COP21 Gets A Spark Of Nuclear Energy From Breakthrough Energy Coalition

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The Intertubes have been buzzing with news of the Breakthrough Energy Coalition, the latest venture by US billionaire and Microsoft founder Bill Gates. Introduced earlier this week at the COP21 Paris climate talks as a companion to the equally newsworthy Mission Innovation initiative, the new coalition harnesses the dollar power of the Earth’s billionaires to accelerate the clean energy revolution.

If your definition of clean energy includes nuclear energy, then you have a lot to cheer about because that seems to be a main focus of the Breakthrough Energy Coalition’s interest.

Bill Gates Breakthrough nuclear energy

The Breakthrough Energy Coalition

To be clear, the Breakthrough Energy Coalition defines its mission quite broadly. It identifies the problem like this:

The existing system of basic research, clean energy investment, regulatory frameworks, and subsidies fails to sufficiently mobilize investment in truly transformative energy solutions for the future. We can’t wait for the system to change through normal cycles.

…and it describes one part of the solution:

The foundation of this program must be large funding commitments for basic and applied research, and here governments play the key role.

That’s where Mission Innovation comes in, by the way. As described yesterday by CleanTechnica, Mission Innovation launched at COP21 with the aim of ramping up government investment in clean energy.

The Breakthrough Energy Coalition aims squarely at the missing piece, which would be the task of attracting private dollars to propel high-risk, high return research across the notorious “Valley of Death” that lies between the laboratory and the marketplace:

This [Valley of Death] collective failure can be addressed, in part, by a dramatically scaled-up public research pipeline, linked to a different kind of private investor with a long term commitment to new technologies who is willing to put truly patient flexible risk capital to work. These investors will certainly be motivated partly by the possibility of making big returns over the long-term, but also by the criticality of an energy transition.

The Bill Gates Nuclear Energy Angle

In contrast to the generalities in the Breakthrough mission statement, Gates dropped a hint about his expectations for the organization in a blog post of November 29, timed to COP21:

The renewable technologies we have today, like wind and solar, have made a lot of progress and could be one path to a zero-carbon energy future. But given the scale of the challenge, we need to be exploring many different paths—and that means we also need to invent new approaches.

You can find another hint in the membership list of the Breakthrough Energy Coalition. So far the only university to join is the University of California, which runs our Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. Among many other clean tech endeavors, Berkeley Lab is known for its nuclear energy research facilities:

The Nuclear Science Division conducts basic research aimed at understanding the structure and interactions of nuclei and the forces of nature as manifested in nuclear matter – topics that align the Division with the national program as elucidated in the 2007 U.S. Nuclear Science Long Range Plan.

The Division has major programs in low energy nuclear science, including nuclear structure physics, studies of the heaviest elements, exotic nuclei and light radioactive beams, weak interactions, and nuclear reactions; relativistic heavy ion physics; nuclear theory; nuclear astrophysics and neutrino properties; data evaluation; and advanced instrumentation. The Division also operates the 88-Inch Cyclotron. The 88-Inch Cyclotron is the home of the Berkeley Accelerator Space Effects Facility (BASEF) and supports a local research program in nuclear science.

Not for nothing, but did you know that Bill Gates is a co-founder and current Chairman of the innovative nuclear energy company TerraPower? The Washington State-based company launched in 2006 and although the US is unlikely to prove fertile ground for nuclear energy investment in the near future, TerraPower is already well on its way to putting down stakes in China.

Clean Tech, High Tech, And Nuclear Energy

Both Gates and the Breakthrough Energy Coalition are honest about their primary intention, which is to make a profit. In that regard it’s worth noting that members of the coalition stand to profit both directly through a return on their new clean energy investments, and indirectly by enabling them to continue growing the market for their primary products in a carbon-constrained world.

Industries represented by the Breakthrough membership include computer software and hardware (Microsoft, SAP, Hewlett-Packard), telecommunications (Tata Industries), and e-commerce including shipping and logistics (Amazon and Alibaba).

If you can spot more affiliations drop us a note in the comment thread.

The “Other” Nuclear Energy

Before we leave, let’s note that our Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory is a hotbed of research into nuclear fusion — basically, generating energy by squeezing particles together rather than blowing them apart — so we’re interested to see if Livermore will hop aboard the Breakthrough coalition, too.

Livermore is the home of the National Ignition Facility and if you want to see this crazy place in action, catch the “Energy on the Edge” episode of National Geographic’s ongoing Breakthrough (no relation to the Breakthrough coalition) series this Sunday at 9:00 p.m. Eastern Standard time on the National Geographic Channel. The episode includes a heartstopping sequence of an actual test firing.

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Image: via Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

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Tina Casey

Tina specializes in advanced energy technology, military sustainability, emerging materials, biofuels, ESG and related policy and political matters. Views expressed are her own. Follow her on LinkedIn, Threads, or Bluesky.

Tina Casey has 3142 posts and counting. See all posts by Tina Casey

134 thoughts on “COP21 Gets A Spark Of Nuclear Energy From Breakthrough Energy Coalition

  • Cross-post from Samuel Johnson, replying to the Earl of Chesterfield’s last-minute offer to be patron of his great solo Dictionary:
    “Is not a patron, my lord, one who looks with unconcern on a man struggling for life in the water, and, when he has reached ground, encumbers him with help? The notice which you have been pleased to take of my labours, had it been early, had been kind; but it has been delayed till I am indifferent, and cannot enjoy it; till I am solitary, and cannot impart it; till I am known, and do not want it.”

  • My definition of clean power certainly includes nuclear so long as the waste is handled appropriately. Nuclear disasters of the past are nearly always the result of human error and as computers and AI increase their power, nuclear is growing less and less risky. Gen IV reactors promise a great hope for a world where megacities have reliable nearby power with renewables taking up the smaller cities and rural areas. The distributed nature of renewables is both a blessing and a curse, which can be mitigated through a nuclear baseload where demand is exceptionally high.

    As for the economics, that’s another story.

    • My definition of clean power doesn’t include Nuclear as it produces waste. At the moment the only reason I can see for promoting nuclear is that it’s just about cleaner than Coal, Oil and Gas.
      I also like simple technology as it doesn’t cost much (if anything) to operate/maintain.
      You say that renewables will take up the smaller cities and rural areas – Great! I’m all for that, but what constitues a “smaller” city? population? area covered by city limits? What happens when a smaller city grows – does it have to change it’s power arrangements just because it’s bigger?
      Given the number of large cities I can think of, you are limiting Nuclear to about 100 power stations as opposed to renewables having about 100 million power stations. You can get a lot of development done when putting in 100 million power stations – not a lot with just 100.
      As you say, the economics of a nulclear power station is another story altogether. It’s FAR worse than renewables and takes so much longer to build.
      Oh, most nuclear disasters being man-made? ask the people of Fukushima about them.

      • Humans made the siting mistake for Fukushima. In addition, humans tore a hole through a natural seawall that could have reduced the tsunami impact on the reactors. They did so to make it easier to transport material and equipment while constructing and they failed to repair the hole once they were finished. They failed to build a higher sea wall as recommended or to site the reactors higher up the island as recommended. Saving money. Save now, let others bear the enormous costs later.

        A few people love to talk about how safe GenFuture reactors will be. Thing is, Homer has yet to get his hands on one. Humans are incredibly capable of screwing up.

        • Agreed – Are you sure Homer didn’t live in japan a while back?

          • We’re all Homers in our own special ways.

            If humans can build it, humans can screw it up in most creative ways. Witness the engineer crawling through the Browns Ferry reactor with a lit candle looking for a leak and setting the site on fire.

          • Homer Sapiens.

          • I like it.

          • Good one!

        • It was much worse. They deliberately chose to lower the land by 25 meters because this saves small change for the seawater pumps and made it easier and cheaper to construct the power plant. No siting problem except that all Japanese nuclear power plants should have been on the west coast there the Tsunami risk is negligible

      • #1. Baseload power is key here… most “renewables” don’t get us there. Nuclear does; its safe, tested, worked for us for a half century, and we’re creating more efficient models of plant development every day.
        #2. Modern nuclear tech doesnt have a “waste” problem.. politics afraid of proliferation have a waste problem.
        #3. Photovoltaics produce much more waste than nuclear…. tremendous amounts of waste actually, and its an ongoing issue in places like California.
        #4. Fukushima was not only foolish human error (backup diesel generators stored outdoors in a tsunami area? Really? (Crap planning)… it was also a much-overhyped story that didnt kill anyone! Although outlandish evacuation orders certainly killed folks.
        #5 Nuclear facilities generally pay for themselves in roughly ten to fifteen years of operation and have lifespans of 60+ years, while wind turbines can take 20+ years to recoup cost of manufacture, and generally don’t survive much over 30 years… and, again, most importantly, they’re unreliable for baseload power.

        • Nobody cares what you name the power. Somebody has to pay for it. Nuclear isn’t competitive anymore. A plant that can only sell 5% is not paying for itself.
          Would you want to pay for that?

        • Oh gosh, Julie, you’re as misinformed as Ben Carson.

          Nuclear is far too expensive for any rational person to support. Building more nuclear would be an immense waste of money.

          We aren’t building more efficient reactors. We’re only building more expensive reactors. The latest bid for new reactors at North Anna would mean $0.19/kWh electricity (subsidized). Wind is now under $0.04/kWh, unsubsidized. PV solar is now under $0.07/Wh, unsubsidized.

          The problem of radioactive waste is not solved. The only solution proposed is to stick it in someone else’s yard and let them worry about it. The mega-selfish solution.

          No nuclear reactor has yet made it to age 50. Assuming that we could keep patching together a crumbling plant originally built for a 40 year lifespan is something out of Fantasyland. Some paid off nuclear plants are not competitive in today’s market. The ones that are generally cannot continue to be if they encounter a large repair or refurbishing cost.

          Even France, the nuclear king, has realized that nuclear costs too much and extending the life of reactors makes them even more expensive.

          Nuclear plants do not pay for themselves in ten to fifteen years. Thirty year financing is more the norm and even then they don’t pay for themselves. They are subsidized.

          I don’t know who fed you the misinformation about solar panel waste. It’s bull.

          Many people were killed during the Fukushima evacuation. Had that been a solar or wind farm struck by the tsunami there would have been no reason to move anyone away from the area while we waited to see if the problem worsened.

          We’ve had three civilian nuclear meltdowns due to human error and numerous close calls. Add to that multiple research reactor and military disasters. We have yet to have a single wind farm or solar farm disaster and will not have.

          Wise up Julie.

          • SS was a research reactor, not commercial.

            I was not aware of it but I’ll include it with Chalk River and other experimental melts.

          • Yep, Jimmie was a jumper. Damn fine man, President Carter. If we had more like him the world would be a much better place.

            There was the early reactor that killed three scientists working on it. Then there are multiple Russian Navy reactor disasters.

            Nuclear advocates really don’t want to talk about any of that. They want to limit the list to Chernobyl and Fukushima. Fact is, we’ve Homered a bunch of reactors.

          • Wikipedia says Santa Susana was commercial.

            ” On July 12, 1957 the Sodium Reactor Experiment became the first nuclear reactor in the United States to produce electrical power for a commercial power grid by powering the nearby city of Moorpark.”

            But Santa Suzana had more than one reactor failure. There was another two that melted down as well. This SNAP reactor was experimental, not commercial. One in 64 and one in 69.

            Then you can add the Fermi reactor of we almost lost Detroit fame.

            Then there is Windscale. And Saint Laurent in France. Canadas meltdown was at the Chalk River NRX. Switzerland had a meltdown at Lucens. An experimental Czech reactor sustained fuel rod damage.



            In all, more than a dozen at least partial fuel melts. The actual number is probably higher, depending on how fuel damage is defined. I count 7 known serious meltdowns.

        • You need to get some facts straight.

          1. Baseload was never needed. Whats needed is power that follows load variations. Baseload does not do that.

          2. Modern nuclear tech has no waste problem you claim? Fine. Show us the long term storage solution happening right now. Back to reality.

          3. More waste than nuclear? What kind? How toxic? How much? How about some reference links to back up your claim?

          4. Didn’t kill anyone you say. Yet there are estimates of the expected deaths. Thats what happens when radiation is released. The loss of hundreds of square miles around Fukushima, the nuclear refugees, and the hundreds of billions of radioactive cleanup are not over hyped.

          If you feel the area is safer than the pro nuclear Japanese government says it is, go live there.

          5a. No commercial nuclear power plant has ever operated for 60 years. Most of them are done by 40 years. A few are over 40 years. None are 50 years. The cost of operation and maintenance soars as they get old. Pilgrim, Fitizpatrick, Kewaunee, Crystal River, San Onofre have all recently closed. Nuclear is now more expensive than coal, gas, wind, and solar by quite a bit. Lazards LCOE shows nuclear at over 13c, while wind is below 5 and solar under 10c/kwhr.

          5b. Wind turbines take less than a year to recover energy. Nuclear takes several years.

          You confuse variability with unreliability.

    • P.S. While researching how to spell Fukushima, I came across this article published December 2nd 2015

      “Former Japan Official: “Unstoppable contamination of Pacific Ocean…
      is seriously menacing US West Coast” — “Fukushima now undeniably a
      global security issue… can’t be brought under control by single state” —
      Experts: Wave of radiation will be 10 times more than entire world’s
      nuclear tests combined”

      And that’s just three nuclear power stations – You want to put more in?

      • Fukushima’s affect on the west coast of the US is 1,000 times lower than the EPA’s safe drinking water limits.
        “And if someone were to swim in the water for six hours a day, 365 days a year, the dose of radiation they received would be less than 0.01 micro Sieverts – which is equivalent to eating a banana”

        10 times higher than current radiation levels from nuclear testing would be 0.05mSv which is about a tenth as much as we naturally get from the ground.

        • That’s so reassuring.

          I’m glad nuclear spills are never as dangerous as nuclear advocates like to claim.

          /Extreme snark mode off….

        • That’s sooo last year – It was published on
          10:52, 17 November 2014
          and Updated:
          13:36, 17 November 2014

          If you knoxcked out a solar or wind farm you could probably clear up the mess with a couple of trucks (or boats for offshore)

    • Economics are the story.

      Building more nuclear is simply foolish.

      • Subsidies of renewable energy and coal energy are foolish. Fair marked economy for energy does not exist.

        • Subsidies can play two roles.

          1) To help a new product/service mature enough to compete in the general market.

          2) To increase uptake/use of something that is already competitive.

          Wind and solar totally needed subsidies. Thirty years ago wind-electricity cost $0.36/kWh and solar panels cost $100/watt. That put them so far from market parity that no one would have invested in their development.

          We (several countries) subsidized and now wind and solar are our two least expensive ways to bring new electricity to the grid.

          We’ve moved past the need for the first type of subsidy.

          Now we face a different problem. The more years we burn fossil fuel, the worse climate change becomes. We can wait for our coal plants to wear out and NG to become rare enough for prices to rise or we can put a thumb on the scale and speed up the transition. That’s the choice we now face. Go slow and suffer more or tweak the market a bit in order to go fast.

          Personally I’m in favor of market tweaking. Especially considering that we’ll get that investment back via lower electricity prices and fewer health problems (and costs).

          I’d go for direct subsidies of still emerging technologies (offshore wind, tidal, synfuel, etc.) and putting a price on carbon. That should give us more RE options and cause coal and gas plants to close earlier.

          • Subsidies are necessary for education, basic research, applied research, demonstration plants, preparation of legal framework for new technology. And nothing more.

            Subsidies for industry directly are counterproductive. Subsidies for biofuels led to ecological disaster. Massive introduction of non-mature technology thanks to subsidies for wind and solar without backup energy storage did more damage than benefit. The outcome is increased ecological impact of energy industry and few rich people who made profit out of it.

            With nuclear power it was similar. It was supported too early when it was not mature enough to compete with fossil fuels in free market. Competitiveness was provided on the detriment of safety.

          • We subsidize nutrition for infants and children. We realize that it saves us money in the long run.

            We subsidize vaccination programs. It’s cheaper to prevent than to treat.
            If we want higher uptake of renewables one route is to subsidize them, even if they are already affordable. We can make them too big a bargain to refuse.

            Better, IMO, to put a price on carbon and let the market pick the best renewable solution for the specific purpose. But subsidies would certainly work.

          • My god your ideology is stupid. Look at the reality. Nuclear and fossils are subsidized heavily and the ones that should by renewable energy does not embrace it because it directly leads to stranded assets problems for themselves. On top of this there is huge political ill will against renewable energy.

            Finally there is no point in supporting research really because the learning curve won’t happen until you service customers and create a market with complete value chain and bankability.

            Your sound like a pocket fusion between Bjorn Lomborg and Donald Trump and it is not positively meant.

          • Actually the first commercial wind turbines was far more economic than you give them credit for but then again they were built in Denmark and to a large extent by amateurs that did out of interest. My cousin was first to suggest the Danish design that has since reigned supreme for all successful wind industries. He came up with the design because he lived in a hippie farm community near Nordtank that produced tank trucks for dairy farms and oil suppliers. Overnight they lost their two markets and was in trouble. My cousin suggested that instead of making tank trucks they should use their technology to make wind turbine towers and he correctly assumed that a front-running design with three blades would be most efficient and they started building the first design and sold it and eventually evolved into one of the two major origins of Vestas.

          • Ps. they did not even apply for government funding.

    • GenIV is much like fusion. Something not working today is no solution at all.
      Would it be comoetitive in xx years? Very unlikely.

      • GenIV is more ‘real’ than fusion. Those reactor designs could be built today.

        But no one is able to explain how a GenIV could produce competitively priced electricity. Nuclear doesn’t need to shed 10% or 20% of its cost. It needs to shed 80% of its cost.

        That’s a bridge too far.

        • As I understand there are more technical problems with different Gen4 designs than most people wouls like to admit.
          Which design do you believe could be built today?

          • It’s my understanding that MSRs could be built now. Perhaps not.

          • Could. Yet they are not built due to many technical challenges that are still without solution. Building a MSR now would make a messy product.
            There’s the problem with Tritium, container degradation, they need complex chemical plants that have to deal with highly radioactive material, security concerns,…
            But if it wasn’t for cost all that wouldn’t matter probably…

          • Right. At 3 cents a KWH, I would want to have a serious discussion. At four, I wouldn’t be that interested. At five, I don’t need it. At 19? Nuts.

          • Look Terrestrial Energy up they have smart thinking on all the big problems you point out.

          • I don’t see TEs MSR as that much different than any other MSR. They have advantages. Their designs must be submitted and approved. That takes many years. There are a number of technical difficulties that were not overcome by ORNL. I have not seen a TE presentation that shows the materials problems addressed.
            The fuel must be processed because fission byproducts can interfere with operation.

            “The possibility of online processing can be an advantage of the MSR design. Continuous processing would reduce the inventory of fission products, control corrosion and improve neutron economy by removing fission products with high neutron absorption cross-section, especially xenon. This makes the MSR particularly suited to the neutron-poor thorium fuel cycle. Online fuel processing can introduce risks of fuel processing accidents,[49](p15) which can trigger release of radio isotopes.”


          • As I understand their thinking they accept that byproducts slowly quench the fissile process after 7 years and then they fire up a new reactor. Not bothering with removing neutron absorbers is what makes their technology simpler to develop. Once you have the technology ready for sorting among the byproducts fx if the Silex process become operational then you could refurbish closed down reactors and reactivate them and use the metals produced during the reaction.

            Again as a disclaimer I am not partial to fission but we need a solution to the huge piles of radioactive waste and the huge amounts of stranded nuclear assets we will see in the next few years. In Sweden you can no longer operate even fully depreciated nuclear power plants because the wholesale price on the Scandinavian spot market now is below 3 US cent per kWh.

          • Can be an advantage !! But it is not because that is the very difficult technical challenge and that is where the proliferation risk gets serious. It is simply idiotic to attempt and this is also why the Chinese puts Thorium last in their plan and why India has dropped serious plans for Thorium and why Terrestrial Energy simply does not want to bother with Thorium first hand.

            It is a no to your assumption that fission byproducts must be removed in order to prevent interference with operation. That is the reason their design plan is 7 years of operation.

          • There were some MSR experiments done. Some of that could be used. The steam power takeoff units were never designed. They also need a chemical reprocessing unit that was never designed. So technically, you couldn’t just build an MSR. Even if one was certified and approved which takes years and has not been done yet.


          • More like 20 year to commercial state according to the Chinese that do the bulk of the research. But as I pointed out the good people at Terrestrial Energy seem to go about the problem in a smarter way and could do more or less what you imply though it will be about 7 years.

          • 7 years for what? The certification process could take many years. Then it will take years to construct one if its certified. I doubt they will be building one in 7 years. The newest designs are BWRs and PWRs that required nowhere near as much certification because the materials have already been researched. Higher temperature reactors with more exotic materials will require years of research and big investments.

    • Nuclear power plants don’t work well with variable sources or demand. They have to be specially designed to load follow and even then, they cannot ramp as quickly or as cheaply as gas peakers. So there is little incentive to use them to support variable loads or sources.

      • Unlike gas peakers you don’t save money by ramping down nuclear plants, you make their electricity more expensive.

        The cost of nuclear plants is in construction and financing, not fuel. Uranium costs less than 1c/kWh. Ramp down and you save a little in fuel but also waste steam/heat. The “mortgage” continues to run. The fewer MWh you produce the larger the mortgage payment per MWh.

        The installed price of Vogtle is now over $8/watt compared to just over $1/watt for a CCNG plant. Leaving a gas plant sitting idle for long times doesn’t have the impact on electricity price like leaving a nuclear reactor sitting idle or running a reduced output.

      • Forget load following because that endures huge stress on reactors and force more fuel consumption than you save by reducing the production.

    • But that’s a really big problem. There is no proven method of storing radioactive fuel rods from nuclear reactors. None. Also, there are uranium tailings around the globe for which there is also no solution. This is just more denial from my perspective. This is going backwards, not forwards. Until we clean up the nuclear messes we have created including Chernobyl which is still not safe, talking about nuclear power is simply ridiculous.

  • If the Dept. of Energy “Sunshot” goals are reached in these next four years…and it looks certain they will be, then the half century long debate on nuclear power will end not with a bang but a whimper. Without being hysterically fearful of nuclear waste or catastrophe scenarios, the issue of why we needed nuclear power in the first place seems to have simply evaporated. There is a plain, simple, safe and more than adequate alternative which beats the economic pants off nuclear and that is PV, wind and storage. The nuclear debate has simply become obsolete. Now that is not to dismiss its former advocates as foolish, they were right at the time. Nuclear could have replaced coal and we would not be in our present mess. But it didn’t and that apparent mistake must be corrected with more benign and affordable energy sources than nuclear, and very soon, otherwise we risk being wrong through sheer laziness.

    • Yes, but PV, wind, and storage can’t be monopolized nor will it automatically get protection from terrorists by our military. So it will never be a “solution” for the likes of Bill Gates.

    • We don’t have to wait four years. The price of electricity from a new nuclear plant in the west runs from 15 to 20 cents per kWh. Subsidized.

      Wind is about one-fifth that cost. Unsubsidized.

      PV solar is about one-third that cost. Unsubsidized.

      What we will have to endure is a few boneheaded government officials buying into the nuclear myth and wasting money (and time) building one last reactor because they are too stupid or blinded by political beliefs/contributions to seek out some facts and make rational decisions.

      Twenty years ago nuclear was the best solution for getting off fossil fuels. It is now 20 years later and we are operating in a new reality.

      • Nuclear is essentially an excuse to not do anything and keep BAU running.
        “Wait, wait don’t buy these efficiency and renewable options, a “too-cheap-to-meter-cleanmachine” will be available tomorrow.

    • If they’re going to be pushing some form of safe nuclear, then great. Traditional nuclear, no way. But even if they throw a ton of money at the problem it’s hard to imagine they’ll make advances fast enough to make a meaningful difference. I really don’t see the point… Unless it’s just an underhanded attempt to coax money from taxpayers that will make its way into the pockets of billionaires if things eventually pan out. Yet solar and wind will get so cheap I can’t see how they’d ever get a foothold in the market.

      Maybe the secret motivation is Gates wants to build Thorium reactors to burn up existing nuclear waste into a safer form. I can stand behind that motivation, assuming it’s feasible.

      • Close, did you watch his Ted talk?

        • I’m afraid I didn’t have time to watch his talk. What am I close on?

          • It’s some kind of a breeder reactor technology that consume nuclear waste. It’s buried in the ground and can run for 100 years. It is its own tomb.

          • Homer will probably install it over a vent that’s about to open…. ;o)

    • There might be room for these guys since nuclear power plant owners are in danger of just folding operations without decommissioning the power plants and there will be too little cash to run the storage of nuclear waste.

      The bullish predictions is that in a few years the first reactor will be built and after three iterations it can produce sub US cent kWh.

      Slideware now but I think more intelligent slide ware than most I have seen in that department because they systematically opt for the simplest solutions and for mass production.

      If they can pull it of old nuclear plants can be repowered to burn of all their existing stock pile of nuclear waste, which will reduce decommission cost and cost to run the storage of nuclear waste.

      Ps. The nuclear community are split about breeders because some nations mine uran (do not want efficient reactors) and others run reprocessing operations (love inefficient reactors) and yet others cannot market old school reactors if breeders where indeed introduced (what to do with old inefficient designs they want to sell). Terrapower has taken a lot of risk out of nuclear by removing water from anywhere near the fissile reactions and by running the process with low enriched fuel with a very efficient fuel economy. The major problem is that they can only get the project of the ground in China because the financial situation (not enough strategic funding of much more expensive nuclear because RE is too cheap) and the legislative framework is too bad in USA.

      • The present administration is massively pro nuclear. Money no problem. If you can’t get it done here, there is a problem. Breeders are a big problem. They use sodium and they burn. Every single one. The Russians have gone so far as to design them so they can still operate while they are burning. No kidding.
        BN-600. Two circuits. Ridiculous.

        • The present US administration? I read it just the opposite.

          IIRC the rules for loan guarantees were changed so that the responsible company had to put a lot more of their capital at risk in order to get a federal guarantee.

          The administration hasn’t said anything anti-nuclear which I see as PBO’s strategy of making no enemies without reason. In the same way they “supported” carbon sequestering with coal and let the industry go ahead an prove it. Which, of course, it couldn’t and any good engineer should have known beforehand.

          • Huh?

            What has the Obama administration done to assist nuclear energy?

            The Vogtle plants are the baby of the State of Georgia. The State allowed the utility to start overcharging customers in order to give free money to Southern Company to build the reactors.

  • The problem with nuclear is having highly qualified and educated persons on site. The military was having problems few years ago with their current nuclear assets, in terms of finding people intelligent enough to operate current operations, let alone expand. The private sector may not be facing said issues now but China’s ramp up of nuclear operations causes me to pause and ask, who will be operating these facilities and will they be highly qualified? Someone earlier said AI will help but people will always be involved. People have usually been the cause for issues relating to nuclear disasters. I wish these billionaires would focus all their efforts into solar and wind. My opinion: wind and solar technicians are easier to train than nuclear engineers. Didn’t Elon musk present info on the solar required to run all electric (non heat) needs for the US? It was in his powers all announcement video I think… The space requirement is, in proportion to the total land mass in the us, very tiny. It would be a engineering project for sure but it seems entirely possible…

  • I’m starting to believe that Bill Gates is the second stupidest very rich person who is in the public eye. Trump is number one. Gates might be tied with Zuckerberg.

    Gates has shown his stupidity multiple times by running a company that produced a very decent operating system (W98) and then replacing it with a total failure. Win7 to Win8, another example.

    Now he is inserting himself into the energy issue apparently without understanding the price differential between wind/solar and nuclear. He seems to not understand that we have perfectly usable solutions and that nuclear is not a solution. He calls for researching for a breakthrough, which is fine, but not if we let that search get in the way of installing massive amounts of wind and solar.

    We really need to quit creating a false equivalence between wealth and intelligence. Gates became wealthy via a semi-monopoly, not personal brilliance.

    (Trump became wealthy because he was given hundreds of millions of dollars. He would be even more wealthy that he is had he simply put that inherited money in an index stock market fund. Trump is not a successful businessman. He’s pissed away millions via bad investments and undertakings.)

    • Yes, we need to distinguish between intelligence (Gates and Zuckerberg have IQ’s of 160!) and judgement. Intelligence just answers questions…any questions. Wisdom decides which questions are the important ones, the ones that need to be answered first. In that category Musk appears wiser than Gates or Zuckerberg. Although there seems to still be hope for Zuckerberg.

      • 160 is a test score. Several of us have scores that high or higher. But whatever intelligence one might have is useless without adequate information.

        Look at another obviously intelligent person, James Hansen. Brilliant climate scientist who apparently knows very little about renewable energy, leaving him thinking that nuclear energy is necessary because we need “baseload”.

        • Hansen’s latest non-contribution is to diss the Paris climate negotiators because what is really needed is a carbon tax. Which is quite infeasible just now. The one country where it was introduced, Australia, dropped it. I would say: poor Figueres, but she and her plan have survived much worse, and are about to score a huge win.

          • Australia didn’t actually have a carbon tax. It had a carbon trading scheme. However, Abbott decided that “axe the tax” sounded better than “ream the scheme” and so tax was what it was called by the coalition and by the media.

            But there are countries that have carbon taxes, but I guess ol’ uncle Rupert doesn’t like having that pointed out.

          • Yeah, environmentalist need all the help they can get to defend themselves against environmentalists.

        • Look at it from the Dunning-Kruger perspective. If you are in an area you are well versed in, you tend to underestimate your ability. If you are in an area new to you, you tend to overestimate your ability. Hansen does just fine in climate science where he has years of education and work.
          Stepping into energy where he does not have the background, .. predictable outcome. Overestimates his ability relative to the field, underestimates the amount of research, education, and just plain thought those in the field of energy have put into it.
          My message to Gates, if you don’t know energy, find out what a real energy expert is and ask several of them.

    • Haven’t we already got that breakthrough in Solar panels and wind turbines?

      • Yes.

        But apparently some influential people haven’t been told.

    • You can see the mentality that screwed up Windows Vista, Windows 8, etc. on display with Gates’ insistence on ignoring a tried-and-true approach (renewables + efficiency + storage) for so-called “innovation”. Things that worked perfectly fine in successful Microsoft products were changed into something profoundly inferior because of the perceived need to be innovative. Gates probably thinks he became as successful as he did through innovation, so he assumes disruptive approaches will guarantee success in the future.

      It seems that Gates and his fellow travelers also think wind and solar have been around a long time and haven’t solved our problems yet, so there must be something wrong with them. Maybe their libertarian streak also sees government involvement with getting renewables built irreversibly tainting these technologies somehow (while their preferred nuclear technology avoids this label because their approaches are “new” apparently).

      And finally, Microsoft has exhibited a corporate philosophy of centralized, top-down control of operations and customers. Renewables, and especially distributed renewables, go completely against this mindset.

      Personally, Bill Gates’ money would be better spent on energy efficiency retrofits that have the lowest $ / tonne CO2 reduction cost. Alternately, his billion$ could be used to outspend the Koch Bros. and get as many climate deniers booted out of Washington / state governments as possible.

      • It’s, I think, the Linus Pauling problem. Someone who has been very successful in one field is often treated as someone special when they wander into another field.

        Gates shouldn’t be getting press on energy matters. It should be people like Mark Jacobson who have deep knowledge in the field.

        • True, same thing with Dr. James Hansen.

          • Anyone can make an a$$ out of themselves in the wrong field. Stick to what you know and respect professionalism. Hansen is just fine at climate science. Lousy at energy.

      • I like to think the explanation is fa simpler.
        He would like to be remembered for some great feat. The obvious solution is solar. Yet this is a highly competitive field where he could never outshine all those entities and individuals that work on the solution.
        The fell for some sucker touting nuclear the great solution, him the only visionary that can make a difference. Another pitiful decision and poor him was all in on the ride.
        Reportedly he also visited some LENR people in Italy last year.
        Unfortunately nobody pitched KiteGen to him. Would have been fun to see if some money would make a difference.

        It’s also noteworthy that most nuclear advocades are not in favor of the design he is pursuing. Everybody in that camp is hooting for some other fantasy reactor.

    • Brin and the other Google guy seem to be absent from this group hug of Silicon Valley billionaires. Maybe because they tried it themselves a few years ago, and found out expensively (remember the flying wind turbines?) that brilliance at software does not translate easily into hardware solutions in an unrelated field. Which is already populated by other clever people who have spent their whole working lives on the problems. Musk is different: he is prepared to talk about grease injection into transmission bearings.

      • That would be Makani Power.

        Told them years ago it was the wrong approach and they should have bought/copied KiteGen or Skysails. They wouldn’t listen.

      • I don’t get the feeling that the Google guys are too plugged into things in general.

        They’ve made an immense fortune from their search engine but I think they lack the ability or the desire to think big thoughts. Their products like Gmail and Google Documents are good ideas but have stumbled along during their development. I’ve had the feeling that the people on top weren’t paying attention and turning knobs when things weren’t going too well. Same with Google Photos. New features roll out at a snail’s pace, complete with an ample supply of bugs.

    • Windows 98 was followed by Windows 2000 which forward by Windows XP.
      Windows 98 based on Windows 95, not Windows NT.
      Windows 7 is a 64 bit OS. Windows 7 has the version number NT 6.1
      First version of Windows NT main architect of the system was Dave Cutler, one of the chief architects of VMS at Digital Equipment Corporation.

      Keep talking trash Bob, I find it entertaining.

      • I’m not a Windows historian. I simply know that Microsoft replaced a good system with a rotten system more than once.

        BTW, you might want to reread my comment. I think you read in details which simply are not there….

    • I think Gates earned his money by being in the right place at the right time and stealing ideas and code from other people. MS was always about stealing ideas after other companies proved them successful. Either they would buy out the other company, or they would replicate the product and release for lower cost (ie Internet Explorer). They simply didn’t want any competition from startups.

      The fact that he completely missed that the internet would become a “big thing” until it was very late in the game certainly calls aspects of his intelligence into question. He was no visionary but he did well at ruthless and at attracting talented people to keep MS products solid if not overly inspired.

      • Didn’t he get started by buying DOS?

        I don’t know how much stealing Microsoft did. Apple did their share, IIRC.

        From my point of view Gate got going with a operating system and was very, very lucky someone with a better handle on quality control didn’t also get in the game. He was also incredibly lucky that Apple decided to run a closed shop, take an anti-business stance, and seal themselves off from the larger world.

        • Hmm, you’re right that Gates bought 86-DOS (aka QDOS) and modified it to deliver as MS-DOS to IBM. IBM fixed 300 bugs and released it as PC-DOS.

          What I meant about stealing is that Gary Kildall, creator of CP/M (a rival computer operating system), always claimed QDOS had copied source code from CP/M. Yet he never actually sued over the issue. Jerry Pournelle said on “This Week in Tech,” that he had witnessed Kildall type a secret command in MS-DOS that showed a copyright notice from CP/M.

          However, I now see there was an investigation of this done in 2012 by Bob Zeidman that found no correlation between CP/M and QDOS or MS-DOS:

          In addition, no secret copyright notice could be found in MS-DOS. On the other hand, he was testing on MS-DOS 1.11 which isn’t the earliest version, so there could have been something that was later removed.

          So who knows. It might have been a false accusation on the part of Kildall, but I don’t know why Jerry Pournelle would make up that story. Maybe Kildall tricked him by typing a command into an altered MS-DOS? Or maybe that copyright notice actually was in an MS-DOS version earlier than 1.11. The investigation done by Zeidman had no source code or binaries of MS-DOS 1.0.

          • Wow! You went deeply into the weeds. ;o)

            But that’s your field. I suspect the entire history of software development is rife with ‘theft’. I don’t think the geniuses who developed Visicalc were adequately reimbursed for their work.

            (I love Visicalc. It allowed me to retire many, many years earlier than I would otherwise been able to do. Nothing like being able to build financial models and update them effortlessly on a moment’s notice.)

          • Just to wander a little deeper in the weeds, I found this interesting explanation of how CP/M could have been copied without referring to the source code:


            He also makes the same point I did that you need to go back to DOS 1.0 to look for that hidden copyright message and that it certainly could have been obfuscated without adding too much to the OS. If the message exists, it was was added as copy protection so it’s meant to not be found by a simple string search.

  • Whatever was the future when they were young is always the future for some people.

    • That’s an interesting observation.

  • Nuclear does not scale. We got to about 20% nuclear electricity and its been dropping ever since. Abbott did an IEEE article about how nuclear does not scale.

    Cooper produced a paper showing which nuclear power plants were likely to be shut down. Recently, we just had Pilgrim and Fizpatrick announced shut downs.
    Meanwhile Summer and Vogtle cost over runs and delays mount. However, Watts Barr just opened. It began in 1972.

    Pinning hopes on a revival of nuclear power look like a dim proposition.

    • I read something recently about Watts Bar likely being America’s most dangerous nuclear plant. It’s a 40+ year old design highly unlikely to be approved today.

      ” The plant’s ice-condenser design, which relies in part on supplies of ice to cool the reactor in an emergency, dates to the 1960s and has inspired skepticism from nuclear experts for decades. In part, that’s because it’s supposed to allow plants to be built with thinner containment structures. But in 1999, an assessment by Sandia National Laboratories found ice-condenser plants to be “substantially more sensitive to early containment failure” than similar plants with other systems.”

      • Great. Just what we need. Another dangerous, unreliable, one off plant with its own idiosyncrasies. None of the Fukushima units were identical. That exacerbated responses. I am hoping we don’t have another disaster, but with China building more, and some of those designs are older, and given their aggressive build out and historically bad quality, I am not optimistic.

    • Nuclear does not scale? Are you kidding?
      Have you never heard of France?

      75% of France’s electricity is nuclear. France emits 0.9% of world’s GHG, ie the same as its proportion of world population. In other words, France has the same GHG as the world, not the OECD.
      Or said yet otherwise, the world could have France’s standard of living, without climate risk.

      • Scaleability is a question of time, resources and money. Nuclear fails at three of these points.
        Ergo…not scaleable.

      • France has also learned that their nuclear plants are producing expensive electricity compared to REs. That’s why France has decided not to refurbish many of its reactors but to retire them and replace them with wind and solar.

        Nuclear’s done. Accept reality. (Some are having trouble doing that.)

        • Actually, German electricity is twice as expensive as France’s.

          • Actually industrial power in Germany is cheaper than French power.
            Wholesale power in Germany is very cheap.
            Residential rates in Germany are between 17-18ct/kWh.
            Not that people care that much.
            It’s cheaper to live in Germany anyways. Just compare food prices.

          • No, German electricity is not appreciably more expensive than French at the wholesale level.

            It’s the taxes put on to the cost of electricity at the retail level that makes German electricity so much more expensive.

            If you look at the industrial electricity prices without taxes and fees France charges 0.0755 and Germany charges 0.0809. Retail, without taxes and fees, France 0.11 and Germany 0.15.

            That’s very, very far from double.

          • My comments, simply pointing to Eurostats, appear not to have been approved by the moderator…

            The stats you give are true, but only for industry, where prices throughout Europe (except Malta and Cyprus) are close together.

            For households, though, it’s a different story, with the prices I mentioned.

            The taxes are so high in Germany to pay for solar subsidies.

          • The taxes don’t pay for substities btw. Taxes go into the budget like any other taxes. What you are talking about is the EEG Umlage.
            That would be 6.17ct 2015 and 6.05ct next year.
            It pays for the first phase of the Energiewende where subsidies where high to develope the market. As this early fits run out, electricity will get much cheaper because new renewable generation already is cheaper than French nuclear power.
            You see what they did there? Time to thank German consumers for getting RE started don’t you think?
            Also the effects of the Energiewende on the economy are net positive. I don’t know if the same can be said about French nuclear efforts/Areva.

          • It was approved. Just took a long time as I was away from my computer for several hours.

            The wholesale price of electricity in France and Germany is very similar. That’s the cost of electricity.

            The cost of the renewable subsidies is less than half of all taxes placed on German retail electricity. Take a look at the graph I gave you. Since renewables started being added to the German grid their wholesale cost of electricity has been falling. I’ll give you a breakdown of German retail taxes.

            In 2013 the average household electricity rate was about 29 € cents / kWh according to the BDEW (Energy industry association).

            The composition:

            8.0 cent – Power Generation & Sales

            6.5 cent – Grid Service Surcharge

            5.3 cent – Renewable Energy Surcharge

            0.7 cent – Other Surcharges (CHP-Promotion, Offshore liability,…)

            In addition there are some taxes & fees that go straight into the government’s bank account:

            2.1 cent – EcoTax (federal government)

            1.8 cent – Concession fees (local governments)
            4.6 cent – Value added tax (19% on all of the above) – (federal, state & local governments)

            Before 2010 German wholesale electricity prices were above 6 euro cents. By 2012 they had fallen below 4 ec. That’s about half the Renewable Energy Surcharge of 5.3 ec. The RE surcharge has had only a very small impact on German retail electricity costs.

          • Every individual in Zealand (the rich part of the Danish Kingdom) pays every single year $3000 on average to all the poorer inhabitants in the country and every person in Denmark supports developing countries with on average $300 every single year (a little more than 0,7% of BNP). Every single year we spend $100 per capita to support the economy in Greenland and Faroe Island. The total support towards green technology is a little more than 0,2% of BNP, which is a little less than $100 per capita. This meager support towards green technology has brought the world the modern wind power industry and has secured the Danes pretty cheap energy and 35.000 high paying jobs in the sector that account for a large percentage of foreign export.

            In Denmark slang for wind turbines directly translated is “money trees” because the land that is used for wind turbines is compensated wildly above any alternative usage and farmers virtually fights to attract wind turbines.

            How Germany apparently succeeded in making a mess out of their energiwende beats me and why they still have much higher wholesale prices is also kind of a mystery, but I suppose the trend is toward more reasonable price levels. I know they try to keep the subsidies to coal flowing and try to wrangle the arms of the owners of coal power plants to keep them running to protect blue collar jobs in poor parts of the country. I suspect a hefty part of the claimed Energiwende cost are really cost related to running at a loss at coal powered plants – we have plenty of odd favourism of fossils in Denmark too that is very costly but perhaps it is even worse in Germany where they produce their own very expensive low quality polluting brown coal.

          • Here’s some more, Herve’.

            The graph is only current through 2012 but look where German wholesale prices were. Under 40 euros per MWh. Less than 4 euro cents per kWh.

            Then let’s consider this from France.

            “Production costs from the existing fleet are heading higher over the medium-term,” France’s Cour des Comptes said in a report to parliament published today.

            The report, which updates findings in a January 2012 report, said that in 2012 the Court calculated the cost of production of the current fleet for 2010, which amounted to EUR 49.5 per megawatt-hour.

            Using the same method for the year 2013 the cost was EUR 59.8/MWh, an increase of 20.6 percent over three years.


            It’s costing more for electricity out of France’s paid off reactors than the wholesale cost of electricity in Germany.

          • Yep and Scandinavian whole sale prices was on average less than three US cent per kWh last year.

            The low whole sale prices for electricity is forcing early retirement of nuclear power plants in Sweden.

            Also a lot of power connections from regions with higher electricity prices are being built.

        • I am prepared to accept the demise of nuclear but still find it fascinating and worth while that some small fraction of energy research go towards nuclear. The Chinese MSR program has 700 scientist involved which is a very small number compared to just the number of engineers developing wind power in Denmark. The thousands of wind power engineers that go to work everyday are single-mindedly focused upon keeping wind power competitive and have to show measurable documented results. Research in wind power benefit a lot of other industries and have created value chains that drive innovation that is lowering cost for a lot of other unrelated technologies. Wind turbines are not like cars it is strictly business and the best design wins. Four out of four of the largest industrial organizations on three continents compete for hegemony but none of them has relented at all and even a few independent very small by comparison companies have managed to stay competitive – Vestas, Nordex, Enercon, Gamesa etc. The Chinese has tried to catch up with huge subsidies but are simply not up to scratch. The competition is really intense but not unhealthy as in say the flat panel display business or the solar business.

      • We got to 20% electricity globally. Thats as far as it went. If you want to say it scales that far, fine. Now explain how it s going to scale farther than its present amount and reverse its decades of decline. Explain why its in decline at all. In the IEEE reference re nuclear scaling,

        “As Abbott notes in his study, global power consumption today is about 15 terawatts (TW). Currently, the global nuclear power supply capacity is only 375 gigawatts (GW). In order to examine the large-scale limits of nuclear power, Abbott estimates that to supply 15 TW with nuclear only, we would need about 15,000 nuclear reactors. In his analysis, Abbott explores the consequences of building, operating, and decommissioning 15,000 reactors on the Earth, looking at factors such as the amount of land required, radioactive waste, accident rate, risk of proliferation into weapons, uranium abundance and extraction, and the exotic metals used to build the reactors themselves.

        “A nuclear power station is resource-hungry and, apart from the fuel, uses many rare metals in its construction,” Abbott told “The dream of a utopia where the world is powered off fission or fusion reactors is simply unattainable. Even a supply of as little as 1 TW stretches resources considerably.”

        The IAEA says we will be short uranium by 2025. Nuclear is too expensive as well.

        Prospects for nuclear doing anything about GW are dim.

        • You might have gone too far with the criticism because Gates and the thereby the breakthrough guys envision innovation in nuclear not more of the same stuff. MSR technology will according to the Chinese be market ready in about 20 years and could burn up piled up nuclear waste and at the same time produce new fuel for existing nuclear power plants. Terrapower probably haven’t a roadmap to market at the moment but Terrestrial Energy has a roadmap for the first reactor to be completed within 7 years and some have predicted they can produce sub US cent electricity after three iterations. I am not that much for nuclear but there is a huge problem with waste so if new nuclear technology could use old infrastructure and left over waste that otherwise present huge problems with associated cost it might serve us better to explore the ideas rather than blankly refuse.

          • How much investment money? While you may desire technologies to burn up wastes, profit is what guides corporations, and power is what guides governments. Without those incentives, where is the urgency for dealing with waste? If this was the solution to waste, why is it not already done? If it could have been done long ago, it would have. Its simply not that easy. MSRs are decades away, if they ever get here. Nuclear has a long history of delays, cost over runs, and leaks. There is no reason to believe it will suddenly change. Between design and certification of a new design, the significant materials research, and construction, and new type of reactor would take decades to construct. Its not realistic to hope that nuclear will do much by 2050.

            MSRs need a chemical processing unit to operate. There is no design for one today. The power unit has not been designed either. There are a number of engineering challenges related to materials. While it may have low pressure, these designs generally go to higher temperature to increase efficiency. That creates problems.


            Fundamentally, nuclear is an exercise in using large volumes of extremely toxic substances that must be kept contained without leaking tiny amounts. The Abbott reference details the many scaling problems. MSRs don’t solve them all. The entire process starting from mining and ending with disposal has to deal with the extreme toxicity of nuclear materials.

            At one point, I though the pebble bed reactor had some promise. The German AVR reactor leaked and contaminated nearby areas. Its a testament to the fact that even reactors without BWR and PWR meltdown dangers can leak radioactivity and be an environmental hazard.


            The US operated the Fort Saint Vrain reactor in Colorado, a HTGR. Thees

          • IIRC, Germany almost lost control of their pebblebed when one or more ‘pebbles’ fractured and jammed up the works.

            China found, again IIRC, that they couldn’t sufficiently control the temperature of their pebblebed in order to use it for electricity generation.

          • I could not find reference to Chinas experience with pebble bed, just that they have licensed the AVR design. I don’t know why they want that since it was a failure in Germany. The problem with the AVR is that graphite absorbs some of the dangerous radionuclides like Sr-90 and the graphite became a dust that escaped. The prospects of regulation lax China dealing with a failed reactor design that caused contamination in Germany are chilling. I recall it was the worst Sr-90 contamination, but it may be exceeded by Fukushima. IMO, the big problem is trying to contain toxic radionuclides and keep them away from the environment from mining all the way through waste disposal. There are no reactors with zero waste and radionuclides escape into the environment through the whole operation. Some say short lived radionuclides are safer, but thats wrong. The shorter the half life, the more decays per second. Thats more dangerous, not less. The only reason its considered better is because if you wait 300 years its mostly gone. Cs-137 is so toxic the equivalent of one dime would contaminate a square mile. Thats what makes Chernobyl an exclusion zone. Doesn’t sound like short lived radionuclides are better to me. Decommissioning is usually done by waiting decades for short lived radionuclides to decay. But really, mostly tritium and Iodine decay. Cesium is too long lived to decay much in 60 years. Thats precisely why Chernobyl will be with us for a long time. 300 years is short for nuclear half lives compared to plutonium for thousands of years, but its a long time for us.

          • China built a small pebble bed (HRT-10) in the 1990s and commissioned it in the early 2000’s. I recall them having trouble controlling temperature levels, but that could be a faulty memory. I find nothing on line about it now.

          • You are wrong on the point that MSR need a chemical processing unit to operate. That complicated and very dangerous part of the equation is exactly what the Terrestrial Energy guys has taken out of the equation – they fire up the reactor and let it run for 7 years, then store the reactor until the fission products are more safe and/or it becomes feasible to use them for anything intelligent.

            Besides their aim is to use spent fuel and later in other iterations to introduce Thorium. Both spent fuel and Thorium is already stockpiled for several centuries of energy production with the potential efficiency of MSR’s.

            But to be absolutely clear I am not a nuclear proponent at all I come from Denmark and my office and lab is at Risoe the foremost research facility for wind power in the world and I fully expect to see a world running on renewable energy in my lifetime.

            However do not dismiss the power of innovation even in a very conservative an hitherto impotent industry. What the nuclear value chain slipped into was complacent thinking and business as usual. The new breed of reactors and their investors might not be as conservative and uninventive as the common breed of nuclear scientists.

          • Hi Jens,
            Do you have any insight or knowledge about high altitude wind energy attempts like KiteGen? It’s wind energy after all.

          • I know the different concepts but I am afraid we have discussed it before and I side with Mike Barnard. I do not see a future for Kitegen or most other high altitude projects because they are up against a very fast moving target with bankability and complete value chain.

            I have also done some initial thinking on a concept of my own, which I see more potential in than in Kitegen but still not enough to be serious competition for the standard Danish Design.

            Fossils will permanently stay underground when wind power breach the sub US cent threshold and wean itself of REE. In reality we are really close to that threshold and I can see the missing elements coming together from many ideas that can be combined.

          • You left out a number. Sub US what?

          • But look at the immense task they face. It’s simply not cheap to build a big thermal plant regardless of its fuel source.

            The latest bids for new US reactors come in at $0.19/kWh. Wind is under $0.04/kWh and solar is closing on $0.05/kWh. Before a new reactor could be built both are likely to be around $0.03/kWh. Those are unsubsidized prices for wind and solar. A subsidized price for nuclear.

            Where’s the route to cut cost by 6x? It’s not in the fuel, uranium used in today’s reactors costs less than $0.01/kWh. A 500%, 600% price cut would require some very strong magic.

          • The MSR’s are small and do not require a pressure vessel because they operate the fission process near atmospheric pressure and they simply cannot melt down or become unstable due to loss of cooling because they are designed to be cooled by convection only in emergencies. They could use existing nuclear power plants infrastructure and personal while they burn through the spent fuel, which will drive down decommission cost and long term waste storage cost. The regulatory process could also be streamlined because you are talking about an inherently more safe form of nuclear and you are talking about mass produced industrial products. Finally you have very small organizations and a very short value chain with no mining, no enrichment, no reprocessing, no fuel rod fabrication, no advanced monitoring system, no refueling, no huge design phase, no explosion risk, no external power cord damage risk, no grid failure risk, no cooling water pipeline risk and very limited decommission and waste storage.

            As for your comparison to other thermal power plants then please remember there is limited fuel handling as fuel is scavenged on site, there is in place cooling water supply, in place cooling system, in place electric transmission system, in place siting and in place low cost insurance so it is just the turbine and the reactor that add cost.

            I would say the potential is sub $0.01/kWh as Brian Wang suggest in the article I linked to previously if you factor in the savings on decommission and waste storage, which admittedly is like selling rubber band by the meter because no one has a clue about the real decommission and storage cost since the nuclear industry got away with a totally silly and under budgeted agreement as part of the lavish government subsidy plan towards nuclear power. If the real cost of decommission and waste storage cost run as high as I fear you could actually see negative MSR electricity cost simply because of the value of abated cost related to handle the mess the nuclear industry has created. 100% of US civil nuclear waste is still stored in totally inadequate spent fuel pools that was never designed for the purpose. It is Fukushima by accidental design and messed up regulation. Further as these reactors become stranded assets the owners will abandon them and the government will have to bail out the communities near abandoned nuclear power plants and assume responsibility.

          • You are referring to the fact that the IMSR is a burner not a breeder, unlike the ORNL design. That means it doesn’t need to remove fission products as often. Its a simpler design. They want to replace cores, however, or actually graphite moderators on a regular basis. That sounds a bit involved. Nothing like a sure thing, IMO. They use LEU, but not spent fuel, is what I read. Spent fuel contains lots of other things that might not be useful.

            Although some problems are solved, others are created. While there is a focus on the generation part of the fuel cycle, there is little focus on the mining, processing, enrichment, and long term waste. The whole thing needs to be considered. The Terrestrial design plans to burn up most of the long term radionuclides, but the short term ones, like the 30 year half life Cs-137 remain. That is the largest constituent contaminating Europe and Russia from Chernobyl. It will be gone in 300 years. Doesn’t sound like a solution to me. You deal with nuclear, you deal with waste.


            It remains to be seen if Terrestrial, or any other company, can become commercially successful with new, alternate designs.

            With nuclear legacy, I am skeptical. I don’t see any reason to spend a lot of money there with a negative learning curve, while solar, wind, storage, and EVs are returning great improvements on research dollars and subsidies, not to mention already being cheaper than just about every other source already. Nuclear, by comparison seems like good money after bad after decades and dangerous and expensive, too.

            No matter what you do with nuclear, the operating material is horrendously toxic. Not so with wind and solar.

          • We’ve had other stuff like pebble bed reactors which were suppose to work. Even the Chinese thought they would.

            Best we don’t assume China will solve the waste problem 20 years from now. Let them prove it first.

            I suspect China will end up with a great big pile of glowing stuff in the middle of their desert.

      • Let’s look at nuclear scaling in the real world, Herve’. Take a look at the graph below. Nuclear hit a maximum global market share in 1996, 20 years ago. Nuclear reactors hit a count peak in 2006, 10 years ago. Heading down….

        If by “scale” you mean we could build a lot of them, yes, we could. We’d need a decade or more to train and experience enough technicians and construction specialists to build at a rate of more than a few a year.

        We’d have a hell of a time finding sites that would accept new nuclear. For example you can rule out the Pacific Coast states, New England and the Eastern Seaboard, and most of Europe. New nuclear is largely limited to backwards US states and second tier countries where if the right palms are greased bad decisions can be implemented. Throw in a few countries who think that having a nuclear program enhances their prestige.

        And we’d have to throw vast amounts of money into nuclear programs plus delay closing coal plants for decades.

        So, yes, nuclear could scale. But it would be a most unwise decision. It would be a dumb as paying business class prices for the middle seat in economy class.

  • Centralized power generation benefits very few at the expense of the rest of us. It is also more susceptible to terrorism and climate disruption.

    I understand that rich people believe they deserve a umbilical cord into everyone’s wallets but they will just have to get over that idea for the good of the community.

    • Wind farms are centralized power generation and large scale wind is our least expensive source of electricity.

      Should we forgo wind because it’s centralized and cause electricity prices to rise?

      • I would not eliminate wind farms but the more distributed generation with battery storage we can put on the grid, the better.

        Kudos for your comments on that ridiculous post about the glory of nuclear. I will add that there is still no known solution for waste disposal and if you add the long term cost of maintaining the waste you end up with something on the order of $35-50/kWh for nuclear power. But it doesn’t really matter since it will be paid by future generations.

        Additionally, thanks to Price-Anderson, future taxpayers, not shareholders, are on the hook for the cost of nuclear accidents. Nuclear energy is the epitome of corporate welfare, redistributing money from the middle-class and poor to the wealthy.

        Hydroelectric dams can also have a very negative environmental impact but what does the loss of a few dozen species matter if Julie gets cheap electricity?

        • We should not install dams that wipe out species. But we can install a lot of hydro with minimal ecological damage. We have a large amount of already installed impoundment that can be converted to power production. And we can do ‘run of the river’ with minimal environmental impact.

    • #1. I live in Seattle… where we’re spoiled with 94% hydro power… terrorists have had 80+ years to try to destroy these dams fueling our prius obsession over here, and haven’t! In 80 yrs! I think you’re all hype, sir. No terrorism fiascos in the nuclear sector here either… research or commercial.. reliable since the 50s! I think we got this.
      #2. Rich people (like us) thrive bc we have power… think hospitals, air conditioning, refridgeration… power increases quality of life.. so unless you want to trade-in baseload power for rolling blackouts and ice-boxes, appreciate that nuclear powers 1/5th of the US.
      #3. Tell the millions of kids dying of intestinal parasites every year that they don’t deserve nuclear. They don’t get lights to read books, or running water or toilets… they get dirt huts with parasites and no indoor light after 6pm… the rich foolish person is you. Nuclear saves lives and improves lives.

      • OK, Julie, are you dishonest or ignorant? It must be one or the other.

        #1. Hanford. Look it up.

        #2. Price of nuclear, wind and solar electricity. I gave it to you. Nuclear is 3x to 5x the cost of onshore wind and 2x to 3x the cost of PV solar. Baseload is an outdated concept. Germany is pulling nuclear and coal off its grid and has much more reliable electricity than does the US.

        #3. You really think that underdeveloped countries are going to spend fortunes building nuclear? You’re living in lala land.

        We’re getting light to the folks who don’t have grid access via micro-solar and being wildly successful with that approach. Nuclear will not be part of the picture.

      • Read up about Hanford Radiation Study. Mancuso and Stewart found that radiation deaths were higher than expected from doses received by workers.

        Word has it that electric power is generated from wind in the Pacific Northwest. No terrorist attacks on wind farms.

      • Nuclear power isn’t going help any poor children anywhere.
        You need lots of money. You need even more money to build a grid to deliver the electricity. It just isn’t going to happen.
        Solar panels are cheaper and portable.

        “Nuclear saves lives and improves lives.” for who? the investor.

  • A technology I find interesting is capacitor developoments. I think the contribution that area can make to energy generation is somewhat under estimated. I have been following some of the advances made on that front with great interest.

  • Nobody is paying 30ct/kWh in Germany. Reality is more than 1/3 less.
    You simply switch to the cheapest supplier. It’s a matter of 5 min online.

    Don’t you have price comparison websites in France? I thought the whole of the EU requires price comparison online and free switching?

  • Prices are generally higher in France. 7.8% over EU average vs. 1.5% in Germany if you look at the harmonized consumer index.
    Thus electricity is more affordable to Germans.

    Lack of taxation is a legal form of substities for nuclear power in France. Though not very effective or wise in the big picture.

  • I take real prices over Eurostat.
    Don’t know anybody paying 30ct/kWh. Real prices are more than 1/3 lower.
    I don’t know anybody that cares anyways.
    If you care you are free to switch to a cheaper supplier, it’s free and done in 5 Minutes online.
    Are you French? Isn’t that already required by EU law?
    You should also be able to see the bare power price without taxes, levies and grid services.
    I even pay the grid separately.
    Would really be interesting what a French supplier charges for the pure power.

    France chooses to substitute nuclear power via missing taxes. Don’t know if that is a smart move but maybe sensible. After all France is 7.8% over European harmonized consumer price index where Germany is only 1.5% above Eurozone average.

    I guess France is also lucky to have that little interconnections with Germany. They are really laging behind and would get into serious trouble when more cheap German power becomes available on the market.
    I also doubt that Flamanville can ever produce cost effective. Guess this will become a financial disaster if it is ever finished.

  • Take a look at the wholesale electricity graphic.

    Here are wholesale prices vs time.

    Fundamentally, renewables have lowered wholesale prices in Germany. Household retail prices have little to do with wholesale.

    Industries get a break. The retail rates have to do with taxes, not the cost of renewables. In fact, renewables are so cheap, utilities are losing money on coal and nuclear. RWE and EON have now both split out their central power plant businesses because they are losing money.

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