by Peter Lang
Could the costs of nuclear power have been 10% of what they are if not for the disruption?
A new paper, Nuclear Power Learning and Deployment Rates: Disruption and Global Benefits Forgone , finds that nuclear power could now be around 10% of current cost, and have avoided up to 10 million deaths and 164 Gt CO2 between 1980 and 2015, if not for disruption to progress in the late 1960s and rapidly escalating costs since.
Other global benefits forgone are discussed in the ‘Policy Implications’ section. Figure 3 in the paper (copied below) shows the decreasing costs from 1954 to 1967 (at 32 GW cumulative global capacity of construction starts), and rising costs thereafter for seven countries. The learning rates are derived from the slope of the regression lines.
Figure 3. Regression lines for seven countries: OCC plotted against cumulative global capacity of construction starts.
Regarding the statement that nuclear power could cost around 10% of what it does now if the disruption had not occurred, Note [XII] (in Appendix B in the paper) responds as follows:
“Some readers may question the credibility of the projections of OCC in 2015. This is a counterfactual analysis of what the consequences would have been if the pre-disruption learning and deployment rates had continued. There is no apparent physical or technical reason why these rates could not have persisted. Actual learning rates may have been faster or slower than the pre-disruption rates depending on various socio-economic factors. It is beyond the scope of this paper to speculate on what global economic conditions, electricity demand, public opinion, politics, policy, regulatory responses and a multitude of other influencing factors may or may not have occurred over the past half century if the root causes of the disruption had not occurred.
However, consider the following. A defensible assumption is that if the high level of public support for nuclear power that existed in the 1950s and early 1960s [12,27,28] had continued, the early learning rates may have continued and, therefore, the accelerating global deployment rate may have continued. With cheaper electricity, global electricity consumption may have been higher, thus causing faster development and deployment. In that case, we could have greatly improved designs by now—small, flexible and more advanced than anything we might envisage, with better safety, performance and cost effectiveness.
Rapid learning rates persisted since the 1960s for other technologies and industries, where public support remained high. The aviation industry provides an example of technology and safety improvements, and cost reductions, achieved over the same period in another complex system with high public concern about safety. From 1960 to 2013, US aviation passenger-miles increased by a factor of 19 , while aviation passenger safety (reduction in fatalities per passenger-mile) increased by a factor of 1051 , a learning rate of 87% for passenger safety. The learning rate for the cost of US commercial airline passenger travel during this period was 27% [46,48].
Similarly, the learning rate for solar PV (with persistent strong public support, favourable regulatory environments and high financial incentives) has remained high at 10 to 47% according to Rubin et al. (Figure 8) . Cherp et al.  compare energy transitions of wind, solar and nuclear power in Germany and Japan since the 1970s and find their progress depends on the level of public support, political goals and policies of each country.”
Sixteen notes in the paper address commonly raised concerns relating to statements in the paper (see Appendix B).
Moderation note: As with all guest posts, please keep your comments civil and relevant.
It’s a pity that nuclear provoked such fear in the public eye following relatively benign accidents, like Three Mile Island. The fear was hyped by catastrophic film scenerios of nuclear meltdowns, not unlike the similar Hollywood output with respect to climate change such as stopping the Gulf Stream, with unrealistic and catastrophic climate consequences.
You might find references  and  interesting. Here is :
Daubert and Moran (1985). ‘Origins, Goals, and Tactics of the U.S. Anti-Nuclear Protest Movement.’
I should also point out that the disruption occurred in 1967 in the USA, 12 years before the TMI accident. So the TMI accident was not the cause of the disruption.
Geiger Counter manufacturers would be rolling in dough if bargain basement nuclear power plants became a thing. Real estate surrounding them that was still marginally habitable for short periods of time would solve the inner city housing crisis though so it wouldn’t be entirely gloom and doom. Fertility rate would be way down and spontaneous abortion way up. Maybe electric cars would be a thing for the still-living.
What technology wants is to decentralize. Centralized power generation is the exact opposite of where the future is taking us. Nuclear power has a major fatal flaw, it is subject to the most predicable root cause of all man made catastrophes – human error. Spend the time and money on developing energy storage technology.
Gohlke et al.  found that increased electricity consumption per capita correlates with better health outcomes because of better access to clean water and sanitation, and reduced indoor and outdoor air pollution. They
also found that access to a centralised power source is necessary to gain many of the benefits of clean power
The criticism of large central power stations is a really weird argument generated over the past few years by supporters of solar and wind energy, which by their nature are distributed. Efficiencies of scale are sought in every industry. They are part of textbook economics, critical to cost reduction. They are why lithium batteries are being manufactured in gigafactories, why the potlines in an aluminum smelter can be 5 km long, why VW produces over 800,000 vehicles per annum at its 6.5 million sq m plant in Wolfsburg. Please, enough of this ‘future is taking us’ to decentralization nonsense.
It’s not a hard and fast rule but it is a trend. One counter argument is that cities are growing more dense worldwide so it would seem logical to build large power plants near the center of cities. Unfortunately people don’t like to live near to large power plants and the cost of real-estate and access to large quantities of water make it hard to justify the cost. Perhaps the biggest issue is resilience and technology’s logical response is to decentralize.
As to auto factories, well yes and no, I think most have adopted the centralized assembly plant model. The millions of parts are manufactured in a distributed worldwide network of smaller factories and sub-assembly plants so in fact they are decentralized. It’s not just VW, they all do it.
I think the gigafactory actually a hybrid. Most of the batteries are actually sub-assemblies that are shipped to other plants for final assembly and Tesla is planning a worldwide network of similar factories
Assume distribution of electricity. Decentralized generation to decentralized use? Your heavy lines go outwards from power plants and also to and from distant sources with our current grid. The grid of 20 years ago is still a lot of what we have today. When renewables are down for night time or low winds, we still need the old grid. In what situation would we not need the old grid design and not have to pay to maintain it? When renewables can take over the grid, the new renewables grid and pay for it and deliver a product almost as good as what we have today. The conventional grid worked and paid for our current grid.
There is a way to save money in the long term for the backbone electricity transport over distances. Most renewables would have 2 days supply of battery back up. Reducing the long distance and/or backbone grid transport to fill when renewables are down for night or low winds.
The new renewables grid, is you having batteries. Which could be owned by a neighborhood of pick: 20 to 50 houses.
Decentralization not including you growning your own vegitables, still involves tranportation. Tranportation costs are reduced by systems, or regional systems truely being self sufficient.
It is not the ability to make something. It is the ability to make something, from beginning to end and to provide a service, from beginning to end. Here’s a phone. It doesn’t work. I made it. What does it do?
We still need the legacy grid. It provides essential services like reference voltage and frequency plus redundancy for critical infrastructure. Municipal water systems, traffic control, natural gas pumping stations, hospitals, police & fire stations all need the grid.
Your suggestion about micro grids of 20-50 houses backup up by a local battery bank is a good idea and if the automotive industry is really committed to moving to EV I could see Vehicle-to-Grid playing a major roll in such a system.
I’m surprised nobody has brought up the threat a solar EMP event. We all know it will happen someday but I haven’t seen anybody suggest we spend the money now to prepare for it. Big mistake.
We have an evolving grid and more electric vehicles in our future. The grid provide an important input to electric vehicle operations. If the price per kilowatt becomes too high, that will be detrimental to electric vehicles. ICEs work because of low gasoline prices.
At times I see the argument that seems to be, we must punish the utilities for not being a wind or solar provider. That they are the problem. But then charge your electric vehicles for a reasonable cost and when you want to. So maintaining the quality and affordability of the grid seems to go along with viable electric vehicles.
Problem with old nuclear is high pressure, water cooling, and solid fuel Case 4 the Good Reactor https://spark.adobe.com/page/1nzbgqE9xtUZF/
It’s so safe they won’t even need a security force to protect it.
Why would you assume that nuclear power must be centralized? We cannot predict what engineering developers will come up with if nuclear science is not supressed. For example, I remember reading that nuclear development sponsored by Bill Gates could result in small standardised power plants burried in residential back yards. Just because we cannot envision it. does not mean someone else cant’.
A simple statistical analysis is not going to allow for determination of the root causes of the high cost of new nuclear plants. The early plants were simpler, as were the regulations.
The public’s attitude is largely irrelevant. Rather, the regulators attitude is the key.
“The public’s attitude is largely irrelevant. Rather, the regulators attitude is the key.”
I totally agree. See for instance the devastating result of having a staunch nuclear opponent and critic appointed as NRC chairman, Gregory Jaczko, see for instance:
… not to mention former Sen. Harry Reid’s ideologically-motivated opposition to the Yucca Mountain waste repository, a squandering of billions of dollars and decades of delays.
The regulators attitude is a response to pressure from the public on politicians, lawmakers and regulators. The public’s attitude is the main causal factor. But the root cause was the anti-nuclear power protest movement. They misinformed the public about the risks. Then accepted by media and entertainment industry which have done very well out of 50 years of scaremongering.
Government scientists dating back to the Manhattan project opposing safe uranium storage and being dedicated to thwarting George Bush from solving the storage problem isn’t the only time Western academia stabbed America in the back. The hoax and scare tactics of global warming alarmism is their biggest betrayal of science and common sense.
Second biggest. The biggest was the excise-taxed beer industry which–after 14 years of superstitious repression–bought politicians to superstitiously repress competing plant leaves. An entire generation grew up listening to Republican and Dixiecrat politicians urging men with guns to fire on them over the most idiotic pseudoscience imaginable. Liars sowed the wind and electrical engineers reap the schadenfreude of a voting public eager ignorant of physical chemistry, but eager to see Nixon’s Moral Majority dead over other issues of pseudoscientific buffoonery. Mystical bigots make poor allies in defense of science and industrial society.
“Cesium-137 is among the most common heavy fission products. Fission of various isotopes of thorium, uranium, and plutonium all yield about 6% cesium-137.  This high fission yield results in an abundance of cesium-137 in spent nuclear fuel, as well as in regions contaminated by fission byproducts after nuclear accidents.  The large quantities of cesium-137 produced during fission events pose a persistent hazard. Its half-life of about 30 years is long enough that objects and regions contaminated by cesium-137 remain dangerous to humans for a generation or more, but it is short enough to ensure that even relatively small quantities of cesium-137 release dangerous doses of radiation (its specific radioactivity is 3.2 × 1012 Bq/g). [2-4]
Along with its intermediate half-life, a combination of high-energy radioactivity and chemical reactivity makes cesium-137 a particularly dangerous fission product. Cesium-137 undergoes high-energy beta decay, primarily to an excited nuclear isomer of Barium 137, which in turn undergoes gamma decay with a half-life of about 150 seconds.  The energies of both the beta decay of cesium-137 and the subsequent gamma decay of the excited barium 137 are 512 keV and 662 keV, respectively.  In addition, cesium is much more chemically reactive than many of the transition metal fission products. As a group 1 alkaline metal, elemental cesium is quite electropositive, and is readily oxidized by water, forming highly soluble Cs+.  For this reason, elemental cesium-137 may contaminate large volumes of water during nuclear accidents, which are difficult to contain or process. 
Despite its prevalence in spent nuclear fuel and nuclear waste, cesium-137 is actually extremely rare. Its half-life is too short for it to persist from natural fission sources, and on earth it is a synthetic isotope only. Should further nuclear accidents be avoided, the dangers of cesium-137 will eventually cease.” http://large.stanford.edu/courses/2012/ph241/wessells1/
““The present study demonstrates a significant association between increasing radiation dose and risk of all solid cancers,” says IARC researcher Dr Ausrele Kesminiene, a study co-author. “No matter whether people are exposed to protracted low doses or to high and acute doses, the observed association between dose and solid cancer risk is similar per unit of radiation dose.”” https://www.globalresearch.ca/prolonged-exposure-to-even-low-level-radiation-increases-the-risk-of-cancer-world-health-organization-who/5485386
Increased cesium-137 is the result of weapons testing and from 400 odd accidents and releases of nuclear materials. Peter Lang would have us believe that it was all uniformed moral panic – but the upper level of estimates of deaths from all these sources approach a million people – with children notable victims. The reality is that the day has passed for this technology. We may in fact compare it with high efficiency and low emission coal technology – that is not just cheaper but a lot safer.
The designs are inherently unsafe and the risks are growing from aging facilities and from long lived waste stored in leaking ponds and drums. There still remains no commercial facility for storing long lived waste for the 10’s of 1000’s of years required. Unless you count the following.
Compare this to General Atomics EM2. Compared to conventional waste – that wastes most of the energy in nuclear fuel – fission products in EM2 decay to background level within hundreds of years. Spent conventional waste can be recycled to provide hundreds of years of energy.
There are much better options for a nuclear future than conventional light water reactors. But even here the costs from first principle analysis – going out to tender in for major components for the EM2 for instance – the costs are 40% less on average than conventional nuclear – not 90%. This is the real world and not some imaginary might have been that well might not have been and which most certainly will never be now.
The reason for the confusion is that apparently non-solid tumor cancers do not show the same sort of dose relationship. There has been a long running dispute over the linear, no threshold model used by safety agencies. They take data from high exposures (about the only data available in many cases) and extrapolate it many orders of magnitude down to estimate risk of low exposures. There are plenty of reasons to be suspicious of such estimates.
The solid tumor cancers are closer to that relationship than others, such as blood cancers. How good it is at very low doses is still unknown, because the risk is too low to be measured.
Which is why a lot of the concern about radiation is simply scare mongering. We heard huge estimates of the number of deaths to be expected from Chernobyl, but the actual number has been well under 100 – mostly people involved in the immediate fire fight who got very high doses, and some children who did not receive potassium iodide (this was the USSR) and thus developed thyroid cancer, a few cases of which were fatal.
The main radiation risk of US nuclear power is not from the reactors. It is from the expended fuel rods which have not been placed safely underground due to fear mongering by anti-nuclear hysterics, and NIMBYism from people who don’t want the storage in their state (Nevada). Those rods are in large tanks of water (think: deep, big swimming pools) and are potentially vulnerable to terrorist attack. Ironically, when 9-11 happened, I was part way through reading a novel on the subject, where the terrorists bombed those waste storage pools.
The study I linked followed 300,000 nuclear workers who were exposed over a period from 1943 to 2005. There has been a debate on linear no threshold dosing – not one that I can find in the scientific literature. It seems moot at any rate as we are all exposed to increased level of radiation from medical imaging to flying – and any increase on that is likely to have a small effect on a large population. There are globally elevated risks from hundreds of accidents and releases from nuclear
The WHO – notoriously conservative – anticipates up to 4,000 deaths ultimately from Chernobyl. Other estimates are far higher. Physicians for Social Responsibility have estimated 10,000 to 66,000 deaths ultimately from the Fukushima disaster.
But yes – cooling ponds and drum storage are problems.
“Investigators now say that the 55-gallon drum of radioactive waste which burst open inside WIPP may have contained the wrong kind of cat litter. According to a report by NPR, cat litter is a commonly used product in nuclear waste disposal. The litter is dumped into nuclear waste drums to stabilize volatile radioactive material.
“It actually works well both in the home litter box as well as in the radiochemistry laboratory,” James Conca, a geochemist from Washington state, tells NPR. Unfortunately, in this case “it was the wrong kitty litter.”
Funny as that seems – it is the tip if the iceberg. Trying to store it for 10’s of 1000’s of years is not the answer either. Even if that idea could be sold to a unconvinced public. A better idea is a technological fix in a partially closed fuel cycle.
I had no trouble finding the LNT debate when I last looked at it. LNT used to be considered the golden rule for all cancers. Now, from your source, it is for solid cancers. In any case, as you say, it is overwhelmed for small dosages by environmental and medical radiation. If one really wants to have minimum dosages, they need to live at low altitudes in areas with little natural radiation. Where I live, a major city, my geiger counter sees twice the rate when near the ground than when shielded from it, showing how common rates of low level radiation are.
Physicians for Social Responsibility are a hysterical special interest group, not scientific – they just use their credentials to make their hysteria seem science based.
Fukushima probably killed far more people with the hurried evacuation than all the radiation released.
In any case, all the concern about low level radiation risk is simply irrelevant to nuclear power issues. Any power generation technology will kill some people. Solar kills people from fall and electrocution injury. So does wind. Nuclear kills fewer. It’s all a red herring.
The real problem with nuclear in the short term, at least in the US, is that CCGT generation is much less expensive. Longer term, we will want nuclear, and it makes sense to get our act together on it before we suddenly need a lot of it.
LNT is the standard model for radiation health impacts around the world – including the US. My impression was that objections to LNT were exclusively from wild eyed ratbag nuclear neo-apologists. Who all seem to believe that you can eat radioactive materials for breakfast. Please if you have a reputable source by all means – but I couldn’t find one.
It all seems moot as any increase in radiation adds to our lifetime load and if a threshold exists we have crossed it long ago.
Gee, there was a time all you had to do was go buy a lot of shoes.
And the real problem everywhere – that is not soluble by any stratagem I can find here – is that the cost is too high.
‘seem to believe that you can eat radioactive materials for breakfast. Please if you have a reputable source by all means – but I couldn’t find one.’
You mean you’ve never eaten tuna, bananas, swimmed in the ocean?
Ncbi.pubmed search string “Fukushima nuclear” and you’ll get literally hundreds of papers showing the silliness of your position.
Stop the nonsense Rob.
Robertok06: Stop the nonsense Rob.
We live in hope.
It is the burning of the heavy transuranic isotopes that transform the waste into something that is only dangerous for a few hundred years. It is the cesium, and similar isotopes, that decay within that few hundred years.
So separating out light, short lived fission products creates a waste steam that is very much reduced in volume and in decay time.
“Peter Lang would have us believe that it was all uniformed moral panic – but the upper level of estimates of deaths from all these sources approach a million people – with children notable victims.”
Actually, cesium’s biological half-life is shorter in children as compared to adults. Yours is only scare mongering radio-phobia.
Concerning the study from IARC that you have proposed, it is far from being the final word on the subject:
Claiming ‘millions of deaths’ is the kind of jargon that only anti-nuclear organizations like grinpeace use… simply ridiculous at 5% per Gray of increase.
“The study provides supportive evidence on the radiation risks of leukaemia after exposure to low doses, using a large dataset and adequate statistical analysis. But limitations of this type of cohort study of nuclear workers have been discussed by Leuraud and colleagues and other investigators before,8 and they somewhat hamper the study’s conclusions. Heterogeneity between countries is present but not well understood, and its assessment can be a major challenge for a pooled analysis. The contribution of errors in the outcome variable (death certificates from different countries covering more than 50 years are included) is not known. Confounding by socioeconomic status and other lifestyle factors cannot be assessed completely. Additional risk factors, such as exposure to benzene and medical exposure to ionising radiation are not taken into account. Internal exposure to radionuclides, uranium, and plutonium are neither qualitatively nor quantitatively evaluated. Background radiation exposure might be larger than occupational exposure and was not incorporated into the analysis.”
The opinion you linked to in the Lancet is a response to the study by the IARC that was originally published there. If there were not problems in the methodologies used – then there would not be uncertainty. There would theoretically need to be millions of people monitored with a complete life history to distinguish small effects in large populations. But effects there are and children are especially vulnerable. Your link says that protecting workers and the public means reducing exposure.
Cesium-137 is soluble in water and the graphic shows global contamination with radioactive materials of human origin. With concentrations in particular locations. The history of the nuclear industry is a litany of accident and disaster. Including using the wrong kitty litter.
I quoted estimates of ultimate deaths from Fukushima from Physicians for Social Responsibility. The response from people like you is to arm wave and make silly claims about the decay rate of cesium-137 in children being higher than for adults. There seems little doubt that leukemia rates in children – the cancer with the shortest latency period – have sky rocketed in Japan. The argument there – entirely lacking any substantive or authoritative support – is that detection efforts have increased. But from first principles there should be an increase in childhood leukemia from exposure to synthetic radionuclides in air, dust, water, food in diverse exposure mechanisms. And your refutation is to suggest I do a Google search? Hmmmmm.
The argument that I keep making is to bring this lumbering, dinosaur technology – that should never have been deployed – into the 21st century. You may in that way argue convincingly on the safety of nuclear power going forward. But as of now your argument that it is safe to eat synthetic radionuclides for breakfast is about as silly as it gets and is utterly counter productive.
Stop advertising your ignorance by quoting long extracts from dubious sources, selectively. You do not know enough about the topic to contribute meaningfully here.
Wow – dubious source? https://www.iarc.fr/
This level of – let’s face it – ignorance is pathetic.
I have gathered that you know so little about anything of any relevance that pig ignorance best describes it.
Is it the same IARC that changed results of scientific studies in order get a proof for glyphosate (roundup) causing cancer? Note that all other labs/agencys around the world incl. WHO & EPA contradict.
Is it the same IARC that tested more than 900 substances and found all but one causing cancer?
Are they are reliable source? That’s the wrong question, you should ask whether they are criminal.
The IARC is an arm of WHO – and glyphosate is classified there as a potential carcinogen. The US EPA released a draft finding on the 19th of December.
“The draft human health risk assessment concludes that glyphosate is not likely to be carcinogenic to humans…
The ecological risk assessment indicates that there is potential for effects on birds, mammals, and terrestrial and aquatic plants.”
There are lots of problems with glyphosate – that I won’t go into now. Ionizing radiation – however – is definitely a carcinogen. Your level of comprehension of these issues – however – seems minimal. Which blog did you get this misinformation from?
Robert, your statement that the WHO classifies glyphosate as carcinogenic is false. See here: https://www.chemistryworld.com/news/who-clarifies-glyphosate-risks/1010208.article
Matt Ridley summarized the story around IARC quite well here https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/war-against-chemicals-is-a-shame-onscience-bvgwpkwmq
Your other argument concerning potential effects on birds, mammals etc. is valid for every herbicide & pesticide.
We were not disputing the carcinogenic effect of ionizing radiation. It is just about the cedibility of the IARC. The fact that the WHO is not following its own agency is story telling in this regard. They are green activists.
Robert I Ellison: There are much better options for a nuclear future than conventional light water reactors. But even here the costs from first principle analysis – going out to tender in for major components for the EM2 for instance – the costs are 40% less on average than conventional nuclear – not 90%. This is the real world and not some imaginary might have been that well might not have been and which most certainly will never be now.
Maybe, but what was the actual cost of the growth of the regulatory environment? How many lives were actually saved compared to the cost in lost electricity, lost manufacturing proficiency (and hence lost lives lost because of absent or expensive electricity)? How many future lives have been sacrificed, inadvertently, by an excessive regulatory regime in the nation that has the most experience building and running nuclear power plants? Those are not idle questions, but you evade them completely. If not counterfactually, how would you go about trying to answer them? Going forward, should we simply ignore the fact that regulatory/policy changes (or something) produced such a dramatic change in the cost vs experience curve? Would future impositions cause such costly changes to the developments of other technologies? Do they already?
Counterfactual arguments may not tell you exactly what might have happened, but they do help clarify what your ideas are about the choices among possible futures.
The human race is too stupid to deserve nuclear power. So it has lost it.
The idea that with high public support a high rate of learning is to be expected is interesting but undemonstrated. Certain fields are amenable to high learning rates when there is low hanging fruit to be picked. Others not so much. Interest in nuclear fusion has been very high, yet progress has been very slow (it’s always 30 years away). There has also been a great public support for batteries, a technology older than a century, and there has been some progress, but nothing really surprising for the amount of money, effort, and time put into them.
I have no doubt that a greater interest in nuclear energy would have advanced its progress, but I seriously doubt that the progress defended in this article would have materialized. Of course learning can be faster if one is willing to allow for some learning from failure. This is more acceptable in aviation than in nuclear energy. If new planes had to demonstrate the level of safety of new nuclear designs, we would see much fewer new plane models.
Thank you for your comment
I would say safety became a paramount factor way above any other. The exponential increase in safety regulations and layers of bureaucratic normative show a corresponding increase in costs.
Even if we accept this “I would say safety became a paramount factor way above any other”, what caused safety to become the “paramount factor”. What was the root cause? The root cause was what caused safety to become the paramount factor. Given that nuclear is the safest way to generate electricity, and slowing its progress has caused substantial forgone benefits, the safety concerns were unwarranted. What was the root cause. See the RAND report by Daubert and Moran I linked in my first comment on this thread.
You asked about the root cause for the disruption. I think you have to look at it from a much greater distance in terms of way and time. If you do that you will discover the evolution of societies through an oscillation between male and female domination. A male dominated cycle (Adam cycle) is characterized by focussing on competition, ego, force, risk etc. wheras female (Eve) cycles focus on conservation, social skills, equality, risk aversion, health, etc. Ever since we are evolving in between those extremes and we are learning new things to carry over into our future from every cycle.
The typical development of such a cycle is the starting with the end of the previous one because the paradigms got exaggerated and became dogmas. In other words the dominant sex screwed everything up. E.g. the last Adam cycle in western civilization brought us the brightest scientific discoveries (automobiles, planes, rockets, nuclear, relativity theory, computer principle) but finally ended in a war and with a technical risk to extinguish mankind.
This was the very start of the opposite Eve cycle because Adam suddenly recognized that he cannot continue like this. Step by step he learned that the other side offered solutions to reduce risks, control progress and to create a greater value for human life. Step by step Eve took over control and took out risk by risk. There were plenty of chances due to the technical progress in the previous cycle. That‘s why it didn’t matter in the beginning of the Eve cycle that with every eliminated risk a chance passed by at the same time. We all know how the Eve cycle evolved over the last 6 decades or so and currently it seems as if the complete risk aversion has evolved to a dogmatic eco control mania and health hypocrisy which will probably mark the end of this cycle in the near future because it robs society of chances.
Now to answer your question: Nuclear technology was developed and firstly used in a war that marked the end of a cycle, in which Adam nearly screwed up everything. It had to be the first and prominent sacrifice in the Eve cycle. As long as this current cycle lasts, nuclear will not succeed. But I am confident that it is not a matter of decades until rational thinking will return and the inefficient dogmas will be replaced by a new spirit.
Thank you for your interesting suggestion on the root cause of the disruption. I agree that cycles you mention occur and the nuclear bombs at the end of the WWII signalled the end of the previous cycle. And the nuclear bombs have been used to cause fear of everything nuclear. Unfortunately, many people believe that nuclear power plants can explode and are used to produce nuclear weapons. Neither is correct. Oil is used to make weapons and the weapons delivery systems. We need to consider, why hasn’t oil been given the same treatment as nuclear?
True. But they really screwed up badly by blocking nuclear development, as the paper clearly shows.
I agree. The reason I agree is because there is no other known energy source that can meet humans’ ever increasing demand for energy. Nuclear fuel is effectively unlimited.
Let’s hope it’s sooner rather than later. The main purpose of my paper is to try to help to push that along by publicising the evidence that the disruption occurred and the benefits forgone as a consequence of it. The ‘Policy Implications section includes this:
The number of downloads of the full paper is just about to hit 5000, http://www.mdpi.com/1996-1073/10/12/2169
I agree with most of your interesting paper. I also think it is time to focus on realistic alternatives to our energetic future. If I get 8 kWh out of a kg coal and maybe half of it out of a kg PV module (incl. all steps that lead to the module) or even 20 kWh out of a kg windmill it is clear that none of those energy sources can compete with the 1,000,000 kWh out of thorium in a MSR. I already know where to go to. I just need to figure out how.
But despite of the clear goal I am not sure whether the disruption caused more harm than benefit. I think there were a lot of good arguments to put the brakes onto the development long time ago and we don’t know where we would be without those brakes. Maybe we would have MSRs all over the world, maybe we would have seen more meltdowns and we would be even farther away from the goal than we are right now. Nobody knows.
Since we did quite well with fossil fuels in the past decades we do not need to worry whether we missed a major chance.
The climate issue and the related renewable hype are game changers. With that narrative we are forced to accept a huge impact on our society and the way we are living or to look for alternatives. This will be the biggest katalyst for new nuclear even if the proponents believe in the opposite.
When I was growing up there were rumors of two nuclear-related accidents.
This was one of them.
Gomer Pyle and a screwdriver.
I think “high rate of learning” is a bit spongy. More accurately, technology innovation, driven by the profit motive, is the driver. There is no doubt that innovations in design and construction occurred in nuclear power. However, these cost saving measures were completely overwhelmed by massive over regulation that extended well beyond the fundamental objective of keeping the public safe from undue radiation. All aspects of nuclear power were swept up into the regulatory morass. Predictably, costs increased exponentially.
“However, these cost saving measures were completely overwhelmed by massive over regulation that extended well beyond the fundamental objective of keeping the public safe from undue radiation.”
Not merely cost saving measures but actual safety measures too. Beginning in the early 70’s, commercial nuclear power plant licensing required a fully complete and fully safety analyzed power plant design be supplied for licensing consideration. Sounded like a good idea to the regulators I guess.
The reality was that analysis and approval of that analysis takes years. By the the time the design approval comes, it might be over a decade old. Next comes construction. Of course the plant must be built and inspected to conform with the plan. The result is a plant constructed to outdated design parameters and sometimes requiring use of obsolete equipment and instrumentation. Those problems must then be corrected with “Design Change” requests, analyses, authorizations, and inspections. So the nuclear industry advancement was frozen by new regulations that did little if anything to improve safety of the public.
We could, though, point to the situation as it exists today and rightly brag about the safety of nuclear power plants, in spite of have been forced to use obsolete designs and out dated equipment.
The watershed around 1970 corresponds to a new global sense of how growing industry was polluting air and water, and regulations increased because of that. This resulted in improving environments replacing the deteriorating ones before that. I don’t think it is a coincidence that this increased awareness and realization of the need to control industry for the public good happened at the same time as this so-called “disruption”.
True. But nuclear power causes very little air and water pollution. Therefore the regulations that are appropriate for fossil fuels are unwarranted for nuclear.
Well partly true. But in the case of nuclear it was not in the public good, as the paper shows.
The growth of environmentalism did not happen in a vacuum. It came from grassroots concerns about very real and growing local pollution that fed into democratic governments who implemented regulations in response. This success of activism possibly impacted nuclear development and popularity. Yes, nuclear done properly has no such problems, but in the 60’s waste storage was not formalized and may have consisted of putting barrels in sheds or burying them in the ground with little forethought or rules. Waste remains a big issue that concerns the public.
To me “disruption” is not the mysterious thing you present it as in the paper, but is a learning of the ways to mitigate harms and dangers that result from this type of technology. Any technology that presents such risks will be limited by these factors and bounded by a “learning” of harm mitigation and resultant implementation of policies that has an opposite trend as awareness increases. Accidents further add to this ramp in costs and reduction in deployment.
It’s also the end of the Bretton Woods system. All price are in US$. It would be nice to see all nuclear price in local currency. I am not challenging that there is a regulatoring narrative.
Waste management is another example of the unjustified fears that people have about nuclear power. The root cause caused all these secondary causes. Why do people hold these fears. What’s the justification for them? What’s the solution?
It is not clear any country has solved the long-term waste problem yet. When they do, they can set an example, but clearly it must be tricky.
”It is not clear any country has solved the long-term waste problem yet. When they do, they can set an example, but clearly it must be tricky.”
Digging tunnels has been known to mankind since millennia… what’s so tricky? Please explain.
Like I said they can set an example. Why haven’t they? Something must be tricky here. I suspect radioactive waste has a bad reputation with the public which can lead to problems. How do they get past this?
“Why do people hold these fears.”
Because of a-holes with a political agenda and no scruples, like Jim D.
aporiac, the best nuclear waste solution in your country is…
Fill in the blank or is that just a blank expression on your face now? Not so simple, right?
Jim D is not a typical Nevadan. Around 2/3rds of the people from Nevada oppose Yucca Mountain, and it has pretty much been that way since day one.
Atoms go boom. Trying to tell people they don’t is counterproductive.
Gomer Pyle is your big problem; human error; missteps; mistakes:
I think the solution is way more name calling. Bring it.
The Cohen article on Disposal of Radioactive Wastes from Fission Reactors came out abt 1977, with physics showing the wastes could not for long be found by a blind man with a geiger counter if simply put back into the uranium mines. There is no excuse for creating a health hazard by forcing folks to rely on alternatives known to kill and injure larger numbers of persons per GWh produced.
Can you please link to a recent poll?
What you have to do with really dangerous stuff you never want to see released into the environment.
The first 2 minutes of this certainly feels like an eternity.
I think the waste problem is due to the public’s innumerate fear of radiation, and how that was used by fanatics to sabotage nuclear power. This shows up in several ways…
NIMBYism is natural, but was greatly increased by the overblown fears. Hence we spent a lot to build a facility in Nevada but Nevadans won’t let us use it.
A misunderstanding of the nature of radwaste. The danger of nuclear waste goes down in proportion to its quantity. In other words, very high level (highly radioactive) waste is a tiny proportion of total waste. But the fear of radiation means that very low level waste – discarded protective clothing with no measurable radiation, for example – is treated by the public as no different from the worst waste. Again, this misunderstanding is used by radicals.
The fear of radiation has led to rules requiring that radwaste facilities prevent all leakage for 10,000 years. There is no rational basis for this, unless you believe that this waste getting out 400 generations in the future will cause massive damage. It will not – the high level waste will have decayed, but the public doesn’t realize that the hotter the waste, the quicker it loses its specific radioactivity. But, radical environmentalists argue that even after 10,000 years, we can’t let out the remaining radiation.
You have sections of the public that are afraid of cell phones, power lines, GMOs, vaccines, contrails, etc. Radioactive waste – good luck with that. This is the world we live in. A lot of it is not rational and some of it is conspiracy theories. These are obstacles to reason.
Jim D writes: –
a) “the best nuclear waste solution in your country is…”
b) “A lot of it [fear of nuclear waste] is not rational”
You are being disingenuous, Jim D.
As I said, the problem is a class of educated people pushing a poisonous political agenda who have the advantage of being entirely without scruples, which is also how they come to develop such an accomplished facility for speaking out of both sides of their mouths at the same time.
I happen to support nuclear power but done safely, which means well regulated and with failsafe devices, but figuring out how to store the waste is a big issue. What is political about that view?
Since when did safety become political? When the industries took over government, that’s when. Safety is too costly for them. Inconvenient. Another example.
“Since when did safety become political?”
Since intelligent people lost their wits and started coming out with arrant nonsense such as “the industries took over government.” I am absolutely certain you are not so stupid you could believe such crap, and so I presume that somewhere in your politically addled brain resides the notion that dishonesty is noble (because I am equally certain that you consider yourself to be such).
Like the good leftist that you are, you are going to be a strict adherent of “the ends justify the means” school of moral philosophy, and so, frankly, I don’t believe a word you say. There are similarly reprehensible individuals in industry, of course, but they are relatively rare and have a greater sense of shame than the breed you belong to.
Yes, safety is a big lefty issue, for the environment, for workers, for consumers. Also lefty is protecting people from profiteering at their expense, getting a living wage for a day’s work and not being exploited by employers, getting healthcare that doesn’t break the bank account. Pardon me for caring. That’s just us lefties/centrists. Live with it. Al Franken said it best today what being a Dem means, and I agree with it all.
Jim, what is your definition of “safely”? Strikes me as kind of an open ended measurement standard.
I propose something along the lines of seal the stuff deep underground where the likelihood of creating a problem for a hundred or so years is quite small. I would not worry at all about the very distant future, as folks in that time frame will be able to readily handle any potential issues and will, in any case, be employing more effective energy sources than we possess. Think back 100 hundred years ago.
There are apparently safe geological formations, but convincing local governments to allow shipping waste in to bury there will always be an issue. Only authoritarian governments can bypass this issue easily. Bribery, official or otherwise, may also work in some countries. But nuclear isn’t for everyone, for sure.
Jim D “Pardon me for caring.”
Of all the claims you’ve made, that one is the least credible by far. I wasn’t born yesterday, Jim D.
Clearly you don’t understand lefties. Try getting to know some and having a conversation. You have some prejudices you need to work on.
Well, we do have an authoritarian government that owns large swaths of the US West. So let’s put the stuff deep underground. Beats the heck out of leaving the stuff in casks scattered all over the US.
Certainly does. There’s also eminent domain. They would find a way if they thought it was a really good idea.
You’re not going to stick waste up the rears of people in the Rocky Mountain states. Ask nice, or they will field dress you like an Elk. They were not asked nicely; there is no waste in Yucca.
And they are not leftists.
The best way to sell nuclear power is mitigation of manmade climate change. Now, later, whatever, that is how it is going to happen.
Jim D: “Clearly you don’t understand lefties.”
I was one myself. I had the commitment and intellect to master the double-think, but ultimately the stomach rebelled. Believe me, Jim D, I was once as sanctimonious as you, which is why you are so absurdly easy to understand. And, of course, I had children. Anyone who has dealt with a thirteen year old girl will be in familiar territory when encountering a Jim D. However, what is charming and lovable in a muddle-headed thirteen year old, no matter how trying, is considerably less appealing in a grown man.
Whatever. I think Trump supporters would be opposed to nuclear because it rivals their favored beautiful coal as a source of energy. Trump is buddies with at least one coal baron and Pruitt has been in their pockets for many years, so it goes without saying.
“Trump supporters [blah blah blah]”
Poor Jim D has a desperate need to promote bete noires so that he paint himself in contrast on his elevated moral pedestal. Frankly, whatever he claims of them, it shows him to be far worse.
You don’t seem to want to give an opinion on anything except other commenters. Why is that? What are you here for? Be better.
Jim D: “Be better”
lol. I’ll try, just for you, dear child.
In case you miss it, could you please see my question in response to your question about IN 128GW, here: https://judithcurry.com/2017/12/21/forgone-benefits-of-disruption-to-nuclear-power-since-late-1960s/#comment-863255
One solution was written by Petr Beckmann. Another, Commonsense adn Nuclear Energy, was penned by Sir Fred Hoyle & Son. Both completely demolish all superstitious lying about nuclear energy. Another is to vote Libertarian. A government whose police shoot and jail youngsters because of superstitious fear of plant leaves will convince nobody if its scientific integrity.
I guess Finland is the odd fellow in western democracies when discussing nuclear. We have currently three units running, one nearing completion and one in the planning. Also construction of a permanent storage for highly active nuclear waste is well underway: http://www.posiva.fi/en/final_disposal/onkalo#.Wj0dxjTLhhE
All this despite strong negative lobbying by environmentalists using scare tactics. I guess we Finns are sufficiently pragmatic to make wise choices. There is also a growing interest towards small modular nuclear generation of both electricity and heat e.g. similar to the so-called molten salt reactors that cannot go amok, i.e. self generated shutdown in case of emergency.
Along these lines the Finnish Ecomodernist Society arranged in September an English speaking seminar in Helsinki, Finland on the topic of small modular reactors: https://ekomodernismi.fi/mika-ekomodernismi/videot/ The videoed lectures are all presented in English and the seminar begins with a “singing chairman”. Listen and behold.
Finns are the dupes of communo-fascist totalitarianism. You’re democratic socialists; far to the left of every state in the United States. You bad people were not invited to Nikki’s party.
Yes. Always have been. Mining technologies is another industry where Finland were world leaders.
I worked at Access to Energy for the author of The Health Hazards of NOT Going Nuclear. Every possible fraud and sabotage was brought to bear against us after Prof Beckmann showed that opposition to the safest power plants is itself a health hazard. I am pleased to see the evidence so clearly presented, and hope the dupes of communo-fascist totalitarianism realize how they have been used as vectors of disinformation.
Could I ask readers to please open the paper (the online version, not the pdf version), look at the legend in Figure 1, and tell me what number you see for India (IN) after the “” signs , e.g. 100GW or 128GW? http://www.mdpi.com/1996-1073/10/12/2169
Thanks for the intereting post. I see 100GW for India.
That’s odd because I see 128GW for India.
Thank you planning engineer. It should be 128GW. It hasn’t been corrected in the online version yet. I just want to check. It is 128GW in Figure 3. It is correct in the pdf version.
Thank you. That is interesting. Can you confirm whether you are seeing 128 GW for IN in Figure 1 in the downloaded pdf version or in the online HTML version?
It is 128 in both.
Thank you. You are the first person of many outside China that has said that. Could you please confirm the following for me. What are the GW for IN (100 or 128) for Figure 1 and for Figure 3 in:
1. the Abstract only page of the paper ( http://www.mdpi.com/1996-1073/10/12/2169 )
2. the “View Full-Text” version (click on this above the abstract on the Abstract only page)
3. the “Download pdf” version)
Always 128 Fig 1 and Fig 3. Maybe you need to make sure you are not just looking at a cached version. Try a different browser. I use Safari.
I’ve asked a dozen people and they have sent me screen shots showing that is 100GW on the Abstract page and on the HTML page, but is 128GW on the PDF version. Energies is adamant that it is correct, but many people, who had not opened it until the past few days, are seeing the original version. I don’t understand why. But if you are sure, then that is somewhat of a relief. How could it be that Edge and Chrome are showing 100GW and Safari is showing 128GW?
Firefox also fine for me. I suspect it is cached pages you are seeing. Refreshing the page helps sometimes.
Thanks Jim D. But as I explained it’s not just me. It’s everyone I’ve asked, except you, is seeing 100GW in Figure 1 in the HTML versions.
Could other readers please check and let me know if you are seeing 100GW or 128GW for IN in Figure 1 in the HTML version and on the Abstract page?
Also Chrome is fine for me.
Thank you. I don’t understand how this can be. Perhaps you have a direct link to China. Are you working for Donald Trump?
I’d really like to hear from some others on this.
currently in uk, normally in us
Cancel panic! I’ve just checked on my tablet. It is now correct. They must have fixed it over night. Thanks Jim D.
Now its changed back to 100GW on Figure 1 and Figure 2 has been changed back to the wrong version too.
I meant “and figure 3 has been changed back to the wrong version too”. I’ll just wait until this settles down, and hope it settles with the correct figures, same as in the pdf version, which are correct.
Still all OK for me.
Thank you for letting me know. I really don’t know what is going on. For me, in Australia, they have reverted Figures 1, 3 and 4 back to the versions first posted. Now, all three of those charts are the wrong ones. Could your please check Figures 1, 3 and 4 in the online version (the pdf version is OK). Are those three figures displaying 100GB or 128GB for IN. Does Figure 3 now show trend lines for all countries in the legend (i.e. 13 trendlines below the 13 data point symbols)?
I have never yet seen any wrong numbers on those figures. Figure 3 only has US lines in the legend.
Thanks Jim D. That’s how Fig 3 should be. It’s good news that they haven’t gone back to earlier versions. I suspect the issue may be with which servers are using which data.
Could someone living in the US please check and let me know what you are seeing for Figures 1, 3 and 4 in the online version (not the pdf version?
In US. With chrome and safari browsers I get 100 in figure 1 on line and 128 for 3 and 4.
Thank you. That’s very helpful. Thanks to your comment, I now know there are three different versions being displayed around the world. UK and China are displaying the correct figures. US is displaying correct figures 3 and 4, but wrong Figure 1 (this version was a partial but incomplete update). Australia is displaying wrong versions for all three figures (this is the original version – before the corrections to Figures 3 and 4 were loaded but Figure 1 was not). At one stage yesterday, for about 15 minutes, Australia was seeing all three figures correctly. Before that Australia was seeing the same versions as US. Now Australia is seeing the original version before the partial, incomplete update.
Peter – Don’t know what this means and frankly it’s beyond me. But with my Ipad I still get what I reported to you earlier (100 on the Figure 1). On my work PC (chrome) I am getting the 128 for figure 1 as well as 3 and 4.
Yes. Thank you. It seems they fixed it yesterday afternoon Australian Eastern Daylight Time (about 13 hours ago). I am just waiting a day or so to see if it stays fixed. Thank you for letting me know they the fix applies in US also. Perhaps your iPad may be still looking at the previous version held in cache.
I sent this to Energies Editorial Office yesterday:
I am missing two keywords so far: “reprocessing” and “thorium”. Without reprocessing we only use some 1% of energy contained in uranium – and then we shoot “depleted uranium” shells at enemy tanks. Thorium is another untapped source of nuclear energy.
Reprocessing does not currently make a lot of financial sense. Ditto for using thorium. Depleted uranium does do a good job at putting holes in things.
Depleted uranium is also used as a shielding’ material on hospitals’ nuclear medicine facilities.
As a ballast in aircrafts and sailboats.
Pro-nuclear political commentators and nuclear industry advocates here in the United States love to dump on the anti-nuclear activists as being one of the main obstacles, if not the main obstacle, to an expansion of nuclear power in this country.
As if somehow the failure of nuclear industry managers to deliver their construction projects on cost and on schedule, and in compliance with the quality assurance standards those managers committed to in their regulatory permit applications, has little or nothing to do with it.
A strong distinction must be drawn between the anti-nuclear activists who carry protest signs outside a plant site gate and those who are fully-informed, competent professionals concerning the expectations that regulatory oversight agencies have for monitoring the quality assurance performance and the cost & schedule performance of a complex nuclear construction project.
Who is more effective at thwarting the forward progress of any specific nuclear project in particular, or the overall forward progress of America’s nuclear industry taken as a whole?
Is it nuclear project owners and senior project managers who fail to deliver on their promises to their shareholders, to the ratepayers, and to the safety conscious public; or is it anti-nuclear activists who take every opportunity to exploit the easy ammunition that’s often been handed them by incompetent and sometimes dishonest nuclear industry management?
The Georgia Public Service Commission voted yesterday to approve the continuation of the Vogtle 3 & 4 expansion project, rejecting the commission’s own staff recommendation that the project be terminated. Thirty years ago, nuclear projects which were as badly managed as Vogtle 3 & 4 has been managed would have been shut down by federal and state regulators as a matter of course. But not this time around.
How did 2012’s estimate of 12 billion dollars for two AP1000’s grow to 2017’s estimate of 25 billion dollars?
Repeating what I’ve said in a comment to another Climate Etc. article, the answer here is that all the lessons learned from the 1980’s were ignored. Thirty years ago, a raft of studies and reports were published which analyzed the cost growth problems and the severe quality assurance issues the nuclear construction industry was then experiencing, and made a series of recommendations as to how these problems could be avoided. Those studies had a number of common threads:
— Complex, First of a Kind Projects: Any large project that is complicated, involves new and/or high technology, has several phases, involves a diversity of technical specialties, involves a number of organizational interfaces, and has significant cost and schedule pressures—any project which has these characteristics is a prime candidate for experiencing significant quality assurance issues, cost control issues, and schedule growth problems.
— Strength of the Industrial Base: Nuclear power requires competent expertise in every facet of design, construction, testing, and operations. This kind of competent expertise existed in the early 1980’s but was not being effectively utilized in many of the power reactor construction projects, the ones that experienced the most serious cost and schedule growth issues.
— A Changing Technical Environment: The large reactor projects, the 1300 megawatt plants, were being built for the first time. They were being built without a prototype, and they were substantially different from previous designs. Those big plants had many new and significantly revised systems inside them, systems that had to be designed, constructed, tested, and subsequently operated.
— A Changing Regulatory Environment: In the late 1970’s and early 1980’s, there was a continual increase in the regulatory requirements being placed on power reactors. The Three Mile Island accident, the Brown’s Ferry fire, the Calvert Cliffs environmental decision, all of those events required the power utilities to change the way they were dealing with their projects in the middle of the game. Some power utilities were successful in making the necessary changes, others were not.
— Project Management Effectiveness: Those nuclear projects which had a strong management team and strong management control systems at all levels of the project organization generally succeeded in delivering their projects on cost and on schedule. Those that didn’t were generally incapable of dealing with the changing technical and regulatory environment and became paralyzed in the face of the many QA issues, work productivity issues, and cost control issues they were experiencing.
— Overconfidence Based on Past Project Success: Many of the power utilities which had a record of past success in building non-nuclear projects, and which were constructing nuclear plants for the first time, did not recognize that nuclear is different. Those utilities which did not take their regulatory commitments seriously and which did not do an adequate job of assessing whether or not the management systems and the project methods they had been using successfully for years were up to the task of managing a nuclear project.
— Reliance on Contractor Expertise: The projects which succeeded had substantial nuclear expertise inside the power utility’s own shop. Those utilities who were successful in building nuclear plants were knowledgeable customers for the nuclear construction services they were buying. They paid close and constant attention to the work that was being done on the construction site, in the subcontractor fabrication shops, and in the contractor’s technical support organization. Emerging issues and problems were quickly and proactively identified, and quick action was taken to resolve those problems.
— Management Control Systems: The nuclear projects which failed did not have effective management control systems for contractor and subcontractor design interface control; for configuration control and management of design documentation and associated systems and components; and for proper and up-to-date maintenance of contractor and inter-contractor cost and schedule progress information. Inadequate management control systems prevented an accurate assessment of where the project actually stood, and in many cases were themselves an important factor in producing substandard technical work.
— Cost & Schedule Control Systems: For those projects which lacked a properly robust cost & schedule control system, many activities listed on their project schedules were seriously mis-estimated for time, cost, scope, and complexity. Other project activities covering significant portions of the total work scope were missing altogether, making it impossible to accurately assess where the project’s cost and schedule performance currently stood, and where it was headed in the future.
— Quality Assurance: For those nuclear projects which lacked the necessary management commitment to meeting the NRC’s quality assurance expectations, the added cost of meeting new and existing regulatory requirements was multiplied several times over as QA deficiencies were discovered and as significant rework of safety-critical systems and components became necessary.
— Construction Productivity & Progress: For those nuclear projects which lacked a strong management team; and which lacked effective project control systems and a strong management commitment to a ‘do-it-right the first time’ QA philosophy, the combined impacts of these deficiencies had severe impacts on worker productivity at the plant site, on supplier quality and productivity at offsite vendor facilities, and on the overall forward progress of the entire project taken as a whole.
— Project Financing and Completion Schedule: As a result of these emerging QA and site productivity problems, many of the power utilities were forced to extend their construction schedules and to revise their cost estimates upward. Finding the additional money and the necessary project resources to complete these projects proved extremely difficult in the face of competition from other corporate spending priorities and from other revenue consuming activities.
— A Change in Strategy by the Anti-nuclear Activists: In the late 1970’s and early 1980’s, the anti-nuclear activists were focusing their arguments on basic issues of nuclear safety. They got nowhere with those arguments. Then they changed their strategic focus and began challenging the nuclear projects on the basis of quality assurance issues, i.e., that many nuclear construction projects were not living up to the quality assurance commitments they had made to the public in their NRC license applications.
— Regulatory Oversight Effectiveness: In the early 1980’s, the NRC was slow to react to emerging problems in the nuclear construction industry. In that period, the NRC was focusing its oversight efforts on the very last phases of the construction process when the plants were going for their operating licenses. Relatively little time and effort was being devoted to the earlier phases of these projects, when emerging QA problems and deficiencies were most easily identified and fixed. Quality assurance deficiencies that had been present for years were left unaddressed until the very last phases of the project, and so were much more difficult, time consuming, and expensive to resolve.
— Working Relationships with Regulators: The successful nuclear projects from the 1970’s and 1980’s, the ones that stayed on cost and on schedule, did not view the NRC as an adversary. The successful projects viewed the NRC as a partner and a technical resource in determining how best to keep their project on track in the face of an increasingly more complex and demanding project environment. On the other hand, for those projects which had significant deficiencies in their QA programs, for those that did not take their QA commitments seriously, the anti-nuclear activists introduced those deficiencies into the NRC licensing process and were often successful in delaying and sometimes even killing a poorly managed nuclear project.
As I’ve said before here on Dr. Curry’s blog, if it’s done with nuclear, it must be done with exceptional dedication to doing a professional job in all phases of project execution from beginning to end. At the start of the 1990’s, America’s nuclear industry had adopted the hard lessons from the decade before and was well-positioned to move forward with an expansion of nuclear power. But it was not to be. In the early 1990’s, growing competition from natural gas, and fears of excessive project risk among Wall Street investors, combined to bring nuclear construction to an end.
As I’ve remarked previously, it cannot be emphasized enough that the estimate of 12 billion dollars for two AP1000’s when onsite construction at Vogtle 3 & 4 began in 2012 included the expected costs of full compliance with NRC regulations and of passing through America’s nuclear construction learning curve for a second time, the original learning curve have been forfeited when nuclear construction went on a three decade hiatus. These estimates also assumed that all the difficult lessons learned from the nuclear projects of the 1980’s, as I’ve described them above, would be diligently applied to the latest projects as they were being initiated and while they were in progress.
For those of us who went through the wrenching experiences of the 1980’s in learning how to do nuclear construction right the first time, what we’ve seen with VC Summer and Vogtle 3 & 4 has been deja vu all over again.
The first indications of serious trouble came in 2011 when the power utilities chose contractor teams that did not have the depth of talent and experience needed to handle nuclear projects of this level of complexity and with this level of project risk. Only two major EPC contractors in the United States, Bechtel and Fluor, currently have the depth of talent and experience needed to manage a nuclear project of this size and complexity. But at the start of construction in 2012, neither of those major EPC’s had been chosen for Vogtle 3 & 4. A team comprised of Shaw Group, CB&I, and Westinghouse was chosen instead.
A variety of serious project issues began to emerge early on at Vogtle 3 & 4, and these were being rigorously documented by the Georgia Public Service Commission’s own staff. It was very clear very early on that every lesson that had been learned in the 1980’s was being ignored. And yet the Georgia PSC allowed Vogtle 3 & 4 to continue in spite of powerful evidence that was emerging in 2013, 2014, and 2015 that the prime contractor team was falling well short of expectations in every facet of project execution; that Georgia Power was not overseeing the prime contractor’s work with anything like the diligence that was necessary; and that little or no corrective action was being taken to keep the project from experiencing a major cost & schedule failure.
That the estimated cost eventually grew to 25 billion dollars in 2017 should be no surprise.
The project owners and managers ignored the hard lessons of the 1980’s; they did not do a professional job in managing their nuclear projects; and they did not meet their commitments to the public as these commitments are outlined in their regulatory permit applications. Just as happened in the 1980’s, the anti-nuclear activists and the government regulatory agencies are now holding these owners and managers to account for failures that were completely avoidable if sound management practices had been followed.
Vogtle 3 & 4 has been given a second chance, but only because shutting down that project would have ended nuclear construction in this country for decades, if not permanently. In Bechtel, the project now has a capable prime contractor. Georgia Power has restated its commitment to carrying out its obligations as project owner. Will this be enough to meet the latest schedule?
Everyone who advocates for nuclear power should be keeping a close eye on the Georgia PSC’s regular staff reports, as these are being published. It’s certain that we won’t be alone in monitoring what further problems emerge, the anti-nuclear activists will be watching just as closely as we are, if not more so.
Are the management teams selected on the basis of ability, or diversity?
Comanche Peak was supposed to be 779,000,000. Once reactor 1 was finished, it had reached a couple of billion and change. It was a gigantic joke that went on forever. Once it went online, people got a separate power bill that was through the roof. It turned Texans off to nuclear power.
The green activist who could stop Texans from doing anything they want to their environment has not been born. No such activist exists. There no commies here.
It was the incompetence, the time (it took forever to build the thing), the lies, and the power bills: because they cannot compete with natural gas and coal.
“because they cannot compete with natural gas and coal.”
You are right here, nuclear can’t compete with coal and gas:
I have been corrected in that had externalities been priced in, then it would have been more competitive. But they weren’t. We were sent two separate bills to pay. One was for gas-coal-diesel; one was for Comanche Peak. The nuke bill was sky high: off the charts. If I remember correctly, they convened a special session of the legislature to address the power bills because they voters were extremely angry. So when people say is was Greens I just laugh. Texans don’t listen to Greens at all unless they have Presidents and $ signs on them.
‘Once it went online, people got a separate power bill that was through the roof.’
… strange, because your recollections do not agree with what is said about Comanche Peak in this document critical of nuclear power… page 11:
Just another anti nuclear rant.
Your link does not work. I lived in Dallas during much of the construction. My Aunt, also a Dallas resident, was a huge supporter of nuclear power and an investor.
This typifies the Dallas news reports on Comanche Peak.
They ended settling with the Juanita mentioned in the article: 10 million.
“Your link does not work.,”
The link works perfectly, I just tried it again!… just copy and paste as the URL in a browser… it will download a PDF file.
I gather you must have been in the Quality Assurance end of the business.
A few observations:
(1) The NRC is not a partner in building and running power plants. They are regulators/bureaucrats and have no equity position in the enterprise.
(2) Nuclear power is grossly over regulated and that unquestionably significantly (and needlessly) drives up costs.
(3) The complexities caused by over regulation create activities that are well beyond the ability of private enterprise to reasonably manage. Further, such complexities do not make the product appreciably safer, just more expensive.
The regulations and compliance need to be directed at what is actually relevant. That most emphatically does not include all aspects of nuclear power, which is what occurs now.
PS I fail to see how spending tens of billions on the Vogtle plant makes any sense. Glad I do not live in Georgia.
Having worked at a Nuclear plant that was shutdown by the NRC for poor maintenance practices, I would say that the industry is not over-regulated. And that the regulation protects everyone from the dire risk that a power plant turns into a pile of non revenue producing pile of junk.
Instead of quoting voluminously from reports that rely upon knowledge of the authors for credibility, why no note the large numbers of reactors that were built in the early years, then operated successfully for decades with a safety record far better than any other major source of electricity. Do a ‘count the bodies’ type of exercise on the real performance history.
Then ask, “If they could do so well 2 generations ago, what stops us from doing just as well now?”
The answer, as Peter has noted, is the ignorance of the masses in opposition. Geoff.
Your list is of symptoms and of causative factors, not of the root-cause.
Excerpt from Bernard Cohen, 1990, ‘Cost of Nuclear Power Plants – What went Wrong‘:
Cooler reactors increased in size to achieve even 35% thermal efficiency. Any future deployment of this lumbering and obsolete technology would face the huge capital cost and long development times. Past installations have left a legacy of increased radioactivity globally through 100’s of accidents and releases.
The WHO advice is clear cut – and provides the underlying rationale for opposition to conventional nuclear energy.
“The present study demonstrates a significant association between increasing radiation dose and risk of all solid cancers,” says IARC researcher Dr Ausrele Kesminiene, a study co-author. “No matter whether people are exposed to protracted low doses or to high and acute doses, the observed association between dose and solid cancer risk is similar per unit of radiation dose.” https://www.globalresearch.ca/prolonged-exposure-to-even-low-level-radiation-increases-
There is a legacy as well of aging and failing plants at which neither decommissioning or waste management problem have been solved anywhere in the world – even in Finland. And it is such an insidious poison with the dosage dependent on the mode of exposure whether to ionizing radiation externally or by skin contact, ingestion or inhalation. There is literally a world to increased risk of morbidity and mortality. When compared to the health impacts of modern coal the claim that this technology is the safest is just utter nonsense.
High temperature reactors can achieve 50% thermal efficiency in a much smaller reactor vessel with much lower capital cost and risk.
The ‘waste’ is a resource that could power the planet for hundreds of years in an advanced partially closed fuel cycle.
Lighter hot fission products are separated from heavier transuranics and decay to background levels in hundreds of years and not 10’s of thousands. Heavier, long lived elements are returned to the fuel cycle.
These can be manufactured in factories – delivered to sites without the necessity for water cooling, dropped into a bunker, burn for 30 years without refueling and then taken back to the factory for decommissioning.
Although the fission process is the same the technology is chalk and cheese.
Peter is in the business of selling white elephants to a resistant market using pie in the sky costs and unbelievable disavowal of safety concerns. This particular horse is dead – to mix metaphors – and there is nothing to be gained in flogging it.
“No matter whether people are exposed to protracted low doses or to high and acute doses, the observed association between dose and solid cancer risk is similar per unit of radiation dose.” Diametrically opposed to a conclusion “Animal experiments have frequently shown that the smaller doses product less cancer per unit of dose than do higher doses.”
“A collaboration among international partners, evaluated the exposures of more than 300 000 nuclear workers in France, the United Kingdom, and the USA over a period of time between 1943 and 2005.”
Reporting in 2015. But your link is to a 1986 animal study. Is there any point comparing these two differing conclusions?
I prefer a report by American Association of Physicists in Medicine to a report by an independent research and media organization based in Montreal. That report relies on a new study by IARC, the organization which declared that glyphosate was cancerogenic while refusing to share data leading to that conclusion. I am not saying that everything IARC produces is wrong; merely that it is not trustworthy.
There is no strong correlation between solid tumors and radiation exposure. If you look at all cancers the LNT model falls apart. If you look only at solid tumor cancer then the data is statistically indeterminate.
Ignore my comment here I don’t know how to read.
Yes of course you prefer a 1986 animal study over the International Agency for Research on Cancer – an arm of the WHO.
“The IARC study followed 407,391 workers (men and women) who wore a radiation dosimeter or badge, and who worked for at least one year in the nuclear industry in one of 15 countries…
Overall, the estimates of risk found in this study suggest that 1 to 2 per cent of deaths from cancer (including leukaemia) among the workers studied may have been caused by radiation exposure. Many of the workers in this study worked in the early years of the industry when doses tended to be higher than they are today. These results imply that only a small proportion of cancer deaths would be expected to occur from low-dose chronic exposures to X- and gamma- radiation among current nuclear workers and in the general population.” https://www.iarc.fr/en/media-centre/pr/2005/RCAa1.pdf
As I said a low risk in a potentially large population exposed to accidental releases at high levels occasionally. But trivial and misguided concerns according to the new breed of nuclear apologists.
Exactly, an arm of the WHO, for a while ably represented by its Goodwill Ambassador, President Mugabe of Zimbabwe.
“Yes of course you prefer a 1986 animal study over the International Agency for Research on Cancer – an arm of the WHO.”
The paper by IARC is not without limits either, see paper on The Lancet by Maria Blettner
Also, don’t forget that another branch of WHO has stated that Chernobyl’s final death toll will be 4000 dead… vs the million you’ve cited above.
Small point. Gas reactors (driving turbines/compressors/generator) can indeed achieve +50% efficiencies, but the reactors are not necessarily physically smaller than conventional reactors. The thermal type gas reactors have very low power densities which is why the fuel cannot melt but the reactor itself is physically quite large. “Fast” gas reactors (like the one you illustrated) are much smaller but can melt if the power output is too high.
High temperature reactors increase efficiency while accommodating radically reduced reactor size. That is the point of it all.
The problem with Fukushima was that the fuel cladding melted and then reacted with water to produce hydrogen – which then exploded of course. General Atomics – the firm behind the EM2 – is working on safer fuels using silicon carbide cladding.
Silicon carbide is the cladding of choice for the EM2. It is stable at 2000 degrees C – well above the highest anticipated temperature of 1600 degrees C – when everything goes wrong including both passive heat sinks.
The EM2 is a fast reactor, which means neutrons are not slowed down appreciably, like is done with water reactors and thermal gas reactors that use graphite instead of water to slow down neutrons. Graphite is not as effective as water in slowing down neutrons which means more graphite is needed. That is why thermal graphite gas reactors are physically much larger than an equivalent water reactor, or fast reactor.
While fast reactors are physically small, more uranium is needed to sustain the nuclear reaction because the probability of absorbing fast neutrons is much smaller than thermal neutrons. Ultimately, the reactors can produce more fuel than they use, which is the impetus for attempting to deploy the technology. Thus far, fast reactors have been dismal commercial failures.
Robert: “The WHO advice is clear cut – and provides the underlying rationale for opposition to conventional nuclear energy.”
For almost all of human history and geography almost all human life has been nasty, brutish and short. Anyone who has travelled widely understands that this condition characterises life in much of the world today. Even in the most wealthy, advanced, enlightened and humane countries we find that the notion that human life is cheap has not been entirely got rid of. Ironically, this savage artifact of the past is best preserved in those segments of advanced societies that we label ‘progressive’, which does not bode well.
In the real world there are many people who would bless you, and name their children after you, if you could deliver a future that promised an existence in the Chernobyl or Fukushima radiation zones because in those places there are still schools, hospitals, roads, electrical power, functioning markets, rule of law, and food supplies, which makes the worst of the “legacy of … 100’s of accidents and releases” a petty matter in the hierarchy of human concerns except for the most fortunate.
I entirely share your enthusiasm for advanced partially closed fuel cycle small modular reactors. I can find no convincing objection to them or case against them of any kind on any account whatsoever except for one: they don’t exist. Other than that they are totally bloody marvelous.
In my professional life I was fortunate enough to work in businesses where the ‘product’ always involved a significant proportion of innovative technical development. It was so enjoyable I would have worked for nothing, but fortunately by mastering that environment I didn’t have to. One of the things I learned was the truth of the statement that there is many a slip between cup and lip. In practical terms that meant I knew that when my development team told me they were 95% of the way there, the project would be fine if we’d only spent 50% of the budget I’d allocated to it, without, of course, telling them that the true budget was twice or more what they’d told me it needed to be.
While having all of this fun it is very important to maintain your expertise in the boring sh*t that already works.
“the observed association between dose and solid cancer risk is similar per unit of radiation dose”
That doesn’t sound right.
At something of a tangent, I heard on the radio the other day that loneliness in old age is equivalent in its health effects to a lifetime of smoking 15 cigarettes a day. I suspect your 100’s of accidents and releases are small potatoes in comparison.
“To provide [electricity] in today’s world, an ‘advanced reactor’ must improve over existing reactors in the following 4-core objectives. It must produce significantly less costly, cost-competitive clean electricity, be safer, produce significantly less waste and reduce proliferation risk. It is not sufficient to excel at one without regard to the others.” Dr. Christina Back, Vice President, Nuclear Technologies and Materials for General Atomics, May 2016 testimony before the US Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing on the status of advanced nuclear technologies.
Spare me your home spun philosophy about how it doesn’t matter if you eat radiation and die.
One thing – there are very many small reactors around the world. There are are gas cooled research reactors. There have been some 400 years of operational experience with prototype fast neutron reactors. The new designs are created for a purpose – and the purpose is commercialization.
“That’s where you make your money.” John Parmentola
Many comments are stating 2nd, 3rd and 4th order causes of the well known problems. But there are few exploring the root causes of all these other problems, and suggesting solutions. It also seems some comments may be based on a misunderstanding of what the paper is about.
To encourage readers to read it before commenting, it might be worth pointing out that the paper has achieved an exceptionally high Attention Score:
3561 downloads in 3 days so far: http://www.mdpi.com/1996-1073/10/12/2169
• In the top 5% of all research outputs scored by Altmetric
• One of the highest-scoring outputs from this source (#5 of 1,506)
• High Attention Score compared to outputs of the same age (99th percentile)
• High Attention Score compared to outputs of the same age and source (97th percentile)
For those who haven’t opened the paper yet, this is the Abstract:
This paper presents evidence of the disruption of a transition from fossil fuels to nuclear power, and finds the benefits forgone as a consequence are substantial. Learning rates are presented for nuclear power in seven countries, comprising 58% of all power reactors ever built globally. Learning rates and deployment rates changed in the late-1960s and 1970s from rapidly falling costs and accelerating deployment to rapidly rising costs and stalled deployment. Historical nuclear global capacity, electricity generation and overnight construction costs are compared with the counterfactual that pre-disruption learning and deployment rates had continued to 2015. Had the early rates continued, nuclear power could now be around 10% of its current cost. The additional nuclear power could have substituted for 69,000–186,000 TWh of coal and gas generation, thereby avoiding up to 9.5 million deaths and 174 Gt CO2 emissions. In 2015 alone, nuclear power could have replaced up to 100% of coal-generated and 76% of gas-generated electricity, thereby avoiding up to 540,000 deaths and 11 Gt CO2. Rapid progress was achieved in the past and could be again, with appropriate policies. Research is needed to identify impediments to progress, and policy is needed to remove them.
Wrote my summa thesis (accepted also as Ph.D thesis) on this in 1972. There are three problems with the analysis in the new paper. 1. Learning curves do not apply to nuclear (except maybe SMR, whichnhave other economic issues about scale economies) because there is (a) insufficient standardization and (b) insufficient replication in just a few locations/work forces. 2. Costs went up as things went from Gen 1 to Gen 2 to now Gen 3 (Voglte 3 & 4) with mounting safety concerns. Fukushima Daiichi disaster was Gen 1 and operating beyond its original licensed life. Fukushima Daini was gen 2 and survived the earthquake and tsunami without incident. 3. Using dynamic input output analysis (math Ingeneralized from Leontiev’s static version for whichnhe on the 1972 Nobel in economics) on a simplified US economy matrix (just 33 sectors except for electricity) it was possible to show convincingly under a wide range of scenarios that nuclear was uneconomic at the time and would become more so. That analysis (published as two book chapters plus the thesis as a DoE report) has proven correct over time.
Did fear of nuclear cause over regulatiin? Probably. Was it the root cause of nuclear’s general failure? No.
I suspect the learning curve for nuclear plants is more like that associated with building follow-on submarines in a particular class of boats. Cost decreases net out at maybe 15%. Build a new class and the initial cost rockets upward.
I do agree that nuclear’s problems in the US are not fundamentally regulatory, although the impact of over regulation is severe.
Nuclear economics need to be considered in the context of the competitive enviornment of where the facility is to be built. In the US, nuclear cannot compete with natural gas. Someplace importing extremely expensive liquefied natural gas? New ball game.
Yes, the impact is severe. See Cohen (1990) reference and others listed in the paper. However, there is no valid justification for these excessive regulations on the safest technology. They are a response to public demands for greater safety, public of their fears. It is irrational. What caused these fears? See references 27 and 28 listed in the post. However, one is difficult to get (available in some research libraries, such as the National Library of Australia). I suggest you look at Daubert and Moran which is available online at the web address given in my first comment on this thread.
Peter, I think we need to also consider the natural impulse of bureaucrats (and politicians) to continually increase the scope of regulations. In the case of nuclear power, this impulse was more or less completely unrestrained. Couple that with sloppy and murky criteria, and you end up with bureaucrats-gone-wild. Ever heard of a term “important to safety” ?Virtually undefined but used to impose all manner of regulatory requirements.
Can you suggest why politicians reacted with massive regulatory ratcheting way for nuclear (which was widely feared by the public) but in the opposite way and with huge financial incentives for renewable energy (which was loved by the public)?
Peter renewable subsidies. Kind of the flip side of nuclear. Renewables were “sold” as the safe savior of mankind with little regard to cost. Those who point out the obvious financial problems are decried as heretics. Ditto when the severe impacts to the environment are pointed out.
As long as folks do not actually notice how much renewables actually cost (dollars and environment) they buy into the perceived benefits. Kind of like slowly heating up a pot of water with a frog in it.
Nuclear power costs immediately leap out while the benefits are less noticeable because of the long time frames involved.
The ultimate solution lies with advanced nuclear plants that are very cost effective. Will such plants become a reality? I am absolutely certain that itechnically it can be done, but probably not in the US for a variety of regulatory and financial reasons.
As far as ratcheting of nuclear regulations, the technology is quite clearly capable of inflicting massive damage. The concept of actual probability is generally not considered much by politicians or the public.
In such an environment, the natural tendency is to overreact when a major event occurs. The politicians will pontificate while the bureaucrats generate all manner of new regulations. Really does not matter what the subject matter is – could be something as innocuous as say using plastic bags at a grocery store. In the case of nuclear, the subject is perceived as really “scary”, hence must need lots of regulations.
I thought the massive regulatory increases were due to the failures at Three Mile Island.
At least in the US anyway.
It’s a shame TEPCO didn’t apply the lessons learned in the US to their plants in Japan.
Thank you for this comment. One of the few that actually deals with the content of the paper. You say:
I used the term “Learning rate” in the paper rather than “experience curve” for the reason stated. Learning rate is the more commonly used term and frequently meant in the way used in this paper. is the most common description and it is used correctly, as explained and defined by Rubin et al. The learning rate applies over long periods of time through all generations. Rubin gives learning rate for coal technologies in USA from 1902 to 2006, for example. Learning rates for other technologies run for the full life of the technology. This is what it means.
So, what do you believe was the root cause. Could you please provide a description, and explain why it was the root cause, for the benefit of me and CE denizens.
Glad to. Input output analysis looks at all the inputs direct and indirect from other sectors needed for a sectors own output. Simple exaple. The steel indutrynoutput requires inputs of coal, iron ore, electricity. Coal and iron ore require inputs of mining machinery. Electrcity requires inputs of fuel and copper….all denominated in dollars. When you have constructed such a matrix (output rows and input columns, you can then mathematically invert it. The inverted matrix then tells you all of the ripple direct and indirect economic effects from a change in an outputeconomics nobel. A new and very useful macroeconomic analysis tool right at the border to microeconomics.
I took the standard US Dept. Commerce BES I/O matrix (about 400×400). Collapsed it to 33x 33 for computational tractability, then took electricity and expanded it to 7 ( coal, oil, gas, nuclear, hydro, transmission, distribution) for a total of 40×40. Then developed the complex invertible matrix math to make it dynamic over 7 years, with everything assumed ‘static’ (eg inouts supply the outputs within one year=>no lag) except for the 7 electricity. So analysis assumed the longest lead in construction (nuc, hydro) woild be 7 years. Was about correct for the time. Hard part was populating the data. Used FERC, NRC, actual site visits to construction firms and operators. Than ran the tool multiple times.
It turned out that nuclear always placed significantly greater total economic demands on the rest of the system than any of the other generation options, even given its relatively low fuel cost. Up to 2x. So was always drawing the short economic straw. Even IF learning curves applied (a separate discussion from my BCG days) would not make up the deficit. Remember, a learning curve predicts a reduction in cost on the order of 15-20% per doubling of cumulative production. Liberty ships, automobiles, and pneumatic tires, yes. Nuclear no because not enough similarity nor opportunity to learn. And changing models/ complexity kills learning curves. See the first half of my 1990 paper in the Strategic Management Journal titled A New Productivity Paradigm. Available on line.
Peter, walked the dog and realized last comment was long on how and short on why. The three main disadvantages of nuclear in my data at that time (to be brief and overly simplistic): too much concrete, too much steel, and too much construction (commissioning and decomissioning). The construction disadvantage could be reduced but not eliminated by shortening the original construction time assumptions. Nuclear was simply a more massive project thanks to more concrete and more steel.
Same problem USC coal has today versus CCGT, even if fuel costs were equivalent (which they are not at current prices). USC Coal minimum capital $3000/kw and 4 years. CCGT maximum $1500/kw and 3 years. Makes inherent perfect sense. Coal boiler is a ‘stick build’, coal requires significantly larger steam condensation system, and coal requires handling, pulverizers, injectors, fly ash and SO2 scrubbers.
“too much concrete, too much steel….”
There is an element of this, but the flip side is that (usually) this leads to a longer productive life and this impacts on economics. Did this show up in your analysis? Geoff
GS, great question. Answer, generally no. Two separate lines of thought. First is the problem of neutron embrittlement of primary steam loop steel. Second is the regulatory test requirements for extension beyond initial design life. Tough in the US ( my thesis sole focus), lax in Japan that led indirectly to Fukushima Daiichi.
So IMO more concrete and more steel does NOT lead to a longer operating life. The US history of nucs (Zion, San Onofre) would support this notion.
“The Atomic Energy Act of 1954 (as amended) allows the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to
issue licenses for commercial power reactors to operate for up to 40 years. The NRC regulations allow
for the renewal of these licenses for up to an additional 20 years beyond the initial licensing period
depending on the outcome of an assessment to determine whether the reactor can continue to operate
safely and whether the protection of the environment can be ensured during the 20-year period of
extended operation.” https://www.nrc.gov/docs/ML0611/ML061110022.pdf
There is effectively a fixed operating life of 60 years max.
Thank you for your detailed response and explanation of the input-output analysis you did for your PhD thesis in 1972, and your follow up comment about the “why”. It’s interesting but, I think, does not really answer the question. The question we are trying to answer here is: what was the root-cause of the reversal of learning rates around 1968, and the rapid cost escalations thereafter. The answer needs to explain why the cost of other technologies continued to decline per unit of capacity or output, whereas nuclear power’s costs per unit rose rapidly. The OCC of coal plants also increased from 1968, but by a fact of <2, compared with a factor of 7 for nuclear (see Note [IX]). Why? Part of the cost increase for coal was the increasing environmental regulations, which are acknowledged as necessary and justified. However, they cannot be justified for nuclear power on an objective basis, Nuclear always was the safest way to generate electricity. If you haven’t already done so, you might want to read the notes, and references cited in them, in Appendix B.
Peter, see my 1990 paper referenced above, first not second sections, for a partial reply. I do not doubt that regulatory over-reaction played a role in rising nuclear costs. I just do not think itnwas the main factor. There was also insufficient standardization, insufficient unity of construction work forces, and so on. For example, ordinary process plant scale economics says bigger is cheaper per unit output. The basic reason is simple math (ok, this is oversimplifying to make a simple point). Cost is a function of r^2 because cost is a function of surface. But output is a function of r^3 because output is a function of the volume contained by the surface.
One part of your learning rate comment is certainly correct. That is shown in my paper by pneumatic tires. Half of the learning rate as you define it was driven by changes in basic tire design (like cotton=>rayon=>steel belted=>radial) rather than just cumulative production. The overall slope on log log is a progression of lesser cumulative slopes with each successive technology starting at a lower cost. But still in factories where learning can occur.
But my basic nuclear point rests on the famous HBR experience curve for Ford autos. No cost declines until the model T.because a mishmash of models/designs. Then a classic experience curve 1909-1926 for the model T. Then steadily rising costs for decades as competition forced Ford to add a roof, and then wimdows, and then colors, and then an electric starter, and then automatic transmissions, power steering, seat belts, ABS, and so on. the gen 1,2, 3 nuclear permutations are loosely similar to the Ford experience, but without the factories and production volumes. Regards, and see my nuclear opinion comment below.
Thank you. You say:
However, that is a misunderstanding of what I am suggesting is the root cause. I am not suggesting regulatory ratcheting or the other causes you mention were the root-cause of the disruption and cost escalations thereafter; these were some of many second and higher order causes. What I am suggesting is something along the lines of my comment @ December 23, 2017 at 8:01 am here https://judithcurry.com/2017/12/21/forgone-benefits-of-disruption-to-nuclear-power-since-late-1960s/#comment-863213 ).
It’s probably helpful to read the Notes in Appendix B, and the relevant references cited in the paper and in the Notes.
“These results show that there is no single or intrinsic learning rate that we should expect for nuclear power technology, nor an expected cost trend. How costs evolve over time appears to be dependent on different regional, historical, and institutional factors at play. The large variance we see in cost trends over time and across different countries – even with similar nuclear reactor technologies – suggests that cost drivers other than learning-by doing have dominated the cost experience of nuclear power construction. Factors such as utility structure, reactor size, regulatory regime, and international collaboration may play a larger effect. Therefore, drawing any strong conclusions about future nuclear power costs based on one country’s experience – especially the US experience in the 1970s and 1980s – would be ill-advised…
Rather than rely on learning curves to predict future costs, decision makers should focus on pursuing and developing policies that aim to drive the price of clean energy technologies down: innovation policy, industrial policy, trade policy, and energy policy. Where projections of future cost are necessary, they should be based on relevant historical experience that matches the economic
drivers of their industry today. Assumptions regarding future costs should reflect the large variance in global and historic trends…
Standardization of reactor designs is key for decreasing lead times and costs. Jamasb (2007) demonstrated how incorporating multiple factors – such as technological improvements due to research and development –changed the learning-by-doing rate significantly. Clarke et al. (2006); Söderholm and Sundqvist (2007), and Pan and Köhler (2007) warned against using learning curves beyond the scope of a manufacturing firm, since there are many drivers of cost reductions that are unrelated to replications or experience. These drivers include market demand, supply chain, labor relations, research and development, and regulation.” http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0301421516300106
“Nuclear overnight capital costs in OECD ranged from US$ 1,556/kW for APR-1400 in South Korea through $3,009/kW for ABWR in Japan, $3,382/kW for Gen III+ in USA, $3,860/kW for EPR at Flamanville in France to $5,863/kW for EPR in Switzerland, with a world median of $4,100/kW. Belgium, Netherlands, Czech Republic and Hungary were all over $5,000/kW. In China overnight costs were $1,748/kW for CPR-1000 and $2,302/kW for AP1000, and in Russia $2,933/kW for VVER-1150. EPRI (USA) gave $2,970/kW for APWR or ABWR, Eurelectric gave $4,724/kW for EPR.” http://www.world-nuclear.org/information-library/economic-aspects/economics-of-nuclear-power.aspx
OCC in the US is less than the global median. Could this be reduced to that of Korea? Standardization would help
but possibly not to that extent. Reducing it to $338/kW based entirely on a mooted country learning curve might be a little over ambitious.
On the other hand I gave the costs from the EIRP study above. Here is what the World Nuclear Association has to say on it.
“A peer-reviewed study in 2017, undertaken by the Energy Innovation Reform Project (EIRP), with data collection and analysis conducted by the Energy Options Network (EON) on its behalf, compiled extensive data from eight advanced nuclear companies that are actively pursuing commercialization of plants of at least 250 MWe in size. Individual reactor units ranged from 48 MWe to 1650 MWe.At the lower end of the potential cost range, these plants could present the lowest cost generation options available, making nuclear power “effectively competitive with any other option for power generation. At the same time, this could enable a significant expansion of the nuclear footprint to the parts of the world that need clean energy the most – and can least afford to pay high price premiums for it.” The companies included in the study were Elysium Industries, GE Hitachi (using only publicly available information), Moltex Energy, NuScale Power, Terrestrial Energy, ThorCon Power, Transatomic Power, and X‐energy. LCOE ranged from $36/MWh to $90/MWh, with an average of $60/MWh.Advanced nuclear technologies represent a dramatic evolution from conventional reactors in terms of safety and non-proliferation, and the cost estimates from some advanced reactor companies – if they are shown to be accurate – suggest that these technologies could revolutionize the way we think about the cost, availability, and environmental consequences of energy generation.”
They are especially attractive for regions with poorly developed grids.
I am not sure what point is trying to be conveyed by positing these quotes, without stating the point intened. It is not clear how they relate to the paper that is the subject of this post, because the paper is about the past 60 years, not future projections, and not about speculating how future technologies might develop.
Bu then these things things seem quite often to escape Peter. A fair reading is that the quotes directly address the methodology of the post and the improbability of the 10% claim.
No. first, they are about the future not the past, so not relevant. Second, they illustrate the enormous potential for cost reductions of nuclear power that could have been achieved over the past if not for the disruption to progress. Contrary to your comment, they support the possibility.
Correction: Contrary to your comment, they do not show “the improbability of the 10% claim”. If you find an error of fact in the paper, please post on that.
They completely discount country learning curves on which you rely exclusively. And look in detail at countries with a different regulatory environment such as Korea. Now you may or may not be able to reduce OCC in the US to the level of Korea – there are many regional factors involved including regulation. But it is not credible to reduce OCC by 90%. The title of the study you discount as concerned with future costs – btw – is ‘Historical construction costs of global nuclear power reactors’.
There are practical ways forward – but you have yet to suggest one. Jessica R. Lovering et al. suggest several. If it about the past – then I suggest that what we have forgone is many more accidents and disasters and far more than the 270,000 metric tons of high level waste sitting in leaking drums and ponds around the world.
In the US – gas will be the preferred options until the price of gas inevitably increases with increased demand and reduced supply over the next few decades. Elsewhere – coal remains an attractive option. A high efficiency low emission plant has been costed this year at $2.2 billion. What this means in terms of LCOE depends on the future price of fuels and the discount rate applied. Although parked on the Galilee Basin and connected to the east Australian grid – the cost of high quality black coal is far less an issue. It is a low capital and low risk strategy.
And it is almost perfectly safe despite your disingenuous claims to the contrary.
It the future nuclear ‘waste’ is a resource to be utilized – and not a intractable problem to be socked away for 20,000 generations. If that is even possible.
It can be almost perfectly safe – but the lumbering, dinosaur technology being defended here is not up to scratch.
You need to read more carefully. You have misunderstood lots, and misrepresented. Also read the two critiques of Lovering et al. and the Lovering et al response to those critiques: Apples and oranges: Comparing nuclear construction costs across nations, time periods, and technologies https://doi.org/10.1016/j.enpol.2016.11.004
You need to think more clearly about what you are doing and why. Lovering et al was used to highlight the necessity of considering inputs costs that vary according to regional settings – as opposed to exclusively applying what are quite obviously misleading learning curves. As others have said to you in a number of comments now. It is a criticism of your methodology.
That there is a discussion about aspects of the Lovering et al paper seems enormously irrelevant. Two replies and a response? Who cares.
But the OCC costs I quoted came from the World Nuclear Association and not the Lovering et al. study.
Robert I. Ellison,
The scope of the paper is clearly defined in its Introduction.
Lovering et al. did not calculate learning rates. I’ve done that using their OCC data. The learning rates are what they are. Your quote from Lovering et al. is background about other studies, most of which had used costs over short periods only, not the full history; and for only one or a few countries, mostly US and France. She and her co-authors did an excellent analysis of the fully history of OCC in the countries with most of the nuclear power reactors, where they could get the complete cost history. They could not get the complete cost history for UK, USSR and China, so they are not included.
The OCC I used in my analysis are from the authoritative source: OECD/NEA/IEA.
I suggest you read the paper more carefully. If you find an error, please quote the part you disagree with, explain the issue, and your suggested modification – as peer reviewers do. Remember, this paper went through peer review before publication.
“This study curates historical reactor-specific overnight construction cost (OCC) data that broaden the scope of study substantially, covering the full cost history for 349 reactors in the US, France, Canada, West Germany, Japan, India, and South Korea, encompassing 58% of all reactors built globally.” Lovering et al 2016
Does he imagine that this is refuted because someone claims that comparing countries is chalk and cheese? But as I said – it was cited for the discussion on the utility of extending learning curves beyond the level of the firm. As well as on the multiplicity of real world concrete and steel factors. The table showing periods of cost rises and falls in different jurisdictions is especially interesting. I suggest that Peter should read the paper it sometime.
But – as I said – the OCC quoted was from the World Nuclear Association. Check their sources by all means. And were provided as a sanity test on the minimum cost of steel, concrete, labor, machinery and other inputs in different regulatory jurisdictions. 10% fails the sanity test bigtime.
How many times do I have to say these things? I find Peter to be an inflexible, dogmatic and pedantic – but draw the line at his repeatedly whining about Lovering, Yip and Nordhaus OCC – when I have corrected him on the actual source of data I used. I don’t have any particular issue with Lovering et al. OCC – I just didn’t use them.
Thank you for your comment upthread (https://judithcurry.com/2017/12/21/forgone-benefits-of-disruption-to-nuclear-power-since-late-1960s/#comment-863200) and for your excellent contributions on previous threads. I’d welcome yours, and other CE denizens’, review of the suggested order, presented below, of the causes of the disruption and cost escalations thereafter; and suggestions for improvements, revised lists (with explanations), etc.
What was the root cause and the other causes of the disruption and escalating cost of nuclear power?
1. Root cause: the anti-nuclear power protest movement’s scaremongering (see, for example, Daubert and Moran, 1985, ‘Origins, Goals, and Tactics of the U.S. Anti-Nuclear Protest Movement’ https://www.rand.org/content/dam/rand/pubs/notes/2005/N2192.pdf
2nd and higher ‘order’ causes:
2. 2nd order – acceptance of the anti-nuclear propaganda by media and public
3. 3rd order – increasing concerns and fear of nuclear power – accidents, nuclear weapons proliferation, nuclear waste, decommissioning, and health impacts of radiation and radioactivity
4. 4th order – politicians respond to the public’s fears with legislation and regulation
5. 5th order – regulatory bodies are set up to apply the laws and regulations
6. 7th order – anti-nuclear activists and concerned citizens use the laws and regulations to disrupt construction projects and operating power plants.
7. 6th order – regulatory bodies become overly zealous because of concern about the likely public and media outrage if any accidents occur
8. 8th order – responses to accidents are not appropriate for the actual health consequences and risks, when compared with the risks and consequences of the actual health consequences of other technologies, both accidents and in routine operation
9. 9th order – construction time and costs increase
10. 10th order – utilities and vendors respond by increasing the size and complexity of nuclear power plants
11. 11th order – financial and commercial risk for utilities and investors increases
12. 12th order – orders are cancelled, and rate of new orders slow
13. 13th order – learning rate turns negative
14. 14th order – deployment rate stalls
15. 15th order – development rate slows
One name says it all: Ralph Nader
Root cause: Cheap natural gas
Bob. The disruption to learning rates occurred in 1967 in the USA, 1968 in Canada, Germany France (see the others in Table 3). The root cause had to have preceded these dates. Natural gas was not cheap and plentiful back then.
Then maybe the disruption in learning rates has nothing to do with the disappointing lack of progress with nuclear power.
The correct term for the “2nd and higher ‘order’ causes” is “causal factors”.
If the first three causes on the list above had not occurred, would the disruption have occurred?
Put another way, if the public had remained strongly supportive of nuclear power, as they are of renewable energy, would the disruption have occurred?
Would the cost escalations since 1968 have occurred (other than what applies to the material and labour cost, etc. for all technologies)?
Would the industry have continued with small, fast to build, relatively simple reactors (instead of moving to the large reactors we have now), which would have facilitated much faster development?
Would the public have remained objective about the consequences of nuclear power reactor accidents, as they have with air line accidents, because the recognise the benefits of nuclear power greatly exceed the risks?
An opinion. The chart at the top of this thought provoking post is a mix of gen 1, 2, and 3. 3 might make sense where natural gas and coal are scarce, although US and Australian coal and LNG exports obviate scarcity and at relatively reasonable costs. I am very much in favor of rigorously exploring all the gen 4 nuclear fission concepts, then deciding on a couple including associated sensible regulation, then building at least one of each at at least pilot scale- I would go full scale at least several hundred MWe. The world as a whole has at least 30 years to get gen 4 nuclear ‘right’ before it foreseeably might become needed.
Hinckley Point in UK is a mistake given UK shale gas and LNG. Voglte 3 and 4 were decided before the US impact of shale gas became clear, so not a mistake at the time of decision. Whether finishing them under present circumstances is a mistake can be debated.
Congrats on being published, Peter. I am sad I was unable to help you more in preparation, but I guess I am getting old too fast.
I could propose a whole new line, this being the handicap on nuclear because from the start, instruments to measure radiation were too good, too sensitive and too cheap. Every Tom Dick and Hilary became an overnight expert in their own minds and I have no doubt, having watched it happen and been part of it, that this was a significant cause of regulatory overburden.
Such people were simply too poorly educated to deserve a place in the evolution of nuclear, but they were given voice. We should all learn from this unintended consequences of democracy.
There is also the case of Australia, isolated geographically from some effects of accidents, though never adopting nuclear despite having and mining extensive uranium deposits for export of yellowcake and the expertise to proceed through the full cycle.
What arguments against nuclear were successful in this case?
I lived through this with our (my) coporate involvement in the Ranger mine (say 1970-95) and proposals from time to time to expand into uranium fluoride production, into enrichment, into used fuel storage (like Synroc).
Looking back, I cannot identify the historic Australian impediment. It happened at a very high level, above my pay grade. Even senior politicians & bureaucrats, friends, were unsure of the source or unwilling to explain, as if it was contra to the Public Service Act.
My tentative conclusion would be that some foreign power, probably USA, ordained that Australia should not become involved and successive governments found it comfortable to comply.
But that does not help your quest for reasons for the learning curve breaks in the 1960s, in other countries. Geoff
Nuclear power was abandoned at Jervis Bay. Jervis Bay is an astonishing, undeveloped gem of a place and it would have been utter sacrilege to have built a nuclear power plant there.
“Before this recommendation was made, however, there was a change of prime minister (although not of government). John Gorton had been a supporter of the project. However, he was replaced as Prime Minister by William McMahon. McMahon opposed the nuclear power program, and the project was deferred for a year, citing financial constraints – Treasury prepared the first comprehensive comparative cost analysis in 1971 and concluded that nuclear was going to be far more expensive than a conventional coal plant. Following the discovery of natural gas and oil in Bass Strait, and the development of economic coal resources, most of the energy security incentive had evaporated. Tenders were re-called, only to be again deferred and in practical terms cancelled in June 1971. Organisations like the World Union for Protection of Life, the Ecology Action and the Society for Responsibility in Science had reported about the dangers connected with the nuclear power plant.
Some land clearing was done in preparation for the construction, and concrete footings were installed. The footings are visible to this day.” Wikipedia
If you read the World Union for Protection of Life submission – it is absolutely hilarious and had no impact at all. But no one ever bothered with commercial nuclear again. The clearing was minor but the roads are still pretty good.
Costs for earlier US reactors declined as reactors grew larger. There is of course a limit that has been reached.
There were other factors in 70’s cost escalation.
One question to ask is which bits of PWR nuclear safety equipment are not necessary. Secondary containment perhaps?
But none of this has any relevance for the future of nuclear technology. As a technologist – I have a particular fondness for high temperature gas reactors.
“The higher operating temperatures of HTGRs improve overall plant efficiency relative to PWRs. Since helium is an inert gas that will not liquefy (or solidify) and will not cause corrosion in plant piping, the material-handling aspects of HTGRs are straightforward. Unlike some other advanced reactor types, however, HTGRs operate at high pressures. The higher operating temperatures of HTGRs also provide opportunities for hydrogen production, steam for district heating, process heat, desalination services, or other applications.”
I recommend reading the rest of Section 4. At the end of the day it is pure economics in a contested market place that will determine the success or otherwise of these technologies.
Stop advertising your ignorance by quoting long extracts from dubious sources, selectively. You do not know enough about the topic to contribute meaningfully here.
I thought I’d would bring this out of the backwoods and into a glaring light. The document I quoted in this instance was a Lancet published opinion on a review of the health outcomes for 400,000 odd nuclear workers in the industry between 1943 and 2005. The study was published in the Lancet. As these things go it is recent and very large scale. Even then – there are of course confounding issues – that the opinion canvassed – but this is about as good as it gets for radiation exposure.
I am an environmental scientist specializing in biogeochemical cycling and environmental toxicology is very much a part of that and has been over decades.
Yet Sherrington who has with certainly not read the study accuses me of selective quoting dubious sources. The Lancet is far from a dubious source – is in fact an immensely respected medical journal with an illustrious history. The origin of the study was with the International Agency for Research on Cancer – an arm of the World Health Organisation. A body that is notoriously conservative on nuclear risks. I did quote their estimate of 4,000 deaths ultimately from Chernobyl. I cited other and more extreme estimates – 10,000 to 66,000 deaths for instance – ultimately from Fukushima according to Physicians for Social Responsibility. Without declaring an opinion myself. Not my expertise but I could go into much more detail on both these disasters – the response here is typically nuclear apologist arm waving and I expected no less.
Sherrington – however – proceeds without the benefit of any science or argument at all and simply behaves like a dick. It is unacceptable and I have had it out with him before. He should either talk science – something that he has never done – or piss off.
“There is no apparent physical or technical reason why these rates could not have persisted. ”
“Learning curves” can go both ways – up or down….
If it was learned that the reactors built up to 1967 (not many) were not so safe, then the “learning curve” would demand that they be made safer, i.e. more expensive.
Anyway, all this “learning curve” stuff is silly.
Please take a current, approved, nuclear plant design and show which safety measures are redundant and how you could produce a safe and cheaper design.
Wailing about anti nuclear hysteria that made reactors too expensive is absurd. The reason they are expensive is irrelevant.
Show how you could make them cheaper. Specifics, nor wailing….
First, nuclear power has been the safest way to generate electricity sicne the first power reactor began operating in 1954.
Second, The way to make them safer is not to over regulate and block theitr progress by every possible means. It’s to facilitate and encourage rapid deployment and development. Read the post again and note the comparison with rate of air passenger safety improvement over the same period.
Do you think air travel would be safer if we got rid of all the air marshals and the TSA checkpoints? Sure would save at lot of time and money. The planes maybe mechanically safer but it’s all those crazy people out there you have to worry about that can turn a passenger jet into a guided missile.
So did you know the average nuclear power plant has a 125 man security force that cost almost half a million dollars a year to protect the plant from sabotage and terrorism? Safety isn’t cheap and a nuclear power plant is some of the most expensive real-estate in the country to protect.
Yes, I know about the costs of the security. It is included in the cost of energy. The paper is about OCC, not the cost of energy. If we expand this to the cost of energy, it becomes exceedingly complex, for reasons explained by Lovering. Please try to read and understand the
I accidentally sent my response above. Please disregard it. Consider if the root cause had not happened, would the security requirements be any greater or any more expensive than for any other power plant? Remember that nuclear is the safest way to generate electricity; always has been.
A central question concerning the future of nuclear power in the United States is who should be held accountable when a nuclear project fails to deliver on its cost and schedule promises. And are criticisms of the way those projects are being managed any less valid because they are being made by people who strongly oppose nuclear power?
Once again, let’s acknowledge that the cost estimate for Vogtle 3 & 4 in 2012, when construction started in earnest, was 12 billion dollars. That estimate included the costs of complying with NRC regulations and of passing through the nuclear construction learning curve for a second time, given that construction of a clean sheet reactor design hadn’t been initiated in thirty years. The 2017 estimate is now 25 billion dollars.
This happened because Georgia Power and its original prime contractor team — Shaw Group, CB&I, and Westinghouse — ignored all the nuclear lessons learned from the 1980’s. Based on what was learned about doing nuclear right in the 1980’s, the original Vogtle team made every mistake you can possibly make in managing a complex nuclear project.
kellermfk: “I gather you [Beta Blocker] must have been in the Quality Assurance end of the business.”
My thirty-five years in nuclear construction and operations includes a variety of assignments in different facets of the industry. Quality Assurance was just one of those assignments. Others included construction supervision at plant sites, plant operations engineering and supervision, a variety of roles supporting nuclear facility management activities, nuclear construction project planning, and nuclear project cost & schedule feasibility analysis. Because most of my occupational radiation exposure has come from beta-gamma sources, my Internet handle is chosen as ‘Beta Blocker’.
In the early 1980’s, as a young engineer who had come into nuclear from another industry where the discipline and rigor of the enterprise was far less pervasive than it is in nuclear, acclimating to the work environment of a nuclear operations culture was tough.
It was during this period that I became aware of just how important it is for supervisors and managers at all levels of the nuclear project organization to take active personal responsibility for the quality and the safety of the work they are managing. Any management failures in those two areas will quickly drive up costs and will seriously impede the forward progress of the enterprise as a whole.
kellermfk: “(1) The NRC is not a partner in building and running power plants. They are regulators/bureaucrats and have no equity position in the enterprise.”
Here in the United States, it is public policy under the Price Anderson Act that in return for the US Government assuming partial liability for major damages from a nuclear disaster, nuclear power will be closely regulated by government oversight agencies. Here in the US, the NRC acts as lead agency. For nuclear power construction, the NRC’s Construction and Operating License (COL) is in effect a contract agreement signed between the power utility and the NRC which assigns each party their distinct obligations and responsibilities under current regulations and current law.
The successful nuclear projects from the 1970’s and 1980’s, the ones that stayed on cost and on schedule, did not view the NRC as an adversary. The successful projects viewed the NRC as a partner and a technical resource in determining how best to keep their project on track in the face of an increasingly more complex and demanding project environment. The nuclear industry and the ratepaying public has already paid for the NRC with its taxes. So why not make direct use of that expertise in a way which enhances the prospects for success?
On the other hand, for those projects which had significant deficiencies in their QA programs, for those that did not take their QA commitments seriously, the anti-nuclear activists introduced those deficiencies into the NRC licensing process and were often successful in delaying and sometimes even killing a poorly managed nuclear project. Who was it who handed the anti-nuclear activists all the ammunition they needed to delay or kill those projects?
kellermfk: “(2) Nuclear power is grossly over regulated and that unquestionably significantly (and needlessly) drives up costs.”
What we’ve seen in the last three decades is that managers everywhere in American industry don’t want to be held accountable for not holding up their end of a contractual bargain. This keeps a lot of lawyers busy defending large corporations in contract performance litigation and in shielding top managers from paying any kind of personal price for their gross incompetence or even their criminally dishonest negligent behavior.
But one way or another, by hook or by crook, the owners and managers of nuclear projects will be held accountable for the quality of the work they do. So whose fault is it if nuclear industry managers don’t live up to their promises? The people who call those managers to account, or the managers themselves?
kellermfk: “(3) The complexities caused by over regulation create activities that are well beyond the ability of private enterprise to reasonably manage. Further, such complexities do not make the product appreciably safer, just more expensive.”
Nonsense. That kind of opinion is nothing but an excuse to let incompetent managers evade their personal and organizational responsibilities and to avoid personal accountability for the bad decisions they make. Or, for the timely decisions they refuse to make when a good but not perfect decision is needed to quickly resolve a project issue or problem.
Back in the 1980’s, Florida Power & Light built its nuclear projects pretty much on cost and pretty much on schedule. They did that by employing strong management teams, by utilizing project control systems that were up to the task of handling nuclear’s special requirements, by maintaining a strong management commitment to quality assurance, by funding their projects at realistic levels, and last but not least, by pursuing a positive cooperative relationship with the NRC.
More recently, TVA and Bechtel completed the Watts Bar 2 construction restart project. They got it up and running by diligently hewing to their mutual responsibilities and by strict compliance with NRC requirements. After reassessing the 2007 estimate of $2 billion and adjusting it upward to a much more realistic estimate of $4 billion, the project went forward and was successfully completed, due in so small part because project funding resources were in alignment with project performance expectations.
The nuclear projects from the 1970’s and 1980’s that I’m most familiar with, the Washington Public Power Supply System (WPPSS) projects in the US Northwest, were experiencing severe quality assurance and construction productivity issues in the late 1970’s. These problems were a direct result of management’s inability to deal with an-ever changing technical and regulatory environment. As had happened with other nuclear projects in the late 1970’s that were in deep trouble, the WPPSS project’s original managers had become paralyzed in the face of ever more complex technical and regulatory requirements.
New management teams were brought in to lead the WPPSS projects. They immediately set about the task of upgrading the management control systems and of weeding out ineffective lower-tier line and department managers at all levels of the project organization.
The expectation from the new WPPSS management teams was that as a manager, you had to be willing to accept responsibility for making good decisions in a timely fashion, and that you had to be right 80% of the time. Those managers at all levels of the project organization who could not or would accept their responsibilities, those who could not or would not make a reasonably good decision in a reasonably short period of time, were shown the door.
Three of the five WPPSS projects were suspended in order to focus on Hanford WNP-2 and Satsop WNP-3. It took a year of dedicated effort to put the remaining two WPPSS projects back on track. After the necessary changes were in place and were working to expectations, construction productivity at the Hanford and the Satsop projects increased dramatically, going from half-a-percent of project completion per month to almost two-percent of project completion per month.
Only the WPPSS Hanford plant was eventually completed, finishing up in 1984. Had additional financing been obtained for the remaining Satsop plant, WNP-3 might have also have been completed. But it was not to be.
kellermfk: “The regulations and compliance need to be directed at what is actually relevant. That most emphatically does not include all aspects of nuclear power, which is what occurs now.”
I issue the same kind of challenge for you that I did for Peter Lang. For those of you who claim that the cost of nuclear power could be cut in half if only the government’s strict regulatory oversight role could be eliminated, do the professional thing.
Go through every nook and cranny of a detailed cost & schedule estimate for an NRC-regulated AP1000 reactor construction project. Revise or eliminate the project activities you see as being unnecessary or overly-expensive under what you think might be a rational regulatory scheme.
After you’ve done that, then tally up the results in a new project cost & schedule estimate that reflects your own regulatory philosophy. Then compare the two estimates in a detailed analysis that documents your conclusions using a solid, defensible body of evidence as your analytical foundation.
kellermfk: “PS I fail to see how spending tens of billions on the Vogtle plant makes any sense. Glad I do not live in Georgia.”
Left to its own devices, the power market in the United States would swing decisively towards gas-fired generation since it has the least environmental, financial, technical, and project risk. Gas-fired generation gas also has the most profit making potential for private investors given that fluctuations in the cost of natural gas can be exploited as they occur for generating added profits.
Building nuclear, wind, solar, and hydro is strictly a public policy decision. Here in the United States, none of those options would be on the table if it were not for a real or perceived need for strong government intervention in the power market place to protect the public interest.
On the other hand, what is or is not ‘in the public interest’ is mostly a matter of opinion, naturally.
Pingback: Weekly Climate and Energy News Roundup #297 | Watts Up With That?
Despite the “crazy people”, as you call them, the whole system is safer as a result of the development. Which demonstrates my point. Contrast the enormous expansion in the number of air passenger miles and the improvement in the safety of air travel, with the consequences of the throttling of development and deployment of nuclear power. The root cause is responsible for all this. What was the root cause? I suggested what it is here: https://judithcurry.com/2017/12/21/forgone-benefits-of-disruption-to-nuclear-power-since-late-1960s/#comment-863213
Reductionist molecular genetics, upon which the linear no threshold (LNT) theory of radiation harm by carcinogenesis (and mutation) is based, shipwrecks on the rock of quantum physics, specifically quantum chaos. (The same is true of much of reductionist drug-discovery driven molecular biology, accounting for the odd paradox of exponentially increasing bioscience research investment but simultaneous drying up of new drugs in the pipeline.)
Here’s the cartoons biology of radiation carcinogenesis: an ionizing particle makes a strand break in a cell’s chromasomal DNA. This can initiate neoplastic carcinogenic transformation. Sounds scary? It can’t be good surely? If even a single ionizing particle can do this then LNT must be right – there can be no safe dose?
Here’s the real world: each DNA strand on every chromosome in every cell in every human, is broken at some point every 14 minutes. Then repaired by DNA repair enzymes. There is continuous breaking and repair all the time.
What is causing all this chromatin breaking? Presumably it is something that can be exploitated politically. Is it free radicals from atmospheric pollutants or food additives? Is it the orangeness of Donald Trump’s hair? Is it climate change? Is it denyal of climate change?
No it’s none of these things. It’s just the world – the quantum world, which at atomic and subatomic scales is quantum-chaotic. On this scale our everyday concept of reality breaks down. Particles exist in a cloud of locations simultaneously, not only one. They pop in and out of existence, and forward and back in time. Quantum uncertainty and spontaneous events form a chaotic background to all atomic and molecular scale phenomena. An individual molecular perturbation, of the kind on which molecular biology including radiation biology is so myopically fixated, is of very small significance. Much larger perturbation involving many molecules simultaneously is needed to make a significant difference to a living system. This means – THERE IS A THRESHOLD FOR BIOLOGICAL EFFECTS.
Biologists need to understand the implications of quantum physics and pop their hubris.
A brick thrown into a still pond would make a significant visible splash. The same brick thrown into a raging stormy sea, would not.
What seems simple to nature we had to learn by trial and error.
When they invented the first random access memory chips it was discovered that stray radiation particles could periodically flip bits and corrupt the data. Commercial systems could just reboot but this was not cool for military weapons systems. They solved the problem by integrating a parity bit that lets the hardware calculate a checksum to detect the failures and later added Error Correction Code (ECC).
Is nuclear the safest option? Or is this another urban myth?
“The risk projections suggest that by now Chernobyl may have caused about 1,000 cases of thyroid cancer and 4,000 cases of other cancers in Europe, representing about 0.01% of all incident cancers since the accident. Models predict that by 2065 about 16,000 (95% UI 3,400–72,000) cases of thyroid cancer and 25,000 (95% UI 11,000–59,000) cases of other cancers may be expected due to radiation from the accident, whereas several hundred million cancer cases are expected from other causes.”
Although the focus has been on the major disasters – there have been hundreds of accidental releases – as well as hundreds of nuclear detonations over the years. Together they exceed by many times releases from Chernobyl and Fukushima combined. It remains impossible to be more definitive about numbers but it is an insidious and very long lasting poison. It is additive to the exposure to background sources of radiation that results in many millions of human cancers every year. Nuclear energy can be safe – but it has quite evidently not been.
“Although the health consequences of commercial fuel in developing countries are beginning to be felt, and studies show that the benefits of adopting cleaner technologies to reduce emissions from power generation and transport are almost invariably justified, we should recognise that even the dirtiest commercial fuels are less damaging in health terms than the traditional fuels they could potentially replace.” http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(07)61253-7/fulltext?code=lancet-site
Whereas even the dirtiest of coal generation has saved many millions of lives – and this remains critically important in the developing world. Going forward the availability of cheap energy is a critical resource for many reasons. Cheap energy saves lives and the most modern coal plants emit almost none of the sulfates, NOX or particulates that are the substances of health concerns.
Clean coal plants will be the backbone of energy development over much of the world for decades to come. Economics are fundamental to the greatest good.
link to the top selective quote from a dubious source – http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/ijc.22037/abstract;jsessionid=1A2F263E0E0E67F59A39A6FD1E3F5E8D.f03t03
I attended the Minsk international conference at the 10th year post-Chernobyl (1996). Very few of the thyroid cancers in children in south Belarus and Ukraine linked to Chernobyl, were fatal. Its a curable cancer when caught early, and post-Chernobyl there was robust international health surveillance of the affected populations. Interestingly no excess of leukaemia was detected, normally leukaemia excess appears 5 years post irradiation (in contrast to 25 years post-irradiation for solid cancers). Not enough irradiation of the bone marrow cavities and hemopoietic stem cells therein.
The predictions of tens/hundreds of thousands of deaths Europewide from Chernobyl were purely statistical fictions of the LNT hypothesis. Ionizing radiation is a weak carcinogen, tiny fraction of a percent incidence at low doses, with a long lag time of up to 30 years. Combine this with very high natural incidence of cancer of 30% of the human population, plus confounding factors, it’s a statistical impossibility to find these Chernobyl long term cancer deaths. So they’re not a matter of science but belief.
All correct. Thank you for adding some relevant facts. I’ll add a few more (from memory). Last time I looked, I think only 8 deaths had been attributed to thyroid cancer. Many were detected, mostly in children, and successfully treated.
Last time I looked, 61 deaths had been attributed to the Chernobyl accident. 28 from radiation sickness, 2 killed in the initial explosion, 2 fireman died from heart attachs, 28 firefighters died from radiation sickness within 30 days of the accident, the remaining 30 died from radiation and radioactive contamination related causes over the 20 years following the accident (all from memory). There will be others among the clean up workers that are not known, but the total is probably around a hundred or in the low hundreds, not the 4,000 projected by the LNT theory to occure over 70 years in all of Europe. These figures are from memory from the authoritative UN and WHO reports on the consequences of the Chernobyl accident (so some could be incorrect, but the key message is correct).
When all is considered, the radiation effects of the accident on health are small – less than in one plane crash, and much less than other technologies per TWh of electricity supplied – compared with the benefits of nuclear power. Yet all the anti-nukes and gullible people seem to believe is that nuclear is dangerous and Chernobyl proves it. The main health consequences of Chernobyl were the trauma caused by the poor information and the evacuation. Similar occurred with Fukushima. It’s difficult to make objective and rational laws and regulations when the population is so misinformed and so scared of the technology.
The evacuations themselves were indeed a significant source of fatalities – probably more than those caused by radiation. A scientist at the Minsk conference presented her account of how many elderly folk who had lived their whole lives in rural villages, died quite quickly and prematurely after being uprooted from their home village to refugee apartments elsewhere in the USSR. The authorities, under constant pressure of antinuclear NGOs, repeatedly lowered the threshold of annual absorbed dose that would trigger evacuation, uprooting more and more communities. The thresholds they eventually limbo’d down to were scarcely higher than background.
The tens of thousands unnecessarily evacuated in this radiophobic purge, and the high proportion of those evacuated who died prematurely as a result, are quite likely the biggest harmful human impact of the Chernobyl explosion. All due to an unnecessary, irrational and superstitious reaction to the accident, not the accident itself.
Dead right on all points. Here’s some added data (again from memory):
Yes. I’ve forgotten the number for Chernobyl. However, I understand over 300 deaths were caused by the Fukushima accident. Energy Matters had an interesting take on it: “Who Killed Hamako Watanabe?” https://euanmearns.com/who-killed-hamako-watanabe/
Yes, the allowable radiation limits for the public have been reduced substantially over the past 60 years. I have the figures somewhere but can’t find them right now. However, I do have the quote below from Professor Wade Allison:
If the limit was raised the cost of nuclear power and the damage cost of accidents would be reduced enormously. Much can be done to greatly reduce the cost of nuclear energy.
“Although there is controversy about the magnitude of the cancer risk from exposure to low doses of radiation, the US National Academy of Sciences BEIR VII Committee, published in 2006, a comprehensive review of the scientific evidence, and concluded that the risk seems to continue in a linear fashion at lower doses without a threshold (this is called the “linear no-threshold” or LNT model). However, there are uncertainties concerning the magnitude of the effect, particularly at doses much lower than about 100 mSv.
The Expert Group concluded that there may be up to 4 000 additional cancer deaths among the three highest exposed groups over their lifetime (240 000 liquidators; 116 000 evacuees and the 270 000 residents of the SCZs). Since more than 120 000 people in these three groups may eventually die of cancer, the additional cancer deaths from radiation exposure correspond to 3-4% above the normal incidence of cancers from all causes.
Projections concerning cancer deaths among the five million residents of areas with radioactive caesium deposition of 37 kBq/m2 in Belarus, the Russian Federation and Ukraine are much less certain because they are exposed to doses slightly above natural background radiation levels. Predictions, generally based on the LNT model, suggest that up to 5 000 additional cancer deaths may occur in this population from radiation exposure, or about 0.6% of the cancer deaths expected in this population due to other causes. Again, these numbers only provide an indication of the likely impact of the accident because of the important uncertainties listed above.” WHO
The BEIR VII committee came down in favor of LNT regardless of ‘quantum choas’. That does not by the way amount to scientific evidence. The 2015 study of 400,000 odd nuclear workers I referenced finds that cancer incidence depends on the total exposure over time. Low doses over a period seem to be as damaging as higher doses over a shorter period. As I have said – indications of a small risk in a large population are about the best that can be done. But that does not mean that there is no risk.
There is talk here of regulators demanding proofing reactors against aircraft impacts. At some point, the risk of not proceeding with such matters is a better bet than conforming. Why help to destroy an industry by excessive risk regulation, when that industry has the capacity to prevent civilian deaths by provision of cheap and reliable electricity?
Who currently decides this type of balance?
What would be the real risk of future reactors without containment structures?
Seems to me that questions like this are part of the modern day version of the causes of the 1960s slowdown for which Peter seeks comment. Geoff.
You can reimagine a scenario for the past 50 years for anything. 90% cheaper nuclear power. Ho Chi Minh surrendering after the United States bombed North Viet Nam.
Westinghouse went broke because right now nuclear is to expensive and demand the world over is not sufficient. Given the number of regulatory regimes around the world I do not think this is exclusively a problem of regulators requiring to much redundancy
I agree. What do you suggest is the root-cause (not the causal factors) of the high costs you mention?
Have you read the paper, including the notes? I interpret (perhaps misinterpret) from your comment you may not understand that the paper is a counterfactual analysis.
US EPA: https://www.epa.gov/evaluate
In paper under discussions here ‘the intervention’ or ‘the program’ is the root-cause of the disruption to progress and the cost escalations thereafter.
It is disappointing that some regular CE commenters are unaware that nuclear power is about the safest way to generate electricity, and always has been. And they don’t realise that a list of accidents and consequences for nuclear power accidents only is not a comparison of the risks of different technologies. It is just an example of repeating anti-nuclear propaganda, selective quoting, and selection bias.
Of relevance for this post, is that it provides a clear example of the likely route-cause of the high cost of nuclear power – i.e. scare-mongering causing the fear of nuclear power and all that results from that.
The ranking of the electricity generation technologies has been being estimated and reported for decades (since the 1970s or earlier). The ranking has remained essentially unchanged. Below is one example. Some others are cited in the paper.
Energy Source Mortality Rate
Coal electricity – world avg 60
Coal electricity – China 90
Coal – U.S. 15
Natural Gas 4
Solar (rooftop) 0.44
Hydro – global average 1.4
Nuclear – global average 0.09
Source: Wang, B, 2012. Deaths per TWh in Forbes. https://www.nextbigfuture.com/2012/06/deaths-by-energy-source-in-forbes.html
“The provision of electricity has been a great benefit to society, particularly in health terms, but it also carries health costs. Comparison of different forms of commercial power generation by use of the fuel cycle methods developed in European studies shows the health burdens to be greatest for power stations that most pollute outdoor air (those based on lignite, coal, and oil)…” http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(07)61253-7/fulltext?code=lancet-site
You need to look in depth at the analysis. The numbers are very dodgy – suitable for propaganda. What is disappointing is the inability to acknowledge technological progress in pollution control over decades. Talk about a learning curve.
These numbers are used by anti-coal activists – lies, damned lies and statistics of course. Peter has a different opportunistic agenda – one no less disingenuous it seems.
What is your agenda? Your arguments seem all over the place.
Modern coal is a lot safer that it used to be – and cheaper and less problematic than old nuclear technology?
Curry’s obviously starved for material again. Let’s hope it’s just a holiday shortage.
Thanks David. This paper is getting an exceptionally high Attention Score. I hope this might encourage you to spread it widely to your contacts.
4740 downloads of full paper in 6 days so far http://www.mdpi.com/1996-1073/10/12/2169
– In the top 5% of all research outputs scored by Altmetric
– One of the highest-scoring outputs from this source (#5 of 1,508)
– High Attention Score compared to outputs of the same age (99th percentile)
– High Attention Score compared to outputs of the same age and source (97th percentile)
It have hit a chord and presenting facts researchers, academics and policy makers are interested in.
Don’t be shy, send tweets to your contact list.
Citations = 0
Impact Factor of Energies = 2
Are you planning any kind of celebration if you get a citation?
How long do you think it takes to get a citation from the time a paper is published, David?
The ‘Policy Implications’ section in the paper includes this:
The purpose of the paper is to publish evidence to facilitate achievement of the first two points – i.e. recognition that the disruption occurred and recognition of the consequences of it.
The third step requires Root Cause Analysis, and development of solution options. The fourth step cannot succeed until there is widespread recognition that the disruption occurred, the consequences of it, and the benefits of a faster transition to nuclear power.
Many of the comments on this post illustrate how difficult it will be to achieve the first two steps. These comments illustrate how deeply entrenched and accepted is the anti-nuclear propaganda, even amongst intelligent, well-educated people. The responses support the contention that the root-cause of the disruption and cost escalations thereafter is the wide spread fear of nuclear power, the cause of which is some 50 years or more of anti-nuclear power protest movement propaganda. I posted a suggested root-cause and a list of causal factors here: https://judithcurry.com/2017/12/21/forgone-benefits-of-disruption-to-nuclear-power-since-late-1960s/#comment-863213 Discussion of this list and further suggestions on how to improve it would be helpful. It could help to move the discussion on this thread to a more positive contribution and tone.
“Siegel et al. provide a detailed discussion of why the assumptions of the LNT model are counterintuitive and difficult to reconcile with the biology of DNA repair and the well-established decrease in radiation toxicity by dose fractionation in clinical radiation oncology. Nevertheless, the LNT model is currently recommended by advisory bodies such as the NCRP (6,7), the International Council on Radiation Protection (8), and the United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation (9) and has been adopted by regulatory agencies such as the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (10).
The main reasons for the acceptance of the LNT model are that it is simple, it fits data from several observational studies on radiation exposure and the development of cancer fairly well (7), and no alternative model has convincingly been shown to provide a better fit to these data.” http://jnm.snmjournals.org/content/58/1/7.full
What seems counter intuitive is the we have not crossed the threshold – if it exists – with background radiation. Additional radiation causes additional cancers. This link summarizes some of the studies I have cited – but the bottom line remains. I am not about to reject the science on the basis of arm waving from these guys.
Actually, the document you have linked says that the may reason for accepting the LNT hypothesis is ref. 7… which is an NCRP document of 2001, which ends its executive summary like this:
“However, while many, but not all, scientific data support this assumption (NCRP, 1995), the probability of effects at very low doses such as are received from natural background (NCRP, 1987) is so small that
It may never be possible to prove or disprove the validity of the linear-nonthreshold assumption.”
So, LNT for low doses is far from being the final word, as you are trying to put it.
… small doses large population…
Taiwan results kill LNT dead at low dose rates:
Comparison of Health Effects: Exposed vs Non-Exposed
The mean cancer mortality in Taiwan during the period 1983–2002 (Figure 1) is 116 deaths per 100,000 person-years. (The rising incidence is likely due to the increasing life expectancy of the population as in most modern countries.) Assuming that the cancer mortality in 2003 is the same as in 2002, the number of spontaneous cancer deaths that would be expected among the 10,000 people, over 20 years, would be 232 deaths (10,000 × 20 × 116/100,000).
Cancer mortality of the general public and of the irradiated people
Based on the investigation conducted by the RSPAT, the total number of cancer deaths among these residents is only 7 in 200,000 person-years or 3.5 deaths per 100,000 person-years—only 3% of the rate (i.e., 116) expected for the general population!
The cancer mortality rate of the exposed population is also shown in Figure 1. Both the cancer deaths and the cancer mortality rate differences have high statistical significance (p < 0.001). The mortality rate from all causes was not studied; only cancer mortality and congenital malformations were of interest in this population.
While there is no complete, official prevalence rate for congenital malfunctions in Taiwan, some estimates are available. Based upon partial official statistics and hospital experiences described in the media, there are about 23 cases per 1000 children, including two infant deaths attributed to congenital malfunctions in 1000 births, about two cases of Down's syndrome and about 0.4 cases of cerebral palsy per 1000 children.
Assuming a population of 2,000 children under the age of 19 among the residents, an incidence of about 46 children with congenital abnormalities would be expected. Yet in fact, only three children, who are still in good condition, were observed to have congenital malformations (heart disease). The congenital abnormality rate for this population appears to be only 6.5 percent of the rate for general population (3/46). This difference is also highly significant (p < 0.001).
Thank you for your contributions here. People with your expertise and knowledge are few and far between. it unfortunate that people don’t know when to take notice and stop yapping about things they know absolutely nothing about.
Sailboarder, (and others)
So do many others – e.g. in India, Iran, Brazil for example.
It’s a pity this thread cannot focus on the topic of the thread instead of being hijacked by anti-nuclear propagandists. But the hijacking and continual repetition of anti-nuke propaganda (such as has been being poured out by the likes of Greenpeace, FOE, WWF, Helen Caldicott, Jim Green and many others for decades), is more evidence that the root cause of the problems with nuclear is the fear of nuclear, and the main cause of this is the anti nuclear-propaganda spread by the anti-nuclear crowd.
This reinforces the need to spread the the paper that is the subject of the thread distributed distributed as widely as possible, especially to those interested in or involved in energy policy and energy research. The faster it can be distributed at the start the more the numbers of people aware may grow to with exponential growth. So, please send it to your contacts. Readers can forward tweets by Michael Shellenberger or Judith Curry’s or others. Readers can see tweets here and select one to forward: https://mdpi.altmetric.com/details/30684227/twitter
Or send this short summary by email:
The initial paper by Chen et al 2007 on the Taiwan accidental residential 60Co exposure was flawed in that it failed to adjust for age. This is a big mistake – most cancers are in the old. So the claim that cancer rate in the affected residents was 3% of that of the population didn’t show radiation curing cancer, but simply that the residents in these new (Co-60 contaminated) apartments were mainly young.
Proper cohort study epidemiology gives a more expected result, a small cancer increase, especially in leukemia (excluding CLL) and breast cancer from this quite high exposure over a long period:
But the Taiwan cohort epidemiology still does not prove LNT. Although it may lower the probable threshold.
So… low dose radiation therapy to reduce atherosclerosis development?
“So… low dose radiation therapy to reduce atherosclerosis development?”
Don’t ask me, ask the peer-reviewed journal which published it.
Your link is about low dose radiation reducing arterial plaque formation in mice. Nice to know.
It seems to me the negativity of people toward nuclear power in the USA is the fault of Hollywood and the press. Its to bad we let the media drive our perceptions so much. I expect nuclear to make a comeback but it could take 100 years.
I am much more optimistic on big future for nuclear. “To provide [electricity] in today’s world, an ‘advanced reactor’ must improve over existing reactors in the following 4-core objectives. It must produce significantly less costly, cost-competitive clean electricity, be safer, produce significantly less waste and reduce proliferation risk. It is not sufficient to excel at one without regard to the others.” Dr. Christina Back, Vice President, Nuclear Technologies and Materials for General Atomics, May 2016 testimony before the US Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing on the status of advanced nuclear technologies.
Nuclear can do this – and the key is factory fabrication and decommissioning. And factories are where quality control and economies of scale are best realized. Deliver by truck to a site just about anywhere. Install in a concrete bunker. Seal and run for 30 years. Return to factory for fuel recycling and disposal of low level waste and some fission products. This much reduced waste stream decays within a few hundred years to background levels. Engineering is capable of containing such waste for considerably longer periods than that. Low risk of nuclear release outside the factory and no proliferation risk in the waste stream. Sealed, underground bunkers are easier to defend and harder to break into. The secret is in the fuel cell design. It is completely passively safe with -two heat sinks – that can be used as a heat source for other purposes.
“The laws of physics tell you what to do…” Dr. John Parmentola
“The new innovative small modular reactor EM2 can change the game in our energy future. General Atomics, a technology innovations firm, has more than 55 years of experience developing safe nuclear technologies. Here are highlights from the Aug. 9, 2013 briefing by GA Senior VP Dr. John Parmentola at the National Press Club on this revolutionary technology.”
I have no doubt that General Atomics have the track record to do this. What is required is generic licencing and seed money for prototypes of this and other SMR. China is building one – a pebble bed reactor. America will have 10 at least within a decade or two. After that it is sink or swim. There is of course a huge and growing market for energy.
One of the tactics of the anti nuclear protest movement is to say they support Gen IV nuclear but not current nuclear technologies for reasons : bla, bla, bla. They give current nuclear labels like “old” technology” and “outdated” etc, etc. etc. The aim is to delay progress another 20 or 30 years. Because that’s how long it will take until they become commercially viable.
It is not possible to simply jump to a new technology. It’s taken 60 years for nuclear to reach the state of development it is now at. Large complex technologies with long lives, like aircraft and thermal power plants, take much longer to evolve and develop than consumer products like mobile phones, which have lives of just a few years. If, for example, we could suddenly jump to 30% learning rate for nuclear OCC, it would require 500 GW of new capacity globally for the OCC to decrease 30%. Whereas, if not for the disruption, a 30% reduction in OCC could have occurred in 1 year, 50 years ago (cumulative global capacity of construction starts increased from 32 GW to 64 GW in 1 year in 1967).
OMG. I haven’t protested nuclear since the 1970’s. Accidents – check. Waste – check. Proliferation – check.
The are some 400 operational years for this breed of reactor since the 1960’s. Just think how far ahead we could have been now if people hadn’t wanted to reprocess for nuclear weapons.
In the meantime – HELE coal is the least capital intensive and risky energy technology in much of the world. This is Climate etc.? What global warming?
Efficient – lower CO2 emissions. Almost no particulates, sulfates or NOX. If you really have to – offset CO2 in restoring soils and ecosystems at about A$10.00/metric ton.
How ironic if the cold war ends up killing nuclear power.
And don’t get me wrong – I am opposed to operational subsidies for energy technology of any sort. It makes energy more expensive, duh, constrains development and things generally are worse than they would otherwise have been.
Let’s talk about Yucca Mountain and the debate over what to do with America’s nuclear waste. In examining the benefits and drawbacks of our realistic options, a clear distinction must be drawn between radioactive material which has a good potential for being reused for other purposes and that material which has no further value and must be permanently disposed of.
Over the next one-hundred to two-hundred years, the spent nuclear fuel we place into an underground geologic repository is just as likely to be retrieved, brought back to the surface, and reprocessed or reburned as it is to be permanently buried for millions of years. In contrast, for other types of nuclear material which has no further commercial or military value; it is ‘waste’ in every rational sense of the word, and so its final disposal path ought to travel a one-way route into a permanent underground repository.
We already have an operating geologic repository for our valueless radioactive defense wastes. The Waste Isolation Pilot Project (WIPP) in southeastern New Mexico uses the bedded salt of the Salado Formation as its host medium. There is no technical reason why the WIPP repository couldn’t accept our civilian one-way radioactive wastes as well as our defense wastes.
The Salado Formation underlies large areas of Texas and New Mexico and its bedded salt has clear technical and cost advantages over Yucca Mountain’s tuff as a host for a permanent geologic repository — if we assume that a 100-year retrieveability option isn’t being demanded of a geologic repository located in bedded salt. Including a requirement for 100-year interim storage in an underground facility greatly complicates every facet of its day-to-day operations, and for no useful gain in either nuclear safety performance or in fuel safeguard and security performance over that 100 year period.
A hundred years may pass before it becomes clear whether or not spent fuel reprocessing and/or fuel reburning in 4th Generation reactors or in molten salt reactors will become economic. Using an underground facility for 100-year interim retrievable storage will be greatly more expensive than using an equivalent surface-located Monitored Retrievable Storage (MRS) facility.
The reality of this situation has been known for more than three decades, but it has never been acknowledged in the public debate over what to do with our spent nuclear fuel.
The path to success for dealing with America’s nuclear waste issue is to use Monitored Retrievable Storage (MRS) at interim storage facilities sited above ground in politically friendly localities for our spent nuclear fuel. Two of these facilities have been proposed, one located in New Mexico and one in Texas. Each has local support for their development and eventual operation. As regards our valueless nuclear wastes — material that is ‘waste’ in every sense of the word — use the Salado Formation underlying large areas of Texas and New Mexico as the host medium for one-way permanent geologic disposal.
In the meantime, the political game must be played. If the provision for NRC licensing of a privately owned and operated surface-located MRS survives in the latest update to the Nuclear Waste Policy Act, then what could and should happen next is that both types of facilities should be licensed, but that a cost-benefit comparison analysis should then be done to officially document which approach – Yucca Mountain or a surface-located MRS facility — has the least total life-cycle cost relative to its safety performance.
Given what the known costs of Yucca Mountain are, there is little question that building a surface-located MRS for handling our spent nuclear fuel, and using WIPP for our one-way valueless wastes, would be the cheaper of the two options by far. In any case, I do not think Yucca Mountain has a prayer of ever opening, even if it is eventually licensed by the NRC. Yucca is way too expensive for the limited benefits it offers over and above a surface-located MRS facility, and no nuclear facility of any kind can be sited and operated in a state which is thoroughly determined to oppose it.
Serious consideration is now being given to locating privately-owned and operated MRS facilities in Texas and in New Mexico. Local governments in the immediately surrounding areas are on board, but it is yet to be seen whether or not the state governments in Texas and New Mexico would support these projects. WIPP in New Mexico has been recently upgraded and is operating safely and productively. In my view, the question of whether or not we will ever see civilian spent nuclear fuel being moved off of the plant sites where it now resides depends entirely upon whether or not the citizens of Texas and New Mexico want to take on the responsibility of managing this material for the next 100 years or so.
Beta Blocker: Let’s talk about Yucca Mountain and the debate over what to do with America’s nuclear waste.
The question here is whether the costs of nuclear power might be much lower today if the interruptions/modifications/regulations that were imposed had not in fact been imposed. After a fair assessment of what the cost trajectory might have been, then we can evaluate whether all of the increased costs were in fact worth it; and whether cheap nuclear power might be achievable in the future. We can not know the answer with great accuracy and for sure, but we can make reasonable assessments. What was the cost of the forgone electricity compared to the value of the new regulations etc?
The thrust of your posts is to systematically direct attention away from this key question.
Thank you for providing further clear evidence that the root-cause of the high cost of nuclear power is the anti-nuclear protest movement’s campaign. I’d make these points:
1. Your comment is off topic for this thread. The paper is about:
• Counterfactual analysis
• Overnight construction cost learning rates
• The disruption to the learning rates around 1968
• The stall in global construction starts around 1976
• The benefits forgone as a result
• The number of deaths that could have been avoided if not for the disruption and ongoing cost escalations since
• The quantity of CO2 that could have been avoided
This post is about one aspect of the paper; i.e. whether or not the pre-disruption learning rates could have persisted if the root cause of the disruption had not occurred. Neither you nor anyone else has provided any sound, technical or physical reasons, or any convincing, well-argued case explaining why the early learning rates could not have continued.
2. You say
No. Let’s not. That’s off topic. It’s a clear example of using any mention of nuclear power to roll out the anti-nuke talking points.
It’s a clear example of the 4th of the “10 signs of intellectual dishonesty”, which is:
3. Note this:
Peter, a claim as bold as the one being made in the paper — that nuclear’s costs might have been reduced to ten percent of what they are now if only the nuclear learning curve hadn’t been interrupted by increasingly complicated and oppressive government regulation starting in the the late 1960’s — is a claim which invites an expansion of the discussion well beyond the narrow bounds of the paper.
Here in America, the inflation-adjusted cost of a nuclear-generated megawatt is roughly twice what it was in the early 1990’s. But the regulatory framework under which current nuclear construction is now being done in America simply isn’t that much more aggressive than it was at the beginning of the 1990’s.
Your analytical approach ignores important sources of influence on nuclear power’s costs which are largely independent from those imposed by America’s regulatory agencies.
For a large nuclear plant like an AP1000, the basic cost of concrete, structural steel, construction consumables, major and minor plant systems, skilled labor, administrative overhead, land, and ties to civil infrastructure are largely independent of nuclear-specific regulatory requirements.
The paper also ignores the fact that historically, in the 1970’s and early 1980’s, there was considerable variation from one nuclear project to another in how well America’s power utilities were able to manage and control the added costs of an increasingly complex technical and regulatory environment.
Those American nuclear projects which had strong management teams and a robust set of management control systems stayed pretty much on cost and on schedule. Those projects that didn’t have what it took to deal with an increasingly complex project environment saw their costs balloon considerably, doubling and sometimes even tripling their original cost estimates.
As many of these American projects went forward, it became evident that the NRC had given licenses to power utilities which were not able to do the things they said they were able to do. Concerning the methodological approach the paper uses in doing its analysis, it cannot be assumed that there existed a uniform level of technical and managerial competency among the 1970’s and early 1980’s nuclear projects.
Looking at today’s situation with VC Summer and Vogtle 3 & 4, America’s nuclear industrial base has withered in lockstep with the decline of other major American industries — steel, aluminum, mechanical systems, electrical equipment, specialty manufacturing, mining and milling, etc. etc.
As it is in many areas of industrial expertise where America was once on top, much of the technical skill base and the management expertise which built the nuclear plants of the 1970’s and 1980’s is now either retired or is lying in the graveyards.
In any case, without doing a detailed bottoms up estimate of a nuclear project run under a much relaxed regulatory scheme, and then comparing that estimate to an identical project being run under tight NRC regulation, it is impossible to isolate the cost influence of regulatory oversight from the influence of other cost elements associated with the general state of America’s industrial base as a whole.
Concerning what I said about Yucca Mountain, the costs of America’s nuclear waste policy as it is now written is another important aspect of the total cost picture which the paper systematically ignores.
Our current policy, as it is now embodied in the Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982/1987, was formulated on a philosophy of managing defense high level wastes and civilian spent nuclear fuel in the same repository. If we follow the written policy as it now stands, we would be placing one-way valueless material into the same repository as material which has every potential of being retrieved, significantly increasing the costs of managing both types of material.
It is thought by some experts that the NWPA as now written will cost two-hundred billion dollars to implement over the next fifty years. If we believe these experts, the price will be one-hundred fifty billion dollars more than it might cost if the two major types of nuclear material were to be handled using separate disposal pathways, defense wastes going to WIPP in New Mexico and civilian spent fuel going to a surface-located MRS facility as interim status waste.
That one-hundred fifty billion dollars not spent on a hole in the ground in Nevada could buy fifteen to twenty AP1000 reactors over the next fifty years, maybe more if the learning curve for building AP1000’s could be shortened somehow. This isn’t chump change by any means, and considerations of this kind must play an important role in figuring out how the cost of nuclear power can be reduced in the future to make it more competitive than it now is.
This is not the claim. That is another of your frequent misrepresentations, disingenuous claims and another demonstration of your intellectual dishonesty.
Peter Lang: “This is not the claim. That is another of your frequent misrepresentations, disingenuous claims and another demonstration of your intellectual dishonesty.”
Here in the United States, the amortized upfront capital costs of a nuclear plant are a very significant portion of the total life cycle cost of buying, owning, and operating a large nuclear facility.
Before the advent of cheap natural gas as a result of the fracking boom, the relatively low cost of nuclear fuel in comparison with natural gas made up for nuclear’s high upfront capital costs and for the added costs of the nuclear-grade operational and maintenance requirements imposed by America’s government regulators.
Two major nuclear construction projects have blown their original cost and schedule estimates in a big way, and there is now considerable uncertainty as to what the future of nuclear power is in this country.
Peter, the ball is in your court to further explain what the paper’s claim actually is, as that claim might be usefully applicable to the circumstances we here in the United States now find ourselves in.
Please read the paper (including the Notes in Appendix B, understand it, and stop mis-represeting what it says. Also read the Lovering et al. paper and their response to critique. Clearly, you have not bothered to try to understand what it’s about before writing an posting your long, off topic, anti-nuclear rants and disingenuous comments.
“This is not the claim. That is another of your frequent misrepresentations, disingenuous claims and another demonstration of your intellectual dishonesty.”
The root cause is Peter’s inability to cope with informed debate.
Robert I Ellison: The root cause is Peter’s inability to cope with informed debate.
Not in evidence here. You and Beta Blocker are trying to divert attention away from informed debate on the question posed above. Granted that the regulations and other interventions by policy makers had honest motives, what have been the costs of the forgone electricity, and would nuclear power now be much cheaper without the particular interventions. According to some “dire” warnings, many lives will be lost if humans continue to burn fossil fuels, and many lives will be lost from reductions in electricity use. Might those lives have been savable if the costs of nuclear power had declined, and might they have declined as recorded without the policy interventions?
If there is no “dire” global warming induced by CO2 emissions, it is a moot point. But some writers, indeed some at climate etc, advocate massive re-investment in non-fossil fuels to forestall threats to human life, other life , and civilizations. To someone who thinks that CO2 poses such dangers, it ought not be a moot point. It may be that the lives saved by the safety and environmental regulations may be greatly outnumbers by the lives lost to the consequences of CO2. So it should be studied. What are the real electrical and human costs of the safety regulations?
The evidence provided in the quote is Peter’s signature response.
To respond constructively to the paper and this thread, you first need to understand what a counterfactual analysis is and how it is used.
In the case under discussion here, ‘in the absence of the intervention’ or ‘in the absence of the program’ means “in the absence of the root-cause” of the disruption to progress and the cost escalations thereafter. We want to identify the root cause.
To identify the root-cause, Root Cause Analysis is required (constructive comments from denizens who have expertise in this field would be educational and much appreciated).
What do you suggest is the root-cause, as distinct from the causal factors? Please present a convincing argument that explains why you believe it is the root-cause.
Here’s my suggestion of the root cause and a list of some causal factors is in a separate comment below.
Reblogged this on I Didn't Ask To Be a Blog.
Despite the challenges, advancements in safe and economical nuclear power are happening as demonstrated by NuScale Power. http://www.nuscalepower.com. Small modular reactors that can be manufactured at a fraction of the price of older large-scale reactors and that operate much more safely (e.g. no coolant pumps to fail) could change the world.
My suggestion of what was the
Root-cause and causal factors of nuclear power cost escalation since late-1960s?
What was the root cause and causative factors of the disruption of nuclear power learning rates and cost escalation thereafter?
1. Root cause: the anti-nuclear power protest movement’s scaremongering (see Daubert and Moran, 1985, ‘Origins, Goals, and Tactics of the U.S. Anti-Nuclear Protest Movement’ https://www.rand.org/content/dam/rand/pubs/notes/2005/N2192.pdf
2. acceptance of the anti-nuclear propaganda by media and public
3. increasing concerns and fear of nuclear power – accidents, nuclear weapons proliferation, nuclear waste, decommissioning, and health impacts of radiation and radioactivity
4. politicians have to react to the publics fears with legislation and regulation
5. regulatory bodies are set up to apply the laws and regulations.
6. anti-nuclear bodies and concerned citizens use the laws and regulations to disrupt projects and operating power plants.
7. regulatory bodies become overly zealous because of concern about the likely public and media outrage if any accidents occur
8. response to accidents is not appropriate for the actual health consequences and risks, and is not comparable with the risks and consequences of the actual health consequences of other technologies
9. construction time and costs increase
10. utilities and vendors respond by increasing the size and complexity of nuclear power plants
11. financial and commercial risk for utilities and investors increases
12. orders are cancelled, and rate of new orders slow
13. learning rate turns negative
14. deployment rate stalls
15. Rate of development slows
Alan Wyatt, 1978. The Nuclear Challenge; Understanding the Debate. https://www.amazon.com/Nuclear-Challenge-Understanding-Debate-Wyatt/dp/B002G05ITA
Victoria L. Daubert and Sue Ellen Moran, 1985. Origins, Goals, and Tactics of the U.S. Anti-Nuclear Protest Movement. Rand Corporation, Prepared for The Sandia National Laboratory. https://www.rand.org/content/dam/rand/pubs/notes/2005/N2192.pdf
The US experience? The early period is characterized by increasing reactor size and economies of scale – the latter by higher inflation largely in response to oil costs.
The methodology used here does not address causality – and to ascribe all cost increases to anti-nuclear propaganda is unsupported speculation. Absurd speculation at that.
1954–1968, 18 demonstration reactors
“Between 1954 and 1968, starting with the first reactor at Shippingport, 18 demonstration reactors were ordered and completed. In this first phase, overnight construction cost (OCC) decline sharply, from a high of $6800/kW to a low of $1300/kW, an 81% drop, or an average annualized rate of decline of 14%. In this period, reactor size increases from under 80 MW to 620 MW, suggesting economies of scale were important.”*
1964–1967, 14 turnkey reactors
“The second phase, from 1964 to 1967, represents the era of turnkey contracts. The OCC of these 14 reactors are in the range of $1000-1500/kW, a 33% drop, or an average annualized rate of decline of 13%. In this period, reactor sizes increase to a range of 800–1100 MW.” *
48 reactors completed pre-TMI
“These reactors follow a trend of increasing costs by 187%, or an annualized rate of 23%. Phung (1985) attributed these pre-TMI cost increases to emerging safety requirements resulting from pre-TMI incidents at Browns Ferry and Rancho Seco. Two outliers, Diablo Canyon 1 and 2, cost about $4100/kW in overnight construction cost, and were completed 17 and 15 years later, in 1984 and 1985.
A break in construction starts is visible around 1971 and 1972, which is likely attributable to a confluence of events affecting nuclear power construction in the late 1960s and early 1970s. These include the establishment of the Environmental Protection Agency in 1971, and the AEC’s gradual loss in public trust and its eventual replacement by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) in 1975. Golay et al. (1977) determined that 88 reactors in various stages of permitting, construction, and licensing were affected by the 1971 Calvert Cliffs court decision resulting in revised AEC regulations that included back-fit requirements.”*
51 reactors completed post-TMI
“Finally, the last 51 completed reactors represent a set that began their construction between 1968 and 1978 and were under construction at the time of the Three Mile Island accident in 1979. For these reactors, OCC varies from $1800/kW to $11,000/kW. Thirty-eight of these reactors fall within a mid-range of $3000/kW to $6000/kW, with 11 between $1800 and $3000/kW and 10 between $6000 and $11,000/kW. From the OCC of about $2,000/kW for reactors beginning construction in 1970, OCC increases another 50–200%, or an annual increase of 5–15% between 1970 and 1978.”*
And the root-cause of the disruption was?
As usual, a pile of irrelevant quotes, but no answer.
Try responding for a change. The mechanism for early cost declines were given as increasing reactor size – the latter cost increases were caused by high inflation in part.
But you have no method of addressing causality and your ‘root causes’ are pure speculation.
Your first line btw is:
“Could the costs of nuclear power have been 10% of what they are if not for the disruption?”
This is apparently not ‘the claim’ of the post. Thank God – it seems total BS. I have previously compared the US with Korea and China. The delays and safety of regulation might result in double the OCC in the US but even that seems unlikely.
You have not answered. What was the root cause? Why was it the root cause? You are challenging what I suggest is the root-cause, but you do not have an alternative. You keep suggesting causative factors. They are not the root cause. What do you think are the root-cause? And why?
What was the root cause of escalating costs?
It includes inflation.
But you have no rational basis for any of your claims of root causes. Your methodology does not address causality. The complete absence of causality in the method is the most obvious thing about it. You have not gone beyond it to put real cost components to any claim.
You still have not answered the question. What was the root-cause. “Includes inflation is not the root cause”.
You have assumed a root cause – and appear surprised that people disagree.
But as a root cause of cost escalation – high inflation seems an obvious contender.
So you disagree with what I’ve suggested, but you can’t or won’t offer a an alternative root-cause that you are able to defend? In other words you have nothing of value to offer on this subject. It would appear, you are simply trying to disrupt the thread and drive away everyone who could make a valuable contribution to the discussion.
Seeking an image for an art illustration, I did a Google search of “Images of uranium yellowcake.” There were many images, each with a story attached. I ranked the nature of each story as pro, anti or neutral to uranium. The first 20 searches gave pro 2, anti 9 and neutral 9.
I did not question why an art picture request should lead me to advocacy. I did not do a search/ranking to the depth of the 96% Cook consensus paper, but I was surprised at the weight of anti even by this unplanned rough count.
I mention it here in support of your comment “Root cause: the anti-nuclear power protest movement’s scaremongering” and suggest that opposition to uranium and nuclear is now so entrenched that it cannot be denied that there was an active education program to push the anti line. Geoff.
Let’s see if we can tie down the points of disagreement.
First step: is to agree to participate in a rational discussion? Are you willing to answer “Yes” to all three questions here? I am.
A flowchart to help you determine if you’re having a rational discussion http://twentytwowords.com/a-flowchart-to-help-you-determine-if-youre-having-a-rational-discussion/
The three main areas where there appears to be disagreement are:
1. The results in my paper which show that the OCC of nuclear power in the six countries with pre-disruption learning rates would be around 10% of current costs if the pre-reversal learning rates had continued and the deployment rates were the same as the historical actual; and 2% to 10% (excluding India) if both the pre-1976 deployment rates and the pre-reversal learning rates had continued.
2. this post – could the OCC of nuclear be around 10% of current costs if the disruption to learning rates had not occurred?
3. The root cause of the disruption and the cost escalations thereafter.
Let’s begin with the first subject area – the paper. Do you accept that:
1. If the pre-reversal learning rates had continued and the deployment rates were as per the historical actual, then the OCC of nuclear power in 2015 would be around 10% of what it is now?
2. If the pre-reversal learning rates had continued and the pre-1976 deployment rates had continued, then the OCC of nuclear power in 2015 would be around 5% to 8% of what it is now?
Refer to the bottom section of Table 3 in the paper: http://www.mdpi.com/1996-1073/10/12/2169/htm
Unless you have physical cost components – labor, materials, equipment etc, there is no basis rational analysis of changing costs. Your methodology does not – as I said – address causality at all.
The early cost decreases in the US are to some extent the result of larger and more thermally efficient plants. That has gone as far as it can go to the extent that high capital cost is now a problem in itself. That ‘learning rate’ could not be continued.
Factors other than anti-nuclear propaganda –
are far more fundamental to latter day costs escalations. Increasing costs of labor, materials, equipment, etc.
I’ll take your non-response as a No – i.e. that you are not willing to participate in a rational discussion. I expected that.
It seems that rational means agreeing with a quite irrational thesis.
No, It means being willing to be honest and to agree to engage in a rational discussion – something you clearly are unwilling to agree to.
“1. If the pre-reversal learning rates had continued and the deployment rates were as per the historical actual, then the OCC of nuclear power in 2015 would be around 10% of what it is now?”
It was predominantly the result of increasing reactor size in the period. Something that could not continue.
“2. If the pre-reversal learning rates had continued and the pre-1976 deployment rates had continued, then the OCC of nuclear power in 2015 would be around 5% to 8% of what it is now?”
Big if. Especially considering CPI increases in the relevant period. Costs started rising around 1967.
“Phung (1985) attributed these pre-TMI cost increases to emerging safety requirements resulting from pre-TMI incidents at Browns Ferry and Rancho Seco.” So were there emerging safety requirements? We still haven’t found out which safety bits are not required.
The methodology doesn’t address causality – and without that it is purely speculative to make the leap to ‘root causes’. I don’t know how much clearer I can get.
Being prepared to engage in a rational discussion means being prepared to answer “Yes” to these three questions and abide by the four rules (excerpt from the flow chart here: http://twentytwowords.com/a-flowchart-to-help-you-determine-if-youre-having-a-rational-discussion/) :
Q1. Can you envision anything that will change your mind on this topic?
Q2. If one of your arguments is shown to be faulty will you stop using that argument (with everyone)?
Q3. Are you prepared to abide by the basic principles of reason in discussing this topic
I will talk to you about this topic providing the following are rules are obeyed:
1. Do not introduce new arguments while another argument has yet to be resolved
2. Do not move to another argument if it is shown that a fact you relied upon is inaccurate
3. Provide evidence for your position or arguments
4. Do not argue that you do not need evidence”
It appears, you are not prepared to agree to answer the three questions or agree to obey the four rules.
I have answered your two questions. And this is just completely bonkers.
No. You have not answered the questions. Your answers do not address the two questions. Your answers are making assertions about what you believe are the causes. This is not what the questions are about. Try to answer the questions.
And it is not “bonkers” to expect you to be willing to agree abide by the rules of rational discussion.
Robert I Ellison: That has gone as far as it can go to the extent that high capital cost is now a problem in itself.
Is high capital cost still a problem? Interest rates on nearly all kinds of loans are much lower now than 30 years ago. The increased duration of construction that resulted from the combination of (a) non-standardization of design and construction practices and (b) increased regulatory burden is a major problem — isn’t it?
Yes it is.
Note [V] in Appendix B in the paper is relevant to your point:
It is significant that the construction time has been increasing since the first reactors were built. Arguably, had we continued to build small reactors instead of moving to larger and larger reactors, the designs are likely to have moved to small, modular, factory built nuclear power plants long ago. Production would probably have ramped up as it has for planes, cars, and consumer products. Competing vendors would have focused on reducing production costs by improving designs and increasing production quantities; it is likely they would have moved to building small units instead of increasing the size of the units.
What might have happened in the past if not for the loss of confidence in nuclear power and the consequent regulatory ratcheting is, of course, speculative. That is why examination of the causes of the disruption was excluded from the scope of the paper. Note [XII] in Appendix B in the paper says:
Here I respond to several assertions made on this sub-thread so readers are not misled, which could happen if they are left unanswered.
The assertion that the root-cause of the disruption was inflation is incorrect for several reasons. OCC is in real $. Therefore, inflation is not the root-cause of the cost increases. The root-cause has to explain the real cost increases. Furthermore, if inflation was the root-cause, as distinct from a causative factor, a credible explanation is needed as to why the OCC of all technologies did not increase equally; for example, a credible explanation is needed as to why nuclear power plants increased by a factor of seven while OCC of coal-fired plants increased by a factor of only 1.7, over the same period. The cost increase of coal plants can be explained by the additional costs attributable to increasing environmental regulations. But the reasons these were required for coal and gas (e.g. SO2, NOx, particulates and toxic emissions) were not applicable for nuclear power.
You have asserted several different root-causes for the disruption on this thread, while rejecting the obvious, most likely one, which I suggested here: https://judithcurry.com/2017/12/21/forgone-benefits-of-disruption-to-nuclear-power-since-late-1960s/#comment-863525 . Your most recent assertion is that the root-cause was the “pre-TMI cost increases to emerging safety requirements resulting from pre-TMI incidents at Browns Ferry and Rancho Seco.” However, these are causative factors, not the root-cause. We need to have a credible explanation of what caused the increased regulatory requirements to be implemented, considering that nuclear power is and always has been the safest way to generate electricity. If the population, media and politicians had understood this, and had understood the real costs (in terms of benefits forgone) that the regulatory ratcheting would cause, would the politicians and regulatory organisations have engaged in the regulatory ratcheting that caused the large cost increases for nuclear power? A credible alternative root-cause has not been identified or suggested. Unfortunately, you seem unwilling to acknowledge this and unwilling to accept that the anti-nuclear protest movement’s effectiveness at scaring the population is the most likely root-cause of the disruption and the costs escalations since.
If you want to refute the root-cause I’ve suggested, you need to suggest an alternative root-cause and provide a credible argument showing that, if your suggested alternative root-cause had not occurred, the disruption would not have occurred.
Clearly, there was an abrupt reversal of learning rates in about 1967-68. Clearly, there was a root-cause for that. Clearly there was no technical or physical reason why nuclear power learning rates could not have continued. Therefore, the main causative factors were socio-economic. But what was the root-cause? One obvious explanation is the success of the anti-nuclear power protest movement in scaring the population leading up to the disruption, and ever since (despite the historical record showing nuclear is the safest way to generate electricity, and always has been). If not for the anti-nuclear power protest movement, and the public’s and media’s acceptance of their propaganda, nuclear power may have remained popular, as it was in the 1950’s and early 1960s, and as renewable energy has been for the past 40 years or so.
But during the base period, costs such as long-term safe storage of spent fuel and decommisioning of over-age reactor complexes were hardly even perceived as important issues. Maybe the recognized cost factors would have declined as projected, but these costs that were not in the base have to be added in, and at what level?
More generally, anyone can put a straight-edge on a piece of graph paper, and the sophisticated ones use semi-log paper, but that isn’t really an argument, it is at most a demonstration that something may be worth looking into.
Thank you for your comment.
Nuclear fuel waste management costs were always included in the levelised cost of electricity estimates that were done by the authoritative bodies, such as OECD/NEA/IEA. it is not included in the OCC, so not included in the learning rates discussed in the paper. It amounts to about 1% of the cost of electricity (from memory). Lovering et al. explain in their paper why they used OCC for learning rates, not the full capital cost including IDC, and not LCOE. They expanded on their explanation of their reasons in their excellent rebuttal of the two critiques.
Learn rates are log plots to base 2. They are the fractional reduction in cost per doubling of capacity or production. They were first developed in the 1920s (from memory), where they were applied to factory production. They have been very widely used since in many industries.
Have you read the paper http://www.mdpi.com/1996-1073/10/12/2169 , or are you just responding to this thread?
Peter, I’ll have more to say next week. I can guarantee that if you didn’t like what I said this week, you’ll be liking next week’s comments even less. Have a happy new year.
[repost with corrected format – JC, please delete the previous versions of this comment]
On the contrary, your wide ranging, off-topic, andi-nuke rants provide excellent examples of why the anti-nuke protest movement is the likely route cause of the disruption and the cost escalations since.
Please keep your comments on topic and relevant to these issues:
1. The paper: http://www.mdpi.com/1996-1073/10/12/2169
2. This subject of this post, including “Could the costs of nuclear power have been 10% of what they are if not for the disruption?”. Please provide credible arguments to show that the arguments presented in the head-post on this thread and in relevant Notes in Appendix B in the paper are incorrect. Please also take the time to understand what a counterfactual analysis is, is not, and how and why they are used.
3. The likely route-cause of the disruption of the learning rates in the late 1960s and the cost escalations thereafter
Please understand the diagnostic properties of a root-cause, and do not confuse it with causal factors. There is a great deal written about the causal factors of the escalating costs of nuclear power. No need to rehash them here. But, if you believe the route-cause I suggested here https://judithcurry.com/2017/12/21/forgone-benefits-of-disruption-to-nuclear-power-since-late-1960s/#comment-863525 is not the most likely route-cause, please state why and offer an alternative with a credible argument to show why it is more likely to be the route-cause than the one I suggested – which is the highly successful anti-nuke protest movement’s propaganda campaign.
[repost with corrected format – JC, please delete the above previous version of this comment]
Summary the key outcomes of the discussions on this post – to end of 2017
1. No errors of fact have been identified in the paper: ‘Nuclear Power Learning and Deployment Rates: Disruption and Global Benefits Forgone’ http://www.mdpi.com/1996-1073/10/12/2169
2. The following two statements have not been challenged but not credibly refuted. The cause of the disruption is not relevant to these tow statements. They are simply the result of projecting historical trends to 2015.
• If the pre-reversal learning rates had continued and the deployment rates were as per the historical actual, the OCC of nuclear power in 2015 would be around 10% of what it is now?
• If the pre-reversal learning rates had continued and the pre-1976 deployment rates had continued, then the OCC of nuclear power in 2015 would be around 5% to 8% of what it is now?
3. Regarding the question posed at the start of this thread: “Could the costs of nuclear power have been 10% of what they are if not for the disruption?”, no credible argument or evidence has been presented to demonstrate the answer to the question in “No”. Although there have been many assertions that this proposition is ridiculous and “BS”, most of them are due to a misunderstanding of what counterfactual analysis is and of what learning rates are; and that current designs, current costs of inputs, and socio-economic conditions, are not a credible indication of what these conditions might have been if the root-cause of the disruption had not occurred. The fact is that there is no technical or physical reason why the OCC of nuclear power plants could not have continued to decline at the pre-disruption learning rates. Therefore, the causes of the disruption are not physical or technical limitations or constraints.
4. The causes of the disruption and cost escalations thereafter was an issue raised and discussed in many comments. Many assertions were made about the causes. However, most or all were about causative factors, not the root-cause. It seems, the difference between root-cause and causative factors is not widely understood, and the diagnostic criteria of root-cause are not understood. I suggested a root cause of the disruption, and some causative factors, here: https://judithcurry.com/2017/12/21/forgone-benefits-of-disruption-to-nuclear-power-since-late-1960s/#comment-863525 . This suggested root-cause was not refuted by any credible argument or evidence. Nor has a credible alternative root-cause been suggested.
‘Nuclear Power Learning and Deployment Rates; Disruption and Global Benefits Forgone’ statistics at the end of 2017 were:
5812 downloads of the full paper (only one download per unique computer ID is counted). These downloads were in 91 countries. (http://www.mdpi.com/1996-1073/10/12/2169
The top 10 countries for number of 10 downloads were:
North Korea 133
• In the top 5% of all research outputs scored by Altmetric
• One of the highest-scoring outputs from this source (#5 of 1,513)
• High Attention Score compared to outputs of the same age (99th percentile)
• High Attention Score compared to outputs of the same age and source (97th percentile)
Once again, I remind Peter Lang and others who buy into his macroeconomic analysis of the costs of nuclear power that my comments apply to the nuclear construction industry as it operates here in the United States.
The comments I offer here reflect my own experiences in America’s nuclear industry over the past thirty-five years and my own opinions concerning the issues nuclear construction here in the United States has faced in the past and the issues it now faces going forward into the future.
In previous comments, I have offered my own perspectives concerning what drove the costs of nuclear construction in the 1970’s and 1980’s, perspectives which Peter and many others here and elsewhere refuse to acknowledge. Numerous studies done in the 1980’s validated those perspectives and documented the kinds of issues I was seeing for myself while working in nuclear construction and operations during that period.
As pointed out in the J.R. Lovering (et al) paper from April 2016, the US experience in the 1970’s and 1980’s is the extreme example of cost growth in nuclear power construction.
It is very convenient, and very common, for those who support an expansion of nuclear power in the United States to blame government regulation and the anti-nuclear activists for the high capital cost of new-build nuclear construction in this country.
Driven by the bad news and the anti-nuclear criticism generated from the VC Summer and Vogtle 3 & 4 project management debacles, pro-nuclear partisans are now attempting to shift blame for the massively blown cost estimates away from the people who managed these failed projects and onto the people who opposed those projects. Past history from the1970’s, 1980’s, and early 1990’s suggests this is not a winning strategy for promoting nuclear power in the United States.
Here in the US, Peter Lang’s paper serves the needs of those who don’t want to acknowledge what factors actually drive the high capital cost for a new-build megawatt of nuclear generation capacity in today’s environment and who want to avoid responsibility and accountability for not properly managing those costs. These factors are:
— The general decline over the last twenty-five years of America’s industrial base taken as a whole.
— The general lack of a skilled work force in all technical areas that are specifically important to nuclear construction.
— High costs across the board in the United States for all skilled labor categories and for skilled technical and managerial expertise.
— High costs for complying with the array of environmental, safety, and health regulations that affect all industrial construction projects in the United States, not just nuclear projects.
— High costs for land, for upgraded access to power distribution infrastructure, and for access to civil support infrastructure.
— Lack of competing suppliers for nuclear-grade components and systems and for a variety of other kinds of industrial-grade process support systems and components.
— High costs for all bulk and consumable commodities (steel, concrete, piping, fasteners, etc.) used in the construction of any large-scale industrial facility.
— The cascading cost impacts from poor quality work that results in substantial rework of those safety significant systems and components which are subject to all of the cost drivers listed above, in addition to the costs directly imposed by NRC quality assurance requirements.
The real cost all industrial construction done in the United States is roughly double what it was twenty-five years ago. In an environment such as the one we face today, costs can quickly get out of control if proper diligence isn’t being applied to managing the quality of the work being done.
The construction costs of a large nuclear reactor system such as the AP1000 are especially vulnerable to the impacts of bad decision making and a lack of management diligence in controlling costs and in meeting the NRC’s quality assurance requirements. If a safety significant system or component doesn’t meet its approved specification, then for all practical purposes, the system or component must be purchased twice.
Given the severe management problems that have been evident at VC Summer and Vogtle 3 & 4 from the very beginning of construction, it is no surprise then that the estimated cost for two AP1000’s went from $5,000 per kilowatt in 2012 to $11,000 per kilowatt in 2017. If Vogtle 3 & 4 is ever completed, those two AP1000’s will be the last large unitary reactor systems ever constructed in the United States. No one in their right mind will take a chance on building another one.
Could the adoption of the Small Modular Reactor (SMR) technologies as an alternative to the AP1000 size reactors overcome these problems?
The talk I’m hearing in the industry is that yes, the SMR’s have good potential for reducing not only nuclear power’s high capital costs; but just as important, for reducing nuclear power’s technical and financial risks.
For SMR costs to be successfully contained here in the United States, the SMR vendors must establish their own dedicated industrial base, one that can insulate their SMR technologies from the forces that drive the high capital costs of America’s larger industrial base as a whole.
A pilot SMR construction project using NuScale’s SMR technology is now underway with Fluor as the EPC. Twelve prototype 50 megawatt SMR units will be installed in eastern Idaho with operation slated for 2026. The project is being managed in full compliance with the NRC’s quality assurance requirements and will be used by the NRC as its own pilot project in determining how best to regulate an SMR-focused nuclear construction industry.
When the 12-unit SMR facility is complete and operational, a base of knowledge and experience will have been established that allows the costs and the financial risks of an SMR-based nuclear industry to be properly identified and controlled. When the inevitable objections are raised by anti-nuclear activists against the new SMR reactors, the issue will be easily addressed. SMR technology will be in full compliance with stringent NRC standards and the public’s interest in maintaining strong government oversight over nuclear power will have been fully maintained with no compromise.
If everything goes as currently planned, SMR technology will then be technically and commercially mature and be ready for manufacture and installation when and where it is needed; and more importantly, where it is wanted.
This is simply a repetition of previous anti-nuke rants.
This is not a macroeconomic analysis, so your presumption is wrong from the start. It demonstrates, again what I’ve said in previous responses. You have not read and understood the paper. So, your comment is based on misunderstandings and misrepresentations.
As I’ve said previously your opinions are just that – one person’s opinions from his very limited perspective and biases. They are not based on objective research, nor an understanding of the paper you are criticising.
Yes, many studies documented causal factors. Many others explored the root-causes and attributed it to the fear of nuclear power and radiation and attributed that fear to the anti-nuclear protest movement’s propaganda (I quoted some, but I doubt you have read them). You have not attempted to deal with the root-cause. You just keep repeating your beliefs based on your experiences – from decades after the start of the disruption.
and documented the kinds of issues I was seeing for myself while working in nuclear construction and operations during that period.
Yes, these causal factors are well known and well documented. But these were not the root-cause. I’d urge you to understand the difference. In previous comments you tried to attribute the primary cause of the disruption to incompetence of the engineers and construction managers, without trying to understand the root-cause. I quoted this from Bernard Cohen, 1990, ‘Cost of Nuclear Power Plants – What went Wrong’:
You haven’t responded to that, nor have you responded to or shown why the root-cause, that I suggested, is in correct, nor provided an alternative. You are not addressing the issues. Instead you are simply repeating your beliefs based on your personal experience.
You quote from Lovering et al 2016, but clearly have not understood their paper. First, you apparently have not understood that they distinguish between ‘learning by doing’ and ‘experience curves’. As I explained in the Introduction to my paper (which you clearly have not read carefully), I used the term ‘learning rates’ instead of the more appropriate term ‘experience curves’ for reasons I explained in the paper. Second, Lovering et al. did not calculate learning rates or experience curves. I did that. It is original work. Third, Korea started building nuclear power plants after the disruption and initial rapid cost escalations. It began from the high costs that prevailed in the US in the 1970’s. It had no construction starts before the disruption, so there is no pre-reversal learning rate and no estimation of OCC in 2015 at projected pre-reversal learning rate. Clearly you have made no real attempt to understand the paper. Your comments are a complete waste of time. Worse they are misleading and full of misunderstandings and misrepresentations.
Totally irrelevant to this paper. These projects are not included in Lovering et al. data for reasons clearly explained in their paper. So the data is not included in the learning rate analyses. Furthermore, they occurred after the disruption so are not relevant to the projections of the pre-reversal learning rates.
Actually, the reverse is the case. You are avoiding dealing with the root-cause. Instead you keep trying to blame the project managers and engineers. Re-read the Bernard Cohen quote above (and may similar explanation from many others).
This is nothing more than the personal opinion of an anti-nuke. The paper is not about new build in today’s environment. This further demonstrates you haven’t read the paper with an intention to try to understand it. Frustrating and hopeless. This is an example of the sort of anti-nuclear rants that have been doing so much damage for the past 50 years.
None of your list of eight points is the about root-cause.
The remainder of your comment is not relevant to the paper or this post. I’ve already explained why in previous comments on this thread. Pity you don’t address the issues and respond to the actual paper, the post, or to my previous replies. However, by far the most important issue you should address is what you suggest was the root-cause of the disruption to learning rates and the cost escalations thereafter? And provide a credible explanation and justification for what was the root cause and why the one I’ve suggested is wrong. But, before you can do that you need to understand the difference between root-cause and causal factors.
Thank you for another off topic, anti-nuke rant, demonstrating once more that the anti-nuke protest movement is the most likely root-cause of the disruption to progress of nuclear power in the late 1960s and the cost escalations thereafter
What does he imagine macroeconomics is? The entire essay is a litany of error. Peter’s argument is that we don’t understand, are intellectually dishonest and rabidly anti-nuclear. That doesn’t sound right.
There is an avoidance of any analysis of the factors that influence costs of construction. The entire ‘analysis’ is based on aggregate cost curves – rather than costing from first principles. The ‘root cause’ of early cost decreases – as stated in the Lovering et al paper – is the increase in the size of reactors and increased thermal efficiency and economies of scale. There is of course a limit to the size of reactors that has possibly been reached and passed – with attendant problems of capital cost, complexity and quality control.
Later cost increases are in part regulatory delays and extended construction periods – but also an environment of inflation that increased costs across the board.
These are real world factors that are demonstrably applicable. Unlike the pure and unsupported speculation that anti-nuclear activists are the prime cause of nuclear cost increases. The aggregate cost curves do not address causality.
““To provide [electricity] in today’s world, an ‘advanced reactor’ must improve over existing reactors in the following 4-core objectives. It must produce significantly less costly, cost-competitive clean electricity, be safer, produce significantly less waste and reduce proliferation risk. It is not sufficient to excel at one without regard to the others.” Dr. Christina Back, Vice President, Nuclear Technologies and Materials for General Atomics, May 2016 testimony before the US Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing on the status of advanced nuclear technologies.
The root failure however is the failure to recognize where current nuclear technology has progressed on problematic issues of safety, proliferation and waste as well as offering the potential for lower cost electricity. Arguing that there are not problems of safety, proliferation and waste – as well as costs – is counter productive. I am far from anti-nuclear – but flogging a dead horse seems pointless.
By adding some some reality to the discussion?
Robert Ellison, in your previous comments concerning Peter Lang’s paper, you have noted the presence of several important issues and factors that are very useful in describing the environment in which the nuclear power industry operates today. Moreover, the issues and the factors you have noted are generally the ones which are most influential here in the United States.
All of the comments you have offered here so far deal with the hard realities nuclear power now faces in today’s world, realities whose impacts cannot be properly assessed for their cost impacts using an ivory tower analytical construct such as the one Peter Lang has created.
The Lang paper is among the more sophisticated of the attempts now being made to assign blame for the high capital costs of nuclear power squarely on the backs of government regulators and the anti-nuclear activists.
The paper is a misapplication of root cause analysis technique as it is normally applied in causal analysis practice. A framework analytical mechanism has been constructed which controls not only the analysis process itself, but which also attempts to limit and control the context, the boundaries, and ultimately the informational content of any further discussion, debate, and criticism being offered about the paper.
What’s been done in the Lang paper is not all that different conceptually from what the Mann hockey stick papers do. Mathematical techniques and cherry-picked assumptions isolate and prioritize the impacts of one important factor among several from other factors which are just as influential and just as important in determining not only what it was that happened in the past, but why.
Just as there exists a lucrative market for Mann’s hockey stick in the realm of public policy debate over climate change, a market exists here in the United States for analysis products which support the view that not only is nuclear power over-regulated in America, it is ridiculously over-regulated and would be fully competitive with natural gas, and just about as safe as natural gas, if only the NRC’s regulation of the industry could somehow be eliminated.
For myself, I won’t play Peter Lang’s game. Concerning Matthew Marler’s questions, I’ll make a stab at responding to them next week, using his questions as yet another opportunity for offering more opinions as to what history teaches us about what works and what doesn’t in promoting the option of expanded nuclear power.
As I predicted late last week, Peter didn’t like what I had to say this week. I was 100% accurate in making the prediction, and it’s a trend certain to continue. If Peter didn’t like what I wrote last week and this week, he won’t like what I’ll be writing for Matthew Marler next week.
I agree with your comments – that were based obviously on a welcome depth of experience. I anticipated with some amusement the response from Peter Lang.
The method used by Lang is a pure cost curve that does not address causal factors – and it is then assumed with little to no justification that the period of cost decreases was a learning rate and the subsequent cost increases the fault of rabidly anti-nuclear activists. But there were of course evident confounding factors in there. The relevance of which were dismissed as ignorance, dishonesty, anti-nuclear activism or off topic. It is avoidance rather than open and productive discourse.
JC snip? I generally avoid responding to Matthew.
I suggested you send a post to JC instead.
Robert I. Ellison,
Another off-topic, anti-nuclear rant.
Still does not provide a credible explanation of why the root-cause I suggested here https://judithcurry.com/2017/12/21/forgone-benefits-of-disruption-to-nuclear-power-since-late-1960s/#comment-863525 is not the most likely root-cause.
Still does not suggest, and provide a credible justification for, an alternative root cause.
Still apparently does not understand the difference between root-cause and causal analysis.
Still has not answered these two questions (as precursor to the next questions) https://judithcurry.com/2017/12/21/forgone-benefits-of-disruption-to-nuclear-power-since-late-1960s/#comment-863638
In fact, he avoids answering the questions and, instead, repeats his beliefs about the causes (but presents causative factors, and has not suggested a credible alternative root-cause).
Hasn’t shown why the peer reviewers got it so wrong, but thinks he knows better (despite having zero expertise in the relevant fields; and having not even understood the paper, as his previous comments on this thread demonstrate).
Still will not agree to participate in a rational discussion – he seems to believe it is “bonkers” to do so. Why would he believe rational discussion is “bonkers”?
If he cannot agree to obey the rules of rational discussion, much of what he says can be assumed to be disingenuous, dishonest, misleading and misrepresentations. There is no point trying to discuss anything with him, because he invariably does not address the question or the substance of the issue but diverts to something else he wants to say. These are all clear signs of intellectual dishonesty, e.g. Sign 10 of the “10 Signs of Intellectual Dishonesty” https://judithcurry.com/2013/04/20/10-signs-of-intellectual-honesty/ .
4. Avoiding/Ignoring the question or “ . . . and let’s not forget about . . .” Anybody who refuses to admit that their argument is weak in an area and, worse still, avoids answering difficult questions in that area is being intellectually dishonest. If they don’t ignore the question, these people are easily recognised from their efforts to change the subject.
How is a discussion of nuclear energy off topic. Beyond that I have stopped reading.
Robert I Ellison: How is a discussion of nuclear energy off topic.
The particular discussion referred to here avoided the topic of Forgone benefits of disruption to nuclear power since late-1960’s
The U.S. built about 100 nuclear power plants in about 25 years. Then it built about 0 for about 25 years. What benefits from an additional 100 or so nuclear power plants were foregone? And why?
Granted that the motivation to interrupt the building trajectory that had been established was based on defensible reasoning, what was the cost of the result?
You and Beta Blocker have persistently avoided the topic.
By adding some reality to the discussion.
Robert I Ellison: By adding some reality to the discussion.
While avoiding some reality.
Please elucidate. What reality have I avoided?
Please pardon my reposting this in the proper place.
Beta Blocker: While several countries show increasing costs over time – with the US as the most extreme case – other countries show more stable costs in the longer term and cost declines over specific periods in their technological history. Moreover, one country, South Korea, experiences sustained construction cost reductions throughout its nuclear power experience.
What was the loss accounted for by the increased cost of construction, i.e. what are the Forgone benefits of disruption to nuclear power since late-1960’s ?
[What] Can the U.S. learn from the experience of S. Korea?
When the 12-unit SMR facility is complete and operational, a base of knowledge and experience will have been established that allows the costs and the financial risks of an SMR-based nuclear industry to be properly identified and controlled. When the inevitable objections are raised by anti-nuclear activists against the new SMR reactors, the issue will be easily addressed.
We can hope. The anti-nuclear activists I have met have not to date been impressed by comparisons of the dangers and safety issues of nuclear power plants in operation. “if everything goes as currently planned, ….” Good luck and best wishes. I certainly support the development of the SMR designs.
SMR technology will be in full compliance with stringent NRC standards and the public’s interest in maintaining strong government oversight over nuclear power will have been fully maintained with no compromise.
How much of the increased cost of construction was caused by the creation of those “stringent NRC standards”? How much loss (e.g. deaths, electrocutions, fires) was prevented by the adoption of those standards? How is a multidecade delay “no compromise”.
Beta Blocker: While several countries show increasing costs over time – with the US as the most extreme case – other countries show more stable costs in the longer term and cost declines over specific periods in their technological history. Moreover, one country, South Korea, experiences sustained construction cost reductions throughout its nuclear power experience.
What was the loss accounted for by the increased cost of construction, i.e. what are the Forgone benefits of disruption to nuclear power since late-1960’s ?
[What] Can the U.S. learn from the experience of S. Korea?
When the 12-unit SMR facility is complete and operational, a base of knowledge and experience will have been established that allows the costs and the financial risks of an SMR-based nuclear industry to be properly identified and controlled. When the inevitable objections are raised by anti-nuclear activists against the new SMR reactors, the issue will be easily addressed.
We can hope. The anti-nuclear activists I have met have not to date been impressed by comparisons of the dangers and safety issues of nuclear power plants in operation. “if everything goes as currently planned, ….” Good luck and best wishes. I certainly support the development of the SMR designs.
SMR technology will be in full compliance with stringent NRC standards and the public’s interest in maintaining strong government oversight over nuclear power will have been fully maintained with no compromise.
How much of the increased cost of construction was caused by the creation of those “stringent NRC standards”? How much loss (e.g. deaths, electrocutions, fires) was prevented by the adoption of those standards?
Matthew Marler, here is my response to your questions. I’ll illuminate some of these topics further next week as I have time.
matthewrmarler: “[What] Can the U.S. learn from the experience of S. Korea?”
Not being an expert on specific foreign nuclear programs, I think it can generally be said that the skilled manpower and most of the material items needed to build a large nuclear power plant are considerably cheaper and more readily available in Asia then they are here in the United States.
Industrial safety and health standards for manufacturing and for industrial construction are considerably less restrictive in Asia. When it comes to nuclear safety and nuclear quality assurance requirements, China and South Korea claim to be just as rigorous as the US in enforcing tight regulatory standards. But do they actually walk the talk? I hear mixed opinions on that score.
The nuclear construction industries in South Korea and China have also have the benefit of seeing what has worked and what hasn’t in other nation’s pathfinder nuclear projects and have adapted their own projects to avoid the problems seen in other countries.
Possibly the largest difference in how things are done in China versus the US is that they bundle construction of four and sometimes six reactors together so that the theoretical economies of scale of building multiple reactors together have greater effect and that their skilled nuclear work force is kept busy and well tuned up for the next project on the schedule.
South Korea has a competitive nuclear construction industry which serves international customers as well as in-country projects. The new Korean President, Moon Jae-in, wants to shut that industry down completely, along with eliminating nuclear power from his own country’s energy mix.
Now is that stupid, or is that stupid? In any case, he is determined to do it.
Beta Blocker: “When the 12-unit SMR facility is complete and operational, a base of knowledge and experience will have been established that allows the costs and the financial risks of an SMR-based nuclear industry to be properly identified and controlled. When the inevitable objections are raised by anti-nuclear activists against the new SMR reactors, the issue will be easily addressed.”
matthewrmarler: “We can hope. The anti-nuclear activists I have met have not to date been impressed by comparisons of the dangers and safety issues of nuclear power plants in operation. “if everything goes as currently planned, ….” Good luck and best wishes. I certainly support the development of the SMR designs.”
No anti-nuclear activist will ever be convinced that nuclear power is safe. No arguments anyone can offer in promoting one nuclear technology over another because it has better safety features or that it generates less radioactive waste will ever gain traction with a committed anti-nuclear activist.
Anti-nuclear activists are generally anti-industrial in their outlook, because, in their view, all industrial activities generate poisons, degrade the environment, kill people through accidents and through a variety workplace health hazards, and put workers under the thumb of opportunistic money-grubbing capitalist businessmen. It’s why anti-nuclear activism is so deeply embedded in the progressive movement, and probably will always be.
All this said, there are distinct flavors of anti-nuclear activist in terms of how effective they are in opposing nuclear power.
There are those who march in the streets carrying signs and who chain themselves to the plant gates and who pen letters to newspapers and to regulatory agencies at the behest of other activists. And then there are anti-nuclear activists who have a thorough understanding of how public policy decisions are made; who understand how nuclear regulation and oversight processes operate; who understand how large industrial projects must be managed in order to stay on cost and on schedule; and who know how to fully exploit any weaknesses that may exist in a nuclear project’s regulatory compliance record or in its project cost & schedule history to argue against further pursuit of that project.
OK, when I say “the issue [of nuclear safety] will be easily addressed” I mean this: If the SMR’s have been designed and constructed under a strong regulatory framework, the public’s interest in maintaining oversight of the technology will have been maintained. As long as the SMR technologists stay in compliance with the terms of their NRC licenses, they cannot be successfully challenged in the courts on matters concerning basic issues of nuclear safety or on issues concerning lack of compliance with NRC standards, if they have fully complied with 10 CFR 50 requirements.
Looking again at VC Summer and Vogtle 3 & 4, one other thing that can be said for certain is this: Something is very wrong in America’s nuclear industry When informed anti-nuclear activists have a better appreciation of what it takes to deliver a nuclear construction project on cost and on schedule than the corporate CEO’s of those construction project do. It is time for the nuclear industry to be taking a hard look at itself and start taking the steps needed to restore confidence that America’s nuclear industry has a basic level of project management competency.
Beta Blocker: “SMR technology will be in full compliance with stringent NRC standards and the public’s interest in maintaining strong government oversight over nuclear power will have been fully maintained with no compromise.”
matthewrmarler: “How much of the increased cost of construction was caused by the creation of those “stringent NRC standards”? How much loss (e.g. deaths, electrocutions, fires) was prevented by the adoption of those standards?”
When it comes to assessing the added costs of NRC regulation on a specific nuclear construction project from a strict accounting standpoint, it is not possible to do this without going into the detailed cost & schedule estimate for that project and then assessing each individual project activity affected by 10 CFR 50 Appendix B against what that same activity would have cost if the NRC’s requirements weren’t in force.
To my knowledge, no one anywhere has taken this approach in evaluating the raw dollar cost of NRC regulation on the nuclear construction industry. It’s been much too easy to offer self-serving speculation as to what these costs actually are, as opposed to performing a objective assessment of a real-world nuclear project to arrive at some verifiable truth as to what NRC compliance actually costs us.
Now, if you want to get an idea of how project costs are distributed inside a large AP1000 reactor project among the various cost categories and across the major plant facilities and subsystems, google this paper and download the pdf.
ANALYSIS OF GW-SCALE OVERNIGHT CAPITAL COSTS
Robert Rosner and Stephen Goldberg
Energy Policy Institute at Chicago
The Harris School of Public Policy Studies
As for doing a precise quantitative assessment of how many deaths, electrocutions, fires etc. etc. are avoided by a conservative approach to regulating nuclear power, it is likewise impossible to do this kind of thing from a strict accounting perspective.
Identifying events that might happen in the absence of strict regulation but probably won’t happen if strict regulations are in force and have been properly applied to the nuclear facility is only partially an objective process — one which sometimes misses the mark because no safety analysis process can be perfect. It’s a matter of balancing risk and probability against consequences. We do this kind of thing all the time in other industries and to a lesser scale in our daily lives.
I’ve added a second suggested root-cause. It’s probably impossible to prevent the first; the second suggests root cause is perhaps what should, in retrospect, have been implemented at the time, and throughout the five decades since the disruption, to counteract the first of my suggested root-causes.
I’d welcome constructive contributions and rational discussion on the root-cause, especially from those with expertise in root-cause analysis.
Root-cause and causal factors of nuclear power cost escalation since late-1960s?
What was the root cause and causative factors of the disruption of nuclear power learning rates and cost escalation thereafter?
1. The anti-nuclear power protest movement’s scaremongering (see Daubert and Moran, 1985, ‘Origins, Goals, and Tactics of the U.S. Anti-Nuclear Protest Movement’ https://www.rand.org/content/dam/rand/pubs/notes/2005/N2192.pdf )
2. Failure of policy analysts, politicians, regulatory bodies, industry bodies (e.g. WHO, IEA, OECD, NEA, IAEA, DOE, EIA, and equivalents in other countries) to recognise the root-cause and counteract the risk perception factors by educating the public that nuclear power, although not totally risk free, is actually the safest way to generate electricity. (This is a relevant short post: ‘The REAL Reason Some People Hate Nuclear’: https://bravenewclimate.com/2014/02/02/the-real-reason-some-people-hate-nuclear-energy/ )
Some causative factors:
3. acceptance of the anti-nuclear propaganda by media and public
4. increasing concerns and fear of nuclear power – accidents, nuclear weapons proliferation, nuclear waste, decommissioning, and health impacts of radiation and radioactivity
5. politicians have to react to the publics fears with legislation and regulation
6. regulatory bodies are set up to apply the laws and regulations.
7. anti-nuclear bodies and concerned citizens use the laws and regulations to disrupt projects and operating power plants.
8. regulatory bodies become overly zealous because of concern about the likely public and media outrage if any accidents occur
9. response to accidents is not appropriate for the actual health consequences and risks, and is not comparable with the risks and consequences of the actual health consequences of other technologies
10. construction time and costs increase
11. utilities and vendors respond by increasing the size and complexity of nuclear power plants
12. financial and commercial risk for utilities and investors increases
13. orders are cancelled, and rate of new orders slow
14. learning rate turns negative
15. deployment rate stalls
16. Rate of development slows
Good list. Looking at recent US projects I think of one thing that ties to the others but is not explicitly indentified. The additional demands combine with a large scale project to ensure a high level of complexity. While there are tools and methods for complexity- as it rises the challenges increase exponentially. It seems like the confined space and technical, regulatory, logisitcal of nuclear plants is pushing our capabilities. Each extra burden has a stronger impact than the one before. I don’t have a strong exposure to the particulars but as you approching 10,000 people on a site – you have to run a bus system, security, scheduling… You have to make sure group A is not in group B’s way but they must finish before group C who…. and B is dependent on group C….
I would appreciate your opinion on the claims being made in the charts and data as presented here:
I get the distinct impression there is a global trend towards a more distributed and decentralized electric infrastructure. If nuclear wants to compete in this vision of the future it must move to smaller modular reactors.
PE, thank you. I’ve replied below to allow more levels for discussion.
You are on the money when you say that complexity matters. While most of the complexity can be eliminated by skillful design the government at the behest of Greenies makes sure that will never happen in the USA.
To illustrate my point the Martin county power plant operated by FP&L has a nameplate capacity of 3.6 GW and a staff of ~250. The Oconee plant operated by Duke Energy has a capacity of 2.5 GW and a staff of 1,400.
The difference? The Martin county plant uses fossil fuels while Oconee is nuclear. The Oconee plant has 350 security staff and more than 700 paper pushers.
As Freeman Dyson points out designing nuclear plants is no longer a fun occupation. It will become fun again the day after the NORKs detonate a EMP weapon over Nebraska.
Thansk you for this very interesting post: https://diggingintheclay.wordpress.com/2013/06/02/electric-power-in-florida/. Good work on getting all that information.
And doesn’t it demonstrate how crazy is the nuclear regulations and what ever it is that causes the safest way to generate electricity to have hugely costly security costs.
The key question we need to answer if we want to remove the impediments that are retarding nuclear power development and deployment, and what policies are needed to remove them, is this:
What was and is the root-cause of the irrational and excessively costly nuclear regulations?
JackSmith4tx -I’m not too impressed by those claims. The numbers seem to be put in the best light. You can make optimistic projections and extend trends, but they don’t always hold up. We are not adding a lot of generation at this time (efficiency improvments, years of bad economy, previous overbuilding) so what is being added may look large as the part of total additions – it’s small numbers.
I do think modular nuclear reactors have value though. A big one would be if you could put them in areas where fossil fuel generation is not allwoed do to air quality concerns. They could provide generation and “essential reliablity services” near load centers.
Good examples galloping camel. Peter – what is the root cause related to complexity – taking on projects with too much complexity. Have to simplify. Could be less ambitous design, smaller size, less regulation…..
Thank you for your comments on this. Root Cause Analysis (RCA) is not me area of expertise, so I welcome all constructive inputs and rational discussion.
This is one of many causal factors. Having identified this one, the next step in RCA is to undertake “5 Why’s Analysis” to get to the root cause.
“Determine the Root Cause: 5 Whys” https://www.isixsigma.com/tools-templates/cause-effect/determine-root-cause-5-whys/
I’ll open up with the first “Why?” question. I’d welcome contributions from, others, especially those who have expertise in RCA.
Why have nuclear power plants become so large and complex?
• Comment: The early plants were small, reliable, operated for decades, built quickly (the first nuclear power reactor in operation in the USA was built in 1.8 years, and the first ever in 3.5 years), and history demonstrates nuclear has been the safest way to generate electricity from the start. So, why did we move to large extremely complex reactors? Submarines and ships have small nuclear power plants that are more reliable and safer than diesel-battery-electric, and run for 30 years on a fuel load? Why didn’t we continue building small modular nuclear power reactors that are equivalent size to gas turbines, and built in two years; these have lower financial risk, accidents have smaller consequences, and development proceeds much faster, resulting in faster learning rates?
For some relevant background, please read Notes [V], [IX], [XI] and [XII] in Appendix B http://www.mdpi.com/1996-1073/10/12/2169/htm
“Why didn’t we continue building small modular nuclear power reactors that are equivalent size to gas turbines, and built in two years; these have lower financial risk, accidents have smaller consequences, and development proceeds much faster, resulting in faster learning rates?”
NPPs will make a come back when it is realized that power generation based on large generating stations and a high voltage power grid is just asking for an EMP strike or a Carrington event.
The USA can build at least two nukes per day (~100 MWe) in factories (73 GW/year). We can export these things on a large scale and thereby take back our leadership position in NPP technology, In particular we should sell SMRs mounted on (small) ships that can deliver power to the many major cities around the world that abut oceans.
Each reactor will be small enough to be delivered on a single truck, with everything installed “below grade”, except the cooling system. In the event that the cooling system is destroyed (e.g. Fukushima) the reactors will fail safe by using gravity to dump the molten fuel into tanks.
Generation IV MSRS can consume up to 99% of their fuel (cf <1% for our existing NPPs) and they can consume the spent fuel from existing nuclear reactors (aka "Nuclear Waste") making Yucca Mountain an irrelevant bondoggle.
The nuclear waste produced by Generation IV reactors will be mainly short lived isotopes, some of them so valuable that they will be separated and sold rather than stored (Platinum, Pu238 etc.). See the EM2 graphs in an earlier comment by the well informed Robert I. Ellison:
“What was and is the root-cause of the irrational and excessively costly nuclear regulations?”
Nuclear power has been demonized by the “Green” movement that has gathered immense political power by teaming with statists everywhere. It is not just the prosperity of our children that is threatened. Individual liberty is slipping away almost everywhere.
Thanks again GallopingCamel. I agree.
Do you have any comments or points to discuss about my suggested root cause and some causal factors here: https://judithcurry.com/2017/12/21/forgone-benefits-of-disruption-to-nuclear-power-since-late-1960s/#comment-864394
Could you let me know if you have read the paper, including the Notes in Appendix B. The paper is about the past 60 years, not prediction or speculation about future technologies. It’s purpose is to publish the evidence to support the first two of the four dot points near the end of the “Policy Implications” section. Since questions have been raised on this thread about the cause of the disruption, I am trying to generate a discussion about the root-cause of the disruption and costs escalations thereafter. The purpose is to start to address the third dot point in the “Policy Implications” section.
…”‘Figueres admitted that the Global Warming conspiracy set by
the U.N.’s Framework Convention on Climate Change, of which
she is the executive secretary, has a goal not of environmental
activism to save the world from ecological calamity, but to destroy capitalism. She said very casually:
“This is the first time in the history of mankind that we are setting
ourselves the task of intentionally, within a defined period of time,
to change the economic development model that has been
reigning for at least 150 years, since the Industrial Revolution.”
Hit the West’s economy where it hurts most. Easy to direct a
fear campaign at Nuclear Energy, ooh, spooky radiation!
Then go for ol’ King Coal.
I re-read your comment #864394. I skimmed through the Rand paper including the list of protests in Appendix “B”.
It is clear that the Sierra Club and others have been highly effective in impeding the exploitation of nuclear power and to a lesser extent the development of nuclear weapons.
I ran for office in 2002 against a nuclear hysteric. I thought my reasoned pro-nuclear stance would help my cause but it worked in my opponent’s favor.
I am a fan of Brave New Climate even though Barry Brook banned me from commenting there some years ago. For laughs here is a link to a guest post at BNC before I got banned:
So I had already read Martin Nicholson’s guest post and found his arguments persuasive. Perhaps not a surprise given that we both studied physics and electrical engineering at the same university!
Given that I served on a radiation safety committee at a university that operated a facility with lethal levels of radiation I fear ionizing radiation in the same way that I fear high voltage electricity. Both can be handled safely if you have the right training. I guess that is why the US Navy has an excellent nuclear safety record.
While the down side of nuclear power absurdly over-hyped with talk of “Mega-deaths” I have personal experience of the aftermath of the Chernobyl accident as one of my friends has been bringing victims to the Duke University Medical Center for treatment not available in Belarus.
gallopingcamel, thank you for this and your other comments.
Thank you GallopingCamel,
I agree about Sierra Club. I’d add to my list I mentioned in comment #864394 (i.e. (e.g. WHO, IEA, OECD, NEA, IAEA, DOE, EIA) these: EPA, Greenpeace, WWF, FOE, ACF, Amory Lovins, Ralph Nader, +++)
I well remember those days and many discussion on BNC. I didn’t know you’d run for office. You certainly have an enormous amount of valuable, real world experience to contribute. Pity you didn’t get elected. It would be good if Michael Shellenberger becomes Governor of California, but I can’t imagine a majority of Californians being supporters of nuclear power, or a nuclear power advocate, no matter how excellent are his communications skills.
To avoid taking the thread off track, I am mostly not responding to comments that are not on these three topics:
1. are there errors of fact in the paper http://www.mdpi.com/1996-1073/10/12/2169
2. the credibility of one of the paper’s conclusions – i.e. that costs of nuclear power could have been 10% of what they are now if not for the disruption?
3. the root cause of the disruption and the cost escalations thereafter.
Thanks for your comments on the Daubert and Moran paper. My question was confusing. I meant to ask if you had read the paper that is the subject of this post, and also read the Notes in Appendix B. The paper is here: http://www.mdpi.com/1996-1073/10/12/2169. The reason I asked is because you hadn’t commented on it and your comments made me think you may not have. I’d welcome your comments on it (and any notes in Appendix B you find interesting or would like to discuss).
Galloping Camel – While I don’t want to take this thread off topic, I did find youri post re: solar in Florida interesting. I also noticed another posts re: wind in Denmark. At that time, the claim was that Denmark was producing 20% of it’s electricity from wind. Today, the number is over 40%. Do you know of any updates to that article that provide real data?
Read yr letter in The Australian’ Newspaper today, critical
of Snowy River speculative assumptions and unpublished
analysis on which they’re based. Are we jest supposed to
trust w/out evidence, that renewables will meet our energy
requirements long term?
Thank you. I am trying to avoid taking the thread off topic, but feel free to comment all you like. However, just this once, for you I will digress and respond to your comment :)
Re the Letter in the Australian the Editor added an “and” in this sentence and it substantially changed the meaning:
“Some assumptions in the article are: the belief that carbon dioxide emissions are dangerous [and] will continue …”
They also deleted the last paragraph which said:
“The claims about the additional grid costs are also disingenuous. The additional costs for a grid with a large proportion of dispersed, intermittent, renewable generators and central storage, would be huge. The additional grid costs for nuclear are small in comparison.”
However, I can understand why they deleted it. It needs more explanation. It needs a letter of its own.
Peter, no wish to divert from thread, I’ll just add re yr letter,
‘deceitful edit’ to play with yr meaning.
Thanks. Please keep commenting, whether I respond or not.
Peter – my guess is that you already know about this organization, but if not, you may want to check them out. They are a pro-nuclear advocacy group based in Berkeley, CA. http://environmentalprogress.org/
Thank you. Yes I do. Michael Shellenberger’s tweet (as well as Judiths’) gave an enormous boost to the paper’s Attention Score.
See Michael Shelleberger’s tweet here (and feel free to forward it to your contacts): https://mdpi.altmetric.com/details/30684227/twitter/page:4
See the rapid download rate, on 21-22 December after his and Judith’s tweets, on the ‘Article Metrics’ chart near the bottom of this page: http://www.mdpi.com/1996-1073/10/12/2169
See the number of full downloads in 93 countries so far on trhe ‘Article Access Statistics’ world map (click on HTML full download): http://www.mdpi.com/1996-1073/10/12/2169
See the Attention Scores here: https://mdpi.altmetric.com/details/30684227#score
I was against nuclear technology from the start. The technology was too powerful and too immature. Fifty years has gone by – and the problems of error and accident, radiation hazard, proliferation risks, waste containment and the sheer size, complexity and cost of nuclear are unresolved. The old designs utilize 1/2% percent of the energy in nuclear fuel. This is both a waste that can be recycled and otherwise leaves a legacy of long lived trans-uranic actinides.
This was anticipated in the 1970’s and instead is the legacy of public caution the nuclear industry must now live with.
The new deigns being commercialized avoid all – depending on the design – of the problems of nuclear power. Inherently safe and proliferation resistant – minimize the volume and half life of waste and reliably supply cost competitive electricity? And heat, hydrogen and liquid fuels potentially.
This 250MWe design has been costed at $1.5 billion. Delay capital expenditure by installing modules over time.
For a nuclear hysteric you are really well informed. Everything you say is based on facts.
It rather reminds me of my debates with Rickard Alley at Penn State University. Richard is a fun person and I really respect his work.
Great work! Great data! Wrong conclusions:
The USA has made major decisions biasing nuclear technology toward toward what served nuclear weapon production. We had a cheap MSR (Molten Salt Reactor) sixty years ago that could be switched off at 1700 hours on Friday afternoon and turned back on at 0700 on Monday morning. It was “Fail Safe” in the sense that the reactor core was dumped in the case of overheating even in the event of a total power failure
You have probably seen this ancient video but if not please enjoy:
If Alvin Weinburg had not been fired today’s Nuclear Power Plants would be intrinsically safe and some of them would be running on Thorium which produces more Pu 238 than Pu239..
Still no credible contribution to the discussion of the root cause of the disruption, which occurred around 1967-68, and the cost escalations thereafter. Just more repetition of the same copy and past quotes.
Nuclear power is the safest way to generate electricity by a large margin. It always has been. Continually repeating and implying that nuclear power is dangerous is arguably the main cause of the excessive regulations, financial risk for investors, and the delays to progress (see notes V, VIII, IX, XI, XII, and XIII in Appendix B in the paper here: http://www.mdpi.com/1996-1073/10/12/2169.
Continually copying the posting the same quotes over and over again is typical of the anti-nuclear protest movement. They also try to delay progress by saying current designs are unsafe and too expensive, we must advocate for new designs and wait until they are ready – which decoded means wait for decades.
The anti-nuclear propaganda has caused nuclear power plants to be some 10 times more costly than they could otherwise have been and to be less safe than they could have been if development had continued at the pre-disruption pace. (This was one of the subjects of the post and it has not been credibly refuted in comments on this thread, so far). The anti-nukes argue we should move to Gen IV designs and that they are available and ready now. This statement is blatantly false. They are not available for adoption now. It will take many decades to reach this stage, and be accepted by utilities as economically advantageous, proven commercially viable and an acceptable financial and investment risk.
<As we all know “Prediction is very difficult, especially if it’s about the future.” – according to Yogi Berra, or Niels Bohr, or Albert Einstein, or Mark Twain, or Somebody :). As to which technology will emerge as commercially viable and dominant in the future, we have no idea. Advocating and speculating about any particular future technology design is no more likely to be correct now than it was in the past – virtually all such speculation turned out to be wrong.
So – even in the late 60’s I was right?
Robert I Ellison: So – even in the late 60’s I was right?
What have been the Forgone benefits of disruption to nuclear power since late-1960’s ?
You write a lot of interesting stuff, but you evade that question.
Foregone is economic and disruption political. Flotsam and jetsam on the tide of time borne on in a wave of history.
But this is just old fashioned nuclear with maybe some modern materials and fuel core design. Not something novel. There were – btw – no quotes.
Continuing the idea of speculating; a corollary is – if the average new automobile sold in the US today is (pick a number) $22,000 then it would be assumed that the average EV of 20 years from now, although cheaper to build, will still be $22,000 in 20-year-from-now money. Its already been established that with all that must be purchased or will be purchased what will be spent on things like transportation and energy, as long as its not in desperate supply, will always exist. So discussing the cost of something in the future is actually already known, not speculative at all. Basically people need jobs and businesses supply those jobs as well as the payment for the work done by those job performers. There may be inflation or deflation or neither but the only payments made to purchases will be whatever businesses can afford to charge while at the same time keeping people employed. It the life cycle.
Thank you for your contribution. However, I strongly disagree with you on this point:
Who projected, in 1960 or earlier, that the real cost of passenger air travel per passenger mile would decrease by a factor of 4 from 1960 to 2013?
Who projected 200,000, or 2,000, or 200, or 100 years ago what the real cost of energy per joule would be in 2015?
Hi Peter, ty.
I believe your descriptions and against many other costs up and down – are within the natural variability of cost changes over a 30 year period or greater.
Further to above comment,
The real price of electricity for residential consumers in the US decreased from 14c/kWh to 10.4c/kWh from 1960 to 2011, EIA https://www.eia.gov/totalenergy/data/annual/showtext.php?t=ptb0810
From the Economist “The price of age”: Decline in real prices during technological revolutions,
Technology transition periods:
… that over a period of a lifetime we spend all that we earn.
Therefore, costs remain the same even over different lifetimes – the accounting elements just shift around matching the time’s technology and social needs.
Concerning ourselves with the costs is not a valid argument if the process-of is unreliable. If unreliable the costs are extremely increased. The question of cost versus reliability are being considered in the wrong order as well.
“At that time, the claim was that Denmark was producing 20% of it’s electricity from wind. Today, the number is over 40%. Do you know of any updates to that article that provide real data?”
It was my intention to interview the staff at all types of major electrical power generating facilities but I have been opposed by the top level management in the south east USA, which is where I live. Even so I was able to spend several weeks in power plants “under the radar” talking to plant operations staff.
My initial attitude was strongly in favor of the power companies and I even ran for office to help Duke Power with its “Shearon Harris” problem. Yet top managers such as William Johnson treated me with hostility which made me wonder what was being hidden from the public.
It did not take long to realize that most large businesses in the USA prosper at the expense of small businesses because they have an incestuous relationship with the federal government. The last thing “Big Business” wants is for the general public to understand how they are “Price Gouging” you the taxpayer.
For the most part the “Media” says nothing about this “Inverse Robin Hood Effect” which robs the poor to feed the rich. Even when they speak out as in the link below, nothing happens. This is why “Big Energy” is able to overcharge you for electricity and Big Pharma can charge you five times more than European pay for the same drugs.
That FP&L rip off was four times greater than the Solyndra scandal but nobody went to jail. Unless the swamp gets drained this country is in serious trouble.
I have visited many kinds of electrical generating plants including:
– Natural gas powered steam turbines
– Natural gas powered Combined Cycle plants
– Concentrated solar power
– Nuclear power plants
It is my intention to visit PV, Coal and wind powered facilities but I am 80 years old so I am slowing down. Why don’t some of you young folks get more involved?
Accelerated depreciation. How is this a tax break? Do small businesses also get to use this? Do commercial wind and solar get to use accelerated depreciation?
The type of people who write the report that includes FP&L are angry about something. I suppose about Congress writing tax laws. It is this kind of anger that gave this country just about the highest corporate tax rate, until now. I am so angry, I will force corporations to move to other countries. I’ll also throw my juice box at the wall.
What happens after corporations don’t pay much income tax? They pay dividends that are taxable to people.
I love tax breaks when they are available to everybody.
The trouble with the FP&L tax break is that it was only available to them which means it was an example of Crony Capitalism. Rather than debate the details I recommend you read the Newsweek article which in this comment from christensen411:
“In 2009, BusinessWeek reported that from 2005-2009 NextEra Energy/FPL (aka Florida Power & Light) paid “just $88 million in taxes on earnings of nearly $7 billion” (a tax rate of 1.25%) due to “taking advantage of incentives to develop renewable resources.” (http://www.businessweek.com/stories/2009-04-22/what-u-dot-s-dot-companies-really-pay-in-taxes)”
It will be 10 years before I am 80 – so much yet to learn.
I do know however that generating plants out in open fields is a no go. They will be continually destroyed by nature’s ire.
Visiting all those plants you must have noticed they are housed in strong buildings, including hydro. Its bad enough that the grid work is outside in open areas, placing the generators there as well would be a very poor adjustment.
… as we all know any argument that balances on “big oil” gad guys will in a later generation (if it came to be) would become the “big green” bad guys including how much was spent from taxpayers that now are being raked over the coals (so to speak).
… if science did not learn, circa 1925-, with example Cecilia Payne, could science ever learn?
I had never heard of Cecilia Payne, so thank you for bringing her to my attention. If your point is that women have been disrespected in many scientific disciplines I am with you. There were only two women in my 100 strong Part II EE courses at Cambridge. It may have something to do with the way people like Cecilia were treated.
Here is a link to a great video featuring Grace Hopper. This lady made significant contributions to the development of COBOL and she has a US Navy ship named after her! My students remember the speed of light (11.8 inches per nanosecond) even when they forget that I had already told them it was within 1% of 300,000 km/second.
Ooops! That article was published in BusinessWeek not Newsweek. Apologies!
“The report said the vast majority of NextEra’s tax breaks came in the form of tax deferrals. A New York Times analysis of the data said that most of the energy companies on the list qualified thanks to “accelerated depreciation,” which allows companies to write off costs from equipment and machinery upgrades.”
This accelerated depreciation as a tax break is B.S. It is simply a timing difference. It’s made up. It’s agenda accounting. The break has some value, but it’s limited to the time value of money.
If you find me a source where they show their tax break broken down by category, I bet you there’s less than a 10% chance at that source that when they pay less tax in the first year, they get credit for paying more tax later because they used up the deprecation deduction earlier. That would be counting things that are negative without counting the offsetting equal amounts that are positive later. B.S. It’s agenda accounting and I don’t see why people buy it?
Why accelerated deprecation? Because Congress grants it. Then they know they’ll get paid back later, so their budget balances. How is getting paid back later a tax break? Do you think the CBO is clueless? The CBO knows the money doesn’t fly out the window never to return on average.
“Visiting all those plants you must have noticed they are housed in strong buildings, including hydro..”
You are right about hydro being in strong buildings although the only major hydro installation I have seen was at Niagara falls and I never got to meet anyone working there.
In spite of the engineering excellence associated with most hydro installations, hydro is probably the most dangerous as measured in deaths per MWh generated. The statistics are somewhat skewed by a single accident that killed over 150,000 people in China in 1975:
The statistics on nuclear power are skewed by a single accident namely Chernobyl:
While Chernobyl killed 1,000 times fewer people than the Banquaio dam disaster in the year following the event, Chernobyl has continued to cause major health problems for many thousands of people owing to the lingering effects of isotopes such as Cs137 and Sr90.
While ionizing radiation is rightly feared for its horrific effects at high doses, the LNT (Linear No Threshold) model for ionizing radiation is wrong given that doses of radiation that might be lethal if delivered in one day (acute dose) are beneficial if delivered over a period of several weeks:
While there are huge ethical problems in carrying out radiation experiments on humans, radiation accidents can yield important results such as in the case of a housing project in Taiwan that used steel “Re-bar” contaminated with Co60:
In this accident the radiation exposure increased the life expectancy of the victims. A case of what does not kill you makes you stronger.
One of the things I like about small nukes is that they don’t have to be installed “….out in open fields….”. They can be installed “below grade” almost anywhere. The main limitation is siting is the cooling structures that can be quite large. For example you would need a 200 acre lake to cool a 100 MWe nuke. Ship based nukes make sense because oceans are really cheap heat sinks.
In this article https://diggingintheclay.wordpress.com/2013/06/02/electric-power-in-florida/ you say:
Can you giuve me an authoritative reference (and link) for those figures; i.e. such as DOE, EIA, NEA, WNA, or published Utility reports.
Can I contact you by email? I want to ask you something by email.
It was my intention to obtain as much information as Next Era Energy, Duke Power etc. would give me. When none of them would co-operate I visited several facilities without their consent. That was quite an achievement when you consider that two of the plants were nuclear. I was able to do this via connections with low level employees in these plants.
Before publication I submitted the information to “Management” at the plants I visited. None of them would comment so I went ahead and published the information regardless. When it comes to plant area my data came from Google maps so it is hard to argue with.
The headcount numbers are well founded but realize that these apply to people working “on site” only.
Thanks to the lack of cooperation from bean counters working for the power companies, my estimates of operating costs are mostly highly speculative with the exception of fuel costs, (e.g. natural gas, uranium etc) which are easy to obtain and update.
I already correspond with many “Climate Scientists” who I respect (even those who disagree with me) off line but never publish what we discuss without their prior consent (which is seldom granted) given their prosperity demands that they do not upset anyone in the CAGW Mafia. On the other hand I can publish my honest opinions (which will generally be ignored) since I stopped feeding at the government research trough in 2002.
In contrast my research on power generation has attracted almost zero interest so I am thrilled to find that anyone cares about this kind of research. I would be delighted to share the details with you.
My published email address is info(at)gallopingcamel.info
I also have a website that includes my #1 interest, namely K-12 eduction. The website is pathetic owing to laziness on my part:
Thank you. I’ll get in touch when I am ready to ask my question. It may take a while.
In the meantime, do you have a link to any authoritative publications the give the total number of security staff, or better still the cost, and even better, the cost as a proportion of Fixed O&M ($/kW) and of cost of generation ($kWh)? EIA would probably be the best source? Do you have a link to a recent EIA web page with this data?
Below are statistics on the deaths per TWh from electricity generation technologies by fuel type. Sixty years of nuclear power demonstrate it is the safest way to generate electricity. Authoritative sources have been showing similar rankings since the 1970s. I am reposting them in case you are interested to use the statistics in future
The ranking of the electricity generation technologies has been being estimated and reported for decades (since the 1970s or earlier). The ranking has remained essentially unchanged. Below is one example. Some others are cited in the paper.
Energy Source; Mortality Rate; Deaths/TWh
Coal electricity, world avg; 60
Coal electricity, China; 90
Coal, U.S.; 15
Natural Gas; 4
Solar (rooftop); 0.44
Hydro, global average; 1.4
Nuclear, global average; 0.09
Source: Wang, B, 2012. Deaths per TWh in Forbes. https://www.nextbigfuture.com/2012/06/deaths-by-energy-source-in-forbes.html
As you point out, Nuclear is the safest way to generate electricity by at least an order of magnitude compared with the next best even with the death toll from Chernobyl included.
While my understanding of reactor design is limited Ed Bilpuch (Director of the Triangle Universities Nuclear Laboratory) told me that the RBMK was a flawed design in the sense that its reaction coefficient with respect to temperature is positive which makes it tricky to operate. Ed got me interested in ADRs and Thorium cycle reactors with negative coefficients.
The safety of modern MSRs (e.g. LFTRS) should be at least an order of magnitude better than the best Gen II designs operating today.
You quote a global average of 1.4 deaths/TWh for hydro. I am pretty sure that the >26,000 drowning deaths related to the Banquaio dam failure in 1975 are not included in that calculation. Nor the >145,000 related deaths due to disease and famine.
The Banqiao fatalities are included. Refer to the link provided.
Hydro 0.10 (Europe death rate)
Hydro – world including Banqiao) 1.4 (about 2500 TWh/yr and 171,000 Banqiao dead)
Note: The Nuclear figure of 0.04 deaths/TWh is uncontaminated by the higher projections from Chernobyl. The figure of 0.09 deaths per TWh is contaminated by the higher projections from Chernobyl.
My sources are outdated as the lack of interest discouraged me from doing any kind of update. You will find links in the text of my guest posts but some of the best ones don’t work any more. For example this one:
Give me a few days……..I may be able to find some more by going through my notes.