The Nuclear Comeback

The natural gas crisis caused by the cutoff of supplies from Russia earlier in the year crystallized for many nations the threat of being overly dependent on another country for their energy supplies. Over the past decades, countries in Europe have shut down nuclear reactors, which caused them to turn to other energy supplies – like gas from Russia. Bulgaria began pushing for a return to nuclear power during the crisis, and concerns over gas supplies have already prompted Germany to reverse course and change their stance on phasing out nuclear power.

Italy has decided that this seems to be a prudent course of action:

After a 20-year ban, France helps Italy embrace nuclear energy

MILAN, ITALY – Twenty years after banning new nuclear plants, Italy is turning to France to restore its nuclear program.

On Tuesday, Italy’s Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi signed a cooperation deal with President Nicolas Sarkozy for the construction of four power plants in Italy.

Italy shut down its four nuclear plants following a 1987 national referendum that rode a wave of fear and outrage over Russia’s Chernobyl reactor meltdown. Now it is joining a growing number of European countries – including Germany, Slovakia, and Bulgaria – that are returning to nuclear energy due to concerns both about carbon emissions and about the reliability of energy supplies from Russia.

Even without the gas crisis, this was inevitable because the long-term supply situation isn’t overly favorable for Europe. It is inevitable that the UK will turn back to nuclear power in a big way (lest their citizens freeze as fossil fuel supplies deplete) and it is inevitable that we in the U.S. will expand nuclear power in a big way in the decades ahead.

Regular readers know that I strongly favor an expansion of renewable energy, but renewable electricity is starting from a very small base. Electricity produced from renewables (minus hydropower) is less than 3% of total U.S. electricity production, and even with aggressive growth projections that is unlikely to change dramatically. Why? Total renewable electricity production in 2007 hit an all-time high of 105.3 million megawatt-hours. The growth over 2006 was impressive; almost 10 million megawatt-hours. (2008 numbers aren’t yet complete, but it looks like they will be about 10 million megawatt-hours than 2007). Yet the average annual growth of electricity demand over the previous 10 years was 66 million megawatt hours. At that rate, renewable electricity production could quadruple in the next 5 years and just about cover historical demand growth.

So if we are serious about moving away from coal, I believe we will have to expand nuclear power. We would need to add renewables at six times our current rate just to keep up with historical growth rates. Displacing much coal is out of the question unless demand can be curtailed. As I have said before, I am not opposed to nuclear power by any means. I understand that there are environmental issues that aren’t completely resolved. But you can make that case for just about any energy source.

I do know one thing about human nature, though. When energy starts to become sufficiently expensive – as gasoline did last summer – environmental concerns will take a back seat to economic concerns. Look no further than the popularity of the ‘drill here, drill now‘ campaign. This was one issue where John McCain did get some traction during the presidential campaign. If gas is $1.50 a gallon, people are concerned about the environmental impacts of expanded drilling. At $4.00 a gallon, they are prepared to let you drill in their back yard.

The same will be true of nuclear power. Opposition will be inversely proportional to the cost of electricity.

56 thoughts on “The Nuclear Comeback”

  1. An uncle did a study for Alabama Power and Light about ten years ago. They wanted to know the best way to warn people away from nuclear waste 5000 or 50,000 years from now,on the assumption that civilizations come and go,and there’s no guarantee it won’t happen in the future. They settled on a big skull and crossbones carved in rock.

    Oil is up over 30% in the last two weeks Benny. I don’t see $10 on the horizon.

  2. It is interesting to ponder nations with a lot of nukes and PHEVs. And so why do we need oil?
    What is even more interesting is that there seems to be nothing technical stopping the nuke-PHEV model from happening (yes, sure, lots of wind, dsolar, geothermal too). We know how to build nukes; and we seem to be on the cusp of commercially viable PHEVs.
    This strikes me as a bright future. Cleaner air, quieter streets, more money at home creating wealth and jobs, instead of flowing to thug states.
    I confess to be puzzled by oil prices; on the other hand I have more than once wondered if prices on the NYMEX are manipulated. The CFTC has all but admitted there are many large traders on the NYMEX, and they don’t know who those traders are. If I were Russia or OPEC, I would manipulate prices on the exchanges. Of course.
    In addition to dubious NYMEX trading, we have OPEC cutting production by 4 mbd.
    Even so, I just don’t see how oil will stay above $10 forever. Production is exceeding demand by several mbd, at least.
    I very much hope you are right, and global and US economic output will start going up, not down, right away.
    But jeez, when Japan’s exports fold by 40 percent y-o-y, and freight cars are piling up on every siding in America, and 500,000 people a month are thrown out of work, I get the willies.
    We have not see an up month in real economic output for at least a half-year.
    Add to that, the reaction to the higher prices of 2004-2008. After previous spikes, world demand crumpled, and came back only meekly. Each spike leaves reactions embedded in the economy and government policy going forward.
    We may never again see the world need 87 mbd. This is the centipede glut.

  3. About Amory Lovins:
    I would like to defend him very briefly. Though extremely bullish on renewable and efficiency to a fault, he still gives great engineering analysis of all options on the table. For instance, when he discusses nuclear engineering, he doesn’t forget about insurance, which has never been provided by the private sector (this contributes to his belief that smaller electrical generating units can more profitably operate in the long run). He understands economics and markets very well and tries to make sure that all externalities are internalized by business, a goal that I believe is necessary to truly free markets. He doesn’t accept that what is true today will always be true and tries to influence that future.

    As for his stance on cellulistic ethanol, well, I can’t explain everything.

    On the whole, I much prefer him and his optimistic viewpoint to Robert Bryce, I read his whole book and though well researched, I’m not sure where he stands on any of the issues.

    RR – have you or other engineers on this blog read any of Lovins’ work? Some of it is definitely worth checking out.

  4. The overarching difference between nuclear and other energy sources is energy density. A very small amount of resource can supply a huge amount of energy. Every few years a couple of flat bed trucks deliver all the fuel that is needed for two years.

    I have read that new nuclear ships have cores that will last the life of the ship.

    Having a certain portion of your energy supply being immune to supply disruption provides a warm fuzzy feeling.

  5. Phil – yes, Lovins was REQUIRED reading as an undergraduate engineer. Since I’ve read about as much Lovins as I can stomach. Which is like eating a jeep. You just have to take it slowly in little pieces.

    He is all happy talk, new-age. Think of him as the Joel Osteen of energy. He is pretty much clueless about how the real world works.

  6. David – the drop in power generation efficiency happened when the government created electric utility monopolies.

    Until then private companies generated and sold power. They had to make their plants as efficient as possible. They were free to make and sell coproducts. Electric utilities sold power only. Another monopoly was set up to sell heat (natural gas or fuel oil).

    You can “trigenerate” to solve the winter/summer problem by making chilled water during the summer. As long as you have a backup heat sink (river water, cooling tower, air fins) you can continue to generate during the shoulder seasons.

  7. KofK…thanks. I also noticed that GE was showing of a cogeneration plant in China (trigeneration, to use your terminology, since it also provides chilled water) for Hillary's visit.

    I'd really like to know the capital efficiency of saving energy by laying steam & chilled water pipes in a local area versus the capital efficiency of generating energy from solar or wind and then carrying it 500 or 1000 miles over HV transmission lines.

  8. But is Joel Osteen related to Claude Osteen? If so, we have to cut him some slack.

  9. “They wanted to know the best way to warn people away from nuclear waste 5000 or 50,000 years from now”

    Why would we need to warn people away from nuclear waste?

    Oh, because it is dangerous. It releases energy, you know.

    But we call things that release energy “fuel”, not “waste”.

    Shut up and keep handing out those “global warming will destroy the planet” pamphlets.

  10. Joel is not related to the former Dodger.

    “Osteen explains that he tries to teach Biblical principles in a simple way, emphasizing the power of love and a positive attitude.”

    Sort of like Lovins explaining energy, no sin and suffering, just positive attitude. You get paid to eat the free energy lunch.

    David – complicated combined heat-power-cooling systems are very site dependent. I don’t think you can make any generalizations comparing rates of return between systems.

  11. “Shut up and keep handing out those “global warming will destroy the planet” pamphlets.”

    HA! I’m in the global cooling camp Kinuachdrach. Too many radioactive waste dumps have become Superfund clean-up sites to be snide about the issue. If we have radiation making its way into groundwater despite all the regulations and oversight in the US,how safe do you think disposal sites are in those third world cesspools of corruption? How do we know North Korea isn’t dumping spent fuel rods in the ocean? Maybe Kim Ping Pong has a master plan to do away with 6 billion capitalists,or maybe he’s just a tightwad. Would anyone be surprised? He’s nuttier than a fruitcake.

  12. G-d bless you Kingo. Who remembers those old names anymore?
    I actually cut Joel Osteen some slack. At least he emphasizes the positive, in a religion. That’s seems okay to me. Much better than hate-mongering.
    That is different from Lovins wishing green to be commercially viable.
    Still, I am sure the lay public will ever understand the concept of subsidy. We subsidize roads, through general tax revenues. We subsidize farmers, to the tune of $23 billion a year. We will now add to these wrongs by subsidizing green energy.
    To a minor extent, I actually thin subsidizing green energy makes sense. Pollution is a cost, and imported oil is a cost that the simple price mechanism does not capture.
    Here’s wishing to a prosperous future, green or not!

  13. It would appear that Maury or his uncle does not understand the difference between ‘radiation’ and radioactive elements (isotopes). Radiation is a method of energy transfer. Radioactive material is an unstable isotopes that decay and release energy. Maury’s ignorance is something to be ashamed of because my duties in the Navy required me to train 18 year old sailors the basics of radiation protection. This took about 4 hours and then they were tested. The best answer I ever got was from one of my lead petty officers taking an annual refresher course. His answer to the question ‘how do your protect yourself from radiation?’ was “with a mountain of paper work.” I has to give full credit because he was correct but I was expecting ‘time, distance, ans shielding’.

    In the history of US commercial nuclear power electricity generation, no one has been harmed and there have been no releases to the environment that exceeded regulatory limits that are two orders of magnitude below average background levels.

    Maury is also confused about US weapons programs. Places like Hanford were chosen because distance was a method of radiation protection. Since the public was protected , it was very safe.

    The point is that regulations require a reasonable assurances that the public be protected. The nuclear industry or any other industry are not required to address every concern of every citizen. So what will the NRC say when a Lovins followers says we should build CHP? The will state that it is the mandate of the NRC to regulated safety, issues of how we produce power should be referred to the PUC.

  14. I nearly fell out of my airplane seat on Wednesday when I read this: Greenhouse gas villain rehabbed: Companies develop methods to repurpose carbon dioxide .

    Let’s see, mobile communications business not working out for you in 2006. No problem! Just go into the free energy business! All those people who spent their entire lifetimes working in this sector – idiots!

    Or maybe Carbon Sciences should heed the great philosopher, Homer Simpson: “In this house we OBEY the laws of thermodynamics!”

  15. Back to the topic. Is nuclear power making a comeback? No! It would appear so based on how RR gets his information. RR is a slave to the popular media. Nuclear power never went away.

    Since its inception, light water reactors have proven to be an excellent way to produce energy. The fleet of US LWR have performed so well it is like 26 new reactors have been built. Many US reactors are approaching their deign life. The universal decision since about 1996 is to keep them running.

    Think of it this way. I have not bought a new PU since my 1989 Ford Ranger keeps running so well. At least in my case, sales of PUs are down because they did such a good job of designing it and I have maintained it.

    So one of the reason we have not built new nukes in the US is that we have not needed them. Each refueling a new core is installed. New reactor core are a fantastic work of engineer. Core reload analysis can now be done on a lap top during lunch using code with 30 years of validation. Furthermore, new cores produce electricity twice as long. This means half the waste even if spent fuel is not processed. If Maury is worried about ground water contaminated two glaciation periods from now, there will be a lot less long lived isotopes which of course are not radiation hazard.

    What has happened in the US is that the price of coal has been creeping up while the cost of operting a nuke plant has been inching down. In the power industry, it is necessary to think ahead 10 years ahead. I do not know how many of the 30+ on the drawing boards will be get built. However, it have a new coming on line and can beat the price of coal generated electricity life will be good.

    US, German, and French engineers did not stop building nuke plants, have building them in Asia.

  16. Here’s an interesting piece of news, courtesy of the WSJ: Taken together, the supply-side reductions appear to be a lot bigger than the 1.5 million barrels or so that have disappeared from the global demand side of the ledger. “They’ve really mopped up the excess,” Mr. Gerber says. And that means that OPEC might just be able to nudge oil prices toward its comfort zone between $60 and $80 a barrel sometime this year, he says.
    So Benny,
    Before giving us another mindless chant involving insects and their number of legs, do you have any data (something more recent than the 70s would be nice) to counter Mr. Gerber’s contensions?

    King: That CO2 to fuel is just as nutty as most Hydrogen dreams. And yet, it seems, people can’t shake off the stupidity of it. What gives?

    And it sounds like we need to send Homer Simpson to Congress: from your quote he appears much better informed than most of our officitutes. Perhaps someone can start a campaign to actually get Homer Simpson elected in the place of one of these oxygen thiefs.

  17. Is nuclear power making a comeback? No! It would appear so based on how RR gets his information. RR is a slave to the popular media. Nuclear power never went away.

    Buy yourself a clue, Kit. That way you won’t stick your foot in your mouth as you revert to your childish insults. Italy in fact did go away from nuclear power. Germany moved away from nuclear power. Other countries in Europe have moved away from nuclear power. So it is certainly making a comeback. Maybe the problem is that you don’t understand the definition of ‘comeback’?

    Please try extra hard to read for comprehension next time. OK?


  18. Maybe the better title for this thread is “The Nuclear Comeback in the US”. Looking at this list: NRC License Applications indeed the number of applications is ramping up. Low US natural gas and coal prices for more than 20 years plus the public’s raction to anti-nuclear propaganda like “The China Syndrome”, resulted in a dearth of new reactor applications.

    We haven’t really seen much of a debate yet as the first hearings aren’t for another year or two. I plan to load up the family and head down to South Texas to advocate stronly for the two new reactors they want to install there.

  19. RR is a slave to the popular media.
    Snap out of it, Kit! That’s the most ridiculous charge I’ve seen in quite a while. You may not agree with, RR, but give the man his due: he does his own thinking, and he not only digs up the information he needs, but also analyze it for BS, something nobody in the MSM seems capable of doing anymore.

    He also spends a lot of his free time putting together this here blog. You (like the rest of us) obviously also enjoy the benefit of that.

    You do add good observations to the discussion, Kit. But the insulting does nothing. Cut out the insulting, and maybe we can have a civil discussion, even when we disagree.

  20. “Maury’s ignorance is something to be ashamed of because my duties in the Navy”

    Listen up peckerhead. You can’t educate me on a darn thing. Almost everyone here is smarter than myself,but you aren’t even close. You seem to have had a few dozen careers in your miserable life. I can see why you couldn’t hold a job.

    “Maury is also confused about US weapons programs”

    Since Maury never mentioned US weapons programs,maybe it’s you who is confused Kit P.


  21. I work with a man like Kit. He knows he isn’t a leader. He knows he isn’t a visionary. He isn’t an inventor. But he is looked at as an expert in a narrow field. But when someone steps into his realm of expertise, he lashes out. He brings out the flamethrower. One of my coworkers suggested that it is because this is all he has. If his expertise is threatened, then he has nothing left. So he lashes out and belittles and insults those who venture too close. This is what I think Kit’s problem is. He sees himself as an electricity expert, and wants to give off the impression that he knows more than anyone else. He does this by insulting.

  22. No insult intended RR. Let me ask you something. When journalists report on your industry, how accurate are they? When politician make statements, do they reflect the reality?

    Yes, RR I am being critical of your shallow analysis but I did support my position as you have requested. Take a deep breath after someone does not agree with you and read for comprehension.

    A neutral example is a coal plant supplying electricity to a left coast city. City leaders claim to have moved away from coal. I checked. The coal plant is still there burning as much coal as ever. Since the that city sold the plant something has changed. The new company is producing more electricity with few emissions.

    Talk versus production.

    If you judge nuclear power based on production of electricity and safety, you will find a story of continuous improvement. If you want to judge an industry based what journalists and and politicians think you may find that I disagree a lot.


    “We haven’t really seen much of a debate yet as the first hearings aren’t for another year or two.”

    Actually, the first round has already occurred. If you do not believe me go to the NRC web site.

    The Clinton Admin predict that 1/3 of nukes would shut down early and one third would operate for 40 years. The number now is 100% will operate for 60 years. Furthermore since all outside the industry agreed that no more nukes would be built in the US, two more have come on line. Watts Bar Unit 2 has resumed construction and should be making electricity by 2012. Two other reactors are being evaluated to resume construction. Every core reload, every power uprate, every plant life extension undergoes a lengthy regulatory process that includes public debate.

    The subtle point that you will not read in the NYT is that the nuclear industry has a 10 year winning streak. The case law is settled. I do encourage you attend. Anti-nukes are very entertaining and there is no admission charge.

    “You can’t educate me on a darn thing.”

    Maury we agree on that.

    “Since Maury never mentioned US weapons programs,maybe it’s you who is confused Kit P.”

    So what was Maury talking about wheb he wrote,

    “Too many radioactive waste dumps have become Superfund clean-up sites to be snide about the issue.”

  23. Optimist:
    My mindless rant is that crude demand, based on contracting economies worldwide, will obviously fall by a lot more than 1.5 mbd.
    One of the frustrating realities of the global oil market is the lack of real-time data, or even monthly data.
    Therefore, we are groping in the dark, all of us, including Mr Gerber (I thought he made baby food).
    Right now we do not know what global demand is, in mbds.
    However, the US economy contracted at a 6 percent rate in the fourth quarter, and Japanese exports were off by more than 40 percent in the January. Freight cars are being idled in the US, so much so there is no place to park ’em, and port traffic at LA-Long Beach harbor is off by 20 percent.
    It gives me no joy to assume the global economy is going to shrink by 5 to 10 percent in 2009. Add to that accumulating and embedded market reactions to higher oil prices of 2004-2008.
    Based on this, I would assume that oil demand will fall by about 10 percent in 2009, or 8.7 mbd. That already has and will flood oil markets. The centipede glut.
    I will refer to something later than 1979, and that is 1998, when oil hit $10 on a much less serious Far East recession.
    Look for $10 oil, then buy BP or COP, or some other oil giant that pays a dividend.
    Still, I am not sure that is a good idea. PHEVs may render oil into a backwater industry. It was already a very mature industry even before 2004-2008.
    We may never see 87 mbd of demand again. The globe may transition to a post-fossil economy, that I define as one in which demand for crude oil decreases very year.

  24. I’m neither for nor against nuclear power. In a place like Arizona, we got lots of sunpower and little water to cool a thermoelectric plant. What other people want to do in their backyards is their business.
    I’d rather pay for solar panels than a new nuclear reactor. The pricetag is a known value and it can start producing juice tommorrow. A nuke will cost unknown dollars and take unknown decades to get permission to fire up.

    Anyways, what we are seeing in the USA is utilities lining up to get taxpayer subsidies if they choose to build a nuke tommorrow. They aren’t turning shovels, and there’s no reason to believe they intend to turn shovels.

  25. I was referring to the 100+ radioactive waste sites the Superfund is currently cleaning up Kit P. I don’t know or care where the waste originated. It’s deadly stuff,and I don’t want it in my groundwater. What’s more important,having electricity or NOT having four-legged children?

  26. “I don’t know or care where the waste originated. It’s deadly stuff”

    The reason it is "deadly" is that atoms are disintegrating, releasing energy. Fuel, not waste.

    What we have is a political problem, not a technical one. Technically, the human race knows how to recycle (that's right "recycle" — feels good, doesn't it?) so-called nuclear waste into fuel. Generate even more power, keep even more babies warm & comfy.

    But the Political Class have an interest in spreading fear and creating poverty — they believe your poverty is their ticket to political power, which is all they crave. And so the US, which developed nuclear power half a century ago, now lacks even the capability to manufacture the pressure vessels which new nuclear power plants will need.

    Let's keep hoping for change.

  27. RR: … have already prompted Germany to reverse course and change their stance on phasing out nuclear power.

    Did you mean Sweden? Germany will change, but hasn’t yet.

    robert: Anyways, what we are seeing in the USA is utilities lining up to get taxpayer subsidies if they choose to build a nuke tommorrow. They aren’t turning shovels, and there’s no reason to believe they intend to turn shovels.

    They aren’t turning shovels because they don’t yet have construction licenses. But several of them are leaning forward, spending nontrivial amounts on those license applications and signing construction contracts.

  28. Did you mean Sweden? Germany will change, but hasn’t yet.

    No, I mean Germany. Angela Merkel reversed course two years ago over Germany’s plans to phase out their nuclear reactors.

    Russian gas cutoff energizes nuclear comeback

    In 2000, German leaders announced a plan to phase out nuclear power – 17 reactors supply about a third of the nation’s electricity. In September 2007, however, Chancellor Angela Merkel scuttled the phaseout. The decision came after Russia shut off the Druzhba oil pipeline, which accounts for 20 percent of Germany’s oil imports, over a dispute with Belarus.

    Cheers, RR

  29. To Kit P:

    Kit, here once again we have multiple people wasting energy responding to gratuitous insults on your part. I am waiting for a plane, and could be enjoying my book, but instead I have to divert energy into your behaviors. Others have had to do so as well. So this is your final warning. I repeat, your final warning. Future posts from you containing gratuitous insults will be deleted fully. If you say “You are an idiot” followed by a wonderful, well-documented post, it will be deleted. There are multiple examples of this sort of behavior in just this thread. The way you responded to Maury, and the way you responded to me will no longer be tolerated.

    Let’s try a little coaching with you. This past two weeks, I received a performance appraisal from my CEO, and I gave performance appraisals to my direct reports. My CEO said that multiple people rated me very highly on my ability to deal with people. I dish out praise when it is deserved, but I also do not shy away from problems. I write that preface so you understand that people who know me respect how I deal with people – including people whose performance needs serious improvement. So ignore what I am about to tell you at your own peril.

    If you worked for me, you would have received a verbal warning, followed by a written warning regarding your behavior. It wouldn’t matter if you are a productive employee; if people are wasting energy due to your behavior, this is not acceptable because you are making everyone less efficient. So here we would sit, with you on the brink of being fired. And mark my words, I would follow through with that. I don’t know if your current employer tolerates that type of behavior, but I think it is more likely that you do know how to behave properly, and you do behave around people who know you. Here, where you are anonymous, perhaps your true self shows. If that is the case, then your true self is not welcome. But what I recommend that you do – in case you really can’t see the problem, is to ask yourself two questions before posting a response. 1). Would I say the same thing to a coworker sitting across the table from me? 2). Would I take offense if someone said this to me? If that doesn’t fix your problem, then I think we have some deeper issues here.

    On to the specifics of your response.

    Yes, RR I am being critical of your shallow analysis but I did support my position as you have requested.

    No, you didn’t. It is your comprehension at issue, that’s all. Regarding the disagreement itself, here is a more appropriate way to start your response: “Actually, there was no need for a nuclear comeback in the U.S.” I would have felt no need to reply to this, because I never said that the nuclear comeback was specific to the U.S. Nobody here thinks that nuclear in the U.S. went away. I have some friends that work at the South Texas Project outside of Bay City, Texas. I am well aware that this plant never stopped producing. However, the U.S. is not the entire world, and nuclear did go away, or there were plans for a phase out, in many European countries. Hence the focus early in the article on Europe, with a specific link explaining Italy’s reversal of course.

    You apparently lack the comprehension skills to make this connection. But then you worsen the situation by throwing in an insult before you put your comprehension skills on display. This makes you look like an idiot, but it also then prompts people to respond.

    Take a deep breath after someone does not agree with you and read for comprehension.

    It is your inflated sense of self-importance that causes you to believe that it is your disagreement with me that I find annoying. Regular posters will roll their eyes at this, because everyone here has disagreed with me at some point. But that didn’t lead to insults on my part or their part. So get it through your head that this is the problem, not your disagreement. When you write something like “Maury or his uncle does not understand the difference…”, or ” Maury’s ignorance is something to be ashamed of…” or “RR is a slave to the popular media” – nothing good is going to come from that. It invites hostility and diminishes your arguments. You apparently think it enhances them, but as I tell others “You don’t build yourself up by trying to knock others down.”

    You need to get it clear in your mind that I don’t do this as a job; I do it because I like it. But because it isn’t a job, I don’t feel compelled to go out and spend 8 hours on a 2,500 word feature article each week. Sometimes I will see a link that I find interesting or worth debating, and I will post it and make some comments. Other times, I will make an in-depth, original analysis of a particular energy topic. This is a mix that works well for me; when I am short on time, I can throw something out there to spur discussion. If you have issues with that, my advice to you is to go start your own blog, and do it like you think it should be done.

    That is all. If I ever feel compelled to again spend time pointing out your behavioral problems – which I have seen on other boards as well – you won’t post here again.


  30. RR you are right about one thing. I would not be part of your team.

    Rather than waste time I will get to the issue. I do not waste much time listening to either journalists of or politicians. I look to see what actually happens.

    The laws regarding the phase out of nuclear power have not changed in Germany regardless of what the RR concludes from reading the CSM. On the other hand, the only nuke plants shut in Germany have been old small ones that would have likely shut down anyway. The generation of electricity in Germany with nuclear power continues on just as if there were no debate.

    Our elected leaders often pass laws that lead to regulations that are not congruent with reality. California mandated BEV by 1998. How is that working?

    This week a debate about Yucca Mountain funding is occurring. Both President and Senator Clinton have voiced opposition to a spent fuel repository at Yucca Mountain. Since I worked on that project for several years at the time, I know the decision to move forward with Yucca Mountain President Clinton desk when he left office. Bush decided to move forward. Bush also found a treaty on AGW signed by Gore in the waste basket. Bush publicly stated he was leaving the Kyoto treaty where it belonged. Both President and Senator Clinton were very critical about Bush if not downright insulting.

    Eight years later, the construction permit is under review by the NRC. The reason Yucca Mountain is not dead is that it is codified in the Nuclear Waste Policy Act (NWPA). For Harry Reid to kill Yucca Mountain he would have find credible evidence that the public is not protected (which he can not do) or change the NWPA by getting 50 Senators to agree with him.

    “I was referring to the 100+ radioactive waste sites the Superfund is currently cleaning up Kit P. “

    I have worked on the cleanup of superfund sites that have names like Hanford and Savanna River. Maybe Maury could name some more but those are all associated with nuclear weapons production not generating electricity.

    Like Maury I do not want bad things to happen because of generating electricity. If Maury could provide one concrete example of that related to generation of electrical his claims of deadly would be more creditable.

    We do know that bad thing can happen thanks to Russia and Japan. While working on Yucca Mountain I spent a lot of time studying the bad things that could happen. All of the people that were over exposed and even killed in the US were a result of medical use of radiation. Last year I had cuase to at the annual report to Congress, I am pleased to say the medical industry did not hurt anyone with radiation by making mistakes. They made a few reportable mistakes but the improvement of 10 years was impressive.

    So Maury based on performance your concerns are unfounded. Your safety is ensured. I attended a hearing for a new nuke at an existing 30 year old plant. One speaker inferred that deadly spent fuel rods were laying a around the plant. I was holding a pamphlet I picked up showing spent fuel in dry storage with two plant employees standing next to it.

    So Maury, RR wants me to be nice when you make accusations. Have I been nice enough​

  31. No, I mean Germany. Angela Merkel reversed course two years ago over Germany’s plans to phase out their nuclear reactors.

    Merkel is publicly opposed to the phase-out, but it’s still the law, and will be until this year’s election at the earliest.

    “Merkel’s party may be the dominant partner in the governing coalition, but the SPD are sticking to the phase-out decision. She said that her personal conviction is not capable of changing the coalition’s policy.

    Germany will elect a new government around September 2009. Deutsche Welle speculated that Merkel’s CDU may wish to partner for the contest with the liberal Free Democratic Party, which supports overturning the nuclear phase-out.”
    Merkel: Nuclear phase-out is wrong

    “Divisions over energy policy are already beginning to show within the so-called grand coalition. The CDU favors extending the life of the country’s 17 nuclear power plants, which are scheduled to be shut down by 2021 according to legislation passed by under former Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder when his SPD governed with the Green Party.”
    Merkel May Bundle Energy, Environment Policy After Elections

  32. robert–

    i found the title of item and content reflective of current political/financial attitudes in many parts of the world today. change on the subject is dynamic, thus the wide range of knowledge/comment of the readership.

    the purpose of the article for the majority is achieving your objective.


  33. “RR you are right about one thing. I would not be part of your team.”

    Kit is a consistent lad. Even after being warned, he still tests the waters. Here is Kit trying to elevate himself by saying he is too good to be managed by RR. Kit I don’t remember him saying he would pick you for his team. He just said that here’s how he would handle you if you were. Even so, by being here you are on the team who comments on his blog. Since he has the power of deletion he can fire you. So I think you can read into his comments that this is what you should expect and this is how he expects you to behave.

    “Since I worked on that project for several years at the time”

    I don’t recall any Kit working on the project. Were you that nice older chap who cleaned the offices? Maybe you should post your resume, because I don’t think there’s a damn person here who believes you are an engineer but that’s obviously what you want everyone to think. I think that’s where your problem is. You took some community college classes and got a two year technical degree and are convinced you are just as qualified as the engineers who tell you what to do every day. So you walk around with that chip on your shoulder and relish the chance for payback. I know the type. Here on this blog you get to shoot insults at a well known engineer. It must be your dream come true.

    “Like Maury I do not want bad things to happen because of generating electricity. If Maury could provide one concrete example of that related to generation of electrical his claims of deadly would be more creditable.”

    You mean something like Chernobyl? Or do you want to rephrase the request to be more specific?

  34. Maury wrote,

    “I was referring to the 100+ radioactive waste sites the Superfund is currently cleaning up Kit P.”

    Dave wrote,
    “You mean something like Chernobyl?”

    Yes, Dave that is what I mean.

    Kit wrote,

    “We do know that bad thing can happen thanks to Russia and Japan.”

    I am sure Dave knows that Chernobyl is not a superfund site In the US nor is it a commercial US nuclear power plant.

    Russia my friend is a different place.

    Kit wrote,
    “I don’t recall any Kit working on the project.”

    I worked on the YMP doing safety classification of spent fuel handling equipment and the TSPA. I got use both my ME and environmental engineering experience. I worked out of our Richland office but both of my bosses on different part of the projects asked me to move to Las Vegas. Our work was audited. How I did my work identified as a best practice. Kind of a navy thing, it always easier to do right the first time. I do not like DOE projects because it is more about spending the budget than getting the job done but that was a long time ago.

    In any case, YMP is under review and documents are available at the NRC website.

    I was at a conference in DC in the early 80s after NWPA was passed. One presenter show how verified high level waste could be stored in a drinking water reservoir and not exceed safe drinking water limits. All you need to do the calculation is a slide rule, a chart of the nuclide’s, and the leach rate out of the glass. Since the fission products decay faster than they leach out of the glass, if it safe on day one, it is safer on day two. The problem goes away with time in a very predictable faction.

    Just keep spent fuel under a few feet of water or in a concrete cask for shielding. At Yucca Mountain, the spent fuel is stored in stainless steel canisters 1000 feet above the ground water and 100 feet below the surface.

    So if Maury is worried about ‘deadly’ waste in his ground water, he will have to live 100,000 and move to Death Valley.

    I hope that answers you question Dave. I am not saying that something will never happen, somewhere, someplace but keeping ‘deadly’ levels of fission products out of ground water is not that hard. If you would like to share how you would accomplish that task please feel free to educate me.

  35. PHEVs may render oil into a backwater industry.
    You’re kidding, right? Surely you’re not predicting the end of the oil industry based on an almost non-existent technology.

    I think it is much more likely that PHEV will follow the HEV trajectory: hardly visible for several years, and then propelled to the forefront by the next price spike for oil. Even that assumes that PHEV can prove itself competitive with conventional ICE in the next few year.

    For the record, I remain unconvinced.

    I will refer to something later than 1979, and that is 1998, when oil hit $10 on a much less serious Far East recession.
    And a number of other factors. We’ll see.

  36. In “More Reality Checks for Algal Biodiesel”, published only two days after suggesting that nuclear energy must make a comeback, you give honor to honesty that “suggests a very poor energy return”.

    The nuclear energy industry propaganda consistently implies that fuel rods appear out of thin air, as if by magic. With current nuclear technologies and diminishing uranium ores, we may soon be required to invade Canada, Australia, and Kazakhstan in order to fuel only a small portion of the reactors imagined. Then, every few generations, we will have to replace all those imagined thousands of reactors while burying and abandoning the toxic residue of the prior collection.
    Do we have any right to literally lay waste to the future while placing our trust in the Magic Fairies of Futuretechnologyland?

    Is there not a moral imperative to have a sustainable solution in hand before we tread such a dangerous path, simply to pay for our past absence of wisdom?

  37. ” Kit P said…
    The overarching difference between nuclear and other energy sources is energy density. A very small amount of resource can supply a huge amount of energy. Every few years a couple of flat bed trucks deliver all the fuel that is needed for two years.”

    Fuel rods do not appear out of thin air as if by magic. Please attend to life-cycle costs: including those incurred in the mining, processing, and transport of uranium.

  38. Kit P said…
    “The number [of nuclear power plants] now is 100% will operate for 60 years.”

    The Palo Verde Nuclear power plant, the largest in the nation, was commissioned in 1988. The first unit is scheduled for de/recommissioning in 2023.

    How can you, or anyone, claim that all reactors will operate for sixty years? The recent operational failings and the diminishing annual output of the Palo Verde nuclear power plant (despite upgrades) contradict your claim.

  39. There is a moral imperative to provide an adequate supply of electricity. I think the US electricity generating industry does it wisely.

    Producing electricity has been the subject of many LCA that document that nuclear has lower environmental impact and ghg emissions than other sources. LCA is a good tool to identify ways to reduce environmental impact. Some examples include getting more electricity per fuel bundle, usijng centrifuges for enrichment, modern miming methods, recovering uranium from phosphorous minimg and coal ash, and making plants last 60-80 years instead 40.

    “How can you, or anyone, claim that all reactors will operate for sixty years?” Very easily since that is what industry leaders are saying and doing. It is a matter of long term planning and public information filed the NRC and state PUC.

    While ANON wants to contradict my claims about the future, I can clearly show the present trend. Who knows maybe 2023, solar thermal with storage will be providing sustainable power at level that those in the Southwest will not need nukes or coal.

  40. Sorry to disagree with you but Clee but your link does not support your statement. The range for hydroelectric is 235-4 while the graph show the range for nukes as 21-9.

    In the US it is somewhat of mute point unless Clee is suggesting flooding Grand Canyon or Yosemite. I like hydro and that should be developed first but it already has.

    I do have a big problem with those who have ghg as their on criteria. Sure “Wind is roughly the same as nuclear” when it works.

    When I took calculus in college, the instructor said he would see half of us the next semester the rest would be flunking out. He did not grade on a curve. If you could do all the problems on the final you could get an ‘A’ and if you could not get enough right answers, ‘F’ was your reward. The professor said he would be happy with passing all but traditionally many were not will to work hard enough to pass.

    When it comes to making electricity coal, nukes, natural gas gets an ‘A’ while geothermal gets an ‘B’. Biomass and hydroelectric get an ‘C+’. Solar and wind flunked out because they had trouble even getting their name right on the test. There is a very positive trend for wind and solar but histroically they are drop outs.

    Lots of people like to argue about how bad wind and solar are. They project a bright future because wind and solar have not only been able to get their name right but answer some the question. I checked the answers and they were wrong. Clee lives in California. Trying is what counts. Group huge for California. I suspect Clee’s roof has yet to be covered with snow this year.

    The point Clee is your are comparing to what works to what does not work. We should keep building and solar as fast as we can. First, because wind and solar can contribute even if it is in a very small way. Second, maybe the equipment will last longer and have performace that reflect the theory in wind LCA. Improvements are made by doing.

  41. Kit P said…
    “There is a moral imperative to provide an adequate supply of electricity.”

    “Adequate”? How much? For whom? For how long? At what cost?

    Do you keep feeding Twinkies to an immobile, 600 lb. man?

    Is there then a moral imperative to provide equal electricity to 6.5 billion people?

    You speak like a Cornucopian. I disagree with your premise. Rather, there is a moral imperative to limit consumption.

  42. Kit P said…
    “Very easily since that is what industry leaders are saying and doing.”

    The current world financial crisis, two Bush Administrations, Nazi Germany, etc. Need I say more?

    “Baaahhhh. Baaaaahhhh.”, say the sheople.

  43. Kit P.,

    Thanks for pointing out that other chart. I was still looking at the numbers in the bottom chart that show hydro at 3 to 11 g/kWh CO2.

    I do have a big problem with those who have ghg as their on criteria.
    It’s not my criteria. You’re the one who brought up GHG emissions. And I agree new hydropower is moot in the US, mute too, since hydro doesn’t talk. Though by your definition, hydro has never gone away and doesn’t require a comeback.

    Nope, no snow on my roof this year, but my friend who lives in the Rockies and gets snow on his roof quite often, loves his wind and solar power.

    I see now that Wind has surpassed 1% of the US electricity supply (TWH), you have stopped saying that
    wind and solar will never be more than 1% of US generation. This is based on the practical limitations of project development and maintenance.

  44. “Need I say more?”

    Well yes, anon; I am not sure what nuclear industry leaders statements about extending the life of nuke plants has to do with the financial crisis, or Nazis Germany.

    Maybe anon is skeptical of authority figures. Me too, that is why I check to see how accurate their statements are.

    Clee, always enjoy learning new info from you.

    A little off topic but Google’s solar system out put link is now working again. I also found a link to daily wind generation at the Midwest ISO if you are interested.

    I would expect that many places in the Rockies have both good wind and solar resources. That wind blows the snow right off the solar panels. Nothing like blowing snow causing drifts and the wind turbines to shut down, to make one love all those coal plants in the Rockies, What you thought all those transmission lines to California were for something other than cheap coal?

  45. California’s got a transmission line to suck in cheap hydropower and wind energy from the pacific northwest.

  46. Robert, your analysis of renewable power needs much further development.

    First, additional wind power in the US in 2008 was 21.2 Twhrs (8.4GW nameplate @29% capacity factor) per .

    That was 32% of your 10-year growth of 66Twhrs, and about 60% higher than 2007 installations. At that growth rate wind could provide 100% of new power in less than 4 years, and after that start replacing coal.

    There's no reason we couldn't resume that growth curve, should we decide to. Obviously, wind isn't growing as fast right now due to our current financial problems, but I imagine nuclear isn't helped by the financial mess, either (also, 2009 may well show zero or very small electricity demand growth, so there's a nice match there of supply and demand side stagnation).

    Shouldn't you reconsider wind's possible contribution?

  47. Shouldn’t you reconsider wind’s possible contribution?

    Nick, I am a fan of wind power, but due to the intermittent nature I don’t believe it is going to be able to displace coal unless we solve the energy storage problem. I agree that in theory there is enough wind power available to power the U.S. The problems are that best locations are quite far from population centers, and the intermittent nature means you have to maintain backup power.

    People sometimes ask me which technology I think we need to be working hardest on, and I always say “Energy storage.” If that problem is solved, then a lot of options open up.


  48. Robert, here are my thoughts on intermittency:

    It is often argued that wind and solar intermittency create a need for large, expensive utility electricity storage facilities. I would argure that there several much more cost-effective alternatives: demand side management; geographical dispersion; and using existing generation as backup.

    Short term intermittency is far better handled with Demand Side Management (DSM) than with central storage, especially as the number of plug-ins and EV’s grows. DSM is almost free to utilities, and has both effectively instant response times and enormous capacity.

    First, covering demand from storage for any significant time would be very, very expensive. Better to handle as much as possible with DSM, and use storage as a much lower priority resource.

    2nd, plug-in/EV charging can be scheduled when it’s needed. If your problem is too much wind in the middle of the night, charging can go there, and easily be 1/2 of demand. Heck, for short periods it could be as much as you wanted: visualize 150M plug-in’s pulling 6KW each, for a total of 900GW!

    3rd, plug-in/EV’s could also provide V2G, and provide additional supply in similar numbers.
    Does it seem hard to imagine that many plug-in/EV’s, or hard to imagine them ramping up quickly enough? Well, the thing to keep in mind is that they can grow as quickly as wind and solar: we could easily produce 10M plug-in/EV’s per year in 10 years.

    4th, it’s easy to exaggerate the intermittency we need to handle, but it wouldn’t take much interconnectedness to take advantage of geographical dispersion of negatively correlated wind and solar sources and,

    5th, we also have the option of backup by (hopefully) largely obsolete FF generation plants, so DSM (or storage) wouldn’t have to handle very long (but rare) events.

    We should note that DSM for PHEV/EV’s is more important than V2G. It sidesteps battery cost issues, as well as other complexities that come from using wires in two directions. OTOH, it’s highly likely that the 2nd generation Li-ion batteries now being put into production will last longer than the vehicles they power, rendering the cost per cycle question unimportant for V2G.

    It’s important to maintain clarity about the timeframe and context of our discussion. If we’re really talking about a grid that has a very large % of renewables, we’re either talking about decades in the future, or a world in which our society makes a much, much larger commitment to dealing with energy issues than it has so far. In such a world, a very large number of PHEV/EV’s with relatively large batteries is extremely likely.

    In that case, it’s reasonable to assume that we’re talking about over 100 million PHEV/EV’s, with batteries that can effectively hold 25KHW or more. Such batteries could power vehicles for days between charges, and provide enormous flexibility for DSM (much more than a 8 hour scenario one might consider).

    There is enormous potential from creative use of PHEV/EV’s, potential that we are far from understanding. I would note just one: the motors in PHEV’s are extremely efficient, on the order of diesels. A fleet of PHEV’s would provide backup capacity on the order of 500GW that could be sustained for days, using engines that would be as efficient and far cleaner than most diesel generators. Would we want to use such a capability often? Of course not, but it’s availability would be enormously valuable.

  49. I should also add that I believe there is general agreement that wind can achieve a market share of at least 10%, and probably 20%, with current load-following techniques (including modest levels of the alternatives I described), so wind can grow quite a bit without anything that might seem exotic.

    I’d love to see a really good simulation of these methods. Unfortunately, no one has seen the need, as 10-20% market penetration seemed distant. There have been analyses of the benefits of combining geographically separated wind sites: they found that variance was dramatically reduced, to the point that it seemed reasonable to describe wind as base-load.

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