Wall Street Journal Debates: Does Nuclear Power Have a Future?

February 9, 2018

Incoming in 5,…4,…3,…

YES: It’s Competitive and Necessary

By Rich Powell

Rich Powell

Rich Powell PHOTO: CLEARPATH
The future of U.S. nuclear power is bright—and nonnegotiable.

A robust civilian nuclear sector is mandatory for the U.S. to remain a major geopolitical, economic, military and environmental leader. After decades of policy neglect, Washington is finally addressing what is both a national and global necessity and a tremendous opportunity.

Bipartisan political support is growing to reform new reactor licensing and improve tax incentives for new nuclear facilities, led in Congress by clean-energy advocates as well as national-security and energy-reliability hawks.

The Trump administration has taken bold action to support nuclear energy, including expanding federal financing for the two reactors being built in Georgia and proposing that regulators change the way electricity is priced so that nuclear and coal-fired plants can earn more based on plant resiliency.

Market pricing reform would be an important step in helping to restructure power markets and bring an end to the closures of reactors seen in recent years. Current markets undervalue the greater reliability of nuclear energy in the face of natural disasters—true resilience likely comes with greater capital cost. New plants would also be tremendously aided by proposals for improved tax incentives backed by the White House that would benefit deployment of nearly 4 gigawatts of advanced nuclear power.

Some don’t believe in a nuclear future because of the low cost of natural gas. Gas is certainly cheap right now, but most vertically integrated utilities don’t want to rely on a single fuel source, especially one with historically significant price swings. There is also nothing fundamentally expensive about nuclear. Much of the current additional capital cost is due to years of inactivity and resulting lack of experience and standardization—gaps that deny projects the kinds of knowledge transfer than can lower costs through repeated construction of the same design. China and South Korea have been able to drive out costs through scale and repeated construction experience.

Skeptics also point to falling renewable costs and stalled growth in demand for electricity as an argument against investing in nuclear. But wind and solar, because of their intermittent character, require grid-scale energy storage, and that is expensive. And despite low electricity growth, there will be need in the generation market to replace many kinds of retiring plants in the coming years. In fact, this just opens the door for advanced technologies, particularly smaller reactor designs.

Several U.S. entrepreneurs are developing advanced nuclear-energy technologies that are smaller, more nimble and even have the potential to be cost-competitive with natural gas. One of these, a startup called Oklo Inc., is designing a microreactor it says could operate for 10 to 20 years at a time with low overhead. It’s less than 1% the size of a traditional reactor and could be perfect for quick deployment to areas such as Puerto Rico, which saw its grid devastated by a hurricane.

Bill Gates -backed TerraPower also has potential. It is working with Southern Co. to develop TerraPower’s Molten Chloride Fast Reactor, a design that potentially has significant cost benefits compared with conventional generators. There is also NuScale Power LLC and its small modular nuclear reactor, which can be scaled anywhere from 50 megawatts to 600 megawatts of capacity and which will likely be operating commercially by 2026.

The goal for each of these companies is to export its technologies. With forecasts of as much as $10 trillion in global investment in low-emissions power technology over the coming decades, major investors and technology developers are paying attention.

The Energy Department recently announced that it will target advanced nuclear technologies for funding with the same highly successful approach it has used through its research program known as Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy, or ARPA-E.

While the nuclear-energy industry has suffered setbacks over the past few years, the promise of advanced reactors and the importance of nuclear energy to our national security will attract the financial resources, the political clout and the policy reforms necessary to win out in the long term.

A thriving U.S. nuclear industry isn’t a “nice-to-have.” It’s a must-have. And it will happen again.

Mr. Powell is executive director of the ClearPath Foundation, a nonprofit that promotes conservative clean-energy solutions. He can be reached at reports@wsj.com.

NO: It Is Up Against Too Many Forces

By Jason Bordoff

Jason Bordoff

Jason Bordoff

A decade ago, nuclear power appeared to be on the verge of a renaissance in the U.S. The Energy Information Administration projected U.S. nuclear power generation would grow 13% from 2005 to 2020. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission was preparing to receive dozens of applications to build new reactors, the first in decades. Toshiba bought Westinghouse for $5.4 billion and had plans to install 45 new reactors world-wide by 2030.

I believe a strong nuclear-power sector would benefit the U.S. But the truth is, the industry is in crisis—and the signs don’t look good for it turning around. In the past five years, six reactors (at five plants) have been closed, and operators have announced plans to shut down several more. The list is likely to grow, as more than half of America’s nuclear plants are reportedly losing money.

Moreover, all plans to build new reactors have been scrapped, save for two in Georgia, and their future is uncertain without major federal support. Westinghouse, the designer of the reactors there, is in bankruptcy proceedings. And the Energy Information Administration now projects the share of nuclear in our electricity mix to fall by nearly half through 2050, to 11% from a current 20%. Even that outlook may be optimistic. China, meanwhile, has several dozen nuclear plants in development.

What happened? First, and most important, the shale revolution has delivered natural-gas prices far below what had been expected, undermining the competitiveness of nuclear power in deregulated markets. Second, electricity demand, which back in 2005 had been expected to grow nearly 2% a year, instead has been roughly stagnant, a result of increased efficiency and slower economic growth. Third, renewable-energy costs have fallen far more steeply than most projected. Fourth, the lack of a meaningful price on carbon means that the cost of power from fossil fuels doesn’t reflect its full cost to society. Finally, public support of nuclear power has waned.

Building new reactors is made even more challenging by the very costly and complex regulatory approval process. Even plants with new reactor designs intended to be safer and less expensive to operate—like the one in Georgia, and one abandoned in South Carolina—have run into unexpected problems and large cost overruns. U.S. firms lack the equipment and expertise to build nuclear plants after not doing so for decades. And the U.S. nuclear industry lacks standardization of designs and equipment, further escalating costs.

While small, modular reactors hold promise to bring down costs and address safety and proliferation concerns, the Trump administration proposes slashing government investment in energy R&D. Meanwhile, shale-gas production is set to outstrip demand, keeping prices low, and renewable costs keep falling.

The prospects for government policies that could support nuclear, from a carbon tax to a long-term waste-disposal solution, seem remote. New legislation may be in the works, but passage seems unlikely at present given congressional dysfunction and opposition.

Federal financing is a necessary condition to revive U.S. nuclear power, but even with increased federal support, it is far from certain the plant in Georgia will be built. The project is only about one-third complete, costs have skyrocketed, and the planned start date has been pushed back many years.

Energy Secretary Rick Perry’s recent order to the Federal Regulatory Commission to consider guaranteeing recovery of costs to struggling coal and nuclear plants would prop up those industries, but it faces numerous hurdles at FERC, in the courts and with a long list of stakeholders who have filed comments in opposition.

The decline of nuclear is cause for concern. Nuclear is the largest source of carbon-free electricity in the U.S., but retiring plants are mostly replaced by gas and coal. Additionally, a robust nuclear-energy sector promotes U.S. leadership in international nonproliferation efforts, supports our national defense requirements, and facilitates the expansion of nuclear globally with high safety, security and environmental standards. Left to market forces alone, however, the outlook for U.S. nuclear power is grim.

Mr. Bordoff is a former senior director with the National Security Council and special assistant to President Barack Obama. He is now a professor in international and public affairs and the founding director of the Center on Global Energy Policy at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs. He can be reached at reports@wsj.com

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42 Responses to “Wall Street Journal Debates: Does Nuclear Power Have a Future?”

  1. Gingerbaker Says:

    Nuclear is just too expensive to compete.

    https://robertscribbler.com/2017/11/27/just-one-more-reason-why-fossil-fuels-suck-tailpipe-the-cost-of-wind-and-solar-is-now-lower-than-pretty-much-everything-else/lazard-lcoe-2/

    Quotes for the capital cost of a nuclear plant used to be $ 2-4 billion. Then they became $ 6 – 8 billion.

    The Hinkley Site C nuke plant is now expected to cost at least $25 billion:

    http://metro.co.uk/2016/05/09/most-expensive-object-on-earth-is-being-built-in-britain-5869385/

    • dumboldguy Says:

      How expensive is “too expensive”, GB? What is it worth to save the planet from CAGW? Especially if nearly everything dies?

      Hinkley is a bad example of what we need and what it may cost. We should have already been building GEN4 reactors and smaller modular and “neighborhood” reactors to support the RE and distributed grid that you love.

      If we can sink money into “beautiful clean coal” and unproven and expensive carbon capture schemes just because Emperor Trump is delusional, we can certainly keep nuclear alive. Bordoff makes the same tired old arguments against—-I go 65-35 for Powell’s viewpoint.

      Emissions-free is emissions-free, and nuclear should be replacing gas and coal right now or we’ll never make it.

      • Gingerbaker Says:

        No, solar and wind should be replacing gas and coal right now. Because nuclear is too expensive.

        If we want to stop AGW, it would be a very good thing to get people who don’t believe in AGW to support RE. And we do that by making carbon-free energy cheaper than FF’s – not more expensive.


      • No one has figured out how to get a GEN4 nuclear reactor to work. The Russian GEN4 was shut down after spending $20+Billion and finding they still needed to improve the fuel for the reactor, and also, the projects economic feasibility. They’ll make a decision in 2020 on whether to continue. So if you want to wait another 10-15 years while they figure it out, not to mention cost $20Billion now so how many billions more?, then yes, that’s a great pipe dream. Vogtle, a GEN3, is at $25Billion and counting, and still not running. And Nuclear is NOT emissions-free, that is one more falsehood nuclear proponents dittohead.

        • dumboldguy Says:

          Another rant from an anti-nuclear dittohead. Got some citations for the Russian GEN4 problems?

          And the point is NOT that nuclear power is cheap, or not subject to delays in construction and cost overruns, or perfectly safe, or “emissions free”, but that we are running out of time to stop burning fossil fuels and cost should not be the main consideration when we are trying to prevent the destruction of the planet. There’s a reason why James Hansen and many other scientists advocated that we build many more nukes ASAP. What part of that does the anti-nuke crowd not understand? (as they wait for terns of thousands of wind turbines and solar panels to be constructed in place of one nuke).

      • rsmurf Says:

        Stupidity beyond explanation. Using one of the most dangerous things on the planet to boil water. And did you forget chernoble and fukushima.

      • Gingerbaker Says:

        “Hinkley is a bad example of what we need and what it may cost”

        Yeah – it’s a bad example for YOU. LOL. Yet, it is a fact. Ratepayers in the UK ain’t exactly happy.

        When was the last time a nuclear power plant was built in the U.S. that came in at expected cost?

        And who is going to build such a white elephant? There are no longer any U.S. nuclear plant builders – they went out of business, because nuclear has not been cost competitive for years.

        And speaking of years, that’s another compelling reason to not contemplate nuclear – it takes *decades* to build a plant. We do not have such a luxury – as you well know.

        PV and wind go up in a matter of weeks.

        You really need to reappraise your support for nuclear – it just doesn’t make sense on any level anymore. James Hanson and you are wrong on this.

  2. PeterVermont Says:

    Although this article was about fission reactors, many people imagine that fusion power could be the holy grail.

    While there are some intriguing attempts to have small-ish repeated fusion events through inertial confinement, z-pinch or dense plasma fusion the bulk of fusion research dollars is spent investigating Tokamak based continuous fusion.

    Robert L. Hirsch led the US Nuclear Fusion program during the 1970’s but later came to believe that Tokamak based reactors cannot be commercially viable.

    See: http://issues.org/31-4/fusion-research-time-to-set-a-new-path/

    • dumboldguy Says:

      Good article. I visited the stellarators at Princeton as part of a college course in atomic and nuclear physics back in the 60’s—-not much progress has happened there or anywhere else since then. And this article by Hirsch shows why. Too bad.

  3. rabiddoomsayer Says:

    The price of infrastructure is getting dearer and dearer for distributed power, onsite renewables are getting cheaper and cheaper. It will not be long before complete independence from the grid is the only economic option.

    • Gingerbaker Says:

      Did you know that wind and solar make electricity that flows perfectly well along those “distributed’ wires? Yes, it is true!

      Your dream of “complete independence from the grid” is a world where only the propertied have electricity. You might as well be telling us that municipal water systems are evil, and everyone should have their own well, instead of having water ‘distributed’ to them.


  4. Pretty much all the practical proposals are boiling water, at a time when water is becoming increasingly critical and Aquifers etc are depleting

    Fusion is not necessarily out of the question, especially if the output is electrons

    https://newsroom.unsw.edu.au/news/science-tech/laser-boron-fusion-now-%E2%80%98leading-contender%E2%80%99-energy

    Laser-boron fusion now ‘leading contender’ for energy
    14 Dec 2017
    Wilson da Silva

    A laser-driven technique for creating fusion that dispenses with the need for radioactive fuel elements and leaves no toxic radioactive waste is now within reach, says a UNSW physicist.
    Dramatic advances in powerful, high-intensity lasers are making it viable for scientists to pursue what was once thought impossible: creating fusion energy based on hydrogen-boron reactions. And an Australian physicist is in the lead, armed with a patented design and working with international collaborators on the remaining scientific challenges.

    In a paper in the scientific journal Laser and Particle Beams, lead author Heinrich Hora from UNSW Sydney and international colleagues argue that the path to hydrogen-boron fusion is now viable, and may be closer to realisation than other approaches, such as the deuterium-tritium fusion approach being pursued by US National Ignition Facility (NIF) and the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor under construction in France.

    Rather than heat fuel to the temperature of the Sun using massive, high-strength magnets to control superhot plasmas inside a doughnut-shaped toroidal chamber (as in NIF and ITER), hydrogen-boron fusion is achieved using two powerful lasers in rapid bursts, which apply precise non-linear forces to compress the nuclei together.

    Hydrogen-boron fusion produces no neutrons and, therefore, no radioactivity in its primary reaction. And unlike most other sources of power production – like coal, gas and nuclear, which rely on heating liquids like water to drive turbines – the energy generated by hydrogen-boron fusion converts directly into electricity.

    But the downside has always been that this needs much higher temperatures and densities – almost 3 billion degrees Celsius, or 200 times hotter than the core of the Sun.

    “It is a most exciting thing to see these reactions confirmed in recent experiments and simulations,” said Hora, an Emeritus Professor of Theoretical Physics at UNSW. “Not just because it proves some of my earlier theoretical work, but they have also measured the laser-initiated chain reaction to create one billion-fold higher energy output than predicted under thermal equilibrium conditions.”

    Together with 10 colleagues in six nations – including from Israel’s Soreq Nuclear Research Centre and the University of California, Berkeley – Hora describes a roadmap for the development of hydrogen-boron fusion based on his design, bringing together recent breakthroughs and detailing what further research is needed to make the reactor a reality.

    An Australian spin-off company, HB11 Energy, holds the patents for Hora’s process. “If the next few years of research don’t uncover any major engineering hurdles, we could have a prototype reactor within a decade,” said Warren McKenzie, managing director of HB11.

    “From an engineering perspective, our approach will be a much simpler project because the fuels and waste are safe, the reactor won’t need a heat exchanger and steam turbine generator, and the lasers we need can be bought off the shelf,” he added.

    • dumboldguy Says:

      Three BILLION degrees Celsius? From a laser? Don’t hold your breath.


      • With respect D.O.G
        A little more info.
        Picosecond pulses do the trick, confining the high temp into cubic micrometers within the microplasma field

        https://cleantechnica.com/2017/12/14/free-lunch-alert-hydrogen-boron-solution-clean-nuclear-fusion/

        Currently the global fusion research community is focused on studying fusion reactions in specialized (and quite expensive) chambers called tokamaks.

        A core part of the problem is firing up the reactor with enough heat to sustain the operation, while generating more energy output than input. The University of South Wale sets the table:

        …the downside has always been that this needs much higher temperatures and densities – almost 3 billion degrees Celsius, or 200 times hotter than the core of the Sun.

        Yikes!

        That’s where the new study comes in. For all the details check out the paper “Road map to clean energy using laser beam ignition of boron-hydrogen fusion” in the journal Laser and Particle Beams. Here’s the short version: skip the deuterium and go straight to the hydrogen. Here’s a snippet from the abstract:

        Sixty years of worldwide research for the ignition of the heavy hydrogen isotopes deuterium (D) and tritium (T) have come close to a breakthrough for ignition. The problem with the DT fusion is that generated neutrons are producing radioactive waste. One exception as the ideal clean fusion process – without neutron production – is the fusion of hydrogen (H) with the boron isotope 11B11 (B11).

        The University of New South Wales explains where the lasers come in:

        Rather than heat fuel to the temperature of the Sun using massive, high-strength magnets to control superhot plasmas inside a doughnut-shaped toroidal chamber (as in NIF and ITER), hydrogen-boron fusion is achieved using two powerful lasers in rapid bursts, which apply precise non-linear forces to compress the nuclei together.

        The new study pulls together “a spate of recent experiments around the world” indicating that “an ‘avalanche’ fusion reaction could be triggered in the trillionth-of-a-second blast from a petawatt-scale laser pulse, whose fleeting bursts pack a quadrillion watts of power…”

        Sweet!

        The study cites current research that confirms earlier theoretical work and takes it to the next level, according to lead researcher Heinrich Hora, Emeritus Professor of Theoretical Physics at the University of New South Wales.

        According to Hora, the research has produced measurements that indicate the “avalanche” or chain reaction touched off by lasers creates “one billion-fold higher energy output than predicted under thermal equilibrium conditions.”

        • dumboldguy Says:

          With respect, Frank. A “new study” that “pulls together a spate of recent experiments” that “confirms earlier THEORETICAL work” and “INDICATES” an “avalanche or chain reaction COULD be triggered by a laser” seems to be just more of the same bright-sidedness and wishful thinking that we’ve been hearing about nuclear fusion for the past 65 years. I will not sell my Solar Roadway stock until something REALLY happens with this hydrogen-boron-laser approach, and I will likely be long dead before that happens.

          Speaking of “likely dead” and not wishing him any ill will—he seems pretty chipper for an 86-year-old—-Professor Emeritus Hora has been studying this and writing books about it or a loooong time. Many of his books go back 30+ years. The timelines for workable designs are being pushed out to the 2030’s and 2040’s, and the amounts of $$$$ to be spent are comparable to what nuclear fission plants cost. How long are we going to wait before we do what we know works rather than chase moonbeams (or “canned sunbeams” in this case)?

          Yes, it would be “sweet” if we could make nuclear fusion work on a large enough scale to use it to generate electricity, but it seems a long way off (do you realize how small a cubic micrometer is and how much we’d have to scale it up to replace fossil d=fuel generation?)


  5. Then of course we have the Military Industrial complex
    https://phys.org/news/2014-10-lockheed-martin-pursues-compact-fusion.html#ajTabs

    Lockheed Martin pursues compact fusion reactor concept
    October 16, 2014 by Nancy Owano, Phys.org

    Lockheed Martin is making news this week with declarations about putting the Atomic Age on Restart and advancing in the realm of energy. “We are on the fast track to developing compact nuclear fusion reactors to serve the world’s ever-growing energy needs.”

    The company’s Skunk Works has provided new details to the public about its work in compact fusion. “At Lockheed Martin Skunk Works, we’re making advancements in the development of fusion energy, the ultimate form of renewable power. Our scientists and engineers are looking at the biggest natural fusion reactor for inspiration – the sun. By containing the power of the sun in a small magnetic bottle, we are on the fast track to developing compact fusion reactors to serve the world’s ever-growing energy needs.” Thomas McGuire, compact fusion project lead, said they think they can get to a prototype in about five years

    By the description so far it looks very much like the Hydrogen Boron path as previous link.
    Bear in mind Lockheed Martin are amongst the most advanced in the world with high power lasers and energy beams for military applications, so I guess it depends on Military Security.
    However if Civilian Companies and other countries look like delivering, then that military imperative becomes redundant and they have the most advanced working devices reay and available

    • Gingerbaker Says:

      Yes, let’s get excited about vapourware, like fusion, local micronuclear, and thorium. Meanwhile, back at the farm, solar and wind are already cheaper than fossil fuels.

      Not that I am against research for fusion – full steam ahead.

      But fusion has been just around the corner for forty years. Besides, juice from a fusion reactor may have to be moved along those evil, filthy ‘distributed’ energy lines that upset so many discerning environmentalists. (The ones who don’t seem to know that the word ‘monopoly’ wrt the energy sector is not necessarily a bad thing).

  6. indy222 Says:

    This is not an easy question to answer for non-experts. It’s tiresome to hear the anti-nuke tirades from the rabid pro-solar/wind crowd, when they are really reacting out of knee-jerk images of Chernobyl and 3 Mile Island, and don’t understand the complexity of the issue. Yes, light-water standard old style reactors are very expensive and we’re losing our expertise through long term neglect. But it’s also true that solar’s cost go WAY up for the current grid when the penetration gets close to 20%, due to the storage problem. So, which is too expensive – going new/better/safer nuclear with breeders to burn the waste and stop throwing anti-competitive roadblocks to permitting? Or instead putting the money into R/D for large-scale storage for solar/wind and transforming the existing grid? Shall we site a nuclear plant on a few acres, or instead co-opt 33 square miles of land for the equivalent solar PV output? How will that decision change as we consider the rights of other species on that land, and rising real estate values. The answer may flip flop back and forth, for all we know.


    • That is why I am very interested in the Hydrogen Boron process, a far smaller unit, maybe not quite fridge sized but small enough and cheap enough (relatively speaking) to have them scattered all over the place and as there is no radioactive byproduct and the output is electrons so no turbines etc etc one next door wouldn’t be an issue.
      I do suspect they will need big fat batteries and or supercaps for load balancing/stabilisation/voltage stability as no steam turbine performing that function.

      It is not something new, they have been working on it for over 60 years.
      Breakthroughs were needed and advances in laser and energy technology have delivered that

      Look at Lockheeds Promo, 5 years from oct 2014 for prototype, we are counting down


    • Yep! Also remember when wind power ‘would never be competitive” and solar was just way way too expensive. There are challenges to be addressed, mainly in educating ideologues, and bugr me, agreeing with DOG, what price saving the world?

    • Gingerbaker Says:

      “But it’s also true that solar’s cost go WAY up for the current grid when the penetration gets close to 20%, due to the storage problem. ”

      You are going to have to prove that statement.

      Because the price solar with storage has already come WAY down, and is much cheaper than even optimistic nuclear estimates.

      Lazard shows the levelized cost of utility-scale solar power with storage is $92 per megawatt-hour (MWh). And that is based on old data. It is only going to get cheaper.

      And get this:: Documents from Xcel’s Colorado subsidiary show a medium price for PV with battery storage of $36/MWh, the lowest known price to date.

      Nuclear is $148 per MWh. And that is from old plants. New plants are going to be WAY more expensive, if you can even find a company to build them anymore.

      https://robertscribbler.com/2017/11/27/just-one-more-reason-why-fossil-fuels-suck-tailpipe-the-cost-of-wind-and-solar-is-now-lower-than-pretty-much-everything-else/lazard-lcoe-2/

      PV solar plus storage @ $36/MWh is lower than burning coal in an existing coal plant. It is lower than on-shore wind without storage.

      Still think storage with solar is a problem?

  7. earl Says:

    The cost of Hinkley C nuke in the UK is already at £20bn (US$27.65bn) and rising. It will produce a maximum of 3.5GW of electricity.
    For the same price we could provide 4 million homes with 4kw of solar PV plus 4Kwh of batteries (@£5000 per kit wholesale prices for 4 million homes – probably less in a really competitive tender considering how fast prices are falling).
    That is 16GW of PV with 16GWh of battery storage. i.e. 4 X HinkleyC, plus some… and let’s not suggest “base load” is an issue because 16GWh of batteries covers that.
    So that same £20bn could give electricity independence and security to 4 million homes & reduce stresses on the grid.
    It would also leave about £24bn a year, in those people’s pockets instead of paying big energy corporations.
    Of course the only reason the UK has nuclear power stations is to maintain its nuclear arms industry with technical expertise. As soon as the UK decided to replace its Trident nuclear weapons of mass murder, nuclear power was back on the agenda.
    The cost of Trident is projected to be £205bn (US$283bn). That’s enough to provide 41 million homes with PV & Batteries, so add on the cost of Hinkley and that’s 45 million homes.
    The thing is – there’s only 25 million homes in the UK.
    Today, in the middle of winter, wind power is providing more electricity than *all* of the UK’s nuke power stations. So if you have large-scale wind (with battery storage) plus small-scale home solar PV with battery storage, we could power 80-90% of the UK’s electricity needs from those two sources alone. The rest being made up of tidal lagoons, wave power, pumped storage, hydro etc
    http://gridwatch.templar.co.uk/index.php

    • earl Says:

      correction… “It would also leave about £2.4bn a year, in those people’s pockets instead of paying big energy corporations.” (not £24bn)

  8. Canman Says:

    Here’s an interesting factoid. When fossil fuels are separated into coal, gas and other, nuclear is the European Union’s largest source of electricity:

    https://www.carbonbrief.org/eu-got-less-electricity-from-coal-than-renewables-2017

    Nuclear number one
    While renewables rise and coal falls precipitously, one relatively constant feature of the EU’s power sector has been nuclear. In 2017, it was once again the single-largest source of electricity, generating 25.6% of the bloc’s power, as the chart below shows.

    • Gingerbaker Says:

      Existent nuclear power plants should be run as long as they are safe and not more expensive than building new RE. But new nuclear does not appear to have a future outside of China.

      If anybody is going to breathe new life into nuclear, it will surely be the Chinese?

  9. J4Zonian Says:

    What the rational crowd understands is that some people have surrendered to nukes as the only way to get the irrational, motivated-reasoning climate denying delayalists to get on board and recognize the reality of climate catastrophe. A bribe. (Research supports the idea that when nukes are suggested as a solution some deniers are miraculously converted into sane people–at least on that one issue.) Of course the nuke industry and trolls have jumped on the news of those few ecologically aware people’s surrender as somehow proving something about nukes (cherry picking, false experts, appeal to authority…).

    Nukes are slow, expensive, carbon-intensive, water-intensive, polluting, anti-democratic, anti-egalitarian terrorist bait (including state terrorists like the ones running the US). The nukes that are claimed not to be those things don’t exist! so there’s no way to be sure they’re not all of them at an even higher price, and every reason to believe they will be all those things at higher cost. It’s amazing to me that after TMI, Browns Ferry, Hanford, multiple scandals, tritium leaks, hundreds of near-misses (and yes, military and civilian nukes are inextricably intertwined, as the US refusal to let anyone we don’t like have either one shows) Chernobyl, Fukushima… Holy shit, how many time does it have to happen and in how many new ways before nukes shdillps (shills and/or dupes) admit it’s insane to keep building them?

    You want more accidents? Build more nukes. You want fewer accidents? Provide the world’s power with clean safe renewable energy. We’re already closer to it with renewables, since they provide more power than nukes in the US, China (wind alone provides more there), Scandinavia, Europe, and most other countries, as well as the world. Does it make more sense to pick the dangerous, unpopular, expensive way that won’t work in a world with more conflict and less water and that will make that world worse by increasing inequality and fascism, or to pick the cheaper, faster, cleaner, more democratic, more ecologic source?

    Hansen and others picked their spot on nukes (out of their area of expertise) without knowing that the technological and cost developments of solar, wind, batteries and other renewable infrastructure that have now happened were inevitable, (as are their continuation) and apparently without knowing the many techniques to fit intermittent demand to supply and vice versa. The combined use of dispatchable and variable renewable resources, storage, efficiency, WWII-style conservation, wiser lives, demand management, clothesline paradox energies with storage, and other techniques can supply all the energy humanity needs. Yet another study saying so just came out yesterday if I can remember that long ago–a response from Jacobson to those who doubt his thesis. Modeling the world in 20 regions, for 5 years at 30 second intervals, Jacobson has again showed it’s possible to power the world with renewable energy. It could be done even faster than he suggests if we got sane and treated this crisis with the seriousness it demands.
    https://news.stanford.edu/2018/02/08/avoiding-blackouts-100-renewable-energy/

    https://cleantechnica.com/2018/02/08/new-jacobson-study-draws-road-map-100-renewable-energy/

    • Gingerbaker Says:

      “What the rational crowd understands is that some people have surrendered to nukes as the only way to get the irrational, motivated-reasoning climate denying delayalists to get on board and recognize the reality of climate catastrophe. A bribe.”

      There is another way to get them on board. Show their greedy little hearts how much money they will put into their pockets every year when they are not paying through the nose for fossil fuels.

      • J4Zonian Says:

        Unfortunately, I don’t know of any research that shows that climate denying delayalists respond to that kind of rationality. And i certainly have many years of personal experience that proves they don’t. The things that convince many denying delayalists are saying that 1. market solutions, and 2. nukes, will solve the problem. Then suddenly they can be convinced climate catastrophe exists.

        But there are no market solutions. The only market we have in the world outside of farmers’ markets, is the corporate-oligarchy controlled market of capitalism, and since that’s the proximal cause of the crisis, or at least the main tool used by Wetiko-diseased people to cause the crisis, trying to sell it as anything but a problem is ridiculous.

        The main obstacle to moving forward on needed actions is not the less than 30% of USers who are disengaged, doubtful, or dismissive of climate cataclysm, probably half of whom could be convinced to support action if they finally started to get truthful information.

        http://climatecommunication.yale.edu/about/projects/global-warmings-six-americas/

        The main obstacles are the money and power held by the small fraction of a percent who are utterly determined to hang onto it, the gerrymandered US and state Republican majority, the unfair distribution of power to small red states, (the 21 smallest states have an absolutely flabbergasting 42-2 advantage in US Senators compared to the same number of people in California–one of the most progressive states in the country and the one that has led the way on energy, ecological and climate action. New York, another progressive state with almost as many people, suffers the same disadvantage and is also doing pretty well on energy and climate. Give just those 2 states (and even Texas, with its progressive enclaves and growing solar and wind industry) the representation they deserve and even with the fossil and fissile fuel and agrochemical money stranglehold, the US would have universal health care, a living wage, universal retirement, and a sane climate policy. The constant Middle East Wars would probably never have happened, along with the September 2001 attacks and the last 17 years of ever-enlarging encroachment on nature, rights, freedom, safety, happiness and almost everything else worth having. Ah, well, no big deal. And no reason to change anything now…

        • dumboldguy Says:

          Excellent rant, Jeffy! Do you feel any better? My favorite parts, and they bear repeating:

          “But there are no market solutions. The only market we have in the world outside of farmers’ markets, is the corporate-oligarchy controlled market of capitalism, and since that’s the proximal cause of the crisis, or at least the main tool used by Wetiko-diseased people to cause the crisis, trying to sell it as anything but a problem is ridiculous.”

          “The main obstacles are the money and power held by the small fraction of a percent who are utterly determined to hang onto it…”

    • dumboldguy Says:

      Jeffy is frothing at the mouth here.

      “You want more accidents? Build more nukes”
      “Hansen and others picked their spot on nukes (out of their area of expertise)”

      Sorry, Jeffy, but Hansen and the others ARE more than “expert” enough to have made a rational argument for nukes.

      And as far as “accidents” go, more people die in one day from air pollution in China than have died from all the nuclear accidents that have ever occurred since the beginning. Some figures on excess deaths attributed to air pollution.

      China: 4400 per day, 1.6 million per year
      U.S.: 200,00 year
      World: Latest 9 million per year, was only 4 or 5 million just a few years ago

      I am old enough to remember the London Killer Fog of 1952, which lasted 5 days and is blamed for the deaths of 12,000 people. Scary then and still a problem in China and South Asia.

      But then again, let’s look at it from the viewpoint of folks like Pruitt—-a little warming, more air pollution, and more CO2 are good for the planet. Yep, all those excess deaths help hold the human population down, and the planet is getting overcrowded with poor people anyway.

  10. PeterVermont Says:

    I know this thread is gettign long in the tooth but wished to mention two promising corporations utilizing aneutronic fusion.

    The first is LPPFusion, formerly, Lawrenceville Plasma Physics heaced by Dr. Eric Lerner. They have a dense plasma focus device.

    They recently published in AIP Physics of Plasmas about creatign a peak ion energy of 240keV which is equivalent to 2.5 billion degrees. They note “Technical note on ion energy and temperature. Researchers use the term “mean ion energy” to describe how hot fusion plasma are. To physicists, the term “temperature” only applies to objects near equilibrium, which does not always describe rapidly-changing fusion plasmas. However, a mean ion energy of 1 keV is equivalent to a temperature of 11 million degrees C.”

    LPPFusion is currently doing crowdfunding equity investment: https://wefunder.com/lppfusion

    A second promising company is Unified Gravity Corporation, http://www.unifiedgravity.com/, which report lithium-proton aneutronic fusion. They have dumbed down their website to not have much information because they are trying to keep a low profile but their patent, granted in March 2017, is very interesting and easy to read: https://patents.google.com/patent/EP3000112B1/en?q=unifiedgravity&oq=unifiedgravity

    The patent reports a Q value (ratio of energy out to input) in the THOUSANDS. They purport to have found an very low energy frequency that allows protons to fuse with lithium — only 226eV.

    I personally think that Unified Gravity Corporation is more likely to have stumbled upon highly efficient Low Energy Nuclear Reaction (LENR) (sanitized successor to Cold Fusion) since many LENR reactions involve lithium.

    An older, more informative version of their website can be found on the web.archive.org: https://web.archive.org/web/20170717204854/http://www.unifiedgravity.com:80/


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