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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.

By Barry Brook

Barry Brook is an ARC Laureate Fellow and Chair of Environmental Sustainability at the University of Tasmania. He researches global change, ecology and energy.

1,181 replies on “Open Thread 23”

Peter Davies — The nighttime load of about 70% of maximum is only about 7–8 hours per day according to Bonneville Power Administration data for the Pacific Northwest. I suppose Britain might be different but after at least a half dozen times there, one for a summer and another for a year, doubt your use of 12 hours.

Yes, the backend components of the CSP needn’t be increased but, contravailing, the thermal store is only about 80–85% efficient. Without more details I cannot be precise about the presumed plant efficiency.

Besides the points raised by singletonengineer I mention recent cost figures from Chile, certainly a low cost region, of about US$100/MWh for the desert generators plus whatever the cost for new transmission from northern Chile to central Chile. As that is entirely in one country some of the risks are low. But the result will be retail power prices about the same as much of Europe while income is considerably lower.

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Peter Davies, the price diffferentials for CSP vs current dispatchable generators are too great to be overcome by the incremental improvements you offered (economies of scale and working fluid temperature increase). This is why I asked about advances which would make CSP MUCH more economically viable – not just a bit here and there.

Aidan Stanger, you are a civil engineer working as a transport consultant, I believe. Would you offer solutions to your clients based on hopeful criteria like those that you put up as making CSP significantly more viable?
Remember that I asked which options that may be suggested would not improve other forms of thermal power generation by the same degree?
Storage, cheap finance and colocation all would help fossil fuel and nuclear power generation at least as much as CSP and colocation is considerably easier when the heat source doesn’t dominate the area the way CSP demands.

Please, both of you use your engineering training to impartially evaluate renewables vs nuclear – don’t let your preferences distort your ability to properly analyse the pros and cons of the various power sources.

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@Greg

The price differentials for CSP vs current dispatchable generators are too great to be overcome by the incremental improvements you offered (economies of scale and working fluid temperature increase). This is why I asked about advances which would make CSP MUCH more economically viable – not just a bit here and there.

13.5 (or 12 for 12.4 hours full load generation) cents/kWh for nighttime power can be supplemented with cheap solar PV to get around 9 or 10 cents / kWh average price throughout the day. I wouldn’t call that a huge difference from some new dispatchable generation (nuclear or coal. Some CCGT comes in cheaper, but then hybrid solar (CSP + PV) is at the FOAK stage.C

Knock 10% (more volume) then 10% (higher solar collector temperature) off the baseload PPA contract price of 9.7 cents / kWh for Copiapa, Chile for hybrid solar PV + CSP baseload power and you get 7.9 cents / kWh for a system with capacity factor in the 80-90% range in subtropical deserts. That’s starting to look pretty attractive for those within spitting (i.e. HVDC) distance of such areas, particularly if someone applies any meaningful carbon pricing to the dispatchable fossil fuel solutions

If you look at other technologies you will see huge price reductions without significant technological innovation. Utility-scale solar PV prices down 80% over the last 5 or 6 years. Lithium ion EV battery costs down by a factor of 3 or so and, at least for General Motors, now below the critical level of $150 / kWh which the analysts predicted would start the big switch to electric ground transportation .

Neither of these reductions involved earth-shattering technical innovations. Plenty of companies promise these in research environments, but the inability to put them into commercial products in production has not slowed down the reduction in solar PV or lithium-ion prices.

While the latest CSP technology has yet to be fully proven in live operation, we will know in the next 12 months.

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@David Benson

Here’s an amended version of the Crescent Dunes hybrid costing scenario to match your BPA spec.

((Cost/MWh(PV) x PV equivalent full hours) + (cost/MWh(CSP) x CSP equivalent full hours)) / total equivalent full hours.

Assume a scenario as follows :-

x – 8 hours / day PV at full load (total 8 equiv full hours)
x – 8 hours / day CSP at full load (total 8 equiv full hours)
x – 8 hours / day CSP at 70% load (total 5.6 equiv full hours)

PV equivalent full hours is 8
CSP equivalent full hours is 8 + 5.6 = 13.6
Total equivalent full hours is 8+8+5.6=21.6

I’ve still no clue about the split of solar thermal versus steam+generation, so still assume 50%.

Then the capacity hours for the back-end go up from 10 to 13.6, so the average kWh price comes down from 13.5 to 11.8 cents / kWh. (From back end is now 10/13.6 = 74% of original back-end, so is 26% less expensive but is only 50% of the total so the total comes down by 26/2 = 13%, which makes 11.8 cents / kWh.

Average cost / MWh is :-

(($45 x 8) + ($118 x 13.6)) / 21.6 = $91 / MWh average.

Result depends on what proportion the steam production and generation is of the total capital cost. Assumption is 50%.

This baseload power (ignoring deliberate reduction in generation for 8 hours a day) will be available at least 87% of the time which is the number of direct sunlight hours / daylight hours around Las Vegas.

The key assumption is that the encouraging ramp up over 12 months to full load continues to be successful. At the moment there do not appear to be any show stoppers.

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@David Benson

but, contravailing, the thermal store is only about 80–85% efficient

Where do you get this from? All generation goes via the thermal store so this is already factored into the costing / MWh for the solar thermal front-end. You don’t need a bigger thermal store for more hours – you need a smaller steam+generation back-end.

http://www.solarreserve.com/en/technology/molten-salt-energy-storage

The losses from the thermal storage are 1 degree F per 24 hours, which is very considerably less than 1% (hot store is at > 1000 degrees F).

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@singletonengineer

After adjustment to suit the real world, $200 per MWh seems to be much closer to the number. What does that do to market expectations?

http://cleantechnica.com/2016/02/22/crescent-dunes-24-hour-solar-tower-online/

You are making this up as you go along. Crescent Dunes has already passed a full load production test lasting a few days, which was conducted in November, not June.

Liddell Power Station, 2000MWe, has operated since 1971. Its best ever annual production was 11,586 GWH in calendar 2009 (With zero lost time injuries, I might add). This is a thermal power station with constantly available, not weather-dependent, energy input in the form of coal. Its CF for its best year out of 45 was 66.13%.

That, my friends, is an absolute upper bound of expectations for a thermal (including generously proportioned STP) power generating plant in the real world. Certainly not even close to $US91.7

Since nuclear plants are also thermal plants, then perhaps you should explain why the US DoE gives them a capacity factor rating of 90%, and why David Benson points out that in 2015 the US nuclear plants averaged over 90%.

You didn’t immediately jump in to contradict David to tell him that his figures and those of the DoE must be wrong because thermal plants, including nuclear, cannot possibly achieve figures as high as 90%, as you have stated above.

Or is there indeed one level of evidence required for nuclear and a much higher one for current solar thermal?

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Nuclear does achieve over 90%. A CANDU reactor can achieve much more than 90%, close to 100%, because it can be refueled while in operation.
Most of the scrams and shutdowns other than for refueling are not really needed. They are caused by paranoia caused by coal industry propaganda.

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I see no reason to reduce my estimate of $US200/MWh.

Peter’s vague calcs ignore cash and in-kind subsidies from both the government and the customer, via demands that a ceretain percentage of power must, regardless of cost, be obtained by “green power” in various jurisdictions.

He has not demonstrated any understanding that in Germany, Spain and many other jurisdictions tariff equalisation schemes, frequently operating primarily at the domestic market in order not to penalise manifacturers and industry are not scaleable and supportable in the longer term and otherwise than as political expedients.

He has ignored discussion of the bias and inequity that come with preferential market access.

He waves away argument based on engineering and operational reality from a systems perspective.

He chooses not to live in a commercially realistic world.

I’m not so lucky. I try to live in the real world.

Another example… I cited a real world, 100% accurate reason for even baseload coal to achieve a best-year multi-unit 40% or whatever CF. The evidence is irrefutable. The performance record for Liddell Power Station is printed on the side of my favourite coffee cup, which was issued to every employee by the company at the end of the year. The corporation celebrated the great achievement, which Peter D hasn’t either the charity or the wisdom to understand or to give credit for. But you know best, don’t you, Peter?

Availability factor, as against capacity factor, was close to 90%, from memory. Some people don’t understand the difference. In short, if a unit is available but remains on cold standby for a month, then that month’s capacity factor is 0% and its availability factor is 100%. Comprehend yet?

Sorry, Peter Davies, but you continually to claim that operational constraints don’t apply to you because you choose to ignore them. Thank goodness you are never going to be a manager of a power station or a power grid, electrical engineer or not.

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Peter Davies has again not read my contribution.

In an mainly-other generating grid, it is possible for nuclear or solar thermal or any other technology to achieve higher ratings than if they are the majority supplier and thus need to allow for provision of those pesky “services” which make things possible, including spinning reserve and standby power. That is why nuclear in France achieves a lower CF than in USA. It is why out of service units have to be bid back into service and cannot simply demand that they be run up as soon as the owner chooses to take some cash flows from other market partiucipants.

As usual, PD is grasping at straws, cherrypicking, ignoring the real world and ignoring engineering and marketplace realities.

I await his explanation of the technical magic that he envisages will come to the fore in his version of an all-solar grid without reserves and never a low-insolation week.

As the English bard once stated “Methinks he doth protest too much”, or words to that effect. If he was writing assignments for a Power Engineering course he would be far more brutally dealt with than anything that is dished out in this soft-hearted thread.

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Please note that my reply, above, was not in response to Edward G. Please pardon me, Edward. My mistake, due in part to a foible of this site.

JB

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@singletonengineer

Firstly I would not recommend an all solar solution. A good spread of renewable generation plus geographical spread plus storage capable of weeks of power but used no more than 10-15% of the time would be good.

If US nuclear can be given priority then hybrid solar PV plus CSP can also. Dispatching rules can change.

However, it is you who flits from one argument to another because the gist of the argument was whether Hinkley Point EPR Nuclear was more expensive than North African hybrid solar plus HVDC lines to UK at a similar availability. The solar solution looks cheaper.

If Hinkley C is built it WILL be given priority, so hybrid solar should too.

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There are many reasons why wind and solar should be abandoned except for niche applications. “Flitting from one argument to another” is not a valid counter argument.
This is not about Hinkley Point in particular, however bad the deal UK made in that particular deal.
North African hybrid solar plus HVDC lines to UK is a non-starter for many reasons. The UK actually needs real power. An engineering experiment will not suffice and neither will a political experiment.

There is actual damage to UK citizens if power is not provided. The citizens could freeze in the dark.

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I can’t believe the lack of logic in PD’s last post.
“If US nuclear can be given priority then hybrid solar PV plus CSP can also.”
Isn’t that like saying “If buying a reliable car can be given priority, then buying one from Dodgie-brothers can also”.
For the love of a stable climate and modern civilisation itself, WHY?

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@singletonengineer

http://www.world-nuclear-news.org/V-Can-nuclear-succeed-in-liberalized-power-markets-0420152.html

You should read this post. Basically it is saying that new plants with high capital cost and low or zero fuel cost cannot readily compete in a straight liberalised electricity market where dispatch is decided solely by price. Priority is given to the lowest price upwards in any given period until demand is satisfied and then everyone receives the price of the last bid to be accepted.

While this market model works fine for minimising wholesale cost in a bunch of existing generators, it fails abysmally in securing the build of new capacity, except where the capital cost is very low so the risk of building but not getting dispatched for generation is low. So you end up only with new CCGT generation as this has the cheapest capital cost.

So to accommodate new forms of high-capital cost generation, whether nuclear or solar CSP or standard renewable wind and solar, you have to break the liberalised wholesale market rules in some way, or nothing new (except CCGT) every gets installed. In fact in the UK no-one will even install new CCGT!!

For new renewable generation you typically get a feed-in tariff of the the UK contract for differences. New nuclear typically just gets top priority in the market.

Whatever the special rules should be for new generation, the rule for new nuclear should also be adopted for new hybrid solar, as they both provide power at high availability which can only be cheap if they get priority in the wholesale market, via a PPA or some special rule.

In fact the article says no new nuclear station has ever been constructed in a pure liberal electricity market.

In other words the pure liberal electricity market does work and needs amending with a “capacity” market alongside it or something, but no-one really seems to know what the rules for that should be either.

Whatever works for new nuclear should also be applied to new hybrid solar, given that the availabilities and costs of both are similar – and both are high capital cost low/zero fuel cost.

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Peter Davies says nuclear cannot compete in a “straight liberalised electricity market where dispatch is decided solely by price”. Read Tom Blees book ‘Prescription for the planet’ where he demonstrates that a ‘free market’ for electricity doesn’t really exist, is not a market, and that corporations use the idea of a ‘free market’ to wring more money out of investors then fold. (EG: Enron). Instead, Blees argues that governments should just nationalise electricity provision to correct these distortions. James Hansen recommends this book on his Science Council for Global Initiatives. It’s a free download here.

Click to access P4TP4U.pdf

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RE advocates do not seem to appreciate the enormous distortions that have been imposed on the electricity markets in order to try to encourage renewables. If not for the distortions and the success of the anti-nuclear propagandists, with their largely dishonest campaign over the past 50 years, nuclear would now be 1/10th 1 1/20th the cost it is, would have replaced virtually all baseload fossil fuel by now, avoided 5 million fatalities since 1980 and avoided 85 Gt CO2. https://judithcurry.com/2016/03/13/nuclear-power-learning-rates-policy-implications/

The anti-nukes and RE advocates have a lot to answer for, but are blind to the realities.

Even at current prices (from DECC), all or mostly nuclear, and no new weather-dependent renewables, would be the cheapest way for GB to decarbonise electricity to the recommended target of 50 g/kWh CO2: https://judithcurry.com/2016/01/19/is-nuclear-the-cheapest-way-to-decarbonize-electricity/

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John Morgan,
[I tried to post this on the Catch 22 thread, but it was not allowed, I suspect the thread may be closed to comments]

There are a number of presentations on ERoEI here you might find interesting.
Science for Energy Scenarios: 3rd Science and Energy Seminar at Ecole de Physique des Houches, March 6th-11th, 2016http://science-and-energy.org/slides-videos/

Jessica Lambert ‘Examining The Relation between Quality of Life and Biophysical vs Economic Conditionshttp://science-and-energy.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/EcoleDePhysiqueDesHouches_JGL_2016_03_08.pdf is interesting. However, it seems to me she, and many of the other presentations, are using energy intensity as a proxy for ERoEI and in fact are simply plotting energy intensity and calling it ERoEI. I’d welcome comments on what others think about this.

Daniel Weißbach, et al. ‘ The EROIs of Power Plants – why are they so different?http://science-and-energy.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/EROI_LesHouches2016.pdf is interesting too. I’d like to hear comments and discussion from others about the methodology, because it is differences in methodology and assumptions that are reason for the large differences in ERoEI estimated by different authors. The second last slide summarises the ERoEI for the different technologies:
Wind and solar: 1-4
Fossil fuels: 30
Hydro: 35
Nuclear (today’s LWRs): 75
Nuclear theoretical limit: 10,000

Weißbach includes his spreadsheet here: http://tinyurl.com/z7329lh

Also see other EROEI presentations linked in my first link above.

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A recent German news report paints a sorry picture of the damage being sustained by communities, industry and retail electricity consumers in Germany due to energy policies post – Fukishima. Some of Germany’s largest and formerly most profitable industrial giants have been brought to their knees or are leaving the country.

https://global.handelsblatt.com/edition/396/ressort/companies-markets/article/how-to-kill-an-industry

Towards the foot of the article:
“Another reason why the losers of Germany’s energy transition have kept mostly quiet could be that they, too, have been bought off. Utility workers can now retire as early as age 52 and receive 80 percent of their pay. In the past, layoffs on the scale of what is now happening at the utilities often caused a national scandal. Instead, union leaders have kept largely silent.”

That paragraph speaks volumes.

It directly and centrally challenges the expectations of ardent pro-“renewables” advocates.

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Eclipse Now — Where in Prescription for a Small Planet will I find the no free market for electricity argument? I’m not willing to read the whole thing just to find this.

Thank you.

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In the same chapter Tom Blees also analyses how such a public institution could go global. I found it fascinating. Here’s a taste:

“The implementation of a global energy plan requires some fresh thinking in order to provide oversight on a worldwide level. Elimination of the profit motive would be a great place to start. Looking at the record of publicly owned utilities in the United States, which serve fully 26% of American consumers with an enviable record of dependability and rates averaging 18% lower than private utilities, provides a strong argument in favor of extending the nonprofit model to a global scale. There would be many compelling advantages to such a plan, and few if any drawbacks. Indeed, unless one considers the inability of utility companies to skim off profits as a negative feature, there would seem to be no drawbacks whatsoever.

This is hardly a radical concept. Indeed, it is already a reality on a national level in France, where their AREVA national nuclear power agency oversees all aspects of their nuclear industry, from mining, power plant construction, training, reprocessing, and every other detail up to and including waste disposal. The only obstacle to copying their system and implementing it worldwide is political. They have clearly demonstrated its effectiveness. Let’s examine the features of this proposed nonprofit global energy consortium and how it will work. We’ll call it, henceforth, the Global Rescue Energy Alliance Trust (GREAT). The international negotiations and hard choices required to create such a system will be formidable, requiring policies that will cut harshly against the corporate and political grain—more in some countries than others. But nobody ever said that implementing a plan to save the planet was going to be a bed of roses. In reality, though, we’ll see that aside from the impossibility of placating the greediest power mongers (in both senses of the phrase), the advantages of such a system would be overwhelmingly positive for the rest of us
.
Corporatist true believers (free market ideologues) will undoubtedly argue that GREAT is a matter of ideology, and its supporters will surely be tarred as socialists or even communists in the inevitable efforts to discredit this proposal. But GREAT is not a matter of ideology, it’s a matter of sanity. Just as the world lived under the threat of nuclear annihilation during the long tense years of the cold war, so we will continue to live under the threat of nuclear terrorism until we recognize the fact—not the opinion—that the only way we can ever hope to remove the threat of nuclear proliferation and nuclear terrorism is to put the entire nuclear fuel cycle under strict international control. This perforce requires us to end the era of private utility companies’ involvement in nuclear power. As newclear power assumes its role as the dominant energy source of the future, the only recourse for private utilities will be in renewable technologies that contribute to the overall energy supply system. Given that IFRs and the existing thermal reactors will likely supply the vast majority of power at least in the near term, it stands to reason that the overall energy infrastructure and administration will fall under the purview of GREAT, making electrical generation and distribution a de facto near-socialized system. (Since usage will still determine users’ costs, it would not be a socialized system per se, but more akin to a cooperative. But what’s in a word?) If wind and solar power are practical alternatives to nuclear, as their proponents maintain, then there will be plenty of room for investment by private sector energy companies, though given the history of manipulation of energy markets it would be prudent to limit the generating capacity of any one company…”

From Chapter 9, Cui Bono, Prescription for the Planet free to download here:

Click to access P4TP4U.pdf

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@Eclipse Now

As nuclear power assumes its role as the dominant energy source of the future..

China is where the big the action is in power grids. It already has the largest grid in the world and is trying to install as much nuclear as it can. But it just can’t do it fast enough, so nuclear is a bit player, overtaken by wind but beating solar. Meanwhile hydro is making the most inroads into coal generation and provides ideal synnergy with the huge quantity of variable wind and solar which China has to install to achieve its aims.

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Peter D is at it again…
Unless and until coal consumption worldwide is significantly curtailed, there can be no truth in the sentence “Meanwhile, hydro is making the most inroads into coal generation and provides ideal synergy with the huge quantity of variable wind and solar which China has to install to achieve its aims.”

This is only wishful thinking unless backed by data.

Personally, I suspect that it comes from the fertile brain of its author, which needs no data in order to substantiate its wishes and preconceptions.

If hydro is increasing as a percentage of either China’s or the global total energymarket,I will be surprised. If so, at what environmental cost?

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Hydro generation around the world is on the increase, for a number of reasons. It’s the only significant renewable base load energy supply available. With coal power being on the nose and small hydro not adapting well to centralised systems, hydro is the next best thing for many countries.

http://www.vox.com/2014/10/28/7083487/the-world-is-building-thousands-of-new-dams-is-that-really-a-good-idea

For many places relying on existing hydro capacity climate change is having a reverse effect, serious drought being the cause of diminished water inflows and diminished reliability of supply.

http://grist.org/business-technology/does-hydropower-make-sense-in-a-warming-world/

Nobody knows this more than Tasmania does at present, where changing climate has knocked off at least 10 percent of long term power yield.

China is, and has been, building enormous hydro capacity – within China but also in other places in the world. Massive hydro works happening on the Mekong River presently. There’s a huge price to pay in terms of lost natural habitats but also human communities having to be displaced. That’s even ignoring the greenhouse impact of methane release from drowned forest valleys.

All of this comes at a very high price.

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Again, more for interest than for a particular contributor.

I have heard that the Eastern Australian NEM grid is the geographically largest in the world. Peter has stated “China … has the largest grid in the world.”

From the AEMO website: “At over 5,000 km from far north Queensland to Tasmania, and west to Adelaide and Port Augusta, is the longest alternating current system in the world. ” http://www.aemo.com.au/About-the-Industry/Energy-Markets/National-Electricity-Market

This is an example of how information without context is unreliable.

I disagree with AEMO’s reference to its grid as being “alternating current”. It is not, in a pure sense, because the undersea connector to Tasmania is HVDC. Tasmania is not synchronous with the northern sections of the NEM, although every customer on the NEM receives AC power.

Information and context are thus inseparable. Plus citations to peer reviewed matter, or, failing that, to items published via reputable sources with known editorial policies. Publicity brochures, press releases from commercial interests and political pronouncements simply don’t count.

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Hi All,
I am interested in peoples thoughts and comments on James Hansen’s paper “Ice Melt, Sea Level Rise and Super Storms”

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Australian electricity is what? 250 TWh/year?

Chinese generation is already in excess of 5,000 TWh/year and probably headed for 8000 TWh/year by 2030, so growing fast. Europe is around 3,500 TWh/year and the USA around 4,000 TWh/year.

If China is not going predominantly nuclear then the world isn’t, because China is such a big swinger in all this.

@Eclipse Now

China will sell as many nukes (or any other high-tec product) as it can to the rest of the world. But it doesn’t currently expect nuclear to be the predominant way to displace coal in China itself. That honour falls to hydro through 2030 and beyond.

We had all this with solar panels too. China manufactures huge volumes of solar panels and sells so many that the EU has imposed negotiated import restrictions with China. But China doesn’t install solar in the same volumes it produces it.

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Peter Davies,
I showed you an estimate that China will mass-produce GenIV nukes cheaper than coal very, very soon. Once that happens, doesn’t it make coal irrelevant moving forward? Won’t they bust a gut to shift away from coal that is literally choking their citizens to death and hiding their cities under a shroud of cancer-causing fog? If not that, won’t they bust a gut to save money? Until you can demonstrate why the reactors in the article I linked to will not be delivered on time, you just stuck your fingers in your ears and sang “Tingalingaloo.”

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@Eclipse Now,

We don’t have 6-9 years.

I’ve just been to the Grantham Institute annual lecture by Christiana Figueres who is the Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). She has done more than anyone else to save the world by leading the unanimous climate change agreement at COP21 in Paris in December.

She is a brilliant and inspirational speaker. She said the climate change situation was urgent and gave the figures in the following paragraph.

So far we have increased CO2 in the atmosphere by 2,000 gigatons. We have already warmed the earth by 1 degree C. To stick below 2 degrees C we can put no more than another 1,000 gigatons into the atmosphere, and to hit the newly declared ambition figure of 1.5 degrees C the limit is only another 600 gigatons.

Currently we are putting 32 gigatons into the atmosphere each year, so to keep to 1.5 degrees C we have 19 years at the current rate of emissions.

If we wait 6-9 years before the next generation of Chinese, NuScale or EPR nukes we will lose 1/3 to 1/2 of that 19 years and would then have to slam the brakes on emissions so fast that it is not practical (and would be hugely expensive).

So we have to go as fast as we can with existing low-carbon technology and mostly that is wind and solar (PV and CSP) which are cheap enough now to be ready for prime time. By reducing emissions now that buys time later to get right down to zero net emissions, whatever the outcome with cheap storage in a 2040/50 timeframe.

If you guys could point to a nuke already in production which can be constructed and commissioned in a 3-4 year project it could also be thrown into the urgent mix.

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Peter Davies, “Climate change is urgent, so let’s believe in the Easter Bunny.” 6 years to have a tech that can actually displace coal by being baseload and reliable and cheaper than coal and not the Easter Bunny sounds good to me. It makes for a better projection for China’s energy future than other airy-fairy guesstimates I’ve seen by sunny and windy fanboi’s.

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Lowest Mexico renewables auction bid for solar PV was $35.44 /MWh for 992MW by Enel Green Power.

The average price in the Mexican auction was $50.7/MWh for a total of 1,860MW of solar with a range of $35.44 – 67.5/MWh. Solar PV won 74% of the capacity. Wind was included in the same auction and won the remaining 26%.

The results won’t necessarily be replicated elsewhere quickly. Not only can solar PV in Mexico achieve a capacity factor well above 30%, but also Mexican installation labour is very cheap, both of which help bring prices down.

Nevertheless it’s the first solar PV subsidy-free PPA price starting with a three!

Anyone want to bet against it starting with a two somewhere in the world by 2050?

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@Eclipse Now

If you want to know what China’s plans actually are, instead of making them up, then read my detailed article on Electricity in China.

China’s plan is to go as fast as possible with all low-carbon technologies – hydro, wind, nuclear and solar, though they have to wait for the transmission network capacity to be installed in some cases.

And if you want some relevant music to temporarily drown out the message on renewables coming mainly from me, then I recommend If you wanna know what China’s gonna do which is a very catchy little number.

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I was not impressed with Tom Blees’ no-market-for electricity argument although I think the result is correct.

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@Eclipse Now

Peter, you do realise publishing on Judith Curry’s blog is not really a good look?

Judith Curry asked me to do the article, and there was every reason to accept. You probably agree that informing her readers is very worthwhile and certainly the Chinese power grid is not a controversial topic. From the comments, the guys there seemed to appreciate an in-depth article on an poorly-understood topic which tried to be objective and was supported by plenty of links.

If I were a UK journalist reporting on renewable energy it would be far better to publish in the Daily Telegraph newspaper than the Guardian. In the Guardian you would be preaching to the converted. In the Telegraph you would be talking directly to the right wing of the conservative party – those whose political views incline them to oppose adoption of renewable energy and who have the power to slow things down..

Similarly, this place is an echo-chamber for those who believe 100% nuclear is the only way to go to combat climate change. It is not a recipe for popularity to point out that it is ten minutes to midnight and that technology delivered in quantity only in 2025 is too late to affect the outcome of hitting a 1.5 degrees C climate target. But it is worthwhile, and, of course, a pleasure to debate in a place where everyone is clued up about power grids.

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Roger Clifton,

Eliminating global emissions may be too big a task for national governments, let alone the free market.

I disagree with you on this point. Free markets are what is required to achieve objectives, whatever they are. The reason emissions are high is because the free market has been extremely distorted by government interventions. My recent post here: https://judithcurry.com/2016/03/13/nuclear-power-learning-rates-policy-implications/ shows that emissions from electricity generation would be negligible by now if not for the disruption to free markets (I argue elsewhere the main cause was the fear mongering by the anti-nukes).

“Main Points:

Learning rate is the rate costs reduce per doubling of capacity. Until about 1970 learning rates for nuclear power were 23% in the US and 27% to 35% in the other countries studied, except India.

Around 1970, learning rates reversed and become negative (-94% in the US, -82% in Germany, -23% to -56% in the other countries, except South Korea); clearly something caused the reversal of learning rates for nuclear power around 1970.

If the positive learning rates from 1953 to 1970 had continued, nuclear power would cost less than 1/10th of current cost.

If nuclear deployment had continued at 30 GW per year from 1980, nuclear would cost much less than 1/10th of what it does now; furthermore the additional nuclear generation would have substituted for 85,000 TWh of mostly coal-generated electricity, thereby avoiding 85 Gt CO2 emissions and 5 million fatalities.

In 2015, assuming nuclear replaced coal, the additional nuclear generation would have replaced half of coal generation, thus avoided half of the CO2 emissions and 300,000 future fatalities. If the accelerating rate of deployment from 1960 to 1976 had continued, nuclear would have replaced all baseload coal and gas generation before 2015.

High learning rates were achieved in the past and could be achieved again with appropriate policies.”

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@David

Peter Davies — Don’t be fatuous. Nobody here is seriously advocating all nuclear for a power grid.

Are you sure you read the last couple of posts before you posted this? It can be difficult on a mobile phone sometimes.

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Germany To Abandon $1.1 Trillion Wind Power Program By 2019 https://www.technocracy.news/index.php/2016/04/12/germany-abandon-1-1-trillion-wind-power-program-2019/

TN Note: Wind power is four times more costly than nuclear power, and has proven to be a total disaster for Germany, which subsidizes its wind power industry. So, how is it working out for them? Well, they threw $1.1 trillion down the sink-hole.

Germany plans to stop building new wind farms by 2019, gradually turning away from its $1.1 trillion wind power program, according to a Thursday report in Berliner Zeitung.

The government plans to cap the total amount of wind energy at 40 to 45 percent of national capacity, according to the report. By 2019, this policy would cause a massive reduction of 6,000 megawatts of wind power capacity compared to the end of 2015’s capacity.

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Nuclear is the only known energy source that could supply the vast majority of the world’s energy (including transport fuels) for thousands of years (at the current US per capita rate for 10 billion people).

Despite the beliefs and claims of the RE advocates, weather dependent ‘renewables’ like wind and solar cannot supply much of world’s energy, ever! The reasons have been explained ad nausium, but some RE advocates are not open to rational analysis or discussion – they continually ignore the relevant points. Many renewable energy advocates believe renewables can supply 100% of the world’s electricity. This is simply nonsense.

Flow chart to help you determine if you’re having a rational discussion : http://twentytwowords.com/a-flowchart-to-help-you-determine-if-youre-having-a-rational-discussion/

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Why its time to dispel the myths about nuclear power
David Robert Grimes
11 April 2016
The Guardian

Fine summary.

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Suppose the Nuscale modules have an LCOE of US $95/MWh when run at maximum whenever available, subject to throttling back to 70% for 8 hours overnight, the equivalent of running full out for 21.6 hours per day.

Now take away 8 hours during the day when the grid runs just on solar PV. The SMR now requires a busbar price of US $151/MWh to cover costs. The distributor buying this wholesale power pays
8X + 13.6×151 US $ per MWday
where X is the busbar price for solar power. This is cost effective if not greater than
21.6×95 US $ per MWday. Equating the two formulas one sees that X is at most zero.

There is no cost savings at any positive busbar price for solar power. The reason is there is no savings associated with turning off (strictly, way down) the nuclear reactor for 8 hours per day. In particular there is no savings due to less fuel consumption as the uranium oxide pins have to be replenished on the original schedule in any case.

If these elements can be replaced only
13.6/21.6 = 0.63
as often then the first formula needs correcting and X can be some quite small positive number. It will be small as the replenishment costs of nuclear power plants is a very small portion of the LCOE.

So this simplistic analysis suggests that 100% nuclear beats 25% solar unless the solar power is almost free. Note that both alternatives are reliable in the face of cloudy days; just run the reactors on those days.

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If the nuke gains no cost benefit from idling down, it might as well run on a must-take basis like wind or solar. The problem of how to dump power excess to demand already falls on the power grid operator, which might set a negative price on power to attract consumers, passing on part of the negative price to both the nuke and renewable generators. Rather than fight to the financial death, the nuke operator might contract to supply near-constant power directly to an industry, using the grid for transmission.

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Rod Adams on his Atomic Insights reports on the Lightbridge metallic fuel element for LWRs, dated 2016 April 13. These have significant safety improvements over the traditional oxide form.

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The treatment that gets from SOS:
https://sanonofresafety.org/2014/01/31/san-onofre-and-high-burnup-nuclear-waste-experiment/
San Onofre Safety is obviously full of nonsense, such as: “Mismanagement of nuclear waste at San Onofre could affect the entire country and more. A major radiation release at San Onofre could require a permanent evacuation of parts of Southern California, damage the nation’s food supply, jeopardize our health, the environment, and our national security. It could affect the economic and political stability of California, the nation and potentially other parts of the world.”

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With “friends” like Greenpeace, the climate does not need any enemies.

Canada’s Federal Court of Appeal has unanimously dismissed a lawsuit brought by groups led by Greenpeace Canada for the Darlington Nuclear plant refurbishment.

http://www.world-nuclear-news.org/C-Court-dismisses-appeal-against-Darlington-refurbishment-1504168.html

At less than 50gms/kWh Ontario has one of the lowest CO2 emissions for electricity generation in the world because nuclear and hydro produces near 90% of their electricity.

http://live.gridwatch.ca/home-page.html

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“Hundreds of wind turbines in the Netherlands are operating at a loss and are in danger of being demolished. The main cause is the very low energy prices, which mean that the maintaining the turbines cost more than what the generated energy bring in, the Financieele Dagblad reports based on own research. Subsidies for generating wind energy are in many cases no longer cost-effective. Smaller, older windmills in particular are running at a loss, but even newer mills are struggling to be profitable with insufficient subsidies.” –Janene Pieters, NL Times, 15 April 2016
http://www.nltimes.nl/2016/04/14/hundreds-dutch-green-energy-windmills-operating-loss/

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Power Engineering International:
2016 Apr 13
GE Global Research is engineering the Sandia Corporation supercritical carbon dioxide Brayton cycle turbine for eventual deployment. The units are 50% thermally efficient and turn on rapidly. GE intends these to compete with batteries.

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The long term sustainability of nuclear fuel has just gone up another notch:

From WNA: http://www.world-nuclear.org/information-library/country-profiles/countries-o-s/russia-nuclear-fuel-cycle.aspx

“Russian proposal for nuclear fuel leasing and recycling
At the World Nuclear Fuel Cycle conference in Abu Dhabi, a new concept of nuclear fuel leasing was highlighted. For several years the Khlopin Institute in Russia has been developing for Tenex a new fuel recycling model. REMIX (from Regenerated Mixture) fuel is produced directly from a non-separated mix of recycled uranium and plutonium from reprocessing used fuel, with a low-enriched uranium (LEU, up to 17% U-235) make-up comprising about 20% of the mix. This gives fuel initially with about 1% Pu-239 and 4% U-235. Over four years it can achieve burn-up of 50 GWd/t.

The used REMIX fuel is then reprocessed and recycled again, after low-enriched uranium top up. The wastes (fission products and probably minor actinides) are vitrified, as today from reprocessing for MOX, and stored for geological disposal. REMIX-fuel can be repeatedly recycled with 100% core load in current VVER-1000 reactors, and correspondingly reprocessed many times – up to five times according to Tenex, so that with less than three fuel loads in circulation a reactor could run for 60 years using the same fuel, with LEU recharge and waste removal on each cycle. As with MOX, the use of REMIX-fuel reduces consumption of natural uranium in reactors by about 20% at each recycle as compared with open fuel cycle. REMIX can serve as a replacement for existing reactor fuel.

Tenex suggests this as a form of fuel leasing from a supplier to a utility, with repeated recycle between them. It has the virtue of not creating any accumulation of reprocessed uranium or (especially) separated plutonium. The increasing concentrations of even isotopes of both elements is compensated by the fresh uranium-235 top-up, presumably at increasing enrichment levels. Rosatom plans to load experimental REMIX fuel assemblies into Balakovo unit 3 in June 2016, subject to Rostechnadzor licence.

While the concept is initially for both power plant and fuel cycle set-up in Russia, it can be applied to a power plant in another country, with the utility paying for both enriched uranium top-up and disposal of vitrified waste in Russia as well as the processing. A further extension of the model could be in line with tentative findings of the South Australian Royal Commission on the Nuclear Fuel Cycle: if that utility wanted to acquire uranium from Australia with the benefit of being able to send its high-level wastes for disposal in Australia, an Australian entity would own the uranium throughout the whole REMIX cycle and also the eventual vitrified high-level wastes. In this case Russia (or France, UK or Japan) simply handles reprocessing, enrichment of fresh uranium, and fuel fabrication, all on some toll basis. “

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Reply to Eclipse Now: If you don’t want nuclear “waste” here, you can hire the Russians to recycle it for you. You can even lease rather than purchase nuclear fuel, so it goes back to Russia for recycling. That way, you don’t have those dry storage casks.

It is rather silly to complain about this or that imaginary problem. There is no problem. https://sanonofresafety.org is very good at coming up with nonsensical objections to nuclear power. When you object to nuclear, the only thing you do is help the coal industry. So go to school and learn to understand it.

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@ Edward- I think Eclipse was asking, what’s so different about the Russian recycled fuel from MOX? My guess is that MOX adds separated Pu (which freaks out the Luddites), whereas the Russians add U low-enriched in U235 (which the non-proliferation mob nonsensically prefers).

Bot both are oxide fuels, that quickly poison the recycle with accumulated Pu240. Metal fuels, with a faster neutron spectrum, would go further.

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There is nothing wrong with Pu240 as a reactor fuel. Pu240 poisons bombs, not reactors. Pu240 will fission some time, even if it accumulates more neutrons and becomes another element first. I need to check on the neutron speed required to fission Pu240.

To make MOX, you could add almost any metal oxide to the Pu239 and it make it work, if you really wanted to. Strong neutron absorbers that don’t fission would be excluded. Substances that would make a lot of gas would be excluded, etcetera. We don’t. We stick to the “tradition” of adding uranium oxide. Some other metal oxide would be an unknown that might do something disagreeable when irradiated by neutrons. Rather than doing that research, why not keep it simple? MOX is mixed to work in whatever reactor you want to use it in, as if it was the original fuel for that reactor.

What’s so different about the Russian system is that they don’t have the Pu239 because we have their Pu239. So they are stretching their newly mined and enriched uranium. That saves mining.

Whatever the fuel, it will be mixed and designed in other ways to act just like whatever fuel the reactor was designed for. A lot of engineering goes into designing fuel for particular reactors. The goal is to make fuel bundles that the operator can’t tell from the original fuel. Metal fuel may be shaped with an “X” cross section instead of a round tube, or whatever. But the fuel bundle will work just like the original, or may perform a little better.

We have the Russian Pu239 because we volunteered to get rid of their and our Pu239 by making MOX as part of nuclear disarmament. Now congress is stalling on the money for the mixing plant.

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As I was saying… That’s when recycling fuel for slow neutron reactors where the Pu240 absorbs too many of the scant slow neutrons. Consequently, slow reactor fuel is spent when it reaches a certain maximum in the proportion of Pu240.

Contrarily, it is welcome in a fast neutron reactor, where it fissions and contributes to heat generation. There it is bred and burnt along with Pu239, which stays denatured with enough (>7%) Pu240 to make it useless to would-be proliferators. Consequently, fast reactor fuel should start up with a certain minimum proportion of Pu240.

A minimum proportion of U is welcome/necessary for control in both types, as it contributes more delayed neutrons than Pu.

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Edward – here is a graph of probability of fission for Pu239, U235 and U238:

Although it is a log-log chart, Pu240 doesnt even make it to the bottom of the scale as it almost always transitions to Pu241 instead: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plutonium-240
(Regrettably, I can’t paste the images in here, lest it slow the reload time further).

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@David Benson

So this simplistic analysis suggests that 100% nuclear beats 25% solar unless the solar power is almost free. Note that both alternatives are reliable in the face of cloudy days; just run the reactors on those days.

Rerun the project cost case. Assume an installation date of 2018 for the solar PV and 2025 for the NuScale modules and work out whether the overall cost case is positive. Because that’s the most reasonable assumption given what we know right now. If you wish you can throw the solar PV away after 20 years and run the NuScales at 90% after that for the rest of their lifetime of 30 years.

For the solar PV assume a solar PV LCOE of $4 / kWh (the $3.5 / kWh lowest bid from Mexico has not yet been contracted). That supposes a decently sunny location with, say a solar PV capacity factor of 30%. USA utility-scale solar PV was supposed to hit 30% for last year, I believe.

http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/apr/02/carbon-floor-price-hike-will-trigger-uk-coal-slowdown-say-analysts

Further, add in a $50 / ton carbon price to the cost of the pure NuScale solution because of the lack of emissions savings from 2018 to 2025. That is an estimate for the externality cost of the extra CO2 emitted if you delay 8 years. If you think it is too high then think again. UK CO2 price, according to the link, is already £23 / ton, or $34 / ton, so $50 is not unreasonable given that the world now has an ambition to contain temperature rises to 1.5 deg C instead of 2 deg C.

https://www.epa.gov/energy/ghg-equivalencies-calculator-calculations-and-references

The link above says CO2 is 0.68 tons / MWh for the coal generation assumed displaced, which costs $34 / MWh.

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Correction – I should have said: “in a fast neutron reactor, Pu240 transitions to Pu241 and subsequently mostly fissions”.

Hey, Eclipse and Edward – cool it, just roll with it, huh?

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I have removed the derogatory comments by Eclipse and Edward Greisch. Even on the Open Thread civility is expected. Thank you.

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A friend just sent me this link to a video of the decommissioning of the 23,000 tonne Russian nuclear powered submarine ‘Typhoon Shark’: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eAVFMDoaUd0&ebc=ANyPxKoH9PMPYiQdeApXJew74odn3KruhTlWFHDHgVwMKeVOrrv3hn-ircpsxL2fA0M26iyjLdg6wA1IKo4NMekXN-Owf05-bg&nohtml5=False . I made some notes to record my reaction as the video progressed. For what it’s worth, these were my reactions at the time.

[PL] Very interesting. A great engineering success story. Well done the Russians. Shows that decommissioning nuclear power plants is no big deal at all.

[PL] Sensational commentary, word selection, voice tone and music.

“Radioactive disaster”
“Not one but two nuclear reactors”
[PL] so what? What’s bad about that?
“Mini Chernobyl. Killing, poison”
“Oversize junk yard”
“Loss of a bygone era”

[PL] Much repetition of scaremongering commentary.

[PL] Note that for nearly all the movie, workers were in supposedly hazardous operation and wearing no protective clothing and mostly no face masks. Clearly, not considered to be dangerous.

“Highly radioactive, dangerous, not one but two reactors”
“Deadly radioactive leak”
“Enough uranium in one fuel rod to kill everyone in the city”
[PL] Yea, right – just like there’s sufficient water in a swimming pool to drown everyone in the city, and enough sperm in one ejaculation to make a million women pregnant.
“A speck of Cs the size of a pin head can kill a human within minutes” – [PL] BS
“Could contaminate the local area for centuries”
[PL] so what? Is there any significant risk of negative health consequences? The correct answer is probably not.
“Plastic cover is to stop leaks”
[PL] we use plastic covers to prevent leaks of asbestos too. So, apparently, the risk was considered no more dangerous that removing asbestos from a house.

“Collision with dry dock could cause a radioactive leak”
– [PL] perhaps true if the collision was at 10 knots.

[PL] According to the scaremongering commentary everything is “deadly dangerous”. Yet the workers are wearing no masks throughout nearly all the operations. This is the typical negative message sent by the anti-nuke propagandists, scaremongers.

Imagine how an alternative commentary could have been presented to highlight a major engineering success story and show that decommissioning is achievable and no big deal at all.

Around 70 civil nuclear power plants have been decommissioned around the world so far with no major problems. Here’s a short time lapse photo sequence of the decommissioning of Yankee Rowe http://www.yankeerowe.com/

For an alternative view of the risks of radiation and nuclear power, here is an excellent video presentation by Wade Allison, Emeritus Professor of Physics at Oxford University: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YZ6aL3wv4v0

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Certainly, feel free to use my comments. S.A.R.I has many great papers and other material.

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The graphic that Peter Lang posted is, it seems, misleading in that the prices are not adjusted for purchasing power parity. For example, in Bulgaria which is the poorest country in the EU electricity is dear while in the USA it is inexpensive indeed.

But the price is less important than the carbon dioxide emissions intensity. By this measure Bulgaria might be doing middling well.

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Great. Even Getup are telling Aussies that 100% renewables can do the job. A UTS study says so.
https://goo.gl/6eWhZi

The majority of the voting public will not go and get engineering degrees to understand this topic. When a University study tells them what they want to hear, they’ll believe it. That’s the experience with most of my friends, and they’re happy to lap it up. Nuclear has scary words like radiation and plutonium and waste. Renewables runs on the free sun and wind. It’s so beautiful they want to cry (as long as we don’t talk about the toxins in manufacturing solar PV, the rare earth’s required for wind, and the fact that these thigns won’t work).

I don’t know how we’re going to break through nuclear’s image problem and convince the majority of Australian’s to take nuclear seriously.

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@Peter Lang

I’ve added one point to your graph of graph of electricity prices vs renewables watts per person.

This extra point demonstrates the fact that

correlation is not causation.

The article you cited is very superficial, and I am surprised you were taken in by it.

Links for Texas are :

http://bizbeatblog.dallasnews.com/2016/03/why-isnt-texas-number-one-in-solar-power-answer-is-blowing-in-the-wind.html/

http://bizbeatblog.dallasnews.com/2016/04/wind-energy-association-says-texas-mainstains-leadership.html/

http://www.electricitylocal.com/states/texas/

Here’s the calculation.

Texas wind 17.7 GW, solar 530 MW total 18.23 GW. Population 27m. Watts/person = 675.

11 US cents / kWh / 1.13 exchange rate (could have chosen a much bigger historical exchange rate) = 9.7 Eurocents / kWh.

Incidentally the Texas consumer rate is currently 7.5% less than the average US domestic rate.

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Texas derives about as much power from wind turbines as from the two nuclear power plants, about 10% from each source. The remaining 80% is close to evenly divided between burning lignite and natgas.

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David,

Click to access ERCOT_2016_Outlook_Flyer.pdf

This source has wind as 17% of the total generation from Texas. And they are installing another 6GW this year which should take them to around 23% from wind by the end of 2016 if the flyer is correct. By contrast it says nuclear is 12%.

But solar is lagging way behind, which is surprising as Texas must have a lot of sun.

I’ll try to find an ERCOT source too.

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Peter Davies,

The article you cited is very superficial, and I am surprised you were taken in by it.

A dismissive comment without showing a single error in it, let alone any significant error. You provided nothing to show the trend on the chart is wrong. I am not surprised you make such superficial assertions and I doubt you are actually a qualified, professional engineer.

I have not checked whether or not the point you added is plotted correctly (i.e. same methodology used to calculate x and y as the other points on the chart), but it is a clear example of selection bias. The article is for countries on the two richest continents, and you pick one state in one country. A superficial analysis – but I am not surprised. I am surprised you are still doing a PhD since you spend a lot of time blogging your beliefs here and on other web sites. How many other extreme examples could be picked to show the opposite? Why didn’t you include Alaska, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales to provide some balance? Why didn’t you show figures for all the countries of the world, or something unbiased.

By the way, the article I referred to is just one of many showing the same trend – the higher the penetration of renewables the higher the cost of electricity.

But more important, why don’t you address the important relevant issues, instead of repeatedly dodging and avoiding them? And why don’t you acknowledge you have been shown repeatedly to be wrong on most of the important relevant issues – such as the total system cost of RE per MWh, limits to how much of the world’s energy can be supplied by renewables, the economic damage being caused by policies to incentivise renewables and the effect on the rate of improvement of human well-being.

It’s frustrating dealing with people who are continually intellectually dishonest and those who deny the relevant facts.
’10 signs of intellectual honesty’ and 10 signs of intellectual dishonesty https://judithcurry.com/2013/04/20/10-signs-of-intellectual-honesty/

DBB, Slide 10 in the presentation linked here is a plot of CO2 emissions intensity versus electricity prices for selected countries and Ontario, some with high RE penetration and some with high nuclear penetration: http://canadianenergyissues.com/2014/01/29/how-much-does-it-cost-to-reduce-carbon-emissions-a-primer-on-electricity-infrastructure-planning-in-the-age-of-climate-change/

Also note the irony in Slide 14. This is what Peter Davies advocates for. How much more misguided could he be?

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@Peter Lang

Surely it is obvious from reading the article what its flaws are. It plots what seems to be a residential electricity rate, without making any attempt to analyse the makeup of it at all.

For instance, in UK and Germany carbon taxes are applied to electricity generation from fossil fuels. These have nothing to do with the cost of renewables, but do increase the cost of consumer electricity – and they are meant to do precisely that, providing and economically efficient price signal to the power market. Carbon pricing in one form or another is likely to be adopted more widely in the USA very shortly. China is going for it too, after trialing it in some pilot regions.

So the greener a country is, the higher the cost of electricity is likely to be, irrespective of any extra cost of renewables. The chart is measuring deliberate effect not cause.

Further, Germany loads virtually all the cost of renewables subsidies on to residential consumers. So cherry picking residential prices is a deliberate distortion to put forward a particular view. Last time I looked the renewables tax would have been only 2.6 eurocents if applied equally across all German electricity users.

Further, Germany has gone in for energy efficiency in a huge way – it is leading the world. So although German residential electricity prices are high, the consumer total electricity bills are lower than the USA, depending on whether you subtract off USA air conditioning and what exchange rate you use. That is not mentioned at all in the article – a sure sign of a propaganda piece rather than something intended to give any kid of balanced view.

Now, as to Texas.

Texas has a perfect right to be on that chart. It is number 6 on the chart by population size (27m), after Germany, UK, France, Spain and Italy (not necessarily in that order). And it is expanding its wind capacity like wildfire too.

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Peter Davies,
what evidence do you have for carbon taxes raising Germany and Denmark’s electricity prices? What percentage of the price is it? Come on mate, it’s time to come clean and stop just asserting stuff but proving stuff with evidence.

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Peter Davies,

All the arguments about taxes and other regulatory imposts on electricity prices have been discussed and dissected ad nauseum. All the distractions and diversions you raise addressed repeatedly. You ought to put your head down and start learning and listening.

‘Hey, look over there” is the 4th sign of intellectual dishonesty. Never admitting error is the 5th sign of intellectual dishonesty. https://judithcurry.com/2013/04/20/10-signs-of-intellectual-honesty/

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Eclipse Now,

Accepting evidence such as a graph as proof of cause and effect without taking the trouble to understand the numbers behind it is a symptom of confirmation bias – a low standard of evidence checking applied if you agree with it and an impossibly high standard applied to those things you disagree with.

As a good example here, Peter Lang says Texas does not belong on the chart because it is a state and not a country, yet allows the USA as a whole on the chart, which is a country roughly the size of the whole of Europe. Whereas he doesn’t even look at the cherry picking of what looks like residential electricity prices, nor the fact that different levels of taxes are applied to different types of supply in different European countries.

Here’s another chart that will tell you how much difference this cherry picking makes.

That information is enough to tell you the different EU country electricity pricing works very differently, which is why Peter Lang’s chart clearly cannot be used without unpicking taxes etc. Even when you have done that you have not finished as you have to account for whether additional renewables installation has lowered the spot / pool prices for electricity overall.

So it is a whole lot more complicated than you and Peter would like to think. There is data to tease out, but the chart Peter put up does not even begin to present a worthwhile comparison.

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Dude, you’ve raved, presented more information that shows how expensive German electricity is, and haven’t answered the question. If you’re going to CLAIM German taxes are why Germany’s electricity prices are so high, then you’ve got to SHOW it. Also, aren’t they all under EU carbon trading anyway? Sorry, not up to date on that one and too tired to look.

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@Eclipse Now

If you’re going to CLAIM German taxes are why Germany’s electricity prices are so high, then you’ve got to SHOW it. Also, aren’t they all under EU carbon trading anyway? Sorry, not up to date on that one and too tired to look.

Peter Lang put up the flawed chart. He now knows some of the things which are wrong with it. He should fix it if he wants it to have the slightest credibility. Not me. As he points out, I am too busy.

Not understanding the make-up of German wholesale electricity prices is no excuse for putting up a chart comparing apples with oranges.

And carbon taxes are not the only reason why the chart is flawed. Here is a list from the top of my head.

The European carbon trading scheme is supposed to be market driven, but it is not very good at achieving a stable and effective price for carbon, so various EU countries impose a floor price to make it more effective.
EU electricity prices include other taxes such as VAT with the rate varying from country to country.
At present German consumer (and small industry) prices are loaded with the whole of the costs of renewables subsidies with heavy industry exempt (and same for the lease costs for the public land taken by the transmission lines). The renewables subsidies would be around 2.6 Eurocents/kWh if distributed equally, but are over 6 Eurocents/kWh for retail customers because of the unequal treatment.
German distribution companies are notoriously inefficient – adding as much to the cost of power as it takes to generate in the first place. Since a lot (most? all?) of them are community owned the residents paying the bills tend to feel ownership of them so aren’t screaming to make them more efficient. A little strange for the Germans but there we are.
Germany is hot on energy efficiency so the electricity bills as a proportion of household income are pretty low and lower than the USA, particularly with current exchange rates. By contrast natural gas heating bills are high (blame Putin maybe) and are the focus and do cause problems with energy poverty.
Countries in Europe are as different from each other as the US states are.
The subsidies for renewables included somewhere in the figures are for renewables installed on average some years ago (4-6?) when prices were much higher (solar PV 80% reduction in 6 years, wind 40-60% reduction). So they reflect historical prices, not the impact of installing a lot of renewables now. Thus you can’t conclude from them that a grid with a high proportion of new renewables would be much more expensive than current grids.

Admittedly the UK government now spurns cheap onshore wind (almost subsidy free now) in favour of more expensive offshore wind (which does need a mass market to develop) and very expensive EPR nuclear (also low-carbon) a la Hinkley Point, none of which helps.

The best comparison would be the costs for generation (and transmission, but not distribution or taxes) of installing high capacities of renewables plus any further backup and transmission enhancements needed on a 2020 timeframe (the earliest you could get them installed now). And a better metric than renewable watts per person would be percentage of renewable generation.

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Greg Kaan

“Storage, cheap finance and colocation all would help fossil fuel and nuclear power generation at least as much as CSP”

False.

The things that benefit most from cheap finance are those that have a high ratio of infrastructure costs to ongoing costs. So cheap finance would benefit renewables most, and nuclear second. Fossil fuels would be a distant third because of the fuel cost.

Storage is an integral part of the CSP systems, so it’s just a case of how much storage and generating capacity to install. Whereas for nuclear, storage is an extra complication. And molten salt storage is too energy inefficient to be used with fossil fuel.

Colocation with ceramic fuel cells is intended to overcome the disadvantage of extended cloudy periods. CSP systems have a large thermal mass which is always hot, which makes them very complementary with ceramic fuel cells that only work when they’re hot. And though the ceramic fuel cells are significantly more efficient than gas turbines, they still emit heat which is useful for keeping the salt molten. So although they could be colocated with conventional fossil fuel or nuclear plants, the benefits would not be as great as with CSP.

“and colocation is considerably easier when the heat source doesn’t dominate the area the way CSP demands.”
True to some extent, but nuclear also tends to dominate the area. It can of course be designed so that it doesn’t, but CSP system design could also make provision for thermochemical plants.

You seem to think evaluating renewables v nuclear involves looking at some general case to see which is better. But I consider that to be irrelevant, as the conditions vary between locations, and decisions will be made taking into account the conditions in those locations. So it’s better to look at what conditions favour renewables and why.

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I’ve seen dozens of reports that back the claim that Germany and Denmark have the most expensive electricity going. I’ve seen it all over the place. Then you offer up an unsubstantiated brain-fart “Look, shiny thing over there!” and assert (without evidence) that it’s not the technology, it’s taxation. Try again. With evidence. Even the Germans are starting to count the high cost, and low CO2 saving gains of their energy fantasies.

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Eclipse Now,
No-one is disputing the fact that Germany has the most expensive residential electricity kWh nit. But it also has industrial power kWh units no more expensive than the rest of Europe as shown in the chart I posted. And the domestic electricity bills are typically cheaper than the USA. So you cannot obviously conclude that renewables are making electricity bills more expensive. Nor does it prove that installing renewables at today’s lower prices increases the cost per kWh in a country. In fact if there were no such thing as wind and solar power then Germany might still have the highest price kWh because it would deliberately increas prices to encourage energy efficiency investments pay off. That is why German electricity bills are less than USA bills even though prices per kWh unt are higher.

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Peter, you made claims that various taxation regimes were the reason the prices were different, but used a graph showing France with the cheapest electricity in Europe and NO DATA ON TAXES. You still have not proved your claim.

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Peter, the following is called an assertion.

“In fact if there were no such thing as wind and solar power then Germany might still have the highest price kWh because it would deliberately increas prices to encourage energy efficiency investments pay off.”

It does not become a point within an argument until you show some evidence. This would fail a year 10 English essay standard, as you seem to just assert stuff is within the text without quoting it or showing where it is in the text!

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Peter, this is another assertion, but I’ll make it this time.

“Pure baloney! Germany have wasted a trillion dollars on ‘unreliables’ that only work a third of the time. That’s why they have the highest power bills in Europe! They could have spent half that on nuclear and cleaned up their entire energy system!”

See how much fun assertions are?

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Hi Peter, here is another graph that shows Germany Denmark and Spain to all have very expensive electricity, and that’s after adjusting for different dollar-purchasing powers. Note what the author doesn’t mention? An article on renew economy doesn’t mention high tax rates in his attempt to try and defend the high cost of renewable power.

http://reneweconomy.com.au/2013/graph-of-the-day-average-electricity-prices-around-the-world-24207

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Using the German electricity tax page from Clean Energy Wire and the EdF page on paying French electricity bills one sees that both have sales taxes; 19% and 20% respectively. In Germany there is also a use tax which is about 7.2% of the average bill. This is not enough to account for the fact that rates in Germany are almost twice that in France. What seems to make the difference is the German renewable energy surcharge of 22.2%.

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For Peter Davies’ edification, here is a link to a short article which is an example of persuasion as applied to management of nuclear waste.

Notice the difference between that and the futility of trying to win an argument with a sledgehammer. Peter will continue to get people’s backs up and convince them of nothing if he continues to present opinions, guesses, assertions, fables and outright intentionally cherry-picked untruths as though they are gold-plated facts and to avoid addressing the points made by others.

I recall that Peter posted, several weeks back, an assertion that he has no investments in unreliable power companies. Since then, his posts have continued to represent the prospects of the solar and wind industries in rose-tinted, glowing terms; far beyond anything that has been demonstrated to be fair representation of the facts. That, plus his claims to be a frequent attendee at renewable energy soirees around the world leave me with a distinct impression that P.D. is a paid pamphleteer for a particular industrial sector and that this is driving him to engage in some very unsalesman-like sledging of the “opposition” at every turn.

Every reader of this blog has an interest in low cost, low CO2 emitting energy. That is why we first came here and that is why we continue. We are all on the same team.

Not even motor vehicle sales persons rubbish their competition. We might not be trying to sell new cars, but we do share the goal of reducing CO2 emissions through expanded use of minimum cost low carbon alternatives to fossil fuels.

Professor Barry Brook and Emeritus Professor Ian Lowe, when collaborating in their book “Why Vs Why – Nuclear Power” about 4 years back, though presenting opposing points of view, used persuasion and facts in their presentations, not unsupported assertions. PD may not have read it, in which case I recommend it to him.

I hope that the article linked below helps to demonstrate the merits of polite, factual, rational and balanced debate, with footnotes. Note especially the humility of the author, who although being an acknowledged expert in his field does not use his knowledge and authority as spears or clubs and instead chooses to explain the limits to his knowledge and to invite contributions which he might ponder.

http://www.mub.eps.manchester.ac.uk/nuclearhitchhiker/?p=320

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Aidan Stanger

Given the short lifespan of wind and solar generators, I guess cheap finance would be of greater advantage of these technologies as well. This is hardly a compelling argument for their deployment, however, and maintenance costs must be factored in as well as fuel making wind and solar far from “free” after deployment.

“Storage is an integral part of the CSP systems”
Please look at Ivanpah as an example of a CSP system lacking storage, Molten salt storage is an added complication for CSP, just as it would be if it were to be added to the heat transfer cycle of nuclear and fossil fuel plants – that CSP needs storage to be useful in non-sunny conditions is a major factor against this technology, especially when you consider the overbuild on the capture side vs plant output required for the storage to be useful.

And then please re-evaluate all your statements about CSP with the above in mind.

“CSP system design could also make provision for thermochemical plants”

Can you please provide some ideas on how this could be achieved without building the thermochemical plants beneath the mirror arrays? Otherwise, you are talking about an integrated electrical/thermalchemical plant which then requires workers and supplies to be transported out to the remote locations where CSP plants are best deployed, not to mention financial feasibility for both sides of the plant.

“So it’s better to look at what conditions favour renewables and why”
That is exactly what we should be doing here but you and Peter Davies are posting highly speculative and selective statements vs real world, actually deployed examples that everyone else is attempting to discuss. I will give you that there are no small modular reactors currently deployed – they could be considered speculative but the technology to build them is mature as are the designs and the costings are realistic.

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Peter Davis

“But it also has industrial power kWh units no more expensive than the rest of Europe as shown in the chart I posted. And the domestic electricity bills are typically cheaper than the USA. So you cannot obviously conclude that renewables are making electricity bills more expensive”

The chart you posted is irrelevant since Germany has fixed industrial electricity prices and let the residential rate increases absorb the added generation costs due to renewables (both directly via taxes and indirectly through reducing efficiency of thermal plant operation).

The comparison between US household power bills vs German ones is a strawman argument – US housing is totally different to that of Germany. You may as well compare average fuel consumed per period per vehicle and even restrict it to, say, VW Golf TDi’s – the scenarios are different enough that you will get very different figures.

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Politico, on 2016 Apr 25, has an article on Ukraine’s nuclear power fleet. The statement is that the 15 VVER 1000 units provide 56% of Ukraine’s energy, but I assume this refers to just electricity.

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Your Spiegel article is a de-mathematized version of what I have been saying.

Therapeutic Nuclear Medicine Springer 2012 ISBN 978-3-540-36718-5

Hormesis by Low Dose Radiation Effects: Low-Dose Cancer Risk Modeling Must Recognize Up-Regulation of Protection

Click to access Feinendegen-2012_Hormesis-by-LDR_Therapeutic-Nucl-Med.pdf

PNAS: Evidence for formation of DNA repair centers and dose-response nonlinearity in human cells
Contributed by Mina J. Bissell, November 1, 2011 (sent for review September 7, 2011)

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2664640/#b81-drp-07-052

A short article with a clear hormesis graph:
http://atomicinsights.com/low-dose-radiation-doesnt-cause-cancer-helps-prevent/

https://class.coursera.org/nuclearscience-002/forum/thread?thread_id=343

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

book: “Radiation and Reason, The impact of Science on a culture of fear” by Wade Allison. The Wade Allison in England, not the other Wade Allison at Harvard.
http://www.radiationandreason.com/
Professor Allison says we can take up to 10 rems per month, a little more than 1000 times the present “legal” limit. The old limit was 5 rems/lifetime. A single dose of 800 rems could kill you, but if you have time to recover between doses of 10 rems, no problem. It is like donating blood: You see “4 gallon donor” stickers on cars. You know they didn’t give 4 gallons all at once. There is a threshold just over 10 rems/month. You are getting .35 rems/year NATURAL background radiation right where you are right now if you are where I am.

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.

Life evolved immersed in radiation.

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Chernobyl, three decades on
Science Daily
2016 Apr 26
states that the remaining radiation in the exclusion zone causes illnesses for the wildlife there. Cateracts are specifically mentioned.

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@singletonengineer

I hope that the article linked below helps to demonstrate the merits of polite, factual, rational and balanced debate, with footnotes.

Just to refresh your memory, the last time I presented a comprehensive rebuttal including extensive links (online footnotes) to a misleading post of yours containing a large number of questions on the wind thread, you claimed that my response was far too long for you to read (not surprising considering how many points you raised), that you were not going to read such a large volume of evidence against your proposition, and complained to the moderator that the site did not enforce a word limit. Unfortunately it takes more words to explain why a statement is incorrect than to make it in the first place.

Of course, consistency is a much over-rated virtue, but it is notable that you have now accused me of being both too brief and too long. Perhaps I am doing something right after all!

As far as persuasion goes, a fraction of the guys here will not change their opinions no matter how much detailed evidence is presented. Others are more open minded. The former may well get a little upset when evidence is presented which does not reinforce their views, but that is not a good reason for this site to be an online echo chamber.

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” no matter how much detailed evidence is presented. ”
Peter Davies, you still haven’t provided the evidence I’ve been asking for. That tax thing? You’ve provided zilch, so stop playing the martyr and either retract your claims or submit the evidence! Martyr-like sulking just isn’t a good look and isn’t winning you any points with this mob!

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Thanks for the balance, DBB. Eventually there will need to be broad, if not detailed or universal, agreement re the real effects of Chernobyl. I argue socially that the effects are generally overstated, but that does not mean that I wish to understate them.

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Tony Carden — Thank you for the link to an article which I had missed earlier. The conclusions are generally consistent with the later article I mentioned.

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Nuclear Power Daily
2016 Apr 27
Advances in extracting uranium from seawater …
explains that a new sorbant is 3 to 4 times as effective as prior ones.

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Eclipse Now — Depending on how many light water reactors are operating, the current uranium ores will be depleted in a century or less. Probably there are more but become increasingly expensive to extract.

Besides, if another sorbant can be devised which is about 4 times as effective as the one in the article then seawater extraction becomes competitive with current mining practice.

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Global estimates of reserves of uranium doubled in the decade to 2009, not because more was being produced mysteriously, but because of investigation. There is very good reason to expect that far more uranium, at commercial grades and costs, will be found than is currently known.

http://www.world-nuclear.org/information-library/nuclear-fuel-cycle/uranium-resources/supply-of-uranium.aspx

The World Nuclear Association has a good, easy to read article about the availability of uranium from various nations and sources, plus a few comments about thorium, at the above web address.

The article includes handy brief definitions of essential terms such as Inferred, Measured, Indicated, Probable and Proved.

There is about 3 times as much thorium as there is of uranium, however why bother to count it when no thorium reactors have been designed, thus it is only suitable for partial refuelling of certain reactor types, eg CANDU?

I’m sure that experienced professionals such as Peter Lang and Edward Greisch could provide firm guidance.

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@DBB (Boy, you walked into that one, didnt you!) Could it be that the sales blurb for the seawater method phrased it thus – “the current uranium mines will be depleted in a century or less” ?

Phrased thus, they can invoke the popular fear that the world is running out of stuff, without explicitly lying.

Seawater extraction has a special attraction to a miner in that all the daughters (Ra, Rn, etc) associated with an old uranium resource have already been dumped in the ocean by Mother Nature herself.

Runoff from superphosphate processing is much richer in U, for whose extraction Cameco already hold patents.

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“Uranium from terrestrial sources can last for approximately 100 years, according to Eric Schneider of the University of Texas-Austin.”
from the Nuclear Power Daily article referenced earlier.

It seems that Eric Schneider is less than fully informed.

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On the contrary – crustal U resource has a ballpark of a million years. See interesting BNC discussion around –
https://bravenewclimate.com/2014/03/04/entering-space-energy-resources/#comment-215506
and
https://bravenewclimate.com/2014/03/04/entering-space-energy-resources/#comment-216172

The tenet that uranium is about to run out is fundamental to the mantra that “fossil fuels” must run out soon and only “renewables” can save us from sin, climate change and nuclear war. But this is a religious truth maintained by repetition, not by evidence.

We are under pressure to join that mind-numbing repetition all the time. But, with a choice of words, we can resist. When someone speaks of “fossil fuels”, I reply in terms of “fossil carbon”, implying that emissions is the main problem. Similarly, when someone speaks of “renewables”, I reply in terms of “non-carbon fuels”. When pressed to accept wind-and-solar as a means to reduce emissions, I speak of wind-plus-gas backup and point out that we must zeroise, not “reduce” emissions.

Dr Schneider specialises in non-proliferation, not geology.

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Comparing like with like seems to be especially problemmatic when it comes to widely distributed elements such as uranium. Others include gallium and germanium, the markets for which are primarily determined not by supply and demand but by structural barriers to entry, with current suppliers favoured and intending new entrants not welcomed,as I found a decade or so back, before abandoning a proposal.

Not only are the usual geological constraints present, but up to one third of current commercial U demand has been reported (eg by IAEA, at http://www-pub.iaea.org/mtcd/publications/pdf/te_1613_web.pdf) to have been met from military stockpiles.

Commercial constraints also apply – reserves with estimated cost of production above a trigger figure are typically excluded from reports. This might be $US100 or $US230 per ton of U as yellowcake.

So, one man’s estimate of 100 years is not necessarily contrary to another’s of 23,000 years (Peter Lang, on this site, 2015), or even that there is no practical limit because the U in seawater is replenished continually due to natural erosion processes. (See: https://bravenewclimate.com/2015/10/19/sustaining-the-wind-part-3-is-uranium-exhaustible/#more-6707 and PL’s comments.)

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Greg Kaan,

A longer lifespan strengthens the case for renewables more. I think you’re underestimating their lifespan, but more data will become available the more renewable energy infrastructure is built.

Yes, I know you can have solar thermal without molten salt storage. However its economic viability is dubious, especially since the cost of solar PV has fallen so much. In locations where nuclear is the main electricity source but there’s a big evening peak demand it can’t meet, CSP might be viable with steam storage only. But I no longer consider it to be a contender for widespread use without MSS.

Some of the locations CSP plants are best deployed are remoter than others. I’m not suggesting integrating thermochemical plants with CSP at the remotest sites! There are plenty of towns and cities in sunny locations.

“That is exactly what we should be doing here but you and Peter Davies are posting highly speculative and selective statements vs real world, actually deployed examples that everyone else is attempting to discuss. I will give you that there are no small modular reactors currently deployed – they could be considered speculative but the technology to build them is mature as are the designs and the costings are realistic.”
You were the one who was dismissing CSP as a “very mature technology that has hit its limits and can only improve in an incremental sense”. I explained why this was not so. My explanation was not highly speculative, as it does not rely on technology that hasn’t yet been developed. And I make no apologies for discussing what can be done with existing technology rather than confining my argument to what’s already been done. If you’re only interested in what’s already been done, that’s fair enough – but don’t pretend that there aren’t other things which could be done.

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Eclipse Now,

Since I had spare time at home today, here are some of the links to German electricity prices.

http://energytransition.de/2015/05/german-power-bills-low-compared-to-us/

German electricity bills vs USA bills

https://www.cleanenergywire.org/factsheets/what-german-households-pay-power

Breakdown of German retail electricity costs. This gives the cost of distribution (which is excessive) and the various taxes, including the renewables surcharge. But does not explain some of the details, such as that large industrial companies are exempt from it so all the cost gets loaded on to retail prices.

http://www.brattle.com/system/publications/pdfs/000/005/115/original/What_can_(or_should)_we_take_away_from_Germany's_renewable_energy_experience.pdf?1422894112

Covers why the renewables tariff paid by consumers is higher than it would be if paid by all users. Also points out that Germany’s retail electricity prices would be among the highest in Europe even if they had not gone for renewables and decommissioning nuclear.

Click to access Agora_CP_Germany_web.pdf

Gives a clear explanation of the various taxes paid by German large industrial, commercial and domestic users. Makes the quirky point that the lower the retail cost of electricity the higher the renewables subsidy is (because the feed in tariff is fixed but has to equate to wholesale cost plus subsidies). We have the same issue in the UK. Some, but not all of the lower wholesale costs are due to the presence of zero-marginal cost power from wind and solar.

In summary, yes it is true that renewable energy in Germany increases the price per kWh. But not the size of domestic bills because usage is low compared to USA etc. And large industrial users get exemption from renewables costs and other taxes, which means they are disproportionately loaded on to domestic users. The larger users get the benefit of lower wholesale prices caused partially by renewables, without incurring any of the costs.

And lastly, I believe it is rather stupid that the Germans decided to shut down all the existing nuclear reactors even though reducing fossil fuel generation ought to be the top priority after the Paris climate conference last year. Sure they are still managing to reduce CO2 emissions by installing a lot of renewables, but they could reduce them far faster if nuclear is also retained for a few more years.

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Hi Peter,
we can agree that it was stupid for Germany to shut down nuclear, but I cannot agree that it is “Sure” that they are really doing anything about preventing CO2 through renewables when they are so unreliable as to require permanent on-going use of natural gas as a backup.
Also, I fear you are link bombing. Could you please find the pertinent paragraph and link to that? You have previously asserted such-and-such proves such-and-such, and when analysed failed the test. You asserted that German tax regimes, not German renewable technology, made it cost so much. Please share the data that proves this. I don’t have time to sit and read a dozen links that may or may not actually be relevant to your previous assertion that you still have to prove.

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@David Benson

http://bravenewclimate.proboards.com/thread/541/california-renewables-solar-backup-nuscale

A spreadsheet cost comparison for constant demand of a 60% renewable solution plus CCGT backup for California with NuScale units. The 60% renewable solution comes in just under NuScale. not quite your BPA scenario. Plenty of scope for tweaking input parameters to see what difference it makes.

http://bravenewclimate.proboards.com/attachment/download/12

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Eclipse Now — A few posts back I gave data, sources indicated, which shows that German taxes on electricity are, on a percentage basis, not much higher than in France. However, in Germany, but not in France, there is a renewables surcharge of over 22% on the average bill for individuals.

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Russia’s nuclear nightmare flows down radioactive river
2016 Apr 29
AP News
The source is in Mayak, equivalent to Hanford and Savanah River operations in the USA. Unfortunately, it seems from this article that no decent epidemiology is possible. Qualitatively, whatever low level radiation is present does seem to be having health effects.

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I think this is an instance of this manipulation of the news sources on the Internet.

Dropping DBB’s keywords in the browser produced a large number of hits, many of them with the timestamp 8:36 AM and 7:36 AM, presumably two time zones in the USA. How did somebody manage to simultaneously distribute a nearly identical story across (the appearance of) many separate news agencies?

The few that I clicked on had different photos, all dated from April 2016, with captions implying that innocent people were being exposed to a terrible but unspecified hazard. The news sources have not delved into their archives to find photos, they have simply used the photos supplied in the press release. If it was a release, it was a release with no news more recent than 1957, except the recent photos.

There was a recurrent assertion, “Worse, environmentalists say, is the facility’s decades-old record of using the Arctic-bound waters of the Techa River to dump waste from reprocessing spent nuclear fuel, hundreds of tons of which is imported annually from neighboring nations.” When this phrase is dropped in the browser, the search engine gives me 858 hits.

This assertion is a conflation of two factoids. I think you’ll agree that the conflation is mischievous, even malicious.…

In the 1950s the Soviet Union reprocessed short-run fuel at Mayak, dumping chemical liquids including fission products and nitrate with neutralising ammonium into the nearby lakes (initially directly into the river!). This uncontrolled era ended with the explosion at Kyshtym in 1957.

A reprocessing centre is a logical place to store used fuel. Considering that Russia is developing fast neutron reactors, Mayak may be planned to recycle the used fuel into fresh fuel for the fast neutron reactors.

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The Associated Press sends its stories over the wire to subscribing news organizations which then choose which stories to run, i.e., publish. Even The New York Times sometimes does so.

The Mayak, Russia, Wikipedia page points out that Mayak continues to dump low level wastes into the river. The page lists a variety of other transgressions committed there.

The various health problems mentioned in the AP article, not what is called a press release, might be related to low level radiation but might also be caused by just chemicals released into the river by Mayak operations. The situation around Chernobyl is much clearer; one irradiation event.

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