Nuclear Power Joins the Walking Dead

May 22, 2017

Nuclear proponents keep talking about “new” nuclear, technologies that will finally meet acceptable standards of safety, while providing insurance against weaponization and nuclear proliferation.

Nobody’s actually building that tech yet – meanwhile, the realization has set in among even the most enthusiastic proponents, that, while the zero carbon energy from nuclear is a desirable commodity, cost overruns and mismanagement have finally overwhelmed subsidies and other advantages,  and the competition from Renewables is simply overwhelming.

Economic Times of India:

Forget the Bush-Manmohan Singh vision of a nuclear power renaissance. Recent developments — cheap solar power plus the bankruptcy of Westinghouse — call for a total overhaul of nuclear plans that now look obsolete, dangerous and ultra-costly.


I say this as one who solidly supported the Bush-Manmohan deal in 2005. That deal lifted sanctions against India, and provided access to imported uranium and nuclear technology. In return, the US, France, Japan and Russia were to build six nucl ..
six nuclear plants each in India, reviving their flagging equipment industries.

In 2005, the nuclear industry expected a boom following global concerns on greenhouse gases. Nuclear power then was costlier than coal-based power but much cheaper than solar. With many nations going big on nuclear, scale economies plus third-generation technology promised to make nuclear power as cheap as thermal power, minus the carbon.

Then came the Fukushima disaster in Japan. This highlighted the nuclear power risks. It led to the closure of old nuclear plants and cancellation of new ones across the world. The disappearance of mass orders killed scale economies for equipment, while new safety concerns led to expensive re-design.

During the parliamentary debate on the Bush-Manmohan deal, the government claimed that nuclear power would cost no more than coal-based power, which was Rs 2.50/unit then. Today it is Rs 4/unit. Can foreign nuclear suppliers match this? No. Aniruddh Mohan of the Observer Research Foundation says the two new Russian reactors, Kudankulam 3 and 4, have a negotiated tariff of Rs 6.30/unit. He estimates tariffs will be Rs 9 for Westinghouse and Rs 12 for Areva. News reports say India seeks to cap the Areva tariff at Rs 7/unit.

These tariffs look insanely costly compared with the latest solar power deal of Rs 2.62/unit in Rajasthan. This price cloaks implicit subsidies like cheap land, accelerated depreciation, and hidden costs for transmission and the backing down of thermal plants. But nuclear power also gets cheap land, cheap insurance (a huge subsidy) and guaranteed offtake.

Besides, the price of solar power keeps falling, and could halve again. New N-plants could take 8-10 years to build, by which time solar power may cost just Rs 1.50/unit, and storage costs may fall below Rs 1/unit. It is crazy to build nuclear plants producing power several times costlier. The solar revolution means that, a decade hence, other forms of power will be needed mainly for peak evening demand. Nuclear power is totally unsuitable for peaking.

Yale Environment 360:

Is the nuclear power industry in its death throes?  Even some nuclear enthusiasts believe so. With the exception of China, most nations are moving away from nuclear — existing power plants across the United States are being shut early; new reactor designs are falling foul of regulators, and public support remains in free fall. Now come the bankruptcies.

In an astonishing hammer blow to a global industry in late March, Pittsburgh-based Westinghouse — the original developer of the workhorse of the global nuclear industry, the pressurized-water reactor (PWR), and for many decades the world’s largest provider of nuclear technology — filed for bankruptcy after hitting big problems with its latest reactor design, the AP1000.

Largely as a result, its parent company, the Japanese nuclear engineering giant Toshiba, is also in dire financial straits and admits there is “substantial doubt” about its ability to continue as a going concern.

Meanwhile, France’s state-owned Électricité de France (EDF), Europe’s biggest builder and operator of nuclear power plants, is deep in debt thanks to its own technical missteps and could become a victim of the economic and energy policies of incoming President Emmanuel Macron.

Those three companies account for more than half of all nuclear power generation worldwide. Their “looming insolvency … has set off a chain reaction of events that threatens the existence of nuclear power in the West,” says Michael Shellenberger, president of the pro-nuclear NGO, Environmental Progress.

“The nuclear industry as we have known it is coming to an end,” says Ted Nordhaus of the Breakthrough Institute, a California eco-modernist think tank that advocates for nuclear power.

Can this be true?

The U.S. remains the world’s largest producer of nuclear power, with about 100 commercial reactors in operation. New construction virtually shut down after the near-meltdown at Three Mile Island in Pennsylvania in 1979. Recently, a stuttering renaissance has been under way.  Westinghouse has been building four new reactors at Waynesboro, Georgia, and Jenkinsville, South Carolina.

But those reactors have hit regulatory holdups and technical problems that have pushed cost overruns to an estimated $13 billion. And with Westinghouse in financial meltdown, it is now far from clear that they ever will be finished.


34 Responses to “Nuclear Power Joins the Walking Dead”

  1. schwadevivre Says:

    You still get those trumpeting the coming of fusion. They ignore the fact that the longest sustained fusion reaction was 103 seconds and that fusion reactors need frequent extensive maintenance.

    As always fusion will be at least 20 years in the future

  2. Canman Says:

    The more solar and wind you add, the bigger the problem of intermittency becomes. I’m very skeptical of any solution at the scale Mark Jacobson is proposing. Electricity generation is a very sophisticated field and Jacobson can’t possibly know all the details. I’m more impressed with people like Rud Istvan, an energy inventor and entrepreneur, not to mention a Harvard trained lawyer. Here’s a recent comment by him on battery storage:

    RE, wrote about FPLG in my post on vehicle decarbonization last year. You pictue a more evolved version of the Israeli one. Is real, and is a solution for Volt type vehicles.
    The pictured ultracapacitor wont work, period. If it has as advertised a ceramic dialectric, it is just a big ordinary MLCC (multilayer ceramic capacitor, about an $8 billion industry). A failed company named EEStor even had two completely bogus issued patents on this idea, and raised millions in Canada. Futzed around for almost a decade. Complete bust. The whole idea violates some very basic capacitor physics. The problem is that high dielectric constant ceramics like CMBT only have those values at low voltages, while energy stored is a function of voltage squared. The tradeoff is known in the mlcc capacitor industry as VCC. Google takes you to standard mlcc info on vcc. EEStor, its fatally flawed physics, and its patent fr*** is an example in my ebook The Arts of Truth.
    Real ultracapacitors aka supercapacitors aka EDLC rely on Helmholtz layer physics, and so must have a liquid or polymer gel electrolyte. Even with the ~50% improvements brought by my patented Nanocarbons, they cannot replace batteries; an order of magnitude too little energy density.
    I remain much less hopeful about energy storage. The only possibility that might make sense is the Fisker Nanotech approach, although there is little info yet. Wrote that up also in the vehicle decarbonization post.

    Here’s a post by him on energy storage:

    • Gingerbaker Says:

      Nope. The more solar and wind you add, the less intermittency is a problem, because there are more non-local places to generate juice.

      How often do you visit here? Because Peter has put up a ton of posts addressing intermittency – including testimony from power utility execs themselves who tell us that ALL power sources are intermittent, and the problem is UNEXPECTED outages. Solar and wind, when they are out, are a) localized and b) predictable – so they are not a problem, so long as you are talking about a grid system, which is what we already have.

      Quoting Judith Curry is not going to impress anybody around here, btw.

      • Canman Says:

        Large areas do experience long periods of calm days. They will need more transmission lines to bring in electricity from far away. In the case of solar, it will have to come from the other side of the planet.

        • Gingerbaker Says:

          Transmission lines you say? What exotic beasties might those be? Never heard of such nonsense. Why, it’s ludicrous to think one might need transmission lines when one enjoys an entire grid!

          And what is this poppycock about “calm days”? Never seen them, don’t believe in them. You have proof of such a thing? Photos? I thought not. Never happens, which is why people who actually run electrical utilities that use solar and wind and talk about how well they work – they need your input NOW, MAN!!!

          Please, let them know about about this as soon as possible. They will look at you with enormous appreciation, no doubt.

        • J4Zonian Says:

          No Can, it really won’t.

          Germany has solar potential (insolation) as bad as just about any country in the world but has made a significant and growing part of their energy solar PV, (to 7% in about 5 years; nearly 40% net renewable) and democratized its energy supply doing it, with a feed-in tariff and other policies. (While its legally prescribed priority has getting rid of nukes it’s also eliminated fossil fuel use too, although fossil money still has sway and it sells a lot)

          Meanwhile, the US has an embarrassment of riches with solar PV, solar thermal, clothesline paradox solar energies, onshore and offshore wind, hydro, geothermal and probably some tidal and wave. It could power itself a thousand times over with those, literally. I don’t know of a single country in the world that couldn’t supply all the electricity and primary energy it needs with local resources and those it can connect to pretty easily. Sun–and wind–in the Sahara and the rest of North Africa, for example, can supplement the local supply of every place within 1000 miles (losing only 2% in transmission) while the rest of Europe is covered by local and Nordic grid energy. (Offshore wind from Britain, Spain, Portugal, etc. plus solar from the last 2…) Morocco, eg, is building a solar thermal plant now for 1/2 its electricity.

          China and India (together almost 1/3 of world population) can meet their own needs and probably some of their neighbors’; they may need help getting there quickly enough but if the US helps out by doing its share they may have enough time to do it. Japan has way better solar than Germany and lots of offshore and onshore wind; Australians should be ashamed they didn’t reach > 100% renewable a decade ago. With a good foundation of hydro, and almost unlimited solar and on- and offshore wind potential, only Australia’s denying delayalist industry has kept it from being rational. A curse of the English-speaking world, I see this industry has reached you with disinformation, too.

          There are in fact at least 59 countries that have mostly renewable grids, 21 at or near 100%, including every kind of country–rich, poor, tropical, Arctic, cold and dark, warm and sunny, mountainous, flat, mixed, well-connected, isolated… Cold, dark, small, isolated Iceland uses its cheap, rock solid steady geothermal as foreign exchange by making aluminum; it has the highest per capita energy consumption in the world but still manages to supply 99.9% of its grid with renewables. It’s part of the Nordic grid (30 million people)–2/3 renewable, 1/3 renewable primary energy (PE), and hooks into Europe and thus beyond. Scandinavia is building more, rapidly, especially wind, and now I’m guessing, since solar is suddenly even cheaper than wind, Spain (43%), Portugal (63%, 27% PE), Italy (40/17) etc. will be expanding very fast.

          Dozens of countries are far enough along (70% renewable grids, say) that they could do the rest in 2 or 3 years with a little motivation. Others could use help in reaching the low fruit of low percentage renewables, and of course EVs and electrical heating for home and industry could renewablize most primary energy pretty quickly too. The only thing stopping us is politics, which means the only thing stopping us is psychological illness. You should research the subject and consider addressing your own motivation for posting falsities.

          By contrast, only 5 countries have mostly nuke grids–France (72), Belgium (52%), Hungary (51), Ukraine (52), and Slovakia (54). France and Belgium are phasing it out, as are Sweden, Spain, Switzerland, Netherlands, Taiwan and Germany (by 2022). Italy has shut down its.

          • Canman Says:

            There are in fact at least 59 countries that have mostly renewable grids, 21 at or near 100%, …

            Could you name these countries or do you have a source for this information?

          • J4Zonian Says:

            “Could you name these countries or do you have a source for this information?”


          • Canman Says:

            Well let’s hear it. What are they? Don’t you think your readers would like to know?

          • J4Zonian Says:

            Five countries get most of their electricity from nukes–France, Hungary, Ukraine and Slovakia.
            (France, whose nuclear program is in a shambles, is reconsidering its nuke commitment, as have Germany, Sweden, Switzerland, Japan, Taiwan, and other countries. In practice, the US is, too, as its planned and under construction nukes are bogged down in loooooooong delays and huuuuuuge cost overruns.)

            At least 59 countries get most of their electricity from renewables now.

            Afghanistan 80%
            Albania 100
            Angola 72
            Austria 78
            Belize 97
            Bhutan 99.99 Note 1
            Brazil 83
            Burma 73
            Burundi 99
            Cameroon 74
            Canada 66 (2015)
            Central African Republic 86
            Colombia 82
            Rep of the Congo 62
            Costa Rica 98.5 (2015-2016 data averaged)
            Croatia 50.3
            Democratic Republic of the Congo 99.6
            Denmark 58 (makes a lot; sells a lot)
            Ecuador 56
            El Salvador 61
            Ethiopia 99
            Faroe Islands 60
            Fiji 67.6
            Georgia 75
            Ghana 68
            Guinea 56
            Guatemala 68
            Iceland 99
            Kenya 76
            Kyrgyzstan 94
            Laos 92
            Latvia 67.8
            Lesotho 100
            Madagascar 66
            Malawi 87
            Mali 76
            Montenegro 52
            Mozambique 99.87
            Namibia 88
            Nepal 99
            New Zealand 73
            North Korea 71
            Norway 98
            Panama 64
            Paraguay 99.99
            Peru 58
            Portugal 63
            Scotland 59
            Sierra Leone 69
            Sudan 72
            Sweden 60
            Switzerland 62
            Tajikistan 95
            Togo 85
            Uganda 83
            Uruguay 95
            Venezuela 66
            Zambia 99.7
            Zimbabwe 70

            The list is based on International Energy Association and other data. IEA consistently underestimates renewable energy’s current and potential production.

            Includes 4 countries @ 90-95%; 14 @ 95-100%; 3 others (Scotland, NZ, Cape Verde) 100 by 2020. (Scotland is reconsidering the timeline of its commitment)
            = 21 countries at or near 100% either in amount or time

            Albania 100, Belize 97, Bhutan 99.99, Burundi 99, Costa Rica 98.5, Democratic Republic of the Congo 99.6, Ethiopia 99, Iceland >99, Lesotho 100, Mozambique 99.9, Nepal 99, Norway 98, Paraguay 99.99, Zambia 99.7

            Kyrgyzstan 94, Laos 92, Tajikistan 95, Uruguay 90,
            (8 more between 80 and 90%, 10 more between 70 and 80%).

            (The US is at 17%. Yes, seventeen. And of course the majority of that is big dams.) The US should be ashamed, and it should get off its ass and do the right thing for a change. Since it happens to be the profitable thing, too.

            This all means that with a decent push (and a little help from the rich, for some) at least 40 countries could easily have >99% renewable-powered grids in 3 or 4 years, and be well along on renewablizing primary energy—heating, transport and industrial energy—by electrifying home and industrial heat, and vehicles, and powering them with surplus and stored renewable electricity. Others like Canada (64% RE, mostly hydro) have vast capacity for more (mighty wind, some solar) and money to develop it quickly. Others not even on the list (Poland, I’m talkin ta you) have significant resources mostly undeveloped (wind, hydro) and could in a short time integrate them into their grid greatly reducing their carbon emissions.

            The world now supplies roughly the equivalent of 2 billion people’s electricity with renewables (my both-sides-of-the-napkin figure: each country’s renewable percentage x population x average per capita electricity use for the country).
            With the figures I’m seeing on what exists and the incredible price drops and growth of renewables, I think even without the US-WWII-level climate industrial mobilization I’m calling for, we could supply 5-6 billion people with renewable electricity, and most of the primary energy for most of the rich people in the world, reducing global emissions by half at least, in 5 years.

            There are a few things holding us back.

            Growing renewables is easiest in poor countries where labor is cheap and a lot of people have little or no electricity now. Need is high, cost is low, and they could simply leapfrog over the fossil fuel age, from no electricity right to fully renewable electricity, in no time. However, (you read it here first) poor people are poor, and need is only “demand” in capitalism when it comes with an ability to pay. They’d need money from rich people to build as fast as they could absorb the new electricity and as fast as we need it to happen. And even if it is built (which it is being, faster than the developed world) it doesn’t reduce emissions much because they don’t emit much now. Meanwhile, the rich world, where almost all the emissions are, already has electricity, and doesn’t need more. In fact it needs less, but there’s not even economic demand for more.

            Efficiency is the cheapest source of energy, but it’s not being done nearly as well as it could; we could reduce the energy we use by half, easily, and by 3/4 with effort but without hurting our way of life. (If you doubt that, look at California, which has already done it with electricity over the last 40 years, and is still a phenomenally wasteful and egregiously unequal place.) Even though new solar and wind are now cheaper than any other new source, the cost of building it means it’s not cheaper than existing gas and coal, at least not everywhere, at least not yet. So there’s less pressure to build in the place we need it most, to reduce global emissions. Something has to change that; it’s where government action comes in to speed up deployment of clean safe renewable energy right now. It’s where the WWII-style climate mobilization comes in. It’s where the revolution has to start.

            Why is all this important? Well, besides the obvious reasons I’ve been harping on for years, it’s the area under the curve that matters in avoiding disaster.–the curve on the graph of declining carbon emissions. Waiting even a few years more and then cutting energy use and carbon emissions by 25% per year is not as good as cutting 15 or 20% a year now.

            World electricity output, 2015 = 23% renewable, 40% coal 37% other (nuke, gas, oil)

            Of that renewable 23%, 71% is hydro, 15% wind, 8% bioenergy, 4% solar, 2% other.
            World solar capacity in 2015 was 153 GW 2.4% of it was 24/7 solar thermal. But more solar is built every year and the price has dropped incredibly in the last 2 years. (Of course none of this includes the clothesline paradox energies.)

            Note 1. Tshering Tobgay, Bhutan Prime Minister. TED Talk.
            Bhutan (70,000 ppl) is constitutionally required to stay 60% forested. It prioritizes Gross National Happiness over Gross National Product. It’s at net negative carbon emissions (4 million tonnes/yr) and is increasing that while providing carbon-free power to other countries. It’s a model for the world.

          • J4Zonian Says:

            oops. Add Belgium to the first list. Also, note that 4 of the “mostly” nuke countries are barely over 50% nuke; only France is significantly higher at 72 and it’s turning out to be a huge mess.

          • Canman Says:

            A lot of those numbers look suspect. It looks like a lot of those countries are third world nations full of poor people without electricity. Their renewable energy is most likely dung and any wood they can scrounge. I see it includes North Korea and Venezuela. That’s the direction I fear the zealous adherents of Mark Jacobson’s 100% WWS are taking us.

          • J4Zonian Says:

            My response to Canman is below.

        • lesliegraham1 Says:

          “it will have to come from the other side of the planet.”

          At first you were just showing your ignorance – now you are just being silly.

    • Typical Curry crap, distortion and misinformation

      Chinese Electric Bus Charges In 10 Seconds, Fastest In World

      August 5th, 2015 by EV Expert

      Originally published on Gas2.

      The world’s fastest charging electric bus is now operating in the eastern Chinese port city of Ningbo.

      According to local transportation authorities, the public bus — which was manufactured in Ningbo and runs along a 24-stop, 11 kilometre route — takes as little as 10 seconds to charge up and be ready for the next leg of its journey.

      Zhou Qinghe, president of Zhuzhou Electric Locomotive, said that, once charged, the bus can run for a distance of 5 kilometres.

      While this may not appear to be a copious distance, the extremely rapid charging time combined with the fact that public transit vehicles tend to run along fixed routes mean that the bus can charge up whenever it’s stationary for just a brief period at designated locations – most obviously, passenger loading and disembarkation points.

      In addition to its rapid charging ability, the bus is also capable of more efficient usage of its energy during its travel. While braking or negotiating slopes, the bus recycles over 80% of potential energy for storage and subsequent usage.

      This translates into a reduction in electricity consumption of around 30–50% compared to its conventional peers.

      Ningbo’s new electric bus makes use of supercapacitor technology that has already been trialled in nearby Shanghai for almost a decade.

      The bus’s supercapacitors are manufactured from a cutting-edge carbon material that functions in all likely temperatures (from -40 degrees to 60 degrees Celsius).

      The organic super capacitors are also extremely resilient, capable of charging and discharging on over a million occasions, conferring them with a service life of as long as 12 years.

      Using only one tenth the energy of a standard diesel bus, this performance translates into fuel savings of as much as $200,000 over the full lifetime of the vehicle.

      Ningbo now plans to add 1,200 more such buses to its public transportation fleet over the next 3 years..

      Many other cities are installing the infrastructure to allow for these Super Capacitor buses

    • J4Zonian Says:

      I’ve always said, there’s no place like Harvard Law School to teach people ALL the details about electrical generation!

      The facts are, clean safe renewable energy is the energy of the present—and the future. Both generation and storage costs have and will continue to come down tremendously in price for renewables, completely unaffected by people’s certainty of the impossibility of that.

      100+ reactors supply < 20% of the electricity of the US; with serious commitment to efficiency, conservation and wiser lives, along with huge electrification of transport, heating, and industrial energy it might stay that high, although it seem bloody unlikely to me. But let’s say we were ignoring price and safety and sense, and going ahead with an energy system based on connections (pardon the pun) and political power, and implementing the 1000-reactor plan for the US.

      And bringing everyone in the world out of poverty, as we must to ensure the peace and social order needed to implement all the solutions to climate catastrophe. To power the world with nuclear reactors, it would take (I’m making a wild eduguesstimate) maybe 20,000 reactors. Proportionally, that would be 300 TMI/Chernobyl/Fukushima level meltdowns every 50 years, or 6 a year.

      And that optimistic estimate goes against the obvious, that the world’s 450 reactors are now run by the A team, and running 20,000 would take the B team, the C team, and every team through the Z team to the ZZ team. So reasonably, we might triple the number. Say 20 meltdowns a year. In way less than 50 years there would be no habitable land left on Earth.

      Plus the points Ginger et al made about Curry, (Seriously?) intermittency, (demand is also intermittent, btw) and the ability of wind especially to stabilize grids, as it has in Germany.

      Plus there’s a certain Engineering Syndrome B. (ESA is to be overly linear, concrete and unimaginative, which is also very evident here) but I officially coin the closely-related ESB in your honor, an excessively (one might say obsessively) narrow, technical and detail-oriented nay-saying akin to mathematical proofs that bees can’t fly. I’ve seen it scores of times, most often ”offered” by fanatically anti-renewable denying delayalists, and every single one has turned out to be complete and utter nonsense.

      • J4Zonian Says:

        PS Not to mention that half the lunatic cranks in the world are “energy inventors and entrepreneurs”.

      • funslinger62 Says:

        You’re assuming the same old reactor designs. While nuclear is not feasible at current, it would be foolish to shut down all research on new reactor designs.

        In 100 years when the world is powered by mostly RE, there may be a backlash against the eyesores of wind and solar farms spread far and wide. At that time if nuclear research has designed a small relatively inexpensive and extremely safe reactor that can be quickly scaled, why would we not start building these small reactors in houses and reduce the need for acres and acres of large ugly wind and solar farms requiring lots of maintenance?

        I agree that nuclear implementation should be shelved for now. But research should continue unabated.

        • J4Zonian Says:

          I don’t accept the premise of the question.

          There’s been only recent and only limited backlash against fossil fuels that kill millions of people every year in horrific ways and kill uncounted other beings silently. People mostly sit and take abuse without complaining, especially on all the important issues. They will however, complain when the things that keep them distracted from the important things stop distracting them sufficiently–sports, TV, lawn care and cars.

          Never once have I heard of a protest march against power lines or strip mall ugliness. In my entire life as far as I know not one politician has been voted out of office for not insisting on better looking gas stations. Most people in the US have little sense of outrage except when told to; the current dislike of turbines is 100% political, stirred up by associating them with things poorly educated put-upon old white men have been stirred up about already by Faux News and Clear Channel, funded by Koch, Exxon, ALEC, and the other usual suspects. The associations are with the gubmint, revnooers, and uppity colored people (the code word for that is “public” followed by any other word).

          Solar panels have been available for years, nearly indistinguishable from high end slate or terra cotta roofs, solar thermal plants tend to be as far from dense settlements as strip mines and gas fields and farther than removed mountain tops.

          There hasn’t yet been enough of a backlash against the unspeakable Mordor Hell of tar sands wastelands, even though there are a thousand other excellent reasons to ban them, each one sufficient all alone I would think, for rational people. I hope, with the even slightly better relationship every one of us can have with nature because we’ve abandoned unsafe unhealthy democracy-destroying inequality-inducing fossil and fissile fuels, and with the attunement we can now psychologically afford because of that shift, that our mental health can follow our physical health and take a turn for the better, feeding on itself and the new and better lives we’re going to be forced to live (oh woe is us), and leading to healthier philosophies and religions, politics and jobs, and fun, and satisfying relationships. I’m hoping people of the future have better sense than to mess with the most benign energy production systems humans have ever invented.

          Meanwhile I’m with many people in appreciating the functional, graceful, thankful beauty of wind turbines. If you don’t like them why don’t you design some that are better?

          But I’m with you on the shelving. Back shelf, behind the mustard gas formula and weaponized ebola plans, under the sub-basement of the now climate-change-flooded Svalbard seed storage bunker. Written in Sanskrit and encoded on an enigma machine. Just in case we ever really, really, really need them.

        • lesliegraham1 Says:

          ?”acres and acres”

          Another myth.
          Even at 2014 levels of efficiency the area of land required to provide all the world’s current electricity would measure 100klm on each side.
          You could drop that into the Sahara and never find it again.
          Not that solar will continue along the current lines – more likely buildings and roads will be producing solar power in 100 years time. If we still have a civilisation.
          And I happen to think wind farms are beautiful – and so do the vast majority of the public. A hell of a lot better looking than a dead planet anyway.

          I would agree it is a good idea to continue research into fusion however.
          If it could be made to work and make windfarms and solar obsolete then I wouldn’t object to them.

      • Canman Says:

        J4Zonian, you’ve thrown out this 20,000 reactors number. Have you ever thought about how many wind turbines, acres of solar panels or nonexistent storage it takes to replace just one nuclear plant?

        I also note that your links are from 2014. Since then, it looks like renewables in Germany are topping out:

        It’ll be interesting to see what happens in the next couple of years.

        • J4Zonian Says:

          Continuing reports from Germany show the Energiewende is doing just fine, thank you. Germany, like the US & everywhere else, has to contend with very destructive conservatives, insisting on staying stuck in the 19th century while driving toward extinction, but the Wende remains very popular (80-90%) & is moving ahead.

          My last post was held for questioning for more than a week so I’m not including links but there are reports on this site & on climateprogress and cleantechnica.
          climatecrocks dot com/2016/06/20/germanys-energy-transition-overwhelmingly-popular-despite-deniers/

          The map of the US, Germany & Spain posted above is relevant to the Faux news bit ”Germany has more sun”. The truth is, Germany has done extraordinarily well with very little while the US—the Saudi Arabia of renewable potential—has done almost nothing, especially considering its wealth. The US has no excuse not to have a 90% renewable grid & 50%+ renewable primary energy already.
          “… if we cover an area … 335 kilometers by 335 kilometers with solar panels, even with moderate efficiencies achievable easily today, it will provide [all the energy humanity uses now]. This area is 43,000 square miles. The Great Saharan Desert in Africa is 3.6 million square miles and is prime for solar power (more than twelve hours per day). That means 1.2% of the Sahara desert is sufficient to cover all of the energy needs of the world in solar energy.”

          forbes dot com/sites/quora/2016/09/22/we-could-power-the-entire-world-by-harnessing-solar-energy-from-1-of-the-sahara/#752b60d8d440

          Obviously this is stupid & we’re not going to do it. But every continent has desert or wasteland, abandoned and still-reeking coal and uranium mines & waste pits, toxic oil & gas fields, parking lots, roads, buildings and other places that can be covered, not exactly as Hundertwasser intended but still usefully, with solar panels and wind turbines. Turbines take up about 2% of the land they’re on; the rest can be used for other things. There’s also offshore wind and solar. Over the longer term we’ll replace housing stock & change the landscape to waste less energy, with clothesline paradox energies (passive solar houses, eg), shorter commutes, etc. Our lives can take up less space & less energy to build and maintain (less parking, road acreage, etc.)

          The World’s Largest Floating Solar Power Plant Just Went Online In China
          May 23, 2017
          digitaltrends dot com/cool-tech/china-floating-solar-power-plant/

          In China’s Gansu province a wind farm complex is being built that by 2020 is expected to be 20 GW, 2 1/2 times the largest reactor ever built (closed after Fukushima). (The Chinese have typically been reaching their targets sooner than planned.) It should cost less than $18 billion, a tiny fraction of what it would cost to build nukes that size now & will be operating in a fraction of the time a nuke could be. (Parts of wind farms can be operating, & offsetting carbon, energy & money costs of construction, while the rest is being built.) There are 6 such complexes approved in China.

          Losing 2-3% every 1000 miles of transmission & using the many techniques of hocketing renewable sources, including distributed generation, we could provide most of the energy the world needs as fast as the panels, turbines (one going up every 2.5 hours now), 24/7 solar thermal plants & other renewable infrastructure can be built. Getting up to a very high % of renewables might require batteries, pumped storage, salts, or other storage, but at the tremendous pace at which improvements & price drops have & are happening it’s not only feasible but economic to do that. (Not that it has to be economic to be a good idea if our survival depends on it, right?) If & when we need storage it’s available.

          In the end Germany’s and our solution is to reduce energy use, live wiser lives, hook up to larger grids for distributed generation, & hocket renewable energy sources and techniques to adjust demand. All that’s possible with today’s technology; only politics is stopping us, which means only psychology is stopping us.

    • lesliegraham1 Says:

      Judith Curry!


      Same old half a dozen discredited cranks get wheeled out every time.
      Maybe you should read some studies from some of the 28,000 credible scientists?

  3. neilrieck Says:

    There are three primary flavors of nuclear power currently in use on Earth today: light-water, heavy-water, and breeder. Now I won’t go into the history of how we got here but I will say this: heavy-water systems are safer to use than the other two. In fact, it is somewhat harder to keep a heavy-water system running while it is harder to keep the other two from stopping. (I read somewhere that light-water reactors can never be shut down below the 7% level; and this is what went wrong in Fukushima when they were unable to cool the system after a tsunami destroyed the reactor infrastructure). Back to heavy-water systems for a moment: one easy way to shut them down is by poisoning the heavy water with anything (including tap water). So with a tank of light-water above and an empty tank below, you can set up a system were “loss of power to a safety system” allows heavy-water to be replaced with light water using nothing more than gravity. Okay, so I just mentioned that refined uranium is not required. That means that these systems can burn radioactive waste. I’m not certain why North American reactors have not (yet) been licensed to try this but it is happening right now in South Korea and China (search the phrase: “DUPIC”)

    • Canada only uses heavy water reactors but the CANDU has turned out to be very expensive to maintain. The next updated version turned out to have problems with runaway reactions when tested in small prototype reactors counter to what the modeling said would happen. They gave up on the new design after spending a fortune of money. The cost of refurbishment is monumental but is being done away because Ontario needs power and its rural voters hate wind. Nuclear is very slowly on the way out in Canada.

  4. J4Zonian Says:

    I can’t believe you’re quoting Nordhaus & Schellenberger, the Lomborg clone breakthrough boys; I especially can’t believe you’re calling them by the name they call themselves, a compound lie for people who are anti-ecological and so determined to keep us in the 20th century.

  5. Gingerbaker Says:

    So much for the aspirations of second-world nations who pretend to use the cover of nuclear power generation in order to build themselves a bomb.

    Perhaps Israel will help Iran embrace renewable energy by finally blowing the s**t out of their nuclear facilities.

  6. Jim Torson Says:

    For years I have been telling anyone who would listen that nuclear power is an economic disaster (in addition to a health and safety disaster). OK. One more time… DO NOT BE FOOLED BY THE BOGUS HYPE ABOUT NEW NUCLEAR TECHNOLOGIES. In Nov. 2015 I sent this to some correspondents:

    Awhile ago I went through a box of stuff and found a magazine I had saved because inside it includes an interesting interview with John Bell on quantum mechanics. However, the main article is highlighted on the cover with the headline “Nuclear Renaissance: Reactors Are Back and Reactions are Good.” This article discusses “the reactor design of the future – the dream machine that’s simple, small, efficient, and, most important, safe enough to convince the American public, once again, to vote nuclear.” The discussion includes “an advanced version of the light water reactor,” “smaller reactors with more passive safety features,” the newest designs – “inherently safe” reactors, “new ALWRs [advanced light water reactors] would be assembled from shop-fabricated modular components, making them cheaper for utility companies to buy,” “three other types of reactors that proponents claim to be ‘inherently safe’ go by the names of integral fast reactor (IFR), high-temperature gas-cooled reactor (HTGR), and process inherent ultimate safe reactor (PIUS),” “Rockwell International and General Electric have already developed two commercial designs for ‘inherently safe’ sodium-cooled reactors,” “engineers agree that PIUS is an elegant design, but that’s all – only a design. It’s still on the drawing boards.”

    OK… The thing is… That article on the “nuclear renaissance” is not recent. It’s in an Omni magazine dated May 1988. (1988 was the year of Hansen’s famous testimony to congress warning about climate change.) Today – 27 years later – we are hearing pretty much the same sort of delusional fantasies from James Hansen and other nuclear proponents. Hansen and the other climate scientists really should become familiar with the history before accepting this nuclear industry nonsense. Or, they should stick to climate science and retain their hard-earned credibility.

  7. J4Zonian Says:

    Again, Can, no.

    First, if you don’t trust the numbers, refute them. They’ve been vetted by me, with numerous independent sources, & by any number of anti-renewable fanatics ranging from crazy, moronic & incompetent, to sane, moronic & one-sidedly disinformed. If you think you can do better, have at it.

    One note–let me head off the most common mistake before you make it. OOPS, TOO LATE! Despite my being perfectly clear, even explicitly differentiating the 2, that mistake is to confuse electricity with total or primary energy. At least we know which category you belong in. AFAIK, most poor people do not generate electricity by burning dung or wood. If you know otherwise, I’d love to see your sources.)

    A lot of those countries are survivors of colonialism and neo-colonialism (so far, and some barely) and most of the electricity is from big dams built by western corporatist states and meta-state organizations. That’s the history of renewables–hydro was the first technically and economically feasible electrical generation so virtually every country that has any renewables has a base of dispatchable hydro. Wind was the next to be implemented for the same reasons*–technical and economic feasibility. So countries like Portugal and Spain, Costa Rica and others whose natural strength is obviously solar, have hydro and wind as most of their electricity. Now that solar is the cheapest source of all (besides efficiency) those countries will expand into solar, a source that improves the whole system’s synergistic ability to provide human needs.

    That burning you mention is a serious health and ecological problem in many countries, where women’s and children’s health, the ecological health of forests and farm fertility are all compromised by stoves burning wood and dung.
    The problems may even be worse than burning coal, although either way, it could be cheaply and easily solved by simple solar cookers, a form of clothesline paradox energy—when implemented, it disappears from energy and other statistics.

    Your fear of people who embrace the most benign energy system ever invented by humans, as an alternative to the utter destruction of civilization and the extinction of millions of species, is common but irrational paranoia and projected rage, and there are much better places to deal with it.

    Cherry picking 2 dictatorships out of 59 countries is a ridiculous attempt to mislead, especially when the preponderance of evidence shows the opposite, that the presence of fossil fuels in a country, in the economy and especially in the ground, is a reliable indicator of inequality and oppression.** 86% of North Korea’s primary energy is from coal burning, and like Venezuela its domestic reserves of fossils (NK, coal; Ven., oil) has been as much of a curse* as a blessing. Virtual blockades of such countries by the US have forced or reinforced reliance on domestic resources***, and in the case of NK, also pointing out the inextricable links between nuclear power and nuclear weapons.

    I could cherry pick Russia, essentially a nuclear-armed oil corporation with very low renewable penetration (16% hydroelectricity****, <1% other), but in truth the countries with a high percentage of renewable electricity run the gamut from dictatorship and oligarchy to most democratic on the planet. Some qualify because they have dams and low electricity use, and, mostly because of colonial exploitation and disruption haven't developed beyond that. (Many dictatorships are in this category.) Others qualify because their people are forcing renewablizing, against mild or fierce resistance from corporate-owned government. The US is an exception, an epitome, and a case in point in a third category, It’s an oiligarchy with high energy use and low renewable use despite vast renewable resources and lots of money and technical capabilities to develop them. As in other ways, the US (also 17%) is a malignant form of Canada. (66%, mostly hydro).

    * Wind electricity as well as mechanical energy wind power was dually feasible up to the 1940s, when it was put to sleep by the poisoned apple of fossil fuels, artificially low-priced because of subsidies and externalities. The world's first megawatt-size wind turbine on Grandpa's Knob, Vermont:,_Vermont

    **The Resource Curse
    Why Do Resource-Abundant Countries Have Authoritarian Governments?

    ”Does Oil Hinder Democracy?”
    ”Many studies show that when incomes rise, governments tend to become more democratic. Yet some scholars imply there is an exception to this rule: if rising incomes can be traced to a country’s oil wealth… this democratizating effect will shrink or disappear. ”

    *** a form of projective identification or ”dreaming up” (Arnold Mindell) that I think of as projective trapping—taking actions that compel someone to do something and then condemning and even punishing them for it. (used a lot in the population argument, aka consumption and inequality denial)

    **** Mostly from the Soviet era

  8. J4Zonian Says:

    PS Update: It’s actually at least 60 countries with mostly-renewable (RE) grids.

    To say Nicaragua has a 54% RE grid understates it. Primary energy is 75% RE; with bountiful resources (hydro, geothermal, solar, wind) and firm plans for a 90% RE grid by 2020. It’s already come a long way, fast; 80% of its people have reliable access to electricity. Add Costa Rica’s 99% RE (hydro) grid, and inevitable expansion into now-cheap wind and solar make this look like the center of a regional powerhouse like the Nordic grid—especially with CR’s commitment to structuring government for peace and social equality and N’s history of tossing a long-US-backed dictatorship.

    The synergistic effects of regional renewables bolsters the ability to keep expanding RE, energy access, real wealth, rights, and equality with distributed generation outlets for excess power, and will help them save money on power and use it to increase their own RE portfolio. Honduras, Guatemala and Colombia are in the way now but if political and energy connections can forge a community of N, CR, El Salvador, Cuba, Belize, Ecuador (1 of only 2 countries with the rights of nature written into the constitution) and others, a stunning economic, political and cultural renaissance could be starting there. And since many of the countries are barely above sea level and a big part of their income is tourism from coral reefs, they’re highly motivated to shame richer countries into acting.

    Correction: Belize is actually at 60% RE electricity, participating in the 10-Island Challenge to reach 100% RE—89% by 2033. Others are Aruba, St. Lucia, Grenada, the British Virgin Islands, the Bahamas, Turks and Caicos, and San Andres and Providencia.

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