# The cost of ending global warming – a calculation

Guest Post by Chris Uhlik. Dr Uhlik did a BS, MS, and PhD in Electrical Engineering at Stanford 1979–1990. He worked at Toyota in Japan, built robot controllers, cellular telephone systems, internet routers, and now does engineering management at Google. Among his 8 years of projects as an engineering director at Google, he counts engineering recruiting, Toolbar, Software QA, Software Security, GMail, Video, BookSearch, StreetView, AerialImaging, and research activities in Artificial Intelligence and Education. He has directly managed about 500 engineers at Google and indirectly over 2000 employees. His interests include nuclear power, photosynthesis, technology evolution, artificial intelligence, ecosystems, and education.

(Ed Note: Chris is a member of the IFRG [a private integral fast reactor discussion forum] as well as being a strong support of the LFTR reactor design)

An average American directly and indirectly uses about 10.8 kW of primary energy of which about 1.3 kW is electricity. Here I consider the cost of providing this energy as coming from 3 main sources:

1. The fuel costs (coal, oil, uranium, sunlight, wind, etc)

2. The capital costs of the infrastructure required to capture and distribute the energy in usable form (power plants, tanker trucks, etc)

3. The operating costs of the infrastructure (powerline maintenance, plant security, watching the dials, etc)

The average wholesale electricity price across the US is about 5c/kWh, so the all-in costs of providing the electrical component is currently ~\$570/person/year or 1.2% of GDP. The electric power industry including all distribution, billing, residential services, etc is \$1,120/person/year or 2.4% of GDP. So you can see there is about a factor of two between marginal costs of electricity production (wholesale prices) and retail prices.

The rest of this energy comes from Natural gas, Coal, Petroleum, and Biomass, to the tune of 6.36 kW/person.

I’m going to make the following assumptions to calculate how much it would cost to convert to an all-nuclear powered, fossil-carbon-free future.

Assumptions (*see numbers summary at foot of this post)

• I’ll neglect all renewable sources such as hydro. They amount to only about 20% of electricity and don’t do anything about the larger fuel energy demand, so they won’t affect the answer very much.
• Some energy sources are fuel-price intensive (e.g. natural gas) and some have zero fuel prices, but are capital intensive (e.g. wind). I’ll assume that nuclear is almost all capital intensive with only 35% of the cost coming from O&M and all the rest going to purchase costs plus debt service.
• I’ll use 8% for cost of capital. Many utilities operate with a higher guaranteed return than this (e.g. 10.4%) but the economy historically provides more like 2–5% overall, so 8% seems quite generous.
• I’ll assume 50 year life for nuclear power plants. They seem to be lasting longer than this, but building for more than 50 years seems wasteful as technologies advance and you probably want to replace them with better stuff sooner than that.
• Back in the 1970’s we built nuclear power plants for about \$0.80–0.90/watt (2009 dollars). In the 1980’s and 90’s we saw that price inflate to \$2.09–3.39/watt (Palo Verde and Catawba) with a worst-case disaster of \$15/watt (Shoreham). Current project costs are estimated at about \$2.95/watt (Areva EPR). Current projects in China are ~\$1.70/watt. If regulatory risks were controlled and incentives were aligned, we could probably build plants today for lower than the 1970’s prices, but I’ll pessimistically assume the current estimates of \$3/watt.
• Electricity vs Combustion: In an all nuclear, electricity-intensive, fossil-carbon-free future, many things would be done differently. For example, you won’t heat your house by burning natural gas. Instead you’ll use electricity-powered heat pumps. This will transfer energy away from primary source fuels like natural gas to electricity. Plug-in-hybrid cars will do the same for petroleum. In some cases, the total energy will go down (cars and heat pumps). In some cases, the total energy will go up (synthesizing fuel to run jet transport aircraft). I’ll assume the total energy demand in this future scenario is our current electricity demand plus an unchanged amount of energy in the fuel sector, but provided instead by electricity. I.e. 1.3 kW (today’s electricity) + 6.4 kW (today’s fuels, but provided by electricity with a mix of efficiencies that remains equivalent). This is almost certainly pessimistic, as electricity is often a much more efficient way to deliver energy to a  process than combustion. (Ed Note: I discuss similar issues in these two SNE2060 posts).
• Zero GDP growth rate

Result: In this future, we need 7.7 kW per person, provided by \$3/watt capitalized sources with 8% cost of capital and 35% surcharge for O&M. The cost of this infrastructure: \$2,550/person/year or 5% of GDP.

Alternate assumptions:

• Chinese nuclear plant costs of \$1.70/watt
• Higher efficiency in an electric future were most processes take about 1/2 as much energy from electricity as they used to take from combustion. 1.3 kW from old electricity demands (unchanged) + 3.2 kW from new electricity demands (half of 6.4 kW). And fuels (where still needed) are produced using nuclear heat-driven synthesis approaches.

Alternative result: \$844/person/year or 2% of GDP.

Conclusion: Saving the environment using nuclear power could be cheap and worth doing.

Numbers*:

Year: 2008
GDP: \$14.59T
Population 306M
Electricity: 12.68 quads
Non-electricity fuels: 58.25 quads
Natural gas: 16.33 quads
Coal: 1.79 quads
Biomass: 3.46 quads
Petroleum: 36.67 quads
Average retail electricity price: 9.14 c/kwh
Electric power industry: \$343B/yr
Electricity transmission industry: \$7.8B/yr

Per person statistics:
GDP: \$47,680
Electricity: 1.29 kW (average power)
Fuels: 6.36 kW

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## 335 Comments

1. Please explain thr KW equation. Is figure a daily consumption or yearly? More detail please.

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2. Stewart, it’s an expression of average power, so if you want yearly consumption in kWh then multiply that number by (365 x 24) 8,760.

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3. An interesting post, but I would appreciate some amplification and clarification.

We are told that the average American citizen uses 10.8kW of primary energy of which 1.3kW is provided as electricity. Later in the same section, we are informed that the rest of this energy comes from natural gas, coal, petroleum and biomass and amounts to 6.36kW/person.

10.8 less (6.36 plus1.3) equals 3.14. Is one to assume, therefore, that the missing 3.14 kW is either net energy content of imported stuff or, alternatively, is food energy (on the basis that biomass in this post is not counted as food energy)?

Could we have a bit more detail on what is implied by “The cost of this infrastructure: \$2550/person/year” needed to provide 7.7 kW power/person? This works out at 3.78 cents/kWh, but how can I assess its relevance – surely it can’t be an indication that tne author assesses that conversion to all nuclear power will result in a 25% fall in wholesale electricity costs (3.78 versus current 5 cents/kWh)? So what lesson am I being too stupid to draw?

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4. Nice estimate and while I do now know the detailed figures estimates appear reasonable to me. However, I was wondering that shouldn’t it be, in a way, more reasonable to subtract the costs of “business as usual” scenario since the number of people willing to return to a pre-industrial society is limited? Maintaining current energy production does not come for free.

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5. Chris, I think you are saying we can afford to make the transition off fossil fuels. On a more personal level I have determined that I need to purchase 2 kW of solar tracking PV and 2 kW of nuclear to provide 20,000 kWh annually for my home and EV and the cost to me is about \$20,000 which I can afford. The solar and nuclear combo has a daily output pattern roughly matching the total system load profile here. I know that I have not included the energy needed for all the services I use. Those would have costs also, possibly doubling my \$20,000 estimate, but still affordable. Now all we need to do is get everyone on board to doing the transition. I don’t think this will happen until customers are allowed to directly invest in nuclear.power.

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6. Following

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7. yeah: I have the same question as douglas. In quads, the routine number I hear for the u.s. is 100 quads.

the writer here has ~70 quads.

about the same amount missing. is this waste of some sort?

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8. hey gene:

if you’re getting 15,768 of your kwhs from nuclear, why spend the rest on solar? (8760 * 2 *.9 cf)

would you get a 22 % cf on your solar? that’s pretty good.

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9. I would invest in solar also to earn brownie points with my sierra club friends and have bragging rights. Also we need some power source that roughly tracks the daily peak demand and solar would probably fill the nitch nicley for that requirement. The 22% CF on solar would be single axis tracking arrays here in Texas. I have been told it can be as high as 27% in west Texas. I would prefer to have the solar closer to my home though and maybe take a hit on the CF. You know its my out of pocket money, i.e. my toy, so why not spend the money as I see fit. I think of the solar and nulcear investments as toys for big boys ha ha.

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10. Chris is talking about an all-electrified US, Greg. The 100 quads is primary, not final energy.

Douglas, you forgot the primary energy that went into producing that electricity – on a 33% efficiency, you (roughly) have your ‘missing’ energy. The 6.4 kW is for ICEs, gas heating etc. You should also be calculating the kWh price on the basis of delivered electricity, not primary energy.

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11. @ Gene Preston,

It seems to me like Sierra Club would like nothing else than a massive implementation of natural gas fired cogen with some wind sprinkled on top.

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12. I’m not in favor of the wind plus natural gas plan. There is nothing sustainable about that plan. We will have broken down wind generators about the time the gas runs out. It looks bad, requires lots of transmission lines, wastes natural gas, and still creates a lot of CO2.

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13. My cost estimates are more pessimistic than Chris Uhlik’s but it remains the case that
(1) on-shore wind + pumped hydro backup
(2) soon, solar PV + same backup
(3) NPPs
all have very similar prices which are in excess of those for natgas fired thermal without any form of FCOAD fee.

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14. Chris Uhlik,

Good article. Clear. Well laid out (for me).

Good simplifying assumptions.

But I suspect you may be underestimating energy consumption growth.

I’ll have to take a careful look later and go through it more carefully

First reaction is well done.

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15. Chris,

I’ve read your article a second time and now have a few more comments.

I believe \$3/W for capital costs is too low in the western democracies with the currenet regulatory imposts and investor risk premiums. We need to remove these imposts.

Cutting 5% or even 2% from GDP is an enormous penalty. It would be unacceptable to voters, I suspect. Especially as, in my opinion, we can have what you are proposing without cutting GDP at all. In fact, we can improve the economy, as well as social and envoironmental outcomes. And we must aim to do so if we want to get easy acceptance and, therefore, fast adoption

If we remove the impediments to low cost nuclear that exist in the western democracies nuclear can be economically viable; so we can build new capacity with nuclear instead of coal and gas. Costs for nuclear will come down over time and we will replace existing coal and gas generators as they reach the end of their life.

Our focus in the western democracies should be on highlighting the many impediments to low-cost nuclear that exist throughout our societies.

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16. Chris,

One other comment. I don’t think any other country in the world, other than the USA is still working in archaic units like quads (and pounds, poundals, tons, gallons, rods, poles, purchs, feet, inches, ounces, fulongs, miles or any other of those units the kings of England came up with). Could I suggest you convert to international (SI) units.

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17. With heat pumps and electric cars there are the additional issues of private consumer investment and adequacy for needs. The consumer may need to spend another \$3k and \$30k of his/her own money for electric heat pumping and transport. Will that be enough for most people? I’ve yet to hear of any homeowner satisfied with air source heat pumps on frosty nights so out comes the gas or wood fire or resistive heater. The current trickle of buyers for cars like the subsidised Chevrolet Volt tend not to be outer suburb battlers with long commutes; for example junior night staff at a hospital.

Thus electricity substitution for fuel may have practical limits. Pensioners will want gas heaters and battlers will want cars that run on hydrocarbons. There may be ways around this such as rationing thermal comfort to a single room or restricting hydrocarbon cars to those who really need them. Such changes will need to overcome huge social inertia and a sense of entitlement.

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18. Barry,

I think the title of the article is misleading. The article is not about “the cost of ending global warning”. The article is about the cost of replacing fossil fuel with nuclear energy, or, at most, the cost of reducing emissions. It is a leap of faith too far to imply that doing so will stop global warming.

I feel that misleading titles to articles like this turn off those middle-of-the-road people you want to get to who are open minded, interested, wanting facts but not spin.

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19. we have an air source heat pump that switches to gas when it gets cold: just above freezing.

to avoid the gas, we’d have to get a ground source heat pump, which costs like 20 grand for our pretty small house–by u.s. standards.

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20. A very insightful article. I must say Chris Uhlik sounds like a very interesting (and very clever) person.

A question: Over what time-frame is the estimate of 2-5% of GDP? E.g. is it assumed that it will cost up to 5% of GDP for a single year, or over several or many years, or indefinitely?

Also, if the GDP growth rate is assumed not to be zero, how does this affect costing?

2-5% sounds a reasonable cost to pay to assist in the prevention of runaway global warming, and providing future energy security. Australian military expenditure is ~2% GDP, every year. In the USA it’s >4%. Investment in nuclear and other climate change mitigation strategies can really be viewed as defense spending too, and I think most people (in Australia at least) would agree.

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21. Tom Keen,

2-5% sounds a reasonable cost to pay to assist in the prevention of runaway global warming.

But it’s a massive waste if it has no effect on the climate (which is probably the case). So first, you’d need to establish what would be the costs and benefits and the return on investment. And you need that done by groups that are competent, credible, impartial and not already inside the CAGW Alarmists’ tent.

Tom, you have a different interpretation than I do about the consequences of a 2% to 5% drop in GDP. I see the drop in GDP (however much it is) as the consequence that would result from bad policy (such as if government overrides markets and directs what technology industry must invest in).

The 2% and 5% GDP figures likely overstate the drop in GDP. However, just to make the point let’s use these figures as representing the drop in GDP. A 2% drop in GDP might mean a permanent GFC. A 5% drop in GDP might mean a permanent Great Depression.

Perhaps Chris could enhance his article by providing the equivalent of his drop in GDP in terms of % unemployed, e.g. 2% drop in GDP = 20% permanent unemployment , 5% drop in GDP = 50% permanent unemployment.

I don’t know the figures, but it might help Tom and others to understand what a sustained drop in GDP means if it was expressed in terms of the unemployment rate that it would cause.

The really silly thing about the economically irrational arguments put forward by many is that they are being presented without having properly considered the alternatives. In fact there is clearly strong resistance to considering the economically rational alternatives. I mentioned them in an earlier post on this thread (at 12:21PM).

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22. Where does anyone say that there will be a 2-5% drop in GDP? This was a cost range for the technology changeover. The new infrastructure would be part> of GDP.

Of course if GDP increases, the cost, expressed as a function of GDP declines. It might be of course that their is a reconfiguration of the elements of GDP (perhaps if people spend more on energy they spend less on more discretionary things like imported consumables) but this is a quite separate thing. Also, as others have pointed out, amongst the things they are no longer spending money on would be support of coal and gas fired power stations, petroleum, NG etc …

It might be of course that you can’t straight swap some of these — not all usages can be put onto the grid (heating, cooking for example and there are sunk costs in gas connections) or if they can, not at low cost, but that then is off the cost of retooling.

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23. Chris, thank you using the SI unit of power, kilowatt! It is much easier to understand, and do mental arithmetic with, than clunky units of energy per clunky unit of time.

I believe that the Australian equivalents are 7.6 kW, of carbon fuels, of which about about 4 kW are used to produce 1.3 kW of electricity.

I am afraid that your title should read “The cost of replacing carbon fuels”, because the CO2 already in the atmosphere is going to continue inflicting global warming for centuries to come.

BTW, 1 quad/annum = 34 GW

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24. Fran,

Again you haven’t a clue what you are talking about.

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25. ‘And you need that done by groups that are competent, credible, impartial and not already inside the CAGW Alarmists’ tent.’
Since this blog is called ‘Brave New Climate’ I guess that rules out just about everyone on here anyway. Any estimates of the hit to GDP of having large parts of Australia, Pakistan and Brazil under water?

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26. @Fran

You mention that we already have considerable sunk costs in gas reticulation. When nuclear plants can efficiently produce gigawatt quantities of hydrogen from nuclear plants, the advantages of domestic gas can be realised without carbon emissions.

It is something of a consolation that the current political momentum in Australia towards a massive investment in (methane) gas reticulation for electric generation will not be entirely wasted, if the consequent carbon emissions really do get methane replaced by 2050 or so.

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27. Peter

Again you haven’t a clue what you are talking about

You lack locus standi to make the claim Peter, especially since your argument misread the original article.

You mention that we already have considerable sunk costs in gas reticulation. When nuclear plants can efficiently produce gigawatt quantities of hydrogen from nuclear plants, the advantages of domestic gas can be realised without carbon emissions.

I doubt it. It would make more sense to run electricity over lines than H2 through pipes. H2 is slippery stuff and embrittles metals.

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28. oops … last blockquote is from Roger Clifton

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29. David Benson, wind + pumped hydro backup would be fine if the pumped hydro component were available. Here in Texas all the coastal plains are flat.

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30. I think it would a mistake to abandon the gas grid. It could be increasingly supplied with ‘unnatural gas’ such as fermentation biogas or synthetic (Sabatier process) methane made using nuclear hydrogen and recycled biocarbon. Methane does not embrittle pipes, has high energy density around 40 MJ/kg and some 8 million vehicles worldwide run on it. Most importantly it’s better for Chinese wok cooking than electricity.

However I’m unable to find well researched cost data on alternative methane. I believe the biogas used by the Swedish train and bus system has a continuous thermal equivalent power of about 0.3 GW. Perhaps the high cost of synfuels will force electrification to all but unavoidable users of hydrocarbons. That would include outback trucking where no rail lines go and of course cooking by wok.

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31. Gene Preston, on 22 January 2011 at 9:35 PM — Possibly some limestone caverns could be scarified to form the lower reservoirs for pumped hydro, but I doubt Texas has any. Another alternative is to form large, deep holes in the ground for a form of pumped hydro; I posted a link to that, called gravity power, on the current open thread, not too far above the bottom.

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32. John Newlands, on 23 January 2011 at 6:54 AM — Syngas can be reformulated into methane. Here is a potential future method to make the syngas.

Syngas: Solar Fuel, With High Efficiency
http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/01/110119102746.htm
http://pubs.acs.org/cen/news/89/i01/8901notw3.html
High-Flux Solar-Driven Thermochemical Dissociation of CO2 and H2O Using Nonstoichiometric Ceria
http://www.sciencemag.org/content/330/6012/1797.abstract

Inexpensive electricity could assist in the difficult problem of the air capture of CO2.

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33. I just posted the following info on Grist. Would someone see if these numbers are reasonable for the US? Thanks.

The US government cannot force rooftop solar because it would drive the national debt too high. Consider that 14 trillion in debt translates into \$45000 per person. Per capita energy in the US is about 340 MBtu/yr or 100,000 kWh per person per year, all industries. One solar panel of 1000 watts or 1 kW costs about \$6000 fully installed on a rooftop and produces about 1230 kWh annually. Therefore it would take 100,000/1230 = ~80 kW of rooftop solar per person to power the nation at a cost of 80×6000=\$480,000. If the US were to borrow money to pay for these solar panels it would drive the US national debt from 14 trillion to over ten times greater than that, or about 150 trillion dollars. Now where is the US government going to get 150 trillion dollars?

Did I get my figures correct on this?

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34. David we are using what is called the Edwards Aquiifer, which are limestone ca verns, to store as much drinking water as possible. Thats where San Antonio gets their drinking water and its runnint short. I’m afraid we don’t have enought caverns to produce any significant amount of energy. But you have an interesting idea about digging a big hole in the ground to store water and use it as storaage for pumped hydro. I’m afraid it would be far too costly to dig the hole. I thing there is one area here on Barton Creek where I live that could be used to make a small lake, but it would take two lakes, an upper and a lower one. The environmental impact and opposition would be horrific. I once commissioned a study to do pumped hydro on Lake Travis and it looked good, however the environmental impact would be too great today to do this. Maybe if it had been set up a long time ago when the population was slim and environmental concerns were mostly absent, it might have been possible, but not today.

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35. Gene Preston,

wind + pumped hydro backup would be fine if the pumped hydro component were available. Here in Texas all the coastal plains are flat.

I’d beg to differ with you on this statement. Pumped hydro can be excellent (where the hydrology, topography and geology is suitable) when matched with reliable, low cost, baseload generators such as coal and nuclear. It is not even close to being viable at large scale to back up for intermittent, unreliable renewables like wind and solar.

There are several comments on the Pumped Hydro thread about this subject and this ‘back of an envelope’ calculation makes the economics pretty clear (I think): https://bravenewclimate.com/2010/04/05/pumped-hydro-system-cost/#comment-86108

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36. I’m sorry there are just no pumped hydro sites around here.

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37. DB the solar synfuel process sounds hellishly expensive allowing for the low conversion efficiency (<1%) and equipment cost. If we could get very cheap hydrogen we could react with it CO2 captured from a dense source, not air.

GP your PV calculation could allow for each home having \$20k of battery backup. Regular commenter Podargus could confirm. Some pronuclear survivalist neighbours are off-grid PV and can barely run a TV set at times. I wonder if a high PV grid would have trouble with frequency synchronization.

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38. John you said:
Some off-grid PV and can barely run a TV set at times. I wonder if a high PV grid would have trouble with frequency synchronization.

We are having some difficuilty with frequency synchronization here in Texas with the 10,000 MW of wind when the system is down in the 30,000 to 40,000 MW total load range. Texas is electrically isolated (except for small DC ties) from the other regions in the US so we can’t lean on them as the wind varies up and down in output.

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39. Gene Preston, on 23 January 2011 at 9:53 AM — Take a look at the gravity power link. They claim the costs will be comperable to more conventional pumped hydro.

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40. what are the consequences of the proposed cut in GDP?

Annual cost of current electricity generation infrastructure:

~\$570/person/year or 1.2% of GDP.

Annual cost of proposed electricity generation infrastructure to provide an equivalent product:

~\$2,550/person/year or 5% of GDP.

Difference = \$1,980/person/year or 3.8% of GDP (for the same product!).

What would be the consequences to the USA economy?

What would be the consequences in terms of:

– unemployment rate?

– cuts in services such as Health, Education, infrastructure,

– living standards, quality of life, disposable income, etc?

The consequences need to be weighed up – properly, by organisations capable of doing the analysis properly and impartially.

Where there is, possibly, an economically rational alternative, as I believe there is, then it seems to me to be ludicrous to avoid investigating the alternatives.

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41. Gene,

Perhaps my reply to your previous comment not clear. Just to clarify

In your first comment you said:

wind + pumped hydro backup would be fine

I answered and explained that I think the statement is wrong (except in perhaps a very few special cases). Did you see the comment I pointed you to?

You then said

I’m sorry there are just no pumped hydro sites around here

I wasn’t talking about Texas. I was talking about anywhere and answering your generic statement that in effect says pumped-hydro can make wind and solar viable.

I believe pumped hydro cannot be an economic way to make wind and solar power viable. This may help explain: https://bravenewclimate.com/2010/04/05/pumped-hydro-system-cost/#comment-86108

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42. Gene Preston asked us to check his calculation. Converted to international units, it reads:

Total US concumption is about 11.4 kW per person.
One solar panel of 1 kW capacity costs about US\$6000 fully installed on a
rooftop and produces about 0.140 kW across the year. Therefore it would take
11.4*1/0.14 ~ 80 kW of rooftop solar per person to power the nation …”

In the calculation, average consumption is divided by average production. This is only meaningful if the peak production in summer (for a PV panel), is somehow stored efficiently through the period of minimum production, (winter) which I believe in most parts of the US is peak consumption period.

I suspect that 6 \$/W wouldn’t cover the sort of energy storage required by solar PV to be relied on as a grid supplier.

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43. I may be interpreting this wrongly, but a (pessimistic) 5% of GDP to provide 7.7 kW, compared to 1.2% of GDP to provide 1.3 kW, sounds like a really good deal. An ~4 fold increase in percentage of GDP to provide an ~6 fold increase in electricity capacity.

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44. Another question:

Is the factor of two difference between wholesale and retail prices currently observed in the US always proportional to the wholesale price of electricity? I.e. if the wholesale price of electricity did rise to 5% of GDP, would the retail price then add up to 10% of GDP?

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45. *e.g. not i.e.

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46. Tom,

You cannot justify a massive expenditure like this unless you can understand the consequences. So far I haven’t seen you make any attempt to quantify, let alone, understand the consequences of the massive expenditure you are supporting.

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47. When I said wind+pumped hydro would be fine I didn’t mean economically or reliably. I just meant that it might be possible to store enough wind energy to make it through a night, but not every night (or day). Wind+pumped hydro is neither economic nor reliable.

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48. Thanks Roger and I agree teh \$6000 per kW for a rooftop is probably low. Also I did not consider seasonal nor time of day. The purpose of my posting to Grist was to illustrate the absurdly high cost of rooftop solar panels. I guess I was most worried that my statement about needing 150 trillion more US dollars was what concerned me, and I was wondering if my calculations were incorrect and the increased debt to the US were much less, say ‘only’ 15 trillion dollars (ha ha) instead of the 150 trillion I had estimated. Using your corrections would increase that 150 trillion cost even more.

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49. To David Benson concerning the gravity power link, we have already dismissed wind+storage is a viable power source both from economics and reliability. Can you give a web address to the best reference for the gravity power link? I would think that only water would have sufficient volume and low cost to use gravity for energy storage, i.e. pumped hydro.

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50. There is one more new idea I would like to bounce off this group. Suppose I said my personal discount rate right now is 0%. I am not earning any money in any of my investments, nothing in the stock market, my retirement annuity looks like 0% return assuming I live 20 more years, my treasury note is a really low percentage. I think 0% also represents that if I make an investment now in energy its just as important to me in 20 years as it is now so I feel justified in using the 0% rate at this time. So what does that do for my energy investments versus utility investments? It does a lot.

For example ERCOT lists a levelized price of 16 cents per kWh for solar tracking PV. Recent solar PV plants built near me are in the \$4 per watt cost range, actually 3.7 to be precise. If I bought one kW of that plant for \$4000 and it has a life of 25 years, and the capacity factor is 20%, then the annual energy produced is 8760x.2 = 1752 kWh and 25 years is 43800 kWh, then the energy cost to me is effectively 4000000/43800 = 9.13 cents per kWh whereas the utility financed version of the same plant would be 16 cents per kWh.

If I wanted this kind of power source, wouldn’t I want to purchase it ourright if I had the cash in hand, rather than have my utility finance it?

Lets see what this does for nuclear power. Assuming a cost of \$5000 per kW and a life if 40 years the energy cost at a 0% discount rate when 1.6 c/kwh is added for O&M and the capacity factor is 95% is 500000/(8760x.9×40)+1.6= 1.6+1.6 = 3.2 cents per kWh. That seems like a good investment to me. However the utility will show that same plant cost as at least 9 cents per kWh. Again I can finance the new nuclear plant at a lower cost than the utility can.

Shouldn’t we customers be allowed to finance our own plants?

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51. Barry,

Thank you for explaining my mistake over having forgotten about primary energy needing to be 3 times greater than electrical energy. However, I’m still struggling to understand the message of this post.

I think that the author is saying that 7.7 kW of electrical energy is going to be as useful as the 10.8kW of energy in all its current forms. Fair enough. This means that an approximately sixfold increase in electrical energy must be planned for. If this is to be provided by nuclear power, what is the author’s assessment of the financial implications? Is he saying that nuclear power could provide all the electricity at a cost of 10% of GDP (5% wholesale x 2)? If so, given that energy currently represents approximately 10% of GDP, the effects would be financially neutral. Thus, one might suppose that if nuclear were phased to replace coal and gas plants as they reached their end of lives and replaced energy import costs from petroleum, there would be no financial penalties to the economy. As has already be pointed out, consumers would face some extra costs associated with transition to electricity in areas of air conditioning and transport, this can be phased and won’t impact GDP. But, I’m not sure that this is what the author is asking us to believe. Equally, is his \$3/watt a realistic figure? Peter Lang seems to think both that \$3/watt is too low and that the 5% GDP (wholesale) is an extra on top of energy’s existing share of GDP – obviously a quite different interpretation. Again, are we talking a one off extra capital expenditure equivalent in amount to 5% of one year’s GDP or an ongoing annual cost relative to current ?

The emperor’s new clothes come to mind. Could either you or the author explain what the post was supposed to be about so that it can be understood by simpletons like me?

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52. You really should not consider storage and solar together. Solar is mostly useful for load shaving. In that sense it will have some capacity value. I am wondering if a large number of EV batteries connected to the grid can give a short term power supply response, i.e enough time for GTs to be started, and they would have value on the network. But they are not related to solar any more than the car batteries are related to wind or any other generation. The only problem with this idea is the EV batteries are not being designed to be two way power suppliers so the concept of using car batteries as short term storage on the grid is probably not going to happen, ever, in my opinion.

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53. Tom/Peter/Fran: I’m confused about GDP … always have been. GDP is the market value of goods and services. Why does spending money on a bunch of power stations push it down as Peter seems to be suggesting but spending money on beer and cigarettes push it up?

Chris: Good article … as has already been pointed out, some of this cost isn’t over and above the natural cost of keeping the current infrastructure humming, but working out how much won’t be simple. Just as people replace cars every 12 years or so anyway, so moving to an electric vehicle won’t be an additional cost if done over the course of the rebuild.

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54. The Tres Amigas SuperStation is proposed to connect the various parts of the US grid, including Texas, purportedly so that renewable energy can flush back and forth between areas of supply and demand. Although this would decrease the storage required, the \$1 billion cost of the alteration to the grid should be added to the bill for renewables.

One advantage, probably communicated sotto voce between Congressman, is that it would allow nuclear power to be generated in Mexico and consumed in the US, without fuss.

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55. Douglas Wise,

Peter Lang seems to think both that \$3/watt is too low and that the 5% GDP (wholesale) is an extra on top of energy’s existing share of GDP.

No. I did not say that at all. I would ask you to stop misrepresenting what I say (a habbit you have been following for over a year). If in doubt, ask.

I’ll post another comment on this later this morning.

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56. Gross Domestic Product. The total market value of all final goods and services produced in a country in a given year, equal to total consumer, investment and government spending, plus the value of exports, minus the value of imports. The GDP report is released at 8:30 am EST on the last day of each quarter and reflects the previous quarter. Growth in GDP is what matters, and the U.S. GDP growth has historically averaged about 2.5-3% per year but with substantial deviations.

The GDP numbers are reported in two forms: current dollar and constant dollar. Current dollar GDP is calculated using today’s dollars and makes comparisons between time periods difficult because of the effects of inflation. Constant dollar GDP solves this problem by converting the current information into some standard era dollar, such as 1997 dollars. This process factors out the effects of inflation and allows easy comparisons between periods.

http://www.investorwords.com/2153/GDP.html

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57. Geoff Russel,

Why does spending money on a bunch of power stations push it down as Peter seems to be suggesting but spending money on beer and cigarettes push it up?

Good question. Firstly, I should state that I am not an economist, and have only a layman’s understanding of the subject.

So I asked an economist. Here is his reply:

My question: “If a country doubles the cost of producing electricity, does that mean that GDP has gone up or down?”

His answer:

Definitely DOWN: GDP is value added, so it’s income AFTER costs have been deducted.

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58. Tom Keen, on 23 January 2011 at 2:39 PM — Err, no. For a PUD there is no profit so around here the retail price is about 3–4 conts/kWh above the wholesale price. For a IOU the is an assured profit range of around 12–20% on operations. Translating that into the retail markup is quite complex for vertically inegrated power companies such as mine. However my ultility does buy power from BPA so using the Mid-Columbia Hub wholesale price of 2.7 cents/kWh then the utility adds another 4.1 cents/kWh in wheeling the power to my meter.

There are well over 2000 power utilities in the USA and 50 ultity commisions; I won’t attempt to generalize.

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59. A Study for Neverland’s Future Electric Power

Neverland has ample high quality solar lands available and also some Tier I wind locations (generates 30% of the time) way out on the edge of Flatland Province where nobdy lives; new transmission lines would be required to use wind.

Neverland has no fossil sources; all coal and nat gas is imported (similar to Japan). Neverland uses lagacy coal burners for most of the power, has a small lagacy pumped hydro for load balancing and has been increasingly turning to CCGTs for load following to met the daytime demand. This so-called daytime demand has a phase lag with respect to solar insolation, with the actual peak occurring at 6 pm, evry day being just like the previous one.

With the price of thermal coal now at \$120 per short ton and concerned about the national security implications of importing natgas, Neverlan plans to move away from fossil fuels as rapidly as may be.

(1) Build NPPs to replace the coal burners. Assume these are \$4/W units which with available financing give LCOE=9.3 cents/kWh.
(2) Solar thermal is currently less expensive than soal PV. With about 7 hour thermal storage, LCOE=13.7 cents/kWh. So Neverland should start buiding a few of these for the daytime load. On cloudy days (yes, a few are in Neverland) the CCGTs pick up the load.

(3) Use demand management for those power uses which are schedulable. These can then run when the wind blows using LCOE=7.1 cents/kWh (which includes the cost of the new transmission lines). As is possible, attempt to use some form of demand management to shift the daytime load to earlier in the day with less demand in the late afternoon and evening.

(4) Start building another, larger pumped hydro facility. When solar PV drops below 11.7 cents/kWh then for daytime load following use that in combination with the new pumped hydro facility for use late in the day. Energize the pumped hydro via another NPP.

(5) If solar PV drops below the cost of another NPP, as is predicted to occur, build lots more solar PV for energizing the pumped hydro facilites. Keep the best of the legacy coal burners and all of the CCGTs as backup for cloudy days.

This is the least cost plan I could devise. Comments are encouraged and most welcome.

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60. GDP: Using a dip in GDP doesn’t sound like a good enough reason for dismissing something that looks to be necessary to prevent the slashing of GDP by about 2150 and there is plenty of economic dispute about GDP as a measure of welfare and standard of living anyway …

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

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61. Keeping on track, I have a question relating to the lead article is:

What would be the consequences to the USA economy of raising the cost of energy by the amount estimated by Chris Uhlik? Please provide the consequences in terms of:

– unemployment rate?

– cuts in services such as Health, Education, infrastructure,

– living standards, quality of life, disposable income, etc?

I’d suggest the consequences need to be weighed up – properly, by organisations capable of doing the analysis properly and impartially.

It is not good enough to say “I believe such an expenditure would be good value”.

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62. Geoff Russel,

Yes, there is dispute about use of GDP. There is dispute about almost everything. But GDP is an important component of the UNDP Human Development Index. There are masses of data showing the correlation (I accept that does not prove cause) between GDP and other Human Development Index measures. Until we have better, GDP is the best we have.

Using a dip in GDP doesn’t sound like a good enough reason for dismissing something that looks to be necessary to prevent the slashing of GDP by about 2150.

Well, that is your belief. It is certainly not mine.

Firstly, I didn’t say dismiss it. I am arguing that we need to understand the consequences and make them plain for all to see. Not just avoid mentioning them and try to impose your beliefs without proper analysis. Also, I am arguing we need to properly evaluate the alternatives to raising the cost of energy.

You mentioned “plenty of economic dispute about GDP as a measure of welfare and standard of living anyway”. There is much more dispute about ‘catastrophe’ resulting from global warming – a belief you want to use to justify imposing irrational policy decisions. I believe the real catastrophe would be if the economically irrational policies proposed by the CAGW Alarmists were implemented.

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63. The Tres Amigas substation is in the middle of nowhere with no lines planned to connect to it. This has to be a perk that some legislator tacked on to a funding bill somewhere along the line. Our PUC legal council even intervened at FERC to try to stop it because Texas has no plans to build a line to it. If you look at the distances and losses and costs of delivering power over those distances the economics are not going to work out. Houston Light and Power tried to purchase TVA power many years ago and abandonded the idea when local sources of power were always cheaper than the imported cost of power, even when that imported power was from very low cost generation in TVA. Anyway to truly transport power over the distances across the US you would have to transmit it at least at 765 kV and there are no 765 kV lines within thousands of miles from Tres Amigas. Just watch, it will be the substation with no lines, sort of like the international airport in Alaska with no flights. I read that one of the things that brought down the Soviet Union was a serices of bad investments that did not work. Looks like the US is repeating that mistake.

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64. Geoff Russel,

Do you agree that all reasonable alternatives should be evaluated before imposing a policy?

Do you accept that imposing a carbon price, or imposing a high cost energy option by any means, will damage the economy?

Do you agree that if we slow the economy (such as happened in the GFC and the Great Depression) it makes us less able to take the actions we could otherwise have taken, not only to cut CO2 emissions but for all the other things humaninty wants – in rich and poor countries?

Do you agree that we should properly consider all the economicaly rational alternatives to a carbon price or any imposed high cost energy solution?

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65. Regarding all the comments about the desirability of a “drop of 5% in GDP”…

Three points:

1. My basic conclusion was, “Saving the environment using nuclear power could be cheap and worth doing.” Compare GDP changes to saving the planet from extreme warming to evaluate relative desirability.

2. The calculation put an upper bound on the cost at about 5% of GDP assuming \$3/watt nuclear capex. But the Chinese are demonstrating (as the USA did a few decades ago) that it is possible to build nuclear plants at closer to \$1.70/watt. With reasonable assumptions and regulatory policy, I belive the cost could be under 2% of GDP. This is lower than the current USA energy sector, so the net loss of GDP would be in the loss of the fossil fuel industry at a relatively smaller gain in the nuclear and electricity distribution industries. Presumably there would be a stimulating effect as fossil fuel consuming machines (like automobiles and space heaters) were replaced with electric machines.

3. Historically, large manufacturing pushes that were not combined with a wartime destruction of an economy have led to increased economic growth. I believe that a “big spend” on upgrading our electricity production infrastructure will yield dividends and growth that make the net effect positive. I wish I could make a simple calculation that proves this, but that’s more complicated.

In any case, I think the quality of life would increase for most people, but maybe not so much for the unemployed oil tanker unloading folks, coal miners, coal train drivers, gasoline station attendants, etc. In any large economic dislocation, there are winners and losers (e.g. auto workers won vs buggy whip makers lost). In this case, I’m proposing that the average person wouldn’t notice the difference economically, but the air would be cleaner, global warming would slow, and life would go on. Compared to outfitting every rooftop with 80 kW(peak) of solar PV panels and finding 6 month storage, this is a MUCH cheaper way to solve the same problem.

I’m not sure what the confusion is about “~70 vs 100 quads”. 10.8 kW/person * 306M people * 8766 hours/year = 1.04e20 Joules (99.85 quads) details of the breakdown available from LLNL at https://publicaffairs.llnl.gov/news/news_releases/2009/images/energy-use_big.jpg This does ignore food, but food is down around 1–2% so it’s in the noise.

Regarding solar alternatives…

Solar is currently vastly more expensive per average kWh produced than nuclear, but it has a few advantages:

1. solar installation is much more incremental than nuclear

2. solar is vastly simpler from a regulatory perspective

3. solar is on a fast learning curve (about 18%) so it could (IMO probably will) win in the end, after all, look at all those self-installing, self-repairing, capex-free solar cells based on chlorophyl covering our planet today. I fully expect technology to advance to the point where nanotech/biotech PV and photo-chemical cells again sustainably generate a significant share of the world’s human energy demand (like they did several thousand years ago).

In the mean time, I worry that atmospheric CO2 levels will rise to dangerous levels while we wait for solar energy and storage technologies to mature. So while the solar learning curve is fast, I worry that maybe it isn’t fast enough. I can’t do the calculation because I don’t think anyone understands climate dynamics well enough yet to definitively say what CO2 level is “too high”. From what we know today, I think CO2 levels are already too high and we are in for substantial sea level rise over the next century no matter what. I’d prefer we get off fossil fuels sooner by using mature nuclear technologies to displace fossil carbon now in order to minimize the (substantial) damage. And I did this little calculation to show that the cost of doing so isn’t unreasonably large and is in fact small compared to doing the same thing with conventional renewables.

As for natural gas…

Natural gas is only half as carbon intensive (per joule of combustion heat) as coal, so if you believe as I do that we need to dramatically curtail our CO2 emissions, then natural gas isn’t good enough.

As for synfuels from nuclear heat…

These will be important for applications where we have no good alternative technology, such as long distance air travel. I think jet transports and heavy trucks will use diesel fuel for a long time. We’d best synthesize these fuels from recovered atmospheric carbon dioxide and hydrogen produced from chemical processes driven by high temperature nuclear reactors. But, collecting enough carbon for business as usual isn’t possible. The US fossil carbon flux is about 170e12 moles/year. If we planted the entire state of Kansas with fast-growing saw-grass and harvested it without any fossil carbon fuels, we’d collect only about 5e12 moles of carbon or 3% of the necessary amount, roughly what US aviation uses today. We don’t have enough land to use biomass to collect enough atmospheric carbon to displace the 66e12 moles of petroleum carbon or the 35e12 moles of natural gas carbon that we use each year, or the 11e12 moles of coking coal we use for steel making or the 9.7e12 moles of fossil carbon we release making cement.

As for pumped hydro…

Good locations are rare and many are already exploited. Pumped hydro is not scalable to a significant fraction of the necessary storage. Large flow batteries could be scaled, but they will cost more than nuclear power plants of the same capacity. Building load-following nuclear is cheaper than building storage. To make nuclear load-following, either build plants with large excess reactivity like the navy (dangerous) or build LFTR which continuously removes fission product neutron poisons like xenon.

As for energy consumption growth…

I agree that energy consumption will (and should) continue to grow. I’d like to see the entire population of the world rise to ~7 kW/person and I’d like to see a significant fraction of the population have access to space and interplantary travel. That scenario is consistent with an extrapollation of historic energy consumption growth. All the more reason to accept the scalable solution of nuclear power. I made the no-growth assumption to simplify the calculation, but the story just gets more compelling if you assume growth.

As for uranium availability…

Fast reactors enable the burning of U238 of which we have plenty and can extract from sea-water indefinitely. The world’s rivers are replentishing the ocean with U238 faster than we would use it if 100% of human energy were provided by IFRs at 10 kW/person for everyone on the planet. Thorium is even more plentiful. These fuels will last longer than the hydrogen in the sun. Also, technology changes everything so planning beyond 100 years is almost certainly irrelevant.

As for the costs of replacing cars and space heaters…

Most of these machines are replaced relatively quickly compared to a wholesale conversion from fossile fuels to nuclear-sourced electricity. I think the mean lifetime of automobiles is under 7 years and I suspect the mean lifetime of home furnaces is under 30 years. If electricity costs were brought down to ~\$0.025/kWh, people would upgrade to electricity fast enough.

As for the effectiveness of air-sourced heat pumps on very cold nights…

You can supplement a heat pump with resistance heat on the few coldest nights and/or buy sufficient insulation and thermal mass to do most of your heating during the day. My ICF home in Oregon has a thermal time constant of several days. With standard loads and 6 people in the house, the heater never runs even when outside temps average 0 degC. When it gets colder than that, I run the heater for a few hours in the afternoon.

As for the title being missleading…

The article is about the cost of ending the global warming contributions of future CO2 emissions. The conclusion is that the economic costs of a wholesale transition to nuclear electricity is a small fraction of GDP.

As for time-frame of the GDP change…

The 2–5% of GDP is continuous. Power plants need to be built, maintained, decommissioned, and rebuilt. I used 50 year plant life and 8% cost of capital. If the plants last on average longer than 50 years, the costs are somewhat reduced. But I believe technologies will improve and costs will come down enough that old plants will often be retired before end-of-life. But this will usually be done when the new plant costs are even lower, so again costs are reduced.

I don’t think GDP growth signficiantly affects the fraction of GDP needed for energy production. But assuming zero GDP growth rate simplifies the calculation.

“2-5% sounds a reasonable cost to pay to assist in the prevention of runaway global warming, and providing future energy security. Australian military expenditure is ~2% GDP, every year. In the USA itâ€™s >4%. Investment in nuclear and other climate change mitigation strategies can really be viewed as defense spending too, and I think most people (in Australia at least) would agree.” My sentiments exactly!

As for “itâ€™s a massive waste if it has no effect on the climate”…

I believe that anyone who denies atmospheric CO2 has little influence on climate and/or that humans are not dramatically changing atmospheric CO2 levels has not studied climate modeling and doesn’t deserve serious attention when commenting on these matters. Waiting around while all uncertainty is removed from the cost esimates is irresponsible. I don’t think YOU have an inate right to experiment with the climate that MY children will inherit.

As for the consequences of such a “massive expenditure”…

“You cannot justify a massive expenditure like this unless you can understand the consequences.” I think the consequences of not9999 developing a solution like this is extended low standard of living for most of the world’s population followed by massive flooding of most populated areas. A shift of 2–5% of GDP from fossil fuels to nuclear seems like a much more benign alternative.

Finally, I’m not seriously proposing an exclusive change to nuclear overnight. I DO think that a massive shift from fossile to electric technologies is prudent AND building nuclear as fast as we can is long overdue. If we get our act together, the degree of climate change will be minimized. It might still be very large, but it will be smaller than if we continue to sit on our hands while a real, scalable solution is waiting.

Chris

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66. Peter Lang – Canada with about the population and GNI as Australia manages to operate 22 nuclear reactors without falling into penury as a nation.

Although these only supply a bit more than 15% of our generation nationally, it is 55% in Ontario, our industrial heartland and richest province.

It would seem to me that Oz could afford to go down the nuclear path a fair way before suffering any major impacts from the possibility of higher cost energy.

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67. What would be the consequences to the USA … living standards, quality of life, disposable income, etc?

I dare say that the 24,000 people a year who die directly from the effects of coal fired power generation would have a much better quality of life, living standards, and they’d be able to spend their disposable income too.

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68. I’m not so clever with formatting, apparently. [Ed: fixed]

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69. DV82XL,

Really!. Were they built now, at current costs?

Come on. Surely you have a better understanding of the economics than this comment suggests.

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70. Tom Keen,

Try putting it all together. Anyone can pull out a single statistic and say that is all that matters. That is like what the Helen Caldicot types do. They talk about their granny who died from cancer, so its deadly and that’s what nuclear power does.

Why don’t you attempt to answer the question.

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71. Chris Uhlik,

Thank you for your detailed responses to my and many other’s comments.

You say:

Saving the environment using nuclear power could be cheap and worth doing.

I agree we should adopt nuclear, for many reasons … if it’s cheap. If it’s not cheap, then we have to do the options and cost benefit analyses – thoroughly, properly and impartially.

I agree nuclear should be cheap. The reasons why it is not cheap, in western democracies, is what I believe we need to expose to the public. This is where our efforts should be, not on continually trying to ram down the public’s throat that we face disaster and catastrophe if we don’t stop burning fossil fuels.

Compare GDP changes to saving the planet from extreme warming to evaluate relative desirability.

That would need to be done properly, by a group that is impartial and competent to do it. Some believe in CAGW, others don’t.

The calculation put an upper bound on the cost at about 5% of GDP assuming \$3/watt nuclear capex.

The \$3/W figure is well below the recent bids in the USA, so it is probably too low, unless we can convince the public to remove the impediments to low cost nuclear power. Educating the public about what is causing nuclear to be far too costly is what our efforts should focus on, IMO.

With reasonable assumptions and regulatory policy, I believe the cost could be under 2% of GDP.

Why do you believe this? Can you provide a link to an authoritative source (like IEA, EIA, DOE, etc.)? What would we have to do to make this happen? I also suspect it is possible if we remove the impediments to low-cost nuclear power. If nuclear is cheaper than coal (with externalities included for all generator types), then I agree with you that GDP will be increased not decreased. The key is to allow nuclear to be cheaper than coal. In that case there will be little opposition (except from the die-hard anti-nukes). This is clearly what we should be aiming for, because it gives a triple bottom line benefit. The alternative approach, trying to argue the environmental benefits are all that count and ignoring the economic consequences of policies that increase the cost of energy, will be almost impossible to win.

I believe that a “big spend” on upgrading our electricity production infrastructure will yield dividends and growth that make the net effect positive.

That is a belief. I’d suggest you’d needs more than that to carry that argument.

As for the title being missleading…
… The conclusion is that the economic costs of a wholesale transition to nuclear electricity is a small fraction of GDP.

But what does that mean? I suggest there is a significant misunderstanding about the consequences of slowing GDP growth.

The comments towards the end about belief in catastrophe, I’ll leave alone.

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72. Peter: Chris answered most of the questions you asked me, and did a better job than I could anyway. I do believe that we (the next+1 generation) face disaster if we don’t stop burning fossil fuels so I’m more concerned with making a workable decision and getting on with it than spending an eternity chasing the best possible decision. That said, really good designers come up with solutions which allow flexibility as technology changes so engineers need to be thinking about generators and transmission systems which aren’t tied to particular energy source modes. In computing we talk about getting the interfaces right and the design can adapt as technology developes. Easier to talk about than to do and easier in software than in
hardware :)

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73. This is a great thread. Thanks Chris for your analysis and all the very well informed comment.

1. I speculate that the implementation cost would be significantly lower than discussed (\$3/w) due to the massive economies of scale of a 100% conversion, such as prefabricated power-stations and standardisations etc.

2. What would be the leakage/cost.problem in Texas of pumping hydro in the U.S. if it were pumped up say in Washington State, does the grid not work over such distances? (Genuine question, no sarcasm!) PS What about the Chisos Mtns in the Big Bend?? Great spot!)

3. I am sceptical about claims that human industry is forcing the climate. I think the best reasons for nuclear power is cheap, clean and safe. (Clean makes sense not in a CAGW sense, but int he sense that the climate is a complex system, its probably smarter not to rock the boat!)

Pip

(Peter, you posts are brilliant.)

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74. Peter Lang – Two are being refurbished, at great cost, two more are scheduled for refurbishment, and two more new builds are being planned by Ontario. Nor were the original builds cheap – there where great cost overruns, yet in the long run they have been profitable.

It looks like you are the one trying to blow off real world evidence here, not me.

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75. Geoff Russel,

I do believe that we (the next+1 generation) face disaster if we don’t stop burning fossil fuels so I’m more concerned with making a workable decision and getting on with it than spending an eternity chasing the best possible decision.

I do understand what you believe. But surely you must realise that many voters are not convinced about by the extreme alarmism being argued by what are seen by many as extremists. Given that, surely it is worth at least considering options that the CAGW doubters can support.

It is not about getting the best possible decision. It is about getting the population to support a policy that will seriously damage the economy when they doubt the Alarmists’s spin about catastrophe. It will be hard to win the doubters over given that the CAGW Alarmists are stridently opposed to even considering alternative ways to achieve the objective of cutting emissions, other than by the economically irrational ways the Alarmists want imposed on society. The CAGW Alarmists simply do not want to even consider the alternatives. That is scary. It makes many people, like me, distrust much of what they stand for and believe. On one hand they believe they have looked impartially at the evidence for CAGW. But on the other hand they do not want to consider rational ways to deal with it. How can we trust that they are considering anything objectively and rationally? Given what these groups have forced on society before, and the consequences of those actions, why should doubters trust what appear to be extremist claims.

So I would want a proper, impartial due diligence investigation before I would be prepared to vote for what looks like seriously damaging policies.

There is no point in continually repeating the CAGW mantra. Most people want to know that the due diligence has been done before wasting masses more of our wealth.

I realise that none of this is cutting through to those contributing here. But my suggestion is to hear the message, because there is a large proportion of the electorate that will not support economically irrational polices and more waste.

Without broad support, implementing policies to cut emissions and replace fossil fuels will be a stop start process. I’d go further and say without nuclear being allowed to be cheaper than coal, it will be a long slow process to get it implemented in Australia.

I’ve suggested a way forward that would get the broad support of the community, but for some reason, it seems to me the active contributors on BNC don’t want to consider it. Or perhaps it is because money matters are not their strong suit. If that is the case, then surely it is incumbent on them to get a better understanding about what makes the world go ‘round.

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76. Chris Uhlik,

I see what you are basing your \$3/W capital cost figure on now. Most here are familiar with the Chinese and Korean costs. However, the AP1000 vendor’s cost estimates for a new plant in USA is not a contracted cost or a completion cost. Vendor’s estimates have proven to be wildly optimistic when it comes time to bid and even more optimistic by the time the plant is completed.
http://web.mit.edu/nuclearpower/

The problem is the many impediments to low-cost nuclear in the wwestern democracies. That is what we need tro deal withy. That is the issue that BNC contributors do not want to even begin to look into. (see: https://bravenewclimate.com/2010/01/31/alternative-to-cprs/#comment-110262)

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77. Another consideration in regard to relative value and ‘cost’ is ‘compared to what’. I guess we will have to wait for another spike in the oil price for nuclear to become ‘cheaper’. I’m sure the Middle East won’t disappoint!

Unfortunately or fortunately, it is this relative cost that is the spur for adaptation to nuclear power. Australia has vast coal reserves.

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78. DV82XL,

Canada with about the population and GNI as Australia manages to operate 22 nuclear reactors without falling into penury as a nation.

They were built in the 1970s and 1980s. So were most of the other NPPs in the western democaracies. But few are being built now in western democracies.

The point I was trying to make is that nuclear energy was estimated to be the least cost way to generate electricity (estimated lowest LCOE) when the decision was made to build these plants.

But that is not the case in the western democracies any more. The reason, as you have pointed out very well in many of your previous comments, is a whole host of impediments to low-cost nuclear power in the western democracies.

I believe we have to identify these impediments, determine the effect of them on the LCOE, rank them in order of which are having the greatest effect on raising the LCOE of nuclear energy, and working out what governments would need to do to remove them so that we can allow nuclear to compete with coal.

Just for interest, here is a comparison of Canada and Australia in 2010 is:

GDP (\$trillion) = \$1.5T, \$1.3T
GDP per capita = \$41,016, \$65,869
GDP growth rate = 5.6%, 3.3%
Inflation = 1.4%, 2.8%
Unemployment = 8.0%, 5.4%

You are correct that the two economies are fairly equivalent; much closer in GDP than I had realised.

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79. Peter:

Given what these groups have forced on society before, and the consequences of those actions, why should doubters trust what appear to be extremist claims.

What are you talking about? … who forced what and
when?

I’ve looked at 110262 and am sure that plenty of
BNC contributors would welcome a level playing field for nuclear/renewables but I for one favour
active discrimination against coal!

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80. Peter, perhaps you could try quantifying the massive upheavals that the energy market capturing 2-5% of GDP would cause. You have not substantiated this claim, merely stated that it is irrational to support it.

On GDP:-
The formula for calculating GDP is

Y = C + I + (X – M) + G

Where
C = Consumer Spending
I = Investment made by industry
X = Exports
M = Imports
G = Government Spending

So I’m curious as to where your economist friend friend subtracted the cost of electricity infrastructure. The silly thing about GDP is that all costs (that is, every dollar that is spent) is added up and counted towards growth, regardless of whether it is good, bad or otherwise.

Oh, and if this statement: “e.g. 2% drop in GDP = 20% permanent unemployment , 5% drop in GDP = 50% permanent unemployment.” isn’t alarmist, I don’t know what is.

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81. Chris Uhlik,

I wrote my last reply to you having clicked on a wrong link. Please ignore my comments about AP1000 vendors. I’ve just opened your first link http://www.phyast.pitt.edu/~blc/book/chapter9.html and see it says exactly what I’ve been saying.

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

BNCers take note. This is what I’ve been saying.

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82. Geoff Russell

What are you talking about? … who forced what and
when?

There have been many comments on this elsewhere, for example on the “Alternative to Pricing Carbon” thread. https://bravenewclimate.com/2010/01/31/alternative-to-cprs/ Here are a few examples:

– Who led the anti-nuclear movement for the past 50 years? (their effectiveness in stopping nuclear in the western democracies means that CO2 emissions from electricity generation are 10% to 20% higher now than they would have been had its development not been stopped)

– Who argued for bio-diesel (causing extensive deforestation in the tropics)?

– Who continually equates solar power and wind power with stopping climate change as if one is directly related to the other? (This has been going on for twenty years. Just look at the ABC and most of the media. They invariably equate renewables and climate change in the same sentence).

– Who got DDT banned, causing tens of millions of deaths

plenty of
BNC contributors would welcome a level playing field for nuclear/renewables but I for one favour active discrimination against coal!

This has also been discussed at length on the “Alternative to Pricing Carbon” thread.

Active discrimination translates into sovereign risk. If you are intending to steal from the investors who invested in the plant in good faith, then how do you suspect you will get investors to invest in a nuclear power plant? Investor risk premium has increased in Australi8a in the past three years due to a succession of such policies such as

– the proposed mining tax, which is proposed to be applied retrospectively to existing mines

– effectively confiscating the value of Telstra from the Telstra share holders

– threatening to impose a carbon price (tax or ETS) on generators that were bought in good faith from government owned utilities

– many more examples posted in comments on other threads

Geoff, if it is very easy to make simplistic statements. But to implement good policy it has to be robust and handle the many complexities. Sovereign risk is one of the main reasons the cost of nuclear is too high in Australia.

Could I urge BNCers to have look, or another look, at how I am proposing we can get to nuclear in Australia at a cost less than coal: https://bravenewclimate.com/2010/01/31/alternative-to-cprs/#comment-109491

Subsequent comments on this thread say a lot more. This comment contains links to the some significant comments regarding how I believe we could get broad support for a policy that would survive over a long time period.

https://bravenewclimate.com/2010/01/31/alternative-to-cprs/#comment-110262

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83. Tom Keen,

It’s your turn to have a go. I refer you back to this question which you have not answered yet (and not has anyone else):
https://bravenewclimate.com/2011/01/21/the-cost-of-ending-global-warming-a-calculation/#comment-111148.

I get the impression you are trying every trick in the book to avoid addressing this important question. I understand the tactic of diversion, so please don’t waste my time any more. You can learn about basic economics and GDP for yourself. If you don’t understand the basics, then it is pointless raising the sorts of questions you are. My examples of the effect of cutting GDP on unemployment were posed as part of the question. It’s up to you to do the necessary analyses to allow you to provide a sensible answer to the questions I’ve posed (and that you and everyone else should be posing for yourself without me prompting you to). If you are not considering such questions yourself, without having to be prompted, you are irresponsible, IMO. Not that that is unusual amongst extremists and those who are dominated by single-issue politics.

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84. Tom Keen,

I am annoyed about having my statements misrepresented. This is what I said that you then twisted:

Perhaps Chris could enhance his article by providing the equivalent of his drop in GDP in terms of % unemployed, e.g. 2% drop in GDP = 20% permanent unemployment , 5% drop in GDP = 50% permanent unemployment.

I don’t know the figures, but it might help Tom and others to understand what a sustained drop in GDP means if it was expressed in terms of the unemployment rate that it would cause.

The really silly thing about the economically irrational arguments put forward by many is that they are being presented without having properly considered the alternatives.

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85. Peter Lang – Because of inflation, the refebs underway and planned will cost almost as much as a new build in some cases, yet these will still go ahead because these plants are financially viable. In fact New Brunswick wanted to build a second merchant plant at Point Lepreau supplementary to the Provence’s needs, to sell power to New England, and Hydro Quebec wanted to buy into that project. As well I mentioned above that two new reactors are being planned for Ontario.

I think you have to revisit some of your assumptions in light of the Canadian experience.

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86. For the left the answer must involve sunshine, puppies and
the destruction of everyone not as enlightened as themselves and
democracy as representational government. So the answer is NO! in
the name of social, sexual and artistic justice!!

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87. Chris Uhlik:

Thanks for your explanatory comments of 24th Jan at 1.00pm. I think I can now see what you’re driving at and, in essence, I think most here would agree. However, your calculations and assumptions, IMO, tended to confuse the issue. You suggested a cost for building and running sufficient nuclear reactors to provide for more or less all of the energy needs of the United States with the assumption that GDP would remain constant. This cost, you intimated ,would represent up to 5% of GDP. However, given that GDP is the aggregate of all consumer plus government spending plus the value of exports less imports and given that your cost represented wholesale and not retail value, I think you should have used a figure of 10%.

Before this suggestion causes Peter Lang to fall from his pram, it is worth noting that energy expenditure currently makes up about 10% of GDP. Thus, on your figures (which are subject to debate), there would be no adverse impacts on the discretionary incomes of American citizens involved in converting to an all nuclear energy policy.

Do you agree with my interpretation of your post or am I continuing to have a flawed understanding?

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88. my private conspiracy theory… the GE(nbc) nuclear plant
design is inferior to the Westinghouse(cbs) design. GE, in their
effort to delay construction until they can find a better design
has resulted in their embrace of the wh and their so-called green
energy advocacy, with the exception of advocating nuclear power.
each plant represents a sizable amount of money for the company
that recieves the contract. Immelt is there to make sure that
nuclear production doesn’t occur, until they can earn a slice of
the pie.

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89. Peter Lang:

Like me, you admit to only having a layman’s understanding of economics. However, I would have expected that you might have sniffed out the inconsistencies in the two definitions of GDP to which you treated us at 9.15 and 9.53 on the 24th Jan. The first, consistent with that given by Tom Keen at 8.29pm on the same day, is flatly contradicted by the second ( “GDP is value added, so it’s income after costs have been deducted.”)

As far as I’m aware, GDP is unrelated either to gross or net income. It is correct, I think, to suppose that capitalism cannot long survive zero GDP growth because such growth is necessary for the repayment of debt. It is, of course, possible for GDP to grow while per capita discretionary incomes fall (declining living standards). I suspect that many of us have been getting confused over technically defined terms.

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90. Dr. Uhlik, did you account for the capital cost of
conversion to heat pumps and electric cars? My hunch is that these
costs would dwarf the costs of the new power plants and
transmission infrastructure, but I’d be interested if anyone has
actually estimated these costs, and how they would be phased
in.

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91. “The cost of this infrastructure: \$2,550/person/year or 5%
of GDP.” Is that GDP for one year? If so, you should spread it out
over a number of years.Then the % of GDP will be much
lower.

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92. Why do the images in this story link to larger versions of
themselves? This is extremely distracting and makes it almost
impossible to read.

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93. Peter Lang: the cohen you cite above is good. have you found any updates to cohen or do you think cohen works well enough for the u.s.–given the absence of nuke builds (basically) since he wrote?

douglas: what you say about capitalism is very important but seems about half right. growth is necessary to repay debt but the debt is itself undertaken with the expectation of growth. if you just say the former, it makes it sound like once the debt is repaid, then capitalism would no longer necessarily have the motive to grow.

growth is built into capitalism, though so are barriers to growth–like so much inequality that further consumption requires debt.

at any rate, peter lang seems basically right about capitalism’s relation to unemployment, though Douglas’s caveats are important.

Decline of economic growth (generally correlated with lower gdp) will generally correlate with increased un and under employment. but just as douglas notes the possibility of growth and declining living standards, so could there be higher un and underemployment even with growth: at least in a particular country, due to outsourcing or employment reducing technologies.

Geoff Russel: have you written anything on the relation between sustainability and exponential growth?

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94. sorry geoff. I left the second “l” off your name (but I got the double “ff”).

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95. has anyone read smil’s new book?

according to reviews, it considers cheap nuclear energy to be a myth, one he presumably debunks.

he debunks alternative energy as a whole as well and thinks fossil fuels will be around a long time. if global warming were a problem, this assessment would be reason for despair, but I gather he don’t put too much stock in global warming.

sounds like robert bryce, though less positive about nuclear. and a little like Mills and Huber, but without their endless optimism about market innovations.

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96. Chris – as I can see you are educated and able to undertake
such an exercise, I wonder why you don’t realize that the CO2 as a
climate changing gas is a bunch of over politicized
nonsense?

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97. How about the cost of all those nuclear engineers to run them?

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98. @Fran Barlow 0916 Jan 22:
(WRT: considerable sunk costs in gas reticulation.)
“It would make more sense to run electricity over lines than H2 through pipes. H2 is slippery stuff and embrittles metals.”

Hydrogen embrittlement must have been solved in the days when town gas (H2+CO) was reticulated, by choosing the steel. If the government is sincere about replacing methane in the decades ahead, it makes sense to require that all new gas reticulation be able to carry hydrogen.

Hydrogen is indeed more slippery than methane, by a factor of three (sqrt(18/2)), and long-distance pipelines do leak 1-2% methane. However 3-6% hydrogen leakage is much better for the greenhouse
than 1-2% methane !

There is a political issue here too. Currently the gas industry, in Australia at least, has hypnotised the conservatives, commentariat, environmentalists and renewables freaks. When the affair ends, presumably after a series of climatic disasters, the weakened gas industry will need a compromise solution.

Provision of nuclear hydrogen in the existing pipework may be a lot more attractive to all parties than an expensive doubling of capacity in electricity transmission lines.

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99. Each country/government has its own set of factors to consider in its forecasting energy mix.

The dominant considerations I speculate are:

Energy security.

Energy cost.

Speculation on climate forcing though increasingly popular, I would argue is far below the priorities above. As the cost is great, this issue is always political. Since in the U.S. there has been recent cold winters, I suspect the political climate for ‘Global Warming’ to be distinctly cooler. In Australia energy security is not a concern, also there is abundant cheap energy, so it is very easy to understand why nuclear power is not in, or being considered, in the energy mix here. Also incumbent producers of energy would resist a de facto ‘privitisation’ of the energy sector in terms of capital investment, as Government would have to take a lead on such significant infrastructure.

A word about human climate forcing. The simple causation of increased human CO2 production through industry and the Modern Warm Period, I find not to be cogent in a complex system dominated by other Green House Gases. It is like perhaps a policeman (us) walking into a crime scene, the victim (a warmer planet) if ‘victim’ is the right word, which is also contestable, is lying dead on the carpet. There are, say, three men in the room, CO2, Methane, Water Vapour. We immediately arrest the smallest guy CO2, who has no form and let the other guys go without a question. Later, at the trial, the prosecutors (us again) say, “This is an open and shut case, this little guy has been increasing, and so has the temperature! He’s guilty!”. I would argue further that the climate is even more complex than the final scene of Reservoir Dogs (a close depiction of a dead guy and three shooters!). I feel that BNC is predisposed (prejudice even?) to accepting climate forcing, which I feel is sometimes trying to get the data to fit the theory, not the other way round.

A word about my contributions. I enjoy receiving the BNC weekly news letter, with thought provoking discussion. I rarely contribute as I feel the threads are a bit high-brow for me, as I did my physics a long time ago. But this topic of Nuclear power, more than any other speculation, is of great interest to me, it is above all political and hence the more limited cerebellums perhaps can chip in! Until nuclear power meets the two dominant priorities above, demonstrably to an electorate it will not be considered as a major replacement of fossil fuels. In Australia that means, first and foremost, nuclear power has to be cheap. The regulatory playing field is not at all level, which of course means that tax-payers pay more for their power.

Warm regards to all.

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100. Peter Lang, on 24 January 2011 at 9:53 PM,

GDP is a seriously outmoded way of measuring prosperity. Furthermore, you are more or less proposing we conduct some sort of cost-benefit analysis on energy infrastructure investment. Given the extremely tenuous nature of measuring (let alone costing) the effects of climate change (and as Barry has pointed out, some scenarios are completely incalculable) and other costs from not making the transition to nuclear, a cost-benefit analysis in this instance is a fruitless excercise.

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101. You are mixing apples and oranges when trying to use refurbishments as an argument to demonstrate that new nuclear is economically viable in Canada. Your argument makes no sense at all. And the fact that NPPs are being planned says nothing about what their final cost will be. Many other types of plants are being planned too. Some will be viable and will be built. Most wont. Turkey was planning to build NPPs for 30 years, but they haven’t built one yet.

On another thread you made a statement to the effect that “the block to nuclear has nothing to do with their cost. It never has. Cost has never been the issue”.

This statement is absolutely wrong. And Bernard Cohen explains it very well in the link posted by Chris yesterday, a link that supports much of what you’ve been saying elsewhere, but makes it absolutely clear that it is the economics that decide whether or not a plant goes ahead: http://www.phyast.pitt.edu/~blc/book/chapter9.html

DV82XL, I can’t recall ever having seen you admit to being wrong about anything yet. This is a really good opportunity for you to do so. You are clearly wrong on this matter (although I accept you may not realise it). When it gets to the final decision it is always the economics that is the final decider. You must be aware of the comment “It the economy, stupid”.

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102. Well said. I agree.

I’d add a further comment for the benefit of the extremists: continually bleating on about your extremist beliefs doesn’t win people over. It just isolates you and encourages people to dismiss what you argue for.

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103. Douglas Wise @ 5:33 AM

Thus, on your figures (which are subject to debate), there would be no adverse impacts on the discretionary incomes of American citizens involved in converting to an all nuclear energy policy.

You are clutching at straws and totally misunderstanding the effect of increasing the cost of energy inputs to the economy.

The fact that you, and most aligned with you, are trying so hard to deny the obvious, seriously damages your credibility with regard to being capable of being objective. Even Sir Nicky Stern, recognised that increasing energy costs cuts GDP, and that is despite all the efforts he went to to minimise the cost and maximise the benefits of imposing a carbon price.

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104. Douglas Wise @5.53 AM

The first, consistent with that given by Tom Keen at 8.29pm on the same day, is flatly contradicted by the second ( “GDP is value added, so it’s income after costs have been deducted.”)

Absolute rubbish. You do not understand even the most basic parts of this. No point in chasing thsi one. Instead, why don’t you stop trying to divert from the question. Have a serious try at answering these questions (although history says you wont, because you are simply trying to do all you can to avoid it being looked into):

What would be the consequences to the USA economy of raising the cost of energy by the amount estimated by Chris Uhlik? Please provide the consequences in terms of:

– unemployment rate?

– cuts in services such as Health, Education, infrastructure,

– living standards, quality of life, disposable income, etc?

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105. Greg Meyerson,

Peter Lang: the cohen you cite above is good. have you found any updates to cohen or do you think cohen works well enough for the u.s.–given the absence of nuke builds (basically) since he wrote?

This link was provided by Chris Uhlik in this reply to one of my questions:
https://bravenewclimate.com/2011/01/21/the-cost-of-ending-global-warming-a-calculation/#comment-111172

I gather this was one of the main sources that Chris used as a basis of his lead article.

I agree it is about 20 years out of date. However, it is an excellent explanation of the impediments to low cost nuclear and I suspect it is still very relevant. It includes some breakdown of the components of the cost which shows what caused the cost increases. It shows they are largely due to the engineering component of labour and interest during construction due to the delays. Very interesting. I believe this link totally supports what I’ve been saying all along about the impediments to low cost nuclear, and especially on the the “Alternative to Pricing Carbon” thread.

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106. On hydrogen in the natural gas grid there are issues of scale and cost as well as leakage. Some propose a blend of the gases
http://www.hythane.com/system.html
which I gather is intended mainly as a compressed fuel for ICE applications.

Even if nuclear hydrogen can get down to \$2 a kg that is still an order of magnitude above natural gas prices. Currently I believe Australia uses about 20 Mt of NG and exports another 20 Mt, soon to be joined by liquefied coal seam gas.

I note the world’s biggest nitrogen fertiliser plant http://www.bfpl.com.au/ is in financial trouble. It uses gas from the Gorgon field to make about .8 Mt of fertiliser a year. Given that urea etc is believed to have already enabled a global population a third larger than otherwise let’s hope they will find alternatives when there are even more mouths to feed but very little NG feedstock.

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107. Greg Meyerson,

growth is necessary to repay debt but the debt is itself undertaken with the expectation of growth.

I think that is missing the important part. People want continually improving standard of living. They want better services from governments (Health, Education, infrastructure, etc). They want more disposable income. They want more freedom of choice. They want more pay for less work. If we want a continually improving standard of living and continually improving services (from government and the private sector (such as from our banks!!)) then we need GDP growth at a rate that exceeds inflation. That is the reason we need growth.

Importantly, and many here do not seem to understand this, if we raise the cost of energy or any of the other inputs to the economy without improving productivity to compensate for the higher input costs, we cut GDP. Changing electricity from low cost coal to high cost nuclear will cut GDP, unless something else happens that increases productivity by more.

I can just see it now. The rabbits are going to go chasing after that little carrot at the end and totally miss the big picture. The big picture is that if we raise the cost of electricity, a basic input to the economy, we will cut GDP.

My question to Chris and others here is: what will be the effect of that cut in GDP on the items I mentioned in my question upthread?

The reason for me asking this is to try to get people to realise that what is important is for the community to consider all the alternatives for allowing us to implement low-cost nuclear instead of high-cot nuclear (which will not fly). The people who most need to take notice of this are those who are most concerned about cutting GHG emissions. To date they have gone into their bunkers and closed the lid on this matter. They seem to be doing everything possible to deny the issue is real.

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108. Pip Willis,

Thank you for your excellent post. I like all of it but especially this bit:

Until nuclear power meets the two dominant priorities above, demonstrably to an electorate it will not be considered as a major replacement of fossil fuels. In Australia that means, first and foremost, nuclear power has to be cheap. The regulatory playing field is not at all level, which of course means that tax-payers pay more for their power.

I’ve been trying to get some traction on this important point for over a year, with almost no support from BNC contributors.

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109. Tom Keen,

a cost-benefit analysis in this instance is a fruitless excercise

I except that you and some extremists believe that. They are a fringe group that believe society should follow their dictates just because they believe know what is good and right for everyone. Luckilly, most people are far to smart to fall for it.

As for this comment:

GDP is a seriously outmoded way of measuring prosperity.

you are talking utter nonsense. Just look at UNDP HDI, IEA, EIA, just about any authoritative stats you look at.

You are doing everything you can do avoid having to deal with the obvious. Seems to me the term “Denier” would suit.

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110. Woops,

Before the school teacher corrects me, that should read “I accept” not “I except”

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111. David Benson: thanks for the correction on the origin of the CPR-1000.

I think the world would be well served to buy \$1.50/watt power-plants from China. They are setting a good example. If only we could be so clever.

About why nuclear plants are so expensive…

A PWR uses about 40 grams of steel per watt (\$0.025), and 190 cc of concrete (\$0.025)
These materials costs represent about \$0.05/watt. Let’s compare to projected Turkey Point costs
“between \$3.11 and \$4.54/watt of “overnight capital” but with construction financing and regulatory risk insurance, \$5.78–8.07/watt”.
The plant costs about 140 times the raw materials costs.
Let’s compare to some other pieces of machinery
Ford F150 pickup truck: 4,803 lbs of steel @ \$580/ton or \$1393 finished price \$23,400 value multiplication factor 16.8
Boeing 747: 128,730 lbs of aluminum @\$2.30/kg. Finished price \$318M value multiplication factor 2367.
Building jet airliners adds more value to raw materials than building pickup trucks.
It is wrong to say that the price of aluminum influences the price of a 747. Similarly it is wrong to say the price of concrete and steel have anything to do with the price of a nuclear power plant. In residential construction, the cost of a home is usually about 3–5x the cost of materials.
One might think that big containment buildings wouldn’t be worse.

If we could build nuclear power plant components for just twice the markup of pickup trucks, we’d have nuclear plants that cost
\$0.05 * 16.8 * 2 = \$1.68/watt, coincidentally about what the Chinese are paying for their new PWRs.
The remaining \$6/watt is regulatory interference and politics. That doesn’t go away no matter what we do with the design. Maybe you can save 3/4 of the concrete and steel with an atmospheric pressure LFTR. Then you’ll be paying \$6/watt for regulation (times a factor for unfamiliarity) plus only \$0.42/watt.

The key problem to solve is getting rid of the \$12B of regulation costs per project. The Chinese seem to have that part solved. I hope India follows suit and these 3rd world countries embarrass the rest of us into following suit.

Chris

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112. “The key problem to solve is getting rid of the \$12B of regulation costs per project. The Chinese seem to have that part solved. I hope India follows suit and these 3rd world countries embarrass the rest of us into following suit.
Chris”

Yeap, this is the problem. If I were arguing against the US’s increase in nuclear power, I would say: What is the difference between the Developing World and the ‘Western World’, an educated electorate!”

So to solve the big problem we either: opt for a nuclear dictatorship, or re-educate the electorate.

Simple!

Pip

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113. Chris,

The key problem to solve is getting rid of the \$12B of regulation costs per project. The Chinese seem to have that part solved. I hope India follows suit and these 3rd world countries embarrass the rest of us into following suit.

I agree with you. I think the costs incurred because of excessive regulation are one of the major impediments to low-cost nuclear. There are others, of course, such as the investor risk premium on nuclear and the many policy, legislated regulatory and tax favouritism to fossil fuel and renewables. These make it harder for nuclear to compete and also increase the investor risk premium because they send the message that the government and the people want fossil fuels and renewables and don’t want nuclear. So investors fear that their investment in a 60 year plant may be confiscated, or reduced in value, by a government that has been elected by a popular uprising to kill nuclear and promote whatever is the next popular favourite.

Much of these impediments to low-cost nuclear can be removed. But we need to make the effort to identify all the impediments so we can explain the problem to media, politicians and the public.

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114. Peter Lang – I am washing my hands of you because you are an idiot. I do not admit I am wrong unless I am, and I am not in this case

Nuclear energy is a viable, profitable way of generating electricity in Canada, and it would be in Australia too, at a reasonable level of market penetration.

Frankly I do not know why anyone here treats you seriously, as you have not contributed anything of value to this discussion.

I will not waste my time dealing with you anymore.

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115. Chris Uhlik, on 25 January 2011 at 12:36 PM — Looks like the Chinese company intends to bid on the four NPPs be planned for Egypt, along with builders in the US, France and Russia. However, some part of the Chinese rugulatory apparatus is making sounds as if they won’t be allowed to esport on the grounds of upsetting the Chinese part of the supply chain.

Even if allowed, I seriously doubt that the US NRC would approve the design; same problem in several countries in Europe.

I, however, suspect the design is amply safe enough.

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116. DV82XL

Peter Lang – I am washing my hands of you because you are an idiot. I do not admit I am wrong unless I am, and I am not in this case

Nuclear energy is a viable, profitable way of generating electricity in Canada, and it would be in Australia too, at a reasonable level of market penetration.

Frankly I do not know why anyone here treats you seriously, as you have not contributed anything of value to this discussion.

I will not waste my time dealing with you anymore.

Thanks for that excellent and highly constructive comment. It contributes a lot. (sarcasm alert)

I getting the impression, over a long period of time, that you scurry away from discussing costs. I’ve asked you previously (quite a long time ago) about costs of new nuclear in Canada. You avoided it and cut off the discussion. I asked you to comment on this:
Nuclear cheaper than coal in Australia. How?
https://bravenewclimate.com/2010/01/31/alternative-to-cprs/#comment-109491
You avoided that too, with the excuse you didn’t have time to check the numbers. But you didn’t need to; you could have commented on the overall message and the assumptions.

I am surprised that someone with so much experience in industry and on large projects seems to have so little comprehension of the financing and cost side of major project.

Greg Meyerson pointed to a comment by John Morgan which in turn provides this link:
http://uvdiv.blogspot.com/2009/09/china-2020_03.html

Another link that points out that cost is the key.

Everywhere you look, the economics of nuclear is the key factor that always has and always will determine its viablity.

“It’s the economy, stupid!”

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117. DV82XL said of Peter Lang

Frankly I do not know why anyone here treats you seriously, as you have not contributed anything of value to this discussion.

All of us have in our minds a vision of a world that would be very nearly perfect, but Peter, sadly, is unable to cope with others not sharing his vision. His frustration with what he takes to be either stupidity or worse drives him to become increasingly perverse and absurd in his responses.

His claims about GDP and unemployment were arrant nonsense. Falling GDP doesn’t cause rising unemployment any more than a declining fuel gauge causes you to have less fuel. Falling economic activity/rising unemployment causes falling GDP.

Once Peter starts down this ideological road, he finds it hard to stop, repeating the idiotic slander over DDT, the composition error over biodiesel and linking it tendentiously to “sovereign risk”. For him, the big picture is fully recursive — a composition of identical little pictures. It’s a neat idea, but bunkum, at least in terms of social organisation.

What Peter needed to show that the reconfiguration of the composition of GDP driven by higher energy costs would lead to a contraction in labour utilisation and/or lower relative labour productivity, but of course that would be much too much like hard work in an area in which he is unqualified. A swingeing ideological claim is therefore far more useful.

I will not waste my time dealing with [Peter] anymore

It sounds the wiser course.

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118. Hey Peter:

the growth imperative is built into capitalism; it is not built into human nature. Grow or die is a capitalist imperative. Not a human one.

most people I know want a decent standard of living, which is not the same thing as a continually improving standard of living based on continued growth.

What if continued growth is not ecologically sustainable? if continued population growth is seen as a problem (for many conservatives now and even for many leftists AT SOME POINT), why wouldn’t exponential material thruput be seen as a problem for sustainability? (barry has suggested that this material thruput problem is somehow solvable for a growth economy, but I confess to not fully understanding the argument.)

You know, Peter, the conservative columnist for the N.Y. Times, David Brooks, argues that
americans typically work longer and harder than folks in other comparably developed nations due to the “american work ethic.” For you, it might be due to this impulse you posit for a higher standard of living.

Nope. They have to work longer and harder because we have a comparably weaker social support system and weak to nonexistent unions, and this is because one group of humans has continually improved their standard of living at the expense of another. (I realize you view such comments with disdain and you think I marginalize myself in making them).

on your issue with DV, Cohen notes that “regulatory ratcheting” was a strictly “political phenomenon that quadrupled the cost of nuclear power plants….”

what this means is that the economics is a REFLECTION of the politics: and this is what I took DV’s point to be–no?

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119. I think Peter has made insightful, excellent contributions to this thread. I pretty much agree with all he has said!

The central point here is ‘cost’. A higher cost than BAU will result in inflation and debt increases, if of course BAU as a percentage cost stays the same, will it. Who thinks oil will be more than \$200 a barrel by 2020, or will outstrip US growth?

Did the French pay too much for their NPPs?

The French are not worried about Russian energy cost hikes, they have very low CO2 emissions, an excellent safety record?

With the French energy mix and economy as an example, I feel I have to ask: What more has nuclear power got to do before it is embraced more fully?

Pip

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120. btw, I find both DV and Peter Lang’s contributions to be very worthwhile.

I don’t care if Peter calls me a lunatic or an extremist. I’m used to it. I’d be disoriented if he didn’t call me (or Fran or Tom or Geoff or DV or, at times, Barry, or John or Ewen or Eclipse) an extremist.

Tom Blees is an extremist too, Peter. (sorry if I left anybody out). as for douglas, well, he’s may not be an extremist but he speaks “absolute rubbish.”

six of one.

(I’m just kidding around, PL)

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121. Gregory Meyerson,

“the growth imperative is built into capitalism; it is not built into human nature. Grow or die is a capitalist imperative. Not a human one.”

Were you born or did you just eventuate?

For young families to just achieve the SoL of their parents in an ever increasing world it requires an increase in GDP and as Peter Lang points out over and over, energy cost is an absolutely critical factor in this.

As an avid environmentalist I thoroughly agree with Peter Lang that our cost of living is fundamental to our ability to make civilisation function and to conserve and preserve what is best for this planet.

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122. GM,

I’m sure you didn’t just eventuate [or if you did you brought a bit of common sense with you] but I do get alarmed at our inclination to middle class guilt which results in mindless spending to cleanse our souls which results in an unaffordable world for those whose fault it never was.

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123. Greg Meyerson,

the growth imperative is built into capitalism; it is not built into human nature. Grow or die is a capitalist imperative. Not a human one.

most people I know want a decent standard of living, which is not the same thing as a continually improving standard of living based on continued growth.

That may be true in discussions amongst idealists. But is is certainly not want the vast majority of the electorate display at elections and between them. They are forever demanding more and better services and complaining about services that are not what they expect. They vote for the government that they believe will fix the problems, give them more disposable income, better services, more pay for less work, and so on. That is what the electors display continually.

What chance would a political party have of getting reelected if it said “we stand for stopping economic growth. We are going to let our infrastructure rot. We are not going to attempt to improve services. What you have now is good enough. We know that is what you, electors, really want.”

Convince me that that is an election winning policy.

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124. Greg Meyerson,

That’s all OK. I know you are a nice guy. I toughened my skin over a year or two too, given the continual spray from the Lefties. :)

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125. Greg Meyerson,

on your issue with DV, Cohen notes that “regulatory ratcheting” was a strictly “political phenomenon that quadrupled the cost of nuclear power plants….”

what this means is that the economics is a REFLECTION of the politics: and this is what I took DV’s point to be–no?

Yes!

Good point!

I agree!

I always have agreed!

The types of people and groups that led the fight against nuclear are the same types of people that are now arguing that we should stop using coal no matter what the cost to the economy and therefore to people (especially the poorest). A few, the more enlightened versions of these people, realise that nuclear is the least cost way to cut emissions. But they simply cannot make the leap, and throw off their protester heritage, to realise that we have to address the impediments to low-cost nuclear that we have built into the system.

It is true that politics has caused the problem and inflated the costs. Now we need to implement the reverse politics to get rid of those excessive costs that are preventing nuclear from being competitive with coal.

Why are the Left so blinkered that they cannot see this obvious connection? What is causing this denial-ism?

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126. Greg Meyerson,

They have to work longer and harder because we have a comparably weaker social support system and weak to nonexistent unions, and this is because one group of humans has continually improved their standard of living at the expense of another.

You are correct that I do not agree with this. The reason I don’t is because I believe it is based on cherry-picking figures. If we start by looking at the big picture, such as in several of the Hans Rosling presentation of UN statistics, we can see that the world is continually improving (with some localised set backs such as AIDS in Africa, epidemics, etc). We can also see that, in general and especially in the more developed countries, the spread of wealth, health, education, life expectancy, etc is narrowing as time progresses. It is true that countries have taken different routes and USA has continually emphasised financial wealth over health for example. But despite this, it is ahead of most of the rest of the world.

We need to start off with the big picture view before getting myopic.

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127. Energy sector wilts under solar stress
http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/opinion/energy-sector-wilts-under-solar-stress/story-e6frg6zo-1225993849581

This article in today’s Australian is topical for several reasons.

1. It shows once again that economics is the key

2. It shows the myriad of subsidies that exist in our system.

3. it shows how bad we have become at making our governments “pick winners” – the winners we dictate they pick – and what the cost is to us.

It jolted me to realise that BNCers recognise that subsidising solar and wind power is damaging to the economy, but they seem to be unable to make the connection to see that if we have to massively subsidise nuclear for the long haul (even if that is by other imposed schemes such as Carbon Tax or ETS), then that will also damage the economy. It seems the cost and finance neurons have not been connected in the Lefties brains :)

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128. Peter said: “if we have to massively subsidise nuclear for the long haul…”

I don’t hear anyone saying nuclear needs a subsidy. I’d rather we removed the reverse subsidy imposed on nuclear in the form of hyper-regulation and government imposed risk of project delays or outright cancellation. If the industry were allowed to proceed relatively unregulated, I think we’d have a few accidents (like TMI but probably not Chernobyl), but IMO those would be tolerable. Nuclear has a track record of safety unmatched by any other energy technology. But at what cost? I think the cost imposed has been excessive and we will probably pay more in the future in the form of acidified oceans, rising sea levels, disappearing glaciers, and shifting precipitation patterns.

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129. Herman Daly on economic growth:

http://www.energybulletin.net/node/51769

If GDP did allow for subtraction of the costs of the coal power generating industry, nuclear power would always be the more economic option.

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130. Right on Tom! Excellent article.

Chris

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131. SD said:

but I do get alarmed at our inclination to middle class guilt which results in mindless spending to cleanse our souls …

As someone who has dealt for a very longtime with adolescents as a parent and professionally, this line of attack sounds very familiar. It straddles that uneasy frontier between claiming that the warrant for demands to act are diminished either because of their tone or the persistence with which they are made or because the demand is itself illegitimate — in effect, de trop. The adolescent would be doing you a favour if he or she complied with the demand to clean up after herself or attend to his academic obligations.

When a teenager leaves the bathroom or kitchen in a mess and then decides to use his free time to self-amuse, he is externalising his costs to the household as a whole and trying to evade responsibility. We adults rarely accept this but the demand for the beneficiaries of consumption to internalise all of the social costs (i.e the actual and prospective losses) of that consumption is really the same order of thing. It’s about taking responsibility.

And it is no more acceptable for teenagers to whine about guilt-tripping and nagging than it is for deniers to ape their whiny teenage counterparts to evade responsibility to present and future humanity.

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132. I knew a guy who started up a print cartridge recycling business in Perth in the late 80’s. It did OK. When I asked him what the prime motive was for people to recycle cartridges, he said it was the money they saved. In order to be viable, his cartridges had to be half the manufacturers cost. Half. The green factor was non existent.

When it comes down to power outages or ‘save the planet’, the electorate will not hesitate, not for a second. The Green movement is enjoying the complacency of the west. Or, another way, they are Green as we can afford it, for now. In twenty years time, when power costs in China and India are a fraction of those in Western Europe, where will all the energy intense industry be?

Nuclear has to be allowed to compete fairly.

Why are The Greens so opposed to nuclear energy? As it is their tail wagging the dog. For now.

PS Chris, I realise that this may not be the right place, but what convinces you, or what specific evidence convinces you, that human CO2 is the main driver if a warming planet?

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133. Pip writes: “what convinces you, or what specific evidence convinces you, that human CO2 is the main driver if a warming planet?”

Extensive personal discussions with climate modeling scientists at Google SciFoo camps. Every year we invite about 200 practicing scientists (mostly ones that have published in Nature) for a weekend of discussions at Google. I’ve participated for 4 years and met some amazing people (e.g. Stephen Schneider). The depth of their work leaves no doubt about the level of uncertainty in global warming models. Please read this http://www.edge.org/3rd_culture/schneider08/schneider08_index.html

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134. Chris,
Thanks for that link (watched and read) and your comments.

If I were to assume that human CO2 increases will warm the planet (which is not what Schneider says), perhaps best human out-come maybe a trade off between warming and cheap power.

I think the best argument for AGW is Schneider’s: human CO2 will increase the probability of warming. (But he cautions this many times with a caveat of not to be arrogant about the model.) But that is a far cry from Human industry is causing global warming. Also with adaptive modelling, this basically says our last forecast is the best and removes/corrects erroneous prior forecasts, (which may have been used for political reasons) which is a great ‘get out of jail free’ for bad science!

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135. @Pip Willis. ” Best human outcome may be a trade off between warming and cheaper power”. I am appalled !

Let’s not misquote Schneider to excuse inaction. His uncertainty is philosophical, about how much and when. We need a businessman’s certainty, about risks that we would be foolish to run.

“Human industry is causing global warming”, all right. Let’s nail it to the wall, along with anyone else who doubts it.

Your reasoning is akin to a teenager saying that the girls will probably only get half pregnant, so there’s no need to use a condom.

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136. Peter Lang:

You have, as usual, subverted this thread and attempted to turn it into the “Peter Lang Show”.

Although not specifically confirmed by the author of this post, it is my impression that the figures he quotes DO NOT imply that transition from fossil fuels to nuclear will increase energy costs as a percentage of GDP. Why are you assuming that he is making the obverse point? It would appear, from his later comments, that Chris Uhlik is assuming that regulatory burdens will be reduced and that these assumptions seem already to have been factored in to his nuclear build costs. Thus, to me, the message of his post is a message that most here already subscribe to: But for over-regulation, nuclear would already be competitive with fossil fuels as a means of producing power.

If you wish to interpret the post in the way you have, your attack should be aimed at the £3/watt assumption. However, given that you share the author’s dismay at over-regulation, you would either be shooting yourself in the foot or be accusing the author of excess optimism.

It is true that Stern and other economists have calculated that clean energy transition will increase the proportion of GDP attributable to energy. However, they will have worked with official statistics relating to clean energy costs. Chris Uhlik has not done so. He has used the costs that he believes ought to apply (idealistic).

You correctly state that most people have rising aspirations and want increasing standards of living. So what? Wants have little to do with what can be expected in the future if constraints are placed upon resources. The relatively recent past has encouraged cornucopian thinking. Energy constraint or ecosystem damage sufficient to lower carrying capacity could both result in the future being quite different from the past, whether we want it or not. I agree with you and most others here that our best and probably only way of avoiding both constraint and damage is through the rapid roll out of nuclear fission power. This may or may not involve a temporary blip or longer term slowing in growth of living standards during the transition. Obviously, a no-slowing solution would be optimum. This is possible, but, for the reasons that DV82XL has often pointed out, is not necessarily probable in a democratic state.

Finally, for your further economic enlightment: Please realise that wealth, prosperity or rising living standards are not well measured by disposable income. As I understand it, disposable income is what one has left after tax has been taken. One can have a low tax society whose citizens are poor because their residual income can scarely meet the basic necessities of life. When you write of disposable income, I suspect you are thinking in terms of discretionary income.

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137. Thank-you Douglas. Well said.

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138. Roger Clifton, on 25 January 2011 at 7:00 PM said:
“@Pip Willis. ” Best human outcome may be a trade off between warming and cheaper power”. I am appalled !
Let’s not misquote Schneider to excuse inaction. His uncertainty is philosophical, about how much and when. We need a businessman’s certainty, about risks that we would be foolish to run.
“Human industry is causing global warming”, all right. Let’s nail it to the wall, along with anyone else who doubts it.
Your reasoning is akin to a teenager saying that the girls will probably only get half pregnant, so there’s no need to use a condom.”

Roger, it is always nice to complimented with a youthful out-look on life! But why are you appalled? Cheap power = better health out-comes = smaller populations in the developing world. But Cheap power will increase the probability of warming, so which is the lesser evil?

I don’t think I am mis-quoting Schnieder, but he was talking about ‘fat tails’ a lot. That means a broad out-come base. Also the question of how much warming is due to mankind was not addressed in a smoking gun ‘here’s the evidence’, more again about probabilities etc.

As for businessman’s certainty, I think about 300 businesses fail every month in NSW alone, so perhaps more caution would in fact be a good thing in terms of fore-casting.

I don’t understand the girls quip. (Probably a teenager thing!)

Warm regards

PIp
PS I’m not a website!

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139. “And it is no more acceptable for teenagers to whine about guilt-tripping and nagging than it is for deniers to ape their whiny teenage counterparts to evade responsibility to present and future humanity”

Wow Fran!

That’s a strange comparison and an indulgent conclusion.

What am I denying, BTW?

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140. No sale SD … I’m not helping you hijack this topic. Anyone who wants that discussion with you can go over to the Bolt thread at Deltoid right now.

This thread is about the cost of the remedy to AGW. My comment reflected on your attempt to reduce the CO2e externality to a guilt-tripping morality tale.

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141. Dr. Uhlik, John Newlands, David Benson, et. al:

You’re missing an important trick here: renewable, non-fossil methane can be efficiently made from electricity using a bioelectrochemical cell. For those of us who live in very cold climates (Minnesota), heat pumps just won’t cut it in deep winter. And there are some forms of transportation for which batteries will be too heavy (air travel). Renewable methane solves this.

The process is 80% efficient in the lab, which is better than electrolysis of hydrogen — not bad considering that little research has been done.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/03/090330111257.htm

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142. The above discussion illustrates one point; we all have our opinions about what energy sources we should be investing in. So lets all strive to change the utility rules so that each of us can pick and choose which future power plants we want to invest in and one of the options is to let the utility and government choose that for us. But even if we opt out, the rest of us should be allowed to buy some capacity in a nuclear plant, or a solar plant, or a geothermal plant, or energy storage, or whatever, and then our utility bill is adjusted according to the performance of that plant(s). Lets all work together toward that goal. Can we agree to that idea?

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143. as far as it goes, I agree with the herman daly article and my querying of growth is growth in daly’s first sense.

it’s a distortion to equate what I said with “infrastructure rot,” as Peter does. that opposition to exponential growth whatever the circumstances is equated with infrastructure rot says something about P’s assumptions but nothing about my position.

I don’t get SD’s comments. did herman daly eventuate?

btw, let me ask again if anyone has read smil’s book on energy myths where he presumably punctures the nuclear renaissance? I don’t always agree with smil (or bryce and lang for that matter), but I think he should be read.

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144. has any state or municipality tried to employ something like Gene’s idea. Now that I think about it, I would very much like my electricity money to go to a nuclear fund. etc.

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145. No utility I know has tried it yet. But most people like the idea, except utility executives ha ha. I wonder why they wouldn’t like the idea?

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146. KAP I’m sold on the methane economy. It has high net energy (twice that of gas to liquids), multiple forms of production, it uses existing distribution networks and medium level technology. A little methane even wafts ups our noses from our guts. Industrial fugitive emissions will have to be managed with detectors however.

Some say methanol rather than methane but I have 200 litre drums of the stuff (for making biodiesel) and it gives me the creeps. Others say there will be explosions with 220 bar cylinders (like the shark in Jaws) but the statistics don’t support that. Then of course we have the Pickens Plan, the major flaw being that gas ends up carrying wind power so doesn’t really conserve the resource .

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147. @Pip Willis

re AGW : It’s the Physics stupid .

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148. John Newlands – Several North American utilities have programs like this. In essence, the ratepayer is charged a premium and power is purchased by the utility from the ‘green’ generators that are part of the program. In some other cases, an independent company arbitrages this market and resells load back to the utility.

Nether has been very effective, but of course only some generators are considered eligible, and to the best of my understanding no NPP is

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149. Well, that’s where I’m going wrong then, I’m just a tax-payer. ( Thanks for your avuncular insight pete.)

As a tax payer I would like to see the regulatory playing field levelled in the energy sector. You may see above, with amazement, the additional cost burden nuclear power is carrying. I think nuclear power can be cheap, is safe and is clean. I do not wish to add to the probability of warming by releasing CO2 in to the atmosphere, but I also do not wish to pay more for power. So what is the cost of not allowing nuclear power to compete on a level playing field?

In regard to risk management of the globe, essentially this point will come down to an insurance premium set against dangerous warming. Luckily it is an adaptive complex system and we can always increase the premium if the risk is looking greater. If it were just the ‘physics stupid’, there would be an answer. It’s not physics, its mathematics.

What debaters also need to consider is the power of cohesion not division, fusion not fission. I have no prejudice in the climate debate. If people like uncle pete are too clever to wait for more doubtful people becoming frustrated and rude, it makes their position unattractive to waverers like me. No one likes a zealot.

Respects to all, Pip

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150. @ Pip Willis : I think you summed up the debate .
” What is the cost of not allowing nuclear power to compete on a level playing field.”
Sorry , didn’t mean to cause offence before ;)

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151. Chris Uhlik,

Peter said: “if we have to massively subsidise nuclear for the long haul…”

I don’t hear anyone saying nuclear needs a subsidy. I’d rather we removed the reverse subsidy imposed on nuclear in the form of hyper-regulation and government imposed risk of project delays or outright cancellation. If the industry were allowed to proceed relatively unregulated, I think we’d have a few accidents (like TMI but probably not Chernobyl), but IMO those would be tolerable. Nuclear has a track record of safety unmatched by any other energy technology. But at what cost? I think the cost imposed has been excessive and we will probably pay more in the future [….]

Apart from your first sentence (and the deleted part of the last sentence) I agree entirely with this paragraph.

Consider this sentence:

“I’d rather we removed the reverse subsidy imposed on nuclear in the form of hyper-regulation and government imposed risk of project delays or outright cancellation”.

This is exactly what I’ve been saying for over a year on BNC threads, especially the “Alternative to Pricing Carbon” thread.

I don’t know if you looked at the link I’ve posted previously to this comment:
Nuclear cheaper than coal in Australia. How?
https://bravenewclimate.com/2010/01/31/alternative-to-cprs/#comment-109491

If you haven’t read it already and you do decide to read it, and the other comments listed here, https://bravenewclimate.com/2010/01/31/alternative-to-cprs/#comment-110262 you would realise that this is what I’ve been arguing for.

However, it is also important to understand there will be a long transition period to get to low-cost nuclear. The reason is that we cannot quickly change the existing designs. The existing NPP designs have 40 years of over-design incorporated in them due to excessive regulatory interventions. Some of the excess has been removed in AP1000, but there is still an enormous amount of extra cost due to the racketing up of regulations; this is well explained in the Cohen chapter you linked to previously. It will take many years, perhaps even decades, to make the necessary changes to get nuclear to the point you and I envisage it should be. In fact, it won’t happen until we get commercially viable Gen IV, and it won’t even happen in Gen IV unless we start highlighting the impediments to low-cost nuclear. This is something the BNCers have stridently avoided discussing (read through the “Alternative to Carbon Pricing” thread to get clear evidence of that). So, until we are prepared to identify the many impediments to low cost nuclear, and then remove them, nuclear will be more expensive than it could and should be.

In Australia we have the added imposts of having to get through the “First of a Kind” (FOAK) in our country. That will take around two decades and will require some subsidies. I’ve argued elsewhere why this is necessary and did a rough calculation of how much subsidy would be needed here:
Nuclear cheaper than coal in Australia. How?
https://bravenewclimate.com/2010/01/31/alternative-to-cprs/#comment-109491
This is probably a low-ball estimate.

Further regarding this sentence:

“I’d rather we removed the reverse subsidy imposed on nuclear in the form of hyper-regulation and government imposed risk of project delays or outright cancellation”.

There are many more impediments to low cost nuclear than just the inflated cost due to the excessive regulations. These comments on the “Alternative to Pricing Carbon” thread list some of them:

Some impediments to low-cost nuclear
https://bravenewclimate.com/2010/01/31/alternative-to-cprs/#comment-86256

Subsidies that encourage fossil fuel use in Australia.
http://www.isf.uts.edu.au/publications/CR_2003_paper.pdf
It is an update of a 2003 paper by Mark Diesendorf. My thesis is that removing the impediments to nuclear would mean removing all such subsidies and many other distortions (including for renewable energy) that favour fossil fuels and renewables and therefore act against the entry of nuclear power.

Sovereign Risk – a major impediment to low cost nuclear
https://bravenewclimate.com/2010/01/31/alternative-to-cprs/#comment-110065

Impediments to low-cost nuclear – Industrial Relations
https://bravenewclimate.com/2010/01/31/alternative-to-cprs/#comment-110185

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152. Chris,

Chris Uhlik, on 25 January 2011 at 4:27 PM said:
Peter said: “if we have to massively subsidise nuclear for the long haul…”

I don’t hear anyone saying nuclear needs a subsidy.

ACIL-Tasman’s projections of the cost of nuclear in Australia is about 2 times the cost of new coal. Even with a carbon tax that more than doubles the cost of electricity, both gas and coal are projected to be cheaper than nuclear. So how do you see getting nulcear to be viable in Australia without a massive subsidy, or regulations which amount to the same thing?

I’ve provided my suggestion here:
https://bravenewclimate.com/2010/01/31/alternative-to-cprs/#comment-109491

But it seems BNCers just hate the thought of this. Is this what is called ‘bunker syndrome’? Is this an example of cognitive dissonance?

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153. Douglas Wise.

Peter Lang:

You have, as usual, subverted this thread and attempted to turn it into the “Peter Lang Show”.

For heaven’s sake, when will you ever stop your whining?

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154. So, Fran,

You fire a fact-free, hysterical rant plus ad hom at me and when I politely ask you to play the ball you still choose to play the man.

The whiners society at large.

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155. For what little it is worth, since I cannot understand economics, here is what Krugman has said about GDP vs Employment
http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/08/01/growth-and-unemployment/
“You also see that growth has to be fairly fast — more than 2 percent — just to keep the unemployment rate from rising. ”
I know Dean Baker has said something similar.
Personally, and I think someone else said this, it appears you can convert a cost (decreases GDP) into value-added (increases GDP) by just adding a profit margin. I all seems bullshit to me.
Personally (again), I think the cost of climate change is huge (thanks to Geoff for posting Hansen’s latest paper) and it will come upon us non-linearly so it will be huger and huger. The measurement that the edge of the WAIS is now back where the land underneath it is below sea-level is terrifying. You thought the floods were bad, wait until the sea comes in, force fed by the loss of the WAIS gravitational effect at Australian latitudes. It’s worth the cost of avoiding. Resorting to an argument from authority, unless you can quote someone smarter than Hansen, any argument attempting to sideline the need to avoid global heating is stupid.

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156. SD said:

You fire a fact-free, hysterical rant plus ad hom …

Your insistent misuse of the term ad hom (here and at Deltoid) even after having correct usage pointed out to you, your willingness to verbal others and your misdirection over “middle-class guilt” inculpates you as a troll. I’m not sure why you’re trolling but it probably doesn’t matter.

Chris Uhlik said:

“I’d {rather we} would like us to remove{d} the reverse subsidy imposed on nuclear in the form of hyper-regulation and government imposed risk of project delays or outright cancellation {my amendments}

I think you’d struggle to find anyone regularly posting here who’d disagree with the amended text. We’d all like a level playing field with nuclear assessed for approval in exactly the way any industrial proposal ought to be — transparently and with reasonable risk-trades. Of course there should be non-arbitrary rules and as with other infrastructure, protection against policy-based MAEs by subsequent regimes.

The argument is really about the nature of the externalities imposed by hydrocarbon combustion. As Peter has made clear, he’s in favour of coal as long as it is notionally cheaper (i.e. while allowing it to retain the value of the externality it is currently receiving). Like many in the denier community he asserts that that value is at worst trivial, and favours what are called by many of them “no regrets” measures (i.e measures that are economically justified even if one zero rates CO2 emissions.)

Putting aside the reality that CO2 augmentation is by no means the only externality associated with burning hydrocarbons, this simply amounts to a subsidy from the commons to the holders of hydrocarbon assets, and since those commons include children now and children yet to be born, in a real sense this is a policy of embezzling the human family’s capital base.

Accordingly, merely removing unreasonable legal-bureaucratic ratcheting is not enough. A level playing field must also foreclose unfunded actual and prospective harm to the commons. That entails a price on CO2 emissions and indeed, on any other harm associated with the operation of industrial systems.

Some, for ideological reasons, don’t like the idea of a tax or cap and trade system. One other poster some time back suggested that it would be equally reasonable, to require of energy producers that they produce the same LC emissions and safety profile as nuclear power, handling their waste in a comparable way. That seems to me to be a reasonable compromise (and I suspect it would be politically quite popular, but I doubt the big hydrocarbon asset holders would prefer that!

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157. KAP, on 26 January 2011 at 1:41 AM — Thank you for the link!

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158. @ Fran : Well said.

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159. The South Koreans are building 5 of their AP-1400s in the UAE. I doubt there is much regulatory risk (or whatever it is called) in the UAE. The expected as-built price is under \$3.8/W.

So I suspect that just under \$4/W is about as inexpensive as NPPs come these days (outside of China).

But I’m surely no expert; just attempting to obtain some grip on aspects of the electric grid & markets.

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160. It may at this point be wise to consider the following lifted directly from the Australian The Greens party, as a reality check and note that The Greens polled 13% of the vote in the 2010 election.

“Principles

The Australian Greens believe that:

there is a strong link between the mining and export of uranium and nuclear weapons proliferation.
the consequences of the use of nuclear weapons, or of catastrophic accidents at, or terrorist attacks on, nuclear power stations, are so great that the risks are unacceptably high.
future generations must not be burdened with high level radioactive waste.
nuclear power is not a safe, clean, timely, economic or practical solution to reducing global greenhouse gas emissions.
Australia’s reliance on the US nuclear weapons ‘umbrella’ lends our bases, ports and infrastructure to the US nuclear war fighting apparatus.
Goals
The Australian Greens want:

a nuclear-free Australia.
a nuclear-free world.
safe, long-term containment of Australia’s existing nuclear waste.
the elimination of nuclear weapons through a Nuclear Weapons Convention.
the elimination of depleted uranium weapons.
safe, ecologically sustainable energy options.
Measures
The Australian Greens will:

end the exploration for, and the mining and export of, uranium.
maintain the prohibition on the processing and enrichment of uranium in Australia.
prohibit the import and export of nuclear waste and fuel rods.
prohibit the reprocessing of Australian nuclear fuel rods.
promote the development of non-reactor technologies for the production of radioisotopes for medical and scientific purposes.
close the OPAL nuclear reactor at Lucas Heights.
ensure that nuclear waste is stored with minimal risk and is monitored above ground, in dry storage at or near the site of generation.
require uranium mining companies to meet enforceable standards to safely contain and to monitor their radioactive tailings wastes for at least 10,000 years.
require uranium mining companies to rehabilitate mining sites.
immediately close Australia’s ports and territorial waters to nuclear-powered or nuclear-armed vessels.
prohibit the treatment of food with ionising radiation (food irradiation), and the importation of such food.
support compensation for the victims of British nuclear weapons testing in Australia.
support the creation of nuclear weapon free zones, municipalities and ports.
strengthen the radiation security and preparedness of Australia’s airports and ports.”

Bullet points did not transfer, sorry.

I note above Fran Barlow suggests that nobody posting here would disagree with the de-regulation of nuclear power, but in the real world (is that ‘commons’) people do. The Greens are cynically exploiting ignorance in the electorate immediately linking power with weapons. The ‘Green’ movement it an attractive one, offing satisfaction to a general guilt about the despoiling of the natural world. I consider myself to be ‘Green’.

So, to realities. How to counter de-regulation? Education and media perhaps offer the best routes for success.

Pip

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161. Fran,

Categorised under the bleedin’ obvious, I know but:

ad hom simply means to aim at the person rather than the argument.

Play the man, not the ball.

Trolling OTOH means being as big a [ insert any derogative word you like] while not supplying anything relevant to the discussion.

You are obviously wrong on both claims.

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162. Listen, you anti-scientific bitch, that reactor saves lives. Don’t quote shit you don’t understand.
I appeal to the blog owner, that’s you Barry, to back me up on this.

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163. “Pip” said:

I note above Fran Barlow suggests that nobody posting here would disagree with the de-regulation of nuclear power

No, you don’t “note” that. Is misrepresentation of others a denier qualification ofr something? I didn’t suggest anyone favoured de-regulation of nuclear power. I suggested that those posting here regularly would favour:

a level playing field with nuclear assessed for approval in exactly the way any industrial proposal ought to be — transparently and with reasonable risk-trades. Of course there should be non-arbitrary rules and as with other infrastructure, protection against policy-based MAEs by subsequent regimes a level playing field with reasonable risk trades

I consider myself to be ‘Green’. So, to realities

Unwitting candour?

How to counter de-regulation?

Amusing.

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164. Lawrence

Listen, you anti-scientific b*tch, that reactor saves lives. Don’t quote shit you don’t understand

It’s offensive and ethically indefencible, IMO, to deploy this term in serious discussion, regardless of the standing of the interlocutor to whom you have directed it. I’d ask that you withdraw the term and apologise, and I feel sure Barry will back me up on that.

If you have a sound claim, you can make it without resort to vilification of people on the basis of ostensible sex.

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165. Lawrence:

Pip is critiquing the idea of closing the reactor, not endorsing it.

he says: “The Greens are cynically exploiting ignorance in the electorate immediately linking power [nuclear] with weapons.”

at end of his post, I assume he meant “regulation” not deregulation.

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166. Lawrence, on 26 January 2011 at 11:57 AM said:
“To Pip
close the OPAL nuclear reactor at Lucas Heights.
Listen, you anti-scientific bitch, that reactor saves lives. Don’t quote shit you don’t understand.
I appeal to the blog owner, that’s you Barry, to back me up on this.”

Hi Lawrence, I understand your frustration at The [Australian] Greens policy, but why insult me?

Your insult is derogatory in the sense you liken me to a female dog who does not follow scientific principals. Apart from not being aware of any dogs that do follow the scientific method, I’ll ignore the dog reference. However, I consider you to err when you imply I am ‘unscientific’, where we agree that to be ‘scientific’ is to follow the Scientific Method, viz. objective truth and reliance on data. I am not sure where I have posted here, not adhering to these principals, so I consider your insult unsubstantiated. You I consider to be prejudiced, which I consider to be an observation of truth backed by data.

Why also make assumptions that I don’t know what I’m talking about? It just muddy the waters about what we’re discussing here. (I’m also willing to bet I know more about OPAL than you do ; )

Respectfully

Pip

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167. There are some lunatics on your website, Barry.
Ban me now, so I don’t feel inclined to respond to their anti-scientific antics.

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168. Gregory Meyerson, on 26 January 2011 at 12:15 PM said:
“Lawrence:
Pip is critiquing the idea of closing the reactor, not endorsing it.
he says: “The Greens are cynically exploiting ignorance in the electorate immediately linking power [nuclear] with weapons.”
at end of his post, I assume he meant “regulation” not deregulation.”

Yes, I did (sorry Fran, the chagrin’s on me!)

To Fran, I did not mean to mis-represent you, but I fancy some hair-splitting is going on here and my main point is lost, viz. the power of the ‘Green’ vote and what (scarily) The [Australian] Greens want.

I am also not sure what you mean by your reference to “unwitting candour” in my claim to be ‘Green’. If it would be of interest on this thread I can expand my definition of what it means to me to be ‘Green’. BTW I did not vote for The [Australian] Greens.

Amusingly I am a male contributor, not that it makes an ounce of difference!

Respects to all

Pip

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169. Peter L: you say the following and have said it before.

“If we start by looking at the big picture, such as in several of the Hans Rosling presentation of UN statistics, we can see that the world is continually improving (with some localised set backs such as AIDS in Africa, epidemics, etc).”

I looked around at numerous sites. there is a GRAIN of truth in what you say, but ONLY that. I suppose terms like “continually improving” can have many meanings. there has been some poverty reduction, at least between 1990 and 2005 (from 1.9 to 1.4 billion). but then came the global recession (see below). and there is the matter of inequality, which is growing and this matters a lot even where absolute poverty shows some decline for a certain period. because crises hit the powerless with extra force.

when the richest 500 people earn more (we’re presumably not talking about wealth here) than the bottom 416 million, terms other than “continual improvement” come to mind.

Global Poverty Trends

Based on World Bank figures which are used for official global poverty statistics, the number of people living below the international poverty line of \$1.25 per day fell from 1.8 billion to 1.4 billion between 1990 and 2005. China accounted for 465 million of this reduction, implying that poverty has increased elsewhere over this period. In sub-Saharan Africa, the increase was 100 million.

Expressing poverty as a percentage yields more favourable results due to rising population. For example, extreme poverty in sub-Saharan Africa fell slightly from 57% to 51% between 1990 and 2005.

The wealth of our new millennium has tended to increase inequality rather than reduce poverty. UNDP has reported that, in 2005, the richest 500 people in the world earned more than the poorest 416 million.

The trend of migration from poor farming regions has raised the incidence of urban poverty, especially in the slum zones of the world’s major cities.

Nevertheless, poverty remains inextricably linked with the disappointing progress in agriculture in developing countries.

Rural poverty rates are more than double those in cities, often embracing a substantial proportion of the rural population. The most persistent poverty is found amongst ethnic minorities experiencing discrimination, tribal and indigenous people, and nomadic pastoralists on marginal land.

Economic Recession

These 2005 figures take no account of the economic turbulence of recent years. 2007/08 saw an uncontrolled rollercoaster of food and energy prices as a prelude to the banking collapse and global recession.

Developing countries were doubly vulnerable to the impact of these shocks. Foreign direct investment and exports collapsed, overseas remittances were squeezed and foreign aid budgets have come under pressure.

How these setbacks will impact global poverty figures remains uncertain. The World Bank’s Global Economic Prospects 2010 estimates that the poverty count for 2010 will be 64 million higher than would otherwise have been the case. But this tells us little of 2008 or 2009 when poor households spending a large proportion of their incomes on food and fuel were most severely affected.

Meanwhile, developed countries have indulged in an orgy of spending on bank rescues and economic “recovery”. By contrast, the World Bank’s 2009 Global Monitoring Report pointed out that 43 of the 48 poorest countries lack the financial status necessary to raise funds to execute a fiscal stimulus.

The G20 crisis meeting in April 2009 made a gesture to global poverty by increasing the financial resources of the IMF. Annual lending to low income countries is scheduled to rise by \$4 billion, about the same amount as US subsidies for scrapping old cars.

http://uk.oneworld.net/guides/poverty

here’s a rosy stat from Jeff Gates circa 1999:

The United Nations Development Program (UNDP) reported in 1998 that the world’s 225 richest people now have a combined wealth of \$1 trillion. That’s equal to the combined annual income of the world’s 2.5 billion poorests people.

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170. David B. Benson, on 26 January 2011 at 12:30 PM said:
“Pip Willis, on 26 January 2011 at 11:45 AM — Note that the AP-1000 is now considred to be safe despite an airliner ramming the containment bunker at full speed:
http://www.world-nuclear-news.org/RS_Nuclear_reactor_gets_OK_on_aircraft_impact_2401111.html

Thanks for this link David, it was informative. Interestingly (Lawrence) OPAL has an anti-aircraft protection also. Though where it would be much good with a fully fuelled A360, I doubt!

Question: Is it worse in the public mind to be crushed to death or die of radio-active poisoning?

Then move the odds to say, would you rather live in the world of a 1000 crush deaths per GW or 1 radio-active poisoning per GW (numbers guessed! You get my point right! I just wish The [Australian] Greens did!)

pip

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171. The safety of the AP 1000 is really impressive.

but the double standards are still galling. terrorists aren’t going after AP 1000s; better to hit natural gas plants and if the renewables people ever got their desert of solar arrays, how easy it would be to attack that compared to a nuke plant.

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172. Pretty much business as usual does not fill me with hope:

The Future of the World Nuclear Market

Currently, there are 432 nuclear plants operating in the world, [comma splice!] however, the World Nuclear Association predicts substantial growth, forecasting that 430 additional nuclear plants will be built by 2030, and 1,400 between now and 2050. Nuclear power, despite the enormous capital cost of a nuclear generating facility has attracted attention largely due to spreading concerns over greenhouse gas emissions, the growing expense of fossil fuels, and a growing desire to move away from coal and gas-fired energy sources.

http://www.suite101.com/content/south-korea-exports-nuclear-power-to-uae-a193739

I assume the industry would not undersell itself– which might mean that this number is optimistic.

1.4 TW. where get the other 8 to 15 TW?

btw, there’s got to be something wrong with calculations for big time nuke builds that suggest we’d only need a small chunk of world gdp to do the build, spread over 40 years. It seems to me that the relevant metric would not be world gdp, which makes the task sound a lot easier than it is. but world annual infrastructure investment. I think Ted Trainer calculated it at 450 billion/year. Instead of the one percent of X, we might think of how we might have to multiply world infrastructure investment 10 fold.

the other thing that strikes me as misleading about the “only a small percent of global gdp” argument is that you have to take into consideration the costs of uprooting the energy structure in place, and doing it rapidly and in a coordinated way. it would be interesting to get a figure on the present costs of the world’s energy infrastructure.

this does not look good to me. as stephen schneider noted in Chris’s post, the world is not good at coordinating (but why? human nature?). and if the urgency is largely based on combatting global warming, given the way things seem to go, you’d need a year with NO COLD WEATHER ANYWHERE to get people to come to their senses.

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173. Really though, David, unless the total lifecycle costs of meeting anticipated demand associated with load following are lower than without why would one use a load-following plants? It’s not as if the marginal fuel costs or fuel footprint are high. You might as well run the plant(s) at whatever capacity were needed to meet demand and offer surpluses cheap to anyone else wanting it.

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174. I wish Stephen Schneider was still with us. He did a superb job handling a hostile crowd on the SBS TV Insight program. I think the penny drop moment for the public will come when we get El Nino, high food and fuel prices all at the same time. That’s got to be between now and 2015.

Based on my readings of The Oil Drum coal, oil and gas have only got about 20 good years left between them. That is oil affordable enough to drive SUVs and coal cheap enough to power sweatshops and aluminium smelters. It seems to me the penny has already dropped for the Brits as they see little alternative to nuclear, even the antis. Strangely other key players in the Anglophone world like US, Canada and Australia were blessed (or cursed?) with abundant coal, tar sands and gas so they don’t see a problem yet.

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175. DV82XL, the program I am suggesting is not like anything that has been presented by any utility thus far. To say my request is like a green program is an utter misrepresentation. The economics are totally different in the green programs and my energy annuity concept. Here is the difference.

The utility green program is a PPA (purchase power agreement) with a wind generator to buy wind energy at a cents per kwh price. Lets say its 6 cents per kwh. Then the utility has a special rate for all the green program participants. The utility feeds its wind PPA cost into a black box calculator (the customer doesnt know what is in the black box) and out comes the green customer’s monthly payment for their kWh. There is no ownership and not long term commitments in this arrangement. Neither is there much benefit to the operation of the utility nor is it in the customer’s interest. Why? Because the program is more costly to the customer and is ineffective at reducting GHG.

Now consider my plan which I call an energy annuity. First, I am not interested in wind so I would not have purchased that in the first place. I am interested in purchasing an interest in nuclear power. As I have stated here preciously I would pay the up front cost of 2 kW of nuclear power as a direct payment to the plant builder which would be \$10,000. Then I would expect to receive energy from that facility at a cost of about 1.6 cents per kwh. If you add in my financing cost it appears to be just 1.5 cents per kwh to me, making the overall energy cost of nuclear over the 40 year period being a levelized cost of just ~3.2 cents per kwh. Lets call this a yellow plan, not a green plan. The utility issues a special rate for yellow plan participants in which the energy produced and received by the utility for all its participants in the yellow plan and then passes those costs to those customers along with the kWh they receive. The customer’s bill would be substantially reduced in cost, possibly down to just half or even less than they are paying for their energy today. Because the yellow plan customers own and participate in their own generation they have purchased, they are most interested in its well being and heath. So you see there is almost nothing similar to the utility green plans of today and the customer yellow plan or energy annuity plan I am seeking.

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176. Peter Lang I could make the transition to nuclear by 2016 if the utilities would simple give me a chance to invest \$10,000 in 2 kW of my own nuclear plant ownership. Your fears are holding you back from moving into the new age of advanced nuclear power. There are a vast number of opportunities in nuclear processes that haven’t even been tested yet. The nuclear industry is in its infancy. Give it a chance to evolve.

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177. Peter Lang. your fear of nuclear is holding you back from being a participant in an exciting future. There are a vast number of new nuclear concepts lying out there for us to utilize. Give nuclear a chance. We have barely begun a great new journey.

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178. David Benson, our local nuclear plant being constructed is just under \$5/W. I would like to personally invest in it even it if were more costly. There are many who would want to do so and thats ok. But for those of us who are willing to put up our own money, would you anti nucs just get out of the way and let the rest of us proceed! Its our investment, not yours, assuming we ever get the chance to impement the energy annuity concept – see https://bravenewclimate.com/2010/12/09/community-electricity-financing/

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179. Pip Willis the problem with the greens anti nuclear position is that they do not have a workable plan for replacing nuclear and coal base load generation. Couch potato engineers dream up goofy solutions that are not workable or are too expensive to implement. If we follow their recommendations the lights will eventually go out. As a power system subject matter expert I can even show you why if you are interested in seeing that discussion.

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180. Hi Gene

Yes I would like to see that discussion, it would confirm my speculation. I find your community power generation and ownership intriguing.

One of the conclusions this thread may have reached, is broad-based agreement that nuclear power should compete on a more level playing field with other energy types. Chris has explained in dollar termss, just how much nuclear power is carrying in extra regulatory baggage.

The solution to this problem of over regulation is very political. My point in lifting The [Australian] Greens policy on ‘Nuclear’ {note not ‘Nuclear power’, just ‘Nuclear’} is to make the point just how difficult a political proposition it is to de-regulate nuclear power, when faced with such a narrow-minded policy position from a major political party. Of course, one way is to let them have their way, and when lights go out over operating tables, I suspect there maybe more support for nuclear energy.

Before this happens it maybe wise to try and get someone with political clout, from Bill Clinton to Paris Hilton, to endorse nuclear power on the Piers Morgan Tonight Show or something. Is there a friendly billionaire who sees an opportunity here? My point is that the rareified atmosphere of scholarly blogging is unlikely to bring political results. It maybe the seeding of a wider debate however and the popularisation of this debate is where it needs to happen.

I know that currently renewables can not replace coal or nuclear in terms of base load production, any ne who seriously thinks they can needs to read
the Ziggy Switkowski report; or let the lights go out.

Regards

pip

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181. Pip I am currently working with our PUC and my local utility trying to get them to understand the concept. They will catch on eventually. It just takes a while.

On those points about nuclear waste and mining, thats out of date thinking. For example the Chinese recently announced recycling their spent nuclear fuel up to 66 times extending their supply of nuclear fuel 3000 years into the future with a relatively constant amount of fuel, i.e. little new mining. And at the end of that time, the amount of radioactive products are shorter lived and small in volume.

To indroduce the kind of fear being stated about nuclear is similar to what Thomas Edison was telling everyone about the danger of AC in the household when electricity was first being introduced. Edison was selling DC at the time. He said AC would kill people and even staged the public electrocution of an elephant (horrific) to scare people. It didn’t work then and its not going to work on scaring nuclear into going away either.

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182. Fran the load following plant is mandatory, not optional. Considering non CO2 plants are solar, wind, and nuclear, which one would you want to use for load following? All of them have nearly “free” fuel, with nuclear being the most expensive fuel, so it would be logical to have nuclear be load following. This is where we could use some storage like pumped hydro to get around this problem. But whether its lower cost to build more capacity or put money into storage is just a matter of ecnomics and will be site specifie. Here in the US it looks like we will be able to use natural gas for a number of years for load following. Eventually the gas will become depleted leaving only the renewables. In Australia I guess you guys will be stuck with burning coal until everything is under water, in a hundred years or so. You can use coal for load following.

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183. gene: what are the implications of your plan for people who don’t have 10 grand to put up front?

and how would this plan help nuclear much given the insufficient number of plants to begin with and nuclear’s absence of public relations?

would your plan encourage companies to engage in massive advertising and public relations to get the well off consumer energy buck?

would workers and poor people pool their funds to purchase electricity from their favorite provider on favorable terms?

btw, saw t. boone pickens on t.v. this morning claiming that germany has bought heavy into wind in order to achieve energy independence from russian natural gas. !!!!!!!!!!

Tom Blees, is he kidding?

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184. Let me address the points of the last two postings.

Pip, the NRC is doing a good job of regulation. The problem with nuclear is that the financing mechanism has been taken away. The government has a loan rate of 11.8%, which kills new nuclear from an economic standpoint. So what we need is a new funding opportunity. My energy annuity is that funding mechanism from a grass roots level. But first the mechanics has to be put in place to make those funds available. This is where the PUC comes into play. They are not interested in a big political figure. They are just a board of private citizens appointed by the governor who want to do what is best for my state. All I need to do is work with them. I don’t think any of them are strongly pro or anti nuclear or solar. So lets give the PUC a chance to do their job.

Since you don’t think renewables are up to the task of providing base load generation we are in agreement and I will defer discussion on that topic.

Gregory, the beauty of the energy annuity is that the people who don’t have the money to invest get to use the existing system. Because the new renewables and new nuclear power is funded by those who can afford it, they are the ones providing the funds, thus shielding those who cannot from having to pay for those costs. If the utility implements a renewables program they have to impose costs on everyone, which hurts those who cannot afford the increased costs.

All we need ot make this happen is the utility setting up a special rate structure for investing customers. The customers not participating see no change. For investing customers the utility can make the rate however they want to to cover their costs and even make some profit. However the utilities do not charge the capital cost because the investor has already paid that for that cost. This means that nuclear energy will be about 1.6 cents per kwh and solar energy will be nearly zero on that special rate billing to the customer. Once the kwh of that customer has taken all the energy his/her sources have generated, then the remaing power is provided by the utility at the utility’s production rate cost. As you can see this is going to take some effort at designing new rate structures, which the utilities will resist at first. But I hope to make it a part of their smart grid, which they love to boast as having a smart grid. As far as public relations go, the plant builder needs to advertize they are looking for investors and they lay out the expected costs and performance projections of the plant. The investing customer would sigh a firm payment contract with the plant builder and make payments while the plant is under costruction, just as though you were building a house. I suppose the investing customer could borrow the money if they wanted to. How the investing customer pays for the plant cost is up to the investing customer. Its their problem. I suppose the utility could get into the financing business and help the homeowner finance a loan. But that would not be necessary. I don’t think massive advertizing would be necessary. Leave it up to the builders of the plants to advertize their projects. The utility need not do anything other than make the electrical connections and billing structure for accomodating the investors.

Concerning poor people pooling funds. I would be leary of a fly by night operator stealing their money as a scam operation. The general rule is if you don’t have the money, you shouldn’t be buying nuclear plants or solar panels.

T Boone is hung up on wind. I suppose wind could displace some gas generation. His idea of the US converting trucks to nat gas is a better idea. Here in the US we apparently don’t have to free up gas. The new fracking process has produced too much gas and its currently shut in. Thus we need out trucks on natural gas and off imported oil. But our government has not seen fit to work on that one, which shows political leader’s level of ignorance in energy matters.

Tom Blees is a visionary. The process of recycling spent nulear fuel is in everyone’s interest. China is going to do it. Russia is going to do it. South Korea is going to do it. Japan is going to do it. France is working on it. India has really innovative ideas in this area and may head off in a new nuclear direction and surprise the world one of these days. We are going to recycle spent nuclear fuel without doubt. Its just a matter of time before we get over our fright, take a deep breath, and dive into the processes just like other countries are presently doing. I think when the US hits bottom financially we will have a new enlightment period. Nuclear cannot be elimiated. Its going to be in our future whether we like it or not.

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185. Another way to state the cost of reducing carbon emissions is to describe the total cost of energy to the average household now, and compare to the projected cost during and after the transition to whatever low carbon energy source is under consideration. Eg: Mark Jaccard, author of Sustainable Fossil Fuels, states that under his scenario of continued use of fossil fuels with carbon capture added:

“at the end of the transition, energy services will cost the average person no more than 10% of their annual budget and more likely not much above the 6% that they currently absorb in industrialized countries” – p. 316

But I wouldn’t encourage thinking that any way of expressing the cost of moving to a low carbon energy infrastructure at this point is going to describe the “cost of ending global warming”. We’re in too deep for that.

It could easily be the case that by the time the composition of the atmosphere is stabilized and more is known about what concentration of GHG is consistent with the existence of civilization that humanity will find itself faced with the task of removing hundreds of p.p.m of CO2 and various gases as rapidly as possible.

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186. Fran Barlow, on 26 January 2011 at 3:22 PM — Eventually the utility compnay runs out of pumped hydro to fill up to the brim; eventually the utility company runs out of electricity users who will take the nighttime power at any price. So eventually some load following power plants have to be built.

For non-fossil generation the choices are either solar thermal with fossil backup for cloudy days or, less expensively, load following nuclear.

Although I suppose the utility company could set up a resistence heating farm for the exp[ress purpose of converting production in excess of demand back into heat. Nobody does that (yet).

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187. But suppose, David, that it were simply cheaper to build more capacity and run it at whatever the most thermally efficient settings were for the most cost efficient larger plants?

If the cost of the redundancy is less than the cost of storage/load following …

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188. Fran Barlow, on 27 January 2011 at 10:16 AM — In the old days large coal plants and the NPPs were all run 100% 24/7. Utilities paid industries to use the excess overnight power. When the NPPs were first being built ~40 pumped hydro installations were constructed. Those would pump overnight and meet demand during the day.

Some of the (later?) Gen II NPPs had some load following capability, so the utilities didn’t have to pay users to consume the excess overnight power. It appears the Gen III designs include load following, allthough right now there are quite a few CCGTs going in to meet (some of) the daytime load following requirement.

Summarizing, since the power grid does not and cannot store any energy, just move it from generators to consumers, to maintain voltage levels all power produced must be instantly consumed and vice versa.

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189. n the old days large coal plants and the NPPs were all run 100% 24/7. Utilities paid industries to use the excess overnight power. When the NPPs were first being built ~40 pumped hydro installations were constructed. Those would pump overnight and meet demand during the day.

Would you please supply a reference to back up these statements.

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190. DV82XL — Conversations with Professsors Anjan Bose and Carl Hauser for the first two sentences. An easily locatable web page regarding pumped hydro for the last two sentences.

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191. Chris Uhlik, on 25 January 2011 at 12:36 PM said:

“The key problem to solve is getting rid of the \$12B of regulation costs per project. The Chinese seem to have that part solved. I hope India follows suit and these 3rd world countries embarrass the rest of us into following suit.”

Then

Gene Preston, on 27 January 2011 at 1:28 AM said:
“Pip, the NRC is doing a good job of regulation. The problem with nuclear is that the financing mechanism has been taken away. The government has a loan rate of 11.8%, which kills new nuclear from an economic standpoint. So what we need is a new funding opportunity. ”

Hi Gene

I am not sure that new funding is the key, I am sure there is lots of money out there looking for a reasonable rate of return from heavy infrastructure projects (Macquarie Bank for example). But not while it is non-viable in terms of competition, why pay the extra \$1,200,000,000 per power station?

The next thing will be to make these NPP Future Climate proof!

Regards

pip

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192. Gregory Meyerson, @ 26 January 2011 at 1:42 PM

Pretty much business as usual does not fill me with hope:

In that case, why are you and most of the Lefties that blog here so strongly opposed to removing the impediments to low cost nuclear power?

Of course, the first step in doing that would involve identifying them, something you and the others seem strenuously opposed to doing – as if this might open a box you don’t want to see the contents of, yes?

Another question, why are you and your Leftie mates, so strongly opposed to any economically rational solutions? Even opposed to considering them?

This thread has demonstrated, once again, the great extent people with strong beliefs will go to protect and defend them. The arguments upthread to try to demonstrate that raising the cost of electricity will not damage the economy, are absolutely amazing. Even Sir Nicholas Stern, Ross Garnaut and Ken Henry couldn’t deny that. This has been a reminder to me about just how resistant the CAGW Alarmist fraternity is to being objective. This is the impression I am left with, and I expect it is how many others see the arguments being presented by the CAGW Alarmists.

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193. DV82XL, David is correct. I did generation planning in the 70’s. Pumped hyrdo was used to move nightime energy from nuclear plants to peak load periods of the day. But like Fran said, it might be cheaper to just build load following units rather than build energy storage. What a planner does is consider all the different possibilities, simulate them, price them out, and then lay them side by side to compare which plans are lowest in cost and which plans meet reliability requirements.

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194. Pip Willis, on 27 January 2011 at 1:07 PM — The NRC has changed the licensing procedure to a vastly improved model over the old way of doing things. Currently \$12 billion is about what
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Duke_Energy
will have to spend to construction two Westinghouse AP-1000s.

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195. 12 billion US dollars is the current estimate for two AP 1000s being built at the South Texas Project, a 2700 MW addition.

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196. Gene Preston, on 27 January 2011 at 1:20 PM — Thanks. That’s US\$4.44/W.

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197. Using the simplified LCOE calculator from
http://www.nrel.gov/analysis/tech_lcoe.html
with
41 year loan @ 11.6%
Build cost of \$4450/kWh
Capacity factor of 92%
O&M of \$33/kw-yr
Heat rate of 10000 Btu/kWh (only because that was the initial setting)
Fuel cost of \$0.6/MMBtu (?)

gives LCOE= 7.5 cents/kWh

Don’t know if all the values are reasonable.

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198. David, nice calculator!

I think your loan term is too long – try 25 years, and the interest rate is high, try 5 to 10% to give some sensitivity values. I then get 4.9 to 7.1 c/kWh.

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199. Gregory Meyerson, @ 26 January 2011 at 12:59 PM:

Thank you for taken all that trouble to prepare the comment with the statistics from the World Bank. I have to apologise that I haven’t taken the article very seriously. To me this is simply cherry picking data. It doesn’t answer my points in a convincing way at all.

1. the world is getting better in nearly all the UNDP HDI measures as time progresses, over any extended time period
2. The underdeveloped countries are improving faster than the developed countries (as they should)
3. The gap between rich and poor is reducing (you will always be able to pull out a few figures and specific time frames to refute any overall trend)
4. You have picked some short time frames to make a point – that is meaningless – it is equivalent to trying to make a point about global warming over a short time period;
5. Socialism is clearly an anchor on progress. Globalisation and capitalism are what produce the growth and improvement in conditions (overall, not for every individual at every particular point in time)
6. We need incentive, otherwise no forward progress is made. There must be a reward for effort and risk taking, otherwise no one would work hard or take risks. Employees, who have never taken serious financial risks, feel they are being undervalued. Society on the whole doesn’t see it this way and never has. The employees whinge about the entrepreneurs’ wealth (those that succeeded and ignoring all the ones who went broke), but are not game to take financial risks themselves.
7. Free trade, not international aide, is what the underdeveloped and developing countries need. This is equivalent to the difference between giving a person a real job or the dole.

Greg, no point in discussing this any point. We’ve done it to death for a year and a half. You are just wrong, and that is the fact of the matter :)

BTW, I’ve provided the links before, and can’t take this seriously enough to be bothered doing it again.

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200. Gene Preston,

What a planner does is consider all the different possibilities, simulate them, price them out, and then lay them side by side to compare which plans are lowest in cost and which plans meet reliability requirements.

Excellent point. And this applies to all options analysis, not just for selecting an electricity system.

Hint to others: this is what I’ve been urging we do to properly compare the options for reducing emissions. One of the options to be considered is removing the impediments to low cost nuclear.

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201. Gene said:

But like Fran said, it might be cheaper to just build load following units rather than build energy storage.

Or even non-load-following but higher capacity units since sooner or later this extra capacity will be used.

As always this would be worked out on a case by case basis.

One can imagine though, a variety of reactors in a complex which in toto would rarely be used at full capacity and which could be individually backed off quite slowly but which in aggregate cut output quite quickly.

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202. Thanks David and Gene, missed a zero!

(“what with all the excitement and all”)

pip

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203. Conceivably baseload electrical output could be a lot more than the typical 40% of peak. Excess output could be used to split water by electrolysis and the hydrogen stored in low pressure tanks. When demand was above average fuel cell generators (with surplus heat in winter) could burn the hydrogen.

OK this sounds horrendously inefficient since small scale tests suggest a round trip efficiency of just 7% e.g. the Stewart Island experiment http://www.siei.org/
Ceramic fuel cells with even a few kilowatts of power can cost tens of thousands of dollars I gather. However pumped hydro is near maxed out and batteries can double wholesale electricity costs. I believe fuel cells scale better than batteries. The marginal cost of doing this with nuclear will a lot be less than solar.

Before criticising his ask what if we don’t have load following NP by the time natural gas runs out.

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204. Before criticising his ask what if we don’t have load following NP by the time natural gas runs out.

“Load follow: between 60 and 100% nominal output, the EPR™ reactor can adjust it power output at a rate of 5% nominal power per minute at constant temperature, preserving the service life of the components and of the plant.”

http://www.areva.com/EN/global-offer-419/epr-reactor-one-of-the-most-powerful-in-the-world.html

AP1000 can also load follow, but I don’t have a reference handy and think it’s not as capable as EPR in this respect.

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205. Peter Lang:

I am beginning to get the impression that you are interested in identifying and removing the impediments to low cost nuclear power. Perhaps there are other readers here who have yet to appreciate this. Therefore, it is not for me to suggest that you shouldn’t continue repeatedly to hammer home your message on every thread.

I would, however, suggest that those interested in the subject might like to look at a new website: http://deregulatetheatom.wordpress.com

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206. I get the impression this comment by Glenn Sargent on Climate Spectator is a fair indication of where the community is at and is heading on the matter of Catastrophic man-made Global Warming.

The evidence supporting [catastrophic] Global Warming is diminishing by the day. China the worlds biggest emitter has an emission efficiency target, which if met, means it will be emitting roughly more than 22% more than it is today. The US is at economic war with the Chinese and is unlikely to give them an edge. Hence the two biggest emitter nations are extremely unlikely to reduce emissions at prior to 2020.

Both these nations are resource poor on a per capita basis relative to Australia. Australia produces less than 2% of world emissions, even if it reduced emissions to zero it would have no effect on Global warming.

Renewable energy technology (solar) is likely to become more efficient and less costly over time. Copenhagen proved the big emitters do not care what Australia professes or does.

Whether you believe in Global Warming or not, the smartest thing for Australia to do is burn coal, to provide the cheapest energy, attract industry, grow the economy, and save the money to deal with anthropogenic climate change should it be real, or spend it on something else when it is proven not to be so.

The Prime Minister’s announcement today that the government will cancel the “Cash for Clunkers” scheme, subsidies for solar hot water and some other so called climate initiatives, tends to confirm that these are easy targets to chop. They are not supported by the broad community. In fact, the massive waste that has been occurring in the name of fixing the climate is not popular in the electorate.

I suspect the majority of people do want to take appropriate action to reduce GHG emissions. But they definitely do not want to continue to waste large sums of taxpayer money. They want the government waste to stop.

I (that’s little, shy, humble me) believe the way BNC can have its maximum influence is to embrace the economically rational ways to reduce GHG emissions.

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207. Whether you believe in Global Warming or not, the smartest thing for Australia to do is burn coal, to provide the cheapest energy, attract industry, grow the economy, and save the money to deal with anthropogenic climate change should it be real, or spend it on something else when it is proven not to be so.

Sounds like Arthur Dent . Perhaps the community are all becoming radical communists, in that case.

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208. Douglas Wise,

I am beginning to get the impression that you are interested in identifying and removing the impediments to low cost nuclear power. Perhaps there are other readers here who have yet to appreciate this. Therefore, it is not for me to suggest that you shouldn’t continue repeatedly to hammer home your message on every thread.

Well, that really is progress. I am impressed with your comprehension skills. I wasn’t sure that you had received this message. :)

Actually, I am still not convinced. When you, and serious thinkers here start giving consideration (instead of avoiding) this
Nuclear cheaper than coal in Australia. How?
https://bravenewclimate.com/2010/01/31/alternative-to-cprs/#comment-109491
and these serious questions:

What would be the consequences to the USA economy of raising the cost of energy by the amount estimated by Chris Uhlik? Please provide the consequences in terms of:

– unemployment rate?

– cuts in services such as Health, Education, infrastructure,

– living standards, quality of life, disposable income, etc?

then I’ll believe the message is beginning to get through.

Therefore, it is not for me to suggest that you shouldn’t continue repeatedly to hammer home your message on every thread.

I guess someone has to do it …. for the sake of the planet (i.e. provide some rational input and some balance for the overwhelming number of repetitive comments about CAGW that appear on every thread like a mantra). Some one needs to provide some balance to all those people who keep arguing irrational polices which appeal only to their ilk, a small group that vote Greens and Left-Labor. This group makes a lot of noise, but are seen by the majority of voters as “the pixies at the bottom of the garden”.

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209. Tom Keen,

As long as you, and the others of similar persuasion, continue to deny economically rational policies, and argue the most inane nonsense (like raising the cost of electricity won’t damage the economy), then I suspect the most sensible and rational thing to do is to keep going with coal until we can make some progress on removing the impedimentst to low cost nuclear (or other countries do first and we follow in their wake).

I see you resistance to economically rational policies as the same sort of resistance that has prevented progress for 40 years. You are an example of what a real Denier is.

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210. Peter,

When you include the externalities of coal, nuclear power will always be the lowest cost way of generating electricity. It contributes a net benefit to the economy. Nuclear power is an economically rational option.

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211. Tom Keen,

We’ve been over that a dozen times. It is not practicable to internalise all the costs of externalities of all electricity generators and all industries in a fair and balanced way. So why pick on just one externality, just one generator technology and just one industry (electricity)?

We could make more progress if you (and others of similar pure but single issue beliefs) that not everyone shares your concerns about catastrophic or dangerous man made global warming. So either you die in a ditch trying to stay pure to your beliefs, or you compromise and try to find a solution that will bring the majority of voters on board to support a policy that will be robust for the long term.

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212. Given the resistance of the Left (including the CAGW Alarmists) to even considering the option of removing the impediments to low cost nuclear, what are our options for electricity generation? I suggest they are:

1. coal

2. gas.

There really are no other viable options.

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213. Could readers with more engineering knowledge than I expand a bit further on the pros and cons of load following?

If a nuclear reactor can be designed to load follow, are there any significant economic savings to be made relative to running continuously at full power? Presumably, there may be less fuel consumption , but possibly more wear and tear and more initial capex. It is clear that, barring limited pumped storage, as far as electricity is concerned, you use it or lose it.

It thus seems to me that electricity generators might be more economically efficient if they diversified and didn’t solely strive to match the needs of their customers. I believe that some industrial processes (eg aluminium smelting) need power continuously , but it seems that there might be others that could function with power that was intermittent or liable to fluctuate, albeit less efficiently than if operated at full and continuous power. The question then becomes whether the economic consequences of this inefficiency were less than those of storage or load following.

Clearly, processes that could operate with a discontinuous power source could make use of both nuclear and renewable energy, but it seems likely that the discontinuity would always be less in the case of nuclear. I was wondering whether liquid fuel or fertiliser production companies might be suitable acquisition prospects for electricity generators?

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214. Peter,

I wasn’t talking about internalising negative externalities. Even if the costs from coal power generation facilities aren’t internalised, the coal power stations still produce bads (so to speak), which inflict a cost on society, resulting in a net loss relative to other (nuclear) energy infrastructure.

The current (higher than they should be) costs of nuclear electricity are a result of politics and years of scare-tactics which have had a deep-seated effect on the way society views it. The only way we’ll ever overcome that is by educating the public. You’re putting the tail firmly before the dog if you think pure economic arguments are going to get enough of society on side for it to ever happen.

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215. Tom Keen,

I don’t understand what you are talking about with this statement:

I wasn’t talking about internalising negative externalities.

I think perhaps you did not understand what I said. All industries have externalities (for example lead in petrol, road deaths, etc). We try to internalise the most significant ones until there is a break even point where it is not worth doing any more.

With electricity generation there are many externalities other than CO2. Google ExternE and read about them and the estimated costs of them.

Now, re-read my last post to you.

You’re putting the tail firmly before the dog if you think pure economic arguments are going to get enough of society on side for it to ever happen.

You are misrepresenting what I’ve been saying for a very long time or you have not understood. Perhaps you should read the links I’ve provide repeatedly so you can understand. I am not saying we must not educate the population. What I am saying is that will not succeed if nuclear is more costly than coal. Tom, you have not understanding of this, so it really is a waste of time me trying to explain it to you anymore.

It is really frustrating continually repeating the same message and you and others seem to willfully misrepresent it. Doing so, as you and several others do repeatedly (Fran and Douglas Wise are two others who do so repeatedly) makes me distrust you, distrust your methods, your integrity and by extension the methods and integrity of those of similar views. My distrust is because the Greens seem to have no ethics whatsoever. All they care about is getting their way; for them the end justifies the means. They believe they are correct and everyone else should just agree with them. But anyone with half a brain can see their policies would be disastrous (as similar policies have proven to be in the past, over and over again).

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216. Douglas Wise,

Trying to start another diversion, eh?

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217. @Douglas Wise

I was wondering whether liquid fuel or fertiliser production companies might be suitable acquisition prospects for electricity generators?

I’m rather short on the engineering knowledge, but I did work for a fertilizer manufacturer quite a few years ago. Production of ammonia and products derived from ammonia such as urea and ammonium nitrate is via continuous process which needs some period to reach equilibrium. Indeed shutting these things down, which happens every few years for maintenance is an expensive exercise.

There are some minor batch processes such as producing alum, but most of it, I believe has to run 24/7.

Not only is gas the feedstock, I think it provides the process heat and other energy. In the Urea prill plant, gas turbines were used to drive the compressors. From memory something like 400C and 100 atmospheres which is quite substantial.

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218. Since nuclear fuel costs are small, and will be much smaller still when we start using thorium, the marginal cost of producing electricity from nuclear is nearly zero. One might think that load following isn’t necessary; just give the excess electricity to some industrial consumer. There are two main reasons why that strategy is severely limited. 1. Capital costs for the industrial partner, and 2. Startup/shutdown transient costs. If I build an aluminum smelter and I get to run it only 33% of the time (say 10pm to 6am) then the capital amortization on that plant costs me 3 times as much as a plant running 100% of the time. Since capital costs of almost all industrial facilities is significant, intermittent use is very expensive. This holds true as well for storage tanks, electrolyzes, fuel cells, etc. Then, as quokka pointed out, many processes take hours to reach equilibrium, get tuned up, and producing best output quality or efficiency. Some of these systems could be redesigned to run at variable rates, but they historically have been designed for continuous, maximum-efficiency, lowest-capital-cost operation.

Why are nuclear plants typically base-load. It comes down to the dynamics of fission product burn-out, stability and controllability of the reactor. When a heavy metal atom fissions, it breaks into two parts: a bigger part and a smaller part. Most of these FPs have very short life-times (microseconds to days). Some of them have large neutron absorption cross sections. The big offenders are Xenon and Samarium. The behavior of the reactor (response to control rod movements and power transients) is a function of how much of these FPs are in the fuel. The amount in the fuel is a function of the power history of the reactor. It is much easier to characterize a reactor for a single history of constant power than for all possible power histories, and a reactor design is certified for operation only in well-explored operating regimes. It isn’t that reactors can’t load follow. It’s more a matter of we aren’t absolutely sure exactly how they will behave if they load follow in the pattern demanded on any particular day. It looks like Areva has run the software simulations and experimental verifications to satisfy themselves and their regulators that between 60% and 100% operating power with slew rates under 5%/minute that the reactor is guaranteed to remain well behaved.

LFTR (Liquid Fluoride salt cooled Thorium Reactor) is especially interesting in this regard for two reasons: 1. its liquid fuel allows for the continuous removal of xenon so the reactivity is a much weaker function of power history, and 2. it is an inherently very stable design with lots of stability margin and over temperature margin. This means it is tolerant of larger excursions yet tends to generate smaller excursions, so is likely to work well at a wide range of output powers varied quickly. However, this is all based on first principles. An actual reactors would have to be built and operated to back up these claims.

If the capital cost of the reactor was lower than the capital cost of the industrial loads (aluminum smelter, ammonia producer, etc), then instead of varying the loads, you’d prefer to vary the supply. It may seem crazy to suggest that nuclear capital costs can be low, but the actual reactor components are really small compared to typical industrial equipment. The costs aren’t in the equipment, but rather in the licensing, inspections, siting, etc. These don’t affect the marginal output of the plant very much, so once you’ve got a nuclear industrial park permitted and sited, it is probably cheaper to add reactors than to add smelters.

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219. Chris, a few years ago there were some coal plants here in Texas that just refused to back down at night time so that their total generation within their control area was an excess, i.e. more generation than load. It resulted in inadvertent energy. Other control areas compensated for the rogue utility’s operation by backing down their plants. Someone had to back down on generation otherwise the frequency would have drifted away from 60 hz. The situation was quickly corrected when the responsible utilities that backed down on their generators said they were going to take the excess energy being generated by the coal plants at zero cost, i.e. not pay for the energy. It may not be all that easy to find loads that can increase their load at night time. Possibly a bunch of electric vehicles could take advantage of that situation by increasing their charging rate. But it would take a rather smart grid to make that automatic.

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220. I wonder what capacity the grid would develop to absorb excess energy at night might be if residential rates were dynamically adjusted and broadcast on the internet. Imagine I have two electric meters on my house. The normal one (flat rate) and a new one (discount rate). The discount rate meter is connected to my internet router and the rate varies in real time. I could plug in my electric car (on indeed switch my entire house over) to the dynamic meter. I’d program my car charger and dish washer and thermostat to behave as a function of price. My car would charge only when the price fell to 0.5c/kWh. If the price had not fallen far enough by 3:00am, it might allow for 1.5c/kWh, etc. Every customer could do whatever they want. Apps would spring up to run dishwashers at night, “charge” water heaters at night, vary car charging, etc. I don’t have a good feeling for how much load leveling this might create. My thinking is it is smaller than 20% because residential electricity consumption is not hugely dominant, but it could be an ~10% important component of our future grid.

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221. You are talking about time of use rates. They might help customers shift their energy usage to times of the day when power is lower in cost. However experience shows that most people are to busy with other activities to be concerned with saving a few cents by shifting load. There would be an additional cost for setting up the accounting that allows you to have time of use rates. It could be a big effort and not result in much difference in how the grid operates. You would still need load following generation. There will always need to be load following generation. Otherwise the grid is unstable.

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222. It is unfortunate that discussion of this critically important subject has degenerated into a lot of name-calling ad hominum attacks and shouting with rather less listening.
The key themes which all agree on are:
– some groups are extreme and will not heed any proposals for nuclear. Let’s ignore them.
– many deniers of anthropic climate are extreme in their conviction (mistaken IMHO). They cannot be ignored as they have a loud bully pulpit in media and strong industry support \$\$. They will support nukes only if it is clear that it will be cheaper.
– attempting to apply externalized costs to existing dirty coal is a mugs game (see above)
– much or most of the cost of nukes is in the regulatory burden of approvals (including the cost of delays due to regulatory burden)
– a mix of fuel reprocessing and thorium are sufficient fuel sources to provide abundant power for everyone on the planet for centuries or millennia (that does not imply that we have the resources nor will to take advantage of it)
– hydrocarbons will be a significant factor for some time even under the most aggressive transition plans. So let’s use clean ones like gas instead of coal (coal’s externalities are easier to measure, even ignoring GHG, due to the immense volumes of toxic waste, water pollution, etc..

A modest proposal:
– a small, easily transported mass produced modular nuke that can gain approvals at the factory construction phase will obviate most of the regulatory cost and delays
– economies of mass production are a powerful tool to ongoing cost reduction and very broad deployment
– small modular nukes (often in multiples) can be easily integrated into existing power infrastructure perhaps even as the thermal source replacing coal in existing power plants
– small modular nukes (often in multiples) can be easily integrated into existing power grid without need for massive power-line build to remote areas for wind, which has huge NIMBY resistance.

While no such modular nuke is currently available, working research prototypes have achieved proof in concept. Of these molten salt thorium reactors (LFTR) are likely candidates due to:
1 their stable, well-modelled operation in long-term tests, including testing in aircraft
2 their inherent nuclear weapon-proliferation resistance (ironically, a factor in research being dropped by nations intent upon nuclear weapons during the cold war (e.g. USA))
3 their inherent load-following capabilities
4 their need for a relatively small load of start-up uranium
4 their capacity to make use of spent fuel for start-up and thorium for long-term operation
The chief obstacles are that nuclear regulators are unfamiliar with this chemical process approach as opposed to mechanical process in current NPP.
Hence we’ll likely see more innovation from India and China. Which means they’ll be reaping the rewards of research and the benefits of low cost power long before the ‘developed’ world. Good for them and their populations! Good for the environment – Coal is filthy whether or not you agree with AGW.
And really if we’re going to make progress to clean things up while enabling progress we all lose if we pin it on climate change. that won’t sell and carries immense resistance.
It has to be easy to sell to the public, easy to justify economically, and lowest possible investment risk, or it won’t happen. And we need to help make it happen, not fight amongst ourselves.

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223. Barry Brook, on 27 January 2011 at 1:53 PM — Currently in the US CCGTs with a design life of 40 years have 30 year financing; wind turb ines with a 20 year design life have 15 year financing. A Gen III NPP has a 60 year design life. I suspect5 that the utility cannot pay its \$6 billion cost in so sshort a time as 25 years, not having the cash flow. I now think I should have used 45 years for the length of financing.

Gene Preston mentioned something about 11.8% but in the simplified LCOE calculator I should have added more to simulate risk insurance and deprecation.

Also, my O&M cost was way to low. I should use 8766 h/yr x \$0.031/Kwh = \$271.746/kW-yr.

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224. Again using the simplified LCOE in
http://www.nrel.gov/analysis/tech_lcoe.html

45 year finacing @ 12.5%
Capital cost \$4450/kW
Capacity factor 92%
O&M \$270/kW-yr
Heat rate 10000 Btu/kWh
Fuel cost \$0.2/MMBtu
gives
Simple LCOE = 10.5 cents/KWh

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225. Yup, those are the standard numbers. But when was the last time you were offered a 12.5% ROI for 45 years? I want some of that! Also, the Chinese are offering plants at \$1700/kW, so why do you want to buy the ones offered at 2.6x the price?

Here are numbers a nuclear optimist might use:
30 year finacing @ 5%
Capital cost \$1200/kW (no pressure vessel, factory built, close containment)
Capacity factor 75% (load following)
O&M \$100/kW-yr (highly automated)
Heat rate 10000 Btu/kWh
Fuel cost \$0.002/MMBtu (thorium)
gives
Simple LCOE = 2.8 cents/KWh

A government that cared could engineer a regulatory regime and R&D and financing structures to make this a reality. That government is going to be very competitive.

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226. Gene, I’m not talking about time of use billing. I’m talking about dynamic pricing. On a night when a big powerplant is offline, the prices would be higher than on a night when the winds are blowing strong. Making decisions every day about what to buy or not buy and when is how markets shift resources to cheap suppliers. A monopoly where the rates change between day and night is not the same thing at all.

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227. Jess,

You spoilt an otherwise excellent post by displaying bias with this statement:

– many deniers of anthropic climate are extreme in their conviction (mistaken IMHO). They cannot be ignored as they have a loud bully pulpit in media and strong industry support \$\$. They will support nukes only if it is clear that it will be cheaper.

Of course, a few words could be changed to say the opposite of what this biased statement says. The reversed statement would be equally valid, and equally unhelpful.

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228. Chris Uhlik, on 28 January 2011 at 11:38 AM — Unfortunately, the Chinese may not be allowed to vend the CPR-1000 outside the PRC. Even if allowed, US NRC is most unlikely to approve the type.

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229. This entire small town, Pullman, and a satellite village up the road are starting to have the local utility company’s Pullman Smart Grid Demonstration Project put in place, a five year effort. Everybody will have a new electric meter (and gas meter for the 9/13ths of the buildings which also have natgas). These new meters will, each five minutes, transmit to receivers on the ultility poles and thence eventually to a fiber-optic link ~100 km to the computers @ the utility headquarters. Customers will be able to view their usage, in 5 minute chunks, starting 24 hours after use, over the internet.

Ten percent of customers will receive computers inside their building, with connections to major electricity using appliances such as clothes dryer and hot water heater.

No mention of variable billing rates at this time.

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230. jess or anyone:

what is the proliferation resistant feature of the thorium modular reactor?

if this has been discussed before, I can’t remember where.

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231. John Newlands,

I think you’ll like this:

Climate benefits of Natural Gas my be overstated

The United States is poised to bet its energy future on natural gas as a clean, plentiful fuel that can supplant coal and oil. But new research by the Environmental Protection Agency—and a growing understanding of the pollution associated with the full “life cycle” of gas production—is casting doubt on the assumption that gas offers a quick and easy solution to climate change.

read the article here: http://www.propublica.org/article/natural-gas-and-coal-pollution-gap-in-doubt

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232. Gregory
My bomb making skills are a little rusty, but with nuclear weapons, H-bomb, A-bomb, Neutrino/Dirty Bomb all use very heavy elements, Uranium/ Plutonium, which are not used, apart from (I believe) starter amounts, which are very very small, in the Thorium reactors (LFTR). So, no risk of some extremist making a fissile bomb.

I look forward to being corrected!

Pip

PS Peter, you know I’m your biggest fan, but your post, ‘Nuclear cheaper than coal, how?’ asks for many stars to align does it not? God forbid, but whacking a price on emissions would be the easy way to make nuclear power cheaper than coal, yes? But I suppose there would be significant downsides in the extra cost of everything. But, its going to happen, Canberra will follow London et al in Europe on this “how green is my valley” competition.

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233. The proliferation resistance is
1. in the uranium blend of the end product (waste) from the thorium reactor. The mix includes isotopes which ‘poison’ the enrichment process and are very difficult to separate from the isotopes which can be enriched.
2. the start-up mix can be done with low-enriched uranium, with only thorium required as ongoing fuel. Or, it can be started with nuclear waste from old style NPP. i.e. it can be used to re-cycle previous waste into clean power leaving a much less hazardous waste (below)
3. any diversion of fissiles form the reactor has an immediate and measurable impact on power so can be easily monitored.
A further advantage of the LFTR is that the nuclear waste has a very short half-life compared to the waste from ‘traditional’ NPP. It needs to be safeguarded for a few centuries instead of several millennia.
These 3 links lead to some interesting material:
1 http://nextbigfuture.com/2010/11/david-leblanc-explains-why-thorium.html

3 http://energyfromthorium.com/ Here’s a quote from EnergyFromThorium
” Before describing the characteristics of liquid-fuel reactors we review briefly in this paragraph the situation with PWRs. In a conventional PWR the fuel pellets contain UO2 with fissile U-235 content expensively enriched to 3.5% or more, the remainder being U-238. After about 5 years the fuel must be removed because the fissile material is depleted and neutron-absorbing fission products build up. By that time the fuel has given up less than 1% of the potential energy of the mined uranium, and the fuel rods have become stressed by internal temperature differences, by radiation damage that breaks covalent UO2 bonds, and by fission products that disturb the solid lattice structure (Figure 1). As the rods swell and distort, their zirconium cladding must continue to contain the fuel and fission products while in the reactor and for centuries thereafter in a waste storage repository.

Solid fuel rods are stressed by fission products, radiation, and heat.
In contrast, fluid fuels are not subjected to the structural stresses of solid fuels: liquid-fuel reactors can operate at atmospheric pressure, obviating the need for containment vessels able to withstand high-pressure steam explosions. Gaseous fission products like xenon bubble out while some fission products precipitate out and so do not absorb neutrons from the chain reaction. Like PWRs, liquid-fuel reactors can be configured to breed more fuel, but in ways that make them more proliferation resistant than the waste generated by conventional PWRs. Spent PWR fuel contains transuranic nuclides such as Pu-239, bred by neutron absorption in U-238, and it is such long-lived transuranics that are a core issue in waste storage concerns. In contrast, liquid-fuel reactors have the potential to reduce storage concerns to a few hundred years as they would produce far fewer transuranic nuclides than a PWR”

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234. Peter Lang interesting article on natgas. Critics often allude to fugitive CH4 emissions from pipes adding to that from mines, swamps, tundras and possibly warming seas. There are also delayed NO2 emissions (GWP of 310) from the breakdown of fertilisers made from natgas.

However all that may seem irrelevant to the business lobby. My more immediate question for Martin Ferguson MP is how is Australia going to replace a million barrels (143,000 tonnes) a day of mostly imported oil? That is for both fuel and chemical feedstock. Gas is too good to burn in power stations when there are alternatives.

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235. Pip,

your post, ‘Nuclear cheaper than coal, how?’ asks for many stars to align does it not? God forbid, but whacking a price on emissions would be the easy way to make nuclear power cheaper than coal, yes?

No. I don’t agree. Could I urge you to read these four comments (and it is important to read the links provided within each). I suspect a lot of the misunderstanding/misrepresentation about what I’ve been saying is because the lead article and the comments linked here have not been fully understood.

Why electricity cheaper than coal is important
https://bravenewclimate.com/2010/01/31/alternative-to-cprs/#comment-105862

Which first? Carbon price or remove impediments to low-cost nuclear?
https://bravenewclimate.com/2010/01/31/alternative-to-cprs/#comment-109572

Once a carbon price is introduced
https://bravenewclimate.com/2010/01/31/alternative-to-cprs/#comment-110105

Suggested Terms of Reference for a “Productivity Commission” Investigation into the impediments to low-cost nuclear
https://bravenewclimate.com/2010/01/31/alternative-to-cprs/#comment-109732

Could I also urge you to read the lead article on the “Alternative to CPRS” thread and the comments listed here:
https://bravenewclimate.com/2010/01/31/alternative-to-cprs/#comment-110262

Lastly, if you would like to discuss this most important of all issues (IMO) could you please post your comments/questions on the “Alternative to CPRS” thread so we can keep all the discussion together. I expect this will be an important issue and it has proved near impossible in the past to come back later and find comments that are scattered over many threads.

Pip, if you want to see the latest comments on all threads, look at the list at the top right of each BNC page. I usually look here to see what has been posted since I last looked.

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236. This wikipedia article on Uranium-232 does a pretty good job of explaining the gamma radioactivity of the uranium produced in a LFTR.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Uranium-232

While I agree that the uranium produced in a LFTR isn’t going to be used for weapons production, like all nuclear reactors (fusion included) they are a copious source of neutrons. There are basically two routes to nuclear weapons: enrichment of natural uranium to HEU with >>20% U235, and neutron irradiation of natural uranium (mostly U238) to make Plutonium 239. Historically, everyone with bombs seems to have started with enrichment and then proceeded to lightly toasting uranium to make plutonium. Basically all the big powers who want bombs have them. The radical smaller countries will get their bombs by enriching uranium or by buying them. That’s why the US is so exercised over Iran’s nuclear fuel enrichment efforts. Iran wants to make fuel for their reactors in order to decouple themselves from the potentially uncooperative United States which has a history of imposing economic embargoes against them. But with enrichment capability comes U235 bomb-grade material production capability — just keep running some of the uranium through the enrichment facility over and over again.

The other way to make bombs is by producing Pu239 with neutron irradiation. All reactors can do this, but some are particularly well designed for it. Pressurized water reactors are pretty bad at it because you have to take them apart to refuel and you need frequent (~weeks) refueling cycles to generate bomb quality Pu239. This really messes up their utility for civilian power production while the bomb making activity is going on. And it takes several cycles to make enough for one bomb. Something like this was done once by the UK as a demonstration of feasibility, but they used a Magnox not a PWR. Some reactors like CANDU with online refueling capability are especially good for Pu239 production. These are sort of dual purpose reactors: civilian power and military plutonium production. I think the Russians have some dual purpose reactor designs as well.

LFTR doesn’t actually exist. LFTR variants could be designed to make dual purpose relatively difficult or relatively easy. There are good reasons to make it easy in the first reactors. Basically, the right LFTR design can convert any fissile into very clean burning U233 for starting up other LFTRs. Those second generation LFTRs would be very nice because they would generate very little actinide waste and their U233 would be contaminated with U232 and Thalium-208, so very bad for bomb making. But if you can irradiate Th232 to make U233 and ship it off to another reactor, you can probably also figure out how to irradiate U238 and make Pu239 and ship it off to your bomb factory. I don’t subscribe to the theory that LFTR is especially proliferation proof. That’s arguing from a failure of imagination. But I do think that all civilian power reactors are essentially innocent of being used in bomb making. All of the world’s nuclear bombs (and there are tens of thousands of them) were made in specially constructed bomb making facilities. Worrying about civilian reactors being used to make bombs seems missplaced. Lots of countries have made bombs and none of them did it that way. There are easier, more efficient ways to make bombs.

I’d also be in favor of a vigorous inspection regime imposed on all countries operating nuclear power plants or enriching or processing fissile fuels. The US should participate in being inspected by randomly selected teams of international inspectors just like all other nuclear countries. I think even Iran might agree to something like this if the US did too. That’s a fair and I believe effective way to make sure nobody misappropriates highly enriched fissile material for military purposes.

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237. Thanks to Quokka, Chris Uhlik and Gene Preston for the informative reponses to my load following questions.

I think the comments by Jess on 28th Jan at 8.06am summarised things very well.

I also think that the contrasting and contiguous LCOE calculations of David Benson and Chris Uhlik (28th Jan at 11.02 and 11.38am respectively) crystallised the the subject of nuclear costs magnificently and succinctly.

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238. David that 11.8% should not be used in your calculations. It was an ad hoc number created by the US energy czar Carol Browner who was just fired from her job. http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703555804576102810159169324.html

I see you used an even higher interest rate in the next posting. Let me ask you this David, can you make an investment that will give you a guaranteed 12% return on your money today? The answer is no. Can the millions of people who want to see nuclear power get a 12% return? – No. So if those millions of people pooled their money and bought a nuclear plant, they might even consider a 0% interest rate appropriate. I would. If you use 0% interest you will get about a 3.6 cents per kWh energy cost for the nuclear plant. To me this better represents the future value of nuclear power.

Chris you are talking about unit commitment. In todays systems we will not be taking off line large coal plant or nuclear plants if the wind is blowing. We will take off line gas plants and if we have to, back down on coal plants. Texas doesnt have enough nuclear power to ever have to back it down. I understand that France cycles nuclear plants routinely, but I’m sure they never have to take them down because they sell the excess power to other countries.

David, you are correct about utilities not offering TOU rates through their smart meters. They put the meters in to advantage their own operation without thinking much about what the customer actually wants. Lets see if we can change that. I’ll be sending testimony today to my local PUC asking for them to allow residential customers an opportunity to own off site generation. That should bring out a lot of utility opposition.

Pip, my estimated cost for nuclear power is only 3.6 cents per kWh. Isn’t that lower in cost than coal? At 5000 \$/kw, buy one kW and run it for 40 years. Divide that cost by the energy produced and you get 1.6 cent per kwh. Add 2 cents per kWh for fuel and O&M and that gives you the 3.6 cents per kwh. Currently I am earning 0% interest on my other long term investments so 0% is appropriate from my perspective.

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239. thanks chris and jess.

I get your point, chris, about the concept of “proliferation proof” as failure of imagination. but I think to some extent to notion of “proliferation proof” was to be understood in the context of some “terrorist” scenario.

so that with respect to the terrorist scenario, reactors like IFR and LFTR were “proliferation proof.”

I’ve come to think (from all I’ve read here) that the issue is mostly bogus, for reasons you outline here:

But I do think that all civilian power reactors are essentially innocent of being used in bomb making. All of the world’s nuclear bombs (and there are tens of thousands of them) were made in specially constructed bomb making facilities. Worrying about civilian reactors being used to make bombs seems missplaced. Lots of countries have made bombs and none of them did it that way. There are easier, more efficient ways to make bombs.

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240. Gene Preston, on 28 January 2011 at 9:35 PM — The 12.5% “interest” was set artificially high to cover risk insurance and depreciation, neither of which is directly included in that Simple LCOE calculator. The number I have for interest is 10.5% so I simply added 2% to cover the other factors.

Variable rates in the State of Washington are not yet available because the state utility commision has not yet approved any such plan. I suspect that once enough of those so-called samrt meters are installed then variable rate pricing will become available.

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241. Greg Meyerson

But I do think that all civilian power reactors are essentially innocent of being used in bomb making. All of the world’s nuclear bombs (and there are tens of thousands of them) were made in specially constructed bomb making facilities. Worrying about civilian reactors being used to make bombs seems missplaced. Lots of countries have made bombs and none of them did it that way. There are easier, more efficient ways to make bombs.

Amen to that. Let the matter of nuclear proliferation from electricity generation rest in peace. It is not the main issue we have to contend with.

The key issues (two) we have to contend with are:

1. educating the public about the advantages of nuclear power compared with what we have now, and

2. how can we get nuclear implemented so that electricity from nuclear costs less than coal, without raising the cost of electricity (which an Carbon Tax or ETS would do)?

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242. Peter

Thanks for your post, I absorbed what I could! Essentially, most people posting agree nuclear can be cheap, clean and safe.

The issue, particularly in Australia, where there is a moratorium on nuclear power, is political.

The current energy ‘market’ displays the tinkering from Governments performing political stunts to woo a noisy minorities.

You suggest that the coalition will not proceed first with a nuclear power policy, as it will be electoral suicide. It would be hard therefore to see why the ALP would decide it wouldn’t be. The key to breaking this dead-lock would be for The Greens to accept consideration of nuclear power.

It seems to me that at the heart of The Greens mantra, there is a great hypocrisy, they are the most strident about dangerous climate forcing and yet in denial about the only realistic mitigation.

Yet this logic seems out-dated. It surely must be time to realise that an absence of nuclear power consideration in a political manifesto is a glaring weakness. I am not convinced that a consideration of nuclear power is electoral suicide.

Or of course, become a noisy minority. I suspect the ban on nuclear was a conspiracy from big coal!

So, back to Hugh Jackman on Oprah, saying, “I only use nuclear power to cook my breakfast cereal!”

Gene, I loved Texas. Great roads. Yes, nuclear can be cheap, but is it too much to think the Government will allow it to be? (They’d be thinking “there’s a good buck for us here, we could buy those new stealth fighters!”

pip

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243. Pip Willis, on 29 January 2011 at 11:53 AM — Unfortunately, I don’t see anything on the near horizon which provides inexpensive electric power generation; the wholesale price of electricity is going to go up.

SInce there are no LFTRs or IFRs yet, I’m not ready to take optimistic projections about their LCOE.

Right now in the USA the least expensive approach is energy conservation/efficiency, by far. Then, in order of increasing price,
(1) CCGTs (less than the next)
(2) wind power
(3) NPPs
(4) solar power (much higher than NPPs)
and I haven’t attempted to study the cost of advanced coal burners because there are none in planning stages.

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244. HI David

Yes, well, I’m afraid your right. The key word is ‘can’ be cheap, not ‘is’. What is stopping nuclear power being cheap?

BTW, Peter, Chris or Fran or anyone with superior engineering skills, why can’t NPP use pumped hydro in reverse tidal locations for load following? NPPs can be coastal, desal, population considerations, etc, why not some tidal storage. What would be the tidal movement at say Galverston Tx?

Interestingly, I used to live close to a medieval tidal mill on the Teign river in Devon UK. No idea like an old idea!

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245. “The key to breaking this dead-lock would be for The Greens to accept consideration of nuclear power.”

I shan’t expect nuclear power ever then, in that case.

I’d hazard a guess that once there’s a carbon price in place (and let’s face it, there probably will end up being one), the ALP will face increasing pressure to replace the nation’s ageing fossil fuel fleet with a reliable, cost-effective technology. And there will be only once place left to look.

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246. Hi Pip,

Thanks for your post, I absorbed what I could! Essentially, most people posting agree nuclear can be cheap, clean and safe.

The issue, particularly in Australia, where there is a moratorium on nuclear power, is political.

It seems to me that at the heart of The Greens mantra, there is a great hypocrisy, they are the most strident about dangerous climate forcing and yet in denial about the only realistic mitigation.

Yet this logic seems out-dated. It surely must be time to realise that an absence of nuclear power consideration in a political manifesto is a glaring weakness.

I do not believe there is any chance that the Greens Party will change policy to support nuclear. They would lose most of their support base. It won’t happen, IMO.

Labor will dump its anti-nuclear policy at its National Convention in December this year. Anna Bligh, ALP National President, made the announcement on 23 December 2010. All the other key players had been aligned before hand so they all made the right sort of noises, immediately after Anna Bligh’s announcement. NSW Labor Party has moved its Policy Convention forward in time so it can pass resolutions to support the policy change at the National Convention. It is inevitable Labor will dump its anti nuclear policy in December.

The real risk we face is about what Labor will change its policy to. Will it endorse polices and wording that lock us in to a high-cost nuclear regime (like USA, Canada, UK and Europe) or into a low-cost nuclear regime? If Labor says words to the effect “we’ll allow nuclear but we’ll ensure it will be the safest in the world and it must be world’s best practice” and all that sort of spin, then nuclear in Australia is doomed for at least another decade.

Somehow, an environmental NGO will be persuaded (bribed) to come on board and support Labor’s policy. Bit by bit, one or two others will change their policy too. That is all that is needed. The Greens and the rest can sing themselves to sleep or get overstressed and have a heart attack. Either way, they will become irrelevant, except they may seriously damage us by forcing us to go down the high cost route. This is what they want, and this is what a Carbon Tax or ETS will ensure happens.

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247. Pip Willis, on 29 January 2011 at 12:34 PM — In the US I opine a less severe perception on the part of investors regarding risk; that would lower interest rates. Also, better construction management: the South Koreans can build their AP-1400s for \$3.8/W but the best estimates for the Westinghouse AP-1000 in the US are about \$4.45/W.

Of course, if the Chinese are going to be allowed to exprt their Gen II+ CPR-1000, those are built for \$1.5/W in China.

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248. Pip,

You suggest that the coalition will not proceed first with a nuclear power policy, as it will be electoral suicide. It would be hard therefore to see why the ALP would decide it wouldn’t be. The key to breaking this dead-lock would be for The Greens to accept consideration of nuclear power.

It is electoral suicide for the Coalition to lead on nuclear. It is far too easy for Labor to run an anti-nuclear scare campaign. They have done this at every election since 1990. Even if Labor supported nuclear, it would be easy for them to say, “the Coalition stands for low cost and you cannot trust them to provide adequates safety”. The safety issue, if raised in an election campaign, is what will send us, irreversably, down the high cost route. We will not be able to undo that for a decades or more. We will be committed to the high cost nuclear option, which means it will be implemented only very slowly.

Only Labor can take the initiative. What enlightened voters should be doing now, IMO, is doing all we can to persuade the media, population and key players in the Labor party that there is a really big difference between allowing nuclear versus allowing and advocating low-cost nuclear. We must help them to understand the difference and go for the latter option: allow and advocate low cost nuclear

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249. Pip,

BTW, Peter, Chris or Fran or anyone with superior engineering skills, why can’t NPP use pumped hydro in reverse tidal locations for load following?

In short, because it is not economic.

Dinorwick pumped hydro station in Wales is 1.8GW and has storage for about 10 h generation at full power (from memory). The power, storage area and storage volumes in the upper and lower reservoir depend on the head differnece between the upper and lower reservoir. In fact it is the minimum head difference because the owner has to be able to guarantee the name plate power can be generated with 95% probability at all times.

I have answered your question previously on another thread (in reply to questions by Douglas Wise I think) and I suspect it is most likely on the Pumed Hydro thread:
https://bravenewclimate.com/2010/04/05/pumped-hydro-system-cost/
You may find this thread interesting.

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250. I’m not sure that that (“only Labour can take the initiative”) is the only perspective Peter.

I hear what you are saying, but what the sensible political thing would be to say is “We support consideration of nuclear power and want to set up a Clean Energy Tribunal to report back to government with the best way forward.” I think DV82XL made a comment somewhere about the Civil Aviation Authority being a regulatory body that appears aligned to the industry not against it, which I thought was good. Such a ‘Tribunal’ would invite industry advocates, government and academics, I would hope.

Again, where this nuclear debate needs to happen is in the pages of the tabloids and mainstream media. Perceptions need to change. The ‘waste’ issue needs to be met. The Greens need to be seen on this issue as the cave man nay-saying cooking fires, because they are in fact the same as bushfires, etc etc, what is Huge Jackman doing ont his issue! Ha!

Pip

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251. Pip,

When I said “only Labor can take the initiative” I was referring to the political level. I agree that we need to do all the selling.

We support consideration of nuclear power and want to set up a Clean Energy Tribunal to report back to government with the best way forward.”

Yes, that and more, with a different title, is what I proposed in the “Alternative to a CPRS” thread. Did you read the lead article on that thread?

But Coalition cannot lead (read the “Alternative to a CPRS” thread). Greens won’t lead. Only Labor can lead on this. They need to put it forward. They have to change their policy first, otherwise they are committed to opposing it and running an anti-nuclear scare campaign. They always have and always will until they change their policy. Then the most critical issues is what will they change their policy to? Will their policy commit us to high cost or allow us to introduce low cost nuclear? This is what we need to focus our efforts at. But, unfortunately, we are all over the shop on what we should be focusing on. Most people on BNC want a carbon price. For them, this symbolic gesture, is the goal. This is exactly what the gas industry wants and they have worked their way onto all the important bodies that are guiding the decision making, including the Business Council of Australia. I understand they also funded the “Beyond Zero Emissions” “Zero Carbon Emissions by 2020 plan”.

I think DV82XL made a comment somewhere about the Civil Aviation Authority being a regulatory body that appears aligned to the industry not against it, which I thought was good. Such a ‘Tribunal’ would invite industry advocates, government and academics, I would hope.

Yes, of course. That is what we want. That is what we need to aim for. But this is just one of many things that need to be implemented under the umbrella of “we want low-cost nuclear, not high-cost nuclear”

If we do not make this clear distinction between what is needed to get low cost nuclear, and what will happen if we do not make this distinction, then we will get high cost nuclear. Just look at the political interferences that has occurred in Australia’s Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) to realise the mess and incompetence in our regulatory authorities. If we adopt this sort of regulatory agency, the default if we don’t raise the issue of we need to remove the impediments to low cost nuclear then we will get high cost nuclear, which means coal and gas and no nuclear for a very long time. Also, the closer we are to the US NRC the higher will be the cost of nuclear in Australia.

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252. Pip,

I don’t know wheter you read this in the links I provided, but I think it is worth posting it again here for those following this thread but not reading the links.

There is an alternative to putting a price on carbon. A much better alternative in my opinion. That is to remove all the impediments to low cost clean electricity.

Here are examples of impediments we should remove.

The sort of impediments and regulatory distortions to the market that are blocking nuclear in Australia are:

1. ban on nuclear power
2. high investor risk premium because of the politics
3. Renewable Energy Targets
4. Renewable Energy Certificates
5. Feed in Tariffs for renewables
6. Subsidies and tax advantages for renewable energy
7. Subsidies and tax advantages for fossil fuel electricity generators
8. subsidies for transmission and grid enhancements to support renewable energy
9. massive funding for research into renewable energy
10. massive subsidies for research into carbon capture and sequestration (CCS)
11. Guarantees that the government will carry the risk for any leakage from CCS
12. No equivalent guarantee for management of once used nuclear fuel
13. Massive subsidies and government facilitation for the gas industry, coal seam gas and coal to gas industries (despite the latter putting toxic chemicals into the ground water and the Great Artesian Basin water)
14. Fast tracking of the approvals process for wind power, solar power, gas industry, coal industry while nuclear industry remains banned from even fair comparative studies by Treasury, Productivity Commission, ABARE, Department of Climate change and more. We can just imagine what the approvals process would be like for a nuclear power plant!!

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253. Yeah, I read most of it, but it was links on links, and you’d have me trolling the internet all my Saturday!

Someone made a good point above, just swap the word ‘renewables’ for ‘clean’ in your list and you’re there.

But as I say, this debate needs to be popularised, particularly in NSW where energy debarcles are all over the media right now. I think Abbot should spruik ‘a new look at nuclear’.

pip

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254. Pip,

I think just about everyone on BNC agrees we need to popularise the debate. And everyone is doing the best they can using their own skills. And an enormous amount is being done. Did you look at the new thread just posted today. If you look through the comments it gives a clue to what people have been doing for quite some time.

The Coalition cannot lead this. Every time they do it leads to a negative campaign from Labor. The Liberals have been making comments that Labor needs to take another look at nuclear, and do it properly, but they cannot say any more than that or they get branded as pro-nuclear, and “would you want one in your back yard?”. Labor is the government, they are the ones with the anti-nuke policy and they are the ones that have opposed it for 40 years of more. It has to be Labor that leads off.

If you look back at some of the other links there is a lot about this on BNC already, but I am not going to try to find them now. I want to watch Aussie Kim win the tennis for Australia.

Yes, changing “renewables’ for ‘clean’ is what I proiposed in the lead article to “Alternative to the CPRS”. Please have a read of that lead article and the comments I linked to, otherwise I have to just keep repeating stuff. And, as I said in a previous comment, I’d suggest we should hold this discussion on the “Alternative to CPRS” thread.

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255. A problem that has not been discussed adequately with funding nuclear is why the funding interest rate is so high. When I first saw the 11.8% interest rate being charged by the US government for financing nuclear plants here in the US I thought the US had a hidden agenda against nuclear. However I have had second thoughts about what has happened. In my paper to the Texas PUC posted at
http://interchange.puc.state.tx.us/WebApp/Interchange/Documents/35792_103_691245.PDF
and http://egpreston.com/EugenePreston110128.pdf
I argue that as an individual buying a piece of a nuclear plant that I would be interested financing it with my own money and a 0% interest rate is appropriate. However what if I were asked to just buy into a nuclear plant by purchasing a bond and receive money in the future rather than energy as the payback for my investment. Then surely I would want more than 0% interest rate. I would begin thinking about the financial risk and I would become worried so I would raise that interest rate I would want to a rather high level, say 10% per year. But then I would see the project cost rise because of the higher interest rates and that would worry me even more so I would raise my interest rate again to maybe 12%. Do you see the death sprial we have gotten ourselves into with this line fo thought? The monetary system itself has failed. I think this line of reasoning is why the 11.8% interest rate was set by the US government . The US had no confidence the nuclear projects will succeed so they made the lending interest rate high, which leads to the project failure and self serves the arguments against nuclear power. A country having a high level of confidence nuclear projects such as France, will have low interest financing for nuclear and the belief is self fulfilling. The setting of interest rates can determine the success or failure of nuclear. Its a instability in our monetary system that needs to be appreciated.

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256. Gene,

It is not simply and interest rate. It is much more complicated than that.

EPRI, MIT, Chicago Unit, RAE, Frontier
and ACIL-Tasman (amongst others) explain the methods, assumptions and inputs they use.

ACIL Tasman:
http://www.aemo.com.au/planning/419-0035.pdf

ACIL Tasman’s inputs for calculating the Weighted Average Cost of Capital (WACC) are given in Table 2.4.2, p21.

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257. Peter I did not see nuclear listed in the first reference and the second link is broken.

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258. Hey Peter:

thanks for reposting your list of impediments to nuclear.

it is very useful.

can you refer me to some numbers for your items (subsidy, tax advantage, target, investor premium) where numbers are relevant?

Also, when david benson says above (for u.s.) that wind is cheaper than nuclear, I am not sure if he is disagreeing with the dominant analysis of wind on this site put forward by yourself, Barry and others.

what does cheaper mean? if it takes LCOE into account (even accepting u.s. regulatory ratcheting with nuclear), does it do so in hi penetration scenarios?

I don’t see how it could. Let us recall what Trainer says:

… it can be quite misleading to think in terms of the
levelised cost of electricity from specified renewable sources when estimating total system costs. Advocates of renewables typically do this, for instance claiming that the levelised cost of
wind power is comparable to that of coal fired power.

This might be so if lifetime outputs at average capacity are compared, but that overlooks the point stressed above that the crucial task is to
maintain the required level of output. Because there will be times when wind cannot contribute much and resort must be made to redundant plant, the cost of providing that plant needs to be somehow included in the cost of the wind sector. It is an essential
part of the wind sector if that sector is to be able to make its contribution continually, just as an emergency generator must be understood as part of the total energy supply cost of a hospital
(Lenzen, 2009 recognises this in passing).

The dumping issue similarly indirectly increases total system capital cost because it means that some of the generating capacity built supplies energy that is wasted, or stored inefficiently, meaning again that plant constructed has to be greater than the
amount that would meet demand if all its output could be used.

These problems could be reduced to the extent that some processes such as steel, cement and fertilizer production and freezer boosting could be carried out only when surpluses are available. There is some scope for this but the implications for intermittent operation of furnaces etc. are problematic.

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259. Gene,

You are right on both counts. Sorry, I forgot that the Frontier report succumbed to political correctness and excluded nuclear. However, the methods, assumptions and the inputs used for calculating LCOE are similar to those in other reports and it is clearly explained in the report. I’d commend it to all those wanting to discuss LCOE.

Sorry about the ACIL-Tasman report. I’ll be really dissapointed if AEMO has removed access to that report from their web site. I suspect they may have because they’ve taken the data, changed some of it, removed all reference to nuclear and posted that on their web site. Is this a sign of how powerful is the gas industry in Austrlia?

Here is another good report that explains the methodology very well. This is the EPRI report that was subcontracted to the Ziggy Switkowski Task Force for the “Uranium Mining, Processing and Nuclear Energy” study. I’d also commend this EPRI report. It is very informative for non-specialists and the interested general public.
http://pandora.nla.gov.au/pan/66043/20061201-0000/www.dpmc.gov.au/umpner/docs/commissioned/EPRI_report.pdf

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260. Greg Meyerson.

thanks for reposting your list of impediments to nuclear.
it is very useful.

So, now that you, and hopefully others, can see what you are missing by not going to the links I post, can I urge you to look again at the ones listed below? They explain some other impediments to nuclear not included in the list above and also explain how, by removing the most important impediments, we could get nuclear cheaper than coal in Australia – something Chris Uhlik, DV82XL and others believe is achievable. As DV82XL said in a previous post on this thread (when he was mad as hell with me) nearly all the impediments are caused by government. So they can be removed by government. Please read these links and try to put it together – like I have it all together, correctly, in my head :)

Subsidies that encourage fossil fuel use in Australia.
http://www.isf.uts.edu.au/publications/CR_2003_paper.pdf

Impediments to low-cost nuclear – Industrial Relations
https://bravenewclimate.com/2010/01/31/alternative-to-cprs/#comment-110185

Sovereign Risk – a major impediment to low cost nuclear
https://bravenewclimate.com/2010/01/31/alternative-to-cprs/#comment-110065
https://bravenewclimate.com/2010/01/31/alternative-to-cprs/#comment-110072

Nuclear cheaper than coal in Australia. How?
https://bravenewclimate.com/2010/01/31/alternative-to-cprs/#comment-109491

Just humour me for a while until I can get my message across, then we can argue about Carbon Price versus removing the impediments to low cost nuclear.

The next link is the “Terms of Reference” for a study I want the government to direct the Productivity Commissions to do as a first step, and BNCers to initiate here to help to get public awareness of the advantages of removing the impediments to low cost nuclear instead of imposing a carbon price.
Suggested Terms of Reference for a “Productivity Commission” Investigation into the impediments to low-cost nuclear
https://bravenewclimate.com/2010/01/31/alternative-to-cprs/#comment-109732

I believe that just going through this exercise would make the public much more aware of all the impediments we have imposed on nuclear and all the benefits of it in comparison with the default option, coal and gas. Just doing this study would help to get out to the public the sort of information that is in DV82XL’s thread and in the Barry Cohen chapter that Chris refers to upthread. Going through this process would be an excellent way to educate the public, in my opinion.

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261. Greg Meyerson,

Also, when david benson says above (for u.s.) that wind is cheaper than nuclear, …

David Benson has been told a dozen times, by just about every BNC regular contributor, that you cannot compare LCOE of wind with LCOE of nuclear and fossil fuels unless you include in the LCOE of wind the extra cost for back up, storage, transmission, grid enhancements and decommissioning so that the LCOE of wind is for power of equivalent quality and equally as responsive to demand as fossil fuels and nuclear. He is being “obstinately innumerate”.

Here is a simple comparison of the costs of wind power and nuclear on a properly comparable basis.
https://bravenewclimate.com/2010/04/05/pumped-hydro-system-cost/#comment-86108

Nuclear = \$4,500/kWy/y
Wind with gas back up = \$11,800/kWy/y
Wind with pumped hydro storage = \$132,300/kWy/y

Greg, I think you have explained it pretty well. However, David B.Benson hasn’t understood it yet, so I doubt he will this time either.

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262. Gregory Meyerson, on 30 January 2011 at 3:53 AM — Regarding solar,
“he who does not learn to store
shall have no power after four.”

Unfortunately, I don’t know a ditty which so cleverly points up the intermittency of wind. But one cannot have a merely windy grid unless you are willing to only have electricity when the wind doth blow; I know of two localities in Africa where that is the case.

Here in the Pacific Northwest we enjoy a massive supply of hydro (my power is 51% hydro generated). Hydro can be ideal for acting as the balancing agent for wind but there are limits. First, BPA (operator of most of the dams) stated that up to 20% (nameplate) wind was acceptable. But then the minimum stream flow requirements during spring runoff were increased to improve fingerling survival rates. This meant that BPA told the wind operators that BPA might shut them off at any time, but typically only during the spring runoff. This was sufficiently financially a disincentive that the next utility to the south, Pacificorp, in whose retail area most of the existing wind farms lie, purchased a 520 MW CCGT to backup the wind farms instead of having BPA do it.

So the next big increment of wind farms will go in even further south and rely on the CCGT for backup.

Oh well, when the wind blowth not at least no natgas is being burned.

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263. Peter Lang, on 30 January 2011 at 11:12 AM — I assure you that I do understand it and I assume that all regulars here do as well.

See my just prior post and stop making assumptions.

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264. thanks david and peter:

I asked the question about wind because it wasn’t entirely clear, david, from your remarks up thread what you thought, and if there was a disagreement, I thought it might be a good idea to confront it.

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265. Peter I handled all those other costs for nuclear by adding on 2 c/kWh O&M. The actual current cost for STP 1 and 2 is 1.6 c/kWh. So my 3.6 cents per kWh for nuclear does contain all the factors which you thought I had left out.

Greg, Peter is correct in that wind must have a backup. Here in Texas it would be wind+gas as a combo must be considered. Using hourly wind output and hourly loads, you could estimate the amount of gas energy that is needed to fill in the gaps when wind is insufficient. ERCOT studies have shown that wind capacity has to be derated down to about 8% to get the effective capacity toward meeting the peak demands. I.e. we have to have enough capacity in the system to meet peak demands, so we have to build gas plants even as we are adding a lot of wind capacity, just to meet the summer time peak demand. You should be able to obtain hourly load data and wind output data each hour from your region. ERCOT posts that kind of data for people like me to use in studies.

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266. The thing that leaps out at me (haven’t read all comments so maybe this is made there) is the assumption that a cost that applies for doing something rarely (in this case, building “Areva EPR”, which apparently has had a doubling of cost announced in the last few days, maybe bad-luck on the blog writing timing) is the same cost that will apply when doing something on a huge scale (big enough to affect markets in steel, concrete, to a lesser extent energy, etc). If the change to nuclear is for the reasons of climate change (not, eg, an individual nations energy security) it needs at the least to be done over most of the world at current world energy use (if not at levels which are equitable energy usage worldwide) and done relatively quickly (say over 40 years). Unless huge numbers of other building projects are cut back whilst this is going on, I would expect a significant rise in the cost of commodities like steel, concrete, etc, rises in wages (due to a shortage of skilled staff), etc. There’ll certainly be some economies of scale and the fact that we’re starting from within a depressed world economy is marginally better than the highs in development of 4/5 years ago in pushing costs downwards,but I wouldn’t expect them to be big enough to significantly counteract these effects.

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267. Gregory Meyerson, on 30 January 2011 at 12:45 PM — Around here we now have 1.6 GW nameplate wind with a capacity factor of ~30% giving an average of ~480 MW, about the same as a single CCGT. Over the past decade the population of Washington state grew by 16% and I suppose something comperable in Oregon while 2–3 CCGTs were built; no coal burners were retired.

Generalizing, a grid can accomidate some wind generated power, maybe up to 20% depending. Not that I am particularly in favor of it.

There were one too many negations in my concluding sentence; I’ll try again.

Oh well, when the wind blowth at least no natgas is being burned.

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268. DavidTweed,

I understand the doubling of the cost of EPR is due to engineeering and project management costs which in turn are due to inexperienced regulator, designer, contractors and owner. The escaltion in material costs, such as steel and concrete. is a negligible component of the cost increase, so I understand.

Also, a roll out of nuclear in the developed and major developing countries will take at least half a century and roll out in what are currently the underdeveloped countries will take even longer, I suspect.

Importantly, if we can’t do it with nuclear, what chance would we have of doing it with renewables given renewables require about 10 times more steel and concrete than nuclear to supply the same amount of electricity?

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269. Peter Lang, on 31 January 2011 at 10:39 AM — The “10 times more steel and concrete” is just for wind turbines, yes?

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270. David B Benson,

Surely you have been contributing on BNC long enough to be able to find this sort of information for yourself by now. Go to the ‘Renewable Limits’ tab, scroll down through the TCASE titles until you come to TCASE4 – Energy System Build Rates and Material Inputs

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271. gene: thanks.

I need to understand this better, though. in order to operate a wind/nat gas system to meet peak demand, wind’s capacity factor must be lowered to 8 %?

I want to make sure I understand what 8% is 8 % of. is this a kind of necessary dumping so that the system will work? or is there a distinction between derating and dumping?

I can see this number is a different number from capacity credit.

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272. david b: I get what you are saying so you appear to be largely in accord with peter/gene/barry, etc.

g

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273. Peter Lang, on 31 January 2011 at 11:24 AM — Apparently not. Thanks for pointing me to TCASE 4 where I learned that a mere “10 times” doesn’t cut it. I’m not so concerned about the cement consumed, but steel is likely to be a serious limiting factor?

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274. David, the Bonneville Power Authority – where I think you’re located – is particularly flexible for wind, given the high amount of hydro firming that is available there.

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275. Barry Brook, on 31 January 2011 at 11:51 AM — Yes, but as I’ve already posted BPA’s hydro is less flexible than one might first think. Nonetheless, the relatively small amount of wind power so far does help BPA to attempt to fill up Lake Rosevelt, the major storage reservoir. BPA has been having a ever harder time keeping it nearly full over the summer.

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276. David there is danger in expecting wind with a 30% capacity factor to have that amount of capacity as a reliable source of power. Here in Texas studies have shown that 9000 MW of wind with about 30% CF have an effective capacity of about 8% of nameplate in the LOLP calculations. So we have to be careful in how we use that 480 MW number in your previous posting.

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277. No the wind capacity factor is not 8%. When we are adding up the capacities of all the sources to meet the peak demand here in Texas we can only count on about 8% of wind capacity in summing up those nameplate capacity totals. Its not directly related to capacity factor, only loosely. A power plant supplies two things, energy and capacity. The 8% only applies to the capacity needed to be installed in the system.

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278. Let me clarigy again. Lets supppse we have a 60,000 MW peak load. And lets say that we need a 15% reserve margin so we need 1.15*60,000 MW of gas generation. If we added 10,000 MW of wind, we would be allowed to count only 800 MW of that 10,000 toward meeting the 1.15*60,000 requirement. So 10,000 MW of wind means that the 1.15*60,000 gas generation could be reduced by 800 MW if we installed 10,000 MW of wind. Now that wind would cause less energy of the gas to be needed and that would be consistent with the 30% capacity factor at 10,000 MW wind.

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279. I recently did a wind study in WA state and there is a lot of wind in the load flow data. So yes, the BPA area has a lot of wind being planned or constructed.

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280. hey gene: yeah, I didn’t think it was capacity factor which is why I raised CF, so a distinction could be made.

I still need help though. peak load plus reserve gives us 69,000 MW of gas, and even though wind may be producing at 30% CF or 3000 MW, only 800 of those MW have replacement value for the natural gas. ?

so then there’s excess wind being produced which plays no role in system reliability? what’s the relation between dumping and derating?

thanks,

gm

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281. Greg, I must apologize, the 8% only applies for west Texas wind with respect to the total Texas grid. The simplest way to explain the low number is that most of the LOLP comes from summer peak load periods and here in Texas the wind tends to become light right at the time of our system peak. For another system it will be different. If there was a system that always peaked when the wind was blowing hardest then nearly all the wind capacity could be counted toward meeting the peak load. So the 8% has little to do with the 30% CF. It would be relatively easy for to do the LOLP calculations for a specific system if I had all the other generation forced outage rate data and the wind hourly profiles and the load hourly profile.

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282. okay:

excuse my ignorance, but I’m ignorant so …

during summer peak load periods in w. texas (and different areas face different contingencies), the grid can only use 800 MW of wind, right? during these times, the wind system might be producing more (or potentially producing more) than that but more than that cannot be planned for?

is there dumping of windpower during these periods?

I need to read a primer on how grids work. any ideas?

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283. Use is not the right word. During peak load conditions the 10,000 MW of wind is likely to have an average output of only 800 MW. All of what is generated will be used provided there are no transmission constraints.

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284. oh:

okay. easier than I thought. and this is due to the particular summer wind conditions in w. texas.

what defines the summer peak load period? typical dates, times (hours of day/night etc.), duration?

thanks,

g

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285. Gregory Meyerson, on 1 February 2011 at 10:41 AM — Similar problem here although the peak load happens during exceptionally cold winter highs (when the wind doesn’t blow).

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286. In Australia, The Energy Market Regulator allows 8% capacity Credit in Victoria and 3% capacity credit in South Australia (or vice versa).

This http://lightbucket.wordpress.com/2009/03/12/the-capacity-credit-of-wind-power/ explains Capacity Credit. Figure 1 shows how it decreases with increasing capacity penetration.

Germany has 125 GW of generating capacity, of which 20.6 GW, or 16.5%, is wind [5]. From Figure 1, Germany’s wind power has an 8% relative capacity credit, which corresponds to a capacity credit of about 1.5 GW.

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287. gene: what is the difference between capacity credit and effective capacity (for LOLP calculations)?

my understanding is that capacity credit refers to that portion of wind power in a geographically distributed array of wind farms that can function as base power, that can be relied upon at least 85%(some baseloady number) of the time.

capacity credit was also called firmed power (is that correct?) and the number we have tossed around here for capacity credit is around 12 %.

I take it that this term is different from “effective capacity” which you define as:

Here in Texas studies have shown that 9000 MW of wind with about 30% CF have an effective capacity of about 8% of nameplate in the LOLP calculations [referring to our light w. texas wind during summer peak demand].

You seem to associate this effective capacity with “reliable source of power” in your reply to david.

“Reliable source of power” might sound like power that functions as baseload. but “effective capacity in the LOLP calculations” doesn’t sound like the same thing as capacity credit–thus my question.

thanks for correcting my use of language above. that’s what I want. it’s important to me to understand this stuff.

g

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288. peter: sorry. I just saw your post (about cc). it might address my question, but I am not quite sure.

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289. Peter Lang,

I’m not disputing the desirability of doing it, or that it’ll be less expensive than other power schemes with a higher materials per watt basis. All I was saying is

1. IF the reason for doing it is to reduce carbon dioxide emissions to essentially 0 for climate change then it has to be done everywhere with a significant power use over the same time period. Otherwise you haven’t reduced CO2 to effectively zero, you’ve reduced it by the fraction of the world that has converted to nuclear, and I gather that to a first approximation carbon dioxide spreads throughout the globe so its climate change effects still affect nations that have gone nuclear.

2. So a back of the envelope calculation of replacing 13TW of currently non-nuclear power with 1GW nuclear plants over 40 years gives 325 plants being built every single year. Given that, eg, preparing for olympic games are reported to lead to small but significant rises in the price of steel, concrete, etc, and skilled construction workers wages, it seems unlikely to me that building on this scale won’t have effects. The fact that it’s claimed the current cost doubling is because currently employed people in the relatively tiny area of endeavour are inexperienced doesn’t suggest things will get better if the rate increases dramatically.

Personally, I think the conversion _with the goal of reducing net carbon dixoide emissions to zero_ should be done even at a significantly higher cost, but claiming that a cost of “3 dollars/per watt is pessimistic” seems to me to be an unjustified. I’d say it’s at best “3 dollars/watt is optimistic but hopefully acheivable.”

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290. DavidTweed,

I am not sure what you are advocating.

Are you saying that we can’t roll out nuclear fast enough so we will have to roll out some other low emissions technology, such as renewables?

Any alternative technology will require far more materials, labour, manufacturing capacity, etc. than nuclear to produce the same energy output (dispatchable power), so how would it help to go to some other technology?

If we can’t roll out nuclear fast enough we certainly cannot roll out anything else any faster, or even as fast.

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291. Question – what defines the summer peak load period? typical dates, times (hours of day/night etc.), duration?

In Texas its hot weather during the months of May through September. Ideally there should be no major scheduled dispatchable generation maintenance during this period. The peak of each day will be in the afternoon between 2 pm and 6 pm and run for a few hours.

Question – what is the difference between capacity credit and effective capacity for LOLP calculations?

I would think they are the same. You can get about the same valud for capacity credit by either running an LOLP study and noting the change in LOLP for varying a reliable gas unit by a few MW and then varying the total wind by a few MW and noting the benefit to the LOLP from each source. Wind will be some fraction of the natural gas as far as its effect on the LOLP and that would be the capacity credit number. You can get about the same value by looking at a few peak load hours and seeing at what level the wind is running at during those hours. This works because most of the LOLP comes from not being able to serve load during those peak hours. I would not associate wind with base load. During the peak hour both base load generation and peaking generation are reliable and available, well about 95% of the time. Because of the little bit of forced outage rate of reliable generation we must have some additional reliable generation available. So not even reliable generation is completely reliable. Wind is so unreliable it does not contribute to being able to satisfy the reliability (i.e. capacity) requirement.

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292. This has become an extremely long post as it focusses on the most critical aspect of conversion off the carbon economy.
An interesting study of the impact on GDP can be found at:
http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2011/01/what-if-chinas-gdp-is-seriously-overstated.html

This article is on China bu the arguments are as strong for any country. A quote” electricity generation capacity – actual and in development – paints a somewhat different picture on the GDP take, ie, on a comparative analysis, actual usage of electricity produced/ consumed does not correlate with imagined GDP growth figures.”

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293. Today’s The News York Times has an article about the non-renewal of building NPPs in the USA. High cost for big NPPs is certainly part of the problem, but the other is in those states with restructured ultility companies. There, the GenCos need a power purchase agreement with at least one RetailCos in order to arrange for financiang. The RetailCos are not cooperating due to low customer demand brought on by the Great Recession and various energy efficiency schemes. Those companies which are still vertically integrated seem to be moving forward unless the utility regulating commission won’t let them charge the customer base until the NPP is actually gnerating; when that happens they cannot afford to build.

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294. If we can’t have low cost nuclear – due to the Greens and environmental NGO’s anti-nuclear policies – then we will get gas, ever increasing carbon prices and ever increasing electricity prices. That is what will happen in the developed countries. In other countries, they will invest in the least cost option, coal. So the economically irrational policies in the developed countries will have negligible effect on world emissions but will further damage the economies of those countries who implement the polices forced on us by the anti-nuke brigade.

This is a currently running, Oxford style, moderated debate in “The Economist”. http://economist.com/debate/days/view/645 The clear conclusion I draw from this is if we can’t have low cost nuclear we’ll get carbon taxes, gas and high cost electricity.

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295. Thanks David, very interesting – I tweeted it.

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296. David B. Benson,

Thank you for the link. All continents except Africa and Australia. However, South Africa and Egypt are both planning to start new build soon, so only Pity about Australia, eh?

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297. Useful comment from a friend of mine, on this article: http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/opinion/energy-sector-wilts-under-solar-stress/story-e6frg6zo-1225993849581

“Alan Moran’s analysis of the huge subsidies for solar electricity offers only a tiny clue as to how this has all happened: ‘the triumph of hope over experience’.

Where does that hope arise? Governments hear it from their electorates. Fifty years of propaganda, starting off in the 1960s with the absurd proposition that ‘free’ energy from the sun translates into cheap, highly refined electrical energy, has created a public obsessed with the promise of solar power. The ‘experts’ keep telling them that with more investment in research and demonstration the dream of cheap solar electricity will eventually come true. Governments deliver that dream right now, with the many subsidies Moran lists.

As Moran warns, energy is too important to be left to public fantasy. Solar electricity is, as he says, intrinsically uneconomic. Its source, solar radiation, is simply too feeble when it arrives at the earth’s surface. The conversion technology is beautiful but the engineering to reach the required scale swamps the costs. This needs to be a matter of public education, as do the pervasive impacts of energy costs on living standards. Perhaps then we will be ready to look at the real energy options for a low-carbon future.”

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298. gene, you say this:

I would not associate wind with base load.

and I get this on the one hand but on the other hand, the concept of capacity credit first came up (I think) in our discussions in the context of barry’s critique of claims from the renewables camp that dispersed wind could function as base power. barry took Jacobson’s numbers seriously in order to point out that wind could provide very little reliable power, and do so only with absurd overbuild.

that said, it seems very important to say that WIND CAN’T PROVIDE BASEPOWER, and that the real capacity credit number is often lower (a lot lower) than the number barry originally came up with, a point peter lang has made.

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299. Yes I agree Greg that wind cannot provide base load power. Possibly a refined statement would be that wind cannot supply reliable power for either base load or peaking. That knocks off both ends with one statement. Wind can supply unreliable power so the customers would have to tailor their consumption to match what and when the wind can produce power. I don’t think our modern society can run on that kind of power supply model. Sail boats have this power problem and use both wind and solar and batteries. However they have to monitor their usage constantly and shut down when the battery drops below a certain charge level. I talk with these folks on the ham radio and they have to watch their power usage very closely. Its not a model for businesses and most homeowners to have to be forced to use.

Wind power here in Texas is reducing the amount of gas being burned and a little of coal energy. I don’t recall seeing the economics ever being calculated to see if the wind program is paying for itself. I bet it isn’t but those in favor of wind don’t really want such a study to be performed. They are hiding from the truth being uncovered.

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300. thanks gene. the sailboat analogy is I think pretty useful.

g

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301. Gene,

Wind power here in Texas is reducing the amount of gas being burned and a little of coal energy.

Coud you please post a link to any good references you have on this.

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302. Here is a recent Austin Energy report on their concept for reducing CO2.
http://www.acore.org/files/Austin's%20Energy%20Leadership%20Karl%20Rabago%2012%202010.pdf
Here is an older City Public Service report (San Antonio) on their generation plan before they reduced the amount of new STP 3 and 4 nuclear. I could not find their new plan on line but it had almost no reduction in coal in the new plan
http://s192669574.onlinehome.us/files/joint/energy_options/2009-01-22_Mike_Kotara.ppt
I’m afraid the anti nuclear proponents are in charge at both AE and CPS at the current time.

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303. gregory Meyerson, on 5 February 2011 at 2:09 AM — Memorize this ditty:

When the wind blowth not
other power must be sought.

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304. when the wind ain’t robust/the grid might go bust/and industry will rust/thus, in nuclear must we trust.

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305. gregory Meyerson, on 5 February 2011 at 10:30 AM —

:-)

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306. I’ll assume 50 year life for nuclear power plants. They seem to be lasting longer than this, but building for more than 50 years seems wasteful as technologies advance and you probably want to replace them with better stuff sooner than that.

The average life of a nuclear power plant is 22 years. Even then 50 is awfully generous considering most industry projections use 40.

Most of your assumptions are ridiculous but that one sticks out.

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307. No the long life times of existing nuclear plants is simply because the cost of keeping an existing plant going is cheaper than the cost of building a new plant. When the cost of a new plant drops enough to justify closing down the old plant, then that will happen. The long life times assumption is not ridiculous.

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308. Gene Preston wrote:

I don’t recall seeing the economics ever being calculated to see if the wind program is paying for itself. I bet it isn’t but those in favor of wind don’t really want such a study to be performed. They are hiding from the truth being uncovered.

This information is not very difficult to find. Have you tried looking for it, or requesting it for your local energy company? Reports from NREL are a good place to start (such as the wind power market reports for 2008 and 2009). There are also EIA and IEA annual energy outlooks (here and here). AWEA has quarterly market reports. If you’re an energy analysts or market investor, you can get this information in real time from your local ISO (or consult secondary sources on these prices). ERCOT provides a rather detailed list of market reports for real-time and day-ahead markets. ERCOT, in fact, is a rather hotbed of critical study on market pricing and wind integration with numerous academic studies on the topic (here, here, here … to cite only a few). Why would anybody invest in these technologies (public, private, hedge or capital financing, energy trading, venture capital, utility stock, or anything else) if they were unable to find these numbers? I don’t find any evidence that these numbers are hard to find, or are otherwise being deliberately concealed or covered up (as you suggest).

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309. The study I was talking about is one with no tax breaks and no subsidies and the optimized generation plan which includes the cost of new transmission is optimized when a number of resources are included in the mix such as wind solar nuclear and even gas and coal but in those instances the long range costs of the environmental damage of CO2 is taken into account. No there has never been such a study performed. ERCOT is trying to perform sucn a study and they keep coming back to the BAU plan which is very dependent on fossil fuels. In order to get wind to be in the plan they have to force it and that increases the overall cost of the plan rather than letting the optimization software select the option. Because wind has little capacity value, the optimized generation plan is going to select the more reliable gas plant option to add capacity. Then wind can be added but the economics are very sensitive to gas prices, since you have to add a lot of wind to displace a little gas. And that wind has a lot of transmission cost associated with it. The program is going to object to adding the wind so it has to be forced into the generation mix. We are just now getting around to doing LOLP studies with wind and solar. The effective load carrying capability of wind and solar still is to be determined. Even if the LOLP study shows there is some value to wind and solar there is still a chance that a common mode failure of all the wind or all the solar in a wide are could result in a rolling blackout if too much capacity dependence is put on wind and solar to provide reliable power at all times. Your referrences are not the kind of system studies I was talking about.

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310. Gene Preston wrote:

Then wind can be added but the economics are very sensitive to gas prices, since you have to add a lot of wind to displace a little gas. And that wind has a lot of transmission cost associated with it.

I’m not following you.

ERCOT currently calculates the capacity credit of wind at 8.7% of installed capacity. They describe their methodology (using LOLP results) here. They primarily use this for resource planning. Capacity factors, as you correctly suggest, are something different.

The cost of wind energy has very little to do with the cost of gas (to an extent). A well known UK study looked at wind integration costs, and found balancing costs to be no more than £3 – £5/MWh (from system efficiency impacts). I believe the Bonneville Power Administration now charges an “integration cost” to wind developers, and places this cost at \$5.70/MWh (adding together costs for regulation, load following, and imbalance). Is this the kind of study you are looking for?

Wind and natural gas plants are not linked as you suggest. If wind dies down in a “common mode failure” and reserve capacity is activated to meet the demand, the cost of wind energy is not the sum of the two generation sources!

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311. EL all the power plants are tightly connected in an hour by hour dispatch. When wind ramps up gas and coal ramp down. Thats the only purpose of wind, to displace fossil fuel energy sources. Wind in ERCOT is given an 8.7% capacity credit as you have correctly stated. This means that the other 91.3% capacity must be made up with conventional generation when there is load growth and when older coal and gas plants are retired and believe me there are a lot of old power plants in the US that need retiring. But these older plants are not being replaced sufficiently because of the fear of environmental regs, rightly so. The over reliance on wind is going to create a great difficulty in operating our electric systems reliably. I expect rolling blackouts during the summer peak and winter peaks in upcoming years in ERCOT as wind is increased and no mechnaism is in place to insure reliability in the ERCOT system. Either the rules have to be changed to insure reliability or we will need to get used to the electricity going on and off.

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312. Gene Preston wrote:

I expect rolling blackouts during the summer peak and winter peaks in upcoming years in ERCOT as wind is increased and no mechnaism is in place to insure reliability in the ERCOT system. Either the rules have to be changed to insure reliability or we will need to get used to the electricity going on and off.

Are you suggesting regulatory agencies and utility developers in Texas are not likely to follow ERCOT’s own reserve capacity planning formulas, and do not see a market for regulatory services as a very lucrative and value added component of their business models? This seems unlikely to me (especially when there is a great deal of money to be made integrating wind). And this doesn’t necessarily raise energy costs for consumers. In fact, in some instances it lowers it (here, here, and here), since better grid operability (or flexibility) reduces costs-benefits of peak pricing programs.

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313. The reserve margin is just a recommended level in ERCOT. There are no mechanisms in place in ERCOT to insure the minimum reserve margin level is actually met. In fact it isn’t being met. Currently wind is transmission constrained. New lines will be finished in the 2013 time frame. But new wind on those new lines will not keep the lights on in the summer time when winds are light in the panhandle and temperatures are over 100 degrees. I just received an urgent email from a fellow in PJM saying that it looked like ERCOT was going to be short on capacity soon. This shortage of capacity is being discussed internally within ERCOT at this time. Lets face it, the open market design is basically a failure by the Texas PUC. Lets see if we are able to keep the lights on this summer.

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