Intermittent Power from “Baseload” Nuclear Plant Raises Prices for Consumers

March 28, 2013

If a unit of distributed electric generation, say a wind turbine, or a solar panel, has a problem, you can shut it down and replace it without pulling a huge amount of power off the grid. You certainly wouldn’t have to evacuate a city, or raise anyone’s prices.

Of course, WindBaggers like to say that renewable energy  is “intermittent” – as if EVERY  form of energy wasn’t intermittent. Nothing operates 100 percent – the question is, do you have a system that is cumbersome, expensive, and brittle, or resilient and forgiving when something goes wrong

Electric Light & Power:

The outages of both units at Southern California Edison’s San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (SONGS), starting in January 2012, have created a persistent spread in wholesale power prices between Northern and Southern California.

Historically, wholesale power prices for Northern and Southern California tracked closely with one another, indicating minimal market differences between the two areas. However, after the shutdown of SONGS in early 2012, the relatively inexpensive nuclear generation produced by SONGS had to be replaced with power from more expensive sources.

Consequently, since April 2012 Southern California power prices have persistently exceeded Northern California prices, with the spread averaging $4.15/MWh, or 12 percent of the Northern California price.

Utility Dive:

Before Southern California Edison’s San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (SONGS) got shut down, wholesale power prices for Southern California (SoCal) and Northern California (NorCal) were essentially the same. However, since SONGS stopped producing power, SoCal has consistently seen higher wholesale power prices than NorCal. Here’s a graph illustrating the wholesale power markets in SoCal and NorCal:

Wind vs Baseload myths discussed here.

45 Responses to “Intermittent Power from “Baseload” Nuclear Plant Raises Prices for Consumers”

  1. Nuclear is cheap compared to solar? What are you smoking?

    Clean up of Fukashima is going to cost $500 billion. $500 billion is, coincidentally, very close to the cost of enough solar PV panels needed to replace every calorie of carbon-fuel energy the U.S. needs.

    The major cost of a large-scale PV project to solve America’s CO2 emission problems *forever* is the cost of clean up from a single nuclear power plant!

    Florida Power & Light informed the Florida Public Service Commission in December 2007 that their estimated the cost for building two new nuclear units at Turkey Point in South Florida was $8,000 per installed kW, or a shocking $24 billion.

    To put that into perspective, if we were to construct a massive solar PV installation in the American Southwest large enough to completely replace every calorie of energy currently produced by carbon fuels, it would require $468 billion worth of PV panels at current wholesale costs. These costs are likely to be halved in five years, which means that for ten times the cost of two nuclear plants, we could buy enough solar panels to supply 100% of total U.S. energy requirements.

    Perhaps the cost effectiveness of large-scale solar is much better than you quote, kap55?

  2. Baseload is not a virtue. Capacity factor is not a virtue.
    Which source is used for peaking and baseload have more
    to do with source characteristics (throttle ability, capital cost, fuel cost)
    which are choices.

    Peter’s video is informative. Nuclear is shut down in heat waves.

    A radioactive life boat? Kinda leaky. Beat the nuclear or nothing drum and a dead horse.

    daryan – yup. If all electricity were nuclear, a lot of nuclear would be idle. Its just like baseball. Its variable. Somebody has to sit on the bench. Nuclear makes expensive back up.

    Nuclear is cheap.

    Cost is everything.
    Nuclear never lost a dollar paying for:

    Breast cancer
    lung cancer
    Genetic defects
    Genetic diseases
    Nuclear refugees
    Human suffering and pain

    All those in favor, line up for your new home in clean, sterilized, radioactive fallout zones. Volunteer to make an advertisement. Tour the local radioactive hazard zone and scoff at danger. Why, its no worse than a mild hangover.

    • greenman3610 Says:

      I believe that for a typical nuclear plant, running properly, the risk from radiation is small. It’s when you look at a whole global fuel cycle over decades that you kind of get into trouble i.e. the odd Fukushima. Proliferation is another topic entirely.
      my point is we would not want to choose current nuclear technology even if there was no radioactive danger.

  3. Bruce Miller Says:

    Israel has a 1000 km electric car. China has the Chreos – likely a nano carbon super capacitor, 1000 km electric car. A large proliferation of three moving part power train electric cars with very long life battery, Al, Li, or capacitive electric storage systems ballasting the Solar, Wind, Wave, Hydro, Tidal, Geothermal, even thorium fissioning power sources are a much cheaper, much more efficient, cleaner, safer, and fully ‘domestic'(keyword for Americans reading this) energy source over imported oil. America has these energy sources, at home, in abundance. This makes expensive, economy crushing, loans from China to buy foreign oil, to war for them, an absolute folly, promoted by the “Establishment” for their personal good only. Google and check the facts yourself: nano carbon super capacitors, tested 100,000. charge discharge cycles, have Energy Density approaching, even exceeding that of gasoline – are non flammable (light aircraft too?) and can be charged as fast as a gasoline car is filled, from an awaiting pre-charged capacitive bank – the bank can be Solar(peak output), Wind(peak output), Wave(peak output), Hydro(off-peak demand), Tidal(peak output), Geothermal (off-peak demand), or Thorium (off-peak demand), charged, to flatten grid demands, economize on currently unused power production, eliminate foreign gasoline dependence forever. Similarly, the Al and Li systems will buffer even current power systems yielding very much higher efficiencies, and even enough power to do away entirely with Oil imports for personal transportation.
    The fucking sociopath corporate leaders know this, fear this, discredit this, hate this, and are running hard to steal “American Peon Stake Capital “ (money entrusted to the corpocracy to re-invest in America) to China, Asia, Pan Eurasia, and investments in “any other than fossil fueled automotive and oil” investments. How fast will this hit the Global Village? China is the leader in making the switch away from fossil fuels to clean energy and lead the world in that direction as we speak – and not by slower “voting” processes either – but by a massive thrust, and declarations of law for all in China – and as we all know now: “As China goes, so goes the Global Village” – a new 21st Century paradigm.

  4. An odd Fukushima every 20 years, eh? That’s good enough for a lot of suffering and death worldwide. Nuclear power plants leak and emit radionuclides every day. They travel the ecosystem. concentrate, and lodge within our bodies. It is the radiation inside the body that is the worst. So ignore all the estimates of death, disease, and suffering in favor of the “nobody ever died” canard? Denial is abundant. Of course many people are suffering and dying from Chernobyl. Did you know that heart failure is a commonly suffered by those exposed to excess radiation? Just because a threat is massively ignored, research underfunded, and met with waves of countervailing PR, does not make it any less a problem. The process of denial and the waves of industry PR cash mirrors that of the oil companies and Heartland campaign to deny AGW, except the cadre of those opposing nuclear is smaller and under voiced and the biological threat of radiation difficult to convey. How can citizens providing car filter samples counter the money and power behind the utilities and NRC? Yet, we know radionuclides are a danger. This subject is badly in need of education, especially now that many have dropped their objection to nuclear in the face of AGW threats. Thank you for mentioning the children of Fukushima, who are now experiencing thyroid nodules. Its important that we honor those that experience the effects of disaster with compassion and honest, responsible, dialogue. Both AGW and Fukushima should generate, forthright, serious, humane, discussion. The lives of many are at stake.
    A couple of good references to mutations.

  5. Here is the direct link to the video

  6. I get your drift, Peter. Nuclear economics are folly. Just remember, if we ignore the health effects, or elevate economics as the highest decision criteria above morality, we risk postponing the same health effects and moral decisions until the next crisis. Then we wind up debating the cost of a human life. These are choices. Not just economic ones. Moral ones. We are not mental slaves to cost/benefit analysis. Karma. Decisions have ramifications. Principal and morality. The only way for us blind men to steer the ship. We cannot tell a future generation we did it because it was cheaper. That would be like not teaching our children morality. That is as bad a legacy as global warming. That’s why its important to do it now. Set a precedent and example for others to follow. We must do what is right regardless.

    • greenman3610 Says:

      I’m all on board with the moral argument, but when presenting to people for whom children’s lives are just another decimal point, it doesn’t get you anything – so I have always favored the richly persuasive economic points first.

  7. kap55 Says:

    Oh wow. So now I’m censored here? Anthony Watts would be proud of you. He censors me too.

  8. Bruce Miller Says:

    Again we face the Great Corporate American Propaganda Whore’s distortions in the term “nuclear” which automatically blinkers the American mind for all but enriched uranium fissioning processes in the 1950’s styled pressure pot reactors – for Christ’s sake, America Grow up, Amen. China has pebble bed gas reactors coming online, has thorium fueled fissioning systems akin to the LFTR reactors of old, due to produce by 2017, China has, up and running, nuclear waste burners, reconfigured CANDU reactors fueled by radioactive waste, old warheads, thorium, uranium, and this much they are willing to tell the West. The sick, wrong and blinkered view that the American Nuclear Establishments sunk money in their obsession is the only way to do fissioning is just wrong. Google the Canadian Slow Poke reactors? What ran the Lighthouses Russia put up a half century ago? Their submarines? Are you certain? Were there other systems – of course there were. Were they perhaps as good? better? improvable? I wonder.

    • rayduray Says:


      Re: “The sick, wrong and blinkered view that the American Nuclear Establishments sunk money in their obsession is the only way to do fissioning is just wrong.”

      Sadly, I’ve come to the conclusion that the American elite have gone mad and are only interested in Wall Street-style casino games today. There is no competent real world engineering going on in America that amounts to anything. Prestige projects like the DoD’s F-35 are a joke. They cost 10 times what they should. Same with our idiotic health care system.

      Why should the way we address energy needs be any different?

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