Deep de-carbonisation of electricity grids

by Peter Lang

J. P. Morgan recently published an excellent report Deep de-carbonisation of electricity grids‘. Below are excerpts from the report and some comment added by me.

Excerpts from the Introduction

“In our last few annual energy notes, we analyzed the individual components of the electricity grid: coal, nuclear, natural gas, wind, solar and energy storage. This year, we look at how they fit together in a system dominated by renewable energy, with a focus on cost and CO2 emissions. The importance of understanding such systems is amplified by President Obama’s “Clean Power Plan”, a by-product of which will likely be greater use of renewable energy for electricity generation.

This year, we focus on Germany and its Energiewende plan (deep de-carbonization of the electricity grid in which 80% of demand is met by renewable energy), and on a California version we refer to as Caliwende. We compare these systems to the current electricity mix, and to a balanced system with a mix of renewable and nuclear energy. These charts summarize cost (Y-axis) and emission (X-axis) results:

Slide1

Our primary conclusions:

  • A critical part of any analysis of high-renewable systems is the cost of backup thermal power and/or storage needed to meet demand during periods of low renewable generation. These costs are substantial; as a result, levelized costs of wind and solar are not the right tools to use in assessing the total cost of a high-renewable system
  • Emissions. High-renewable grids reduce CO2 emissions by 65%-70% in Germany and 55%-60% in California vs. the current grid. Reason: backup thermal capacity is idle for much of the year
  • Costs. High-renewable grid costs per MWh are 1.9x the current system in Germany, and 1.5x in California. Costs fall to 1.6x in Germany and 1.2x in California assuming long-run “learning curve” declines in wind, solar and storage costs, higher nuclear plant costs and higher natural gas fuel costs
  • Storage. The cost of time-shifting surplus renewable generation via storage has fallen, but its cost, intermittent utilization and energy loss result in higher per MWh system costs when it is added
  • Nuclear. Balanced systems with nuclear power have lower estimated costs and CO2 emissions than high-renewable systems. However, there’s enormous uncertainty regarding the actual cost of nuclear power in the US and Europe, rendering balanced system assessments less reliable. Nuclear power is growing in Asia where plant costs are 20%-30% lower, but political, historical, economic, regulatory and cultural issues prevent these observations from being easily applied outside of Asia
  • Location and comparability. Germany and California rank in the top 70th and 90th percentiles with respect to their potential wind and solar energy (see Appendix I). However, actual wind and solar energy productivity is higher in California (i.e., higher capacity factors), which is the primary reason that Energiewende is more expensive per MWh than Caliwende. Regions without high quality wind and solar irradiation may find that grids dominated by renewable energy are more costly
  • What-ifs. National/cross-border grid expansion, storing electricity in electric car batteries, demand management and renewable energy overbuilding are often mentioned as ways of reducing the cost of high-renewable systems. However, each relies to some extent on conjecture, insufficient empirical support and/or incomplete assessments of related costs

Other implications of high-renewable systems:

  • Transmission costs excluded. We exclude investments in transmission infrastructure often required to accompany large amounts of renewable energy capacity, which could substantially increase the estimated cost of high-renewable systems. Wind capacity factors may also degrade with a large wind build-out since the most optimal sites are often developed first.
  • Other uncertainties. As thermal power (gas, coal) is further relegated to a backup power role, there are uncertainties regarding how such high-cost, low-utilization assets will be financed and maintained by the private sector

This paper gets into the weeds of hourly generation and intermittency. I found that it’s difficult to have a well-informed understanding of renewable systems without doing so. My goal: to give you a layman’s perspective of high-renewable systems while still adhering to the physical and engineering realities of electricity generation, stripped of the hyperbole which often accompanies the subject.”

PL comments

  1. Transmission costs are excluded from the JP Morgan analysis which, as they say, “could substantially increase the estimated cost of high-renewable systems.” The average additional cost of transmission at 30% penetration of nuclear is $2.1/MWh and onshore wind is $31.8/MWh (i.e. 15 times higher) according to OECD/NEA, 2012, ‘System Effects in Low-carbon Electricity Systems’).
  1. Wind capacity factors will also degrade with a large wind build-out because ‘energy spillage’ increases as the proportion of wind energy increases.
  1. The greatest uncertainty is whether or not it is feasible to operate a large grid with 80% non-hydro renewable energy. Nuclear has proven it can – it’s been generating around 75% of France’s electricity for some 30 years as well as exporting large amounts of cheap, reliable power to its neighboring countries, and helping to maintain grid stability.

Excerpts from the body of the report:

“• Cost almost double current system. The direct cost of Energiewende, using today’s costs as a reference point, is 1.9x the current system. Compared to the current system, Energiewende reduces CO2 emissions at a cost of $300 per metric ton”

PL Comment: $300/t CO2 is around 30x the current EU carbon price.

“1f. Is there a cheaper way to do it? A balanced system, with nuclear power

Nuclear Power. For some, the discussion stops here, since they have scientific, financial, environmental or geopolitical objections. That said, we analyze a balanced system as well: Germany maintains the wind, solar, hydro and biomass it now has; relies on nuclear to meet 35% of demand by turning back on some of its idle plants; and uses a 50/50 natural gas/coal mix for the remainder. Balanced results are shown in the last row, along with no-storage and storage scenarios for Energiewende, and the current system.”

PL extract from the table on Germany (p9):

Renewables proportion Nuclear proportion Electricity cost

$/MWh

CO2 emissions

$/t CO2 reduce.

Current; No Stor; Curr cost 25% 16% $108
Energiewende; No Stor; Curr cost 80% 0% $203 $300
35% nuclear; No Stor; Curr cost 40% 35% $136 $84

 

PL Comment: Energiewende with 35% nuclear instead of 0% nuclear, would be 79% the cost of electricity and less than 28% of the CO2 abatement cost.

“However, EIA and Carnegie Mellon cost estimates may not reflect reality. The rising trend in OECD nuclear capital and operating costs is a topic we addressed last year. In the US, real costs per MWh for nuclear have risen by 19% annually since the 1970’s5 . Even in France, the country with the greatest reliance on nuclear power as a share of generation and whose centralized decision-making and regulatory structure are geared toward nuclear power, costs have been rising and priorities are shifting to renewable energy6 . Globally, nuclear power peaked as a share of electricity generation in 1995 at 18% and is now at 11%, primarily a reflection of slower development in the OECD.”

PL comment: I agree with this point.  I suggest the primary reason for the high cost of nuclear is politics reacting to 50 years of disingenuous anti-nuclear advocacy, which has had the effect on many people as noted in the opening sentence: “For some, the discussion stops here, since they have scientific, financial, environmental or geopolitical objections”.

PL extract from the table on California (p15):

Renewables proportion Nuclear proportion Electricity cost

$/MWh

CO2 emissions

$/t CO2 reduce.

Current; No Stor; Curr cost 34% 10% $97
Energiewende; No Stor; Curr cost 80% 0% $142 $477
35% nuclear; No Stor; Curr cost 40% 35% $116 $174

 

PL Comment: Caliwende with 35% nuclear instead of 0% nuclear, would be 82% the cost of electricity and less than 36% the CO2 abatement cost.

Comparing the last two rows of the tables for Germany and California suggest the costs would be lower if the renewables proportion was reduced and the nuclear proportion increased.

“Deep de-carbonization of the electricity grid via renewable energy and without nuclear power can be done, but we should not underestimate the cost or speed of doing so in many parts of the world. At the minimum, the costs involved suggest that efforts to solve the nuclear cost-safety puzzle could yield large dividends in a post-carbon world. Such is the belief of the scientists, academics and environmentalists who still see a substantial role for nuclear power in the future (see Appendix V).”

From ‘Appendix VI: Energy learning curves’, p24:

“The next chart was produced in 2003 for the European Commission’s 2030 World Energy, Technology and Climate Outlook report. It’s a bit outdated, but does a good job conveying how analysts used historical data available at the time to project learning curve progress in the future.

Slide4

 

PL comment on this chart:

Eyeballing from the chart, the end of the solid lines (i.e. year 2000) are approximately:

Nuclear capital cost = €3,200/kW

Wind capital cost = €1,000/kW

Nuclear capacity = 350,000 MW

Wind capacity = 11,000 MW

Nuclear plants have a life expectancy two to three times longer than wind farms.  And nuclear plants have a capacity factor about three times higher than wind farms. Therefore, an investment of €3,200m in nuclear power supplies 6x to 9x the quantity of electricity that the €1,000m investment in a wind farm supplies.  That is, €3,200m invested in nuclear would supply the same total energy as €6,000m to €9,000m spent on wind farms.

But it’s much worse than that, because the wind farm also needs backup and energy storage to enable it to be comparable to the reliable, dispatchable energy supplied by a nuclear plant. The capital cost of back-up generation would roughly double the cost of the renewables system; energy storage would be much higher cost.

It gets worse still when you compare the CO2 emissions avoided with and without nuclear.  Nuclear power displaces baseload generation.  A MWh of electricity generated by nuclear avoids all the emissions of the coal fired plants it displaces.  Therefore, the CO2 abatement effectiveness of nuclear is greater than 100% because it avoids more than the average emissions intensity of the grid.  In contrast, the CO2 abatement effectiveness of wind power is much less than 100%.  Various studies suggest CO2 abatement effectiveness declines to about 50% when wind power supplies about 20% of the electricity (Wheatley, 2013 and Wheatley, 2015).  It continues to decline as the proportion of wind power increases.  At 50% CO2 abatement effectiveness the CO2 abatement cost is double what it would be if 100% effective, ‘Wind turbines’ CO2 savings and abatement cost’.

PL Comment on negative-learning rate of nuclear power

The chart below shows how the cost of nuclear power has escalated since the 1970’s.

Slide5

Source: Grubler, A. (2012). ‘The French Pressurized Water Reactor Program. Historical Case Studies of Energy Technology Innovation’ in: Chapter 24, ‘The Global Energy Assessment’.  [link]

Comparison with learning rates for other technologies:

Slide6

Charlie Wilson, 2013, ‘from innovation processes to innovation systems

PL comment: cause of nuclear’s negative learning rate

As Bernard Cohen shows, the cost escalation since the 1970’s is mostly due to regulatory ratcheting: ‘Costs of Nuclear Power Plants – What Went Wrong?’:

“No nuclear power plants in the United States ordered since 1974 will be completed, and many dozens of partially constructed plants have been abandoned. What cut off the growth of nuclear power so suddenly and so completely? The direct cause is not fear of reactor accidents, or of radioactive materials released into the environment, or of radioactive waste. It is rather that costs have escalated wildly, making nuclear plants too expensive to build. State commissions that regulate them require that utilities provide electric power to their customers at the lowest possible price. In the early 1970s this goal was achieved through the use of nuclear power plants. However, at the cost of recently completed plants, analyses indicate that it is cheaper to generate electricity by burning coal. Here we will attempt to understand how this switch occurred. It will serve as background for the next chapter, which presents the solution to these problems.

Several large nuclear power plants were completed in the early 1970s at a typical cost of $170 million, whereas plants of the same size completed in 1983 cost an average of $1.7 billion, a 10-fold increase. Some plants completed in the late 1980s have cost as much as $5 billion, 30 times what they cost 15 years earlier. Inflation, of course, has played a role, but the consumer price index increased only by a factor of 2.2 between 1973 and 1983, and by just 18% from 1983 to 1988. What caused the remaining large increase? Ask the opponents of nuclear power and they will recite a succession of horror stories, many of them true, about mistakes, inefficiency, sloppiness, and ineptitude. They will create the impression that people who build nuclear plants are a bunch of bungling incompetents. The only thing they won’t explain is how these same “bungling incompetents” managed to build nuclear power plants so efficiently, so rapidly, and so inexpensively in the early 1970s.

JC note:  As with all guest posts, please keep your comments relevant and civil.

 

124 responses to “Deep de-carbonisation of electricity grids

  1. Pingback: Deep de-carbonisation of electricity grids | Enjeux énergies et environnement

  2. Some will be pleased that Bill Gates of Microsoft will announce a new multi-billion dollar clean energy project at the UN’s Climate Conference in Paris:

    http://wqad.com/2015/11/29/bill-gates-launches-multi-billion-dollar-clean-energy-fund/

  3. Curious George

    Regulators should place strict limits on an allowed number of birds killed by wind and solar.

    • It’s okay to kill birds and bats in devastating numbers with windmills because if we don’t stop climate change they will all die anyway and this way a few smart ones who learn to dodge the blades will have a chance in our new climate change free earth. (That was sarcastic in case you didn’t get it.)

    • Why just wind and solar?

      Why not limits on the number of birds killed directly or indirectly by fossil fuel or nuclear generation too?

      • Curious George

        These are already in place.

      • Peter Davies: “Why not limits on the number of birds killed directly or indirectly by fossil fuel or nuclear generation too?”

        Just try contaminating a single seagull with a gallon or two of spilt oil and see how many millions in damages that costs you.

      • Been there, done that. Worked on Valdez oil spill cleanup. Killing birds is lost in the round off unless the media get pictures of them flapping their wings as they expire.

  4. I will try to read the JP Morgan report and I am sure Peter Lang’s commentary will help my understanding but there has to be a clearer and crisper way of making this argument. For example, the learning curve chart is way too cluttered. Do all the technologies need to be included to make the key points?

  5. Thanks Dr Curry

    Took me a long time to find costs concerning the cost of the CAGW fiasco.
    The above is just what the doctor ordered and I wish it was worse.

    Germany is basically 125 increasing to 200
    and Cali is 110 to 140. My personal power bill is about 5% of my net income.
    If someone bumps it up to 7, or even 10, I probably would moan and grumble but continue onward.

    As Dr Tim Ball reminded in a recent presentation I saw people do revolt, but normally over food. I don’t see the world rebelling over a price increase in energy like the one above.

    It’s a pity.

    CAGW is nonsense. Any 5th grader can see that we’ve been naturally warmer before. What is the real crime is million of poor will suffer and likely die because they are not being encouraged to develop and rely on their own natural resources for energy.

    • Knutesea,

      It is much worse if you include the additional grid costs. At 30% penetration average grid costs for onshore wind for example is 15x higher than for nuclear, based on the OECD/NEA report: “System Effects in Low-cabon Electricity Systems’ http://www.oecd-nea.org/ndd/reports/2012/system-effects-exec-sum.pdf. At 50% penetration, average grid costs for onshore wind would be 25x higher than nuclear (linear projection from 10% and 30% penetration), – figures based on this short summary of the OECD/NEA reporthttp://www.energyinachangingclimate.info/Counting%20the%20hidden%20costs%20of%20energy.pdf).

      The additional grid costs need to be added to the cost of renewables. At 50% penetration the grid cost add close to 50% to the cost of electricity from wind generation.

    • if electriciy price increases it doen’t only increase your bill but the price of whatever requires electricity… no?

      • A grand inflation of sorts Jacques. There is a thinkspeak among the elite that DEFLATION is the real worry in the world’s economies. There is always another fiat tender just around the corner to take the place of the current one.

        If all things cost more money because of more expensive energy then those costs get passed on and on and on.

        Does anyone really ever pay “more” if we all pass it on to the next consumer?

        Thinking out loud because understanding the long view of a faux concept that arbitrarily inflates the value of something can’t end well in my mind, but I have been wrong before and am interested in bigger thoughts of others.

      • Correct. It ripples through the entire economy, and, once those costs are imbedded, the can be difficult to remove if energy costs come down.

      • The mechanism is called something like: cost push inflation caused by supply side shock (Or supply side cost increase) . Energy is directly or indirectly on the supply side for the production of goods that are important to us. The poor are affected the most by this mechanism.

    • Maybe if enough german or british people freeze to death in the winter, the press will be outraged. Hah! Of course not. They didn’t do much when over a thousand girls were raped in Rotherham, as it didn’t fit the narrative: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rotherham_child_sexual_exploitation_scandal.

    • I thought it would be instructive to overlay the two portions of the first figure.

      It is NOT surprising the going from coal(lots of non-combustible stuff in it) to gas gives lower CO2/GWh. What is surprising is how unbelievably optimist the California plan is relative to the German plan, esp when the German plan includes some coal in its estimation of the cost/MWh!

      • Thanks Joel

        I’m not a hair splitter when it comes to estimates like these.
        I look at Germany and say hmmm ahhh 125 to 200
        and California 110 to 140, could be 100 to 150. Similar to me.

        As one commenter pointed out its narrow for me consider just the cost of my home going up but all other things that cost energy to make and do.

        He’s right. So my home goes from 5 to 10% of my net in cost. Would it fair to add on that 5% to everything else I consume that involves energy to make create maintain …. probably.

        Next thought is … can i pass that cost onto to something else in my business.
        Well yeah, of course I can. I imagine it would be easy to do considering everyone else has to do the same thing and its not an extra cost for just me.

        All said and done that inflates everyone’s prices and eventually earnings.

        So who pays ? Where does all that extra money supply come from in the wild and wolly inflation game. They print it of course. It’s fiat money.

        The real swarthy thing to do in this big ole CAGW con is to time the increased cost of the new fangled energy scheme into a period when deflated assets kick in. That way you get a free boost for the fake economy.

        Kind of crazy isn’t it ?

        Make up a threat.
        Shake up the card holders in the energy game.
        Remerge with new stuff that doesn’t work.
        Charge more money for it.
        Kind of sort up work your way into a an old, but new tech like molten salt SMR.
        Stabilize reliability (biggie btw).
        Then figure out who made the most money and carved out power in the shakeup.

        The young adults will need years worth of therapy after this is all done.
        Maybe that’s the worst part, but we all grow up eventually.

  6. Ask the opponents of nuclear power and they will recite a succession of horror stories, many of them true, about mistakes, inefficiency, sloppiness, and ineptitude. They will create the impression that people who build nuclear plants are a bunch of bungling incompetents. The only thing they won’t explain is how these same “bungling incompetents” managed to build nuclear power plants so efficiently, so rapidly, and so inexpensively in the early 1970s.”

    Perhaps it wasn’t the samebungling incompetents”. Remember the ’70’s were the early stage of “equal opportunity” and “affirmative action”.

    If there was a choice between a very competent WASP male, and a minority/woman/disabled of average competence, who would get promoted? Simply put, this was the first decade of a decline that led to such things as the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster

    It certainly seems plausible to me that absent the original hard focus on merit in selecting people for critical missions like nuclear energy and space technology, the ability to maintain the needed level of quality fell too low.

    • Of course, it could also have been a transition from the original post-WWII patriotic fervor of the early Cold War to the later “business as usual”.

    • I’d suggest the negative learning rate for nuclear is the result of 50 to 60 years of anti-nuclear scaremongering which has forced politicians to respond with regulations that are disincentives to nuclear. Nuclear is a high risk investment because investors have no idea what disincentives will be added next. Here’s an example, there are many others:

      To their credit, the greens of the current government have come up with a quite clever way to phase out nuclear. The law allowing new-build still stands but has been rendered moot due to the implementation and subsequent increases in a nuclear-specific tax called the “effect tax” (separate from the tax paid to finance the repository). It’s a tax of about $25000/MW-thermal of installed power per year, to be paid monthly, even if the plant is not in operation. It is thus completely disconnected from electricity production, and is only levied on nuclear. The extra tax of $100m/year per large reactor, on top of all other taxes, plus the heavy subsidy of construction of large amounts of un-needed wind and solar and the dumping of cheap coal on the European market means that at current electricity prices some of the nuclear plants are “economically uncompetitive”. The government then claims that nuclear “can’t compete in the market”, nuclear proceeds to decommission itself, without any law imposed for this and any settlement payments.


      Email from Dr Staffan Qvist from Uppsala University to Professor Barry Brook (posed on BraveNewClimate blog) http://bravenewclimate.com/2015/05/05/environmental-and-health-impacts-of-a-policy-to-phase-out-nuclear-power-in-sweden/#comment-405169

      This is one of many such examples of what is scaring investors and causing the negative learning curve for nuclear power plants.

      • I don’t believe taxes can explain the increased costs of nuclear construction (as opposed to operation and investment return) in the US. Having lived through the decline of nuclear in the US, I would assume that design and construction issues dominated initial cost increases and the reaction of state PUCs (denying cost-plus rate increases) finished off the industry.

        At least partly due to safety & environmentalist concerns, nuclear plants became increasingly complex construction projects with required safety redundancies and strict construction/material tolerances.

        Yet even when a second-generation nuclear plant received a green light there seemed to be increasingly costly mismanagement of the process. Was it due to regulatory mandates changing in mid-construction or perhaps the inability of MBAs to manage complex engineering/construction processes?

        Whatever the cause, for some reason (though definitely not the one proposed by AK, above), the ability of major construction contractors to “build it right the first time” evaporated. State regulators ultimately reacted by refusing to allow utility operators to pass the full costs thru to consumers.

        Liability risks (even with Price-Anderson in place) and public opinion did not help. But if you incur significant cost overruns on every nuclear project (especially compared to gas or coal) someone will eventually pull the plug.

      • Opluso,

        Thank you for your comment.

        First, I’d just like to correct a misunderstanding. My quote of the tax approach the Greens have managed to enshrine in legislation in Sweden to make nuclear not viable was not meant to imply that exactly the same impediment has been used to make nuclear unviable in other countries. It’s just one example. I also have come examples of what’s been done in Germany, Belgium, France, UK, Canada and USA. It would be great if other Climate Etc. contributors could also post examples of what has caused nuclear to have a negative learning rate when all other electricity technologies have had a positive learning rate.

        At least partly due to safety & environmentalist concerns, nuclear plants became increasingly complex construction projects with required safety redundancies and strict construction/material tolerances.

        Agree. However, I’d add that, IMO, the safety & environmentalist concerns are unjustified and the regulatory ratcheting has been a bad mistake. Over regulation has made nuclear unviable and doing so is in effect preventing people from having safer, cleaner, cheaper and more reliable electricity than they would have had by now – and with lower emissions as well.

        Yet even when a second-generation nuclear plant received a green light there seemed to be increasingly costly mismanagement of the process. Was it due to regulatory mandates changing in mid-construction or perhaps the inability of MBAs to manage complex engineering/construction processes?

        Agree with the first sentence: “increasingly costly mismanagement of the process”. I’d say it is due to regulatory changes and intervention by politicians, media, activist groups through court challenges, etc. The engineers and managers are no better or worse on average than they were in the 1970’s and no worse than in other industries (arguably better). It is that they are being jerked around.

        Whatever the cause, for some reason …, the ability of major construction contractors to “build it right the first time” evaporated.

        Agree. But, IMO, it is not justifiable to argue that the managers and engineers of nuclear power plants are a different breed of humans than the engineers and managers building everything else in society. To me it is clear the issue is constraints on the industry rather than the industry having less competent professional than all other industries.

        Liability risks (even with Price-Anderson in place) and public opinion did not help. But if you incur significant cost overruns on every nuclear project (especially compared to gas or coal) someone will eventually pull the plug.

        Agree. That’s clearly what has happened. And that is exactly what the anti-nuclear, environmental NGO’s and others have been working to achieve for 60 years. They’ve been very successful. But has it been in the best interests of humanity or the environment? IMO, definitely not.

        If you haven’t already read it, I think you would find Bernard Cohen’s short chapter on “Costs of Nuclear Power Plants – What Went Wrong?http://www.phyast.pitt.edu/~blc/book/chapter9.html interesting and relevant to the points you’ve made in your comment.

    • I worked with an ex-nuclear plant construction worker in the ’90s. The stories he told about the tremendous amounts of training, oversight, and check/balances he had to undergo as a construction worker (not an operator, designer, etc) were quite impressive.
      The cessation of nuclear power plant construction threw him and tens of thousands of others like him out of work and into other fields – like the CPU design firm where I met him: he went back to school and got an EE degree.
      Equal opportunity had nothing to do with the nuclear plant construction cessation. It was entirely and clearly a result of invigorated anti-nuclear political activity thrown into a frenzy by Three Mile Island. The increases in donations fed innovation into environmentalist-led legal obstructionism which stoked already powerful NIMBY lobbies.

      • My electricity comes, in part, from one of the last nuclear plants built in the United States. Texas does not bow to environmentalists. Texas bowed to the price of, first, coal, and, later, to natural gas.

      • Curious George

        I beg to differ. A friend of mine was a manager in a government lab that had something to do with nuclear. Year after year he was criticized for not having enough diversity in his team. He said, would you want only the best, or a diversity, in your football team? I fear a diversity-first nuclear power plant.

      • Come on. It was Jane Fonda and the “China Syndrome.”

    • Ok, time for some discussion on how we got here:.
      http://energyfromthorium.com/2006/04/22/a-brief-history-of-the-liquid-fluoride-reactor/
      1. Nuclear is the best option for power generation.

      2. The current reactors are basically a sub reactor converted to land use.

      3. Water cooling isn’t a problem in sub reactor because if worst comes to worst you can flood the reactor with water that is frequently under more pressure than the reactor.

      4. The liquid thorium reactor was designed as an aircraft reactor. The design couldn’t be based on water and couldn’t melt down.

      5. The reason that alternative reactors weren’t developed more is that Hyman’s protégées hijacked the AEC and shutdown alternative approaches.

      6. The only other alternative to water that got attention was the liquid metal fast breeder because it could generate weapons grade plutonium.

      7. Howard Baker almost got a production breeder built at Clinch River.

      8. The reason water is under scuba pressures in a reactor is to carry the heat at a high enough temperature to be efficient. A reactor has a volume of 40 cubic meters. The typical scuba tank is an aluminum 80 (11.25) or a European 12 (12 liters). A liter is 1/1000 of a cubic meter.

      9. All the negative consequences of a reactor issue are due to high pressure and the dissociation (into hydrogen and oxygen) during an overheat which must be released – typically into the reactor building.

      10. A barn size room of hydrogen and oxygen or a 40 meter scuba tank – either one spells bomb. Now some real tragedy accompanied by a mix of human stupidity is needed to create a problem. And what gets released are volatiles and not pieces of the core but it can still create some difficulties.

      11. Given that we haven’t killed anyone with a civilian nuclear reactor radiation release the reactor designs and safety systems have mitigated the risk, the better approach is newer reactors such as the AP1000 that are designed to guarantee cooling.

      11. Liquid metal or salt can transfer heat at room pressure. The worst case disaster is a mess in the reactor room. There is no high pressure steam or hydrogen explosion to blow things all over creation.

      In the US we have a crazy level of regulation. It shouldn’t be applied to the AP1000 but is anyway. It doesn’t apply at all (mostly) to a liquid metal or salt reactor.

      We need to put the AP1000 and other current generation reactors on a different regulatory track or they will continue to be expensive. Further the “lessons learned” from Fukushima are going to increase construction costs. We have gradually turned nuclear reactors of the BWR/PWR type into Rube Goldberg devices in the US. It isn’t clear how to fix the situation.

      Room pressure reactors demand a different regulatory track and may be the only route to cheap nuclear power in the US.

      The bottom line though is that Nuclear energy is the safest form of power.

      1. More people have been killed by hydroelectric (mostly dam breaks)
      2. More people have been killed by wind (mostly pollution, windmill noise harm is still being researched).
      http://asiancorrespondent.com/2011/09/the-hidden-pollution-caused-by-solar-panels/
      3. More people have been killed by solar (mostly pollution, such as silicon tetrachloride). However since it is in China there hasn’t been a lot of study.
      http://asiancorrespondent.com/2011/05/green-deaths-the-forgotten-dangers-of-solar-panels/
      There are also deaths from installation.
      http://cleantechnica.com/2014/05/01/solar-panels-toxic-emissions/
      and other issues.

      http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/02/world/asia/air-pollution-linked-to-1-2-million-deaths-in-china.html
      Pollution in China (where the renewables are built) contributes to the death of 1.2 million Chinese a year.

      • PA I am impressed by your breadth of knowledge. You seem to have this and other subjects such as CO2 intake by plants at your fingertips. So if you are a professional/retired scientist, in what (a mix will do) ?

        Curiosity rather than irony is where are I am coming from ;-)

      • You got the first one right, and then you went totally off of the rails.

        “2. The current reactors are basically a sub reactor converted to land use.”

        Depends, there are two basic types of light water reactor, the PWR and the BWR. No subs were or are powered by BWRs.

        And sub reactors use fuel that is more enriched than commercial power plants use.

        This is just freaking bonzo wrong on so many levels

        “3. Water cooling isn’t a problem in sub reactor because if worst comes to worst you can flood the reactor with water that is frequently under more pressure than the reactor.”

        For one, the seawater pressure at crush depth is less than 1000 psi and reactor coolant pressure is about twice that.

        If you had an accident where you needed to flood the reactor cooling system cause it was leaking, best idea would be to hit the “chicken switches” and head for home on the diesel.

        The reason the water in a PWR is at high pressure is because low pressure steam turbines are gihugic (I just made that word up) while high pressure turbines are sorta smallish, and heat transfer reasons.

        “9. All the negative consequences of a reactor issue are due to high pressure and the dissociation (into hydrogen and oxygen) during an overheat which must be released – typically into the reactor building.”

        Nope, not even close

        The main issue during an overheat is this reaction

        Zr + 2 H2O –> ZrO2 + 2 H2

        Which caused the negative consequences at Fukishima.

        Speaking of Fukishima and “Further the “lessons learned” from Fukushima are going to increase construction costs”

        I though the lessons learned from Fukishima was to put you diesel generators behind 3 foot of concrete like IP did at the one nuclear power plant I was working at. As well as installing hydrogen recombiners, which were installed at a US BWR6 and not refitted at Fukishima.

        The lessons from Fukishima were that the lessons learned from TMI were not put in place there.

        I am in favor of Advance Boiling water reactors, Simplified BWRs and even the AP1000.

      • bedeverethewise

        I thought the lesson that should have been learned from Fukushima, and should have been painfully obvious prior to the accident, was that if you are going to build a nuclear power plant in a region known as the ring of fire, known for huge earthquakes and tsunamis, then the plant should probably have some passive and redundant emergency cooling systems.

      • I was in a hurry bob. I hit return before I fully proof read my stream of consciousness and it dawned on me some points would come back to byte me and I was busy with other things Thanks for reading through it.

        As to your response.

        Depends, there are two basic types of light water reactor, the PWR and the BWR. No subs were or are powered by BWRs.

        BWR vs PWR is a mandarin orange vs orange comparison. The BWR uses the top of the reactor as a steam generator and drives the turbines from the primary loop instead of having an external steam generator/heat exchanger to drive a secondary turbine loop. Hence half the pressure and lower temperature. The BWR primary loop looks like the PWR secondary loop from a temperature/pressure perspective.

        “Zr + 2 H2O –> ZrO2 + 2 H2
        Which caused the negative consequences at Fukishima.

        Yes and no.

        BWRs and PWRs both have a zirconium/high temperature hydrogen generation problem. It should be noted that you wouldn’t really care about the hydrogen generation except for diffusion.

        The diffusion curve for iodine and cesium in UO2 has a knee at 1200°C. Diffusion in uranium pellets is basically silicon doping in reverse with the volatiles leaving the pellets. If not for diffusion you would just flush the hydrogen out into the atmosphere.

        And sub reactors use fuel that is more enriched than commercial power plants use.
        http://fas.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/Kuperman-Final-Paper.pdf
        This guy is some sort of idiot who talks about the proliferation risk of sub fuel. Terrorists are going to extract fuel from a nuclear sub – without the super-powers turning them into inkspots? Oh really?

        Anyway he quotes USN reactor loads as 93%. I thought it was lower. Light water reactors are quoted at 3-5%

        “3. Water cooling isn’t a problem in sub reactor because if worst comes to worst you can flood the reactor with water that is frequently under more pressure than the reactor.”

        That is true. Even a Alfa class sub at crush depth was only under about 1900 PSI of pressure. In fact that is a major difference between BWR and PWR reactors. You could flood the 1050 PSI BWR at crush depth but not the 2300 PSI PWR that is normally in a sub. Actually you can always vent a nuclear reactor outside at 300 meters and nobody is going to tattle.

        It should be noted that a sub operates at 300 meters in a pool of coolant, with a small reactor in a thermally conductive tube..

        “head for home on the diesel”
        Much like the trolling motor on a bass boat. Turns a 2 Billion dollar nuclear submarine into the worlds biggest bass boat.

        “while high pressure turbines are sorta smallish, and heat transfer reasons.”
        Wrong answer. PWRs are primary/secondary loops with a steam generator in between them (San Onofre anyone?). The secondary feeds the turbines.

        Speaking of Fukishima and “Further the “lessons learned” from Fukushima are going to increase construction costs

        Yup I agree with you. Don’t let some tool put the backup generators and power panels in harms way was the lesson i took from Fukushima also.

        However the Vogtle Nuclear plant is claiming schedule delays and cost overruns from “lessons learned”. See note above about “tool”.

        Hope I covered all your points – thanks for pointing out the issues.

  7. I’m still not sure why the mad Warmist proponents of the destruction of humanity should be given any more consideration than your average homicidal nutter.

    We are a carbon based life form. We exhale CO2. CO2 is plant food. Our cells use glucose as a primary source of energy. Glucose contains 6 carbon atoms, from memory.

    Decarbonise the food chain, and you die. More CO2 is better.

    Electricity production is another matter entirely, and even trying to establish cost effectiveness can be a very tricky thing, by the look of things. Today’s good idea might become tomorrow’s nightmare.

    Too many coulds, woulds, mights and maybes. Switzerland’s Beznau nuclear plant has been operating for about 45 years. If bumbling incompetents designed and built it, maybe we need more of them.

    Cheers.

  8. A generation has been raised to associate nukes with Mr Burns or some potential disaster whistleblown by Jane Fonda or Jack Lemmon. It’s working, just like the war on coal (for which the idealists of Chevron Energy gave so generously to Sierra).

    I really like Big Oil, but I don’t want to have to fight its battles against coal and nukes by taking on economy-wrecking solar/wind just so it can sell more gas and diesel. Also, I totally hate the geopolitics of stepping away from domestic/secure power sources. (It’s got to do with that real world thingy.)

    Plus I love the lush, abundant, accessible Permian Black given by God to the people of NSW and Qld. I try to say a little thanksgiving prayer for Australian coal every Earth Hour, while the tossers are tossing off with their candles and flashlights. (Wax or batteries? Which is the greater insult to our intelligence?)

  9. CIVITAS Report has interesting data on estimations
    of electricity costs by engineering consultants Mott
    MacDonald, commissioned by Britain’s Dept of Energy
    and Climate Change. Wind equals Folies Bergere. See
    P15, Chart 3. Clearly the wind is not ‘always blowing
    somewhere. ‘

    MM: (Executive Summary.) ‘When allowance is made
    for additional costs associated with wind-power the
    technology ceases to be competitive for both near-term
    and long-term prospects’

    ‘Wind-power is also an inefficient way of cutting CO2
    emissions, once allowance is made for the CO2 emissions
    involved in the construction of the turbines and the
    deployment of conventional back-up generation.’

    http://www.civitas.org.uk/economy/electricitycosts2012.pdf

    • See also aweo.org, in particular aweo.org/windconsumption.html. it is quite likely that wind turbines use more energy over their life span than they produce when you consider the costs of mining raw materials, construction, maintenance, and power required to opetate when the wind does not blow. EROEI is likely negative for wind power, especially when actual useful life, as opposed to projected useful life is considered.

    • Steven Mosher,

      You do realise that the greatest drawback of the classical Fourier transformation is a rather narrow class of functions (originals) for which it can be effectively computed, don’t you?

      Oh, I see. You answered my comment before I wrote it. I understand why you wrote “huh?”. Still haven’t found your clue, I suppose.

      Cheers.

  10. stevefitzpatrick

    Sience of Doom has a 15 part series analyzing the costs of renewables; informative for anyone who wants to delve a little deeper into the subject. Based on that series, my guess is that the JP Morgan studecis wildly optimistic.

  11. Peter,

    Thanks for this interesting post. I’ve started reading the JPMorgan report and came across this statement:

    “Why de-carbonize the electricity grid? Vaclav offers his opinion
    The impact of CO2 emissions on the planet is not the purpose of this year’s energy paper. We are primarily focused on understanding the direct cost and emission implications of electricity systems with large amounts of renewable energy, the mechanics of energy storage, etc. However, I did ask Vaclav for his thoughts on the de-carbonization question. Here is his response:
    “Underlying all of the recent moves toward renewable energy is the conviction that such a transition should be accelerated in order to avoid some of the worst consequences of rapid anthropogenic global warming. Combustion of fossil fuels is the single largest contributor to man-made emissions of CO2 which, in turn, is the most important greenhouse gas released by human activities. While our computer models are not good enough to offer reliable predictions of many possible environmental, health, economic and political effects of global warming by 2050 (and even less so by 2100), we know that energy transitions are inherently protracted affairs and hence, acting as risk minimizers, we should proceed with the de-carbonization of our overwhelmingly carbon-based electricity supply – but we must also appraise the real costs of this shift. This report is a small contribution toward that goal.”

    I guess JPMorgan accepts the premise that we need to decarbonize to avoid the worst effects of AGW. What else should we expect from a “too big to fail” bank that relies on the government to assure it’s success?

    • If the Lehman Bros. hadn’t gone bankrupt they’d have save the world by now. So, it’s time JPMorgan rides into town on a GM charger to deliver us all from the evil oil, coal and nuclear and put a Tesla in every garage?

    • Curious George

      Ready, Shoot, Aim!

    • Mark Silbert,

      I suspect Vaclav and J. P. Morgan are recognising the political reality of the time. They can’t fight against it because they’d risk losing market share if they take a strong stand against what a large proportion of the population is concerned about. I don’t interpret his statement as saying he endorses the consensus position on CAGW, just accepts it is a political reality. Having accepted that he is trying to point out the economic realities of intervening in markets and distorting them with massive subsidies and regulations favouring certain technologies over others.

  12. A cheap coal-fired home generator is needed to deal with outages. You can store coal indefinitely, solving the time displacement problem.

  13. Well, Mark, you may want to buy or sell carbon credits. If so, JP Morgan has a solution for you. Now, you didn’t really think JP Morgan’s interest in climate change was devoid of business interests, now did you?
    http://www.jpmorganclimatecare.com/business/

  14. The California books are cooked.

    All of California’s neighbors burn coal…and if they are not burning coal they are importing power from another state that is burning coal…

    California subsidizes ‘green electrons’…so the grid operators in neighboring state exporting to California have managed to discover that electrons can be identified by color(or at least convinced Californians) and only export green electrons.

    Whether its importing electrons or people…Californians love to believe they all came with the proper paperwork.

    • Yeah, I visited the Intermountain Project in Utah as it was being completed — built largely to provide electrons to LA – maybe a few stragglers to SLC. Funny how that happens.

  15. Good video on nuclear with hilarious quotes throughout by Helen Caldicot:

    • Developed LOCA methods for PWRs from 1974-85. After TMI2 thought the industry was failed by the government focusing so much on an accident that couldn’t happen inside a containment that wouldn’t fail at the expense of human factors engineering to mitigate relatively high probability accidents like a feedwater pump trip while servicing a condensate polisher.

      Then came Fukushima ,,, and I realized that the real failure was licensing the Mark II containment for BWRs. (I presume those were the same BWR designs we license here) I was shocked that the same brand of hydrogen explosion that was (basically) a nothing burger at TMI2 blew off the side of the non-containment off at Fukushima. Maybe it’s because I was once an accident analysis methods insider in the nuclear business, but the silence re Fukushima and similar plants in the US just seems deafening.

    • Canman

      I knew Helen Caldicott way way back when. She is unrepentant in the face of scientific evidence. 6 C world temperature rise from CO2. And “doctors don’t lie”. She is a Pediatrician, she would not be “delisted” as she is speaking about things she has read about as well as talking to her then husband, a radiologist who does know something about radiation to people although not radiation from nuclear power plants.

      “Glowing boars in Germany” is indeed a bit fanciful.

      Extremism in the pursuit of the Noble Cause everything ant-nuclear is not an offense.

      Helen Caldicott has moved from nuclear weapon testing to nuclear power plants to nuclear medicine. It shows she is consistent, not inspiring so though.

    • bedeverethewise

      Helen Caldicott is trying to lead a Luddite death cult. I find it hard to believe that there are people foolish enough to listen to her, let alone give her money. Then I remember that at least 25% of all people are ignoramuses. And unfortunately, that number doesn’t change much based on level of education, class, or social position.

  16. Several large nuclear power plants were completed in the early 1970s at a typical cost of $170 million, whereas plants of the same size completed in 1983 cost an average of $1.7 billion, a 10-fold increase. Some plants completed in the late 1980s have cost as much as $5 billion, 30 times what they cost 15 years earlier…

    Is Cohen, et al., (Costs of Nuclear Power Plants – What Went Wrong?) trying to have it both ways? Is this a demonstration of the real cost of too much government regulation or are they trying to tell us the true cost of nuclear energy is actually much higher than we realize after we factor in all of the real costs of the worlds most dangerous fuel?

    Why is it that only in America is it evil to make a profit from providing energy to those who use it to provide us all of the goods and services we need, enjoy and demand?

    • Yeah, I read that today as a matter of fact. I was trying to remember the name of the nuke that was cancelled in Midland that was going to provide process steam to a Dow plant. Dow pulled out supposedly because there were soil problems on the nuke side causing massive cost overruns.

      Licensing issues with a regulatory agency ill equipped to deal with real nuclear safety problems was one issue, but financing after TMI2 put numbers around the risk of having to clean up a mess — albeit internal to containment — had to be an issue.

  17. Capitalism is the solution to climate change

  18. Thanks for the summary, Peter!

    I would love to have a good handle on the soup-to-nuts extra costs incurred by the distribution, transmission, storage, and consumer sectors when high penetration is reached for solar and wind.

    As you noted, there are significant costs for transmission and storage. Are good estimations available? I also believe that we are greatly underestimating the costs which are and will be absorbed by consumers in order to improve reliability and offset the cost of increased rates. Is there a realistic and comprehensive study which addresses these issues?

    Finally, is there a worthwhile study which examines the risks associated with the “connectedness” required to make the future grid work as envisioned?

  19. In the November 24, 2015 Journal of the American Medical Association is an article on the Prevalence of Body Mass Index Lower Than 16 Among Women in Low-Middle-Income Countries.

    “A BMI <16 is the most severe category of adult undernutrition and is associated with substantial morbidity and mortality and poor maternal-fetal outcomes.."

    Data analysis comprised nationally representative surveys from 1993 to 2012 of women ages 20 to 49 years from 60 low-middle-income countries. A subset of 40 countries were resurveyed 2 decades later.

    The prevalence of BMI <16 in the middle wealth quintile was Odds Ratio of 0.4 and for low wealth quintile O R of 3. Among the 24 of 39 countries with repeat surveys, there was no decrease in prevalence.

    The annual UN Conferences on Climate Change beginning in Berlin in 1995 and the COP21 begins today. The focus of these conferences has been to stop CO2 emissions from all countries, wealthy or not. The primary mechanism to stop CO2 emissions has been to eliminate all fossil fuel use, particularly coal for generating electricity. Recently leading developed countries were able to eliminate international banking sources from financing coal fired power plants. Further, efforts at deep de-carbonization of electricity grids makes coal fired power plants even less likely.

    I juxtapose the dates from the above study (1993-2012) and the efforts of Conference of Participants (1995 to 2015). I believe these dates reflect efforts of the mostly isolated intelligencia and their impact upon societies. The financial impact upon developing countries has been felt; i.e., no progress in mitigating extreme undernutrition, morbidity, mortality and poor maternal-fetal outcomes. No progress in mitigating CO2.

    What would you call this form of social welfare function?

  20. Pingback: Billionaires Making Monkeys of Themselves Over Green Energy Scam? | al fin next level

  21. “Emissions. High-renewable grids reduce CO2 emissions by 65%-70% in Germany and 55%-60% in California vs. the current grid. Reason: backup thermal capacity is idle for much of the year”

    Really?

    This would appear to demonstrate otherwise.

    https://www.cleanenergywire.org/sites/default/files/styles/gallery_image/public/ageb_power_generation_by_source_1990-2014-neu.png?itok=AC960OYk

  22. Information Request (Please)

    Where do I find the best example of a fully functioning molten salt nuclear reactor ?

    • None presently exist. Google. The closest is India’s fast breeder at Kalpaksham (sp?), which is only 500? Mw, 3 years delayed, 2x over budget, and obviously more intended for their nuclear weapons program than their coal based grid electricity program. Last checked some months go, not yet operational. Going from memory rather than doing your primary research for you. Essay Going Nuclear in my last ebook. Regards.

      • Well, I guess you assumed I didn’t do some of the primary research. Understandable. Best article I read was http://www.technologyreview.com/news/540991/meltdown-proof-nuclear-reactors-get-a-safety-check-in-europe/

        The closest appears to be China “The most advanced program for liquid-fuel, thorium-based reactors is in China, where the Shanghai Institute of Applied Physics reportedly plans to build a prototype in the next few years.”

        Was hoping to see whether a bright light here knew otherwise.
        Seems we are a few years away with China being first, then a few year shakeout before more come popping out. 10 years earliest my WAG.

        If you don’t mind, would like to have a link to your ebook. I googled it and all I got was an Amazon link to nuke weapons.

    • Knutesea,

      This might be of interest (though not an answer to your question):
      Molten salt fast reactor technology – an overview
      ”http://euanmearns.com/molten-salt-fast-reactor-technology-an-overview/

      About the author:

      Short Bio for Hubert Flocard
      hubert.flocard at gmail.com

      A former student of the Ecole Normale Supérieure (St Cloud) Hubert Flocard is a retired director of research at the French basic science institute CNRS. He worked mostly in the theory of Fermi liquids with a special emphasis on nuclear physics. He has taught at the French Ecole Polytechnique and at the Paris University at Orsay. He was for several years a visiting fellow of the Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory and he spent a year as visiting professor at the theory department of MIT (Cambridge). He has worked as an editor for the journals Physical Review C and Review of Modern Physics (APS, USA) and Reports on Progress in Physics (IoP, UK). He has chaired the nuclear physics scientific committee INTC at CERN (Switzerland). When the French parliament asked CNRS to get involved in research on civilian nuclear energy, he was charged to set up and to manage the corresponding CNRS interdisciplinary programme. He still acts as a referee to evaluate research projects submitted to Euratom.

  23. PL, good summary and comments. However, I would not trust a J.P. Morgan summary further than I can throw a haystack on my farm. Just too many potential biases beyond those you pointed out.
    BTW, did my econ thesis (long ago) on nucelr versus other electricity generation. Showed using time lagged Leontief input/output functions that nuclear was uneconomic in 1972. Not so much regulatory costs as build time and materials. Coal and CCGT do not need containment vessels,…
    That is why I am a big fan of gen 4 nucler research. Solve the presurrized containment, passive shutdown, and radwaste disposal problems. There are several potentially viable schemes that I am not qualified to assess. So why not fund them all until a ‘winner’ emerges. Then (IN MY OPINION) the nuclear regulatory issues solve themselves technically if not politically.

    • What was the assumed discount rate applied to capital? Economic analysis can easily be ‘gamed’ to further an agenda. Cost of capital, asset life, amortization rate, to name a few. IEA usually assumes a consistent cost of capital, a good thing; but sometimes the same asset lifetime also……a stupid thing.

      • I should also clarify that less capital intensive projects will be preferred as the cost of capital rises. In a high interest rate environment projects with lower building costs and higher operating costs will be preferred over high building costs and low operating cost projects. Nuclear plants are the latter.

    • Rud Istvan,

      Thank you for your comment. Greatly appreciated. I respect your much greater than my knowledge on nuclear and other electricity system matters.

      I feel the J. P. Morgan report does a good job of explaining the cost issues for people who have very limited understanding of the subject. I’ve been in a long discussion on BraveNewClimate, http://bravenewclimate.com/2015/11/08/the-capacity-factor-of-wind/ , with some wind power zealots. The J. P Morgan report was hard for them to deal with and refute. So, I think it has proven its value in that discussion. Having said that I agree with another comment on this thread that the report understates what the cost would really be with 80% renewables and overstates what it would be with nuclear if we remove te impediments to nuclear.

      nuclear was uneconomic in 1972. Not so much regulatory costs as build time and materials. Coal and CCGT do not need containment vessels,…

      The comparisons between technologies is very dependent on discount rates. But I’d argue that the negative learning curves for nuclear are a clear indication that something is affecting the cost of nuclear that is not affecting the cost of other technologies. I’d argue it is regulatory ratcheting and regulators continually changing the rules and regulations even after the plant has been approved, designs completed and the plant in construction. I say excessive safety requirements and regulations cannot be justified given that nuclear power is the safest way to generate electricity. By making it too expensive so it is uneconomic, we are actually causing much more harm than if we removed the excessive regulatory impediments.

      Regarding Gen IV, I believe it will be decades before they will become the clear choice for utilities to buy. I believe we should, as fast as we can, remove the impediments that are disincentives to investment in nuclear power plants (of all types). I am pleased to see the US has started the ball rolling by getting the NAS and DOE to revisit the allowable radiation limits for the public. That’s a great start.

      There are several potentially viable schemes that I am not qualified to assess. So why not fund them all until a ‘winner’ emerges. Then (IN MY OPINION) the nuclear regulatory issues solve themselves technically if not politically.

      I’d turn that around. Instead of funding them all (presumably you mean government funding?), I’d suggest the government should focus on removing the impediments to nuclear power. Once the vendors believe there will be a market, competition and innovation will be unleashed. I explained on a previous thread how I suggest this could be achieved. I’ll repost it in a comment below.

    • How to make nuclear cheaper

      Nuclear power will have to be a major part of the solution if we want to significantly reduce global GHG emissions. It seems it will have to reach about 75% share of electricity generation (similar to where France has been for the past 30 years) and electricity will have to be a significantly larger proportion of total energy than it is now to reduce global GHG emissions significantly.

      To achieve this, nuclear will have to become cheaper fossil fuel generated electricity.

      Here’s an achievable way to get to nuclear cheaper than fossil fuels without the need for ‘command and control’ policies:

      1. The next US Administration takes the lead to persuade the US citizens nuclear power is about as safe as or safer than any other electricity source http://nextbigfuture.com/2012/06/deaths-by-energy-source-in-forbes.html. US can gain enormously by leading the world in developing new, small modular nuclear power plants; allowing and encouraging innovation and competition; thus unleashing the US’s ability to innovate and compete to produce and supply the fit-for-purpose products the various world markets and different sized electricity systems need.

      2. The next US President uses his influence with the leaders of the other countries that are most influential in the IAEA to persuade the IAEA representatives to support a process to re-examine the justification for the existing allowable radiation limits – as the US announced in January it will do over 18 months:

      US study on low-dose ionising radiation

      The US Department of Energy (DOE) and National Academy of Sciences have been directed to work together to assess the current status of US and international research on low-dose radiation and to formulate a long-term research agenda under a bill approved by the US House of Representatives. The Low Dose Radiation Research Act of 2015 directs the two organisations to carry out a research program “to enhance the scientific understanding of and reduce uncertainties associated with the effects of exposure to low dose radiation in order to inform improved risk management methods.” The study is to be completed within 18 months.

      The Act arises from a letter from a group of health physicists who pointed out that the limited understanding of low-dose health risks impairs the nation’s decision-making capabilities, whether in responding to radiological events involving large populations such as the 2011 Fukushima accident or in areas such as the rapid increase in radiation-based medical procedures, the cleanup of radioactive contamination from legacy sites and the expansion of civilian nuclear energy. The aftermath of the Fukushima accident has boosted concern that unduly conservative standards may have large adverse health and welfare costs.
      WNN 20/1/15. ‘Radiation health effects’

      http://www.world-nuclear.org/info/Safety-and-Security/Radiation-and-Health/Nuclear-Radiation-and-Health-Effects/

      More here: ‘WNN 20/1/15. Radiation health effects’ http://www.world-nuclear-news.org/RS-US-House-passes-low-dose-radiation-bill-2001158.html.

      3. Once the IAEA starts increasing the allowable radiation limits for the public this should be the trigger to start the process that leads to reducing the cost of nuclear energy; and the catalyst to keep reducing costs over the long term as the radiation limits are reviewed and increased periodically. As the radiation limits are reviewed and raised:

      a. it will mean radiation leaks are understood to be less dangerous than most non experts believe > less people will need to be evacuated from accident effected zones > the cost of accidents will decline > accident insurance cost will decline;

      b. the public progressively reconsiders the evidence about the effects of radiation > they gain an understanding it is much less harmful than they thought > fear level subsides > opposition to nuclear declines > easier and less expensive to find new sites for power plants > increased support from the people in the neighbourhood of proposed and existing power plants > planning and sight approval costs decline over time;

      c. The risk of projects being delayed during construction or once in operation declines; > all this leads to a lowering of the investors’ risk premium > thus reducing the financing costs and the fixed O&M costs for the whole life of the power plants;

      d. Changing perceptions of the risks and benefits of nuclear power leads to increasing public support for nuclear > allows the NRC licensing process to be completely revamped and the culture of the organisation to be changed from “safety first” to an appropriate balance of all costs and risks, including the consequences of retarding nuclear development and rollout by making it too expensive to compete as well as it could if the costs were lower (e.g. higher fatalities per TWh if nuclear is not allowed to be cheaper than fossil fuels);

      e. The Operation and Maintenance cost of nuclear plants is reduced as the excessive requirements for safety and security decreases over time to the equivalent of other types of electricity generation plant (to AHARS, As High As Relatively Safe). (NPPs have 150 highly trained, well-armed security officers, augmented by comprehensive detection and surveillance systems, on average. That’s $15-$20 million per nuclear plant site per year (about $10 million per reactor).

      4. NRC is revamped – its Terms of Reference and its culture are changed. Licensing period for new designs is greatly reduced, e.g. to the equivalent of the design and licensing period for new aircraft designs.

      5. Small modular reactors are licensed quickly. New designs, new versions, new models, and design changes are processed expeditiously. This will lead to more competition, more innovation, learning rate continually improves so that costs come down.

      6. The efficiency of using the fuel can be improved by nearly a factor of 100. That is some indication of how much the cost of nuclear power can be reduced over a period of many decades.

      7. Eventually, fusion will be viable and then the technology life cycle starts all over again – but hopefully the anti-nuke dinosaurs will have been extinct for a long time by then.

  24. As usual, Peter has stated a compelling case for nuclear. While from my layman’s perspective, increased levels of co2 are most likely beneficial, that does not mean we should not be looking at other viable alternatives to our energy needs. It also does not mean that we should blindly abandon fossil fuels, even coal, while we develop more robust nuclear capabilities. What advocates of the favored renewables fail to understand is that wind and solar are fully dependent on fossil fuels from cradle to grave. A couple of interesting links to explore:

    http://www.aweo.org and http://www.theautomaticearth.com/2012/10/renewable-energy-the-vision-and-a-dose-of-reality/

    • Barnes

      Oh the meandering road we humans travel to get to where we go.
      So the CAGW con shook up the status quo in energy generation which then led us to wasting trillions to getting to some expensive version of green. And in 10 years it looks like we’ll have some version of molten salt SMRs.

      At least that’s what following the money is telling me and China gets one first.

      I did some google digging on the Paris agenda. Found some nitfy joint seminars with the WH, ngo and utility companies. Going to do more. the CAGW debate is so passe. How we power ourselves in the next 10 years is the next adventure.

      • Patents are generally only 17 years. So western governments…in their foolishness bet on solar panels and wind mills…thinking that their domestic industries would ‘own’ the future energy market.

        In the end…the patents expired and the Chinese stepped in and overnight they owned the worlds solar panel manufacturing. All those European and American solar panel companies went bust and Western Governments found themselves generously subsidizing Chinese industry.

        I figure the Chinese have another 5 years before they announce they are going to be building nuclear power plants like they built coal fired plants. Cookie cutter style.
        .

  25. With many things that are provide “green energy”, the devil’s in the detail, and the maintenance wifi get you in the end. I’ll not mention the enormous number of “minor” details to do with getting “free” electricity from the wind, but wind turbines have maintenance requirements, too. As follows –

    “Blade repair is no trivial matter for wind farm managers. The sources of blade damage include mishandling during delivery and/or installation, lightning strikes, ice, thermal cycling, leading and trailing edge erosion, fatigue, moisture intrusion and foreign object impact (often bullets). An out-of-service turbine can cost $800 to $1,600 (USD) per day, with most repairs taking one to three days. If a crane is required to repair or replace a blade, the cost can run up to $350,000 per week. An average blade repair can cost up to $30,000. A new blade costs, on average, about $200,000.”

    What do they do with the old blades (usually lightweight non recyclable composites)? Why, burn them if possible, to generate energy! Green energy? You decide.

    Cheers.

    • Whoops. Ignore typos, please.

      Cheers.

    • Well,
      https://www.wind-watch.org/news/2013/03/08/rising-wind-farm-om-costs/
      BOP cost went from 21,000 in 2008 to 31,000 in 2011

      So the current BOP is in the mid thirties. Seems pretty high. It is possible that fuel cost for coal is less.

      http://greenecon.net/understanding-the-cost-of-solar-energy/energy_economics.html
      $10 per MW-H coal.

      Lets say wind BOP is $36,000 per MW installed and is 25% efficient. 8766 hours in a year… Presto changeo $1.03 per MW-H.

      So wind is cheaper to operate.

      And the good news is that once all the flying animals are wiped out (particularly large raptors) the O&M will be lower.

    • Mike said,

      “An out-of-service turbine can cost $800 to $1,600 (USD) per day, with most repairs taking one to three days. If a crane is required to repair or replace a blade, the cost can run up to $350,000 per week. An average blade repair can cost up to $30,000. A new blade costs, on average, about $200,000.”

      To put all this into perspective, the capital cost for a 6MW wind turbine would be around $9m (at $1,500 per KW). So the cost of parts quoted by Mike is not seriously high in relation.

      In practice, wind farm owners will have maintenance contracts with the manufacturer which will cover them against all the problems Mike raises and more. A couple of years ago these manufacturers underestimated the cost and frequency of rotor and generator bearing replacement and made a loss on these contracts, but this is now well understood and is factored in to the maintenance price. The updated maintenance figures are factored in to the US EIA LCOE prices for wind.

      If you want to save the world, start researching on how to improve wind turbine bearing life. You could be a real hero is you could knock a fraction of a cent off the (already low) LCOE of wind by further reducing maintenance costs due to bearing failure.

      There’s one big factor beneficial to wind power compared to, say coal generation. Wind turbines are a few MW each. You lose one and the grid controller probably can ignore the outage. The chances of losing more than one at once in a medium size wind farm is low.

      However, generators in a coal or gas power plant come in large chunks e.g. 500MW. You lose one of these and the grid controller will have to take some very swift action to restore the spinning reserve capacity of the grid.

      So sure, wind turbines sometimes break and need maintenance, but, hey, so do generators in fossil-fuel power plants too.

  26. This may have already been said, but when nuclear suppliers and builders have long slack periods, they lose capability. I think that’s one reason for the negative learning curve.

    If they had been engaged they would stay sharp and pass on knowledge to new people.

    Not well expressed, but hopefully it conveys the general idea.

    • Yes…the cost of maintaining/creating capability and spreading those costs along a relatively small market demand end up being a big factor.

      Open cycle gas turbines are pretty cheap because much of the costs are shared by the aircraft industry.

      We could drive costs down in the US for nuclear if we committed to breaking ground on one new nuclear plant per month for 20 years….of course that would mean settling on a single design. Not going to happen..the various competitors in the nuclear industry would fight a ‘winner take all’ plan as well as the coal,gas and wind industries.

      The energy pie in China is so huge they can commit to build one each of 3 or 4 different designs per month and still leave plenty of demand to be met by other generating technologies.

  27. Further to the question: why is nuclear so expensive and why has it had a negative learning rate for the past 45 years or so, a 2007 report by the Heritage Foundation is relevant.

    Competitive Nuclear Energy Investment: Avoiding Past Policy Mistakes

    KEY POINTS
    1. Nuclear power is a proven, safe, affordable, and environmentally friendly alternative to fossil fuels that can generate massive quantities of electricity with almost no atmospheric emissions and offset America’s growing dependence on foreign energy sources.
    2. Investors are hesitant to embrace nuclear power fully because they doubt that federal, state, and local governments will allow nuclear energy to flourish in the long term.
    3. Anti-nuclear activists understood that they could kill the industry by turning public opinion— and therefore a democratic government— against nuclear power.
    4. Regulation increased the cost of constructing a nuclear power plant fourfold. This cost escalation was largely a function of anti-nuclear activism, agenda-driven politicians, activist regulators, and unsubstantiated public fear.
    5. Overregulation largely destroyed the nuclear industry and is still an obstacle to investment in the industry.

    Read the report here: http://www.heritage.org/research/reports/2007/11/competitive-nuclear-energy-investment-avoiding-past-policy-mistakes

  28. The JP Morgan guys don’t really seem to understand how a high-renewables grid should work.

    They say “Although hydro-electricity generation is variable, we assume that hydro and biomass are run at constant rates, functioning as a small amount of baseload power”

    Some hydro is not variable (“run of river”), but anything behind a dam generally is. And biomass can be burned at any time in a suitable power plant. So why generate from them when there is a surplus of renewable power for a few hours? Better to save precious hydropower and limited biomass generation for times when renewables generation is lower.

    They also say “Over the entire year, surpluses would be 47 TWh higher than the load, while deficits would be 107 TWh. As a result, we can draw two preliminary conclusions about Energiewende: (a) there would be substantial need for back-up power, and (b) energy storage of new renewables (wind and solar) would only partly mitigate the need for and use of backup thermal power, since the surpluses are smaller than the deficits.”

    Increasing the planned renewable generation would directly increase the surpluses, and would also partially reduce (though not eliminate) the deficit. This would allow increasing use of energy storage (such as the suggested pumped hydro connections to Norway) and reducing the requirement for back-up generation.

    So why on earth not do this? It’s bound to reduce the overall cost.

    And why do the authors only look at just local lGerman generation? It’s quite clear to anyone who looks at it serious that the best way to minimise generation costs and increase renewables penetration is to make further use of inter-country interconnectors, since different countries tend to bring very different generation assets to the table. As an example Denmark currently exports wind power to Norway (which is otherwise virtually all non-pumped hydro) when the wind blows. Norway curtails hydro generation at those times. Then when the wind is absents Norway turns up the taps on hydro generation, providing sufficient for itself and the Danish power deficit. Both countries benefit.

    In short, it is apparent that the report has been written by guys who might have understood 20th century power grids, but haven’t a clue as to how the northern part of the European power will evolve by 2050. It isn’t worth the paper that no-one ought to print it on.

  29. Something which might be a headline, but won’t be.

    Spanish renewable giant Abengoa has started insolvency proceedings. Yes, it involves a US subsidiary and lots of US subsidy and investment: Solana mega-project, ethanol and advanced biofuels plants…that sort of white elephant.

    Don’t know where Australia stands. (Already, $450,000 in funds from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency to conduct a feasibility study into building a 20MW solar thermal tower plant with storage.) But they’re all over the Asia-Pac region so a 30 billion dollar insolvency in Spain could just be the start.

    Looks like Obama has blown about 3 billion on this lot, and the bankruptcy will be Spain’s biggest unless the Rajoy government steps in and saves the “icon” etc etc. Rajoy is one of Europe’s surviving adults, so that may not happen. And nobody is partying now like it was 2007.

    Modernise coal. Build nukes.

    Oh, and obliterate the climatariat, of course. I always like to add that.

  30. Peter: I think there are number of safety factors that are responsible for increasing the cost of nuclear power:

    1) As time goes by and the world-wide list of major and minor accidents grows, investors are becoming more worried that an accident anywhere in the world could cause their investment to be shut down – either permanently, temporarily, or prematurely. Or never licensed. Germany began eliminating all their nukes after Fukushima. Older plants in many other countries are likely to be closed early or not re-approved. Others were forced to invest in additional safety.

    2) After Fukushima and Three-Mile Island, it appears likely than any extended loss-of-coolant accident will result in high reactor temperature, partial meltdown, and water reacting with zirconium cladding to produce hydrogen. That results in explosions, the release of at least some radiation, and weeks of publicity.

    3) With questionable standards in China (and possibly India) and aging plants elsewhere, the chances of an accident could be rising. Have we learned enough that the world-wide major accident rate is one every century or one every decade?

    Unfortunately, none of these factors explain a rise in cost beginning around 1980. These factors may drive today’s already high costs even higher.

    • Franktoo,

      Unfortunately, none of these factors explain a rise in cost beginning around 1980. These factors may drive today’s already high costs even higher.

      This provides a good explanation of what has caused today’s high costs of nuclear power: http://www.heritage.org/research/reports/2007/11/competitive-nuclear-energy-investment-avoiding-past-policy-mistakes

      I think there are number of safety factors that are responsible for increasing the cost of nuclear power:

      I agree that concerns about safety are the primary concern of the public that has caused politicians and regulators to continually ratchet up the regulations and as a resulted ratcheted up the costs. However, the ‘factors’ you mentioned highlight the ignorance and irrational fears about nuclear power and the risks of accidents. As I expect you know, nuclear power is the safest way to generate electricity. The more we have the safer we are and the less fatalities from pollution the world population would incur. If we could replace all coal fired generation with nuclear now, the world would avoid about 1.3 million fatalities per year (full life cycle analysis basis). The following is the mortality rate (deaths per TWh) by energy source:

      Coal electricity – world avg.; 60; (50% of electricity)
      Coal electricity- China; 90
      Coal – U.S.; 15; (44% U.S. electricity)
      Natural Gas; 4; (20% global electricity)
      Solar (rooftop); 0.44; (0.2% global electricity)
      Wind; 0.15; (1.6% global electricity)
      Hydro – global average; 1.4 (15% global electricity)
      Nuclear – global average; 0.09 (17% global electricity w/Chern&Fukush)
      Source: Deaths by energy source in Forbes: http://nextbigfuture.com/2012/06/deaths-by-energy-source-in-forbes.html

      Nuclear is the safest way to generate electricity; many authoritative studies over the past 40 years or so have drawn the same conclusion.

      Since it the cause of the problem is an irrational, unjustifiable fear, the cause is not a technical problem and cannot be fixed by technical solutions. The cause is political and perception. Therefore, it can be changed. I suggested how this could be achieved here: https://judithcurry.com/2015/11/29/deep-de-carbonisation-of-electricity-grids/#comment-747607

      I’d make the following comments on your three points.

      1) I agree; however it could be overcome as I explained in the link above. I’d argue it is inevitable that the problem will be fixed – it’s just a matter of time.

      2) I agree. However, the number of fatalities and health effects are minimal. Eventually, the public will get to understand that nuclear is the safest way to generate electricity.

      3) The standards in China and India now are probably considerably higher than they were in the USA, UK, France, Germany, Sweden, Russia and Japan from 1954 to 1990s

      Unfortunately, none of these factors explain a rise in cost beginning around 1980. These factors may drive today’s already high costs even higher.

      This provides a good explanation of what has caused today’s high costs of nuclear power: http://www.heritage.org/research/reports/2007/11/competitive-nuclear-energy-investment-avoiding-past-policy-mistakes

  31. As usual, this nuclear -related post by Lang uses wrong data and comes to wrong conclusions.

    The graph shown as “From ‘Appendix VI: Energy learning curves’, p24:” shows the total investment cost for a nuclear power plant in 1999 as approximately Euro 3,200 per kW. That is approximately US$ 3,500. The reality is that is a price for the Overnight Cost, not the installed cost. Installed cost is higher by a factor of approximately 3. Thus, all the information based upon that erroneous value for a nuclear power plant is wrong.

    This is a common mistake, or deliberate misrepresentation, by nuclear advocates. They use the much lower value of Overnight Cost in a futile attempt to show that nuclear power has economic advantages.

    For more on Overnight Cost vs Installed Cost, from my article 3 of Truth About Nuclear Power:

    “One reason that nuclear power plants are uneconomic is they cost far too much to construct for the amount of power that they produce. If one were to build a new nuclear power plant in the USA today, the final cost would be more than $10,000 per kW. Several references support this assertion, Severance (2009), MIT (2003), and California EnergyCommission (2010). All of these three referenced sources use $4,000 per kW as the overnight cost.

    Overnight cost is the cost to construct if the plant could be built all at one time, or “over night”. Of course, a nuclear power plant cannot be built overnight, as they require years to construct. The added years increase the cost by escalation of materials and labor, and by interest on construction loans.

    Severance calculates the escalation for materials and labor to be $3,400 per kW, and for interest on construction loans to be an additional $3,100 per kW (figures rounded). The total then is $4,000 plus $3,400 plus $3,100 equals $10,500 per kW. A new, twin-reactor plant that produces 2,000 MW net electricity would then cost $21 billion to construct. However, as indicated in Part Two of this TANP series, Severance and the others did not include funds to make the plant operate safely if a large commercial aircraft crashes into the plant. Not only the reactor, but the spent fuel storage area and the cooling water system must remain operable, per new NRC regulations. This brings the cost to construct to approximately $12,000 per kW. ” — http://sowellslawblog.blogspot.com/2014/03/the-truth-about-nuclear-power-part-three.html

    • Roger Sowell, the Chinese are now engaged in a dramatic expansion of nuclear power, with possibly 100 new plants being constructed by 2050.

      The Chinese also claim that their regulatory oversight of the construction of their new plants is just as effective as that now being applied by the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission.in the United States.

      Building these large nuclear power plants is strictly a public policy decision.

      What factors have influenced the Chinese government to conclude that expanding their reliance on nuclear power is in their national self interest?

      • For Beta Blocker,

        The Chinese have several things that they view as compelling them to build nuclear power plants. These observations are partly from published information and partly from my own discussions with Chinese engineers and professors living in the US. First, China wants to reach electrical consumption parity with the Western world. That requires building a great many power plants. The Chinese of course know very well that there are only 4 types of plants that presently can provide such power quickly and reliably – without regard to cost. Those 4 are hydroelectric, coal, natural gas, and nuclear fission via PWR (pressurized water reactors). An inventory of Chinese resources shows that hydroelectric is nearly built out so not much growth is available there. The Chinese domestic coal deposits are in inconvenient areas far from the consumers and industries, plus their freight rail transport system is antiquated and inadequate for rapid upgrade. Domestic oil is out of the question for power generation. Domestic natural gas is also inadequate. That leaves either importing coal – perhaps from Australia as India is planning to do – or importing LNG as Japan does. Neither option is appealing to the Chinese. Therefore, out of sheer desperation, China is turning to nuclear fission with PWR technology.

        China is also, though, contemplating a second contract for natural gas supplies via pipeline from their northern neighbor, Russia. The fact that Russians tend to shut off natural gas flow is certainly a concern for all of their customers, including the Chinese. Russia and China have a preliminary agreement dating from November, 2014. That agreement is, essentially, an agreement in principle to agree on a contract at some future date.

        It is also instructive to note that China claims installed cost for recent nuclear power plants of approximately $4,000 per kW. However, it must be noted that the Chinese are not paying world prices for the steel, concrete, copper, nor for labor on their power plants. It is entirely misleading for anyone else in the world to apply Chinese installed costs to nuclear plants in other countries. One need only compare the average wages for a nuclear-qualified welder in the USA and the same in China.

        Finally, as I wrote near the conclusion of Truth About Nuclear Power, Part 30, “(A reason that countries build nuclear power plants include) Countries also are not pleased with natural gas imports, especially when the gas supplier has a tendency to shut off the gas supplies. Russia has done this to its gas customers. Perhaps it is better, the thinking goes, to have nuclear plants provide the power and not risk having the gas shut off in a cold winter.

        It is also a consideration that balance of trade, the high cost of importing vast quantities of oil or natural gas, can have an effect on a national economy. That is the reason France has advanced for switching to nuclear in the 1970s.”

    • Roger Sowell: “One reason that nuclear power plants are uneconomic is they cost far too much to construct for the amount of power that they produce.”

      Tell that to the French.

      • catweazle666:

        I wrote extensively on the French Fiasco in my Truth About Nuclear Power series. See e.g. http://sowellslawblog.blogspot.com/2014/04/the-truth-about-nuclear-power-part.html

        “If the French model on nuclear was any good, why has no other country in the world adopted 80 percent power from nuclear? No country follows France, with Ukraine next at only 46 percent, and South Korea at 29 percent of domestic electricity produced by nuclear power. . . After the worldwide increases in crude oil price in the 1970s, France chose nuclear power rather than high-priced imported oil or relying on other countries for natural gas. France has, in the intervening years, subsidized its power prices, reluctantly privatized a portion of the electric industry, developed nuclear technology that it desperately subsidizes to sell to other countries, exports low-balled subsidized power to neighboring countries in an attempt to maintain high nuclear plant operating rates, and recently was the object of an investigation for anti-trust by the EU related to power prices. Clearly, following France in nuclear is not the way to go.”

        Also, regarding France’s exporting of nuclear-produced power: “Night exporting to neighboring countries acts the same as wind energy in the US, it forces load-following plants in the neighbor countries to reduce load or go off-line. Thus, France is benefiting while neighbors (primarily Italy) take the burden of part-load, unloaded plants, and increased maintenance from severe load swings. It is little wonder that the EU investigated.”

        All of the above is clearly documented with sources. Following France is a recipe for a fiasco.

  32. Roger Sowell,

    As usual, this nuclear -related post by Lang uses wrong data and comes to wrong conclusions.

    The graph shown as “From ‘Appendix VI: Energy learning curves’, p24:” shows the total investment cost for a nuclear power plant in 1999 as approximately Euro 3,200 per kW.

    You are correct that the caption under the chart is wrong. It should have said simply “capital cost” or the original articles and all that quoted should have said that the costs are overnight capital costs as is common for such comparisons, e.g. EIA: https://www.eia.gov/analysis/studies/powerplants/capitalcost/ . .

    The chart and caption is attributed to: “Source: European Commission, Silvana Mima, POLES model, UPMF Grenoble” It was presented at: ” 2003 for the European Commission’s 2030 World Energy, Technology and Climate Outlook report“. If you want to argue about how they did their comparative analysis, take it up with them.

    • Mr. Lang,

      It is informative that you choose to cite a source that uses only over-night costs for nuclear plants. To use the actual, finished costs would completely destroy your mission to advocate for nuclear energy.

      Meanwhile, back in the real world, a twin-reactor modern-design plant expansion is underway in Georgia, USA at the Vogtle plant. Delays and cost over-runs are the norm and of course are occurring at Vogtle.

      Here’s an excerpt from a recent news article on the fiasco at Vogtle:

      “The cost of the new reactors, originally projected at $14 billion, is now close to $19 billion and might reach $21 billion, according to recent PSC filings.
      Georgia Power executives dispute estimates that the costs could be as high as $21 billion, but there’s no question Vogtle has greatly exceeded its original projections. The project is also running 39 months behind schedule with even more delays predicted. Each day’s delay in completion adds an estimated $2 million to the total cost.”

      source: http://newstimes.augusta.com/opinion/2015-12-16/the-upcoming-power-bills-will-shock-customers

      Here is another, although at this time it is merely a cost estimate, for the UK’s Hinkley Point C twin-reactor nuclear plant of 3,200 MWe output:

      “. . .the quoted price to build the (Hinkley Point C) plant, at £24.5 billion (the equivalent of US$ 39.2 billion). This equates to MORE than $10,000 per kW, at $12,250. Again, this is precisely what SLB has maintained all along – a new nuclear power plant costs far more than the $4,000 some advocates maintain. Instead, it will cost at least $10,000 per kW, and more likely $12,000 per kW. Here we see at least a small beginning of honesty from the nuclear establishment.” — http://sowellslawblog.blogspot.com/2014/10/uk-hinkley-point-nuclear-plant-heavily.html

      source for the £24.5 billion cost estimate: http://www.bbc.com/news/business-29536793

      I am also still waiting (but not holding my breath) for your response to which, precisely, of the safety regulations that govern nuclear plant construction do you propose to relax or repeal? As I understand your position, many of the safety regulations are, as the British say, “surplus to requirement.” Do you recommend that the containment dome be done away with, which is of course the third tier of containment preventing the inevitable radiation-containing leaks from contaminating the environment? Or perhaps the alloy steel reactor should be eliminated, which is the second of the three containment elements? Or is it perhaps the fuel rods themselves, again made of an expensive alloy that contains the nuclear fuel pellets? Perhaps you object to the redundant cooling systems, so that the nuclear reactor can be safely cooled down in the event (inevitable, of course) that the reactor is shut down while the primary cooling system undergoes repairs? Perhaps you object to the thickness of the various parts, which of course adds to the cost.

      Perhaps you object to the requirement to make the reactor building, cooling system, and spent fuel storage system sufficiently robust to withstand the impact from a large commercial aircraft and keep running normally?

      Or, perhaps I missed something, and you have yet other objections. I believe that you stated the plant costs are double what they should be (or was it triple?) if only the needless safety regulations were removed. Please, give us the exact design changes you have in mind, and the extent of the impact each one has on nuclear plant safety.

  33. Roger Sowell

    It is informative that you choose to cite a source that uses only over-night costs for nuclear plants. To use the actual, finished costs would completely destroy your mission to advocate for nuclear energy.

    Not correct.

    Some analyses are done with overnight costs and some with total project costs. The latter has many more assumptions, inclusions, exclusions and “plant boundaries”. Overnight capital cost is commonly used in comparisons such as by IEA, EIA, OECD, etc. because it is too complicated to try to compare across countries with the many other costs included (such as taxes, transmission, road realignments, special handouts to locals and a whole host of country specific and local regulations and constraints) . However, analyses using total project cost (for all technologies) give the same ranking. (But cherry picking only the most expensive projects and in the countries where anti-nukes like you have done so much damage for so long is unhelpful and often dishonest).

    Read about what is included in capital costs here: http://www.world-nuclear.org/info/economic-aspects/economics-of-nuclear-power/

    EPR, 2015, http://erpuk.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/ERP-Flex-Man-Full-Report.pdf
    ACIL-Tasman, 2009, http://www.aemo.com.au/planning/419-0035.pdf
    EPRI, 2010, http://www.industry.gov.au/Energy/Documents/facts-stats-pubs/AEGTC%202010.pdf
    Australian Government Economist, 2012, http://www.industry.gov.au/Office-of-the-Chief-Economist/Publications/Pages/Australian-energy-technology-assessments.aspx

    The EPR report quoted above uses costs from the Parsons and Brinkerhoff, 2013, report for DECC Electricity Generation Costs https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/223940/DECC_Electricity_Generation_Costs_for_publication_-_24_07_13.pdf. It says (p5):

    “The Levelised Cost of Electricity Generation is the discounted lifetime cost of ownership and use of a generation asset, converted into an equivalent unit of cost of generation in £/MWh.

    The levelised cost of a particular generation technology is the ratio of the total costs of a generic plant (including both capital and operating costs), to the total amount of electricity expected to be generated over the plant’s lifetime. Both are expressed in net present value terms. This means that future costs and outputs are discounted, when compared to costs and
    outputs today.”

    In short, the analyses linked here include the full cost of electricity.

  34. Completely dis-ingenuous, Mr. Lang. The only thing that matters is the final price to the customer of the electricity he or she consumes.

    There is no need to lecture me about the components of a cost estimate, having spent a career as an engineer performing designs and cost estimates regularly. Then, constructing some of the projects that we estimated.

    Besides, to further criticize your use of overnight cost as the basis for comparison, that cost does not include the variation between regions and between countries for important items such as labor rates, labor efficiency, and major material costs such as alloy steel and concrete.

    In short, your answer above shows a great lack of understanding of major project financing, designs, and cost comparisons.

    You could reduce your lack of understanding by reading what the California Energy Commission published a few years ago on the cost of various types of electrical generation technologies. There you will find a sound methodology and costs for more than 20 generating technologies, including a modern nuclear power plant by Westinghouse.

    http://www.energy.ca.gov/2009publications/CEC-200-2009-017/CEC-200-2009-017-SF.PDF

    • Roger Sowell,

      Completely dis-ingenuous, Mr. Lang. The only thing that matters is the final price to the customer of the electricity he or she consumes.

      I fully understand that it is the final cost of electricity in the complete system that counts. But it is you that doesn’t seem to appreciate the full system costs. The analyses by IEA, AEI, DOE, CSIRO, EPRI, and hundreds of other authoritative bodies have been doing LCOE analyses on a properly comparable basis for decades. The method is proven and accepted. Then there are the next level up of sophistication which analyses the full system cost of electricity such as the recent one by ERP that I posted in my previous reply to you. You didn’t say if you read it and if you have any serious critiques of it, and if so, provide an estimate of what difference correcting them would make to the final results and the conclusions.

      You have not posted any proper comparative analysis of system costs that properly compare the cost of electricity and CO2 abatement cost per MWh for electricity systems with a large proportion of nuclear and a large proportion of renewables with all options achieving the same CO2 emissions intensity. If you don’t do that you are simply blowing hot air.

      And, by the way, it is you that is continually intellectually dishonest.

  35. Weather dependent renewables cannot supply a large proportion of global electricity Many lines of evidence point to the conclusion. For example:

    1. Non-hydro renewables have not managed to do so to date in any large electricity grid, (hydro cannot help; its capacity growth is limited so it will decrease its share of global electricity generation over future decades).

    2. Growth rates over 25 years have achieved just 3% (wind) and 1% (solar) of global electricity supply. Over 25 years, wind power has grown at just 1/6th and solar at 1/18th the rate nuclear grew at. The recent growth rates, which are off a near zero base and are driven by enormous incentives, are not an indication of future growth rates. Signs are the recent growth rates may have already peaked.

    3. The cost of electricity and CO2 abatement cost is much higher for wind and solar when all costs are properly included and a proper comparison is done. Adding more intermittent renewable technologies adds cost but does not remove the need for nearly fully backup capacity or high cost energy storage.

    4. Industrial countries with a high proportion of non-hydro renewables have high cost electricity and high CO2 emissions intensity. For example, compare France (with a high proportion of nuclear) with Germany (with a high proportion of wind and solar). Germany’s electricity prices are twice France’s and its CO2 emissions intensity is 6x France’s.

    5. Wind and solar are not sustainable – their ERoEI is insufficient to enable them to power modern society and reproduce themselves.

    6. The cost of energy storage that would be needed to make intermittent renewables capable of providing reliable power make intermittent renewables prohibitively expensive – at least five times the cost of nuclear.

    7. CO2 abatement effectiveness decreases as penetration increases – e.g. to around 50% at 20% penetration.

    The weight of evidence shows a large proportion of nuclear power is the cheapest way to make large reductions to CO2 emissions intensity of electricity.

  36. The solution has been around a long time.

    “Experimental Breeder Reactor I (EBR-I) is a decommissioned research reactor and U.S. National Historic Landmark located in the desert about 18 miles (29 km) southeast of Arco, Idaho. At 1:50 pm on December 20, 1951, it became the world’s first electricity-generating nuclear power plant when it produced sufficient electricity to illuminate four 200-watt light bulbs.[3][4] It subsequently generated sufficient electricity to power its building, and continued to be used for experimental purposes until it was decommissioned in 1964.”

    Howls of scareware followed. Development continued.