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General Discussions => Skepticism / Science Talk => Topic started by: Quetzalcoatl on September 03, 2019, 03:32:49 PM

Title: How would you rate the use of nuclear power as part of a climate policy plan?
Post by: Quetzalcoatl on September 03, 2019, 03:32:49 PM
Via Steve's blogpost (https://theness.com/neurologicablog/index.php/the-politics-of-nuclear-power/) today, I found this graph, originally from here (https://www.vox.com/energy-and-environment/2019/4/23/18507297/nuclear-energy-renewables-voters-poll):

(https://cdn.vox-cdn.com/thumbor/5tij1tpSRyxCeMl-6H8tg7m3H70=/0x0:1081x979/920x0/filters:focal(0x0:1081x979):format(webp):no_upscale()/cdn.vox-cdn.com/uploads/chorus_asset/file/16184383/NUCLEAR.jpg)

In which category would you put nuclear power?

My understanding is that, globally speaking, nuclear power is in category #1: "Essential to climate policy". Solar and wind are important parts, but by their own aren't enough.
Title: Re: How would you rate the use of nuclear power as part of a climate policy plan?
Post by: Calinthalus on September 03, 2019, 03:40:27 PM
I think it would be essential.


However, I'm open to being proven wrong.  Currently, wind and solar lack the stability that our current power grids would require.  Both wind and solar have peaks and valleys in production.  Day/Night/Clouds etc.  Nuclear can add a stability because it will always put out exactly how much it is asked to no matter the external conditions.  Without large storage facilities, we won't get that kind of stability out of our current batch of renewable sources. 


I'm crossing my fingers for an orbital solar array in my lifetime, but I'm not holding my breath.
Title: Re: How would you rate the use of nuclear power as part of a climate policy plan?
Post by: Soldier of FORTRAN on September 03, 2019, 03:56:10 PM
My understanding is that, ideally, we'd do renewables as much as possible with nuclear filling the remainder. So, I voted 'essential.'
Title: Re: How would you rate the use of nuclear power as part of a climate policy plan?
Post by: Harry Black on September 03, 2019, 04:44:27 PM
I would think it was essential.
But Im not sure how it shakes out if someone is promoting nuclear but no other solutions? So if there was a republican (or any plan) plan that had it at the centre but didnt address other things like renewables or industrial output etc, it might give me pause for thought if there was a plan that had all BUT that.
Mh logic would be that its easier to add in or change on one issue than all the others. And a multifaceted approach is definitely needed.
Title: Re: How would you rate the use of nuclear power as part of a climate policy plan?
Post by: Shibboleth on September 03, 2019, 05:00:00 PM
I think that a good nuclear winter could slow down global warming.
Title: Re: How would you rate the use of nuclear power as part of a climate policy plan?
Post by: arthwollipot on September 03, 2019, 08:56:55 PM
I think that it would be extremely helpful, but I also believe that there are other ways to provide baseline coverage that don't involve nuclear. I don't know what they are yet, but I'm pretty sure that nuclear power isn't unique.
Title: Re: How would you rate the use of nuclear power as part of a climate policy plan?
Post by: daniel1948 on September 03, 2019, 10:43:19 PM
Question: Can we build enough nuclear power capacity to reduce greenhouse gas emissions enough to make a difference, in the time available before the human race is totally fucked? And can we do it at a cost that would leave us with enough money to be able to continue building renewables? And can we find any place to put the nuclear power plants that are not in somebody's back yard? And if the purpose is to displace fossil fuels, are there any legislators that would support nuclear power, considering that probably the great majority are either anti-nuclear or in the pockets of the fossil fuel industry?

Okay, that's four questions.

I guess my answer to the poll question would be "It's already too late."
Title: Re: How would you rate the use of nuclear power as part of a climate policy plan?
Post by: Ah.hell on September 04, 2019, 09:24:41 AM
Not essential but it would help a lot. 
Title: Re: How would you rate the use of nuclear power as part of a climate policy plan?
Post by: 2397 on September 04, 2019, 12:16:11 PM
It needs to not be ruled out. There are a number of ways we could prevent catastrophic climate change. Currently we're not doing anywhere near enough, and I think we should be open to as many solutions as possible, if different ones work better for different areas and communities.

I wouldn't try to push for nuclear everywhere, but it also needs to not be cut off from funding by e.g. the EU because some member states have more opposition to it than others.
Title: Re: How would you rate the use of nuclear power as part of a climate policy plan?
Post by: daniel1948 on September 04, 2019, 01:19:41 PM
I heard (back in the day when I hung around with people who opposed all nukes) that if nuclear power plants were required to carry full insurance, they would be too expensive to build, but that the federal government puts liability limits on nuclear power, effectively accepting the risk and giving the plants free insurance. I don't actually know if this is true. But if it is, and you think nuclear power should be part of the nation's energy policy, should the plant operators (and by extension the customers) have to pay the full cost of insuring the plants? If my understanding above is true, this would greatly increase the cost of electricity produced by nuclear power.

Full disclosure: I am a big proponent of solar, as noted elsewhere. And I am skeptical about the prospects of dealing with the waste safely in the very long term.
Title: Re: How would you rate the use of nuclear power as part of a climate policy plan?
Post by: The Latinist on September 04, 2019, 01:29:03 PM
I don’t know of any carbon-neutral alternative for balancing renewables in places where hydroelectric cannot do so, nor do I think there is any currently-viable storage solution that could do so.

Daniel, you may be right that it is too late for nuclear power to help us avoid serious consequences of climate change; but there is no technology other than better nuclear that I can see replacing nuclear even in the mid-long term in which we *could* build new nuclear plants.  Sure, we should have gone all-in 20 years ago; but we can’t let that stop us doing our best to mitigate what will be happening 20 years from now.
Title: Re: How would you rate the use of nuclear power as part of a climate policy plan?
Post by: Quetzalcoatl on September 04, 2019, 01:33:25 PM
It needs to not be ruled out. There are a number of ways we could prevent catastrophic climate change. Currently we're not doing anywhere near enough, and I think we should be open to as many solutions as possible, if different ones work better for different areas and communities.

I wouldn't try to push for nuclear everywhere, but it also needs to not be cut off from funding by e.g. the EU because some member states have more opposition to it than others.

Some countries, like Iceland, has the possibility to use geothermal power (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Geothermal_power_in_Iceland), and therefore doesn't need nuclear power. But this is not the case in the entire world, obviously. So that's why I wrote the OP with a global point of view. ;)
Title: Re: How would you rate the use of nuclear power as part of a climate policy plan?
Post by: Calinthalus on September 04, 2019, 01:38:15 PM
Yeah, when I said "essential", I was thinking on a more global scale.  It would not be essential somewhere that tidal power, geothermal, or hydroelectric power could be used for that constancy. 
Title: Re: How would you rate the use of nuclear power as part of a climate policy plan?
Post by: random poet on September 04, 2019, 01:42:16 PM
Nuclear plants are still our most effective and efficient means of power production. We should have replaced all fossil fuel based power generation with nuclear 30 years ago (the sooner the better). Now it is too late, yes. Climate change is past the point of non-return. We should still probably do it wherever renewables are too complex or too costly to implant or are otherwise impossible with our current level of technology, in case it can help some ten generations in the future, I guess? (If humans are still around, with the kind of civilization that requires an electricity distribution infrastructure, which is unlikely.)
Title: Re: How would you rate the use of nuclear power as part of a climate policy plan?
Post by: Quetzalcoatl on September 04, 2019, 03:18:39 PM
Nuclear plants are still our most effective and efficient means of power production. We should have replaced all fossil fuel based power generation with nuclear 30 years ago (the sooner the better). Now it is too late, yes. Climate change is past the point of non-return. We should still probably do it wherever renewables are too complex or too costly to implant or are otherwise impossible with our current level of technology, in case it can help some ten generations in the future, I guess? (If humans are still around, with the kind of civilization that requires an electricity distribution infrastructure, which is unlikely.)

I'm not really sure you can say it is "too late" to mitigate potential further damage:

Quote
UN Says Climate Genocide Is Coming. It’s Actually Worse Than That. (http://nymag.com/intelligencer/2018/10/un-says-climate-genocide-coming-but-its-worse-than-that.html)

That is not to say it’s over or we’re doomed. Stalling warming below four degrees is better than surpassing it, keeping temperatures below three is better still, and the closer we get to two degrees the more miraculous. That is because climate change isn’t binary, and doesn’t just kick in, full force, at any particular temperature level; it’s a function that gets worse over time as long as we produce greenhouse gases. How long we continue to is, really, up to us, which is to say it will be determined in the province of politics, which is to say public panic like that produced by the IPCC report can be a very productive form of policy pressure.

Quote
Answering Questions About Nuclear Power (https://theness.com/neurologicablog/index.php/answering-questions-about-nuclear-power/)

It’s too late

This is often the final objection, and also, in my opinion, the weakest argument. Once I handle all the arguments against nuclear, often I hear – well, it was a great option 20 years ago, but now it’s too late to mitigate global warming. I think this is nonsense. In 20 years, I wager, people will be making the same argument.

First – we are partly talking about delaying the decommissioning of existing nuclear plants. (Again – see Germany.) This take literally zero time. By extending their lifespan, we can reduce the number of coal plants that would otherwise replace them. This can buy us time to build those next generation reactors. We should also explore ways (including investing money as necessary) to speed up the process of building new plants, which is mostly due to red tape anyway.

Even if it takes 20 years to bring new plants on line, I don’t think in 2040 we will have the carbon emission problem solved. I also wager we will still be burning coal in 2040. It’s also not as if it will ever be too late to do something about global warming. Even if we miss our targets for avoiding the worse outcomes, that doesn’t mean we give up at that point. There is still benefit in reducing the harm.
Title: Re: How would you rate the use of nuclear power as part of a climate policy plan?
Post by: random poet on September 04, 2019, 03:35:12 PM
Nuclear plants are still our most effective and efficient means of power production. We should have replaced all fossil fuel based power generation with nuclear 30 years ago (the sooner the better). Now it is too late, yes. Climate change is past the point of non-return. We should still probably do it wherever renewables are too complex or too costly to implant or are otherwise impossible with our current level of technology, in case it can help some ten generations in the future, I guess? (If humans are still around, with the kind of civilization that requires an electricity distribution infrastructure, which is unlikely.)

I'm not really sure you can say it is "too late" to mitigate potential further damage:

Quote
UN Says Climate Genocide Is Coming. It’s Actually Worse Than That. (http://nymag.com/intelligencer/2018/10/un-says-climate-genocide-coming-but-its-worse-than-that.html)

That is not to say it’s over or we’re doomed. Stalling warming below four degrees is better than surpassing it, keeping temperatures below three is better still, and the closer we get to two degrees the more miraculous. That is because climate change isn’t binary, and doesn’t just kick in, full force, at any particular temperature level; it’s a function that gets worse over time as long as we produce greenhouse gases. How long we continue to is, really, up to us, which is to say it will be determined in the province of politics, which is to say public panic like that produced by the IPCC report can be a very productive form of policy pressure.

Quote
Answering Questions About Nuclear Power (https://theness.com/neurologicablog/index.php/answering-questions-about-nuclear-power/)

It’s too late

This is often the final objection, and also, in my opinion, the weakest argument. Once I handle all the arguments against nuclear, often I hear – well, it was a great option 20 years ago, but now it’s too late to mitigate global warming. I think this is nonsense. In 20 years, I wager, people will be making the same argument.

First – we are partly talking about delaying the decommissioning of existing nuclear plants. (Again – see Germany.) This take literally zero time. By extending their lifespan, we can reduce the number of coal plants that would otherwise replace them. This can buy us time to build those next generation reactors. We should also explore ways (including investing money as necessary) to speed up the process of building new plants, which is mostly due to red tape anyway.

Even if it takes 20 years to bring new plants on line, I don’t think in 2040 we will have the carbon emission problem solved. I also wager we will still be burning coal in 2040. It’s also not as if it will ever be too late to do something about global warming. Even if we miss our targets for avoiding the worse outcomes, that doesn’t mean we give up at that point. There is still benefit in reducing the harm.
It is too late to save what we are currently talking about saving. The ice caps, the glaciers, the current global ecology. We are heading into a mass extinction event. Whatever we do now will merely mitigate the consequences 100 years from now. It may be important, if we are still a technological civilization, and we should do it, but let's not kid ourselves.
Title: Re: How would you rate the use of nuclear power as part of a climate policy plan?
Post by: The Latinist on September 04, 2019, 03:37:30 PM
I don't think the question was whether nuclear power could save ice caps or glaciers or any particular ecology.  The question was whether it was essential to climate policy.
Title: Re: How would you rate the use of nuclear power as part of a climate policy plan?
Post by: daniel1948 on September 04, 2019, 05:30:23 PM
To clarify my position, I've gone from staunchly anti-nuclear (before listening to the SGU) to agnostic on it. I still have concerns about the waste, and I'm still skeptical of our ability to build disaster-proof nuclear power plants. If it is true (as I heard back in my staunchly-anti-nuclear days) that the government has exempted nuclear power plants from having to carry full insurance, that suggests that the experts on risk assessment think nukes are too dangerous. On the other side, I am aware that our present energy regime is killing great numbers of people through mining and pollution, not to mention climate issues.

A separate issue is political: In order to build new nuclear power plants, we would have to get the toadies of the fossil fuel industry out of the legislatures. I am a cynic because I don't think we have a political system capable of making rational decisions for the good of our nation or the planet. We have a political system that insures that entrenched interests hold the power, and remain in power. And at present these people are philosophically opposed to the very idea that science provides accurate information.
Title: Re: How would you rate the use of nuclear power as part of a climate policy plan?
Post by: random poet on September 04, 2019, 05:35:40 PM
I don't think the question was whether nuclear power could save ice caps or glaciers or any particular ecology.  The question was whether it was essential to climate policy.
I'm not sure what distinction you are making. Is there another meaning to the expression "climate policy" than "what we need to do to minimize climate change"?
Title: Re: How would you rate the use of nuclear power as part of a climate policy plan?
Post by: The Latinist on September 04, 2019, 05:46:06 PM
I don't think the question was whether nuclear power could save ice caps or glaciers or any particular ecology.  The question was whether it was essential to climate policy.
I'm not sure what distinction you are making. Is there another meaning to the expression "climate policy" than "what we need to do to minimize climate change"?

“What we need to do to minimize climate change” is not synonymous with “saving. The ice caps, the glaciers, the current global ecology.”  While the latter may be impossible, the former is not; and the former is what we are talking about.
Title: Re: How would you rate the use of nuclear power as part of a climate policy plan?
Post by: random poet on September 04, 2019, 06:39:45 PM
I don't think the question was whether nuclear power could save ice caps or glaciers or any particular ecology.  The question was whether it was essential to climate policy.
I'm not sure what distinction you are making. Is there another meaning to the expression "climate policy" than "what we need to do to minimize climate change"?

“What we need to do to minimize climate change” is not synonymous with “saving. The ice caps, the glaciers, the current global ecology.”  While the latter may be impossible, the former is not; and the former is what we are talking about.
The point I was making with those examples was precisely that we can't save the glaciers, so I'm not sure what you are arguing about. Nuclear is essential to saving whatever it is we can still save (i.e. not much).
Title: Re: How would you rate the use of nuclear power as part of a climate policy plan?
Post by: John Albert on September 04, 2019, 06:45:00 PM
"Should we use the fire extinguisher to put out this fire?"

"Well, dinner is definitely ruined and it may be too late to save the kitchen..."
Title: Re: How would you rate the use of nuclear power as part of a climate policy plan?
Post by: stands2reason on September 04, 2019, 08:33:10 PM
I would rate them in terms of gigawatts, as they usually are.
Title: Re: How would you rate the use of nuclear power as part of a climate policy plan?
Post by: Alex Simmons on September 04, 2019, 11:22:34 PM
If the choice is *only* between coal or nuclear, nuclear makes some sense.

But we are moving beyond a grid where that kind of energy production is really necessary. Renewables and storage are faster to deploy, cheaper, and have very long service lifespans and the tech is relatively simple. Having resources diverted away from such an energy transition represents an opportunity cost and could result in delays in replacement of coal fired power.
Title: Re: How would you rate the use of nuclear power as part of a climate policy plan?
Post by: Noisy Rhysling on September 05, 2019, 05:50:27 AM
Nuclear power is good for all kinds of things.  >:D

https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/d777ak/the-u-s-s-insane-attempt-to-build-a-harbor-with-a-two-megaton-nuclear-bomb
Title: Re: How would you rate the use of nuclear power as part of a climate policy plan?
Post by: Ah.hell on September 05, 2019, 10:02:56 AM
There was a program in the 50s in which the US would pay a reward to scientist working on nuke projects for almost any idea that involved nuclear power. 

There was a nuclear powered jet engine built, apparently it spewed radioactive gas out the back. 
There was  a plan to use nukes to dig a canal from the Gulf of Mexico to the pacific. 
Title: Re: How would you rate the use of nuclear power as part of a climate policy plan?
Post by: daniel1948 on September 05, 2019, 11:22:56 AM
https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/d777ak/the-u-s-s-insane-attempt-to-build-a-harbor-with-a-two-megaton-nuclear-bomb

The legacy of dishonesty in the nuclear industry, both weapons and electricity generation, is a cause for concern when that industry tells us that now we can build "safe" and "clean" nuclear reactors.

Renewables and storage are faster to deploy, cheaper, and have very long service lifespans and the tech is relatively simple.

This is what I think of when someone says that we "can't build renewables and storage fast enough." A new nuclear power plant is likely to take decades to design, get regulatory approval (unless, in the name of "national security" we forego all environmental and safety studies), and build.

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?
Title: Re: How would you rate the use of nuclear power as part of a climate policy plan?
Post by: Calinthalus on September 05, 2019, 11:32:14 AM
Thing is, I could cover my entire house with solar panels and I'd still need to buy electricity from the grid.  I don't get enough sunshine to cover my 24 hour day, even if I had storage capacity to use for the night.  Windmill is right out, there's not a flat enough area to plop one down that is big enough to get out of the holler.  I have no other options but to buy electricity from a producer.  Considering I live in the Cumberlands that means coal or nuclear are the only two real options.  I daresay I'm not alone in this.

Title: Re: How would you rate the use of nuclear power as part of a climate policy plan?
Post by: John Albert on September 05, 2019, 11:46:25 AM
Seems like everybody was nuke-happy in the '50s and early '60s.

The USAF came up with a crazy plan to nuke the moon (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Project_A119) with a hydrogen bomb.

In the late 1950s and early '60s the US military detonated a number of nukes in the upper atmosphere (http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/badastronomy/2012/07/09/the-50th-anniversary-of-starfish-prime-the-nuke-that-shook-the-world/#.XXEecChKi-Y) for the far-fetched purpose of creating a protective force-field of high energy electrons in the Earth's atmosphere, as a defense against ICBMs.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YZu7et1dZlA

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KFXlrn6-ypg

The Russians detonated a nuke in Northeast Kazakhstan and then diverted a river to create a new lake in the bomb crater (https://www.forbes.com/sites/trevornace/2017/09/25/rare-footage-russia-detonating-nuclear-weapon-create-new-lake/#6b77f32f36d2). Then people went swimming in that lake...

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YZ4OJ3Ncomc


But none of this stuff has anything to do with the issue of nuclear power in the 21st Century.
Title: How would you rate the use of nuclear power as part of a climate policy plan?
Post by: PatrickG on September 05, 2019, 01:33:37 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.
Title: Re: How would you rate the use of nuclear power as part of a climate policy plan?
Post by: John Albert 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.
Title: How would you rate the use of nuclear power as part of a climate policy plan?
Post by: PatrickG 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.
Title: Re: How would you rate the use of nuclear power as part of a climate policy plan?
Post by: Calinthalus 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.
Title: Re: How would you rate the use of nuclear power as part of a climate policy plan?
Post by: Alex Simmons 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.
Title: Re: How would you rate the use of nuclear power as part of a climate policy plan?
Post by: stands2reason 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.
Title: Re: How would you rate the use of nuclear power as part of a climate policy plan?
Post by: Noisy Rhysling 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
Title: How would you rate the use of nuclear power as part of a climate policy plan?
Post by: PatrickG 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.
Title: Re: How would you rate the use of nuclear power as part of a climate policy plan?
Post by: Alex Simmons 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.
Title: Re: How would you rate the use of nuclear power as part of a climate policy plan?
Post by: The Latinist 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.
Title: Re: How would you rate the use of nuclear power as part of a climate policy plan?
Post by: PatrickG 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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Title: Re: How would you rate the use of nuclear power as part of a climate policy plan?
Post by: Alex Simmons 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/