Poll

How would you rate the use of nuclear power as part of a climate policy plan?

Essential to climate policy
15 (75%)
Not essential but would help
4 (20%)
Not sure
1 (5%)
Wouldn't help but wouldn't hurt
0 (0%)
Would be harmful
0 (0%)

Total Members Voted: 20

Author Topic: How would you rate the use of nuclear power as part of a climate policy plan?  (Read 706 times)

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Offline John Albert

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Re: How would you rate the use of nuclear power as part of a climate policy plan?
« Reply #30 on: September 05, 2019, 01:56:25 PM »
The other bad news is that nuclear power does not mix well with the variable generation of wind and solar. Nuclear power is mainly useful a ‘base load’ generation with constant power output.

Its constant power generation rate is precisely what makes nuclear such a good pairing with wind and solar.

Solar is nowhere near efficient enough or constant enough to meet our power needs. Li-ion batteries have decent energy density but are only really effective for short-term storage (a couple hours or so) and don't have a long enough service life to be reliable for day-in, day-out use.

Offline PatrickG

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How would you rate the use of nuclear power as part of a climate policy plan?
« Reply #31 on: September 05, 2019, 02:09:48 PM »
The other bad news is that nuclear power does not mix well with the variable generation of wind and solar. Nuclear power is mainly useful a ‘base load’ generation with constant power output.

Its constant power generation rate is precisely what makes nuclear such a good pairing with wind and solar.

Solar is nowhere near efficient enough or constant enough to meet our power needs. Li-ion batteries have decent energy density but are only really effective for short-term storage (a couple hours or so) and don't have a long enough service life to be reliable for day-in, day-out use.
A couple of hours worth of storage would make all the difference to make solar the major supplier of energy. Have a look at the reliable solar generation every day here in California. If we could save some solar power in the afternoon for use during the peak in the evening there will be a major shift. This shows the live generation and all historical data here: http://www.caiso.com/TodaysOutlook/Pages/default.aspx

The lifetime of Li-Ion batteries is estimated at ~15 years, and the replacement cost is in the LCOE. Detailed estimates of LCOE costs are for instance in this paper: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/pip.3189

If you have a scientific paper that shows that nuclear baseload + Solar + wind is great, that would be interesting to read. All info that I have shows the exact opposite.
« Last Edit: September 05, 2019, 03:03:12 PM by PatrickG »

Offline Calinthalus

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Re: How would you rate the use of nuclear power as part of a climate policy plan?
« Reply #32 on: September 05, 2019, 02:44:43 PM »
I'm not sure supply rates for California are useful in places like Maine, or Portland, or Michigan.
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Offline Alex Simmons

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Re: How would you rate the use of nuclear power as part of a climate policy plan?
« Reply #33 on: September 05, 2019, 04:37:31 PM »
Could we really not build up sufficient renewables in those same couple of decades? Or is the bigger issue that centralized power can be sold to consumers at a profit, whereas roof-top power belongs to the homeowner, and the utility has to buy it from us?
Yes, we could but domestic solar/storage would be a minor albeit significant part of the mix.

It's far more efficient to use grid scale wind and solar PV for generation and grid scale storage, both batteries for short term rapid demand fluctuation, frequency control services, and pumped hydro for longer term firming of renewable capacity.

And of course where there are other renewable sources which makes sense locally (e.g. geothermal such Iceland, or hydro like Norway, Tasmania) then by all means use those.

Add to this that renewables of solar PV and wind turbines are the only generation tech with a proven track record of costs consistently falling and they will continue to fall for quite a while yet, while pumped hydro is a well known proven reliable technology with well understood costs.

Offline stands2reason

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Re: How would you rate the use of nuclear power as part of a climate policy plan?
« Reply #34 on: September 05, 2019, 04:43:01 PM »
Nuclear power is great for CO2, but not essential for clean energy. It is just too expensive compared to the alternatives.

The other bad news is that nuclear power does not mix well with the variable generation of wind and solar. Nuclear power is mainly useful a ‘base load’ generation with constant power output. Running nuclear plants in “load following mode” is much less efficient because the cost of the fuel is insignificant compared to they high based operating costs. That makes it expensive to operate with variable output. Natural gas peaker plants seem to be the better match, and so do Li_Ion batteries for short-term peaking.

According to the EIA the LCOE (total all-in cost) of nuclear power is about 2X that on natural gas for a plant coming on-line in 2023. It will be even worse when the nuclear is forced to run in dispatchable load following mode when more solar and wind come on-line. See: https://www.eia.gov/outlooks/aeo/pdf/electricity_generation.pdf

Another LCOE analysis shows an even higher cost for nuclear compared to the alternatives: https://www.lazard.com/perspective/levelized-cost-of-energy-and-levelized-cost-of-storage-2018/

The latter pegs the LCOE cost for nuclear energy between 11 and 19 cents per kwh, vs 4-7 cents for gas CC, 4 cents for utility solar and 3-5 cents for wind.
 
A combination of solar + Li-ion batteries will be more cost-effective in places with somewhat reliable daily sun shine. The LCOE cost of that is currently 10-15 cents/kWh, but will drop in the next years.

In short: nuclear probably won’t save the world.

Takeaway: we still don't have grid storage tech. So it doesn't matter if some renewable is cheaper by some amortization logic, there has to be a generating station. Either that generating station is nuclear, or you are still using fossil fuels.

If you used amortization logic exceeding the life-time of current photovoltaics, and even wind turbines, but not the latest nuclear plant designs, it would probably show them as a a better value.

By the way, your first source (EIA paper) doesn't really agree. See table 1-B and Table 2. It shows that there is often a wide range in cost for renewable. But it shows the cost of nuclear is steady, meaning its flexibly to more geographies, most of the cost is the big up-front cost of the reactor & related facility, so other variations are hardly noticeable. And your second source is an equity firm; click through to the full report, there are no citations to data sources, other than themselves, or relevant technical experts. AFAIK, it hasn't been vetted by the industry experts. That being said, the data still basically agrees with my point. The graph on page 4 of the full report (cost of energy), shows that

The other thing is, we know we have enough uranium to continue mining it and setting up a supply chain on the chain of power production for nations. The aggregate supply curve is impressive. OTOH, There isn't enough raw material to use "lithium" batteries for grid storage.

Offline Noisy Rhysling

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Re: How would you rate the use of nuclear power as part of a climate policy plan?
« Reply #35 on: September 05, 2019, 05:17:11 PM »
Less power means fewer people can be supported.

There's probably a down side as well.  >:D
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Offline PatrickG

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How would you rate the use of nuclear power as part of a climate policy plan?
« Reply #36 on: September 05, 2019, 05:42:19 PM »
Nuclear power is great for CO2, but not essential for clean energy. It is just too expensive compared to the alternatives.

The other bad news is that nuclear power does not mix well with the variable generation of wind and solar. Nuclear power is mainly useful a ‘base load’ generation with constant power output. Running nuclear plants in “load following mode” is much less efficient because the cost of the fuel is insignificant compared to they high based operating costs. That makes it expensive to operate with variable output. Natural gas peaker plants seem to be the better match, and so do Li_Ion batteries for short-term peaking.

According to the EIA the LCOE (total all-in cost) of nuclear power is about 2X that on natural gas for a plant coming on-line in 2023. It will be even worse when the nuclear is forced to run in dispatchable load following mode when more solar and wind come on-line. See: https://www.eia.gov/outlooks/aeo/pdf/electricity_generation.pdf

Another LCOE analysis shows an even higher cost for nuclear compared to the alternatives: https://www.lazard.com/perspective/levelized-cost-of-energy-and-levelized-cost-of-storage-2018/

The latter pegs the LCOE cost for nuclear energy between 11 and 19 cents per kwh, vs 4-7 cents for gas CC, 4 cents for utility solar and 3-5 cents for wind.
 
A combination of solar + Li-ion batteries will be more cost-effective in places with somewhat reliable daily sun shine. The LCOE cost of that is currently 10-15 cents/kWh, but will drop in the next years.

In short: nuclear probably won’t save the world.

Takeaway: we still don't have grid storage tech. So it doesn't matter if some renewable is cheaper by some amortization logic, there has to be a generating station. Either that generating station is nuclear, or you are still using fossil fuels.

If you used amortization logic exceeding the life-time of current photovoltaics, and even wind turbines, but not the latest nuclear plant designs, it would probably show them as a a better value.

By the way, your first source (EIA paper) doesn't really agree. See table 1-B and Table 2. It shows that there is often a wide range in cost for renewable. But it shows the cost of nuclear is steady, meaning its flexibly to more geographies, most of the cost is the big up-front cost of the reactor & related facility, so other variations are hardly noticeable. And your second source is an equity firm; click through to the full report, there are no citations to data sources, other than themselves, or relevant technical experts. AFAIK, it hasn't been vetted by the industry experts. That being said, the data still basically agrees with my point. The graph on page 4 of the full report (cost of energy), shows that

The other thing is, we know we have enough uranium to continue mining it and setting up a supply chain on the chain of power production for nations. The aggregate supply curve is impressive. OTOH, There isn't enough raw material to use "lithium" batteries for grid storage.

I agree that some sources (Lazard) seem optimistic on the LCOE of renewables. The best summary of all data seems to be on Wikipedia: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cost_of_electricity_by_source

That LCOE contains all cost, so including the amortization based on the expected lifetime, decommissioning, and in case of wind and solar/wind the extra system cost due to their variable nature. That makes it the better comparison metric.

Most sources peg nuclear at around 10c/kWh. The cost of other power sources vary quite a bit by location, but it is clear that natural gas is always way cheaper, and that solar and wind are cheaper than nuclear as well.

The LCOE cost trend over the past 10 years is an even bigger problem for nuclear (see wiki table for EIA based data):

Natural gas -50%
Wind onshore: -70%
Wind offshore: -38%
Solar PV: -88%
Nuclear: ~0% (steady)

Looking at this very few investors will risk going nuclear when the other options keep on getting so much more competitive every year. The same cost trend applies to grid level storage using batteries, which are riding a similar Moore’s law like cost reduction curve.

Only a few years ago I was also gung-ho about nuclear. The dropping cost of others have changed the landscape and my mind.

Given how cheap natural gas is, and that is is 2X cleaner than coal, the generation trend will be:

Coal will continue to phase out
Most coal capacity is replaced by Natural gas CC with Peaker/backup capability
More solar and wind comes on line, thanks to ever decreasing LCOE cost.
Slowly more battery based grid storage

That is a fine plan. There is no compelling business case to add nuclear to this mix. On top of that add new nuclear takes many, many more years to approve and implement than than other sources options.

Some states (Hawaii, California) are reaching the point of “solar saturation” where more solar doesn’t help unless grid storage is added. Most other places have ways to go so can add plenty of extra cheap solar and wind to green the grid. In all cases, my money wouldn’t be on nuclear.
« Last Edit: September 05, 2019, 05:54:04 PM by PatrickG »

Offline Alex Simmons

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Re: How would you rate the use of nuclear power as part of a climate policy plan?
« Reply #37 on: September 06, 2019, 02:55:07 AM »
Takeaway: we still don't have grid storage tech.

Yes we do. Moving water up and down our gravity well can be built for a whole lot less than nuclear, and it will last a whole lot longer as well.

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Re: How would you rate the use of nuclear power as part of a climate policy plan?
« Reply #38 on: September 06, 2019, 08:18:36 AM »
Pumped hydro is not a feasible everywhere, and creating the reservoirs necessary can have a huge environmental impact as well.
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Offline PatrickG

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Re: How would you rate the use of nuclear power as part of a climate policy plan?
« Reply #39 on: September 06, 2019, 08:23:25 AM »
Pumped hydro is not a feasible everywhere, and creating the reservoirs necessary can have a huge environmental impact as well.
That is true, unfortunately. There are not many locations left with the proper geology for dams and pumps. That is a pity because it is a quite cost effective and durable storage option.


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Offline Alex Simmons

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Re: How would you rate the use of nuclear power as part of a climate policy plan?
« Reply #40 on: September 06, 2019, 05:59:09 PM »
Pumped hydro has greater potential and in more locations than people think. There's also a lot of opportunity to use existing disused infrastructure such as old mine sites.

http://re100.eng.anu.edu.au/research/phes/

 

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