s very cheap to store huge amounts of gas in earth cavities and lot of experience already (Germany does it to bridge a long blockade of gas delivery by Russia, etc). The low efficiency of the process (now ~40%, expected to increase to 50%) is not such an issue as electricity is (and will become more often) extremely cheap when the wind blows or the sun shines. Check at the EPEX: https://www.epexspot.com/en/

      Many German entrepreneurs envision an P2G plant at car fuel stations (the plants are unmanned and housed in a few easy to transport sea-containers), to supply the coming hydrogen cars.

      Reply
      1. Willem Post

        Bas,
        German’s 30% renewables, on an annual basis, is mostly possible due to safety valves, I.e., interconnections with foreign grids that still have spare capacity for peaking, filling-in and balancing, and spare synchronous rotational inertia (vital to stabilize the grid), such as the Netherlands with a lot of gas and Norway with 98% hydro.

        Of course, any such operation away from steady base load is less efficient, I.e., more Btu/kWh, more CO2/kWh..

        And when Germany exports its excess, energy, it usually is at night when domestic demand is low, and wholesale prices are near zero, after subsidizing it at a cost of about 15 c/ kWh, per Energiewende.

        Reply
        1. Bas Gresnigt

          @Willem,
          I forgot to mention the real safety valve in my comment above:
          If necessary German grid operators can switch parts of big Wind turbine and solar farms off/on themselves (without having to involve a human operator of the farm). That works very well as solar production adapts within a second while wind production adaptation takes less than a minute.
          Such curtailment was <1% of the production of those farms.

          Of course Dutch, etc. utilities buy electricity on the German market if the electricity is cheaper there. As we want to buy more and also export more to Germany if the wind at our part of the N-Sea blows (we are expanding offshore wind in order to avoid NIMBY) and not yet in Germany (during ~2hours) we are doubling the interconnection capacity with Germany (ready in 2017).
          It's strange to call such trading safety valves.

          Your idea that rotational inertia would be needed to stabilize the grid is outdated.
          Nowadays cheaper power electronics do the same (as well as phase-shifting).

          Check your idea that German export occurs at night (e.g. at Fraunhofer ISE) as it doesn't fit with present reality. Neither your ideas about the price of renewable.
          Solar FiT guarantee is on av. ~10cnt/KWh during only 20yrs now. PV-solar now last easily 40yrs (Sunpower guarantees it's PV-panels for 25years, usually equipment sustains ~4times the guarantee period). So with present interest rates the real price is ~6cnt.
          And realize those prices continue to decrease (though wind with ~3%/a less fast).

          Reply
    1. Bas Gresnigt

      There are enough cavities in the earth to store enough gas (incl. renewable gas) to supply all needs for years.
      E.g. Germany stores half a year of the gas they need to lessen the effects of import stops (e.g. by Putin)

      Gas produced by wind & solar electricity drive present P2G plants. Those plants are unmanned, housed in a few easy to transport containers. At the moment the many pilots in Germany are typically ~6-8MW each.
      As their marginal costs are very low, it’s affordable to operate them only when the whole sale price is low, e.g. <2.5cnt/KWh. Which is an increasing part of the time in Germany as average whole sale prices are predicted to decrease towards that level in coming years.

      Many entrepreneurs intent to install those at car refuel stations, where they can produce the hydrogen to supply the coming hydrogen cars…

      Btw.
      One of the first casualties due to those low prices is the 1.3GW GrafenRheinfeld NPP. It closed prematurely last summer because of the losses it made.

      Reply
  51. Kyle Hooker

    I’m writing a research paper on exactly this topic. This actually helped a lot haha. Thanks I found your topic interesting and very well written. I liked the organization of quotes and the bold printed lines every paragraph or so to keep peoples attention

    Reply
  52. Asteroid Miner

    Bas Gresnigt: You didn’t read the references I gave you. To get wind to work all the time, your grid has to extend to Vladivostok, or all the way from England to Alaska. Read the references I gave you first, then comment.

    Germant has wasted 1.1 Trillion Euros [or dollars] on energiewend so far, and they are much poorer for it.

    Reply
    1. Bas Gresnigt

      @Asteroid,
      German population support for the Energiewende is so high (~90%!) because they consider the costs of the Energiewende to be insignificant..
      Not strange considering that the average German households pay a lower share of their income for electricity than average USA households.

      German Energiewende goes that slow (from 6% in 2000 towards 80% renewable in 2050, which is 1.5%/a) because the Energiewende scientists in 2000 figured out that the costs have to stay insignificant in order to keep / gain more population support. That support was in 2000 only 55% (now 90%).
      It’s also the reason the FiT’s for new solar were decreased such that the installation rate went down from the 7GW/a in 2020-2012, towards the target of 2.5GW/a.

      Reply
      1. Asteroid Miner

        Wind IntegrationStudy for the SouthWest Power Pool is called:

        CRA_SPP_WITF_W…Y_Final_Report.PDF

        http://www.uwig.org/CRA_SPP_WITF_Wind_Integration_Study_Final_Report.pdf

        SPP currently serves parts or all of eight states (Arkansas, Kansas, Louisiana, Missouri, Nebraska, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Texas) and has members in nine states (Mississippi in addition to the eight states listed above)

        Adding wind power causes overloads that break transformers and transmission lines. Bigger transformers, transmission lines, new transmission lines and new gas turbine power plants are required to fix the problems created by adding wind power

        Reply
    2. Bas Gresnigt

      @Astrid,
      “To get wind to work all the time, your grid has to extend to Vladivostok…”
      Even then it won’t work.
      But getting wind to work >50% of the time is not needed, as indicated by the scenario studies of a.o. German think-tank Agora.

      !00% renewable electricity is generated by combining different technologies, which I stated in my other comments here. That combination of technologies as well as the many thousands of small generators dispersed all over the country, enhanced reliability of German electricity supply significantly when those renewable got steam during last decade.
      German (as well as Danish) electricity supply is now 8times more reliable than that in USA, while USA doesn’t count the long outages due to extreme weather! Four times more reliable than that in France and UK, while those countries are similar to Germany.

      Agora involves top-scientists of Germany and elsewhere for studies in order to find the optimum policy for the transition towards 100% renewable.
      Why do you think that those fail to see such basic issues?

      Reply
  53. Asteroid Miner

    See:
    https://bravenewclimate.com

    Bas Gresnigt is wrong. Danes and Germans are paying the highest electricity prices in Europe.
    http://www.economics21.org/commentary/energy-policies-electricity-prices-cautionary-tales-eu

    Nuclear power is the only way to stop making CO2 that actually works. To stop Global Warming, we must replace all large fossil fueled power plants with nuclear.

    Renewable Energy mandates cause more CO2 to be produced, not less, and renewable energy doubles or quadruples your electric bill. The reasons are as follows:

    Since solar “works” 15% of the time and wind “works” 20% of the time, we need either energy storage technology we don’t have or ambient temperature superconductors and we don’t have them either. Wind and solar are so intermittent that electric companies are forced to build new generator capacity that can load-follow very fast, and that means natural gas fired gas turbines. The gas turbines have to be kept spinning at full speed all the time to ramp up quickly enough. The result is that wind and solar not only double your electric bill, wind and solar also cause MORE CO2 to be produced.

    We do not have battery or energy storage technology that could smooth out wind and solar at a price that would be possible to do. The energy storage would “cost” in the neighborhood of a QUADRILLION dollars for the US. That is an imaginary price because we could not get the materials to do it if we had that much money.

    The only real way to reduce CO2 production from electricity generation is to replace all fossil fueled power plants with the newest available generation of nuclear. Nuclear can load-follow fast enough as long as wind and solar power are not connected to the grid.  Generation 4 nuclear can ramp fast enough to make up for the intermittency of wind and solar, but there is no reason to waste time and money on wind and solar.

    ALL countries should use 100% nuclear for electricity. Wind and solar are so intermittent that they break transformers and power lines. See:
    http://www.uwig.org/CRA_SPP_WITF_Wind_Integration_Study_Final_Report.pdf

    Reply
    1. Bas Gresnigt

      @Asteroid,
      Thank you!
      It’s unbelievable that even The Wall Street Journal, a ‘serious’ financial journal, publishes such compendium of mistakes, faulty facts and misrepresentations.

      Amazing that such huge misunderstandings exist regarding a rather rational and factional subject as the transition towards other methods of electricity generation, between two countries who:
      – have similar culture; and
      – similar languages (German and English differ relative little); and
      – are allies.
      What is then the size of the misunderstandings regarding e.g. Iran, Israel, Iraq, etc??
      Can we trust any of the info regarding such countries published in English language journals?

      Reply
  54. Asteroid Miner

    Bas Gresnigt:
    Evacuate Denver! [not]
    If you live in Chernobyl the total radiation dose you get each year is 390 millirem. That’s natural plus residual from the accident and fire. In Denver, Colorado, the natural dose is over 1000 millirem/year. Denver gets more than 2.56 times as much radiation as Chernobyl! But Denver has a low cancer rate.

    Calculate your annual radiation dose:
    http://www.ans.org/pi/resources/dosechart/

    The Average American gets 361 millirems/year. Smokers add 280 millirems/year from lead210. Radon accounts for 200 mrem/year.

    Some natural background readings:
    Guarapari, Brazil: 3700 millirem/year
    Tamil Nadu, India: 5300 millirem/year
    Ramsar, Iran: 8900 to 13200 millirem/year

    “milli” means .001 1 millirem = .001 rem

    Denver gets 2.8 times the national average.  Denver’s rate is caused by cosmic rays.  Remember, Denver is the mile high city, above a lot of protective atmosphere.  There is a lot more cancer at sea level near oil refineries on the gulf coast. Oil refineries dump BENZENE into the air. BENZENE causes leukemia.

    Reply
    1. Bas Gresnigt

      @Asteroid,
      Can you show your Chernobyl measurements?
      The radiation levels in the exclusion zone (where people were evacuated and still are not allowed to return because of the dangerous radiation level) which includes Chernobyl, can vary greatly within a few meter.
      The main exclusion zone still is ~1,000 square miles to which other areas dispersed elsewhere should be added: https://goo.gl/OGQMCV

      The ~1200 people who returned to the (border of) the exclusion are almost all dead.
      An indication that living there indeed shortens your live substantially.

      Though there live only few thousand people in Ramsar’s districts with increased radiation levels (much lower levels than you state as shown by good research: http://goo.gl/gyiO5B ), significant increased genetic damage to people living there is shown: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21894441
      As well as significant negative immune effects, etc: http://goo.gl/jaoxpr
      etc.

      Showing a significant life expectancy decrease is nearly impossible with so little people living there, especially since part of them moves in/out from/to other districts of Ramsar, and population registers are less accurate. I assume population registers in Iran do not register serious birth defects as in Germany.

      Though a meta-study did show significant increased health damage to people living in high background radiation areas: http://goo.gl/LWzAIW

      In Germany the detailed and accurate birth registers allowed research which could count all birth and birth defects in 20 districts. That delivered highly significant increased levels of serious birth defects (Down, abnormal limbs, etc) due to small increases (0.2mSv/a = ~10% of background) of background radiation in the 10 districts that got some Chernobyl fall-out while those increases didn’t occur in the 10 nearby similar districts that got no fall-out (rain) from the passing cloud: http://goo.gl/D8rVAU

      The beaches of Guarapari and Kerala (India) do show increased radiation levels due to the monazite sand.
      However people stay only short on the beaches, and contaminated houses are dispersed making good research nearly impossible. Still Indian government banned the building of houses in those areas.

      Reply
  55. Asteroid Miner

    Again, nuclear costs more in the US only and that is because of coal company shills protesting. The cost is lower in reasonable countries like South Korea. Nuclear price is going down by means of factory modular production.

    And you forgot the quadrillion dollars you need for the US battery for wind and solar.

    Bas Gresnigt: How much money do you have invested in fossil fuels and wind and solar?

    Reply
    1. Bas Gresnigt

      @Asteroid,
      “,,, nuclear costs more in the US only …”
      Check the costs to build the new nuclear plant at Hinkley UK; $11/W,
      Seems to me slightly more expensive than the costs of the new nuclear plants in USA.

      China, S.Korea, etc are countries that produce many goods much cheaper than we in the west can.
      Even goods that are produced at highly automatic product lines, such as PV-panels (we have 45% import tax and still they take major market share). So for sure the construction of new NPP’s, as those require far more labor.

      Investment costs for wind ~$1/w, etc. And the operating costs are near zero compared to nuclear!
      As I explained in other comments (http://goo.gl/Zjxfqe) and here ( http://goo.gl/mEeFK3) and found by scenario studies of e.g. Agora, no big battery capacity needed.

      So just on economic grounds alone it’s already highly rational to choose for renewable wind, solar, etc.
      Then you also don’t harm the genes (DNA) of your (grand)(grand)children.
      Even normal operating NPP’s cause such harm to newborn up to 40km away: http://goo.gl/RWVCA2.

      Reply
      1. Timothy Maloney

        Let’s find out the truth about low- and medium-dose radiation exposure for once and all, by designing and funding an actual biochemical research effort. Why must we keep messing around with epidemiological studies after an unplanned release occurs, where it’s impossible to gather reliable data about individual exposures ?

        Since no-one else that i’m aware of is advocating for such research, here’s my suggestion.
        http://tinyurl.com/ze2kqpc

        I’ve been advised by a qualified radiation biologist that my laboratory instrumentation and test recommendations are impractical. That’s not surprising since I don’t really know anything about such experimental procedures. Would someone who does have relevant knowledge please apply for a research grant.

        Let’s get to the bottom of this matter, after all these decades, for crying out loud. It’s kind of important.

        Reply
        1. Bas Gresnigt

          Friend of me is head of a computational cancer research group at the Dutch Cancer Institute.
          His research is restricted by the poor capacities of his present computers.

          He needs computers with fast (<100 micro seconds) access to 1000Tbytes of data.
          Processing capacity of ~1000T instructions per second, and of course some disk capacity (say 100,000Tbytes).
          If anybody can help him?

          Reply
      2. Asteroid Miner

        Nuclear power is the only way to stop making CO2 that actually works. To stop Global Warming, we must replace all large fossil fueled power plants with nuclear.

        Renewable Energy mandates cause more CO2 to be produced, not less, and renewable energy doubles or quadruples your electric bill. The reasons are as follows:

        Since solar “works” 15% of the time and wind “works” 20% of the time, we need either energy storage technology we don’t have or ambient temperature superconductors and we don’t have them either. Wind and solar are so intermittent that electric companies are forced to build new generator capacity that can load-follow very fast, and that means natural gas fired gas turbines. The gas turbines have to be kept spinning at full speed all the time to ramp up quickly enough. The result is that wind and solar not only double your electric bill, wind and solar also cause MORE CO2 to be produced.

        We do not have battery or energy storage technology that could smooth out wind and solar at a price that would be possible to do. The energy storage would “cost” in the neighborhood of a QUADRILLION dollars for the US. That is an imaginary price because we could not get the materials to do it if we had that much money.

        The only real way to reduce CO2 production from electricity generation is to replace all fossil fueled power plants with the newest available generation of nuclear. Nuclear can load-follow fast enough as long as wind and solar power are not connected to the grid.  Generation 4 nuclear can ramp fast enough to make up for the intermittency of wind and solar, but there is no reason to waste time and money on wind and solar.

        Reply
  56. Asteroid Miner

    Ramsar, Mazandaran [Iran]
    From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
    At the 2012 census, its population was 33,018, in 9,421 families.[2]

    “Ramsar’s Talesh Mahalleh district is the most radioactive inhabited area known on Earth, due to nearby hot springs and building materials originating from them.[8] A combined population of 2000 residents from this district and other high radiation neighbourhoods receive an average radiation dose of 10 mGy per year, ten times more than the ICRP recommended limit for exposure to the public from artificial sources.[9] Record levels were found in a house where the effective radiation dose due to external radiation was 131 mSv/a, and the committed dose from radon was 72 mSv/a.[10] This unique case is over 80 times higher than the world average background radiation.

    The prevailing model of radiation-induced cancer posits that the risk rises linearly with dose at a rate of 5% per Sv. If this linear no-threshold model is correct, it should be possible to observe an increased incidence of cancer in Ramsar through careful long-term studies currently underway.[9] Early anecdotal evidence from local doctors and preliminary cytogenetic studies suggested that there may be no such harmful effect, and possibly even a radioadaptive effect.”

    That is called “hormesis.” http://atomicinsights.com/low-dose-radiation-doesnt-cause-cancer-helps-prevent/

    The only source of fresh water for the whole city is an aquifer that contains dissolved radium.

    So you have found web sites that tell lies. No surprise. Free speech.

    Reply
    1. Bas Gresnigt

      The Wikipedia article about Ramsar is clearly obsolete. Demonstrated with: “Early anecdotal evidence from local doctors and preliminary cytogenetic studies suggested that there may be no such harmful effect, and possibly even a radioadaptive effect.”.

      Several scientific studies have shown the harmful effects already:
      http://goo.gl/A6NGdK
      http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21894441
      – This study shows a.o. higher frequency of apoptosis which implies that people live shorter as their telomere length decreases faster: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16988494

      So the higher radiation levels of Ramsar do harm health. As well as elsewhere, shown by a.o. the meta-study which I linked earlier here,

      Read the comments of “EL” at the atomic insight page that you linked. He shows that the title statement is wrong; that the opposite of hormesis is shown.

      Reply
  57. Asteroid Miner

    The price of nuclear power did not go up in all countries. Some have more reasonable safety standards and the price did not go up. See “The Myth Of Expensive Nuclear Power” at http://oilprice.com/Alternative-Energy/Nuclear-Power/The-Myth-Of-Expensive-Nuclear-Power.html

    The high price of nuclear in the US is caused by coal industry propaganda. On a level playing field, coal and nuclear would be killing the same number of people. Nuclear has killed zero and coal kills 26000/year.

    http://thebreakthrough.org/images/pdfs/Breakthrough_Institute_How_to_Make_Nuclear_Cheap.pdf

    “HOW TO MAKE NUCLEAR CHEAP”

    If you want to lower the price of nuclear power, here it is.

    Reply
  58. Asteroid Miner

    Bas Gresnigt: What is the natural background radiation where you are in Germany? Natural background is higher than what you got from Chernobyl by maybe 1000 times.

    Your Geiger counter clicks. Every time you turn it on. Everywhere. At all times. If you had a time machine, you could take your Geiger counter back in time 1000 years or a million years or a billion years. Your Geiger counter would click at any of those times. How fast your geiger counter would click at any given time in the past would vary according to your location. Natural background radiation varies from place to place and from altitude to altitude. Buy a Geiger counter now. Find out how much radiation is there now, before the accident. That is the step that the Japanese didn’t take.

    All rocks are radioactive. All rocks contain uranium and thorium and their radioactive decay products. They always have. Cosmic rays come from the sky. Cosmic rays come from super-novas thousands of light years away. They always have. Cosmic rays turn some nitrogen atoms in the atmosphere into radioactive carbon14. The carbon14 reacts with oxygen to make CO2. Plants eat the CO2 and make radioactive sugar. People eat the plants. We use the decay of carbon14 to figure out how old ancient mummies are.

    Look up “Natural background radiation” in Wikipedia.

    “Love Canal.”

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Love_Canal
    “In the mid 1970s Love Canal became the subject of national and international attention after it was revealed in the press that the site had formerly been used to bury 21,000 tons of toxic waste by Hooker Chemical (now Occidental Petroleum Corporation).” The chemicals dumped in Love Canal were “caustics, alkalines, fatty acids and chlorinated hydrocarbons from the manufacturing of dyes, perfumes, solvents for rubber and synthetic resins.”
    Houses were built on top of a chemical dump.
    “Love Canal was a neighborhood in Niagara Falls, New York”.

    “finding birth defects and many anomalies such as enlarged feet, heads, hands, and legs.”
    “whose daughter had many (about a dozen) birth defects.”
    “found an abnormal incidence of miscarriages.”
    “He was also to discover that highly toxic dioxin was there.”
    “He developed epilepsy in December, suffered from asthma and a urinary tract infection, and had a low white blood cell count,[15][16] all associated with his exposure to the leaking chemical waste.”
    “ranging from industrial workers stricken by nervous disorders and cancers to the discovery of toxic materials in the milk of nursing mothers.” In one case, two out of four children in a single Love Canal family had birth defects; one girl was born deaf with a cleft palate, an extra row of teeth, and slight retardation, and a boy was born with an eye defect.[19] A survey conducted by the Love Canal Homeowners Association found that 56% of the children born from 1974–1978 had at least one birth defect.”

    Reply
  59. Asteroid Miner

    Already done many times. Please read this book: “Radiation and Reason, The impact of Science on a culture of fear” by Wade Allison. The Wade Allison in England, not the other Wade Allison at Harvard.
    http://www.radiationandreason.com/
    Professor Allison says we can take up to 10 rems per month, a little more than 1000 times the present “legal” limit. The old limit was 5 rems/lifetime. A single dose of 800 rems could kill you, but if you have time to recover between doses of 10 rems, no problem. It is like donating blood: You see “4 gallon donor” stickers on cars. You know they didn’t give 4 gallons all at once. There is a threshold just over 10 rems/month. You are getting .35 rems/year NATURAL background radiation right where you are right now if you are where I am.

    Natural Background Radiation is radiation that was always there, 1000 years ago, a million years ago, etc. Natural Background Radiation comes from the rocks in the ground and from exploding stars thousands of light years away. All rocks contain uranium. Radon gas is a decay product of uranium.

    The old old [2 olds] legal limit for nuclear workers was a lifetime dose of 5 REMs. Divide 5 rems by your present Natural Background Radiation. For Americans, Natural Background Radiation is at least .35 rems/year. Our Natural Background Radiation uses up our 5 rems/lifetime when we are 14 years old.

    also: Arch Toxicol
    DOI 10.1007/s00204-014-1207-9 Leukemia incidence of 96,000 Hiroshima atomic bomb survivors is compelling evidence that the LNT model is wrong
    http://atomicinsightscom.c.presscdn.com/wp-content/uploads/Cuttler-2014_-Leukemia-incidence-of-96000-Hiroshima-survivors_ArchToxicol.pdf

    Wade Allison had the Hiroshima and Nagasaki data, the “radium girls” data, the cancer treatment data, NIH data and papers, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera…….

    Wade Allison had much more data than you will ever have. Get the book.

    Reply
  60. Bas Gresnigt

    It has been shown repeatedly that higher levels of natural background radiation do harm health:
    https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/11/121113134224.htm

    Similar as with smoking, low level asbestos and other poisons, there is a latency of 2 – 6 decades before the health damage shows (it takes time before the defense mechanisms gets exhausted). Shown by medical studies, the RERF studies regarding the atomic bombs, etc.
    That long latency allows reproduction before people died.
    In the old times av. life expectancy was only 30years….
    I want to become >100years old.

    It’s highly probably that significant part of our health damage (cancers, etc) is caused by background radiation, as well as other “natural” toxins such as PM2.5 and smaller particles, etc.

    Reply
  61. Asteroid Miner

    Bas Gresnigt: I am not at all impressed by you numberless/mathless references. You need to do better than that.

    Higher levels of natural background radiation seem to increase vigor and health. The Earth was much more radioactive in the distant path,

    WHERE DID NATURAL BACKGROUND RADIATION COME FROM?

    The visible universe [ignoring dark matter and dark energy] started out with only 3 elements: hydrogen, helium and lithium. All other elements were made in stars or by supernova explosions. Our star is a seventh generation star. The previous 6 generations were necessary for the elements heavier than lithium to be built up. Since heavier elements were built by radiation processes, they were very radioactive when first made.

    Our planet was made of the debris of a supernova explosion that happened about 5 billion years ago. The Earth has been decreasing in radioactivity ever since. All elements heavier than iron were necessarily made by accretion of mostly neutrons but sometimes protons onto lighter nuclei. Radioactive decays were necessary to bring these new nuclei into the realm of nuclear stability. That is why all rocks are still radioactive. The supernova made all radioactive elements including plutonium, cesium 137, etcetera.

    Radiation also comes from outer space in the form of cosmic rays. Cosmic rays come from supernovas that are very far away. There will always be cosmic rays.

    Again: 4 Billion years ago, the Earth was a lot more radioactive than it is today. There is no place in or on Earth or in space where there is no radiation. There never was.
    Your grandparents were born in a radioactive world. They didn’t know it. How many people can there be without electricity? Clue: Not 7 billion. The Earth would have to have the same population the Earth had back in those days.

    ZERO PEOPLE DIED from radiation from Fukushima. One got a sunburn on his ankle. 1600 people have died from the stress of the completely unnecessary evacuation. The fault is with the Japanese law that is 1000 times too strict.

    Chernobyl is not a ghost town. There are still people operating the remaining reactors. The Chernobyl accident killed fewer than 100 people.

    You have been propagandized by the coal industry. King Coal has prevented you from knowing about Natural Background Radiation. You should have been taught about Natural Background Radiation in junior high school or before. NOT having nuclear power is a certain disaster. Nuclear power is far safer than wind or solar. Nuclear is the cleanest, healthiest and safest source of electricity there is.

    http://scienceblogs.com/stoat/2011/06/03/deaths-per-unit-of-electricity/
    Energy Source Death Rate (deaths per TeraWatt hour)

    Coal – world average 161 (26% of world energy, 50% of electricity)

    Coal – China 278

    Coal – USA 15

    Oil 36 (36% of world energy)

    Natural Gas 4 (21% of world energy)

    Biofuel/Biomass 12

    Peat 12 0.44 (less than 0.1% of world energy)

    Solar (rooftop) 0.44 (less than 0.1% of world energy)

    Wind 0.15 (less than 1% of world energy)

    Hydro 0.10 (europe death rate, 2.2% of world energy)

    Hydro – 1.4

    Nuclear 0.04 (5.9% of world energy)

    From “The Revenge of Gaia” by James Lovelock page 102.
    fuel…..fatalities… ..who……deaths per twy [terawatt year]

    coal………6400…… …workers………342

    natural gas..1200..workers and public..85

    hydro…….. .4000….. .public…………..883

    nuclear……..31…… …workers………… ……8

    Chernobyl is included. See also http://nextbigfuture.com/2011/03/deaths-per-twh-by-energy-source.html

    Reply
    1. Bas

      Faking the death and costs numbers due to nuclear makes nuclear proposals unbelievable.

      BTW
      Chernobyl is not a town, but nearby Pripyat is a ghost town. Just as other villages and towns in the huge exclusion zone.

      Reply
    2. Bas

      Asteroid,
      In the past average life span of people was <20 years.
      And we know from a.o. the Hiroshima bomb LSS studies (by RERF) that there is a latency of ~20-60 years before health damage due increased radiation shows….

      So your story of higher background radiation in the past doesn't apply.

      Reply
  62. Asteroid Miner

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  63. Pingback: Marche un libre choripan – Conurbanomics

  64. Paul Byrne

    I have been a proponent of a Thorium Liquid Reactor (please note that I did not say Fluoride Salt) for many years. Recently, I took the opportunity to return to my UK University to research my PhD in Thorium Reactor Design.

    My focus is to find the current technical obstacles in building a small 1.5MW reactor…and find solutions to either remove, or bypass these obstacles and get it built. Frankly, I am sick and tired of all the whining I see and hear and not enough practical action to at least build something, so I have come out of retirement to do it myself. I do not believe that I cannot eliminate ALL these obstacles in three years.

    I am therefore seeking knowledgeable individuals and companies who can enlighten me so that I can produce an Design Obstacle List for my PhD research and move forward in the design and construction of this reactor. I want to know…”what is technically stopping us from building a small reactor”?

    My University will work with me to obtain space to build this reactor (in physical form) as a Pilot Plant to verify ALL aspects of the design and operations. I will use all current knowledge and physics to validate the design and use Computational Dynamics techniques in areas that cannot be verified by experiment as the likelihood of obtaining the Nuclear Fuel for these experiments are very slim. When I feel that the design is ready for a Live Fueling with nuclear materials, I will seek assistance from the Global Community to build and fuel this reactor design. I would appreciate an email return so that we may start some meaningful correspondence on this subject.

    If you assist me in this endeavor, you will have access to my 3-years of research from an outstanding University and we can start, what must the best solution, for electrical power generation in the near term.

    Climate change is a reality. Responsible people must take a leadership role in mitigating these harmful atmospheric components and use our science to build appropriate solutions for the future…if this is not the right time to do this, then when?…if we are not the people to do it, then who?

    Yours respectfully,
    Paul Byrne – Chartered Engineer

    Reply
  65. Asteroid Miner

    1.5MW reactor seems so small as to be a student reactor rather than a power reactor. The next-smallest reactor I have seen is 25 MW from Gen4Energy.

    What is stopping you could be the plethora of reactors that your nuclear regulatory people would have to deal with.

    1.5 MW would get you a very weak car engine. You ned to convert some car engine horsepowers into MW to check out what you like, first.

    Reply
  66. Bas

    When you include the CO2 / GHG emitted by the uranium mining, processing, transport, the nuclear waste handling, etc.
    than nuclear is many times more polluting for the climate than wind+solar+storage!
    In fact nuclear’s emissions are half that of natural gas!

    Reply
  67. Walter Schlegel

    Once most of our electricity es nuclear powers wecan use it to make hydrogen for our transportation systems.

    Reply
  68. Asteroid Miner

    Bas: That is not believable and not true.
    “Valuing the greenhouse gas emissions from nuclear power: A critical survey” Benjamin K. Sovacool Energy Policy 36 (2008) 2940– 2953 Elsevier

    Nuclear 66 grams of CO2 equivalents per KWh
    Natural gas combined cycle 443 grams of CO2 equivalents per KWh

    Natural gas makes 6.7 times as much CO2 + equivalents as the average nuclear. If you choose the enrichment method for your nuclear fuel, you can do a lot better. If you recycle your spent nuclear fuel, you can do many times better.

    Reply

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