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Nuclear Energy

Published on May 3rd, 2013 | by Zachary Shahan


Nuclear News Roundup (5 Stories)

May 3rd, 2013 by  

Some people consider nuclear power cleantech. We don’t. But that’s not really the issue killing nuclear power anyway — it’s the cost. Here’s some news related to nuclear power that touches on both topics:

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About the Author

Zach is tryin' to help society help itself (and other species) with the power of the word. He spends most of his time here on CleanTechnica as its director and chief editor, but he's also the president of Important Media and the director/founder of EV Obsession and Solar Love. Zach is recognized globally as a solar energy, electric car, and energy storage expert. He has presented about cleantech at conferences in India, the UAE, Ukraine, Poland, Germany, the Netherlands, the USA, and Canada. Zach has long-term investments in TSLA, FSLR, SPWR, SEDG, & ABB — after years of covering solar and EVs, he simply has a lot of faith in these particular companies and feels like they are good cleantech companies to invest in. But he offers no professional investment advice and would rather not be responsible for you losing money, so don't jump to conclusions.

  • For every renewables fantasist, there are several thousand of us who don’t give a you-know-what where affordable energy comes from as long as it’s there 24/7. Why else, throughout our energy-using lifetimes have we accepted up to 2 million early deaths per annum from burning fossil fuels. Why else will we continue to do so for decades – unless affordable, clean energy becomes available 24/7.

    If the lights start to flicker, the screams will go up for local Small Modular
    Reactors (SMRs) and (metaphorically) we will be hanging renewables fantasists from lampposts if they try to get in the way.

    The brilliant thing is that breeder reactors will be supplied in SMR form and this combination produces the only technological silver bullet capable of maintaining international peace and stability, in the run up to 2050 and a 10 billion population.

    Back of a fag-packet arithmetic proves that it is possible for SMR Breeder Reactors to supply an energy-rich lifestyle, to every one of the 10 billion, for all of time, from inexhaustible uranium and thorium fuel sources.

    A Sodium-cooled Fast Reactor (SFR) is under consideration for burning the UK’s plutonium stockpile. It will render the plutonium worthless as a bomb making material in 5 years. From the fuel produced, it will generate enough electricity to supply 750,000 people for a further 50 or 60 years.

    SFRs can be configured as breeder reactors in SMR form and can be factory made. A fleet of these could burn what the ill- informed and duplicitous call ‘nuclear waste’

    This ‘legacy waste’ is in fact the UK’s most precious energy resource and we have sufficient available to power the UK for 500 years – ask David MacKay.

    • Bob_Wallace

      For your SMR breeder reactors to work with your back of fag-packet math you have to make a number of assumptions. And some of those assumptions may be incorrect.

      There are those who argue that factory-built SMRs will not be cheaper, in fact, more expensive. One doesn’t reach economies of scale when manufacturing only a few hundred, or even a several hundred units.

      Then there’s the siting problems. Most people do not want a reactor of any size close to them. We’re seeing countries such as Germany, Belgium, Switzerland and Japan getting rid of reactors. One would be very hard pressed to find many new sites in the US which would allow a reactor to be installed.

      The blunt truth is that renewables are the cheapest way to bring new electricity to the grid (natural gas is temporarily cheap). Renewables install rapidly. They pay themselves off and then provide almost free electricity for decades.

      And there are no “what the ill- informed and duplicitous call ‘nuclear waste'”. Not only no used nuclear fuel, but also no millions and millions of gallons and pounds of radioactive non-fuel waste.

      Some more blunt truth is that renewables are becoming significant parts of several grids and lights are not flickering.

      In fact, the largest problem grid operators have happens when large thermal plants like nuclear reactors suddenly go offline.

      Renewables, being more widely dispersed, are much easier to manage.

      • Right now, you and your renewables friends are contributing to more early deaths from fossil fuel burning. You will do so for decades as your efforts increase renewables contibutions to world energy from next to nothing to a tiny little bit.

        Per GWh, renewables use 3 to 4 times more resources – steel, concrete, rare earths – than nuclear. Where’s the environmentalism in that?

        ‘A’ List converted environmentalists ask -“…can you be an environmentalist and not be pro-nuclear?..” Pandora’s Promise will be here in June: http://prismsuk.blogspot.co.uk/2013/05/pandoras-promise-official-trailer-hd-in.html

        • Bob_Wallace

          Renewables come on line very rapidly. Nuclear reactors take a decade or so and we can’t build very many at one time.

          Renewables will get coal off the grid much faster than nuclear could.

          The steel, concrete stuff – the lifetime carbon footprint for nuclear, wind and solar are all very low. And and all of them are far better than coal and natural gas.

          Nuclear would be a good low greenhouse gas technology but looses out on cost, installation time, ability to site, and safety.

          • “…don’t say no nuclear power, say better nuclear power…”. Why not watch what Robert Stone has to say – it’ll only take up 10 minutes of your time? – http://prismsuk.blogspot.co.uk/2013/02/dont-say-no-nuclear-power-say-better.html

          • Bob_Wallace

            No one has yet invented “better nuclear power”.

            If someone does invent nuclear which is cheaper than renewables, is quick enough to build to help us get fossil fuels off the grid, is safe enough that people can live comfortably around it, and doesn’t leave tons of hazardous waste for those who follow us then we can put nuclear back into consideration.

            We’ll keep researching better nuclear power, but at this time the answer eludes.

          • Keep the blinkers on. Take no notice of Stewart Brand, Mark Lynas and their ilk. What do they know about environmentalism?

          • Bob_Wallace

            People can be experts in their specific fields and total idiots in other fields.

            Consider Nobel-Prize-winning chemist Linus Pauling and his vitamin C foolishness.

          • I think it’s time to agree to disagree. Experts in renewables technologies can be total idiots in nuclear power technologies and vice versa.

          • Bob_Wallace

            I can agree that you are disagreeable.

            And I can agree that you are posting some idiotic stuff and appear to not be interested in learning anything that challenges your closely held beliefs.

          • Nasty

          • Bob_Wallace

            I agree.

            Your inability to take on new information is quite nasty.

    • Ross

      Breeder reactors are a nuke fanboy’s dream but they’re not going to happen, certainly not enough to make any difference to arresting climate change.

      And spare us the cliches about the lights going out. The Germans and even the Japanese are managing fine

      • You know it’s all candy floss without a base load foundation and fossil fuel back up.

        “…don’t say no nuclear power, say better nuclear power…”. Why not watch what Robert Stone has to say – it’ll only take up 10 minutes of your time? – http://prismsuk.blogspot.co.uk/2013/02/dont-say-no-nuclear-power-say-better.html

        • Bob_Wallace

          No, Colin, I don’t know that. I know that what you claim is incorrect.

          We can run a 100% renewable grid (or extremely close to 100% renewable grid) without “base load” or fossil fuels. There’s a pile of papers list over on the right hand side of the page under the heading “100% Renewable Energy?”

          If you think Robert Stone has something important to say why don’t you summarize it in couple of sentences?

          Does he offer proof of a working nuclear reactor which produces cheap electricity and which doesn’t endanger people? Or does he speculate on what we might do if we were to invent some sort of nuclear reactor we have not invented?

          • If your 100% renewable grid depends on supplying energy in 2050, is premissed upon substantial savings in the amount of energy required, through ‘efficiencies’, forget it – Jevon’s Paradox – the ‘uncaring’ (normal people) will always find ways of using more and more energy.

            By 2050, when there are 10 billion of us, we will require 3 to 4 times more energy than we use now. It is pure fantasy to believe a spaghetti-like, international/intercontinental grid of windmills, plastic squares and batteries can service an equitable standard of living for all.

            Dr James Mahaffey: “…My purpose is not to sell nuclear power, because there is no longer a reason to sell it. Nuclear power, waiting quietly in its coma, has now become inevitable. That is, the ultimate need for nuclear power has finally caught up with its mad dash to develop. Whether you like it or not, the industrial world no longer has a choice. The age of burning coal and gasoline is over as atmospheric chemistry and general environmental pollution have approached states of crisis and hydrocarbons are becoming too expensive to burn…”

          • Bob_Wallace

            Jevon’s – wrong. People aren’t going to build more rooms on their house just so they can leave more lights burning or put a second wide screen TV in their living rooms simply because electricity is cheaper.

            Everyone is getting more efficient because the gadgets/appliances/light bulbs they buy to replace their old ones are getting more efficient.

            Your 10 billion by 2050 is a fantasy. You’re likely 20 years early and a billion too high. And we can make all the electricity anyone wants with renewable technology at affordable prices.

            Mahaffey is simply wrong. He’s correct that we must quit burning fossil fuels, but he doesn’t understand the relative cost of nuclear and renewables and is not taking into consideration the problems of siting new reactors or the problems of radioactive waste.

            The nuclear industry, the people who own and operate nuclear reactors are telling us that new nuclear is simply too expensive to be considered.

            About one fourth of our existing, paid off reactors are in danger of going bankrupt. One is closing this month because it is loosing money. Another has just announced that the cost of needed repairs means that it will not be restarted. It looks probable that the two San Onofre reactors will not come back on line due to repair costs. Another reactor is scheduled to close in 2010 rather than perform needed repairs.

            It seems that you would benefit from increasing your knowledge base rather than simply making declarations which are not fact based.

          • I know! The money I save on all of my energy saving gadgets will pay for a holiday in Benidorm for the family, if we go Ryanair.

        • Bob_Wallace

          “For every renewables fantasist, there are several thousand of us who don’t give a you-know-what where affordable energy comes from as long as it’s there 24/7.”

          I call BS on your claim. You do give a very large “what”.

          Take a little time. Learn that we can run a modern 24/365 grid with renewable and why it will be both the safest and least expensive way to power our future.

          The information is easy to access if you’re interested.

  • Steeple

    EDF is in trouble primarily because they have immovable assets that the French govt is taxing punitively to support their Socialist state. This leaves EDF with very little free cash flow to maintain their assets or to build others. The good news though is that French power demand is declining as their economy continues to contact; that’s the good news.

    • Bob_Wallace

      Please support your statement with some documentation.

      • Steeple
        • Bob_Wallace

          Rupert put that behind a paywall. You’ll have to describe it to us.

          • Ronald Brakels

            It’s an article about how there is a special tax in France where the proceeds go to the EDF (Contribution pour le service public de l’ectricite) and how the French government is giving billions in top up payments because the tax isn’t enough. So rather than being overtaxed, it turns out the EDF wasn’t taxing the people enough, but the government made it up with taxpayers money.

          • Steeple

            The French govt has capped the prices that EDF charged to retail consumers in spite of rising natural gas prices from Russia. EDF’s fleet is not entirely nuclear, and the price of all electricity typically follows the highest cost fuel. The govt only allowed a partial reclamation of those costs and capped the earnings of EDF at an artifical, non-market level. France is punishing their lowest cost source of generation and, like Germany, jumping into the arms of the Russians and the Qataris.

          • Ronald Brakels

            Do you think that if the price of natural gas increases it makes generating electricity from nuclear reactors more expensive?

          • Steeple

            If they have to wear the downside risk, then they should get the upside reward. Here the French saddle EDF with the downside risk, yet take away the upside. That’s a not so stealthy tax on their earnings.

          • Ronald Brakels

            So you are saying a corporation that has a natural monopoly, that was entirely state owned until 2004 and which is now mostly state owned, should be allowed to charge what they like for electricity? Are you against the owners of companies controlling what they do in general or just in this case?

    • Ronald Brakels

      So your explanation of why the EDF may pull out of building a nuclear reactor in the UK is because they were taxed by the French government and not because they can’t currently get the UK to agree to a minimum price for nuclear energy from that plant of about 15 cents a kilowatt-hour? How does that work? Did the French government suddenly put a huge surprise tax on them and took away money they were ready to invest like a week ago? Or did they think they had a few billion in the bank, but didn’t realize it was all going towards tax and when they checked their account they suddenly realized they don’t have any money to invest? If the French government suddenly taxed away billions how come I didn’t hear about it on the news and if the EDF didn’t know whether or not they could afford to invest in UK reactors how can people that stupid be trusted to build and run nuclear power plants?

      • Steeple

        This project has been underway for several years. If you’ve been paying attention, the French govt has been in an aggressive tax increase posture.

        • Bob_Wallace

          If you’ve been paying attention it appears that nuclear energy has peaked, worldwide, and is now on the downturn.

          Even France is plotting its route away from nuclear.

          Read links one and three above….

        • Ronald Brakels

          Well obviously you’ve been paying attention so could you name one new tax that applies to the government run EDF? And perhaps explain why high French taxes would cause them to pull out of Hinkley C instead of making investment in the UK more attractive.

  • Ross

    The real reason for nuclear power, i.e. weapons is gone now. With pinpoint accurate GPS, conventional high explosive and a bunker buster penetrator will do the job without radioactive fallout.

    • Fanandala

      If you want relatively cheap and relatively clean and reliable power, the only option with our current technology is nuclear. Renewables will either be by far too expensive or not reliable enough to run a modern industrial society, and natural gas is not all that clean either and in Western Europe it is imported. There you are risking arbitrary price increases and political and economical blackmail.
      As for weapons, as long as there are nations with nuclear weapons or the capacity and intent to produce nuclear weapons, there is a need to have nuclear weapons.

      • Bob_Wallace

        I’m sorry, Fanadala, but that’s simply incorrect.

        Nuclear is not cheap. It’s one of the two most expensive ways (along with coal) to bring new generation on line.

        Renewables are the most affordable (along with natural gas and gas will not stay cheap). We will have no problems running our future grids with only renewable inputs.

        Nuclear is too expensive, it’s too hard to site, it takes too long to bring on line, and it leaves behind very large amounts of hazardous waste. That’s why the world is dropping nuclear from its plans.

        • Tina

          Nuclear is good source of clean energy, renewable energy has its drawbacks unable supplied base load power 24 hours a day and for years this problem has still been going on unable to deliver the goods. Lack of development in storage capability for renewable energy, basically a pipedream, its unproductive to costly to be viable in this century.

          • Bob_Wallace

            No, Tina. We now have a significant number of studies which find that we will have no problem powering our grids 24/365 with renewable energy.

            We have a number of ways to deal with the storage issue but it is looking like large scale batteries will be the best solution.

            Go to the right side of the page, click on “100% Renewable Energy?” and do some reading. And read the recent posts about Eos zinc-air batteries.

          • Rodney

            I don’t know what you got against nuclear power, America has been depending upon nuclear power in order to make this economy work. There no way that renewable can match nuclear power on performance, besides it is my understanding that renewable energy is dependent upon this type of energy in order to work without it, it wouldn’t work.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Wrong, Rodney.

          • Edward-Smith

            There are too many people making comments which have not got the evidence to support their claim fictional, I’ve yet to seen renewable energy storage capability and I think the comments made on this side are in lulu-land. Of course there is evidence of off grid storage capability and people are doing that, but there is no evidence of this claim that wind and solar power stations are storing energy anywhere in the world, and I think you need to get your facts right before making such claims. It’s like me saying install a grid inverter on top of my car with grid solar panels and make the car run on AC motor its total nonsense, and it’s totally wrong.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Edward, we have storage. What we are now doing is looking for the best storage solution.

            We’ve been using pump-up hydro storage since the 1890s. It works. It’s affordable. And we’ve got plenty of places to build it.

            It appears that large scale batteries will be cheaper and easier to install (few permitting problems).

            We are storing wind and solar right now. Not in large quantities, largely because we simply don’t have enough on line yet. We are easily using the electricity as it is produced by cutting back on fossil fuel and hydro outputs.

            We won’t need appreciable storage until our grids become more than 40% renewable. With all the dispatchable NG we’ve added lately and the number of electric vehicles that will be coming on the grid that number is likely going to be significantly higher.

      • Ronald Brakels

        If nuclear power is relatively cheap then why does the Hinkley C reactor apparently need a minimum price of about 15 cents a kilowatt-hour to be built in the UK?

      • Ross

        Lots of nuclear wing nuts out today. It’s ok lads you’ll have jobs for years cleaning up the waste.

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