Clean Power

Published on June 6th, 2013 | by Jake Richardson


$1 Billion Nuclear Power Project Abandoned In Iowa

June 6th, 2013 by  

Plans for Iowa’s second nuclear power plant have been dropped by Mid American Energy. No design has been approved for the type of nuclear plant the company had intended, so they have let the idea go. It was reported that ratepayers will be refunded the $8.8 million they paid for a completed feasibility study. Sites not far from Council Bluffs and Davenport were being considered for the plant.

(Iowa's one nuclear power plant.) Image Credit: Jssteinke

(Iowa’s one nuclear power plant.) Image Credit: Jssteinke

The decreasing cost of natural gas, events at Fukushima and a general suspicion about the safety of nuclear power may have all contributed to the decision to abandon the development of a new nuclear plant. Another factor may have been Iowa’s leading success with wind power development and its continuing investment in that form of clean, renewable energy. Mid-American will focus on its new wind power projects there.

Reactions to the announcement didn’t appear to be that low over the loss of extra nuclear power in the area. Environmentalists were predictably jazzed, “Yay! We are glad to hear that they are planning to expand their wind power. We think that is a better option than nuclear power,” said Neila Seaman, director of the Iowa Chapter of Sierra Club. (Source: Des Moines Register)

Friends of the Earth interpreted the decision more broadly saying it is an indication that massive public subsidies for new nuclear power might not be as popular an idea any longer. A poll of Iowans conducted in 2012 found 77% were against a funding arrangement that would have required residents to have to pay the energy company up front for construction of the nuclear plant. Proposed legislation could have made such an arrangement possible, but it was opposed by a number of non-profit advocacy organizations, so it didn’t go through.

Iowa’s only nuclear plant is located near Cedar Rapids and generates about 615 MW. It began operation in 1974, and uses one General Electric boiling water reactor.

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  • toby

    What the problem is that PV don’t work, in my state of California the main connected solar panel where are total failure. Every day now you hear of main connected solar house on fire burning down, and then you hear of the bigger installation factory and shopping centres burning down, best to go back to nuclear energy safer for all then this PV main connected solar panel which are failing.

  • FreedomRules76

    Speaking of public subsidies…

    “Chancellor Angela Merkel’s third-term government will seek to slow the expansion of land and sea-based wind power to cut the cost of the country’s unprecedented
    switch from nuclear energy to renewable sources.”

    • Bob_Wallace

      Change rarely happens in a straight line.

      The German public will start pushing back against this decision. The move to renewable energy is very strongly supported.

      • FreedomRules76

        Thanks for making no sense.

        • Freespeak

          To right Bob never make any sense, all he knows is one thing is to delete posting.

  • Talis

    Make no mistake, the cost of these plants is laid on we the people. The profits are given to the operators. No insurance company will deal with the nukes so we the people indemnify them.

    No Nukes until every advocate builds a home at the the Hanford site and gets their water from there.

  • An alternative to conventional unsafe and expensive nuclear is a radically different technology called Molten Salt Reactors – these have few of the downsides of existing Nuclear (safe, can’t melt down, produce a fraction of the waste, cost orders of magnitude less) and have the potential to produce energy cheaper than coal. It is a disruptive game changing technology

    There’s a great video, “Thorium Remix 2011” on Youtube which explains it in great detail.

    China is developing one at their National Academy of Sciences. The project is so important to them it’s being headed up Jiang Mianheng, son of former leader Jiang Zemin. A prototype is planned before 2020.

    Renewables are an important part of the solution to our energy needs, but they will struggle to compete with the cost of coal and gas plants. MSR tech can, and that’s why it’s so important. I’m sure we’d all benefit from reduced energy bills.

    The tech was actually developed by the US back in the 60s and a prototype run for 5 years at Oak Ridge National Labs – it’s tragic it wasn’t pursued further and is now being pursued by foreign states who will reap the rewards.

    • Lorenzo LaRue

      A shill for the nuclear industry, eh? Yeah, they tried it in the 60’s……..and……if it was so good, why didn’t they develop it? Because is doesn’t work, that’s why. Besides the US NEVER lets a tech development that’s any good go to another who will ‘reap the rewards’. You folks seem to populate these sorts of message boards constantly pushing this crap.

      • Hahaha, yeah, I’m a shill for the nuclear industry. Precisely. Very reasonable.

        Perhaps you should look into MSR more throughly before throwing insults around.

        • Lorenzo LaRue

          I have and found it to be so much crap. If you need uranium for it which you, you play with fire all the way from the mine to the crap that is left over. Wind and Solar are in line to trump the cost of everything so your argument holds no logic. By the time ANY more reactors can be built (8-10 yrs) there will have been built countless solar panels and windmills. We HAVE this technology already, salt reactors still need a lot more development since they don’t work and maybe never will. Time is not your side.

          • I agree, time is not on our side. We need to be building as many renewables as we possibly can. I’m pro-renewables.

            I just think we also need to be pursuing and not discounting other potentially revolutionary technologies such as Fusion (ITER, going online in 2019. Also Lockheed Martin claim to have a skunkworks Fusion project due to come online within 5 years). But of all the potential technologies out there, MSRs have the most potential.

            Also not only can an MSR run on Thorium (as abundant as lead, already got loads of the stuff – its a byproduct of the mining industry) they can run on existing nuclear waste stockpiles, so environmentalists should be all over this. Would you rather we buried the waste, or converted it into cheap, CO2 free energy?

          • Lorenzo LaRue

            You trust Lockheed Martin, really. One the largest purveyors of military death machines to facilitate another one of their ‘too cheap to meter’ schemes. Them, Raytheon and GE should have their charters revoked for the destruction they have all caused. Why would you put your trust in these MF’s? All, so the rich can have more money. The kool-aid has been drunk!

          • Bob_Wallace

            You make an assumption that nuclear energy can somehow be made cheap.

            The nuclear industry does not support your assumption.

          • You make the assumption an MSR is a conventional nuclear technology. It’s not. It’s radically different.

            Existing nuclear has a terrible track record on cost overruns (although less so in a country like France, which is 80% nuclear).

            It’s why change is needed. More renewables, and new technologies like MSR.

          • Bob_Wallace

            No. I know what modular small reactors are.

            There is an assumption that we could manufacture small reactors in a factory and then drop them in place and do so for “relatively cheap”.

            But there’s no basis for that belief.

            First, it will still take as much material per unit of electricity, possibly more. They still require a physical site. They still require labor and energy inputs. Some who have studied MSRs suggest that they would actually be more expensive per MW.

            Second, one does not hit economy of scale with manufacturing a few dozen, even a few hundred units. Nissan has stated that they need to reach 500,000 units per year for EVs to become as cheap as ICEVs.

            The first MSRs coming out of a factory would be very expensive. Who would buy them when there are much cheaper ways to generate electricity?

            Third, there are not enough sites to place more than a handful of MSRs. Most communities will refuse to have a reactor in their ‘back yard’. The political pushback against siting would be immense.

            Fourth, we don’t have cooling water for very many reactors. Especially as the interior of the country suffers more and more periods of extreme heat. The only places where one can find ample amounts of cooling water is along coasts and you’re not going to stick a reactor of any size in a seaside setting and wreck property values.

            Now, ask yourself. If SMRs are such a great idea why has some major corporation such as GE not built a factor and started cranking them out? Why has some company not invested in this cash cow?

            Why, instead, has GE put its money into gas turbines designed to work in conjunction with renewables? Why are they investing huge amounts of money into wind turbine manufacturing?

          • It seems you don’t. A SMR is not an MSR. An MSR can be an SMR but there is no requirement for it to be.

            A Molten Salt Reactor is a radically different design. All existing nuclear plants use solid fuel pellets in zirconium fuel rods. They burn less than 0.5% of the fuel in the rod before the pellets crack and the rods deform and have to be removed. This is abysmal. You’re also left with 99.5% waste.

            With a Molten Salt Reactor, the fuel is dissolved in a salt such as FLiBe. As the salt is a liquid, it can circulate, allowing over 99% fuel burnup. Because it’s a liquid, you can remove fission products on-line while the reactor operates. These can be sold on to the medical industry. Some people have suggested the fission products may be worth more than the electricity generated by the plant, producing several hundred million in revenue each year.

            At the end of an MSR’s lifespan it will have produced a basket-ball sized amount of waste, which is only radioactive for 300 years.

            Existing Pressurised Water Reactors operate at 75-300 atmospheric pressures and use water as a coolant, meaning they can melt down and release steam and hydrogen/oxygen, which can explode, as happened at Fukushima. This drives the whole design. Every part of a PWR has to be engineered to a ridiculous degree to cope with the huge pressures involved, including having a huge concrete containment dome around the whole building. They need multiple redundant safety features bolted on top to keep them safe. This, combined with the awful fuel consumption, is why existing nuclear is so damn expensive.

            MSR reactors on the other hand operate at atmospheric pressure, meaning they can’t explode, and as the salt is already molten, they can’t melt down. They’re inherently walk-away safe.

            If you lose containment, the fuel leaks out and solidifies into a lump of salt, easily scooped up and put back in the reactor. There is also an exceptional safety feature – a passively cooled tank is situated below the main reactor vessel, connected by a pipe, with a fan blowing over it. The fan cools and freezes a lump of salt. If the reactor building loses power, the plug melts and the fuel drains into the drain tank, leaving the reactor in a completely safe walk-away state. This is an astonishing level of safety.

            There is no need to build small MSRs. They can scale from 10MW up to 10GW. I personally feel a 1GW plant is about the right size. The idea is that your reactor core is modular, but at a single site you could have multiple reactors in the same building.

            If you’re wondering why development wasn’t continued, it was for political and inertia reasons – LWR was a proven technology. This is like the betamax vs VCR debate. Superior technologies often don’t get off the ground because of existing established technologies. Why do you think people aren’t using renewables? Same deal. The existing players have too much to lose.

            Many parties are now desperately trying to resurrect MSR technology. China is investing over $1bn in this. The project is so important to them it’s being headed up by Jiang Mianheng, son of former leader Jiang Zemin. Do you think they would be doing that if they didn’t believe it would work?

          • Bob_Wallace

            No, I know what molten salt, thorium, small modular, pebble-bed, breeder and all sorts of reactors are.

            They are all too expensive.

            Quit taking your facts from videos someone has made. Look at the real world. Engage your common sense module.

            If reactors weren’t too expensive big business would be building them and making a lot of money.

            No new reactors are being built anywhere on a “merchant” basis. That is, no reactors are being built where they have to sell their output into a free market and compete head to head with other generation.

            The only places where reactors are being built are places where rate payers are forced by the government to pay whatever the utility company decides to charge.

            Old, paid off nuclear reactors are being shut down because they can’t compete with renewables and natural gas prices. Four paid off reactors have been closed so far in 2013. There are multiple others losing money, we should not be surprised to see more closures over the next few years.

          • Belittling me by saying I got all my facts from a video on Youtube doesn’t advance your argument. There are plenty of books and articles on the subject:




            Many US and Canadian companies are also seeking investment to make this work, including Flibe Energy, Terrestrial Energy, Transatomic Power.

            I don’t understand why you are an opponent to research and development into alternative technologies which have huge potential.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Flibe, Transatomic, … never heard of them.

            From Wiki…
            Flibe Energy was founded on April 6, 2011 by Kirk Sorensen, formerNASA aerospace engineer and formerly chief nuclear technologist atTeledyne Brown Engineering, and Kirk Dorius, an intellectual propertyattorney and mechanical engineer. The name “Flibe” comes from FLiBe, a Fluoride salt of Lithium and Beryllium, used in LFTRs. Flibe Energy Incorporated is registered in the State of Delaware.[1][2][3] Theiradvertising slogan is “LFTR by Flibe Energy, powering the next thousand years”[4]

            Two guys with a Delaware corporation.

            These aren’t major players. They’re small scale recent startups.

            I have no opposition to research. Research the hell out of nuclear, we might learn something useful.

            But please do not oversell your “product”. It is dishonest to claim that these things would work and would produce electricity at a competitive price when it has not been proven.

            All the data we have to date shows us that nuclear is not affordable.

            And please try to understand the practical limitations of things like cooling water and acceptable sites.

          • Talis

            They are getting 100’s of millions of the peoples money for the R&D on these things. That is what is driving the companies to get involved. They care not for safety.
            They get the profits if it works but we the people will get the clean up and the cost overruns.

          • richardg

            There are those who are working on modular MSR designs. I happen to have read such a design proposal from individuals who have experience in large projects built with modular components. There are all kinds of examples of examples of things being made in a modular fashion. We often take experience from one industry and apply it to others. But I agree that the cost of nuclear has been a killer for the industry. More than fear of nuclear. There are a number of nuclear designs that have been proposed for modular construction, NUscale, Mpower and more. One is funded by the Department of Enegry for a demonstration reactor. None of these are molten salt reactors. They are the same, tired, uranium fueled designs.

          • Talis

            Molten salt reactors are not a new technology – they were originally
            developed and tested at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in the 1950s,
            1960s, and 1970s.
            It is far from safe and farther from your thoughts on the waste issue.

            Excerpt from :

            FLATOW: So you’re saying that it doesn’t solve the safety issues.

            It doesn’t solve the proliferation problem. It doesn’t solve the waste
            problem, either. So every nuclear reactor, no matter what type, creates
            fission products, which are highly radioactive materials, some
            short-lived, some long-lived, to make energy.

            With the present
            reactors, we create about a ton per reactor, per year. If you have a
            more efficient reactor, at least you will create half a ton, probably
            eight-tenths of a ton, nine-tenths of a ton. This is highly radioactive
            waste. If you look at Oak Ridge’s current evaluation, they say you have
            to condition this waste, you have to convert the fluorides, and then you
            have to have a deep geologic repository.

            What’s in this waste?
            Cesium-137 and strontium-190, hundreds of years, just like today’s
            reactors. Cesium-135 and iodine-129, millions of years half-life.
            Technetium-99, 200,000 years. Now, Mr. Martin says that you don’t have
            to worry about Technetium-99 because it’s used in medical practice on
            millions of people.

          • FreedomRules76

            Bob seems to care about costs – except when it comes to wind and solar.
            On a per kWh basis, both are far more expensive than nuclear energy.
            Of course, it does cost more to build a 1000-MW nuclear plant than a 100-MW wind farm – but when all the costs are in, the energy nuclear produces turns out to be about a third to half as much as wind or solar. This again is the Big Myth from Big Environment.
            Also, what do you do when the wind isn’t blowing and the sun isn’t shining? Have you solved that one yet?

          • Bob_Wallace

            Sure, Bob cares about cost. As well, utilities and their customers care about cost.

            Let’s look at costs. Actual costs.

            The best estimate for electricity from a new nuclear plant would be the 16 cents/kWh that the UK is willing to pay French and Chinese companies to build them some new capacity.

            Wind contracts have been running about 4 cents/kWh, ~5.5 cents with the subsidy added back in. That was the average closing price in the US for 2011 and 2012.


            Solar contracts have been running under 10 cents/kWh in the US. As low as 5 cents in the SW, ~6.5 cents with the subsidy added back in.


            So, using real world prices we can see that new nuclear is ~2.5x to 3x more expensive than new solar or wind.

            When the wind isn’t blowing and the Sun not shining – that’s solved in the same manner as how we deal with nuclear producing when the power isn’t needed.

            Storage. And dispatchable generation.

          • FreedomRules76

            Hmmm… seems your numbers don’t match what’s happening in Canada – same for Germany. And I would say the US.

            Nuclear in the US runs in the $30-$50 a megawatt hour range… less than what wind will get you – and definitely less than solar.

            But your other issue is that you can’t build enough wind turbines to match the output of one nuclear reactor, which can supply a city’s power. Good luck with the permitting for a 2,000 turbine wind farm.

            You don’t understand all the facets of energy generation development. Quit while you’re behind…


          • Bob_Wallace

            Are you really going to try to pull this crap?

            “Nuclear in the US runs in the $30-$50 a megawatt hour range”

            The issue is not how much electricity costs from a reactor built decades ago and now paid off. The issue is now much electricity from a new reactor would cost.

            BTW, those existing reactors having to sell for $50/MWh are in danger of going bankrupt. Some did this year.

            “But your other issue is that you can’t build enough wind turbines to match the output of one nuclear reactor,”

            We’re going to be close to getting 5% of our electricity from wind this year. That’s more than 25% of what we’ll get from nuclear. Put another way, we’ve already installed the equivalence of ~25 nuclear reactors.

            As for the cost of solar and wind –

            “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.”


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



          • FreedomRules76

            “The issue is not how much electricity costs from a reactor built decades ago and now paid off. The issue is now much electricity from a new reactor would cost.”
            So then why do you want to shut current reactors down? I guess it’s tough to argue coherently when you have to cherry-pick facts to suit the reasoning of the moment.
            Once you figure out that advocating for wind and solar doesn’t make you a better person, maybe we can have a real discussion about energy policy.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Find some place where I have advocated closing down all existing reactors.
            Your credibility is on the line….

          • FreedomRules76

            Nice to know I still have it…
            You on the other hand lost it long ago…

          • Bob_Wallace

            Two days and you have yet to find some place where I have advocated closing down all existing reactors.

    • Bob_Wallace

      Better to state “A possible alternative to conventional unsafe and expensive nuclear…”

      Since one of these puppies has never been built we have no idea if the technology would actually work on a commercial level. Remember how pebble bed reactors were going to solve the safety issue and then after a couple were built it was discovered that they didn’t actually work?

      And there is no reason to think that a MSR would be cheaper than other types of reactors. They are still immense projects which require a lot of engineering, materials, and time to construct. And the accumulated financing costs would likely double the cost.

      “Renewables are an important part of the solution to our energy needs, but they will struggle to compete with the cost of coal and gas plants”

      No, not true. Both wind and solar are cheaper than either new coal or new nuclear. Both are cheaper than paid off coal plants if one charges coal for the health damage coal pollution causes.

      Wind is so affordable that it, along with natural gas, have caused four existing paid off nuclear reactors to close this year. Solar is starting to cause thermal plants problems by lowering the profit of peak hours.

      Solar has become cheap enough to force gas peakers off the grid on sunny days.

      The price of natural gas is rising and the price of wind is falling. Wind should soon be our cheapest way to generate electricity, beating out combined cycle natural gas (CCNG).

      We should be only a few years away from the point at which solar is cheaper than CCNG.

      • Did you not see the bit where I mentioned one was built in the 60s at Oak Ridge National Labs? It operated for 5 years and demonstrated the technology works. Did you watch Thorium Remix 2011 on youtube? I’m guessing not, by the sounds of things.

        If you’re right on renewables, and it would be nice if you were, then there would be no reason to build any more coal or gas plants. But everything I’ve read says that wind and solar are not cost-competitive with fossil fuels without massive government subsidies.

        It is just too cheap to burn stuff. The wind doesn’t blow 24×7 nor does the sun shine all the time.

        • Bob_Wallace

          Sorry. I didn’t do a good job with this sentence –

          “Since one of these puppies has never been built we have no idea if the technology would actually work on a commercial level.”

          Let me rewrite –

          Since one of these puppies has never operated on a commercial level we have no idea if the technology would actually provide affordable electricity.

          Now, let me point out that simply because something works in a Youtube video does not mean it is real. There are flying pigs and all sorts of imaginary stuff on video.

          You need to read more about the cost of wind and solar. Keep reading this site, we deal with renewable cost all the time.

          Wind, without subsidies, is about $0.05/kWh and dropping. Solar, without subsidies, is about $0.10/kWh and dropping. That puts wind at roughly the price of CCNG and solar cheaper than gas peakers. Both are cheaper than new coal or new nuclear. Both are cheaper than old coal if health costs are included.

          Best I can tell the world is winding down coal plant construction. Gas, we’ll continue to build for a while. Gas is dispatchable which makes it a good fill-in for renewables. As better/more affordable storage technology comes on line gas will get shoved aside.

          And the worn out “doesn’t blow/doesn’t shine” stuff – go over to the right side of the page and read some of the entries under “100% Renewables”.

          • Okay. I will keep an open mind regarding the cost of renewables, if you’ll keep an open mind regarding the potential of new technologies such as MSR.

            There’s a lot of excitement regarding MSR technology. I attended TEAC5 in Chicago last week, and am hoping to attend the IAEA Thorium conference in Vienna later this year, as well as the THEC13 conference in Geneva. Momentum is growing.

            It’s true that MSR hasn’t been demonstrated on a commercial scale, but that’s true of any new technology. If it can help stave off climate change cheaply, safely and affordably, it deserves funding and the opportunity to compete in the market place. This is about the future of humanity – betting on any single technology is dangerous. Let’s spread our risk.

            Lastly, I don’t trust Lockheed Martin at all. Their claims of having a fusion reactor within 5 years are sketchy at best. I also don’t have much faith in the cost of ITER, Tokamak fusion is vastly over-complicated. I think MSR is the most practical, as it’s been done previously. But I am willing to keep an open mind to both technologies. Either way, there are exciting developments coming.

            I’d like to live in a world supported by renewables, clean safe nuclear fission (from MSRs) and from fusion, and I’ll support all three until every last coal and gas plant has been shut down.

          • richardg

            The MSR is a excellent option if funding can be obtained. While it was demonstrated, it will have to wind through the regulatory and legal battles that will likely ensue. I see a future of multiple energy options, including nuclear. You just can not get the power density from solar or wind. But solar and PV can be useful in some places. The long time to build the plants is related to regulation and constant legal battles with opponents. But ultimately we need a nuclear. It will take another crises to realize that. Solar and wind don’t pencil out for me in the pacific NW even with massive support from governments.

          • Bob_Wallace

            “The MSR is a excellent option if funding can be obtained.”

            That’s a hypothesis, and unproved assumption.

            Small MSRs should require as much, if not more, material and energy inputs to build. There would never be enough built to reach significant economies of scale. It’s as likely that MSRs would be even more expensive MW per MW as large reactors.

            And you’d still have the siting/cooling problems.

            We don’t need nuclear. In no way do we need nuclear. That is a false claim.

            “Solar and wind don’t pencil out for me in the pacific NW even with massive support from governments.”

            We’ll if you limit it to “you” and rule out storage, hydro and putting your panels in sunny places and your turbines in windy places, electricity exchanges with other grids, biomass, biogas, tidal, ….

            The PNW is one of the easiest places in the world to take 100% renewable.

          • David Martin

            So I read that the reason Thorium hasn’t been developed is because it isn’t useful for weaponization? Is there any truth to that, Mr Wallace, or is it conspiracy theory? Any ideas? Sorry if that sounds like a dumb question.

          • Bob_Wallace

            I don’t know the answer, David. I can well imagine that some countries stayed with uranium because they wanted weapons material. I doubt that that drives Russian and US decisions any longer since both are pulling uranium out of weapons and using it in reactors. Perhaps this surplus uranium is keeping any sort of thorium development from happening.

            I wouldn’t be surprised if countries with fewer nuclear weapons are continuing to use uranium fuel as a route to building more weapons.

            And the uranium industry might be strong enough, be spending enough lobbying money, to hold off thorium.

            All that hypothesized, let me ask – where’s the advantage to moving to thorium? The fuel cost for running a reactor on uranium is already pretty slight. $0.0075/kW. Three quarters of a penny per kWh. Would thorium be significantly cheaper?

            If so, why are not the reactors now capable of running on thorium not using it?

            Why is Canada with its CANDU reactors and no nuclear weapons program not using thorium?

            Overall I don’t see thorium producing cheap enough electricity to be competitive.

            One still has to build the reactor, the steam plant, all the other stuff and staff the facility. Fuel cost is not what makes new nuclear “16c/kWh”, it’s the capital expense of building the plant, the cost of financing it and the daily operating costs aside from fuel.

            One doesn’t simply pile up a bunch of thorium and stick a couple of wires in the pile and pull out electricity.

        • Talis

          And Nuke power is completely supported by our/government money. It cannot exist without it.

  • arne-nl

    The obvious elephant in the room that this article overlooked is of course the tremendous drop in price of solar PV, and even more the fact that no one knows where or when it will stop. With the total time to build a nuclear power station at > 10 years, the uncertainty is just way too big for the investors. They just have nightmares of having to compete against 2 cent per kWh PV electricity in 2025. Couple that to cheap storage, and even during the night they will not be able to make a profit.

    • Bob_Wallace

      It’s a herd of elephants. And they’re filling up the house.

      Solar is taking away the maximum profit opportunities for thermal plants. Those peak demand hours when grids would normally purchase some very expensive peaking supply and, due to merit order pricing, every supplier makes a bundle.

      Wind is eating away at off-peak revenues, causing thermal plants to cut their earnings close to nothing and even losing money during some hours.

      We’re seeing storage coming on line that can take some of that cheap wind and getting-cheap solar and move it into the non-windy/sunny hours and selling it for a price that kills more profitable hours for thermal plants.

      And there are other renewable technologies starting to prove themselves that will take even more income from thermal plants.

      Two new enhanced geothermal plants came on line this year and one of them introduced some major advances in the technology. This can mean that geothermal is likely on every grid, not just those along the ‘ring of fire’.

      Tidal generation is starting to mature into a usable technology. The turbines being refined for tidal will lead to more run of the river hydro and possibly to massive energy harvesting from ocean currents.

      If you’ve got a few billion dollars to invest you’re probably going to spend a few thousand, even a few million to get the best information you can about the risks you would be accepting if you invest in a thermal plant that might not start producing for ten more years. A consultant worth their pay would warn you about the pachyderms.

  • CaptD

    News Flash:
    Bye Bye San Onofre Nuclear reactor!…

    Victory at last,
    Victory at last,
    Great God Almighty Victory at last! -CaptD … #NukeFreeCal

    • FreedomRules76

      CaptD is the type of person who should be kept as far away from energy policy discussions as possible.
      His one-tract mind isn’t capable of understanding the dynamics of multiple resources needed to meet not only current energy needs but future energy demands.
      Luckily, the rest of the world, such as China and Russia, doesn’t have the same small-minded thinking about nuclear energy – they are full steam ahead, reducing their carbon outputs by retiring legacy coal-fired plants with clean nuclear energy.
      Our 60’s retreads still think it’s the Summer of Love. Free your minds, people, from the dogmatic thinking of Big Environment.
      (BTW – California is now spewing more carbon into the atmosphere because San Onofre is shuttered – thanks.)

      • Bob_Wallace

        Actually China has dialed back their nuclear plans and has ramped up their installation of wind and solar. Recently they have put a large emphasis on distributed solar as that helps them get around some of their grid problems.
        Don’t worry about California. We did suffer a small setback when SOMES unexpectedly failed. But we’re making good progress with replacing that lost capacity with renewables. We’re going to be able to close down a lot of our NG capacity fairly soon and resume setting the standard for other US states.

      • CaptD

        RE: One-tract mind

        YES, I believe that Safety comes before Utility profits, and so do most people that are not Utility shareholders!

        Only Nuclear can cause Trillion Dollar Eco-Disasters…

        Ask The Japanese!

        • FreedomRules76

          Or tsunamis. The plants didn’t just meltdown on their own, you know. That’s why your idiocy of shutting down safe, well-operated nuclear plants is just that. Anyway, at least the Chinese don’t have to worry about folks like you. I think they have 26 under construction now. Full-steam ahead!

          • Bob_Wallace

            China. A country with very serious corruption problems and a country lacking a strong attitude toward high quality production.

            I wonder in what creative ways they might have doomed one or more of theirs.

            I would expect they have way outdone South Korea with their forged safety certificates.

            (How does one say “Homer” in Mandarin?)

          • CaptD

            China is shifting ever more toward Solar (of all flavors), they cannot afford a Trillion Dollar Eco-Disaster like Fukushima either…

          • FreedomRules76

            Are they? You think a nation of 1.3 billion people can power them all with solar? hahahahahaha

          • Bob_Wallace

            Actually we can power a world full of 9 billion people several times over with the solar energy we have available.

            We laugh at your ignorance….

            (Obviously a 100% solar grid is not the best approach. Combining solar, wind and other renewables is the smartest route.)

          • CaptD

            China has the land mass, money and smarts to do it, all they need to do is to decide to do it,

            Solar (of all flavors) will be THE energy source of the future…

          • CaptD
    • fireofenergy

      Now, the gov has (probably HAS to) allow for more NG.
      NOT hooray. NOT victory ( I don’t like having to emit EVEN MORE excess CO2).

      • CaptD

        CO2 is noting compared to another Trillion Dollar Eco-Disaster like Fukushima – Ask The Japanese!

        • fireofenergy

          Oh, using climate denial… I see.
          It WILL be. Empirical evidence is obtained by the finding that the ppm in the air is accelerating, that oceans are already slightly more acidic ( as per the laws of chemistry) and that they are swelling (due to thermal expansion).
          Non empirical evidence is in the fact that the chemical makeup of the biosphere was “perfect” for the development of humanity (and all other life forms at this time). Changing that make up will thus “not” be “perfect” for the continued life support.
          Granted, a little excess CO2 can be dealt with by natural processes but too much will become an overload.

          Best to deploy as much solar, wind and melt down proof nuclear to displace most coal, and oil (and use electric cars).

          Speaking of melt down proof reactors such as the molten salt reactor, that “trillion dollar eco disaster” would never had happened!

  • CaptD

    The ratepayers in Iowa are lucky, nuclear has a great track record of keeping ratepayers in energy slavery because the total cost always increases and then of course there is the long term waste not to mention the huge risk should something go wrong like in Fukushima!

    The energy model the USA should be aiming for is to be like Germany where the majority of their Energy comes from people not Big Energy, which keeps their cost much lower and (after payback) provides Energy freedom!

    Seen this about SMR’s?


    $100 Million in “Mini Nuke” Corporate Welfare Already Doled Out, Another Half Billion Dollars Or More in the Pipeline for Major Corporations that Could Pay for Own R&D, Licensing

    WASHINGTON, D.C. – The federal government is in the process of wasting more than half a billion dollars to pay large, profitable companies for what should be their own expenses for research & development (R&D) and licensing related to “small modular reactors” (SMRs), which would be about a third of the size or less of today’s large nuclear reactors. In response, the nonpartisan group Taxpayers for Common Sense today handed out its latest “Golden Fleece Award” to the Department of Energy for the dollars being wasted on SMRs.

    Titled “Taxpayer Subsidies for Small Modular Reactors,” a related TCS background report is available online at

    or this:

    TCS Presents “Subsidizing Small Modular Reactors”
    TCS Webinar Presentation on “Subsidizing Small Modular Reactors” (pptx)

  • Jake R

    Source says the plant was going to cost about one billion. Sorry if the title is confusing.

  • Marion Meads


    • Ace Hoffman

      Besides, who can build a nuke for “only” a billion dollars these days anyway? Try 15 or 20… But better yet, don’t try at all.

      • Bob_Wallace

        It was supposed to be one of those small modular reactors.

        The math just doesn’t work. Renewables have become cheaper over the last few years and whacked new nuclear.

        • FreedomRules76

          Really? Guess what – renewables have to be backed by something baseload, either coal or nat gas, which only adds to their costs. Renewables are currently a luxury item, an add on.
          Please stop with the pithy statements about energy policy – it doesn’t lend itself to pithy, “look how clever I am” statements.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Really? Renewables have to backed up by something? You mean to tell me that the Sun does not shine all the time?

            (Clutching my pearls in amazement at that revelation.)

            There is absolutely no need for renewables to be backed up by always-on/”baseload” generation. In fact, that would make no sense. Intermittent generation such as wind and solar need fill-in power which can come from storage or dispatchable generation. It would make no sense to backup wind/solar with coal or nuclear.

            Natural gas can be used as a renewable fill-in because it is highly dispatchable.

          • FreedomRules76

            You don’t know enough to really know what you are saying.

            “It would make no sense to backup wind/solar with coal or nuclear.” Did I say you would firm up renewables with nuclear? No, coal or natural gas.

            We are so far away from “storage” that you even mentioning it is laughable and shows a true ignorance of current and future energy markets.

          • Bob_Wallace

            We won’t be “backing up” renewables with coal. We’re in the process of shutting down about 25% of our coal capacity. Besides coal is not dispatchable.

            We have 20 GW of pump-up hydro a GW of CAES and we are installing more and more battery storage. Another 50 MW was announced just today.

          • fireofenergy

            Is that 50 MW…. hours? We need thousands of times that… into the terrawatt hours. We need machine automation without all the profit gouging in order to truly back the renewables with just a minimum of NG. Speaking of which, NG peaker plants are really ineff when started cold (just like all engines)… At least That’s what I would imagine.
            There’s a new nuclear “theory”… it goes like this: develop a molten salt reactor “according to the generator” instead of the other way around. This means that a typical Brayton cycle generator is coupled to the MSR design specifically for that Brayton. It runs at a baseload. Since it is already thermally hot, you can throw in some NG when needed AND have the desired high eff.
            Going a step further, these things should be coupled with CSP to displace the MSR.
            Again, we need advanced macchine automation in order to build the large amounts of heliostats and reliable motors to become cheaper than “just the little” MSR reactor.

          • Bob_Wallace

            “We need thousands of times that… into the terrawatt hours”

            Please show your math.

            RE: the nuclear idea. It’s just an idea. Nothing like this has been built. It would probably take more than a decade to design and build a test reactor. Then, if it worked perfectly, another decade before we could build more than a handful more.

            We need to have coal and much of the natural gas off our grids within the next 20 years. We can’t wait around to see if an idea works. Many simply do not.

          • fireofenergy

            On a global level, we need like 100 quads of clean energy AND efficiency (without accounting for any growth). That’s equal to about 30 trillion kWh in a year (3,414 Btu in a kWh). Or about 80 billion in a day. IF the average capacity factors are 35% then we would have to store 65%… or about 50 billion kWh worth of electricity per day for the world.
            On large regional levels, I’m sure that only one day is needed (but for a house, we would need FAR more back up, as is defined by the “general solar handbook” because of weather).
            Are you talking a global grid? If so, then perhaps, only a few hours are needed.

            Ok, you made me see that we don’t need “terrawatts” of storage… but we still need on the order of a thousand times the battery storage you mentioned (and we need it cheap).

            We can not wait for storage, either… we need it as soon as PV and wind fills in, and then “lets down” the grid (a very high probability without planned machine automation for such storage).

          • Bob_Wallace

            We don’t need major amounts of storage now and won’t for a number of years. Research from the NREL finds that 40% of our electricity could come from wind and solar without any changes to the grids. And that includes no need for storage.

            This is the “figure out storage” phase. We’ll add small amounts of what looks promising and see how it works out. See how we can reduce the price.

            Storage right now is mainly going toward grid firming. A modest amount of battery storage could take a large amount of “spinning reserve” off the grid and save a lot of fossil fuel burning. And we need some storage at the wind/solar farm level so that they can see a 15 minute block of their own power without have to go to the peaking market and purchase expensive power if the wind unexpectedly drops or a cloud drifts over.

            We’re a long way from need storage to move wind/solar from one day to the next. We can use all we are capable of producing as it is produced most of the time. The few times/hours we curtail wind aren’t enough to pay for even cheap storage.

          • fireofenergy

            I agree that we should ramp up the solar and wind, but would also like that MSR to displace much of the NG. To me that makes even more sense (from the excess CO2 pov). It will even make more sense in terms of dollars (when cheap NG isn’t so cheap in the future).

            So…let’s try out this MSR idea (it’s been proven safe because they actually turned OFF the power every weekend at the MSRE in Oak Ridge). The worst that could happen is a wacko flys a jet at it and the salts cool down (because it would be built to withstand the impact, but power would be pulled for safety evaluation)… power shuts off… and here is the worst LOTS of NG, coal or other fossil fuel is again used to displace it at night when the sun is down.

            You see, I agree with you for the time being, just not in the long run because there is no reason (other than politics and money) to burn fossil fuels when there are melt down proof concepts to back up solar and wind.

            ~Let our minds not be so open as to spill the brains… but not so closed to prevent new possibility~

          • Bob_Wallace

            MSRs could not replace NG. MSRs would only make the demand/supply matching problem more difficult.

            You need to get past the point of nuclear = magic.

            Nuclear is expensive. Small reactors are almost certainly more expensive than large reactors.

            Many of the whiz-bang nuclear ideas are unproven and could not be proven out for many years. And none of them seem to promise affordable energy, they deal only with meltdown danger.

            Let not your brain be so open that the facts don’t stick. We’re having to tell you the same things over and over and over.

          • fireofenergy

            Ya, the same thing… You don’t “like” any form of nuclear.

            My last comment (that I pasted from a law professional in caps) basically sums it up. New and safer nuclear is not yet supported within the constraints of the LAW, not of technology and thus will not be built in the very near future.

            However, from a tech pov, there is no Earth shattering reason for the (melt down proof) reactor designs to not be pursued, once the law is cleared for serious coal replacement.

            After reading that pdf, I will now fight even harder to get everybody to realize how important the molten salt reactor (and similar) really can be and promote such favorable laws! I really like the idea of the IFR’s ability to recycle LWR spent fuel, despite the fact that there was an accident back in the pioneering days.

            There has been many more fossil fuels related accidents per TWh, thus the basis for my reasoning… Nuclear is better than FF’s (and even better for electrifying entire planetary civilizations).

            I will now refrain from commenting from here on out as I realize that there is NO room for ANY kind of fission concepts (proven or not) on your(?) website. If this is not your website, then I will gladly continue to comment 🙂

            Anyways, keep up the good work on promoting wind and solar… With 7,000,000,000 people on this planet, I’m sure there’s room for all three!

          • FreedomRules76

            50 MW? Wow…

          • light

            Solar not the way.

        • Kathy

          Renewable energy is not cheaper as your claim, reading reports from US Media outlets have reported large amount of grid solar power fires. To replace the grid PV alone plus the house that burnt to the ground is not cost affective when compared to nuclear power stations.

          There are no better standards across the world for grid PV, and Australia was the first reported fire recorded and damages the grid network. Then Germany recorded the fires, and now the U.S. fires.

          So how is that Cheaper bob when nuclear is safer for the household from fire.

      • Jack

        China can build Nuclear very cheap .

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