Will Nuclear Subsidies Derail a Renewable Europe?

April 7, 2014

nuclear

Climate deniers often claim to be against subsidies that “pick winners” among different energy options. They are often conspicuously silent when those subsidies go to the nuclear industry.  History has shown that nuclear power cannot exist without massive infusions of public money, and guarantees of profit from taxpayers and ratepayers.  The danger is, this energy is so expensive it may crowd out other options.

Climate News Network:

LONDON, 7 April – The United Kingdom’s plans to build heavily subsidised nuclear power stations have come under withering attack from a coalition of Members of Parliament, academics, energy industry experts and environmental groups.

Evidence has poured into the European Commission, which is investigating whether the deal with the giant French nuclear company EDF breaks EU competition rules. The evidence from many objectors, whose submissions had to be made by today, claims that if the contract goes through it will wreck Europe’s chance of building up renewable energies to avert the worst impacts of climate change.

They say renewables will have to compete in an unfair market where one generator, nuclear, is guaranteed to be able to sell all its electricity at a stable price and with a built-in profit until 2058.

The UK Government has agreed a minimum price of £92.50 (US $153) a megawatt hour from a new nuclear power station at Hinkley Point in the west of England from 2023 – roughly double the existing price of electricity in Britain. The price will rise with inflation and runs for 35 years, a deal unprecedented in the energy sector, and not available to renewable energies like wind and solar. The guarantee will continue for all future nuclear stations too.

The Government has gone further, guaranteeing loans for construction, and providing insurance and compensation payments if policies change for any reason. It claims that the deal will save £75 a year on the average consumer’s bill if electricity prices rise by 2023, as it forecasts. If they do not, then consumers will be paying far more for their electricity than they would otherwise.

EU test case

No-one involved in the investigation into whether the deal constitutes unfair state aid doubts that climate change is a severe threat and needs to be tackled. The argument is about which is the best set of technologies to help deal with the problem.

There are 12 states in Europe interested in nuclear power generation, slightly under half the EU’s members. All see the UK subsidies investigation as a test case into whether they also will be able to give state aid to nuclear stations.

One of the submissions, from the Nuclear Consulting Group, with more than 100 signatures from MPs from six parties in the UK and European Parliaments, plus engineers, academics and energy experts, says the proposed aid to guarantee nuclear’s profitability is incompatible with EU State Aid rules. The NCG says it unfairly discriminates in favour of nuclear and will damage renewable energies with far greater potential.

Given that this level of support is unavailable to other low carbon technologies, it is certain to significantly distort competition and strongly affect trade between member states.

“The development of sustainable and affordable low carbon energy remains a growing economic sector with huge potential for job creation. To seek to delimit this diversity through particular State Aid support of nuclear power at the expense of other, potentially more flexible, safe, productive, cost-effective and affordable technologies seems, at the very least, unwise,” says the submission.

It says the British Government has also not been completely honest about the prospects for existing nuclear power stations. In its announcement about subsidies the Government claimed that all but one of the eight existing nuclear power stations were due to close about the time the new Hinkley Point plant is finished in 2023.

nuclearcomic

In fact EDF, which owns the plants, and is also building the new one, intends to keep them open until 2030 or even longer if safety conditions allow. If the Government’s current power station-building plans succeed, then more than 50% of Britain’s electricity would be generated by subsidised nuclear stations, effectively cutting out renewables.

Delays and cost over-runs

One big problem for the UK’s plans, apart from the European Commission inquiry, is that the building schedule for the European pressurised water reactors (EPRs) planned for Hinkley Point, and for Sizewell in eastern England, is in doubt.

The first two prototypes, under construction in Finland and France, are subject to severe construction delays and cost over-runs. The Finnish Olkiluto 3 EPR was due to be completed in 2009 at a fixed price of €3 billion (US £4.1 bn), but the cost has now escalated to €8.5 bn and completion has been put back to 2018. The French new build by EDF at Flamanville is already four years behind schedule and the cost has more than doubled to €8.5 billion.

Other groups objecting to the UK subsidy plan also say that rather than promoting a diversity of supply, as ministers claim, the decision to back nuclear will reduce the scope for other technologies.

Bad value

Friends of the Earth says that currently there are seven to ten viable renewable energies being developed in the UK, among them wind on and off shore, solar, biogas, wave, under-sea turbines, small-scale hydro, biomass, and hot rocks, all of which could contribute to the energy mix if nuclear had no guaranteed unfair advantage.

These were all comparatively new technologies, where the price of generation was coming down all the time. In contrast, FoE says, nuclear has been operating for 60 years and still requires a 35-year price guarantee.

By the time Hinkley is in operation, solar and on-shore wind will be far cheaper, with costs falling fast, and it is likely that offshore wind will be in a similar position. The nuclear subsidy “represents extremely bad value for money for UK citizens,” the submission concludes.

 

 

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77 Responses to “Will Nuclear Subsidies Derail a Renewable Europe?”

  1. grlcowan Says:

    Reality has a strong fissionist bias …

  2. jimbills Says:

    I suppose I don’t understand the problem here.

    1) If the goal is strictly to de-carbonize the electricity supply, this plan would go pretty far in helping that, and it’s likely to take effect sooner than a renewables-only approach.

    2) Inflation doesn’t just affect nuclear power, its effects reach across the board, so all electricity would theoretically rise in price at an equal level, too.

    3) On the high price starting in 2023, wouldn’t that provide a significant incentive to consumers for solar PV leasing? The higher the base price for electricity, the more competitive all renewables will be.

    4) On the unfair advantage of guaranteed prices, this is the nature of the beast regarding nuclear. For private investment at such a high startup cost, there has to be a stable return. Renewables don’t face such a high obstacle, and so such a guarantee on future prices isn’t necessary to attract private investment. If the base price of all electricity rises, wouldn’t more private investment flow into cheaper energy sources for a higher return?

    5) Higher energy expense benefits AGW mitigation, anyway, in that it forces consumers to make do with less.

    6) Why can’t the British government ALSO provide subsidies and guaranteed loans for renewables at the same time? That way, there would be a two-pronged attack on de-carbonization of electricity, which seems a far saner way of approaching the problem than simply attacking with one source.

    I’d prefer de-growth above everything, and I’m not a nuclear fan in general, but I don’t really see how this particular plan hurts Britain’s plans to lower total emissions or even really hamper renewables production. It seems to me more of a case of insider jostling for who gets to provide future energy, a selfish motive, over how Britain can reduce CO2 emissions as quickly as possible. But I’m open to hear how this might be wrong.


    • No. But it might bankrupt Europe. 🙂
      http://daryanenergyblog.wordpress.com/2013/10/28/hinkley-c-and-the-trap/
      We have all been here before. Deja vu.
      “If the base price of all electricity rises, wouldn’t more private investment flow into cheaper energy sources for a higher return?”
      Yes. And there are cheaper renewables. If you want to displace the most CO2, nuclear is the least cost and time effective way to do it. In fact, as of now, it really isn’t doing it. Natural gas and wind are doing more to lower CO2 than nuclear, by displacing coal.
      http://www.treehugger.com/energy-efficiency/us-nuclear-power-decline.html

      • kap55 Says:

        So gas is displacing more coal than nuclear, and that makes gas a good thing? I can hardly believe any climate-conscious person would take such a position. Committing suicide more slowly is still suicide.

        And you’re wrong about wind, which worldwide is generating 1/4 the electricity of nuclear, and about 1/6 in the US.

        • dumboldguy Says:

          And have we all looked at the long-term projections for coal? Some of the graphs in recent Crock posts (or links therein) show coal remaining as a significant energy source and even becoming an increasing part of the mix as populations increase and oil and gas decline.


          • I am not sure projections are so accurate anymore. I have seen how far off the mark the EIA and IEA have been. (unfortunate choice of acronyms, eh?) Things are changing so fast, its hard to predict. I think there will be less growth, choked off by low FF EROI, including coal, but oil and gas dropping first. The effect on the economy is to reduce growth and consumption. We will see economic instability for sure. I don’t think the population can double twice. I don’t think 4 more Saudi Arabias are going to materialize. (not at traditional conventional oil EROI) Right now, most world leaders have not realized the big picture. We usually only see a major paradigm change once in a life time. Now we will see many. I think of it like the fruit fly population with a lump of sugar in a Klein bottle. The population goes up, then collapses. We are contemplating whether resource depletion (FF) (the sugar) or pollution (GHG)(the fly waste) will collapse the population, how much and when. We have both going on simultaneously. I used to think this would happen by great pestilence, famine, and disease. Now I am not so sure it won’t happen by lingering economic malaise. It seems to be now. The environment and the economy are not separate. That is something leaders have to learn. The backdrop is that FF companies, the largest and most powerful in the world, are due for a fall.
            http://damnthematrix.wordpress.com/2014/03/14/going-down/
            http://damnthematrix.wordpress.com/2014/02/27/oil-supply-and-demand-forecasting-with-steven-kopits/

          • dumboldguy Says:

            Nice tap dance, but begs the question. We are using a LOT of coal worldwide, and the projections are not that we will use less, but will likely have to use more because of population growth and increasing energy needs as the Chinese and Indian standard of living rises towards western levels. You can’t hang your hat on the unreliability of only certain folk’s forecasts when nearly everyone is saying the same thing.

            I forget which link it was, but I was struck by one graphic that showed a color breakdown below the top line for projected percentages of each energy source. Coal was a large black “base” for the whole thing, and had a rather ugly bump up appearing at the point when oil and gas were declining (and we know that’s coming). Renewables do not look like they will take up the slack, and we are not going to get carbon under control soon enough. Nature is swinging her bats in the warmup circle.

            I keep returning in my head to China and India, who have 1/3 of the Earth’s population, and their plans for coal. I keep thinking of Australia’s use of coal at home and plans to mine half the country to provide coal to I & C. We are whistling past the graveyard.


          • Coal and renewables are going on simultaneously in China and in India, mostly from Australia. US coal is edging down. It is a problem . I am only saying the projections for burning all of it are plain wrong. You are right that there is too much of it, and we have to stop it. With all the false estimates from EIA it’s hard to figure out the real future.
            https://climatecrocks.com/2011/11/29/leslie-glustrom-on-peak-coal/
            http://cleantechnica.com/2014/01/10/horrible-eia-forecasts-letter-cleantechnica-readers/

          • dumboldguy Says:

            Of course we will never burn all of any of the fossil fuels—-we’ll all be dead (or the survivors will be gathering sticks to burn) before we use up even a substantial fraction. I can’t find the link I was looking for—might have been posted by redskylite, and within the past week—but I have seen many that all show that it’s not that hard to see where we’re going—-coal is here to stay unless we take very deliberate and strong action to stop it.


          • You know, now you got me thinking pessimistic. China gets me down. All that choking pollution and their five year plan is still to increase coal use. And that is where a lot of the solar cells come from. I am afraid their plan makes no sense. They are so wedded to exponential growth and coal…. It looks like you are right. No natural action is going to stop coal in time. It has to be stopped by outright action. If that makes you pessimistic, count me in. The human race has been pretty collectively stupid for an individually intelligent hominid. Think Kyoto. What will 4C be like? How bad will it really be? I hate to ponder it.

          • dumboldguy Says:

            Now you’re thinking, and you have proved your sanity by saying that makes you feel pessimistic. There is no other sane response to what we see going on with coal in China and India.

            I’m presently reading another great book—“Junkyard Planet”. Not too far into it yet, but it details many relationships between the U.S and China in the areas of economics, trade, and resource utilization, all of which can be extended to energy use and AGW.

            Did you know that China consumes over 40% of the world’s copper, and that it gets nearly all of it from the U.S. in the form of scrap (with nearly all the rest coming from Japan)? Did you know that we recycle almost NO copper in the U.S., that it all goes to China, as does almost everything else we put in the recycling bins? That we used to just landfill old electric motors and things like old christmas tree lights because it was “uneconomical” to recycle them in the U.S.? That in the Shijiao area alone, at least 20 MILLION POUNDS of christmas tree lights are recycled annually? I didn’t.

          • andrewfez Says:

            I’m in lurk mode, for too much typing is killing my hands; but did you guys happen to notice, when greenman posted the ‘Stranded Down Under’ report on environmental impacts constraining China’s economy months ago, that on page 10 of the report there was a footnote:

            Water constraints could result in a decrease or increase in coal consumption, depending largely on government action.

            Also there was a ‘Water Upside’ entry that was significant in the long run on the same page.

            http://www.smithschool.ox.ac.uk/research/stranded-assets/Stranded%20Down%20Under%20Report.pdf

            The reporting was mostly ‘China’s coal is in trouble due to water’, but depending on how they govern their water, it looks like the ‘trouble’ isn’t a done deal.


          • Andrew-nice post. Its a balance. Water will reduce Chinas ability to produce electricity from coal and mine it. Sorry dumboldguy, If I disturbed you, I can’t find a better way to reply to Andrew because the blog has limitations. Anyway Andrew, its part of the tussle I have going on. China really hurts. They are screwing the world and themselves. Its as if they are hellbent on destruction even though they are crushed by pollution. As Peter says, something has to give. There are limits. China makes the dumboldguys case for catastrophic climate feedback on society. Using up all the potable water is one of those. It certainly would derail their coal use plans if they found they lacked drinking water. That… could lead to a sociopolitical revolution. There are advantages to a centrally planned society,… and disadvantages. Look for signs that the coal use growth plan is cracking. Protests and civil disobedience are part of the signs. Its all troubling because dramatic, catastrophic adaptation to GW is not what we are looking forward to, even though we can be sure some of it is coming and has already happened. One would hope the clearly visible signs would spur some action and response. So what does one do? .. in Miami? Does it make sense to spend the money on flood mitigation? I don’t think so. Its not going to stop anything. There are a lot of places that will simply be abandoned. It will become low priced real estate. We know a past blogger who was all about that. 🙂

          • dumboldguy Says:

            It is perhaps not quite accurate to call China a “centrally planned” society anymore (perhaps more a “centrally controlled one for now, though). I’m nearly done reading Junkyard Planet, and his take is that China has been taken over by the desire to get rich and for everyone to be able live at western standards. Capitalism (abetted by corruption) is going to cause water shortages, but the pollution of the water and the air caused by run amok industrialization is likely what will sink them. We could apparently shut their economy down by simply refusing to send them any of our scrap and recyclables (and we would not get cheap Chinese made goods if we did that). (Remember that we did that to the Japanese in the 1930’s)

        • daryan12 Says:

          Actually nuclear is closer to about 11% of global electricity
          http://www.iea.org/publications/freepublications/publication/KeyWorld2013.pdf

          In part this is due to a sharp drop in nuclear output, given that many of the world’s nuclear plants are aging (average age 27.8 years) and being shut down. As I discuss in the article below the build rate of nuclear is cronically low (a few GW/yr) and its doubtful that we’ll be able to build reactors quickly enough to replace reactors as they are turned off. By contrast renewables are growing at a rate of +150 GW’s per year.
          http://daryanenergyblog.wordpress.com/2013/10/13/a-global-report-card-for-renewables/


          • Now I don’t have to say it. Well said. 🙂


          • Mark Cooper’s report is proving correct. One by one, the older reactors are being taken off line. I was a little surprised by its accuracy. His analysis is proving correct. Actually, I think the projection he uses for solar and wind are too conservative. As renewable volumes go up, manufacturing prices go down.
            http://rameznaam.com/2013/11/14/solar-power-is-dropping-faster-than-i-projected/
            http://will.illinois.edu/nfs/RenaissanceinReverse7.18.2013.pdf


          • Dumboldguy – I can see daryans colorful language has gotten to you. If you sense emotion, you are not alone. I can manage to ignore that, if I can manage to ignore things like ” wind turbine syndrome is bullshit”. In the end, it’s down to the serious business of teasing apart all the facts and references to determine substance. Like anything else, it requires a balance of sources. No doubt, you will do your research thoroughly, I trust. The rest provides some entertainment as I detect some emotion from you, which I enjoy. 🙂
            (Particularly of the bs detector variety) my take is that daryan provides some in depth research and balance from overly hyped nuclear fans. Curious that many nuclear skeptics are former fans. Bob_Wallace among them. I respect deep research and even opinion as long as all the cards are on the table and there is some balance.

          • dumboldguy Says:

            No Christopher, you have not “seen” that daryan’s “colorful language” has “gotten to me”. (BTW, daryan is really D.A. Ryan of the UK, should you care to track him down a bit). I’m glad you enjoy whatever “emotion” you detect in what you see from me, but daryan does not “get” to me personally—he is just another cockroach like daveburton that has come out into the light and needs to be dealt with. I say that even though his blog is informative on the topic of energy generally. If you read his many-chaptered treatise on nuclear power carefully, you will find bias towards the PWR, and the PWR is exactly the type of reactor that had given people so much to fear in the past. I suspect that daryan does this to divert attention from the newer alternatives and remind everyone of past failures—a clever way to attack all nuclear power.

            You are a bit naive in your understanding of what daryan is up to, and I’m afraid that your crap detectors are not as finely tuned to the kind of crap that mine are and that daryan spewed to set them off. When I say “crap”, I am referring to the kind of clever propagandizing that you see from daryan, not the arguments about “substance” that you and E-Pot engage in endlessly. You have failed to see that daryan’s cards are not all “on the table”. The comment I told him to GFHS on was merely a propagandist’s attempt to marginalize E-Pot and I rather than deal with the facts of anything we said. And where is daryan? Has he taken his shot and wisely decided to leave Crock? I await an answer to my charges from him—-is he using PWR’s as a straw man?

            Also, your knowledge of nuclear reactor engineering seems to be rather superficial and far behind your understanding of wind, solar, and transmission grids. You should listen to E-Pot more closely—not in the area of costs and economics, but re: the technical aspects of reactors. You have swallowed too much of the anti-nuclear BS regarding reprocessing, long term waste storage, PWR’s vs other designs, and the general FUD that has been spread. I’ll say it again—nuclear power is expensive, and the wastes are messy and nasty, but the problems CAN be dealt with and it’s the planet-wide CO2 we need to worry about, not the largely localized impacts of nuclear power.

            I myself was strongly anti-nuclear in the 60’s and 70’s, but have come to agree with Hansen et al—-here are a few paragraphs’ from their recent letter. Hansen understands that CO2 is likely to get us sooner than we had thought it might and that nuclear power should not be dismissed as part of the mix.

            “While there will be no single technological silver bullet, the time has come for those who take the threat of global warming seriously to embrace the development and deployment of safer nuclear power systems as one among several technologies that will be essential to any credible effort to develop an energy system that does not rely on using the atmosphere as a waste dump”.

            “With the planet warming and carbon dioxide emissions rising faster than ever, we cannot afford to turn away from any technology that has the potential to displace a large fraction of our carbon emissions. Much has changed since the 1970s. The time has come for a fresh approach to nuclear power in the 21st century”.

            “We ask you and your organization to demonstrate its real concern about risks from climate damage by calling for the development and deployment of advanced nuclear energy”.

            Dumboldguy – I can see daryans colorful language has gotten to you. If you sense emotion, you are not alone. I can manage to ignore that, if I can manage to ignore things like ” wind turbine syndrome is bullshit”. In the end, it’s down to the serious business of teasing apart all the facts and references to determine substance. Like anything else, it requires a balance of sources. No doubt, you will do your research thoroughly, I trust. The rest provides some entertainment as I detect some emotion from you, which I enjoy. 🙂
            (Particularly of the bs detector variety) my take is that daryan provides some in depth research and balance from overly hyped nuclear fans. Curious that many nuclear skeptics are former fans. Bob_Wallace among them. I respect deep research and even opinion as long as all the cards are on the table and there is some balance.


          • US renewables passed nuclear in 2011.

            That’s nameplate capacity.  Actual nuclear generation in 2011 was more than all RE electric generation from all sources, including conventional hydro (source:  EIA).  Total wind+PV generation in 2011 was less than 1/5 the nuclear figure.

            Love it or hate it, nuclear energy is still doing the heavy lifting in the carbon-free energy sector.  It’s time to give credit where credit is due.


        • I think most bloggers here are against shutting down nukes before coal. Nonetheless, some older nukes are also sinking, a victim of lower gas prices. And gas is lowering CO2 by killing coal. Thats the facts, ma’am. There it is. What it is.


        • Nuclear is 15 cents to renewables 5 cents/ kwhr. Nuclear takes ten years, renewables 2. That should guide spending with a fixed purse and schedule. If gas displaces coal it lowers carbon, and it has done more to lower carbon than anything else..is that the best option going forward, probably not. We can’t afford to reject its benefit if we don’t have our way about choices. There is no denying it is cheaper than nuclear.


        • US nuclear output is stalled. Not so wind and solar. Wind has already overtaken nuclear in China. What does it matter if nuclear has more output than renewables right now? It won’t be for long.

          • dumboldguy Says:

            Always tilting at windmills. Can you spell C-O-A-L? Can you add up the populations of China and India? (~2.7+ billion) Can you add to that the 1.4 billion projected increase for the developing countries alone by 2030? The fight is against demographics, not which power source is more “renewable”, and carbon footprint is what will kill us. How about all that natural gas we want to export and the tar sand “oil” that Canada wants to export and the coal that we and Australia already do export?


          • Since the topic is nuclear,… The discussion…. Is that it might not be doing much to reduce GW in the future for many reasons. If you want to talk about China, the worlds largest carbon emitter, one can hardly escape discussing the 12 th 5 year plan. It’s too detailed for a simple post, but suffice to say, china has plans, but they are like us, they don’t want to do anything if it disrupts the rest of their agenda, progress is slow, and growth status quo is not ” leave it in the ground.” China imports coal now, and two countries have it in their means to do something. Australia and the US can ban coal exports and coal use. Therein lies the tale. To the extent that no one sees when that happens, I share some pessimism. Is seems widely agreed that we have to leave it in the ground. Economic systems are not compatible with that. Neither are China’s growth plans in line with leaving it in the ground. It can be argued that some countries show an intention to do so, but we are some ways from achieving it. The discussion is along the lines of can we achieve meaningful emissions, when, and how. Part of it is means, the other part is intention. Particularly, how can we get countries to do so given the failures of nearly every convention. The progress along those lines is largely Europe. The focus for improvement is in two areas, China and India in coal for electricity, and US in transportation. We risk further losses in developed countries thru transportation. It has to be China stops using coal for electricity, and US goes to EVs. If choking smog does not do the trick in China, .. What will? That’s the 64 dollar question.
            http://www.c2es.org/international/key-country-policies/china/energy-climate-goals-twelfth-five-year-plan


      • Why didn’t nuclearization bankrupt France when it switched away from oil in the wake of the OPEC price shocks?  Today, France has the cheapest electricity in Europe.

        Engineers work fairly cheaply as such things go.  What really costs money is hordes of bureaucrats and bickering lawyers, especially when they’re trying to micromanage engineers.  Trying to meet a metric ton of contradictory wish-lists is bound to be costly; if you tell the engineers to deliver energy reliably, not emit any carbon, and do their best not to hurt anybody, you’ll probably get results much faster for a lot less money.

        • daryan12 Says:

          Actually I look at the French and the risk of bankruptcy in the post below. Part of the problem for them is that as their reactors age and now are rapidly approaching retirement age, they are facing the prospect of a large bill for decommissioning at the same time they’re paying thro the nose to replace them.
          http://daryanenergyblog.wordpress.com/2011/04/17/nuclear-reality-check-chapter-2-%e2%80%93-are-the-french-running-a-ponzi-scheme/

          This is why the current noises coming out of Paris suggest a cut in France’s nuclear capacity, likely in favour of renewables. They still plan to use nuclear alot, but Fukushima was taken as a warning not to put all their eggs in one basket
          http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-25674581


          • Actually I look at the French and the risk of bankruptcy in the post below. Part of the problem for them is that as their reactors age and now are rapidly approaching retirement age, they are facing the prospect of a large bill for decommissioning

            US nuclear operators set aside funds for decommissioning over the life of the plant.  A number of US plants have been decommissioned already.  Why is France supposedly less able to do this?

            at the same time they’re paying thro the nose to replace them.

            France built its original nuclear fleet to replace oil-fired capacity.  You appear to be saying that what France did without previous experience in the 1980’s, it is somehow unable to do again in the 2010’s despite decades of improvements in technology and lots of experience in both construction and operations.  Why would that be?

            We do have a very few examples of the EPR under construction.  The EPR appears to be over-designed (double containment shells?) and has a commitment of only a few units, including those in China.  Low production volume means the fixed costs come to high per-unit costs.  Over-design seems to come from the demands of anti-nuclear activists like you.  Guess what?  Your self-fulfilling prophecy has fulfilled itself.

            This is why the current noises coming out of Paris suggest a cut in France’s nuclear capacity, likely in favour of renewables.

            The noises are… I should say were… originating from Brussels, not Paris.  Brussels demanded that the EU pursue “renewables” for the sake of climate policy.  Brussels has lately gotten a clue that “renewables” aren’t doing the job, due to inherent handicaps.  The policy is now in flux, but appears to be shifting towards inclusion of all carbon-free generation.  That includes nuclear.

            What France should be doing is putting out a welcome mat for Transatomic Power.  The Transatomic reactor is designed to take mixed actinides with 1.8% fissiles and consume it almost completely (96% burnup).  That happens to be the rough description of “spent” light-water reactor fuel.  Once established, France would be the center of (a) a major export market, (b) the solution for the “nuclear waste problem”, and (c) a massive expansion of carbon-free electricity wherever there is spent LWR fuel waiting.

          • dumboldguy Says:

            As usual, too much verbiage from E-Pot, but he makes some worthwhile points here. I have been reading daryan’s many comments, and I get the feeling that he is biased against nuclear power advocates, perhaps rightfully so, but has let that spill over into excessive bias against nuclear power per se.

            As E-Pot implies, the French have managed to overcome all the difficulties with nuclear power, including the fuel reprocessing dilemma. We in the U.S. made a political decision to stop reprocessing back in Carter’s time and instead go to the Yucca Mountain idea.

            If we had not done that, we would be in the same boat as the French, facing the same $$$ problems BUT perhaps not as dependent on fossil fuels as we are. The question remains “What price Carbon?”, and we may be sorry that we have not gone farther down the nuclear power road than we have now that it is so difficult to do so.

            Daryan may need to brush up on the most recent reactor design ideas also when he talks about reprocessing and decommissioning. If I’m not mistaken, the molten fuel reactors are designed to be continuously refueled and have wastes continuously removed as they operate, and may be able to run for decades without shutdown for refueling.

            PS Does everyone know that Jimmy Carter, as a very junior officer in Rickover’s nuclear navy, was the OIC of the contingent of sailors sent to Canada to help with the Chalk River cleanup? And does everyone remember his faux pas of being photographed wearing booties when he visited TMI after the meltdown?

          • daryan12 Says:

            E-Pot….

            Again you are following the standard script of a nuclear fantasist, stick you’re fingers in your ears, ignore any inconvenient little facts that contradict you’re fantasy….

            If you’d bothered too read the article I posted you’d see that it is the French government who wants to reduce its commitment to nuclear, not the EU. The EU is somewhat neutral on nuclear (indeed there are anti-nuclear types who often accuse the EU of being too pro-nuclear!). I’ve had conversations at conferences with many French engineers from their major energy companies and the word I’m hearing is that they envisage maintaining a substantial commitment to nuclear (55% has been mentioned), but also want to develop they’re renewables output.

            As for Transatomic, last time I looked into them they are a paper company, with no mailing address run by a couple of grad students, i.e. no labs, no serious funding, hardly the Manhattan project part deux!

            I hear a lot on the internet about LFTR’s and I’m aware that the Chinese are doing quite a bit of fundamental research into the topic, but I’ve yet to hear any of my pro-nuclear friends or indeed anyone who works for a major nuclear energy supplier support them as an alternative too LWR’s.

          • daryan12 Says:

            dumpoldguy,

            I have actually looked into molten salt reactors as well as other alternatives to the LWR design before. Ultimately however there are good solid engineering reasons for the nuclear industry (at least the bit of it that actually builds and operates reactors) to remain loyal to the LWR design.
            http://daryanenergyblog.wordpress.com/ca/

            LWR’s are made from easily forged steel and cooled by water (a cheap, incompressible fluid which we’ve extensive knowledge of using from centuries of operating power stations, both conventional and nuclear). LFTR’s use exotic nickel alloys and involve mucking around with corrosive molten salts and what I can best describe as “nuclear lava”.

            Ultimately if you sat a group of engineers down tomorrow and asked them to design a reactor, while I suspect other alternaitves (such as gas cooled plant) would figure, I still suspect they’d come up with something not too dissimilar to the LWR.

          • dumboldguy Says:

            dampryan,

            You have “ACTUALLY LOOKED INTO molten salt reactors as well as other alternatives….”? Swell of you to share with us!

            I have “looked into” your comments on nuclear power on your blog and my “crap detectors” are vibrating nicely after reading them. I am not quite sure what your game is. On the one hand you seem to be “green” and anti-nuclear power in general, but on the other your specific comments on reactor types lead me to believe you may be a PR shill for “the part of the nuclear industry that builds LWR”—-as in the not-so-successful TMI, Chernobyl, and Fukushima designs. Your blog entries on nuclear reactors are in general full of bias, obfuscation, FUD, and straw men—as I said, anyone with adequate crap detectors will find them vibrating after reading your stuff.

            Your comments about “drinking the LFTR Kool-aid” and the “LFTR Cult” do not make you look “fair and balanced” either. And what is your background? You have said you are not a nuclear physicist and that you were working on a PhD. Others have said you are an engineer. What qualifies you to be so judgmental and authoritative here?

            Back to your comments. There are “good solid engineering reasons to remain loyal to LWR”? BS—the LWR manufacturers are loyal to their bottom line, and are afraid of being frozen out of the business if the new designs take hold.

            This paragraph is full of irrelevancies and straw men—it is actually insulting to our intelligence—-“LWR’s are made from easily forged steel and cooled by water (a cheap, incompressible fluid which we’ve extensive knowledge of using from centuries of operating power stations, both conventional and nuclear). LFTR’s use exotic nickel alloys and involve mucking around with corrosive molten salts and what I can best describe as “nuclear lava”.

            Nuclear LAVA? Mucking around? Centuries of operating experience? Cooled by water? (that cheap stuff that boils away and allows catastrophic meltdowns, or breaks down into H and O and makes nice explosions?) Nice touches all, and insulting BS all

            And this is truly insulting. “Ultimately if you sat a group of engineers down tomorrow and asked them to design a reactor, while I suspect other alternaitves (such as gas cooled plant) would figure, I still suspect they’d come up with something not too dissimilar to the LWR”. Do you take us for fools? Do you think we are unaware of the fact that a number of groups of engineers sat down YESTERDAY and did in fact come up with a number of new reactor designs? As in GIF and Gen4? And that among the half-dozen+ latest designs, ONLY ONE is LWR and several are molten fuel?

            As I said, I don’t know what your game is, but I’m getting the feeling that you are going to pollute Crock discussions of nuclear power about as much as daveburton did when we discussed sea level rise.

          • dumboldguy Says:

            I wrote a longer response to this but it disappeared. Why does that sometimes happen? Annoying. I will summarize what I said and try again.

            dampryan,

            The only reasons for the LWR manufacturers to “remain loyal” to LWR is that they are worried about their bottom lines. They will be largely frozen out of the business if the new designs take hold. LWR’s like TMI, Chernobyl, and Fukushima do not represent “good solid engineering”, they represent a perhaps very wrong path that we took many years ago.

            I have looked at your blog and it made my crap detectors vibrate strongly. I am wondering what your “game” is. On the one hand you appear “green” and anti-nuclear in general, while on the other you appear to be a PR shill for the LWR manufacturers. Your blog is full of bias, obfuscation, selective misinformation, and straw men, and the use of “drinking the LFTR Kool-aid” and the “LFTR CULT” shows that. The following paragraph is downright insulting to our intelligence.

            “LWR’s are made from easily forged steel and cooled by water (a cheap, incompressible fluid which we’ve extensive knowledge of using from centuries of operating power stations, both conventional and nuclear). LFTR’s use exotic nickel alloys and involve mucking around with corrosive molten salts and what I can best describe as “nuclear lava”.

            Cheap water? Centuries of operation? Mucking around? Exotic alloys? Nuclear LAVA? Lord love a duck, but that’s way overdone BS.

            It is also insulting to say “Ultimately if you sat a group of engineers down tomorrow and asked them to design a reactor, while I suspect other alternatives (such as gas cooled plant) would figure, I still suspect they’d come up with something not too dissimilar to the LWR”.

            Do you take us for fools? We DO know that people sat down YESTERDAY and came up with a half-dozen+ new reactor designs (GIF and Gen4), and that ONLY ONE is LWR, while several are molten fuel.

            Again, I ask—-What’s your game? Are you the daveburton of nuclear power on Crock?

          • dumboldguy Says:

            dampryan,

            This comment insults our intelligence. You appear to be a shill for the LWR manufacturers with what you say here.


          • Dumboldguy – don’t agree. LWRs are favored for practical reasons. NPP are all about material science. Neutron bombardment and metal brittlement are what it’s all about. Doing it with relatively abundant materials is necessary for cost. Nuclear engineers have been at this for a while. The nuclear establishment is not going for LFTRs, the internet bloggers are. The establishment favorites are APR-1000, and SMR. More exotic reactors are a headache. None of the other reactors has had commercial success despite years of research. Reprocessing is a failure. West valley is just one example. Uranium is too cheap to reprocess for fuel. It’s cheaper to bury waste than to process it.
            After Fukushima, The Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear Future, co-chaired by Chu, adopted more cautious language about recycling: “no currently available or reasonably foreseeable reactor and fuel cycle technology developments—including advances in reprocessing and recycling technologies—have the potential to fundamentally alter the waste management challenges the nation confronts over at least the next several decades, if not longer.”
            http://www.forbes.com/sites/jeffmcmahon/2013/01/28/deferring-recycling-u-s-to-bury-almost-all-existing-nuclear-waste/


          • Here is the story on decommissioning.
            In Europe there is considerable concern over the funds necessary to finance final decommissioning. In many countries either the funds do not appear sufficient to cover decommissioning and in other countries decommissioning funds are used for other activities, putting decommissioning at risk, and distorting competition with parties who do not have such funds available.[107]

            Currently the European Commission is looking into this issue. It is estimated, that during the next two decades, the dismantling of the 150 nuclear reactors in Europe will cost around €150 billion, with an average cost of 1 billion per reactor.[108]

            Similar concerns exist in the United States, where the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission has located apparent decommissioning funding assurance shortfalls and requested 18 power plants to address that issue.[109]

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuclear_decommissioning


          • The French super phenix is an example of the failure of breeder reactors, an example not limited to the French. While French conventional reactors have had some success, they are not free of all problems.
            Google French reactor leak
            http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2008/jul/25/nuclear.industry.france

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Superphénix

          • daryan12 Says:

            Dumboldguy,

            “You appear to be a shill for the LWR manufacturers”
            Given my reputation, accusing me of being a shill for nuclear lobbyists is a bit like accusing Richard Dawkins of being a shill for the Westboro Baptist church 🙂

            I do know people who are pro-nuclear (but still vaguely sane!), these include other academics, nuclear engineers, technical advisers to various political parties, utilities or investment firms, etc. Now while I may well disagree with their views (don’t for one minute think I buy into the nuclear lobby’s propaganda), I think its important to air these views in any debate on the matter if we are to really understand what’s going on.

            And ultimately many are pro-LWR (although many UK based nuclear supporters I often note seem to have a soft spot for Gas cooled reactors) not because they are “one of them” (most will be retired or dead long before any new reactors begin operating in the UK) but because these are the guys in the trenches and understand the technical problems and pressures the nuclear industry is operating under (while you and E-pot swan around drinking gin & playing chess, in your Chateau hundreds of miles behind the front).

            The simple fact is that if the nuclear industry is to even survive in many Western countries substantial nuclear building projects have to be start NOW, indeed the term ASAP doesn’t quite cut it. By 2024 (before Hinkley C even starts operating) the UK will probably be down to 2 or possibly only 1 operational nuclear plant, creating a massive gap in the grid that will inevitably have to be filled by something else (hopefully renewables, but possibly fossil fuels). Given such dire circumstances, proposing a change of horses to a largely untried reactor design away from proven technology is, as they see it, bonkers.

            Had Hinkley C failed to go ahead, despite all the considerable effort they’ve put in behind the scenes over the last ten years (including not a small amount of skulduggery!), in the wake of the near disastrous collapse of the Horizon deal, it would have been curtains for nuclear power in the UK. So it’s perhaps understandable they’re skepticism of alternatives…although personally I suspect a certainly element of “not invented here” syndrome may indeed be at play.

          • dumboldguy Says:

            Daryan, you DO need to read comments a bit more closely before you toss off glib non-responses. Saying “You appear to be a shill for the LWR manufacturers” is NOT the same as saying that “you are a shill for nuclear lobbyists”. Unless, of course, you are attempting to evade the issue.

            I spent quite some time reading “A critical analysis of future reactor designs” on your site after reading your 4/14 11:07 AM comment, and I have formed my own opinion of your “reputation” based on what I saw there. At first I was impressed, but the more I read, the more my “crap detectors” tingled as I detected evidence of obfuscation, bias, sowing of FUD, some deliberate misinformation, and a multitude of straw men scattered about.

            People who advocate “really understanding what’s going on” also do not so casually throw around such things as “Kool-aid”, “science cargo cultists” and “the LFTR cult”. Same goes for “pro-nuclear but still vaguely sane” and “while you and E-pot swan around drinking gin & playing chess, in your Chateau hundreds of miles behind the front”. (And to that last one, I say “GFYS, you arrogant wanker”)

            My thinking that you may be a shill for the LWR manufacturers was based on your obvious bias in favor of LWR over other types of reactors. The only “real solid” reason for the old-time nuclear industry to remain loyal to the LWR is not because of the superior design of LWR but $$$$. They are simply afraid of being frozen out of the market by the new designs.

            And by the way, the “groups of engineers” that sat down YESTERDAY (GIF and Gen4) came up with a half-dozen+ designs, only one of which is LWR and several of which are MFR (and yes, ALL nuclear reactors are expensive, and ultimately nasty in many ways, but some of us who are “vaguely sane” think there is a place for them in the mix because of the immediate need to cut CO2 emissions).

            I found this paragraph of yours to be a good example of the glibness, FUD, and straw men that seem to be your main propaganda tools. “LWR’s are made from easily forged steel and cooled by water (a cheap, incompressible fluid which we’ve extensive knowledge of using from centuries of operating power stations, both conventional and nuclear). LFTR’s use exotic nickel alloys and involve mucking around with corrosive molten salts and what I can best describe as “nuclear lava”.

            CENTURIES operating power stations? Mucking around? Nuclear LAVA? Please!

            Back to “Given my reputation”, I would ask you exactly who you are and how you see yourself. You have said on your blog that you are not a nuclear physicist and spoke of working towards a PhD—-what is your CV?—-what is your background that allows you to speak so judgmentally and authoritatively on nuclear power?

            Do you consider yourself an “expert on nuclear power? You DO remind me of a certain computer engineer who proclaimed himself “an expert on sea level rise”.


    • Why can’t the British government ALSO provide subsidies and guaranteed loans for renewables at the same time?
      Daryan answered that here:
      Actually one of the obstacles to wind power is the nuclear lobby.
      https://climatecrocks.com/2014/04/07/will-gas-break-wind-will-wind-pass-gas-bloomberg-cant-decide/#comments

  3. kap55 Says:

    Gee, the totally unfair guaranteed UK strike price for nuclear power is £92.50/MWh, while the totally ignored UK strike price for wind is £110/MWh, and for solar is £125/MWh. So if the price of electricity goes up, suddenly it’s nuclear to blame?

    Because it sure seems to me like wind and solar are getting exactly the same market protections as nuclear, and more so. So if we’re really leveling the playing field, the renewable advocates would scream to high heaven — and rightly so.

    The fact is that ALL non-fossil energy deserves subsidy. Including nuclear. Climate change isn’t a joke and it shouldn’t be a political football. The only way to save the planet is deploy, deploy, deploy, non-fossil until we have solved the problem. And yes, that includes nuclear.


  4. Climate deniers often claim to be against subsidies that “pick winners” among different energy options. They are often conspicuously silent when those subsidies go to the nuclear industry.

    Fair’s fair.  If certain carbon-free energy sources are worthy of subsidies or outright mandates for their use (RPSs), why not nuclear as well?

    History has shown that nuclear power cannot exist without massive infusions of public money, and guarantees of profit from taxpayers and ratepayers.

    The owners of the bonds which financed the WPPSS builds would disagree with you.  Most of that was private money.  Neither the Federal Reserve, which jacked up interest rates to nosebleed levels, nor the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which imposed rule changes forcing redesign and rework in a willy-nilly manner on plants sometimes almost complete, accepted any responsibility for the damages done or took the broader society into account.

    The loan guarantees for Vogtle come at the price of a credit subsidy fee.  The government will PROFIT from those loans, unless Vogtle defaults.  The loan guarantee means the government has skin in the game, so using regulators to kill the plant has political blowback instead of being a “free hit” for the anti-nukes.

    The danger is, this energy is so expensive it may crowd out other options.

    The “strike price” for the Hinkley Point plants is lower than the FIT for new offshore wind farms.  Offshore wind is due to get £155 ($236) per MWh.  Why is that acceptable, Peter?

    I’m all for a straight carbon tax.  Tax the carbon in coal, in gas, in petroleum, the embodied carbon in imports.  Eliminate all tax credits, “portfolio standards” and mandated preferences in grid dispatch order.  Let the various technologies fight it out, with the system operators enforcing reliability standards and otherwise keeping the system as a whole intact and operating.  Raising the price of electricity slightly would promote efficiency.  Isn’t that what you said you wanted?

    Do you know what carbon tax it would take to have made Kewaunee break even?  About $20/ton.  At $40/ton, it would have been nicely profitable.  Its replacement power will either suck subsidies or spew carbon, neither of which is sustainable in a contracting economy.  The road to climate hell is paved with Green intentions.

    this energy is so expensive

    Terradaily quotes Saleemul Huq:  “The costs of inaction will be many more times the cost of action.

    I’d take that one step further:  ineffective action is the costliest of all, because it wastes resources and loses time.  The actions of Sweden and France have been highly effective, slashing carbon emissions even those it was not a major consideration.  The actions of Denmark have been far less effective, despite the purity of their Green policies.

    We can’t afford to put ideology ahead of effectiveness.  The planet we live on won’t survive it.

  5. joffan7 Says:

    There seems to be a certain amount of moaning in the linked piece about existing nuclear power plants continuing to operate.

    I would be interested to hear how anyone serious about attempting to avoid or minimize climate change could possibly have a problem with continued operation of existing nuclear plants. It seems that this is a wholly unjustifiable position.

    As for 50% nuclear “cutting out renewables” – say what? Renewables can’t deliver the rest of the electricity? Even though they are getting better strike price and priority grid access?


  6. Maybe we need to shift the conversation. Its seems to be focused on natgas and electricity. We all know coal is bad, and want to get rid of it. We all know the lack of carbon tax or some other mechanism, hurts the effort to get rid of carbon sources. Thing is, transportation is where its at as far as carbon goes. We need a revolution in transportation. We need EVs. Yesterday. Remember this. Oilcos want to put natgas in your car. ASAP. Before EVs make oilcos obsolete.
    http://www.treehugger.com/cars/electric-cars-growing-100-every-year.html
    http://www.treehugger.com/energy-efficiency/latest-look-lawrence-livermore-graph-tells-you-everything-you-need-know-about-americas-energy-use.html


  7. Here is Wikipedia:
    In 2013, investment advisers Morningstar, Inc. concluded that, in developed countries, “reactors are not a viable source of new power”.[13] Even in developed nations where they make economic sense, they are not feasible because nuclear’s “enormous costs, political and popular opposition, and regulatory uncertainty”.[13] This view echoes the statement of former Exelon CEO John Rowe, who said in 2012 that new nuclear plants in the US “don’t make any sense right now” and won’t be economically viable in the foreseeable future, because of low natural gas prices in the American market.[14] John Quiggin, economics professor, said the main problem with the nuclear option is that it is not economically-viable. Quiggin says that we need more efficient energy use and more renewable energy commercialization.[15] Former NRC member Peter Bradford and Professor Ian Lowe have recently made similar statements.[16][17] However, some “nuclear cheerleaders” and lobbyists in the West continue to champion reactors, often with proposed new but largely untested designs, as a source of new power
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Economics_of_nuclear_power_plants
    Here is the 50% default rate
    http://www.motherjones.com/blue-marble/2010/02/chu-not-aware-nuclear-default-rates


    • they are not feasible because nuclear’s “enormous costs, political and popular opposition, and regulatory uncertainty”.[13]

      That’s 2.5 or even 3 names for the same thing.  Move the public to the pro-nuclear side, especially the “mushy middle”, and the only constituency for the regulatory hurdles would be the fossil fuel interests.  Once they were unable to hide behind a screen of environmental organizations, they’d be easy to defeat.


  8. Peter ? You listening? Here is a good subsidy info source. Its buried in the pdf. It was referenced from Media Matters, nuclear power myths.
    Meanwhile, historical nuclear subsidies for nuclear far outstripped renewables, only a tad less than FF.
    http://i.bnet.com/blogs/dbl_energy_subsidies_paper.pdf
    Here is the history of cancellations.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_canceled_nuclear_plants_in_the_United_States


    • I finally found this subthread again!

      Meanwhile, historical nuclear subsidies for nuclear far outstripped renewables, only a tad less than FF.

      Christopher, if you dig just a little bit you’ll find that the DBL paper includes the ENTIRE DOE nuclear budget as a “nuclear subsidy” (p. 18).  The bulk of the DOE’s nuclear budget relates to weapons and other military activities, not commercial nuclear energy.  Counting Price-Anderson as a “subsidy” (p. 22) is absurd because (a) it spreads the cost of any accident that goes beyond the single-unit limit over all commercial operators, and (b) it has never cost the US taxpayer a penny.

      A refinery fire not long ago in San Fransisco sickened thousands.  A good part of the cost probably fell on the state and federal governments, via Medicaid and lost tax revenue; the cost wasn’t even assumed by the petroleum industry in general.  I don’t hear any hue and cry here on Climate Crocks about this legal state of affairs.  Is there a double standard in effect?

      There’s also the question of the alleged subsidy being worth it.  In 2011, nuclear energy delivered just under half (45.6%) as much power to the grid as coal.  In the same year, the electric power sector emitted 1.718 billion tons of CO2 from coal.  Had the nuclear-generated electricity been replaced by coal, the extra emissions would have come to 783 million tons.  Even assuming $4 billion a year in subsidies, nuclear saved CO2 emissions at a cost of only $5.11 per ton.

      That is eminently affordable; we could de-carbonize the entire US economy if that’s all it cost us.  Yet the left is intensely opposed to this.  If

      In the year 2011, wind’s 120 million MWh of generation times the $22/MWh PTC came to $2.64 billion in direct cost to the US treasury.  If it was also displacing coal emissions 1:1 (no diminishing returns) it saved a mere 119 million tons of CO2 at a cost of about $22/tCO2.  If you are truly concerned about the climate, the numbers suggest that nuclear subsidies are a GOOD thing.


    • Another study detailing massive nuclear subsidies. The numbers are from the DOE. DOE itself has pdfs outlining nuclear subsidies. And they clearly delineate them as energy subsidies.
      https://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/misc/RS22858.pdf


      • No quotes, and no distinction between the DOE’s energy arm and the DOE’s weapons arm.  No mention of “weapons”, only one mention of “military” in the intro.

        Fraud.


    • Peter- subsidies again. this is not sexy, but the pay dirt is there. Energy R and D.
      For a fascinating read, see the DOE history pdf.
      Energy Research and Development
      Solar is dwarfed by fission. A lot of dollars spent on fusion, too.
      http://energy.gov/sites/prod/files/edg/media/Summary_History.pdf
      See Appendix 5 – B, Energy R and D, p. 142
      Summing the totals for 80 thru 95 budgets (in millions)
      Fission 2256
      Solar 1133
      Wind is not even a category. There are large amounts for fusion.

      From American Physical Society Table IV.2.2
      Civilian Energy R and D
      broken down by 78-81, 82-90, and 91-95, millions 1996 dollars
      Totals
      Fission 19234
      Renewables 8485
      http://www.aps.org/policy/reports/popa-reports/energy/doe.cfm


  9. Read the whole thing. It just about refutes every rehashed pro nuke canard ever flung onto the wall attempting to stick here. And before you object to the source, take note of the fact that its all referenced to other sources. Like nuclear ones.
    http://mediamatters.org/research/2013/11/07/myths-and-facts-about-nuclear-power/196793#cost


  10. Take note of the graph that shows nuclear too expensive after subsidies and carbon tax.
    http://mediamatters.org/research/2013/11/07/myths-and-facts-about-nuclear-power/196793#cost


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