Recent nuclear power cost estimates – separating fact from myth

I’m about to head to Madrid for two weeks, to do some research with a colleague at the National Museum of Natural Sciences — but do not fear, I’ll still be on the ‘net in the evenings to run the blog!

I see, happily, that I leave behind an ongoing debate on the need for nuclear power in South Australia. In the news today it was reported that the SA Liberal Party has supported a motion to debate the use of nuclear power technology to reduce carbon emissions. Good on ‘em — I trust (more like vainly hope) that the Labor party, Federal and State, will soon also be willing to open the floor. They’re certainly now getting serious prompting from their traditional supporter base.

However, something in that news story on the SA Libs particularly irked me (no, it was not the potshot from Kevin Foley; that was unsurprising political wedging). It was this:

Greens MP Mark Parnell says he does not think Ms Redmond’s stance will damage her credibility and the debate is futile.

“We are not about to have nuclear power here any time soon,” he said.

“South Australians don’t want it; it’s too expensive; it’s too dangerous; it’s not the solution to climate change; and we don’t know how to dispose of nuclear waste yet.”

Now Mark knows about Integral Fast Reactors — he’s been in the audience when I’ve talked about them. So why would he continue to claim that we don’t know how to dispose of nuclear waste? I find it hard to fathom. But anyway, this blog post is not about that statement. It’s about this one: it’s too expensive.

To address this critique, I use the example of the recent claims of Joe Romm on Climate Progress and Tyler Hamilton on Clean Break. They claim that the cost of new (Gen III+) nuclear power in Ontario, Canada, based on the competitive bids of companies AREVA (for the European Pressurised Reactor) and AECL (for the ACR-1000), would be “anywhere from $7,400 to $10,800 per kilowatt, depending on your appetite for risk“. Wow. That’s pretty gobsmacking. So what’s the deal? I decided to ask a few of my email contacts on nuclear matters, some of whom also write blogs.

Dan Yurman from Idaho Samizdat: Nuke Notes directed me to his superb post on this topic. You need to read this. Some excepts from Dan’s analysis:

Observers of the political turmoil now underway in Ontario over the media reports that AECL bid $26 billion to build two new ACR1000 reactors (2,220 MW) are in good company trying to make sense of these figures.

The news media, notably the Toronto Star, had a field day with the numbers sticking provincial politicians like they were morsels on a shish-ka-bob skewer. The problem with all the fire, smoke, and spit from the grill is that the numbers are undoubtedly wrong and wrongly reported in the news media.

First, $26 billion is an aggregate number that includes two reactors, turbines, transmission and distribution infrastructure (power lines or T&D), plant infrastructure, and nuclear fuel for 60 years as well as decommissioning costs. The most important number in the whole controversy has gone largely without notice and that is the delivered cost of electricity from the plants is in the range of five cents per kilowatt hour.

… the widely reported figure of about $11,000/Kw for AECL’s reactor package is also wildly inaccurate because it wraps the entire cost of the package into a single bundle and then allocates all of them to a figure designed to inflate the cost of the electricity generated by the reactor alone.

The other bidder at Darlington agrees this kind of analysis is nuts. In a conference call with nuclear energy bloggers on July 17, a spokesman for Areva declined to provide exact numbers, but did not specifically dispute a report in the Toronto Star on July 14 which pegged the cost of two 1,650 EPR reactors at $7.8 billion. Doing the math, that comes out to just under $2,400/Kw which is a very competitive price.

For comparison purposes, AECL bid two of the new ACR1000, which is an 1,100 MW reactor, which comes to 2,200 MW. At a reported bid price of approximately $6.0 billion, the price per Kw/Hr of the reactors is $2,700/Kw or very close to the price reported in the news media for the Areva reactors.

David Walters, of Daily Kos, said this in reply:

First, it’s about 10,000,000 to 20,000,000 man hours to build a new generation III AP-1000. Charles Barton got that number from some place. We figured that at the high end…a total wage and benefit package of $60/hr average would bring you to $600 million to $1.2 billion for all overnight labor costs. Obviously everywhere else, even Europe, it’s probably a lot less.

So the question is raised “where is the rest of the money going”? Obviously profit for one, but seriously, if they get 15% over their costs, I’d be surprised. The other obvious price is the cost of the reactor components from pumps, to pipes to stainless steel, to conrete, to the turbine to the generator to the controls and meters and so on.

What do we know for sure? We know, for sure, that the costs of the material for an AP-1000 is is less than 1.4 billion dollars. How do we know that? Because this is what the Chinese are saying it is going to cost to built their AP-1000s, take or add $100 million or so. This means that Westinghouse is charging, at most, about $1000/kW installed components. Interesting, yes? We also can assume that Westinghouse is charging the Chinese the same as they are the dozen or more new builds submitted to the US NRC.

Obviously things you note from grid access, grid upgrades, balance of plant, licenses etc etc all boot up the prices a hundred or more million dollars but not to the $10,000/kw Romm weaved from whole cloth in his hit piece. Which is not, btw, quoted extensively as “a study” on nuclear power plant costs!

I made the point your blog just now that what Romm, et al, ad nauseum, are afraid of is what is going on in Asia, specifically China and to a lesser extent S, Korea. If these countries do bring in their plants at the $1,400kW installed, Romm, et al, ad discustous, will have a hard time pitching their anti-nuclear vodoo economics to an educated public and policy makers.

Lastly, your point was excellent. France is now signing papers, as Dan has reported, for more and more EPRs. I’m not a big fan of the EPR which I won’t discuss here, but…you point that their costs WILL come down with expertise in production.

Early this year I met with a EDF nuclear physicist, far-left member of their union at his nuclear plant in southern France and ask him about this. He said at Flamesville, they are already developing new concrete techniques (some, believe or not ,dervived from French wine barrel making techniques!) to speed up and help in building the plant. They expect, still, that the plant will be over budget but not nearly as much as the Finnish version. People at EDF, both in management and in the unions are very optimistic.

The Aug. 4th blog entry from The Next Big future offers a detailed analysis of Westhinghouse’s modular construction design, and their eventual 36 month construction target. It goes toward smaller reactors in method, as well and has profound implication as perhaps half of all reactors in the next 11 years are going to be AP-1000s. The Next Big Future covers this extremely well.

Rod Adams, of Atomic Insights, said something similar:

The problem I have with the “bottom line” number provided by AECL is that determining the cost of any project is a complex, iterative effort that can only be done with a spreadsheet model that has a variety of stated assumptions and inputs. The model can then be used by the negotiation participants to run “what if” scenarios and reach agreement acceptable to all involved parties. Allocation of risk, schedule terms, charges for changes, loan terms, ROI, and many other factors come into play. I have been involved in many project negotiations and planning processes ranging in size from a few thousand to tens of billions; the bigger the project the larger the error bars and risk allowances.

The included options will also have a huge impact on the total cost – imagine how scary one could make the predicted cost of a new football stadium if the bid had to include the cost of the road network, the transmission lines to supply the stadium with electricity, the trash trucks to haul away the residue from each game, the concrete plant to provide the construction materials, the college athletic infrastructure to train the players, and the cars and buses required to deliver fans and players.

Here are some particulars about the terms and conditions under which AECL’s published bid of $26 Billion was computed. Excerpts:

The Ontario bid process required the risk of cost overruns to be assumed by the would-be vendors, which initially included French-based Areva Group, and Westinghouse Electric Co.

The Harper government told AECL that its bid must provide a commercial rate of return, and that its price must recover all costs, rather than spread them out over future sales. The federal officials who prepared the briefing documents predicted Ontario would be knocking on Ottawa’s door for a better deal.

Provincial Energy Minister Jack Keir said Monday he remains optimistic the project will go ahead, and that Ottawa will help shoulder some of the risk. But he drew a line in the sand: “Not on your life is the province going to take on the risk,” he said.

Under those conditions, the bid is not surprising, but I think that negotiations are going to continue, especially since there are other interested parties. The price per unit for any complex project is absolutely dependent on the number of units that will be built without changing the design. In the meantime, there is plenty of fodder for speculation and for dire predictions of gloom, doom and cost overruns. The only real answer would be successfully completing a project with full transparency, something that I doubt is going to happen soon enough to quiet the opposition.

Of course, there is also the option of taking smaller bites at a time.

As an aside, when people throw cost overrun accusations at you regarding Finland’s first EPR, you might be interested in having some useful numbers on off-shore wind power to throw back. As the crow flies, this project is pretty close to Finland. It is also being run by a similarly qualified professional organization.

Rod’s post on offshore wind, which he refers to in the last sentence, points out that it is 1 year late and $85 million over budget. He says:

The project was delayed for more than a year partially due to bad weather (on second thought, that might not be just a first of a kind issue for off-shore wind farms). The projected total cost will be $357 million, approximately $85 million more than the initial estimate. Considering the size of the array and its capacity factor, that cost overrun is comparable to exceeding the budget for a 1600 MWe Areva EPR by more than $5 Billion dollars.

Assuming a generous 40% CF for the 60 MWe peak capacity wind farm, the total cost of $357 million is equivalent to paying $19 Billion for a single 1600 MWe nuclear power plant that can operate at a modest average capacity factor – for a nuclear plant – of 80%.

However, please do not cry for the investors in the project. Their profitability will be assured by the rules of Germany’s feed in tariff laws which will guarantee that the project owners will receive $0.18 per kilowatt hour for their generated power.

The obviously implication is that first-of-a-kind cost overruns are not peculiar to, or indeed amplified in, nuclear power. New renewables are just as vulnerable, perhaps more so. Charles Barton has also written on the topic of recent nuclear power costs on Nuclear Green, here.

So please Mark Parnell, Joe Romm, and various commenters on this blog — spare me the hype and spin that nuclear power is somehow the expensive low-carbon energy option. It isn’t. Get over it.

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104 Comments

  1. Outstanding blog entry Barry. Well done. Clearly Romm, certainly Lovins, are all focusing in now on financing nuclear as the key ‘weak point’ from their perspective of the nuclear renaissance. At least it is a real issue and one worth discussing.

    David

  2. However, something in that news story on the SA Libs particularly irked me (no, it was not the potshot from Kevin Foley; that was unsurprising political wedging). It was this:

    Greens MP Mark Parnell says he does not think Ms Redmond’s stance will damage her credibility and the debate is futile.

    “We are not about to have nuclear power here any time soon,” he said.

    “South Australians don’t want it; it’s too expensive; it’s too dangerous; it’s not the solution to climate change; and we don’t know how to dispose of nuclear waste yet.”

    Now Mark knows about Integral Fast Reactors — he’s been in the audience when I’ve talked about them. So why would he continue to claim that we don’t know how to dispose of nuclear waste? I find it hard to fathom.

    This should be a reminder to all pro-nuclear activists that ‘reaching out to the Greens’ is not a workable political strategy. The Green movement has decided some time ago that nuclear power is against their ideology, and no collection of mere facts is ever going to change that.

  3. Here’s what I suggest for South Australia; build an AP 1000 incorporating multiflash desal near Ceduna. A start should be made on an east-west HVDC cable. The benefits would be
    -power the Olympic Dam expansion with less CO2
    -unite the Eastern and WA grids
    -relocate the unbuilt RO desal from Whyalla
    -turn off the pipeline from the drying River Murray
    -disperse warm saline water more easily
    -retire the Playford B power station at Pt Augusta
    -leave space for an adjacent Gen IV reactor.

  4. John, would it not make sense to build two AP1000s? The cost of HVDC is not cheap…the map gives no real indication of how long such a line is. By doubling capacity you bring unit KW price down a bit and makes the HVDC line “more worth it”. I suspect this area is relatively unpopulated, even by Aussie standards?

    Also, has anyone hooked a flash desalination component to a thermal plant before?

    David

  5. DW
    the case for the east-west HVDC has been made by Neil Howes. The Norseman WA to Pt August SA section would be about 1500 km and an easement exists with the railway line. Start with the section next to the water pipeline to the mine. In terms of peaking power WA has the gas which for SA is fast depleting. Easier to shift electrons than gas.

    The RO desal at Whyalla will draw I believe 35 MW and the pipeline to Olympic Dam/Roxby Downs about 285 kms. From Ceduna it might be 350 kms as it has to skirt around salt lakes, per the Google Earth ruler tool. However that region needs both more water due local aquifer depletion and more electricity for new mines (eg zircon) and fish farms. Whyalla locals want the RO desal moved further south anyway.

    I suspect that there will also be ‘retro offsets’ whereby wind farms built years are suddenly credited towards a renewables target for the OD expansion
    http://www.news.com.au/adelaidenow/story/0,27574,25971059-2682,00.html

  6. @David – I can think of close to 200 or so thermal plants that have had flash evaporation distilling plants as part of their secondary system. When you are out in the middle of a whole bunch of salt water, they are convenient to have.

  7. Ah…yes…true I hadn’t thought of THOSE flash distillers. I worked on some heat exchangers for on-board distillation devices during my years as a pipefitter at the Brooklyn Navy Yard. Not flash distillers, I think, but “evaps” I think.

    So couldn’t the two dozen thermal plants in southern California be fitted now with such flash desals? How about the two nukes we have, 4 reactors in areas short of fresh water?

    David

  8. Regarding the high cost bids on the Darlington Nuclear Power Plant, a particularly onerous requirement is that the bidder must pay for all cost overruns. That is a burden any contractor would be unwelcome to accept, especially when there is the CNRB, run by unqualified political patronage appointees, who can arbitrarily burden the contractor with additional modifications or requirements.

  9. “What do we know for sure? We know, for sure, that the costs of the material for an AP-1000 is is less than 1.4 billion dollars. How do we know that? Because this is what the Chinese are saying it is going to cost to built their AP-1000s, take or add $100 million or so.”

    The key word here is ‘saying’. As China is a brutal dictatorship that represses its population to be the sweatshop of the world I hardly think that it is a fair comparison. Even if this is the true cost how could you check? YOu can’t get information from the Chinese government under FOI.

    Unless of course you are suggesting that we change to China’s form of government the estimates for Western Democratic societies seem in line with others here.

    http://www.world-nuclear.org/uploadedFiles/org/info/pdf/EconomicsNP.pdf

  10. Regarding the remark that you wish to be spared “the hype and spin that nuclear power is somehow the expensive low-carbon energy option. It isn’t. Get over it”, I do not see any analysis (either in your post or the links) of what the cost would be to insure the reactors against accidents, what the worst (or most likely) case accident scenario is, how many would die (either immediately or in the aftermath) of various accident scenarios, what compensation would be forthcoming (to relatives, for example), and what the financial and environmental costs of this (and any subsequent clean up) may be. Since they are not mentioned, I assume these factors are not taken into account in calculating the 5c/kWh figure, but given your confidence of “Get over it”, I presume you can present such data.

    I take it for granted that in purporting to show that nuclear energy is not the expensive option (as you claim), any analysis would need to address these issues and factor such costs into the final figure that is presented to Canadian consumers through their power bills.

  11. Barry,

    Can there not be some joint study on Nuke costs?

    I have no problem with nukes, esp gen 4, but I hear VERY negative stories about the costs from many sources, including Romm but many others as well.

    In fact, you’re one of the few who talks positively about costs.

    I don’t have enough technical knowledge to sort it all out.

    It seems to me that if we’re all on the same side re Climate Change, we should be able to arrange a common front..

  12. Partly because Yankee engineers are working all over those projects…*it’s THERE design afterall*… then in fact we do know. We know what WESTINGHOUSE/SHAW is billing the PRC, dictatorship or not. So we do know a few things and we know the material costs are very, very low.

    As for Chine labor…yes, low wages, for sure. Where as I noted in the quote Barry uses that the 10 to 20 million man-hours translated into a 600 million to 1.2 billion labor charge for an AP1000, the lower wages paid to Chinese labor then runs at about 60 million to 120 million dollars.

    At any rate, Stephen, the anti-nuclear forces whose only *real* weapon ARE costs, this all doesn’t bode well for them.

    Let’s keep in mind that the PRC is also one the biggest builders of wind and solar alternatives (mostly for market penetration in the West…mining those subsidies, of course) and give’s ‘equal weight’ to these projects. They are into *everything* so it will be interesting to see this ‘objective’ competition between these forms of non-carbon generation. But that’s ‘interesting. More concretely the Chinese are going to build about 100 of these AP1000s, most of which will be their own larger versions. It presents a *very* scary happening for the antis everywhere.

  13. One of the best nuclear blog posts I’ve read. Thank you so much. It wasn’t until late last year that I really started paying attention and following the Nuclear situation/debacle in this country and you’ve provided so great information that the MSM would never touch and it’s been informative and educational. Thanks again.

  14. It would be a PR disaster for the nuclear industry if a contract was made to build an AP 1000 in Australia and it ran way over budget and time. Think the Areva EPR in Finland. Maybe it is better to wait until the Chinese are well advanced on the learning curve and get them to advise.

    Meanwhile green criticsclearly see the problems with using vast amounts of fossil fuels in the Olympic Dam expansion. That is for 700 MW of extra electrical demand, 120 megalitres a day of fresh water, billions of litres of diesel and so on.

  15. I think you can do both, actually. Australia is going to have to set up a serious regulatory environment while also planning its first nuke. Do so will allow for enough time to observe other new builds as they come on line.

    In less than 4 years the first AP1000s should be coming on line in China. Additionally, the Chinese themselves have learned extensively from both S. Korea and Japan that have bought in reactors ahead of schedule and under or at budget. So it’s not entirely new territory we’re talking about.

    David

  16. David Walters – “At any rate, Stephen, the anti-nuclear forces whose only *real* weapon ARE costs, this all doesn’t bode well for them.”

    We don’t need weapons David as this is not how it should be. I bring up concerns including costs. All power sources have costs. If the Chinese can build cheap nuclear power plants then hooray for them. The cost to the Chinese people is loss of freedoms that we take for granted. If your conscience can write this off for your nuclear dreams then bully for you.

    Where is Chinese nuclear waste stored? Americans are all over Saudi Arabian oil as well and cannot get any true figures as to their oil reserves. China has recently imprisoned a person they accuse of espionage. I don’t the the Yankee know-how will risk trying to get the true figures.

    As well even if the Chinese reactors come in really cheap how are you going to duplicate those conditions? The Chinese costs only apply to China not anywhere else. I don’t need any ‘weapons’ against nuclear as it is its own best weapon.

    What if the reported low costs of Chinese reactors is a fraud designed to undermine other nuclear power operators and builders. If they go out of business then the Chinese will be the only ones left so we will be completely dependant on China for fuel and reactors. If the Lang plan goes ahead and we have 8 complexes of nuclear reactors built and fuelled from China how does that work with national security. We may as well become the Southern Chinese province.

    Contrast that with a distributed smart renewable grid built by Australians and fuelled for free. Sure it involves some compromises as we may have to waste a bit less however at least it will be very difficult to disrupt.

  17. We don’t need weapons David as this is not how it should be. I bring up concerns including costs. All power sources have costs. If the Chinese can build cheap nuclear power plants then hooray for them. The cost to the Chinese people is loss of freedoms that we take for granted. If your conscience can write this off for your nuclear dreams then bully for you.

    Sorry…how are the two…three issues connected exactly? The low costs for Chinese nukes are based largly on the serial modular design and production of the 249 different modules. Standardized design, standardized construction. That’s it. If it’s “hooray for them”, it’s “hooray for us” as well. There were over 30,000 strikes in the PRC last year, most spontaneous, but many showing signs of organization. I work with Chinese labor organization to *encourage* this. The nuclear plants, however, help provide a *material basis* for cheap energy and a better standard of living, something no democracy, or movement for democracy can live without, IMO.

    Where is Chinese nuclear waste stored? Americans are all over Saudi Arabian oil as well and cannot get any true figures as to their oil reserves. China has recently imprisoned a person they accuse of espionage. I don’t the the Yankee know-how will risk trying to get the true figures.

    Waste/Spent Nuclear Fuel. First answer: not to so flippant, but who cares? Their oldest plant is only about 30 years old. Most of their other plants came on line in the 1990s. They only have 11 plants right now. They have almost no SNF. What there is will be stored for a hundred years or so in secure dry casks, a la Francais. They are also going to recycle all their own waste. In fact they are investing in it now, even though they won’t need to use it for another 40 years or so…but they can sell any recycled fuel and, save some on looking for uranium fuel outside the PRC by doing so. They are investigating geological storage for anything left over.

    As well even if the Chinese reactors come in really cheap how are you going to duplicate those conditions? The Chinese costs only apply to China not anywhere else. I don’t need any ‘weapons’ against nuclear as it is its own best weapon.

    We no the *material component* costs for an AP1000 is cheap. Chinese costs, and this is the whole point, is based on my answer to point one above: it’s intrinsic to the design of the reactor. Westinghouse believes it has a realistic target of a 36 month build time. See the paper quoted by Barry from The Next Big Future. The Chinese conditions that CAN be duplicated here is the learning curve being paid for by the PRC and Shaw construction engineers; better more stream lined regulations being proposed by a Congressmen for a shortened two-track NRC commissioning (which would bring it in line with the PRC more); a national *will* to phase out coal; more and more component manufacturing infrastructure already in the works. What we can’t, no wouldn’t want from the Chinese is a destruction of our free labor movement, lower wages and no public input. I already pointed out that the savings the Chinese get for low labor is about 600 million a year. We can live with out that, thankyouverymuch. We’ll take the hit on that one.

    You need ‘weapons’ kitchen sinks, anything to fight nuclear because nuclear’s popularity, at least in the US is rising and has been pretty much non-stop since climate change became a bigger issue. And I was assuming you are anti-nuclear, so it is a question of arguments against nuclear (and economics is certainly a serious immediate issue for nuclear as opposed to some other ‘issues’).

    What if the reported low costs of Chinese reactors is a fraud designed to undermine other nuclear power operators and builders. If they go out of business then the Chinese will be the only ones left so we will be completely dependant on China for fuel and reactors. If the Lang plan goes ahead and we have 8 complexes of nuclear reactors built and fuelled from China how does that work with national security. We may as well become the Southern Chinese province.

    No you are being silly or foolish. This is not serious, so you don’t get a serious answer. “IF they go out of business…”. OMG! Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz…..

    Contrast that with a distributed smart renewable grid built by Australians and fuelled for free. Sure it involves some compromises as we may have to waste a bit less however at least it will be very difficult to disrupt.

    Sorry…FREE???? It's only the most expensive or haven't you been paying attention. A grid is not a roof top, it's 26 GWs there and no renewable 'nameplate' capacity is going to make that up…and there is no SG is there? Oz will never get by on renewables alone. Ever. Maybe if you shut down every refinery, every mine, every industry and all become sheep herders again. You "renewable SG" is nothing more than energy starvation based on zero growth. In other words: barbarism. See Africa.

    david

  18. David Walters – “There were over 30,000 strikes in the PRC last year, most spontaneous, but many showing signs of organization. I work with Chinese labor organization to *encourage* this. The nuclear plants, however, help provide a *material basis* for cheap energy and a better standard of living, something no democracy, or movement for democracy can live without, IMO.”

    Sure David if this is what it takes to save your conscience then I cannot comment on it. I guess it is an attitude thing.

    “What there is will be stored for a hundred years or so in secure dry casks, a la Francais.”

    Which means that they are not storing it properly and are hoping someone else will clean it up for them the same as France. However lets not go here as this has been done to death already.

    “We no the *material component* costs for an AP1000 is cheap. Chinese costs, and this is the whole point, is based on my answer to point one above: it’s intrinsic to the design of the reactor.”

    So all the other reactor quotes are just wrong are they? Perhaps you should correct the World Nuclear Association figures. Again how are you going to audit the Chinese figures – you haven’t answered that one yet.

    “No you are being silly or foolish. This is not serious, so you don’t get a serious answer. “IF they go out of business…”. OMG! Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz…..”

    Sorry I should have said Chinese reactors will be the cheap alternative forcing the others to cut prices etc…

    “Sorry…FREE???? It’s only the most expensive or haven’t you been paying attention. A grid is not a roof top, it’s 26 GWs there and no renewable ‘nameplate’ capacity is going to make that up…and there is no SG is there? Oz will never get by on renewables alone. Ever”

    Absolute and complete rubbish now OMG! Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzz The same old hair shirt fallacy that you people trot out. With our huge renewable potential Australia is the one country that could be 100% renewable. I thought we had progressed from this crap.

    How about we progress from Chinese reactor fever and mention some Western reactors that are on time and under budget?

  19. The Quadrant article raises several major points. Should a percentage of Australia’s known gas reserves be quarantined from export? Former WA Premier Alan Carpenter hinted at this but is now out of the loop. Rather than feed-in tariffs would it be better if wind farm operators could bid average-cost-plus rather than marginal cost? That might work best in the 10 minute spot market.

    Another issue raised (eg by Origin Energy)is that an absolute CO2 cap makes a relative renewables quota redundant. That’s perhaps a linear programming problem. More pointedly can we physically get from around 4% to 20% of the energy mix in a decade, even if cost is no object?

  20. Stephen, its not a question of assuaging one’s conscience. There is a political and material context to what is going on in China. Obviously, since you never mentioned it once, that the Chinese are also the biggest builder of wind and solar is OK? I detest a lot of what the Chinese gov’t does. But I support the effort of the Chinese *nation* to advance economically and develop a *progressive* physical energy basis to stymie their development of coal burning which you and I would probably agree on is simply nasty. So when the do something *right* I’m going to tout it far and wide. Nuclear is something, so far, they are doing right and BETTER than Australia or the US put together. It is *progressive* in every way imaginable.

    Dry cask storage is ‘wrong’? How’s that, Stephen? It works well now, will in the future.

    Reactor cost quotes. This is really to the point of the subject. No, the quotes are correct, kind of, sort of. The overnight costs…that is cost to build the reactor and turn it ‘on’, exclude all externalities (as does every quote in the US, at least, for solar and wind). We’re talking material and labor. In the US the utilities by and large have to include every single possible item including licensing fees (200 million USD!), grid access and, grid upgrades…and thousands of other little items.

    In China, since they have real national planning, the new HVDC lines and other grid access items are part of a larger, more detailed electrification projects that other power generation…eventually their huge stranded wind resources as well, will tie into. (don’t ask me why, I’ve never gotten a straight answer from my contacts in south China on why the build wind turbines but don’t hook them into the grid).

    So actual overnight costs are cheaper because some many items leading up to the building of the reactors are simply non-existent. One item is legal fees. A utility in the US devotes about $50 million USD to this as part of their costs since they get opposition and delays from anti-nuclear groups. Obviously, in China, they don’t have to worry about this as democracy is suppressed. So there is a ‘tie in’ to a real issue that ‘saves’ money at the expense of something I can’t defend. But it’s still cheaper.

    So…yes…if the Chinese can build…and then develop their stated goal of exporting their US designed reactors (they will be somewhat larger than the US versions) it will not help US companies very much, or Aussie ones. So what? The point is to develop cheaper, abundant energy from nuclear, then I hope the Chinese are widely successful!

  21. South Australia may already have a suitable site for dry cask storage. Owned by the Federal government but inhabited by 20,000 sheep. When Olympic Dam becomes open cut the headframe and elevators could be moved to the site to dig deep shafts and tunnels into the basement rock. Some might see the partial return of materials to near their place of origin as appropriate.

  22. Barry,
    You article hasn’t done a good job of separating fact from myth.

    The acts are that bids for new nuclear plant in Canada were very high: your comment
    First, $26 billion is an aggregate number that includes two reactors, turbines, transmission and distribution infrastructure (power lines or T&D), plant infrastructure, and nuclear fuel for 60 years as well as decommissioning costs.
    Is this not the case for all energy generating systems, coal -fired thermal, wind or solar energy?

    The myth is that an AP1000 plant can be built in Australia, the US or Canada for the same price as in China and with a construction time of 3 years. It is also a myth that we can build wind turbines in these countries for the same price as in China(<$1000/kWH). The first AP1000 contracts were signed(Nov 2006), site construction to assemble the modules in 2009 with completion in 2013 and 2014. It is unlikely that we could do better than that 7 years in Australia as this will be the first, although we have nuclear experienced local companies like Worley Parsons.

    The critical questions are;
    1) if these reactors are so cheap and can be assembled in 4-5 years why is China not building 50 now and why is it wasting resources on "expensive" hydro, solar and wind power? or building coal-fired and importing coal from Australia?
    2) if Australia orders an AP1000 building program what would be the costs and when would the first reactors come on line.

    I think we should start that process of starting a nuclear program, but should not be under any delusions that we will be generating nuclear power much before 2020, or will be able to complete more than one reactor every 2 years, or that it will not require very large Federal government support. To develop a similar amount of solar energy(1-2GW peak) would also require very considerable government support and probably a similar time period as nuclear. Both should be perused, after 2020 we can consider costs to expand these beyond 3-4% of our energy mix. Our economy will not be crippled if we pay a higher rate for 4%-8% of our electricity. Industries requiring $10/MWh are doomed in any future scenario.

    Meanwhile over the next 10 years we can build a lot of wind energy (up to 15% of electricity use) using REC support and can calculate the maximum costs for the government and the economy.
    Wind power is very profitable at $95/MWh with wind farm costs being recovered in <15 years amortization using market financing costs not government assisted financing rates.
    If we do not continue to support wind energy now the only way to reduce CO2 emissions to the same extent before 2020 is to replace 50% of coal-fired energy with NG to give the same CO2 savings of using 20% REC.
    If we are lucky both will happen, and we will reduce CO2 emissions much greater than present 2020 targets. Nuclear and or solar could then replace the other 50% coal-fired power from 2020 to 2040. High NG capacity doesn't have to lock in high NG consumption, it can be used only for peak demand when wind, solar or nuclear are not providing adequate peak.

    It would seem that nuclear, solar and wind energy costs are going to decline with NG costs increasing. No coal CCS is going to be available until after 2030-35, so coal costs are not relevant for the next 25 years.

  23. David Walters – “Obviously, since you never mentioned it once, that the Chinese are also the biggest builder of wind and solar is OK?”

    It doesn’t rate a mention because I do not imagine that in Australia we could build wind turbines as cheaply and as quickly as in China.

    “Nuclear is something, so far, they are doing right and BETTER than Australia or the US put together. It is *progressive* in every way imaginable.”

    However they are going to end up with more wind (100GW) than nuclear (70GW) in 202 if they stick to their plans. In 2020 we will see how much they actually have of each.

    “So what? The point is to develop cheaper, abundant energy from nuclear, then I hope the Chinese are widely successful!”

    So do I, for the sake of the Chinese people who are not responsible for the excesses and wrongs of their government.

  24. On the question raised about why the PRC is not building 50 reactors. They are. Their plan is to build out to 100 of the AP1000 ‘type’ reactors by 2030. About half that by 2020.

    But more specifically, only some of these reactors are going to be actual AP1000s…they Chinese have a license to build their own version, up rated to about 1250 and 1400MWs. The Chinese have two constraints that I’ve talked about here before: component manufacturing and training. They are addressing both. If they could build 50 *right now* they would. Plus, as part of ‘training’ (not only engineering/operating staff but construction skilled trades) the line of construction seems to fit perfectly for a kind of exponential growth of nuclear energy…to the detriment of coal expansion, of course.

    @Stephen. China will likely never have more wind that coal. Your “100GWs” translates into about 24GWs of *available* power, way smaller than what is planned for nuclear. But the Chinese see value for a variety of reason to build wind…and solar…and geothermal…and hydro, etc. They want in on everything so they can *sell* everything on the world market.

    The other issue with wind (less with solar) is that about 1/3 of their wind capacity right now is stranded, feeding into remote loads off the grid. They are trying to address this problem as well, planning new wind farms to tap into the large HVDC lines spreading out from Three Gorges Dam and their various nuclear ‘nuplexes’. Should be interesting to watch.

    David

  25. Sorry, in the above post I should of stated “China will never have more than *nuclear*” (not coal). but that’s a great ‘race’ in a way since their exponential nuclear growth is limited by infrastructure right now so…they put their money where they can: everything else.

    David

  26. Soylent: I do not see the relevance of US figures to my questions, nor this post, which deals with Canadian costs.

    However, if the insurance costs are “mere decimal dust”, they will have no problem getting private insurance coverage. Please indicate which nuclear power companies have informed the US government that they do not require limited liability and indemnity under the extended Price-Anderson Act because they have acquired sufficient insurance coverage from the private sector.

  27. I’m not sure if you will find this as utterly hilarious as I do, but: the journalist who wrote this article is on record as writing this, when reporting on the (much higher) costs of wind power:

    The message here is that we shouldn’t be afraid of rising electricity rates. Indeed, we should encourage it. By doing so, we motivate our communities to become more efficient, competitive and productive, and we end up achieving a level of energy savings that counteracts the higher costs we impose on ourselves. It also reduces the need for new power plants, translating into additional cost savings.

    Toronto Star: Nobody wants to pay the price of going green

  28. It is often pointed out that the costs of solar and wind power are decreasing over time. Projections are made as to what the costs of these technologies might be in the future. Some seem to assume that the costs of nuclear will not decrease also.

    I find it fascinating that the first large nuclear reactor ever built was built in 18 months. Furthermore, it operated for 24 years.

    The following provides some perspective on how much lower the costs of nuclear could be.

    The reactor was called Hanford B and its power output was 250 MWth

    Ground was broken on 6 April, 1943

    Construction of the reactor started on 7 June 1943

    Loading of the reactor started on 13 September 1944

    It went critical on 26 September 1944.

    The plant was retired in 1968.

    http://www.asme.org/Communities/History/Landmarks/Hanford_B_Reactor_1944.cfm

    http://files.asme.org/ASMEORG/Communities/History/Landmarks/5564.pdf

    It goes to show what we could do if we really wanted to.

  29. The point in my post #35 was not well made. It is that the cost of nuclear could be much lower than it is at the moment.

    The first reactor was built in 18 months. That was 65 years ago. If we could do that then, imagine what we could do now, if the enormous bureaucracies were not delaying progress and massively increasing the costs.

  30. Kropotkin. There is no such insurance available because there is no entity that will sit with 100 billion in reserves waiting for a once in 10 million years fantasy accident that relies on a deus ex machina to vapourize half the core, another deus ex machina to have it escape all the layers of containment and yet another deus ex machina to have it drift over to the nearest big city and just stay there.

    Coal power in the US has the health consequences of several Chernobyl accidents per year. Not only doesn’t it have to have some kind of insurance against this, because it’s not an accident, it isn’t even liable for this damage. The liability would amount to ~180 billion per year from just the particulate pollution using $6 million US per life lost, the EPA standard assumption. And where’s the global warming insurance?

    Hydro-power, dams and levees are in general far more dangerous than nuclear power plants(see the banqiao dam failure for an extreme example and New Orleans for a less extreme one). Where’s the demands for insurance(including an industry wide insurance pool of $10 billion)?

    The Price-Anderson act is not a subsidy, it’s a liability. It obliges nuclear plants to do something no other industry has to do.

  31. @36. Peter, what I see is this sort of blind spot. The sun and wind advocates always talk about the ‘lowering’ of prices for their favorite boutique power source arguing that “prices for industrial scale storage will come down” (they’ve never, ever, quote the *cost of pump storage retrofits are, BTW) as it…that has happened, which, it hasn’t, actually. But when we prove that nukes can be built on time and on schedule, as they have, as if the AP1000 was some sort of unique 1970s era-clunker and the technology never changed or the construction methods..well…you see the ‘blind spot’ they are in.

    @37. Soylent. All good points. In fact the whole idea of having to insure a nuclear disaster way out and above even Chernobyl was institutionalized for nuclear…and ONLY nuclear…because of *politics* not standard insurance procedures. Oh, and every nuclear plant in the U.S. it should be noted DOES have industrial disaster insurance, paid by the nuclear operator, not Congress, out to 300 million USD.

    If you change the law and put P&A in a realistic insurance frame then you wouldn’t even need P&A. BTW…now that 9/11, the air line industry has the SAME kind of P&A insurance that Congress has. Coal companies do not have to have this. Hydro, as you noted, which has been far more expensive in *its* disasters don’t have to have this nor do chemical refineries. All get away without having to be libel for made up ‘worst case’ disasters.

  32. Don’t forget the $1.6 trillion donation to Big Oil – for their Iraq Oil War. Also, the potential multi-trillion dollar disaster in Iran which had its beginning in British Petroleum’s coup to replace the popular democratically elected Iranian Prime Minister with an Oil Company Stooge, after the Prime Minister tried to nationalize Iranian Oil Assets for the benefit of the Iranian People. That’s the biggest and most prominent cause of Nuclear Proliferation that exists today. That’s right, Oil finances Iran’s Nuclear Weapons program, and Oil companies finance Greenpeace, the Sierra Club, the Rocky Mountains Institute and Friends of the Earth for their opposition to Nuclear Energy, the only alternative to the Big Fossil Fuel Company’s Energy Hegemony.

    What does Big Oil get in return? The biggest tax breaks and subsidies of any industry in the United States.

  33. “The greatest minds in nuclear science have been searching for a solution to the radioactive waste problem for 60 years, and they’ve finally found it: haul it down a dirt road and dump it on an Indian reservation.” — Native American environmental leader Winona LaDuke.

    Either that or burn it in non-existent reactors.

    Nuclear advocates have a responsibility to try to ameliorate the adverse impacts of your nuclear advocacy. For example, you ought to speak out against Ferguson’s racist plans for nuclear waste dumping in the NT. He is using legislation which allows the imposition of a dump with no consultation with or consent from Traditional Owners. Needless to say they are angry and upset, needless to say they have problems enough without having Lucas Heights reactor waste foisted on them. They are asking for support. More info at no-waste.org

  34. Soylent: The Price-Anderson Act is obviously a subsidy, even your own link to the CBO document admits this (“In practice, Price-Anderson subsidizes utilities by reducing their cost of carrying liability insurance”). From the same document, if one of the 3 in every 100 million years accidents were to occur now, the cost would be $500 billion, yet the owners are covered for only $10 billion. One presumes that the taxpayer picks up the remaining $490 billion, but one also presumes the government would not then turn to the nuclear industry as a whole and tell them to raise their prices to foot the bill. But, if so, for anyone to then still argue that nuclear power is inexpensive is disingenuous – even Dick Cheney (hardly a greenie) admitted that without the Price-Anderson Act, “Nobody’s going to invest in nuclear power”.

    I do not quite see the relevance of your other claims. If your first point is that the coal industry should be subject to the costs you allude to, then I agree – but that is an argument for imposing costs on that sector (not an argument that shows nuclear is inexpensive as a “low-carbon energy option” which is the claim by Brook that I am questioning). Similarly, your reference to the Banqiao Dam is unfortunate for your own argument vis-à-vis your citation of the improbability of a nuclear accident. Built in the 1950s it was designed to withstand a 1-in-1,000 year flood, but less than 30 years later it was destroyed by a 1-in-2,000 year flood. So much for reliable estimates as to the probabilities of accidents.

    Since its first plant went online, the US nuclear industry has had since 1957 to establish its commercial viability, yet the 2005 Energy Policy Act enshrined new subsidies (on top of the already existing ones) to the nuclear power industry in the region of $13 billion to $18.5 billion. Fifty years on, this indicates that nuclear power can still not compete in the market place without such subsidies and until Brook addresses the issue of subsidies his assertion that nuclear power isn’t expensive appears to lack empirical support and is certainly not justified by the type of analysis he presented here.

  35. Kropotkin, I believe you are wrong on every point. That PA is not a subsidy since no money changes hands except that the the operators have to pay into a fund to pay for the insurance. As I noted, now airlines have a PA. The guidelines for private insurance in the US dictate the *ability* to pay off a claim. The ‘claims’ are totally arbitrary as to how much it would be if there was an ‘accident’. Thus they made a totally made up worst case scenario and forced both the industry and insurance companies to abide by the ‘scenario’. Your numbers for such a scenario are as bogus as other anti-nukes: made up.

    Dams are not, were not and never will be built to the exacting specs of nuclear. The fact is that hydro has killed more people than commercial nuclear. Again, they are not subject to the liability requirements of nuclear. Only the US has such nonsense.

    On subsidies, please note that none o the 104 operating nukes in the US get subsidies…nore needs them since they make a lot of money. It is why some European gov’ts want to tax MORE nuclear energy…because they can pay for ‘renewables’. Both Finland and Belgium are considering this.

    The subsidies for nuclear in the 2005 act were written in thusly:

    EPAct offers a 1.8 cents/kWh production tax credit for up to 6,000 MW of new nuclear facilities constructed during the first eight years of operation. There is also “standby support” being offered to the first six reactors constructed, should certain types of delays occur. The first two reactors constructed are eligible for 100 percent coverage of eligible costs, up to $500 million. The next four reactors are eligible for 50 percent coverage up to $250 million for delays in excess of 180 days. Eligible costs include those costs that occur for project delays caused either by litigation or by the failure of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to meet schedules. Covered costs include principal and interest on construction debt and the difference between the contract cost of the nuclear facility power and the fair market value of replacement power purchased.

    Please notice the limit of $6 billion. I think this was raised to $8 billion. Then it ends. So, basically, only the first ~5 reactors get a subsidy, one that equals, EXACTLY, the unlimited subsidies wind and solar get: 1.8 cents a kwHr.

    Every nuclear plant runs without subsidies now, Kropotkin. NO wind farm or solar farm can *ever* run without them. Lastly, and most importantly, who gives a damn about ‘market’ endorsement? (that billions are going into expanding nuclear component infrastructure…unsubsidized…doesn’t count?). If you raise this in this forum you are going to be slammed since NEVER have renewable advocates ever seems to realize that they *exist* soley based on feed in tarrifs and production tax credits. Get back to us when solar and wind are built, run and otherwise promoted soley on the issue of ‘The Market’. But I will repeat, no big civil engineering project has EVER been built according to malevolent ‘market’ rules. Thank god.

    david

  36. I have only seen Asia mentioned a few times. It deserves greater emphasis.

    As many have pointed out, looking too far back in time reduces the credibility of any results when applied to projects in progress today – not to mention those of the future. Considering projects initiated within the past 25 years(i.e. first safety related concrete pour during 1984 or later) the following took place in France, India, China, Korea and Japan:

    France
    5 reactor projects completed
    Minimum construction time: 7.5 yr
    Maximum construction time: 12.7 yr
    Average: 9.9 yr
    Standard Deviation: 1.9 yr

    India
    9 reactor projects completed
    Min time: 5.2 yr
    Max: 11.1 yr
    Average: 8.4 yr
    Standard Deviation: 2.2 yr

    China
    11 reactor projects completed
    Min time: 4.2 yr
    Max: 6.9 yr
    Average: 5.8 yr
    Standard Deviation: 0.9 yr

    Korea
    11 reactor projects completed
    Min time: 4.0 yr
    Max: 5.2 yr
    Average: 4.6 yr
    Standard Deviation: 0.4 yr

    Japan
    21 reactor projects completed
    Min time: 3.2 yr
    Max: 5.2 yr
    Average: 3.9 yr
    Standard Deviation: 0.5 yr

    Source: PRIS database
    http://www.iaea.org/programmes/a2/

    One could assume Toshiba is transferring their experience to the AP1000 project in China.

    http://www.iaea.org/NuclearPower/Downloads/2009-06_Vienna_NPPCT-Consultancy/outline%20of%20china%20AP1000NPP%20construction.pdf

    Economic studies must consider Asian experience. One wonders why – if the economics do not work – nuclear power expansion continues there.

    France – 1 project in progress (1st concrete pour)
    Japan – 2 projects in progress ”
    Korea – 5 projects in progress ”
    India – 6 projects in progress ”
    China – 16 projects in progress “

  37. The American Institute of Physics Bulletin of Science Policy News
    Number 109: August 29, 2009
    Web version: http://www.aip.org/fyi/2009/109.html

    The following are excerpts from last month’s Senate consideration of the FY 2010 Energy and Water Development Appropriations Bill pertaining to nuclear power and nuclear waste disposal. See FYI #108 for selections from the floor debate regarding science and technology issues.

    Senator Robert Bennett (R-UT):
    “We are attempting to highlight what I consider to be the failure of this administration to address fully spent nuclear fuel and defense waste inventory in this country. Consistent with the President’s request, a minimum level of funding has been provided to sustain the NRC license review process of the Yucca Mountain Project.

    “The Secretary of Energy has determined he will convene a blue ribbon panel of advisers to recommend other disposal options. But while the administration is considering these options, ratepayers across the country are required to pay $800 million annually to the nuclear waste fund to address spent fuel solutions.

    “CBO [Congressional Budget Office] estimates that by the end of the year the unspent balance in this trust fund will be $23.8 billion. The committee has included language directing the Secretary to conduct an evaluation of the sufficiency of the fund and suspend the annual collection from ratepayers until he has a strategy to address the issue of spent fuel inventory.”
    Senator Byron Dorgan (D-ND):
    “My colleague, Senator Bennett, mentioned Yucca Mountain. I expect that will be mentioned more than once during this discussion in the next day or so. We are going to see the building of some additional nuclear power plants in this country. The reason is pretty obvious: Once built, nuclear power plants do not emit CO2 and therefore do not contribute to the warming of the planet. We are beginning to see additional activity. Companies are preparing license applications now. Senator Bennett described the issue of Yucca Mountain. I do want to make a point about that because it is important.

    “ I didn’t come to the Congress with a strong feeling about building additional nuclear power plants. I have, with my colleague, increased some funding for loan guarantees for nuclear power plants in a previous appropriations bill because I come down on the side of doing everything, and doing it as best we can, to address this country’s energy challenges. They are significant and require building some additional nuclear power capacity.

    “This President campaigned last year against opening Yucca Mountain. It was not a surprise to the American people that he would at this juncture take the position that Yucca is not the place for a permanent repository for high level waste materials. The Secretary of Energy and the administration have recognized that, not proceeding with opening Yucca Mountain, does not mean we don’t need an intellectual framework for nuclear waste. They have indicated and committed themselves to that, the development of an alternative framework for how we address the issue of waste. We have to do that because, in order to build plants, we have to establish waste confidence. I am convinced the administration is doing the right thing in the sense that they have said we don’t want to open Yucca, but they are saying there has to be an alternative. We are committed to trying to find a solution and explore the alternatives with a blue ribbon commission.”

    Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL):
    After discussing the benefits of nuclear power, the senator stated:

    “One thing I am disappointed about in the bill we are working on today, is how this measure deals with the storage of nuclear waste. Yucca Mountain was chosen as the government’s location for a deep geologic repository for the safe storage of used nuclear fuel. All aspects of the geological, hydrological, geochemical, and environmental impacts have been studied, including a detailed evaluation of how conditions might evolve over hundreds of thousands of years at Yucca Mountain. To date, we have spent more than 25 years and $10 billion on these studies, and the Department of Energy has summarized these studies in several scientific reports which served as the basis for the 2002 decision to approve Yucca Mountain as a site repository. These reports, which included input from extensive public review and comment, formed the foundation of DOE’s June 2008 application to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for a license to construct the repository. Ending Yucca Mountain could not only hinder new nuclear construction, it could also pose a serious budget question. The repository is currently financed through the Nuclear Waste Fund. Presently, ratepayers pay a one-tenth of 1 cent fee for every kilowatt hour of nuclear power they consume. This is collected through the monthly utility bill paid by ratepayers. Under the Nuclear Waste Policy Act, DOE must review the adequacy of the Nuclear Waste Fund fee every year. DOE last performed a fee assessment in August of 2008, when it found the fee was adequate. As a result, the total amount of money paid into the fund is approximately $750 million per year and about $1 billion in interest per year. The Congressional Budget Office cost estimate unit told the House Budget Committee that CBO could not estimate what the fee should be:

    “‘In light of the [Obama] Administration’s policy to terminate the Yucca Mountain project and pursue an alternative means of waste disposal, there is no current basis to judge the adequacy of the fee to cover future costs because the method of disposal and its lifecycle costs are unknown.’

    “That is certainly true. Therefore, utilities and regulators are now asking the Department of Energy to suspend the fee on nuclear power. Why should they pay a fee that is supposed to ensure their wasted nuclear fuel will be taken to a repository when this administration has sought to stop this repository and seems to be making progress in that direction?”

    After discussing federal liability and other issues, the senator said:

    “The waste needs to be stored somewhere. The President has indicated that Yucca Mountain is not one of the options for disposal of nuclear waste. I was disappointed to hear that. However, we must remember that Yucca Mountain remains the law of the land and that the administration does not have the ability to unilaterally terminate the project. In order to eliminate Yucca Mountain, Congress would have to amend the Nuclear Waste Policy Act, which set a deadline for the Federal Government to begin disposing of used fuel. However, more than a decade later, we still have not settled on a policy for how to accomplish this, and we have sunk nearly $10 billion into Yucca Mountain. That is a huge sum of money, even for the amounts we talk about today. Not to mention that it is the most studied geology on the planet. I do not think we should abandon this project simply because of political pressure. Regardless of what this administration says, we will continue to face the problem of nuclear waste management. We must have a successful plan to dispose of nuclear waste, whether it is through direct disposal or recycling. I believe we need to go forward with recycling and I have offered legislation to do just that. Either way, we are going to need a site, but if we recycle this waste, it would be less toxic. It would be radioactive for far fewer years than would be the case if it were not recycled and perhaps would then be more palatable to those who object to the site. Perhaps an answer, which to me makes sense, is to move the Nuclear Waste Fund off budget to a dedicated account so that the money will be used for what it was intended. Currently, it is being spent in other places and being replaced with an IOU. Why should utilities pay money into a fund when they are not getting any benefits that they were promised? It just lead us into liability and lawsuits, some of which are already being lost.

    “I believe nuclear power has proven to be exceedingly safe in America. Not one American has lost their life operating a nuclear power plant. The Three Mile Island situation, which caused so much fear and concern in America, did not result in even one person in the studies afterwards to have been sick. But the plants today, and the new ones we will build, will be even safer. They will be set up in such a way that even without power they would automatically shut themselves down through gravity flow into the reactor core. It is a new and safer design. They can be built in mass production quantities, resulting in lower costs per plant, and perfecting the technology and construction techniques that should result in reducing costs. It would allow the components to be produced in larger numbers, reducing costs, and help the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, because of the uniform nature of these plants, to regulate them even more effectively. Mr. President [of the Senate], I thank the Presiding Officer and would say again, nuclear power produces about 20 percent of our electricity today. It emits no CO2 or other global warming gases into the atmosphere. It is cost effective, it is all American, and it does not require us to expend large amounts of American wealth to foreign countries in order to maintain our energy supply. Nuclear power is the right thing to do, and I hope we will continue to work on it because I believe the country is ready to move in that direction.”

  38. @Fran, hi, you were (or are) a big advocate of 2nd and 3rd gen bio fuels. Since it is not something that we talk about here, it seems, perhaps you can provide some good links on it for everyone, maybe send them to Barry?

    David

  39. David Walters:
    “… That PA is not a subsidy since no money changes hands except that the the operators have to pay into a fund to pay for the insurance.”

    If your definition of subsidy requires money to change hands then that would be a direct subsidy. The Price-Anderson Act would thus be regarded as an indirect subsidy. However, the distinction is not relevant to the argument since in either case the limited liability reduces what private utilities would be charging customers were they required to be fully covered.

    “The ‘claims’ are totally arbitrary as to how much it would be if there was an ‘accident’. Thus they made a totally made up worst case scenario and forced both the industry and insurance companies to abide by the ’scenario’. Your numbers for such a scenario are as bogus as other anti-nukes: made up.”

    The numbers that you claim I have “made up” are not mine, but taken from the CBO document cited by soylent. It is a U.S. government document and I am only quoting from it since it is a document that soylent appears to accept. If you wish to show why it is “bogus” then your refutation should be directed at the CBO’s analysis. I see no such refutation in your post.

    “Dams are not, were not and never will be built to the exacting specs of nuclear. The fact is that hydro has killed more people than commercial nuclear. Again, they are not subject to the liability requirements of nuclear. Only the US has such nonsense.”

    It was soylent who mentioned the dams issue, not me (and as I said, I do not see the relevance of raising it). If by “Only the US has such nonsense” you mean that no other country imposes a similar liability limit on their nuclear power industry, then that is not so (Canada, for example, has its own “Nuclear Liability Act” (1970), whilst the UK has such liability provisions in its “Energy Act” (1983)).

    “On subsidies, please note that none o the 104 operating nukes in the US get subsidies…nore needs them since they make a lot of money…. Every nuclear plant runs without subsidies now.”

    This is not a serious claim. The argument revolves around how much they are subsidised, which is what Brook needs to address to justify his concluding claim in the original post. One analysis (from a nuclear proponent) citing the government’s own figures indicates the nuclear power industry has received almost $100 billion in subsidies since 1948, and as I noted before, the 2005 US Energy Policy Act provides for $13 billion in subsidies (see http://climateprogress.org/2008/05/09/nuclear-subsidies-enough-is-enough/). Even the capitalist press acknowledged that the nuclear industry has been “the largest managerial disaster in U.S. business history, involving $100 billion in wasted investments and cost overruns, exceeded in magnitude only by the Vietnam War and the then Savings and Loan crisis.” (Forbes 11/2/85) and that ““Nuclear power, once claimed to be too cheap to meter, is now too costly to matter” (The Economist 19/4/2001).

    “NO wind farm or solar farm can *ever* run without them [subsidies]. Lastly, and most importantly, who gives a damn about ‘market’ endorsement? (that billions are going into expanding nuclear component infrastructure…unsubsidized…doesn’t count?). If you raise this in this forum you are going to be slammed since NEVER have renewable advocates ever seems to realize that they *exist* soley based on feed in tarrifs and production tax credits.”

    I would have thought that the relevance of “market endorsement” is fairly clear. If nuclear power is as inexpensive as claimed, it should have no trouble attracting new private capital. In 2006 and 2007 renewable energies attracted $56 billion and $71 billion respectively in new private risk capital, yet nuclear attracted none. Capitalism does not, therefore, appear to regard nuclear as a profitable future investment, even with government subsidies. As to your final point, I am not opposed to subsidies; only to an analysis purporting to show the cost of something without acknowledging the role of (hidden) subsidies. What prompted me to post here in the first place was that Brook did not acknowledge the subsidies in his claim that price of nuclear power in the Canadian example was inexpensive (and that he heads his article with the claim he’s separating myth from reality). It makes no sense to compare the relative costs to the customer of solar and nuclear power until the subsidies to both are taken into account (if my nuclear or solar power bill says I’m paying 5c/kWh, but my taxes are actually subsidising one or the other by Xc/kWh, then the actual cost to me is 5c plus Xc).

  40. PA is not a subsidy…even indirectly because the *criteria* for it is so bogus. But if you want to call it an “indirect” one, fine…it’s not skin off the reason nuclear can, and will be, the future. Especially as compared to the ridiculously ‘for ever’ subsidy renewables gets…which is why nonrenewables can’t stand on their ‘own’ in the market.

    I’m also not against subsidies, I’m for out right nationalization of energy resources. It’s another discussion but I pointed out, did I not, that no large scale engineering project like…electricity, was ever built without direct or indirect gov’t sponsorship. My whole point is that nuclear is cheaper than wind or solar which is why current installed wind and solar plants need ongoing subsidies and nuclear doe not.

    Now….the ‘historic subsidies’. Interesting. You quote the “even the popular press”. There’s a source! Ha! Please…”since 1947″ is correct, when 100% was *military* subsidy and sponsorship. Right through around 1958 or so. That the military built reators one can argue is unfortunate. But *currently* existing nukes receive no subsidy outside of standard industrial tax benefits. It’s like “A gov’t project in 1920 started the TVA and thus every thing EVER built by it can be tagged with ‘subsidy'”. 90% of the subsidies given nuclear in that date were given up to 1964 or so and then basically was a dribble of support, mostly R&D some of it still military (for fast reactors, as it happens). Saying it, or quoting the CBO on this matter shows that they are STILL basically arguing that the money going into marine reactors for projects like the Nautilus is why the 104 nuclear reactors still get an ‘indirect’ subsidy.

    First, BILLIONs of dollars are going into nuclear. It’s yet another myth you are perpetrating. What makes you think “no private capital” is going into nuclear? Huh? It’s basically a lie. 95% of the R&D for the AP1000, the ABWR, EPR etc are private capital or, gov’t capital with an expected return.

    Lastly, as 90% of the worlds generation is state owned, state distributed, why again is the ‘market’ so important to you? How it that Wall Street and The City which has screwed up the worlds economy SO BAD is such a good guage of this issue? Why do you think 100% of the renewables in the world today wouldn’t exist without ongoing subsidies and grants? Get real: the state has and will have an important role in financing and regulation. Nuclear is the LEAST problematical because ITS return is so great.

    David

  41. David Walters:
    “PA is not a subsidy…even indirectly because the *criteria* for it is so bogus. But if you want to call it an “indirect” one, fine….”

    Well, OK, I will call it an indirect subsidy.
    ***********************************************************
    “My whole point is that nuclear is cheaper than wind or solar which is why current installed wind and solar plants need ongoing subsidies and nuclear doe not.”

    You have provided no evidence for your “whole point” and you have contradicted yourself since in your previous post you acknowledged that “The subsidies for nuclear in the 2005 act were … $6 billion. I think this was raised to $8 billion.” You have also selectively quoted one part of the Act and ignored the total subsidy of $13 billion (which I gave a reference to, and which shows the breakdown of the subsidies). Your assertion (with no supporting evidence) that “*currently* existing nukes receive no subsidy outside of standard industrial tax benefits” is wrong on two counts: it ignores the point that these plants are (as I referenced) the beneficiaries of over 50 years of subsidies totalling nearly $100 billion (you have not cited any study that refutes this $100 billion figure), as well as the fact that there are currently more than twenty types of government subsidies for nuclear power in the U.S., viz:

    1. Subsidies for capital costs: Federal loan guarantees/Clean Energy Bank; advantaged credit from foreign banks, ratebasing of work-in-progress, regulatory risk delay insurance, accelerated depreciation of capital, R&D, production tax credit, renewable portfolio standard.
    2. Subsidies to operating costs: Cap on liability (for fuel cycle, transport, contractors), excess of percentage over cost depletion for uranium, HEU dilution programs, Enrichment D&D: LT funding shortfall, patenting of Federal hardrock mining claims, exemption of royalty payments on uranium mined from Federal land, inadequate bonding for uranium mine sites, cap on liability for reactor accidents, incomplete recovery of NRC oversight costs, low design basis threat for reactors, ancillary costs to prevent proliferation, windfall CO2 credits from grandfathering based on output, inadequacy of waste disposal fee for spent fuel, payments for late delivery of disposal services.
    3. Subsidies to Closure/Post Closure: Decommissioning trusts, preferential tax rates, special transfers, under accrual.

    These Federal subsidies do not include any that individual states may further provide (e.g. Maryland provides for a property tax abatement and uses the depreciated, not the assessed, value of a reactor in assessing taxes). The subsidies (and their extent) listed above can be found in Table 2 of Koplow’s article at http://www.npec-web.org/Essays/Koplow%20-%20CalvertCliffs3.pdf

    ***************************************************
    “Now….the ‘historic subsidies’. Interesting. You quote the “even the popular press”. There’s a source! Ha! Please…”

    No, you have misquoted me and “Ha!” is not an argument. I said the “capitalist press” for the fairly obvious reason that if, as you claim (without citing any evidence) nuclear’s “return is so great”, then capitalists would invest in it, but the evidence on private venture capital investment indicates they have little or no interest in doing so (i.e. it is not profitable, or better returns can be found elsewhere) and that sentiment is what Forbes and The Economist are reflecting. Six investment banks told the U.S. Department of Energy in 2007 that:

    “We believe many new nuclear construction projects will have difficulty accessing the capital markets during construction and initial operation without the support of a federal government loan guarantee. Lenders and investors in the fixed income markets will be acutely concerned about a number of political, regulatory and litigation-related risks that are unique to nuclear power, including the possibility of delays in commercial operation of a completed plant or “another Shoreham”. We believe these risks, combined with the higher capital costs and longer construction schedules of nuclear plants as compared to other generation facilities, will make lenders unwilling at present to extend long-term credit to such projects in a form that would be commercially viable.”
    (http://www.lgprogram.energy.gov/nopr-comments/comment29.pdf)

    In simple terms: nuclear power provides no financial return worth investing in unless the government is willing to subsidise it through monetary guarantees. Later that same year Congress approved a further $18.5 billion (or 80% of the debt cost) in loan guarantees for new nuclear plants (http://construction.ecnext.com/coms2/summary_0249-266555_ITM_platts), but the CBO later stated that it:
    “… considers the risk of default on such a loan guarantee to be very high—well above 50 percent. The key factor accounting for this risk is that we expect that the plant would be uneconomic to operate because of its high construction costs, relative to other electricity generation sources. In addition, this project would have significant technical risk because it would be the first of a new generation of nuclear plants, as well as project delay and interruption risk due to licensing and regulatory proceedings.” (http://energy.senate.gov/legislation/energybill2003/s14.pdf)

    To put this in perspective, it is like the government (fellow taxpayers) guaranteeing to pay off 80% of the mortgage on your house should you default on it (and before it’s even built), with the additional bonus of them doing so even if they know from the very beginning that the risk of you defaulting at any time is “well above” 50%. The word “subsidy” does not quite grasp the generosity of this potential handout, but it remains the case that here is a further $18.5 billion of taxpayers’ money available to bail out the construction of nuclear power stations if needed, and the CBO suggests that at least half of them will default in the coming years.

    A specific example of how loan guarantees exemplify the familiar phrase of how capitalism can “privatise the profits, but socialise the losses” is UniStar, who have estimated that, because of the government guarantees, they will save 3.7c/KWh on a levelized cost basis for their proposed new reactor at Calvert Cliffs in Lusby, Maryland (all the figures in this paragraph can be found in the Koplow analysis cited above). This is a 40% or almost $500 million saving per year. However, since the guarantees can be extended out to 30 years, UniStar can spread their investment risk over this period and save themselves $13 billion dollars – a $13 billion subsidy for a SINGLE reactor over the course of 30 years. People are thus fooled into thinking that nuclear power is 3.7c/KWh cheaper than otherwise because that’s the price on their bills, without appreciating that their taxes are in fact used to produce this subsidised price through loan guarantees and risk assurance which then magically appears as an extra total private profit of $13 billion for UniStar (a situation which completely escapes the type of analysis Brook has done on the Canadian case).
    *****************************************************************
    “First, BILLIONs of dollars are going into nuclear. It’s yet another myth you are perpetrating. What makes you think “no private capital” is going into nuclear? Huh? It’s basically a lie. 95% of the R&D for the AP1000, the ABWR, EPR etc are private capital or, gov’t capital with an expected return.”

    The evidence that nuclear power attracted no new private venture capital in 2006 and 2007 (whilst renewables attracted a total of $127 billion for the same period) is from Michael Liebreich’s figures at New Energy Finance, which claims to be the “world’s leading provider of industry information and analysis to investors, corporations and governments in clean energy, low carbon technologies and the carbon markets” (http://www.newenergyfinance.com/). You once again provide no evidence for your own assertions.
    ******************************************************************
    “Lastly, as 90% of the worlds generation is state owned, state distributed, why again is the ‘market’ so important to you?…Nuclear is the LEAST problematical because ITS return is so great.”

    It is not that the market is “so important” to me, it is that the market is the major determinant of whether something is profitable for private capital to invest in. It is thus a litmus test of your and Brook’s claim that nuclear is relatively inexpensive because if capitalism believed that nuclear is indeed cheaper to produce than alternatives it would invest in it (and not the alternatives) so as to maximize the return. Yet again, you provide no evidence that nuclear’s return is “so great”, and the evidence (some of which I have already cited here and in other posts above) indicates that the market will not invest in nuclear power unless it receives, and continues to receive, tens of billions of dollars in government (i.e. taxpayer) subsidies. I reiterate my central point: Unless and until taxpayer subsidies to the industry are taken into account, Brook’s (above) analysis of the price per kWh of nuclear power is disingenuous, and his conclusion that nuclear is an inexpensive low-carbon energy option is a non sequitur.

  42. Kropotkin – I am not sure why you insist that someone provide a source for an assertion that any “subsidies” provided to nuclear energy before 1954 should be eliminated from the discussion of commercial subsidies. In the United States during the period starting in 1945 until the passage of the Atomic Energy Act of 1954, there was a strong law against any commercial activity in nuclear energy. The US government had declared all nuclear knowledge to be a property of the US government and essentially all information about industrial applications was classified as secret.

    Under those conditions, how could the government be “subsidizing” commercial nuclear power?

    If you want a reliable source of information that details the energy subsidies per unit power output, here is a link to a page supplied by the US Energy Information Agency.

    http://tonto.eia.doe.gov/energy_in_brief/energy_subsidies.cfm

    Rod Adams
    Publisher, Atomic Insights
    Host and producer, The Atomic Show Podcast

  43. Rod Adams:
    Regarding my request for sources, I have provided links to various documents to support my argument. David Walters has provided none, and I may add neither have you in your first paragraph. This is not to say that I regard your information as incorrect, but you are asking me to believe what you say just because you say it. If it is correct you should be able to support it by a reference. That is all that I am asking of David Walters with respect to his various assertions.

    As to the link you provide, I’m not sure why you are directing it at me since it shows that nuclear power received a Federal subsidy of $1,267 million in 2007; hence, it is a further evidence that supports my point against David Walters’ claim that nuclear is not subsided. It is therefore something for him to respond to.

  44. @Kropotkin – Perhaps I just do not understand your rules for debate. Why do you require a link to something that is a matter of history? However, since you insist, you can read about the Atomic Energy Act of 1946 on Wikipedia, which includes a link to the original text.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atomic_Energy_Act_of_1946

    You can also find out more about the Atomic Energy Act of 1954, which was passed after President Eisenhower gave his famous Atoms For Peace speech to the United Nations in December, 1953.

    Here is a link to the full text of that amended act. Notice that the first part of the act recognizes that atomic energy has applications for civilian as well as military uses – this was a new concept with that amendment.

    http://www.nrc.gov/reading-rm/doc-collections/nuregs/staff/sr0980/ml022200075-vol1.pdf

    With regard to the link I provided about energy subsidies – I recognize that nuclear power research received subsidies in 2007. If you follow through and read the associated links on that page you can find the methodology and the items included in that figure. None of the subsidy was provided to operating nuclear power plants, it went to advanced reactor research, university programs, and some support for demonstration licensing efforts to test the one step licensing at the NRC.

    The main point of the link was to show that the other renewables that you continue to tout as receiving massive private investments received far larger subsidies. It is much easier to convince investors on Wall Street to put in some money if they know that much of that money is being matched by the taxpayers. If you have been following the news in the US you will know that Wall Street is a huge believer in government participation in industry through monetary gifts – they just do not like it if the government then expects results or tries to govern the use of the money by limiting executive pay.

    In other words, arguments that rest on the behavior and decision process of Wall Street bankers do not do much to convince me of the merit or demerit of any particular energy supply technology. For the most part, it is safe to say that Wall Street invests in businesses that offer the opportunity for quick returns or big bonuses for bankers, not in businesses that offer long term, steady returns, good jobs, and valuable products that enable general wealth creation.

    The current structure of the energy subsidies for wind and solar offer the opportunity for quick returns for the bankers, often leaving others stuck with the non-performing assets.

    No, no links for that assertion. You can find a lot more detail on Atomic Insights, but it takes time to read and learn a subject in depth. It is hard to summarize with a simple link and it is often the bane of critical thinking that it is hard to find a source that supplies all of the dots in a connected fashion.

    Rod Adams
    Publisher, Atomic Insights

  45. Well, I don’t think they are MY “rules for debate” but the usual methodology for advancing an argument. This subject is a contentious one, so the strength of one’s position depends on the level of reasoning displayed and the evidence (if applicable) one can marshal to support it. Nuclear subsidies are a matter of record: I have indicated what some of those subsidies are and referenced my sources. As I said earlier, it is not a serious claim that nuclear power is not subsidised (and I have provided some figures in that regard, from a variety of sources) but a matter of how much it is subsidised. Neither David Walters, nor yourself, have provided any evidence which addresses the extent of the past, present, and ongoing subsidies for existing nuclear power (in your own case, you accept that the 2007 figure for nuclear power research was NOT for current operating plants without indicating how much the subsidies have been, are, and will be given to existing operations).

    Your point about the decision-making rationale of capitalist investment is plausible, but again, it is something that David Walters needs to address since he wishes to claim (with no supporting reference) that “95% of the R&D for the AP1000, the ABWR, EPR etc are private capital or, gov’t capital with an expected return.” If he is able to show, for example, that a large part of that 95% were from private capital it would tend not to support your argument. If a large part of that 95% is NOT private capital it would tend to support my position that it is not an attractive investment (though perhaps for the reasons you gave, not mine). Either way, it’s again over to him to justify his claim (although my argument on this thread is with Brook’s analysis of the Canadian example, not him).

  46. Kropotkin, I can’t show you a negative. I can’t give you a “link” to a document that shows “no subsidies”. Evidence doesn’t proceed like that. It’s up to you to show that ANY money from the US DofE, the US DofD or any other gov’t agency provided subsidies to the: EPR (which is absurd it since it’s a French gov’t entity but I *couldn’t* prove it) or the AP1000 or any other approved reactor…in any form whatsoever. You need to show where this money comes from, where it goes and why it’s a ‘subsidy’.

    You are repeating the half-truth about gov’t R&D massive subsidies into military technology. The US poured BILLIONS into this technology in the 1950s (and onward). But it was the civilian side of the his is an *benefit* from a seemingly malevolent investment by the US gov’t in the 1950s. 90% of those “hundreds of billions” of dollars went into *military* nuclear technology. Does every nuclear reactor *since* this period of time get pegged with the infamous ‘subsidy’ label? Those subsidies are no longer there except what is *currently* subsidized through the PTC: $8 billion based on a 1.8 cents/kwhr output and the $18 billion dollar loan guarantee (which I dont consider a ‘subsidty’ since it MEANS NOT MONEY CHANGES HANDS. I wonder: do you consider Hoover dam to be a ‘subsidy’? I don’t. It was an outright ownership and built by the US gov’t. More than a subsidy. Save with almost EVERY hydro project we all know and love. Could it stand on it’s own economically in the free market? Most can and would do well. Could you BUILD one, even today, without help from the gov’t? Nope. Just like there is not a single renewable project out there that can’t be built and implemented without massive gov’t subsidies (way more than nuclear based on REAL power: MWhrs output).

    But your criteria seems to be “profitability”. No large scale civil engineering product has ever been built solely by private funds. In noted this before but you ignored it. I note it again here.

    So the loan guarantees make financing cheaper. Perhaps they should make it more expansive? Of course this makes power the plant produces cheaper. The gov’t *decides* interest rates. If the law was changed that said all industrial financing is prime rate plus 1% is that a ‘subsidy’? Is the US Treasury or Fed actually making the loan?

    Finance capitalists only finance things they can make a quick buck on. Investments out to 10 years simply don’t play. Investments out to 5 years usually don’t play either. Ergo the quote from the energy finance company noted is probably true. I don’t doubt it. But the US *imposed* the “loss” criteria as hundreds of billions of dollars. This is not the insurance companies doing. So if the law stated a limited 1 billion dollar loss “in the event of a disaster” companies would be flocking to to get $50 million a year in insurance payments. *BUt they are not allowed* to.

    Secondly, “trusts for decommissioning”…is paid for by the utilities, not the gov’t (or the rate payers to be exact). The nuclear industry pays almost it entire own way and you haven’t shown, only ‘stated’ that it doesn’t.

    When you state: “The evidence that nuclear power attracted no new private venture capital in 2006 and 2007″ that may be true…excect all the R&D for those reactors, including the 10s of millions of dollars required for reactor certification are paid for 100% by the engineering companies submitting them. Except that for 2008 and 2009 Grumman, B&W Nuclear group, GE and Westinghouse have all put in hundreds of millions of dollars for the components for their reactor designs. Real money, not ‘subsidized’ monies.

    This kind of discussion is only relevant for the United States. No other country for *any* form of energy. This is because in no other country (OK, maybe the UK, but there it’s also ‘different’) prioritizes energy projects for “profit” and has to assure no public monies goes into it.

    Basically, statistically, the current fleet of operating plants gets “no subsidies”. The price you pay for power from the US fleet is unsubsidized. No energy project in the US due to it’s arcane financing laws, regulatory laws (we’re getting wind projects now going on 7 years waiting to be built because of this) and private ownership, will all *need* public support in one form. What are those forms?

    1. Special low interest rates from the non-existent “Clean Energy Bank”.
    2. PTC (very important for renewables or there won’t be any). These are direct subsidies since they come off the bottom line.
    3. Loan Guarantees associated with the CEB or separate.
    4. R&D from the DofE and DofD.

    My point is that current nuclear gets ‘no subsidies’ statistically speaking. ALL renewables do. I view both as ‘investments’ with some sort of payoff: reliable, cheap power, clean and w/little or no statistically relevant CO2.

    In my view, nuclear should be 100% ‘subsidized’, built under TVA style public conglomerates (publicly owned power in the US is, 16% cheaper on average than investor owned utilities).

    To gauge the *economic viability* of anything based on Wall Street is a disaster waiting to happen. It *means nothing*. It could mean, however, no money, right? Thus the loan guarantees to avoid the predatory lending of the Wall Street. GOOD. I prefer the way the rest of the world does it: just build ‘em.

    David

  47. David Walters:
    “Kropotkin, I can’t show you a negative.”

    Well, yes you can. I listed, for example, more than twenty existing Federal subsidies. If you could show that ALL of them were not subsidies you would have grounds (relevant to those subsidies cited) for concluding the negative: there are NO subsidies. You have not done so. On the other hand, it is necessary and sufficient for me to cite only ONE subsidy to refute your claim. I have done so.

    Thus your assertion (reiterated yet again without any supporting documentation) that “current nuclear gets ‘no subsidies’ statistically speaking” has been refuted and is false. Q.E.D.

  48. One analysis (from a nuclear proponent) citing the government’s own figures indicates the nuclear power industry has received almost $100 billion in subsidies since 1948, and as I noted before, the 2005 US Energy Policy Act provides for $13 billion in subsidies (see http://climateprogress.org/2008/05/09/nuclear-subsidies-enough-is-enough/).

    Fist, climate progress is hardly a disinterested party, but anyway… the quote above which you pulled from the site has already been dealt with as ‘historical’ subsidies, and it’s NOT break it down. The actual report IT links to is here:
    http://ncseonline.org/NLE/CRSreports/energy/eng-29.cfm this is NOT about nuclear but simply states that the above amount of money was for “nuclear” and is left completely unexplained as to what that money went to. In fact this report is a break down of *renewable* subsidies in passing. It makes an interesting note:

    From FY1973 through FY1996, in 1999 constant dollars, the federal government spent $43.2 billion for nuclear, $21.1 billion for fossil, $11.7 billion for renewables, and $8 billion for energy efficiency.

    .

    Interesting. So, for this “subsidy”, we get 104 nuclear power plants producing power at a cost of 1.7 cents a KWhr (NEI figures) at a real availability of over 90%, same as coal, and for renewables, excluding hydro, we get…? A little.

    But again, the breakdown is not there so we don’t know how much went to military and how much went to *commercial* nuclear energy.

    The Forbes quote is…like quoting Greenpeace. They are famous in the business community for oppositition to nuclear energy, preferring as they do… fossil fuel. You might as well quote the Oil and Gas Assn. and their obviously anti-nuclear POV.

    If nuclear power is as inexpensive as claimed, it should have no trouble attracting new private capital. In 2006 and 2007 renewable energies attracted $56 billion and $71 billion respectively in new private risk capital, yet nuclear attracted none.

    The reason for this is because of politics, and oppositionists, who threaten to drive up the costs. It is not based on the economics of nuclear energy, per se. I’ve already dealt with this nonsense in my last post, anyway.

    Kroptkin…if I were to say, solar is not CO2 free, what would you say? The fact is that it’s not CO2 free…no energy system in that some fossil is used to produce the equipment and haul it, etc. It’s statistically irrelevant. Based on this, solar is in fact CO2 free, as is wind, as is nuclear. There are CO2 costs of course, but essentially it’s CO2 free. The same is true with nuclear “subsidies”. “Subsidies” that have MORE than been paid back in taxes, and cheap power.

    The PTC IS a subsidy. But, since you are lawyering this, I can say no nuclear has received a dime of this 1.8 cents kw/hr because the gov’t hasn’t paid it out yet and you have to be on line. So, IN FACT, nuclear receives no PTC. But that’s lawyering nonsense as the industry has been granted this in the form the $8 billion dollars for the first few plants that come on line. The industry wants it, without a doubt. Everyone wants free money. But nuclear pays back way and above what ever is invested in it. They are, more often than not, the biggest cash earners for any utility. No one is losing any money investing in nuclear.

    The CBO knows this too. The problem with the CBO report is that it’s based *entirely* on the 1970s methodology and uses only past history as the determining factor. It even ignored that the ‘first of a kind’ reactors they use to criticize the potential losses of new nuclear (50%) are part of a completely different production model of standardized reactors. It was written by lawyers and accountants, unfortunately, not engineers.

    At any rate, you have never answered the question about overall energy subsidies. Why don’t you give us your view on the *massive* feed in tariffs for wind and solar in Europe or the PTC in the US and that NO renewables that I’m aware of can exist with continual subsidies? Your turn.

  49. Re David Walters:
    I was prompted to post on this thread by Brook’s analysis of Canadian nuclear costs and his conclusion that nuclear was not therefore (as he says others have claimed) an expensive low-carbon energy option. I posed a few questions to him, soylent and you chose to address me (claiming I was wrong about the Price-Anderson Act being a subsidy, with you going on to assert that nuclear power was not subsidised). Out of courtesy I responded to you and I have shown that claim to be false. As I have said, the issue is how much nuclear is subsidised and once this can be established then its price (with the subsidies taken into account) can then be compared to other subsidised forms of power (like those you mention). You still appear unwilling to concede that nuclear power is subsidised at all, so I see no reason to think it is my “turn”. I await Brook’s response to my original post.

  50. ‘Kropotkin’, I’ve not seen anything useful to respond to that David Walters has not already addressed. You agonise about possible costs that have never been called upon, have never been spent. But you want me to factor these in? Okay, here’s a stab:

    An unforeseen reactor accident will somehow manage to defy all engineered and inherent safety systems of the ACR-1000 or EPR, breach containment, and result in a disastrous release of radionuclides. Let’s put a figure on this… hmmmm… perhaps 1 in 10 million reactor years? (I’m being extremely generous to your case here, just to humour you). This accident causes $10 trillion damage (again, being extra generous to you).

    Okay, so that hypothetical super-accident would incur a yearly additional cost of $1 million per reactor, or say (roughly) $120 million for the entire US/Canadian fleet. If this fleet generated 100 GWe average over the year, then that’s an extra 0.014c/kWh.

  51. Great article Barry and thanks for the links.

    A friend of mine in the mining industry (yes I know this is how the line goes but trust me on this) say the Chinese have planned to build something close to 450 to 500 nuke reactors over the next 30 years and that should clear most of their problem with emissions.

    The reactors will follow the same path as “the Chinese steel mill” model which is 40% of the cost that you see elsewhere and that an identical plan is followed in each build. The Chinese nuke plant model will cost 40% less than we see elsewhere too. They won’t be pretty but they will do the job.

  52. One last thing…

    Nuke can’t be introduced here unless both parties agree to it. It really has to be a bi-partisan effort.

    David says:

    Finance capitalists only finance things they can make a quick buck on. Investments out to 10 years simply don’t play. Investments out to 5 years usually don’t play either.

    This isn’t entirely true David. There are lots of examples of projects or deals done with expected long term payoffs. Although the Macquarie model is basically dead in the water in terms of putting together satellite funds. A semblance of that model will most probably survive particularly in the non-listed sector capturing large pension fund investment where they are crying out for a regulated monopoly like returns with a very long life.

    In fact my prediction is that unlisted or listed structures that offer regulated returns which basically protect against inflation and are hard assets would be a raging success in the next year or so as people begin to whiff inflation. Imagine owning a large asset with a growing/regulated income stream that has monopoly position that goes up in value as a result of inflation? It would replace bonds and it will sell amazingly well.

  53. Re Barry Brook:

    I think it’s reasonable to say that you hold a very prestigious university post – one in which the public would hold you in high regard, are attentive to your views, and assume you to be an informed authority on this subject. You can use your expertise to convey arguments supported by reasoning and evidence and the public trust that you can provide an objective point of view in any conclusions you reach. There would also be an expectation that whenever your views may be challenged you are capable of defending them.

    I think I am raising a few reasonable questions about your post – for example, I was curious as to the impact of Canadian government subsidises (which you did not mention) on nuclear power prices (I had read that between 1953 and 2000, Atomic Energy of Canada had received $16.6 billion in direct subsidies from the government). I find it, therefore, very disappointing that you wish to “humour” me so I won’t waste any more of your (or my) time. Given your response, it appears you do not wish to engage in a serious discussion in defence of your position, so I cannot now regard your original post as a tenable analysis. Speaking as a member of the public with no expertise in this area, but willing to examine and learn about the issue, I think that you do neither yourself, nor the University of Adelaide, any credible public service by your dismissive attitude.

  54. JC, you said

    “In fact my prediction is that unlisted or listed structures that offer regulated returns which basically protect against inflation and are hard assets would be a raging success in the next year or so as people begin to whiff inflation. Imagine owning a large asset with a growing/regulated income stream that has monopoly position that goes up in value as a result of inflation? It would replace bonds and it will sell amazingly well.”

    I wish I could invest a proportion of what is left of my super balance in something like that right now.

    If both parties would support nuclear, and we could get long term stable returns from investments like you suggest, I’d invest i it tomorrow. Because I am confident it is the secure, long term future.

  55. Kropotkin, my apologies, I had no idea you were such a shrinking violet. Indeed, from your pseudonym, I had assumed you were rather the opposite. Your vigorous retorts to David Walters, and your repeated demands that ‘Brook’ answer your questions, also indicated that this was the case, and that you knew something about nuclear power (wrongly in turns out, by your own admission). So sorry, I’ll be gentler.

    Take solace in my calculations. I was entirely serious about them. As I showed in #58, there is no need to be concerned about extra subsidies for nuclear power with respect to accidents, because (i) nothing in the US or Canada has ever been paid out of the public purse for these, and (ii) factoring this into the cost of electricity would add a tenth of a tenth of a cent to the cost of electricity per kilowatt hour.

  56. Two reports of potential interest (guessing many in this thread already know about one or both)

    First – the 2009 Revised MIT Study (full:PDF)’The Future of Nuclear Power’.

    http://web.mit.edu/nuclearpower/pdf/nuclearpower-full.pdf

    Second, and possibly even more relevant to this thread, is MIT’s 2009 ‘Update on the costs of Nuclear Power’.

    http://mit.edu/canes/pdfs/nfc-108.pdf

    Finally, a comment to Kropotkin’s post #47.

    You’ve gone back pretty far (>5 years) for most if not all of your media reports / quotes. I note that, in particular, the Economist has since come out quite positively about nuclear power’s role in future energy production.

    Why not read what the Economist said today about advances in nuclear waste handling technology

    http://www.economist.com/search/displaystory.cfm?story_id=14299664&CFID=78769515&CFTOKEN=72966571

    Or the below article from April – ‘Greenstanding’ where renewables are highlighted as – not only receiving economic stimulus money – but also worrying, as an industry, about nuclear technology deployment

    “One fear shared by many enthusiasts of renewables, says Andrew Simms, policy director of the NEF, is that the government is simply losing interest in them. It has moved speedily to revive the nuclear-power industry, by contrast. From a position of cordial dislike in 2003…”

    http://www.economist.com/world/britain/displaystory.cfm?story_id=13416083

    Several reports in March on nuclear safety and non-proliferation (both important aspects of ongoing technology expansion. And that’s just how they are reported.

    http://www.economist.com/world/international/displaystory.cfm?story_id=13325552

    http://www.economist.com/world/international/displaystory.cfm?story_id=13325544

    And so it goes. In September 2007, nuclear power scored the cover page of the Economist with several related features inside. It is now premium content (account required), but the cover page photo is linked below.

    http://nuclearaustralia.blogspot.com/2007/09/one-take-on-renaissance.html

    I’ve read some nuclear blogs critical of The Economist, but I find their reporting to be, by and large, balanced. Consider their recent report on clean coal, ‘The Illusion of Clean Coal’. Not much left to the imagination there.

    http://www.economist.com/opinion/displaystory.cfm?story_id=13235041

  57. I should add that the second MIT study above, specific to costs, appears to be work supporting the first updated report. In it, one can begin to understand why a 2-unit nuclear plant in one US State is forecast to cost roughly double that of a similar proposal a few states away.

    The report also relies heavily on recent build projects in Korea and Japan – but warns of risks associated with such comparisons.

  58. Phew! some conversation on nuclear costs etc!!. If nuclear is so costly, dirty, dangerous etc would someone explain to me why there are an additional 20 countries over and above the 33 already generating it who are building reactors as I write. On waste, South Australia has the best of just a few suitable sites identified by the IAEA for deep geological burial. It’s the Officer Basin in the western desert of SA. My brother wrote and mapped the geology of the SA section 35 years ago. When Rudd goes to Copenhagen in December, he should offer the world that site for its waste and at the same time assure the world that Australia will continue to provide nuclear fuel feed stock for power generation. Olympic Dam 300km east of the Officer Basin has enough uranium using the developing fast neutron reactors to power the planet for between 3000 and 4000 years. Why would a government wanting secure energy, water and hydrogen supplies not want to develop such resources for their own and the planet’s good? It’s now 10 years since I first posed this question. Want more nuclear info? Contact me on [08] 86821571 email: patez1@yahoo.com

  59. Phew!My first stumble into the Blog world. I’m a layman but used nuclear power in 1981 while on teacher exchange in Ontario. Been a convert to nuclear ever since. If nuclear is so dirty, costly, unsafe etc why the blazes are there 20 additional countries building reactors now. On waste: South Australia has the perfect site for all world’s waste, Officer Basin for which my brother wrote and mapped the geology 35 years ago IAEA has identified it as the best of just a few suitable sites on the entire planet. Rudd needs to get to Copenhagen and offer the world that site for all of its waste as well as promising to keep the planet powered with Olympic Dam uranium. There’s enough U there to power the planet for 3000 to 4000 years if we use fast neutron reactors which will be on line within a decade.Want to know more about the world nuclear industry. Contact me on [08]86821571 or email: patez1@yahoo.com

  60. Terry Krieg,

    Great comment. Great to have school teachers involved. Especially teachers with some knowledge and experience of nuclear energy gained overseas, and knowledge of geology as well.

    May I add to what you said? Australia has by far the best conditions of anywhere in the world for nuclear waste disposal. I should preface my comments by saying that, from my perspecive, nuclear waste is a down-in-the-weeds problem from a technical perspective, but I recognise it is highly contentious from a public perception and political perspective.

    Why is Australia ideal?

    Large areas of inland drainage, low rainfall and low topographic relief. The importance of inland drainage and low rainfall are obvious. But why is low topographic relief important? Low topographinc relief means ground water moves slowly. So if radioactive materials did ever escape from the containent it would move at a very slow rate. However, in reality it is irrelevant because we know from geologic studies that any radionuclides that were released would move about 5m before getting absorbed by the minerals on the surfaces of the rock fractures.

    Of course before it could get out in the first place, four barriers have to be breached.

    And even if the material did get out, how bad is it, when compared with the toxic materials spewed from the smoke stacks of fossil fuel power stations, released in the water during the various processes along the fuel and combustion chain, and in the solid wastes?

  61. @Peter Lang #68.

    “And even if the material did get out, how bad is it, when compared with the toxic materials spewed from the smoke stacks of fossil fuel power stations, released in the water during the various processes along the fuel and combustion chain, and in the solid wastes?”

    I don’t believe that the end-products of the fission power process should be considered as waste. Apart from the obvious truth that most current nuclear ‘waste’ is in fact fuel for gen III and IV reacors, the fission decay products include some extremely valuable rare elements, and the high radioactivity of the intermediate decay products can be put to good use as well in a number of applications.

    I suspect that in a more rational futurity, the main nuclear ‘waste’ problem will be the relative scarcity of such a valuable resource.

  62. To Peter Lang,
    Yes Peter. It was the Pickering power station which I visited in 1981. Stood 5 metres from the open reactor which was about to be recharged with new fuel rods. Peered into storage ponds where spent fuel rods were suspended under a few metres of water. Depended on power from this station for the whole year while in Ontario. Also went down a couple of mines. The mine foreman gave me a small sample bag of yellowcake which I brought back to Australia and which I have used many times in the 20 or so pro nuclear power speeches I’ve made over the past 4 years in South Australia. Also visited the nuclear research centre at Chalk River when I went with a large group of other teachers on a mining tour courtesy of the Ontario mining Industry Council.Walked across the top of an operating reactor.All of this direct nuclear experience cured me of my former nuclear paranoia. Back here in SA while still teaching at Port Lincoln High School, I took my 41 [yes41] year 12 geology students on our annual geology field study to the Flinders Ranges. We included a day at Olympic Dam on the way and we all drove around in a 25 seater for an hour and a half 500 metres below the surface. It was an impressive operation then. Re the Officer Basin mentioned in my first piece. It’s an old [Palaeozoic mostly] 5 km thick pile of stable sedimentary rock, essentially flat lying with various fine grained sediment layers eminently suitable to store nuclear waste.The whole basin slopes gently from north to south, it’s arid and therefore there’s not much water to move radionuclides around.Anyway my brother who wrote and mapped the geology assures me that the only use that the little ground water present could be put to would be for pickling cucumbers.It is demonstrably the best site on the planet to dispose of all of the worlds nuclear waste. And it’s about 300km west of Olympic Dam which has the biggest single uranium deposit on earth. We’ve got the biggest U deposit and the best waste site juxtaposed here in SA. I’ve been trying to get through to governments etc just what potential that offers for Australia’s energy, water and for that matter, hydrogen future.Have been in touch with Paul Howes and Bob Hawke who both understand how big this could be for Australia. I’ve been pushing it now for 12 years. I live in hope of seeing nuclear power etc in Australia within the next 10-15 years. I’ve told Olympic Dam EIS that they should can their desal plant at Whyalla and build one at/near Ceduna and also that they should produce their own nuclear power using a couple of Pebble Bed Modular Reactors or one of the medium sized [600MW] reactors which Hitachi/GE are developing. Building time for them is 34 months. Must fly. Off to the Flinders Ranges tomorrow.

  63. Terry Krieg,

    Great post. You’re doing a great job – getting some solid knowledge into your students.

    Very informative. There’s just one point I’d clarify for the sake of other readers. You said: “And it’s about 300km west of Olympic Dam which has the biggest single uranium deposit on earth.”

    I think it would be better to say “biggest known single uranium deposit”. Because we have hardly scratced the surface yet. We are in a similar position to where we were in the 1950’s when there was an embargo on exporting iron ore. At that stage, or ore known iron ore reserves were som 80 million tonnes (from memory). Once the iron ore embargo was lifted, suddenly the Hammersley iron ore deposits (close to 63% iron) were revelealed. Also, back in the 1960’s we though there was only 15 years of oil left in the world. The point is, that in the case of uranium, more will be found as we need it. Uranium is the same concentration in the Earth’s crust as tin. By the way, just as an irrelevant side point, I wonder how many people realise that uranium is being concentrated in the Earth’s continental crust every year as new continental crust forms.

  64. Yes Peter Lang’ you are correct. There’s a lot more U to be discovered. However, any future discoveries will have to be gigantic to surpass the 2.2 million tonnes U at Olympic Dam. On waste again I sometimes wonder what people are thinking when they say “What about earthquakes?” They must think that the earth will open up from burial level to the surface, throw the drums of solid ceramic waste out onto the surface where they then explode. That’s about as silly a proposition as Helen Caldicott’s “one pound of plutonium delivered speck by speck to the world population is sufficient to wipe out every single one of us” What sort of “fictional nonsense” is that? Caldicott and the other big noise anti nukes like Nader, Toynbee etc are thankfully being ignored by energy authorities and governments around the world and getting on with greatly increasing nuclear power generation. We have to shorten the debate here in Australia and start to use the experience of the 33 soon to be 53 countries on the planet who are planning to or are generating nuclear power. Time is short to be fiddling around with the part time power sources like solar and wind, which by the way, may be renewable but they as sure as hell are NOT green How come? 1000KW nuclear power station needs about 1km2 space. Same capacity solar needs 200km2 and wind 500km2. Wind, solar green? Come off it.

  65. Thanks Peter. You’re right. There’s plenty of U still to be discovered. Any new discoveries will have to be big to top Olympic Dam however. It’s got 2.2 million tonnes. Additional point on waste disposal. SA earthquake map reveals earthquake occurrence over past 120 years. No sign of any movement in the Officer Basin over that time. It’s very stable. I sometimes wonder what people are thinking when they say “What about earthquakes?” I think they must feel that the earth will rupture, split from waste burial level to the surface, spew the drums containing solid ceramic waste out onto the surface where by some miracle, it explodes. That’s almost as silly a proposition as Helen Caldicott saying in the Los Angeles Times in 1997 that “one pound of plutonium delivered speck by speck to everyone on the planet’s lungs would be enough to kill the entire 6 billion of us.” Talk about “fictional nonsense” as Professor Bernard Cohen Chair of the Health Physics Society with 6500 members described it. Thankfully authorities around the world are at last ignoring the likes of Caldicott, Nader, Toynbee [UK] and getting on with developing more nuclear power.

  66. Media Economists talk about stock markets and financial dealings.
    It might help if they would analyse the economics of electricity generation and report on the alternative forms of generation, nuclear or otherwise.

    In 1974 the second report to the Club of Rome condemned nuclear electricity as a “Faustian bargain” and started the “SOLAR, not nuclear!” dream.
    35 years later we still have THE solar dream making a tiny amount of world electricity and the Club promotes solar farms in the Sahara to provide power for Europe.

    Meanwhile, anti-nuclear Germany gets about 25% of its electricity from unsubsidised nuclear and about 0.4% from subsidised solar and has subsidised coal mining and electricity generation since the 1950’s.

    I suppose it could be called a level playing field

  67. On another thread Neil Howes asked:

    Any idea of the date when Australia could replace the last coal-fired power plant(ie keeping existing hydro, OCGT and wind power), assuming we start on the “nuclear vision” after the next Federal election?

    Luke replied:

    One can make guesses from other countries’ experience. How hard to you want to try? The fastest rate the French managed was 3.4 GW/year, which would give you Oz’s 25 Gw average load in under eight years. France’s population is twice yours, but techniques have improved over the last 25 years. Say five years to get organised and ramp up, slow down at the end, 15 years from committing 100% to the goal. Of course, opponents will get the lawyers in and it will take 50 years instead!

    I’d like to take look at this more closely and look at a fast rate of implementation – the sort of rate that might apply if there was overwhelming public support to get moving.

    The figures below are based on the current Gen III and Gen III+ reactors and on current build rates (see http://bravenewclimate.com/2009/08/23/recent-nuclear-power-cost-estimates-separating-fact-from-myth/#comment-24824). The build rate may be musch faster, and may accelerate much faster, if the small Gen IV reactors prove viable and economic duing this time.

    Program:

    1. 5-years to implement the nuclear regulatior framework and the site selection process (2015)

    2. 5-years (in parallel with 1,) establish the nuclear education faclilities (2015)

    3. 5-years to construct and commission the first reactor (2020)

    4. 5-years to complete and commission the next 10 reactors (2025)

    5. 5-years to complete and commission the next 20 reactors (2030)

    6. Progressively commission 12GW pumped hydro (2020 to 2030)

    So, by 2030 we could have reliable, low-cost, low-emissions electricity from the NEM.

  68. Further to my post #80, the capital cost of the nuclear build program mentioned in post #80 would be about $130 billion in today’s dollars.

    To put the cost in perspective, it is equal to about 40% of the debt the government has committed, during the past year, to add Australia’s national debt. But it is spread over 20 years.

  69. Furthermore, again, to post #80 and #81, even in a Business as Usual situation, most of the coal fired power stations would be replaced during the period between now and 2030. So most of the $130 billion cost of the nuclear build would have to be committed on new coal fired power stations (or baseload gas, or renewables if viable) if it is not spent on nuclear.

    The additional cost of nuclear (settled down costs) over coal (in Australia) may be around 25% in today’s dollars. So the additional cost of nuclear, compared with replacing the retiring coal with new coal, would be around $34 billion – and that would be spread over 20 years.

    Again, to give perspective, this ($34 billion) would represent about 10% of the new federal government debt we have just committed to in the past year.

  70. Peter#80,
    The time line for the first reactor seems reasonable using a company such as Worley Parson’s that has had experience in building such projects.
    Starting 10 reactors at once from 2020 would be using 20% of today’s world-wide nuclear build-out capacity and would be comparable to building 10 LNG trains at once.
    I would look at what Canada managed in last 40 years( a non-nuclear weapons state) with 4-5 research reactors, ready access to US manufacturing infrastructure and expertise, an economy 60% larger than Australia’s.
    If we could pre-order any long lead time components and have most modules built overseas as we do for LNG trains it would still be a stretch to complete 1GW per year, or 10GW by 2030.
    If we are lucky, electricity demand will not have increased by 10GW from 2009 to 2030 so nuclear may contribute to 25-30% of total electricity demand. If the rest is CCGT that’s still a lot of CO2, but a reduction in todays emissions. If we meet the 2020 target for 20% renewable(5GW average) and build another 5GW(average) from 2020 to 2030 that could mean only 50% power from CCGT.

  71. Neil,

    Starting 10 reactors at once from 2020.

    We wouldn’t start 10 reactors in 2020. We’d start them in five states in multiple power stations in stages from 2015.

    …would be using 20% of today’s world-wide nuclear build-out capacity …

    The international build rate stalled in the 1980’s due to various factors (some similar to what has been preventing Australia getting started). If it is important to do so, we can and will achieve the build rate. France achieved abuild rate of 3.4GW per year and that was with the old Gen II, and it was 30 to 40 years ago. If we want to, we can and will. (see post #43)

    I would look at what Canada managed in last 40 years( a non-nuclear weapons state)

    Please explain what does ‘nuclear weapons state’ have to do with civil nuclear power. (on second thoughts, don’t bother, it’s a waste of energy.) BTW, Japan is a non-nuclear weapons state, as is South Korea.

    Also, the international build rate to date has been dependent on the rate of demand growth. If we want to convert from coal to nuclear, we’ll do it. You seem to be implying that because we only built at this rate in the past, we can’t accelerate in the future. Yet at the same time you see the imperative. And you also seem to think you can meet the challenge with renewables. To me that is totally illogical.

    The question I was answering was ‘what could we do if we really had to?’. If we really have to, the answer will be nuclear, not wind and solar with their requirements for massive transmission line capacity and massive chemical storage capacity.

    Importantly, while we continue to focue our attention on renewables instead of nuclear, as we have been doing for at least the past 20 years, we waste most of our effort on a non solution and therefore do not have the resources to focus on a genuine solution. I hoe this BNC web site will help to persuade people to get off researching renewables. The amount of absolute nonsense being generated by our universities on this non solution is a gross waste of our resources. We’ve lost 20 years already. How much longer do you want to keep this going?

    If we are lucky, electricity demand will not have increased by 10GW from 2009 to 2030 so nuclear may contribute to 25-30% of total electricity demand. If the rest is CCGT that’s still a lot of CO2, but a reduction in todays emissions. If we meet the 2020 target for 20% renewable(5GW average) and build another 5GW(average) from 2020 to 2030 that could mean only 50% power from CCGT.

    We seem to be going around the buoy on this, repeatedly.

    First, wind power backed up by gas generation does not avoid much CO2 emissions.

    Second, OCGT, not CCGT, is needed (mostly) to back up for wind power

    Third, if we are mandated to build wind generators, then we must build OCGT for back up. So wind plus OCGT will be built instead of CCGT between now and 2020, as and when new baseload capacity is required. Since OCGT emits about 75% of what coal emits, we are not saving much with wind plus OCGT instead of CCGT. Barry wrote a very good summary about this point on another thread.

    Neil, I do not understand why you are so attached to the renewables dream. They are no more renewable than nuclear on an LCA basis.

  72. I’d be interested to know how many person-years of effort has been expended on renewable energy in Australia over the past 20 years?

    And how many on nuclear electricity generation?

    And what has been the return on investment on our research into renewable energy?

    Can anyone answer these questions for me?

  73. First, it is quite silly to use today’s build out capacity as a judge for what it will be in 10 1/2 years from now.

    If there is ONE area that is going through an absolute “Boom” it’s in the construction of component factories around the world, even the USA.

    There have been recent articles about this if you know where to look, including recently on the WNA.

    A more extensive article at the ‘other NEI’ (Nuclear Engineering International) shows that component manufacturing, and heart and sole of any atomic Renaissance, is growing *exponentially*:

    http://www.neimagazine.com/story.asp?sectionCode=147&storyCode=2052302

    The biggest hindrance then is setting up the infrastructure (commissions, training, staffs, oversight, etc etc) which is something even the Chinese have now moved up the checklist of bottlenecks for the steroidal nuclear program.

    David

  74. Peter#84,
    “Neil, I do not understand why you are so attached to the renewables dream. They are no more renewable than nuclear on an LCA basis.

    I totally agree that nuclear should be considered as a renewable energy resource, however in Australia, at least for now, nuclear is a hope(perhaps a dream), but at least wind energy is a reality, and actually generating power.

    I hope nuclear can contribute significant power by 2030, Japan has built 50GW in last 50 years(the second largest economy, 6-7 times the size of Australia, has virtually no FF resources and very little wind or solar potential). Do you seriously compare Australia’s industrial capacity to build nuclear power plants with Japans?? ( one GW of nuclear per year really is a big stretch, but we can dream of what could be possible even if it’s probably not going to happen that quickly. Having a lot of the components build overseas will help but will still be competing with other countries for the same components.
    You have not explained how OCGT capacity creates CO2 when not in operation. If OCGT is being used at 10% capacity factor the CO2 contribution compared to CCGT running at 100% is very minor(15%). That’s the alternative for most electricity, or worse, coal-fired power until at least 2040.

    You have done a good job of showing that we could build a lot more pumped hydro,(12GW) so new OCGT is probably not needed, but no reason to dismantle existing OCGT(6-7GW ?) capacity at least until the last coal-fired plant is retired. Once we have 27GW wind and solar capacity operating we will have a better idea of how much back-up pumped hydro and OCGT capacity is really required.

  75. Terry K
    it’s good to hear a local agreeing that Eyre Peninsula-Bight-east Nullarbor could be a low carbon powerhouse. I’ve stayed with relatives in these areas. Neil H has already proposed a 1500km HVDC cable linking WA gas power to the east Australian grid. Various kinds of low carbon generation could tack onto this new national grid if the economics were right.

    I see the Whyalla scuba diving fraternity want to move the RO desal down the coast to Cowleds Landing near where a small uranium ISL is planned. That would make the desal to Roxby distance about the same as Ceduna, where of course the desal could be the more efficient flash distillation using nuclear waste heat.

    On nuclear waste disposal the Federal government has already bought Arcoona Station near Woomera.
    I assume that is sedimentary layers overlying granite. When OD goes open cut the underground equipment could be moved to a suitable site to enable cask storage in tunnels accessed by deep shafts. In time that whole region would become wealthy.

  76. Neil #87,

    You have not explained how OCGT capacity creates CO2 when not in operation.

    Did you read the paper “Cost and quantity of greenhouse gas emissions avoided by wind generation” and the references cited?

    Once we have 27GW wind and solar capacity operating we will have a better idea of how much back-up pumped hydro and OCGT capacity is really required.

    Oh my gawd!

    More likely we’ll wonder how we went so wrong.

  77. Neil (#87),

    You said:

    … but at least wind energy is a reality, and actually generating power.

    Wind is generating eratic power. The power is intermittent and changes rapidly and almost continuously. As a result it has low value to the purchasers (the electrcity distributors). It causes extra costs in transmission systems, grid management and for purchasers who have to manage their regulatory obligations to buy the wind power.

    Wind energy costs around twice that of the conventional baseload power that it is supposed to replace.

    Wind power has low value and is very high cost.

    And it replaces little greenhouse gas emissions.

  78. John Newlands. Thanks for your support. I’ve been promoting the Officer Basin for waste storage for 10 years. Debated Prof John Veevers on Phillip Adams LNL in March 2003!!! My contention was that earnings through taxes and royalties from user countries would generate $2.5billion every year. They are Access Economics figures. I said that we could use that money to rationalize the irrigation effort throughout the Murray basin by about 60% [The late Prof peter Cullen later agreed with me] and redeploy the displaced irrigators in a massive revegetation scheme of the entire basin. Veevers argument? ” Yes, but we could make as much money going into wholesale Heroin production” I’m not kidding. Ask Phillip Adams. That was 6 years ago by the way. And what about the current state of the Murray?? It’s as good as stuffed. Nuclear power, waste disposal etc could save the Murray, keep people in jobs and create thousands more jobs and make SA an economic powerhouse. But we have leaders who persist with claims that nuclear power is too dirty, too dangerous too costly, too slow etc. The anti nuclear zealots sure have a lot to answer for. They’ve sucked our leaders in well and truly with their half truths and downright lies.it’s time for our leaders to ignore the antis and get on with developing nuclear power like the rest of the world.

  79. Terry the connection I see between a west coast nuke/desal and the River Murray is that it could enable the 100 ML/day Morgan-Whyalla pipeline to be turned off. That pipe is gradually extending further west. The freed up water could flow down river for other needs. See
    http://www.sawater.com.au/nr/rdonlyres/1826cbc5-a6c4-4bbc-aace-5ec6d2683119/0/epltp_execsummary.pdf
    The Whyalla RO desal for Olympic Dam should be switched to a NPP coupled flash desal at an open ocean site with BHP Billiton contributing some major dollars.

    Water will also be needed for new mines like the Ambrosia zircon deposit. New mines will take materials away while a waste disposal site buries some others. I believe to avoid economic stagnation SA has little choice but to get into additional phases of the nuclear industry.

  80. Yes John Newlands. We’re on the same page for sure.I’ve actually written a second piece for the SA Chamber of Mines and Energy on my vision for development over the the next 25 years in SA. They printed my first piece on nuclear waste disposal but seem reluctant to print the “vision ” statement. I shall try to put some pressure on them soon. Essentially the vision is for:
    1. International high level nuclear waste dump in Officer Basin as first step. Rudd needs to get to Copenhagen and assure the world that Oz will make the site available for nuclear countries which have signed up to NPT.
    2. A nuclear desal plant at Ceduna [not Whyalla] The threat to giant cuttlefish is big enough to make Whyalla the wrong site. That desal plant provides Eyre Peninsula water and Olympic Dam expansion needs. You suggest turning off the Morgan-Whyalla pipeline. Excellent idea John. BHP Billiton takes leading role in that desal plant.Some of that water can be used by the other mines developing in the NW of SA.
    3. BHP Billiton develops its own nuclear power station on site at Olympic Dam [a couple of Pebble Bed Modular Reactors or one of Hitachi/GE’S medium sized reactors [400-600MW]with a 34 month build time would do.]That negates a 275Kv gas fired power line from Pt. Augusta. Gas is a fossil fuel which the gas lovers seem to forget.[40% emissions of coal]
    4. Phase out the coal fired power station at Pt. Augusta and build a nuclear power station.
    5 Develop nuclear fuel manufacturing and reprocessing plants at Whyalla.
    That should take about 20 years once our governments wake up and grow up and join the rest of the world in the rapid expansion of nuclear generation currently occurring. There would be tens of thousands of new jobs and hundreds of billions if not a trillion dollars of investment in all of that over coming decades. Australia becomes a/the world leader in future energy supply and use. Why would a government pass up an opportunity like this? I’ve been asking myself this question now for 12 years. Oh well, I’ll keep on trying to get them to see the potential nuclear offers Australia.Are there any others out there who could help get the message out to the politicians??

  81. Anti-nuclear advocates like to point out that the new Gen III+ nuclear power station being constructed in Finland is over running the original cost estimate by a factor of 2.

    The following provides a perspective:

    1. The MIT study states that the cost of all the baseload generation technologies have increased by close to a factor of 2 since 2003.

    2. From other sources, I understand that this also applies to hydro.

    3. That ACT Government has just announced that the new water supply dam being built in the ACT is going to overrun its cost estimates by a factor of 3. (the cost estimates are just 2 years old!)

    4. The EPR being built in Finland is a first of a kind (FOAK) plant. It is common for FOAK plants to overrun their original estimates, no matter what the plant is for, e.g. chemical processing plants, pulp mills, military hardware, etc (recall the cost increases for the BHP iron smelter in WA).

    5. The following illustrates the average cost increase for projects by project types and risk (listed in order of increasing project risk type). For each I’ve listed: type of project, number, cost growth percent)

    a. Highways, 40, 35%
    b. Water projects, 49, 55%
    c. Public buildings, 59, 80%
    d. Very large construction, 12, 135%
    e. Pioneer process plants, 29, 190%
    f. Major weapons systems, 17, 40%

    (The reason the military projects have smaller cost increases relative to their risk is their use of the Earned Value Management method for project performance measurement and control.)

    7. Using these admittedly old figures, the Finnish EPR’s cost growth is roughly in line with experience with other FOAK projects (pioneer plants).

    8. But the ACT Government’s tripling of a simple water supply dam demonstrates that even the lowest risk projects still suffer major cost increases.

    9. Lastly, the cost of the recent wind power projects is around $2,200 to $2,500/kW, about double what the wind power advocates claim. For equivalent energy, they are 50% higher capital cost than nuclear. And the energy they do produce is nearly worthless. No one would buy it if they were not forced to by government regulation. (For a fair cost comparison of wind and nuclear we should add the cost of back up, energy storage, grid stabilisation, and transmission to the cost of wind)

  82. Barry #96

    Yes. Good point. We could extend this thought. Others who comment on this web site know much more about this than I do. I hope these people will build on your point that the costs are almost entirely labour. I’d like to know:

    By how much is the cost of nuclear power increased by government mandated requirements, bureaucratic imposts, and over-engineering in an attempt to achieve almost infinite safety? I’ve heard, for example the US NRC referred to as the Nuclear Rejection Commission.

    What is the real cost of all the government imposts and interference? Is the government interference really making NPP’s safer? By how much, and what is the cost?

    Why do we need the high level of government interference in every aspect of nuclear power but we do not require the same level of interference in the far more dangerous plants using chemical processes – which exist everywhere throughout our cities?

    To get a perspective on the cost of governments and bureaucrats getting involved in projects, just look at what has happened with the project to build houses in central Australia. The project has not built a single house in 2 years and has squandered much of the money that was intended for the houses. The funds have been consumed within the buraucracy on bureaucrats salaries, meetings, site visits and studies. It is no wonder that nuclear power in the developed countries is some 2 to 5 times more costly than it needs to be?

    Is there an alternative way? Can we avoid having a Nuclear Rejection Commission, or an Australian version of it?

    What could we do to establish low-cost nuclear in Australia instead of high-cost nuclear?

    And I would emphasise to those who I imagine are horrified by the thought: if we have nuclear power at a price less than coal power, the change to nuclear (and a low GHG emission electrcity) could be relatively rapid. The lower the cost of electricity, the more quickly fossil fuels will be displaced from land transport (the second of the major sources of GHG emissions).

    If we really want to cut GHG emissions significantly, start thinking low-cost nuclear.

  83. What Peter notes about FOAK is very true. In discussions before the Finnish plant ever broke through, Areva reps noted that they expected the first 5 or 6 EPRs to be considered “FOAK” and the consequent overruns.

    The EPR is not just a FOAK in general, that is it’s bigger components, and other aspects being deployed for the first time, but *everything*, from concrete to controls to types of steel. This requires a very steep learning curve.

    During my interview with a EdF union rep (who is a safety engineer and waste disposal expert) he noted the experience they were having in Flameville with concrete molds, learning from the Finnish experience.

    What to look for is the *trend* after the second one is completed and to parse it out exactly:

    #what specifically were the cost overruns?
    #are the cost overruns falling or increasing?
    #site location aside, does the schedules for phases of the projects increasing or decreasing?

    We won’t know any of this until the first 4 or so are well underway and nearing completion.

    The idea that all EPRs will forever ‘overrun’ meaning Areva won’t learn from this is simply absurd.
    David

  84. David B Benson

    Thank you for pointing to the comments in t=your link. Carl S seems like he knows what he is talking about. Here are two of his comments:

    The capital investment for a “smart grid” that could handle this would run into the trillions and take decades to build. If 31 states actually tried to go completely wind and solar, or even generated more than 10% of their power needs via solar/wind they would be besieged by rolling blackouts that would make Baghdad’s electrical supply look like a model of reliability.

    and

    The state of Texas has the most wind power, with over 8300MW of installed capacity. ERCOT, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, reported 2 stage 1 electrical emergencies and 5 stage 2 electrical emergencies this year, all of them due to sudden and unexpected drops in output from wind farms. Luckily there was enough spinning reserve (all natural gas) to make up for the drop and the emergencies did not lead to any widespread residential power outages (industrial outage were another story though).

    Now this 8300MW accounts for only 3.5% of all the power on the Texas grid, what do you suppose would happen in it accounted for even 5%? It would mean more power emergencies and rolling blackouts.

    As far as the “smart grid”, the main technical difference would be using a 1MVDC and plus T&D network. More volts, less line loss. While the US does have some 1MV lines in service, the vast majority of the country’s T&D system is 161Kv 230Kv and 345Kv. All of this would have to be upgraded, meaning new towers, lines, transformers, switchgears … well, you get the picture. This would cost trillions and take decades.

  85. Benson siad, #99,
    Here is what is now claimed for the USA: “New report finds 31 states have the renewable resources to be ‘energy self-reliant’”:

    While the greens and Labor have been shouting “solar, not nuclear” for a third of a century, world electricity generation from coal and gas has soared dramatically by 6418 billion kWh/y between 1980 and 2006.
    Nuclear added 1821 billion kWh, ALL renewables added a mere 381.

    Germany is lauded as a model for “green” electricity.
    In 2006, 47.5% of its electricity came from coal, 11.9 from gas, 26.3 from nuclear, 2.2 from biomass, 1.2 from waste, 4.3 from hydro, 4.8 from wind and 0.35% from solar. It subsidises coal, wind and solar, but not nuclear. Nuclear subsidises the others.

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