Nuclear power learning rates: policy implications

by Peter Lang

A revolution could be achieved with nuclear power if we remove the factors that caused the large cost increases during and since the 1970’s, i.e. return to the learning rates demonstrated before 1970.


Main Points:

  • Learning rate is the rate costs reduce per doubling of capacity. Until about 1970 learning rates for nuclear power were 23% in the US and 27% to 35% in the other countries studied, except India.
  • Around 1970, learning rates reversed and become negative (-94% in the US, -82% in Germany, -23% to -56% in the other countries, except South Korea); clearly something caused the reversal of learning rates for nuclear power around 1970.
  • If the positive learning rates from 1953 to 1970 had continued, nuclear power would cost less than 1/10th of current cost.
  • If nuclear deployment had continued at 30 GW per year from 1980, nuclear would cost much less than 1/10th of what it does now; furthermore the additional nuclear generation would have substituted for 85,000 TWh of mostly coal-generated electricity, thereby avoiding 85 Gt CO2 emissions and 5 million fatalities.
  • In 2015, assuming nuclear replaced coal, the additional nuclear generation would have replaced half of coal generation, thus avoided half of the CO2 emissions and 300,000 future fatalities. If the accelerating rate of deployment from 1960 to 1976 had continued, nuclear would have replaced all baseload coal and gas generation before 2015.
  • High learning rates were achieved in the past and could be achieved again with appropriate policies.

 

Introduction

History is replete with examples of one technology replacing another. The rate that technology transitions take place is highly dependent on the technology learning rates that exist during the transition period. If we want electricity generation that is cheap, clean, safe and has low CO2 emissions, then policies need to focus on ways to improve the learning rates of the technologies that meet the requirements. Historical learning rates provide some insight into what rates are achievable and what could be done to increase learning rates for technologies that meet requirements.

The concept of learning rates is widely used to quantify the ability to reduce costs as experience is gained. Rubin, et al., 2015, ‘A review of learning rates for electricity supply technologies’ defines ‘learning rate’ as “the fractional reduction in cost for each doubling of cumulative production or capacity”. The authors explain how to calculate learning rates and provide a summary of learning rates for a selection of electricity generation technologies. Unfortunately, the paper has little information on nuclear learning rates and none before 1972 or after 1996.

Lovering et al., 2016, ‘Historical construction costs of global nuclear power reactors’ provides a comprehensive analysis of nuclear power construction cost experience of early and recent reactors in seven countries; the analysis covers 58% of the civil nuclear reactors constructed for electricity generation globally between 1953 and 2008 (based on construction start dates). Table 1 (reproduced below) defines periods with different stages of development and different trends in construction costs for the seven countries.

Table 1: Summary of Overnight Capital Cost (OCC) trends by country

Table 1

Method

I re-analyse Lovering’s data to calculate learning rates. Figure 1 plots Overnight Capital Cost (OCC) ($/kW) versus cumulative global capacity (GW), for the nuclear points in Lovering’s Figure 13. It shows there was a marked reversal in the slope of OCC versus cumulative global capacity. Before cumulative global capacity reached around 32 GW, OCC was decreasing as cumulative capacity increased (i.e. positive learning rates). Then an abrupt change occurred; thereafter, OCC was increasing (i.e. negative learning rates). Trendlines are fitted to the US data points before and after 32 GW cumulative global capacity to highlight the dramatic change.

Figure 1:

Slide1

Given this clear evidence for two phases, I calculated the learning rates for two periods, before and after the change in slope, or inflection point, for each country. The inflection point did not happen at the same time in all countries. It occurred first in the US, there was a lag to Canada and Europe and a further lag to Asia. The inflection points I selected are: 32 GW for US; 64 GW for Canada, France and Germany; and 100 GW for Japan, India and South Korea. I divided the data points into two series for each country: Period 1 before and Period 2 after the inflection point. I plotted the points on a log-log plot (base 2), fitted trendlines to each period for each country and calculated the learning rate for each. Following Rubin, et al., 2015, ‘A review of learning rates for electricity supply technologies’ I calculated learning rate by regressing Overnight Capital Cost against cumulative global capacity using a power function. Learning rate is equal to 1-2b where b is the exponent of the fitted power function.

Results

Figure 2 has seven charts, one for each of the seven countries; each shows the data points for that country and the trendlines fitted to the periods before and after the inflection point. The power equation for each trendline is shown on the charts.

Figure 2:

Figure 2 US CA

Figure 2 FR DE

Figure 2 JP IN

Figure 2 KR

To facilitate comparison of the trends for the different countries, Figure 3 shows all on one chart. Japan and France had the fastest learning rate in the 1st phase and Korea had a similar rate since it started building reactors in 1972, but starting from a high OCC after the initial rapid cost escallation in the other countries.

Figure 3:

Figure 3

The learning rates for the first and second period in each country are in Table 2. For each period, learning rates are given for cumulative global capacity and for the country’s cumulative capacity. The 6th column is the inflection point for each country. The last column lists the projected OCC at 500 GW cumulative global capacity of constucted reactors if the 1st period learning rate had continued until now.

Table 2:

Table 2

Learning rates are affected by the growth of cumulative capacity both globally and in the country building the reactors. That is, experience gained globally and in the country both contribute to the learning rate for that country. As shown in Table 2, the differences in the learning rates calculated by the two methods are relatively small. I have followed the example of Lovering et al. and use global cumulative capacity in the charts above and below. The periods over which the learning rates apply are plotted in Figure 4.

Figure 4:

 

Figure 4-2

 

Discussion

Table 2 shows that until about 1970 learning rates for nuclear power averaged 23% in USA and 27% to 35% in the other countries, except India (7%). Around 1970, learning rates changed abruptly and become negative (-94% in USA, -82% in Germany, -23% to -56% in the other countries), except in South Korea; South Korea started building nuclear power plants after the initial rapid cost-escalation period, achieving 33% learning rate since 1972. The fact that high learning rates existed up to about 1970 suggests they could be achieved again. Something disrupted and reversed progress in the late 1960s and 1970s (the cause will be discussed in another paper).

If the 1st period learning rates had continued until today, when cumulative global capacity of reactors constructed so far is around 500 GW, the OCC of nuclear power would be less than 1/10th of what it is now, e.g., around $260/kW (France), $350/kW (US), $740/kW (Japan). This is much lower than fossil fuels and other alternatives. Clearly, if we can once again achieve the high learning rates of pre-1970’s then nuclear power will become much cheaper than the alternatives.

The US’s learning rate during the second period was the worst of the seven countries. The second period started a few years later in the other countries and the cost escalation was not as severe as in the US. This suggests the US influenced the development of nuclear power in all seven countries (and probably all countries). It also shows technology learning rates and transition rates can change quickly and disrupt progress, in this case delaying it for half a century so far.

Figure 5 shows the cumulative global capacity of constructed reactors versus the construction start date.

Figure 5:

Figure 5

If the rate of deployment from 1970-1976 had continued, cumulative global capacity of nuclear (based on construction starts) would be 1,150 GW in 2015 (linear projection); it would be around 2,900 GW if the acceleration rate from 1960 to 1976 had continued. Figure 6 (from IAEA ‘Technology Roadmap, Nuclear Energy, 2015 Edition’ Figure 2) shows the rate of grid connections peaked at over 30 GW per year in 1984 and 1985.

Figure 6:

Figure 6

If the 30 GW per year rate had continued since 1985, cumulative global capacity of nuclear would have been 1,320 GW in 2015. At this rate OCC would be much less than 1/10th of what it is now and the extra nuclear generation, from 1980 to 2015, would have substituted for 85,000 TWh[i] of mostly coal-generated electricity globally and avoided approximately 85 Gt CO2[ii] and 5 million fatalities[iii] from pollution. For the year 2015, assuming nuclear replaced coal, the additional nuclear generation would have replaced 54% of coal generation, avoided 54% of the CO2 emissions and saved 300,000 future fatalities. If the accelerating rate from 1960 to 1976 (see Figure 5) had continued, nuclear would have replaced all baseload coal and gas generation before 2015.

If we remove the impediments that reversed the learning rates, we could achieve high positive learning rates again. That would lead us to cheap, clean, safe, nuclear power and to decarbonisation of electricity systems globally (over decades). How the impediments can be removed will be discussed in another paper.

 

Policy implications

Energy is the lifeblood of modern civilization. Policies that increase the cost of energy are unlikely to be politically sustainable and, therefore, unlikely to succeed[iv]. Therefore, to reduce the emissions that are detrimental to health and the environment, countries will need access to low-emissions technologies that are cheaper than high-emissions technologies.

Furthermore, cheap electricity increases productivity and GDP growth rate, drives faster electrification for the people without any electricity or with insufficient and/or unreliable electricity and thus more quickly lifts the world’s population to higher standards of living. As electricity costs decrease the deployment rate increases, capacity doublings occur faster so costs reduce faster (i.e. we progress more quickly down the learning curve). Technology transition takes place faster and the benefits are delivered sooner.

This revolution could be achieved with nuclear power if we remove the factors that caused the large cost increases during and since the 1970’s, i.e. return to the learning rates demonstrated before 1970. These factors, which will be discussed in another paper, represent impediments to transition to cheap, clean, safer electricity and the benefits that flow from that. The cost of nuclear power could decrease at the learning rates achieved in the first period if these impediments are removed.

To remove the impediments I suggest we need a catalyst to get people to reconsider the basis for their fears about nuclear power and to take another look at the costs, benefits and risks of nuclear power for the world. A suggested catalyst and a way to proceed will be the subject of another paper.

Endnotes

[i] Total world nuclear generation (TWh) per year is factored up in proportion to the projected / actual cumulative global capacity from 1980 to 2012 (EIA ‘International Energy Statistics’)

[ii] Assumed CO2 emissions intensity of electricity displaced by nuclear power is 1 t/MWh (= 1 Mt/TWh)

[iii] Assumes nuclear power avoids 60 fatalities per TWh, i.e. “coal electricity – world average” (60) minus nuclear (0.09) (‘Deaths by energy source in Forbes’, 2012)

[iv] Peter Lang 2015, ‘Why carbon pricing will not succeed’; although this is about carbon pricing the main points apply to all policies that would raise the cost of energy.

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

283 responses to “Nuclear power learning rates: policy implications

  1. Unfortunately, in the US at least, the old-nuclear industry is subsidized and encouraged to keep to a business as usual approach by the Price Anderson Act. Hewing to old-nuclear old-think is the enemy of nuclear power innovation. It removes the incentives for safer & more proliferation resistant nuclear technologies.

    • The problem lies with the large number of regulatory requirements imposed on the plants; the industry has not created the problem. Contrasting the requirements in say the early 1979’s versus today clearly shows a vast increase in regulatory requirements. Ybutts claims are without merit.

      The only way to get out of the regulatory swamp is to avoid it in the first place. Careful review of the regulations leads to the conclusion that the bulk of the requirements stem from the fact that the fuel can (and has) melt.

      Use a reactor that employs passive cooling and fuel that cannot melt. That directly avoids large numbers of requirements. Stated a little differently, the amount of “stuff” needed and subject to extensive regulation is significantly reduced.

      • What are the regulatory requirements in China and Russia?

        Why weren’t these countries included in the study?

      • They China, Russia and GB are not included because the cost data is not available or not of sufficiently reliable to use (Read the Lovering paper)

        As I’ve explained in answer to this question each time you’ve raised it as a question or as an assertion, the regulatory requirements are propagated to all countries through the IAEA. the regulations and peer pressure ensure they have to comply with international standards. That is why, Russian reactors now require containment buildings and why, I understand, no more CPR-1000 licenses will be issued (after the current batch of constructions are complete), despite the most recent completions costing just US$1475/kW.

        New Chinese reactor starts up

        The fourth reactor at Hongyanhe nuclear power plant in northeast China’s Liaoning province has started up. The plant is a joint venture of China General Nuclear Power (CGN) and the State Power Investment Corporation (SPIC). The cost of all four 1119 MWe CPR-1000 units in the first construction phase is put at CNY 50 billion (US$ 6.6 billion), with localization about 80%. The project incorporates a 10,080 m3/day seawater desalination plant using waste heat to provide cooling water. Two further reactors are being built at the site.
        WNN 7/3/16. China NP http://www.world-nuclear.org/information-library/country-profiles/countries-a-f/china-nuclear-power.aspx

      • David Springer

        Peer pressure. Yeah right. Same way child labor laws are enforced in China – peer pressure. Try again.

      • David Springer

        http://www.forbes.com/sites/jamesconca/2015/10/22/china-shows-how-to-build-nuclear-reactors-fast-and-cheap/#137b91ef4d0b

        http://instituteforenergyresearch.org/analysis/china-building-nuclear-plants-u-s-quietly-closes-them/

        China is building nuclear reactors quickly and cheaply—about 5 years per reactor and $2000 to $2500 per kilowatt. China’s Yangjiang Unit 3 in western Guangdong province went on line this year after less than five years of construction. Yangjiang Unit 2 is in commercial cooperation, having been in low power operation earlier this year. The six Chinese-designed reactors at Yangjiang of 1,000 megawatts each will cost $11.5 billion or just under $2000 per kilowatt—about a third of the cost in most western countries.

        So Lang says China is bound by the same regulations as the US. Yet China is building plants for a third the price as in Western nations.

        You got some ‘splainin to do, Lang.

      • Springer says,

        Russia building 37% of the nuclear power plants in the entire world.

        And Lang leaves them out of his so-called analysis. Isn’t that just precious?

        Your comment is disingenuous.

        You previously said you always read the paper before commenting – you dont!

        You also made this comment on WIR Energy Edition, Feb 6: https://judithcurry.com/2016/02/06/week-in-review-energy-edition-2/#comment-763270

        I’ve been telling nuclear power cheerleader Peter Lang this for *years*.

        Watch him fly off the handle in 3 … 2 … 1 …

        http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0301421516300106

        You had misunderstood the paper then and made the comment without having read it.

        Now you again show you haven’t read the paper. It explains why only seven countries were used in the Lovering et al. analysis (because the cost data for other countries was not available or not reliable, including UK).

        As my post clearly states, I used the Lovering data.

      • David Springer

        http://thebulletin.org/russian-nuclear-power-convenience-what-cost8809

        Russia building 37% of the nuclear power plants in the entire world.

        And Lang leaves them out of his so-called analysis. Isn’t that just precious?

      • [Repost in correct place]

        Springer says,

        Russia building 37% of the nuclear power plants in the entire world.

        And Lang leaves them out of his so-called analysis. Isn’t that just precious?

        Your comment is disingenuous and trolling.

        You previously said you always read the paper before commenting – you dont!

        You also made this comment on WIR Energy Edition, Feb 6: https://judithcurry.com/2016/02/06/week-in-review-energy-edition-2/#comment-763270

        I’ve been telling nuclear power cheerleader Peter Lang this for *years*.

        Watch him fly off the handle in 3 … 2 … 1 …

        http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0301421516300106

        You hadn’t read and misunderstood the Lovering et al. paper then. It was pointed out to you on that post, and still you apparently haven’t read it or, if you have read it you din’t understand it or you are misrepresenting it.

        Lovering et al. explains why only seven countries were used in the Lovering et al. analysis (because the cost data for other countries was not available, not complete or not reliable, including UK).

        As my post clearly states, I used the Lovering data.

      • Springer,

        You question peer pressure of US on other countries. The try to deny Obama has been using the power and persuasion that comes with being President of the US to ‘persuade’ other countries to sign agreements to cut their CO2 emissions. If you don’t know about this you are either ignorant or a den1er..

        But you also used a standard ‘den1er tactic to avoid addressing the issue. So I’ll remove the part you chose to make use to avoid addressing the issue and repeat the remainder.

        As I’ve explained in answer to this question each time you [Springer] have raised it raised it as a question or as an assertion, the regulatory requirements are propagated to all countries through the IAEA. the regulations [and …] ensure they have to comply with international standards. That is why, Russian reactors now require containment buildings and why, I understand, no more CPR-1000 licenses will be issued (after the current batch of constructions are complete), despite the most recent completions costing just US$1475/kW.

      • David Springer

        Lang I asked you to explain how, if China is bound by the same regulatory burdens as US plants, they are building them at a third the price.

        You didn’t answer the question by waving your hands and saying I hadn’t read the Louvering paper.

        Please explain how it is that China is building nuclear power plants for one third the cost in the US.

      • David Springer

        You also ought to do at least as much research as wikipedia before saying things like “it is my understanding that no more CPR-1000 licenses will be issued.”

        See here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CPR-1000

        China has two new designs, ACPR-1000 and ACP-1000 which have no licensed components in them. The first ACPR-1000 started construction in 2013: Yangjiang 5.

        Try to keep up with me by doing a little bit of homework before you put down more of your “understandings” which turn out to be wrong upon the least little investigation by yours truly.

        Now answer the question. If China is bound the same regulatory burdens as the US how are they building reactors for one third the price of US reactors?

        Good luck. One way or the other I’m going to catch you out in yet another false statement. Either China has the same regulatory burdens as other countries (your claim) and they can build reactors there cheaper than other countries (proving your claim false that regulatory problems are what makes reactors cost so much) or they don’t have the same regulatory burdens yet still aren’t rushing away from coal and natural gas which again proves that more than regulatory burdens are the problem. You’re wrong either way. Thanks for playing.

      • David Springer
        @ March 19, 2016 at 1:22 pm

        Lang I asked you to explain how, if China is bound by the same regulatory burdens as US plants, they are building them at a third the price.

        You didn’t answer the question by waving your hands and saying I hadn’t read the Louvering paper.

        Please explain how it is that China is building nuclear power plants for one third the cost in the US.

        I’ve answered this same question every time you’ve asked on this thread an many previous threads. The reasons why China is cheaper than US are many and irrelevant to the issue of learning rates. The relative prices at a point in time say nothing about the learning rates and whether or not the reversal of learning rates in the US and other countries around 1970 impacted other countries. What tells you that the reversal of learning rates in the US and in other countries is reflected in China’s costs is the fact that China’s current costs are about 10 times what they would have been if learning rates had not reversed in the 1970s.

    • ybutt, I think it is quite clear that the subsidies only exist as a half hearted attempt to surmount the costs which Peter is looking to eliminate.

      Remove prohibitive costs, no subsidies needed.

    • Yousef,

      Why to you continue to make a fool of yourself with an argument that multiple people here have called you on? Your depiction of P-A is so off base that one can only conclude you have an axe to grind or you don’t know what you are talking about.

  2. ybutt has made very valid comments regarding historical and existing practices. It is a closed shop with no signs of a change of stance.
    Over riding all of the recent comment and articles relating to the future of nuclear generation is the large existing waste storage problem with ever increasing risk. This problem is far larger than any perceived global warming outcomes, its here now, but still no action. All future nuclear discussion should be put on hold until this legacy is dealt with. Perhaps President Obama could use the proposed oil tax to clean this mess up, now that would be a legacy.

    • Nuclear plant waste is not a big problem because there is not that much of it. I you watch the movie Pandora’s Promise, you’ll see that all the big cylinders fit in a few football feilds. It also might be used as fuel in newer generation plants.

    • Kiwikid, the problem of nuclear waste storage is nothing like as problematic as you suggest. New technologies of waste reprocessing mean vastly reduced dangerously radioactive material by either recovering fuel for further power generation or transmutation into stable isotopes or ones with very short half lives. Plus there are new techniques for nuclear generation that burn fuel more efficiently and thereby produce less waste per Gwh. And that’s before we startr talking about thorium….

      • You can still get a job removing MOX fuel from cooling ponds I understand. I do not know just how long the work will last. It will be up in the air, until the UN studies the situation awhile longer.

    • Having been the chief technologist for the US’ first and free world’s largest plant converting high-level nuclear waste to glass, I know a little bit about nuclear waste. I also have done some work for two utilities dealing with coal wastes.

      Fact: The volume of waste from even older nuclear plants is far less than that produced from coal plants. Further, much of the nastiest coal-burning waste is “stored” in the form of liquid slurries.
      Fact: The volume of highly radioactive waste from processing nuclear materials for defense purposes in the US (legacy of the Cold War) is about 100 million gallons, i.e., a few hundred times greater than the volume of waste from nuclear power plants. The waste stored in SC makes up about 35M gallons and is being converted to a stable glass stored in sealed steel canisters. A plant is being built in WA to do the same with the 65M gallons there. Once this is done, the nuclear material in this glass will still be radioactive (i.e., you wouldn’t want to hug a canister!) but will be locked away from the environment for at least the 20-40K yrs or so it will take for the material to decay to the level of radioactivity of naturally-occurring uranium ore.

      What this means is that we have the technical know-how to handle the nuclear waste “problem.” What we lack is the political know-how to solve either the problem of wastes from burning coal or where to finally store waste forms containing nuclear materials. The same holds true for almost any of our societal problems where bounded rationality runs amok.

      • Subduction zones.
        ==============

      • Subduction zones.

        I have a feeling most of the people worried about radioactive waste don’t understand what those are. The more things you tell them that they don’t understand, the more dangerous the whole idea looks to them.

      • Heh, you may be right. My brother told me this solution over 30 years ago.

        Years earlier I had thought of pitching the radioactive wastes into the sun, but it costs more to do that than the energy gotten from the pre-wasted fuel. And then, there might be those to complain that we would be polluting the sun, to Gaia knows what ill effect.

        But, it is a wonderful example of the convoluted processes, political and technical, that humans can get into despite being confronted with a convenient solution to one of the principal concerns about the generation of electricity by fission. Wastes in the subducting zone can do nothing but plunge deeper into the crust for millennia.
        =================

      • @John Plodinec: That was a fantastic comment and very interesting. Thank you.

      • And then, there might be those to complain that we would be polluting the sun, to Gaia knows what ill effect.

        Well, we can guess that stuff we pitch into the photosphere will come back via the Solar Wind. Or might, anyway.

        How about slingshoting it out into interstellar space?

        Really, though, I agree subduction zones are the best option. Same goes for excess carbon. (I know, you think we’re better off with it in the air. But if we need to sequester it…)

        Here’s a thought. Many cities are being inundated in their own garbage/trash. Why not package it and drop it into a subduction zone? And give whoever does it carbon credits to sell, equivalent to however much ambient-sourced carbon is included in the trash dump.

      • I second agnostic2015’s comment:

        @John Plodinec: That was a fantastic comment and very interesting. Thank you.

      • John,

        Informative, but I suspect your info has greater chance of making people continue to mix US weapons programs with commercial nuclear generation. Hanford, Rocky Flats and Aiken have zero relation too electric power generation.

      • Kim, I once thought the same as your brother. But it didn’t take long to see the flaws.

        Later I learned disposal isn’t something to worry about.

      • Thanks for the positives – makes a “seasoned professional” (= old) smile. In response to Kim’s comment about subduction zones, they were in fact considered in the late ’50’s and early ’60’s. At that time the concept was to simply pump the waste into them. Cooler heads soon prevailed.

        Current EPA and NRC regulations would almost certainly prevent putting waste in almost in any form in subduction zones anywhere within the borders of the US. And there are treaties against dumping waste in the ocean that would make it nearly impossible to do offshore.

        I’ve said it several times but it bears repeating. The EPA and esp. the NRC (Nuclear Regulatory Commission) established a rigorous process for verification and validation of the models used to predict performance of radwaste forms out to 100,000 years. I strongly believe this same rigor should be enforced on climate models used to set policy.

      • OT, because it is about causes and solutions rather then learning rates and projected future cost s of nuclear if we want to achieve cleaner, safer, low emissions electricity, but I’ll respond anyway. In the 1980’s, Canada’s law required (it may be still the same) the Canadian Nuclear Fuel Waste Program to demonstrate a less than 1 in 1 million probability of serious health effects to a member of the public for a period of 1 million years. AECL developed the SYVAC program and conducted research programs in the Canadian Shield to collect the input data to feed into the program. A 1 in a 1 million probability means that one person per year in a city with a population of 1 million people sited over the nuclear waste disposal vault would contract a serious health effect per year, or 1 million people in 1 million years.

      • Current EPA and NRC regulations would almost certainly prevent putting waste in almost in any form in subduction zones anywhere within the borders of the US.

        Er… Which ones would those be?

      • AK: Too many to list. Important from NRC are NUREG 1298, and “Model Validation From A Regulatory Perspective.”

      • John Plodinec wrote:

        I’ve said it several times but it bears repeating. The EPA and esp. the NRC (Nuclear Regulatory Commission) established a rigorous process for verification and validation of the models used to predict performance of radwaste forms out to 100,000 years. I strongly believe this same rigor should be enforced on climate models used to set policy.

        The resistance that I have seen in the past to this suggestion is still surprising. One is lead to the conclusion that it is either ignorant arrogance or ideology. Maybe some one can come up with other reasons but to me whatever the motivation(s) the intransigence to openly take up the V&V suggestion still effectively undercuts confidence in virtually all statements from that quarter. It is a sorry twist that we impose such Q&A in the context or national, regional and even local scale environmental issues but kick and scream at the thought of applying similar or more stringent standards on a global/humanity issue. Go figure.

      • AK: Too many to list. Important from NRC are NUREG 1298, and “Model Validation From A Regulatory Perspective.”

        I meant which subduction zones are “anywhere within the borders of the US.”?

        I suppose parts of the Cascadia Subduction Zone and the Aleutian Trench might be withing US territorial waters. How far does the US currently claim?

        BTW, harking back to your earlier:

        In response to Kim’s comment about subduction zones, they were in fact considered in the late ’50’s and early ’60’s.

        IIRC the real science of subduction zones didn’t get underway until the ’70’s. So what sort of “considered” are you talking about?

      • AK,

        I meant which subduction zones are “anywhere within the borders of the US.”?

        Subduction zones pass down below the Rockies and Andes mountain chain. The Pacific ocean floor passes under the Rockies and Mountains, the materials it takes with it heat as they get deeper and eventually melt. They form mostly granitic rocks if they do not reach the surface and explosive type volcanic eruptions (like Mt St Hellens) if they do. What you put into subduction zones may return to the surface …. in many millions of years time :). The oceanic crust is being subducted at about 5 cm per year. BTW, as an aside, the oceanic crust differentiates to create continental crust in subductions zones. As it does so, uranium is concentrated into continental crust. About 10,000 t of uranium are concentrated into continental crust per year. Uranium is aa renewable fuel :)

      • Subduction zones pass down below the Rockies and Andes mountain chain.

        If there’s a subduction zone under the Rockies (doubtful, IMO) it’s buried far below the granitic crust.

        As for the Andes, the Peru–Chile Trench, is well offshore from the coast west of the Andes.

        Trenches tend to be well offshore from the mountain chains (or island arcs) that rise behind them.

      • You may have been thinking of the Sierra Nevada range. This was originally the back range from the subduction zone whose modern remnant is the Juan de Fuca subduction zone, now to the north only.

        The Sierra Nevada is continuing to rise due to volcanic activity left over from this subduction. But the subduction itself is long gone at this latitude.

      • AK,

        If there’s a subduction zone under the Rockies (doubtful, IMO)

        Sorry, AK, you are way outside your area of expertise, and the fact you make such bold but ignorant statements, does nothing for your credibility. This damages your credibility for all assertions you make.

        Your ideas about nuclear waste management show you’ve read absolutely nothing about the work that has been done for the past >40 years. The world has locked solidly into geologic disposal being the best option. The Canadian site under Bruce Power Station, is in limestones and shales that have negative pore pressures of some 300 m above ground level (from memory). In simple terms, the interpretation is that water has not got in or out of those formations for some 300 million years. That rock formation extends to the Appalachian Mountains.

        As you’ve been told repeatedly, nuclear waste management is not a technical issue. The cost of all nuclear waste management, including the long term permanent disposal component, amounts to about 1% of the cost of electricity. So can I encourage you to get over this issue, and focus on relevant, objective comparisons between all realistic options for cheaper, cleaner, safer, low emissions electricity technologies that meet the requirements of the electricity system; most importantly 1) energy security, 2) reliability of supply, 3) low cost.

      • Sorry, AK, you are way outside your area of expertise, and the fact you make such bold but ignorant statements, does nothing for your credibility.

        Sorry Peter, but you’re the one who’s way outside the area of your expertise. You clearly don’t even know what a subduction zone is.

        A subduction zone is a boundary where two tectonic plates collide and, because of differences in density, one dives beneath the other. This occurs frequently where an oceanic plate meets a continental plate. The denser and thicker oceanic plate is shoved underneath the less dense continental plate. This is currently occurring off the Pacific Northwest coast of North America from Cape Mendocino in California north to British Columbia.

        Anyway, I’m a proponent of using subduction zones to dispose of nuclear waste. I just happen to know that there are no such things within the continental US. Or any other continent. (Not active anyway.)

        Perhaps you’re thinking of something else?

      • AK,


        http://geomaps.wr.usgs.gov/parks/province/rockymtn.html

        The Cascadia subduction zone (also referred to as the Cascadia fault) is a convergent plate boundary that stretches from northern Vancouver Island to northern California. It is a very long sloping subduction zone fault that separates the Juan de Fuca and North America plates.
        The denser oceanic plate is subducting beneath the less dense continental plate offshore of British Columbia, Washington, Oregon and northern California. The North American Plate moves in a general southwest direction, overriding the oceanic plate. The Cascadia Subduction Zone is where the two plates meet.

        Tectonic processes active in the Cascadia subduction zone region include accretion, subduction, deep earthquakes, and active volcanism of the Cascades. This volcanism has included such notable eruptions as Mount Mazama (Crater Lake) about 7,500 years ago, Mount Meager about 2,350 years ago, and Mount St. Helens in 1980.[1] Major cities affected by a disturbance in this subduction zone would include Vancouver and Victoria, British Columbia; Seattle, Washington; and Portland, Oregon.

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

      • @Peter Lang…

        As your picture demonstrates, the subduction zone is off-shore. By the time the subducting slab gets to the longitude of the Rockies, it’s far too far below the surface for depositing waste of any sort.

        Waste deposition would have to take place off-shore, in the trench.

        Anyway, your picture is a little old. From the page you linked, beside what seems to be an identical picture:

        This sketch shows the plate tectonic setting during the growth of the Rocky Mountains (Laramide orogeny). The angle of the subducting plate is significantly flatter, moving the focus of melting and mountain building much farther inland than is normally expected.

        I’ve added a link to Wiki to the blockquoted text above. Here’s how it starts out:

        The Laramide orogeny was a period of mountain building in western North America, which started in the Late Cretaceous, 70 to 80 million years ago, and ended 35 to 55 million years ago. [Last two boldings mine.]

      • AK, as I said, you haven’t a clue what you are talking about. Subduction zones are not just at the surface where the plates collide at the surface, they extend all the way down into to the Mantle. You are way outside your area of expertise. If I am wrong. please tell me how long since you first started studying plate tectonics?

      • Disd I really have to Bold this for you?

        Tectonic processes active in the Cascadia subduction zone region include accretion, subduction, deep earthquakes, and active volcanism of the Cascades. This volcanism has included such notable eruptions as Mount Mazama (Crater Lake) about 7,500 years ago, Mount Meager about 2,350 years ago, and Mount St. Helens in 1980.[1] Major cities affected by a disturbance in this subduction zone would include Vancouver and Victoria, British Columbia; Seattle, Washington; and Portland, Oregon.

      • If I am wrong. please tell me how long since you first started studying plate tectonics?

        Since the ’70’s.

        If you want to include the entire course of the subducting ocean floor in your definition of “subduction zone”, that’s fine. But it makes no difference for disposing of waste. The only place humans (at our current level of technology) could insert something into a subduction zone is the actual trench. Which is offshore, just as I said.

        Technically, AFAIK, the actual subduction zone is a slanting area that intersects the surface at the trench, although it can extend under continental plates for some distance, fairly far for Flat-slab subduction.

        The Nazca Plate is at the high end of plate motion:

        The absolute motion of the Nazca Plate has been calibrated at 3.7 cm/yr east motion (88°), one of the fastest absolute motions of any tectonic plate.

        So, in 10,000 years, any buried waste would move about 400 meters (1200 ft) from wherever you buried it.

        So, burying waste in a “subduction zone” means burying it offshore in the trench. All the rest is just semantic niggling.

  3. How can nuclear compete against natural gas in the US and, increasingly, LNG internationally? The higher capital costs of nuclear up front, in particular, require very long-term fixed power sales contracts that buyers do not like to enter into. And can we get rid of the Price-Anderson Act to try to get the market to set the ‘right’ insurance rates?

    • Price Anderson is needed until all distortions are removed. That will take a long time.

      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. :)

      Basis of estimate here: https://judithcurry.com/2016/01/19/is-nuclear-the-cheapest-way-to-decarbonize-electricity/#comment-759092

    • Natural gas will run out, and Europe lacks new native natural gas sources, which causes energy insecurity. I realize this blog is populated by cornucopians who think fossil fuel reserves are eternal, but I happen to know better, and I suggest a long term view is more appropriate.

      I’ve studied the learning rate phenomenom, it’s real, can be leveraged (I have done it), and sometimes it’s difficult for highly paid senior company personnel to grasp the concept. This means we do tend to draw up plans and carry on while ignoring this very important and powerful concept.

      One possible corollary is that size advantages can be offset by learning and repeatable designs. My experience leans me towards advocating smaller, more repeatable nuclear reactor designs. But I never worked on a nuclear plant project, I’m extrapolating from experience in other fields.

      • Fernando,

        Other than the “I know better” part, a very good comment.

        I acknowledge that you might, just as I do not take at face value comments that our current cheap gas and oil is our future. But I don’t “know” one way or the other. More like I “suspect”. And what I suspect is in between the positions, though closer to yours than the other end.

      • We in the UK, (part of the continent of Europe) are sat on huge amounts of methane, both coalbed & shale gas.

      • I’ve heard the same thing out of peak oilers my whole life. Take your ‘I know better’ some place where the people are stupid enough to listen to you. I’d suggest ‘The Oil Drum’, but WHOOPS, it went under waiting for the peak it never stopped predicting was coming any day now.

      • Tim, I formulate my opinion after working in the industry for 40 years. In recent years I consult occasionally for companies trying to figure out whether to pursue new recovery techniques, and also in property valuations. What I’m finding is a lack of viable economic prospects at prices below $100 per barrel. There are a few exceptions, but we have seen the cost per barrel rise too fast, and new technologies just aren’t enough.

        I see lots of amateurs, and misguided professionals, push ideas about the indestructible nature of the business, but reality is biting them. The current low price spell will be short lived (we are already seeing steep declines all over the world), but I’m really afraid that once prices increase we simply lack the ability to satisfy the market. Prices will rise, and substitutes will have to come in.

        Most cornucopians simply lack the technical and economic background, or are too tied up emotionally. I hardly find anybody who can hold a well informed conversation about it. The least I expect is for somebody to bring up the Bazhenov, or mention heavy oil vapex, or whatever.

    • Rob,

      NG is pushing utilities to close plants. Economics. Peter is arguing that if place on an even field, nuclear might still look good compared to NG and had it not been shackled, would be the leading source of electric generation in the US as it is in France.

      • timg,

        had [nuclear] not been shackled, [it] would be the leading source of electric generation in the US as it is in France.

        More than that. Had it not been shacked and had continued to grow at the accelerating rate demonstrated from 1960 to 1976, nuclear would have replaced all baseload coal and gas by now and the capital cost would be 1/10th to 1/20th the current cost. At such a low cost, we’d could well be using nuclear for intermediate load as well (load following like nuclear powered submarines and ships have been doing for 60 years).

      • Peter is right. We also have to focus on world wide circumstances. Right now Europe is standing on very insecure energy sources. The only option I see for them is a lot more nuclear power.

      • fernandoleanme,

        Thanks. Your comments are always valuable, insightful, objective, balanced, rational and relevant. I hope you can add some more to this to try to the debate on this post, especially where I have not succeeded in explaining sufficiently clearly. I think Lovering’s paper is a really valuable contribution. I hope she will continue the work and produce learning rates per MWh of for energy supplied through life and also make an attempt to get cost data for GB, Russia and China.

  4. A lot of this material is highly technical, but I think the right column/legend in figure 4 might have got truncated.

    • Canman,

      Well spotted. Thank you. My mistake. The “0” should read “CA>64 GW” and two series are missing from the bottom of the legend. They are:
      Orange: “IN>100 GW”
      Brown: “KR > 100 GW”

  5. Geoff Sherrington

    Thank you Peter,
    Readers who analyse the nuclear subject dispassionately realise that safety could hardly have been better and that waste management is trivially easy. I suspect Peter will go on to say that the post-1975 cost in the countries he surveyed is grossly inflated by the imposition of layer after layer of very high and largely unwarranted impositions affecting new plant.
    If you are truly dispassionate you will accept that the post-1975 or so period has not generated more problems for the nuclear industry – it has instead confirmed many engineering design principles and revealed inherent and forecast safety. The learning rate post-75 should have benefited from the positive and impressive findings of operational performance.
    If, however, you are passionate in the sense that, for example, the ‘Noble Savage’ used to be with racial matters, or that you believe in unrealistic outcomes from imposition of your ‘feel’ for ‘sustainability’, if you believe that peaceful nuclear power generation threatens your offspring more than other forms of generation, then you will reject Peter’s thesis. You will be rejecting it for false, synthetic, invented reasons.
    If ever there was a need for a large source of electricity that just bunkered down and performed with hardly a murmur for decade after decade, it is now; and that future is nuclear. Conserve competing fossil fuels for transport needs and chemicals of the future.
    As to the artificiality of present nuclear costs, look at the recent record of the Peoples’ Republic of China. Little of substance stops other countries from building at these Chinese costs, which I’ll not develop here as I suspect Peter might for his next essay.
    (Note: I spent a lot of my science career with or close to nuclear power generation, but before year 2000. You can, for your pleasure, thus describe me as a shill or as experienced. It does not matter. The basic nuclear numbers stay much the same. Simply wash out the green.)

    • > if you believe that peaceful nuclear power generation threatens your offspring more than other forms of generation, then you will reject Peter’s thesis. You will be rejecting it for false, synthetic, invented reasons.

      Yes, indeed. That is the issue

      And I have no idea how to overcome it …

    • catweazle666

      Steven Mosher | March 14, 2016 at 10:11 am |
      “kinda like arguing with denialists”

      Or second-hand database salesmen?

    • David Springer

      Yer full of it Sherrington. China is making nuclear power plants for a third the price of the US and they’re fixing to be begin export like Russia does.

      Try explaining how China is doing that. Lang can’t.

      • Try explaining how China is doing that. Lang can’t.

        Springer is dishonest. He doesn’t understand what learning rates means, but his ego is so huge he cannot admit he is wrong. I’ve explained to him repeatedly the fact that China’s OCC is lower than US (or other developed countries) is irrelevant. It has nothing to do with learning rates. Learning rates is the exponential of the power curve to the data points. The fact that China’s OCC is not about 1/3 of the projected US OCC at 500 GW cumulative global capacity of built reactors for commercial electricity generation is what demonstrates that China was impacted by whatever caused the the reversal of learning rates in the US and other developed countries. If China had not been impacted by whatever caused the reversal of learning rates in the developed countries, it’s OCC would now be around $116/kW (i.e. about 1/3 of projected US OCC at 500 GW global cumulative capacity.

        I realise Springer is one of those types who have zero integrity and can never admit they are wrong.

    • ‘If the positive learning rating from 1955 to 1970 had
      continued, nuclear power would cost less than 1/10th
      of current cost.’

      Saul Alinsky’s Rule 9 for Radicals.’ The threat is usually
      more terrifying than the thing itself.’

      And likely to up the costs of the ‘ thing itself’ via the
      Guvuhmint’s ‘Citizen-Protection-Costly-Intervention-Policy.

      http://www.world-nuclear.org/nuclear-basics/what-are-nuclear-wastes.aspx

      • People often forget this was a big factor in the decision for the Iraq war and probably a very significant factor in the run up of oil prices after. The Iraq threat massively suppressed the mideastern domestic economies, big projects were not done because of the threat they would destroyed or stolen. Shortly after the threat was gone, mideastern economies started using their own oil rather than putting profits into foreign investments. I remember in 2006 being told that some ungodly percentage of the cranes in the world were in the region. Governments increased subsidies for domestic oil and gas consumption reducing the supply available to the rest of the world. Jeffery Brown produces a Global Net Exports oil index and often comments on Econbrowser.com.

      • The run up in the price of oil was a huge benefit to oil companies. I would like to see another one, but not if it requires a war and American soldiers being killed.

  6. “A revolution could be achieved with nuclear power if we remove the factors that caused the large cost increases during and since the 1970’s, i.e. return to the learning rates demonstrated before 1970.”
    ————–

    The availability of funds was a factor in the large cost increases. Investors insisted on returns commensurate with the risks.

    Nuclear power advocates need to face up to the elephant in the room. Nuke power could be one Fukushima away from being history. I just read another nuke plant in Japan lies on an active fault line or something like that, but the danger may be exaggerated. If I were an advocate, I would find China’s rush to build nuclear power plants worrisome given the Chinese disregard for safety in general.

    Gas and renewables obviously are sources of energy the public feels are safer. Gases competitive advantage is helped by fracking for new wells in an unusual way. The process causes earth quakes. Not large quakes, but big enough to cause public concern over having a nuclear power plant in the vicinity.

    • Sure, Tony, it may well be the most practical alternative we know of now, but will it be the most attractive alternative? People fear nuclear power plants, and while their concerns may not be entirely warranted, fear is a powerful deterrent. Given the choice I would prefer to not live near one.

    • Hydraulic fracturing doesn’t cause earthquakes. The fracturing process causes micro quakes which can be detected with very sophisticated sensors deployed around the well.

      The earthquakes you hear about are caused by excessive water injection in water disposal wells. This can be solved with a bit of engineering and cash.

      • Dang, I’ve asserted for awhile that little quakes relieving stresses could prevent bigger quakes. One more fracking hope dashed.
        =================

      • “Dang, I’ve asserted for awhile that little quakes relieving stresses could prevent bigger quakes.”

        That’s possibly true Kim, but given the legal systems in the US and elsewhere, injecting water into a fault zone is going to get you sued for every broken dish and cracked foundation within 200km of your well. Not to mention potentially the cost of rebuilding a city or two. Maybe in half a century or so knowledge of earthquake dynamics and mapping of fault zones will be enough better that fault zones can and will be deliberately lubricated after they slip. But that’s then and this is now.

      • Disposal of the waste water from fracking is the culprit. Because this is nasty stuff, it can’t be allowed to seep into the earth or reach streams and rivers, so it’s injected deep in the earth into disposal wells, and that’s what experts believe is causing the earth quakes. The problem is finding a cost effective alternative.

      • Disposal of the waste water from fracking is the culprit. […] The problem is finding a cost effective alternative.

        Solution: Free-market capitalism combined with insurance rate adjustments.

    • max10k,

      You wrote –

      “People fear nuclear power plants, and while their concerns may not be entirely warranted, fear is a powerful deterrent. Given the choice I would prefer to not live near one.”

      Another Warmist unsubstantiated assertion about what an unstated number of people may or may not fear, and to what extent. I’d rather live near a nuclear power plant than under a hydro dam, in the middle of a wind farm, or close to a coal fired power plant. I know that you wouldn’t, but why should I care what you think?

      I don’t fear nuclear power plants. Neither does the US Government, or any US port that allows (or encourages) the berthing of nuclear power plants powering ships or submarines. If you must fear something, fear doctors (in the US, at least). Number 3 killer, annually. Only exceeded by heart disease and cancer. Deaths as a result of nuclear power plants? You tell me. Probably less than the number of people killed by police gunfire, strangulation, asphyxiation or inappropriate restraint, but I’m not sure. Give us the facts.

      Maybe your phobic fear of natural nuclear processes is clouding your ability to think clearly. What do you think?

      Cheers.

      • Mike, your survival instincts are good but not as good as mine. Like you I wouldn’t want to live at the bottom of a dam or in the middle of a wind farm, but unlike you I wouldn’t want to live next to a nuclear power plant. Why, you may be asking.
        Well, I’m sure you have heard of Murphy’s Law. Why take even a small risk when you have an almost unlimited choice of housing nowhere near a nuke plant? Besides there are no nuke plants anywhere near where I want to live anyway.

        You know what. I’ll bet few if any advocates actually live next to a nuke plant. It’s easy for them to say safety isn’t an issue when they live many miles away.

      • catweazle666

        max1ok | March 14, 2016 at 3:39 pm |
        “Mike, your survival instincts are good but not as good as mine

        There is a considerable difference between survival instincts and wilful ignorance.

      • Seriously, catweazle, why would anyone choose to live near a nuke power plant unless he worked there or nearby?

      • Max,

        I have worked and lived near nuclear plants. The latter is a bit harder, because they tend to be placed away from where people live.

        Here is a question for you. Who do you think had a higher survival rate? The people working at Fukishima or the people living near it?

      • Max10k,
        I used to work at a nuclear plant that used a man made lake for cooling and there was good hunting, deer and turkey, decent fishing and other outdoor type activity to be had.

      • David Springer

        “The blithering idi0t Flynn writes; and, having writ,
        Moves on: nor all thy Piety nor Wit
        Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,
        Nor all thy Tears wash out a Word of it.”

        ~Omar Khayam

      • David Springer

        tmg

        “Who do you think had a higher survival rate? The people working at Fukishima or the people living near it?”

        The fact that the question can be asked speaks volumes.

    • Shika #2 is the reactor on the fault line.

      ‘New concerns are being voiced in Japan after it was discovered that a significant geological fault line passes right under a nuclear plant – and the fault is active.According to a report published by an expert panel at the Nuclear Regulation Authority, the fault that passes beneath Hokuriku Electric Power Co.’s Shika nuclear power plant in Ishikawa Prefecture can be “reasonably concluded to be active.” The fault lies directly under the plant’s Reactor 1, which likely means the reactor will have to be decommissioned.’

      http://www.zmescience.com/science/geology/fault-japan-nuclear-14032016/

      • Max

        As I said this morning, what are we supposed to use for our vast energy requirements if not nuclear and not fossil fuels? Genuine question

        Tonyb

      • tony, nuclear power’s future depends on public acceptance. People need to be convinced it’s relatively safe and the need for it outweighs the risk. On need, a selling points are (1) we will eventually deplete the fossil fuels we rely on for power and (2) nuclear power doesn’t produce the CO2 we get from fossil fuels and thus doesn’t contribute to man-made global warming. These are potential problems the public can comprehend, and I believe the majority would agree need solutions.

        Given nuclear power does not contribute to global warming, I cannot understand why some advocates of nuclear power, or at least many here at ClimateEtc, argue that global warming may not be a problem anyway, thus undermining one of the most important, if not the most important, arguments for nuclear. I see that as self-defeating, and wonder how anyone can be so stupid.

      • Max,

        I work for AEP, but speak only for myself. I am an engineer who has spent my entire adult life working in nuclear. I have spent 25+ years working in Operations, Training, and Engineering. I was a licensed operator for about 15 years. A senior operator for about 8 years.

        I am also a climate skeptic. My integrity isn’t for sale. I acknowledge the existence of confirmation bias, including my own, but climate science as argued by alarmists isn’t science.

      • doug, you don’t sound like a skeptic to me, you sound like a denier. You are taking a position. Skeptics do not take positions.

        A genuine skeptic would say he’s not sure about global warming or he’s not convinced, but if global warming will be as bad as most scientists think, then nuclear power will help prevent something that could be catastrophic.

        People who share your position are hurting rather than helping advance acceptance of nuclear power.

      • “You are taking a position. Skeptics do not take positions.”

        Nonsense, you read this on a bumper sticker and now repeat it as fact. And I said nothing in my comment regarding the actual science of climate. Alarmist science is practiced as a religion not a science. “Science is a method of inquiry, not a belief system”

      • dougbadgero

        I work for AEP, but speak only for myself. I am an engineer who has spent my entire adult life working in nuclear. I have spent 25+ years working in Operations, Training, and Engineering. I was a licensed operator for about 15 years. A senior operator for about 8 years.

        I am also a climate skeptic. My integrity isn’t for sale.

        It’s great to have people with relevant real world experience contributing to the discussion. Please keep your comments coming and educate us.

        Suggestion: don’t respond to the trolls. Some have stated their sole purpose for commenting is to disrupt rational discussion and to antagonise those who do not accept their beliefs.

      • Global Fusion from Warmed Over Whirled Peas.
        =========================

      • Max,

        I’ll answer your question to Tony.

        Because of integrity. At least as far as I am concerned. I recognized from the start that global warming was a vehicle for advocating nuclear. But if you have integrity, you do not base your arguments on lies, no matter how convenient to your objectives.

      • dougbadgero | March 14, 2016 at 7:26 pm |
        “I am also a climate skeptic. My integrity isn’t for sale.”

        “… climate science as argued by alarmists isn’t science.”

        dougbadgero | March 14, 2016 at 10:47 pm |

        “Alarmist science is practiced as a religion not a science.”

        “Science is a method of inquiry, not a belief system”
        ________

        doug, skepticism also is a method. If you will read the Skeptic Society’s description of skepticism, which I have quoted below, you may understand why I think your view of “alarmist climate science” means you are not a skeptic. But regardless, I thank you for being the only one to respond to the point I was trying to make, which is nuclear power advocates do not help their cause by denying global warming is a problem.

        “Some people believe that skepticism is the rejection of new ideas, or worse, they confuse “skeptic” with “cynic” and think that skeptics are a bunch of grumpy curmudgeons unwilling to accept any claim that challenges the status quo. This is wrong. Skepticism is a provisional approach to claims. It is the application of reason to any and all ideas — no sacred cows allowed. In other words, skepticism is a method, not a position. Ideally, skeptics do not go into an investigation closed to the possibility that a phenomenon might be real or that a claim might be true. When we say we are “skeptical,” we mean that we must see compelling evidence before we believe.”

        http://www.skeptic.com/about_us/

      • max10k,

        I don’t believe in caloric theory, the existence of luminiferous ether, the indivisibility of the atom or the ability of GHGs to increase the temperature of the Earth’s surface.

        You can believe any or all of the above. Other presumably intelligent and highly qualified people have believed in such things in the past, and presumably still do. Belief in something does not create facts any more than non-belief makes facts go away.

        You may believe that continents do not move, that the surface was not molten at one time, or even that the amount of energy absorbed by the Earth must necessarily equal the amount emitted in any particular period of time.

        Belief in such silliness is mainly evident in the delusional writings of self styled climatologists, and their rag tag assortment of true believers.

        Feel free to tell me how and what to think. My care factor will no doubt remain zero, unless you can actually provide a reproducible scientific fact or two, to support the usual strident Warmist nonsense endlessly parroted by the unthinking acolytes.

        Believe away. Maybe if you concentrate really, really, hard, and close your eyes really, really, tightly, you can make the GHE come true. Or you might give yourself a headache! Tell me how you go.

        Cheers.

      • Mike Flynn | March 15, 2016 at 1:47 am |

        “Belief in something does not create facts any more than non-belief makes facts go away.”
        _______

        NOT NECESARILY ! My sister, who is very religious, told me I’m not going to heaven because I said I’m not sure there is one. I asked if that also means I’m not going to hell, and she said no. This is very confusing, but I will try to explain.

        To go to heaven you have to believe there is a heaven, so believing it makes it exist.
        Hell is different. You don’t have to believe there’s one to go there. Hell exists independent of what you believe.

      • David Springer

        Evidently you don’t believe in education either, Max.

    • Max,

      If you could take the time to make thoughtful comments like this, you might not be seen as a clown (which is at the positive end of the spectrum you fit in) .

      • timg56, thank you, but why take the fun out of it?

        In your previous post you said ” But if you have integrity, you do not base your arguments on lies, no matter how convenient to your objectives.”

        timg56 you don’t know for sure what you suspect may be lies actually are lies. How could you know beyond reasonable doubt that most of the scientific community is lying or seduced by lies?

        I can appreciate that you value your integrity. I’m not asking you to say global warming is for certain a good reason for building new nuclear power plants, just that it could be, but you don’t really know. Do you think that’s an honest way to put it?

      • Max m,

        The answer is pretty simple. If you accept that climate change is a real risk, and you understand that the world needs more energy, not less, then it comes down to researching energy production.

        Only 2 technologies meet the requirements of low to zero carbon dioxide emissions, reliability, and technically mature.

        When the people who clamor the loudest about climate change are the same as those opposing the same two technologies, you have good evidence of a lie.

      • Not necessarily. You can believe technological developments in re-newables can make nuclear power unnecessary. I’m not sure that will happen, but I’m not sure It won’t either

      • The two most insoluble problems for so-called ‘renewables'(yes, the panels and windmills need renewing, constantly, as well as periodic replacement, are power undensity and intermittency. Intermittency may yet be solved by storage technology, but we’ve been working on that problem even longer than on hot fusion. Power undensity is even more intractable.

        Neither of these problems prevent the economic application of ‘renewables’ in certain applications, for instances, where land is of little value and the skies are not cloudy all day, and where intermittent wind power suffices or wind comes blowing down all day.
        =======================

      • Oh, and where there is no biosphere to be pounded into dysfunction by infrasound. Let’s see, where is there no biosphere? Not in my back yard.
        =================

      • Intermittency may yet be solved by storage technology, but we’ve been working on that problem even longer than on hot fusion. Power undensity is even more intractable.

        Store it by converting it to fuel, using electrolytic hydrogen and ambient-sourced CO2.

        That solves both problems, and piping gas (much less fuel) is much cheaper than new high-voltage transmission.

        True, the round-trip energy efficiency may be low (I’ve seen ~30% bandied about), but when solar panels get cheap enough, the cost savings will probably be worth it.

        Not to mention avoiding sunk costs in CCGT technology installed during the early transition (next decade or so), as well as all that wonderful rotating inertia for frequency stabilization.

      • AK,

        No!. Just leave the energy stored in the fuel until needed, as we do now with fossil fuels, nuclear and hydro. The costs of storage are prohibitive.

        Solar cannot make much of a contribution to meeting global energy supply. It is a massive distraction and waste of money – EROEI precludes it. Worse still, the focus on solar and wind is seriously delaying progress. Instead of the renewable energy plants we should be building nuclear – so we progress down the learning curve faster and achieve the benefits mentioned in the post.

      • Max the Company I work for owns the second largest portfolio of wind generation assets in the US. We do not have any new plant in our 20 year plan. In other words we have reached the limit. We have no solar generation planned. We are currently building a battery storage facility. It is the only one we plan to build.

        Now this could change, but some dramatic breakthroughs would be required and nothing appears to be on the horizon. So when people tell you that there are serious limitations to what renewable can do, they are simply being factually honest.

        So we are back to reality. If you acknowledge the need for energy, the two technologies which will reduce emissions – nuclear and fracking – are the two which environmentalists actively try to prevent.

  7. Max

    The West needs to consider three things;

    Firstly, that politically, any power generation related to fossil fuels-including gas-is political poison and in the current climate our reliance on them will continue to diminish.

    Secondly, a large sophisticated economy requires considerable amounts of energy, with demand likely to grow due to population increase and the drive towards powering vehicles by electricity, which has to be generated somewhere.

    Thirdly, as economies in the past has demonstrated various elements of life such as bread, drink and energy need to be cheap, else ‘revolution’ and economic paralysis or relative decline is likely to follow.

    Where abundant amounts of cheap, reliable and secure energy is going to come from with the demise of fossil fuel has yet to be explained. Battery storage in order to smooth out the vagaries of renewable power generation may be an answer but realistically seems to be some distance away as does fusion.

    So nuclear energy appears to be the only practical alternative, but I am prepared to be proven wrong

    tonyb

    • Sorry, misplaced my reply. It’s above yours.

    • Actually Tony, fusion – that is small scale fusion – maybe much closer than you think. There are a couple of projects that are in mature stages of development, one on particular that interests me because it looks to be the most practical and cheapest way of doing it – Focus Fusion’s Dense Plama Focus device.

      A single device as it is currently designed would only produce around 5MW, but they are very small – they’d fit into the corner of a large room. And they would be really very cheap, esp if they were mass produced. There are other small scale projects as well that are getting close…..so now we can say it’s about 5 years off. If these guys had anything like proper funding it would be very much sooner, but they have to stumble along with their little projects working on shoe string budgets. It’s amazing they have to given the potential implications for society.

      • Curious George

        Link, please. The company seems to propose to use the device as an X-ray source. They have two nebulous paragraphs regarding a possible power generation.

      • @Curious George:

        The website is here: http://lppfusion.com/

        Here is a link to how the process works:

        ….and here is a link to an excellent presentation by Dr Lerner that really fleshes out where they are at, what the difficulties with the project are. It’s very short at 25 minutes, but extremely informative:

        WRT x-rays, they have a patent for technology to produce electricity induced by x-rays – one of the principle forms of energy released in the reaction. It’s truly a fascinating design idea: it’s broadly speaking the same kind of principle as found in quasars.

        They are at the stage where they are testing to produce higher density reactions using the boron-proton fuel and moving from tungsten electrodes (thermally resistant but can be damaged by x-rays) to beryllium (less thermally resistant but relatively transparent to x-rays.)

        To be sure they are not the only game in town – Polywell fusion is quite fair way along as well not to mention some of the others, but to my mind it is the most promising and practical, and the most likely to be first to reach commercial viability.

  8. Coal, nukes, gas, hydro…whatever doesn’t suck, right? Spend too much on something that doesn’t suck and you’re still okay. Spend any amount on what sucks and you have a eurocrat’s wet dream and a punters’ nightmare…like Spanish Wind or Brandenburg Solar.

    But never lose sight of true beauty:

  9. Good article Peter.

    Couple of points:

    •       IMO the policy reversal in the ’70’s was due to the deliberate recruitment of American radicals into a Soviet anti-(USWestern)-nuclear effort. Basically, the American anti-nuclear effort was part of the Soviet Cold War effort.

    •       In your chart of US – Overnight Capital Cost vs Cumulative Global Capacity above, I see two distinct cost trends:

        •       The one you highlighted, and…

        •       Another much steeper curve at around 4-5 GW, that appears to resume at around 25-32 GW.

    I would be interested whether those points involve a different/distinct technology. If so, it might highlight the relationship between replacement technologies, which could have further policy implications for recent innovative technology.

    • AK,

      Thank you for your comment and questions. My intention in this paper was to establish and lock down in people mind that there was a dramatic change (a reversal) in the rate of cost reductions (i.e. learning rates) starting in about 1968 in USA and in the 1970s in other countries. I was hoping to leave all discussion of causes to another post and then another posts on possible solutions. However, it seems most commenters accept the reality of the dramatic change in the learning rates and what to discuss causes and solutions. So, I’ll respond to a few of these comments but not get into the content of my future papers.

      • IMO the policy reversal in the ’70’s was due to the deliberate recruitment of American radicals into a Soviet anti-(USWestern)-nuclear effort. Basically, the American anti-nuclear effort was part of the Soviet Cold War effort.

      I tend to think it was due mostly to the enormous success of the anti-nuke groups, especially the environmental NGO’s like Greenpeace, WWF, FOE, Concerned Scientists, Australian Conservation Society and many others, and the success of the anti-nuke protests in scaring the hell out of the large majority of the public.

      • In your chart of US – Overnight Capital Cost vs Cumulative Global Capacity above, I see two distinct cost trends:

      • The one you highlighted, and…

      • Another much steeper curve at around 4-5 GW, that appears to resume at around 25-32 GW.

      I would be interested whether those points involve a different/distinct technology. If so, it might highlight the relationship between replacement technologies, which could have further policy implications for recent innovative technology.

      I haven’t looked into dividing the two periods into shorter periods and analysing the learning rates for them. I suspect there are not enough points to and too many other causes, such as types of contracts etc. to draw justifiable conclusions. If you want to follow this further, and posts some comments on what you find, you could get some/most/all if the info you’d need from Lovering’s paper and the appendix that explains which reactors are included and which reactors not included (such as demonstration reactors that never became commercial). You can also get the full list of reactors, together with all the information about each.

      Your last sentence is significant. I’ve been thinking about it a lot too. My take is that, if we assume a learning rate of 30%, we’ll get only a 30% cost reduction for a doubling of the capacity of reactors constructed to date – i.e. doubling the capacity of constructed reactors from 500 GW to 1000 GW will reduce costs by only 30%. However, if we could treat Gen IV as a different technology, we could then get very fast learning rates, such as applied in the first period of reactors built to date. Starting at say 30 MW for the first commercial, electricity producing Gen IV reactor, reaching 64 GW cumulative global capacity would represent 11 capacity doublings. That would reduce overnight capital cost to between 1/10th and 1/20th of the cost of the first plant. This could possibly be achieved in 15-20 years from start of construction of the first commercial Gen IV reactor.

      Is this a defensible argument to consider Gen IV as a separate technology?

      • Is this a defensible argument to consider Gen IV as a separate technology?

        I would say probably not. OTOH, you could turn it around, by hindsight, and say that if Gen IV demonstrated a much faster learning curve, that could demonstrate that it represents a separate technology.

        IMO Wright’s “Law” itself is very simplistic, because it doesn’t really allow for overlaps and synergies in subsets of technology. This doesn’t make it wrong, just hard to use to confidently predict learning curves for any complex technology.

        The key to kicking off a “Moore’s Law” type exponential expansion, IMO, is where the reduction in cost feeds back into increasing deployment due to expanding marginal utility: a 20% drop in cost, for instance, might result in a doubling of orders due to an expanded number of attractive opportunities for investment.

        This is what happened in IT (along with massive utility for increased computing power due to the constant stream of bells and whistles becoming available to computer owners and users).

        It also appears to have been happening in solar PV, although it might be argued that considerable subsidies were involved. I doubt that matters to Wright’s “Law”, though.

        For something like this to happen with nuclear, I suppose the anticipated short-term ROI would have to be increased somehow, along with expanding opportunities with dropping price.

        My own intuition is that for nuclear, as for solar, the best option would be power→gas/liquid fuel being sold into a market that’s closed to fossil carbon.

        The cost per KwHour for nuclear electricity could be much higher than for solar PV, while still being highly competitive for applications that require expensive capitalization of downstream processing. Examples would include CO2 extraction from seawater, and electrolytic hydrogen production.

        Because such processing units could be run 24×7, as opposed to 15-25% capacity factors for solar (or wind), the cost of capitalizing such processing could well be 1/4-1/6 what would be needed for solar/wind power→gas/liquid fuel.

        The key, IMO, would be to create a large and growing market for “renewable” gas (methane, etc.) and liquid fuels that’s closed to fossil fuels.

        The approach I like best is a requirement that some small but growing fraction of such fuels must involve carbon taken from ambient CO2 (air or sea surface). Such policies, with properly tuned numbers, would add only a few percent to the cost of the fuel, but provide a market for “renewable” fuels at prices of 2-5 or more that of fossil carbon.

        But that’s far from the only option.

      • AK,

        if Gen IV demonstrated a much faster learning curve, that could demonstrate that it represents a separate technology.

        I think it would be expecting too much that Gen IV is likely to demonstrate a faster learning curve than nuclear up to about 1970. During that period, nuclear demonstrated global learning rates of (Table 2):
        US 23%
        CA 27%
        FR 34%
        DE 28%
        JP 35%
        IN 7%
        KR has achieved 33% since 1972.

        Wind power is 7% and solar PV 22%. Nuclear demonstrated faster learning rates than even wind and solar. Given the widespread public fear of nuclear power, it’s hard to imagine Gen IV will achieve better learning rates than nuclear in the period 1 – unless the catalyst I will suggest in the last paper is accepted, supported, implemented and successful in getting people to reconsider the justification for their fears.

        I touched on your point that “where the reduction in cost feeds back into increasing deployment due to expanding marginal utility: a 20% drop in cost, for instance, might result in a doubling of orders due to an expanded number of attractive opportunities for investment.” in “Policy implications”

        As electricity costs decrease the deployment rate increases, capacity doublings occur faster so costs reduce faster (i.e. we progress more quickly down the learning curve). Technology transition takes place faster and the benefits are delivered sooner.

        .

        The remainder of your comment is suggesting solutions. I’ll leave my discussion of this until my post on it, but interested in what others have to say on this.

      • I tend to think it was due mostly to the enormous success of the anti-nuke groups, […], and the success of the anti-nuke protests in scaring the hell out of the large majority of the public.

        Origins, Goals, and Tactics of the U.S. Anti-Nuclear Protest Movement

      • AK,

        Thank you. That look’s interesting. I’ll read it later. You are certainly a library of information at your finger tips. On another thread sometime, I’ll ask you how you organise and categorise your bookmarks so you can find stuff so quickly.

  10. When you see that building a long term nuclear waste repository at Yucca Mountain becomes more difficult than the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, you realize it’s all political — like the Keystone pipeline — and, that it’s hypocritical, self-defeating ideologues and not evil business that have too much power in this country,

  11. “To remove the impediments I suggest we need a catalyst…”

    Having a catalyst is not what has been lacking. We’ve always had that: becoming energy self-sufficient.

    • I’m afraid I’m going to have to take a stand against energy self-sufficiency. I think it will just make us poorer. The cheap oil comes from the middle east. If we don’t buy it, the rest of the world will be delighted to buy it at a cheaper price. Richard Muller has said he would rather see us use foreign oil and save our own reserves.

      • “Did you ever dance with the devil in the pale moonlight?”

      • Cayman has a point. Burn up theirs, not ours. But develop the capacity for energy self-sufficiency.

      • Canman, i apologize for misspelling your name. Cayman is an alligator-like reptile.

      • Sh*T max, you are one a roll.

        The idea of using other peoples oil and saving ours has also occurred to me. But then dozens of arguments pop up about why this is too simplistic. Still, a topic to argue over drinks.

      • Extremely complex question requiring knowledge of the future to adequately answer. It’s important to remember that energy security requires more than just physical possession of its sources.
        ==================

      • It’s important to remember that energy security requires more than just physical possession of its sources.

        For one thing, it requires facilities for getting it out of the ground, as well as processing it.

        As well as people prepared (training and current practice) to make those facilities work.

    • Wagathon,

      Having a catalyst is not what has been lacking. We’ve always had that: becoming energy self-sufficient.

      Clearly that catalyst has not succeeded. Are you open to considering others?

      • Sure, sure… buying from Canada, for example, is a far cry from helping to prop up tin pot dictators, freedom-hating communists and jihadists chanting death to Israel.

  12. I have a question to anyone very familiar with current operating costs of older nuclear plants.

    Currently in the U.S., numerous nuclear power plants are closing early — especially in the North under Independent System Operators (ISO).

    Under this structure, existing nuclear operators (like Entergy) are saying they can not effectively compete either in (A) a marginal cost economic dispatch; and/or (B) an open market bidding for capacity needs.

    Given things like nuclear’s low fuel cost, and that capital to build/retro-fit these older units have been paid off long ago why can’t older nuclear compete?

    Again, for the nuclear units in the U.S. North, their operators are pointing to low cost natural gas — and not Renewables for competition in (A) the economic dispatch and/or (B) capacity auctions.

    What’s specifically going on?

    Also, one of the dumbest things things I see in the CPP is to give credit for new nuclear but no credit for existing nuclear. What in the world is the Obama EPA thinking?????

    • SS, a partial answer based on limited knowledge about a few specific cases. Often, a ‘premature’ nuclear close is related to the need to repair or rebuild, usually steam generators, where the multi hundred million investment cannot be recouped over the remaining plant life. That was the case in both San Onofre Ca. and Waukegan, Ill. Vermont Yankee was a small old gen one plant nearing end of licensed operating life, with substantial local opposition to extending the license. The protracted litigation costs were not worth it. Fukushima was a gen 1 that had surpassed its original 40 year operating license and had been granted a 10 year extension. Unwise decision, and not just in hindsight. A sister Fukushima gen 2 facility about 10 miles further down the coast survived just fine.

      • Rud, thanks for the partial answer. Question: Why were San Onofre Ca. and Waukegan, Ill. life’s not extended?

      • SS, sorry if not clear. In both cases, corrosion and cracking on water/steam side of the reactor woild have required several hundred million in repairs. In San Onofre’s case, they did spend $671 million replacing the steam generators in 2010-2011. They discovered premature wear in the replacement in 2013. Failed repair. In Waukegon’s case (Zion nuclear station), shut in 1998, it would have cost $435 million to replace the steam generators on a plant whose 40 license would have expired in 2013.

      • Maybe did not answer precise question. In US, difficult to get NRC to extend operating licenses beyond 40 years, especially for various Gen 1 designs. There are lots of complex issues like neutron embrittlement of the reactor housing steel.

      • There are lots of complex issues like neutron embrittlement of the reactor housing steel.

        Neutron radiation is both dangerous and full of unknown unknowns. It’s one good reason to be wary of nuclear fission.

      • Rud,

        More plants than those. I believe Prairie Island, Kewanee and a couple others have been closed because of gas price competition.

        Steve’s question is a great one and one I knew more about.

      • Rud,

        As I recall you are only partially right on SanOnofre. Embrittlement and corrosion issues were the reason for SG replacement. Subsequent problem was due to modeling errors in Toshiba’s design of the replacement units. Cause flow vibration problems that would have caused even faster wear than the original water chemistry issue.

    • I vaguely remember that my engineering economy professor in the late 90s was on the lookout for old nuclear plants to buy because he could be paid pretty fantastically not to operate them, iirc.

    • Stephen,

      Each plant has its own story….Plants that are closing are smaller, typically about 600 MWe, and located in deregulated markets. They also frequently are in need of significant investment. Low natural gas prices and renewables to an extent play a part in reducing the price of electricity near peak loads which make it harder to make a profit. In most cases these plants cannot sell into a capacity market and therefore don’t get paid to be available. In some cases it is a function of geographic location, Quad Cities must pay $10 MWh to put their power on the grid.

      Regarding San Onofre, an error was made when designing their replacement steam generators. In operation their generator tubes had a resonance that resulted in excessive tube wear.

      • Thanks Doug for confirming my understanding of San Onofre.

        And you probably recognize the two plants I mentioned as 600 mwh 2 loop Westinghouse pwrs.

        A design that we should have standardized on in my opinion.

  13. Chauncey Starr (1969), Social Benefit versus Technological Risk, American Association for the Advancement of Science, Vol. 165, No. 3899, pp. 1232-1238.

    From the introduction:

    The evaluation of technical approaches to solving societal problems customarily involves consideration of the relationship between potential technical performance and the required investment of societal resources. Although such performance-versus-cost relationships are clearly useful for choosing between alternative solutions, they do not by themselves determine how much technology a society can justifiably purchase. This latter determination requires, additionally, knowledge of the relationship between social benefit and justified social cost. The two relationships may then be used jointly to determine the optimum investment of societal resources in a technological approach to a social need.

    Technological analyses for disclosing the relationship between expected performance and monetary costs are a traditional part of all engineering planning and design. The inclusion in such studies of all societal costs (indirect as well as direct) is less customary, and obviously makes the analysis more difficult and less definitive. Analyses of social value as a function of technical performance are not only uncommon but are rarely quantitative. Yet we know that implicit in every nonarbitrary national decision on the use of technology is a trade-off of societal benefits and societal costs.

    In this article I offer an approach for establishing a quantitative measure of benefit relative to cost for an important element in our spectrum of social values-specifically, for accidental deaths arising from technological developments in public use.

    From a later section:

    Voluntary and Involuntary Activities Societal activities fall into two general categories-those in which the individual participates on a “voluntary” basis and those in which the participation is “involuntary,” imposed by the society in which the individual lives. The process of empirical optimization of benefits and costs is fundamentally similar in the two cases-namely, a reversible exploration of available options- but the time required for empirical adjustments (the time constants of the system) and the criteria for optimization are quite different in the two situations.

    In the case of “voluntary” activities, the individual uses his own value system to evaluate his experiences. Although his eventual trade-off may not be consciously or analytically determined, or based upon objective knowledge, it nevertheless is likely to represent, for that individual, a crude optimization appropriate to his value system. For example, an urban dweller may move to the suburbs because of a lower crime rate and better schools, at the cost of more time spent traveling on highways and a higher probability of accidents. If, subsequently, the traffic density increases, he may decide that the penalties are too great and move back to the city. Such an individual optimization process can be comparatively rapid (because the feedback of experience to the individual is rapid), so the statistical pattern for a large social group may be an important “realtime” indicator of societal trade-offs and values.

    “Involuntary” activities differ in that the criteria and options are determined not by the individuals affected but by a controlling body. Such control may be in the hands of a government agency, a political entity, a leadership group, an assembly of authorities or “opinion-makers,” or a combination of such bodies. Because of the complexity of large societies, only the control group is likely to be fully aware of all the criteria and involved in their decision process.

    • Dan Hughes,

      Thank you. Excellent contribution. I expect energy policy and its implementation would be included in the latter group; i.e. this group: “options are determined not by the individuals affected but by a controlling body. Such control may be in the hands of a government agency, a political entity, a leadership group, an assembly of authorities or “opinion-makers,” or a combination of such bodies. Because of the complexity of large societies, only the control group is likely to be fully aware of all the criteria and involved in their decision process.

      This includes policy to incentivise renewable energy. Even though individuals purchase solar PV systems, the consequences of the policies that encourage them to do so affects everyone.

      Because of the complexity of large societies, only the control group is likely to be fully aware of all the criteria and involved in their decision process.
      Note: the control group is not necessarily well informed, objective, impartial, unbiased.

  14. IIRC the danger in this concept is that it can be applied to anything regardless of the feasibility of the project. What is the learning rate for batteries? How much money has been thrown at the project over 100 years? Yes we have small batteries designed for use in small gadgets, but large scale and lasting storage just isn’t there. Wind power is not new. Costs per unit have come down, but for some reason wind itself is still unreliable. Pouring big dollars into wind and solar is simply relying on the learning rate to work so that every country can be at the cutting edge of future failure. Not all technologies are created equal.

    I agree that nuclear is dependable and feasible and deserves a big push. Government should not pick the winners and losers, but basic safety is essential. It is going to take major power failures to change folks’ minds. Sure hope they don’t happen during mid-latitude winters.

    • There are a variety of interesting improvements in battery technology. One that’s relevant to utility-scale power is built by Aquion Energy (a spin-out from Carnegie Mellon). Rather than chasing energy density and the mobile market, they’ve gone after the combination of safety and lifecycle cost.
      The resulting batteries would be utterly inappropriate for electric cars, for example, but are *nearly* cheap enough to make economic sense for anyone whose cost for electricity is time-of-day (or demand) based. Only modest improvements would be needed, for example, to bring them to the point where it would make sense to install a bunch in my (hypothetical) basement and switch to dynamically-priced power in Silicon Valley.

      (Basement is hypothetical because we’re still house-hunting…)

    • IIRC the danger in this concept is that it can be applied to anything regardless of the feasibility of the project.

      Not really. In a reasonably free-market economy, somebody has to buy the products in order for them to experience a learning curve.

      The problem is that you assume many things aren’t “feasible” without any idea whether they really are or not.

    • R2Dtoo says

      “Government should not pick the winners and losers ….”
      ______

      I’m skeptical. Why shouldn’t government pick the winners and losers?
      ________

      • Because governments make decisions based on political considerations. Not based on economic considerations, not based on safety considerations, not based on technologically feasible considerations….political considerations. This is unique to government decision making.

        Governments also typically only follow one, or a few, paths. The market follows many. The market is also quicker to abandon a path that isn’t working.

      • The government can act much faster than the market and more forcefully in achieving results that are best for the greatest number of our citizens. Examples are seat belts, air-bags, and other mandated auto safety features, restrictions on lead and asbestos in our homes and work places, regulations against pollution of our air and water, codes to assure safe house and buildings, and many more measures that help us have safe and productive lives. If left to the market, many of these improvements would have been slow to come if at all.

      • Seriously max?

        There are names for political systems which call for government picking winners and losers. Care to try your hand at identifying them?

      • Just read your follow on response max and you are spit on. Government can (sometimes) act faster and most definitely act more forcefully. But the examples you refer to are not really applicable to the topic. If you disagree, please explain why.

      • The British government did a fair amount of picking winners and losers during the 18th-19th centuries. Usually by categories rather than individual players.

        So did the US government, e.g. railroad subsidies.

      • timg56 | March 15, 2016 at 1:42 am |
        “Just read your follow on response max and you are spit on. Government can (sometimes) act faster and most definitely act more forcefully. But the examples you refer to are not really applicable to the topic. If you disagree, please explain why.”
        ____

        You are right. Those weren’t examples of govn’t trying to pick winners. Examples might be the transcontinental railroads, Panama Canal ?, TVA, nuclear power, renewables, and Tesla. I’m not sure about purchases of Louisiana and Alaska, and bailouts such as Chrysler and GM.

      • max10k,

        With respect, Governments don’t really pick anything. Individuals push their own barrow – sometimes lucky, sometimes not so.

        Sometimes what looked like a winner turns out to be a total loser, and vice versa. The finest financial minds – the best and the brightest – cannot consistently pick winners. What chance then, for those not quite the best or brightest? And of course, most advisers are in this category, by definition.

        Even countries ascend and descend in influence, and I presume they are trying to pick a winning position at all times. I’m reasonably sure that the US didn’t intentionally aim for the outcomes in Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan, and so on. This is the nature of things.

        Sometimes, stuff happens, whether you think it should or not. All part of the rich tapestry of life, I guess?

        Cheers.

    • Yes, I agree. The would’ve/could’ve in this analysis is pretty out there. But the point is the big shift from positive to negative and the big disparity among nations and over time. This shows that much of the cost is politics and not technical.

  15. As an example of why the big jump in nuclear plant construction costs in the late 70’s and early 80, I’ll relate something told to me by a Westinghouse engineer at the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant during construction. He explained that the Westinghouse reactors installed in this power plant were designed by the same people who designed reactors for nuclear submarines. Those submarine plants were designed to handle the high physical shock of a depth charge attack. Reactor components were specifically designed to be decouple from external shock and movement. Piping flex was part of the design to reduce individual component shock.

    In the 1970s, the small earthquake fault under the Diablo Canyon site was reanalised to have a larger shake potential than originally calculated. This claim triggered a call for a review of the earthquake safety of the reactors. An external, non-Westinghouse review was required. This review was given to a civil engineering firm. Of course, civil engineering standards were not based upon depth charge attacks. Civil engineering standard at that time was to tie everything down so nothing can move during an earthquake. Remember, this was near the end of the Cold War so that submarine info would have at least party a military secret. The result was an long (multi-year) design and construction phase in which huge braces were added throughout the plant. Of course, since many components were originally designed to move, allowance had to be made for that in the form of complex crush-able dampeners. So.. another billion dollars of construction and finance interest cost added.

    On a slightly different question: Would I live next to a nuclear power plant? Well, not right up against the fence, of course. I would want to be a few hundred yards away to avoid the noise associated with a large industrial site. Besides.. security requirements today would not allow me any where near that close to the plant. As for radiation exposure, I would be getting more from the concrete in my back yard patio than from the nuclear plant.

    • Gary Wescom,

      Thank you. There are hundreds of stores like yours of the causes of the massive cost increases in the 1970’s. I’ll quote an excellent comment, by a wise person :), I book marked a while back:

      “In today’s regulatory, economic, and social situation it takes a very brave and strong corporation to take on the job of building a new nuclear power plant. Every step of the process is a continuous legal and financial battle. Legal because every step of the process requires approval from dozens of agencies from the NRC down to local planning commissions. Regulations are often conflicting and overly controlling with legal decisions made by people with no qualifications to make them. Economic because obtaining loans at low interest rates or approval to issue bonds for construction is hampered by the realistic view of the level of legal battle the construction would entail. Social because of both a NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard) attitude and irrational level of fear of radiation.

      The cost of finding, evaluating, and receiving approval of a site for nuclear power plant construction easily runs into the hundreds of millions of dollars. Furthermore, the battle over the site continues by anti-nuclear groups throughout the construction process even when a legal approval for a site is achieved.

      Construction is hampered by review processes at each stage of design and construction. Where a contractor building a house might be irritated by having to delay work for a few hours until the city inspector arrives, consider the nuclear industry situation. How he would feel if he had to produce a multi-thousand page description of what his people have done so far and what is left to do. Of course, you must add in that it will be presented to several federal regulatory panels and administrative law judges – with lawyers from multiple opposition groups also attending. Each approval can involve months to years of expensive legal work with loan interest and bond payout amounts continue to add to the total project cost. (This actually could be considered as counter-productive to safety concerns as technology advances as these delays continue but incorporating newer, better equipment would delay completion of construction even more. Better to get the plant on line and go through the slow approval process while making money to pay for the work!)

      As for the social situation, I seriously doubt I even need to comment on the issue of opposition to nuclear power.”

      https://judithcurry.com/2015/12/16/the-new-climate-deniers/#comment-751984

    • Gary,

      That is a very interesting story, but I suspect the source was relying on a lot of his own supposition. I was involved in a project for plant piping seismic design. The criteria was not depth charge shock, but earthquake. Design was not to “tie” stuff down, but to allow for movement. A secondary consideration was water hammer. If I recall correctly, it wasn’t part of the original design criteria, but systems were analyzed after the fact and for the most part the seismic protection met those concerns.

      For the worrywarts, where it didn’t, design changes were enacted

    • The loudest things at the edge of the owner controlled area are the high tension wires.

      There might be a little traffic noise, but less than that at the nearest Starbuck’s but that will be a mile away at least.

  16. Peter Lang, thank you for your essay.

    You quoted this: Equally it could be argued only nuclear would survive if all technologies had to insure for the fatalities they cause.

    Year after year, people seem resistant to the argument that nuclear power produces fewer fatalities than alternative power production.

    • Few lives were lost as a result of Fukushima, yet it was a setback for nuclear power. Was that entirely because people around the world were irrational about the deadly potential of nuclear accidents and mishaps, or was it also because the lives of the people in the Fukushima area continued to be adversely affected long after?

      • Yes to the first question.

        As for the second, a lot of the fear might be due to how the government handled it . Forced relocation?

  17. Beware my friends, it’s as clear as a pi in the sky — today of all days (3 14 16) — that, nuclear power is a Nostradaumusian doomsday in the making… lying in wait, like Trenberthian global warming, asleep in the deep, only to rise in a fury and consume us all.

  18. opposition to nuclear is political, not technical.
    If nuclear is the answer to global warming (and it is) then the environmentalists and the Democrats have been catastrophically wrong on energy for a half-century. They essentially caused global warming – such that it is – by killing nuclear in the ’70s.
    If nuclear is the answer (and it is) it demonstrates that the American marketplace will move rapidly and spend a whole lot of money to replace fossil fuels without being asked to by the government if two conditions are met- it works, it’s affordable. Nuclear meets both of those conditions, solar/wind don’t. The claim that we won’t build solar/wind out of some mis-placed, Republican love affair with fossil fuels is ridiculous.
    If nuclear power were not the answer, then the warm would be screaming for an IPCC level review of energy technology. They are not, because nuclear is the answer.

    • Congratulations, jeff. You sure know how to spin. I couldn’t have done better myself.

      • Really? I think you can. Start by telling us what the emissions levels would be if nuclear hadn’t been stopped in the 70s. Use your own favorite models and just for funsies assume that nukes only replaced 25% of coal in the last 40 years instead of the 50% that Peter estimates.
        How much lower would the projected temperature be in the year 2100?
        Spin and dance, my friend.

    • I think what killed it is the long lead time where your investment sits and doesn’t provide income. 10 years is too long a time for a multi-billion dollar investment to provide no income.

      Especially when you have the option to build a natural gas plant, where the lead times are in months and costs in the millions.

  19. During the past couple of weeks there have been several easy to read stories on the future of nuclear power:

    (1) Why America abandoned nuclear power (and what we can learn from South Korea) — Vox:
    http://www.vox.com/2016/2/29/11132930/nuclear-power-costs-us-france-korea

    (2) China Could Have a Meltdown-Proof Nuclear Reactor Next Year — MIT Technology Review:
    https://www.technologyreview.com/s/600757/china-could-have-a-meltdown-proof-nuclear-reactor-next-year/

    (3) U.S. Senate Wants To Decrease CO2 By Increasing Nuclear Energy — Forbes:
    http://www.forbes.com/sites/jamesconca/2016/02/01/u-s-senate-wants-to-decrease-co2-by-increasing-nuclear-energy/#17f5b7506620

    • SS, in essay Going Nuclear I made a couple of ‘compelling’ observations. If ECS is on the low side (my BE from published papers going back 50 years is 1.5-1.8) then we have lots of time to switch from coal/NG (in North America, CCGT is a no brainer) and to develop and chose among the various 4 G nuclear fission proposals. We just have to get on with it. And we are not. IMO because of warmunist nonsense.

      • Rud — As a layman in climate science, I believe Dr. Curry makes the most sense on TCR (which I’ve stated numerous times if this means anything).

        If I couple Dr. Curry’s TCR opinion with Dr.’s Molina and Ramanathan’s opinion on “fast mitigation” (smog, soot, HFCs, methane) — this is a very positive story.

      • SS, tra la,
        See, you can go fah!
        ================

  20. Since most of the discussion is about causes and solutions, I’ll post this which I saw a few days ago:
    http://nukespp.blogspot.com.au/2016/02/how-nrc-stopped-us-nuclear-power.html

    <b<How the NRC stopped the U.S. nuclear power industry.

    It was the U.S. Congress that created the NRC in 1975 at the behest of the coal industry. Official line was that the Atomic Energy Commission had a conflicting mission of promoting nuclear energy and ensuring safety. The mission of promoting nuclear was given to the DOE and dropped. The NRC was given the mission to “maximize safety”. Orders for nuclear plants were cancelled as electric companies correctly anticipated skyrocketing costs and delays from onerous NRC regulation. In the 40 years since the NRC opened its doors not a single nuclear power plant was built from conception to completion. It will take the proverbial act of congress to reign in the NRC, or better yet, abolish it and replace it with something similar to the Atomic Energy Commission under which about 70 or 80 nuclear reactors were built in 10 or 15 years. That act of congress isn’t going happen as long as the fossil fuel industries own congress.

    The text above was attributed to — Jerry Nolan http://nukespp.blogspot.com.au/

    • Hi Peter,

      As usual a superb effort on your part. I always enjoy it when you stir the pot. As an aside–looking at the figure and reading the quote–I wonder how much something like the Browns Ferry fire followed in just a few years by the Three Mile Island impacted the formative years of the US NRC. It is funny that we perhaps mention Three Mile Island as a milestone, but I posit that in the corridors of the NRC Browns Ferry was the mortal cut and TMI the coup de grace. Just speculating…

      Regards,
      Michael

      • Lest we forget: ‘The China Syndrome’.
        ===========

      • Michael,

        I agree. Browns Ferry and a few other incidents (all causing no immediate or latent fatalities) are mentioned in Lovering and other papers. These were all used by anti-nukes to scare the pants of the population. It’s interesting to compare the response of the population to the nuclear power incidents versus the aviation accidents in the same period. Commercial aviation kills about 1000 people per year on average, but we accept the risk and keep flying. Nuclear kills near no one and yet most of the populations is scared stiff by the thought of it.

      • For sure Browns Ferry and TMI were used by anti-nuclear group but just to be clear I here was addressing “in the corridors of the NRC” immediately after its creation and mission. A candle bringing the plant to its knees would have had some staying power and doses of caution in those circumstances. While not a participant I have been aware that there were apparently differences in control philosophies, e.g., approaches to redundancy, in those years–things were being sorted out. However, at the time young Mikey was not experienced enough in the worldly ways of institutions to appreciate how that might guide emerging NRC policy.

        In a nutshell: we can easily see the events as effective bludgeons for the anti-nuclear groups, however I wonder if we tend to overlook the same events’ impacts inside a nascent federal agency. No doubt there was a lot of shoving around the table and a lot of prophylactic postures being considered all the way thru the chain. :O)

      • Michael,

        Agree. Unfortunately it wasn’t just the NRC’s formative years that it has been blocking progress.

        In the 40 years since the NRC opened its doors not a single nuclear power plant was built from conception to completion.

        In the industry it is sometimes referred to as the “Nuclear Rejection Commission”.
        If the same had been applied to aviation accidents, e.g. when the Comet jet liners were crashing in the late 1950s, would commercial aviation progress have been seriously delayed too? If we applied equivalent restrictions to hospitals, where medical mistakes in US hospitals cause 440,000 fatalities per year, where would healthcare be at now?

      • It seems to me that there will be no real progress here until a new culture maintaining balanced ties between development and regulation displaces the existing culture in the NRC. Their main business seems to be writing documents. We have a long way to go.

      • Michael,

        I agree. However, I believe there is a way. And the first step has begun by the US (NAS and DOE). I think the report is due about July.

      • Keep in mind that the best talent in nuclear was not found in the NRC.

        Rarely are regulators among the cream. A couple most likely. A good number who are competent. But it is the percentage who would be considered pedestrian at best that gravitate to regulatory .

      • But it is the percentage who would be considered pedestrian at best that gravitate to regulatory .

        I’d expect regulatory jobs would appeal much more to those who like telling people what to do.

        Much less to those who like figuring out the best way to do it.

      • timg56 wrote:

        Keep in mind that the best talent in nuclear was not found in the NRC.

        This is an assertion*, but at a minimum it does point to another interesting question: is contractor science as effective [in supporting policy making] as that maintained by a dedicated in-house stable? [For the record, I worked a couple of years at a large dedicated DOE lab before it went the national lab route, and I have worked on-site and off-site for DOE and EPA contractors. In my mind there is also no doubt that the culture of a contractor company is a big, big factor.]
        ——
        * An assertion relevant to more than just the NRC of course.

      • AK:

        I’d expect regulatory jobs would appeal much more to those who like telling people what to do.

        Maybe some but I’ll go with perceived security, pace, and benefits.

        In any case or circumstance there are exceptions that prove any ‘rule’ we wish to come up with.

  21. Peter Lang,

    Thank for an extremely interesting post. There really is no doubt in my mind that society will not progress without nuclear energy in some form or another.

    I’d like to draw your attention to this document:

    https://www.dropbox.com/s/3l83u6sc7qka7z4/38%20-%20An%20Open%20Letter%20to%20Congressman%20Alan%20Grayson%20On%20Fusion%20(1-10-2016).pdf?dl=0

    It’s regarding small scale fusion research and it’s lack of funding. Given the implications of commercial fusion it’s amazing fusion research is so narrow. I thought you might find it interesting.

    • agnostice,

      Thank you. I want to try to stay out of the discussions about causes, solutions and avoid picking winners. I don’t believe picking winners is the right approach. I believe reducing/removing the impediments to fair electricity market competition is the approach we should follow.

  22. Peter,

    Have to admit that I skipped everything after the first couple of paragraphs. But then you are preaching to the choir in my case.

    • timg,

      I’d welcome your comments on causes. I won’t comment (much) myself on causes and solutions here because I plant to write a paper on these, but I appreciate any thoughts you have, given your experience in nuclear power plant operations. I’d be particularly interested in your thoughts about what is causing O&M of nuclear plants to be high, and what opportunities are to reduce that eventually. Do you happen to know about the full cost impact of security requirements on O&M?

      • Peter,

        I’ve been out of the industry since they closed the Trojan Nuclear plant. I have a brother in charge of building Vogtle 3 & 4. He would be a better source. If my wife and I hook up with him when he comes out visit Calf wine country, maybe I can ask him.

  23. I’ve just spotted a mistake in Figure 4. Canada, Period 2, learning rate should be -23%, not 0%. It is correct in Table 2.

    Also, the hyperlink for Rubin, et al., 2015, ‘A review of learning rates for electricity supply technologies’ is http://www.cmu.edu/epp/iecm/rubin/PDF%20files/2015/Rubin_et_al_Areviewoflearningrates_EnergyPolicy2015.pdf

  24. It’s very unfortunate, but I think it probably isn’t possible to overcome popular opposition to nukes. Smart people are convinced they are dangerous. The anti-everything memes are endemic in social media. A friend told me that Canada is closing beaches on the west coast, people are convinced surfers are getting rashes, and sharks are getting tumors in the barrier reefs, all because of Fukushima.

    • aaron,

      It’s very unfortunate, but I think it probably isn’t possible to overcome popular opposition to nukes. Smart people are convinced they are dangerous. The anti-everything memes are endemic in social media.

      I agree with you on the cause of the problem, but don’t agree it can’t or won’t be overcome. Technology transitions have invariably had similar opposition. Think of the opposition to the motor car (there had to be a man with a red flag walking 100 yards ahead of the car to warn oncoming horses of the cars approach), and the aeroplane (the human frame cannot withstand such speeds), etc.

      As an example of how ridiculous is the belief in nuclear being high risk, consider this chart (immediate fatalities from nuclear accidents are 10,000 times less than other energy supply chains, and better still for latent fatalities).

      I intend to discuss causes and suggest a catalyst to start the unwinding of the irrational fears in follow up papers.

  25. Beta Blocker

    I was working nuclear construction in the United States in the mid-1980’s and saw for myself first hand what factors were driving costs up and were impeding the industry’s progress in preparing itself for an accelerated growth in nuclear power.

    In the late 1970’s and early 1980’s, the regulatory environment became much more complex with a series of added regulatory requirements on nuclear plant design and construction. At the same time, the large 1300 megawatt plants were being constructed for the first time; they were being built without a prototype; and there were many things in those new designs which had to be tested and proven for the first time in operational service.

    Also at the same time, the anti-nuclear activist groups switched tactics. They had gotten nowhere in the courts with their arguments concerning basic nuclear safety issues, and so they began to focus on emerging quality assurance issues with the plant construction projects — that is to say, the lack of effort on the part of the senior managers of large nuclear construction projects towards meeting the quality assurance standards they had committed to in their NRC license applications.

    The NRC had assumed in the mid-1970’s that one utility was much like another In its ability manage a large and very complex nuclear construction project. This turned out not to be the case. In the mid 1970’s, the NRC had given construction licenses to utilities which were not capable of managing the demanding task of building a nuclear power plant to strict quality assurance requirements while at the same time working under significant cost and schedule pressures. By the early 1980’s, the wide differences which existed among the power utilities regarding their basic competency for managing a large nuclear project had become painfully apparent.

    Those nuclear construction projects which had weak project management systems and which suffered from a lack of commitment to maintaining high quality assurance standards were in deep trouble well before Three Mile Island occurred. Their lack of commitment to an effective quality assurance program was reflected in their tendency to place primary responsibility for quality assurance on the Quality Assurance organization, an organization which is not equipped for handling that job. The QA organization is a means of communicating to management whether or not the project’s QA objectives are being met. But it is not a substitute for management. For those projects which got into deep trouble, managers at every level of the project organization had abdicated responsibility for the project’s quality to the QA organization.

    The variety of problems these late 1970’s and early 1980’s nuclear projects were suffering were compounded by other basic weaknesses in their project management systems. Matrix management systems were common at that time, but these kinds of systems do not enforce enough internal discipline to keep a complex nuclear project on track. Every nuclear project which got into trouble in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s had a matrix management system. Another issue was the lack of project configuration control and the lack of contractor interface control. Projects which lacked effective configuration control and effective contractor interface control saw their budgets being eaten by the nuclear construction contractors.

    Inside those projects which got into serious trouble, middle managers and senior managers did not want to hear bad news of any kind. Managers at lower levels knew what the problems were, but by the time the message got to the senior managers, it had become so attenuated it was unrecognizable. Whistleblowers on the job became fed up with management’s lack of commitment to quality construction standards and went outside the project to the anti-nuclear activists. Those activists then made sure these very real QA problems were introduced into the NRC licensing process.

    Why was it that in the late 1970’s and the early 1980’s it was primarily the whistleblowers who were exposing these quality assurance issues, not the NRC’s own professional staff?

    It was because at the time, the NRC viewed QA issues as not representing a danger until the plant was about to go operational, and so it focused its oversight efforts on the last phases of the licensing process when the plant was about to go for an operating license. This meant that a project’s substandard construction practices which had been in place for years had remained unchallenged over most of the project’s life, and so the project had become complacent because it hadn’t heard from the NRC. In other words, no news was good news for these projects. But then when the anti-nuclear activists raised issues with how the plant had been constructed, issues which had been discovered by whistleblowers on the job, these projects began asking the question, where was the NRC in the earlier phases of the project when its oversight and input was most needed?

    Those nuclear projects which were successfully completed in the 1980’s were the ones which had strong project management systems and which viewed the NRC as a resource, not as an adversary. By the late 1980’s, most all of the earlier problems with nuclear construction had been resolved and the industry was well positioned to expand, had the market for nuclear power plants continued to hold up. But this was not to be. The weight of past problems and of increasing competition from coal and from natural gas put an end to nuclear construction in the US for a period of twenty-years. More recently, the emergence of the fracking boom and severe competition from cheap natural gas is putting an end to the nascent American nuclear renaissance.

    Those in the United States who say the solution to nuclear power’s lack of economic competitiveness with natural gas is to remove the strict regulatory requirements government now imposes on the industry are living in a dream world. My rough guess is that removing these regulatory burdens might reduce US nuclear construction costs ten to fifteen percent. But that reduction isn’t nearly enough to overcome the lifecycle cost advantages now enjoyed by natural gas. But more important than this, a decision to greatly reduce government oversight over nuclear power would greatly reduce the public’s confidence that nuclear is safe. Is that loss of public confidence worth a cost reduction of perhaps fifteen percent at best in nuclear construction costs?

    • Excellent comment BetaBlocker…particularly

      The QA organization is a means of communicating to management whether or not the project’s QA objectives are being met. But it is not a substitute for management. [mwg bold]

      A perennial problem with QA is that it too readily looks like a checklist to a weak management.

    • Beta Blocker,

      Thank you. I agree with mwgrant, yours is an excellent comment, very informative. It’s great when people with real world experience contribute and explain from experience.

      Your comment leads me to ponder this question: would development, deployment, QA improvements and cost reductions happen faster with small modular nuclear reactors than with the monsters the industry has been forced (by the impact of the regulations) to move to? What is your opinion on this?

      these projects began asking the question, where was the NRC in the earlier phases of the project when its oversight and input was most needed?

      i.e. blame the regulator for the owner’s, designers’ and project manager’s deficiencies – I don’t agree that the NRC is responsible for the problems you mention. I believe the NRC, and the legislators are responsible for setting up the NRC to be overly conservative and concerned only about safety and not economics of the industry.

      I agree with much of what you said but not with the last paragraph and some of the penultimate paragraph.

      You seem to favour much more reliance on the NRC to intervene in projects to find and require problems to be corrected. That would require a huge bureaucracy if deployment around the world was to proceed at the rate required. I believe it is the wrong approach and would keep nuclear as high cost going nowhere for decades. (NRC has a huge influence on IAEA regulations).

      Instead, I believe we need a culture of light but appropriate regulation that enhances the balance between risk and cost effectiveness and encourages the development of a culture like the aviation industry: every incident and accident is an opportunity to find the causes (usually multiple) and make changes to try to prevent or reduce the likelihood of a reoccurence. The US aviation industry has increased passenger-miles by a factor of 20,000 since 1960 and reduced fatalities per passenger-mile by a factor of 1000! That’s what an appropriate regulation and culture achieves. It is in the aviation industry’s interest to minimise accidents. Despite this, commercial aviation has about 1000 fatalities per year. We don’t consider commercial aviation as high risk and we don’t stop flying. But we consider nuclear high risk despite there having been only one major accident in 60 years which has resulted in fatalities (and only 31 early fatalities and about another 30 since attributed to radiation and contamination from the accident … in 60 years!).

      Those in the United States who say the solution to nuclear power’s lack of economic competitiveness with natural gas is to remove the strict regulatory requirements government now imposes on the industry are living in a dream world. My rough guess is that removing these regulatory burdens might reduce US nuclear construction costs ten to fifteen percent. But that reduction isn’t nearly enough to overcome the lifecycle cost advantages now enjoyed by natural gas. But more important than this, a decision to greatly reduce government oversight over nuclear power would greatly reduce the public’s confidence that nuclear is safe. Is that loss of public confidence worth a cost reduction of perhaps fifteen percent at best in nuclear construction costs?</blockquote?

      I disagree with this, but will leave it until a later paper to explain why. I’ll make these comments now:

      1. Regarding your comment that nuclear cannot compete with NG, I agree it cannot in developed countries now, and it will take decades to wash out of the system all the costs already embedded in the nuclear power industry. But technology transitions that have occurred in the past show it can be done, and I’d argue it is inevitable, the question is for how long we will drag our feet.

      2. “My rough guess is that removing these regulatory burdens might reduce US nuclear construction costs ten to fifteen percent.” You didn’t state the period that your 10% to 15% reduction applies to. I agree over the short term, but I am talking about the long term and a complete culture change away from fear of nuclear power (as was the case in the early years).

      3. The learning rates demonstrated up to about 1970, and the safety record (i.e. fatalities caused) by those reactors, together with the improvements that would have occurred if the accelerating deployment rate had continued, suggest that nuclear would be 1/10th to 1/20th the cost it is now if not for the regulatory ratcheting (and the causes you explain in your comment). At this rate nuclear would be very much cheaper than NG.

      4. “ But more important than this, a decision to greatly reduce government oversight over nuclear power would greatly reduce the public’s confidence that nuclear is safe. Is that loss of public confidence worth a cost reduction of perhaps fifteen percent at best in nuclear construction costs? I don’t agree with your premise. Just as we’ve got over the fear of flying that was developing with the Comet crashes in the late 1950’s and opposition to cars and planes in their early years, we’ll inevitably get past the irrational fear of nuclear power too.

      I realise we disagree on this, but I need to explain the causes and then what I suggest is the solution in another one or two papers. This one was just intended to show what could have been and suggest that we can once again return to fast learning rates.

      Once again, excellent, informative and thought-provoking comment Beta Blocker. Thank you. I welcome any more thoughts and discussion on this – we need a substantial discussion on causes of the high cost of nuclear and the possible solutions to the problem.

      • Correction:

        he US aviation industry has increased passenger-miles by a factor of 20 [not 20,000] since 1960 and reduced fatalities per passenger-mile by a factor of 1000!

      • For context, since 1960, US commercial airline passenger fatalities per passenger-mile reduced by a factor of 1,051 while the number of passenger miles increased by just a factor of 19. This is an 87% learning rate in passenger safety per commercial airline passenger-mile.

        For comparison, the learning rate for overnight capital cost of nuclear reactors from 1953 to about 1970 was, for example US = 23%, FR = 34%, JP = 35% (see Table 2 for the learning rates in other countries)

      • Beta Blocker

        Peter, the common opinion I hear among my colleagues is that modular nuclear is the way of the future for nuclear power here in the United States — assuming there is indeed a long-term future for nuclear in the US and assuming that at least one modular project can be initiated to pave the way for the others.

        My personal opinion remains that if nuclear power of any flavor is to have a long term future here in the United States, competition from natural gas must be eliminated through a process of aggressively applied anti-carbon public policy decision making.

        In any case, I will be gone from the workforce well before the first modular nuclear power station comes on line, and since I live in a state which has easy access to cheap and abundant hydro power, I can just sit there in my easy chair and watch what’s happening elsewhere in the US and around the world as an impartial observer.

      • Beta,

        I live in a state that enjoys abundant hydro power as well. I’m in WA.

        I do tend to agree that low cost gas generation does not favor new nuclear construction, but I believe there are factors other than cost that go into the decision process, one of them being the need for a balanced generation portfolio that is not too reliant on one fuel source. Do you believe utilities will want to rely on gas as the bulk of their generation?

      • Beta Blocker,

        Thank you. I am long retired from the workforce too but remain interested in energy policy – for Australia and also for the world because what happens internationally greatly influences Australia’s policies. We have to go along with any internationally agreed policies and we have to buy capital equipment internationally. I am interested in energy at the lowest cost because that is what increases productivity, international competitiveness, lifts standard of living here and globally and increases the rate that the world’s poorest are lifted out of poverty. I don’t consider CO2 emissions as a major risk, but it is a political reality and therefore has to be acknowledged and dealt with in policy analysis.

        I also believe that small modular reactors are what is needed to:

        1. Reduce the financial risk of investments (by providing more flexibility for utilities replacing or adding capacity and a shorter time until the unit starts earning revenue)

        2. Reduce the capacity doubling time thus increasing the rate costs are reduced

        3. Increased growth rate means innovation and design improvements will be faster

        4. Small modules can be added to electricity grids in small to medium sized economies that cannot easily accommodate the 1 GW+ scale units in their grids. Australia’s generator units are around half or less than the capacity of the GW scale nuclear units. Adding 1 GW capacity reactors would be difficult and very costly.

        I understand it takes about 10 years and a billion dollars to get a new design through the NRC process, and also a very high cost and long delays to get design changes approved. That is an enormous impediment to progress and unwarranted given that nuclear is several orders of magnitude safer than other technologies, including NG. IMO, this impediment should be removed so innovation and competition between vendors can be unleashed.

        What do you think of thr scenario outlined below?

        Question: When could SMR’s be cheaper than NG in USA once there is strong public support again as there was at the start (I suggest this could be achieved over about the term of a good US President and a change in approach by legislators and regulators)?

        Assumptions:

        Starting price is the estimate for the twin 180 MW mPower plant (development has been put on hold) http://www.uxc.com/smr/Library/Design%20Specific/mPower/Presentations/2012%20-%20Reactor%20Design%20Overview.pdf http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2012/11/26/nuclear-small-modular-reactors/1727001/
        Overnight Capital Cost of the first twin unit (360MW) = $6/W ($6000/kW, $6b/GW)
        First unit commissioned in 2024
        Capacity doubling every 2 years for the first 10 years (32 GW by 2034)
        Learning rate = 30%

        Given these assumptions:
        OCC at 32 GW cumulative capacity = $1/W

        At this capital cost ($1/W) and much lower fuel costs, nuclear would be cheaper than NG by about three to four capacity doublings, i.e. about 2030 to 2032.

        After 10 years, 32 units, total 10.24 GW would have been built and the capital cost would have reduced to 17% of the first 360 MW plant.

        You mentioned carbon pricing. I seriously doubt carbon pricing can be politically sustainable and therefore I don’t believe it can succeed. Did you see this: ‘Why carbon pricing will not succeed’ http://anglejournal.com/article/2015-11-why-carbon-pricing-will-not-succeed/ . I think we should discourage advocacy of it because it is a diversion from the policy approach we really need to be focusing on – i.e. remove the impediments that are blocking progress.

      • Beta Blocker,

        [I confused no of units and GW capacity in my previous comment. Please ignore it. I’ll repost it with corrections below.]

        Beta Blocker,

        Thank you. I am long retired from the workforce too but remain interested in energy policy – for Australia and also for the world because what happens internationally greatly influences Australia’s policies. We have to go along with any internationally agreed policies and we have to buy capital equipment internationally. I am interested in energy at the lowest cost because that is what increases productivity, international competitiveness, lifts standard of living here and globally and increases the rate that the world’s poorest are lifted out of poverty. I don’t consider CO2 emissions as a major risk, but it is a political reality and therefore has to be acknowledged and dealt with in policy analysis.

        I also believe that small modular reactors are what is needed to:

        1. Reduce the financial risk of investments (by providing more flexibility for utilities replacing or adding capacity and a shorter time until the unit starts earning revenue)

        2. Reduce the capacity doubling time thus increasing the rate costs are reduced

        3. Increased growth rate means innovation and design improvements will be faster

        4. Small modules can be added to electricity grids in small to medium sized economies that cannot easily accommodate the 1 GW+ scale units in their grids. Australia’s generator units are around half or less than the capacity of the GW scale nuclear units. Adding 1 GW capacity reactors would be difficult and very costly.

        I understand it takes about 10 years and a billion dollars to get a new design through the NRC process, and also a very high cost and long delays to get design changes approved. That is an enormous impediment to progress and unwarranted given that nuclear is several orders of magnitude safer than other technologies, including NG. IMO, this impediment should be removed so innovation and competition between vendors can be unleashed.

        What do you think of the scenario outlined below?

        Question: When could SMR’s be cheaper than NG in USA once there is strong public support again as there was at the start (I suggest this could be achieved over about the term of a good US President and a change in approach by legislators and regulators)?

        Assumptions:

        Starting price is the estimate for the twin 180 MW mPower plant (development has been put on hold) http://www.uxc.com/smr/Library/Design%20Specific/mPower/Presentations/2012%20-%20Reactor%20Design%20Overview.pdf http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2012/11/26/nuclear-small-modular-reactors/1727001/
        Overnight Capital Cost of the first twin unit (360MW) = $6/W ($6000/kW, $6b/GW)
        First unit commissioned in 2024
        Capacity doubling every 2 years for the first 10 years (64 units, 11.5 GW, by 2034)
        Learning rate = 30%

        Given these assumptions:
        OCC at 32 GW cumulative capacity = $1/W

        At this capital cost ($1/W) and much lower fuel costs, nuclear would be cheaper than NG by about three to four capacity doublings, i.e. about 2030 to 2032.

        After 10 years, 64×180 GW units, total 11.5 GW would have been built and the capital cost would have reduced to 17% of the first 360 MW plant.

        You mentioned carbon pricing. I seriously doubt carbon pricing can be politically sustainable and therefore I don’t believe it can succeed. Did you see this: ‘Why carbon pricing will not succeed’ http://anglejournal.com/article/2015-11-why-carbon-pricing-will-not-succeed/ . I think we should discourage advocacy of it because it is a diversion from the policy approach we really need to be focusing on – i.e. remove the impediments that are blocking progress.

      • Beta Blocker

        Timg56 and Peter Lang, I’ll have to spend some time over the weekend writing up a more detailed response. But I will say briefly that I live in the US Pacific Northwest and had direct exposure via the WPPSS debacle to the problems the nuclear construction industry was experiencing in the late 1970’s and the early 1980’s. The WPPSS nuclear construction projects suffered from exceptionally poor management in the mid to late 1970’s, but new management installed in the early 1980’s was turning that situation around in a big way.

        If the lawyers hadn’t forced the 1982 bond default, the WPPSS Satsop plant might have been completed as well as the Hanford plant, given that their rates of construction progress had tripled under the new management regime and that their quality control processes had become as good or better than what the NRC requires. Timg56, if you were at the now-closed Trojan plant, then you saw first hand the consequences of an unholy alliance of anti-nuclear state regulators with greedy corporate lawyers as they fought for their own parochial interests at the expense of the greater public good. More later over the weekend or early next week.

      • Yep, worked at Trojan.

        Prior to the plant being shut down I tried suggesting to management that they were missing the boat with regard to the anti-Trojan efforts. About every other year a Trojan shutdown measure was on the ballot. The company’s response was to hire consultants to craft their message, which was basically “If you shut Trojan down, your bills will go up and you will face rolling brownouts.” In effect, scare the bejeebers out of people.

        I noted that every time it was on the ballot, it overwhelmingly passed in the Oregon HS mock ballot. Granted, HS seniors didn’t pay utility bills, so could vote with zero responsibility, but it was clear to me that we were already starting in a hole as far as the public opinion battle with each graduating class. Rather than spend millions on anti ballot measure campaigns, I recommended spending the money to go into the classrooms and educate students. I pointed out how the French integrate their plants and personnel into the local communities and get them involved in decision making.

        But what the hell do I know. They shut the plant down (after the Governor sold out the rate payers to achieve her personal objective) and a couple of degrees later I’m building wireless facilities.

      • Beta Blocker,

        Thank you. I accept all of the examples you are providing. However, what I am arguing is that tighter, more stringent regulation and more intervention by the regulator is not the answer. The opposite is what is required, IMO. Regulation needs to be greatly reduced and interventions by the regulator greatly reduced, IMO. To support my contention I point to oither industries – such as a comparison of the highly regulated and bureaucratic, butt-covering, Healthcare industry versus the much more hands off regulation of the private-sector aviation industry. Medical mistakes cause 440,000 fatalities per year in US hospitals. Although not directly comparable numbers, US commercial aviation has improved its safety by 87% for every doubling of passenger miles since 1960 (passemger miles have increased by a factor of 19 and fatalities reduced by a factor of 10510. I argue the contrasting cultures of the two industries is the main reason and this is caused by the regulations and regulator, which in turn are caused by political meddling.

        The cost and time delays for licencing of new nuclear designs and for chages of existing designs and the changes in regulation imposed during construction are huge impediments for investors to consider when weighing up whether or not to invest in a nuclear power plant.

        I can’t give ll the examples here. But seldom seldom does more regulation improve the out.

        And what’s the purpose? What’s the benefit of the huge cost increased the regulatory intervention causes? Nuclear is already orders of magnitude safer than other electricity supply technologies. I sufggest all the regulatory interventions are doing is to cause higher cost and slow the rate of development, so people cannot gain the benefits of cheaper and safer electricity supply and also have it more quickly become cheaper and safer still.

      • Beta Blocker

        timg56: “I do tend to agree that low cost gas generation does not favor new nuclear construction, but I believe there are factors other than cost that go into the decision process, one of them being the need for a balanced generation portfolio that is not too reliant on one fuel source. Do you believe utilities will want to rely on gas as the bulk of their generation?”

        The goal of achieving a balanced energy portfolio is one of the more important reasons why the US Southeast is constructing the new Vogtle and Summer reactor units. Those who determine energy policy in the US Southeast have made a public policy decision to pay an initial premium up front in return for the guarantee of a reliable long-term supply of electricity at stable prices that is immune to adverse pricing trends in natural gas markets.

        Peter Lang: “I understand it takes about 10 years and a billion dollars to get a new design through the NRC process, and also a very high cost and long delays to get design changes approved. That is an enormous impediment to progress and unwarranted given that nuclear is several orders of magnitude safer than other technologies, including NG. IMO, this impediment should be removed so innovation and competition between vendors can be unleashed.”

        A billion dollars of regulatory effort for initial approval a new reactor design that could see widespread service if it is adopted isn’t much of a deciding factor in evaluating the life cycle costs and income potential of a new design that might be in service 60 years or more in a number of different locations. As for evaluating ongoing modifications to approved designs, the NRC has a history of moving more quickly on these design modifications if the reactor licensee has been thorough in laying the technical groundwork needed to get the revision approved in a more timely fashion.

        Peter Lang: “Question: When could SMR’s be cheaper than NG in USA once there is strong public support again as there was at the start (I suggest this could be achieved over about the term of a good US President and a change in approach by legislators and regulators)? Assumptions …….. (as listed):”

        It is much too early to be applying these kinds of assumptions to the modular reactor learning curve, and so I am highly skeptical of your numbers, at least as they would apply inside the United States. Some power marketing agency somewhere in the US needs to gain enough confidence in the future success of modular reactors to become the pathfinder for the first practical deployment of the technology.

        A common opinion I hear is that the total lifecycle per kilowatt-hour cost for the first generation of modular reactors will be higher than those of the 1300 megawatt behemoths, but that the ability to add capacity in easily scalable increments will greatly reduce the risk that power marketers must undertake in adding nuclear to their energy portfolios.

        Peter Lang: “You mentioned carbon pricing. I seriously doubt carbon pricing can be politically sustainable and therefore I don’t believe it can succeed. Did you see this: ‘Why carbon pricing will not succeed’ http://anglejournal.com/article/2015-11-why-carbon-pricing-will-not-succeed/ . I think we should discourage advocacy of it because it is a diversion from the policy approach we really need to be focusing on – i.e. remove the impediments that are blocking progress.”

        I’ll speak only to the topic of how the adoption of strong anti-carbon measures might be accomplished here in the United States.

        Those who say they are most committed to achieving President Obama’s goal of an 80% reduction in America’s carbon emissions by 2035 haven’t acknowledged that considerable sacrifice is necessary on the part of the American public if that goal is to be met. Apart from its benefits in promoting the adoption of nuclear power, putting a stiff price on carbon is the only practical means for achieving the emission reductions the President wants over the relatively short period of time that he wants them.

        A reduction of 80% in America’s carbon emissions by 2035 necessarily demands that an aggressive approach to enforcing energy conservation measures must be adopted. Carbon pricing is the only method that has any chance of ever being successful in promoting those energy conservation measures, assuming that some legal and constitutional means can be found to impose a stiff price on carbon.

        Even a Congress controlled by Democrats will not legislate a tax on carbon. So if we are truly serious about reducing America’s carbon emissions 80% by 2035, the avenue of using a framework of EPA-enforced carbon pollution fines which is the functional equivalent of a legislated tax on carbon must be thoroughly explored.

      • Beta Blocker,

        Thank you for your consider replies to my points and for your continued contributions. They are very informative.

        You said:

        A billion dollars of regulatory effort for initial approval a new reactor design that could see widespread service if it is adopted isn’t much of a deciding factor in evaluating the life cycle costs and income potential of a new design that might be in service 60 years or more in a number of different locations. As for evaluating ongoing modifications to approved designs, the NRC has a history of moving more quickly on these design modifications if the reactor licensee has been thorough in laying the technical groundwork needed to get the revision approved in a more timely fashion.

        However, the important point is that the licensing costs and time required for nuclear are very high compared with the competing technologies (for both the first license and for design changes). These are a huge impediment to investors. And they cannot be justified on an objective basis because nuclear is much safer than the alternative technologies; therefore, the disincentives are causing more fatalities from electricity supply than if nuclear was cheaper. The huge costs and long licensing times are slowing progress, increasing costs, making nuclear less competitive than it should be, keeping energy costs higher, reducing productivity, slowing electrification worldwide, slowing the rate people are lifted out of poverty, etc. Do you agree?

        Your response to my question about learning rates for SMR’s doesn’t actually deal with the question. The starting price is irrelevant, it is the rate that costs reduce per doubling of cumulative capacity that is relevant. It is not time dependent. That rate that capacity doubles is a separate issue. I asked it separately. Both, but especially the time rate of capacity doubling, will depend on public support for nuclear power and a supportive regulatory environment.

        Those who say they are most committed to achieving President Obama’s goal of an 80% reduction in America’s carbon emissions by 2035 haven’t acknowledged that considerable sacrifice is necessary on the part of the American public if that goal is to be met.

        I disagree with this. First, I don’t believe 80% reduction is anywhere near achievable in 19 years from now, not do I believe it is necessary. I don’t believe sacrifice is necessary or can be justified. I believe the US and the world would gain by largely deregulating nuclear power industry and starting from scratch build a new regulator along the lines of the regulation of civil aviation. The regulator needs to fully understand the benefit of getting nuclear costs down so it can be rolled out as fast as possible purely on the basis of its economic and other advantages over competing technologies. One of the main benefits if the reduction in fatalities caused by pollution.

        Carbon pricing is the only method that has any chance of ever being successful in promoting those energy conservation measures, assuming that some legal and constitutional means can be found to impose a stiff price on carbon.

        You didn’t mention if you’d the essay I linked: ‘Why carbon pricing will not succeed’ http://anglejournal.com/article/2015-11-why-carbon-pricing-will-not-succeed/

        If you read it I think you will appreciate why carbon pricing, or other policies that would put the equivalent of a high price on GHG emissions, are unlikely to succeed. Even if they get started like the EU ETS, they are highly unlikely to survive.

        The policy that will succeed is deregulation, appropriately lightly regulated free markets, fair competition, free trade, etc. Human history since humans first began to communicate, swap, specialize and trade (e.g. stone spear heads) has demonstrated that freedom to innovated and trade is what succeeds. The NRC is a major block to progress, in my humble opinion.

        No doubt we differ in some of these approaches because of our different experiences, and also perhaps we are thinking of different time periods. You mentioned 80% reduction in US GHG emissions by 2035. I don’t believe that is realistic and don’t take it into consideration. I don’t really take climate change or GHG emissions as very important in the future of nuclear. I see the benefits of nuclear as being to bring cheaper, cleaner, abundant, secure electricity to the world so the world can move into another phase of rapid development, rapid economic growth and rapidly lifting the living standards, health, education levels and life expectancy of everyone.

        I look forward to your further comments. Thanks again for your contributions so far.

      • Beta Blocker,

        I’d like to drill down into your thinking behind this comment because I think this is really important;

        It is much too early to be applying these kinds of assumptions to the modular reactor learning curve, and so I am highly skeptical of your numbers, at least as they would apply inside the United States. Some power marketing agency somewhere in the US needs to gain enough confidence in the future success of modular reactors to become the pathfinder for the first practical deployment of the technology.

        1. could you please state which specific assumptions you disagree with and how would you change them / restate them (in a way so I can rerun the calculations with your assumptions)

        2. Do you disagree with the learning rate or the rate of cumulative capacity doubling or both? Could you please state what you think would be an achievable learning rate assuming strong public support like applied in the 1950s and early 1960s? Could you please explain why you picked that rate rather that what I used (but not using arguments about lack of public support because I fully recognise that that is the block to progress and already included that caveat)?

        3. Do you disagree with my assumed capacity doubling rate? This is the one that I expect you may disagree with. I think a discussions about this could be helpful and informative.

      • Beta Blocker

        Peter, I haven’t forgotten you, but before I can get back to the topic at hand, I must finish this week’s project of pouring a concrete shield wall in a rad contamination zone.

      • Beta Blocker,

        Thank you. It’s wonderful to know you are still involved at the coal front. Your well considered comments are very valuable and informative. Happy Easter.

      • Beta Blocker

        Peter, I’m back from pouring concrete and can finish up my response to your questions. (Better late than never, eh?)

        I will confine my remarks to the regulatory environment and the larger business environment which currently exists here in the United States.

        How the business and regulatory environments affecting the expansion of nuclear power in other countries might be enhanced by greatly reducing or even eliminating regulatory oversight is not something I pay much attention to myself. This is for the simple reason that I am much too far along in my career to be personally affected by whatever trends are happening internationally.

        Peter Lang: ” What I am arguing is that tighter, more stringent regulation and more intervention by the regulator is not the answer. The opposite is what is required, IMO. Regulation needs to be greatly reduced and interventions by the regulator greatly reduced, IMO”

        The United States is now a post-industrial, service oriented economy. A large nuclear power plant is ‘industrial’ with a capital ‘I.’ America is no longer a friendly place for building and operating any kind of large scale industrial facility, let alone a large-scale nuclear facility.

        A decade ago in the mid-2000’s, I was working part time as an internal consultant in supporting detailed cost estimates for the new 1100 megawatt reactors then being proposed for the US Southeast.

        The costs of building nuclear in the US has doubled in the last two decades, as have the costs of building every other kind of large-scale industrial facility. These cost increases apply across the board in all cost categories and affect labor costs, material costs, land acquisition costs, and civil support infrastructure costs. This situation is not easily fixed unless the US becomes a more friendly place for building any kind of large-scale industrial facility, not just a large-scale nuclear facility.

        Peter Lang: ”To support my contention I point to other industries – such as a comparison of the highly regulated and bureaucratic, butt-covering, Healthcare industry versus the much more hands off regulation of the private-sector aviation industry. Medical mistakes cause 440,000 fatalities per year in US hospitals. Although not directly comparable numbers, US commercial aviation has improved its safety by 87% for every doubling of passenger miles since 1960 (passenger miles have increased by a factor of 19 and fatalities reduced by a factor of 10510. I argue the contrasting cultures of the two industries is the main reason and this is caused by the regulations and regulator, which in turn are caused by political meddling. “

        Nuclear is different. The potential consequences of a single major nuclear accident will always make it different. Keeping nuclear power as an option in the United States is strictly a public policy decision, with PAAA and the NRC acting as the key oversight elements which keep the American public actively involved in nuclear power decision making.

        Argue all you want to about the supposed benefits of reducing government oversight of commercial nuclear safety. The fact is that public opinion in this country will never allow unregulated operation of commercial nuclear power plants.

        Peter Lang: ”The cost and time delays for licensing of new nuclear designs and for changes of existing designs and the changes in regulation imposed during construction are huge impediments for investors to consider when weighing up whether or not to invest in a nuclear power plant. I can’t give the examples here. But seldom does more regulation improve the out. And what’s the purpose? What’s the benefit of the huge cost increased the regulatory intervention causes? Nuclear is already orders of magnitude safer than other electricity supply technologies. I suggest all the regulatory interventions are doing is to cause higher cost and slow the rate of development, so people cannot gain the benefits of cheaper and safer electricity supply and also have it more quickly become cheaper and safer still.“

        The management discipline and the management systems needed to keep a large nuclear project on cost and on schedule are the same disciplines and the same systems needed to meet the NRC’s quality assurance requirements. They are the same managers and the same systems doing the same work, and they have to be present anyway and be doing a good job if the project is to be kept on track for successful completion.

        There is nothing missing from the NRC’s QA requirements which would have prevented the failed nuclear projects of the late 1970’and early 1980’s from going under due to the sheer weight of their poor management practices and their ineffective management systems. Those projects which were being properly managed got through the many changes to NRC requirements that came in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s. For those projects which were poorly managed and which were already experiencing severe cost and schedule issues, those many changes to NRC requirements were the wind that blew those projects down.

        For one example, the early phases of the WPPSS nuclear projects were poster children for these kinds of management failures. That situation got turned around in the early 1980’s, but it took a year and a half of diligent effort by the new management team to put those projects back on track. If the bond default hadn’t been forced by the lawyers in 1982, two and possibly even three of the WPPSS plants might have been completed, not just the one at Hanford.

        Peter Lang: ”Your response to my question about learning rates for SMR’s doesn’t actually deal with the question. The starting price is irrelevant, it is the rate that costs reduce per doubling of cumulative capacity that is relevant. It is not time dependent. That rate that capacity doubles is a separate issue. I asked it separately. Both, but especially the time rate of capacity doubling, will depend on public support for nuclear power and a supportive regulatory environment. “

        Again, applying your analysis strictly to the United States, I don’t accept that your analytical approach and methodology has relevancy for the circumstances we find here. I do not believe that nuclear’s costs in the US can be reduced to the extent you are predicting for a doubling of cumulative capacity, or that the time rate of its doubling can be accurately predicted.

        A decade from now, when the technology of modular reactors is further along, we will be in a much better position to estimate the parameters which underpin your analysis. Until that time comes, I put your approach for estimating nuclear’s future costs into the same category as those of the pro-renewables crowd. These analyses have no validity in the absence of a specific detailed design for a renewable energy grid architecture, one which can be accurately evaluated for its hard dollar costs.

        Peter Lang: ”You didn’t mention if you’d the essay I linked: ‘Why carbon pricing will not succeed’ http://anglejournal.com/article/2015-11-why-carbon-pricing-will-not-succeed/
        If you read it I think you will appreciate why carbon pricing, or other policies that would put the equivalent of a high price on GHG emissions, are unlikely to succeed. Even if they get started like the EU ETS, they are highly unlikely to survive. “

        I’ve now read your essay. Alright, will carbon pricing be effective in reducing all of the world’s GHG emissions on a worldwide scale? There’s a good argument to be made that most nations will not impose the levels of carbon pricing needed to put a serious dent in the world’s total fossil fuel consumption.

        But I don’t care about that. Here in the United States, the advocates of the renewable are claiming that it is only the opposition of climate skeptics in the US Congress, in the fossil fuel corporations, and in the denier communities on the Internet that prevents America from taking serious action against its own GHG emissions.

        These people refuse to acknowledge that they already have in their hands the legal means — i.e., the Clean Air Act as administered by the EPA — for enforcing serious carbon emission reductions in the United States, completely bypassing the US Congress and the climate science deniers.

        So why aren’t they using it?

      • Beta Blocker,

        Thank you for this. Your comments are a valuable contribution given your long experience in the industry, including in cost estimating.

        However, when we get it discussing policy, I think we have a different approach. I suggest it is important to separate the political causes from the physical constraints and technical causes of the cost escalations. Regulatory ratcheting is caused by politics, not by physical constraints and technical issues.

        Some of your arguments seem to me to be circular, e.g.:

        Argue all you want to about the supposed benefits of reducing government oversight of commercial nuclear safety. The fact is that public opinion in this country will never allow unregulated operation of commercial nuclear power plants.

        First, I did not say “unregulated”! Strawman arguments are unhelpful.

        I interpret your point to be arguing, in effect, the cost of nuclear is high because people fear it. I agree this is the case. But their fear is irrational and is causing politicians and regulators to respond in a way that has caused and is causing the high costs. So the arguments is circular. My point is that appropriate policies can encourage people to reconsider the basis for their irrational fears and challenge their beliefs. Then the unjustifiable cost imposts on nuclear can be reduced over time. The benefits for the country would be:

        • Cheaper electricity > higher productivity > increased real wages growth rate > faster GDP growth > faster rate of improvement in standard of living, health care, education, infrastructure, life expectancy, etc.

        • Safer and cleaner electricity > reduced fatalities from pollution and accidents

        • For those concerned about reducing GHG emissions (some people are and some are not), nuclear is the cheapest way to achieve deep reductions from electricity, and potentially from all energy (e.g. unlimited transport fuels from cheap electricity and sea water).

        It’s rational to argue for such improvements and irrational to argue against them. Arguing that we cannot progress because people fear nuclear power and that’s the way it is, is unhelpful and not progressive.

        Your responses to my point which begins:

        The cost and time delays for licensing of new nuclear designs and for changes of existing designs and the changes in regulation imposed during construction are huge impediments for investors to consider when weighing up whether or not to invest in a nuclear power plant. …

        did not address the point I raised.

        I’ve now read your essay. Alright, will carbon pricing be effective in reducing all of the world’s GHG emissions on a worldwide scale? There’s a good argument to be made that most nations will not impose the levels of carbon pricing needed to put a serious dent in the world’s total fossil fuel consumption. …

        Your comment seems to have missed the main point. In short, carbon pricing would have to be global to succeed. It would have to be maintained uniformly in all countries and ratcheted up by all countries in unison. Therefore, it is highly unlikely to succeed. However, the reason carbon pricing is highly unlikely to succeed apply to any policy to reduce GHG emissions that raises the cost of energy. None can be politically sustainable over the long term. Therefore, if we want to reduce emissions we need a different approach than the command and control approach the CGWers have been advocating for the past 25 years or more – we to remove the impediments that are blocking progress. We need to remove the impediments that are making nuclear power much higher cost than can be justified on a rational basis – e.g. on the basis of fatalities per TWh.

        What a re “climate science deniers”? To me it is a silly, meaningless name calling. It would be better to say “the deniers of the relevant facts”.

      • Nice responses Beta.

        I think the difference between what you and Peter discuss is one is looking at the issue as a theoretical exercise, while the other is looking at it from an on the ground practical viewpoint. I think your point of us being a “post” industrial society gets to the core of the issue, and while I still hold out hope that public opinion can be influenced enough to allow for a significant reassessment of commercial nuclear generation, I do see the task as daunting.

        Like Peter, I think SMR’s present an opportunity to “re-do” nuclear in the US. For example, there are a few hundred small reactors which operate along our nation’s coast at any given moment. The public gives them no thought and if asked would likely indicate they were not seen as a concern. To me, that is a stone an intelligent educational campaign can use to build public support.

        FYI – which SE utility did you consult with? Depending on which one, you may have met one of my brothers.

      • Timg56 (and Beta Blocker)

        I agree with your comment: “Nice responses by Beta”. It is fantasic to have both of you contributing.

        timg, I disagree with your interpretation

        I think the difference between what you and Peter discuss is one is looking at the issue as a theoretical exercise, while the other is looking at it from an on the ground practical viewpoint

        I think the differences are:

        1. You and Beta are looking at it from the perspective of an engineer who has worked in the industry for decades, understand the engineering issues and regulatory requirements as they’ve been applied during that time, but not looking at what can, and believe will, be achieved going forward (over several decades).

        2. I am looking it from the perspective of my engineering experience but also, importantly, from an energy policy perspective and with my experience in that.

        3. You and Beta seem to believe that the public perceptions and polices we have now are impossible to change. I disagree. Public perceptions and policies can change quite rapidly – i.e. substantial change to public perception and policy could be achieved during two terms of an enlightened US president. But this would be a start, not the end of the transition.

        4. You and Beta seem to think in terms of how much change could be achieved to the types nuclear plants that would be economically viable and being deployed within a decade or so. I am talking about time scales of 30 to 50 years.

        Our approach is a little different and influenced by our different experiences. As William Nordhaus once said me (regarding carbon pricing);

        Yes, we disagree about this, but that is the beauty of vigorous debate

      • Beta Blocker

        Timg56, when I was on temporary assignment a decade ago helping estimate costs for the new plants, I was assembling cost figures on spreadsheets and checking on their credibility. The interfaces to other parts of the organization for this effort were handled by the team leaders and I spent nearly all of my time squirreled away in a cubicle either building Excel spreadsheets and Access databases, or else calling vendors for their latest price information. So I had little or no contact with other people outside the team during that period.

        Peter Lang, our biggest concern back in 2006 and 2007 in doing our cost estimating was the potential impacts on total projects costs of having to pass once more through the learning curve of ‘doing things nuclear.’

        That is to say, having to relearn the important lessons of the 1980’s while not repeating the mistakes of the past, especially those lessons having to do with hiring workers with adequate skills and experience, the effectiveness of a project’s internal management systems, the effectiveness of QA oversight activities, the adverse impacts of poor management decision making, and the problem of managers who refuse to accept the responsibilities that go with their job titles.

        Let’s observe that the Vogtle 3 & 4 project has experienced problems with some of their their major subcontractors that are very 1980’s-like in that they involve a combination of cost overruns and poor quality work on the part of the subcontractor — one in particular which shall remain unidentified in this note, but which is well known to those familiar with the situation.

        Anyway, one of the major issues faced by the new management team at WPPSS in the early 1980’s was that the legacy mid-level and senior level managers had become paralyzed by the many technical, regulatory, and organizational challenges they faced. Many of those legacy managers at the WPPSS projects had to be let go because they just were not capable of making reasonably good decisions in a reasonably short period of time. After more than a year of determined effort to turn the situation around, monthly rates of construction progress went from being one-half percent per month when the new WPPSS management team first came on board to being one-and-one-half percent per month — a tripling of productivity.

        More recently, if the fracking boom hadn’t happened to make natural gas so cheap; and if the 2007-2008 recession hadn’t come close to blowing the American economy down, the nascent nuclear renaissance might have been well on its way towards rebuilding a viable nuclear construction industry here in the United States. The NRC’s regulatory requirement costs and their QA oversight costs simply have not been a major factor in what has happened over the last decade.

      • Beta Blocker,

        Thank you again. I recognise the cost items you are mentioning. however, I think they are a small part of what has caused the factor of 10 to 20 increase in the cost of nuclear from where it would be now if the learning rates experienced up to 1970. Here’s just one of many examples of what is scaring the hell out of investors and vendors:

        Email from Dr Staffan Qvist, Uppsala University, to Professor Barry Brook:

        Interesting comment from my co-author, Staffan:

        “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.”

        http://bravenewclimate.com/2015/05/05/environmental-and-health-impacts-of-a-policy-to-phase-out-nuclear-power-in-sweden/#comment-405169

        This is just one of many examples. I think you provided me with this link: https://www.rand.org/content/dam/rand/pubs/notes/2005/N2192.pdf

        And there is this often cited Chaper 9 from Ben Cohen’s book: Costs of nuclear power plants – what went wrong? http://www.phyast.pitt.edu/~blc/book/chapter9.html

        Something has to explain the massive and sustained reversal of learning rates (i.e. cost reduction per doubling of global cumulative capacity) shown in the seven charts in Figure 2 of the head past for this thread. It began in the late 1960’s and continued through the 1970’s ans 1980s and still continues to this day. I suggest it can be largely blamed on the disruption to progress caused by the anti-nuke movement.

  26. To some of us this is not new, but it is interesting to see a new study on the topic, so if you keep track here is a new study calling into question the linear no thresh-hold dose model:

    Low dose radiation and health
    March 16, 2016

    Researchers in Europe have reviewed cancer rates among people in parts of the world where natural background radiation is higher than average and found that incidence is not as high as one might guess. The findings, published in the International Journal of Low Radiation suggests that science ought to take a second look at studies that correlate low levels of radiation exposure with detrimental health effects. …

    http://medicalxpress.com/news/2016-03-dose-health.html

    • mwgrant,

      Thank you. I am very interested in this. The re-examination of the effects of radiation is what I suggest can be a catalyst for the public to re-examine the basis for their fears of radiation and nuclear power – and the consequences for humanity of blocking or delaying progress. The US Government has started the ball rolling on this issue and I hope other countries and IAEA will follow suite. I expect the DOE-NAS report is due to be published about July.

      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.

    • My pleasure, Peter. Thank you for the additional info. I am all interested in the low dose regime. It has seemed clear to me for some time that in the area of human health effects we are overdue up significant refinement. I expect/hope the the simplistic approach taken for the past several decades in both radiological and hazardous chemical risk assessments will diminish in viability as the crudity of the calculation becomes more apparent to the public. In other words it is well past time to try moving past screening level methodologies. (Proverbial strw for me was when I saw some groundwater scenario results that gave numbers like a reactor accident*…and no one blinked. Nota super big deal in context but to continue evoking comparisons that incredible will lead to no good…anyway that’s my opinion.
      —-
      That came about because of various conservatisms thrown in by different parties involved and the simple screening level models employed, (and massive numbers of scenario calculations because…just because we can. More calculation and less thinking seems to be the now established PYA protocol.Oops, I grumpy. Sorry.

      • Michael,

        Thank you. All good info. This comment made me chuckle:

        More calculation and less thinking seems to be the now established PYA protocol.

        This lecture is by Evert Hoeck, a really lovely engineer often called ‘the father of rock engineering’ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r0ezG4SmaXM. He once said to large audience of engineers:

        Turn on your brain before you turn on your computer

        Note the chart at about 22:17 to 23:36.

      • Correction: Evert Hoek.

  27. When could SMR’s be cheaper than NG generators in USA once there is strong public support again as there was at the start (I suggest this could be achieved over about the term of a good US President and a change in approach by legislators and regulators)?

    To answer this question, let’s assume:

    • Starting price is the estimate for the twin 180 MW mPower plant (development is on hold) http://www.uxc.com/smr/Library/Design%20Specific/mPower/Presentations/2012%20-%20Reactor%20Design%20Overview.pdf http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2012/11/26/nuclear-small-modular-reactors/1727001/
    • Overnight Capital Cost of the first twin unit (360MW) = $6/W ($6000/kW, $6b/GW)
    • First unit commissioned in 2024
    • Capacity doubling every 2 years for the first 10 years (64 units, 11.5 GW, by 2034)
    • Learning rate = 30% (i.e. cost reduction per doubling of cumulative capacity of SMRs)

    Given the assumptions, the OCC at 11.5 GW cumulative capacity = $1/W. At this capital cost and with nuclear’s much lower fuel costs, nuclear generation would be much cheaper than NG. NG could not compete and would be rapidly replaced for baseload and intermediate load.

    By about three to four capacity doublings, i.e. about 2.9 to 5.8 GW cumulative capacity, the cost of electricity from nuclear would be cheaper than NG. With a 2-year capacity doubling period, nuclear would be cheaper than NG by 2032 or 2034 in the US, and sooner in countries where NG prices are higher.

    After 10 years, 64 x 180 GW units, total 11.5 GW, would be operating and the capital cost would be just 17% of the first 360 MW twin unit plant. At that rate, utilities would be rapidly replacing coal and NG worldwide.

    • The table below shows the projected number of 180 MW mPower reactors, the cumulative capacity, the Overnight Capital Cost ($/kW) at 30% learning rate, and the capacity added per year.

      year No of reactors Cum Cap Unit cost MW/a
      MW $/W
      2024 2 360 $6.0
      2026 4 720 $4.2 180
      2028 8 1,440 $2.9 360
      2030 16 2,880 $2.1 720
      2032 32 5,760 $1.4 1440
      2034 64 11,520 $1.0 2880

      Are the assumed rates achievable?

      Learning rates of 34% and 35% were demonstrated up to about 1970 by France and Japan, (23% by USA), demonstrating the assumed 30% learning rate is achievable.

      France added 50 GW during the 1980’s, i.e. about 5 GW per year. So, this would suggest the USA, a much larger country than France, could easily achieve the assumed 2.88 GW per year rate by 2030.

      UAE is building 5.6 GW and they will be completed over 4 years, 2017-2020, i.e. 1.4 GW per year. USA should be able to easily double that.

      USA could build the equivalent of 8 mPower units at each of two sites, a total capacity of 2.88 GW, equivalent to two Korean APR-1400 reactors. By this time, nuclear would be cheaper than coal and gas and self-perpetuating. From then on there will be increasing incentive to replace fossil fuel generators with new nuclear power plants. Nuclear would be taken up globally at an accelerating rate. Innovation and competition would mean many different varieties of nuclear power plant could be developed and the best would survive and improve. Varieties would be designed to meet different market needs, including load following and, eventually, peak power generation.

      Is this scenario achievable if the public support and the political will can be regained? If not, why not?

  28. One must simply love the tenacity, and over-optimism of Peter Lang and his nuclear dream world. Learning rates to infinity, it appears. In the real world, if an infinite learning rate were possible, all cars would cost $10. It is just a mathematical exercise to engage in such pursuits.

    Unless, of course, Peter Lang will tell us (as he has been asked many times to do) exactly which of the “onerous” safety regulations he proposes are surplus to requirement, and would thus eliminate in nuclear reactors.

    Still waiting on this one, Peter.

    • David Springer

      Lang is a plonker. That simple fact explains everything he writes.

      China is building nuclear reactors for a third the price as can be done in the US under the same IAEA rules as regulations as anywhere else. I don’t know for sure but I expect the difference is the cost of materials, capital, and labor is grossly lower in China and that the regulatory burdens are NOT the culprit for high costs in the west as Lang keeps insisting.

      • David,

        So you make assumptions and dismiss Peter with insults.

        Lower cost labor is most likely a given, but exactly why do you think the cost of material and capital would be significantly less? We live in a global market. A few years ago the lead times and cost on steel poles was skyrocketing, all due to China’s demand for them and steel in general. Do you really think they were paying a lower price? And why is their capital cost lower? Perhaps somewhat, since it is being supplied by the government, but then that comes with other costs, such as inefficiencies. For all we know it could be a wash when determining overall cost. That they are building plants at a third the cost is an extremely significant factor. You don’t get there just from having a lower cost labor force. Even if the best the US could achieve is a cost double that of the Chinese, that’s still a third less than what it costs us now.

        On that cheaper cost of materials you claim, ever consider it is because they don’t have a nuclear grade certification requirement that doubles or triples the cost of materials so they have an unbroken paper trail? I’m sure you are familiar with the concept of MILSPEC. Applying those standards make a lot of sense in many applications. But it also can lead to the famous $300 hammers and $600 toilet seats. The foot apparel issued by the US Army is MILSPEC. Why don’t you ask a veteran who deployed one or more tours what they wore? The previous set of hiking boots I bought were Merrell’s, after my nephew recommended them. They were his preferred boot while hiking the Korengal.

      • Peter Lang writes authoritatively, but has false numbers and some seriously deficient ideas. The very concept of diminishing costs requires special conditions: as one mentioned above for computers, cell phones, etc. That industry has literally billions of units sold. Contrast to nuclear power reactors, where the total in the world to date is much less than 1,000 – and that is over approximately 60 years. There are approximately 425 reactors running today, and perhaps one-fourth that many already shut down. I wrote on the nuclear problems with economies of scale, both in size and mass production, if anyone wants to read see http://sowellslawblog.blogspot.com/2014/04/the-truth-about-nuclear-power-part-six.html, “Nuclear plants are huge to reduce costs”

        We know that construction costs do NOT reduce to almost zero for any large processing plants, be they oil refineries, ethylene plants, aluminum plants, steel mills, or any other type of plant. We also know that the most numerous of all power plants, natural gas, also do not have costs that reduce to almost zero even though they have almost none of the regulatory burden compared to nuclear power plants. Therefore, for Lang to suggest, as he does in this article, that nuclear power plants can be built for very, very low costs is simply ridiculous.

        Lang must be taken for what he is, great entertainment but not to be taken seriously on nuclear power plants.

        As to the Chinese data for nuclear plant construction costs, it is entirely possible for their costs to be as low as reported. My experience in China (and I’ve worked there) is they have achieved local production of almost everything, from steel-making to concrete production. They import the iron ore, but that is very low-cost lately. When one has very low labor costs and even modest production efficiency, the nuclear plants can be made at a low cost. The quality of the construction remains to be determined, in my view. Based on other Chinese infrastructure disasters, it will not be long before a Chinese nuclear plant has a major incident. I could be wrong, but my Chinese associates with family ties to China assure me that it is only a matter of time before a nuclear disaster occurs there.

      • David Springer

        tmg I’m not making any assumptions about China. Cold hard facts my man.

      • David Springer

        Sowell do you have any links about shoddy construction at chinese nuclear power plants built recently? No doubt all sorts of crap has been and continues to be thrown up for other types of construction in China.

      • David Springer

        Sowell… construction costs reduce to zero and beyond for revenue generating construction. It’s called ROIC. If you run a tax cab service and you make more than enough to pay for the vehicle then the cost of the vehicle is zero – it pays for itself by generating a profit stream.

        I must conclude you’re a m0r0n and aren’t worth the time it takes to read what you write.

      • Springer, this NYT article states China has too few qualified nuclear construction inspectors. http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/16/business/global/16chinanuke.html?_r=0

        This paper also concurs, the Chinese have insufficient qualified nuclear inspectors to keep up the rapid build pace.

        Quote: “Investment in regulatory capacity has not kept pace with the scale and pace of nuclear development in China. The country is
        experiencing a shortage of experienced nuclear safety regulatory personnel – regulators lack sufficient analytical capacity,
        experience, and the ability to evaluate test data efficiently. Philippe Jamet, Commissioner of the French Nuclear Safety
        Authority, testified before the French National Assembly in June 2014 that “the Chinese security authority does not meet our
        expectations currently, and an explanation for this difficulty in our relationship is that the Chinese authority lacks the means.
        They are overwhelmed.” ” –source: http://www.export.gov/china/build/groups/public/@eg_cn/documents/webcontent/eg_cn_067072.pdf

        And, this MIT paper from 2006 states the Chinese recognize that safety is a big issue, they are trying hard to overcome a cultural attitude in which employees never question authority, and to assure workers that reporting a safety problem will not result in retaliation. They also acknowledge that there is a serious shortage of qualified nuclear workers, including construction inspectors.

        http://web.mit.edu/pebble-bed/papers1_files/Made%20in%20China.pdf

        Finally, for what it is worth, this BBC news report is about a China nuclear plant accident in 1998 that was suppressed for at least a year. One can only wonder what really happened, how much radiation was released, how many people were injured, why the accident happened, given the strict controls China exerts over any news.

        http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/386285.stm

      • Springer, you stated “Sowell… construction costs reduce to zero and beyond for revenue generating construction. It’s called ROIC. If you run a tax cab service and you make more than enough to pay for the vehicle then the cost of the vehicle is zero – it pays for itself by generating a profit stream.”

        This is the biggest bunch of falsity I have read recently. Please, call Warren Buffett and tell him that he has zero need to spend the billions he spends on purchasing companies, and constructing wind-turbine projects. They all are revenue-generating projects or companies. Buffett will be thrilled to have your brilliant insights.

        That was truly the most amazingly idiotic statement, and that is saying quite a bit considering the whoppers that Lang has posted on this article and in comments.

      • David Springer

        Sowell obviously doesn’t understand the difference between income producing and non-income producing assets. No surprise there. A nuclear power plant, at least on paper at the outset, pays for itself over time and generates a net profit. The cost of it is not the absolute construction cost but rather the cost to borrow the money to build it. The lending rate, say 4% APR, is then compared to the net profit generated by the asset. If it comes out the gate generating over 4%, which a taxi cab that is immediately put into service is likely to do, then it costs nothing. Less than nothing. Buffet certainly understands this. He’s just more in the habit of acquiring assets that generate positive cash flows than the average bear and has borrowing power in the many billions.

        The problem with nuclear power plants is that they don’t generate positive cash flow for a decade, if ever, after spending the money to build them. And with the uncertain legal and political environment surrounding them, the volatile price of fossil fuels that compete and ability to bring a fossil fuel plant with positive cash flow online rapidly, there’s just not much heated interest in nuclear power. Maybe the next generation nuclear power plants which might see commercial use 30 years from now will be a different story. But for now even China, who can build current generation power plants in five years for a third the price in the US isn’t constructing enough of them to be more than a minority producer of electricity in the next few decades.

        Why Lang is so gung-ho on nuclear power I have no idea. It’s irrational.

      • David Springer

        Sowell implies that overworked inspectors in China results in sub-standard construction.

        Non sequitur.

        It implies that sub-standard construction may go unnoticed. It does not imply that it has actually happened.

        China executes people for screwing up. That puts a little more pressure, to say the least, on government project managers to not screw up. In the US it is private project managers who are rewarded for getting away with cost cutting that may compromise structural integrity so the role of government inspectors is far more important.

        Sowell doesn’t put much critical thought into the anti-nuclear screeds he writes and contrary to his own self-acclaim of dealing only in verifiable fact deals in anecdotal evidence, illogical innuendo, and assorted other fallacies. He’s like the anti-nuke edition of Peter Lang. Same low quality work behind polar opposite conclusions.

    • How about nuclear grade dirt for starters Roger.

      Just because you take counsel of your fears and push an anti-nuclear agenda doesn’t mean you are correct.

      • timg56, you may believe I have fears, and push an anti-nuclear agenda. However, I simply follow the facts, the valid, verified facts that pass muster. The reason I wrote the 30 articles on Truth About Nuclear Power is to put forth the many and serious facts, the truth, about nuclear power plants that most nuclear proponents (cheerleaders) either do not know or refuse to acknowledge. And, if you think I am incorrect on any of the points in the TANP series, feel free to put your evidence in writing. My evidence is clearly documented.

        For example, from Article 30 of TANP, the Conclusion:

        1. Nuclear power has achieved only 11 percent of world power production, after more than 5 decades of competition and best efforts.
        2 Small islands with 1 million population have zero nuclear power plants, but burn expensive oil or diesel resulting in power prices of 25 to 35 cents per kWh.
        3 Nuclear utilities never, ever, ask for a rate decrease when they build a nuclear plant.
        4 France installed nuclear plants to provide 85 percent of the country’s power, but no other country in the world followed their lead. (And that 85 percent was when the plants were new, as they age, they are less reliable and now produce only 70 percent)
        5 France has higher electricity prices than does the US, even with France heavily subsidizing their electricity industry.
        6 Nuclear power in the US requires heavy subsidies from government – and almost total indemnity from costs of a massive radiation disaster.
        7 Nuclear plants are shutting down in the US, with owners saying they are losing money. The plant owners are crying to the government for even more subsidies.
        8 There are many near-misses on meltdowns in US nuclear plants, every 3 weeks on average over the past 5 years.
        9 There were five serious meltdowns worldwide in just a bit more than 30 years. (Fukushima had 3, Chernobyl and Three Mile Island had one each)
        10 New nuclear reactor technologies are being researched and developed, at least in part because the existing BWR and PWR reactors are hopelessly uneconomic and unsafe.

        Each of those ten facts are clearly documented in appropriate articles on TANP. I am open to you refuting any or all of those, if you can.

      • Roger,

        You must subscribe to the school of quantity having a quality all its own, because you throw out 10 “facts” and hope we don’t notice most are not applicable to the discussion.

        1. Nuclear power has achieved only 11 percent of world power production, after more than 5 decades of competition and best efforts

        Ignoring your use of world production rather than say US production, you know why it hasn’t expanded since the early 80’s. How this is a counter argument to Peter is lost on me.

        2 Small islands with 1 million population have zero nuclear power plants, but burn expensive oil or diesel resulting in power prices of 25 to 35 cents per kWh.

        So?

        3 Nuclear utilities never, ever, ask for a rate decrease when they build a nuclear plant.

        Again, another attempt at misdirection. Has nothing to do with the issue of whether nuclear generation could be more cost competitive if not faced by efforts to hold up and make more costly by anti-nuke activists. (Note, not a mention of regulation.)

        4 France installed nuclear plants to provide 85 percent of the country’s power, but no other country in the world followed their lead. (And that 85 percent was when the plants were new, as they age, they are less reliable and now produce only 70 percent)

        You are on a roll with pointless assertions. Generating at 70% of originally rated capacity has nothing to do with reliability. France standardized on the Westinghouse pressurized water design, which anyone in the industry knows had issues with steam generator tubing chemistry. Two solutions to that problem. Replace the SG’s or plug tubes and derate the unit. The plant I worked at took a third option – shutdown and buy (what was at the time) cheap Canadian NG. That happened because of the political environment, not because the cost numbers didn’t work out for replacement. In fact had they gone that route, the plant would have recovered the cost in less than a year when the Enron created capacity crisis hit the western energy markets.

        5 France has higher electricity prices than does the US, even with France heavily subsidizing their electricity industry.

        And I eat more than my 4 year old niece. So what. Unless you can provide a link to a detailed analysis covering the similarities and differences between the US and French energy markets, this is just another comment that has no bearing on the argument at hand.

        6 Nuclear power in the US requires heavy subsidies from government – and almost total indemnity from costs of a massive radiation disaster.

        I suspect the brother who is building two new units would find that surprising. What sort of subsidies Roger? Can you name any, besides Price-Anderson, which you know as well as I do is not a “subsidy”. In fact, like ybutt, your pushing that false storyline blows a huge hole in your credibility.

        7 Nuclear plants are shutting down in the US, with owners saying they are losing money. The plant owners are crying to the government for even more subsidies.

        Some plants are shutting down when faced with the decision to upgrade in order to extend their operating lives. At this point in time the price of NG is out competing the costs of plant life extension. As for the part about plant operators “crying” to the government, that looks like more of your unsupported assertion technique.

        8 There are many near-misses on meltdowns in US nuclear plants, every 3 weeks on average over the past 5 years.

        This one stood out. Springer saved me the time to run it down. At this point I’d stop, because you’ve just demonstrated your willingness to be dishonest in pushing your position. Can’t compete on facts, then make stuff up (or borrow made up stuff from someone else).

        9 There were five serious meltdowns worldwide in just a bit more than 30 years. (Fukushima had 3, Chernobyl and Three Mile Island had one each)

        More dishonesty Roger. On several aspects.
        a) nuclear has a 60 year history, not 30.
        b) People ignorant of reactor design and the differences in how the Soviets operated vs. the rest of the world might be excused for lumping Chernobyl in with TMI, but for you to do it shows your agenda is more important than honestly discussing the issue.
        c) like using a 30 year timeline instead of the actual 60 years, counting Fukishima as 3 verses 1 incident is shading the facts to better support your position. And while we are on Fukishima, why don’t you remind folks that all three units safely shutdown following the earthquake and tsunami which both were greater than what plant design and construction specs were expected to handle. The level of devastation caused by the tsunami went far beyond what anyone imagined. The supporting infrastructure (roads, distribution network, etc) was gone.

        BTW – what’s the current body count from Fukashima? Oh yeah, zero. Compared to >15,000 dead and missing from the tsunami.

        10 New nuclear reactor technologies are being researched and developed, at least in part because the existing BWR and PWR reactors are hopelessly uneconomic and unsafe.

        By now I’m tired of you just stating stuff as if it were fact. I guess the only reason we are driving cars designed over the past 5 years is because everything before that is hopelessly uneconomical and unsafe. The reason new designs are being developed and researched is the same as with any other technology. As time marches on we learn more and apply it to the next generation. Do you think Boeing would just keep building 707’s and not bother with developing new aircraft? That they have isn’t because 707’s were hopelessly unsafe.

      • timg56,

        Those a re excellent replies. Unfortunately, it is likely Sorwell will not read them and if he does he’ll ignore them. As you correctly point out, anti-nukes like Sorwell and ybutt are not interested in the relevant facts, they are simply interest in pushing their anti-nuke agenda. Bot of them behave just like Helen Caldicott and the other infamous anti-nukes. John Holdren, Obama’s energy advisor, used to behave in a similar way back in the 1980’s.

      • David Springer

        “you may believe I have fears, and push an anti-nuclear agenda. However, I simply follow the facts, the valid, verified facts that pass muster.”

        Crock of sheeeyit, Sowell. You just gave me anecdotal evidence that unnamed acquaintances of yours in China believe it’s only a matter of time until there’s a major nuclear accident. You call that a verifiable fact?

        You showed me a picture of a collapsed apartment building and to imply that Chinese nuclear reactors are shoddily constructed. Is that a verifiable fact too?

      • David Springer

        Sowell what’s your source on this:

        8 There are many near-misses on meltdowns in US nuclear plants, every 3 weeks on average over the past 5 years.

      • David Springer

        Sowell’s literature bluff. Near miss that could result in a meltdown happens once per 3 weeks on average in the US.

        Pure unadulterated BS. I checked a single year, 2014, and not a single occurrence of an Augmented Inspection Team or Incident Inspection Team happened. Nine of the lowest possible safety risk events happened in 2014. An SIT (special inspection team) is sent to look. “Risk of a meltdown” is pure drama language added by Sowell. He bases this on Union for Concerned Scientists Report (single source, politically biased) here http://www.ucsusa.org/sites/default/files/attach/2015/03/nrc-2014-full-report.pdf

        The UCS report does not use the term meltdown *anywhere*.

        Sowell you’re a dishonest chump. Go away.

      • Thanks Springer.

        Saved me the time to look up his claim. Having worked in the industry, something like Roger claims would have the NRC on site and a plant shutdown. And were it happening at the frequency he claims, even our retarded media clowns would pick up on it.

      • David Springer

        I see Sowell’s response to my exposing his “I only deal in verifiable facts” as a silly lie is the sound of crickets chirping. LOL

      • I don’t agree with your positions on nuclear David, but you at least try to argue from facts. Roger throws a bunch of stuff at the wall, hoping something sticks. I’m wondering if it’s worth the time to respond.

        BTW – I don’t think you are an a$$hole, though you can do a good job imitating one when you want to.

    • David Springer

      “all cars would cost $10”

      It has been essentially infinite in my industry – computers and networking – for the almost 40 years I’ve been in it. Cost performance improves by a factor of 2 every 18 months. Forty years I could not have imagined that trend continuing. Nor thirty, twenty, or even ten years ago. Fifteen years ago I was paying $1000/mo. for internet bandwidth that costs $1/mo today – exactly halved every 18 months. The $1000 capital cost in the servers 15 years ago I can get better performance with a $30 disposable cell phone today and save another $20/mo on electric bill because the cell phone uses 1000 times less.

      In the sixties I remember when everyone believed nuclear energy would soon become “too cheap to meter”. It didn’t work out that way to say the least.

      I think solar is the ultimate solution and that will become virtually too cheap to meter. Genetic engineering is the key technology and highly modified photosynthetic bacteria that can thrive anywhere there’s air, water, and sunlight to produce ethanol, bio-diesel, and Jet-A. The coolest thing is modified bacteria don’t required arable land or potable water so they don’t interfere with or limit normal agriculture.

  29. Some recent comments appear to not understand the meaning of the term ‘learning rate‘ (also sometimes called ‘experience curves’). Ruben, et al, 2015 define it as “fractional cost reduction per doubling of production or capacity” and, in the Abstract, as “a log-linear equation relating the unit cost of a technology to its cumulative installed capacity or electricity generatedhttp://www.cmu.edu/epp/iecm/rubin/PDF%20files/2015/Pages%20from%20Rubin_et_al_Areviewoflearningrates_EnergyPolicy2015.pdf .

    Wikipedia says:

    A learning curve is a graphical representation of the increase of learning (vertical axis) with experience (horizontal axis).

    The term learning curve is used in two main ways: where the same task is repeated in a series of trials, or where a body of knowledge is learned over time. The first person to describe the learning curve was Hermann Ebbinghaus in 1885 …

    In 1936, Theodore Paul Wright described the effect of learning on production costs in the aircraft industry and proposed a mathematical model of the learning curve.[3]

    In 1968 Bruce Henderson of the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) generalized the Unit Cost model pioneered by Wright, and specifically used a Power Law, which is sometimes called Henderson’s Law. He named this particular version the experience curve.[9][10] Research by BCG in the 1970s observed experience curve effects for various industries that ranged from 10 to 25 percent.[11]

    Note that the nuclear power industry demonstrated learning rates of 23% (US), 34% France, 35% (Japan) between 1953 and about 1970, and Korea 33% since 1972 (but starting from a high cost after the jump in costs in the early 1970s). These rates are high compared with other industries, perhaps demonstrating the enormous potential for future growth as we progress from chemical to nuclear energy and benefit from the many orders of magnitude superior energy density.

    • David Springer

      What do you reckon the learning rate is in China which is building nuclear reactors for a third the current construction cost the US?

      • Probably somewhere around similar to Korea. Your question suggests you still do not understand what learning rate means. Your other recent comments show you completely misunderstood the fundamental concepts, my post and the source of the Figures, Lovering et al 2016.

      • David Springer

        The misunderstanding is all yours. The Lovering report is worthless as it leaves out the two single largest builders of nuclear power plants in the world: China and Russia. Russia alone builds 37% of all new nuclear power plants. China builds them for a third the price of the countries in the Lovering report and is poised to start exporting them and compete with Russia.

        When it comes to data the Lovering report is garbage because it’s woefully incomplete. It analyzes the losers and ignores the winners. The saying “garbage in, garbage out” is apt here.

      • David Springer

        Lang you are whining that the learning rate in countries analyzed in the Lovering report went negative in more recent decades. The bit you don’t understand is that China has not gone negative and neither has Russia. The Lovering report analyzes the losers and ignores the winners like the winners don’t exist. That would be like looking at only third world democracies and concluding that democratic nations have a poor track record on the world stage. Do you understand at least that much?

      • Actually, on second thoughts, it’s really difficult to guess what the learning rates of nuclear in Russia and China have been. We’d need the costs and the construction start dates for all reactors over decades to be able to estimate the learning rates (for consistency with Lovering et al. data). IAEA doesn’t have them and Lovering and her co authors couldn’t get them; they couldn’t get many of them for GB either. However, the current cost and how it compares with other countries is no indication of learning rates.

        Regarding your point that the reversal of learning rates in the US and other developed countries did not occur in Russia and China, you’d need to produce data showing that. If it was true, which clearly it is not, the cost per kW in those countries would be around $100/kW now.

        China, Russia and all countries that are members of IAEA have to abide by the international regulations. They are also have to respond to international pressure. For example, there was enormous pressure on them as a result of Chernobyl to improve the safety of the reactors of that type and to have containment buildings, and masses of other improvements to their designs. And most of China’s reactors are based on the US pressurized water reactors. The changes required by NRC have been applied everywhere (more or less).

        The cost increases in the developed countries slowed the rate of development and increased unit capital cost ($/kW) in the developed countries and throughout the world. The irrational fear of nuclear and radiation is global. That was what the anti-nukes did to us, and are still doing. They are causing fatalities by blocking the safest way to generate electricity and, by causing the cost of electricity to be much higher than it could have been, preventing people from having cleaner energy.

      • Springer,

        I’ve addressed and refuted all your assertion on this and previous threads. Your continual insults, abuse, derogatory comments and vitriol say a lot about you. You are clearly incapable of rational discussion.

        A flowchart to help you determine if you’re having a rational discussion
        http://twentytwowords.com/a-flowchart-to-help-you-determine-if-you're-having-a-rational-discussion/

      • Springer, you have no valid arguments so now your squirming and “whinging”.

      • Springer says:

        The bit you don’t understand is that China has not gone negative and neither has Russia.

        Please provide the evidence to support your assertion?

      • David Springer

        Lang, the learning rate in China is obviously positive. They started with licensed designs that were hideously expensive to build elsewhere and reduced the construction cost to about a third of their predecessors.

        Lovering is hardly Forbes. Forbes doesn’t have much doubt about Chinese nuclear plant construction costs.

        http://www.forbes.com/sites/jamesconca/2015/10/22/china-shows-how-to-build-nuclear-reactors-fast-and-cheap/#21261aa14d0b

        You’re a real mystery Lang. As a nuclear cheerleader you should rejoice that there’s a country leading the way in nuclear energy. Yet you don’t because it’s falsifying evidence of your pet theory that nuclear regulatory burdens are the cause of the high cost of building nuclear power plants in OECD nations.

        Get a clue. The problem in OECD countries is material, labor, and capital cost. In China the state owns the production of steel and concrete and the nuclear power plants too so there is no markup on the cost. Labor is notoriously lower cost in China than in OECD nations. The Chinese gov’t does all the funding so there’s no bank marking up the cost of capital.

        Do you understand these things? Once you do it becomes apparent why OECD nations have become so unable to control cost of construction of nuclear power plants. It’s not the safety or licensing burdens. It’s an artifact of lower cost of manufacturing in non-OECD nations. Manufacturing of just about everything is cheaper in China. Nuclear power plants are no exception. Deal with it. You’re wrong. You’ve always been wrong, and your inability to admit a mistake and correct your thinking accordingly means you’ll remain wrong in perpetuity.

      • Springer,

        Lang, the learning rate in China is obviously positive.

        Please provide the evidence for your assertion, not just for recent learning rates but the learning rates from the start. You’ve made derogatory comments about Lovering et al. research. So, since you think you are so great, please provide the data she missed for China and Russia.

  30. David Springer

    Peter Lang | March 20, 2016 at 6:01 am |
    Springer, you have no valid arguments so now your squirming and “whinging”.

    ————————————————————————–

    Stomping and smashing is more like it. I put your dick in the dirt, Lang. You are free to imagine otherwise of course but no amount of imagination is going to make the fact that China is building nuclear power plants fast and cheap under the same regulatory burdens as OECD countries. I stand by those facts that prove you wrong.

    • <blockquote< the fact that China is building nuclear power plants fast and cheap under the same regulatory burdens as OECD countries.

      That is not what we are arguing about. The fact you keep repeating that, shows you still do not understand. Please answer the question I just put to you.

      Please provide the evidence for your assertion, not just for recent learning rates but the learning rates from the start.

      Or admit you don’t have it, can’t get it, don’t know what you are talking about and are confusing your beliefs with supportable facts.

      I’ll point out that so far, after all your derogatory comments, you have not demonstrated a single relevant error in my post. You criticise Lovering et al. for not having the data for Russia and China, but can’t produce it your self. That’s hypocritical.

  31. David Springer

    PS Lang. Being insulting and generally disrespectful to you doesn’t make me wrong. It makes me an assh0le. It seems assholiness is becoming a fashionable trait judging the recent ascent of Donald Trump who is a fellow New York assh0le. New York is famous for producing them and I’m no exception. If you don’t like it I suggest you grow a pair because your delicate nature is not a concern to me.

    • The fact you haven’t been able to provide to support your assertions shows you are making baseless claims and are dishonest. The fact you have not managed to refute any part of my post is good news, but bad news for your anti-nukes beliefs. All you’ve managed to do is throw insults and vitriol. A clear sigh you’ve failed in your endeavors. It’s you that’s whining. I’m encouraged that the analysis has stood up well since neither you nor anyone else has pointed out any errors.

  32. Correction: the first line should read:

    “The fact you haven’t been able to provide evidence to support your assertions …”

  33. David Springer

    Chinese construction cost estimates come from CNEA in Buenos Aires according to this very in-depth analysis:.

    http://www.world-nuclear.org/information-library/country-profiles/countries-a-f/china-nuclear-power.aspx

    Search the article for “CNEA”. For instance:

    CNEA estimated in May 2013 that the construction cost for two AP1000 units at Sanmen are CNY 40.1 billion ($6.54 billion), or 16,000 Yuan/kW installed ($2615/kW), instead of CNY 32.4 billion earlier estimated. This is about 14% higher than the latest estimate for the CPR-1000, but likely to drop to about CNY 13,000/kW ($2120/kW) with series construction and localisation as envisaged. Grid purchase price is expected to exceed CNY 0.45/kWh at present costs, and drop to the standard CNY 0.43/kWh with series build and reduced capital cost.

    In the references section find:

    Xu Yuming, May 2013, CNEA presentation: China’s nuclear power development in post-Fukushima era

    I cannot locate the Chinese Nuclear Energy Agency’s presentation cited above. Evidently the world nuclear organization either attended or has the presentation to reference. It’s probably in Chinese.

    You may now go ahead and disparage the CNEA presentation, World Nuclear Organization, and Forbes, without any basis for any of it, it which is so characteristic of what you do that it’s an easily predicted response. Have at it.

    • David Springer

      Sorry. CNEA is not in Buenos Aires. That’s an Argentinian nuclear agency that goes by the same initials as China Nuclear Energy Association.

    • That does not answer the question. Either you are dodging or you still do not understand the analysis. Try again or admit you don’t have clue

    • David Springer

      Here ya go, Lang. Phone, fax, email, contacts, and address of the source of construction costs and description of the agency.

      Introduction (About CNEA)

      The China Nuclear Energy Association (CNEA), as a national non-profit nongovernmental organization, was established on April 18, 2007. Its objective is to contribute as a bridge for CNEA’s members to link with the government and the foreign counterparts. The CNEA’s missions are to implement throughout the national policies on nuclear energy development, promote industrial independent innovation and technical advance, and support for improving safety, reliability and economics of nuclear energy utilization.
      So, CNEA performs the following duties:
      -Organizing communication and cooperation between the members and the government;
      -Helping arrange the international exchange for its members with foreign associations and enterprises;
      -Carrying out studies on nuclear energy situation, industry development strategy and other key issues, shaping market predict and economic analysis;
      -Organizing the peer reviews for operational NPPs;
      -Organizing assessment on nuclear power projects under construction and experience exchange;
      -Organizing to disseminate information and knowledge concerning nuclear energy utilization and building nuclear safety culture;
      -Organizing post training for nuclear energy staff; and
      -Offering technical consultation and special technical services under authorization by the government and enterprises.

      Contact Us

      Ms. CHANG Bing
      (Department of International Cooperation)
      Mr. DONG Han
      (Department of International Cooperation)
      Tel.: 86-10-88305809
      Fax: 86-10-88305825
      Email: cnea_dic@sina.com
      Address: China Nuclear Energy Association, No.12, Chegongzhuang Street, Xicheng District, Beijing, 100037, P.R.China
      Website: http://www.china-nea.cn

      • Springer,

        I wasn’t offering to do your job for you. You made an assertion, now back it up with evidence. Clearly you don’t have it and can’t get it. So admit you are wrong and all bluff. In fact, admit you have demonstrated, through you comment in this thread you are just a plonker. What fun this is turning out to be. Springer the plonker.

    • David Springer

      Here we go. China Nuclear Energy Association web page working fine. Hope you can read Chinese, Lang. This is the source of the plant construction costs referenced by World Nuclear Organization and Forbes.

      http://www.china-nea.cn/

      • Springer,

        I wasn’t offering to do your job for you. You made an assertion, now back it up with the evidence. It needs to be consistent with and in the same format as Lovering’s data. Then produce the charts similar to the ones I produced in Figure 2. Clearly you don’t have it and can’t get it. So admit you are wrong and all bluff.

  34. David Springer,

    Just to be sure we are agreed on the point we are arguing about, I understand it is this:

    You assert that China and Russia did not experience a reversal of learning rates during the 1970’s and 1980’s as happened in US, CA, FR, DE, JP, IN. In which case you can demonstrate that they had continuous positive learning rates, or if they did have negative learning rates at around the same time or after the other countries in this list, you have good reasons to believe it was purely coincidence.

    If you do get the data for the cost, construction start date and commercial production start date for all China’s reactors since their first, you need to ensure that it is presented in a format that is consistent with the data in the IAEA database, which is what Lovering used. You also need to convert it to 2010 US $ in the same way Lovering did. And lastly explain why the IAEA has not included the data in their data base.

    Once you have done all that, I’d suggest sending it to her and asking her if it is consistent and she’d be willing to add it to her data.

    • David Springer

      No, Peter I’m saying they are building reactors with the same regulatory burdens as the US for one third the cost.

      It implies they didn’t fall off the learning curve but doesn’t prove it. I don’t have the construction costs for reactors in China 30+ years ago. I couldn’t even say if they were doing it that long ago. I don’t really care. The fact remains they are building reactors for one third the cost of the US and you can’t explain how. If you can’t explain how one of the most prolific builders in the world is doing that then your analysis of the rest of the world isn’t worth squat.

      • David Springer,

        No, Peter I’m saying they are building reactors with the same regulatory burdens as the US for one third the cost.

        So what? All that shows is that a) China’s construction costs are much lower than in the US (we all know that), and b) their costs DO incorporate the costs impediments (e.g. due to regulatory ratcheting which was caused by an irrational fear of nuclear power and radiation which was caused by anti nuke organsations like Greenpeace Concerned Scientists etc.) that started in the US and spread globally. The IAEA is the main international body responsible for developing, monitoring and pressuring all member countries to abide by their regulations. If you don’t believe me look into the IAEA web site and see what they do. And consider their role in and following the Chernobyl and Fukushima accidents; consider the design changes required to safety systems globally and the changes to monitoring and advioce to responses to accidents. All these additional requirements were incorporated into the designs before China started building nuclear power plants. So you have no evidence what soever to support your position.

        It implies they didn’t fall off the learning curve

        No it does not. China has been building mostly PWR’s since it started. It started late – after the initial cost escalations. The cost escalations that started in the US are embodied in the PWR designs which all stem, initially, from the US designs.

        If the learning rates that applied up to about 1970 and continued until now, and China had started building when it did (about 1991), China’s OCC would be much less than what it is (assuming all all else unchanged) – e.g. about 1/3 the US cost in Table 2, column 6 (projected OCC at 500 GW global cumulative capacity of constructed reactors for commercial electricity production)..

        I don’t really care.

        Your responses on this thread suggest you care a lot. You’ve made a fool of yourself and you don’t like the fact you’ve been exposed.

        As you admit, you have no evidence to support your beliefs. You’ve failed to support your case. You are wrong. I hope you will have the integrity and gusts to admit it.

  35. Peter,

    A linear model for projecting technology cost reductions is physically improbable. As a technology approaches maturity, its cost can asymptotically approach a minimum value, but there is a non-zero minimum value. The power cycle, the reactor, the transmission equipment, etc all cost something. A linear learning cost model implies that they will eventually cost nothing.

    The cheapest generation today is about $845/kW – OCC for NGCC in Korea (https://www.iea.org/Textbase/npsum/ElecCost2015SUM.pdf page 6). That might be a practical lower bound for nuclear costs.

    Thorcon makes the most ambitious cost claim that I’m aware of for a molten salt reactor at $500/kW: http://thorconpower.com/costing. That might be a good theoretical lower limit for nuclear costs.

    • Shaun Mann Tuyuri,

      A linear model for projecting technology cost reductions is physically improbable. As a technology approaches maturity, its cost can asymptotically approach a minimum value, but there is a non-zero minimum value.

      Thank you for your comment. I am not sure if you understand what learning rate means. Did you see this comment where I explained it more for people who had apparently not understood: https://judithcurry.com/2016/03/13/nuclear-power-learning-rates-policy-implications/#comment-772900

      It’s a power curve, linear on a log-log plot. The exponent is the slope. Learning rate is 1-2^b, where b is the exponent.

      Learning rates are positive in most industries and technologies until they reach maturity, saturation, or are replaced. Nuclear’s learning rate turned from steeply positive to steeply negative in the 1970s. This is anomalous. Something disrupted progress. But nuclear is nowhere near saturation. The energy available is effectively infinite. It can power humanity effectively indefinitely. It is at the very beginning of development.

      Learning rates have been used to projected future costs of industries, not just electricity, for a long time. Here is the Australian Energy Technology Assessment Report, 2012: http://www.industry.gov.au/Office-of-the-Chief-Economist/Publications/Documents/aeta/australian_energy_technology_assessment.pdf
      The cost projections rely on learning rates from CSIRO based on the international GALLM model. A paper outlining the GALLM model and its applications to energy cost projections is available at: http://www.csiro.
      au/Organisation-Structure/Divisions/Energy-Technology/GALLM-report.aspx

      If I have misunderstood your comment, could you please restate it.

      • This is a double-reply. I put it in the wrong spot the first time. New blog format for me…

        You’re right that I missed it was linear on a log-log plot, not a linear trend.

        As long as you acknowledge that cost reductions slow and eventually stall as they approach maturity, I think you’re on the right track. That said, any claims of OCC going below $500/kW will be very hard to justify.

        Talking about OCC for your learning rate is a good approach. Looking at a Levelized Cost of Energy (LCOE) would give you more degrees of freedom. Some factors that go into an LCOE have nothing to do with technology advances – interest rates, debt/equity ratios, etc. But many others do – plant operating life, staff requirements, fuel consumption, maintenance costs, permitting costs, etc.

        As an example, increasing plant automation increases OCC but reduces O&M requirements – giving a reduction in LCOE.

        Looking at LCOE trends for existing plants probably isn’t practical, but really ambitious claims about future energy costs can more easily be made by including the extra degrees of freedom that LCOE allows.

      • I saw your earlier reply first and responded to it. I’ll repeat it here to keep the sub thread together (and add some)

        Shaun Mann Tuyuri ,

        As long as you acknowledge that cost reductions slow and eventually stall as they approach maturity, I think you’re on the right track. That said, any claims of OCC going below $500/kW will be very hard to justify.

        I do not agree with this point. Learn rate is not time limited and there is no zero because it is a log-log plot.

        Your comments suggest you have not understood what learning rates are. It seems you think the x-axis is time. It is not,

        Can I urge you to read the post carefully, and the papers by Lovering et al and Ruben et al.

  36. You’re right that I missed it was linear on a log-log plot, not a linear trend.

    As long as you acknowledge that cost reductions slow and eventually stall as they approach maturity, I think you’re on the right track. That said, any claims of OCC going below $500/kW will be very hard to justify.

    Talking about OCC for your learning rate is a good approach. Looking at a Levelized Cost of Energy (LCOE) would give you more degrees of freedom. Some factors that go into an LCOE have nothing to do with technology advances – interest rates, debt/equity ratios, etc. But many others do – plant operating life, staff requirements, fuel consumption, maintenance costs, permitting costs, etc.

    As an example, increasing plant automation increases OCC but reduces O&M requirements – giving a reduction in LCOE.

    Looking at LCOE trends for existing plants probably isn’t practical, but really ambitious claims about future energy costs can more easily be made by including the extra degrees of freedom that LCOE allows.

    • Shaun Mann Tuyuri ,

      As long as you acknowledge that cost reductions slow and eventually stall as they approach maturity, I think you’re on the right track. That said, any claims of OCC going below $500/kW will be very hard to justify.

      Your comments suggest you have not understood what learning rates are. It seems you think the x-axis is time. It is not,

      Can I urge you to read the post carefully, and the papers by Lovering et al and Ruben et al.

  37. France’s policy to reduce nuclear share of electricity generation from about 75% to 50% would increase the emissions intensity of electricity generated in France by about a factor of three. Emissions intensity would increase from 44 g/kWh in 2015 http://www.rte-france.com/en/eco2mix/chiffres-cles-en to about 150 g/kWh. For comparison, emissions intensity of electricity generated in Germany is about 475 g/kWh in 2014, (IEA).