Is nuclear the cheapest way to decarbonize electricity?

by Peter Lang

The cheapest way to decarbonize the British electricity system is with all or mostly nuclear power.

Planning Engineer’s post ‘Renewables and grid stability’ provides an excellent explanation of the issues the electricity networks have to cope with and the impacts of adding variable renewables like wind and solar to an electricity system, but it does not attempt to quantify the costs.

A recent report by the Energy Research Partnership (ERP), ‘Managing Flexibility Whilst Decarbonising the GB Electricity System’ compares the total system costs of decarbonizing the electricity system in Great Britain for various proportions of seventeen technologies. The analysis considers and does sensitivity analyses on important inputs and constraints that are seldom included in analyses intended for informing policy analysts about policy for a whole electricity system. The ERP report has policy-relevance for other electricity systems and the methodology should be broadly applicable.

The ERP is co-chaired by Prof John Loughhead FREng, Chief Scientific Advisor to the UK Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC). ERP members include a broad spectrum of stake holders from electricity industry, academics, government agencies and NGOs.

Excerpt from the Introduction:

In light of the increasing penetration of variable renewables the ERP undertook to examine issues around grid flexibility and stability. A model was developed to balance not just the need for energy but also ensure the supply of services critical to the operation of the grid. This was used to produce robust modelling of a real GB system across a wide range of scenarios, supported by more stylised analysis to explore the fundamental constraints within which a secure technology mix must lie. This section introduces the main issues facing the GB system and the lessons from other grids, the GB modelling work is described in the following sections.

As well as the high level conclusions there is some guidance offered on specific topics, such as some preliminary work on storage. This work highlights a valuable and necessary approach to considering the GB system as a whole. With less focus on the specifics, the power of this is in setting the direction of travel and defining the solution space.

In the following sections I comment on some of the key points and results from the ERP report. My focus is on the generator technology mix that is likely to reduce CO2 emissions at least cost. I do not discuss here many of the important issues and policy recommendations covered by the report. The report provides necessary background and context for the excerpts discussed below.

The ERP analyses use cost inputs from an authoritative recent study, Parsons and Brinkerhoff, 2013, ‘Electricity Generation Cost Model – 2013 for DECC’ which provides estimates of the costs of the technologies on a properly comparable basis.  This information presumably was judged the most appropriate available for the ERP analysis of the GB electricity system at the time the ERP analysis was done.

Cheapest option to decarbonize GB electricity system

Figure 14 of the ERP report shows the annual CO2 emissions savings and the total system cost for each additional 5 GW increment of each technology.

Slide1

Figure 14: Effect of adding each technology in 5 GW increments in 2012

The report explains Figure 14 (only part of which is shown here) as follows:

Comparison of all Technology Options

The results presented so far have focused on three main technologies for decarbonisation, namely nuclear, wind and gas-CCS. However there were 17 technology tranches modelled within BERIC so a brief comparison was made of the effect of changing the capacity each technology by means of [Figure 14]. The curves emanating out of a central scenario show the change in emissions (x-axis) and Total System Cost (y-axis) of adding another increment of that technology, usually 5 GW. … Figure 14 has the 2012 system as a starting point with carbon priced at £5/t. Most technologies fall in the top left quadrant, which results in abatement at a cost. As a low carbon technology is added, new nuclear for example, emissions are reduced (line steps to the left) but eventually emission reductions become smaller and the line curves upwards as abatement become costly. This is usually as a result of curtailment increasingly limiting the output whilst capex costs remain the same. Hydro and CHP appear to be relatively cheap, the first additions actually saving money and carbon. Closing old coal also reduces emissions albeit at a cost to the system. CCS technologies are shown as high cost and ineffective at reducing emissions, this is entirely a result of the low carbon price in 2012 which was insufficient for them to perform any more than a peaking duty.

In the top right are actions that increase cost and emissions, so ought to be avoided. Closing old nuclear fits into this category, suggesting that life extension should be sought where safe. In the bottom left there is only one curve. This shows increments of 10% reductions in demand. The line assumes that this comes at zero cost. In reality this is probably not the case so actual curves for demand reduction will lie above this curve. Also illustrated are two carbon price lines, for example the one at £70/t delimits technologies that are economic at this price (below the line) from those that aren’t (above the line).

CO2 emissions intensity and total system cost

Figures 5 and 6 show the CO2 emissions intensity and Figure 11 shows the increase in total system costs with different mixes of new nuclear, wind and gas-CCS. The cost increase is from the total system cost of the existing system plus a £70/t CO2 carbon price. The report states that a £70/t CO2 carbon price would not be sufficient to drive the changes in the electricity system needed to achieve the CO2 emissions reduction targets.

The table below is a compilation from Figures 5, 6 and 11. The first three columns are from Figures 5 and 6; they show CO2 emissions intensity for selected mixes of wind and new nuclear. The fourth column is from Figure 11 (left chart); it is the change in total system cost above the 2012 base, i.e. cost for the existing system plus £70/t CO2 carbon price for each mix of wind and nuclear. The rows are sorted by CO2 emissions intensity, highest to lowest.

Slide2

The table shows that the cheapest way to achieve the greatest reductions in CO2 emissions intensity of electricity is with mostly nuclear and little or no wind. GB could achieve the 50g/kWh target with 31 GW of new nuclear and no wind or CCS for 3% real cost increase. It could achieve the same emissions intensity as France, 42 g/kWh in 2014, with 32 GW of new nuclear and no wind or CCS for ~4% real cost increase above the base cost.

Note: RTE reports CO2 emissions for 2014 as 24 Mt CO2 and generation as 567.4 TWh which calculates to an 42 g/kWh [link]

Key points

The most significant points I draw from the ERP report with respect to the least cost technology mix to reduce CO2 emissions are:

  1. Weather-dependent renewables alone cannot achieve the UK’s targets for decarbonisation of the GB electricity system.
  1. All or mostly nuclear power gives the lowest CO2 emissions intensity for lowest total system cost.
  1. Hydro (if suitable sites were available) would be the most cost effective at reducing emissions. Since additional hydro capacity is very limited, adding nuclear is the cheapest way to achieve large CO2 emissions reductions.
  2. 31 GW of new nuclear and no weather-dependent renewables or CCS would achieve the recommended 50 g/kWh target at lowest total system cost.
  1. 32 GW of new nuclear and no weather dependent renewables or CCS would achieve the same CO2 emissions intensity of electricity as France achieved in 2014, i.e. 42 g/kWh.
  2. Wind, marine, and CCS are expensive and ineffective.
  3. Pumped hydro is very expensive and ineffective. Any other type of energy storage would be more expensive.
  1. The worst option of all is to close old nuclear plants; doing so would increase emissions and total system costs. Their life should be extended if practicable.
  1. To achieve the same CO2 emissions intensity as France in 2014 would require a £70/t CO2 carbon price plus ~4% increase in total system cost.
  1. A £70/t CO2 carbon price alone would not be sufficient to drive the required changes in the electricity system to achieve the government’s target.

Conclusion

Based on the results presented in Figure 14 and the table showing CO2 emissions intensity and total system cost for various proportions of wind and nuclear, the cheapest way to decarbonize the British electricity system is with all or mostly nuclear power. As is usually the case with such analyses the uncertainties are large and the report states:

Using DECC’s cost estimates the differences in economic value to the system between the key options examined (nuclear, gas-CCS and onshore wind) are much smaller than the margin of error estimating those costs. Therefore it’s difficult to claim any one of these is the optimal solution to progress grid decarbonisation. 

Comment from ERP

Andy Boston, Head of the ERP Analysis Team, provided the following comment on this post.

Peter Lang has faithfully reproduced a number of our results but the context needs clarifying and the emphasis and confidence placed in the results are different. The analysis undertaken by ERP was based on a particular forecast of costs used by DECC. The point of the work was not to determine the cheapest option for decarbonising the UK but to look at what affects the value of technologies to the system, therefore no other cost scenarios were presented. In the report we state that

The system cost results are of course very sensitive to the inputs on fuel costs and technology capex, and so the absolute costs presented here are only applicable to this particular scenario based on the PB 2013 inputs as described in the section on input data. However the messages about how the relative value of technologies change with different grid mixes are generally applicable.

 The most important conclusion is that to decarbonise the system it is essential to have a significant amount of generating capacity which is both low carbon and firm. In the UK there are only three technologies able to offer this, nuclear, biomass and fossil-CCS. Weather dependent renewables like wind and PV are not able to provide firm output unless coupled with an infeasibly large volume of storage so are not competing for this role. Other systems may have additional options such as solar thermal, hydro, or geothermal, or may have access to large volumes of storage, so it is difficult to translate these results directly to them without careful consideration of these.

We do not say that wind, marine and CCS are expensive and ineffective. According to the input data we used it is true that marine is expensive, but wind can provide significant volumes of low carbon generation before its value to the system declines, and CCS is an important option for providing flexibility as well as firm capacity and energy. 

Overall we caution against emphasising the relative costs of the low carbon options. This is summed up by one of the key observations in the report:

Using DECC’s cost estimates the differences in economic value to the system between the key options examined (nuclear, gas-CCS and onshore wind) are much smaller than the margin of error estimating those costs. Therefore it’s difficult to claim any one of these is the optimal solution to progress grid decarbonisation.

I welcome debate, including about the policy implications of the issues raised in the ERP report, the total system costs with various proportions of generator technologies and the uncertainties in the estimates.

PL Response to ERP

Andy Boston, Head of the ERP Analysis Team, made several points in his comment (included at the end of the post). I accept the results in the ERP report but not persuaded by some of the interpretations stated in the points in the comment. I’ll respond to one of the points here and to the others on the thread.

We do not say that wind, marine and CCS are expensive and ineffective. According to the input data we used it is true that marine is expensive, but wind can provide significant volumes of low carbon generation before its value to the system declines, and CCS is an important option for providing flexibility as well as firm capacity and energy. 

The text of the ERP report doesn’t say “wind, marine and CCS are expensive and ineffective” but Figure 14 shows these technologies achieve less decarbonisation than nuclear and at a higher increase in total system cost (£B/year) for any given emissions reduction. Given that little extra hydro is viable in GB, nuclear is the only technology that could achieve the targets on its own. Therefore, it seem Figure 14 supports my Key Point #6. To illustrate, the emissions and total system cost with 30 GW of each technology (i.e. the end of each line on Figure 14) are listed below (ordered by increasing annual CO2 emissions).

Slide1This shows nuclear would be most effective generator technology at decarbonising. Onshore and offshore wind would achieve 10 times less CO2 emissions reduction for around 10%-20% less total system cost.

CCS is not yet demonstrated at scale so the statement “CCS is an important option for providing flexibility as well as firm capacity and energy” is not supported by evidence at this stage.

I reiterate the ERP analysis is a highly credible analysis and a valuable contribution to the policy debate; anyone interested in policy on decarbonising electricity systems is encouraged to read it.

Biosketch:  Peter Lang is a retired geologist and engineer with 40 years’ experience on a wide range of energy projects throughout the world, including managing energy R&D and providing policy advice to government. His experience includes: hydro, geothermal, nuclear, coal, oil, and gas and a wide range of energy end-use management projects.

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

266 responses to “Is nuclear the cheapest way to decarbonize electricity?

  1. It may be the cheapest but “cheapness” does not take into account non-proliferation risks that are not measurable in economic terms: how many North Koreas are you willing to tolerate to get 0.5C temperature decline in 2100?

    How much nuclear terrorism are you willing to risk?

    Do you want 50 new nuclear power plants in the middle east?

    And if you are talking about economics let’s talk about the ongoing insurance premium bailouts via the Price-Anderson Act:

    http://object.cato.org/sites/cato.org/files/serials/files/regulation/2002/10/v25n4-8.pdf

    Without Price-Anderson bailouts and subsidization, there would be zero nuclear plants in the US.

    • You are confusing nuclear power with nuclear weapons. They are different technologies. Nuclear power does not require weapons-grade uranium, nor the capacity to make it. Making a bomb and a delivery system are different technologies again.

      • David Springer

        “Nuclear power does not require weapons-grade uranium, nor the capacity to make it.”

        It requires some entity has the capacity to make it but not necessarily the owner/operator of the plant. Weapons grade uranium is just further refinement of fuel grade uranium with the same gas centrifuges. Regardless of who’s making the fuel there has be enormously increased capacity for production if the number of nuclear power plants increased by two orders of magnitude. This enables something called economy of scale in both centrifuges and refined fuel making both much less expensive and widely available.

        https://fas.org/issues/nonproliferation-counterproliferation/nuclear-fuel-cycle/uranium-enrichment-gas-centrifuge-technology/centrifuges-nuclear-weapon-proliferation/

        Current centrifuge facilities have been built ostensibly to enrich uranium for nuclear reactors. Centrifuges present a proliferation danger because precisely the same machines that produce low enriched uranium fuel for a nuclear reactor can produce highly enriched uranium suitable for nuclear weapons. Even a modest centrifuge plant, one sized to fuel a single nuclear power plant, can produce enough HEU for about twenty bombs in a year. The difference between a military and a civilian enrichment plant is just how the machines are piped together in cascades. This means that a fuel plant could quickly be converted into a weapon plant. Moreover, if the starting material for a bomb program were not natural uranium, but fuel-grade uranium that has been stockpiled, then the time to further enrich the uranium to bomb-grade would be reduced by more than 65 percent.

        Building a nuclear bomb and missile delivery system is extraordinarily difficult but it’s easy enough to build a bulky weapon and deliver it by cargo plane or boat. The only real impediment to that so far is the lack of highly enriched uranium.

      • Springer,

        How does spent fuel from a plant in Great Britain turn into enrichable material in North Korea or any other nation?

        It is interesting to seek people automatically leap aboard the proliferation train whenever expansion of nuclear power in the US, Europe, South Korea, Australia, etc is mentioned. It takes a real disconnect from reality to do so. That or an ingrained aversion to nuclear power.

      • David Springer

        I didn’t say a word about spent fuel, Timmy. Try asking how does low-enriched uranium (LEU) fuel become high enriched uranium (HEU) for weapons.

        Presumably Britain isn’t the only country that will be wanting far more nuclear reactors. That means far more plants producing low-enriched uranium. The gas centrifuges needed to provide LEU for a single reactor each can produce enough HEU for twenty bombs each year. Proliferation of both processing plants and LEU means there’s more opportunity for diversion to making HEU.

        Who’s going to tell sovereign nations they don’t have a right to self-sufficiency in nuclear power and/or enforce security measures and inspections around the world to make sure no one is enriching LEU into HEU?

        Thanks for a considered opinion of what I actually wrote this time instead of a knee jerk reaction against a straw man.

      • David Springer,

        There is currently a world over supply of enrichment facilities, esp since Fukushima.

        And you need about 90% enrichment for weapons and 7% for energy.

      • Springer,

        The strawman is the proliferation argument.

      • “Who’s going to tell sovereign nations they don’t have a right to self-sufficiency in nuclear power and/or enforce security measures and inspections around the world to make sure no one is enriching LEU into HEU?”

        Who do you think is telling them it NOW? This is the same mindset that convinces liberals that outlawing guns will stop criminals from having them. And now that China is setting up to be the Nuclear Energy providers for the world the West is will reap all the global proliferation with non of the Energy themselves.

        Congratulations Greens, it’s called an Unintended Consequence. They’re one of the very few thing you’ve ever been able to produce reliably.

      • David Springer

        No thoughtful replies to what I wrote about proliferation.

        @tmg – a straw man is a sham argument set up to be defeated. I never mentioned “spent fuel”. Your reply to me was about spent fuel. You introduced it then defeated it without ever addressing what I actually argued. That was a straw man. Proliferation is a valid concern and the subject of this comment thread. It is not a straw man.

        @agnostic -actually the oversupply situation predates Fukushima. Current oversupply is not anywhere near enough to meet demand engendered by major industrialized countries “de-carbonizing” their electrical grids through nuclear power generation.

        http://www.world-nuclear.org/info/nuclear-fuel-cycle/uranium-resources/uranium-markets/

      • Gareth,

        You are confusing nuclear power with nuclear weapons. They are different technologies. Nuclear power does not require weapons-grade uranium, nor the capacity to make it. Making a bomb and a delivery system are different technologies again.

        That’s my understanding too. Weapons grade material is made in facilities specifically designed to produce the materials. The isotopes have to be in the correct proportions for weapons grade material. They are not in modern reactors. So it is simpler and cheaper to build facilities dedicated to producing weapons grade materials rather than try to extract it from used nuclear fuel.

        If it was easy to produce nuclear weapons from used fuel, it would be many example of it having occurred already, but it hasn’t. North Korea wouldn’t have taken decades to get to the stage it is at now, nor would Iraq, Syria, Iran, Lebanon, Liberia, Egypt, Palestine, Hamas, Hezbollah, al Qaeda Taliban, ISIS, to name a few.

        Clearly, it’s very difficult to make nuclear weapons from modern nuclear power plants.

        It’s also worth remembering that hydro-carbons are many times more dangerous than nuclear weapons. Hydrocarbons power all the delivery vehicles and are used in conventional weapons. These have caused many orders of magnitude more fatalities than nuclear weapons. Should we ban hydro carbons?

        I’d suggest this anti-nuke scare-mongering is not objective and not rational. Expanding nuclear power to replace coal fired electricity generation would save millions of lives per year world-wide. These savings greatly exceed the fatalities that are likely from ‘proliferation’ (The risks – i.e. consequence x probability – of allowing or trying to block nuclear power development should be objectively evaluated).

      • Nuclear fuel is effectively unlimited. If we want more we simply scale up exploration and mining.

      • David Springer | January 20, 2016 at 9:44 am |
        “Nuclear power does not require weapons-grade uranium, nor the capacity to make it.”

        http://www.wise-uranium.org/efac.html

        Korea, Iran, India, and Pakistan all have enrichment facilities.

        The only US enricher is a German lead foreign conglomerate.

        Global enrichment capacity is about 70,000 tons LEU.

      • David Springer

        Lang evidently hasn’t read anything about proliferation and uranium enrichment. Any facility using modern gas centrifuges to refine uranium to fuel grade (low enriched uranium or LEU) can be used to refine it to weapons grade (high enriched uranium) or HEU). I gave a link to some basics here:

        https://fas.org/issues/nonproliferation-counterproliferation/nuclear-fuel-cycle/uranium-enrichment-gas-centrifuge-technology/centrifuges-nuclear-weapon-proliferation/

        JC SNIP

    • Ybutt,

      Just to add to Gareth’s reply, there is a popular misconception about nuclear and safety, including proliferation of weapons.

      It’s the equivalent of saying that we should not build cars because you can turn some cars into tanks.

      The are a multitude of ways of doing nuclear fission – it does not have to be uranium fuelled. I suggest doing some research on thorium liquid salt, and modern alternative approaches with uranium fuels. Existing technology would be sufficient for the discussion, but if you factor in the possibility of developing TSL (something the Chinese and the Indians are racing to do) then it’s potentially game changing.

      An even greater game changer would be if one of the small scale fusion research projects demonstrate a prototype commercial reactor, something that a number of them are on the cusp of doing. Of them, I think the closest is the focus fusion project at Lawerence Livermore.

    • This is a viable solution for the uk. It’s not the best solution for Venezuela, Congo, or Kiribati.

    • I’m not confusing anything — I’m a nuclear physicist.

      Actually, nuclear power and nuclear weapons share much of the science and technology — and the NPT allows nations to come to redline of weaponization.

      Uranium enrichment is allowed under the NPT.

      The Iran deal recently concluded was all about reducing Iran’s ability to enrich and about converting their Pu producing reactor.

      The main thing needed for weaponization is the nuclear material — which would proliferate if nuclear power were expanded.

      I’d rather not see 100 reactors — with the attendant enrichment and stray nuclear material — floating around the middle east to ameliorate 0.75C temp excursion in 2100.

      You folks are not the first to look at the nuclear-climate nexus:

      http://www.worldfuturecouncil.org/fileadmin/user_upload/Disarmament/The_Climate-Nuclear_Nexus.pdf

      • “I’m a nuclear physicist.”

        That explains a lot. Take a moment from thinking theoretically and step outside into the real world ybutt. Maybe then you might be able to explain how 100 (or a 1000) new reactors in the US, Britain, Europe, Korea, Japan, etc. are likely to contribute to proliferation.

        For what it’s worth, I have experience in both nuclear generation and nuclear weapons.

      • I thought it all about keeping oil prices low for the fragile EU and US election year.

      • You are a nuclear physicist?

        Gee, your replies don’t sound like someone informed about the subject. Generally, nuclear physicists have deeper understanding of the subject and greater nuance regarding the risk.

        Why do you not enthusiastically encourage the development of thorium fission? Esp if you are concerned about proliferation? I get the impression that owing to your preconceptions you would have the door shut to nuclear.

        What about fusion? Are you aware how close the very many small scale fusion projects are to break even and their proposals for commercial size prototypes?

      • “I’m not confusing anything — I’m a nuclear physicist.”

        Really?

        You could have fooled me!

    • Yeah I think due to the upfront costs, safety concerns, storage, and proliferation concerns, nuclear will probably never reach more than half of global energy generation globally. It’s part of the solution, but we need other alternatives to make the transition.

      • Joseph,

        Half would be fine. And it would not necessarily be half everywhere. The developed world can go nuclear supplemented by renewables, while the rest continues to rely on more conventional sources.

      • What I think is that every country should have the right to decide their own approach to decarbonization. And the optimal solution for one country might not be the best for another. This is similar to the idea of letting states decide how they meet federal regulations. I think this approach is more likely to lead to best practices that can be adopted by others and speed the process up even further.

    • ybutt,

      Y do you continue with this false premise? First off, Peter’s post is about nuclear power in Great Britain. Exactly how does that create a bunch of new “North Koreas”? Secondly, your insistence that expansion of commercial generation in the developed world equates to increased risk of nuclear terrorism is completely unfounded. To the best of my knowledge, there is not much in the way of evidence that either nuclear grade material or commercial fuel grade material made its way into the hands of terrorists from the former Soviet Union. Just how will fuel from a plant in Great Britain, the US, South Korea or any other developed country do so?

      I won’t waste time responding to your Price-Anderson comment, seeing as multiple people here have repeatedly shown you don’t understand how it works. That you keep repeating such comments is evidence you are deliberately trying to push a false storyline.

      • Tell me more how Price-Anderson does not reduce the insurance premiums the nuclear industry pays?

        Because, like, the NRC disagrees with you:

        http://pbadupws.nrc.gov/docs/ML1217/ML12170A857.pdf

        “Many nuclear suppliers express the view that without Price-Anderson coverage, they would not participate in the nuclear industry.”

      • “Tell me more how Price-Anderson does not reduce the insurance premiums the nuclear industry pays?”

        Because it presupposes one type of nuclear fission production. Do all cars share the same insurance premiums?

      • So in your world a regulation which allows nuclear plant operators to obtain insurance coverage at a reasonable cost is a subsidy.

        Again ybutt, exactly how many federal dollars have flowed from the US Treasury to private parties due to Price-Anderson?

      • I’m sure France, Germany, Russia, China, South Korea, Japan, and all the other countries that are currently operating Nuclear Power plants (Iran?) Will be shocked to learn they can’t afford them without Price-Anderson.

      • To reiterate the obvious: after almost 60 years since inception, Price-Anderson has not cost US taxpayers a cent. It’s a secondary program that insures for damage in the event of a catastrophic nuclear accident, hence, the costs are only theoretical in nature. There’s never been a payout under provisions of P-A.

        Nuclear fission plants are extremely safe, providing operators are prevented from cutting corners on known safety risks as occurred in Fukushima. Still and all no one has died as a result of Fukushima which occurred under highly unusual natural events.

        There are only two ways to generate cheap and reliable energy available 27/4: Fossil fuels or nuclear. I prefer nuclear because it’s cleaner and safer for the environment, providing, of course that nuclear waste is recycled. Large fission plants may be obsolete and one would hope that alternative designs and processes will emerge, including fusion using dense plasma focus configurations. Until then it’s nukes or fossil fuels.

        To chose otherwise is economic suicide which the rest of the world will only laugh at for the petulance and delirium that infects Western societies.

      • Agree with most of this, but spotted this mistake:

        There’s never been a payout under provisions of P-A.

        There was a payout for the Three Mile Island accident under P-A. The amount is stated in this NRC ‘Backgrounder on Nuclear Insurance and Disaster Relief‘: http://www.nrc.gov/reading-rm/doc-collections/fact-sheets/nuclear-insurance.html

        The insurance pools were later used to settle a class-action suit for economic loss filed on behalf of residents who lived near Three Mile Island. The Price-Anderson Act covered court fees as well. The last of the litigation surrounding the accident was resolved in 2003. Altogether, the insurance pools paid approximately $71 million in claims and litigation costs associated with the Three Mile Island accident.

      • Peter:
        How much was the P-A payout for Three Mile Island?

      • sarastro92,

        It says the figure in the link.

      • Peter:

        P-A is actually a self-insurance plane in which “the Price-Anderson fund …is financed by the reactor companies themselves” (wiki) It complements business insurance plans nuclear plants are required to carry.

        So the claim I made that “Price-Anderson has not cost US taxpayers a cent ” is true. Hypothetically P-A will only cost taxpayers in the extreme case of a nuclear accident that exceeds $18B in damage claims which exceeds self-insurance and any commercial insurance.

        In almost 60 years of existence, that’s never happened and likely never will… short of gross malfeasance or outright sabotage.

      • sarastro92,

        Thank you. Sorry I misread your comment – I missed the “has not cost taxpayers” bit. Now I understand your point. My apologies.

    • I apparently missed the point where they moved Great Britain to the middle east. That was what this article was about, wasn’t it? Decarbonizing Great Britain?

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  3. “The worst option of all is to close old nuclear plants; doing so would increase emissions and total system costs. Their life should be extended if practicable.”

    And yet Germany has jumped down that very rabbit hole. I am not sure that western Europe can afford to have anyone else follow after them.

  4. Peter Lang: Nuclear power is great. Can we bury the waste in your backyard?

    • The problems with Nuclear waste is all politics. There are no technical problems. There is really not much of it and there are many places that are safe. Much of it has more energy that it could deliver and that would reduce the waste that must be buried. I would be happy to have it in my backyard, if the proper procedures were used. A gas can for lawn equipment in my garage would be more dangerous. A truck with nuclear waste is much less dangerous than a gasoline truck traveling through a city.

    • You would be welcome to bury it in my backyard David. If you take the time to understand what the waste is, how to reduce it, how to safely dispose of it, how to reprocess it, the risks involved in being exposed to it, then you will realise it is an easily manageable if not entirely trivial problem.

      Are you not a physicist by training? If I am right in thinking you are, then this sort of thing should be right up your street. It’s a fascinating area of science.

      Did you know that fossil fuels, particularly burning coal, release far more radioactive material into the environment than would ever be allowed by a modern nuclear reactor?

      Reprocessing waste is another area that is truly fascinating. Recovering useable fuel from waste, and transforming elements with long half lives into elements with short half lives.

    • @David Appell:
      waiting for Peter’s reply to your one-liner I can offer my backyard, no problem.
      Each electric kWh delivered by modern PWRs generates 0.3 milligrams of high-level, long-lived nuclear waste… since you seem to be a knowledgeable guy I leave to you the task of calculating the storage volumes necessary to store your and your family’s electricity needs for, say, 80 years?… even taking into account the waste dilution (and corresponding volume increase) of the vetrified waste.

      Roberto

    • If there was a mine a mile beneath my house and the waste was vitrified, and it wasn’t handled by the monkeys in that luggage commercial, sure.

      The danger from a hollow mine beneath my house is more than a mine full of waste that has been backfilled.

    • David,

      Yes.

      Of course I’ll charge you for doing so.

      Do you actually know anything about nuclear waste?

      BTW, I recall seeing something indicating you are in Oregon. If this is so, and the location I recall is correct, you have been living with nuclear “waste” in your backyard (almost literally your back yard) for almost 20 years.

    • The most sensible place to dispose of nuclear waste is in the deep ocean. I haven’t done the maths but my guess is that if all the nuclear waste currently in existence were mixed into the ocean, the resulting increases in ocean radioactivity would be too small to be measurable. Nuclear waste could be sealed into concrete containers and dumped into deep ocean trenches where it would ultmately be subducted beneath the crust. Uranium salts are already being pumped into the ocean by hydrothermal vents along with other heavy metals at rates of megatonnes per century. (Some HTV flora are radioactive.) The only reason that ocean disposal is not considered is because of the 1968 London Convention on Ocean Dumping, signed 4 years before the discovery of HTVs.

      • In his autobiography, physicist Luis Alvarez suggested using gravity torpedoes to bury nuclear waste underground in the deep oceans. These would basically be sections of pipe with fins on one end and a hard cone on the other. They would pick up speed as they sunk and bury themselves underground like a bunker buster bomb.

        IMO, since nuclear waste takes up so little space, it should be saved for possible use in forth generation reactors.

      • Actually the ocean is a good solution.particularly at a subduction point.

        The trenches are a good solution as well. Vitrified waste in a spherical shape should take the pressure very well and the cm/s speed of the ocean in the trenches guarantees it won’t do a lot of traveling.

        There is a trench off Japan that is just begging for a barge accident with some Fukushima waste.

      • Whoa there, let’s not be to quick to be dumping that nuclear waste into that trench off Japan. I’m sure it’s as safe as you say elsewhere on earth, but dump it near Japan and you just know you’re going to get a Godzilla Event. O¿O

    • David: What is today called waste still has something like 90% of its available energy. After recovering that via breeder reactors the small amounts of waste can be stored anywhere. For that matter, do you know where all the slightly used nuclear fuel generated since the 1970s is stored today? At the power plant, where it belongs, ready to be reprocessed when the time comes. The last thing we want to do is bury this still viable fuel.

    • David Appell | January 19, 2016 at 9:52 pm
      “Peter Lang: Nuclear power is great. Can we bury the waste in your backyard?”

      Of course you can Apple, as long as you pay the going rate.

      When would you like to start?

  5. Thx Peter. Take away message fer a serf…
    ’31 GW of new nuclear and no weather-dependent
    renewables or CCS would achieve the recommended
    50 g/kWh target at lowest total system cost.’

    Follow la France, eschew the German Energiewende.

    • Beth, PL’s argument ignores the nuclear time dimension. More worse 3G now, or more better 4G later?
      Now, I am enough serf not to know the answer. But enough not serf to know it is a questions serfs ought to be debating. Despite their supposed masters. Highest regards, serf or otherwise. Just a sort of surfish sometimes Wisc. Dairy farmer. Thinking during the spring tractoring contour plant does wonders for mental clarity. Not to mention our annual spring morel mushroom hunt in the woodlots (well, sort of but not really. Shroomers never disclose all their secret details).

      • Rud, think yer must spend
        a lot of time during Spring
        tractoring.
        Serf regards from
        down
        under

      • Rud Istvan,

        Beth, PL’s argument ignores the nuclear time dimension. More worse 3G now, or more better 4G later?

        True. But what I am actually doing is highlighting what I believe is an important result of a very credible analysis, although as noted in the comment at the end from Andy Boston, the senior analyst, he says the analysis was not intended to compare the costs of technology options and I should not draw the conclusion I have. But I have and I feel Figure 14 and my table of results supports them. What do you think?

        Regarding “More 3G now or more 4G later”, I say both: More 3G now AND more 4G later. 4G will be developed faster and become commercially viable faster if we get on with reducing the impediments to nuclear now, i.e. to both 3G and 4G.

      • 3G good 4G better

        Fukishima 1G NFG

        Design for LOOPA

        Loss Of Off-site Power Accident

      • Beth, really big tractors and GMO hurry up our spring planting season. But hunting morel mushrooms during that same spring season is a Wisconsin Uplands walkabout tradition (with a bit of ‘secret’ additional local knowledge). We get better than $80/# . But somehow we never sell to Chicago restaurants, drying down instead for family and friends.
        If I can figure it out, will post a pic of my daughter, her husband, and the result of a successful morning ‘shrooming’ on the dairy farm a few years ago.

      • Mushrooms and other things, Story with a twist
        by mosomoso.Think yer might enjoy this.
        https://withtwist.wordpress.com/2013/09/18/truffles-and-demons/

      • Agree pretty much with Mr Droege, except the NFG part about 1G.

        If anything Fukashima serves as evidence to just how good something designed with 1960’s technology worked. Should we build new plants to that design? Of course not. Just like we don’t build new cars to 1960’s technology and design.

        I’m curious why some people seem to think expansion of nuclear generation will result in new plants built to old technology?

      • Yes Timg56,
        Fukishima behaved exactly like it would be expected to, the thing is if the lessons learned from TMI had been applied the accident would have been minor, maybe still producing power.

      • Bob,

        Not arguing with you.

        Will point out that you are now talking hindsight.

        If Chernobyl taught us anything it was that the health risks from even a worst case nuclear plant accident are extremely over estimated. Clean up from Fukishima is going to be economically expensive, but is unlikely to be much of a health risk, either long or short term. Even the economic impact will be exaggerated by measures which are not necessary other than to assuage unreasonable fears related to radiation.

        It cannot be repeated enough – that Fukishima still gets so much attention, while most people outside the area have moved on from the tsunami is shameful. Fukishima is a small fraction of the overall economic cost incurred from the tsunami and in human life the cost stands at 12,000+ to 0 when comparing the two events.

      • Rud and timg56 (and for the anti-nukes),

        Interesting example of consequences of Fukushima accident here:

        Who Killed Hamako Watanabe?http://euanmearns.com/who-killed-hamako-watanabe/

      • bobdroege | January 20, 2016 at 5:12 pm |
        Yes Timg56,
        Fukishima behaved exactly like it would be expected to, the thing is if the lessons learned from TMI had been applied the accident would have been minor, maybe still producing power.

        Huh? What does a “shot myself in the foot” PWR nuclear issue have to do with Fukushima’s BWRs?

        Pray tell what “lessons learned” could have stopped the problems.

  6. Maybe nuclear isn’t such a good idea. Can we really trust the British?

    • Nothing wrong with the British. It’s the British government that I would worry about.

    • Most Brits don’t give a monkey’s nuts about Trump or Palin. Some (me included) are looking on with a degree of bewilderment at what’s been going on (here and in the US). The petition is a dumb publicity stunt concocted by idiots, most of whom would welcome Putin with open arms and have pathological aversion to anything American.

      I don’t think there’s any danger of anything nuclear being built in the UK, what’s proposed so far is ludicrously expensive will be cancelled at the first change of government.

      Lights out for us I’m afraid. Still, when everyone over 60 (that’s not rich) has died of hypothermia the emissions problem will be solved.

  7. If ECS~1C then why take the large proliferation risks?

    (no economics here)

    • Cause they are small, not large.

      • If ECS~1C then why take any risks at all. Let Nuclear, ‘Renewables’, and every thing else stand or fall on it’s own worth.

      • I avree with your comment. But to allow them to stand on their own worth we need to remove the massive impediments that have been imposed on nuclear and remove the incentives and subsidies for renewables.

    • Agreed with Bob. Ybutt you should check out the history of nuclear and the very many types that exist. I think you are labouring under some misconceptions. I am not saying that risk is non existent, but reflexively worrying about proliferation is a sign that you may perhaps have a narrow view on what nuclear is.

      • Other people come to the opposite conclusion:
        http://www.worldfuturecouncil.org/fileadmin/user_upload/Disarmament/The_Climate-Nuclear_Nexus.pdf

        I thought we just concluded a deal with Iran about this topic?

      • There is are some misconceptions here.

        You centrifuge uranium to get U235 from the 0.7% in natural uranium (mostly U238).

        Plutonium is chemically extracted from used fuel. Because a commercial reactor spent fuel has a lot of P-240 you need a research reactor with short fuel cycle times. Separating P-239 from P-240 is a fools errand (doesn’t mean it isn’t done but it is doing things the hard way).

        Plutonium is used for imploded pits because the pit is smaller, and plutonium can’t be used in a gun type device efficiently. A uranium
        implosion pit would be about 3 times larger (by mass)

        Uranium can be imploded or used in an “any idiot can build one” gun device. Gun type detonation isn’t as efficient, but as “Little Boy” proved, it is efficient enough (Little Boy wasn’t tested before use – they just assumed it would work).

        If you have high speed centrifuges you can build a weapon. Iran just hasn’t bothered to prove it yet.

      • ybutt,

        You reference a publication from a group that is clearly anti-nuclear.

        You could give lessons on how to destroy one’s credibility.

      • “You reference a publication from a group that is clearly anti-nuclear.”

        The anti proliferation and subsidy arguments are about as close to fantasy as you can get.

        http://environmentblog.ncpa.org/which-energy-source-receives-the-largest-subsidy/
        Regulation has at least quadrupled nuclear cost. Further, in 2011 per KWH subsidies were:
        Nuclear $0.0031
        Solar $0.9680
        Wind $0.0525
        The renewable subsidies should be cut to parity and exemptions from bird/bat killing (a subsidy) should be removed from wind.

        As far as anti proliferation, China is working on improved indigenous reactors, AP1000 derived reactors, Terrapower reactors, and with DOE info some variant of LFTR.

        China will be exporting nuclear reactors since the US dropped the ball on fuel reprocessing/enrichment (Carter), and reactor exports. All the anti-proliferators have done is limit US involvement and control of the spread of nuclear technology. And we haven’t even mentioned India who is developing a thorium reactor for export, or Iran which is producing its own enriched uranium. At this point anti proliferation is a joke.

      • Ybutt,

        The deal with Iran is regarding the possibility that the reason they were developing nuclear power was as a cover for developing nuclear weapons – which requires very specific type of nuclear technology that allows for breeding of transuranic material.

        How is trying to prevent simpler, cheaper and more efficient methods of fission using uranium or indeed using thorium as a fuel (which does not allow for breeding weapons grade material) supposed to prevent rogue states from developing technology for breeding weapons grade material from uranium?

        They can still get a hold of uranium anyway. If you allow a place like Iran access to technology that produces energy from uranium but can’t be used to breed weapons grade material, then surely it’s easier to see (or at least won’t make any difference) whether they are developing other technology to enrich uranium.

        The analogy is you are preventing cars because similar technology can be used to make tanks. It’s a common misconception concerned people have when they don’t actually understand nuclear technology or waste.

        Would you prevent thorium development? Do you KNOW about thorium as a fissionable fuel? It’s 10 times more abundant than uranium and can be burnt more efficiently. You can’t make weapons from it. It produces much less waste in relation to the amount of energy you can get from it.

    • Because climate is the most trivial risk associated with energy production.

  8. There is another approach that marries fossil and nuclear energy. This hybrid combination will provide very cost effective energy while dramatically reducing CO2 emissions. This approach recognizes zero CO2 emissions is unrealistic but the ability to massively reduce CO2 in a cost effective fashion is valuable.

    By way of a simple overview, the hybrid uses a helium cooled nuclear reactor to drive the air compressor of a gas turbine, effectively doubling electrical output. This creates massive economies-of-scale and is the primary reason the hybrid is highly competitive. The technology is the most efficient method to use fossil fuels (~80%) ever created. Also happens to reduce spent nuclear fuel by over 90% and the fuel cannot be used to make nuclear bombs (too difficult to reprocess).

    Might be interesting to see where this approach would end up on the graph.

  9. It’s a tragedy that climate policy isn’t based on good science. Good science says that the steps taken by the EPA and the Paris agreement are inadequate to stop the rise in % of atmospheric CO2. Scientific studies say that the Yucca Mountain is a totally safe repository for nuclear waste. This science is ignored. Instead, policy is made based on interest groups. Often policy has only symbolic benefit or has some hidden parties who benefit.

    The result is a climate policy that’s almost sure to be wrong. If ECS turns out to be low, the world will have wasted billions or trillions of dollars. If ECS turns out to be high, we’re doomed.

  10. Mr. Lang, as usual, you post nuclear articles that use extremely low, unrealistic prices and costs for nuclear power. From looking into the ERP report, Table 1, the full-load cost for nuclear power (presumably the levelized cost of electricity) is given as £ 87 per MWh. That is approximately US $120 per MWh, or 12 cents US per kWh. The reality is that even the British have admitted, for the proposed Hinckley Point C nuclear plant, that the cost to construct will be so high as to require a far greater price than that. The cost to construct at this time, before construction is more than $12,000 per MW. Of course the final cost to construct will be much greater, more likely $15,000 to $18,000 per MW.

    Please, explain exactly how you propose to build nuclear power plants safely and in a timely manner at such a low cost. Do you, as you have proposed before, intend to eliminate some or even all of the necessary safety features? Perhaps the containment dome?

    In earlier debates, you refuse to admit which safety features you find unnecessary. You also refuse to explain or even attempt to explain how the low-ball figures you ferret out can be reconciled with real-world experience on nuclear plant construction. It is no use arguing that building many nuclear plants will bring down the unit cost, as the experience in the world is that the opposite occurs.

    Once again, an invalid conclusion based on dream-world input.

    • We’ve discussed your arguments on many previous threads, so no point doing so again here. The costs for Hinkley Point are for first of a kind nuclear plants in UK after decades of lost expertise and against a back ground of public concern created by decades of anti-nuclear scaremongering. Of course there is a cost to this (exactly what the anti-nukes strive for but at enormous cost to humanity!) so of course the first plants will be more expensive. The Parsons and Brinkerhoff costs are for NOAK plants.

      Importantly, the Parsons and Brinkerhoff costs are estimates using the same estimating methodology and equivalent assumptions for all technologies. I’ve pointed out in many previous comments the importance of comparing costs using estimates that have been prepared using the same methodology and equivalent assumptions across all technologies.

    • I just noticed Sowell making stuff up, using strawman arguments and lying again:

      Do you, as you have proposed before, intend to eliminate some or even all of the necessary safety features? Perhaps the containment dome?

      That is not what I advocate. It is a blatant example of intellectual dishonesty: “10 signs of intellectual dishonestyhttps://judithcurry.com/2013/04/20/10-signs-of-intellectual-honesty/

    • Roger – it would be easier to follow your arguement if you used comparable units. What cost per kWh or cost per MWh do you see as consistent with construction costs of 18,000/MW? When you multiply that construction cost by carrying charges add in fuel, operation and maintenance, amortized decommissioning costs and whatever and then. divide by hours of operation and outpu what price per kWh do you get? I don’t think many people have the assumptions and ability to do the math in their heads that are required to make a valid comparison and grasp your point. I’m afraid casual readers might presume that construction costs in dollars per MW can be directly compared to production costs in $/MWh.

      • To start with, I don’t know where the 18grand/kW (not MW!) comes from… none of the many reactors which just started operation (3 in China, 1 in South Korea) in the last month or so have costed that much, but not even half of that.
        Citing the cost of the UK’s EPR proposal, the amount asked on the Contract for Difference of 95 pounds/MWh is NOT the right way to put it, because that refers to the estimated value of the baseload, carbon-free MWh 9 years from now (2025), and knowing the cost escalation mainly caused by the increased penetration of renewables in UK, that amount is probably going to be on the low-side, a good deal in fact for British citizens.
        Anyway, any amount for the capital cost, in $/kWh, can be input in NREL’s LCOE Calculator… here:

        http://www.nrel.gov/analysis/tech_lcoe.html

        If one uses the unrealistic value of 18000 for the nuclear kW, 92% capacity factor, 7% interest rate, 10800 for heat rate, and 0.3 for the fuel cost, one gets 21.8 c$/kWh… which is obviously very expensive!

        According to a good analysis by the French “Cour des Comptes”, the French EPR, with all the delays and technical changes/extra work done during the 9 years of its construction so far, will cost 8.5 billion Euros (~10 billion dollars give or take)… but that’s a 1.6 GW monster…so the real cost of the costliest reactor is something like 6000$/kW.

        I am not making up these figures out of thin air… the latest re-actualization (2014) of the costs of the French nuclear program can be found here

        https://goo.gl/jpzrbn

        … only in French, sorry… a similar document, in English and German as well can be found on the Cour des Comptes’ website.

        If this value is plugged into the LCOE calculator above, one gets a more realistic 7.8 c$/kWh… which is as low as one can go for baseload CO2-free electricity these days.

        Cheers.

      • No disagreement with robertok06. I was hoping that a healthy dialogue might come from asking Roger to come up with comparable units for comparison (instead of challenging the values). I would bet the $18,000/MW came from a reference that was showing costs in thousands of dollars and maybe Roger overlooked that or he forgot to specify here that he was talking about thousands of dollars not dollars..

        My first point was that Roger was citing numbers that were not appropriate for comparison. In trying to put them in quantities that are comparable – I think Roger would have discovered his unit problem. He lists the cost of nuclear as 1000 times cheaper than it really is. If that were what nuclear plants could be constructed for they would be an incredibly low cost supply option. If you got the right cost he meant to cite (18,000,000/MW or $18,000/KW) then it would be hard to get the energy cost down to the levels cited, by Peter but they would not be an order of magnitude to great (and maybe not as great as Roger would like people to assume). As it is, his post is just citing numbers and handwaving.

        I leave it to Roger to provide a different understanding, but it looks like was misunderstanding the cost of Nuclear by 1000 and then still arguing that this was too expensive. If so it wouldn’t be the first time someone showed numbers they did not understand, misidentified them as to order of magnitude, compared them to numbers that were not comparable and then declared victory.

      • Well…

        The Vogtle nuclear power reactors under construction are estimated at $14 Billion for twin 1117 MWe reactors.

        That is $6266.79 per kilowatt hour construction cost.alone. The loans (some at least) were at 3.283%. for a standard 30 year loan.

        The capital cost for a 30 year 3.3% loan (we’ll use 3.3% so I don’t have to chase numbers) , principal and interest, on $14,000,000 is would be $9880.46 per kilowatt hour.

        The EIAs LCOE capital only cost is $20,440 per kilowatt hour (assuming they amortized their cost over 30 years).

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vogtle_Electric_Generating_Plant
        http://ansnuclearcafe.org/2014/11/12/root-cause-of-vogtle-and-vc-summer-delays/

        From what I can tell the anti-nukers are lying through their teeth about why the Vogtle plant is being delayed about 3 years and will probably have a $1.6 billion overrun. The delay is due to anti-nukers and imposition of the “Aircraft Impact Assessment rule” on a plant under construction. The filing of “amendment 19 of the AP1000 design certification document” which was approved in December 2011, has apparently been problematic for the plant construction.

        Redesigning a plant on the fly is ugly.

        If the law does not allow the plant owners to sue the anti-nukers to recover the additional cost they caused the law should be amended.

        The NRC should be enjoined from applying frivolous rule changes to plants under construction or the government should be required to pony up the additional funds.

      • PA using your numbers (which sound about right) Vogtle is $6,267/MW not MWH or KWH. A KW or MW is an instantaneous value (like MPH), a KWH or MWH is an amount of energy (like miles driven).

        To get a cost in KWH or MWH you would have to take the annual cost and divide by the hours the plant operated.

        Here’s an example for the costs of $1.4 Billion and production of 1117 MW *2(units) * 8760 *hours per year *90 (availability) This gives you 17 Million MWH/year or 17 Billion KWH/year. For the sake of getting dollars per KWH I will assume an expensive operating cost of the plant which would include loan payouts, maintenance, taxes, fuel, amortized decommissioning and operations of 20% per year. 20% * 14 Billion $2.8 Billion. 2.8 Billion divided by 17 Million MWH/year = $164/MWH or .164/KWH.

        Compared to some resources this is costly, compared to others it is very cheap. How does/has it looked for the Southeast. It was expected to cost less when they built it. The addition of more nuclear provided a balance of resources and help protect the overall portfolio from volatility in other (fossil) resources. As the cost of the plant began to climb and the price of natural gas declined it looked like a worse and worse idea. When the first version of the Clean Power Plan came out and did not include Vogtle for “clean” credit it looked really bad. When the revised version of the Clean Power Plan came out and it contributed to “clean” credit (thus avoiding solar and wind) it looks like a better investment.

        The construction cost of Vogtle (from your number) is close to 1/3 of what Roger quoted (and many think it costs way more than it should). I will say they are not scrimping on anything. They have a facility which is a full scale simulation of the plant operating room that has been operating 24/7 for years so that when the plant becomes operational they will have an experienced work force.

      • Planning Engineer,

        Why would they need to operate a simulator for years to get an experienced group of operators when they have two functioning units on site?

        I worked at Voglte for a year during construction of 1 & 2 and know the guy in charge of building 3 & 4. Maybe I’ll ask him.

      • I can only give you the answer I remember from the tour when I asked similar questions. The new units are different than then the old units. They will need full crews for all units when they are on line and can’t dilute the experience level to serve all. From what I remember some of the senior members new crew may have come from the old, but some came from outside plants. Let me know if you hear anything different.

      • Well, yes and no.

        The cost is $14 billion. The MWe is 2234. The raw cost / MWe is $6266786 or $6266.79 per kilowatt.

        The capacity factor is 90% (typically) so it is $ 6963.10 per utilized KWe or $0.02650 per KW-H (assuming 30 year amortization), for construction cost alone.

        If we include financing cost at 3.3% (for 30 years) that is a 1.576638 multiplier to any of the numbers.

        Assuming the reactor has a 90% capacity factor and cost is amortized for 30 years.
        The capital cost per MWe is $ 9880453.75
        The capital cost per utilized KWe is $10978.28
        The capital cost per generated KW-H is $ 0.04177

        Hope this clarification (and correction) helps.

      • I must admit to a typo in my earlier comment, with the statement “The cost to construct at this time, before construction is more than $12,000 per MW. Of course the final cost to construct will be much greater, more likely $15,000 to $18,000 per MW.” The M should of course be K, for $12,000 per KW as the stated cost. My mistake, hitting the M key which is of course right next to the K key on a QWERTY keyboard.

        But, for those who fixate on the MW typo issue: the point (as you most likely know but refuse to discuss) is that modern nuclear plants cost far more to complete than the original estimate. Note that both of the EPR reactors currently under construction, one in France at Flamanville, and one in Finland at Olkiluoto, are many percentage points above the first cost estimate, with no end in sight to the cost. By some published accounts, the Olkiluoto nuclear project is more than 100 percent over budget, and many years behind schedule. It is therefore quite conservative for my $15,000 vs $12,000; this is only a 25 percent cost overrun as a possible (note the word possible, not actual) for UK’s Hinckley Point C plant. Even the $18,000 per kW is only a 50 percent increase over the initial cost estimate. In the end, we can all simply wait and see.

        As to Lang’s point of this being the FOAK, (first of a kind) and he is fond of using the much reduced NOAK (Nth of a kind, where N is approximately 100 or better), the nuclear power industry has shown zero capacity for cost reductions with experience. Indeed, papers have been written on the ever-escalating costs, and the zero learning curve cost reductions. In any event, the UK Hinckley Point C plant will certainly not be nth of any kind, but have unique construction and design issues that are common to every construction project. This results in high cost for the nuclear plant, as stated above.

        To aplanningengineer, who asks,

        “What cost per kWh or cost per MWh do you see as consistent with construction costs of 18,000/MW?”

        As stated above in this comment, my typo created the 18,000 per MW. That should of course be kW. As to the sales price per kWh for a plant at $18,000 finished cost per kW, I would only estimate the power to be approximately 50 percent more than what is published by the California Energy Commission in their “Comparative Costs of California Central Station Electricity Generation”, 2010, (CEC-200-2009-07SF). In that comprehensive report of 21 different types of power generation, their Figure 14 “Average Levelized Cost Components for in-service for 2018 – Merchant Plants” shows a Westinghouse AP-1000 PWR to have levelized fixed cost component of US 32 cents per kWh, and variable costs of 2 cents per kWh. The CEC used an instant cost of $6400 per kW in 2018 for the startup date. The CEC does not actually spell out the final installed cost of the AP-1000 for startup in 2018 (not that I could find in the report). However, Severance reports that 22 cents per kWh levelized cost equates to $10,550 per kW installed cost. From that, we can estimate that CEC used something on the order of 45 percent greater (32/22 = 1.45) or $15,000 per kW installed. CEC then adds another 2 cents per kWh for fuel plus other variable operating costs.

        After all that, if the Hinckley Point C plant does indeed have a final installed cost 50 percent more than advertised, or $18,000 per kW, one can see the sales price then as 20 percent greater than 32 cents, or 38 cents per kWh plus another 2 cents for variables, giving approximately 40 cents per kWh at the wholesale bus bar. One must then add in transmission and distribution costs for the power to the consumer.

      • Roger Sowell,

        As I’ve said to you before, we cannot do credible analyses based on cherry picked factoids. To conduct options analyses all the inputs have to have been developed on the same basis – same assumptions, same methodology etc. There are many organisations doing such comparisons and publishing them. Here are some of them:

        IEA, EIA, OECD/NEA, DOE, NREL, CSIRO, DECC, EPRI, Parson and Brinkerhoff, Australian Government Department of Industry, ATSE (Australian Academy of Technology and Engineering) ACIL-Allen and many others.

        Your comments and figures are unhelpful if they cannot be compared with other technologies on the same basis.

        The ERP report I commented on in the post is based on figures from DECC which sourced them from various studies and especially Parsons and Brinkerhoff 2013 and IEA.

        If you want to make a case to change the inputs used, then you should address the basis of estimates of those inputs.

        I would ask you to please stop making strawman arguments (and trying to put words in my mouth). If you want to quote me, go ahead – please also include a link to where I you got the quote from – then I know what you are referring to. Also please include links to back up any of your assertions and for all figures you mention.

      • For Peter Lang, there are no cherry picked factoids in my writings. There are, however, two camps in the nuclear power discussion. The realist camp is based on real-world experience and extensive documentation; this camp is where I reside. The second camp is for the dreamers, those who insist that nuclear power be analyzed using overnight costs and nth of a kind cost reductions, as if nuclear power plants follow such cost reductions as would automobile manufacturing, and commercial aircraft. By your writings, it is clear in which camp you sit.

        Advancing the conversation is certainly an admirable goal. It is always an improvement to the conversation to have a realist step forward and point out the inconsistencies, the fallacies, and the flat-out wrong information that is being set forth by the dreamers.

        I find it quite telling that you cite the institutions and their optimistic reports given above, yet you are curiously silent about Severance, MIT, and the California Energy Commission studies that use real-world costs that I cited. Perhaps that is the agenda you pursue, to paint a false picture of nuclear power in rosy colors. Or, perhaps that is all you know about, the rosy colored over-optimistic projections. I am not here to decide that point.

        So, as I have time and inclination, I will check in to see what future misinformation, disinformation, and impossibly optimistic projections you may bring to the conversation. It is certainly entertaining.

        And by the way, Hinkley Point C is in yet more trouble. The program director quit. Financing is still not finalized. And now, without explanation, the projected cost has risen from £17 to £18 billion. Real world. Not a fantasy world.

    • Roger:

      “Do you, as you have proposed before, intend to eliminate some or even all of the necessary safety features? Perhaps the containment dome?”

      This sentence suggests to me you have a limited understanding of the various ways of safely (and cheaply) doing nuclear. You don’t need containment domes in some forms of nuclear.

      Check out wiki:

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

      …just as a starting point. But I urge you to investigate the details behind some of the different methods of nuclear power generation, and also re-processing and waste disposal.

      It’s worth bearing in mind that nuclear is by far and away the safest form of power generation, not-withstanding some terrible accidents. It is also a very new form of power generation and the technology has improved enormously since the early generations.

      Peter Lang is right to characterise the limitations and cost to nuclear are in response to legitimate early concerns about safety and proliferation that are no longer valid with modern techniques. Were legislation to reflect how things are now nuclear would be easily the most cost effective and safest form of energy production….or at least could be.

      • I believe Roger has considerable experience regarding nuclear.

        He somehow manages to reach conclusions those of us who also have experience don’t. I’m going with the Mailman theory. (Could also be called the Meter reader theory.) Ever notice how many mailmen don’t like dogs? I can accept there may be good reason. Doesn’t prevent me from having a dog.

    • Roger,
      there would be zero nuclear plants in the US if the govt did not bailout the industry’s insurance premiums via the 1957 Price-Anderson Act:

      http://object.cato.org/sites/cato.org/files/serials/files/regulation/2002/10/v25n4-8.pdf

      nuclear power is a great solution if the government subsidizes it — otherwise the economics do not work.

      • Try again with the subsidy part. As in try to understand what the word means.

        Failing that, how about providing data on how many tax dollars actually have changed hands (i.e. been paid out by the government) under Price Anderson.

        You keep this up ybutt and you really will be well into dishonest discourse territory.

      • See what the NRC says:
        http://pbadupws.nrc.gov/docs/ML1217/ML12170A857.pdf

        “Many nuclear suppliers express the view that without Price-Anderson coverage, they would not
        participate in the nuclear industry.”

        ok?

      • P-A is the public assumption of risk. It has never cost the US taxpayer anything. It is structurally no different than the FDIC or any number of other federal programs…except that it has never cost the US taxpayer a dime.

      • ybutt, have you read the article you cited? While it clearly asserts there is a subsidy, it is by no means clear from the article that your claim that, “there would be zero nuclear plants in the US if the govt did not bailout the industry’s insurance premiums..” holds. Here is a quote from the article, “I will let you in on a little secret: The two estimates and the methods used to generate them are, at best, unreliable and, at worst, deeply flawed. I can say that because I am one of the authors. I know squat about nuclear power. Do not get me wrong, the two papers are competent pieces of academic research and they deserved to be published in the reputable peer-reviewed academic journals in which they appeared. But the approach that they utilized is very much an experimental one, and one whose results can be highly sensitive to changes in underlying assumptions.” By the way, the author claims these two articles are the only estimates of the value of the subsidy (as of 2002), and the estimates differ from each other “by a factor of about 10.” Also, the second estimate (the lower one) corrects for an error in the first estimate.

        As an economist I believe subsidies can distort market behavior, but estimating the extent of the distortion can be tricky business.

      • GJW2,

        As an economist I believe subsidies can distort market behavior, but estimating the extent of the distortion can be tricky business.

        As a non-economist I’d greatly appreciate your comment about what I said in my comment here: “Price-Anderson Act, subsidy or impediment to nuclear?” https://judithcurry.com/2016/01/19/is-nuclear-the-cheapest-way-to-decarbonize-electricity/#comment-759092

        Please feel free to correct me and explain how I should have compared the Price Anderson Act with other industries that have accidents that cause serious health impacts.

      • Peter, the main difference between your calculations and ybutt’s line of reasoning appears to me to be valuing the consequences of normal operations (your calculations) and the consequences of catastrophic failure of the facility (ybutt’s concern). As best as I can tell, there is no credible estimate of the latter. Hence making the claim that the nuclear industry would not exist without Price-Anderson, does not appear to be supported.

      • Seriously ybutt?

        Did you bother reading the report you linked to? Right in the Executive Summary: ” With negligible cost to the public …” and ” … with the federal government no longer standing as the indemnifier for large commercial nuclear reactors, except in certain scenarios, …”

        Once again, how is Price Anderson a subsidy?

      • Well…

        Let’s look at reality.

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Price–Anderson_Nuclear_Industries_Indemnity_Act
        In 2008 the Congressional Budget Office estimated the value of the subsidy at only $600,000 per reactor per year.

        1. It ain’t nothing.
        2. It isn’t much.

        The pre-1970 reactor construction cost was about $ 1,000,000 per MWe, That is about 1/7 of the current cost.

        The majority of the cost difference is:
        1. Delay
        2. Regulation
        3. Unreasoned and irrational requirements and policy.

        The anti-nukers don’t care about safety and are just interested in making nuclear expensive.

        Vogtle is a good example of the problem. A plant under construction is being forced to meet the aircraft impact standard, causing redesign “on the fly”.

        Carter, in one of his many mistakes, halted reprocessing of used fuel and research into cheap enrichment methods. Centrifuges aren’t the cheapest way, various laser and ionic separation methods were being looked at. There is no reason for spent fuel to be on-site after it cools – it should be reprocessed. However the utilities are forced to store used fuel on-site like it was useless waste, an added cost.

        The US used to (pre-Carter) have a lock on the enrichment market and virtually complete control of nuclear fuel. The only US enrichment company is in bankruptcy and the only enrichment in the US is done by a foreign conglomerate. The anti-proliferators are why proliferation is off to the races.

        So, in the final analysis there isn’t a net subsidy but a 7X hidden tax on nuclear power. 85% of the cost of nuclear power is governmental burden and impediments.

        Claiming there is a subsidy for nuclear power is a sick joke. Thank God China is going to drive the nuclear power cost down the 2 cents per KW-H or less that it should be. We are going to have to go nuclear as well to stay competitive.

      • For ybutt, the Price-Anderson Act for nuclear plant indemnity after a serious radiation incident is a subject I have written about in my series Truth About Nuclear Power.
        http://sowellslawblog.blogspot.com/2014/07/the-truth-about-nuclear-power-part-25.html “Price-Anderson Act Gives Too Much Protection to Nuclear Plants” is the article title.

        My article TANP – 25 states:

        “This article discusses one of (the several) subsidies in more detail, the Price-Anderson Act by which government assumes the liability from a large nuclear accident, after industry reaches the stated cap on its liability. To encourage the nuclear industry to build any plants at all, the inherently unsafe characteristics of nuclear power plants required government shielding from liability, or subsidy, for the costs of a nuclear accident via the Price-Anderson Act.

        Even as early as the 1950s, the nuclear industry was aware of the catastrophic nature of a nuclear accident, a meltdown due to a loss-of-cooling-accident, radiation released into the atmosphere or water, and the potential for hundreds of thousands of deaths or even many, many more. Industrial insurance underwriters also were keenly aware of the risks, and had their premiums adjusted accordingly. Utilities that wanted to enter the nuclear power business realized quickly that they could not afford to build the plants, plus pay for insurance premiums. The price for their nuclear-based power would be prohibitive – and the adverse publicity would be devastating. One can imagine the headlines: “Nuclear Disaster Insurance Increases Electricity Prices to Unaffordable Levels.” Or, some similar headline.

        Subsequent events have shown that such nuclear calamity is not only possible, but extremely deadly. Three major events (involving 5 reactor catastrophes) have happened to date, at Three Mile Island in 1979 with a reactor core partially melting down, Chernobyl in 1986 with a core explosion, and Fukushima Dai-ichi in 2011 with three reactors melted down and four containment buildings exploded. With hundreds of reactors operating world-wide and almost one hundred more either planned or under construction, more meltdown disasters are inevitable.

        With the economic consequences in mind, the industry asked for relief from Congress, and Congress responded with the Price-Anderson Act in 1957. The language of the Act mentions “extraordinary liability that companies would incur if a nuclear accident were to happen…” ”

        And to the commenters who (wrongly) claim that no money has been paid via Price-Anderson Act, see link below that states $71 million was paid due to the Three Mile Island meltdown incident. (slide 23)

        https://www.oecd-nea.org/ndd/workshops/nuclearcomp/presentations/documents/1.TysonR.Smith-Price-AndersonOECD-NEALiabilityWorkshop-December2013.pdf

        And, one can simply read the preamble to the Price-Anderson Act for why nuclear plants would never be built absent the Act:

        “Congress passed the Price-Anderson Act in 1957 to ensure that adequate funds would be available to compensate victims of a nuclear accident. It also recognized that the risk of extraordinary liability that companies would incur if a nuclear accident were to happen would render insurance costs prohibitively high, and thwart the development of nuclear energy.”

        An entire industry is subsidized by the US Government. Absent the liability coverage, zero nuclear plants would exist except a few for military and medical purposes. The situation is similar in other countries, where the government guarantees exist but under different names.

    • Well I can tell you how we are doing it at Hybrid Power Technologies
      1. Use small graphite moderated, helium gas reactor that is passively air-cooled in an emergency – the Silicone/Carbon coated fuel will never melt. Also use a full containment. The public is absolutely protected, always.
      2. Use reactor to drive the air compressor of a gas turbine, thereby doubling the turbines electrical output. End up with about a 950 MW electric plant that uses the lowest-cost power technology thus far in use (combined-cycle power plant). The hybrid crushes the efficiency record of the combined-cycle plant by gainfully using about 80% of the energy in the fossil fuel (more accurately, hydro carbon fuel). Also reduces spent nuclear fuel by over 90%. The spent fuel cannot be reprocessed, has a one-way ticket to deep underground and just isn’t prone to reacting with anything.
      3. The passive safety systems are simple and low-cost. The current onerous regulatory requirements affect only a small handful of passive items. The vast majority of accidents affecting water reactors simply do not apply. The design meets the existing laws – no changes are required. Regulatory costs and complications are accordingly greatly reduced.

      The hybrid employs the classic and proven approach to reducing costs: Make things much more powerful, much simpler and much more efficient. Exact opposite of the nuclear approach currently in vogue (much smaller output, much lower efficiency while employing a very mature technology). Making vast numbers of such small throwbacks (which assumes utilities would actually buy large quantities of the things) will never overcome the fundamental economic and safety disadvantages of what is in essence a1950’s technology.

      Bottom-line: brand-new type of hybrid technology approach that solves the vexing problems facing both nuclear and fossil energy while yielding plentiful and reasonably priced energy for future generations to come.

      • Mike Keller,

        Thanks you. Can you give us a conservative-realistic estimate of when these would be sufficiently commercially proven that utilities would be routinely choosing them for capacity additions or replacements of existing generating capacity? I’d expect that quite a few would have to have been operating commercially for a decade or so before utilities would be willing to take a risk on them, and even then only if they had a very significant cost advantage.

        As a reality check, could you show how your time line compares with the time line that other generator technologies took to become commercially viable.

      • For Mike Keller, this is an example of the dreamers’ world.

        Consider, if you will, if the process you describe actually worked, why has no other fuel source been used to drive that process? Also, as I wrote on my TANP series Article 29, much research has been done and all have failed on this technology. A crucial piece that no one can get to work is the lock hopper for injecting, and another one for removing the radioactive spheres.

        From my TANP article, “The HTGR nuclear reactor system has, as described above, many serious technical challenges that must be overcome. Given the dismal experience in other industries with similar reactors operating at high pressure that attempt to inject a solid into the reactor, it is not surprising that the HTGR reactors also fail. It is true that low-pressure systems can be made to work, but the high-pressure ball injection and removal systems are problematic. The high cost of every component is also a factor. The inherently small electrical output will forever keep the plants from enjoying economy of scale – at least until another advance is made in the gas-turbine and compressor technology. The large size of the heat exchangers adds to the cost, primarily due to the low heat transfer coefficient of the helium gas. This is an immutable characteristic of gas heat exchange, and has been known for many decades. The dismal experience of researchers in several countries over several decades does not bode well for the future of HTGR. The most important issues, though, are the production of explosive graphite dust, and production of lethal radionuclides in the reactor that are transported into the helium circulation loop that includes the heat exchangers, turbine, and compressors.”

  11. Don’t decarb anything. In fact, char the climatariat.

    After we take out that trash…

    Coal, gas, oil, nukes, something new that doesn’t suck…Take your pick! No clunkers, waste or bad siting, though. This is about having a civilisation, about sparkling new non-Satanic mills. As for nuke waste, South Australia finally has a reason for being.

    I go for Aussie coal in nice new USC plants, but I’m a Lapsang Souchong man from way back. (I did enjoy my time spent around the Golfech reactor, after all those stupid wind turbines which litter the Aubrac Plateau.)

    But I’m getting ahead of myself. First obliterate that climatariat. Give Green Blob the Steve McQueen treatment.

  12. DMI did an Arctic Sea Ice Extent 30% coverage of the The Northern Hemisphere Sea Ice for 11 years.
    As of the start of 2016 they have dropped thgis link.
    The 30% coverage had shown above normal sea ice extent for over 2 months and it was at an all time high for that time of year on the 1/8/2016.
    No reasons given.
    Obviously inconvenient truth bites the warmists dust.

  13. I think that arguing about price is the wrong way to go about it.
    Better to say that if you really wanted to decarbonise the UK electricity supply, nuclear is simply the only way to do it.

    This morning, the UK’s vast fleet of over 6000 wind turbines is producing 0.24GW, that’s 0.5% of demand. To put it another way, that’s less than 2% of the “installed capacity”.

    Hydro power, as you say, simply isn’t available in the UK in any significant quantity.

    This is why many people who are genuinely concerned about CO2 and climate change like Lynas and Monbiot and Hansen are now pro-nuclear.

  14. Nice piece, Peter ‚— and some good comments too (as always).

  15. 35 years ago when I was studying engineering we had a textbook that briefly covered nuclear energy. It stated that nuclear waste has to be stored safely for 10’s of thousands of years. That paragraph had a footnote. In that footnote the author referenced a textbook about history for further reading about the stability of human societies over long timespans. Seems me to be still good recommendation today.

    • “Seems me to be still good recommendation today.”

      … and in the meantime what happened to the tens of thousands of tons of nuclear waste?
      How many bombs have been made by terrorist organizations or rogue states? How many accidents? How many people killed or injured?

      Thanks for taking the time to answer.

    • krmm,

      Rather than just cracking one, try learning some real data about nuclear waste.

      Here is a starting point – Dry cask containment.

    • Except there are ways to “burn” the waste, extracting even more energy, and reducing the life of the remaining “waste.”

    • If it makes you feel any better, most of the things buried by the Neanderthal are still safely buried. And they weren’t even particularly good at it. ^_^

  16. National Grid (UK) produce a spreadsheet showing electricity generating capacity, existing and proposed. (http://www2.nationalgrid.com/UK/Services/Electricity-connections/Industry-products/TEC-Register/)

    The December 2015 issue shows 27GW of nuclear with dates out to 2025 (Hinkley ‘C’ is 2023). 9GW are actually built – our old nuclear stations. 18GW are planned. So you can see pretty much that UK government policy is going where Peter Lang suggests it should.

    Or trying to. Of the planned nuclear (including Hinkley ‘C’) none at all are ‘under construction’, and that includes Hinkley where preparatory work on site stopped a good while ago and has not – as far as I know – restarted.

    Public disquiet and high costs seem to be stalling nuclear in the UK. I even doubt that Hinkley will be built. EventualIy I am sure the future is nuclear – but for the moment we will have wind and gas with some diesel capacity reserve. This will abate emissions somewhat, but not so much.

  17. “Hydro power, as you say, simply isn’t available in the UK in any significant quantity.” Windsor Castle. (Hydro). Low Head.

  18. Geoff Sherrington

    Before you rush to a bright but negative thought, please recall that countries like the US, Russia, Britain, Japan and France to name a few among many, have demonstrated the financial, technological and popular acceptance of nuclear in times gone by.
    There are essentially no new arguments against nuclear since those days.
    The cost relativities remain favourable to nuclear. Large experiments with sunshine and wind have exposed and confirmed their weaknesses as previously analysed.
    Nuclear is justified to surge again even without allowing for its CO2 advantage.
    It is painful to see the analyses we did in the 60s and 70s being put under the pump again and again, with the same favourable outcome.
    Thank you, Peter, for expressing this superiority of nuclear in this somewhat novel but positive way.
    Geoff.

  19. Firstly, thanks to Peter for such an informative post, and giving us an insight into the ERP Report and a more useful mechanism for evaluating the costs of low carbon electricity.

    The point Paul Matthews raises that its not just cost, but the innate practicality of solutions is also important.

    Paul’s point brought to mind a thought experiment I’ve used when discussing the scale of the problem.

    Thought Experiment Regarding UK Electricity Grid Decarbonisation:

    If you believe we need to decarbonise now, and as quickly as possible, then I think it might be instructive to imagine the following scenario:

    You are British prime minister and the chief scientific advisor has informed you that we have 40 years to 80% decarbonise the advanced economies of the world, and enforce a similar program on the developing world under the threat of UN sanctioned military force, or face the destruction of our current civilisation; similar meetings took place all around the world.

    You are now attending a meeting of the country’s best energy experts, engineers and scientists, to try and determine what we will do to meet our decarbonisation obligations for the electricity grid. The experts have suggested a plan that they believe is feasible and cost effective and will meet our obligations within the 40 years deadline.

    What do you think that plan was?

    A) Construct 40 3rd generation nuclear reactors, from two dependable, safe and proven designs, and distribute around the 10 current nuclear power station sites that have already been determined as being suitable.

    B) Construct an additional 20,000 onshore turbines, 10,000 offshore turbines and convert all Scottish, Welsh and Northern Ireland lakes and lochs that are suitable to hydro and pumped storage.

    C) Start an aggressive program of R&D into Carbon Capture and Storage, with the intention of retro-fitting this to all suitable existing plant, and building a new gas and coal fleet which we will build as CCS ready, for when the technology becomes available.

    D) Something else entirely

  20. I follow DMI Arctic Temperature page. It had been down until yesterday. Is your link still down?

  21. You folks are not the first to examine the nuclear-climate nexus — others have done so and beyond the narrow economic context:

    http://www.worldfuturecouncil.org/fileadmin/user_upload/Disarmament/The_Climate-Nuclear_Nexus.pdf

    I’d rather not have 100 nuclear reactors in the middle east to reduce temperature in 2100 by 0.75C, thanks very much. I don’t think the proliferation risks are worth it. Kind of have our hands full with North Korea and Iran who also just wanted nuclear power initially.

    Not smart.

  22. Also, the author neglects that nuclear energy is not competitive if it is not subsidized — the economics may work if the government subsidizes the nuclear industry’s insurance premium bailouts:

    http://object.cato.org/sites/cato.org/files/serials/files/regulation/2002/10/v25n4-8.pdf

    • Ditto for renewable energy, with its numerous government subsidies. How about we eliminate all subsidies and mandates and let the free market work.

    • There is no subsidy from government, the insurance premium baylout is a non-existent problem. Government simply would take charge of most of the costs in case of accident…so far the only case in the USA where this happened is TMI (and I’m not sure that it was not covered by the owner of the reactor).
      If you consider the case of Fukushima Daiichi-1 power station, it is true that the eventual final cost of the cleanup will be at the government’s expenses (so, taxpayer money)… but just consider that since the remaining 48 reactors have been stopped for no good reason (3 have since been restarted) Japan had to pay 30~40 billion$ more per year in extra import of liquified natural gas and coal, to generate the needed electricity via FF power stations… should this continue for 10-20 years (i.e. assuming no, or only few reactors restarting) something like 300-600 billions would be spent in additional fossil fuels… which would ultimately be money coming out of the taxpayers’ pockets… so, in the end, what’s the difference?

      Sure, this works only if severe/costly accidents are rare, which has been the case so far… 2 in the west and 1 in the former USSR.

      I may also add that, in the case of the USA, something like 800 billion kWh are generated every year… so by surcharging each kWh by, say, 0.2 c$ one would accrue 1.6 billion$/year… enough to cover at least a sizeable fraction of a large accident’s expenses, if the frequency is once every 50 years or so.

      This insurance argument is bogus… legalese… stuff good for lawyers…nothing to do with practicality and energy policy.

    • You know, if you’re just going to keep dragging out the same old turds over and over, no matter how many people point out how bad they smell, you could at least roll them in some fresh glitter.

  23. Seems to me that the failure cost of nuclear is the problem.
    Japan was lucky with Fukushima, the winds were offshore and the debris only irradiated the USS Reagan. While the overall cost is likely to exceed $100B, that is dirt cheap compared to losing Tokyo, which was concern early in the accident.
    Nuclear needs to ensure less catastrophic worst case accidents to be a reasonable option.
    Merkel decided quite reasonably that a Fukushima type meltdown by any of the German nuclear plants would be such a disaster that the economic benefit was inadequate. .

    • “Merkel decided quite reasonably that a Fukushima type meltdown by any of the German nuclear plants would be such a disaster that the economic benefit was inadequate. .”
      Merkel has decided that a Fukushima-type accident could happen to German reactors… have you ever seen where the 8 stopped reactors are placed, in Germany?
      Once you’ve checked it… could you please come back here and tell me/us whether you think it was a rational/logical decision?

      R.

      • Actually I do know the locations and I think the shutdown is quite rational. Just look at the prevailing winds and draw a 50 mile radius around each site, it is a bad risk/reward trade. Do also remember the Reagan got dosed while still over 100 miles away from the accident.
        The decision can be faulted because it leaves multiple reactors operating around Germany, so it may actually lead to increased risk for Germany, but that reflects failings by German leadership rather than the merit of the decision.
        It is possible that Merkel would have decided differently if the nuclear industry in Germany had not been repeatedly found sloppy to the point of negligence. Look up the background events to the shutdown of the Juelich pebble bed reactor for an example.

      • Curious George

        Tsunami is a real risk in Merkel’s Germany. Bravo, Angela!

      • netudiant:
        “Do also remember the Reagan got dosed while still over 100 miles away from the accident.”

        It got doses by a negligible amount of man-made radiation equivalent to natural background radiation… they simply were able to identify it because… the R. Reagan is a nuclear vessel, equipped with state-of-the-art equipment… they actually were the one alerting the others about the plume.

        https://registry.csd.disa.mil/registryWeb/Registry/OperationTomodachi/DisplayAbout.do

        … 80 microSievert under the assumption that the sailor spent 24h/day on the deck of the R. Reagan.

    • If you really believe that “the failure cost of nuclear is the problem” then you ought to be FOR building new nuclear plants.

      In the U.S. there hasn’t been a new nuclear plant built 1996. The average age of the plants in the U.S. is 34 years.

      We can either a) keep old plants running or b) build new plants.

      The problem with a) is that you are upgrading old technology. There are some systems you can improve, however the basic design cannot be changed and there are newer, much safer designs out there today. So we end up running less safe designs instead of building better plants. Note however that SOLAR POWER kills more people per MWH than nuclear. Yes. solar kills more than nuclear including Fukushima, TMI and Chernobyl.

      The problem with b) is mostly political. Due to a general fear of nuclear building new plants is hard and costly. Once again, this causes us to keep older, less safely designed plants open which is just stupid.

      Eric

      • I could be persuaded to embrace nuclear, if the product were better.
        A system where we have about one catastrophic failure per 1000 reactor years of operation is not going to get my vote though.
        We minimally need redesign to make failure less catastrophic, maybe with much smaller modular reactors and we need designs that are idiot proof. Thermal efficiency is secondary, but economic efficiency in terms of ease of manufacture, installation and operation really matter. None of those aspects is getting much consideration in the new nuclear designs. They are much bigger, absurdly slower to build and hugely expensive to buy and to operate. Ask the Finns about their new reactor project, or maybe just look at VC Summer.

      • netudiant

        “… with much smaller modular reactors …
        Thermal efficiency is secondary, but economic efficiency in terms of ease of manufacture, installation and operation really matter. None of those aspects is getting much consideration in the new nuclear designs.”

        Check this out:

        http://www.world-nuclear-news.org/NN-CNNC-to-construct-prototype-floating-plant-1501164.html

  24. Today’s SmartQuote in SigmaXi’s SmartBrief

    “The surest way to corrupt a youth is to instruct him to hold in higher esteem those who think alike than those who think differently.”
    — Friedrich Nietzsche, philosopher My bolds

    I would argue that “youth” is too often unrelated to age! The “Sciences” are, by enlarge, “think alike masses” that have difficulty accepting those who would alter their most basic tenets! Control of what goes into the “scientific journals” has long been paramount in thought control while disseminating “research results” to huddled masses: re: the lead up to Paris. The Internet has offered more open-minded efforts, but, even here, requested restrictions to search engines on “contrary images” are occurring lest they lure the neophyte into questioning established “authority”.

    This blog is a welcomed venue for questioning “authorial” stances and proclamations! Call many of its participants “skeptics” or whatever you wish!

  25. Overall we caution against emphasising the relative costs of the low carbon options. This is summed up by one of the key observations in the report:

    Using DECC’s cost estimates the differences in economic value to the system between the key options examined (nuclear, gas-CCS and onshore wind) are much smaller than the margin of error estimating those costs. Therefore it’s difficult to claim any one of these is the optimal solution to progress grid decarbonisation.

    Well, if you had $10B to spend now, how would you invest it, and how would you justify your decision?

    • Geoff Sherrington

      MM,
      What to spend it on?
      Study what the Chinese are doing.
      Remember that they are blessed with several large hydro locations, but it is telling that they are aggressively building more nuclear. Their costs seem more like real life, with the punitive green costs stripped out,
      The Chinese reactor costs seem a better guide for future planning than other sources I have seen.

    • matthewrmarler:
      “Well, if you had $10B to spend now, how would you invest it, and how would you justify your decision?”

      Let’s assume we start today, and look down the road 20 years:

      1) 10 billion dollars worth of PV in UK is 5 GWp (at best). Could be installed in one year (Italy installed 9.5GWp back in 2011, Germany more than 7.5).
      PV in UK generates with a pityful 10% capacity factor… so after 19 years the said 5 GWp will generate 19*8766*5E+9*0.1=83.3 TWh (assuming performance degradation). These are intermittent, highly seasonal TWh… with >4x difference in winter/summer electricity production,and NEVER during the night;

      2) 10 billion dollars is what one EPR could cost: assuming it will take 10 years to build, after 20 years it would have 10 years of operation.
      At 90% capacity factor, and 1620 MW, it would generate 1620E+6*0.9*8766*10=127.8 TWh… 53.5% more than the PV case.
      These are baseload TWh, on-demand, day and night, non major seasonal differences.

      3) If the rationale is “generate affordable, GHG-free electricity” the choice is clear… at least it is to me… because I’m a physicist and I think about energy… if I were a businessman I’d probably choose the fast-track “green economy” thing… lots of incentives to put my hands on, but little electricity generated in the future.

      I’ve left out, as you’ve probably noticed, the fact that PV is going to last 20-30 years at most…. while reactors last 50-60 and more.

  26. Thank you Peter Lang for your essay, and for the link to the full paper.

  27. I’ve read the comments with interest – I’m pleased this has generated some good debate – thank you Peter!

    Firstly I’d emphasise the key finding that decarbonisation requires firm capacity that’s carbon free, that’s nuclear, fossil-CCS and biomass in the UK. So discussion about whether nuclear is better than wind or PV misses the point – the latter deliver annual energy but are not an option to replace nuclear on delivering firm capacity. E.g. today is very cold for the UK driving up demand, it may well end up being one of the peak demand days. However the weather system that brought the cold (an anti-cyclone) also brings calm still air so today wind only met 0.6% of demand. Obviously PV is not there to meet the darkness peak either.

    Biomass is real competition for nuclear, converting an old coal unit takes just a year or two and import facilities are available to handle the fuel. It’s very flexible too. So far this has had little mention.

    Finally CCS has been dismissed by many bloggers as unproven, which is true. However it is almost essential because many industries (cement, refining, steel etc) have little alternative. So it will have to be developed and power is the obvious place to start.

    A second point is that if we are to decarbonise then ideally it will be driven by a credible carbon price. To compete against unabated gas in the UK low-C techs will need a C price in the £70-100/t bracket. If there isn’t a credible, explicit C price then policy will have to simulate it (probably badly) with a series of subsidies and regulations, in which case it become implicit, but it is there none-the-less. In case the more relevant chart is the bottom part of Figure 14 plotted at £70/t [if I knew how to paste in a picture I would!] It can be seen that gas-CCS and nuclear are almost identical in economic effectiveness at this point.

    Finally I’d like to move the debate away from LCOE as it is misleading and unhelpful. As well as Energy the system needs Reserve, Response, Inertia, Flexibility, and firm Capacity, as well as a host of other things. To attribute all cost to the delivery of E negates the value of techs that don’t deliver E but deliver R, I, F or C (eg storage or demand management). It will undervalue those that deliver a range of these services alongside E (eg fossil-CCS, nuclear, bio) and overvalue those that don’t (or even consume) some of these services (mainly intermittent renewables).
    Andy Boston

    • Andy Boston,

      Thank you very much for contributing to this discussion, for highlighting the main outcomes and conclusions from your analysis and for helping to inform us. As I said in my post, from my perspective the ERP analysis is very credible and a valuable contribution to educating policy makers and the public about many important issues that are not generally understood. I hope you will continue to comment as the discussion continues.

      I’ll post separately some replies to the ‘ERP comments’ included at the end of the post. In the meantime, I have the following responses to your comment.

      I totally agree with the points you make in your first and last paragraphs, i.e.:

      Firstly I’d emphasise the key finding that decarbonisation requires firm capacity that’s carbon free …

      And

      Finally … As well as Energy the system needs Reserve, Response, Inertia, Flexibility, and firm Capacity, as well as a host of other things.

      I didn’t discuss in my post your main “key finding” because I could not do justice to the ERP report in a short post so I urged readers to read the ERP report in full and I focused on one important conclusion that I believe the ERP analysis demonstrates – i.e. that given the inputs used, the ERP analysis shows that all or mostly nuclear is likely to be the least cost generator technology option for achieving deep decarbonsisation of the GB electricity system’s, e.g. to meet the 100 g/kWh and 50 g/kWh targets. I encourage readers to read the excellent ERP report in full.

      Regarding the second, third and especially the fourth paragraphs of your comment today we do have some differences. My responses to these are as follows:

      Biomass is real competition for nuclear, converting an old coal unit takes just a year or two and import facilities are available to handle the fuel. It’s very flexible too. So far this has had little mention.

      I am not convinced biomass can make a large contribution to GB electricity supply, let alone to global electricity supply, as electricity demand continues to increase throughout this century. I am not sure how long GB will be able to rely on USA to chop down its trees to power GB’s biomass electricity generation. Do you have a credible, authoritative estimate as to what proportion of GB’s electricity could be supplied by biomass produced entirely within GB?

      Finally CCS has been dismissed by many bloggers as unproven, which is true. However it is almost essential because many industries (cement, refining, steel etc) have little alternative. So it will have to be developed and power is the obvious place to start.

      Stating it is “essential” doesn’t make it viable. We don’t have evidence it can become viable at the scale needed to sequester a large proportion of global fossil fueled electricity generation. It may have limited capacity and be needed eventually (at a high price) for the other industrial sources of CO2 emissions you refer to. CCS is not even at the “bleeding edge” stage of the Technology Life Cycle. It’s comparable with where hot dry rock geothermal was in the 1980s, and that has not met its advocates’ expectations.

      A second point is that if we are to decarbonise then ideally it will be driven by a credible carbon price. To compete against unabated gas in the UK low-C techs will need a C price in the £70-100/t bracket. If there isn’t a credible, explicit C price then policy will have to simulate it (probably badly) with a series of subsidies and regulations, in which case it become implicit, but it is there none-the-less. In case the more relevant chart is the bottom part of Figure 14 plotted at £70/t [if I knew how to paste in a picture I would!] It can be seen that gas-CCS and nuclear are almost identical in economic effectiveness at this point.

      We are well apart on this. I explain here “Why carbon pricing will not succeedhttp://anglejournal.com/article/2015-11-why-carbon-pricing-will-not-succeed/. The reasons why carbon pricing will not succeed apply equally to all policies that would raise the cost of energy. They are not politically sustainable. It is the wrong approach. The people of the world want energy. They need it to improve their lives. Cheapest possible energy is a priority to improve human wellbeing. The cheaper it is the faster human wellbeing will improve worldwide. No country or region can go out on its own and increase electricity prices as you are suggesting. It would severely damage the economy of that country or region. It would have to be a global agreement to effectively slow world growth. It just won’t happen.

      Rationalist should be advocating and explaining how to reduce the cost of energy globally. This can be done, IMO, and nuclear will have to be a major part of doing that.

    • There is an alternative to pricing or any other policy that would raise the cost of energy:

      How to make nuclear cheaper

      Nuclear power will have to be a major part of the solution 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, the cost of electricity from nuclear will have to become cheaper than from fossil fuels. Here’s how I suggest this could be achieved:

      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 want.

      2. The next US President uses his influence with the leaders of the other countries that are most influential in the IAEA to get the IAEA representatives to support a process to re-examine the justification for the 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.

      • Why not just deploy reactors that are passively fail-safe and whose cores cannot melt? Completely avoids the vexing problems of the water-cooled reactors and radiation releases become a complete non-issue. Also avoids the vast majority of NRC licensing issues. … and yes, there really are reactors that can do this while also being able to readily compete in the marketplace. However, I seriously doubt the mind-numbed, massive bureaucracy that is the DOE will ever go along with such an approach. They have, after all, spent billions demonstrating a complete inability to pick winners in the marketplace. Perhaps they should not even try and simply get out of the way.

      • We’ll get there eventually. Bit it will take decades before they are commercially competitive. We’ll get there faster if we start winding back the impediments that apply to all nuclear energy so costs start coming down and roll out rate accelerates.

    • Hi Andy Boston

      There are many of us that just don’t buy-into the idea that deep decarbonization on the electricity grid is needed. There are at least two schools:

      (1) The folks like Dr. Hagen and Mosomoso who disagree that the subject of AGW is a serious problem.

      (2) The so-called Lukewarmers. Perhaps the key point with this Group is the Curry-Lewis view of TCR (the how much and how fast question). The top actions consistent with this view on Sensitivity are usually framed as “no or lower risk options” such as: Fast Mitigation (reducing methane, smog, black carbon, and HFCs); Increased R&D (engineering and science); Increasing carbon levels in soils (e.g., the French Proposal of .4% per year); Increased use of natural gas as a Bridge Technology/Fuel; ABB’s concept of increased technology efficiency (e.g., Ultra Supercritical coal units, Fluidized Bed, etc).

      As an ex System Planning engineer (generation), I personally believe (right now) that the Curry-Lewis view of TCR makes more sense rather than the IPP’s CAGW TCR Scenarios that folks like Dr. Hansen believe.

      Having this view, I respectfully just don’t believe in the main assumption that deep decarbonization on the integrated grid is needed. I believe in a above “holistic approach” to AGW of “Everyone in the Pool”.

      This especially includes two aspects on the integrated grid: (1) natural gas combined cycle units without carbon storage (which may double the cost per kW); (2) Penetration of Renewables that follow sound engineering economics that integrate well with flexible NGCC units (with no carbon capture, storage).

      • Andy Boston:

        Many “Green Conservatives” in the U.S. just hate:

        (1) A Carbon Tax. Anyway you slice or dice it, its a regressive tax. But more importantly are the foreign trade implications. Many Conservatives argue that a Carbon Tax will hurt U.S. Manufacturing and will not accomplish anything on AGW. It will only outsource U.S. GHG emissions to Developing Countries (where their efficiency and environmental laws are much more lax).

        (2) A Cap & Trade System. This would be another financial derivative play-toy for Wall St. and London Bankers who brought down the World’s economies in 2008 with this stuff.

        (3) A Federal Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard — which would take decision making out of the hands of our engineers and place it with Politicians.

      • “(reducing methane, smog, black carbon, and HFCs); Increased R&D (engineering and science); Increasing carbon levels in soils (e.g., the French Proposal of .4% per year); Increased use of natural gas as a Bridge Technology/Fuel; ABB’s concept of increased technology efficiency (e.g., Ultra Supercritical coal units, Fluidized Bed, etc)”

        You’re right about me, Stephen. I’m a total skep, warmie basher and slayer of white elephants. (What? People have noticed?)

        However, except for one word, I’m also largely for the things proposed in your quoted comment. That word is “bridge”, of course. All tech is a “bridge” to something better. But “bridge” has come to mean support for Big Green, thus for Big Oil/Gas in its commercial war against coal and nukes. The enormous waste of resources, including carbon, in “bridging” to sucky wind and solar will not leave much money or credibility for genuine advances.

        On the subject of gas, China, Japan and Germany (also both Koreas) are all wanting, in a flirty way, to commit to Russian pipeline gas. Meanwhile, Qatar would just love us to get rid of that “murderous Assad regime” so its pipeline plans for a Turkish hub can go forward. (Erdogan might even like us for a few minutes if we help.)

        I know there is a colossal amount of difficulty, bluff, uncertainty and exaggeration involved in all these pipeline plans and promises. (Egypt’s Eastern Med gas find has changed the whole chess board again, not long after the Israel/Cyprus finds made things interesting.) But I’d suggest that domestic fossil fuels, nukes and coal are small bridges AWAY from the pipeline and sea lane tensions which threaten to make gas the New Black in the 21st century.

      • Andy Boston

        A couple of points on your study:

        (1) For reasons stated above, I believe that a scenario of natural gas combined cycle units without carbon capture & storage should have been performed.

        (2) Your Group may be the smartest folks in the World. But how would the World know this? The issue here is your in-house developed model. Was it independently reviewed by folks of high stature? To build credibility, objectivity, and trust, you really should use industry accepted integrated system planning models (like from GE). Folks like the USDOE, NREL, ORNL, EPRI, EEI, McKinsey & Company, etc. use this “industry accepted planning software”.

        Using the GE Planning Models, it would be interesting to see how high levels of NGCC units interacted with Renewables.

        (3) In reading your assumptions — It was my understanding that you did not reflect interconnections from continental Europe. Is my understanding correct? This integrated grid can and does address many of your issues (along with much greater use of natural gas).

        Depending on how you interact with me — I may have other questions and look closer at your study.

      • Mosomoso — The only context of Bridge that I was referring to was in the context of “Fast Mitigation”. Esteemed Scientists like Dr.’s Molina (Nobel Prize) and Ramanathan say that Fast Mitigation could buy the World perhaps 20 to 30 years in extra time for our Scientists and Engineers to get a better handle on AGW.

      • Stephen, there is no “World” to do any “Fast Mitigation”. There are interests waiting to promote and exploit weakness, waste and inefficiency in order to sell monorails and marching bands.

        Lukewarmism will come dressed as sanity, thrift and conservation (as above in your quoted comment) – but the sting is in the white elephants. A lukewarmer just wants a better class of white elephant, unleashed at slower rates. A lukewarmer is going to outlast an old style climate mullah, but you still get those white elephants. And a lukie loves a climate conference as much as a mullah. I’m for conservation, and there is no conservation with this top-down white elephantism by people sorta qualified in a sorta science (“What’s that white woolly thing in the sky?).

        Energy needs to be as a diverse, as domestic-based, but also as POTENT, as possible. Coal is the star here, the Kochs are my friends. Nukes are a trump card to keep ’em that way. Gas and the other products of Big Oil are great, but Big Oil needs to be just another shop along the strip, not a wolf dressed as Bambi and handing out money to Sierra for the War on Coal.

        That door we walked into in the 1970s? We don’t have to walk into it again. It’s in a different location and has a different look. But it’s The Door. Don’t walk into it again, not even if a Nobel tells you to.

  28. Hey, why are we talking about decarbonising electricity?

    Has their been an overnight coup? Have the Warmies taken the Winter Palace and are we all Warmies now?

    • Moso,

      Koch’s are ‘your’ friends? Not if they’re in your back yard: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/18/business/energy-environment/mountain-of-petroleum-coke-from-oil-sands-rises-in-detroit.html?_r=0

      I’ll take the nuke waste instead, thank you.

      • Don’t be frightened, Danny. It’s just a pile of useless old stuff. No, the not the New York Times. Well…that too.

      • Moso,

        Not frightened. Just don’t want it (either of them) in MBY! Could use the ‘mood lighting’ from glowing in the dark from one of them allowing me to not trip on rocks or flora.

      • Why the default indignation? That’s as good a spot as any to pile coke.

        Nuke waste needs to be in a geologically stable site in the middle of Australia. We already have elected aboriginal bodies and traditional owners wanting the international business – among other landholders eager to use their land and turn a quid. (And no, it won’t be in anybody’s backyard.) The opposition comes from people without backyards in inner cities thousands of kilometres away…or with just enough space for a handmade clay pizza oven to be run on organic charcoal.

        I don’t know where they take Prius batteries or the tailings from rare earth to make wind turbines…but it doesn’t have to be anyone’s backyard.

        And I’m happy to take shredded New York Times as mulch for bamboo, so long as I don’t have to read their bedwetting articles.

      • Moso,

        Good a spot as any? Your backyard okay for that pile? Not mine! As I said, I’ll take the glow in the dark over that pile. And I don’t live anywhere near Detroit! Koch (in this instance) is no where near my ‘friend’. Would they really be yours if this was your yard? Kinda doubt it. Bamboo probably would not do well. Also the bamboo mulch would depend on the species. Some are take over plants and same belong just fine. With quite a large number of species, it would depend. Might be just the ticket. Good fences, good neighbors and all.

      • Nope. Why would I put a pile of coal in my backyard when we have industrial estates closer to town and the Pacific Highway? (The smell there will be covered by that of the Akubra Hat Factory. Though I quite like industrial aromas from things like singed rabbit fur and piled coke (the smell of employment in the morning!), it doesn’t mean I’ll live on top of them. So…industrial locations for all that. Duh.

        Now, Danny, you don’t want to make cracks about moso bamboo. Don’t be fooled by my gentle CE persona. I can be a total animal.

      • Moso,

        Of the over 1000 species of bamboo, what would be the chance that I’d be able to pick the very one that turned you in to that animal? Wasn’t picking on you, or your choice of flora, just stating a concern for mine.

        Those hats smell that bad on manufacture, or after wearing? If it were mine, would be after.

        Koch can do a much better job of handling that waste. Then they might become more friendly and better neighbors. Interesting the choice of location, eh? Which way the wind blows?

      • Koch have got the pile in an industrial location near river transport. Perfectly fine, unless there are details left out of the report, and it is doubtful the report would leave out information damaging to Koch, luvviedom’s favourite nemesis.

        The NYT times flourish about the view from some park across the river is a typical bit of NYT spin. Just don’t read the silly bloody rag.

        Btw, I lived near a coal loader on Sydney Harbour, in clear view of the skyline and Harbour Bridge. Loved the smell when they wetted the pile on hot days. One could still fish and kayak around it. Memories!

      • Moso,

        Still not for me, thanks: http://www.eclectablog.com/2013/12/petcoke-from-canadian-tar-sands-piling-up-in-another-urban-us-city-chicago.html

        and it’s all about the money (from the article above): “Petcoke from Koch brothers operations is becoming the environmental issue of our generation. When it’s burned, it releases more carbon and sulfur than coal. However, because it’s cheaper than natural gas, it’s highly profitable for Big Oil companies. As I reported yesterday, the influx of higher amounts of tar sands bitumen into the Midwest will increase the amount of petroleum crude that is transported on the Great Lakes — the world’s largest reserve of fresh water. An all of that new processing capability means more petcoke piles and their toxic dust clouds along the shores of the Great Lakes, typically in urban areas inhabited by poor people who lack political clout to stop it from happening.”

        Political clout and all………….

      • It’s used as fuel, and it’s sold for money? Amazing! And I guess some people get jobs and power as a result? Or have the infernal Kochs found a way to turn product to money without providing anybody with anything in exchange?

        Mind you, any improvements to storage and transport of such products are welcome. I’m not here to help Koch or anybody cut corners. Coal and coke will be with us for a long time so regulation and investment for better handling can’t go amiss. But consider: I am now communicating with you via a wireless tower which has greatly improved our lives in this bush neighbourhood. Would you believe that the locals went up in arms last year to stop the tower they now would not be without even for one evening of outage? (It was the usual tripe about visual pollution, effects on organic gardens, cancer, greed etc. Now they complain via the tower about other naughty things the “greedy” are doing to us.)

        It’s called industry. It employs. It provides. Detroit exists because of it. It has an underside. It leaves smudges. People – unions, employers, politicians – play the game with a very hard ball and cheat quite a bit. I’m all for firmer referees…but I’m also all for the game.

      • Moso,

        Really? “Mind you, any improvements to storage and transport of such products are welcome. I’m not here to help Koch or anybody cut corners.”

        But that’s exactly what they’re doing and what (it appears) you’re sanctioning? Look at the location of that pile, it’s very important.

        Jobs, yes! At what cost is also important? I too, am ‘all for the game’ but making ‘the rules’ financially beneficial at the cost of lives I’m not. And I do not (chose to) believe you do either. Koch’s are not our friends (in this instance). This in an ‘underside’ we should not sanction in any form or fashion. Bamboo be damned. Your ‘animal’ should be chomping at the bit here. Cheating is not acceptable and the referee’s (here in the U.S.) would surely hold up the red card. http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php/Fly_ash_management_and_use_in_the_United_States

        Industry does provide and employ. But here, it takes more than it gives if it takes even one.

        All I’m asking is that we call the game fairly, and this is an area which cries out for fairness. The wireless tower is a side show.

        We cannot allow this.

      • Well, Danny, time for you to look about your house and find, amongst all the plastic and metal and chemicals and synthetics and food and tech, the “nice” products. And let’s hope those few nice products weren’t rolled down a highway or over an ocean by means of diesel, danger and human stress. Me, I’ll settle for shortening the downside without making the likes of Erin Brokovich any richer. But, yes, I can see how people get naughty without supervision and penalty. So supervise.

        Meanwhile, free of windy day photo ops:
        https://www.totalsafety.com/handling-petroleum-coke-in-a-safe-and-healthful-manner/

      • Moso,

        I do indeed. And on a regular basis. http://www.nature.org/greenliving/carboncalculator/

        The question remains as to need w/r/t that.

        I assure you my footprint is much less than the Koch’s, and very likely much less than yours.
        But here again, this is a side show. Hopefully, our interaction here is an indication of ‘supervision’ in which I’m not inclined to accept the actions of those above named. And my hope is that your sanctioning (if indeed you are) their ‘friendship’ points that very mirror your direction. Please say it ain’t so. They are not your friends after all, when behavior is such as this.

        I respect your views (many of them……but this is not one). Were they to ‘handle petroleum coke’ in the responsible manner discussed in your offering this conversation would be different. But they are not, as evidenced by the links indicating otherwise. So, please supervise and referee with the red card.

      • A small point, Danny. Unlikely your “footprint” is less than mine.

        I spent ten years , almost to the day, walking to work and shops (for economy, health and travel, not to be green). My acreage of the world champion carbon muncher – moso! – would thus put me well into negative (not that I’d care).

        When a man is cultivating a plant which can grow from the ground to a hundred feet in seven weeks he can be a bit touchy about footprint claims.
        https://mosomoso.wordpress.com/2011/11/06/big-spring/

      • Moso,
        358 s.f. of structure. No land except that which is borrowed/rented. No plants (at this time except which planted previously) of my own. Lifestyle choices also. But w/o an actual number, no capability of comparison. Based on the calculator, we’re at about 32 tons/CO2 vs. U.S. avg. of 53 and world of 11. We do use electricity (hence this communication) and diesel. You suggested yours would be negative. Having no alternative can only offer the calculator provided as a standard.

        No flying, about 10k miles of driving/year, 1 bedroom, eaters of meat, and persistent recyclers.

        Never knew, until today, about moso bamboo! No need for touchiness, just find we’re much less impactfull than most and it comes with surprise when we find out otherwise. Hats off should it be the case, but negative is more than doubtful.

      • Moso,

        The key from your link: “In summary, petroleum coke is an economically important recycled material which can be managed in a safe and healthful manner when the associated hazards are anticipated, recognized, evaluated and controlled in a systematic program.”

        Yea, but……..

  29. “The most important conclusion is that to decarbonise the system it is essential to have a significant amount of generating capacity which is both low carbon and firm. In the UK there are only three technologies able to offer this, nuclear, biomass and fossil-CCS.”
    CCS involves producing more carbon dioxide as one has to have enough energy to run the capture and storage systems.
    Hiding the carbon does not disguise the fact that you produced it in the first place.
    At the end of the day when all the fossil fuel easily available has gone every bit used in carbon storage will have been wasted.

  30. It could be a good solution for the UK (if we are only talking economics and don’t worry about other risks) but the UK energy sector is tiny part of the world’s.

    People thought it was smart for Iran to have nuclear reactors also:

    http://s61.photobucket.com/user/Tiktaalik/media/Shah-the-Friend-of-Atomic-Energy_zpsarhuiziy.jpg.html

    Narrow post relevant for UK economics wonkdom and not world energy policy.

  31. Here’s another study at the nuclear-climate nexus:

    http://globalnexusinitiative.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/12/GNI-Policy-Memo-1.pdf

    “”Potentially, nuclear power can expand its contribution to climate goals and energy needs through advanced technologies that promise smaller, cheaper, safer, and proliferation resistant reactors. However, these next generation nuclear technologies currently are in development with potentially long lead times before they will be ready for deployment. They also will need to demonstrate safety and nonproliferation advances, decreased construction costs, and regulatory and public acceptance…. If nuclear power is going to continue to make a significant contribution to limiting CO2e emissions, it must be safe, secure, protected from misuse, and supported by the public. “

    • ybutt,

      They could break ground on small modular reactors tomorrow. At least one of the designs is based off of the current US Naval submarine reactor design.The issues preventing that are not technological. They are regulatory and political.

  32. It appears oil won’t supply a tail wind to other forms of energy this year.

  33. There’s a new high-carbon tech for solving low-carbon tech problems. The Swedes (it’s always those very correct Scandos, isn’t it?) have worked out a way to de-ice frozen wind turbines. It involves helicopters going back and forth, 850 L of boiling water per load, trucks with oil burners…and lots of money.

    Another solution is to have a power pack for heating in each turbine. I dare say the power is provided by good old fossil fuel…but no amount of waste or carbon is too much when one is serving Green Blob.

    Of course, as the waste gets soaked up in the confusing to-and-fro of Northern European energy exchanges nobody will notice it. It will get lost in the figures. And more figures will show the triumph of wind and solar, just as surely as there will soon be figures to show we have had the hottest year evah.

    The reason to consider nukes is that France needed power, tried nukes and they did not suck. They did not suck on paper, they did not suck in practice. Decarbonization be buggered.

  34. What is the Price-Anderson Nuclear Industries Indemnity Act?

    Excerpt from U.S.NRC Backgrounder on Nuclear Insurance and Disaster Relief :

    The Price-Anderson Act became law on September 2, 1957, to cover liability claims of members of the public for personal injury and property damage caused by a nuclear accident involving a commercial nuclear power plant. The legislation helped encourage private investment in commercial nuclear power by placing a cap, or ceiling, on the total amount of liability each nuclear power plant licensee faced in the event of an accident. Over time, the “limit of liability” for a nuclear accident has increased the insurance pool to more than $12 billion.

    Currently, owners of nuclear power plants pay an annual premium for $375 million in private insurance for offsite liability coverage for each reactor site (not per reactor). This primary, or first tier, insurance is supplemented by a second tier. In the event a nuclear accident causes damages in excess of $375 million, each licensee would be assessed a prorated share of the excess, up to $121.255 million per reactor. With 104 reactors currently in the insurance pool, this secondary tier of funds contains about $12.6 billion. If 15 percent of these funds are expended, prioritization of the remaining amount would be left to a federal district court. If the second tier is depleted, Congress is committed to determine whether additional disaster relief is required.

    Continue reading: NRC ‘Backgrounder on Nuclear Insurance and Disaster Relief‘: http://www.nrc.gov/reading-rm/doc-collections/fact-sheets/nuclear-insurance.html

    Who should be responsible for managing risks?

    The public carries a large part of the risk of accidents for all industries. It carries most of the risk from pollution from coal, gas, vehicles, from hydro dam failures, and from chemical plant and road accidents because the costs are paid through the healthcare and hospital systems and the fatalities are costs to the family and to the whole economy.

    Risk management best practice is to assign responsibility for managing risk to the party best able to manage it. In the case of nuclear power, much of the risk of accidents should be managed by the government using public funds because the government requires hugely costly response measures, such as evacuation and clean up after an accident. Most of the required response is not justifiable on objective evidence of health risk (e.g. accidents by other industries that cause much worse health consequences are not treated comparably to nuclear accidents; the cost of a nuclear accident per fatality or health impact is orders of magnitude higher than for other industries).

    The public carries a large part of the risk for all industries. The same should be the case for nuclear, otherwise it would be even more disadvantaged than it is already.

    Who should pay for public disruption and vexatious litigation?

    If the public unjustifiably delays construction and forces plants to be closed, the public should pay for the financial consequences, not the investors. Otherwise the investment risk is too high to attract investors. Because responsibility for public disruptions is not clearly assigned to the government, anti-nuclear activists seize the opportunity to disrupt operations at every opportunity. It’s been a tactic of the anti-nuclear activists for decades.

    The subsidies for renewables, per unit of electricity supplied, are orders of magnitude higher than for nuclear. Without those subsidies there’d be no renewables.

    If not for the massive impediments imposed on nuclear power, caused by 50 years of anti-nuke propaganda and disinformation, nuclear would be far cheaper than it is.

    If the same subsidies were given to nuclear, and nuclear was ‘must take’ as is often the case with renewables, there’d be no renewables and nuclear would be experiencing the growth rates it experienced in the 1970s and 80s.

    • Peter,

      I’m taking bets that ybutt doubles down on st00pid and keeps running out his P-A is a huge subsidy line.

      I’m beginning to think ybutt is short for “why do I keep getting my butt kicked?”

  35. Price-Anderson Act, subsidy or impediment to nuclear?

    It is often stated that the US ‘Price Anderson Act’ is an unfair subsidy to the nuclear power industry and nuclear would not survive without it.

    This is disingenuous. Equally it could be argued only nuclear would survive if all technologies had to insure for the fatalities they cause. To understand this let’s estimate how much would society need to subsidise nuclear, or penalize other electricity generators, to equalize the compensation costs so all technologies pay for the fatalities they cause? Viewed another way, how much would we need to subsidise nuclear to reward the comparatively higher safety of nuclear power?

    A rough calculation suggests we should subsidise nuclear by $140/MWh to substitute for coal-fired generation and $37/MWh to substitute for gas fired generation in the USA (it’s different in each country). In that case, consumers should be paid around $50/MWh to consume nuclear generated electricity – “nuclear too cheap to meter” would be correct, except it would have to be metered to pay the subsidies to the consumers. :)

    Inputs used for the estimate:

    1. Value of a Statistical Life (VSL) in USA = $9.4 million (2015, https://www.transportation.gov/sites/dot.gov/files/docs/VSL2015_0.pdf )

    2. Fatalities per TWh (Source Forbes http://nextbigfuture.com/2012/06/deaths-by-energy-source-in-forbes.html )

    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, world avg. = 1.4 (15% global electricity)
    Nuclear, world avg. = 0.09 (12% global electricity w/Chern&Fukush)

    3. USA Electricity generation per technology in 2014 (source EIA), TWh https://www.eia.gov/electricity/monthly/epm_table_grapher.cfm?t=epmt_1_1

    Coal = 1,581,710
    Natural gas = 1,126,609
    Nuclear = 797,166
    Hydro = 259,367
    Solar = 17,691
    Other renewables = 261,522

    Results:

    If each technology was required to pay insurance or compensation for the annual cost of fatalities caused by that technology, the amounts they would have to pay per MWh are:

    Technology $/MWh
    Coal 141
    Natural gas 38
    Hydro 13
    Solar 4
    Nuclear 1

    Or, if each technology is not penalized for the fatalities it causes, society should subsidise nuclear $140/MWh to substitute for coal and 37/MWh to substitute for natural gas generation.

  36. Thank you all for your comments and discussion. I am following but wanting to mostly stay focused on discussions about the ERP report and especially the main Key Point I drew from the report, i.e.:

    given the inputs used, the ERP analysis shows that all or mostly nuclear is likely to be the least cost generator technology option for achieving deep decarbonsisation of the GB electricity system, e.g. to meet the 100 g/kWh and 50 g/kWh targets.

    Thank you to all the highly knowledgeable contributors answering the many comments and questions which are certainly of great interest but not the subject of this post.

  37. Peter this was an excellent article, on an extremely important subject and your follow up comments especially the last few are superb.

  38. No occurence of the word “pause” in this thread.

    Interesting.

  39. Would like to respond, so sorry for spoiling this thread with a noobie question first: how do you add formatting and pictures? Andy Boston

    • Formatting is done in native HTML, a description of the allowed tags is here (I think). To add a picture, it must be a native image format (e.g. .JPEG, .TIF), just go to a new line (return key) and enter it by itself.

      The HTML “<p>” (New para) and similar tags are stripped out, but any time you return in the comment box it puts a “<br>” tag in place of it, and a double return gets a “<p>” (AFAIK).

      I normally test my comment before entering it, a good resource is here. This requires some workarounds, especially for new paragraphs what I do is double return then put in a “<p>” tag at the beginning of the new line. This allows the result to look the same in both the tester and when it’s posted.

    • Andy,

      Simply past the UTL for the figure in a separate line. The URL must end in “.png” or something like that. It must be on a line on its own with nothing else in the line.

      • First sentence with typos corrected:

        “Simply paste the URL for the figure in a separate line.”

    • Andy,

      If you are intending to post the bottom part of Figure 14, could I urge you to please read “Why carbon pricing will not succeed” http://anglejournal.com/article/2015-11-why-carbon-pricing-will-not-succeed/ before you do. Advocating for carbon prices of £70/tonne, £100/tonne and £140/tonne is likely to divert the discussion here away from debating the relevant and important results of the ERP analysis to one about beliefs and advocacy for high energy prices.. Raising the cost of energy is the wrong approach and almost certainly will not succeed.

  40. I don’t agree with this but the following just appeared in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists:

    http://thebulletin.org/commentary/role-and-responsibility-nuclear-energy-after-paris9094

    • So where does this factoid come from?

      “Second, by mid-century, developing nations will likely be the largest community of nuclear operators.”

      Amazing what good arguments you can come up with when you start by making stuff up.

    • BTW – continually linking to partisan, anti-nuclear organizations is what can be referred to as a “tell”.

  41. Responses to points raised in ‘Comment from ERP’

    Andy Boston, Head of the ERP Analysis Team, made several points in his comment attached at the end of the post. I have a different interpretation of some of the results published in the report. Below are my responses.

    Andy Boston’s first point, in a nut-shell, says:

    The analysis undertaken by ERP was based on a particular forecast of costs used by DECC. The point of the work was not to determine the cheapest option for decarbonising the UK but to look at what affects the value of technologies to the system, therefore no other cost scenarios were presented.

    Understood. However, this is what is normally done. Options analyses normally use inputs from one (or a small number) of studies; it is important all the studies used the same assumptions and estimating methods for all the technologies being compared. The ERP analysis used inputs from what was presumably regarded as the most authoritative and suitable study available at the time. Therefore, it seems reasonable to draw conclusions from the results presented in the ERP report, such as Figure 14 and the numbers I presented in the table which I interpreted from Figures, 5, 6 and 11. The conclusion I’ve drawn from these – i.e., that all or mostly nuclear power would be the cheapest way to decarbonize the GB electricity system – although not what the study set out to examine does seem to be a reasonable conclusion to draw from the results presented in the ERP report.

    Second:

    The most important conclusion is that to decarbonise the system it is essential to have a significant amount of generating capacity which is both low carbon and firm. In the UK there are only three technologies able to offer this, nuclear, biomass and fossil-CCS. Weather dependent renewables like wind and PV are not able to provide firm output unless coupled with an infeasibly large volume of storage so are not competing for this role.

    Understood. This is recognised and accepted, including I expect by many Climate Etc. followers thanks to previous informative posts by Planning Engineer. I didn’t highlight this most important conclusion from the ERP analysis because I could not do justice to the report in a post so I focused on one important conclusion that I believe the ERP analysis demonstrates – i.e. given the inputs used, the ERP analysis shows that all or mostly nuclear is likely to be the least cost generator technology option for achieving deep decarbonisation of the GB electricity system, e.g. to meet the 100 g/kWh and 50 g/kWh targets. I encourage readers to read the ERP report.

    Third:

    Other systems may have additional options such as solar thermal, hydro, or geothermal, or may have access to large volumes of storage, so it is difficult to translate these results directly to them without careful consideration of these.

    Understood and agreed.

    Fourth:

    We do not say that wind, marine and CCS are expensive and ineffective.
    According to the input data we used it is true that marine is expensive, but wind can provide significant volumes of low carbon generation before its value to the system declines, and CCS is an important option for providing flexibility as well as firm capacity and energy.

    The response to this important point is in the update at the end of the post. I think we have a difference of interpretation of the results, not a disagreement about the results.

    Fifth:

    Using DECC’s cost estimates the differences in economic value to the system between the key options examined (nuclear, gas-CCS and onshore wind) are much smaller than the margin of error estimating those costs. Therefore it’s difficult to claim any one of these is the optimal solution to progress grid decarbonisation.

    On the evidence available to policy-makers, the nuclear option is likely to be the least cost for greatest benefit. Other options are more likely than not to be higher cost and less benefit. Therefore, policies to progress nuclear are where most of the effort should be focused, especially by politicians and advocates concerned about reducing CO2 emissions.

    Perhaps the greatest uncertainty is whether a technology will be able to meet the requirements of the electricity system and supply a large proportion of the electricity, economically, in the future such as in 2030 and 2050. Nuclear has been demonstrating it can do what’s required for decades. However, the weather-dependent renewables and CCS have not demonstrated they can.

    Below is one simple estimate of the Expected Monetary Value (EMV) of the risk that weather dependent renewables will not be able to provide a large proportion of global electricity supply by 2050 and therefore not able to achieve the hoped for decarbonisation of electricity. The risk that nuclear will not be able to is also estimates for comparison.

    Risk of failure to meet requirements:

    What is the risk renewable energy technologies will not be capable of supplying 50% of electricity economically by 2050?

    Risk = Consequence x probability

    Consequence = Social Cost of Carbon (SCC) of the emissions not avoided by the technology. Assume the projected carbon price is equivalent to SCC. Weighted average carbon price to 2050 (from Australian Treasury 2013 projections) is $60/tonne. Average projected Australian emissions intensity (for delivered electricity) in the absence of abatement is about 1 t/MWh. Therefore, average carbon cost would be about $60/MWh.

    Probability:
    Nuclear has already proven it can (e.g., France and other countries for past 30 years), so say 5% probability nuclear cannot in 2050.

    Renewables have not demonstrated they can, EROEI suggests they cannot, many practitioners say they cannot; therefore, assume 90% probability they cannot.

    Renewables, risk of failure = $60/MWh x 90% = $54/MWh
    c.f. Nuclear, risk of failure = $60/MWh x 5% = $3/MWh

    [This is the estimate for the case where renewables do not increase their share of global electricity generation by 2050 above what it is now; it’s just an example].

  42. AK thanks for the formatting 101 – very useful – and Peter, thanks for the endorsement to read the report! On your points:

    “I am not convinced biomass can make a large contribution to GB electricity supply, let alone to global electricity supply, as electricity demand continues to increase throughout this century. I am not sure how long GB will be able to rely on USA to chop down its trees to power GB’s biomass electricity generation.”

    I do think that long term the availability of fuel will be limited. At the moment the UK seems to have cornered the market in international biomass trade and as other countries also seek to decarbonise they will be competing for shipments too. So importing is a short to medium term solution. To correct the above I understand no more US trees are being chopped down but the pellets are all made from thinnings and trimmings – not whole trees. The role of biomass I suspect will continue as a mid merit provider of flexibility services rather than baseload. The Energy Technologies Institute has done a study on biomass availability in the UK and it is quite positive, home grown biomass meeting up to 10% of UK energy needs and when combined with CCS giving a net credit of 55Mt p.a.

    “We don’t have evidence it [CCS] can become viable at the scale needed to sequester a large proportion of global fossil fueled electricity generation. It may have limited capacity…”

    This is why it is so important we get some demonstrations up and running ASAP. The signs are good – the capture process is not new, nor is pumping CO2 down an oil well. In particular it seems likely the UK is in a good position regarding storage with old hydrocarbon reservoirs already well characterised and large saline aquifers under the North Sea. There’s another ERP report on linking CCS to Enhanced Oil Recovery which is also possible although timescales are tight.

    One thing not mentioned so far is the importance of diversity in improving security. Even if nuclear were the obvious choice it would be unwise to be reliant on one primary energy source. We learnt that in the miners’ strikes of the 70’s and 80’s!

    Carbon pricing and energy price: Any form of decarbonisation (including nuclear) is going to cost. An unrestrained market would build unabated coal or gas as they are so much cheaper and quicker to build than any other form of generation and they deliver all of the required services on top of energy. A well structured carbon market should deliver the most economic way to decarbonise. Many carbon markets exist already (including in the USA) so there is nothing new. Adam Whitmore writes well about the growing coverage of Carbon trading illustrated here, so I don’t think they are doomed to fail and evidence points the other way.

    Inevitably energy prices will have to rise to pay for abatement, but to date we have used energy profligately and inefficiently because it has been too cheap and undervalued. A higher price will encourage efficiency improvements that reduce the cost to the consumer of delivering the services they need, i.e. prices go up and costs can come down for the same level of service provision. E.g. we have demonstrated this in the motor industry where tailpipe emissions per mile have dropped by a 1/3 since 1990 and easily have a similar amount to go. Electrical appliance efficiencies have a good margin for improvement and lighting appliances have made great strides. But I would agree that an effective price needs global agreement to avoid carbon leakage, and that is why Paris was so important.

    I will pick up comments from others in a later post

    Andy

    • Making coal power more efficient and making it more expensive are two different things. The first and best way to decarb (not that I care about that) is to stop wasting coal by burning it in clunkers.

      In Australia we have the inevitable fashionable rejection of coal along with the inevitable complete dependence on coal. (The fashionable acceptance of nukes and hydro is conditional on nobody making any nukes or hydro.) Big Oil, more than happy to sell gas for “bridging” to nowhere, is more than happy to join the jihad against coal.

      We will continue to depend on coal, though we will burden it as much as possible, treat it like the old servant who does all the work but isn’t allowed through the main entrance, and rhapsodise about anything which isn’t coal and hasn’t performed. (So easy to like that newly opened boutique that’s yet to turn a dollar!).

      Fact: Australian coal will continue to be an enormous cash cow and our economy’s heavy lifter. But, like Leo di Caprio’s New Years Eve jet trails, our Green Betters will just elect not to notice that. (To distinguish what they want from what they say they want, observe what the Posh People do immediately AFTER Earth Hour.)

      I suppose the appalling waste of coal by failing to modernise can be balanced against the fact that there will be more carbon to tax, offset, sequester and generally complain about. But that’s only good if you’re not interested in products which are actually products. (My bank thinks a slightly different savings account with a new colour card is a “product”.)

      I’m not sure that Big Green will have the same clout in ten years’ time. But can we wait? Failing to update and modernise one’s most critical resource and industry is no way to run a civilisation.

      By the way, the change won’t come from that altogether free and altogether rigged “market”, which is now the new darling mechanism of the educated left. Like when Messmer decided to send France nuclear, Australia’s coal modernisation needs to happen now and by law, regulation and executive decision. Because a coal and mineral rich country which can’t even afford to run a smelter needs a fast change. Call it an Energiewende, but this one won’t involve an undignified scramble back to coal after zillions are squandered on white elephants.

    • Andy,

      Thank you for your replies. They seem to be more about advocacy for CCS, renewables and carbon pricing than about discussing the key point that the results presented in the ERP report seem to demonstrate, i.e.:

      Given the inputs used, the ERP analysis shows that all or mostly nuclear is likely to be the least cost generator technology option for achieving deep decarbonsisation of the GB electricity system, e.g. to meet the 100 g/kWh and 50 g/kWh targets.

      On your responses to my points:

      I do think that long term the availability of [biomass] fuel will be limited. … The Energy Technologies Institute has done a study on biomass availability in the UK and it is quite positive, home grown biomass meeting up to 10% of UK energy needs and when combined with CCS giving a net credit of 55Mt p.a.

      There are thousands of reports and analyses done on this, that and the other by various organisations, many of them advocating for this, that or the other. That doesn’t mean such reports are credible. The CSIRO and many other organisations and consultants have been contracted to do similar analyses for Australia. CSIRO was contracted to estimate the biomass resource available for a study of the viability of 100% renewable electricity for Australia. The CSIRO report was ‘very positive’ too, but did not consider logistics. Take logistics into account and biomass becomes a small contributor. The point I am making is that we need very good evidence that the advocated system is viable at the scale that will be required. We do not have that for biomass (or for other renewables, CCS or energy storage).

      If home grown biomass can supply fuel for only ‘up to 10%’ of GB electricity demand, then it is very limited. It means biomass can make only a small contribution to meeting GB’s ever growing electricity demand in future and even less globally.

      This is why it is so important we get some [CCS] demonstrations up and running ASAP.

      It takes decades to get from the demonstration stage to commercially competitive. CCS is not commercially viable and projections of storage capacity and leakage over the long term at the scale required are not demonstrated; they may never be. I am familiar with the progress (and lack of progress). When providing policy recommendations for technologies that are not yet commercially viable it is important to understand and explain the likely timeframes and schedule risk. It takes decades to get from the pre-‘bleeding edge’ stage of the technology life cycle, where CCS is now at, to commercially competitive. The lack of progress with Engineered Geothermal Systems (EGS) technologies is an example of what could very well happen with CCS too. Don’t bet on CCS.

      The results in your report show clearly the generator technology option that can make the greatest contribution. It has been demonstrating its capability to do the job for decades. Why are you avoiding advocating for what the results in your own report show is the least-cost way to decarbonize, i.e. nuclear?

      Carbon pricing and energy price: Any form of decarbonisation (including nuclear) is going to cost.

      Without getting into a pedantic debate about how much cost, I argue that your statement is not necessarily true (over the relevant time scales). But if it is true, decarbonisation will proceed slowly or fail completely. Only ‘no regrets’ policies will succeed (i.e. policies for which benefits exceed costs in the short and medium term irrespective of any hypothetical benefit of reduced climate damages). I responded to your comment on carbon pricing and sent you the link to this: ‘Why carbon pricing will not succeedhttp://anglejournal.com/article/2015-11-why-carbon-pricing-will-not-succeed/ . There is no point us discussing carbon pricing until you have read that and responded to it. I am well aware of the arguments made by the advocates of carbon pricing (in its various forms) as well as the political, international trade and diplomacy realities; I’ve been involved and following it since 1992 (e.g. ‘Tradeable Emissions Permit Scheme’ Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics (ABARE) Research Report 93.5). In this UN Survey, http://data.myworld2015.org/ climate change ranks last of the issues people are concerned about (9.7 million people have voted so far). Probably less than 1% of the world population (less than 73 million people) would support policies to reduce GHG emissions if those polices would make them worse off, which increasing the cost of energy would.

      An unrestrained market would build unabated coal or gas …

      In the near term, yes, but not necessarily true in the longer term – e.g., if low emissions technologies are allowed to become cheaper than fossil fuel technologies. This can be achieved, and inevitably will be eventually. To achieve it, policy needs to focus on removing the impediments that have built up on nuclear over the past 5 decades or so (see my reply to your earlier comment here: https://judithcurry.com/2016/01/19/is-nuclear-the-cheapest-way-to-decarbonize-electricity/#comment-759084 ). The impediments imposed on nuclear have increased the cost of nuclear by a factor of four up to 1990 (Bernard Cohen “Cost of Nuclear Power Plants – What Went Wronghttp://www.phyast.pitt.edu/~blc/book/chapter9.html , and probably doubled the impost since 1990.

      Regarding your last paragraph about energy prices, I disagree. However, this is not the subject of this post which is:

      Given the inputs used, the ERP analysis shows that all or mostly nuclear is likely to be the least cost generator technology option for achieving deep decarbonisation of the GB electricity system, e.g. to meet the 100 g/kWh and 50 g/kWh targets.

    • Andy,

      Regarding policy advocacy, I urge those who are concerned about cutting global GHG emissions to stop advocating for polices that have little chance of success in the real world. They’ve been advocating for politically unachievable and unstainable policies for more than 25 years and making negligible progress in achieving their stated goals. Some of the worst policies they’ve been advocating are:

      1. Opposing nuclear power – this has had the greatest negative impact on decarbonisation of all

      2. Advocating for renewable energy – can make only a minor contribution to reducing global GHG emissions, therefor is a massive waste of money, resources and time

      3. Advocating for command and control policies such as legally binding international agreements, targets and timetables and carbon pricing

      Advocating for bad policies that have negligible chance of succeeding given real world realities is delaying progress to achieve their stated aims.

      If they want to reduce global GHG emissions at the fastest possible rate, they should advocate for removing the impediments to nuclear power for starters.

      I suggest ERP should be taking a leadership role in advocating for policies that are likely to succeed and be sustainable for the long term. You’ve done an excellent analysis and written an excellent report, but seem to be dead-batting, downplaying or even denying a very important, policy relevant result:

      all or mostly nuclear is likely to be the least cost generator technology option for achieving deep decarbonisation of the GB electricity system, e.g. to meet the 100 g/kWh and 50 g/kWh targets.

  43. Are they still talking about CCS, without addressing the dangers?

    If there is a well blow-out of a CCS system, similar to the Gulf of Mexico well blow-out, every town or community within 50 km would be threatened with asphyxiation. So where is the discussion about the Lake Nyos scenario? Or are the Greens merely ignoring reality once more?

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lake_Nyos#1986_disaster

  44. For those asking about small reactors designs, this news just in:

    “USA funds two small innovative reactor designs

    The US Department of Energy (DOE) is offering $80 million over several years as Gateway for Accelerated Innovation in Nuclear (GAIN) grants to fund the development of two small innovative reactor designs, from X-energy and Southern Co. In 2012 the DOE allocated over $100 million to B&W with Bechtel for its small reactor project, the 180 MWe mPower integral PWR design, but the company then shelved it. Then in 2013 DOE granted up to $217 million to NuScale with Fluor for its 50 MWe integral PWR, which currently seems the most active US small reactor project. NuScale also has its sights on establishing the design in the UK, with confirmation that it can run on mixed oxide (MOX) fuel adding to its credentials there. The British government is trying to work out what to do with over 100 tonnes of plutonium recovered from used fuel over several decades. A 12-module NuScale plant (600 MWe) would burn it in about 40 years.

    X-energy is designing the Xe-100 pebble bed high-temperature gas-cooled reactor of 48 MWe, and plans to apply for US design certification next year. A 1000-MW X-Energy plant would consist of five 200-MWe “four-packs” of reactor modules, with each four-pack costing about $1 billion. The company has been in discussion with several utilities, including South Carolina Electricity & Gas (SCEG), regarding replacing coal-fired capacity with the “four pack” installations. X-energy is working in partnership with others including BWX Technology, Idaho National Laboratory (INL), and Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) on the design.

    The established utility Southern Co is developing a Molten Chloride Fast Reactor (MCFR) with TerraPower, Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) and Vanderbilt University. No details are available except that fuel is in the salt, and as a fast reactor it can burn U-238, actinides and thorium as well as used light water reactor fuel, requiring no enrichment apart from initial fuel load. Only one other reactor design is using chloride salts, most molten salt reactor designs use fluorides but are not fast neutron reactors. This design, and to a lesser extent the Xe-100, are further from demonstration than anything DOE has previously supported.”
    WNN 18 & 21/1/16. Small reactors http://www.world-nuclear.org/info/Nuclear-Fuel-Cycle/Power-Reactors/Small-Nuclear-Power-Reactors/

  45. Re: timeline for hybrid technology.
    Peter,
    We think full development is 10 or so years out, but the “long-pole-n-the-tent” is not the reactor.
    The reactor builds on technology developed in Japan and is straight forward – however it does depart from the DOE’s fixation for high-temperatures, opting instead for more uniform fuel temperatures.

    The helium turbo-compressor will take most of the development time, although from a technology viewpoint, the machine is pretty mundane(temperatures are actually quite low relative to a combustion turbine).

    The hybrid’s combustion turbine is also pretty straightforward as the heart of the machine (combustors) are virtually identical to those of existing machines. The difference lies with much cooler air available for cooling blades and nozzles.

    The hybrid marries fossil and nuclear energy with these technologies being basically kind of like cats-and-dogs, most particularly within the DOE. Therein lies the rub, with the technology actually being readily easily to build.
    Regards,
    Mike

    • Mike Keller,

      Thanks you for this. But doesn’t answer my question. From your response, I’d suggest decades to sufficiently demonstrated to be viewed as commercially competitive by utilities considering options for new capacity. But that is the same situation for all the new technologies, so you and the other fifty groups in US developing innovative new nuclear technologies are in a race.
      “The Advance Nuclear Industry” http://www.thirdway.org/report/the-advanced-nuclear-industry

      • The development of the hybrid is not really a technical, economic, safety or regulatory problem as the technology builds on and significantly improves upon features of what is in use today. That cannot be said for most of the proposed “new” innovations which are actually retreads of approaches pursued in the early days of nuclear power. These earlier approaches generally had numerous fatal flaws of one type or the other, which is why they never made it to the marketplace. The hybrid is a completely new nuclear innovation, as attested to by the patents.

        Back to your question. Technically, the hybrid could probably be deployed in five or so years, including licensing. However, that can only occur if the approach attracts investors. Attempting to put a time frame on that is more or less impossible, particularly given the obstacles largely created by the government (not the NRC, but rather the politics of the current regime in Washington).

        As far as all the “contestants” in the “race”, if they are not a significant economic improvement over today’s machines (basically the combined-cycle gas turbine using low-cost natural gas), then they should not be adopted. I would put the hybrid in that category as well, by the way.

        Based on the DOE’s dismal track record, the latest “winners” will never make it to the market because their production costs will be well above the market price for power. The only way to get around that is to “subsidize” the “new” nuclear technology, which means the ratepayer and taxpayers once again fleeced. I absolutely do not support such an approach, being fine with competing in the marketplace.

        I further predict the “de-carbonization” of the power markets will recede into the scrap heap of ideas driven by fads as opposed to actual need.

      • I agree with your last sentence. The priority is, and always will be, energy for everyone on the planet and at least cost. Therefore, those arguing for decarbonisation need to advocate for policies that will make low emissions technologies cheaper than high emissions technologies. If they don’t do that, the policies they advocate will continue to fail as they have been doing for the past 30 years or so.

  46. Not so good at predictin’ but,
    clever humans, so good at
    adaptin’ ‘n innovation,
    given half a chance.

  47. Nuclear power is the cheapest and fastest way to substantially secarbonise electricity

    Here I provide an outline in brief of the relevant points and argument explaining: 1) the main requirements an energy system has to meet, and 2) why nuclear power is superior to renewables at meeting all these main requirements.

    1 Energy supply requirements

    The most important requirements for energy supply are:

    1. Energy security – refers to the long term; it is especially relevant for extended periods of economic and trade disputes or military disruptions that could threaten energy supply, e.g. 1970’s oil crises [1], world wars, Russia cuts off gas supplies to Europe.

    2. Reliability of supply – over periods of minutes, hours, days, weeks – e.g. NE USA and Canada 1965 and 2003[2])

    3. Low cost energy – energy is a fundamental input to everything humans have; if we increase the cost of energy we retard the rate of improvement of human well-being.

    Policies must deliver the above three essential requirements. Lower priority requirements are:

    4. Health and safety

    5. Environmentally benign

    1.1 Why health and safety and environmental impacts are lower priority requirements than energy security, reliability and cost

    This ranking of the criteria is what consumers demonstrate in their choices. They’d prefer to have dirty energy than no energy. It’s that simple. Furthermore, electricity is orders of magnitude safer and healthier than burning dung for cooking and heating inside a hut. The choice is clear. The order of the criteria is demonstrated all over the world and has been for thousands of years – any energy is better than no energy.

    2 Nuclear better than renewables

    Nuclear power is better than renewable energy in all the important criteria. Renewable energy cannot be justified, on a rational basis, to be a major component of the electricity system. Here are some reasons why:

    1. Nuclear power has proven it can supply over 75% of the electricity in a large modern industrial economy – France has been doing so for over 30 years.

    2. Nuclear power is substantially cheaper than renewables (at medium to high penetration)

    3. Nuclear power is the safest way to generate electricity; it causes the least fatalities per unit of electricity supplied.

    4. Nuclear power has less environmental impact than renewables.

    5. ERoEI of Gen 3 nuclear is ~75 whereas renewables are around 1 to 9. An ERoEI of around 7 to 14 is needed to support modern society. Only Nuclear, fossil fuels and hydro meet that requirement.

    6. Material requirements per unit of electricity supplied through life for nuclear power are about 1/10th those of renewables

    7. Land area required for nuclear power is very much less than renewables per unit of electricity supplied through life

    8. Nuclear power requires less expensive transmission (shorter distances and smaller transmission capacity in total because the transmission system capacity needs to be sufficient for maximum output but intermittent renewables average around 10% to 40% capacity factor whereas nuclear averages around 80% to 90%).

    9. Nuclear fuel is effectively unlimited.

    10. Nuclear fuel requires a minimal amount of space for storage. Many years of nuclear fuel supply can be stored in a warehouse. This has two major benefits:

    • Energy security – it means that countries can store many years of fuel at little cost, so it gives independence from fuel imports. This gives energy security from economic disruptions or military conflicts.

    • Reduced transport – nuclear fuel requires 20,000 to 2 million times less ships, railways, trains, port facilities, pipelines etc. per unit of energy transported. This reduces, by 4 to 6 orders of magnitude, shipping costs, the quantities of oil used for the transport, and the environmental impacts of the shipping and the fuel used for transport.

    There is no rational justification for renewable energy to be mandated and favoured by legislation and regulations.

    2.1 Nuclear cheaper and lower emissions than renewables

    The CSIRO ‘MyPower’ calculator shows that, even in Australia where we have cheap, high quality coal close to the main population centres and where nuclear power is strongly opposed, nuclear power would be the cheapest way to reduce emissions: http://www.csiro.au/Outcomes/Energy/MyPower.aspx

    MyPower is an online tool created by CSIRO that allows you to see the effect of changing the national ‘electricity mix’ (technologies that generate Australia’s electricity) on future electricity costs and Australia’s carbon emissions.

    Below is a comparison of options with different proportions of electricity generation technologies (move the sliders to change the proportions of each technology). The results below show the change in real electricity prices and CO2 emissions in 2050 compared with now.

    Change to 2050 in electricity price and emissions by technology mix:

    1. 80% coal, 10% gas, 10% renewables, 0% nuclear:
    electricity bills increase = 15% and emissions increase = 21%

    2. 0% coal, 50% gas, 50% renewables, 0% nuclear:
    electricity bills increase = 19% and emissions decrease = 62%.

    3. 0% coal, 30% gas, 10% renewables, 60% nuclear:
    electricity bills increase = 15% and emissions decrease = 77%.

    4. 0% coal, 20% gas, 10% renewables, 70% nuclear:
    electricity bills increase = 17% and emissions decrease = 84%.

    5. 0% coal, 10% gas, 10% renewables, 80% nuclear:
    electricity bills increase = 20% and emissions decrease = 91%.

    Source: CSIRO ‘MyPower’ calculator http://www.csiro.au/Outcomes/Energy/MyPower.aspx

    Points to note:

    • For the same real cost increase to 2050 (i.e. 15%), BAU gives a 21% increase in emissions c.f. the nuclear option a 77% decrease in emissions (compare scenarios 1 and 3)

    • For a ~20% real cost increase, the renewables option gives 62% decrease c.f. nuclear 91% decrease.

    • These costs do not include the additional network costs such as those included in the ERP analysis http://erpuk.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/ERP-Flex-Man-Full-Report.pdf . If they did, the cost of renewables would be substantially higher.

    3 Conclusion:

    Nuclear is the least cost way to make significant reductions in the emissions intensity of electricity.

    The difference is stark. Nuclear is far better.

    But progress to reduce emissions at least cost is being slowed by the anti-nuclear activists.

  48. Hi Stephen Segrest, Mosomoso and others who doubt the need to decarbonise!

    Perhaps feeling the responsibility of having been the first to carbonise its economy the UK was the first to set in law a process of decarbonisation to be monitored by a body independent of government. Given that, all we have to ask is how do we achieve that and grid decarbonisation is seen be everyone as the first step.

    Cap and trade has been used successfully in the US to dramatically reduce other pollutants (such as SOx and NOx), and CO2 falls under a reducing cap in 9 NE states + California. so is a very familiiat concept to many power station operators.

    Stephen says that NGCC (CCGT) scenarios should have been examined. They were! The origin in all my 3D charts was a gas world. He also asks why we didn’t use an industry standard model. Two points (1) I couldn’t find one that simulateously balanced the need for energy, reserve, response, inertia and firm capacity. (2) ERP is not and doesn’t intend to be a centre of modelling expertise. The point was to make a start but then encourage others – more adept and better equipped than me – to pick up the baton. I believe they are.

    Stephen also queries the modelling of interconnectors. This is difficult and requires careful thought. My first instinct was to omit them all together, this gets round the problem of each countries modellers relying on the intercoectors to import carbon free power to help them meet their targets. However that would negate any value they can bring so int he end I treated them as being able to import power from a gas station slightly worse i merit than a local one.

    ybutt you point out this report is UK centric and UK is small part of global energy system. True indeed, but the EU has also set itself on a path of decarbonisation and after Paris this is becoming a global issue. So UK is a microcosm of what’s to come, although the solutions could be very different in systems with different sources of primary energy and different characteristics for their energy service demands.

    I can’t comment much on Peter’s analysis of risk or insurance mechanisms in the US. However I note that perceived risk is more important than actual risk when decisions are made. Other industries find this too, for example if a rail or aviation accident causes fatalities then a much larger effort is expended, per life lost, than one on the road – it’s accepted that in a car “accidents will happen”. The social dimension – although not yielding to an engineer’s logic – is an important aspect to any big decision such as building new nuclear.

    Finally I’m not downplaying nuclear as an option Peter, I suspect it will be important to UK decarbonisation, and the UK government are very keen to see it succeed (especially SMRs). I’m answering your comments and providing reasons why it’s not, as you would seem to suggest, the only game in town, hopefully providing a little balance!
    Andy

    • Andy,

      Finally I’m not downplaying nuclear as an option Peter, I suspect it will be important to UK decarbonisation, and the UK government are very keen to see it succeed (especially SMRs). I’m answering your comments and providing reasons why it’s not, as you would seem to suggest, the only game in town, hopefully providing a little balance!

      I didn’t say nuclear is “the only game in town” so that is an unhelpful strawman argument. What I’ve been saying and you appear to be reluctant to acknowledge, is that the results of the ERP analysis, as reported in figures in the report, show that mostly or all nuclear is likely to be the cheapest way to decarbonise the GB electricity system. It would be helpful if you could acknowledge that that is a fair conclusion to draw from the ERP report. Then we could move on to more constructive discussion.

      If you agree, then I’d suggest ERP should be making that argument and trying to educate people that this is the case. Of course I accept that other technologies may also play a part in providing decarbonisation at the fastest and cheapest rate. However it seems irresponsible to not be strongly advocating for the solution that the ERP report shows is the least cost.

      Have you estimated the abatement cost with the different options? I’ve done a quick, rough estimate (could be wrong) using the figures listed in the table included in my ‘PL Response to ERP’ (appended at the end of the post). My estimates for the abatement cost with 30 GW of each generator technology are (£/t CO2 abated):

      Nuclear = 74
      Hydro = 14
      Offshore Wind = 70
      Onshore Wind = 191
      Solar PV = 133
      Coal-CCS = 750
      Gas-CCS = 556

      Apart from offshore wind, the abatement cost with all the other generator technologies is much more expensive than nuclear – i.e. 2x to 10x. CCS is extremely expensive!

      You said:

      hopefully providing a little balance!

      That’s not how it appears to me. It appears you are ignoring what your report says and advocating for anything else – or at least not highlighting which is the least cost option to achieve decarbonisation and advocating for it. We’ve had fifty years of that “balance” and it’s delaying progress.

      The numbers seem so clear to me it’s difficult to understand why people in your position having done an excellent study are not promoting and highlighting the really important results.

      • Correction,

        The Total System Costs for Offshore and Onshore wind are back-to-front in ‘PL reply to ERP’. They should be:
        Offshore Wind = £28B/year
        Onshore Wind = £32B/year

        Therefore, the CO2 abatement cost for these two technologies are wrong in my comment above. They should
        Offshore Wind = £158/t CO2
        Onshore Wind = £85/t CO2

        The paragraph immediately following the table should say:

        the abatement cost of all the generator technologies listed here (except hydro) is much more expensive than nuclear. Abatement cost with CCS is 7-10 times higher than with nuclear!

        As mentioned, my estimated may be wrong. I’d welcome a ‘pal review’.

      • Damn, another mistake:
        Onshore Wind = £23B/year (not £32B/year).

      • To assist ‘pal-reviewers’ this is how I estimated CO2 abatement cost for adding 30 GW of each generator technology.

        CO2 abatement cost (£/t) = change in total system cost (£) / tonnes CO2 abated (t)

        The change in total system cost is the total system cost with 30 GW of the technology minus the total system cost of the existing GB electricity system (i.e. £19B/year from Figure 14).

        The tonnes CO2 abated is the emissions from the existing system (i.e. 159 Mt CO2/year from Figure 14) minus the emissions from the system after adding 30 GW of the technology .

        For example, the CO2 abatement cost with 30 GW of nuclear is:
        £30-£19 B/year = £11 B/year divided by
        159-10 Mt CO2/year = 149 Mt CO2/year
        Abatement cost = £11B / 149 Mt = £74/t CO2

        I welcome a check of my calculations, please.

    • Andy,

      To help me understand where you stand on this, can you say whether or not you accept this interpretation of the results presented in the ERP report:

      Given the inputs used in the ERP analysis, the results show all or mostly nuclear is likely to be the least cost generator technology option for achieving deep decarbonisation of the GB electricity system, e.g. to meet the 100 g/kWh and 50 g/kWh targets.

      Could you please give a clear “yes” or “no” answer, at least for a start and then present any clarifications you want to make.

    • Hi Andy

      In your study/model did you implement any NG CC or CTs without carbon capture, storage? If yes, what was the percentage between NG with and without CCS?

      This is extremely important as an integrated System with a higher percentage of NGCC units (even without CCS) has much more flexibility to cost effectively incorporate a higher penetration of Renewables.

      What cost per kW for NGCC with CCS did you use?

      I’m sorry, I didn’t understand your modelling answer on interconnections — what exactly did you do here? Jacobson (Stanford) for example talks about new and expanded interconnections to the UK from Iceland (geothermal) and Norway (bulk hydro) to address grid reliability concerns.

  49. Andy

    Despite Mr. Lang’s repeated attempts over 3 days to:

    — “put words in your mouth”,

    — “tell you how you should interpret your Study”,

    — “cherry-pick and contrive data into black/white examples where he clearly doesn’t understand integrated system planning”,

    — “make your Study “a global ubiquitous endorsement for nuclear power”

    what your trying to tell folks?

    Seems like your just saying the Decarbonization movement in the UK hasn’t been full disclosure as to engineering (need for firm capacity) and additional costs.

    • Segrest,

      That’s a typically hypocritical comment from you. You didn’t even read the report. Instead you tried getting Andy to state words confirming your beliefs which you could then quote repeatedly saying words to the effect “Andy said …” as you repeatedly do with “Judith Curry said … ” and “Planning Engineer said …” You do that continually with posters such as Planning Engineer.

      Why didn’t you read the ERP report in the first place before asking questions. If you are the great planning engineer you keep telling us you are, why weren’t you interested enough to read this excellent report?

      — “cherry-pick and contrive data into black/white examples where he clearly doesn’t understand integrated system planning”,

      You’ve made that comment many many times. I’ve interpreted numbers from the figures in the report. Why do you say they are contrived? Andy stated:

      Peter Lang has faithfully reproduced a number of our results but the context needs clarifying and the emphasis and confidence placed in the results are different.

      I interpret that to mean the numbers I pulled off the figures are OK, i.e. no significant errors. But ERP’s interpretation of what are the most important lessons and conclusions from the analysis are different from what I stated. And the ERP report did not set out to compare the costs of decarbonising with different generator technology options.

      I accept all this and agree with the ERP Key Points and conclusions. I agree these are very important outcomes of the analysis. However, I believe the results presented show another important outcome – i.e. that all or mostly new nuclear would be the least cost way to decarbonise GB electricity (given the inputs used, which presumably were regarded as the most suitable available at the time for this analysis).

      No one has shown that the conclusion I’ve drawn from the published ERP results is wrong or that the reported results do not support it. That includes you, the self-annointed ‘great system planning engineer’!. If you are so smart, why don’t you present a valid argument demonstrating the conclusion is wrong?

      I don’t understand why Andy doesn’t acknowledge it or demonstrate I’ve misinterpreted the figures in the report. Instead of addressing this central point of this post, there’s been much diversion avoidance and digressions into raising various beliefs such as about the perceived (by some) need for unacceptably high carbon prices and arguing that energy is priced too low. Those are not issues this post is about. The main point of the posthas not been refuted. Which tends to suggest it is valid; i.e. this statement has not been refuted:

      Given the inputs used in the ERP analysis, the results show all or mostly nuclear is likely to be the least cost generator technology option for achieving deep decarbonisation of the GB electricity system, e.g. to meet the 100 g/kWh and 50 g/kWh targets.

  50. typo — What are you trying to tell folks?

  51. I still read most blog posts. I don’t comment as much as before, partly due to just being busier with other things, but also because the same arguments tend to go on forever and get kind of boring.

    I’m guilty of putting in comments that sometimes are only marginally related to the post. But it does add some variety.

    I’ve read enough about climate change to come to some beliefs about it. Those aren’t immutable, but seem likely.

    For example, I think Judy and others have shown sensitivity is probably lower and the range narrower than the IPCCs numbers. I think planning engineer has made a good case that “renewables” won’t be able to contribute much energy until reliable, large, and dispatchable storage is developed.

    I was already convinced nuclear power, if properly regulated, can contribute both base load and load following electricity (the newer designs especially).

    I think the land/ocean temperature reconstructions aren’t notably reliable, but also realize extracting a temperature from radiance data using satellites is also tricky.

    When UAH v 6.x code is released, it would be great if that team could be persuaded to do a post here explaining the calculations.

    I kind of liked the Week in Politics posts due to the variety.

  52. Andy,

    I fully support the ERP report conclusion that UK needs some form of low-carbon firm generating capacity. However, Germany seems to be very keen on power to gas storage and electricity generation from that, either using fuel cells or CCGT, with with the stored gas being either renewable hydrogen or renewable methane.

    At present there are two issues with power to gas as economic firm low-carbon generation The first is that very cheap electricity from renewable wind and solar PV generation is needed, and it will be a decade or two before we get this, but there’s a lot of people working on it. The second is the unreasonably high capital cost of electrolysers, mainly because no-one has yet focussed on the problem. The EU and USA appear to have targets for price reductions but no large scale R&D like there is for wind and solar. Prices will come down at some point.

    Did you consider power to gas technology in the background research for the report, and if so, what were your thoughts on it? In a 2030 to 2050 timescale it appears to be a serious contender to complement mainly renewables UK generating grid.

  53. From the article:

    In a strange echo of the depressed oil economy SolarCity recently announced a layoff of a quarter of its workforce as the apparent result of the Nevada PUC’s decision to phase solar net-metering customers down from retail to wholesale per kWh. A scathing editorial in the WSJ last December took both solar leasing companies and their financial underwriters to task, calling net metering a “regressive political income redistribution in support of a putatively progressive cause.”

    Wednesday the PUC fronted a possible compromise, ‘grandfathering’ existing net metering customers to their current rates to create a third caste of energy consumers, those who had been in the right place at the right time — for awhile. One who had paid $22k into solar lamented, “I’m not happy; my wife isn’t happy, we could have done something else with that money.” Like many who leave Vegas, perhaps they should have. But this begs the real question… are net-metering schemes ultimately ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ for the grid?

    http://politics.slashdot.org/story/16/01/23/1931240/gambling-state-says-the-solar-gamble-is-over

    • Seems to me the folks with solar panels should get whatever the going “market rate” is for power, as determined basically by the wholesale market which actually does set prices for hourly non-firm (intermittent) power. However, that may mean paying money to put unneeded power into the grid. Therein lies the basic problem – the solar advocates actually want everyone else to subsidize them.

      • That sounds fair, other than the fact that the grid shouldn’t be forced to accept power it doesn’t need.

    • There are, of course, two sides to the Nevada net metering story. The other side is that the rooftop solar PV is reducing daytime peak loads which reduces average daytime prices, and reduces the need for grid upgrades if load grows. The Nevada PUC appeared to agree that this was a benefit to all consumers in reducing costs, but then decided that the rules should be changed so that rooftop solar PV owners should be penalised for providing this benefit to everyone else at the same time as reducing their own power costs.

      • I don’t see how being paid a fair price for the solar generated energy is being penalized. But I do see how the other customers are being penalized by having to pay more for electricity.

      • jim2,

        That is the whole point. The other consumers are not being penalised by having to pay a higher price for their power. They are getting a better deal because they are no longer have to pay indirectly for sky-high daytime peak load prices, which are now reduced by rooftop solar PV.

      • Andy,

        Your last comment ends with:

        Unless the discussion takes a new turn I will sign off here.

        I’d like to thank you for contributing. Your comments have been informative and helpful. I hope you will continue (but address the point of the post). One impression I have developed is I am now suspicious that the ERP analysis may have been influenced to some extent by ideological beliefs. A number of your comments have led me to this suspicion. I’ll mention some of them later in this comment.

        You say: “Unless the discussion takes a new turn I will sign off here.”. What would you like it to turn to? More discussion of the key points and conclusions in the ERP report (the report already covers them and they are not the main point of this post)? More discussion of issues such as dangerous/catastrophic climate change, energy is too cheap, government interventions to impose huge increases in energy prices and £100/t CO2 carbon prices or other measures to achieve the equivalent, etc.? These are not the subject of this thread. They are discussed at length on many other threads on Climate Etc.

        Why should the discussion take a turn away from the key point of the post (which is stated in the opening sentence of the post)? The purpose of the post is to discuss it, not avoid it. The point is either correct or wrong. So far the point has been dodged, not addressed, and certainly not shown to be wrong.

        The purpose of the post was not intended to be an explanation or summary of the report, its conclusions, key points and the analysis. Your report explains that well and anything I wrote about it would not do it justice.

        But the results reported in the ERP report also reveal another important outcome that the report does not highlight – i.e.:

        Given the inputs used, the results reported in the ERP report shows that all or mostly nuclear is likely to be the least cost generator technology option for achieving deep decarbonisation of the GB electricity system, e.g. to meet the 100 g/kWh and 50 g/kWh targets.

        This has not been refuted.

        Unfortunately, the discussion has dodged and weaved and avoided acknowledging it. One after another diversions have been raised – e.g., climate change, carbon pricing, and uncertainties. The chart you posted on carbon pricing is not relevant to this post. Even if the discussion was about carbon pricing the chart is misleading because it shows the proportion of emissions covered by carbon pricing not the results, i.e. the effect of those government imposed instruments on reducing global emissions, nor does the chart show the benefits (i.e. the value of climate damages avoided) compared with the economic damage it is causing to the countries that have them. But I am not asking you to post more links to articles about carbon pricing. That is not the subject of this post. Also, I’ve been involved and following this for 25 years and given your comment so far I don’t think it is a topic you know much about.

        You keep asking me to endorse your analysis of the report, I keep telling you the work wasn’t done to answer that question.

        It doesn’t matter what the purpose of the analysis was, the fact is the results, published in the ERP report, show all or mostly nuclear is likely to be the least cost way to decarbonize the GB electricity system. Avoiding acknowledging this outcome of the ERP analyses, whether you wanted to get that outcome or not, erodes the confidence we can have that the analysis has been done objectively. Confidence is further eroded by frequent diversions to other issues such as: energy is too cheap, advocating for huge increases in energy prices, advocating for £100/t CO2 carbon price, advocating for a diverse portfolio of technologies despite the higher cost and risk, and arguing that the results in the ERP report don’t support the key point I’ve highlighted because, you argue, uncertainty analysis hasn’t been done, but you think you know what it would say if it had been done. Well, sorry, I don’t agree. We’ve been making decisions about infrastructure investments for thousands of years, without the sort of uncertainty analyses you are suggesting yet, now you argue, we cannot believe the results because the uncertainty analyses haven’t been done. That’s nonsense. Such analyses are hugely sensitive to the assumptions and inputs. The fact you think the uncertainty on the cost estimates for CCS are +/-20% (I suspect -20% to +500% would be more realistic), demonstrates that the analyses you are proposing would be worthless, or worse.

        Regarding the ETI report you linked, I didn’t see any pdfs or discussion of the uncertainty analyses, let alone the methodology, assumptions, inputs, data sources, etc. But I read sufficient to suggest the purpose is advocacy, not objective analysis, and it is underpinned by a belief in human-caused catastrophic climate change.

  54. Hi Stephen. You ask:

    In your study/model did you implement any NG CC or CTs without carbon capture, storage? If yes, what was the percentage between NG with and without CCS?

    Yes. I ran 504 scenarios with different capacity mixes for two different carbon prices. Unabated NGCC capacity varied from zero to 52GW depending on how much was needed to ensure an adequate firm capacity margin.

    What cost per kW for NGCC with CCS did you use?

    Unabated NGCC was £601/kW + £46/kW Interest During Construction (IDC), NGCC-CCS was £1237/kW with £198/kW IDC

    Interconnectors: Sorry, a bit complex. For the spider diagram of fig 14 it was the same as adding a very flexible NGCC of slightly lower efficiency that local NGCC. For the main 504 x 2 runs there were none because they don’t make a big difference unless you can guarantee they are there when needed, which you can’t.

    what your trying to tell folks? 3 things:
    To those who think you can decarbonise with intermittent renewables alone: You can’t.
    To those regulating or planning the grids of the future: Don’t forget the value of grid (ancillary) services – they need markets or regulation to deliver.
    To those tempted to use simple metrics like LCOE to compare technologies: You can’t. You have to do holistic modelling as value is a function of grid mix.

    Peter Given the above 3 conclusions and the closeness of the results (note that in Fig 12 adding 24GW of Wind or 30 GW of CCS and reducing nuclear build commensurately only adds 3.7% to TSC, and noting that the PB2013 input costs have a range of +/- 7% on nuclear and +/- 20% on CCS and wind capex (and with the huge uncertainty on gas costs) it can be seen that any of these could be a key part of decarbonisation. Adding uncertainty analysis (a la Markowitz), which I haven’t done, will most likely lead to a solution with a diversified portoflio. So the ERP report lends weight to the argument that nuclear has a role to play, but it certainly doesn’t say this is the only technology to develop, nor does it say it is indispensible.

    Andy

    • Andy,

      In your response to Stephen and Peter, you alluded to ‘other technology’ to develop. Might you expand on that portion if the intermittency of wind and solar are of issue?

      Many thanks!

    • Thanks Andy.

      I think I pretty much agree with everything you’ve said above — especially the improper use of LCOE that many here at CE do.

      I still hold to an opinion that use of established industry accepted software such as GE MAPS (but there are many more like it) would be helpful:

      http://www.geenergyconsulting.com/practice-area/software-products/maps

    • Andy,

      Thank you for your clear statement of three main take-away messages/conclusions from your report are:

      • To those who think you can decarbonise with intermittent renewables alone: You can’t.

      • To those regulating or planning the grids of the future: Don’t forget the value of grid (ancillary) services – they need markets or regulation to deliver.

      • To those tempted to use simple metrics like LCOE to compare technologies: You can’t. You have to do holistic modelling as value is a function of grid mix.

      There is a fourth important conclusion that your results demonstrate, but you haven’t stated (and apparently don’t want to):

      A generator mix comprising mostly nuclear power – e.g. like France has – is likely to be the least cost option to achieve the system requirements and decarbonise the GB electricity system.

      This is an important additional conclusion that I suggest ERP should be highlighting, not downplaying as you appear to be doing. Policy makers need to understand this. Policy advisers and policy makers should be highlighting it, putting the facts before the public, explaining the options, the costs and the consequences of the options and preparing the policy environment to facilitate it to happen (at least cost).

      The fact you have repeatedly dodged this throughout these comments is concerning me.

      I understand there are large uncertainties in the results, as always, but the results show the most likely result. Policy advisers need clear information, and this is clear. Certainly it would be helpful to explain the uncertainties as well. However, +/-20% uncertainty for the CCS costs is not credible.

    • By the way, you should have referred to Figure 11, not Figure 12. Figure 12 is for the case with a starting price of £100/t. That’s not realistic. Perhaps ERP should analyse the uncertainties of that being implemented and sustained. Here again (in case you missed it when I posted it previously) is: “Why carbon pricing will not succeedhttp://anglejournal.com/article/2015-11-why-carbon-pricing-will-not-succeed/

    • Andy,

      I have another point to make regarding this comment:

      Peter, Given the above 3 conclusions and the closeness of the results (note that in Fig 12 adding 24GW of Wind or 30 GW of CCS and reducing nuclear build commensurately only adds 3.7% to TSC, and noting that the PB2013 input costs have a range of +/- 7% on nuclear and +/- 20% on CCS and wind capex (and with the huge uncertainty on gas costs) it can be seen that any of these could be a key part of decarbonisation. Adding uncertainty analysis (a la Markowitz), which I haven’t done, will most likely lead to a solution with a diversified portoflio.

      First, the ERP report shows that all or mostly nuclear is the least cost way to decarbonize the GB electricity system. You have not refuted that interpretation of the results, so I am taking it as a correct.

      Second, nuclear has proven it can do the job, but CCS and wind have not. Nuclear has demonstrated it can meet electricity system requirements and decarbonize (42 g/kWh in 2014) by supplying around 75% of France’s electricity, economically, for the past 30 years or so. CCS and wind have not. Furthermore, history shows it is likely to be decades at best before CCS is sufficiently proven to be accepted by electricity utilities as commercially viable. The risk of failure with these technologies is huge.

      Third, CCS has safety risks that are probably higher than nuclear’s.

      Fourth, I am not sure your analogy with investment portfolio diversification to reduce investment risk is appropriate. If we continue to spend most of our effort and resources on research and demonstration of CCS and renewables, as we’ve been doing for the past 30 years or so, we will continue to delay achieving the benefits that are much more likely to be achieved by focusing most of our effort on facilitating, advocating for nuclear power and implementing policies reduce the cost of nuclear power. For 30 years most of the marketing, publicity, advocacy and media reporting has been enthusiastically advocating for renewables and against nuclear. As long as we continue with the sort of arguments you are presenting – “diversified portfolio” and “all of the above” – the delays to real progress will almost certainly continue.

  55. Andy,

    Thank you for your comment and for the extra detail and figures you provided.

    Regarding your response addressed to me, you haven’t yet either acknowledged or refuted the main point of this post, which is:

    Given the inputs used, the results reported in the ERP report shows that all or mostly nuclear is likely to be the least cost generator technology option for achieving deep decarbonisation of the GB electricity system, e.g. to meet the 100 g/kWh and 50 g/kWh targets.

    I’d appreciate it if you could please answer whether you do or do not agree with this statement? And if not, can you please explain why not? Note the important qualifiers “all or mostly nuclear” and “is likely to be the least cost generator technology”. As I’ve said before, I understand there are uncertainties around the estimates. However, I understand the ERP report states the best estimate (at this stage because you have not analysed uncertainties). Therefore, it is more likely than not all or mostly nuclear will be the cheapest option (based on the ERP analysis)?

    Your statement:

    So the ERP report lends weight to the argument that nuclear has a role to play, but it certainly doesn’t say this is the only technology to develop, nor does it say it is indispensible.

    implies that I said or implied that nuclear “is the only technology to develop, nor does it say it is indispensible.” I did not say or imply that.

    What I said was as stated in the above quote. You haven’t refuted it so I will presume it is correct until you do.

    Assuming it is correct, then it follows that most effort and most advocacy should be directed at implementing policies that will allow all or mostly nuclear to be implemented in time to achieve the decarbonisation at least cost. The other technologies are unproven at the scale required and therefore the uncertainties for these are much higher than for nuclear. Therefore, less effort and funding should be directed at these other technologies; The distribution of public funding and effort to different technologies should be roughly in proportion to the likelihood of success of those technologies at decarbonisation and their likely proportions in the mix that would meet requirements at least cost.

    Advocates for decarbonisation need to recognise the political and economic realities that decarbonisation is unlikely to progress much unless the costs are negligible. Therefore we need to focus on the least cost alternatives and on the technologies that could be the least cost by 2030 and 2050.

    Regarding uncertainties you say:

    Given the above 3 conclusions and the closeness of the results (note that in Fig 12 adding 24GW of Wind or 30 GW of CCS and reducing nuclear build commensurately only adds 3.7% to TSC, and noting that the PB2013 input costs have a range of +/- 7% on nuclear and +/- 20% on CCS and wind capex (and with the huge uncertainty on gas costs) it can be seen that any of these could be a key part of decarbonisation. Adding uncertainty analysis (a la Markowitz), which I haven’t done, will most likely lead to a solution with a diversified portoflio.

    This is the “all of the above” argument that has been repeated endlessly for 30 years. It causes never ending delay lack of progress and waste. It’s the do nothing approach.

    The ERP report shows that nuclear is likely to be the least cost option. It is also well proven that it can meet the requirements. CCS has not done so and is nowhere close to doing so, at the scale required. Wind is less effective at reducing emission per MWh than your analysis shows. High proportions of wind will be less effective than your analysis shows (Figure 5 includes part of the effect of decreasing CO2 abatement effectiveness with increasing penetration, but not all of it). CO2 abatement cost will be higher than your figures indicate.

    Your own figures show that the CO2 abatement cost with wind is up to twice the cost of nuclear and CCS is 7 to 10 times the cost of nuclear. It’s irrational to be pushing for these technologies and downplaying the predominant role nuclear would have to play.

    Adding uncertainty analysis … will most likely lead to a solution with a diversified portoflio.

    Of course there will be a diversified portfolio to some extent. But to what extent? The issue we are debating is what proportions? The rational answer from the ERP report results is “all or mostly new nuclear”. You say “nuclear has a role to play”, which implies you think not much, despite what the ERP results. Rational policy should be to facilitate achieving the least cost mix that meets requirements.

    We’ve had 50 years of people arguing for “all of the above”, while actually pushing for “anything but nuclear”. Hence 50 years of delay and regulatory ratcheting causing huge cost increases for nuclear.

    It’s late here and this comment is a bit rushed. I hope you will give a clear answer to my question at the top of this comment. There is much valuable information we could discuss and help to educate people but we do need to get this resolved. It is the main point of the post (the intention of the post was not to attempt to summarise or paraphrase your report, or report on your report as I explained in my early responses to you). I am frustrated you haven’t given a clear answer (I’ve asked several times in previous comments).

  56. CO2 abatement cost

    I’ve estimated the CO2 abatement cost of the 14 generator technologies and also for the mix of CCS, wind and nuclear Andy mentioned in his comment: https://judithcurry.com/2016/01/19/is-nuclear-the-cheapest-way-to-decarbonize-electricity/#comment-759905 – i.e. 30 GW gas-CCS, 24 GW wind and remainder nuclear to achieve the 50 g/kWh target. I assumed a 1:1 mix of onshore and offshore wind. I interpreted from Figure 11 the nuclear capacity required to be 10 GW.

    If I’ve done this correctly, it seems to me the CO2 abatement cost with all nuclear is £74/t CO2 whereas with the mix Andy mentioned is £90/t CO2. Once again, the ERP results show the all nuclear option is the least cost way to decarbonise the GB electricity system (if my understanding and calculations are correct).

    Below are my calculations of the CO2 abatement cost for the 14 generator technologies and the mix Andy mentioned.
    Generator Technology; CO2 emissions (Mt); Total System Cost (£B/year); Abatement Cost (£/t CO2)

    I’ve estimated the CO2 abatement cost of the 14 generator technologies and also for the mix of CCS, wind and nuclear Andy mentioned in his comment: https://judithcurry.com/2016/01/19/is-nuclear-the-cheapest-way-to-decarbonize-electricity/#comment-759905 – i.e. 30 GW gas-CCS, 24 GW wind and remainder nuclear to achieve the 50 g/kWh target. I assumed a 1:1 mix of onshore and offshore wind. I interpreted from Figure 11 the nuclear capacity required to be 10 GW. Below are my calculations of the CO2 abatement cost for the 14 generator technologies and the mix Andy mentioned.

    Generator Technology; CO2 emissions (Mt); Total System Cost (£B/year); Abatement Cost (£/t CO2)
    Nuclear 10 30 74
    Hydro 11 21 14
    CHP 68 20 11
    Close old coal 80 23 51
    Offshore Wind 102 28 158
    Onshore wind 112 23 85
    Marine 118 33 341
    Solar PV 144 21 133
    Coal-CCS 147 28 750
    Gas-CCS 150 24 556
    Biomass 153 21 333
    Pump Storage 155 25 1500
    OCGT 162 19 0
    Close old nuclear 198 22 N/A
    Nuc, CCS, Wind 15 13 90

    If I’ve done this correctly, the CO2 abatement cost with all nuclear is £74/t CO2 whereas with the mix Andy mentioned is £90/t CO2. Once again, the ERP results show the all nuclear option is the least cost way to decarbonise the GB electricity system (if my understanding and calculations are correct).

  57. Danny
    In your response to Stephen and Peter, you alluded to ‘other technology’ to develop. Might you expand on that portion if the intermittency of wind and solar are of issue?

    Earlier in this post I talked about Biomass and CCS being other technologies that can provide firm low carbon capacity (as well as nuclear) for the UK. In other countries then other options are available (e.g. goethermal, solar thermal, hydro). Intermittent technologies can be used alongside these, but do not replace them.

    Peter Davies Power to Gas: I’ve not looked at this directly but a colleague of mine is looking at the role of Hydrogen across the energy sector. He is due to publish this in a couple of months. It looks as if Hydrogen will only ever be a niche player in the energy system. As you point out electrolysers are expensive and this is exacerbated by very their low load factors if run of surplus wind or PV. But the main concern is where the primary energy comes from. Decarbonising the UK gas grid with hydrogen and using it for transport as well as heat would require some 200GW of nuclear or 500GW of wind to power the electrolysis. The only feasible way to produce this volume of hydrogen is from gas via Steam Methane Reformation with CCS.

    Peter Lang I think we’ve exhausted this debate. You keep asking me to endorse your analysis of the report, I keep telling you the work wasn’t done to answer that question. If I wanted to know what the most economic mix of technologies were I would use different models and different inputs, much closer to what ETI do with ESME which is designed to handle probability distributions as inputs. Taking a central number, which I did, for each uncertainty yielded the results in my report, but without doing proper uncertainty analysis it cannot be said that this is the most likely outcome. And anyway there’s a lot more than economics to consider. I’ve read your post on Carbon pricing and referred you to Alan Whitmore’s analysis. I haven’t time to debate that. Carbon pricing or tax is a reality. Today UK generation is payinng £23/t, it’s affecting generation through coal-gas switching. Even if you’re right and explicit pricing fails, it has to be there implicitly to drive economic decarbonisation.

    BTW I thoroughly recommend the work ETI have published on this. (e.g. UK scenarios for a low carbon energy system transition) They run the ESME model which has many years of development support by 7 large industrials and government, tested by academia. This addresses Stephen‘s concerns about using established models. I will leave them to have the last word on this: “Key technology priorities for the UK energy system include: bioenergy, carbon capture and storage, new nuclear, offshore wind, gaseous systems, efficiency of vehicles and efficiency/heat provision for buildings” and “CCS and bioenergy are especially valuable. The most cost-effective system designs require zero or even “negative” emissions in sectors where decarbonisation is easiest, alleviating pressure in more difficult sectors”.

    Unless the discussion takes a new turn I will sign off here

    Andy

    • Andy,

      My many thanks!

    • Andy,

      Your comments on the generation requirement for power to gas seems to be based on a sub-optimal solution for UK ground transportation and space heating.

      The inefficient way is using hydrogen-powered transport and pumping renewable hydrogen into the existing gas mains for building space and water heating. A much better way is battery electric ground transportation (highly likely by 2030 anyway with current trend in battery prices) and space and water heating from air, ground or water-source heat pumps with a typical COP in UK conditions of 2 or 3. Heat can be stored efficiently within buildings using phase-change materials or water tanks which reduces but not eliminates electricity storage costs.

      The second way is is cheaper and much more efficient because around 70% of the electricity will come directly from UK onshore or offshore wind, solar PV, and maybe uncorrelated North African wind. Of the 30% gap, 10-15% will come from UK or mooted Norwegian pumped storage hydro with a storage efficiency of 70-80%. The remaining 15-20% would have to come from power to renewable hydrogen storage to power (using CCGT) with a storage efficiency around 45%. This last route provides the firm large-scale generation capability we all agree is needed for periods of up to a few weeks. Such a solution is not going to need anywhere near 200GW of nuclear or 500GW of wind power.

      The assumption should be that UK’s housing stock is properly insulated before switching to heat pumps, although the government seems to be choking on providing the subsidies required to make sure this happens in time.

      Hydrogen electrolysers are highly likely to come down dramatically in price in a decade as they are a very immature technology. Most estimates are that the electricity costs will be the major element of hydrogen production costs within a decade.

      • Peter Davies: “A much better way is battery electric ground transportation (highly likely by 2030 anyway with current trend in battery prices)”

        Batteries need charging.

        Funny how you electric transport brigade seem to forget that.

    • Andy — How do we keep up with you and your associated work/opinions? Facebook? Email newsletter? Thx.

    • I looked at the ETI web site, including ‘UK scenarios of a low carbon energy system transitionshttp://www.eti.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/Options-Choices-Actions-Hyperlinked-version-for-digital.pdf
      I looked for but didn’t find a report with the analysis methodology, assumptions, inputs, data sources and results. I want to see the pdfs of the costs for each technology and the data sources.

      I noticed a lot of flashy pages and statements on the ITE site but didn’t find back up for them. Much of what I saw concern me (it looks like advocacy), e.g. this http://www.eti.co.uk/eti-comment-on-the-scrapping-of-the-1bn-ccs-commercialisation-competition/ :

      “The decision to axe the previously committed £1bn CCS commercialisation competition is extremely disappointing and a serious setback both in decarbonising the UK energy system and engaging industry and investors. CCS is the most important of the tools we have for progressing affordable decarbonisation of the UK energy system whilst maintaining security. Without early demonstration of CCS we are placing much greater reliance on our ability to rapidly deploy the other tools we have – renewables, new nuclear, bioenergy, low carbon heating and efficiency measures – most of which are yet to be proven to work cost effectively. This doubles the cost of meeting UK energy and climate change targets with substantial increases in system costs appearing from 2020 onwards.”

      On one hand it says “CCS is the most important of the tools we have for progressing affordable decarbonisation” then next sentence it says “Without early demonstration of CCS we are placing much greater reliance on our ability to rapidly deploy the other tools we have – renewables, new nuclear, bioenergy, low carbon heating and efficiency measures – most of which are yet to be proven to work cost effectively.” So the report says CCS is not proven and needs to be demonstrated but implies nuclear is yet to be proven by mentioning it with the technologies “most of which are yet to be proven to work cost effectively”.

      This page covers many technologies but not nuclear http://www.eti.co.uk/etis-chief-engineer-andrew-haslett-presents-developing-future-energy-systems-under-uncertainty/

      Slide 19 here http://www.eti.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/AH_Birmingham-Energy-Centre-lecture-20-1-16.pdf includes 26 technologies. A system like this with so many technologies is bound to be much more expensive than a much simpler mix like France, i.e. 75% nuclear, plus hydro, gas, pumped storage hydro and negligible weather-dependent renewables (virtually none if they were not mandated by EU).

      “In our model, failure to prepare properly leads to a significant escalation in the cost of abatement action by 2050 (to around 3-4% of GDP)”

      Exactly! And that’s what ETI and ERP are inadvertently advocating for by playing-down proven nuclear and instead advocating for technologies that are unproven and thus are high risk of failure (such as CCS and wind to supply a large proportion of GB electricity).

      Abandoning or weakening climate targets [i.e. CO2 emissions 80% below 1990 levels by 2050] in the near term would represent a lost opportunity for the UK to position itself as a market leader for low carbon technology. Delays produce a very bleak outcome where the UK is trying to play catch-up without effective preparation, suffering from unattractive terms of trade through carbon price penalties and over-reliant on the skills and products of other nations to meet its needs.

      This is the “broken window” argument http://steshaw.org/economics-in-one-lesson/contents.html . There is no mention of the opportunity costs of policies that reduce GDP instead of policies that increase GDP.

      There is no information provided on the probability analyses and no pdfs provided. The results of the uncertainty analyses depend on the inputs. The statement that the cost estimates for CCS are +/-20% is not credible. I suspect they are more like -20% to +500%.

    • Andy,

      Peter Lang I think we’ve exhausted this debate. You keep asking me to endorse your analysis of the report, I keep telling you the work wasn’t done to answer that question. If I wanted to know what the most economic mix of technologies were I would use different models and different inputs, much closer to what ETI do with ESME which is designed to handle probability distributions as inputs. Taking a central number, which I did, for each uncertainty yielded the results in my report, but without doing proper uncertainty analysis it cannot be said that this is the most likely outcome. And anyway there’s a lot more than economics to consider. I’ve read your post on Carbon pricing and referred you to Alan Whitmore’s analysis. I haven’t time to debate that. Carbon pricing or tax is a reality. Today UK generation is payinng £23/t, it’s affecting generation through coal-gas switching. Even if you’re right and explicit pricing fails, it has to be there implicitly to drive economic decarbonisation.

      You may be exhausted, or perhaps …

      I am asking you to either show the error in my interpretation of the published ERP results or acknowledge it is correct.

      Telling me the “work wasn’t done to answer that question” is irrelevant. The fact that it does (or does not) support the interpretation I made is what is relevant. If my conclusion drawn from the ERP results is wrong, then please explain why it is wrong. Until now you have not done that.

      If I wanted to know what the most economic mix of technologies were I would use different models and different inputs, much closer to what ETI do with ESME which is designed to handle probability distributions as inputs.

      Well, I am not sure I’d place more faith in such an analysis than in your simple analysis. The results would be highly dependent on the inputs and the probability distributions used. Selecting them would be a subjective judgement. From what I’ve seen from the ITE report, they seem to be pushing a barrow. The column-chart “Electricity Generation Capacity” on p19 here http://www.eti.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/AH_Birmingham-Energy-Centre-lecture-20-1-16.pdf would be a very high cost option. There are 16 technologies, so the costs of each technology would decline more slowly than they would if there were a few technologies with much greater capacity of each (like France). Research resources, manufacturing and services industries would all be more thinly spread. There’d be less learning by doing in each technology. Furthermore, there’d be much more bickering between different advocacy groups. The public and politicians would remain confused, causing continual changes of policy direction. Progress would be slow and the costs much higher than if the focus was on a few technologies that are most likely to achieve the desired result at least cost. The vast majority of the electricity should be generated by a few technologies – like France.

      Taking a central number, which I did, for each uncertainty yielded the results in my report, …

      That is what is normally done. I see no valid reason for you to argue that the ERP report does not support the conclusion that all or mostly nuclear is likely to be the cheapest way to decarbonize the GB electricity system.

      … but without doing proper uncertainty analysis it cannot be said that this is the most likely outcome.

      But it’s the best we have at this time. And the same could be said of all the conclusions you have drawn and everyone draws from options analysis done for most decisions we make. Furthermore, as I said above, the results from uncertainty analyses would be highly dependent on the inputs and the probability distributions used. Selecting them would be a subjective judgement and subject to selection bias. The results would be disputed and contested indefinitely (I am not saying we shouldn’t do uncertainty analyses – we certainly should – but overriding that is sound engineering judgement.

      I’ve read your post on Carbon pricing and referred you to Alan Whitmore’s analysis. I haven’t time to debate that.

      I’ve read and analysed many authoritative analyses on carbon pricing over the past 23 years. I am pretty well aware of the arguments. You haven’t shown what’s wrong with my analysis, and nor has anyone else over the past two years I’ve been presenting it in various forums.

      Carbon pricing or tax is a reality.

      I accept that’s your opinion. My opinion, which I’ve supported, is it’s temporary and too low to have much effect. It’s ineffective (it’s making negligible difference to global GHG emissions but damaging the economies of those countries or regions that implement them by whatever means). It almost certainly will not be politically sustainable. It almost certainly will not succeed (any better than the Kyoto Protocol or any of the other command and control policies that have been pushed by the alarmists for the past 25 years).

      Even if you’re right and explicit pricing fails, it has to be there implicitly to drive economic decarbonisation.

      I disagree. Command and control polices are NOT the best way to achieve sustained decarbonisation of the global economy. It will not succeed. The opposite – i.e. relatively free, lightly regulated markets to ensure fair competition – is the approach that will succeed. It always has (since many first began to communicate) and always will. We can best achieve decarbonisation by removing the impediments to free markets and free trade. Especially, remove the massive impediments that have been imposed on nuclear power. I explained how this could be achieved in an earlier comment: “How to make nuclear cheaperhttps://judithcurry.com/2016/01/19/is-nuclear-the-cheapest-way-to-decarbonize-electricity/#comment-759084

  58. Pingback: Weekly Climate and Energy News Roundup #213 | Watts Up With That?

  59. The cost of nuclear is a consequence of past regulatory ratcheting that has greatly increased the cost and investor risk, not physical constraints. The regulatory ratcheting has been caused by anti-nuke groups’ propaganda and the media’s love of scaremongering. The public has been scared and is concerned about nuclear. Politicians and administrators have been forced to respond and have imposed ever increasingly costly regulations. Conversely, the high cost of renewables is the result of physical constraints, but the costs are being artificially reduced by the incentives and support for them. The incentives are a political response to the public and media’s enchantment with renewables which in turn are a result of environmental NGOs advocacy for “renewables”, the public’s enchantment with them and the resulting support for massive handouts to support and incentivise renewables. This is not sustainable. It will not last.

    Nuclear costs can come down (over time) as the impediments are undone. This is not the case for renewables. They need ongoing incentives to continue. CCS will need enormous incentives to even get started. Carbon pricing is one form of incentives. It is another government imposed interference in the energy markets. But is almost certainly not politically sustainable over the long term – see “Why carbon pricing will not succeed” http://anglejournal.com/article/2015-11-why-carbon-pricing-will-not-succeed/ .

    If GB built nuclear at the rate UAE is now, UK could be bring on-line 1.4 GW per year at each power station site; say 6 years to the first online and thereafter 1.4 GW per year at say each of two power stations at a time. At this rate GB would have 28 GW by 2032 if the 6 year lead time to the first two units online begins now.

    The capital cost of the 5.4 GW(net) nuclear power plant in UAE is $20.6 billion; i.e. $3,800/kW. UK could achieve this too, if it removes the unwarranted impediments. That requires sustained rational, objective explanation of the costs and benefits, explained in a way that is relevant to the public. This chart shows per capita nuclear energy was added in 11 years in various countries (at different times):

    France added 44 GW of nuclear capacity in 10 years (1 Jan 1980 to 31 Dec 1989). If France could do that 35 years ago, why can’t Great Britain do it 35 years later?

  60. This comment builds on the ERP results http://erpuk.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/ERP-Flex-Man-Full-Report.pdf , compares (qualitatively) the uncertainties in the cost estimates of different technologies, suggests what is likely to be the cheapest way for to decarbonize the electricity system, and how it could be achieved.

    Andy said in a comment,

    . If I wanted to know what the most economic mix of technologies were I would use different models and different inputs, much closer to what ETI do with ESME which is designed to handle probability distributions as inputs. Taking a central number, which I did, for each uncertainty yielded the results in my report, but without doing proper uncertainty analysis it cannot be said that this is the most likely outcome.

    The ERP results show that 31 GW of new nuclear and no other technologies is the cheapest way to decarbonize the GB electricity system. It is recognized that cost estimates such as these have enormous uncertainties. However this is the best available based on the central estimates for each technology from an authoritative source, DECC ‘Electricity Generation Costs, 2013https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/223940/DECC_Electricity_Generation_Costs_for_publication_-_24_07_13.pdf .

    The uncertainties in the estimates for nuclear are considerably less than for CCS, wind, solar, marine, and others because nuclear has been demonstrating, for over 30 years, it can do the job required whereas the others have not. Nuclear has been producing 75% of France’s electricity for 30 years. The emission intensity of electricity generated in France was 42g/kWh in 2014. This is significantly below GB’s 50g/kWh target. So nuclear has demonstrated it can do the job.

    But no other (non-hydro) technology has demonstrated it can do the job required. CCS is not even at the ‘bleeding edge’ stage of the technology life cycle. It may not succeed and if it does it will take decades to become commercially viable; and the quantities that can be stored may be much less than claimed by its advocates. Furthermore, there are potentially greater public safety risks with CCS than with nuclear power. All this means there is greater high-side uncertainty in the CCS than in the nuclear cost estimates. Wind power has not produced a large proportion of electricity in an electricity system for a large economy. Furthermore, the CO2 abatement effectiveness of wind power decreases as the proportion of wind generation increases. Analyses of CO2 abatement effectiveness in Ireland, Texas and Australia show a trend of declining CO2 abatement effectiveness suggesting that CO2 abatement effectiveness is around 50% at 20% wind proportion of total generation. This is not widely recognized yet. This is less than shown in the ERP report Figure 5. The CO2 abatement cost is inversely proportional to CO2 abatement cost.

    Ref. http://www.onlineopinion.com.au/view.asp?article=17447&page=0
    So the CO2 abatement effectiveness with wind power would be less and the abatement cost much higher than commonly recognized.

    The uncertainties need to take into account that technologies like wind and CCS are a much higher risk of failure to deliver than mature, proven technologies, such as nuclear power.

    Cheapest way for GB to decarbonize electricity

    The ERP report states that 31 GW of new nuclear and no other generator technologies would achieve the 50 g/kWh target.

    This could be achieved with the equivalent of 22 Korean AGR1400 nuclear units. UAE is building four of these now and they are due on line in 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020.

    France added 44 GW of nuclear power in 10 years (Jan 1980 to Dec 1989). If France could do that 30 years ago, GB could certainly add 31 GW in 10 years.

    The overnight cost of the 4 x AGR1400 is UAE $3800/kW (net). “The total cost of the plant including infrastructure and finance is expected to be about $32 billion” – i.e. $5926/kW (net). http://www.world-nuclear.org/info/Country-Profiles/Countries-T-Z/United-Arab-Emirates/

    If GB adds say 8 AGR1400s, and a mix of say two or three varieties from other vendors, it would get diversification of manufacturers and also get sufficient numbers of each to achieve a reasonable level of standardization and cost reductions.

    What needs to be done to achieve this?

    Compare the costs, benefits and risks of this focused solution compared with the mix of the mix of 16 mostly unproven, technologies (see p19 here: http://www.eti.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/AH_Birmingham-Energy-Centre-lecture-20-1-16.pdf . Explain and continue to explain to the public, media and politicians the advantages of the focused solution over the diversified solution (i.e. the ‘all of the above” solution).

  61. 1 Policy suggestion for decarbonising GB electricity system

    1.1 Focus on a small number of proven technologies

    Policies to decarbonising GB’s electricity system using predominantly one or two well proven generator technologies, rather than a diversified portfolio with many technologies, are likely to have lower schedule risk and cost risk. Furthermore, the more weather dependent renewables installed the greater will be the issues and costs as the capacity of zero carbon firm power increases. Weather dependent-renewables will be a nuisance and will probably increase rather than decrease the total system cost. CCS is likely to be much more expensive than the current estimates.

    1.2 Allocate responsibilities for costs appropriately

    Electricity consumers should pay a fair rate for nuclear electricity without the additional costs of the excessive, unjustifiable impediments imposed on nuclear power in the OECD countries. The new plants being built in UAE suggest what should be a fair price for a FOAK build. This should reduce as more plants are built. The price of nuclear generated electricity charged to GB consumers should be equivalent to UAE. Any additional costs should be paid from public funds (i.e. by taxpayers). The additional cost is caused by irrational policies imposed by past governments in response to public pressure, therefore the cost should be borne by the public. This approach appropriately allocates the cost to those responsible for causing the higher cost. Assigning these costs to the public should provide an incentive for the public to demand the government unwind the irrational imposts on nuclear power.

    1.3 Uncertainties in technology cost estimates

    Uncertainties are higher for estimates of the cost of new, unproven technologies that for the proven technologies, like nuclear.

    1.3.1 CCS

    It is likely to be decades before CCS is commercially viable. When engineering in rock, the issues are more and greater than proponents generally recognize. Engineered Geothermal Systems (EGS) provides a lesson. Its economic viability has hardly progressed in 40 years. Similarly for CCS it will take much longer to resolve the many unknown-unknowns and become economically viable than proponents recognize. And the costs will likely be much higher than the early estimates. It may never be viable at the scale needed. If it is not adopted globally, it will be more expensive for those countries who try to develop it alone – the UK should have learnt from its experience with its early nuclear power designs and the long delay before UK followed France’s example and changed to PWRs.

    There may be significantly higher public safety risks with CCS than with nuclear. Public opposition may build up to greater than for nuclear as implementation gets closer. Pipes are required to transport CO2 at high pressure from the power stations to the sequestration site. The pipes will inevitably have to run through populated valleys. When a pipe carrying CO2 at high pressure leaks, bursts or is intentionally blown up, CO2 escapes and expands to atmospheric pressure at which it is twice the density of air. It displaces the air upwards and flows and fills low lying areas. All animal life suffocates in minutes. Cars powered by combustion engines cannot operate, so there is no way to escape even if everyone had alarms on them and was equipped with an oxygen mask and oxygen supply.

    1.4 Cost reductions with fewer technologies

    With fewer technologies, more of each will be built so each is likely to achieve greater cost reductions than would be the case with more technologies. With a diversified portfolio of say 12 to 16 new, mostly unproven, generator technologies (as suggested in ETI chart p19, http://www.eti.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/AH_Birmingham-Energy-Centre-lecture-20-1-16.pdf ) each has less opportunity to reduce costs than if one or a few proven technologies are built instead. With all or mostly nuclear, say 31 GW and with first plant same size as UAE’s 5.4 GW plant, nuclear would get 2.5 doublings of capacity. At 10% cost reduction per doubling, that’s 25% cost reduction below the price of the UAE plant. [10% cost reduction per doubling is about the long term average learning rate of electricity generation technologies since about 1900 (from memory)].

    1.5 Schedule and cost and risks

    Examples of uncertainties on the schedule and cost estimates that would need to be included in the uncertainty analysis for it to be credible are:
    1. Technical
    2. Public opposition
    3. Frequent policy changes caused by ongoing bickering between advocacy groups arguing for policies to support their technology picks
    4. Date of first commercial operation
    5. Build rate
    6. Learning rate

  62. Andy Boston,

    I’ve been thinking about your statement that the ERP results should not be interpreted as showing all or mostly nuclear would be the cheapest way to decarbonize the GB electricity system. The results reported in the ERP report show that nuclear is the cheapest option (based on the central estimates for each technology), see table in “PL response to ERP” in the post at the top of this thread. However, you said you cannot endorse that interpretation because the analysis wasn’t done to investigate that question and the uncertainty analyses have not been done; you said:

    If I wanted to know what the most economic mix of technologies were I would use different models and different inputs, much closer to what ETI do with ESME which is designed to handle probability distributions as inputs. Taking a central number, which I did, for each uncertainty yielded the results in my report, but without doing proper uncertainty analysis it cannot be said that this is the most likely outcome.

    I think this is not a valid reason for rejecting my interpretation of the published ERP results; here’s some reasons:

    1. Nearly all such comparisons in the past have been done using best estimates for the inputs, without uncertainty analyses (as you did with the ERP analysis).

    2. We do not have the statistical data that would be required for an objective, robust uncertainty analysis.

    3. Any uncertainty analyses would have to rely predominantly on inputs derived from value by selected experts judgements (bias is almost inevitable).

    Examples of uncertainties in the schedule and cost estimates that would need to be included in the uncertainty analysis for it to be credible are:
    1. Technical
    2. Projected future levels of public support/opposition
    3. Likely frequent policy changes, for example caused by ongoing bickering between advocacy groups arguing for policies to support their technology choices (the more technologies in the mx the worse this will be)
    4. Date of first commercially competitive operation
    5. Build rate
    6. Learning rates.

    Authoritative, objective, unbiased estimates for the uncertainties on most of the required inputs are not available. So any attempt to guess them will almost certainly be biased.

    Regarding technical risks, nuclear is well proven so it has the lowest technical risk. France has demonstrated that 45 GW can be brought online in a decade demonstrating the 2030 target date is achievable if GB implements the appropriate policies to remove the unwarranted impediments and starts without further delay. And nuclear is 100% effective at CO2 abatement whereas weather-dependent renewables are not. The other technologies have more technical risk, including wind because it hasn’t demonstrated it can supply a large proportion of the grid’s electricity, nor that it is effective at reducing emissions at high penetration.

    Furthermore, a diversified portfolio of technologies would be higher risk (of failing to meet the technical, schedule and cost objectives) than focusing on one or a few proven technologies. Nuclear can meet the technical requirements, meet the schedule (in 10 years or less from start) and is likely to be the cheapest option:

    1. The ERP report (p15) says new nuclear can meet both the 100 g/kWh and 50 g/kWh targets on its own:
    • For 50 g/kWh “ Is the all nuclear scenario, 31 GW of new plant is needed
    • For 100 g/kWh “No wind or CCS needs 23 GW of new nuclear

    2. France demonstrated in the 1980’s nuclear capacity can be brought on line at the rate of 45 GW per decade. GB needs to achieve only ½ that rate to achieve the 100 g/kWh target and 70% of that rate to achieve the 50/kWh target.

    3. The results of the ERP analysis (Figures 11 and 14 and summarized in the “PL response to ERP” in the post), show that, based on the central estimate inputs for each technology, all or mostly new nuclear is likely to be the least cost scenario to decarbonise the GB electricity system.

    So why the reluctance to acknowledge this and highlight it as an important conclusion from the ERP analysis? This option is more likely (I’d say much more likely) to achieve the technical and schedule requirements at least cost than the diversified portfolio of mostly immature, unproven technologies?

  63. Figures 4 to 7 here http://www.nucadvisor.com/%5B004%5D%20-%20A%20worlwide%20review%20of%20the%20cost%20of%20Nuclear%20Power.pdf show:

    • Gen III/III+ projects are about twice the cost of Gen II projects
    • European Gen III/III+ single unit projects are 50% more expensive than Asian/Middle Eastern Gen III/III+ multi-unit projects
    • Figure 6 shows 14% cost reduction per doubling of project capacity. This is for increasing project size – i.e. cost savings for multiple orders. Similar effects could be achieved if GB embarks on a project to install 20 to 30 GW of new nuclear power over about a decade.

    Points to note:

    1. The fact that Gen 3 projects are twice the cost of Gen 2, is consistent with many other studies which show regulatory ratcheting is the reason nuclear is the only technology that has had a negative learning rate over its life. The regulatory ratcheting and excessive regulation has not saved lives. It has resulted in many more fatalities than would have occurred if nuclear had had a positive learning rate as all other technologies have had. It can be deduced that if we remove the impediments and allow a positive learning rate going forward, nuclear will become safer, cheaper and therefore replace fossil fuel electricity generation more rapidly worldwide.

    2. The fact European nuclear projects are 50% more expensive than Asian projects is partly (perhaps mostly) due to the very costly regulatory environment in Europe and the resulting high risk for investors. This could be fixed if the various advocacy groups concerned about decarbonising advocated for objective, evidence based, rational policy. It could be implemented rapidly if the environmental NGOs stopped their anti-nuke campaigns and became enthusiastic advocates for nuclear power. Academics and organisations like ERP and ETI could help to make this happen.

    3. The fact that learning rates can be so high for a large program shows why an approach with one or a few technologies is likely to be a cheaper option than a diversified approach with many unproven technologies such as EIT suggested p19 here: http://www.eti.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/AH_Birmingham-Energy-Centre-lecture-20-1-16.pdf . If GB focused on implementing say 25 to 30 GW of new nuclear by around 2030, the average cost could be around half the cost of doing the same with a piecemeal, on-off approach.

    4. To succeed, the government needs to lead the way and explain to the public the options, benefits and costs. Academics and organisations like ERP, ETI and environmental NGO’s could be a great help (if they were genuinely interested in decarbonisation).

  64. Andy Boston,

    In case you are still checking on this thread from time to time, I’ve been thinking a lot about this comment you made:

    If I wanted to know what the most economic mix of technologies were I would use different models and different inputs, much closer to what ETI do with ESME which is designed to handle probability distributions as inputs. Taking a central number, which I did, for each uncertainty yielded the results in my report, but without doing proper uncertainty analysis it cannot be said that this is the most likely outcome.

    I’d like to discuss it because I don’t understand why you argue that we should not interpret from the ERP results that “all or mostly nuclear is likely to be the least cost option to decarbonize the GB electricity system)”.

    I have two points to make in support of my interpretation.

    First, this paragraph on p22 http://erpuk.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/ERP-Flex-Man-Full-Report.pdf seems to support my interpretation:

    The system cost results are of course very sensitive to the inputs on fuel costs and technology capex, and so the absolute costs presented here are only applicable to this particular scenario based on the PB 2013 inputs as described in the section on input data. However the messages about how the relative value of technologies change with different grid mixes are generally applicable.

    Am I misunderstanding the meaning of the last sentence? If so can you please explain why?

    Second, although Figure 11 shows there is little difference in total system cost between 30 GW nuclear and 30 GW CCS, Figure 14 (top) shows that 30 GW nuclear reduces emissions by ~147 Mt/a whereas 30 GW gas-CCS reduces emissions by just ~5 Mt/a. This is why (according to my calculations here https://judithcurry.com/2016/01/19/is-nuclear-the-cheapest-way-to-decarbonize-electricity/#comment-760150 ) the CO2 abatement cost is:
    30 GW nuclear = £74/t CO2
    30 GW gas-CCS = £556/t CO2
    I also estimates (may be wrong):
    30 GW gas-CCS + 24 GW wind + 10 GW nuclear = £90/t CO2

    I’ve been thinking about the uncertainty analyses too. There’s lots to discuss on this but, in short, I suspect the learning rates will be by far the greatest uncertainty. The learning rate for CCS (and weather dependent renewables) is controlled by technical constraints. CCS has not been proven commercially viable at the scale required. It may never be, just as Engineered Geothermal Systems has not proved to be viable despite the great hopes for it in the 1970’s and 1980s. On the other hand, nuclear is constrained by irrational fear, politics and the resulting irrational regulatory impediments imposed on it. For these reasons, this can change – the impediments can be removed (although it will take many decades for all the imposts to be washed out of the nuclear industry). Policies can be implemented to increase the rate that nuclear moves down the learning curve and to increase the negative slope of the learning curve.

    3.4 Policy options

    A focus on learning rates suggests two general categories of policy options. The first includes policies to speed progress down the learning curve, i.e., to speed the rate at which experience is accumulated in order that costs drop more quickly. The second category includes policies to steepen the learning curve by increasing the learning rate.

    Policies in the first category – aimed at speeding progress down the learning curve – are based on the premise that people with limited planning horizons will tend to underinvest (from the long-term global perspective) in new energy technologies that are currently expensive.5 Where the market fails to serve perceived social interests, governments can compensate. This is the logic behind government subsidies for new technologies, promotional government procurement policies (e.g., new-technology buses for public transportation systems) and government technology mandates (e.g., green 94 H.H. Rogner et al. certificates). In the first instance, subsidies will lower the consumer’s price and encourage use. Expanded use means quicker progress down the learning curve. In the second instance, government purchases directly increase use and thus speed progress down the learning curve. In the third instance, mandates that force consumers to buy more of a new technology than economic considerations would warrant also increase use and accelerate progress down the learning curve.

    Policies in the second category – aimed at increasing learning rates – focus on factors in addition to experience accumulation that might lead to cost reductions. Possibilities include research and development (R&D) investment, corporate structure, market structure, patent law, regulatory oversight, and education and training. If the impact of each of these on cost reductions (on the slope of the learning curve) were well understood, it would be possible to identify cost-effective government (or corporate) policies to steepen learning curves consistent with government (or corporate) objectives. Unfortunately, despite an expanding body of research, the impacts of such factors on cost reductions are not yet understood well enough to prescribe here policies to reach target learning rates. What can be offered in the sections below are brief summaries of ongoing research, including key references as starting points for readers interested in greater detail.
    IAEA, 2008, by Hans-Holger Rogner and Alan McDonald, 2008, Long-term performance targets for nuclear energy. Part 2: Markets and learning rates, Int. J. Global Energy Issues, Vol. 30, Nos. 1/2/3/4, 2008.

    I’d point out that if GB set policies that aimed to build 23 GW or 31 GW new nuclear by 2030, then the learning rate for nuclear would improve significantly. At the rate shown on Figure 6 here http://www.nucadvisor.com/%5B004%5D%20-%20A%20worlwide%20review%20of%20the%20cost%20of%20Nuclear%20Power.pdf , the average cost per kW of 30 GW would be half what it would be for the first plant. However, the point is that by focusing on one technology instead of many, the learning rate across the whole system to achieve decarbonisation is likely to be much greater than with a diversified portfolio as suggested in the ETI report, p19 here: http://www.eti.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/AH_Birmingham-Energy-Centre-lecture-20-1-16.pdf

    Andy, I hope you will rejoin the discussion to continue to discuss interpretation of the results presented in your report and also the uncertainties, especially the potential learning curve.

  65. [Repost with corrected formatting. JC could you please remove previous version of this comment]

    Andy Boston,

    In case you are still checking on this thread from time to time, I’ve been thinking a lot about this comment you made:

    If I wanted to know what the most economic mix of technologies were I would use different models and different inputs, much closer to what ETI do with ESME which is designed to handle probability distributions as inputs. Taking a central number, which I did, for each uncertainty yielded the results in my report, but without doing proper uncertainty analysis it cannot be said that this is the most likely outcome.

    I’d like to discuss it because I don’t understand why you argue that we should not interpret from the ERP results that “all or mostly nuclear is likely to be the least cost option to decarbonize the GB electricity system)”.

    I have two points to make in support of my interpretation.

    First, this paragraph on p22 http://erpuk.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/ERP-Flex-Man-Full-Report.pdf seems to support my interpretation:

    The system cost results are of course very sensitive to the inputs on fuel costs and technology capex, and so the absolute costs presented here are only applicable to this particular scenario based on the PB 2013 inputs as described in the section on input data. However the messages about how the relative value of technologies change with different grid mixes are generally applicable.

    Am I misunderstanding the meaning of the last sentence? If so can you please explain why?

    Second, although Figure 11 shows there is little difference in total system cost between 30 GW nuclear and 30 GW CCS, Figure 14 (top) shows that 30 GW nuclear reduces emissions by ~147 Mt/a whereas 30 GW gas-CCS reduces emissions by just ~5 Mt/a. This is why (according to my calculations here https://judithcurry.com/2016/01/19/is-nuclear-the-cheapest-way-to-decarbonize-electricity/#comment-760150 ) the CO2 abatement cost is:
    30 GW nuclear = £74/t CO2
    30 GW gas-CCS = £556/t CO2
    I also estimates (may be wrong):
    30 GW gas-CCS + 24 GW wind + 10 GW nuclear = £90/t CO2

    I’ve been thinking about the uncertainty analyses too. There’s lots to discuss on this but, in short, I suspect the learning rates will be by far the greatest uncertainty. The learning rate for CCS (and weather dependent renewables) is controlled by technical constraints. CCS has not been proven commercially viable at the scale required. It may never be, just as Engineered Geothermal Systems has not proved to be viable despite the great hopes for it in the 1970’s and 1980s. On the other hand, nuclear is constrained by irrational fear, politics and the resulting irrational regulatory impediments imposed on it. For these reasons, this can change – the impediments can be removed (although it will take many decades for all the imposts to be washed out of the nuclear industry). Policies can be implemented to increase the rate that nuclear moves down the learning curve and to increase the negative slope of the learning curve.

    3.4 Policy options

    A focus on learning rates suggests two general categories of policy options. The first includes policies to speed progress down the learning curve, i.e., to speed the rate at which experience is accumulated in order that costs drop more quickly. The second category includes policies to steepen the learning curve by increasing the learning rate.

    Policies in the first category – aimed at speeding progress down the learning curve – are based on the premise that people with limited planning horizons will tend to underinvest (from the long-term global perspective) in new energy technologies that are currently expensive.5 Where the market fails to serve perceived social interests, governments can compensate. This is the logic behind government subsidies for new technologies, promotional government procurement policies (e.g., new-technology buses for public transportation systems) and government technology mandates (e.g., green 94 H.H. Rogner et al. certificates). In the first instance, subsidies will lower the consumer’s price and encourage use. Expanded use means quicker progress down the learning curve. In the second instance, government purchases directly increase use and thus speed progress down the learning curve. In the third instance, mandates that force consumers to buy more of a new technology than economic considerations would warrant also increase use and accelerate progress down the learning curve.

    Policies in the second category – aimed at increasing learning rates – focus on factors in addition to experience accumulation that might lead to cost reductions. Possibilities include research and development (R&D) investment, corporate structure, market structure, patent law, regulatory oversight, and education and training. If the impact of each of these on cost reductions (on the slope of the learning curve) were well understood, it would be possible to identify cost-effective government (or corporate) policies to steepen learning curves consistent with government (or corporate) objectives. Unfortunately, despite an expanding body of research, the impacts of such factors on cost reductions are not yet understood well enough to prescribe here policies to reach target learning rates. What can be offered in the sections below are brief summaries of ongoing research, including key references as starting points for readers interested in greater detail.

    IAEA, 2008, by Hans-Holger Rogner and Alan McDonald, 2008, Long-term performance targets for nuclear energy. Part 2: Markets and learning rates, Int. J. Global Energy Issues, Vol. 30, Nos. 1/2/3/4, 2008.

    I’d point out that if GB set policies that aimed to build 23 GW or 31 GW new nuclear by 2030, then the learning rate for nuclear would improve significantly. At the rate shown on Figure 6 here http://www.nucadvisor.com/%5B004%5D%20-%20A%20worlwide%20review%20of%20the%20cost%20of%20Nuclear%20Power.pdf , the average cost per kW of 30 GW would be half what it would be for the first plant. However, the point is that by focusing on one technology instead of many, the learning rate across the whole system to achieve decarbonisation is likely to be much greater than with a diversified portfolio as suggested in the ETI report, p19 here: http://www.eti.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/AH_Birmingham-Energy-Centre-lecture-20-1-16.pdf

    Andy, I hope you will rejoin the discussion to continue to discuss interpretation of the results presented in your report and also the uncertainties, especially the potential learning curve.

  66. David Springer

  67. Below is one example (I have many more) of the sort or impediments that have caused the cost of nuclear power to become far more expensive than it could and should be. The alternative I am proposing is not no regulations, but appropriate regulations that provide a proper balance between cost and risk. This explains how I suggest we could get there: https://judithcurry.com/2016/01/19/is-nuclear-the-cheapest-way-to-decarbonize-electricity/#comment-759084

    “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.”

    Dr Staffan Qvist, Uppsala University, email to Professor Barry Brook posted here: http://bravenewclimate.com/2015/05/05/environmental-and-health-impacts-of-a-policy-to-phase-out-nuclear-power-in-sweden/#comment-405169 .

    “Following announcements that four reactors would close by 2020 due to declining profitability, representatives of E.On, Vattenfall and Fortum met with the Energy Minister on 6 November and warned that the operating environment for energy production in Sweden is “troubling” and in the medium term nuclear generation should not be taken for granted. Fortum said that while “Nuclear safety is always our first priority, …. heavy safety investments together with Sweden’s unique capacity tax pose a negative, totally unreasonable burden on nuclear power.” The nuclear tax is equal to over half the staff cost and makes up about one third of the operating cost of nuclear power in Sweden, about SEK 4.5 billion (US$ 518 million) per year.”

    WNN 10 November 2015: http://us1.campaign-archive2.com/?u=140c559a3b34d23ff7c6b48b9&id=31987813c8&e=a3b55276e6

  68. Mr. Lang wants to eliminate how engineering economics is taught in leading schools (like the University of Chicago) and how decisions are made using integrated grid resource analytical tools (e.g., like the GE MAPS model).

    Mr. Lang continuously wants to develop a “strawman” on how he feels engineering decisions should be made — and wants people to “refute” HIS strawman.

    Mr. Lang reminds me of a Freshman engineering student taking his 1st “open book test” — where he just copies sentence after sentence; gets an F; and then argues with his Prof on his grade.

    Andy Boston told Mr. Lang what I’ve told him over and over again:

    “To those tempted to use simple metrics like LCOE to compare technologies: You can’t. You have to do holistic modelling as value is a function of grid mix.”

    • Stephen Segrest,

      Mr. Lang wants to eliminate how engineering economics is taught in leading schools (like the University of Chicago) and how decisions are made using integrated grid resource analytical tools (e.g., like the GE MAPS model).

      Please quote and provide a link to my comment where you got that from. If you can’t do so, you should admit your are blatantly dishonest. I’ve never said anything of the sort. That’s your warped Green impregnated brain controlling your thinking. And it is you that keeps yapping on about the model you use for your down in the weeds engineering work and wanting to persuade me to learn it. You seem to think it provides the answers needed for policy analysis. If that is true, then you should write a post and explain how it provides the answers needed, such as ERP did for GB. Please produce the policy relevant charts equivalent to what are in the ERP report for GB – e.g showing total system costs and CO2 emissions intensity for different proportions of electricity supply technologies. Clearly you can’t or you would have made a constructive contribution long ago. Furthermore, you didn’t even make an attempt to read, let alone understand the ERP report before flying off on your loony-gree agenda in the comments on this thread, for example the arrogant and ignorant first comment you addressed to Andy Boston.

      Depending on how you interact with me — I may have other questions and look closer at your study.

      You repeatedly show you’re intellectual dishonesty. You repeatedly state I make strawman arguments, but despite me asking you (many times) what I’ve said that is a strawman argument, you don’t answer the question. You never state what the strawman actually is, but keep repeating the assertion. You seem to call my arguments “strawman” because I refute your assertions. You said:

      Mr. Lang continuously wants to develop a “strawman” on how he feels engineering decisions should be made — and wants people to “refute” HIS strawman.

      No. That’s you doing that. It is you that is continually arguing that policy policy decisions should be left to engineers, but it seems what you really mean is they should be left to people who agree with your loony-left Green beliefs. You believe everyone should be interested in the down-in the weed’s engineering you do. But you have not a clue about what is needed for policy analysis. You can’t hold a rational discussion about that.

      • Stephen Segrest,

        Further response to your comment at: https://judithcurry.com/2016/01/19/is-nuclear-the-cheapest-way-to-decarbonize-electricity/#comment-767906

        Andy Boston told Mr. Lang what I’ve told him over and over again:

        “To those tempted to use simple metrics like LCOE to compare technologies: You can’t. You have to do holistic modelling as value is a function of grid mix.”

        That is more intellectual dishonesty. I totally agree with that statement and have said similar many times. If you’d actually bothered to read my posts and comments since forever, I use LCOE and estimates that include grid-level system costs for comparisons depending on the situation (as do IEA, EIA, DECC, AETA, CSIRO, EPRI, Government policy analysists in most countries). I’ve often stated that proper comparisons have to be based on the total system costs; recall I have often referred to this OECD report ‘Nuclear energy and renewables: System Effects in Low-carbon Electricity Systemshttp://www.oecd-nea.org/ndd/reports/2012/system-effects-exec-sum.pdf and this summary of it ‘Counting the hidden cost of energyhttp://www.energyinachangingclimate.info/Counting%20the%20hidden%20costs%20of%20energy.pdf . The key message from this is that the grid-level system cost for weather-dependent renewables are huge – e.g. $30-$50/MWh for wind and solar at 30% penetration, versus about $2/MWh for nuclear.

        Table 1: Grid-level system cost ($/MWh) at differing penetration levels for a range of electricity generation technologies
        Penetration Level 10% 30%
        Nuclear 2.4 2.1
        Coal 0.9 0.9
        Gas 0.5 0.5
        Onshore Wind 18.4 31.8
        Offshore Wind 28.3 36.8
        Solar PV 36.4 55.6

        This OECD report shows grid level system costs at 30% penetration are some 15 to 25 times higher for weather-dependent renewables than for nuclear.

    • Stephen Segrest,

      Two of the ‘Tens signs of intellectual dishonestyhttps://judithcurry.com/2013/04/20/10-signs-of-intellectual-honesty/

      4. Avoiding/Ignoring the question or “ . . . and let’s not forget about . . .” Anybody who refuses to admit that their argument is weak in an area and, worse still, avoids answering difficult questions in that area is being intellectually dishonest. If they don’t ignore the question, these people are easily recognised from their efforts to change the subject.

      8. Destroying a straw man or “You might say that, but how do you explain . . . ?”. Usually a case of shifting the subject and attacking the opponent’s position on that, unrelated or remotely related, topic. This is usually employed in an effort to avoid a question (Sign #4) or when the speaker/writer doesn’t have the knowledge to address the issue.

      You made two strawman arguments in your comment:

      Mr. Lang wants to eliminate how engineering economics is taught in leading schools (like the University of Chicago) and how decisions are made using integrated grid resource analytical tools (e.g., like the GE MAPS model).

      That is a strawman. I have never said anything of the sort.

      Mr. Lang continuously wants to develop a “strawman” on how he feels engineering decisions should be made — and wants people to “refute” HIS strawman.

      I do not argue about how engineering decisions (outside my area of expertise) should be made. I present my views, supported by arguments, on policy analysis (something I do have some experience in) and argue the case for the approaches I recommend.

      You do not engage on the substance.

  69. Getting back on topic, the key point of the post is:

    The results presented in the ERP show all or mostly new nuclear capacity is likely to be the cheapest way to decarbonise the GB electricity system to meet the recommended 50 g CO2/kWh target. The ERP analysis used the central estimates from the DECC commissioned Parsons and Brinkerhoff reports (17 July, 2013) here: https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/energy-generation-cost-projections.

    The ERP Senior Analysis lead author of the report, Andy Boston, said:

    If I wanted to know what the most economic mix of technologies were I would use different models and different inputs, much closer to what ETI do with ESME which is designed to handle probability distributions as inputs. Taking a central number, which I did, for each uncertainty yielded the results in my report, but without doing proper uncertainty analysis it cannot be said that this is the most likely outcome. And anyway there’s a lot more than economics to consider.

    I don’t find that a persuasive argument. While I accept that uncertainty analyses are needed to give an accurate quantitative answer, it would be impossible to get the inputs needed to do the uncertainty analysis rigorously and objectively. For example, the uncertainties on the learning rates to use for each technology are huge and any figures used would inevitably influenced by the beliefs of the researchers and likely be biased. Furthermore, engineers, financiers and all groups in society have been making investment decisions and policy decision based on best available information for thousands of years. They didn’t do sophisticated uncertainty analysis before making decisions. They used experience and best available information.

    So far there has been nothing tangible and persuasive on this thread that my interpretation of the results in the report is wrong. Furthermore, some of Andy Boston’s comments on this thread give me cause for concern, for example:

    1. advocacy for carbon pricing, and his belief it is inevitable, but no refutation of my paper on “Why carbon pricing will not succeed”

    2. advocacy for a carbon price of £100/t CO2 carbon price

    3. seemingly advocating for anything but nuclear, e.g CCS

    4. unsupported, throw-away, dismissive comments like this “And anyway there’s a lot more than economics to consider.

    5. largely avoiding addressing the main point of the post