Open Thread 23

The last Open Thread is feeling a tad dated, so time for a new one…

The Open Thread is a general discussion forum, where you can talk about whatever you like — there is nothing ‘off topic’ here — within reason. So get up on your soap box! The standard commenting rules of courtesy apply, and at the very least your chat should relate to the general content of this blog.

The sort of things that belong on this thread include general enquiries, soapbox philosophy, meandering trains of argument that move dynamically from one point of contention to another, and so on — as long as the comments adhere to the broad BNC themes of sustainable energy, climate change mitigation and policy, energy security, climate impacts, etc.


  1. I would like to paint a picture. It has been an extraordinary hot day
    and the slightly cooler evening is coming, but no promise of anything but the mildest hot sea breeze. Still 40 degrees, with the sun setting in the west. An intense high system over eastern Australia promises more of the same tomorrow, another typically summers baking day. Back in the 2020’s the so called Environmentalists had finally got their way and most base load coal generators in Australia had been closed. Australia was relying on renewable energy, and the Environmentalists
    were ecstatic. Hundreds died that night, the elderly in their homes, hospital emergency departments collapsed as they who could not call on reliable base load electricity. Backup batteries were exhausted, and no power was available for emergency power. The electrical distribution system collapsed, and stayed collapsed.
    The above scenario just could not happen, could it?

    Graeme Weber


  2. I would paint a similar real picture. In 2003 thousands of elderly French people did actually die because there was not enough nuclear power to run the A/C systems and it is not possible to build nuclear or coal plants that only run a few days every few years. In the US and Germany some nuclear and coal plants have had to reduce output during heatwaves because of insufficient cooling.

    Conversely the Australian people realised that whatever system we had whether it was renewables, nuclear or even USC coal, it would be more efficient, lower cost and have lower emissions if there was a significant increase is system wide storage, which absorbed demand peaks and allowed thermal stations to be run at their most efficient for longer periods of time..

    The 2035 Australian grid in which home based batteries really started to take hold in 2016 and grid node batteries (which were installed to reduce the cost of grid upgrades) have been charged by vast amounts of excess solar during the said hot day. Together with ice storage for A/C the domestic demand is easily handled.

    In the meantime due to the wonders of weather forecasting the gas plants which all agreed would be retained for peak load just as they are now have been fired up not just as peakers but to top up the pumped storage systems before peak demand hit.

    Industrial/commercial demand is covered by pumped hydro together with existing hydro and some of the remaining gas plants which run a few hundred hours per year just as they do now.

    Concentrated solar with storage has been implemented in strategic locations for grid reinforcement but also shares the load in extreme heat waves. All this generation carries on unaffected by high temperatures except for a few of the gas plants. The presence of significant amount of storage on the grid has improved the efficiency of these gas stations because they can be run at constant load for a few hours before dawn when they are most efficient because of lower air temperature.

    Of course later in the day the very high land/sea temperature differential does in fact generate considerable coastal breezes and the new low wind turbines which have been introduced since late 2015 are able to run at almost full capacity even in mild breezes.

    In practice the gas plants run for about the same number of hours per year but run more efficiently with less pollution and lower maintenance bills.

    In the meantime all the coal plants have been closed and many of the coal pits have been closed. Those that can’t be refilled and turned into farmland have been turned into lakes and bird habitats. Those near hills have been turned into the lower reservoir for pumped storage. Other pits have been repurposed as sites for floating solar which generates about 10% more power per hectare than land based systems and the shade creates ideal conditions for aquaculture.

    As most of the solar is mounted on existing roofs, carparks or waste lands while wind turbines are often located in the least productive farmlands and actually alienate very little land anyway, it has been found that the net land available for farming has increased. Water demand for power station cooling has been eliminated and therefore irrigation has been increased

    Migratory bird populations have started to increase and 5,000 less people per year are admitted to hospital with lung and breathing problems.


  3. I’d suggest it is not all doom and gloom (because it is not all battery storage, solar PV and wind). Fortunately as the capacity of wind installed increases in Eastern Australia in our present scenario to about 27000 MW (this is presently what is in planning or more advanced than that according to the Windlab business) the installation of open cycle and closed cycle gas turbine generation has to match this in capacity. While this is one of those abberations coming from dumb policy setting that this has to be, at least they will be there.
    Pumped hydro could be one part of the scene to offset the problem with that installed capacity of variable wind power, though with low efficiency of conversion), but biomass-fuelled combined heat and power is out there filling some of the supply gap. In Germany the 8000 or so biogas fuelled electricity generators are capable of putting out about 4000 MW on demand.
    Waste to energy is another area that would hopefully be in place. We produce up to 20 million tonnes of flammable municipal wastes and the waste to energy plants fuelled presently (in Germany) by a similar amount of MSW produce about 1200 MW of baseload power.
    ‘Conventional’ dry biomass fuelled plants in Australia of 15-25 MW-e capacity could be producing on-demand electricity into at least regional grids. For Victoria alone this could be of the order of 1500 MW of baseload power. Part of their feedstock will be the thinnings and harvest waste of the 5-10 million ha of multi-purpose tree plantings on farms in the more productive and well watered regions of rural Australia (1 million ha in Victoria across the 13 million ha of farming land) These will be progressively established to mitigate risks of warming and reduced rainfall on agricultural production and farm productivity. So rural Australia at least could be in fair shape.
    Hospitals mostly have backup generators for just this situation but what will be fuelling them.
    Biofuels? It is possible to produce substitutes for diesel and petrol from municipal wastes, and the biometane substitute for natural gas (so CNG) from putrescible wastes, and also liquid biofuels from refined pyrolysis oil. Supply of this would be affected by price, but probably no more than double present prices if adjusted to 2015 values.

    At present some German institutes are looking at a methane-dominated system where excess electricity from wind is used to produce methane and this is stored – though again with energy loss in production and and reconversion (including though fuel cells). The Finns are also looking at this but with the methane also from biomass.
    So the other bright spot in the Australian situation is that we can go and buy the necessary plant and equipment off the shelf from countries that have maintained long term research and a manufacturing industry.


  4. I’m just wondering what Barry makes of the ‘Methane Bomb’ hypothesis over at the Arctic News blog, climatologists and deep sea & deep mantle geologists predicting an ELE (Extinction Level Event) by 2040 due to runaway deep mantle methane escaping via the Arctic sea floor. Have IPCC and other authors reviewed this material? What’s the backup plan if methane starts exponentially spewing out? Are we going to have to deploy the sulfur shield?


  5. Graeme Weber,
    “Hundreds died that night, the elderly in their homes, hospital emergency departments collapsed as they who could not call on reliable base load electricity.”

    They wouldn’t need reliable BASE LOAD electricity.
    They would need reliable PEAK LOAD electricity!

    Keith Lovegrove put it best: “People made plants that weren’t very good at ramping up and down, looked for things to do with them and called them baseload.”

    Solar thermal is very well suited to providing a lot of power in the conditions you described, so I think the specific problem would be easily avoided. But in the more general case, we do need some sort of contingency plan to maintain a reliable supply when the output from renewables isn’t enough.

    So what can we do? I can think of five things:
    Firstly, load balancing: encouraging heavy industry to take advantage of power price fluctuations and not start non time critical processes when the output from renewables is inadequate.
    Secondly, more storage. And change the way the storage is used, so that it’s capable of producing a higher output.
    Thirdly, methane (ceramic) fuel cells. These are far more efficient than turbines (or piston engines) but require a high temperature to operate; this could be achieved by colocating them with solar thermal facilities.
    Fourthly, use of existing gas turbines: less efficient but they have the great advantage of already being there.
    And finally, rather than decommissioning all the coal fired generators, we should keep a few on cold standby, and fire them up if and when all the other measures are predicted to be inadequate.


  6. PeterF,
    “Of course later in the day the very high land/sea temperature differential does in fact generate considerable coastal breezes and the new low wind turbines which have been introduced since late 2015 are able to run at almost full capacity even in mild breezes.”

    Why is their capacity only marginally higher than what mild breezed produce? Wouldn’t it make more sense to build higher capacity turbines?


  7. It would be a lot quicker and more effective climate change wise and for a more secure emissons-free supply of electricity if we reduced a lot of this experimental and wishful thinking stuff and just got stuck into building a fleet of appropriately sized and strategically located nuclear reactors. That’s what most of the world is currently doing. I just hope and pray that Kevin Scarce recommends in favour of an expanded nuclear industry in South Australia. That’s what we need to get our “rust bucket ” state off the bottom of the economic pile.


  8. Well said Terry, A 500Mw Nuclear plant (Canadian Candu reactor) at the Northern Power Station. Enough to power SA and desalinate water for Olympic Dam so they do not extract even more water from the Great Artesian Basin.


  9. Storage? Really? Storage in northern nations like Germany could bankrupt any nation that tried it. You can either buy Tesla Powerpack batteries to back up one week of winter in Germany (at a hypothetical 30% penetration of wind and solar, and these wind and solar farms must still be bought), OR you can just buy safe modern nuclear-waste eating nukes that will do the whole job for 60 years. Again, backup a third of a renewable grid for just one week, or nuke the whole grid for 60 years! That’s the economics of renewable storage V nuclear.
    Point 2 below


  10. In each of the scenarios above, there is a reliance on the availability of gas as backup power. However if we are to zeroise our emissions, we must eliminate our use of gas. It is methane after all. Let’s rethink our scenarios, with something else providing reserve power.


  11. The available power from a moving stream of air is proportional to the wind speed cubed.  A wind turbine which produces its rated output power in a light breeze will have a pathetically low ouput in W/m² of turbine, and similarly miserable per unit of hardware in the tower and nacelle.

    All this talk about fantastic new low-wind turbines is just hand-waving, trying to distract people from the fact that the wind just goes away of its own accord.  The problem is, the public is too ignorant to see through it.


  12. Roger Clifton,

    Eliminating our use of gas is one long term option. Another is to produce it from biological sources. Not only from bacteria breaking down waste, but also from pyrolysis of wood and leaves.

    Producing it from water and CO2 may also become practical.

    Eclipse Now,

    I was referring specifically to the Australian context. Indeed I think Germany would be more sensible to expand nuclear than to phase it out, but that’s a matter for the Germans.

    We certainly won’t need enough storage to back up a third of our grid for an entire week! It’s one of the range of options available to us, not something we should rely on exclusively.

    Storage is not synonymous with batteries – there’s also pumped storage (which we already have some of and will probably use more in the future) and flywheel storage (though more suited to grid stabilisation than to addressing prolonged supply shortages).

    And for the portion which is stored in batteries, we’re unlikely to rely on existing technology. Currently vanadium flow batteries (an Australian invention) are sometimes used in grid scale applications. But vanadium is expensive, so researchers are now trying to find a way to use iron instead. Similarly, for static applications where being lightweight isn’t so important, I’d expect sodium to eventually replace lithium.


  13. To Engineer Poet, Aidan Stanger and others.

    The point of a low wind turbine is to be producing reasonable levels of power most of the time rather than high levels some of the time. It is rather like comparing a truck engine to a supercar. The output per litre of displacement of the supercar is 3-4 times that of the truck engine but the truck engine is the workhorse. In practice the wind turbine fleet will be a mix of units some of which are designed to generate power for as long as possible (the NREL in the US predicts that some of these new designs will be producing at rated power for 60% of the time) and others which are designed to capture all the energy from high winds to recharge storage. The benefit of the low wind design is not only more total energy throughout the year but much less time with no wind and therefore drawing on storage.
    To Eclipse Now and Terry Kreig and others:
    a. Thorium has been a promising technology for 65 years. At the moment there is one Thorium reactor generating a commercial amount of power in the whole world. I hope it will eventually be a commercial proposition but realistically it is at least 20 years before sensible amounts of power could be generated in Australia from Thorium reactors.
    b: Storage does not have to be batteries. In Northern Europe there is plenty of hydro and it is being expanded. The Norwegian grid has little pumped hydro so existing hydro is used as a backup to wind. However the Norwegian hydro grid is being modified to use excess wind to recharge the hydro reservoirs to capture more of the excess wind from Britain, Germany and Denmark. This will improve the economics and reliability of the grid and require fewer wind and solar generators.
    c. Because an all renewable system or more realistically a 90-95% renewable system has dispatchable hydro, biomass, geo-thermal and waste to energy streams, the German government estimates it can get to 60% renewables before needing significant investments in storage.
    d.As Aidan said above There is huge scope for demand management. In the Nordic grid it is 10% of peak demand and in some experiments in the US peak shaving is even higher. Simple things like grid controlled hot water storage and pool pumps. Grid control of air-conditioners so that each unit is turned off for 20 minutes in the hour. Ice banks for commercial cooling and airconditioning etc. not to mention turning down smelters for two or three hours. By 2040 it can be expected that peaks can be reduced by 20-30% as these technologies are expanded
    e. A nuclear based system will need a lot of storage, probably more than an all renewable system, because nuclear plants are very slow to ramp up or down. That is why Japan has 29GW of pumped storage to support 55GW of nuclear, to absorb output when demand falls away and to ramp up quickly when demand jumps every morning faster than nuclear can ramp up.
    f. Based on the costs of commercially available nuclear plants currently contracted/being built in the US, France, Finland and the UK, power prices from new Nuclear are in the order of US$150-200/ In the Australian case for a whole lot of reasons it will be 30-50% more expensive and will still need massive storage/backup. In the meantime wind is less than A$100 and large scale solar A$150 but both are falling by 5%+ per year. Given that we have to increase the storage anyway.

    Isn’t it a better idea to start now installing more wind and solar (as well as wave and geothermal if they can be economical) rather than hope that in 15 years a) thorium will work and b) it will be a third of the current cost for nuclear

    I have no doubt nuclear will be a long term part of the solution but in the meantime energy efficiency, wind and solar may in fact be the transition fuel to a “clean inexhaustible” nuclear breeder fleet


  14. Hi Peter Farley,
    1. LFTR’s might be some way off, but GE has the PRISM ready to go and it burns today’s nuclear waste.

    Demand management is fine as long as not ridiculously expensive or inconvenient or crazily idealistic. Most of the ‘demand management’ or ‘efficiency assumptions’ I read in 100% renewable power papers, like BZE’s and Diesendorf’s, have just plain crazy assumptions about power. Like we don’t need night-time power! Really? How are we going to replace oil by charging all our EV’s at night?


  15. Eclipse Now. I am not totally anti-nuclear in fact from an environmental point of view I am sure that Gen IV technology may be much better than coal seam gas, fracking and coal, particularly in the Australian context where water is such a sensitive issue.

    Also I don’t yet expect a 100% renewable grid but 90-95% is doable. In Australia we need to cover about 30-50% of the roofs, carparks etc with solar and build about 12,000 wind turbines (Germany already has 25,000) and probably about 20GW (50-60GWhrs). of storage of all varieties. Remember too that when accounting for mining, processing and transport of coal plus the operation of the power station and cooling towers a coal fired power station uses between 10 and 20% of its output to operate. Thus closing down the coal stations will reduce power demand by about 5-10% by itself.

    Demand management does work. Experiments in the US and Germany show 10-15% reductions in peak demand. This is without things like internet connected thermostats, ice storage for a/c etc. Requiring houses to have storage hot water tanks 200mm higher and 100mm bigger in diameter means that most people will have 3 days hot water storage, which can be topped up for half an hour in the middle of the night or at 11AM in peak solar. Integrating ice storage with fridges and AC means that the ice can be made a) with cheap power and b) before peak temperatures. If the chiller is making ice in the early morning in an ambient air temperature of 15-20C instead of at 5 in the afternoon at 40C, its COP is much better so that it uses about 20-30% less energy for the same cooling effect and the user can be saving on electricity rates, while the utility invests less in peak capacity, so that the real cost of the air cooling can be halved

    Storage is also much more economical than it was. PG&E in California now says that batteries are cheaper than gas peakers because storing power when it is cheap (i.e. excess wind solar or thermal) makes the operation of the generators more efficient and saves the investment and running costs of rarely used gas plants

    I haven’t read much detail about PRISM but the cost details seem to hang on the justification of burning Plutonium rather than straight out electricity production. If Australia could develop a market for processing other countries waste and burying it in highly diluted form in the outback then this could work but someone has to demonstrate the business case and safety and as yet this has not been even remotely fleshed out.

    In all of the fuss about generation we seem to gloss over consumption.

    If Australia was as energy efficient as the UK or Germany and we continued at the same low rate of renewable installations we have now, we could close almost all the coal powered stations and just use existing gas, hydro and the 15GW of Solar and 20GW of wind that would be expected to be on the grid in 15 years with very little change in generation investment trajectory.

    So we are left with situation that energy efficiency then wind and solar are the current lowest cost low carbon generation technologies. It is modular it is quick to install and it works now. Like anything it can always be better but it is worthwhile today


  16. Also, how do you justify the claim that the PRISM hasn’t been fleshed out? What do you mean by fleshed out? it’s a reactor that operates closer to normal room atmospheres, which allows the reactor core itself to be mass produced on the production line. That means massive price drops on the regular cost of nuclear power.


  17. As I said a nuclear system needs storage and based on the Japanese numbers we would need about 35 to 40GW of Nuclear to have 90% nuclear and therefore about 20-25GW of storage so as I have said earlier storage is a given whichever low carbon route we choose. Of course even in fossil fuel systems storage is essential.
    Your point about being some optimal point between nuclear and wind+solar+hydro. I think that is probably right but at the moment a big problem is the lumpiness and time lag with nuclear makes that point very hard to find
    I am sorry I did not make myself clear. The commercial and safety case for using Prism for nuclear waste disposal in Australia has not been calculated, published debated and agreed. I did not mean to argue about the reactor technology.itself.

    However while I believe that as PRISM is most likely to be technically effective, having been involved in product development for 40 years, I know that even the simplest product brings surprises in performance, cost and delivery time.

    In summary we should continue to research nuclear, install some new technology plants somewhere in the world and continue to refine that optimum point. However in the near term it is far too commercially risky and expensive to place most of our decarbonising efforts in Nuclear


  18. Peter Farley – I regret to say that that link doesn’t describe a technical breakthrough at all. Instead, it appears to be a press release from NextEra, including “NextEra is one of the leading producers of wind and solar power in the world”. Such people would like their customers to believe that battery storage is going to become very cheap, very soon, but fail to say how or when.

    If renewables continue to require gas peakers to back up their supply, then the requirement to get rid of gas means that we will have to find something other than renewables to supply baseload.

    You also say that nuclear requires massive storage because they cannot rapidly rise and fall. Presumably in response to variations in demand and variations in supply due to renewables. That’s not necessarily so – the rapidity of rise and fall is just a matter of design – military submarines are able to respond quickly. However bean counters want their nukes to run flat out for their whole lives. There is extensive discussion elsewhere on BNC, concluding that nukes are able to “load follow”, too, if they have to.


  19. Roger.

    Next ERA is also a large supplier of nuclear and fossil fueled power. It is one of the largest utilities in the US but is more focussed on renewables than many others.

    Re battery prices 3-4 years ago battery prices were between $800 and $2,000 per Next year GM is expecting to pay $145/ for batteries for the new Chevy Bolt

    Re load following It is true nuclear plants can be designed to load follow however it generally means that a) they are less efficient and b) have a shorter life 25-35 years vs 50-60 years. However the big disadvantage is that the MW.hrs generated per year is less and the life is shorter. The main cost of nuclear is capital charges and fixed overheads so reducing the lifetime output severely increases the average cost of power. As has been discussed before, nuclear is already very expensive in Australia. Lower utilisation due to load following makes them even less affordable.


  20. Peter F, you say that $145 per kilowatt-hour of storage is cheap, well it might be for electric cars. But a solar home would require something of the order of one kilowatt-week, which comes out to $24,360. That is expensive.

    A wind-powered city would require storage in the order of one gigawatt-week, at $24 billion. Considering that a 1 GW nuclear power station can provide three gigawatt-years between recharges at a quarter of the cost, it is clear that it is nuclear that is cheap and renewables baseload that is far too expensive.


  21. Roger Clifton – ‘Nuclear already very expensive in Australia’ – please explain. Apart from Lucas Heights there are NO other Nuclear Reactors in Australia. It appears to yet another FACTOID peddled by ignorance. Replace base load power (coal) with base load power, do it once, and do it properly.Regards,


  22. Any thermal power plant can be equipped with a thermal store to balance a variable load from a largely steady supply. Concentrated solar power plants, such as the new one in Morocco, often have a thermal store. Nuclear power plants could as well.

    However, modern nuclear power plants can and do load follow. This is adequate provided there are no must-take generators on the grid.


  23. Graeme – it wasn’t me that said that! Rather, I would estimate that the unit cost for nuclear in Australia would be similar to that of USA. For example, NuScale estimates its capital cost at 5 $/W and a timescale of 28.5 months from first concrete to first electricity. Capital costs can be reasonably expected to decline once mass production of reactors begins.


  24. Jens Stubbe asked me on another thread to explain the basis of estimate of the risk (expected monetary value) that renewables cannot meet requirements by 2050. Here is the basis of estimate:

    Risk RE cannot achieve claimed CO2 savings by 2050

    Estimate the risk renewable energy technologies, that meet requirements, will not be available by 2050 to provide 50% of electricity (economically).

    Nuclear – already proven it can do the job (France for past 30 years), so say 5% probability nuclear cannot in 2050.

    Renewables – not demonstrated it can do the job, EROI suggests it cannot do the job, many industry practitioners say it cannot; therefore, assume 90% probability it cannot.

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

    Risk renewables will not be able to do the job = $60/MWh x 90% = $54/MWh
    Risk nuclear will not be able to do the job = $60/MWh x 5% = $3/MWh


  25. To Roger Re nuclear costs in Australia.

    Based on the average lifetime costs of the 7 nuclear plants contracted/ being built now in France, Finland, the UK and the USA, the lifetime cost of power will be in the range of A$130-250/ + inflation. This does not include grid integration costs and from all available evidence does not include

    a. Backup, whether spinning reserves, storage or fast start gas.
    b. Catastrophe insurance
    c. Adequate reserves for decommissioning costs
    d Long term waste storage
    e. The cost to taxpayers/customers of loan guarantees/tax breaks/ guaranteed prices above the market etc. a mix of which apply to every one of these so called private sector plants

    Therefore the real cost to the economy is likely $250 to $400/

    Over the life of a nuclear power plant the financing costs are between 1/3rd and half the total costs. Over the last 30 years borrowing costs in Australia have been 30-100% higher than in the Northern Hemisphere. This adds about 15-30% to the delivered cost of power from an Australian installation vs a northern hemisphere one
    Cooling is a significant part of the operating cost, about 4-7%. in the northern hemisphere where they use cold ocean water or fresh water and in most cases peak demand is in winter when cooling water is 10-20C colder. In Australia we will be using relatively warm ocean water in summer which means that we need more water and larger heat exchangers and bigger pumps. Because the coolant is warm sea water, fouling will be faster which means yet bigger cooling system with more frequent maintenance and higher pumping costs. The net result is a further 2-3% increase in the delivered cost of the power.
    While field labour cost is probably only 20% of the cost of the station. In our case as we will have to import and pay for a lot of highly skilled American and European labour and any power plant built here will be on a remote site and our local construction staff are highly paid and not experienced in Nuclear construction. Therefore you can expect labour costs at least on the first few units to be in the order of 50-100% higher than in Europe where experienced workers are largely living at or close to home. This will add 10-20% to the cost of the plant and therefore around 5-10% to the lifetime cost of the power.
    Long skinny but isolated grid.

    a) If for example we sited a nuclear power plant in South Australia, for about 70% of the time it would need to export power as far as Sydney or Melbourne and in some cases even further. This is a real cost as someone has to pay for the cost of transmission and someone has to absorb the transmission losses
    b) The interconnectors between the states do not have the capacity to carry another GW and other states may not have the demand so we either spend literally billions on upgrading the grid and or storage or the power station runs well below rated capacity, whichever course you choose you add to the average cost of the delivered power
    c) France claims 70% nuclear power but it is a net 70%. It imports coal and renewables at peak demand times and exports at others, it also has a good deal more hydro and pumped hydro than Australia which it uses to balance the nuclear plants. In fact it is a net importer from Germany and it is often exporting at very low prices because the nuclear is “must run” so other countries can use French nuclear to recharge pumped storage or turn off their own hydro or gas. We can’t export power to another grid so that the power plants will be turned down more often. This is a double whammy because there are less sales per unit of labour and capital and thermal cycling increases maintenance costs and shortens the reactor life. Overall depending on the reduction in utilisation this will increase average lifetime power cost between 5 and 25%

    In summary. If in the next 10 years anyone can contract to build in Australia a commercial nuclear power station using technology available in 2015 and guarantee to deliver power for a fixed price for 20 years of less than A$300/ without subsidies and without significant co-investment in storage and grid upgrades I will donate a year’s pay to a worthy charity

    I hope that answers your question why I think nuclear power is avery expensive option for Australia


  26. Norway, Portugal and Brazil are already more than 50% renewable and Germany is already 30%. Tasmania, SA and Victoria as a group are over 25% today
    The capacity factor of new wind turbines is about double that of the average German turbine and by 2024 is expected to increase by the same amount again, This means a) the cost falls further, b) the minimum output of the system is much higher.c) the storage requirement is less
    The delivered energy from the average Australian solar panel is double that of the average German panel
    Storage and load management technologies are advancing by the day. Premises storage (not grid defection) is economical for some customers today and that proportion will increase rapidly
    The widely dispersed Australian grid means that there is some combination of wind, solar and hydro generating most of the time.
    The installation of more storage on the system which will be necessary for renewables or nuclear means that existing gas on the system can be run as CC plants thus lowering emissions.

    Given all the above while your assertion that a 50% renewable grid is not economical may have been true 5 years ago but is not substantiated based on current facts.

    By contrast the A$70b investment in Hinckley point in the UK will provide the equivalent of 12% of Australia’s electricity demand or about 25TW.hrs. To generate 25TW.hrs of wind by 2030 will require about 12-1600 low wind 4MW turbines at about $8m each.or $13b. In both cases large investments in storage will be required but the operating maintenance and security costs of nuclear will be many times that of wind.

    The French example is not relevant to Australia as
    a) Much of the investment was justified on national security grounds and funded out of taxes rather than a commercial return on investment
    b) France has the ability to trade power with neighbouring countries to keep the utilisation of their Nucs up but lately the trade prices are so low that they cannot even cover their marginal costs on some days
    c) France has recently passed a law to move to 50% renewables, why would they do that if nuclear was such a good future option.


  27. Peter F,

    Norway, Portugal and Brazil are already more than 50% renewable and Germany is already 30%. Tasmania, SA and Victoria as a group are over 25% today

    The capacity factor of new wind turbines is about double that of the average German turbine and by 2024 is expected to increase by the same amount again

    Apart from not agreeing with your figures, Europe has spent about EUR 1 trillion on renewable energy. Most of that is subsidised. That is not sustainable. (please read this and the referenced posts: )

    The claimed capacity factor of wind turbines is irrelevant. What is important is the capacity factor of wind in the grid. The capacity factor of wind in the Australian NEM in 2014 was 29%. In Europe it is much lower.

    The claims about future capacity factors and cost effectygiveness haven’t changed in the past 25 years. They are inevitable wildly optimistic.

    Using the Australian Governments cost projections, nuclear is the least cost way to reduce emissions. CSIRO provides two calculators that used these figures.
    My Power

    The figures do not include grid costs, decommissioning or the expected monetary values of renewables not being able to do the job in 2050. Also, they assume optimistic (unrealistic) learning rates for renewables and zero learning rat for nuclear, to name just two of the many assumptions that favour renewables.


  28. Peter F,
    In relation to the deaths in France, I had a problem with the logic of your point that thousands died in the French heatwave as a result of insufficient Nuclear Power to power all the air-conditioners in France. I have researched this event and Wikipedia states that 14802 people died as a result of 7 days of over 40 deg C temperatures in July and August of 2003. The reasons given for the fatalities were that the buildings in Northern France were not designed for these temperatures and insufficient air conditioners were installed and also that August is the holiday month in France particularly Paris. There was no report of electrical blackouts causing air-conditioning systems to be inoperable. Incidentally 9000 heat related deaths were also recorded in Germany in the same period.

    I am unaware of Nuclear Power Plants having to reduce output because of the Ambient temperature being too high. But the point is what is happening at the power generation side of the grid is irrelevant. What is relevant that the grid is able to supply, 24/7, the power demand placed upon it.

    I also do not accept your argument in relation to storing energy generated by Nuclear Power. It is simply a question of economy. The most economic way to run any base load power plant is at full capacity 24/7 where possible. If at times all the electricity generated can not be used it may be more economic just to waste the fuel. The peaks can then be managed by hydro and/or gas or diesel.

    I also do not see any similarities between Australia and Norway or Portugal and for that matter Denmark. The only thing Australia has in common with Denmark is the Princess Mary.

    I will have to do some research on Brazil. one of the issues that I have with the definition of renewable’s is that it includes hydro. Well not all continents are created equal in hydro resources and Australia is the driest continent meaning that we have the least hydro resources so why do we benchmark off a country like Norway which has abundant hydro resources. France has more Hydro resources than Australia. China has more Hydro generating capacity than the total generating capacity of Australia.


  29. Tony I think both your points are valid.

    My responses re the French disaster were along the line that exceptional circumstances can bring any system undone. Further in the Australian case no-one has seriously proposed just a wind and solar grid. There will be dispatchable power, initially hydro and gas, landfill and biomass probably some geothermal and wave and a fair bit of pumped storage and some batteries. How much natural gas is just a question of economics of more wind solar and storage vs cost of natural gas.
    Re Norway and Brazil of course they have a lot of hydro and we don’t but we have much better per capita wind and solar resources. My point here is that Peter Long said you can’t have a 50% renewable grid. there are countries with considerably more than a 50% renewable grid. Obviously if there is wind and solar there will be more storage but that is what hydro is, stored energy and we have literally thousands of sites where we can build pumped storage in this country

    While storage is sort of optional for nuclear, it is very much part of its practical operation and economics. A nuclear system with significant storage is much easier to operate and cheaper overall than a system built for peaks which has an average utilisation of probably less than 50%. Because of the relatively high capital cost of nuclear low utilisation typical of say a gas plant would kill the economics because most of the cost continues whether the plant is generating at 20% or 100% and as I have said before cycling will reduce the life of the plant. .

    Re power availability. Every grid has excess generating capacity. (the Australian grid averages less than 50% utilisation of its generating capacity) and every grid has storage and almost every one has some sort of load shifting/demand management policy. The technology to manage storage and demand shifting is improving very quickly so that in turn reduces the need for storage or spinning reserves. At the same time the capacity factors for wind are increasing rapidly and the cost of solar thermal with storage is coming down while. geothermal is improving its cost effectiveness. The cost of solar panels is low enough that fixed arrays pointing East, North and West feeding a single inverter station with 60% of the nominal capacity of the solar panels can provide solar over a longer period of time at a reasonable cost so that overbuilding solar will generate reasonable levels of power for longer periods in the day. all these things reduce the need for storage and some US studies now show that the cost of backing up a renewable grid while not cheap is lower than that for a thermal grid and much less than for nuclear.
    Re output restrictions due to high temperatures


  30. I have just reviewed the the reference that Peter F has given above in relation to Nuclear Reactors being unable to run when Ambient Temperatures are high and I would like to know what some others think as to the technical reasoning given.

    ‘Nuclear reactors produce electricity through the heat
    generated by splitting atoms. The heat is used to
    create steam, which turns a turbine hooked up to a
    generator that supplies electricity to the grid. Water
    from nearby rivers or lakes is used to cool the steam.
    Water used for cooling elements in the generators is
    usually heated to 125 degrees Fahrenheit (ºF) and
    then air-cooled in towers to 95ºF before being recirculated.
    But when the air temperature outside
    rises above 95ºF, the water in the towers cannot cool
    sufficiently and the reactor cannot run at peak
    capacity. Moreover, if the water is too hot, it cannot
    be returned to the river or lake without jeopardizing
    aquatic life.’

    What do others following this thread think?


  31. Tom Carden asked what to others think about the explanation, which can be effectively summarised by this excerpt:

    But when the air temperature outside
    rises above 95ºF, the water in the towers cannot cool
    sufficiently and the reactor cannot run at peak

    I think it is nonsense. The same issue applies to any thermal power station where cooling towers are used, including solar thermal. it is purely a design issue and a cost benefit analysis. If designers want thermal power stations to run without reducing power at rare extreme ambient air temperatures, they design for larger radiators – just like cars that need to run in hot climates and in the desert. There is a cost benefit analysis involved in deciding what cooling capacity is required and for what ambient temperatures how much of the time throughout their expected operating life. Furthermore, the cooling capacity can always be increased later, but at higher cost than including it in the original build. Again, it is just a cost benefit and return on investment issue.

    However, far more important is that nuclear power stations can use seawater or lakes for cooling. This is the least cost option when available. This is generally not the case for coal or solar thermal power stations. Solar thermal generally need to be located in desert areas for high capacity factors. Coal needs to be located near coal mines to minimize transport costs.


  32. The cheapest way to cool steam is with water. For a rundown on the various methods of cooling, see the WNA info sheet: (link) One way or another, the heat ends up in the atmosphere as evaporated water. There are environmental rules on returning too much hot water into a living river, which has limited production during heat waves in North America and Europe.

    The same sheet does go on to explain how to condense steam using air-cooling. Compared to water-cooling, there is an extra power demand of about 5% to drive the fans. Unlike systems based on river water, there is no restriction on the use of air during heat waves. Kogan Creek is in Queensland, Australia and supplies power throughout heat waves when the input air may be up to 45 C. (113 F).

    IMHO, any proposal for a new power station should include a desalination plant, where the exhaust heat travels through several evaporating tanks before radiating out and conducting back into the atmosphere from the pipe farm.


  33. In practice the wind turbine fleet will be a mix of units some of which are designed to generate power for as long as possible (the NREL in the US predicts that some of these new designs will be producing at rated power for 60% of the time)

    To produce at rated power 60% of the time, the rated wind speed must be low enough that the local wind meets or exceeds it… without exceeding the cut-out speed… 60% of the time.  This is going to vary greatly depending on the locale, but consider an example of a WT which goes from a typical 7 m/s wind speed to achieve rated power down to 3.5 m/s.  You will still have to withstand the same peak winds so you’ll need just as strong and heavy a tower, nacelle and blades, but the per-area available power per the Betz limit goes from 127 W/m² down to a trivial 15.9; a 100-meter diameter turbine which maxes out at that 3.5 m/s would be able to produce a theoretical maximum power under 125 kW.

    Suppose you can go from a 30% capacity factor to 60%.  You need 8 times as many turbines, so your per-kWh capital cost is multiplied by roughly 4.

    realistically it is at least 20 years before sensible amounts of power could be generated in Australia from Thorium reactors.

    Who cares?  Australia has gobs of uranium, and thorium can be used even in light-water reactors.  Just build CANDUs or AP1000’s.

    Because an all renewable system or more realistically a 90-95% renewable system has dispatchable hydro, biomass, geo-thermal and waste to energy streams, the German government estimates it can get to 60% renewables before needing significant investments in storage.

    The tariffs forced in as part of the Energiewende have destroyed the economics of even the storage Germany had before.

    Germany will burn shiploads of pelletized Georgia river-bottom forests and call it “renewable”, while spewing more carbon per kWh into the atmosphere than even coal produces and promoting itself as virtuous.

    A nuclear based system will need a lot of storage, probably more than an all renewable system

    A 100% nuclear-based system needs mere hours worth of storage, to deal with daily demand cycles.  “Renewables” can go off-line for days, even weeks in the case of BPA’s wind farms; you do a lot of handwaving about “biomass” and “waste” and “geothermal”, but all you’re doing is trying to distract from the fact that those are drawing on stockpiles of energy that nuclear has inherently.

    There are other ways to deal with demand variability.  I like dump loads.  For instance, converting lignocellulose (the major component of both the municipal solid waste and “green waste” streams) into fermentable materials is very energy-intensive, but it mostly needs heat.  Excess nuclear steam diverted during the overnight hours would be ideal for converting MSW, tree chips, leaves and grass clippings into sugars and phenols, the raw materials for fuels and chemicals.  More nuclear steam can distill alcohol out of the fermentation products, with not one gram of fossil fuel burned.

    Isn’t it a better idea to start now installing more wind and solar

    Because it’s a waste of money that could be used to build systems that will actually work, and still be working for your grandchildren.

    Requiring houses to have storage hot water tanks 200mm higher and 100mm bigger in diameter means that most people will have 3 days hot water storage, which can be topped up for half an hour in the middle of the night or at 11AM in peak solar.

    So you have a square meter of PV panel at a future $1/W(p) installed, at 25% efficiency, doing the job of less than a third of a square meter of evacuated-tube collector costing a fraction of the amount per watt.  THAT is your answer to demand-side management.

    When you actually tease apart the assumptions and implications of these schemes, they all turn out to be utterly insane.  The people who push them have to fall into two categories:  clueless and evil.  Which are you?

    nuclear plants can be designed to load follow however it generally means that a) they are less efficient and b) have a shorter life 25-35 years vs 50-60 years.

    France’s Westinghouse-derived fleet is mostly capable of (and used for) load-following and they’re almost all running to their full licensed lifespans, with no claim I’ve seen that they can’t go much longer.

    But that’s really not the issue.  If the problem is thermal cycling on the NSS system, the solution is to run the NSS flat-out and divert steam that’s not needed for immediate generation to other purposes.  Process steam is one possibility.  Another is steam compression, to convert steam at 275°C to steam at upwards of 500°C which is suitable for feeding molten-salt storage systems (the same technology used for the solar-thermal plants you’re no doubt so fond of).  You use the hot salt to generate supercritical steam which, after a pass through a topping-cycle turbine, gets fed into the main power turbine along with the output of the steam generators.

    The GE-Hitachi PRISM is only suitable for countries with excess plutonium to be consumed.

    Nonsense.  The PRISM is capable of operation at a breeding ratio of 1.05 (axial reflectors) to 1.22 (axial breeding blankets).  With pyroprocessing to close the fuel cycle, one starting charge of fissiles is all you need; the rest can use DU, SNF or thorium.

    Norway, Portugal and Brazil are already more than 50% renewable

    Because they are chock-full of HYDRO.  Wind and solar are in NO WAY COMPARABLE to hydro.  You pull the same sort of crap talking about Germany’s power exports to France.  Germany over-generates with its wind farms and dumps (expensively subsidized) power on its neighbors at fire-sale prices.  Germany also dumps that power northward through Denmark to Sweden and Norway, which cut back their hydro.  They then sell power from the water they conserve back to Germany at premium prices.

    Seriously, you come here and trot out every carefully-crafted lie and half-truth in the Green arsenal.  What is wrong with you?  Are you a professional propagandist (aka liar), or just a dupe?

    Given all the above while your assertion that a 50% renewable grid is not economical may have been true 5 years ago but is not substantiated based on current facts.

    So show us one that isn’t majority-hydro.  Especially show us where a fossil-fired grid has been converted to wind and solar and still supports a competitive industrial base sufficient to build more of it.

    the same time the capacity factors for wind are increasing rapidly

    I will consider that a deliberate falsehood until backed up by evidence that does not come from a Green group.


  34. That is probably true but the bigger the cooling tower the less water it uses but the capital cost and operating cost are higher Also we are talking 3-5% less water not step changes .

    Cooling nuclear is harder than gas or coal. In a coal or gas plant a fair bit of the waste heat goes up the stack. In a nuclear plant it is all dumped into the cooling system so you need 20-30% more cooling water.
    Further because of radiation embrittlement of the boiler tubes and the much higher costs of repairs means that nuclear plants operate at slightly lower temperatures thus reducing the thermal efficiency i.e. requiring more cooling.

    Some of this extra cost is offset because you don’t need the energy intensive combustion air, fuel handling or exhaust scrubbing systems but overall a nuclear plant needs still 20-30% more cooling

    In Australia this is almost certainly going to be seawater because we just don’t have the fresh water to spare. Water quantities are huge. The Latrobe valley coal plants which have combined annual output equivalent to two modern reactors use water equivalent to 1/3rd of Melbourne’s total consumption so two reactors would be more than 40% of melbourne’s fresh water supply.

    If the cooling could be harnessed to produce desalinated water that could be good but flash distillation has fallen out of favour due to poor efficiency, the maintenance costs and brine handling issues. Also you need higher temperatures than the ideal cooling water temperature. I am oversimplifying but if you use high temperature water/steam from the reactor to make the distillation of water effective, that steam is not being used to make power so the electrical output falls as the desalinated water output rises. In summary nuclear assisted desalination works in some places but mostly it is not economical.


  35. GE-Hitachi has only proposed the PRISM to the US and to the UK for the purpose of consuming excess plutonium. The Russians do that their own way.

    Despite the claims of proponents, pyroproccessing is still expensive and sends quite a bit of plutonium to the waste stream. There has been an international effort to improve the situation for well over a decade with no progress worthy of pr.

    Given GE-Hitachi has not attempted to place the PRISM elsewhere, I stand by my statement.


  36. ok, all you experts. It is interesting reading though all this and seeing the ebb and flow of opinion, many interesting facts, and what is approaching intemperate abuse.
    But I am after a few bits of information that can be backed up by authoritative data
    1. the AEMO estimate is that by 2020 we will have over 8000 MW capacity of wind turbines installed (and the over 4000 MW in Victoria will significnatly exceed our nightime electricity demand. The Victorian government seems to see this as a perfectly reasonable situation and accepts all the statements that wind can avoid GHG emissions on essentially a 1:1 basis agains the fossil fuel sources that this power cause to be ramped down (and later up again). So what is the real cost of this electricity and the real avoidance of GHGs for the eastern grid.
    2. There are two AEMO papers on the protocols and manual management of supply output from brown coal plants but it needs a password to access.. what actually happens at brown coal plants when AEMO instructs them to significantly reduce power output – assuming this is only for a period of minutes or up to 1-2 hours.
    3. I assume you are all familiar with the great real time display of electricity in Denmark and the Nord Pool region. Other displays show real-time natural gas useage, and the movement of power between countries and the wholesale costing in Euros (and of natural gas within Denmark and into adjoining countries, and its pricing). If not see and
    So the question, is what steps are actually being taken by eastern grid managers to deal with the intermittent and relatively unpredictable supply of wind as this increases within the coming few years to 2020.
    4. I was recently in China listening to an expert from JANSI dissect the causes of accidents and incidents at nuclear plants worldwide, and the issue of how risk is assessed and the difficulty of eliminating the most common cause of incidents – human error and human nature. It was an interesting insight.
    One suggested supply amount for Australia from nuclear reactors was 25% of current electricity. I have visited a number of waste to energy plants with the latest being 6 weeks ago near Helsinki. This has an effciency of 95% (of fuel to utlised energy), and output of 600 GW-e and 900 GW-th, and is reducing the province’s MSW to landfill to 2%. It was using 320,000 t/yr of mixed MSW and cost 300 million Euros. Payback time at our sort of landfill gate fees (and selling electricity at our sort of wholesale prices and also selling heat for all of the year) was under ten years. Australi produces over 10 million tonnes a year of suitable material and puts it all into landfill. Out of this this Finnish plant design could make 2000 MW-e. Other economically available volumes of putrescible wastes and flammable organic waste can provide far more energy of all forms and mostly are readily aggregated.
    So the question is, considering that biomass (including biowastes and for the time anyway – municipal waste) can supply 20% of Australia electricity needs, plus heat and transport fuels, with low GHG emissions, major stimulus to regional economies, and utilsing only what residues and wastes we currently have available (and I am not including native forest material due to its economics if for no other reason, why is this ‘baseload’ renewable source of energy so comprehensively ignored in the debate?

    Could it be as one Age journalist once explained to me ‘ it is complicated and hard to explain and it is just not high tech and sexy’. Or is it just theat the Greens and alied groups have made it their business to obstruct and villify it at every opportunity for the last 15 years in their anti-native forestry campaign.

    Happy to get anything really useful on Q 1, 2 & 3 here or at Q 4 is more suited to this site.


  37. Hi Andrew,
    even if MSW could be burned for 20% of our energy (and I’m not agreeing with those statistics, I just don’t know), my question is should it? Why waste such an important resource? Western Sydney has a recycling centre that composts most organics, returning important nutrients to parks and farmers. We’re not at peak phosphorous yet, but I’d hate us to waste all those nutrients just going up in smoke.
    Once they’ve pulled out all the organics, they separate out all the metals and batteries and plastics for recycling. A note on recycling plastics – and everything else like old pizza boxes etc, rather than have a line of people sorting every tiny little piece of plastic, throw it all into a plasma burner and that will recycle it into the start of the petro-chemical industry for us.


  38. Andrew
    I can’t answer your questions but I agree they are the right ones to ask.
    Waste to energy is a great opportunity for all the reasons you mention. In addition to the municipal waste there are large volumes of crop waste from farms that can also be used for district based generation and the ash becomes quite a useful fertiliser. I don’t remember the quantities but I have a feeling that they are significantly larger than the municipal waste figures
    Intermittency of wind and solar in a widely distributed grid is not as bad a problem as one might think. Output from a single solar panel or single wind turbine does change quickly but if there are thousands of panels/ hundreds of turbines over the thousands of square kilometres there are swings and roundabouts as one panel dips another rises etc. so the overall the ramp rates are easily handled by ramping gas or hydro.
    On a longer term basis days or weeks in the current system if there is a forecast for an overcast week or low wind period you can fire up an extra coal generator or two and if you have too much coal you stop gas and hydro and worst case shed a bit of wind by feathering the blades of some turbines

    Re forest timber for fuel. the objections are as follows.
    a) It is very low value for the forest timber perhaps 1/10th of the value of furniture or construction grades
    b) Wet wood often burns with even more pollution than coal
    c) the harvesting and transport is more energy intensive than lignite mining and does more damage to habitat.
    d) Water catchments have reduced flows but increased erosion which results in silting up of dams and lakes .
    e) in the very long run it might be CO2 neutral but it takes about 100 years for a forest to sequester all the CO2 not only in the trees themselves that lost from the soil as the roots decay and in the diesel used for harvesting processing and transport.


  39. Forestry & farm waste would probably do a lot more for the environment if we put it in a biochar cooker and converted as much as possible into biochar which is infinitely better for the soil than mere ash. Some have estimated we might sequester about one ‘wedge’ or 7th of our annual CO2 emissions this way! Check out just some of the video’s here and you’ll be amazed.

    ABC’s Catalyst did a 10 minute episode here


  40. to eclipse now – thanks. re MSW to energy I am only talking about the non-recyclable flammable mixed and usually soiled part. This material is usually up to 65% biomass (cellulose in disposed nappies, soiled cardboard and paper, woody material (broken chair, tree prunings) plus foods, textiles and so on. We are not talking about a utopian situation here but about current reality. I have visited the Danish recycling centres and seen how they divert for recycling about 60% of MSW, and in several of the WTE plants how the other 40% is used for energy.

    Re woody wastes and straw to biochar, my experience of biochar is that is has been hyped up to a remarkable degree (so it is now a bit of semi-religious dogma), and though there is work on this and there possibly is a place for it, it is a very expensive way to turn this form of material into charcoal (and my understanding is that biochar from wood and straw is not of the same soil remediation value as from some other materials like poultry litter), and a hopelessly inefficient way to make electricity. And to get enough biochar to bring prices down and put the necessary 3 tonne/ha on ground you’d be talking about many millions of tonnes fo biomass as the source.

    The ABC should be an authoritative source of info on the whole renewable energy sector but too often it appears to just be a mouthpiece for a non-science-based viewpoint.

    To Peter F, thanks but I stated I was not including native forestry material in this. I know it is inextricably linked to bioenergy by the senior Greens and the Wilderness Sociaty but actually this forest to energy scare campaign is a furphy. It is an irrelevancy for Australia in all but the most rare of cases due to its hopeless economics (nearly as hopeless as wind and solar PV).

    But of your points if related to plantation or farm forestry a) we use the timber for the highest value use but there is always a significant fraction (50-65%) that has no higher value use, b) wet wood burned in an efficient, larger furnace with a flue gas condenser is totally converted to heat energy with latent heat of the water content captured at the condenser, and there are no particulate emissions escaping the stack. c) not necessarily and certainly not always, and the woody biomass icnolved is a by-product of the harvesting operation, not the primary product. d) It can be the case if it is a large scale and badly managed clear fell. It is not the case with our systems, e) the tree is there because it sequestered carbon in the first place, any forest management is dealing with a mosiac of sites of different stages of growth, durable wood product lasts for decades and some times many hundreds of years (wood in landfill similarly is a carbon store).


  41. To engineer poet:

    Rather than get abusive just keep to the facts or at least reasoned opinions. In fact there are many things we agree on, For example transporting wood pellets across the ocean seems to be pretty wasteful to me.

    As I have said many times I don’t believe that nuclear is evil and if the Gen IV reactors work we may in fact install some in Australia. However you seem to be misrepresenting a lot of the things I am saying

    For example: Hot water. If you read my post I said “direct solar or PV powered heat pumps”. with a heat pump with a COP of 4 uses 5 to 6 sqm of roof vs 3-4 sqm for direct solar but the heat pump can draw power from the grid on cloudy days and still have its COP of 4 whereas the electric booster in the solar system has a COP of about 0.9. The PV electricity can be used for other purposes inside or outside the premises whereas excess hot water can’t so in my view either solution is suitable one is more compact the other is more flexible.

    Re high renewable grids another commentator said a 50% renewable grid is not possible. I made the point that there are a number already. I agree that wind and solar is different but just as hydro only works because it has storage, wind and solar need storage but they don’t need years of storage like a hydro system they need days, worst case weeks depending on the amount of overbuilding of capacity.

    Re 60% capacity factor I am only quoting people much more expert than me like the US NREL. I think we don’t need to reach full power at 3.5m/s. A class 3 wind site ( Class 1 being best) still has an average wind speed of around 6.5m/s at 100m. Using the cube law that will generate with an average power 6 times that of 3.5m/s example. Now that turbines are being offered with masts up to 140m tall, many previously uneconomic sites which had average wind speeds of 4.5m/s at 80m will have average speeds of 5.5m/s at 140m so again you will generate 50% more power for the same generator and blades. However as the blade technology is getting better you can either increase the cutout speed or make the blades longer. One course allows you to generate more power at high wind speeds, the other allows higher specific power at below rated speed. Either way the same generator will produce more power per year per rated MW than less. In fact one study shows that the annual output per turbine for a typical 2006 model 2MW class 3 unit is about 3.6GW.hrs. With the technology available today the optimum turbine has become 3MW but the expected output has risen to 9GW.hrs. by 2024 the size will be 4MW and the output 15GW.hrs

    You dismiss storage but like dump loads. Where did I say that I didn’t like those things which can just as easily be supplied from excess renewables as from excess nuclear. Using nuclear as a steam generator for process heat makes using solar PV to run an immersion heater look good. You want to build a steam generator that costs $5-6b to build and about $0.5b/year to run to provide 4 or 5GW of process heat. Anyone can build a biomass system for about a third of that cost.

    Of course renewables can go off line for weeks but nuclear plants can, and do, go off line for months or even years for major refits or unexpected breakdowns see Belgium and Switzerland today. All grids have excess capacity for exactly that reason

    IF AP100’s or CANDU’s and Prism are such an obvious choice why are they not being built everywhere. If Prism is good without Plutonium why do GE not promote it as such but clearly GE doesn’t know what a wonderful product they have on their hands.

    According to your post German exports of power are subsidised but French exports of power are not. Government subsidies for renewables are not acceptable but past and present subsidies for nuclear are. The fact that society has to pay for 10,000 years for storage and will pay a large fraction of the decommissioning costs does not enter your calculations.

    Decommissioning of a 1GW nuclear plant has not been completed anywhere in the world and estimates are in the $3-5b and 10-20 year range with 10’s of thousands of tons of hazardous waste to store. Decommissioning of 3-4GW of old wind turbines (i.e roughly the same annual generating capacity) will take 2-3 years for 2 or 3 crews of 10-12 people and 95% will be recycled.

    Re German power prices: Export and wholesale prices are not subsidised by the taxpayer. The costs of the Energiewende are paid for by a surcharge on power costs to small and medium users, but wholesale power prices to large German customers are set in the market and they do not pay the surcharges. The net result is that large German users pay lower prices for their power than large French customers.

    Re Load following, it depends on the time scale, the fact is that France with a much larger fast ramping hydro system to balance loads (16% of power vs 6% in Germany) is often exporting power to other markets at very low prices because the ramp rate of nuclear is low and the fixed charges are high. By contrast it pays more for its imports and imports more power from Germany than it exports because the German generation mix is more flexible i.e follows load better.

    In conclusion please show me an unsubsidised contract for nuclear at a fixed price for 20 years for A$100 per When you can do that I will believe that nuclear is cheaper than a mix of renewables.

    My objective is to get as much fossil fueled energy off the system as we can, at the lowest cost both financial and environmental. I am not a green idiot nor liar as you suggest. I merely investigate the technical, environmental and economic facts. A few years ago I was keen to have combined cycle gas power plants and then Ultra supercritical coal, however the cost changes in wind, solar,storage and other renewables and the increase in power density is such that I believe the time has passed for either of these options to be a major part of the solution.

    Similarly, as of today I believe that nuclear has little or no part to play in de-carbonising the Australian grid. Someone might actually produce a GenIV nuclear plant that changes the numbers, I will then be happy to change my mind. As the man said. “If the facts change I will change my opinion, what will you do?”


  42. Hi Andrew,
    glad the Danes recycle that much material before burning the rest.
    Sorry to hear your impression of biochar though, as my understanding is many soil Phd’s are excited about it, not just some biochar burner sales people or hippie types. If you have links to specific concerns, I’d be happy to forward it on to some of the biochar enthusiasts I know.
    I’m also really sad to hear you’re willing to write-off nuclear as a tool to decarbonise the world. Why oh why would you do it? What are you afraid of? No country in the world has gone 75% wind & solar (the 2 most abundant and available sources of renewable), and the experience we have so far in Germany and other countries raises profound concerns. So what kind of negative programming are you suffering from? What do you fear? If your objective really is to shut down as much coal as fast as possible, there’s only one country that have shown us how to do that fast: that’s France.


  43. To Andrew Lang.
    I should have explained myself better re forest biomass. I listed the objections but failed to say whether they outweighed the benefits, I don’t know and I bow to your superior knowledge


  44. “Of course renewables can go off line for weeks but nuclear plants can, and do, go off line for months or even years for major refits or unexpected breakdowns see Belgium and Switzerland today. All grids have excess capacity for exactly that reason”
    Yet how many backup gas or nuclear plants does it take to backup nuclear? What is the ratio of backup to working? Because after overbuilding renewables to cope with the lower capacity factor, after building a so called ‘smart-grid’ to help fit the supply to the work (instead of just upgrading today’s dumb grid to do the work), after getting the entire population to buy ice-box fridges that can store ice when the juice is on because we all know our food will go off overnight, AFTER doubling or tripling day time capacity so that we can also charge all our electric cars (instead of just charging them overnight on nuclear), we STILL have to overbuild the entire renewable grid (or overbuild storage) to cope with weeks of 10% or 20% supply of the ENTIRE GRID!
    Or in other words, please show us where about 80% of French reactors went down at once! That’s the difference! Not a single GW solar farm going down, but an entire nation’s solar or wind weakening for the whole of winter, and struggling to hit 10% or 20% for weeks at a time.
    OR we could just build a nuclear grid on today’s dumb-but-slightly improved grid, charge electric cars overnight, burn nuclear-waste in GenIV reactors that we know work (because of 30 years of the EBR2, let alone others!), and get the friggin job done with technology we know works. Climate change is just too horrific to contemplate, and events are running away from us. One would have to have an absolutely intense reason for ruling out nuclear power in the climate emergency we face.


  45. To Eclipse Now
    Thanks to the efforts of Germany, Denmark and then China the rest of the world can de-carbonise with renewables at much lower cost than you have had to pay. For example from memory the average wind turbine in Germany produces about per year

    Now a new turbine will produce 9 GW for not much more investment. The average solar panel is around 270W now vs 160W at the peak of German installation and 400 W will be available soon. The cost per panel is about 20% of what you used to pay, so the cost per will be about 1/8th.

    While I am sure that in some countries nuclear will continue to be part of the solution, the experience in Finland, France, the US and the UK is not encouraging


  46. Is it possible to hyperlink?

    I have inserted the link which displays the table. Is that what you wanted? If you want to post a simple link you can do it by copying the link address and pasting it on your comment. For other actions including posting images, you need to use the necessary code which is quite complicated. Check WordPress for a table of codes.


  47. Further to your last post: I think we are talking at slightly cross purposes because my main interest is in Australia yours in Germany. I agree that Germany is a more likely candidate for nuclear than Australia.

    The amount of storage required varies depending on a whole host of factors but the Japanese example says about 40% of the nuclear capacity whereas in France it is about 20% but France can and does import power at peak times.

    On the other hand it seems that German research says significant seasonal storage is not required until renewables reach 60-80% of demand.

    It seems to me that my earlier comment that storage for nuclear is similar to that for renewables +/- 20-30% is reasonable.

    The difference again is the cost of excess generating capacity vs. storage but even then the type and quantity of storage is different for different generating regimes

    Given that Germany installed about 6GW wind in its peak year and Italy installed 9GW of solar in a year and capacity per turbine or solar panel has almost doubled since then, a concerted effort could easily install 10GW of wind and 15-20GW of solar per year. That is roughly 25GW of renewables per year, Let’s say the equivalent of 8-10GW of nuclear. Since no country, even China has commissioned that much nuclear in a year it seems it would be quicker to build a renewable supply than a nuclear one.

    So then it is a question of cost. Again renewables including “overnight solar” have just been contracted in Chile for around US$80-95 per Can nuclear come close to that.


  48. “It seems to me that my earlier comment that storage for nuclear is similar to that for renewables +/- 20-30% is reasonable.”
    When was the last time 80% of France’s nukes all went down at the same time for a week or so?

    Did you read the first line of your link? “German renewable energy lobby organization AEE has published another meta-study”
    Fanboi’s, not peer review.
    Peer review by people who care about the environment but are willing to stare faults in the face and call a spade a spade is done by the folk here and at The Breakthrough Institute. I’ll hand you over to them now.

    Germany’s intermittent power slumps are epic: total output for its wind and solar sectors combined can plummet to less than 5 percent of rated nameplate capacity for an entire week, and even lower for two- and three-day stretches. So let’s look at last year’s stats to see just how much battery storage Germany would have needed to back up its intermittent renewables sector during slumps.

    Rather than ask batteries to cope with every supply-and-demand scenario, let’s hold them to the lower standard of simply making up the gap between average wind and solar generation and the reduced generation during slumps. In 2014, Germany’s wind and solar sectors produced a total of 90.9 TWh of electricity, for a daily average of 249 gigawatt-hours (GWh) and a weekly average of 1,748 GWh. According to data from Germany’s Fraunhofer Institute, the lowest daily production of wind and solar power came on January 21, 2014, when their combined generation was 22 gigawatt-hours. To top up that figure to the daily average would have required 227 GWh of Powerpack storage, costing $56 billion. If we were also to ask a battery system to store the largest daily surplus of intermittent generation above the average (on March 16, when wind and solar produced 580 GWh), that would require 331 GWh costing $83 billion.

    But wind and solar droughts last much longer than a day. According to Fraunhofer data, the deepest weekly slump occurred in Week 47 (November 17-23) when intermittents together produced 770 GWh. Compensating for that deficit below average production would have required 978 GWh of Powerpack storage costing $244 billion. But then after Week 48’s slight deficit, during which no net charging would have been possible, the batteries would have been completely empty for Week 49’s renewed drought, when a deficit almost as deep, 958 GWh, opened up. The batteries would not have made it through Week 47 anyway, because Week 46, with its deficit of 798 GWh, would have largely drained them before Week 47 even began. If it had had to rely on batteries to back up its wind and solar sectors, Germany would have endured a month of rolling blackouts.

    These figures are for Germany’s current wind and solar sectors, which contribute just 15 percent of the country’s electricity production. The costs would rise dramatically for higher penetrations of intermittent power. At a modest penetration of 30 percent, one week of Powerpack storage — still woefully inadequate — would cost about $500 billion dollars. That’s just the (uninstalled) cost of the batteries, which will generate not one electron of low-carbon energy; the wind and solar generators themselves would cost hundreds of billions more. And that entire battery infrastructure would have to be replaced every 15 years or so. To put these expenses in perspective, $500 billion spent on AP1000 reactors at a capital cost of $6,000 per-kilowatt would build 83 gigawatts of nuclear power, enough to decarbonize Germany’s entire electricity supply for 60 years and more.


  49. Eclipse Now, fortunately Australia does not have the same weather conditions as Germany. We’re a lot sunnier, and importantly most of Australia does not get snow.

    Ice box fridges are unlikely; instead we’re likely to get freezers that become a little colder than normal at times when electricity’s cheap. Conversely the food won’t go off at the times when the renewable energy output is low, but it will cost more to cool it at those times. And smart grids are not a separate thing; they’re merely a way of upgrading the existing grids.


  50. Duelling arguments. I have seen other charts which show that wind and solar are actually seasonally complimentary but i will stand corrected and accept the Fraunhoffer figures.however the Breakthrough Institute (not possibly fanbois for the other side) completely ignores hydro, pumped hydro and biomass and natural gas which are all dispatchable and can fill the gaps. Further it is based on the 2014 wind fleet. In 2015 YTD with the addition of a little, much higher capacity factor offshore wind and the continued expansion of the onshore wind fleet wind generation is 52% up on last year. Also over time old sites are being repowered and new sites are fitted with high CF turbines so that in the 15-20 years it would take to build the nuclear fleet the output of wind and solar will be much more consistent than it is now. So if you ignore almost all the winter contribution of other renewables and the changing composition of wind in particular and then assume that battery technology will stand still then you can come up with a very high figure for storage.Then you have to find the water to cool all the nuclear stations or if they are on the cost build even more North south transmission lines and you have completely left out the operating costs of the nuclear plants. If I have time I will do a little DCF for you to show that you have overestimated storage cost by a factor of 4 and underestimated nuclear by a factor of 2


  51. Andrew Lang,
    There are several aspects to soil improvement, including physical structure, absorbancy, microbiology, nutrient content and nutrient availability. Poultry litter primarily boosts the nutrient content, whereas biochar’s main contribution is to boost the nutrient availability and the physical structure.

    I’m not sure what you mean when you say it’s “a hopelessly inefficient way to make electricity”. Are you referring to burning the gas it gives off? What is your source for the costs?

    I think biochar has tremendous potential in Australia to reduce the amount of back burning needed to control the bushfire risk.


  52. It’s always the future, the next development, the electricity imported from another country or state, the next thing. Just wait. Have faith. Believe.

    But France have the cleanest electricity in Europe and export more electricity than any other nation. The Royal Commission into nuclear power in South Australia are finding that we could charge nations to process their nuclear waste and that alone would fund our nuclear industry in that state. “Nuclear power too cheap to metre” might be an old cliché, but incredibly cheap electricity revitalising SA’s economy from reliable baseload clean electricity is not. It’s possible. It’s doable.

    We don’t have time to play around with hypothetical scenarios for wind and solar. Climate change is a clear and present danger. We must act soon. Nuclear can provide all the electricity we need, all the high EROEI baseload power that can charge other energy carriers (whether boron or synfuels or even the much overhyped hydrogen), charge electric cars at night, and be there on a cold quiet sunless winter week. Why should we muck about trying to make an unreliable source of electricity reliable when the French example shows us the way? I just don’t understand your fear of nuclear power. We should deploy AP1000’s immediately, and let GE build the PRISM prototype ASAP so the IFR industry can start rolling off the production line cheaper than coal!


  53. “We” are not stopping more nuclear being built in France, the UK or the USA. The market is.
    All the current fuel processing plants were built by governments primarily as part of their defence efforts and they are running below capacity and were written off years ago. You think somebody can stump up new capital and build a plant in SA to compete. I am sure there are droves of investors waiting for the chance.
    Show me the costings for $100/ nuclear including decommisioning and waste processing/storage for Australia


  54. Peter F challenges all comers to point to an LCOE of less than 100 $/MWh. NuScale provides one in just that ballpark. Apart from a FOAK installation, NuScale estimate 90 $/MWh. That’s for an NOAK, an nth-of-a-kind.

    They are presently busy getting their nuke through the NRC process, but the FOAK is planned for 2025.


  55. PeterF,
    “The market” is not what is determining our lack of IFR’s, legislation is.
    PS: As you didn’t really address a single point I made above, I’ll just repost it:-

    It’s always the future, the next development, the electricity imported from another country or state, the next thing. Just wait. Have faith. Believe.

    But France have the cleanest electricity in Europe and export more electricity than any other nation. The Royal Commission into nuclear power in South Australia are finding that we could charge nations to process their nuclear waste and that alone would fund our nuclear industry in that state. “Nuclear power too cheap to metre” might be an old cliché, but incredibly cheap electricity revitalising SA’s economy from reliable baseload clean electricity is not. It’s possible. It’s doable.

    We don’t have time to play around with hypothetical scenarios for wind and solar. Climate change is a clear and present danger. We must act soon. Nuclear can provide all the electricity we need, all the high EROEI baseload power that can charge other energy carriers (whether boron or synfuels or even the much overhyped hydrogen), charge electric cars at night, and be there on a cold quiet sunless winter week. Why should we muck about trying to make an unreliable source of electricity reliable when the French example shows us the way? I just don’t understand your fear of nuclear power. We should deploy AP1000’s immediately, and let GE build the PRISM prototype ASAP so the IFR industry can start rolling off the production line cheaper than coal!


  56. PRISM is fast reactor and I am all for fast reactors and IFR. Indians have a big 500MW prototype nearing completion. It is the next nuclear. Fast MSR could also be advantageously used in IFR.
    I do not see a problem in load following by nuclear on hour to hour basis. Just store the heat in a pool of partly molten salt.
    Some people may be going overboard in having costly wind or solar farms but renewable could fill an important niche with some change in priorities and technology.
    1. Collect and store the intermittent at lowest possible in distributed small grids close to isolated points of use where the lines from central generation would be uneconomical. This includes islands.
    2. Collect and store wind energy as compressed air. Windmills have big towers which can be clad and used as a number of storage spaces.
    3. Compressed air is itself a useful energy form. Use it for water pumping, mechanical power for home and farm and best of all, for air conditioning. Compressed air, using 5m underground in a heat pump, can be expanded and further cooled for very effective air conditioning.
    4. The compressed air can be converted to electricity but it should be kept to a minimum to control costs. PV panels could be mounted on the towers and power collected in batteries, lowest cost available, for electronic (TV, telephone charging or computer) use.


  57. To Eclipse Now and Roger Clifton:

    I will be pleased to see NuScale or anyone else achieve $90/ for Nuclear and then there will probably be a place for Nuclear. First unit in 10 years time say reasonable debugging time of 3-4 years so say 20th unit getting down to reasonable cost after another 2-3 years. I have been building complex machines for almost 40 years, trust me the cost curve takes 15-100 units to stabilise. Even Boeing has found that with the 787. That means we are talking 2032-2035 before we reach $90.

    Solar with storage is being contracted now at $97 in Chile. Wind in the US before the production tax credit about $35/40 ($25 after). Solar in Chile, the Middle East and India $55/$70. Even slowing the learning curve from 8%+ over the last 10 years to 4% over the next 20 years those prices will more than halve. Storage costs are falling even faster. Therefore when nuclear eventually reaches $90 it will still be limited to a “must run” load function to limit the amount of storage and be less than 20-25% of the supply. Even paying a premium for higher availability it will have to get down to $50-60 to take a large share of the market.

    Legislation is preventing the building of Nuclear in Australia but not in France, the US or the UK. In contrast nuclear is being encouraged with massive subsidies, loan guarantees and publicly provided infrastructure. In spite of all this assistance every nuclear project in the world is running years late and over budget.

    In the meantime every official projection of future renewable installation has been an underestimate and every estimate of future costs has been an overestimate

    If Prism is so good and a key benefit is burning plutonium which is irrelevant to us, how come the US and the UK who have a need to burn plutonium and have pro-nuclear energy policies haven’t jumped in and built a dozen.

    Nuclear proponents have the ones asking for faith in future and after 60 years have still managed to deliver every reactor in the whole western hemisphere late and over budget.

    I show you renewables at $50-90 now and you show me new technology with no commercial track record that will (might) be available in volume in 20 years and you say I am unrealistic.

    I agree that storage is needed for renewables but point out that the few high penetration nuclear grids have very large storage and energy trading and you dismiss it. You say German and BC renewables have very low output for weeks at a time and but ignore the fact that the entire Swiss nuclear fleet is offline for months.

    You tout France as an example and yet France has just passed a law to the effect that they reduce their nuclear dependence from 70% to 50% and the difference is to be replaced with renewables. According to your logic they should be pushing for 100-120% and capitalising on their expertise to export to silly non-nuclear countries like Italy and Germany.

    I agree that the cost of long term waste storage/disposal can be reduced not eliminated but at the moment the nuclear power industry doesn’t include provision for this in their power costs and nowhere near enough for plant decommissioning. Show me the life cycle costs please.

    In the Australian case lets just say we could make money storing other peoples waste. You say we should spend that money on a plant that needs massive investment in grid reinforcement and will deliver power for a total system cost of A$300 per MW.Hr. I will take the money and spend it on renewables + storage for about $135 per and if I installed solar panels at the rate Italy did in 2012 or wind turbines at about half the rate Germany did at its peak I will have a 90% renewable grid before the first nuclear plant even gets its financing organised.


  58. “Solar with storage is being contracted now at $97 in Chile.”
    How much storage? I doubt it deals with seasonal fluctuations.

    “Wind in the US before the production tax credit about $35/40 ($25 after).
    Solar in Chile, the Middle East and India $55/$70. Even slowing the learning curve from 8%+ over the last 10 years to 4% over the next 20 years those prices will more than halve.”
    To be blunt — I just don’t care what the price-to-grid is! They only work a third of the time! When you can get back to me with a true cost for storage for seasonal fluctuations, let alone the 60% per day they’re offline, then we’ll have a conversation.

    “Storage costs are falling even faster.”
    Again, you can backup a third of a renewable grid in Germany for ONE WEEK or you can just NUKE the entire grid for 60 years! How much is that storage price point falling again? ;-)

    “Legislation is preventing the building of Nuclear in Australia but not in France, the US or the UK. In contrast nuclear is being encouraged with massive subsidies, loan guarantees and publicly provided infrastructure. In spite of all this assistance every nuclear project in the world is running years late and over budget.”
    Sure, but what reactors are they building? One-of-a-kind projects because I don’t know of a single nuclear factory in the world. Also, please don’t crow too loudly about nuclear delays. Antes at Greenpeace deserve most of the blame. (Or have you forgotten that France shut down its SuperPheonix breeder because Anties fired an RPG into the reactor site!?)

    “If Prism is so good and a key benefit is burning plutonium which is irrelevant to us, how come the US and the UK who have a need to burn plutonium and have pro-nuclear energy policies haven’t jumped in and built a dozen.”
    They ARE so good, but politicians aren’t.

    “Nuclear proponents have the ones asking for faith in future”
    You got that wrong. We’re arguing from history, not faith in the future. France has already shown us what regular once-through fuel cycles can achieve for an entire nation, and we’re also arguing from the history of 400 breeder reactor-years. Sunnies and Windies are the ones arguing for blind faith in the future of impossible cost reductions in storage technologies, and that some other mix of demand matching, smart grid, smart EV, oversupply, nationwide super-grid, or even contradictory micro-grid mumbo-jumbo stuff we’ve NEVER seen before anywhere in a first world nation is somehow going to save the world in mass deployment in the next decade or so. Um, faith much?

    “and after 60 years have still managed to deliver every reactor in the whole western hemisphere late and over budget.”
    1. Really? 60 years is a long time. The technology was just getting developed much of that time. Imagine I trashed solar PV based on 1970’s prices?
    2. Mass production! What’s the thing driving solar and wind prices down again? Where’s that nuclear factory again? You just admitted how many units it takes to get a cost-curve coming down. Where has that ever been done before with nuclear power? It hasn’t, because water reactors are not really mass produced when the core flange vessel has to be a single cast piece of steel 2 story’s high at 15cm thick! There aren’t many forges on the planet that can do that! But IFR’s like the EBR2 that ran successfully for 30 years don’t use water. Neither do LFTR’s. So they’re not overpressure. The reactor can be mass produced, the containment dome doesn’t have to be as large due to the massive expansion of water flashing into steam in some containment situation, and the whole thing is cheaper. LFTR’s and IFR’s are estimating cheaper-than-coal. That’s reliable cheaper-than-coal. Baseload. Charging EV’s at night. Running reliably on a cold winter night in Germany.

    “I show you renewables at $50-90 now”
    Please don’t lie to this list. Prices to grid are irrelevant. We’re after BASELOAD prices to the grid, and until you can demonstrate that, any statistics you quote like this are an outright lie. You’re talking $50-90 WITHOUT BACKUP FOR THE MAJORITY OF THE TIME THEY’RE OFF! Seasonal variations must be modelled or it’s fraud.

    “and you show me new technology with no commercial track record”
    AP1000’s are being built today. I never said we have to go IFR right now.

    “that will (might) be available in volume in 20 years and you say I am unrealistic.”
    You don’t do history, do you? France went to 75% nuclear in about 11 years on old tech that is really cheap today. (The rest is hydro). I’d prefer an AP1000, but there is an economic case for using older, cheaper technologies.

    “I agree that storage is needed for renewables”
    Except you don’t agree that you should price that SEASONAL storage every single time you quote renewable prices. Somehow you just wish the storage challenge away and lie to this thread.

    “but point out that the few high penetration nuclear grids have very large storage”
    Where? Define very large storage? Show me where a whole nuclear grid has shut down 80% at once?

    “and energy trading and you dismiss it”
    No, I quote it. France is the largest EXPORTER of electricity in the world. This is an undeniable fact.

    “You say German and BC renewables have very low output for weeks at a time and but ignore the fact that the entire Swiss nuclear fleet is offline for months.”
    An entire fleet of reactors? It must be some political decision, because there’s nothing in the technology that requires that!

    “You tout France as an example and yet France has just passed a law to the effect that they reduce their nuclear dependence from 70% to 50% and the difference is to be replaced with renewables.”
    So? Politicians do crazy crap all the time. They’re not engineers. Clinton closed the EBR2 phase when Japan was about to give $60 million towards the project because they were so interested in the results!

    “According to your logic they should be pushing for 100-120% and capitalising on their expertise to export to silly non-nuclear countries like Italy and Germany.”
    Exactly! As I said, crazy politicians.

    “I agree that the cost of long term waste storage/disposal can be reduced”
    Define long term? A 500 year bunker isn’t going to cost that much. Vitrification is expensive, but when spread out over a fuel cycle getting 60 to 90 TIMES the income of today’s once-through nuclear fuel cycle, the economic case is overwhelming.

    “ not eliminated but at the moment the nuclear power industry doesn’t include provision for this in their power costs”
    Please prove that statement. See, the thing is the original nuclear engineers at the dawn of the nuclear age ALWAYS imagined that we would be burning our nuclear ‘waste’ by now.

    “and nowhere near enough for plant decommissioning. Show me the life cycle costs please.”
    They’re built into the price. Reactors are closed down, put into SafStor mode for 50 years for them to ‘cool down’ a bit, then they’re much cheaper and safer to decomission. With a 500 year bunker on site, I’m thinking a nuclear energy park would ideally be crown land and a permanent fixture: a town out in some distant rural location (mainly for the psychological benefit of today’s largely Antie population) that runs a multi-plant breeder site basically forever, slowly cycling through various building and decommissioning phases on site over the centuries.

    “In the Australian case lets just say we could make money storing other peoples waste.”
    We can. It was submitted by Ben Heard into the SA Royal Commission. It may allow massively subsidised electricity.

    “You say we should spend that money on a plant that needs massive investment in grid reinforcement”
    Please acknowledge right now that any future renewable plan for Australia like BZE and Diesendorf require a continent wide SUPER-GRID full of HVDC lines stretching THOUSANDS of km’s to take wind where it is blowing to wind where it isn’t. It’s all part of their magic numbers to try and make us believe that an unreliable renewable grid will work, and that moving to power that is MOSTLY OFF is a good idea!

    “and will deliver power for a total system cost of A$300 per MW.Hr.”
    Where are you getting this from?

    “I will take the money and spend it on renewables + storage for about $135 per”
    What, you’re storing for one night or something? What about a whole rainy week where everyone’s solar PV is at 50%? What about seasonal variations?”
    Your prices are fantasy.

    “and if I installed solar panels at the rate Italy did in 2012 or wind turbines at about half the rate Germany did at its peak I will have a 90% renewable grid before the first nuclear plant even gets its financing organised.”
    History is not your friend, is it? One word.


    “France’s nuclear power industry has been called “a success story” that has put the nation “ahead of the world” in terms of providing cheap energy with low CO2 emissions.[11] ”

    “The plan envisaged the construction of around 80 nuclear plants by 1985 and a total of 170 plants by 2000.[21] Work on the first three plants, at Tricastin, Gravelines, and Dampierre started the same year[15] and France installed 56 reactors over the next 15 years.[23]”


  59. Interesting David Benson! It sounds like South Korea have been hamstrung by a non-proliferation treaty with American politicians when IFR’s + a few site inspections & video monitoring systems would render that treaty unnecessary! From World Nuclear:-

    South Korea is a major world nuclear energy country, exporting technology. It is building four nuclear reactors in UAE, under a $20 billion contract.
    24 reactors provide about one-third of South Korea’s electricity from 21.6 GWe of plant.
    Nuclear energy remains a strategic priority for South Korea, and capacity is planned to increase by 70% to 37 GWe by 2029, and then maintain that level to 2035.
    The country is seeking relief from treaty commitments with the USA which currently constrain its fuel cycle options.


  60. Hi Jagdish, welcome back! (your previous post was off thread, so we could not reply to it there, but can here on the Open Thread).

    Compressed air storage does seem feasible for house-scale storage of excess house-scale electricity production. Roughly half the energy of compression is given off as heat, which limits its large-scale use, but that heat could provide domestic hot water and house heating. Some of the same heat could contribute to the regeneration of electricity if the compressed air line passed back through the hot water tank, on its way to the generator.


  61. Eclipse Now.

    I will try to be more civil.

    I agree with you that there are some crazy, ill-informed anti-nuclear antis out there.

    We also agree that climate change is the over-riding issue

    I also agree with you that some nuclear is probably a good idea in Germany because of extended low sun, low wind periods

    We also agree that France has the lowest CO2 emissions per capita or of any large G20 country.

    From a technical, environmental and economic point of view I am actually quite keen to see some of these new reactor designs come on stream

    However having been deeply involved in manufacturing very large structures for almost 45 years, (ships, bridges etc.) there is no such thing as mass production for large power plants. Even in China there is no standard design for coal power plants which are currently being built at 5-6 times the rate we would need for a full nuclear system. Even France’s 58 reactors, built as you say in a relatively short time have built to 5 different designs. This is because we learn as we go and to apply those lessons there is often a need to change the design.

    There are more efficient series production methods but different customers and different locations actually do need different designs, just as different customers need different trucks

    I also agree that the EPR seems to have been a technological mistake. This is not uncommon, the old one step forward, two steps backward that happens every now and then in most types of technological progress

    France planned to build 170 reactors but only built 58. France’s current cost of generation is now already higher than Germany’s. However to pay for the life extensions which I agree are a sensible thing to do, it is expected that French power prices will rise 30%. The new Flamanville reactor was expected to be commissioned in 2016 and produce power at E70-90 per hour. This has since been overtaken so costs will be well north of E100/ This is on a brownfields site where almost all the infrastructure is in place and it has cold Atlantic seawater for cooling.

    From the industry magazine World Nuclear News September 2015

    Some 98% of the building civil structure has already been completed on the unit as well as 60% of the electromechanical work, EDF said in a statement today. However, a new timetable has been drawn up by the company and its partners for the remaining work to complete and commission the 1630 MWe unit.

    The new timetable sets out three key milestones, EDF said. Installation of the primary circuit is now scheduled to be completed in the first quarter of 2016, while system performance testing will begin a year later after all electromechanical work has been completed. The loading of fuel and start up of the reactor is now expected to take place in the last quarter of 2018. The unit had previously been scheduled to begin operating by the end of 2017.

    Meanwhile, EDF said the project costs have now been revised to €10.5 billion ($11.8 billion), up from a December 2012 estimate of €8 billion ($9 billion).

    Construction work began on the unit, adjacent to two existing pressurized water reactors, at the Normandy site in northern France in 2007, when capital construction costs were estimated at €3.3 billion (2005 values) with commercial operation pencilled in for 2013. The cost and completion of the project has since been revised a number of times. The dome of the reactor building was put in place in mid-July 2013, while the reactor vessel was installed in January 2014. EDF submitted its commissioning application file for Flamanville 3 to the French nuclear regulator earlier this year…………………….

    This generator is 1.6GW, the AP1000 is 1.1GW. In South Australia today, minimum demand often drops to about 0.5GW. If we have one AP1000 in SA, At low demand times it will have to export between 40% and 100% of its power as the wind turbines will not stop turning. Of course you will need spinning reserves or storage equal to the output of the generator in case of an emergency trip and you will need a 1GW line to the Eastern states to distribute the power.

    If there is a dual circuit 1GW line to Melbourne and Sydney it will cost about $1b on top of the A$20-30b for the power plant (Dominion Powers estimate for the North Anna 3 in Virginia August 2015, Flamanville current estimate, Hinckley Point current estimate). 1GW of pumped hydro storage is expected to cost around $3.2b.(Roam Consulting 2012) so now we are looking at $35-40b for 7-7.5TW hrs per year.

    Operating costs of French nuclear plants are around E25-35/ Just lets say a round A$50 per being generous including the operation of storage and transmission.

    Now I think a single technology system is silly so for example any realistic system might be 85% nuclear or 75% wind and solar so the analysis below is simplistic but it illustrates the different costs with current technology. AGAIN. in 5 years time it might all change

    Utilities in Australia are allowed to earn 7-10% ROI on poles & wires which get a return no matter what the generating system is so I would expect that they will demand a higher return on a nuclear plant but anyway we will work on 7%.

    While the plant is being built the interest on the progress draw-downs is being capitalised, so after 12 years or so you have about 25% of the capital cost of the project added to your debt. So we started out with a $35b investment which has ballooned to about $44b

    Interest and depreciation on $44b over 50 years @7% is $3.2b per year. On 7,200 GW hrs per year that woks out at $440/ If the taxpayer provides loan guarantees. We might get the cost down to $300 plus operating cost of $50.

    Now for the sake of argument your point about needing more storage for renewables is correct and duty cycle is lower so to generate 7TW hrs per year we need about 2GW (@35% utilization) of wind and 2GW of solar. Lets overbuild that by 25% as well as build 1 GW of pumped hydro with about 5 times the storage.

    At current costs we are looking at about $3-4b for the solar and $5b for the wind and $10b for the storage, as well as $1b for the same HVDC links so the investment is $20b. It starts generating in about 2 years and is completed in 5-6 years so the capitalised interest is about $2b. Operating costs are about $5-10/ The wind and solar has a 20-25 year life but the pumped hydro probably 100 years so the average life is about the same as the nuclear system. Therefore the full system cost is around $200-250 per or $150 with the same government guarantees.

    I hope that we are both being too pessimistic


  62. “However having been deeply involved in manufacturing very large structures for almost 45 years, (ships, bridges etc.) there is no such thing as mass production for large power plants.”
    From my limited layman’s exposure to this industry via youtube, there are dozens of plans for nuclear factories, but they are for medium sized modular reactors of around 300MW. Buy 4 and they’ll give you free fries with that.
    That’s GE’s PRISM anyway.

    But Thorcon have much smaller ‘blocks’ they build out fast, in a factory roughly the size of a shipyard. Thorcon is not a breeder, just a Molten Salt Burner reactor. Once-through fuel. But safe! It’s less about a plan for an individual power plants as it is a plan for a nuclear factory.
    “The entire ThorCon plant including the building is manufactured in blocks on a shipyard-like assembly line. These 150 to 500 ton, fully outfitted, pre-tested blocks are barged to the site. A 1 GWe ThorCon will require less than 200 blocks….
    ….Cheaper than Coal
    ThorCon requires less resources than a coal plant. Assuming efficient, evidence based regulation, ThorCon can produce reliable, carbon free, electricity at between 3 and 5 cents per kWh depending on scale.”

    “This is because we learn as we go and to apply those lessons there is often a need to change the design.”
    Then they’ll just retool some stage in the factory. From the Thorcon page above:

    No complex repairs are attempted on site. Everything in the nuclear island except the building itself is replaceable with little or no interruption in power output. Rather than attempt to build components that last 40 or more years in an extremely harsh environment with nil maintenance, ThorCon is designed to have all key parts regularly replaced. Every four years the entire primary loop is changed out, returned to a centralized recycling facility, decontaminated, disassembled, inspected, and refurbished. Incipient problems are caught before they can turn into casualties. Major upgrades can be introduced without significantly disrupting power generation. Such renewable plants can operate indefinitely; but, if a ThorCon is decommissioned, the process is little more than pulling out but not replacing all the replacable parts.”

    That’s the overall concept. Now if you want more, take a look at the following 2 links to get a sense of just how many different companies are already looking into mass producing clean nuclear power in this way:-

    “France’s current cost of generation is now already higher than Germany’s.”
    Please demonstrate this statement. The following JPG has Germany at DOUBLE France’s electricity price.

    “This generator is 1.6GW, the AP1000 is 1.1GW. In South Australia today, minimum demand often drops to about 0.5GW. If we have one AP1000 in SA, At low demand times it will have to export between 40% and 100% of its power as the wind turbines will not stop turning. Of course you will need spinning reserves or storage equal to the output of the generator in case of an emergency trip and you will need a 1GW line to the Eastern states to distribute the power.”
    When electric cars arrive to displace oil, demand profiles will only go up. The ‘We don’t need baseload’ myth of Lovins and Diesendorf will finally be busted as the lies they are. NREL have shown that America can charge about half their car fleet overnight. HALF! That’s a lot less solar and wind farms you’d have to build if they were all charging during the day. The same NREL study then went on to say that about 90% of the car fleet could be charged on existing infrastructure: without building a single new power plant. Personally I like clever city designs and New Urbanism that reduce the need for the car in the first place, but we’re talking about a 1 for 1 swap of cars at the moment. See the lies we put up with? Lovins and Diesendorf and even Professor Ian Lowe have all had a go at the ‘myth’ that we need power overnight! What world are they living in: one with infinite oil and no climate change to worry about? Are these people even thinking?

    So we could build out AP1000’s, or we could build out today’s technology in SMR’s. (Small Medium Reactors). Read the wiki’s and world nuclear pages above. Once a factory is set up, they can be deployed on an as-needs basis.

    “it will cost about $1b on top of the A$20-30b for the power plant (Dominion Powers estimate for the North Anna 3 in Virginia August 2015, Flamanville current estimate, Hinckley Point current estimate).”
    What are you talking about? What’s this $20-30B power plant?

    “Operating costs of French nuclear plants are around E25-35/ Just lets say a round A$50 per being generous including the operation of storage and transmission.”
    Do you want to source any of your claims? Also, I prefer kWh, as it’s the unit many wiki’s & sources refer to. This wiki says France is 19.39c and German is 32.04c per kWh. Go figure.

    “While the plant is being built the interest on the progress draw-downs is being capitalised, so after 12 years or so you have about 25% of the capital cost of the project added to your debt. So we started out with a $35b investment which has ballooned to about $44b”
    I don’t grant your prices or business model for a second!
    First, build the factory.
    Second, start pumping out ThorCon’s blocks or GE’s PRISMS or another groups 300MW LFTR’s.
    Third, ThorCon/GE/LFTR groups sells units on an as needs basis straight to market. You can scrap your 12 years. That’s a ridiculously out of date model. Instead, I imagine the sales department having the following conversations. “Yes, we can sell individual units but we have a discount on 4, and much greater savings on any order over 8. We’re producing a 300MW reactor a day now, and orders are backed up for 4 months, but sometime after that we can deliver as many as you need…”
    Or Robert Hargraves estimates nuclear factories where a 100MW LFTR comes of the line every day for just $200 million. Ten of these would equal a gigawatt of power at $2 billion dollars, cheaper than coal!

    There would be financing for the factory and first few builds, and within just a few years the profits from SMR sales would be paying down the loan. I imagine that after 12 years, the loan would be long gone and the company making decent profits selling some of the cheapest reliable clean energy we’ve ever seen.
    Financing for 12 years. Ha! Man, you need to get with the times!


  63. just a couple of comments. One is that without knowing France’s per capita GHG emissions I understand that Sweden’s is the lowest in Europe at about 6 t/person, with some regions sigificantly less than that including Stockholm and Gotteborg.

    It is unlikely that the french per capita emissions is close to this as while 80 % of their electricity may be from nuclear, electricity is only about 30% of their energy.

    By contrast the Swedes are producing most of the 50% of energy that is heat from biomass and waste, and are working on the 25% approx of energy use that is transport fuels (aiming to have this fixed by 2030). So Sweden is getting over 34% of energy from biomass and heading for 39% by 2020. They are already getting over 50% of final energy from renewables about 6 years ahead of the target date of 2020.
    This has allowed them to retire some nuclear plants and I visited the Barsebeck pair of reactors (either 1200 or 2000 MW, I got conflicting figures) a few years ago on the SW coast opposite Copenhagen, all closed up and cooling down

    The Swedish municipality regarded as the ‘greenest’ in the EU is Vaxjo with under 3.5 t/person. This of due to production of most heating and cooling for the city and most electricity for the municipality from biomass, plus electricity and vehicle fusl from putrescible wastes, plus the MSW is converted into heating and electricity. So 80% of energy needs is presently being produced within the municipal bounday from biomass mainly produced within that bundary. All of this uses equipment off the shelf, and most of modular construction.
    The oly need for storage with this renewble is some storage of biogas and of biomethane, and some of hot water as a 24 hour buffer to stabilise supply and demand. And of course some big piles of woodchips.
    So the other comment was in relation to the statement that renewables require storage. There are five main renewable energy sources (so not including marine) and only two are intermittent needing some storage.


  64. Hi Andrew Lang,
    I grant that France is still addicted to oil for transport, but even so generally speaking European countries use half the oil per capita of America. Better cities, better public transport, and stricter car efficiency rules seem to be the key. Shutting down coal is our first priority, and France shows that there is no better way to do that than nuclear power. But oil? My hope is that state-of-the-art New Urban design will gradually reduce the need for cars in the first place as modern economies value workers sorting through email on iPhones on the tram and train and trolley bus. Eventually some EV’s will be in the mix, and maybe even some trucking. Trucking needs more energy density than suburban cars, so will probably head down some synfuel or even boron powder niche markets. Hopefully we won’t get hooked on hydrogen as it wastes too much power to split water, compress hydrogen, and burn it again only to get electricity again.

    I love renewable energy where appropriate. But while the Swedes are surging ahead in their biomass industry, I would hate to see an attempt to apply that to the global energy crisis. That would be an environmental and humanitarian catastrophe!

    So what I am interested in the rule, not the very few exceptions to the rule. Sure New Zealand and Tasmania have very large hydro per capita. Other countries just don’t. Sure Iceland has its surface geothermal. Other countries don’t. The general rule remains exactly as Dr James Hansen described it:

    “Can renewable energies provide all of society’s energy needs in the foreseeable future? It is conceivable in a few places, such as New Zealand and Norway. But suggesting that renewables will let us phase rapidly off fossil fuels in the United States, China, India, or the world as a whole is almost the equivalent of believing in the Easter Bunny and Tooth Fairy.”


  65. “There are five main renewable energy sources (so not including marine) and only two are intermittent needing some storage.”
    Nice word game, but the 2 that need storage are the most abundant on earth, wind and solar. Try scaling up hydro and biomass to meet the world’s energy demands and you’ll not only fail, but chop down every last tree and convert every last scrap of arable land into biomass production and starve the human race.


  66. How does burning biomass or urban waste ( to reduce landfill) reduce GHG emissions?

    One of the great advantages of Molten Salt Reactors (MSR) is that they use very little fuel. Theoretically a Thorium MSR of 1 GW (1000 MW) capacity uses 1000 kgs per year or at today’s prices $100,000 US approx. I do not have a figure for Uranium but I think a uranium MSR would use a similar amount or $100,000 US worth.

    In this situation load following for the purpose of fuel economy is irrelevant. You would also then be in a position to offer very cheap off peak power. Once upon a time it was called selling electricity.


  67. For the biomass to exist in the first place is due directly or indirectly to removal of carbon from the atmosphere. In the situation of deciding whether to convert it into energy, where the biomass is available and otherwise will rot or degrade to produce free GHG emissions, and the alternative source of the energy is of fossil origin then (considering that CO2 produced from burning biomass is classed as CO2-neutral due to this short cycle from the atmosphere and back to it) then the reduction of GHG by using the biomass about equals the GHG emissions that would have come from use of the fossil fuels that are then not emitted.
    With MSW biomass content is of the order of 50-70% (depends where you are and how much food waste is still in it). The balance is classed as ‘non-renewable waste’, and now GHG emissions from the burning of this are normally regarded as fossil origin GHG.


  68. Andrew
    1. I don’t want to argue Sweden of France because they both are very low. World Bank says France 5.2 Sweden 5.5. (Australia 16.5)

    The second point I agree with, hydro is storage. In Australia as opposed to Germany wind tends to blow stronger at night and in winter and our East Coast grid spreads over a lot greater climatic area than it does in Germany so the no wind, no sun periods are much shorter so while Germany might need a X amount of storage we probably need one half to one third.
    I think biomass has a part to play in Australia as does geothermal, wave and possibly tidal in the Northwest all of these are more predictable/dispatchable than wind/solar further reducing the need for storage.
    Your point about hot water/cold water storage is very valid. It is probably the cheapest form of energy storage, although excess ice or hot water can’t be converted into other energy forms easily so it has a lower value than say batteries or pumped hydro

    To Eclipse Now:

    Thank you for the links to the SMR information, some of which is new to me. I found that Robert Hargraves’ talk very interesting although using offshore wind as the basis for comparison is not a valid basis, nor is the 30% utilisation.

    His comparison with Boeing aircraft company in is many ways valid but the technical challenge of developing and building SMR’s is much greater than that of building a new Boeing aircraft

    From the start of the 787 project to the one a day rate it will take 15 years. The aircraft technology is widely accepted and required minimal government subsidies, so to put it mildly the timeline is somewhat optimistic. Further there is nowhere near enough detail in the actual costing of the reactors or cost of the factories to determine whether his costing is correct. Most importantly his delivered price after 15 years appears to make no provision for recovering the R&D costs, startup losses or investment in the factory.

    You are rightly calling for the elimination of subsidies and market distortions generally. I agree. You are skeptical about all renewables, I am skeptical about offshore wind, forest pellets and most types of solar thermal but don’t demand that subsidies be eliminated from the competition but provided for my favoured source.

    Summarising all the information you gave us If all goes well it seems we might see deployment start in 10 years or so

    Re your more specific points

    ” “France’s current cost of generation is now already higher than Germany’s.”
    Please demonstrate this statement. The following JPG has Germany at DOUBLE France’s electricity price.Re German and French Power prices”.

    No problem: In the linked charts from the French Commission for Regulation of Energy you will see that Year ahead pricing in Germany is E32/hr. France about E39. You are confusing wholesale and retail. German energy taxes and price differentiation between different classes of customers is the difference. German prices have since fallen below E30.
    This also provides the operating cost which by the way does not include transmission and storage.

    Re current reactor costs. Just look them up. I gave you the info on Flamanville, there are hundreds of articles on the web from respected sources about Hinckley Point. North Anna is a bit harder to find but here is a secondary source

    These 3 plants are all built on brownfield sites with experienced local contractors, a ready supply of cold water for cooling and existing grid connections so I am being very generous allowing Australian plants to be built for similar prices.

    Re electric vehicles. Most electric vehicles in the US are charged on premises during the day when grid based or premises solar is available. This will change as penetration increases but it will still be a large fraction of the generation for vehicles

    However the key point is most cars are not recharged from empty every night. In the Australian case if we assume that for the next 15 years the market for fully electric vehicles (not hybrids) grows at an unheard of 43% compound average growth rate there will be almost 4m on the road and they will be almost 100% of the new vehicle market. The average modern electric car uses about per km. At 15,000km.yr they will need about 8TW.hrs per year. If they were all charged with wind that is equivalent to the output of 750 current generation class 1 or 2 wind turbines or the annual output of one AP1000 Hardly a justification for a whole nuclear fleet

    Re utilisation. The French nuclear fleet is running at 67% utilisation. New onshore windfarms in Australia are running at 40%+ and new windfarms in the Baltic are over 50% so nuclear plants are generating 35-60% more per installed MW not the 300% you suggest.

    In conclusion I am not denying the attraction of small modular nuclear reactors I believe they are the only way a nuclear power industry will work for the world.

    However in my professional engineering experience starting with modernising a shipyard 45 years ago and building some of the key machines that would be needed for an SMR factory today, very few of these new technologies arrive on time and on budget. Some will be delayed, most will die (like the Babcock and Wilcox and Westinghouse projects) some will work very well in niches like the Russian barge mounted reactors for the frozen north and a few will make huge strides like smart phones. Hopefully one or two of the SMR designs will cross the Valley of Death but in the meantime the world is installing 120GW of renewables per year today.

    Let every available technology compete based on full life cycle costs and if nuclear wins I am happy but as of today I cannot finance or order a nuclear plant that competes


  69. To Tony Carden.

    Reducing output to save fuel is irrelevant for nuclear as you say. The problem for nuclear is maintaining output in the face of declining demand. On a mild evening or sunny weekend even now, there is more power on a number of grids than people need so big users are already paid to take power for some hours per year because coal and CCGT cannot ramp down.

    For nuclear the problem is ROI. At the moment capital charges are $millions per day, if you are not selling power because you have followed the load down almost all the costs keep going so unless a nuclear plant runs at around 70%+ utilisation rate it is hard for it to make money.

    Its the reverse of open cycle gas which can follow the load pretty quickly but fuel costs are high and capital low. At $30/ you just turn the gas turbine off but in a spike you might earn $500-5,000 per so you can run for 300 hours per year and make a bit of money. If you have a good year and run for 800 hours you can make squillions.

    As Eclipse now and others point out, there are new approaches to nuclear that may cost a lot less per but in spite of (SCE&G)’s “we interested in buying it if it works” statement for X Energy there are no firm orders in the West for these new designs


  70. Tony, this is a very polite query from someone who told the last person he was talking a load of fud (and an awful lot of that does go on).
    MSW is municipal solid waste and in this context means non-recyclable flammable wastes after all toxic and problematic material is removed. But in the case of some Copenhagen waste to energy plants it can include seized shipments of marijuana, plus hospital flammable wastes (and I don’t want to know what that might include).
    It’s not a case of ‘fear of running out of energy’.but a case of ‘it is here available and is being used in almost every other country (OECD, nation we trade with, or country that is not pure desert) and why the hell isn’t it being utilised here’. Seeing as it is cost-effective and with no downside i know of if it is done within sustainability guidelines.

    I don’t see it as a matter of ‘running out of energy’ (after all we have 500 years of brown coal and 40% of the world’s uranium reserves or what ever it is, plus we are the biggest exporter of black coal and lining up to be equal biggest exporter of LNG). It is a matter of – ‘why not use this material if it is good for the triple bottom line – particularly the rural/regional TBL’.

    Bagasse? No this is pretty much fully utilised. I’d be looking at the 10 million tonnes of MSW, the 20 million m3 of putrescible (wet organic) waste, and the 10-20 million tonnes of forestry and agricultural residues (not including native forestry harvest waste unless you really want to). This line up is an awful lot of energy of the three forms, and so 20% of final energy or more.


  71. Thanks again Andrew. I think it is a waste of Marijuana. Could they not sell it to the Dutch?
    Just wondering if you had a chance to view the video by Robert Hargraves referred to above.

    It all depends on the true cost.
    The MSW is not really free, it has to be treated to remove toxic and other undesirable compounds.. Also does MSW need its own dedicated facility etc.

    In relation to the forestry and agricultural waste, presumably it has to be collected and transported to a facility. Transportation costs in Australia are a significant and sometimes prohibitive factor.

    I am reminded of a story I read many years ago in relation to recycling. A remote community decided to commence recycling its rubbish to help save the environment or reduce its waste management costs. After about a year of conscientious separation and stock piling of the various types of waste they decided that they had enough material to sell. They duly received an estimate of how much the material was worth. Approx $1000. They then got a quote to deliver it. Approx $7000.
    In short, considering they had no shortage of dump space, the best environmental and economic solution was to abandon recycling and just dig a bigger hole.


  72. Hi Peter F,
    1. CHILE
    You never answered how long the Chile solar + storage actually stored for.

    You criticised France’s nuclear program for not meeting goals.

    In one decade (1977–1987), France increased its nuclear power production 15-fold, with the nuclear portion of its electricity increasing from 8% to 70%. That’s 63% of the grid in 10 years. That’s… incredible! I wish Australia would do that! 2/3rds the grid in 10 years! WOW! Aren’t you amazed at those statistics? Now let’s see how Germany did.

    In one decade (2001–2011) Germany increased the non-hydroelectric renewable energy portion of its electricity from 4% to 19%, with fossil fuels decreasing from 63% to 61% (hydroelectric decreased from 4% to 3% and nuclear power decreased from 29% to 18%). And now it has some of the most expensive electricity in Europe!

    Despite Hinckley being the absolute antithesis of the kind of nuclear power most of us are advocating for, it still stacks up pretty well, especially considering it supplies abundant reliable clean electricity that can charge EV’s overnight and doesn’t require hundreds of billions in storage costs! Use cheaper renewables where appropriate, such as some waste and sewerage schemes. But they won’t SCALE! The only renewables that can SCALE because of abundant available resource are also the most troublesome and unreliable: wind and solar. So even dumb old Hinkley is still sitting pretty compared to the others! More on Hinkley below, but check this out for now.

    “However, nuclear energy should also be compared with the strike prices guaranteed for other power generation sources in the UK. In 2012, maximum strike prices were £55/MWh for landfill gas, £75/MWh for sewage gas, £95/MWh for onshore wind power, £100/MWh for hydroelectricity, £120/MWh for photovoltaic power stations, £145/MWh for geothermal and £155/MWh for offshore wind farms.[38] In 2015, actual strike prices were in the range £50-£79.23/MWh for photovoltaic, £80/MWh for energy from waste, £79.23-£82.5/MWh for onshore wind, and £114.39-£119.89/MWh for offshore wind and conversion technologies (all expressed in 2012 prices).[39] These prices are indexed to inflation.[40] For projects commissioned in 2018–2019, maximum strike prices are set to decline by £5/MWh for geothermal and onshore wind power, and by £15/MW for offshore wind projects and large-scale photovoltaic, while hydro power remains unchanged at £100/MWh.[41] The strike price is agreed in ‘a contract between the generator and a new Government-owned counterparty'[36] and guarantees the price per megawatt-hour paid to the electricity producer. The strike price is not the same as the Levelized cost of electricity (LCOE) which is a first order estimate of the average cost the producer must receive to break-even.”

    But I note that you chose Hinkley, which I’m tempted to call cherrypicking data, which forces me (although I don’t want to) to question your honesty, even though I have appreciated the recent change in tone. For example, you didn’t talk about the Finnish Hanhikivi plant at 50Euros / MWh. Every Greenpeace Antie worth their weight in corrosive Antie-nuclear FUD knows about Hinkley, and crows it from the rooftops. They need to get a life. Ferrari’s are expensive too, but I don’t shout about Ferrari’s when asked about the price of family cars!

    Even pro-nuclear advocates get stuck into Hinkley! EG:-
    “Mr Ratcliffe said Ineos recently agreed a deal for nuclear power in France at 45 euros (£37.94) per Mwh.
    The government has guaranteed that the new Hinkley station, being developed by France’s EdF and backed by Chinese investors, can charge the £92.50 minimum price for 35 years.
    ‘Not competitive’
    “Forget it,” Mr Ratcliffe said in an interview with the BBC’s business editor Robert Peston. “Nobody in manufacturing is going to go near [that price].”
    Mr Ratcliffe said: “The UK probably has the most expensive energy in the world.
    “It is more expensive than Germany, it is more expensive than France, it is much, much, more expensive than America. It is not competitive at all, on the energy front, I am afraid.””

    For this conversation to continue PeterF I need you to stop prattling on about Hinkley as some kind of typical example of nuclear power, and analyse SMR’s some more. Because they are the future. GE are ready to go with their 300MW PRISM. Others are ready as well, and once given the funding, I really doubt everything you claim about the time to build the factory and scale up. Considering Hinkley, don’t you think a single Small Modular Reactor factory churning out a handful of reactors a year would be a significant revolution in nuclear power, let alone one a day, which is the ultimate goal of the LFTR video you watched?


  73. Yes the MSW is not free, it comes in with a receival payment of anything from $80/tonne upwards. Not too often an energy plant is paid to take a fuel.
    Yes, the waste to energy plant has to be purpose-built for this use and one I visited 6 weeks ago in Finland cost cost 300 million Euros. It now processes 320,000 tonne/year of mixed municipal waste into 68 MW of electricity and 99 MW of heat (all of which was sold at a price equal or more than the av 45 Euro/MWh for electricity. The MSW into landfill fell to 2% and everyone was happy.
    In relation to the agricultural and forestry waste, often it has to be taken off the site anyway, and the revenue from transporting it to a nearby energy plant, while only marginal economics is the best option for the owner of this material. Obviously the net economic outcome has to be better than revenue neutral for this to be an option.
    In many countries for woody biomass the net return to the timber owner is better for sending to a local energy plant (which may be a small heating plant of 0.5-1 MW cap) than a long distance to a pulp and paper plant (obviously not applicable to Australia where this option is zero in either event and we get our paper from countries with a satisfactorily minimal level of governance and felling of rainforest in all directions).
    Re your last paragraph it is all about the policy. And all about having good information. This situation if a real example should not be possible in a properly run country that makes claim to anything like good government. That being said, it could be anywhere in more remote (from that expletive-deleted capital city) rural Victoria.


  74. Andrew do you know what kind of population base that the MSW plant in Finland is servicing. $80 per ton is the cost of dumping rubbish in Brisbane currently so I guess there is no issue with that. Although I do not know how this would work in India.

    About my story I did read it in a newspaper, from memory it was the Australian, and I think that it may have been Western Australia. but you never can tell with journalists.
    ‘Nunquam corrumpo a bonus fabula per dico verum’.

    Yes I agree with you it is hard to imagine the above happening in well governed country but unfortunately when it comes to governance it is all about winning the next election.


  75. To Eclipse Now

    More things we agree on. Large scale Nuclear is a financial disaster as of course is offshore wind, however Hinckley is not the only one as I pointed out and there are a number of others that can be added to the list of late over budget nuclear plants.

    In answer to your question about Chile I don’t know but as it is in the Atacama cloud is not a huge problem so seasonal storage is much less of a problem than in Northern climes

    I think you made a good point about the speed of French nuclear deployment vs Germany’s renewables, however now French power costs at the grid level are higher than Germany’s and Germany’s are falling and France’s are rising so France’s short term success may be at the cost of longer term disadvantage.

    Thankyou for the information on the strike price for renewables in the UK, I knew offshore wind was very high but I didn’t realise that the others were so high. However again in the Australian context prices in the order of $95 are increasingly common

    I am not advocating for any existing plants to close before their time however in the US that looks like happening in a few cases

    I suppose the main difference between you and I are

    The the speed with which manufacture of small scale nuclear can be ramped up, which I think at best will be 5-10 years slower than you believe. As I said I have had a lot of experience with shipyards, product development and heavy machinery, it is what I have made my living from in almost 20 countries for more than 40 years.
    The economics, I do believe small reactors will get cheaper or even much cheaper, but everything would have to go perfectly for the claimed costs to be achieved. In any case there is a lot of money to be sunk before those costs are eventually realised.
    My assumptions about the speed of the learning curve on renewables is far more conservative than Hargraves uses for his learning curve for molten salt reactors. I am happy to acknowledge nuclear is getting better why can’t you believe that renewables do too.
    Finally in an isolated grid, no matter what the technology, storage or fast acting spinning reserves is important, in 4 regimes a) seconds to minutes if big loads drop off/come on. b) Hours as evening peak comes on c) as you often point out, seasonal balancing and finally d) backup in case of trips. At current costs it is cheaper to build storage than power plants that are used 3-10-30% or even 50% of the time. In addition storage placed near the load can improve system reliability and reduce network costs, in some cases by so much that it is still worthwhile in a perfectly load following generator system. That’s why off peak hotwater has been encouraged for 60 years.
    Even though we have spent much of this debate slinging off at each others favourite choice, In practice I am sure the world will not make a binary choice. There will be renewables, there will be geothermal, there will be biomass, there will be storage and there will be some nuclear. In some countries, there will be more of some sources than others. I just happen to think that in Australia with our low areal energy density and abundant sun and wind mean that nuclear will be very low on the scale.


  76. Peter Farley, your estimates of nuclear costs are wildly inflated, by a factor of 3 or more.

    The North Anna 3 project you cited is for a 1.47 GW ESBWR reactor, not an AP1000 reactor as you murkily suggested. Its yearly output at 90 percent capacity factor would be 11.6 TWh, not 7.2 twh as you reckoned. In any case the cost numbers on that are speculative and supplied by opponents of the plant in the source you cite. You have also treated total costs as overnight costs and inappropriately added an increment for financing costs, and additional inflations whose rationale is obscure.

    For a sound worst-case cost estimate, let’s look at the twin AP1000 reactors currently under construction at the Vogtle plant in Georgia. The Georgia public service commission gives a worse-case cost scenario, assuming an 87-month delay, of $21.7 billion in total, including financing costs. (The current forecast is a 39 month delay and much lower cost. See Hayet’s testimony, Table 3, Note that the nominal costs, $9.9 billion, are for Georgia Power’s 45.7 percent of the plant. ) That’s AU$30.5 billion for total costs including financing costs, not the AU$44 billion in total costs you reckoned above. And that’s for a two-unit plant of 2.234 GW capacity, which at 90 percent capacity factor will generate 17.6 twh, not the 7.2 twh you assumed.

    So a similar two-unit AP1000 plant in Australia would cost a third less and produce 2.4 times more electricity per year than you estimated. And those are worst-case estimates for plants suffering from serious FOAK setbacks and overruns. We can expect an nth of a kind Australian plant to be quite a bit cheaper, and much cheaper than the costs you have reckoned for a wind and solar alternative. (The twin-unit AP1000 build at VC Summer in South Carolina is running about 20 percent cheaper than the Vogtle build.)


  77. “I am happy to acknowledge nuclear is getting better why can’t you believe that renewables do too.”
    I’m happy to acknowledge that the price-to-grid of wind and solar has been falling dramatically as the technologies scale up. But as I have said many times above, the price-to-grid is a LIE! There’s simply no sugar coating it. Any trite ‘solar is cheaper than grid’ statement is an outright LIE of omission, a cherry-picked half-truth that is intended to deceive. I meet it all the time, and it betrays cliché superficial light-green thinking that makes me vomit! When, oh when, are these people going to admit that ‘price to grid’ omits the most important cost of all, STORAGE! I’ve even heard some say solar could be free and it would still be irrelevant because it is a power supply that is mostly off! STORAGE!


  78. The Vantaa plant draws from the southern province that includes Helsinki, Espoo, Porvoo and Vantaa, so from about 1.5 million people. It works out at about 0.6 kg/person/day (but of course a significant fraction of this comes from business, institutions, commerce etc in that region).
    The tax on landfill was 50 euro/tonne adn other costs may have been involved. But legislation to divert waste to energy rather than into landfill from the start of 2016 has been probably the main trigger for constructing this and shutting down a CCGT plant..'sWaste-to-EnergyPlant.aspx
    This is the fourth or fifth such plant built in Finland (though the most efficient and with lowest emissions of heavy metals etc.) and I have visited another that gasifies dry sorted MSW to fire a furnace with the cleaned up gas to produce 50 MW-e and 90 MW-TH.
    Come the day when policy people here wake up to the fact that this sort of plant can kill two birds with one stone – produce dispatcheable, at least 50% renewable electricity plus heat, plus cut the logistical issues and costs of filling distant quarries with city MSW. All for less than the overall capital costs of a windfarm with the same output. Three or four of such plants could utilise the MSW from Melbourne or Sydney, and one could deal with the MSW of the Newcastle region.
    I understand that there are 6 WtE plants near completion in India and possibly more. I am involved in the pre-feasibility studies of one for Khartoum.


  79. In the 1970s Sweden donated a pair of Waste-to-Energy incinerators to India, where they failed. Waste arriving at the plants had already been depleted in combustibles by small workshops that made kindling and briquettes for family cookers. Are someone trying to do these guys out of a job, again?


  80. I am happy to be corrected on the capacity of North Anna 3. and also that the quoted building costs include the financing costs up to commissioning

    However generation at 90% is a dream. the world fleet averages 71% and France is currently running at 67% and as Eclipse Now constantly reminds us it exports huge amounts of power and has large hydro, both of which enable it to make use of excess power. Therefore it is highly unlikely that a plant in Australia would have a higher duty cycle than those in France.

    1.All the plants you mentioned are on brown field sites with existing grid connections saving somewhere $0.5b and $1b.
    2. Building 2 plants on one site also saves anywhere up to 10% of the cost of the two plants
    3. Financing costs in Australia are more than 2/3rds higher than costs in the US and all the plants you mentioned have large loan guarantees from the US government and tax rebates from the state and local governments
    3. Labour costs in the US vs Australia including large numbers of skilled expats
    4. Cooling systems will have to be larger.
    5. Transport costs of large components

    On the first Australian plant this will increase costs by at least 35-45% if not more. Let’s say we can reduce that by 20% due the learning curve. so the US$22b x 1.4 x 0.8 /0.71/2 is about A$17.5b per plant.

    The US plant running at say 80% utilization will run about 15.6TW.hrs. The finance and depreciation costs over 30 years at 4.5% interest work out at abit under A$0.95b per year not including maintenance operation or fuel. That works out at $123 per

    The Australian plant reaching the French average 67% utilisation , (a heroic assumption given our lack of experience and grid conditions) would generate 13TW.hrs. At 7.0% interest that would be $230 per just for the plant. No grid reinforcement, no storage, no spinning reserves.

    In addition you have a little over A$30/MW in operating costs (,-Operation,-Waste-Disposal-Life-Cycle) plus management and profits of say another $15-25. So for an adequate return on investment you have to get someone to stump up some billions in grid/storage/spinning reserve costs and then get around A$280 -$290 at the plant gate if you can instantly reach French levels of efficiency.

    This I agree is lower than my previous estimates but it is more than double the price of renewables


  81. PeterF,
    you’re out of date again! Are you doing this on purpose? Are you just a troll? Can you try to strive for accuracy just once, just to help your credibility? Otherwise I’m going to start attacking solar PV prices based on quarter century old data!
    “The USA has 99 nuclear power reactors in 30 states, operated by 30 different power companies. Since 2001 these plants have achieved an average capacity factor of over 90%, generating up to 807 billion kWh per year and accounting for 20% of total electricity generated. Capacity factor has risen from 50% in the early 1970s, to 70% in 1991, and it passed 90% in 2002, remaining at around this level since. In 2014 it was a record 91.9%. The industry invests about $7.5 billion per year in maintenance and upgrades of these.”–nuclear-power/


  82. PS: In case you try to play semantic games about ‘world’ nuclear capacity versus American, you’d have to justify why some very specific local circumstances in some specific countries are now intrinsic to the technology. In other words, justify why we are so dumb that we cannot build reactors as good as the Americans? I find it insulting that you play such cheap and dishonest games with statistics. Being Aussies, we’d shoot for the best technology and highest capacity factors for the highest economic returns.

    “Considering 400 power reactors over 150 MWe for which data are available: over 1980 to 2000 world median capacity factor increased from 68% to 86%, and since then it has maintained around 85%. Actual load factors are slightly lower: 80% average in 2012 (excluding Japan), due to reactors being operated below their full capacity for various reasons. One quarter of the world’s reactors have load factors of more than 90%, and nearly two thirds do better than 75%, compared with about a quarter of them over 75% in 1990. The USA now dominates the top 25 positions, followed by South Korea, but six other countries are also represented there. Four of the top ten reactors for lifetime load factors are South Korean.”


  83. Grow up. I have pointed out differences, I haven’t abused you.

    I didn’t quote US figures, I quoted world figures and official French figures published in August, they are not out of date. I agree that the US is achieving higher output. However the plants only supply 19.5% of US output and therefore can supply the residual load while everything else ramps up and down around them. They can also export power to Canada and Mexico.

    You quote Korea where Nuclear is just under 29%, Well look what a success this is from Power Magazine. An industry magazine around since 1892 obviously a green left publication

    ……”South Korea’s difficult power supply issues have been aggravated by an ongoing documentation scandal involving its essential nuclear plants, and the future of its economy depends upon efforts to balance energy security and environmental concerns.

    South Korea, the world’s eighth-largest trading nation, whose trade volume has surpassed $1 trillion for two straight years, barely avoided blackouts between June and August this summer after the country’s nuclear regulator was compelled to temporarily shut down or suspend resumption of six of its 23 reactors.

    The cause: A wide-ranging documentation scandal that has since morphed into a political firestorm of corruption allegations traded between the state-owned nuclear company and the industry, and within the government itself. It began in November 2012 when investigators found thousands of substandard parts with forged quality warranties installed in reactors. This May, further scrutiny uncovered control cables used in emergency shutdown that failed safety checks but were still installed in several reactors with fake warranties.

    And as temperatures rose this June, grid operator the Korea Power Exchange warned that reserve margins had dipped precariously low, and it was forced to slash power use by 6 GW to counter debilitating electricity supply shortages. The country’s energy ministry at the time also demanded that local conglomerates curb power use by 15% to avoid a grid failure. The problem now stands to worsen over the coming winter and through next summer, putting the country’s booming economy on hiatus.”

    As the market penetration increases the amount of time that the power available from any given technology that cannot be absorbed increases. That is why France’s units only operate at 67%.

    Peak demand in any power grid is usually double average demand therefore if all your plants are of one type the utilization will be around 50%. With a 10% reserve margin to cope with outages/maintenance etc. the utilisation will drop below 50%. That is why ALL GRIDS HAVE STORAGE, backup and peak generators. The idea of a 100% nuclear grid, the least flexible and most expensive backup of all is just economic lunacy

    We Aussies can do anything. Having been heavily involved with a number of businesses that exported 90% of their high technology large industrial equipment I have a fair idea of Australia’s industrial strengths and weaknesses.

    I also know that when you put new equipment in a new environment there are large adaption and start up costs.

    As to my expertise, Every week $1-2m of heavy industrial equipment developed by me is sold around the world. I have helped build factories in Australia, China, the USA and many other countries. I also know that when I design a new factory or machine, the time and cost involved to get to the stage that Thorcon are at, takes about 2% of the cost and 3-5% of the manhours and 5-10% of the project time. I have been doing it for 40 years and my customers release 2-3 new products every year. I also know that more than half of the projects which get to the Thorcon stage stop at some time because there is some insurmountable barrier and most of the remainder suffer significant delays.

    This is not to say that Thorcon et al should not be pursued but to think they are a short to medium term solution to the world’s problems is just fantasy


  84. Will Boisvert, thank you for your clear voice of reason.

    Peter Farley, are you a religious preacher or something? Your rant is too voluminous to read. In case you would have the casual reader believe that renewables baseload costs half of nuclear baseload, may I say that that is a whopper.

    Urging people to believe in renewables baseload dangerously misleads them from the only practical energy solution to the holocaust ahead.


  85. Peter F,
    South Korea’s inspection regime needs some work. That’s a political and management issue, not an intrinsic issue with the technology itself. Also, as an expert in building factory systems, surely you have to grant that a production line involves the manufacture and supply of standardised safety systems and parts? Standardisation. Inspection. Management.

    But even in this ‘catastrophe’ of South Korea having a few brownout issues, 6/23 is still pretty good compared to renewables!


  86. Hi all,
    Just look at PeterF’s claims here! Wow. What can you do when someone believes this? So many half truths smuggled into blithe assumptions that I hardly know where to begin?

    As the market penetration increases the amount of time that the power available from any given technology that cannot be absorbed increases. That is why France’s units only operate at 67%.

    Peak demand in any power grid is usually double average demand therefore if all your plants are of one type the utilization will be around 50%. With a 10% reserve margin to cope with outages/maintenance etc. the utilisation will drop below 50%. That is why ALL GRIDS HAVE STORAGE, backup and peak generators. The idea of a 100% nuclear grid, the least flexible and most expensive backup of all is just economic lunacy<<<


  87. Hey, formatting on wordpress comments: three right facing arrows indents the text in a cool way! But it didn’t work for his second paragraph, so must need them for each paragraph. This was also his.

    Peak demand in any power grid is usually double average demand therefore if all your plants are of one type the utilization will be around 50%. With a 10% reserve margin to cope with outages/maintenance etc. the utilisation will drop below 50%. That is why ALL GRIDS HAVE STORAGE, backup and peak generators. The idea of a 100% nuclear grid, the least flexible and most expensive backup of all is just economic lunacy


    BNC Comments Policy requires that you do not stoop to personal attacks or name calling on any other commenter. Some of the new posters here may not be aware that this applies on all threads including the Open Thread. Further instances will be deleted. Thank you.


  89. Peter Farley,

    “Generation at 90 percent is a dream. The world fleet averages 71 % and France is currently running at 67 %…highly unlikely that a plant in Australia would have a higher duty cycle than those in France.”

    Peter, wrong. The world fleet averages 71 percent capacity factor because 43 Japanese reactors were counted as operational but were not operating because of political shutdowns. France’s CF was 75 percent in 2014 (not 67 percent, see IAEA PRIS database), low because its reactors have to load follow because they provide 77 percent of total electricity. In countries where reactors providef baseload power without load following, as a first plant in Australia would, capacity factors average 90 percent—the US average. 90 percent is the right CF to use for a first Australian plant in baseload operation.

    “All the plants you mentioned are on brown field sites with existing grid connections saving somewhere $0.5b and $1billion.”

    Both Vogtle and VC Summer are making major grid investments, including new switchyards, substations and transmission lines, costing hundreds of millions of dollars. These costs are included in the total budget I quoted.

    “Building 2 plants on one site also saves anywhere up to 10 % of the cost of the two plants.”

    Right. That’s why Australia should consider building a 2-unit (or 3, or 4, or 6-unit) plant. Costs less and you get much more clean energy. That’s the whole point, right?

    “Financing costs in Australia are more than 2/3rds higher than costs in the US and all the plants you mentioned have large loan guarantees from the US government and tax rebates from the state and local governments.”

    Vogtle and Summer are borrowing at about 5-7 percent. (Are you sure Australian interest rates are that much higher than US rates? Do you have data on that?) Vogtle does have an $8.3 billion loan guarantee, about 50 percent of the capital cost. VC Summer has no loan guarantee and is budgeted at about 20 percent less than Vogtle. Neither gets tax rebates from state or local government, but they do get “construction work in progress” financing—customers pay interest on funds borrowed during construction—but those costs picked up by rate-payers are included in the capital costs I quoted above.

    “Cooling systems will have to be larger.”

    Doubtful. Both Vogtle and VC Summer have cooling towers and are cooled by smallish rivers that get quite warm in the summer. If an Australian plant is cooled by ocean water, it’s likely to use smaller cooling systems.

    “Transport costs of large components.”

    Nope. Both Vogtle and VC Summer have high shipping costs because they are located well inland of ports. Their components are shipped in from factories hundreds to thousands of miles away, and from overseas.

    I just don’t see much substance behind your expectation of higher prices for an Australian AP1000 plant. And since the cost I quoted of AU$30.5 billion was a worst-case scenario for the Vogtle FOAK plant, Australian costs will likely be substantially lower. Worst-case Vogtle is AU$13,652 per kw, while the current mid-range estimate for the VC Summer sister plant is about AU$8,028 / kw, so there’s evidence that a NOAK Australian plant will be much cheaper than I have estimated.
    Your estimate of $280-90 per mwh for nuclear is way out of line and based on inappropriate cost and capacity factor assumptions. Let me take a crack at my own calculation, using the US NREL LCOE calculator, for an AP1000 plant. (Australian dollars.)
    For a twin-unit AP1000 plant, 2.234 GW, 90 percent capacity factor.
    –Plant worst-case capital cost of $30.5 billion. $13,652 per kw
    –Total O and M of 5.5 cents per kwh, including 2.5 cents profit, per PF.
    –Discount rate of 7 percent, 30-year payback.

    The NREL LCOE calculator returns a cost of 19.5 cents per kwh, $195 per mwh. But the plant has a service life of 60 years. During the last 30 years after the mortgage is paid, the costs drop to just the O and M costs of $55 per mwh; over the plant’s lifetime the average cost will be $125 per mwh. So your $280-90 per mwh is way too high. And I assumed worst-case Vogtle nuclear capital costs. At the mid-range estimate for VC Summer, the 60-year average cost would be $97 per mwh.

    I won’t try to price the full transmission and storage cost since I only have your cost estimates to go on and I can’t vouch for them.


  90. While I certainly enjoyed my 6 months in Australia some decades ago, that hardly puts me in a position to offer concrete advice.

    But generally speaking, nuclear power plants are dispatchable and offer the prospect of a low carbon replacement for other thermal generators. In the USA anyway, grid operators state that they prefer a variety of generation types.

    From comments on this thread but also earlier on Brave New Climate I gently suggest that Australian grid operators might well consider adding some SMR nuclear power plants. In the USA Nuscale will be the first with an NRC approved design. They already have a first customer. The South Koreans have an SMR design and interest in selling abroad.

    The advantage of SMRs is starting small and working up to replacing all of existing coal burners.

    (Just now I can’t readily advocate that here in the Pacific Northwest. Natgas is so inexpensive as to preclude all but mandated wind turbine and solar PV development.)


  91. Why would you want to burn carbon rich waste to generate electricity. That strikes me as rather wasteful.

    Most non-fossil energy sources are hard to use for anything mobile. Liquid fuel made from carbon rich waste is an exception (the only one?).

    Use nuclear etc. to generate electricity & heat for stationary uses & to process organic waste into liquid fuels which would be used for transporation where such things as electric rail, trolley busses/trucks & ropeways aren’t practical.

    Trolly busses
    for cargo
    and passengers


  92. Jim Baerg says, “Why would you want to burn carbon rich waste to generate electricity. That strikes me as rather wasteful. [instead we should] Use nuclear etc. to … process organic waste into liquid fuels.”

    Amen to that. Photosynthesis is good at extracting carbon from the air but hopeless at extracting energy from sunlight. However it is also good at polymerising carbon. Then, by adding energy to poly(HCOH) to get poly(HCH) we get greenhouse-friendly transport fuel.


  93. Heat from compressed air can be saved and used in heating water but there is value in cooled compressed air. Most importantly, it could be expanded to cool air for daytime air conditioning. Mechanical can be more economically done by compressed air and pneumatic motors. This could be water pumping or operation of static machinery. It could, of course be converted to electric power but lighting and electronics are best done by photo-voltaic power for which panels could be mounted on the towers.


  94. Roger Clifton.
    You don’t read information but you know it is wrong. I will try to be a bit more succinct but facts require explanations, insults not much.

    Eclipse Now
    Your point in the last two excerpts from my previous post? See 4 below for an alternative explanation

    No, none, zero GenX reactors, Nuscale, Prism nor Thorcon or any of the others are licensed yet. GE Hitachi is progressing licensing in the UK not of PRISM, but their Gen III ABWR even though their promotional material targets the PRISM expressly at the UK.
    Therefore currently available western nuclear designs are EPR, ABWR and AP1000. They are all supposed to cost US$6-8k per kW on brownfield sites but so far are 20-100% more expensive. I am sure that cost will come down.
    Wind costs $1.5-2.5/kW or the equivalent of US$3-6 at equivalent output. Wind turbines can be placed throughout the grid reducing the cost of grid upgrades and smoothing the output from any windfarm, but still require storage. Wind power cost per delivered has been falling at 5-8% per annum for the last decade and capacity factors have been rising form 15-20% ten years ago to 35-50%+ for windfarms completed in the last 2-3 years. The operating and maintenance cost of nuclear is around $30/ The operating and maintenance cost of wind is $1-3/
    Once the output of any power generator or class of generators is above the minimum demand in the grid they cannot sell power so by definition their capacity factor falls from whatever the theoretical maximum is. That is why American nuclear is at 90% because the output of the American Nuclear system is barely higher than the minimum demand on the system. In contrast France with a 70% nuclear system runs at 67%. Australia for many reasons which I have explained at length is unlikely to exceed France’s levels, particularly if we were to have a lot of nukes.
    Re molten salt, the two projects with any real money behind them are the Indian and Chinese projects. The Chinese hope to have a commercial prototype running in 10 years, (their original plan was 25 years).
    Therefore with any technology that you can actually contract for today, wind in Australia is cheaper than nuclear.

    Wind has problems with
    a) (big Problem) with storage
    b) grid re-inforcement.

    Nuclear in Australia has problems with
    a) scale (excess local capacity),
    b) therefore an even bigger problem with grid re-inforcement
    c) short term spinning reserves.
    d) skills
    e) security
    f) storage (not as big as wind)
    g) cost and
    h) delivery time.

    Re storage there are dozens of types of storage most of which are cheaper than batteries however in Australia storage as backup is less important than in Northern hemisphere. We do not get weeks of overcast still weather. According to the BOM on 98% of hot days in Victoria there are fair or stronger winds in western Victoria. In the afternoon on hot days there is solar and as the day progresses the winds pickup and in the late afternoon as solar disappears, hydro can be ramped up as necessary. I am not saying we don’t need storage or even that we have anywhere near enough but we need days not weeks.
    Re economies of scale most new products find a niche at a high price and use the funds from that to scale up production over 10-15 years during which time technology and scale allow price reductions of 5-10 times which is what has happened with phones, computers and dare I say solar panels and wind turbines. Where is the niche that will pay 4 or 5 times NOAK for SMR’s
    When the SMR’s are actually available they will hopefully reduce the problems of cost, scale, and grid reinforcement but they will still need fast response backup and storage.
    The numbers I gave you yesterday already included the lower costs of plant Vogtle not Hinckley Point. Allowing 90% utilisation for the US and 75% for Australia and 5% of sales for general admin, 5% for risk and a 10% profit margin Nuclear from new plants in the US will cost A$135/ (US11c/ a lot less than Hinckley Point and in Australia it will be A$245 (A24.5c/ vs 8.9c/ in the recent ACT wind auctions These costs do not include storage or grid reinforcement in either case.

    In 10 years time who knows what will the optimum solution be. At the moment it is wind and solar backed up by gas and hydro.


  95. PeterF said: “In ten years … wind and solar backed up by gas and hydro”.

    On the contrary. We must not install more gas when the IPCC says we must halve carbon emissions every 15 years. There is nothing temporary about gas installations, involving fifty or more years of real estate, gaslines, rights-of-way, and thousands of shareholders scattered through the suburbs, pubs, hate radio, party rooms and corridors of influence. Existing windfarms provide a green excuse for the survival of existing gas power.

    Wind-backed-by-gas (OCGT, 35% efficient) saves little or no gas compared to 100% CCGT (60% efficient). In that perspective, the movement to renewables resembles less a protection for the greenhouse than a religious revulsion against nuclear.


  96. PeterF gets the ‘Understatement of the year’ award for the following contribution!
    Apparently nuclear power has “problems” with…

    “f) storage (not as big as wind)”
    Really? Nuclear power doesn’t have a overwhelming desire to be OFF more than it is ON? As in, OFF 2/3rds of the day, most days? Wow. I never knew! ;-)


  97. Roger

    I am sorry WordPress deleted my bullet points and confused the meaning a little

    I did not mean that we should install much more gas, we have about 8 or 9GW (I think) on the grid now, most of it very little used. I also expect that there will be more storage which allows the CCGT plants to run for longer times not just load following but recharging storage.

    I did not say that in 10 years, wind and solar will still be the right solution I said that is the right solution now. In 10 years who knows what the right solution is

    No matter what you or I might want, coal will stay around for a long time, we can hasten the attrition but not do it in 5 or even 10 years.

    I am keen to see action now and the best action today is wind and solar. If we increase that by 2-5% per year and your forecasts for nuclear come good we will have a 60/40% renewables/nuclear split or vice versa. I don’t care what the split is but opting for nuclear now means very little action for a minimum 3-4 years while the political process grinds on then 6-8 years construction and commissioning. If we are lucky the first GW flows into the system in 2026-28. In the meantime we can add about 10-30GW of renewables and retire 6-12GW of coal leaving nuclear to kill the rest.


  98. To Will Boisvert.
    There is almost no 30 year commercial bond market in Australia but 10 year bonds tend to be some multiple of the 10year government bond. Here the government 10 year bond about 3% in the US, it is a bit over 2%. This is an unusually low spread reflecting the current expectations for faster growth in the US than it is here. There is a risk margin which would also be higher for the first few plants in Australia.

    To clarify my calculations I used 4.5% for the US and 7% for Australia. An analogue is that US mortgage rates are about 3% ours is about 5%

    If as you say plant Vogel is paying 5-7% even with a government guarantee then that pushes both costs higher.

    I agree that a nuclear plant should last 60 years but this usually includes a $3b or so life extension after 30-40 years. Adding this back in and spreading the total repayments actually means that the costs over 60 years are little different to the 30 year costs, better but not much

    Re cooling, it is swings and roundabouts the problem with river cooling is the energy to run the cooling tower. The problem with seawater is fouling and corrosion. So that the cooling still works for a reasonable period of time without cleaning it every day and replacing the whole heat exchanger every few years.they are built with thicker tubes of higher cost materials and usually longer runs, which means more pumping losses and still higher maintenance than a fresh water system.

    Re transport. In the US most of the transport of heavy items would be from barge dock at or near the manufacturer to the dock on the river. Here, as it will be politically impossible to build nuclear power plants in ports, serious infrastructure will be needed.

    Construction costs in Australia in 2012 were claimed to be 40% higher than the US. This gap has reduced but it is still above US rates and they have an experienced nuclear workforce so I still believe costs will be substantially higher for the first few Australian plants


  99. PeterF,
    you’re talking about business as usual, but war-time-emergency thinking can achieve far more. What if society had some education and agreed to wean off coal ASAP? What if energy were nationalised? Have you figured out how many 1GW reactors, or even better, 300MW SMR’s it would take to replace Australia’s coal? Once again:

    ///In one decade (1977–1987), France increased its nuclear power production 15-fold, with the nuclear portion of its electricity increasing from 8% to 70%.///


  100. Peter Farley,

    –“In contrast France with a 70 percent nuclear system runs at 67 % [capacity factor]”

    Peter, no, in 2014 France got 77 percent of its electricity production from nuclear with a 75 percent capacity factor. Look it up in the IAEA PRIS database.

    –“To clarify my calculations I used 4.5 % for the US and 7% for Australia. An analogue is that US mortgage rates are about 3 % ours is about 5 %….If plant Vogtle is paying 5-7 % even with a government guarantee then that pushes both costs higher.”

    Vogtle and Summer are financed partly by the utility’s equity, which will get a regulated rate of return of 10-11 percent. The weighted average cost of capital for the project is therefore probably about 7-8 percent. In short, the Vogtle budget does not reflect lower financing rates than you have reckoned for Australia.

    –“Re Transport. In the US most of the transport of heavy items would be from barge dock at or near the manufacturer to the dock on the river.”

    Nope. There is no barge traffic up the Savannah River to Vogtle. Heavy components come in by rail and truck. A partial exception was Unit 3’s giant deaerator, which made it a short way up the Savannah by barge but then had to be hauled the final 75 miles by truck.

    –“I agree that a nuclear plant should last 60 years but this usually includes a $3 b[illion] or so life extension after 30 or 40 years. Adding this back in and spreading the total repayments actually means that the costs over 60 year are little different to the 30 year costs, better but not much.”

    Where on earth are you getting $3 billion from? That’s in addition to the normal repair and replacement budget in O and M? And even if it were true, that barely changes lifetime nuclear costs.

    Let’s assume for the sake of argument that your $3 billion is correct. (Australian dollars.) That’s a cost of $1343 per kw, amortized over the last 30 years of the plant’s life at 7 percent, and added to O and M of $55 per mwh. Using the NREL LCOE calculator, that gives a total cost of $69 per mwh during the last half of the plant’s life. Averaging with the 30-year cost of nuclear power of $195 per mwh, lifetime cost would go up just a little, from $125 to $132 per mwh, assuming your $3 billion refurbishment charge. Even by your own faulty reckoning of $245 per mwh for 30-year costs (glad it’s going down!), the 60-year cost would be $157 per mwh. That’s a big difference.

    Again, this is all assuming that worst-case Vogtle FOAK costs apply. Other FOAK AP1000 builds are coming in much cheaper, and costs will likely fall still lower for NOAK Australian builds. And of course, it’s for a quality and reliability of nuclear power that is incomparably superior to wind and solar.


  101. Eclipse
    I posted a reply yesterday but it seems to have disappeared into the ether.
    We have about 58GW of commercial generation on the grid of which 8 is hydro and if memory serves me correctly there is about 1 GW of biomass, landfill gas etc. In Australia the wind is never zero across the grid so we can count on at least 1GW of wind in the afternoon peak and some far west solar. In a long drought you might be able to count on 5GW of hydro and 2GW of other.
    At the grid edge there is an unknown amount of Cogen and about 4GW of solar.
    It is a bit hard to track down peak system wide demand. Because of grid bottlenecks whole states can be at peak but generation underutilised in other areas but I think worst case demand is about 50-55GW.
    So therefore the remaining thermal demand is 50-5-2 is 42-48GW

    There are three big unknowns
    One is how will increasing energy efficiency (the best low carbon option) intersect with increasing electrification of heating and transport and population growth vs lower industrial intensity. There is reasonable evidence to suggest that if the right policies are set and we approach the energy efficiency levels of other advanced countries, electrical demand will fall slowly over time.

    The other is how will markets be re-arranged. The current moves toward higher fixed charges and excessive regulation of distributed storage and generation under the guise of protecting the grid are really efforts to protect the old guard. It is not an easy task to design an electricity system that is reliable, safe and economical but it is safe to say that current trends in pricing and regulation do not encourage the best outcomes.

    Small amounts of local storage either at the premises or the local substation can have significant benefits in increasing reliability and reducing the investment in peak rated transformers, transmission lines and even generators, so I would expect that over the next 15 years that investment will increase but to what level I don’t know.

    In summary if everything goes in an optimum direction peak demand will be anywhere between 35 and 40GW. If we get the policies wrong and the de-industrialisation trend reverses it could be 60-65GW

    Now most grids want a 5-10% reserve margin and you can only be sure of about 90% of capacity due to outages, maintenance etc. In our case on really hot days a number of plants may be de-rated if the temperature is too high and finally the afore-mentioned grid bottlenecks might be significantly reduced but will never be eliminated, so in total you probably need about 120-130% of peak demand nominally on the grid to guarantee no power problems on a few hot days. In practice that is just overkill so you could cut it back to about 110% with a small risk of some load shedding for a couple of hours every 3 or 4 years

    The scenarios below are both simplistic because it will never be an either/or solution. Whether its gas or whatever, there will still be FF backup. For example if we have 10GW of gas running flat out for 100 hours per year and at an average of half capacity for 500 hours a year it would only generate about 2% of our annual demand and reduce our GHG emissions from power by 97% but eliminate about $50-70b in investment in nuclear or $30b in storage

    However if there is no fossil fuel capacity available and we muddle along in the middle of the above scenarios we would need to plan for somewhere between 45 and 55GW of nuclear.

    Assuming the current figure of US$6-8k per kW falls by 25% over time we are talking about A$7-8 per kW that is between $320 and $420b.

    Now if we build an additional 35GW ($2.50/kw) of wind and 35GW ($2.5/kW) of solar with 40-50 GW ($3.5/kW) of mainly pumped hydro storage and assume that the project is spread over the same time period and the solar and wind drop by the same 25% but storage only falls by 5% then we are looking at an investment $260-300b.

    Coming to your point of a war footing, Either is doable, spread over 10-12 years it represents about 2-3% of GDP about 30-50% more than we currently spend on defence or between 30-40% of peak fixed capital expenditure in the mining and gas industry.

    The final question is politics. With nuclear you have 5 big enemies (coal and gas miners, existing generators, GW deniers, debt and deficit hawks, most of the greens and the general population) and a couple of small friends (some greens and the nuclear industry). With renewables you have 3 big enemies (Existing coal and gas miners, most of the existing generators and GHG deniers) and some larger friends.

    That means if every pro nuclear person did a fantastic job of converting everyone they knew it would take at least 4 years before tenders are called for the first nuclear plant. a year to award the tender and 6-8 years till commissioning so the first GW on the system in 2017 if we are very lucky. In the meantime if we just go back to 2-3GW of wind and solar that we were building 4 years ago (which is now much cheaper) in 2027 we would have an additional 25-35GW on the system producing 10 times the power of the first nuclear plant.

    I am not saying don’t spend R&D money, don’t keep campaigning for nuclear. I am saying expand energy efficiency programs, keep going with current renewables and prepare for lower cost nuclear.

    If in 30 years time the mix is 70% nuclear and 30% renewables or 20/80 the other way I don’t care. Start now, invest regularly and each year, award contracts on the basis of the best combination of reliability/ long term cost and safety. For all we know in 10 years time the best answer might be supercritical CO2 geothermal. My concern with advocating nuclear too strongly today is that it provides a wedge for all the anti’s (blue, red and green) to do nothing and we continue to be the OECD’s worst emitter.

    I have enjoyed the conversation learnt a lot and I hope you have too but I have been neglecting my work and so I am signing off this thread


  102. I failed to mention why one ought to consider the South Korean reactors. The all-in cost for the 4 generator NPP being constructed for the UAE is close to US$4500/kW. All-in means that includes the civil works including the transmission lines.


  103. Jens Stubbe said (since deleted or moved below) that Denmark extracts “natural gas and a lot of excess CO2. It has been suggested to use the CO2 together with excess electricity to produce methane that can be stored and sold as natural gas”. The Sabatier reaction requires elevated temperature.

    Natgas (methane) plus CO2 plus wind electricity could also make methanol, a synfuel in a process that requires elevated pressure. But that process too, would have to function intermittently and still break even cost-wise.


  104. It is appropriate that COP 21 is held in France as its CO2 emissions from electricity generation are just 40gms/kWh due to nuclear technology.

    If the world had followed the French lead in 1975 and replaced fossil fuels with nuclear to generate electricity there would be no climate change emissions issue today.

    Yet it is unlikely that any of the COP 21 delegates including the current French Government will promote nuclear technology due to their anti science, anti nuclear political beliefs and instead will promote Germany’s renewable achievements. As a result COP21, like the previous 20 climate conferences, will deliver no meaningful emission reductions.

    Germany is replacing nuclear with renewables, and new coal burning power stations that load follow renewable intermittency to provide electricity when the sun does not shine and the wind does not blow.
    As a result Germany’s CO2 emissions from electricity generation are 576gms/kWh or 14 times higher than France.

    German CO2 emissions from power generation are virtually unchanged since 1997 at about 365Mt per year despite renewable production rising from 25TWh in 1997 to 155TWh in 2013.

    Despite this evidence the French Government is also planning to replace its nuclear fleet with renewables.

    No wonder prominent climate scientist, Jim Hansen has called on the global community to stop donating to anti science organisations that pay professional anti nuclear activists to spread misinformation about nuclear power. See page 14 of his 2014 paper.

    Click to access 20140221_DraftOpinion.pdf


  105. the facts are that electricity is only 25-30% of national energy use, and so making that 25% lower is not a solution in itself to rising GHG emissions.
    It is countries like Austria, Sweden, Finland, Denmark, and yes Germany, that are working on the other 75% – production of heat for industry and for space heating, for transport, and in warmer countries for space cooling – that have got it straight.
    Sweden with its 40-45% of electricity from nuclear and declining demonstrates how this can be done using biomass as its largest energy source. Sweden’s target is for final energy from biomass by 2020 to be 39%, and for all import of fossilf uels to have ceased by 2030.
    In Sweden’s case this now means national GHG emissions per capita of below 6 tonne. It also means a strong forestry sector and healthy rural and regional economies, with increasing share of ‘energy spending’ retained in the local economies.
    In the case of Germany biogas provides up to 5% of baseload electricity (never something we hear of), and other forms of biomass and waste provide another 5% of electricity, with significant contribution to heat energy and transport fuels from conversion of biomass and bio-wastes.
    Australia could fruitfully go down this path instead of the present fixation with wind and solar PV with their intermittency, social, recycling and cost issues.
    Bioenergy is scaleable, cheap, decentralised, the ash and residues returned to the production site, lots of jobs in supply chains, real contribution to national energy security and carbon sequestration, utilises the vast annual amounts of economically available wastes (not native forest residues as these are uneconomic to access), plus reduces GHG emissions/MWh of electricity and heat to near zero, and ditto per GJ of transport fuel. What’s not to like? So why are the Greens and other allied groups so silent on this option?


  106. if the world had followed the French lead in 1975 – no pacific island atoll would not have been violated, the background radiation level would have gone off the scale, and the harbours would be full of sunken trawlers.
    A visit to the museum at Hiroshima is very instructive not only to get a glimpse of the way people can be blind to outcomes of taking such a path, but because the City of Hiroshima keeps a careful record of every balls-up, accident and incident in the nuclear industry both peaceful and military.
    Human error and human nature are responsible for most of them. Arrogance and stupidity for some. Simple mechanical failure for many. Pure unpredictable event or sequence of events for some. That’s before getting into the present period of international tensions, religious extremism, global jihad and 7.5 billion heading for 10 billion people wanting space.


  107. Andrew
    I agree that we need to have a whole of Government and community approach to emissions reduction and in this regard I also see Sweden as a role model to follow. On this site it has been stated many times that no one technology will be the answer but compelling evidence shows that only nuclear can do the heavy lifting.
    For example World Bank CO2 emissions from energy production in tonnes per capita for the countries you mentioned, plus some others are;
    France 5.2
    Sweden 5.5
    Denmark 7.2
    Austria 7.8
    Germany 8.9
    Finland 10.2
    Australia 16.5
    China 6.7
    USA 17.0
    If Denmark, Austria, Germany, China, USA and Australia copied the best of what France and Sweden are doing, real progress in emissions reduction will be achieved.
    Rhetoric and emotion will not help reduce global GHG emissions, it will only be solved by data driven decision making.


  108. Andrew, biomass for heating purposes is only possible in such large volumes in Sweden because of the high ratio of biomass per capita. Try installing that regime in China and India and you won’t have a forest left! Biomass CANNOT SCALE UP because it would create worldwide starvation.

    You mentioned heating? Heat pumps, whether just reverse cycle air conditioners or underground pumping systems, can run on clean nuclear power.

    Nuclear power can be the reliable cheap alternative to oil as well, especially with oil replaced by New Urbanism & eco-cities, trains, trams, and trolley-buses, and automated hydrogen and boron and electric cars filling in any transport gaps. Hydrogen requires a hydrogen highway: that’s the chicken and egg problem for any early adopters. EV’s have an electric grid, but even Tesla’s family car due out in 2017 is estimated to be around $40,000. That’s too much for me!

    Boron cars would have a slightly different engine but should be around today’s car prices. The fuel would be much cheaper! So cheap you could buy the initial boron for your car (about $200, or over $400 for 2 lots), and then recycle that for ever by just mailing it to your country’s first boron recycler. Even with the cost of mail & de-rusting it would be cheaper than petroleum. It solves the chicken-and-egg problem of early adopter cars in a country without the fuelling system to run them.

    As the boron economy eventually grew you would just swap the boron over at your local garage or shops, and eventually sell the spare tub back, or keep it in your garage for a blackout. Hydrogen leaks terribly and can explode. Boron only burns in a super-oxygenated environment. It’s safe, so you can store it for years. Your car could operate as a backup power station during blackouts, which is not that big a deal here but in Canada could be the difference between life and death in a snowstorm.
    Nuclear power + boron (and a few synfuels for airlines) would solve energy security, climate change, air pollution and associated health costs, and deliver clean driving in clean cities with a far safer fuel.


  109. the Swedes only have a high rate of accessible biomass per capita (not countring the heavily forested but more remote northern third and most of the western mountains) because after the mass emigration to the USA from the 1850s and through into the 1920s the landowners planted so much impoverished subsistence country back to forest.
    Other countries not blessed with surplus land for production of food include Ireland and Denmark but replanting programs are going on there now with Denmark aiming for something like 20% under forest by 2100 (up from about 12% now). The reality is that it is overclearing of forest that in the end reduces food production – the ideal is to have both managed in a balance of say 30-40% forest and 60-70% agriculture (without being silly about it and you could take up to to 80:20 or down to 15-85 depending on the climate, terrain and soils).

    China is a leader in development of a number of different bioenergy technologies and has the target to establish 40 million ha of newer forest plantings by 2030 (mostly into land that for various reasons are not productive regions to produce food, due to rainfall, slope, erodability…) and apart from plantings of indigenous trees and shelter belts of poplar already has among the largest plantings of eucalyptus in the world.
    So with forestry you can have your cake and eat it too. It is about sustainable management and effective long term planning. It is also about efficient use and good tranport systems. More area under trees does not necessarily mean less food, and certainly does not mean less water flowing out of catchments – it is all about getting it right with species, placement and design of layout.

    And it is not about the end of the world as we know it if we commence scaling up of biomass for energy as it is already scaled up – it is just that so much of its use is is inefficient. It is much more about the technology used and the move from inefficient systems to more efficient and interrelated systems and of producing the higher value products as well as heat and electricity.

    And I am not advocating only one source of energy, just that it is idiocy to advocate a narrow few that are problematic for a range of reasons, in preference to others that are less problematic and are proven and economic.

    For some reason people are attracted to the most high-tech option – methane fuel cells, hydrogen, boron – whatever is shiny, has flashing lights and goes beep – while ignoring the option of improving the existing systems. It is the 1970s Scientific Mechanic mindset that new (and preferably bigger) is always better. The salvation of the world in reality will probably prove to be improvements on the technology used by the Amish, not the cold fusion plant under every kichen counter.

    The modern version of the Pritchard steam car using updated materials and management systems would be a fast start, low emission and silent thing, running on biofuels and with about three moving parts in the engine.
    By the end of WW2 J.Kalle in Sweden had developed a small efficient charcoal gasifier that was also fast start and only weighed a fraction of the older gasifiers – the modern gasifier (combined heat and power plant) made by Spanner in Germany and Volter in Finland is an example of this approach. This sort of 35-50 kW-e 80-120 kW-th system genuinely allows a cluster of houses to go off the grid and be self sufficient for all electricity and heat needs (and cooling in summer) 24/7.
    Similarly, Oekofen in Austria is one of the pellet plant makers that now can sell you a 15 kW-th pellet heater that has a 1 kW-e stiling engine driven generator built-in.

    Meanwhile the Swedes, Danes and others are focussed on flattening out demand for energy (and have achieved this with heat and electricity) by business and households, and not just per household but on a national basis despite population growth. Here we do it by accident and are suprised to find ourselves in a declining power consumption period despite what was almost a government decree that electricity consumption will increase 2.3%/year (courtesy of Martin Ferguson). There they do it by policy and planning and smart market signals.

    Recently there had been in this stream some brash statement that France had the lowest GHG emission in the EU (with the implication that this was due to nuclear production of electricity). And someone else said that the French emissions per capita from the world bank were 5.2 vs Sweden’s 5.5. However that was a CO2 measure only and not CO2-e.
    By contrast Eurostat gives GHG/capita of Sweden as 4.8 and France of 5.7. but the surprise is the figures for Latvia 3.8, Lithuania 4.7, Hungary 4.6, Portugal 4.8, Croatia 4.5, Romania 4.2, Switzerland (yes I know it is not in the EU but anyway) 5.4.
    Ranging further afield Wikipedia gives per capita CO2 emissions for Indonesia of 2.6, Mexico 3.9, Brazil 2.4, India 1.7, and China 7.4 (now that is a surprise)


  110. Tom Bond, in regards to heavy lifting, nuclear is the answer only in some people’s eyes.
    Obviously there has to be some solid ‘baseload’ supply but this can be from a combination of sources managed within a ‘smart grid’ and the R&D underway on a dozen different directions will yield new opportunity that is not presently obvious.
    The work that is being done on the Danish island of Bornholm (and doubtless some Danes can provide up-to-date detail on this) is endeavouring to show what is possible. This is about 1% of both Denmark’s population and land area. I have not checked up on it recently though do see major power flows from the Swedish grid both onto and off the island of up to 20 MW, but electricity is only 25-30% of the picture in that region.
    We are clearly in a period of major change and the state of play in 10-15 years will show which way it went, but now this direction is confused and there is a lot of noise.
    BetterPlace change-over vehicle batteries are hyped and then disappear. Hydrogen fuel cells are hyped, storage batteries (i.e., Tesla Powerwall) are being hyped, the methane energy economy is hyped.

    Meanwhile I’d suggest that Denmark, Austria etc are also aiming high (and with zero nuclear). Denmark for 100% of all energy from renewable sources by 2050 (50% from biomass, and working on electrified transport). Austria for all electricity and heat energy from renewable sources by 2030 (50% from biomass). Germany aiming for 80% of electricity from renewables by 2050, and doubtless similar fractions of heat and transport fuels. So these and many other countries are putting a lot of funding into R&D to provide real breakthroughs, plus investing in infrastructure upgrades.

    China is not so easy to read but I heard when there a few months ago that they have about 24 nuclear plants in place and another 26 in construction or process (or the other way around), but a heap of other things going on including major spending on waste to energy and wind & solar PV.
    But research going on in all directions, plus corproate plays and I heard that a chinese company has bought the Westinghouse plama torch business. I will be very surprised if there are not similar things happening with other areas of advanced biofuels.


  111. Hi,
    there is a lot in what you say about trees and food and water compatibility and planning, taking a broader permaculture systems approach to forestry management. That’s all fine, and already on my blog.

    But the ultimate ‘land efficiency’ measure is building several gigawatts energy in a complete bunker, putting them all underground, and running the world on old nuclear waste and warheads! That frees up some forests to … just be forests.

    Your Amish commentary is quite revealing. I’m amazed you admitted to that. That is precisely what ‘economic refugees’ are fleeing from in Pakistan and Bangladesh and even rural India. They hate what you romanticise. Don’t recommend it until you live it. I might listen to you when you have had to cycle in to a friend’s house to use the internet, because you’re living Amish somewhere.

    For the record, I love energy efficiency and simplicity where possible, and back the New Urbanism and Ecocity designs my sister-in-law (with the Phd in this stuff!) recommends. Build it, and then will come. Build trains and trams and trolley buses, and New Urbanism can creep in around it, as well as cycling pathways and good old fashioned walking. But boron robot cars can probably take up some of that slack as well. We’ll need something to keep us moving while we build out these new city systems.

    Biomass cannot support the modern world. It cannot. There’s simply not enough land to grow enough fuel. You didn’t learn much from the 2008 grain price crisis. It caused riots in the streets in many poorer nations.

    As the Australian Medical Association said:
    “Whilst the AMA supports the use of ethanol and biodiesal from a human health perspective we recognise the potentially prohibitive environmental costs and conflict between land use for food and that for fuel particularly in so-called developing countries. Hence although we support the use of both ethanol and biodiesal great care is needed to ensure it is produced in an environmentally sustainable fashion and does not compete with food production capacity in developing countries.”

    Also, we’ve just got to stop burning stuff, whether wood fires or charcoal gasifiers or whatever. The pollution is killing us. It’s over all the latest science podcasts. Particulates kill. Didn’t you get the memo?


  112. “Obviously there has to be some solid ‘baseload’ supply but this can be from a combination of sources managed within a ‘smart grid’ and the R&D underway on a dozen different directions will yield new opportunity that is not presently obvious.”
    All I hear from renewables advocates is that we must just “wait and believe”. Some countries are “aiming high.” But where is the 80% to 90% wind and solar nation? They’re the 2 most abundant forms of renewables, not every nation has decent hydro. So “wait and believe”. This is one of the most contentless posts on this thread.
    In the meantime, while we “wait and just believe” coal spews out uranium and thorium and heavy metals and other toxins, the planet cooks, the Arctic summer ice melts, tundra methane is released, spring arrives earlier and the seasons are out of whack, and the seas rise. What planet are you living on? We don’t have time to believe in magic Easter Bunnies and Tooth Fairies fixing the grid. There is one answer, and one answer only: France already showed us the way, and did it in 15 years, and today we have access to far cheaper, far faster technologies once we build the nuclear factories. South Australia’s Royal Commission has submissions arguing that if we offered to store the world’s nuclear waste, we could charge nations for storing their waste and use those funds to deliver us a state-of-the-art breeder industry that delivered nearly free electricity to SA! But you have reservations. You fear an industry that neatly TRAPS all the nuclear waste and reuses it and then stores it underground for 300 years. You should be fearing coal that spreads radioactive heavy-metal pollutants by dumping it all in the air! Coal ash is more radioactive than nuclear waste, but you fear the nuclear industry? For Pete’s sake, why?
    “ the waste produced by coal plants is actually more radioactive than that generated by their nuclear counterparts. In fact, the fly ash emitted by a power plant—a by-product from burning coal for electricity—carries into the surrounding environment 100 times more radiation than a nuclear power plant producing the same amount of energy.”

    Dr James Hansen’s quote applies again! “Can renewable energies provide all of society’s energy needs in the foreseeable future? It is conceivable in a few places, such as New Zealand and Norway. But suggesting that renewables will let us phase rapidly off fossil fuels in the United States, China, India, or the world as a whole is almost the equivalent of believing in the Easter Bunny and Tooth Fairy.”


  113. OT: I have created a Greasemonkey script which eliminates the dark-green right sidebar and widens the text area to increase readability.  If you have Greasemonkey installed under Firefox it is a simple matter to install this script (you may have to de-munge the quotes if WordPress munges them to look prettier).  Here it is:

    // ==UserScript==
    // @name BNC format fixer
    // @namespace
    // @description Devotes the BNC window to content, not sidebars of pretty colors
    // @include*
    // @include*
    // @version 1
    // @grant GM_addStyle
    // ==/UserScript==


    function fixBNCformats()
    GM_addStyle( “div.entry-meta.sidebar-bg { display:none; }”);
    GM_addStyle( “div#comments.comments-area { margin: 0px 0px 5px 0px; }”);


  114. I am posting a URL here for those who will take the time to read it.
    There seem to be many who think that in the next twenty years Australia could not build 20 GW of Nuclear Power.
    Well follow this URL and see what the Chinese program is–Nuclear-Power/

    I am also reposting another reference to the Chinese program on MSR’s and other advanced Nuclear which they have forecast to have a commercial plant operating by 2030.


  115. hi Tony,
    love your China references. They’re serious about this! Heard any rumours about what they’re doing about tritium?

    Also, anyone know if there is a plasma burner / pyro / chemical method of separating any useful radioactive particles out of medical gloves and syringes and plastics and cloaks?


  116. Unfortunately, The Chinese do not appear big on releasing information. The information that I have found is all in the public domain. The fact that Technology Review has access to this information on the Chinese MSR project is extremely significant in itself.
    I suspect that one of the major technical issues the Chinese are dealing with is the tritium issue.
    Here is a link to a discussion where Kirk Sorenson discusses the tritium issue.

    In relation to the second part of your comment, I would be against burning these low grade or any other grade of radioactive waste and think that the best thing to do with it is simply stick it in a deep whole in the ground. There is no shortage of fissile or fissionable material in the world with the exception of U238.

    Indeed one of the great advantages of MSR technology is that the high grade wastes that are currently being stored can be used as fuel for the MSR.

    Here is a reference to the five most radioactive naturally occurring places on Earth.

    One of those places is the Paralana hot springs inside the Arkaroola Wilderness Sanctuary located in the northern Flinders ranges of South Australia. Right in your backyard so to speak.

    As the ambient radiation of this area may well exceed the radioactivity of the materials to be stored no expensive containment buildings would be required.

    I suspect that the biggest problem to storing radioactive material here would simply be visual amenity.


  117. Peter Lang asked for easier reading of BNC in Chrome. With ctrl-A, I copy the entire Chrome page and paste it into my text editor. Being a plain text editor, the contents instantly appears in full width, in black-on-white standard font for easy reading, scrolling and searching.


  118. Above (Nov. 12), David B. Benson discusses an interesting article entitled, “Why the Best Path to a Low Carbon Future is Not Wind or Solar Power.” Here’s another good one:

    Using LCOE To Find The Cheapest Energy Mix For America

    “It turns out that building a combination of new natural gas and new nuclear plants, while maintaining existing hydroelectric and nuclear plants as long as possible, gives us the cheapest and most reliable energy future.”


  119. I recently posted a reference to a report about the Chinese progress in the development of Molten Salt Reactor Technology.
    Here it is again

    My contention is that this is the most important announcement of the 21st century and that it has the potential to change the Energy Industry in the same way that Nikola Tesla showed the world the future of Electricity in the 19th century.


  120. David
    I have tried following your link but I can not find the information relating to Ivanpah’s financial status. Not that it would surprise me to hear that it has problems with performance.

    I did read the report of the impact that Ivanpah is having on bird life and note that wind turbines also have large quantities of bird and insect life at the base of them.


  121. Tony Carden — The financial failure of the Ivanpah solar thermal project is from memory and around 9 months ago. The basic problem is that there is no longer as much sunlight as was measured when the project was planned. I opine an increase in high altitude aerosols, possibly from China.

    I fear you’ll have to search for the news articles but the general tenor is the same as solar thermal projects everywhere: quite expensive.


  122. Yes I have previously read this report and found it extremely simplistic. I think any peer review would tear it to pieces.

    Here is the reference again.

    It does not include any costs for the electricity to refill the pumped hydro system.
    It says
    ‘ the production cost (which would consist of capital payments only as the renewable energy used for pumping would be zero cost) would be $14/MWh.’

    You have in one of your posts quoted that the cost of wind energy is $77/MWh so that must be added unless you are going to defy the first law of economics. Which is:

    ‘There is no such thing as a free lunch’

    The above estimate of costs ($14/MWh) by the way is for the best 38 sites (presumably with a capacity of 17 GW) and storing only 332 GWh

    This report further says
    ‘In summary, if all identified schemes at this level of screening are built, then the maximum energy storage would be 516 GWh. Since the average demand in the NEM is approximately 25 GW, the energy stored would be sufficient to supply the NEM for more than 20 hours. 68 total schemes have been identified, with an assumed capacity of 500 MW each. If all these schemes are built, the installed capacity of new pumped storage would be 34 GW.’
    The above refers to table 8.1 which I can not copy here. This table identifies 16 Polygons which are presumably combined sites. When you examine this table in conjunction with figure 8.2 it shows varying scenarios eg
    Polygon 11 (1site) shows a storage capacity of 1 GWh and a generating capacity of 500MW. So Polygon 11 can run for 2 hours.

    Polygon 39 (12 sites) shows a storage capacity of 162 GWh and a generating capacity of 6 GW. So Polygon 39 can run for 27 hrs
    Polygons 39, 40, 41, 42 are located in Tasmania and account for 248 GWh which represents 48% of the total storage of the Pumped hydro system.
    Polygon I (3 sites) shows a storage capacity of 26 GWh with 1.5 GW generating capacity but it is located in Far North Qld and to the best of my knowledge there is no significant Wind Generators within 2000 klms of FNQ.
    Further the local area within 250 klms of this site would never need 1.5 GW of power.
    Again this report makes no allowance for Transmission losses which will be considerable.
    It further says
    ‘As stated previously, many of the schemes may not pass a further screening stage for various reasons, including:
    – Some may be environmentally infeasible. In this assessment the current land use
    categories are not considered as a basis for rejection, but are presented in the respective appendix of results.
    – Some may be too expensive in stored energy cost to be justified, compared with other competing storage technologies.’

    Further this report says
    ‘Capital storage costs of more than $1,000,000/MWh may be considered a reasonable upper bound on storage costs for grid based connections such as pumped storage. This would correspond with $1,000/kWh, compared with EPRI’s stated upper level of $430/kWh storage cost.
    The upper limit of $1,000,000/MWh translates to an annual cost of approximately $100,000/MWh stored, which, if used on average 100 times per annum, would convert to a levelised cost of $1,000/MWh. Together with any operating costs, the figure of $1,000/MWh may
    be a reasonable price to pay for shifting generation from a period of surplus to a period of shortfall using the pumped storage facility as the medium to achieve this, and thus avoid load shedding. The NEM Marginal Price Cap is more than ten times this level at $12,900 from 1 July 2012.’

    So the cost of this system is $1000/ MWh to supply 512 GWh which at best is going to supply 25 GW for 20 hours.

    This report further says that:
    ‘Pumped storage power stations typically achieve an average annual capacity factor of 8%, based on daily cycling between generation and pumping modes. Under these, more favourable assumptions, the cost of operations for an annual cost of $100,000/MWh would be $143/MWh.’

    Now given this figure does not include any cost for electricity to refill the reservoirs but given that we will be using renewable Wind Electricity for this purpose and the figure which you have quoted for the cost of Wind is $77 per MW. Then the cost per MWh of pumped storage is $220.

    Nuclear Power by your own admission is cheaper than this at approx $140 mw

    In relation to your scenario of energy sources of 30 percent wind and 10 to 15 percent solar plus I presume the pumped storage system referred to above, can you name one fully independent grid anywhere else in the world which is even close to doing this?

    Further having examined this scenario of pumped storage, in my opinion considerable fossil fueled electricity would be used to fill these storage reservoirs because of the intermittency of wind.

    Also in relation to your scenario of sourcing 30 % of electricity from Wind, given that the NEM uses about 25 GW means Wind must provide 7.5 GW on average. Even with a capacity factor of 33% this will require an installed capacity of 22.5 GW of wind generation. This is over 5 times the amount of wind capacity that exists now.
    I have no idea where you are going to find 2.5 to 4 GW of solar.


  123. Tony

    I fear we spend a lot of time misunderstanding each others numbers because we only include summaries of the calculations.

    My calculation for wind and storage was based on capital charges for both the wind and storage plus O&M. So the figure I calculated already included the cost of the storage, If you have 55GW of current and future generation wind, it will generate about 190-220GWhrs per year so that plus existing solar will generate enough electricity to supply total demand either directly or via recharging the storage so the cost of the electricity for the recharge is already included

    However I did use a higher cyclic rate than Roam used because the current pumped storage use case is mainly as a peak shaving rather than valley filling. This is supported by the more detailed study of the operating regime in the MEI study quoted below
    Also my wind capacity factors were based on the newest windfarm technology rather than average of existing systems.

    My Nuclear figure you quote was for a low penetration system. For a high penetration system where some of the plants are only used for peak and shoulder supply the average cost of Nuclear is close to A$200 even with economies of scale and favourable finance

    On one hand on re-reading ROAM I think that I should have included higher unit cost for storage. On the other hand this study from Melbourne University….
    suggests that about 10GW/200GWh of storage is required for a fully renewable grid so that will result in much lower total storage costs than I budgeted.

    Re wind generation capacity. As I pointed out in another reply to you, to install 55GW of wind needs about 1% of the NEM. The actual land involved for the pads and service tracks for 22 GW of wind is about 2

    Re solar we already have 4GW of solar. New panels generate about At 60% coverage another 4 or 5 GW of capacity would require 250 or .05% of the NEM or less than 1/5th of the area of wxisting roofs and paved carparks


  124. Peter
    I have read and scanned the ROAM report and can not find a total capital cost estimate of the installation of the 34 GW generating capacity that provides 516 GWh of electricity. Did you find total capital cost figure any where in the report?


  125. Tony
    There are lots of figures for various plants but none that I noticed for the overall number. If you can wade through the Melbourne Uni paper which is much more detailed there are a heap of cost estimates there. I still actually have to earn a living so I didn’t work them through. I was dissuaded by their reference to an AEMO 2013 paper which claimed there was only a need for about 10GW/ I have not been able to find that paper, but my gut feeling is that it is a bit too optimistic.

    Re storage I have often mentioned thermal storage. If you mandate that each house/hotel/barracks and hospital has to have 100L of hot water per bed (total not additional) with a temperature of 60C you can store about 100 GW.hrs as heat before the water falls below 40C. Similarly if you have a domestic fridge with a 10L ice bank, the latent heat in the ice is enough to keep the average fridge cold for 12 hours. Further internet controlled air conditioners can be used to precool/preheat houses before the afternoon peak with maximum use of afternoon solar. Pool pumps, washing machines, dishwashers etc etc can also be time shifted to suit the generators I am not suggesting these as firm policy just that there are a myriad of ways to lower peaks and/or shift loads that are cheaper than purpose built electrical storage.

    Also the consensus among storage professionals seems to be that storage should be between the load and the last transformer, that minimises transmission costs because the storage is charged off peak and discharges at peak times thus lowering capital costs and operating losses for the whole transmission chain. That is why in some circumstances grid operators are installing batteries now in spite of their very high costs, because they save upgrading transmission and distribution assets.


  126. Eclipse Now,
    I have read the article above and I have 3 questions

    How many passengers was it carrying and how many can it carry vs a diesel powered bus?
    Was the air conditioning on?
    Were the lights on i.e. What is its range at night?

    Sorry that was really 4 questions.

    I am familiar with the Mitsubishi iMiev, The one I have had experience is a few years old so I am unsure whether they have improved in performance.
    This is my experience of the Mitsubishi.
    If you drive from Newstead (Brisbane) to Southport (Gold Coast) a trip of approx 80klms with 3 people in the car and the aircon on you will need to recharge before making the return trip. I am not sure if you can do the trip at night with the lights on as well because no one has been game enough to try.


  127. A source like wind or solar and no storage make the power supply intermittent.
    A vehicle running on battery and no power generation also makes running intermittent.
    The solutions available are
    A fuel cell to charge the battery when stuck. It will help till fuel lasts.
    a solar panel on rooftop which will help in daytime.


  128. To Tony Carden
    A 2012 Imiev has an 18kW/hr battery and has an American rated range of about 100km. An equivalent diesel car has a fuel consumption of of about 4l/100 km. According to Mercedes a large coach uses 25l/100km

    So taking that ratio into account. the bus would need 25/4 x 1000/100 x 18 kW.hrs = 1130-1150 kW.hrs which is about 14 Tesla P85 battery packs or 7 tonnes of batteries. On the other hand the same diesel bus engine weighs 1.1 tonnes with transmission and fuel about 2 tonnes so your scepticism would appear to be justified

    However the Proterra Catalyst averages 0.8 kW/hr per mile which is 480-500Kw.hrs for a run to Sydney but the Proterra only has battery power so carrying the extra battery weight for the extended range probably works out at about 550KW.hrs only 6.5 Teslas or 3.2 tonnes.

    Finally the additional in the new Nissan leaf only adds 21kg or 3.5kg/ On that basis It is conceivable that the 550kW.hrs weighs around 2-2.5 tonnes or almost the same as a diesel system so it is definitely technically possible.

    Just shows the progress in battery technology in 4 years


  129. Deep De-Carbonization Would Increase Electricity Costs 20–90 Percent, Says J.P. Morgan

    “Where the report really triumphs is in its careful balance of technical rigor with accessible language and well-reasoned assumptions.”

    A pricey and a South Korea price for nuclear power plants is considered. “In both of these future scenarios, the balanced (nuclear plus renewables) system still provides a better cost-emissions tradeoff than a heavy-renewables system.”

    This gives the appearance of being a paper worth some study.


  130. Interesting we have a new term Deep De-Carbonization. What does it really mean. Well most of us on this site are talking about this topic, that is we want to stop burning fossil fuels.
    Instead of some of us calling ourselves advocates of Nuclear Power, we can now say we support Deep De-Carbonization with a minimal reliance on VRE’s (Variable Renewable Energy).
    Now that sounds much more socially acceptable.


  131. Nuclear Technology seems to be going around in circles. My understanding is that the SMR’s, that the American Navy have been running in their submarines and their aircraft carriers and where ever else they have decided to use them, for some 60
    years now, were a design developed by Alvin Weinberg and others at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Weinberg designed these as SMR’s specifically and was very concerned about the upscaling of the design to sizes far in excess of 60MW. Which is essentially the basis of the modern Pressurized Water Reactor.

    Weinberg went on to develop a Molten Salt Reactor which successfully ran as a pilot plant using uranium as the fuel.
    The rediscovery of MSR’s has lead people like Robert Hargraves and Kirk Sorenson to champion the cause of MSR technology using thorium. One of the key advantages of MSR technology is its potential for scalability hence it was proposed by Hargraves and Sorenson and others as being ideal for use as SMR’s and production line economics.

    The article in the Guardian is interesting in that it acknowledges the enormous efforts that the Chinese are putting into developing
    Nuclear Technology. Whilst they are responsible in part for the new enthusiasm around MSR’s they are not putting all their eggs in one basket and are developing other Nuclear Technologies as well.

    This is all a little bit exciting as it comes hard on the heels of a number of interesting reports of the UK going to Nuclear, as well as the report from China dated October 16, which I have referenced above.
    Here is the most relevant part of the Chinese report:

    ‘Xu detailed a multi-stage plan to build demonstration reactors in the next five years and deploy them commercially beginning around 2030. The institute plans to build a 10-megawatt prototype reactor, using solid fuel, by 2020, along with a two-megawatt liquid-fuel machine that will demonstrate the thorium-uranium fuel cycle. (Thorium, which is not fissile, is converted inside a reactor into a fissile isotope of uranium that produces energy and sustains the nuclear reaction.) ‘

    The Chinese have for a long time recognized the enormous economic potential of a nuclear power industry where they hold the technological edge and export the technology and the finance to the rest of the world.
    I do not believe it is a coincidence that these reports follow closely on Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visits to the UK and the Hinkley Point project announcement.

    China is not going to hang around waiting while the USA struggles with its own inertia to develop realistic energy policies.


  132. Edward,
    Here is a link to a report from the World Nuclear Association dated November 11, 2015.–Nuclear-Power/

    Here is the link to the report from the MIT Technology Review, by Richard Martin dated October 16, 2015.

    I am using Chrome and have no problems clicking through. What browser are you using.


  133. Re the JP Morgan study

    When you read it you will find there are many uncertainties but they tend to conclude that the optimum is somewhere around 35% nuclear so there will still be a lot of VRE’s. You might consider their nuclear costs too high but their capacity factor for new wind is too low.
    The good news about that is that their estimates for power costs and therefore the cost of decarbonisation for both scenarios is probably a bit on the high side


  134. 100% nuclear is the only answer that works for most of the world. There are a few [and far between] places where either wind or solar works, and geothermal works in Iceland. People who want wind and solar are really advocating coal, whether they know it or not. They are a lot like creationists: either irrational or unable to do the math or profoundly ignorant or some combination of those.

    The number one problem COP21 has to deal with is COP6. How did this stuff get negotiated?

    Global Warming and the EPA plan to mitigate:

    The Conference of the Parties agrees:
    1. To affirm that it is the host Party’s prerogative to confirm whether an Article 6 project activity assists it in achieving sustainable development.

    To recognize that Parties included in Annex I are to refrain from using emission reduction units generated from nuclear facilities to meet their commitments under Article 3.1.

    From another document I saw at this web site,
    3. Poor countries are claiming a right to tax the US.

    All 3 are “poison pills” that make it impossible to reduce CO2 emissions. All 3 must be removed to make real progress in stopping Global Warming possible.


  135. 1 billion tons of uranium is dissolved in the oceans and we know how to get it out.

    Uranium in sea water: .003 mg/liter X 1.37 X10**9 cubic kilometers
    “Mineral Endowment of the Indian Ocean” GS Roonwal
    There is a billion tons of uranium dissolved in ocean water. We can get it.
    “Cost Estimation of Uranium Recovery from Seawater with System of Braid Type Adsorbent” 2006

    “Coal Combustion: Nuclear Resource or Danger” by Alex Gabbard
    “Trace quantities of uranium in coal range from less than 1 part per million (ppm) in some samples to around 10 ppm in others. Generally, the amount of thorium contained in coal is about 2.5 times greater than the amount of uranium. For a large number of coal samples, according to Environmental Protection Agency figures released in 1984, average values of uranium and thorium content have been determined to be 1.3 ppm and 3.2 ppm, respectively.”
    “Assuming 10% usage, the total of the thermal energy capacities from each of these three fissionable isotopes is about 10.1 x 10E14 kWh, 1.5 times more than the total from coal.”
    We have enough coal for 1500 years.

    Mineable uranium: Most countries have mineable uranium. 18 countries have active mines. Find the world supply on land later.

    Uranium in asteroids: Most of Earth’s uranium is in the core. The same would be true for Mars and the asteroids. Some asteroids are the cores of former planetismals.

    A reactor fuel load is 440 pounds of U235 oxide + 11 tons of filler [U238 oxide]. The 440 pounds of U235 is in the reactor for 6 years. The U 238 is gradually converted into fuel so that we can burn up all of the uranium. Ignoring the oxygen,
    1 billion tons/.22 tons =4,545,454,545 reactor loads. Just the ocean contains enough uranium to last 4.5 X10**9 X 6 years = 27,272,727,272 years for one reactor or 27,272,727 years for 1000 reactors. There is enough uranium in the oceans alone to last 1000 reactors 27 million years. Not counting uranium in mines on land and not counting thorium. There is 2.5 times as much thorium as uranium.


  136. Edward,
    The most important thing is what the Chinese and the Indians do.
    It makes no difference what Australia does or Denmark does for that matter. The USA can have some impact on GHG but they are bound up in chronic inertia.

    In relation to the Deep De-Carbonization Report from JP Morgan my major issue with the report is that it considers Germany and California in isolation.
    When you have a backup called the interconnector individual sectors of the grid will adopt policies knowing that the interconnector will get them out of trouble.

    But the NEM does not have this luxury and is in fact according to the World Nuclear Association

    ‘Eastern Australia’s National Electricity Market (NEM) operates the world’s largest interconnected power system that runs for more than 5,000 kilometres from North Queensland to central South Australia, and supplies some $10 billion electricity annually to meet the demand of more than 10 million end users.’


  137. Edward says: “Most of Earth’s uranium is in the core”, but I differ.

    The material that is going into the core is mainly sulphides, such as sulphides of iron and nickel. These are high density, low-melting point liquids that trickle down out of the mantle. Uranium, on the other hand, separates from mantle and subducted slabs in late stage differentiation, and trickles upward from the mantle to underplate the crust. As the crust endlessly rises, it is as endlessly eroded down towards sea level. Most of the eroded uranium in river water precipitates out into the river deltas where it meets the relatively alkaline seawater. Unlike other soluble elements, it mainly stays in the continental crust. If anything, uranium accumulates in the continental crust faster than the continental crust thickens.

    Almost certainly, uranium is accumulating faster than we could ever use it. Surely it qualifies for the title, “renewable”.


  138. To Tony Carden

    More things we agree on

    “The most important thing is what the Chinese and Indians do”.

    India is adding 60 GW of wind and 100GW of solar in the next 7 years generating about 350 TW.hrs per annum. In the same time it hopes to reach 17 GWe of Nuclear which will generate about 125 TW.hrs.
    Since 2010 Wind generation in China has gone from 40 to 180 TW.hrs (BP energy outlook). Solar went from almost nothing to about 35TW.hrs. Nuclear rose from about 80TW.hrs to 124 TW.hrs

    Enough said


  139. Below is a reference from the World Nuclear Association referring to the European grid.

    In particular it makes says the following about the German section of the Grid.

    ‘Germany has its Energiewende policy involving phasing out nuclear power by 2023 and increasing its reliance on solar and wind power. Subsidies on these renewables are accompanied by giving them priority grid access, so that when they are producing they displace other sources from the grid. This reduces the load factors of gas, coal and nuclear plants, most critically in Germany but also elsewhere that these policies prevail to any degree. This compromises the economic viability of those plants, especially the newer ones which must earn money to repay construction costs. Coupled with this side effect from renewables’ grid priority is the low ETS carbon price and also low cost of coal, which makes coal-fired generation attractive. Despite concern about CO2 emissions, in 2012 some 10 GWe of new coal-fired plant was being built in Germany alone, adding to 55 GWe of coal plant operating there. While gas plants fit better as back-up for expanded renewables, they are less economic than coal, and gas supplies are uncertain, especially since sanctions applied due to Russia’s annexation of Crimea. About 35% of Germany’s gas is imported from Russia, and fracking is banned at least until 2021. A former Chancellor of Germany sits on the Gazprom board.’

    Further in relation to Grid interconnectivity the WNA report says

    ‘In October 2014 EU leaders renewed a 2002 commitment to increase energy trading through electricity connectors to 10% by 2020, ie that much of each country’s generation capacity should be available for trade across borders. The statement said that “The integration of rising levels of intermittent renewable energy requires a more interconnected internal energy market and appropriate back up, which should be coordinated as necessary at regional level.” The Baltic States, Portugal, Spain, and also Greece are priorities of electricity interconnection and integration.’

    Hence the EU recognizes the problems that will occur as various sectors of the Grid embark upon their own political agendas.


  140. Peter Farley,

    Re the JP Morgan study

    When you read it you will find there are many uncertainties but they tend to conclude that the optimum is somewhere around 35% nuclear so there will still be a lot of VRE’s.

    The JP Morgan report doesn’t say anything of the sort. I’ve already pointed that out to you on John Morgan’s Wind Capacity Factor thread. I’d urge you to retract those misleading statements on both threads.

    The JP Morgan report does not optimize the technology mix to minimize cost of electricity or CO2 abatement cost. If it did, the trends of the costs v’s proportion of technologies suggest non-hydro renewables would play only a minor part in most large grids. I expect the nuclear proportion would probably be around similar to France plus gas, any additional viable hydro and a relatively small proportion of wind and solar.


  141. Well Peter

    If nuclear is so reliable please explain this

    All Swiss nuclear plants offline

    And if it is so cost effective why are there no new plants planned after the ones currently under construction in the US

    And why has this 362 page report released just yesterday rejected it for Australia

    Click to access LCOE_Report_final_web.pdf


  142. Peter Farley,

    You’ve misrepresented the JP Morgan report. It was pointed out to you. You haven’t retracted your incorrect statements, and now you’ve switched to another report and again haven’t quoted and referenced the statement you assert is in the report. You ignored the many references to the AETA reports and models which are the authoritative Australian government reports, and instead want to divert to discussing a report sponsored by Australian industries.

    You make frequent assertions about what reports say without actually quoting and referencing the source; when checked they are frequently found to be misrepresentations.

    Sorry, not playing this click-bate game anymore. You’ve been shown to be wrong on almost everything you’ve asserted so far.


  143. Current LGC spot prices are over $70, and medium term LGC forward contracts are approaching $80. Why does wind power have to be subsidised to such by around 75% of its cost if it is economic as the advocates would like people to believe?


  144. Peter Lang

    You seriously post out of date figures that are out by a factor of 3, 5 or 20 and you accuse me of error

    The costs in the JP Morgan report on P20 show wind is far cheaper than nuclear, and so is solar PV, biomass and geothermal and surprisingly even solar CSP. It should therefore be obvious to anyone that a grid operator would include as much of those as possible in the grid, to lower the overall cost of power. Only when you run out of economical hydro, geothermal and biomass would you consider nuclear as residual load. Wind and hydro are almost perfectly complimentary so more wind means better use of hydro mean less thermal

    I stand by my comment. It is you who don’t understand the report

    LGC’s are $70 per because there are too many written off coal plants on the grid and no one wants to go the expense of closing and remediating them. Even if a coal plant was losing $10m per year it is cheaper to keep running it than close it and incur $200-300m in decommissioning and cleanup costs. If an individual owner hangs on for a few years someone else might blink and close down or perhaps the lower currency might increase Aluminium demand etc. so the logical course is to keep open even with no immediate profit.
    You refer to the AETA report which has been superceded by both the facts and the Australian Power Generation Technology Report link again
    Please keep up to date.


  145. Peter F,
    when you quote solar PV and wind costs, is that direct to grid? Because unless the storage costs are added in, we’re comparing unreliables with reliables and that’s not fair. “Oh, it’s so cheap!” (when it works, which is only a third of the day!) But nuclear power works 24/7, and can even charge electric cars and warm cold German homes overnight, while wind and solar drops to 5% capacity for weeks at a time!

    EG: If we just used solar PV to cut a little afternoon and evening peak demand, and stopped trying to make it baseload, then solar PV and nuclear would be best friends and work together. But it is silly to try and make a power system that is mostly OFF our 24/7 source of power. While solar PV is cheaper and cheaper, that’s not the problem. Storage is.
    Storage in northern nations like Germany could bankrupt any nation that tried it. You can either buy Tesla Powerpack batteries to back up one week of winter in Germany (at a hypothetical 30% penetration of wind and solar, and these wind and solar farms must still be bought, and then Germany often has a few weeks at a time where winter cuts renewables to 5% of their capacity!), OR you can just buy safe modern nuclear-waste eating nukes that will do the whole job for 60 years. Again, backup a third of a renewable grid for just one week, or nuke the whole grid for 60 years! That’s the economics of renewable storage V nuclear.
    Point 2 below


  146. I am confused by the numbers used in the Australian Power Generation Technology Report and would appreciate some disciplined – as opposed to tribal, comment.
    1) On Page III they state that the Tax life for nuclear is taken as 30 years while wind is 20. Now we know from Danish data that the average life of a wind generator is circa 15 years while you can get 40 to 60 out of a French or US PWR. I.e. We can get nearly 3 times the life out of a PWR. Does anyone know how this is accounted for in this latest report?
    2) They show in Fig E2 as spread of LCOE in A$ for nuclear of $140 to $205 while the 2015 IEA report quotes US$50 to 135. Any sensible comment would be appreciated
    3) They quote solar thermal w/out storage at A$170 to 320 vs IEA quoting US$422.6 in Spain and US$243 in South Africa. In the USA its $121 to $143 with storage. Why don’t they quote the full range of values? – any ideas?
    4) Table 43 page 127 quotes $9000/kw for a nuke station. IEA quote US$1807 – 6217 with a median value of $5026. You do not use a straight currency conversion factor for an A$ value because around 60% of an AP1000 could be Australian sourced so my guess is the A$ value is circa about $5770/kw – where on earth did they get $9000.
    5) Finally here is the BIGGY – the GALLM analysys on Chpt. 16 P249 which is meant to take account of learning experience. Nukes go from A$9000 to 8876 between 2015 and 2030 while solar thermal goes from A$8500 to A$3903. This CSIRO inspired “analysis” is INCREDIBLY subjective and I can’t see how it can be used in such a report nor quoted with a straight face.

    Does anyone have any comment about these inconsistencies with the IEA report or where they got the monumental numbers from?


  147. Eclipse Now
    I know it is hard to follow the claims and counterclaims but I have never seriously proposed an all wind or wind + solar grid. I have showed some extreme examples to counter the extreme nuclear proposals. As I said in other posts, it is a question of how much of each technology.

    We are not that far apart, I have always thought that Germany, for example, should have focussed on closing coal before worrying about nuclear. While working in Italy during their nuclear referendum some years ago I even urged my friends to vote for nuclear power. I have never said anyone should close nuclear plants before their time unless new safety risks have been identified.

    You are also absolutely right that a solar grid backed up by lithium batteries is a complete joke

    I do however have an issue with the claimed reliability and capacity factors of nuclear. As I said France has some 95+% availability and arguably the best technology but currently <70% capacity factor and even that is achieved by exporting lots of off peak power at low prices. All of Switzerland’s reactors were shut down at once and 40% of Belgium’s as well as 100% of Japan’s so a system based on a single power source or worse still, a single style of generator is a disaster waiting to happen. That is why the isolated Japanese grid has 29 GW of pumped hydro plus coal gas etc. backing up 58 GW of nuclear

    Wind and hydro play even better with each other than nuclear and solar. Biomass and solar is another good combination and the diversity of the Australian grid means that intermittent sources can contribute more than their individual CF. For example an East west line of single axis tracking solar plants from SE Qld would to Port Augusta each individually achieve only about 20% CF but the solar system would supply useful power about 30% of the time and because most of that power is supplied during the day it could be 35% or more of demand.

    I agree with you the question is cost, If solar cost 20% of some mythical 100% CF Star Power source then you would still have a mix of 30%+ solar and <70% Star Power. This why no-one has attempted a 100% nuclear grid because the last power station is extraordinarily more expensive per unit of delivered power than the first few because it is hardly used.

    To be honest once we achieve about 85-90% de-carbonisation of electricity there are probably much more cost effective ways to de-carbonise other parts of the economy than replace the last few gas plants with nuclear or storage or whatever. For example soil carbon sequestration and re-aforestation can capture carbon profitably, building and transport efficiency, e-health and e-commerce to reduce travel etc. can reduce consumption etc. etc. so in my view 100% decarbonisation of electricity is an ill directed mission.


  148. Robert
    I think your questions are good ones.

    Point 1
    You are right nuclear plants are now forecast to last longer than 30 years but many haven’t eg San Offre unit 1 1968-92, unit 2 1983-2012, unit 3 1984-2012 The average life of closed nuclear French reactors is less than 17 years
    On the other hand if you look at this article it is clear that wind farms in Denmark only last more than 15 years. and the two oldest are still working well 3 years after that
    In summary 20+ years for wind turbines is probably reasonable as is 50+ years for nuclear

    For point 2
    The answer to the costs of nuclear power the 2015 EIA report is for existing plants not new ones. Many of these plants have lived well beyond their original planned life and were paid off years ago so their costs are merely O&M

    Point 3
    Solar thermal is very hard to properly cost, performance and costs have varied widely but seem to be trending down so I don’t think anyone should take any numbers too seriously for where they will be in 2030

    Point 4
    I agree that that number is very high. I think that you are a little bit optimistic because we don’t have the facilities or expertise here and there are very few places on the grid where we can save money by building two plants on one site, Cooling costs will be higher here also but if your number was adjusted up to about A$6,000-$6,500 I wouldn’t argue.

    However on P246 you will see that the cost estimates were developed by the EPRI (USA) and Worley Parsons with their vast experience in energy in both countries made the $A adjustments so we can’t blame ivory tower CSIRO researchers
    Re learning curves I think they are conservative in all cases. They use 0.85 for nuclear and 0.8 for wind. Solar is probably optimistic @0.5


  149. I’m with Tom Blees plan as listed in his free book. I’m reading Chapter 9 on cost now. Once SMR IFR’s start pumping off the worldwide production line at about 100 a year, they’ll probably beat the price of coal, and most definitely beat the real cost of coal (when including coal’s health costs). He even estimates that the American health sector could easily save about a third of the worldwide cost of deploying 100 nukes a year. Coal’s health costs have to be one of the greatest ‘externalities’ pushed on the public by any corporation ever. (Putting climate change aside for the moment).
    100 nukes a year, and boron powder for cars and trucks. It will totally smash Stern’s estimates for solving climate change.

    Click to access P4TP4U.pdf


  150. Eclipse Now: Boron power for cars: Boron is too brittle to be made into wire, especially wire that bends. Boron is mostly a powder. A boron alloy or a different metal would work. People have a tendency to fail to look in the Chemistry & Physics handbook before deciding to use an element for something. Like the army made helicopter fuel tanks out of lithium. Fires resulted, killing 6 soldiers on 3 helicopters before they realized that lithium reacts with rain water. Do you have a ChemPhys handbook? If not, you and everybody need(s) one.


  151. Nuclear does run at 95% to 100% power better than 90% of the time. Down times are scheduled for refueling and maintenance so you know about them ahead of time. Down time is 1 month out of every 19 months to 25 months. To load follow faster than 5% per minute, a new reactor must be used. Some Generation 4 reactors can load follow much more quickly. If you need a nuclear reactor to load follow faster than 5% per minute, you should ask manufacturers to design one for your application.


  152. Pure Boron wire is problematic. If you can deal with it as a powder, that’s fine. If you can encase it in aluminum or some other metal or plastic wire, that’s fine. If you can make a ductile alloy of it, that’s fine. The problem is that the person who proposed boron didn’t bother to solve the problem and just assumed that he could make pure boron wire. That was lazy and a bad assumption. If you want to unwind the wire off of a spool, the wire had better not break a lot. There is work to do that wasn’t done before printing.


  153. ‘Nunquam corrumpo a bonus fabula per dico verum’

    I have just watched a program on the Australian ABC called Foreign Correspondent and I am amazed at the skewing of the information and the misreporting.
    It starts with Costa Rica under the heading of Renewables, of which the country uses 80% hydro, it is adding Geothermal so that it does not have to burn fossil fuels. Do not get me wrong I am very glad that they have hydro and geothermal and are able to achieve this result is great. Noting that the backup supply for when they have a drought etc is reciprocating diesel I would recommend that they should also look at Wind energy as it would combine ideally with hydro to conserve water.
    Costa Rica with a population of 5 million and occupying 51000sq klms of land is a hardly what you might an industrialized country.
    it is certainly not a typical example.
    But neither hydro or geothermal are VRE’s, so next we skip to Germany where we are given the warm fuzzy feeling about how successfully Germany is mastering the wind. We even get to see the battery salesmen’s affordable car of the future the ‘Elon Musk’ mobile.
    Again the reporter chooses to report on a small part of a very big grid without even mentioning that when the wind is not blowing that Germany will be buying their electricity off the nuclear and the coal burning nations that make up the bulk of the European Grid.

    This outrageous piece of flummery continues to misinform the general public and give them the false idea that renewables are the future when the scientific facts say different.


  154. Short answer is it can not.
    Wind has a place in conserving oil and gas where reciprocating engines are in use and also in conserving water where hydro, as opposed to pumped hydro, is used. This is simply because the short run up times of reciprocating engines and hydro can adapt to the intermittency of Wind. It will also depend on the wind resources available i.e. how windy it is.


  155. I find it unbelievable that Germans continue to support the EEG surcharge.


    “The calculated market price for electricity in 2016 is expected to be only 3.126 ct/kWh, after 3.567 ct/kWh. In comparison, the TSOs calculated with average EEG payments of 30.613 ct/kW for PV, 24.389 ct/kWh for geothermal, 18.657 ct/kWh for biomass, 18.362 ct/kWh for offshore wind, 9.156 ct/kWh for onshore wind and 9.402 for hydro.”

    It appears that State subsidised renewable energy is driving down the electricity wholesale price.
    This will be unsustainable for the conventional energy sector, particularly gas in the longer term which will be required when the sun and wind are not available.

    This costs over 20 billion euros annually and adds 6 euro cents to every kWh of domestic electricity consumption.

    And CO2 emissions from electricity generation have increased from 360M tonnes in 2000 to 390M tonnes in 2012.


  156. Some time ago I posted a link to a report by the World Nuclear Association about Nuclear Power in the European Union. Here is the link again.

    To me the most important paragraph from that reference is this:

    “In October 2014 EU leaders renewed a 2002 commitment to increase energy trading through electricity connectors to 10% by 2020, ie that much of each country’s generation capacity should be available for trade across borders. The statement said that “The integration of rising levels of intermittent renewable energy requires a more interconnected internal energy market and appropriate back up, which should be coordinated as necessary at regional level.” The Baltic States, Portugal, Spain, and also Greece are priorities of electricity interconnection and integration.”

    If this policy of the EU is successful, it will build a grid at least as large as the North American Grid. The interesting politics will come when heavily subsidised excess German Wind power is supplied into this grid. Other members of the grid who are operating unsubsidised Nuclear, Gas, or even Coal power may well object. Equally when Germany needs to buy power from the Grid it is likely they will have to pay a premium.

    Eventually policies like the Energiewende of Germany will collapse because for a policy to be effective it must be sustainable both economically and environmentally.

    Meanwhile the Chinese are embarking upon the largest Nuclear power construction program of any nation. Please refer–Nuclear-Power/

    If they maintain their costs, China may well achieve their CO2 and pollution targets and have the cheapest cost of electricity as well.


  157. To Tom Bond
    While you are right that retail prices in Germany are very high, However wholesale prices which are paid to generators and are available to large companies and are the basis for international trade of electricity are low, in fact about 20% lower than France on a year ahead basis.

    It could be argued that CO2 emissions rose not because of renewables but because of the phasing out of nuclear and the loss of market share of natural gas because imported natural gas was much more expensive than local lignite. Given both these issues, if germany had not had renewables its CO2 emissions would have been even higher.


  158. to Tony Corden

    An international grid is a good idea for all energy sources, France’s utilisation rate and therefore average cost per for its nuclear is clearly improved by being able to export a lot of off peak power to neighbours to, for example, heat water in Italy.

    This is not to deny your contention that German subsidies will have to fall (which they are, slowly) but the people who should really be angry are the German households and small businesses which are subsidising all generators so they can export power (which they do) to other countries at low rates, while charging top whack at home

    Re China’s nuclear ambitions. From the same reference above by 2030 they hope to have about 8-10% of demand from Nuclear. At the same time they expect to generate 3 times that much from renewables. By 2050 nuclear share will still only rise to about 20% if their current plans are fulfilled. This is not to say they wont increase nuclear above their current plans but clearly there is no intention for an all nuclear grid.


  159. To Graeme Weber

    I agree perhaps I should have been clearer, as I said in another post they should have phased out coal first.

    However if Germany had gone for 100% nuclear, their costs would definitely be higher than they are now as they would have much more expensive plants than France (inflation, fewer cooling options) and less hydro to back them up.

    It is interesting to see that wholesale prices have been falling in Germany for some years and the CEO of the North German Transmission Grid thinks they can get to 70% wind and solar without investment in new storage.


  160. Peter Farley: your numbers look a little screwed up.

    Your price for 100% nuclear would be much lower than wind and solar unless somebody added some absurd burden to nuclear.
    To get 70%wind,you must have built 10 times as many wind turbines as you need and you are feathering the extra rotors when they are not needed. Your cost can’t be low to do that.

    It would have been much cheaper to go 100% nuclear.


  161. Edward
    Try telling the French government and the Chief executive of 50Hz. The numbers are not my numbers they are official German and French numbers completely unaltered by me or anyone else. You have the links.

    Point1. The current costs are the numbers from the the French Energy directorate that says that year ahead Electricity in France is around E38 per and Germany is around E31 150608_Observatoire_gros_2eTrim2015-en%20(1).pdf page 6.

    New reactors in Germany will cost more to build and run than depreciated French reactors that were built 20-30 years ago when actual costs were much lower than they are now. Therefore their breakeven cost must be higher than the the current French costs. Ipso facto new German nuclear will cost more than existing French nuclear i.e much more than the existing German power mix.

    Point 2
    Chief executive of 50Hz the TSO for North Germany says they can reach 70% wind+solar before needing to invest in new storage so it is you who are getting your figures wrong. I suppose they are trading excess wind with Scandinavian hydro but clearly they see that as cheaper than building and running new thermal.

    Point 3.
    If you care to look at the monthly figures from the Fraunhofer institute at this website in the grouped view you will clearly see that wind is higher in the winter months and solar higher in summer so solar and wind do compliment each other.

    Point 4. Peaker plants in the US operate at 4% CF
    … GE’s Rangarajan seemed to be responding to Robo’s claim when she said, “We’ve heard about peaker-free systems, and everyone asked, ‘Are we going to be peaker-free soon?’ The answer really is that peakers are here, they’re all through our ecosystem, and they’re going to be here for a little longer. I don’t see any of us going and pulling out peakers from the ground. […] Peakers do have a bit of a problem. The utilization factor of a peaker is a little more than 4 percent in the United States. What do we do about that?”…

    So if the last nuclear plant(s) on any 100% nuclear grid are running at 4% utilization a) how do you actually make them work b) how do they make money.

    I eagerly await your costings and business case


  162. PeterF provided a link to a site with an article about recent installations of utility scale batteries. Thank you.

    This caused me to consider thermal stores on any thermal generator for similar purposes. I know of none except for some solar thermal projects. Why not on nuclear power plants?


  163. David
    Thermal storage is uneconomical on a thermal power station because it is very expensive to contain steam at high pressure and temperature. The costliest parts of a boiler are the steam drum and superheater which use very expensive metals for seconds worth of steam. It is much more expensive (and dangerous) to have a big vessel full of steam than storing a stack of coal.

    Thermal storage only works (?) on solar thermal because the fuel is free but molten salt storage is at lower temperature than the operating temperature of a USC coal plant and slightly lower than a modern nuclear plant so Ivanpah is only about 28% thermal efficiency vs 38-42% gross for a USC coal plant. Therefore using molten salt implies significant extra capital expenditure and downgraded thermal (and therefore fuel) efficiency for a coal or nuclear plant.

    There are some coal plants using pumped storage (eg Wivanhoe in Qld) and some coal plants in Germany are installing batteries in relatively small quantities

    These storage options have the advantage that the combination can absorb large amounts (GW.hours for pumped storage) of power when the plant is underutilised and add to the output of the plant when demand peaks. Thermal storage does not increase the plant’s peak capacity which is usually when the power is most valuable.

    Power storage also allows slower ramping (both up and down) of thermal plants thus reducing thermal stress and maintenance costs while improving fuel efficiency. Thermal storage is of little help in this area.


  164. The IFR core sat inside a pool of liquid sodium. This gave it thermal stability – as demand fell below heat generation, the temperature of the pool+core rose modestly and inhibited fission. However it was only a short term heat reservoir.

    @ DBB… Any reactor using liquid metal as coolant would be able to store heat in a tank of the same liquid. Taking the heat capacity of liquid sodium as 1.3 kJ/kg/K , a gigawatt-hour (3600 GJ) of heat to be stored between 200 and 500° C would require 3600 GJ / (500-200 K) / (1.3 kJ/kg/K ) = 9.2 Gg of sodium.

    A tank containing 9000 tonnes of red hot liquid sodium does seem a little daunting !


  165. Book: “Green Illusions” by Ozzie Zehner: A complete renewable energy system for the US would cost 1.4 QUADRILLION dollars.

    My estimate for the cost of a battery for the US is $0.5 QUADrillion. 5 times 10 to the eleventh power. About 29 times GDP. How I got it: Fairbanks has a battery that can last 7 to 15 minutes. They paid $35 Million for it. Fairbanks has 30,000 people. That is $1167 per person. Multiply by 400 million people. Divide 7 minutes into a week. Multiply that by the number you got before. You get half a quadrillion dollars. Batteries are out. I did not account for price going up as resources are depleted.

    See: Fairbanks Daily News-Miner – “GVEA s Fairbanks battery bank keeps lights on”

    To go with renewables only, you need a whole week’s worth of battery power for the whole world because Europe can have a long cold cloudy calm winter. The batteries can run down over several months.

    My list of references is too long to put here


  166. That may be the case, but we’ve lost the propaganda war. I can’t believe the simplistic, “They’ll come up with something” wishy-washy Amory Lovins thinking we’ve been bombarded by as COP21 unfolds. It makes me weep. “Energy efficiency will save us…” but even as we build smarter buildings and cities, we find ever more uses for electricity. It’s just such an amazing useful thing! “We don’t need power at night” except about half our car fleet could be charged then, if they were all EV’s. (NREL). If we ignore that, we’re committed to building even MORE wind and solar and an even MORE upgraded grid to charge the whole fleet during the day! I just shake my head in wonder at the news these days. At the propaganda. The sheer overwhelming ignorance. But there’s hope. I was anti nuke only a few years back!


  167. To Eclipse now

    Perhaps nuclear has not lost the propaganda war. It has lost the 100% nuclear war. The danger in the all or nothing approach is that you get nothing. An aim for about 20-30% nuclear (US and China seem to be heading that way) would still be a lot more nuclear than now.

    When the French decision was made to adapt nuclear there were no alternatives. Now there are, so designing a nuclear grid that played well with renewables and storage is more likely to be acceptable and therefore enacted than insisting on 100% nuclear and just being ignored.

    If all the reforms and innovations that nuclear proponents want are made and all the technology is successful then the proportion of nuclear energy may rise to 30-50-60% in 50-60 years time. But if you start out telling everyone else their solutions are not acceptable you will not get anywhere.

    In the meantime China is building about 20GW of nuclear by 2020 adding 150TW.hrs/annum and increasing wind by180GW and Solar by 120-150GW (500+180)TW.hrs.

    This seems to be a sensible way to go, including your opponents in your plans generally gets much more traction.


  168. Nuclear power is the only way to stop making CO2 that actually works.

    A Myth is Being Foisted on you:

    Fact: Renewable Energy mandates cause more CO2 to be produced, not less, and renewable energy doubles or more your electric bill. The reasons are as follows:

    Since solar “works” 15% of the time and wind “works” 20% of the time, we need either energy storage technology we don’t have or ambient temperature superconductors and we don’t have them either. Wind and solar are so intermittent that electric companies are forced to build new generator capacity that can load-follow very fast, and that means natural gas fired gas turbines. The gas turbines have to be kept spinning at full speed all the time to ramp up quickly enough. The result is that wind and solar not only double your electric bill, wind and solar also cause MORE CO2 to be produced.

    We do not have battery or energy storage technology that could smooth out wind and solar at a price that would be possible to do. The energy storage would “cost” in the neighborhood of a QUADRILLION dollars for the US. That is an imaginary price because we could not get the materials to do it if we had that much money.

    The only real way to reduce CO2 production from electricity generation is to replace all fossil fueled power plants with the newest available generation of nuclear; unless you live near Niagara Falls. Nuclear can load-follow fast enough as long as wind and solar power are not connected to the grid.

    MYTHS: The myths being perpetrated by wind turbine marketers are that:

    Wind and solar energy are free and will lower your electric bill


    Wind and solar energy are CO2 free and will reduce the total CO2 produced by electricity generation.


    Californians are paying twice as much for electricity as I am and Germans are paying 4 times as much as I am. The reason is renewables mandates. Illinois has 6 nuclear power plants and we are working hard to keep them. I am paying 7&1/2 cents /kilowatt hour. What are you paying?


    Californians and Germans are making more CO2 per kilowatt hour than Illinoisans. It turns out that even without burning natural gas or coal to make up for the intermittency of wind and solar, wind turbines and large scale solar collectors require more concrete and steel per kilowatt hour than nuclear power does.

    FALLACIES: The fallacies in the myth are failure to do the math and failure to do all of the engineering required. The myth is easy to propagate among most people because there is quite a lot of math to do and there is a lot of engineering to learn. University electrical engineering departments offer electrical engineering degrees with specialization in power transmission [electric grids]. That is only part of the engineering that needs to be done to figure the whole thing out.


  169. A thermal store added to a nuclear power plant seems possible to me although utility scale batteries might be less expensive. I will do an overly concrete example; other numbers might be more economic.

    The NPP is equipped with a steam diverter; 86% goes to the main turbine, sized for that supply and runs ‘all the time’. The remaining 15% goes to a heat exchanger to heat an appropriate molten salt thermal store, taken as 80% efficient. The output heat exchanger goes to a separate steam circuit connected to a smaller turbine designed for the lower operating temperature and turning its own generator. This secondary circuit only generates when there is additional demand, for example later in the day when solar PV is played out.

    My understanding is that the thermal store and the two heat exchangers are fairly inexpensive so the major additional cost would be the turbine and it’s generator. The setup runs similarly to a very small pumped hydro project.


  170. PeterF says:Thermal storage does not increase the [thermal] plant’s peak capacity, which is usually when the power is most valuable.

    On the contrary. If the power station had an extra steam train (turbine, generator etc) that ran off the thermal store, then at peak demand, all of the nuke’s steam goes directly into generation along with the supplementary generation running off the thermal store. As demand lowers, the peaker is shut down, and as demand lowers further, the nuke lowers its generation while topping up the thermal store.

    Perhaps we don’t need gas at all.


  171. “To Eclipse now
    Perhaps nuclear has not lost the propaganda war. It has lost the 100% nuclear war. The danger in the all or nothing approach is that you get nothing. An aim for about 20-30% nuclear (US and China seem to be heading that way) would still be a lot more nuclear than now.”
    So please explain why Dr James Hansen tells The Guardian that he thinks we should be building 115 reactors a year? Why lifetime anti-nuclear greenie activists are now becoming nukies like Stewart Brand, Mark Lynas, Shellenberger and the other Eco-modernists? Could it be that they’ve done the numbers and modelling for weather conditions, available energy at price, etc, and concluded that the sheer storage requirements would bankrupt any nation that tried to have more than half nuclear?
    Dr Barry Brook has stated in his ‘What is ecomodernism’ youtube talks that Australia could do about half renewables, half nuclear. There you go. That’s a huge concession from this lot! But aiming for 20% nuclear is something I just can’t in good conscience agree with. It. Won’t. Work!


  172. (Darn! I have said above exactly what DBB had just said two comments before.)

    Someone earlier on BNC had asked, could the Japanese reactors have kept going after the earthquake, instead of shutting down?

    Well yes, none of them were damaged by the earthquake. Any of them could have been restarted immediately after the scram, if only to dump all its power into the cooling system. When ground acceleration exceeds a certain amount, an automatic scram shuts down the reactor. After engineers check out the system, they would be able to restart the reactor. They would only have less than an hour so to restart before transient xenon-135 built up. However you would only need one reactor running to power the cooling system in a power station of several Gen-II reactors.

    Although proven triumphantly earthquake-proof, they were not tsunami-proof. The Fukushima Daiichi reactors had their electricals in the basement and an electrical pump for the seawater coolant was also flooded. Almost certainly Tepco’s engineers had been pointing out the vulnerability for years and been ignored.

    I guess the post-Fukushima upgrades have moved the electricals and flood-proofed the pumps etc, worldwide. In that case a similar power station could now keep going in the event of a similar earthquake and tsunami. How much of the adjoining grid would have survived is another matter.


  173. Perhaps you can explain why the man with the practical experience, the chief executive of 50Hz (north German grid) says he can get to 70% wind and solar without storage.(link above)

    Perhaps you can explain why Germany’s power is cheaper than France’s.

    Perhaps you can explain how you maintain the last nuclear generator on a 100% nuclear grid.

    Perhaps you can explain why the recently retired Chief Executive of Excellon “Let me state unequivocably that I’ve never met a nuclear plant I didn’t like,” said John Rowe, who retired 17 days ago as chairman and CEO of Exelon Corporation, which operates 22 nuclear power plants, more than any other utility in the United States.

    “Having said that, let me also state unequivocably that new ones don’t make any sense right now.”

    Why won’t the CEO of Southern companies currently building Vogtle 3 & 4 commit to any further nuclear plants

    Why is China the most enthusiastic supporter of nuclear, planning to generate 3 times as much power from new wind and solar as it is from new nuclear over the next 5 years

    I agree that anyone who promotes a 100% wind grind is even sillier than a 100% nuclear grid. The people who actually run the grids AEMO, 50Hz etc. think that diversity, complementarity and overbuilding renewables (just as thermal sources are overbuilt) and including depending on the country geothermal, biomass and hydro mean that much less storage is needed than the simple numbers of capacity factor would suggest.

    The problem for all of us is that it is a complex dynamic system in a rapidly changing environment. The STEAG storage system is 1/3rd the cost per and will have about double the cycle life The Fairbanks storage system only 5 years later. The modular reactors promise much lower costs and reduced waste etc.

    James Hanson said he put $75,000 of solar panels on his roof but it is still not enough.The same solar capacity now would cost about 1/10th of his installation and take up less than 1/3rd of the area. However if the same system was erected in the southern half of the country it would generate 30-40% more power. Thus no sensible person in the renewable only system suggests doing away with the grid


  174. Again for the nth time: It is renewables that have the energy storage requirement. There is no, zero nada energy storage requirement for nuclear.

    We truthfully point out that renewable require an unbuildable amount of energy storage and they intentionally attribute the storage requirement to nuclear.

    100% nuclear is easy. 100% renewable is nonsense.

    Generation 2 nuclear does not mix with wind and/or solar because of the fact that wind and solar are intermittent. If you want instant on/ instant off nuclear, you ask the manufacturer for a Generation 4 reactor that can do that.


  175. Edward
    Please explain the economics of a 100% nuclear system vs a 70-80% nuclear system with hydro and storage.

    If nuclear w/o storage is such a good idea why does every country with high nuclear capacity Japan, Switzerland, France and Sweden have either or both large storage in the form of hydro/pumped storage and/or connections to other grids for backup/peak shaving

    Nobody on this forum has attempted to answer the question of the economics of nuclear supplying peak/shoulder demand

    Just asking.


  176. Germans are paying 30 cents per kilowatt hour. I am paying 7&½ cents per kilowatt hour. But the Germans are hiding it from themselves. Germany has a problem called the Green Party. The Green party is always the kingmaker. One of the other 2 parties has to make a deal with the “Green” party to get a majority in parliament. Green is not green in Germany. The Greens may as well be the coal industry.

    Americans are paranoid about all things nuclear. NMR [Nuclear Magnetic Resonance] had to be renamed MRI [Magnetic Resonance Imaging] to get sick people into the scanner. It is the exact same machine. Only the sign has been changed. Apparently, the average American doesn’t know that all matter, including people, is made of atoms and that all atoms have nuclei. The NMR/MRI machine aligns the spins of the nucleons in the atoms in the patient using a big magnet. Since different atoms have different nuclear spin resonances, the NMR/MRI machine can see one element at a time.

    Most Americans have never heard of NATURAL Background Radiation. Natural Background Radiation is radiation that was always there, 1000 years ago, a million years ago, etc. Natural Background Radiation comes from the rocks in the ground and from exploding stars thousands of light years away. All rocks contain uranium. Radon gas is a decay product of uranium.


    According to some, death will often ensue when an electric fan has been left running in a sealed room in which people are sleeping. This peculiar belief is widespread in the nation of South Korea, and nowhere else. The South Korean media occasionally runs stories about people who have been found dead in their bedrooms or apartments when an electric fan has been left running during hot weather. In any other nation in the world, those deaths would likely be listed as resulting from heat exhaustion, or indirectly from heat stress on an elderly person. In South Korea, however, no-one is in any doubt that insidious fan death has struck again.

    In fact belief in fan death is so strong that the government has responded to community concerns by mandating that all electric fans sold in South Korea must come with a timer switch to cut the power after a few minutes should you be so reckless as to wish to go to sleep with the fan on, and people are encouraged to use it for their own good. Doctors, politicians and media figures solemnly warn people of the danger. The Korea Consumer Protection Board issues safety alerts granting the warnings official status. Doubtless, mothers drill the knowledge into the minds of the young, and another generation is indoctrinated into the gospel of fan death. And doubtless this virulent meme has resulted in many avoidable deaths in South Korea through the years, ….


  178. Any time you can get hydro power, take it. Any time you can build hydro storage, do it. Regardless of where the power comes from, hydro storage makes money. But hydro storage, like batteries, is not a source of energy, it is storage. There are not many places where you can build hydro storage.

    “Everybody” has grids. Grids are needed to cover refueling cycles for nuclear power and maintenance/down time for every kind of power. Grids help avoid blackouts most of the time but make blackouts worse some of the time. Regardless of the power source, there are grids, alias interconnects. Interconnect also means a connection between grids.

    Which generation of nuclear power? Gen2 was built when there were few nuclear power plants and relatively a lot of hydro and coal. But Niagara Falls can’t cover the whole area that it used to cover because people are using more power now. Buffalo N.Y. was a big industrial center then, but is relatively not on the frontier now.

    Gen2 was built the way it was because that met the requirements of the time.


  179. I saw a tweet from David MacKay referring to this document which may be of interest to BNC readers.

    Click to access ERP-FlexMan-Exec-Summary.pdf

    The conclusions in the Summary of the Energy Research Partnership August 2015 Report “Managing Flexibility Whilst Decarbonising the GB Electricity System” shows the following.

    The UK 2030 decarbonisation targets of 50 or even 100 g/kWh cannot be hit by relying solely on weather dependent technologies like wind and PV alone.

    That Zero Carbon Firm (ZCF) capacity (such as nuclear) is required in conjunction with wind to reach 50g/kWh target. For example 28GW of wind with gas backup gives total emissions of about 250g/kWh, but coupled with 25GW of nuclear the emissions are 50g/kWh.

    Therefore with the diminishing returns of adding more variable renewables, and the need to cover 2-3 week periods of low renewable output, a complete decarbonisation is going to need a significant amount of firm low carbon capacity.

    It concludes that Germany’s current model phasing out much of its zero carbon firm capacity in favour of high carbon inflexible lignite also runs directly against all the recommendations here (of this report).


  180. Hi Edward,
    a uni degree at my age isn’t going to happen, but I do my best as a lay-person to encourage other Aussies to give nuclear power a second look. Also, I quoted Barry Brook on the half renewable, half nuclear thing: I didn’t make that up, and don’t need a uni degree to repeat what the author of this website said.


  181. Edward

    We agree on hydro and pumped storage and the formulation of my question was poor. Of course pumped hydro is not new energy. However my point is that whatever low carbon generation is selected, storage is necessary to maximise economic efficiency.

    I also agree that many of the anti-nuclear fears are over rated if not ridiculous.

    Again your point that Gen II was built the way it was because that was the technology available at the time and new technologies will have a different mixes of ramp rates flexibility, part load economics, life etc.

    The same is true of renewables. 1990’s wind turbines had capacity factors of less than 18% and annual product of around 500 MW.hrs. The best new on shore wind farms around the world have capacity factors around 40% and annual product of 8-10,000 MW.hrs per turbine. New turbine designs are being released with 10-15% more annual production than those. Solar panels have increased from 80W to 320W in around 10 years while falling in price by a factor of 10.

    Consequently if you have storage you can top it up/balance with wind or solar at a lower marginal cost than currently available nuclear. Hence the best low carbon energy system for the next few years is a mixed grid. In every grid there will be a different mix. In a few grids nuclear may get to 80% In most grids there will be more renewables. In some grids there will be no nuclear.

    Every 5 or 6 years we can re-assess and select whatever technology is best at the time. You never know Lockheed’s compact Fission system or supercritical CO2 geothermal might come good

    I don’t care, I just don’t want zealots of either side to hijack the debate. Even worse the FF lobby will use the disagreement between proponents of low carbon technologies to stall the transition and all our grand-children will be much worse off.


  182. So I am telling Barry Brook to re-think the incompatibility between nuclear and wind&solar and the incompatibility between the grid and wind&solar. We do not have the technology required to build a grid smart enough to use 50% wind &solar. Germany sells power at negative prices to other countries to smooth out the problems that would otherwise cause blackouts. Some other countries are thinking about disconnecting from Germany.


  183. Edward Greisch,

    “A Myth is Being Foisted on you:”
    It is indeed. You’re the one foisting it!

    “Fact: Renewable Energy mandates cause more CO2 to be produced, not less, and renewable energy doubles or more your electric bill.”
    And that’s the myth. Preceding a lie (even one you believe yourself) with the label “fact” doesn’t make it true; it merely compounds the lie.

    “The reasons are as follows:
    Since solar ‘works’ 15% of the time and wind ‘works’ 20% of the time, we need either energy storage technology we don’t have or ambient temperature superconductors and we don’t have them either.”
    You seem to be forgetting the option of solar thermal with molten salt storage.

    And you should consider what you mean by “works”, as solar and wind are producing electricity for much more than that proportion of the time.

    “Wind and solar are so intermittent that electric companies are forced to build new generator capacity that can load-follow very fast, and that means natural gas fired gas turbines.”
    …Wich means less use of coal, therefore less CO2 is produced.

    “The gas turbines have to be kept spinning at full speed all the time to ramp up quickly enough.”
    Do you have an example of anywhere in the world where that is the case where they wouldn’t be doing the same thing without wind and solar power?

    Does your part of the world not use radar to see what weather’s coming?

    I would expect gas turbines to have to be kept spinning at full speed when they’re on, as the speed would correspond to the frequency, not the power, of the output. [Can someone who works in that field tell me if that’s correct?]

    But even spinning at full speed, they produce a lot less CO2 at low power than they do at full power. And the fuel is natural gas rather than coal, so again that’s likely to be an emissions reduction.

    There is always a need for load following, with or without solar and wind. The most credible version of your myth is that it requires open cycle gas turbines to be used instead of the more efficient combined cycle gas turbines. But that’s still a myth, as many designs of CCGT do have load following ability.

    “The result is that wind and solar not only double your electric bill, wind and solar also cause MORE CO2 to be produced.”
    The doubling of the electric bill is also a myth. Though solar and wind energy can result in higher costs (due largely to inefficient financing rather than any intrinsic property) having it going into the grid will force prices down.


  184. Capacity factor of wind turbines is not the issue. The issue is wind and solar are intermittent. Anything intermittent is incompatible with the grid, regardless of price and regardless of capacity factor and regardless of size or total output if it is more than 9% of the total grid.

    We don’t have the battery technology by a factor of a million.

    We don’t have ambient temperature superconductors.

    We don’t have a switch that can repeatedly turn off 800,000 volts at 60,000 amps.

    Wind and solar are just not a possibility without the required energy storage and without the necessary room temperature superconductors.

    Quit arguing and read:

    No more comments from you until you read every word of
    what professor Tom Murphy has to say.


  185. I think that it is unwise to entirely condemn either nuclear or renewable s. There can be a niche for wind or solar too. If the wind and solar are intermittent with low availability, there are isolated places like islands and small settlements where coal, gas or nuclear is not economically feasible. There may be a need for major change in technology. The energy should be stored at as low a cost as possible like the compressed air mentioned earlier by me. I find that others are thinking along these lines.
    The wind mill towers are quite tall and huge and could be used concurrently as compressed air energy storage.
    On the other hand, big wind or solar farms are an economic absurdity and should not be used.
    compressed air can be converted to electric power but is more economically used directly for mechanical work or climate control with heat pumps.
    Addiction to fossil fuels like India importing coal from Australia for power is also an absurdity and earlier replaced by uranium, the better.


  186. Thank you for the incentive to investigate further. As has been my position all along I am not anti-nuclear so if the US has 20-30-60% nuclear I don’t care.

    As we have agreed that there will be storage in the grid then the hydro/wind/solar operate together with the storage and variable loads leaving nuclear to chug along at full capacity and maximum economic efficiency so there is no particular need for the high capacity switches or air temperature superconductors you speak of.

    I have read both those papers before and reread them again and they are based on:

    a) Zero combustion economy, no geothermal, no biomass, no gas peakers, no gas process heating, no wood heating, no gas/ gasoline or diesel fueled vehicles
    b) The current level of energy in-efficiency. The US uses about twice as much energy per capita as other economies with equivalent living standards and higher levels of industrialisation
    c) Replacing FF heating with resistive electricity which will be necessary in some cases but heat pumps and occasionally direct solar will be used for most of the low temp applications vastly reducing electrical demand
    d) Completely electrified transport without moving any of the load to rail or public transport
    e) Eliminating coal in steel and concrete production
    f) No nuclear
    g) Neglects the roughly 10% of energy that is used in mining refining and transporting fossil fuels
    h) No change in the operation of existing hydro and no overbuilding of generation.

    When all these overstatements are rectified, electrical demand is between 2 and 3 times less than specified.

    In 2013 the existing US grid generated 4,100 TW.hrs from 1060 GW. i.e. it ran at 44% CF. If you deduct the wind, solar and hydro then the CF of the thermal capacity increases to about 50-55%. Therefore the existing grid has roughly double the amount of thermal capacity that it needs for average load.

    Tom Murphy’s paper is, as he stresses an argument against silver bullet solutions not an argument against renewables per se so here is another hypothetical solution.

    If you keep existing hydro, geothermal, pumped storage and biomass, half the gas and overbuild the wind and solar by 100% (by annual capacity, not name plate) as per current thermal then in your theoretical cold week where wind runs average generation of 1/8th of the nameplate and solar at 7%, nuclear at 90% and geothermal/biomass at 80% and gas at 80% hydro at 80% and pumped hydro at 25%

    Target generation 1TW not 2TW

    Nuclear Capacity 100 GW Actual 90 GW 90%
    Wind Capacity 2600 GW Actual 325 GW 1/8th of rated
    Solar Capacity 2800 GW Actual 195 GW 7% of rated
    Geothermal Biomass 150 GW Actual 120 GW 80%
    Gas 200 GW Actual 160 GW 80%
    Hydro 80 GW Actual 65 GW 80%
    Existing storage 20 GW Actual 5 GW 20%
    Average generation for the cold week 960GW.

    Therefore storage is 40 GW x 168hrs = 10TW.hrs not 2TW x 168 hrs. i.e. about 3% of that paper’s calculation. This can be compared to the Australian grid which is about 1/20th of the size of the US grid. Recent very detailed studies suggest it needs about 0.1TW.hrs equivalent to 2TW.hrs in the US or 4-5TW.hrs for a fully electrified US economy.

    Depending on the costs of the various alternatives which will vary over time, the final solution will be quite different to that shown above, but I will make a large bet that the solution will contain a large fraction of renewables .

    I welcome your alternative formulation


  187. Edward Greisch,
    “Capacity factor of wind turbines is not the issue.”

    “The issue is wind and solar are intermittent.”
    That’s certainly one important issue.

    “Anything intermittent is incompatible with the grid, regardless of price and regardless of capacity factor and regardless of size or total output if it is more than 9% of the total grid.”
    Not only is it compatible with the grid, but it’s much easier to deal with it by the grid than at each individual generation location.

    “We don’t have the battery technology by a factor of a million.”
    Battery technology is rapidly improving, and there are other storage methods besides batteries. But importantly, storage is only part of the solution. There’s a lot that can be done with demand management.

    “We don’t have ambient temperature superconductors.”
    Nor do we actually need them, useful though they would be!

    “We don’t have a switch that can repeatedly turn off 800,000 volts at 60,000 amps.”
    Why would you want one?

    “Wind and solar are just not a possibility without the required energy storage and without the necessary room temperature superconductors.”
    That conclusion is based on false assumptions.


  188. More to the point: Wind and solar are decorations on natural gas fired power plants. Wind and solar are fakes, distractions, feel-goods, not real energy sources. Wind and solar are great if you own a coal mine or a fracked gas well because wind and solar enable you to get rid of nuclear.
    The only real challenge to fossil fuels is still nuclear. There isn’t enough Hydro to go around.


  189. How about some economics to go with the technical assertions

    JP Morgan

    Brave New World P9

    ” However, EIA and Carnegie Mellon cost estimates may not reflect reality. The rising trend in OECD nuclear capital and operating costs is a topic we addressed last year. In the US, real costs per MWh for nuclear have risen by 19% annually since the 1970’s5
    . Even in France, the country with the greatest
    reliance on nuclear power as a share of generation and whose centralized decision-making and regulatory structure are geared toward nuclear power, costs have been rising and priorities are shifting to renewable
    . Globally, nuclear power peaked as a share of electricity generation in 1995 at 18% and is now
    at 11%, ”

    China the nuclear favourite at the moment is expecting to increase generation from renewables 3 times as fast as from nuclear


  190. Peter F. – – Your link for the selected comments from John Rowe is to an anti-nuclear journalist’s piece, which I think is fair to characterize as “cherry picked.”

    Mr. Rowe was realistically recognizing that denying recognition of nuclear energy’s carbon-free benefit will pose economic challenges to it in a static market awash with cheap gas and massively subsidized wind energy.

    The financial impact is a key driver of decisions by people in the position of Mr. Rowe. Utility executives have a fiduciary duty to stockholders, not to society, to the future, or to the climate. The way to bend their attention is through limitations, either created by the market, or by society, e.g., though regulations.

    The elimination of the emissions benefits that nuclear brings seems to be exactly what many institutional environmentalists want and celebrate. This is why it is hard for some of us who comment here to believe they really are concerned with climate change. Based on my own observation, I would say that, emotionally, they are concerned, but that many seem unable to accept the shortcomings of the analyses they present. This is, I believe, why their opposition to nuclear (despite disclaimers of the same, such as your own) is intractable in the face of what comes down to fairly straightforward arithmetic.

    What Rowe indicated is that, if the market will not recognize nuclear energy’s emission-avoidance benefits, then nuclear is uneconomic in the 2012 environment (when the interview was done).

    Although it may take awhile, this circumstance will hopefully change after Paris. Hopefully it will change in the US if the Administrations Clean Power Plan is sustained against legal challenges. If it doesn’t change in the US and across the world, then carbon goals will not be met.

    Most likely the thing that would change it the most would be actualization of low cost next generation nuclear, something that environmentalists managed to set back by 20 years by eliminating the IFR development program in 1994. Pricing GHG might help, but making nuclear cheaper than fossil would seem the best route. For this reason, the focus on innovation is encouraging.

    I have digressed. (Glad this is an open thread).

    If anyone wants to take up Peter’s challenge as to “why” Mr. Rowe said the (cherry picked) things that Peter references, they can go here for a transcript of the whole interview:

    Mr. Rowe, in 2012, identified three economic challenges for nuclear: 1) lack of overall growth (the US, like many advanced economies, has been de-industrializing and exporting its production of goods, and the associated emissions, elsewhere, and, finally, seems to be accelerating improvements in energy efficiency); 2) cheap gas (primarily a U.S. phenomenon, for now) and 3) subsidized wind, about which he said:

    “The third factor is the subsidized wind — which you really pay for, and it runs whether it’s economic or not — that hurts. The wind really annoys utility people because it runs at night. At night, you have more than enough electricity, and wind just ruins the price.”

    Another Q&A is also telling:

    “EW: So you think the rule should be written to help existing nuclear plants that are struggling?

    Rowe: We’re writing rules all the time to help wind and solar. One of my old friends in the utility industry said a long time ago that renewable standards were like Gresham’s law: Its bad power drives out good power.”

    Mr. Rowe noted that institutional environmentalists might see it the opposite, i.e, they might view wind driving emissions-free nuclear off the grid as a good thing. You can find a lot of evidence for this inference in the comments celebrating closure of nuclear plants.


  191. FrankJ quotes, “institutional environmentalists might … view wind driving … nuclear off the grid as a good thing”

    Indeed. Numerate environmentalists probably do see wind as impractical, but see it as a option to comfort the fearful, while being anything except nuclear.

    However, it is the gas industry that “might view wind driving emissions-free nuclear off the grid as a good thing”. (Remember that wind requires almost as much gas backup than if the same power been provided by gas, more efficiently). I once attended a March Against Global Warming meeting decorated by a large poster declaring that it had been proudly supported by Origin Energy, “the clean energy”.

    Predictably the leader who addressed the rally directed all his invective against nuclear energy. Like frogs in warming water, the audience contentedly found communion in the familiar invective against the familiar enemy. I suspect that many of them are against climate change because it contains the word “change”. But equally,I wonder how pervasive is gas funding of environmental groups and events.


  192. Frank Jablonski

    Your post clearly captures the issue and I quote.

    “Mr. Rowe noted that institutional environmentalists might see it the opposite, i.e, they might view wind driving emissions-free nuclear off the grid as a good thing.”

    Most of my ‘greenie’ friends while concerned about climate change are much more worried about nuclear and point to Germany as an example of “good” climate policy.

    They are not at all interested in the fact that French emissions are just 40g/kWH (like most COP21 delegates), which is more than 10 times lower than Germany (500g/kWh) .

    Or that German electricity CO2 emissions are unchanged since 1999 at about 350M tonnes annually despite installing 80GW of weather dependent renewable generation.

    If we are to reduce CO2 emissions in the foreseeable future we cannot continue to replace nuclear with renewables (Germany) or gas (USA) and celebrate this as environmentally responsible.


  193. Frank

    I try to avoid overly partisan websites so I selected a comment from Bloomberg which I think is usually a pretty rational pro business paper,

    Again I never advocated closing nuclear stations. I used that quote to illustrate that even written down nuclear has a hard time competing today without a carbon price, so new nuclear will be even less competitive.

    Nuclear people complaining about current subsidies to wind are a bit rich since almost all of the R&D, the fuel enrichment cycle etc. was paid for by the taxpayer, as is the catastrophe insurance, the long term storage of waste and much of the security. In addition in the US the government bought their waste plutonium to build bombs . I have seen, but can’t verify an estimate that for the first 20-30 years or so, income from plutonium sales was similar to income from electricity sales. In the last 15-20 years the American government bought and reprocessed significant quantities of surplus Soviet bomb making fuel and sold it at attractive prices to domestic nuclear power generators, a further subsidy.

    Anyway the past is the past. New nuclear plants with current technology have a total cost well above new wind and solar with equivalent annual capacity. Nuclear has the advantage that the plants last longer and more importantly are dispatchable.
    They have the disadvantage that if they are used to load follow their average utilisation goes down and therefore the average cost of power goes up. They also need large spinning reserves in case of outages and maintenance delays and they use lots of water. Wind and solar obviously need backup and storage

    If the world was rational enough to impose not only a carbon price but a pollution price on the heavy metals, SOx. NOx methane leaks etc etc then pretty soon we would have a grid with a mix of renewables and nuclear, some hydro, a little gas and probably a days worth of storage.


  194. To Tom Bond

    Just to try and make may position clear to all the zealots here. I agree pretty much 100%. Replacing nuclear with gas is just silly. Closing nuclear before coal is also counterproductive. The problem is politics in Germany. Apart from the anti-nuclear FUD. there are a lot more jobs to be lost by closing down 10GW of coal than 7-9 GW of nuclear.


  195. “New nuclear plants with current technology have a total cost well above new wind and solar with equivalent annual capacity.”
    Hmmm, and these would be baseload wind or solar how, exactly? Never EVER quote price-to-grid to us. It’s a cheap and dirty trick. Compare baseload with baseload prices only, not apples with wishful thinking and moonbeams. When you’ve got a quote on all the extra hydro dams required to firm up wind and solar, then get back to us. The last big seawater pumped hydro plan I saw for the Nullarbor was $30 billion just for the actual hydro plant (not dam included) and that only stored 10 hours for Australia. Why not build 5 AP1000s? Why not 20 or 30 IFR’s, depending on what price the IFR’s finally come down to when they’re pumping off the production line?

    “Nuclear has the advantage that the plants last longer and more importantly are dispatchable.”
    And more importantly are baseload dispatchable, reliable whenever you want them. Apples with apples. No moonbeams!


  196. Eclipse Now
    It helps to understand the difference between capacity factor and on and off. While solar has a 17-20% capacity factor a single axis solar system generates useful power for 10 hours per day during which time the demand is greatest so with sufficient widely deployed solar capacity and without storage you can supply about 40-45% of total demand even though at the module level over 24 hours output is only 20% of rated capacity.

    For the same reason thermal capacity on the Australian (and the US) grid operates at about 45-50% capacity factor. Gas peakers at about 4% in the US. The fact is most power generation assets are off half the time by CF.

    The exception is nuclear because they are “must run” plants i.e. the cost of turning them off is too high, or to put it differently it is cheaper to pay wind generators to feather their blades than to ramp down nuclear too quickly. However once nuclear penetration goes much above minimum grid demand then they do have to reduce output and if that is a significant amount of time over a year, the average cost of the power goes up and the utilisation goes down as you can see in France.

    This is not moonbeams it is operational and economic reality.

    I have two simple challenges to everyone on this site
    a. Show how you can economically replace gas peakers with currently available nuclear.
    b. If your solution to peak capacity involves storage why would you not at least partially recharge that storage with wind which is currently cheaper per than nuclear


  197. Peter Farley: “In addition in the US the government bought their waste plutonium to build bombs.”

    I think you have fallen for a lie, or at least a highly misleading partial truth. The plutonium in used fuel has too much Pu240 in it for it to be usable in a bomb.

    This link was very good on the subject, but is now unavailable.

    Does anyone know how to find stuff on the wayback machine?
    Try this link Jim.


  198. Jim

    Thankyou for the correction and the link. We learn more every day. The second link contains a huge amount of useful information on other aspects of the nuclear cycle. I have seen many of these arguments before but never so well collated in one place.

    I find it very hard to read this document but while I understand that the plutonium in spent reactor fuel cannot be used directly in bombs, does that preclude high level reprocessing to separate the weapons grade material.

    In any case the other subsidies in my list are still large and real.


  199. Earlier there was a question about using nuclear power plants for the 4% peaking power requirement. One way is to incorporate a thermal store sized for the peaking load. See two prior comments about thermal stores.

    Such thermal stores could, in principle, be energized by wind or solar PV via resistance heaters. I don’t want to try to design a resistance heater which will operate for 30 years at that elevated temperature. Maybe someone else knows how.


  200. A thermal store running a medium temperature steam turbine has a maximum efficiency of around 28% and the cost of hours of storage would be higher than the cost of the compression/combustion stage of an open cycle gas turbine so a thermal store attached to a nuclear or coal power station would be more expensive and slightly less efficient than an open cycle gas turbine (new ones around 35%-

    It will have also have limited duration. In extremes a gas turbine can run for days or weeks, a thermal store would be a maximum of hours.

    If you wish to recharge storage from wind/solar you would be better to recharge pumped hydro it is about 80% efficient and in large quantities is much cheaper than thermal storage.

    That is not to say that minutes worth of thermal storage on a nuclear power station is a bad idea. Short term storage can significantly lower thermal stress on the steam generator and reduce the ramp rate for gas turbines. Whether those short terms gains offset the cost is the key question.


  201. Peter, your ask:

    “b. If your solution to peak capacity involves storage why would you not at least partially recharge that storage with wind which is currently cheaper per than nuclear”

    Peak capacity can be addressed in a variety of ways, as you note (will not have that debate now).

    If you are relying on storage, you would prefer nuclear because it is more dependably available to recharge the storage. Storage is useless if it can’t be recharged due to weather being dreary and still. Potentially cheap kWh are useless if they are not available when you need them. This is as true for a storage system that needs them as it is for an ongoing simultaneous supply-demand system that needs them.

    An intermittent-dependent system needs more storage and more non-coincident (with each other) sources of energy. This triggers a need for more capacity, more storage, and more interconnection costs. All of these costs and the associated infrastructure also imposes environmental impacts, as well as raising EROEI issues.

    Perhaps you might want to do the math on a system basis, and then consider how it is that diverse societies, where most people are neither energy hobbyists nor renewable energy enthusiasts, are going to underwrite and accept this kind of system, and why you, as a person concerned about energy and emissions, should want to bet the future on them doing so.


  202. Oreskes has just called us all “deniers”.

    Seriously, Naomi, what are your qualifications on energy infrastructure? What studies have you personally commissioned into renewable fanboi plans? Hansen has been looking into the alternatives for decades, and as a tight group of scientists who dare to ask the hard questions of renewable energy plans like Jacobsen’s, and actually PEER REVIEW IT! Peer review does not mean “assume it must work at all costs!” It means ask the tough questions. It means throw everything you have at it, and see what survives. Sadly, with wind and solar plans, not much does. That’s why Hansen concludes the following!

    “Can renewable energies provide all of society’s energy needs in the foreseeable future? It is conceivable in a few places, such as New Zealand and Norway. But suggesting that renewables will let us phase rapidly off fossil fuels in the United States, China, India, or the world as a whole is almost the equivalent of believing in the Easter Bunny and Tooth Fairy.”


  203. Eclipse Now
    This is what i thought of Naomi’s piece
    I have read this article and it states only one fact i.e. Mark Jacobsen of Stanford University has produced a report showing how it is possible for the world and the USA imparticular to Transition to a Renewable Energy future. On reading the report I was unable to find a cost summary as in How much money it will cost. But I did find this piece of information in Mr Jacobsen’s report. ‘ Costs of storage are not included but will be reported on in 2016’. At this point in time, Naomi Oreskes is asking the world to follow the VRE path without having an estimate of the cost.


  204. Frank
    I haven’t done the detailed calculations but others have. I have done a rough calculation for the US see my long reply to Edward Greisch above, if the US overbuilt its wind and solar as much as its current thermal stations it needs 10 hours storage for an 80-90% electrified economy to survive a whole week at 1/8th wind power and 1/2 solar with nuclear covering about 20% of demand.

    In Australia AEMO has calculated, based on actual demand profiles that we need 10GW/ to run a 100% renewable grid. Roam consulting calculated that we could build pumped storage for between $400 and $6,000 per kW the median being around $2,000. Thus we can build sufficient storage for about $20b. However this is a significant overstatement because utilities are now deploying batteries to reduce grid costs and peak demand tariffs are encouraging off peak thermal/ice storage for large aircon plants. Households and small businesses are deploying batteries and load shifting. None of these techniques by themselves will be sufficient but they will reduce the demand for dedicated on grid storage probably by 30-40%

    The combination of wind and solar and hydro is a pretty rough match to demand. I.e wind stronger in winter and at night and at least in Australia wind and solar together on our hottest high demand days. Therefore it turns out that we could build the storage we need for a cost between one and two nuclear power stations. On the other hand If we were to build say 20 nuclear power stations and close all the coal we would need at least as much storage but slightly less power eg 7-9 GW and to cover peaks and unexpected outages and to absorb power when demand falls below about 15GW
    You continue to make assertions not backed by any references(I haven’t done the calculations but others have – who – where?) as per BNC Comments Policy. Opinions are not facts. This is becoming frustrating and annoying for other commenters. Further instances may be deleted. Thank you.


  205. Wind is more expensive per kilowatt hour than nuclear by a long ways. Your problem is that you are using nameplate power for the wind but you get only 17% of nameplate power, so you have to build a lot of win turbines to average what one is supposed to get.

    Some currently available nuclear can ramp at 5% per minute. That is plenty fast to take care of peaking. The problem is the bean counters who want to get the last hundredth of a cent out of nuclear.


  206. I went to the Jacobson website referenced by Ms. Oreskes and pulled up the program for Wisconsin (USA, where I live). I left a message at the site asking for the analysis. The whole site was thrillingly populated with pretty graphics displaying the conclusions. I came up empty when seeking the explanations.

    No response has been sent yet from the web-masters at the site.

    The projection for my state is that energy use will fall 36% by 2050. This occurs while we, at the same time, electrify transportation and other functions, and increase population.

    Of course energy use falls. Energy use is reduced because of the switch to renewables (called “WWS”). Switching your source of electrons automatically reduces your use of them.

    How could I not know that?

    Jacobson is the peer-reviewed scientist and tenured Stanford professor who projected the carbon footprint of nuclear energy by positing that nuclear sourced electricity leads to nuclear war, with a probability of 0 to 1 every thirty years.

    I guess we are really in for it soon.

    To calculate the associated carbon emissions, you must include an average of the carbon release from the incinerated cities, and other impacts of the wars.

    No wonder he is tenured at Stanford. As they say on CNN: “If there’s anyone who can help us figure out how to address climate change, it’s probably this guy.”

    And obviously, Ms. Oreskes could not be wrong when she disagrees with atmospheric or nuclear scientists (

    She has, after all, the word “Harvard” next to her name.

    By way of contrast with the esteemed Ms. Oreskes and Mr. Jacobson, the scientists Ms. Oreskes calls out as “deniers,” have been observed to employ foolish tools such as observation to arrive at their conclusions.

    Proper analysis, as everyone knows, requires constructing conclusions and then testing them by having them peer reviewed by movie stars. Requests for analytical methods and data sources are churlish and ungrateful.

    Clearly, those movie stars are much more attractive than denier scientists like James Hansen.

    As we say in my business, res ipsa loquitur.


  207. “nuclear sourced electricity leads to nuclear war” is ludicrous.
    [ludicrous =so foolish, unreasonable, or out of place as to be amusing; ridiculous]
    So is “Switching your source of electrons automatically reduces your use of them.”
    So is the rest of Frank Jablonski’s comment except where Frank Jablonski’s comment is so garbled as to have no meaning at all.

    Sorry Frank, word salad does not pass as a comment.


  208. Do you think it possible for Ms. Oreskes and Mr. Jacobsen to be invited to contribute to this discussion. I doubt though that Mr. Jacobsen will have time as he would no doubt be busy working on the plan to provide the storage element of his WWS system that has not been included in the comprehensive report to which Ms. Oreskes refers.


  209. Nuclear power plants can run at quite low power levels without undergoing the difficulty of turning off completely. For example, a few years ago BPA had an overgeneration embarrassment and asked the nuclear Columbia Generating Station to cut back as far as possible for a few weeks. This was accomplished by 20% cuts down to the 20% level.

    This was not elegant but the massive hydro did all necessary load balancing.


  210. If you want the nuclear reactors to run at part power, replace a few fuel bundles with thorium. Indians do that with new reactors for power flattening when all the fuel is new full power.
    To do it on an hourly basis, suspend them like control rods. Hydro-storage may not be available everywhere. Irradiated thorium up to 1% can be electro-refined.


  211. Perhaps you too are intrigued by David B Benson’s comment. He refers to balancing by “the massive hydro”, this being in Washington state of the US. If you want to see a massive balancing act by hydro, check out the live graph below. As I write, the blue line shows up to 11 GW of hydro, varying by about half that amount in the space of less than an hour. Yes, that is massive.

    Bonneville Power Administration


  212. Thank you, Roger Clifton. It is fortunate that most of the dams are equipped with fast acting gates for the turbine intakes. This contrasts with Spain where, with only slower gates, wind power cannot be must-take.

    Tony Carden — Yes, the thermal generators mostly have little ability to adjust power quickly, saving only the Grays Harbor CCGT and the other one whose name I forget.

    The wind represented in the dynamic graphic is only that portion that BPA balances. The remainder of the wind power from the mid-Columbia basin is wheeled raw to balancing authorities further south. I hope you appreciate that BPA cannot balance more than the graphic indicates, but a fraction of the balancing authority load.

    That last point might be the most relevant for the Australian grid. Each grid has its own challenges.


  213. To the moderator.
    I accept your criticism of insufficient references and I tried to post a comment today with about 20 references, however the system rejected the post for some reason “this comment cannot be posted”.
    i also note that a number of my other posts have not appeared even ones that contained no references to other posters. Is this just a technical problem or is there some other reason.


  214. Eclipse Now asks the familiar question: when supply exceeds demand, surely that spare power should be driving some useful process? Such as turning boron oxide back into boron metal as an energy store for transport. But whether the intermittent power goes into intermittent production or intermittent storage, the financial limitation is still the same…

    If the net result is to be profitable, then the gains from that process when it is going must outweigh the costs endured for the period of when it is going plus the period of when it is not.

    Any industrial process that consumes power requires capital equipment and capital equipment must pay interest to the banker, regardless of whether it is in use at the time or not. The only participant certain to make a profit is the banker.


    It is a fine line between not enough and too many. Sometimes comments with a lot of links get caught in Spam and, as we have hundreds of spam messages daily, it is impossible to vet every one of them. I suggest rather than attaching 20 refs you post several comments. I have approved all you posts except one during the last few weeks ( it was a short comment directed personally at another poster). I know of no other problem.


  216. Thanks i will repost more succinctly.

    Re declining value of solar and wind. This is economics 101. If you need water you will pay more for the first 1000 litres than you will pay for the second.

    If you build a nuclear power station by the sea in Newcastle you can be pretty sure you can sell every megawatt you can produce and you can produce every hour that the plant is available. However in the Australian case if you build the 20th of the 38 required near Adelaide, there will be times on hot afternoons where there is insufficient demand or balmy evenings, sunny Sundays etc. when you can’t sell all the power, so the value of the plant is less. Of course someone may build a storage plant of some sort, thermal, batteries, pumped hydro or even build a desal plant to take your excess power but all of these users will pay you much less for power than other users because they can only justify their expenditure if they can buy cheap from you and sell at a higher price to someone else. Even the desal plant will have to be bigger because they can’t run their plant continuously or at peak times because the power cost would be too high.

    Thus the nth nuclear plant has less value than the first. By the time you get to the 38 or 40th to cover peak plus reserves, the breakeven cost of power would be about 20 times that of the first because the plant would have a utilisation of less than 4%.


  217. Peter Farley — My understanding of the wholesale electricity market is that it is essentially completely inelastic. The wholesale prices for peaking power can run as high as over ten thousand dollars per megawatt-hour.

    Reserves in the USA are set at 7% for large grids. With nuclear power plants this is easily accomplished by running at the 93% power level.

    Power contracts are lower for overnight power than in the daytime, enough so in most of the USA, but not here in the Pacific Northwest, so that pumped hydro covers its costs.


  218. As I said these dump load, secondary uses, need very low power costs or if they can afford to be intermitent can rely on wind or solar which is still cheaper than new nuclear, Therefore the last nuclear plant is used about 4% of the time just like gas peakers are today. In fact currently in Australia some of the gas peaker plants have utilization less than 2%..


  219. Thank you, DBB. That extreme price for peak power should cover the cost of whatever it takes to supply it. But I don’t know how long that price applies.

    I think that we can design a Gen4 npp to ramp a lot more rapidly to cover these requirements. Alex Gabbard [Oak Ridge National Lab, retired] told me about a gas cooled reactor that could not melt down because it was made of refractory materials. A reactor like that could shut off its output instantly. It was tested, but not used commercially.


  220. Edward Greisch — By looking at grid demand graphs I surmise that the extreme peak prices happen less than 4% of the time, possibly as little as1/4 hour per year. Whatever, it is enough that utilities have OCGTS on standby most of the time and then cover costs when required to meet the inelastic demand.

    Recently some larger stores have taken to using wholesale type interruptable power contracts. They have less expensive rates overnight which they use to create a store of coolth. This is used for air conditioning in the afternoons when wholesale rates are high. This behavior makes the market slightly more elastic.


  221. David
    Your estimate is technically correct, if you had a single generation supplier. However if you have a market based system and award contracts to build power stations a few at a time then the first ones into the market sign PPA’s with retailers, hopefully for all their output. Then as the later ones come along there is less and less remaining demand for them to share so no-one will build the last one because they can’t get enough contracts to get the finance to build the units.
    The retailers have only a rough idea what the total demand will be in 7-10 years time and even if there is sufficient demand, increasing energy efficiency and continuing de-industrialisation will see energy demand trend down for a long time. The problem is, no-one knows the rate of decline. It may have some upward bumps but if there is a recession or two it may have some dips and then the guy who contracted to take power 7-10 years out may be bankrupt by the time the plant is built.
    Even if you can forecast demand in 10 years, to make money out of the last few nuclear stations you have to not only forecast demand very accurately but what the peak prices will be for 30-40 years. Who is going to take forecasts like that to the bank.

    Re fast ramping. Unless you can dramatically reduce the capital cost, ramping ability doesn’t help with the economics of an individual power station. Because 75-85% of the costs are fixed if you use ramping to run the power station at an average of 60% capacity the cost of power is about 40% higher than if it is running at 90%. The best case scenario for any grid without significant storage is an average of 60% utilisation. In my surveys of the US, France, Germany and Australia, everyone of these grids has less than 55% capacity factor for all assets. If it is all nuclear they will still average 60%. If it is 25% nuclear they may average 90% with a fair bit of load shifting, after that utilisation will fall unless there are very large investments in storage.

    There are many fast ramping designs (eg. submarines) but all of those that have been tested or proposed, actually have shorter lives and/or higher cost per MW. That will in fact make the cost worse. It may save system costs, eg less storage and fewer regulation assets, but so far the economic cost benefit is not proven. I have already posted references for both China and India where they are investing in renewables at two to three times the rate (in annual energy capacity not nameplate power) that they are in nuclear. This is because they see nuclear as very useful for large residual loads but nowhere near as fast, flexible or cheap as renewables for the rest


  222. The website touting Mark Jacobson’s plan (linked by Naomi Oreskes while decrying James Hansen as a “denier”) has now responded to me with a link to the background analytical information. Good for them.

    Here it is:

    As I indicated before, with tongue-in-cheek, and, unfortunately, to Mr. Greisch’s chagrin, the “WWS” Terrawatts (seemingly capacity – I don’t know what happened to Terrawatt hours) needed are reduced, worldwide, by 32%, with the claim being that this is because of the switch to “WWS.” (see: the ppt file referenced on the linked page, slide 12).

    For the US, the projected reduction is 37%.

    And, as indicated before, this capacity reduction, to intermittent sources, appears to take place while simultaneously switching uses to electricity, and to hydrogen, which they get from the electricity when there is oversupply:

    “[Loads for the “lower 48″ of the United States] are first estimated for 2050 assuming each end-use energy sector (residential, transportation, commercial, industrial) is converted to electricity and some electrolytic hydrogen after accounting for modest improvements in end-use energy efficiency (22).”

    (see: p. 1)

    Click to access CONUSGridIntegration.pdf

    The referenced note “(22)” refers to: “Ackerman TP, Toon OB (1981) Absorption of visible radiation in atmosphere containing mixtures of absorbing and nonabsorbing particles. Appl Opt 20(20): 3661-3667.” (id, p. 33)

    Also, of note:

    “all 2050 loads are supplied only with WWS technologies” (id.: p. 3)

    The projected cost, accounting for externalities, is asserted to be negative:

    ” . . . whereas the 2050 business costs of WWS and conventional electricity are similar, the social (overall) cost of WWS is 40% that
    of conventional electricity (id.: p.6)

    I am not going to write anything more because I am striving like the dickens to avoid sarcasm. However, please have a look, if you like.

    This is the articulated analysis that people like Naomi Oreskes reference as they label people “deniers” for advocating nuclear energy as a carbon free option.


  223. “When electricity demand rises, the boron recycling plants
    would just throttle back and produce less boron. In extraordinary
    circumstances they could even shut down for a while altogether,
    though in an integrated energy system a balance would inescapably be found to maximize both the electrical generation and boron recycling systems. Thus the grids would be provided with ample power in any contingency without the costly necessity of building needless overcapacity into the system. Wind and solar contributions would fit in seamlessly, fully integrated into the energy symbiosis, while the power plants would be able to run at full power virtually around the clock. Hydroelectric plants, of course, are fully adjustable, and reducing their flow in times of low electricity demand would only leave more water in the reservoirs for later use.”

    Click to access P4TP4U.pdf


  224. Tony – They must have numbers and equations to derive their stated conclusions, and they do have a reference and link to spreadsheets in this excerpt:

    “100% clean and renewable wind, water, and sunlight (WWS) all-sector energy roadmaps for 139 countries of the world (summary paper)(xlsx-spreadsheets)(Change of CO2 Upon Implementing WWS)(Transition timeline to 100% WWS)”

    The quote above is from here:

    This just seems to become more confusing as I search into it, but maybe the spreadsheet review will help.

    I found a summary at Stanford News Service, June 8, 2015:

    “To create a full picture of energy use in each state, they [Jacobson and colleagues] examined energy usage in four sectors:residential, commercial, industrial and transportation.”

    My comment: OK . . . Then this:

    “For each sector, they then analyzed the current amount and source of the fuel consumed – coal, oil, gas, nuclear, renewables – and calculated the fuel demands if all fuel usage were replaced
    with electricity.”

    My comment: What? They are going to use electricity as a “fuel” to generate electricity, substituting it for, e.g., coal? “Renewables” is a “fuel”? I am missing the logic. Next:

    “This is a significantly challenging step – it assumes that all the cars on the road become electric, and that homes and industry convert to fully electrified heating and cooling systems.”

    My comment: This does not seem to be a “step,” but rather a prediction that confirms that additional energy-consuming services are expected be broadly converted to electricity. The reasonableness of this prediction, given the complexities of the real world, and its multiple incumbent interests and habits, is not articulated Next:

    “But Jacobson said that their calculations were based on integrating existing technology, and the energy savings would be significant. “When we did this across all 50 states, we saw a 39 percent reduction in total end-use power demand by the year 2050,”

    My comment: You “saw” this reduction. The issue of interest is: how did it materialize? This could do with some explanation. Next:

    “Jacobson said. “About 6 percentage points of that is gained through efficiency improvements to infrastructure, but the bulk is the result of replacing current sources and uses of combustion energy with electricity.” ”

    My comments: 1) It would be useful to understanding if these advocates could either a) identify a 35 year period where electricity use has fallen in the US, or b) explain to interested why it is reasonable to expect this development in this time frame, and then explain, in English, with supporting numeric analysis, how absolute use reductions are to be accomplished while simultaneously transferring most energy use to electricity.

    Note: It seems Jacobson’s analysis depends on, e.g., getting more miles out of an electric car for less motive-power energy input. It further seems that he anticipates analogous reductions in energy use by substituting electricity for other fuels. This certainly could do with some explanation.

    The prediction of overall energy use reductions combined with a simultaneous transfer of uses to electricity, merits explanation. The advocates of this analysis are positing that nuclear energy should be categorically excluded from consideration, and that those who disagree are willfully deceptive (see: Oreskes’ characterization). They are assuming leadership positions and preaching to the world, e.g., conducting conclusory presentations at COP 21. They owe their followers, policy makers whose attention they want, and critics, a readily understandable explanation for which the numbers make sense. They have not produced it.

    Anyway, thats my opinion. Again, glad this is an open thread.


  225. I agree.
    I found the reading of Jacobsen’s plan quite onerous and difficult. It seems it was just not me.
    To sell me on their plan they need to provide a clearer explanation of how we are going to gravitate from our current methods of energy consumption to the new renewable electrified world and how much it costs. I am not sure whether this report is not just another example of the 3B’s.


  226. PeterF — The retail power distributor is required to have enough generation available to meet the demand. If that means asking the utility commission for higher rates, the retail utility does so.

    So some form of generation is available for peak loads. Frequently these are OCGTs but I pointed out that is not necessary.

    A claim that the last 4% of required generators are never built flies in the face of reality.


  227. EN quotes – “When electricity demand rises, the boron recycling plants would just throttle back and produce less boron”. Unless you want us to go beat up the absent author, we can only conclude that you wholeheartedly believe what he has said. But I don’t think you have quite thought it through.

    Boron is similar to, though more energetic than, aluminium. A process extracting boron metal from boron oxide would be at least as energy-consumptive as an aluminium smelter. Central to an aluminium smelter are giant pots containing molten cryolite (MP 1012° C), on which molten aluminium floats. The pots are kept hot by the passage of an electrical current.

    Now, do you really believe that you could intermittently switch off the electric power to such a plant?


  228. MODERATOR I have failed to terminate a string of italics correctly. A previous similar error damaged subsequent posts. So please delete my previous comment (probably the comment immediately preceding this one) and allow my following comment to survive.


  229. EN quotes – “When electricity demand rises, the boron recycling plants would just throttle back and produce less boron”. Unless you want us to go beat up the absent author, we can only conclude that you wholeheartedly believe what he has said. But I don’t think you have quite thought it through.

    Boron is similar to, though more energetic than, aluminium. A process extracting boron metal from boron oxide would be at least as energy-consumptive as an aluminium smelter. Central to an aluminium smelter are giant pots containing molten cryolite (MP 1012° C), on which molten aluminium floats. The pots are kept hot by the passage of an electrical current.

    Now, do you really believe that you could intermittently switch off the electric power to such a plant?


  230. To Frank Jablonski

    I am not defending Mark jacobson because I have not read the paper but neglecting for the moment the issue of embedded energy in the renewable power sources (I know a big omission).

    Thermal power stations on the grid at the moment have a weighted average thermal efficiency at peak load of around 33-36%. However at any moment in time some are spinning at part load, some full load and a few on spinning reserve so the average thermal efficiency at the generator terminal is about 25-28%. Then mining and transport of coal, oil and gas, processing of gas, running coal washing plants, coal pulverisers, oil refineries etc uses between 10 and 20% of the energy generated. So the net thermal efficiency is around 20-23% of the embodied energy in the fuel. i.e 3/4rs of the oil and coal we buy does not do any useful work

    If you have a zero carbon system the primary energy demand is therefore reduced by a factor of around 3-5. .

    Re declining demand. In most economies around the developed world there has been a slight trend down of energy use per capita. This is driven by two trends, de-industrialisation and increasing energy efficiency. Not only are actual processes becoming more efficient (eg LED lighting, automotive fuel economy etc.) but more efficient processes are being substituted for less, Heat pumps vs resistive heating, rail transport for individual cars and trucks etc. and people are consuming less energy intensive stuff as steel and concrete use per capita falls and people spend more on health, education and entertainment which are less energy intensive than new cars etc.

    Thus the direction of their assumptions is reasonable, the magnitude is another thing. To support their thesis, Germany, France, Spain and the UK have as a group, similar climate and industrial structure to the US but on average today use half the energy per capita so if the US sets out on a path to energy efficiency even approximating those other countries then a 1% per annum reduction in energy use is not at all implausible


  231. Peter F and Roger Clifton have a point. If you are not going to ramp up and down supply, but instead apply “excess” energy derived from sufficient (for peak) capacity to some useful purpose, then that useful purpose has to have characteristics that enable it to be met with excess power that will, by definition, not always be available.

    While this is true, the the ease of finding a suitable use for that “excess” energy is greater if you have sources that are mostly controllable, coupled with variations in use that are mostly predictable. While the problem does not disappear, it becomes more manageable.

    More manageable problems are preferable to less manageable ones.

    Resource management, engineering and planning problems are multiplied, perhaps exponentially, when you require a framework where the power sources are themselves intermittent, and are likely to be, at least occasionally, entirely absent for an extended period.

    Solving the problems takes resources. This, in turn, triggers issues of EROEI, etc., that I won’t go into in detail, as they has been covered elsewhere.


  232. Edward
    Demand is intermittent, trips on large generators are unpredictable, the system copes. If you care to look at data outside your usual sources you will find that wind and solar can be integrated easily and have more predictably supply profiles over minutes and hours than large generators.
    Ercot studies indicate that the cost of backup for wind is half that per generated than that for large thermal generators


  233. “Wind and solar power generation are prized for their environmental benefits, their low and stable operating costs, and their help in reducing fuel imports. Advances in both technologies are reducing capital costs and providing significant control capabilities. Still, the primary energy source for both technologies is variable and uncertain and a power system with significant wind or solar penetration must be operated differently than a power system based exclusively on conventional resources. It is very natural to ask what the additional cost of accommodating wind and solar generation is. However, calculating the integration cost of variable generation turns out to be surprisingly difficult.”


  234. “The cost of reliably integrating large conventional power plants onto the power system in Texas is more than 17 times larger than the cost of reliably integrating wind energy”


    You can find any nonsense on the web you want
    Reference: “Google and the myth of universal knowledge” by Jean-Noel Jeanneney 2007 The original is in French..

    The search engines do not understand the web pages they find for you. They are
    just machines. They have no idea of whether or not the web pages they find tell
    the truth. In the US, we have “freedom of speech,” which means that nobody has
    to prove that anything is true before publishing it. We also have a coal industry
    that has a gross income of $100 BILLION per year.


  235. From World Nuclear organization page “Nuclear Power in the World Today” one finds that the recent capacity factor of French nuclear power plants averages 74%, in contradiction to the claim by PeterF of less. Recall that French reactors load follow.


  236. To Tony

    Thankyou for the link, I do try to read yours and I try to learn, even if others don’t. It is unfortunate that some papers are written in very safe turgid science speak and others fanboi style and it is often hard to discern the truth from either.

    From the same paper Edward quotes

    “The concept of balancing the net load with conventional generation is well understood
    in the integration literature and power system operations. In fact, the NERC Area
    Control Error (ACE), Control Performance Standards (CPS1&2) standards, Disturbance Control
    Standard (DCS), and balancing requirements are based upon it. However, within the past year we
    have seen two integration analyses that have attempted to balance wind and solar in isolation
    from the remaining load. This means that when wind/solar and load are both increasing, a
    conventional generator must decrease output to hold the wind and solar constant, but at the same
    time, generation must increase to meet the increasing load. This does not reflect how power
    systems are operated and greatly overstates the balancing costs of wind and solar”

    So in the same paper we have an opening comment saying that integrating wind and solar is complex yet further on it says that it is much less costly than others have projected.

    Here is a short article (from a pro wind site) about the costs of integration with links to other papers to support their argument
    and a later NERC report than the one you have linked to

    Click to access ERSTF%20Framework%20Report%20-%20Final.pdf

    Here is another way of stabilising non synchronous grids


  237. PeterF – As DBB has, I also have been having problems taking your numbers seriously. Peter Lang gave up on such numerical exchanges. I agree with Tony Carden similarly.

    For example, the aspiration to 1% reduction per year is far from laudatory. If one checks what you get by 1% pa until 2100 (target for zero emissions), it turns out to be only 0.99^85 = 43%, far from the near-zero required at the Paris Meeting.


  238. Roger
    1% of total energy reduction not 1% of carbon. Therefore assume the total energy use in the US today is 100 units of which 30 is electricity and of that 6 is renewables. If you just replace the current system with renewables you would need 18 times as much renewables as you have now or 40-60 times as much wind and solar. If you reduce the overall energy use by 1% per year in 50 years time you only need 60 units as you still have about 10 units of other renewables you only need 50 units of wind and solar not 90.
    If however you replace much of the heating and transport with electricity (particularly heatpumps and rail respectively) then the total primary energy demand will fall much faster because you avoid the inefficiency of heat engines


  239. to David Benson

    The world nuclear association figure is an average power share over the last few years not the capacity factor. The YTD Capacity factor figure I found till the end of August was 67%. The figure for the second quarter p29 was about 67%

    Below is another paper from those radical greenies at ETH Zurich suggesting that even though France does load follow with its nuclear it still cannot ramp fast enough and it uses thermal, hydro and imports/exports to balance its grid.

    It also demonstrates that nuclear power above current penetration rates is uneconomical in France. It is a little bit out of date but you can also see that at that time, export power prices were less than half of import prices (P9)

    Click to access p26.pdf

    Perhaps this is the logic that is driving France to more renewables


  240. Peter F
    Your argument about inability to load follow limiting the utility of nuclear doesn’t point to more ‘renewables’ unless you specify which renewables. The quick load following of hydroelectric power makes it a very good complement to the steady output of nuclear. The inability of eg: wind to follow demand & instead to quickly vary at the whims of the weather makes wind power a nuisance rather than an asset to anyone trying to provide reliable electric power.


  241. Peter F says “Perhaps this is the logic that is driving France to more renewables”

    There is no logic to the move from nuclear to renewables by the French President just political ideology and a desperation to hang on to power even at the cost of the climate.

    Thank goodness wiser heads see the wisdom of retaining nuclear with the service life to be extended from 40 to 60 years. If it is ain’t broken don’t fix it, French electricity emissions at just 40g/kWh are amongst the lowest in the world and more than 10 times lower than the green “poster boy” Germany.



  242. PeterF is playing word games. Obvious it is that PeterF is not an engineer or a scientist.

    Whatever the French are doing with 30 year old American technology demonstrates nothing about modern nuclear power’s ability to change power settings.

    Nor does anything here demonstrate a limitation to any penetration rate for nuclear.

    PeterF is the problem. PeterF is a humanities or fine arts graduate if he went to college at all. PeterF, if you want to comment in the adult league, go to or go back to college and get a degree in physics, chemistry or engineering. Otherwise, sit at the children’s table.


  243. “Wind generated more than 40 percent of ERCOT’s power for 11 hours from November 24-26, and more than 30 percent for most of that three-day period”

    “For the month of November, wind provided 18.4 percent of the electricity on the main Texas grid, and so far this year wind generation in ERCOT is about equal to the state’s nuclear output, with each providing 11.3 percent of ERCOT’s electricity.”

    “The main grid operator in Colorado set a U.S. record for the largest share of electricity use from wind, averaging 66.4 percent for one hour on November 11.”

    PeterF: We do not need wind power for an hour or a day. In fact, such records are nothing more than a nuisance. Your constantly bringing these bones to show us is very dog-like. We don’t want them in our office. That isn’t how you run a power company.


  244. Sorry to disappoint you Edward and Tom but I am an engineer have been so for 44 years and am still practicing and winning awards around the world for my work. My work is involved with the design, simulation and marketing of large machines. I also have an economics degree and understand a little about markets and systems theory, not to mention practical politics. I even understand the difference between Capacity Factor and market share

    All of these things lead me to understand that as HL Mencken said. “For every complex problem there is an answer that there is clear, simple and wrong.”

    If anyone proposed an all wind of even all wind and solar grid I would be equally critical as I am of an all nuclear grid.

    Please find any reference in anything I have written to suggest we should be shutting nuclear early or even not building more in some grids.
    My whole thesis is that today’s renewables are cheaper per than today’s nuclear. This is clearly demonstrated in India and China where the current plans call for an increase in generation (i.e. TW.hrs per year not MW nameplate) from wind and solar at 3 times the rate of their nuclear plans. Is this because of a lack of will or commitment to nuclear in those countries. There are references to both above.
    As to the future. “If the facts change I change my Opinion, What do you do?”

    In the Australian case I would be happy if we were to
    A. Apply a comprehensive pollution tax to hydro-carbon fueled power, with annual steps up.
    B. Set up some modern i.e similar to France more than the US safety regulations for all power sources
    C. Let the market decide. If it is 20% nuclear 70%, or zero I don’t care and probably most of us here will be dead before anyone knows the answer.

    While all data is contentious and changes over time and I have clearly made mistakes. It is a bit strange for people who post numbers suggesting Europe’s nuclear capacity is 3 times the actual or wind 1/10th the actual or solar cost 5-8 times the actual calling me a liar. Or people implying that nuclear plants will last 60 years when the oldest plant in operation is 46 years (and currently out of service) and the average age at retirement of those already closed was less than 25 years.

    Anyway Happy New Year to you all, try to read outside your current boundaries and I hope we can all be a little more flexible



    BAD idea. If it is out of phase or off frequency, we want it off of the grid for this reason:

    Out of phase = short circuit.

    Short circuit = burned up generator.

    Off frequency = out of phase very soon.

    One wind turbine is a much smaller source than the other generators, which is why the wind turbine can be tolerated.

    The automatic controls: Convert the AC to DC and then back to AC. That has been around for a long time. We would rather have a big spinning wheel that can stay on frequency and phase. Or change the “gear” ratios in the wind turbine. NERC is correct in saying that a large angular momentum is a good thing.

    “Ride through” has nothing to do with the source of the energy.


  246. David

    You have again confused my statements.

    The current French nuclear penetration rate is 75% we agree. The capacity Factor on their nuclear power plants is 67%. See reference.

    If the remaining demand is intermittent which it is from your very own reference at RTE then the Capacity factor of additional generation will be less than that of the existing base load generators. This is not word games it is logic and it is supported by the ZTE paper above.

    My statement was that in a modern grid overall capacity factor for the total generation system cannot exceed 60% unless you have very large storage capacity. If you have very large storage capacity then you can recharge with whatever is the cheapest per power source because intermittency is irrelevant.

    To confirm my opinion every advanced grid in the world today has an overall capacity factor less than 55%


  247. to Edward Greisch

    The beauty of an asynchronous generator is that it doesn’t have to trip out. Synchronous generators facing a large disturbance can and often do.

    When I was a young machine tool developer, system inertia was very important to ride through disturbances. However it also made systems less responsive. Over the years, new control systems have enabled better disturbance control and far faster load changes with inertia ratios less than a tenth of what was good practice 35 years ago.

    The same is true in any energy system. Inertia was a “free” good in a thermal system because of the rotating inertia of the turbo-generators. With asynchronous generators the inertia is not there so engineers can, and in fact have done, three things.

    A) Increased the bandwidth of the control system so that the convertors on wind and solar generators play an active part in power regulation
    B) Introduced enhanced load stabilisation through the remaining rotary generators and synchronous condensors (often converted obsolete turbo generators)
    C) Introduced fast response storage systems such as fast start hydro and a small amount of batteries. That is why battery systems are being introduced to the grid in Japan, Germany and the USA and other countries because they can respond to disturbances or load changes faster than any thermal system and therefore allow the thermal systems to be run more efficiently i.e as required rather than “just in case”

    If you updated your control system knowledge you might understand, as all the ISO’s seem to be now appreciating, that every power source imposes regulation and backup costs on the grid because the load has to be matched to the demand and supply has to be replaced if it trips out or is undergoing maintenance, loses fuel wind or sun or even gets too hot.

    As ERCOT has shown, the cost of spinning reserves for thermal power stations exceeds the cost of reserve power for wind (on an annual $/ generated basis). This may not fit with the older idealised, centralised pseudo static view of the power system but that is what the current numbers show

    Some people talk about load following naval reactors as if they are are substitute for commercial power generators. They have a lifetime capacity factor of less than 15% and an average life of around 25 years and most of them use more highly enriched (i.e. more expensive fuel). Feed those three facts into your power cost models and give us the cost of power.

    Fortunately for the world, electrical and power systems engineering has progressed in the last 35 years and the total system cost of a mixed power system turns out to be less than a mono technology one size fits all system


  248. Edward Greisch — Intermittent generators have an economic role up to the ability to provide backup. Here in the Pacific Northwest this is called balancing agents and are dispatched by a balancing authority. As examples, BPA is a balancing authority using its massive hydro as a link in an earlier comment by Roger Clifton shows. My utility, Avista, is the balancing authority for the 3 or more utilities in this area. There is almost no wind power and even less solar right around here but it is still the case that generation must match the varying demand. Fortunately, Avista has several dams for this purpose.


  249. Edward Greisch — As the wind waxes and wanes the contribution from hydro shrinks and grows. That is the balancing.

    I’m not writing about ancillary services, just bulk power flows.

    If a grid has little hydro then the balancing is accomplished efficiently by OCGTs or inefficiently by other thermal generators. Nuclear would be a good choice if there were a carbon dioxide emissions fee…


  250. Searching the IEEE and Google, I did not find Peter Farley, but I found Peter Fairley there.

    Google finds a number of Peter Fairleys such as Peter Fairley is an Australian-born journalist, metaphysical researcher, and spiritual healer.

    There are Peter Farley accounts on twitter, Linked-In, Facebook etc.

    For David B Benson I get
    David B. Benson, Emeritus Professor of EE and Computer Science, Washington State University, Pullman WA 99165-2754. Benson’s algorithm


  251. Edward

    By the way I have told you my experience please share yours.

    The ZTE paper is referenced twice above

    Another paper to improve your understanding of how wind can improve grid resilience,d.dGY&cad=rja

    Here is how Siemens provides reactive power from wind turbines even if they aren’t operating

    I am still waiting to see even a rough model of the costs of a 100% nuclear energy system


    is a dead link

    I have not seen Peter Farley’s resume/CV

    We have ~100 reactors running at the moment in the US. 11 of them are in Illinois. I am paying 7&½ cents per kilowatt hour. Some coal is mixed in.

    From: Jim Jones at

    Date: Tuesday, February 3, 2009 2:27 PM
    Subject: Re: $.05 to .06 per KWh

    Assume HPM costs $30M and plant side doubles it:

    $60M divided by 25,000kw = $2,400/kw
    $2,400/kw divided by 5 years = $480/KWyr
    $480/KWyr divided by 8760 hours = $.0547945/KWhr (Call it 5 and half cents per KWhr)


    $60M divided by 20,000 homes = $3,000/home
    $3,000/home divided by 5 years = $600/home/year
    $600/home/year divided by 12 months = $50/home/month (How’s that for an electric bill?)



  253. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
    For other uses, see ZTE (disambiguation).
    ZTE Corporation
    ZTE logo new.png
    ZTE Shenzhen.JPG
    ZTE corporate campus in Shenzhen, China
    Native name
    Formerly called
    Zhongxing Telecommunication Equipment Corporation
    Traded as SZSE: 000063
    SEHK: 0763
    Industry Telecommunications equipment
    Networking equipment
    Founded 1985; 30 years ago
    Founder Hou Weigui
    Headquarters Shenzhen, Guangdong, China
    Area served
    Key people
    Hou Weigui (Chairman)
    Shi Lirong (President)[1]
    Products Mobile phones, smartphones, tablet computers, hardware, software and services to telecommunications service providers and enterprises
    Revenue Increase CN¥81.471 billion (2014)[2]
    Operating income
    Increase CN¥3.538 billion (2014)[2]
    Net income
    Increase CN¥2.634 billion (2014)[2]
    Total assets Increase CN¥106.214 billion (2014)[2]
    Number of employees
    69,093 (2014)[1]
    Simplified Chinese 中兴通讯股份有限公司
    Traditional Chinese 中興通訊股份有限公司
    Literal meaning China Prosperity Communications Corporation
    ZTE Corporation is a Chinese multinational telecommunications equipment and systems company headquartered in Shenzhen, China.

    ZTE operates in three business units – Carrier Networks(54%)-Terminals(29%)-Telecommunication(17%). ZTE’s core products are wireless, exchange, access, optical transmission, and data telecommunications gear; mobile phones; and telecommunications software.[3] It also offers products that provide value-added services,[4] such as video on demand and streaming media.[5] ZTE primarily sells products under its own name but it is also an OEM.[6]

    ZTE is one of the top five largest smartphone manufacturers in its home market,[7] and in the top ten, worldwide.


  254. Edward
    Two apologies. the Siemens link should work.

    Click to access Reactive-Power-at-no-Wind_flyer.pdf

    If it doesn’t go to and search for reactive power.

    Second I did post a link above to ETH Zurich and mistakenly recalled it as ZTE anyway here is the link again.

    I have looked up Hyperion power which is now Gen4 power. It hopes to have its first 25 MWe prototype licensed and operating by 2030. This is a promising technology but one of the posts on this site is entitled “Two decades and counting”. was it referring to renewables or small nuclear. By the way there are no numbers at all about projected cost of power.

    I am still waiting for your costed nuclear solution and your experience in building large systems


  255. In a concurrent thread, Tony Carden suggests that the Chinese development of liquid thorium fluoride reactors could solve their energy problems, presumably without recourse to windmills.

    The development of the liquid thorium fluoride reactor is decades behind the well proven PWR’s that China is committed to, planning to have 200 GW of PWR’s by 2040.

    Whereas the lack of plutonium byproduct in a LTFR is a major selling point to the Western public, the Chinese appear to be planning to accumulate plutonium from their PWR’s, which they would need to fire up each of their fast reactors, based on the well developed Russian BN800, to a total of 200 GW (fast) by 2050.

    In Plentiful Energy, the authors estimate that a 1 GW fast reactor would need five tons of fissiles to start up. Although the Chinese might be planning to separate out 200*5 = 1000 tons of U235, requiring 200,000 tons of natural uranium, it would be more logical for them to be harvesting Pu240 etc from their PWR’s used fuel.

    Where the LTFR might have a competitive edge in China’s future, is if the developmental versions can be tweaked to breed U233 for start-up fuel faster than the PWR’s can breed Pu240 etc.


  256. As you read in “Plentiful Energy,” PWRs don’t make pure Pu240 or pure Pu239. So we need to tell everybody we can that spent nuclear fuel is not a proliferation risk because a power plant makes the wrong isotopes of plutonium for bombs. To make a good bomb, you need pure plutonium239 [Pu239].

    Isotopes: Any chemical element can come in several isotopes.
    To make Pu239, you have to shut down the reactor and do a fuel cycle after one month or less of operation. Since removing and replacing fuel takes a month, a short-cycled reactor operates half the time. A power plant that has a one month on, one month off fuel cycle would stick out a lot more than the proverbial sore thumb.

    A reactor used to make electricity runs for 18 months to 2 years between refuelings. An individual fuel rod will stay in the reactor for 3 cycles since only ⅓ of the fuel rods are exchanged at each fueling, so one fuel rod stays in the reactor 4.5 to 6 years. In that time, many trans-uranic elements are created. In that time, Pu239 absorbs extra neutrons, becoming Pu240, Pu241, Pu242, 95americium243, 96curium247, 97berkelium247, 98californium251, 99einsteinium25, 100fermium257 and so on.

    All of these higher actinides are good reactor fuel but bad for bomb making. Bombs made of spent fuel have been made and tested once or twice [US and North Korea]. They pre-detonate and fizzle so badly that a very large conventional bomb can equal the yield. They are so radioactive that a poor country can’t build one without killing the scientists. They are militarily worse than useless [Till & Chang book “Plentiful Energy”]. There is no country that has a spent fuel bomb, nor will anybody build one in the future. An insane person trying to build one would die a few seconds to minutes after having acquired the spent fuel.

    7% Pu240 is enough to spoil a bomb and you get a lot more than 7% Pu240 from a reactor that has been running for 18 months. Separating Pu239 from those higher actinides is a technology that has not been developed. Nobody would try to do that separation because the easy way to make Pu239 is with a short cycle reactor. Governments that have plutonium bombs, have government owned government operated [GOGO] reactors that do nothing but make Pu239.


  257. I would hazard a guess that any money spent on making nuclear weapons is a waste of a military budget. However I should not pretend to be knowledgeable on what is essentially a police matter. The power industry can stay out of trouble with the police by ensuring that all plutonium in the cycle has more than 7% Pu240.

    According to the IAEA the equilibrium mix in PWR used fuel is 20:50 = Pu240: Pu239, so the starting mix for fast reactor fuel is well above the 7% limit for weaponising. The equilibrium mix after many cycles in a fast reactor is closer to 50:50, so it never gets below 7%.

    Interestingly, the same article argues that plutonium separation is not a proliferation hazard, whereas uranium enrichment is.


  258. One of the trite Antie arguments is that “The grid is large enough to cover the outage of a whole 1GW power station at any moment, so it ought to be able to handle a small wind farm going off line.” But this overlooks the fact that the grid is backed up by other large scale reliable baseload power supplies.
    Wind can cut to a fraction of capacity across a whole state, not just a small wind farm, while solar suffers from this half-globe phenomenon called ‘night time’.
    In short, it seems to me that the windy’s like to quote a backup phenomenon that only works on today’s baseload grid. They’ll quote Denmark being 50% wind on some particular day, but not mention the rest of the year when it was down, or that there simply is no such thing as the Denmark grid: the electricity is bought and sold across the whole Nordic grid, of which Denmark’s wind is only a small fraction.
    But here’s my question: what is the ratio of running baseload to backup power stations on a normal day? Does anyone have this from official reports? Is it 5 regular coal stations to 1 backup station? Or is there some other way of discussing this?


  259. PeterF,

    It is not the maximum output of wind/solar that is important but the minimum! (ie) when not in production the amount of baseload generation needed. This leads to the specific question of why build intermittent power generators when you have to build baseload to cover non-existant output! This is exactly what Germany is doing today.



  260. Reactive power: If you are driving an inductive load or a capacitive load, the current gets out of sync with the voltage. What Siemens is telling you is that the equipment in their wind turbines can help you compensate the inductance or capacitance in the load and get the current and voltage back in phase. That is not new and is not a source of energy. The grid already has equipment to compensate for reactive loads.

    Experience with the grid is not required to know this because it is covered in physics undergraduate courses and in EE undergraduate courses. It is common knowledge.


  261. How many backup stations? It depends on what is happening. On a really hot day in a hot climate, they can run out of backup and even have rolling blackouts. The electricity dispatchers have a tough job. On cool nights, there will be a lot of power plants doing nothing. The newest and cheapest power plants will be kept running the most.

    Dispatcher: They buy and sell electricity all the time. The price can go negative or very high. I picked up some knowledge by reading a lot. I don’t know of a single place that would be a good textbook.



  262. Wow. Burning oil for electricity on a hot afternoon to meet demand. That’s gotta be some expensive electricity. But here’s the thing. There’s no clear ratio of baseload reserve to operating reserve for a ‘normal’ part of the day. That graph seems to be illustrating dealing with peak events, maybe even annual highs? Even windy fan Mark Diesendorf would agree with that graph, and would claim he can model bio-gas substitution of the gas & oil phases.

    My question was not so much about peaks but just the more regular backup the grid has in case another power plant goes down. As Diesendorf always says (in The Baseload Myth),

    *In practice, base-load power stations break down from time to time and, as a result, can be out of action for weeks. Therefore, base-load power stations must have back-up.

    That’s why I’m asking what the normal spinning reserve for normal power demand would be to backup a regular day. I guess peaking power can jump in to help, but I was wondering if there was a more general rule of thumb to help illustrate the difference between nuclear and wind. The basic point I was hoping to highlight is that there is a vast difference between one nuke getting serviced (which is generally predictable weeks or months in advance) and the unpredictable variability of wind, which can knock out the majority of supply for a whole state, or even half a continent.


  263. @ Eclipse Now
    Here is a reference titled
    Cost-Causation and Integration Cost Analysis for Variable Generation

    Click to access 51860.pdf

    It deals with many of the questions you are asking.

    Here is another reference to the Electric Reliability Council of Texas.

    It shows in real time Actual Demand, Actual Capacity, and Operating Reserves.

    Whilst the idea of burning oil to satisfy demand on a hot afternoon may seem crazy, I have seen mentioned on these threads somewhere that a price of $10000/kwhr has been paid for electricity at times of peak demand now that is a little bit crazy as well.

    This brings me to the point of idealism or being a zealot. I do not see the future as being 100% Nuclear or 100% anything but rather a mix of whatever is most economic and sustainable.
    Indeed I am sure that next century somewhere in the world, there will be coal, gas, wind , solar, hydro, and diesel power operating, sorry forgot biomass.


  264. Well the war on GHG will need a certain amount of pragmatism.
    I saw something posted somewhere saying that in a year one large container vessel emits as much GHG as 760 million cars.

    Hence my interest in SMR’s particularly LFTR’s, we could use them to power the majority of the worlds commercial shipping fleet.


  265. Graeme
    Of course you are right that the minimum is important, but so is cost.
    As I have said all along If you sign a contract today for wind power it runs out around US$45-75 per fixed for 20 years. The only visible contracts for new nuclear power are in the range of US$100-160+ inflation. Given that both wind and nuclear need storage and backup to operate at their best economic efficiency then an economical mix has some cheap solar and wind and some more expensive but dispatchable, hydro, geothermal, pumped hydro, biomass and probably nuclear.

    It will also probably have for a long time a small amount of gas which contributes 10-15 or even 20% of power on peak days but only 1-3% of power over the year. In some grids there will be a little nuclear, some there will be significantly more nuclear, in some there won’t be any.

    When it comes to addressing GHG emissions the additional cost of phasing out the last gas plant will be much higher per tonne of GHG removed than if the money was spent on transport or building efficiency, not to mention land use changes, that is why I feel that leaving some gas (or even a few small USC coal plants) in the system is not a big issue.

    The other issue is speed. Comments here indicate that nuclear is faster to build out than renewables. However the fastest rate that the world has commissioned new nuclear is around 10GW per year. This year the world has installed around 55GW of Solar and 59 of wind. Allowing for different capacity factors, this is equivalent to 25-30GW of Nuclear


  266. This part of the western USA interconnect I’ll call the greater Pacific Northwest, essentially everywhere north of California. All the balancing authorities in this region share an operating reserve consisting of 5% of hydro generators and 7% of all the others. This is much larger than the nameplate rating of the largest single generator.

    This operating reserve is solely to replace generators which trip off. It is not the balancing reserve nor the balancing agents used to make up for the variable generation provided by the wind turbines. One may watch the BPA balancing act in operation by going back many comments to a link to the appropriate BPA thread.

    BPA is fortunate in having enough fast acting hydro for the balancing. Elsewhere in the USA natgas turbines are used for this balancing as fracked natgas, with no emissions fees, is quite inexpensive currently.

    Europe uses lignite and even peat burners. Roughly, these always run but sometimes without generating when winds are strong. The EU has a collection of rules which don’t make economic or carbon dioxide emissions control sense, as best as I can tell.


  267. Oops, Sorry David I was not trying to do that and I apologize to all especially Eclipse Now for the mistake.

    Here is a reference to The Australian Energy Regulators report
    into an event on September 23, 2015 where the spot price reached $13,420 per MWH. All figures are Australian dollars.

    Here is an exert from page 5 of the above report

    ‘The spot price in New South Wales reached $13 420/MWh and $6717/MWh for the 6.30 pm and 7 pm trading intervals respectively. The dispatch price exceeded $13 400/MWh between 6.05 pm and 6.45 pm, inclusive. Both four and twelve hours ahead, the forecast spot price for these trading intervals was around $300/MWh.’

    That’s better


  268. Peter Farley,

    You miss the point entirely, whether deliberate or you are willfully misleading. The cost is NOT important and I know your costs are wrong. If Wind energy works as low as 5% (and it does) then it needs a 95% backup – true or false? The cost of the turbines in the first place is wasted resources, because you need to duplicate the 95% that may or may not be working.

    NEM last year showed that wind in Australia worked at 29% overall. Not 40% as trumpeted by the Greens. One or two wind farms may have approached 40% but the average total output was 29%.

    Now no one knows when that wind power will occur so it needs constant load following by base load generators which in Australia are mostly coal fired generators – choofing out CO2 whilst the Green movement claims that on a particular day wind provides 50 to 70% rated capacity for wind output, but somehow forget to tell the public that this intermittent source is backed up by CO2 producing power. If it was Nuclear we could START to reduce CO2 emissions, but it isn’t so we cannot!

    As for pumped hydro there appears to be only one source and that is at Wivenhoe dam. It is piddling in size. The Greens have and will not allow new pumped storage dams so this source is a non entity. Anyway Australia does have droughts, just ask Tim Flannery who boldly predicted that rains would evaporate before they hit the ground, and all the dams would dry up!

    China is building 150 Nuclear reactors at a nominal 1000Mw by 2030 but still they will increase coal generators. In Paris the Chinese spoke with ‘forked-tongues’!



  269. Graeme

    You might try a little less abuse and more understanding. Wind does drop to 5% but never instantly. Even in the rare event that a single turbine does ramp from rated power to zero over a of minute or so, the whole fleet across a state or grid takes 30 minutes to 3 hours to ramp down, that gives plenty of time to ramp gas or hydro from cold. Not only that, the 24hour ahead forecasts of wind output are usually within 5% of actual. That is why the CEO of 50Hz (The North German grid operator) says he can get to 70% wind and solar without additional storage, but he clearly doesn’t know what he is talking about

    Thus wind requires very little hot spinning reserves. It does require backup which can be hydro, pumped storage (just like nuclear) or OC gas or even CC gas.

    In contrast, thermal does require hot spinning reserve because the generators are so large that gas turbines or partly loaded coal units have to be on line and running because even fast start hydro is not fast enough to prevent cascading failure if a large fully loaded generator goes off-line suddenly

    Secondly In most warm climates peak demand never occurs at minimum wind + solar. Sea breezes increase in the evenings as solar ramps down so that when you compare actual demand with actual output there is no requirement for 95% backup of peak generation.

    Third as I said nuclear systems need fast acting backup. France uses 2 of nuclear power per quarter pumping water up hill to run it down during peaks. If the storage is there, it is actually cheaper at current costs of new generation to recharge it with wind and in some places solar than nuclear. If you can find a reference to refute that rather than your opinion I will be glad to see it.

    You need to do your research a bit better on pumped hydro. There are 3 schemes in Australia Tumut 3 – 1.5GW, Shoalhaven 240MW and Wivenhoe 500MW. In addition if you install more wind and solar the existing hydro can be a) reserved for droughts and b) back up wind and solar over the short term. Thus existing hydro + pumped hydro can generate about 8GW or 1/3rd of the average demand. There are also literally thousands of sites adjoining existing water bodies where small pumped hydro schemes can be built. The upper reservoir can be built above existing water bodies or the sea and if using an existing dam as the lower reservoir, the capacity actually increases as the dam level falls, so drought is more or less irrelevant.

    You say China speaks with a forked tongue, well it probably does but it is still building about 3 times as much renewables than nuclear in terms of annual TW.hrs generated and India is doing the same. There are only two countries increasing their nuclear energy generation faster than renewables, the Czech Republic and Finland and even Finland will have less than 35% of its power from Nuclear when it’s current plans are completed.

    So as Edward Griesch would like to say “facts trump opinions”.


  270. Preoccupation with HMW repositories distracts the public from more serious matters.

    The whimsy is to bury too much material. Fission products are only one gram per person, per annum, easily buried as deep as the benighted fearful should require.

    People frightened of newfangled power stations would rather pollute our skylines with windmills waving their prayers, while their gas backup pollutes the greenhouse with more than ten tons of gases per person, per annum.

    For people who like the excitement of frightening the public, they would serve history better to direct public concern towards the terrible consequences of a polluted greenhouse.


  271. That should be “HLW” for high-level waste, concentrated radioactive material with long half lives. Some is fission products, some is transuranics, aka fast fissiles. HLW repositories are mooted all over the world where activists have frightened their public. Used fuel does contain such material, which will become increasingly valuable as fast reactors emerge into the power market 20 years or so hence. So, as tomorrow’s raw material, it should not be buried – not all of it, not yet.


  272. Which would you rather live within a kilometre of, a coal fired power station or a nuclear power station. Would you rather live in Kerala India or next to a HLW repository.
    Just as the word Nuclear has negative connotations so does the word radioactivity and the word radioactive causes hysteria in the media.
    The Australian school system misinforms students about radiation, intimating that there are radiation free zones. I tell my nieces yes that place is LALA land.


  273. Checking the BPA wind graph one can see that the Columbia basin wind has died. The prediction is that it will be back late on Monday, giving us a 10 day air quality advisory.

    Here hydro will pick up the load. Most places will have to oxidize more carbon.


  274. Yes, John Cameron has a short essay, posted above by R. Clifton, which is in agreement with “Radiation and Reason” by Wade Allison. The reason for this hormetic effect is known; up regulation of DNA repair.

    Again I cannot post the links, one to a paper by a researcher at LLNL, until the weather improves enough to go visit my desktop machine.


  275. @Peter Farley

    “It will also probably have for a long time a small amount of gas which contributes 10-15 or even 20% of power on peak days but only 1-3% of power over the year. In some grids there will be a little nuclear, some there will be significantly more nuclear, in some there won’t be any.”

    Peter, you are probably being too optimistic about a maximum 3% contribution from gas in the absence of cheap bulk storage. With eventual very cheap solar (IEA say it could be as low as 1.5 US cents / kWh by 2050) you can afford to over-configure quite a bit, which means the sunlight hours probably have few gaps (given some wind is available during the day too). But from dusk to dawn the main renewal generation will be wind, and it is correlated over large distances. Even with two independent locations (> 1000 km apart), you still get times when there is not enough wind to satisfy demand. Here’s a chart based on a Rayleigh distribution of wind speeds and a capacity factor of 50% :

    If you over-configure wind capacity to twice peak load (around 2.5 to 3x average load), then you still end up with 30% of non-sunny time (say 20% of total time) generating less than the off-peak demand, in which you are short of around 50% of the off-peak load. So this is probably somewhat higher than 1-3%. Hydro may cope with some of this, but is there enough of it – in both total energy stored and output power?

    Although wind is currently cheaper than solar PV this is likely to be reversed by 2050, so you may not be able to over-configure wind to the same extent, and in any case the geographic spread is the key thing, which brings in transmission costs.

    “When it comes to addressing GHG emissions the additional cost of phasing out the last gas plant will be much higher per tonne of GHG removed than if the money was spent on transport or building efficiency, not to mention land use changes, that is why I feel that leaving some gas (or even a few small USC coal plants) in the system is not a big issue.”

    Germany is going for power to gas (and back to power), generating hydrogen from electrolysis using the over-configured renewables electricity. Power to power efficiency is a maximum of 42-45% By 2050 solar power will be the cheapest and variability doesn’t matter. To turn hydrogen back to power the options seem to be fuel cells (very expensive) or hydrogen-compatible CCGT (hopefully cheap capital costs similar to natural gas CCGT). Electrolysis cells are clearly very simple compared with mechanical generators.

    Given that CCGT powered by renewable hydrogen or renewable methane causes no CO2 emissions, you might not want to get rid of it at all, but rather use it to eliminate the awkward last few percent (or tens of percents) of CO2 emissions by driving it with renewable hydrogen from electrolysis powered by cheap solar power.

    And in the final analysis we probably need to do both – eliminate all emissions from electricity generation and implement all possible energy-efficiency measures.


  276. Amen to your sentiment that we should eliminate all emissions. But why on earth should we “implement all possible energy-efficiency measures”? Let’s remember that there are perhaps 1 billion people consuming plenty of energy each, and 6 billion people aspiring to increase their energy consumption to the same level. In that light, you might as well be saying, “let them eat cake”.

    We need to do quite the opposite. Copious, cheap, reliable power everywhere with no emissions at all, would allow the current pace of industrialisation to continue without climatic disaster. Beyond that, such availability of power will allow the world’s energy economy to move forward past the current carbon-based system.

    The ecomodernists have a vision that the world’s population might withdraw from the land into the big cities, complete with their intensive food, water and energy production. (The link is to a video talk by Barry Brook).

    Who knows, there might even be enough carbon-free intermittent backup power available to indulge the religious practices of a few reactionary communities locking themselves away in the countryside with their windmills displayed to the sky.


  277. Peter
    Thanks for your comments and particularly the graph. Can you tell me the source.

    I may well be too optimistic about wind at night although wind does tend to be stronger and more consistent at night while demand is much lower. In theory if we have existing biomass/ landfill and hydro running at capacity there is about enough capacity with 30GW of wind running at 5% capacity. There are other renewables, geothermal, marine and hydro while we can add more pumped hydro. In many cases it is simply a question of cost.

    To make such a system work would require a change in the way our hydro is operated so that wind, solar marine are used when available then biomass/geothermal, then hydro and then gas.

    In Germany there aren’t many opportunities for cheap storage so power to gas might be a good thing. In Australia there are probably cheaper solutions Power to gas at the moment is probably more expensive than pumped hydro here but in 5-10 years time when decisions have to be made who knows. If wind takes say 30-40% of the load then that means more of the existing hydro storage is available for peak load or extended low wind times.


  278. To Roger Clifton
    No matter who is right in this debate, delivered energy will never be cheap, therefor the less of it we need to use for a given standard of living the the better.

    Many developing countries can avoid our mistakes and end up with energy use about 7,000 kW.hrs per person including transport and industry which is a bit less than Spain now and around half Australia or the US. In the meantime the developed countries can reduce overall demand 1-2% per year.

    If we get it right (I agree big IF) the world’s population could live at current European living standards with about the same total energy consumption as we have now,

    If we built houses in Australia to the latest Californian standards and adopted the current Japanese or US fuel economy standards for light vehicles, got public transport use to Sydney levels around the country, then we would all save money and have a better physical standard of living, so why not spend money on making our houses and buildings more comfortable, better public transport etc, than more and more costly and ugly energy infrastructure.


  279. Peter F,
    it’s interesting how you lament nuclear power’s need for storage just to cover afternoon & evening peak demand, then fantasise about how we’re going to cover a whole night time of power with a renewable grid.

    You’ll inflate hydro and biomass schemes so that they can run our nations all night, yet exaggerate the difficulty nuclear power would have in meeting the evening peak. If all those other things can run our entire energy grid overnight, what about saving them all up for fast dispatch in the evening peak and then just using nuclear power for baseload all day and all night? You’re focussing on a few hours of peak demand in the evening, and just brushing aside the whole night where renewables go dark. Talk about focussing on the speck in another’s eye while ignoring the log in your own!

    Nuclear becomes even more essential when we consider weaning off oil, and how NREL says America could charge 45% of her car fleet as EV’s on today’s grid as long America charged overnight. There goes any overnight dip in demand! It will be full bore, all the time, 24/7. Indeed, considering weaning off oil, maybe if all those cars are timed to start charging AFTER peak hour in the evening, there won’t BE any ‘peak hour’. I’m not sure how demand would ultimately shake down, but maybe we’ll create a more stable grid if we just run our nukes at full bore and time charging EV’s around domestic demand peaks in the evening.


  280. Peter Farley, you flatter yourself in claiming to be one end of a “debate”. You get your numbers wrong when you quote them, then fail to understand correct numbers when we spell them out to you. Then you change the subject as though you alone understand and the rest of us should follow you. No, we weren’t talking about “cost”.

    Peter Davies used the word “eliminate” and I heartily agreed. After all, the most important advance at the Paris Meeting this year was that the world’s leaders agreed that we should “eliminate” GHG emissions. That makes obsolete any pretense to “reduce” emissions by this or that process.

    However what you have quoted is the tired old Greens’ polemic about “reductions” through energy efficiency. Earlier in these threads we have hammered it out for you that there is no way you can make token reductions and achieve elimination. It is mathematics and round here we can see when the maths shows your assertions to be wrong. It is no more than Greens’ bluster – it attempts to cover up the fact that the Greens don’t really want to eliminate carbon emissions when the alternative is nuclear energy. Such talk would rather have their descendants fry in a hell on earth rather than permit the use of this newfangled technology.


  281. Peter Farley,

    The SA Wind Study Report in 2014 recorded a SA drop of 294 MW output of wind in a 5 minute period. It’s all very well to say the authorities can predict wind. It was over 30% of installed capacity!

    There is another fact that the Greens and their ilk appear to not know about and that is the gas backup needed in small amounts – but probably significant amounts if base load Nuclear is not used. ALL gas fields have inherent CO2 contents. One in SW Victoria is over 90% CO2, it is tapped for the CO2 content and taken to Melbourne to produce fizzy drinks. This CO2 is vented at the first process point and IS NOT included in Australia’s CO2 production. How small a player are we in producing natural gas in the scheme of things? First or second!

    The only gas field that will practice geosequestration is the Gorgon field off Barrow Island in WA. My prediction is that with low gas prices this $69bn build is totally uneconomic unless they stop geosequestration. I am awaiting their application.



  282. Roger Clifton said “Greens don’t really want to eliminate carbon emissions when the alternative is nuclear energy.”

    This is exactly my experience, whether talking to my “green” friends or commenting on blogs worldwide it seems that so called environmentalists would much prefer the consequences of global warming than give up their anti science anti nuclear beliefs.

    Jim Hansen discusses this issue in great detail in the following paper.

    Click to access 20140221_DraftOpinion.pdf

    The global community has a very simple choice. We can make the transition to nuclear electricity as demonstrated by France and almost eliminate CO2 emissions (40g/kWh) OR move to renewable electricity backed by fossil fuels with little or no reduction in CO2 emissions as demonstrated by Germany (576g/kWh).


    Abundant excess non carbon electrical energy from nuclear enables us to use electricity for all urban transport, industrial and household heat and even the production of liquid hydro carbon fuels as developed by the US Navy.


  283. @Roger Clifton

    “However what you have quoted is the tired old Greens’ polemic about “reductions” through energy efficiency. Earlier in these threads we have hammered it out for you that there is no way you can make token reductions and achieve elimination. ”

    Germany has made some very substantial energy efficiency improvements. So much so that, despite German domestic electricity prices per unit being higher than almost everywhere else, the average German household electricity bill is smaller than those in the USA – even after eliminating USA air conditioning costs – !

    Clearly energy efficiency won’t eliminate gaps in generation when the wind is not blowing. However, no-one (apart from the Germans) has really taken it seriously. So the real reason we greens are keen on energy efficiency is the usual one – money. There’s plenty of energy efficiency to go at which saves more off the energy bill than it costs. If you need to generate less electricity then the CO2 emissions come down too – at the same time as you are saving money. Sounds like a win win for everyone except the utility profit account. See the chart below @

    which is from


  284. @Tony Carden, Edward Greisch

    “The If is getting bigger.”

    “Peter Davies is doing an amazing amount of wishful thinking.”

    The price of solar panels has come down by 78% over the last 5 years, so if you have a price for solar PV in your head from a few years ago it is several times higher than reality.

    In fact even f you are only just over a year out of date on your mental figure then you are still too high by 10%.

    If we get another 78% price reduction over the next 35 years then the lowest 2050 solar PPA in the sunniest locations would be coming in at 1.3 US cents / kWh unsubsidised (and it certainly won’t get a subsidy at those prices). But will it really go this low that fast?

    In terms of the cheapest global contract to date, the unsubsidised price for a Dubai project from ACWA power was 5.98 US cents / kWh – .

    Apparently the bid was for 100MW of fixed tilt solar PV. And ACWA offered to supply all of the final target 1000MW at 5.4 US cents / kWh if Dubai wanted to jump straight there. Financing was 1.75% above the variable LIBOR (London Inter-Bank Offered Rate). Second highest bid was 6.13 cents / kWh.

    Let’s take a good look at what is happening with utility solar PV prices.

    First the US – indicative of a 16% price decrease per doubling of US installed capacity :


    For solar PV panels you would really expect the price to reduce based on doubling of global volumes not USA volumes. Maybe that’s why the log log graph is not a perfect straight line. On this basis you would expect the 2050 price to come in around 2 US cents / kWh (just slightly too high to make power to gas to power storage zero extra cost compared with fossil fuel gas).

    Secondly Lazards V9.0 ( worldwide assessment of historical price reductions in solar PV :


    And here’s a German prediction of 2-4 US cents/kWh by 2050 – with 1.5 US cents/kWh in Australia the USA and the sunnier parts of Europe as a result of falls in the cost of solar finance and reducing the balance of system costs (not the bit which is the panels).

    Whether solar PV gets to 1.5 cents / kWh by 2050 seems to depend more on whether the risk element can be removed from the financing, and how much of the “balance of system” costs (everything except the panels) can be removed from the total system cost. No-one is expecting the solar PV panels to be a major cost items by 2050.

    So you pick the number you think most realistic for solar power by 2050 for very sunny and moderately sunny locations, probably from the range of 1.5 to 2.5 US cents / kWh for the sunny locations, and maybe twice that for less sunny locations.

    Now think about producing renewable hydrogen from electrolysis using solar PV power and you can shave a bit off the cost by realising you don’t need DC to AC inverters as electrolysis will be run at under 2 volts. Panels and electrolysis cells in series will get you there.


  285. @Peter Farley

    “Thanks for your comments and particularly the graph. Can you tell me the source.”

    The source is a Java program written by me. It assumes a Rayleigh distribution of wind speeds, converting it to an output power probability density function with a parameterised average output power. It also allows the combination of two or more such independent distributions and plotting of the result. Source code available on request.

    It would be good to extend this to modelling partially correlated wind speeds or anti-correlated wind and solar, but this is a more difficult problem than modelling independent wind speeds with or without independent solar.


  286. Peter Davies,
    You’ve fallen for the lie. Again. Please, NEVER quote solar or wind price-to-grid at us as if that were the final cost. Sure those particular costs are dropping. We all agree. That’s self-evident. But utterly irrelevant. Traditional greenies come in here raving about cheap solar and we all just shake our heads in amazement at the way these memes spread.

    Instead, you should ONLY quote buffered price to grid. Please, include the storage! Or has cleantechnica so baffled every greenie with promises of bright shiny cheap solar that true believers cannot think this through?

    Buffering northern countries like Germany could bankrupt any nation that tried it. You can either buy Tesla Powerpack batteries to back up one week of winter in Germany (at a hypothetical 30% penetration of wind and solar, and these wind and solar farms must still be bought), OR you can just buy safe modern nuclear-waste eating nukes that will do the whole job for 60 years. Again, backup a third of a renewable grid for just one week, or nuke the whole grid for 60 years! That’s the economics of renewable storage V nuclear. But here’s the thing. It it was 100% renewables, you’d have to store 3 times as much, and because German winters often cut renewables for many weeks at a time, it would probably cost 6 to 12 times as much!
    Point 2 below


  287. @Edward Greisch

    “Solar panels would be worthless if you paid me to take them. The sun never shines at night and the sun is intermittent in the daytime. The US can’t afford the quadrillion dollars that it would cost to build sufficient energy storage, and that includes your hydrogen storage scheme.”

    What is difficult to understand is why anyone would wish to talk about storage costs for an all-wind or an all-solar solution, when it is very obvious that the gaps in renewable generation will be minimised if both wind and solar are installed. This also minimises storage costs too.

    The beauty of using variable solar to produce hydrogen is that the variability does not matter – you produce the hydrogen when the sun shines. It’s easy to get a rough estimate of the per unit cost of providing the backup power from renewable hydrogen plus CCGT. Take the LCOE figures for Advanced Combined Cycle (ACC) from

    If backup gas generation is used for 30% of the total generation instead of 87% of the time (assumed in LCOE calculation) then the capital element of the LCOE must be 3X as much ie. $43.2 / MWh. Fixed O&M remains $2.0 / MWh. Variable O&M (assumed to be virtually all fuel) is the LCOE of solar / 0.44 (for 44% round trip efficiency of this type of storage). For a $20 / MWh solar PV LCOE in 2050 this would give $45.4 / MWh. Assume the transmission investment for solar for the CCGT location with good sunlight of $4.1 / MWh from the same document. Assume no subsidies.

    The sub-total for backup CCGT powered by renewable hydrogen would thus be $94.7 / MWh, to which needs to be added the cost of electrolysers and hydrogen storage (if any – the existing gas grid might be used). This is less than the cost of any fossil fuel generation with CCS and comparable with the cost of nuclear.

    If the LCOE for solar is instead $3 / MWh then the new fuel element is $68.1 / MWh and the new total LCOE is $117.4 / MWh.

    This estimated LCOE cost for filling in the renewables gaps representing 30% of the total generation, when added to the cheap (by 2050) wind and solar, is likely to give cheaper total electricity costs than at present. On the approximate costing, this looks lik a viable and economic solution for 2050.

    If it gives cheaper power, why should the overall capital invested in the system be a problem? That’s what capital markets are for, after all. Let them do their job, but let governments take action to minimise the risk element of the interest rates, either by giving loan guarantees or by some other measure. Then you will really see an all-renewables solution fly in 2050.

    (Incidentally my personal view is that 20% nuclear would be about right. That is what we have in the UK currently.)


  288. “What is difficult to understand is why anyone would wish to talk about storage costs for an all-wind or an all-solar solution, when it is very obvious that the gaps in renewable generation will be minimised if both wind and solar are installed. This also minimises storage costs too.”
    What is difficult to understand is why anyone would wish to talk about solar price-to-grid falling as if that were the only cost they were assuming, when really they meant everyone to understand that to cover a GW of power they were not just building one nuke (with 7% reserve) but solar AND wind AND hydro AND biomass to try and get us through the night. Want to revisit your solar-price-to-grid again? See, in reality even you admit there’s not such thing. It’s the solar + wind + hydro + biomass price to grid, with a continent spanning super-sized super-smart super-grid thrown in for good measure. Desertec talk about bringing solar thermal from Africa to Europe, there are plans to link Australia to Asia, etc.

    After all, renewables advocates keep telling us the wind is always blowing somewhere. (But forget to explain that somewhere then has to have enough wind farms to cover everywhere else, requiring stunning overbuild to follow weather patterns).

    Not only that but it’s we’ve all got to buy ‘smart’ appliances that are load-following, like smart-fridges that only operate when the supply is highest, storing electricity as ice. Riiight.
    (Scratches head). How much does all this cost again?


    I am terminating your conversation with Roger Clifton here. The argument was circular and the tone was deteriorating.
    Several commenters had already complained about the repetitive nature of their exchanges with you.


  290. The goal is low carbon dioxide emissions.

    Wind satisfies this for about a third of the time. The remaining two thirds has to be covered by a dispatchable resource.

    Suppose the best alternative is natgas open cycle generators. That is about two thirds as carbon dioxide intense as coal, I assume. So assuming some natgas, i.e., methane, leakage, one has about one half of the carbon dioxide emissions of a coal based electricity grid.

    Did I do this correctly? If so, that is only a relief of one half of carbon dioxide emissions. That is not enough, by half again.


  291. Have you ever tried storing hydrogen? Storing hydrogen in tanks long term won’t work because hydrogen is too “leaky”. Tanks meant for methane are even leakier.

    The army used to use tritium lamps as calibration lights for the sight systems for cannons. The tritium lights would be mounted at the muzzle end for the sight system to aim at. A tritium lamp is a glass capsule filled with heavy hydrogen, tritium. Sometimes the capsule breaks and must be replaced. A person at one of our repair facilities had a bucket full