I’m almost weary of blogging about nuclear power. But others are still going strong. Take the Globe and Mail’s Doug Saunders, who writes this week that we shouldn’t even think of abandoning the technology. Such enthusiasm is particularly curious because he glosses over the Achilles heel of nukes — the cost — and Canada has one of the most expensive varieties of nuclear reactors around.

I can only assume that Saunders hasn’t done enough research, because if he had he would never come to conclusions such as this:

It may be possible in Europe and North America to talk about reducing consumer demand for electricity and using alternatives instead of nukes. But none of that applies in Asia, Africa or South America, where the most pressing demand in the next two decades will be to turn three billion poor or impoverished people into energy consumers – ideally, high-efficiency, low-waste consumers, but certainly people able to have street lighting and refrigerators.

To do this without nuclear power would either be ecologically catastrophic, because it would rely on more coal-fired generation than the world has seen, or murderously inhumane, because it would raise energy prices to levels that would keep people in terrible poverty.

The fact is, it is trying to build nuclear reactors that would “would keep people in terrible poverty.” The ever-rising costs of nukes is not a secret. I and many others have written about them ad nauseum. They are so pricey, and the economics so uncertain, that no private-sector financing can be found. Gas-fired plants, whatever their merits, are cheaper. Coal is cheaper. Wind is cheaper, and there are conditions that make solar power cheaper. Yes, I know that sounds crazy, but it’s true. Granted, solar PV doesn’t supply a base-load supply, but solar thermal can.

Why on Earth would you ask anyone, let alone a developing nation, to turn to the most expensive form of power generation when there are cheaper alternatives?

Saunders also makes the inaccurate assumption that only nuclear offers the appropriate combination of low-carbon and practical electricity. But as has been made abundantly clear, we can’t wait for all those mythical new nukes to come online. If we are genuinely concerned about reducing greenhouse-gas emissions, we have to replace fossil-fuel plants with zero-carbon source of electricity much faster than we can realistically expect to build nuclear reactors.

This isn’t just the opinion of dyed-in-the-wool environmentalists. Take the analysis of one Alan Madian, a senior adviser to The Brattle Group, an economics think tank on which dozens of major corporations and countries rely for evidence-based advice. Madian writes in a recent report:

Given the length of time it takes to license and build nuclear plants and the limited near-term capacity, nuclear generation cannot be expected to contribute significantly to U.S. carbon emission reduction goals prior to 2030 except by life extension and capacity expansion of existing plants.

If we haven’t begun to reduce emissions, not just cap them, by 2030, we might as well start pouring trillions into geoengineering and adaptation schemes because there will be no other options available.

All this is so obvious that it is surprising how tenacious is the idea that we need to expand nuclear power. Now, one can argue that we shouldn’t shut down existing nukes. Most of the carbon emissions and the bulk of the cost come with construction, so they should be allowed to continue to supply power for as long as they can be safely run. Maybe that’s what Saunders is trying to say, but if so, he should be more explicit.

As for George Monbiot’s much heralded recent embrace of nuclear power, despite the financial and climate challenged, I am entirely baffled. He writes:

I have not gone nuclear. But, as long as the following four conditions are met, I will no longer oppose atomic energy.

1. Its total emissions – from mine to dump – are taken into account, and demonstrate that it is a genuinely low-carbon option.

2. We know exactly how and where the waste is to be buried.

3. We know how much this will cost and who will pay.

4. There is a legal guarantee that no civil nuclear materials will be diverted for military purposes.

Yes, well, this is a bit disingenuous, isn’t it? Nuclear power’s carbon emissions aren’t zero but pretty low, so that’s not really an issue. But we’re nowhere near agreeing (in the US or UK) on where to put the waste, costs remain undefined but are certainly daunting. And as for legal guarantees to prevent military diversion, now we’re into the realm of wishful thinking and pure speculation.

There are forms of nuclear power that, in theory, can meet Monbiot’s four conditions. Thorium reactors, for example. But again, they are at least a couple of decades away, as no one has actually built one yet — not even a test reactor. So is Monbiot trying to have his cake and eat it, too? All he’s doing is muddying the waters.

On a side note, it seems to be fashionable for veteran environmentalists to declare that they have grown up and now accept the logic of nuclear power — distancing themselves from the naivete of their youth (Steward Brand, I’m talking about you). But it’s just as likely that they been worn down by relentless propaganda from nuclear power supporters. As Joe Romm puts it, more or less, there never was and never will be a nuclear renaissance. Get over it, folks.

Comments

  1. #1 D. C. Sessions
    March 23, 2011

    Discussing nukes in the developing world is different in another way from nukes in the developed world: the developed world has already built out the distribution networks for centralized power generation, but that’s not so in developing regions.

    Which means that there’s an added cost premium to them for using centralized vs. distributed generation.

  2. #2 Birger Johansson
    March 23, 2011

    (Yes, I agree that the bulk of the investments must be for renewables)

    Is there any way to reduce unit cost by serial production of hardware -I am aware that reactors may weigh several hundred tons, but a big Antonov can carry ca. 220 tons in one go.
    I am mainly thinking of smaller powerplants for already industrialised countries, whose old nuke and coal plants are becoming obsolete, in such regions where carbon sequestration in sediments is an unsuitable approach to reduce the carbon dioxide production.

    To prolong life of the nuclear powerplants maybe we need modular sets of heat exchange pipes that can be easily replaced, since this is the part that suffers most wear.

  3. #3 Left_Wing_Fox
    March 23, 2011

    D.C. That’s an excellent point. There is a major boom in cellular phone use in Africa, driven partly by the fact that the network is easier to install compared to land-lines. The combination of wind and PV can power villages without requiring inefficient long-range transmission infrastructure.

    Greg also has a video directly refuting points 2 and 3 when it comes to Uranium mining in Niger: http://scienceblogs.com/gregladen/2011/03/nuclear_fuel_mining_in_niger.php

    I.e. the waste fron the reactors we may know about, the waste from the mining is often done in areas with little to no oversight, and no incentive to put money back into making the system as safe as the reactors are.

  4. #4 maxwell
    March 23, 2011

    You know, when this blog first launched, it was marketed as a venue to explore the latest and greatest environmental research in order to inform readers on what science said and did not say.

    Yet here we are completely speculating on whether or not 2030 is ‘too late’ with respect to ‘dangerous climate change’. What research definitely supports such a conclusion?

    More importantly, this narrative of ‘dangerous climate change’ was the focal point of Island of Doubt, the blog Class M was supposedly replacing in tone and focus.

    Funny how much things change and yet remain the same.

  5. #5 Nomen Nescio
    March 23, 2011

    Coal is cheaper.

    only because nobody bothers to account for the externalities of the exhausts and waste produced. wrecking our planetary climate IS NOT CHEAP, dammit. but hey, if that’s the main argument for not building nuke plants — at least *i* don’t live near sea level, so go right ahead…

  6. #6 Wow
    March 23, 2011

    ” Coal is cheaper.

    only because nobody bothers to account for the externalities ”

    No, it’s cheaper than nuclear.

    Where, oddly enough, the externalities are also unaccounted for.

  7. #7 Nomen Nescio
    March 23, 2011

    yes, please do account for the externalities — including climate change, if you would — of both coal and nuclear power industries. i’ll be interested to see what other excuse you come up with for still not building nuclear power, and have every confidence you’ll find SOME stupid reason to burn more coal instead. and please understand, in this i am not accusing you specifically of anything the vast majority of the population is not equally guilty of.

    (i am resigned to the fact that we WILL burn more coal, this is a political inevitability and was even before Fukushima. and it will wreck our climate, we no longer have the time left to prevent that. i’m just easing myself into my inevitable role as the curmudgeon going “i told you so!” for the rest of my days. feel free to ignore me if this annoys you too much — pretty soon we’ll both be too busy coping with the consequences of climate change to snipe at each other, anyway.)

  8. #8 Eric Lund
    March 23, 2011

    NN @5: Even granting your point about unpriced externalities in coal as a fuel (with which I agree), that doesn’t change the arguments. The cost of going from site selection to operating plant is much cheaper (and significantly faster) for coal than for nuclear, and that is the reason very little nuclear capacity has been started in the US in the last 30 years. Building a nuclear power plant carries a significant risk of bankrupting your utility company; this happened at least twice (WPPSS and PSNH) in the US in the 1980s. I’m not aware of anyone in the last 50 years going broke in the attempt to build a coal-fired plant in the developed world.

    Properly pricing the externalities of burning coal will mean that you will have to charge more per kWh, but at least you get to generate those kWh of electricity. And that’s what the people who provide financing for your plant want to happen, so that’s why they’ll lend you money to build the coal-fired plant but not the nuclear plant (at least not at the same interest rate).

  9. #9 Alex Besogonov
    March 23, 2011

    “The fact is, it is trying to build nuclear reactors that would “would keep people in terrible poverty.” The ever-rising costs of nukes is not a secret.”

    Sure. As it’s not a secret that fossil fuels are rising much faster. As for solar and wind – they won’t ever replace more than 50% of our total energy generation.

    And right now nuclear is the ONLY cheap AND CLEAN power source. Solar power might be one day competitive and wind power is borderline competitive.

    And there’s a little secret that novel reactor designs can bring cost waaaaaay down. How about that?

    So, in my opinion we should shoot the hippies and use them for biogas production. This way we’ll kill two birds with a single bullet.

  10. #10 lyle
    March 23, 2011

    To boot in states where electric de-control a generator would have to sell the power to some retail utility under a long term contract before starting a plant. No retail utility would be so stupid as to buy such a pig in a poke. If you don’t have a contract, no construction loan except from the feds in the US. Recall that this was one of the hang ups in getting the cape wind project, you needed to have the power sold to get the loans to build the project.

  11. #11 daedalus2u
    March 23, 2011

    The question is who gets kept in terrible poverty? Not the people making the decisions. The “leaders” will get bought off to borrow the money from the World Bank to build a nuclear power plant even if it does indenture their citizens for the next century.

  12. #12 Foggg
    March 23, 2011

    Umm… the author seems to be unaware that existing CANDU reactors can use thorium.
    The post must be talking about liquid thorium fuel reactors, which do not yet exist.

  13. #13 OgreMkV
    March 23, 2011

    Alex says: “As for solar and wind – they won’t ever replace more than 50% of our total energy generation.”

    Why?

    Sorry, but I don’t believe you. If you have peer-reviewed data that supports that, then link to it, because I haven’t seen it.

    I have seen peer-reviewed research that distributed wind on a smart gird CAN provide base-load power. Solar thermal plants CAN provide base load power.

    If you compare the actual cost of building a nuclear plant to the amount of energy produced, wind can produce the same, if not slightly more electricity, than a nuclear plant for the same amount of money (and the entire farm can be built in a year, not 6-16 years it takes to build a nuke plant (http://ogremk5.wordpress.com/2011/03/14/why-i-prefer-wind-to-nuclear/).

  14. #14 Alex Besogonov
    March 23, 2011

    “Why?
    Sorry, but I don’t believe you. If you have peer-reviewed data that supports that, then link to it, because I haven’t seen it.”

    Because of their capacity factor, onshore wind power is just too unreliable. Looks like 40-50% is the practical maximum for the wind power, unless you have very efficient buffering storage.

    “I have seen peer-reviewed research that distributed wind on a smart gird CAN provide base-load power. Solar thermal plants CAN provide base load power.”

    And where’s this ‘smart grid’? Right now it’s only a concept, even more distant from reality than the latest generations of nuclear reactors.

    “If you compare the actual cost of building a nuclear plant to the amount of energy produced, wind can produce the same, if not slightly more electricity, than a nuclear plant for the same amount of money ”

    Nope. The capacity factor for wind turbines is 0.2, which means you have to have about 5 times MORE turbines when their nominal power to serve for baseline capacity. I guess wind power proponents conveniently ‘forget’ to tell about this, right?

    Spain has already hit this problem, they have a widely fluctuating wind power supply (it supplies from 10% to 45% of power) which they have to balance with hydroelectric power. And they still use nuclear+fossils to provide the baseline.

    Here’s a nice graph for you: https://demanda.ree.es/demanda.html Look at the peak consumption on March 10 and today.

    On March 10 wind could provide only 10% of power and today it provided more than 40%. Guess what would happen if Spain used only wind + hydro?

  15. #15 Nomen Nescio
    March 23, 2011

    I have seen peer-reviewed research that distributed wind on a smart gird CAN provide base-load power.

    that’d be great, if we had a smart grid. and could convince enough landholders / neighbors / backyard-owners to let us build distributed wind farms within their sight and hearing.

  16. #16 MikeB
    March 23, 2011

    Monbiot’s latest article amazed me for the amount of strawmen he managed to conjure up and then dispatch. Since nobody (apart from possibly two people he met at a demo who like living in the Upper Neolithic) wants to dismantle the grid (whatever the replies to his article might say), its a little strange to bring this up.

    The line ‘Some greens have wildly exaggerated the dangers of radioactive pollution’ looks a little smug when parents in Tokyo have just been warned not to give their babies water from the city supply because it might be contaminated. I’m sure the danger is minimal, but its hardly likely to put the public’s mind at ease. The whole ‘solar is a waste of time’ thing has been done to death, and equating decentralising the grid with mass starvation is just silly.

    Its not the first time that Monbiot has got his arguement ahead of the facts. Back in 2008 he wrote an article pushing airships as an alternative to jets. Alas he didn’t bother to find out why airships stopped being used, although googling ‘Akron’, Shenandoah, Macon and R101 might have helped.

    Why do we continue with nuclear? Its because nuclear is so deeply buried within the public and political elites DNA, its almost impossible to get rid of it.

    Every countries first nuclear reactor was built via its government, for military,economic and prestige reasons. The US Energy Dept started as the Atomic Energy Commission, and around the world, going nuclear was a political decision, using government money, and often used by the government-run utility. Its the government who pays for insurance, and often takes care of disposal of waste as well. In essence, there is a nuclear lobby or even a mind set at the heart of most governments energy policy.

    This was certainly helped by the energy problems of the 1970′s, and you see why France and Japan (two counties with limited fossil fuel resources) embraced nuclear even more enthusiasitically. Its just something of a mystery why they continue to do so, if you consider the downsides of nuclear (this article http://e360.yale.edu/feature/japans_once-powerful_nuclear_industry_is_under_siege/2383/ may help understand why).

    The other thing about nuclear is its attraction to politicians. They love the fact that it is ‘big’, its high tech, and seemingly clean. The workers are highly trained and well paid, and may offer a political anchor as well (such as at Sellafield). A big technology which offers jobs is often remote places, which is supposedly reliable and does not rely on imports from the Middle East is highly desirable to a minister who wants to be seen as virile. PV and windmills are a little too treehugger for most political hacks.

    The industry is excellent at making friends in government, and with other industries. The firms involved in construction and operation are powerful and make the case for nuclear constantly, and appealing to the need for a reliable, clean source of power is always going to find friends. Its made itself the energy source for ‘Very Serious People’, as opposed to PV, wind, etc. That’s simply not going to be enough we’re told, and that if we don’t have nuclear, then we will all freeze to death in the dark. Its nonsense, but its a powerful message to politicians, civil servants and the media.

    The downsides? They can be explained away as past mistakes (which we’ve learned from), it couldn’t happen here (and if it does, its just a one off), radioactivity really is safe, money is not the only issue – its about reliablity, etc.

    Without its sugar daddies, nuclear would have gone long ago. Its time to cut off the cash, and see how it survives on its own. Judging by the WSJ today (‘Crisis to Complicate Funding for U.S. Reactors ‘), its not doing so good.

  17. #17 Ivar Husa
    March 23, 2011

    Coal power claims many lives every year, in the mines and at RR crossings. Nuclear? No lives lost. It is too early to tell about Japan’s ultimate “loss of life” attributable to the nuclear power plants, because it takes decades for cancers to develope, on average. Relative to the tsunami? Insignificant. Nuclear power justifies itself on safety alone, let alone concerns over carbon emissions.

  18. #18 Vince whirlwind
    March 23, 2011

    “lives lost” is the metric in use is it?

    How about “towns and villages evacuated and abandoned”? On that metric, Nuclear leads by about 181 to NIL.

    Anyway, as *I*’ve always said – let them build nuclear power plants so long as they can get free-market, unsubsidised, private insurance.

    The fact that no insurer will touch nuclear without massive government intervention speaks for itself: not safe enough to insure? Not economic.

  19. #19 Nomen Nescio
    March 23, 2011

    How about “towns and villages evacuated and abandoned”?

    https://secure.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/wiki/Kingston_Fossil_Plant_coal_fly_ash_slurry_spill

    you don’t have to like nuclear power. you can even hate it, if you wish. just please, PLEASE quit pretending coal is innocuous — even comparatively, it is not.

  20. #20 Rob
    March 23, 2011

    How about “towns and villages evacuated and abandoned”? On that metric, Nuclear leads by about 181 to NIL.

    Nil? Maybe if all you’re counting is wind. Towns have been flooded for dams. Coal tar contaminating the water supply for towns.

  21. #21 Alex Besogonov
    March 24, 2011

    “The fact that no insurer will touch nuclear without massive government intervention speaks for itself: not safe enough to insure? Not economic.”

    Yeah. And solar with wind live happily without government subsidies, right?

    Stop being hypocrite.

  22. #22 Wow
    March 24, 2011

    “Yeah. And solar with wind live happily without government subsidies, right?”

    Yeah, it will.

    It’s being subsidised to increase take-up, not to make work. renewables have been economically used for decades.

  23. #23 Wow
    March 24, 2011

    “that’d be great, if we had a smart grid. and could convince enough landholders / neighbors / backyard-owners to let us build distributed wind farms within their sight and hearing.”

    Smart grids are being built. Are you saying that because we don’t have one yet, it’s not possible to build one?

    We never had a sewer system once, either.

    And we’ve got plenty of landowners and farmers (who can use the wasted space on the corners of land as free income to wind turbines.

    And building any infrastructure will be within the sight and hearing of someone, so why is avoiding that necessary for renewables?

  24. #24 Wow
    March 24, 2011

    “Because of their capacity factor, onshore wind power is just too unreliable. Looks like 40-50% is the practical maximum for the wind power, unless you have very efficient buffering storage.”

    Nuclear power gets about 67% capacity factor. Coal fired power stations don’t fare any better.

    I guess we can’t use them for baseload either.

    Plus, please check the load vs supply. It’s a much better fit to renewables than it is to “baseload” nuclear or coal, therefore you don’t have a surfeit of energy you have to sell cheaply to get people to use it at night.

    Better load matching makes the 40-50% figure a non problem because demand capacity is around that.

  25. #25 James Hrynyshyn
    March 24, 2011

    Fogg @12: thanks, yes. I was referring to liquid thorium reactors, which, if they make economic sense, offer enormous advantages of U-235 or U-238 fission, in terms of supply, waste, and proliferation. The science is straightforward. But that’s what they said about atomic energy in the 50s.

    Thanks also to all the commenters. I’m impressed with the caliber of this discussion. Maybe I should post about nuclear energy more often.

  26. #26 Alex Besogonov
    March 24, 2011

    “Nuclear power gets about 67% capacity factor. Coal fired power stations don’t fare any better.”

    70% is much better than 20%, and yes it’s also a problem. But it’s easier to compensate.

    I’m not saying that 100% wind power is impossible. It’s surely possible, just not feasible in practice on large scales.

  27. #27 Alex Besogonov
    March 24, 2011

    “Better load matching makes the 40-50% figure a non problem because demand capacity is around that.”

    So, should we run street lamps during days because it just happens that wind is particularly strong?

  28. #28 MikeB
    March 24, 2011

    Re #26 – Who said that anyone wants 100% wind power? In reality its going to be a buffet. Wind where you can, solar if possible, low impact tide and wave. Add to that energy recovery from existing large users and devolved power sources from biogas, etc all linked to a smart grid and your getting somewhere. And if we work hard on the demand side….

    If nuclear wants to be part of the mix, then try it, but without the large subsidies that the industry has enjoyed since the 1950′s. In other words – compete.

  29. #29 Alex Besogonov
    March 24, 2011

    “Re #26 – Who said that anyone wants 100% wind power? In reality its going to be a buffet. Wind where you can, solar if possible, low impact tide and wave.”

    Only solar is more-or-less feasible for large installations. And so far it’s even worse than the wind power.

    ” Add to that energy recovery from existing large users and devolved power sources from biogas, etc all linked to a smart grid and your getting somewhere. And if we work hard on the demand side….”

    Demand WILL grow. Mostly due to increased energy demands from growing economies. In fact, the global energy demand grows faster than the total installed alternative energy capacity.

    So any kind of wishful thinking (like here: ) that we can reduce our global demand to phase out nuclear power is just stupid.

    Right now we have two choices:
    1) Abandon nuclear power.
    2) Abandon CO2 emissions reduction.

    “If nuclear wants to be part of the mix, then try it, but without the large subsidies that the industry has enjoyed since the 1950′s. In other words – compete.”

    So should we withdraw subsidies from alternative energy sources?

  30. #30 Nomen Nescio
    March 24, 2011

    demands to withdraw subsidies appeal to populist sympathies, but it’s not clear that it’s a smart idea.

    we subsidize things we collectively find important to have around. true, we end up subsidizing lots of pointless and wasteful things, but this for the exact same reason we make any other mistake politically — the pointless and wasteful can also build up politically significant interest groups and lobbying corps. nothing we do that is of political significance is proof against such wastefulness.

    it sounds appealing to withdraw subsidies from the agricultural business, but it’s worth remembering that for all the wasteful stupidity of big agribusiness, those subsidies were originally put in place because we as a society did not wish to starve. similarly, we subsidize the energy business because that is fundamentally better than freezing in the dark.

    yes, we may end up freezing and starving in the dark anyway — nothing we can do is ever foolproof. politics and finance certainly aren’t, as enron and ethanol-added gasoline both prove. but by the same measure, getting rid of subsidies isn’t any more proof against such stupidity, and it’s not at all clear that these strategically important infrastructure fields would be any less wasteful and stupid if we stopped subsidizing them. they generally weren’t before getting subsidized, after all, that’s usually why we started doing so.

    we can argue about what kinds of energy projects to subsidize, certainly. but arguing that we shouldn’t subsidize energy at all is (1) political daydreaming that just plain won’t happen, and (2) it’s a good thing it won’t happen because we’d very likely run an even greater risk of freezing in the dark if it did. does anyone really think unsubsidized solar and wind power industries would be run any more wisely or benevolently than unsubsidized coal and nuclear…?

    besides, at this point every cent of energy subsidies not going to nuclear ends up going to coal instead. and it should be clear how intensely this pseudonymous commentator loathes coal power, i trust.

  31. #31 MikeB
    March 24, 2011

    Nuclear has enjoyed subsidies for years, and still enjoys them, but even with the government offering to pay 80% of costs (if you read the articles James linked to), there are basically still no takers.

    On the other hand, in other news – “Before maybe the end of this decade, I see wind and solar being cost-competitive without subsidy with new fossil fuel,” Chu told an event at the Pew Charitable Trusts.

    “So the country and the companies who develop those renewable energy and resources that become cost competitive without subsidy all of a sudden have a world market. And, boy, we can’t lose that world market,” he said.’

    We back alternatives at the moment because they are relatively new technologies, in much the same way that cars, electricity, aircraft and nuclear power were in their early days. Nuclear isn’t new any more. If even bribing people isn’t enough to make them want to invest in nuclear, then why waste money on it? If nukes are so good, then say goodbye to subsidy and compete. Seemingly wind and solar will be able to within a decade. Can the same be said of nuclear? Probably not.

  32. #32 Wow
    March 25, 2011

    “we subsidize things we collectively find important to have around. true, we end up subsidizing lots of pointless and wasteful things,”

    Yes, this is why we don’t want to subsidise fossil fuels or nuclear power any more.

    “but it’s worth remembering that for all the wasteful stupidity of big agribusiness, those subsidies were originally put in place because we as a society did not wish to starve.”

    It’s also worth remembering that we dump the food we produce below cost. Starving is NOT a problem and causes waste.

    See again my earlier comment.

    “but arguing that we shouldn’t subsidize energy at all is ”

    a strawman.

    Sorry, you seemed to miss that one out and gave two examples of what it isn’t.

    “besides, at this point every cent of energy subsidies not going to nuclear ends up going to coal instead.”

    Why? Why not to renewables? Are they not getting any money?

    This is a boheyman statement saying effectively “give me your money or the little dog gets it”. A shibboleth that marks you a nuclear supporter through and through.

  33. #33 Wow
    March 25, 2011

    “Demand WILL grow. Mostly due to increased energy demands from growing economies.”

    Really?

    When finland uses 1/4 or less the energy the average USian does (despite more darkness during the working day and colder temperatures withal), why is it impossible that demand can’t fall?

    Oh, I know. Your statement is bullshit. You just made it up.

  34. #34 Wow
    March 25, 2011

    “So, should we run street lamps during days because it just happens that wind is particularly strong?”

    No.

    I see why you think nuclear is so good if your brain is this bad.

    “70% is much better than 20%, and yes it’s also a problem. But it’s easier to compensate.”

    Indeed, 70% is better than 20%. However, renewables are at 40-50%. Which is also better than 20%.

    And, since when demand is 50% of average your power is 2/7ths wasted if you run inefficient nuclear, 70% is worse than 50% too.

    Truly your intellect knows no bounds. The null set usually does.

  35. #35 Nomen Nescio
    March 25, 2011

    Finland is not a growing, third-world economy. nor, to the best of my knowledge, is energy demand in that country falling. the point? whizzing past your head at high altitude.

    that seems a general problem with you, too; you’re talking pie-in-the-sky maybes and technological perhapses, while i try to tell you that — theoretically possible or not — such things are politically infeasible. it doesn’t matter what wind and solar might hypothetically do, unless you get the political impetus behind them — and you don’t have that. work on lobbying, first, because it’ll take longer than solving the technological problems anyway.

    good luck. i mean that sincerely; i’d LOVE for pretty much any other power generating technology to win out over coal. but so long as you keep touting the deliciousness of your pie in the sky instead of gathering funds, arranging financing, and lobbying decisionmakers it just won’t happen.

    about the only “alternative” power champions who seem to understand this are us nuke supporters — ayup, i am, and proud of it — and WE don’t have much of a chance either, for purely political reasons which we at least try to address but lack the clout to swing. the merely technological issues with nuclear power are long solved; the NIMBY and nuke-hysteria problems are by far the harder ones.

    talking about reducing demand, for instance, achieves nothing but to prove you don’t understand what the politics are like. actually reducing demand would take, probably quite literally, a declaration of world war — and that’s not forthcoming. yeah, be nice if everybody would just suddenly decide to use less power. THEY WON’T. be nice if people drove less and used public transit more, too. folks keep saying, if gasoline prices hit magical-level-X that might happen. IT DOESN’T. this is practical and political fact; deal with it.

    shutting down powerplants, German style, can only result in one of two things: more powerplants firing up somewhere else (is Germany importing electricity on net, and if so, from where? or are they simply, as i suspect, burning more coal?) or rolling blackouts. once the latter hit, watch your pie in the sky get shouted down by the demands to fire up some serious power, right then. what you won’t see happening is demand reducing to match the supply-side restrictions; that doesn’t work in economics and it doesn’t work in politics either.

  36. #36 Wow
    March 25, 2011

    “Finland is not a growing, third-world economy.”

    Indeed not.

    Neither is the USA. In tables of affluence, health and other indicators of advancement, the USA lags behind Finland.

    So why can’t USA reduce their power requirements?

    Demand would decrease then.

    “you’re talking pie-in-the-sky maybes and technological perhapses”

    Nope, you and your coworkers are doing that.

    “Demand will increase” is a statement about the future. The future, at least in this reality, hasn’t happened yet. However, Finland using less than 1/4 USA power per head despite apparent need being higher AND being more advanced is an actual factual truth here and now.

    I’m throwing softballs at you, but you duck so they whoosh past your head.

    “shutting down powerplants, German style, can only result in one of two things: more powerplants firing up somewhere else”

    So what? windfarms are powerplants and will be “somewhere else”.

    So I don’t see why this is a CO2 production problem in shutting down plants, German style.

    “Oh noes, we’ll have to use wind power!” doesn’t seem to be a reality anyone other than an idealist would care about. Your toast won’t turn green if the electricity is from green power sources, you know.

    “is Germany importing electricity on net, and if so, from where?”

    Denmark. Who produce power from renewables.

    “or are they simply, as i suspect, burning more coal?”

    Oh yes, that bogeyman again. You know that wind, tide, solar, hydro and geothermal are all power sources that don’t require burning coal, don’t you?

    “i mean that sincerely; i’d LOVE for pretty much any other power generating technology to win out over coal.”

    Then why do you make up how the only alternative is coal?

    http://www.nirs.org/climate/background/sovacool_nuclear_ghg.pdf

    And onshore wind power is cheaper than coal without the externalities.

    “but so long as you keep touting the deliciousness of your pie in the sky instead of gathering funds, arranging financing, and lobbying decisionmakers it just won’t happen.”

    Well, not as long as you and your coworkers keep making up lies about renewables being pie-in-the-sky.

    Maybe the truth is not that you WANT renewables to work, but that you’re willing to accept coal if you can use it to scare people into paying over the odds for nuclear.

    Alternatively, it could be just you don’t want renewables and if you can’t have coal, you’ll take nuclear.

  37. #37 Nomen Nescio
    March 25, 2011

    “i mean that sincerely; i’d LOVE for pretty much any other power generating technology to win out over coal.”

    Then why do you make up how the only alternative is coal?

    because i have a clue about the politics of power production. you don’t, as you keep demonstrating by your obviously misguided statements.

  38. #38 Wow
    March 25, 2011

    “because i have a clue about the politics of power production.”

    No demonstration of that. All you’ve said is that it won’t work, complained that the technology won’t work (which has nothing to do with politics, so at least now you’re admitting that you made that statement on zero knowledge), and complained that it’s nuclear or coal, which is a false dichotomy.

    “by your obviously misguided statements.”

    Excuse me?

    You stated that if you shut down power stations, it means more coal is burnt.

    I said you can use more renewables.

    No response from you, since you can’t refute the truth of that statement.

    You didn’t know where germany gets its power imports from. Denmark. Which has a huge renewables source.

    No response from you, since your screed demands that only big power is a solution so you can browbeat others into paying for unwanted nuclear power.

    You have now retreated to “I know the politics!”.

    You’ve shown no evidence about knowing what you’ve talked about so far. Why should we thing you’re now telling the truth?

  39. #39 Nomen Nescio
    March 25, 2011

    *sigh*… how about this, wow: let’s wait five or ten years and see which one of us is proven correct. wanna put a long-term bet on the line while we’re waiting, hm? trust me, i’d love to lose on that kind of bet, but i’m depressingly confident i won’t.

    (and why can i be so confident, you may wonder? because i’ve paid some damn attention over the past fifteen years, that’s why.)

  40. #40 Wow
    March 25, 2011

    “*sigh*… how about this, wow: let’s wait five or ten years and see which one of us is proven correct. ”

    How about this:

    We move to renewables and not wait.

    ?

    You know, not let the planet and future generations risk on dick measuring?

    You still haven’t managed to do anything here other than say “you HAVE to choose nuclear because there’s coal”.

    With bugger all other than your fervent hope behind it.

    PS you seem to have not paid attention to scotland getting nearly 30% of their power, France having a huge shortfall because their nuclear power stations fell over and Denmark being a net exporter of energy because of their renewable power.

    You seem only to have kept up with the latest excuses as to why renewables won’t work. Unfortunately, they have nothing other than hopeful wishes behind them.

  41. #41 Thank God For 2nd Amendment Remedies
    March 25, 2011

    government who pays for insurance
    what? haven’t you heard of ‘tort reform’ wherein we exempt only corporate lawyers from restrictions?

  42. #42 Alex Besogonov
    March 25, 2011

    Wow:

    The truth is, right now renewables are much more costly than coal AND nuclear. That’s a fact. Demand from the third-world countries is growing exponentially. That’s also a fact.

    Classic nuclear (i.e. with reactor designs from 60-s) is competitive with other energy production methods (it’s more expensive than coal but cheaper than natural gas). It’s possible to use classic nuclear power to supply almost all electric energy right now, not very cheaply or efficiently. But it will do.

    Now, clean energy advocates at this point move into ‘maybe’ territory. Maybe we can make a smart grid, maybe the price of renewables will be competitive in 10 years. You know, like fusion. Maybe we’ll all get flying cars.

    What do you think a third-world country would do RIGHT NOW? Wait 10 years for alternative energy to get cheaper, pour a lot of money into green energy subsidies or build a fossil fuel power plant?

    Besides, if we move into a ‘maybe’ territory then there are Thorium reactors, continuous burning wave reactors, pebble bed reactors (whoops, they are already real – China is building 30 of them right now) which can drastically lower the price of nuclear power.

  43. #43 OgreMkV
    March 26, 2011

    Alex, I’m sorry, you are wrong. Please cite your information that states nuclear and coal is cheaper than coal.

    Currently, a nuclear plant in Texas, planning on expansion is estimating between 10 and 20 billion dollars for a 3.4GW upgrade.

    Wind power is, at large scales, is about 1 million dollars per MW installed. $10 – $20 billion dollars in wind power will develop about 10 – 20 Gigawatts of electicity. Taking capacity facotr in, wind still develops 2 – 4 GW of electricity.

    BTW: That cost is only for the nuclear plant. If you actually want to run it, you will have to pay for fuel. I’ll assume that personnel across both facilities would be equivalent (which, they would not, with wind being much lower).

    As far as coal: In 2008, the cost was approaching 1 billion dollars for 300 Megawatts (not Gigawatts).

    Now, please explain in what way wind is more expensive than coal and nuclear. If anything, it is much cheaper than coal… even ignoring the actual cost of… well… coal. Nuclear is roughly equivalent in cost, but will take from 6 to 16 years to build.

    Oportunity cost will result in wind power being much cheaper.

  44. #44 Dunc
    March 26, 2011

    i’d LOVE for pretty much any other power generating technology to win out over coal. but so long as you keep touting the deliciousness of your pie in the sky instead of gathering funds, arranging financing, and lobbying decisionmakers it just won’t happen.

    about the only “alternative” power champions who seem to understand this are us nuke supporters

    Remind me again – how much new wind / solar capacity has been deployed in the last decade worldwide? How much new nuclear over the same time period? I think you’ll find that renewables are arranging financing and actually deploying successful projects, on time and on budget. The IAEA is projecting 73GW of new nuclear by 2020, whereas 16GW of wind was installed in just the first 6 months of 2010 – and that was with the installation rate slowing down as a result of the poor economy.

  45. #45 Wow
    March 28, 2011

    “The truth is, right now renewables are much more costly than coal AND nuclear.”

    Nope. The truth is that only solar PV is more expensive than coal and nearly as expensive as nuclear.

    Geothermal is comparatively free. Wind power can be as inexpensive, and is currently around the same cost as coal without the externalities of coal.

    “What do you think a third-world country would do RIGHT NOW? ”

    Well, they certainly can’t make a nuclear power plant, so I guess they’d do what they’re currently doing: making use of renewable power sources with the added incentive that, without the sunk cost of centralised power production infrastructure, they immediately gain from the locality of renewables.

    Just like they skipped over the copper lines of the industrial world and jumped straight to the cheaper wireless telephone network.

    “Wait 10 years for alternative energy to get cheaper,”

    They don’t have to wait ten years. It’s cheaper than nuclear now.

    “Besides, if we move into a ‘maybe’ territory then there are Thorium reactors, continuous burning wave reactors, pebble bed reactors ”

    Thorium reactors currently not built on commercial scale, currently unable to demonstrate it is feasible. PBRs are also quite unsafe in a political environment that is unstable.