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Published on September 14th, 2012 | by James Ayre


Benefits of Thorium Are ‘Overstated’, UK Report Finds

September 14th, 2012 by  

Thorium nuclear has often been argued for as a solution to the world’s energy problems. It’s proponents say that it is safer and cheaper than the uranium that powers normal nuclear reactors. However, a newly released government report in the UK says that the supposed benefits of thorium are “overstated.” (Coincidentally, we’ve had some pretty active discussions this week on two CleanTechnica posts regarding thorium.)


The new UK report suggests that the UK continues to be involved with the technology, but that many of the claims made by thorium proponents are exaggerated. Specifically, the claims that it is impossible to build a bomb with the nuclear waste from thorium, that it doesn’t leaves toxic waste, and that it is more efficient, are singled out as overemphasized.

“Thorium has theoretical advantages regarding sustainability, reducing radiotoxicity and reducing proliferation risk,” states the report, prepared for the Department of Energy and Climate Change by the National Nuclear Laboratory (NNL). “While there is some justification for these benefits, they are often overstated.”

Part of the reason that the NNL is ‘pessimistic’ about the technology comes from the fact that UK utility companies are not willing to invest the money into the research and development necessary to “draw out thorium’s advantages.”

“Nevertheless, it is important to recognise that worldwide there remains interest in thorium fuel cycles and this is not likely to diminish in the near future,” the report concludes. “It may therefore be judicious for the UK to maintain a low level of engagement in thorium fuel cycle research and development by involvement in international collaborative research activities.”

The report also makes a note of the fact that thorium’s possible advantages over conventional nuclear would only be clear when used in reactor types other than the conventional solid-fuel, water-cooled reactors that are used in nearly all of the world’s commercial nuclear electricity stations.

“In particular, a design known as a very high temperature reactor is ‘especially well suited to thorium fuels,’ NNL states. The old UK Atomic Energy Authority built and operated an experimental thorium-fueled high temperature at Winfrith in the 1960s and 70s. The reactor, nicknamed Dragon, is partially decommissioned.”

There are several other projects underway outside of the UK. In America, Flibe Energy is creating a thorium reactor that is based on designs developed in the 1960s by the US Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee.

In Asia, China and India are both developing the technology. The latter is likely to begin construction on one that uses solid thorium fuel in the next four or five years.

“Thorium is an abundant, mildly radioactive element that occurs naturally around the world. The largest reserves exist in Australia, the US, Turkey, India, Brazil and Venezuela, according to the World Nuclear Association.”

In summary, in solid-fuel, water-cooled reactors thorium nuclear reactors (which some countries are working on) still produce a waste product that lasts an extremely long time and is very toxic; are an an easy terrorist target or source of bomb-making ingredients; and don’t seem economically efficient to develop.

High-temperature, liquid-fuel nuclear reactors may solve the problems above, but they have not been tested nearly as much, and there has never been commercialization of such a reactor.

Other unstated downfalls of at least some (if not all) thorium reactors include: extreme susceptibility to disasters, including droughts; and truly unknown longterm effects on life via the regular releases of very small quantities of radioactive elements.

The full National Nuclear Laboratory report can be accessed on the UK’s Department of Climate Change & Energy website.

Source: Guardian
Image Credits: Thorium Crystal via Wikimedia Commons

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About the Author

James Ayre's background is predominantly in geopolitics and history, but he has an obsessive interest in pretty much everything. After an early life spent in the Imperial Free City of Dortmund, James followed the river Ruhr to Cofbuokheim, where he attended the University of Astnide. And where he also briefly considered entering the coal mining business. He currently writes for a living, on a broad variety of subjects, ranging from science, to politics, to military history, to renewable energy. You can follow his work on Google+.

  • Jo Erson

    Thorium is better than anything else offered so far; and is by far the best way to generate inexpensive, reliable, safe energy. Is it perfect? No! But tell me what is….
    Thorium based power looks like it will produce electricity for slightly less than coal. It produces about 100 times less nuclear waste than conventional Nuclear power. It is “meltdown proof”, and only uses a small footprint of land when setting up a power plant. Did I mention that thorium is so safe that you can literally hold it in your hand. The author is correct, Thorium is not perfect, but it is close.

    • Bob_Wallace

      No, thorium is not an inexpensive way to generate electricity. It’s 3x to 4x the price of US onshore wind and 2x that of PV solar.

  • I thought the IFR and LFTR were pretty well designed by now, and certainly safer than the crap like Three Mile Island uses.

  • Real stupid people here! CANDU’s Thorium fueled! up and running in China today! Producing Electricity from Thorium, old reactor waste and old warheads. Poor deluded ass-holes here hardly realize that Uranium has a finite supply here on earth!
    “estimated that there are only about 80 years left of sustainable
    uranium production.”
    But: current world estimate of Thorium reserves – enough to power all mankind for 1000 years!

    ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5UT2yYs5YJs ) – China’s ‘Proclamation?
    Efficiencies far superior in Thorium LFTR reactors too! You Google! You see!
    Plutonium free, benign after 300 year storage wastes too!

    Search is on for large high grade deposits of Thorium in Canada right now! Prospectors in the field, First come First served! Rumours about flatland shale deposits north of Tar Sands? Hard Rock too! South of Val’Dor Quebec?

    • Bob_Wallace

      Where in China is this thorium fueled reactor up and running?

      Wiki doesn’t know about it –

      “Under the direction of Jiang Mianheng,
      The People’s Republic of China has initiated a research project in thorium molten-salt reactor technology. It was formally announced at the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS)
      annual conference in January 2011. Its ultimate target is to develop a pilot scale thorium based molten salt nuclear reactor in 20 years.”

      In fact, the entire web doesn’t seem to know about an up and running thorium reactor in China. At least if one googles “thorium reactor operating in china”.

  • What a blatant load of crap. Nathan, who won’t even show his face or share his real name, cherry picks an awful title which, at first glance, makes Thorium seem bunk. Then, as you read further, you realize that he basically ripped off the article from the Guardian, rebranded it, and presented it as fact. Did he read the report? Did he do an analysis or in depth discussion of the findings? No. Is there an editor on this site?

  • T Adkins

    Just let the thorium reactor guys have the thorium. IF thorium has a use then the waste(thorium) from mining rare earth can go somewhere and be taken away. IF we want wind and electric cars to be more marketable we will need more rare earth than china can provide and we should make the effort to break the china rare earth near-monopoly. Thorium is a big reason we dont mine rare earth in the US, and why many other countries dont mine rare earth.

    IF wind and cars can get their rare earth; and reactor guys get their thorium. Maybe then the thorium guys can either put up or shut up; put up and deliver or shut up and go away.

    • Bob_Wallace

      We’ve just reopened a rare earth mineral mine in the US and others are opening around the world. Japan just discovered a very large deposit of REMs off their coast.

      This ‘China monopoly’ thing is a misunderstanding between “supply” and “occurrence”. REMS occur lots of places. China, because it under priced the rest of the world became the supplier. Others can also do supply.
      Besides, we can wind turbines and electric cars without REMs. We already do.

      Tesla’s EV motors and the one they designed for the Toyota RAV4 EV do not contain rare earth minerals.

      • T Adkins

        Tesla sacrificed the weight savings of REM to get around China’s REM hold. They know how China affects the cost now and they see how it will affect cost in the future. For an EV car company who knows very well how every bit of weight affects range of the car, I doubt they basically tripled the motor weight for fun.

        And while yes there are some mine outside of china they dont deal with the heavier 2/3rds of the rare earths which is where China has its hold, China is processing and setting aside the thorium they get from their REM efforts.China will be using thorium nuclear and just about every other type of nuclear to get ahead, they will also be pushing solar and wind.

        • Bob_Wallace

          Again, when China, or anyone else, figures out how to get a thorium reactor to make cheap electricity please let us know.

          And remember, “cheap” is a least as low as 5 cents per kWh. That’s the competition. Eight cents = bankruptcy.

          • Unless you’re wind or solar. Then bankruptcy = need a bigger taxpayer subsidy.

  • Ok
    – Europe ITER (~13 Billion euros, they say that can’t really tell because most is in kind donations) Hope to have 1st fusion on Nov 2020. Then years of testing (from their web site). Then maybe ready to build more, taking 10-15 for next to be done, so its 2035-2045 before multiple unit come on line. While the 2035-2045 date WAG is mine the rest is from their web site.
    – MSR we know in 20 years (China’s hope), what the cost to make commercial units.

    So between now and then we either build a boat load of new carbon base fuel plants or a boat load of wind, solar, geothermal, and I think maybe we will see tide and current flow turbines.

    So when your family gathers for the new year celebration in 2045 are you going to tell your grand kids, for many of us it will be great grand kids. That you put your effort NOW into making sure the world was a livable place, or that you thought it better to wait until they were grown to start working on the problem. That or was your hope to be dead by then so you can ignore what happens to the brats anyway.

    As for where to put the PV. I know that the top of a 100 story sky scraper don’t provide much space. But get is a small plane, or watch the first 20 min of take off in airliner. And you will see mile and mile of flat roofs and parking lots. Right where the power is needed.

    • damn, way to nail the crux of the issue.

      my bet is that folks will still be rambling on about how it will change the world.. in 20 years.

  • Ok, come back to earth. Yes I see China plans to do research, with the goal of commercial plan in 20 years. So my statement of it will take 10-15 years from being ready to start building for real is wrong it is 15-20-25. Also all this scale it any size you want is at this point at best BULL. Every single MSR build so far has been large. If anyone thought they could build a small MSR for $10 million, they would not need to be asking for billion(s). So do the research, prove the concept, then start to paint your vision. We need to be moving now, not in 20 years. Yes MAYBE MSR will play a role sometime after 2030, but don’t try to sell the idea that we can wait for MSR to save our butts. But maybe it will be enhanced Geothermal, hell it might be fusion, that is always just 10 years away.

    As for having lots of great heat for other uses, I don’t see that happening with all the “waste” from current power plants. Should it, maybe yes, does it NO.

    • dynamo.joe

      Waste heat from coal/light water reactors not hot enough for many processes, in particular steel and desalination.

      • dynamo.joe

        Oops, I said desalination, but I meant hydrogen production.

      • Ronald Brak

        I think that if your waste heat is hot enough to melt steel or to split water into hydrogen and oxygen, then your waste heat is hot enough to generate electricity and isn’t really waste heat at all.

  • dynamo.joe

    Even if you don’t believe that Thorium and LFTR can undercut renewables for electricity production. Even if you don’t believe that it could undercut renewables in the production of process heat for industry (think steel mills, chemical factories, desalination). You still have to deal with the transuranics that have already been created and are stored at nuclear plants.
    If all LFTR is good for is burning up the current stockpiles of ‘waste’, it is still worth pursuing.

  • coreybarcus

    I’ve certainly witnessed thorium enthusiasts exaggerate some aspects of theoretical thorium-based liquid-fuel reactors, for instance labelling it proliferation-proof when actually it is proliferation-resistant, or that it produces no waste when it in theory produces very little (largely due to its efficiency). The efficiency of the system is not necessarily going to be of immediate economic benefit, especially in comparison to fast reactors (which part of the industry is keen to build). The first machines will be very expensive, and some of the techniques that can be used to lower the cost of building these things can be applied to other designs.

    But consider the advantages. Uranium mining and enrichment is only needed for reactor initialization, and once a fleet of machines are operating then it is possible to optimize them for a slight overproduction of U-233 (which can then be used to start a new reactor). High temperature operation is desirable for efficiency reasons, as it allows more flexible cogeneration, for instance energy carrier (fuel) synthesis, and more importantly can make dry cooling feasible (will work during a drought due to air instead of water being used for cooling). The radically different fuel configuration, where it is suspended within a liquid, as opposed to solid rods (conventional reactor designs), allows for an unprecedented level of safety where the radioactive suspension will drain and pool instead of escaping into the environment, drastically minimizing dispersion in the event of an accident. And it will not melt down.

    But the most important advantage of the liquid fueled thorium reactor is that it will probably allow us to build an efficient clean-energy producing machine that the general populace will embrace, allowing it to be mass-produced at optimized scales suitable for a wide range of applications. That will be key to lowering costs, and lower plant costs will lower the cost of clean energy, which is our primary goal in decoupling the economy from carbon emissions.

    • Bob_Wallace

      Well argued. But where all reactor designs fail is that none can produce electricity cheaply enough to compete with 3 cent per kWh wind, 5 cent solar and 2 cent storage.

      • coreybarcus

        Energy sparse systems have numerous inherent disadvantages, some of which will become very acute as they are scaled. Not only will they take up a great deal of land, compromising its beauty while also limiting its use, over-capacity must be built into the system along with storage on the scale of dams or large gas storage networks. These are inherent costs, aspects that will not dissipate with time or technological advancement. A renewable-only vision is a road to nowhere with high energy costs, greatly reduced flexibility, and a major national security problem waiting to rear its ugly head as recession is prolonged and rival nations pursue more efficient alternatives (provided they can be realized).

        The nuclear vision is one in which mass-produced plants are scaled to need, replacing natural gas facilities to provide clean cogeneration. The entire transportation infrastructure will convert to nuclear (even larger container ships) or its products (synthesized carbon-neutral fuels or even nuclear ammonia which can be cheaper). A renewable nation will have a far weaker economy than a nuclear one, and in any area of conflict will be very vulnerable, making this choice an issue of national security.

        If we are going to remain competitive, we must join the Thorium Race immediately to either realize this dream, or to rule out its viability.

        • Bob_Wallace

          ” Not only will they take up a great deal of land ”


          “over-capacity must be built into the system along with storage on the scale of dams or large gas storage networks.”

          Over capacity has to be built regardless of the source. Our grid is designed to stay up during peak-peak hours and with extra capacity over that in case something like a reactor suddenly goes down.

          Yes, we will build storage. Whatever we do for future energy will require building something. The question is – “What is the cheapest, safest, and quickest to bring on line”.

          “A renewable-only vision is a road to nowhere with high energy costs, greatly reduced flexibility, and a major national security problem waiting to rear its ugly head as recession is prolonged”

          Absolutely incorrect.

          Wind + solar + geothermal + tidal + storage is working out to be our cheapest energy source.

          Three cent wind + 5 cent solar + 9 cent geothermal + 5 cent tidal + 2 cent storage just can’t be beat.

          Relying on oil and coal are security problems for the US. Oil, for obvious reasons, coal creates major health problems.

          • coreybarcus

            Tens of thousands of square miles isn’t a great deal of land? Will we not see more dams as the storage system is developed- I’m assuming capacity on the order of GW-weeks. Was the damming of the Colorado River not a great loss?

            If we can expect nuclear to perform at over 90% capacity and the generation can be close to its end-use, would you argue that the renewable solution is comparable?

            Why is the need for storage inevitable?

            Would you argue that it is impossible to produce nuclear power stations for less than a few billion? I do not expect the first reactors to be inexpensive on a wattage basis, but some approaches to fission allow for designs that look to be affordable in the near term, and downright cheap with mass production. Thorium advocates are talking about a future of many thousands of reactors, safe enough to live and work near. The cost of thorium being so low (1 tonne per GW-year), that end-user energy costs should eventually be driven within 1 cent or less a kWh.

            There is very good reason to believe that an energy-sparse strategy can be beat by an energy-dense one. There will probably be consequences for not developing a competitive economy on this transition to sustainability.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Give me a breakdown Corey.

            How many square miles? Put a number there. How much land to power the world with wind and solar in square miles? And give us the area of the land surface of the planet in square miles so we can gen a percent.

            Do you not understand that 80,000 – 2,500 is 77,500 existing dams and 10% of that is 7,750 existing dams? Show me some math that says that we would need more than 7.750 pump-up storage facilities. If we were to use pump-up.
            Enough hand-waving. Show your math rather than make wild-assed claims.
            “If we can expect nuclear to perform at over 90% capacity and the generation can be close to its end-use, would you argue that the renewable solution is comparable?”

            I really don’t know what you are asking here. But, in case it hasn’t dawned on you, nuclear reactors need cooling water and welcoming neighborhoods. That really puts the crimps in locating reactors next to end-use points.

            “Why is the need for storage inevitable?”

            Because the most abundant and cheapest renewable sources are variable and storage is almost certainly going to be cheaper than dispatchable generation.

            “Would you argue that it is impossible to produce nuclear power stations for less than a few billion? ”

            We can look at the last three open bids for nuclear plants and discover that “few” is not a real small number. I assume you’ve looked to see what current reactor costs are? You aren’t making arguments without numbers in hand are you?

            Now, you can get all aroused over mass production of reactors but you might want to take a look at what is happening in the actual world. Germany, Japan, Switzerland and Belgium have announced that they are getting rid of nuclear. The number of planned US reactors has dropped from a couple dozen plus to four and only two of those four are actually being worked on. (One long abandoned reactor is being finished up.) And most of the US companies that own nuclear plants have stated that they don’t see their companies building any more, at least for a long, long time.

            “Fission offers a way to drastically improve our collective economic and ecological condition today,”

            That’s just a pile. New nuclear would cost 15 to 25 cents per kWh and it would take decades to build enough new reactors to get us off fossil fuels. You really need to work from a math base and not from fairy dust.

          • dynamo.joe

            You are kind of comparing apples and oranges here.

            Asking him to look up the cost of the last few light water reactors as a basis for estimating the cost of Liquid Flouride Thorium Reactors is like asking you to estimate the cost of my rooftop PV array based on the costs of the PS20 Concentrating Solar Thermal tower in Spain.

            They are completely different technologies and calling LWR’s and LFTR’s the same because they are both nuclear makes no more sense than saying PV and CST are the same because they are both solar.
            There might be some small number of things that you could use for both, like the cost of the environmental study and the permitting costs. I suppose the legal cost you would inevitably face would also be similar. But the actual construction costs of recent LWR’s? They are immaterial.

            Single piece forging that can only but made at one facility on the planet? Nope, not necessary.

            Giant containment dome several feet thick to contain superheated steam? Nope, there is no steam, it operates at 1atm.

            Giant cooling towers? Maybe, but most designs I have seen use the higher operating temp to employ a Brayton cycle turbine, which is more efficient and can vent directly to atmosphere.

            Multiple redundant pumps and back up systems to prevent a Fukushima type event. Pumps, back up generators, batteries, etc. We are told that on weekends the Molten Reactor Experiment would just cut all power to the reactor (which is what happened at Fukushima) and it would drain into its passively cooled holding tank. So, no or at least not the same back up systems.

            So, I don’t think you are asking for the right info. That doesn’t mean LFTR is less expensive than wind, but asking for recent nuclear plant construction costs is at best a red herring.

          • Bob_Wallace

            OK, so if someone ever builds one of these things and gets it to work then we can talk about price. Until it’s probably best to assume that the cost of electricity from one is incalculably expensive, lacking a real world number.

            But I would like him to back up his other claims….

          • dynamo.joe

            Well, according to Cool Earth Solar:

            “One solar power plant, using Cool Earth’s technology, covering 150 miles by 150 miles, would generate enough power to meet all the electrical needs of the United States through 2030.”

            That is 10’s of thousands of miles.

            I only use them as an example because I remembered that they had done this type of comparison.

            Of course you would think the goal would be dual use land like rooftops and parking lots. I have no idea what the total area of US commercial rooftops and parking lots may be or even the area covered by the US interstate freeway system. If it’s more than 22,500 sq mi, then maybe there is no additional land use necessary.

          • Bob_Wallace

            The number I use for providing 100% of our power (electricity, heat and transportation) with 20% efficient PV solar is 486,805 km2. Given that the planet has 148,300,000 km2 of land surface that’s about 0.32% of the Earth’s surface.

            Of course no one is suggesting 100% PV solar. Lots of on and offshore wind and other good stuff. The solar we need in the US can probably be met with existing rooftop and parking lot space.

          • I agree – well put. This Bob Wallace character is either being purposely difficult, or is just an old crank. Bob, get excited! This is a much better design, and you should at least avail yourself of researching the technology. It won’t cost anything but a little of your time and concentration, and who knows you just may learn something. Then, you can come back with a more cogent argument like “well I think that the Flibe salt production process uses quite a bit of mercury, so a more environmentally friendly process would be necessary before wide-scale adoption would be possible.” Instead of “well it’s never been done before so we just don’t know.” No. YOU don’t know. But you should at least try. We need you on our team, and will be happy to have you.

          • Bob_Wallace

            I’m a realist and a pragmatist Kyle. When someone actually makes a working thorium reactor that produces cheap electricity then I’ll get on board.
            Right now we’ve got plenty of proven technology that does produce cheap electricity, cleanly and safely. My energy is going toward getting the climate problem minimized.

          • Foster Hampton

            Then have been them biult. Thats why we know its a good idea.

          • Unfortunately, you were told wrong: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ENH-jd6NhRc&t=12m49s

            Then again, that’s a double negative.

          • coreybarcus


            One best-case scenario I looked at last year involved a concentrated solar power solution (like eSolar) which would require over 10 thousand square miles to synthesize one terawatt of ammonia at a 60% conversion rate. Of course, ammonia could be used as a petroleum substitute in transportation, and it is already used for fertilizer. The nice thing about this approach is that another storage scheme is not required. But this is purely hypothetical as there is currently no demand for ammonia as a transportation fuel, and what ammonia is required is synthesized from natural gas.

            World energy usage is on the order of over ten terawatts with a very high level of poverty. That is a strong indication that it is already too expensive. Numerous precipitating conditions like lowering ore quality and more sophisticated adaptations (like more complicated cars) require more energy. Demand can be managed with higher prices, but of course the consequence is more poverty, not less.

            The figures for nuclear capacity factors are well-known and uncontroversial, over 90 percent, though it was far lower in the early days. The expectation is that a new generation based on molten salt should allow us to get into the high 90s.

            There are of course numerous cost studies of MSRs, and from what I’ve seen the estimates set plants on average at about half of current systems (exceedingly expensive as we’re restarting our domestic nuclear industry from almost scratch). These radioactive chemical facilities will be expensive in the beginning, but like I said before, if we can build a product that the general populace is happy with, the cost can be driven down over time. I cannot prove that this will definitely be the case, but I can argue that it is imprudent to not try.

            Oh, and as pointed out elsewhere, high temperature operation coupled with the right cooling technology can alleviate the need for water for cooling, though that application is not restricted to nuclear.

            If we are going to take our predicament seriously, then we need to look at how it might be possible to dramatically lower the cost of energy while increasing its availability and convenience. Renewable advocates have long ignored those goals, focusing instead on the need to decouple carbon from emissions. That is of course a necessity, but so is lowering the cost of energy. Building a complicated, widely distributed, and energy-sparse system is not the path to lower costs, convenience, or high efficiency.

            My central argument is that a far more efficient and capable infrastructure is possible with nuclear, while our condition demands the advantages of such a system. If it is possible and a rival develops it first, then our society will be at an obvious disadvantage economically. Already, the political discord over our energy strategy has driven the global warming opposition into new heights of irrationality. The expected economic consequences of a renewable-only strategy will likely solidify political opposition. A new generation of advanced nuclear technology based on a liquid-fuel configuration and an abundant element appears to offer a sane way out of this conundrum.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Corey – no one has created a nuclear reactor that produces electricity cheaper than a mix of renewables plus storage. Period.

            The amount of land that would be needed to harvest all the energy we need for all our uses from renewable sources is trivial. 100% PV solar for all our energy needs – electricity, transportation and heating – would take only 0.32% of our land.

            The problems of finding appropriate sites for nuclear reactors are very significant.

            The safety problems created by uranium fueled reactors is
            very significant and extremely long lasting.

            Renewables can be installed quickly and in small amounts thus bringing electricity to those currently without very efficiently. And
            very affordably. .

            Again I’ll give you the likely cost of our electricity on a renewable grid.
            Wind-generated electricity 4 cents per kWh.
            Solar-generated electricity 6 cents per kWh.
            Tidal-generated electricity 4 cents per kWh.
            Geothermal-generated electricity 4 cents per kWh.
            Hydro-generated electricity 6 cents per kWh.
            Storage to tie it all together 2 cents per kWh.

            Assuming we could get half our power directly from renewable source and would need to store half (likely a higher percentage direct, but…) we come to a price of very roughly 6 cents per kWh.

            The very lowest estimate I’ve seen for new nuclear was 12 cents and that was an industry insider who refused to state what costs were and were not included.

            Low end estimates from credible sources start at 15 cents, current recent bid offers come in around 20 cents, and some estimate the cost well over 20 cents per kWh.

            Nuclear simply is not competitive. Nuclear is very slow to bring on line. Nuclear brings safety issues to our neighborhoods that most of us do not want.

            Now, if someone invents a cheap way to make electricity from banging atoms around and can do so safely, then nuclear will find a receptive audience. Until then you are simply shaking your fist at the clouds.

          • D.R. Schroeder

            Bob, thanks for the info. I’ve been looking at some of the links you’ve provided (open energy), but I’m not sure I’m following them correctly, or at least, getting the info I’d like to get.

            5 cent wind? I pay over 10 cents now and that’s with a lot of subsidy and tax credits to the producer. Are the numbers you’re quoting figuring in all the subsidies? Or, are they just looking at new projects that are so much more efficient that that’s the actual cost sans any subsidy?

            I don’t think anyone is saying that we should give up on wind and solar etc. We should be going full bore to get off fossils.

            I understand that real world numbers for LFTRs just aren’t possible now, but there are some advantages in an energy dense generation like shipping/transport and military apps that will likely get a LFTR built. You’ll get your real world numbers. Actually, another real world application may be the real reason one gets built. Nuclear medicine applications, a $5 billion/year industry. FLIBE energy is trying to get funding for a private LFTR based on nuc med applications. I think they’re also pursuing the military side as well.

            As someone else mentioned. There are economic considerations as well. Other countries are developing Thorium programs. If they beat us and produce cheaper power, they’ll have the edge on a denser energy source and a leg up economically.

          • Bob_Wallace

            First, those are prices for production. What it costs the “wind factory” to manufacture their product – electricity. It does not include any profit that the wind farm might be able to put on top of their production costs. And it certainly is far from what the retail customer would pay.

            If you look at the median LCOE costs for the major grid inputs (coal, natural gas, nuclear, hydro, renewables) the average is half of the average US retail price of ~$0.12/kWh.

            Start with production cost, add in some profit for the producer, subtract out subsidies where they exist, add in utility/grid costs and some profit for them, subtract out electricity losses in transmission, and you end up with the retail price.

            The production tax credit subsidies do help bring the final price down a bit, but with wind now just hitting 4% of our total supply the 2 cents it gets doesn’t impact the final price much. About $0.0009/kWh

            If you look at the lowest prices in the spread for each generation source you should be seeing the price of newest installation. The high prices for wind reflect earlier installed, less productive turbines when siting was not as refined and technology not as good.

            I can see us continuing to install reactors on military ships, money is less an issue. I do not see them being installed on commercial vessels where the bottom line is important.

            The world might need one reactor somewhere to generate medical products. As long as we use nuclear medicine. That might not be something we will need as time goes on. $5 billion retail = $2.5 billion or less wholesale. With the incredible profit margins on medical products past the producer level the reactor owner might be getting more like $1.5 billion. On a $10 billion risky investment. Sounds like nuclear medicine might support one reactor for the world.

            The world is a pretty open market these days. If China or some other country develops thorium reactors that make electricity cheaper than 3 cents a kWh then I’m sure they’ll be willing to sell us some.

            I’m sure that the US is continuing to research thorium reactors. If we thought we had a way to make one that works and might produce competitively priced electricity we’d be funding a demonstration project.

            Keep the hurdle “2 cents is higher than the price of fill-in from gas/storage.

            I’ve see no credible source claim that new nuclear could be built for less than 15 cents per kWh.

          • D.R..Schroeder

            I haven’t read it, but Dr. Hargraves book Thorium: Energy Cheaper than Coal apparently reviews the seven different proposed LFTR cost estimates published and the consensus is $2 a watt or $2 billion (2012 figures corrected for inflation) for cost of a 1 GWe plant.

            I agree that it would be bad to pay more for nuke, but luckily it looks like private industry is going to develop the tech. If it winds up as cheap as advocates say, then great.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Yep. If someone can build something that works and is safe and cheaper than other technologies then it’s something we should use.

            In the meantime we have clean, safe, cheap ways to make electricity. Let’s put our efforts into installing those and cutting climate change.

          • Ronald Brak

            A reactor for medical applications would be tiny and probably wouldn’t generate electricity, like the OPAL reactor in Australia.

            As for researching thorium reactors to get a leg up economically, that’s also an arguement for investing in solar, wind, geothermal, robotic marriage partners, and so on. As an investor, I’d say I’d be much more likely to invest money in wind or solar or robotic marriage partner research before I put money into thorium reactors. But that’s just me. Everyone else should feel free to invest their money as they see fit.

        • Voluminous and vulnerable? Who’s going to bomb every rooftop instead of a few cables to critical nodes?

      • globi

        Storage is overrated anyway: If Germany had 80% renewable and would not invest in storage, it would only lose 7% of renewable power (=7% higher renewable power costs. There’s no point in trying to store every single kWh): According to VDE: http://www.vde.com/de/Verband/Pressecenter/Pressemappen/documents/2012-06-11/etg-speicherstudie_bpk_2012-06-11-v5_handout.pdf Also, wind and PV complement each other very well: http://www.q-cells.com/uploads/tx_abdownloads/files/6CV.1.32_Gerlach2011_PV-Wind-Complementarity_paper_PVSEC_preprint.pdf In addition interconnected windfarms provide baseload and meanhwile there are windturbines available which can in principle reach capacity factors of 50%: http://www.gamesacorp.com/en/cargarAplicacionNoticia.do?idCategoria=60&identificador=861&urlAmigable=gamesa-launches-a-new-turbine-the-g114-20-mw-maximum-returns-for-low-wind-sites.html Moreover, Germany, for instance, consumes double the amount of energy in the heating and hot water sector than in the electricity sector and low temperature heat (hot or cold) can be stored cheaply. A small portion of the fossil fuels not wasted in the heating, hot water and transportation sector can be utilized in flexible gas power plants, which are also cheaper than electrical storage.

        • Bob_Wallace

          To be honest with you, I don’t have the energy required to read your links. Perhaps my questions are answered there…

          Let me ask, how big a role does Germany’s ability to buy and sell electricity across its boarder play in the low need for storage? Is commerce playing the role of storage?

          The numbers for the various US grids for amount of renewable before storage would be needed ranges from 25% (Eastern grid) to 35% (Hawaiian grid). Buying and selling to another grid is not currently an option.

          Won’t Germany need storage to get to 100% renewable or does that come by their ability to link to the rest of Europe and North Africa?

          BTW, our newer wind turbines are producing at 50% capacity.

          • globi

            The VDE-report doesn’t mention power exchange across Germany’s boarders. If it did Germany wouldn’t need additional storage, since Norway alone (without Sweden, France, Austria and Switzerland) has a hydro storage capacity which is equal to over 50 days of Germany’s total power consumption (there are simply no nights and dead calm periods which last that long).
            The VDE-report says that Germany would need storage above 80% (and up to 80% it would lose about 7% of renewable power if it did not invest in storage).
            Regardless, it simply doesn’t make sense to invest in electrified storage as long as most buildings are heated with oil and natural gas. It’s better to electrify the heating and hot water sector to gain demand flexibilty and use a small part of the saved fossil fuels for flexible power plant. This is true for Germany as well as the US. Also, up to a certain point, it is simply much cheaper to overbuild renewables, than storing every kWh: If wind can be produced for 3 cent/kWh and you don’t use 20% of it (overbuilding instead of storing), wind power would simply cost 3.6 cent/kWh instead.

            BTW, Solar power in Germany is almost as cheap as solar power in Spain, since the interests rates are lower for German PV power plants. Germany has enough PV and wind potential to power 100% of the electric demand. (And transporting PV power from southern Europe or Africa is definitely more expensive than producing PV power in Germany directly. Besides with Offshore wind Europe can produce seven times more power than Europe requires: http://www.ewea.org/fileadmin/ewea_documents/documents/publications/reports/Offshore_Report_2009.pdf
            However, it is certainly sensible to produce solar and wind power in North Africa, but mostly because it would displace a lot of fossil fuels currently consumed to produce power in North Africa and not necessarily because it would provide clean power to Europe.)

          • globi

            One example regarding overbuilding of renewables: Since 1.1.2012 newly installed small German PV power plants are only allowed to feed-in up to 70% of the installed PV-module capacity. However, this means that they actually only lose between 3% and 6% of the energy yield.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Very good information. Thanks.

            Keep it coming.

          • ditto.

      • Foster Hampton

        Umm might want to check your soucres. ITs about 18.5 cents/kWh, and 23.5 cents/kWh.

        • Bob_Wallace

          Sources –

          “The prices offered by wind projects to utility purchasers averaged $40/MWh for projects negotiating contracts 2011 and 2012, spurring demand for wind energy.”



          $40/MWh means $0.04/kWh.

          “The cost of large-scale solar projects has fallen by one third in the last five years and big solar now competes with wind energy in the solar-rich south-west of the United States, according to new research.

          The study by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory entitled “Utility-Scale Solar 2012: An Empirical Analysis of Project Cost, Performance, and Pricing Trends in the United States” – says the cost of solar is still falling and contracts for some solar projects are being struck as low as $50/MWh (including a 30 percent federal tax credit).”

          “Another interesting observation from LBNL is that most of the contracts written in recent years do not escalate in nominal dollars over the life of the contract. This means that in real dollar terms, the pricing of the contract actually declines.

          This means that towards the end of their contracts, the solar plants (including PV, CSP and CPV) contracted in 2013 will on average will be delivering electricity at less than $40/MWh. This is likely to be considerably less than fossil fuel plants at the same time, given the expected cost of fuels and any environmental regulations.”


          This is a ‘best case’ solar price in the US. However installed solar prices in the US are higher than in Europe and China. US prices have probably dipped under $2/watt for utility scale solar. Europe is installing for less than $1.50/watt and China for $1/watt.

          Your prices are years outdated.

          • Foster Hampton

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ayIyiVua8cY#t=946. Solars current average is 23.5 cents/kWh. NUmbers from some operating plants. Brightsource in cali. $5.60/ watt. Abengoa in Arizona $5.71/watt.

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ayIyiVua8cY#t=738. Winds current average is 18.5 cents/kWh. EIA $2.44/watts. Deepwater wind $7.00/watt. Cape Wind $5.40/watt. My prices are pretty current. I nothing against solar. It is a useful source of energy that needs to be exploited more. Wind on the other hand is a wasted endover for powering large needs. On the coastline the wind blows an average of only 30% of the time. This is not nearly enough. However to an island community likr Hawaii or the carribean this might find better uses.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Let’s see. You are willing to take claims about the cost of wind and solar from some guy who has made a YouTube video about how wonderful a thorium reactor would be over EIA and Livermore Labs data.

            OK. Guess that tells us a lot….

            Do you understand that the cost of fuel is only a very small portion of the cost of nuclear produced electricity? About $0.0075/kWh. That news to you?

            Thorium could be cheaper than uranium. With new nuclear electricity around $0.16/kW a 99% decrease in fuel costs would drop the cost of electricity all the way down to $0.153.

            Yes, offshore wind is more expensive than onshore. It’s an “emerging technology” here in the US. We are very early on the learning curve. Costs will almost certainly come down over time as we develop better processes for getting turbines installed off shore.

            Onshore wind has fallen from $0.36/kWh to $0.04/kW over the last 30 years. Offshore may not become quite as cheap as onshore but its daytime output and proximity to population centers makes it more valuable.

            Denmark has been installing offshore wind for over 20 years and they now seem to be producing offshore wind electricity for around $0.06/kWh.


          • Bob_Wallace

            And, here, you can check the DOE EIA cost range for onshore wind. $0.03/kWh to $0.09/kWh with a median of $0.05/kW.


            Wind at $0.185 is a silly claim.

            If that Hargraves guy is lying that much about the cost of wind and solar I’d totally discard anything else he has to say.

            And let me give you some other examples of how affordable solar is becoming in the US.

            Roseville, Ca 7.4 Cents

            “Roseville Electric purchased 325,000 MWH of renewable energy for $24 million for 10 years. The contract cost $6.5 million less than similar renewable energy purchase offers in 2012. “

            City of Roseville, CA – First Solar Farm in Kern County


            Palo Alto 6.9 Cents

            The price is an eye-opening 6.9 cents per kilowatt-hour for the 30-year PPA.

            “Try building a new nuke or coal plant at that price,” was Adam Browning of Vote Solar’s take on the number. The price compares favorably to the typical market price referent and would seem to be able to take on prices paid for natural gas or wind. The projects still include the 30 percent federal Investment Tax Credit.

            The utility calculates the impact of its renewables contracts to be in the range of 0.11 cents per kilowatt-hour compared to conventional generation. The math looks to adjust for time-of-delivery, transmission costs, and capacity value.

            6.9 cents includes 30% ITC subsidy. Without subsidies the price would be roughly 10 cents per kWh.


            San Jose at 6.9c/kWh

            Last week, the San Jose municipal authority wrote contracts for 80MW of solar PV at 6.9c/kWh, which after a 30 per cent investment tax credit works out to be around 10c/kWh.

            Randolph says he has just approved more contracts for distributed solar systems of between 3 and 10MW in and around the same price. “I just signed off on a couple of contracts and they are competitive with fossil fuels,” he says.

            The other point of note is that California has not had to add to fossil-fuel generation capacity to support renewables. About 10GW of old, inefficient gas-fired generators will be closed in coming years for environmental reasons– these are mostly 50-year-old generators which use sea-water cooling through a method known as “once-through cooling”. Randolph says these will be replaced by newer gas turbines that can provide the flexibility to respond to renewables.

            Storage though will be critical, Randolph says, especially as the penetration of renewables goes beyond 35 or 40 per cent. “If we want to be doing it and have it being environmental meaningful, we will need storage. If you doing that (filling in the gaps) with gas, you are not getting an environmental benefit.”


            New Mexico 5.8 cents

            Adding in state (2.7 cents ) and federal (2.3 cents) subsidies makes it about 10.8 cents.http://cleantechnica.com/2013/02/03/thin-film-solar-power-to-be-sold-for-less-than-coal/

          • Bob_Wallace

            I checked with someone I know who works in the offshore wind industry in Europe. The 6c/kWh price is too low. Current prices are above 10c/kWh. I’m hoping to get a better source soon.

            Sorry about the misinformation.

          • Foster Hampton

            Yeah i guess it tells you that im willing to listen to a scientist presenting his finding and ideas about energy production. As for nuclear being a dead man walking, with solar being limited to areas with maximum sun exposure and wind only working 30 percent of the time, its a bit ignorant to count nuclear out completely.

          • Bob_Wallace

            It doesn’t bother you that the guy you listened to has badly misrepresented the cost of wind and solar electricity?

            BTW, solar works almost everywhere. Even in Alaska half of the year.

            The wind blows far more than 30% of the time. In fact tie wind farms together over a modest area and you will get significant output 85% of the time.

            You’re confusing hours of production with capacity factor. And CF for new US wind farms is now over 40% with some farms reporting 50% capacity.

            I suspect you have a lot to learn about renewable energy and that has allowed you to fall for the thorium myth. Over on the right hand side of the page you’ll find links to lots of information about renewable energy. You might want to spend some time getting current so that you can form a better informed opinion.

          • Foster Hampton

            So what about the other half of the time in Alaska? As for the wind farms idea, how much land are u going to use? Land is expensive, upping the costs of wind. The same could be said for solar. On the coast you might, depending on weather conditions, get wind blowing 60% of the time. But inland, yes 30% is a very accurate estimate. And what is this throium myth? That one ton of thorium is equal to 200 tonnes of uranium, and 3.5 million tonnes of coal. Or that thorium is as common as dirt. 39th most abundant element in the earths crust. Or that thorium coupled with the molten salt reactor or the liquid fluoride reactor can, nearly melt down proof, destroy other nuclear wastes, has a much higher resistance to weapons proliforation, and produces much less waste. which myth are u referring to? Wind (depending) and solar have a future in electricity production, becoming the some of the main methods for producing it, but they can not do it on their own.

          • Bob_Wallace

            The other six months – wind, geothermal and tidal. Enhanced geothermal is a very attractive option for Alaska and other long, dark winter places. The waste heat can be used for space and greenhouse heating. Many ‘dark a long time’ places also have good hydro capacity.

            Wind farm land requirements. We could generate 100% of the electricity we consumed in 2010 with 3 MW turbines. The total land requirement would be 3.5 Disney Worlds. Leasing land for tower footings is not really expensive and provides significant income for ranchers and farmers.

            The solar we need (somewhere around 30% to 40% of our total energy use) would largely fit on existing rooftops and over parking lots. I’m guessing that we will use more wind than solar as it will always be cheaper to use electricity direct from source rather than to store it and the wind blows more hours of the year.

            No, 30% inland is absolutely incorrect.

            First, you are using a capacity number and assuming that it indicates hours of output. What CF means is the annual average hourly output / the ‘nameplate’ capacity of the wind farm. Nameplate capacity is how much electricity is produced when the farm is running at full speed.

            BTW, CF for other generation technologies is not always high. In 2011 CF for coal was 57.6%, petroleum 6%, natural gas 24.2%, nuclear 84.3% and hydro 46.6.%

            And 30% is old data. Current build wind farm CF is running above 40% and as high as 50%. Our technology and siting is better. We’re now building turbines/blades for low wind areas and getting much higher performance.
            The cost of fuel for a nuclear reactor is about $0.0075 per kWh. The most recent price for electricity from a newly built (might be built) nuclear reactor is $0.16/kWh. If thorium was only 1% as expensive as uranium that would drop the cost of electricity to only $0.15/kWh. There is no meaningful cost savings by switching to thorium. If there was the CANDU plants that are now capable of using thorium would have switched.

            There are new reactor designs that lower the likelihood of a meltdown. But they don’t reduce construction and financing costs enough to make affordable electricity. If they could then people would be building them right now.

            We can power our grids with wind, solar, other renewables and storage. Would you like a list of studies?

          • Foster Hampton

            The blades on the wind turbine would ice over and cause damage to the system. Tidal in Alaska? Tidal power requires very particular locations. That being said it takes up a great deal of beach front which is not only expensive, it is detrimental to wild life on the beach. But it could be used. Disney world is 30,080 acres, so your saying that leasing 105280 acres of land is cheap? http://www.nrel.gov/gis/pdfs/windsmodel4pub1-1-9base200904enh.pdf Where would this gaint wind farm be?And is that 100% of the energy the US consumed in 2010? I need a some clarification there. How often is the wind blowing then? Out of 24 hours in a day, how often is the wind blowing? The cost savings lie in that thorium is found in more locations then uranium, it is easier to process, and easier to transport.

            As for your comment ” But they don’t reduce construction and financing costs enough to make affordable electricity. If they could then people would be building them right now” the same could be said about wind and solar. If they are so cheap, versatile and efficient why aren’t there more plants going up?

          • Bob_Wallace

            Pillar Mountain Wind, a 4.5 MW wind farm, has been in operation in AK since 2009. Two major wind projects came online late this year — Fire Island Wind near Anchorage and Eva Creek in Interior Alaska near Healy. Kodiak added three turbines for a total of six and an output of almost 9 megawatts. Kotzebue, by adding two 900 kilowatt turbines, more than doubled its wind power output, from 1 megawatt hour to about 3.

            In addition, there are many small turbines servicing villages and individual homes.

            There are new blade designs which should have less icing problems.

            Tidal turbines take no beach area. They sit below the surface. And have no impact on sea life.

            If wind is selling for 4 cents/kWh how expensive could it be to least land for the footings?

            Yes, total US electricity consumption in 2010. 43% capacity which is now the average CF for new wind farms. I still do not think you’ve grasped the difference between CF and amount of time the wind blows.

            No, it would not be practical to power ourselves with 100% wind. The more diverse the input, the easier it is to match supply to demand. Less storage, dispatchable generation and load-shifting is required.

            Can you not do math? The best price for new nuclear electricity is 16c/kWh. (Hinkley Point). Totally eliminate the cost of fuel ($0.0075/kWh) and the cost drops to just above 15c/kWh. Thorium being cheaper is totally irrelevant. Thorium is fuel, nothing more. Fuel is cheap. Nuclear plants are very expensive.

            I have no idea what your last paragraph means.

          • Foster Hampton

            As for your comment ” But they don’t reduce construction and financing costs enough to make affordable electricity. If they could then people would be building them right now” the same could be said about wind and solar. If they are so cheap, versatile and efficient why aren’t there more plants going up?
            Based off of your logic more solar plants and wind farms should be popping up everywhere. Yet their not.
            In 2010 the United States consumed about 9800000000000000 or 98 quadrillion BTUs. A wind farm the size of 105280 acres can produce that much energy? I need to see your source.
            How much does it cost to buy 105280 arces of land?

          • Bob_Wallace

            ​I’ll “draw you some pictures” that show how rapidly wind and solar installations are growing around the world.

            Wind farms do not buy land. They lease it.

            Wind farms use less than 2% of their total area for turbine use. That leaves 98% of the land available for original use, grazing or agriculture. Farmers and ranchers lease out the turbine space and continue using the rest of their land for whatever it was used before.

            you not understand that the selling price of wind includes land lease,
            equipment costs, labor, operation costs, maintenance cost, financing
            costs, transmission, taxes and owner profits?

            All of that for about 4 cents per kWh. How large can those real estate leases be? Apply some common sense.

          • Foster Hampton

            And in applying common sense one realizes that u would have to have maintenance paths out to each turbine and wires running to and from each turbine. Are there going to be crops and animals hugging the reactor? No they are going to give a generous amount of breathing room.

            How can it include maintenance, taxes , and land lease when those all vary by state, location, and weather?

            Over a period of how many years does it take for wind to be $.04? Nuclear Is about $.07/kWh over a period of 20 years.

            And u still havent given me the source which says a wind farm could supply the US for its energy needs in 2010.

            Why are u so against thorium research and power?

          • Bob_Wallace

            The typical wind turbine uses 1/4 acre for turbine footing, access roads, transmission and ancillary buildings.

            Animals? Crops? See below.

            Four cents per kWh is the average PPA (contract selling price) for new wind farms in the lower 48 US states for 2011 and 2012. I gave you the link earlier.

            “Nuclear Is about $.07/kWh over a period of 20 years.”

            A link?

            “And u still havent given me the source which says a wind farm could supply the US for its energy needs in 2010.”

            You have not asked for one. And I won’t give you one.

            It does not make sense to supply a grid with 100% wind. A mix of all available renewables would be cheaper than using only a single source. Unless you are Idaho or Paraguay which generate 90% and 1,000% of their electricity with hydro. (Yes, 1,000%)

            Now, there’s a very good paper in which the researchers used four years of real world minute by minute demand from the largest wholesale grid in the US along with hourly wind and solar data and showed that it would be possible to supply 99.9% of demand with only wind and solar for a reasonable price. They needed 0.1% of dispatchable gas, about 7 hours per year to keep costs in line.

            Now, that it not an argument that we should use only wind and solar but a finding that we could were it necessary.


            Why am I so against nuclear and thorium? I’m not.

            I’m for getting us off fossil fuels as fast as possible, as cheaply as possible, and with creating as little danger for us and those who follow us as possible.

            Nuclear is slower to install than renewables. Nuclear is more expensive than renewables. And nuclear brings a danger into our lives unlike any other energy source.

          • Foster Hampton

            Yes i have asked you for one, and why not?

            And for reasons you just stated, are against it, and i can understand why.

            I admit you have beaten me in this logical discussion. I didnt realize how far solar and wind had come. I didnt know they were that cheap, and efficient. I still am unsure about wind, but solar is definately somthing that should be exploited by every home. I would like to know more about other renewables and you seem like the person to ask. But I am high as of writing this, so bid farewell my logical friend

          • Bob_Wallace

            Sorry, I missed your request.

            Keep reading CT, we cover all sorts of interesting renewable energy stuff. And if you have other questions, just ask. We also have some very knowledgeable members.

            A closer on nuclear. A few years back it looked like we would need nuclear in order to avoid the worst of climate change. But then the price of wind and solar starting falling very rapidly. Only a couple years ago or so solar was more expensive than nuclear.

            The world changed very abruptly. Here’s a good graph of how prices have dropped in Germany.


            At the same time the cost of nuclear rose.

          • Foster Hampton

            Hello. I am doing a project on the growth of wind and solar and i need to know the source for these graphs. They are the graphs you gave me earilier. i just need to see the data behind them asap. Please and thank you

          • Bob_Wallace
          • Foster Hampton

            Thank you. But i cant find the graphs or any data relateting to the graphs. Can you send me some links to raw data about solar and wind growth? Please. P.S. thank you for helping me with this.

          • Bob_Wallace

            On the GWEC page – look down the page to Statistics.


            You should be able to find the solar stats via the solar link on the upper right hand side of this page or with a quick Google.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Your EIA solar number is out of date.

            The national average price for all classes of solar declined 11.1% from $3.43/W from one year ago to $3.05/W . That is a 31.5% two year drop from the Q2, 2011 price of $4.45/W.

            From Q2, 2012 to Q2, 2013, residential system prices fell 11.5% percent, from $5.43/W to $4.81/W. Common residential system prices ranged from less than $3.00/W to almost $8.00/W.

            Non-residential system prices fell 14.7% percent year-over-year, from $4.35/W to $3.71/W.

            Utility system prices declined 19.2% year-over-year, down from $2.60/W in Q2, 2012 to $2.10/W in Q2, 2013.

            Greentech Media Executive Summary


            Based on current PPA prices we must have dipped below $2/W for installed utility scale solar.

            Europe is installing for around $1.50/W. China is installing for $1/W.
            Nuclear is simply priced off the table. It’s a dead man walking.

      • Jo Erson

        3 cents per kWh wind, what are you talking about. Wind and Solar are some of the most expensive ways to generate electricity. Look at Germany, the clean energy crusader. Their cost of electricity is 3 times more expensive than the USA. Now Germany is building more coal power stations than anywhere in the world. Why would they do this?

        • Bob_Wallace

          In 2013 the average PPA for new wind farms was 2.5 cents per kWh. Add back in the PTC subsidy and that comes out under 4 cents. Before any new nuclear can come on line wind will likely be down to 3 cents.

          Solar PPAs in the SW in 2013 ran around 5 cents/kWh. That’s about 6.5 cents without subsidy.

          Citigroup ran an LCOE on the Vogtle reactors being build in Georgia. They reported that the price will be 11 cents/kWh if there are no further budget/time line overruns. Eleven cents is a subsidized price.

          As for Germany, you’re looking at the retail cost of electricity which is heavily taxed. Germany’s wholesale price of electricity is far lower.

          Several years ago Germany decided to replace inefficient coal plants with more efficient “supercritical” plants as a way to decrease coal use and reduce emissions. The initial plan was that by 2020, 11.3 gigawatts would be built allowing 18.5 gigawatts of coal power capacity to be decommissioned.

          Due to the success of renewables it appears that the 11.3 gigawatt number will be lowered by at least 3 GW. Furthermore the newer plants will be more efficient, releasing less CO2 per unit electricity produced than are the ones they are replacing. And the new coal plants are partially load-following which further cuts total emissions.

          As of November 2013 some 49 power plants with a collective capacity of 7.9 GW have been submitted for decommissioning. Another 246 MW of capacity has been closed. Utilities in Germany need clearance from the government before closing and that process can take several months.

  • Then what? That this is technology that has yet to be developed is old news. The point is that it could beat ITER for fraction of the cost.

    • Luke

      Pfft. ITER is dozens of times more exciting and interesting than any fission technology.

      • coreybarcus

        ITER is certainly a fascinating project, but it doesn’t yet show a way to dramatically lower clean energy costs. To the contrary, it suggests that plants must be very large, very complicated, and very likely prohibitively expensive. Totally worth pursuing, but it is not going to form an important portion of our response to our current crisis.

        Fission offers a way to drastically improve our collective economic and ecological condition today, though research will be required before it reaches commercial viability: there are still too many engineering unknowns. Components like the super-critical CO2 cooling system are already being developed for other applications, and when it is ready, it should enable higher efficiency and affordable dry cooling. Thorium is already a waste stream, so putting it to productive use is desirable. The potential of this system to radically improve our economy is currently greater than any other system that I am aware of. If a rival nation develops this technology first, we will of course be at a significant disadvantage.

        Maybe someday we will discover something radically better than molten salt reactors and thorium, but today it stands as the least risky approach for a total transformation of our energy infrastructure as we move towards sustainability.

        • Cooling system? I thought IFR and LFTR used passive cooling. Are you referring to a GFR? Which Gen IV reactor is best?

      • LukeB1

        And, Polywell, Focus Fusion, Helion are dozen’s of times more exiting and interesting than ITER. And, I’m not sure bit that I think High Temp. TMSR is about as interesting for directly manufacturing a wide range of chemicals and fuels.

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